Spy x Family, Episode 10, The Great Dodgeball Plan Review: Funniest Episode Yet.

Directed by Kenji Takahashi, Episode 10 of Spy x Family, “The Great Dodgeball Plan”, is one of the funniest episodes of the series so far.
Before the jokes start, however, “The Great Dodgeball Plan” begins with some slice-of-life elements, as we see Anya’s teacher Henderson go about his everyday, elegant routine of excercising, saluting the statue of Eden College’s founder and taking a shower (with the shot only focusing on his feet for the latter, thank god).
As the bell rings, signaling the start of the day, we see all of the curtains be flung open at once, again showing how professional Eden College is with its committment to time.
Then, the scene transitions to Damian, where we go more in depth with his character by focusing on a small detail from a previous episode.
This detail is the photot that was taken of Damian and Anya along with their classmates and parents.
However, some may have noticed that Damian is completley alone in the photo, his father Desmond, Twilight’s target, not being present.
Now, four episodes later, “The Great Dodgeball Plan” puts a deliberate focus on this photo, with Damian looking up at it mournfully, longing for his father’s approval.
Damian’s situation is not helped by his two friends coming up to ask him about his brother, seeing in a photobook that he won many Stella Stars.
As his friends swoon over this, they don’t notice Damian’s nerves, as a shadow falls over his face in a pretty good usage of show don’t tell through animation.
Damian never says that he is desperate to gain his father’s approval or that he is nervous that he will not be able to live up to his older brother’s standard, but we can see it on his face clear as day.
Yet, as quick as this happens, Damian is given a chance to live up to his brother’s standard, as his friends point out that he might be able to win a Stella Star if he becomes the MVP of the upcoming dodgeball game in PE.
Daminan’s hopefulness is contrasted with Henderson’s, who is looking forward to teaching his elegant students… with the exception of Anya, Becky, Damian and his friends, who are all arguing when he comes in.
While this is another good joke, it also does point to the notion that Damian’s hope of aquiring a Stella Star through PE is fruitless, much like how Henderson’s hope for his students to be elegant is fruitless.
Unfortunately for Anya, she also takes the rumor of aquiring a Stella Star through PE seriously, as she reports it to Twilight after Becky tells her about it.
Yor immediately tasks herself with training Anya, something that is easier said than done, as Anya struggles with this about as much as she does studying, resulting in various moments of humor, like her pathetically funny attempt at doing situps.
Despite her troubles, Anya believes she is ready on the day of the dodgeball game.
However, the possibility that gaining a Stella Star through PE is just a rumor is not the only problem Anya faces because her team’s main opponent in the dodgeball game is Bill Watkins, a 6-year-old boy who looks more like a twenty-year-old man who eats steroids for breakfast.
This does result in plenty of hilarious moments, though, as we see someone who looks like an adult be a kid.
Probably the funniest moment of his is during his flashback, where he runs up to his father, who is twice his size, and calls him “daddy.”
Hearing that word come from such an adult sounding voice will never not be funny.
As for the dogeball match itself, it is full of even more humorous moments, like flashbacks to Damian’s training, with various visual allusions to locations from other anime, like Namek from Dragon Ball Z.
There is also Emile’s over dramatic sacrifice, followed by Ewen getting hit not a moment later because he wasn’t paying attention, followed by Anya reading Bill’s mind to dodge his attacks.
However, she quickly becomes distracted by shooting Damian her signature “heh” expression, leading to her nearly getting hit and falling over, allowing Bill his chance to throw the ball at her. Rather than be hit, Anya is saved by Damian who sacrifices himself for her in a moment of growth.
Anya looks set to avenge Damian’s sacrifice in the game, which Damian likes to remind her is not a literal death, remembering the ultimate move Yor taught her.
The animation for this ultimate move, the Star Catch Arrow, is spectacular and is made all the more hilarious when Anya spectacularly fails, allowing Bill to knock her out of the game with a simple throw.
As expected, though, there was no Stella Star up for whoever won the game.
It was just a rumor, in the end.
On the other hand, Henderson does think that Anya and Damian may be future recipients of Stella Stars, given how they were able to put aside their differences to work togethor… only for this elegant thought to be immediately cut off by Damian starting an argument with Anya again, as the episode concludes.
Overall, “The Great Dodgeball Plan” is a great episode of Spy x Family, with it having some of the best humor of the series so far.

The Northman Review: If You Seek Revenge, Dig a Hundred Graves.

