Anime, Shows

It’s No Spoiler: They’re all Dead

Spoiler-Free Anime Review:

Angel Beats! Season 1

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Intro

When I first started Angel Beats!, I wasn’t sure if I liked it. After getting a few episodes in, it became one of my favorite anime. I watched it once with my siblings, partway with my ex-boyfriend, and again by myself because it was so good.

Background

This Japanese anime series, released in 2010, was based on the ideas of Jun Maeda and Na-Ga. The studios that produced the anime are P.A. Works and Aniplex.

Summary

High schooler Yuzuru Otonashi wakes up in the afterlife without warning and lacking any memory of his life on Earth. Once there, he finds that the members of the Battlefront are engaged in war against a mysterious individual they call Angel, who has supernatural powers. All members of the Battle Front seek to defy God due to their seemingly unfair lives and/or tragic deaths.

Pros

  • Unusual concept
  • Fascinating characters
  • Well-developed tragic backstories
  • Balance of humor, tension, and tragedy
  • Beautiful animation
  • Attractive intro and outro that change often
  • Phenomenal music throughout
  • Title that has significant meaning revealed near the end

Cons

  • Minimal character development for many characters
  • Felt rushed
  • Repetitive at times
  • Violent and uncomfortable relationship between two characters

Observations

  • An interesting theme to trace is characters’ attitudes toward God

Review

Concept

Battle Front Emblem

The concept is entertaining and held my interest throughout the anime. This is the only anime I’ve ever watched where the characters all start off dead. Nonetheless, the show encourages emotional investment because the characters can be obliterated. This can happen if they obey school rules and try to fit in, if they find peace, or give in.

It is interesting to trace characters’ opinions toward God throughout. There is a wide range of outlooks. Some openly defy God. Others are ambivalent. Still, others believe that He is potentially good and that the afterlife is no punishment. One character believes he is God, and another insists on being called Christ (even though no one is willing to call him that.)

Characters

Angel is a high schooler with supernatural powers such as Hand Sonic, which causes a blade to sprout from her hand. She is believed to be an agent of God’s will and not a dead human like the rest of the characters. Her personality is calm, collected, determined, and generally quiet. She is incredibly powerful, and it typically takes several members of the Battle Front to even slow her down.

Yuri “Yurippe” Nakamura is the fearless leader of the Battle Front. Due to her tragic past, she founded the Battle Front to defy God. Yurippe is defiant, stubborn, and serious, yet has a sense of humor. She is a match for Angel because of her great skill in combat, and she is the character that seems most traumatized by her past.

Yuzuru Otonashi wakes up in the afterlife without any memory of his life on Earth. Initially he is uncertain of who to side with, Angel or the Battle Front. Otonashi does not believe that it is impossible to die in the afterlife because he does not believe he is already dead. As a result, he needs proof. Otonashi is kind, adaptable, and willing to disagree with the crowd. He could probably be considered the main character, even though Angel and Yurippe are extremely important to the storyline.

Hideki Hinata is the co-founder of the Battle Front along with Yurippe. He is one of the strongest members of the Battle Front, but is not afraid to go against the crowd when his beliefs clash with theirs. He quickly develops a close friendship with Otonashi. Hinata gave Angel and Yurippe their nicknames. He is loyal and laidback, but occasionally violent towards Yui.

Yui is a fan of the band Girls Dead Monster. She has an awkward friendship with Hinata that is uncomfortable at times. She is short, easily frightened, energetic, and sometimes annoying. The other characters rarely take her seriously. She is also a skilled vocalist and guitarist herself, although she struggles when she has to do both at the same time. Yui’s tragic past makes her want to make the most of her time in the afterlife.

Backstories

The character backstories for some characters are superbly developed and tragic. Some characters have revealed deaths, while others just have tragedies revealed in their pasts. Many of the characters are not well-developed and have simple yet unique personalities that add to the show even though they are not developed.

