Hello again and welcome to another totally on time anime review of the week(s)! There was a small hiatus due to this reviewer having to go across the state and record something to do with the donation drive, which everyone can look forward to seeing sometime within the new few years, I am sure. Now we are back once again, and ready to begin reviewing the anime of the Summer season! The week was an eventful one for some series, while others seemed to slow their pacing down a little with flashbacks and whatnot, though important ones to newcomers to the lore and whatnot. Has anything lost its edge yet? Is the season as a whole still worth watching, or have some shows become less interesting with time? Clearly, the only way to answer such inquiries is to dive in head first and see what can be made of the week(s). To remind people since it has been a while, the four anime in question for the review are Gamers!, Classroom of the Elite, Saiyuki Reload Blast, and Knight’s & Magic.
Saiyuki Reload Blast Episode 4 and 5
The episode opens, as is the norm, with Sanzo and crew under attack from a group of youkai bandits. After the fight, the party discusses one of the aspects of their mission, which is to bring together all of the pieces of the golden scriptures, one of which Sanzo himself has. Goku ponders his past based on the history that can be gained from the scriptures, but Sanzo says that he does not know more than what he has handy in the scroll that he carries himself. Somehow this leads to a rather sudden flashback, going all the way back to the first time Goku was discovered. He had been taken to heaven for being in a hallowed location without permission, and the gods seem to be quite wary of him, as he was born with golden eyes. Golden eyes are considered to be an ill omen or a curse. Furthermore, they conclude that he is not born from humans or heaven, but rather born out of the earth itself. Here it is revealed that all of them, in fact, have known each other from the beginning, in past lives. Sanzo used to be Goku’s keeper in heaven after his discovery, named Konzen Douji. Gojyou was a leader of one of the heaven’s army named Kenren, and Hakkai was a strategist. All of them look quite similar in the past, with minor changes to things like hair colour and length. The sassy attitude has managed to stay with them all throughout history though it seems. Goku is ordered to be kept in heaven with Kenren as his keeper, and is allowed to roam around a little but must be kept under watch, as everyone is still wary of his eyes. He also has weighted shackles on his wrists that seem to be extremely heavy, but no one is sure where they came from. While exploring one day, Goku is surprised to see someone that appears to be his own age, a boy named Nataku. They talk, and Nataku asks his name, but Goku is stumped as he has not been given one yet. They agree to meet again, and Goku rushes to Kenren to ask for a name, which he is finally given. Now that he knows who he is, Goku wants more than ever to find his new friend again so he can introduce himself properly. It turns out that Nataku has been born to be the god of war, and many people hate him for being a freakishly strong child. He warms up to Goku because Goku does not see him as more than just a friend, and it is a nice change of pace for him. Nataku is sent on a mission to kill a demon and told to bring his army, and when he returns he is covered in wounds while the army remains untouched, making it clear he was the only one who lifted a finger against the beast. Goku hears that he is hurt and rushes to be by his side, and Nataku asks him to stay until he is healed, which he does. Still, Goku does not get a chance to tell Nataku his name, considering Nataku is effectively comatose while healing.
