Rolling Review – Made in Abyss (03)

 

Episode Synopsis:

Riko sees a message left by her mother that reads “At the netherworld’s bottom, I’ll be waiting”, and instantaneously assumes it’s for her. She decides that now is the time for her to get out of the confines of the orphanage and deep dive into the Abyss. The other kids support her, but Nat is strongly against it. After all, this will likely be the last time Riko sees any of them ever again.

Review:

I don’t know that I was prepared for the story to move this fast and for it to be this emotional. Made in Abyss has this unnatural way of framing very dark subjects in side dialogue and this whole episode gives me this sickening Madoka Magica vibe. Nothing is ever going to go well…is it…?

Episode 3 is surprisingly laid back for the dark content and game changing story beats that it brings to light. Riko is happy as a clam, and excited that her mother left her a message to meet her at the bottom of the Abyss. To piggyback off of Dan (cause that’s the trend we are going for, right?), it really helps that the cast are all children. If the cast was a group of adults I don’t even think the decision to venture into the Abyss would be possible. It’s also the setup for what I feel is a deep tragedy. The naivete of children is something that Japan loves to bend to the point of breaking.

Riko’s nonsensical optimism aside, the hero (and minor butthead) of this episode is Nat. As I stated in the synopsis, Nat seems to be the only voice of reason among Riko’s friends. Despite acting like a butt in the beginning of the episode, he is the gravitas for us the viewers as we remind ourselves that Riko is not just setting out on a normal heroine journey. There’s a sequence where we are talked through the map of the Abyss and each new horror described leads me to believe these kids are never going to make it out of this.

Riko, honey…maybe you should just stay on the surface. We could have a nice slice of life show, eh?

It’s also important to note that this episode adds a layer to the mystery of what Reg is and why he was made.  He’s clearly part human as he possesses human anatomy and thought that isn’t robotic in nature.  He also was something that Lyza took note of in the Abyss and her discussions about him don’t match up with the seemingly innocent Reg we have come to know.  I like that the show is layering all this in, and having Reg contemplate his existance is a an obvious choice for why he would accompany Riko in the Abyss.

You are a creature of the Negamoon Reg!

I’ll stick my negative comments in the middle here, because there was really only one. When Reg decides to go with Riko down into the Abyss, he sneaks off at night to say good by to little Kiyui. This gets him caught by Leader and he makes up a lie about being up to check on Riko, who he claims in having intense diarrhea. I’m not sure if this sequence is supposed to be funny, but…it isn’t. It’s also so obviously a ploy so when Leader believes it and sends Reg on his way, you are left saying, “Why did you even animate that encounter in the first place??”. Also, how does Leader not catch on that Reg is lying?

Keep it up kid! You’re super believable…aparently…

To tie back to the line I wrote up above about side dialogue, I’ll end with the fact that the leadup to Riko and Reg leaving for their adventure is heartbreaking. The Abyss is heavily guarded due to the fact that illegal artifact raiding has been known to occur. It is in this episode that we learn about the Wharf. Riko and Reg need to sneak into the Abyss from a less…savory location to avoid detection, so Shiggy tells them to meet him late at night. Nat appears and takes the gang through the Wharf, revealing that he was born there and left alone after his sister died. As we walk through the Wharf with him we learn that it’s basically a hive structured slum for those not able to live in the countryside. It’s all told through Nat’s calm voice stating things like, “If I hadn’t been picked up, I would have just died of disease or starvation..like most of the kids around here”. Through this simple set of words we see a whole new world open.

The finale of this episode has Nat unable to stutter out how sad he is to see Riko go. Riko finally breaks down and cries, telling him that even if she never makes it back, they will always be connected by the Abyss, because those who are lost leave their voices behind to guide those who venture in. I have the worst feeling about this and everything in this scene made ME almost cry. Hang in there kids…

As with the previous 2 episodes, everything in this show is beautiful to look at. Each shot could be a poster in your house. The sequence with the map blew my mind as it harkened back to Seirei no Moribito where animators poured so much love into 2 second shots.

Summary:

With gorgeous art and strong world building I highly recommend getting into this show. Just..be prepared for tragedy because my female instincts tell me there’s a storm a comin’.


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Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (25)

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Episode Synopsis:

This is the final moment for our heroines!  Croix’s evil cubey things have gone completely out of control due to being fueled by untamed anger energy.  They have taken over a nuclear missile, and now it’s up to the witches of Luna Nova to stop it before it causes all out war between two nations.

Episode Review:

It’s time for the finale!!!!

