24 August 2018

V's rapid fire anime reviews - Charlotte, Food Wars, Pokémon Sun & Moon and the Emiya family

About rapid-fire reviews

Ever had that moment when writing about an anime, you just can't find a good hook to write about? I get that a lot. Like writing a draft for a review and then scratching it because it looks just as bland as a wikipedia article.

And while I do have opinions on everything I watch, I just don't feel like writing a full-length blog post about everything. Sometimes anime is just "okay", or "average" or "not bad enough to rant about it".

So I came with a compromise. Once per month (or so), I'm going to do a rapid-fire post, where I briefly touch 3-5 anime I've seen in the past month and give my opinion about it. This is the first of these.

Rapid-fire review: Charlotte

Recently added on Netflix Belgium, so I gave it a try. And I enjoyed it... safe the last episode.

I liked the hook of teenagers experiencing superpowers for the first time and them not being fully useful, thus often creating hilarious circumstances. And the dramatic hook of a dark organization trying to catch them for experimenting was good enough to keep me hooked. Also, the overall music was VERY good and actually had a point in the story.

But since this was a one-cours anime (1 season of 12 or 13 episodes) of a manga that is still running, it had to be cut short. And boy, did that shortcut feel forced. A climax of sorts was reached in the second-to-last episode. And so Yuu (the main protagonist) sets on a journey to erase the superpowers from all other "powered" beings on earth. you see him go from country to country to face a very minor challenge, steal a power and move on. And it repeats for the entire episode. And it's boring.

This anime received mixed reviews on MAL and I can see why. The tone shifts a lot, some "twists" in the story don't work as well as intended and people keep mentioning that Angel Beats did this story before, but way better... Well, Guess I'll have to look up that one later, eh?

Me, I'm giving this a careful 7/10. Could've been higher if it wasn't for the last episode.

Rapid-fire reviews: Today's menu for the Emiya family

Waaaay too early to make a full review on it, but from the 8 episodes already released I can already state: best Fate series anime to have been released in the past few years (Heaven's feels movies not included, haven't seen those yet).

And I didn't want to wait to share my opinion, since studio Ufotable is only releasing ONE episode per month. So it'll take months before this anime has reached its end (if ever).

The concept of this anime is SO simple... but it works. Instead of fighting, every Fate/Stay Night character has their own daily life. And one of Emiya's core character traits from the original series has been turned into the core concept of this anime... Emiya loves to cook for his friends. So this anime is now turned into a full cooking show! No, really!

Yes, I understand perfectly that a cooking show is not what you may have been looking for. But for some reason i can't stop watching this series. When I have a chill Sunday afternoon with nothing much to do, this anime was the perfect series on the perfect moment for me.

I have no other ways to describe it. It just works. Also, if you want to try any episode, go for episode 7; it is the most meme-heavy episode with everybody going to a swimming resort. And it was this meme that convinced me to give this anime a shot. No regrets. Solid 8/10.

rapid-fire reviews: Shoukugeki no Soma / Food wars

Started watching this earlier this year on a whim, thinking I would dislike it due to the many fan-service screenshots I've seen over the years. But surprisingly I've enjoyed it more than I thought I would. and I recently finished the latest season (the Totsuki Train Arc).

Yes: The fanservice exists, but is focused on the food tasting moments. And I get the feeling if I know in advance WHEN the "fanservice" is happening, I'm not as annoyed by it compared to its abuse in other series. here, it actually fits perfectly (which is a phrase I never thought I would utter).

And yes, I know this show is a rip-off from Yakitate!!! Japan, but I loved that show as much as I love this one. But Yakitate finished airing over a decade ago (wow, I feel old all of a sudden), so I think I was yearning for an anime similar to Yakitate. And Food Wars fills that void. And since this series is far from over (more seasons!), I'll be keeping an eye on it.

So yes, i'm giving it overall an 8/10. None of the seasons have disappointed so far. let's hope they can keep it up in the years to come.

Rapid-fire review: Pokémon Sun & Moon (43 episodes)

Similar to Charlotte, the first 43 episodes have been added to Netflix BE. More will become available when the (horrible) Dutch dubs are made available (sigh, they're bad).

And on the topic of WHY Pokémon? People in the anime community have been praising the hell out of this latest season as the best thing since the original series. And I agree, it has improved a LOT!

Ash's pokémon have more personality than before, the supporting characters are a lot more likable and more varied. Not to mention, the comedy has improved a lot. I laughed my ass off so many times during this first batch of episodes. And... Meowth dies... a lot. Mimikyu is a friggin' killer and I love every minute of it (lol).


Often censored in the US, but oh so funny if you catch it.

Also, after you get used to the new animation style, you're often welcomed by gorgeous and fantastic sakuga that I honestly have never seen before in Pokémon series. Not only are the Z-moves and Team Rocket intro animated gorgeously, in several random moments throughout the series you're welcomed by great and lengthy shots in which the love and passion of the animators is clearly visible. It makes watching pokémon so much more enjoyable. For a full breakdown, I refer to Canipa's video on it (this link).

Is it all good? No, there s still the odd pokémon-of-the-week cringe episodes that instantly reminded me why I stopped watching the series (most notably "Getting the band back together" - Skip it!). But luckily there's way less of these than before. Also, I've grown to hate Bewear. While the jokes surrounding the bear pokémon were fun in the first episodes, they got real old real fast. And it occurs nearly every episode to the point of annoyance.

All in all, this series has seriously improved since the last time I bothered watching this never-ending show. Good points. A solid 7,5/10.

Afterword

Well, that's it for now. I'll be back soon with another full review. Until then, V out.

