Saturday, December 26, 2020

Fall 2020: Surviving The Junior Year Fire Pits (So Far)

 Fall 2020: Surviving The Junior Year Fire Pits (So Far)

Warning: The following post may/will contain spoilers of various anime series and a movie. If you don't want to know what happens in any of the properties I'm talking about here, it's best if you join me once you've watched the first few episodes of each or the entire thing. But then again, if you want to take that warning with a grain of salt, feel free to stay put.

With that said:

Guess who's back? It's been a few months. I definitely wasn't expecting them to be as busy as they were, but my focus is always trained on school whenever it's in session. The start of the semester wasn't too stressful, actually (minus Stats). It was the middle and last half of the semester that took more energy out of me. My brother started battling a really bad bout of anxiety, schoolwork began to pile up a little too much for my liking, and I didn't get to watch as much anime. On the bright side, I've got a great work study job that isn't food service (which isn't bad, but I wanted better), am a DJ for my campus's radio station (which has been really fulfilling), and have gotten to expand my culinary powers in the kitchen. Apartment life's been treating me well, I'd say! That, and the Hallmark Christmas movies.

In today's post, I will be talking about the three shows (one's technically a movie but was split into three episodes on streaming platforms) I've been watching since I last posted on my blog. I did want to get to the new Haikyuu cour and IDOLiSH7 season while at school, but those are going to wait for now (re-watches of the first cour/season?). A review will be coming out for one show (which I haven't finished yet at the time of this update post), I plan on doing a special analysis post (but will still give the anime a score) for another at some point, and the other isn't getting anything. After this, I will be doing some year end lists to recognize the content I've watched this year. There were so many high notes, and I wouldn't have gotten through quarantine without some amazing shows and openings. Oh, and did I mention Hallmark movies?

Not the time, Jack. Not the time. Wait until the fifth Chronicle Mystery movie airs.

Let's go back to the anime:

Burn the Witch.

This would have been the property I reviewed had I had the energy/enthusiasm back in October, but I didn't. I also still don't. My expectations for this were pretty high. Considering I was a big Bleach stan at 14 (twenty episodes, four filler episodes, two movies, and sixteen volumes worth), I was curious about what Tite Kubo was going to do next after his biggest series came to an end. The premise looked cool, I was into the main characters, and the animation looked awesome. Released in Japan as an hour long movie, the content was split into three roughly twenty minute episodes when it streamed on Crunchyroll. Although it took me about a week and a half to get through this, I didn't mind too much at the end of the day. While Burn the Witch had its enjoyable moments, it never went beyond mediocre.

For starters, the adaptation team skipping over the events of the one shot wasn't a good idea. Kubo initially drew a one shot for a 2018 Shonen Jump issue before it was picked up for another "season" of four two years later. These chapters started running in August before finishing in September, the volume with all five chapters releasing on the same day as the movie's premiere in Japan. Although the one shot is referenced briefly after the final battle, I think adapting it first would have been wise. Since I didn't know what happened in it, I was thrown for a loop when we got dropped into the world with no explanation of how Balgo Parks became a Dragonclad or how the main characters came to know each other. Having it adapted first not only would have been useful, but it could have produced better foreshadowing for Balgo meeting Macy before the events of the movie.

Another thing Burn the Witch doesn't do well is exposition. It takes the easy way out of worldbuilding I see in bad YA fantasy and sci-fi. We either get poorly timed info-dumps or terms thrown into the script like we're supposed to understand them. I'm not sure if this is from Kubo's work or if it was something created during the adaptation process, but I still don't have a strong grip on Reverse London or the organization the two leads work for. Why was Wing Bind created? How are they tied to the Soul Society (which is nodded to in the third episode)? Did Ninny and Noel get recruited? There's so much glossed over, it's honestly surprising. Part of me wonders if it would have been easier to wait until there was more content to adapt. There's only so much ground you can cover in a little over an hour.

There are also too many characters that barely get screen time or development. I really came to enjoy Ninny for all the qualities she has that are similar to Ichigo (the main being that she's a smartass), but I also liked her dynamic with Noel. There were some aspects to the characters I liked, but that was pretty much it. Balgo and Macy make good foils, but the fact that they're based in what seems like petty crushes (the former's more innocent in his crush towards Noel, but Macy's crush on Ninny is "psychotic lesbian" at its finest) made me annoyed. At twenty-one, I'm too old for characters ignoring one half of a duo just because they like the other person more. That has late 2000's comedy anime written all over it. 

Bruno could have been an interesting antihero had his motivation been better explained. A great design can't be the only thing I like about a character. Why didn't he actually go through with killing Ninny and Noel in order to "make things easier?" Why did he suddenly switch from wanting to take out Elly/Cinderella to actually kind of saving her? There are so many questions I have, and that's not even touching the Wing Bind higher-ups, or what was the point of having Billy Banx Jr., someone not even involved in the final fight, take out Cinderella himself by just shooting a beam of light through his finger? Whenever I try to think about all these aspects, my brain turns to mush. This story and these characters could have been so much better, but it feels like there are so many holes that need fixing, it's hard to figure out what needs to be fixed first.

At least the animation is excellent. Studio Colorido brings the vibrancy of Reverse London and Kubo's characters to life. Movement is incredibly fluid (whether human or dragon), the scenery always looks stunning, and it's cool to see what aspects from Bleach's adaptation the staff took but also made their own. Keiji Inai's score had plenty of epic moments, and most of the pieces were more memorable to me than his work on Karneval and The Royal Tutor. I was also happy with the voice acting. It was nice to see some seiyuu I wasn't as familiar with have their time in the limelight and help shape these characters. In particular, Yuina Yamada brings a certain level of sophistication to Noel, it's hard for me to think about who else could have played her. I also enjoyed Asami Tano's brash Ninny, Shimba Tsuchiya's chipper Balgo (even if I didn't like his character that much), and Saori Hayami's dramatic range with Macy.

I wish I had better things to say about Burn the Witch, because while I liked some parts to it, it was still pretty underwhelming. The story and characters had too much missing that the animation, score, and voice acting couldn't fix. Had the one-shot been adapted before they dived into the first four chapters and had the adaptation team waited until there was more content, I could have seen this being more enjoyable then it was. There was some good action, but how good is it when you can't bring yourself to get invested in the story or characters?


Black Butler's second season.

I feel like at some point when I was fourteen, I declared I would never watch this season. At the time (and even now, TBH), there was/is nothing but bad things said about it. Completely anime original material, Yana Toboso developed two new characters with the anime staff, Alois Trancy and his butler, Claude. No one really seemed to like these two characters for reasons I didn't understand, and the ending was supposed to be a giant pile of s**t. Being the naïve confused weeb that I was, I took in a few spoilers, watched the OVA's (even the Alois focused one), and left it at that. However, when I noticed this popped back on Hulu and Netflix in the past year, I got curious. It'd been six years since I finished Book of Circus and six and a half years since I stopped reading the manga. My taste has drastically changed. Would I still find some of the elements that made me love the show in the first place, even though this material's been disregarded at this point?

The answer is obviously yes. At the time, watching Black Butler was a big step for me. It was darker than some of the anime I saw in 2013, it was one of the first shows I watched by myself, and the rampant homoeroticism flew over my head at fourteen but is completely apparent at twenty-one, especially between Sebastian and Ciel. However, there's a lot of charm to Black Butler. I love how some of the filler subplots from the first season make no sense, how colorful the animation is and seeing the budget improve with time, the engaging story at its core that's also gone off in various directions, the classical scores from both Taku Iwasaki and Yasunori Mitsuda (although I remember more from Iwasaki), and the characters themselves. Aside from one in particular:

I enjoy how Toboso created such distinct personalities and how they carried over into the anime adaptation. There are so many characters to call favorites here, and I even found myself growing to the ones exclusive to the first season. Black Butler was also pivotal in me realizing I was queer, although I just didn't know at the time. Grell was the main reason.

Please show her more respect than her creators do and refer to her with female pronouns, thank you. It took me six years to do that. The same applies for Arashi Narukami from Ensemble Stars.

Another great queen, even though I haven't really dug into ES yet. One day...

But back to Season 2 proper, all the good feelings I got from this series came flooding back the minute I started it. It wasn't perfect, and I probably should have realistically re-watched Season 1 before diving in, but re-reading the Wikipedia/Wiki episode summaries worked for Kuroko no Basuke, and it actually worked for this. I laughed, I internally screamed, and I jammed out to "SHIVER" every single time (one of my favorite anime openings for sure). The first episode served not only as a great reintroduction to the franchise, but it was also a great introduction to Alois and Claude. Although it does take a while for the staff to dig into the start of their contract, some of the set-up to get there is brilliant. Alois is incredibly childish and can't face the thought of Claude wanting to obtain something he wants (Ciel) because it's shiny and more delectable. Meanwhile, Claude seems to care for his master to the point of thick sexual tension, but then it's revealed he's only a stepping stone in order to get Ciel's soul, something he eventually can't live without. Although both aren't likeable, they're fascinating, especially when you pit them against Ciel and Sebastian. The former may be childish, but the tragedy in his past forced him to grow up fast. And although the latter desires his master's soul, there's a restraint Claude's characterization lacks.

