sport genre standard

Titles under this category is a sport anime, that will always be handicapped. Only happened with all sport anime titles reviewed after Capeta.

The main protagonist...
The main protagonist…

For this blog entry, I am going to review a sport anime title that aired in the last decade, titled Eyeshield 21. It has some notable distinctions; one being the first title that has more than 100 episodes being reviewed here in years, another is that this anime aired in the same year as with the best ever anime title I have reviewed in this blog, Capeta. The latter is the main reason why I always apply the sport genre handicap to all sport anime titles I reviewed after it, including this anime too.

...and this is his job.
…and this is his job.

Story:-
The anime starts with the main protagonist just enrolling at Deimon High School. Unfortunately for him, the lite version of One Out’s male protagonist forces him to join the school's  American football club. To ensure that the main protagonist’s running power isn’t associated to him, he becomes the anonymous main title protagonist of this anime instead, while the real him acts up as the club’s secretary. As the size of the club grows, he, the One Out’s main protagonist and the others set their aim at the Christmas Bowl event, which is Japan’s high school version of the NFL’S Super Bowl.

My biggest pet-peeve about this anime is definitely the fact that the series has not ended, despite having 145 episodes, the second longest anime title reviewed here after Urusei Yatsura. I would not have complained about this if this anime does not have enough episodes, but this is not the case here, which I would explain more below.

By the time the final episode finished playing, the series is at the semifinal stage of the Kantou playoff tournament. Spoiler: for the record, the Deimon Devil Bats won that particular match and in theory, should go on to the finals of the said playoff tournament. But the final and the Christmas Bowl are not shown, and heads will roll because of this.

Pacing-wise, this anime is quite OK up until the end of the regional third–place playoff game that ends somewhere between episode 80 and 90. Quite a little bit slow between games, but generally spot-on in in-field episodes. But the ~25-episode gap between that third placing game and the first round of the Kantou Tournament is fatal to this anime. The gaps between previous games has never been this long before this part of the series, and it is almost big enough to fill in a normal 2-cour anime series today.

There are another two issues this anime is having; both of them are related to the 25-episode gap issue above. The first one is the gap between the first round of the Kantou Tournament and the semi final game. The gap is quite large too if compared to the ones that precedes the gap before the former. The second one is the pacing of the final game of this anime (the semi final of Kantou Tournament), which is the slowest when compared to all the games that was played before it.

Therefore, with great confidence, I can definitely say that if the last two non-playing gaps has normal lengths as just like the ones that comes before it, and that if the pacing of all games are similar (maybe gives two or there more episodes for Christmas Bowl), this anime would be able to accommodate the Kantou Tournament final and also the Christmas Bowl easily. I’m really pissed that I am not able to at least watch the former, especially when this anime has already set up some events leading to the game that Deimon Devil Bats are supposed to play. Is there any need to show Gaou stopping a truck if we are not goping to see the main title male protagonist going against him?

That pivotal moment right before an explosive burst of character development. You will see this a lot in this anime.
That pivotal moment right before an explosive burst of character development. You will see this a lot in this anime.

Storywise this anime is actually quite good in quality. The Death March arc in this anime is definitely the best power-up training regime I have seen in a sport anime to date. Not only it helps the members of Deimon Devil Bats upgrade their abilities and advance their character developments at that time, Death March was also used to do those two things again and again in future episodes, usually in-game using flashback sequences, in a slick and believable way that does not off-put the audience. Not only that, the Death March also helps advance the plot multiple times long after the arc finished playing.

Speaking about the Death March, the writer tried to replicate that arc in the aforementioned 25-episode gap above, but failed miserably.

As this is a sport anime, with a huge episode count at that, it is natural that this anime has extensive character developments, especially for the recurring characters, and to a lesser extent, the one-off characters from the team faced by the Deimon Devil Bats too. The best character in this anime is definitely the club captain, followed closely by the main title protagonist. It really helps too that there are no romance elements at all in this anime; there are no main female protagonist here at all.

