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As the years have passed by, the JRPG has fallen far in the eyes of gamers. From being the must have, killer app that every platform needed (love it or hate it, Final Fantasy VII was one of the most important games in the history of the Playstation), they've now been reduced to curios, outshone commercially by their western counterparts and appealing only to a small niche audience. Critics have lambasted them for generic design, poor stories and weak dialogue, and it certainly seems that barring some exceptions the overall quality of games has diminished as the years have gone by.

One of the exceptions to this downward trend has been the Shin Megami Tensei games, not so much in being niche products (part of the appeal is that they are very niche) but in the fact they've injected some fresh ideas and concepts into the genre. Dark, heavily based on existing mythologies, and normally set in modern day urban environments, they've become something of a banner series for those who insist the JRPG can still be relevant. In particular, the Persona sub series, after a successful reintroduction to the west in 2006 with Persona 3, has become a fan favourite. Persona 4 followed in 2008 and though it emerged years after the PS2 had been rendered an outdated console, it was widely regarded as a superb game. Over time its legend has grown to the point that many now regard it as one of the greatest RPGs ever made. Needless to say then that when Atlus announced a remake for PS Vita, complete with new content, expectations were high. Whereas the original Persona 4 had sailed under most people's radars, this new version arrives with 4 years of hype behind it, along with a duty to shoulder a platform which lacks decent software to put it kindly.

Is it up to the challenge? Absolutely.



At its core, this is fundamentally the same game as the PS2 original. What that means is a game of two distinct portions that tie together in interesting and clever ways. One half is a heavily story driven social interaction game, almost a dating sim but without any of the negative connotations that term comes with. You spend your days going to school, hanging out with your friends, working part time jobs etc. Certain characters act as 'social links', each of whom has their own individual little story that can be explored by spending time with them. You can also eat in restaurants, study, or work, each of which raises certain attributes such as 'courage' and 'knowledge' which are often necessary to access certain social links or dialogue choices.

The other half of the game takes place in a malevolent world inside your television set, and is a slightly more traditional turn based dungeon crawler, but with enough quirks to make it interesting. You and your party of up to three others must tackle multi-floored, partially randomly generated dungeons, battling the 'shadows' who lurk within. These come in a dizzying array of types, shapes and sizes. You'll be summoning the titular Personas - mythological creatures who represent parts of your psyche (yes, it's weird) - to battle them. Like many of the other Shin Megami Tensei games, combat revolves around a series of elemental weaknesses that both you and the enemies have - if you hit their weakness, they'll be knocked down and you'll get an extra turn. Downing all enemies leads to a powerful 'All Out Attack' which is essential to take out certain enemies.



The real genius here is the way the two systems intermingle on multiple layers. You see, unlike every other party member, you, the protagonist, have the ability to switch between multiple Personas, each one possessing different attacks and resistances. You gain new Personas by 'fusing' together old ones, making more powerful monsters out of multiple weaker ones. So there's already a compelling, Pokemon-esque nature to gathering Personas and forging stronger ones, but there's more also. The Personas are categorised into groups tied to the major arcana of the Tarot deck - The Fool, The Magician, The Priestess etc. Each of your social links is also tied to one of these arcana (and in a nice flourish, the link character(s) represent the qualities associated with that symbol). If you're fusing a Persona that's associated with an arcana you've established a link for, that Persona will gain bonus experience. The stronger the link, the more experience the Persona will gain. When social links reach their highest level, you'll also be granted the ability to fuse an 'Ultimate' Persona for that arcana, which are generally ridiculously powerful.



The final ingredient in this addictive cocktail is time. The game takes place on a 'real-time' scale over the course of a year, and while that may sound like a lot it turns out to be nowhere near enough. All of the above actions take a certain amount of time - every day you spend hanging out with your buddies is another day you could instead be jumping into the TV and grinding out some XP in battle. It's complicated by the fact that all of the characters you're interacting with have their own schedules as well. Some links are only available on certain days or once certain conditions have been met - the sports club won't meet when it's raining for example, and you'll need a certain level of bravery before you can skip class to hang out with one character. The game also sets hard dates dungeons need to be completed by, so there's no chance of simply hanging out until you feel you're ready.

What this results in is something genuinely rare in gaming - choice with actual consequence. It's not the grandstanding 'who lives and who dies' choices you often see splashed on the back of boxes, but instead something subtle and more powerful. Every in-game day is a mess of small choices that might eventually lead to big benefits. Will you spend your time after school with the band or at a part time job? Studying in the evening won't get you any immediate benefit, but it might unlock something major down the line. Jumping in the TV to battle monsters will make that next boss that much easier, but what if you want to go out with your girlfriend? With 23 Social Links (2 of which have been newly added for this version) and a plethora of other activities, it's (almost) impossible to do everything, so you're going to have to make choices about what you want to see and who you're going to hang out with.



None of this would matter of course if you didn't actually want to spend time with characters. Luckily, Persona 4 boasts one of the most interesting and fun videogame casts in years. Though it continues Japan's obsession with setting stories in high school, the teenagers who make up the majority of the main cast are far from stereotypes. Instead, they're an appealing and diverse bunch who actually behave somewhat like you'd expect kids of their age to. At Persona 4's heart there's a knockabout camaraderie reminiscent of an 80's John Hughes comedy like The Breakfast Club, full of goofy escapades and witty dialogue. Most RPGs are all about the quest, but here it's also about the downtime between the epic moments when you'll just be hanging out with your team, going to the beach or the school festival, romancing the ladies or rough-housing with the guys. This is one of those rare occasions where an RPG's extreme length (it'll take 50 hours to complete if you're racing through) helps as well - you'll spend so long in the sleepy country town the game is set in you'll adapt to the rhythms of life there, and grow closer to the characters as you live out your days with them.

It's not all teenage hijinks and hanging out after school though. SMT games have always had a reputation as dark, serious stories and while Persona 4 might be the brightest of them, there's still a lot of heavy, thoughtful material to be consumed here. Almost all of the social links revolve around some sort of issue the involved character has, and these often go to some pretty serious places. Topics such as self-confidence, depression, heartbreak and death are all explored, with a surprising amount of sensitivity and nuance, and while there's some obvious fluctuation in the quality and nature of the social links, the best are good enough that they could make compelling vignettes or short stories in their own right. Particularly notable is the game's mature handling of sexuality, which acknowledges homosexuality, gender portrayal and sexual stereotyping in an open and even-handed way. The game isn't exactly a masterpiece of introspection, but the excellent quality of the writing and the bravery of touching upon such themes means it deserves immense credit.



