Category Archives: Tv series reviews

Tunnel, Korean drama series (2017)

People have always held a kind of ¬†morbid fascination when it comes to serial killers. One has to wonder why on Earth that is. There is nothing romantic about it. In fact when you look at all the serial killers from the past and present all you see is a lot of sadness and pain. Especially for the families of the victims of these often loathsome individuals. What drives one to become one? Some of them are just born that way, and have an evil inside them from a very young age. But it also happens that something triggers it. Choosing the wrong friends, an abusive childhood, a traumatic experience, all of these might be the cause of turning someone into a murderous psychopath. But they also say that each and every one of us has a dark side. Which brings me back to my original question, why are we so obsessed with them. Is it because of that inner darkness that we all have inside and that we have to satisfy it in some way? You think I am overreacting? Well, look at the sheer amount of movies and books about serial killers. Got you there didn’t I? Getting creeped out already by this post? Am I getting under your skin? Insert evil grin. No worries…this introduction only served to set the tone for the thrilling Korean drama series Tunnel. Which of course features a serial killer, and time travel. Say what?!?

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Why are you looking at me with such a dumb face?

It is the year 1986 when we meet up with Park Gwang Ho a police detective who is always very determined, enthusiastic and takes his job very seriously. One a day a horrific series of killings shakes up his police district. Women are found dead, having been strangled with their own stockings, and strange dots are left behind on their ankles. Purely by chance the detective stumbles on the culprit and gives chase on foot. Eventually the killer and Park Gwang Ho end up in a tunnel where a fight between them begins. Unfortunately the killer gets the upper hand and strikes our hero on the head leaving him unconscious. When he wakes up and exits the tunnel, he gets the shock of his life. Apparently Park Gwang Ho has been transported thirty years into the future leaving him stranded in the year 2016. Determined to find his way back home and to his wife he left behind, he assumes the identity of a police detective who carries the same name as himself. Together with a new (and in the beginning very reluctant) partner named Kim Sun Jae, and a beautiful but mysterious criminal profiler and psychology professor Shin Jae Yi, he tries to fit into this new and unfamiliar world. But when it seems the murders that he tried to stop 30 years ago are starting up again, things become very grim indeed. The serial killer is still at large and will stop at nothing to continue with his killing spree……

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Who are you calling a cold fish?!?!

Time travel and a serial killer blended into one single series? That is pretty much a match made in heaven. While this 16 episode series wasn’t perfect, it was very enjoyable and I bingewatched the hell out of it finishing it in about 3 days. One of the best things in this Korean drama is once again it’s characters. The three leads had a very good chemistry between them, which helped make this series a cut above the rest. Actor Choi Jin-huyk brings to life the hero time travelling cop and he just had a vibrant energy to his role that worked very well. He seems to be able to handle a wide range of emotions, from heartbreak to comedy, and he is able to switch between them in the blink of an eye. His future partner played by actor Yoon Hyun-min is more serious, but the chemistry between both actors is terrific. I really enjoyed some of their comedic banter that hardly ever failed to bring a smile to my face and a lot of their scenes together were certainly the highlight of this series. And then there was actress Lee Yoo-young who played the role of Shin Jae Yi. She was a bit of a cold fish at the start of this series, and I did not really know what to make of her. But when the series progressed her character began to grow, and at the end I really ended up liking her very much. She was very heroic and a verbal exchange between her and the killer in one of the show’s final episodes gave me goosebumps. She played that scene so incredibly well and lifelike.

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This guy had such a fun role (yeah I know he looks like he doesn’t have much humor)

Speaking of the role of the killer, and I am not going to mention the actor’s name in fear of spoilers, I can only say one thing: WOW! What a loathsome, terrifying and incredibly evil monster did this actor give birth too. It is an incredible performance and out of the many serial killer roles that I have seen in my life, he certainly is in the top three. That’s for sure. Over the course of the 16 episodes that this series has, we get a story that has some nice shocks and tension, some comedy (mainly because of a few side characters that I haven’t named here, but really help to relieve some of the darker aspects of the show), and heartbreak as well. That said, there were also some moments during the middle of the drama where I felt it began to feel a bit slow. But luckily those moment did not carry on and the final episodes really made you forget those moments very quickly. Another element that I was a bit dissappointed by was the use of the timetravel aspect of this series. I had expected it to be used more, with maybe some clever jumps in between the timelines, but sadly that did not really happen.

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See? I rest my case ūüôā

Still, this Korean drama was a wonderful show. Even though it had some dark events happening in it, it never became too depressing. Most serial killing movies/series always seem to go to for the shocks or the horror, and while there were certainly scenes like that in it, there was also enough room for other more lighthearted things which was very refreshing. Tunnel is well worth checking out and also a series that for me at least seems like a good one to watch if you have never entered the world of the Korean dramas before. With memorable characters, a great, gripping and often tense story, this drama will leave a lasting impression in your mind. Well, that wasn’t too bad was it? I know the beginning of this review might have creeped you out, but hey it had to be done. Even I have a dark side…..

I give Tunnel a 8 out of 10 score.

 

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Cobra Kai Season 1, American tv series (2018)

In the 80’s there was a movie that was a boost to every kid that experienced bullying in some form or other (myself included). The name of that film was The Karate Kid. A classic movie and one that redefines the word feelgood, it spawned three sequels (not counting a modern day remake) and is regarded by many people as one of the best films from the roaring 80’s. As much as I loved the original,¬†the sequel¬†for me was the one I loved the most (and you can read why by pressing on the link). But one can’t help but smile when the young hero of the film Daniel LaRusso takes revenge on his childhood bully Johny Lawrence by beating him in a karate tournament in part one. It was a moment that was edged in my memory as around that time I experienced the effects of bullying in a very bad way. Seeing someone actually turn the tables on his tormentor, even though it was a film, gave me some much needed hope. Late last year rumors started to spread about a sequel to the original Karate Kid franchise in the form of a television series. I really had severe misgivings about this, thinking that pretty much nothing is sacred anymore.

