One Punch Man (Season Two) Review

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Good things don’t always come to those who wait. After a three-year hiatus One Punch Man has returned to Japanese television and the reception I have seen online is mixed. Many viewers have been quick to condemn season two’s visual downgrade. The consensus is that, in terms of animation and artwork, J.C. Staff have failed to meet the high standards set by their predecessors Madhouse..

Judging a piece of entertainment solely on aesthetics is a bit shallow though. Take video games for example. How many big budget releases have come out recently that boast stellar graphics, but lack the enjoyment of a more modest looking indie game? The second season of One Punch Man may look rougher, but I can get over that. I watch this series more for the comedy than the spectacle, and in that regard it succeeds. Depending on your sense of humour there’s even a case to be made that season two is funnier than series one.

I would also have to say that season two has a better antagonist. The big bad of this instalment is a martial artist named Garo. He uses his fighting techniques to challenge any heroes who cross his path. Apart from wanting to test his strength against worthy opponents, Garo’s motivation for beating up heroes comes from the belief that he identifies himself as a monster. That mindset originates from his youth. Back then Garo’s classmates would always force him to roleplay a monster, whenever the group played superheroes. Maybe they should have played Cowboys and Indians instead? Had the kids picked Garo to play a Native American, all the time, the worst thing that could happen is that he would learn archery and how to do a funky rain dance.

Garo also admires villains, as in fiction they often hold their own against multiple do-gooders. If you think about it, he has a point. What’s so heroic about a team ganging up on one bad guy? He’s the type of person who left the cinema with nothing but respect for Thanos, after witnessing how well the mad titan fared versus the entire Avengers roster.

One thing that surprised me about season two was Saitama’s lack of screen time. He spends a big chunk of the series competing in a DBZ style fighting tournament. That keeps him away from the main storyline, which in retrospect is a good idea. Twelve episodes of Saitama knocking out foes in one hit would get stale. One Punch Man has a great supporting cast of quirky characters, so I didn’t mind seeing them get a moment in the spotlight. I was especially impressed by the action scenes featuring Metal Bat who, as his name implies, kicks ass using a piece of baseball equipment.

Another minor character who is worth mentioning is King. He is finally revealed this season and turns out to be the complete opposite of Saitama. King is a weakling who through serendipity has managed to earn the reputation of being the strongest man on Earth. That is in contrast to mighty Saitama whose feats of strength never get acknowledged by the public. Early on in the season the pair become friends. Despite being a joke character, King occasionally utters lines so inspirational that they even manage to motivate apathetic Saitama. King is also the only person able to defeat Saitama in combat… granted that is only in video games!

My rating for this season of One Punch Man is three and a half stars. I am giving the series a slightly lower grade than season one, but not due to the lower production values most people have crucified it for. In terms of gags and characters this season matches the series that came before it. My beef with season two is with its finale. The fate of Garo is left up in the air, as is the plot about a monster organization recruiting superhumans into its fold. Unresolved plot threads really irk me in anime. I understand that the manga is still ongoing, so this sort of thing is inevitable, but it must be said that season one concluded better. The first series holds up as a standalone piece, whilst season two doesn’t. Fingers crossed that we get a third season to see what happens next. One Punch Man is popular enough to get a follow up, but then again so was Haruhi Suzumiya. We all saw how that property vanished without a trace, after the sequel we waited years for didn’t quite meet expectations.

The Rising of the Shield Hero (Anime Review)

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One thing that anime is guilty of is recycling ideas. Case in point – The Rising of the Shield Hero. This twenty-five episode series features a young adult who is transported to a fantasy world. Once there he transitions from being a complete nobody into a mighty hero, who all the girls fancy. Hmmm, where have I heard that before?

OVERVIEW

Naofumi Iwatani is the protagonist of this Isekai show, which is based off Aneko Yusagi’s light novels. A neko? I had no idea that cats wrote books. Anyway, when Naofumi arrives in the kingdom of Melromarc he discovers that he is one of four youngsters who have been plucked from Japan and tasked with protecting the land from waves of hostile monsters. Each of the spirited away chaps is given a legendary weapon to help them with their mission.

