Opinion: Demi-chan wa Kataritai

(While I have taken care to avoid any obvious spoilers, some of the description may tip you off about what’s happening while watching in the anime, so take note of that)

Once in a while, you come across gem of an anime that attracts you with its premise and then just hooks you in till the end. Demi-chan wa Kataritai (or Interview with Monster Girls) was one such anime for me.

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The premise of the show is a society where, demi-humans, or demis for short, who were historically persecuted, have now integrated into modern society and live alongside ordinary humans.

The show starts out with the central character, biology teacher Tetsuo Takahashi, who has a keen interest in demis but has never met one before, but due to fate being kind, runs across four demis in his school, them being the vampire Hikari Takanashi, the dullahan Kyouko Machi, the snow woman (or yuki-onna) Yuki Kusakabe, who are students and the succubus Sakie Sato, who is the maths teacher.

The story then revolves around Takahashi as he gets to know and understand each demi girl and her problems in an effort to help them fit into society.

Clockwise from top left – Takanashi, Machi, Kusakabe and Satou.

Even if the show resembles slice-of-life high school animes in many respects, including some of the humour and personality tropes that viewers would find familiar, such as the chatty and hyperactive Takanashi, the polite and formal Machi, insecure but giggly Kusakabe and Christmas cake Satou-sensei, there’s more to it than is obvious at first glance.

Each demi girl has her own set of problems that they struggle with (for instance, Yuki has a hard time on hot days, being a snow woman), which Takahashi tries his best to resolve, while advancing his own research on demi-humans. Takahashi is portrayed as kind and caring, always looking out for the demi girls and taking care of their special needs. The girls in return put their trust in him and come to depend on him as he seems to be the only one with whom they can confide in about their issues.

This relationship between the demi-girls and Takahashi is where the series truly shines, as through the lens of the demi-girls, it shows the very real issues people with disabilities in face in their daily lives; in their interactions with other people and going about their business.

The show confronts issues about identity and how hard it can be to come to terms with yourself and accept your nature. About how difficult it can be to talk to others about problems only you face. And the very real issue of being bullied by peers for being different; and all this is done with the sensitivity a deeply personal topic like it deserves. The show captures the challenges faced by people with special needs excellently, both from their perspective as well as the view of the people around them.

Moving on to her characters themselves, everyone will find the cast very relatable and charming. Takahashi is the kind of person many aspire to be, while the demi girl students are funny in their own ways – I could personally relate to Yuki’s tendency to crack at lame jokes. Hikari’s relationship with her sister Himari is source of humour as well emotional moments, while Machi excels at studies. Satou is usually the butt of jokes about adulthood, and then there are the minor characters of Kurtz, Ogaki and a circle of students, who make the show lively and play a role in the plot. Arguably, this maybe the only place where the show falters a bit, as the side cast, while distinct and important, don’t really get enough screentime for the viewer to care about them.

While not a true slice of life anime, it does borrow from the genre a lot and this manifests itself in the humour of the show. That said, the show incorporates the premise into its jokes quite well, so even the situational comedy feels fresh. Not to mention the puns often dropped about bloods, heads and ice – the dub is rife with those.

The series doea have a brief moment of crisis, which does touch on an important point about the message it seeks to deliver, however the way in which it is presented may lull the viewer to believe that the crisis is much deeper than it ends up being. Whether this is good or bad, I leave for the viewer to decide, it can be relieving for those not wanting to see it escalate or disappointing for those expecting drama.

Visually, the anime is pretty par for the course. It’s well animated and I didn’t notice any scene where the animation quality dips. The art style may remind you of Oreimo and Eromanga-sensei, but it is coincidental.

Lastly, like any anime, the show has its moments of fanservice, but even those are well integrated thanks to Satou being a succubus. So none of it feels tacky or distracting from the situation. The show wisely avoids any fanservice during its serious moments.

In conclusion,

Demi-chan is a excellently crafted show which delivers an important and touching social message about being sensitive to the needs of others through its premise. The main cast is sure to leave a mark on the viewer, as they begin to understand the unique needs of each character, while appreciating their individual personalities. All in all, the show is a beautiful and wholesome experience that also provokes the viewer to introspect. Hence I consider it a must-watch among the animes released this year.