Robert Eggers is a director who has been highly praised for his previous films, The Witch and The Lighthouse.
Given this, and how much I was impressed by the trailers for his latest film, The Northman, along with the movie’s positive reception, I went to see it last weekend.
After watching it, I can definitely say that I agree with the reception the film has been getting.
The Northman is a brutal, viking revenge story that is thrilling from beginning to end, even in its slower moments.
Our main character is Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård), a viking prince, whose father (Ethan Hawke) is murdered and mother (Nicole Kidman) kidnapped by his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang). 
Amleth barely escapes the assassination and coup where Fjölnir steals the kingdom, growing up to become a savage warrior; one with three promises keeping him going over the years: “I will avenge you, father. I will save you, mother. I will kill you, Fjölnir.”

Upon recieving a form of prophecy, Amleth embarks on his quest of vengance.

The direction of The Northman is stellar, along with the cinematography by Jarin Blaschke, and the score by Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough.
These features help propel the writing forward, as the film manages to be quite entertaining, despite its often slow pace, with some excellent action sequences and compelling twists and turns to the narrative. 
The actors also all bring their A game.
Alexander Skarsgård feels like a literal beast at times as Amleth, yet still manages to show vulnerabilities in a performance that would not surprise me if it earned him a Best Actor Nomination at the very least.

Skarsgård makes Amleth both brutal and sympathetic as he is eventually faced with the choice of love for his kin or hate for his enemies.

The other actors all bring the same quality to their performances, even those with minor roles like Willem Dafoe and Björk.
The only character I have an issue with in this movie is Olga, played by Anya Taylor Joy.
However, this is not because of Joy’s performance.
In fact, I think she does an excellent job, like everyone else.
No, my issue has to do with the way she is written.
I just find the kind of relationship she forms with Almeth to be sort of unrealistic, considering how the two of them meet.
It made me think there was going to be some kind of twist surrounding Olga but there wasn’t.

Not to say that I did not like Olga’s character and, again, Joy’s performance is excellent, but I think some more explanation for her bond with Amleth would have been nice.

This was not a huge issue, however, and, other than this, I absolutely loved The Northman.
It is a gripping revenge story that has a lot to say about the consequences of vengeance, the brutality of people, and even the effect love can have on a person.
The Northman is easily one of the best film’s of the year.   

Spy x Family, Episode Nine, Show Off How in Love You Are Review: Don’t Encourage the Creepy Brother, Yor.

