The Quatermass All-Purpose Media Review Thread

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Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul √A Episode 6: Thousand Paths, Episode 7: Permeation, and Episode 8: Old Nines by Chuuji Mikasano, from the manga by Sui Ishida

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TGRA1.6-1.8, 3X25 minute episodes


So, having recently finished the original manga run of Tokyo Ghoul, I find myself watching more of the second season of the anime adaptation. Given its departure in many regards from the manga, I hoped it would get better, at least further on. But would it?

Ken struggles with his kakuja, struggling against his inner Ghoul instincts which are raging out of control. Meanwhile, Koutaro Amon and Akira Mado manage to reconcile, while Shinohara, accompanied by Juuzou, begins an investigation of his own, leading him to Anteiku. However, Ken, seeking answers, talks to Yoshimura, and even though he has a bad encounter with a hurt Touka, he soon has his answers: Yoshimura’s own daughter is the true One-Eyed Owl…

The story itself is filled with nice character moments and has some good adaptations of the manga. However, it is clear that the writers didn’t think things through with Ken becoming part of Aogiri Tree and the consequences thereof. In addition, Touka’s attack on Ken during the bridge scene doesn’t have quite as much lead-up to it, and while not unprovoked, doesn’t paint Touka in quite as good a light as the manga. Ken’s choices also seem baffling, even though we finally have the reason he joined Aogiri Tree.

That being said, the performances are all well-done. Austin Tindle as Ken, Brina Palencia as Touka, these are just some of the many enjoyable performances in the show, making do with a script that isn’t quite working, even if the emotional moments do work for the most part. Indeed, they are amongst the best things in this adaptation.

Production values are pretty good, with many great moments. True, there aren’t really that many fight scenes, but the direction works with many of the emotional moments, as well as the horrific moments. I have pretty much no complaints about that side of things.

These episodes of Tokyo Ghoul √A, while enjoyable, nonetheless lack substance and show the problems with deviating so sharply in some regards from the manga. A shame, really, as they’re still quite good…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul: PINTO by Chuuji Mikasano, from the manga by Sui Ishida and the light novel Tokyo Ghoul: Days by Shin Towada.

TYPE: Original Video Animation

DETAILS: TG2, 25 min OVA


The first of the Tokyo Ghoul OVAs didn’t appeal to me as much as it could have, but given how short it was, well, that was part of the problem. I decided to give the second OVA, Tokyo Ghoul: PINTO, a shot, to see whether it was any good. Time would tell if it is…

Shu Tsukiyama: Aesthete. Epicure. Ghoul. But during one of his hunts during his high school years, he’s surprised by a fellow student, an eccentric photographer called Chie Hori. A strange friendship of sorts is struck up between the two, but Chie should be wary, for Tsukiyama has strange and sadistic tastes, ones that might lead to her demise…

The story is a short one, and lacking in substance. However, the themes that are there are pretty good, with the development of Tsukiyama’s strange friendship with Chie the focus. There’s a nice, if very dark, touch in an elderly hospital patient and a nurse with a dark secret that adds just the right thing to the story.

Being as character-driven as it is, this short but sweet story runs on its characters. Tsukiyama’s childhood is shown, as is his complexity, and Mamoru Miyano does well with the flamboyant and intelligent Ghoul. Chie Hori is endearing and interesting, despite her scatter-brained ways, and Megumi Han plays her well.

As for the production values, well, they are good. Sadly, there aren’t any fight scenes, and the one action scene at the end, while good, doesn’t really get to show off much. However, this is made up for by the cinematography, adding to the mood of this character piece.

Overall, while a shorter and more character-driven piece than the previous one, this actually works to PINTO’s benefit. A shame it isn’t longer…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul √A Episode 9: City in Waiting, Episode 10: Last Rain, Episode 11: Deluge of Flowers, and Episode 12: Ken by Chuuji Mikasano, from the manga by Sui Ishida

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TGRA1.9-1.12, 4X25 minute episodes


So, here I am, at the last episodes of Tokyo Ghoul √A. While many elements of the adaptation were spotty at best, and at worst, a complete derailment of the manga’s themes, it was still compelling enough to watch until the end. And now, the end has come…

The CCG have decided to launch an assault against the 20th Ward and Anteiku, hoping to wipe out the One-Eyed Owl for once and for all. Ken and Touka make their separate ways to the 20th Ward in order to help their friends. What follows is a bloody, deadly battle, where not everyone will survive…

For all my issues with this adaptation, it’s still a good one, with many of the best moments from the final volumes of the first manga run preserved. Others, unfortunately and annoyingly, are gotten rid of, including the climactic battle between Ken and Arima. However, the final episode, for all its faults, is pretty tearjerking, though the final, long walk does take too long, and it just feels like too many threads were left up in the air, and not addressed as satisfactorily as in the manga.

