Grimgar, Ashes And Illusions Series Review

Anime: Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions

Released By: Funimation

Release Date: May 2, 2017

Retail Price: $84.98

When it comes to anime series that fall under the fantasy genre, they can be either a major hit or massive miss depending on the direction of the genre title, but one series strays some the simplicity of your traditional fantasy series by the name of Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions. The initial premise of Grimgar is set following a young Haruhiro, a young man who (along with the rest of the population) doesn’t remember anything about where he came from or who he was in the past. Our hero next is thrown into the fantasy driven world by being drafted into the “Volunteer Soldiers” that pits him against a slew of creatures and problems that nobody could truly be prepared to enter blindly.

On a positive note for Haruhiro, he finds out he won’t be alone on this crusade against creatures, joining a team of misfits that all play their own role in an ensemble setting. The positions on the volunteer soldiers squad try to add a diverse skill-set to even out the strengths ranging from squadron leader who deals with the tactical strategies to the healer who aids the other warriors before during and after battle with their enhanced abilities. The team dynamic alone makes it feel like nearly every character serves a purpose in the world of Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions even if you have to invest the time to discover it. In the anime series, just as you think you begin to understand the dynamics and relationships amongst the crew, the series throws a few twists and turns to keep viewers on their toes.

One of the most absolute thrilling and impressive traits Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions has to offer is the incredible growth that its characters go through from the first moments of the series all the way to the final few scenes of the first season (seriously hoping there will be another follow up.) You essentially stumble across these outcasts who aren’t valued for much, but form a tight knit bond that seems improbable at first – in essence becoming a genuine connection that blossoms over the duration of Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions. One episode in particular (episode 7, “They Were Called Goblin Slayers”) best summarized that progression of the group, offering not only one of their best episodes, but a superb standout episode of anime series in general that is a powerful contribution to the medium by solely focusing on those changes.

Though the character development offers many strengths to the series, the characters themselves could spark a variety of reaction to viewers. The group consists of men and women (a nice change given the male driven anime casts) that partake in an equal opportunity for battle. Some of the female characters are prone to the overt fanservice and inappropriate portrayal which is my only true frustration from Grimgar, Ashes and Illusion. With that being said, the female characters actually provide a necessary role to the group aside from the generalizations of anime – often proving to be rather useful. Our lead hero Haruhiro becomes one remarkable young man who gives his all to be the best leader, comrade and friend to his companions, enjoyably exploring his inner self from beginning to end. A character by the name of Manato, the healer, leader and morale boost for the group who plays a major role in the anime despite a lack of physical presence that leaves a heavy impact on others (myself included). Others like Mary (a girl with a dark past and grim outlook) or Moguzo (the heavier set tank of the group with a heart of gold) flesh out Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions the way a properly structured anime series should aspire to achieve. If you have found that you enjoy an assortment of people who make the story worth watching, Grimgar is a series that is wholeheartedly worth the effort and time.

The animation quality for Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions brings watercolors to life in this vibrant series with dazzling artistic creations to be in awe over. The night sky is recurring throughout the anime and provides pure beauty in those moments that never grow old. The design of the characters and backdrops are unique enough to feel like it avoids the usual anime tendencies, with the only flaw being the art that depicts the creatures they fight – however that surprisingly isn’t a major concern granted all of the series exceptional traits alongside the production. The English voice cast fits each role with ease and precision to create the proper atmosphere their characters embody, showing us that all signs point to Funimation taking time and caution with what is undoubtedly one of their best new series to have under their renowned name.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– I can’t believe how attached I became to these characters with such surprising depth.
– Loss is felt during this anime, but it’s the way they deal with this loss that left me impressed and grieving simultaneously.
– As much as I want to view a second season, I am worried that it will get darker for the lovely group of warriors.

Ajin Finds Success Despite Using A Different Animation Technique

Anime: Ajin (Complete Collection)

Released By: Sentai Filmworks

Release Date: May 16, 2017

Retail Price: $69.98

When Netflix announced it would be streaming the 2016 anime horror series Ajin – it was met with a vast amount of excitement and anticipation which certainly continued from beginning to end. With the achievement of success becoming very clear, Sentai Filmworks spotted the niche series as a potential staple for their line of genre series and licensed Ajin for a video release of the 13 episode series. To give you a little backstory on the series, Ajin follows Kei Nagai, a high school student whose life comes to an abrupt end in the first episode. What makes this extra peculiar is the protagonist wakes up having regenerated and is the third Ajin in Japan (an immortal inhuman that is a recent topic of interest.)

