Time for episode nine of Anime Pocket Reviews, and for the first time in a while we have a triple-header! Three hugely different stories, starting with some light-hearted fun…
The World God Only Knows (S1, 2010, 12x25mins)
Romantic Comedy, Parody, Harem
Keima Katsuragi (main), aka ‘The God of Conquests’, is known across the internet for his ability to win the heart of any girl – in videogames. In real life, Keima is just a kid in glasses that is constantly playing videogames in isolation. One day Keima receives an email offering him a contract to conquer girls. Assuming it to be a videogame challenge he accepts. Turns out he was contacted by a spirit hunter from Hell called Elsie (bottom), who he is now contractually obliged to help. If he doesn’t, he is beheaded by the purple ring that now surrounds his neck. Elsie needs Keima to win the hearts of real girls, and the story follows the two of them as Keima tries to use the skills he’s learned in his legendary gaming life on real girls – including the new college track star, the pop idol and the phony rich girl.
This should not be taken seriously. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not good! This is primarily a comedy, there’s no doubting that, and at times the comedy is really good. I particularly loved its use of completely random, Family Guy-esque cut-scenes which seemed to always deliver. The two characters, and their classic (maybe cliché?) smart, geeky guy meets joyful, airy girl scenario is also, like it or not, good for a few laughs, and really creates the fun element throughout. That being said, it doesn’t go over-the-top with stupid drawings and animations to the point where you think “bleugh, just go way please” as they do a good job of creating the laugh and moving on again to the story.
In terms of story, there is none. Okay there’s a little, as Keima tries to find out where the key to each girl’s heart is (usually lying somewhere in their insecurity) but it’s not of any real relevance. There’s also very minimal character development, as the main two don’t change at all, which to be fair works for this show. There is, however, a good level of interaction between the characters that just about makes this interesting enough to watch through.
Overall, this is definitely a childish piece, and it might be overly childish for some people. However, hidden inside what on the face looks like a cringing example of what people on the street believe Japanimation to be about is some solid comedy. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest people actively search this out, but this show is a great piece of light relief – something you might need after watching these next two shows…
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 (S2, 2008, 25x25mins)
Action, Drama, Tragedy, Mecha, Sci-Fi
Check out our review of Code Geass Season 1 here!
Follows on from Season 1 (SPOILERS AHEAD), where the Black Rebellion led by Lelouch’s Black Nights at the end of S1 has failed. A year has passed, and Zero has gone missing as the Black Knights begin to become overpowered by Britannia’s even more brutal rule over Area 11. Lelouch himself has been brainwashed to forget his life as Zero, and now lives happily as a normal student at Ashford Academy with his brother Rolo. However, C.C and Kallen (who finds out Zero’s identity in the space between S1&2) need him to become Zero again, so attempt to get his memories back. As Zero is re-established, the Black Knights regain their strength and receive help from China and other enemies of Britannia as they attempt to save Japan once again from their evil rule.
My review of season one is quite extensive (in short, I loved it), so I’m going to keep this one shorter so I don’t repeat myself too much.
I think this story just exudes confidence. The first season was pretty big, and is still regarded as one of the best ever made, and the people behind R2 were fully aware of that. The first episode is a prime example of this, where it throws you into a situation where you’re not quite sure what’s going on, and that’s exciting because you want to find out! It’s got strong pacing throughout, and continues its clever storytelling from S1, particularly in the early episodes. Also, R2 has a really strong and powerful finish, possibly one of the most intriguing and exciting finishes to a series I’ve seen in a long time (and a lot better than S1’s ‘non-finish’) that shows again the confidence that the writers had, and the belief that they could really stretch their legs on this!
Same as in the last episode of Anime Pocket Reviews, no sequel would be complete without some minuses. While R2 tries to keep it at the beginning, I think a lot of the ‘fun’ aspect of Code Geass from season one is lost here in R2. This story is a lot bigger and a lot more technical than S1 with more than just two parties at play, and I think it spends a lot of time trying to develop that instead of creating more light-hearted moments which was one of the highlights of season one.
