The Spring of Utter Disappointment – Akuma no Riddle

Yes this blog still exists and I did not die.

So anyway. I don’t normally do negative reviews because normally if I hate a show I stop watching it pretty early on, so there’s nothing to review. Unfortunately for me, my patience is greatly extended if the show I’m watching and hating happens to be yuri, or at least is claimed to be. As such, I trudged through all of Akuma no Riddle. What did I think of it? See title. Also thank god Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san came out in the spring too. I’ve been using that to cheer myself up after how bad Akuma no Riddle was.

Before I start tearing it apart, I should probably explain the premise. In Akuma no Riddle, there are 13 students in a specific class in a private academy. The class is known as “Class Black” and all but 1 of the 13 students are assassins. The one who isn’t is the assassins’ target and it’s basically a game of who kills her first. The winner gets fabulous prizes, whatever their heart desires essentially. But one of the assassins decides she likes the target and will protect her instead of also trying to kill her.

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From here on out there is potential for spoilers, so if for whatever reason you want to actually watch this show, stop reading.

 

 

 

 

 

So why did I hate Akuma no Riddle so much? Lots of reasons, but probably the first issue I ran across was the absolutely insufferable main character. So, this charmer here is Tokaku Azuma. She has no personality besides that she’s supposedly a ~cold blooded killer~ because her family is a famous family of assassins. That’s nice. Too bad they raised an utterly incompetent failure and tried to pass her off as a big deal in this show. Cool. It’s revealed pretty early on that Tokaku is a “virgin”. As in she’s never killed anyone. She’s apparently “cursed” so that she can’t kill, and the nature of said “curse” is absolutely idiotic and when they finally reveal what the deal is it’s basically the least dramatic thing ever.

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Look at this nerd

But anyway, point is that Tokaku has no personality besides being “tough” and “stoic”, but the problem is that characters who have that image are supposed to actually be competent. Tokaku “falls in love with” Haru (but never actually comes close to wording it that way), and decides to protect her, but holy shit her “protection” is essentially useless. She lets Haru wander around at night. In a school of assassins who want to kill her. She leaves their dorm room (since they conveniently share a room), making it easy for an assassin to come into the room while she’s away. One of the assassins is actually able to get a collar with a bomb in it around Haru’s neck while Tokaku is right there. Tokaku, you are garbage and you can’t protect anything and you don’t even have a personality, please stop ruining this show.

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Yeah pretty much

Except Tokaku alone isn’t why this show is bad. There are enough interesting characters in Akuma no Riddle that one of them being terrible, even if she is the protag, is something I can tolerate. But no, it has other glaring flaws. For instance, why is Haru still alive despite the incompetence of her protector? Because most of the assassins are incompetent as all hell, too! What a surprise. In the case of one of them, her entire deal is that she wants to pull off this hit because she doesn’t want to be an assassin anymore, so her wish will be to stop being an assassin. Seriously? I mean okay so she was raised in an orphanage that raises assassins so stopping on her own wouldn’t be easy, but that is such a ridiculous backstory I can’t even deal with it. Then there were such brilliant attempts on Haru’s life as the girl who nearly killed herself and barely even scratched Haru in a method that was meant to kill everyone involved, the bomb collar girl who then turned it into a game and gave such an excessive number of hints that it led Tokaku and Haru to being able to save her when if the assassin would’ve just kept her mouth shut she would’ve won, etc. It felt like watching exercises taking place in assassin kindergarten.

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gayest it gets

Moving past all that, we also have the fact that this show was officially marketed as yuri, and as far as I’m concerned that was a total lie. Maybe I was just spoiled by Sakura Trick back in the winter, where girls actually kiss each other, but I don’t really consider a show where one girl out of nowhere decides to protect the girl she’s supposed to kill, and the only reason she gives is “she’s important to me”, then it’s just lame attempts to assassinate that girl being thwarted by an equally lame protector to actually be yuri. Haru comes out and admits feelings for Tokaku in an indirect way in the end of the show, and two of the other assassins are clearly demonstrated to be in love at one point, but that’s it. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not much. Now, this aspect is why I trudged through this disappointment of a show. I genuinely believed there would be a payoff. But there was not. Needless to say, this soured me to it quite a bit.

