Anime Review: “Castlevania”

1
The trio make their way through the castle.

Real vampires, real action, real blood-sucking violence, and a crazy adventure – eat your heart out Twilight.

Stephanie Meyer would surely have something to say about Dracula after watching a true-to-form vampire story. In fact, she might actually enjoy it more than her own work. In Netflix’s intensely popular and newly updated series Castlevania, based on Konami’s classic videogame series of the same name, the true story of Dracula is revealed through beautiful and intense animation.

The story starts out in the country of Wallachia in the 1400s. Lisa Tepes, a budding doctor, is seeking knowlege on how to improve her services and finds herself on the doorstep of Castlevania, the name of Dracula’s castle. The wary vampire allows her in and reluctantly offers his library. However, her charm melts his cold heart, and they soon fall in love.

2
Trevor fights off some of Dracula’s demonic forces while trying to find a safe place to sleep.

The first two seasons kind of overlap a bit here, where season two reveals that she’s become a talented doctor while he’s away from the city. She’s captured by members of the church and executed as a witch. Of course, Dracula is furious, sending all his hordes to kill every human in Wallachia.

Season one covers dealing with Dracula’s hordes and Trevor Belmont, last of the Belmont line of vampire hunters, protects the young Speaker woman Sypha Belnades and her people from the hordes of monsters and people that think they are to blame. However, the second season expands on this, where Trevor helps the people fight the hordes, and actually chases after Dracula himself.

3
Alucard and Trevor meet for the first time.

Alucard Tepes, Dracula’s half vampire son, makes an appearence in season one, and actually joins the party for season two to fight his father. His originally meeting with Trevor in season one actually went from a fight to a welcome introduction after the magician and vampire hunter find out his intentions.

The series seems like it’s at an end right now, after a final battle between father and son, but Netflix recently announced it is renewing the series for another two seasons. There’s certainly a lot of material to work with, having over 20 games in the official canon, so here’s to a long and exciting run with Dracula’s many resurrections.

Final Words

I’ve not played many of the games, so I wasn’t sure what to expect going in. But Netflix has clearly outdone itself with this entry. Stellar animation, excellent voice acting – it’s clear this is a passion project of both animators and writers. I’m really looking forward to where the next seasons take us, with complex characters and just enough humor to staunch the intensity of the story. Alucard and Trevor’s relationship is probably the best part.

I would give this anime a… 9.5/10 (rating scale)

If you like this anime, you may also like… Black ButlerMoon PhaseBeyond the Boundary

Anime Review: “Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan”

3

Hisone’s first flight doesn’t go exactly as planned.

The idea of dragons permeates every culture in the world: from the firedrakes of Europe to the lungs of Japan and China. While that’s not to say they all may be the same mythical beasts – in fact some are so different, it’s hard to say whether they should be considered dragons – the fact is that they appear in almost every culture and religion worldwide. Of course the idea is that either they’ve all died out, or maybe they never existed in the first place. But Dragon Pilot has another idea about this. What if they are still alive and well, we just can’t see them?

2

The four OTF flyers warm up before transforming into Foxtrot (disguised) form.

The story begins with a member of the Japanese Self Defense Force Hisone Amakasu. She’d just been doing desk work for a few years, when on an errand she is sent to bunker #8. There is no #8 on the map, but a strange old woman who offers her a Yakult (yogurt-like) drink points towards an old worn-down building. It turns out this is actually bunker #8 and she cautiously makes her way toward it. Inside, a strange beast attacks her and she wakes up in the hospital. The major general Hiroshi Sosoda explains she’s met a dragon, and she’s to be a part of the Organic Transformed Flyer (OTF) division, which operates dragons disguised at fighter jets.

Despite her endless protesting, Hisone is brought into the fold. She’s the most reluctant, and even demands to leave to program before her first flight. But after finally getting into the “cockpit,” she quickly changes her mind. Her dragon, Masotan, soon becomes her best friend, despite the other potential pilot Nao Kaizaki’s anger.

1

Hisone and Masotan find Nao just a few miles away from base.

Three new pilots arrive within the next week, and they are all to train together for an upcoming show. They slowly become friends, even the reluctant El Hoshino. As time passes, they are also tested by being sent to a special island where they must survive a whole week together. The final test comes in the form of guiding the gigantic Mitatsu-sama, a whale-like OTF. Here, Hisone’s mettle is tested as well as her friendship, so she must remain courageous to come out safely.