As you may have determined, from the show’s title, Naofumi misses out on winning ownership of a cool sword, bow or spear. Instead he has to make do with a magical shield. The artifact protects him from harm, which is handy, but carries the massive con of barring him from wielding offensive weapons. That sucks. I can now see why no one ever wants to play a tank in RPGs. Naofumi’s lack of attack power wouldn’t be so bad, if he could recruit some party members to aid him in combat. Alas, that is not possible due to the events that occur in episode one.

Early on in the series Naofumi is falsely accused of rape by the kingdom’s princess Myne Sophia. Just like the target of a #MeToo accusation, Naofumi is vilified by the public. Ouch. Isn’t it scary how smears, which aren’t backed by any evidence, can ruin someone’s life? Due to his tarnished reputation, Naofumi is unable to hire allies via conventional means. Instead, he resorts to buying slaves. First up he purchases a sickly racoon girl named Raphtalia, who he trains in the ways of sword fighting. Later on he also snaps up a baby Filolial (pretty much this world’s version of a Chocobo) named Filo.

CONTROVERSY

It appears that Naofumi is a bit of a loli magnet. Filo may resemble a giant bird, but viewers soon learn that she is capable of transforming into a cute cherub. Raphtalia develops a crush on Naofumi, which could be creepy given that she is underage. Thankfully the series avoids going down the Bunny Drop manga route, by having Naofumi treat his sidekick like an adoptive daughter. If two lolis aren’t enough to satisfy your questionable taste in love interests, Naofumi later groups up with petite royal spellcaster Melty. He saves Melty from assassins in one episode, only to have the authorities accuse him of kidnapping her moments later.

Back when the series first started airing it was funny to see some sectors of the internet get outraged by the show’s content. Apparently having the lead be accused of sexual assault is outrageous. Some sensitive types refuse to accept that such claims could ever be false. Much ado about nothing, if you ask me. I don’t think the series writer was making a political statement. She just used the plot device of “hero gets betrayed by comrade” to inject drama into the story. Other viewers condemned Shield Hero of promoting slavery. Again, I just don’t see it. Naofumi isn’t whipping Raphtalia and forcing her to do manual labour. He rescues her from life in a cage, nurses her back to health and treats her with nothing but kindness.

VERDICT

My rating for The Rising of the Shield Hero is three and a half stars. It’s an enjoyable series that executes the overplayed Isekai troupes of the genre better than most other anime do. Akin to Goblin Slayer, the series starts off on a serious note and proceeds to get more light hearted (and harem like) as it goes along. The story isn’t deep, but is smart enough to throw in the occasional swerve to keep things interesting. Aside from vanquishing waves of monsters, Naofumi ends up in the middle of a clergy led uprising and later crosses swords with warriors from a parallel world.

Character wise Naofumi is more mature than other fantasy leads. He grows stronger by overcoming hardship, rather than being a prodigy from the offset. Unlike the other buffon-ish heroes Naofumi strives to protect the innocent, rather than fight for riches or glory. The fact that he aids people, rather than turn his back on them, after they branded him a villain shows what a good guy he is. Someone who is not good in the slightest is Myne. I found her to be despicable to a cartoonish degree. She is rather one dimensional, but like any good heel succeeds in the role of being someone you love to hate.

In terms of Shield Hero dislikes, I can’t say that I was a fan of the show’s CGI. The computer effects weren’t terrible, but some of the action scenes would have looked better without them. On a personal note, I also don’t get why MMO mechanics are inserted into a story that takes place in a genuine fantasy world. Why do the characters level up and learn skills from a menu? Can’t they just train hard and research magic from books? Raphtalia even evolves from a cute girl into a mighty lady, akin to a Pokemon, after earning enough experience. Now I am confused. We can’t lewd ancient characters who look like prepubescent girls. Is it okay to lewd a child who evolved into an adult? I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole. Sorry Raphtalia. I don’t want the FBI knocking at my door, so I am picking Queen Mirellia as best girl.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Review

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I am proud to report that I completed Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on Saturday. That’s quite the achievement, as I rarely finish Medtroidvania games. Just like when I play first person dungeon crawlers, I tend to have fun for a while until my terrible sense of direction strikes. Sooner or later I get lost in said title’s digital labyrinth – forcing me to eventually give up in frustration.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Bloodstained is the latest game from long-time Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi. The Japanese video game maker parted ways with Konami, years ago, as the company had no plans to make any new Dracula slaying titles for the foreseeable future. Apparently the management at Konami don’t think that 2D action RPGs are profitable. Koji proved them wrong with a successful Kickstarter campaign and positive sales figures, once Bloodstained was released.

