Kids on The Slope Episode 1 – Moanin’ – Review / Thoughts

April 12, 2012

Kids on The Slope is an Anime series that only came out today, and I admit that until this very evening I don’t remember even hearing about it, let alone having intentions of watching and reviewing it. But I happened to see 3 or 4 different people on my Twitter timeline praising it, and so thought I too might as well give it a try, so with no real expectations I dived in to the series.

For those curious as to what the Anime is about, here is a brief description:

Summer, 1966. Kaoru Nishimi has moved to live with relatives in Kyushu. He’s been an aloof honour student his whole life, but that starts changing when he meets Sentarou Kawabuchi, the school’s notorious bad boy. Through him, he learns the appeal of jazz and forms his first real friendships

For those interested, of note is the fact that this is the latest work from Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo director Shinichiro Watanabe, so if you’re a fan of his work then you will most likely already be aware or have an interest in this series.

But anyway, on to my actual thoughts on the episode.

As I said, I really had no idea what this Anime was or about when I checked it out. The only thing I knew was the title of the show and that it involved music, so I was going in with no real expectations and no idea what it would be like. After this first episode alone I find it difficult to rate since I need to watch more to get a proper idea of what it will be like, but my first impression is pretty good regardless.

The main character Kaoru has just moved in to town and to a new school. He introduces himself in front of the rest of the class, and is met by stares and whispers between students who are commenting on him being a rich boy and not being able to fit in with them since they were from the country while he is a city boy. Kaoru thinks to himself that this is the perhaps the worst feeling he has had from any of his introductions at the various schools he has attended.

Kaoru himself reminds me of a less extreme version of Keima Katsuragi from The World God Only Knows, in that he is pretty introvert and wants to remain out of the way and by himself. That said, as the episode goes on he spends some time with a girl named Ritsuko Mukae, who turns out to be a childhood friend of Sentarou. Sentarou is known as the bad boy of the school and for always getting in to trouble, so needless to say that when he sets his sights on Kaoru when he notices him in the same classroom, Kaoru himself is fearing the worst given the reputation Sentarou has.

In actual fact though, although they couldn’t be more different personality wise, Kaoru seems to have taken somewhat of a shine to the antics of Sentarou. One thing is that Kaoru starts losing his balance and feeling sick when he gets worried and stressed, and the way he combats this has always been to go on top of the roof by himself as it calms him down. He finds out at one stage that Sentarou is the one who has the keys to get out on to the roof, and he isn’t willing to give them away for free, instead asking for 100,000 Yen. Sentarou had got the keys back from some senior students who had stolen them so that they could go out on to the roof to smoke whenever they wanted, but to get them he had to fight all 3 of them as Kaoru stood there and watched it all unfold. As I said, he did get the keys back, but wanted payment in exchange for Kaoru taking them which Kaoru couldn’t afford even if he wanted to.

As the episode progresses however they end up bumping in to each other a couple more times, and although still far from what could be considered friends, they have definitely warmed a bit to each other, helped in part when Kaoru finds out that Sentarou can play music too. Sentarou likes only Jazz, whereas Kaoru had always been a fan of and played classical music on the piano. Near the end of the episode, Sentarou tells Ritsuko that if she wants to hear the piano being played, then he would do it for her instead of Kaoru. Kaoru recognises the song and interrupts Sentarou who was playing it wrong. Sentarou instead tells Kaoru that he doesn’t understand Jazz and that he was the one who was wrong. This all took place in a record shop owned by Ritsuko’s father, so when Kaoru went back upstairs in to the storefront, he purchases the record with the tune Sentarou was playing on so that he could listen to it and probably practice Jazz music properly for himself.

Basically, even though it’s a bit unfair to try and do so, to sum things up this is a short version of what I said above.

Kaoru is someone who keeps to himself and feels like he doesn’t fit in, and he ends up in the same class as a guy who is known as a troublemaker etc. While Kaoru initially fears the worst since they are complete opposites, through the episode they meet a few times and seeing Sentarou’s attitude is clearly making an impact on Kaouru’s own outlook. Later discovered is that they both play and enjoy music, only that Kaoru likes classical piano, while Sentarou likes only Jazz.

But yeah, I probably didn’t explain things too well which I apologise for, but this Anime is pretty hard to accurately describe since it’s not so much the content of the episode, it’s how and when it happens that is going to make up what the Anime really is and is about. My best advice is to watch the episode or at least one of the preview trailers to get a bit more of an idea for yourself.

