Listen

A powerfully moving story of family bonds after loss

<B>What They Say:</B>

Whoever said little girls grow up in the most delightful ways wasn't Yuta Segawa! But since his sister Yuri raised Yuta by herself after their own parents' deaths, what kind of brother would Yuta be if he didn't take in her three children when Yuri and her husband disappear? Of course, the fact that Yuta's a nineteen-year-old college student, living in a tiny apartment, with three girls, two of whom aren't related by blood, is bound to cause some issues...
Especially when the eldest girl, Sora, is harboring a secret crush on him and would be quite happy if Yuta's social life revolved around the "family," while middle sister Miu is starting to make noises about "older men" as well. Did we mention that it's a really, really small apartment? Add Raika, the girl Yuta actually likes, as a smoldering fuse and the question isn't if Yuta's home sweet home is a powderkeg, but when it's going to explode and how often!


<B>The Review:</B>
<B>Audio: </B>

The release of this television series contains only a Japanese 2.0 audio track which was found to be without dropouts or distortions noted while the dialogue comes through clearly. Given the rather normal, perhaps even mundane, setting there isn’t a ton of directionality or effects needed and so much of the material tends to come off most balanced between the speakers though on the occasions where directionality is required it is provided to an extent leaves the impression of being a solid audio track that works well on the whole.

<B>Video: </B>
Originally airing in the early months of of Japan’s 2012 television season, Listen To Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! is presented here in its original 16:9 aspect ratio complete with an anamorphic encode. The series is largely one that uses an animation style that keeps to a realistic-ish model that keeps the characters largely consistent throughout the series and while it tends to avoid the boldest of colors in most places the ones it uses are usually very solid and deep and which feel rather real for the world the series creates.
For this release Sentai Filmworks places 12 episodes and an OVA on three discs which probably help the visuals in theory, but it is hard to say how successful this is in practice here as there are a number of issues that show up in the presentation. Present on the disc is a level of fine noise that is usually moderate in most places while a bit of banding, some minor blocking, a little ghosting and some obvious CGI rear their head which all combine to make for a rather disappointing looking visual presentation compared to almost everything else I’ve seen released on the market around the same period as this title.
<B>Packaging: </B>

The packaging for the release houses three discs in a regular DVD sized case that includes a hinge that has space for a disc on either side with the final disc being stored in the back of the inside of the case. The cover features an image of the three main girls in the series with the three year old Hana being in the upper left side pulling her oldest sister Sora along by the arm as Miu rushes to keep up. The shot is a low angle one so the cover gives a great view of a blue sky with white clouds behind but also gives a bit of a hint of some of the fanservice inside as it provides a very low shot that shows off a considerable amount of Sora’s legs.
The back cover continues to use the blue and white colors from the cover with blue looking like it is a backdrop while the white is used for bars that list the episodes and OVA at the top along with three stills from the show. The middle of the cover uses a large white section that has an image of the three girls clutching on to each other and smiling on the left side while the right contains the copy for the series. The bottom of cover contains four more stills while the rest of the bottom cover space is reserved for technical information and copyright information. Each DVD gets its own image with an image of the sister trio on it while the first has a bit of embarrassing fanservice and the third disc includes a shot of a young woman (Oda) who becomes a little infatuated with the cute girls during the course of the story.
<B>Menu: </B>

The menus use are fairly basic in mechanics in that they use static images of characters with the main menus featuring artwork that combines all three of the girls on the right of the screen while the left side has the options listed vertically in orange against a white background. The menus themselves are on the simplistic yet effective side and they are quick to respond to changes in selection while they also respond promptly to whatever option was chosen and they have large orange arrow indicator to signify which option is highlighted.

<B>Extras: </B>

The only extras present on the release are the rather standard clean openings and closing animations.

