Tag Archives: Summer 2014

Review: Aldnoah.Zero, Part 1: Episodes 1-12


Aldnoah Zero is, in a sense, not your typical mecha show. While most mecha anime (at least, in this writer’s opinion) focus on humanity developing powerful weaponry to even the odds with an overpowered foe, Aldnoah Zero presents a cast of characters who are woefully underpowered in the face of their enemies.

The year is 2014, and humanity is expecting a visit from Asseylum Vers Allusia, the princess of the Mars-based Vers Empire. You see, settlers on Mars had previously discovered alien technology on the surface of the planet, which formed the basis for the foundation of the Vers Empire. As you can imagine, this technology gave them quite the advantage over their less-technologically advanced counterparts on Earth. When war broke out between Earth and Vers in 1999, the alien hypergate on the moon (which enabled travel to Mars) was destroyed, taking part of the moon with it. Now, after fifteen years, the Vers princess makes a visit to Earth in order to establish peace between the two nations. Unfortunately, some of her own people desire otherwise, and decide to make her a martyr for their cause.

Aldnoah.Zero is, at its core, a typical “aliens attack Earth and Earth must overcome” story. The difference here is that the aliens are, technically, humans. Prideful humans who think they are better than Earthlings due to their ownership and command of advanced technology, but humans none the less. The difference in power is seen quite easily, as the Vers Empire landing castles wipe out entire cities simply by landing in them. In all of this, who would ever guess that a Japanese high school boy piloting a mech would end up being one of the primary protagonists in the series?  Yeah, in that sense, it is kind of typically mecha. What’s not entirely typical is said high school boy’s demeanor.

Inaho Kaizuka is not your whiny, Shinji Ikari knock-off, nor is he the cocky type that you might meet in other mecha anime. While some similarities could be drawn between Inaho and Heero Yuy of Gundam Wing fame, Inaho is not really dark and depressing. In truth, he is best described as apathetic. Highly intelligent and the ultimate brains behind Earth’s counterattack (at least among the Japanese refugees trying to get to safety), you could almost get the sense that Inaho is just going through the motions. We get some more insight into his character throughout the series, but he seems to go about things almost matter-of-factly, yet he clearly takes the situation seriously. For all of his lack of emotion, he is quite the likable character.

We have another primary male protagonist by the name of Slaine. Like Inaho, Slaine is an Earthling. Unlike Inaho, Slaine took a trip to Vers several years prior and has been among them ever since. Despite being looked down upon by the people of Vers, Slaine has stayed around, and one can only assume it’s due to his friendship with Princess Asseylum. While he doesn’t quite play as much of a role as one might expect, he certainly plays enough to be considered a secondary protagonist. If nothing else, he keeps the story moving, and also serves a purpose in a few primary plot points.

The plot of Aldnoah.Zero follows a sort of patterned approach at first: our protagonists fight an over-powered enemy suit while the people they are protecting try to get to safety. What’s nice, though, is that the fights don’t necessarily last for one episode–they are drawn out enough to not feel rushed, and they show that there is indeed a legitimate struggle for Earth to overcome their foes. The viewer is adequately engaged in wanting to see how Inaho will overcome each foe, and the writers do a good job of not making it a one-man show–Inaho may be exceptionally smart and perceptive, but he still needs to rely on his teammates to get the job done. In the midst of all this, we also get to see the relationships between characters grow and change, along with a few Versians who are among the Japanese survivors. There are enough intense firefights here to keep action enthusiasts entertained while simultaneously building character relationships to keep the show from having a one-dimensional feel. There are some twists in the plot that you will not see coming. The ending will also prove shocking, and inevitably leaving you wondering about what happens next.

Artistically, Aldnoah.Zero is a very nice looking show. While I am no expert at dissecting this area, I don’t remember ever having a moment where I thought the art looked sloppy or poorly done. I would assume that some of the art is done by CGI, and if I’m correct then it certainly blends well with the show.

Overall, Aldnoah.Zero may not be the greatest show to ever grace the mecha genre, but it provides an entertaining plot that will make you want to see what happens next. If you like mecha shows then go a head and give it a shot.

A Christian Perspective:

Okay, I usually do this episodically. Since this is a review of the first twelve episodes, there are probably tons of themes that I could draw out, but I’m just going to with this:

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. – Proverbs 16:18 (NIV)

As stated in the review, the Versians are a cocky lot. They look down on the Earthlings because of the overwhelming advantage they have in terms of technology. On the surface, it clearly looks like there is nothing that Earth can do. The Versians come in and quickly wipe out squad after squad of Earth forces. It’s only after sitting down and thinking that Inaho begins to theorize about weaknesses that the initial foe may have. From here on, he ends up having to think on his feet, but the overall point is the same–each enemy mecha they encounter has some fundamental weakness that Inaho is able to exploit. Essentially (and I believe this is even stated in one episode) the Versians became so cocky that they didn’t consider the potential weaknesses their mecha may have possessed, no matter how minute those weaknesses may be. It’s a perfect example of the above-mentioned proverb, as there can be no denying that the Versians are prideful people, too confident in their own technology and overwhelming power.