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Hey…they are older now. No martial arts, just trying to stare each other to death.

And then…the first trailer arrived. I could not stop myself and had to satisfy my curiosity. ¬†If nothing else I could at least have a laugh about how bad it probably would be. But it wasn’t. In fact the trailer managed to actually convince me that there was a small chance this might actually be a fun sequel. But…this was a trailer, and a trailer always shows the best bits right? Let’s be honest: how can a tv series based on a 34 year old movie reignite that same feelgood feeling I had when I watched the original film in the 80’s? Naw, this would probably suck. But boy oh boy was I wrong, and a lot of people with me. Cobra Kai, as the new show is called, has become an overnight succes. It has an unprecedented 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, something no television series has ever managed to pull off. Yes, you heard that correctly. Not even juggernauts like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. People are going absolutely crazy over this YouTube Red series and rightfully so. What exactly make this series so much fun? Well…relax: wax on, wax off. I’m going to try and bring across why you absolutely have to watch this, if you haven’t already.

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Never trust a car salesman…even if he offers you a bonsai tree.

Cobra Kai takes place exactly 34 years after the events of the first film. Daniel LaRusso has grown up and been doing incredibly well for himself. He has a wife, two kids, and is the owner of a very succesful chain of car dealerships in the San Fernando Valley. Life is not without it’s challenges though and Daniel tries to make the best of it, without the help of his former mentor mister Miyagi who has sadly passed away. Meanwhile the life of his former nemesis Johny Lawrence has been steadily going downhill. He lives in a rundown appartment, has trouble keeping his job, and is drunk most of the time. One night Johny saves a young man called Miguel from a bunch of teenagers that are about to beat the crap out of him. Having seen what Johny can do, Miguel begs him to train him, but the former karate champ declines. In a strange turn of events Johny and Daniel run into each other again after this. Even though Daniel welcomes him with open arms, it’s pretty clear that the old rivalry is still there. After his run in with LaRusso, Johny has a new plan at which he is determined to succeed. He will reopen the Cobra Kai dojo, and bring it back to it’s former glory. But if Daniel has something to say about it, that will never ever happen…..

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Dude….your hair? What’s wrong with it???

Cobra Kai is a tv series that will have you grinning from ear to ear right from the start. Even if you haven’t grown up with the Karate Kid films, I guarantee that you will love this show. For fans of the original movies though, it will be an even more special experience. One of this show’s biggest strengths is the way it portrays it’s characters. All of them have a depth to them and are more than just empty airheads made out of cardboard. William Zabka who reprises his role as Johny more than steals the show here. He is without a doubt the best thing this series has to offer and he turns his character into someone who you will grow to love. Huh? Wait wasn’t he the bad guy? Well…without giving too much away here, all I can say is that this series manages to offer quite a few surprises. It really turns the tables on quite a number of things and plays with your emotions in so many ways. Seeing Ralph Maggio returning as Daniel (seriously does this guy ever age), and settling back into his character that he last played almost 30 years ago now, is just incredible. It’s almost as if he has never even quit playing the Karate Kid. Seeing the banter on screen between the two rivals makes for some of the best scenes this show has on offer.

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Don’t look now, but this is Daniel’s daughter Samantha. Nope…I would not lie to you.

So how about the new characters? Glad you asked because they are just as must fun as the original cast. From Daniel’s daughter Samantha to the new hero (but is he really a hero) Miguel, they all fit in perfectly. Some of them act as comic relief, some act up as the villains, and just as with Daniel and Johny, you will constantly shifting who you are rooting for. Cobra Kai has managed to do something that very few other shows based on older properties have pulled off. It brings back the feel and spirit of the original franchise into a modern day world, while at the same time giving it a new and fresh spin. It will probably not come as a huge surprise that a second season has already been given a green light, and in the way the series ends, it promises to be every bit as good. Well…at least I hope it will be just as much fun as this season. But that’s the future. For now, just go and check this show out when you have the time. With only 10 half an hour episodes in this season, you will bingewatch this in one day. It’s one of the rare exceptions where the hype really is real. So put on your black belts, and watch this. Or go and catch flies with chopsticks…whatever preference you have.

I give Cobra Kai season 1 a 10 out of 10 score.

 

My Hero Academia Season 1, Anime tv series (2016)

Yes people I am back, here to kick things off with the first of the requested reviews for the¬†anime theme month¬†My Hero Academia. I did not expect to become totally addicted to this series. In fact I got addicted to this series so much that I immediately went on an impulse shopping spree buying the first season limited edition dvd boxed set, as well as the first issue of the manga. Well, hey I never denied the fact when I fall I completely in love with something I can do crazy things. Right…but where are my manners. Let’s first shed some light on the two bloggers that requested this review in the first place (yes, in a strange turn of events the random numbers generator selected this anime twice in a row, go figure).

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Really? Two times? I find that very hard to believe.

Jiraiyan’s blog¬†Otaku Orbit has been a blog that I have been following for quite a long time now. It is a very diverse blog that focusses on both anime and manga. As I am pretty much a noob when it comes to manga (well, yeah I can hear you saying it: “you are a noob at anime as well” So for sake of argument I won’t dispute that :)), I found it to be a rather helpful blog at discovering manga titles that are worth reading (Now if I could only find some time to read them, that would be awesome).

The second request for this anime came from¬†Merlin. Another truly diverse blog that will satisfy all your geeky needs it features an astounding amount of topics ranging from books, anime, movies and television series to name but a few things. All of the posts are top notch and just as the blog mentioned above it is run by a very friendly host. If you have yet to discover these blogs, go do that now. This post can wait…no really, do that first. And ofcourse hit the subscribe button too if you are not a follower of either of them. Right…all done? Okay then. Let’s put on our superhero costumes and dive into the world of My Hero Academia.

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Okay, I’m ready to start taking some notes now. Doubt this post will be interesting though….

