Otherside Picnic Volume 2 Review

Last time on Otherside Picnic, Kamikoshi Sorawo finds a doorway to another world, where she is henceforth attacked by a strange creature called the Kunekune. She is saved by Nishina Toriko, a cool girl who came here in search of a missing friend, Uruma Satsuki. They return to the real world, where she meets Kozakura, another friend of Toriko’s and a researcher of the mysterious world, called Otherside. They go back to fight another Kunekune, but get afflicted by it; Sorawo in her eye, and Toriko in her hand. However, they still manage to fend it off and obtain its core. They have other adventures (one of which involves the American military and a haunted train station), and learn that they have been given some strange powers: Sorawo can change realities with her eye (which, in Layman’s terms, means that she can see through illusions), and Toriko can touch strange things in the Otherside with her hands. After the incident with the military, the two girls have an argument, and Toriko goes to the Otherside on her own to find Satsuki. Sorawo and Kozakura end up searching for her, despite the warnings from some strange, middle-aged men who seem to act as guardians of the Otherside. While postulating the existence of the Otherside and about the science of fear, they find Toriko in a weird, abandoned village full of plants. Using the power of her reality-shifting eye, Sorawo manages to save Toriko from an illusion of Satsuki, and they make it back home safe and sound.

It felt like I’ve been waiting a year for this volume to come out. In the time leading up to it, I was more scared of it sucking than of the disturbing imagery in the actual story. And perhaps… I could’ve scared myself into not enjoying it as much as the previous one. But at the same time, the first volume was likely to have been exceptionally good for the same reason that caused Made in Abyss to become popular; the element of surprise. I don’t know about you, but this series definitely did not LOOK scary on the cover. So, when we read volume 1, it was like, “Holy sh** this is so freaking scary!” Now that we know what to expect, it loses the chutzpah from before.

Anyways, let’s actually talk about the content, shall we? One review I read of volume 1 (don’t worry, it has to do with the matter at hand) called Otherside Picnic a yuri series, and I was like, “Whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout, dude?” However, this volume definitely seems to be where the yuri stuff comes in. I kinda realized it when they pulled the classic “here-let-me-caress-you-with-my-entire-body-while-I-instruct-you-on-the-proper-posture-for-using-this-thing” schtick that they do with romantic couples. I know that yuri can get pretty contentious in this community, so proceed with caution if you’re sensitive to fanservice and stuff.

Similar to the previous volume, the chapters are all self-contained episodes that slowly build up a semblance of an overarching story. The first chapter is a rescue operation of the US soldiers from the first volume, and the chapter after that is the “beach-vacation-so-we-can-see-the-girls-in-bathing-suits” trope. The third chapter introduces a new character Akari Seto, whose main personality quirk is being good at karate. I don’t know if she’s going to become plot relevant or what…

But if there is anything relevant, it’s the continuing escalation of intrigue in this volume! More signs of Satsuki start popping up, but only we and Sorawo catch wind of them. She elects not to tell Toriko about any of this, presumably under the assumption that she’ll go after Satsuki alone and almost get wrecked again. But if this really is a yuri series, it could also be because Sorawo doesn’t want Toriko to be in another woman’s bed. My biggest concern is that this could get escalated to sitcom-like proportions, but we won’t really know that until the future.

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Verdict: 8.5/10

While it might lack the fire of the first volume, Otherside Picnic’s second volume proves that this series is still one of the best new isekai on the market. With so many new plot threads established, I need to have the third volume yesterday. Hopefully, the wait won’t feel as long this time around.

There Was No Secret Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!), So I Made One Myself! Volume 2 Review

Last time on There Was No Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!) so I Made One Myself!, Kimemitsu Sago gains some phenomenal cosmic power. He decides to use those powers to form both a crime-fighting organization, as well as said organization’s enemies, which he fashions out of telekinetically manipulated water. He meets up with a rich chuunibyou named Shiori Kubaragi, and she helps fund the project. They name their group Amaterasu, and set themselves up in a bar that they buy and name Ama-no-Iwato. They recruit the Buddhist fanatic Touka Hasumi, the cocky Shouta Takahasi, and a monkey. After a battle against a large water blob of Sago’s creation, the CIA catches wind of what’s going on…

…as well as some aliens. Specifically, one alien, named Lonalia Linalia Baba-Nyan. Despite her name, she is neither a cat nor an old lady; she’s a straight-up elf loli. On her world, demon Lord’s are an endangered species, and she yearns to fight a real calamity-type one instead. So, she goes to our world and catches wind of Shouta fighting a water blob, and ends up getting roped into the whole thing.

The big irony with her character is that, despite being a fantasy person, Earth’s lack of magic makes her unable to actually do anything magical in the first place. It really showcases how cynical modern society is (or maybe it’s just a way to keep the series relatively grounded). 

In other news, the occult is experiencing a big boom thanks to Sago, with Tokyo’s population getting a big boost due to tourists. The police and other investigative organizations are getting involved too, and it naturally becomes a big issue for him.

Unfortunately, Secret Organization seems to still be stuck on the exposition-heavy writing. Once again, words- and not action- govern the progression of the plot, making it still pretty tedious to read. It’s a real shame, considering that the actual scenes, as opposed to the montages, are where the story is at its best.

At the end of the volume is another episode with Nicolas Stallone, the CIA agent from before. I assume that his role will be limited to these bonus chapters, until he ends up getting roped into the main story later. It just stinks that his sections are the most tedious of all.

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Verdict: 7.5/10

There is some charm to Secret Organization, but in execution, it’s really tedious. Like I said in my Ascendance of a Bookworm post, I don’t have the time or money to read just anything. I gotta pick and choose what I want the most, and sadly, I might have to abandon Secret Organization someday. But hey, if you love it, more power to you.

