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

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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.

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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

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works 1st Season English Dub Thoughts

As you all know, I once again sold my left arm and my magic circuits over to Aniplex of America so that I could purchase their DVD set of the first season (episodes 1-12) for Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (TV). The fantasy action anime all about the 5th fight for that elusive chalice includes an all-new English dub. This is particularly exciting considering that I’m a veteran who watched the original Fate/stay night (2006) and the Unlimited Blade Works Movie (2010) in SUBTITLES. Curiosity did get the best of me, and I ended up watching segments from these Studio Deen adaptations, but their dubs sucked (just cuttin’ to the chase). Luckily, I pretty much only have positive reviews for the Ufotable version, so read on for more depth!

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This is just epic. To watch it go from simulcast, to Japanese set, to English DVD is a beautiful journey.

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While the image above is the cool slipcover art, the DVD case itself contains this absolutely stunning artwork. The only difference is that where the text is, the English logo for F/sn: UBW is stamped.

Let’s kick things off with Shirou Emiya, portrayed by the infamous Bryce Papenbrook. Now, Papenbrook has quite the streak in misplaced voice acting, his role of Kirito being my biggest turnoff. But for a character like Shirou, his age and position, I thought Papenbrook pulled things off without a hitch! He does a damn good job at imitating Noriaki Sugiyama’s rather high and somewhat obnoxious voice, so my hat’s off to you, Papenbrook!

On to everyone’s favorite tsundere mage, Rin Tohsaka is voiced by Mela Lee. Apparently Lee’s been with Tohsaka since the first dub of the adaptations, but every one of her performances lacked the natural stuck-up attitude I’ve been searching for – Until now. Once you get past the first hour-long pilot, Lee’s voice stops ringing in my ears and becomes one of the more fun – and pretentious – performances to hear from. It sure isn’t as great as Kana Ueda, but it’ll do.

B*tchy-Mc-B*tch-Face Archer is brought to life by the smart-assy Kaiji Tang (as you can see, I don’t fancy Archer). Brilliant in every way possible, Tang milks all that he can out of Archer and puts up a stunning fight on the vocal front. He, too, fits the range of voice necessary to Archer’s arrogant dialect. Love it!

And last (but certainly not least) for the main cast, Kari Wahlgren once again dons armor and all to surmise Queen-friggin’-Arthur herself – Saber! *Slight spoilers* Because she is no longer partnered with the cold and distant Kiritsugu from Fate/Zero, Saber speaks with much more curt and “oogly” expressions as she develops her relationship with her idiot partner. And since I don’t speak Japanese, Ayako Kawasumi’s five-star performance doesn’t come for me as naturally as it does with my native speak. I’m obviously biased to this [literally] English role, so I stop before the sparkles start gleaming ^.^

Since those are the main characters, I’ll just list the minors with a brief reaction:

Todd Haberkorn as Assassin – F*ck yeah, even though I kinda forgot whom he was in the original, I’ll now never forget! Just YES, YES TO ALL!

Megan Hollingshead as Caster – THIS RIGHT HERE was surprisingly fantastic! Caster’s sly, mature voice reflects so well in Hollingshead’s performance. It was also so darn sexy 😉

Matthew Mercer as Kiritsugu Emiya – He’s only around for a couple of flashbacks, but those are just enough to bring tears to your eyes as you recall Fate/Zero‘s tragedy.

Julie Ann Taylor as Fujinee, or Taiga Fujimura – Always. Excited. Is the Taiga. Fujinee~ has a very nice English voice actress, simple as that!

David Vincent as Gilgamesh – More F/Z carry-over drama, and in fact, Vincent has such a pompous and snarky that its perfect for the King of Heroes. We’ll hear more of him in the second season, though.

Dorothy Elias-Fahn as Kane Himuro – One of Tohsaka’s classmates, can’t say she was very memorable, but not bad either

Crispin Freeman as Kirei Kotomine – This is one “fake priest” that you don’t want to run into on a dark night. Freeman will never be as solid as Jouji Nakata, but so, so damn close! It was a pleasure to listen to Kirei’s rich, melt-in-your-mouth voice again.

Lex Lang as Souichirou Kuzuki – “Mr. Kuzuki” as he is in the dub also shares the same voice as Count Cruhteo from A.Z, who just happened to be one of my favorites! Ironically, he was Issei in the old dub, the student who shares residence with Kuzuki.

