Grimgar: Stronger Together, Now & Forever | OWLS “Strength”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s  fifth monthly topic, “Strength,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard Grimgar review into this pep talk about keeping your chin up. I’m also celebrating its recent release, which includes a strong English dub by a set of newbie-ish VAs!

“Your greatest weakness can become your greatest strength.” In anime, characters struggle with inner demons or physical weaknesses that make them feel insecure and prevent them from achieving goals, which makes viewers feel empathetic toward their battle. Yet when these characters overcome their adversity, they can finally be able to express who they are, or in other words, “Free to be Me.” 

I’m also gonna try a new, shorter, more poetic form of writing, since I seem to have been named such a writer by blogger buddy LitaKino and the OWLS YT squad. Let me know if you prefer this, oh, and thanks Lyn for the prompt!


A brief discussion on the 12-episode winter 2016 anime “Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions,” produced by A-1 Pictures, directed by Ryousuke Nakamura, based on the light novel by Ao Jyumonji.

The Past is Irrelevant

Waking up in an alternate world not too far off from a fantasy, a group of strangers with no recollection of their past lives are welcomed to Grimgar, a vast magical landscape that spans as far as the eye can see. Much like an RPG system, parties, guilds, and other factions exist in packs to ensure survival and decent living conditions.

With no home to call their own, six teenagers bound by the simple wish to live in this bizarre landscape form their own party. Unbeknownst to them, what awaits their poor squad in this harsh new world is nothing but grief, loss, misfortune, and tragedy at every bend in the beaten dirt path.

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Grimgar‘s greatest appeal is its attention to the realities of living in a fantasy world. From finding a place to sleep to having enough copper pieces to afford simple luxuries like a fresh pair of underwear after using the same one for days on end, the anime never fails to appeal to logic and frugality. This comes with a downside—dreadfully slow pacing—but a show like this shouldn’t be rushed. Otherwise we’d miss out on another uneventful tidbit of coping with life’s pain, a quality that, where other trapped-in-an-RPG anime stumble, Grimgar excels.

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Being primarily main character Haruhiro’s story, I only wish we got to see through the eyes of the other party members. They’re all unique, classes and stats aside, and it could’ve been the cherry on top to understand what the Ranta the dark knight or Moguzo the tank thought before they went to bed each night.

A World Painted Unlike Any Other

Surprisingly, A-1 Pictures paints a glorious watercolor backdrop to accompany our volunteer soldier trainees as they run across the ruins of old attempting to slay a single goblin. If this anime has a winning feature, it’s the artwork. Reminiscent of the quiet world of Maoyu, it’s rare to find such wallpaper-worthy scenery at every shot, every frame. Exquisite and personalized, yet very simplistic, and it all works magically in Grimgar. 

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Also fantastic is the soundtrack, more specifically the joyous and exciting violin hoedown of the opening, “Knew day” by (K)NoW_NAME, along with the bittersweet ending, “Harvest,” a song by the same band, which frequently cues in early to accent a feeling of mourning and memorial. Both are equally enjoyable and very appropriate.

Strength is More Than Good Stats

When you think RPG stats, STRENGTH or TOUGHNESS are what jump at you first, naturally.

Now, when I say STRONGEST, having the best weapons, armor, or other gear is essential, right?

In Grimgar, that’s what Haruhiro and the gang thought, too. But they couldn’t have been more wrong.

You see, outfitting oneself with top-notch equipment sure does help, but there’s one part of your body you forget to protect most of all.

You heart.

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When sleeping, eating, or socializing are the only forms of relaxation and entertainment, you can bet much of your time is spent on the battlefield, a land where your life is always on the line. At any moment, you could get slashed on your side with a dagger, or

Struck in the back with an arrow.

Tragedy follows the pathetic party everywhere they go, and when they first experienced loss, none of them could handle themselves. It was almost as if one member meant the lives of all six.

With no one to comfort them, they all experienced petty conflict with one another—they all tore themselves up for not being cautious enough. Day by day, they milled around in the doldrums, incapable of moving forward from the horrors of their last fight.

It wasn’t until they openly cried and poured their hearts out in front of one another that they realized how each member felt. You could almost say that the wound in their hearts finally bled out.

But like scars, sadness heals itself with time, comfort, and care. But also like scars, they will never fully heal. And that’s okay.

For the Grimgar crew, strength blossomed from the heartache they experienced. Loss, tragedy, and depression, poisons that normally corrupt the body, became ironclad armor to protect them from whatever came next—as best as armor could, that is.

They came to understand just what “ashes” meant, and used their tears, innate weaknesses, and unfamiliarity to bond closer with one another. Slowly but surely, they worked harder on the field and with one another to grow as people, and to move on from that day.

For they had endured a torn heart, and what doesn’t kill you DOES make you stronger.

They learned that true strength lies not in good stats, but in their faith in one another—in overcoming adversity and misfortune TOGETHER.

You are only alone if you choose to be. Similarly, one may be strong, but a team is stronger.

All you have to do is grit your teeth and keep on rolling with the punches.