MachiMaho First Impressions (Volumes 1-4)

Every so you often, you get someone’s attempt at making the Magical Girl genre “edgy”. Results have varied wildly over the years, to say the least. To list some examples, Magical Girl Apocalypse went full edgy, not even trying to have a cohesive narrative of any sort, and Magical Girl Spec Ops took itself more seriously, trying to showcase the aftereffects of war trauma on people and society. But what if you just simply turned Sailor Moon’s simple premise on its head? That’s what happens in MachiMaho: I Messed Up and Made the Wrong Person Into a Magical Girl!, published in English by Seven Seas.

In MachiMaho, the usual space cat goes to seek out a chosen girl who is destined to fight a force of one-dimensionally evil demons. But instead of running into an adorable ditz that any twelve-year-old can relate to, he finds Majiba Kayo, a brash young teen whose hobbies include smoking and punching. She doesn’t even remotely want to become a Magical Girl, but her insane negative energy is attracting massive hordes of demons to her, so… She kinda has to at this point.

This premise is the kind of stupid that I enjoy seeing, and it’s even similar to a Magical Girl series I tried to write several years ago. But of course, execution is what counts, and while I ultimately scrapped mine because it sucked, MachiMaho soared to dazzling heights.

And good thing it did, because the story… isn’t really that interesting. Like I said in the premise, the demons are one-dimensionally evil, similar to Sailor Moon‘s almost indistinguishable antagonists. It doesn’t really stir up any intrigue either, other than some hints for what Majiba’s past could’ve been like.

So with a story that’s bunk, what’s left to enjoy? Well, the characters, for starters. If you couldn’t tell from the cover art, almost every egg is put into Majiba’s basket; about as many eggs as what Gaston eats every day. To put it in non-Disney terms, Majiba is the Magical Girl protagonist that we needed all this time. She’s selfish, temperamental, and cusses almost as often as she smokes. “Uh all of these make her sound like a horrible person,” you point out. If you said that, then you must be new to my blog. Some of my favorite main characters have been very… morally incorrect, to say the least, and Majiba’s no different. I love her!

Of course, there are still other characters. There’s Myu, the space cat that tends to be a punching bag that makes an intentionally overabundant amount of cat puns. We also have a rival character in Shusai Nako, a Dark Magical Girl who gets manipulated by her demon, Mon-chan, into thinking that Majiba is evil. We also can’t forget Kuwabara-wannabe Masanido Rei, who despite coming off as weak, can actually hold his own somehow.

More than anything else, the art is what makes MachiMaho so good. From the expressiveness of the characters, to the insane action panels, the art really brings out the edginess in MachiMaho. The best panels are the ones where Majiba smokes and it has the words “HOLY SHIT” written with hearts and sparkles around it. The art does seem a bit TOO similar to Magical Girl Apocalypse, but there really is no other way to draw an edgy Magical Girl series and sell it well besides this.

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Current Verdict: 9/10 

I daresay that MachiMaho is perhaps the greatest entry in the entire Magical Girl genre. It’s fun, stupid, and full of teen angst. I’d even argue that more girls could relate to it than Sailor Moon. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see wild and crazy action!

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Volume 13 Review

Last time on DanMachi, Bell made it to Level 4, which increased Hesita Familia’s overall rank to D. This means only one thing: Fetch quests! Now, they have to go to the Dungeon every day, get to a new floor, and come back with a bunch of crap to prove that they actually did it! Today, they enter Floor 25, a beautiful, watery paradise. However, on this floor is an enhanced version of the rare moss huge, which has gotten stronger by gaining EXP from other monsters. It deceives the party and they get separated from Bell. Bell meets a new Xenos mermaid named Mari, and she helps him reunite with his friends in time for him to fight the kids huge head-on. He uses a new combination of Fire Bolt and Argonaut to one-shot it like a boss. With their new victory, the team begins to head out of the Dungeon. But on the Floor 18 town, someone pops up saying that there’s been a murder! This would be setup for an arc where Bell is framed for some BS reason. But fortunately, the witness saw conclusively who did it: an elf named Gale Wind…

…whom at the time, I had completely forgotten was Lyu’s adventurer name! I don’t remember much of her backstory (even though it hasn’t even been a year since I read earlier volumes. Or, heck, it might be a marketing ploy to get you to read the Lyu Chronicle spinoff), but apparently, she killed some people, and that’s why she was working at the bar (i.e. to hide). Key word “was”, for she’s also vanished at around the time of the murder. That’s not incriminating at all.

Meanwhile, Cassandra has another prophecy, this time one where everyone dies. She more or less spends most of the volume perseverating on it, which doesn’t offer any help.

Of all the characters here, Lyu is the one who gets the character development this time. Unfortunately, this is probably one of the weakest character arcs in DanMachi up to this point. This series wasn’t too great on originality, but her backstory felt particularly checklist-y (professional term) to me. I didn’t feel any strong emotions this time around, which is weird, given that I’ve known Lyu much longer than Wiene from the previous arc. You probably get better context on this whole thing if you read the Lyu Chronicle stuff, but that feels really… jerkish, especially to me, who already has enough crap to be spending money on, and cannot work spinoffs into my budget. 

Heck, even the boss battle in this volume felt like torture porn more than anything else. DanMachi is admittedly a series that’s fueled by it, but- I don’t know- something felt off about it this time. The cliffhanger ending at least shows some promise for this new arc.

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Verdict: 7.8/10

I’m sorry, but this is probably one of the weakest volumes of DanMachi thus far. Lyu’s backstory felt meh to me, and there really wasn’t that much going on. But hey, every long-running series has its bumps in the road. Plus, whatever arc immediately followed the Xenos was destined to feel underwhelming anyway. Let’s just hope that this is the ONLY bump in the road for a while.

Saint Young Men First Impressions (Volumes 1-4)

I’ve heard mixed things about Christianity, and know a limited amount of only one country’s iteration of Buddhism. As such, I had no idea what I was getting into when I began to read Saint Young Men, published in English by Kodansha Comics. 

“Christianity? Buddhism? What does any of that have to do with this?” you ask. Well, this manga is set in modern Japan, like your usual manga. It’s about two guys renting an apartment together during their vacation there, see. Those two roomies are none other than Jesus Christ and Buddha. 

