Enter the Anime – Mini Review

It’s Not Even an Ad

Netflix released a “documentary” on August 5th, 2019 titled, Enter the Anime. The premise is simple enough, “What is anime?” and follows a newcomer to the industry, Alex Burunova, as she doesn’t proceed to do anything for approximately 50 minutes. If it had not been for this review, I would never have touched this film. Even in the first few minutes, it was so repulsive that I would have turned it off altogether. Yet here we are, as promised. Today I’ll be discussing Enter the Anime through the lens of a piece a marketing for Netflex, as it transparently seems to only exist to sell you on their shows (and it can’t even do that).

I’m going to be frank with you all. There is not a single positive thing I could say about this “documentary”. Even when it had something interesting to say, it was often cut off, impossible to decipher due to the hyperactive editing, or drowned in a sea of vapid nothingness. Just wanted to be upfront about that.

The thesis statement of this is to find out what anime is. It’s clear that the target audience is folks who have never seen an anime in their life, but it also expects the viewer to be familiar with the material as well. If I were totally new to anime, this would have turned me off to the medium entirely, and in the next few paragraphs, I’ll explain why.

First, Burunova constantly talks about how “clean” and pristine Japan is as a nation but then says that anime is made by these “deranged” individuals who are the fringe of their society. This is not only extremely offensive, and mindbogglingly baffling that this was ever released, it implies that there is this level of taboo to the medium.

She also takes every moment to be as edgy as possible. I hate the “fellow kids” kind of comments people make about things when people are genuinely trying to connect to multiple generations, but this was exactly that. There is a moment where they say that a character in Baki says, “I don’t give a fuck” and she follows that up by saying, “Unlike Baki, I do give a fuck”. Which I guess is an alright line if it weren’t ruined by things like, “The Instagram royalty of yore” or whatever that stupid line is.

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Oh right, guess I was a bit off, like it matters though…

Burunova is like this from minute one. She is a terrible narrator and host.

This is followed up by showing the most graphic content that Netflix anime has to offer. Seriously, nonstop. To the “documentary’s” credit, there is a very brief section on “cute culture” and how “anime is for kids”, but it comes so late in, and is so short, that it may well not even have been included.

Finally, the editing and presentation of any topic is just plain awful. It is so transparent that this is just a giant ad for Netflix anime, especially the CG shows (which is fine), that it goes as far as to undermine its entire premise in the opening minutes.

Let me explain, the first interview is with the Castlevania guy. You know, not a Japanese person or a show even made in Japan. I’m not one of those people who think anime is only something from Japan either, but this really undercut any credibility anyone might have for what’s to come, and not just for this reason.

The guy is a massive weirdo! He starts things off by telling the audience that he is a “time traveler” and wastes almost 12 minutes of the runtime talking about his DOG and Kanye West of all things. What does that have to do with anime?

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“Professional” editing…

Even when they do finally talk to some industry people, half of the “interviews” are just… nothing. The worst instance of this was when they left a phone call with Yoko Takahashi’s manager in the “documentary”, instead of talking about NGE (which they never even mention by name for some reason) or showing her performance beyond a few seconds. It was just bad.

Oh yeah! They even recycled footage in this 50 minute piece of garbage. Can you believe that? More than once too! There’s no substance here. One interviewee talked about how many people don’t know him because Netflix lets you skip OP’s and ED’s, but that is given like 2 seconds. Almost all of them laugh about the lack of sleep they get, as if it is some joke you need to “get” about the industry. It was frustrating to watch.

Ok, so what was the point then? Like I said, this is meant to push Netflix shows. I think that’s fine, but they don’t really show much off, and a lot of the things they chose were the edgiest and least accessible titles. Even just choosing from among their “original” properties, they really did not offer variety here. It made anime feel immature, hyper violent, and kind of obnoxious.

Furthermore, they chose almost exclusively CG shows, where much, or even all, of the product was not animated in 2D. Again, this would be fine except that just isn’t what anime is on the whole. Same can be said for the last point.