Austin Tindle as Ken and Brina Palencia as Touka do pretty well. Plus, we have some pretty heartstring-tugging screams and lines from Maxey Whitehead as Juuzou after the character comes to a realisation about his superior. And finally, we have a chilling performance from Lindsay Siedel as Sen Takatsuki…revealing herself to be Eto.

The fight scenes are pretty good, at least in many parts. However, as brought up earlier, I feel that, while the emotional content of the final episode hits the right spots for the most part, the pacing of the final long walk ruins it a bit by going on for a bit too long. They try too hard for the symbolism, and the story suffers for it.

Overall, while excellent for what it is, the finale of Tokyo Ghoul √A was a disappointment in some key areas. It had many of the emotional moments down and great fights, but the story didn’t quite survive…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Future Diary Episode 1: Sign Up, Episode 2: Contract Terms, and Episode 3: Initial Failure by Katsuhiko Takayama, from the manga by Sakae Esuno

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FD1.1-1.3, 3X25 minute episodes


The Fate franchise revolves around a lethal tournament with the stakes being ultimate power, set in a dark fantasy universe. A not wholly dissimilar franchise is Future Diary, infamous for providing one of the archetypal yandere or crazy stalker characters in modern fiction. But would I enjoy this dark fantasy thriller series?

Yukkiteru ‘Yukki’ Amano is pretty much a nobody, and content to remain that way, observing his days’ events in a diary on his mobile phone. His only friends are supposedly imaginary, the Lord of Space and Time known as Deus ex Machina, and Deus’ diminutive assistant Murmur. However, Deus is very real, and gives Yukki a Future Diary, whereby events of the future are predicted on his phone. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one with such a diary: Yuno Gasai, a girl who is obsessed with him, has another, and Yukki soon learns that they are amongst a dozen contestants in a survival game held by Deus ex Machina. The winner, the last Diary Holder left alive, will gain Deus’ throne. And soon, the other Diary Holders are gunning for Yukki, including misotheistic terrorist Minene Uryu…

The plot, at least initially, seems like many that have gone on before, and already goes through some established tropes for the protagonist. It also seems, at times, a bit gratuitously dark and violent. However, for all that, it nonetheless has many enjoyable plot and character moments, and we have some disturbing foreshadowing of what’s to come. It succeeds way more often than it fails.

Josh Grelle is great as the wimpy Yukki. However, I’m more ambivalent about Brina Palencia as Yuno. While she sounds more like a realistic girl, giving a more subtle unsettling nature to the character, it doesn’t provide as much dissonance as the Japanese voice actress being cutesy and thus contrasting greatly with her actions. However, the character of Yuno herself is a very interesting one. So too is misotheistic mad bomber Minene Uryu, with Emily Neves hamming it up, as does Kent Williams as Deus ex Machina.

Production values are pretty good. I have to admit, though, while the CGI used for Deus gives him an unsettling and alien air, it doesn’t succeed for other parts, particularly with the theme park scenes in the third episode. I also feel that the first episode was a little rushed, though the second and third episodes have some pretty good pacing and, in the former, some enjoyable action scenes.

Overall, the first three episodes of Future Diary were an enjoyable start to a dark and twisted series. Hopefully, it’ll retain my interest…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Fate/Apocrypha: Episode 13: The Last Master, Episode 14: Prayer of Salvation, and Episode 15: Differing Paths by Yuichiro Higashide

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FA13-15, 3X25 minute episodes


At long last, the second half of Fate/Apocrypha has been released on Blu-Ray in Australia. Therefore, I decided to jump right in where the series left off. But how would things go?

Astolfo’s Master Celenike makes an attempt to have her Servant murder Sieg, but a timely intervention from Mordred saves Sieg. Meanwhile, Jeanne has discovered the truth behind Shirou Kotomine: he is actually a Ruler Servant like she was, summoned in the previous Grail War. His true identity: Shirou Amakusa Tokisada, Japanese folk saint and martyr. And he now has all of the surviving Red Faction Servants, save for Mordred, under his control, and intends to use the Greater Grail to wish for the salvation of humanity, whether they want it or not. And what’s worse is that the Caster of the Black Faction, Avicebron, turns traitor as well, and will soon have what he needs to complete his massive golem: his own Master, Roche…

The story of these episodes is enjoyable enough, managing to conclude some story arcs, particularly that of Celenike and Avicebron, as well as setting up Gordes for some small redemption. Plus, we get some more insight into the pasts of the Forvedge siblings as well as Kairi. That being said, I do have to wonder how the hell Mordred managed to get to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, meaning there’s some sort of continuity issue or else bad story logic at play here, and it feels more like the conclusion to the long, long battle-filled episodes that preceded the mid-season break.