What we can learn from this is that, no matter how much of an advantage we may think we have, we should always maintain a humble attitude. Just because we think we have the advantage, or the greater knowledge, the greater power, or whatever else might give rise to pride doesn’t mean we’re better than anyone else or that we’re guaranteed victory. Remember: the entire Israelite army cowered before Goliath, but a young boy with a slingshot took him down. Just because you think you’re better doesn’t mean you’re actually better. So, instead of being like the Versians, let us put into practice the words of Romans 12:3 (NIV):

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Content Guide:

Episode 1

Language: 1 “b**t*rds”, 1 “c**p”, 1 “jacka**”

Alcohol/Drug Use: Lt. Marito is shown drinking in several scenes

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: A character is hit in the face with a cane; an escort convoy is attacked by missiles; a space ship lands in a city and sends out a shockwave that destroys buildings and reduces onlookers to dust

Blood/Gore: A flashback shows a man with blood on his face

Other: There is talk about characters having the “powers of the gods”


Episode 2:

Language: 1 “d**khead”, 1 “f**king*, 1 “c**p”, 1 “b**t**d”, 2 ‘h*ll”, 1 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: The intro shows the princess lying in a somewhat sensual pose, and her dress reveals soem cleavage

Violence: Missiles are shown being launched at the alien castles, and the impact scene from the previous episode is partially shown again; the intro shows a mech being shot and exploding; missiles are shown destroying stuff; a bunch of planes are blown up; plenty of explosions and destruction; mech battles; planes being shot down; a character is knocked to the ground with his arm yanked behind his back

Blood/Gore: A plane is sliced in half by a beam, and it looks like the pilot’s blood is shown splattering the glass; a man is shown with blood on his face

Episode 3

Language: 2 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: Grenade launchers, mech combat; a plane is shot and catches fire; a mech is destroyed

Blood/Gore: A character is seen with blood running down her head

Episode 4

Language: 1 “b**t*rd”, 1 “b**ches”, 2 “h*ll”, 1 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: An orbital bombardment destroys a city; a character is shown shooting another character; a character is hit in the stomach; a human mech fires at a martian mech; mechs are cut apart and then explode; a mech destroys a ship; typical battle violence between mechs; a character is hit in the face

Blood/Gore: A character is shown with blood on his uniform, along with blood pouring out underneath him; a character is shown with blood splattering from him as he is shot

Episode 5

Language: 2 “b**t*rd”, 1 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None
Violence: Typical mecha fighting–gunfire and explosions ensue

Blood/Gore: None


Episode 6

Language: 4 (maybe) “d**n”, 1 “b**t*rds”, 2 “h*ll”, 1 “c**p”

Alcohol/Drug Use: Marito appears to have a bottle of liquor sitting at his feet; a character presumably drinks from a flask

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: An enemy weapon attacks a ship, causing damage and explosions; an enemy weapon destroys human Kataphrakts; the humans attack the enemy’s weapons

Blood/Gore: A flashback shows a soldier’s dogtag with blood on it; a character is shown with blood on his face and arm; a character in a Kataphrakt is shown with blood on him; a flashback shows a character with blood on his head


Episode 7

Language: 1 “b***ard”, 2 “d**n”, 1 “h*ll”, 1 “d*rn”, 1 “cr*p”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: A character is shown pinning another character down while holding a gun to his head; a character is shot in the ankle; a character is being shot at; plenty of mecha fighting; explosions

Blood/Gore: Blood is coming from a character’s gunshot wound; a flashback shows a character with blood on his face

Episode 8

Language: 1 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: A character is slammed to the ground; a character is shown being tortured while restrained; a Kataphrakt attacks a landing castle and kills a Martian

Blood/Gore: None


Episode 9

Language: 1 “a**”, 1 “d**n”, 3 “h*ll”

Alcohol/Drug Use: A character is shown drinking from a flask

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Rayet is shown in the shower, but the camera avoids any “private” areas; Seylum is shown wearing only a towel–she is then shown in the shower, where the camera pans up her body–steam obscures anything below the waist, although a portion of her breasts is visible through her arms; another scene shows Rayet from the chest up, showing the majority of her breasts; a violent scene occurs with the two girls, during which you can see parts of their breasts; another scene shows Rayet falling over and again you can see–you guessed it–portions of her breasts

Violence: Tanks are shown being destroyed; explosions; tanks fire at a Kataphrakt; a character shoots another character; random flashbacks of violence; a character puts a knife to another’s throat; a character chokes another with a chain

Blood/Gore: A flashback shows a character with blood on his face; blood is scene running from a character’s hand and dripping onto a table as a result of him grabbing a knife

Episode 10

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: A character is shown drinking from a flask

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Seylum is shown lying on the floor of the shower, but she’s covered so you don’t see anyting inappropriate; Inaho gives Seylum mouth-to-mouth; Seylum is then shown wrapped ina towel, as is Rayet

Violence: A character fires a gun into teh floor; a character wrestles another to the ground

Blood/Gore: None

Episode 11

Language: 4 “cr*p”, 1 “b**ch”, 1 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: Saazbaum’s forces attack the United Earth HQ—explosions, destroyed Kataphrakts, and the like; plenty of things are shot and blown up, with explosions to accompany

Blood/Gore: A man is shown crushed under a piece of a building with blood pooling below him

Episode 12

Language: 1 “a**es”, 2 “d**n”, 1 “b***ard”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: What you would expect: missiles, gunfire, exploding mechs; a man is shot; a character is shot multiple times; another character is shot multiple times; one character is seemingly shot in the head

Blood/Gore: Calm and Marito are shown with blood on their faces; blood appears to be on the headrest of a cockpit; a man is shown with blood pooling under him; Inaho is shown with blood on his facel; a character coughs up blood; the character who is shot multiple times bleeds, of course; blood splatters a character’s face; another character is shown lying in a pool of her own blood; another character is shot, bloodied, and ultimately leaves a bloody smear on a wall

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 14: One Little Step


And with that this story is tied up. If you got used to the adrenaline pumping action of the past couple episodes, then prepare yourself to come down from that this time around. True, the duel between a certain set of male characters finishes up at the beginning of this episode, but beyond that it’s much more epilogue-ish. That’s not to say it’s a bad episode, it’s just to say that most of the episode is spent wrapping up plot points. Of particular interest is Sinon’s growth as a character: we see her finally stand up for herself, and she also receives closer on her traumatic childhood event. There is also closure given to the whole Death Gun situation, including it’s origin and the motivation of those involved.