Uncomfortable Relationship

The relationship between Yui and Hinata is uncomfortable at best. Don’t think that it’s just Hinata beating up on poor Yui either–they both beat on each other frequently and it’s played for laughs. If it wasn’t meant to be humorous it would be better, but it still would be disturbing to see them fight in a way that is that toxic.

Balance

There is plenty of comedy in Angel Beats! Above, there is a picture of Yurippe creating a distraction by rocketing a team member into the ceiling. While this is happening, dramatic music plays.

There are other sources of humor, such as when the characters consider what would happen is they were obliterated (disappear from the afterlife). They guess at various forms of sea-life they could be reincarnated as.

There is also a lot of sad moments, some of which made me tear up. The backstories of many characters are terrible and tragic too.

Furthermore, there are several tense missions that require a lot of sacrifice and pain.

Animation

The animation is beautiful, particularly the shots that involve light or the sky. It is one of the most attractive styles of animations that I have seen.

Intro & Outro

The intro is attractive and changes with every episode. I love when that happens because it takes extra effort and keeps people engaged during the opening. The piano playing of Angel in the intro is beautiful, and the song is fitting–called My Soul, Your Beats! The outro is softer and sadder, using a song called Brave Song.

At the end of the outro there is a preview that is basically snippets of conversations. It is very intriguing and always makes me look forward to the next episode.

Music

The music is phenomenal, whether its the intros and outros or the performances by the band Girls Dead Monster throughout the episodes.

Length

This anime would have been so much better if the creators had gone with the original plan of 26 episodes rather than cutting it down to 13. So many other characters could have been explored. Even though the show felt rushed, it was still amazing enough for me to watch it several times.

Repetitiveness

The Battlefront has a tendency to use the same battle plan multiple times upon finding it effective; for instance, Operation Tornado. Furthermore, once they find one way to solve a problem, they will often use the same solution over and over during the same episode.

Title

The title has a special meaning that will only be revealed to you if you watch the entire season. It is well worth it!

Conclusion

I would recommend this anime for ages 13 and up.

I think it is worthing noting that as a Christian, I still enjoyed this show and found it worthwhile and touching even though the characters were trying to defy God. The overall message was very positive and heartwarming, so I recommend it for Christians, those of other religions, and nonreligious people alike.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

Movies

A Forgettable Sequel to Finding Nemo

Spoiler-Free Movie Review:

Finding Dory

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 stars

Intro

I watched this movie with my younger sisters recently, and found it to be a cute and fun movie. Although it was not phenomenal, I found it to be enjoyable and well-designed.

Background

Finding Dory was released in 2016. The movie won the Saturn Award for Best Animated Film. It stars Ellen Degeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, and Ty Burrell.

Finding Dory can be watched on Disney+.

Summary

The blue tang Dory, who struggles with short-term memory loss, seeks out her parents after several memories of them surface. Finding Dory occurs one year after the events of Finding Nemo.

Pros

  • Loveable, familiar characters
  • Introduces new characters that are just as fun
  • Beautiful animation
  • Creative use of animal features and abilities
  • Acknowledges problems with pollution and how animals have to adapt
  • Semi-educational for kids
  • Fitting yet simple music
  • References to first movie, Finding Nemo
  • References to other films

Cons

  • Watching the fish try to travel from water source to water source to try to reach their goal is exhausting
  • Similar concept to the first movie
  • Just not as good as the original
  • Sea lions acting all friendly toward fish for no apparent reason, even though they are predators

Review

Characters

The cuteness factor of the movie is augmented by the addition of scenes from Dory’s childhood. Learning Dory’s backstory and how she lost her family was a lot of fun. Her faulty memory explains why she never thought about her family during the events of Finding Nemo. Even as a child, Dory introduces herself by saying, “Hi. I’m Dory. I suffer from short-term remembory loss.” Her relationship with her parents is cute and wholesome.

Dory’s parents are sweet and do their best to look after her wellbeing. This is not enough to prevent young Dory from getting lost as a child, though. Over time, Dory forgets her memories of times with her parents, even though she does recall certain things such as the fact that they told her to “just keep swimming.” Near the beginning of the movie, these memories start coming back.