Aside from being an engrossing character study, I was really happy with the second half (minus the ending). Ciel starts the season having lost much of his memory of what happened in Season 1 (including the canon stuff). Anime viewers believed his soul was devoured, but it turns out a crow just snatched it, becoming a free present on the Trancy mansion's doorstep. Why Claude wanted Ciel's soul for this long? I have no clue. The adaptation team also fumbles in confirming that twist to the audience (we find out from Sebastian telling Soma in Episode 5, which is four episodes too late after not so subtle hints), but the payoff is wonderful. After killing Alois's physical body, Claude has the Trancy manor servants convince local police that Ciel is in fact their master. Ciel had just started to remember what happened prior to this season, which makes it all the more convenient when Claude melds Alois and Ciel's souls together so he can have the boy for himself. Ciel casts off Sebastian when the latter tries to save him, but there's more trouble waiting in the wings. It turns out Claude isn't the Big Bad. It's Hannah, another servant who has secrets of her own. I knew about her being a villain before this, but I still liked how it was revealed and executed. Alois's role in this plot was an actual surprise, and what started as a simple rescue mission turns into a feud between butlers in order to get their master back, what the season was building up to all along.

Getting to see all of the characters I loved as a tween was also great. Although I could have gotten more than glorified cameos (one episode with Undertaker isn't enough for the fourteen-year-old fanboy in me) and weird comedic bits, it added to the nonsensical part of Black Butler I think I might now appreciate. There's some beauty in this franchise tripping over itself that never fails to make me laugh. Grell got her time in the spotlight in overdramatic fashion, Ronald Knox made his anime entrance, and the other Phantomhive manor servants just ended up being themselves. Sometimes, that's all I want.

Although there were some iffy drops in the animation this season, I was impressed with the budget increases that balanced out some of those bits. The action scenes were well-done, the character designs had an added splash of color to them, and the storyboards for the main opening have got to have some of my favorite symbolism and framing of all time (minus the homoeroticism since Alois and Ciel are minors). Just don't bring up the CGI horses. Taku Iwasaki's score had plenty of classical punch to support this show's content, whether comedic or dramatic. Finally, the voice acting continued to be excellent. Nana Mizuki did such a great job with Alois's spoiled and heartbroken sides especially. While her voice sounded like Inner Moka's, it was interesting to see her go at it from the angle of a teenage boy. Takahiro Sakurai also did well, Aya Hirano got to show off more of her range before that scandal made her lose work, and everyone else still sounds fantastic. What I've heard of the dub also holds up, too. 

However, that doesn't mean this season doesn't have its problems. Most of Episodes 2-6 feel like padding to stall any development beyond what the writers can control. The Phantomhive servants seeking out a mysterious white stag? Ciel and Sebastian taking a train ride in order to investigate a sarcophagus? The Trancys holding a costume ball where the supporting characters wear culturally appropriative costumes? It all feels random. Granted, the last thing I mentioned does get the plot moving when Claude and Sebastian sign a contract to make Alois the new subject of Ciel's revenge, but it still takes half the show for anything substantial to happen. Even though I watched half the show in two days, it still lagged. I don't think it helps matters when most of the writers for this season hadn't written for the anime before, and they all wrote for the first half (although I didn't mind some episodes on their own).

There are also points where the homoeroticism becomes distracting (not to mention problematic). I'm not just talking about Ciel and Sebastian's relationship here; I'm talking about when the writers try to create sexual tension between Alois and Ciel. Again, they're minors. It's one thing when we get Claude creeping over Ciel's legs (which is still gross, don't get me wrong), but it's another when Alois licks Ciel's face after wondering what color his eye will turn near death and stating that he wants him. I get Alois gamed the system in his past by becoming the former Earl Trancy's sex servant. Him lusting over Ciel still grossed me out. I did my best to shut my brain off as well as I could during these moments, yet I couldn't ignore how creepy the whole thing was.

Like other reviewers have claimed, the ending is really weird. Before forming a new contract with Hannah, Alois (in Ciel's body) decides to turn Ciel into a demon once he is revived. That way, both Claude and Sebastian won't be able to obtain the boy they hold dear, as his soul will be destroyed. When this contract breaks, Sebastian and the new demon Ciel the only ones left standing, they go back to the Phantomhive manor. They live there for about a month before the two leave. You'd think they'd leave earlier given what happened, but no. The charade's more important, I guess. Sebastian asks the servants to watch over the estate while they're gone, and the characters throughout the show get gifts and a letter informing them of the master's death. Although Sebastian can no longer serve Ciel in exchange for his soul, he is still bound to him by his contract, as a newly demonic Ciel won't let his butler forget. They stop at a field with purple and white flowers, where they will be together forever.

I still don't know what the ending was trying to do? Again, the build-up to it was great, and I knew it was coming (big shock), but I didn't like how it was done. It was interesting to see Sebastian reluctantly going along with what he's obligated to do, yet that's the only positive I have. Was it the only solution the adaptation team had to going this deep in developing the ending? Or were they unsure they'd get more material to adapt, so they decided this was the best way out? I can easily imagine Mari Okada working on the final episode in the same vein as that one Snooki clip. No wonder someone who edited Black Butler's Wikipedia page called the Book of Circus adaptation a soft reboot. It essentially was after the mess this ending was to the fanbase.

Despite these problems, however, I was still incredibly entertained by Black Butler II. It was messy, parts made me scream at my laptop, and I still don't know why the ending exists, but that's all part of the fun. Plus, at least we've got the OVA's to wash out the bad taste this season leaves in our mouths. Oh, and Grell. There's always Grell.

In the future, I'd love to talk about both seasons in contrast. That'll come after I re-watch them, though. Having a fresh perspective on Season 1 will be a help.

I also most definitely bought Season 2 off of eBay for under fifty bucks as an end of semester present after I finished it. I regret nothing. The FUNimation Anime Classics set's a collector's item.


This leads me to the series I'm watching now:

Sailor Moon's first season.

This has been a long time coming. Sailor Moon means a lot to me not only as an anime viewer, but for who I am today. If I hadn't stumbled onto the Sailor Moon SuperS movie DVD at the library when I was five, I'm not sure I would have gotten as much into anime as I am now. This franchise brings me back to a time where there was less to worry about, getting lost in the transformation sequences and the ending of the S movie. There's so much history to this show for me. I've enjoyed following the Viz Media dub as it's come out, and although the original dub will hold a special place in my heart (despite some of its off acting and script), it's been great to watch episodes I've never seen full before outside of GIF's and photos. I even enjoyed Crystal despite its problems in the first year. So now that I'm a junior in college, it seemed like the perfect time to finally dig into the series I'd only seen snippets of.

About two and a half years ago, Luke bought the first half of the first season at Best Buy with a friend of ours from college. It sat in our collection, not getting played, until we brought up the idea of actually starting it before this current school year. Now that we're almost done with it (at the time of this post going up, we have 13 episodes left), I have another part of my heart to give to this series. Although it isn't perfect (the Nephrite and Naru arc was icky), there's still so much charm in seeing Usagi's journey from the beginning. I really like what the adaptation team did to expand the characters and the world Naoko Takeuchi created. The Sailor Senshi are more than just Usagi's comrades. They're fleshed out characters who add some punch to the team. The animation is incredibly colorful and stunning for the early 90's, and the score is classic magical girl at its heart. The new dub is also mostly well-acted, and despite it only being one season, you can tell how much the cast has grown and how comfortable they're starting to get in their roles before the halfway point. The episodic monster of the week formula may be a little old for me, but now, all the shirts and plushies I've collected have finally paid off. I can't wait to get further into the original show and post about it here. The form it'll take is unknown, but I'm excited, regardless. Maybe I'll compare and contrast it with Tokyo Mew Mew, which I'm also watching now (and will cover in the future)? We'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, that's going to do it for me. I hope you all have a great rest of your holiday season, spend quality time with your families, follow COVID guidelines, and learn something new about the world around you. I'm hoping to get a year-end list post out before the end of the year, but if not, you'll see it in early 2021 (along with a special announcement about this blog's future). Until next time:

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

July and August 2020: Farewell, Humid Days

July and August 2020: Farewell, Humid Days

Warning: The following post may/will contain spoilers of various anime series and a movie. If you don't want to know what happens in any of the properties I'm talking about here, it's best if you join me once you've watched the first few episodes of each or the entire thing. But then again, if you want to take that warning with a grain of salt, feel free to stay put.

