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Josh Tolentino

Ghost in the Shell photo
Ghost in the Shell

A few minutes of Ghost in the Shell to watch and/or judge


That wall-run, though
Mar 23
// Josh Tolentino
There's just a week to go until Ghost in the Shell heads off to theaters, and Paramount is betting that at least some folks will still want to see the film, even after they give away five whole minutes of it.  Embed...
Ghost in the Shell photo
Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell gets carried away on its own memes


'I Am Meme-jor'
Mar 14
// Josh Tolentino
Is there anything more Ghost in the Shell than something getting utterly dragged by the memes it helped spawn? Heck, that's basically the plot of Standalone Complex, when you think about it. Of course, successful marketi...

Review: Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale

Mar 05 // Josh Tolentino
Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale Studio: A-1 Pictures Licensed By: Eleven Arts (NA), SM Cinema (PH), Madman (AU) Directed By: Tomohiko Itou Released: February 26, 2017 (PH), March 9, 2017 (NA) You wouldn't know it from that title, but it's been several years since any of the characters in Sword Art Online - the TV series - have had anything to do with Sword Art Online - the game. Over multiple seasons of television and any number of spinoff stories, Kirito, Asuna, Klein, and the rest have left behind the death game that started their shared adventure, moving into new games, meeting new friends, and having new adventures. And yet no one's really left Sword Art Online behind. The events of the "The SAO Incident" have come to define not just the cast of characters, but even the discourse surrounding the franchise. Virtually every subsequent storyline, be it based in Gun Gale Online, ALfheim Online, or any number of new games visited by Kirito and his crew, has been compared to the original Sword Art Online thread, and often found wanting in some way. There's no denying the way that that first storyline has defined the whole of the franchise, and to its credit, Ordinal Scale incorporates that very notion into its plot, which runs heavy with themes of nostalgia, memory, and the concept of the self as a sum of a person's experiences. And no one been more heavily defined by Sword Art Online than its protagonists, Kirito and Asuna, and in focusing largely on them and their relationship, Ordinal Scale finds the focus that subsequent storylines lacked. The trick is in finding a new competition for the characters to learn and excel in. The disrupting factor here is Augmented Reality. For the unintiated, Augmented Reality (AR), is a form of technology that overlays computer-generated imagery onto the real world, as opposed to Virtual Reality (VR), which replaces the real world. The Augma, an AR device that looks like a fancy take on Google Glass, is trending, enticing consumers away from VR games (like the ones Kirito and friends have been playing) with promises of greater integration with the real world, forgoing the need to be rendered a vegetable just to play video games. The Augma's "killer app" is Ordinal Scale, an AR combat game that pits players against monsters and each other in real-world locations overlaid with fantasy art projected directly into their eyes by the Augma technology. Best conceptualized as a fusion of the real-world Pokemon GO and a prototype version of Reki Kawahara's other franchise, Accel World, Ordinal Scale doesn't carry much detail as a game, but it does provide a compelling snapshot of what people might be playing in the future, as well as a new set of challenges for Kirito and the crew to surmount. Only this time time, it's Kirito that's at a disadvantage. Whereas the VR games he used to play relied on arbitrary stats or futuristic measurements of "reaction speed" to determine performance, playing Ordinal Scale is limited by the players' own ability to move about the virtualized environment. And Kirito, after years spent as a vegetable and then later addicted to VR, is not in the best of shape. Seeing him struggle, stumble, and fall while more physically fit challengers succeed, returns to Sword Art Online a long-missing sense of adversity and progress. Where other stories tended to hinge things on viewers' existing attachment to the cast to make plots about in-game activities feel compelling, the story here feels more natural, and even exciting, once the stakes are raised. That stake-raising definitely happens, as boss monsters from Sword Art Online start appearing in Ordinal Scale, resulting in odd consequences for the many "SAO Survivors" - players who were stuck in Sword Art Online during the original death game, including Kirito, Asuna, and most of their friends - playing Ordinal Scale. Asuna falls victim to one of the monsters and finds herself robbed of all memory from her time spent in SAO, including her recall of meeting Kirito for the first time. Bereft of arguably the most important - if traumatic - experience of her life, Asuna is left unsure: Of herself, of her memories, and even of her relationship with Kirito and their AI "daughter", Yui. Even if she does remember her subsequent adventures, will it be enough for her? Kirito, meanwhile, is left desperate, pained by the loss and needing to somehow succeed at Ordinal Scale, as well as investigate the game and uncover the key to restoring his girlfriend's memories.  This tension and sense of desperation in the film really does bring out some of Sword Art Online's best qualities, marrying its entertaining vision of gaming's future and the consequences facing its characters, while capitalizing on the now years-strong investment fans have in the cast and world of the series. The whole show is steeped in nostalgia for that first arc, and sometimes stoops over to nonsensical levels to throw a fan-service bone to fans that want to see the old outfits and aesthetics of the show rendered in the glory afforded to feature-length productions. Ironically, it's when the stakes are raised to their highest - when lives are at stake, and when SAO fan-service is at its most intense - that Ordinal Scale begins to crumble. The dark conspiracy propelling the mystery, and what it means for Asuna, Kirito, and the SAO survivors would've been enough, but the last quarter of the movie feels somewhat obligatory, motivated less by the need to solve the mystery than by a mandate to have a giant battle at the end featuring all the characters from every game. There's no denying it's entertaining to see, but it certainly could've been brought about in a less transparent fashion. All that's missing is a giant blue laser in the sky and it could've been the final showdown from a Marvel Cinematic Universe film, is what I'm saying.  At the same time, I can't find it in my heart to be too critical of this stumbling block. Films like these are primarily about fan-service, so I can't begrudge its presence. It helps that the action sequences are very pretty, to boot, however wooly the reasons for their taking place. [embed]35592:6136:0[/embed] Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale is best taken less as a standalone narrative and more as a coda of sorts for an era of the franchise, a break with the legacy - and baggage - of its much-lauded earlier days. In doing so it also is a welcome reaffirmation of the reasons behind Sword Art Online's sometimes-baffling popularity, effectively mixing dynamic action, inspired future-nerdery, and personal drama in a plot that reinvokes the franchise's sense of consequence and stakes.  [This review is based on a theatrical viewing of the film by the reviewer.]
Sword Art Online Review photo
Is this the (Augmented) Real Life?
What's in a name? For Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale, the name is everything. I'm not referring to "Ordinal Scale", the word from the title, though. I'm referring to Sword Art Online, the title that has, to this day, loomed large over the series it graces. Ordinal Scale - the movie - is no different, and seems to know it, too.

Ghost in the Shell photo
Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell's 'motion posters' are gif-tastic


Very Blade Runner, I dig 'em
Mar 01
// Josh Tolentino
With just a few weeks to go until the Ghost in the Shell live-action film actually happens, I continue to find myself surprised it exists and even more surprised that it looks kind of rad. What we've seen so far isn't th...

