Accel World


The technologically advanced world of 2046 is the setting for this 24-episode series. Most people at this time use Neuro-Linkers to access the Internet, interact online and explore virtual and augmented worlds. This neuro-linker is worn like a collar and can interact with the brain.

Hardcore gamer Arita Haruyuki uses this technology constantly to get away from his miserable life at Umesato Junior High School despite having good friends like Mayuzumi Takumu and Kurashima Chiyuri. Fat, short and timid, Haru is a target for bullies. In one of his bad days, he plays squash where he has always dominated the scoreboards. Unfortunately, even in that game someone finally bested him. The intruder Kuroyukihime was impressed by Haru's abilities and wants to be friends with him. His complete opposite, Kuroyukihime is good-looking and famous which only made Haru more suspicious of her intentions.





The next day after their first meeting, Kuroyukihime asks Haru to cable with her and to try installing a program called Brain Burst. Haru soon learns that the program enables the user to temporarily freeze time by accelerating the brainwaves. Moreover, Brain Burst is also a fighting game where Burst Linkers duel for Burst Points so they can keep using acceleration. Losing all the burst points however automatically uninstalls the program, an event most of the burst linkers fear.

Haru's avatar, called Silver Crow, reflects his subconsciousness. His desires, fears and frustrations show in his virtual features and abilities. Being a gamer, it was easy for Haru to understand the mechanics of the game. Soon enough, his popularity grew and he became good friends with Kuroyukihime. Their goal now is to reach level 10, defeat the Six Kings of Color, and discover the meaning and purpose of Brain Burst. The six kings are the only extant players who have reached level 9. They were in a stalemate when they decided to set a truce preventing each other from attacking the rest to gain burst points. This peace was broken by Black Lotus who is now hunted by other burst linkers.




In this background, Haru's mettle will be tested. Not only has he to deal with foes but with friends and himself. Burst Link may be just a game but for hardcore burst linkers like them, fighting for survival and domination is like a fight for life.  




The lead character Haru is an unusual protagonist because of his appearance. Moreover he is cowardly, shy and constant victim of bullies. As expected the lead female Kuroyukihime has the opposite qualities. A typical but effective pair for a series about a game and the gamers. I saw several brilliant moments in the 24 episodes whenever Haru spoke from the point of view of a gamer. Games as an escape for reality is true for most people with Haru's background and personality. Although I am not a fan of escapism, gaming is a good venue to redeem oneself, make friends and strengthen real-world friendships. As a gamer, I appreciate all the details they put into the action scenes, the tension caused by the struggles to dominate, and the mentality of the burst linkers. The serious dedication of the players is almost reminiscent of the nearly-foolish but awesome people who label themselves hardcore (some even die playing). After all, the joy in playing games is in losing oneself in all the action and fun.

Action scenes abound. I like how the setting is taken into account in every fight. There are also a lot of details put into the history, appearance and function of the armor, weapons and other abilities of the players --- making it a more convincing series about a game than Sword Art Online. The good animation also justified what the series wanted to deliver.

The romance part was only hinted at but not pursued. Fanservice is also present; a feature that could have been omitted if you ask me.

The ending leaves enough room for a sequel if there's any, but is also good enough for a cliffhanger conclusion to the mystery of the Brain Burst if one observes the growth of the lead character.

There are also some things hinted at in the series. One of those I've noticed is the use of the neuro-linker. It is a collar which seems to imply that a technologically advanced society makes slaves out of the people. If games and virtual reality were a reflection of people's happiness and pain, then I do not think an advanced society is any different from the primitive. After all, only our methods of interacting, loving or harming others will change but not ourselves.


Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Sword Art Online



This 25-episode series about virtual gaming and it effects to the players. It is divided into two arcs. The first arc (episodes 1 to 14) is set in Sword Art Online, tagged the first virtual game world. Players have to go through one hundred floors of the Aincrad Castle to beat the game. However, the game has a catch. If a player fails to survive a fight, both his virtual and real bodies die. Moreover, once the game starts, no one is allowed to log out until someone reaches the last boss.

