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Karen Mead

Review: Princess Nine

May 13 // Karen Mead
Princess Nine DVD Complete Series Publisher: Nozomi/Lucky Penny Release Date: April 1, 2014 MSRP: $39.99 Ryo Hayakawa is the daughter of a great baseball pitcher, although she doesn't know it. She's just minding her own business, playing in a casual sandlot baseball team whenever she's not needed at her mother's tiny restaurant, only to suddenly be offered a scholarship to a prestigious high school out of the blue. Keiko Himuro, the wealthy and dignified president of Kisaragi Girls High School, is deadset on forming an all-girls baseball team, and she wants Ryo in her lineup -- but is it just for her pitching arm, or is there another reason? And will the team see the light of day when not only the school administration, but even Himuro's own daughter, are against it? Princess Nine starts off its 26-episode run with lot of intriguing questions, and in that respect, it doesn't disappoint. I was very impressed with the writing in this series; while it did follow the predictable route of a sports anime in many respects, there were enough deviations from the norm to keep things feeling fresh and exciting. What's interesting is that instead of being a typical shonen sports anime, this is truly a shoujo sports anime; baseball often takes a back seat to relationships. Part of the reason why the story feels fresh is because it deviates from the game to explore the characters for surprising amounts of time, but for that very reason, baseball lovers might be disappointed with the relatively small amount of actual baseball played. While some characters are cut from familiar molds, including Ryo, others have surprises in store. I found Keiko Himuro to be a fascinating character; a rare adult female who has a character arc that has nothing to do with her children. Coach Kido, while basically being Tom Hanks' character from A League of Their Own (which Princess Nine bears many superficial resemblances to), ends up being a lot of fun. Every girl who joins the team adds something new to the table, and even background characters like the regulars who frequent Ryo's mother's restaurant end up having memorable roles to play. While not every character has loads of depth, quite a few of them do, and finding out what makes them all tick is a big part of the appeal of the show. Production-wise, this show is a mixed bag in a very particular way I don't think I've ever seen before. While the art is typical, low-budget '90s anime TV series fare, it seems as though incredible care was taken with the music and the sound design in general. The score, by Masamichi Amano, was performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, and the pedigree shows. While the music adds an almost palpable sense of gravitas to the show's more dramatic scenes, I found there was often a disconnect between the art and the music; you would have this amazing, truly epic orchestral score in the background, only the art looks like it could have been taken from any low-budget show circa 1998. That's not to say the animation is poor; it's at the very least adequate, and occasionally even dynamic and exciting during the baseball scenes. It's just that it's usually very typical, workmanlike art and animation (complete with shortcuts like repeated stock footage use) that seems at odds with the high-quality score. Other than this disconnect (which is only a problem insofar as the music is actually so much better than expected), I only have one problem with the show, but unfortunately, it's a doozy. As befitting a shoujo show, there's a dramatic love triangle between the earnest Ryo, snobby genius Izumi Himuro (Keiko's aforementioned daughter), and Hiroki Takasugi, a batting prodigy for the Kisaragi Boys High team. Early on, I didn't mind the love triangle and found that it added an interesting tension to Izumi and Ryo's rivalry. However, by the end, the love triangle completely overwhelms the show and it all degenerates into melodrama; romance tropes that seem beneath the level of the writing on the rest of the show start to rear their trite heads, and baseball gets sidelined in pursuit of the answer to the all-important "Who does Hiroki like?" question. But that's not all; the fact that the love triangle becomes more prominent may be a negative for many viewers, but that's not what made me want to destroy the discs. No, the real problem is that the way the love triangle is depicted seems to undermine the entire message of the show. While Ryo and Izumi's performance on the field becomes increasingly compromised due to their feelings for Hiroki, there's no indication that Hiroki's own athletic performance is ever affected by the romantic turmoil in his life. This double standard ironically serves to reinforce exactly the kind of sexist stereotypes that the rest of the show seemingly exists to challenge. Maybe it was unintentional, but the implication seems to be that while girls may be talented at sports, they can't keep their pretty little heads in the game once romance is involved, while guys have control over their feelings. Given the overwhelmingly progressive nature of the rest of the show, I found this development infuriating. Your mileage may vary; after all, Princess Nine has been out for over a decade and has a pretty stellar reputation, so obviously, not all viewers have the same problem with how the love triangle developed that I do. After all, Ryo and Izumi are depicted as unquestionably two of the best athletes around, of any gender; how strong do they have to be for the show not to be sexist? Still, the fact remains that the way the whole thing played out left a sour taste in my mouth, and I have to be honest about that. If you put aside possible issues with the story, this release from Lucky Penny is pretty flawless. Not only do you get the entire series for under $40, but for once, the set is full of extras. May of them, like the History of Baseball in Japan feature and the voice actress stats, are just some extra text, but the features devoted to the performance of the music by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra are fascinating. Keep in mind, you need to have subtitles turned on to see the subtitles on the special features; if you're watching the dub, the features will play unsubbed. Speaking of the dub, I thought it was adequate without being memorable. Hilary Haag turns in a strong performance as Ryo, as do some of her teammates, but I thought Vic Mignogna's Hiroki lacked the suave quality of Takehito Koyasu's performance and left the character devoid of his original charm. Some of the other performances, like Jennifer K. Earhart as team manager Nene, are kind of grating and made me want to switch back to the Japanese track. In short, if you're a dub-only watcher a few strong performances make watching Princess Nine in English a worthwhile endeavor, but all else being equal I recommend the original language track. So, where does that leave me? I love Princess Nine; I also kind of hate Princess Nine. But I only hate it because I got so invested in the story, which means it's a good show, right? But it can't be that good, otherwise I wouldn't have wanted to use the discs for skeet shooting practice after it ended, right? I have no idea; I'll probably still be puzzling this one out for a while. In the meantime you may want to pick up this series if you'd like to see the interesting combination of a hardball story with a decidedly softball aesthetic; it has an awful lot going for it, and the price is certainly right. And maybe when you're done you can join my new club, where we burn effigies of Hiroki Takasugi and talk about the Princess Nine that might have been if only the dumb love interest had never existed. 7.0 -- A show with many fantastic qualities that drowns in its own melodrama by the end, and seemingly undermines its own premise at times. Nevertheless, when it's good it's very, very good, and the score is peerless.
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Dirt, fastballs and romance
At the beginning, I loved Princess Nine. It may be a cliche to say "I laughed, I cried!", but the fact is, I really did laugh and cry. The show seemed to be capable of doing something nigh-impossible: present a story unabashe...

Jtor AM 30: A Farewell to Bickering

May 08 // Karen Mead
[embed]32549:3907:0[/embed] Download Listen on iTunes Show Notes: News: 0:01:51 -- Another Persona 4 anime? Really? 0:04:33 -- Pluto manga might get animated someday 0:12:59 -- Licensing: NISA rescues Card Captor Sakura, everyone loses their minds Anime Talk: 0:16:16 -- Nisekoi 17 0:19:15 -- The Irregular at Magic High School 5 0:21:48 -- Selector Infected WIXOSS 5 0:25:20 -- Riddle Story of Devil 5 0:28:25 -- Black Bullet 5 0:34:28 -- Ping Pong 4 0:36:36 -- Still the Word is Beautiful 5 0:39:00 -- One Week Friends 5 0:41:40 -- Kamigami no Asobi 5 0:43:32 -- The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior 5 0:45:53 -- Mushishi S2 5 Stuff: 0:48:32 -- Komm, Susser Todd begins to play and we all turn into Tang. Stupid freakin' Rei didn't even appear before me in the form of my lost loved one though, lazy clone. Word to the wise, guys: if you'd like to be able to listen to any of these episodes in the future, use the Download link and save them all to your own HD. I'm assuming the show will stay up on Libsyn for at least a little while, depending on how things work out, but downloading it yourself is the only way to be sure.  
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All good things
It's the last episode of Jtor AM -- at least in this incarnation -- so we spend half of it arguing about you do. Somewhere in between telling each other to Check our Planetude, we still find the time to discuss...

Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 1

May 06 // Karen Mead
Ranma 1/2 DVD Set 1 Publisher: Viz Media Release Date: March 25, 2014 MSRP: $44.82 Ranma Saotome is a talented martial artist with a very peculiar curse; when doused with cold water, he changes sex and becomes a curvy red-haired girl. His father, cursed in a similar manner to become a giant panda, has arranged for him to be married to young Akane Tendo so that he can one day take over the Tendo School of Anything Goes Martial Arts. However, Akane is a tomboy who has no interest in marrying a boy, let alone a boy who turns into a girl, and Ranma just wants to get his curse removed...or so he says. Such is the beginning of one of the most beloved anime rom-coms of all time. Needless to say, many other characters vie for the affections of Ranma and Akane respectively (sometimes simultaneously), and plenty of other characters magically turn into stuff when they get wet, and mayhem ensues. Literally rinse and repeat. I expected to spend a portion of this review talking about whether the animation from a show originally broadcast in 1989 "holds up," in today's parlance. Instead, a curious thing happened; though I knew it couldn't be true, when I began watching it really seemed to me like the visuals in Ranma 1/2 were actually better than current fare. How could that possibly be? The colors are often dull, the character designs simple, and the technology at work was primitive compared to the tools that animators have at their disposal these days. So how is it that I find Ranma 1/2 more visually appealing than 90% of the anime I see today? What I eventually realized was that it wasn't that the animation was particularly fluid, but that everything was consistent and well-storyboarded. Too often in modern anime, the focus is split between action scenes (where the studios sink most of their money) and static talking-head scenes that exist to provide info dumps and save money. In Ranma 1/2, that distinction doesn't seem to exist; even seemingly mundane scenes feature a fair amount of movement. Characters are constantly doing acrobatics, throwing things, jumping out of windows, changing into animals, etc. The overall effect can feel a bit like Looney Tunes at times, but what it means is that the show is full of motion. The world of Ranma Saotome and the Tendo sisters feels vibrant and alive, and that more than makes up for the dated animation techniques and frequent lack of detail. Maybe I'm crazy, but it feels so much more like a finished product than a lot of what we see today; I really wish shows still looked like this. Plus, despite the fact that modern anime has tried to turn cute into a science, I honestly find Akana and Ranma much cuter than most characters these days. The story doesn't fare quite as well from a modern perspective. In fact, if you're a viewer who likes to look at things through the lens of gender politics, you will have an absolute field day with this show. There's no denying that Ranma 1/2 is sexist; one of the first things anyone says to Akane on the show is that if she keeps up being such a tomboy, she'll never find herself a husband. Ranma frequently opines that having to be a girl at times is "humiliating," yet claims his female version is better than Akane since girl-type Ranma has bigger breasts. In fact, Ranma is frequently downright brutal to his future bride; when he's not getting on her case for being unfeminine, he's lording his superior martial arts skills over her. Akane spends much of the series violently angry, and it's for good reason. Some viewers are bound to be turned off by these things, and that's fair. However, personally I don't see it that way; to me, complaining about sexism in Ranma 1/2 is kind of like watching an episode of I Love Lucy from the 1950s and complaining that Ricky orders Lucy around too much. It is sexist, but I think you need to take it in the context of its time and place, and also realize that the show subverts its own apparent sexism at times. After all, if Akane is supposedly so unattractive to boys due to her tomboy ways, why are virtually all the guys on the show head-over-heels in love with her? The show is actually more sexist on the surface than it is deep down where it matters, if that makes any sense. There's a lot of talk that "Boys are like this, girls are like this," but the characters themselves really don't practice what they preach. Furthermore, whatever misgivings some might have about the overall arc of the story, there's no denying that Ranma 1/2 is king when it comes to physical comedy. It's the little touches, like Akane's father diving for cover right before she decks Ranma with a table, that make the jokes work. Granted, the humor does get repetitive fairly quickly -- and there seem to be an awful lot of full buckets of water just hanging around for no reason -- but still, the show has a ton of great visual gags up its sleeve. At its best, the over-the-top martial arts action reaches a level of absurdity that's kind of genius. The martial arts rhythmic gymnastics competition featured in this volume is one such incident, and martial arts-figure skating isn't far behind. And even when the action isn't that riveting, Akane is such a likable character that it's just fun looking in on her daily life. There're also plenty of supporting and minor characters who each bring their own brand of humor, quite successfully. You really can't go wrong with either language track here; despite the occasional awkwardness that plagues all early English anime dubs, I think the English cast for Ranma 1/2 really threw themselves into this in a way that's all too rare. Particular standouts are Myriam Sirois, who makes for a feisty but good-hearted Akane, and Angela Costain, who's delightfully acerbic as Akane's manipulative sister Nabiki Tendo. I'm also rather fond of Sarah Strange as male Ranma, since she seems to have a gift for making Ranma seem nice even when he's saying awful things to Akane that you want to slap him for. This release is light on extras; the only thing on offer here besides trailers is a brief featurette filmed at NYCC 2013, featuring some Ranma cosplayers. It's a nice idea in theory, but the whole thing is maybe two minutes long, so it shouldn't effect anyone's purchasing decision. Personally I think the episodes themselves are worth the purchase, but it would have been nice if there was at least some bonus art or something; I'm hopeful that future volumes might have more to offer. Ranma 1/2 may not be for everyone; it calls back to a lot of sexist stereotypes, it's often juvenile in its humor, and even during the first season, can start to feel repetitive. However, at its best it's a riotous blend of over-the-top, well-choreographed martial arts action with many lovable characters and jokes to spare. If that sounds like something you might enjoy, no one does it better than this. 9.0 – Exceptional. One of the best things its genre has ever produced. Its example will be copied or taken into account by almost anything that follows it.  
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Anything Goes in this comedy classic
The wacky ensemble comedy of Ranma 1/2 occupies an interesting niche in Western anime fandom. The show wasn't likely to be someone's "first anime," in the way that contemporaries Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z generally w...

Jtor AM 29: Mocking Objectivism With Friends

May 02 // Karen Mead
[embed]32513:3897:0[/embed] Download Listen on iTunes WARNING: There are serious Game of Thrones spoilers present in our Stuff segment this week. I mean, I know there have been GoT spoilers in there for the last few weeks, but these are super-spoilers, or spoilers that relate to things that haven't happened yet in this timeline, or spoilers from one of many possible futures, or something like that...frankly, I don't really get GoT anymore. Show Notes: News: 0:01:46 -- Sailor Moon Crystal Cast List Announced 0:06:15 -- Short trailer for upcoming Lupin film 0:09:03 -- Ben's theory proved right in first English trailer for new Ace Attorney game 0:13:06 -- Avril Lavigne tries to do Jpop or something, fails 0:18:11 -- Licensing News: Sentai Filmworks licenses everything that isn't nailed down. Anime Talk: 0:22:21 -- Nisekoi 16 0:25:05 -- Black Bullet 4 0:29:30 -- One Week Friends 4 0:32:19 -- The Irregular at Magic High School 4 0:39:22 -- Selector Infected WIXOSS 4 0:41:51 -- Riddle Story of Devil 4 0:44:10 -- Ping Pong 3 0:49:26 -- Still the World is Beautiful 4 0:52:00 -- Kamigami no Asobi 4 0:53:20 -- The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior 4 0:55:40 -- Mushishi S2 1:00:27 -- If Her Flag Breaks 3 Stuff: 1:01:28 -- Game of Thrones happened and maybe there are new spoilers, more chat about FFX/X-2 HD Collection, and the Eureka 7 box set has like a million discs apparently.
Jtor AM photo
Dumb philosophies and durable notebooks
This week, Tim continues his strange vendetta against Canadians, while the rest of the cast tries to make sense of the increasingly incomprehensible The Irregular At Magic High School. In other news, Hase from One Week Friend...

Annotated Anime: Brynhildr in the Darkness 4

Apr 30 // Karen Mead
I heard you like aliens so I put an alien inside your spine, surprise. I should probably point out that I'm pleased with the way this show has been handling gore. I initially was leery of watching it, since I don't like gore on general principle and I know what kind of reputation Elfen Lied has, but this show hasn't been overdoing it. We always see enough so that we know what's going on, and it's disturbing, but not sickening. I hope this trend toward restraint continues. Anyway, when we last left our Brynhildr friends, Kuroha had been turned into a blood splatter on the floor and Murakami was reeling from the realization that she really was his childhood friend. Knowing that Saori can reverse time, Murakami earns his badass card this week by fatally stabbing the lethal witch with no hesitation; not bad for a guy who spends most of his time looking through a telescope. Now, he thinks, Saori has to turn back time to before Kuroha was killed, or else she'll die as well. Because Murakami is pretty smart, that's basically what happens, but Saori slices him in half too before she reverses time just because she can. Unfortunately, when time is turned back to the moment before Kuroha was killed, Murakami no longer knows that Kuroha=Kuroneko (since he hadn't seen the moles yet), and he's too busy subduing the now powered-down Saori to notice Kuroha's moles in the new timeline. By the time he thinks to look, Kuroha is covering up her trademark moles with her hand, so he still doesn't know who she really is. Dammit show, why'd you have to do that? I thought we could dispense with this "is she or isn't she?" nonsense and just get to the meat of the relationship between the two, but no, now we have to have a whole bunch more episodes of needless uncertainty. Show him your boob. SHOW HIM YOUR BOOB ALREADY GODDAMMIT On the plus side, Murakami does seem to have some knowledge of what transpired in the alternate timeline -- he knows that he and Kuroha died, and that he's forgotten "something important." I guess that means that Kuroha's true identity is still somewhere inside his mind, but now we're officially in Doctor Who Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey Land, where people remember things that never happened and causality is no longer a real thing. Dammit, show. Just dammit. Meanwhile, Saori dies when the Evil Scientist Guys (and that's what I'm calling them until further notice) pop her harnest remotely. I kind of wonder about the judgement of Evil Scientist Guys here; would you really be so quick to dispose of a witch who can reverse time? Unless they have a bunch of back-up time mages to spare, that seems kind of wasteful. Anyway, after Saori has been reduced to a mess on the floor, a green creature with many eyes crawls out of her body, and Murakami realizes that what harnest really means is "Her nest." So...the witches seem to be girls who were bonded with some kind of alien life form, and that's where their powers come from. I bet they're going to reveal that the witches can only be female because only a female body is designed to host two beings at once, because that just seems like the kind of thing this show would do. Of course, considering the fact that men get parasites too it's kind of nonsense, but nonetheless, that's my prediction. Kuroha and Murakami then find some pills and escape from the factory...rather easily? It seems like the Evil Scientist Guys should have sent someone to tail them back to the observatory or something. Then there's a whole tiresome sequence of events designed to get us better acquainted with Kazumi, the hacker-witch from last week, who is now moving into the observatory with Kuroha and Kana. This tiresome series of events includes a trip to the hot springs that includes both accidental boob groping and those horrible eye-searing sensor bars, because God hates me. This is what I get for last week's optimism. This. But Evil Scientist Guys are not quite through yet! Having discovered the location of the fugitive witches from another unfortunate escapee, the Guys send an AA+-ranked witch to dispose of our heroes. Of course, if you've been paying attention, you know that the witch with the long blond hair is featured prominently in the OP, so the chances of her defecting to the good guys' side is about 99%. Still, I'm curious to find out what her powers are, because while her rack is indeed amazing, that's not an AA+-ranked superpower. Usually. Wasting no time, the new witch shows up at the observatory, claiming to seek membership in the Astronomy Club. We haven't seen Murakami act suspicious toward her yet, but I'm assuming we will next time, since he's not an idiot. Please show, don't turn him into an idiot. Also, Kuroha finally gets to take that trip to the ocean that she's been hoping for, but I think the enjoyment is kind of ruined by the fact that she has one box of pills left even after the factory raid, so she has maybe two months left to live, tops. That would put a damper on my beachcombing fun too. "This field trip is only a partial reprieve from the ungodly living hell that is my life, but the water's pretty I guess." Next episode: No more hot springs scenes, please. I'm begging you, show.
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Time travel just ruins everything
Okay guys, the honeymoon is over. After being on a total Brynhildr high last week, the show just had to go and do something annoying -- actually, a whole bunch of annoying things -- and now I'm able to evaluate it like a...