PS: I simply ADORE Rockruff. Puppies forever!

17 August 2018

V reviews - Fate/Extra Last Encore: Anime in hard mode

There used to be a time where I was wildly excited about a new anime from the Fate franchise coming to TV or theaters. Oh how times have changed.

When it was announced that the adaptation of the Fate Extra game (Last Encore) would be available on Netflix, I couldn't utter more than a sarcastic "yeey". It didn't really help that when I recently looked up the score on MyAnimelist, I saw a mediocre 6.5/10. Not to mention the game this anime was based upon has a metacritic score of 58%. The most interesting thing this anime adaptation has going for it, is that it is animated by Studio Shaft. This meant that if the anime would be bad, I could at least partake in the "Studio Shaft tropes Drinking Game".

So let's say I wasn't really looking forward to watching it.

But after watching it, I've changed my mind completely. This is a really interesting piece of entertainment! But I also understand why so many people hate it, since it's clearly not aimed at a general audience. So here is my review for the first season of 10 episodes, available on Netflix since June 30th 2018.

A review of: Fate/Extra Last Encore - Anime in hard mode

A word of advice: This anime is clearly not for everyone

Now that I've watched (and rewatched) the first batch of 10 episodes, I can clearly say: there are some prerequisites before you can watch this series.

  • You should have watched at least one decent Fate anime series before watching this. This includes Fate Zero, Unlimited Blade Works (TV) or the original Fate Stay Night (which sadly enough is still the best introduction to the franchise). For easy digesting, Unlimited Blade Works is also available on Netflix, the rest depends on regional licensing.
  • You should've watched at least TWO Shaft anime, in order to get a feel of their style of animation and storytelling. Preferably I'd recommend a Monogatari series and one of their anime with a deconstruction-style narrative. Madoka Magica for example is of the same creative team and has recently been added to Netflix here in Europe (so are Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari).

If you have NOT experienced the above, I will say truthfully to you: You will NOT enjoy this new Fate anime. You'll just bulge your eyes out wondering what the hell you just watched.

Also, if you're a Fate fanboy who has never watched Shaft anime (or do not like their style), this might be worthy of the "skip" button. Shaft is kind of special by itself, and this game has been reinterpreted to fit a storytelling style akin to Madoka Magica.

The first episode is just awful

A lot of people who have started with this anime have dropped the series after the first episode. And I completely understand if you did as well. With the hundreds of anime coming out each year (let alone other non-anime tv-series), people have a lower attention span and a trigger finger to drop anime on the fly that doesn't meet their interest.

And yes, the first time I watched it I also had a WTF-look all over my face. The animation is off at several points, the story doesn't make a lick of sense and the editing is all over the place. For a first viewing attempt, this episode can only be experienced as "AWFUL".


Hey, we know this scene is really awful...
So let us distract you with this weirdly animated background!

The first episode - why it's awful

This anime story doesn't bother to take your hand to explain the story. Instead of storytelling, the anime instead focuses on "showing things that are happening" and have our protagonist wander between these "things that happen".

The story concept is explained in class - a person is murdered because he lost a chess match (okaaaaaay), the body is moved to the nursery (WHY?), since there are too many bodies there, the oldest dead body is moved to the trash heap (again, WHY?). Once the body is dumped, our protagonist gets a talk about why he's the chosen one (because of course). Then suddenly a purge is happening and our protagonist is seemingly killed by Shinji... Because of course Shinji is an asshole.


I am shocked at Shinji backst... frontstabbing his friends [/sarcasm]

And all the while our protagonist has no real clue what's going on, is moving around in typical Shaft environments (huge, very artistic, very detailed, but ultimately very empty looking) while contemplating on how he hates everything with that typical dull surprise on his face. No wonder people have labeled him as an Absolute potato of a man. Jeezes, how dull can you look?


You certainly look very hateful [/sarcasm]

And at the end of this trainwreck ride, you're greeted by this anime's variant of Saber. Similarly to how every Pokémon generation has its Pikachu clone, each Fate franchise has its clone of the original Saber. This one is thus: "Red Saber", also nicknamed "Umu Saber" (after her catchphrase) or "Waifu Saber". But more on her later. Her charming face is what has to push viewers past this "abomination" of a first episode and into better territories.

... and that can be taken quite literally, because one of the first scenes in the second episode is a nude scene between protagonist and our waifu Saber. Why? Because the Shaft drinking game clearly needs more victims.

The first episode - Redeeming qualities?

However, after revisiting the first episode for this review, a lot more things fall into place. It certainly doesn't redeem this first episode (it's still awful), but there were a lot off of: "Oh, that's what they meant" moments when revisiting. Case in point, I suddenly noticed that the plot is totally spoiled in the very first and very last scene of the first episode, but never noticed until I rewatched it.

You also start paying more attention to the "glitchiness" of this world and pay attention to the explanation that this world really is broken and that our hero isn't the chosen one... he's just an anomaly. The chosen one was somebody else who died in the opening scene... Although "Chosen One" and "Anomaly" basically are the same thing.

Turning a dungeon crawling game into an existential crisis

I think it's safe to say that this anime is only a "loose" adaptation of the video game. And while the die-hard fans of this game have found this a sacrilege, the rest didn't really mind it... because the game is mediocre at best. They also had to adapt the game mechanics of 128 masters in a dungeon fighting dungeon masters to raise up to another floor and... and god, it already feels boring just writing it.

So the director and writer have taken everybody on a loop with this adaptation, including the original voice actors. Only slowly have they are revealing their hand. And the end result is a weird trip to be honest.

