The Quatermass All-Purpose Media Review Thread

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Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia Episode 0: Initium Iter, Episode 1: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia, Episode 2: Fortress City Uruk and Episode 3: The King and His People by Kinoku Nasu

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FGOB0-3, 4X25 minute episodes


While the Fate/Grand Order game has courted some small controversy in some regards, there is no doubt that it has an engrossing story, and this was particularly true of two of the later chapters in its original story arc. This was doubtlessly due to Kinoku Nasu, the creator of the Nasuverse, being involved directly in the writing of these segments. So, when Japanese fans were polled to find which parts of the game they wanted adapted, it was hardly surprising that the Camelot and Babylonia chapters topped the polls. Now, I have finally come to watch the Babylonia adaptation, but would it fare well?

Some years ago, Dr Romani Archiman, a man with a mysterious past that is reaching out for him, joins the Chaldea Security Organisation, a top secret organisation that sends people into the past to correct changes to history. There, disturbed by the experiments involving an engineered young girl, who has been made a vessel for a Servant, a hero from the past, he becomes the girl’s caretaker, naming her Mash Kyrielight. Now, years later, Chaldea is the only bastion of humanity left after the King of Mages, Solomon, has engineered humanity’s destruction. Mash, and humanity’s last Master, Ritsuka Fujimaru, are sent over four and a half thousand years into the past, where demonic beasts threaten to snuff out civilisation as it began. And finding out who is friend or foe in this hostile landscape of ancient Mesopotamia can be a difficult task…

Now, while the prologue episode and the first episode proper does help in cluing people into what’s going on, I’m sure newcomers to the Nasuverse in general and Fate/Grand Order in particular will be at sea. Which is a crying shame, as this is actually quite a masterful adaptation of one of the finest storylines in the game. Interesting dialogue and characterisation, and some neat lines, mixing adventure, dark fantasy, and even some comedy.

Ritsuka Fujimaru is a bit of a bland and generic protagonist, but he’s at least given more characterisation than in the game, and Griffin Burns does well portraying him. Of better note is Erica Mendez as Mash, along with Xander Mobus as Dr Roman, the initial episode showing how their relationship, like that between a father and daughter, developed. Of particular note is Erika Harlacher, who has big shoes to fill to do as well as Maaya Sakamoto as a genderflipped Leonardo da Vinci, and does so well, as does Marianne Miller as Enkidu. David Vincent also gets to play a more heroic version of Gilgamesh than he does before, and the writing makes him comes across as less antagonistic as he does in the game, while Melissa Fahn makes a nice return as Ana, a younger version of the character she usually plays in the Nasuverse.

Production values are mostly superlative. True, the character designs, hangovers from the game, do leave something to be desired (particularly on Ana and Ushiwakamaru), especially with the rather perturbing emphasis on the rear-ends of a few of the female characters. However, the animation ranks amongst the best the Nasuverse has seen, and done by Cloverworks as opposed to Ufotable to boot.

Overall, these are impressive episodes for what is an adaptation of a video game. True, newcomers may be at sea, and there’s a few sticking points, but I’m certainly looking forward to the next episodes…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,570
48
2,850
REVIEW: Sword Art Online Episode 1: The World of Swords and Episode 2: Beater by Yukie Sugawara, Yukito Kizawa and Munemasa Nakamoto, from the light novels by Reki Kawahara

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: SAO1-2, 2X25 minute episodes

So, here I am at the beginning of the anime adaptation of Sword Art Online, one of the definitive isekai series. I’d tried to get into the TV series before, but lost interest. Now that I’ve read the novels, would this interest be rekindled?

