Episode 12 is here!!
We’re getting very close to the magic thirty mark in terms of shows watched. When that comes we’ll have a 30 Anime Review, to see if any of the second fifteen shows can take some of the awards off the previous fifteen from 15 Anime Review!
If you haven’t seen the results of our 15 Anime Review awards yet – including Most Stereotypical, Best Drawn and Best Anime – then click here.
For now we have quite a light set of shows to share with you. That doesn’t mean there’s not a few classics, though.
Nisekoi (2014, S1, 20x23mins)
Teen Romance, Romantic Comedy
“From here on, I’m going to make sure you don’t forget me!”
Nisekoi follows high school student Raku Ichijo (centre), the son of a yakuza gang leader but, other than that, a normal kid. Raku has a crush on shy classmate Kosaki Onodera (middle-right), who – unknown to him – also has a crush on him. When it looks like they’re just about to click into place Chitoge Kirisaki (middle-left) transfers into their school from America. Kirisaki is the daughter of a rival gang, and to stop a gang war from breaking out Ichijo and her are forced by their parents to fake a relationship, putting a major spanner in both of their personal and love lives. The awkward situation is made worse by the fact that the two of them despise each other. Meanwhile, Onodera is forced to watch Raku and Chitoge’s ‘relationship’ from afar, until her best friend Miyamoto forces her to take action. Also, Ichijo keeps a lock pendant around his neck, with links to a promise of love and marriage made ten years ago with a mysterious girl who he can’t remember.
As you can probably imagine, this is a very sweet story of teen love-triangles and the general awkwardness that comes with cross-gender relationships at that age. The characters are very believable, and their relationships and feelings feel very true, and are probably very relatable for almost everyone. It has to be noted that while the emotions feel very real, the story and many awkward scenarios that they find themselves in are extremely forced and not very believable. I don’t often notice things like that, but in this show the plot writing is almost as childish as the characters themselves. Also, a lot of the episodes follow a similar pattern just in a different setting (the beach, the fun fair, a field trip etc.), so if you’re not into the characters or story it will become quite repetitive. For a lot of shows that would make it an automatic no-go, but the outcomes from these scenarios are usually quite funny, and the emotions (there’s a lot of inner dialogue in Nisekoi) are so sweet that you can look past it. Also, Nisekoi probably has some of the best cliff-hangers that I’ve seen in anime so far. Or maybe I was just too into it…
While the romance and sweetness of the show is the foundations for Nisekoi, there is a solid comedy side to balance it out. This is thanks to, in the most part, constant changes the style of drawing for comedic purposes. As with the rest of the show, the ‘normal’ drawings in the show are also very sweet. They almost remind me of the original Snoopy/Charlie Brown show, with big eyes and round, cute faces.
Overall, this is a classically sweet teen romance that could have been too sweet but has enough comedic value to balance it out. You’re probably thinking after this review that this show sounds fun, but would be way too sweet for me. It’s true that you probably have to have some sort of interest in teen rom-coms to be able to watch this, and it’s definitely a show aimed at a younger audience, but Nisekoi most definitely has enough childish comedy value to give you an excuse to watch something so cute. Nisekoi is one of those shows that I found myself constantly saying “this is so dumb,” while grinning from ear to ear about their foolish feelings towards each other. This is definitely a guilty pleasure viewing, but is a very entertaining viewing nonetheless.
If you liked this you’ll love: Say “I Love You” – another romance set in high school, full of all that teenage angst. A slight change in story, where the ‘Onodera’ character gets the hottest guy in school by accident, and has to deal with all the pressures that come with dating the apple of most girl’s eye. While Nisekoi is funny and childish about teen love and friendship, SILY takes a more honest, and perhaps a more sophisticated approach to the issue.
No Game No Life (2014, S1, 12x24mins)
Fantasy, Comedy, Adventure
“When it comes to war and killing, we have far more expertise than you do.”
The story follows Sora and his younger stepsister Shiro (bottom-centre), who are collectively known in the internet gaming world as Blank (“ ”) and are renowned for having never lost any game they play. The two of them are, in the real world, completely isolated and shut themselves out from normal society (this is known in Japan as hikikomori – people who refuse to leave their homes). One day they are challenged online to a game of chess, and win. As a result of their success they’re summoned to the fantasy world of Disboard by the player they beat – the god of games, Tet (top-right). The world of Disboard has completely banned violence, with games the only way allowed to settle any disputes, ranging from simple requests to seizing control of countries. The games are chosen by the party being challenged, and can range from rock-paper-scissors to really complex challenges. They arrive in the land of humans, Elkia, and become friends with Stephanie Dola (top-left), the granddaughter of the recently deceased king. She tells them of Elkia’s troubles, how they’ve become the lowest ranked race out of the sixteen in the world, and Blank make it their mission to restore the people’s faith in humanity.
This is an extraordinary example of everything stereotypical western tastes find great, and everything they find uncomfortable, about Japanese animation. This is definitely one of the stranger series I’ve seen, unrelenting in its use of almost psychedelic colours and jokes flying at a mile a minute.