Meanwhile, the second arc (episodes 15 to 25) is set in Alfheim Online. It's similar to SAO but players can log out and no one will die if the characters is defeated. In this game, players are divided into different elf races. The ultimate goal is to reach the top of the World Tree.


Kirito


At the start of the series, a gaming system called Nerve Gear is introduced. Players need to put on a head gear to access the game and control their character's actions; quite different from the usual console, PC and handheld platforms used for gaming. SAO is a role-playing game, therefore players have to have enough points to level up and defeat the level boss(es) to move on.

SAO creator Kayaba Akihiko announced at the start of the game that the only way to escape the virtual world is to reach and survive the last level. One of these players is Kirigaya Kazuto who uses the screen name Kirito. Being one of the beta-testers, he was a step ahead from most players because he knew how the game works and is familiar of most of the opponents in the lower levels. Soon enough Kirito becomes one of the front-liners clearing the levels for the other players. His skill as a solo player earned him the nickname Black Swordsman.

It was in one of the boss battles where he met Yuuki Asuna, or Asuna. A member of the Knights of the Blood Oath guild, she is known for her fighting skills. Kirito and Asuna start to work together more often and grow more attached as friends and fellow fighters even at the cost of abandoning her guild.


Asuna

Despite their skills and experience however, there still remains the challenge of actually getting to the last boss to clear the game. Whatever awaits them at the top of Aincrad castle and what happens after they beat SAO will be up to Kirito, Asuna, and the other players --- both the allies and foes.


Kirito and Asuna in one of their emotional moments together

The pace and character development was consistent until the second arc. From then on, the series spiraled into a romance story reminiscent of the tale of a princess locked in a tower (in this case a virtual prison) awaiting for her prince's arrival. 

The prospect of a series based on a virtual game seemed promising but the plot is weak when I found out in the first episode that it was going to be another survival story. The characters are thrown together into a place where everyone has to fight their way back to freedom and a mistake could cost you your life. From then, the sequence of events was easy to predict (for me at least). I already anticipated alliances, jealousy from among factions, foes masquerading as allies, and romance between a strong male warrior and a beautiful, popular and skilled female.

Even the character types are not new. Kirito is the timid but talented character while Asuna complements him with her cheerful and hopeful approach at beating the game.

Gamers might appreciate the series but the story isn't just about the game at all. If anything, there's so little about the game and instead it explores how people deal with mortal challenges psychologically and emotionally; SAO is more about self-exploration, realization and the growth of the gamers involved.

I expected that the fight scenes would be the highlight of the series. Most were just okay. There are some inconsistencies if you compare it to actual games. If willpower alone can win boss fights, then we would not need to seek for weapon and armor upgrades and level up to finish games. Then again, the game is unlike anything the world has seen before. On the other hand, the animation is fine. I liked the landscapes in particular.

The first episode alone was a let-down for me. I tried looking for some redeeming qualities of the series in the next episodes but the second arc totally ruined it for me. The first half was not so bad at all but overall Sword Art Online is mediocre at best.


Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Brothers Conflict



Hinata Ema becomes a stepsister of thirteen boys of the Asahina family when her father decided to remarry. She moves in to the family's apartment complex and found it was easy to get along with her new brothers. Being the only child of Hinata Rintaro who always traveled, she found this an opportunity to finally have a real family. However her pet squirrel Juli thinks she has to be careful around the boys because they might try to do something to her.

Her 13 stepbrothers are the ff.: doctor and eldest Asahina Masaomi; lawyer Ukyo who is also the family cook; monk Kaname who took a liking to her the first time she came to the apartment; novelist Hikaru who loves to cross-dress and tease his brothers about their feelings for Ema; triplets Tsubaki, Azusa, and Natsume who are the most expressive of their feelings for Ema; gentle hairdresser Louis who joined Juli in looking after Ema; talented athlete Subaru; mysterious Iori who gives Ema flowers to make her feel better; Yusuke, Ema schoolmate who has a crush on her even before she became a stepsister; popular idol Futo who loves to tease Ema; and the youngest Wataru.