The quality of the game is also aided by a fine audiovisual effort and a typically polished translation from the team at Atlus. Graphically this is clearly a Playstation 2 game, but the bright vivid Vita screen and a few choice graphical upgrades help everything look clean and smooth, while the addition of new artwork and high resolution sprites helps add sharpness. Character designer Shigenori Soejima does great work producing a distinctive looking cast with his trademark style and there's a host of delightful design touches, especially the individual dungeons which boast very distinctive aesthetics. Music is a high point, with composer Shoji Meguro bringing a whole host of incredibly distinctive themes to the table - I guarantee a few hours playing will have them permanently stuck in your head. The game is also graced by one of the finest voice dubs ever, with a variety of skilled actors bringing their A-game to breathe life into the characters. Impressively, Atlus were able to bring the vast majority of the original cast back to record the (considerable) additional dialogue for this release, and the the characters who didn't have voice actors returning had their entire dialogue rerecorded.



What emerges at the end then, is a wonderfully, exceptionally crafted game that hasn't suffered one bit in being downsized to a portable platform, and in many ways has actually improved. And if that's all it was then it would still be one of the finest gaming experiences of the past year. But Persona 4 achieves that rare feat among games where it becomes more than just about the mechanical ins and outs and instead becomes about the experience. It's not just about the memorable characters, or the excellent story, or the impressive writing or the finely honed mechanics - it's all of these things, fused together into one seamless adventure that remains in the head and heart long after all the number crunching or button pressing has faded. After eighty hours in this world, after devouring every shred of content I had available to me, I still wanted one more mission, one last boss. Any excuse to spend another second in this world. That's about the highest praise I can give.
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It seems only yesterday that we were kicking off 2012, and yet here we are at the end of our first season. Despite initial scepticism over the quality of the season, I actually found a lot to enjoy. Here, as usual, I'll be recapping what I dropped, what's ongoing, and what reached an end during this season


Dropped



Symphogear (3 episodes) - I said it had potential, but disappointingly it chose to squander that potential, devolving into a bunch of predictable angst, skin crawling fanservice and pointless plot meandering. The characters were extremely unlikeable, the fights were poor and the animation was rough. A shame.

Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-Ne (3 episodes) - My main criticism of it in the beginning was overwhelming blandness, and I really didn't see much in the following two episodes that countered that. Madoka was entertaining, the fights were OK, Lan was boring and the show was just so generically predictable that I couldn't bring myself to continue. It's a pity, as I've heard this one picked up considerably later on, which may lead to me revisiting it, but as it was the vital hook just wasn't there.

PoyoPoyo (2 episodes) - If you only have one joke then, no matter how good it is, you're going to get old real fast.

Aquarion EVOL (1 episode) - HAHAHAHAHA dear god no.


Halfway Home...

Bodacious Space Pirates



Firstly, I'd like to point something out. This show is called Bodacious Space Pirates. How frickin' awesome is that?

Pirates has continued onwards at the extremely relaxed pace it established in its first episode, something which I know has frustrated a lot of people. Ironically it's pretty much the opposite of what youd expect from a show titled like this - it's slow, very character focused and has relatively little action. This has mostly been to the show's advantage, but the pace can frustrate a little sometime. The opening school cruise plot arc probably went on for about an episode too long, and while the subsequent ghost ship arc was much better paced it often seemed a little confused as to its purpose. In fact, imparting information is something the show does pretty poorly - the Betenmaru crew, for example, are never actually introduced - they just appear and we're meant to pick it up from there. Likewise, throughout the ghost ship arc I occasionally found myself questioning who was on which side, what exactly they were looking for and generally what the hell was going on. Such poor communication smacks of bad adaptation from the source light novel, where I'm sure much more background could be laid out, but it hurts the flow of the story quite badly.

Nevertheless, the show remains immensely enjoyable, thanks to the kinetic cast, who are refreshingly well rounded characters. Marika herself remains a great protagonist, highly relatable, upbeat without becoming annoying and realistically concerned about her situation. Her big sister chemistry with the stowaway princess Gruier is a real highlight of the show so far. The rest of the cast too are funny without being caricatures and are gradually having depth added to them as the show goes on. Satelight's interstellar future continues to look and sound top notch, with the bright and clean animation very easy on the eye, and there's a bonus point for a near total lack of fanservice. I'm excited there's going to be more, and hopefully the show can step up the pace a little and build to an exciting climax.

Journey's End

Persona 4 The Animation



This is a difficult segment to write.

Persona 4 is not a bad show. It's quite a good one actually. It has a great central cast, stuffed full of memorable characters who defy stereotyping for the most part. It has a cool and interesting hook. The central plot is solid, with some decent twists and turns, and the show succeeds in weaving a compelling mystery that ties its disparate elements together. The voice cast is top notch, and the music is excellent.

The problem is these were all also strengths of the game the show is based on, and rather than using the new format to tighten and strengthen these points, the show has chosen to dilute and in many cases wreck what made the game so great. What Persona 4 the game did so well that many videogames don't is layer depth into its world. I'd never say it made its characters feel like real people, but you were aware they had feelings and motivations which were not immediately obvious. The time you spent playing allowed you to sink into their lives. This isn't true of the series, particularly due to the in retrospect disastrous decision to try and cram every single social link into its own episode. The result is a show which feels desperately poorly paced (especially noticeable in the rushed ending) and manages to reduce most of its secondary plotlines to trite concerns. Interesting, meaningful characters like Ai Ebihara and Ayane Matsunaga have to have their stories crammed into one-shot feature episodes, making them seem rushed and inconsequential.

The godawful animation meanwhile deserves an entire paragraph of its own to talk about. Never have I seen a show that struggled to stay on model so much. Characters are drawn noticeably different from shot to shot, and the animation team has a real problem with keeping eyes straight. Even the battle scenes are nothing more than passable (and the choreaography is pretty poor), and the incompetence everywhere else is so staggering it sort of makes that irrelevant. Fun game - try and see how much Nanako's height relative to the other characters varies over the course of the series (it's a lot).

Again, Persona 4 is not a bad show. Had I never played the game, I'd probably be more willing to give it credit for the cool monsters, smart mystery and likeable characters. But I have played the game. And ironically, this show is but a pale shadow.