 

The absolute worst part, however, was the ending. Towards the end of the show we got some pretty satisfying fights, including Haru herself taking out an overly powerful cyborg of a woman that ended in said cyborg falling off a building several stories tall. But then, at the very end of a show about assassins, everyone is alive. Haru was stabbed but it was explained away that she survived because her ribs had been replaced and were no made out of titanium. Okay, given the circumstances, that’s believable. Hanabusa somehow survived that several story fall, but okay she is a damn cyborg, I guess I can buy that. But then the two side characters that fell in love with each other are also alive. These two died via poisoned swords. They died in the middle of performing Romeo and Juliet and were playing the lead roles. They were both stabbed and poisoned, them surviving makes no sense, and it also cheapens the hell out of their story. At that point I regretted sitting through this piece of trash show.

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Accurate depiction of how nonsensical the ending was

Now, of course there were some positives, or else I would’ve bailed on this show, “yuri” or not. The main one I can think of is that a lot of the other characters besides Tokaku are very enjoyable, and one of them is Haru herself. Now, I’m sure plenty of people hate her, she’s kind of naive and kind of dumb, but at least to me her sheer optimism was just too charming for me to not like her. Isuke, a pink-haired assassin who was one of the actual competent ones, won my heart with her attitude and sharp tongue, and she at the very least didn’t disappoint. She went out with a bang, actually giving us a solid fight before leaving, along with Banba, another assassin I liked quite a bit who has a split personality that comes out at night. Honestly, there were only a couple assassins that I didn’t like. Also, the teacher, who was completely out of the loop on the whole assassins thing, was absolutely adorable and hilarious and wound up being one of my favorite characters. Also episode 6, the one in which the two assassins fall in love with each other, is very touching and sweet and heartbreaking, probably the best episode in the show. The last 3 or 4 episodes leading up to the end are also excellent, but then ultimately the ending betrays all of that by being so bad.

Redeeming qualities of the show in a nutshell

Redeeming qualities of the show in a nutshell

In short, Akuma no Riddle was a total disappointment.

Fate/Stay Night and why it isn’t worse than Fate/Zero

Okay, so. I know I’ve neglected this blog for a while. I’ve been lazy, doubting my validity as a writer, etc. But I’m going to try to stop being stupid about this again. Besides, I have a thing I want to write about right now. Something I’m currently very passionate about. That thing is Fate/Stay Night.

 

You may remember a while back I did a review of the Fate route. It took me forever to actually finish this VN, but now, years later, I actually have, and I have a lot to say.

 

Honestly, the biggest thing driving me to write this is actually the popularity of the Fate/Zero anime. I agree with everyone who thought it was excellent. It was. I’m glad it’s bringing more people into Type Moon’s works. Type Moon does excellent work and more people should expose themselves to it. However, I’ve noticed a trend among some Fate/Zero fans who have no other exposure to the Fate/ universe that has been frustrating the living hell out of me for ages now. That trend is, of course, to bash Fate/Stay Night while praising Fate/Zero.

 

This post is about why those people are wrong.

 

No, I am not going to tell you that you have to like Fate/Stay Night because it’s the original. That is absurd. Instead, I am going to point out why Fate/Stay Night is a finely crafted story and not at all throwaway like so many people are suggesting now. Expect spoilers for both Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Zero.

 

A common complaint I see levied against Fate/Stay Night is that its characters aren’t complex enough compared to Fate/Zero’s. This is the most egregious attack Fate/Stay Night gets and I am beyond tired of it.

 

Yes, Fate/Zero’s characters are delightfully complex. Kiritsugu is a prime example, given what a divisive character he is among fans. Some people identify with him while others detest him. The same goes for Kotomine, his foil. Very few characters can be completely written off as “evil”, or “bad”. Not even Caster and Ryuunosuke really can, as they have a sort of charisma that makes them likable despite being serial killers. I’d say that only Zouken and possibly Kayneth can truly be written off as entirely detestable (and if anyone here likes Zouken, please go play the Heaven’s Feel route of Fate/Stay Night, then get back with me). Nor are any of the characters in Fate/Zero entirely likable. Even the iconic Saber has her morals called into question. Though it is certain that neither she nor many other cast members can be called evil by any stretch, the majority of them make rather questionable decisions at some point in the series itself or in their pasts. Pretty much only Irisviel can truly be considered innocent (and to some even she can’t entirely since her relationship with her husband’s servant seems a bit too friendly. Maybe my lily tinted glasses are on too tight, though).

