Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

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[Image taken from CrunchyRoll]

Is it just me or is the geometry necessary to pull of that tail kind of… impossible.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a cheerful little anime about… Miss Kobayashi… having… a… dragon… maid. In other words, exactly what it says on the tin. Miss Kobayashi gets plastered one night and meets a dragon in the suburbs. Why no one else saw this dragon is completely beyond me. So in her drunken stupor (I can’t believe they make us wait for the last anime for the backdrop to this anime either) she says that the dragon, named Tohru, can live with her as a maid. For some reason or another Miss Tohru says yes. And the rest of the anime is pretty much cute girls doing cute things.

Miss Kobayashi is a pretty blank slate. Her only distinctive character trait seems to be her love of maids. Which only seems to exist as kind of motivation to kickstart the series. Nothing really wrong with it, but it’s not really discussed much. I think that the anime is really about Tohru, which… we may have expected since she’s featured exclusively on the cover I posted above… huh.

Tohru is a cheerful gal and she seems to genuinely love Kobayashi (for good, spoiler reasons). She’s always trying to get Kobayashi to eat her tail for some reason… I wonder if it’s a gag that’s better explained in the manga. It just became a running joke and it’s not terribly funny. I believe Tohru is used to sort of describe what it’s like adjusting to a new life and whether or not she can accept the consequences that come with it. It’s not a terrible message to work with, but if that’s the topic then this anime fails spectacularly. Such a struggle is only really brought up between the moments, and doesn’t appear to be the focus of the anime.

You may be familiar with this little thing:

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This is Kanna Kamui. She has become something of a meme for some reason or another. She’s actually incredibly adorable. Seeing a starving individual, without even asking Kobayashi, she goes to fetch them some food. She also has one of the sweetest voices I’ve heard in quite some time. I feel like she exists to be memed though. Not sure if that’s because I saw the memes before the anime; but watching it, I couldn’t help but recognize why the memes came into being. Kanna is just too meme-able.

There are some things that play against it. Three of the five dragons are pretty useless to the story. Fafnir, Lucoa, and Elma. My suspicion is that they were supposed to represent separate parts of Tohru in her decision of whether or not to stay in her new world. Fafnir would have represented Tohru’s doubt. Fafnir reminds Tohru of the limited lifespan that humans have, and that one day Miss Kobayashi will die… what then? Lucoa is a bit more moderate, and her actions seemed to be designed to help Tohru realize what she has in her new world. But I don’t think she really wanted Tohru to remain, as Lucoa seemed to enjoy stirring up trouble. Lucoa is the throwaway huge breasted character, so she isn’t terribly important. Elma came in rather late (episode 8 or 9 I think) and had such little screentime, I don’t think there’s much to say about her. But because Elma is successfully adapting to Tohru’s new world, my guess would be that she’s to represent what Tohru could become, a normal human.

I really do think that the description cute girls doing cute things is really all we can work with. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with that at all! I loved it! I was smiling for almost the entirety of the anime and I may now have diabeetus thanks to how sweet some of the characters were. Overall, I highly recommend it. It’s not difficult to watch, there’s no clock running, it’s just… fun. I do hope that there’s a season 2. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

The Testament of Sister New Devil

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[Image taken from CrunchyRoll]

This review covers Seasons 1 and 2. It is implied that there will be a Season 3.

This show is all over the place. So the premise of the show is that Basara (not to be confused with Subaru who was often called Basuru from Re: Zero) apparently always wanted a little sister and his father up and found two sisters for him. I… I’m not making this up. The two sisters wind up to be demons fleeing a war that were attempting to use his father to secure safe lodging. The next part of their brilliant plan is to forcibly oust Basara and his father from their home. Just like the current migrant crisis (political humour… check). Unfortunately for the girls, Basara and his father are in fact not retarded and highly resistant to the charm magic they were using. So they were sorely mistaken if they thought Basara and father were going to take that shit lying down (like the United St…). But get this, Basara is so cucked that he lets the two demons stay in his home after he kicks their ass out. Because… they’re family now? I don’t even…

The redheaded broad is apparently a princess whose power is the envy of the demon realm so she has to hide. Only she’s shit at it because everyone and their dog seems to know where she is. So much so that some people were already observing her from the demon realm and the hero village. Shit man, why even mention that she’s in hiding if it’s all moot three episodes in.