This anime has the most informative eyecatches section I’ve ever seen, which is useful for those who doesn’t know American football. Recap episodes and repeated scenes are a staple of this anime, and they are done largely well. The issue with the pacing of this anime has been largely explained above, and that problem do affect the flow of the story in a negative way. There are many comedy events in this anime too, and they can be hit-or-miss.

This anime has its share of quirky teams with equally quirky character designs too.
This anime has its share of quirky teams with equally quirky character designs too.

Character Design:-
Character designs in this anime is very notable for its diverseness. You can see character designs that comes out straight from a  typical shounen anime title like Naruto or Bleach (like the main title male protagonist), then you can see designs that is common from a shounen-ai titles, then shoujo titles, then seinen titles (like the One-Out-esque quarterback) and more. The huge character cast, many of them at least semi-recurring ones, do help this anime in this regard. A positive aspect of this anime.

Some asinine questions too during the eyecatch section.
Some asinine questions too during the eyecatch section.

Voice Acting:-
Voica acting for core characters (the Deimon Devil Bats members) are largely good, with the sore exception of the main male title protagonist, which is just about average. The monkey receiver and the One-out-esque quarterback have the best voice acting gigs in this anime. Hirano Aya of pre-Haruhi Suzumiya era sure is more restrained as shown in this anime compared to her newer gigs.

The voices of other characters, recurring or not, do mirror the diverseness of their character designs. Many of them are good or better, while there are some of them that are just average.

Music:-
The OST of this anime is good; could have been better especially for scenes off the field. As for OP/ED themes, the good ones includes the 1st, 2nd and the 4th OP themes, then the insert songs in episode 28 and 116 (both of them played multiple times). But the best of them all is definitely the 6th ED theme, which is head and shoulders above the rest of them. A positive aspect for this anime because of that alone.

Answer: The main reason why I don't watch NBA and NFL games.
Answer: The main reason why I don't watch NBA and NFL games.

Animation/Direction:-
Character animations in this anime can be very jerky at times, usually in off-field moments, but sometimes also happens during a match. There are also numerous problems with the quality of character compositions, in numerous scenes in the anime, on and off the field.

General animation quality doesn’t seem to have those numerous quality issues that plagued the characters of this anime. This anime of last decade has already used 3D CGI animation, but integration with the traditional 2D animation is not seamless. As for choreography in this sport anime, you can consider them good if you enjoy normal American football techniques being overexaggerated with slow-motion techniques, contrails, after–images, special effects and things like that. If you don’t, well…

The director also has made some mistakes, in addition of the pacing problem above. One of them is plot execution. For example, some scenes like the main title protagonist’s second touchdown against Oujou High School in their first match-up, and also his visit to Sakuraba Haruto after that match, does not have the impact that those scenes should deliver. A better director would have used those scenes to manipulate viewers’ feeling much better.

The best ever name for a cruise liner in anime history.
The best ever name for a cruise liner in anime history.

Conclusion:-
6 out of 10.
Even after 145 episodes, this anime is in dire need of a second season if you ask me. Blame this on the director for letting this happening.

Quoted for truth.
Quoted for truth.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/prgSo-Ea

This guy over here know the harsh reality of this game that Animax doesn't want to admit.
This guy over here know the harsh reality of this game that Animax doesn't want to admit.

It has been quite some time since I reviewed a sequel of an existing anime series I reviewed here before, with the third Evangelion movie being the last a year ago. Therefore today I will review the third installment of the Cardfight!! Vanguard series, titled Cardfight!! Vanguard – Link Joker Hen. This anime is arguably is the best installment in the series to date, so let see if the third iteration will be able to overcome the double handicap this series is plagued with.

And even the main male protagonist will slowly admit what this game is all about.
And even the main male protagonist will slowly admit what this game is all about.

Story:-
A year has passed since the start of the first season, and our main male protagonist is now a high-school student, enrolling in the same school as his card game teammate, the beautiful surly white-haired girl I mentioned before in my synopsis of the first season of this anime. Then one of the members of the Ultra-rare idol group transfer into his class and together, they created a Cardfight!! Vanguard club in the school so that they can aim for the nationals.