Review: Blast of Tempest S2

Apr 29 // Karen Mead
Blast of Tempest DVD Complete Second Season Publisher: Aniplex of America Release Date: Feb. 25, 2014 MSRP: $74.98 Blast of Tempest is a fairly highbrow anime, barring some fanservice here and there. It's inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest, something explicitly name-dropped several times, and several characters love quoting Shakespeare whenever the opportunity arises. There's a sense of theatricality to the whole thing that's difficult to explain; it's not over-acted, but there's a whiff of old-school, classic drama to it that makes the occasional acquiescence to typical anime humor feel somewhat out of place. To its credit, the show mixes things up substantially in its second half, but not without drawbacks; things I thought I knew about the series based on the first 12 episodes evaporate, yet the new things that emerge don't necessarily go anywhere. In the first season, exiled mage Hakaze was trying to fight against usurpers from her own clan remotely, using what little magic she could conjure on the remote desert island where she had been stranded. To do so she enlisted the help of Mahiro, a volatile teen with a propensity for violence, and Yoshino, a seemingly gentle young man with a dark side of his own. Though the world is falling apart around them due to some apocalyptic nonsense (frankly it's not worth trying to explain), Mahiro and Yoshino have already suffered due to the recent death of Mahiro's mysterious sister Aika, who happens to also have been Yoshino's secret girlfriend. The two boys, with the help of Hakaze, might save the world from the evil Tree of Exodus, but in truth, they really just want to find out who killed their sister/girlfriend. It was an interesting set-up; Hakaze, by far the most powerful character, was put in a situation where her options were severely limited, and she had to rely on other people to do her dirty work. Mahiro and Yoshino are ostensibly the heroes because they're fighting the forces of evil on her behalf, but really, they just want to know who killed Aika; saving the world is pretty much incidental to both of them. Furthermore, the villain Samon (whom I always want to call "Salmon," because I'm a horrible person) isn't even necessarily evil; for all we know, he could have been right to exile Hakaze when he had the chance. It was a series that wasn't necessarily riveting (although the end-of-season standoff at Mt. Fuji was pretty epic), but it was always intriguing at the very least. In the second half, all the major characters are on the same team; there are hints at dissension among the ranks, but those are red herrings that mostly go nowhere. Hakaze becomes a much more typical female lead who wastes time fretting over her feelings for Yoshino, and is generally far less interesting than she was at the beginning. The Mage of Exodus, Hakaze's magical counterpart who is totally necessary for saving the world, basically falls into the group's lap with little explanation. Characters that seemed to have promise at the beginning kind of fade into the background, relegated to menial tasks. I'm still not sure who catsuit-wearing Evangeline Yamamoto was, even though she's actually critically important to the plot. Lest it seem like it's all downhill, the show does do a good job resolving the mystery of Aika, the most intriguing plot thread, in its second half. In addition to learning who killed her, we get a satisfying resolution to the whole "Mahiro never knew that Yoshino dated his sister" arc, and scenes that involve Aika are smartly written and fun. Still, I don't know if the show ever properly compensates for the fact that its most interesting character is dead before the story even started; Yoshino, with a laid-back attitude that hides his manipulative nature, shows glimmers of being interesting, but the show doesn't flesh him out  as much as I would have liked. Hakaze starts out interesting, then becomes tedious. Unfortunately, the best characters are the ones we don't get to spend much time with. The mage-on-mage fights (or mage-on-aircraft carrier fights; it happens) are fun, but they aren't plentiful enough to recommend to action fans on that basis, nor is the animation for them noteworthy. The whole show has average to above-average production values, yet for some reason, very little stood out to me. A lot of the show is dialogue, theorizing about the relationship between the magical Trees of Genesis and Exodus, and while some of these conversations are interesting, they're likely to try many a viewer's patience before the series' end. In the end, I'm just not sure what Blast of Tempest was trying to do. You could say that it was an anime retelling of The Tempest, except -- assuming I'm remembering the play correctly, from way back in high school English -- the story doesn't have all that much in common with it. I see far more parallels to Milton's Paradise Lost, which isn't mentioned even once. Furthermore, was all that scheming that seemingly went nowhere meant to be misdirection, and if so, did we really need so much of it? Instead of feeling complete, the second season feels like a bunch of different elements inexpertly cobbled together; for that reason, the final confrontation lacks impact, even though some of what's going on is rather clever. It's all just too muddled. It's not a bad show by any means, but the show only seems to fire on all cylinders when dealing with Aika in flashbacks; the present is always dull in comparison. Add to the equation that this is a pretty bare bones release -- with no dub, and only clean OP/EDs for extras -- and it becomes hard to recommend with a clear conscience. Still, warts and all, I feel like I have to lean towards the positive with Blast of Tempest. This show made me think, and even if half those thoughts were "What's going on?" that's still a lot more than I can say for many anime with pretensions of being intellectual. Plus, the whole Aika storyline is worthwhile, and it does take up a significant portion of the screentime here. If you're looking for a consistently taut, action-packed thrill ride, pass this series by; but if you want something a little more cerebral in the realm of contemporary fantasy and are willing to overlook a few flaws, this is probably for you. 7.0 – Good. Films or shows that get this score are good, but not great. These could have been destined for greatness, but were held back by their flaws. While some may not enjoy them, fans of the genre will definitely love them.  
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O Brave New World, that has such tree mages in it
There's something inscrutable about Blast of Tempest. Even now that I've had a few days to digest everything and figure out the answers to most of my lingering story questions, I still feel that there's something about the sh...

Annotated Anime: Brynhildr in the Darkness 3

Apr 25 // Karen Mead
This episode of Brynhildr in the Darkness is brought to you by Radio Shack. Frankly I'm so high on Brynhildr right now that the show could introduce fifteen tsundere loli witches with big brother complexes who all chirp "Onii-san!" in unison and I would even be okay with that...well, okay, maybe not so much. But the fact that I would even consider it is saying something. Anyway, we learn a whole bunch about our favorite witches in this episode. They need to take pills, called "death suppressants," every day or they will literally melt to death -- and by the way, nice homage to The Wizard of Oz there. Things look bad enough when Kuroha and Kana only have ten pills left between them, but then get dire when a woodfire burns down the house and destroys the remaining pills. Desperate, the witches and Murakami hatch a plan to raid the factory that manufactures the pills before time runs out. To do so, they will engage the help of Kazumi, the escaped hacker witch -- whose situation is just as bad as Kuroha's, even if she plans to keep that to herself. "Look, the important thing to keep in mind is that this could be worse." "How?" "We could literally be on fire." It's a crazy, all-or-nothing plan, but it's totally justified given the alternative. All too often, anime characters undertake stupid, reckless plans at the drop of the hat that should result in everybody getting killed, but these plans somehow work because the main characters have plot armor that doesn't allow them to die. I appreciate the fact that, for once, the urgency of the situation is such that the super-desperate plan is actually justified. At this point, the witches can either go for broke or lie down and wait to die, so you can't hold anything they're trying against them. It's actually pretty refreshing. Other useful witch facts: Witches are given power rankings from C to AAA, and all our friendly witches rank B or below. In fact, Kuroha, Kana and Kazumi are so low-ranked that they were considered defective and were about to be destroyed before they escaped. Now, I have a serious bone to pick with the Witch Power Ranking Committee here; I can understand Kuroha being low-ranked, but Kana? She can predict the future with 100% accuracy; do the bad guys really think that ability is less useful than a close-combat ability like Saori's? And as Murakami points out, Kazumi's hacking abilities could cause massive social unrest. I really think whoever's ranking these witches needs to get their priorities straight. Yet more witch facts! The metallic thing on the back of all the witches' necks are called "hahnests," and ejecting them causes witches to melt immediately, as we've already seen. There's also a "no magic for you!" setting, and a third setting that no one knows much about. The witches have been told that flipping that last setting will bring on a "fate worse than death," which leads me to believe that the last setting actually empowers the witches; perhaps freeing them from their dependence on death suppressants. After all, if the bad guys want to make sure that the witches never learn that they can free themselves, the best way to do it is to make them too scared to flip the switch. In any case, I will be shocked if the last setting doesn't end up being positive in some way. Factory raid time! Kuroha is supposed to distract Saori, the AA-ranked witch whom the bad guys have deployed to kill the escapees, while Murakami sneaks up behind her and flips the "no magic for you!" switch on Saori's hahnest, rendering her harmless. Once they get inside the factory though (with the help of Kazumi's hacking), Murakami realizes that Kuroha intended to sacrifice herself all along, in the hopes that her death will allow him to steal enough pills to save the other two witches. Naturally, he isn't about to let his maybe-childhood-friend die, so Murakami goes after Kuroha, against her wishes. That's when the amazing thing happens. There are good witches in the world. This is not one of them. You know how female characters in anime are always taking clothing damage, and it never serves any purpose other than lowest-common-denominator fanservice? Well on this show, Kuroha takes clothing damage and it is not only 100% relevant to the story, it communicates plot-critical information in the most expedient way possible. Let me restate that: this show has Kuroha's shirt get ripped open, and it's actually good storytelling. How is that even possible? What dark gods do the writers of Bryhildr worship that they managed to sidestep the "fanservice is always tacky and pointless" rule, and where can I sign up? Also, the way the reveal works makes perfect sense; it stands to reason that the moles under Kuroha's arm would have moved forward as her chest expanded post-puberty. It even makes sense to put those distinguishing marks on her chest as opposed to anywhere else on her body, because if her moles were on an arm or a leg or something, Murakami would have seen them and would already know Kuroha=Kuroneko, as opposed to finding out at a climactic moment. This anime showed a boob and it was totally justified by in-story events!...okay, now I'm just repeating myself, but I'm still not quite over it yet.  HALLELUJA Murakami is of course euphoric to learn that, as he suspected, Kuroha has been the girl he's always loved all along, but no sooner does he realize this than Saori presumably kills her. We know she can't "really" be dead, since we're only at episode 3, but Saori does something that paints the walls with Kuroha's blood, so at the very least she's not in very good shape right now. Naturally, Murakami is burning with the righteous anger of a thousand suns, and I'll bet a lot of episode 4 will be devoted to him fighting Saori to save Kuroha; I don't know how his photographic memory is going to help him win out against an evil assassin-witch, but I'm sure the show will think of something. Really, the totally trite thing for the show to do now would be for Murakami to develop amazing superpowers of his own out of his love for Kuroha and defeat Saori, but you know what? I'm so into this show right now, I would be totally okay with that. Even that, I would give a pass. This might be love. I hope you'll all join me for episode 4 where Saori will presumably get what's coming to her, Kuroha will presumably find a way to put all of her blood back inside her body where it belongs, Kana will presumably ask for more cake, and whoever heads the Witch Power Ranking Committee will presumably be fired for gross incompetence...because come on.
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Literally burning down the house
This episode is full of super-convenient plot elements that I am nevertheless prepared to forgive. A random fire razes Kuroha and Kana's house, destroying what little of their medication remained? Contrived, but I will forgiv...