I should probably mention that Basara is a hero village exile because he blew shit up when it hit the fan. This dude stole a sword and went on rampage so Basara blew him up (somehow) and now Basara uses the sword (not sure why). Apparently the sword has a special ability which erases magical power but the caveat is that it can only be used as a counter attack. Which… doesn’t explain why the sword’s power didn’t stop Basara’s explosion… huh. On top of that, the ‘counterattack only’ rule kind of goes out the window by episode 4 or something which is kind of a drag. It even gets mentioned in Season 2 where the dude literally says “I THOUGHT THAT WAS ONLY SUPPOSED TO BE USED AS A COUNTER ATTACK” and I’m shouting at the screen “I KNOW, RIGHT?”

If there’s any consistency in the show, it’s that the rules are inconsistent. The plot is inconsistent. And I think some key pieces of source material may have been left out. Basara’s father saves a poor kid falling out of a building and that kid has one or two lines. And that’s it. Mind you this kid was saved during episode 1 or 2 in a 10 episode season. Like… what was the role of this kid? What point did he serve? Why do I even care? And the fight scenes are absolutely terrible. Jesus christ, a fight scene is poetry through fists and these fights are just a fancy effect or two and done. There’s little to no background to the fights other than “Me gud, you bad”. Our characters are very reactionary. Were it not for the demon realm trying to get their hands on princess, this show would just be a bunch of sex scenes. There’s nothing motivating the characters to move forward. They just seem to want to hold their ground.

Honestly, I’m wondering if the adaptation was made for its sex scenes but its sex scenes are mostly used as plot convenience or dialogue dumps and I don’t even understand what the point of it all is. Most of these scenes don’t even have proper setup.

Anyway I’m trying to think of something good to say about the series but I can’t. This series is terrible and I cannot recommend it to anyone. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

The Testament of Sister New Devil

Re: Zero

This one has been in the queue for a while because I’m always late to the party but really because it has impressive plot. I mean, look at that plot.

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No, not everything I do can be motivated by cute anime girls, gimme a break (Seriously though, Rem best girl).

A lot of people have hyped this one and I figured with cute battle maids, it can’t be all that bad, right? Right.

So Re: Zero tells the story of a useless idiot that for some reason is called to a fantasy world. He expects the whole protagonist thing where you’re ‘The chosen one’ but finds out that he’s totally fucking useless. His only power seems to be to return to a very specific point in time every time he dies with all of the knowledge of the life he had before. I know there’s source material that I haven’t read, but I don’t think it’s accurate to say that his power is to rewind time but rather to send his consciousness back in time. It is through repeatedly dying that Subaru solves the various problems that come his way.

Subaru is the inversion (yep, gonna have to use that word again) of the typical video game (not saying that this is a game) protagonist. Comparing Subaru to SAO’s Kirito or Log Horizon’s Shiroe, he’s useless. He’s closer to Kazuma from my recent KonoSuba review. His only talent (and it’s a damn good one to be quite frank) is his ability to send his consciousness back in time (I swear that has to be his real ability despite openings suggesting otherwise). Because it allows him to navigate ‘Dead Ends’ similar to the quickload function in my visual novels.

This sort of power is kind of a mess to deal with because it’s so easy to make it seem like a deus ex machina device and in reality it kind of is. What I like about the way it’s executed here is that Subaru has to die first. And it might seem terrible but I think that’s the most important part. In other series this power might be activated like a ‘Get out of jail free card’ but Subaru actually has to experience the full death in order for this power to activate. Which can be excruciating because it can take a while to die.

