Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East Review

[Note: this review only pertains to the the first season]

Story:
Shino looks like a harmless kid, but he’s far older and more dangerous than he seems. His body is home to a particularly dangerous demon sword and though he usually fights for what’s right, there is no telling just how long he can control his other half. Especially when there are others like him out there, not all with good intention.

Violence:
There’s nothing worse than Fullmetal Alchemist in here, but some of it is creepy. The creature living in Shino is pretty much in his arm and he comes out in a rather disturbing manner. Although there in no blood in that “transformation,” there is plenty in the rest of the series. Characters get slashed, bitten, and tortured. In fact, the amount of violence in this show gets closer to Trinity Blood‘s level near the end and nearly got a WZ. So if you’re squeamish around violence, it’d be best to avoid this one.

Language:
As with most shows in the TV14 range, there are a few instances of the b-words used. But they are rare and usually you only have to deal with a d-mn or two.

Nudity:
Shockingly, the nudity in this show is very low to non-existent. The worse it gets, beyond seeing bare guy chests, is one particular character who is bluntly labeled a prostitute and lives in a brothel. We never see anything happening, but we know it does and she wakes up in bed at least once naked (sheets cover any details). The topic is quite serious for a show like this and I was surprised they dared even go that far, but regardless, we’re spared from too much fanservice.
Ah. Shino also dressed as a girl in his younger years, a device that’s used as a joke now and again from that point on, especially concerning one older male character that is said to go for Shino’s “type.”  Nothing ever occurs, however.

Theology/mythology:
If the idea of demons and such living right alongside Catholic churches bothers you, this show is a skip. The ideas of God and various creatures of Japanese folklore living side by side is a common theme and can’t be avoided. Most of the theological topics concentrate on politics within the churches, so, as usual for anime, no indoctrination is to be found here. Although, expect the ideas of sins and forgiveness to be woven here and there.

Personal impression:
This review only covers the first season for good reason. I barely made it through thirteen episodes without falling asleep.
Now the odd thing is, this show should have all the ingredients for a good run. And it does have a decent amount of high stars. So, why was I so painfully bored throughout season one? My brother, who was watching it with me at the time, made a very accurate comment which I rather find rings true: This show has no focus. It meanders. The characters have backgrounds and thus should have goals, but they walk here and there with seemingly little purpose. Even when provided with a quest for the rest of the series (finding others that have marbles like they were born with), the characters move slowly and without any rush. It’d make more sense to say they were going out for groceries rather than handling an important mission considering the flippant attitude the characters have the whole time. This makes any action that comes up seem pointless and of little concern to viewers.
The music is decent, even containing tracks sung by the band that sung the original Last Exile ender, and the art is good too. But these elements hardly make up for such lazy characters.
If you don’t mind an aimless feeling in your shows, you probably won’t mind this show’s issues. But if you like your characters to be driven, seek your entertainment elsewhere.

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 13 (season one only)
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Action, fantasy
Website: n/a
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screenshots:
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Extra: Fall line up

Arpeggo of Blue Steel
Are we overdue for another post-apocalyptic show? Probably. But that’s the spot this show is supposed to fill. Ocean war games in a future where most of the land has been swallowed by the sea? Huge ships powered by…. lolita girls? Ok, so this may or may not be a show to be taken seriously. But, hey, who knows. Only time will tell if this show is any good or just another pitiful attempt at making up random moe situations.

Beyond the Boundary
This show is by far my favorite for this season’s streaming line up. The animation and the characters are fun and dance the line between comedy and serious drama rather well. Not to mention that the main male character is actually pretty comical. I’m still early in the stream, so it’s hard to say if this show will keep its momentum or if it’ll fall for the same trap so many before end up in: predictability and a non-stellar ending.

Kimi Ni Todoke
Every now and again it’s good to go back in time to see a classic you never had a chance to see before. And if you haven’t tried this shoujo show out yet, don’t hesitate to jump in! although there is a comedic element, this is probably more along the lines of a pure shoujo show and, amazingly, is quite refreshing due to the main couple actually having a very healthy and respectful relationship (gasp!). The main heroine is wonderfully clueless, but she is truthful throughout which really sets her apart from other heroines in this genre. And considering all the shoujo horrors that have been coming out lately, this show is a great way to cleanse the mind and remember that guys can and should be respectful and girls can and should speak their minds and not hold back.

Zakuro Review

Story:
In a world where westernization and the spirits of old Japan intermingle, three soldiers from the military are requested to join up with Spirit Affairs, an organization dedicated to fostering understanding between humans and spirits. But when they arrive, they find that they will be paired with half-spirits for their missions. And understanding their new partners and the hardships they have suffered might be a bit of a bumpy ride.

