Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Re: 0096 – Short Review

Good

Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn originally aired as an OVA series of 12 episodes of roughly 1-hour in length.  Re:0096 re-cuts it into a tv-sized series of 22 episodes, sometimes cutting it in a jarring fashion.  That aside, Gundam Unicorn is a series that probably won’t be terribly accessible to a new viewer, since it relies heavily on (and refers to) a lot of the previous Gundam series in the Universal Century timeline.  (If you’re confused already, here’s a graphic showing the timelines).

True to Gundam form, the series has grand and lofty ambitions – dealing with the collateral damage and side-effects of war, as well as the meaning of conflict and peace, and older generations of people as opposed to newer ones.  Since that’s the main focus the character development will seem a little fast, with people skipping to conclusions instead of agonizing over it.  This will be a bit of a welcome change to experienced Gundam fans, since the focus of the series will often be a civilian thrown into a military situation with death and explosions, who deals with it through whiny angst.  In spite of this, they do manage to pull together some absolutely spectacular character moments, although you have to wait for them a bit since Gundam series are a slow burn and tend to peak around 3/4 through.

All in all, a solid entry in the Gundam series that’s really pretty to watch as well.

Purpose: Very Good
Characters: Decent
World: Very Good
Plot: Good
Storytelling: Very Good
Pace: Decent

 

 

 

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WWW. Wagnaria!! – Short Review

Good

WWW. Wagnaria!! the anime is a spin-off of the Wagnaria series, taking place in another restaurant in the same chain.  Actually, the source material for this anime came from an earlier work by the same manga artist.  The work was a web series and served almost as a pilot.  This ends up being important because the best way to think of this anime is as a prototype for the first Wagnaria anime.

This anime is pretty entertaining to watch.  It’s full of eccentric characters that make for a wacky slice of (work) life.  Compared to Wagnaria!, the comedy is a little on the harsher side, but funny nonetheless. The characters aren’t particularly complex and are more like caricatures of a single “problem.” Actually, if you pay close attention, you can see the foundation of character traits and types that later make an appearance in the Wagnaria! series.  This lack of depth ends up limiting the scope of interaction between the characters – they are mostly segregated into comedy duos.  Unfortunately, WWW. Wagnaria has a significantly accelerated timeline, meaning that the viewer won’t be quite as invested in the payoffs.  That said, it’s certainly worth a watch!

Purpose: Good
Characters: Good
World: Good
Plot: Decent
Storytelling: Good
Pace: Good

Tamako Market (+ Tamako Love Story)- Short Review

Good

Tamako Market is a very lighthearted comedy anime.  Though somewhat bland, perhaps it’s best to think of it as setting the stage for the OVA movie Tamako Love Story (Excellent).  Very sweet and fluffy, Tamako Market is about the joy of life – loving a peculiar little community.  If you love the super-sweet anime without any clouds in the sky, this is right up your alley.  If not, you can find it… trying.   That said, it doesn’t feel like much happens, in spite of the presence of a talking bird and the general main plotline of finding a bride for a foreign prince.  Actually, the talking bird is pretty much the saving grace of the show, acting as a refuge from the saccharine tone of the anime.

As much as I’d love to say skip ahead to Tamako Love Story, you really do need to finish Tamako Market because it develops the characters’ personalities and lays the framework for the OVA.

Tamako Love Story is a very different beast, and is more serious – it clouds over the sunshine a bit.   It’s about growing up and dealing with changes that happen in life, dealing with a combination of changes that you want to happen and changes that you are fighting against, even if subconsciously.  Everything about Tamako Love Story is stronger and more solid.  Come to think of it, the OVA has one of the strongest “confession” scenes in recent memory.  Really, this is the payoff that makes the whole series worth it.

Purpose: Decent
Characters: Good
World: Good
Plot: Decent
Storytelling: Decent
Pace: Decent

Konosuba – Short Review

Good

Konosuba is a somewhat sarcastic comedy in a fantasy setting.  The anime is generally on-par with the genre average, and many new to the concept probably won’t be disappointed.  Much of the strength of the anime will come from its irreverent glance at the genre and its occasionally incisive commentary.