Also there was this strange focus on titles that haven’t even come out yet. Some not until 2020. This was really dumb, because when those things were stacked up alongside this train wreck, it didn’t make me want to watch them. Seriously, I have less confidence in some of these shows because they were in this “documentary”.

In a lot of ways, this would have been better as a mini series with proper time given to all its topics. The question of “what is anime?” is answered in a lot of ways: culture, food, style, etc… but ultimately settles on saying it doesn’t matter. It chooses to abandon its core premise to say “it brings people together” and “it gives a voice to the outcasts” but, I just couldn’t help but feel it was pandering. Void of all meaning. A genuine waste of time, and a massive mistake on the part of Netflix.


This is slightly longer than the max character limit of 1,000 words I set for these mini reviews, but this was just that bad. I tried to stay focused on the marketing angle, but I just couldn’t avoid airing grievances. Let me know if you liked this in the comments, please tell me how you managed to do that. Support my stuff via the Ko-fi button below. See ya in the next one folks.

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7 Seeds – Mini Review

Worse than Hero Mask?!?

Image result for 7 seeds animeI’ll save you the trouble, yes, 7 Seeds was a worse Netflix show than Hero Mask was. That’s really saying something, and a massive disappointment because this show is based on a very well regarded manga that is extremely interesting! This adaptation does have the intrigue, but it fails on almost every level to execute on any of it.

Long time readers will know that studio Gonzo and I have a history as I’ve watched a surprisingly large amount of their library. It’s impressive that they are still producing stuff even today, like in today’s case with 7 Seeds. Even though I think this show is rubbish, it does live up to my main thought on Gonzo’s work:  not all of their shows are good, but they are all at least interesting.

This is a doomsday survival story. The world is about to end, so the government forms teams of people, putting them in cryosleep, so that they can one day rebuild society long after the remainder of humanity has been wiped out as a last resort. It’s such a strong premise, which I am not doing justice to.

I was just praising Phantom in my last article for how well it adapted its source material by making changes, that I feel kind of bad about what I have to say on 7 Seeds’s behalf. It too makes changes, but it really doesn’t work at all. Shots are pretty faithful to the manga, the issue more lies in that an episode could cover up to 10 chapters of the manga at a time. That’s absurd!

All of this isn’t helped by the fact that the anime chooses to jump all over the place, following various groups of people, some even on unique timelines. It isn’t like things are hard to follow, but stuff is just constantly happening and way too quickly. Especially the bad stuff.

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This arc was just way too much for me, and I LIKE dark stuff…

What I mean by that, is the bad things that happen to the characters. Even if you somehow cared for any of them (seriously, there are maybe 3 I didn’t totally hate), you have no down time to appreciate when they have a moment of calm. Unrelentless is how I would describe this, it just keeps throwing tragic event, after tragic event.

On the note about the characters, they are all terrible, even the supposed “good guys” from the “good teams”. Let me give you an example, one character hates another character because he is kind of a coward. She does horrible stuff to him and others. Later, he dies to save her life and MAGICALLY she gives a huge speech about how much she loved and cared about the dude. It all feels so fake. These don’t even feel like characters.

It wasn’t all bad though, like I said. There was a lot of cool world building details and concepts tossed around. 7 Seeds even managed TWO whole (mostly) effective story beats! One was about an underground shelter, the first way the government tried to protect people. This was the more effective of the two, even if it was a little goofy and over the top in places. The second was about Jesus, but he’s good at baseball and also has dogs. It was just his backstory.

Otherwise, the animation was baffling in terms of how bad it was. The character’s look great, aside from the gross hair thing, which is cool because the manga art would not have translated well to animation. Music was a joke, even the OP and ED. I’ve already spoken to the writing and direction, so that’s it really.

I guess there is one pretty big thing left. 7 Seeds doesn’t even have an ending! Netflix really has a bad habit of not finishing what they start when it comes to these “original” projects. Thankfully, I do know that the second half of this series is coming soon, but it was a pretty big mistake to leave things hanging like they did.

