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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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

Sword Art Online II (Caliber) Review

Following the much dragged-out Phantom Bullet arc is the Caliber side story arc. This will be my brief thoughts about these few high-spirited episodes.

Kirito and Leafa discovered the legendary Holy Sword Excalibur a year ago, but could not acquire it due to guardians blocking the path. Well recently, towards the dawn of New Year’s Eve, Suguha discovers that the “Caliber” quest has been unlocked to the public. Kirito immediately bands with his friends Asuna, Klein, Lisbeth, Silica, Sinon, and his sister’s avatar Leafa to conquer the castle Thrymheim in Jotunheimir and claim the most powerful weapon in ALO before the year is up!

The whole GGO experience lacked the traditional SAO feeling of ‘playing’ in a game, considering the high stakes. Now, Sword Art Online II brings back the basic concepts of gameplay to add a very crafty and cool mechanical undertone. Many people do not like ALfheim Online, and for obvious reasons I can understand why, but this arc doesn’t dig up those brash emotions and opinions for the Fairy Dance arc; this here, fellow cafe-goers, is traditional RPG, and with its playful references to game terminology envisioned in unique, colorful and appealing animation. This change of pace is absolutely necessary to Kawahara’s planned plot progression and character development, whether we like it or not. Besides, it’s just the characters doin’ what they do best and love!

It’s always wonderful to see the older characters, but I have to spotlight Sinon and Asuna in particular. Upon entering this new fantasy world, Sinon dons the Cait Sith cat attire, complete with cute little ears, and becomes flying fan service! She’s not all fluff, though, as she uses a magic bow to target enemies from far away. This subtle yet crucial decision is very befitting for her sniper-like character.

And Asuna, dayum! She is given the front lines for parts of the fight against King Thrym, pulling out hidden rapier for combat, and might I say that Asuna battles with the swift furiousness of a true KOB commander once again; however, it’s not quite enough to make up for her time served as “Titania.”

So if ALO is a Norse-based world, then why the hell Excalibur of English legend?! The World Tree design in SAO is by far favorite, and the consistent “-heim” worlds add to the Norse feel, but I don’t know why they chose Excalibur; is there no other legendary weapon from Norse Mythology?

*spoilers ahead* Now this side story was pretty mediocre, so what made me change my view was the way Sinon let it end, or rather, didn’t let it end. Thrymheim begins to collapse, and ultimately Kirito is forced to leave the heavy Excalibur behind. Sinon, disagrees, and whips out her bow, calculates distance, takes aim and fires a retrieval arrow at the holy sword, hoisting it back up by a magical rope then giving it Kirito as a token of remembrance in her honor. This on-the-spot action was just so freakin cool, as it made the whole arc worth it. Seriously, Sinon is waifu material :3

Last thing to mention was the new opening, “courage” by Tomatsu Haruka, Yuuki Asuna’s voice actress. It is matched in its fast beat with crisp, brightly colored visuals of Alfheim and the characters. It’s a really respite-filled and cheery song, so give it a listen!

Thanks for reading! Check out my Sword Art Online II (Phantom Bullet) Review for more thoughts on SAO’s fun and adventurous sequel. You can watch the entire anime for free at Crunchyroll. Till next time,

– 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