Daily Lives of High School Boys



"Let's get this straight - there's nothing here that's going to change the world. With that out of the way, I can confess I really quite enjoyed this"

That's what I wrote in the preview for Daily Lives of High School Boys and 12 episodes later it's an almost perfect encapsulation of the series. It's regularly very funny, and it's best skits mostly involve needling the cliches of anime that it is so heavily reliant on. When it leans gently on the fourth wall and winks at us is when the show is at its most enjoyable, along with some entertaining ventures into the realm of surrealism - the three way roleplaying game roleplay is a undoubted series highlight which blends both of these situations to great effect.

Other things don't work quite so well, like the frequent reliance on very long drawn out gags that don't even have very funny punchlines at the end, and the often palpable lack of movement in the animation. It's a sketch show in the truest sense of the form - I could happily recount several setups that had me chuckling heartily but I'll damned if I could name any character or provide any distinguishing characteristics. It delivers the funny, but lacks the human heart that makes the best comedy sketch shows (such as Cromartie High School, or Azumanga Daioh) a step above. That said, there were ultimately way more hits than misses here, and that's a success in my book.

Also spawned the best show nickname this season in the form of Nichibros.


Ano Natsu de Matteru



Every season there's always one show that turns out better than you expect. This time round, that was AnoNatsu. Expecting a nicely animated magical girlfriend cum harem show, what we instead got was a bright, charming yet sensitive show on the pangs of teenage love.

Despite initial appearances, the show manages to shuck off its seemingly shallow aspirations and instead fleshed itself out into one of the best genuine straight up romances since Toradora. Huge credit must be given to the fantastic cast, who manage to defy first impressions and establish themselves as unique personalities despite falling into the well worn grooves of childhood friend, perverse loli etc. Instead, the characters develop a pleasing mixture of anime naivete and real world savvy. Male lead Kaito is a strong subversion of the traditional clueless protagonist, and he's matched well with human alien Ichika, who's also a considerably better character than her inital busty ditz act would suggest. The supporting cast is also universally strong, from energetic yet troubled childhood friend Kanna to the show stealing Lemon, who manages to buck every characteristic traditionally associated with the twin tailed loli character in a delightfully sly fashion.

If I have to offer a criticism, it's that the show really takes a little too long to get going. The first half is really just a chance for a few nice character moments interspersed with a bit of scenery porn and some generous (but to be fair, rarely gratuitous) fanservice. It's only in the last five episodes that the plot really kicks into high gear, leading to some excellent emotional confrontations and one of the best climaxes in recent memory. Credit as well for not taking the easy way out and giving us a 'happily ever after ending' - what we get is more complex but also infinitely more affecting. It's one of JC Staff's best animation jobs in recent memory too - character design is cute and charming without falling into moeblob territory while the hazy blue and green horizons of rural Japan are a pleasure to behold.

Ano Natsu de Matteru doesn't really quite have the legs to step it up into 'classic' territory but it's nonetheless a very good show, full of warm, friendly characters, beautiful landscapes, good laughs and moving moments. A fine effort that wil linger on in the memory.


Black Rock Shooter



This should have been trash. It is after all (deep breath) an OVA spinoff of an OVA that was packed in with toys that were based on some drawings in an art book. The fact that the original OVA was pretty awful certainly didn't inspire confidence either. Its therefore a minor miracle that Ordet were able to revisit the same basic premise (middle school girls have otherworldly superpowered alter egos) and instead craft it into one of the most entertaining shows this season.

To do this, they've essentially done a Madoka on it - taken a decent script, made it very dark and creep-tastic, laced with lashings of symbolism and thrown some top notch artowrk behind it. Result! And it really is quite a result. Though it doesn't match up to that masterpiece, what we have here is a very compelling ,well paced dark psychological drama that isn't afraid to kick up the action when it needs to.

It's the 'real world' stuff that really earns BRS it's stripes however. Rather than being pointless filler as it was in the 2009 OVA instead here it's an important and even enjoyable part of the stories. One of the key plot points here was to make real world events much more closely mirror what's happening in the 'Other' world, tying them closer and giving us a much more intriguing mystery to unravel. The characters are likeable too, and while they aren't the most complex personalities in the world, crucially they're interesting enough to make them the story focus, rather than Black Rock Shooter and the other warriors. It gives the show an appeal beyond the invitable battle scenes.

When the battle scenes do come however, they don't disappoint. Ordet outdid themselves here, with some fantastic battle choreography backed up with brilliant, colour themed worlds and some truly bizarre architecture. Though the liberal use of CG is reasonably obvious, it just adds to the surreality of the whole situation, and the fighting is so good you probaby won't care too much anyway.

If I have a criticism to make, it's probably that the ending is a little too neat and cliched to me. While 'You can't ignore your pain, you have to face it' is a classic message, and a good one for the show to adopt, the sequence of events comes dangerously close to THE POWER OF FRIENDSHIP triumphing and visually, it's a bit of a weird one. Having said that, the plot offers good solid resolution with a cheeky but pleasing sequel hook, and there's even a big emotional moment to add a bit of depth to the fireworks.

Black Rock Shooter was a genuine but pleasant surprise. This may be a case of me liking the show more than a lot of other people, since it ticks a lot of my boxes - surrealism, great action, distinctive art and psychological drama - but I think that it's a fine, high quality show that stands very well on its own merits and offers a unique, great looking and emotionally moving experience. For that, I'm very happy to declare it the best show of the season.

Thanks for reading guys, as ever comments and feedback are much appreciated
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If you're over the age of about ten, Power Rangers is the dumbest thing in the universe. It's a hyper-extended toy commercial full of cheap special effects, goofy looking monsters, laughably bad acting and way too much spandex.

But if you're under ten (or just never bothered to grow up) the Power Rangers is the greatest thing of all time ever. They have awesome costumes! Sweet weapons! Giant robots! And they're defending the earth against magical/alien/robot invasion! How cool is that?

The point is, you sort of need a particular mindset to enjoy Power Rangers, or in this case, its Japanese parent series Super Sentai. You need, in no particular order, good suspension of disbelief, a liking for explosions, and an extremely high tolerance for camp. Put those together, and Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger will show you the time of your life.



It has to be said, right off the bat, that Gokaiger is special for a number of reasons. The major one of these is that it's the 35th anniversary season of Super Sentai, which began all the way back in 1976 with Himitsu Sentai Goranger. And so, to commemorate the occasion, Gokaiger was all about the nostalgia - the team can transform into every one of the past 34 teams, and at least one cast member from every old team returns for a cameo appearance (though naturally the newer teams get the lion's share of it). Even if you're not familiar with the extensive history of Super Sentai (and I'm certainly not 100% on it) all of the appearances by old school figures are kind of cool, showing that Toei really went all out for this special occasion.