Cat Day photo
Cat Day

Happy Cat Day!


Mewl in delight
Feb 22
// Josh Tolentino
The best thing about living in a world with more than one country is that folks in the right frame of mind can celebrate certain holidays more than once. Like Cat Day, which is today in Japan.  Whereas Cat Day in North A...
Ghost in the Shell photo
Ghost in the Shell

Get to know the Major in the new Ghost in the Shell trailer


Cyborg guro and backstory ahoy
Feb 16
// Josh Tolentino
Despite many years of ambivalence and some really bad recent political optics, I think I can finally say that I'm excited to see the Ghost in the Shell live-action movie. The latest trailer does away with the teasing and...
Anisong World Matsuri photo
Anisong World Matsuri

Now you too can relive the glory of the Anisong World Matsuri


Did they sing your favorite theme?
Jan 29
// Josh Tolentino
If anime fandom is the bedrock of otaku culture, Anisongs - the songs that serve as anime series' opening and ending themes - are its voice. For a lot of fans, anisongs are also their gateway to Japanese music as well, as man...

Impressions: Fate/Grand Order: First Order

Jan 15 // Josh Tolentino
To get to the core of that assessment, we’ll have to drill down into why Type-MOON, and more specifically Fate and other associated works by lead writer Kinoko Nasu work as well as they do. At a distance, the so-called “Nasuverse” isn’t all that different from the many game- or light-novel worlds that have popped up over the years. Type-MOON’s various efforts may chronologically predate the light novel boom by a bit, but in many ways they’re the paragon of chuunibyou success, with their intricately constructed settings – always dense with obscure Kanji and idiosyncratic readings -  forming the foundation for a number of engaging, rich stories. In Nasu-verse stories, it’s comparatively easy to see the thematic bones at the core of each story. High-level concepts like Nasu’s notions of eternal, metaphysical conflict between humanity and the world itself lurk in the background of Fate and Tsukihime, there to be discovered by fans who read between the lines or fall deep enough down the wiki hole. In short, the absurd quantities of lore, trivia points, and little rules feel like they exist for a reason, rather than for their own sake, something that's not always as clear when viewing shows like  While flashes of that brilliance can be found in Fate/Grand Order: First Order, the special can’t help but feel far less necessary to the greater Fate canon than even the dopiest Carnival Phantasm skit. Its biggest problem is that it does very little to make the world of Fate/Grand Order – the game – feel like it’s a place worth visiting. That is a huge issue for a show ostensibly made to promote the game. Problems arise at the very beginning. The episode opens with our hero, Ritsuka Fujimura, lying on the floor for no clear reason. Was he sleeping there? Was he kidnapped and dropped in the corridor? Why is he on the floor? We’ll never know, because the story doesn’t bother to go into that detail, or perhaps because they wanted to copy Saber and Shirou's first meeting, but couldn't find a good enough reason for, well, anything to happen in  away that made sense. This isn’t just nitpicking, mind you. It shows how little care First Order has for anything beyond being something tied to the game. If it did genuinely feel the story was worth paying attention to, It’d try to make that connection, taking the game’s vagueness as a sign to fill that gap, or to deviate from the source. The hero then meets up with Mash Kyrielight and the game’s mascot, a Carbuncle knock-off named Fou. Mash is one of the few Fate heroines with about as little personality as your average male light/visual novel lead. She’s as much a cipher as the hero is, and beyond a vaguely deferential personality (like Sakura without the tragic edge), she’s a nonentity. The hero is soon enlightened as a member of Chaldeas, an organization dedicated to preserving humanity’s future. There’s one problem, though: The future seems to have disappeared. Their fancy simulation/time machine can’t see past a dark spot situated in the year 2004, right around the time of the Holy Grail War in Fuyuki City that backgrounds the events of Fate/stay night. A bunch of mooks with “Master Potential” - Ritsuka among them - are to accompany Olga Animusphere, Chaldea's Rin Tohsaka-esque administrator,   on a trip into the past to see what gives.  Ritsuka - again for no apparent reason - falls asleep during this briefing, and is subsequently ejected from the meeting by Olga. But rather than take this as a prompt to have something interesting happen, the show takes this as a signal to kick off another long briefing, this time at the behest of the company doctor. The drama that follows to set up the main thrust of First Order arrives with all the impact of a raindrop. A series of unfortunate events later, Mash gains a bit of prominence. She gets outed as "Shielder" the Grand Order equivalent of a Starter Pokemon. But rather than being a Fire-, Leaf-, or Water-type, she's "Shielder",  Just how much the show and game owe to Fate itself is quickly reaffirmed when its most compelling presence comes in the form of Caster. Or rather, it’s Fate/stay night’s Lancer, reimagined as a Caster-class Servant. He carries the rest of the episode, until the pair, rejoined with Animusphere, go off to defeat a corrupted version of the Saber we all know and love. Followed by a rather obvious heel turn, the hero and Shielder are left with one task: Save the world by hopping across time and space to participate in big ol’ grail wars against heavily anime-fied versions of history’s greatest heroes and villains. Gotta catch ‘em all! And that’s it. Look, it’s one thing for a free-to-play mobile game not to have much of a story. That's usually a given, all things considered, and there’s only so much one can expect from a transparent tie-in designed to spur downloads on the app store. But it’s hard to see the show as anything more than a damp squib. It adds virtually nothing to the larger canon of Fate lore, and doesn’t even make a very good case for the game itself. The story scenes in the game itself are far more compelling, and focus not on the absurd contrivances of Fate but on the franchise’s greatest gimmick, namely its superbly exaggerated takes on well-known figures of myth and history. That's why all the absurd terminology and trite rules work, ultimately, but First Order doesn't capitalize on that strength, thinking the people are watching to see a wiki entry come to life.  Of course, expectations must once again come into play, and it's not as if promotional tie-ins to mobile games are held to an especially high standard, but in the ways that matter most, Fate/Grand Order: First Order is a letdown.
Fate/Grand Order photo
Nothing happens in phone games, it seems
I have to admit that I was initially rather disappointed to learn that Fate/Grand Order: First Order was being planned as a one-off TV special, rather than a full-season TV series, as the rumors had originally state...