With that said:

Okay, the rest of the summer. You didn't have to go that fast. It feels like it was yesterday when I posted my first catch-up post. I blink, and it's now August. Both months brought the routine I've become accustomed to with COVID regulations. I've helped out in the kitchen, finished two fanfics, continued to read and watch stuff, and ventured out to the mall and Half Price Books with a mask and face shield. My best decision? Not exactly, but on the bright side, I got to do some long overdue cleaning.

In today's post, I'll be writing about what I've been watching in July and August (the fourth season of Chesapeake Shores doesn't count, although I binged it in two days). Out of the six shows, I wrote a review for one, but the other five will not get them. Again, that's due to time or not enough motivation to write a review. Kuroko no Basuke: Last Game will also not be reviewed. Future reviews for the next three months in general are TBD due to school, but I'll do my best to at least get one out.


Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu.

When I was getting into anime and when I was really getting into anime, I loved looking around my local library to see what they had on hand. I also made a few requests for them so their anime collection could grow. I first heard about the comedic spin-off of Full Metal Panic through a funny moment compilation on YouTube that had this scene from Episode 2 (it never fails to make me laugh). Why I haven’t been interested in watching anything else from this franchise, I don’t understand. I guess I just wanted to watch something that didn’t require twenty-four episodes to get context. My mind was also in a dark place through much of 2013 thanks to one horror movie, and I felt like I needed to watch things that would make me laugh so I wouldn’t struggle to fall asleep at night.


I only got through eight episodes originally, but when I decided to watch this anime again, I made it my mission to get through everything. I liked how the anime held nothing back in regards to its comedy, the score was super fun, and the scenarios these characters got involved in were pretty hilarious. How was Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu at twenty compared to thirteen?


It wasn’t as good, but I still really liked it. Some of the jokes haven’t aged well. There were too many based in potential sexual harassment that made me a little uncomfortable. The rugby episode, despite having some of my favorite content of the show, could have done better with the opposing team. Making them have darker skin and having a few jokes mocking them for being “gorillas?” Not a good look for 2020, I’m afraid.


Despite that, I still appreciated how the writers held nothing back with their plots for each episode/segment. There were plenty of well-timed jokes, great visual gags, and parts that still made me laugh. The characterization was also good for a comedy series. I’m happy viewers who may not be familiar with Sosuke and Kaname can still see why they work well together, even if it’s only in a spin-off series. Their dynamic is a lot of fun. Kaname calls Sosuke out whenever he goes too far, and given that Sosuke’s been raised in a military environment all his life, I can see why he acts the way he does at school. I was also a big fan of the student council president, who was always in style and went through books and fans so fast.


For Kyoto Animation’s first project, I loved how vivid and fluid the show was. They based their style off of what Gonzo had done previously (the character designer returned, for example) but made the show their own at the same time. The score had lots of colorful moments and added to the show’s comedy when it came on at the right times. I also really liked the voice acting. The seiyuu went in with their characters and helped make bizarre moments come to life. I couldn’t see other actors playing them. They’ve made this cast their own, and for that, I applaud them.


Watching this again made me understand why this is a comedic anime staple. There are so many high points, and even though the show can feel utterly ridiculous in some episodes, it doesn’t care. Although I felt like some of the content was weaker this time around, I’m grateful I had the opportunity to finish Fumoffu in the first place. Full Metal Panic's something I'd like to see more of in the future.

P.S. If you don't want to watch the show, please check out the show's opening and ending by Mikuni Shimokawa. They were SMASHES in 2013, and they still SMASH now.



Zombie Land Saga.

Who else thought this show was going to be a school horror a la Higurashi? No one? Based on the other key visual, I was getting that vibe. To see this was actually a zombie idol show was quite the surprise. The Episode 1 memes never failed to amuse me. The rap battle caught me off guard and was entertaining as hell. But getting to watch the show itself in my college's Anime Club was an experience in itself. Like Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, this show is unapologetic in its comedy. While moments were embarrassing, I think they added to the show's charm, and I was having the time of my life.

When I watched the full show in English, I didn't find myself enjoying it as much. Part of that was due to having watched the first two episodes before, but it also takes the show a while to deliver its strongest material, which is getting behind why the characters became zombies and do what they do. Although this show has a lot of great highs and unexpected humor, developing the idols (well, most of them) helps balance the awkward hiccups the girls face as resurrected performers. I was surprised by how much I grew to like these characters. It was cool how they were all from different periods of time, since that influenced how they acted and showed how far the world has come in some aspects. Sakura's arc at the end of the show resonated extremely well, especially since I didn't expect her to struggle that much with her self-confidence (I can relate). I'm also happy Lily's trans rap was respectful and didn't make her identity into a gag.

MAPPA never failed to bring a lot of color into this show, keeping character designs and movement consistent, whether they're acting like humans or zombies. Unlike Kakegurui, there was more CG used for the characters, but like that show, it's integrated smoothly and looks nice. The original music written for the show was also great, and I'm happy the English versions sounded just as good (at points, better) than the original Japanese counterpoints (I can't wait for Yugiri to get her chance to shine, if those two cut songs signify anything). As for the score, Yasuharu Takanashi was one of my favorite composers when I started watching anime, so I'm happy he still is producing a lot of great work, this time with the help of Funta7.

Both the Japanese and English voice tracks had great voice acting, and the actors cast work well with their characters to make them shine. Even though Tae speaks in grunts and growls, both Kotono Mitsuishi and Dawn M. Bennett do a great job at making her a distinct presence in the show. My only qualms are Yugiri not having enough screen time despite having some of the most entertaining moments of the show (THE SLAPS) and Kotaro being too much of a douche. Granted, he was funny, but at times, he came across like people think Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman's coming across in Canada's Drag Race. There were a couple moments where we got to see his heart, but it wasn't as much as I wanted. Other than that, this was a great show. Although I'm not reviewing it, it's definitely one of my favorites from this year despite my initial hesitance.

Tae Yamada is iconic!


Sengoku Night Blood.

I don't regret deciding to re-watch this show. Even though it has plenty of problems, I find ways to enjoy it. I like how the story goes in a way I didn't expect, I appreciate the writers' attempts to flesh out these characters, the character designs and art style for this show have good foundation, and the score and voice acting have so many highlights. At the same time, though, there was quite a bit of juggling, too many loose plot threads, a few boring characters, and sloppy broadcast animation. I understand why many viewers don't like it, but it still has a place in my heart for not being the worst reverse harem show I've seen. There are better ones out there, though.

Kuroko no Basuke's third season.

Well, guess what's back, back, back again? It wouldn't feel right to end my summer without completing this anime, so I did. And boy, was it a ride! We started off on a perfect note when the show introduced Shogo Haizaki, a former member of the Teiko middle school basketball team, and continued to produce some great basketball games, lead character development in some unexpected places, and one of the best scores I've heard this year. Yoshihiro Ike's new pieces were incredibly creepy and worked every time. "Innen" is, without a doubt, one of the best things I've heard in my life.

The Teiko Middle School arc was also a nice change of pace from the rest of the show, where I finally got to see how the Generation of Miracles lost their way, only playing to obtain victory by all means possible. It was pretty disheartening to see how factors pushed the boys to the breaking point, and most of them didn't even realize it. I understand why Kuroko felt like he couldn't do anything to cut the wire. If he did, he'd be gaslighted (like when Teiko played against his childhood friend during the third year finals, humiliating him, not knowing beforehand because Kuroko almost got a concussion during a previous game, and then going, "Wow, Kuroko. Why didn't you tell us? We could have gone easier on him.") or "asked" to leave the team by Akashi, the leader with a "newly formed" heart of coal.

Who didn't understand it? Kagami and Junpei, which was the first major strike to what could have been an almost amazing season. When they asked Kuroko, "Why didn't you do anything to stop it?" I was floored. Did they not even hear why Kuroko didn't want to? I know it's easy for people to go, "If I was in your shoes..," but Kuroko already felt so much guilt about his old friend quitting basketball and still blames himself for what happened. Saying he should feel guilty is adding more gas to the fire, yet he's fine after this talk and not upset, which...

Sorry. My head hurts just thinking about it.

This started unraveling parts of this season I liked. There were other minor quibbles (discrimination against Eikichi for his skin color; The Zone's entire existence; Kuroko not being the main character of his own franchise), but this affected how I felt about the Seirin vs. Rakuzan game. It was fine up until the last few episodes, where some unrealistic plays were made and all the realism went out the window. My favorite was Kaijo vs. Fukuda Sogo because Shogo's ability was brutal, and seeing how Kaijo counteracted it made great sports anime. It also perfectly planted the seeds for the middle school arc because Shogo was kicked off the team due to Akashi getting annoyed by his antics in an unusually ruthless way at the time.

While we're on the subject of Akashi, I really liked learning more about him. His cold, calculating personality was wonderful to see out on the court, and his OP abilities were over-the-top in the best way possible. However, how his "two personalities" were developed was poor. When Midorima said there were "two Akashis," I was very intrigued. Was he different when he wasn't playing basketball? Was he a person you didn't want to make mad, panicked, or both?