Unfortunately when your character can return to a save point, it can make relationships between characters difficult to effectively establish because you’re playing with cause and effect. What this means is that you have to rely more on character interaction itself.Not saying that it’s a bad thing, just that it’s something to consider and all things considered I believe Re: Zero effectively executes this. And I do like how the various tragedies that happen to Subaru turn him from this otaku that was happy to find himself in the magical world into this man that has died several times and quite frankly doesn’t want to deal with this bullshit anymore. And the transformation is effectively communicated because you can easily see the intermediate steps, very well done.

My main complaint with the show is motivation and plot. Quite frankly, there isn’t any. At the end of the second season I find myself asking ‘What was the point of all that. What have I learned’. And I don’t think I’ve learned anything. So it feels like everything was pointless. Now you could point to the Royal selection process and say ‘Aha! That was the plot you nimwit’ to which I’m going to have to say ‘No, no it is not’. You are confusing ‘backdrop’ with ‘plot’ Understandable, yes, but they’re not the same thing. The backdrop is something that may set things in motion and continuously acts from behind the scenes. The plot is our reason for moving forward and quite frankly, there isn’t anything. Nothing feels natural.Most of all, Subaru’s feelings for not-best-girl. Subaru says he’s motivated by Emilia’s smile and whatnot but something weird happens and it gets to the point where what was once sweet and charming becomes downright deluded and creepy. And there are things he says that make me cringe. Jesus Christ dude.

Okay, maybe I’m being unfair to Emilia because Rem is just everything I need in a woman and also because her character is probably the most fleshed out one of the main cast post-resets. But the amount of character in the characters is remarkably tiny. We only really get development of Rem. I’ll also remind you that Rem probably has one of the most beautiful, heartfelt confessions in anime history and her character is also great and Subaru still turns her down. SUBARU. WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING.

Overall, a very beautiful anime with some epic music. While the anime wasn’t as great as I was led to believe, I definitely enjoyed watching it even if it didn’t really make any sense. If another season comes out, I’ll probably watch it. Those are my thoughts, thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Re: Zero

KonoSuba

Is overrated.

As a nerd that lives in their mother’s basement, true to form I watch YouTube videos about anime. There seemed to be a consensus within the community of YouTubers that I watch that KonoSuba is a pretty funny anime. I beg to differ. Maybe I watched it the wrong way, maybe I wasn’t supposed to wait for the humour. It’s not a gag anime like Gintama.

KonoSuba is the tale of Satou Kazuma after he is killed in episode one Yusuke Urameshi style. In purgatory(?) he is told that he can reincarnate in a fantasy world. He’s an otaku, seems like a pretty sweet deal. So he takes it. The Goddess in charge of his reincarnation says that he can choose anything to take with him. Now Kazuma is a pretty serious guy and he doesn’t want to die again in the next world so he’s taking his time. Goddess gets snippy. He demands that he get to bring her with him. Apparently that was allowed! So in a fashion reminiscent of ‘Ah! My Goddess’ his story begins.

Kazuma is the inversion of the absurdly competent hero trope. Instead of being able to transcend the limits of his world through sheer willpower (*coughBullshitFloor79cough*) he spends his skill points in useless stuff that only become situationally useful. Because of this, instead of winning fights through ability, he often has to pull things out of his ass. The four main characters all seem to have been designed to be as terrible at their job as possible and the story itself has been written in such a way to make their uselessness not so bad as to end the story. In fact, if I had to sum up KonoSuba in a word, I’d say inversions. It seems to be a series that is comprised entirely of inversions and aversions.

That’s not to say that it’s bad for setting itself up like that. I just don’t see the direction. Normally these ‘standstill’ anime are comedies. You stay in one spot until the comedy is done and then you all take a bow. But those often rely on being… ya know, funny. KonoSuba isn’t funny, at least not to me. And I’m someone that rolls on the floor laughing at Gintama. There are plenty of other anime that are funnier and much better executed than KonoSuba with more consistently good humour.