Sword Art Online: a brand new VRMMORPG using the revolutionary Nerve Gear device, allowing players to experience the ultimate in virtual reality technology. Former beta tester Kirito soon finds, though, that this game is about to be played in very deadly earnest. The creator of the game, Akihiko Kayaba, has trapped ten thousand players in a game that will kill them for real if they die in the game. Kirito sets out on his own to try and get stronger, but he will soon learn that loners and beta testers have large targets on their backs from other resentful players…

While there is admittedly not that much story in these first couple of episodes, they’re not too bad. True, the series does pale in comparison to other later series with not-dissimilar premises, but it’s still not bad, knitting together stories from books written years apart (or at least Kawahara’s notes on what would become the Progressive novels) to form a cohesive whole. In addition, the emotional moments seem to hit the right notes.

Bryce Papenbrook does well as Kirito, and so does Cherami Leigh as Asuna. The jury’s still out somewhat as Marc Diraison as Kayaba, who seemed a little too detached and flat, and while that seems normal for the psychopath he is, I was expecting something more. Then again, maybe it’s because I’m used to the more deranged take for the Abridged Series.

Where the series excels is in its production values. A-1 Pictures does some gorgeous animation, and it shows in the superlative fight scenes. True, there’s some bizarre animation in spots, but they work in context, so they don’t bother me.

While not as good as it could have been, these episodes of Sword Art Online are a decent introduction to the series. Here’s hoping it gets better…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,570
48
2,850
REVIEW: Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia Episode 4: Welcome to the Jungle, Episode 5: Gilgamesh’s Travels, and Episode 6: Tablet of Destinies by Kinoku Nasu

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FGOB4-6, 3X25 minute episodes

So, here I am with the next lot of episodes from Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia. This adaptation of one of the best chapters from the mobile game has been superlative thus far, but would this hold up? Time to find out…

Ritsuka and Mash have proved themselves through menial tasks to be invested enough in Uruk’s fate for Gilgamesh to start sending them on important errands. A trip to investigate Ur, a town that has gone silent, shows that the people have capitulated to a strange deity known as Jaguar Warrior. Forced to retreat despite their anguish, Ritsuka and Mash are given a new mission by Gilgamesh himself, to accompany him to an observatory to check the water supply, only for the false Enkidu to attack them. What is the real identity of the ersatz Enkidu? Who is the mysterious old man Ritsuka encounters during his travels? And what is the goal of the Three Goddess Alliance?

Now that the initial honeymoon phase of the series is gone, well, we get to the more episodic stuff of the story of this chapter of the game. This cuts down on the plot a bit, and while it’s still got some good parts, it’s had a marked reduction in quality. There’s some good character moments, though, with an expansion of what was seen in the game, and that’s always nice.

Interestingly, although still a touch on the bland side, Ritsuka’s character is expanded upon in these episodes, including his love for Ushiwakamaru’s legend, as well as his survivor’s guilt over previous events in the story of the game, with Griffin Burns doing a decent enough job. So too does Erica Mendez as Mash, David Vincent as Gilgamesh, Robbie Daymond as Merlin and Melissa Fahn as Ana. I have to say, though, as superlative a voice actor as he is, Crispin Freeman was miscast as Ziusudra, despite him taking on another role done in Japanese by Joji Nakata. The same can’t be said for Mela Lee as Ishtar and Ereshkigal, who, after her brief appearance in the previous episodes, does well as the spoiled goddess and her more serious counterpart, as is Julie Ann Taylor, who, as Jaguar Man (in the body of Taiga Fujimura), combines goofiness with an actual threat.

Once more, it’s the production values that shine forth. The animation is brilliant, with wonderful fight scenes done for each episode with spectacular effects and choreography. I should also point out the good job the composers have done in translating the in-game music into incidental music for the series.