This shows in the action too. Tokusatsu (the live action, people in rubber suits genre to which Super Sentai, Kamen Rider et al belong to) has a reputation for looking incredibly cheap but Gokaiger looks....well OK, it still looks cheap. But it's the right kind of cheap, the kind where the producers clearly said "we'll try and do something awesome and if we have to stretch the budget, so what?". So yes, the CGI looks like a PS2 game, but who cares when you're using it to make giant robots backflip and dive through the air guns akimbo? They're clearly using the same 4 or 5 locations for the fights (including the obligatory quarry) but who cares when the fights are this dynamic, exciting and well choreographed? Gokaiger puts the money where it matters - mostly into massive explosions which like all the best Sentai shows are used at every available opportunity. The action is without fail thrilling, be the crew battling the monster of the week, facing off against evil counterparts or just engaging in flashy transformation sequences, which somehow never get old.



Ah yes, the crew. At the end of the day, you can throw all the flash and thunder you like up on screen, but at least some of your episode has to involve the people behind those masks. This is where so many Power Rangers series have fallen short in adapting their source material, creating 'characters' who are just a series of exposition spouting eat-your-greens-and-do-your-homework ciphers (for a perfect example of this see the currently airing Power Rangers Samurai, where the original team have the collective charisma of paint drying). Happily, it's also where Gokaiger rises above, creating a bold and memorable cast who are just as much fun to watch out of costume as in. That's not to say they're the deepest characters in the world, but they're all well defined, distinctive and a lot of fun.

Unlike the west, Japan seemingly has no issue with letting its children look up to people who are kind of dicks, so we have as our hero the cocky, arrogant Captain Marvelous (and seriously, how amazing is it that they called the lead character Captain Marvelous?), a hot blooded, arrogant pirate who nevertheless has a heart of gold, and is dedicated to both his crew and his dream of finding the Greatest Treasure in the Universe. He's ably accompanied by his first mate Joe Gibken, a cold as ice dude-who-looks-like-a-lady who's packed full full of snark and badassery. Also along for the ride are Luka Millfy, a money obsessed, flippant lady with a troubled past, Don 'Doc' Dogoier, the team's tech guy but also a massive klutz and amusingly bad fighter, and Ahim de Famille, an unfailingly sweet and polite Princess whose planet was conquered by the bad guys. They're later joined by Gai Ikari, an earthling who's a massive super sentai fanboy and epically large ham. And then there's team pet Navi, a robot parrot who guides them to their treasure through being bashed on the head.



Speaking of the bad guys, they're a good bunch too - idiot commander Warz Gill is a moron who only occasionally manages to be a serious threat by accident, but his cool calculating second in command Damaras is far more dangerous, as is his cyborg bodyguard Barizorg. Rounding off the set is femme fatale Insarn, a scientist who's responsible for the much beloved tradition of growing the monsters to massive size. And then there's Basco te Jolokia, another dude-who-looks-like-a-lady who's a privateer and has a connection to Marvelous...

The archetypes are broadly familiar then, but the characters are incredibly engaging and a lot of fun to hang out with. A lot of this is due to good writing and good acting. It may seem super strange to be praising the acting in a Sentai series, but everyone inhabits their character well and really does a great job of making them entertaining and bringing out their characteristics. it's not Shakespeare but the actors are still great at taking everything seriously and communicating what the characters are thinking and feeling out onto the screen. I've got to give special credit to Ryota Ozawa, who effortlessly projects Marvelous' cockeyed swagger - you never feel he's not on the verge of doing something totally awesome. Praise also goes to Kazuki Shimizu, whose bumbling yet lovable portrayal of Don instantly became a fan favourite, and Junya Ikeda, whose wildly hammy turn as Gai is a tremendous example of physical acting (those flailing limbs! Those trollfaces!) that stays just on the right side of annoying.



In fact, Gai is an excellent example of the care that the writers have taken to balance the story well. As the sixth ranger and a huge sentai fanboy in-universe you'd probably expect him to be a blatant kid-surrogate who shills new merchandise like crazy. And there's a bit of this sure, but in fact his wild fanboy tendencies are played down pretty well and are generally only whipped out for exposition or for laughs. The fact the rest of team finds him occasionally as irritating as the audience is a pretty good running joke, and he may well be the least overpowered sixth ranger in the franchises history Likewise, Don may be the team's bumbling comic relief, but there's also small glimpses that show he's much more competent and important to the team than you might otherwise believe. It's this added depth, this three dimensionality, that makes the characters so fun to spend time with, and that ultimately makes the bits where they dress up and kick ass so much more meaningful, especially as the stunt actors and fight choreographers are great at getting the characters personalities through in their action sequences and fighting styles.



The show also benefitted from a very strong structure established early on - by structuring the plot around the Gokaiger's quest for the true powers of the 34 previous Super Sentai and establishing their ultimate goal as the Greatest Treasure in the Universe early on in the show it gave a pleasing coherence to the crews adventure. Often the early stages of a Sentai, or in fact any extremely long series will flounder as they tread water before the real plot kicks in. Here we had a strong objective almost from the word go, and one which fitted well with the episodic nature of the toku show, with the previous teams popping up for cameos on a per episode basis and a steady stream of new powers and weapons to up the stakes.



Even having said all of those things about how great it was, I'm surprised by how much I'm going to miss Gokaiger. I shouldn't be though. That's the thing about long running TV series, they have a weapon which no other artform can have- time. Every week for a year my friends and I have sat down to watch the Gokaigers adventures unfold on my TV screen, and during that time the characters have got their hooks into my heart.They became a part of my life, and saying goodbye to them is difficult. It'll be very weird seeing a new set of heroes don the red, blue and yellow. But in a certain sense, that's the beauty of Super Sentai's eternally changing format. The bad seasons can be safely forgotten, the good ones will stay complete in the memory. There'll be no gentle slide into mediocrity for Gokaiger, just the everlasting image of our crew sailing off into the galaxy, on an adventure that will continue forever (or at least until the inevitable reunion movies).

And for those of us who have to stay here on Earth, well there's always a new adventure to look forward to.



Busters, ready, GO!

