Tag Archives: Fall 2014 Season

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso Episode 11

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Noitamina sure has picked a very beautiful series to run alongside comedy visual novel series Saenai.  The amount of imagery it uses to channel out even the minor characters of this series is animated so well!  I say this because that opening sequence was incredibly awesome–  Takeshi’s childhood is turned upside and paved the way in becoming a musician because of Kousei’s talent.  That beginning scene reminds me a lot of those ‘hero’ sections throughout Ping Pong The Animation last year–  funny how there is a parallel between a music romance series and a sports series with its two main characters being portrayed as programmed without emotions.  Strong correlation between the two of them!  Kousei is seen as unaffected by the emotional state of others while he’s playing music whereas Tsukimoto is viewed by others as automatic when he’s playing a match of pong.

I like how this show reflects even the slightest moments these musicians have that make an impact later on.  After Kousei’s profound performance Takeshi realizes he’s on a different level than him–  one that isn’t close to what he’s wanted to achieve all this time.  I like how there is a shift between what has changed in Kousei to bringing in his mentor Seto Hiroko–  she’s funny and is the only other person that has had a solid relationship with Kousei’s mother.  Really enjoy these flashback scenes because we are gradually seeing that his mother isn’t all that bad.

The interactions with Ryouta, Tsubaki and Kaori were fantastic–  just another point as to how this show can work when it uses middle schoolers at its core.  I think another part of this that follow this trend is Kousei’s dissatisfaction with the grown up judges that find his playing distasteful.  He’s a youth trying to find himself and we finally get to see him  here express his emotions just like Ryouta did crying in the bathroom stall and Tsubaki crying on Kousei’s back.  Now only time will tell when Kaori will break down after coming to the adult realization that she’s ill.  Speaking of this I think its interesting that Kousei passes out just like Kaori had done previously–  wonderful depiction of how much these two are alike even without music.

The soundtrack by Masaru Yokoyama is an emotional ride just like this series has been–  a complete divergence from his other work this season Rolling Girls!  The firefly scene with Kaori and Kousei here is a nice breakaway from all those music performances and sets the stage for these two to evolve their friendship into romance.  Fantastic turnaround that even illustrates how much Kousei is growing up and going on a journey with love filling his heart.  Her Charlie Brown quote is a large indication that she probably won’t be alive at the end of this series and this was a strong end to its first half!  I’m going to miss that opening animation with GOOSEHOUSE’s Hikaru Nara song!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10

Mushishi Zoku Shou [98/100]

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This is my 299th post and what better way to end this here than with my final review of Mushishi‘s second half Zoku Shou.

There really isn’t a single series out there like this one.  This show is awesome!  What anime series lack in characterization Mushishi more than makes up for in its wide cast.  This is certainly a show that blows just about every other anime out of the water by focusing on people individually.  A big applause to Yuki Urushibara for writing such etherial and sometimes relaxing stories!  A lot of the episodes come across being really deep in its settings and themes but what really sets this anime apart from the rest is the atmosphere it gradually maintains–  luscious forests and even snow scenes with glowing mushi allows for this series to come off quite beautiful visually!

The extra is how strong the music is.  While the stories about people being afflicted by mushi in some form or another tackles japanese folklore and legends its very much in the way of its soundtrack that delivers the authenticity that this show is known for.  It sets itself up nicely for the viewer.  Toshio Masuda,  I’ve mentioned him before in Kamisama Kiss’ recent episode post and how well diverse he is getting to be as a composer.  Without a doubt Mushishi still stands as the best work he’s ever done and without it I do not believe Ginko’s tales would have been so effective.

When Zoku Shou got announced I was rather worried because there are times when series do come back for a sequel and some of the staff doesn’t return;  which can greatly hinder the differences between seasons drastically for the viewer.  A fine example of this was last season’s Psycho-Pass 2 in how the writer and production studio changed.  With Mushishi,  just as the stories are authentic it strived to adapt the manga with so much heart it had to have just about every staff member return.