<B>Content:</B> (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

Based off the light novel series Papa no lukoto Kikinasai! written by Tomohiro Matsu and illustrated by Yuka Nakajima, Listen To Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! covers the events in the life of new college freshman Segawa Yuta who suddenly finds his life turned upside down when tragedy again strikes his family and he is put into a position to have to decide if he will make a choice that will provide him a great deal more responsibility and stress when his older sister who raised him and her husband pass away leaving three young girls of various ages behind and who now are facing the prospect of being split up among various extended family members.

The series opens up by spending some necessary time introducing the audience to Segawa Yuta on his first day at Tama University of Lecture as he begins his journey into the world of college life. As he walks the campus he encounters many clubs handing out flyers to attract new members but it is the young woman Oda Raika handing out flyers for the Sightseeing Club that really draws his eye and which persuades him to go to their welcome activity- an event that finds him captured by a scheme by the clubs more than slightly onerous president Sako who tries to force Yuta into joining through a scheme to make him believe he committed an incredible offence while drinking. Despite this shady attempt Yuta still eventually manages to wind up in the club, though more because of the prospect of spending time with Oda Raika than anything Sako plotted and his friend and fellow first year student Nimura Koichi follows along.

About a month after he enters college his sister Yuri invites Yuta over to her house so he can spend time with the family she started as she married a Shingo, a man who already had two daughters from two previous marriages and the daughter that she and her husband had together hasn’t had much chance to see her uncle. At first Yuta tries to excuse himself by saying he doesn’t want to intrude on her family time but Yuri changes her tone to a slightly scolding one and she reminds him that no matter what happens Yuta is still her family- and it turns out that when the siblings parent’s died while Yuta was still in middle school and Yuri in high school she had refused to let the two be separated as the family planned and she had taken on the role of raising them in their parent’s stead.

Properly chastised, Yuta agrees to come over to the couple’s house on the next Sunday and he makes the hour and a half train trip to Yuri’s house but when Yuta arrives he is greeted by the 10 year old Miu who is a bit upbeat and energetic when meeting him and invites him in and surprises him by telling him that Yuri and Shingo have already left and Yuta is supposed to watch the girls. Yuta then encounters the 3 year old Hina who he manages to win over fairly easily by playing with her but it is his encounter with the 14 year old Hina that may be the most problematic as he walks in on her just as she is getting dressed after having just taken a shower which of course provokes a loud scream from the young teenager.

Despite a slightly rough start (and Yuta being pranked while sleeping) things go well enough that Yuri, Shingo and the daughters are comfortable enough to have Yuta watch the girls for a bit of an extended while as it turns out that Yuri had a bit of an ulterior motive of sorts beyond just having her younger brother being introduced to the girl’s lives and using him to watch the girls for one day as Shingo is flying out of the country for his work and Yuri is hoping that Yuta will watch the couple’s daughters so Yuri can go with Shingo as they never really had a honeymoon.

Tragedy strikes almost immediately however as the plane that the girl’s parents is on goes down and all on board are presumed lost leaving the girls basically as orphans and facing the same situation that Yuta experienced as a boy where the relatives are trying to decide what to do with the siblings. As Yuta and the trio of grieving girls listen the assembled extended family members debate the best solution to this situation but when the only ideas floated all revolve around splitting the sisters up and having them move in with different family members Yuta finds that he cannot accept that and much like his sister Yuri did years earlier Yuta declares that he will take the girls in despite the difficulty of a college student in a one room apartment will face with three young girls to care for.

While the assembled family is still somewhat stunned Yuta and the girls make the hour and a half trip by train to his apartment as if that will simply solve the entire matter. As they try to build these new lives together though they are going to face a good deal of difficulty as this arrangement is going to tax all four members in different ways from having to adjust to a lack of privacy, major commutes, new bills all while trying to process the grief of their lost family members. It isn’t just this quartet either as everyone has their own problems but the example set by them may just be able to provide inspiration for others around them- assuming of course that the near impossibility of the situation doesn’t overwhelm and consume them first.