Unless you have been living under a rock (well I have to admit I did, as I was very late to discover this anime gem), you must have at least heard of this show. But helpful as I am let me break the storyline down for you in case you have yet to see this. No worries as always, I will do this spoiler free. In the world of My Hero Academia 80% of the population has manifested some form of superpowers. Let’s let that sink in for a minute. Imagine living in a world like that, and you yourself don’t have any of these powers that are called quirks. It’s the nightmare that young Izuku Midoriya has to live with though. Even while he is ridiculed by his classmates for having dreams of one day becoming a superhero despite his lack of powers, Izuku refuses to give up. One fateful day his highschool bully Katsuki is attacked by a villain and Izuku is the one that tries to rescue him. Just when things start to get grim, his childhood hero All Might, the world’s mightiest hero shows up and intervenes just in time to save both Izuku and Katsuki. All Might is very impressed by Midoriya’s courage and in the end decides to bestow upon him a very special gift. A gift that will change Izuku’s life forever and allows him to enter the prestigious U.A. High School, a special school that trains the next generation of superheroes. Izuku is about to find out though that the life of a superhero isn’t that easy…..

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Hmm, that guy on the left truly gives a whole new meaning to the word handjob.

Now I know there must be a few of you that after having read the synopsis above are probably thinking: do we really need another superhero show? In a world that is currently being dominated by superhero movies there are quite a number of people that are experiencing the so called “superhero fatique syndrom”. And honestly I don’t blame them. But let me try to convince you though that it is in your best interest to really check out this show. Nothing could have prepared me for the addictive nature of this series. After watching just one episode I was hooked. This series has a way of drawing you in, and never letting you go. So what is it about this anime that sets it apart from your usual superhero stuff? Well, let’s start with the characters. You are going to love them. The cast is huge, but never seems to overwhelm you in any way. It gradually introduces new characters in every episode, and pretty much all of them are awesome in their own way. The anime’s lead character Izuki is almost impossible to dislike. I think we can all identify with someone that has dreams, and tries to realise them, without ever giving up, even though it might at times seem like a lost cause. All Might, the world’s mightiest hero, is just amazing. He has a vulnerability in him that you will grow to love, when you find out more about him.

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Yes we look weird, what’s it to you?

Now I could go on and describe even more of the cast, but I will leave that for you to discover. Suffice it to say though that these characters are the main drive of this anime. That and the relationships between them. This show has a heart to it that comes to the fore in the bonds that are established between these wanna be heroes. While it might seem cool to have a superpower, it certainly has it’s downsides as well. This first season lays the foundation for the world of My Hero Academia. When it ends, you can almost feel that there are even greater things to come. Which brings me to another selling point and that is the storyline. While most superhero shows focus on the heroes banding together to fight a common foe, this isn’t the case in this anime. Yes ofcourse there is a threat and there are some very cool fight sequences between heroes and villains, but at it’s heart this is a show that has much more to it than that. You will have moments where you will laugh out loud, and then there are also moments that are very touching and downright scary and exciting as well. I love it when a show combines all these different kinds of elements and succeeds in blending it into a wonderful and very potent cocktail.

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s….naw…not going to head into that territory….

My Hero Academia is a series that I can’t recommend enough. If I haven’t managed to succeed in convincing you that this series really does try to do something else with the superhero genre, just give the first episode a shot. If that episode doesn’t hook you in, then chances are that the rest of the series won’t either. But I doubt that will happen though. This anime is a gem, and I honestly can’t wait to get started on season 2 which I hope to be doing somewhere in the upcoming weeks. With a cast of loveable and quirky characters (yes…pun intended), a truly unique and wonderful storyline and some great action sequences added to the mix, this anime has very little not to like. In fact after having thought about it for a while I can’t think of any things that I did not like about this series. And thus we have reached the end of the first post for the anime theme month. Next up is Baccano! another anime that I have heard a lot about but haven’t seen yet. For now though, keep your dreams alive: Plus Ultra!!

I give My Hero Accademia Season 1 a 9 out of 10 score.

 

Girls und Panzer, Anime tv series (2012)

Have you ever found yourself wanting to write a post, but you just don’t quite know where to start? This is one of them. I always like to start my reviews with an introduction that in some way relates to whatever I am reviewing, but this one……I really am at a loss for words. I have promised to do a review for Girls und Panzer for a very long time, and now that the moment is finally there, I am stalling and buying time. And, not quite succeeding at that either, am I? So why is this so hard? Well….unless I am mistaking I don’t think there currently is a place in the world where the sport of Tankery is being held. What’s that: Raistlin writing a post on a sports anime? What kind of black sorcery is this? ¬†As most of you might know: I absolutely hate sports, of any kind. I don’t practice sports, I don’t watch sports, and Ugh….I am rambling again. Anyways, if I could participate in a game of Tankery though: you can count me in. Phew. Well, I am finally past the starting point. Time to start the review in earnest….now, where do I start? Oh yeah, you would like to know what this show is about right?

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Yes, there really is a pink tank in this picture.

Girls und Panzer takes us to a world where World War II tanks are maintained to be used in the sporting event known as Tankery. In this brutal, but at the same time relatively safe competition, girls from different highschools fight each other on battlefields in order to reach the finals and claim victory. Miho Nishizumi is a girl that comes from a very prestigious family that has been practicing Tankery for many years. But in a previous competition something happened to Miho, that causes her to become traumatised and not wanting to continue practicing the sport. Having transferred to a new Academy school ship that she believes doesn’t have Tankery on their list of activities, Miho tries to pick up her life. On her first day at the new school she has already made some new friends, and really begins to believe that life is good again. But, little does she know that the school has added the sport she fears so much back on the roster. Eventually Miho, as the only one who has had any previous experience with Tankery, is pressured into helping the other school girls. Together with her new friends, Nishiszumi enters the competition where she will face a lot of new challenges. The biggest one being, coming to terms with the life she thought she had left behind….

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Sometimes it can be really hard to find a good parking space. 