Director Hiroshi Nagahama most known for helping conceive Revolutionary Girl Utena‘s animated work hasn’t done much but what he has achieved has been incredible.  This guy has done wonders for this series, to be able to maintain such consistency in every keeping the high standards the first season had set after having such a large gap between seasons 1 and 2 is an amazing achievement in itself!  One of my favorite series that he actually created was Simoun.  As for the animation I personally think its some of the best we’ve had of 2014 and Studio Artland pulled it off once again!  Mushishi isn’t flashy and doesn’t like to show off but more importantly what it aims at is whether or not it can tell a solid narrative.

This second season I think may have had some of the best chapters adapted.  It’s also one of the few anime series that has animated every single chapter a mangaka has ever done!  We start off with a sake brewer and his connection with his father’s wishes to be the best there is to episodes like Komori E and Koten no Hoshi that bring families even closer together by shifting the focus away from Ginko and using the mushi as the mediator to point things out.

Then there are some really dark stories that come off even better than the light-hearted ones!  Stories where people disappear into nothingness, chopping off heads to keep a woman alive, getting frostbitten, a fish-like boy turning into water to people killing each other out of rage–  these were episodes that were definitely on another level.  While they weren’t cruel they just put humans in ethical predicaments.  The mushi for the most of Zoku Shou remains a principal string that ties these episodes together into the genre of supernatural so well.  It’s because of that this anime is also able to develop these minor characters into the grand scheme of things.  The reoccurring theme of survival and what comes with it.  The life-cycle that is represented in a lot of Mushishi episodes conveys a strong message about morality and what kinds of customs the characters of this series follow and sometimes don’t.

Mushishi can make us laugh and cry within a single episode while pondering so many questions about human connections and even teach us about Japanese traditions.  A powerfully moving anime that invokes a spirited presence with stunning visuals and an enriching collection of ideas about our existence and the people that we connect with that can make it a fulfilling life.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [98/100]

Mushishi Zoku Shou Episode 20 [END]

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Ancient trees are somewhat of a popular culture among Japanese stories.  According to legends, kodama are considered to be gods [kami] that dwell inside of trees.  Many believed that kodama never stick to one tree but can travel through forests by clinging from tree to tree.  In reference to Japanese animation kodama have been used in numerous Hayao Miyazaki’s films most notably in Princess Mononoke.  What makes this story of Zoku Shou especially engaging is how it takes these collections of legends and builds up from it using atmosphere, the conventional and sometimes awe-inspiring music of Japan and wraps it around a simple story about a village making sacrifices for one another.

Sentimental would probably be the best way to describe this episode.  The basis for a lot of Mushishi episodes even back in season 1 has been about Shinto–  an action-centered religion that focuses on ceremonial practices based on one principal idea:  to be diligent.  More over the fact that its a religion based around searching for connections between the present time and the past in order to secure a strong future.  Much like many episodes that Mushishi has had this one developed strongly with its episodic cast through its intertwining flashbacks around the giant tree and the fruit that Kanta eats from it.

The story of Tokoshie no Ki here with Kanta’s curiosity to travel across unknown lands brings this season 2 to a close quite nicely.  What’s great about these episodes are how individual they are.  It certainly did not feel like Mushishi was ending here but rather delivers exceptionally strong based on how much we’ve seen of this world.  This episode might recall some relevance to season 1’s Kago no Naka episode.  Setsu being unable to get out of the forest which turns out that he has a familiar family connection with the bamboo tree.  Here though it’s Kanta’s curiosity of the world that pushes him even further into the tree to the point of disabling his legs literally!  Love the scene where Kanta recollects how he knows of Ginko when he was a boy and the elderly mushishi when he was but a child as well.  Its the sudden flashback that gives off the mushi’s influence by the tree that gets this story going with a bang.

While both season 1’s episode 14 and this final episode shows a tree getting cut down they both exploit shinto in different ways.  Kanta getting his feet stuck  while becoming one with the tree was a strong visual indicator that he really has been a part of this tree all along.  Not to mention all the memories he’s collected:  550 years worth!