Picking up from the cliffhanger of the previous episode, which teased a kiss between Twilight and Yor, Episode Nine of Spy x Family, “Show Off How in Love You Are,” pays that cliffhanger off but not with a kiss.
Directed by Takashi Katagiri, the episode begins with Yor getting herself drunk so she can kiss Twilight.
Not exactly flattering for the spy but it was probably the nerves that made Yor do this.
Unfortunately for Yuri, this leads to him being mortified when Yor’s drunkenness makes her act rather lewd when she goes to kiss Twilight.
Unfortunately for us, this builds into another flashback from Yor and Yuri’s past.
The reason this is unfortunate for us is because it shows just how deep Yuri’s obsession for his sister goes.
Yor kisses Yuri on the cheek for scoring a 100 on his test, and Yuri responds by saying he will marry her when he grows up.
Yor’s response to this is to sit Yuri down and tell him that they cannot get married because they are siblings, although she still loves him as family.
Nah, just kidding.
What Yor actually does is say that she will wait paitiently for him.
Thankfully, Yor is clearly humoring Yuri in this flashback.
It did no favors for Yuri, though, as this memory leads to him lunging to stop the kiss between Yor and Twilight, only for the pay-off for the teased kiss to arrive.
Not with an actual kiss, however, but with a slap, because the pay-off for last episode’s cliffhanger is humor.
Too embarrassed to kiss Twilight, Yor appears to try and slap him, only to accidentally slap Yuri into the wall instead, causing him to sprout blood from various parts of his head.
The crashing sound also wakes Anya up who, still half asleep, comedically thinks it’s the end of the world, before falling back into bed.
Back with Twilight, Yor and Yuri, Yor goes from unintentionally slapping Yuri to intentionally slapping him, when he tearfully gives Twilight his permission to kiss his sister, before he storms from the house, all the while Twilight is trying to convince him to go to the hostpital.
This gag goes on for a good while too, with Yuri eventually asking two strangers about the station’s location, only for them to scream at him to go the hostpital first.
Afterwards, we get my favourite scene of the episode, which is Anya’s reaction to the previous night when she reads her parents’ minds.
First, she stumbles from her room, still half asleep, mistaking a plant for Twilight.
Both him and Yor are surprised to hear that Anya does not even remember how excited she was to meet Yuri, before she fell asleep.
Anya only remembers this when she reads Twilight’s mind and learns Yuri is a member of the Secret Police, meaning she was denied her daily excitement that comes with having a spy and an assassin as parents.
Her outraged reaction to this left me chuckling.
After this point, the episode moves into its main plot, as Twilight becomes suspicious of Yor, wondering if she knows Yuri works for the Secret Police, leading to him bugging her.
Meanwhile, Yor is worried that Twilight sees her as a disappointing wife.
Anya picks up on both of these things with her mind reading and tells them they need to get along, before hopping on the school bus, leaving her parents to go about their activities, Yor at work, and Twilight spying on his wife.
Before the episode goes further into this plotline, however, we get the conclusion to this part of Yuri’s story, as his boss further pushes him towards eventually finding and capturing Twilight, Yuri not realising that Loid Forger is the spy himself.
We also get a look inside Yuri’s locker during this scene and surprise, surprise, it’s full of pictures of Yor.
You have to wonder what his colleagues think of his creepy obsession?
Well, he’s clearly a good agent, so they probably don’t care too much so long as he gets the job done.
Cutting back to the main storyline of the episode with Twilight and Yor, Twilight listens in to Yor’s conversations at work and hears her fretting over her lack of cooking skills, worried that this makes her a bad wife.
However, Twilight is still not completley satisfied that this clears her, so he concocts a scheme with Franky, disguising themselves as Yuri’s bosses to interrogate Yor, thinking she will name Yuri as a member of the Secret Police to help herself, proving to Twilight that she knew about him.
Instead, Yor proves herself to Twilight as both innocent and strong, figuratively and literally on the latter, as she is figuratively strong by speaking up for her family, and literally strong with how she easily beats Franky when he tries to take her with them.
This leads to Twilight calling the scheme off, allowing Yor to go and rightly feeling quite guilty for his actions, which Franky calls him out on, saying he should not develop feelings for Yor because it could endanger his mission.
Twilight retaliates by ripping off Franky’s mask, ruining his chances of picking up women with it.
As Franky mourns the lost oppurtunities, Twilight tells him that it is a terrible idea to date a woman while deceiving her, a hilariously hypocritical statement from him.
Twilight then meets up with Yor and removes the bug, before cheering her up, saying she should be confident with herself.
He then suggests they get a cake for their one-year wedding anniversary.
Time sure has flown for them, huh?
The episode then ends when Anya arrives home and is overjoyed to learn her parents are getting along again after reading their minds.
All in all, “Show Off How in Love You Are” is another really good episode of Spy x Family. 
Once again, my only criticism of it is how deep Yuri’s obsession goes for Yor.
Otherwise, it’s quite an enjoyable episode, with some wholesome moments and good humor, mostly with Anya’s reactions and the slap pay-off to the kiss cliffhanger.

Spy x Family, Episode Eight, The Counter-Secret Police Cover Operation, Review: Will They or Won’t They?