This is – again – a really funny series, and probably the funniest anime I’ve seen so far! The arrogance of Sora and Shiro, and how they are completely unbeatable, is portrayed in such a comic way that they never become annoying or irritating to the viewer in any way (well, not for me anyway). Great cutscenes and changes in style make this possible, along with really intelligent writing that, at times, saves this from being simple slapstick comedy. I think this light hearted yet clever comedy is also helped by the side characters, which brings us onto the less pretty side of Japanimation.
Almost all the side characters in NGNL are women, and almost all of them are naked at one point or the other. Led by an adolescent and locked away boy, there are multiple moments in this series where the women are sexualised in one way or another, usually involving them losing their outfits. If you’re not totally into the show at the time when this happens, then this show will quickly start to feel uncomfortable. From a personal point of view I didn’t mind it. I thought that it was all done playfully and just added to the childish, comedic nature of the whole show. However I would understand if you felt differently.
I rushed through this quicker than I think I’ve rushed through any show before. While fairly unspectacular, and at times slightly cliché in the way it is everything you would imagine a stereotypical Japanese anime to be, this is the ultimate in cheap, childish and binge-worthy comedy and is definitely worth watching.
I was going to say worth watching whoever you are, but it would probably help if you’re of a childish inclination. Or high, or something.
If you like this you’ll love: The World God Only Knows – A similar comedy starring an isolated-yet-arrogant boy who is incredible at videogames, who is forced to go after real-life girls. This uses similar cutscenes and childish nature as in No Game No Life for its comedy, but does it in a slightly more well-mannered way.
Toradora (2008-2009, S1, 25x24mins)
Teen, Romantic Comedy
“Those stars look like they’re close to each other, but they’re actually very far away, aren’t they?”
Toradora starts with Ryuji (middle-left), a teenager at high school who, despite his honest nature, is feared by many because of his intimidating looks. Thankfully, his best friend Yusaku (far-right) can see through this, as can his high school crush Minori (middle-right). In efforts to get closer to Minori he ends up rubbing shoulders with her best friend Taiga (far-left). Referred to as the ‘palm top tiger’ by classmates, she is equally feared due to her tendency to snap at people, often violently. Taiga also has a crush on Ryuji’s best friend Yusaku. Expectedly, Ryuji and Taiga take a disliking to each other straight away. However, when they discover that they live next door to each other, and that they are both in love with the other’s best friend, they decide to help each other with their crushes.
Again, this is a light-hearted series that tries to strike a balance between comedy and plot. However, this series is definitely more inclined to character development than the two above, and feels a lot more real and believable.
This series started really well. It is really good at the beginning to watch these two fairly closed-off characters unite and open up to each other, and they both really develop as characters in the early episodes. The characters overall are definitely what make this show. While predominantly one-dimensional, all the main characters are really believable people that have their own emotions and motives. The two main female characters – Taiga and Minori – come across as really interesting people who are able to operate as funny comedic characters but also have deep emotions that feel very true. The five main characters (completed by famous teen-model Ami in the middle of the picture above) also cover most bases, meaning there will always be somebody for people – predominantly young people, whom this series is firmly aimed at – to relate to.
The problem I had with Toradora was finishing it. Unfortunately, this is a series that slows and slows, and why it did have a strong climax I did feel that it took an awful long time to get not very far at all. The eventual conclusion was actually pretty good, if a bit depressing compared to the rest of the show. The problem is that it’s as if they got to episode twenty-or-so creating simple but fun situations for the characters, before realising they only had a few episodes to fit in their conclusion. This means the finish to Toradora – however good – feels very rushed, and even out of place. You can forgive something like that if it relates to a comedy-based series similar to the two above, but this is a story about people and personal growth as much as comedy, and while Toradora is fairly funny its not the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in the genre, meaning it almost lives and dies on the quality of story. The base idea is a decent one, but the plot and storyline are almost wafer-thin when you look back upon it.
Comparisons can be instantly drawn between this and Nisekoi above, and unfortunately it’s Nisekoi that I would watch again out of the two. The whole teen-rom-com thing is fairly overplayed, and I feel that – looking past characters like Taiga and Minori – this series lacks any real creativity to make it truly stand out. Toradora is a good effort, and a decent series for fans of the genre, but it lacks that ‘star-factor’ – whether it be excellent comedy or great storyline – to make it really stand out in the sea of anime teen-rom-coms.
If you like this you’ll love: Nisekoi – As mentioned above, these are two similar series focusing on teenage, high-school love triangles. Nisekoi is more focused on the comedic, bumbling around side of teenage romance than Toradora, and also focuses on the male’s point-of-view, unlike Toradora which is split almost 50-50 between the two main characters.
So there you have it. Just when you you think you’ve seen it all, I’ve seen in Nisekoi one of the best anime rom-coms, and in NGNL one of the best comedies full stop! Also, from what I gather online Toradora is actually a really popular
series, so I can’t help but feel like I’ve missed something. If you loved this series then let me know what makes it stand out from the crowd in the comments below.
Make sure you follow The Culture Cove to see the best anime reviews before anybody else! Look out for episode 13 of Anime Pocket Reviews, which will feature the extremely well-rated classic Clannad!