Jtor AM 28: Ping Pong, Adventure Time, and undercover Canadians

Apr 24 // Karen Mead
[embed]32413:3857:0[/embed] Download Listen on iTunes Show Notes: News: 0:01:04 -- SakuraCon debriefing 0:15:46 -- A very special episode of Adventure Time 0:18:57 -- Next Ace Attorney game to take place in the Meiji era because...Takumi. 0:22:09 -- SAO II announced for worldwide simulcast, sky also blue 0:24:26 -- Is Hollywood ripping off anime...more than it rips off anything else? Anime Talk: 0:32:16 -- Knights of Sidonia 1&2 0:41:00 -- One Week Friends 3 0:45:52 -- The Irregular at Magic High School 3 0:51:41 -- Selector Infected WIXOSS 3 0:55:02 -- Riddle Story of the Devil 3 0:57:21 -- Ping Pong 2 1:01:45 -- Still the World is Beautiful 3 1:04:08 -- Kamigami no Asobi 3 1:06:22 -- The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior 3 1:08:02 -- Mushishi S2 3 1:11:29 -- If Her Flag Breaks 2 1:13:02 -- Nisekoi 15 Stuff: 1:16:29 -- Hearthstone, Karen is jealous of the fact that L.B. can drink alcohol, Game of Thrones forgot something.
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There sure is a lot of coffee in Seattle
This week, Tim and L.B. reveal the dark, seedy underbelly of Sakura Con -- or they would have, if they were invited to any of the cool parties, but they were too busy waiting on lines for that. Meanwhile, Ben and I share our ...

Annotated Anime: Selector Infected WIXOSS 3

Apr 23 // Karen Mead
I really can't complain about the amount of action in this episode, but the problem is, I'm just not pulling for any of these characters. Ruko is more or less a blank slate, Yuzuki is a moron who's in love with her twin brother, Hitoe is just dumb in a different way, and Akira is a super-bitch on wheels whom we're supposed to hate. What's the draw here? Anyway, Hitoe and Ruko decide to have a friendly match, which Hitoe could use after the psychological battering she received at the hands of Akira's blue deck last episode. I wonder though: if they want to have a friendly match, can't they just play cards? Do they have to go to the psychic realm where every battle is super stressful? We know that players with LRIGs can play "normal" WIXOSS because we've seen them do it -- Yuzuki plays with her brother and Ruko plays with her grandma -- but can two Eternal Girl candidates play a normal card game together? I guess we'll never know. Ruko wants to let Hitoe win because she feels sorry for her, but fortunately, Tama is not having that nonsense, so the two have a fair fight. You would think that losing again would be rather hard on Hitoe, but honestly it's not that bad; all Hitoe really wants is to make friends, and once it looks like Ruko is willing to become her friend, she has no real need of this whole Eternal Girl shebang anyway. When Ruko offers to make friends, Hitoe says she'll "consider it," but you know damn well she's doing cartwheels on the inside. Now, she doesn't have to play this horrible game anymore just to make friends! If she's smart, she ran home from the library to ritually burn all her WIXOSS cards. "You mean...I don't have to play this stupid game anymore?" I could complain about how it never occurred to Hitoe that there are other ways to make friends then to participate in psychic, magical card grudge matches, but eh...teenagers. They gotta do everything the hard way, you know? In any case, the other effect of Ruko's victory is that Tama "evolves" into a higher-level form...which looks exactly like her original form, as far as I can see. Can anyone tell the difference? Whatever it is, it's subtle. Meanwhile, Yuzuki's match with Akira is a trainwreck because Yuzuki is a moron who can't play WIXOSS. Have I mentioned that Yuzuki is a moron enough times yet? Because Yuzuki is a moron, guys. After she slinks away in defeat, helpful Kazuki shows up with just the card she would have needed to beat Akira. See, we though Kazuki was on a date with the card store girl, but nope -- he was just dutifully hunting down a new card for his twin sister. I guess we're supposed to be happy about this, because you know, god forbid the boy show any interest in a female that isn't his twin sister! That would be disgusting. No seriously, are we supposed to be happy that Kazuki isn't building a relationship with someone else? Are we supposed to be happy because this means that Yuzuki still has a chance with her bro? I think we are, and I don't get it. "I don't always lust after my brother, but when I, wait, scratch that. I always lust after my brother." Finally, because someone, somewhere presumably cares about Akira, we learn she's really frustrated that she's no closer to becoming the Eternal Girl, even though she keeps winning matches. Her LRIG tells her that there's more to becoming the Eternal Girl than winning, but won't spill the beans about what that is. I think we can all be pretty sure that the answer is "See Akira, you're not allowed to become the Eternal Girl if you are literally the worst person on Earth," but that's not directly stated. We learn further that Akira really hates her fellow model (and WIXOSS rival), Iona...who acts like an emotionless robot, thus is bound to be another character I don't actually care about. This is just not the face of an Eternal Girl, Akira-tan. Three episodes in, I'm just not that into this show. It's not bad, so I'm not morbidly fascinated by watching it deteriorate like I was with Wizard Barristers, but it's just not that interesting. The characters are hard to root for, and the rules of WIXOSS are too obtuse to follow -- whenever they're not borrowing liberally from Magic: The Gathering, that is. Rather than stick with this show and just complain about it every week, I'm going to hand it off to Dae Lee, whom I think is getting more out of it at this point than I am.
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Strategy is for losers
The show wastes no time delivering on the double face-off we were promised, only it's not as exciting as I would have hoped. Yuzuki loses hard to Akira because she's an idiot, while Ruko wins because she's been practicing WIXOSS every night with her awesome grandma -- I mean, they don't say that's why she won, but it totally is, right?

First Impressions: Nanana's Buried Treasure

Apr 18 // Karen Mead
Nanana is a ghost who lives in high-schooler Tama Juugo's new apartment. She can eat pudding, play online games and even wrestle, strangely enough, but she cannot leave the apartment. However, Nanana is not just any ghost who can't move on; in life, she was an important person who helped establish everything on the experimental, student-focused island where the story takes place. In addition to being some kind of super-genius, she also loved treasure hunting and apparently buried all sorts of mythological "treasure" all over the island, and students from her former school have made a club out of hunting for it. Juugo gets involved in the hunt, figuring he might as well try to solve the mystery of who killed Nanana in the first place while he's at it. There's no reason why this set-up couldn't work, except the show doesn't seem to know what to focus on. So much time in these two episodes is wasted on typical rom-com humor, and lame humor at that, plus I just don't buy Nanana as this great treasure hunter. The Nanana we see is a typical gamer type who stays up all night playing MMO's and flips out over pudding; I feel like I have no reason to believe that she was ever this great treasure hunter, except for the show telling me so. Granted, she's a ghost, which tends to dampen one's spirit of adventure, but I just don't feel Nanana the ghost and Nanana the exalted, Lara Croft-like adventurer are in any sense the same person. It feels like a "hot ghost girl in my room" story was tacked on to a pre-written narrative about someone else. The other characters aren't helping much. Juugo is an affable dude who likes seeing girls in maid costumes, but nothing makes him stand out from typical romcom protagonists. We meet a detective-obsessed loli, a character type that seems to be growing in popularity, and a transgender character who gets to be the butt of some jokes because she's transgendered -- my, how classy. I'm not that easily offended, but I do find the inclusion of this particular character incredibly mercenary -- like "Have we checked off 'cute girl who is a boy' on the list yet? No? Get us one of those, and put her in a maid costume, stat!" Outside of the hilarious (NOT REALLY) reveal that she's trans, she serves zero purpose in the story. At least it looks nice; there's no shortage of pretty colors on display, and the character designs are quite attractive, especially Nanana herself. If you just shut off your brain and look at the pretty people on screen, I guess you could find this show pretty enjoyable. There's also something very lush about the visuals-- this feels like a spring anime, somehow. Still, I really wish the creators had streamlined the concept and made an honest-to-goodness treasure hunting show, instead of whatever the heck this weird harem/romcom/magical girlfriend mystery stew is. This title is a whole bunch of stuff thrown together without much apparent thought, all stitched together like some kind of terrifying moe Frankenstein, and I can't watch it without being distracted by all the seams that are showing.
Nanana's FI photo
How does a ghost eat pudding?
This show probably sounds like a really good idea on paper. It's filled with cool concepts like treasure hunting and classrooms that attack you until you solve puzzles, but it's also filled with multiple girls in maid outfits...