Overall, while a step down from the initial episodes and certainly a little confusing to newcomers, these episodes are nonetheless superlative. I can’t wait for the next ones…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,570
48
2,850
REVIEW: Berserk 2016 Episode 21: The Berserker Armour, Episode 22: A Journey Begins in Flames, Episode 23: Proclaimed Omens and Episode 24: City of Humans by Makoto Fukami and Takashi Yamashita, from the manga series by Kentaro Miura

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: B161.21-1.24, 4X25 minute episodes

So, at long last, I have come to the last few episodes of the latest adaptation of Berserk. It’s been a while coming, but would this dark series end well? Let’s find out…

After beating back the troll infestation and Slan’s attempt at manifesting in reality, Guts and his motley group head back to Flora, only to find her domicile under assault by Apostles. Griffith has deemed her enough of a threat to destroy, and unfortunately, Guts is still wounded from his fight with Slan. Instructed by a dying Flora, Schierke gives Guts an enchanted armour, the Berserker Armour, that will give him a much-needed edge against the Apostles, but at a terrible cost. For even if Guts wins his battles against his foes, he may not win against the darkness inside him…

The story itself is good, but I feel like the pacing of this adaptation peters out, finishing the way it does at the beginning of a new story arc rather than at the end of one. It could have ended an episode earlier and have been all the better for it. However, for all that, there’s some great emotional moments and character development, and that makes it worthwhile.

Kaiji Tang, as stated before, does well as Guts, especially now he has the Berserker Armour to deal with. In addition, he helps begin to mentor Schierke in how to live her life. Indeed, Schierke herself gets the lion’s share of character development in these episodes, given how she loses her guardian Flora and has to cope with joining Guts permanently, and Mela Lee gives her performance her all.

The production values are good enough. True, the CGI animation takes some getting used to, and the sound mix for a number of the Beast of Darkness’ lines leave something to be desired. But it’s a brave experiment that, for me, works out.

Overall, these last few episodes of Berserk work out well. They could have been better, but what was put onscreen does fine enough, even if the odds of anything further are small…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,570
48
2,850
REVIEW: Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia Episode 7: Diversionary Operation and Episode 8: The Mother of Demonic Beasts by Kinoku Nasu

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FGOB7-8, 2X25 minute episodes

So, here I am again with the anime adaptation of Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia. But how well would these episodes fare? Let’s find out…

Haunted by the vision of Solomon he saw while touching the Tablet of Destinies, Ritsuka has no time to waste, for he and Mash must set out for the wall keeping the demonic beasts from attacking Uruk. Accompanied by Merlin and Ana, they find the wall defended ably by Leonidas, Ushiwakamaru, and Benkei. But in an expedition to find out what happened to another fortress city, they will find themselves embroiled in a high-stakes battle to the death not only with Enkidu’s impostor, but also the entity claiming to be Tiamat. And even if she isn’t the real deal, she is most definitely their greatest foe so far…

Story-wise, there isn’t much meat here. True, there’s some intriguing revelations about Fou, and there’s some exciting battles and some meditations on the nature of the more inhuman characters like Merlin and ‘Ana’, to say nothing of some rather poignant ends of some characters. But it’s not quite that thrilling.

Aside from the regulars, Robbie Daymond as Merlin gets to show some more of Merlin’s whimsical nature, as well as his remarks on his own inhumanity. Melissa Fahn is good as both Ana and Gorgon, showing the former’s doubts and humanity, and the latter’s haughty lack thereof. Ray Chase and Laura Landa get to do well as Leonidas and Ushiwakamaru for their respective swansongs, even if the latter will be seen later.

Where the series shines, as usual, is in the production values. We get a lot of great battle sequences, such as Ana facing a vicious demonic beast, as well as Ushiwakamaru’s battles against Gorgon. The final clash in particular, showing Ushiwakamaru using her Noble Phantasm Legend of Shana-Oh: Eight Boat Leap, is a brilliant setpiece of animation and choreography.

These two episodes, while not exactly the best story-wise, nonetheless manage to deliver in the excitement stakes. Here’s hoping for more…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,570
48
2,850
REVIEW: Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 3- The Advent by Ichiro Okouchi, from the manga by Kentaro Miura

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 115 mins

Having finished both television anime adaptations of Berserk, the time had come for me to finish the movie trilogy. The Golden Age films adapted what was considered to be the best arc of the series. But how well would it do, especially with the traumatic events of the Eclipse about to happen?