There’s quite a bit expound on in this episode, as it wraps a lot of concepts up and closes the book on LWA.

As I predicted in one of my previous episodes, it’s now time for every one of the witches we’ve been super exposed to (Amanda, Constance, etc) to come together to use the power of friendship to stop a nuclear missle with anger energy fueled by a soccer game that has now gained sentience and is threatening to cause war.

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Science and math have failed me again!

Look people, I don’t pretend anime makes sense.  Don’t shoot me, I’m just the Rolling Review writer.

**Warning** Spoilers for the finale of the show.

I felt like this episode was (mostly) pure Trigger magic.  It brings out all of the wild and crazy artistic flair that is distinctively Trigger, and it is unappologetically crazy fun.  It of course borrows from the magical girl concept that, with the power of your friends and the power of belief, you can freaking do anything.  That concept is like….my peanut butter and jelly though, so I was happy as a cat on a warm windowsill.

Akko and Co. are tasked with somehow catching up to a freaking missile as it blazes through the sky and causes panic/suspicion amongst the people.  Using the newfound seven word magicpalooza Shiny Rod, the Witches 7 are able to blaze through the sky to catch up to the missile.

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Croix…please…you are cramping my magic girl style here.  It’s all gonna work out.

I’m not going to lie, the contributions of Amanda, Constance, Jasminka, Suzy and Lotte are all…fairly weak considering that Akko basically proclaims them the new Witches 9 (add Croix and Chariot in to make 9).

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And they all get super rad outfits.

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As the girls blaze towards the missile on their awesome super broom, each girl adds a touch of personal flair to allow the broom to get close (Constance causes a giant rocket engine to come out the back, Amanda uses acrobatic flying skills, etc), followed by said girl ejecting off the end of the broom and spurning Akko and Diana along.

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Adding this to my Christmas list

Despite, the lack of true involvement of each girl in the Witches 9, the ride to the missile is beautifully animated and filled with action.  The missile retaliates with a swarm of miny missiles (yo dawg, I heard you liked missiles, so I put missiles in your missiles), so we are treated to all the wild angles and crazy bendy art that really makes your blood pump.  It’s pure fun with no preservatives, and I was smiling all the way.

The foreground of the episode is the battle against the missile, but the background events are equally interesting.  Croix, who now seems to have magically understood the error of her ways, transforms her evil laboratory into a mega video broadcast station and forces everyone with a screen to watch the quest of the Witches 7 as they battle the missile. Through the vocal prowess of Chariot, the world starts to believe in the girls and their pure belief energy turns to magic.  It is here that the show’s theme of magic returning to the world is finally realized.  We also get a montage callback to various other side-plot characters.

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Remember this guy?!
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Magic > Scientific Logic

In addition to this Andrew finally makes his stand.  He’s been coming into his own slowly as the series progressed.  His interactions with Akko drew out a side of himself he had deeply supressed and when he finally stands up to his father and his surly mustached friend, it feels rushed, but still worth the wait.  The arrival of the tiny Prime Minister who totally supports the witches was a nice touch as well, if a bit random.

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Hello Prime Minister, were you able to reach the doorknob okay?

I had a grin on my face a freaking mile wide as we came to the end, when Diana and Akko finally make it to the missile and fight back.  This is where everything these two characters have been through finally comes to fruition.  The girls work together like a well oiled machine as Diana weaves in and out of missile barrages and Akko metamorphs as fast as the wind.  The breakneck pace of the fight is carefully choreographed so that you get a sense that Trigger really thought the battle out and had a great time animating it.  As the theme song blazes over Akko and Diana’s last stand, it’s hard not to feel really excited.

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This is everything I have wanted out of life…forever…

Episode Summary:

The finale was explosive and fun.  It also gave everyone a chance to shine and even showed some old faces from episodes past.  My only complaint is the fate of Croix herself.  This woman nearly causes a war between nations and is just…allowed to go scot-free to continue doing research??!?  Granted, it is research to help Chariot but still…shouldn’t we arrest her or something?  The teachers of Luna Nova even say she is welcome anytime.  Ladies…what the heck?!

As we came to the end, I did feel like some bits were rushed or not developed as well, but at the end of the day, that’s just the little bit of my cynical heart talking.  Little Witch Academia was every bit the magical show I wanted it to be and I truly loved it.  It’s also something you could watch and enjoy with your kids so be sure to check it out when it comes out on Netflix in its entirety.  For the first time since Concrete Revolutio S1, I am proud to say we Con Artists picked a good one.

