Review: Attack on Titan

This assumption may not be the case, but it seems to me that if you were to spot survey a completely random sample of people who didn’t watch anime which one anime they had watched, they would say Attack on Titan. Buying anime in stores is becoming more and more popular and this has been led by the popularity of Attack on Titan (it has a promo shelf in HMV- jeez). In this article I’ll see if I can shed some light on why that is and why it’s a show that is rated so highly in the anime community as well as, most importantly, what I think of the show myself.

Background

Humanity is trapped. In a pretty sad state of affairs the human race lives within three walled circles in fear of the massive humanoid creatures called titans that appeared around 100 years ago. The creatures which range in size but seem to have an upper limit of about 15 metres, have a fun sport of eating humans. Fortunately, they aren’t very intelligent and since the migration of the remains of the human race behind the walls there has been a degree of safety for people. The show focuses on Eren and his friends Mikasa and Armin who live on the furthest peripheries of the defences. The first episode sees a new titan appear that can reach over the walls. It breaks down the gate letting other titans in which leads to fall of Wall Maria (the outer wall) and the death of Eren’s mother. Eren goes on to swear that he will kill all of the titans..

Walls don't keep big, human hungry monsters out. End of.
Walls don’t keep big, human hungry monsters out. End of.

Plot

The show is split into two parts: the training of the characters as cadets as they attempt to join the armed forces and the events immediately afterwards, with most of the characters focused upon wanting to join the scout regiment. The second half of the show follows the scout regiment on a mission beyond the wall. The cadets take five years to fully train. The first few episodes do take a while to get going. In that time  there are no attacks upon the walls by the titans. Conveniently enough just as they finish training, the colossal titan reappears and breaks down another gate at the city of Trost. The first arc follows the fall and subsequent recapture of Trost. Eren, who discovers he has the power to transform into a titan is then taken in to the scout regiment and, with his friends, goes out on a scouting mission where they are attacked by an intelligent female titan. The story sorts itself out and in the end they manage to capture the female titan.

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Attack on Titan, Episode 21: Crushing Blow

Attack on Titan. When a show is as hyped as this is a lot of people’s first thought is one of scepticism. That includes me by the way. If everyone else likes it, it must be terrible, right? Anyway, this article isn’t a review of the whole show; at the moment I’m only 21 episodes through. This is a review of the last episode I watched, an episode which I think truly sums up the show, at least to this point anyway. I’ll say it now in case, somehow, you haven’t seen the show, this will contain spoilers.

Episode 21, Crushing Blow, comes at one of the many crunch points in the season. The female titan that has been stalking Eren has escaped the commander’s trap and retaken human form. To make matters worse, to prevent the squads retreat to the horses she turns back into her titan form and strikes down Gunther.

Initially, the battle starts well for the Levi squad
Initially, the battle starts well for the Levi squad

This sets up an episode of death and pain for the squad. Eren is convinced to leave by the others leaving  them to fight in attempt for him to escape. Levi’s squad initially seems to have the upper hand, as they blind the titan and sever her arms, leaving her seemingly defenceless while she regenerates. In a unseen turn of events however, she manages to focus her energy into one eye causing Eld to be bitten in half. This event puts Petra into a panic who is subsequently struck down. It isn’t long before Oluo is also killed when his attempts to slice the titan’s neck are thwarted by an icy defence.

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Review: Mahōka Kōkō no Rettōsei (The Irregular at Magic High School)

In a bold move, I did a search of the web for well rated anime released in the last year. Bold because it almost certainly meant a season of sub, shock horror. I ended up with The Irregular at Magic High School. So, what did I think of it?

Background:

The show focuses on two siblings set in a world where magic is used as modern technology and, more importantly, as a weapon. We’re introduced to the pair as if the younger sister, Miyuki, is a prodigy and her older brother, Tatsuya, is a failing half-wit. It doesn’t take long to realise this is plainly not the case.

For the most part, as you might have guessed, the show is based in the First Magic High School. One of nine magic high schools in Japan, it accepts only those that have shown the gift of magic. However, on arrival entrants are divided into course 1 and course 2 students. Miyuki is a course 1 student while Tatsuya is a course 2 student.