Seriously, Gai might be the best trollfacer of all time. And I now want Tomokazu Seki to narrate everything I do. As ever guys, comments and feedback are much appreciated!
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Whoah, it's been a while since I've done one of these, hasn't it? Blame work and the pressures of pesky real life intruding. Regardless, after 2011 became such an excellent year for anime, with at least one cast iron classic and a whole range of good to excellent shows showing up, the first season of the new year has a tough act to follow. Hopes weren't raised by what came up in previews, but let's take a look at see how things shaped up.

Firstly...checking back in on Persona 4 The Animation



Guys, we need to admit it. I know it's difficult. For a long time, I was in denial myself. but we have to confront the truth that is staring us in the face.

Persona 4 isn't very good.

I know, I hate myself for saying it too, but the truth is the promise that showed early on has been dashed, obliterated by sloppy writing, badly paced plotting and some of the worst animation I've seen in ages. While there are still clever moments, moments of excitement and intrigue, they're drawn from the strength of the original game, which is almost always diluted in the trip to the animated medium. The subtlety and nuance of the source material has been gradually leeched out, most notably in the filler arcs that concentrate on secondary characters, which have tended to be laughably bad. And the less said about the godawful animation the better.

This isn't terrible. The inherent strength of the story they're telling prevents it from being so, and there's still a chance for a turnaround. But it has become a bitter disappointment to those of us who adored the game, and that might be even worse.


And now, onto the new stuff...

Symphogear



A show can never have too many ideas, but it can fail to make those ideas work well together and Symphogear seems to be emblematic of that problem - it can't decide what it wants to be, thematically or visually. As it is, we get a crazy mashup between mecha, magical girls, high school drama and dark hearted war flick. The premise is so utterly dumb I have trouble taking it with a straight face - evil forces known as 'The Noise' (who look like living fruit pastilles) are invading a futuristic city and turning people into ash. Fortunately, they can be repelled by the power of magic music, namely that of pop idol duo Zwei Wing, who have the power to transform into scantily clad battlesuited warriors and blow the crap out of them.

Our protagonist is the wide eyed Hibiki (who is in high school but looks about five - enough of this please), who idolises the group after one of the singers died to save her life, and is constantly trying to talk to the remaining member, who also goes to her school. Meanwhile, there's also a mysterious stone with undefined powers, a secret military backup team and oh who the hell cares?

Having said that, there are several strong hooks to keep me interested here. I'm not a big fan of the visual design, but the execution is excellent and the battle scenes full of flash. What's really drawing me back though is the darker edge the series seems to be going for - the first scene for example is a flash forward which shows Hibiki is dead, and the city in ruins. These two elements mesh perfectly at the end of this first episode, which offers a stunningly dark and twisted transformation which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. As it is, Symphogear is passable, but those last 30 seconds give me hope it's going somewhere better fast.


Lagrange - The Flower of Rin-ne



The other show this season which mashes up cute girls and robots is an interesting contrast to Symphogear - while that show has too many ideas, it's painfully obvious this one doesn't have enough of them. Madoka is a cheerful high school girl who likes to help out at various clubs and who wears a tracksuit a lot. One day she's approached by the obligatory pale, mysterious girl who doesn't say a lot, who whisks her away to a secret base and explains that only she can pilot the ultimate weapon robot that she has a mysterious bond with. A giant bad guy appears and mission control puts the robot on automatic, but once Madoka takes manual control the robot amazingly powers up and kicks ass.

To call this plot boilerplate is a disservice to heating equipment everywhere. It's so formulaic, so predictable that it could almost be a parody (and the show does manage one excellent joke just before Madoka climbs into her mech). Madoka herself is charming but unremarkable, all generic schoolgirl energy and naivety. Her mysterious friend Lan is a plot spouting automaton and the credits reveal a third, busty miniskirted member, which inspires real confidence. On that note, there's also an uncomfortable amount of blatant fanservice in this first episode. Did you know that the secret of your destiny is written on your butt, but only if you pull your underwear down to dangerously revealing levels?

What keeps this watchable is strong technical merits - the seaside landscapes are very pretty, the mech CG is slick and well integrated and the robots themselves look pretty neat, with some cool organic Tron-inspired neon design. There's nothing egregiously bad about Lagrange, but there's nothing particularly noteworthy about it either. We can only hope that it can kick up a gear in the coming weeks.


Daily Lives of High School Boys



Let's get this straight - there's nothing here that's going to change the world. With that out of the way, I can confess I really quite enjoyed this. In classic comic show style, each episode is split into little comedy skits, mostly revolving around utterly inconsequential things. But it's well written and with a sly eye for fourth wall leaning comedy and a willingness to be extremely silly it managed a fair few chuckles out of me. The opening riff on the oddity of the anime's creators is extremely well done, while a skit on crossdressing is much funnier than it has any right to be, and the closing sketch manages to milk a good amount of humour out of a scene in which almost nothing happens. Don't go in expecting a comic masterpiece, but it's funny, occasionally smart and well put together. Worth a go.


Aquarion EVOL



There are only two things worth knowing about this series

1) The mech battles are amazing - a combination of decent choreography, stunning visual spectacle and fantastic music, they are exciting, great to watch and captivating to look at.

2) Everything else is rubbish - When it isn't hackneyed, it's stupid. When it isn't stupid, it's boring. When it isn't boring, it's offensive. A whirlwind of horrible clichés, cardboard characters, dumb plots, ridiculous attempts at religious imagery and a cavalcade of unwanted and straight up nasty sexual overtones.

Yeah, it's the worst show of the lot.


Ano Natsu de Matteru



Ano Natsu has, even before it has aired, gained a reputation as this seasons's 'serious, high quality' show, but upon viewing, I've a little more trepidation. It's another case of excellent execution, but a slightly more shaky core concept. Kaito is a camera wielding high schooler, who opens the show by being brutally killed in an alien landing, complete with highly symbolic shattered glasses. Then he wakes up in his bed, writes it off as a dream and goes to school to meet the beautiful new transfer student who has just arrived and has some highly unusual habits...

Yeah, it doesn't take a genius to work this one out. The worrying part here is the taint of two of my least favourite genres - the harem comedy and the magical girlfriend show. Although Kaito's ensemble also includes his dashing ladykiller friend, we're hitting all the trademarks harem wise - slightly tsun childhood friend, shy busty girl, token loli... we can only hope it doesn't go that way.

And indeed, Ano Natsu looks to be considerably better than that. There's a real feel of quality to the script, which is subtle and well nuanced, and the characters are sketched out as smart and likeable. There's some slight fanservice, but nothing too egregious. Animation is top notch, with excellent character designs and gorgeous landscapes, and a lovely sountrack and strong songs tops out a well rounded set of strengths. Though there's still some trepidation over where that plot could go, Ano Natsu definitely has chance to carve itself a niche as the best character piece of the season.