But in any case, I definitely found myself enjoying this series in this first episode to the point where when the final credits came up, it took me by surprise as the time just flew past. It doesn’t happen very often to me, but when it does I always take it as a good sign since it clearly shows I must have been pretty engrossed by it. Obviously though if Shonen or battle Anime / Manga series are your thing then this has none of that to offer, but for those who enjoy this type of show (or are at least open to them) then I can see you getting plenty of enjoyment from it.

The thing is, although I can’t exactly place my finger on what made this good, I could definitely feel that there was something there and keeping me entertained. Considering I could easily have missed out altogether if not for a few of my Twitter followers, I am delighted that I was able to watch this on the day it came out, as I can see this becoming perhaps the hit of this season, and is something I feel is more than worth a chance if you’re looking for something new to watch.

Advertisements

Brave10 Episode 12 – The Brave of Light Review / Thoughts

March 26, 2012

So, after 12 episodes we are on to the last episode of Brave10. It started off well and was a very enjoyable series, only to drop off about 5 or 6 episodes in. But did it manage to redeem itself in the end?

Sadly the answer to that is no, as this was yet another disappointing episode. I am truly sad to have to type these words, as to begin with I really wanted to like Brave10. It had an awesome OP, Saizo was a great character, and it also had the talented Daisuke Ono involved (voicing Saizo coincidentally). Anyway, I will go a bit more in to that later, for now I had best get on to the actual episode.

I posed the question of how Hanzo and his group were going to be defeated since they easily kicked the ass of all the Braves, and in this episode we got the answer. Firstly, in trying to control the power Isanami had, Hanzo gets sucked in and destroyed by the black ball of energy in the sky, so that’s how he met his demise. With Sasuke and Kakei, apparently the sky turning dark made the bugs act odd and so they stopped crawling over and draining them. Sasuke and Kakei then go on to kill their opponent without much of a struggle, with the fact they should both still be very weak from the damage they already sustained clearly playing no role in it. Then we get Benmaru and Miyoshi, who also manage to defeat their opponent. How? Benmaru puts some odd device on Miyoshi’s hand that allowed one of his punches to connect, and that was enough to win (again conveniently all but forgetting their previous injuries).

Also, without any kind of explanation, Yamanosuke who was all but dead manages to not only get back to his feet, but also then kill his opponent very quickly with the same kind of attack that just one episode before had failed miserably. Last but certainly not least, we see Jinpachi beat Anastasia. Anastasia gets close to the frozen body of Jinpachi, but as she does so, Jinpachi releases a burst of electricty which is enough to incapacitate her. Anastasia is the only one from Hanzo’s group not to die, no doubt since she is a former Brave and main character.

Back with Isanami, Rokuro initially wants to try and stop it by giving his life, but is saved by Saizo. Saizo then picks up the Kushimi-tama and attempts to stop it himself. He tears off the wrapping around his sword and the symbols on it glow, and then Saizo starts slicing at the black dome. Upon doing so, it started extending out and trying to grab him like it did with Hanzo, but the Kushimi-tama erects a protective barrier around him. Saizo continues slashing away with no success, but then jumps in to it himself. While inside, he sees Isanami who is still beating herself up over people getting hurt because of her. Saizo tells her to stop it and that the two of them are leaving, but she keeps saying how her heart can’t take anymore and how she isn’t human. In the end, Saizo convinces her otherwise, and outside we see the previously black dome turn half white as well and form a Yin-Yang.

There is a tiny bit more, but nothing really worth covering. It’s a really cliche ending and one that at this stage comes as no real surprise. Brave10 unfortunately suffered a lot from this, which considering it started off as a show about a ninja – Saizo – who had no time for anyone and was a merciless killer, is hardly a good sign. From that he turned in to a a generic good guy who pretty much completely changed to being someone who cares about all his friends and about the feelings of others. It’s extremely disappointing considering that his personality was one of the things that originally drew me in to the series.

Brave10 started out as a fun action Anime with a cool and badass main character, but slowly degenerated in to fanservice scenes and cliches about friendship and working together. It’s always a shame to see such things happen, but I guess anyone who has been watching Anime for a while gets used to this sort of thing. Not to say Brave10 turned out to be a crap series or anything, for what it’s worth I would still say it’s a decent enough series. Even with how Saizo ended up I still like him, just not as much as before, and I did still get at least some entertainment from watching it each week.

My advice with Brave10 is if you don’t mind a pretty mindless action Anime and don’t go in expecting too much, you could well find it to be a decent enough watch like I did. If however you want a story that makes sense, something original, or something that doesn’t fall in to endless Anime / Manga cliches, then you should give the series a miss. Go in expecting too much and you will definitely come out of the series disappointed, go in however just watching it as a fun way of killing 23 minutes and you might find yourself enjoying it.