Miyuki's love for her brother is cute, when it's not being weird
Miyuki’s love for her brother is cute, when it’s not being weird

Plot

The first arc of the show focuses on the inevitable prejudices that arise from splitting students so categorically at the start of the studies. In the first episode we are introduced to the terms Blooms and Weeds. Pretty nasty. It doesn’t take long after this for Tatsuya to show off how not-bad his powers actually are. After joining the disciplinary committee (says enough about his power in a school with magicians, doesn’t it?) and taking out 3 upperclassmen (for good reason it should be said), he becomes a bit of celebrity. At this stage, his ‘prodigy’ sister isn’t doing too much, apart from the scenes where she is loving her brother a bit too much.

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Review: Code Geass, Hangyaku no Lelouch

It’s time for another big hitter: Code Geass. Part of me has been trying to spread apart shows that have such a big reputation, if only because I know there are plenty of shows out there that I’ll watch that won’t be half as good. Going into watching Code Geass, I knew it was good (although I’m not sure how much of that was because of the first or second season): I’ve heard it described as a masterpiece by more than one person. Not a term thrown around lightly here. That aside, it has also been said that everyone’s taste in anime is awful, so what was I to expect, I might hate the show.

(Note: This review is for season 1 only, season 2 will arrive… soon).

Background:

The setting for Code Geass is an oppressed, imperially controlled Japan, known officially in the show as Area 11. The world is almost exclusively controlled by three huge empires: The EU, The Chinese Federation and Britannia. At the beginning of the show there is no doubt that Britannia is going to be the enemy throughout. Our main character is Lelouch, once ninth in line to the throne of Britannia, now cast out living in exile in Area 11 with his crippled, blinded sister, Nunnally. Our story kicks off as Lelouch gains the power of Geass from a mysterious girl (C.C or C 2), which allows him to command others to do what he wants (only once, mind). He then sets off with the goal of  bringing down Britannia, restoring Japan and creating a generally better world for Nunnally.

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Sword Art Online II, Episode 4: GGO

For the first time in my very short anime life I’ve been able to watch a show as it is released (in dub that is, I know, I know, sorry). That show is the second season of Sword Art Online. This week I watched episode 4, GGO (Gun Gale Online). So, I’m going to try and give a quick overview of the episode, my thoughts and, on this occasion, the lessons we should try to take from it (all tongue in cheek, of course).

So far in show, we’ve been introduced to one this season’s new female leads, Sinon (or Shino in the real world), one of Gun Gale Online’s best snipers who also happens to be afraid of guns (!). Kirito has been asked by the government to go into GGO and investigate rumours of a player killing players in the real world through the game. Episode 3 ends as he is about to enter the game for the first time.

Whatever happens, you can rely on seeing this in SAO.
Whatever happens, you can rely on seeing this in SAO.

Episode 4 is all about Kirito beginning to understand GGO. That said it doesn’t stop him showing off how much better he is than everyone else on more than one occasion.

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Review: Infinite Stratos II

Now, I have a confession to make before this review. For about half of the show (and probably the whole previous series as well), I was taking things too seriously. With that in mind, I’ll get on with the review.

Background:

The background to Infinite Stratos II is largely similar to that of the first season. Ichika and his harem of girls, now well establish, return to the IS academy after the summer break. The threat to the group and the academy has become tangible in the form of the ominously named ‘Phantom Task’, a group of IS unit thieves whose greater objectives in the world are pretty much unknown (and actually they remain so throughout).

Even more girls now, well what did you expect?
Even more girls now, well what did you expect?

Plot:

If you remember my review of the first season, I said that there isn’t really anything unique about the plot line. Well, that’s still true, but this time I’m not going to be so harsh about that fact. So let’s split up the plot as best as we can: firstly, Ichika meets a new girl- a senpai this time- secondly, after new girl has a bit of an arc, she convinces Ichika to befriend her sister (who also joins the harem), and be her partner in a tag team tournament (which doesn’t actually ever happen)- and finally there’s a bit of a stand off and fight with the ‘bad guys’ that Ichika and the girls have to deal with.