Cashing in from character builds up from the first and second season, the set up at the start of the anime is solid. New characters from the main male protagonist’s high school plus the possibility of a love triangle, the first half of this anime consists of the plot where the newly formed card-playing card trying to fight their way to the nationals. The first half of the anime is definitely its best part; it is like watching Cross Game, but with card games instead of baseball. And not much different compared to the whole plot of the first season.

Unfortunately, the second half of this anime consists of a ‘save the world’ plot again, just like the final arc of the second season. Unlike in the second season, this season’s ‘save the world’ plot takes up more episodes than it does in the season before it. Quality-wise, the story in this part is better than the one in the second season though, but still there are some issues about this part (and others too) that I will address below. The ending is typically predictable for an anime with these kind of stories, and whatever loose ends that are still left by the time the last episode finished playing may or may not be addressed in the fourth season that is currently airing. I will definitely watch one too in the future.

Quoted for Truth!
Quoted for Truth!

I have already mentioned some of the gameplay changes in this season in my review of the second season, so I will not repeat them here. The only new extra change I have seen after writing the second season’s review is the Quintet Wall, a vanguard-shielding technique that can be used by some of the card types in the series (the decks of the main male protagonist and the blonde Ultra-rare member can do so). I do not really like the fact that this technique are introduced fairly late into the third season, and without any significant deck reshuffling/reconstruction by the owners of the qualifying decks. If the main male protagonist has been able to use this technique in the first place during the first phase of the anime, why he did not use it during the qualification tournament for the nationals? That technique may be able to secure his team a spot in the nationals.

This deux-ex-machina card really does not help this anime one bit. And the user of the card still managed to lose even with that card.
This deux-ex-machina card really does not help this anime one bit. And the user of the card still managed to lose even with that card.

As I have mentioned in my review for the previous two seasons, the card game that underpinned the essence of this series is basically a luck-based game. This has not changed in this season at all. A couple of things to note here. The first one is that the third season employs the ‘deux ex machina’ plot device more gratuitously like the one shown in the screenshot above. This is a weakness in writing because the antagonistic Link Joker deck’s locking system can actually be circumvented reasonably easily (without needing the trigger card drawing luck) with correct tactics. Now if the Link Joker deck has a certain power that the surly white-haired girl’s first deck in the first season has, Link Joker would have become virtually invincible.

The living proof of what the card game is all about.
The living proof of what the card game is all about.

Another thing I noticed about the gameplay in the third season is the lack of Persona Blast usage and that I have never seen any of the characters draw a stand trigger card during the battles in the ‘save the world’ story arc. And maybe in the ‘go to the nationals’ arc too. I can understand not using the Persona Blast tactic, which is a powerful tactic used in the first season, when alternatives like Break Ride exists. Persona Blast could have made for a more variety in tactics though, so it is a shame to not see it at all in the third season. I wonder what kind of skill can be triggered when two ‘reversed’ cards are used in a Persona Blast, I can only imagine that would make for an awesome augmentation for/of the locking system.

The lack of stand trigger cards baffles me though, that at the end of this season, I actually thought that stand trigger cards has actually been removed from the gameplay. But after watching a couple of episodes from the still running fourth season, it seems that that isn’t the case. I wonder if the characters in this third season actually removed them from their deck composition, which for me is suboptimal for tactics variation.

Character developments in the third installment of this series is at least better than in the previous one; no more character sabotaging by not letting any characters not being able to use new techniques that this season has provided. But in this season where almost all the recurring characters has matured; heck, the main male protagonist is now the strongest in the planet, character developments for those recurring characters are largely restricted to upgrades in their decks. The new characters, mainly from the main male protagonist school, are merely the protagonist’s sidekick at best in the card game club, and their character development reflects that too.

There is also a mystery I really want solved: During the ‘save the world’ arc, where has the biggest fan of Ultra-rare’s blonde member has gone to? Did he got ‘reversed’? Or did he fought the force of evil with his sidekick that has also gone missing while his idol herself is getting ‘reversed’? Or more likely, the writer just forgot about him? Character management really takes a nose-dive here in the third season. Not to mention the extremely large plot hole in the scene below.

