Re:Creators – 09

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While I’ll truly miss her if she’s truly dead, Mamika’s bleeding out marks the first time Re:Creators should be lauded to finally committing to something that will be very difficult to take back, assuming it sticks to its guns with her loss.

As luck would have it, the first one the dying Mamika encounters is Chikujouin, who hears the dying words Mamika wants Alice to hear, then doesn’t hesitate to rearrange them for her own entertainment, telling Alice when she arrives that it was Meteora, not Altair, who killed Mamika and is trying to destroy the world.

Normally I’d protest a character like Alice being so conveniently gullible and obtuse, but in this case I’ll allow it: in addition to being a rigid, noble knight, she’s in emotional turmoil after witnessing the untimely death of another friend; her only true friend in this world.

Felling she’s on a roll, Chikujouin calls in Souta, who arrives right on time at their meeting spot and buys her a soda.

This is a nice world. The food is delicious, the drinks are good, the sky is deep, the air is fresh and everyone is so stupid!

Just as Chiku is the perfect antagonist for generally moral people like Alice—or Souta—this world is the perfect playground for Chiku, and she can barely contain her glee with this fact. Sakamoto Maaya continues to  bring a playful, invigorating joie de vivre everyone else lacks, which gives her more serious, threatening moments more impact.

There’s a creepily predatory vibe to Chiku’s verbal and physical stalking of Souta, growing closer until her legs are wrapped around his head and he’s facing her crotch, subverting what would be the cause of blushing and/or a nosebleed in a comedy.

Still, Chiku seems to abandon Souta as a messenger to Selesia furthering the lie about Meteora being the villain, as she admits Altair is the true mastermind. Just when Chiku seems ready to do another number on Souta, Mirokuji Yuuya arrives. Chiku mockingly plays the troubled maiden before the “bad boy”, but Yuuya has a comeback even she has to admit is pretty cool:

“You’re not a person. You’re just a laughing peice of skin hanging over a bunch of lies.”

While Yuuya keeps Chiku busy, Meteora arrives to comfort Souta and apologize for not getting the truth out of her sooner. She tells him not to forget the mistakes he’s made, whether he was to blame for Shimazaki and Mamika’s deaths or not, because “the world requires choice and resolution”. It isn’t the time to give up and despair, wallowing in the rotting bath of past mistakes. Rather, he must keep learning from those mistakes; discovering and striving to do what’s right.

When Meteora tells Yuuya about Chiku’s cause-and-effect-reversing power, he uses his summon to counter it, but his battle with her is interrupted by the arrival of a furious—and grossly misinformed—Aliceteria February, who doesn’t look ready to stand around and hear all the whys and wherefores. In light of the impending confrontation, and what she told Souta, I wouldn’t rule out Meteora letting Alice kill her, if only to convince her she’s not the true enemy.

In any case, Chikujouin has made a fine mess that she’s quite proud of. She’s living the dream in this playground of a world, and regardless of her alignment (or lack thereof), it’s fun watching a master work.

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Fune wo Amu – 11 (Fin)

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Last week restored my faith in Fune wo Amu’s ability to engage and pull its audience in with an up-against-the-wall crisis that requires a tremendous group effort to pull off. But that same goodwill didn’t quite carry over in the show’s eleventh and final episode, which only reinforced a problem I’ve had since the eighth episode pushed us forward so many years without warning.

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I understand how the show basically needed to show us the ultimate payoff of a published Great Passage, but I maintain that it didn’t have enough time to tell that story, nor would extending the effort across, say, a full 26-episode series would have been possible before getting stale, monotonous, or over-contrived in an effort to stoke up some drama.

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Before the dictionary officially goes on sale, Matsumoto suddenly succombs to esophageal cancer he only told his comrades a day or so before his death. His death has been telegraphed so much, it didn’t elicit a shock in me so much as a shrug. Again, his death only underlines the problematic nature of leaping so far ahead in the dictionary’s timeline to a point where most people only look slightly different, but suddenly Matsumoto is at death’s door.

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The missing words episode was a temporary diversion from the fact the development of the dictionary didn’t feel as epic as it should have because the show skipped too much time.  Ditto Matsumoto’s death. He seemed like a nice guy and all, but he was a character with a tendency to spout flowery philosophy and little else. Post time-jump, it was hard to get a handle on the characters were; spending so much time with the new hire didn’t help matters.