This series with 12 episodes (and 1 OVA) shows how Ema has captured the heart of her stepbrothers. Foremost are the triplets, who soon enough started heated arguments over her. In the end it will be up to Ema to prove to them that all she wants is a family she can be part of.


Juli and Ema

The first words that came to mind when Ema moved into the Asahina's apartment complex was 'here we go again.' It is too convenient to live in separate rooms but still together under the same roof with 13 boys minus the parents. Seems also a bit unrealistic to have such a huge family without the mom looking after them even if the youngest Wataru is still 10. Of course there's bound be trouble with all the manly hormones. It's also unrealistic that almost everyone would fall for Ema the first time they see her, but I guess that's how it goes for most reverse harem genre. 

The series has nothing new to offer. It follows the same pattern of story which goes: girl has to live with the boy(s) or is forced to pair up with the boy(s); the boy(s) or girl or both of them start liking each other; some conflict from another party begins; then finally girl has to make a choice. In this series however there are a lot of choices. There's a type of boy for every girl's fantasy and preference. Their relationship is also different because Ema is a family member.


Ema with her stepbrothers

There is some attempt at characterization mostly on the triplets, whose relationship with Ema has more progress than their other brothers'. Most of the brothers have a story to tell but the others are left out and rarely get some time with Ema.

The animation is fine. The characters have doll-like eyes that suit most personalities. Both opening and ending themes are not so bad as well. The ending theme in particular is sung by the 13 brothers and Juli and has a nice tune.

The series has a typical story and the usual but numerous choices of romantic partners. If you're into this genre however, I think you'll find most of the stuff you're looking for.


Rating: 6 out of 10

K



Isana Yashiro finds himself a target for various people when he was mistakenly identified the murderer of Totsuka Tatara, a member of the group Homra. Apparently a video evidence shows Yashiro talking to Totsuka moments before the latter's death. Soon enough Ashinaka High School becomes a battle stage for the people after Yashiro and a power struggle among clans. 




Yashiro insists that he is not the man in the video but he had difficulty proving that even to the Black Hound Yatagami Kuroh who is hunting down the next Colorless King. However, Yashiro and Kuroh later form a team with Neko to escape the pursuers.

From left: Yatagami Kuroh, Isana Yashiro and Neko

Set in the futuristic Shizume City, this 13-episode series follows moments of Yashiro's life after the accusation and the different stories of the clans led by kings who are designated seven colors. These clans have members with psychic powers, the strongest are called kings. The rich animation shows the fight scenes of powerful clan members using various modes of fighting. The series is also full of diverse characters and has an interesting history of the struggle of the kings of different colors.


Homra

Scepter 4

Besides the animation and fight scenes, there is not much to look forward to in the series. There is a lot of emphasis on the background story and too many characters to take note of that there is a tendency to drown the viewers in too much information. A little mystery is good but there's just too many things to remember in so short a series. The pace is slow as well for a series that could have been interesting if done well.

Some viewers might not like Neko because she's running around naked most of the time. Other than that, the rest of the characters are not too bad especially after watching them fight.  Most are interesting at first glance but forgettable.

K has great animation, a promising story and yet it did not turn out as well as I expected. The story seemed weak after a couple of episodes and some characters are easy to forget. I do not even remember most of what happened in the series after I was done.


Rating: 6 out of 10

Monochrome Factor


Nikaido Akira is a carefree high school student who enjoys cutting classes, sports and yet manages to still be one of the top students in school. When he met an entity from the shadow world, his normal high school life changed when he was forced to become a shin and pair up with Shirogane to restore balance in the world. Whatever nonsense Shirogane has been telling him about the shadow world is no joke at all, as he soon learns when he had his first fight. Akira's role in the struggle takes on a different meaning however when he finds out that he has more at stake than his easy life and his friends.