While the basic principle of "128 masters fighting and beating floor masters to get to the top floor" is kept, everything else is changed. This is no longer a generic hack and slash game... it's an existential crisis, time and time again. And every floor has a different way of expressing that crisis.

Shinji is living in a fantasy world (in more than one way). Another master is actively wondering why he can never ascend to another floor, even if he keeps killing new challengers. Another master is no more than a monster. 2 other masters create constant AI clones of themselves to duke it out in an infinite number of possibilities. And so one and so on. Time and time again you get the feeling that this simulated world is broken beyond repair and we're the last survivors trying to crawl our way out of this wreckage.

Let's talk about: Waifu Saber

Sakura Tange (Red Saber's voice actress) noted in a panel that Red Saber acted a lot more cute in this anime than the more boyish Red Saber from the game. And she wasn't the only one who noticed. There's a reason why the nickname "Waifu Saber" was pasted on this character. This Saber acts a lot more cute, dresses weirdly (watch what remains when she takes her red coat off) and the Shaft tropes have been applied to her. Yes, this means the typical gratuitous (semi-)nudity scenes and scenes that arouse everybody except the people in the scene itself.


Yes, there is a figurine of this "ribbon Saber". Why do you ask?

Do I personally mind? The gratuitous nudity: yes (not a fan); her change in character: no, not that much.

I haven't played the game, so I don't know how she was "supposed to be". And honestly, I've seen worse in other Fate series (*cough*Apocrypha*cough*). However, what I did notice during my trip to Japan last May, was that she was being heavily marketed as a waifu character.

Every store I visited had (next to the tons of One Piece merch) one shelf reserved for Fate, and the red dress of this Saber catches your eye immediately. More than any other character from the franchise (which is saying something), Red Saber had the most figurines, and the cutest looking ones. And yes, there were a LOT of them. Now that I've seen the series, I kind of regret not taking pictures of the tons of figurines.

Personal opinion

So now that I've done all my ranting, what do I think of this series? I find it an interesting watch and even worth rewatching over time. During my second viewing for this review, I've noticed lots of details and moments I didn't pick up the firs time around. And that makes me think that there is a lot to analyze about his series as a whole (if you take the time for it and are able to stand cringe moments).

Though I will admit that the series does cross the thin red line between an interesting art piece and a pretentious piece of sh!t from time to time. When? I'll let you figure that out.

But overall it certainly gets a careful recommendation from me. I give this anime a 7/10. Worth your time, IF you take into account the prerequisites and the awful first episode.

If all else fails: The Shaft tropes drinking game

This series not to your liking? You can still partake in the Shaft tropes drinking game. Very lethal, but more fun than whatever you're watching.

A character doing a head tilt: take a shot. Gratuitous nudity shot: Take a shot. Overly complex room that looks way too large and utterly empty: take a shot. And so on and so on. For the full list, check TV-tropes.

While the term "drinking game" is said in an ironic fashion (seriously, don't do it for real. It's lethal); it makes for a fun viewing experience to count how many times you should have taken that shot. And boy... that counter went up a LOT.

In a way of closing off, here's a few examples.
But until next time, V out.

PS: No, it won't take two months until my next blog post... I promise.


nudity, big empty rooms, head tilts, etc. Fill that bingo card!

2 July 2018

Netflix, anime and me: a follow-up

First: about me

*Looks at his last few posts and sighs*. Yeah, that whole "going youtube-thing" isn't going to work out, eh? Let's face it: Doing youtube videos for a perfectionist like me (who can't ad-lib) was way too much work, while I have way too little time to properly edit all the footage I have. And unlike your average youtube editor, I can't afford to stay awake until 4 in the morning; I still have a day job.

And since I can't do ad-libs properly (I go off-topic and start rambling waaaay too often), I had to write the script beforehand completely. The moment I came to the conclusion that I was writing the entire script like I would write my blog posts, I caved in. This had no point, other than exhausting me.

So I took a break for some retrospective thoughts. In the meantime I've been writing a Dutch blog (about my travels in Japan). But since the last post is planned to be released in the next week, I wanted to shift my focus on anime again.

But I want to change my writing according to my current viewing habits and not the other way around (which was a mistake I have made in the past). And my viewing habit has become that of a casual anime fan: watching one or two of the current seasonal anime, but then watch whatever pops up on Netflix.

Let's face it: Crunchyroll may have the biggest selection of anime, most people watching it are the seasonal anime fans. And those viewers aren't blog readers (there are some, but they're a minority). People that visit this blog (or most anime blogs for that matter) are those who are looking for reviews of an entire series that just popped up on their radar (e.g. via Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc). They read whether or not it's good and start binge-watching.

Long story short: The plan is that I'm going to be writing reviews for anime on Netflix.

Anime on Netflix - the follow-up

Since I'm talking about Netflix, let's first do a follow-up post on my post of last August about anime on Netflix; just to see what has happened and what has changed ever since.