Japanator Awards 2016: Josh's Top 5 Anime of the Year

Dec 30 // Josh Tolentino
[Editor's Note: As with last year's Japanator Awards, our lists are arranged in order, with our #1 pick being our favorite of the year. To qualify for inclusion in the Japanator awards, a candidate must have concluded a broadcast run or season ("cour") within the calendar year of 2016.]  5. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans Season 1 and Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt Over the last few years, my favorite Gundam productions have engaged with Gundam not just as a common brand but as a cultural phenomenon and an artifact of history shared by all its fans. Shows like Build Fighters and games like Gundam Breaker thought of the famous mecha franchise as a series of toys rather than weapons of war. For all intents and purposes, the fourth wall between Gundam and the world didn’t exist in those titles. Iron-Blooded Orphans and Thunderbolt, which tie for this place, do a similar thing, but in a different way. Instead of breaking down the fourth wall and recognizing Gundam as the toy and media property it is, these two series – Orphans in particular, grapples with the longstanding patterns and archetypes of Gundam stories, tackling them in fresh new ways and re-contextualizing them to examine, and even challenge their old meanings. Iron-Blooded Orphans takes the traditional Gundam standby of the teenage pilot and recasts its aura over the child soldiers of Tekkadan, framing their struggles as a heroic, but fundamentally tragic and flawed quest to carve out a place in the world the only way they know how – by brutal violence. It doesn’t shy away from the compromised morality of their position, allowing the viewer to think outside the good-guys-bad-guys dichotomy and see war, even justified war, as the tragedy it is. And this all happened in Season 1. Season 2 is ongoing, and proves Orphans as the rare multi-cour anime that gets better as it goes on. Similarly, Gundam Thunderbolt frames war’s consuming nature through the stories – and bodies – of its pilots, and looks and sounds absolutely stunning while doing it. Both series succeed where shows like Gundam 00 tried and failed, finding a fresh, character-driven approach to familiar themes. 4. Keijo!!!!!!!!! Keijo!!!!!!!! is this year’s trashy treasure, and a blazing, bouncy reaffirmation of the fact that you can’t judge any anime series by its premise alone. It manages to be credible sports/battle anime in a year chock full of entertaining sports series, but distinguishes itself by its utterly ludicrous premise: That there is a genuine competitive scene out there for ladies who like to knock each other into pools using only their chests and hindquarters. It’s magnificent. Sure, ludicrous premises for sports are part and parcel of the anime experience, and in the end Keijo!!!!!!!! doesn’t quite come up to the level of, say, Girls und Panzer, Yowapeda or Haikyuu for elevating the genre. But it gets credit in my book for really leaning into the fan service in a way not even dedicated fan service shows manage to, selling the sexier aspects as a real facet of the proceedings on-screen, rather than just horndog opportunism and pandering. That they had to do it by structuring the entire show around weaponized fan service is telling, of course, but what matters is that it works and has led to true glory in this case. 3. Girlish Number I love Shirobako and consider it one of my favorite anime of all time, thanks to the strength of its direction and its appealing cast, but also because it was almost a documentary, revealing the production side of anime creation at its stress-ridden studio source. That said, there’s no denying that the show was fundamentally more positive and optimistic in its outlook, tending to gloss over some of the industry’s quirks and (very real) problems. By contrast, I call Girlish Number “Shirobako with bloodshed on its mind.” The show, penned by My Teen RomCom SNAFU author Wataru Watari. Knowing it’s from the author that brought the world a butthead like Hachiman might have been a dealbreaker for me, but Watari’s typically cynical disposition is tempered by charm and sarcastic comedy. Its sharp-tongued jabs at the industry’s troubles come from a better place as well: Where SNAFU’s downer snark made its characters too unlikeable for me to stick with, Girlish Number’s attitude comes from exasperation and a tired but essentially hopeful mindset. Perhaps that’s what’s needed to survive in the anime industry these days, but whatever the case, Girlish Number gets the job done.   2. Mob Psycho 100 I may have picked One Punch Man as one of my anime of the year, but I have to admit that I thought of it as a fluke. The pairing of an irreverent webcomic satire of battle manga tropes with the most talented and dynamic battle manga (and anime) producers around was a great juxtaposition, and the result was the best kind of appropriation you could ask for. On the other hand, Mob Psycho 100 seemed different. While retaining its notion of a nearly omnipotent lead, it struck me as a more typical story at first, and I wondered if the same approach would reap the same awards. I shouldn’t have worried. Bones took a different, yet equally effective tack in adapting their source. Rather than play up the highly detailed, deliberately conventional style of Yuusuke Murata’s One Punch Man, they hewed closer to the squashed and deformed caricatures of the original webcomic, supplementing it with brilliant handcrafted effects work and crackerjack characterization. Bones really helped sell the struggle of one young boy as he tried not to be driven bonkers by life’s little ordeals, lest he unleashed his omnipotent psychic powers. But like the deeper appeal of One Punch Man, Mob Psycho 100’s lush visuals and action cloak a series of sometimes-touching personal dramas. A boy that struggles to communicate with the people around him. A mentor trying to live up the image of him held by his pupils. A brother wrestling with his sense of inferiority. These relatable, everyday conflicts formed a strong foundation for the insanity on-screen to grow from.   1. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu Perhaps it’s telling that the best anime of 2016 is the show that is the least “anime”, at least as we go by the commonly-held stereotypes of what anime is. There are no giant robots, destined heroes, wacky sports, boob humor, or high school age students. Instead, there is an old man, a young man, a young woman, a long legacy, a name freighted with meaning, an obscure, old-fashioned art form, and a time period that your parents likely lived in. It could have been a live-action prestige drama series or a feature film. It could have been a big novel. It could’ve been a lengthy stage play. But now it’s an anime, and it’s a thing to see and hear. Expert performances sell two eras and a sharply written, almost painfully tragic personal history. The only qualms I have about picking Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu for anime of 2016 will be that I may be pressured to not pick next year’s continuation as the anime of the year in 2017. Honorable Mentions: Sound! Euphonium, Yuri On Ice, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Osomatsu-san, My Hero Academia
Japanator Awards 2016 photo
Five Lights In the Grim Darkness
It’s that time of the year again, and increasingly I’ve found the biggest challenge of picking an anime of the year is actually remembering what I watched. This isn’t to say that the shows have been bad...

Tell us your holiday wishes and win some sweet swag from MoeNovel!

Dec 23 // Josh Tolentino
[embed]35458:5999:0[/embed]
MoeNovel Contest photo
Get some divine aid in 2017!
It's almost time for Christmas, and whether you celebrate it or not, we've got a good chance for you to win some sweet swag, courtesy of our fine friends at MoeNovel! MoeNovel, who you may remember from If My Heart Had Wings,...

Ghost in the Shell photo
Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell's first full trailer is looking pretty 'Major'


Plus some slick bodysuit action
Nov 13
// Josh Tolentino
It's hard to believe that after spending the better part of the last decade in development and then months after that mired in controversy, that the Ghost in the Shell film is now a thing that will actually happen in a f...
Sugar Cookie Cuteness photo
Sugar Cookie Cuteness

Tiny Japanese meal cookies are too cute to eat


Bite-size Beauty
Nov 10
// Josh Tolentino
Japanese food can be known for its presentation, and in some cases its carefully considered portion sizing, but this might be going a step too far...if we're talking about actual food. Japanese artist Masako (known as "chi___...