At the very least, you don’t need to do research on either religions, for the translators have already done it for you. There are notes in every volume on all the religious references to help you understand what’s going on. Thank God too… for there’s a LOT of stuff to get, especially since Buddhism in particular varies between countries, and this Buddha seems to encapsulate a little of everything.

Let me just say that this is one of the most unique comedic portrayals of religious figures that I have ever seen. In Western culture, most interpretations of religious figures (particularly Jesus) that I’ve seen in pop culture have been done in comedic matters that try to be funny by being offensive on purpose, such as that iconic Family Guy episode where Jesus chainsmokes and is kind of an A-hole (for the record, I do know about the movie, Jesus of Nazareth, but in this post I’m talking about more fictional portrayals). By comparison, Saint Young Men is a simple portrayal of these two kind of just being regular guys; they are on vacation after all. 

With this being a slice-of-life, the characters are where it’s at, since you need incentive to read about people doing boring everyday stuff. In Saint Young Men, Jesus and Buddha are genuinely good friends, which- intentional or not- promotes a social commentary to where people of different faiths can exist in harmony together. I find their interactions to be similar to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Jesus is aloof and acts more like Laurel, while Buddha plays the straight man and behaves more like Hardy (although he too is a bit of a goofball). Their relationship is fun and wholesome, and gives Saint Young Men a refreshing and relaxing feel. 

As for the art, Saint Young Men is very simple. It reminds me of the Descending Stories manga I covered a while back, but since this manga isn’t as serious, the style doesn’t clash. The characters are very expressive, and the panel flow is strong. 

The one nitpick that I have with Saint Young Men is Jesus and Buddha being in it. “But you just said-” Allow me to explain! As previously mentioned, I’m not at all offended by these figures’ portrayal. However, their existence seems a bit… marketable. Regardless of if the mangaka genuinely wants to make a great manga with this premise, the presence of these figures inherently makes Saint Young Men an easy impulse buy (it worked on me, even). If I merely described it as “two guys live together in a flat in Tokyo”, would you be interested? Probably not. Maybe you’d be interested if I said “a Christian man and a Buddhist man live together in a flat in Tokyo”, but regardless, the actual content of the manga isn’t that much different from a bog-standard slice-of-life. There isn’t even any commentary on the social state of the figures’ respective religions, which might be a turn-off for people who like that kind of stuff. 

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Current Verdict: 8.4/10

Saint Young Men is a great manga. It’s a fun, fluffy comedy about two gods living life. Of course, you will need a mind as open as Breath of the Wild’s overworld in order to enjoy it.

Combatants Will Be Dispatched! Volume 2 Review

Last time on Combatants Will be Dispatched!, underpaid Kisaragi employee Agent Six is sent as a spy to a fantasy world, so that the company itself can conquer it later. He goes with a sassy pretty-girl android named Alice, and they set up camp in the world. They meet the gropable royal knight, Snow (who isn’t as morally correct as she seems), along with the princess, Tillis. Six and Alice get paired up with a chaotic chimera named Rose, and a wheelchair-riding weirdo named Grimm (but hey, both are cute girls). The Demon Lord’s army attacks, but Six manages to hold them off easily, thanks to Kisaragi technology (patent pending)! However, doing so cost him too many Evil Points, and if he goes back home now, he’s in for a rude awakening from his supervisors. So, he chooses to stay (and grope Snow some more). 

After a brief chapter to re-acquaint us with the girls, we find that the town is running short on water, and they can’t get any new water because Six changed the rain machine’s password to something lewd. Fortunately, the neighboring kingdom of Toris has some water crystals that Tillis is going to negotiate for. The problem is that the prince of that kingdom is a real perv, so Six and the others are to accompany her. 

They plan to have Snow flirt with him so they can catch him being a perv. But of course, Snow’s a greedy woman, and she intends to fully get with the prince. It really showcases what a horrible person she is, and it’s hilarious (what’s even more hilarious is that the guy denies her advances). All this is just the beginning of the antics in this volume!

New Kisaragi agents transfer to this world from Earth, but we only get introduced to one of them, Tiger Man. He’s a grrrrrrrreat character whom I want to see more of, but he seems to be someone who’ll only pop up once in a while. We get introduced to a new Demon named Russell, but he’s perhaps the least interesting character so far. At this juncture, Combatants‘ biggest issue is introducing lovable characters other than those in the main group, especially compared to existing volumes of Konosuba, such as the tenth one, which made Iris of all people into a new Best Girl.

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Verdict: 8.75/10

This is a great volume of Combatants Will Be Dispatched!, but whether or not it’ll stand up to Konosuba is still up in the air. In the afterword, the author implies that our protagonists will be more heroic, which would admittedly be kind of a cop out, especially since scummy protagonist’s are this guy’s forte. I guess we won’t know until the next volume drops!

Plunderer First Impressions (Volumes 1-3)

Fanservice and edginess have always been a point of contention in the anime community. Good thing the Winter 2020 anime season will grace us with Plunderer, a series that has both. Today, I will cover all of the source manga material that Yen Press has published thus far.

In a world where you’re born with a number indicating the amount of times you’ve done something, and can command anyone with a lower number than yours, moe-blob Hina seeks out the Fabled Ace of the Waste War… for some reason (probably has to do with her mom getting sucked into a black hole). She finds this Ace, named Licht Bach, but he’s a super edgelord and leaves the scene after saving her life (told you he’s an edgelord). 

If I were to describe Plunderer at this juncture, I would call it a modern take on old-school battle shounen manga, like InuYasha, YuYu Hakusho, and Ruroni Kenshin. Its artstyle, which I’ll get to later, is a big reason, but it’s more so because it shares the “lead female protagonist is a damsel in distress” trope with the aforementioned manga . As a side note, those manga are- ironically enough- among my least favorite battle shounen of all time. I am aware that modern manga can treat its women as objects to “protecc” in the same way as the older mangas, but Plunderer‘s execution felt particularly nineties to me (just to clarify).