This 24-episode series follows the adventures of Shirogane, Akira and his friends as they explore the secrets of and fight the creatures from the shadow world. 


(Left) Shirogane and (right) Akira

From left: Master, Suzuno Aya, Kujo Haruka, Nikaido Akira, Shirogane, and Asamura Kengo

The magic or weapons used by the characters mostly come from Shirogane. Akira's transformation was also possible through that person from the shadow world. That in itself is interesting because of the diversity of their abilities, but the battles usually end up in draws. There is also no resolution towards the end of the series, only more revelations and promises of fights. There were too many opportunities for some awesome showdowns but none were done satisfyingly. The animation is weak as well. 

The typical good versus evil plot is not new although the twist put a little spark in the otherwise boring, episodic series. That little twist was a bit late to salvage the story however. 

The attempt at humor is also typical and not the type I appreciate very well. Kengo almost always ends up the receiver of jokes and is a "punching bag" for the lead character.

Akira also isn't so different from lead characters of  most series set in a high school environment. He's good-looking, popular, and a bit of a rebel. His opposite Shirogane on the other hand is powerful, mysterious and loyal to him almost to the point of obsession. From there we can easily assume that there will be a bit of romance between the two. The reasons for Akira and Shirogane's pairing up isn't new as well. Akira is forced to fight a battle he doesn't know yet and has to rely on Shirogane for protection. He is a destined hero about to end a long war and was picked not because of his abilities but because of his blood.

The series has some good moments and fans of the supernatural/horror genre might appreciate some of the fights, but overall the story is weak and predictable.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Kuroko no Basket Season 2



After Seirin High's loss to Touou Academy in the inter-high school tournament, Kuroko Tetsuya and Kagami Taiga vowed to get better for the upcoming Winter Cup. Despite the talent of the freshmen, Seirin is still obviously far from being a match against the other teams; although their threat has been taken seriously. With the arrival of Kiyoshi Teppei, Seirin now has an experienced and cool-headed leader to compliment the hot-headed Kagami and lack of offensive and defensive abilities of the rest of the team. 


Seirin's new lineup for season two

Still, Seirin now has to face more talented teams with new players, some of whom are from the Generation of Miracles and the Uncrowned Kings, the latter talented players overshadowed by the former. One of those is Hanamiya Makoto who plays for Kirisaki Daichi High and is notorious for his "dirty tricks" that sends other teams' best players to the bench, or worse to the hospital. Seirin has to surpass Kirisaki Daichi later in the series.


Shutoku

The more pressing concern however is the anticipated match between Seirin and Yosen High. Both Kuroko and Kagami have old friends playing for that team. They met Murasakibara Atsushi and Himuro Tatsuya at a streetball tournament in the first episode of this series. Murasakibara's height and dominating presence on the court would be a great challenge to hurdle. While Himuro's Mirage Shot and fakes are not easy defend. Himuro was a close friend of Kagami and the person who introduced him to basketball. They lost contact when Himuro distanced himself from Kagami when he saw the latter had surpassed him. Murasakibara is from the Generation of Miracles.


Kirisaki Daichi

If Seirin wants to overcome the old and new opponents, they have to improve individually as well. Both Kuroko and Kagami have let some people have a glimpse of their new techniques but would those be enough to defeat Shutoku, Kirisaki Daichi, Touou, and Yosen? 


Touou

This 25-episode series is a journey of redemption and growth for Seirin High. Compared to the first season the pace is slower, hence allowing more focus on each match, the players' techniques, and character development. The focus also is not only on the best players, the Generation of Miracles and Kagami, anymore. Finally Kuroko's teammates, Hyuga and Teppei get some share of the spotlight. After all, basketball is a team sport. Without the other players---and their history, personalities and skills---there is no strong foundation from which Seirin's goal is built. In season one, I can hardly remember the names of the other players. Now most of the supporting cast are easier to recall. 