There are times when you put on a show and literally after seeing the very first scene it just clicks for you. This is one of those shows. Girls und Panzer is a series that is just pure and simple fun. One of the things I love most about anime is the sometimes completely unique concepts it can come up with. I mean really, think about this for a second. How on Earth do you come up with a plot like this: cute highschool girls driving World War II tanks. But not only does it work, it is one of those animes that you can’t help but smile at. It’s really…well cute. And that’s weird for a series that has brutal tank battles in it. But let me just get that out of the way first. Girls und Panzer is a comedy series. In no way is all of this to be taken seriously. There is no blood, and nor are the girls ever in a real life or death battle. Ofcourse no sporting event comes without it’s risk of injury, and Tankery is no different. And yes people, you read that right, not only am I reviewing a sports anime, but it’s a comedy as well. Really, I must have been hit on the head or something.

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Let’s all join in dancing here! Because really that’s what you do in a battle!

Honestly though this is not a slapstick comedy. There are some really funny scenes, but it’s not the kind of humor that is cringeworthy. And that said, the highlight of this series is most certainly the sport of Tankery itself. The tank battles are seriously awesome to watch. Using computertechniques to bring them to life, they are the absolute highlight of this anime. You would think that at some point battles like that will become very tedious, but let me assure that is not the case. Every event is unique, and just like watching an exciting football match featuring your favorite team, you will really hold your breath each time Miho enters a new battle with her friends. You really want them to win, and when they do you will find yourself raising your fist in the air and shouting at the top of your lungs along with the fictional crowd. Erm, or maybe that is just me. Storywise, there really isn’t much more to it than the girls trying to reach the finals. There are a few subplots here and there, but overall the focus is on Tankery. In other animes that might get quite boring, but this anime never has that problem.

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Yes, military uniforms have certainly come a long way since the war. 

There is something that is a bit of a problem and that is the huge cast this series has. I am not kidding here, but this anime has over 50 different characters. While the focus is definitely on Miho and her friends, all the others make appearances in several episodes as well. It will probably not come as a very huge surprise to you that character development isn’t very high on the agenda. But to it’s credit, despite that fact, each character does have it’s own distinguishing marks. I, however did have some trouble in keeping some of the cast members apart from each other. With a cast this huge everyone will probably have a favorite, and for me that was Mako Reizei. It felt like she was continually sleeping through everything (well, she always had trouble getting up early in the morning), and her voice never gets excited even in the face of danger. This causes some very funny scenes, where for example the rest of the girls are going completely nuts, and she just keeps talking with her monotone voice.

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Some people take the order to fire a bit too literally. 

Another thing that is worth mentioning is the soundtrack. The background music at times sounds like the ones you had in old World War II movies, and it fits this anime perfectly. Together with the world that is created in this series, it manages to create a very unique experience. Girls und Panzer is an anime you need to watch when you want to take a break from all the heavy stuff. It is simply put a very charming show, that I pretty much dare you not to be entertained by. What it might lack in terms of storyline and character development, it more than makes up for in the excitement and fun factor. Unless you are a very cynical person that is completely devoid of any emotion, you will be put under it’s spell right from the beginning. Girls und Panzer has been a joy to watch, even though this is certainly a series that is miles away from the shows that I usually see. Panzer vor!

I give Girls und Panzer a 8 out of 10 score.

Solomon’s Perjury, Korean Drama Series (2016)

We live in an age where social media plays a very important part in people’s lives. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and whatever else is out there, nearly everyone seems to have at least one of these, and more often than not, even more than one. It never fails to surprise me how easily some of the younger generation give highly personal glimpses in their day to day routines. Don’t get me wrong, I am not going to play a judge here, as I always believe everyone has the right to decide what they wish to share on their own. But it’s the dangers that go along with it, that sometimes really scare me. What if something that you share falls into the wrong hands? Or even worse is used against you in a horrible way? And how about how easily some people’s opinions might be influenced by the power of a certain statement. I don’t think this social behaviour is any more apparent then in high school. Nearly every kid wants to be accepted by the popular ones, and as such belong to the group they hang out with. And usually they pretty much determine what happens in class. These underlying themes form the basics of the Korean dramaseries, Solomon’s Perjury.

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Nothing to see here, we are just hanging out.

On a cold winter morning in December, the lifeless body of highschool student Lee So-woo is found by one of his fellow classmates in front of school. The school and the police are convinced that he took his own life. But then a student comes forward claiming to have been a witness to his murder. The school is in an uproar and wants nothing to do with it, quickly dismissing the claim. Especially seeing as the suspect for the murder, the school bully Choi Woo-hyuk, is the son of a man that has always been very supportive of the school. But not everyone is so easily swayed. Go Seo-yon, the class president, wants to find out exactly what has happened to Lee So-woo and devises an ingenious plan to get to the bottom of things: a schooltrial. She takes on the role of prosecutor and together with a couple of other students she will stop at nothing to make sure justice will be served. But then a young man called Han Ji-hoon, who attends another school, steps up to act as the defense attorney for Choi. Just who is he? And why does he want to defend someone who has been causing so much pain to others? The answers to these questions, and many others, are about to be revealed……

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What are you looking at me for? 

I’m going to be honest: this one hit close to home. In a big way. It brought back some pretty unpleasant memories from my own days as a highschool student. Having been on the receiving end of bullying for a lot of years, I know what it can do to someone’s state of mind. And how much you at certain points would love to take revenge on the people that caused you pain. I am not a hateful person, and always try at least to see the good in people. But there have certainly been points during my schooldays where I wished some very unpleasant things would happen to my tormentors. And that’s what I really liked about this show, as it not only looked at bullying, but also what might drive someone to become a bully. And is it really fair to blame everything on that person? As such this is not an easy series to watch, as it not only deals with that, but also with the equally tough subject of suicide. But why did I continue watching it then? Because it never becomes too heavy and it really is an incredibly good series with some stunning performances.