Following the last episode’s cliffhanger of Yor’s brother Yuri learning of his sister’s marriage, Episode Eight of Spy x Family, “The Counter-Secret Police Cover Operation” depicts the humorous fallout.
Directed by Yukiko Imai, the episode begins with a brief look at Anya’s schooling, which predictably is not going all that well, as she bombs the answer to a question so hard it leaves everyone staring at her.
Naturally, we then cut to Twilight lying to his Handler about how long it should take Anya to be an Imperial Scholar, something the Handler picks up on pretty quickly.
This all leads to her telling him that one on their agents at Yor’s work, Jim Hayward, has been captured by the State Security Service, which is then shown happening.
These three scenes all flow togethor nicely, going from Anya failing at school, to Twilight lying about her grades, to Hayward being captured after the Handler talks about him.
It gets even better with Yor’s introduction this episode as, after witnessing Hayward being taken away, she and her colleagues talk about Yuri, who plans to drop by the Forger household, while also introducing his quite frankly weird obsession with his sister, before cutting to Hayward being interrogated.
This all builds to the reveal of Yuri as a State Security Service agent, with him interrogating Hayward after his superiors get nothing out of him.
How does Yuri begin this expert interrogation?
Why, by talking about his sister, of course!
It’s a running theme with him and an honestly uncomfortable one.
Although, it’s thankfully mostly played for humor rather than completley serious, at least in this episode.
This interrogation also goes to show Yuri’s darker side, with him appearing to be cheerful when it begins, only for him to turn violent when he proves Hayward’s guilt and states his devotion to protecting the country his sister lives in.
Cue another great cut, as the scene transitions from Yuri pretty much saying that he will resort to any torture to meet his goal, to Anya watching her favourite cartoon, where Bondman refuses to submit to torture.
This leads to Twilight realising Anya can learn how to study when she views it through the lens of her cartoons, before Yor runs in to warn them of Yuri’s eventual visit.
Thankfully, Twilight is able to make the room look more lovey-dovey before Yuri’s arrival, leading to a repeat of Anya assuming they are flirting, which both of her parents vehemently deny again.
Yuri arrives not long after Anya falls asleep, carrying a ridiculously large bouquet of flowers, ready to test if Twilight is good enough for his sister.
What follows is various comedic moments as Twilight and Yuri act as though they are getting along around Yor, while their inner monologues highlight their suspicions of one another,  with Twilight eventually deducing that Yuri is with the Secret Police.
Before this moment, however, Yuri understandably asks for an explanation as to why Yor would not tell him about her marriage for an entire year.
So, what with Yor being an expert assassin, she surely has a great lie ready to go, right?
Well, not exactly because her explanation is that she forgot to tell Yuri and then she forgot that she forgot to.
Twilight is understandably baffled by explanation but even more baffled that Yuri beleives it.
The narrator then notes that when it comes to his sister, Yuri’s “sense of logic goes out the window.”
Is this funny?
Yes.
Is this creepy?
Also yes!
Thankfully, as I said earlier, Yuri’s obsession with Yor is treated comedically rather than seriously so that does help somewhat.
This also does lead into the funniest moment of the episode, when we see a flashback of a young Yor returning to take care of a child Yuri, sometime after their parents’ deaths.
The reason this is the funniest scene in the episode is because Yor is covered in blood when she does this, definitley having killed someone as part of her assasination job, and does not even bother to clean up when going to take care of her kid brother.
Cutting back to the present, Yuri’s expanation of why he cares for Yor so much leads to him getting more and more agitated, to the point that he actually knocks over a glass.
When Yor and Twilight attempt to clean it up, their hands touch, causing them to flinch back, naturally tipping off Yuri’s investigative skills, as he becomes suspicious, since any married couple would not be afraid to touch hands.
Therefore, in order to prove their marriage, he demands that they kiss in front of him.
And so, Twilight leans in to kiss a mortified Yor, ending the episode on the cliffhanger of whether our main couple will actually kiss.
Overall, “The Counter-Secret Police Cover Operation” is another good episode of Spy x Family. 
My only criticism of it is that I wish Yuri was merely overprotective of Yor and not have this obsession he clearly has with her, since it is quite creepy.
Otherwise, the episode is pretty good, with the way scenes flow togethor being especially well done.

Stranger Things Season Four Volume One Review: A Dark Return.

After almost three years, Stranger Things has finally returned to Netflix for its Fourth Season and, wow, was this one hell of a return.
Created by the Duffer Brothers, this may be the best season of the show so far, delivering stellar story telling, character development, scares, comedy, you name it and it’s probably there.
Season Four picks up with the main characters divided, Joyce (Winona Ryder) having taken Eleven (Mille Bobby Brown), Will (Noah Schnapp) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) to California, leaving Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Max (Sadie Sink), Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke) in Hawkins.
It is with the latter group that the story is most engaging, as they investigate a series of gruesomely horrific murders in Hawkins that somehow involves the mysterious monster in the Upside Down known as Vecna.
Meanwhile, in California, Joyce and Murray (Brett Gelman) begin their own mission, when they learn that Hopper (David Harbour) may just be alive but a captive in Russia.
At the same time, Eleven dealing with some over-the-top bullies at school sets her down the path of confronting her horrific past, eventually learning the horrible truth about what happened to the other numbers. 

The exploration of Eleven confronting her past is thankfully done much better than Season Two’s “The Lost Sister.”

So, as you can gather, there are a lot of moving parts to the Fourth Season of Stranger Things but the Duffer Brothers and their team juggle it all seamlessly with some excellent pacing.
They even somehow find enough time to bring in new characters like Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) and make them just as interesting as the older characters.
All of this results in some truly brilliant episodes like the fourth, “Dear Billy,” and the seventh, “The Massacre at Hawkins Lab”, which has a mind blowing ending.     
“Dear Billy” is especially amazing, potentially being the best episode of the entire series with plenty of spectacular action, horror and character development, especially for Max, who Sadie Sink plays excellently.

Max is definitley the best character in this season so far, with Sadie Sink delivering by far her best performance as the character.

As for my criticisms of the season, I did find the California storyline, with the exception of Eleven’s sections, to be not as interesting as the rest of the storylines.
Sure, there are some great moments, one action scene in particular but, for the most part, I was just wanting to get back to the other storylines whenever the focus went back to the California group.
Another problem I have is characters constantly receiving injuries that should leave them unable to walk, yet they are running with no problem in the next episode. 
It stretched believability a little bit. 
Finally, and this is a minor nitpick, but it was especially apparent this season that some of the actors cast as teenage side characters are way into their twenties and maybe even thirties.
Some of them did not look like high-schoolers at all and this could be quite off putting at times.
Thankfully, these were only side characters so it was not a massive issue.
Otherwise, this season is absolutely fantastic.