A year has passed since Guts left the Band of the Hawk. Declared outlaws by the King of Midland, the Band of the Hawk contend with death from their former allies on a regular basis, while their fallen leader, Griffith, has been reduced to a shell of his former self thanks to frequent torture and mutilation. Guts returns to the Band of the Hawk, and after reconciling with Casca, receives an ominous warning from a mysterious knight in skeletal armour, a warning that will come to pass. For there are omens of a dark time coming, and when the Eclipse arrives, Griffith will be offered a demonic deal, one which he may take in his desperate state…

As I have brought up before, Berserk is most definitely not for the faint of heart. In fact, this instalment, dealing as it does with the Eclipse, rams that fact home, with plenty of gore and horror, and there’s a certain event during the Eclipse that I felt was…shown the wrong way, especially compared to the earlier TV anime adaptation. Still, many of the emotional moments hit more than miss, and while heavily abridged and missing some moments that could have made things better, it still has some good parts.

Marc Diraison proves that he is still an excellent Guts, while Carrie Keranen does well as Casca. Kevin T Collins also shows he is the definitive Griffith, one of the recast roles for the later TV adaptation that I felt was a bad one. John Avner, Simone Montgomery, Liam O’Brien and Sean Schemmel do pretty well as the Godhand, oozing malevolence for this brilliant film.

It seems that, despite some misgivings with the CGI, the production values in this instalment are superlative. Given the importance of the events in the Eclipse, it seems that they particularly wanted to devote time to a new version of that pivotal event in Berserk. True, I found some choices questionable, including both the music and direction around a certain disturbing scene, but otherwise, it was fairly good.

Overall, while certainly not for everyone and lingering perhaps too long on the gore and transgressive themes, this movie of Berserk, if it doesn’t disgust you outright, serves as a fitting end to the Golden Age arc…


***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,570
48
2,850
REVIEW: Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia Episode 9: Good Morning, Goddess of Venus, Episode 10: Hello, Goddess of the Sun, Episode 11: Temple of the Sun, Episode 12: Death of the King and Episode 13: Farewell, Goddess of the Underworld by Kinoku Nasu

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FGOB9-13, 5X25 minute episodes

So, here I am with the next lot of episodes of Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia. But how well would this quintet of episodes fare? Let’s find out…

After the attack of Gorgon and Kingu on the wall, King Gilgamesh assigns Ritsuka and his allies to a new plan: suborning Gorgon’s rival deities to their side. Bribing Ishtar proves to be easy enough, and so too does winning over the second deity, the cheerful Quetzalcoatl. But they will soon learn that Ishtar is not a member of the Three Goddess Alliance: her sister, Ereshkigal, ruler of the Babylonian underworld Kur, is. And Gilgamesh falls victim to Ereshkigal’s schemes. But is Ereshkigal truly malicious? Or is there more to her actions than meet the eye?

Now we’re getting into some more meaty parts of the story. There’s considerable meditation on the roles deities serve in the human psyche, and there’s some wonderful moments of humour, drama and pathos. True, people not familiar with the game may still be at sea a little, but there’s many wonderful moments from the game brought to life vividly.

Griffin Burns as Ritsuka and Erica Mendez as Mash do well as usual, with the former showing some more complexity to his character than in the game. Mela Lee pulls double duty not only as Ishtar, but also as Ereshkigal for some rather emotionally powerful scenes. And new character Quetzalcoatl is not only one of the most enjoyable so far, but her dub actress, Gloria Garayua, is perfect for the role, giving the deity her energy and enthusiasm, while giving her menace at the right times.

Production values are, as before, superlative. There’s a number of brilliant fight scenes, with the clashes with Quetzalcoatl and Ereshkigal deserving particular praise. Really, what else can I say?