Review: Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy

Oct 17 // Josh Tolentino
[Photo by Hiroshi Suga] Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy (Paperback) Written By: Jiro Ono, Yoshikazu Ono, Masuhiro YamamotoPublished by: VIZ MediaReleased: October 11, 2016MSRP: $14.99ISBN: 978-1421589084 One thing should be made clear right away, for any prospective buyers of the book: Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy is NOT a recipe book. It's not even a book about sushi, at least not "sushi" in the general sense as a field of Japanese cuisine.   Instead, Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy a book about the sushi served at Sukiyabashi Jiro. Specifically. That makes a significant difference. In some ways, one could see the whole book as something of an extremely elaborate menu or catalog for the restaurant itself. The contents of the book consist of pictures of the various types of sushi served on each , with the opposite page containing information about the dish from Jiro himself. The short paragraphs - blurbs, really - are written in a more anecdotal style, conveying insights ranging from why a given piece is served before or after other types of sushi to things like cooking methods or marketing times. In essence, each entry is a window into a Sukibayashi Jiro staffer's experience of creating and serving that type of sushi. Other, more sobering impressions can be gleaned from the otherwise brief notes, such as the occasional mention of increasing scarcity of fish available for some pieces. These admissions inadvertently highlight ongoing crises with overfishing, oceanic extinctions, and sustainable fishing practices. It might not be long before some of the celebrated pieces detailed in Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy disappear from the menu. The specificity of it all makes the book feel like a journal, a series of notes rather than a carefully organized, comprehensive guide. If Sukibayashi Jiro had a gift shop so that visitors to it could pick up a memento of their reservation, this book would be on the shelf. From the cynic's view, VIZ Media is publishing and selling a promotional brochure for a restaurant that many people will never visit.  That view might hold, if not for the quality of the book itself. [Photo by Hiroshi Suga] Putting aside concerns about the nature of its contents, Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy is an utterly gorgeous physical object. Despite the fact that it's a pocket-sized paperback, the book is constructed like a decorative coffee table centerpiece. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, reading the book feels like a genuine aesthetic act, something beyond the information contained in the text and pictures alone. The endpages are carefully textured and the whole thing gives off an aura of classiness largely absent from genuine travel guides or food books. Those readers who want to make the case for keeping and buying physical books in an age dominated by screen-based readers can file this one into evidence for their side. The content also extends past just the sushi. The main section is followed by a subsection detailing best practices for eating sushi, as well as a how-to guide for making reservations at Sukibayashi Jiro itself. In all honesty, the information detailed within isn't much more than one would get on the occasional website article. That said, having it come directly from the horse's mouth gives it an air of authority and authenticity. [Photo by Kenta Izumi] In the end, we have the answers to the dilemmas I posed earlier in the review. The purpose Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy is to be an elaborate, if heartfelt and earnest, bit of self-promotion for an expensive  very earnest, heartfelt bit of self-promotion. As for its intended audience, the gift-store patron crowd are the best fit. Beyond them, perhaps a friend who's a mega-fan of Jiro Dreams of Sushi and is planning a visit sometime soon. Genuine sushi afficionados or those less enamored of a famous little restaurant may want to hold off.
Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy photo
Slice of Life
It wouldn't be too much of a stretch at this point to declare that Jiro Ono - head chef at Tokyo's Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant - is one of the most visible Japanese culinary professionals in the world. Thanks to his and his r...

Ghost in the Shell photo
Ghost in the Shell

And now, the first trailers for live-action Ghost in the Shell


It looks alright in ten-second chunks
Sep 22
// Josh Tolentino
The live-action Hollywood adaptation of Ghost in the Shell is officially more real than it ever has been, now that teaser clips showing off roughly a minute's worth of footage have been released. In several snippets of a...
PS4 Pro photo
PS4 Pro

Say hello to the next PlayStation, the PS4 Pro


And its smaller, cheaper buddy
Sep 07
// Josh Tolentino
The image above has pretty much covered all the necessary information, but in case our server's acting wonky or you're a details type of person, here's the skinny: After months of rumors, leaks, broken street dates, and specu...

Review: Japanese Tattoos: History * Culture * Design

Aug 30 // Josh Tolentino
Japanese Tattoos: History * Culture * Design Published by: Tuttle Publishing Written by: Brian Ashcraft and Hori Benny Release date: July 12, 2016 MSRP: $9.99 (Kindle [Reviewed]), $17.95 (Print) ISBN: 978-4805313510 The value of Japanese Tattoos is immediately apparent given the relative absence of substantial English-language work about the art and design of Japanese tattooing, or "irezumi" (刺青). Generally speaking, irezumi literature in English tends towards overly dry, scholarly analyses, or superficial, aesthetically-occupied picture books and feeds. Ashcraft and Benny position their book between the two extremes, delivering a breezy, easy-to-read explainer that isn't afraid to dive below the surface and uncover hidden nuggets of cultural knowledge and history amid the striking design work being etched right into the human body.Honed by years of writing as an editor for the game website Kotaku, and by previous books like Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential and Arcade Mania!, Ashcraft mixes his light, accessible style with deeply researched cultural references and engaging profiles of famous Japanese tattooists and their clients. Japanese Tattoos isn't to be taken as a piece of academic writing, but instead as an FAQ of sorts, answering key questions and providing interesting insights and background, to help those who aren't yet sure about their interest in irezumi become interested. And in this respect, Ashcraft and Benny have succeeded in spades. Part of this is thanks to the way the book is laid out. As befitting its role as a cultural primer, Japanese Tattoos starts with a general overview of irezumi, its history, and importantly, what distinguishes it from the tattooing practiced elsewhere. Historical notes link irezumi with older practices of tattooing as a form of punishment for criminals, or as protective symbols "worn" by laborers and tradesmen. The section also traces the longstanding Japanese stigma against tattoos to the 19th and 20th centuries, as the country raced to modernize after centuries in isolation. Ironically for a stigma born of attempts to "align with western morals", it turned out to be those same westerners  - particularly the occupying U.S. military following World War II - that played a part in keeping tattooing alive despite the attempts to ban it. [From Japanese Tattoos by Brian Ashcraft and Hori Benny] That leads into another important aspect of Japanese Tattoos: It's aware enough that culture isn't a monolithic, static thing, and that even "traditional" irezumi has changed over time. In rejecting the notion that irezumi is tied solely to any one thing (such as tebori, the classical method of inserting the ink into the skin with bamboo needles), the book reaffirms irezumi's uniqueness as an expression of Japanese culture, encompassing more than a specific technique but "an entire history and catalogue of iconography". Interviews with people like Horiyoshi III, Japan's most famous tattooist, reveal this progressive insight. Despite his mastery of tebori and his inspiration in classical woodblock prints, Horiyoshi III regards his work as less "traditional" than "traditionalist" thanks to his use of safer, modern ink, of mechanical tattooing machines, and the new, friendlier (and legal) conditions under which he works. It's an acknowledgement that even the most classical, "timeless" aspects of culture are subject to change and interpretation over time. That sentiment might seem in opposition to the permanence of the tattoo, but it's worth pointing out that tattoos change as their wearers do, by the virtue of being embedded on their ever-changing physiques. It's an embrace of mutability and the transitive nature of life that speaks to Japan's Buddhist influences. A tattoo may last one's whole life, but even that life ends. These reflections are woven into the other sections of the book, which cover popular and common motifs and elements in irezumi, with frequent asides and sidebars to deliver factoids that readers will want to recite back to their friends. The asides can sometimes feel a bit distracting from the chronological coherence of the book, but they're too good not to include, and so their somewhat scattershot arrangement is easily forgiven. [From Japanese Tattoos by Brian Ashcraft and Hori Benny] From classic kanji script tattoos to the natural images, mythic beasts and figures, and even avante-garde and anime- or manga-themed designs, Ashcraft and Benny look in on the iconography, symbolism, and meaning behind the many classical elements of irezumi in Japan. Other chapters, particularly one covering various examples of the full "bodysuit" design, also focus on the form irezumi can take. Bodysuits and sleeves are the most visible archetypes of Japanese tattooing, and their placement in the book highlights that association. Never again will readers see the awesome back pieces on display in the Yakuza games in the same way. The book is also chock-full of great pictures of tattoos. Even in my relatively low-resolution review copy, the quality of the art shone through, and keeps the flow feeling as brisk as the prose. It's one thing to read about the peony's place in floral language as used in irezumi, but another to see it incorporated on people's bodies as a form of art and expression. Japanese Tattoos is a must-read for anyone interested in tattoos and Japanese culture, but its greatest strength is in how easily it can engage readers like yours truly, who have no plans to get a tattoo at all. Being able to engage with all that material despite its near-total irrelevance to my personal experience is the sign of a good book, and this one will serve as an effective crash course in irezumi for many a reader to come.   [This review is based on a copy of the book provided by the publisher.]  
Japanese Tattoos Review photo
Tattoo, not Taboo
What comes to mind when one thinks of "tattoos"? Some might imagine the anchor on Popeye's forearm, the pointy tribal band encircling a local gym fiend's bicep, or the crude inkings associated with prison art.Thinking of "Jap...