Not going to lie, I was still interested in watching to see how things progressed. The world was interesting and critiquing the issues with things was fun for me. However, leaving off on what I wouldn’t even call a cliff hanger, literally just cutting from the middle of what feels like a normal episode, was gross. It also wasn’t clear that this was meant to just be a part 1 either.

Should mention, the dub is not bad. Anyway, this trailer doesn’t look too bad, does it? Yeah, I wish it was true…

Of course it isn’t hard to figure that out once you finish the “final” episode, but it just doesn’t sit well with me. Clearly, I mean I’m on my third paragraph about it now. Do yourself a favor, totally pass on 7 Seeds. If you really want to check it out, at least wait until the second half drops on Netflix so you (hopefully) get a complete product.


Did you make the mistake of watching 7 Seeds? Totally disagree with me here? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Consider dropping a few bucks my way by hitting the Ko-fi button below if you like my articles here. Thanks for reading and see ya soon!

Ingress the Animation – Mini Review

A Good Mobile Game Adaptation

Image result for ingress the animationI’m back with my latest Netflix adventure, this time with Ingress the Animation, a supernatural drama based on a mobile game by Niantic. You may know them for Pokemon GO, and like that game, this is an AR game meant to get people out and about but this one came first. Is there enough here to make for a good show? Does this sit somewhere closer to B:  The Beginning or is this another Hero Mask?

When I sat down to watch this one I had no clue it was a mobile game adaptation, I only learned all that part way through when I was doing some digging. I also expected the show to be another supernatural cop procedural, but this one was more action oriented. Still, Ingress managed to peak my interest.

What got me interested in everything was the introduction of Makoto, a psychic detective who is asked to investigate a strange incident. With the ability to see memories contained in objects, he soon learns something he shouldn’t and gets wrapped up in a global conspiracy. You know, just another Monday.

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It was good character introduction

It’s a bit cliche, but what I liked most about this was how the anime showed you how his power works. Actually, things were done this way more often than not. There were still info dumps, but they weren’t too often and were done when only necessary.

As the story unfolds Makoto gets involved with a girl named Sarah. She tells Makoto that there exists a hidden substance that has influenced humanity for some time called, Exotic Matter, or XM for short. This explains his ability. It’s an example where the show tells you things, but the whole while it does a lot of showing at the same time.

Mostly, this is to teach you about the mobile game. Surprisingly, it did a really good job because I was talking to my brother about it (he’s played it) and he was shocked how well I knew the game for never playing. Even more shocking, this never felt intrusive. It felt totally organic within the story and something that really sets this one apart for me.

In the end, the story isn’t revolutionary but one that I enjoyed more than expected. Going back to my earlier question, it had quality closer to B than Hero Mask, which is a good thing for sure. I’d watch more of this if it ever got more.

The characters for the series are done in CG and that can be a bit distracting, sometimes resulting in odd action choreography, but if you can look past that, the show looks pretty good most of the time. I’d say it generally looked worse in the early episodes but improved as it went, I also got a lot more used to it though, so there’s that.

Finally, the music was great! The OP and ED were both done by an idie band, alt-J. I joked on Twitter about how random geometry was used in the OP, and then the song had the lyrics, “Triangles are my favorite shape.” Which, at first, I found humorous, but as the show went on it made good thematic sense. It was a solid choice. Not to mention the animation sequence here is strong from a directional standpoint.

The ED, “In Cold Blood” was clearly picked for the binary lyrics because the rest of the song doesn’t really fit the show. However, that part is thematic and the AR sequence of real life places and the game collide is neat. It was another way to show off the game without being too in your face.

In short, I’d recommend Ingress the Animation if you are already curious about the game especially. Fans of supernatural action/mystery shows should also enjoy this one. As I said, it isn’t revolutionary, but you’ll at least have a decent time.


Have you ever played Ingress? Did you watch the show? Share your thoughts on either in the comments. If you want to support my work, you can do so via the Ko-fi button below. Thanks, as always, for reading and hope to see you back here again soon!