The performances are all quite good. Patrick Seitz and Erica Lindbeck as Kairi and Mordred are on fine form, as is Zach Aguilar as Sieg and Erika Harlacher as Jeanne. Cam Clarke does well for Avicebron’s final story moments as well, really letting loose with the Caster’s misanthropy and bitterness.

Production values are still pretty good. True, there is only one truly spectacular fight scene in these episodes, given the fight against Avicebron and his golem, but that is really enjoyable. However, it’s not quite as spectacular as some of the previous fights, unfortunately.

In any case, these three episodes of Fate/Apocrypha promise much for the beginning of the end. Here’s hoping it goes from strength to strength…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Future Diary Episode 4: Hand-Written, Episode 5: Voice Message, Episode 6: Silent Mode, and Episode 7: Answering Machine by Katsuhiko Takayama, from the manga by Sakae Esuno

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FD1.4-1.7, 4X25 minute episodes


So, now the time has come for me to return to Future Diary. This dark supernatural thriller series has managed to suck me in. But how would it progress from here?

Yukki is terrified. He has learned that Yuno may be a murderer, having a room with bodies in it. And unfortunately, she may be his best chance of survival when they, along with Fourth Diary holder, detective Keigo Kurusu, are summoned to the Omekata Cult by Tsubaki Kusagano. Tsubaki, a nearly blind girl, is the Sixth Diary Holder and the figurehead leader of the cult, and not only does she have Minene Uryu captive, but she’s worried about her own fate, and begs for Yukki’s protection, to Yuno’s fury. But Tsubaki is right to fear, for the Twelfth Diary Holder, a blind vigilante called Yomotsu Hirasaka, is on the attack. But Yukki and Yuno can’t rest easy, for Tsubaki has ambitions of her own, and another Diary Holder, the precocious child genius Reisuke Hojo, has them in his sights too…

The episodes are full of incident and action, and are certainly enjoyable in a tense, dark way. There’s also a lot of psychologically disturbing things, and some humour (particularly from Hirasaka). I do think some elements are too grotesquely gratuitous, like Tsubaki’s past, or Reisuke being unnaturally intelligent and malevolent for a child his age, though, and I found the scenes with Yukki’s mother too cringe-inducing.

I have to admit, Brina Palencia is actually growing on me as the psychotic Yuno, though I have to wonder why the hell Yukki even trusts her. Katherine Bristol as Tsubaki and Ian Sinclair as Hirasaka do very well, though. And Lindsay Seidel, whom I know better as Eto from Tokyo Ghoul, does a scary job as Reisuke.

The production values still manage to remain quite high. We’ve got some interesting choices of cinematography, and the action scenes present work fairly well, though I feel a little more tension was needed for the hide and seek sequence in the seventh episode. Overall, quite good, and the instances of CGI actually work. Hell, there’s even a crude stop motion animation scene showing how Murmur gave Hirasaka his Diary that’s rather charming.

Overall, these episodes of Future Diary manage to maintain the standards for the series. I just hope it gets better…

****
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Fate/Apocrypha: Episode 16: Jack the Ripper, Episode 17: Träumerai, Episode 18: From Hell, and Episode 19: Dawn of the End by Yuichiro Higashide

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FA16-19, 4X25 minute episodes


So, I’ve just watched more episodes of Fate/Apocrypha. These ones mark a turning point for many characters, with a lot of disturbing stuff. But would I enjoy it anyway?

With the Greater Grail taken by Shirou Amakusa Tokisada, the remnants of Yggdmillennia, along with Jeanne d’Arc, Sieg, Kairi and Mordred, make their plans to assault the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. But they have another problem they need to deal with: Assassin of Black, aka Jack the Ripper, and her Master, Reika Rikudou, have become too much of a problem, murdering any mages in their sights. While trying to deal with them, they soon find, along with Atalanta, the Archer of Red, that Jack the Ripper has more power than they thought, a power that seemingly comes From Hell…

The story itself is at a rather pivotal stage, and this part of the story reflects that. While I think it does gloss over some elements, like Jack the Ripper’s full origins and the background of Reika, it’s still an enjoyable romp, even with the more horrific elements of the episodes. Plus, we have some wonderful development of Jeanne and Sieg’s relationship, as well as other character moments, like those involving the Forvedges, as well as Sieg struggling to see both the better side of humanity alongside the darkness.