It’s an interesting concept, that’s for sure. Having dragons around to help in defending against outside threats would definitely give Japan an edge up. And this is how it’s played in the series, where people begin to notice Japan’s use of dragons and they must find ways to hide them to continue using their power. The issue of beast vs intellect comes up as well using El as a model – more than once she scorns her position, thinking she is some kind of zookeeper. But the fact is that her dragon Norma does actually care about her, and learning to work with him instead of against him ends them closer than ever before.

Final Words:

If I could describe this anime in just one word, it would definitively be “cute.” That’s not to say that it is also empowering and exciting, showing how a shy and directionless young woman can grow into someone much stronger than she expected of herself. Though still awkward in the end, she learns to reach outside of herself and gains something she’d never had before: a purpose. At one point, she even says that everything she has that she holds dear is because of her Masotan, and losing him would destroy her world. A true change of heart from a woman that started out not wanting to touch a dragon. I’d also like to point out that Hisone does seem to be (if slightly) autistic due to her blunt nature and obliviousness with some social cues.

I would give this anime a…8.75/10 (my rating system)

If you like this anime, you might also like: Tengen Toppa Guren Lagaan, Gatchaman CrowdsMoribito: Guardian of the Spirit

Anime Review: “Vividred Operation”

2

The Vivid girls prepare to face off against a new thread.

Magical Girls and technology is not something that typically goes together, but the girls of the 2013-premiered anime Vividred Operation seem to pull it. The real question is whether or not it makes for a good combination.

 

Akane Ishikki, a high school girl who lives with her younger sister Momo and eccentric grandfather Kenjiro, has been born into a special time in Japan. The world no longer struggles with electricity and resources; Kenjiro has invented a strange engine that allows this prosperous time. The engine, called the Manifestation Engine, creates its own energy and sends it all over the world to power everything from planes to homes. He’s also created a number of other machines using this principle, including Akane’s “bicycle” which she uses to deliver papers for extra money.

3

Apparently, the inflation is supposed to be like an airbag in a car, but it doesn’t seem to actually serve its purpose.

However, a strange alien force suddenly appears. Years before, Kenjiro had warned the Self Defense Force and government about this, but they’d refused to listen to him. Now seeing that his predictions have come true, he’s called to action. However, a strange accident in the lab causes his consciousness to be transferred to a stuffed animal Akane had given him as a gift. While his body remains intact, he’s basically turned into a stuffed otter. So, he’s forced to meet with high officials in the form, much to his chagrin.

This alien force, dubbed the Alone, seeks to destroy the Manifestation engine. Kenjiro produces a sort of key for Akane, and she uses it to transform into Red, a magical girl with technological enhancements. She can use a giant boomerang to defend herself and fight the Alone. Her best friend Aoi Futaba, meanwhile, is flying home, and the plane crashes near the Alone. She, too, receives a key from Kenjiro to become Blue. Soon after, Kenjiro reveals they can power up by “docking,” or combining to form Vivid Blue, and they defeat the Alone.

1

The girls show off their own personal running styles in the opening song.

They are soon joined by the enthusiastic and dutiful Wakaba Saegusa, who becomes Green, and the hikkikomori computer nerd Himawari Shinomiya, who becomes Yellow. They defeat a number of Alone, docking with Akane to become Vivid Green and Vivid Yellow. But, something strange is happening with the Alone. They become powerful without warning, and no one knows why. It’s soon revealed that Rei Kuroki, a classmate of the girls, is responsible, but there’s something strange about her, despite her appearing human.

 

The story is easy to follow, and it’s made clear that this is an ecchi pretty up front with gratuitous panty shots. But, there seems to be something a bit wrong with this in this particular anime. The girls are clearly in high school, but they are painted as much less mature and naive, so it feels as though they are much younger. It also seems to distract from the plot as well, making even Kenjiro a pervy-type, which kind of ruined the story.