Kind of? I wasn't sure what the writers (and by association, Tadatoshi Fujimaki, since he wrote the source material) were going with; did Akashi have dissociative identity disorder, or did Akashi develop tougher skin due to his upbringing and fear of losing? It felt like they were trying to go for both, with some characters in the past being like, "OH MY GOD IT'S LIKE HE'S A DIFFERENT PERSON OH NOOOOO," and seeing in a flashback that Akashi's mom, the one who introduced him to basketball, passed away, Akashi unable to take a break from his hard work as a result. My theory is that these "different people" are one in the same (Akashi acted out and couldn't backpedal when he almost broke), but since Kuroko no Basuke never tried to define it, I didn't buy what the anime was trying to sell. It made what Akashi did after the fact seem less threatening since I couldn't take him as seriously, which sucked.

I also don't like how it was "cured." Akashi just talked to his "other self" after getting overwhelmed at one point, and all of a sudden, BAM! He's back to normal again! To prove it, his right eye's red again, and he doesn't belittle his teammates. Isn't that cool?

No, writers, that's not how this works. Even if Akashi looks more at peace playing basketball now then when he was going through the motions before, all that stress can't go away in one moment.

At least the other first years on Seirin got to play. That's a highlight.

Even though this season didn't end the best, I still think it had the best material of the series. I wasn't as annoyed with the games, we got to see more of the show's characters, and Production I.G still shows why this started their sports anime catalog and even inspired other mangakas and studios to tell their own sports stories. Even with the franchise's problems, it was my first sports anime, so it's going to hold a special place in my heart regardless.


No. 6.

Talk about a genre throwback! When I was 13 and 14, I read a lot of YA sci-fi books because the dystopian sub genre was really popular at the time. Books like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The 5th Wave sold very well, were made into movies, and have special places in many readers' collections. However, I haven't seen a lot of media that deals with utopias (outside of Jodi Meadows' Newsoul trilogy), societies that provide everything someone could possibly want and are, quite simply, the perfect places to live. But beware. Secrets could be lurking underneath the surface, and someone's "perfect paradise" could be another's nightmare.

There are plenty of things that made No. 6 work for me. I liked where the story started and how it didn't just focus on Shion discovering the truth about the city he was born and raised in. We start when he's twelve, set to have the best life, but housing a young boy on the run unravels everything. Jumping to when he's sixteen, Shion now lives a lower middle class life, sorting through trash in the park, while his mom runs a bakery. He and this boy reunite after he's arrested for questioning No. 6's news regarding a body he and his co-worker found in the park; the body has graying hair and skin. His co-worker eventually dies, but this time, Shion sees a wasp emerge from his skin. As the police take him to the correctional facility, the young man, known as Nezumi (now also sixteen), is able to rescue him. Together, the two escape to an area beyond the wall, where those who have been discarded by the society live. 

From there, we get to see little snippets of what's going on in No. 6 as Shion's mother, Karan, worries for his well-being. She gets notes from one of Nezumi's rats (get it?) about updates and starts getting closer to Youmin, a scientist who holds his own grudges against the city. Safu, Shion's childhood friend, gets the opportunity to study abroad in No. 5, but she has to come back after her grandmother passes away. This return prompts her to question the rules in place, and it isn't long before city officials whisk her away. The show also sheds light on Inukashi, the owner of a hotel who provides dogs for residents to sleep with to stay warm, and Rikiga, an ex-journalist who now owns a prostitution business. It was a lot of fun to see how these characters interacted with each other, especially since Shion and Nezumi's personalities were vastly different. The adaptation team (and I believe Atsuko Asano, the original LN writer) were able to show us a full scope of No. 6's world, which other properties don't do.

Some viewers didn't like how No. 6's secrets were revealed, but I enjoyed the slow build-up. We get little snippets with the parasitic wasps targeting those who are unfaithful (which creeped me out), citizens going missing as their identification numbers are unregistered, and a mysterious power known as Eryulias the city is desperate to revive. Things come to a head towards the end of the show once Shion and Nezumi find a way into the correctional facility to rescue Safu, where people are literally dumped like trash onto a pile-up of rocks and bodies. There were some questions left unanswered (who was in charge of all those wasps getting out of control in the final episode after correctional facility scientists found the perfect sample? What damning information did Youmin have outside of what he told Karan?), yet I'm still satisfied by what I ended up finding out. The thought of the light novels giving me more context is all I need at this point.

The homoerotic tension between Shion and Nezumi was also explored fairly well. Their chemistry grows as the show continues, and I loved seeing them work together without a set power dynamic. The writers didn't force any unnecessary angst on the two, outside of Shion wanting to rescue Safu on his own without relying on Nezumi's help, and Nezumi's inner worries about Shion getting exposed to the true nature of the world he used to love. Both worked as conflicts and weren't more dramatic than they needed to be. At the end of the day, getting these two together isn't a top priority (after all, this is a sci-fi anime first and foremost), but the little bits we did get were perfect.

I believe Bones could have done better with their animation. No. 6 wasn't bad, but I do think it lacked some of the charm of the studio's other productions. The scenery looked great, and the use of color, especially at night, was awesome, yet character animation fluctuated. The score and voice acting were great, though. Keiichi Suzuki brings the atmosphere of this possible future to life, and Yuki Kaji, Yoshimasa Hosoya, and Kei Shindo bring some of the best performances of their careers to the table.

All in all, I was surprised by how much I liked this anime. It brought back good memories of why I was so enamored with sci-fi as a teen. There were so many possibilities authors could run with when it came to creating these worlds, and I can tell this one was well-constructed and well thought-out. Though there were a few missing puzzle pieces, the parts I enjoyed about this series were enough for me to keep watching. This is a world I wouldn't mind revisiting down the road.


Kuroko no Basuke: Last Game.

I wasn't sure how to feel about this movie going into it. A follow-up to a show that already went full-circle in its games seemed pretty counter-intuitive, especially if the only reason why Fujimaki created this in the first place was to make the Generation of Miracles play together "one last time," but with the addition of Kagami. I also wasn't sure how the new character designs would look in motion. I was getting conflicting feelings seeing the mature second-years in art and in screen-caps, plus there were the Jabberwocks. How were they going to be constructed as rivals/villains, especially Jason Silver? Were the characters I'd come to know more over the past few months grow in any way? There were too many questions circling in my head, but I still wanted to have an open mind.

That open mind worked in my favor, because I liked Last Game as much as I liked Season 2. AK25, a MyAnimeList user, mentioned in their review of the movie how it was nice to see the Generation of Miracles in a non-villainous light. Since Kise, Midorima, Aomine, Atsushi, and Akashi weren't rivals to Seirin during the movie, we got to see their abilities in a new way and not go, "Whoa. How's Seirin going to beat them?" The Jabberwocks didn't have a lot going for them outside of being racist assholes who looked down on Japanese basketball. That said, I do think Nash and Jason (who wasn't as bad as I thought he was going to be; thank goodness. The developers cut his one bad personality trait) were intimidating opponents, even if Nash's Belial Eye got pulled out of nowhere. The strategy put into this game was also cool. When Kise and Aomine worked together, the fifteen-year-old fudanshi in me cracked a grin. When Atsushi went toe-to-toe with Jason and looked like he was having fun, I screamed internally.

I was the most pleased with Akashi's growth. Even though I thought it was weird that his Emperor Eye ability could only be activated when his "other personality" took over (you already know how I feel about that), I got to see more of someone at ease with themselves, who didn't need to worry about his teammates overshadowing him. It's clear basketball is more comforting to Akashi now, which makes me proud. This development was the full-circle moment I didn't realize I wanted until I got it.

The animation was great, too. My least favorite character design was Kuroko's (something about the bangs and the face don't sit right with me), but I think everyone else looked fine. I don't believe they're second-years for a second, yet they look good in motion. I liked the minor changes in hair (Kise and Kagami's hair got shorter; Aomine, Atsushi, and Akashi's hair grew out a bit; Midorima has a side bang), and the attention to detail was perfect. With an increased budget, seeing the activated powers was super cool. So were the basketball net switches. That's a nice CGI touch that worked perfectly for this franchise before, and it only got better. It's clear Production I.G put a lot of time into making this movie look good.

How the movie ended was pretty unexpected for me. I didn't see that meeting Alex had with that scout coming full circle, but it did. Kagami is returning to America to play for a high school with the hopes of playing in the NBA. With Kuroko's light gone for the rest of/the coming school year, I'm excited by the what if's of him playing with Seirin/in the future. Fujimaki is clearly more interested in Kagami than Kuroko (even though the story is named after the latter) since he fits the "shonen hero" archetype and the latter's comfortable in the shadows. However, I thought it was touching that he and Noboru Takagi had Kagami tell Kuroko how important his basketball has meant to him. Because of him, Kagami is now a stronger player who can face opponents without relying on his brute strength alone.

