Animes, Shows & Movies Reviews 407 Nov 2019
Parasyte is a semi-recent (2015) anime adapting an old manga (1988-1995). The fact that the manga is both old and finished (and obviously good enough to deserve an adaptation so long after the fact) lends the anime a tone I found quite refreshing when compared to contemporary productions.
In particular, I enjoyed the maturity of the show, its restraint and subtetly in how it dealt with its relatively deep themes: empathy, loss, identity, just to name a few.
But what is it about? Earth gets invaded by a large handful of worm-like creatures called "parasytes" — these infect human hosts, controlling and enhancing them in different ways. The protagonist, Shinichi, gets infected but the parasyte fails to assume control of the brain and a tense co-habitation ensues.
This is not a particularly fast-paced anime, but it tells an interesting story with compelling characters.
Attack on Titans Season 3 (Part 2)
It's pretty much what I said last time: AoT is not as gripping as it was, but stays worthwhile. A lot of mystery get resolved, and the show might be tipping towards the start of a conclusion.
The Rising of the Shield Hero
It's another isekai! The twist in this one is that the protagonist, which at first seems like a special chosen one, gets cast down and trampled on. The story then tells of how he picks himself up, helped by a few fortunate encounters.
The twist works, it's visceral, and the first few episodes are quite gripping. Later on, the show becomes a bit filler-y, and then occasionally downright dumb. Mostly, that's because some characters are dumber or eviler than they should, which I think is just lazy writing.
The show has been renewed for two more seasons, and I'm interesting to see if these followup seasons can be as good as the first occasionally was, now that the main emotional trigger is unavailable. I'm not too optimistic, honestly.
Carole & Tuesday
A very wholesome anime about two girls starting a band. Compared to something like K-On!, this is not a slice of life show — there is an overarching plot. Though, of course, some episodes are not essential to the plot at all. In fact, the show (mysteriously) hypes its eventual conclusion at the start of each episode.
On a side note, this is an anime produced by Netflix.
I'm not entirely sure what else to say about it, but I liked what I saw of it. I dropped it at about half because I had too much things to watch, but I might come back to it. I'm not really in the mood for that sort of show currently though.
A shonen anime about a boy who slay demons.
Yeah, the premise is very simple, and no time is wasted on it. In fact the whole thing progresses rather quickly, which I think is smart given the content. Mostly, it's a "monster of the week" format with a background overarching plot. Generally speaking, it's pretty solid, but pretty standard.
But damn, it's pretty. I like the visual style, the contrasting colors and the clean lines. And the use of 3D animation is really top-notch, allowing for the same kind of dynamic combats that awed me in Attack on Titans.
But don't take my word for it. You can go watch Gigguk gushing about it or read this super technical analysis by Sakugabooru (thanks Gorby!). Mild spoiler warning for episode 20 in both theses things.
DanMachi: Sword Oratoria
In preparation for the second season of DanMachi (review for season 1, the review for season 2 follows), I tried to watch the spinoff "Sword Oratoria".
Well, I gave up after two episodes, which gave me an overwhelming sense of "meh-ness". Nobody really seems to love this, and the plot outline of this wiki page has me flaccid.
Despite all this negativity, I'm guessing this isn't an offensively bad show, just a boring one.
DanMachi Season 2
Let's recall that DanMachi is a shorthand for "Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?", a title that has no actually relationship to anything that actually happens in the plot.
I relatively enjoyed the first season, as a kind of lazy comfort show.
There were many good anime airing during the summer season, and the comparison was not too favorable to DanMachi. The plot also shifted from dungeon shenanigans to inter-familia conflicts. A familia is a group of adventurers headed by a god — yes, the DanMachi lore is profoundly weird.
The story is a bit weak sauce and ad-hoc, there's no Game of Thrones levels of realpolitik to be found here. Notably, the story proceeds in arcs, with no overarching/intertwining plot elements. Honestly, I liked the dungeon stuff much better.
I dropped the show after maybe 8 or 9 episodes. Not really recommended unless you were a rabid fan of the first season.
This cop show takes place on Earth, after humans have made contact with an elf-like extraterrestrial species (given this premise, I like what they did with the name). These aliens arrived through a dimensional gate, and the show takes place in the "border city" close to the gate. The protagonist are Kei Matoba, a gruff experienced cop and Tilarna, a young elven (actually: Semanian) knight Matoba gets saddled with.
And, it's not bad! It's mostly episodic or featuring 2-3 episodes arc, but elements form before come back.