The biggest criticism I can level at this episode is it’s use of convenience. A certain character is attacked with the syringe, only for it to be discovered that the syringe landed in just the right spot to encounter a barrier instead of flesh. This is an oft used ploy, but at least in some instances it’s set up. For example, we see a character put a Bible in his shirt pocket, then later he gets stabbed in the chest, only for the Bible to prevent the knife from touching him. This, at least, gives us a good set up. What we get in SAO is just random. Sure, it allows for some suspense because we are unaware of the existing barrier, but ultimately it’s just kind of unnecessary. I’d rather have seen the syringe scene not even happen when considering this point of criticism. Ah well. On the other hand, it is kind of nice to see Kirito in a situation where he’s not dominating the fight. While he may have gotten the element of surprise, the fact remains that this fight is an actual struggle, and not just Kirito being an over-powered tank.

On a more positive note, Sinon fans should be elated to see her finally overcome her phobia, no matter how shaky it may be. In reality, this portrayal is more realistic. I don’t know that anyone would just suddenly overcome a phobia, so it’s praiseworthy to see Sinon struggle at first and then to be clearly shaken after the fact. The road to recovery is long, but she takes the first steps. In addition, her seeming addition to Kirito’s group of friends should also please her fans. While I don’t know how much of a role she will play in subsequent material, it’s still fun to see her introduced to Asuna and Liz. If that’s not enough, Sinon also finally gets some closure on the robbery incident from her past. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it, but I felt myself begin to tear up at one point. In this writer’s opinion, the scene in question was very well done.

So there you have it: the Phantom Bullet arc is nicely wrapped up. I’m assuming, anyway, that we don’t have anything left to cover here. Having not read the novels (because I can’t read Japanese and don’t use scanlations), I can’t say until I see the next episode. It seems we aren’t done with Death Gun, though, as he leaves Kirito with an ominous warning.

A Christian Perspective:

There may be more appropriate verses for the lesson I’m about to give, but this is the one that came to mind.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. – Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)

This verse seems particularly relevant to the events at the end of the episode. Without spoiling the goings-on, Kirito (along with Liz and Asuna), does something that is, for all intents and purposes, stepping over a line. When Sinon finds out, she gets angry and stands up as if to leave. Kirito refuses to let her, though, and informs her that he wants her to get better (my paraphrase). In order to bring Sinon closure on her rough past, Kirito goes out of his way to find something his newfound friend needs. He could have left it alone. After all, he saved her life from Death Gun and put himself in harms way. Most people probably wouldn’t have concerned themselves with the emotional problems of the person once they saved that person’s life, but a friend loves at all times. If we truly love someone then we should do all we can to help that person. It may not always be fun. Our help may even be hurtful at times (imagine confronting somebody on a rampant sin in their life–you’re probably going to step on some toes and hurt some feelings), but if we truly love the person then we should have their best interests at heart and act out of regard for those interests, not out of what is going to make that person like us more. Kirito and company weren’t afraid to step on some toes, and as a result they brought some much needed closure to a bad situation.

Content Guide:

Language: 1 “h*ll”, 2 “j**z”, 1 “cr*p”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Kirito’s shirt is pulled up to reveal his stomach and chest

Violence: Two male characters fight with each other–tackling, punches thrown, choking, etc.; a male character is injected with something; a character is hit over the head with a stereo; a character disarms another

Blood/Gore: A character has blood coming from his nose; bloody flashbacks to Sinon’s robber incident

Review: Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 6: Tuxedo Mask


Tuxedo Mask finally gets a focus episode, kind of, sort of, not really. Sure, he makes a rash move in an attempt to gather information on the Legendary Silver Crystal, and we do find out a bit more about his background, but ultimately it still feels like a Sailor Moon focused theme, especially when you consider that the climax of the episode ultimately involves Sailor Moon getting some confidence courtesy of Tuxedo Mask–just in time to save her friends.

Honestly, if there’s one criticism I can level at Sailor Moon, it’s that the pacing could be a lot better. The episode starts off well enough, setting up Luna’s suspicion of Tuxedo Mask because of his rash actions. The enemy forces decide to use this to their advantage, with Zoisite disguising himself and going on national television in order to hypnotize all of the people watching the program into searching for the crystal. There is even a somewhat intense, albeit brief, fight scene between Zoisite and Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter. The problem is that everything happens too fast. The plot of the episode is very self-contained, presenting and resolving within the 20-some minutes of air time, instead of doing something like making it a two-part episode. Building up further suspicion about Tuxedo Mask, making an investigation into his character, allowing Zoisite to create a more havoced environment, a longer fight scene, an actual threat from Queen Beryl showing up on the battlefield… they could have teased out any of these. I realize it’s based on the source material, so my complaint should really be against the manga. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy the show, or that I didn’t enjoy this episode, but just that I feel it could be done better.

At the end of the day, Sailor Moon fans (old or new) will probably enjoy this episode, as it is follows the typical formula appropriately. If you have never liked the series, then you probably won’t be convinced by this episode (or even reading this review, most likely).

A Christian Perspective:

I know I usually post the Scriptures I reference, but this is a long one, so I’ll just leave it to you to look it up. And no, it’s not laziness, because I literally just copy and paste from Bible Gateway. So our Scripture reference is as follows:

1 Corinthians 12: 12 – 31

For those who don’t want to look it up, this is basically where Paul is saying that just as our body is made up of many parts that do different things, so the Church is made up of many people who do many different things, and how we all need each other, regardless of whether we have a large or small purpose (my paraphrase, of course). This applies to Sailor Moon’s breakdown with Tuxedo Mask, where she laments that she does not have any powers like the other Sailor Senshi–she can’t shoot mist, fire, or thunder like the other three Senshi. After Tuxedo Mask talks to her and points out her function, though, she finds the strength to transform and ultimately save her friends along with the city at large. It could be argued that, though she saw herself as useless within the Sailor Senshi, she was–and is–ultimately the most useful member. After all, we’ve never seen one of the other Senshi actually destroy an enemy.