When I first was reading about the premise for the show I won’t deny having had mixed (at best) emotions as the string of light novel adaptations I had seen recently didn’t give me an abundance of confidence in general and the specifics of a college guy living with three girls had me worrying what direction the series would go considering some of the paths other light novel adaptations had gone. To an extent I was a bit right as there are a couple of situations in the story that made me uncomfortable and there is one character that was deplorable on the surface and possibly even worse in subtext but beyond them the show turned out far more spectacularly than I ever even considered possible as when the writing is on all of the characters (but one) feel like they avoid most of the common clichés and low hanging fruit pathways for the most part and come across as fairly well developed and relatable as they react to the situations around them.

The story really starts strong by introducing the viewers to Yuta and making sure that his life gets a bit of a solid foundation giving him and his club mates a chance to establish who he is as an individual just starting to make his way in the world on his own in the transition from young adult to full adult as he works to discover just what it is he wants to pursue in college to help shape his future as well as who he is going to choose to associate with as he goes about this. This introduction serves well to help give him a bit of a grounding and fill him out so that when tragedy strikes and he decides to try to be a bonding force for keeping his nieces together his motivation doesn’t feel quite as forced as it would have had the series started with him meeting the girls but not showing the audience some of his current life first.

And by in large Yuta is the center of this story, not just in terms of his nieces and other extended family members but in many respects his social circle and apartment he has chosen to live in start off as a base off which each of the other girl’s can either expand their own social circles in this environment or they can mourn the loss of their old one as each of these four members now will be bearing some bit of the struggle that comes with Yuta’s humble means and the impact that not only a much smaller dwelling but also a long distance from the school’s the older girls attend take their own toll while Yuta finds providing for three younger people while trying to be a student may prove impossible.

And it is really here that I think the series finds its greatest heart as the characters find others around them who also are hurting and yet through simple acts of kindness- perhaps even unnoticed by the person providing it- many of the people around them who lost their sense of community find it and hope along with it as this small family tries with all its heart to stick together even when all odds are against them and it appears that at least Yuta may be better off without this impossible task. There is something about these healing encounters- even when a bit cheesy at times- that just makes me happy and I enjoy relishing in those feelings unabashedly.

Where the series goes astray for me is when it engages in a bit of the kind of behavior that I feared when I first heard the title as the fourteen year old Sora is often unfortunately at the center of some fan service shots where Yuta walks in on her changing or in the bath far too often, even if in the current living situation it doesn’t feel as forced or bizarre as many other series that try this simply because of the proximity the small apartment forces on them as well as both parties often acting as they always have but without considering their current situation, particularly when it comes to doors or the curtain that divides the room (though it is obviously still pushing things for fan reaction). The situation also is slightly helped as it increases the odd feelings that Sora has as she got a crush on Yuta a few years before and it had exploded into a major thing before the two were reunited near the start of this series’ events and these incidents can really help set up some of her dramatic reactions.

Where things go completely off the rails is the character of the club president who has a fetish for very young girls and is beyond creepy when it comes to the ten year old Miu and three year old Hina and while it never seems to become overly sexual I can’t help feeling the character exists only to make the audience feel better if they sexualize Sora as the president sees he as ‘over the hill.’ This strikes me like it is giving permission because the club president is obviously revolting and since he doesn’t have a thing for Sora it means fans that may are alright as they aren’t as bad as this detestable character and that feels more than a touch manipulative to me. The only other note I have is that the translation seems a bit hit or miss at times as there is a point where a descriptions is translated as ‘gloomy Gus’ which might suggest a bit of a localized script yet ‘Onii-chan’ is present when the dialogue uses the term with no translation ever being offered. And just to bridge the final gap I guess is that the series does define some Kanji when needed in the presentation which frankly leaves me scratching my head as to just what the overall philosophy behind this translation job was, though it largely works well overall even if there are some peculiarities to be found within.


though the fact that she has had a crush on him for a couple years and was taking the shower so she could look her best when he arrives sets a bit of a tone for some upcoming

Summer is a bit of a stretch but come the school year things get hard for everyone.
Hina wins over the entire neighborhood
Group winds up helping many around then with the problems they have as well.

