Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sword Art Online Season 1


I was happy to read that dgundam tried out LoGH and loved it. I was going to reply that in this age of Sword Art Online, epic non harem anime like LoGH can never be made. They tried with Guin Saga and it didn't get popular enough for a second season. Then I realised that I've had the review of SAO sitting in my head since I watched it long time ago and I'd better write it down.

So anyway, SAO starts off with an interesting premise. There is an online fantasy RPG where people wear a VR headset and somehow no one is allowed to leave the game on pain of death and the catch is that death in SOA will result in death in the real world. In other words, SOA is a fantasy anime with MMO rules. As I've said many times, I will accept any premise as long as it takes me somewhere interesting and the first half of SOA does that.

There is an awesome episode where a player is killed inside a town the mystery is how that happened cause in SOA, no one can be killed in a town. That episode is a perfect example of taking an unusual concept and running with it.

Unfortunately, the second half of SOA takes place in another MMO where death is no longer permanent, thereby getting rid of all the tension. MMOs are inherent a game of numbers when there are no stakes except for the rescuing this girl who's stuck in the game, there is no excitement.

Instead of making full use of the concept, SOA turns into a moe harem, main characters playing fake family in MMO story. SOA goes from clever story to pandering to the lowest common denominator otaku. I've seen this shit happen to so many anime and doramas that I always expect any show with an unusual setting to go down that path. Its as if the more high concept a show is, the more it will try to be normal to pander to the average viewer. The fact that Border had the balls to somewhere interesting is probably the biggest and most pleasant surprise this year.

SOA is a crappy anime with a good first half that has somehow continued to be popular and it has led to a second season. What this tells publishers and tv stations is that, execution of a story does not matter. A clever story with interesting characters. You just need a hook, throw in lots of moe and a harem and an anime will become popular.

Like jdoramas, there are probably good anime which most probably lack the viewership and ratings, I can't be stuffed cause anime are generally a lot longer than jdoramas and thus its harder to tell if something is worth watching. I don't have any screencaps cause I deleted the damn show for wasting my time. I guess the same rules apply to anime and jdoramas; avoid anything popular cause most of the time, its popular not because its good and good Japanese shows hardly get public recognition.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kazokugari Ep 10


Wow. Kazokugari has turned out to be the surprise good show of this season for me. There were moments in the middle where I thought it was trying to hard to be something else but it all comes together in Ep 8 and 9 to a furious finish in 10. Kazokugari gets so close to being a must watch dorama but it does so many things that well that whodunnit jdoramas tend to not get right. Anyone waiting for English subs, keep watching cause its worth it. If you can't wait, try it with Japanese subs. There's hardly any difficult investigation lingo and the story and dialogue are straightforward. There are no specific spoilers in my review, only general points on why Kazokugari rocks.


WHAT KAZOKUGARI DOES WELL

1. Its a whodunnit that aims to make sense rather than pull something from left field that makes you go huh or has too many twists that you just don't care.

2. All the stories are thematically linked kind of similar to Lady Joker.

3. The villain is the hero who's gone on a different path and I love that the writer spent time to show that our hero could have easily gone that route and makes our cop suspecting her less of a red herring.

4. The villain did not go into crazy overacting and laughing mode when revealed. So many jdoramas fall into this category including Mozu.

5. The villain actually believes he is right and based on what we've seen in this show, he's right in a twisted way.

6. The acting by everyone except Densha is good.

7.  You can count the number of doramas that are not afraid to go dark and realistic on one hand.


WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE BESIDES DENSHA

1. There's this fire scene at the beginning of Ep 10 where the villain is standing in front of someone and all of a sudden the villain has moved a couple of meters. Jdoramas always screw up their geography in 'action' scenes (Shiroi Haru) but this marred the last episode a bit for me.

2. A bit too much explanation for the audience in Ep 10. Not as bad as most doramas but no need to spell things out for the audince.


SUMMARY

I am pretty happy with Kazokugari. Its a dark murder mystery with brains and it makes me want to check out the novel. I can see why they wanted to adapt this story unlike Mozu. Kazokugari does most things right and while I can't call it a must watch, its one of the most memorable jdormas I've seen. If only they had replaced Densha with someone who can do decent serious scenes.

GUESS WHO'S IN RYU GA GOTOKU ZERO?


The only thing that's dampening my anticipation is the free grinding/mini game app for Vita, similar to Ishin. Besides the stupid Ishin ending, I hated the grindfest nature of the game. If I complete all the sub stories and complete all the hostess missions, I expect to have all or at least 99% of the moves and not feel like I'm playing a half baked character for most of the game.


I thought this was Hashimoto Ai and found out its going to be Sawashiro Miyuki. Zero is going to be the first game without Haruka. :(

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Seijo Eps 1+2


Seijo is a story where 10 years ago, a college student/home tutor, Ozawa Maria (Hirosue Ryoyo) statutorily rapes this lucky high school played by Mr Riichi from Mosaic Japan. High school kid falls head over hells for this tutor and studies like crazy. Ozawa Maria disappears from his life and the kid finds out that she is not who she says she was.


Fast forward to present day and the kid is now a lawyer and is engaged to Renbutso Misako. From Mosaic Japan to Seijo, this Nagayama Kento fella is on a lucky streak. Ozawa Maria is caught by the police and is accused of being a serial murderer with two of her lovers dead and one in a coma. Her case becomes a big headline and her former pupil's law firm gets involved in her defence.


Seijo looks like an 'is she an evil person' story with Hirosue Ryoko's character always dressed immaculately in white, always acting proper but having been proven as a serial liar.