Did the writer ever consider the huge plot hole this event will cause when writing this scene?
Did the writer ever consider the huge plot hole this event will cause when writing this scene?

Character Design:-
Largely, my comment for this section in the first season’s review still applies. The surly white-haired girl sure has become hotter after cutting her hair to shoulder length.

Voice Acting:-
My comment for this section in the first season’s review still applies.

The tsundere of the series. What will happen if a tsundere character acquire 'yandere characteristics' as a result of being 'reversed'? Protip: Nasty things coming the way of the main male protagonist.
The tsundere of the series. What will happen if a tsundere character acquire 'yandere characteristics' as a result of being 'reversed'? Protip: Nasty things coming the way of the main male protagonist.

Music:-
The first OP theme of the third season of this series is the best ever so far across all three seasons, although this definitely will change in the fourth season. The other two OP themes are quite OK too. The first ED theme is also good, but not for the next two ED themes. The OST is still good just like in the previous two seasons.

The suprisingly cute main antagonist of this season.
The suprisingly cute main antagonist of this season.

Voice Acting:-
Despite the additions of new characters, my comment for this section in the first season’s review still applies.

Animation/Direction:-
The usage of blurry animation technique just like the first two seasons mean one point will be docked from the final evaluation. The animation quality in this season mirrors what is seen in the second season instead of the atrocious one in the first season. The director’s performance has really regressed though this season, with missing characters, missing cards and missing techniques.

One season too late for you to do this.
One season too late for you to do this.

Conclusion:-
6 out of 10.
If not for the aforementioned handicaps, this anime would have had the same score as the current ‘Anime of the Year 2013’ holder Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru, although the latter would still win though. The currently running fourth season would have a hard time matching this third season in terms of quality because it does not have a strong start like this one.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/prgSo-DC

The main male protagonist!
The main male protagonist!

The second review for the year of 2013 is for a 2012 title, titled Cardfight!! Vanguard – Asia Circuit Hen. This anime is the sequel of Cardfight!! Vanguard, reviewed in this blog some time last year. As a series aired in 2012, this anime is supposed to battle Another for this blog’s ‘Anime of the Year 2012’ title, but the various handicaps this second season has inherited from its predecessor pretty much kills any chances of this anime of doing so. This second season has managed to improve in some parts when compared to the first season, but has regressed in one key element when doing so. To know what part this second season of Cardfight!! Vanguard has managed to screw-up, read the rest of this review. Oh BTW, because the last entry of this blog doesn’t have any pictures, this one instead will have a lot of them.

Rather than wasting precious real estate to casinos, Singapore is better off building Vanguard stadiums instead.
Rather than wasting precious real estate to casinos, Singapore is better off building Vanguard stadiums instead.

Story:-
After winning the national championship in the first season, the main male protagonist’s team has disbanded, and he spends the rest of his days moping at the fact that he has lost the love of his life (Kai). Suddenly, out of the blue, a mysterious kid appears, kicked the main male protagonist’s ass in a  Vanguard game and stole his valued Vanguard deck, replacing it with a deck foreign to him. The mysterious kid then taunted the hero, saying that he has to win the Vanguard Asia Circuit tournament in order to get his old deck back, using the new deck given to him. Therefore, the main protagonist and his old teammates has to criss-cross the Asia-Pacific region in order to retrieve what has been stolen from him.

Let’s go straight to the major regression this second season of Cardfight Vanguard has, that its predecessor doesn’t. That would be the ‘save the world’ ending arc, which is a completely unexpected turn in plot, and absolutely out of step with the story themes of the first season, and most of the materials in the second. I can understand it if the main male protagonist have to save Planet Cray from devastation (that’s what he does in the first season too), but the ‘save the Earth’ plot in the ending is a step too far. There is nothing wrong, for example, with a final tournament in knock-out or round-robin formats, between the winners of all Vanguard Asia Circuit as the plot of the final arc, which blends seamlessly with prior events in the second season and also the first one.