The flashback with Isaza and young Ginko was awesome because we get to see how long this Satorigi has also been around for.  The earthquake the elderly man mentions from 550 years ago where the first bloom occurred depicts the sacrificial aspect of this tale really well.  The villagers healing it, then trying to cut it down and finally to the point of praising it as a god could not have emphasized this better!  I like how this episode uses the various villagers as storytellers about what the tree has caused within their village over time.  The glowing sap after the tree had been cut down once again reintroduces the Light Vein we’ve seen in past episodes and the strength it lends to its hosts.  Which in this case is Kanta.

Ginko offers medicine to the ailing Kanta and I like how he sends out messages in hopes for a cure really settled down the atmosphere here.  A calm before the storm.  In order to save the villagers from a coming threat he has them escape from an earthquake.  That was an incredibly well-animated scene during that earthquake!  It’s not until the end here that Tokoshie no Ki delivers a really strong message!  And that’s this idea of humans bonding together with mushi to learn from each other on how to live.  A theme that seems to flow throughout every episode of Mushishi:  survival.

At last!  We are finally at the end of Zoku Shou.  I’m actually quite sad this series has ended and I hope that there will be more in the future.  Good thing that there will be an animated feature film coming this summer to adapt the final two chapters of the manga.  I can’t even imagine what the budget will look like for that!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso Episode 10

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We often get characters like Watari in anime but most of the time its for a comedic effort.  With Shigatsu he’s been this overwhelming presence for the group:  striving to be better.  I hope we get to see more of this side of him in future episodes!  What a nice conversation at the beginning here between the lead sports star and music prodigy.  Watari is the influential one out of the group but that shifts with this episode more towards Kousei due to his varying performance!  Great move to start this out by rushing Chopin’s music.

He’s trying to focus but can’t seem to get a strong performance out.  This reflects what Emi and Takashi have worked so hard to get to and its this song being played right in front of them that crumbles any aspirations.  So what does Kousei do?  Follows in the footsteps of Kaori and stops playing–  her gripped at the edge of her seat was proof of how linked these two prodigies are.

The transition from a boy saddened by the loss of his mother into a young man love struck by Kaori.  She’s inspiring him to be a better musician–  to find his own reason for playing.  This episode pointed that out loud and clear what this series truly is at heart–  a romance.  The beautiful notes that separates the gap between lost and wavering to found and content.  Incredible!

I also really like how Kaori’s violin is playing in the background during this.  He is slowly starting to play out his emotions through the notes!  His mother that he’s been visualizing sitting in the very back of the stage changes from a dark void to a place filled with light depicts his transition from a nervous boy to a headstrong young man with purpose.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso Episode 9

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These recaps are getting annoying for this series.  We’ve already seen Emi’s performance and what does the director do here?  Completely change Chopin’s Étude in A minor Op. 25, No. 11 with small guitar riffs and a drum beat.  What?  This isn’t even part of the performance and yet they throw this in there to emphasize how passionate she is.  It would have been nice to leave the piece the way Emi wanted to play it without all the slow rocking effects.  The way this was written it was too much and should have at least left this up to the previous episode if they wanted to further develop Emi’s role in this.  After the opening sequence now that was a splendid act of anger from Emi.  That’s where they should have started this!

Regardless, both Emi and Takashi’s performances built up what we should be expecting with Kousei’s skills.  Kaori’s admiration for Kousei really shined through this episode and I like how the foreshadow of her death possibly by the end of this show correlates to Kousei’s mom strongly.  The flashbacks while pertained most of the episode ended up familiarizing me with how Kousei relates to his mom.

She hits him, trains him even harder at the piano and what we’re left with is a Kousei up on stage by himself once again with an empty feeling of the loss of his mother never resolved.  However this time things are different.  He’s met Kaori a musical blessing that could get him out of his rut.