More complications were given to Kuroko when he finally hit a wall. In the first season it was made clear that he is not physically gifted nor naturally talented. His current abilities could be said are at its limit. What he will do to make up for his lack of contribution to the team's offense is something to look forward to. Moreover, the other players also have to come up with new techniques. Most of their opponents have already studied their moves and made up possible strategies to challenge them. Like most sports anime, exaggeration is the key. Players have nearly superhuman techniques and the best ones get better every time. The matches are of course slower than the ones we see on a real basketball game to allow the viewers to experience the tension on the court and to listen to analyses by those at the bleachers.


Yosen

I thought season one already had great art, but season two has topped even that. The animation especially during the matches are rich and fluid. Even the opening and ending themes are interesting to watch. The two opening themes, like season one, are performed by GRANRODEO. If you liked Himuro Tatsuya, you'd be interested to know that his voice actor is the vocalist of the band. Kuroko's voice actor also performed one of the ending songs.

At this point, I do not have problems at all if it follows the usual pattern of most series of the sports genre. Each new opponent seems stronger than the last and the stakes are higher with every game; then the lead characters need to lift the team alone if need be when faced with impossible opponents; the new players give the team some hope; and finally, the goal would be to become the best in Japan and win in the nationals.

I do not recommend this as a stand-alone series because most of the players have already been introduced in the first season. Trying to remember everyone at this point would only be confusing. For those who loved season one however, this sequel will not disappoint. If you think season one was good, season two is even better. Viewers who don't mind a bit of fanservice will get some of that as well.

Rating: 10 out of 10

77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz


The Pendleton has a dark history of murders, suicides, and mysterious disappearances but for its current residents it was a beautiful home and a refuge from their past. A series of bizarre events however turned this sanctuary into a trap. 

2011 marks the 38th year since the last gruesome event at Pendleton. The original owner Andrew North Pendleton was not its first victim. The mysterious events go back in time even before the construction of the mansion in 1880s, according to Witness, a lingering presence whose motives are still yet unknown. 

The current residents of the apartments at Pendleton experience strange events like elevators going down 30 floors below, TV screens announcing extermination of the residents, and people wearing clothes from another era walking the hallways and then disappearing. The story is told from individual points of view of the characters including Witness and an omnipotent entity who calls itself the One. Things worsen as some residents see shadows moving and then one of the occupants goes off killing people.

Whatever happened to people who lived in the Pendleton in the past must be happening again. Maybe they will experience for themselves the forces that drove people to commit murder and suicide, but with a price. What they were about to discover was something beyond their human power to stop and all they could do is survive through it alive and sane.




If the Pendleton's history didn't creep you out, the things that its current residents have discovered and are about to experience will. The idea of an awful, unstoppable force is terrifying. What's more, the residents cannot do anything about it but ride through all the changes and try to survive. The background and buildup of tension is consistent throughout the book. There is a sense of helplessness despite the wealth, power and prestige of the residents; both the kindhearted and corrupt people were not spared. From start to finish I was always afraid I might discover something more frightening than the last. I did not even have any idea how the residents might survive all the events especially when some things started hunting them down. And when I thought I read all the horrifying details, Koontz adds more as the residents discover what awaits them below the Pendleton near the end of the book.

The ending was unexpected and almost anticlimactic however. It was completely different  from what I was expecting and yet that must be the only way to end it;  for what choice do the residents have against such forces? After all, the antagonist here isn't something they can send to jail or stab to death like those from other Koontz books. I wanted more confrontations and casualties as well, but some small twists and the appearance of unlikely allies made up for the lack in action.

The book definitely had more than a little influence of Lovecraft in it, but Koontz showed that he is still good at what he does. It has been a while since he last wrote a horror novel and 77 Shadow Street* was not a disappointment.