Tony Oliver as Lancer – Oh boy, oh boy, Lancer’s English voice will not disappoint whatsoever! I’ll admit, Nobutoshi Canna was excellent, but Oliver wins it for me!

Erica Lindbeck as Kaede Makidera – Another one of Tohsaka’s gals, nothing fancy

Kyle McCarley as Shinji Matou – Now, this might be the only exception to an otherwise wonderful English dub. McCarley’s not by any means bad; Hiroshi Kamiya just has a skimpier edge and superiority to the damned Shinji we all know and hate :>

Cristina Vee as Sakura Matou – Agh, it’s Cristina Vee – and aww, it’s Sakura! This combo goes hand in hand, but I’m interested to see if they’ll keep the same actress when “Heaven’s Feel” makes it over here in the States, fingers crossed.

Brina Palencia as Ayako Mitsuzuri – Mitsuzuri is given a shocking amount of lines despite her role, and it was on the tip of my tongue as to who voiced her – and it was this chick all along! Hooray for Brina Palencia, I just love hearing her voice 🙂

Melissa Fahn as Rider – And the most enchanting voice goes to Rider without a doubt!! *Slight spoiler* It’s a shame she doesn’t last very long, as I could listen to Rider talk on and on. Yet another reason why they should’ve adapted F/sn instead of UBW, but I digress. Fantastic job, Fahn!

Robbie Daymond as Issei Ryuudou – Just another guy in glasses, what can I say?

Jessica DiCicco as Yukika Saegusa – A friend of Tohsaka’s? Gosh, I don’t even remember who this is.

Stephanie Sheh as Illyasviel von Einzbern – We’re gonna finish this dub reaction strong with another veteran from the original series and Fate/Zero. Sheh’s “Time to kill you” cute/deadly Illya voice is one I really enjoy. While she did sound too mature in F/Z, her older reappearance tosses that issue away easily. I love Illya, and Sheh does her justice, she really does, and I can’t wait for the epic fight in the second half. The only thing I’ll miss is her charming “Bah-sah-kah” *cue superhuman barbarian with a huge-ass club charging at you*

Below is the English Dub Trailer Aniplex posted a while back. See it for yourself!

I don’t care who says they hate this dub. I don’t care who thinks Papenbrook is a terrible Shirou. I don’t care how much people think Rin’s voice is a letdown. I LOVE THIS DUB, and I will be buying the second season, mind you! It’s gonna be a tragic long wait for the second half, and yes, it will break my wallet, but what can I say – I support things that I like! For those curious, the sub is still superior, and I recommend watching the entire series on Crunchyroll before blindly buying this uber-expensive dub (cause it was an atrocious $80 USD for only the first half on DVD only). However, like with A.Z, I had so much fun each night plugging in each of the voices and watching the first half of the Fifth Holy Grail War play out all over again . . .

But you mages and Masters, what did you think of this new English dub? How do you think it stands up to all of the previous versions and the Japanese itself? I’ll await your answers in the comments below, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your Servant, in this war or the next

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

TRINITY SEVEN Review

Harem anime rely on three concepts to succeed, regardless of how stupid the plot might be:

1. A decently likable lead that undergoes some sort of personal growth throughout the show
2. An even more enjoyable and interactive ensemble cast that is attracted to said lead for some odd reason
3. Humorous dialogue and decent amounts of fan service

. . . Or so I thought.

TRINITY SEVEN demonstrates what happens when an anime relies too much on its harem, sidelining any plot explanation, and ultimately pays a heavy price for such unbalanced writing.

Arata Kasuga’s world literally comes crashing down on him when an apocalyptic event known as a “Breakdown Phenomenon” destroys the whole world and throws his cousin Hijiri Kasuga into a different one. Unable to get Hijiri back nor stop the catastrophe, Arata finds himself enrolling in a magic school, Royal Biblia Academy, that houses the great “Trinity Seven,” seven girls who have mastered their own “Thema” and are ace magicians. From here, Arata plans to “learn the magic” of these powerful ladies and control his “demon lord candidate” abilities in order to bring back his beloved cousin, Hijiri.