The characters are as exciting and interesting as ever, with many of them appearing to develop further in this series. I particularly liked how Kallen was given more of a role and appeared to become an even stronger character, and the way Zero becomes more evil in R2 was a brave and, I think, really good move! However, while it does touch on it in places, I think there could (possibly should) have been much bigger love interests throughout. The amount of friendships and double-identities again doesn’t let you down, but I think that opened a great opportunity to create some more romantic interests for characters like Kallen (whose interest only lasts for about 2 episodes at the end), Zero, Suzaku and C.C. – all of whom have none or minimal love interests, but do occasionally hint at the possibility.
These criticisms are with a great first season in mind, and I think R2 does a really good job of living up to season one’s standards. It keeps the same formula, and adds (for better or worse) a level of sophistication to the piece. This, along with season one, is a definite must watch!
Your Lie in April (S1, 2014-15, 22x25mins)
Romance, Drama, Tragedy
Your Lie in April follows Kosei Arima (centre-left), a former child prodigy in the piano world famous for his rigid, perfect performances. After the death of his mother, who was his teacher and mentor, he suffers a breakdown which now means he can’t hear the notes when he plays. Kosei, now attending college and having not played ever since his breakdown lives a life without flair, saved from complete isolation by his friends Tsubaki (far right) and Watari (far left). Then he sees the beautiful Kaori (centre-right), a violinist with an incredible sense of freedom and vibrancy that captivates him. Kaori dates his best friend Watari, and with their musical connection tries to help Kosei rediscover what music means to them, and that it’s not about sticking to the score as his late mother taught him.
To put it bluntly, this show is simply beautiful in every sense. The story is heartfelt, and delivered with incredible grace and patience. Your Lie in April uses a lot of inner monologues to help portray the complex emotions, and I’m by no means overstating it when I say that the writing in this story (the majority presumably coming from the manga source material by Naoshi Arakawa) is probably the most beautiful, most poignant I’ve ever heard outside of a book. This is also a very emotional story, with plenty of crying from all the characters. I think there’s at least one cry (and by cry I mean full on tears on the floor anime crying) in each episode.
As you can imagine, this show is dominated by the sound of people playing on the piano, often dramatically. Often the piano makes for a great backing sound to this series, but what I particularly liked was how they worked it around more touchy moments. There are times where people are performing a lively, high tempo piece but the story is talking about something quite depressing, yet they mix the sound with other noises and it works really well! An example of this is where Kosei is seen to be playing the piano underwater as he talks about not being able to hear the notes – the once lively piece of music reduced to nothing more than dull thumping noises in the background.
This emotional story is matched by a drawing style that really helps to bring it to life. The drawing style is actually a really interesting mix of things I’ve seen in other shows. The lines are much sharper, giving a level of detail to the characters and their faces that is hard to match. However, what usually happens in anime is that a sharp drawing style is matched with sharp and bright colours (such as in Code Geass above), however Your Lie in April matches the sharp edges with cool, almost pastel colours. This mix of sharp with soft gives the characters a really true, soft, and honest appeal. The only problem with this style is that it doesn’t lead to the greatest scenery in the background, but this is definitely a case of the positives outweighing the negatives.
Overall, I think this is definitely worth watching, just as an example of what can be done with clever drawing, sound and storytelling. This truly is a show that has something for everyone – great storytelling, great art and great music. The only thing that might put you off is the fact that this is a very emotional story with minimal excitement, and the monologue can come across a bit wishy-washy if you’re not fully invested in the story and the characters.
Talk about shows for every taste! Whether you’re looking for a beautiful love story, an exciting action-drama or just a ditzy comedy, you can’t go far wrong with these three anime.
Since we have three hugely varied anime here, I’m interested to hear what would be your go-to genre. Are you a romance fan? Do you prefer mecha over music? We haven’t seen any sports anime yet. Or is anime all about the fun? Let us know your favourite anime genre in the comments below!
Make sure you follow The Culture Cove to see the best anime reviews before anybody else! Look out for the next episode of Anime Pocket Reviews, featuring the dark and alternatively-drawn God Eater!