While Konosuba’s pretty entertaining at first, it tends to get somewhat stale by the end since its comedy comes primarily from “reaction catchphrases.”  Basically, the cast is composed of characters that react in one particular way to a given situation.  One-off characters aren’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as the situations are odd and unique enough to make the characters’ quirks shine.  Unfortunately, Konosuba doesn’t vary the settings or the situations enough to have the one-off weirdness shine the way it would with appropriately bizarre and crazy situations.

The most unique part of the anime is its twist on a “stuck in a game” setup, instead replacing it with a fantasy world functionally similar to a game.  This avoids much of the problems that plague the “stuck in a game” anime subgenre.  One of the biggest weaknesses you’ll find with these kind of anime is the under-utilization of the world.  There is no meaningful distinction between the real world and the game world like you’d find in the one of the first to use the concept, .hack/sign or the more recent Log Horizon.

All in all, not a bad place to start, but there’s a lot better out there.

 

Lovely Complex

Good

Lovely Complex is a high-school romantic comedy that’s rowdy and sweet and rough around the edges.  It chronicles the story of two (explosive) friends as they struggle to become something more.  The anime’s story ends up being somewhat different than the standard romance or romantic comedy in its constant ups and downs.  Regardless, Lovely Complex is a fun watch and a solid entry in its genre.

Purpose: Good.  

Right off the bat, Lovely Complex establishes that it’s a different sort of romantic comedy.  The main pair start off as friend-rivals-sparring partners.  They get along by seemingly not getting along; they really like fighting with each other.  This mood sets the anime apart from the “I can’t stand you, but somehow we end up lovey-dovey” or the “weird, awkward people that get together and hilarity ensues” anime.  That’s what makes this story’s journey different – it’s more about friends overcoming the “friend” barrier to become something more.  The tone and theme remains consistent throughout, keeping true to the atmosphere of the anime and its characters.

The perspective of the anime is limited to the female lead, meaning the anime is pretty solidly from her perspective.  At the end, there are hints of the potential for the anime to be Excellent when it broadens its scope to difficulties faced by the other couples and even to the decisions and inner-workings of the male lead.

Characters: Good

Another notable aspect of the anime is the fact that it has an extremely rare character type – a male Tsundere.  While quite uncommon in themselves, this particular character, the male lead, does not have the sadistic tinge that often accompanies the male characters of this type.

The main pair and supporting characters show consistent and distinctive personalities through their relations with each other.  Many of the characters have additional complexities that keep them interesting both in how they react to situations and each other.  Of course, the focus of the anime is on development of the main pair’s relationship.  In addition to starting the relationship in a different place, the characters go through a lot of ups and downs in how they relate to and with each other.  Specifically, it’s about the struggle of how they learn to define their relationship.  Interestingly, this takes place over the course of 3 years, which is uncommon for anime of this type.  The main characters end up growing and learning from this ordeal, though it takes a while to get there.

All that aside, Lovely Complex is still a romantic comedy at heart.  There are plenty of crazy characters and goings on.

World: Good

There are a couple notable aspects about the setting.  First, it’s clearly set in the Kansai region, particularly demonstrated in the dialect spoken by the characters.  It’s an oddity to have the entire cast speaking Kansai-ben (the regional dialect).  The other notable aspect is that the world seems set up against the main couple.  There are certain expectations or norms that require the main characters to overcome.  Namely, the expectation of what a romantic relationship is in addition to what the players of those roles look like.

One other thing to comment is that the world is fairly limited to the eyes of the main heroine.  This limits the viewer’s ability to comprehend the full picture of the main relationship and the relationships of everyone around the main characters.

Plot: Good

In some ways, it’s predictable.   In other ways, it’s not.  You know how it’s supposed to go since it’s a fairly standard romance anime.  However, the course it takes – the little course corrections that affect the story – end up making it different from many others in the genre.  While many anime will use the meet-like-challenge-conclusion formula, Lovely Complex spends more time bouncing back and forth between liking and challenges.  This results in a bit of a bumpy ride, with lots of ups and downs.  Plot-wise it’s never really backtracking so much as zig-zagging forward, partly because the challenges are more unusual.

