Underrated Gems: A Beautiful Ride to Carlisle

Dana and Sharon, the only characters in this visual novel

I’m a Brit, my family is mostly from Cumbria and the Scottish Borders, and I like trains – I have visited the National Railway Museum in York on several occasions and I can name every locomotive used on the National Rail network. I also like anime and visual novels.

So the moment I heard about a visual novel called “A Beautiful Ride to Carlisle” my interest had already peaked. That’s the city my grandparents hail from, and its where I hope to live again in the future.

When I found out it was a cute yuri romance about two girls meeting on a train, I picked up my debit card and bought it instantly. That was a decision I have absolutely no regrets about.

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What’s Wrong with Arifureta?

Hajime, the protagonist of Arifureta

Readers of isekai light novels have been hyping up Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest for several months, and there was considerable excitement for its anime adaptation airing this season. That was, of course, until the first episode aired.

The Arifureta light novels have a score of 8.03 on MAL, which is reasonably high, and the manga isn’t far behind at 7.74. The anime also started off with a similar score, but it went downhill soon after the series started airing.

Most of the reviews are also negative, and it has received critical coverage from several prominent YouTubers in the anime community. General consensus is, it has become the dumpster fire of the Summer 2019 anime season. But what went wrong?

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Farewell, Golden Wind

From the moment I started watching the first episode of Phantom Blood, I fell in love with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. The characters were well-written, the Victorian England setting was relatable and the interactions between Jonathan and Dio really fueled my emotions.

I marathoned all nine episodes in a day, and finished Battle Tendency that same weekend. I’ve seen plenty of shounen anime, but none touched me as much as JoJo. The idea of an adventure across real world locations resonates with me as a regular traveller, and the show’s quirkiness fits my sense of humour to a T.

A few months later, the manga volumes started releasing in the UK and I made sure to pick them up. They did not disappoint – we really are incredibly lucky to have beautiful hardback editions of such an iconic series.

After becoming so invested in the series and adoring the first four parts, I was somewhat apprehensive about the fifth: Golden Wind. After all, it was so different to the previous parts in terms of art style, characters and setting.

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First Impressions of the Summer 2019 Anime Season

A collage of anime airing this season (Arifureta, Dumbbell , Cop Craft, Fire Force)

Introduction

We’re now two weeks into the Summer 2019 anime season, and I have seen enough to say it has one of the best lineups of the last few years. We have a few long anticipated manga adaptations as well as some original series from a large variety of genres, and I’m watching nine currently airing shows.

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest

The elephant in the room that I should address first is Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest. This is an isekai light novel adaptation and is probably the biggest disappointment of the season. The source material has a cult following, so I was rather excited to see how the anime would play out, but I’m afraid the first episode was a bizarre, poorly directed, confusing mess.

Arifureta‘s anime adaptation begins in the other world, unlike the manga and light novel, and the show utterly fails to explain how the protagonist ended up in his situation. The show constantly uses flashbacks in poor attempts to explain what’s happening, and the CGI animation actually made me laugh out loud.

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Pleasant Surpises: Britain’s Most Remote Comic Shop?

The Cave comic shop in Thurso, Caithness, Scotland

The British Isles is a vast geographic area, containing several countries and crown dependencies. There are plenty of towns and cities, but I don’t think there is any region more remote than the Scottish Highlands, which I had the pleasure of visiting in April.

My trip began in Inverness; the only city in the Highland council area. While there I made sure to have a look at the anime and manga for sale in mainstream shops like Waterstones, HMV and CeX. I have made it a habit to look out for bargains in every town and city I visit, after all it would be a shame to miss the chance to snap up a product on my wish list.

If the city I’m in has a Forbidden Planet store, that’s all the better. What kind of otaku can pass up a 3-for-2 offer on manga volumes? But still, these are all brands with abundant locations across the UK. I often prefer to browse small local comic shops and get to know the owners a bit.

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