The issues this season has are far outweighed by its many, many positives.

What’s even better is that this is only Volume One.
We still have Volume Two to come, where the final episode will be two and half hours long.
The only downside is that we have to wait until July 1st to see these final two episodes of Season Four and, with how incredible this season has been so far, that is going to make the wait even longer.   

I cannot wait to see how Volume Two will conclude this season.

If you somehow have not checked our the Fourth Season of Stranger Things yet, then I would highly recommend you drop everything and go watch it.
Although, now that I think about it, maybe you should wait for Volume Two to come out to watch the whole thing.
It would certainly make your wait to see Season Four’s conclusion a lot shorter. 

Vinland Saga Chapter 191, The Day Review: One of Vinland Saga’s Best Chapters.

It has been a frew months since Vinland Saga Chapter 191, “The Day”, came out but in that time I have thought of it so often to the point that I just had to do a review of it.
I thought it was one of the best chapters of the manga when I first read and I still think the same thing months later.
“The Day” begins simple enough, with a now 27-year-old Thorfinn working the field in his settlement of Arnheid’s Town in Vinland.
A narration says that “the day has come” for him.
At first, this seems to mean something simple, with Thorfinn seeing the fruits of everyone’s labour, as Hild has designed a machine that helps process the wheat, so that the settlers can make bread much faster.
This is not only good for Thorfinn’s new settlement but also for Hild, who is praised endlessly for her invention, much to her embarrassment, although one older settler humously declares her invention witchcraft and runs off.
While the other settlers humor the old man, someone who should not be humored is Ivar, who still believes Thorfinn must pick up a sword to be a true leader.
I understand where he is coming from but he very well may set the settlers on a course of destruction against the Native Americans who, for now, seem to be getting on well with the settlers, as Bug Eyes continues to teach Nisqua their language, even getting her to call Gudrid an idiot when she annoys him.
Seeing the settlers get on so well with the natives provides hope for Thorfinn and Einar, which is further heightened when Gudrid, Karli and Hild bring them their first batch of bread.
Einar agrees with Thorfinn’s sentiment of how far they have come, before the panel cuts to another one below of the Arnheid bust, named after the woman Einar loved who unfortunately did not live to see this day: A day which brings further joy as Gudrid informs Thorfinn that she is pregnant.
This, of course, causes Karli to ask where babies come from, to which his adoptive parents are understandably reluctant to get into.
So, in the end, what is the big event of this titular “day” that the chapter title is referring to for Thorfinn?
Is it the day that he finally saw the fruits of their labour, or the day that he learned he would be a father again?
Well, I think it is both, but most of all it is the day where he earns the forgiveness of the one he wronged all those years ago: Hild.
Finally seeing that Thorfinn has truly redeemed himself and created the peaceful land he wished to, Hild decides that holding onto her revenge is pointless and removes her headband, turning to Thorfinn and telling her that she forgives him in a beautiful panel.
This was quite the surprising moment for me because I expected Hild’s forgiveness of Thorfinn to come during a big moment but the forgiveness itself is the big moment.
It subverted my expectations in the best way possible.
Thorfinn understandably breaks down at Hild’s declaration, as she comforts him and declares he is a “true warrior” for fighting so hard for his redemption.
Einar and Gudrid are likewise brought to tears and young Karli is happy that his father and Hild made up, not understanding the context of this beautiful moment.
Chapter 191  then ends on another fantastic, full page panel of Hild comforting Thorfinn, following her forgiveness.
This was such a beautiful moment and one of Vinland Saga’s best scenes, in my opinion.
Not only is the artwork stellar but the character writing is as well, with Hild’s forgiveness being brilliantly simple.
“The Day” is a chapter where Thorfinn sees the fruits of labour, love and forgiveness and it is easily one of Vinland Saga’s greatest chapters for the beautiful ending alone.  

Spy x Family, Episode Seven, The Target’s Second Son Review: Apology Failed Successfully.