Live-action Idolmaster photo
Live-action Idolmaster

Wait, what? Amazon's making a live-action Idolmaster show


Kinda missing the point, isn't it?
Aug 28
// Josh Tolentino
Are you ready for this? Are you LADY for this? Amazon certainly thinks so, because it's taking The [email protected], Bandai Namco's landmark idol-simulator/DLC factory, is coming to the one place it has never truly been: The real w...
Olympics? photo
Olympics?

Uh, Japan's Prime Minister cosplayed as Mario for the Olympics


Wait, what?
Aug 22
// Josh Tolentino
No, this is not an article from The Onion. Apparently, it really happened, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did, in fact, emerge from a giant green pipe at the closing ceremonies of the Rio Olympic Games, dressed up as ...

Review: Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV

Aug 21 // Josh Tolentino
[embed]35209:5798:0[/embed] Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XVStudio: Square Enix Visual WorksDirector: Takeshi NozueLicensed by: Sony PicturesPremiere: August 19, 2016 (US, Asia) , July 9, 2016 (Japan) Have you ever seen a "game movie"? The term refers to a subgenre of game Youtube videos wherein players capture recordings of various video games' cutscenes or story sequences, to be viewed by audiences removed from the context of actually playing the game. Some more ambitious versions try to edit the clips together in a coherent fashion, potentially removing the need for players who can't finish or don't own the game in question to actually play it at all, leaving only the narrative to bring things home. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV feels like an extremely expensive, fabulously ambitious iteration of that particular trend. It's not quite the same, of course. Players who pick up Final Fantasy XV in November won't see much of Kingsglaive's actual events onscreen, as the film is a two-hour-long setup and prequel to the events of the game.  The Kingdom of Lucis is in danger. Ruled by the wise King Regis (played by Game of Thrones' Sean Bean), Lucis is the last place unconquered by the Empire of Niflheim. Its defenders are the titular Kingsglaive, a squad of soldiers that wield magic channeled to them by Regis, from a magic crystal that is the source of Lucis' power and the only thing standing between Niflheim's technological prowess and world domination.  Unfortunately, the war is coming to a close, with Regis aging and the crystal's power flagging in the face of "The Nif's" magitek weapons and demonic thralls. It's in this spirit that Regis accepts a peace deal, to marry off his son (and the game's protatgonist) Noctis to Lunafreya (played by Game of Thrones' Lena Heady), princess of the Niflheim-ruled province of Tenebrae. When all is not at it seems on the eve of the treaty signing, it's up to Kingsglaive's star fighter Nyx Ulrich (played by Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul) to save the day and have a hand in kicking off whatever's set to happen in the game proper. While the plot is barely coherent and its relevance to Final Fantasy XV is largely confined to explaining why Noctis and his buddies are on the other side of the world in the first place, Kingsglaive's most solid achievement is visual. Produced by Square Enix's legendary Visual Works studio, the film succeeds at visualizing the setting of the game, creating the kind of mental space in future players' minds that can reconcile the stylistic absurdities of typical Final Fantasy and the more grounded, modern aesthetic of the real world. The world of Kingsglaive (and by extension, the game) is the kind of place where it makes sense for contemporary office buildings, cellphones, TVs, and product placement stands comfortably alongside the overdesigned costumes, massive creatures, and elaborate magical spells and effects. To its credit, it's the most convincing iteration yet of the series' penchant for techno-fantasy flourish. Beyond that, though, Kingsglaive is hardly essential. Despite initial misgivings, the core cast do credible work in their roles, elevating the otherwise cheesy and overly self-serious script. Supporting characters, however, come across as a bit too cartoonish, the delivery never quite overcoming the tension between the realistic facial designs and otherwise very "anime" words coming out of the characters' mouths. The action itself, though, is well-rendered, if a bit difficult to follow. The Kingsglaive members all use some variation of the game's combat, wielding teleporting knives and plenty of flashy effects to burn, shock, and blast the HP off of an assortment of classic Final Fantasy beasts. Unfortunately, some ill-conceived zooms and use of "shaky-cam" effects during some fight scenes make what should be the most pivotal moments of the film an exercise in trying to puzzle out just what's happening. Final Fantasy fans can also expect some clever fan service, sighting cool callbacks to timeless franchise easter eggs, some subtle, and some overt. In the end, whether Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV will be worthwhile largely depends on one's anticipation for Final Fantasy XV. By its very nature it's skippable, but fans who plan on immersing themselves in the game come November will likely find something to appreciate.
Kingsglaive: FFXV Review photo
A Clash Royale
Let's be honest here: Few people were expecting very much from Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. Not only is it a multimedia tie-in to a game, a JRPG no less, but the long shadow of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within continu...