But on what planet is all of this not also true for Fate/Stay Night? The actual story of Fate/Stay Night is complex and leaves quite a few questions of morality to ponder. For instance, is Kotomine evil? You may say “yes, of course he is, look at what he did to those orphans!”, but there’s so much more to him than that. Kotomine throughout the whole of Fate/Stay Night is far more complex than Kotomine as he is in Fate/Zero. Kotomine is a man who genuinely wanted to be moral and good and upright. It was the way he was raised, after all. But he discovered that the things that bring him happiness are the things believed to be wrong. In Fate/Zero this revelation is what brings him to the forefront as a villain, but it’s so much more in Fate/Stay Night, particularly in the Heaven’s Feel route. Kotomine does have some values that are actually quite beautiful, particularly that someone or something cannot be judged as good or evil before it is born.

 

Even fairly minor enemy Servants like Rider and Caster are portrayed as having more to them than just good or evil. Caster in particular is a far more complex character than she appears to be at first glance. So, she’s draining life force from innocent people? Using methods of deception? Evil, clearly! Except no. She’s not killing any innocent people. She doesn’t drain enough of their life forces to actually kill them. Also, we see a softer side of her at times, particularly her death in Unlimited Blade Works. She genuinely loves Soiichiro, and just wants to enjoy this fleeting happiness she’s been granted via this Grail War. Her life was pretty awful and generally involved her being used as a scapegoat. She just wanted to be loved for once, really. Even though she’s painted as a villain, it’s kind of hard to truly call her evil. Rider, meanwhile, is beyond sympathetic. Especially once you get to Heaven’s Feel. She’s remorseful about having to use Bellerophon on her pegasus to make him fight. She detests Shinji and truly cares about her true master, Sakura. She’s an incredibly loyal and trustworthy servant. Shirou may feel like she’s evil, but even her alignment, chaotic good, says otherwise.

 

I feel as though the most interesting example of twisting a character into ambiguity, however, is Alter Saber. It’s true that it was an outside force that warped her, but nevertheless, in Fate/Stay Night, even the glorious, righteous King Arthur can be corrupted and made irredeemable. Her becoming a force of evil was irreversible, thus making her fall from grace all the more tragic. It’s also noteworthy that it was her own arrogant decision, separating herself from her master in order to protect him without bothering to hear his input, that led to her fall. This indicates that it wasn’t just some random outside force that she couldn’t help, and it gives the feeling that Alter Saber is a dark side that Saber had inside her all along.

 

Fate/Stay Night has a reputation for being “just” an eroge, “just” moe garbage, not as good as Fate/Zero, et cetera. However, none of this is true. Anyone who is writing Fate/Stay Night off for it having sex scenes is completely misguided. This is a 40+ hour game, and the sex scenes make up 2 hours of that time or less. There are 2 sex scenes in the Fate route, one in Unlimited Blade Works, and 4 or 5 in Heaven’s Feel. None of them are that long. The majority of the game is plot, and honestly, there are more unnecessary cooking scenes then there are unnecessary sex scenes.

 

I can come up with plenty more specifics, but basically the point is that Fate/Stay Night is every bit as deep and multi-faceted as Fate/Zero is.

 

Also I honestly think it’s a shame that most people’s knowledge of Fate/Stay Night seems to essentially be limited to the Fate route. I don’t know if it’s because people don’t bother with the VN and just watch the godforsaken anime, or because people get tired of the VN’s length and drop it after the Fate route, or what, but basically in general I wish more people would pay attention to Heaven’s Feel. That route pretty much takes everything you know about Fate/Stay Night, punches it in the stomach, and laughs in its face. Gilgamesh is taken out in one blow. Saber becomes evil. Kotomine is actually more or less a good guy. Et cetera.

This has been a very incoherent excuse for a review. I’m sorry. Also no pictures this time because I don’t have access to my laptop, therefore I also do not have access to the screencaps I took for this.