Jtor AM 27: Are they going to school with ghosts?

Apr 18 // Karen Mead
[embed]32322:3838:0[/embed] Download Listen on iTunes Show Notes: News: 0:01:13 -- Attack on Titan is headed for Toonami 0:07:30 -- Here come the .moe domains 0:09:08 -- Sakura Con has lots of guests for us to not interview 0:13:50 -- Gurren Lagann stage play set for fall Anime Talk: 0:18:01 -- If Her Flag Breaks 1 0:24:11 -- Kamigami no Asobi 1&2 0:28:52 -- Nisekoi 14 0:30:43 -- Magica Wars 1 &2 0:31:14 -- Ping Pong 1 0:34:05 -- Nanana's Buried Treasure 1 0:35:25 -- Is the Order a Rabbit? 1 0:36:15 -- No Game, No Life 1 0:37:25 -- Mekaku City Actors 1  0:39:05 -- Captain Earth 2 0:40:00 -- One Week Friends 2 0:42:48 -- Damidaler the Sound Robot 2 0:44:19 -- The Irregular at Magic High School 2 0:46:46 -- Selector Infected WIXOSS 2 0:48:40 -- Riddle Story of the Devil 2 0:49:36 -- The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior 2 0:50:47 -- Still the World is Beautiful 2 0:51:50 -- Soul Eater NOT! 2 0:53:04 -- Mushishi 2 0:53:50 -- Dragonar Academy 2 0:54:51 -- Marvel Disc Wars 1 Stuff: 1:01:20 -- Tim and Ben are so excited for Game of Thrones they can barely contain themselves, LB has watched every anime known to man and beast.
Jtor AM photo
Now the villains have their own pokeballs
This week, some staff members who shall remain nameless would rather have a Game of Thrones podcast then talk about silly Japanese cartoons all day. But alas, we are Japanator, not DaenerysTargaryenator, so we must perse...

Annotated Anime: Selector Infected WIXOSS 2

Apr 17 // Karen Mead
The good news is, finding other Selectors to battle seems to be pretty darned easy, so we don't have to sit through entire episodes of the girls trying to hunt down other Eternal Girl candidates to play. The bad news is, considering the fact that the girls can only afford to lose three matches before being permanetly booted from the game, these kids seem way too cavalier about challenging each other. I mean, considering how high-risk every single game is, you would think there would be a large element of strategy here; trying to find out what's in everybody's deck beforehand, trying to pick a match-up where your deck is generally strong, etc. Other anime, like Accel World, have done a decent job with similar set-ups. But no, everybody just seems to find the nearest Selector and say "Please play me right now this very instant!" I'm beginning to doubt that any of them want to become the Eternal Girl that much. Meanwhile, Yuzuki has decided to become Ruko's friend, saying that they shouldn't play each other because they can both become Eternal Girls together "and both our wishes will come true!" Girl, I hate to tell you this, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't work that way. In any case, the main focus of this episode is a card battle between two new Selectors: Akira, a fashion model who may just be the worst person on the planet, and Hitoe, a seemingly nice girl who may be too dumb to live. As fellow Selectors, Ruko and Yuzuki get to observe this battle in all its horrible glory. Not only does Akira have one of those awful control decks that are all about making opponents destroy their own hands, but she's all about psychologically taking apart her opponents over the cards. By the way, the properties of the colors so far in WIXOSS seem to match up pretty closely to the colors in Magic: The Gathering, for anyone keeping track. After viewing the curbstomp of Hitoe, Kazuki gets the reasonable idea that maybe Yuzuki should update her deck, so the crew goes to a card store. Unfortunately, Yuzuki's deck really needs a certain card, but the card store doesn't sell single cards because card stores in WIXOSS don't work like card stores in real life. Unless this is an official WIXOSS store that only sells WIXOSS cards (and I'm pretty sure it's not), they can open the packs and sell individual cards after-market. But then Yuzuki might have a snowball's chance in hell of winning, so we can't have that. I'm slowly becoming afraid that the showrunners here know about as much about CCGs as the Wizard Barristers creators knew about law...wait, no. Forget I said that. That's a ridiculous statement. How does card store? In the midst of all this, we're treated to a childhood flashback that shows that Yuzuki got the idea of marrying Kazuki as a small child. You know...that's really not that uncommon. I remember being 3-4 years old, and everybody was always talking about getting married to each other; it's what kids that age do to try and feel grown-up. The thing is, people typically grow out of it, whereas in a large percentage of anime, characters seem to be completely stuck on an idea they had when they were three years old. I don't know why this is, but it's really frustrating. Anyway, I can only hope this is the last we hear of Yuzuki's brother complex (not likely, I know), because who even cares? In other Yuzuki news, we learn that Yuzuki is kind of bad at WIXOSS because she has no patience and doesn't know how to do anything other than attack directly. I guess I have to take back my "there's no strategy" comment; for Yuzuki, challenging someone who doesn't yet know how to play actually is a sound strategy, because she's not likely to win against anyone who knows the rules. I really don't see how she has a chance against Akira's sadistic blue deck unless some magical shenanigans are afoot, but I guess magical shenanigans are quite possible. Things are looking up at the end of the episode though, when we get dramatic music! Girls jumping off of jungle gyms! A crazy upcoming double-face off with Yuzuki taking on Akira the Super-Biatch while newbie Ruko battles down-on-her-luck Hitoe! Seriously, I hope the card battles in the next episode are exciting, because this thoroughly mediocre episode made me question my decision to cover this show. However, if the next episode features Ruko's awesome grandma beating everyone and their brother at WIXOSS, all is forgiven. I have not given up on the idea that Ruko's Awesome Grandma could be the new Super Sonico's Awesome Grandma.
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You're not going to let us forget about the incest thing, are you?
In this episode we learn that Yuzuki's whole fixation on her twin brother Kazuki is even worse than we thought, but she gets a reprieve when the show introduces Akira, who is such an awful person that everyone else looks fant...

The Adventures of Ai-Fi 5

Apr 15 // Karen Mead
To me the 600-lb. gorilla in the room here is the question of who ordered Bible Black in the first place. Was it one of you? Don't lie.
Ai-Fi Adventures photo
A reasonable precaution
When we last left our favorite humanoid Japanator android, she had acquired a DVD copy of the anime masterpiece Bible Black. After looking up the show in her extensive, internal anime database, she is faced with a difficult decision.

First Impressions: Baby Steps

Apr 14 // Karen Mead
Eiichirou Maruo is a good student with OCD; the show never calls it OCD point blank, but trust me, it's OCD. See? He's called "Ei-chan" by his classmates since he always gets As, and his meticulously organized notebooks are legendary. However, since he's 14-going-on-45, he's concerned about all those long hours at the study desk leading to an out-of-shape physique, so he's interested in picking up a sport. He doesn't want to win a tournament, become the best in the world, or anything grand like that; he just wants to keep in shape for his health. Ei-chan is a refreshingly quirky protagonist for a sports show; in fact, he has a lot in common with Yowapeda's Onoda. They're both sweet guys who never saw themselves as athletes, yet get drawn into their sports from a kind of oblique angle. I'm getting ahead of myself, but chances are, if you like Yowapeda, you'll like this too -- it has a similar tone to that show's early episode. I can only hope that, unlike a certain cycling series, Baby Steps will be able to keep its breezy, fun pace and light-hearted humor throughout the show and not get too bogged down in athletic melodrama. Perhaps more importantly though, the show does a great job of capturing the appeal of tennis. That satisfying "THWOCK" sound when the ball is struck perfectly, the graceful yet powerful motion of serving, the excitement of watching someone dive halfway across the court to try to get to a tough ball; it's all there. So far, the animation is up to the task of making the tennis look good, but I would be lying if I said I was confident that the show will continue to look this fluid throughout its run. Plus, the character designs are actually kind of ugly (though not Flowers of Evil-level ugly), which will definitely take away from the show's visual appeal for some viewers. On the plus side though, the kind of dull character designs actually make Takasaki, the tennis-obsessed "School Idol," stand out for once. Usually in anime, the girl who everyone in school is crushing on doesn't look any more attractive than anyone else, so it's kind of nice that you can actually see it on this show. I like Takasaki as a character, too; instead of just being there as "the love interest," her single-minded devotion to tennis is clearly meant to contrast with Ei-chan's complexity. In any case, I'm definitely interested in seeing how Ei-chan and his legendary note-taking skills take on the world of tennis, but remember; I already like tennis. I'm not sure if this show will appeal much to people who aren't that interested in the sport, but it's competently done and even charming at times, so I think it's certainly worth a try. Also, don't ever forget to:  
Baby Steps photo
Tennis with a side of OCD
I really wish I was good at tennis. It's really the only professional sport that I have a lot of familiarity with, since my Mom often watched professional tournaments on TV dating back to when I was very young. I remember see...