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Yep, that is a broken window. Looking at their faces it’s almost as if they have never seen one before.¬†

The storyline for this is quite unique. The idea of a schooltrial is something I have never seen before and you would think that this might just be very laughable. It’s not. It’s every bit as compelling as a real courtroom drama, and the story has some very nice twists and turns. It soon becomes much more than just finding out whether or not Lee So-woo has committed suicide or not. There is a lot more to the story, but of course I’m not going to head into spoiler territory so I will just leave it at that. The acting in this drama is quite impressive, and besides a few moments of overacting by some of the supporting cast, really is one of the other reasons that this series works so well. Kim Hyun-soo plays the role of Go Seo-yon and really is the driving force of this show. She is both charming and very serious at the same time, and is utterly convincing as the prosecutor. She is one of those characters that is determined to find out the truth, and will never give up no matter what.

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Yep that is a door. Wow, these people really haven’t seen anything have they?

But equally impressive is Jang Dong-yoon who plays Han Ji-hoon. As an audience you know more about him than the other characters in the series, but at the same time you don’t quite know exactly what drives him. And it was really interesting to see when the reveal came to see what his real motives were at the end. Overall this show impressed the hell out of me. The overall themes and the way they were executed made this a very compelling watch. Let me be clear that this is not an action series. It really is a legal drama, and while there are certainly some tense moments, this series is more of slow burner. It is driven by the incredible verbal exchanges by the two main leads, and there are moments in the show that you don’t exactly know who to root for. As you want both of them to win. Be aware that the themes in the show can be tough to watch, especially if like me, you might have had similar experiences. But in the end it’s presented in such a great way that I am truly glad that I have watched it. This concludes my review for the third drama for my¬†Korean Dramas¬†theme month. If you want to watch this show you can watch it for free on the legal streaming website¬†Viki.

I give Solomon’s Perjury a 9 out of 10 score.

Black, Korean Dramaseries (2017)

There is a question that many people wonder about. What happens when we die? Will we simply cease to exist? Will we somehow be reborn, enter Heaven or maybe even Hell? No matter what you believe in, I don’t think it’s a question that we will ever get an answer to until the moment arrives. Now, I don’t know about you, but I for one am pretty happy to postpone that moment for as long as I can. It’s not that I fear death, but I am pretty happy with living right now thank you very much. But we all check out at some point, that’s pretty much the only certainty we have in life. (Oh yeah, and taxes but I always tend to forget that one for some reason). Well, I can hear you thinking right now: “This is a very cheerful subject:NOT! I’m going to move on and check out something else”. Well, if you do you are going to miss out on a review for the best Korean drama series that I have seen so far in my life. So please bare with me just a little bit longer okay?

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My name is Black…..erm, no that’s it, just Black.¬†

 

In Black we meet up with Kang Ha-ram a young woman who has always had a very special ability ever since she was a child. When she looks at people she sometimes sees dark shadows forming behind them. These shadows are always the signs that the death of that person is very near. Ha-ram hasn’t been happy with this power at all, and the only way she can avoid it, is by wearing sunglasses. One day she crosses paths with police officer Han Moo-gang who she is stunned to recognise as a boy from her childhood, one was always very kind to her. She has not seen him in almost 20 years, but it appears that he has really changed. He doesn’t seem at all like the kindhearted young boy who she remembers, but instead has turned into a very coldhearted insensitive man. And she would be right, as Moo-gang has not only changed but is now possessed by a Grim Reaper. But this is not the only problem that Ha-rang is going to face. When a body is found, certain events are set in motion that will uncover a very dark secret and conspiracy that has been buried for a very long time. And certain people will stop at nothing to prevent that secret from rising to the surface…..even it means killing everyone in their path.

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Some people just hate missing the bus. 

Okay, let me make one thing clear, and this is very, very important. Do not, I repeat not drop this show after watching the first two episodes. I almost did this, and am eternally grateful that I did not. When this series starts you will be very confused. What exactly is this series trying to be? Is it a police drama, a supernatural mystery, or, and this is what I feared the most, a slapstick comedy? The first two episodes were a mess and the “comedy” was so cringeworthy that I very nearly gave up. But man, am I glad that I did not. Black is a show that by the time you start with episode 3 is almost impossible to turn off. The story it tells is tense, gripping, emotional and will have you in tears, on the edge of your seat, as well as laughing all at the same time. It’s a rollercoaster ride that will never let up. The best element in this series is how it draws you the viewer into the storyline trying to figure out how all the puzzlepieces fit together. And just when you think you have figured it all out, it throws another twist at you, and you have to start from scratch again.

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Sometimes you just want to sit down on the sidewalk. I always do that every day. 

There is a huge cast of actors, and as such it’s impossible to cover them all. I will instead focus on the two leads, but suffice it to say that every single actor involved in this series is great. No matter how small their parts were. And no, that is not me just saying so, just to get this over and done with in a quick way. Actor Song Seung-heon plays the part of the Grim Reaper possessed cop Moo-gang. His acting is superb and I love the way how his character evolved throughout the series. He can tackle basically everything, from actionscenes, to anger, to comedy to drama, everything he does is believable. His precense just lights up the screen everywhere he appears. But his chemistry with lead actress Go Ara, who plays the role of Ha-ram is also a huge part of what makes this series work so well. And speaking of her, you will completely fall in love with the character she portrays. Ha-ram is a feisty woman, who always has some very snappy comebacks, but is also very caring and emotional at the same time. This series is really her story, and that’s why it is important to have an actress who can carry that part. Go Ara really gets the job done, and then some.

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The new generation of Pokemon balls had also found it’s way into the afterlife.¬†

Black is a series that blends many elements together and that’s why it can be enjoyed by a pretty large number of people. Even though the show has supernatural elements, it never let’s these elements take the upper hand. Above all this is a solid and very cleverly written murder mystery, with a touch of action and suspense and the occasional humor thrown into the mix. And of course there is also some romance, but this only adds to the strength of the series instead of diminishing it. So in case you haven’t yet noticed, I absolutely loved this show. The only reason I haven’t given it the perfect 10/10 score is that the first two episodes just felt out of place. And seriously, I was very close to dropping it, something I almost never do. But the rest of this Korean drama series is so fantastic, that I have all but forgotten about that. If you have yet to watch your first K-drama series, this might be the one to start with. I guarantee that you will not regret this. So, this concludes my review for the second series for the¬†Korean Drama¬†theme month. What’s up next you ask? I haven’t yet quite decided, but rest assured there is one more series review to come. Thank you for reading!