Overall, these episodes of Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia were brilliant, keeping a high standard. Here’s hoping those standards don’t decline…


*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,570
48
2,850
REVIEW: The Lord El-Melloi II Case Files Episode 0: A Gravekeeper, A Cat, and A Mage, Episode 1: Babylon, the Condemned, and the Memories of the King, Episode 2: The Seven Stars and the Eternal Cage and Episode 3: Thunder and the Underground Labyrinth by Ukyo Kodachi, from the light novels by Makoto Sanda

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: LEMCF0-3, 4X25 minute episodes

Not all of the Nasuverse involves historical and mythical figures battling it out. I had heard of the fantasy mystery series The Lord El-Melloi II Case Files, starring Waver Velvet, a key character from Fate/Zero, as the titular Lord El-Melloi II. But how would this different angle on events in the Nasuverse go? I would find out with the subbed version…

Soon after the Fourth Holy Grail War that claimed the life of his teacher, as well as that of his Servant, Iskandar, Waver Velvet assumes regency over the El-Melloi lordship as Lord El-Melloi II. A decade later, Waver has become a successful teacher at the Magus Association headquarters Clock Tower, taking in all sorts of misfits, including the ditzy Flat Escardos, the Beast Magecraft-using Svin Glascheit, and Gray, a young girl who was intended to become the vessel for the soul of Arturia Pendragon. Inbetween navigating the toxic politics of Clock Tower and helping his misfit students, Waver investigates mysteries involving Magi, showing how the world of magic can be a dangerous one indeed…

Although some knowledge of the Nasuverse and Fate/Zero might be needed to fully appreciate this series, it’s not necessary, thankfully. True, this isn’t so much an overarching story yet, with basically a mystery per episode solved by magical means, but it’s got plenty of interesting characters and character moments. We even have moments of humour.

It’s a shame the dub isn’t yet available on AnimeLab, having only been recently announced, but even the Japanese original is good. We get considerable insight into the post-Fate/Zero psyche of Waver Velvet, with Daisuke Namikawa showing his ability to switch between Waver’s more immature tones as he was in Fate/Zero, and his more mature tones as Lord El-Melloi II. Reina Ueda is a delight as Arturia’s doppelganger Gray, while Inori Minase has fun as the impish and sadistic Reines El-Melloi Archisorte.

The production values are pretty damn good. While not quite as spectacular as Ufotable, A-1 Pictures or Cloverworks’ work on other Nasuverse series, Troyca does do a good job for the series at hand, giving the character moments some needed cinematography. Plus, the opening theme, a change from the usual J-Pop songs that infest anime openings, is an intriguing orchestral piece that helps set the tone for the series.

Overall, while lacking in plot, these first four episodes of The Lord El-Melloi Case Files were enjoyable, with plenty of interesting character moments and an expansion of the lore of the Nasuverse. Here’s hoping for more of that…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,570
48
2,850
REVIEW: Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia Episode 14: Decisive Battle, Episode 15: The New Humanity, Episode 16: Awakening and Episode 17: The Congress Dances by Kinoku Nasu

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FGOB14-17, 4X25 minute episodes

So, here comes the next four episodes of Fate Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia. These four episodes will prove decisive. But will they be good? Well, let’s find out…

An assault is launched on Gorgon’s stronghold, the Blood Fort, where Ana reveals her identity as a younger Medusa, before sacrificing herself to stop her older self. But her sacrifice proves to be for nothing, for Kingu is revealed to be the holder of the Grail keeping this Singularity in place, and Gorgon’s death has reawakened the real Tiamat, putting Merlin out of commission. What’s more, Tiamat is a Beast of Calamity, one of the greatest evils humanity has to face, and she has an army of monsters at her command, the Lahmu. As Kingu is betrayed by the mother he aided, it becomes a race against time to stop Tiamat from taking the Grail, and using her Lahmu and the Chaos Tide she exudes to wipe out Mesopotamia…

Hoo boy, what a trip. We’re moving quickly towards the endgame of the series, and it’s an exciting ride. There’s quite some sad moments, and plenty of shocking moments too, with the emergence of the Lahmu and Tiamat’s true form. And, of course, there’s some excellent character moments.