Brave10 Episode 11 – Lamentation of the Darkness Review / Thoughts

March 20, 2012

After the recent improvement with Brave10, I was expecting more of the same from episode 11, particularly as it’s the penultimate episode of the series. Unfortunately though, it went off on some odd thing that added nothing and wasted most of the episode.

For those who have watched it, as you can guess it was the odd scenes with Yamanosuke under the illusion. In the illusion he / she was a princess, and she had a good looking man as her friend or assistant (whatever he was). In the illusion, “princess” Yamanosuke was insulted and criticised by the other women in the world because of her unfeminine appearance, with her having the tattoo and being flat chested. Of course it didn’t exactly make Yamanosuke happy, but she still didn’t let it get to her too much as she defended her appearance by saying that she likes looking this way.

We then waste the majority of the episode with this boring rubbish, until eventually Yamanosuke realises in the illusion that this isn’t what he / she wanted at all, and while thinking of Saizo and how much she admires him, was able to break free from it and return to the real world. Then what follows is a very brief fight in which the Iga man sent by Hanzo quickly defeated Yamanosuke. Elsewhere, Jinpachi was also defeated fairly quickly by Anastasia.

At the end of the episode, with Saizo in a terrible state after being beaten and sliced up by Hanzo, Isanami succumbs to the evil inside of her when it offers to give her power in exchange for taking control of her body. Isanami throws her hairpin that was supressing it to the ground, and then turns a dark colour and breaks free from the ropes that were binding her. We then see an eclipse take place, as elsewhere Yukimura looks up at the sky and realises this must mean something is happening with Isanami. But as Isanami was heading towards the fallen Saizo, and of course Hanzo, the episode came to an end.

Overall it was an extremely disappointing episode, and was pretty damn boring for 95% of the episode. The illusion scenario dragged out for far too long, and I hate the way the 10 Braves all got their asses kicked in 10 seconds flat by Hanzo’s group. It is looking like Isanami is going to go berserk in the next episode and will probably end up doing an absolute ton of damage to everyone and everything around her, but my only hope is that it doesn’t turn out to be solely Isanami doing everything while the other Braves are made to look bad.


Brave10 Episode 10 – The Opening Curtain To Tragedy Review / Thoughts

March 17, 2012

Another delayed review for Brave10 unfortunately, but again with episode 10 we get another fine outing as the series seems to have finally got back on track.

With the last episode I commented on how good it was for Brave10 to actually get back to some more fighting action, and this episode had a lot of that too. I would have preferred if it wasn’t several fights all split up and flicking between them, but I guess since it is only going to be a 12 episode series then they don’t have time to give full fights to each character.

We see at the start of the episode that Isanami is depressed because of what she found out about herself and the Kushimitama. Saizo is watching over her by hiding in the trees nearby. As Saizo is sat on a branch, he ducks just in time to avoid some kunai that have been thrown at him. Saizo then jumps down and runs towards the nearest open area so that he can properly confront whoever threw it. When he gets there, he is soon met by a familiar face, an unwelcome one at that, in the form of Hanzo. Of course Saizo has battled Hanzo before, but Hanzo tells him it takes a lot to truly defeat him. Hanzo then surprises Saizo by telling him that his primary target at the moment was Saizo himself rather than Isanami.

Hanzo goes on to explain that it is not only Saizo who is in battle at the moment, but all of Yukimura’s braves, and that before he does anything with Isanami he is going to have all of the braves killed first.  We then get to see a few of the other braves elsewhere all being ambushed / surprised by an enemy appearance. Hanzo tells Saizo they are Iga’s League of Five and that they are far stronger than Yukimura’s group. The battles in this episode involve Sasuke and Kakei, Benmaru and Nyudo, and of course Saizo vs Hanzo. I can’t really remember if the Iga’s League of Five revealed their names in the episode, if so their names have escaped me, but they were fighting those braves in this episode anyway.

All of the braves end up getting beaten very easily, Iga’s League of Five don’t even break a sweat against them, and Saizo fairs no better against Hanzo. A special mention goes out to the League of Five member though who controls insects, as the giant spider was creepy as hell and had me feeling damn sorry for Kakei and Sasuke.

The next episode looks like it will cover the fights of the remaining braves vs the remaining Iga League members, though while I would usually be looking forward to that, I can’t see them fairing any better than the braves in this episode did. That said, I am very curious as to just how Yukimura and his Brave 10 are going to overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds, and as long as these awesome fights keep happening in the remaining couple of episodes, I think Brave 10 will have done enough to redeem itself as a whole and stand out as a good series.