Maybe my hopes were set up too high thanks to the YouTubers I watch. That’s not to say that KonSuba is terrible. I’d say that it’s even a little fun. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible. I’d say give it two or three episodes and if you’re not sold, drop it. Because the formula doesn’t change for the other 17. That’ll be it from me though, thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

KonoSuba

Most Positive Reviews are Useless

This title is likely ironic coming from me, a critic that has reviewed several games both positively and negatively. The point of this post is to emphasize what makes a review useful and why most reviews, particularly the positive ones, are useless. This is another meta post that I’m making to elaborate on how I do reviews in response to feedback on Steam.

So the first question we need to ask ourselves is what is a review? A review is an evaluation of a particular work of art. Since the evaluation is done by an individual, these are often likened to opinion pieces, however there is a key difference. While each individual may disagree on how the art utilizes certain features, most critics should be able to agree to some degree or another what makes a particular quality good. For example, I think you’ll find nary a critic that says Microsoft Excel menu navigation is good, so if a game has Microsoft Excel menu navigation, expect that to come up in the review as a source of annoyance.

Reviews serve two major purposes. First, they are tools for communities to tell other members what to expect when they purchase a product. If I review a product and tell my friend that it’s good except for this one thing and my friend thinks that one thing will make the game unenjoyable for them, then they may not want to buy it. It allows me to save my friend some time and money. This is why the developers get into so much trouble when they start deleting reviews. They are violating the trust of the community. Secondly, they are tools for developers to learn how to make better games. One need not be a good developer to write a good review, but one absolutely must be a good critic to be a good developer. Being able to understand the failings of games is crucial to avoiding the usual pitfalls that make a game unplayable. Being able to understand why good games are good is essential to crafting one’s own good game.

What you should find (at least across my reviews) is that I talk about the components of a game and how I received them. Story, character, interface, map, combat, and anything else I can think of should all be mentioned in every single one of my reviews. Especially the more recent ones, as each review is “practice” and ideally I should improve as I write each review. While you’ll definitely find my opinions within the review (as I do write these to entertain and inform), my opinion is usually backed up by some kind of evidence. And this is why most positive reviews are useless.

Most positive reviews that I see on Steam are “Good game, enjoyed the story, nice work” or something to that effect. This is useless for purpose one, as no one knows why you enjoyed the story (and it is possible to express why without spoiling) and it’s useless to the developer because they don’t know what exactly it is that you liked. Maybe the author is trying to keep it short because people on the internet have the attention span of a goldfish, but you’re doing it wrong. Learning to write shorter reviews that cover the key components is difficult (and it’s something I’m practicing), but you still need to evaluate the game on its merits. Negative reviews don’t often have the same problem, as most people that review a game negatively complain about why they didn’t like the game. In these complaints, a negative review always offers advice on how to improve and also serve to help other buyers make an informed decision on whether they want to buy the game or not.

Positive reviews are also sometimes coloured by how much the user enjoyed the game. One of my recent reviews (at the time of writing) for Kingdom: New Lands likely falls under this category (but I did complain about stuff in it so eh?). This leads to the author sometimes overrating the game, instead of evaluating the game based on its merits.

When I buy games on Steam, I very rarely look at positive reviews. If I’m on the fence, I go straight down to the negative reviews and see what’s wrong with the game. I will still look at some positive reviews, but only the longer ones as these usually tell you the flaws within the game. I guess at the end of the day, what I’m saying is that short reviews with little to no explanation are useless, and positive reviews often fall into this category. When writing (or reading) a review, these short reviews should be avoided because they won’t help a buyer make a decision and they won’t help a developer on their next game.

