SHINOBI… TENSHIN!

Okay, so as many of you will come to find out, there are three things that get me hooked when it comes to games; original dub audio, immersive story or well-thought-out universe, and solid game mechanics. Growing up as a Thai child in Chiang Mai, I got used to playing games the way most kids my age did; on hacked consoles with pirated CDs. It was this reason among others that made me so used to playing games with their original voice cast; English games with their English cast, Japanese games with their Japanese cast, and so on. It is for this reason that I downloaded Senran Kagura Burst. However, after playing it, I was fairly pleased with what I was greeted with: Let’s dive into the story first.

Before the events of the game, you are told of an elite class of warriors in Japanese History known as Shinobi, or, stereotypically, Ninja. They have always been fighting in the shadows, changing the balance of wars and conflict within Japan.

However, times changed, and the Shinobi were no longer needed by the government. The remaining Shinobi turned to evil, working with corporations and private investors for a quick profit. To combat these evil Shinobi, the government brought back Shinobi of their own. Good and evil shinobi have since been at war in the shadows, keeping each other in balance.

The story revolves around a girl named Asuka, and her four friends, that all attend a secret school, Hanzo Academy, that trains teenagers to become Shinobi, otherwise known as Ninja to the American crowd. These girls are the elite of the elite, having gone through rigorous training to strengthen their mind and body. Each of the characters has something that troubles them, preventing them from reaching their full potential. Their inner conflicts are made more-so evident when they meet the evil Shinobi of Hebijo Academy.

The gameplay is fairly simple; a side scrolling beat-em-up with various moves and an arial rave technique that keeps you and your targets in the air. While it’s a fairly simple mechanic, it can provide a challenge later on, where your character will be pitted against hordes of enemies much stronger than you are.

There are two beginning modes of play. The standard mode, Yang Mode, is where your character combats their opponents as a student in regular clothes, with the ability to change into their shinobi outfits at will. This mode can be used incorrectly if you transform right away; make sure you keep an eye on your armor (clothes), as when they are gone you will be more vulnerable to attack.

The second mode, Yin Mode, is also known as Frantic mode. The character sheds all of their clothing, upping their attack and speed. However, a character in Frantic mode has a severe decrease in defense, so only a couple of hits can result in death.

While an overall solid game, I cannot say the same for the anime. Yes, there are bits that are executed better in the anime, such as better transformation scenes and more in depth character development for the Hanzo students, it butchers the plot of the games into a condensed package, and fails to touch on the emotional conflicts of all Hanzo/Hebijo students. Maybe if it had more episodes it would play out better, but as it stands, it’s nothing but a lobotomized boob fest, which is a shame in every regard.

My final verdict: Play the games and avoid the anime, or watch the anime first and then play the games. So grab your sword and shield, because friendship is what it takes to win your battles!

TITLES IN THE SERIES:

  • Senran Kagura: Spark! (manga)
  • Senran Kagura: Skirting Shadows (manga)
  • Senran Kagura: Skirting Shadows (game)
  • Senran Kagura: Guren no Uroboros (Manga)
  • Senran Kagura Burst (game)
  • Senran Kagura: Senshi Bankō no Haruka (manga)
  • Senran Enji Kyonyū-gumi (manga)
  • Senran Kagura (anime)
  • Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus (game)
  • Senran Kagura: NewWave (game)
  • Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! (game)
  • Senran Kagura 2: Shinku (game)
Anonymous: Hyouka, Hotaro and Eru!

Ahh, a little slice of life to keep things going! I appreciate the assist, anon! Well now, it’s…

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TASTING TIME!

When they first meet the light trace of salt is there. Yes, the taste of their difference is strong enough to notice, but not too strong as to overpower. What’s stronger in this bond is the sweet taste of their friendship, and how drawn Hotaro is to Eru! Mmm, I must say that while it is a strange friendship that draws out a slight bitterness due to Hotaro’s own confusion regarding the situation, it mellows out as it ages.

In the end, the flavor is sugary with a slight fluff that does well to almost hide the bitterness, while allowing one to truly appreciate the pinch of distance between the two personalities. Indeed, it is a dish that is both truly enjoyable to savor as it is to witness its creation! Ah, such beautiful budding romance!

FINAL VERDICT: Not yet ready, but aged enough for the impatient and indiscriminate connoisseur.

shin-zen-bi: Dangan Ronpa! Fukawa, Genocider and Togami B)

Ohoo! Choosing something a little complex for me to start with, I see! Very well… looks like it’s…

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TASTING TIME!