For the original post, check this link: https://thevproject.blogspot.com/2017/08/a-talk-about-anime-netflix-funimation.html

What has been released since my post in 2017:

  • Little Witch Academia: Both (short) movies and both seasons have been released. The only thing missing is Netflix linking them all together chronologically for convenient watching experience (seriously, Netflix. Get to it!)
  • Fate / Apocrypha: Season 1 was added this past winter, season 2 was added March 31st and is thus complete.
  • Devilman Crybaby: Has been added January 5th 2018 and was one of the most talked about series of the past winter season.
  • Kakegurui: I have no idea why this anime took SO long. But it's been added since February 1st. Oh, and the live action adaptation followed soon after.
  • ID-0: I always thought this was an Amazon exclusive. I now realize it was a Netflix exclusive... it's a bad series, but it's been added.
  • Godzilla Monster Planet: Has been added January 17th. The second movie will be added from July 18th! There will be more Godzilla animated movies released in the coming years and they will all come to Netflix after their respective theater run has completed.
  • B the Beginning: Season 1 has been added March 2nd, season 2 has been announced for later this year.
  • A.I.C.O. Incarnation: Has been released, March 9th 2018
  • Children of the whale: Sneaked its way in below the radar, but yes: it's on Netflix since March 13th 2018.
  • Sword Gai: Yup, it's been added since March 23rd. Season 2 will be added at the end of July
  • Violet Evergarden: First anime to be released on a weekly basis in the west (except in the US, who got everything afterwards in one go, on April 5th).
  • Aggretsuko: Released April 20th. This is without a doubt the best anime of spring 2018! - Update: Confirmed on July 6th: Will receive a second season in 2019!
  • Mob Psycho 100: Oh how big the disappointment was when we noticed it was the Live-action adaptation instead of the anime.
  • The disastrous life of Saiki K Season 2 (first half): Added June 26th. The first season was added to the catalog only this spring, so I was pretty amazed we got the second season so soon afterwards... until I saw we got only half of it (booh!).
  • Fate/EXTRA Last Encore: Most recent addition: June 30th. Season 2 to be added later on.

Other series have been added where I live, but I noticed that's more due to local licenses from MangaUK (like One Punch Man & Saiki K) and French licensing, rather than being "Netflix originals" or netflix-sponsored shows.

One lucky shift is that more recently Netflix seems to be bothering more with Dutch subtitles, because only a few months ago half of the anime titles available on Netflix only had French subs/audio alongside the Japanese audio (which is really frustrating as a fan). Thank god, that has changed with the more recent additions.

To be released in 2018, from July onward:

Sources: ANN, Netflix itself, the official Netflix Youtube Channel and AnimeUKNews.net

Title About Release date
Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle 2nd of the 3 Godzilla movies. Third one is released in theaters in October '18. So Netflix release will be somewhere in spring of 2019. July 5th
Sword Guy (season 2) Not the best of anime, but be "excited" for the second half this month! July 30th
Flavors of Youth (Shikioriori) A cooperation between ComicWave Films (the studio behind most Makoto Shinkai movies) and the Chinese Haoliners Animation League comes a collection of three shorts, woven together into a movie format. Hence the name Shikioriori or Poem of Seasons Woven Together. August 4th (worldwide)
Last Hope (Jūshinki Pandora) Total dud (around 5,5/10 on MAL), but we're getting this anyway. September 14 (first half), December 21 (second half)
Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan Studio Bones anime that aired in Japan this Spring season. September 21
Piano Forest TV (dubbed as Forest of Piano) A new adaptation of this manga, this time a tv-series instead of a movie. Aired in Japan this spring season. September 21, 2018 (first season), 2019 (second season)
Lost Song Aired this spring in Japan. September 30th 2018
Castlevania (Season 2) Yeah-yeah-yeah, not an anime. F**k it, it fits in this list! Also, third season is also greenlit for 2019! October 26th
Seven Deadly Sins: Revival of The Commandments You know, The ACTUAL season 2 (thus will be marked as season 3 on Netflix). 24 episodes, aired in Japan from January till June 2018.
Edit: Hold on, I just noticed they updated the description on Netflix. The current "Season 2" has been correctly renamed to "Signs of Holy War".
October 2018
Ingress the Animation You remember that other game from Niantic (the one that is NOT Pokémon go)? It's getting an anime adaptation in October for some weird reason. October 2018 (Japan), November (worldwide)
B the Beginning (season 2) First season was so-so. But Netflix has renewed it for a second season. I heard it was set for somewhere this fall, but no concrete date was set and I can't seem to find said source again, so I'll leave it "unconfirmed". Fall '18 (unconfirmed, might be postponed to 2019)
Back Street Girls: Gokudolls A J.C. Staff anime about Yakuza undergoing a sex operation to become idols (wut?). Obviously a seinen series. Japan: July 2018. Worldwide: Fall season 2018
Hi Score Girl Another J.C. Staff anime (huh, really). This one is about a boy who encounters a girl that's a genius at gaming. Twist: it's set in the early 90s. Japan: July 2018. Worldwide: December '18
Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger A P.A. Works anime about vampire hunters with music instruments (err, sure?). Japan: July '18, Worldwide: December '18
Baki My It's going to be a 2-cours run (26 episodes) and it will start airing this summer (Japan first release). Rest of the world is in Fall Japan: June 26th, Worldwide: Fall season 2018

Unconfirmed dates in 2018: Saiki K season 2 (2nd half) & Fate/Extra Last Encore (second half)

Coming to Netflix in 2019

Title About Release date
Kakegurui (Season 2) Yeey, more of our favorite gambler! Japan: Fall 2018, Worldwide: Somewhere in 2019
Cannon Busters Finally some more info on this LeSean Thomas project. It's been postponed to 2019. But as compensation, Boondock Saints has been added to the catalog (lol). April 1st 2019
Rilakkuma and Kaoru The only thing released this year is the teaser trailer (booh!). The actual release has been postponed to Spring 2019. Spring 2019
Ultraman An anime adaptation of the Ultraman series? Though this one is going to be based on the 2011 manga that just recently ended. Cool! Though... 3D CG series by Production I.G. has me a bit worried (they're... hit and miss). Spring 2019
Knights of the Zodiac: Saint Seiya The new CG incarnation of the classic Saint Seiya story. Also delayed until 2019. But similarly, we got The Lost Canvas in the catalog as a compensation price? Somewhere in 2019
Kengan Ashura Fresh announcement from AnimeExpo. The adaptation of this martial arts anime is slated for a 2019 release. Somewhere in 2019
Revisions Recently announced. Slated for a January 2019 release in Japan, no confirmation if worldwide or Japan first. Japan: January 2019, Worldwide: Somewhere in 2019
Seis Manos Viz recently announced they would create an original anime for Netflix, created (US side) by the people behind the Castlevania series, but no Japanese studio has been confirmed yet. Somewhere in 2019
Aggretsuko (Season 2) Anime of the spring season has a 2nd season greenlit for 2019! Yeey! Somewhere in 2019

Oh, and if you want to cringe... A Sword Art Online Live Action adaptation has also been sold to Netflix. So if the anime wasn't bad enough, we can now cringe at real live actors reenacting that horrible story. I know a few anitubers that will love to tear this one apart.