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Infinite Stratos II, episode 6: The Secret Base

As you might have seen on the group Facebook page, as well as writing one article a week as a review of a whole season or a feature on a specific aspect of the anime world, I’m also going to start doing a weekly episode focus. This will be an article that looks at an episode in depth and will be chosen because it’s fantastic, terrible or (as is the case today) plain ridiculous.

Despite not particularly liking the first season of Infinite Stratos, I decided to persevere and watch the second season. It was when watching episode 6 that I decided looking at one episode in particular for it’s standout qualities could be a good piece to write. That episode was episode 6, The Secret Base or Pride of a Maiden. 

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Good anime taste? Does it exist, and if so should we care?

There are lots of anime shows out there. Every year there seems to be a near endless list of new shows to be released as well as numerous second and third seasons for existing shows. We can safely say then that a lot of shows are popular enough to at least get from start to finish. I don’t need to tell you though that this doesn’t mean that every show that is realised is universally well liked. Scan through even the best rated shows on MAL and no doubt you’ll find someone who’s got something bad to say about it.

There are a lot of people that really like this show. I agree with them.
There are a lot of people that really like this show. I agree with them.

To help prove my point I thought I’d have a look through the reviews for Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood (which I reviewed last week), and it didn’t take me long to find some pretty negative comments. One reviewer, who shall remain nameless, argued that the show had ‘terrible pacing, little character development and a generic… story’. Not exactly what you might expect for the number one rated show on the website, is it?

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Review: Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood

For the most part we all amble through the world of anime choosing to watch various shows ranging from niche to divisive. There are a couple of shows out there though that seem to be requirements of being an anime fan, shows that are universally accepted (pretty much, I’m sure there are people out there that do disagree) as fantastic. Apart from the show I’m going to review in this article the only example I can really think of is Clannad: After Story. That aside the focus of this article is the number 1 rated anime on both MAL and Hummingbird (check out my profiles in the links!), Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood is the definition of universally loved. Through the last two weeks, I’ve been on the journey that so many have loved and now I’m going to let you know what I thought of it. Given how many people have watched this and how much I would have to miss to avoid spoilers, in this review I won’t be holding back.

Background:

At the beginning of our story Ed and Alphonse Elric tragically lose their mother to an illness, after their mysterious father had disappeared, not to have been heard from for several years. The two boys are alchemists, following the principal of equivalent exchange and decide to dedicate themselves to finding the secrets of human transmutation (a taboo of alchemists), in order to bring their mother back to life. After several years of research and training, the two boys attempt the alchemic exchange to bring back their mother. [Spoiler] The experiment fails. Not only do the boys not revive their mother, creating instead a hideous, dying humanoid, but Ed loses his leg while Al loses his whole body, only for Ed to give up his arm to attach his brother’s soul to a suit of a armour.

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How long is long enough? From 12 episodes to 400: the question of show length

One of the biggest gripes of the common anime fan is that the length of a show is too short or maybe too long. Some people get angry with the amount of filler episodes in a show while others get frustrated that shows that could have been brilliant did not have enough time to develop all of the important characters.

I’ll start by addressing the issue of shows being too long. Before I started writing this article I did a quick search for the longest running anime show of all time- apparently a show called Sazae-san has been running in Japan since 1969 and has clocked over 7000 episodes. Maybe that’s a bit extreme, let’s have a look a bit further down the list… ah, One Piece. Now this is not a show I have ever watched and as such I would not want to pass judgement on it all in anyway, however, I can imagine that it would be easy to complain because of it’s 681 aired episodes to date. I am tempted myself to ask question like: ‘Is every episode relevant?’ or ‘Is this an anime that is showing one story or a series of stories with just one character?’. Either way, to the One Piece delinquent, it would need some explaining before I decided to go ahead and start watching it.

This is from episode 1 of One Piece apparently. But you knew that already, right?

In all seriousness, I am not sure that I could cope with the amount of filler episodes that a show like this must have by necessity of it’s length. And more than that imagine tuning in to your favourite long running show only to find that the very exciting story has been interrupted by a trip to the beach (I might not know lots but I know about beaches and anime). I couldn’t imagine anything more frustrating, not only would it ruin the flow of the story but it would also be a waste of time.

Continue reading How long is long enough? From 12 episodes to 400: the question of show length

Thoughts and ramblings on anime, manga and visual novels