Anyway, that’s my stitch. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Most Positive Reviews are Useless

How to Rate on a Scale of 1 to 10

Alright, I’ve been getting some criticism for my reviews, some people pointing out that other people say it’s good, so it’s good. While I don’t wish to negate the input of these other players (that rarely tell you ‘what’ exactly is good) I do want to point out that there’s a good chance that they’re reviewing your game incorrectly. So let’s talk about the 1-10 scale.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a scale utilized as poorly as 1-10. The reviewer is offered 10 options to choose from, which may be a bit cumbersome. So cumbersome in fact, that I think people completely disregard some of the scale to make it less cumbersome. If you happen to be a human reading this above the age of… let’s say 15 years-old, I want you to think of all of the people that you’ve rated based on attractiveness. More specifically, the ones you rated on a scale of 1-10. Ladies, you play along too, I know you rate guys. Now I want you to think of the distribution of those ratings. You probably have a lot of 7’s, 8’s, maybe a few 6’s and 3’s, with very few 1’s and 10’s. Those of you familiar with the Bell Curve will no doubt see the problem here, but I’ll explain it for those that don’t.

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This is the general shape of the Bell Curve. This one in particular is a normalized distribution, so it’s designed to show probabilities of an event occurring. And what we see here is that the greatest number of events should be rated 6. This is because 6 is the average between 1 and 10 (Actually 5.5 is but we’re rating using whole numbers so round up or round down. I choose to follow convention and round up). As the ratings deviate from the mean, we should see fewer and fewer uses of these ratings. So there should be more 3’s than 1’s and more 8’s than 10’s. If you’ve rated 100 people based on appearance, you should have very few 10’s. But I’m willing to bet that you have more than the appropriate number of 10’s and not enough 5’s or 6’s. Why is that? Let’s continue

The normal person will likely have a lot of 7’s in their rating database. I believe that when one asks themselves how attractive someone is on a scale of 1-10, they’ve unconsciously set 7 to be the mean. Movie was average? It’s a 6 or a 7. Since this close to the deviation from the mean, it actually produces okay results in ratings. However when it comes to terrible movies, it seems no one knows what to do. Is it a 3? Is it a 4? You’ll likely find that there are more 3’s and 4’s than there are 5’s, despite 5 being closer to the mean. And probably more 8’s than the two combined despite being aligned with 4 on the distribution.

Are you just seeing more terrible movies than slightly worse than average movies? Are you seeing more great movies than more terrible movies combined? That’s a distinct possibility. After all, who willingly watches a movie that they expect to be terrible? Who willingly plays a game that they expect to be terrible? But in that case, we should see a slightly shifted curve, rather than, well, a non-Bell Curve. If you look at seasonal anime ratings on MyAnimeList, you will see many 7’s and not nearly enough 5’s or 6’s. This is evidence of a shifted mean.

I’m not judging anyone for this behavior. I used to engage in this myself, particularly regarding anime and manga. But once I sat down and asked myself why I rated SAO a 6 and several of the Monogatari series in a similar range (5-7) I realized the problem. I thought back to the humans that I had rated based on appearance and saw a similar trend.

Bringing this back to what the problems with ratings, people seem to exclusively use a 3-10 scale instead of a 1-10 scale. The removal of 2 ratings might not seem significant but you’re talking about 20% of your rating scale not being used much at all. And then we need to remember that the lower ratings 3-5 are not used much at all. So you’ve pretty much turned the rating system into 6-10 with an average around 7, which actually lines up with general public nicely. If we turn it into a 1-4 system and equate 7 with 2, then 50% becomes the mean and that’s about what we want.

So I guess it’s not that you’re not producing a Bell Curve properly, it’s that you’re producing it for the wrong range of numbers. If you want to use a 1-10 scale, you need to USE the full scale. You can’t toss out 9’s and 10’s like candy because you felt something was phenomenal. You need to think about all of the games you’ve played up until now and see if it’s not really an 8. And don’t forget about the lower numbers. Don’t just hate a game or a movie and say, “Yep, that’s a 3”. Think about what you didn’t like and compare it against all of the others you’ve seen before.

At the end of the day, the method is up to you, but by adhering a bit more strongly to a 1-10 scale, you can make your ratings on the 1-10 scale be a bit more meaningful. I want to encourage you to really use the 1-10 scale and not the 6-10 scale. Anyway, thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

How to Rate on a Scale of 1 to 10