“Devil On My Shoulder” – Stray Little Devil (manga) – 5/10 Peeps

Mangaka: Kotaro Mori

Genre: Fantasy/Comedy/Action/Supernatural/Shoujo-ai

Review Status: Complete (5 Volumes/5 Volumes)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed by DrMaster Publications.

Art: It’s modern, it’s simple and unremarkable. But the characters do look pretty unique, and the clothes look pretty cool.

Summary: Meet Pam Akumachi, an energetic 13-year-old junior high student who has just turned into…a little devil! One day, when Pam and her friends try to summon the “benign devil”, the magic circle goes out of control and Pam is transported to a strange parallel world where angels and devils reside in an uneasy coexistence. Now Pan’s only means of returning home is to become a full-fledged devil. This is no easy task. The rules and precepts are so hard to follow, especially since Pan can’t read Devil Scripts. But first, Pam needs to claim a “familiar.” No devil worth her wings can go without one. (Back cover of 1st volume)

Review: This managed to grab me from the beginning with a solid, intriguing premise: that a magic circle goes wrong and a girl is drawn into a magical world, where the only way for her to stay safe is to be transformed into a devil, and then for her to be enrolled into a school to make a surefire devil out of her. But there’s a few catches: the mysterious stranger who greets her upon entry has no intention of telling her why, and humans are beings out of fairy tails…so how is she going to get home?

This decides to slam right into the Shoujo-ai right at that moment, with Pam confused about an Angel that looks just like her friend back home – a friend that we see for all of two panels, mind you – and desperately wants Linfa to acknowledge and recognize her, and never really gets it out of her head that she’s some sort of alternate spiritual whatever of her friend and that if she tries hard enough, she’ll get Linfa to remember her. This really forces the romance aspect, especially since we have NO idea how deeply she was in love with her friend (if she was in love with her), and it never seems to cross into the realm of realistic romance.

Thankfully, I wasn’t reading it for the romance, it was more for the friendship that Pam develops in the school for Devils. Most of this really revolves around school and that friendship is really well-developed. I adore how mixed reactions are to her – Raim instantly thinks she’s an utter ditz and will hold her back, while Vine is willing to help her out. They have such a dynamic relationship! None of it feels forced or awkward.

Unfortunately, these characters were really forced into a plot that is too ambitious for its length. It decides to hide the true plot for over three volumes, which leaves one and a half for a slammed-in story about how the spirit world is falling apart and how ~true love~ can save it. With minimal explanation for what’s happening and why it needs to happen, plus the forced romance, it really makes this feel silly and melodramatic.

Overall, these characters deserved a better story.

Recommended: 16+. There’s the shoujo-ai, and some fairly brutal injuries that are only briefly lingered on but are clearly gory.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

I really don’t have anything for you here. Sorry!

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“Come Fly With Me” – Hatoful Boyfriend (Visual Novel) – 10/10 Desks

Come live in my heart, and pay no rent. ~Samuel Lover

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Fantasy/Romance/School/Mystery/Horror

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: Yes, it’s licensed and available for download here. It does cost $5.

Art/Animation: The art looks great! While it’s mostly pictures of various birds, their human pics looks great and very professional, and the backgrounds are wonderfully rendered. The various transitions are done great – perfectly timed, appropriate for the situation – and all in all, I really have absolutely no complaints in this department.

Summary: You’re a new student – the human representative – at St. Pigeonation, a prestigious school for birds. You attend classes, fall in love with your fellow students, and as you unlock more options in the game, discover there’s more to the school and students than meets the eye.

Review: This is defintiely one of the most unique VNs I’ve come across. I mean, a dating sim with pigeons? How does that even work?! Shockingly enough, it does, and rather well. One thing that helped were the character pics that showed up – I liked having the human equivalent up there on screen to make is ever-so-slightly less odd. I mean, interspecies romance is more than a little strange, even in VNs. But somehow, this makes it work – all the characters are pretty unique and interesting (well, okay, they fill otome game stereotypes, but the various interactions and the interesting scenarios make it more memorable).