So yeah, Fune wo Amu was, to me, the definition of “watchable,” but I won’t lie: I’m glad there’s no twelfth episode, because I’ve been mostly checked out since episode 6, when Majime’s attainment of Kaguya was sold as the Most Important Thing going on in the show, without ever really getting into why the two liked, let alone loved, each other.

The show had glimmers of greatness, but couldn’t help but feel either too drawn-out (earlier in the story) or too rushed (after the time jump). And there’s only so many ways you can present the metaphor of a ship lighting the way.

Considering how carefully the dictionary at the heart of its story was planned and prepared, Fune wo Amu too often felt unsure of itself and random in where it chose to focus its attention. That made it hard to stay involved.

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Fune wo Amu – 10

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There’s a missing word in The Great Passage. The ship has a hole in the hull before it’s been launched. That’s actually a good thing; better now than when it was on sale. But Majime can’t let this one word go.

There could be others, so he mobilizes a small army of temps, and together with Kishibe and Araki, sets to work re-checking each and every one of the Passage’s 240,000 words.

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It’s a massive undertaking due to the limited time frame — which is never actually stated, but must limited, or else everyone wouldn’t work almost around the clock and not leave the editorial office. Fatigue inevitable sets in, and like it did in “33”, the first (and best) episode of Battlestar Galactica, it’s engrossing to behold.

Not necessarily Majime’s too-on-the-nose dreams of words escaping through a tear in his “construct“, but in the way people start to get slower and more tired, but still have a job to do, and struggle through. It adds a welcome touch of adventure to the proceedings.

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Of course, eventually Majime has to send everyone home to get some real sleep (no Cylons chasing them, thankfully), and he comes home to a Kaguya who is nothing but warm, loving, and caring, feeding Majime a home-cooked meal before sending him back out to fight the good fight.

Kaguya understands pride in one’s work; she’s an accomplished restaurateur. She knows it’s pride that drives her husband to ensure without a shadow of a doubt that the ship he’s building is as perfect as he can make it.

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Marking time throughout the episode (in addition to the changes in people as they tire) is a huge table where each section completed is marked in red. For much of the episode less than half of it is marked, but it eventually becomes fully red.

In the surprisingly thrilling final minutes, Kishibe, Araki, and lastly Majime officially finish the checking, immediately after which the legion of temps, all of them having just shared a life-changing experience they won’t soon forget, either cheer in exultation or breathe deep sighs of relief it’s finally over.

Only it isn’t. The book still must be printed, bound, put on sale, marketed, and most importantly, it must sell, or everyone involved will likely have to fall on their swords, Majime most of all.

As for Matsumoto, he’s seemed ill since the time-shift (which the show somewhat cheekily nearly admits was pretty abrupt, as hardly anyone’s appearance has changed), and the episode’s final shot in his empty house seems to suggest he may not live to see The Great Passage leave port.

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ReLIFE – 10

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Both gifted and cursed by immense natural athletic talent that made her peers resent her and take her for granted, Honoka turned down all the powerhouses and sought refuge at Aoba High, a prep school not too serious about sports, where no one knew who she was.

But when she tried out for the team, someone knew who she was, and was angry she didn’t give it her all. She makes Honoka spike a ball at her as hard as she can, knocking her down, but she gets up laughing, her suspicions confirmed. Her name is Kariu Rena, and she wants to play volleyball with Honoka.

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For three years they played and had fun, but one thing that goes unmentioned is that the rift caused by her ankle injury wasn’t helped by the fact she never really caught up to Honoka’s level, and trying to stand beside her on a still-tender ankle felt impossible.

So Kariu said some very mean things and retired from the team, two actions she felt she could not undo, no matter how much she wanted to. She didn’t realize just how genuinely worried her friends were, and how they’d let her undo whatever she said or did if she’d just…play and be friends with Honoka again. It’s what everyone wants.

Hishiro’s role in the talk with Honoka is masterful, chronicling all the times she transferred and introduced herself with less and less enthusiasm, “giving up on knowing people” as her heart gradually numbed. The bond between Kariu and Honoka makes her jealous. She won’t let it crumble needlessly.

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Kariu is caught listening in on Honoka, and maintains her stubborn iron guard. Oga remains to assure Honoka she didn’t mean the things she said (again), and Honoka is in agreement. Kaizaki, basically acting as Hishiro’s backup thus far, surveys his friends and Honokas; they’re all of the same mind. They give Kariu time and space, trusting her to show up for the tournament.