Yuru Yuri from the prospective of a queer woman

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At a glance, Yuru Yuri looks like your typical moe show but with yuri flavoring for the otaku dudes who prefer the “pure love between two women” to claiming fictional women as their “waifu”. It’s a slice of life school show with moe girls, after all. There are at least three tsundere girls in this show, after all. Hell, one character is even an otaku herself, not to mention a doujinka! But, as a woman who likes other women, I saw some other things in this show.

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The main thing is rather specific. There’s an episode in season 2 where Yui asks Chinatsu out, just the two of them, on what can be presumed to be a date. Chinatsu has been head over heels for Yui for most of the series, so of course she’s elated. But during the date, she starts noticing all of the couples around them…all of which are heterosexual. She starts doubting herself. Is it weird for her to have feelings for Yui? Is it right? Would Yui be creeped out by this (as if she hasn’t noticed)? Et cetera. By the end of the episode, however, she realizes that no, there’s nothing wrong here, her feelings are legitimate and she shouldn’t feel bad about them.

This episode caused a bit of a shitstorm with the fans. People even went so far as to say it was a homophobic episode. That attitude honestly pisses me off.

I like my escapist yuri where the girls are all lesbians and no one questions it plenty. After all,isn’t that how the world should be? Not that all girls are lesbians, but that it isn’t looked upon negatively when someone happens to not be heterosexual. I wish that was our reality. Thing is, it’s not. Unfortunately, it’s very rare for a yuri title (or a BL title, for that matter) to do anything other than either everyone’s gay escapist fantasy or something where one or more characters incessantly angst about their attraction to the same sex. Of the two, I definitely prefer the former. However, I’d really like it if more series did what that one episode of Yuru Yuri did. It addressed that this isn’t considered “normal” in modern society, but it also concluded that it isn’t wrong. It wasn’t about Chinatsu going into a fit of self loathing over being a lesbian. It was about society’s standards making her doubt herself, but her own conviction in her feelings making her realize that she can’t possibly be doing anything wrong. That was so uplifting for me, and I’m not even a Chinatsu fan.

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The other major thing is also a specific scene. There’s an episode in which we see Sakurako and Himawari, two of the tsundere characters, in their childhood. This episode had a scene showing that they didn’t always fight. In fact, as little girls, they got their hands on the copy of a marriage registration form. They filled it out and declared that they would marry each other when they grew up, then, after a small tiff over “who has to be the husband”, they decided they would both be the wife. There is so much here that made my rainbow-colored heart soar, just in this sweet little scene of young love blossoming. Watching little kids with crushes on each other is usually pretty cute, especially when they’re innocent lesbians who haven’t faced the outside world’s hatred yet. The most incredible part of this scene, though, was actually when Sakurako scratched out the line that said “husband” and wrote in a second line that said “wife”. Why? So often LGBT couples, both in fiction and real life, are shoved into heteronormative roles, insisting one partner must be the “man” and the other the “woman”. This is bullshit (assuming both partners identify as their biological genders, issues relating to transgender individuals are another topic entirely that aren’t relevant here, as all of the characters in Yuru Yuri are biologically female and self-identify as female). It’s very offensive, and it’s yet another manifestation of homophobia that shows up in anime fandom. You know, all of those male/male pairing wedding fanarts that put the “uke” in a dress. Pretty often it happens with the “tachi” girl in a yuri pairing in a suit, too, which is acceptable on some occasions when the character in question would be far more likely to prefer to wear pants. But nevertheless, neither partner in a female/female relationship is the “husband”, and I loved that Yuru Yuri acknowledged that in a scene that was already melting my heart with cuteness.

I also enjoyed there being a relationship in which two tsundere characters are tsundere for each other, but then I never claimed to not like moe, otaku bait elements, did I?

Asobi ni iku yo! More to it than kitties and titties, I promise

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Okay, how many times have we seen a cute girl alien fall to Earth? Quite a few. How many times does said cute girl run into a relatively average guy after landing on earth and latch onto him? Most of them. How many times does the series proceed to become a fanservice-y harem show in which the alien girl and a handful of other alien and/or human girls all fight over said average guy? Again, most of the time. How many times does the show then proceed to become a sci fi and otaku reference gag comedy with lots of action scenes? …Not very often, but that’s what Asobi ni iku yo!, titled Cat Planet Cuties by FUNimation, does. This show is certainly one that will appeal to people who want ecchi fanservice and harem shows. With both busty women and those with more humble assets, both of the catgirl and ordinary human variety, and plenty of gratuitous camera angles of all of them, it’s kind of  given. However, this show has more to it than that, surprisingly enough.