Poyopoyo



There is a cat. He is round. Many jokes are made about the roundness of the cat. The cat likes everyone except one person. The cat is round. That one person hates the cat, who is round.

Best show a-round.


Bodacious Space Pirates



Firstly, I'd like to point something out. This show is called Bodacious Space Pirates. How frickin' awesome is that?

In all seriousness though, I found this quite enjoyable, and it's my pick of an admittedly weak crop for show of the season. There's a pleasing simplicity and elegance to what could have been a very exploitative or over the top show. Our heroine Marika lives on a backwater planet out in space, works in a maid cafe after school and enjoys yachting round the planet. This peaceful existence is disrupted one day when pirates from the privateer ship Bentenmaru show up and tell her that she's the daughter of their recently deceased captain and thus the job is hers if she wants it. Unfortunately, that also brings unwanted attention with it.

It's hard to put a finger on what makes Bodacious Space Pirates quite so effortlessly entertaining, but I'd point to the light touch overall. The show knows exactly how deep or shallow to play any given situation, never milks jokes or set pieces too long and moves swiftly over the plot keeping up a good pace. Visually the show is excellent, Satelight bringing all the flair and strong CG work they applied to Aquarion to a much more tasteful palate. I love the retro-futuristic design, contrasting old school trappings with modern tech to produce a smart, clean and elegant vision of the future. Marika herself is a very appealing character too - she's a pretty girl with distinctive features and the show makes sure we notice that, but it never descends into pandering fanservice and she never feels like an object of eye candy. It helps that her reactions are smart, mostly believable and that she comes across as friendly and relatable.

Bodacious Space Pirates (I'll never get tired or writing that) will have to bring more to the table if it's too keep up, and I'll be particularly intrigued to see how they handle things once they're out in space, but as it stands it's well built, breezy and enjoyably silly entertainment, and that's a thumbs up in my book.

As ever guys, feedback is much appreciated. Let me know what you think in the comments!
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Dragonzigg
12:53 PM on 12.30.2011



We've reached the end of another year in the anime community, and it's fair to say it's been an extraordinary one. Patient fans were rewarded with the richest and most diverse crop of new shows in years, as the industry stretched its legs and proved that it was still capable of producing classics, along with a whole host of entertaining, worthwhile stories. Here, we'll pick and choose the worst and, more importantly, the best of 2011.

The Rapid Fire Awards

Worst character - Saber (Fate/Zero) - An endless source of boring monologues about honour and duty and blank facial expressions. By far the least interesting thing about the show she is ostensibly the main character of.

Worst Show - No.6 - Granted, there were even more horrible shows this year, but none had the nastiness of tricking you into thinking that this might be halfway decent and then savagely kicking you in the balls with crappy characters, stupid plot and risible dialogue.

Show that was actually quite good but would have had to dispense ice cream and handjobs to live up to the hype - Fate/Zero - Type-Moon fans, grab some damn perspective please. This was decent, sometimes great, sometimes desperately boring. Nothing more, nothing less.
Honourable Mention - Puella Magi Madoka Magica - Yes, it's amazing. Yes, it's one of the best shows in years. But to read the internet you'd think it was the bloody Second Coming or something

The B Gata H Kei award for ridiculous fanservice which didn't stop the show from being quite good- Korean Zombie Desk Car - Haruna, put some pants on. Seraphim, put a bra on. Show, please concentrate more on the wacky fantasy, that bit was fun.
Honourable Mention - Ben-To

Biggest Tearjerker - Tatsuya draws in the sand (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) - Heartbreaking. Just utterly heartbreaking
Honourable Mention - "Your brothers love you" (Mawaru Penguindrum)

Yaoi couple of the year - Takuto and Sugata (Star Driver)
Honourable mention - Rider and Waver (Fate/Zero)

Huh? This was a thing? - YuruYuri
Honourable Mention - To Aru Majutsu no Index II

The Norio Wakamoto Award for chewing the scenery - Norio Wakamoto as Bishop Biagio in To Aru Majutsu no Index II - Best thing in the entire show.
Honourable Mention - Satoshi Tsuruoka as Caster in Fate/Zero. You could carve slices off of the ham in that performance

Best show of 2011 that isn't anime but deserves a mention anyway because it's bloody awesome - Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger - Seriously, it's space pirate Power Rangers who can turn into other Power Rangers. What's not to like?

Best New Show I watched in 2011 that wasn't made in 2011 - Toradora!

Most anticipated show of 2012 - Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean


The Awards which actually matter

Best OP

Honourable Mentions:

'Gravity 0' (Star Driver) paired scratchy, uptempo guitars with a fantastic art deco colour scheme and terrifically energetic 'moving' animation ..... 'Oath Sign' (Fate/Zero) conjoured up a great power ballad that evoked the epic feel of the conflict and mixed it with ufotable's excellent visuals ..... 'Connect' (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) managed to be beautiful and wistful and, uniquely, also provided a fantastic connection to the plot.

Winner: 'Sweet Drops' (Bunny Drop)



PUFFY's song is the perfect match for the wonderful tale of Rin and Daikichi - it's upbeat, bouncy and catchy as hell, but also tinged with a slight note of sadness and pathos. It's paired with Production I.G.'s terrific crayon sketched animation, evoking a wonderful childhood aesthetic bouncing along in time with the music. Simply irresistible.


Best ED

Honourable Mentions:

'Magia' (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) provided a thumping finale to every increasingly desperate episode of Madoka, paired with nightmarish imagery ..... 'High High High' (Bunny Drop) was a perfect comedown for every episode, again glorying in soft focus crayon style ..... 'Zzz' (Nichijou) provided a delightful, gentle epilogue to the manic craziness of the main show.

Winner: 'For You' (Wandering Son)



Rie Fu's achingly gorgeous ballad was the perfect capstone to every episode of the smart and sensitive preteen drama, filled with love, longing and joy, and beautifully sung. The accompanying animation was wisely kept simple, but seeing Nitori wander through the blowing cherry blossoms as the song kicked into high gear was one of the best images of the year.


Best Art/Animation

Honourable Mentions:

Star Driver's rainbow tinged mecha battles were never less than spectacular ..... Wandering Son painted its world in a wonderful wash of soft focus watercolours ..... Puella Magi Madoka Magica put us inside a paper cutout and crayon scribbled hell and a world where architects were allowed to run rampant ..... Hanasaku Iroha made the rolling green hills of Japan more inviting than ever.

