Full Dive – 02 – Hell’s Fruit Slicer

For someone supposedly there to help Hiro out, Reona has nothing but bad news for him: Kiwame Quest can’t be restarted unless he buys a new console, which she just happens to be willing to sell for ¥120,000, or ¥30K more than he paid for his. Considering how quickly easily Hiro ruined his game, it’s no wonder KQ is a dead game.

He also learns that in the city of Ted, AKA the Closed City, he’s already a wanted fugitive, and so must exercise caution when buying a cheap cloak to mask himself. The clothes merchant hikes up the price in exchange for staying mum about seeing him. It’s looking more and more like the enterprising Reona wrangled Hiro into this game in hopes he’d give up and spend more of the money he doesn’t give to school bullies to her.

Despite costing most of the cash he started with, the cloak does nothing to hide Hiro from his childhood friend Alicia, who arrives in heightened fruit-knife wielding psycho mode. Ai Fairouz brings a lovely chaotic intensity to the role, and after praising the ten-year old’s NPC AI magic, advises Hiro to run. Running makes him tired—just like real life—only since he’s never actually run for his life before, he’s doubly exhausted.

His title changes from “Best Friend Killer” to “Running Best Friend Killer: Fleet-footed Amicide.” Having had enough, Hiro tries to log out, but he’s still technically in combat with Alicia, who appears and slashes his hand. Despite Reona assuring him one doesn’t feel any more pain than a bruise from fallnig down stairs, Hiro is still caught off guard by the pain. Reona, invisible to Alicia, punche her in the face to allow Hiro to flee and log off.

Back in the real world, Hiro notes how he’s never run all-out like he just did in KQ. His friend tries to prod him into confronting the bullies using him as a wallet, and Kaede makes another brief appearance to complain about the noise he made last night, and look at him with disgust. He ultimately decides to go back to KQ, and not just to go all-out again…but perhaps so the shitty experience there makes real life seem not so bad?

Upon logging back on, he’s in the exact same pain as when he was last there, and his hand is still bleeding. Naturally, simply touching the medicinal herbs in his pocket doesn’t heal him. He then happens to bump into Ginji, another “best friend killer” who’s been playing the game for years. Ginji crushes the herbs and bandages Hiro’s hand, then takes him to a casino to drink a cola-like beverage he’s inexplicably drunk on.

Reona told Hiro to seek Ginji out to learn how he salvaged killing his best friend at start of the game, only to learn he didn’t. In fact, he also killed his childhood friend, and feels zero remorse over it. He also mentions that despite how hard this game is, and how you enter it with your real-world attributes, there is one man, named Kamui, who actually managed to clear the game 100%. But that’s enough chit-chat, as Ginji sells Hiro out by yelling that the fugitive killer is there.

Full Dive’s high concept asks me to suspend my disbelief so high, my arm muscles strain to keep it in the air. It doesn’t help that the visuals are underwhelming, or that the color palette and lighting are oppressively dark and drab—this may be the ugliest Spring show.

Still, if there’s one thing I buy just enough—for now—is the rationale for Hiro sticking with KQ: of all the people in real life, Reona is the only one we’ve seen who not approves of his video game hobby, and wants to play with him. In other words, the closest thing to a friend. He just needs to stay away from fruit knives!

Full Dive – 01 (First Impressions) – Reality Bytes

Just as Tyrell Corporation’s replicants were billed as “more human than human”, Kiwame Quest was meant to be a full-dive VR RPG “more like real life than real life”—stimulating all five senses and capable of near-infinite routes. The problem is, video games are supposed to be like video games: a relaxing escape from the troubles of real life. So KQ was panned and receded into obscurity.

Our dull MC Yuuki Hiro’s life sucks. Something traumatic happened two years ago that everyone around him can’t help but keep bringing up and dancing around; he’s entering his final year of high school and still not sure what he’s going to do. He “lends” cash to two delinquents, so he’s a key short when it’s time to purchase Finalizing Quest 22 (the show’s FF equivalent).

Certain he won’t find FQ22 for sale at a lower price, he rolls the dice at the unassuming and deserted Kisaragi game store. The newest FQ on display is last year’s, and when he asks the gorgeous clerk Kisaragi Reona (Taketatsu Ayana) if they have 22 in stock, she goes on a passionate and unsolicited rant about how people just keep buying FQ out of habit despite diminishing returns.

Reona has something else in store for the low, low price of 10,000 yen: Kiwame Quest, which Hiro has never heard of. Dismissing FQ as “innocent”, she calls KQ “a super hardcore full-dive RPG for adults”, and since she logs in regularly, she’ll be there to teach him what he needs to know “attentively and patiently”. Hiro reluctantly agrees to the transaction and heads home.

