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Hunter x Hunter (Episodes 27-52)
Written by maehara   
Thursday, 31 January 2013 00:00
Another 26 episodes of the surprisingly-enjoyable Hunter x Hunter brings us another 2 arcs of story goodness. First, the battle arena of Heaven's Arena; before Kurapika gets some time in the spotlight when he faces off against the Spiders of the Phantom Troupe...

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SKET Dance (Episodes 52-77)
Written by maehara   
Monday, 21 January 2013 00:00

It may have been as lightweight as hell, but I also can't deny that I was sorry to see it go. Here're some final thoughts on SKET Dance, now that it's shuffled off the simulcast schedules...

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Senran Kagura - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Thursday, 17 January 2013 21:47
A young shinobi named Asuka carries out a daring mission - with mixed success. The following day, she returns to Hanzo National Academy in Asakusa, Tokyo, where she secretly trains with four other would-be-ninja classmates, and where their afternoon fieldwork - to clear a shopping mal of troublesome delinquents - holds an unexpected surprise in store for them...

I had this one pegged as being the Highschool DxD of the season - the fast food equivalent of anime, completely devoid of nutritional value but oh so guiltily enjoyable. I got the first half right. Our all-girl team of ninja-in-training come complete with magical girl transformations, summonable creatures, and outfits that are totally impractical for what they're proclaiming to be - so the wackiness is certainly there - and they appear to be matched by an equal-and-opposite team of evil ninja girls ("Serpent Academy"? Subtle.), but there's a distinct absence of a sense of fun. Which is really what you watch this sort of show for.

It also only goes halfway in a lot of areas. When you're playing in the same ballpark as Highschool DxD or Ikkitousen, you can't really get by on half-measures - you need to go to town on the violence, reveal all (steamed up, of course) in the bath scenes, hold nothing back. Senran Kagura pitches itself as a T&A battle show, but delivers minimal T&A (to this reviewer who's been desensitised by other recent shows) or battling, really.

THE GOOD: Pretty.

THE BAD: If you're going to do this sort of show these days, you should really do it in style. Except Senran Kagura doesn't quite have the cojones and doesn't. Also: ENOUGH WITH BLONDE GIRLS WHO CAN'T RESIST GROPING OTHERS' TITS ALREADY.

Three-episode rule applies, because a bit more of the bad girls and how they play with the show's dynamics could change my mind. But I doubt it.

Senran Kagura is streamed by FUNimation (North America only).

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Humanity Has Declined (Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita)
Written by maehara   
Tuesday, 15 January 2013 00:00
You'd perhaps expect a world where humanity is on its way out to be a rather depressing place - but when mankind's successors are a bunch of playful, childlike fairies who like nothing better than to play pranks on humans, creating a world here nations can rise and fall in a day and where yaoi can somehow become a global phenomonon, that really isn't possible...

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AKB0048 -next stage- - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Monday, 14 January 2013 00:47
Following the trainees' successful debut concert, AKB0048's manager, Tsubasa, makes a shocking announcement. She intends to revive the New Single General Elections - as well as the Centre Nova position, despite the history of the position's previous holders. It gives the understudies a lot to think about - but a raid by DES forces that sees Ayako, Chieri and Sonata captured and brought before a show trial gives the girls more immediate problems to deal with...

With Crunchyroll not having season one up (yet), anyone staying legit is having to jump in here. That's not ideal, but this episode at least gives a fairly good feel of what the series is about. With concerts, military raids, show trials, and the odd hint at the show’s underlying mysteries, there’s a little bit of everything here, all wrapped up in the the exuberance that’s been typical of the show all along. If you’ve seen the first season, it’s a triumphant return and a sign that showrunner Shoji Kawamori isn’t planning on letting up any; for everyone else, it’s enough to say that if you enjoyed this episode, you’ll likely get a kick out of the rest of the series.

As far as real-world idols go, I have very little interest. Between the way they’re, well, idolised, the ways their popularity is milked and manipulated, and they way their fandom treats them, I find the whole scene frankly a little creepy. Put them in anime, though, and I seem to get far more of a kick out of the idea - you get to focus on the good (for the most part - season one had one episode in particular that carried as message that I really didn’t agree with) without the bad that goes with the scene. It becomes more of a feel-good experience.

THE GOOD: It's back. Kawamori madness, and idols doing things it makes no sense for idols to do - which is really half the fun.

THE BAD: Kinda sucks for Crunchyroll viewers to not have access to season one - hard to make sense of a lot of what happens in this episode without having seen it. Suspect we won't have to wait for it for long, though.

With Love Live! focussing on the more down-to-earth side of things, AKB0048 can go for the more extreme and ludicrous end of the market - the idea is as silly as you can get, but the way it’s executed makes it simply fun to watch. Between this and Vividred Operation, winter Sundays have become a lot more fun.

AKB0048 -next stage- is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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Vividred Operation - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Monday, 14 January 2013 00:46
Welcome to the island of Izu Oshima, where Akane Isshiki has been living an impoverished (financially) yet rich (in quality) life with her little sister, Momo, and their grandfather, Kenjiro - the creator of the Manifestation Engine, a device which has changed life on Earth. But her idyllic life is threatened when a gigantic flying object suddenly appears out of nowhere - the first wave of an alien invasion...

Two things I knew about Vividred before sitting down to watch it: one, that it was probably going to be the closest I got to a mecha show this season, and two, there would be a strong focus on the rears of its characters - in no small part thanks to sharing a number of key personnel with Strike Witches. While the adventures of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing never quite got me overly excited, though, from the opening scenes of this episode Vividred Operation had its hooks in very quickly - there aren’t as many characters to get your head around, and the setting and sense of fun that permeates the series brings back happy memories of watching Lagrange. With the added bonus of instead of sitting around having fun for most of the series, Akane gets thrown right into the deep end from the beginning. It’s an impressive start.

The technological twist on magical girls is also novel (to me - there are probably shows that have played with the idea before, I just haven’t seen them) and a draw in its own right. Add in some top-class visuals, some good action scenes with appropriate levels of excitement and tension, and characters that are just downright likeable, and there’s a lot here to like. Okay, so there are some parts that will have you going “what??”. Every ass-shot in the episode is gratuitous and unnecessary. The breakneck pace of the episode leaves quite a few questions asked but unanswered. But you know what? I was having too much fun watching it - brain firmly in neutral, admittedly - to really care. It’s simply good entertainment, which is just what I’m looking for.

THE GOOD: Lots of fun, very pretty to look at (and I'm not just talking about Akane's rear there), fast-paced, and lots of potential.

THE BAD: Akane's how old? Stop making me look at her arse, already. Will probably also apply to Aoi from next week.

It’s lightweight, it panders, it won’t tax your braincells. But it’s got an appealing setting, some enjoyable characters, and some ideas that carry plenty of potential for the rest of the series. Vividred Operation is off to a flyer of a start, and I hope it can keep this up.

Vividred Operation is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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