Fortunately, Plunderer does have some modern flare to it. Usually, most battle shounen manga (especially those older ones) have no real destination in terms of a narrative at the beginning, but Plunderer introduces intrigue during its first volume. The most notable mechanic is the Ballot system. These are items with their own pre-assigned values that add to their owner’s, and they’re where Licht gets his power. The female lead also has one that- based on its number- is far stronger than his, but it doesn’t get any use yet. It’ll likely be used as a Deus Ex Machina later.

But like I said earlier, Plunderer also has fan service tropes. Our main protagonist, Licht, has a count of -1000 thanks to how often he gets rejected by women. The reason? Because he likes to look up their skirts. And in good ol’ battle shounen fashion, he’s also a “righteous dude” who will protect ALL the waifus, especially from random sleezes who will try to use the number system to sexually assault them (well, except for when he’s in his designated “PTSD edgelord phase”).

His main waifu is Hina, the aforementioned moe-blob. Similar to InuYasha‘s Kagome and Kenshin‘s Kaoru, she ends up being a passive character for Licht to save. She might get powers of her own later, but it’ll probably never amount to much of anything. 

The other waifu, Lynn May, doesn’t fair much better. She’s a moe-blob in the military, and a wholly incompetent one at that. She ends up tagging along when Licht stands up for her in front of a more… d***ish officer. Literally everyone around her makes fun of the shortness of her skirt, making her another mascot to sell the manga.

Jail Murdoch, one of only two other male leads, is pretty much the Vegeta or Piccolo of Plunderer; he starts out as an enemy, and becomes a frenemy not much later. Yeah, it’s a pretty bog-standard cast for the most part. 

But if there’s one thing that I love in a battle shounen manga, it’s art. While Plunderer has a very nineties look in it’s character design, the panels are full of life and impact. Fights are especially good, even if the characters don’t put much thought put into their tactics.

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Current Verdict: 8.75/10

It may sound like I was criticizing Plunderer throughout the bulk of this post, but that’s not quite what I was doing. I, personally, am loving Plunderer so far, but that doesn’t mean I won’t acknowledge that there are some things that would tilt others. I’m not going to be the type of reviewer who will conveniently omit any possible flaw that their favorite things have, for the sake of being “objectively right”. If you like battle shounens, you should have no problem enjoying Plunderer.

Pokemon Shield Full Review

PREFACE: Due to this being an update of a first impressions post, some content will be similar to the original post. There are also some spoilers.


You’d think that with eight whole generations of Pokemon, Game Freak would be out of ideas. However, the latest installments, Sword and Shield, prove that Pokemon still has a fire going, even if it isn’t necessarily blazing white-hot.

So, the premise of both Sword and Shield is a return to form; no more having to “make the Pokemon League” crap (although it was pretty interesting conceptually). In this instance, your rival character, Hop (who, unfortunately, still chooses the Starter with a disadvantage against yours), is the younger brother of the Champion, and said Champion gives you your Starters. You and Hop also have a run-in with some weird Pokemon that is immune to all attacks, and promptly shrug it off before the two of you head off on your adventure. But hey, Gyms are back! Thank Arceus! 

Every new Generation feels like it has a billion new mechanics and changes, so it’s overwhelming to talk about stuff… Gah, I guess I’ll just go off of whatever comes to mind first. Let’s talk Pokemon Centers. These things baby you; allowing you to buy each type of healing item other than Full Heals, and REVIVES before your first Gym Badge. But other than that, these are the best Pokemon Centers ever because they EACH come with a Name Rater, Move Reminder, AND Move Deleter; no Heart Scales required!

On the field, Gen 8 borrows from Pokemon Let’s Go!, and shows wild Pokemon in the overworld. However, it’s a bit confusing. While some appear visibly on the field, there are still old-school random encounters, except those tend to have completely different Pokemon. Intuitively, the invisible Pokemon are ones that are too small to actually be seen above the grass, which makes sense, but it’s still annoying (and sometimes, Pokemon that are larger than the player still somehow manage to hide themselves in there). Also, the Pokedex yet again does not have the Habitat List from Black and White 2. Instead, the Pokedex tells you what Pokemon you can catch in a given area, but it only shows one area at a time, meaning that you have to catch EVERYTHING as you go along in order for it to actually show the next place. Furthermore, it only shows Pokemon that you’ve encountered once before, so it doesn’t help when you’re looking for that last Pokemon in the Pokedex.

Another noticeable thing is that all party Pokemon naturally gain battle EXP together from the get-go. Also, there’s the Pokemon Camp ability, which allows you to play with your Pokemon and cook Curry (which is this game’s version of the crap you make with Berries in past games, and it’s just as convoluted as ever). This gives them even more EXP and increases their affinity towards you. So far, it seems that they at least got rid of the EXP boost from affinity, but kept the more luck-based perks. I’m sure you’re looking at this and thinking, “Oh my God the game’s even EASIER than ever! 0/10!” I thought that too, but this game’s actually proven to be reasonably difficult. You really need to know your stuff (fortunately, they still have the Battle Info button for noobs). Even with the bonus EXP from catching Pokemon (which I’ve done pretty liberally), fighting most Trainers, and using the Camp, I’ve been cutting it close. Even when I ended up getting overleveled by around the seventh Gym, and having my team catch Pokerus, it still proved to be a worthy adversary. They finally designed those Pokemon-helping mechanics around the actual challenge factor (as long as you don’t grind). Speaking of Pokemon-helping mechanics, you also have Poke-Jobs. These are accessible from the PC and are basically Merc Missions from Xenoblade 2. You send out boxed Pokemon for a set period of time, and they come back with a chunk of EXP (with bonuses for the Types specified on the request). This will be important for breeding tons of Pokemon at once.