Episode five continues the flashback, with more on the chaos in heaven between all the gods. Konzen is concerned with Nataku’s father, Li Touten, and where Nataku really came from for him to treat him so poorly and use him as a tool to get status. This causes the crew to start doing some digging, in hopes to learn more about Goku’s new friend before something bad happens. They learn that it is highly likely that Nataku is actually a created being, not a natural son to Li Touten but a being of his creation using elements of both heaven and hell, which would be a big problem if they could prove it. They also suspect that if this is true, Nataku really is a tool that Li Touten can use any way he sees fit, and if he sees Goku as a threat he would probably have Nataku kill the lot of them. In the meantime, Goku has been trying in vain to get ahold of his new friend but is blocked and turned away at every attempt. He finally gets a chance to see Nataku, but at the same moment, Li Touten tells Nataku that he should kill Goku before he becomes a threat, and so Nataku ignores Goku and leaves before anything like that can happen. Goku is understandably confused at the cold shoulder he is being given and wonders if Nataku has grown to dislike him for some reason. It is at this time that Goku overhears Konzen and crew discussing the fact that Nataku will likely be used to try and kill Goku, and he refuses to believe it. He sets off at once to confront Nataku and ask him if he would ever really kill him, sure in his heart that there is no way this could happen. Hearing the accusation, Li Touten drops all pretense of hiding his intention and orders Nataku to kill Goku in front of all the host of heaven. Enraged, Goku leaps at Li Touten, only to be met by Nataku who says that he is a tool of his father and will do anything he asks, and protect him at any cost. At this point the whole crew arrives, leading to a brawl between Touten and crew against Tonzen and crew. Moments before Nataku can deal the final blow to Goku, he finally introduces himself, telling Nataku his name and saying he is happy they can finally meet properly. This causes something to snap in Nataku, and he stabs himself in order to avoid killing Goku. Li Touten says it is a shame he will have to try and rebuild him and orders the traitors be dealt with. In his rage, Goku breaks his restraints and unleashes the monster that hides within him, and at this point, the episode ends, leading into what will probably be the final part of the flashback. THe necessity of this flashback is obvious, with a nice treat for long time fans and some much-needed information to newcomers, as it discusses the past lives of the main crew as well as talking about the importance of Nataku, who it has shown is missing from his heavenly throne in present time. Even though it is needed, it is still an odd place for it to drop in the series. Regardless, it was nice to get a deeper look into some of the characters and learn more about the past lives that nobody can remember, not even the person who is still alive from that time.
Gamers! Episode 3 and 4
Keita is surprised to find that he actually has friends he can talk to about gaming for once and is shown to really be enjoying his school life again. Uehara tells him that he needs more experience with real world girls, secretly wanting to help him and Karen get their high school romance, even though Keita is totally oblivious to the fact that Karen likes him still. in name of this new found goal, Euhara tells Keita to go meet another gaming otaku in the school, who happens to be Chiaku Hoshinomori. None of them realize it yet, but Chiaki is actually the person who Keita has been playing his social phone game with this whole time, the person who he feels he has a special bond with even though he has never met them in person. Now they are meeting and it is clear she is extremely shy in person just like Keita, but that their interests run on almost exact parallels to each other. Both are huge nerds with severe social anxiety, and both live and breathe video games for fun rather than to be the best, so both have turned down the gaming club for the same reason. In fact, Chiaki first believes that Keita is there to try and recruit her into the gaming club. Once they start talking they realize just how much they have in common until tragedy strikes when Keita states that moe girls are the best part of games while Chiaki feels like the trope is overused and stupid. It is nice to add another face to the small group of friends, but things start to get complicated as Uehara attempts to get Chiaki to open up more, telling her that she would look cute with shorter hair and that he prefers girls with shorter hair, a statement that his long-haired girlfriend overhears and is hurt by, thinking that he is losing interest in her for this other girl. This is not helped by Chiaki actually going home and cutting her hair, which makes all the guys in school start drooling over her. She clearly has feelings for Uehara, who is too dumb to notice that she is being more than just friendly. In a rather strange turn of events, Keita takes note of Agrui (Uehara’s girlfriend) noticing these things and running away and begins to chase her down. On the way, he runs into Karen, who is still head over heels for him, and asks if she has seen Aguri. When he asks why, Keita says she could call it relationship trouble, which of course crashes Karen all over again. This episode is full of misunderstandings and a handful of plot strings that seem to conflict a little but manage to come together in the end. One hopes that in future episodes the plot becomes a little more focused and coherent, but still this episode was rather enjoyable. The comedy is good all through the show and remains so here, and the misunderstandings themselves feel like they could lead to good development.