In this horror themed adventure, which feels a lot like the excellent Castlevanias I played on the Nintendo DS, players control a cute waifu named Miriam. In my opinion she is a very attractive lady. Should you disagree fear not, as it’s possible to change her default appearance once you locate the cursed barber shop that lies hidden in the castle Miriam is exploring. Said castle is teeming with monsters. Thankfully for the protagonist she is a skilled fighter who grows stronger with each foe she vanquishes.

One way that Miriam increases her might is by upgrading her gear. Better weapons/accessories can be picked up from slain enemies, purchased at the shop or crafted using the materials Miriam finds on her travels. The arsenal Miriam can wield include various types of blades, whips, firearms and footwear. If physical combat isn’t your thing worry not, as Miriam can command magic too. The creatures she kills sometimes drop shards, which allow Miriam to mimic the deceased’s powers. My favourite ability transforms Miriam into a bunny girl, who is capable of delivering devastating Chun-Li kicks and Super Mario style head stomps.

It took me around twelve hours to complete Bloodstained’s story. My time with the game is far from over however. At the time of writing I still have loads of optional quests to complete, secret bosses to beat and stat boosting meals to cook. On the horizon there is also a bunch of free DLC to look forward to – including new playable characters. The first character that has been announced is a badass samurai who is voiced by David Hayter (of Metal Gear Solid fame). A co-op mode has also been promised, although I don’t care about that as I have no friends.

My rating for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is five stars. It’s by far the best game I have played this year. Be aware though that my score is based solely on how much fun I had with the game. If I factored other things into the equation I would have to downgrade that assessment slightly. Gameplay wise Bloodstained has few flaws, but on the technical side of things it suffers from the occasional overly long load time. It’s something I can live with on the PS4 version of the game, but I hear the performance is even worse on the Switch port. With that in mind, it’s probably for the best that the Vita edition got scrapped. I can only imagine how much it would have chugged, had it ever seen the light of day.

Review of World End Syndrome

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I have been playing a bunch of visual novels lately. Reading a VN is relaxing and almost feels like watching an anime, if you set the text to scroll automatically. With that feature enabled one can simply sit back and watch the cute cartoon girls rattle off their lines in Japanese. The latest visual novel that I recently completed is World End Syndrome on the PS4. Buyers can also purchase this game on Switch, but sadly the Vita version never made it across to the west.

World End Syndrome sees players take control of a transfer student who has relocated to a small rural town situated next to the sea. He hopes the new setting will help him get over the death of his sister, who sadly passed away in a traffic accident. When the story begins the protagonist moves into a mansion, owned by his uncle, which he shares with his distant cousin Maimi Kusimose. Cohabitating with an athletic teenager, who excels at tennis, sounds sweet – until you realise that Maimi is a messy slob who expects the main character to do all of the house-work.

On his first day at school the main character is befriended by class pervert Kensuke Asagi, who convinces the lead to join the after school Mystery Club. Given Kensuke’s personality it should come as no surprise that said club is filled with hotties, including club advisor Kaori Yamashiro. The aforementioned teacher is also a famous novelist who penned a book that revolves around the town’s Yomibito folklore. Said legend states that every one-hundred years a deceased resident will arise from the grave, with no knowledge of their past demise. When summer concludes the revived party loses their mind and goes on a murderous killing spree.

Although the game’s trailer pitches World End Syndrome as being a horror tale, it plays mostly like a dating sim. Over the course of August the player attempts to unlock the game’s various endings by boosting their relationship with the Mystery Club’s assortment of members. For example players could set their sights on ice queen Miu Amana, who works part-time at her brother’s cafe (where she serves patrons dressed as a maid). Alternatively, it is possible to swoon bashful pop-idol Rei Nikaidou who is in town filming scenes for a movie. Loli-cons may prefer instead to date wealthy heiress Saya Kamishiro. Those looking to court someone more mature can set their sights on reporter Yukino Otonashi, who is on a quest to uncover the town’s dark secrets.