His identity as an Ajin becomes public knowledge which instantly endangers Kei’s life, adding a bounty to his head and sending many powerful government sects after him. Fortunately for Kei, his longtime friend Kaito is present and helps Kei flee from hunters, police and all of those who may want to obtain the Ajin. The two embark on this hectic new adventure together, trying to keep each other alive and ahead of all the parties that have plans for Kei as the newly discovered Ajin. With the government making moves to control Ajin (including a girl named Izumi who is an Ajin covering Ajin affairs) comes the pro-Ajin movement led by Sato – a former marine who now despises mankind and its sympathizers hell bent on corrupting Kei.

From a narrative perspective, Ajin jumps in head first into the drama and action the series totes in the premise. From the very first moments, you know there is a sense of urgency that follows the plot throughout this tale. Ajin can draw a variety of reaction from the fans of the anime that builds momentum with viewers, but one implausible argument is that the series is slow. The quick pacing could sometimes be a deterrent for some, but Ajin doesn’t feel as if it’s throwing too much conflict at the viewers (more of a surface issue tension that will be elaborated on later in this review.) If anime that doesn’t waste time attracts you, Ajin has plenty of intense instalments to keep you guessing at what could come next – that is except for repeated death and Kei being in danger of course.

As I mentioned earlier, Ajin carries a decent amount of issues and obstacles for its protagonist, but sometimes it feels like a missed opportunity to discuss anything past government conflict, abuse of power and new territory for the primary character who is realizing what it means to be an Ajin as it goes on. Just because it uses tropes that have been seen before doesn’t mean anything especially negative because Ajin is still a series with a lot of significant successes, but in the future exploration of the series and or films should scratch deeper than the surface that we’ve come to know during the initial first season of 13 episodes. By following Kei and Kaito (who have a Tokyo Ghoul Kaneki/Hide relationship) the series does provide an investment worthy thrill-ride to see how they can navigate and overcome the various troubles that are popping up left and right. Ajin offers great potential overall, sometimes it is used to its best and others can leave us waiting for a bigger picture – nonetheless, Ajin is an impressive series that will most likely grow with more time.

The true attribute that sets Ajin apart from other horror animes and many series in general is the animation techniques used to bring Ajin to life. In series like Fullmetal Alchemist, scenes with 3D animation are placed inside to add a different approach – but Ajin is completely done in this 3D animation. If anything, the animation is probably peoples biggest gripe or favorite inclusion to the anime, drawing a polarizing response from anime fans and critics. Initially it was my main hesitation going into Ajin, not having enjoyed the first look at the animation but to be fair, it actually has moments where the creative decision makes sense. Several fights feel like clever pieces to the series where the 3D technique isn’t something that was done just because they could – they want to serve a purpose. Ajin also finds it’s niche in darker tones to fit the grim atmosphere created by death and carnage, even down to the opening and closing themes as evidence that Ajin is created to have a bleak image that is felt from beginning to end. Ajin is definitely an anime that at a glance could certainly be off putting to viewers, but if given a chance you will find there are enough horror, action and conflict to keep you coming back for more.

Overall Score: 7.5/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– Ajin deserves credit for changing my initial opinion on the series with its animation (despite me loving the film A Scanner Darkly which held similarities)

– The formula has familiarities to other animes over the last decade but enough originality to keep it from feeling recycled.

Digimon Adventure Tri ‘Reunion’ Adds Intensity To Nostalgia

Anime: Digimon Adventure Tri – Reunion

Released By: Shout Factory & Toei Animation

Release Date: May 16, 2017

Retail Price: $24.97

A little more than 15 years ago, an anime series geared towards youth aired in Japan and the US called Digimon that became a pop culture phenomenon and impacted countless children’s growing appreciation for animated media. If you haven’t heard of Digimon, you are probably in the minority of the population because at some point or another every child knew about it or every now-adult enjoyed it. Now over a decade since the original series aired, following the eight DigiDestined that spawned several spin-offs, the Digimon juggernaut returns in the form of films. Originally slated to be an anime, they realized that Digimon had enough material to create a six part film in the Digi-verse with the first being rightfully labeled “Reunion.”