Zach Aguilar as Sieg and Erika Harlacher as Jeanne do well as their relationship develops. However, the particular stars of these episodes are Erica Mendez as Jack the Ripper, and Allegra Clark as Atalanta. Both of them get some pretty good performances, with the former making Jackie adorable, freaky, and frankly tragic, while the latter showcases the stern huntress’ spiral into madness thanks to Jack the Ripper and Jeanne’s exorcism of the Assassin Servant.

Production values are mostly quite good, though I have to confess, there were a few off moments for Episode 17, where some of the animation of mid to long range characters were noticeably less detailed. The nightmare sequences from Episode 18 were very creepy and atmospheric. Overall, it was a fairly good set, even if there weren’t that many actual fight scenes.

Overall, these episodes form some of the most harrowing in the series, and are all the better for it. The end is now approaching…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Doctor Who: Resolution by Chris Chibnall

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial 11.X, 1X60 minute episode


I have to confess, the 11th season of the new series of Doctor Who hasn’t really felt that much like the actual series anymore. Despite this, I decided to give the New Year Special Resolution a go. But would it be a return to form?

New Year’s Day, and a pair of archaeologists, Mitch and Lin, are excavating the site of a man who may have been Alfred the Great. Or he may have been a survivor of a deadly battle that took place nearby over a thousand years ago. In truth, he was the latter, one of three victors of a battle against a deadly alien foe, who tried to separate the pieces of the creature. But it has awakened. The Doctor and her companions investigate, not knowing that Lin has been turned into the creature’s puppet. But as Ryan struggles with meeting his father Aaron for the first time in years, the Doctor soon realises that the alien is a Dalek. It may be without its armoured casing, but this Dalek, a Reconnaissance Scout, is cunning, vicious, and it is set on annexing Earth for the Dalek empire…

While people could say this is an also-ran of Dalek, the first new series Dalek story, I actually beg to differ. While the premise is a bit contrived, and I don’t like how UNIT has been unceremoniously taken out of the series, I also believe that this is the first Doctor Who story of Chris Chibnall’s time as showrunner to actually feel like a Doctor Who story. Whether this is because the series has found its feet or because a familiar monster has been put in, I don’t know, but it works, and Daleks have rarely been as scary or menacing as they have been here, with oodles of psychological horror with the Dalek controlling humans as if they were puppets.

Jodie Whittaker is on fine form as the Doctor, further proving that the Doctor is still the Doctor despite the gender change. Mandip Gil, Tosin Cole, and Bradley Walsh are also damn good as Yasmin, Ryan and Graham, with Tosin in particular getting some good scenes with Daniel Adegboyega as his father Aaron. Perhaps the biggest stars of the show are Charlotte Ritchie as Lin and regular Dalek voice actor Nick Briggs. The former shows the pain and anguish Lin is going through, as well as making a very scary ‘human Dalek’, while Briggs gets to chew the scenery as a particularly sadistic and menacing Dalek.

Production values are good. In fact, it feels like this is how the new series should be, even up to the beginning of the new series over a decade ago. The CGI of both the Dalek mutant and its casing are very well done, with the former feeling more like a puppet than a CGI creation, and the action scenes are well done too. In addition, the Dalek ray effect gets a subtle upgrade, making the X-ray glow that the new series has embraced more real-looking, with parts of the visible skeleton faded out of view.

Resolution, perhaps fitting given its title, fills me with resolve about the new series. It’s a brilliant revival of the Dalek, and perhaps it could signal that for my enjoyment of the series as a whole…

*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Fate/Apocrypha: Episode 20: Soar Through the Sky, Episode 21: Antares Snipe, Episode 22: Reunion and Farewell, Episode 23: Going Beyond, Episode 24: The Holy Grail War, and Episode 25: Apocrypha by Yuichiro Higashide

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FA20-25, 6X25 minute episodes


So, at long last, I come to the conclusion of Fate/Apocrypha. But would it be worth the wait? Let’s find out…

The last remnants of Yggdmillennia, along with Kairi Sisigou, Sieg, and their respective Servants launch an assault on the Hanging Gardens of Babylon via the air. While Achilles has a long-awaited showdown with his teacher, Chiron, Astolfo and Sieg work to penetrate the defences Semiramis has in place. Meanwhile, Atalanta, obsessed with revenge against Jeanne for her actions against Jack the Ripper, undertakes a dangerous metamorphosis in her madness, one which may overwhelm the Ruler Servant. And in the depths of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Shirou Amakusa Tokisada ventures into the Greater Grail. His goal is to achieve human salvation through materialising their souls using the Third True Magic, Heaven’s Feel. Even if those opposing him were to prevail, it would come at a high cost, for not everyone will survive, and victory is not guaranteed…

Wow. What an ending to the series. It was great and satisfying, with all the right emotional moments touched. To say much more is to spoil the series, but I do feel that there were a couple of moments that seemed to be pulled out of thin air, like the ability Sieg uses to defeat Shirou during the final battle, as well as what Kairi uses to save Mordred (both of which were apparently foreshadowed better in the original novels). Otherwise, very enjoyable, and with a lovely ending and coda that mirrors the very beginning of the series.