Final Words:

I suppose that I shouldn’t expect more from an ecchi, but if you’ve seen Sekirei, you also know that being an ecchi doesn’t have to mean the plot should suck. The characters are flat in this one, all showing basically one aspect of personality, and not changing at all in the story. The most interesting character, by far, turned out to be Rei, who of course started out as a villain and realized there are ways to make friends with people that might not see the same as you. The ending was unexpected, but predictable, even if it was meant to be heart-wrenching. I didn’t find myself connecting to any of the characters at all and I felt like the whole series was written by someone who only wanted to see a bunch of young girls’ panties. This is made exceptionally clear in the transformation sequences, where they are literally in their undergarments.

I would give this anime a…5/10 (my rating system)

If you like this anime, you might also like: Strike Witches, Girls und Panzer, Ouran High School Host Club

Anime Review: “Little Witch Academia”

1

Akko prepares to “board the bus” to Luna Nova. She later finds out there’s a not-so-conventional way to get there.

Who doesn’t wish they could use magic? This question is answered by the enthusiasm of the excitable and energetic Atsuko (Akko) Kagari, who at a very young age witnessed a brilliant display of magic by her personal hero Shining Chariot. From that moment on, that was all Akko wants to do – learn magic.

 

Her dream begins to come true when she is accepted into the prestigious Luna Nova magical academy for witches. Unfortunatly, the way to the academy is a little confusing, and requires the use of a broom, which Akko can’t fly on, as she finds out from a strange student, Suci Manbavaran . She catches a ride with a student named Lotte Yanson, but the journey doesn’t go as planned, and the trio end up in the Forbidden Forest.

3

Shiny Chariot put on a show for an audience. Akko is inspired by her performance to become a witch and meet her someday.

Dodging strange witch-eating plants, and finding a familiar magical rod, Akko somehow manages to get them all to the opening ceremony just in time. But, their arrival invites further trouble, plopping them down in the middle of the ceremony! So, starting the year on probation, they three are carefully watched to make sure they keep well behaved.

A professor named Ursula helps Akko with extra classes so she can learn magic basics and learn to use a broom. Progress is slow, and Akko’s stubbornness gets her and her friends into more trouble through the year. Various adventures include freeing the magical tree of “parasites,” turning into a merman and terrorizing the local town, and running into a giant bear with a politicians son. But Akko’s quirky charm wins over more than a few people, even the stuck up Diana Cavendish.

2

Diana is surprised by Akko’s stubbornness to keep her at school. Diana plans to leave to attend to family matters and not finish her schooling at Luna Nova.

The most important plot point, however, focuses on activating the Shiny Rod, the strange item that Akko found in the Forbidden Forest. By finding the seven magical words and using them correctly, she can use the World Altering Magic. But the strange new professor Croix, who makes magic-machine hybrids, might have other plans for Akko, and Professor Ursula is not who she seems to be.

The story was initially cute, and I did not expect it to go anywhere. But, after season two began, and the plot picked up, I found myself hooked. Focus shifted to finding the words, and more complicated adventures began, including saving a whole town from a strange moss plague. The role of witches in the world takes a different tone, as well, compared to other anime, showing them as possibly unecessary, but proving their worth in the end.

Final words:

A delightful story, and well worth a watch. Interesting characters with great development: Akko grows to be more responsible without losing her drive to meet her hero, Diana learns that Akko may not be as bad as she seems and even someone as talented as her can learn from people, and Suci even opens up a little. Something about Akko just makes people change around her for the better, even if she’s brash and impulsive a lot of times. The most important message though is that even if it seems hopeless, never give up on your dreams. Even without magic, Akko does exactly that, and proves everyone wrong.

I would give this anime a…8.75/10 (my rating system)

If you like this anime, you might also like: Wakfu, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Urahara

Anime Review: “Fairy Tail”

[At long last! After many months of episodes and putting off other series, the review that you have all been waiting for is here!]

Bora_gives_Natsu_his_autograph

Natsu meets the con-man “Salamander” who claims the be a talented mage.

Magic has long been a synonym for something that is not quite understood by science yet. However, in other contexts, magic is special powers that range from transformation, conjuration, and even summoning. In the world of Fairy Tail, there is no limit to what people use magic for – even powering lights in the cities.

While it is the main theme for the anime, the 275-episode series (not including the final 175 episode season that was just announced) centers around the adventures of Lucy and her friends of the Fairy Tail guild. Each arc, or plot, spans from 2 episodes to almost 40 episodes in some cases. Some arcs are exciting, others slow, but each arc Lucy changes and grows as a person and a mage.