Hank is a sarcastic, pessimistic octopus with seven tentacles. All he wants is to live in captivity for the rest of his life, as this is what he is accustomed to. However, the policy of the Marine Life Institute where he lives is “Rescue, Rehabilitate, and Release.” At least at first, Hank is only interested in helping Dory for his own benefit.

Dory makes some new loveable friends, who are at the Marine Life Institute, one who is there for a head injury and the other for shortsightedness. They have unique personalities that make them a great addition to the team.

Animation

The animation in Finding Dory is vibrant and beautiful, filled with soft blues and bright colors. Whether underwater or on land, the style is attractive.

Educational

There are aspects of the movie that teach children facts about life. The issue of pollution is explored somewhat in the movie. Dory in the picture above has gotten caught in plastic rings, obviously due to human irresponsibility and carelessness. The movie also demonstrates how wildlife are forced to adapt to pollution and humans as they become part of their habitat. Little facts such as that the octopus has three hearts and that belugas use echolocation are sprinkled throughout.

Music

The music fits the theme of the movie, even if it is relatively simple. It isn’t music I would add to my Spotify playlist, but for the movie itself, it added to and supported the mood.

References

“A113” appears in the movie, as it does in most Pixar films. This time it shows up on a license plate.

The Pizza Planet truck appears twice in the movie, once underwater in a dilapidated state and once on the road.

Some of the visitors to the Marine Institute come from other Pixar Films such as Toy Story 3 and Inside Out.

There are also so many references to Finding Nemo, such as the Tank Gang appearing in the end credits.

Concept

The concept is very similar to the original movie, except that Dory and her parents are lost instead of Nemo. The movie simply isn’t as good as the original–it isn’t as creative, fun, or enjoyable, and relies on the first movie for familiarity with characters and ideas.

I like that in the end credits we get to see Hank hiding in different places, like a look-and-find.

Some predators in the movie don’t act like actual predators and are helpful. This is kind of similar to the first movie, but Finding Nemo did better at portraying animals still acting like actual predators.

It was clever to have a touch tank from the point of view of the animals rather than the kids.

Conclusion

This is a solid family movie, great for kids even if it may not be as good as Finding Nemo.

Rating System

If you interested in how I rate movies, check out my rating system.

Links

Anime, Shows

RWBY Volume 2 Includes Best Food Fight Scene Ever!

Spoiler-Free Anime Review:

RWBY Volume 2

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Intro

Volume 1 was a good beginning that nonetheless had major issues with animation and a simplistic plot. Volume 2 veers away from the simple, ups the stakes, and has somewhat improved animation. I watched this volume the first time with my siblings, a second time by myself, and a third time with my closest friend.

Warning! Although there are no spoilers for Volume 2 in this review, there are minor spoilers for Volume 1.

Background

RWBY is an American anime. Some people say anime has to come from Japan to be legit–I disagree. I share the opinion of many others that say anime is a style and not limited to the products of any one country.

The creator is Monty Oum, who developed the plot for the company Rooster Teeth. Originally the anime was an indie miniseries with a low budget, but it has become largely successful.

Volume 2 was released in 2014, and is available with subscription on Amazon Prime, and for free on Crunchyroll and Youtube.

Summary

Team RWBY is back and ready for their second semester at Beacon, but real life doesn’t stop there. Between classes and homework, they still have to find time to save the world. And between the White Fang, Roman Torchwick, and a mysterious new trio, they certainly have their work cut out for them!” 

ROOSTER TEETH quoted on Fandom

Basically, RWBY is about four young women who seek to become huntresses and defend the world of Remnant from shadowy creatures called Grimm.

Volume 2 consists of encounters with new villains, the ever-growing threat of the Grimm, a school dance, a mission that takes a turn for the worst, and preparations for the Vytal Festival.