When she doesn’t, Hishiro is pissed, and vows to drag Kariu there if she has to. Yoake helplfully provides Kaizaki with Kariu’s address. An points out to Yoake that he’s getting more involved these days, because he likes how things are changing. So does she. Kaizaki & Friends exploits are changing them too.

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Hishiro almost makes the rookie mistake of stating her name after ringing Kariu’s bell. Kaizaki shushes her and pretends to be a delivery man, Kariu answers the door, and they barge in. She’s in her tracksuit, with her uniform on underneath. It would appear their trust in her was not misplaced, only their confidence in her ability take the step of going to the tournament on her own. She’s still stuck at home.

Kariu calls Hishiro dense, that she can’t possibly understand how she feels, but Hishiro doesn’t care. Kariu’s her friend; she’s allowed to be worried about her. She’s come to fulfill her own selfish desire: to make Kariu play with Honoka again. She takes Kariu’s head in her hands and ask her what her selfish desire is.

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Turns out, it’s the same thing; Kariu was just afraid it was too late to achieve, but it wasn’t. All their selfish desires align. All that’s left is to act. Kariu accompanies Hishiro and Kaizaki back to school. Kariu enters the gym, and the match. Honoka stops looking, as Hishiro puts it, “ugly” and “dead.” They play, and have fun, like they’ve played for three years.

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They also lose, and are eliminated, and are officially done with high school volleyball for good. But as they both share a good cry behind the gym (with Hishiro sitting between them, a choice she initially regrets), Honoka makes it clear that winning without Kariu would not have been fun or made her happy. Losing is fine if it means she has Kariu back. And Kariu points out they can still play volleyball in college. Duh!

They exchange apologies before turning their gratitude and affection on Hishiro, who couldn’t be happier herself. She’d only just become friends with these two, and she was going to be damned if she was going to let their bond crumble. So she worked her butt off and it paid off marvelously, to the joy and relief of all. Stellar stuff.

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Magic Kaito 1412 – 04

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Magic Kaito 1412 is simple good fun, with emphasis on simple. Episode 4 seems to go out of its way to make this point clear: the detective who’s chased Kaito for years doesn’t know how tall he is or even his gender, let alone any esoteric details that would be necessary to actually identify Kaito off the crime scene.

Likewise, Kaito himself relies on balloon decoys, gas bombs, and flying machines almost entirely. The occasional Mission: Impossible-style mask aside, “real police” should be able to deal with him by now. It all feels cheap and silly.

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“The truth will always come to light”

Worse, Kaito himself is terribly obvious about everything he does. He’s even in class with a master detective who’s out to get him but somehow stupid enough not to notice “Kaito” acts exactly like “Kaito Kid”.

Also, Really? The police chief’s son is a world-class detective transfer student to Kaito’s class? I know this show is aimed at a younger audience but this just feels contrived and silly.

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So…Here we are 4 episodes into the series and Kaito’s shine is starting to wear. Yes, it’s still a cute show that plays an up beat cat and mouse game. Everything is easy to understand and the goofy magic tricks Kaito pulls off can be fun to watch.

That doesn’t give me much to actually review though and, presumably, critically reviewing a show (not just summarizing events) is why you read them. Sadly, I’m dropping it. Sorry Kaito, your time is up.

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Magic Kaito 1412 – 03

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Kaito takes a break from his quest to solve his father’s murder and thwart the mysterious forces seeking the fountain of youth to shut down Gramps’ bar’s biggest competitor. That bar is certainly owned by some villainous jerks and Kaito is technically  grabbing an amazing pool cue Gramps’ used to own but lost in a bet, but this week’s heist is pretty shallow.

Who knows? Maybe Kaito just wanted to show off to Aoko and/or get her really drunk for fun?

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We start off with a Yakuza giving Gramps crap over how poorly his bar & pool hall is doing and getting Kaito caught up on Gramps’ backstory as a pool shark and how he lost his most valuable possession to another shark years ago. That shark played fair, but his boss, the owner of the Yakuza’s club bar and pool hall, cheated by doing something nefarious to Gramps’ cue chalk.

It’s small stakes, but Kaito was having fun (totally sucking at pool) with Aoko and Gramps’ Legendary Cue is covered in jewels…so? Reasons?

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So Kaito, Aoko and Gramps go to “the American” and, like the dreary lounge music playing there, pretty much everything that follows is forgettable.

Kaito and Aoko, who are under aged, have to dress up and pretend to be married college students to get in. Aoko gets drunk on no-alcohol-free alcohol-free drinks. Kaito pretends to be terrible at pool (and maybe he is?) but pulls a final shot victory after losing all night.