For a finale, I thought Last Game was a satisfying one. There were some slip-ups that weren't new to the franchise, but the movie wasn't as bad as I expected. The power-ups weren't as annoying, I liked seeing the Generation of Miracles play again, I thought the Jabberwocks were good opponents if you ignored their lack of background, and the animation was beautiful. It's time to see what other sports anime's out there for me (you know, other than Haikyuu), but for being the first one, Kuroko no Basuke still provided plenty of entertainment for the last five years.


Namu Amida Butsu! Rendai Utena


My brain always blanks on the full title of this show (probably because it’s long), so to make things easier, I’ll be referring to it as Rendai Utena for the rest of this section. I first saw this show on ANN when details about it were coming out, mistaking it for another sword boy property. In reality, the basis for this franchise is in Buddhism. I'm not familiar with this religion, so I was curious to learn a little more about it. Since Sentai Filmworks holds the main streaming rights for this anime in the States, I was surprised to find Rendai Utena on Crunchyroll. But at the end of the day, I wasn't complaining. Since I can watch Crunchyroll with ads for free and need to subscribe to HIDIVE (I'm interested in trying the free trial at some point, but not now), I decided to make this the last show I saw before classes started for me. Bishounen representatives of Buddhist figures, pretty animation, and the promises of good slice of life content sounded wonderful. After all, who doesn't love putting on anime so you don't waste time staring into space thanks to having an additional week of break?

Although I was at first lukewarm to Rendai Utena, I did end up liking the show once the second half rolled around. It did a good job balancing the comedic scenes of the deities trying to figure out modern Japan (items, phrases, the like) and more serious content. When Shaka Nyorai got captured, we got to learn more about some of the characters (in particular, Taishakuten and Ashura's relationship) and see everyone pitch in in order to defeat the swarm of vices invading Shinjuku. I liked being surprised when the show went from making me giggle to making me gasp. Here, the tonal shifts never felt out of place (if you don't count the end of Episode 3). They had natural progression and made sense given an episode's direction.

Taishakuten and Bonten's friendship was another highlight for me. They went from bitter rivals when they arrived in Japan to close friends once Bonten decided to return to the Heavenly World at the end of the series. The writers never held back on showing this development, even if they weren't the focus of some episodes. The two did have some rough moments, but at the end of the day, they're now in a place where they can put those behind them and see each other as comrades. I also liked a few of the other character's quirks, especially Amida Nyorai's puns (which I was happy the translator kept in the subtitles). Battling Mara also ends in the first half of Episode 11, which gives the anime some ample breathing time before ending on a sweet note.

There were a few moments where the animation slipped up, but I was expecting worse. I'm not too familiar with Asahi Production's other works, but I thought what they did with Rendai Utena was great. The character designs from the mobile game were adapted immaculately, the coloring and shadowing always suited the scenes they were used in, and when characters fought against demonic vices, there weren't too many shortcuts taken. Yoshiaki Fujisawa's score was also great. Although it wasn't as memorable as some of his past work, his tense pieces never disappointed, and I liked one piece that played during some lighthearted scenes. I was also happy to watch another show with Masaaki Mizunaka in it, especially in a lead role. I'm excited to see him get more work, because he's really good, and his Taishakuten showed a different side to him then his Ken Sudou in Classroom of the Elite. I also liked most of the other seiyuu, especially getting to hear more of Shun Horie, Taku Yashiro, Yusuke Kobayashi, Daiki Yamashita, and Takeo Otsuka (who I'm also hoping gets more work).

The main problem Rendai Utena has are its characters. I wish we got to see more of them get developed outside of a select few. Most of them weren't really memorable, and while the show tried to give some focus in a few episodes, I didn't find myself attached to most of them outside of Taishakuten, Bonten, Ashura, Mara, Dainichi, Amida, Fugen, and Yakushi. They were just a hodgepodge of traits, and compared to Sengoku Night Blood, which also had a big cast, I think I'll remember more of the boys there than here. The writers didn't do as much with them. I also felt the earlier episodes were pretty stale looking back on them, since the laidback content got a bigger push. But overall, this series ended up being just what I needed to watch before school started, and I think viewers who enjoy seeing pretty boys doing cool things will also like this. It's very relaxing, but also has plenty of action to keep you wanting more after the first half.


With that, the anime I've watched since July has come to a close! If you've made it this far in the post, thanks for reading. As my first semester gets started, I hope to keep watching good content, learn more about the world around me, donate and support BIPOC businesses (if I can) and follow my college's procedures for COVID to their utmost potential. Please do the same. Until next time:

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Sengoku Night Blood Review

Sengoku Night Blood Review

Warning: The following review may/will contain spoilers for Sengoku Night Blood. If you wish to stay clear of what happens in this show's story, please exit the tab and join me once you've watched said show. Or you can take that warning with a grain of salt and still read on anyway. Whatever floats your boat.

With that said:

I've never played mobile games. When titles like Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and Mystic Messenger became popular, I wasn't as enthusiastic as some of my peers or online friends. Does Mystic Messenger sound fun? Yes. I'd love to get my hands on it in the future. But I like to use my phone to check social media, listen to audiobooks, look at my e-mail and ANN, and take photos to look back on. Maybe when I upgrade from my current phone, I could look into games that interest me, but for now, I'm fine with just using a console to play something I enjoy.

Like with another show I talked about recently, Dream Festival, Sengoku Night Blood was initially a mobile game users could download to play on their smartphones and Android devices. Developed by Marvelous Entertainment (who worked on Qualidea Code), Kadokawa, and Otomate (a branch of Idea Factory known for other otome properties), it launched in May 2017 and was free to download until it ceased operations on Christmas Day in 2019. As the protagonist, you had the ability to pick between six different armies (eventually seven), each containing various daimyos from the Sengoku period you could fall in love with. A twist with this adaptation, though: the warriors were either vampires or werewolves, with an oni/demon troop thrown in for good measure.

Before the app came out, an anime adaptation was green-lit (probably due to the success of Otomate's other adapted projects). It aired in the Fall 2017 season alongside two other otome adaptations, Code:Realize (which I loved), and Dynamic Chord (which I didn't). This series piqued my interest because of the stellar character designs. Each army was drawn by a prominent otome game artist for the mobile game, and to see them adapted cohesively for the anime caught my attention. I was curious to see how the show would go about developing 28 men (and no, that is not an exaggeration) and showcase the Sengoku period but bend the rules a bit (like with The Ambition of Oda Nobuna).

When the initial reviews came in, I was not surprised to hear this didn't do well. Yuzuki wasn't a good protagonist, the plot was incredibly confusing, the boys were trash, the animation was terrible: all the ingredients were there to make an epic disaster. But when I sat down to watch it after it initially aired, I was surprised to find I didn't hate it. Sure, there were plenty of problems, but I liked parts of the show and could see where things may have gone better for it. However, I didn't make time to write a review once I finished it, causing it to get lost in the void. I figured I could review it better once I found time to re-watch it. Lo and behold, I have. Did this show hold together on a re-watch?

Yes and no. Despite the show's numerous problems, there's still a part of me that enjoys it. I liked the direction the story goes in, Yuzuki had good parts to her personality, I enjoyed the moments where we got to see more behind the curtain of some of the men, the animation had great parts when it didn't dip under inconsistently drawn frames or poorly drawn scenes, and the OST and voice acting are genuinely enjoyable. These strengths don't make this show top tier, but for what's it worth, Sengoku Night Blood gets its job done and has plenty of fun in the nonsense it brings out for twelve episodes. Hot take: this is better than Dance with Devils.

Let's jump into the story:


Student Yuzuki is walking home after meeting a friend at a cafe (or something) when she decides to turn on her phone. All of a sudden, the screen lights up, and the world freezes around her. Cut to Shinga, a world where alternate versions of legendary Sengoku era daimyos and warriors fight to unify the nation. Since the legendary Himemiko-sama disappeared, each army has been in pursuit of their own version of peace. When Yuzuki wakes up, she finds herself in Toyotomi Army territory, where she's found by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his four subordinates. Intrigued by her the minute he looks into her eyes, Hideyoshi decides she'll stay with them, and in the chaos of the battlefield with his arch-nemesis, Yuzuki nicks her neck. Hideyoshi notices the blood coming from her wound, and he starts to get very excited.

It turns out Shinga is the home of the Gegga Race, groups of supernatural men. The six groups are split four to two, with the werewolves outnumbering the vampires. Right before Hideyoshi can suck Yuzuki's blood (which he believes to have an alluring power, because he's got fangs), Nobunaga Oda finds him, and the two look into each other's eyes with the sense that something definitely happened between them. What could it be?

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. After a wild night, Yuzuki's able to settle down (ish) and do her best to help around the Toyotomi base. However, one thought's constantly on her mind: how the hell is she going to get home? If she finds where Himemiko went, of course! She's given this mission by Obligatory Mascot Imari, who will guide/lose track of Yuzuki multiple times. He tells her the Himemiko protected the Gegga Race with the powers of her blood, but since she's gone missing, they no longer have additional protection from each other and mysterious creatures called yakuma. Since the troops are too busy fighting, the yakuma are able to deal more damage to the land, and soon, the number grows.