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Opinion: Dagashi Kashi

Dagashi Kashi is a slice-of-life anime about dagashi, or Japanese snacks. Throughout the anime, while talking about the lives of its cast, it also delves into the various dagashi sold throughout Japan and a history of how they came to be.

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From left to right, Saya, Kokonotsu, Tó, and Hotaru.

The anime has a delightful cast, the reluctant hero Kokonotsu, his slightly immature father Yō, the laid back and perverted friend Tō, the secret crusher Saya and the star of the show Hotaru.

Premise

The basic premise of the show is that Kokonotsu, the ninth in line to be the Shikada Dagashi shop’s owner aspires to be a manga author instead. Meanwhile, Hotaru has been sent by her father’s company, the Shidare Company to convince Yō to join the company. Yō agrees on one condition – that Hotaru must convince Kokonotsu to succeed Yō and take charge of the dagashi shop.

Story

Being a slice of life show, there is no overarching plot in the show. The manga is still ongoing, so the premise I mentioned previously simply serves to drive the character interactions.

So every episode begins loosely with Hotaru and Yō trying to convince Kokonotsu to agtee to succeed as the shop’s owner. That ties in to Hotaru bringing up various dagashi whose history, brand identity, mascots and such are then discussed in the skit. Slightly predictable, but it’s a format that works within the anime’s premise as a show about dagashi and they change it up enough so that it never feels like a drag.

When not talking about dagashi, the show switches to the relationship between the Kokonotsu and the rest of the cast, especially him, Saya and Hotaru. This is one place where the show unfortunately falls short – the characters and the relationships do not develop enough to pull the viewer in and get invested in them. This, I suppose, can be forgiven due to the manga still ongoing, but it does detract from the show.

In any case, the show delivers on its premise quite well. The world of dagashi is explored in a nice amount of detail and is done in a manner to not bore the viewer.

Cast

The characters in Dagashi Kashi are arguably its strongest point. While the story doesn’t progress too much, the character themselves are quite likeable. While Hotaru, Tō, Yō and Kokonotsu all get their time to shine, Saya is the who really carries the show. The fact that Hotaru calls her Saya-shi (Master Saya) is a good indication. Along with Hotaru, she does seem to be rather popular with the people who watched it.

The animation is beautiful and all characters stand out quite well – no one feels dull. While the character tropes in play aren’t exactly original, it’s enough to make the characters feel distinct and new.

Saya-chan is precious.

And lastly, fanservice

Dagashi Kashi is generally light in terms of fanservice. There are a few lewd jokes and some suggestive scenes scattered throughout the 12 episodes, Hotaru’s “assets” do get focus from time to time but overall, nothing feels particularly distracting.

Conclusion

Dagashi Kashi is overall an enjoyable anime and will likely prompt you go follow the manga from where the anime ends. The anime does get bogged down by its less than compelling story-telling though, so you may no end up caring for the characters in the show. It’s hit-or-miss and  largely hinges on how much do you find yourself attracted to the characters. Regardless you will walk away with a large trivia knowledge of the world of dagashi.

Opinion: Bravely Default

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Four heroes on a quest. Sounds rather standard, but it quickly diverges from that.

A brief introduction

Bravely Default takes places in the world of Luxendarc, a world that has recently been beset by a series of tragedies and our cast of 4: Tiz, Agnès, Ringabel and Edea go on a quest to restore the world to its former state.

So, the positives first.

The story, the characters, the music, the world, all can be described in one word, FANTASTIC.
The world building is great. Luxendarc is truly a living, breathing world. Every location has a unique touch to it – Caldisla, Eternia, Hartschild, Ancheim, Florem, Yulyana, you name it. Each has its own feel, its own problems to deal with, its own way of living and ruling. Each city is based in a different part of the world and give off a remarkably different vibe, which coupled with the distinct music each city has, really sets the mood for each area.
Perhaps to drive the point home, Tiz, Agnès and Edea are all from different cities in the world.