<B>In Summary:</B>


<B>Features:</b>


<B>Content Grade:</B> A
<B>Audio Grade:</B>
<B>Video Grade:</B> B-
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<B>Released By:</B>
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<B>Review Equipment:</B>
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.


FT 37

Finally the face behind things is reveled…but will Fairy Tail be able to trust that face?

Story/Art:

Translation/Adaptation:

Write here, Write NOW!


<strong>What They Say</strong>



<strong>Content: </strong>(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):

The Fairy Tail fighters sent to rescue Lucy now find themselves in a pinch as the magical executioners that the castle has used to clean up all threats to date are now facing off against them while the group finds itself split up. But is it Fairy Tail that really has the worst luck as each of the Executioners find themselves facing off against powerful members who may be able to negate the Executioners’ most powerful attacks- that is except for the group of Fairy’s that contain two less than front line magical cats, a pair of Celestial Wizards without any keys and a Colonel that looks to be barely clinging to life and it looks as though this group of Fairy’s may be facing an unstoppable end.

Unless of course someone can step in at the last moment and save them in some cliché manner, but really that is the kind of thing that only happens in manga and anime…oh, right.

Just when Fairy Tail thinks it has everything figured out though a wild card appears on the table, not in the form of an all powerful boss or even magic canceling jinn but instead a single individual who shows no signs of malice or hostility and who turns out to be someone that this group can’t imagine exists in this way, let alone can even think of attacking. The cloaked figure that has walked behind the scenes for much of the arc is finally revealed- and has she got a story to tell. This figure will possess a very familiar face and her words have captured the princess’ ear that tale is the basis for the Eclipse plan as the woman brings with her a portent of sorrow…from a future that should never be?

While the rescue attempt progresses though the fight in the arena is on as Mavis has carefully planned out how to have her guild come out on top, though like the old military saying goes that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy Mavis’ comes plan apart when Erza meets up with a very angry Kagura rather than Minerva as Mavis had predicted. Things get even worse when the powerful Minerva then makes an entrance and attempts to show her power by fighting both swordswoman as a clash that will leave all spectators breathless commences. When Minerva realizes that she has bitten off more than she can chew however as she becomes aware she has no chance of beating both of the other women as long as they are united in assault against her, Minerva decides to use a bit of leverage she obtained earlier to have the two completely wear down each other so Minerva can step in and claim the points that come with striking the finishing blow on her two opponents. With Mavis plan falling apart in the ring and the rescuers lost under the city is the doom prophesized destined to occur…and is this messenger trustworthy or is Fairy Tail going to be responsible for bringing calamity unto the land one way or another?

The 37th volume of Fairy Tail is kind of a roller coaster for me, and not always in a good way as it has some fantastic fight scenes and clashes while on the other hand it also uses a gimmick to solve a conflict in a way that just feels a bit forced and weak which just needed something more special to really payoff the action. Initially things go off course as the battle beneath the castle is too quick, clean and requires a move that comes off as cheap in order to wrap up this part of the story and move on with events. The quickness of the battle might be a sign of just how powerful Fairy Tail is and on that level it is OK but somehow rather than portraying that overwhelming dominance in most of the fighters it comes across as Fairy Tail fighting a bunch of “B” opponents who were underdeveloped and which doesn’t give a sense of the full weight that should be there.

When that moment is then paired with a bit of a too convenient arrival to help the team members who were thrown together as the weakest grouping possible it all combines to feel like almost bullying with the weak being picked on, even if the ‘weak’ in this case started the fight. I’m still not totally sold on the revelation of the character who has set up the events but the possibility of deception from this figure (assuming they even are who they appear to be) has the chance of really becoming a special moment…or another cheap narrative device.