Brave10 Episode 9 Review / Thoughts

March 12, 2012

Despite the massive delay, I finally have the chance to review Brave10 episode 9. I never expected or intended for this to come so late, but I have been extremely busy and have only just had the chance to write this. But anyway, thankfully the episode was worth the wait.

For quite a while I have lamented over the fact Brave10 started out pretty strongly only to falter in recent times, but now my faith has been renewed after watching this episode. Finally after long episodes with trips to hotsprings and other such nonsense that did little (if anything) to further the plot, we see Brave10 throw up a surprise and take a darker tone.

We finally see Yukimura’s group of Braves together in this episode and he explains about why he has gathered them all in the first place, and what roles they have etc. It doesn’t really make any difference to the viewer, all apart from Isanami being said to be the dark half of the Yin-Yang while Saizo is the light. Saizo questions Yukimura’s comment instantly, but he is told that it is indeed the case. We also find out that Isanami has dark powers from the underworld that are controlled by her emotions and the emotions of people around her. We also find out that the hairpin she wears isn’t the source of her power at all, but instead is keeping everyone safe from her dangerous and evil powers. Saizo, Yukimura and Jinpachi are the only ones in the room discussing the matter, but as we see at the end of the episode, Isanami had overheard their conversation and stands outside in a state of shock.

Oh, and we also discover that Anastasia has in fact been a spy this whole time, and so wasn’t really working for Yukimura. She attacks Rokuro while he is sleeping and tries to steal his magical eye, but before she gets the chance to (and after a brief struggle between the two) Rokuro destroys his own eye so that it’s secrets and powers won’t fall in to an enemy’s hands. Sasuke does appear when he hears the commotion, but doesn’t stop Anastasia as he hesitates at the last second and is instead caught by her ice magic. As more people gather, she flees. Later, she is met in a forest by Saizo. She warns him to turn back so she won’t have to kill him, but Saizo doesn’t listen and they end up fighting anyway. Anastasia is taken by surprise as Saizo is quicker than Sasuke was, and Saizo quickly defeats her.

However, when he has her pinned down and is trying to get some information out of her, she freezes the nearby lake and uses the distraction to escape, although later we find out Saizo had let her go on purpose as confirmed when he is telling Yukimura about what happened.

 

But yes, that’s basically the episode content, and it was pretty damn awesome. I wasn’t expecting Anastasia to turn / reveal she was never a real ally of the Braves, and so it was a nice surprise. It also shows that everything isn’t always how it seems, and that in the world of shinobi you can never be too sure of anyone or anything. It makes a refreshing change to see something like this in Brave10, as inner turmoil within the group hasn’t really been much of a problem before now, so seeing how they will deal with Anastasia and whoever she is working for shall be good to watch.

Also interesting is how Isanami is going to react and what she is going to do now she knows the truth about herself and her powers. I can imagine her powers going crazy or her being super depressed or something for a while, only for the “light” Saizo to calm her down and reassure her that everything is ok. Saizo still remains the best character, but admittedly I have grown to like Yukimura and Rokuro quite a lot recently, and now there could even be some hope for Isanami depending on how the story plays out. With all that said, it’s great to see Brave10 back in top form with this brilliant episode, and I am hoping it can continue now until the end.


Brave10 Episode 8 Review / Thoughts

February 26, 2012

As we move on to episode 8 of Brave10, the story will soon be at the end as we get to see the 10th member of Sanada’s Braves revealed here. After a good start the series started dropping off in quality, but has it began to start picking up again?

To be honest the episode started out pretty awesome with Masamune Date being told to go and kill Yukimura Sanada, and then an ambush is set in place to trap Yukimura and his braves. When put in that position, obviously it meant getting to see some actual fighting which is clearly Brave10’s strong point. Unfortunately though the battle didn’t last long as it was only the henchmen of Masamune who really attempted to fight, and thus were made easy work of by Saizo and Yamanosuke (with a helpful assist from the newest recruit Benmaru).

Just as things were looking bad though, we see the return of Kakei who is riding aboard a pirate ship along with another man – Jinpachi – who helps chase off Masamune and his lackeys, saving Sanada in the process. That’s unfortunately as good as the episode got though, as it seemed like they were more willing to spend the majority of the episode with Yukimura and the braves all aboard the pirate ship drinking sake and just generally having a good time. At the end we at least find out that Jinpachi will be helping Yukimura for a while, and thus is essentially a member of the braves now, taking the number up to the full 10.

