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Spending my available free time mostly (still) playing The Witcher games trilogy the first one is good, the second one regressed quite a bit and I’ll see in the future what the finale goes) and reading some manga and light novels, my anime watching time understandable decreased. Only now, I have finished watching an anime title, titled Unbreakable Machine Doll, which I picked sorely because I’ve seen it aired in Animax Asia.

A 2013 title, this anime will not be able to dethrone the current ‘Anime of the Year 2013 title holder, Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru. At least, this anime is still better than Strike the Blood though. If you want to know how much better, you should continue the rest of the review below. This review is also one of those that do not have any screenshots at all, I’m just lazy to take any.

There is one important change that will be made to anime reviews here, starting today onwards. The anime’s director performance will also be reviewed in the story section, instead of being grouped with the animation evaluations. Should make things easy for me onwards.

Story:-
In a fictional 19th century European setting, our main male protagonist and his automata doll (a.k.a. the main female protagonist) enrolls in a special school in England (presumably) where students are taught how to use those said dolls for various purposes. The main male protagonist does not come to the school for learning anything though, instead he was there for revenge against the strongest student of the said school that has murdered his whole family.

The first thing I noticed when watching this anime is the terrifyingly fast pacing in the first episode. So many events and expositions were crammed into a single episode; the first episode can give the first season of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei series a run for its money. More interestingly, this anime can actually gets away with that fast pacing, unlike the aforementioned first season of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and others, like the second season of Nodame Cantabile. The director (who had also directed a fair number of hentai titles) really has done well in this regard.

At first, I think the fast pacing will continue in the subsequent episodes, which would be bad for this anime, but fortunately it doesn’t. The pacing gradually slowed down to a rate I find acceptable for the multi-arc plots that this anime has. This continues until the end of the anime of course. The pacing does sometimes dropped below acceptable rate in the final arc, but I think I will gloss over that one for once.

The storyline in this anime is good, especially the first arc. With only 13 episodes, there are only two story arcs in this anime after the whirlwind introductory first episode. This means this anime has less chances to screw up story-wise, and this is very helpful at keeping this anime from descending to Strike the Blood’s level.

What does not help this anime’s cause is the weak main characters, specifically the two main protagonists. If compared to a similarly themed Rozen Maiden series that has a somewhat decent main male protagonist and far more interesting dolls, the difference is stark. In this anime, the doll has a one-dimensional character, a weakness that really drags her characterization down. Meanwhile, for a character that is hell-bent on revenge, he is surprisingly indecisive and has some problems when it comes to decision making, a problem that manifested itself more often in the final arc, less so in the first one.

Therefore, this anime can be said to be more story-driven instead of being reliant of characters’ strength, because there are no outstanding character(s) here. For example, character developments for the two main protagonists is practically nil. The main male protagonist’s state at the end of the anime is basically the same seen in the very first scene of the first episode. The main female protagonist fare barely better. In fact, the silver-haired big-breasted character who owned a lot of dogs that is prominent in the first arc has more character developments than them.

The presentation aspects in this anime is good. As mentioned above, this anime actually gets away with the fast pacing in the first episode and successfully transitioned into more reasonable pace in latter episodes. The flow of the storyline is also good, whether within the arcs themselves or between arcs. A definite advantage over Strike the Blood for sure. In this anime that features extensive CGI animations, the director did not take advantage of the technology to use any over-the-top unconventional camera works and scene compositions, unlike what I have seen in this year’s 3D-only God Eater that is better at utilizing it. In this anime full of action scenes, the quality of choreography is mixed bag; some scenes has good action sequences, others doesn’t.

This anime ends with the main premise still unfinished, and I suspect there are still plenty of plots still waiting to be presented. But even after 2 years, there are still no news for a second season, and I suspected again that this anime will not get one. I do not think this anime deserved one either.

Character Design:-
Character designs in this CGI-dominated world is actually very good, the only exception would be the main male protagonist. This anime is a promising proof that character designs will not suffer even when the industry transitions away from traditional 2D animation. A positive aspect for this anime.

Voice Acting:-
Unlike the animations and character designs, voice acting in this anime is solid but conservative. This at least prevents the major mistake seen in Strike the Blood, but consequently there are no outstanding voice acting gigs in here.

Music:-
This is an aspect of this anime where nothing really go well. The OST and the ED theme is forgettable; the former being that way is really a drawback for this anime. Only the OP theme is better, but only then only average in quality by my standards.