Where the volume shines though is in its fight scenes as watching the three strongest women in Fioria (until some new character is revealed in the future in all likely hood anyway) is an absolute treat as Hiro Mashima has a real eye toward what makes for an exciting action panel and he uses this skill in full effect to the point I think I could almost read an entire volume worth of chapters with these three and expressing their feelings and motivations with blows that resonate the conviction they carry into the battle. It also is a great touch how this reinforces the battle between Erza and Kagura as a contest of wills on almost an equal footing with strength.

Where things go a bit off in this part of the story is that perhaps a bit too much of the motivation is based off of Jellal’s previous actions and the deep scar they had on Kagura, though it is interesting how much the feelings of betrayal have sparked in her against Erza due to Fairy Tails’ letting Jellal into their midst though at least it proves that actions in the manga carry a great amount of weight which helps redeem this almost flaw whereas in many other fighting series once a character works toward redemption they are largely accepted as doing so by most of the encountered cast, or at least in short order. The biggest problem though comes when Kagura has a moment that makes her question her ability to fight Erza in a way that may create an opportunity for character growth in the future but here feels almost like a cheap escape so that Mashima can solve this immediate conflict between the two and move on with the next parts of the story in a way that just doesn’t feel as rich as what he penned for this clash. Still these flaws aren’t enough to make the volume uninteresting, they more serve to take some of the flourish off a well prepared story and leaves it as being just very good rather than spectacular, and how many authors would give up their favorite pens to be able to be in that position?


<strong>In Summary</strong>

Some of Fairy Tail’s strongest fighters have gone off to rescue the captured Lucy but the audience in the coliseum isn’t going to have much chance to wonder just where these fighters that have driven a bit of fear into the spectators have gone as perhaps the greatest match the Games have ever hosted explode when the three women who might each claim the title of strongest fighter – male or female- match up and it becomes clear that Erza may be in a pinch as Fairy Tail’s acceptance of Jellal at the games is already starting to have the poisonous effects they feared as Jellal’s secret identity is out in the open and there are no shortage of people present with grudges to settle. But in the shadows things may be moving in a very dark way as a familiar face that shouldn’t be appears and promises that a very dark future is soon to descend…but is this person prophet or harbinger of doom?