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“Living has its own challenges. I’ll give you just one piece of advice. Don’t quit. Yes, when you die, you die. But if you give up, you’re definitely going to die. That, I am sure of.” – Brittany


Fortune favors the bold, right?! Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions is full of unfortunate pitfalls for a cast of endearing teens, but so long as they stick together, they can overcome any challenge. A special shoutout goes to Rocco B (In the Cubbyhole) and Jamie (Jamie Talks Anime), two very special people who shouldn’t have had to wait so long for my thoughts on this series! I give it the certified “Cake” rating! Everyone, let me know what you thought about this series in the comments!!

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This concludes my May 26th entry in the OWLS “Strength” blog tour. Please check out Lita (LitaKinoAnimeCorner), who went right before me and wrote about the astounding latest-hit film A Silent Voice. And now, I’ll give you the weekend before we return with Naja (Nice Job Breaking It, Hero) on equally powerful film, Colorful, this Monday, May 29th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Tales of Symphonia Orchestrates Racial Harmony By Overcoming Great Tragedy| OWLS “Colors”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s  fourth monthly topic, “Colors,” I decided hit up a show that originates from a GameCube JRPG–the one and only Tales of Symphonia which was, fun fact, the SECOND anime I had ever watched!! You know what that means—aww yeah, old-school Takuto wrote a dope review about it (here) years ago that is littered with grammatical errors but full of heart. It currently has zero comments and likes, so go mess that up for me, will ya? Be gentle 🙂

We are all part of one race, the human race. “Colors” refers to people of color in anime. For this month’s topic, we will be discussing how people of color or
characters of different “races” (could be a literal alien race) are represented in anime. Some topics we are considering is the dangers of stereotyping, bi-racial
characters, and the importance of racial inclusion.

I had the recent pleasure of finally finishing the Tales of Symphonia PS3 game recently, so I’m excited let the experience come full circle by revisiting one of the titles that got me into anime. Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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A brief discussion on the various races and factions that appear in the 2007-2012 11-episode OVA series “Tales of Symphonia: The Animation,” based off the GameCube game by the same name, created by Bandai-Namco, produced by Ufotable, directed by Haruo Sotozaki (“Tales of Zestiria”). SPOILER WARNING

When One World Flourishes, the Other Withers

Enter Sylvarant, a fantasy world of monsters yet very little magic. Why? The mana that flows through the realm has been draining out for a long time now, and it seems that the land will only grow drier (literally) with each passing day. Little to the peoples’ knowledge, a second world exists out there, one that mirrors their own home, and the reason it prospers and thrives is because the mana flow resembles that of an hourglass, Tethe’alla, this second world, residing on the bottom.

This is where the Chosen one comes to save the day! “Chosen” by the heavens, Colette Brunel of Sylvarant sets out on her quest of World Regeneration to flip the hourglass back in their favor. But her clumsiness and well-being worry her friends Lloyd Irving and Genis Sage, so the two, along with Genis’s older sister (and their village’s teacher) Raine and a mysterious mercenary named Kratos, embark on a journey, encountering new friends and more foes with their own philosophies, that will forever shake the foundations of their precious world that they’ve studied for so long.

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Just when our gang finally learns to love the world for what it is,  things take one tragic turn after another, forcing our heroes to question the reason they fight, and whether their quest is one of nobility or selfishness. Remember, when one world flourishes, the other withers—people are bound to make great sacrifices.

Symphonia remains one of the top, if not THE #1 game in the incredible Tales franchise. Rife with gorgeous visuals, dramatic Celtic-inspired music, and heartbreaking characters, the animation holds on its own by establishing a fantasy adventure world (or two) where there’s always something to be lost for one of its characters. As the series progresses, we viewers, too, begin to question if a happy ending even exists for this broken cast of many ages and races. Symphonia tackles the harsh realities of acceptance and racism through its memorable characters.

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Oppressed, Punished, and Exiled

In this vast fantasy world, several races and factions exist, most of which frequently bump heads with one another. Aside from the dwarves, who lead quieter pastimes as master craftsman, there are exist elves. They live reclusive lives hidden in villages like Heimdall among the trees, and choose to isolate themselves from society because breeding half-elves (the result of human x elf mating) is frowned upon. Largely stemming from human jealousy, for elves have much longer lifespans and can use magic but humans have neither, and disgust for human blood in an elf body, both humans and elves decided to hate half-elves all around, which leads us to Symphonia‘s most tragic bunch.

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Half-elves cower at the tip of every whip cracked and at the shackles of every chain latched. Disdain from both humans and elves has caused these poor people to be punished for their mixed blood, and, if they are lucky, exiled from the land. Some literally fled to a floating isle called Exire to avoid their tragic fate. Those who could not escape detainment were hunted down, beaten, and even tortured. The main reason for their abuse, aside from their physical make-up, derives from the legend of the the great Kharlan War. In it, humans and elves fought over the two countries, Sylvarant and Tethe’alla, which left half-elves, magic users with longevity in human bodies, to be caught in the crossfire.

If We Could Just Include Instead of Exclude . . . 

Lloyd Irving, the main character, was raised by a dwarven father, meaning that he has seen the abuse from a more objective standpoint than that of a human, elf, or half-elf. Out of rage for their treatment, the Desians, a treacherous organization of half-elves, had swept through Sylvarant, enslaving humans and sacrificing them to create enhancing magic crystals called Exspheres. What they are doing is wrong, and Lloyd knows it, clutching his own mother’s Exsphere from when she was still among the living.