This pretty much sums up what the game is all about despite what Animax tagline says.
This pretty much sums up what the game is all about despite what Animax tagline says.

The storyline for this second season, excluding the ending of course, has slightly decreased in quality. But this regression in quality is more than made up by the lack of forced drama scenes and misapplied flashback sequences that plagues the first season. The second season has two beach episodes though, which is still nowhere as good as the gold standard of all anime’s beach episodes. The decrease in quality may have to do with fewer episode count when compared to the first season, more emphasis on tournaments (which makes the ending arc so out of place) and the obviously intentionally-placed throttle on developments for characters that isn’t the main male protagonist.

One of those scenes where a player 'convieniently' get a suitable trigger card at the right moment and the right time.
One of those scenes where a player 'conveniently' get a suitable trigger card at the right moment and the right time.

One thing that the second season has improved upon the first is the gameplay of the Vanguard card game. Make no mistake here; this game still depends hugely on luck when drawing trigger cards to determine the result of a card duel (exactly the opposite). And just like the first season, the writer has used this fact to skillfully manipulates the direction of the storyline. But the addition of extra game modes in Vanguard circuits after the Singapore one makes the card duels in this sequel better than the ones in first season. The notable game mode I really like is the tag battle mode in Hong Kong leg of the circuit. These game modes gives more variety to the card battles, instead of the usual best-of-3 game mode seen exclusively in all tournaments in the first season. These variable game modes also helped this second season of Cardfight Vanguard become better than its predecessor, indirectly, when it comes to story presentation.

With the new game modes seen in the tournament circuits, the already excellent pacing in in-tournament battles in the first season has actually improved in the second season. This is a major surprise to me, because initially I don’t think there are any room for improvement for this anime in this department. This is achieved by getting rid of the usual 3-battles per-round game format with single-battle per-round format that drastically reduced the amount of episodes needed to cover all the 4 tournaments in the Vanguard Asia circuit. Adding to this fact, the pacing of the general storyline also increased, allowing less episodes to be used for them. This may explain how the second season can pack as much action and plot as the first season, in only 39 episodes. For comparison, the first season has 65 of them. The flow of the storyline has also be improved, especially by the lack of the misapplied flashback sequences I mentioned earlier above.

The game modes makes the second season card battles far more interesting though.
The game modes makes the second season card battles far more interesting though.

But when it comes to character development, I have a very deep feeling that the writer is actively trying to sabotage the character developments of certain characters, especially the main male protagonist’s teammates. The signature feature of the second season is the ‘Limit Break’ technique, where a Level 3 card gets specific stat bonuses, special abilities or other positive features if the player has at least 4 damage inflicted upon him/her. As expected, the main male protagonist gets to use Limit Break from the first leg of the circuit, but his two teammates are a little bit slow on mastering this Limit Break thing.

In the first leg of the circuit at Singapore, only the main male protagonist is able to use Limit Break, while his other two teammates doesn’t. Okay I said, this is only the first leg, surely the other two will follow suit and use Limit Break in the next tournament. Then the South Korea leg comes and goes, and only the main male protagonist is using the Limit Break technique while the other two doesn’t. Okay I said, after being schooled by opponents that uses Limit Break in Seoul, surely they will follow the lead of their group leader and then use Limit Break in the next tournament.

Then the Hong Kong leg comes and goes, and yet they still doesn’t use the Limit Break technique, although they are now capable of beating opponents that uses the technique, even without using it. It was here then I started to wonder what the hell the writer is thinking. In anime titles like this, especially in sports titles, characters in those titles usually learned from their mistakes and improved in the next tournament. This doesn’t happen here at all. In fact, if the character development strategies seen in the first season is used in this second season, all three members of Team Q4 should have been able to use Limit Break already by the time the Hong Kong leg plays out.

The second season could have been better with a more radical match-ups though. How about Aichi vs. Asaka and Misaki vs. Ren?The second season could have been better with a more radical match-ups though. How about Aichi vs. Asaka and Misaki vs. Ren?