Pros

  • Memorable heroes
  • Effective villains
  • Interesting character naming rules
  • Unique weapons and apparel
  • Phenomenal fight scenes
  • Team RWBY try their hands at a mission
  • Original music
  • Attractive intro
  • Balance of comedic and tense moments
  • Groundbreaking American Anime

Cons

  • Animation is still amateurish
  • Episodes shorter than the average show length

Observations

Heroes

Since I introduced the members of team RWBY in my review of Volume 1, for this review I will focus on team JNPR.

Jaune Arc is a generally unskilled aspiring huntsman. He grew up in a family with seven sisters, and even though he desires to be strong, his abilities are underdeveloped. According to Fandom, Jaune was also meant to be similar to the character Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender–a normal person among people with special powers.

Jaune Arc’s name alludes to Joan of Arc. The spelling of Jaune is also evocative of the French word for yellow. Arc may also refer to Jaune’s special symbol, which is a rainbow-shaped double-arc, displayed prominently on his shield.

Jaune is loyal to his friends and becomes an increasingly competent leader of Team JNPR.

Nora Valkyrie is a fun-loving, talkative young woman with immense skill using her hammer-like weapon. Her character alludes to Thor from Norse Mythology.

There are a couple of theories regarding her name. It may be a shortened form of Eleonora, from the Greek word meaning “light.” Additionally, Fandom suggests that it may be derived from the Arabic word for light or that it may come from the flower name Nora Barlow Columbine.

Nora has a close relationship with her friend Lie Ren with potential for future romance.

Pyrrha Nikos is a prodigy, skilled at melee and long-range fighting. She is basically a celebrity athlete, admired by many. Only Jaune seems to have no idea of her fame when he meets her, and this may be why she develops a very obvious crush on him. According to Fandom, Pyrrha’s name alludes to Achilles, who once took on the name Pyrrha while in disguise as a woman, and to Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory. Her name is also derived from a Greek word meaning “flame-colored.”

Pyrrha is compassionate, loyal, empathetic, and brave. Her semblance is Polarity, which allows her to magnetize and control metals.

Lie Ren is a talented young man who is able to fight easily long-range and melee. He ignores Nora’s obvious crush on him without being particularly cruel.

According to Fandom, his last name comes from the Japanese kanji word for lotus, while his full name is derived from the pinyin of the Chinese word for hunter. He was intended to allude loosely with Mulan.

Ren is quiet, thoughtful, intelligent, and stubborn. As shown in the food fight scene, he does have a side that is fun and spontaneous.

Villains

Mercury Black and Emerald Sustrai are introduced in Volume 2 as part of Cinder’s faction. With the introduction of these two formidable foes, the threat level is amped up somewhat.

Naming

Almost all character names and team names follow Monty Oum’s color naming rules, which basically require that all names should be inspired by color.

Other interesting themes are that all character names or the characters themselves on Team JNPR are inspired by people who dressed as the opposite gender: Joan of Arc, Thor, Achilles, and Mulan.

Another name theme is references to flowers, which is more apparent in my review of Volume 1.

Weapons and Apparel

Other than Jaune’s weapon, which is basically a hand-me-down sword, Team JNPR’s weapons are impressive. (If you want to learn about Team RWBY’s weapons, check out my review of Volume 1.) It is worthwhile to mention that even though Jaune’s sword is boring, his expandable/collapsible shield is rather helpful and creative.

Nora’s weapon is called Magnhild, which is referenced in the Volume 2 song “Boop,” and functions as both a hammer and a grenade launcher. It utilizes pink dust that fits her character design. According to Fandom, the name comes from Old Norse, German and Norwegian and is based on the words for “mighty” and “battle.”

Nora’s clothing design befits her lighthearted character with the bright pinks and heart design.

Pyrrha Nikos’ weapon and shield are called Miló and Akoúo̱. According to Monty Oum’s Twitter, their names mean “speak” and “listen” respectively. Miló can change between sword, a javelin and a rifle, allowing long-range and melee attacks. Furthermore, the shield Akoúo̱ can be thrown like a discus.