Jtor AM 26: All those horrible shows you love

Apr 11 // Karen Mead
[embed]32238:3820:0[/embed] Download Listen on iTunes Show Notes: News: 0:01:29 -- Princess Jellyfish film announced 0:03:44 -- Crunchyroll teams up with FujiTV to bring the DRAMA 0:07:55 -- Here comes the first Persona 3 movie release Anime Talk: 0:09:55 -- Nisekoi 13 0:14:17 -- Captain Earth 1 0:20:03 -- Blade and Soul 1 0:24:11 -- One Week Friends 1 0:28:24 -- Sound Robot Damidaler 1 0:33:06 -- The Irregular At Magic High School 1 0:41:36 -- Black Bullet 1 0:44:05 -- Baby Steps 1 0:45:39 -- Haikyu!! 1 0:48:06 -- Mushishi S2 1 0:49:35 -- The Comic Artist and His Assistants 1 0:52:49 -- Selector Infected Wixoss 1 0:56:07 -- Riddle Story of the Devil 1 0:59:40 -- The Kawai Manor Something Something Something 1 1:01:41 -- The World is Still Beautiful 1 1:04:22 -- Kamigami no Asobi 1 1:06:16 -- Dragonar Academy 1 1:08:05 -- Soul Eater NOT! 1 Stuff: 1:10:41 -- Jeff tells us about his most recent trip to Japan and how some concerts there are louder than you might think, Tim talks Final Fantasy 14, L.B. rewatches Coupling and doesn't know how to be sick.
Jtor AM photo
Did you know there's a hidden corpse in Nisekoi?
This week's show is longer than usual because we discuss pretty much every show that exists. Join Tim "I think this show is stupid and you're stupid for liking it," Sheehy, Ben "I'm too nice to say you're stupid but I'll just...

First Impressions: The Comic Artist and His Assistants

Apr 11 // Karen Mead
The biggest problem with this 13-minute show -- well, other than the fact that it's just not funny, obviously -- is that the titular manga artist, Aito Yuuki, is pretty darn unlikable. Now, I've seen the "honest, lovable pervert" character type done well before, and Aito is not that; he's just a jerk who sees women as opportunities for panty shots. Even Ryosuke from So I Can't Play H -- hardly a bastion of female empowerment -- was way more likable just because you could tell he had some modicum of respect for the women in his life even when he was lusting after them. I think Aito just sees the women around him as indistinguishable from the cookie-cutter girls he draws in his manga. Maybe the show could be saved if the assistants themselves were interesting, but no luck there; main assistant gal Sahoto is a stoic blank slate, while his editor is a classic tiny tsundere. Both are far more likable than Aito, but keep in mind, that's a low bar to clear. According to the OP, there are two more girls set to be introduced, and I've no doubt they'll be stock female character types as well. The good: I do kind of like the slender character designs, who look pretty lithe without becoming CLAMP-style noodle people. And it is kind of cool to actually see the sketches for Aito's manga, even if the actual manga looks like it would be awful. But that's about it; I can't even say "Well, if you like to see groping, this is the show of the season for you!", since Sound Robot Damidaler is airing; there are better choices available in the burgeoning boob-groping genre. Because of my aforementioned love of anime about comics, I will probably give this another episode or two in the hope that it gets better...but I'm not proud of that.
Comic Artist photo
Those poor, poor assistants
I wanted to like this. Maybe it's just due to super-fond memories of Doujin Work, but I have a bias towards any anime that happens to be about making comic books. So even though I knew this was going to be a series about a pe...

First Impressions: Selector Infected WIXOSS

Apr 10 // Karen Mead
The name WIXOSS refers to a collectible card game that's taken off among school girls, but as we learn early on, there are two versions of the game in this world. Most girls who've taken it up are playing a regular fantasy card game, probably not too far afield of Magic: The Gathering and the like. However, a chosen few girls have been given access to the "true" game; deemed Selectors, these girls have access to magical-girl like card avatars, and their games seem to take place on some strange psychic plane far removed from the real world. These Selectors are battling to become "The Eternal Girl," which means their ultimate wish will come true...or so they think. Our focal point is Ruko, a shy girl who's given a starter pack of WIXOSS cards by her brother in the hopes that she'll make some friends with them. Ruko soon learns that she possesses a talking card, called an LRIG, and the adorable little white-haired girl depicted on the card wants nothing more than to fight other cards in battle. Ruko would just as soon ignore all of this nonsense, but unfortunately for her, other Selectors can tell when a new Selector shows up; this isn't a fight she can avoid. It's all pretty competently done; characters are fluidly animated, the backgrounds have a nice grittiness to them that makes the story feel more grounded in reality than usual, and this episode does a good job of revealing the world of Selectors without either overwhelming the viewer or becoming boring. Ruko may be a bland heroine for some, but I can relate to her shyness, and her grandmother is awesome. The WIXOSS battles look pretty cool, even if they're borderline incomprehensible; why are the players sitting so far apart? Why even bother with physical cards at all, when this is clearly a psychic battle between magical girl avatars of some sort? Maybe we'll find out, but I tend to doubt it. But for me, the hook here is not the card battles or the character interaction, but the hint that there's going to be some truly twisted, End-of-Evangelion style mindscrew here. We only get a tiny glimpse of it in this episode, but it's enough to make me curious what dark secrets this weird card game is hiding. Hmm, a magical girl card game anime, that' nice- AH OH MY GOD WHYYYYYYYY Now, there's an excellent chance that this is all going to end up becoming a huge, pretentious, convoluted mess, which seems to be the fate of most shows that try to emulate Madoka. The hints at deeper, more disturbing meanings could easily be imagery that's just thrown in to look cool, and may come to nothing in the end. But for right now, I'm digging the whole vibe of WIXOSS enough to give the show the benefit of the doubt and at least see where they're going with all this.
WIXOSS photo
Didn't Madoka already die for our sins?
While taking in WIXOSS, I couldn't stop thinking to myself, "This show really, REALLY wants to be Madoka Magica," and you know what? That's probably really unfair. After all, Madoka was a groundbreaking show; there's nothing ...

First Impressions: Haikyu!!

Apr 10 // Karen Mead
First, let's get this out of the way "Haikyu!! puts the Jump in Shonen Jump!" There, now you can say you heard it at Jtor first. The premise of this show is that red-haired Hinata loves volleyball, even though he's a bit short. How much does he love volleyball? Imagine how much you love your favorite thing -- be it chocolate fudge cake, walking your golden retriever, or snuggling under a warm blanket with your significant other on a cold night. Well, no matter how much you love that thing, you only love it maybe half as much as Hinata loves spiking volleyballs. Hinata loves spiking volleyballs so much that it arguably crosses the line into mental illness, but hey; to each his own. In fact, Hinata loves volleyball so much that he doesn't let minor details like "My school doesn't even have a boys volleyball team," get in his way. Eventually, a bunch of friends take pity on him (and it is pity) and join together to form a quasi-team, even though they really can't play, and enter a competition -- only to matched up with the tournament favorites in their first match. Serious-business setter Tobio can't believe his school has to play such a sucky team, but he's in for a surprise from Hinata; his reaction to the spunky spiker oscillates between "I hope you die in a fire" and "WHERE have you been all my life!?" and the classic love/hate rivalry is firmly established without a hitch. Of course, this set-up is filled with common sports anime devices: the underdog hero with a huge heart, the snooty rival, the contrast of playing for the love of the game versus playing for glory, etc. But it's not completely rote; for one thing, I appreciated the fact that the old "Just try hard enough and you can win at everything!" trope was trashed pretty much immediately. Plus, Hinata and Tobio's relationship seems to be advancing much faster than usual -- I was expecting it to take 12 episodes before Tobio would even give Hinata the time of day, but one episode in and their rivalry is already well established. The only problem is that I really don't find volleyball that interesting. The show did give me a more favorable impression of it, but my interest level in the sport was at zero, so knocking the score up by +5 didn't really help much. Plus, with the continuing Yowapeda and now Baby Steps, I'm kind of at my maximum level of sports anime consumption -- and Baby Steps, while not as high quality in many respects, has the advantage because tennis is one of the only sports I'm really familiar with. With everything else about the show being really solid, I think the deciding factor for a lot of viewers is going to be whether or not they like volleyball, or if they'd rather watch an anime that covers a different sport; there's certainly enough to choose from these days. Still, if unlike me, you're actually in the market for another athletic anime to round out your viewing schedule, you won't do much better than Haikyu!! It's one of those rare shows that I feel very comfortable recommending, even though I doubt I'll be watching much further.
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Jump like you mean it
If we were ranking these new shows based on animation quality alone, Haikyu!! would be king of the mountain; out of everything I've seen so far this season, only the first episode Captain Earth has better animation...may...

Final Impressions: Nagi no Asukara

Apr 08 // Karen Mead
Well, pacing is probably the easiest culprit to identify, as it often is. If Engaged to the Unidentified was a 12-episode show that felt like it had maybe 6-8 episodes worth of content, NagiAsu was a 26-episode show that had maybe 18 episodes worth of story. The show reached a high point right after the end of the first cour -- when the time skip threw viewers for a loop and turned many of our expectations upside down -- but it started to drag noticeably towards the end. Also towards the end, the show began to suffer from what I consider a frequent weakness of writer Mari Okada's work: people talking about feelings all the time, instead of actually showing their feelings through action. Don't get me wrong; feelings are important. I'm not trying to minimize the importance of interpersonal drama, and feelings can certainly be a valid topic of conversation. But later episodes of the show started to sound something like this: "Aren't you concerned that Manaka has lost her feelings?" "I'm very worried about Manaka's feelings. I'm more concerned about her missing feelings than my own feelings." "But do you understand what Manaka-san has lost, now that she's lost her feelings?" "I both do and do not understand what Manaka must be going through, because I don't feel what she doesn't feel." "But still, what kind of feelings will Chisaki have if you confess your feelings over Manaka's missing feelings?" "I'm very concerned about Chisaki's feelings, but I'm more concerned about Manaka's feelings, since at least Chisaki has the ability to feel her own feelings." "What about the feelings I am feeling for you right now?" "Why are you changing the subject to your feelings? I thought this was about getting back Manaka's feelings about my feelings for her!" Pow: you just got Mari Okada'd. Then there was the fact that thematically, the series had some good things to say but didn't seem to know quite how to express them through the narrative. The main message I took away from it is that just because something seems set in stone romantically, that doesn't necessarily mean anything; just because a boy and a girl have a big "dramatic moment," like Manaka and Tsumugu's first meeting, that doesn't mean they're fated to be together for life. Everything is in flux, and our actions will effect how people feel about us; there is no "fate" where love is concerned. I found this to be a refreshing viewpoint -- especially considering how often anime seems to take the opposite view -- but it comes off as kind of an afterthought. Instead, a lot of the show's energy is taken up communicating a trite "It is better to have loved and lost, then not to have loved at all," moral. This was a series that actually had things to say about love, unrequited and not, and how people's perceptions of what love is can affect their behavior -- which, in turn, effects how the objects of their affections view them. But it all got very muddled somehow, and a lot of the various plot elements involving the sea, hibernation and climate change seemed to just add clutter instead of thematic resonance. Basically, the whole story just seemed to lack elegance; a more streamlined narrative could have communicated these themes better. I will say one thing though; at least the show was interesting enough that the lack of underwater physics ceased to really bother me after a while. Not every anime is interesting enough to allow me to overlook major suspension-of-disbelief-killers like that, so at least NagiAsu offered some food for thought if nothing else. As it stands though, I feel like I can only give it the most tepid recommendation; patient, generous viewers may find a lot to like here, but those who value plot, smartly-written characters and narrative economy had best steer clear.
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Love me like the ocean
Nagi no Asukara was a show featuring intriguing ideas and frequently beautiful imagery, but it never quite gelled into a cohesive experience for me. For the show's entire 26-episode run, I kept feeling like the story was just...