Then after the defeat in in the final at Hong Kong, all three members of the Team Q4 received a new card each, and then participates in the final leg of the circuit that is held in Japan. Okay I said, surely this time, with new cards for everyone, the main male protagonist’s sidekicks will be using Limit Break in the do-or-die tournament. You know what happened? Only one of them (the brat with spiky hair) actually used Limit Break, and the other one (surly white-haired girl) doesn’t, as Team Q4 finally wins the last leg of the circuit. Wooooah, I said, the last person’s Limit Break must have been saved for the final Royal Rumble free-for-all tournament with the winners of Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong legs of the circuit. Surely, that’s what will happen, right?

But no, the awful ‘save the world’ final arc comes after that, where the main male protagonist does most of the fighting while his teammates donned up some pom-poms cheering him at the sidelines. You will never see the Limit Break technique of his white-haired teammate even after the final episode stopped playing. What a messed up character development strategies this anime has, which is nearly up there with the abomination that is the ending arc.

A pivotal moment in the whole series: A love confession at the end of the cape!
A pivotal moment in the whole series: A love confession at the end of the cape!

But in the third season of Cardfight!! Vanguard, that is airing right now, I have glimpsed a few new exciting features that should make the third season better than its two predecessors. In the third season, the main male protagonist enrolls in the same high school as his white-haired teammate. Not only that, the blonde member of the crappiest idol group in anime history also transfers into his class. I never thought she and the main male protagonist are of the same age; that would explain the strange attraction of him by her throughout 104 episodes of the first and second season (in retrospect, she is extremely important plot device used by the writer to advance the main male protagonist’s character). In the new high school era for the main male protagonist, if the writer wants to write in romance elements, like for example, a love triangle between the main male protagonist, his classmate and his white-haired senior, all I want to say is: YES PLEASE!

And God no, please no more of ‘save the world’ plot again.

If this brat is of the same lineage as Lee Kuan Yew, then Singapore is doomed if you ask me.
If this brat is of the same lineage as Lee Kuan Yew, then Singapore is doomed if you ask me.

Not only that, the third season completely do away with character development problem in the second season that I mentioned above. The third season’s signature feature is the ‘Break Ride’ technique, when you chain two Level 3 cards in the Vanguard position to obtain +10000 attack power, which can be made more devastating when combined with the Limit Break technique. In the third season, not only that the main male protagonist can already use it, but the new character in the third season that is new to the card game can actually use it too! Even only after a few episodes, the third season sure has lots of promise.

As long as there are no more ‘save the world’ plot

My commentary of the still running third season of Cardfight!! Vanguard is included in this review of the second season, because for the first time in years, I have decided to watch this anime on a weekly basis. I will not write anything more about the third season after today, until the last episode of the third season finished playing (hopefully it is sometime in 2013).

Quoted For Truth!
Quoted For Truth!

Character Design:-
My comment for this section in the first season’s review still applies.

Voice Acting:-
My comment for this section in the first season’s review still applies.

Music:-
While the OST is still as good as ever, just the way it is in the first season, the same thing cannot be said for this second season’s OP/ED themes. The second season only has one good themes, which is the 2nd ED theme. This is so unlike the first season that has many good OP/ED themes.

The second season still have their own share of freaky Vanguard teams.
The second season still have their own share of freaky Vanguard teams.

Animation/Direction:-
Just like the first season, the blurry animation technique is being used, so one point will be docked from the final evaluation. The animation quality has improved from what I have seen in the first season; no more PowerPoint slideshows for character animations. General animations is still good; no improvements but no regressions either. The director can be credited with the tightening of pacing in in-game battles, but not for allowing the ending to be the way it is now.

Conclusion:-
5 out of 10.
Still the same score as the first season. Hopefully, the third season can improve on this.

The overriding ambition of the main male protagonist, which ends up unfulfilled.
The overriding ambition of the main male protagonist, which ends up unfulfilled.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/prgSo-B7