Overwhelmed yet? Well, there’s also the addition of Wild Areas. These are where Pokemon becomes a true JRPG; they are vast, open, and have tons of Pokemon of wildly varying levels and draw points to get items from. The most important materials are Watts, which are obtained by visiting glowing red Pokemon Dens and pressing A on them. These can be exchanged for items, such as the new/old TR items. TRs are like TMs of old, use it once and they break. They are much more common, and generally contain better moves (seriously, most of the TMs are going out of their way to give you crap moves), plus they can be obtained multiple times, such as from Pokemon Dens…

…which segues into the BIGGEST (pun intended) change made in Gen 8, Dynamax Pokemon. Inside some Pokemon Dens are Dynamax Pokemon, giant versions of regular Pokemon who are much stronger than regular ones; so strong, that four Trainers need to band together to take one down. So that means that you have to subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online and connect to the Internet and fight them alongside some randos, right? Fortunately, no; you can play offline and you’ll be joined by some fairly competent A.I. trainers. When fighting against Dynamax Pokemon, you’ll be able to Dynamax the Pokemon you chose to fight in these battles, turning them gigantic as well. Dynamax is basically a fusion of Mega Evolution and Z-Powers. When your Pokemon are Dynamaxed, their HP gets a big boost, and their moves are modified. Offensive moves become a much stronger move of the same type, and leave a free effect like a multi-target stat buff on your team, a multi-targeting debuff on the enemy team, or a Weather effect, and Status moves just become a stronger version of Protect. Dynamaxing lasts for three turns before it has to recharge, so coming out swinging isn’t always the best. A lot of battles were decided by me timing my Dynamax so that the opponent’s would run out while mine was still going. Overall, Dynamaxing is by far the most gimmicky and least necessary mechanic in the game, but they made a good decision in restricting it to Pokemon Dens and Gym Battles.

There are two big problems with this mechanic. One is that the fights against Wild Dynamax Pokemon get ridiculous later on in the game. After 3-Star difficulty, they get shields that need to be broken by hitting it X number of times. Fortunately, breaking it lowers their Def and Sp Def by 2 levels, so it makes the rest of the fight easy. Unfortunately, the later Dynamax Pokemon also get up to 3 turns in a single round, and can wipeout your entire motley crew as a result. What’s worse is that the 5-Star ones get TWO shield phases. The problem is that battles have to be won in ten turns, and two shields guarantees at least four turns wasted. The whole thing ends up boiling down to your Pokemon’s levels and the type advantage, unless you can actually get humans to help you. The other issue is the Gigantimax gimmick. This is an ability that specific Pokemon can have to get new forms and unique move effects upon Dynamaxing. The problem is that you have to know which Pokemon can do it, and then you have to catch them in a Dynamax battle. Yup, it’s not good enough to catch the Pokemon itself. I even had two Pokemon with Gigantimax forms, but since they were normal catches, I couldn’t do anything about them. It’s a really dumb mechanic, and the unique moves don’t even have interesting animations, unlike the unique Z-Moves of Gen 7.

Gyms are back and, well, the same, really. They build up Gyms as this whole extravagant thing, just for them to be the same. The problem with this is that you basically have to go through a whole extra step for no reason. When you enter a Gym, you now have to go to some receptionist and change into a tokusatsu uniform before actually starting the Gym in earnest. Fortunately, the Gym Missions are among some of the best in a while. Gym 3 revolves around catching wild Pokemon, Gym 5 puts a fun twist on a normally aggravating type of challenge, and Gym 8 is the first Double Battle Gym since Hoenn, with battles revolving around the power of weather effects.

In addition to the Gyms, the way they handled the Pokemon League is probably the best in the series. In Gen 8, it’s the Championship Cup. This tournament format makes it so that you fight characters that you’ve encountered regularly; characters who’ve been through the same trial as you. It really is a gauntlet, because after that they make you fight three of the Gym leaders a second time. It really showcases how much you’ve grown as a trainer, especially for me, who found myself able to one-shot Dynamax Pokemon that I previously had trouble with.

But unfortunately, the Gym Leaders themselves have taken a downgrade again. In Gen 8, most of them are once again one-note characters that you talk to a single time outside of the Gym, then fight back inside the Gym. Out of all of them, two are interesting: Opal, who is just really funny and creepy, and the 7th Gym Leader, whom we’ll discuss in a bit.

In my first impressions, I- for lack of a better word- “shat” on the cast of characters in Gen 8. However, I take that back now. While all the characters, like your rival Hop, privileged pimp Bede, and Professor assistant Sonia, start off as the typical one-note, uninteresting characters that have been peppering the series as of late, they become some of the best we’ve had in a long while. Each of the aforementioned characters go through big changes during the story and their arcs, and by the postgame, you’re like, “Sh**, these are like completely different folks now.” I really hope that the next Gen 8 game is a sequel, like Black and White 2 are for Gen 5, so that you can see how far they’ve come. 

Team Yell is our new mischief-making group this time around. Despite their similarities to Best Team Skull, they’re pretty unremarkable, and only seem to serve as justifying the game walling you with NPCs at the exits of towns (which seriously needs a new approach; it’s getting old). But if they have any saving grace, it’s their boss, Piers. For the first time since Gen 1, the leader of the designated group of thugs is also a gym leader. But unlike Giovanni, Piers becomes a straight-up protagonist after you beat him, which is really cool.

With Piers being the Piccolo of the game, the role of the main antagonist lies elsewhere. And unfortunately, this person is probably my least favorite character in the game. WARNING. This next part is the most spoilery in this whole review! If you don’t want to be spoiled, skip to the next paragraph, but even then it’s not a big spoiler, because if you’ve played ANY RECENT Pokemon game, you already know who the main antagonist is. The big bad is Chairman Rose, the guy in charge of Galar’s whole power grid. This makes the third generation in a row, from Gen 6 onward, where the big bad is someone with high political influence in the world and are in charge of some big R&D department. He’s at least more subtle this time, versus Lysandre’s “humans should die” schtick at the beginning of Gen 6, or the OPENING CUTSCENE of Gen 7 clearly painting Aether as suspicious, but the pattern itself is what tipped me off for Rose, and it’ll probably tip you off too (if I didn’t just spoil it for you).