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With a burning desire to end all enslavement and restore the two worlds to one so that all can live in harmony together, Lloyd uses his own experience with the people he holds dear to guide his quest. When it is revealed early on that his best friend Genis and sister Raine are, in fact, half-elves, Lloyd doesn’t grief or retaliate harshly. There’s even a scene where Genis mourns because he knows that when Lloyd and all of his friends eventually pass away, he will be left behind alive but lonely. Instead, Lloyd sympathizes and smiles that he is still able to enjoy their company in the present, looking beyond racial treatment and into the value of their personality.

Genis himself undergoes his own journey when he meets the great Mithos, suppposed Hero of the Kharlan War. In actuality, he manifests as a young half-elf boy just like Genis who only wished for a world where he and his sister Martel could live in peace. Unlike Lloyd’s determination to seek symphonic harmony with all races, however, Mithos sought to convert everyone into one homogeneous kind, believing that if race didn’t exist, then neither would racism. The boy is right and his ideals are true, but his brutal nature and execution of his plans are naive and cruel. The heart was in the right place, but the mind wasn’t, and that’s why Mithos continues to suffer until his own sister rejects him.

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We need more people like Lloyd and Genis—people who have had experiences with trauma on both sides, yet still manage to see the good in others regardless of their race or status. But there’s only one way to handle this matter carefully. Rather than force people to accept the beautiful array of colored people on this planet, shoving our own ideals down their ignorant throats, we need to integrate warm, positive spirits into communities that suffer from racial exclusion—we must value the characters, not appearances, of all different peoples in order to end this childish thinking.

Dividing the world into two so that people can exist on separate planes was not the answer. Same goes for establishing one master race. The weight of Lloyd’s unwavering acceptance and determination to create a world for everyone is the greatest joy that can come from the series. It’s the hope that some day we can all overcome our own tragedies to play in one harmonic symphony together that makes “Tales of Symphonia” ring true to so many hearts. Life in this kind of new world begins not by looking at what which makes us different, but celebrating what we share in common, and that is beautiful. 

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“Dwarven Vow #1: Let’s all work together for the sake of a peaceful world.” – Lloyd Irving


Tales of Symphonia is a really neat show full of heartwarming themes and deep characters, so do check it out if this kind of fantasy is your thing! For those who have seen it, what do you think of the game or its anime adaptation? What about how it’s emotional bits are portrayed? I preferred the anime’s flow in this department, but hey, let me know your thoughts!

This concludes my April 22nd entry in the OWLS “Colors” blog tour. Please check out Stephanie Clarke’s (Anime Girls NYC) post over the darker colored villains from the currently popular Twin Star Exorcists! And now the magic will trickle down to Eren (sakuradaisuki) as she walks us through “Colors” in the dear-to-heart Sailor Moon on Monday, April 24th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Rokka Ushers in a Fresh and Bloody-Fantastic Fray | Review

A spoiler-free review of the 12-episode summer 2015 anime “Rokka no Yuusha” or “Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers,” produced by Passione, based on the light novel by Yamagata Ishio.

 – View in browser, not app, for best experience –

Whenever you’re out driving, do U-turns scare you? Oh man, they do me in. Usually swift and unannounced, what was the car ahead of me casually cruising along suddenly burns rubber and whirls around to oppose me.

So maybe I’m dramatizing U-turns a bit (also, they’re probably illegal in most areas), but doesn’t that abrupt 180-degree flip potentially ruin a nice drive? Well, if the other driver knows exactly how to pace it, direct it, and drive it on home, then no, not at all.

That’s what Rokka here did, and boy was it a spectacular turn.

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This setting is gorgeous.

Long ago when the Demon God plagued the world with darkness, the Goddess of Fate came down and sent the demon back into the shadows – Not before splitting her powers amongst six heroes, though. Now in a present-day yet still fantasy-Aztec land, the Demon God has awoken numerous times, only to be quelled time and again by new rotations of these “Heroes of the Six Flowers.”

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See? Not lying at all.

The self-proclaimed “strongest man in the world” Adlet has been selected to be one of these six braves. To prevent the Demon God’s next return, the six heroes band together and venture into the dark lands in hopes that they will save the wor–

Woah woah, slow down there. It sounds like a feasible action/adventure anime thus far, but right after episode four, it’s time to slam the breaks – Rokka wants a complete change of pace. What happens to our heroes?

Nothing. All seven meet up at the rendezvous point before plotting their attack. Wait . . . I thought there were just six braves . . .

There are. A magic barrier goes up around the temple, thick fog fills the air, and everyone is trapped in. Someone is an imposter

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If that’s not a 180-degree flip, then I’m not sure what is (I get chills just reading it). Rokka spends the first third showing off its heroes and their skills as such. It acts like your normal fantasy anime but then decides to try something new. The introduction of mystery to the fantasy/adventure genre is something I’ve never seen before. And through its fresh direction and pre-establishment of the cast, it moves forward without hesitation.

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Squad goals.

The sheer amount of suspense that Rokka builds up is absolutely incredible. Its clever hashing-out of your typical fantasy party members makes it a hot game of Dungeons & Dragons runnin’ around on the Clue game board. You wanted adventure? Not anymore. Take this murder mystery instead because it’s cooler. The gimmick works so well because we know these characters – All we have to do is roll the dice and start throwing accusations. You’ll have so much fun watching your options drop out as the game soars to its climax.