We may find ourselves discouraged as invidual members of the Church, as well. Maybe you have a visiting evangelist at church who is telling you about his awesome encounters with God, and how wherever he goes he preaches the Gospel and crowds of people get saved. Meanwhile, you’re wrestling with just trying to get prayer down, and you haven’t even figured out how to tell your friends about Jesus, nevermind countless strangers at McDonald’s. This probably discourages you and makes you worry that you’re doing something wrong, because you don’t seem as “holy”, “spiritual”, or “powerful” as the guy on stage. Let’s be real, though: we can’t all be Billy Graham, Charles Spurgeon, or [insert name of well known evangelist here]. Those men (and women) have served their role in the body–it just happened to be a larger role. Rather than compare ourselves, let’s leave our roles for God to decide. Instead of worrying if we’re not “good” enough because we’re not like other people, let’s instead pray and trust God to show us where He wants us to be. We may, for all we know, be an internal organ in the body of Christ, someone who serves a lot in the background. We may never see the kind of results people like Billy Graham do, but maybe our serving makes it possible for those people to do what they do. We can only see a part of the picture, so let’s trust God to put us where He designed us to be, and then be content with that.

Wow, I should take my own advice here.

Content Guide:

Language: 1 “j**z”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: A flashback to Princess Serenity may show some slight cleavage; Mamoru (Tuxedo Mask) is shown shirtless; Queen Beryl is shown in her usual cleavage-revealing dress; Sailor Senshi transformation sequences; a close up of Queen Beryl’s cleavage around 16:20

Violence: A flashback shows Jupiter destroying an enemy with her lightning; people are shown rioting; Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter battle with an enemy; an enemy is struck by an attack from Sailor Moon

Blood/Gore: None

Review: Sword Art Online, Episode 13: Phantom Bullet


Now THAT was an episode! We pick up where we last left off, with Kirito and Death Gun facing off in the wastelands. Unlike what we’re used to, though, Kirito is getting his behind handed to him. This was, quite frankly, a nice change of pace. While I’m all for the good guy winning, that seems to be all Kirito can really do. Up until now, it feels like he only lost when unfair advantages were played against him (minus the final battle with Kayaba, and then Kirito deus-ex-machina’ed his way out of that one). This time it was just legitimate skill. Okay, maybe Kirito was a bit distracted by trying to remember the guy’s name, but it certainly looked like Death Gun had a legitimate advantage.

The timing of everything really felt great in this episode—the fight doesn’t take the whole episode, but it doesn’t feel rushed, either. There’s enough tension to make it interesting. It’s also not drug on for so long that you just want it to end (I’m looking at you, Dragonball Z). The fact that Kirito could not have won (at least, most likely) without Sinon’s intervention was a nice touch, as well. It further solidified her role in this series, her growth as a character, and one of my points on the twelfth episode’s “Christian Perspective”. It’s nice that Sinon didn’t simply get relegated to a sub-plot who was useless once her quest was finished. The way the BBO ended was just simply amusing, too. Unfortunately, we do not get to see Asuna’s reaction to that (which would have also been amusing).

Despite the happy resolution near the episode’s middle, there’s still plenty left to go. As with the ending to the ALO arc, the true final battle takes place in real life. While some people apparently picked up on cues from the intro (kudos to you if you did), I was pretty surprised by the turn of events that transpired once Sinon exited Gun Gale Online. Granted, when you stop and think about it (or have it pointed out to you, like I did) you notice a definite similarity to the ALO villain’s actions and those of GGO’s. I definitely feel like this arc did it better, though, although I feel like the character could have been built up a little better. There was certainly jealousy from early on, so it wasn’t a complete “zero-to-crazy in sixty seconds” scenario, but it definitely could have been teased out more throughout the season.

Overall, this episode will certainly scratch whatever itch you may have for action. It was intense, and the plot still isn’t quite resolved yet, so make sure you tune in next week!

A Christian Perspective:

This isn’t really a “lesson”, but given the episode’s turn of events, this Scripture is relevant (not saying any more to avoid spoilers):

Psalm 55: 12 – 14

If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
I could hide.

But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
at the house of God,
as we walked about
among the worshipers.

Those of you who have seen the episode will immediately make the connection. Those of you who haven’t should easily make the connection when you get to the right point. It’s truly interesting that I read this psalm right before eating lunch, where I watched the majority of this episode….

The lesson from Ecclesiastes that I included in Episode 12’s Christian Perspective is still applicable here, as well.

John 15: 13 (NIV): Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

This verse is really a theme for SAO as a whole. Kirito can certainly be called a man who would lay down his life for his friends. The very first story arc ended with him facing off against Kayaba in an attempt to end the SAO death game and set the players (and especially Asuna) free. While the ALO arc didn’t put him in as much danger (save for that hospital parking lot scene), he still put himself out there to save Asuna. Now, in GGO, he does it again by putting himself in real danger. Again, I won’t say much else so as to avoid spoilers, but just watch the end of this episode and you’ll make the connection.