Let’s discuss cutscenes next. These have been a replay-killer in Pokemon for a while, and it was OBNOXIOUS in Gen 7. In Gen 8, it’s at least been far better than Gen 7, but still kind of bad. The Poke Ball tutorial is still forced, but they at least not bother telling you to weaken it first (which sounds like a rude beginner’s trap in hindsight). However, to be honest, the cutscenes here aren’t actually terrible. With the more cinematic camera angles and more expressive character models, the cutscenes have a lot more personality. For example, the cutscene that introduced the Starters is a bit overly long, but it gives off a subtle visual cue of their Type matchups, to save from people actually having to tell you in a forced tutorial. Also, to make the game more anime, bosses offer comments during battle. While they are cool and will no doubt give later fights much more emotion, you can’t skip them, and are onscreen for what feels like ten whole seconds. Curiously, there is a setting to skip cutscenes. However, it is a toggle to automatically skip all cutscenes, not a button prompt to skip them, which is kind of stupid. Most modern JRPGs at least give you a button prompt… I guess in Gen 9, then.

Next, I’ll give my impressions on the new Pokemon. Thankfully, they actually made them pretty common out in the wild, unlike Gens 6 and 7, where you’d be hard-pressed to find actual NEW Pokemon. Regional Variants return, but this time it’s not limited to Gen 1. The best one I’ve found is a Ground-Steel version of my boy Stunfisk, and it’s freakin’ great. But as far as the new-new Pokemon, a lot of them are really cool. Unfortunately, the Starters are a downgrade. While they have great designs and are still powerful, they are marred by all being single-types. To be fair, it helps so that you don’t have to worry about finding something cool with a matching type as much, but it still bugs me. Gen 7’s Starters are still my favorite for now. Meanwhile, the Legendaries look like recolored Gen 2 dogs, but they’re not terrible. 

The most stressful thing is trying to build a team of Pokemon I haven’t seen before when I don’t know what they’re going to evolve into, and the thing with Gen 8 seems to be that the Pokemon either have super reasonable or super BS evolution conditions. Most new Pokemon evolve on level up, and the game seems to be designed so that they would evolve right when they’re about to fall behind on your team if you were to use them as an official team member. However, there’s things like the new Yamask (screw that thing). Despite how easy it is to farm evolutionary stones, there’s almost nothing- at least not new Pokemon- that require them. It’s better than Gen 5’s “nothing evolves until you reach the Pokemon League,” but it doesn’t help that my bag has a bunch of useless stones in it.

My biggest complaint in the game is probably Galar itself. This is no doubt the smallest region in the series thus far. I admit I’m spoiled on Xenoblade’s big, grandiose worlds. But in addition to the small size of Galar, it also lacks substance. Routes are short and lack personality, and towns are so small that Tales of Vesperia’s towns seem huge by comparison, which sucks because the towns actually have the most charisma out of anywhere in Galar. The dungeons have also taken a hit as well. Despite them giving you an infinite-use Escape Rope, the dungeons can be gone through in less than twenty minutes each. They’re also small in quantity too. There’s NO VICTORY ROAD either, and the Route 10 that’s there instead is nothing like Gen 5’s, that’s for sure. In addition to all that, they still haven’t fixed the recent issue of NPC dialogue never changing; I’m still having people wishing me luck on my Gym Challenge even after I’ve already become Champion. 

The soundtrack is a downgrade from Gen 7. A lot of it felt kind of underwhelming. There wasn’t a single time where I stopped to soak in the atmosphere of a given area. Gen 7 still has the supreme soundtrack of the series in my opinion, with Gen 5 in second. If there are any good tracks, it’s the major boss themes; the themes of actual characters that you fight, like Bede and Team Yell’s loli mascot, Marnie. They also bring back Gen 5’s “music change when the Gym Leader has one Pokemon left,” and it really sells the intensity of those battles.

As for the visuals, the Switch has made Pokemon look like a true JRPG, or to be more specific, those new-fangled “animu” JRPGs, with cel-shaded anime kids, vibrant colors, and amazing lighting effects. This is definitely the best-looking that Pokemon has ever been.

Lastly, let’s discuss the thing I’ve been concerned about the most: postgame. For some reason, they haven’t gotten it right from Gen 6 onward, and it still seems to be the case here. Other than the designated Game Freak superboss, the postgame give you a single sidequest, like most recent games have done. In this quest, you spend the whole time going back to older areas and fighting whatever’s there, and your prize is the Legendary that’s on the box of the game you’re playing. Although the villains of the quest are funny, there are no new areas that open up, and even worse, THERE IS NO LOOKER. Looker has been a staple since Gen 4, and he’s one of the best characters in all of Pokemon! AND HE’S NOT HERE FUUUUUUUU- 

Anyways, finishing this sidequest opens up the “Designated BS Competitive Battle Area Where That You Challenge Out of Curiosity, Lose in 5 Seconds, and Realize that the Team that’s been with you Through Thick and Thin Sucks,” and it’s actually the easiest in the series. The battles aren’t just easier; it’s also easy to grind because you rank up by winning a total number of battle, instead of consecutive battles. I’m still not a fan of competitive, but hey, it’s there for those who want it.

You know what, for the sake of completion, I should touch on Gen 8’s competitive battle scene. The following information is all from an associate of mine who follows the competitive scene of Pokemon very closely. First off, Hidden Power and Toxic TMs don’t exist, which greatly limit what you can do to round out your Pokemon. Also, battles are apparently timed, with animations not pausing to run down the clock. Also, the lack of National Dex makes it so that you’re stuck with whatever’s in Galar, and that could make certain Pokemon significantly more dangerous than before. I also read an article saying that Dynamaxing is banned in competitive (which I would believe given how whiggety-whack it is), but I don’t know if it’s true. But hey… none of this is my problem!

As for the rest of postgame, you basically get to rechallenge the Champion Cup at Wyndon as many times as you want. In it, you merely fight random Gym Leaders and get a reward after winning; you don’t even refight Leon at the end. It’s good for grinding, at least, making it a big improvement over Gen 7’s NOTHING.