This mission gives Yuzuki the perfect opportunity to bounce from one group of boys to another, gaining admiration, flushed faces, and respect. But will an army try to seek her out in order to gain control of her powers? Is the increase in yakuma linked to Yuzuki's arrival in Shinga? Will anyone get chosen in this war of control and over Yuzuki's heart? Will teamwork make the dream work?

I should give Sengoku Night Blood props for a few things. The initial premise isn't too shabby. After we get past the introduction of all the prospective love interests, the show did make me curious to see more. I liked seeing Yuzuki bounce from army to army, even if some of the reasons were incredibly contrived. It was the only way we got to learn more about the boys. The writers also did a great job at building up the final battle. Once we get past the armies' hard feelings towards each other, it's clear the yakuma are a bigger priority than who gets Yuzuki. The reason why they're so frequent won't shock you (much of this anime won't), but why they were powerful clicked into place. I also liked how the final battle wasn't as simple as I thought it would be when I first watched this show. There were a couple of twists I didn't see coming, and seeing Hideyoshi and Nobunaga put their differences aside for one second was great to see as a viewer.

The writers also did a good job showing you what was beyond the first impressions of the army leaders. Some of them aren't very good (Hideyoshi and parts of Date and Nobunaga), but you at least know there's more to these leaders than what meets the eye. They're misunderstood because they hved an image to uphold. They're misunderstood because they're too stoic. It might not make you sympathize with them, but I was happy to at least know something about the men that didn't make them complete trash bins.

Also, it helps build some chemistry between Yuzuki and some of her prospective love interests. Some of it didn't feel necessary or accomplish much of anything (Yuzuki and Yukimura were cute together, but I feel their episode did nothing to make me like them together when I think about it) because there are so many, but I bought into why I could fall for some of them if I was playing the game. I wish I could say the same for Dance With Devils' anime, which only really gave believable development for one of the guys (and he wasn't even end game), making the big climatic song lose clout when this line came out:

Really? Are we just going to forget Loewen, the one with the blue hair (and Rem's dog who can turn into a human), threatened to kill Ritsuka back in Episode 7 and was barely on screen after that?

Unfortunately, that's where all the good points end. Sengoku Night Blood's main problem is juggling a variety of subplots and tying together loose ends. While the show itself is never too busy per episode, it can feel like there's a lot going on. There's the rivalry between the Gegga boys, the missing Himemiko-sama that Yuzuki is connected to, Imari popping up and running around, trying to warn Yuzuki about incoming danger or trying to find her after they're separated, the yakuma, and learning about each troop. The writing doesn't find a good balance between expository dialogue and letting the story progress naturally. There's a lot of talking about what the audience already knows or what we would find obvious. This is most apparent in the second half and on a second watch. I can see it getting on the nerves of experienced reverse harem viewers.

There are also plenty of subplots the show doesn't wrap up. We have no clue what happened with Himemiko, the troops still want to unify Japan with the help of Yuzuki (but there can only be one, and the others think that can't be the Toyotomi army), Yuzuki still needs to get back to the human world, Imari reunited with Yuzuki (for some reason after disappearing when he saw yakuma in Episode 10), and the Mori Army are waiting for their time to strike. It screams, "When we made this, we wanted a Season 2," which clearly didn't happen. One of the big obstacles was defeated (beating the yakuma), but at the same time, having another big plot point I thought the show was going to solve at the beginning of the show get forgotten because the yakuma were more pressing is a waste.

All in all, the story does have some unexpected elements to it, and while I'm happy we got to see more of the army leaders and understand why Yuzuki would be attracted to them (and vice versa), the show still could have been cleaner, not leaving so many subplots haphazardly answered or unanswered. It's why Sengoku Night Blood doesn't have a good rep. While there were parts I enjoyed, I saw the places where it could have been better.

Time to move on to the characters:


Since there are a plethora of love interests, I'm only going to talk about each group's leader aside from Yuzuki.

Speaking of Yuzuki, I'll start with her:

There isn't much going for Yuzuki in the development department. Because she's an insert character for the viewer, we don't get to hear a lot about her background or why she was "picked" to get transported to Shinga. She's always happy to help, apologetic when she feels like something is her fault or accidentally gets in the way of something, and has no allegiance to any of the troops she meets. This causes her to get questioned a few times about being a spy for Hideyoshi, but once she denies this, it also helps her get close to the leaders and befriend them. Who knows? It could lead to something more.

She eventually finds out that her blood has a special ability to "awaken" the dormant powers of each love interest. Because of its similarities to the Himemiko-sama's own powers, Imari tells her she needs to unite the armies of Shinga in order to find where Himemiko might have gone and return to her own world. Of course, she wasn't able to complete it, but no one can deny she hasn't made progress. Everyone fought together to defeat the yakuma, and she's admired by most of the men. Who knows, maybe she'll make more? We'll never find out, but it never hurts to dream.

Yuzuki doesn't deviate much from protagonists in this vein. While I appreciate how the decisions to use her blood were up to her in Episodes 9 and 12, the show doesn't give her much to do, and as such, any material she can get is limited to random jobs she is asked to do or wants to take on, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her best moment was when she helped Kenshin open up to his foster son. Her worst were all the times she was clumsy. I think parts of the show tried to do more with her, which I appreciated, but it wasn't enough to make Yuzuki any more than a husk of a person at times. There were too many "huh"'s, too many "It's my fault"'s, and a couple times where she could have done more if the writers put more effort into her character. But alas. Yui Komori made countless bad decisions and was treated like poop, but she had more entertaining moments than Yuzuki.

Next up is Hideyoshi:

Before being the leader of his own army, Hideyoshi Toyotomi served under Nobunaga Oda, their goals for peace once the same. However, when Mitsuhide tried to betray his Lord when he got worried about his plans being too reckless, Hideyoshi tried to intervene and almost got killed. Upset by this, he decided to cut ties and now lives with his four subordinates in another area of Japan. He didn't go far, though, because Oda's castle is about an hour or so's walking distance away.

Despite being easygoing, Hideyoshi has a sinister side under the surface. He's great at battle strategy and coming up crafty ways to defeat opponents, like when he flooded out a bandit group's hideout. However, with Nobunaga on his mind, he gets easily distracted and only focuses on how he can defeat him, not how his soldiers can help him. He's also very possessive of Yuzuki, being the first leader to meet her (which makes sense), but he vows to make her stay by his side and be his bride, so all he has to do is convince her that she likes this world more than she likes her own. Should be easy, right? He also owns a monkey named Toukichi, who I wish we got to see more of in this show.

I don't mind Hideyoshi, but his possessive qualities make him weaker in my book. His design and voice are pretty appealing. That's the best thing I can say about him. Besides that, I liked the arc where he realized he needs to trust his friends to help him with his struggles and rebuilt his town while Yuzuki was with Nobunaga. He just ruined any sweet moment he had with Yuzuki when he said s**t like, "I'll make you like this world so much you won't want to leave," and "How's my bride doing?" She's not yours, Hideyoshi. Give her some agency. I don't know how other properties have handled this daimyo, but I hope it's better than this. If he wasn't a sleaze, I'd like him better.

The second leader is Takeda:

If I had to pick a favorite, it'd be this guy. Takeda's charisma radiates the minute he's first on, and he proves to be a relatively warm person. Yuzuki and Hideyoshi's main crew show up to his place when some of his soldiers (led by one of his subordinates, Kosaka Masanobu) go to Hideyoshi's bearing gifts. Masanobu invites Hideyoshi's crew (and Yuzuki) to Takeda's place where the rest of the gifts are gathered and they can have a feast. Thinking this is a trap, Hideyoshi's vassals aren't sure about going, but Hideyoshi's willing to hear Takeda out. Once there, Takeda asks Hideyoshi if he'll form an alliance with him in order to defeat his rival, Kenshin. Hideyoshi refuses because he doesn't need any help in obtaining peace, which Takeda accepts.

During this meeting, Yuzuki wanders around Takeda's property, talking to each of his subordinates and accidentally spilling a bottle containing Takeda's medicine. Feeling awful, Yuzuki helps Hideyoshi and Yamagata look for herbs that could be ground into pills Takeda takes. These pills are for his chronic illness. If his body gets overworked or he doesn't take them, Takeda coughs up blood and isn't able to draw on his strength when on the battlefield. However, he doesn't like taking them because they taste too bitter. Yuzuki is able to find a way to sneak honey into the new bunch, which his taste buds warm up to.