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Eris, the adorable catgirl with “imported goods”, as some of the Japanese female characters put it, comes from the planet Earth. Yeah, kind of a funny coincidence, there; the cat aliens call their planet the same thing we do. As such, they changed it to Catia to avoid confusion. So correction; Eris, the adorable catgirl with “imported goods”, comes from the planet Catia. She is here on a mission of a friendly nature; survey the culture of the Earthlings, and potentially establish formal intergalactic relations with them should they be deemed suitable for it. Thing is, when she set out for Earth she kind of forgot to pack food. Luckily, she can apparently communicate with normal cats, because she runs into a cat named Aura who directs her to its family, telling her they’ll surely feed her.

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Luckily for Eris, the cat’s tip-off is a good one. She finds herself treated to what appears to be something similar to a barbecue party on the beach, with lots of meat and lots of alcohol. Not that she should have been served alcohol, since she’s only 16, but whatever. This is when she meets Kio, the boy she ultimately ends up living with. His uncle was the host of that little barbecue party. Cue the awkward-around-girls embarrassed protagonist meeting cute chick with kitty ears, being awkward around her, and—surprise!—ultimately offering to let her stay at his house for a while. Okay, pretty predictable.

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What isn’t predictable, though, is the actual first scene of that show. It isn’t that. It isn’t anything to do with Eris or Kio at all. It’s actually a scene of the female assassin known as Charmed Momiji carrying out a mission. This scene is essentially an action-packed gun battle, and actually a pretty good taste of what quite a bit of the series will ultimately be like. Charmed Momiji is actually Aoi Futaba, a cute and shy girl that’s known Kio for a while now. They’re classmates and they seem to have bonded over a shared love for sci fi movies.

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Know who else loves sci fi movies? Maki Itokazu, one of Kio’s teachers. She’s just a side character, but she’s worth mentioning for one reason; she is part of one of the most hilarious factions in this story; the Beautiful Contact organization. As the series progresses, quite a few factions end up in various sorts of conflict. Charmed Momiji’s organization, the CIA via Manami Kinjou, Kio’s childhood friend who is busty, gun-crazed, and dreams of joining the CIA as a full fledged member and is in training with them when the series begins….and then the crazier ones. The Beautiful Contact organization is a terrorist group make up of…

 

Uh.

 

Crazed sci fi nerds who don’t think Eris is a cool enough looking alien to be the first alien to make contact with the Earth and be officially acknowledged by world governments.

 

Yeah. They went there. And it is glorious.

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Not to be outdone by the crazed sci fi nerds, however, is the religious cult known as The Underside of the Kitten’s Paw. This group, ran by a young girl multimillionaire with little else to do with her time, is basically your standard anime convention weeaboo amped up to 11. They worship kitty ears. As in, this is their religion. To them, the supreme being is someone with cat ears and a tail that are actual parts of their body and not just headbands and the like. So in other words, to them Eris is basically the coming of God to these people.

 

Yeah. Worst (best?) religious cult ever.

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Finally, we have the actual antagonist of this series. Janes comes from the planet Dogishua. Care to guess what sort of animal-eared people live on this planet? Yup, totally not obvious at all. Nor is it obvious that the inhabitants of this planet have a bit of a rivalry with Catia. Apparently the Dogishuans have had a trading treaty with Earth for a while and feel threatened by the Catian advances, so Janes, Dogishua’s ambassador to Earth, tries to block Catia’s way to establishing relations with Earth by any means necessary. Unfortunately, she pretty quickly becomes a Team Rocket-esque figure. That is, until the final battle, but I won’t give further details, as that’s actually a very well done climax for the show.

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As excellent as all of the showdowns between the factions who want to claim Eris for various reasons are, the show is still a harem. Eris, Aoi, and Manami all have their eye on Kio for some inexplicable reason. Sure, he’s kind of cute, but he’s not really the type that sexy women like these three would normally go for, despite being more interesting and less virginal than most harem protags (he even owns porn!). Though, as odd as their attraction to Kio seems, it does come off as sincere and sweet.