Storytelling: Good

True to the overall feel of the anime, the storytelling is a little rough around the edges, unpolished, but still very genuine.  One of the stronger parts of the storytelling is that it manages the viewer’s perception of the relationship to be in-tune with the progress of the relationship.  Basically, it creates the feeling of “these guys are good friends” first so that picturing them as a couple feels a bit odd.  Eventually when they do become a couple, it seems quite natural.  This helped to drive home the main heroine’s fear of losing the relationship they had as friends as she sought something more.

One of the weaknesses of Lovely Complex becomes most evident in the middle.  There, it feels like the author got stuck with the slow zig-zagging and didn’t know how to get out.  So, we take a slightly jarring detour that ultimately forces things along.  That aside, the fact that it got stuck a bit ended up emphasizing and strengthening the sweetness of the payoff.

Pace: Good

This anime feels like a long-haul since it spans all 3 years of Japanese High School, which is certainly a rarity.  Lovely Complex gets a little bogged down in certain areas, but never really stagnates.  Overall, watching the the anime, it never really feels too slow.  It just helps emphasize the long journey.

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Noragami (Season 1, Season 2, + 3 OVAs)

Good

Noragami is an odd show that’s hard to classify because it tries to do many different things.  The best way to describe it is something of a “get to know the gods” show with bits of action, comedy, and character drama.  Overall fun to watch, this anime shines, albeit unevenly.  Certain themes are really quite strong, but easily get lost in the frivolity.  Noragami leaves the impression that it was fun, but prevented itself from being truly great.

Purpose: Weak.

While this anime does shine in certain things it does, it lacks a uniform strength.  Let’s start by looking at what it tries to be – an anime with some action, character drama, world-specific drama, comedy, and a teensy bit of romance, wrapped up in a folklore-based setting.  Watching through both seasons, it becomes clear that the anime struggled to find a unique voice, running through various kinds of genres before settling on one.  Make no mistake, there are some really strong themes here, it’s just that the anime focused on the weaker ones, when it kept its focus at all.  In particular, the anime kept trying to stay in the action genre, but without the necessary building blocks.  The world wasn’t really ever set up to be the kind of world that supported regular blade-clashing and ability-slinging.  Rather, it was set up as a world of complex interactions and relationships between different actors.  Without the proper setting in place, of course the action will be somewhat bland.  What’s worse, by trying to force the action into the wrong world, it ended up draining from the highlights of the anime – the character drama and the treatment of the Japanese gods.

The character drama is the real star here, although it wasn’t uniform.  You can count exactly 3 really strong character moments, fairly evenly spaced throughout.  Actually, they’re so memorable, you can classify them as unique character arcs – the Yukine arc, the Bishamonten arc, and the Ebisu arc.  It’s important to think about it in this way, because it highlights 3 strong, sharp peaks in the anime with the rest being valleys that bridge them.

Now, I wasn’t going to be quite as hard on the anime’s failings here, except for the fact that I saw the OVAs.  In the three OVAs, they showed what the anime could have been and, perhaps, should, have been to bridge the gap between character dramas.  In the OVAs, they mix up the comedy to do a couple things.  First, they use it to strengthen the oddities and quirks present in the many gods, making them seem apart from “mere” humans.  Second, they use the comedy to reinforce the relationships between Yato and crew and solidify the idea that he doesn’t deserve the people around him, but done in a charming sort of way.  The combination of the two ends up adding to the world and developing characters at the same time, the polar opposite of what happened in the series proper.

Characters: Decent.  

Overall, the characters are pretty plain and shallow, yet endearing.  There are even some really excellent character moments.  However, being endearing and having some good moments does not a character rating make.  This is another example of how the anime shows that it has the potential for greatness without actually making it happen.  One of the problems here is something we see much more commonly in weaker shows.   The characters are established to an everyday “baseline” where you get occasional peaks in some sort of character development or progress, followed by a reversion back to the baseline.  Essentially, they’re the same as they were before.  The one exception in the main cast is Yukine, who does have some solid development, which, unfortunately, ends up highlighting the static nature of everyone else.