<div style=”float:right;”></div><strong>Content Grade</strong>: B

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<B>What They Say:</b>



<B>The Review:</b>

<B>Content:</b> (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Doctor and Clara have been through a lot together, journeying from pre-historic times to the end of the universe but through it all Clara has relied on a single thought to keep her going- that the Doctor will never abandon her. But now, stuck on the moon in 2049 with an astronaut and one of her students while being facing a horrible life and death choice it seems that she may be about to discover that her faith was badly misplaced.
The start of the events seemed innocuous enough as Clara walks through the halls of Coal Hill, attempting once again to serve as the conscious of the Doctor (who now has blended in enough to roam freely it appears) and explain to him why his dismissal of Courtney Woods- the student the Doctor gave a trial spin in the TARDIS to- as not being special was damaging to the young woman. As Clara attempts to persuade the Doctor that this proclamation (as well as the Doctor leaving his Psychic Paper around for Courtney to be able to swipe) have had a detrimental effect that the Doctor can probably reverse by claiming he was mistaken she runs into the brick wall that is his stubbornness as from his point of view he is correct that few humans –or any being really- will ever rise to the position of being special in the grand scheme of things through which he tends to view the universe.
Rather than simply lying (which isn’t exactly something the previous incarnations had been unskilled at), the Doctor decides to set out and make Courtney special by having her be the first woman to set foot on the moon. It seems though that the trip may take a bit of a turn though when rather than landing on the moon the trio appear on what appears to be some sort of space ship loaded with what are clearly some sizable bombs just as it crashes onto the moon. The trio then discover that nothing seems right as the astronauts piloting the crashing ship confront them and the Doctor realizes what is so wrong about this current situation and the trio are filled in that the moon has suddenly been having odd gravity fluctuations which have had disastrous effects on the Earth and that the ship is there to find out what the problem is and try to fix it…somehow with the nukes.
As this now combined force attempt to find out what is going on by exploring the Mexican mining outpost which first reported the problems and then went eerily silent a decade ago the group finds that it isn’t alone on the orbiting body as something else is present with them- and that something else is currently stalking them. As the dwindling group attempts to fend off the attackers they still need to find out just what it is that is causing the gravity problems and the moon to fissure they discover that all of the problems are linked and that the Moon isn’t the giant dead object hanging in the sky that mankind has assumed it to be for so much of its history and that it may in fact be something unique in all of the universe.
But when it looks like the secret the moon holds may place humanity in peril will the three humans with the ability to affect the course of mankind’s future existence be able to make a choice that will save or imperil that very future as the Doctor claims this moment is a turning point for humanity- one whose outcome he can’t see and refuses to participate in as he removes himself- literally- from the equation. Now trapped on the moon with the weight of the world on her shoulders in a less than metaphoric sense will Clara be able to find the right path when both paths seem to lead to a dangerous and terrible outcome…and even if the Doctor comes back will his act of placing her in this position split the pair up in away less dramatic form the world but just as dynamically for them as the giant sphere Clara, Courtney and one other woman are trapped on with time running out?
With the Doctor now seemingly established on Earth for the first time in a while (either as the former substitute caretaker who still hangs around or as a caretaker who doesn’t do his job…either of which seem like a school with major problems) it is time for the series to take to space again. This time the premise though feels a bit off as rather than a random journey the Doctor looks to have a specific goal in mind, though some of the parts of the adventure do leave open the question of how much of his trip is planned versus how much might be the TARDIS simply taking him where he needs to go again.
This question may actually be the most important one of the episode and it is also the one that gets practically no answer as the whole episode works to set up a chain of events that only start when the TARDIS appears in exactly the right place at right time. In theory if this isn’t where he wanted to be and when it should be a bit of a shock to the Doctor as he has been rather dead on accurate in piloting it as of late, and yet he makes no comment of surprise and it even seems like he almost planned it by having Courtney being the first woman to step foot on the Moon. When one considers that the Doctor could have chosen literally any date in time prior to this and yet has them there *just* before the person who would then be the second woman on the moon adds to the suspicion that this was all according to a plan, though whether it is because it is something he wanted to explore otherwise or as a specific goal for the pair of travelers he brings with him is uncertain.
Unfortunately though this question is brushed aside here rather than explored by Clara as by the end of the episode she is in a justified rage at the Doctor and as close as she comes to the question involves more of the Doctor leaving her when he might have know the ‘correct’ outcome all along and as such spared her a lot of agony and grief, though she isn’t so angry she doesn’t pick up on a bit of his arrogance in leaving it to her in the first place. Even here though questions are raised that the Doctor deflects which are important and would help to define him that the writers leave hanging, choosing instead to power events with indignation instead of really exploring what this episode really defines of this Doctor.