Afterword

Now that Fate Last Encore is out, I'll be watching that (trainwreck) and write a review about it. Considering the score it's getting on review sites, I get the feeling I'm going to need some alcohol to finish it.

Follow-ups

July 6th-17th: Done a few additions in the past few weeks, based on AnimeExpo reveals.

July 17th: Did a retooling of the to-be-aired section, to make it easier overview.

17 February 2018

Animovies review - Big Fish & Begonia

Ever wondered what the result would be if you mix a typical Ghibli-style of storytelling with the animation power of the studio behind legend of Korra? Well, then you get the movie Big Fish & Begonia!

Animovie reviews - Big Fish and Begonia

Big Fish and Begonia, or Dà Yú HǎiTáng as it is known in Chinese is the first fully animated feature by the Chinese animation Studio "B&T Studio", with support from the Korean Studio Mir, who is best known for their work on Legend of Korra and Voltron Legendary Defender.

it's been circulating in festival circuits and will have limited theater runs later on in this year. For example, MangaUK has announced a limited theater run in the UK starting April 18th. And I've been lucky enough to have seen it at the Brussels Anima festival last weekend. So this is my review.

The story

This story takes place in the spirit realm filled to the brim with spiritual beings from Chinese myths and legends. Our main character Chun participates in a yearly coming of age ceremony where all spiritual beings born in the same year are transported to our human realm for a period of seven days. They do this so that every spirit knows what the human realm is and what humans are. But since they are spiritual beings, they need to take a different form when they travel to our world; this in the shape of a red dolphin.

When Chun enters the human realm, she notices a small family of a teenage boy, his younger sister and the bestest of good boys who enjoy watching the yearly appearance of red dolphins near their house. The family travels in a boat alongside the dolphins for a while and the teenage boy plays a dolphin-shaped ocarina, which charms Chun.

All spiritual beings travel the world and on the seventh day they are returning to the spiritual portal. But wouldn't you know, humans are dicks. In the region of her return path, Chun sees many dolphins getting caught by fisherman and she eventually gets stuck in a similar fishing net.
The teenage boy notices the red dolphin struggling to get out and swims in stormy waters to free the dolphin. But by accident Chun knocks out the boy that helped her, causing him to get sucked up by a nearby whirlpool and drown.

Filled with regret, Chun takes the ocarina and returns to the spirit realm. While her family is glad that Chun returned without physical harm, Chun wants to find a way to right her wrongdoing.
Through mystical means (I have no better way of describing this without spoiling some nice imagery) she ends up with a caretaker of human spirits. This is the place where good human souls go after they die. They end up in a sort of "library" with fish bowls and in the shape of very tiny dolphins.
The keeper of souls gives Chun a proposition. He can revive the dolphin that houses the spirit of the drowned boy in exchange for half of her life force. Due to her regret, she sees no other way but to accept this Faustian bargain.

She gains the fish bowl and the keeper explains the rules. She has to nurture the tiny baby dolphin to a full-grown creature, then find a portal to the human world similar to the portal used in the coming of age ceremony and use a token from the human world to help the creature home. Once the dolphin is returned to the human world, he is physically revived in his human body, but he will forget everything that happened in the spirit world.

But the path towards returning the dolphin to the human world is one filled with peril. The other spirits shouldn't know about this deal, since it's a taboo thing. Not only that, it appears that by doing this deal, various weather calamities are happening throughout the spirit realm. While the other spirits are seeking to find the cause of the calamities (to try and get rid of it), Chun and her neighborhood friend Qiu try their best to keep the dolphin out of the hands of the other spirits.

And what happens next is a pure Ghibli-style adventure that is better left... unspoiled.

My experience

This movie was way better than I ever expected. It blew my mind. The animation was really good! But I honestly can't see what was done by the Chinese studio what has been done by Studio Mir. Because this movie looks like it's a sequel (or prequel) to Legend of Korra. The similarity in art style is uncanny. And honestly, I don't mind. I loved the Legend of Korra and the episodes based in the Spirit realm were some of my absolute favorites.
And I don't know much about Chinese mythology, but this sure made me curious. So many creatures with so many powers that are clearly based on various myths and legends. I kind of want to see more of these realms. I'm genuinely curious.

There are a few downers to, to this movie. I'm not a huge fan of the main character Chun. She has a split personality in the movie and flip-flops between cold and emotionless to heartwarming and caring and looking as if she jumped straight out of a Ghibli movie. They should've stuck with one version overall, to be honest. They could've made Chun as interesting as Chihiro from Spirited away. But as it stands now, this flip-flopping makes the main character quite unlikable; especially if you start thinking what she ends up doing and nearly destroys the entire spirit realm for her selfish reasons.