What I really enjoyed previously in this series is the imagery that is used when he’s not able to hear the notes:  stuck underwater and feeling abandoned.  Powerful because we are gradually getting to see him mature further.  This also works out well when we’ve got a confused love struck Tsubaki in the background too!  Relieve him of the pain he’s had in his heart all this time as he’s going to change his piano playing away from sheet music into a style all his own.  I really like that visual at the end where he’s playing the piano and the sheet music is spotlighted underneath him.  Great imagery there.  Nice build-up to the performance we will get to see hopefully in the next episode.  Let’s see Kousei break the mold here and surprise everyone!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 7/10

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso Episode 8

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Noitamina this is where you shine.  Slice of life and romance anime more notably pointing out josei series.  I like this series a lot because its about music and reminds me so much of Nodame Cantabile.  Talk about a series I’d love to see come back and finish adapting the manga!

Shifting focus away from Kousei and Kaori we jump right into the performances.  I can see this be a tear-jerker of a series in the coming episodes.  There is such an emotional side to this episode especially for Takeshi.  He’s considered Kousei a rival and wants in every way to surpass him but what will he find at the end once he sees his performance?  While director Kyohei Ishiguro is doing a fine job at adapting this from Naoshi Arakawa’s manga and the music is some of the best of the Fall 2014 season and going into the Winter lineup I can see this excelling at being even stronger as it goes on!

If there was one thing I would change here its the talking in front of the performances.  Yeah it’s great for telling Takeshi’s and Emi’s own personal feelings but the overall impact here would have been much more incredible if these inner dialogues took place before and after the performances.  The imagery where a resolved Emi plays her heart out as autumn is pouring around the stage was spectacular!

Emi’s adorable and I really like how her motivation to step up and achieve her goals of letting her emotions ring through the sounds of her playing is a force to be reckoned with and it was a beautiful performance at the end here!  The reactions of the audience brought chills down my spine.

The contrast between Emi and Kaori is much more noticeable now considering how these two are so passionate when they play.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10

Garo -Honō no Kokuin Episode 12

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Daisuke Namikawa [Leon’s seiyu]  was a tad bit over-acted here but nonetheless this was awesome.  One of the best ending arcs to the Fall 2014 season we’ve had and I am ecstatic that there is more of this already!

Leon Luis, the real hero of the series is trying to find his own purpose beyond the duty of vanquishing Horrors.  Alfonso may have his kingdom but this was some reversal here!  Mendoza manipulating Leon into seeing his mother crying out to be saved through the flames around his Garo was indeed a powerful blow that will forever shake his soul.  I like how difficult a state German was in. This was no easy take defeating Bernardo and it not only affected him emotional but physically as well.  Is this foreshadow that he might meet his demise sometime in the future?

The words that German has been warning of Leon to be wary of his duty as a knight speaks volumes to how naive Leon has been all this time.  Engulfed by the flames, unable to hear his father or any sensible reason as to how to be a dutiful Knight he becomes lost.  It’s here where Alfonso’s fight switches things a bit:  use a Makai knight to carry out Mendoza’s plans.  The town in flames depicts the burning rage Leon’s carried all these years and instead of a Horror corrupting him its his own doing thus the fight against prince and sorrowful Makai Knight caught up with the past about his mother begins.

German apologizing to Anna was insurmountable proof that Leon has become unfit as a Makai Knight and I like how Alfonso is disgusted by his cousin’s failure to uphold peace.  So what does he do here?  Takes the Garo for himself and kills the Horror that Mendoza made!  This was the best animated episode we’ve had yet of this show so far and I look forward to see what comes next!  I think the most surprising part of this had to be Mendoza being eaten by the Horror– the very creatures he used as pawns throughout this first half for his own selfish gains kills him!

Epilogues.  This was a good time to put this in here.  Creator Amemiya could have ended this after the battle but used Alfonso’s death as fuel to give more destiny into Alfonso’s claim to Valiante.  Leon however caught up with no reason to live wanders towards a cliff to kill himself.  What a way to develop a main character and completely dismantle him!  Incredible!  The crows flying away look to illustrate that his mother’s death was finally leaving him and he’s been set free.

I knew we would see that village woman again from episode 8!  I’m sure we will see more of her in the upcoming episodes!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Garo -Honō no Kokuin Episode 11

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I want to start off by saying there might have been some confusion on my part on how Leon’s father’s name is translated.  According to the english version its German whereas in the Japanese its Herman.  Moving forward I will be using German.