And that is probably where the episode fell apart for me as the target the whole time seemed to be to get Clara to that state. When the episode opened with Clara sending a message of despair that the episode then had to flash back in order to fill in the events that arrived there and while at the time it felt like a way to really kick things off with a high deal of tension and infuse the episode with it but in retrospect it feels more like a bit of a magician’s distraction- the “Look, nothing up my sleeves” in order to distract the audience from either seeing him palming an item or using the flourish to call attention away from where the trick’s mechanics are really being performed. To some extent much of drama does this in the first viewing but it left an empty feeling for me and upon thinking about it afterword and it really jumped out to me that the escalation to Clara’s reaction at the end felt like it needed more of a natural build up but that the timeslot allotted to the series just didn’t allow for it to be done in a way that held up over the long haul and so the initial opening was used as a bit of a short cut which got the audience to where they needed to be at the end of the episode even though it was at the expense of the journey.
The journey wasn’t helped any either by the need to insert a quicker and immediate threat to the cast on the Moon rather than just the damage that would be done on Earth from taking a passive approach or the damage done to the interior of the Moon from a proactive decision. The creatures inserted to amp up the danger seemed to almost mimic the threat in the Alien film series (including one shot shown in the teaser that might as well have come from that film franchise) but which served to divide the flow of the episode almost in two rather than to support and enhance events. The episode felt like the writers wanted to do something big but they didn’t trust just the dialogue and cast’s acting ability to get things to that point and so they went with something easier to relate to and hope that adrenaline rush carried over to the main part of the story.
Perhaps it is just me but I couldn’t help feeling that the whole revelation of what was going on with the Moon was less than unique either as I guessed a bit before what should have been the climactic moment just what was being built to and I got the impression that I had seen this before somewhere at least once and it felt kind of like a recycling that way as well of a different (and possibly better) plot. The time spent on the flourish and sleight of hand movements of the earlier part then made it seem like the time was shortened to make a decision about how to deal with the course of events which then failed to have me connect with the cast as they dealt with the same issue and rather than feeling tension I felt frustration at the pace that left so much potential on the table.
A special call out goes to the events just after the decision is made as it is hard to imagine a more “no consequences in the long run” end as the writers seem to go as far out of their way as possible to make sure that they don’t leave anything that should have impacted other Doctor Who stories set with humanity post 2049 in any way, even if shear laws of physics (including things like mass and inertia) are completely ignored along the way as there is no way the moon should be in the state it is at the end of the episode for any reason other than the ‘magic’ of writing. It isn’t just the moon that seems to have no effect but when the series focuses on the planet Earth during the build up the coast looked rather similar to a modern shot despite the damage that the varying gravity was supposed to have done to coastal cities. All together this added up to a feeling that the writers are having problems fitting a grand idea into a television time frame, though on occasion the budget constraints can be seen as well and I can’t help feeling some episodes –like this one- would work better as a special or movie with more time allotted.
With all these gripes it might be surprising that I don’t give the episode a really low score and if this were a standalone movie not connected to a franchise or perhaps one connected to a franchise I am not invested in it would have but that isn’t the reality of things and the writers did a pretty amazing job of inserting in some elements to keep long time fans entertained and watching along even when the episode itself stumbled. Long time fans were likely thrilled to see the return of a yoyo into the series as it is an item that isn’t as famously connected to the Fourth Doctor as his giant scarf or all fans but it is one that serves as a nice bonus to events and gets worked into the story in a rather natural feeling way. It was also a nice touch to see that the Doctor still has DVDs on the TARDIS shelf to recall his time machine as well as a way to prevent the person using it from being left behind which flashes back to the exceptional Tenth Doctor episode Blink though I am starting to wonder if the self referential material isn’t being carried just a bit too far in order to help hook in the longer time fan.
What was unique is watching the Doctor describe how he sees time almost as he is doing it as the series has done so before with the Doctor talking about how he senses the planets he is on or can see all the possible outcomes but here the Doctor actually describes some of the gray areas that exist and keep him from knowing everything which helps to take him from being a god and makes him more of a fallible character who doesn’t always know the right answers. It is actually this idea that really saved the episode for me as it takes the whole thing and places the Doctor’s actions of leaving Clara to decide the fate of the Moon into a more relatable place as it helps to make his actions a bit more understandable while not taking away any of Clara’s justification for her response and makes them characters that it is easy to both root for without either being an overwhelming villain (though admittedly I still find it more than a little bit of a jerk move for the Doctor to have left the way he did, but it does open up why he did so, even if I disagree).
I’m not sure what needed to be done to make the episode something unforgettable in the final measure, but I did enjoy it enough that I am not going to groan when I see it is coming up next whenever I get around to watching this season on home video and frankly I can think of a fair number episodes from other shows I can’t say the same for and I guess that says something positive for the episode in the end, even though it isn’t a ringing endorsement.
<B>In Summary:</b>