Rating: 9 out of 10

*This edition contains the short story Moonlit Mind about events from across Pendleton which provides a sinister backdrop to events at the apartments.



Although ST☆RISH had a successful debut as a group and Haruka Nanami as a composer, they still have daunting tasks ahead of them. One of the challenges for ST☆RISH is to be able to stand on the same level and compete with other singing groups like them. While Haruka has to make more songs as quickly as possible. One sure way of getting to the top according to Shining Saotome was winning the UtaPri Award. The members have to get as much exposure and positive feedback both as individual performers and as a group before the awards night. To help them with the new tasks, they need to take the Master Course and learn from their seniors, the QUARTET NIGHT. The rest they have to do themselves. It could be stage appearances, advertisements or movies.


QUARTET NIGHT

ST☆RISH with Cecil (middle) and Haruka

The biggest challenge for them however is a mysterious guy named Aijima Cecil. The rest of ST☆RISH was annoyed when they found out that Cecil and Haruka have met before. Cecil was more than happy to claim that Haruka is his beloved princess and that he was responsible for giving Haruka the idea to form ST☆RISH instead of choosing one from among the six. No matter how much they want to get rid of Cecil though, he's always around to help and sometimes to annoy Syo, Natsuki, Tokiya, Otoya, Masato, and Ren. Perhaps Cecil also holds the key to achieving the UtaPri Award against the more favored upcoming group  HE★VENS.


HE★VENS

Like the first season of the series, there are episodes dedicated to each ST☆RISH member. Each of them also have individual songs composed by Haruka. The humor has improved and is easy to appreciate in part because the characters are already familiar to the viewers (that's if you've watched Uta no☆Prince-sama♪ Maji Love 1000%).

There is more focus on romance than in season one. The boys all had different reasons for liking Haruka and season two has done a better job explaining why. Some of them might have liked her at first sight but I like how the series showed the growth of Haruka's friendship with the boys.The flow of the story is better because there is no need for introductions, only follow-ups of the previous individual stories. Cecil was introduced in the previous installment so they only thing left to do is how to make him a part of the group. As expected there were conflicts but soon enough his inclusion to the group was done smoothly.

Although at another school-like setting (Master Course) and in a cliche environment where the girl lives under the same roof with the boys, a one-on-one battle with another group is a more interesting twist than in the previous season. The method might be predictable, but there's no better way to test ST☆RISH's power than a contest with another singing group like them. 

Like season one, the songs are the best part of this series. They not only spoke of ST☆RISH's love for Haruka but of themselves as well, what better way to get to know the characters better than by their music. The songs from season one were fantastic so I expected that season two would be better. I was not disappointed at all. Add to that the beautiful animation and some new characters, this 13-episode series is oozing with romance, manliness, and surely wouldn't be out of tune for those who loved Uta no☆Prince-sama♪ Maji Love 1000%.


From left: Syo, Natsuki, Cecil, Tokiya, Otoya, Masato, Ren


Rating: 9 out of 10

Cuticle Tantei Inaba




The half human-half wolf detective Inaba Hiroshi is famous for solving cases by tasting people's hair. He has a private detective agency with two assistants and sometimes works with his former partner, Inspector Ogino Kuniharu. He quit his detective work with the police when his younger brother disappeared two years ago. Besides Hiroshi's ability with hair, he can transform into a wolf-like form and use attacks depending on the color of hair he's using. 


Hiroshi and Ogino

Hiroshi and Ogino will have to work together once more as they try to apprehend the mafia leader Don Valentino. Notorious for literally eating money and making counterfeit bills to replace those he ate, the goat Don Valentino is surrounded by an extremely loyal assistant, a crazed hitwoman, and a equally mad scientist.


Lorenzo and the mafia boss Don Valentino

Chaos starts when Hiroshi's younger brother, Haruka, shows up with the rest of NORA. Now Hiroshi not only has to deal with the troublesome goat but with his brother and his father Soumei, whose current host is a doll. 