By the time Digimon picks up in this Digimon Tri – Reunion film, it has been over six years since we followed Tai, Matt and the other DigiDestined into the rabbit hole known as the Digital World. When we last saw them, they had found their Digimon companions who helped them battle the dark forces taking over the Digital World to reclaim it for those good-hearted Digimon to be safe and flourishing as the once great place had. They were forced to leave the Digital World to return to their lives without their Digimon and now they are all high school students dealing with the timeless theme of truly growing up and working your way to adulthood. For those wondering about the previous sequel, Adventure 02 – it has been roughly three years since the titular battle against BeliaVamdemon that left us with a joyous conclusion to the series (or so we thought.)

Since the time that passed between then and now, the gate to the digital world had been closed off unexpectedly, making travel to the Digital World impossible. Now out of the blue, the Digimon Kuwagamon arrives in their town of Odaiba and wreaks havoc (a nice nod to the beginning of the first Digimon.) With no Digimon partner’s present to combat the deadly foe, Tai sets out to try and lure the creature away from the public and do whatever is necessary to save lives and figure out how and why the gate was opened once again. However this time around, Digimon clearly wants to do things a little differently than we’ve experienced before.

Digimon was originally a children’s series, but it did manage to capture some elements of maturity to teach a lesson or show that there were thoughts behind the actions of its protagonists and antagonists. Because of the fact that the DigiDestined are now older, we couldn’t help but wonder if it was going to take a deeper look at the dramatic potential the series had – and from the films first moments you can tell that will definitely be the case. I don’t want to spoil any major scenarios for those of you who haven’t had the chance to view it, but there are flashes that insinuate grim circumstances for characters that Digimon had never thought to suggest before, and as late teens or young adults they actually are forced to survey the damage being done around them.

Tai is the initial character to reminisce about the past, feeling fulfilled at the battle, danger and thrill of experiencing the adventures they had when they were younger but the others have all seemed to move on more or less leaving Tai in a standstill for life which can be a right of passage to anyone at that age or even as adults. When things get chaotic and their involvement is needed again, they begin to do what they were meant to which brings happiness to some and for the first time, implies a dark future could be headed our way. The darker atmosphere isn’t completely obvious, but the subtleties to Digimon Tri are enough to add intrigue to how things will pan out. There are plenty of moments that also acknowledge the typical hormonal teenage angsty themes, but the first film gave me hope at the progression of Digimon and made both my inner child and adult excited which is a rarity to experience.

In terms of characters, all the fan favorites are present (some more than others) and make a few interesting changes to their lives. My personal favorite Kari is back and although she doesn’t have too much screentime crucial to plot yet, her connection to TK and her brother are significant relationships that are still maintained with the return to the series 15 years later. Izzy still remains one of the characters it’s easy to root for as the maturest of the group because of his old-soul demeanor, Matt has become the edgy musician we could have predicted and Mimi is still loving life in New York City. There is an introduction to a new character, Meiko who is shrouded in mystery and so far doesn’t quite fit with the established group – but it is more than clear that Meiko won’t be going anywhere for awhile.

The animation is a strong asset to the more anime-feel of Digimon that sometimes had a cartoony approach. The refreshed look is more mature along with the plot – sometimes making the female characters more objects of desire which is probably my biggest gripe with this Digimon Tri installment. The animation takes some getting used to for the Digimon, but it still feels as if the essence (mostly) remains true to what we knew then. The English voice cast sees a return for many of the original voice actors which is a solid contractual decision to make in a nod to the strong overarching nostalgia impact Digimon hopes to reintroduce. It is safe to say, after 15 years Digimon is certainly back and I can admit that original fans of the series will respect the anime’s expansion on what we once viewed as a childhood classic – now blooming into a mature series with potential for darker subject matter.

Overall Score: 8/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– It is still crazy to watch this series continue after it played a major part in young pop culture, but now is the era of nostalgia so why not act on a cult classic series.

– Hoping Kari gets some extra character development in the near future, or at least stays safe given the doom and gloom that could come for the DigiDestined.

– With a chance at more generation 2 characters returning, I hope that Ken will get some screen time in the near future.