DosknNYV4AA_rYP

Natsu comforts younger member Wendy during the Grand Magic Games.

When the series starts out, Lucy meets Natsu, a fire mage, and his friend Happy who happens to be a cat that can talk. The trio take on a job where a rich man hires them to find a book. As with most adventures that are to come, it’s much more than going to the library. They have to “rescue” to book from another wealthy man who also happens to have a celestial key that Lucy can use for her magic.

From putting on plays for clients to fighting demons and dragons, the Fairy Tail guild sure does see it all. They even gain unexpected allies in the form of Gajeel, a former member of a dark guild, and Panther Lilly, an exceed (what Happy is actually called) who served as a royal guard in an alternate world. The characters are unique, intelligent, and all have their own wants and desires. All of these things do end up making for a great story and help each other improve in various ways.

fairy-tail-fairy-tail-extreme-club-39754022-1911-1088

After being missing for seven long years, the core members of Fairy Tail make a triumphant return!

The only arc that introduces a completely new cast is the special Zero arc. This details the founding of the guild with a history of Mavis’ childhood and her companions. This is actually my most favorite arc, despite the sad ending. It does also detail why Mavis never ages as well and the origin of the special spell “Fairy Law,” which Makarov uses during the Phantom Lord arc.

I think the best part about this series, though, is all the different magical powers. Each person has their own style and type of magic, some practiced since very early childhood. In Lucy’s case, her magic was literally passed to her through her mother. She is a celestial wizard, which means she can summon spirits from the spirit realm, and unlike other magics, she must also cultivate a strong relationship with her spirits.

Thinking back on this review, it may have been easier and more effective to do a review of each arc, but I don’t plan to indulge on any other multi-arc series. Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece will have to be done by some other schlub.

Final Words:

All in all, it’s a solid series. The characters are interesting and complex; there’s hinted pairings and enough shipping material for just about any level of fan. The main character grows and changes, even revealing secrets she wanted to forget (Phantom Lord Arc) and gaining a friend she’d always had (Key of the Starry Sky arc). I have my favorites (namely Virgo and her desire to be punished all the time). But the overall arcs are not something I’d come back to. It’s a favorite of a lot of otakus and a staple in the anime community, but I don’t think it’s an actual classic. It may be a good place to start for someone new to anime, but warn them that it’s close to 300 episodes first.

I would give this anime a…7/10 (my rating system)

If you like this anime, you might also like: Tokyo Ravens, K, Little Witch Academia

Anime Review: “Wakfu” Season 3

1

The friends stand before the tower, determined to save Evangeline and Flopin.

Netflix recently purchased exclusive rights to the popular Ankama series Wakfu. They completely redid the voice cast, changing even the pronunciations of some words that people have come to know and love in the first two seasons and the three episode transitional series. It also seems a lot of writers deemed to only stay on for the first two seasons and the special, which may be the reason for the major story style change. However, these changes may not have negatively effected the series. In fact, the third season is quite a bit more enjoyable that one might expect.

The plot picks up right after the three episode Ogrest special, where Dally and Evangeline have made a home for themselves. Their two children, Elely and Flopin, are just like their parents, always eager to protect each other. A third child is on the way. The family is just about to sit down for dinner, when a knock on the door brings an unfamilar Pandawa to the table.

483

The mysterious Echo acts as an ally to Oropo and the Brotherhood of the Tofu in unexpected ways.

He seems kind enough, but quickly changes his demeanor when it’s revealed he’s trying to capture the two children. The house is destroyed thanks to an older Adamai in order to flush the family out. After beating up Dally, Adamai mind-links with Yugo to inform him of the happenings. Elely manages to defeat the Pandawa, but another ally of Adamai captures Evangenline and Flopin.

Yugo races to the Sadida kingdom to meet up with Ruel and Amalia to tell them the news. They make the trip to where Dally lives and arrive just in time for Elely to finish off the Pandawa. Dally is recovering in the audience, but the group must find out why Adamai has changed his tune after being their ally for so long.