Lost Song – Straight Forward Children’s Fare?

Critically Panned

Image result for lost song anime reviewContinuing my journey with anime on Netflix, I decided to watch Lost Song after the disaster that was Hero Mask. The description got me interested in this because it said there would be singing and a quick cursory look at the staff revealed that Yukari Tamura (you may recognize her vocal performances in shows such as Island or Higurashi) would be a prominent character. While not every roll of hers involves singing, this one seemed like it obviously would, and that was enough to get me to watch. Unfortunately, the show had a lot of bad reviews, but I was convinced there might be something to this one. Continue reading “Lost Song – Straight Forward Children’s Fare?”

Hero Mask – Heard You Like B: The Beginning…

How About a Derivative Version Then?

Related imageAs you may recall, I’ve been going through Netflix shows recently. Last time I took a look at B:  The Beginning and how I found it to be pretty similar to Psycho-Pass. My primary complaint toward B was that it didn’t focus enough on the cop/mystery side of thing and eventually went too deep into its supernatural elements. While Hero Mask has some science fiction stuff going on, it sticks pretty hard to a Western cop procedural. The question is, did it work? Continue reading “Hero Mask – Heard You Like B: The Beginning…”

B: The Beginning – Heard You Like Psycho-Pass…

How About a Supernatural Version Then?

Spoilers, I couldn’t figure out a way to talk about this without spoiling parts of Psycho-Pass or this show. I tried to keep them to a minimum though.

Image result for b the beginningLately I’ve been on a bit of a Netflix kick so I figured it was finally time to get around to some anime I had put off for one reason or another. Today I’m looking at B:  The Beginning (going to refer to it as B moving forward), a supernatural, mystery, police-like procedural that is very reminiscent of Psycho-Pass. If you like one, would you like the other? Continue reading “B: The Beginning – Heard You Like Psycho-Pass…”

You – Another Netflix Original

Killing, Stalking, All in the Name of Love

My mom pestered me about watching Netflix’s You awhile back and I finally sat down and finished it over the weekend. It’s about a man, Joe, who after having his heart broken, falls in love with a beautiful woman, Beck, when she visits the bookstore he works at. However, Joe is a bit obsessive and is willing to do anything for love, even if that means a murder or two. Continue reading “You – Another Netflix Original”

Nailed it! – Mini Review

Baking & Comedy, The Perfect Recipe!

Image result for nailed itAt one of the overnight youth functions I supervised over the Christmas vacation, it was suggested by one of the kids that we watch Nailed it! as a pre-bed activity. The kid in question told us that it was a baking show, but really funny. I’m not a fan of baking shows, but I am a big fan of Nailed it! and the hilarity that ensues when people who absolutely cannot bake get in the kitchen to recreate Pinterest level projects.

Even if you are like me and not big into cooking/baking programs, you should enjoy this program if you like comedy. Not only this, but it is also a great way to actually learn how to bake better yourself, which is never a bad skill for anybody to have. Alright, maybe that’s not enough to sell you. Just take a look at this image:

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Now not everything the contests bake on this program turns out as horrifyingly hilarious as this, but this is about what you should expect. Coupled with the excellent direction and energy brought to the program from the hosts makes this easy to sit down and watch several in a row.

Given that this is a Netflix original series, the show is aware that most people are going to sit down and binge this. Listen, I didn’t think I would, but I did. It really is that easy to do and there are a decent number of episodes that will allow you to keep the party going (either alone or with friends, it’s obviously better with friends). That said, I do suggest being somewhat conservative with these because you should never burn through something like this too quickly.

On a personal level, Nailed it! hurts my soul. So many of the bakers are just awful. Not following directions, making obvious mistakes, etc… A lot of the time they get made fun of, and that can come off as mean spirited. It’s my only real complaint with the show, but most of the time they get constructive feedback and walk away learning something.

This is evident in one of the episodes where they have some of the worst-of-the-worst return, and while they still do poorly, they did improve as a direct result of their past experience! I’d say it is generally a more positive show that pokes fun at people who know they can’t bake, which is good.