Unlike some other visual novels, which follow a linear storytelling structure, World End Syndrome is broken up into days. Every morning, afternoon and night the player selects a place in town to visit. Once they arrive at their destination the protagonist will bump into one of his acquaintances, triggering a short cut scene. These segments advance the story or increase your affection with a particular character, which ultimately determines which ending you’ll get. Thankfully a playthrough doesn’t take long to finish, by visual novel standards, and it’s possible to fast forward past scenes you have previously witnessed – so replaying the game to 100% doesn’t feel like a chore.

My rating for World End Syndrome is a four out of five. In terms of narrative there are stronger examples of the visual novel genre out there, but I still had fun with the game. The cast are a likable bunch making each of the available routes, where you grow closer to a particular girl, an enjoyable experience. Players who are more interested in the horror themes hinted at in the trailer will get more satisfaction out of the later chapters. The true ending ditches the mushy stuff in favour of exploring Mihate Town’s supernatural mystery and the prologue caps things off with an emotional twist. Apart from the writing I was also impressed by World End’s character designs, which come courtesy of BLAZBLUE artist Yuki Kato. Once all the stories have been cleared their is still extra content to be enjoyed, in the form of optional missions and collectible items to find.

 

Top Five Anime I Watched in 2018

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Last year was a great time for anime. I could easily write up a top ten comprising of all the excellent shows I watched in 2018. That sounds like a lot of work though, so I’ll limit myself to listing off the five best anime I enjoyed during the aforementioned period.

5. Goblin Slayer: A fantasy series about an armour clad adventurer who has dedicated his life towards the extermination of green skinned vermin. Despite his bluntness and one track mind he is surprisingly popular with the ladies. The anime is infamous for its premier episode, which featured some disturbing scenes. Nothing explicit was shown, but that didn’t stop the internet from having a major meltdown, back when it aired. One can only imagine how said naysayers would react if they ever watched a hardcore hentai.

4. Darling in the Franxx: Mecha series about teenage pilots who are recruited to protect humanity from an alien threat. Not the most original premise perhaps, but executed well enough. Features solid action, a conspiracy laden plot, love triangles and a top tier waifu named Zero Two. Just like in Pacific Rim, the show’s bots are controlled by a pair of pilots (in this case a boy and a girl). Akin to Game of Thrones, the series was liked at first, but towards the end of its run many viewers soured on it. I however loved it from start to finish.

3. Attack on Titan (Season 2): The wait for series two, of Attack on Titan, was a long one – but well worth it. Following on from the first season, Eren and pals continue their battle against a neverending swarm of man-eating giants, who have breached the city walls. Despite only running for twelve episodes, Wit Studio managed to squeeze a lot of story and action into the second chapter of AOT. Some secrets are revealed and the scouts contend with a deadly trio comprising of the Beast, Armoured and Colossal Titans.

2. The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Another anime from Wit Studio makes the list. This one is a more slow paced affair, revolving around a buffalo faced mage and his beautiful redheaded missus. Highlights include the beautiful artwork, emotional scenes and storylines that see the cast interact with members of the Fae race. Back in 2017 the folks at Crunchyroll awarded Ancient Magus’ Bride best drama of 2017. After watching all twenty-four episodes I can certainly see why.

1. Violet Evergarden: An exceptional KyoAni production about an orphan girl who rebuilds her life after losing her hands (and the man who raised her) during the war. Violet transitions from a child soldier into an Auto Memories Doll. The change in career allows her to touch the lives of others, through the art of crafting heartfelt letters. My anime backlog is huge, so I seldom rewatch shows. Violet Evergarden was so good however that I ended up watching it twice. Once in Japanese and once dubbed. If you have a Netflix subscription I highly recommend that you check out this animated series.

Top Five Games I Played In 2018

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This blog may be dead, but the tradition of me listing my five favourite games of the past year lives on. See below for the titles I enjoyed playing the most in 2018.

5. Batman – The Enemy Within: This sequel to Telltale’s 2016 release kicks off with the Caped Crusader battling a version of the Riddler, who wouldn’t look out of place in a Saw movie. The later episodes however focus on Bruce Wayne’s love/hate relationship with the Joker. Harley Quinn, Bane and Mr Freeze also make an appearance in what has to be one of Telltale’s better interactive stories. I love their take on this DC Comics property, so it’s a real shame that the developer has since gone bust. Their storytelling and easy platinum trophies shall be missed.