Also, I feel like a lot of story points are left unfinished. The story arc of certain characters just ends with us wondering what happened to them. I can't say who, because it's spoiling a few plot twists. It feels like the story was cut for time constraints. If there ever comes a sequel to this movie, or a full-fledged tv-series; there's at least one character of which I want to know how she ended up.

Oh, and one more thing... Dolphins ARE NO FISH. They're mammals. Yes, I know the Chinese title literally says Big Fish and Begonia. But the localization team could've tapped the studio on the shoulder and have said: "yeah, over here we call them mammals." And honestly speaking: "Dolphin and Begonia" would've made as much sense of a title like "Big Fish and Begonia", but it would've been more accurate.

But in the end, those were just a few minor concerns. Overall, I loved this movie. It's a great theatrical start for the Chinese B&T Studio and certainly a movie worth checking out in theater, on streaming and to own on Blu-ray. Definitely worth checking out.

Have you seen Big Fish & Begonia? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments down below.
And until next time, V out.

My review in vlog form

Official Trailer

14 February 2018

Attempt at vlogging & Early Man review

So, I've been thinking about what to do next with this blog. And I thought to myself, why not try to create vlogs about what you watch? And so came to be: my first vlog.

In this vlog I'm talking about why I'm changing to vlogs (for now) and what kind of reviews I will be doing in this format: Animated movies. Not just anime movies & US animation (like Disney movies), but ALL animated movies.

Early Man review

And as stated in my vlog, the first review I did, was on the Aardman film: "Early Man", which went in premiere last weekend here in Belgium.

Please bear with me in this stage. I'm still trying to figure things out, working my way through recording and editing everything (lots of work, little free time).

Until next time, V out.

7 February 2018

Let's talk about the Crunchyroll Anime Awards 2017

Well, last year I came back to blogging due to the Crunchyroll Anime Awards and then talked about the Oscars. This year, it's the opposite way around.

Anyway, I still needed to vent a little on this because the awards have been improved in comparison to last year, but there's still room left for further improvement. Let me explain...

The Crunchyroll Anime Awards 2017 - The Good, the bad & the ugly

Updated categories are both better and worse

First up, I'm glad Crunchyroll reorganized the voting categories. The awards look less like they were done by a random youtuber. Though they're still hit and miss.

The following are gone:

  • Best Fight Scene
  • Most Heartwarming Scene
  • Best Couple

The following were added:

  • Best Continuing Series - Nice addition, though the execution could be better
  • Best Manga - Good!
  • Best movie - Very good!
  • Best (use of) CGI - Good!
  • Best Score - Very good!
  • Best Slice of Life series - Not good. Honestly this is a superfluous category! All of the nominees fit either in Comedy or Drama categories!

Note: While most of the manga from Best Manga are not from this year, the first volume of every nominee was released in English for the first time in 2017. The page could've used that asterisk, tbh.

The following categories are still missing (read: missed opportunities)

  • Best Voice actor/actress in Japanese and in English DUB: Come on, Crunchyroll, get to it! I said this last year as well!
  • Best Direction: no-brainer, right? I mean it's a default category in most tv/movie awards shows.
  • Best Character Design: An underrated category. Animation is not only the animation, it's the overall character design as well.
  • Best Short series: Anime of 10 minutes or below deserve some love!
  • Best Original / Adapted story: It's a default category in movie award shows, so why not here? Yes, it's a difficult category because you would need to have knowledge of both the source material as well as the adaptation. But still...
  • Best NEW series / Best Sequel: The Best continuing series is a good new addition, but I feel the choices in this category are a mixed bag (to say it nicely). I feel that a split of series in new/sequel/continuing series would generally improve this and would give a proper spotlight to all kinds of series.

About the Judges

While it does surprise me that 6 of the 7 judges of last year don't reprise their role (too much salt/backlash last year?), I'm kind of neutral on the choices this year. I don't know any of them personally, but CR has listed their credits and well... they're legit (no, really).

And while I do like that there are more judges than last year... 10 vs 7 is still not that much better. Not to mention the total lack of Anitubers now that Arcada/Glass Reflection hasn't returned as a judge. Why not ask the advice of somebody like SuperEyePatchWolf, UnderTheScope or even Digibro (just to name a few)? Heck, people like Geoff/Mother's Basement would've been a perfect judge when it comes to music, OPs and EDs - That IS his Youtube schtick!

On a side-note: Praise goes to those who deserve it. I love the addition of separate judges specifically for the best manga award. Good decision!

Weird and confusing voting method

Yeah, let's just say it out loud: The new website is not that good, the previous one was better. Yes, the new one does look more like a professional awards show website and less like a fan-site. But looks aren't everything, you know.

The first time I went to the new awards website, I was utterly confused. I saw the Crunchyroll promo that you could start voting, but the first three categories I clicked on were disabled with no information on when voting would become active. I honestly thought they f**ked up.

It wasn't until later I figured out that they split up the voting over a period of multiple weeks, with each period only allowing you to vote for a small group of categories. This in a clear attempt to trigger people's engagement multiple times and keep themselves trending for a longer period of time. (*sigh* I hate cheap marketing ploys like this)

But it was clear that this decision was made late in the game, because the website was not created to support this voting method. As I said, the categories you could actually vote for in the first week were not properly highlighted nor sorted. And there was no clear message on how the voting worked (unless you read multiple posts and ads from CR). And the black site color did NOT help any of this.

But I must be honest. Checking back on the site this week will show you proper fixes. The site has been cleaned up, categories have been clearly divided and proper dates on what you can vote for when have been added. Too bad this had to happen weeks after release (*sigh*). At least they listened to the initial feedback.