The Pandawa had been carrying recall potions, which they use to find out where he’d come from, and find they’ve arrived at a strange tower. Someone named Oropo has allied himself with Adamai to carry out a plan he has to replace the current gods with ones that actually care. Yugo and his friends disagree with the plan, but the only way to stop Oropo and rescue Evangeline and Flopin is to race up the tower, meeting all the future gods along the way.

rOagq5I

I’m still not sure about that smile, Adamai.

The plot is much more complex than the original two seasons, and that, I think, is partially due to the Netflix acquisition, as well as the writers. I don’t like that the voice cast changed, but I’m willing to sacrifice voice consistency for plot. The first two seasons were good, but this next season just packs a punch the other two didn’t. Also the twist ending did really make a nice closer. I do also want to point out that Adamai’s new design was probably heavily inspired by Cell, of Dragonball Z.

Final words:

I feel this season was almost a completely new show. It was more serious and more story-driven than the other two seasons, which definitively made me rethink the possibilities for the series. It also didn’t feel quite so cheesy as some of the episodes in previous seasons did. Sometimes jokes are good, and I’m not saying they were badly placed in the previous seasons, but this season just made me want to keep watching, hooking me with every episode.

I would give this anime a…9/10 (my rating system)

If you like this anime, you might also like: Pokemon Generations, Persona 4: The Animation, Dragon Drive

Anime Review: “LEGO Elves: Secrets of Elvendale”

[I’m still working on Fairy Tail! Here’s something to tide you over until then!]

YyoF

Emily and Sophie’s entrance into Elvendale.

Fairies, magic, and fantasy have been coming more and more to the forefront in the last several years. It’s no secret that not just kids are into fantasy adventures with elves and dragons, and while this anime is not created in Japan, it can be considered one.

The plot is exciting, even if it’s a bit simplistic. There are five guardians of the elf realm, each with the own element: fire, water, earth, and air. Emily Johnson is the fifth element of Love. She inherited it from her grandmother, who became a human to guard the gate to Earth. She uses a special amulet to travel to Elvendale to protect it and the gate with the help of her guardian friends.

This time, however, her younger sister Sophie tags along unexpectedly. She introduces Sophie to her friends, but things start to get strange with a mysterious new elf called Cronan shows up out of nowhere. He saves Farran, the earth elf, from some trouble and attempts to gain the gang’s trust. Instead, he soon reveals that he is out to get Emily’s special amulet, which is a source of immense power.

101_106-1014x570

Colorful dragons for colorful girls.

Working with the local goblin tribes, Cronan soon climbs to power in the forest, calling himself the Goblin King. It’s revealed that he’s tricked the queen Rosalyn into giving up her throne to him with the use of magic and deception. He begins to harvest crystals from the forest, slowly killing the flora and causing the fauna to behave strangely. His end goal is to try and revive his mother, who was consumed by dark magic after she lost control of it.

But reviving his mother requires the employment of Darkness creatures – the only creatures in Elvendale that cannot live without taking the life force of others. They were once banished to another realm due to their power, and working with them is hard on Cronan. When things don’t go right, he tries to send them away, but they seek revenge due to his unfulfilled promise of release. Cronan must decide – will he let his goal get in the way of keeping Elvendale safe?

2

Sophie begging her sister to be able to spend the night, while the others toast marshmallows on a candle.

When I first began to watch this show, I was very skeptical. I was worried it might be similar to card game anime I’ve seen – a collection of 25-minute advertisements for a product. It didn’t quite turn out that way, but it didn’t quite turn out fabulously either. It could use some improvement, and if there is a second season coming, I’m hoping it will be better.

Final Words

Throughout the whole series, I felt there was just something missing throughout. I’m not quite sure what. The voice acting was decent and emotional. The animation was alright. The story wasn’t flat or boring. The subliminal messages transmitted by a strategically placed LEGO within each episode wasn’t so bad. However, I just felt there was something it could have done just a bit better, but I can’t quite figure out what that was. Perhaps it was the beginning? The animation was a bit on the low quality side as for frame rate, but what anime hasn’t cut that back to save money? Maybe someday I’ll figure it out, but for now, I’d just say it was missing just a little spark of something.

I would give this anime a…6.75/10 (my rating system)

If you like this anime, you might also like: Ixion Saga DT, Wakfu, Avatar: The Last Airbender

Previous Older Entries