I’m fond of all the characters, from the wacky Okosan to the debonair Yuuya. And yes – each and every character you encounter has a possible romantic ending! Though for one character, it won’t be with you. Not all the character ends are available at the beginning; You need to play through the five classmates and teacher before you get more options. Just make sure you go through all the credits! When you get to the ending picture, it will load in your gallery and count as another step to unlocking the next part.

What really is the driving force in Hatoful Boyfriend is the plot. The more character endings you do, the more clues you get that the school isn’t all that it seems to be. Strange plots and sinister characters abound. Murder is the order of the day in some of them… and not always that of strangers. The unlockable chapters are the ones that can get outright freaky, but the highlight of it all is the BBL stage! That is where things are taken out of your character’s POV and you play as one of the other characters, and the whole secrecy and story behind the school comes out. It’s both awesome, terrifying, and one of the best stories I’ve played in VNs! Two thumbs up all the way! It was entirely unexpcted but a fantastic ending to a great game. And bittersweet, to boot. I thought just the right tone and dialogue really made this storyline.

Overall, it’s a strange premise, but a wonderfully great play.

Recommended: Uh, we’re going to go with 16+. While you never *see* any of the terrible, gruesome things described, it can be pretty bad. Your character can be (is) killed in a few options. And you have t go through them to get to the BBL ending.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Honestly, this is so unique I just can’t put anything here. It’s a great VN! Check it out!

“A Sword In My Hand” – Fate/Zero, Season 2 (anime) – 8/10 Desks

Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Drama

Review Status: Complete (12 Episodes/12 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed and available for free viwing on Crunchyroll.

Art/Animation: Just as fantastic as the first season.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub for this anime.

Summary: The Third Holy Grail War reaches its final conclusion.

Review: This started off right where Season 1 ended; a brutal battle between Castor and a few of the other servants. Covering from there to the end (and a little beyond) of the 3rd Holy Grail War, Season 2 was underwhelming and really showed TYPE-MOON’s propensity to tie properties in with each other in ways that really make it necessary to see them all in order to understand what’s going on. Let me say from the beginning: if you haven’t seen Fate/Stay Night or played the VN, then you will not understand the importance or meaning behind much of what happens and the relationships that are forged and broken within the final two episodes.

Flash-forwards give brief glimpses of important events that, for the casual viewer, will mean nothing or be outright confusing. Part of this is because it’s an origin story that’s airing after the main story. Part of this is because it’s an origin story that really does tie into the main one quite well. Or so I hear–I haven’t seen or read Fate/Stay Night myself, and that does affect how I took in the anime.

Don’t get me wrong–the first half is perfectly wonderful and understandable, full of tense moments, action, and interesting characters. Thankfully, I have more reason than this superficial issue to be less than impressed with the second half. The set-up for this was an epic battle, a daunting foe, a world in very real danger. I could recall that tension from the moment I saw the first episode of this season. Unfortunately, the ending to it was surprisingly anti-climactic. The creators realized they had to wrap things up and get to what this was all about: the decisions that shaped Kiritsugu into who he is in Fate/Stay Night.

That story is absolutely heartbreaking, bringing a lot of depth and sympathy that I really didn’t have for Kiritsugu in the first half. I had a lot of mixed emotions about him, because I certainly didn’t like him as a person but couldn’t reconcile how he came off with the strong, upright morals he had for wanting desperately to save people. The flashback episode really brought the world that they live in to life in many ways, how the magical community acts (and interacts) with those without magic, what people will do to protect themselves, and brought out a few very interesting factions within the magical community that play into the story at large. The exact events that changed him are shocking…but really work for him. He’s a very dynamic character, and seeing the seeds of his childhood catch up is interesting, and tragic in some of the most amazing ways. I really felt for him but at the same time, because he was so warped from his experiences, he remained a distant character until the end.

Fate/Zero weaves in these two episodes among the rest that go from overt action to covert double-dealing. Back-door alliances turn to betrayals as the competitors show their true colors and become even more desperate to win the Grail as the clock ticks down. Rider–my favorite character of them all–and his master are the only ones that are truly untouched by the deception, since they had no ties to any of the others to begin with, and go to meet the others on the field of battle on their own terms. Some candidates are killed off by the deaths of the Masters, others by the deaths of the Servants. Battles chip away at each other’s strength, and they then take advantage of those, and while those fights never reach the sheer intensity of the Castor fight of the first season, they are nonetheless wonderful to watch. However, halfway through this there was almost no question of who would actually be facing off against each other for the Grail when the time came.