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Spooky spooky ~ Who is the Seventh???

As a side note, I was a bit spoiled by the identity of the fake, but even that didn’t faze me. Seeing how all of the clues slid into place and watching the insanity unfold gave me more than my fill of entertainment. The anime still kept me guessing to the very end, regardless of those damn trolls. That goes to show how exciting Rokka is.

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I have to mention the studio behind this anime because their name was completely new to me: Passione. I was 100% impressed by the superb animation quality and fantastical artwork. Due to the unusual yet intricate designs of each hero and their unique repertoire of arms, action scenes were bloody intense and wicked smooth.

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“I am the bone of my –“ Not now? Oh, okay.

For music, we had the reoccurring yet beloved fantasy artist Oshima Michiru (FMA, Sora no Woto) who filled the still, foggy air with an engaging score. Of its many OPs and EDs, my favorite was “Secret Sky” by MICHI for being everything I listen for in this wonderful genre.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lf13gKeZOW4

With puzzling motives, characters we’ll all recognize, and shocking plot twists at each episodes’ end, Rokka no Yuusha was without a doubt 2015’s hidden gem. The only reason you don’t remember this title was because you stopped after episode three.  Rokka‘s not without its flaws, however: Some less-major characters could have used more backbone, the opening is admittedly a bit slow, but biggest of all – This is ultimately only a preview into Rokka‘s grand scheme, and as such leaves us with jaws dropped begging for a sequel. I hate this. Don’t worry, we still get an ending that ties all of this up, but for those wanting to know how the legend ends better start supporting the franchise.

You should watch Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers because it’s something new. It takes a wild idea and runs hella far with it, leaving you clinging on for your dear life! Fans of the adventure genre especially won’t be disappointed with Rokka‘s new entry to the fray.

“That’s the first thing my master taught me. To laugh.” – Adlet

+ Despite being abrupt, fantastic new direction taken with strong, clever writing

+ suspense, Suspense, SUSPENSE

+ Studio Passione did an incredible job putting everything together

– ‘Supporting’ heroes could have been given more background, little more depth for all

– Unfavorable localization (Ponycan’s ridiculous prices without an English dub)

– Cliff-hanger ending = WE NEED MORE ROKKA, DAMMIT

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Now, I’m still cautions with those U-turners, but Rokka really impressed me guys. It’s a solid “Caffe Mocha” in this little establishment, but again, you should spread the word so we can eventually devour more! You can watch the entire anime on Crunchyroll for FREE if that site is available to you, to which I recommend “full speed ahead.” I only cry because Ponycan USA is releasing this epic without a dub. If you took a liking to my tentatively new and less-wordy format, let me know by hitting that “like” button and commenting below. It helps me immensely! Thank you all for reading and as always, until next time this has been

– Takuto, the Seventh Brave

Arslan Senki, When the OP/ED is Better Than the Actual Show

A spoiler-free review of the 25-episode spring 2015 anime “The Heroic Legend of Arslan,” produced by LIDEN FILMS and SANZIGEN, based on the manga (story) by Yoshiki Tanaka.

Undefeated King Andragoras rules over the flourishing kingdom of Pars with a firm grip through his mighty Royal Capital, Ecbatana, a city structured around a slave system that fuels the royal palace. However, the baby-faced prince Arslan, a wide-eyed and curious boy, knows deep down that he does not possess the same iron fist that his father, the King, leads with.

Pars Era, Year 320. At the tender age of 14, Arslan sets out on his maiden battle at Atropatene only for everything to go up in flames. Ecbatana falls to the Holy Lusitanian Empire, an enemy not only smart on the battlefield, but one that follows their all-empowering god “Yaldabaoth.” The youthful Arslan witnesses bloodshed of his people and the capture of his glorious Ecbatana. Arslan quickly flees the war mounted on the steed of his faithful knight, Daryun. It is at this moment that Arslan’s destiny is written in the stars, and through the help of his new followers and friends, he will rise to reclaim his golden capital no matter the cost.

 

At its core, this anime is about growing up and finding the courage to lead, and it pulls this decently enough. Arslan is faced with countless tasks that he must overcome before he begins his reclamation: Inviting members to join his party, establishing his force, rebuilding his army, seizing a base of operation – those are his main goals. But there are many bumps in the road for the poor blue-eyed prince. He must first find his drive to fight, his charisma to keep others around him, and lastly, his ethical approach to war. All of this ties into leadership, and through the guiding pen of Narsus, the master tactician, Arslan’s ideals become clearer.

Arslan Senki is set in a world based on past historical cultures, and I can proudly say has it done its research quite well. Although I’ve never been out of the country [yet], its portrayal of distant desert lands are captured in such a rich manner that I feel as if I’m actually sitting on a silk cushion in bright banquet room watching minstrels and men get heavily drunk!

You must not forget that Arslan is a fantasy. The magic may only be sneaking in the shadows (receiving no explanation whatsoever), but it’s still there. And since there is a hint of magic, it seems that the anime takes the typical fantasy copout: “It’s magic. I ain’t gotta explain sh*t.” Know that it works in mysterious ways, charming characters in the background, but it’s not the main focus. That’s on our characters.

Wait, what? No. Go home.

