Archive for the English Anime Category


Yuri Anime: Riddle Story of a Devil, Disk 1 (English)

June 18th, 2017

Riddle Story of a Devil: Akuma no Riddle is the story of “Class Black” a super-secret class at absurdly elite Myoujo Academy. All of the members of Class Black are assassins with one exception – and that exception will be their target. (Apparently) normal girl Ichinose Haru is the target and the others will vie to kill her in order to gain their greatest desire. But, as one might expect, nothing is as it seems.

One of the assassins, Azuma Tokaku, defects to Haru’s side and pits herself against the class as Haru’s bodyguard.

The story, which has a fair amount of service, is definitely meant for an audience that likes that kind of thing, but the writing is slightly less exclusive. In the anime Haru is harmless, but not entirely helpless. And there is a kind of redemption in the assassin’s attempts and their outcomes.

Kadokawa is absolute genius at cranking out moderately entertaining, formulaic anime that can be marketed within an inch of it’s life. Every once in a they have a massive break-out hit, like the Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, that can pay for many dozens of other series for years. Those dozens of others are generally good, often involve some big names in conception or production, and are both profitable and entertaining enough to pay for themselves. Riddle Story of a Devil: Akuma no Riddle was one of these.

Based on the manga drawn by Kouga Yun, the story feels, from beginning to end, like something built by committee. As I rewatched it, I was constantly put in mind of Seraphim Call, a mediocre anime of the late 20th century that, upon rewatch, was better than I gave it credit for. Especially Volume 2. In the sense that every episode is effectively a character piece that only tangentially affects the main story, Riddle Story of a Devil reminded me of this earlier series of pastiches.

The animation is very much of this time and place, but for all that, not terrible. Characters are variable, as they are meant to be, but watching it, I was motivated yet again, to promise to not come up with convoluted plots to kill people, or explain anything. Or speak in some weird, annoying way. If I were to become an assassin, the rule would be get in, get out, move on. No talking. I’d also like the committee to explain why the character of Kaiba exists at all. Useless doesn’t come close to describing his role. If they cut everything of him out of the story it would affect exactly one scene.

The one thing I genuinely liked throughout the series was the music. The end-of-episode themes were all sung by the assassin who was the focus of that particular episode and both music and lyrics were suited nicely to their story. Those were really quite good.

The Yuri. Well….the Yuri is here more by reputation than anything. We can see that Kirigaya and Chitaru are together-ish and we can kind of see that Tokaku has no idea why she wants to help Haru (and, frankly, at first, neither can I. It’s not until Haru shows some spine, that I was convinced.) The opening credits kind of imply a thing between them but in Disk 1, it’s really not there.

Ratings:

Art – 7 Not bad, not zOMG good. Random bits of CGI
Story – 7 Not bad, not zOMG good. Random bits of plot
Characters – 7 Types, rather than people, with backstories to make them human
Service – 6 Nudity, lascivious gaze of the camera, and a sexually deviant serial killer
Yuri – 2 At halfway, barely there and only because we’re looking for it.

Overall – 7

So, yeah, this isn’t high art, it’s low entertainment, but for solid, slightly service-y, slightly violent entertainment, it was pretty good. I like the fight scenes well enough, and the gimmicky assassins are just silly.

My sincere thanks to Okazu Superhero Dan P for sponsoring this review! It’s right in your wheelhouse and mine.
Good weekend entertainment, with the lightest glaze of Yuri.

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Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Anime (English)

March 21st, 2017

Most of you are probably too young  to remember the television series Bewitched.  It was about a guy, Darrin, who lived a normal, boring salaryman life in the affluent American suburbs. Darrin was so dull and uninteresting that after a few years, they switched the actor who played him and mostly no one noticed. 

The “comedy” in Bewitched was centered around Darrin’s wife – a vivacious, beautiful woman…who was a witch. Samantha could wiggle her nose and make objects appear and disappear and change forms and turn people into toads and that kind of thing. That might have been marginally amusing on it’s own, but it wasn’t the point. The point of the series is that this beautiful, vivacious, magically powered woman (and all her bohemian relatives) were constantly being forced by Darrin in his utter dullness to conform to American middle class affluent white life. It was supposed to be hi-larious watching Darrin (or his boss, or neighbor) get all confuzzled by a magic spell. Watching Bewitched as a child, I constantly felt so angry. I wanted Samantha to take her cool powers, her fun and colorful family and burn down whereeverthefuck she was supposed to be living. 

To me, Bewitched was not a comedy, it was a tragedy. Instead of making Samantha the protagonist, it insisted on centering Darrin with his soul-killing boringness, sexist and racist boss and attitudes and general embodiment of Greyface to Samantha and her Erisian clan. 