The slight recap here works pretty well.  Less than a minute and we jump right into the confrontation between Bernardo and German.  I enjoyed this fight quite a bit because we get used to what a like of shonen series do–  talk during fights.  The sepia-toned flashbacks that pick up after Anna and German run away from the king’s knights we see a young Bernardo fall to defeat.  I’d imagined this would be how he had fallen under Mendoza’s plans.  He sees the truth through the dying village woman and with so much death around him its no wonder he loses himself.  However, I did not expect Mendoza to suddenly show up [too convenient] and purge him of his humanity creating the Horror inside of him.

“We’re fools” is ultimately the line that changes Bernardo but I like what happens here where a grieving German speaks of him as an idiot for succumbing to such evils.  A Makai Knight turned Horror.  Honor is replaced by naivety, hatred and fear.  Bernardo’s Makai form and the battle that ensues had wonderfully drawn angles!  The CG was much better than the previous episodes and I can see why.  This first half has been dedicated to a father training his son with a duty to eliminate evil throughout a kingdom and reaching the climax here with two old friends battling it out to the death.  Awesome.  This series just keeps getting more solid each week and its a shame I haven’t caught up with these episodes until now.

Finally it’s about time Leon and Alfonso confront Mendoza but what’s this?  A giant Horror being summoned with magic.  Whoa.  The sacrifices of humans plays a large role with the pent up hatred Mendoza has had all these years and we finally get to see it unravel!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10

Mushishi Zoku Shou Episode 19

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Trying to get through the initial impressions of the Winter 2015 Season and maintaining series that I’ve been behind on from the Fall 2014 season is a daunting task.  This is one series that I would recommend to anyone looking for an intelligent drama series.  Mushishi captivates its audience with the overall mood or even its style that it achieves in setting up each episode.

Most of the time there is a focus on the mushi afflicting humans in strange ways that Ginko arrives to mediate the problem.  Sometimes he gets it right and other times very wrong.  However, there are some episodes that encompass solely on the human side while keeping the supernatural aspect of it, the mushi as a detail.  This establishes the characters into pivotal pieces to the plot so much more!  Episodes that depict the nature of human beings.  Especially when it handles themes of jealousy, rage, affection, and more often than not love.

Ginko arrives at a village where most of the people have warts covering their legs and sometimes hands.  The tales each episode are vastly different as we’ve had frostbitten people, a family chopping off heads of women, his has got to be the darkest story of Mushishi of Zoku Shou we’ve had as it confronts murder with the mushi featured in this episode used as backdrop.  The villagers have a ritual of funeral processions by returning the dead to the mountains–  a common theme throughout this series is that mountains represent a life-cycle.  What makes this interesting is these people hold within them a fear–  which we see with this missing Yui at the very beginning and parasites that can harm humans going into the mountain.

The contrast here is that this fear of catching something which in this case is the mokurosou—  a grassy looking mushi that affects any parts of the body causing paralysis.  A sinister fear that overcomes the villagers slightly but more with one particular family.  This family or rather its two brothers contain a strong motif here–  brother Shinobu kills by accident which results in Yuki’s outcome prior to this episode and the other results from the other brother killing him out of a fit of rage due to the loss of his daughter.  It’s these mokurosou unaffected by the medicine on his legs that disturbingly illustrates the lingering feelings of death he has so deeply hidden within his own heart.  Where he is seen looking out into the sky reflecting on this shows a great deal of his character and just how more frightening humans can be rather than mushi.

The dream he has where a shadowy Shinobu apologizes to him depicts how much he wants to forget that he has killed his brother.  I’m glad this episode set that death prior to this episode as well because it truly captures the mushi and this foggy aura around the village that points to this idea of a lingering collection of deaths wrapped around traditions so realistically.