Things don’t tie up entirely. The last two episodes were the most intense, action-wise, as the vast majority of characters were killed off, but small details–like what happened to the grail at the end, the meaning of the knife, etc–are clearly things that are important but it’s unclear why because, as mentioned earlier, they are Fate/Stay night references. It leaves off at a good point, though, and would be an easy jump to make to understand the sequel. Even though I myself am not able to really understand it, I’m sure that when I get around to being able to play the VN, it will all become clear.

Overall, for the most part this was very well-crafted, with great action, interesting characters, and a story that is fascinating. It does have its downside, but if you’re a fan of the series and are familiar with the other titles, then this will not disappoint.

Recommended: 16+. This doesn’t have the implications of absolutely brutal violence that the first season had, yet it still has the blood and death that are a hallmark of a dog-eats-dog competition. The worst is when one man’s veins bulge due to high blood pressure and he begins squirting blood from his veins. Most of it isn’t that graphic or disturbing.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Fate/Zero Season 1 (anime)

Fate/Stay Night (anime or visual novel)

Kara no Kyoukai (anime)

 

“A Star Above Me” – The Star of Cottonland (Anime) – 9/10 Sunflowers

Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.  ~Albert Einstein

Genre: Slice-of-Life/Fantasy

Review Status: Complete (1 Movie/1 Movie)

Licensed: No, this anime is unlicensed in the US.

Art/Animation: This does look it’s age a bit, with character designs that are more 90’s than anything, but the animation is just fine

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub.

Summary: A kitten is picked up by a young man, and she lives daily life in wonder and love of her new family.

Review: Chi’s Sweet Home, move over! This takes a different, more fantastical look at a cat trying to find a home and family than Chi’s does, but is no less heartwarming or sweet. We see the world through Chibi-neko’s eyes, and to her cats look like smaller versions of people, which makes her think that when she gets older she’ll turn into a human and gives her slightly romantic feelings to the man who takes her in and brings up some interesting conflict in the family she’s adopted into – the son, who’s looking for something to really live for, and his mother, who’s both allergic to and afraid of cats.

This really knows how to tug at your heartstrings from the very beginning, where Chibi-neko is starving, but no one can take her in or even realizes how hungry she is. She’s saved by a boy that has been through troubles that have taken all the fight and spirit out of him. Chibi-neko gives him that, which makes his mother willing to tolerate the cat – wanting to tolerate the cat, even going so far as to beg her husband to let it stay – but unable to love the cat herself.

Chibi-neko’s life becomes full of everyday adventures, from going to the park, to meeting other cats, to shennanigans in trying to become human. It’s charming, low-key, and sometimes outright laugh-out-loud worthy! But things can’t stay the same forever. She still remembers her old owners, and the attention and affection of her owner is taken by a lovely young lady. To boot, a mysterious Persian cat is being pursued by a local cat collector, and that Persian wants her to go away with him and travel Japan. A mix of conflicted feelings over her owner’s new girlfriend and a desire to know who she is leads her on an adventure to find Persia, and in turn, herself. She finally comes to peace with the fact that she’ll never be human, and becomes content over her life. And in turn, the turmoil in the home comes to a head – and one of the most touching scenes happens between Chibi-neko and the mother.

The dark part to this stoy is that mortality is dealt with in order to show her how misguided her feelings toward her owner. The mysterious Persian shows her the dessicated corpse of another cat to show her what happens to cats when they get old enough. She is brought into a confrontation over her own desires to be with her family – how she can be with her family – and later, the Persian disappears (dies. It’s pretty firmly given that he’s dead though it’s never stated). But even though it’s direct and blunt about this, it isn’t done in a gruesome or obnoxious way. It’s very sensitive to how shocking and terrifying facing mortality can be, and there is comfort found later in the series.

Overall, this is an adorable but rather deep story of a cat finding herself.