Proverbs 17:17 (NIV): A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

This one I’ll apply to Asuna. It’s true that she hasn’t had much screen time in this season at all, and she certainly hasn’t played a prominent role. I think it’s fair to say that she realizes that there’s not much she can do, but rather than use that as an excuse to do nothing, she still does what she can. In one episode, we saw that she was willing to listen to Kirito. In this episode we see her by his bedside, holding his hand in an attempt to calm his nerves as he battles Death Gun within the game. It may not have been much, and who knows if it was even effective, but the point is that Asuna never stopped loving Kirito, and she never allowed her position of powerlessness become helplessness or hopelessness in the course of things. She tried her best to help Kirito when she could, and loved him enough to be by his side, doing whatever she could, no matter how small.

Content Guide:

Language: 1 “jacka**”, 1 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None
Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Kirito (Real life) is shown shirtless in the hospital bed; a character starts to reach his hand up a girl’s shirt (nothing is shown); a flashback shows Sinon’s usual buttcrack; the male character is again seen running his hand up a girl’s shirt, but the most you see is stomach
Violence: Kirito and Death Gun continue their duel; a character forces himself onto a girl, who then knocks him down; a girl fights off an assailant; a boy is kneed in the face
Blood/Gore: Kirito is shown with a bunch of those red marks on his body indicating hits; a character is sliced in half; Sinon has a brief flashback to the robber’s face with blood on it; a character is hit in the face, which produces blood

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 12: Bullet of a Phantom


If you were disappointed by the previous episode’s focus on sitting in a cave, repeatedly staring at Sinon’s buttocks, then I have good news for you! This episode has at least 50% less cave sitting and 70% less butt focus!* Okay, in all seriousness, this episode was actually enjoyable. It was a good mix of suspense between the in-game scenes and real world scenes, and action scenes as Sinon and Kirito moved to take out the final innocent combatant while drawing out Death Gun.

Asuna fans should be a little pleased with this episode—our favorite heroine gets some screen time. Not much, mind you—it’s basically her going to Kirito’s hospital room and watching him fight, but it’s more than she seems to get in most episodes this season. Really, it’s just an episode that, fundamentally, is done right. It starts out simply enough, builds up tension, provides breaks to let the tension hang, moves into conflict, and culminates in a climax (a cliff-hanger of sorts, at that). Also praiseworthy is finding out that Kirito’s biggest hang up in this whole investigation is actually his own doing. For a character who is more than deserving of the label “Mary Sue”, including something that Kirito messed up on his own is kind of a nice change of pace.

As I previously mentioned, the fight doesn’t end here, but the events of this episode set us up for an appropriate final battle in the next.

*Note that percentages are just numbers the author just threw out there, and do not reflect actual, measured statistical decreases in the occurrence of either.

A Christian Perspective:

James 1:19 (NIV): My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

I apply this verse to the fact that Kirito’s biggest hurdle throughout this entire series boils down to him speaking instead of listening. Whatever his motivations were, he could have saved himself a lot of trouble had he bothered to listen in the past, instead of allowing his emotions to get the better of him, and thus ultimately barring him from hearing the information he most desperately needed since his first encounter with Death Gun. I won’t say anymore so as to avoid spoilers, but you can probably figure it out if you think hard enough.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV): Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

I apply this verse in reflection of Kirito and Sinon’s cooperation. While it certainly applies to this episode, it can kind of be thematic of much of this season so far. At this point, though, Kirito has finally managed to support Sinon to the point that she seems to have gotten over her fears. While only the first sentence of this verse truly applies to my point, it is still worth exploring. Basically, if Sinon would have gone it on her own, she’d be dead. Not only because she wouldn’t have known about Death Gun without Kirito, but also because of the wounds she carried with her. She did not have the means to overcome her fears in and of herself, as seen when she froze up in the tenth episode. Without Kirito there to save her… well, she’d be dead, for one, but even if that wasn’t the case, it was only with Kirito’s words that she was able to regain her confidence.

On the other side of things (because Kirito doesn’t really need more praise), the whole plan for taking down Death Gun is dependent upon Kirito and Sinon working together. If it were just one of them, the whole thing would be at the very least more difficult, and at the most impossible. Quite literally, one may have been overpowered, but two can defend themselves: Sinon watched Kirito’s back so that he wasn’t attacked by the fourth combatant while Kirito sought to draw out Death Gun.

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Sinon cleavage and buttcrack

Violence: Typical flashbacks to Kirito killing LC members in SAO; flashback to Sinon shooting the robber; typical GGO style violence

Blood/Gore: The usual red marks for people being injured in-game; a flashback shows Kirito decapitate a SAO character; blood in the flashback where Sinon shoots the robber

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 11: What It Means To Be Strong


Welcome to We Sit In A Cave An—I mean, Sword Art Online II, Episode 11. Well, my original title wouldn’t have really been off the mark. The majority of this episode does involve Kirito and Sinon sitting in a cave discussing Death Gun. Of course, they are way too close for comfort, and moreso than what (my understanding of) typical Japanese social custom would deem comfortable. But hey, it’s just an anime, right?

Honestly, I feel like I should be able to call this episode boring, but I can’t bring myself to do it. There’s nothing really exciting going on here. Even the reveal of how Death Gun is killing people in real life wasn’t overly exciting, and yet I can’t honestly say I found myself bored. I did find myself going in with my guard up, though, because I read on my Twitter feed that there was lot of fanservice in the form of Sinon butt shots this time around. Perhaps I prepared for something worse, because there certainly were a few (see the Content Guide), but I didn’t feel like it was as bad as I had potentially prepared for. I mean yes, there are a number of shots of her butt (just read the Crunchyroll comments section… it dominates the subject matter), including her butt crack (seriously, pull up your pants, please), but as far as detail goes, I think they’ve done worse. So, either I over-prepared myself, or I’m becoming desensitized.