Annotated Anime Roundup: Spring 2014 Week 1

Apr 08 // Karen Mead
Yowapeda Episode 25 As we return to Ridiculous Time Dilation Cycling, enemy sprinter Izumida's time in the sun can't end without more information about his amazing pecs, Andy and Frank, who have become the stars of the show recently. Apparently, one pec is defensive and one pec is offensive, and they give Izumida advice on how to conduct his races by...pulsing, or something. I feel like I should have some kind of derisive comment here, but really, where do you start with that? Everybody think about sentient, magical pectoral muscles and make up your own jokes, I'm busy here. While the three sprinters are pretty evenly matched, it turns out that Izumida just doesn't have the will to win that Tadokoro and Naruko do; he hasn't lost often enough to develop that hunger for victory, since he's spent so much of his time conditioning his body instead of competing. So when a stray wind blows some construction cones out onto the road, Izumida breaks to avoid them -- costing him this leg of the race-- while the other two take their cones to the face, without slowing down, like the manly men they are. So, the moral of the story is, proper men don't break for obstacles, or something. Actually, I'm fine with the "losing actually build character" arc they had going on here, because I think it's true and often goes unmentioned, but this just took soooo long. Can it be Manami-kun's turn next? Tonari no Seki-kun Episode 14 Have I mentioned that I'm sorely tempted to cover every episode of this show by simply saying, "Now that was genius?" Because I am. This week Seki-kun gives us an Attack on Titan parody, and it's glorious. Seki-kun pretending to be a Titan while he eats his lunch shouldn't be hilariously funny, but the way the personified hotdogs seem to band together to fight the monster is just so perversely charming. I like to think that Seki has been doing this with his lunch all along, and Yokoi has only just noticed; maybe he's been parodying Game of Thrones with peanut butter and jelly sandwich cutouts on the sly. Hey, it's Seki-kun, anything's possible. If you're not watching this show, get your priorities straight, ladies and gents. I don't think there's anything more clever on the air.
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This segment is MINE alllll MINE!!!!
Since we're in the middle of that weird season-opener grace period where most of the previous season's shows have ended, but all the new shows are still in First Impressions territory, the only episodes eligible for the round...

Final Impressions: Soni-Ani: SUPER SONICO the Animation

Apr 05 // Karen Mead
First of all, let's talk about Sonico herself. Yes, she's a big-breasted mascot character, but for once, the character design reflects what curvy women often actually look like, rather than the standard skinny-stick-figure-with-big-boobs design. Instead of just being busty, Sonico is proportionate, meaning the animators took the risk of giving her big hips and thighs as well. Female characters in anime usually don't have much in the hip department because that look can register to some as "fat," and God-forbid a female character not be perfectly thin! So even though the series is propped up by Sonico's hotness to a large degree, she's actually a healthier representation of a "hot" woman than we usually see in anime, and I think there's something to be said for that. Really, between Sonico and Kobeni from Engaged to the Unidentified, this was "The Season Where Big Butts Became Okay," but I think that's another article. More importantly, the show somehow managed to present Sonico as one of those naive-and-incredibly-good-hearted female characters that anime loves to peddle, yet without making her annoying. All too often, we're told over and over again how sweet and good-natured the female lead of a show is, only for her actions to be selfish and immature; this often leads to a backlash where a lot of the viewers outright hate the character they're expected to love. In contrast, while Sonico isn't a particularly deep character, we do see her go out of her way to help people in her neighborhood regularly. Instead of being told how caring she is, we see it first-hand. Plus, she also helps out when it's called for without being an insufferable busybody, and tends to take responsibility for things. It's much easier to like her when we're being shown her good qualities rather than lectured about them. However, despite making Sonico likable, the writers wisely realized that as a mascot character, there's a limit to how much she can grow and change. Instead, the show often focuses on secondary characters who can and do change, and it's satisfying to watch a show where people's lives are actually changed by their experiences -- especially on a slice-of-life-show that's typically all about maintaining the status quo. Sonico's life becomes a kind of prism through which to view more interesting people, and because we get to know those interesting people, we don't resent Sonico for her idealized nature. What's also really nice is that the show presents a more mature, multi-generational world than we're used to seeing in most anime -- or hell, most entertainment in general. Elderly characters are often relegated to comic relief if they're seen it all, yet Sonico's grandma is a grade-A badass; she rocks the electric guitar even better than her granddaughter does. The customers at the family restaurant, despite being largely older men, respect Sonico and see her as a friend first and foremost; there's no tiresome "all the guys are just trying to get into her pants" nonsense. In fact, for a show about a model who frequently wears skimpy outfits, Sonico is rarely seen as a sex object by the other characters; it's just understood that she can be sexy, even pose as a sex object for magazine shoots, yet be a person with entirely different goals and dreams at the same time. Some people will see screenshots of Sonico busting out of her tiny white bikini and write off the possibility that the show is as progressive as I'm making it sound, and that's okay; you don't have to find the show ground-breaking in any way to enjoy the humor, or the pleasant slice-of-life antics. Even when the show fails, as the zombie-themed episode did, the ED usually provides a silver lining -- in that case, an amazingly ridiculous music video of a chainsaw-wielding Sonico doing the Thriller dance. Even in the weakest episodes, there's always something that brings a smile to your face. The people who were making this were clearly having a blast, and it shows. In a weird way, I see this show as being like the flip side to Wizard Barristers: the latter was a very ambitious show that failed spectacularly, whereas Sonico is a show with a super-pedestrian premise, yet the creators nailed every aspect of it. It's weird: I like to think that I'm a viewer who rewards ambition, but of the two, I know which show I'm going to miss far more. In fact, I miss it already.
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Why was this so good? Anybody?
It was patently obvious we didn't expect much from Soni-Ani: no one on Japanator even bothered to write up a First Impressions for it at the start of the season. We figured it would be a vapid, 12-episode long commercial for ...

Final Impressions: Engaged to the Unidentified

Apr 05 // Karen Mead
At the time I wrote my First Impressions of this show, I was unaware of the fact that there was going to be a supernatural angle to this tale; I thought the "Unidentified" part of the title referred to the fact that Hakuya, the surprise fiance, was such a cypher as a person that he may as well be a UFO. The early reveal that Hakuya and his family weren't just mysterious, but in fact, supernatural, opened up a lot of interesting territory for the show to explore. In the end, I think my degree of disappointment with this show comes from the fact that most of that territory was left untouched. After 12 episodes, what kind of supernatural creatures are Hakuya and his sister Mashiro? We don't really know. What kind of powers do they have? Well, we know they can turn into some kind of animal form, jump really high, and apparently cast spells that allow them to "blend in" to various environments, but it's kind of a laundry list of unrelated powers; there's no general sense of what they can and can't do. Is Hakuya's fixation on Kobeni due to the fact that he magically imprinted on her, much like a duckling does on its mother, or does he just really like her for more typical reasons? No idea. Do Hakuya's people live in houses, or are they some kind of forest spirits who don't need most human comforts? We spent a whole episode in Hakuya's hometown, and we still don't know anything about that. What do we know? That Kobeni's sister Benio is really, really fixated on little sisters and won't shut up about it. While I won't say that Benio's schtick is never funny (especially because Mashiro's reactions to her doting often make it work), her siscon act gets tiresome early on and seems to exist to fill time so the show can drag out the actual plot for as long as humanly possible. Thank goodness, the show does end with some kind of acknowledgement that Kobeni and Hakuya are a real couple, which puts it on a rung above most anime romantic comedies. But still; the early episodes led me to expect certain things, and I was left unfulfilled. I think this begs a larger question of how much is fair to expect from a 12-episode anime series. Presumably, the creators want to get a second season, and you can't expect them to use up all the cool stuff from the entire series in the first cour, right? But if the first 6 or so episodes prompt the reader to ask a lot of questions, isn't it poor storytelling to just leave them hanging on most of the answers? Ultimately, I think I would be okay with how much Engaged left unexplained if I felt like these 12 episodes were packed full of goodness anyway, but I don't think they were; too much time, especially time spent on Benio, felt like filler designed to drag out what little plot the show was prepared to cover. I think the show still worked as a pretty good romcom, but I think if the creators had been less stingy with plot elements, it could have been really, really special; and for that, I'm a little mad at it. All that said, the show has super-likable characters (err, with the possible exception of Benio), some pretty clever jokes, and visually is a pleasure to watch; the show isn't an animation tour-de-force, but I never felt like the animation was lacking when it counted. If it does get another season, I will tell you right now that I'm totally on board with that; I think I'll always just be a little haunted by what could have been. Because at one point, I felt like this could have been an all-time great.
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Secret engagement and UFOs
As much as I enjoyed watching Engaged to the Unidentified, the end of the series left me feeling more than a little conflicted. Seriously, I haven't felt this conflicted at a series conclusion since, er...Golden Time. Which w...

