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    • Wedgy -
      Wolf's Rain

      Wolf’s Rain takes place in the dystopian future in which wolves are considered mythical creatures, long since extinct by the hands of hunters. However, the truth is, wolves are very much alive, and are able to hide in plain sight thanks to their ability to transform into humans. They are all gripped by an instinctive urge to search for a place called Paradise, a sanctuary from the end times which can only be found by wolves who follow the scent of lunar flowers. The anime follows Kiba, a lone white wolf who is drawn to Freeze City by this aroma, as well as the other wolves he meets there. The plot is fairly straightforward, and ultimately, the series seems to focus more on the world rather than being character-centric. To its credit, however, the characters are introduced via a basic archetype, and are later fleshed out as the anime moves forward. Most of the characters appearing in Wolf’s Rain are animals, but even the human characters learn to overcome their struggles. The wolves face despair, mistrust, doubt, and even wonder if finding their promised land is worth losing their identities. The humans in the story are plagued with facing reality versus accepting comforting lies, living in denial, and learning their self-worth. The anime relies on the viewer paying attention to details, as just about everything that happens narratively is explained through action and dialogue, with very minimal exposition. Personally, I find this to be a good thing when an anime doesn’t have to handhold to point out when something important happens. In fact, there is a lot more subliminal allegory going on under the surface which references not only religion, but animal symbolism and various philosophies. It’s all very subtle metaphor, however, and while the writing clearly doesn’t expect you to dive too deeply into that side of it to enjoy the story, you may find it much more profound if you recognise these themes. Wolf’s Rain has only one glaring problem, but thankfully it isn’t incredibly detrimental. There are four recap episodes in the middle of the series which feel completely useless. This perhaps can be blamed on a lapse in airtime, but it could have easily been avoided by simply re-airing the first half of the series on the network before showing the next set of episodes, if they were worried about the audience forgetting what had happened up until that point. This doesn’t take away much these days, since you’re probably either streaming it or watching it on discs, so these episodes you can simply skip over if you wanted to. Overall, Wolf’s Rain is refreshingly different, and while controversial at times, resonates a captivating emotional hold over the viewer. Everything from the gorgeous artwork and beautiful soundtrack to the powerful and dramatic ending points back to how much faith studio BONES had in this anime. It will make you cry, and I can’t guarantee you’ll like it, but it cannot be denied that Wolf’s Rain represents a very unique niche in the fantasy genre.
    • Beocat -
      Recovery of an MMO Junkie

      As a romantic comedy, this anime delivers heavily on romantic tension and situational humor.  The premesis is interesting and the characters are endearing.  While the MMO is a central part of the story, it really is more of a means to an end.  If you are looking for an anime that is heavily set within a video game type of setting, this wouldn't work for you.  Instead, it is where all the characters meet and the real action occurs outside in the real world.  The comedy thankfully doesn't solely rely on embarrassing situations between the two main protagonists.  The side characters have their own nuances and personalities that play heavily into the comedy.    Both main protagonists have situations that they have had to deal with and I think that most adults have gone through a period in their life where they either chose to be a NEET for a time or considered the possibility.  I think that it also shows a fairly good picture of the allure that MMORPGs have from a social aspect.    Unfortunately, at this point in time, the author of the source material is still in recovery from an illness and thus a continuation of the series has not been announced.  Still, the series has a good start, and if the author recovers, I'm sure that the series will pick up where it left off and do well.