Episode four starts with a montage of the daily life of Karen, in a clever before and after the segment. Her life before Keita seemed to be very organized, with exact times to do everything from waking up, going for a run first thing in the morning, even time to socialize with her friends before school. The hardest part of her day at this time is meeting every guy that sends her a confession letter, and as the episode shows her locker being full to bursting with them it is surprising she actually has time to meet them all between classes. She feels that it is only right to give each one an honest answer, even if it breaks their heart and makes her feel bad. Her day ends with gaming club and then studies leading to going to bed at a decent hour, only to do it all again the next day. In the ‘after’ segment, it is revealed that she has started sleeping in because she is up all night thinking about Keita, and wondering why her feelings are so strong, yet still imagining scenarios with the two of them together. The most amusing part of this sequence is that they keep the narration of the “before” segment running the whole time, almost as if to show how her whole life is falling apart now. Even her gaming has suffered, as the whole club tells her that she has been getting worse and worse at games. She blames Keita for all of this, and in a fateful moment, they bump into each other while she is walking home lost in thought. She says that they should go for a walk together (not a date!) and at first Keita refuses, thinking that being seen with him will only cause her trouble. This sends Karen into a frenzy, as she thinks she is once again being rejected, but she decides she will not stand for it this time and drags him along on a walk together. She devises a plan to take him to the arcade and beat him at some games to get her edge back, but this backfires in an amusing way, and once again she learns more about the man which only makes her like him even more. This is a nice change of pace from the last episode, where they tried to introduce and continue several plot threads at once. This time around the show puts all of the focus on what could be considered the two main characters, though at this point it is still kind of hard to tell if there is one main character. Still, the story remains fun and the characters continue to become more interesting.
Classroom of the Elite Episode 3 and 4
The episode begins where the last one left off, with the announcement of everyone’s midterm scores. Immediately after this moment, however, the episode jumps into the days leading up to the midterm, with the hot headed angry student here for his basketball club, Sudo, coming under attack from upperclassmen from the C class. They attempt to goad him into attacking them in hopes that it will get him expelled before he even gets a chance to take the midterm, and a moment of vulnerability is shown in Sudo as three upperclassmen gang up on him and he looks helpless for a moment. In an attempt to get the class to pass as a unit, Ayanokoji comes up with a plan to buy the quiz results from another student in another class. In this episode more than any so far, there is a sense that Ayanokoji is hiding something about himself from everyone. It would seem he is a brilliant manipulator with excellent insight into the minds of his peers, as well as the minds of the faculty. They handle this in an odd way, but it is still nice to see a little development beyond him just having poor social skills. Despite all of their efforts, however, it seems that Sudo still failed his midterm, as the grading curve for passing cut off at 40 and he scored a 39. Kushida does her best to try and rally everyone together, but the blonde self-centered guy says that he should just let him be expelled to avoid any further problems, even though they have no idea how the class might be penalized if they lose a student. The end of the episode does well to touch on what one can assume is the overall themes of the show. Working together as a class is the only way to survive, and the rules put in place to enforce equality and meritocracy do more to reflect the negativity of society than promoting any actual system of merit. As is made evident shortly, merit can be bought easily enough, meaning that the real value comes from money and has less to do with any actual merit. The episode ends with a rather large, though oddly place reveals about Kushida, one that has been hinted at from the beginning. All in all, the episode was good, but some character development feels flat and forced, though it is nice to have any at all.
Episode four is titled “We should not be upset that others hide the truth from us when we hide it so often ourselves”. Every episode so far has had a quote for the title rather than any actual title, and each quote has had to do with the themes of the episode. This time it seems to have to do with the second personality some people seem to have in class, as well as the lies that others are choosing to tell those around them. The centerpiece of the episode is a conflict involving Sudo yet again, though this time it seems that he is being framed for beating up three of his upperclassmen. The fact that he has not a mark on him, as well as the state of the rest of them, makes it quite hard to believe the upperclassmen side of the story, but since they are more trusted it seems they are going to win out in the end with consequences against Sudo. The class all seems to turn against him, saying they should have let him fail the test and be done with it as he is only going to bring the rest of them out. Horikita believes that someone in the class did bear witness to the event, and while everyone else is out looking for clues she passes on her thoughts, which happen to be right. A student does seem to have been witness to the fight but does not wish to have her “mask” revealed, though it does not say in the episode just what it is she is trying to hide. This ties into the theme of lies and hiding one’s self, as does a brief moment where another class member approaches Ayonokoji and asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend so she does not have to tell someone that confessed to her that she does not feel the same. He tells her that confessing your feelings is very hard and deserves to be met with an earnest answer, which seems to be a recurring theme in the episodes this week. All in all, the episode seems to mostly have been a “part one” of this particular arc, as nothing is really resolved in the episode beyond more scenes of the upperclassmen talking down their noses about the ones beneath them.