I give Black a 9 out of 10 score.

Stranger, Korean Drama series (2017)

Okay, I’m going to start this review with a small confession. No worries, it really isn’t anything as shocking along the lines of ” I am really a serial killer”. But, here it comes nonetheless: I can be a really emotional guy. When there is injustice I can become really annoyed, and sometimes even very angry. But on the other side of the spectrum I can also cry at things that happen in a movie, or even at certain very personal blog posts. But really don’t hold that against me, okay? Emotions, or lack thereof, can tell a lot about a person. It pretty much defines what makes a person tick, at least that is what I think in my humble opinion. I have always wondered what would happen if I would possess no kind of emotion whatsoever. Let’s just take a few seconds and try to¬†grasp what that means. You would not know when to laugh at a joke. When someone close to you dies, you would shed no tears. Even though there are certain moments in your life you maybe would have loved to lose a few emotions, I for one would never want to lose any of them. Because it would completely change my personality. And that, in a roundabout way brings me to this Korean drama.

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Get used to it: that expression on the face of the guy is pretty much the only one he knows. 

Prosecutor Hwang Shi-Mok underwent a brain surgery as a child. This surgery has now caused him to lack any kind of emotion. He is a cold, calculated and very rational guy, that is very good at his job. His lack of empathy and social skills however, make it extremely hard for him to sometimes interact with other people. One day while investigating a new case, he finds the person he is looking into dead in his house. When the police arrives at the scene Shi-Mok doesn’t communicate with any of them, but instead focusses on finding the killer. This suspicious behaviour at first makes him a suspect. Police inspector Han Yeo-Jin is the one who is assigned the task of solving the case, and soon finds out that Hwang is innocent of the crime. Eventually the two of them team up to find the real killer. But when they find the alleged murderer, it soon becomes very clear that there is more to the case then both of them realise. A cesspool of corruption has been opened, one that is so deep that it goes to the highest levels of the justice department. Dark and dirty secrets are about to be revealed, and some people will stop at nothing to keep them buried….

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Run Forrest, run…..

Having just finished this Korean drama I have to say it has left me behind with mixed feelings. I certainly would not call this series bad, but there are certain things that I also didn’t like and that at the end kept me from really enjoying this to the fullest. As far as the story goes I have to say that it is incredibly complex containing many layers, and one could argue that it contains too many layers. Part murder mystery, part legal drama, with elements of corporate espionage, corruption and even soap opera thrown into the mix, Stranger has at times trouble in deciding what it wants to be. There were some truly intense and incredibly powerful moments in the show that really put a smile on my face. Some twists and turns where certainly unexpected, and added to the fun of watching this series. But then there were also episodes that were, for lack of a better word, rather dull, and just seemed to drag on and on. The story as mentioned is incredibly complex and because of it’s complexity there were moments where I lost track of things.

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Look at my fist: I have got your emotions right here! 

This last fact was only made even worse because of the huge number of characters that this drama contains. I usually don’t like shows or novels that contain such a huge cast of names that it becomes hard to remember who a certain person was. But despite that fact it’s the acting in this series that really is one of it’s strongest points. Hwang Shi-Mok, played by Cho Seung-Woo is a character that is hard to grow attached to. Because of his lack of emotions he walks around the series with pretty much the same expression on his face at every scene. At first this becomes very tedious, but then I started to realise what a brilliant job the actor is really doing. It is incredibly hard to just not respond emotionally to people that are laughing or crying. I came to really enjoy Shi-Mok’s awkwardness, especially around police detective Han Yeo-Jin. She was played by actress Bae Doo-Na and became my favorite character of the series. The complete opposite of Shi-Mok, she is a feisty and tenacious woman, who tries her best to solve the case but at the same time shows empathy when she needs to. And she is also in for a joke or two, often at the expense of her partner.

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Please don’t look at me that way: I won’t laugh anyway.¬†

Another thing that is worth mentioning is the music that supports this drama. It certainly ranks as the best background music I have heard in any Korean drama series to date, and helps bring the atmosphere of this series to life. In the end I can say that I do recommend the show. Even though there are certainly moments in it’s 16 episode run that really are pretty boring, there also enough things in it that balance the score in the end. The difficult and complex script, does eventually pay off, and the acting in the series alone is certainly worth watching it for. While there are definitely better dramas out there, it’s a good series if you are just willing to invest some time and patience in it. If you have become interested in the show after reading this, you can watch the series on Netflix. This concludes the first post for my¬†theme¬†month of Korean dramas. Thanks as always for reading and see you at the next post!

I give Stranger a 7 out of 10 score.

 

Fear the Walking Dead Season 1, American Tv series (2015)

We all have our favorite television shows. Some of them are obscure and might not even be known by many people. In the brutal climate of television, shows like that are always in danger of cancellation. With sweat forming on your forehead you eagerly await news about a new season. And then two things can happen. One: you finally receive word that your beloved series has been renewed and you happily dance around in your living room (or maybe that is just me). Two: The television Gods have decided the show needs to get the axe, and you spent the rest of your week weeping, expending an entire box of tissues (erm, maybe that’s just me as well). But there are also shows that are juggernauts that are never in that danger, at least not any time soon. One of those shows is The Walking Dead, and it’s still my alltime favorite. When a series is this succesful, the television studios begin to think up ways to expand on that succes. Which usually means that the original show gets a spin off, that takes the established story into different directions.

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Traffic can really be a bitch sometimes. 