According to Monty Oum’s Facebook, Lie Ren’s weapon is called StormFlower. It consists of two handguns with sickle like blades.

Like most weapons in RWBY, Stormflower is useful for close combat and long range.

Inspiration for his clothing was influenced by Chinese culture.

Fight Scenes

RWBY always has phenomenal fight scenes. Seeing Team CFVY fight had to be one of the highlights of the volume, though. Professor Oobleck was no pushover, either. Even just seeing Team RWBY against White Fang members and Grimm was impressive. They even have new names for their formidable new team techniques, such as Freezerburn, Checkmate, and Ladybug.

Mission

What I like about the mission that Team RWBY undertakes is that it forces them to confront the reasons why they seek to become huntresses. Additionally, I think it is kind of funny that they see these huge Grimm passing by at a distance at one point and are like–yeah, those beasties are a little too dangerous, let’s stay clear of those. Even talented fledging huntresses have their limits. It kind of reminds me of RPG games such as Final Fantasy that have monsters far too difficult to beat that you have to just avoid until later in the game.

Music

Unlike with many anime, the music in RWBY was created exclusively for RWBY, with foreshadowing built into the songs and songs that seem linked to specific characters.

The music was composed by Jeff Williams, and his daughter Casey Lee Williams does a lot of the vocals. According to Fandom, Jeff Williams does not regard the songs as canon and asserts that they should not be taken literally.

To me, that just seems like he is covering for himself and Rooster Teeth in case the story ends up veering too far from the lyrics, but I know that so far the songs fit the theme and story very well.

The best songs in Volume 2, in my opinion, are “Time to Say Goodbye” and “Caffeine.”

Intro

The intro for Volume 2 is beautiful, even if the animation still leaves much to be desired. The backgrounds are simple, but I appreciate how it switches art styles in the middle.

The music in the intro fits the anime and hints at a darker future for the show.

Comedy and Tension

The most comedic moment has to be the food fight that occurs in the first episode of the volume. It defies logic, and yet it is so hilarious that I do not care.

Humor is also shown in the dialogue, such as when Ruby addresses the group as “Sisters, friends, Weiss…”

There are plenty of tenser moments too, such as when Emerald and Mercury confront Tukson, when Blake worries herself into complete exhaustion, and when a Grimm attack threatens innocents.

Animation

The 3D animation of RWBY is made using Poser, and thus differs greatly from most other anime. The major consequence of a low budget combined with this 3D style was that it made the whole volume look underdeveloped.

The animated movement was occasionally awkward, even though Volume 2 showed improvements over Volume 1. There are no longer just silhouettes for background characters. However, in the dance scene there are copies of some partners, giving it an overly simplistic feel.

Episode Length

Each episode in Volume 2 is 12 minutes long. That’s still short for an anime episode, and there is no reason they shouldn’t have just combined episodes to make them longer.

Contribution to Anime

RWBY is unique because it is one of the few American anime. It is filled with references to Western pop culture and folk tales. Additionally, its animation style, while underdeveloped, sets out on a separate path from typical anime.

Conclusion

Volume 2, while it is better than Volume 1, is not as great as the later volumes, mostly due to poor animation. If you’re not sure about the show after watching 1 and 2, I would say you should at least try Volume 3 before reaching a final judgment.

That being said, Volume 2 is fun, enjoyable, and totally worth your time. I would recommend this Volume for ages 13 and up.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Related Articles

Shows

Sherlock Season 4 Does Not Measure Up

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Sherlock Season 4

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Intro

Having enjoyed the first three seasons of Sherlock, I expected the last season to impress, but I ended up being disappointed. It was actually still somewhat enjoyable, but nowhere as phenomenal as the earlier seasons.

Warning! Even though there are no spoilers for Season 4 in this article, there are minor spoilers from previous seasons.

Background

Sherlock Season 4 aired in 2017 and was produced by BBC and Hartswood films. It is based off of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books, but instead of being placed in Victorian England, the show is set in modern-day London.