    • Wedgy -
      Sword Art Online

      I said I never would, owing to an equal part having already seen dot.Hack (and not enjoying it very much, mind) and part lack of interest in the series as a whole. But, despite this, I got curious enough to give it a chance, just to say I did. I understand SAO is currently a widely popular anime at the moment, and I wanted to dip my toes in just to see what all the fuss was about. So, this weekend, I watched the Aincrad arc of Sword Art Online, and three episodes of ALO. Up front I just want to make two points. First, I’m not at all criticising anybody who happens to like this series. If it’s your dig, then by all means go ahead and like it. I’m only here to explain why I absolutely couldn’t stand it, and was force to quit watching about sixteen episodes in. Second, there will be some shameless spoilers, so hopefully, you’ve at least watched the entire first season of SAO before you read what I’m about to dish out here. So let’s get into the meat of things, starting with the sense of structure to this anime. Arguably the most exciting thing about SAO was its its premise. It opened up strong, with building tension and the introduction of a grim setting in which death was a real possibility. But quickly as it started, it forsakes the potential to be a thrilling and action-filled adventure and instead cuts to this series of pointless side-stories. You quickly lose that feeling of tension that comes with the promise of a high-stakes death game the same moment some random little girl gets a whole episode of fanservice for no reason at all. Any excitement I might have had to find out how everybody would work together to get out of this is quickly disillusioned by the discovery that the main character doesn’t even appear to want to do that. By the time Asuna and Kirito decide to go ahead and form a relationship, things go off track again from the whole death-game scenario where, out of seemingly nowhere, they just decide to run away into the woods, get married, and raise a kid. When the plot finally comes back into focus, it’s like waking up from a nap. Oh, there was a story here? We’d best polish that off, yeah? It’s like the author just got tired of writing it and wanted to wrap things up as soon as possible. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Kirito is the very embodiment of a fourteen year old boy’s fulfilment fantasy. He acts cool. He talks cool. He dresses cool. He’s the strongest swordsman to ever grace the world of online gaming, and every girl he meets instantly falls in love with him. Kirito is the textbook definition of a Gary Stu. He has no discernible personality traits, his motivations are unclear and don’t make any sense, and he never faces penalties or consequences that would otherwise strengthen his character. He is almost exactly the same character from start to finish and manages to retain all of his unlikeable personality traits throughout.  The first display of emotion we see from Kirito amounts to letting some random blue-haired dude die (and are we going to ignore how he refused healing? More on that further on.) The other people in this raid group watch as this happen, and come to the totally logical™ conclusion that everything can be blamed on the beta testers because they are all a bunch of cheaters. Kirito’s reaction to this not only completely defies the very limited extent of his personality, but makes absolutely no sense at all in any context of this situation whatsoever. He fails to defend himself and instead declares that he is the worst of them. This consequently results in a spiralling path of anime angst that never seems to improve, because Kirito almost entirely lacks the ability to communicate with other people. He even goes on a date with Asuna and manages only to look severely annoyed by everything going on around him. His entire character arc seems to revolve around learning how to be concerned about anyone but himself, and developing feelings for Asuna serves as the only thing that motivates him to do anything at all. Early on in the series, Kirito decides to break away from his loner attitude, and join a guild. Due to the animosity that he created entirely of his own doing, he decides that since people will hate him because of his absurdly higher level, he decides to hide it. Conveniently ignoring the fact that in any MMO ever this is impossible to do, Kirito decides to wear his self-title of “Beater” in order to cheat his way to victory like he told everyone he’d do help out this low-level guild. As it turns out, this didn’t work like he expected, and everyone in the guild died as a result of him hiding his knowledge of what was going on and failed to warn them of the imminent danger. Save of course for the GM, who later committed suppuku right in front of him because all of his IRL friends were dead. This in turn transitions into another episode of angst that appears to hint toward some actual character development for Kirito. Could it be? I’m going to have to say no to that, I’m afraid.  Later on, we see Kirito and Asuna in a high level dungeon in which a raid group zerg-rushes the boss room and proceeds to get their faces bashed in. He rushes in to “help” alongside Klein and Asuna, and only after letting several of them die does he realise he needs to use his previously unmentioned secret skill: Dual Wielding. The excuse for hiding this ability from everyone- including his closest friends- was that “everyone would think he was a cheater.” But wait! Isn’t he supposed to be? Did he not deem himself the de facto “Beater” of SAO? Everyone seemed to forgive him well enough after explaining that he didn’t know how or when he earned it, so why would he have any reason to hide it in the first place? This proves that not only did Kirito learn sweet Fanny Adams from the last time he withheld information and people died, but after dispatching the boss immediately after revealing it, we are afforded the information here that the only thing standing between himself and the next best player is how much he manages to limit himself. Kirito is so stupidly overpowered that any action scenes that occur in the anime are lacking what made the whole premise of this anime exciting: tension. His sheer power level in comparison to everything and everyone else around him robs us of the feeling that Kirito will ever encounter a dangerous situation. There is a scene in episode four in which Kirito is attacked by seven other players all at once, and none of them can so much as scratch him. The anime almost seems to be a parody of itself when it explicitly points out the fact