But in order to prevent this kind of backlash, here are a few tips for future improvements:

  • A: Don't make the site background black. Using black backgrounds is cool when you're an edgy tween, but that's the only advantage it has. In reality black makes site layout harder. Layout and graphic mistakes are easier to spot, mixing in other colors can quickly look real ugly real fast and highlighting attempts are easily overlooked.
  • B: The split time periods: Don't do this. It's a cheap marketing trick to stay trending on social media, but you can do this differently. IF you still want to use this method, open the categories in a cascade form like this year but close all categories together at the end date. This way the unlock will still trigger new topics, but nobody will be frustrated that you can't vote anymore for other categories.
  • C: Make it visually stand out on which categories you can already vote and on which you cannot. It will only create frustration if you click on a category, only to find out voting still isn't available and you should come back "on a later date". Oh, and on that...
  • D: All necessary information should be visible on the main page. Your voting site should NOT need several blog posts or news articles for explanation on how to vote, especially if that information is on a different website all together. If it does need extra explanation on another site, you're doing something wrong!

My votes

I'll try to keep this as short as possible. I'll probably film a vlog to go into more detail.

  • Best Action: My Hero Academia
  • Best Drama: While real difficult to choose between Rakugo Shinju, March comes in like a Lion & Made in Abyss, I ended up choosing for March comes in like a Lion. The series needs some love!
  • Best Comedy: There is no question here: KonoSuba Season 2!
  • Best Slice of Life: Redundant category, but from these nominees: Sakura Quest
  • Best Continuing series: Questionable choices, since some are sequel and others are actually continuing series. Best sequel is March comes in like a lion (which I voted for), but best actual ongoing series form this list would be Dragon Ball Super.
  • Best Girl: The girls from My Hero Academia honestly deserve a best girl category by themselves (lol). But if you make me choose between Ochako & Tsuyu, my vote goes to Ochako (with Tsuyu a VERY close second).
  • Best Boy: Kazuma without a doubt. And err... Fafnir? Really? Why?
  • Best hero: I was originally going to vote for Deku. But after hearing Geoff's arguments on why Nanachi deserves the win in this category, I changed my mind. Thus: Nanachi.
  • Best Villain: Stain. While Tanya is a masterful villain (or anti-hero depending on your point of view), it's Stain that stood out so much he outshined every other villain of the entire series.
  • Best Manga: I'm not going to vote for this, since I haven't read most of the titles and thus cannot give an honest answer.
  • Best OP: Winter 2017 had the best OPs of the entire year, though my favorite did not make the list (my vote would've gone to Fhána - Blue Sky Rhapsody from Ms Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. So from the choices available, I'm going to pick One III Notes with Shadow & Truth (from ACCA)
  • Best ED: Again my choice is not on the list (the ED from Saga of Tanya the Evil: Aoi Yuuki - Los! Los! Los!). But after taking some time and missing the deadline for the category (hence my frustration) I finally listened to all nominees and would've chosen Chorogonzu - Ishukan Communication from Ms. Kobayashi's Dragon Maid.
  • Best Film: A Silent Voice, with In This Corner of the World a close second.
  • Best (use of) CG: Important category, considering how often this gets f**ked up in anime series. One series did NOT f**k up at all and that is Land of the Lustrous.
  • Best Score: My heart bleeds because I have to choose between two great scores (ACCA and Made in Abyss). But in the end I have to go for Made in Abyss, because it elevated an already great anime into even greater heights.
  • Best Animation: How is it fair that movie-level animation is compared to tv-level animation? I refused to vote for A Silent Voice because of this. My vote went to the best animation in a TV-series: March comes in like a Lion. See my review for a more detailed explanation.
  • Anime of the Year: No best Yuri-on-Ice of the year? Good! With the awards starting a little later and no late fall anime that took the internet by storm, all anime now have a fair chance. My vote goes to the only anime that actually succeeded in making me cry... multiple times: Made in Abyss. Don't let this cutesy art fool you, this anime starts of "light", but gets drenched in darkness the further you go into the series. I was genuinely sad that the last episode ended (even if it was extra long), because I wanted more.

Afterword

As I said, I'll try to make a vlog for a more detailed explanation (try, no promises). But these are my choices for the Anime Awards.

Until next time, V out.

1 February 2018

Let's talk about the Oscar nominations

Yeah, it's that time of the year again. Oscar nominations time always gets people up in a jiffy. So let's get back to this blog and give my two cents.
Also, there's also a bit of misinformation going around (including coming from some famous anitubers), so let me try to set a few things straight while stating my own opinion.

#1: Your Name could NEVER get an Oscar nomination this year!

NO, I am NOT dissing the movie. Your Name is a good movie. But it got submitted for the Oscar nominations LAST YEAR. And if you know a little bit of award shows (of any kind): You can only submit a movie ONE TIME ONLY!. And since the studio behind Your Name did that last year (see my previous Oscars blog post for more on that).

It's as simple as that: It was already submitted last year, so it cannot get submitted again.

Would it have been better if the studio/distributor had waited until 2017 for submission? Yes, defintely! They got way better word-of-mouth this year, made several headlines and so on. They might have had an actual fighting chance for that nomination.
But as they say: Hindsight is 20/20.

#2: There is NOT a bias against anime in America, there's a bias against animation

The majority of the academy voters historically don't like the Animated Feature category at all (like EVERY movie in this category). Don't forget: this category is one of the few that has its own set of submissions, compared to the other categories. This means the voters need to watch more movies. Dozens of more movies that they probably did not watch while they were in theater.

It's a public secret that many of the "old gray voters" hardly watch ANY off the nominees (let alone every submission) and just vote for whatever their (grand)kids talked about the past year or whatever was the hottest take in the movie festival circuit. And unlike the Short movie or International movie categories where there isn't a word-of-mouth or "hot take", this is one category where they CAN skip most movies on their to-watch list.