Directed by Kazuki Horiguchi, Episode Seven of Spy x Family, “The Target’s Second Son,” begins with a recap of the previous episode, which saw Anya shoot her relationship status with Damian, the son of Twilight’s target, down to negative one hundred.
Twilight, however, is determined to see the friendship plan work so insists on Anya apologizing to Damian.
Upon reaching the school, Anya reunites with Becky, their friendship having been formed in the previous episode, and she proves an unintentional foil to Twilight’s plans, wanting Anya to avoid Damian, despite her repeated attempts to apologize for world peace.
This frustrates Twilight, who has humorously decided to watch over Anya for the day, determined to make sure that her apology to Damian follows through come hell or high water.
Twilight uses various methods to motivate Anya, such as reflecting a message to her with a mirror, editing Anya’s textbook, decorating Anya’s omelette with the word “sorry” using sauce, and many more.
Eventually, when Becky becomes too much trouble, he removes her from the situation, falsely calling her on the intercom to give Anya the chance to aplogize to Damian, which she takes, eventually bursting into tears as she does so.
The sight is enough to make Damian blush, which he passes off as him being red with anger, only for his own perspective to contradict this as we see normal shots of Anya looking at him present her in an idealized light.
Unwilling to admit his crush, Damian instead cries out that he will never forgive Anya, running off to Twilight’s horror.
So, apology failed succesfully, I guess?
Damian may not have accepted Anya’s apology but he now has a crush on her, potentially opening the door for Anya to get close and eventually get Twilight close to his target.
Although, if she were to read Damian’s mind and learn of his crush, I don’t see Anya taking it well.
She’d probably freak out with another meme worthy face and ruin the relationship further.
For now, however, this is a step in the right direction for the mission, not that any of the characters know it, and the scene ends with another good gag, as we see Becky wondering just who the heck called her anyway.
Upon arriving home, Twilight has Anya study, supposedly now relying on his backup plan of attempting to make Anya an imperial scholar.
Anya does not get the questions, though, so resorts to reading her parents’ minds.
Unfortunately, this does not go well, with Twilight being too focused on the mission to be thinking of the answers and, even funnier, Yor solving math by using the allegory of dismembering a body, disturbing Anya.
Anya runs to her room afterwards, leaving Yor to console Twilight about Anya’s troubles with studying, reflecting on how she raised her brother, Yuri, who actually taught her a few things himself.
Consoled by Yor’s words, Twilight goes to talk with Anya in her room and sees that she fell asleep trying to study.
Anya even mummers in her sleep, asking her mama not to kill her papa.
So, yeah, let’s hope that’s not foreshadowing for anything.
This leads into the credits but it is not the end of the episode because Yor’s earlier mention of her brother was not just to help Twilight’s development and get him closer to Yor, but also to lead to Yuri’s introduction, as he arrives, only to learn from Domonic that Yor is married.
This cliffhanger will lead to quite a few comedic moments, as Yuri investigates his sister’s relationship with Twilight in the next episode.
Overall, “The Target’s Second Son” is another good episode of Spy x Family, with plenty of funny moments and scenes that will lead to even funnier ones.

Spy x Family, Episode Six, The Friendship Scheme Review: The Meme Face is Here.