<strong>Creative Staff</strong>

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<strong>What They Say</strong>

<strong>Content: </strong>(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The former Golden Witch Beatrice (Beato) finds herself in a most untenable position as Battler has had more than enough of the Witch’s displays of cruelty and no longer wants Beato in front of him despite the seeming mercy she bestowed on the latest victims by granting them a quick death when they were going to be toys of the new Golden Witch- the repressed feelings of Eva from childhood turned manifest who has inherited that title and name Beatrice. And things aren’t any better for her when dealing with the new Beatrice either as this Beatrice feels she has no need for any insight from her predecessor leaving Beato standing almost alone, almost like the island Rokkenjima itself.
But perhaps this seemingly crushing fate may finally be the key to Beato discovering some magic greater than that of The Golden Witch as her role of spectator to the horrors puts her in a position to empathize and watch the actions of those on the island that she formerly toyed with. As she watches their struggles Beato begins to take an interest in the power each of these individuals seems to have and becomes enamored enough with that to even risk her own existence helping them out. Given that the current Beatrice seems to have powers that extend beyond what Beato and her mentor possessed will Beato find herself on the losing end of events or will she discover a power greater than she knew as well as the assistance of a most unlikely ally when Battler challenges the new Beatrice and takes Beato as an ally after witnessing her trials with her new perspective and differing actions?
And Battler is going to find himself needing to have that assistance returned when his attempt to challenge the new Beatrice stumbles once she starts to understand the rules of this game being played and she operates with a verbal and intellectual ruthlessness equal to the physical ruthlessness that the members of the Ushiromiya family face physically. As Battler’s early victories start being wiped out and turn around on him he is going to need Beato’s help on the game field as her turn of heart over this latest match seems to have him finally ready to forgive her and accept that she is who she claims.

Will the mystery of Rokkenjima island finally be solved and the Ushiromiya family and servants find peace or are their further layers to the game playing out which will complicate- or perhaps reveal a truth- with the appearance of a young woman with an unspoken tie to the Ushiromiya family who isn’t about to let things end with this seeming happy ever after. And in the aftermath as witches talk it may turn out that even the seeming game master may not be the one truly in charge. With everything spinning it may be that rather than an ending events may really just be pointing out pieces that signal a true beginning to a solution.
There are times when I worry that my level of cynicism is so great that I am incapable of buying into some things or being surprised by them. Now obviously that isn’t true but at times when I see or read things I wonder if the fault might not lie with me rather than a writer and that certainly was true in the case of the previous arc of Umineko as I just never connected with the arc and I wondered if it wasn’t me, and perhaps it was. Or perhaps the second arc was simply part of a trap to make me lower my guard of cynicism as this current volume had me riding every page and the character turns and revels with an amazing amount of wonder and joy (even at the darkest and morbid parts) as Ryukishi07 appears to be at the top of his game as he takes the reader on a series of loops and twists as characters act in brand new ways that bring more depth to them while at the same time weaving a masterful yarn.
That he does this while showcasing an ability to disarm a reader (or at least me) and then spring his plan to bring all that development and emotion brought along the way makes for an incredibly powerful and connecting story as each reveal and twist seemed to work almost as well on me as on Battler as he looks to be on the very verge of finally helping to save his family and be present at the redemption of Beato. Having played through the original Higurahi game and then experiencing some of what was lost when the story moved to a different medium I can only wonder how many other marvels might exist in the story’s original format.
There really isn’t anything I can think of that this volume missed (other than the series usual questionable use of ‘logic’) on as it moved at a pace that allowed for events to build and bring power to not just this volume but brings a spectacular sense of danger and intrigue to a series that was already far from in short supply of either. If anything the volume might have overplayed its hand by revealing to many twists and not ending a chapter or two sooner to give the full effect of events time to sink in but given how rich the following material is and how it sets up the next arc it is difficult to see how this is a negative that will be a determent in the long run. With this arc Umineko is clearly firing on all cylinders and it is hard to say this isn’t be a title that those who love a mystery and don’t mind some gore along the way are going to be the poorer for missing. Highest Recommendation.
<strong>In Summary</strong>

<div style=”float:right;”></div><strong>Content Grade</strong>: A+

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