We’ve already talked about Arslan; decent kid, fair development, a bit bland, but not a poor character. Following Arslan right by his side – both his sword (javelin-thing) and shield – is Daryun. Daryun’s loyalty to his “prince” is admirable by many and his strength is unmatched – even by those in foreign lands. When he is not speaking to his prince, Daryun chats with Narsus, an old pal of his from back in the day. The two share conversations of strategy and wit, a combo both deadly and humorous. Just don’t bring up Narsus’ side-hobby of painting. Really, don’t.

Hey buddy, that’s what I thought

The other two I enjoyed were also fine warriors in their own rights. Gieve, a whimsical “traveling musician” who can skillfully wield many weapons and the chill Farangis, a muscular yet enchanting cleric and master of the bow which whom Gieve proclaims his love to. Although they are somewhat a gag duo, Gieve neither siding with Narsus nor the enemy half of the time, they receive very little backstory (specifically Farangis) – which is the biggest disappointment. I would have sacrificed ten Arslan balcony-contemplation scenes for one Farangis side story if I could.

That’s right. Slip and slide outta that room Gieve, you perv.

These adventurers along with a couple others compose Arslan’s force against lord “Silver Mask” (oh the cheese, it hurts), an incredibly skillful brute who is after Arslan’s head for some reason . . . Among the challenges that Arslan faces, this is his toughest one yet! This man is what triggers Arslan’s moral conflict. I won’t say much, but it was an intense endeavor for the crew to keep away from this madman.

Too bad NO ONE knows who you are even without the mask

Now, if you’ve thought that up until now Arslan Senki was an A+ for me, you’re incredibly mistaken. The entire show is one sloppy quest, and here’s why:

They say adventures are all about “the getting there,” and that the resolution just happens to tie loose ends. But Arslan Senki doesn’t give us either of these things! Instead it drags on for 25 boring episodes of pointless side plots doing FLIP that take far too long to resolve – Speaking of, IT DOESN’T END. Spoiler alert, but it doesn’t. Instead, we have Arslan and the gang mounted majestically, waiting to take back the kingdom until blah blah blah “here’s a season two B.S. announcement because we couldn’t get our crap together in the first.” Seriously, WHAT!?

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More yuck

Don’t even get me started with this anime’s production value. It’s TERRIBLE. I’ve had enough of CG-gummy army men, retarded-angry horses, and derpy Arslan faces to last me enough time to figure out the secrets of “Silver Mask” and overthrow Pars THREE times over. The animation is extremely inconsistent, relying on its few high-budget fight scenes and opening animation alone, and it really drags the show in the mud. You know it’s bad when you can tell where the money went in each episode. Art may look pretty, but for the love of Yaldabaoth DO NOT get this show in motion!! It’s so IRRITATING.

Heavens, I find that very hard to believe

Why do those horses look so . . . evil?

why do they go to the dark side

No seriously, what the hell IS that??

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“Yes, he’s supposed to be killing that horse.”

And now for the music. Does it fail epically like its visuals? Well, slap UVERworld, Eir Aoi, and Kalafina in the same anime and you tell me. The first opening “Boku no Kotoba de wa Nai, Kore wa Bokutachi no Kotoba” by UVERworld is pretty darn solid, and the second, “Uzu to Uzu” by NICO Touches the Walls has that quality “second half” feel to it. Once you hit Eir Aoi’s ending “Lapis Lazuli,” however, you’ve entered my top 5 endings. If Arslan is remembered for one thing, it’s gonna be this song (that moment when the OP/ED is better than the show). Lastly, Kalafina brings all under their graceful wings with “One Light,” the second ending, giving us some air of conclusion to grasp onto.

I’ll give Taro Iwashiro’s soundtrack props to filling out the fantasy-adventure tone enough to immerse me in the setting. No tracks in specific to highlight, but being supportive is all I could ask for with this shambling show.

So whoopty-freakin’-doo, there are my thoughts on The Heroic Legend of Arslan, or more accurately titled, The Heroic Legend of Asslan, pardon my French. Unless you are an absolute diehard fan of the fantasy-adventure/war drama genre, then throw this one out with yesterday’s garbage. We don’t need it, and certainly not a flippin’ sequel. That’s bullticky. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find Farangis’ cult and burn crosses in Lusitanian yards.

“The throne itself does not have a will of its own. Depending on who sits in it, it can be the seat of justice or it can be the seat of inhuman cruelty. As long as it is a man, and not a god, doing the governing, he can never be perfect. But should he neglect to make efforts to reach for perfection, a king will surely tumble down the slippery slope towards evil with no one around to stop him.” – Farangis, and amen at that

+ Arslan’s main troupe, though a bit lacking in development, comes across as a pleasant party

+ All openings and endings were the only features keeping me attached to this show

– IN-CONS.ISTENT. ANIMATI-ON.

– Sloppy execution of story, not enough character spotlight, specifically for Farangis and Arslan

– So much wasted potential in all categories, ending was unsatisfactory

For the café rating, it’s average even during its best moments. Did anyone else feel disappointed with this anime? If you had other thoughts, I’d be very interested to read them, but otherwise charge into the like button if you found my “spittin’ fire” on Arslan at all amusing. “Yashasuiin!” I won’t lie, if felt darn good to hate on something since all I do is spread cheer about shows. And right as I return, I must bid you all farewell again, so until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

DanMachi, An Adventure I Could Care Less About

A review of the 2015 spring anime “Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (DanMachi)”

I originally entered this anime thinking “This is J.C.Staff. The genre is fantasy adventure with comedic action on the side. It looks and sounds great. I’m gonna love this show too much.” Let’s just say that I slid out of this dungeon with more scrapes and bruises than benefits (also, 😦 I didn’t get any girls).