Knight’s & Magic Episodes 4 and 5
Much of the fourth episode of the show lends itself to things that have been going on in episodes leading up to this point, namely the research and development of the new suits that Ernie has been building. It is nice to see some of the more technical aspects of the suits being discussed, as in most shows they just expect you not to care anything about how the suits work and just accept that they do. As Ernie builds more improvements and weapons, Addy and Kid express their curiosity as to just what these suits will be used for. There is no enemy of the city beyond the monsters, so they wonder just what purpose all new suits and weapons could really have. Most of the development comes to a halt when the crew is asked to bring their new Telestale units to where the Marquis is. The new suits get their chance to shine as they helped defeat some large monsters that were attacking the way, and even the head of Marquis Dixgard’s knights says that he is thoroughly impressed with them. The Marquis himself is still rather wary of the child, unsure of his motivations for wanting access to the kingdom’s greatest kept secrets. The biggest issue with this show so far is that the new apparent antagonists, introduced briefly at the end of the last episode, seem to have no real motivation other than “we are from another country and are bad guys because of this”, and this continues to be an issue as scenes of them plotting to steal the new mecha are peppered into the episode. The other issue one might have with the show is that there are several large jumps in time that happen rather frequently, making it feel as if it really is just a book being read to someone rather than a full on story. Still, the episode advances in a nice way, with Ernie going on his own to meet the marquis and discuss his intentions. The episode ends with a large scale monster attack seemingly out of nowhere on a small outlying village, and the Knights heading off to deal with it.
This episode begins rather perplexingly, as the big cliffhanger ending to the previous episode has been handled off screen, and the monsters were apparently dealt with without much trouble. One assumes this is just to show the difference in power levels between the old technology and Ernie’s new, shiny technology, but it is still odd to go from the first episode where monsters were a big scary problem to this episode, where it is revealed that the real monster is of course… Man. it is also an odd change of pace going from the past couple episodes, which were incredibly research and development focused, into the first real conflict of the show, but it fits in with the stuff that has been happening so far, and it is nice to have a real antagonist finally. Not much is revealed about this nation beyond that they are bad guys led by a bad girl, but they seem to be pretty good at doing bad things as they successfully infiltrate the compound where the Telestales are being held. The other nice element to the episode is finally getting to see other pilots beyond Ernie using the new tech and being successful with it, showing that it is not just Ernie who is an amazing pilot, though it is because of his mecha that things seem to be going well. The theft is met rather quickly by the knights, who manage to stop all but just the main leader and one of her guards from escaping with suits. Luckily, at the same time that they are fleeing, Ernie’s friends are on their way to arrive with the remaining remodeled suits and they just happen to meet on the road and duke it out. This scene is rather fun to watch, seeing everyone get a chance to shine, and even seeing the previous cowardly pilot stand his ground this time despite the odds, wanting to redeem himself from his past mistake. The episode ends with another large scale monster arrival, that is once again handled easily off screen. The most important part of this is that it is revealed someone has been using an ancient forbidden bait to lure the monsters to these places as a distraction, and it can be assumed that the bad guys who escaped used this bait for that very reason. All in all, the show is still good, and it handled the jump from developing mecha in a slower paced setting back into the action elements rather well.
and there you have it, folks. Once again we reach the end of our weekly review. Has anyone tried any of these shows out yet? Is anyone dropping anything yet this season, or have they been enjoying the offerings so far? Are there any other shows worth watching this season? For now, let us just be thankful that we managed to finish the weeks we have. So far, each show seems to have remained at least mildly interesting, with a couple of gems shining a little brighter than the others. The strongest showings this week were from Gamers! which remained funny and interesting despite muddled plot threads, and Saiyuki Reload Blast, even though it was flashback episodes, the flashbacks themselves were rather entertaining and it will be nice to see where they go from here. As for now, the week is over. Thanks are due to one and all for their patience in these reviews, and hopes that people will continue to read them!