From left Ogino, Hiroshi, and assistants Yuta and Nozaki

Front, sitting: Hiroshi with brother Haruka

This 12-episode series, as expected, has more funny scenes than detective work. Don Valentino's near-invincible status and his antics are hilarious. Although nearly untouchable, he is still the butt of jokes even if he is the leader.

The action scenes are like everything else; at one point you'd start to think they'd get serious then one of the characters screws up. Hiroshi's infamous detective abilities mostly just add to the comedy. Sometimes he'd act more like a dog than a wolf with his shiny eyes, wagging tail, and begging posture. There was one scene where someone said "sit" and Hiroshi obeyed.

The opening theme was done by Hiroshi's voice actor (Junichi Suwabe) and the ending theme by Don Valentino (Toru Okawa). I'd have to say Valentino's cracked me up.

When you see a goat for an antagonist, it's hard to assume that the series would have a serious plot. The underlying story of Hiroshi, Haruka and their father Soumei is still there however. If you're looking for some awesome detective series, you won't find it here but when you need a fun series to watch, Cuticle Tantei Inaba delivers. It was fun to watch Valentino and Hiroshi's group trying to outwit each other. 

Rating: 7 out of 10

Meganebu!



Souma Akira was so proud of his glasses that he formed a Glasses Club (Meganebu) at Himaraya Third Technical School where he and four others are students. Kamatani Mitsuki, Hachimine Takuma, Minabe Yukiya, and Kimata Hayato (a provisional member) share that same passion and were a constant source of trouble for teachers and schoolmates. Meganebu's ultimate goal is to create glasses that can see right through people's clothes and gain recognition from others at school. 


From top left: Akira, Hayato, Yukiya
From bottom left: Takuma, Mistuki, Akira with brother  Hikaru


This 12-episode slice of life, comedy series does have some things to share about glasses wearers. It was meant to be light and funny, but it has long conversations and does not have a clear story the viewer can follow. Some episodes are divided into two short stories, most of which are about what to do when their megane. Near the end of the series the Meganebu members found another purpose besides creating the X-ray glasses. 

Beyond all the misadventures of the club members, I do share most of their dilemma concerning glasses. Their complaints about having to wear glasses most of the day do have some basis. If you wear glasses like me, I'm sure you'd find yourself agreeing with the characters.

And oh yes, the art. Meganebu! is a feast for the eyes. I liked how people who don't wear glasses were made to look like paper dolls with few features until they put glasses on. 

Overall, it was fun watching Akira and his friends being so passionate about glasses. Sometimes after an episode, I'd shake my head and wonder why I bothered watching but I have a smile on my face and a feeling that I enjoyed the series.


The Meganebu

Rating: 6 out of 10

What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz


Police officer John Calvino noticed eerily familiar details when he questioned Billy Lucas, a young man who murdered his family. Twenty years ago, John's family was murdered by Alton Turner Blackwood and John suspects that Alton played a part in the recent murder because both families were murdered almost the same way. He thinks that Alton is possessing people; how does it he hasn't found out yet. His investigations also revealed that there are other victims as well of Alton's spirit and that the murders are just a prelude of what Alton is planning to do to John's family. Meanwhile, unaware of the impending danger, John's wife Nicole and their three children have supernatural encounters at home.




Like most recent Koontz books, the story is family-centered and the lead character has a traumatic past that still haunts him. The introduction seemed promising, even creepy, but when you have read so many books from the same author, you begin to see familiar a pattern to the story. There are some instances when I get excited by some new revelation then several pages later I'd feel like it was no big deal after all. The ending could have been better but nonetheless, I was satisfied when it was revealed why Alton's spirit lingered.

It's not one of Koontz's best books but certainly not the worst.