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Speaking of the harem aspect of this show, one unusual thing about how the girls’ feelings are handled is that Manami has already given up on her chances with Kio. Instead of going for him, she decides to try to help Aoi, because apparently she’d rather anyone than Eris have him for some inexplicable reason. It’s interesting to see a character act like that in a harem title. It’s also interesting to see how Manami and Aoi’s friendship plays out. They didn’t seem to know each other prior to the encounter with Eris, but they bond rather well. Aoi teaches Manami how to properly handle guns, while Manami does her best to teach Aoi how to cook. In general they get to be very good friends despite their differences; Aoi is an introverted nerd at heart, whereas Manami is more boisterous and fairly “normal” aside from her fascination with firearms.

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Honestly, all of the characters are enjoyable to me, including minor characters like the other Catians that show up to assist Eris, the lovely lady of the CIA known as Jack, Miss Itokazu, Sara, the eyepatch-wearing maid of The Underside of the Kitten’s Paw whose obsession with cute things is bordering on ridiculous, Kio’s eccentric uncle, and Jans of Dogishua herself. Although none of these characters get much screentime or development, they’re all enjoyable characters, and very few come off as basic archetypes. Even the ones that do, such as Melwin, the petite and rather kuudere-ish Catian, are still enjoyable additions to the cast in their own right.

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All in all, I cannot recommend this show highly enough. Unless any fanservice or harem elements whatsoever kill a show for you, give Asobi ni iku yo! A try. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by what you find in it.

Why Would You Call it Cat Planet Cuties?

This is a rant about FUNimation’s decision to title Asobi ni iku yo! “Cat Planet Cuties” in its USA release. I will hopefully have an actual review of the show up in the next few days. Until then, enjoy my opinionated rant here. Or argue with me about it.

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FUNimation, why did you choose to change Asobi ni iku yo’s name to Cat Planet Cuties? Why? This was seriously stupid. Now, I’m not upset for any silly reason like faithfulness to the Japanese title or anything like that. I’m upset because it makes the show sound like something it’s not. This is a lot like when Tokyopop changed Kimi wa Petto’s name to Tramps Like Us. It had nothing to do with the manga itself and it made it sound like a cheap porno when really it was a touching, if a bit risque, josei title.

Asobi ni iku yo! is a sci fi comedy that happens to include ecchi harem elements and catgirls. People who can’t stand there being any fanservice whatsoever in their anime won’t like it, sure, but the series has a lot broader of an appeal than one might expect from the cover art. Or from it being called Cat Planet Cuties. Fans of shows from the 80s and 90s with similar themes would probably enjoy this show quite a bit if they knew what it actually was. Unfortunately, making it look sort of like Tenchi Muyo but with cat ears is the best FUNimation has done for it, and it’s still better than that.

It saddens me that this show is going to be passed up by so many people entirely because of the title change and lack of marketing towards the audience that really needs to be told about this show. The sort of people who will be pulled in by a title like Cat Planet Cuties are already going to have their interests piqued by the cover art of Eris. Those people don’t need to have the show heavily marketed to them. The people who would like it for what it is but wouldn’t like it if it was just a generic fanservice show are the people that need to be targeted, and as far as I can see, FUNimation has done more to push them away than draw them in.

Please, do not think I have anything against FUNimation by my saying this. Overall I think they’re a great company and I want to support them. If anyone reading this happens to be a fan of Asobi ni iku yo! and is boycotting it because of the title change, please don’t. This show deserves to be a success, even with the poor choice in titles. That’s actually more or less why I’m writing this; to get the word out there that this is actually a good show. Even if harems and ecchi aren’t normally your thing, if you like comedies with sci fi elements, give this show a try. Seriously.

“I just want to touch it…her brilliance” – A Canaan Review

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Oh, girls with guns shows. It’s kind of interesting how a fairly specific premise like that became its own genre. If someone says “girls with guns show”, you can probably think of at least five titles that fit that description. They tend to be fairly similar in plot, too. Typically at least one girl is raised to be a killing machine. She usually has a rival, who is usually also a girl. From there, there’s a bunch of awesome fight scenes and usually some angst about what a killing machine the girl[s] have become.