For an anime that ends up being about a tangled web of relationships, they don’t focus on those relationships much.  Rather, you get little bits and hints of things that are really quite intriguing, especially how the gods relate to each other.  Again, it’s the OVAs that actually go into those areas and flesh them out.  It brings out the relationships into sharp contrast, which also highlights the subtleties of the characters.  For example, extremely true to his character, you have Yato doing something to Bishamon that’s clearly intended to be (and was) highly offensive, yet utterly innocent.  You have wild, crazy, and silly things that are purely relational in nature, yet confined to the world of the gods, apart from humans.  Interestingly, those relationships were the anime’s unique voice, it’s just that they didn’t give it the proper attention.

World: Very Good.

The world is hard to rate here because its strength varies depending on what’s going on.  As it supports the character relationships, it’s Excellent.  However, as it supports the action, it’s Not Very Good.  Since Noragami ends up being more towards the relationships, it keeps it at Very Good.  

So what about the world doesn’t support the action?  Action anime have specific sets of rules that govern the action.  Sure, you may have magic or some guy that hits people with swords, but they establish limitations pretty quickly.  There are a limited set of things that characters can do, and other things they can’t.  In Noragami, since the subject matter is the gods, they were either unwilling or unable to put meaningful limitations on the characters.  For example, why in the world does the named god of war have any such trouble with a nameless god?  The result is limitations of convenience that pop up without warning to bring a spike in the dramatic tension.  Of course, those limitations are forgotten once it loses its place as a dramatic crutch.  Without the proper guideposts, the world ends up being rather formless, shaped into whatever it needs to be at the moment instead of having its own life.

So why does the world support the relationships?  The same things that were negatives above are positives here.  These guys are gods.  They don’t have to play by normal rules and do so in their own unique ways.  There’s never the sense that they can’t do things, only that they don’t want to.  This sets broad ranges of play for characters to react off of each other – almost like a large sandbox-type setting.  You have a broad set of characters based in folklore and mythology, brought to life,as it were, in silly and crazy ways.

PlotDecent.

Without a third season, the anime’s plot has a very unfinished feel, just like the first season did, standing alone (as I watched it when it first came out).  That said, the plot comes in two flavors.  The character flavor essentially selected one character do go in depth, with some solid steps and overall trajectory.  The second flavor, everything else, was, well, whatever.  Things just sort of happened without any real buildup or logical flow.  The action plots were the worst in this regard, falling back on writer’s convenience time and time again.  As an aside, the comedy “plots” were fairly solidly self-contained and had a good internal structure.

StorytellingVery Good.  

The storytelling is all about those great moments.  Aside from the three really powerful character moments, they had some really great stuff.  The standout would be the development of the Nora.  They did a spectacular job of making them have a very dirty or repulsive feel, without making the characters themselves repulsive in a visual or traditional sense.  Rather, it was the atmosphere they created involving these characters, which relied on other character’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the Nora.  Again, we have a highlight of subtlety, delicacy, and attention to detail that the anime shows it was capable of.

One final note here, the comedy ends up being extremely strong in the OVAs.

Pace:  Good.

The material was presented with a solid enough way that the anime was never really boring.  You had the three main peaks with relatively slow buildups to get there, but other than that, nothing else to remark upon.

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Nisekoi: (Season 2)

Good

Nisekoi: is a continuation of the story from the first season.  While Nisekoi has never been spectacular, it continues to be solid in its frivolous entertainment.  That said, two of its episodes really stand out – the ones that are actually serious.  This installment firmly solidifies the anime’s genre as a romance/comedy instead of a harem, in spite of the added players to the mix.  With such a large gaggle of girls and lots of liking flying about, it can easily look like the relationships are haremesque, although if you actually chart out the relationships, a different picture emerges.

Purpose: Good.  So why do I say that this isn’t a harem anime?  Many people think it is because you have many girls going after the same guy.  However, the absence of infighting is what makes it a “love polyhedron” instead of a harem.  Harem genres are essentially a “king of the hill” type of spectacle, where the entertainment comes from the personalities coming into direct conflict over an object, our main protagonist.  Nisekoi is an entirely different beast, primarily because of the managed lack of knowledge.  Specifically, the anime manages the characters’ knowledge of other characters’ feelings.  Heck, the protagonist is even convinced that no one really likes him.  This managed, forced ignorance will probably be grating on some, but it’s what sets the stage for an ultimate (sort of) love triangle, with some other attachments.