The battle system is Bravely Default’s biggest strength. The addition of Brave and Default, the namesake of the title were interesting enough on their own, but the job system is where the game truly shines. The game lets you select a job class for each character and have a secondary job class as your Ability, which lets you use the special moves related to that job. This alone opens a gigantic room for experimentation, with whopping 110,075,314,176 (yes, that’s over 110 billion!) possible unique combinations of jobs and abilities. Not saying all combinations are viable, of course, but the choice is there should you decide to do it.

The sub-quests required to get each job are also very well integrated into the world. Never does it feel forced or out of place. They are all optional, but the player is enouraged to get them all, both as a way to grind for money, experience and job points, and getting new jobs in the process.

I didn’t get all the job classes by the end, and I chose to settle on a rather simple combination at the end. This was my party by endgame.

Tiz – White Mage with Time Mage (the healer)
Ringabel – Black Mage with Freelancer (the glass cannon)
Agnès – Monk with Ranger (the lightning bruiser)
Edea – Knight with Spell Fencer (the stone wall)

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The sound of the whole party levelling up will be your favourite sound before long.

One of the game’s strengths is how it was able to make dungeon crawling accessible. I couldn’t get into Etrian Odyssey, but I found myself enjoying exploring the dungeons in BD. The variety of chests scattered throughout really make exploring feel rewarding.

Then, the story. It’s really well-scripted and well-written; and really dark. The problems the people face, their motivations – all feel real and relatable. I was too used to the idea of defeating enemies as just that, defeating them. Here, it’s straight-up death. The game is fully voice-acted too, so you will hear their dying words in full sombre detail. You will feel bad for slaying your enemies. The game will hammer it in that their blood is on your hands. In any case, it has one my favourite stories in any game I played, despite me not liking the ending. Character development is handled exceptionally well and you will grow really attached to all four of the cast.

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Whether you adore puns or groan at them, you’ll definitely be enjoying the writing.
As someone who enjoys learning languages, Bravely Default impressed me in another regard. It’s chock-full of language options. The game has the option to choose between six languages – English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese – for the dialogue and is fully voiced in English and Japanese, despite being a really dialogue-heavy game. That they managed to fit all that in a 3DS cartridge is impressive, to say the least.
Now I should mention the music. Absolutely top notch. My personal favourites are Tiz’s theme and Hartschild City theme. Though honestly, every song in the game is worth listening to. And you’ll never get tired of them.

Now a word on the mechanics. The game is seriously good at avoiding player frustration. Shows a lot of developer foresight in that regard. The game lets you adjust everything from enemy spawn rate to difficulty to suit how you play the games. And with how easy is it to gain levels in the game, very rarely will you come across a situation that frustrates you.

Aaaaand the negative.

If you have played Bravely Default , then you probably have a good idea what this is about. Yes, I’m talking about the endgame, the only place where the game falters.

Without giving away any spoilers, the game forces you to fight the same bosses over and over again, around 16 boss fights with not much plot development in between, just fighting and healing. It gets tedious quickly, but is necessary to get the true ending of the game. I simply couldn’t find it in me to go that far.

In conclusion,

Bravely Default is one of the best RPGs available on the Nintendo 3DS, featuring an incredibly functional battle system and a fantastic story. What else could you really ask for?

Hours Sunk: 60

Recommendation: 

Yes, especially if you like RPGs.

Opinion: Fire Emblem Fates

To clarify about the title, it’s in essence a review of the game. But, I do not consider myself a professional or even unprofessional reviewer, so I chose to avoid the word. Opinion suits me much better in my opinion (heh). Also because I won’t be assigning any numbers to the games. Just a recommend or don’t recommend.

To start off, this is a review of all three paths of the whole game, not any one of them, as the experience of Fates is incomplete without playing all three of them.

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Japan or Europe. Take a pick.

A brief description of the game

Fire Emblem Fates is the 14th instalment of the series and it’s story places you where you need to choose between the family you were born in or the family that took care of you till adulthood. The path you choose decides the story and the events that unfold.

Now then, the positives

Gameplay: The gameplay of Fates is easily amongst my absolute favourite in the series, rivalling Radiant Dawn.