Fear the Walking Dead acts as a prequel to the original show, and takes us back to the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. High school guidance councellor Madison Clark has more than her fair share of problems. Her son Nick is a drug addict and his habits weigh heavily upon the rest of her family. One day Nick ends up in the hospital after being hit by a car while he was running in the middle of the street. While visiting him there together with her new boyfriend Travis and her daughter Alicia, Madison tries to find out exactly what has happened. Nick tells a story that makes no sense and is being dismissed as yet another drug induced psychosis. Supposedly he woke up after using his drugs to find the girl he was with that night turned into a flesh eating monster. Travis still decides to investigate anyway, and is beginning to find indications that there might be more to Nick’s story than everybody at first believed. Meanwhile news outlets are showing strange reports about people that brutally attack others for seemingly no reason. Humanity stands at the eve of a total societal collapse and the real horror is about to begin……

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Now doesn’t she look like your ideal prom date?¬†

Fear the Walking Dead is a completely different show than it’s big brother. At least that was the original plan. When the show first aired a lot of complaints came from fans of The Walking Dead about how this show was incredibly dull and slow, and had so very little to do with the original series. Finally the studios bowed to this pressure and took the series in the direction the fans wanted. And honestly, I think this is a real shame. Why would you want two series that are pretty much exactly the same, only with different characters? What I absolutely loved about this show in the beginning, is how it showed the slow decline of civilisation and the eerie atmosphere. When the first zombies begin to appear people aren’t even worried, thinking it’s just a disease that will eventually get cured. We of course as an audience know how the events will eventually turn out, and how the world is going to fall. One of the creepiest scenes in this first season is when the power begins to fail, and you see entire city blocks turning dark. That event really is the foreshadowing of the beginning of the end, and it was filmed in a truly powerful way.

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Honey, please stay away from me when I am on the phone. 

For me that was one of the show’s greatest strengths. The pacing, especially in the beginning is definitely very slow. I can totally understand how people can be turned off by this, but I think this has also to do with the characters that aren’t all that interesting. Where The Walking Dead has powerful leads such as Rick and Daryl, here we have a normal albeit dysfunctional family that you just don’t really care about. Nick played by Frank Dillane, is a very selfish character whose only goal seems to be looking where he can get his new fix. Actress Kim Dickens in the role of his mother Madison does a good enough job of playing his despairing mother. But in the end she is just, at least in this season, a very dull character. The only character that I at least liked was Travis, played by Cliff Curtis. Here is a man that tries to keep his head above water while his family is being torn apart and society around him is collapsing. He played the part perfectly and was for me one of the shining lights. Later on in the series, his family meets up with another one, that also doesn’t contain very memorable characters.

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Erm, I don’t really think this guy needs a shave right now.¬†

And that is pretty much this show’s greatest flaw. When a tv series fails to give you characters that you really care for, it’s hard to keep you interested in it. That said, I for one was still very much entertained. I know that in the upcoming seasons, the show is going to change and I heard that some people even say they found it better than it’s big counterpart. (A fact I find very hard to believe). But I loved the way this season showed us how everything started on the road to the zombie apocalypse. I thought it handled this in a very good and believable manner, despite it’s slow pace. Fear the Walking Dead won’t be for everyone, especially not if you are hoping to find full on zombie carnage, of which there is very little here. But for those of you that are interested in seeing what could happen when an unstoppable disease begins to ravage the world, you are hardpressed to find a series that does this in such a realistic way.

I give Fear the Walking Dead season 1 a 8 out of 10 score.

King’s Game, Anime tv series (2017)

Okay, this might actually be very hard for you to believe but before March of this year I did not own a mobile phone. At least not one that could be called a smartphone. No, I had one of those phones that people used in the past to make phonecalls with. You know the thing that cellphones were originally meant for. These days smartphones seem to have evolved into mobile computers and are used for so many things that I can’t even keep track of it all. Or maybe I’m just getting old. Anyways, the things that people really seem to enjoy on them is the offering of mobile games. And the selection is getting better and better. There seems to be a game for everyone and the graphics almost look as good as though you were a playing a game on a console. But there is also a darker side to it. And that darker side comes in the form of deathgames. Wait…nope sorry, that’s just in this anime. But, I do think after seeing this you will think quite differently about sending someone a text.

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You will see this image a lot in this show. Then again, is the real world any different?

Nobuaki Kanazawa is a highschool student that has just transferred to his new school. When he gets introduced to his new classmates he tries to avoid them as much as he can. Even though a few of them try their best to make friends with him, he just won’t let them in. Naturally people are beginning to speculate as to what the reasons for this strange behaviour might be. But that reason soon becomes apparent as everyone in class get’s a strange text sent to their cellphones. The message says that they are now participating in the King’s Game and that they are not allowed to withdraw. It is concluded with an order that two of Nobuaki’s classmates are to kiss each other, and if they don’t they will get punished. At first they all think it’s a prank devised by Kanazawa. But as time passes by and classmates are beginning to lose their lives, the true horror is beginning to become clear. Nobuaki is the soul survivor of a previous King’s Game and now history is about to repeat itself in his new class. With tensions running high because of increasingly more extreme orders, and people that are beginning to turn on each other in order to survive, the question soon becomes who will be the next victim of this deathgame…..

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This guy looks a bit like a pizza. All that’s missing is some ansjovis.

King’s Game is a mess of a show. But at the same time I quite liked it. You know those horrormovies like for instance Sharknado that are so bad that they actually become fun? You can definitely add this one to that list. That’s not to say that there aren’t things that are going to annoy you though. In the beginning of the series we spent a lot of episodes in the past with the outcome of Nobuaki’s previous King’s Game. That’s all fine, but in the meantime the story in the present takes a backseat and doesn’t really go anywhere. The same goes for the enormous cast of characters that this series contains. As we spent so much time in the past and get introduced to characters there as well, you tend to forget the names of the people we are supposed to care about in the current King’s Game. I really had some trouble indentifying a few of them. Later on though, the show does pick up speed and focusses on the events that matter, and becomes better for it.

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Some people take being hot a little bit to the extreme.