I dropped it fairly late (I saw maybe 9 out of 13 episodes), because there was too damn many things to watch during the summer anime season, and I was pretty busy with my thesis. I'll probably finish it at some point.
It's not a masterpiece, but you're interested in the premise and you like cop duos that love each other but don't always get along, give this a try.
Arifureta: From Commonplace to World's Strongest
I didn't intend to watch this at first, but there was a Digibro review saying it was "awesomely bad" so I gave a try.
It's indeed not the best, and features some funny bad CG.
The story is ham-fisted but, unexpectedly, I found the character aesthetics cool and some of the ideas in the show (the protagonist can eat monsters to gain their powers) interesting enough to keep watching.
Briefly, it's an isekai where the whole classroom was transported to another world. The protagonist got a shitty skillset, gets somehow betrayed and left for dead, but conveniently acquires the aforementioned monster-eating power. Also, apparently he's a genius that can craft anything? You get the idea.
I dropped it after the hero makes it back to the surface (he was stuck at the bottom of a pit) and some annoying comic-relief characters are introduced.
It's too bad, because a good show could have come out of the same premises (something like the slime isekai). Some of the designs (like the guy's outfit) are really cool.
Still, I don't recommend watching this one.
Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? (How Heavy are the Dumbells you Lift?)
An anime about weightlifting? Of course I had to watch it.
Surprise, surprise, it's actually not bad.
It does a decent job at explaining basic gym movements. In fact the series almost feels like a public service show to get you to work out.
There isn't really a story to speak of, but I found I actually like the humor a whole lot. It's one of the funniest anime I've seen (it's even funnier than Sakamoto).
Like Cop Craft, I also dropped it fairly late, for the same reasons (too many good things). And there wasn't really a reason to watch besides the laughs, but then I haven't finished even the first season of Brooklyn 99 and that's even more funny.
Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
Anohana is about a high school dropout that suddenly starts seeing (and interacting with) the "ghost" of a childhood friend who died. It turns out he has the fullfill the "wish" of his friend in order to lay her soul to rest, which leads their old band of friend — that grew apart after the death of their friend — to come back together once more.
It's a nice and short (11 episodes) heartwarming story. It reminded me of Kimi no Na wa a lot, as it mixes relationships with the supernatural.
I binge-watched it over an evening this with some friends — we chose Anohana because it had the highest score on My Anime List from all the suggestions.
It's a nice fuzzy experience, I recommend it.
Fate Grand Order - Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia
I only watched the first two episodes of this out of curiosity. I have never watched anything else in the Fate series, but this seemd to stand apart. It's based on a gacha game taht was itself spin-off from the original game/series.
I wasn't very impressed. The first episode is about 40 minutes and there is a lot of explaining going on. Too much? At least in the narrative-style, yes. Not enough? It's not that obvious if you don't know the context that the series adapts the 7th chapter from the game.
The basic premise seems to be that they predicted the end times in a year's time, and the only way to prevent it would be to retrieve a "Graal" in some past period (time travel, yay). I'm actually not quite sure about that, they might have to do something else in the past, but it's Graal-connected somehow.
The whole ordeal involves some master-servant dynamic which is also not really explained — apparently it assumes you're familiar with either the game or the series, even though this could easily stand alone.
There are quite a few references (esp. in the first episodes) to the first 6 chapters (each chapter being a travel to a different time in the past). Good for fans, but otherwise confusing.
But the worst sin of what I've seen of the series is simply that it can't manage to make its story compelling. After the first recap episode, the second episode introduces characters... but hardly gave me any reason to care.
This is the impression I already had of the whole series (though apparently Fate/Zero is worth watching?), so I left it at that.
Game of Thrones Season 8
This is the final season of Game of Thrones. By now, it won't surprise anyone if I say it's bad and they really did a number on it.
Some spoilers below.
It being bad wasn't really a surprise for me. I've read the books, and it was quite clear from the earlier seasons that the writing team was just not quite up to the task. Everything that diverged from the source material was bad in some respect. Since they ran out of material a while back, the suffering had actually started in season 6 already.
But what really hit people in the gut with this final season is (a) how sloppily they tied up the storylines and (b) how they completely betrayed the character of some of the characters (and made many more basically irrelevant).
Some examples: Jaime had a nice redemption arc going for him (even at the start of the season), but then they had to make him into an asshole right at the end. Daenerys is of course the one that gets the worse treatment, with an unforeshadowed, 180 degrees personality flip. Arya, after her MVP moment against the Night King, is utterly useless, dazed and confused in the final battle.