I like Jinpachi even if only because his lightning attack seems pretty badass and his attitude is pretty cool. Aside from that, we also get to see Saizo finally accept that he is willing to work for Yukimura and not just for himself anymore. Of course initially Saizo was known as a cold blooded killer with no time for anyone but himself, but now it seems he has finally had a change of heart afterall. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as such, if Saizo remains pretty arrogant and confidant in his abilities as well as still having a ruthless streak to him, then he is fine. If this ends up changing him in to a generic good guy though it will be very disappointing considering he is the main reason for watching the Anime in the first place.

As a whole episode 8 was ok, a lot of time was wasted unnecessarily in my view and would have been better spent on something else, but because I enjoyed the brief battle at the start of the episode I am willing to forgive it to some extent. Brave10 has been stuck in a rut though for the past few episodes and this is no exception, hopefully with it coming to an end soon however they will allow it to go out with a bang in the coming weeks.


Brave10 Episode 7 Review / Thoughts

February 19, 2012

As Brave10 enters in to the 7th episode, we see yet another new character join the roster as the series passes the halfway stage. But after some disappointing episodes recently, has Brave10 been able to step up its game this week?

Truth be told it’s hard to say either way, as although the episode never really seemed to go anywhere, when the episode ended I had a weird sense of enjoyment from it all the same.

The episode started with Yukimura Sanada setting out for Kyou, but despite wanting bodyguards he only takes Isanami, Saizo, and Rokuro. He tells the other members of the Braves to stay behind and protect the castle while he is gone. Later, the 4 of them arrive in a small town and meet a young boy who tells them that due to the recent rainfall in the area, the route they were going to take was inaccessible and tells them of a different path to take instead. They thank the boy and head the way he told them, although Saizo thinks to himself that he is sure he could smell gunpowder on the boy.

As they make their way along towards Ryou, it doesn’t take long before they are caught amidst numerous traps. Saizo and Rokuro manage to save both Isanami and Yukimura from some of them, however, just as they are going to be overwhelmed by all the traps they are helped by the sudden appearance of the other Braves who arrived despite being told to stay behind. When the traps are all cleared, the boy emerges from nearby and talks excitedly about how they were the first ones to ever escape from his traps, and that he wants to join their group. Saizo rightfully gets angry with the boy for his actions, but Isanami tells him to stop bullying the boy and Yukimura even agrees to let him join his group. The boy tells them his name is also Rokuro, but when he finds out about there being one Rokuro already in the group, he says they can call him any name they want, and so Yukimura decides to call him Benmaru.

After that is settled, Yukimura tells everyone they are free to now do whatever they want, but tells Benmaru that the first order he has to carry out is to wait back in the town until he came back from Ryou. Benmaru reluctantly agrees, and Yukimura and the Braves head on to Ryou. Yukimura attends the meeting with the lords and other samurai and ninja etc, but is soon challenged to a fight by the late arrival of Masamune Date, who defied the ban on unsheathing your sword that had been put in place by the main lord Tokugawa. Rokuro tells him that Yukimura is not prepared and asks him to choose someone else, but Yukimura accepts anyway saying it would be rude to refuse his challenge, and Tokugawa gives permission for it to take place.

Despite being offered a sword, Yukimura declines the offer and instead uses only his fan to defend himself against Masamune and his sword. Despite Masamune’s efforts, Yukimura easily and skillfully dodges or blocks all of his attacks, and soon ends the battle when he kicks the sword out of Masamune’s hand (while Yukimura was on the floor I might add having just slipped) with it only narrowly avoiding Tokugawa as it landed. Everyone is impressed, but Tokugawa is just left shocked at how close he came to being hit by the weapon. That evening, Yukimura finds out that he has been summoned to meet with Tokugawa to discuss the earlier incident, but when he finds out that the meeting is no more than a ruse to get him trapped and be forced to commit harakiri, he flees Ryou with his Braves, who also damage the bridge leading out to prevent Tokugawa’s men from chasing after them.

That was pretty much it for the episode, it didn’t make an awful lot of sense but somehow I still found myself enjoying it nonetheless. Saizo still clearly stands out as my favourite character, but I have grown quite fond of Yukimura as well now I have seen him a bit more. With that said, most of the characters seem nothing like samurai or ninja at all, Saizo is one of the few who actually does seem like the real thing. How much you enjoy Brave10 is ultimately going to come down to how much you like the characters themselves as the story is nothing special, but luckily for me I find Saizo to be a very likeable character and makes the episodes fun to watch just to see what he will be doing. This episode does nothing to break the mold from previous episodes, so if you liked the earlier ones then you will probably like this episode, and of course if you didn’t like them then this week’s offering will do nothing to change your mind either.

As a whole I liked the episode without really being sure why, but I think the next few episodes are really going to pick up and could turn out to be the best Brave10 has to offer, especially as it’s looking like we will get to see a battle involving Saizo as soon as next week.