That aside, the anime pulls a lot of its comedy from increasing the sheer outrageousness of situations.  However, the outrageousness ends up being tempered by some genuine sweetness.

Characters: Good.  For the most part, the characters we knew from the first season were left as they were, with no real growth.  In order to counteract stagnation, the material ended up adding some new characters to the mix to spice things up and forcibly add facets to the existing characters.  Of course, this complicated the situation a bit, so if you chart out the relationships, it ends up making a funny design (but is really somewhat simple).

Basically, you have the protagonist after one girl,  the crush, who likes him back but he doesn’t know.  Then, you have two levels of interference – the fake girlfriend and the crazy childhood friend.  The fake girlfriend is set up to be a potential contender, particularly in this season, which acts as a distractor.  The crazy childhood friend is pure interference, and the closest thing to a villain.  Her crazy antics actually end up taking her out of the running (and everyone knows it) by acting as a unifying factor – “it better be anyone but her.”  Amusingly, the childhood friend is the only one that 1) everyone knows likes the protagonist and 2) knows everyone else likes the protagonist.  If you really think about it, she’s both the only harem character in the anime and the only one that treats it like a harem by actively fighting the other girls.  Main duo and crazy aside, you have the outsiders – the sort-of-platonic friend who wishes for more and the crush’s little sister, who reluctantly likes our protagonist.

One last thing, one of the support characters gets his own full episode, which is really spectacular.

World: Decent.  The world, overall, took a hit in this season, becoming less of a factor in anything.  In the previous season, the craziness of the yakuza and the mafia ended up creating some really odd and fun situations.  This season strayed far away from that, instead replacing it with the fake girlfriend’s crazy (awesome?) mother.    Even at that, she played a fleeting role in the story, serving to boost the fake girlfriend’s endearing qualities.  The only other notable part of the world was the whole setup for the episode entitled “Support.”  You’ll just have to watch it.

Plot: Decent.  I mean, there’s not really much going on.  While some things are growing, for the most part, it’s more of the same.  The best description of the plot is something of a holding pattern, a lateral move.   Really, the whole point of this season was to set up the fake girlfriend as a contender for the audience.  This meant that plot points were focused on bringing out the fake girlfriend’s more endearing qualities.  Then again, for this particular use, the slightly shorter nature of this series was a good fit.

Structure aside, the comedy became a little more situational.  Much of it was spent on throwing the built characters into odd situations to see how they react.

Storytelling: Very Good.  The strong point of the storytelling is that is was much more focused – it gave appropriate weight to the more important points.  This season in particular had a more personal feel since you’ve gotten to know the characters some and are familiar with the situation.  In contrast, the first season treated the viewer as an outsider, watching something of an amusing trainwreck.  Putting it in other words, this season allowed the viewer to settle in and focus more on the characters instead of the situation.  The storytelling is strongly positive, but it does contain its weak points.  The weaker points actually involve the addition of the new characters, which ended up diluting what was going on.  In many ways, they were an excuse to bring in old gags that had lost their place in this season.   Another of the weaknesses involved the “turn-based” nature of the storytelling – the characters got a few-episode focus, to the exclusion of all others.  While it’s not wholly a bad thing, it ended up minimizing the presence of other characters when it wasn’t their “turn.”  So while we got 1 on 1 or 2 on 1 interactions, the others were standing by until later.

Pace: Good.  There were some oddities of pacing, namely how they varied the content of the episodes.  Sometimes you got a couple-episode arc or a single episode dealing with one particular subject or one episode split into two little stories.  This prevented an overall consistent feel for the anime.  That said, they were really strong about manipulating the pace when it counted – wild, crazy, and outrageous antics with a lightning pace serving to contrast with a much slower pace to emphasize emotion.