  • Pair up as it in this game is a really good way of changing up the gameplay and is really fun. It also makes for some really great battle scenes, seeing four fighters at once, sometimes attacking together, other times defending one another. It’s also much more intuitive than Awakening’s implementation.
  • The addition of a large number of Japan based classes are a plus. While the sheer number of them can get confusing, more options are better.
  • The simplified RGB triangle was alright and probably necessary to make sense of the large number of weapon classes in this game. (I just wish the magic triangle returned. Ah well).
  • The removal of limit on supports is a huge plus, as it really lets people grind for supports and get a much better picture of the character in just their first run.
  • The removal of weapon durability… didn’t take away that much from the game. Although it did prevent the “Too awesome to use” weapon dilemma that players earlier sometimes had.
  • My Castle is neat. It is quite useful to see your characters taking on different job in the various buildings, which adds to the immersion.

So, overall, I have no complaints with the gameplay. I wouldn’t have sunk 150 hours into the game otherwise.

Level Design: Conquest and Revelations hit it out of the park. They are by far the most innovative maps I’ve seen in any Fire Emblem game, which is saying a lot. Dragon veins feel like a lame excuse to add changes at first, but they seriously do run with it in some really fun ways.

Characters: This is really subjective territory, but in general, the character designs are pretty par for the course of the series. Generally likeable personalities and designs, with a personal quirk or two. No complaints there. While the addition of child characters was kind of pointless for the story, they are quite well designed and likeable, so I’m not complaining there either.

Music: Oh god, the music.The music in Fire Emblem Fates is absolutely phenomenal. Fire Emblem had always had top notch music, and Fates even managed to surpass that. Absolutely incredible. It knows how to get the player pumped up for any battle. Rena Strober did a wonderful job with Azura’s song too, and the endgame battle theme is fan-tas-tic.

And now the negatives [SPOILERS AHEAD]

Story: The story of FE Fates is easily its weakest point. It has numerous issues, such as

  • The lopsided nature of the branch of fate. The game makes it seriously hard for anyone going in blind to pick Nohr, due to how Mikoto and Garon behave. Moreover, Conquest never really makes you feel like you did the right thing by choosing Nohr, unlike how it is in Birthright. I thought the favouritism ended there, but apparently nope. Revelations takes it even further, with Mikoto and Sumeragi getting expanded upon while Garon remains a one scene wonder.
  • To continue on the point, the fact that no villain in the game is from Hoshido. Iago and Hans are both Nohrian and later on so the another late game Revelations villain. To give then credit, it’s not all black and white, as Mokushu is also based on Japan is treated as evil.
  • Now, world building. This is one area where the game falls seriously flat. You may remember older games like Path of Radiance, Sacred Stones and Binding Blade all began with introducing the continent the game is based in, as well as the various countries in it. Or at the very leastn they were explained between the chapters. Very little of that happens in Fates, to the point that the continent the game is set in doesn’t even have a name.
  • As for problems within the story, Conquest in a mess. Besides never feeling that you’re on the side of Justice (Arthur’s battle cries do start feeling bittersweet and ironic towards the end of the game), the way in which the plot progresses makes no sense at all. I can give it a slide as real wars do sometimes have flimsy reasons like this, but if you really want people to get invested in your story, then please avoid it. It also took away from the sacrifices that came in later. I personally felt more like they died for a foolish cause.
  • Revelations is okay… it would have been better if Valla was actually mentioned beforehand. The supposed curse on mentioning Valla was a rather weak way to keep the story moving forward. If they instead treated Valla as something only believed to exist in legend but actually exists, it would have been better. Though I am grateful for the Ace Attorney esque twist towards the end. That was amazing.

Misc. negative: The… *ahem* Bonding feature is tacky, to say the least. While some people may appreciate it, I don’t think it adds anything worthwhile. Then again, this exists, so I can’t complain, I suppose. 😛

In conclusion, 

Fire Emblem Fates is a good game. While the story is not quite as good as compared to the rest of the series, it does enough with its gameplay mechanics and level design to make the games enjoyable and worth your time.

Hours Sunk: 150

Recommendation: 

Yes, especially to first time Fire Emblem fans.