Violence:
Overall the violence is pretty standard for its rating. Blood comes from cuts and such. However, there are a few unusual deaths where people’s blood (or life force, hard to say) is taken from them and the corpses are pretty gross. The monster that feeds off of them, a female spider thing, is pretty scary too. Also, there is the beheading of fox spirits and the draining of their blood for a ritual. It’s surprisingly graphic for a show that is more reasonably balanced in this section at the start, so be warned.

Language:
Nothing too unusual here. At worst you’ll have a b-word once or twice, but most of the time you’ll only find d-mns and such.

Nudity:
Cleavage. Lots of it in the case of one ally and a villainess. That’s about it for the typical nudity, but I should address another issue. The manner of birth for half-spirits. It heavily implies women are raped and such to achieve it. Also, one character has an affair that results in pregnancy. We never see stuff actually “going down,” thankfully. But one villain’s desire to “plant his seed” into the heroine is extremely uncomfortable for multiple reasons and you should be well warned on this before taking the show up.

Theology/mythology:
If Japanese folklore, including spirits, half spirits, and such bother you, skip this show. Although there’s no real indoctrination going down (there rarely is with Japanese shows), the main heroine is a half spirit. There’s no getting around that. If it bugs you, choose another show to storm.

Personal impression:
This show was amusing enough for what it was, but it doesn’t break or even bend many rules. And the ones it does flex near the end actually only leave a funny taste in the mouth.
The animation is sub-par (although the lighting is very strange. It’s almost as if everything is washed out. I’m not sure if this was intentional or simply due to a bad video format via Hulu). The music is rather forgettable, though the chant the girls sing is actually nice. The story is on the more predictable side, as is the norm for these kinds of shows. The only real surprise was how far some issues were taken. The main villain is all about happy-rape-fun-time so he can get more “power” and it’s quite disturbing once certain facts come to light concerning his intended victim. But most disturbing of all is that a large part of the end focuses on how he got to be messed up in the head and how we should suddenly feel sorry for him. Which is really hard to do considering that he’s getting ready to rape an unconscious girl… The show manages to salvage itself and return to its predictable and average roots by the very end, but the “redemption” angle they tried to pull will only leave an odd feeling behind, largely tainting what could have been a rather cute ending.
If you like these kinds of shows and are not concerned about a bit more creepy on the villain plate, you might enjoy this show. The comedy isn’t stellar, but it has its moments. But if you like characters to be consistent and really “earn” their change, this show might just give you the willies. Especially if the whole shoujo thing isn’t for you in the first place. I mean, there just happened to be a spark between each partner? And they all just happened to be evenly numbered (twins come as a pack, I guess)? Can’t get much more predictable than that.

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 13
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Magical girl, comedy, romance
Website: n/a
Legal streaming: Hulu
Screenshots:
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Durarara Review

Story:
Mikado Ryugamine moved to Ikebukuro with big dreams of how exciting life was sure to be in a big city. But although he didn’t find the city to be boring, he certainly didn’t expect it to be overflowing with gangs and old supernatural lore come to life. Between his school days with his friends, odd encounters on the street with manga lovers and a tall sushi bar owner and occasional glimpses at info brokers and thugs, Mikado learns his way around his new home and some of the more dangerous people that live there.

Violence:
There are two main elements of high violence (besides the over the top slap stick stuff). Element one: evil sword possession. This whole sequence is creepy and there is quite a lot of blood. I’d say Fullmetal Alchemist levels on average with a few quick bursts of Trinity Blood. So expect blood, mainly via cuts.
The other element is supernatural. One character is headless and cannot be killed. She is experimented on. No real blood or anything, but it’s still creepy and a bit horrifying as it feels pain.

Language:
Expect the usual fare of d-mn and sh-ts, with an occasional b-word flung out for flare. Nothing too excessive, but it’s not PG stuff either.

Nudity:
We have that one character with the big rack (don’t we always these days?) and they trow out a joke on her… assets here and there. There’s also the above experamental scene. The female creature appears to not wear clothing. We don’t see any details, however.

Theology/mythology:
Since I’ve mentioned supernaturals, you should have guessed this would be coming up. So, yes, there is a headless creature, also called a fea (fairy). And, yes, there is a possessed sword. And, yes, if those kinds of things bother you chances are so will this show. But there’s not much stalk put into theology behind these strange things. They just simply… are, oddly enough.