What caused this untimely “Breakdown Phenomenon?” What did the caster gain from this tragedy? How does one learn the complex system of magic?

These are just a few of the many reasonable questions that get little to no answer. Crucial explanation is tossed out for exploding clothes, bouncing boobies and nude scenes of Arata and the girls. I enjoy my fair share of fan service as much as the next guy, but TRINITY SEVEN has way way too much of it! I grew really tired of it :/

Unnecessarily convoluted plot aside, the show might score a win with its characters.

The lead boy Arata Kasuga appears to be your typical pervert, but he’s surprisingly different. He’s honest about his attractions, never stuttering while apologizing a thousand times; we’ve all seen it, don’t lie, it gets really old. “Thank you for the feast” is one of his quotes to witnessing nudity. Kasuga was a fresh harem lead, and I enjoyed the fact that he doesn’t use the Trinity Seven, but instead fights even stronger alongside them. Plus, his voice actor is Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Kirito-kun) – you can’t get much better than him!

While a couple of the Trinity Seven are cutout characters, the ones that I found myself drawn to were Lilith Asami, Levi Kazama, and Akio Fudou.

First off, Lilith-sensei is one of the teachers at Royal Biblia Academy, and as such is Arata’s #1 tease. She wields a magical rail rifle weapon and knows how to fire it quite well. I love the concept art of her character, red-braided hair with blue eyes and a monocle on occasion, as well as her hate/love relationship with Arata. The two get along well, and by the end, hold respectful positions with each other. Also, Arata loves her giant jugs – the best out of the Trinity Seven 😉

Levi and Akio act more like supports for Lilith and Mira Yamana (the cute yet stern tsundere leader) respectively, and as such are mainly “power houses.” They both have their own motives, yet go along with Arata’s teasing. Truly a hidden comical duo!

Another one of the show’s better features was the animation by Seven Arcs. While intricate CGI architecture made up the school and its majestic hallways, characters had matching and rich color designs, be it in uniforms, hair color or eyes. The ecchi hot scenes are also a beauty; graceful curves and shining skin really do go a long way :3

OST-wise, the soundtrack contains lovely violin melodies for both combat and relaxation. Sometimes rap-like chanting is sung to help fill the space. It’s unique and adds its own touch to this anime.

The opening “Seven Doors” by ZAQ is freakin’ amazingballz! By using chromatic scales to create a haunting undertone, and mixing that with a sweet, reminiscing melody, you get a super cool song! Check it out – it is a must! BTW, I love Hijiri’s cute face when the verse starts ~

Now back to the rant. TRINITY SEVEN is nothing but boobs, attempted serious magic, exploding clothes, then more boobs. It’s awesome for a while and really could have been so much more, but by episode 6 or so I was utterly lost and just done. To be honest, I can’t believe I stuck it out, but then again, I’m a completionist, so yeah. “Connect to blah blah – Execute Thema!” Or whatever the hell it is.

Thanks for reading! Remember that these are my own thoughts, so feel free to drop a comment with your own. Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Tales of the Abyss: The Animation Review

After watching Tales of Symphonia I just had to check out more from the Tales series. Sadly, Tales of the Abyss was more of a letdown for me. So if I didn’t care for it then why write a review? Plot ideas can be tricky to come up with, I’ll admit, but when a story has too many ideas it ends up as a convoluted train wreck. The main story of Abyss derails itself so often that I found myself sleeping during the show, only waking myself up to see the character back stories. With that said, I want to inform you of the really cool aspects of this show, the occasionally crumbling plot aside.

Set in the common medieval atmosphere the Tales series likes to enforce, Auldrant is a world run by the Score, a prophecy written many years ago. Luke fon Fabre, the spoiled yet confined heir of the kingdom of Kimlasca, spends his afternoon in sword training with Master Van until a mysterious woman by the name of Tear Grants shows with the intent of taking Van’s life. Suddenly, Luke and Tear are warped across the world to the opposing empire of Malkuth. Now that Luke has the freedom he has dreamed of for so long, he begins to realize why he was restricted from the world, who he really is, and what his hidden powers are. All the while there is a band of look-alikes that are trying to kill the heroes, a not-so-holy church that wants Luke, a sea of miasma that threatens to destroy the planet, and an oncoming war between the two kingdoms.