 

That is basically Canaan’s plot.

 

However, that certainly doesn’t mean the series isn’t good.

 

It’s not revolutionary, obviously, being a girls with guns standard, but it’s a good girls with guns standard, and that’s what counts. Not everything can be groundbreaking, after all. In fact, this is an attitude among some circles of anime fans that I find maddening; the dismissal of shows that aren’t masterpiece tier works as trivial and unnecessary. But that is another rant for another time.

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When you have an archetypical plot like this, the two most important things are that the characters are compelling and that the storyline is tight, so its typicality doesn’t stand out as badly. Canaan pulls both of these off quite well. The story follows two reporters, Mr. Mino and his apprentice, Maria Osawa. Maria dreams of becoming a great photographer, and as such she’s very excited to receive the opportunity to go with Mr. Mino to Shanghai for an assignment. However, things get a lot messier than either of them expected. They arrive during a festival, which is enjoyable enough…until a shootout happens, anyway. From there, a mysterious woman named Canaan appears, and Maria seems to know her. From there, the reporters find themselves getting entangled in the affairs of a terrorist organization known as Snake, which is led by a woman who is out for Canaan with a personal vendetta, and their work with the mysterious and deadly Ua virus.

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Luckily, both of our leading ladies are enjoyable characters, as is Mr. Mino. Maria is kind of the cute but not very smart character type, yes, but she’s still lovable as a character and not just a cut-out archetype, though she is one of the blander characters, I have to admit. Even without a bombastic personality or a mysterious past or whatever else, though, she is compelling. Maria Osawa is just an ordinary girl finding her place in the world who happens to be surrounded by eccentric and often dangerous people, and that’s exactly how she comes off. If anything, it’s a bit surprising how tough she can be. There are times when she’s fully prepared to die.

 

Mr. Mino pretty rapidly takes a back seat in importance, but he provides much needed tension breaks with his occasional outbursts of energy and skirt-chasing behavior. However, that’s not to say he’s purely a comic relief character. Mr. Mino is involved with this mess as well, and his life is on the line on more than one occasion. Being Maria’s mentor of sorts, he does have a more mature side to him that is capable of giving advice, which is usually quite sound.

 

 Canaan is very cold and methodical, like the badass gun-wielding girls in these shows usually are, but there are other layers to her. Canaan does have emotions. There are people that she cares about, like Maria for instance. In fact, Maria is probably the most important person to Canaan. Any time Maria is in trouble, protecting her becomes Canaan’s only priority, even when she knows she’s running straight into a trap from the enemy. Although she has been conditioned to be an Army of One, she still retains her humanity.

 

The rest of the cast, from equally cold and methodical but far less human Alphard to sadistic and crazy Liang-Chi and masochistic Cummings to repentant Santana and silent Hakko to the eccentric cab driver who doesn’t even have a name, is filled with intriguing characters whose plights are rather hard to not care about.

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One thing I’ve found rather odd is how little recognition this show seems to get among the yuri fan community. It’s pretty hard to not see hints of a romantic relationship between Canaan and Maria. Canaan makes it very clear that Maria is the most important person in the world to her. She will do anything to protect her, because Maria is her light. Maria, meanwhile, so desperately wants to become stronger so she can stand by Canaan’s side as her equal, as someone worthy of being with her. The dialogue does leave itself vague enough to allow for it to be interpreted as simple friendship, of course, but honestly it’s pretty blatant that Maria and Canaan are in love without them actually saying so or kissing on screen or anything. There’s also Liang-Chi’s psychopathic love for her sister Alphard. Though it’s unrequited, they don’t even pull any punches with Liang-Chi’s feelings. Why is this series not a yuri classic? I just don’t get it.

 

This show does have its drawbacks, however. Certain aspects of the plot feel rather hazy, particularly that of the Ua virus and its importance. Instead of feeling like an actual concern, it seems more like an excuse for conflict that is simply shuffled off into the basement, never to be heard from again. Or something.