Personal impression:
I absolutely loved this show back when it was airing and I still do. It’s very strange to see such an amazing blend of current technological worries and folklore work so well together and for an anime to pull it off is quite rare. The characters are rich, the art is amazing, capturing both bright city lights and mythical headless riders in the same scenes, and the music is fitting.
This said, there’s also so much to this story that it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. At times the story is almost too much to keep track of and the ending leaves a great deal to be desired as a major plot element is left to hang itself. If you like everything to wrap up, this series’ ending will leave you frustrated in the extreme. But if you can deal with a loose end or two, you’ll find that this show is an amazingly fun ride between the modern and fairy tale worlds with more than a few twists to dazzle you.

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 25
Languages: Sub and dub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Action, fantasy, drama
Website: n/a
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screenshots:
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Extra: Concerning rape

Considering the recent WZ I had to pen on Diabolik Lovers, I think it’s fitting to bring up a very important topic that more than a few people tend to avoid. Rape.

Of course, first things first. Let’s define rape so we’re very clear on what it is. Rape is sex OR sexual acts (which may or may not take one’s virginity) without consent. Also, a drugged or alcohol weakened mind does not count. Consent must be given in a clear mind set. After all, if someone is drugged and claims they are an alien sub-species from the planet Nebluair, would you believe them? Of course not! Thus any answers to questions given while under the influence of any substance cannot be taken as legitimate consent.

Alright, now onto the reason this is an issue. The recent WZ mentioned above is not the only show guilty of this, although it is certainly the most extreme case as of late. I’ve already touched on this abusive trend slightly concerning Amnesia’s “cage” episode. And this popped up again in this summer’s Brothers Conflict stream where the heroine is repeated kissed and flung around by her “brothers” without any permission or thought to her feelings whatsoever. Now the kissing-without-permission is sadly a common element not only in shoujo shows, but also in media at large. The ol’ hero-kisses-the-girl bit is used and reused to death with very few viewers questioning the trend. It’s become far too deeply entrenched into our culture. So much so, that it takes excessive use of this (such as in the above shows) to jolt us out of this sick delusion and get us thinking, “what a minute. Did she give the ok on that lip bomb?” Chances are, she didn’t. Because, yes, while always asking before you kiss your girlfriend would dampen things considerably, kissing a girl right after meeting her when you have not been dating or given any impression of them being anything other than an acquaintance is not at all acceptable behavior.

And then you have shows like Diabolik Lovers, which are so clearly straight up abuse cases, it makes me ill thinking about how it ever managed to clear basic planning sessions. Now I realize that BDSM exists and some claim it as healthy when done correctly. I won’t go into my personal thoughts on that, but I will say this. That “correct” manner mentioned up there includes consent. Which these heroines are NOT giving. Thus BDSM cannot even begin to excuse these shows. It is abuse at best. Outright rape at worst. Either way, it’s not something I want to see continue strong in shows from here on out. But that means we women need to put our foot down and give a resounding “hell no” to supporting this kind of “entertainment.” Companies are more liable to listen when money is on the line. And a huge drop in their target audience just might be enough to make them think twice about how women want to be, and should be, treated.

Warning Zone: Diabolik Lovers

The why:
When a show is tagged “otome” I know I’m not going to get anything deep. In fact, I’ll be lucky if the main character isn’t stupid enough to tempt me into purging the planet of my gender. That said, a very sick trend has taken root in the recent otome shows that have sprung up. And it’s why this show gets a solid WZ on top of being dropped after episode five.

Rape. That’s right. You heard me. Now, I realize the story sets a young girl in a house of vampire hotties and a recipe for a healthy relationship just isn’t in the cards… Even so. Every episode contains the heroine getting pushed down, smacked or even cut to the joy of her male captors. They then proceed to drink her blood, forcefully kiss her or mark up her skin. All without her consent. That, dear readers, is rape. Or, if you wish to be overly technical, molestation. And I refuse to condone such a thing. Of course, the random bad language doesn’t help (one of the male characters calls the heroine b-chan. Whoever thought that was attractive needs to get another job).

Personal thoughts:
Just to clarify, I have only seen around five episodes of this show. However, the amount of abuse was so high, I just couldn’t take it anymore. The most the character ever does is say “No” and very feebly push back. She does not try escaping or legitimately fighting, so the chances of her defeating her clear enemies are null. In fact, the tone of the show seems to make it clear that they intend on continuing this horrid trend just as it has been. Every vampire and his brother will abuse her, with a small side plot about her father thrown in now and again for good measure.
The art is decent, but does not at all justify the horrid story and characters. The fact that this show even exists makes me feel a bit sick. Currently it’s streaming and thus has not been officially rated. However, it could easily be given the TV14 mark as the violence and nudity content is nothing worse than other shows in that category. Strictly speaking, anyway. But the context of what is there is far from acceptable and thus right in the WZ it goes. If you like hot vampire dudes, I suggest shows with actual thought behind them, like Trinity Blood. At the very least they don’t treat women like voiceless blood banks ripe for abuse.