Besides this, Takeda is well-respected by his people and soldiers. In the mobile game, he considers anyone his comrade if his abilities match his and loves obtaining as much information as he can in order to make sure he doesn't lose. His rivalry with Kenshin (who are both werewolves in this franchise) stems from real life, culminating in the Battles of Kawanakajima, which took place from 1553 to 1564. What's interesting is the anime downplayed some of Takeda's real-life calculations, where he may have convinced his own son to commit seppuku. This seems to be common in adaptations of Takeda, more specifically in Japanese theater, at least according to Andy Knowles from Samurai Archives.

Even though we don't get to see a lot of him, I like that Takeda has a warm heart. It would have been fun to see his real dark side, but the version we got is still pretty good. I liked his interactions with Yuzuki, and I'm happy he didn't want to use her blood to gain his strength back when he had a coughing fit after defeating yakuma. He doesn't want anyone else to decide how he should recover, and I respect that. If I was able to play the game (which I can't), I'd probably go hang out with the Takeda army first not only because they're designed by the Code:Realize character designer, but because Takeda makes a charismatic leader. His subordinates aren't that bad, either.

Yukimura's turn in the spotlight:

An interesting fact the anime adaptation team didn't use for the anime: the Sanada army served under the Takeda army before parting ways. Yukimura felt his comrades were too important to be lumped under the Takeda banner. I'm surprised this detail didn't make the anime, but since there's no bad blood between the two, maybe that's the reason why? IDK. I find it strange.

Yukimura meets Yuzuki when she, Hanbee, and Kanbee come to visit the army to learn more abut the Himemiko (Hideyoshi is asked to stay put by his two other retainers, Mitsunari and Toshiie). On the way there, it starts raining, and Yuzuki gets a fever to the point where she can't stand up. The two retainers ask to stay the night so Yuzuki can recover, and Yukimura's older brother, Nobuyuki, asks Sasuke and Saizo to look after her (these two don't get along). After an awkward first introduction (poor Yukimura walks in on Yuzuki changing after picking fresh radishes), both Yuzuki and Yukimura have a fun time hanging out as the latter shows her around. They pick more fresh radishes and get mistaken for a couple by some of the locals. However, the tone of their get-together changes when Yukimura hears of a yakuma attack at a nearby village. Despite his brother telling him not to do reckless things, Yukimura goes to check the village's damage (no deaths, but some property got destroyed). From this, Yuzuki sees the care Yukimura has for his people.

In the game, Yukimura is known for being incredibly generous, which some of the other warlords lack. Compared to his brother, he doesn't mind it when Sasuke and Saizo argue. It takes a lot to dampen his spirits, like when Yuzuki's in danger or he's considering important battle moves, but I think he could get pretty pissed if one of his comrades is threatened.

As I was writing this section, the full extent of Takeda and Yukimura's similarities hit me. They're both warm, friendly, and don't lost their temper unless someone close to them is in danger. However, I'm more drawn to the former than I am the latter. I think it's because we get some backstory to Takeda. He's still a nice character, but he can also be a little boring for those who want more substance with their sweetness. At my age, I know I do.

Up next is Kenshin:

Yuzuki meets Kenshin after getting separated from Hanbee during a big battle where Hideyoshi was trying to defeat Nobunaga. The two were attacked by yakuma twice, plus Yuzuki wasn't able to effectively walk because she injured her knee in a fall. Kenshin finds her in the woods after Imari does. Noticing her injury, he takes her back to his home, where she meets his subordinates and is looked after by his foster son, Kagekatsu. While he takes care of her, she comes to understand Kenshin's relationship with Kagekatsu (which is slightly strained), but trying to find information on Himemiko causes her knee wound to re-open. Kagekatsu feels responsible for this, even though Yuzuki tells him numerous times that it was her own fault. This affects his confidence in taking on a leader role in investigating a rival country's movement, which Kenshin offers to him but gives to Kakizaki instead when he sees doubt flicker in his foster son's eyes.

This inspires Yuzuki to convince Kagekatsu to open up to Kenshin; telling him how much he wants to go will help him see why the latter treats him the way he does. The meeting works, and the next morning, Kagekatsu is sent off. Thankful that Yuzuki was able to arrange this, Kenshin tells her she can wish for anything she wants from him. She tells him she wants him to play the biwa because she heard it the first night she was there and thought it was beautiful.

Kenshin also has strong morals, which he uses to help his soldiers focus in battle and in life. He likes living a traditional lifestyle, and according to the Wikipedia page for this franchise, he's also a big fan of poetry. His confidence is also well-regarded in Shinga, and Takeda's feelings toward him are mutual. We don't get an explanation of why these two armies are rivals in the anime, but since they both house werewolves, that's probably it.

Despite not having a lot of meat to him, I was more gravitated towards Kenshin than I was with Yukimura. I think it's because his episode was more compelling, with him bonding with his foster son, Kagekatsu, and making sure Yuzuki got help for her leg. Granted, I don't know how long she would have stayed in the castle if she wasn't taken by Masamune (who I'll talk about next), but at least compared to Hideyoshi, Kenshin seems to give more of a crap about Yuzuki's feelings. He asked if she wanted him to do anything for her after she got him to talk with his foster son. He didn't put her in a situation where she felt forced to say yes. Because of that, he got some brownie points.

Time to talk about Masamune:

We first meet Masamune in disguise as one of Kenshin's informants in Episode 6, telling him about the uprising in surrounding territories. The following episode, he sneaks back into the Uesugi castle dressed as an informant for Hideyoshi, telling Yuzuki he was asked to get her back to the Toyotomi army in one piece. While his subordinates distract Kenshin's soldiers, Masamune gets Yuzuki out of the castle and onto a horse, where he reveals his true identity as the leader of the Date army. Despite only having two subordinates, Masamune wants his army to be known throughout Shinga, and he doesn't mind backstabbing alliances or manipulating people into doing what he wants.

Yuzuki is wary about leaving the castle, but I can't count going with Masamune as a strike against her because she had no choice, and the evidence he presented was legit. It's not like she saw him on the battlefield before. However, when she finds out she was tricked, the alarm bells go off in her head. Planning to use her as a bargaining chip against Nobunaga (who he was in alliance with), the three men hide out at an abandoned building, locking Yuzuki in a warehouse so she doesn't escape. Underneath Masamune's steel exterior, though, is a heart of gold. Pressured to be a great leader when was a young boy, he has the habit of saying the opposite of what he feels. He also only has one eye, something the game or anime doesn't elaborate on (in real life, Date Masamune lost sight in his right eye due to smallpox). The longer Yuzuki spends time with him, she finds out a little more about him through Shigezane and Kojuro (he can cook and was trained to falcon-hunt when he was a kid). It culminates when Yukimura and his army is sent out by Hideyoshi to get Yuzuki back. Masamune warns Yuzuki that they need to head out earlier than expected because movement around the property has been consistent throughout the past few days. At some point, the group is ambushed by Sasuke, Saizo, and Kamanosuke, and Yuzuki and Date are able to hide out by a cliff while the latter's subordinates keep Sasuke and Saizo entertained. When Yukimura finds the two, Date threatens to kill Yuzuki if he gets closer, but Yuzuki now knows there's more behind Date's exterior. She understands he won't actually do it.

Does this excuse what he did in the first place? Not really. The Date army locking Yuzuki in a shed gave me Diabolik Lovers vibes (which is funny, considering the writer from the anime's second season wrote a couple episodes). It's not something I can look past when the reason why is, "He was pressed to be a great warlord by the people around him. DON'T YOU SEE THIS IS WHAT HE HAS TO DO?!" Masamune and his group also gets the least amount of screentime in the anime, so despite the audience getting to know a bit about them in Episode 7, it wasn't enough to make me fully drawn to them as a whole. The game probably explored them more. Outside of that, I didn't mind Date that much. I liked that he has a soft side and isn't a stoic tsundere most of the time. That's all I can say about him, though.

Last, but certainly not least, is Nobunaga:

Known as the "Demon King of the Sixth Heaven," Nobunaga is known for being absolutely ruthless, showing no regard towards anyone. He doesn't care what others think of him since his goal is the same as the other armies, and he'll go about his own way, thank you very much. The Oda army is the last one Yuzuki visits, ending up in their clutches before Date can use her as a bargaining chip. After Yukimura's rescue mission gets stalled by the yakuma, he and Date work together to defeat them. Coincidentally, Nobunaga's soldiers make their move right after.

After their first meeting goes awry (Nobunaga tells his soldiers not to hesitate in using Yuzuki's blood for their own gain, which they don't end up doing), Yuzuki finds out why Nobunaga is well respected in the eyes of his peers; his subordinates also aren't that bad. When he assigned Hideyoshi to destroy a village when he was still working under him (this was the mission where Mitsuhide betrayed his Lord), no innocent lives were lost. Nobunaga made sure the citizens who lived there knew what was going to happen so they had time to leave. He's also trying to look for the yakuma's nest and lets Yuzuki accompany him while he does this. This is around the time the anime reveals the yakuma are attracted to Yuzuki, which Nobunaga is coming to understand. He's also the one who proposes working together with Hideyoshi to defeat the yakuma at the end of the series in exchange for Yuzuki. While Hideyoshi refuses, he eventually helps his old rival at the end of the day, so they both got what they wanted.