The actors do their damned best with the material, and to single out a single actor is to do a grave disservice to them. Each of the remaining characters, particularly the Servants, get their moment in the spotlight, with Mordred finally realising what her wish is, Jeanne being forced to confront her feelings for Sieg, Atalanta, Achilles, Karna and Chiron getting some well-done farewells. Overall, a splendid effort.

It’s with the production values, though, normally so high, that things start to fall down. True, the animation, for the most part, is actually excellent, as is the choreography of the fight scenes. But, and this is a very noticeable flaw, Episode 22 has VERY noticeably different, if not outright poor animation for the fight scenes, specifically those Atalanta is involved in, and the fight between Karna and Sieg. That is so disappointing, given the high quality the series has maintained so far…

Overall, while marred by a noticeably big blip in production values partway through and some shoddy adaptation, these episodes of Fate/Apocrypha mark an excellent end to an excellent series. I wish there were more Fate series for me to watch…


****½
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Overlord III: Episode 1: A Ruler’s Melancholy, Episode 2: Carne Village Once More, Episode 3: Enri’s Upheaval and Hectic Days, Episode 4: Giant of the East and Demon Snake of the West, and Episode 5: Two Leaders by Yukie Sugawara, from the light novels by Kugane Muruyama

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: OL3.1-5, 5X25 minute episodes


So, at long last, the third and, to date, final season of Overlord has come into my possession. But how would I enjoy these episodes, based on the eighth novel in the series? Let’s find out…

Being a leader is hard. Ainz Ooal Gown is still struggling with that, but another who is struggling with the burdens of leadership is Enri Emmott, a teenaged girl who is one of the key figures in Carne Village. But even as she juggles restless goblins under her command and dealing with her overworking beau, potions prodigy Nfirea, a new threat has emerged. The Wise King of the Forest’s absence from the forests surrounding Carne has disrupted the balance of power in those forests, and the Demon Snake of the West and the Giant of the East have come to threaten Carne…

One dissatisfaction I had with the original novel was that the plot was bifurcated. Here, it feels better integrated and a bit more understandable, even if there was still a rather obscure plot point regarding Guu. Still, the slice of life elements are a refreshing change for the series, even if some of the comedy is a bit cringey, though other parts are fine.

As usual, Chris Guerrero is a delight as Ainz, though his presence is not as prominent as in some other parts of the series. Skyler Macintosh and Morgan Berry as Enri and Nfirea respectively are fine enough, with their characters growing, while the various goblins can be fun. So too is Alexis Tipton as Lupusregina Beta.

Animation-wise, most of the time, it’s actually quite good, of the standard that I have come to expect from Madhouse. However, one major point where it falls down is with the use of CGI for the ogres, which is jarring compared to the rest of it, especially as they play such a big role in the climactic battles. Which is frankly a crying shame. The dub also messes up lip flap syncing in at least one noticeable scene, which is disappointing.

Overall, these five episodes of the third season of Overlord are a promising start to the series. Here’s hoping things continue to go well…

****
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Kara no Kyokai- The Garden of Sinners: Overlooking View- Thanatos by Masaki Hiramitsu, from the light novel by Kinku Nasu.

TYPE: Film

DETAILS: KNK1, 50 minute film


Having gorged myself on the Fate series, I decided to give another offshoot of the Nasuverse a go. Kara no Kyokai, also known as The Garden of Sinners, was a light novel series by Kinoku Nasu, a supernatural mystery series that would use many concepts and even, to a degree, character names that would eventually become part of the Tsukihime visual novel. But how would this adaptation of the first novel in the series fare?

Shiki Tohno is a taciturn young woman who, along with Magus Toko Aozaki, investigates strange incidents in the city, while she tolerates the presence of Mikiya Kokuto in her life. A series of suicides occur, seemingly connected only by the lack of a note, and by the site, the derelict Fujou Building. When the bodycount mounts, and Mikiya is rendered comatose by the entity behind this, Shiki must go in, and even her skills with her Mystic Eyes of Death Perception may not help her…

Perhaps the biggest problem with this film is the story. It’s not that it’s particularly bad (in fact, it’s quite a good one), but it’s a bit obscure and difficult to discern what is going on, especially if one has no familiarity with the Nasuverse in general, and the characters in particular. It also feels like it was stretched to fill the running time, and could very well have been cut down without losing too much. Still, the concepts are good, and there’s some interesting character moments.