Hiro’s home, by the way, seems to have been lit by Zack Snyder. After learning KQ is a decade old but not being able to reach Reona on her phone, and after the obligatory walking in on his sister in her underwear, Hiro settles into his room, switches on his VR gaming system, and dives in.

He’s initially underwhelmed by the opening spiel, telling him to begin the quest to defeat the Demon Lord by leaving the city and heading to Flora Castle. But once he coalesces in the game world, he is soon legitimately impressed by the realism, and the fact he can feel the metal of a window handle and the wind blowing in.

He soon meets Alicia, an NPC who is anything but. She’s his character’s childhood friend, and Martin is her “nice young man” big brother. They’ve come to invite Hiro to join them for apple picking. When he tells them ihis intent to leave the city and asks where Flora Castle is, they react like his head’s on backwards.

Apparently there’s no entering or leaving the city walls due to the heightened threat of goblin attacks. When Hiro waves that threat away, assuming it’s a low-level battle, Martin is convinced Hiro is mad and tries to beat him back into coherence. It’s here it’s confirmed that a punch to the face is every bit as painful as the real thing.

Thoroughly pissed off and out of patience by a game that’s not going the way these games usually go, Hiro lashes out at Martin, shoving him to the ground. When he doesn’t move, Hiro leans in to find the knife Martin was using to cut an apple went straight through his mouth and out the back of his throat, killing him.

Alicia freaks, and Hiro, still not sure how the hell things got to this particular place, decides the only thing to do for now is to run. A crazed Alicia chases him like the Terminator, but he eventually loses her in a downtown alley. It’s there where Reona finally joins him, but in a neat bit of camerawork it’s revealed she’s a tiny fairy, who is there to be his guide.

She also points out that the little tag around his neck is etched with a title to denote his game progress so far. Hiro is unable to tell her what has happened before she reads his tag and learns for herself: “Best Friend Killer.” Hiro’s been diving less than ten minutes, but it’s already Game Over, Man.

Full Dive is helped by its offbeat approach to VR game immersion, and by its crisp and highly expressive character designs and smooth animation. It is hurt more than anything else by its absolute flat-line of a protagonist. Granted, some of his reactions are fun and he’s supposed to be dull. Still, I want to watch the next episode, if nothing else to see whether he’ll start over or continue on from his bloody, disastrous start.

Holmes of Kyoto – 06 – Oh No They Cela-Didn’t

At school we see Aoi has remained in touch with Kaori. Aoi has been invited to the Owner’s 77th birthday party, which is apparently quite a bash. Aoi learns quite a bit of new things the day of the party.

First, Holmes has a kind of male version of her in Takiyama Rikyu, a kid whose 40-ish mom (who looks half her age) is the Owner’s girlfriend, Yoshie. When Aoi finds she’s under-dressed for the occasion, Yoshie hooks her up.

The “mystery”, which is a bit contrived almost to the point of exhibition (though I guess that was true of last week with the monk too) involves the Owner’s most valuable antique—a Chinese Celadon vase—that for some reason is not encased in glass like the rest of the less valuable vases. That was weird for a start. Even weirder is that Holmes has the key to the hall of antiques, and leaves that key in Aoi’s possession. To which I say…why?

The story about the two proteges of a famous magician exacting revenge on the owner by pretending to break the vase by switching it out for a shattered fake, getting everyone to look up at what would have been an obviously visible chandelier, and using some kind of portable speaker to make the shattering noise…again, it’s all very strained and artificial.

Unlike previous “cases” I couldn’t help but ask questions the show wasn’t interested in addressing like “why aren’t there servants in such a big house?”, or “how did Owner make so much money?”, or “why was the vase out in the open like that for anyone to knock over?”

Elsewhere, Aoi’s nebulous/intermittent interest in Holmes is starting to wear thin, as is Holmes’ seeming omniscience with the cards. And don’t get me started on the show’s looks…it doesn’t have any. But I’m probably being too granular and harsh on a show that’s just trying to tell a series of fun little mysteries.

New Game! – 01 (First Impressions)

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Suzukaze Aoba is a nervous high school graduate beginning her career at Eagle Jump, a Japanese gaming company. She wants to act all grown up but quickly learns no one at this all-female-staff company is not all that grown up.

roll credits…

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Tepid is the best word to describe NG’s first outing. The cast is try-hard quirky, saccharine sweet, and as Aoba clearly being unprepared skills-wise for the job, the happy go lucky atmosphere sucks out any realism this show could muster.

God, there’s even an old cat and an angry middle manager who has to shoot air soft pellets at the Director to get her to come to an important meeting. No, just no.

At 9 members (so far) the cast isn’t too big to follow, but everyone is generic. There’s no real hook to the setting either — it’s played straight that she’s just a new hire at a game company working on the 3rd installment of her favorite franchise. No twists, and limited sense of realism too.