Everything you would expect happens — Kaito even uses dummy decoys again — and the good guys win back the prize by the end. Ho hum.

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This week wasn’t so much terrible, as forced. Kaito is intentionally playing a clown — figuratively playing the clown that his father talks about in a flash back — for most of the hustle. It’s grating and impossible to imagine his opponents tolerating it as long as they do, nor seeing through it as an act.

I mean, if someone sinks no balls for many games straight, then challenges you for the prized item in an all or nothing game, a hustler has to know the hustle is on.

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Also in the ‘forced’ category was the actual criminal activity perpetrated by the mobsters. Really? You smuggle guns by hiding them in the pool tables you play on? What could possibly go wrong?

It’s no wonder the police got there in seconds as soon as the baddies guns were drawn!

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At least the visuals stepped up a notch. Generally, Kaito’s colors were brighter and the palette had more depth. Add in the pool-hall haze this week was Kaito’s most striking visual. Seriously! It had a cool vibe, even if the show is way too silly to actually be cool.

In the end? It was cute but more than a little wonky. Even by the genre’s standards, Kaito did a terrible job covering his tracks. I mean…he’s standing next to his own body double dummy surrounded by totally disinterested police.

Kinda meh.

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Magic Kaito 1412 – 02

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If you want to give me a hard time about it, you could draw comparisons between Magic Kaito 1412 and Aketsuki no Yona and Nanatsu no Taizai and ask why I like this show, yet dropped the other two?

And you would not be out of line. Kaito is also kinda-ugly, it’s Lupin the 3rd style plot is by definition unoriginal, and Kaito-kun’s own infallibility toes the line of being blandly god like. However, where Princess Yona is a downer of a spoiled teenager turned war princess eventually and Captain Sin is an emotionally empty hentai who’s skin is soaked with the blood of so many jokes that weren’t funny that he makes me feel dead inside, Kaito-kun is upbeat AND rather grounded at the same time.

TL;DR? Kaito gives me a smile.

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This week we catch up with Kaito after his first few jobs. He’s still high as a kite on how well he’s doing and how much fun it is to do it. His tricks are rather simple, ultimately, and often rely simply on dropping a blow up decoy or wearing a basic disguise.

However not everything is going flawlessly in Kaito’s life: Nakamori-chan is furious her dad is getting so little sleep. (and that he’s basically forgotten she exists)

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Kaito doesn’t help his case by teasing Aoko about her physical attributes, without mercy. Sure, he does a few pretty magic tricks for her, but let’s be honest: Kaito’s a bit of a jerk. (even by popular high school standards)

In a vague attempt to make her feel better, Kaito promises to attend Aoko’s birthday party. But he’s gonna be late. (since he’s already on for a jewel heist at the same time)

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The heist goes as well as any of these world-class-thief animes let it go. Kaito pulls some neat tricks (some very simple ones too) and encounters plot advancing elements before turning a surprise reversal on his enemies and gets away scot free.

Details? Erh, an evil syndicate probably killed his dad because they also want to steal jewels because one special jewel will cry under moon light and the tears are the fountain of youth. Erh, or something like that.

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Kaito learns this and defeats the baddies using the tracking device the police were using to track him and, at the stroke of midnight, makes Aoko happy with a phone call and a fireworks show.

Magic Kaito 1412 doesn’t take itself all that seriously but it’s not like it doesn’t take itself seriously at all either. Everyone is having fun — even the frustrated police detective — and that carries a lot of weight for me. It’s charming and up beat BUT NOT SACCHARINE! For all of that, mad props, Kaito. Now here’s your seven out of ten!

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Tribe Cool Crew – 03

 tcc3_1Not even Haneru remembers the order to the words in their group name…

Tri-Cool, continues from last week’s on-stage challenge between Haneru and Kanon’s “Cool Dragon Dash Rising Brilliant Crew” and Kumo and Mizuki’s “Tribal Soul”. Kanon is nervous, never having performed in front of an audience, and neither of them really know what they are doing, but the audience is surprisingly enthusiastic.

We learn about some of the rules for a dance off and, after Haneru and Kanon ‘lose,’ we get a little more explanation as to why the audience thought Tribal Soul was better.

tcc3_2Haneru jumping vertically out of the frame again… down boy!

Basically, Tribal Soul was more in sync with the music, even though CDDRBC’s best moves were, well, better.