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Final Verdict: 8.8/10

They seem to be continuing the path they tread in Gen 7: amazing gameplay, user-friendly mechanics, and great difficulty, but a poorly built region. I feel like they’re either on the cusp of making Pokemon a tried-and-true JRPG series and not just “kiddy crap”, or completely ruining it once and for all. I guess we’ll have to see what happens then. But in the meantime, Pokemon Sword and Shield are nonetheless a wildly good set of games.

WeebRevues Top Five Japanese Music Artists

I’ll always love the classic rock of yesteryear more than anything. But over the last several years of my life, I’ve realized the unique greatness of contemporary Japanese music. In this blog I’ll discuss my favorite Japanese music artists.


5) Hysteric Panic

This spot was originally going to ONE OK ROCK. For all intents and purposes, ONE OK ROCK’s members are very talented, and very experimental-two qualities that I seek in bands. However, just going off of the sheer percentage of discography that I loved, Hysteric Panic is way better than them in my book. So why do I like this basically unknown J-thrash band so much?

I love Hysteric Panic because of their energy. They more or less only play thrash, but they’re so darn good at it that I can’t even complain. They also have a wide range of vocals, from a high-pitched, Axl Rose-sounding guy, to a guy who sounds like a constipated alligator. Regardless of if it’s multiple guys or the same guy, this wide range of screams makes Hysteric Panic stand out as a thrash band. Give them a whirl if you love Metallica or others like them!


4) MYTH & ROID

Led by TomH@ck of OxT, MYTH & ROID was originally my favorite Japanese band, and was in 1st on early drafts of this post. Although they are a solid prog-rock band that has more of an identity than most people in the ainsong industry, I realized that I find the artists in the Top 3 more irreplaceable. I don’t know if it’s because MYTH & ROID has way less discography or what, but them’s the brakes.

But hey, they’re still in Top 5 for a reason. MYTH & ROID has managed to craft a distinct style that basically allows them to do whatever they want, as long as they maintain one consistency: MAKE. IT. AWESOME. Out of all the artists on this list, I have always exclaimed “WTF?!” with every song of theirs the first time I heard it.

Recently, I have been exposed to music from the bizarro minds of truly eccentric people, such as DAOKO and Kenshi Yonezu. But at the time, I remember when I threw on Styx Helix because it was a Re:ZERO song, and thought it was a decent techno-chill song. I later noticed that they also did OP 2 of the same show. I put on that song, Paradisus Paradoxim, and it completely blew me away with how different it was. I fell in love with MYTH & ROID right then and there… and then fell slightly less in love with them over time.

While they are no longer my favorite, they are still a great band that stands out from the rest. I recommend giving them a listen if you’re tired of that mainstream crap.


3) Dempagumi.inc

Didn’t expect a pop group, did you? And an IDOL group on top of that?! Well, this entry was originally going to be the jazz-pop duo, ORESAMA. As great as their music is, their record label, Lantis, seems to not want anybody overseas to be able to support their artists, so I basically grew out of them. 

However, one MyAnimeList article helped fill the ORESAMA-shaped hole in my heart: The announcement of Dempagumi.inc member, Mirin Furukawa’s, marriage. I immediately had to know what a band with such a weird name was, and sure ‘nough, they’re on Apple Music! One greatest hits album later, and I found myself- for the first time ever- unironically in love with a pop idol group.

Dempagumi’s gimmick is that they are otaku. A lot of their songs are about Akihabara and… well, I don’t know what else because they’re singing in a language I don’t know very well. Additionally, their singing reaches such outrageous tempos at times that it just HAS to have been artificially sped up in post! 

Speaking of the tempo, Dempagumi’s main musical style is fully caffeinated J-Pop with tons of synthesizers and videogame sound effects. They try to get you hooked by messing with that pattern-recognition area of your brain that made you bee-bop to Gangam Style. What they do is start off with a fast, catchy beat, and then arbitrarily and abruptly shift into a different, faster tune altogether. This is best exemplified in W.W.D., one of my favorite songs from them. Since their style is designed to mess directly with your brain on a nueral level, you can’t not be caught off guard even if you’re expecting it. It’s science! They’ve been around for over ten years, and they still bamboozle me even during their newest songs. The only flaw with Dempagumi is that there are some songs that are a little more mainstream, and while those are nice and la-dee-da, they aren’t the Dempagumi that I love. 

Seriously though, this group should be monopolizing the idol industry! I doubt that any of the members themselves are involved in the creative process of their songs, but whoever is involved… is a freakin’ genius. I highly recommend Dempagumi.inc to anyone who wants a twist to mainstream pop. Start with their greatest hits album: WWD Best Demparyouko, since, like I said, they’ve kind of been active for over ten years…


2) BAND-MAID

This is a band I literally found out of nowhere. Although they’ve grown substantially more popular with their most recent album, I was a fan since summer 2019- snug within the range of “before it was cool.” When I made the life-changing decision of subscribing to Apple Music, one of the first bands I got into was- no, not BAND-MAID- but Passcode. Passocde’s great and all, but in the similar artists tab, I couldn’t help but notice BAND-MAID. And the rest is history.

BAND-MAID, whose claim to fame comes from their maid cafe-like attire, is a hard rock band that skirts the line of metal, and a damn powerful one at that. One distinct feeling I get from their music is not something I ever feel in any other J-Rock bands: Classic Rock. Yeah, I know it’s an oxymoron, but a lot of their stuff reminds me of AC/DC, Van Halen, Dio… basically, all the rock bands of yore that I love. “You only like them because they’re mimicking Western culture, you traitorous lech!” you exclaim. Well… it’s true that they do come off as Western, but they’re excused because they still manage to have some sort of identity, despite how much they emulate those aforementioned artists.