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You will enjoy this if you enjoy blushing nervous girls who act sweet to each other. It is brightly colored and the animation is decent, when it animates more than message bubbles shared between the girls’ work stations.

You can skip this thing if you have literally anything else to do and/or don’t enjoy rubbing your eyes with sandpaper. It’s awful difficult to like Suzukaze’s personality… if social anxiety and adoration for her coworkers can be called a personality.

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Kyoukai no Rinne – 01 (First Impressions)

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Sakura-chan is a freshman who can see ghosts. Rokudou is the frequently absent student who sits next to her in class. He’s poor and can turn invisible to everyone except Sakura when he wants to.

Together, they resolve small time between the living and the dead.

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The premier introduces us to Rokudou’s weird life, which includes sending a gigantic Chihuahua to the afterlife while only Sakura can see them in in the middle of home room.

Later, they exercise a fellow student’s cell phone, which is being called by a 7-years-dead student who they discover was a classmate with their homeroom teacher and died before he could get his beloved track suit back behind the gym and… and the whole story plays like a run on sentence.

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All the elements of humor are here: the weirdness, the Sabagebu style narrator, the misbehavior only one character can see being done in front of (or to) her friends. Unfortunately, it’s not very funny.

There’s no punch to joke delivery or the micro-drama. There’s barely any sound design (let alone music) playing behind it too. KnR is just a quiet, mildly weird, string of stuff happening inoffensively for 24 minutes.

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It actually reminds me of community theatre, in that budget stage work often involves an actor to be on stage where we can see them, even when the other actors must portray characters who can not. We see Rokudou, as Sakura does, and their is no special effect to visually separate his spirit-state that makes him invisible to the other students.

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You may like it: if you set your expectations low. The humor really is here, it’s just so dead pan and the characters are played so unemotionally, that I found it hard to laugh with OR at.

You may want to skip it: because it’s unremarkable on every level. KnR is not ugly, but plain and discount quality animation and has no audio presence. It’s not dull either, or not funny. Rather, the lack of excitement and simplicity of the visual elements snubs the delivery.

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I’m definitely not going to follow this show but I am curious: was this a manga that converted very poorly to Anime? Or am I totally missing something that should make this special?

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Akatsuki no Yona – 04

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Akatsuki no Yona episode 4 sees Yona and Hak make it to the Wind Tribe’s village. It’s been a long journey for Yona, and she collapses at the castle’s gate soon after meeting two quirky young guards that act just like young-Huk in the flashbacks.

We also get to see the political machinations back at Yona’s home castle. Soo-Won is a not only quick and devious: he’s actually an effective politician. It makes you wonder, given how much power King Il lost for his kingdom, is Soo-Won really that bad an alternate choice?

I mean, aside from the killing-his-way-into-power thing.

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Back at Yona’s castle, Elder Mon-Deok and the other 4 tribal lords have been summoned to crown Soo-Won king. The Fire Tribe is clearly in on this, but its not like any of the tribes really oppose Soo-Won. He is the legit next in line for the thrown and, baring evidence that he actually killed the king, why not?

But Mon-Deok knows Hak and trusts he would never leave the castle in such a situation without a good reason. So he defers his support… and pretty much screws his tribe to harassment by their adversaries the Fire Tribe.

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Back at the Fire Tribe, Yona meets Hak’s adopted younger brother and sees how happy go luck life is with them. It’s all so wonderful until the fire tribe dams the river and starts killing merchants to starve them out…

This ultimately forces Hak to resign as head of the tribe and place Mon-Deok in charge. No longer happy, he and Yona head out into the…wherever they are going that isn’t in the kingdom… I’m not sure. I don’t really understand the map on the wall.

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Given how terrible politically themed shows have been recently (VANADIS!) Yona deserves more credit than usual. Her story is still puppet theatre, but the underhanded moves by Soo-Won work in a straight forward sort of way.

Still, one can’t escape the fact that no action happened this episode, nor the teeth-grindingly dreadful “Little Timmy who needs medicine” character who we met either…

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Akatsuki no Yona – 03

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This week’s episode of “I don’t know why half of you love this show so much” Akatsuki no Yona consists of two flashbacks that establish Huk’s earlier interactions with Yona and Soo-Won, and one current event scene where a broken Huk repeatedly saves Yona from attacking wildlife.

Until proven otherwise, I’m just going to keep noting that Yona is pretty much terrible. Well, not terrible, per se. It’s just remarkably average and this episode’s constant clash of silly kiddy moments was totally dissonant.

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I get it! The happy childhood these characters shared was so happy and carefree that Soo-won’s mega betrayal’s destruction of Yona’s will to live is understandable. But maybe that would have been more compelling if the flashbacks were shot from Yona’s perspective?