I finally sat down to watch Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (streaming free and legally on Crunchyroll) and by the second episode, I realized that I was watching Bewitched all over again.  It’s absolutely possible that Darrin, I mean Kobayashi, might become a warm loving person, but about halfway through the second episode, when she was being kind to Kanna, after basically being an asshole to Tohru and demanding Tohru never use her powers after Tohru worked so hard to make her happy, I gave up.

Darrin is not interesting.  Forcing Samantha to be boring is not funny.

Any series that takes a character with cool powers and then spends all it’s time telling that character to never use those powers? Nope. ^_^;

Yes, Tohru is in love with Kobayashi. And that’s the entirely of that plot complication. It’s got nowhere to go, because Kobayashi being an absolute gut-searing bore is the plot. And it’s all the comedy too.

Nope.

Ratings:

Art – 6 Moe blobs and bouncing breasts
Story – 3 I fantasized about rewriting it wholly into Tohru and her human’s fun adventures!
Characters – 6 Speaking of 70s TV shows. It was all Odd Couple hijinks
Service – yeppers
Yuri – 1

Overall – 5

Obviously, lots of people enjoy the series – and I’m glad. I’m just not one of them.

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Where to Watch Yuri in English Online, Free and Legally

March 12th, 2017

Last year I did a round-up of free legal anime streaming services where you could watch Yuri anime. Recently I was name-checked on Twitter when someone discovered an older legit channel for the first time. And, since this happens regularly and old services close down and new services pop up, it seemed apropos to go through some of the free, legitimate anime streaming services available to you on which to watch Yuri anime.

Caveats: I’m focusing on US-based services, because while I am dedicated to you, my readers, my dedication does not extend to working with proxies or VPNs in every major market to see if these services work in your hometown. Assume there are regional restrictions in place for some or all of these services. But feel free to use proxies or VPNs on your own. ^_^ And, if you use a regionally legal, free streaming site in a non-US country, by all means, please let folks know in comments!

I’m also not focusing on paid services like The Anime Network or Amazon’s Strike. Today we’re focusing on services that are free and legitimate. 

 ALL these services have shifting catalogs. That’s just the nature of the beast, the beast being video licensing. Just because a series is on one service now, does not mean it will always be.  Another good reason to update this list periodically.

 

Crunchyroll

Crunchyroll is doing a pretty good job of licensing anime as broadly as possible. They have been very Yuri-positive and often, when they lose a license, circle back around and get it again – for instance, they have Aoi Hana/Sweet Blue Flowers  once again after viewers complained when the IP holder pulled the show after a limited time. Crunchyroll is my go-to, because their catalog is one of the most comprehensive, from Bodacious Space Pirates to Riddle Story of a Devil to Yuru Yuri to Sakura Trick to Cardcaptor Sakura. 

Rating: A- They’ve really kept up the commitment to Yuri. It’s not an all-in-one-place-go-to-stop for everything, but it’s damned close. The biggest issue is the region-blocking, which is not Crunchyroll’s fault, but does have an impact.

 

Viewster is a trove of forgotten Yuri treasures. Their library includes Strawberry Panic!, Maria Watches Over Us, Aria and some other random things I’ve liked over the years, like Murder Princess. ^_^ Viewster claims to be available worldwide. 

Rating: B-  The catalog is hit or miss, but they often have stuff you can’t find anywhere else.

 

Hulu

This time last year, Hulu had a ton of anime but they purged most of it, including a large pile of interesting western animation. However, it’s the only place you can go for the original Sailor Moon. How fun, huh? Where Toei licensed Sailor Moon Crystal to everyone and their cousin (finally!), Viz obviously has an exclusive agreement with Hulu for streaming the original series. 

Rating: B- There’s nothing else here, the adverts are annoying and for the cost of subscribing (which doesn’t get rid the ads,) I might as well get the DVDs.

 

Tubi TV

Tubi a newish service that includes a random smattering of anime, but has a surprisingly strong showing in Yuri, on account of Nozomi’s titles. So they have Revolutionary Girl Utena, Season 3 and 4 (? No idea why only those two seasons)  of Maria Watches Us and Bodacious Space Pirates. They’ve also got a few other notable series, like Moribito, and Sound of the Sky. It’s worth a look, if only to boggle you with the vagaries of anime licensing.

Rating: B- It’s worth looking at, but I probably wouldn’t subscribe.

 

Nozomi Entertainment on Youtube

The Official Nozomi channel currently has all of Revolutionary Girl Utena and Rose of Versailles in full on Youtube, but this may be ephemeral.

Rating: C It’s cool as long as it lasts, but there’s no way to know how long it will last. And Youtube.