If I have any concern, it’s that I don’t know what direction they’re headed in. Despite the fact that their newest album is objectively their most successful and important one, I feel mixed about it. It sounds a bit… lighter than previous records (I’ve only listened to the first half of it, though). I won’t fault them for trying stuff; in fact, I love it when artists try stuff. But I don’t know if they’re merely trying stuff, or if they’re trying to pander to the masses. If it’s the latter, they’d likely abandon the metal music identity they’ve spent the past five years building. 

But for the time being, BAND-MAID is a ludicrously good group. Apple Music doesn’t have their very first album, but it has everything else. I personally started with their third studio album, Brand-New Maid, but you can honestly start anywhere.


1) nano

It shouldn’t surprise me that Japanese-American singer nano wound up being first on my list. After all, she is one of the few people in the anisong industry who really has a true style that is entirely their own. 

nano generally does very aggressive hard rock and metal tracks, but also throws in electronic, or even in the case of one particular song, combines rock with traditional Japanese instruments. I find her older stuff to be rough around the edges, but from her album, Rock On, and onwards, she’s gotten better and louder. Her albums are one of the best showcases of the evolution of an artist that I’ve ever heard. A lot of credit goes to whoever produces and mixes the music in order to bring out the best of her powerful voice and the instruments that her buddies play.

nano’s music is divided into two distinct types: Regular J-rock that’s used as assets for anime and such, and straight up Western-influenced hard rock. The latter is typically used in albums, as the designated filler songs. However, I find those to be some of the best filler, and often times among nano’s best songs. I recommend going through all of her albums, or at least starting with Rock On and going chronologically from there.

Overall, Japanese music is freakin’ great, and I don’t get why it’s not more popular. I get that the Japanese generally like to keep to themselves, culturally, but most of this stuff is as easily accessible on big-name streaming service as their Korean competitors! It’s… it’s THERE! Well, whatever. Hopefully, this post will raise just a little more awareness for the stuff. I highly recommend you follow these artists, and whoever else you find interesting, on Twitter. Most of the Tweets are in Japanese… but… it takes only two clicks to translate their Tweet… so just follow them already! 

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Honorable Mentions: Passcode, RAISE A SUILEN, Burnout Syndromes, ASCA, ONE OK ROCK

Edens Zero First Impressions (Volumes 1-5)

Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail was the fourth manga I ever read. Although I was still sensitive towards fanservice at the time, and exclaimed “Mashima!” every time something stupid happened, I still loved its pacing and youthful energy to pieces. But in 2017, I- and many others- finished the series disappointed. The plot became so convoluted that it went beyond its own standards of suspended disbelief, and not even the fights were fun anymore. But none of that backlash would stop Mashima from creating a new series, Edens Zero (published in English by Kodansha Comics), not even a year after Fairy Tail‘s ending. Let’s see if it’s any good.

Shiki is an orphan boy who lives with robots in the abandoned theme park, Granbell. When a human girl named Rebecca appears, the robots try to execute her; he saves her and they escape into space.  However, all of this was an act to get Shiki off the planet. This is the start of their epic quest to find Mother, who is basically a genderswap King of All Cosmos from Katamari.

A lot of people complained about Fairy Tail for making a drinking game out of the word “friendship”, and yeah… I’ll admit that it did get redundant. That redundancy still carries over to Edens Zero, now in the form of a meme where Shiki tries to touch everyone he sees like Patrick Star at a jellyfishing convention. I admit, it does get kind of annoying at times.

There’s also a lot of that Mashima “WTF is going on?”. Volume 1 ends with a brief, 20,000 year time skip, then volume 2 starts with a cute space girl telling the reader that time holds no meaning in Edens Zero. Then, our heroes end up on this planet that’s fifty years in the past, while the rest of space is still in the present. Plus, there’s all this intrigue surrounding the Demon King that raised Shiki, and what Mother’s role is in the story. In the afterword, Mashima’s stated that he’s improvising Edens Zero more than Rave, but not as much as Fairy Tail, which puts it right in the middle in terms of story planning. It’s impossible to truly tell what happens at this juncture. Even though it seems that they’re one MacGuffin away from being able to start the final arc (after five volumes), it IS still a battle shounen, and those always find a way to not end, even if it would’ve been within reason to.

Characters are always the bread of battle shounen (with art being the butter), and Edens Zero has some seriously whole grain bread. Shiki is your average, dumb shounen protagonist, but he has the power of gravity on his side. His ability doesn’t just affect mass; he can also change its direction, bringing himself away from opponents, or bringing those opponents closer to his fist.

Rebecca is pretty much Lucy from Fairy Tail, except she’s a space YouTuber- called a B-Cuber- and goes on this whole quest just for more subscribers. Happy makes a return from Fairy Tail, except this time he’s a robot that turns into guns. They also recruit a young professor named Wiesz, with his ability to modify any machinery in a flash, and Pino, a cute loli-robot that can use an EMP to stop machinery in its tracks. A cute Best Girl named Homura tags along; she’s super powerful, but has the hilarious quirk of speaking her thoughts out loud without meaning to. There are also some good antagonists, but most of them, so far, are throwaway villains, with the more interesting looking ones merely being teased (such as the new leader of one of Fairy Tail’s Dark Guilds that’s managed to survive into the space age).

Oh, and if you looked at any artwork for Edens Zero and thought you saw Best Girl Erza Scarlet, you’d be wrong. That’s the space pirate Elsie Crimson. She seems to be just as brawn-over-brain as the beloved Erza, but she hasn’t done much in the story at this time. 

Mashima’s art is as good as ever. He’s always been great at drawing cartoony, expressive characters (especially cute girls), and the sci-fi setting lets him try some crazy new ideas. The action scenes are as flashy as always, even if there isn’t much emotional tension early on. But there is still a lot of that Mashima fanservice, and it’s amped up by the designated sexy, body-tight clothes of the future.

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Current Verdict: 8.7/10

Edens Zero is great so far. If this manga doesn’t get axed, and actually ends on a good note, it’ll likely surpass Fairy Tail in every way. I highly recommend it to any battle shounen and Mashima fans!