Recommended: 10+. There is a minor scene where Chibi-neko is taken to see the dessicated corpse of another cat, but it’s not a graphic, gorey scene though it could make younger viewers anxious. There’s another scene where she’s gotten out of the house and doesn’t know where to go to the bathroom, and she’s directed to a nearby bush. This is not poop-joke fodder, nor do you see her going or anything like that – it’s simply taken as a fact of life. Some parents might also be put off by how an older cat takes an interest in Chibi-neko when she looks like a child, but it does bear in mind that animals age differently than humans, and you see the difference between her (at 2 months) and another cat who’s 5 months old, and he clearly is a teen verging on adulthood. She’d age similarly quickly, and it’s made clear the older cat is interested in her as an adult.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Chi’s Sweet Home (anime and manga)

“Lost In The Forest” – Spero: The Forest Dwellers (Visual Novel) – 7/10 Sunflowers

A virgin forest is where the hand of man has never set foot. ~ Author Unknown

Genre: Fantasy/Action

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: This is available for free download on Ren’Py

Art/Animation: The art is decent, nothing spectacular but nicer than some of the other VNs I’ve played. It looks like it was done in Paint (though far more skillfully than anything I could do).

Summary: The forest has been sealed for ten years, but one day, one of the forest dwellers discovers a young boy within the gates. A dark creature is after him, and she must protect him and restore him to his home.

Review: This is a very short chapter in what looks like a far more expansive story. It’s short, with only 3 endings (good, bad, and true), and is a little rough around the edges. Some of the dialogue and writing needs clean-up and a proofreader. I winced more than once at the punctuation. At the same time it does some nice things with the dialogue choices – depending on what you choose you might end up unlocking some new things to talk about!

When I say that the story is far more expansive than what we have here, I mean that the background given on the characters and situation is spare and blatantly clues you in that there’s a larger story going on. The True ending also implies that the main character has a hidden background that is important to the kingdom, and leaves off on a bit of a cliffhanger about it. It gives the impression that it will be continued in a later VN, but so far there’s no sign of one.

But what is here is fairly standard for a fantasy. There’s a lost prince, a deadly danger, and someone who’s called on to protect the boy. I like how it does a few things differently than a typical fantasy, like the main character is a female warrior, but it’s no big deal; it’s just part of who she is and what she does. I would have loved to see more of this world fleshed-out, because this is very bare-bones; you get to the main quest right away and it takes maybe five minutes to finish the whole thing. There’s a lot of playability to try and get the different endings, but without more reasons to care about the characters I’m not feeling as entertained as I really want to. When I have to ask ‘so what’ about saving someone, it’s not a good sign.

Overall,  it’s still a solid VN. I definitely appreciate the groundworks for the story being told, and while it’s not perfect, it’s entertaining enough where I’m looking for more!

Recommended: 10+. This is a fairly standard fantasy title, and the ‘bad end’ isn’t violent or gruesome.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Seirei no Moribito (anime)

12 Kingdoms (anime)

“Tree-hugger” – KissWood (manhwa) – 10/10 Sunflowers

“Can’t see the forest for the trees.” ~ Anonymous

Mangaka: Ahn Sung Ho

Genre: Adventure/Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Review Status: Complete (3 volumes/3 Volumes)

Licensed: No, this manga is unlicensed in the US.

Art: Wonderful. The characters are all distinctive, it’s all in color (brilliant colors!), and I simply can’t find any faults here.

Summary: After losing his job as a city gardener, the main character only seems to  care about one thing, his home garden full of rare plants.  But when a mysterious man burns down his garden and home, the protagonist barely manages to escape alive.  When he wakes up in the hospital, he learns he has lost his eyesight.  With nothing left, the man just lies in the hospital bed with seemingly no hope left, until the sudden regaining of his eyesight causes him to realise he has been transported to a strange new world covered in a mystical forest. (MAL.net)

Review: The movie Avatar was an interesting one (take it or leave it as you will). I adored the interesting world that it presented, where there were some fantastical creatures and interesting technology that it had. While my initial comparison to Avatar might turn off those who weren’t that fond of the environmentalist blue cats, KissWood manages a solid take on the environmental fantasy story with an overarching story about needing to connect to others.