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy photo
Kingsglaive Final Fantasy

Here's some Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV to salve your pain


Magic v Magitek
Aug 16
// Josh Tolentino
Final Fantasy XV the game may not be in the cards for another few months, but that won't stop some of the other stuff scheduled to happen. The CGI film Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is still on track for a late Augu...
Final Fantasy XV photo
Final Fantasy XV

Despair: Final Fantasy XV delayed to late Fall


A special message from the director
Aug 15
// Josh Tolentino
One of the most remarkable things about Final Fantasy XV's development isn't its epic length, but how open the process has been over the last couple of years. Since the reins were handed over to director Hajime Tabata (who ha...
Emperor Akihito photo
Emperor Akihito

No, Japan's Emperor isn't stepping down (but he might want to)


The Emperor Speaks
Aug 08
// Josh Tolentino
In a rare national TV address, Akihito, the current Emperor of Japan, spoke frankly about his declining health and hinted that he may want to stand down from the Chrysanthemum Throne someday. This came after weeks of rum...
Deep Silver x Atlus photo
Deep Silver x Atlus

Deep Silver to publish Atlus and Sega games (and Persona 5) in Europe


Took 'em long enough
Jul 06
// Josh Tolentino
Time for some relief, European otaku: You'll get Persona 5 - and more - in your neck of the woods. Atlus and Sega have found a new partner for European publishing. The agreement comes in the wake of NIS America cutting i...

Japanator's Summer 2016 Anime Preview Guide!