And recently it's only gotten worse now that not only "animation veterans" can vote for the nominees, but EVERY academy award voter has a say. In other words, less good quality movies and more mediocre movies like Boss Baby & Ferdinand.

No, this is not fair. But until the Academy finally cleans house in their voting public this practice is not going to change. And on the other end, there are a lot of (internet) critics that feel the same frustration and want to get in to make the awards more fair, but seem to hit the wall of "you need to know the right people".
Youtube movie critic Chris Stuckmann is known to be one such person and has been trying to get into that circuit to help reform and improve the awards. I can only hope people like him do get in and make it better on the long run.

#3: Several anime movies already got nominated in the past, so why not this year?

All nominated anime movies were Ghibli movies or Ghibli-produced movies (ref: The Red Turtle - see this blog post for more info).

And the only reason Ghibli movies end up being nominated is because John Lasseter of Pixar (now Disney) really pushed the Academy to get a nomination for Spirited Away. Don't forget: in order to get a nomination, you need to know the right people. And once you receive an Oscar, the Oscar door will always be open in the future. So that is why Ghibli films will always be considered for nominations in the future.

Yes, there is still that chance to be nominated as part of the 1-2 art-house-movies that get nominated each year (e.g. this year's The Breadwinner & Loving Vincent). But those nominations are mostly done by the critics to save face in the movie festival circuit since they've received TONS of praise over there. So the chance of those two winning is close to 0%.

#4: Boss Baby & Ferdinand did NOT deserve that nomination

Yes, I feel the same way. But read #2 again. Not enough people elegible for voting watch animated movies. If their grandkids talked about Boss Baby a lot, there's a chance it will be nominated. And due to the huge box office success of Boss Baby (almost 500 million dollar worldwide), the chances for a nomination were real. Just be glad the Emoji movie didn't get a nomination (*shudders*).

#5 Do the Oscars even matter anymore?

I can hear many people say "The Oscars don't matter anymore" or "they're always wrong or choose wrong anyway".

And yes, there is a lot of truth in those statements. You don't hear people talk about Oscar-awarded movies at all, safe the next Oscar period. BUT having an Oscar (or even a nomination) for your movie or the category you worked in IS a status symbol and the best possible addition on your resumé.

In fact, of all award shows out there, the only one that people in the industry or in the press will keep referring to IS the Oscars. You won at Cannes/Sundance? Nobody cares; you had great feedback at the Writers Guild awards: Who remembers that? You got nominated for an Oscar? AMAZING!

I mean, no matter what Crunchyroll is going to do with their anime awards, is anyone going to refer to certain anime as: "anime-award winning title"? No. But with Oscars, that is a Yes.

And that is why the Oscars will matter, even if they keep making shitty decisions and award all the wrong movies, year after year.

#6: What movie do I think is going to win / should have been nominated?

  • Anime movie that should have been nominated: A Silent Voice and In This Corner of the World.
  • Will win: Coco, without a doubt.

I haven't seen A Silent Voice yet (have it on Blu-Ray, ready to be watched), but I did see ITCOTW last year at the Anima festival last year (read my review here). But from what I hear / have seen both movies would've been award-material... if they were done in Live Action in Hollywood.

A movie about the consequences of bullying and about deaf people? That's right in the Oscarbait category. A period piece about the consequences of war in Japan? Yeah, definite nomination! If only those grey oldtimers would bother to watch these movies... sigh.

#On a side-note: What does an anime movie have to do to get a submission/nomination?

Well, read the rulebook: http://www.oscars.org/sites/oscars/files/90aa_rules.pdf

If you don't want to read it all, I'll list up a few important rules (for the full list, RTFM!):

  • The movie must meet feature length (thus >40 minutes runtime).
  • Image & Sound must meet DC (Digital Cinema) standards. Thus direct-to-video movies cannot apply.
  • It must have been released in at least 1 L.A. County commercial theater in the past calendar year (January 1 - midnight December 31st). Note: Special previews and festival screenings can count as well under certain circumstances (too many to list here, rtfm).
  • Only the first and earliest theatrical run in LA county counts. Re-runs on later dates, or runs in other theaters in the same county do not count.
  • The movie must have run at least 7 consecutive days in that year with at least 3 screenings per day, including one in the primetime hours (6-10 pm) and those showings must be with paid admission (promo/press showings do not count).
  • It must have been advertised & exploited properly, like any other movie during that period.
  • The first screening of that movie must be (completely) shown in theaters. Movies that are first spread via TV, DVD/BR or Internet (read as: Netflix movies) are exempt. Note: After that first screening, everything is allowed again.
  • Broadcasts must be either with English audio or with English subtitles if English audio is not available.

There are other (administrative) rules (filling in forms, exact timeframes, ways of submitting the films and actors, etc). But if you're in need of those, you're better off reading the rulebook yourself.

Not to mention that if you want to get in favor of the Academy, you'll need the dreaded "Oscar Tour", going on promo tours; handing out free copies of the movies to all the voters, etc. Not every studio wants to do that effort.

Afterword

Yes, another post since months! Hurrah!

I can't help it. If I see something that bugs me, I feel the need to write about it. But I'll probably skip doing anime reviews. I got bored out after trying to watch every series of the last Spring season (watching to many "meh" anime is bad for morale) and never really got back "in". Not to mention that past few seasons were pretty mediocre. Yeah, even the current one. I've seen the best anime, but that's about it. I do have a few more topics I wanna talk about, but that will be for a later post.

Until that time, V out.