that a high level player such as Kirito would be on the upper levels actually contributing to the effort to end the game, and wouldn’t be down on the lower levels dicking around, which is exactly what he is doing for almost the entire arc. From the standpoint of an MMO player, seeing how little time he spends in zones that would yield him meaningful XP suggests that the only explanation for his level is that the levelling system in the SAO world is so poorly designed that you can kill something forty levels below you and still somehow level up faster than players fighting mobs of their own level… which leads me to my next gripe. It’s obvious by now- owing to there being no concrete explanation of what, exactly, Kirito spent his time doing to achieve his level- that he did nothing special to achieve it. So why, out of ten thousand players trapped in the game, is a fourteen year old boy who goes against the grain by playing an MMO solo, supposedly the strongest out of them all? Why are there so many of them who have no previous MMO experience? Why would so many go out and buy this expensive headgear, only to wait in line overnight to be one of the lucky ten thousand players to buy the game first if you’ve never played a game at all like it? Surely at least half of them have some experience? If you’ve ever played a video game in your life, you may recognise that it usually only takes about a day or so to learn the ropes, at most. By the first time skip, we find ourselves at about a month into the game, and very few players seem to have even the slightest grasp of how the game even functions, and nobody has even penetrated the first boss yet. Once again, the anime seems to forget its own identity. In a game which literally means life or death, would it be unreasonable to think that maybe, just maybe, everyone would be learning everything they possibly could about the game in order to survive? There is even a moment in which it is pointed out that some haven’t even read the manual yet. Have they all just given up? Even Yui can confirm this- out of ten thousand people, supposedly the only happy ones she's ever heard of were Asuna and Kirito (my eyes rolled so hard I swear I saw my frontal lobe.) Clearly everyone is gripped by melancholy and hopelessness in SAO, probably because they are all a bunch of idiots.  And I mean that. We can use our knowledge of actual MMO games and what takes place in SAO to determine that the general player base can only be comprised of complete and utter boneheads. That, and, the MMO itself sucks eggs. An MMO is an MMO because when you want to clear dungeons and raids and/or battlegrounds or whatever the game has to offer, you have to party up and work as a team to do so. Endgame bosses will always outlevel the player, possess massive healthpools, and pose a threat to even a team of ten or more players taking it on if they don’t come at it with some semblance of strategy. Generally speaking, in an MMO you have three types of roles that need to all be sufficiently performed in order to conquer PvE challenges: tanks, heals/supports, and DPS. The tanks have high defensive abilities and keep the bosses attention whilst the DPS maintain damage, and the heals/supports focus on keeping the team alive. If a fourteen year old boy can ignore all of these basic and staple mechanics and solo the entire game, even the late game bosses, then that can only mean one thing- SAO is an easy game, and everyone else is terrible at it. It especially bothers me that SAO seems to lack a class system, and the only system remotely resembling a combat meta is an unexplained ‘switch’ mechanic. Boss fights seem to be handled in a manner in which everyone just sort of rushes the boss all at once. Please tell me again why so many people hurried out to purchase this ‘revolutionary’ game? Personally, I would be disappointed by the E3 announcement. I digress. In the first episode, Kirito explains that ‘one sword can take you anywhere you need to go’ or some such line of crap to demonstrate that he’s a hotshot solo player. Yet, in the very next episode, Kirito tells Asuna that she’s going to be a very strong player, and advises her to join a guild. What? Once again, it is totally unclear how Kirito actually feels toward his own method of play style. Throughout the entire series he maintains that he’s exclusively a solo player, parties up a few times, intervenes to save players he doesn’t even like, joins two guilds, even admits that there are limits to what he can accomplish as a solo player, and then eventually kills the final boss on his own. The consistency here is nowhere to be found. There is no sense of progress being made between episodes two and seven. I want to say nothing ever seems to happen unless Asuna is involved. Asuna is the only thing I feel SAO has even going for it. She is the only character who shows any sort of development at all. When we first meet her, she’s a newbie to the game. She’s freaked out, scared, and just wants to learn what she can and just get it over with. That she treats Kirito with appropriate animosity when he parties with her based only on the idea that they are both loners makes sense in that context. Two years later finds her at the helm of a top guild, commanding the front lines, and being such a strong player that she is well-known within the game as “Lightning Flash Asuna.” She has come a long way, and you can tell she’s worked hard for it. She’s notably more at ease with things and has solid expectations of herself clearing the final level and making it out of the game alive. She has the same resolve and motivations we might expect out of a main protagonist, and it had me wondering more than once why Asuna wasn’t the main character to begin with. Unfortunately, not even she is safe from the anime’s insistence that Kirito is the most badass character of them all. In episode eight, we get to see a glimmer of humanity in Kirito when Asuna invites him to her house to cook an S-class rabbit material he found. Things are actually going quite swell and you can tell that the two share some chemistry. This was all ruined in the very next scene when they agree to hit the dungeon together and Asuna falls out of a portal and into a bag of trashy anime tropes. After groping her boob for a full minute as if he somehow thought a boob felt like anything else, the two have a classic blush-and-slap moment and make to carry on when they are stopped by Sir Douchebag who insists that he has a say in where Asuna goes and what she does.  