4. Super Mario Odyssey: Unlike most people, the Switch has yet to win me over. Believe it or not, I still play the Vita more than Nintendo’s console/handheld hybrid. Many of the games I bought for the system (Xenoblade 2, Breath of the Wild and Octopath Traveller) have disappointed me. On the flip side Super Mario Odyssey exceeded my expectations. Once again Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser, so it falls upon a mustached plumber to rescue her. Aiding our hero in this adventure is a sentient cap who is capable of possessing Koopa’s minions.

3. Doki Doki Literature Club: I seldom play PC games, but I am glad that readers convinced me to give Doki Doki Literature Club a try. At first glance this looks like another of those generic visual novels that clogs up Steam’s marketplace. Get past the first two hours however and you will soon discover that there is more to this VN than simply deciding who, out of the club’s four waifus, the player will end up with. It’s hard to believe that a release of this quality is available to download for free. I highly recommend giving Doki Doki a go… or at the very watch a Let’s Player tackle it. Their reactions to the twist are certain to amuse.

2. Tales of Berseria: This is only the second Tales game I have ever managed to finish. On paper I should love this franchise, but the combat system has always put me off. Berseria is no different in that regard. In order to complete the game I set the difficulty to easy and automated all of the battles. Despite disabling a good chunk of the gameplay I still had a blast with Berseria. I enjoyed exploring the world, engaging with the characters and most of all the story. Unlike other Tales titles, where a group of plucky youngsters save the world from evil, the protagonist of Berseria is out for revenge. She will stop at nothing to secure vengeance, even if it means murdering the kingdom’s saviour.

1. Valkyria Chronicles 4: It’s great to once again play a Valkyria Chronicles game, after the west was denied a localization of the third installment. Part of me fears that this may end up being the series finale, as poor financial results are forcing Sega to scale back on their games output. From what I hear they may be pulling a Konami to cut costs. If you ask me they should just stop butchering Sonic’s legacy and focus more on creative titles like VC4 instead. The blend of anime cell shaded visuals and military strategy is right up my alley. Still, who am I to criticise Sega? They have technically won my Top Five contests two years running. Valkyria Chronicles 4 follows in the footsteps of 2017 champion Persona 5. Perhaps, if I can clear my PS4 backlog and play Yakuza 6, Sega will complete a hat trick in 2019. Time will tell.

The Otaku Judge – 2018 in Review

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An end of year recap in April? Talk about long overdue. It’s safe to say that 2018 will go down in history as the last year were I update this site on a regular basis. For those of you who are wondering, no I am not dead. My passion for blogging on the other hand is well and truly six feet under.

I’ll continue to post on here sporadically, and I’ll still visit the blogs I follow whenever time allows. No great loss in the grand scheme of things, as the internet is filled with anime/game critics who are wittier and more talented than I. Many thanks to all my subscribers for the support and kind feedback you have blessed me with, ever since I registered on WordPress back in 2013.

VIEWS: In total The Otaku Judge received 19,568 views in 2018. That’s a drop from the previous twelve months, where I attracted over 22,000 hits. No surprise given that I wrote thirty-two fewer articles. Another factor is that several of the site’s readers have since departed from WordPress. Curse those quitters. I hate it when people abandon the WordPress community without warning… oh wait never mind (hypocrite alarm sounds in the background).

TOP ATTRACTIONS: The most popular posts of 2018 were…

1. Review of Justice League: The poor man’s Avengers starring a team of DC heroes.
2. A Place Further than the Universe Review: Cute anime girls travel to Antarctica.
3. Review of Jurassic World: Hollywood reboots an extinct dinosaur franchise.

WHERE DID THEY COME FROM: For the fourth successive year the site’s highest source of traffic (in order of views) is United States, United Kingdom and Canada. Germany overtakes India and Australia to claim fourth place.

WHO ARE THEY: My most frequent readers were…

1. John Jr: A dreamer who occasionally writes about entertainment.
2. Man In Black: Pens detailed reviews of anime, wrestling DVDs and movies I have never heard of.
3. Raistlin0903: The movie buff from Holland, who is sadly on blog hiatus.
4. Krystallina: Focuses on manga reviews. Loves Final Fantasy 7 and a good bargain.
5. Jeffrey Botah: He writes things. I read them. Seems like a fair deal.

Okay, that’s it for this recap. Farewell for now. I’ll see you all whenever I get the urge to post the traditional top five anime/games of 2018. Until then, I wish you all a belated happy new year!