It's only that these are poor directions in which to take the characters, it's that they are poorly executed too. You could spin Jaime as a "we come back to make the same mistakes again and again" story — but please show some of the moral struggle and dispense with the silly one-liner justification ("She's hateful... and so am I." ... please). In the case of Daenerys, there is some groundwork being laid for her turning — losing dragons (in the least believable manner possible for the second one, I should add) and her confidante Missandei. But show that working on her psyche for fuck's sake.
I could have tremendously improved the story by making this simple change: have her not burn innocent to the ground, but instead take some risky offensive action (maybe even trying to do good to protect her men) and then triggering one of the wildfyre cache. Those would then cause an unintended chain reaction killing a ton of innocent. Then her inner circle starts blaming her even though she's under a lot of stress and wanted none of that to happen. Then, and only then, with her coming to the conclusion that no one will truly ever be on her side, make her flip to the dark side.
That being said, the producers know how to shoot. There's a lot of good shots in there — budget helping too.
In a sense, I think we're lucky to have wrapped this whole affair with a short, stupid, but good looking final season, instead of dragging the terrible ordeal over three more full seasons. I don't think the writing team would have done a better job of it for all the time it would have given them.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
I want to say I liked this movie ... but eh.
There are a lot of good scenes in it though, in classic Tarantino fashion (though it's not quite peak Tarantino either) and the actors do a terrific job, especially Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. Some will say Sharon Tate is criminally underused. They're not wrong.
But I actually found the movie quite boring. There is no tension being built, the story does not "advance". There is no reason to really get invested in it, no real stakes until the very end.
You get the feeling that Tarantino is laying dominos, and indeed there is some payload at the end of the movie. But it's not worth the languishing wait to get there — and it's not exactly a super clever ending that recontextualizes the whole movie either.
Watch if you've liked everything Tarantino has put out, otherwise give this one a pass.
I was convinced by my friend Nam to go see this together, as she had rather enjoyed the first one.
I had relatively low expectations going in. But in the end, I was entertained.
It felt a bit like a Shrek movie that takes itself seriously, with much more (PG-rated) combat. I swear there's even a small metaphor for World War 2 in there!
Perhaps the most stupid part of the movie is how everyone is completely stupid around the villain (who's obviously villainous and full of shit) and unwilling to stop/speak against them until too late.
Final verdict: harmless entertainment, but entertainment nonetheless.
The Good Place Season 1
This one was a good surprise: it's funny, it's twisty, and the mystery is masterfully woven through the story.
I have started season 2 a while back but need to get back to it. I'm curious to see how they manage to keep things interesting after the big reveal at the end of season 1.
Avengers: Infinity War & Endgame
These two movies put a cap on the previous era of Marvel movies (of which I've seen maybe 10 movies out of the 22-ish that came out).
I only watched Infinity War right before Endgame came out and that was definitely a wise decision — that movie definitely feels like the first part of something, lacking a conclusion (spoiler: something bad happens at the end).
Endgame was surprisingly solid in its constructions, weaving together multiple sub-stories and merging them together to reach the grand conclusion final battle, while still leaving itself time to allow proper leave-taking with the characters (at least some of them). It mostly hits the right notes.
I enjoyed that the movies do take themselves a bit more seriously than previous entries in the series, cutting on bathos (bathos being basically undercutting dramatic moments with jokes).
If you've enjoyed some entries in the Marvel film series and have some nominal knowledge of who's who in the Marvel universe (there are a lot of characters), then you ought to watch them. Otherwise don't bother, it probably won't feel the same.
La Casa de Papel (Part 1 & 2 from 2017)
This was fun, although it felt overhyped.
I'm feeling lazy, so I'm giving you the Wikipedia premise summary:
The first two parts revolve around a long-prepared, multi-day assault on the Royal Mint of Spain in Madrid, in which a group of robbers take hostages as part of their plan to print and escape with €2.4 billion. It involves eight robbers, code-named after cities and led by the Professor from an external location.
It's nice to have something that watch that didn't originate in the US, UK or Japan. I enjoyed listening to some Spanish.
And it's definitely a good story. I didn't find it to be incredibly gripping though, and mostly I watched it one episode at a time, with occasional binges of two or three episodes. In that, it reminded me a bit of Breaking Bad — it's a story that needs to breathe.
And that's it for this time. Next time I'll review some anime I'm currently watching: Vinland Saga, Dr Stone, Fire Force, Gankutsuou, Ergo Proxy and probably other things too.