Rating: 7 out of 10

D.Gray-man



When Allen Walker joined the Black Order, he was suspected of being an akuma (demon) because of his cursed left eye, but after a brief confrontation he was confirmed as the pupil of the then-missing exorcist Cross Marian. The Black Order's supervisor Komui Lee was more than happy to welcome Allen into the family especially when he learned from Hevlaska that Allen will someday create a "destroyer of time" against the Millennium Earl. This Earl is the head of the Noah Family intent on destroying humanity. The Earl uses the bereaved's grief to convince them to call on the deceased's soul to come back to life. Consequently, they pay the price by becoming akuma that the Earl can control. These akuma are demon machines that evolve whenever they kill humans and akuma alike successfully.


Allen Walker (showing the cursed eye and part of his Innocence) with Timcanpy on the left

The exorcists have the ability to oppose the Earl, his akuma, and the Noah. They are distinguished from normal humans by their use of a substance called Innocence. It has different types and bestows the exorcists different abilities based on their personality and history. Allen's Innocence is embedded in his left arm and at the start of the series manifests as a huge claw-like hand useful for combat. It will evolve as Allen encounters more powerful enemies. Meanwhile, his cursed left eye has the ability to detect souls trapped inside the akuma. Allen therefore can easily recognize akuma disguising as harmless humans. His past played a role in the acquisition of the eye and will be revealed in the series.


Lavi and Kanda
Kanda Yu
Lavi

The first half of the series is episodic and introduces the supporting cast. Most episodes are devoted to minor missions involving people tricked by the Earl and need rescuing. Exorcists Lenalee, Lavi, and Kanda are introduced as well as most of the important figures in the Black Order, the generals and the staff. Allen's mentor is one of the generals. Later Allen and the others will be asked to find the generals to help them against the Earl's attacks. New exorcists like Arystar Krory and Miranda Lotto are also introduced, showing how Innocence manifests in different ways.


Lenalee Lee
Arystar Krory III
Miranda Lotto

The other half of the series is the beginning of the long battle of the exorcists and the Earl and his Noah family. This time the narrative is continuous and more powerful enemies come into play. The Noah are reincarnations of the 13 of the same name. They oppose the exorcists using Dark Matter and each one, like the exorcists, has skills unique to the ability they have inherited from the original Noah. Their goal is to destroy all Innocence fragments and to ultimately find the Heart to end the war. They believe that one of the exorcists possesses the Heart, thus they begin by attacking the strongest of the Black Order --- the generals.

Allen and the Black Order are taking a lot of damage however and it seems only the generals can fight head-to-head with the Noah. Allen has to be stronger so he can fight but he needs to figure out why he wants to fight and how to fight better using his Innocence; things he thought he already knew until he witnessed a Fallen One.


Tyki Mikk and Road Kamelot
Jasdevi
Some of the Noah

A series is good when it has a lead character who doesn't have god-like skills at the outset, a colorful supporting cast, seemingly invincible opponents, and a variety of explosive fight scenes. Allen Walker may be a promising exorcist but he is not without weaknesses. Granted, it is a common trait in most lead characters but he's not hard to like.

I'd have to admit though that I was not impressed at all when it became clear after ten episodes or so that the series would follow a generic, predictable pattern. It has a lot of cliches that I won't bother mentioning and the first half made me think that the story is going nowhere. Once the Earl actually made good of his plans however, the pace picked up and the story seemed much more interesting. There were fight scenes that were not too long or too short and some casualties right away, which I took for a good sign. I guess what made up for the mediocre narrative are the fight scenes. The match-ups of the various of manifestations of Innocence against the mechanical forms of the akuma are interesting to watch. There is also a brooding sense that the exorcists are losing the war no matter how much Allen and the others improve, something you don't usually see in a series that doesn't have anything new to offer.

Besides a predictable story and generic characters, this 103-episode series does have its highlights. After all exorcists fighting machine demons without the use of prayers and holy objects is not commonplace. And once you start hating the Earl and his tricks, you'd want to keep watching wishing something terrible happens to him. 


Millennium Earl


Rating: 9 out of 10