In the dead center of the medieval city Orario, a land where Gods walk commonly in the streets, stands an impressive tower that has been nicknamed the “Dungeon.” Roaming the several floors of underground labyrinth are strange beasts and mystic lands. Killing and exploring awards adventurers with experience points, gems, and other items, which can be sold for cash or used to create weapons and armor. Bell Cranel is a noob fighter and inexperienced with the ladies, but after being adopted into the Hestia familia (Total members: now two) the big-boobed “Kamisama” raises “Bell-kun” to become a hero.

The anime kicks off excitingly, showing off neatly intertwined RPG gimmicks that actually make up the world. When the social system is based on your adventurer status and level, you’d try damned hard to beat each and every little goblin with your friends to earn the extra pocket change and EXP. Additionally, you return home to your familia each night with your respective God or Goddess smiling upon you, which only increases your determination. It’s like that for Bell, too, but Bell only has Hestia and vice versa, which mean the two quickly become best buds – “HESTIA IS BESTIA” is real BTW.

Though coins and rankings mean absolute bliss for Bell, he’s set his eyes on the gold: Aiz Wallenstein, the Sword Princess. First contact with this babe saving his life brings Bell to his weak knees, and as the series progresses, he becomes entranced with the idea of leveling up to follow her.

About half way through, when I stopped drooling over the pretty art, however, I realized that DanMachi had no idea where it was going. Bell was growing stronger to catch up to Aiz, his party was slowly increasing, and it’s confirmed that a villain looms in the background, but then nothing else was happening. What started off as a promising quest of heroism and mischievous Goddesses soiled a into fan service mess – one adventure I could honestly care less about. Each episode accomplished so little and the anime doesn’t even end properly! I had more concerns stacking up than compliments, only by the end to realize that none of the aspects the story offered were satisfying.

And what’s with that ridiculous title? It doesn’t even apply here, considering that Bell isn’t in the dungeon  to “try to pick up girls.” If anything, they follow him! An alternate translation, Is It Wrong That I Want to Meet You in a Dungeon, at least makes sense because Bell trains to be with Aiz. The subtitle Familia Myth is my favorite, though. Simple, applicable, and effective.

For characters, Bell Cranel is an adorable little fluff of white hair and red eyes. Kind, shy, and easily intimidated, he’s oblivious to all of the girls that flaunt over him, as he only sees Aiz in his heart. I’ll admit he does develop, literally standing one whopping level ahead of the other characters, but much like the show itself you start to care less and less about him because his plot armor was so thick. Hestia and Bell’s supporter, Lili, were also decent, but after their introductions, they just become more players to help Bell succeed.

I was also very unimpressed with “Ms. Wallenwhatsit,” for as one reviewer put it, she’s just a “ditz – a complete airhead.” Her one-hit K.O. slices might be muscular compared to Bell’s little knife, but Aiz is just another sleepy, dull adventurer.

As I mentioned earlier, J.C.Staff paints the colorful world of DanMachi through what appears to be the eyes of Sword Art Online. Even the voice actor for Bell is the same as Kirito! Character designs for Bell and Hestia specifically are really cool (such beautiful eyes), and the Elvish flare on other characters thrown here and there help establish the setting. The dungeon fight scenes are also very well done, slick animation with Hestia’s knife, too!

While the OST is nothing remarkable, it wasn’t a weakness, either. Some Irish tavern jigs and one epic string song for Bell are the only tracks I can recall. I enjoyed the opening “Hey World” by Yuka Iguchi, but only because of that “gif-worthy hip-swingin’ teeth-brushin’ groove that Bell and Hestia do!” The ending “RIGHT LIGHT RISE” by Kanon Wakeshima was more preferable for that cute “tutturu” of the trumpet.

At the end of the day, DanMachi is a lost little fan service/comedy/action segment that has no idea where it’s headed besides trying to be cute and leveling up the main character alone. If you have time to waste, which you shouldn’t cause you’re an anime fan with a never-ending backlog, then I suppose it’s worth a hot afternoon go. Who knows, maybe it was just a poor simulcast, and that it should have been viewed with little time in between? Otherwise, there are a plethora of fantasy comedies out there that perform the same skits with actual success.

“I didn’t want you to leave, because you’re you. I wanted to save you because you’re you.” – Bell Cranel

+ Interesting RPG world, but could have used more depth

+ Nice animation on everything but the monsters; too CG, creative character designs

+ Decently entertaining in terms of comedy and fan service

– Does not have a structured plot, just aimlessly following the “Little Rookie”

– Fantastic start, but lack of plot direction resulted in an unsatisfactory ending

In the cafe, this anime is served up with in the “Breads” category. I know DanMachi is only a small adaptation of a larger light novel series, but still, I don’t think I’d watch a sequel if it even got one. Such a shame, considering that it started off as one of the most anticipated shows of the season. Did you also think Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? was a bit lackluster? Comment below! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Log Horizon Review

Log Horizon is the newest “stuck in a video game” anime since Sword Art Online. Rather than try to escape as the main goal, however, one brave geek steps out of his cloak and glasses to answer “Who’s gonna do what, what we’re up against, when things are going down, where we’re going next, but interestingly, not why we’re here” – and that could be Log Horizon‘s biggest fault.