Because Huk’s memories of Yona still paint her as a spoiled, weak willed brat, even though he loves her!

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However, it’s more interesting to look at this episode as a dedication to each of these three children’s fathers, and less about them. In this case, Huk’s perspective is probably necessary, because Yona is too much of a dull-whit to notice all but the most obvious contexts for each man.

About all I can give a thumbs-up to here was each father’s visit to their sickened child. Huk’s adopted father (and general of the clan) is brash but ultimately there for chuckles and clearly loves his grandson; Soo-Won’s father is clearly an unstable psychopath, and he treats Soo-won more like a valued possession than a person, and the King doesn’t visit Yona until later that night — but he loves her so much he makes her a soup! (and he does a terrible job at it.)

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Ignoring all this happy context, which in many ways would have made a more interesting show than the one we are watching, Yona snaps back into the present. There the princess takes a bath but gets covered in leeches, and is saved by Huk. Then she wanders off into the woods looking for her hair pin and is…uh…ambushed by a pack of snakes…then she’s saved by Huk again, and I’m just confused…
…Why is NATURE attacking Yona now? Whatevs…
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Akatsuki no Yona – 02

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I took my second outing with Akatsuki no Yona this week and I will gladly admit it fared much better than my last. Given episode 2’s greater emphasis on backstory building and action over spoiled princess love monologues, this should be surprising though.

Still, Princess Yona deserves some credit here. Her show has clawed its way to something better than complete mediocrity and, based on it’s closing scene, looks like it will continue to climb slowly to a natural plateau of just-barely-watchable standards.

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In a nutshell, Soo-Won’s betrayal last week was to avenge his father, who King Il had killed back in the fog of Soo-Won’s childhood. Whether or not King Il did, in fact kill his brother, and whatever his motives may have been if he did, Soo-Won is not entirely a reliable narrator here. (nor are his allies, who may have provided him with bad intel and come off as classic bad guys)

Regardless, it’s a mystery that I’m sure will tragically unfold over the next ten episodes — and it’s honestly an adequate one too — I just don’t have it in me to care for adequate this season.

yona2_5A little hong-kong action between exposition. Decent fight, actually.

Again, as we’d already seen last week, Huk shows up, saves the princess and gets filled in on the details. Then a servant sacrifices himself so the good guys can get away. Then we flash forward to the future of the present day that opened the first episode.

AnY’s story is remarkably slow, methodical in its goal to leave no question about it’s very simple events for the viewer, and repetitive. If not for the action sequences, which were nothing remarkable, watching this episode would have been terrible.

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Some time in the future, Yona is joined by Princess Mononoke, for some reason.

Akatsuki no Yona is the soppy-but-one-day-strong princess Yin to Seven Deadly Sins’ obnoxious hero protecting a princess Yang. The yin is melodramatic high school filler with a degree more realism and grounded sense of style. The yang is an empty middle school romp through boobies and over the top style and fantasy setting.

Both shows feature a quest to gather a group of great warriors to aide the princess in her time of need. Neither is especially mature or technically complex in how it’s going about it. Neither is, at all nor in any way, worth watching this season, nor at any time unless you are under the age of 17.

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Akatsuki no Yona – 01

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There’s no nice way to say this but Akatsuki no Yona has no place being released during such a hot season. It’s very average looking, featuring dull character designs with ‘cheats’ like putting many characters in robes, which means they don’t have to have legs or feet or, really, a walk cycle in the first place.

It’s not ugly per-see, but it just feels strained. Cheap. Uninspired. That’s just not gonna cut it with Vanadis and Bahamut around. Even Nanatsu no Taizai had more enthusiasm than this — more personality too!

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we pause this drab fantasy/historical drama to bring you worse looking art…carry on!

Akatsuki no Yona is a by-the-numbers tragic tale of betrayal and features a spoiled princess as it’s central character. In fact, Princess Yona gets so much screen time pining for her big-brother-like childhood friend Soo-Won that, when he finally kills her father, I was on his side!

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The princess is simply unlikable from the start, which makes it very difficult to empathize with her after her world turns upside down. If anything, I care about antagonist Soo-Won more. He seems to actually care about her and be conflicted about her unfortunate fate during all of this.

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Even in a slower season of anime, this would be pretty low on our radar. In such a clustered season? I already have Cross-Ange for my tragic sheltered princess genre, thank you.

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Morita-san wa Mukuchi 7

One pretty standard anime trope is that when a character becomes possessed or otherwise under the influence of a demon of some other baddie, that character’s usually bright, shiny eyes become dull and lifeless; their pupils disappear. Morita’s eyes have been like this throughout this show’s run…but so far, no possession.

At any rate, of all the anime series this season…Morita-san wa Mukuchi is definitely…one of them.


Rating: 2 (dropped)