Episode Six of Spy x Family, “The Friendship Scheme”, is an episode I was quite excited to see because it would be adapting the moment that convinced me to read the series in the first place.
This being Anya’s “heh” face, when she deals with Damian Desmond’s bullying.
I decided to read the manga after seeing this face as the centerpiece of various memes and, when I actually reached the point where Anya makes this face, I concluded that it was and still is one of the funniest moments of the story.
This moment does not come until the second half of the Yōsuke Yamamoto directed episode, however, with the first half focusing on Twilight’s meeting with his handler and Yor taking Anya to get her school uniform for Eden College.
The latter story begins with the entire Forger family going to get Anya’s uniform fitted, during which the woman doing Anya’s measurements talks of bullying and kidnappings taking place at Eden Collage, unintentionally scaring Anya.
After a couple of other humorous moments displaying Anya’s fear of being kidnapped, Twilight is called to meet with his handler, Sylvia Sherwood, leaving Yor to take Anya to get the uniform.
Sherwood is none too happy about the expenses of the fantastic filler mission of the previous episode and put off, yet impressed, by the balls of Twilight handing her more expenses, this time for Anya’s uniform.
Sherwood then informs Twilight of phase 2 of Operation Strix, the aim of which is to get Twilight close to Donavon Desmond.
The plan is for Twilight to teach Anya how to recieve eight Stella Stars to become an imperial scholar, allowing her and Twilight to infiltrate Desmond’s inner circle.
On the other hand, if Anya does poorly and recieves eight Tonitrus Bolts, she will be expelled from Eden College, ruining the mission.
Faced with this potential problem and the prospect of turning Anya into her an imperal scholar, Twilight presents a cool persona, yet, on the inside, is thinking, “Hello, anxiety, my old friend.”
Well, if that isn’t the most relatable thing said in this story so far then I don’t know what is.
Meanwhile, Anya recieves her uniform and tries it on, looking as adorable as always, to which Yor gushes over repeatedly, annoying the shop owner.
The two then go on another family “ooting”, where Anya continues to do adorable things, like show off her uniform to everyone.
This wholesome moment does not last long, however, because the shop owner is proven right when some criminals recognize Anya’s uniform being for Eden College and decide to kidnap her for ransom.
Unfortunately for them, they just happened to attempt to kidnap the kid with an assassin for a mother, as Yor quickly scares them off in a moment that had me cheering for her just like in the manga.
This then leads to Yor training Anya for fights, adding to Twilight’s stress, and leading to the hilarious events of the episode’s second half, which sees the Forgers at an Eden College assembly, where Anya is sorted into her class.
Twilight has arranged for Anya to be put in the son of Donavon Desmond Damian’s class, in the hopes that the two will become friends so Anya, and by extentsion Twilight, will be invited to Desmond’s house where Twilight can investigate him.
Yet, right from the beginning, things do not go so smoothly, as Anya is put off by Damian’s arrogant attitude.
She is also put off by fellow student Becky Blackbell for much the same reason, worrying Twilight who notices that Becky and many of Anya’s other classmates are the children of important people, causing him to wish for Anya to make friends with them so he can gather intel.
Placed under Henderson as their teacher, the class then go on a tour of the College.
While visiting the dining room, Anya is bullied by Damian and his goons, causing her to remember Yor telling her to put on a brave face in front of bullies.
So, she does just that, resulting in the meme “heh” face which got me into this story in the first place, impressing Becky and insulting Damian.
This causes Damian to insult Anya throughout the tour, threatening to bully her every day and insulting Twilight, causing a literal fire to appear in Anya’s eye.
Cue her looking to make sure Henderson isn’t looking, before throwing an impressive punch, decking Damian to the floor and proving that Yor probably taught her a little too well.
Anya plays innocent when Henderson confronts her, pulling yet another comedic gold face, yet when her excuse doesn’t work, she acts as though she was protecting Becky, earning her friendship and lessening the Tonitrust Bolts she recieves from Henderson to one.
This causes shame for Anya, embarrsassment for Yor, and horror for Twilight at his mission already being so far behind, with Anya’s relationship with Damian already being at negative one hundred.
The episode then ends on another hilarious moment, as we see the embarrassed and horrified faces of the Forger family in their class photo.
All in all, “The Friendship Scheme” is another great episode of Spy x Family, adapting one of the funniest moments from the manga well.

Vampire in the Garden Review: Unfortunately Short.

I still remember searching for upcoming anime a few months ago and being interested by the description for Vampire in the Garden.
Developed by Wit Studio, released on Netflix and directed by Ryōtarō Makihara, the story is set in a winter wasteland where vampires and humans have been at war for an unknown period of time.
Some of the remaining remnants of humanity have fled to a city, protected by a tower that generates UV Light to ward off the vampires.
Living inside this city is a young girl named Momo (Megumi Han), the daughter of one of the city’s generals. 
She is tired of the fighting and wants to learn music, something which was outlawed because of its connection to the vampires.

Then, during an attack on the city, Momo has a chance encounter with the Vampire Queen Fine (Yu Kobayashi), someone who is also tired of the fighting and treasures music.
Together, the two decide to try and find a supposed paradise where humans and vampires live in harmony and make music together.

Momo and Fine’s chance encounter begins their journey.

This premise intrigued me when I first read it and I decided to give the anime a shot, thinking that it would probably have a similar episode count to Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song, another anime that Wit Studio produced which I loved.
So, I was quite surprised when I saw that there were only five episodes released by Netflix.
At first, I thought it must be some kind of error and that Netflix would release the other episodes once they realized the mistake.
But, no, Vampire in the Garden really is only five episodes long and this is its biggest fault.
Now, I still really enjoyed my time with this anime but I feel like it had the potential for so much more, if only it had been given more episodes. 

I wish Wit Studio had given Vampire in the Garden the ten to thirteen episode treatment.

There are just too many characters and ideas here for the vision of this anime to be fully realized in such a short amount of time.
That said, I do think that Vampire in the Garden did the best it could have done with only five episodes, which is a testament to the writing quality.
For one thing, I liked all of the characters in this anime.
Momo and Fine’s growing bond is interesting throughout, I quite enjoyed the resolution to Momo’s relationship with her mother (Rika Fukami), and the vague way that the anime filled in the backstory of Kubo (Hiroki Toshi), giving us just enough information to put the pieces together, felt like the writers were respecting the audience.
Another feature of the anime I have to give props to is the world building.
Momo and Fine visit various different kinds of communities, all of which have different ways that humans and vampires interact with each other, which are interesting to compare.

The exploration of the different dynamics between humans and vampires in various dystopian cities was excellent world building.