 

Wakakozake (shorts)

Good

Shorts are an entirely different beast to write about because of their brief nature.  Normally, shorts are comedy-based, with one solid punchline per episode.  However, Wakakozake is a very different kind of short anime.  At 2 minutes per episode, it’s not exactly a time consuming anime to watch.  It’s very low-key and really easy to follow – nothing complex going on.

These shorts are surprisingly relaxing.  Instead of comedy, Wakakozake is almost quiet contemplation.  Plainly speaking, it’s about eating.  Rather, each short is about eating a different kind of food as a reward after work.  Sometimes, it contemplates pairings of foods – what goes well together.  Other times, it contemplates the emotion of eating those comfort foods. The animation style roughly follows this, choosing to animate the foods in extreme detail.

Actually, it made me kind of miss those shops in Japan.

Himouto! Umaruchan

Good

Himouto! is a fairly solid comedy suitable for easy viewing.  The humor is fairly varied, and has its ups and downs.   Unfortunately, some gags end up being belabored a little too much, taking them from funny to obnoxious.  Even though this is a comedy-genre anime, there is actually a surprising amount of depth going on in the background, when the other characters take the spotlight.  Overall, it’s a good watch, but not a must-see.

Purpose: Good.  Himouto! is a little difficult to classify.   About 70%  of the anime is gag-oriented pure comedy.  The other 30% is more of a blended slice of life comedy.   The pure comedy portion is further split between sister-brother gags and sister-everyone else gags.  The oddest thing about this anime is that it’s at its weakest for most of the sister-brother gags.  They become generally predictable because they all involve the same subject matter.  In a lot of ways, the anime is about every character other than its namesake.  Most interesting is that Himouto! actually seems to use the older brother as its center-point, around which almost everything revolves.  He’s also the viewer’s point of entry into the anime.  While not the main character, he ends up becoming something like the star of the show, not to mention a strong candidate for brother of the year award.

Characters: Good.  Again, this is mixed.  Most of the characters had strong potential, but in unexpected ways.  The viewer’s understanding of just about every other character grows throughout the anime.  For most of the main girl cast, they all had some sort of issue or hangup that prevented them from being normal.  Not that that’s a bad thing – they ended up becoming endearing in uniquely different ways.   Oddly, only one character remained mostly static – Umaru, the show’s namesake.  We saw little bits of perspective on her only through her interactions with two of the other characters.  The entirety of Umaru’s character is dependent on the dichotomy between her “outside” and her “at-home” lives.  This resulted in a fairly shallow character, especially in comparison to the rest.  Moving beyond the girls, the brother ended up being a really well done character, so much so that he kind of steals the show.  He’s a strong counterpoint to his sister’s character, or lack thereof.  He demonstrates a powerful balance of serious and silly that the other characters can work off of to great effect.

World: Decent. While generally plain and uninteresting as a backdrop, it’s used in an odd way.  For much of the anime, it’s almost done to compartmentalize and isolate character pairs into situations.   In other words, the create several worlds that really only exist between combinations of characters.  As the anime goes on, they slowly start to blend these separate worlds together, which starts to add some life into the world as a whole.  Unfortunately, they added the history and depth to the world at too late of a point – had it been much earlier, the world would be rated more highly.

Plot: Decent.  Frankly, there isn’t too much plot to be found.  The plot can be separated into the Umaru gags and character building categories, although character building is few and far in between.  Normally, I wouldn’t really even be talking character development in a comedy genre, but they decided to use some plot time to develop characters, in addition to making it funny.  The main problem with the plot comes from the complete dependence on the “Umaru personality” for much of the comedy’s plot, stifling the variety of comedy.  While entertaining at first, it slowly loses its flavor through over-use.  Putting Umaru aside, they do a solid job of providing steps and situations for the viewer’s understanding of the other characters to grow.

Storytelling: Good.  In spite of the weaknesses belabored above, the storytelling manages to mitigate some of the weaker points.  The humor’s a little bit hit-and-miss, with the misses coming mostly in the middle.  The brother-sister gags were more than enough to carry the early stories, but it wore thin.  They started to pick up the humor again when they started playing with other characters and characters’ relationships.