Aha, we begin with a very salty taste with the distance between the two characters. The intensity of their differences are almost unbearably salty, oh, the tragedy of the flavor! However! The aroma of Fukawa’s one sided love is so sweet, the scent alone draws them closer and brings the dish to a more palatable level. While Togami exhibits a very bitter taste, it’s not enough to turn the whole experience sour. On the contrary, it’s this bitter taste that makes one think that there may have been a sweeter flavor that has aged into salt!

But what’s this? The dynamic of Fukawa and Genocider is amazingly tangy, combining both sweet and sour to bring out a zesty conflict within Togami’s own interests! Ah, while this love seems improbable with the intensity of such flavors, it is one that must be aged, as it had those two years in the past. It is still, in my opinion, not ready to be savored!

FINAL VERDICT: One sided, but possibly mutual in due time.

So! You’ve seen all the reviews I’ve posted thus far, and I’d expect some of you to be familiar with some of the series I have briefly explored for your benefit (at least I hope so). What I would like you to do now is to send me an ask with the name of a series I have previously explored as well as two characters who are either romantically interested in each other or characters that could be romantically interested, and allow me to evaluate their connection based on facts present in the anime!

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IT’S TASTING TIME!

I’M HERE TO PROTECT YOU, MY MASTER!

While this particular series didn’t impress me by a large margin, it did manage to charm me with it’s enjoyable characters, interesting plot, and even more interesting choices of Japanese monster stories folklore. That said, it didn’t explore as much plot or folklore as I had hoped, but was enjoyable nonetheless. So, what made Omamori Himari enjoyable? Let’s find out!

Omamori Himari is centered around Yuto Amakawa, who’s the only surviving member of his family. His parents had both died in a car accident when he was very young, and his grandparents are now deceased. However, before being taken in by the Kuzaki family, Yuto’s grandmother left a mysterious charm in his care, and since then he’s worn it to honor the only relatives he had left.

Now in his teens, Yuto, along with his childhood friend, Rinko Kuzaki, live a relatively normal life. That is, until the two of them are attacked by a demonic creature known as an Ayakashi. Before they can even be touched by the evil entity, a mysterious girl shows up and exterminates the monster, and vanishes, leaving the two teenagers shocked and confused.

Later that night, as he is trying to sleep, Yuto is visited by the mysterious girl, who tells him that the charm given to him by his late grandmother has withered. Because of this, the Ayakashi can smell Yuto’s blood; the blood of a demon hunter. Ayakashi are drawn to follow him and continue to make attempts on his life. Not only that, but because of an ancient vow made to Yuto’s ancestors, this girl is destined to protect him, no matter what. Her name is Himari, and she is, in fact, an Ayakashi herself! However, she is a Feline Ayakashi, which doesn’t stack well with Yuto’s cat allergy.

Now knowing what’s in store, Yuto, Rinko and Himari live out their daily lives, fending off potential threats, befriending local Ayakashi, and occasionally snuggling when one or the other isn’t watching. Filled with interesting interactions, silly shenanigans and creature concepts I crave, Omamori Himari is definitely worth a try.

There is only one complaint that I have with the series, and that is the lack of overall explanation of some of the Ayakashi and their lore. However, I’m willing to let it slide, as I am technically a western viewer. I mean, living in Thailand won’t exactly help you understand what a Zashiki-warashi is. So, be sure to have a grimore handy, because we’re gonna learn about hidden powers… nano.

TITLES IN THE SERIES:

  • Omamori Himari (manga)
  • Omamori Himari (light novel)
  • Omamori Himari (anime)
  • Omamori Himari: Book of the Gaiden (manga)

BRAIN CONTROL BEAM! BI-BI-BI-BI-BI-BI-BI-BI…

Another really good anime for the laid back viewer! Sometimes stories don’t always end the way you expect or want, and the same can be said for Toradora. I never expected the ending to tie loose ends the way it did, but it both pleased and upset me. I guess that’s what happens when you try and sail all the ships… Anyhoo, on to the review!

While his face tends to tell people not to mess with him, Ryūji Takasu is an often misunderstood teen that just wants to live a regular high-school life without having people surrendering their wallets to him on the way to class. However, his peaceful, if unwanted, situation is interrupted when he bumps into Taiga Aisaka, the other threatening presence on campus. While Ryūji’s appearance is what often lands him in trouble, Taiga’s infamous feature is her short temper and strong punches, both of which are exibited to Ryūji in the form of a live demonstration.

If that weren’t enough to shake things up, Ryūji finds a love letter in his bag after a strange showdown with Taiga. Not only does he find it to have been written by Taiga herself, but after a violent tussle at Ryūji’s home it is revealed that the envelope didn’t actually contain the letter at all. Through this interesting and awkward turn of events, both Ryūji and Taiga find out about each others crushes, and agree to help each other get closer to said crushes.