These plot ideas sound kinda cool, no? But when all of them are thrown together it doesn’t benefit the anime.  Speaking of adaptations, Tales of the Abyss the Animation is actually based on an RPG, but an anime was released later on. You can ask anyone, but Tales of the Abyss is by far the closest recreation of a Tales RPG in anime format. Most of the scenes are translated exactly like they appear in the game, not taking away from the Abyss vibe.

I do not remember all of the characters from this series, and that is really a bummer because they all link together in one way or another.  Tear, a Seventh Fonist for the Order of Lorelei is a character I enjoyed because of her straight forwardness and her knack of guiding Luke in the right direction. She remains a strong and reserved character through the duration of the story. Though she acts coldly to Luke on occasion, she is quite respectful and well-mannered to everyone else. A second character whom I enjoyed was Jade Curtiss, the necromancer of fonic artes and a Malkuth army colonel. He is a generally happy character, but he doesn’t reveal his preferences or personality, making him seem complex to the other characters. With his dark background, one couldn’t tell if Jade was acting for the greater good or if he had something planned up his sleeve. The only problem with Jade was that some of his later happenings were predictable, but it is also like this in the game, so whateves. I love the way the Japanese always pronounced him as “Jeido Kaatisu” – I still call him that today!

Other than those couple characters, I found the rest of the cast to be decent, but nothing spectacular. Most of the best scenes were not when something epic was happening, but when all of the characters were just conversing with one another. The interactions were golden, especially any of them with Jade or Tear. The anime had also included many notable flashback scenes in just the right places to help flush out characters. A character death in particular made me bawl for hours; it was the way in which he made it sound that did me in. With as big a cast as this one, it felt as if some characters (clones or noblemen) were placed in just to balance another, and that is not how it should be! But it is an RPG, so some of those characters are necessary. Other than that, character motives made sense and dialogue was pretty interesting.

The OST for Abyss stands as . . . suitable, actually. Listening then and now, the concert band songs are beautiful and express grandeur. They keep to a fantasy adventure theme that sounds as if the pieces came straight out of the game, which they might have. Some tracks like Tear’s song that she sings and “Peaceful Times” are especially easy to remember. Most of the characters have a fitting theme that is a perfect reflection of their personality. The opening theme “Karma” by BUMP OF CHICKEN is the same opening the game uses, so fans of the game can appreciate that. Personally, I rock out to that song! All-in-all, the soundtrack is decent classical dance as it appropriately captures the moments from traumatizing to engaging.

Tales of the Abyss was animated by Sunrise Inc. in 2008, and they did a great job of adapting the art from the game into an anime. Again, I have not played the game, but if you view some concept art you will notice the breathtaking similarities. One of the highlights for this show was the artwork for the landscapes. Characters might just be conversing or walking into town and the background animation is just splendid! Adding in that and the year it was done up makes Tales of the Abyss one of the best animated adaptations for the Tales series.

While I may have been bored or confused at times, that does not mean that the entirety of the show was uninteresting. There were many entertaining scenes that make up for the tedious ones. The anime is definitely an adventure, but whether it is one I would traverse, I would have to say no. Show-wise I was amused, but it was not a driving force by any means; it is not one where you would drop whatever you were doing just to watch it.

I was not changed or moved in any way by this anime. It was good, yes, but no more than that. Other than a few characters and plot points, I can’t recall much from this anime other than it was a mess. While this show did not push me to do anything in particular like high-ranking anime should, this show was my first “okay” anime, for everything up until then was no letdown. If you enjoy somewhat heart-filling adventures with action and great music, are investing yourself in the vast Tales series, or are looking for new ideas to use in writing, gaming, or whatever, then this show is for you. Otherwise, spend your time with something more beneficial and organized.

Though I didn’t pick up a copy, you can purchase all four parts by Bandai Entertainment (sub only) on Rightstuf.com. I’m sorry if I sound like I hate this anime – maybe I just can’t appreciate all that it has to offer. Hopefully you will have better luck with this one! Until my next review, I’ll pass on Tales of the Abyss with a push of my sketchy Jade glasses and a wave of fonon arte magic as I steal an apple from the Malkuth marketplace, because, you know, “why do I have to pay for it?”

Thanks for reading!

– Takuto, your host