The result is a very powerful confrontation between Ginko and the fearful brother–  I really like how uninterested Ginko is in his personal matters and only focuses on the mukurosou.  A reoccuring element about Ginko that shows up in this morbid tale is his offering of advice,  cleanse yourself of any death that lingers on you.  The end was perhaps the most intense scene we had in this entire episode!  Self-absorbed by his own rage and wanting to keep his brother’s death a secret he decides on going after the son that he’s taken under his wing all this time.  The mukurosou play a fitting role not as a supernatural focus but an idea that enriches the past–  the feeling of guilt he doesn’t want to admit towards his brother, the constant lies to his nephew all amount to the weight he has carried on since he’s killed him.

It’s this collection of ideas behind the mud grass on his body that ties him down to the past resulting in him falling over and drowning to his death.  What I think foreshadows this a great deal is towards the beginning where Ginko learns of the brother’s decision to take care of the nephew.  The nephew very much wanted to be with his father in the mountains and its there where the brother says “All right, let’s say goodbye one last time” that points this foreshadow out to the viewer.  It is also this revisiting theme of the life-cycle that has been prevalent in mushishi with its mountains, water and fire that provides a powerful force connecting families together even after death from the beginning to the very end of this episode.

In short, the brother wanting to forget killing his brother takes in the young boy to replace his own daughter Yui in hopes of being forgiven for his sinful act.  The turnaround is that the young boy learns of the truth and ends up getting his life saved by the weight [mukurosou] that has been buried within the brother all this time.  Which for this very scene was Shinobu [the brother] and Yui.  Powerful episode!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Mushishi Zoku Shou Episode 18

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This was the complete opposite of what the last episode had been in every single way and it still turns out absolutely amazing!  As stand alone as these tales of Ginko’s travels can become I don’t believe I would have enjoyed this episode as much as I did without seeing the previous one about a nurturing mother and her insistent affection and worrying onto her son Yuuta.  However, this is where it turns out to be extremely reversed especially when it comes to establishing maternal relationships, as we are finally given this view of a dysfunctional family rather than a close relationship between family members that we’ve seen in most of the episodes of Zoku Shou!

Reki cries and the thunder comes crashing down–  quite a reflection into how he feels about his own mother here.  Can’t accept him as her own because of the arranged marriage set up by her own mother:  this is where she puts all of the blame on Reki.  Whether the family kept the umbilical chord or not touches on a set of Japanese traditions that have been subtly put into the manga quite well.  According to Japanese culture its common for families to keep the umbilical chord in a wooden box known as a ‘kotobuki bako’.  ‘Kotobuki’ meanning in a sense a celebration of marriage, childbearing, and is a sort of charm for japanese people to live a a long and fulfilling life.

Reki’s father is torn by the fact that his own wife can’t bear the sight of her son and it’s the past scenes where Reki being shocked by lightning numerous times under the tree that allows for this idea to take effect.  Ginko portrays more of a mediator this time between the family–  considering how the mother feels that Reki is angry with her for not loving him honestly and that is why the lightning strikes down.  Calling the lightning as even Ginko refers to it means that Reki is trying to get his voice heard for once in his life and its this episode that uses the Shouraishi in order to tie together the bonds that are broken between this family.  It’s this point that also uses the tree as a protective barrier in developing Reki’s motives with a twist.  I love the reaction his mother has upon hearing this possible idea that Reki is calling down the lightning away from the house in order to protect the family he’s always cared about but has never really shown it.

The cinematography was jaw-dropping to me here–  the quick cuts into black after the lightning strikes when she hugs her son hoping for death just as she was when she tried to drown herself.  A great contrast to what happened to Yuuta’s mother in the last episode.  Also these small cuts provides a nice transition into the satisfying ending–  the Shouraishi gradually flowing out of Reki’s belly to with this surprising look on his face.  Heck this had some astounding imagery with the almost flower-like mushi depicting the pain he’s felt ever since he was a baby not being loved by his mother as he’s covered in the scars by the lightning.  The bruises and pain he’s had slowly vanishing away from his body as he’s at last getting a second chance with his mother and father.  A classic example of showing without telling anything.

It will be extremely sad for me to see this series’ departure as this is one anime that is in my Top 10 Best Anime Series of 2014.  Hands down.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10