Compared to Masamune, what makes Nobunaga more engaging as a character is that the audience gets to spend more time with him. When I first saw him on screen at the end of the first episode, I expected nothing but the worst things from him. His vassals looked shady, he looked shady, and I wasn't sure what to expect when Yuzuki got captured by him. So I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to not be as bad as I thought it would be.

Sure, Nobunaga's intimidating, but he doesn't treat Yuzuki as bad as it seems in the game. He lets her accompany him to check out potential hiding spots, gives her a book of his so she can memorize his handwriting, and doesn't stop Yuzuki when she suggests using her blood to draw yakuma out when they get close to finding their hideout. There's more behind his character design (which a lot of people seem to love) and tough exterior. I like characters who prove me wrong, even though completely trusting him doesn't sound like the best idea.

The other Toyotomi army members are Maeda Toshiie, the lead fighter with a lot of energy, Ishida Mitsunari, who fills in for any tasks Hideyoshi doesn't complete, Takanaka Hanbee, a feminine-looking strategist who is the first subordinate to admit his feelings to Yuzuki outright (I'm still shocked by that), and Kuroda Kanbee, the other strategist who's quiet most of the time.

The other Takeda army members are Kosaka Masanobu, who doesn't have that much of a personality in the anime outside of reminding Shingen to take his medicine (in the game, he's known for attracting women), Baba Nobuharu, a good-natured commander who often trains with Yamagata, Yamagata Masakage, the youngest member of the army who gets teased about having no experience with women, and Naito Masatoyo, who often surprises people who think he pops out of thin air (like Kuroko Tetsuya); he's also in charge of making Shingen's medicine.

The other Sanada army members are Sanada Nobuyuki, Yukimura's older brother who watches out for the others, Sarutobi Sasuke, the youngest member who often argues with Saizo, Kirigakura Saizo, the vainest member who often argues with Sasuke, and Yuri Kamanosuke, the laziest member who makes great comebacks. He's an underrated king.

The other Uesugi army members are Amakasu Kagemochi, Kenshin's top strategist and resident "cool uncle," Kakizaki Kageie, the most energetic member with a pure soul. Another underrated king, truly. To wrap things up, there's Uesugi Kagekatsu, Kenshin's foster son who struggles with feeling confident in his future role (leading the Uesugi to victory), and Naoe Kanetsugu, who trains with Kagekatsu and is his closest friend who wants to look after him.

The other Date army members are Date Shigezane, who's confident in his skill on the battlefield, and Katakura Kojuro, who's calm, collected, and plays the flute for Masamune whenever he gets nervous. They're pretty boring.

The other Oda army members are Akechi Mitsuhide, who's Nobunaga's right hand man, Mori Ranmaru, the most supportive of his Lord and the first to warm up to Yuzuki while she stays at Nobunaga's castle, Shibata Katsuie, the army's main fighter who isn't as brash as he makes himself out to be, and Niwa Nagahide, whose main specialty is being rude to Katsuie and Ranmaru. I may or may not have written fanfic about the last two.

The only other character is Imari, a white and black tanuki that the writers mismanage throughout the show. He loses track of Yuzuki often after giving her her mission and hides so he isn't seen by the vampires or werewolves. At one point, he's almost caught by Nagahide.


The animation for this anime was produced by Typhoon Graphics, whose only two other full projects are the short anime One Room and Room Mate.

Sengoku Night Blood didn't have a bad foundation. I think the character designs from the game were adapted really well, and when the frames look good, they look good. Close-ups are pristine, and I didn't mind the lighting the studio used for the romantic moments. The filters helped add something and weren't as distracting as the ones in Soul Buster, which took away from the action in the show. However, this anime didn't have a big budget. Some episodes have characters choppily move during most fight scenes, there are plenty of times where things go off-model and don't look pretty, and once the yakuma move on from being shadow creatures to full-on monsters, the designs are pretty ugly. There are also scenes in Episode 5 that were barely animated in the broadcast cut, even ones that got repeated by layering them in a montage. I was pretty surprised to see this again because while I remembered this show not looking the best, I completely forgot about that part.

I think how this show looked can be linked to Typhoon Graphics only have seventeen full-time employees, at least in 2018. I think other animation studios have more staff working behind the scenes to get material looking as good as possible (three I checked have over 50), although some shows are outsourced if more finishing touches need to be done/the show actually needs to get done (the first two arcs of Sailor Moon Crystal come to mind). I'm sure Sengoku Night Blood had to get outsourced, but I'm surprised that even with that, the show buckles under time constraints and sloppy moments. Hopefully the DVD animation looks better, because while this wasn't bad all the time, the bad took over the good.


The score for this series was composed by Naoyuki Horiko, who hasn't worked on his own on an anime before, outside of working on Marvel anime properties like Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher, Iron Man: Rise of Technoverse, and Marvel Future Avengers.

This was easily my favorite part of the anime. I think Horiko's pieces really captured the essence of this series and the franchise as a whole. The battles are immersive with the two "World at War" pieces, the arrangements to the Uesugi, Oda, and Toyotomi army endings capture the feel of each group perfectly, plus my two favorite pieces, "Disquiet" and "Impatience" (which still holds up as one of my favorite tracks of all time and I'm sad was only used in the last five episodes) make you feel uneasy and need to know what's going on. Some game pieces also carried over to the anime, I believe, and the new pieces Horiko composed work well with them so they didn't sound like two separate scores. The tracks work well for the scenes they're in, which helped make watching Sengoku Night Blood more memorable. There was always good music to enjoy, along with the surprises along the way. It made me overlook the obvious flaws.

I also found the voice acting to be pretty good for this anime. Even though it may be standard for a reverse harem show like this, I think the seiyuu cast fit their roles perfectly. It's always a treat to hear Masakazu Morita use his Ichigo tone (because that's a shonen throwback), plus I got introduced to some voice actors I hadn't heard a lot of prior to this show but have been around the reverse harem circuit before. It was a good introduction for anime/franchises to come in my eyes.

Highlights include Rie Kugimiya (hate Yuzuki all you want, she sold that generic reverse harem character), Natsuki Hanae (I can't deny, he sounded cute), Ikkei Yamamoto, Yoshihide Sasaki (both I hadn't heard of before this show but sounded good), Ryota Osaka (I had no clue his voice could go that high), Shunsuke Takeuchi (I know he can play the stoic, serious types well with this character), Katsuyuki Konishi (:3), Ryohei Kimura (one of my biases), Hiroki Yasumoto (Agni), Kotaro Nishiyama (who I'm happy to see getting more work), Daiki Yamashita (who I'm also happy to see get more work), Taku Yashiro (:3, and who I think is legit using the same voice he uses for his Danshi Koukousei, Hajimete no drama CDs), Kosuke Toriumi, Hikaru Midorikawa (who both essentially used their Diabolik Lovers voices), Kazuyuki Okitsu (:3), Yoshihiko Aramaki (who I also hadn't heard of before this show and did a good job with Kagekatsu's demeanor), Tetsuya Kakihara (one of my biases), Yuichiro Umehara (Teika), Toshiyuki Morikawa (who hasn't played a role I haven't liked yet), Nobunaga Shimazaki (who I'm glad is getting more work that isn't Shido), Yusuke Kobayoshi (who I forget has a good range), Masakazu Morita (*ahem*), Tomoaki Maeno (another pick because he voiced a few characters I've liked), and Natsumi Fujiwara (despite Imari's weak character writing, she played him well).


Even though Sengoku Night Blood isn't going to win any awards anytime soon, I still thought this anime was okay. Even though it got about the same amount of things wrong as Juuni Taisen, this was a more enjoyable experience for me. I think it's because the story went in a better direction, I was more interested in finding out what these characters would do next (even if they weren't as well-developed), I was more partial to the score here (even though Juuni Taisen's score had plenty of good moments), and I didn't feel the ending was as anticlimatic in one aspect (although the Himemiko subplot could have at least wrapped up somehow). Even some of the show's bad moments were entertaining in some regard. Putting this show on put me in a good mood, even though I was frustrated by some of the characters and plot decisions. It's like a "so bad, it's good" movie.

I wouldn't recommend this show to casual anime viewers, but if you're a fan of reverse harems or want an entertaining train-wreck for a night in, I'd say you should go for it. Who knows? You might end up finding a new reverse harem favorite. Some people did.

Score: 7.5/10


The story isn't as cookie-cutter as I'd anticipated.

Finding out more about the army leaders was interesting.

Chemistry between Yuzuki and some of her love interests is more believable.

While Yuzuki is a wet paper bag, she does make some of her own decisions.

Some cute characters.

Great character designs and art style.

Immersive score.

Good voice acting.


Some subplots aren't handled well.

The show screams of "we wanted another season" energy.

I wasn't interested in a few characters.

The animation was a bit sloppy.