Jul 04 // Josh Tolentino
[embed]35116:5717:0[/embed] Berserk Studio: Gemba, Millepensee (Teekyuu, Wake Up, Girls!) Broadcast Date:  July 1, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) An easy candidate for the most effin' metal anime of all time, Berserk has been adapted quite often. The new twist for this latest, TV series-sized attempt is that this will be the first time an animated adaptation has gone beyond the "Golden Age" arc. In all honesty, I couldn't tell you what all that actually means, as I've never seen or read Berserk. Does admitting that mean I have to hand in my otaku membership card? That dude sure does have a big sword, though. The series is airing now, and...well, there'll be more to say about it in our impressions.   [embed]35116:5718:0[/embed] Mob Psycho 100 Studio: BONES (My Hero Academia, Bungo Stray Dogs) Broadcast Date: July 12, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) "From the guy that writes One Punch Man" is probably one of the more effective marketing lines you could ask for these days, but in truth, Mob Psycho 100 seems to be a rather different beast than the saga of Saitama. Shigeo Kageyama (nicknamed "Mob" after the Japanese term for movie extras) is a completely unremarkable high school student, bar the fact that he's got prodigious psychic superpowers. Having superpowers can be a real hassle, though, so he keeps his emotions suppressed to force them into check.  Unfortunately, life usually happens in opposition to well-meaning plans, and things quickly threaten to produce emotional reaction in Mob, leading to the "100" in the title. For when his pent-up feelings reach the breaking point, bad stuff's going to happen. Between the sound of things and the deliberately laid-back aesthetic, Mob Psycho 100 seems to be aiming more a more psychological take on superpowers and action show tropes rather than the "sardonic-but-badass" angle One Punch Man typically explores. I'll be giving Mob Psycho 100 a look once it airs.   [embed]35116:5719:0[/embed] Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak Academy (Side: Future and Side: Despair) Studio: Lerche (School Live!, Monster Musume) Broadcast Date: July 11, 2016 (Future) and July 14, 2016 (Despair) Rejoice, players of Danganronpa, your questions will be answered! Danganronpa 3 arrives not in the form of a game (though an actual new Danganronpa title is in development), but as two simultaneously-broadcast anime series. The first, Side: Future, effectively acts as coda of sorts for Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, recounting the adventures of star Makoto Naegi and his fellow Hope's Peak survivors as they form the Future Foundation, and framed as a trial for Makoto himself in the wake of the events of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.  Side: Despair, on the other hand, promises the secret history of the cast members of Danganronpa 2, and what happened to them before they were thrown into the game. The reason this matters functions as a major spoiler, and both shows seem to presume a familiarity with the games. Both I and fellow Japanator editor Salvador G-Rodiles are big fans of the games. I'll be checking out Future once it hits, and Sal will look at Despair. If you want to catch up, both games are available on PS Vita and on Steam.   [embed]35116:5721:0[/embed] Orange Studio: Telecom Animation Film (Moyashimon, Phantasy Star Online 2) Broadcast Date: July 4, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) Time loop anime seem to be the new "superpowered highschoolers" anime in terms of trendiness right now, and Orange is exactly one of those. Like the leads of Steins;Gate, Re:Zero, and Erased, Naho Takamiya is given the chance to change her future, thanks to a letter written by herself, ten years from now, and sent to herself in the present. And it seems like many of future-Naho's regrets are tied to transfer student and love interest Kakeru Naruse. It's cool to see the sci-fi twists usually used on mystery and suspense fantasies applied to the more romantic stylings of shojou manga, and Orange seems to have a strong reputation in that crowd. I'm hoping to see a bit more of the show's high-concept sci-fi twist manifest itself among the feels and personal relationships. [embed]35116:5723:0[/embed] 91 Days Studio: Shuka (Durarara!! x2) Broadcast Date: July 9, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) Who would've thought that a studio whose staffers helped make shows like Durarara!! and Baccano! would go on to make a new show about the weird underground in a bustling, thriving city? I'm being facetious, but there's definitely merit in sticking with what you know. Following the latest seasons of Durarara!! x2, Shuka take on a setting that's new...-ish: Prohibition-era America. In the fictional city of Lorel, a young orphan named Avilo joins up with the local mafia outfit. The twist is that Avilo lost his family years prior in an attack by the same crime ring, so the newly made man is in it for revenge.  With the screenwriter of Joker Game, last season's bit of period fiction, and plenty of experience making multifaceted plots and juggling an ensemble cast, 91 Days looks like it might be a gritty winner.   [embed]35116:5724:0[/embed] ReLife Studio: TMS Entertainment (Actually, I Am..., Zetman) Broadcast Date: July 1, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) Ever wish you could go back in time and get a redo for your childhood mistakes? Perhaps relive your high school life knowing what you know now as a weathered adult? Lots of anime shows sure seem to think that's what we're after, but not all are as bald-faced about it as ReLife, where Arata Kaizaki, a beaten-down twenty-something stuck in a career and lifestyle rut gets the opportunity to take a magic pill that ages him down to a fresh-faced seventeen-year-old, to repeat a year of high school and refresh his life. It's a tempting premise mainly for the fact that Arata seems like a relatable sort of lead (at least in the mind of this beaten-down thirty-something), and some of the other twists appear to plant the seed for drama to come. I'm just hoping they don't mine the slightly creepy "adult man hanging out with underage kids" angle too hard.   [embed]35116:5727:0[/embed] Taboo Tattoo Studio: J.C. Staff (Selector Infected Wixoss, Flying Witch) Broadcast Date: July 5, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) Stop me if you've heard this one before, but Taboo Tattoo is about Japanese high school students who have special powers and a penchant for getting into fights with each other.  I am, of course, being hideously reductive, but suffice it to say that it's definitely one of those types of shows (the tattoo motif is particularly reminiscent of last season's Big Order), and while it seems unlikely to change peoples' minds, judgment will have to wait until we see more of it in action. For what it's worth, I'm digging the seeming emphasis on martial arts as opposed to "my power is a gnarly weapon". This might make for some cool action sequences.  There's also the backdrop, which casts the Tattoo powers themselves as developments in an ongoing arms race between America and the fictional nation of Selinistan. This might make for a good world-building opportunity to background the rest of the action, so there's hope for this one, at least.   [embed]35116:5729:0[/embed] Alderamin On The Sky  Studio: Madhouse (One Punch Man, My Love STORY!!) Broadcast Date: July 9, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) "Alderamin" sounds like the name of a sleeping pill, which makes sense, because the premise sounds like it could be something of a snoozer. Two nations, Katjvarna and Kioka, whose names sound like the noises you make when you're on Alderamin, are at war, and Ikuta, a lackadaisical and passive young recruit who joined the army with no interest in becoming an officer, has become Katjvarna's greatest military commander after a mere few years. The show purports to tell the story of how he got there. That sounds like it could be interesting, and given Madhouse's pedigree, there may be some potential in the visuals and war setting, but otherwise it sounds less like a historical chronicle than another hagiography in the manner of Mahouka. At the very least, I'm hoping this turns out less like that and more like Lord Marksman and Vanadis, a show that was at least enjoyable for its cast, if not for its tedious core principles.    [embed]35116:5730:0[/embed] Qualidea Code Studio: A-1 Pictures (Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, Asterisk War) Broadcast Date: July 9, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) What happens when you lock the authors of light novel sensations Henneko, Date A Live, and My Teen RomCom SNAFU to hash out a multimedia anime project? This thing, apparently, which frankly reads like it could've come from any single one of them. Get this: High-school age kids have superpowers and are now using them to defend the Earth from an unknown threat. Actually, the threat is aliens, which are literally called "UNKNOWN".  Great.    [embed]35116:5728:0[/embed] Sweetness and Lightning Studio: TMS Entertainment (Yowapeda, Bakuon!!) Broadcast Date: July 4, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) If you've been jonesing for another does of anime parenting to gush over, this season's successor to the likes of Bunny Drop, Barakamon, and the Yotsuba&! anime you'll never ever get looks to be Sweetness and Lightning.  That said, the show does seem to distinguish itself in that the father-daughter relationship here is a literal father-daughter one. No weird non-blood connections to pander to incest fetishists with (Lookin' at you, ending of Bunny Drop!).  It even starts off on a tearjerker, with the father, Kouhei, being recently widowed and struggling to raise his adorable kid Tsumugi without any domestic skills. Enter one of his students, Kotori, who's from a broken home and is looking for companionship, to teach her teacher in the art of domesticity. Sounds heartwarming enough to me, though given the dynamics at work there's some risk of Sweetness and Lightning dodging the incest trap and instead falling into the pothole of winter-spring romance.    [embed]35116:5731:0[/embed] Rewrite Studio: 8bit (The Fruit of Grisaia, Infinite Stratos) Broadcast Date: July 2, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) If you had the power to "rewrite" yourself, i.e. change your own story to suit your needs or whims (think "Editing your character sheet in D&D to give yourself all the best stats"), what would you do? The answer, if Rewrite has its way, is "have adventures and romance with saucer-eyed waifs and amnesiacs".  Indeed, 8bit and the team behind The Fruit of Grisaia are tackling the biggest Key visual novel adaptation since Little Busters!. I've never been a big fan of Key or Jun Maeda, but Rewrite sounds like it might be a different sort of beast, seeing as it was written not by Maeda but by Romeo Tanaka, writer of the superb Humanity Has Declined. I'm not sure if that will be enough to hook me into watching it, but it should be a bit different from the usual Key fodder.   [embed]35116:5732:0[/embed] The Morose Mononokean Studio: Pierrot (Naruto, Level E) Broadcast Date: July 3, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) You know what's big in Japan right now? Yokai. The diverse creatures of Japanese folklore have gone mainstream with the likes of Yo-kai Watch and other vehicles, and it's well deserved. I'm of the opinion that having culturally rooted monsters makes for more interesting design and interpretation that trying to come up with new designs from scratch (see how weird Pokemon have been looking lately). But this isn't a Yo-kai Watch preview though, it's one for The Morose Mononokean, which aims to take a daily-life angle on the godly and supernatural shenanigans covered by the likes of Hozuki no Reitetsu and Noragami. The titular Mononokean is a tea room that serves as the headquarters for an exorcist and the high schooler he takes under his wing. As it's based on a webcomic, I doubt we're looking at the next Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun or something similarly good, but it'll have done its job if it manages to entertain and educate about Japan's supernatural bestiary.   [embed]35116:5733:0[/embed] Amanchu! Studio: J.C. Staff (Shana, A Certain Magical Index) Broadcast Date: July 8, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) Few anime are better known for being utterly chill than Aria. Set in space-Venice, the show followed the peaceful, if uneventful lives of a troupe of cute girl gondoliers. Now the same team and author are bringing things a little closer to home, by setting Amanchu! in the Tokyo of the present day, as a bunch of cute schoolgirls get really into diving underwater. It's basically ABZU, but with more cute girls and anime.   [embed]35116:5734:0[/embed] NEW GAME! Studio: Doga Kobo  (Plastic Memories, Himouto! Umaru-chan!) Broadcast Date: July 4, 2016 As someone who occasionally writes for Destructoid, I generally know more about game development than I do about anime production. Sadly, I can't say that the previews for NEW GAME! which sounds on paper like Shirobako-but-for-video-games seem all that accurate. But there's still hope, as Shirobako was far cuter and more positive than real-life anime production. Then again, NEW GAME! is aggressive about being cute in a way that I worry might undermine its potential to "tell it like it is". After all, Shirobako was cute and positive, but it also hinged on the kinds of personal relationships and procedural detail that made it so fascinating to watch. Is the crew that gave us Plastic Memories up to that? If they are, we could be sitting on this year's anime of the year. If not...well, it might at least be cute. Sequels, Shorts, and Other Notable Releases: My unfair bias against sports anime and male idol shows continues as I entirely forgot shows like B-Project and Tsukiuta exist. DAYS promises to bring an exotic sport called "Football" to the anime stage, while Battery debuts a sport that must surely be some fictional thing: Baseball. Cheer Danshi! follows around a group of male cheerleaders, which might be unusual had my own high school and university not had their own all-male cheer squads (Blue Eagles the king!). Also, Ouendan exists, so I'm good on that front. On the sequel front, the hilarious but ignored Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! gets a sequel, and signifies it by calling the second season Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE LOVE!. The Seven Deadly Sins is also getting a new season, but may end up ignored if the streaming services lock it down until it's done like last time. After disappointing countless fans looking for the latest from the Code Geass guy, Active Raid shambles into a second offering of frustrating bureaucracy and nonsensical characterization. Barakamon, one of the more adult shows of its season, turns the clock back with a prequel, called Handa-kun. I honestly don't see the point of it, since the whole appeal of Barakamon was in its adult focus, but hey, it's anime after 2008, so high school must somehow be involved, or something. Either that or a raging war between two fictional countries and/or alien invaders. Food Wars, the one Shonen Jump titan you just can't dodge these days, is getting a sequel, and Nick Valdez will be leading the coverage of that. Love Live! hits the reboot button by introducing a gaggle of samefaced girls for Love Live! Sunshine!. Show By Rock! continues in its mission of making catgirls the default for idolatry. Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars is this season's original mecha production, and the fact that I'm giving it the afterthought space speaks to how aggressively generic it is. After duds like Argevollen and others, I'm wondering just what it would take to make non-franchise mecha shows as compelling as they used to be. At least Macross Delta is still running, which would give me the chance to write it up for once. While shows like Taboo Tattoo and Qualidea Code seem constructed to marvel at about how awesome things would be if we had superpowers, Saiki Kusuo no Psi-Nan puts it down for the "mo' powers, mo' problems". Philosophy. The titular character's prodigious abilities are making his daily life miserable, and the director of Cromartie High School is on hand to show everyone just how miserable things can get. I'm definitely down for that. Interestingly, only one overt "boobs anime" made the cut this summer: Masou Gakuen HxH, which doesn't beat around the bush. Its hero literally powers up the fighting girls by getting in close with their chesticles. I imagine a few Hunter x Hunter fans are feeling a bit insulted that this puerile hilarity has taken their beloved acronym while their joy goes on hiatus again. The one sequel I'm angling to watch this season, though, is The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Duststorm Dance. After finally catching up with the show, I already regret not having seen it from the beginning. The animation may have been blah and the quality uneven, but it's as worthy a successor to Legend of the Galactic Heroes as I've found in the last few years. And now this part of the show promises to go to some places of actual consequence. That should do it for our Summer preview. What are you angling to see this season?
Summer 2016 Anime Preview photo
Some like it hot
A happy Monday to you, and a happy July 4th to all our American readers! What better way is there to celebrate American independence than by staying home and watching a buttload of Japanese cartoons? Welcome to Japanator's Su...