 


Daisuki

Speaking of services no one remembers, Daisuki was launched by the Japanese government with “Cool Japan” money a few years ago in order to create a better streaming service to overseas watchers. Unfortunately it fell into the exact same pit as all the other “Cool Japan” endeavors – it was random, inconsistent and had no long-term planning. So you can still watch, say, Jubei-chan on Daisuki, but only Season 2, not 1. I will give them credit for excellent genre break down, “sci-fi” “robots/mechanic” “heartful” “novels” “games” “sports/race”. You actually have an idea what a series is about/from with descriptions like those.

Rating: D 

 

Funimation

Auuuughhghghghghghgh. Funimation, you have the worst website. Always. Ever. There has never been a single day I have visited the Funimation website and not wanted to put my fist through the screen. Sure, they have Riddle Story of a Devil, and Yurikuma Arashi, but so does Crunchyroll without committing every single website design failure in the world.

Ratings: D Go anywhere else. It’s never worth the agita.

 

If Media Blasters and Nozomi licensed their catalogs to Crunchyroll, they’d be the all-in-one-place, but even so, they come closer to anywhere else. The biggest problem is the inconsistency and ephemerality of the licenses. And the region-blocking, which is a relic of another age that is slowly disintegrating, but still exists, for now.

If you are using a legitimate streaming site for your country and want to share, please add it to the comments!

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Yuri Anime: R.O.D. – Read or Die

February 19th, 2017

How surprised am I to find I have never reviewed R.O.D. – Read or Die here? Very surprised. Although, in retrospect, I guess it’s not all that surprising, as it was released on DVD here in the US in 2003 (by Manga Entertainment! Wow, that was a long time ago) and we were talking more about anime on the Yuricon Mailing List than here on Okazu back then. When I pulled the DVD off the shelf, I found it had a little blue sticker on it, which denoted the fact that we had shown it at Yuricon in June 2003. ^_^ 

Friday I had a visit from one of our Superheroes, Alice D, and, while we were chatting, playing phone games, eating cookies and watching stuff, I decided to start my next epic rewatch, this time of the R.O.D. series (plural.)

And so I am watching R.O.D. – Read or Die for the first time in more than a decade.  And in that decade, I read all the novels, both the R.O.D. and Read or Dream manga series and watched the R.O.D. The TV series, so my perspective is somewhat different than it was back in those heady days of the early 2000s. Check out my reviews here on Okazu, from 2003-to 2014 when I finished the last novel that existed at the time. We’re supposed to get the final novel in the next year. If I were Kurata, I know exactly how I’d end it, too.

R.O.D – Read or Die, introduces us to bibliomaniac Yomiko Readman, AKA “The Paper” a secret agent for the British Library. While cloned geniuses from the past are engaged in an effort to destroy everyone in the world, special agents from British Library, The Paper and Miss Deep are hard at work, protecting humanity from a plan to make us all listen to Beethoven’s “Suicide Symphony.”

This 3- episode OVA is action-packed. From the first moment we see Yomiko use her paper powers to the last, we have to marvel at the creativity of the animators. This is especially true for the fight scenes, in which Yomiko’s obsessive bibliomania and skill with paper each serve an important place in the narrative.

The most interesting quality of the animation is the color palette, in which green and purple feature significantly in and around a London background. The animation itself does not hold up all that well to be watched at higher-res than existed when Studio Deen first did the work. If I have a specific criticism of Studio Deen it is that – their animation rarely seems to wear well with the passage of time.

Of course I asked myself as I hit the play button, “Are Nancy and Yomiko actually into each other?” I mean, it’s been 15 years since we first watched it. Maybe we made that up in our heads!

As we wrapped up, Alice and I agreed that no, we really didn’t make that up. There was a very definite chemistry between Nancy and Yomiko and no amount of rationalization was making that disappear. Yomiko makes Nancy question her affection for the leader of the I-jin, Nancy makes Yomiko see another person the same way she had only ever looked at books. Or so we thought.

Because of course, Yomiko already has a lover, although we in the OVA audience don’t know that. And that lover is already gone from her life, although we don’t know that, either. And soon she will be asked to guard a young novelist and her feelings will be unguarded once again. (Correction: This series is post- Nenene, as I missed the content of the notes in Yomiko’s apartment, thanks Sean, Matt and Shannon for the correction. I was chatting with Alice and the notes were subtitled in black so I missed them completely.) And then the world will explode and everything we thought we knew about Yomiko Readman will be rewritten. 

Ratings:

Art – 5 /cough/Not so good/cough/
Story – 9 Really everything you could ask for from a fantasy-action series, although I could do with less boob movement. Bras work, guys.
Characters – 9 This was the Yomiko we all fell for, not the creepy obsessive of the novels
Yuri – 6 Yup. Definitely. Not our imagination.
Service – 4 Breasts that act as if bras and gravity do not exist.