To end…let’s close the gigantic loop Scott and myself have been complaining about since waaaaay back in the beginning.

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By God…she’s done it…

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Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (21)

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Episode Synopsis:

The sixth word is here; “Lyonne”. Lyonne seems to hold special meaning for Chariot and Croix. When Croix deceives Akko into climbing the forever tree Wagandea close to the time of magic stealing pollen, Akko’s faith in Ursula-sensei is pushed to an upper limit.

Episode Review:

Wait….
Wait a minute….

There were TWO episodes all about Diana and I missed BOTH OF THEM?!?!

Life is simply unfair…

We are back to word hunting, and it’s about time too because we are nearing the end of the show. Episode 21 does a nice job of cementing Ursula-sensei’s relationship with Akko, giving Croix some character development goodness, and bringing us towards Croix’s final plan for Grand Triskellion domination.

This episode is also riddled with problems, and that’s saying a lot coming from me. This show makes me really happy each week and I generally forgive a lot.

To start the episode off, Akko learns of the sixth word, “Lyonne”. It’s nice to see Ursula-sensei get slightly miffed with Akko as she asks for the word’s meaning and later when she’s hellbent on climbing the sacred tree Wagandea. Akko’s “brattery” seems to have hit a whole new level. She blindly accepts Croix’s advice (even though it’s led her to trouble before) and takes off for the tree to fulfill her selfish wish of meeting Shiny Chariot. Little does she know, the tree is ready to produce a pollen that will strip a witch of all magic abilities.

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So trustworthy….

 

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Akko get with the program already!

At this point in the show…I really feel like Akko needs to grow up. I certainly understand that she is the Chariot to Diana’s “Croix”, so she’s supposed to be a tad immature, but her desire to meet Shiny Chariot is a selfishness that borderlines on infuriating.  There’s a moment in the school library where Diana’s little toadies thank Akko for returning Diana to the school.  It was great and I finally felt like Akko was maturing not just as a wtich, but as a person.

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Bask in it Akko…this will never happen again…

Later on in the episode, when she resists Ursula’s help as she climbs the tree to her “almost” doom I couldn’t help but pull at my hair a little. Do you not notice that Croix has led you into danger before? Have you not realized that you are on a mission for something more important than your whiny little wants and desires?

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Brat Mode: ACTIVATE!
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I’m compaining RIGHT NOW!

While I’ve compained a bunch about Akko this episode, this really isn’t Akko’s episode; It’s Chariot and Croix’s. We get a flashback of when they stated their heart’s desires to Professor Woodward and the moment Chariot was chosen over Croix to receive the staff. We get to understand the rage Croix feels but later in the episode when Chariot (present day) is in danger, Croix cannot bear to actually harm her. This is incredibly touching but also bizarrely off tone.  Croix saving her best friend makes her look like she hasn’t completely gone off the deep end.  On the flip side, she’s willing to send a younger girl into a mysterious pollen fog that will completely strip her of magic.

Before I come to the end of the review I want to touch on this:

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Oh snap Brendan!  What now?!? 😛

Just because Brendan made a comment about the soccer game side discussion when it came up in his episode. This ends up getting used as a segway into the fact that Croix has created an app that everyone is using that “removes tension”, or more than likely is stripping out people’s anger to fuel to her doomsday device.

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I want to talk about the word of the episode itself as my final note. Many of the words thus far in the show have been your run-of-the-mill protagonist words, “patience, determination, etc”. “Lyonne” is something beautiful because it is “acceptance”. This means acceptance of yourself and the destiny that has been placed upon you.  It is through this word that Akko and Ursula-sensei accept each other, and through this word that Croix and Chariot could progress no further. The meaning of this word adds weight to Croix and Chariot’s fued and hopefully gets Akko motivated to look beyond her own desires.

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Episode Summary:

As per usual, the art and sound are quite good in this epsiode.  The crowd scenes continue to be kinda ugly but if something has to give, I’m fine with it being a two second crowd scene.

Akko really needs to stop being so full of herself and with the addition of Lyonne, here’s to hoping some of the good qualites she displayed before actually stick.  Because we seriously need an awesome protagonist to contend with…this….

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Oh dear…

 


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Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (17)

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Episode Synopsis:

Akko is now on a mission to get all the words and restore magic!  She must read, she must find strength, and she must persevere.  Before all that though, Amanda O’Neil is really bored and wants to cause some mischief before she gets expelled from Luna Nova.  She also totally doesn’t feel like this everyday….today is definitely the day she’s gonna quit school…definitely….