While Asuna should be more than capable of speaking for herself in this situation, it is Kirito who decides to step in and challenge Sir Douchebag to a duel in order to determine where Asuna’s liberties lie. At this point in the anime, by all her rights Asuna ought to be far stronger than Kirito considering where she spends her time (as in, not fooling around in low-level zones.) Yet, she proceeds to hide behind her new boyfriend. I can understand if she might be afraid of something like a spider, or a ghost, or even a mouse, but that she isn’t even allowed to defend her honour against an opponent who is so plainly inferior to her is downright insulting to her character and totally asinine.  This contradicts every effort the anime has made to build her up as a strong and self-sufficient character. In episode ten, Sir Douchebag pulls a fast one on Kirito (who by the way, joined her guild after losing a duel to determine once again what Asuna was and was not allowed to do,) and nearly kills him. Asuna notices something is wrong and comes to the rescue. When she can’t bring herself to deal the final blow, Kirito magically overcomes his paralysis through sheer willpower and saves her instead, destroying any chance of cashing in on her promise to protect him for once. This happens again in episode thirteen when Asuna pulls off her very own ‘I’m the main character what rules are you talking about’ move and saves Kirito from a deathblow, only for Kirito to one-up her once again and die anyway so he can show off the fact that he is so awesome he can’t even stay dead like the rest of those peasants. There was a plot hole that was established when Kirito killed rebel Santa only to discover that someone can be revived thirty seconds after death, which means there is a window of about thirty seconds between in-game death and when the nerve gear microwaves your brain. If Kirito knew this, then why didn't he go super Saiyan like he did every other boss and end the game before Asuna’s time was up? That it was only Kirito who got angry enough to revive himself and deal the final blow was the most WTF of the cherries on top of the tackiest anime ending I’ve ever watched. As for ALO, I don’t have a lot to say about it, because it was somehow worse than Aincrad, and I couldn’t even stomach the first three episodes. But I’ll include my brief impressions on it because, why not. Once again, Kirito finds himself inside of a game following a rumour that Asuna is trapped inside of it. He’s still overpowered for some reason or another despite knowing before he even entered that he couldn’t just outlevel everything. But, who cares, we’ve already come this far, what’s the worst that could happen? And then he meets Leafa. The cringefest begins when he decides to rescue her with his superior newbie skills even though he literally just started the game five minutes ago. Like all of the other girls in this series before her, she falls head over heels for him and becomes obsessed. Right away we know that this poor girl is going to have her dreams crushed eventually, because Kirito is on a quest to rescue his waifu. But then things get weird and frankly a little uncomfortable when we learn, almost right after her character is introduced, that Leafa is actually his sister Suguha. So what is the point of this plot twist if we see it coming from the beginning? It’s boring and frankly dumb. Not to mention that Kazuto's avatar looks almost exactly like him IRL, he uses the same voice, and same mannerisms. She's got to be a special kind of stupid for not recognising her own cousinbrother right away. Nevermind that. It's too much of a headache. I’m going to tell you exactly why and what caused me to nope out of here. The reason Kirito entered ALO in the first place was because of some story (which made no sense on its own,) about how a screenshot was taken of a birdcage near the upper levels of what I assume is Yggdrassil. Zoom. Enhance.™ - “Hey that kinda looks like my girlfriend.” So here we are. I didn’t think it was possible to ruin so much in one short scene, but sure as dammit this anime pulled it off. After spending an entire arc building up her character to be strong and admirable, Asuna is once again disrespected entirely and put into a birdcage like a fragile little princess and I can only assume she spends the entirety of the arc waiting for her knight in that cool, black armour to come save her whilst she is sexually assaulted by the mascot of rape culture. I stopped watching here because I did not want to sit through eleven episodes watching Asuna being molested. That somehow this was portrayed as erotic in an anime aimed at young teen boys both disgusted and offended me to the point that I actually felt sick. So there you have it, folks. I watched SAO. Whether or not I wasted my time is debatable, but at least I can say I did it. 
    • Nukemsloth -
      Sword Art Online: Alicization

      I am a huge SAO fan myself, I am SUPER excited for Alicization, but I AM NOT excited for SAO Alternative. AT ALL. That means no Kirito. But I’m just saying I love SAO.  
    • KagamiArt -
      Sword Art Online: Alicization

      Cant wait to watch looks so good!!! I wasn't too much a fan of the other shows but this doesnt look too bad and has a good vibe to it, I look forward to it.
    • Cirkadian -
      Joker Game

      Jokes on You Joker Game, an anime that takes place in 1936 just as World War II is about to break out across the great nations. It is not an action filled anime about the soldiers on the front lines but about the mind games and what happens behind the scenes of war. A game of politics between spies, military personnel, and your average citizen makes for an amazing psychological thriller that leaves you hungry for another episode. The anime has an episodic set up. In each episode you follow a different character in sequence and the events that surround their life. Personally I am looking forward to what this anime may become. The animation is wonderful, the music fits nicely, and the art is brilliant with the feel of realism and the style of each character appearing when the moment finally presents itself is spot on. The main characters are not funny, they are not good or bad, and they are not over charismatic. They are calm, collected spies. So if you like politics, criminal series and need a break from all the harem and super power animes that are thrown around everywhere, I suggest you give 'Joker Game' a watch. So in conclusion, I give 'Joker Game' a 7 out of 10 overall. <br> This is my first review I've ever written so don't judge to harshly. : ) The Good  <br> Every twist that's around the next corner.
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