The characters themselves are okay, but not quite thrilling. This is, admittedly, due to this story feeling in media res to their lives, but still, I felt a bit more could have been done. Maaya Sakamoto is perhaps the highlight as the sullen Shiki, though Rie Tanaka as Kirie is also good.

Where this movie excels is in production values. Despite the dodgy pacing, the animation is beautiful, on a par with that Ufotable would do later for Fate/Zero, and the adaptations of the Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven’s Feel storylines of Fate/Stay Night. The atmosphere is also wonderful, with direction and sound design contributing to the whole.

Overall, while the story was insubstantial and a bit obscure to newcomers, the first Garden of Sinners movie has an intriguing premise and brilliant presentation. Maybe one of the next ones might be better…

***½
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Overlord III: Episode 6: Invitation to Death, Episode 7: Butterfly Entangled in a Spider’s Web, and Episode 8: A Handful of Hope by Yukie Sugawara, from the light novels by Kugane Muruyama

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: OL3.6-8, 3X25 minute episodes


I have to admit, the Overlord volumes where the viewpoint is not as much on Ainz or the other denizens of Nazarick often rank themselves more lowly in my reckoning. The seventh volume, the basis of these three episodes, was one of them, not helped by the fact that this is the point where Ainz’s downturn into villainy reaches a threshold of no return. But, well, here I go…

The Baharuth Empire are curious about the rumours they heard of Ainz Ooal Gown, and so, to ensure deniability, send Workers, far more mercenary versions of Adventurers, to the Tomb of Nazarick to investigate. Unfortunately, Ainz is working to a plan thought up by Demiurge, and has led the Adventurers into a trap. But can any of the Adventurers escape with their lives intact? Not if Ainz has anything to say about it…

Seeing the story adapted to the series actually helps the digestion of it better. This isn’t to say that I still like what is Ainz’s true descent into villainy, and it does still leave something of a bad taste in my mouth. But the adaptation helps clarify matters a little, as well as showcasing the various viewpoints.

Chris Guerrero is, as usual, superb as Ainz. We also have Austin Tindle doing a fine job as the ruthless but pragmatic and meritocratic Emperor Jircniv. The actors who portray the various Workers are good, with particular praise going to Lindsay Jones as Imina (doing a very different role to Ruby from RWBY) and Corinne Sudberg (best known to the internet as Megami33 of Team Four Star’s various Abridged Series) as Arche.

The production values, as usual, are superlative. There are a couple of dodgy moments here and there (the animation of Neuronist Painkill is both grotesque and yet, well, too bizarrely comical for what is meant to be a serious and horrific moment), but otherwise, a lot of it does well. Some parts are done nightmarishly well, like the cockroach-infested lair, or Arche’s desperate escape attempt.

Overall, this adaptation is an improvement on the original volume it was based on. While not as good as it could have been, it does make the source material somewhat more palatable…

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul: re Episode 1: START- Those Who Hunt and Episode 2: members- Fragments by Chuuji Mikasano, from the manga by Sui Ishida

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TGRE1.1-1.2, 2X25 minute episodes


After the disappointment that was Tokyo Ghoul √A, I hoped that Tokyo Ghoul: re would be a return to form. In fact, the manga of Tokyo Ghoul: re was an enjoyable fresh beginning for the series, as far as I was concerned. But would the anime be the same?

Two years have passed since the destruction of Anteiku by the forces of the CCG. Now, the CCG have a new weapon in the escalating fight against the Ghouls: Quinxes, humans engineered to have implanted kagunes, becoming living weapons hated by both sides. And the leader of the Quinx Squad is Haise Sasaki, a mysterious amnesic part-Ghoul. But Haise is actually Ken Kaneki, and even as he struggles to keep his dysfunctional team together, he also struggles to prevent his fragile psyche from falling apart…

Given that only two episodes were watched for this batch, there isn’t much story, but what there is is intriguing. True, it feels like an abridgement of the manga, and it also feels like a bit too much was cut out (including the reveal Mutsuki’s birth gender). But a lot of the character moments still remain, and the essentials do remain intact.

Austin Tindle is enjoyable as Haise, giving him just enough changes to make him sound distinct from previous iterations of Ken Kaneki. Adam Gibbs does a fairly good job with the immensely unlikeable Urie, while Daman Mills is a delight as the boisterous but good-natured Shirazu. Finally, Morgan Garrett gets to show how far Akira Mado has come since the previous series.