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Earlier I mentioned the hosts. Their are two static hosts, Nicole Byer and world-famous Jacques Torres, have excellent chemistry. Each episode a guest judge joins in on the action and they are almost always great in conjunction with the other two. It is really fun to watch them riff on each other and just generally mess around.

If you somehow missed Nailed It! when it first came out, then you should go and give it a watch. It’s rare that you find something that can teach you something, be largely positive, but also offer a great deal of humor! Netflix, you really have a winner here and I hope you do more episodes beyond the current three seasons.


Have you seen Nailed It! before? What was your favorite episode? Tell me all about it in the comments below. If you would like to support my work please head over to my donation page via the button under this. Lastly, thanks for visiting today and hope to see you back here at Jon Spencer Reviews again soon!

Neo Yokio Christmas Special – Mini Review

Was it Good?

Image result for neo yokio christmas specialAs you may recall, I wrote a glowing review of Neo Yokio when it first premiered on Netflix in 2017. A lot of folks hated it, but I found it to be an uproariously funny series. When it was announced that a Christmas special would be made, I was stoked! Well I gave it a watch so let’s dive in and see if this was up to par with the original series or if something was lacking.

The general premise of the episode is that Kaz is sick during the holidays so he has Charles tell him a story. Initially it starts off as telling the story of Jesus, but Kaz quickly gets bored of that and some off-color humor about religion is tossed in (I didn’t really mind that, just putting out there because I know some people will care).

That’s when you jump right into the story proper. You tangentially follow Herbert, or as many of the characters refer to him as, “Sales Clerk” and the upcoming Secret Santa for Neo Yokio’s most eligible bachelors. Kaz naturally gets his nemesis Arcangelo and vice versa. In addition to all this, a new character is tossed into the mix, Kaz’s French aunt who is a memoir-ist, that isn’t liked by Aunt Agatha. There is also hints that Kaz’s family may have a dark past and that bigger plots may be at play than anybody realizes. Somehow, this is also a commentary on consumerism and Christmas in general too.

In a way, this has all of the conventional trappings of any other special for any other series. You have the callback to the Toblerone, references to events that transpired back in the main series, and most of it felt about as natural as this sort of thing can.

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However, it just didn’t quite feel quite like the Neo Yokio I love. The first point of criticism I have is that the characters did too much swearing. Now, I don’t really care when swearing is in a show, but it was so frequent, and often out of place, that it was rather distracting. Furthermore, there is just a LOT going on in this (just over) an hour special.

It felt a bit unfocused. Mind you, this doesn’t mean it was a bad special, but you were a fan of Neo Yokio’s core series, then this may leave you feeling like this wasn’t as good. All that said, there were certainly high points of praise.

For starters I loved Arcangelo’s goofy Christmas song, Kaz’s terrible rap, and the pseudo-philosophical Eva-like sequences related to The Pink. I also liked the direction they took Herbert for the story, even pushing him to the brink of suicide when people refuse to shop at the store due to Arcangelo’s, “Christmas challenge” and is subsequently fired. There’s just something about this absurd series getting super real that elevated it even higher than normal for me.

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As I mentioned, there are messages about anti-consumerism which contradicts the expectations one may have for a Christmas special. Ultimately, Christmas is just a part of the setting, only acting as a vehicle to deliver the obvious critique and set pieces that propel the narrative.

So was this as good? No, but I still liked it. If you weren’t a fan of Neo Yokio already, then this absolutely won’t change your mind. However, if you loved the series like me, then you’ll probably enjoy this, even if it doesn’t quite measure up.


Are you going to check out Neo Yokio’s Christmas special? If you already did, what are your thoughts? Let me hear your voice in the comments below. If you’d like to support my writing here, please click my donation button below as I really appreciate it. Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you back here again soon at Jon Spencer Reviews!