Overall – 8

It was great fun to re-watch this after so long. More well-written than I remembered, less well-animated than I remembered, and definitely Yuri. ^_^

Special thanks to Okazu Superheroes Alice and Louis, who were both loads of fun for me this weekend!

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Sound Euphonium, Season 2 Anime (English) Guest Review by Michelle Denise N

February 1st, 2017

Woo hoo! It’s Guest Review Wednesday and we have a Guest Review! I love that so much. ^_^ Today, I hope you will welcome new Guest Reviewer Michelle Denise N of Lonelypond,and make her feel as welcome as possible.  The floor is yours, Michelle!

Sound Euphonium, the animated series, follows the haphazard learning process of euphonium (or baritone) player Oumae Kumiko, a somewhat reluctant first year member of the Kitauji High School Concert Band. Kitauji suffered a schism the year before, when the more serious first (now second) years quit over their lazy seniors’ lack of effort.  A new instructor, Taki Noburo, has taken over leadership, which attracted Kumiko’s fellow first year, trumpet virtuoso Kousaka Reina to the school. Kumiko had been trying to escape both band and Reina, after a ‘dud gold’ placement in middle school. SE’s first season built up a certain amount of dramatic tension between the two girls, which the second season glances at in the first episode, but then takes Kumiko and the rest of the episodes in an entirely unexpected ramble through the other relationships in the band.

If you love the trumpet, Sound Euphonium Season 2 is worth watching; the trumpet solos are sublime. If you watch anime not for music, but plotting and story pacing, SE2 would have trouble rating a dud bronze.

Kumiko is a mild, friendly, pleasant enough character. Through the first season, she spent most of her time with Reina. In the second season, they tossed Reina to the side, leaving her to pine over sensei while Kumiko wandered wide-eyed through relationships she didn’t really understand. There is also some attention paid to Kumiko’s relationship with her sister and Kumiko’s need to play music with someone she has an emotional connection to. The resolution to that plot point was shoehorned uncomfortably into the end of the season in a way that didn’t strike true for me with any of the characters involved. However, the smaller stories about other band members were short arcs that did actually catch my interest and my heart, unlike any of Kumiko’s antics. I mostly just felt like she was wildly out of her league emotionally, very naive.

Yuri: Let’s get the KumiRei question out of the way first off; it’s never really caught my interest as a combination, both girls seemed to be playacting. The first season of Sound Euphonium, Reina’s crazy boldness and how much I disliked her caused me to start yelling ‘devil trumpet player’ at the screen during her antics. The wonder and puzzlement of Sound Euphonium Season 2, is that just as I started to sympathize with her, she disappeared from the story.

If you look at Sound Euphonium Season 2, with no expectations it becomes the story of a young euphonium player’s innocent trampling through relationships more adult than she is capable of understanding, while searching for an emotional connection. Meanwhile, her weirdly intense best buddy from Season 1, the piercingly talented trumpet player with a crush on teacher, slips from story center to a near silent sideline participant, though still an epic trumpet player.

Non existent KumiRei chemistry gets eclipsed by the fragilely emo oboe player, Yoroizuka Mizore and the slightly swaggersome former flute, Kasaki Nozomi, suffering from one of those mutual misunderstandings that seem to plague fictional young girls who might have mad crushes on each other but never seem to talk about ANYTHING. This phenomenon always puzzles me when sighted in the wild. But this time, we get to an understanding, and a bonus nice moment that might lead the audience to think flautist and oboeist had kissed and made up at some point, but were refraining due to public location. And then Reina and Kumiko make fun of them, acing their callow youth best. There are also some exchanges that could be mistaken for flirting between several of the other band members, as well as the continued pining of trombone player, Tsukamoto Shuuichi, male, after Kumiko.

And we also have a pool episode, complete with bikinis.
 
RATINGS
Art 7 — some nice lighting, lots of outdoors moments, makes playing in band not visually boring
Story 5 — too unfocused
Characters 7 — many of them interesting, but leads let down by plot/pacing issues
Yuri — 3 (is that the right level for make it up and/or close your eyes and imagine)
Service 2
Overall 6 (watch it for the music and the flute player so get at least halfway through)

Erica here: Sound Euphonium, Season 1 and 2 are available streaming over at Crunchyroll. 

Thank you! I appreciate both the balanced perspective and the appreciation for music, although I’ll always be biased for woodwinds over brass. ^_^

The phenomenon you speak ofwhen characters just do not *talk to one another,  I refer to as “Jondalar syndrome” after the male protagonist of The Mammoth Hunters, who desperately wants to have sex with female protagonist Ayla, but just never tells her, for 400 pages. It was excruciating. Irritated the pants off me. ^_^

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