Deceived into going after the Holy Grail at Appleton Academy, Akko and Amanda get caught up in a “Knight” of trouble together (*snicker*).  It turns out that Andrew is a student at Appleton.  Will he aid Akko and Amanda, or will he stand behind Appleton’s tranditions regarding hatred towards witches?

Episode Review:

Akko is certainly determined to get the sacred words and help with the restoration of all magic, but that doesn’t mean Trigger isn’t gonna take a pit stop to throw a party.

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Episode 16 brings Andrew back into the equation, and instead of meeting him like a one-off character, we get to see him in a more natural setting.  Like Episode 15, this one is…more or less “filler” but it does some good things.

Firstly, it re-establishes the fact that witches are thought of as vermin to the outside world.  The show needs this reminder because otherwise it would feel like Croix is just a boring old villian.  It’s not hard to see why she and Chariot have disparaging viewpoints about the future of magic, nor why Croix would choose a path that’s 100% divergent from traditional magic.  If I was a Witch that was actively being persecuted and thrown into iron maidens, I’d totally invent a magic storing, tablet controlled thingamabob and smack everyone around with my Wand Justice!

Dude…you need some serious Wand Justice right about now

The second critical piece of this episode is Amanda.  If you count this out, there are seven sacred words for Shiny Rod.  There are also seven important characters (including Akko) that have been a part of our LWA journey.  They aren’t always working together, but in their own way, they all love magic, and have aided Akko at various stages in the journey to her inevitable destiny.  The show seems to understand this and takes the time in this episode to give the spotlight to someone other than the core-three.  Amanda is notoriously a troublemaker, but through Ep. 16 you realize it’s not out of malicious intent.  It’s out of the undending desire to experience adventure.

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Pictured Above: Adventurous Spirit.
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Pictured Above: The best way to go out with a bang; Dress like a man and sneak a magic rat into an all boys school on a quest for the Holy Grail!

Amanda  and Akko’s journey through Appleton is not terribly interesting aside from you the viewer getting to look at pretty architecture. Akko and Andrew have an important chat where she digs deeper into his emotional armor by once again asking the question, “What is is that YOU want to do with YOUR life”.  While this isn’t central to the plot about destiny and magic restoration, I really love this angle.  Akko is the representation of straightforward bullheadedness. Whether or not you agree with the way she does things, she does it her own way, in her own time, with her own sense of flair.  To some degree we are all Andrew Hanbridges.  Trapped within our own confines and constraints, and it’s important for us (and Andrew, of course), to be challenged in our way of thinking about life.

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Where things get exciting for this episode is during the duel.  Akko and Amanda inevitably find the Holy Grail hidden in Appleton, but they are captured and almost tortured by the douchey Louis Blackwell.  Andrew comes to their rescue (because Akko couldn’t rescue the broadside of a barn) and reminds Louis that Appleton has a way of settling desputes, and that way, is sword duels.

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You were thinking I made that line about Iron Maidens up, weren’t you?

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The duel sequence is epic, and got my blood pumping with its Revolutionary Girl Utena-like speed and camera work.  When the grail is broken and its secret is revealed, Trigger cracks its knuckles and pulls out some radical artistry for demon armor and the battle that follows.

Episode Summary:

Like last episode, this episode is mostly a distraction.  Croix is clearly gathering data, so the wild goose chase that Amanda and Akko go on is aiding her.  Since we don’t know the endgame, this all just feels like a one-off affair.  That being said, it’s a fun on-off affair. Amanda gets a moment in the sun, the artistry is top notch for the fight scenes and architecture (but suffers in terms of facial expressions and crowd scenes), and maybe good old Andrew is starting to come around.

If I had to complain about something this episode, it would be that Amanda goes from wanting to be kicked out of school, to being apologetic and wanting to go back, in the span of this episode.  It makes the whole thing feel a touch contrived.

My other complaint is of course…that Diana is not present, and may in fact be in need of aid.

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What do you MEAN Diana is in trouble?!?! NOOOOOO!!!

I’ll leave you with a parting gift.  The best villian face ever.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – Final Thoughts

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The Con Artists sit down to discuss their thoughts on Shuumatsu no Izetta. This show was so disappointing, that we needed a solid 45 minutes to tell you why. Between the poor pacing, bad science, bad history, and all the nonsense at the end, we couldn’t stop discussing why this show wasted every ounce of its potential.

At least we can walk away and imagine a better show…starring a corgi…

Listen and enjoy.