Winner: Mawaru Penguindrum



Anime is a visual medium, and the best shows realise that they can speak just as loudly through their images as their words. Penguindrum embraced that philosophy wholeheartedly, throwing all of the crazy that was too much for the script up onto the screen, often to stunning effect. It wasn't just eye candy though - rather, the visuals spoke to us and told us things about this world, about this story that couldn't adequately be expressed by just saying them. The literally faceless masses who occupied the world, the vivid realisation of places and times that could did never exist - they all fed back into the wondrous , dreamlike aura that permeated the show It embraced a crazed arthouse heritage, flitting rapidly between paper cutout imagine spots, pets as parents and neon filled acid trips to create a heady, unforgettable blend. Never an outstanding show technically, Penguindrum wins on unrivalled artistic merit and a serious eye for style.


Best Character

Honourable mentions:

Rider (Fate/Zero) brought a fantastic, larger than life persona to a show that desperately needed it ..... Wild Tiger (Tiger and Bunny) lent an affable, world weary everyman to a superpowered world ..... Kyubey (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) brought the creepy in spades and provided this year's most memorable, iconic villain.

Winner: Daikichi Kawachi (Bunny Drop)



Daikichi may not be as big a name as some on the list. He's no conqueror, or monster, or hero. He's just an ordinary guy, struggling with a situation that he couldn't have foreseen. And that's the beauty of the character, the reason why he's sitting above all those aforementioned. Daikichi feels real, like the kind of man you and I could bump into in the street, or even be one day. All of which just makes his selflessness and the sacrifices he's willing to make for his ward, even more special. In a medium that tends to be dominated by crazed supermen, it was the simple kindliness of an ordinary man that left the biggest mark.


Best Episode

Honourable Mentions:

Rider and Archer delivered a memorable helping of smack talk to Saber (and a faceful of spears to Assassin) in Fate/Zero #11 ..... Takuto uncorked the rainbows and provided some outer-space heroics in Star Driver #24 ..... Himari and Sanetoshi were lost in the library between reality and madness in Mawaru Penguindrum #9

Winner: Puella Magi Madoka Magica #10



It's not like the whole idea of this episode was unexpected. After all, we knew Homura Akemi was a time traveller, and there had been some hints that she was from an alternate timeline. But I don't think anybody was prepared for the devastating impact of the story told within this episode. It managed to both simultaneously entirely reshape the clever, multi-layered mythology that Madoka had already built for itself, and deliver a devastating emotional punch to everyone watching all at the same time. So often when mysteries are unravelled they tend to be at least partial anticlimaxes, but this was one of those rare cases where every clue, every piece of foreshadowing, was paid off more powerfully than you could possibly have hoped for. When even your closing music is a plot twist you know you've crafted one of the most brilliant experiences imaginable.


Best Show

Honourable Mention: Bunny Drop



Bunny Drop is proof that 'slice-of-life' doesn't have to be shorthand for pointless moefest or by the numbers high school drama. Instead, it displays the greatest strength that the genre can bring to a story - by living with characters day in and day out, the triumphs and tragedies carry that much more weight, become that much more meaningful. There are no perilous showdowns in Bunny Drop, and the fate of the world isn't at stake. The closest we get to high drama is when somebody catches a cold. But it still succeeds in captivating us because it does what every great show does - makes us emotionally invested in the characters. Because we care, every small step, every tiny little victory along the way is worth as much as any grand battle. And in Daikichi, as we've already said, the show may have one of the most likeable protagonists of the year, a genuinely good and honest man, who makes sacrifices we can all relate to and is rewarded in kind with a happiness he couldn't have begun to imagine.

His ward Rin meanwhile, embodies the best aspects of the cute anime girl - she's adorable and vulnerable, fascinated with the world around her, but unlike so many modern characters there's substance beneath the moe overtones. She's much more interesting when she talks back, as opposed to staying painfully shy, and together they form a wonderfully deep and meaningful pair. Along with a slim but well realised supporting cast, backed by superb art and wonderful music, every second of Bunny Drop was a joy to watch. In any other year, this would have been a strong contender for the top prize. As it is, it perhaps pales a little compared to the crashing epics that ranked above it, but there's no shame in sitting back and watching life go by slowly.

Honourable Mention: Puella Magi Madoka Magica



I'll be honest - for much of the year, there's no way I could have seen this sitting at anywhere other than the top spot. And really, there's not much argument against it as the year's best show - it excels across the board in every area. The plot is one of the tightest and cleverest ever constructed, carefully constructed to gut punch you at every opportunity. The art is extraordinary, a dazzling blend of architectural flourish in the real world that seamlessly transitions into a nightmare realm of paper cutouts and crazed scrawlings. And the characters are everything you'd hope for, transcending their cutesy outward appearance to show real depth and emotion as they were battered by the story surrounding them. The show plays your emotions like a harp, before cutting the strings and leaving you to flounder, taking a dark glee in every second. Anybody who watched it felt every moment of triumph and anguish as it happened on the screen.

To me though, half of the story of Madoka was told in the frenzied Skype chats, the shocked reactions on Twitter, the incredulous blogs and comments that dissected every new twist and turn. To be part of the anime community as it followed Madoka was to feel part of something special, something truly ground-breaking. It's rare that a show comes along that bring such a huge (and legendarily argumentative) community together, but you really sensed it happening in this case, and it was so much fun to be swept up in that frenzy. Madoka doesn't take the top spot, but I want everyone who reads this to know that that doesn't diminish the fact that it was unquestionably the most gripping, finely constructed story of the year - no show hit harder, shocked more or was more beautifully paced and planned. Not awarding it the win was an incredibly difficult decision (you can see it was nominated in every individual category), one which I’m still not sure I got right. In a year of extraordinary quality, nothing came closer to touching perfection.

Winner: Mawaru Penguindrum



Sometimes though, there can be meaning in madness, beauty in barminess and elegance in excess. Sometimes, something can speak to you so deeply that the flaws in it can seem almost irrelevancies in comparison. Mawaru Penguindrum is such a show, something that goes so far into pure, beautiful insanity that some kind of twisted brilliance emerges out of the other end. It's difficult to articulate what exactly draws me so strongly to the show, as they aren't really things that can be put into words. Penguindrum is a show that relies so heavily on symbolism and personal interpretation that I've heard impressions range from genius to utter rubbish. There's certainly little defence of some common criticisms of the show - it's hugely confusing, the mood whiplashes wildly all over the place and there are more plotholes and loose threads than you can count. To call it an acquired taste is an understatement.