The show stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs, Mark Gatiss, Louise Brealey, Andrew Scott, and Amanda Abbington.

In addition to being nominated for various awards, Sherlock won in three categories in the Primetime Emmy Awards.

Pros

  • Phenomenal acting
  • Immersive setting highly relevant to a modern-day audience
  • Benefit of the familiar character of Sherlock with a new spin
  • Strong character development
  • A fascinating villain at the end of the season
  • Intelligent, occasionally comical, script
  • Catchy theme song and music

Cons

  • A lackluster first villain of the season
  • Sherlock’s ability to predict the future stretches believability
  • Unnecessarily confusing, especially in the last episode
  • Yet more predictable in the first episode

Observations

  • You could probably stop watching at Season 3 if you wanted a better ending for the series

Review

Acting

The acting, especially by Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, was incredible. They each played their parts well.

All of the fantastic and obnoxious qualities of Sherlock were brought out and emphasized. The way that the actors for Sherlock, Watson and Mary interact shows great chemistry and skill.

Setting

Sherlock Holmes - Wikiwand
Sherlock and Watson’s flat

The setting in Season 4 is the same as Seasons 1-3, unsurprisingly: modern-day London. The presence of modern conveniences such as security cameras and phones remains a way for this new Sherlock to test his intellect. John Watson records their adventures through a blog, another modern touch. This transition from the Victorian London of the books to modern-day London is seamless.

Characters

Sherlock is a highly intelligent man who lacks empathy. He is nevertheless shown on several occasions to have at least some degree of care depending on who the person is. He is always blunt, but occasionally shows remorse for his words when they have caused damage.

Watson is of higher-than-average intelligence, but he cannot compete with Sherlock. Watson, however, has a deep sense of empathy and values human life while wanting to negate human suffering. He has a high tolerance for Sherlock, but even he loses his temper sometimes at Sherlock’s careless comments ill-timed deductions, and drug habit.

This season introduces more tension between Watson and Sherlock when Sherlock makes a critical error.

The first villain is creepy at least, but he lacks the style and creativeness of villains such as Moriarty. The second villain is fascinating and more intelligent than Sherlock and Mycroft. She once cut open her skin because she wanted to see how her muscles worked. Unfortunately, I cannot provide a picture of either of them without spoiling the series.

Script

The script of Season 4 is actually pretty good. There are several quotable moments. For example, an unexpected reflection on suicide by Sherlock.

“Taking your own life. Interesting expression– taking it from who? Once it’s over, it’s not you who’ll miss it. Your own death is something that happens to everybody else. Your life is not your own. Keep your hands off it.”

There is also a decent amount of humor in the fourth season.

Watson: “I need a second opinion.”

Sherlock: “Oh, please, John. Since when have you ever managed TWO opinions. You’d fall over.”

There is even some genuine sincerity on the part of Sherlock:

Mycroft: “Dr. Watson? Could you please leave?”

Sherlock: “John stays.”

Mycroft: “This is about family.”

Sherlock: “THAT’S why he stays!”

Music

The theme music is catchy as always, and the music throughout the episodes is fitting and develops the mood.

Believability

Sherlock’s skills were always unbelievably amazing, but now he adds telling the future to his repertoire of skills. He predicts the exact location and time of events without a strong explanation as to how he managed to do so. Making Sherlock near-omniscient was not a good choice.

Predictability

The level of predictability for the first episode is higher than the rest of the episodes. Sherlock’s mistake is unsurprising, as well as the results.

Confusion

All the confusion in the series stems from one villain. Somehow the creators made her whole storyline extremely convoluted. I found myself wondering, what the heck just happened? The villain was impressive, but the events surrounding her created too much confusion.

Conclusion

Even though I found this season somewhat enjoyable, I think that you may be better off stopping at Season 3. That’s what my siblings ended up doing and I don’t blame them.

I recommend this season for audiences ages 13+.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

Related Articles