Violet Evergarden & Special – A Letter From the Heart

Dear Reader,

I’m sure you came here expecting a review of Violet Evergarden and a recommendation as to whether or not you should watch it. In a way I suppose this will likely do that but today’s piece is more personal. It’s a letter to you, the community, and to myself. I’m not writing it as Jon Spencer, but rather as the man behind the persona, Nathan Mehlhorn.

As many of you know I have several conditions such as Cerebral Palsy and Autism. It’s not something I really keep secret. However, what you probably do not know is I don’t communicate very well with people. This, of course, is not always the case as with anyone but in person I’m not exactly an expert conversationalist. Surprised? I’ve always been much better at communicating through writing, though my spelling limits my vocabulary and I’m prone to more errors, it is generally more concise and easier to follow.

This is not so unusual for people in my position. I don’t have to track a conversation, focus on eye contact, or follow typical social conventions on the computer. I have time to process responses and am afforded ample time to think of phrasing to reply in turn. In short, writing, as a medium, is generally an easier forum of communication for me.

Hence why we are talking about Violet Evergarden today. This series is about three major things. The first of which is war, which I can relate to in that my Father was in the military but is not what I’d like to focus on today. As for the other two things, they would be about Violet wishing to learn what, “I love you” means and letter writings. Specifically, how sometimes it is easier to say things in writing than aloud.

In short, this is about the power of words.

Violet Evergarden is not unique in this exploration however. So you may be wondering why the focus on this show specifically? To which I would applaud you. That’s an excellent question. In truth, this could easily be about The Great Passage which explores similar themes through its story about creating a dictionary. Partially, I chose this series because it’s popular and more accessible. However, Violet Evergarden has one thing other shows do not, and that’s Violet herself.

A complaint often leveled at Violet Evergarden is that Violet is too robotic, she’s not quite, well, human enough for people. What an insult to people like myself. Allow me to explain. At the start of the series Violet is very much like an autistic person, she has poor communication skills. While she is excellent at conveying information and typing, she doesn’t understand people. Her quest for understanding what, “I love you” means is really a means for her to connect with others.

When I was younger, I was very similar to Violet. I just didn’t get people. I still don’t always. I’d take orders, relay information, etc… This made me an excellent student, I was smart and capable in that respect, but when it came to people not so much. I’d often misunderstand sarcasm, hidden intent behind words, and things that for many people are relatively obvious.

Seeing Violet’s journey through the series is one that I can relate to personally. Not because I have a tragic war story background but because the growth of her character is so similar to my own.

There is another thing I realized with Violet Evergarden though. My highest rated shows do one of three things well. The first being that they are technically impressive, the next being they are intellectually stimulating, and the third being they are emotionally resonate with me. Especially sad things.

You might be thinking, “So what?” because this in itself isn’t that uncommon. The focus is on the emotionally resonate stuff. I don’t experience emotions the same way as other people. I can become upset, frustrated, depressed, just like anybody else, but truly feeling something is pretty rare.

This is a lot harder to explain so let me do my best here. For a long time I wouldn’t even be phased by somebody dying, just as an example. I still don’t really because it is totally normal, it happens, just a natural phenomenon. Most people think that’s weird. I should be sad, right?

Well when it comes to anime, I feel these things really strongly. Not in every show, but things like Anohana, which I’ve mentioned, hit me so hard I can barely stand a rewatch. I seek these strong feelings out in media. Not just negative ones, but positive ones too.

Anime has been a blessing in that regard. It has helped me understand people a lot better. That’s the true value of something like Violet Evergarden and why I think it is such a wonderful show. The power of communication comes through so strongly and learning how and why people feel the things they do is invaluable to me, and others.

After watching the special episode for the series the other day I was overcome with an urge to write this letter to you. Maybe this was all a big rambling mess and you didn’t really get anything out of it, but I hope you did. Perhaps, you’ll look at anime a bit differently the next time you sit down to watch it even?

Works like these are transformative and important. I truly wish to experience many more shows that pack such a weight like Violet Evergarden does for me. If you haven’t already please give this wonderful series a watch with an open mind and heart.

Sincerely,

-JS