Hearthstone photo
Hearthstone

Brilliant Hearthstone ad pokes fun at Japanese corporate culture


Well Played
Jun 28
// Josh Tolentino
It's a cliche at this point to describe Japanese work culture as "quite hierarchical", but it is true that bosses, company officials, and executives are afforded a level of deference that's not as common in other cultures. Un...

Here are the otaku games to eye this Steam Summer Sale

Jun 24 // Josh Tolentino
[Note: Pricing and actual percentage discounts can vary based on your region, so check your local Steam page to get the exact numbers.] The Fruit of Grisaia - The well-regarded visual novel series recently got an anime adaptation and was localized by Sekai Project last year. Its sequel, The Labyrinth of Grisaia, is also on sale, as is the Michiru-led comedy spinoff The Leisure of Grisaia. Higurashi When They Cry - The classic and now terribly ugly "sound novel" series was being sold for impulse-buy money even without a discount, and now the whole series, including Umineko, is up for the cut. Also interesting are other MangaGamer offerings like lesbian ghost sim Kindred Spirits on the Roof and Nikola Tesla pretty-boy sim Gahkthun of the Golden Lightning. Bandai Namco felt the touch of the green percentage as well, with all three Dark Souls games facing significant price cuts, as well as Tale of Zestiria, which has an awesome Japanese intro whose lyrics didn't make it into the English version. The Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm games are also on sale, so if you want to catch up with the last quarter of the Naruto manga's plot while also having cool graphics, that's up. Dragon Ball: Xenoverse and One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 also flesh out the roster of Shonen JUMP titans. Square Enix is as well-known these days for publishing western games as much as Japanese ones, but as far as relevance goes, Final Fantasy titles are where it's at. VII, VIII, IX, X, X-2, XIII, XIII-2, Type-0 and Lighting Returns are all on sale. And if the thought of playing all those JRPGs makes you want to strangle someone, they're also selling a handful of cool Hitman games. Capcom also brings a slate of offerings headlined by a much-needed discount on the beleaguered Street Fighter V. By most accounts, the fighting-game core of this unfortunate beast is strong, but the damn thing simply isn't finished yet. Capcom are promising a free "cinematic" story mode soon, as well as some new characters. Fans of Dead Rising can snag a hefty discount off a bundle containing Dead Rising 2, Dead Rising 2: Off The Record, and Dead Rising 3. The PC version of Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen is also available, spreading its cult appeal beyond the consoles. Look at Sega's store lineup and you'll find more Total War and Company of Heroes than the games most folks used to associate with the company. That said it would be a "shameful display" if a self-respecting, PC-owning otaku didn't at least try Shogun 2: Total War at the price it's being sold at now. It's the most Japanese game to ever come out of West Sussex, where developer Creative Assembly is quartered. People who do remember what Sega used to mean can drown their sorrows in a hefty collection of retro rereleases, or maybe some Valkyria Chronicles. XSEED, which has in many ways overtaken Atlus as the premier English-language localizer of note, has a number of PC offerings on sale, including the PC versions of Akiba's Trip and Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus. Fans who don't need too much anime boobies in their life can turn to a host of Ys games and The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. Ghostlight, publisher of many a localized game in the UK, has a handful of Agarest titles up for discount, but the real prizes in my mind are Way of the Samurai 3 and 4, the quirkiest open-world games this side of a Yakuza spinoff. They're also basically better, more thought-out takes on what you may have tried in Akiba's Trip, but with more swords and S&M torture and less anime boobies. Speaking of games that were published by Spike Chunsoft at some point (they handled the original versions of Way of the Samurai and Akiba's Trip), you also can't forget Danganronpa 1 and 2, which are arguably two of the best visual novels available in English right now.  In keeping with the fact that Idea Factory International mostly just handles a few games these days, a truly absurd number of Hyperdimension Neptunia games and DLC are on sale, with Fairy Fencer F and the redundantly-titled otome game Amnesia: Memories rounding out the offering. Playism brings a raftload of fairly obscure titles, but the headliners here are Swery's D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, and the Indiana Jones-like metroidvania La-Mulana. NIS America, for its part, only started releasing PC games recently, and its availablity of old PS2-era strategy titles, including Phantom Brave and Disgaea alongside tough games like htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary and Stranger of Sword City  are up for some modest price cuts. Other discounts of interest include the brilliant Stardew Valley, which does Harvest Moon better than its current masters in Japan have managed, and Undertale, a loving and subversive send-up of JRPGs. That's just a smattering of the most notable otaku-oriented offerings this summer. There may be more or larger discounts rolling in as the sale develops, so keep an eye on the storefront if there's something you're hoping to pick up.
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It's that time again, eager gamers and deal-conscious customers: Valve's yearly Steam Summer Sale has just kicked off, and the prices are a-dropping. That's especially relevant to you, the fan of games from Glorious Nippon, a...

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