Ajussi is a man who’s lost his entire family except his niece, who’s frustrated by the love he gives his plants and how out of place they are in the city they inhabit. She leaves, and he finds himself the sole inhabitant of his garden. So when he finds himself in a world soley consisting of trees, he has to make a decision: will he make his home here, where the trees and plants seem to protect him, or will his conciousness find its way back home? His decision at first seems soley motivated by the fact that this world isn’t the paradise one would expect – it’s ruled by Mua, a girl that seeks to punish those who’ve found there way to this world, and has them killed with no flicker of a concience. At her bidding is the butterfly of the forest, who tries to help Ajussi however she can.

Along the way, Ajussi collects two companions who also have their own reasons for wanting to escape the forest – a boy, who’s reason for leaving is the same as his own, and a man who fears he has no one waiting on the other side. To escape the forest they need to go to the heart of Mua’s kingdom, but with her power over the forest the way is perilous.

His skill and love for plants plays a key role in what happens to the adventurers, and the reasons why he’s there are as surprising as they are touching in his need to get back. Mua in turn becomes a character of depth as she deals with the butterfly’s treachery and the bonds that tie them. Loneliness and love become a unifying theme. I couldn’t help but tear up at a few places because of how emotional and wonderful the story was.

Overall, this is a top-notch fantasy adventure, and no matter if you were frustrated by Avatar or loved it, you should check this out!

Recommended: 13+. Three people are killed off-page, and there are two minor swears in it.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Origin: Spirits of the Past (anime)

King of Thorn (manga)

Earth Maiden Arjuna (anime)

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (anime)

Princess Mononoke (anime)

A Tree of Palme (anime)

“Rockin’ The Heavens” – Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (anime) – 8/10 Sunflowers

Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy/Adventure/Action

Review Status: Complete (1 Movie/1 Movie)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US.

Art/Animation: The art is a little dated, recalling the days of retro sci-fi character designs with elongated limbs and big, wavy hair. Sometimes there seems to be an art change for short segments of the movie. It has some great animation, though, very fluid.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub. There is no sub, for that matter – this is a story entirely told through music and the pictures, much like Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron. If you don’t like Daft Punk, then you probably won’t like this. Though even if you are a fan, if you’re sensitive to repetitive sounds like I am, then there are segments which will drive you up the wall because of the one or two stanzas that are repeated for a long while to get through the scene.

Summary: An evil music producer has had his eye on an alien band for a while, and finally kidnapps them to fulfill his nefarious schemes of destroying the world. A lone starship operator is called upon to save them.

Review: This is one of those anime that I have to double-check the date on, because it just screams 80’s, with all the cheese and hair and rock ‘n roll that means! Interstella just goes with it, creating a prolongued music video for Daft Punk that isn’t half bad when you get over the sheer stupidity of certain things.

For the most part, this is 80’s awesome. The music is pretty good (minus it being super-repetitive in some scenes. The opening had that song dragged out FAR too long, for instance). The premise, while a bit lame, has it’s moments of amazing – I loved it when they transformed the aliens into humans. The adorableness of the pilot’s crush on the girl in the band was fantastic. The ploy to destroy their mind-control devices was super-dramatic and classic.

But… and there is always a but with these sorts of things!… this really went off the boat when it decided to try and tell the story of why the manager was trying to destroy the world. It was stupid and nonsensical, and how he was trying to destroy the world even moreso! Actually, I was willing to go with the world-destroying-plan because of how 80’s rock movies work, but the manager’s backstory just made it seem even more ridiculous than it was and completely broke the mood.

Even so, there was a lot more great here than bad, and I was charmed and excited by a lot of the movie.

Overall, if you’re not a fan of music videos, you can skip this – otherwise I’d totally go for it!

Recommended: 10+. If they’re watching Star Wars, they can handle this! There’s nothing that’s particularly scandelous or shocking here.

Other titles you might enjoy:

I’ve got nothing. There really aren’t any other music video anime out there. However, if you’re into music and anime, then check out

Beck (manga)

Nana (anime and manga)

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