Animation:-
As implied by what I have said above, this anime is primarily done via CGI, with little bits of 2D traditional animation sequences, but a lot of static backgrounds not unlike Princess Lover!  Character animations needs a lot of work though; CGI character animations in this anime is smooth but too lackadaisical in movement speed. Integration between those CGI and 2D animations, when available, is not seamless though.

Conclusion:-
7 out of 10.
One of the pioneers of anime titles that used mostly CGI as the method of animation. This is not exactly a bad thing, especially if animation studios can fix the zombie-like character movements. Although I vastly prefer computer-generated 2D animations techniques that couple of anime titles reviewed here have used.

Shortlink: https://wp.me/prgSo-Hn

The second 2013 title in this blog’s ‘Anime of the Year 2013’ audition that I decided to watch and then review today would be yet another anime with a long title titled Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo?. Completely different when it comes to plot when compared to the first title in the audition, the long-titled Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru, can the shortest anime series in this audition be able to challenge the surprise early front-runner of this audition in the form of the latter? By the way, this review will be the only third one that doesn’t have any screenshots.

Story:-
Three gifted teenagers from three different parallel worlds was invited into ‘The Garden’, a mystical fantasy world vastly different from their own versions of Japan. In The Garden, the gifted teenagers that comes from different eras of Japan will get to alleviate their boredoms  by participating in ‘Gift Games’ hosted by the powerful and (in)famous characters in that world. Therefore the three teenagers started to have it their own way and fighting their way through those games, with varying results.

Storywise, this anime is a fast starter compared to Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru, with the first five episodes of this anime being better than the first 5 episodes of the latter. Unlike the latter though, this anime does not improve in its final five episodes therefore, Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru has better final 5 episodes than this anime. This doesn’t mean that the quality of the plots of this anime has plunged in the those last 5 episodes, it is just that the plot barely improved in quality in those episodes.

Now the biggest question I have for this anime is ‘Why this anime has only 10 episodes?’. The way this anime’s screenplay was written AND THEN presented to the viewers, it is as if this anime has been truly planned to have at least 24 or 26 episodes (2 cours) instead of only 10. If the director knows that this anime has only 10 episodes, why is that he/she lets the writer wrote the story the way it is currently seen now? The second season of Hakuouki Hekketsu-roku also have 10 episodes, but at least its plot was written exactly to fit into those meager 10 episodes at the cost of pacing.

This is a pity because this anime could have turned out to become a very good action title. Just like Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru, this anime do still has a lot of potential still left in its storyline. The setting of ‘The Garden’ is excellent and can provide plenty of inspiration for the writer to draw more decent-quality plots out of it. The ending of this anime then feels like it ends abruptly, which is understandable because in any other action anime title, its ending will be commonly seen as an end to an arc, not an end to an anime series or season(s).

Considering the 10-episode nature of this anime, the pacing of this anime is very good. Not like the very fast pacing of Hakuouki Hekketsu-roku reviewed here before. The flow of the storyline is also great, better even than Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru. While this anime doesn’t have any characters that is on the same level of Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru’s main male protagonist, the developments of the characters in this anime are more balanced than in the former. Again I do have a feeling that the character developments of the 3 Japanese teenagers are devised on the premise that this anime would need at least 2 cours to be executed properly.

Just like Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru, there are no second season planned for this anime yet as of writing. I do think this anime do deserve one with much higher episode count. At least this anime is much more watchable, unlike another anime title reviewed here that also doesn’t have any screenshots in it…

Character Design:-
The character designs for the two female Japanese teenagers whisked away from their parallel worlds is good, especially for the one that can talk to animals. The design for the only male character is ordinary unlike his awesomely powerful gift. In ‘The Garden’ there are very few black-haired characters in it, but instead has plenty of real cat and rabbit ears on humanoid forms. This anime has done better than Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru in this regard, but then again the ‘The Garden’ settings really helps this anime here.

Voice Acting:-
The voice acting gigs in this anime is good overall. Characters whose voice actors has done outstanding job includes the girl that come from the post-war Japan and also the white-haired Floor Master. The other two teenagers are good though voice-acting-wise, but quite far behind them. Other recurring characters too doesn’t have any gigs that is not at least above-average in level. This anime has definitely done better than Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru in this aspect.

Music:-
Unlike Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru, this anime has very good soundtrack. But just like Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru, this anime has crappy OP and ED themes. And insert themes too. This anime is barely better than Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru I suppose in this aspect.

Animation/Direction:-
This anime employed the blurry animation technique which will result on 1-point docking from this anime final evaluation score. Apart from that, general animation quality of this anime is at least flawless, but there are times when character animations is going to be jerky. No problem with character composition unlike Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru. Integration between traditional 2D animation and CGI sequences is excellent.