The animation and music are also quite good, something to be expected of an anime made by Wit Studio.
I will also admit that, despite me being critical of there only being five episodes, this short run time does mean you can finish Vampire in the Garden rather quickly, as if it were a movie rather than a show, so that is an advantage it has.
As for other criticisms, there are a few moments in the anime that broke my suspension of disbelief temporarily by being too convenient or having a character survive something that should have been impossible to.

It’s strange moments like this one that temporarily broke my immersion.

Also, I did find the story to be a bit predictable at times, especially with one character’s ending, although it being predictable did not make it bad. 
These are just minor criticisms.
The only major one I have is, again, the episode count.
The anime had the potential to be fantastic but the short runtime limits it.
I’m actually hoping we get a manga adaptation at some point because that could extend the story, thus expanding upon the characters, world and themes, allowing Vampire in the Garden to reach its potential.
As it stands, though, I would still recommend the show.
It’s a short watch and delivers some pretty interesting character work and world building.    

Fire Punch Review: WTF Did I Just Read?

Around halfway through reading Fire Punch for the first time, I decided that Tatsuki Fujimoto is my favourite mangaka.
This is not to say that I think Fire Punch is his best work.
If anything, reading it showed me just how much he has improved since writing this manga, going on to write and illustrate my second favourite manga, Chainsaw Man, and the fantastic one shots Look Back and Goodbye Eri.
One thing that has stayed the same across all of Fujimoto’s works, though, is his undobutable creativity, present in Fire Punch from the beginning, all the way to the very end.
Another constant throughout my first read through of Fire Punch was me repeatedly saying, “what the f**k am I reading?”

It felt like every chapter had its own wtf moment.

I don’t think I am exagerrating when I say that Fire Punch is the craziest work of fiction that I have ever read.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue reading after the first ten chapters because of how completely grim everything was, but I pushed forward and found a flawed yet rewarding story that is, of course, f****d up on every conceivable level.
Fire Punch is set in a world where super powered people, known as the Blessed, started a new Ice Age that is slowly leading to humanity’s extinction.
Agni is a young blessed with the power of regeneration, who lives with his little sister Luna in a small village, where he cuts off his arm daily to feed everyone, since there is no food.
Oh, and Agni’s sister wants to have his babies.
So, yeah… that’s a thing.
However, Agni’s life is disrupted when a blessed named Doma arrives in his village, looking for soldiers, only to be disgusted by the cannibalism going on there, leading to him using his flame powers to burn the village to ash.
Everyone in the village dies, except Agni, who is kept alive by his regineration power, although he is left in a constant state of burning agony.
In her last, horrifying moments, Luna urges Agni to live, and so Agni does, persevering to eventually get his revenge on Doma, beginning the story of Fire Punch. 

The manga starts off as a revenge story but later becomes much more.

The story only gets crazier from here, with plenty of weird characters, many of whom have disturbing ideologies, and, of course, plenty of movie references.
It would not be a Fujimoto story without at least one, after all.
Fujimoto embodies these movie references in my favourite character in Fire Punch, Togata, the reginerative blessed who is a movie fan, nut job.
Togata is initially characterized as someone who will do anything to make a movie starring Agni, yet, as the story goes on, Fujimoto pulls back the layers on his character to reveal the vulnerabilities, creating an extremely sympathetic side to him. 
It also helps that he’s incredibly funny.
Seriously, one Togata segment during a truck chase had me laughing so hard my sides hurt for a couple of minutes afterwards.

I was amazed at how Togata went from a comedic relief character to having one of the most emotional arcs in the story.

Fujimoto absolutely nails dark humor.
He also nails the themes of the story, with Agni’s and Togata’s arcs being especially hard hitting. 
However, I did say near the beginning of this review that Fire Punch had flaws and there are quite a few.
Probably the two biggest of these are the characters and the pacing.
As I said, there are a lot of wacky characters in Fire Punch, but it does not seem like Fujimoto knew what to do with many of them.
Some just show up, look cool for a while with very little characterisation and then are killed off shortly after, sometimes off screen. 
The pacing can be just as problematic at times, with some important events happening way too fast or even off screen.
Then there’s the constant incest theme with Agni’s character, which is obviously uncomfortable.

To be fair to Fujimoto, though, he does often show creepy Agni’s feelings for his sister are.

Some of these flaws even have a positive side to them, at least if you have read Fujimoto’s more recent works first.
The flaws of Fire Punch make for an interesting comparison, as any reader can see how much he grew as a writer from his first long-running manga to Chainsaw Man.

As well as this, despite the issues, Fire Punch builds up to a great and expectedly crazy ending that closes off the story’s theme about living on no matter what well.
Overall, Fire Punch is a flawed yet meaningful story that is well worth it by the end.
Just be prepared to constantly say or think “what the f**k?” when you read it.