In any event, this really wasn’t an eventful episode, so there’s really not much to say. Kirito and Sinon sit in a cave and figure out how Death Gun is killing people in real life. They devise a plan to take Death Gun out. Elsewhere, Asuna and company meet with the agent who set Kirito up for the whole GGO thing (they meet within ALO), and Asuna decides to go to the hospital where Kirito is diving from. Other than telling you what the reveal is, that’s pretty much all you need to know to be prepared for the next episode. Like I said, I should be able to call this boring, but I’d be lying to claim boredom from this episode. Apathy, maybe? Well, at any rate, next week’s episode should be more intense (I hope), and hopefully less focused on Sinon’s butt.

Did I really just spend most of my review talking about their focus on Sinon’s butt? Great, I’m no better than the Crunchyroll comments section.

A Christian Perspective:

Men: if you don’t want to make your lady mad, then don’t cuddle up with another girl in a cave on a televised (virtually or otherwise) event. You may know that nothing naughty is going on, but that doesn’t mean your lady will. As of now, there’s no indication of whether or not Asuna saw the video footage, but if so then she will most likely be mad (and rightfully so). Or, since this is SAO and it is Kirito, he may very well get off the hook in a very easily yet realisitically unlikely way.

Also, to draw a more Scripture oriented lesson: But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:28 (NIV)

There was some discussion on the Crunchyroll comments as to where, exactly, Kirito was looking in one scene. Some stated that he was looking at Sinon’s butt, while others stated he had noticed the empty holster on her gun belt. While we may never know for sure, it’s still a good opportunity for a lesson on guarding one’s eyes. I’ll be honest, I don’t know at what point something counts as “looking lustfully”, and it has caused me a bit of grief. If you can avoid seeing what you shouldn’t see, then by all means do so. If you see something you shouldn’t see, look away as quickly as possible and don’t dwell on what you saw. That’s really my best advice. It’s really pulling from left field for a lesson from this episode, since there is little clarity as to what Kirito was actually looking at, but I think it’s a good lesson in general, especially in a day and age where “less is more” seems to be the motto with clothing, especially women’s clothing.

Content Guide:

Language: 1 “cr*p”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: A close up of Sinon’s butt (with her crack sticking out of the top of her shorts) 5:06 – 5:08; another close up of Sinon’s butt 5:11 – 5:14; Sinon’s butt and crack 6:44 – 6:49, 7:56 – 8:08, 9:03 – 9:09; Leafa’s cleavage; another close up of Sinon’s butt 20:41 – 20:44

Violence: None
Blood/Gore: Characters are shown with blood running from their eyes and the usual red marks from in-game injuries

Other: Kirito and Sinon are recorded while sitting in the cave, and a conversation ensues about how people still think Kirito is a girl, to which Sinon replies that if people think she’s into that then maybe she’ll get bothered less

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 10: Death Chaser


Last week left us with Sinon’s life hanging in the balance. While the ultimate outcome may have been fairly predictable, the impact on her character may not have. While she makes it out of her situation, the scare of having her life on the line coupled with the fact that Death Gun’s handgun is the same kind of weapon the robber used seems to have robbed her of her previous confidence. As such, Kirito ends up with his hands quite full. I don’t think we can really blame Sinon, though—after all, she did just recently find out that her life could very well be lost by playing the game she was using to get over her phobia. Talk about having your parade rained on.

While the first portion of the episode is definitely action-oriented—there’s fighting, a high speed chase, and an explosion for you action addicts—the second portion is much more character focused. If two characters sitting in a cave and talking is not your idea of a good time, then you may find it to be a crawl. On the other hand, you may find it interesting since both actually open up to each other. Sinon and Kirito reveal bits about their individual pasts to each other, which I’m sure will help them both understand the other in the long run. Also, I suppose this is the start of the inevitable “Sinon falls for Kirito” trope.

The GGO arc certainly has been different from its predecessors. The setting is different, and outside of Kirito it is (mostly) devoid of the characters we have grown to love. Nevertheless, I think it’s a decent entry into the series, and I plan to continue watching until the end. Man my reviews feel dry…

A Christian Perspective:

There were a couple points I played with, none of which seemed particularly powerful. In the end, I think I’ll go with this:

As we know, Sinon’s whole purpose for playing GGO was to try and quell her fear of guns. This seemed to be working to some extent—at least within the game she was able to grow and become a powerful player. All of this shatters, of course, when she’s put in a vulnerable position. Whether it was being held at gunpoint, the fact that Death Gun had the same model of gun used in the robbery, or both that set her off, she lost all of her composure and was essentially rendered useless during a crucial moment. It’s easy to shake our heads and judge her for this, but don’t we sometimes do the same thing as Christians? Think about it. Have you (or someone you know) ever overcome a sin and found yourself walking with your head held high, feeling like you’re on top of the world? After all, you’ve just been freed from a bondage (and let’s not forget to mention that it’s only with God’s help), so why shouldn’t you feel great? So here you are, feeling like you’re doing Christianity right. Maybe you’ve even become a role model in another Christians eyes, and this has driven you to do more for Jesus. Then the unthinkable happens: you stumble into sin. Maybe it’s that same sin you previously overcame, or maybe it’s some other sin. The point is, you messed up. Now, how did you feel? Maybe broken or dejected? Perhaps you saw yourself as a failure? This mistake may have even crippled you to some point, as you lost your composure and your drive to do the good works you were previously doing.

At this point, I think you get the point I’m making. We all have times where we think we’re walking strong, and then something happens to knock us off our high horse. We find ourselves disoriented, wondering what went wrong, and scrambling to put the pieces back together. Perhaps that’s why Paul warned: So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! – 1 Corinthians 10:12 As Christians, the important thing to remember is that there is still forgiveness for us, and that one failure is not the end of the road. We can confess our sins, trust God to heal us from this, and hopefully use it as a lesson to grow from.