Choreography in action scenes is below average though; a blip for this anime. Apart from the suspect editorial decision I have mentioned in the story section above, the director has done a very good job for this anime, especially for its presentation.

Conclusion:-
7 out of 10.
This probably would have done well with more episodes. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru still remains a surprise front-runner in this audition, I hope other titles in the audition can do challenge it in the future.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/prgSo-BU

The final anime series I watched in 2012 is the spiritual prequel of Accel World, titled Sword Art Online, but I only get to write the review for it a year later. While aired later than the former, the latter’s source novel actually comes out in Japan first, which makes sense actually. This review will be the only second entry in my blog, since Starship Operators, that will not have any screenshots, Starship Operators is an excellent sci-fi space anime title that has earned a very respectable score of 9 out of 10. If Sword Art Online can repeat what Starship Operators have done, it may have a great chance to dethrone the current Anime of the Year 2012 holder, Another, which incidentally also has the same score. You must be wondering now if this anime, apparently HorribleSubs’ favorite title in 2012, can actually do so or not. Therefore you should just continue reading this blog entry.

Story:-
20 years before the events in Accel World, people in Japan are still hanging on their iPhones and Samsung Galaxies (and maybe Nokia Lumia too?) touch-based smartphones. But any semi-intelligent shareholders of Apple and Samsung should have started to short their shares in those companies, because a certain genius guy named Kayaba Akihiko has invented a certain device called Nerve Gear (which I believe is the precursor of the neuro linker in Accel World). The killer app for the said Nerve Gear is the virtual-reality MMORPG titled Sword Art Online, which is also created by Kayaba Akihiko. Sold out faster than iPhone 5, 10,000 players then login into the game’s world, and right on the start, those people within the group of 10,000 that has played the (ancient by then) .hack JRPG series will start to have the feeling of déjà vu. I wonder if the main male protagonist is one of those people.

Imagine the crossover between the main male protagonists of Sacred Seven and Little Battler Experience, and you will get the main male protagonist of this anime. Or if you haven’t seen both of those anime titles, this anime main male protagonist is comparable to an overpowered Squall Leonhart of Final Fantasy 8 J-RPG. In fact, if you ask me, this anime’s main male protagonist is more similar to Squall Leonhart than the hero of Sacred Seven is. And this is true, character-wise and also story-wise.

The reason why I focused on the main male protagonist’s similarity with Squall Leonhart is because, just like Final Fantasy 8, the ups and downs of both Sword Art Online and Final Fantasy 8 correlates with the blatantly identical character regressions of their main male protagonists, with romance (a.k.a. the main female protagonists of both titles) being the main culprit in both occasions. Man, this anime ripped off Final Fantasy 8 more than it does the .hack franchise. At the start of the anime, the main male protagonist is the brooding emo type of character that is shrouded in darkness (and this has nothing to do with his dark outfit) and during that period, this anime is actually better than Accel World. But when the writer of this anime take a leaf from Final Fantasy 8 and turned the ‘lonely emo boy Kirito’ into ‘lover boy Kirito’, this anime’s chances to become better than Accel World in the end evaporated.

This anime’s storyline can be roughly divided into 3 phases; the first one taking the first 7 episodes or something. As I watched this phase that takes up the first seven episodes or something, I have started to wonder whether this anime will take a very divergent path away from Accel World and tried to become episodic slice-of-life anime series instead of Accel World’s typical shounen genre. Still, in this phase, the main male protagonist is still in his ‘more acceptable’ form. But just like in Final Fantasy 8, the poison that is the main female protagonist started to infest the series and the main male protagonist with her vileness.

This is startlingly apparent in the second episode in the second phase – the phase where Sword Art Online was finally completed – when the main male protagonist does what Squall Leonhart has never done, and that would be soloing a boss fight. It was at the aftermath of that boss fight that I realized that the clinger that is the main female protagonist’s sole function is to try her hardest to turn this anime into the romance territory, dragging the main male protagonist down the rabbit hole with her. Unfortunately for this anime, he meekly acquiesce, just like Squall Leonhart did in Final Fantasy 8. The less said about the third arc, where the main male protagonist has to save the main female protagonist in another Nerve Gear-based MMORPG, the better. At that arc, I’m pretty sure this anime has become Final Fantasy 8 Mark II already. Why the Nerve Gear isn’t banned after the Sword Art Online was finished is beyond me, the Japanese government in this anime sure are masochists unlike the version in real world.