Eight-year Elder Tales Veteran Shiroe among 30,000 Japanese players (700,000 worldwide) are suddenly transported into game that they all love upon installation of the “Novasphere Pioneers” expansion pack. Most everyone quickly realizes that the game is not quite as friendly when you’re actually in it: all of the food taste like the same mush, combat with the menus spinning around your head is difficult, and if you made your game avatar a little taller or shorter than in real life, well, now you have to adjust to it!

But here’s the most intriguing bit: when you die in the game, you simply revive at the cathedral, just like normal so no big deal . . .

That means you are trapped in the game.

With no known way out, no sense of order, player killers running about, and the CPUs (now “People of the Land”) acting strangely personal, the level 90 enchanter Shiroe picks up that you can’t just play in Elder Tales anymore – you have to live in it. Partnered with the faithful ninja Akatsuki and the beefy guard Naotsugu, Shiroe takes on his own quest of restoring order to Akiba, even if it means becoming a “Villain in Glasses” instead.

What’s best about this anime is the way it handles situations. Covering food to personal qualms to economics to ethics to community issues -all of these critical points in structuring modern civilization are hashed out with incredible detail and with consideration of the characters’ emotions. For instance, sparking the industry with the invention of the Crescent Burger was not only creative but it mattered in the context. The people wanted flavorful food and Shiroe need more money to execute his plan, so what a better way than that? It’s probably one of the best examples of world building I’ve ever seen.

Acting as the mastermind behind all operations is Shiroe, a socially awkward young man who is an expert strategist. To the kids, he’s a savior and a teacher, but to adults he’s a creepy guy with mysterious intentions. I’d say Shiroe’s a good mix of both; he means well, but the way he performs maneuvers could be considered rather extreme. He’s willing to make himself look like the bad/strict guy if it’s to better the people, which aggravates the ones that love him. Regardless, Shiroe’s best feature is that he values progress. He is the most achieving character I’ve seen in a long time, but often times, the plot just uses Shiroe as a means to convey this progression rather than developing his character.

Also, instead of the frontline swordsman, he’s the man pulling all the strings and gauging the stats, and makes for a really fresh, enjoyable point of viewa view not usually popular with this kind of story.

Though the majority of characters in the series lack any real development, there are several characters that I enjoyed because of their quirks: Akatsuki’s loyalty and shyness is super cute; Marielle and Henrietta (the playful Crescent Moon gals) are not only hilarious to watch, but a hardworking team, too; RUNDEL HAUS CODE and Isuzu are quarreling lovers that receive the best development; and finally Lenessia, a straightforward, lazy, cowardly princess who makes a few damn good speeches despite her lack of attention. Log Horizon‘s cast may be large and unremarkable, but it’s well-balanced and enjoyable as you’re watching.

Animation by Satelight is by far the show’s weakest point. Characters can look really botched at times, though during some of the fights scenes you’re sitting on the edge of your seat! The luscious green background of Akihabara is also standout artwork in itself. I guess the word is inconsistent.

Driving the fantasy story and installing bravery into the characters is the wonderful soundtrack composed by Yasuharu Takanashi, now a music genius in my book. The grand main theme “Log Horizon” is the most notable for carrying out Shiroe’s plans. “Daisaigai” welcomes players to foreign, mysterious lands with an eerie tone. “Akiba no Machi” celebrates with festivals, food, and friends. Finally, the “Elder Tale Waltz” elegantly reminds adventurers of their love for the game. While the story is inventive and the characters are fun, to me, the surely overused music is the best feature!

The obvious big problem for this series is that it’s only a small portion adapted from the books as well as not explaining the reason they were trapped there in the first place. Wouldn’t you be dreading to know what was happening to your body in reality? Why are we here? Apparently, the adventurers don’t seem to care, but hey, I’m glad they just didn’t drain episodes into this cause – there are a lot more interesting factors to consider besides whining to go home.

I was never much of a hardcore gamer, just glazing the surface when it tickled my fancy, and that was part of another problem as I watched this show. Terminology such as battle positions and skills/combos glazed past my ears, but the approach is what gripped me most. The show takes a very economic and political approach to a usually action-dominated premise, which is something that I am slowly starting to love. Rather than sword and shield being the issue, it’s supply vs. demand that we have to fight! Start stocking those shelves, boys! 😀

Log Horizon is a very peculiar show, as rather than acting with the laws of the land, characters like Shiroe constantly challenge the rules. He rebuilds the world with all things considered and frankly, it’s just fascinating to watch! Yes, the pacing can be slow with the kids arc, and yes, a lot of the opening dialogue is quite cheesy, but beyond that is Shiroe, a thinker, an enchanter, a teacher, a gambler, and a villain. If you understand the concept of RPG styled gaming and also love anime, drop what you are doing right now and check this show out! If not, well then, it’s completely up to you. Just know that all of us “gamer geeks” will be enjoying the ride.