But, but...if, like me, you fall into that specific, tiny niche that is willing to bear the problems, and ride out the inconsistencies...then there's nothing quite like this. Watching the show is to be drawn entirely into another world, one where reality and myth, conscious and subconscious blend together in some sort of mad, feverish dream. To accept that in this world, sometimes the line between real and unreal is thin, and sometimes not extant at all. To be taken on a rollercoaster ride from funny to creepy, from surreal to brutal and from despairing to hoping against all the odds. The beauty and madness that was unfurled onscreen was unmatched, not only in the 'Let's do drugs and watch the pretty colours!' way, but also in darker, more twisted and more profound ways. I guarantee nobody who has seen this show will ever look at a chisel quite the same again
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Penguindrum is not the cleverest show of the season. It is not the most important, nor the most popular, nor the most influential. But I do not watch, and I do not write, to make cold, hard judgments. Instead, I came to anime to see the weird and the wonderful, the beautiful and the oddball, and to find stories that could not be told anywhere else. Penguindrum asks a lot of you - it asks for total commitment to its largely ridiculous premise, and asks for surrender entirely to the strange pocket universe it builds up between the start and end credits. But in return, I found something truly special, strange and incredibly beautiful that spoke to me in a way that few other works of art in any medium have, and one that felt utterly, irreplaceably unique. And that's worth celebrating, don't you think?
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I, no doubt like many of you, have been watching and thoroughly enjoying Bunny Drop, the exceptionally charming tale of Daikichi, a 30 year old bachelor being forced into the role of adoptive parent for Rin, the six year old daughter of his grandfather. But I had also heard worrying rumblings from around the internet about the ending of the recently concluded manga version. There was much criticism, and many claimed it had even retroactively destroyed their entire enjoyment of the story. My curiosity sufficiently piqued, I decided to read through the manga and see just how bad this ending could possibly be. And, unsurprisingly, the internet was being a little over the top once again.

In this article then, I'm going to attempt to defend the Bunny Drop ending against the rampant hatedom that has seemingly sprung up around it. Note - this is NOT a defence of the ending on merit - I actually don't particularly approve of it myself - but rather an attempt to understand and rationalise it in the face of the overwhelmingly hostile reaction

Naturally, massive SPOILERS will abound throughout. Fairly warned be ye fanboys.



= SPOILERS = SPOILERS = SPOILERS = SPOILERS = SPOILERS = SPOILERS =

So...for those of you who jumped here just to see what the ending actually is, allow me to briefly explain. Although the first half of Bunny Drop (and the part the anime is concentrating on) is set when Rin is six years old, the entire second half of the tale is set a decade later when she's a high school freshman. The controversial part of this is that, as the story approaches its end, she realises she loves Daikichi - not as a father, but in the OTHER way that women love men. And the series ultimately ends with them discovering that they aren't blood relatives and then hooking up, with plans to get married and even have a child in the future.

Yeah.

I don't think I really need to point out the obvious issues that have caused the backlash here. But let's do so anyway shall we?

1) Daikichi is 24 years older than Rin (At the conclusion, she's 18 or 19 and he's at least 42)

2) Daikichi has raised her as a father since she was 6 years old. They may not be blood related but their relationship up to this point is certainly familial.

So I'm going to kick off this defence with a concession - this is always going to be at least a little bit creepy. There's no denying that. It is a completely valid criticism of this ending and, as I mentioned above, one which I will employ myself. No, my defence is more targeted at those who have denounced the ending as a sheer travesty, and as something that for them has poisoned the entire series. That's their opinion of course, and they're absolutely entitled to it, but I think some mitigation is required on the side of the author and story.

Firstly, I've read some accusations that this ending comes out of nowhere and is essentially a 'WHAT A TWEEEEEST!' ending. I don't buy that for a single second. Rather, it's quite skillfully built up over the course of the last quarter of the book and there's plenty of foreshadowing and subtle hinting as to the problem. There's also a real difference between seeing a plot twist like this laid out in a paragraph like I've done, and seeing it unfold over a hundred-odd pages in the manga. I'd encourage those who only know about the ending secondhand to read it as well - watching the characters work through their problems panel by panel, seeing the emotion in the drawings and words really does a lot to humanise the problem, to turn it from a slightly distasteful concept into something a lot more understandable and relatable.

To those that would argue that the ending invalidates everythig that went before it - if so, that's only in your head. Neither Rin nor Daikichi were intentionally working towards this goal, and that doesn't make their earlier interactions any less 'real'. Daikichi doesn't automatically become some sort of creepy paedophile, and nor do the earlier chapters become some sort of wife husbandry tale. Although I can understand that it can be difficult to let go of the image of Rin as the eternally cute kid, she's fundamentally a very different character in this portion of the manga, and projecting her adult personality back onto her child self is both unrealistic and asking for trouble. Daikichi meanwhile can't be 'blamed' for anything - his intentions were always pure, and he even admits this transition is difficult for him. As always, he is trying to do his best for Rin, which is entirely consistent with his previous characterization.



My final point is a little more abstract than those before it, but I also think it's just as important. This isn't how I would have ended the story - in my version, Rin would have grown up, married Kouki and they would have had a little girl of their own, leading to a delightfully clever bookend of Daikichi and his 'granddaughter'. It would have been wonderful. Heart-warming. Expected. Predictable. Boring.

When I read a story, I expect to be entertained, shocked, excited and gripped. I want to marvel at every twist and turn in the story, and be taken for the ride along with the characters. The reason I'm not a storyteller myself is because I'm no good at it, I always tend to look for the easy way out. A good storyteller on the other hand, works to subvert their audiences expectations. And I want that. I want authors to challenge me, to confound me, and to do things I don't always approve of. If they've done their job right, then I might not like where the plot goes, but it's something I will accept. And such is the case here. As I said at the start and want to reinforce, I do not like or approve of this ending. But to say that it invalidates the work as a whole is an insult to the care and vision of the author Unita. It's her story, to tell as she likes and as she sees fit. And even though I didn't want it to end this way, I still found myself stirred and moved to say goodbye to the characters and wish them the best for the future. That's a tribute to the power the story has to move me in spite of its failings in my eyes.

Bunny Drop's ending isn't perfect. It might not even be good. But it deserves better than the knee-jerk reactions it has been getting. You don't have to like it, but at least try and understand it.
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