Production values are pretty good. In fact, it feels a bit better than the previous two series. Despite the abridgement of the story, there’s some good direction and cinematography that helps with both action scenes and more quiet moments. I do think they go a bit too much for horror clichés with the awful droning screech they do at the end of the next time previews, though.

Overall, while not perfect and a bit too abridged for my liking, these first two episodes of Tokyo Ghoul: re are enjoyable. Here’s hoping the rest are as enjoyable…

****
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Overlord III: Episode 9: War of Words, Episode 10: Preparation for War, Episode 11: Another Battle, Episode 12: Massacre, and Episode 13: PVP: Player versus Player by Yukie Sugawara, from the light novels by Kugane Muruyama

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: OL3.9-13, 5X25 minute episodes


So, here I come to the final episodes of Overlord, at least so far. With the story about to reach a climax, I have to wonder, would it be a good adaptation? Or would it go out with a whimper?

Emperor Jircniv of the Baharuth Empire is forced to take drastic measures to prevent Ainz Ooal Gown from attacking, but the meeting between the two rulers goes surprisingly well. However, Jircniv now understands that this is not a foe he can face alone. He hatches a plan to terrify the world into allying itself against Ainz Ooal Gown, by supporting Ainz’s claim to lands around E-Rantel, knowing it will trigger war with the Re-Estize Kingdom. But he is being played. While the arrogant Prince Barbro of Re-Estize comes to grief when he attacks Carne Village, Ainz shows his power. The Emperor intended this, Gazef Stronoff feared this, but they don’t know the true power Ainz has up his sleeve…

Wow. What a set of episodes. True, the dissatisfaction I had with the original book and the actions taken is still there, but it’s a brilliant plot with an enjoyable, if somewhat dark, ending that pretty much brings to an end the whole story arc of the series, even if the novels have continued. There’s even some nice character moments done well, like Marquis Raeven’s family life, and his discussion of the same with Gazef.

As usual, Chris Guerrero as Momonga is a delight, with Austin Tindle also showing off his chops as Jircniv. Ray Hurd also does well as Gazef, along with Coby Lewin as Climb and Jerry Jewel as Raeven. Plus, Newton Pittman does a good job as the vile Barbro.

The production values are excellent for the most part, save for one glaring problem: the use of CGI in the battle scenes. While fine enough for stuff like the undead soldiers and the Dark Young Ainz summons in the penultimate episode, for the masses of human soldiers, it falls down pretty badly, marring the quality of the episodes. Which is a crying shame, really.

Overall, these last episodes (to date, I hope) of Overlord were very high quality, marred only by dodgy CGI and some discontent I had with the original material. Still, I hope Studio Madhouse will one day adapt the other books…

****½
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: My Hero Academia Episode 9: Yeah, Just Do Your Best Iida!, Episode 10: Encounter with the Unknown, Episode 11: Game Over, Episode 12: All Might and Episode 13: In Each of Our Hearts by Yosuke Kuroda, from the manga by Kouhei Hirokoshi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: MHA1.9-1.13, 5X25 minute episodes


So, I’ve finally come to the finale of the first season of My Hero Academia. But would it turn out well? Let’s find out…

An invasion of the press into the grounds of UA serve only as a prelude to something far darker. During rescue training, Class 1-A and their supervising teachers are set upon by a group calling themselves the League of Villains, who intend to kill All Might…and any students they need to to draw the Symbol of Peace out. While Eraserhead buys times for his students to escape, the students are scattered throughout the training facility, villains targeting them. And even if an ailing All Might has enough time and strength to arrive to save the day, the League has a bioengineered weapon specifically designed to kill him…

The story is not a bad one, but it’s one of the weaker parts of this particular arc. It’s mostly a series of battles within the USJ facility that eventually intersect. We have some great battles and dialogue, as well as interesting foreshadowing of the future, but the pacing feels off, with what feels like a bit of padding at times.

Still, the characters are on fine form. Justin Briner as Izuku and Christopher Sabat as All Might do very well, and Alex Organ gets to show more energy as Eraserhead in battle. Eric Vale makes a chilling Tomura, as does Chuck Huber as Kurogiri.

Where the series shines is in the production values. The animation is brilliant for the fight scenes, with some unusual effects being used to great effect, including Kurogiri’s mist. Plus, there’s a reason that the music used for All Might’s fight with the Nomu, You Say Run, has become something of a meme.