Content Guide:

Language: 1 “d**n”, 1 “j**z”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: A shot shows Sinon from behind as she grabs her sidearem, providing a close up shot of her butt in her shorts and showing that the top of her butt is exposed; another close up shot from behind of Sinon’s butt (in her shorts, of course); Sinon’s top shows cleavage; another scene shows the top of Sinon’s butt sticking out of her shorts; a female character is shown wearing a bikini top as part of her outfit

Violence: A character is shot twice; explosions and such as you would expect from GGO; another flashback to the Laughing Coffin raid

Blood/Gore: More flashbacks to Sinon killing the robber, which show blood on the robber and Sinon; Sinon has a vision of the robber with blood on his face as she stares down the barrel of a gun; the usual red spots that appear on characters when they are hit in-game; a little girl is shown with blood on her hands

Review: Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 5: Makoto – Sailor Jupiter –


Well, it’s been a little while since the last episode of Sailor Moon Crystal aired. Apparently (and, granted, this is from a comment on Crunchyroll), the episodes are set to air on the first and third Saturdays of each month, meaning that when there’s a fifth Saturday in a month, there will be an extra week between episodes. Oh boy.

So with this episode, Sailor Jupiter is introduced. No surprise there, as the previews made it pretty clear. Makoto, aka Sailor Jupiter, transfers into Usagi’s school, and is seemingly ostracized due to rumors that have spread about her. Usagi, of course, ends up being the one person who seeks Makoto out despite the rumors. While this could be a depressing episode, it really isn’t. Instead of focusing on the potential breakdown of Makoto’s emtions due to the rumors, the episode focuses more on Usagi embracing and getting to know Makoto.

The other side of the episode deals with a bridal shop that is supposedly “haunted”. Rumor has it (hey, lots of rumors in this episode) that at night a bride appears and seduces men. It shouldn’t be any surprise, of course, that this is a ploy by the enemy. It is also used to open up some of Makoto’s backstory, and to bring her to the revelation of her power as a Sailor Guardian. As usual, the actual confrontation with the enemy feels rather brief in comparison to the rest of the episode. I think the series would probably benefit from character-based episodes and fight-based episodes, rather than the “enemy of the week” style that it’s done in. However, this was the style of the original anime and, I suspect, the style of the manga, so expecting something otherwise is unrealistic.

One benefit to the faster-paced, manga-oriented approach to this series is that there are some fluid plotlines that run through each of the episodes, despite each episode sort of standing on its own (new characters notwithstanding). Right now it’s mainly the mystery behind Tuxedo Mask, who continues to be a mostly uknown figure to the Guardians. I’m sure this was probably a recurring theme in the original, but the condensed number of episodes makes for a much easier continuity, in my opinion (after all, a handful of episodes before exposing a mystery is much more enjoyable than 20-30 episodes of the same… after a while, that would just get old).

So, Sailor Moon continues to be what it is. The good news is, it’s consistent, so if you liked what you saw before, then you will continue to like the series. If you didn’t like it before, you’re not likely to like it now. As you already know, I was a fan of the original, and the new series is doing fine as far as I’m concerned.

A Christian Perspective:

Proverbs 18:8 (NIV): The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.

1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV): But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Yeah, you know where this is going. Makoto is gossiped about during the early parts of the episode, and it’s clear that this has a negative effect on her. It’s probably also safe to say that people judge her by her outward appearance alone–just look at the scene where a teacher asks her why she isn’t wearing the school’s uniform and she leans in to inform him that it didn’t fit. Regardless, though, the overall theme is that people judge her without knowing her. Perhaps the verses above aren’t perfect fits to her situation, but the fact remains that none of these people actually know Makoto–they only judge by what they hear. Enter Usagi.

While not nearly a perfect example, Usagi could be equated to the Christian allegory of this series, at least in some respects. Unlike the naysayers, she seems to see the good in people, or to at least be curious enough to look past what everyone has to say. It’s no different with Makoto. She approaches her, mooches some food, gets acquainted, and then acknowledges Makoto as a “lovely girl”. This new approach has an instantaneous effect on Makoto, as her face brightens and she becomes a lot more cheerful.

As Christians, we should be like Usagi. Instead of taking the words of gossips and strangers to heart, we should get to know people and learn their personalities first hand. Much like Jesse’s eldest son, people may appear to be great on the outside, but not be internally acceptable (I don’t think the Bible explicitly says why God rejected the eldest). On the other hand, the person who appears to be the social outcast may be the most genuine, loving, and caring person that you could ever hope to meet. David was the youngest son, and I suppose no one expected much of him, yet he was the one God chose to be king, and we see David’s devotion to God throughout his story in the Old Testament. Similarly, Makoto is written off as “scary” because she’s believed to have “superhuman strength”. She is avoided because of rumors, yet when someone finally moves through the lies to get to know her, they find a lovely person. Now, is Makoto without her flaws? Of course not, no one is. Granted, we are not given enough of an objective look at her character to see all of her intricacies, but we’re shown enough to know that she was wrongfully judged. As Christians, lets ignore the gossips and the slanderers, and instead take the time to get to know people before forming an opinion about them.

Content Guide:

Language: 1 “h*ll”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Just Sailor Jupiter’s transformation sequence (as usual, you don’t actually see anything, but I’m still fairly certain the characters are supposed to be naked when they’re all sparkly and colorized)

Violence: The Sailor Guardians engage utilize their powers in a fight; a character flips an enemy

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Tuxedo Mask is able to see an evil aura around a person; Rei uses Japanese talismans as part of one of her attacks; the enemy has some sort of aura/magical attack; a man is possessed by an enemy

Review: Sword Art Online II, Episode 9: Death Gun


I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the action is kicked up a notch in this episode. After failing to prevent Death Gun from striking again, Kirito and Sinon set off to track him down. While the whole episode may not be action-focused from beginning to end (again, I’m being bad and writing this roughly a week late, so my memory is hazy), there is arguably more than there has been. At any rate, the episode maintains a decent pace, continuing with the primary conflict at hand, adding to the overall problem, and then showing our characters as they track down their prey. Essentially, it has all the elements of a proper story in place, complete with a nice cliff-hanger ending for those of us who just love those.

