Episodic Reviews

DARLING in the FRANXX – Episodes 1-24 [Complete]

Easily the most controversial set of reviews I’ve ever had to write (so far), DARLING in the FRANXX began it’s run with a lot of promise. This show was a combination of the production efforts of Studio TRIGGER and A-1 (who later renamed the offshoot team that worked on this series to Cloverworks), and it started off with a lot of potential and hype.

The first half of the series is a bit messy and way too derivative of other, better shows (*cough* Evangelion *cough*), but it still managed to tell and endearingly cheesy love story punctuated by well animated mecha battles, all set in a reasonably compelling post-apocalyptic landscape. Hiro never made much of an impression as the series lead, but his partner Zero Two had the benefit of energetic characterization and a top-tier character design, so it’s easy to see why folks latched on to her as the season’s Best Girl™. The robots themselves, called FRANXX, were an interesting hybrid of bulky mecha designs and, erm, “humanoid” proportions (they have boobs, you see). The method of piloting the FRANXX is perhaps the least subtle sex-metaphor ever put to screen, but the battles they have with the mysterious Klaxosaurs are usually quite fun. DARLING in the FRANXX mostly worked in it’s first cour, despite some troubling subtext and a few puzzling story beats.

The second half of the series, though, started off as problematic and devolved into a hot mess of terrible exposition, confusing and potentially offensive themes, and one of the worst attempts at executing and 11th-hour “twist” that I’ve ever seen. Zero Two’s characterization undergoes a lobotmy that rids her of any of the charm and personality she started the show as, Hiro becomes an increasingly insufferable and selfish asshole of a protagonist, and the Big Reveal that explains the true motivations of the Klaxosaurs is just irredeemably dumb. I didn’t hate DARLING in the FRANXX, but it did manage to almost completely nullify everything I liked about its first half with every awful decision it made getting to its finale, and I’d consider the final product to be mostly a waste of time.

Don’t let any of the hardcore FRANXX fans find out about that, though, because they very well might try to hunt me down and pelt me to death with their expensive Zero Two figurines.

My full set of streaming reviews can be found on Anime News Network.

Series Reviews

Blu-Ray Review – Spirit of the Sun

A Spirit of The Sun is a two-part television special produced by Madhouse, which first aired in 2006. For the first forty minutes or so of its 2.5-hour runtime, it takes the form of a boilerplate disaster story, with Japan suffering from the fallout of a devastating set of earthquakes and the eruption of Mt. Fuji. Entire cities are drowned by the ocean, over half of Japan’s population is killed, and a neverending sky of ash and smoke chokes the life out of many lingering survivors. At the center of it all is Genichiro Ryu, a good-hearted and selfless young boy who finds himself without his family and without a way out of the disaster zone. That’s the first part of the story. The rest of the narrative takes a shocking number of twists and turns, and for A Spirit of The Sun, that’s both a good thing and a bad thing.”

You can read the rest of my review on Anime News Network!

Series Reviews

Series Review: Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san

“One of the best tricks that Takagi-san (both the show and the character) pulls over the course of these twelve episodes is how it takes the inherently repetitive formula of its comedy and manages to evolve Takagi and Nishikata’s relationship through it in a sweet and realistic way. Being such a sly trickster, Takagi essentially uses her wit to bamboozle Nishikata into being her unspoken boyfriend, which gives the usual romcom clichés a fun new twist. The two tweens go shopping for swimsuits, learn to ride a bicycle as a pair, and generally engage in all of the dorky dating practices that young teens get into, even if Nishikata remains slow on the uptake.”

You can read the rest of my review on Anime News Network.

Site News

Update: We’re Up to Date!

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Man, it took a bit, but I’ve finally updated this blog to be current with every major review I’ve written over the past couple of years (sans the Shelf Life articles, which I didn’t update, but I will post new ones here from today onward). Starting today, I’m going to be doing my level best to keep the links to my freelance work as current as possible.

More importantly, I’m going to be adding new stuff here too, original content to supplement my freelance work and give me some more creative outlets to talk about anime that I’m not “officially” reviewing, as well as non-anime materials. I’ve got some fun ideas for the kind of coverage I want to do for things in the future, but it may take a little time for me to organize and pull off.

My eventual goal is to build up both enough quality original content, along with an engaged audience, to be able to take on review requests, multi-media content, and other fun stuff. If I can do well enough to justify setting up a Patreon, that would be aces, though for the time being I’m just going to concern myself with keeping my mind and my writing reflexes sharp.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for the kind of material I should cover in the future, feel free to drop a line in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter and/or CuriousCat! I’d love to hear from you.

J. B.

Series Reviews

Blu-Ray Review – Touken Ranbu: Hanmaru

“Before last year, I had never even heard of the mobile game that kickstarted the Touken Ranbu franchise; my introduction to it was in covering the premiere of ufotable‘s take on the series, Katsugeki! Tōken Ranbu, which I found to be an enjoyable bit of sword-fighting spectacle in keeping with the work of the studio responsible for the best Fate adaptations. I expected something in a similar vein going in to Touken Ranbu Hanmaru, despite being produced under a different studio (Doga Kobo), with an entirely new creative team at the helm.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that when you compare Touken Ranbu Hanmaru to its sister series from 2017, the former is an entirely different beast, mostly in that there isn’t anything beastly about it. Where ufotable‘s series put the focus on the hacking and the slashing, where the action here is tossed about only occasionally. Outside of one surprisingly dramatic virtuoso sequence from the season’s last episode, most of this series’ fight scenes are inconsistent and largely inconsequential. In reality, Touken Ranbu Hanmaru is much more of a slice of life series, with each of its twelve episodes devoted mostly to giving the cast of manypretty sword-boys time to play off of one another and generally be cute.”

You can find the rest of my review on Anime News Network.

Series Reviews

Netflix Review – Aggretsuko

“I’m not normally one to go crazy over Sanrio characters, but from the moment the credits rolled on the first of Aggretsuko‘s ten 15-minute episodes, I knew I had found in Retsuko the ideal mascot for perpetually exhausted millennials like myself. Not only do I personally relate to the humor and pathos of this little Red Panda’s struggles, but when you look past Aggretsuko‘s charming animation and delightful characters, there is a sharp and socially conscious edge to its story that makes it a perfect watch for anyone who feels beat down by The System in some way, especially if you can also indulge in some death metal screams and blast beats in the process.”

You can find the rest of my review on Anime News Network.

Series Reviews

Blu-Ray Review – The Morose Mononokean

“If I had to pick any one word to describe the experience of watching The Morose Mononokean, it would probably be “cute”. From beginning to end, this is a gentle story revolving around two mismatched friends who make their living assisting yokai, the Japanese spirits that populated myths, novels, video games, and anime since time immemorial. Some series, like GeGeGe no Kitarō, have used the supernatural beasties to fuel horror-tinged mysteries, while a franchise like Yōkai Watch has used them as capable Pokémonsubstitutes to market toys and games. Meanwhile, The Morose Mononokean eschews any pretense of horror or action to adopt an infinitely more chill approach, carving out a nice little niche for itself by way of its modest ambitions.”

You can find the rest of my review on Anime News Network.