While the premise seems simple, and the direction that the two characters lean towards even to the end seems obvious, the major point of this series is not the focus of the leads choices, but the emotions of everyone involved. Feelings are hurt, revealed, and mended in the series, and topics are explored that I don’t often find in the average happy-go-lucky slice-of-life series. I suggest that, while watching, one should pay attention to the facial expressions of the characters. It may reveal more than you think in that particular moment.

My only complaint with the series is that certain episodes seemed to drag on a little more than they should have. I found myself fast forwarding through a few small scenes, but the majority of the anime is most definitely enjoyable, and had my undivided attention. Once I really got into the meat of the story, I was hooked, and remained so until the end. So get ready to gather your friends and give it your all, because this story is all about the family you have, and the families you make in life!

TITLES IN THE SERIES:

  • Toradora! (light novel)
  • Toradora Spin - off! (light novel)
  • Toradora! (manga)
  • Toradora! (anime + OVA)
  • Toradora! Portable (visual novel)

Hyōka… a mystery 45 years in the making.

I was really impressed with this series. It had wonderful character development, strong problem solving, emotional visuals and captivating mysteries, all wrapped up in a slice-of-life setting. Really, Hyōka’s titular mystery gave me chills when its conclusion was revealed. There’s something very loveable about the dynamic that the four main characters share, and what makes it even better is how their personalities reflect how they find answers. Now, let us look into Hyōka.

The story is centered around Hōtarō Oreki and Eru Chitanda, who have a chance meeting when Hōtarō’s sister suggests that he joins the Classic Literature Club. For an individual with the motto, “If I don’t have to do it, I won’t do it, and if I have to do it, make it quick,” it certainly seems like a stretch. However, the moment Hōtarō, along with his childhood friends Satoshi Fukube and Mayaka Ibara meet Eru, their lives, and the course of the Classics club, changes. It all starts with a simple, single phrase; “I’m curious!”

As the four of them live out their high-school lives, they find mysteries falling into their laps, leaving Eru consumed with curiosity and leaving Hōtarō to sate that curiosity. His uncanny ability to solve mysteries by means of deduction is nothing to scoff at, either; with only a few clues, he is able to solve a mystery of a locked door, a hidden club within their school, and the meaning of a 45 year old Classics Club anthology by the name of ‘Hyōka’

This is definitely something for those who enjoy both a laid back series, and a suspense filled mystery. Missing people, an unfinished project, and a cultural festival thief all await you in this charming yet skillfully accomplished series. So keep your eyes peeled and your nose in working order, because this isn’t going to be an easy case to solve!

TITLES IN THE SERIES:

  • Hyōka - Novel
  • Hyōka - Manga
  • Hyōka - Anime + OVA

Let’s get married, big brother!

Okay, I admit it, I’m a sucker for these kinds of anime, but this was actually enjoyable, and didn’t have me feeling like I was pulling teeth. It’s a cute, semi-perverted anime that doesn’t end in a relationship, but ends well regardless. My only complaint has to be in the loose ends of the after-plot, but it left enough room for potential expansion. So, without further adeu, let us examine Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru!

Our main character is the very entitled, very handsome Shougo Mikadono, who has just recently experienced a tragedy in his family. His father, having been bedridden for months, has finally passed away, leaving him as the sole heir of his business. However, while attending his father’s funeral, he hears a voice calling to him, claiming to be his long separated sister, and that she wants to marry him.

After this shocking and interesting revelation, Shougo is transferred to Miryuin Private Academy, where he needs to meet a certain condition to his inheritance. He must not only find a suitable girlfriend at this academy, but take her in as his wife, so that the two can begin a new line in the Mikadono family.

This proves to be a hazardous game, however. Not only is it revealed that Shougo’s sister attends the same academy, but also happens to be one of the five girls closest to him. Now not only does he have to find a suitable wife in order to inherit his father’s business, but he has to make sure that this very same girl is not his sister!

One thing I praise this series for doing is the even distribution of red herrings. I had to second guess myself quite a few times in order to figure out who the sister actually was, and when I found out I couldn’t believe it. It was obvious in some ways, and yet it wasn’t at all when the series first started. This is something I definitely recommend to those who want to watch something cute, somewhat clever, and funny. So put on your robe and wizard hat you Lyrical Sister, because this is one mystery that’s definitely worth solving!

TITLES IN THE SERIES:

  • Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru! (Light Novel)
  • Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru! (Manga)
  • Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru! (Anime)