Pace: Good. Basically, the comedy was selected in such a way that it ultimately mitigated the Umaru gags, preventing them from becoming completely tiresome.  Aside from that, the pacing felt somewhat on the slower side.

Daybreak Illusion

Good

Daybreak Illusion is in the same category as Puella Magi Madoka Magica – it’s a darker take on the magical-girls genre.  Although it gets real dark, fast, compared to Madoka Magica, it pulled its punches for the most part.  While interesting to watch, it lacked the proper development to be truly great.

Purpose: Not Really Good.  It wasn’t entirely clear what they were trying to do.  Much of the anime was more weighted to action.  Rather, it was the impact of the action on the characters.  However, events that they spend half of the anime agonizing over were glossed over in the end.  It’s almost as though the author tired of that theme, treating it as more of a several episode plot-arc instead what they set it up as – an overarching theme.  The focus then shifted to the “ultimate mysteries of the world.”  Oddly, they don’t even go too far there.  They give hints of even greater and darker revelations, but never really explore them.  Frankly, that got lost in what appeared to be an odd attempt to tie in the old “plot arc” into what was going on. The lack of focus ended up sapping some strength from all of the other elements.  By the end, it felt as though the events should have been really gripping – edge of the seat gripping – but they didn’t really manage to set it up properly.

Characters: Weak.  It’s important to note that character depth and interesting characters are two different things, although they can be related.  The characters in Daybreak Illusion were interesting, both in their character design and personalities.  Each of the characters played a different role and provided a slightly different take on what was going on.  However, they lacked depth.  In this case, the depth was relegated to the characters’ backstories and some problem that came up, related to their past, that they had to overcome.  Basically, it was a one-off problem that, once solved, was the end of the character’s development journey.  In this way, it was a rather short trek for our characters to make.  This ended up robbing many scenes and plot elements of their impact because the characters weren’t strong enough to make it a compelling personal struggle.

World: Good.  This was another world that involves Tarot cards.  However, this only serves as a basis for giving the main girls powers.  Only the most basic and superficial things are explained – just enough to give you a sense of what’s going on.  For over half of the anime, this bare-bones setting is used.  Most of the actual world-building comes after the halfway point.  Once that happens, it actually begins to explain things.  Sadly, there ends up being more questions than answers – they hint at something bigger and darker lurking behind the scenes.  They don’t go much further than hints, though.  With all that said, the world gets the job done by providing an interesting enough setting for interesting things to happen in.

Plot: Very Good. The plot itself was quite good, in spite of some hiccups.   There were a good deal of strong plot points that were clearly designed to test a character’s personality.  Many of those plot points resulted in changes in perspective or trajectory of a character’s development.  However, the strength of the plot was squandered by the weaknesses in other elements.  That’s not to say the plot was uniformly strong.  One problem was that it was a bit predictable – each character got a turn in resolving an outstanding personal problem. Another problem was that a major plot point was discarded, only to be hastily tied in at the end.  This created an odd disconnect in the logical progression of events.  In spite of these failings, it still managed to be quite strong, perhaps too strong for the rest of the elements.

Storytelling: Decent.  While it feels like the storytelling was a major letdown, it still did a basic enough job to work without really detracting from anything.  Some of the scenes were quite strong because they set up moments that were supposed to be solidly emotional.  One of the strongly notable scenes involved creating an odd sense of wrongness, as though something was off.  This ended up being quite important.  Unfortunately, some of the stronger scenes that had proper buildup didn’t end up working out the way it should have because the weak characters that prevented the payoff.  Other scenes, however resulted from a story that was disappointingly done in several areas, weakening the overall mood.  Rather, it failed to set up the appropriate mood.  One example is how they don’t manage to convey important information until way past its relevance.  This isn’t good because it leaves the audience speculating about what’s going on instead of guiding the audience through the story.  When that happens, it hurts the overall mood because the audience gets out of sync with the events that are unfolding.

Pace: Very Good.  The pace wasn’t really a problem here.  While the anime does get quite dark, fast, they leave enough space to prevent it from becoming overwhelming.  The pace is fairly uniform throughout, fast enough to prevent things from getting stale.