 

Also, a fairly major plot point is that Canaan has synthesesia, a condition where the senses get mixed up. Some people with it can smell or taste colors. In Canaan’s case, it means she can see a different colored aura around people, and what color it is helps her determine things about the person. It’s actually a rather nifty character quirk, but my issue with it is this; apparently Canaan relies on it to fight. Not it helps her out a little. Not it’s a convenient boost to her abilities. She absolutely requires it to fight. The question is why is it so useful? It doesn’t really do anything except reveal her opponent’s intent to her when she fights. Perhaps that’s all the edge she needs from it, but it would be nice if there was more explanation as to why it’s such a big deal that she gets her ass handed to her if her synthesesia isn’t working for whatever reason. Which is a thing that actually does happen. Then she gets it back. And neither of these happenings make much sense either. Apparently either overusing it and/or the impact of being in a building that gets hit by a missile kills it, and getting the crap kicked out of her by Alphard gives it back. Does this mean she could potentially lose or regain her synthesesia from a bout of particularly rough sex? Ladies and gentlemen, the questions that plague my brain.

 

In short, my feelings on Canaan are generally positive. If you like standard girls with guns shows, you’ll like Canaan. If you’re willing to give the concept of a girls with guns show a chance, you’ll like Canaan. If you hate girls with guns shows, hate lesbians, or expect masterpieces out of everything you watch, you will probably hate Canaan.

An Example of Dubbing Done RIGHT: Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt ep. 1-2 dubbed

Oh hey I have a blog, I almost forgot.

 

Anyway, I was at Anime Central and had the pleasure of attending the Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt dub premiere. This mini review here contains my feelings on it. Enjoy.

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What specifically was screened was the dubbed version of episodes 1 and 2 of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt. In other words, the four short segments “Excretion Without Honor and Humanity”,  “Death Race 2010”, “The Turmoil of the Beehive”, and “Sex and the Daten City”. As such, this means I have no idea what the Demon Sisters or Corset will sound like, but I have a pretty good sampling of everyone else. This is the cast list:

 

Panty – Jamie Marchi

Stocking – Monica Rial

Garterbelt – Chris Sabat

Chuck – Ian Sinclair

Brief  – Joel McDonald

Kneesocks: Cherami Leigh

Scanty: Colleen Clinkenbeard

Corset: Chris Ayres

Fastner: Chris Bevins

 

Personally I’m not too worried about Scanty because I generally like Colleen Clinkenbeard, though I don’t know anything about Cherami Leigh.

Anyway, as for the actual dub? Let me sum up about how the characters sound. Panty sounds like an oversexed bitch. Her voice is lower, pretty similar in pitch to the Japanese, actually, but it doesn’t sound like they’re trying to match pitch with the Japanese like so many awful dubs do. It just seems to me like Jamie Marchi happens to have a similar pitch to Arisa Ogasawa, the original seiyuu, on top of being more or less perfect for the part. Stocking sounds like the rude gothloli that she is. Her voice has a distinctive quality to it that I can’t really describe, but I like it. It definitely suits Stocking. I had a friend who saw the trailer say they expected her to sound more girly, but I have to say what Monica Rial did with her was way better than that would’ve been. Chuck sounds like….Chuck. Yeah. I’m not entirely sure what the point of dubbing him even was, but Ian Sinclair enjoyed the work and it gives another actor some money to eat with, so I’m not complaining. Garterbelt sounds like a flawless combination of a black Southern preacher and a black cop from a cop show. This is extra hilarious given how utterly not black Chris Sabat is. Brief sounds like a nervous wreck and a nerd.

In short, everyone is spot on.

Now, I know a lot of anime fans hate the practice of “fifteening”; when unnecessary swearing that wasn’t in the original dialogue is inserted into a dub to make it sound edgier. Normally, I also hate this practice. However, with Panty and Stocking, it’s more or less necessary, and entirely welcome. I mean, really, it’s Panty and Stocking. Not maximizing the foul language would just be wrong. They’ve managed to include quite a few interesting curses into the dialogue, as well, such as “shit pickle”. Garterbelt has some rather phenomenal lines that I can’t recall to recite verbatim that had me rolling with laughter.

Now is probably a good time to note that, if anyone is still actually worried about censored anime DVDs, it’s been confirmed that Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt’s release will be 100% uncensored. The trailer has bleeps, yes, but that’s since it’s posted on the internet where just about anyone can get to it.

All in all, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt is pretty clearly getting a dub that is both true to the series’ original tone and feel and is excellently executed. Definitely worth picking up.