Regardless of the outcome, everyone is happy, the crowd only makes noise when encouraged to do so, and I have to wonder if Japanese audiences are just more polite than ours because, in my experience, this would have been a mean spirited, jeering filled, bottle throwing event.

Man I’ll never try to show off MY dance moves again!

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Tri-cool is as cute as ever. It’s pepper under dog fueled never give up spirit is satisfying and harmless. It’s also, very very very obviously, kid stuff.

And like super sweet breakfast cereal, at my age, a single bowl is more than enough. Thanks for the happy highs Tric-cool! Best of luck. Old-man out!

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Tribe Cool Crew – 02

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Tri-Cool, as it calls itself at various times, pauses a moment from last weeks E & speed-fueled dance party and good vibes to remind us that people are also dramatic. People can get sad and not be able to do the fun things the want. Even people full of crazy dance moves!

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Kanon, aka Rhythm, is from a composed, appropriate family. It is unspoken, but given how seriously into controlled flower arrangements her mom is for their home, it doesn’t have to be stated: Kanon’s rents would fa-fa-fa’lip if they knew she was dancing.

Sorry Haneru! No dance team for you!

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Also, there was a moon walking kappa. (Though he was not a kappa later)

There were also group names proposed like “Cool Dash Rising Brilliant Dragon Crew!” Which Kanon doesn’t understand but Haneru assures her it has no meaning.

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As before, TCC episode two is a machine that only exists to make charming, occasionally funny, dancey silliness. Describing it as good would miss the point. I’m not even sure it is good!

The plot doesn’t matter. The characters don’t even matter. It’s just a whole crazy mess of fun.

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Magic Kaito 1412 – 01

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Magic Kaito 1412 has a quirky, almost ugly look to it, but don’t be fooled! This show runs with absolutely everything its got and produces some fun visuals. And above all else, it’s pretty entertaining!

Here’s the gist:

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Kaito is a showy, smart ass magician in high school. He loves to tease his childhood friend and classmate mercilessly (especially about her panties) but, at the end of the day, people respect him because he’s freakishly brilliant. And so is she.

Meanwhile, a magical criminal is running amok and Kaito’s childhood friend’s detective dad is out to stop him! Interestingly, the magic criminal ‘The Kaito Kid’ hasn’t been seen for 8 years, just about the time Kaito’s dad was killed in a freak roller coaster escape challenge accident…

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Kaito boasts that he will take down the criminal and then quickly finds his dad’s lair hidden behind a poster in his bed room. Armed with his dad’s old things, Kaito sets out to stop the impostor Kaito Kid and has a lot of fun in the process.

We’ve certainly seen these elements before and Magic Kaito 1412 makes no claims to be totally original nor overly serious. It’s just fun, peppy, and dare I say charming?

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I would also give Magic Kaito 1412 some credit for running 14 minutes before rolling it’s opening credits. That’s a little ballsy in our modern ‘spoil every character appearance before they appear via the opening theme’ standard and then to dive straight into a second act? Well done.

If you aren’t already overwhelmed by this season’s surge of fantastic shows, Magic Kaito 1412 is well paced, features clever magic trickery and a light heart. If you can get past its frumpy character design, I think you too will find it praiseworthy.

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Tribe Cool Crew – 01

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Peppy dance music, free running, stylish and detailed character designs and a stylish world too: Tribe Cool Crew lays on the charm and happy energy as thickly as its plot is thin.

Honestly? I can’t complain!

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Part Sonic the Hedgehog, part arcade rhythm game, part ’80s throw back, Tribe Cool Crew is such a mash up of things I wouldn’t normally like that I’m completely stumped why I don’t. It just takes itself seriously about not being serious at all. It owns its goofy world and that world is fun, friendly and full of happy people.

That happy vibe is stunningly infectious.

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What are its blemishes? We’ll, the sudden shifts into rendered 3D during complex dance routines both work and are jarring. Also, the plot is about Haneru, an all energy 7th grader who loves dancing in a private place and Kanon, who appears to be a wealthy over achiever who watches him through a one way glass and also dances and has fallen for Haneru.

It’s also about Haneru loving a dance sensation and having tickets to go see that sensation’s live show. So… the plot isn’t very interesting or important.

I just found watching Tribe Cool Crew cathartic. The constant movement is a treat and the show just revels in its characters do that without dialog. Without interruption. If only the post Sonic & Knuckles Sonic games had been this much fun!

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