In the second phase, this anime do stop its slice-of-life tendencies seen in the first phase and started to have a real proper storyline where the toxic duo finished the game that trapped 10,000 people. This second phase alone have more plots in it than the whole of Accel World, and this is one part where this anime has done better than the latter. The story is actually quite good too if I were to ignore really hard the two main protagonists that is literally connected at the hip (you will know what I mean if you watch this anime yourself). Even better than the one shown so far in Accel World. The story in the third phase is even better, again if you can ignore the two main protagonists here. In the third phase, the main male protagonist is a hopeless case already, but the plot in that phase is even better than the one in second phase.

But while the storyline in this anime is better than Accel World’s, this anime do have many issues that the latter also has. One of them is deus ex machina moments which shows the writer’s inability to manage the overpowered main male protagonist. The writer is not alone though, his/her counterpart in Little Battlers eXperience also does the same mistake. But the second Accel World’s issue that this anime also has is forced melodramatic moments, and this anime does this way worse than Accel World has ever managed. Remember the scene after the boss battle I mentioned above? That’s one of them. Other cringe-worthy scenes that can also be included in this list is the one between the main male protagonist and his sister after their online identities was revealed, and also the one about the A.I. fairy after the two main protagonists get married. At least there are no plot-holes though.

Also unlike Accel World, this anime has a better mix of character developments and storytelling. It (the mix) could have been better if not for the fact this anime has quite a glacial character development relative to many anime titles out there that I have reviewed that isn’t Accel World. For example, the main male protagonist’s character development is glacial when compared to the Gundam AGE first arc’s protagonist, and comparable to the overpowered main protagonist of Little Battlers eXperience. Also just like the main male protagonist, the main female protagonist also has woeful character progression, although if I consider her actual role, that should be expected. Now which character has good developments in this anime again? Oh wait, there none that I can remember!

Still, this anime didn’t repeat Accel World’s mistake of neglecting storytelling, and that’s can only be a good thing in this romance-infested title. Therefore, I decided to just apply the romance genre handicap to this title, because the romance elements in this anime has a more central role unlike in Accel World. It has been more than two years since I last used this tag. Two long years! Maybe I should watch more romance genre anime titles in the future.

The pacing of the storyline in this anime is excellent, and the same thing can also be said for the flow. The ending is ruined by yet another deus ex machina moment in the final battle, but that’s nothing compared to the scene of the reunion between the two main protagonists. What a waste of a good story in the third phase of this anime. If this anime has a second season, I will definitely give it a pass. And if Accel World have a second season with a more fleshed out plot, I hope Accel World will not regress the way this anime is.

Character Design:-
Character design in this anime is similar to what is seen in Accel World, which means it (the design) isn’t exactly outstanding. There are no characters in this anime that is remotely similar to the main male protagonist of Accel World though. Kayaba Akihiko’s decision to make players adopt their real look in Sword Art Online is a good one too, and assuming that the imprisoned players sports their real hair colors, it seems that black hairs are rare in Japan of that era.

Voice Acting:-
One of this anime’s few advantages it has over Accel World is there are no character-ruining voice acting gigs in here. The voice acting of this anime’s main female protagonist is far better than her counterpart in Accel World, and is actually above average. Yes, this is also the only aspect where the main female protagonist is better than her opposite number. In general this anime’s voice acting gigs are better than Accel World’s, with more normalized overall voice acting quality. This anime’s main male protagonist is just average in this regard, not unlike his counterpart in Accel World. Good voice acting gigs here can be heard from the aforementioned main female protagonist and also the villain of the third phase arc.

Music:-
If voice acting in this anime is better than the one in Accel World, the reverse is true when it comes to soundtracks. At best, the OST of this anime is simply forgettable, and nowhere as good as Accel World’s. Damning for this anime too is the fact that all of its OP/ED themes are not exactly different than the OST too. All the shit thrown to the wall and nothing sticks. At least Accel World still has  couple of victories in this department.

Animation/Direction:-
This anime doesn’t use the blurry animation technique that Accel World employed, so that’s a big win for this anime. The quality of the animation is good, and that’s about it. Choreography of action scenes in this anime is better than in Accel World too; another win for this anime. The directing in this anime is better too; a great feat considering the train wreck of a relationship.

Conclusion:-
4 out of 10. This anime is so totally ruined by the worst theme of romantic relationship I have ever seen in an anime title. Will not look forward to a second season, unlike Accel World, and just like Minami-ke. But I will make an exception if this anime pulled a leaf from Princess Lover playbook and make a special OVA exactly for that ‘scene’. Princess Lover also scored 4 out of 10, but its unrevieweable OVA is better. Sword Art Online OVA anyone? By Subdesu-H fansub group?

Shortlink: http://wp.me/prgSo-AV