I can’t really remember if Sinon has bought into the fact that Death Gun can actually kill people by shooting them in the game, but she ultimately goes along with Kirito. This episode starts to set up a Sinon plot point that will continue into the next episode (one advantage to writing this late is that I have had time to watch some of the following episode). With little else on my mind, I’ll just say that the main plot of the Gun Gale Online arc continues strongly, marching our heroes progressively into more dangerous territory and, potentially, very steadily towards a conclusion. If you’ve enjoyed this season so far, then you will continue to enjoy. If not, well, I don’t know that this episode will change your mind.

A Christian Perspective:

I don’t really have anything “Christian” to draw from this episode. What does come to mind, though, is a brief thought about personal integrity. We already know that there is a rivalry going on between Kirito and Sinon (though, I think it’s definitely more heavy on Sinon’s side than Kirito’s). By pairing up with Sinon, Kirito has essentially put himself in a vulnerable position: Sinon could easily betray him, shoot him, and win their little spat, leaving Kirito back at square one for dealing with Death Gun. It’s a positive message, then, when Sinon does not go this route, but instead shows herself to be a trustworthy companion, even putting herself in harms way for the sake of helping Kirito. While I cannot say for certain if this is addressed in the episode, perhaps she truly wants a fair duel, not just to win. What we can learn from this is that our actions will speak to our character. Do we take what we want in the easiest manner for a cheap gain (which I would argue is the equivalent of Sinon shooting Kirito while his guard is down) or do we work hard and persevere to attain the greatest satisfaction from our goal (the result of potential victory from a fair duel)? Yes, Sinon could have taken the easy way out, but she doesn’t. She proves herself to be trustworthy. As Christians, we, too, should seek to prove ourselves as people who are honest and trustworthy, not as people who will betray the trust of others for selfish gain.

Content Guide:

Language: 1 “d**n”, 1 “j**z”

Alcohol/Drug Use: Characters are shown holding glasses with some kind of liquid in them, but it’s unclear whether it’s alcoholic

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Leafa’s top shows cleavage; Sinon’s top shows cleavage; one scene shows Sinon trying to reach for her sidearm, which presents a close up of her butt in her shorts (and you can see the top of her butt sticking out from the shorts…. seriously, what is the obsession with this?)

Violence: Typical GGO violence

Blood/Gore: Sinon has a flashback to when she was a kid, covered in blood; the usual red marks that appear on players as they’re injured; one player is shown being blasted into two pieces; Sinon has another flashback to the bank incident, which shows several scenes of blood; Sinon sees the bank robber’s face with blood on it as she stares down the barrel of a gun

Review: Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 4: Masquerade – Dance Party –


Well, this is the first episode since the series started where we don’t meet a new sailor scout (and, based on the previews, the only one thus far). Apparently a princess is coming to town, and her family has a particular treasure that both our heroines and the villains suspect may be the item they’re looking for. What are three school girls to do when they need to infiltrate a party to investigate, though? Why, disguise themselves through means provided by their talking cat and sneak in, of course! Honestly, this isn’t really what I would call an “eventful” episode, although there is some stuff between Usagi and Tuxedo Mask that may interest those of you who like the love story side of things. Granted, it has been almost two weeks since I watched the episode (don’t judge me!), so I may be forgetting some details. One criticism I could level, though, is that the fight scenes don’t seem to take very much time. For all the transformations and the fact that this is a magical girl series, it seems like the girls are pretty quick to dispatch their enemies without much trouble. Of course, this is just the beginning of the series, and my nostalgia glasses make it very difficult to allow this to become a discouraging point, but it is an observation that I thought was worth making.

Overall, current fans of Sailor Moon should continue to be entertained by this new outing. Fans new to the series…. well, you get to experience everything for the first time, although I doubt the budding romance between Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask is very surprising, given the closing credits. Maybe anime companies need to put spoiler warnings on their opening and closing sequences….

A Christian Perspective:

Honestly, I don’t have anything. I could try to make some point about valuing people for who they are based on a comment the princess made, but that would really be pulling a needle from a haystack, since it doesn’t really play a major role in the episode. Still, it is worth noting that we shouldn’t simply value people for their possessions or their net worth—we should value them for the fact that they’re people. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10: 29-31)

Oh, and ladies? Don’t fall asleep outdoors, on a bench, with no one around, even if it is at a mansion with security detail. You never know who may try what…..

A Christian Perspective:

Honestly, I don’t have anything. I could try to make some point about valuing people for who they are based on a comment the princess made, but that would really be pulling a needle from a haystack, since it doesn’t really play a major role in the episode. Still, it is worth noting that we shouldn’t simply value people for their possessions or their net worth—we should value them for the fact that they’re people. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10: 29-31)

Oh, and ladies? Don’t fall asleep outdoors, on a bench, with no one around, even if it is at a mansion with security detail. You never know who may try what…..

Content Guide:

Language: 1 “j**z”, 2 “d**n”

Alcohol/Drug Use: Characters are shown holding what could be glasses of champagne

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Usagi and other female characters are shown in gowns that reveal some cleavage; transformation sequences; Tuxedo Mask kisses Sailor Moon while she sleeps–not sexual, just kind of creepy

Violence: Typical Sailor Moon violence–the girls use their powers to fight an evil spirit

Blood/Gore: None