In these episodes, Melissa Fahn does well, pulling triple duty as two incarnations of Medusa, as well as Tiamat’s singing, substituting for Aoi Yuuki for the latter. Marianne Miller and Lauren Landa get some emotive moments as Kingu and Siduri respectively, while Gloria Garayua shows her chops as Quetzalcoatl in more serious moments. Plus, Mela Lee as Ishtar and Ereshkigal and David Vincent as Gilgamesh do well.

Once more, the production values are superlative. The fight between Ana and Gorgon is intense, while Ishtar’s use of her An Gal Ta Kigal Se attack is one of the most spectacular uses of a Noble Phantasm in the entire franchise, and Tiamat’s full emergence soon afterwards is a scarily effective use of CGI. And that’s without going into the eerie and horrific animations of the Lahmu.

Overall, these episodes were a brilliant continuation of the series. Time will tell if the finale is anywhere near as good…

*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,570
48
2,850
REVIEW: The Lord El-Melloi II Case Files Episode 4: A Workshop, a Grave, and a Necromancer, Episode 5: The Lance that Shines to the End of the World and the Fairy Eyes, and Episode 6: A Girl, a Department Store, and a Gift by Ukyo Kodachi, from the light novels by Makoto Sanda

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: LEMCF4-6, 3X25 minute episodes

So, here I am again with another lot of episodes from The Lord El-Melloi II Case Files. But how will this lot fare? Let’s find out…

Waver is agonising over the possibility of missing out on the Holy Grail War, but there’s no time for him to mourn lost chances. He accepts a job that might lead to him participating, but to do so, he must investigate the mysterious lightning deaths at the Marburry Workshop. The case seems open and shut, with another investigator, Policies hatchetwoman Hishiri Adashino, set on naming Wills Pelham Codrington, heir to the creator of the Marburry Workshop, as the culprit. But Waver isn’t convinced, and helped by necromancer Kairi Sisigou and Gray, will discern the truth. Later, Gray will go, thanks to the connivance of Reines, on that most terrifying of adventures: shopping in a department store. An intimidating experience for the shy Gray, but when the department store’s magecraft goes awry, she, Reines, and Luvia Edelfelt will need to find their own way out…

Once more, we have some good storylines, knitted together by the story arc of Waver’s fixation on the Holy Grail War. They’re enjoyable enough stories, though not truly great. The first two episodes were good, but in some regards, they were a repeat of one of the previous episodes, just with enough material to fill two out. And the department store misadventure doesn’t feel quite right, being there more for Gray’s sake than advancing the plot. Still, there is the sign of more to come at the end of the episode, when Waver’s prized relic is stolen and he has to head to the Rail Zeppelin mentioned previously in the series.

Daisuke Namikawa is, of course, great as Lord El-Melloi, showcasing his more calmer qualities. Reina Ueda does well as Gray, with much of the story revealing more aspects of her character, and we have Inori Minase doing double duty as the impish Reines and her mercury maid, Trimmau. Plus, we have a welcome return of Kenji Nomura as Kairi Shishigou from Fate/Apocrypha, as well as an interesting new character in the sardonic Magus investigator Adashino, played by Yuuko Minaguchi.

The production values, meanwhile, are quite good. Not quite as good as other Nasuverse works, true, but they do well. One of the best examples is the battle between the various Magi and the Black Dogs, culminating in Gray firing off Rhongomyniad for the first time in the series, a spectacular if somewhat brief bit of animation.

Overall, while not actually an improvement on prior episodes, they were an enjoyable continuation of the series. Here’s hoping that with the actual story arc beginning, things will pick up…

****
 

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