I have no idea where this show is going besides our main character having a hikikomori brother who was accepted to Todai, Ozawa Maria probably having a sob story childhood which could be all lies and this ultimately being a choose between Renbutsu Misako and Hirosue Ryoko story.


Best case scenario, Seiko is a tight thriller where truths and half truths aren't clear until the end. Worst case scenario is the procedural elements of a legal investigative dorama are sacrificed for over-sentimentality. I like the cast and according to the dramawiki, Seijo is going to be 7 episodes which is a good length. Could be interesting. Watchable so far.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Summer 2014 jdoramas at a glance


KAKOZUGARI Eps 8+9

Wow. What a great two episodes! This is turning out to be a must watch show despite my dislike for Densha's acting. I cannot bloody wait for episode 10. I'll save my words for why this show is awesome for when it finishes.


YOSHIWARA URA DOUSHIN Eps 6-10

I would like to retract my must watch rating for this show, which I shouldn't have given in the first place. The action just continues to disappoint. They continue to have Super Sentai style fighting with bad guys obviously throwing themselves around and worst of all running at our hero without any intention of slashing him.


I was really excited with the appearance of Sakaguchi Taku (Versus, Why don't you play in Hell?) in episode 8 but the action is too PG even for him to save it. I still like Yoshiwara Ura Doushin but the disappointing action and the fact that it has become a generic cop show just makes it just a watchable series.


PETERO NO SOURETSU Eps 5-9

The best and most consistent show this season. I'm pretty sure the ending is going to be good. Will do write up when it is finished. Surprisingly no subber has picked this up.


TOKUMEI TANTEI 2 Ep 8

The good news is that they have been rapidly increasing the PG-13 fanservice. The bad news is we get a Dan Mitsu episode overfilled with fanservice that's more stupid than titillating. The most horrible, nonsensical Tokumei Tantei episode ever to the point where Hara Mikie the masseuse randomly knows kung fu.


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Oyaji no Senaka Eps 5-7


Episode 5: Dobuko

As much as I dislike Horikita Maki (when has she ever shown she could act?), this is a very funny story with Endo Kenichi playing the father who specialises in playing bad guys who die in television doramas. There's also a bit about Horikita Maki's childhood friend played by Hachi One Diver getting married but Endo Keinichi steals the show.

We need a dorama series about the Kita Yoshio actor. Someone who appears in every second dorama playing the exact same character everytime and no one bothers to remember his reak name.


Episode 6: Father's remarriage and daughter's divorce

A more serious short story about a widower father and his daughter (Ono Machiko) who is in a bad marriage. Beautiful and simple. I can't decide whether I like this or Mitsushima Hikari's episode the best.


Episode 7: Yoroshiku, son.

The funny and charming Watanabe Ken episode that had me thinking what does this have to do with being a father but ties it up to the theme in a nice way.

SUMMARY

More than half way in, the quality of the writing continues to be good. No one is settling for mediocrity and everyone is bringing in their game. Must watch.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Legend of Heroes: Ao no Kiseki Evolution


I finally finished my third The Legend of Heroes game. In this age of where many RPGs play more like action games, there are not many old school style rpgs besides this and the Bravely series, both of which I have mixed opinions on. The Legend of Heroes is a long running series and Ao no Kiseki is the second game of the fourth storyline after Zero no Kiseki and the Evolution part is the fact that its a remake of the PSP original with updated graphics and almost fully voiced for all the main parts of the story.


The stories in The Legend of Heroes series are connected and this game is set in the city of Crossbell about a bunch of young cops who act more like teenagers who play parents with a green haired little girl.


WHAT I LIKED

+ Epic story dealing with politics, immigration, triads etc.
+ The interconnectedness of series with events in Sen no Kiseki, the first game of the fifth storyline being talked about. Not to mention the main characters from the previous Sora no Kiseki series showing up (which I've not played). How awesome is it that a major event in the next game is revealed but players when the game first game out had to wait 3 years to find out why.
+ Old school turn based combat.


WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE

- All the characters start of as anime cliches and they stayed the same vanilla boring characters until the very end. The story is good but the execution is so anime wordy and preachy that at times I just skipped whole chucks of boring dialogue.
- Random battles are still way to easy even on hard cause its too easy to backstab an enemy for instant win even when playing on hard. It was only at the end where they had dangerous obstacles that sometimes backstabbing is hard.
- Characters talk in stilted super formal Japanese.


SUMMARY

I appreciate the effort but like so many things in Japanese entertainment, they take an interesting concept and mire it in anime cliche. I had fun for most of it but there are parts that bored me. Big picture-wise, compared to the glut of fan quick cash grab service RPGs that have are so undercooked, this is about as good as it gets at the moment (I'm looking at you Furyu and the Shining Series) unless someone gives Camelot Software Planning money to do an RPG. It took me 140 hours to beat the game on hard spending about a third of it looking up dictionaries.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hakugin Jack jdorama special


Yet another jdorama based on a Higashino Keigo novel, Hakugin Jack is a disappointment from the beginning. The start of the dorama special is Watanabe Ken's character on skis chasing after a snowboarder. As Watanabe Ken's character jumps a ramp, he does a trick move/pose which totally took me out of what they were trying to sell.


This tells me two things: either the director had no control over all the stunt/skiing shots or he was more concerned with making this the equivalent of a snowboarding/skiing music video. I'm no skiing expert but you don't do air tricks when pursuing someone or are being pursued. This is an absolute failure from a directing standpoint letting the stunt people do whatever they want, especially when its not in service to the movie. I can feel the director thinking "look at all the cool snowboarding shot" instead of trying to convey desperation.


The rest of the show is about someone who's planted bombs at a ski resort and is holding management hostage. Its a who among these people is the criminal but the director does a piss poor job at building any suspense. Don't waste your time.