“If you can’t do something, then don’t. Focus on what you can do.” – Encouraging words of Shiroe himself

+ Classic concept with a very different yet much more interesting viewpoint and approach

+ Story always seems to have some things kept secret, Shiroe’s world building experiments and rule-challenging offer engaging twists

+ Fantastic fantasy-appropriate OST with game theme included in story

– Filler episodes and slow pacing during times without Shiroe drag on

– Does not answer “why” they are there, does not end (more to come)

Presently Collections 1 and 2 of Sentai Filmwork’s Log Horizon English dub release stand fantastically on my shelf awaiting my next login to the hearty world of Elder Tales. The dub by the way is outstanding, new actors and actresses all around, my only problem being Nyanta the cat chef – what happened there?? *shakes head with disapproval*

Thanks for reading my review of a “Caffé Mocha” worthy series I absolutely love! Have you seen this anime? Comment below with your thoughts because I want to talk with you all! Want more Log Horizon? Check out my season two review here! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Log Horizon 2nd Season Review

I’ll be doing a review of the first season sometime this summer, but until then, here are my thoughts on the fall simulcast season’s Log Horizon 2, the sequel to the realistic adventure/ trapped in a game anime that is NOT Sword Art Online. :3 Enjoy~

We return to Elder Tale through the eyes of veteran gamer Shiroe who, along with all of the other players, has been trapped in the game for six months now. The Round Table Alliance continues to bring order to Akiba, and the People of the Land have begun to trust Shiroe by teaming up for war against the Goblins. As a result, Princess Lenessia has moved to Akiba to protect the Cowen family wealth and name.

Presently, winter is approaching quickly, and the Adventurers start to ponder their goals in this world: Are we going to keep living in Elder Tale? Can we get back home, and if so, how will we get there? Should we travel to the West or remain here in Akiba? What about the North or even further? These rival opinions cause mayhem and disorder to spread. Shiroe and his team, of course, do the best they can to maintain public order and expand their knowledge of the mysterious world, stumbling into new foes that might know a way out . . .

Log Horizon is known for its slow pacing – despite the great story, it does drag often. This sequel is no exception, and in fact, it drags even more than the first season. The plot starts strong with Shiroe leading the largest raid to the Abyssal Shaft, the supposed source of the world’s gold flow. Meanwhile, Akatsuki the cute ninja and the women of Akiba fight off a player-killer who stole transporting armor from the Royal Guard. Both of these stories flesh out characters, and allow us to get to know them better all while watching action-packed fights . . .

And then there are a few filler episodes that lead up to the children’s arc, which like the first season, focuses on the kids of Akiba and their own adventures. IT WAS PAINFULLY SLOW TO WATCH. Not only was it boring, but besides Rudy’s depressing truths, there wasn’t much development for them. The only things good that came from this dull period was a new mysterious character Roe2 and a personality reveal of Nureha and other Plant Hwyaden members, both of which raised more questions than answered. None the less, the new additions are still awesome!

Best for last, the series ends with a couple of thriller episodes pertaining to a way of going home, and as such leads off with a direction already pointed towards a third season. I suppose I don’t mind a third, but I was really hoping the series would end considering the drastically slow pacing at times.

As I mentioned, Roe2 is a new character among a few others. The “villains” of Elder Tale have also been splattered in here and there, but they sadly weren’t very interesting or the main focus. Akatsuki gets sidelined for quite a few episodes, so if you liked her like I do, you’ll be disappointed. The best thing that came from the characters in this sequel were the epic encouragement speeches made by guild leaders like William, who in particular brought tears to my eyes 😥 So freakin’ relatable! Such powerful dialogue!

Now the animation, yikes. A switch in animators to the infamous Studio Deen – most likely caused by budget issues – causes a lot of changes in art style compared to the old studio – specifically, the eyes are drawn differently and characters are bland as hell. It takes a while to get used, but it’s not necessarily “bad” by any means. The finale was superbly animated, however, which ended this category with an overall positive review.

The electric/orchestral music has always been one of this series’ best features, and this second season only continues to impress. While most of the adventuring and Renaissance-esque pieces return from the first season, there are many new tracks like “This World and its Music” by Yasuharu Takanashi that are absolutely bliss. There are tracks like “A Hopeful Journey” and “The Uncertain Path Ahead” that ring with the Log Horizon SPIRIT in just the perfect moments! Seriously, one of my favorite OSTs.

“database feat. TAKUMA (10 Feet)” by MAN WITH A MISSON returns as well as the show’s annoying rap opening. In addition, the ending “Wonderful Wonder World” by Yun*chi represents Akatsuki’s sweet, shy attitude perfectly! Love that song 😀

So, does the practical “stuck in a video game” adventure anime live up to its first season’s standards? No, but then again, that bar was already pretty high. Filler episodes about Valentine’s Day, slow anticlimactic Children’s arc, and overall poor pacing ONLY to be led to a third freakin’ season has me awarding Log Horizon 2 4/5 stars. While that’s still pretty darn good, this slightly disappointing sequel could have been better – in all categories. Fans of the first season should like it, so long as they manage to stay awake for the whole thing!

“There are things you can only learn by accepting your weakness.” – Akatsuki

You can watch all of Log Horizon 2 and the first season on Crunchyroll for free! I was rather impressed by Sentai Filmwork’s English dub of the first season, so I hope to see a release of this soon. I’d like to extend my thanks to all of my newest customers and my frequent café-goers – you’re all awesome! Thank you for reading and as always, this has been

Takuto, your host