If you are not a fan of plotholes or illogical events, I would say skip this one. For King’s Game is full of them. To give you a small example: at one point a girl is burning up, and she keeps on talking slowly as if nothing is happening, not even screaming once. Now, I can look past certain things, but at times this show really makes you wonder who came up with this script. Because of the enormously large cast, most of the characters are highly underdeveloped. The star of the series, Nobuaki Kanazawa, is your basic hero type of character that is trying to do good in every way he can. He is certainly not a character you will hate, but he’s also not someone you haven’t seen in other forms in countless other animes. His biggest opponent in the game who shall remain nameless in order to avoid spoilers, is a person you are definitely going to hate. But in a good way. To call this character the devil made flesh is probably the best description. Deliciously evil and manipulative you seriously want this person to fail, but at the same time get out on top as well. All of these are the marks of a great villain.

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Please don’t be in shock, this anime isn’t that bad.

So why should you be watching this? Well, it’s actually kind of hard to explain. I watched this one along with¬†Karandi’s¬†(Who probably needs no introduction for most of you, but if you are not following her yet go press on the link and do so now please), weekly posts for the show, but she also had at times trouble to explain what there is to like. But I can honestly say it’s definitely great horror. The death’s are at times truly horrifyingly gruesome and inventive. The story, even though it has numerous plotholes, is still quite entertaining. And as with any game you do want to see who eventually is going to win. This is by no means a good show, I’m not going to lie to you about that. But if you are a fan of lowbudget horrormovies, and take some of the shows plotholes and events for granted, I can pretty much guarantee you are going to be entertained by this one. I have been weighing things of in my mind all day as to what grade I was going to give this. In the end I decided to give it a reasonably decent one, as I had fun watching this, no doubt about it.

I give King’s Game a 7 out of 10 score.

Erased, Japanese Tv series (2017)

Last year I saw an anime that ended up being one of the best that I have ever seen to date in my life. It was called¬†Erased¬†and I gave it a perfect score at the time. Having not yet revisited it I don’t know if I would give it the same score today that I gave it back then. The review for it was written in the early days of my blog, but I do know that I absolutely loved it. So when I heard they were going to be producing a live action series based on the manga/anime, the first thought that went through my mind was “Oh God, please not this again”. As most anime fans will know, the reputation for these kind of shows/movies that are based on our beloved animated series isn’t one to be very proud of. In fact, it’s downright abysmal if you look at it closely. But, since I loved the anime so much I decided to at least watch the pilot for this one and give it a chance……So, I guess you are all waiting for what I eventually thought of it huh? Okay, I will get to that after I present the plot, but how about when I say that this might just be the best live action anime adaptation ever. Did that catch your attention? Right…as I was saying let’s start with the plot first.

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Hey! No pictures please!

The aspiring manga artist Satoru has a gift. Or a curse depending on which way you look at it. With the ability called Revival he is able to travel back in time to prevent bad things from happening. He always experiences it just before some kind of calamity occurs, and he usually has a short time window to stop it. But Satoru is always able to save the day just in time. But then one day he arrives home and finds his mother dead on the floor with a knife sticking out of her back. With his hands covered in blood Satoru becomes the prime suspect for this grissly deed. Just when he is about to get caught by the police his Revival ability kicks in. But this time it takes him back farther in time than ever before. To his childhood to be exact, 18 years in the past. Now with his adult mind in the driver’s seat of his 11 year old self, he has to find a way to prevent his mother’s death and that of three of his classmates. Most notably the young girl Kayo Hinazuki who he has grown very close to. But his opponent is a very cunning and brutal serial killer that will stop at nothing to achieve his goals…….

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Are you going to eat that cake?

One of the things that live action adaptations, or any adaptations as a matter of fact usually get wrong is that they stray too far from the source material. Or don’t even use it at all. And that’s where Erased really shines. This 12 part Netflix series captures the heart and soul of what made the original so great in the first place. Things like friendship, never giving up, but also it’s darker themes such as child abuse all make an appearance. In the first 6-7 episodes the people who have seen the anime will find it follows the storyline very closely. They throw a few other things and twists in the mix but other than that it resembles it’s anime counterpart almost exactly. In what can be called the second act, it diverges it’s story into other directions without going completely off the rails. In fact I liked that they also devised some original storylines as well, because else the outcome would have been very predictable.

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Did I mention there were some heartwarming moments in this series?

Another thing you will notice when you start watching this is how gorgeous everything looks. The cinematography is stunning in this series. From the bleak factories, to the snowfilled landscapes and beautiful sunsets, everything almost looks like a painting. It really helps in setting the overall tone and atmosphere for this. The acting for this is also pretty good with one noteworthy exception. The children especially are extremely well cast, particularly the girl who plays the young Hinazuki. Just as in the anime she really is going through hell in this show, and the tv series doesn’t shy away from that subject either. Even though Hinazuki appears to be a little bit older than her anime counterpart, the actress that portrays her does a great job making us care about her character. In fact the only actress I didn’t like in certain scenes was the one who plays Airi, the girl who has a crush on the older Satoru. There were a couple of moments that were a bit cringeworthy in the way she portrayed them, but they don’t cause enough trouble to really become a problem.

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Erm, I would change my shirt if I were you. It looks like you had an accident with the ketchup bottle.

If I want to be nitpicking I can also point out that there is a certain character that at one point has a fake beard that looks so stupid it is almost laughable. In fact I found myself wondering who on Earth came up with that. But that’s a relatively minor issue in what is otherwise a truly awesome show. With the episodes being only 30 minutes long, Erased has the name bingewatch written all over it. If you have not yet seen the anime I think you are going to enjoy this series even more than those who did. As the show basically tells the same story there are not many surprises in store for the fans of the anime. But as a fan I can say that I still enjoyed this one immensely. This is without a doubt the best anime live action adaptation that I have ever seen and I highly recommend this series. It is not as good as the anime, in that I can be honest, but it does come very, very close. Erased is a really terrific series that tells a heartbreaking, exciting and sometimes downright chilling story. I dare you not to finish this one in one go.

I give Erased a 9 out of 10 score.