While not perfect, this finale to My Hero Academia is an excellent cap to an excellent series. Here’s looking forward to the second series…

****½
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Episode 14: Those Who Lurk Underground and Episode 15: Envoy from the East by Hiroshi Onogi, from the manga by Hiromu Arakawa

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FMAB14-15, 2X25 minute episodes


I first started watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood long before I started this review thread. However, after the first volume of the series, I never got around to watching the full series, and having completed the manga, to say nothing of the recent controversy around Vic Mignogna, the English voice actor of Edward Elric, my interest in watching the series has been lessened. However, it’s past time for me to pick up where I left off, and so, I watch the final episode of the story arc I finished on, along with an interlude episode…

Edward and Izumi’s confrontation with Greed is interrupted when the State Military, led by King Fuhrer Bradley, lead a raid on Greed’s hideout. The fallout from that, however, leaves Edward and Alphonse with suspicions about Bradley, who seems to be hiding something. Which he is: Bradley is actually another Homunculus like Greed: Wrath, and ally to not only the other Homunculi, but also the mysterious entity calling himself the Father of the Homunculi. But Edward doesn’t know that, and he and his brother encounter the suspicious Xingese Ling Yao, while their Ishvalan nemesis Scar encounters another Xingese, May Chang…

The writing isn’t so good, but it’s partly because I’ve starting watching the series again from the scrag-end of the previous arc, where I left off, and there wasn’t much else to tag on before the next one comes up. There’s some snappy dialogue as usual, and the first appearance of Father is one of the best things about it, but it’s a somewhat weak entry. Partly my own fault, admittedly, but still…

Despite the current controversy around Vic Mignogna, there is little doubt that he is the definitive Edward Elric, mixing up hot-bloodedness and compassion, and Maxey Whitehead does well as Alphonse, a far cry from her roles as the deranged Crona from Soul Eater and Juuzou Suzuya from Tokyo Ghoul. Kent Williams is chilling in his first proper scene as Father, while the late Ed Blaylock finally gets to show his menace as Bradley. I have to confess, though, that Todd Haberkorn as Ling Yao was very underwhelming, not fitting my mental voice for the character at all.

The production values are very good. Studio Bones does some very good fight scenes for these two episodes, including Bradley and Greed facing off, as well as the Elrics facing off against Ling Yao’s bodyguards. Their skill is also shown in the more comedic moments when they switch from serious to comedic art styles at the drop of a hat.

Overall, it’s about time that I made the plunge once more into Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. And frankly, I’m glad I did it…

****
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: My Hero Academia Season 2 Episode 1: That’s the Idea, Ochaco, Episode 2: Roaring Sports Festival, and Episode 3: In Their Own Quirky Ways by Yosuke Kuroda, from the manga by Kouhei Hirokoshi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: MHA2.01-2.03, 3X25 minute episodes


So, here I am, starting on the second season of My Hero Academia. The first season ended pretty well, but the series continued, and so am I. But how well would it do?

Fresh off the attack on the USJ, UA has decided to still hold its Sports Festival, albeit with heightened security, to show that despite the attack, they are still taking things seriously. That means more pressure for the students of UA, and none more so than Izuku Midoriya, who is told by All Might to treat this as an opportunity to show how worthy a successor he is. But Izuku has rivals, not just his childhood friend turned bully Katsuki Bakugou, but also the stoic and sullen Shouto Todoroki, the son of Number 2 Hero Endeavour. And the first event of the Sports Festival is a dangerous Obstacle Course, one which not just Class 1-A are willing to do anything to win, but also students from other classes…

The writing here is perhaps the weak point. Admittedly, this is partly because they have gone from such an arc of peril down to something with much less higher stakes, but I also feel that the adaptation pads things out by explaining and expositing things that will already be self-evident to people following the series. But otherwise, it’s a good adaptation.

As usual, Justin Briner and Christopher Sabat are delights as Izuku and All Might respectively. David Matranga finally gets a more substantial role as Todoroki, mixing in bitter sullenness and a sardonic attitude that is right for the stoic and driven character. Jarrod Greene is suitably menacing in an understated way as Shinsou, though I think Alexis Tipton was a misfire for Mei, or at least her performance didn’t fit what I had in mind for her in my head.

The production values, as usual, are superlative. In fact, the animation during the obstacle course sequence is the main highlight of these episodes. If I had to complain about something on this side, it’s that the new opening titles aren’t as inspiring as the first series, especially the new theme song, with Peace Sign not holding a candle to The Day.

Overall, this start to the second season was a good one. Not a truly great one, but hey…

****
 

Book of the Month

Good Omens

"Pratchett’s wackiness collaborates with Gaiman’s morbid humour; the result is a humanist delight to be savoured and read again and again."

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