#Cancel Final Fantasy

Apr 04 // Karen Mead
FINAL FANTASY IS SUPER-GROSS BECAUSE IT: 1. Promotes Chocobo Abuse The working conditions for Chocobos in every Final Fantasy game are simply abysmal, and I for one am not going to take it anymore. The Golden Saucer Chocobo Races are nothing more than a glorified sweat shop, where the bright neon lights and catchy BGM can't quite drown out the sound of mutli-colored birds crying into their feathers each night. Chocobos are repeatedly forced to travel grueling distances, carrying heavy spiky-haired protagonists, with nary meal nor rest.  Sometimes we even see them running in giant hamster wheels to generate power, even though we know mages can generate all the power the world needs by casting Thunder on electrical appliances. If humans can produce electricity, why even subject chocobos to this indignity? To humiliate them, obviously. To keep them from getting any ideas above their station. And don't even get me started on chocobo breeding, which is a sick series of eugenics experiments if ever there was one. Now, you could make the argument that the Final Fantasy economy can't run without chocobos, but you know what else they said that about? Slavery. If you enjoy chocobo minigames, you are literally supporting slavery. We all need to stand up (on Twitter) and say something about the structural violence that's being inflicted not only on chocobos, but the player who is being shaped by these chocobo-abuse-fueled narratives. #SaveTheKweh2014 2.  Is Racist Against Fire Have you ever noticed that Ifrit is usually one of the first summons you receive? You generally get Ifrit first because the implication is that it's not as powerful as the other summons; in the Final Fantasy narrative, fire is weaksauce, while space dragons, sentient trains and Arthurian knights are king. But Ifrit isn't the only victim here; look at Bombs, the enemies which appear in every FF title. The primary fire-elemental creature is portrayed as so pathetic, it can't even hurt you without committing suicide with Self-Destruct...which, come to think of it, doesn't even do that much damage in the first place. The fact that these creatures literally kill themselves because they can no longer take the pain of their marginalized existence may be the most extreme example, but the fact is that the constant microaggressions against the element fire start early in each game and pretty much never stop. The shocking lack of agency given to fire-elemental creatures is just plain racism, and we shouldn't let a mainstream game series get away with this stone-aged thinking anymore. Even when the narrative isn't outright racist, fire-elementals still suffer from the subtle bigotry of low expectations; you just don't expect Firaga to do as much damage as Flare, or even Holy. It's time for Final Fantasy to stop treating fire like a second-class element and come to terms with the structural violence it's inflicting on open flames. #NotYourIfritSidekick 3. Promotes Protagonist Privilege It's one thing that only the protagonist chooses where to go in these games, but what's disgusting -disgusting -- is that the other characters are literally invisible. I don't mean they're so marginalized that they may as well be invisible, I mean they are literally invisible on the screen, because that's how overpowering the protagonist's privilege is. True, in some cases, like FFVIII, the other characters can sometimes be seen tagging along behind the main -- but in a way, that's almost worse. Instead of having agency, being able to choose where to go, they're forced to follow the protag...even if he's running in circles like a moron trying to get his next SeeD payment to come in. Now it's bad enough that Final Fantasy promotes this degree of privilege, but what's worse is that it goes completely unacknowledged. Nothing makes privilege more egregious than being completely blind to it. Apologists may choose to bring up that part of FFVII where you can pick Tifa and Cid to be your replacement protagonists-- perhaps checking Cloud's privilege, albeit temporarily. This, my friends, is nothing but the most blatant appeasement. If we want to stop the structural violence that Final Fantasy is inflicting on everyone who isn't a protagonist, we need to reject these facile attempts at appeasement politics. #IDontHaveToFollowYou 4. Is Disgustingly Ableist Party members are largely identified by their skills; casting attack spells, buffing, summoning, gaining items, etc. What if a character can't do any of these things? Well, they won't be getting adequate representation in your party, that's for damn sure. Only characters who have the ability to do things get respect in Final Fantasy; the level of discrimination against anyone who isn't fortunate enough to be able to cast Demi or summon Bahamut is unconscionable. This is systemic, structural violence against people who can't do cool shit. Now, I must admit, FFX gets a partial pass here; that game includes Kimahri, a character who gets to be in the active party while possessing zero useful abilities whatsoever. Still, given the franchise's abysmal track record on this issue, I think we're going to have to view Kimahri's existence as an anomaly; to remain relevant, the series desperately needs to diversify by including people who cannot actually do things. #SkillTreesAreOppression 5. Spreads A Capitalist Narrative The story is as trite as it is predictable: get more gil and you can buy bigger weapons, better items, and greater participation in whatever dumb minigame is devouring your time like some kind of ravenous temporal vampire. It's the same in every game: gil means power, and it's hard to argue that the characters who don't have gil are oppressed compared to your party. Do you think all those NPCs hanging around in the background have cool weapons with great stats that inflict multiple status effects? No, they have crap like the Revolver and Official Ball. This gil=power=good meta-narrative is just the same old case of capitalism being used as a vector to spread oppression. Thanks to intersectionality, when you buy a cool weapon for one of your characters, all you're doing is enforcing the idea that money and power and violence are all the same thing, drowning out all other voices that promote peace and equality. This is structural violence against the idea of anything ever not being violent --and also, capitalism sucks because Ayn Rand wrote books. #GrindingisSlavery All that, and I haven't even started on how the persistent emphasis on thieves and stealing in these games contributes to Theft Culture...or any of that genderist, heteronormative garbage with Jumbo Cactaur (think about the fact that he has a mustache!) But I guess I should leave it at this; the world can only handle so much revolutionary thought at one time. Plus, I don't want all my Twitter campaigns to cannibalize each other. Please use these hashtags to spread the word about how awful Final Fantasy is, and how those of us with any kind of social conscience are not just going to sit back and take it anymore. By the way, if you're a Final Fantasy-apologist, please don't even bother responding to this article; the world is full of your kind, oppressors, and it's time for you to shut up and listen for once. This may be about having a dialogue, but if you don't agree with me, frankly that's a sign that you just don't understand the first thing about history, or modern society, and need to educate yourself. I mean, try looking at things from someone else's perspective for a change; is that so hard?
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Say goodbye to systematic oppression, sheeple
It's hard to be a voice of dissent, and for years, I lacked the courage. I've always thought that the many, many regressive ideas disseminated by the Final Fantasy series of video games were beyond gross, but I was afraid to ...

Jtor AM 25: A date with a coffee maker

Apr 03 // Karen Mead
[embed]32149:3796:0[/embed] Download Listen on iTunes Show Notes: Spring Season Chat: 0:01:06 -- Everybody's psyched for Ping Pong, Knights of Sidonia, and maybe Keroro Anime Talk: 0:18:40 -- Samurai Flamenco 22 (END) 0:24:34 -- Kill La Kill 24 (END) 0:33:43 -- Golden Time 24 (END) 0:40:32 -- Space Dandy 13 (NOT THE END!) 0:44:27 -- Wizard Barristers 12 (END) 0:46:44 -- Nisekoi 12 (SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE END) 0:51:45 -- Pupa 12 (HANAMARU END) 0:53:44 -- Sakura Trick 12 (YURI END) Stuff: 0:57:06 -- Steins;Gate, Goat Simulator and other exciting animal sims, C: The Possibility of Money Control or Whatever That Show Was Called, more FFX: HD chatter, and buy a freakin' rug designed by Ben Huber
Jtor AM photo
Appliance romance is in the air
This week, I learned that Love Live, Data A Live, and Love Lab are actually three completely different shows, making this quite possibly the most educational episode of the podcast that we've ever recorded. However, this epis...

Final Impressions: Wizard Barristers

Apr 02 // Karen Mead
Important note: Since my beloved Stabler is no more (RIP, Stabler), it's not right to refer to Makusu as Daddy Stabler, so I'll just call him Makusu from now on. He's not even worthy of being Stabler's Daddy, quite frankly. Starting off with our favorite "talking to the client from jail" motif, Makusu says that he wants Cecil to defend him because that can be his way of making up to her for all the awful, awful things he's done to her. Now, I know that Cecil is so pure and wonderful that she spontaneously grows angel wings all the time and wants to believe the best of everyone, but she looks incredibly stupid for believing him for even half a second here. I mean, he's not even trying to be convincing about his lies -- you would think he could at least muster up some tears when talking about the son he murdered. He's just like "Yeah, kinda sorry that I killed you, got your mother the death penalty, and tried to kill you again -- my bad, whatever." To her credit though, Cecil is at least somewhat skeptical, but thinks she has to go through with defending Makusu because if he spills his guts in court, that will provide new evidence that could lead to her mother getting a retrial. Okay, so maybe her hands are tied here and she kind of has to go along with it, but I still think it's ridiculous that she looks so surprised when it turns out he was lying all along. The legal segments are even more unbelievable than usual this week for multiple reasons; for one thing, the prosecution agrees to drop most of the charges against Makusu for no apparent reason. I get that this whole thing is a set-up and the prosecution is working for Makusu, but the basis on which they explain dropping the charges is basically, "Well he was a judge, so it would be rude to prosecute him too much." And Super Judge -- who, up to this point, has been reasonable if not necessarily unbiased -- is totally cool with this? What ever happened to the system being biased against WUDs, especially WUDs who pretend to be human and obtain powerful positions through deception? Then there's the fact that you can't forget that Makusu is being defended by his primary victim because everyone in the courtroom brings it up once every five seconds. "Her testimony lacks objectivity because she was a victim!" says the prosecutor. Err, well yeah...she can't be objective because she was kind of emotionally invested in nearly being killed, what do you expect? The prosecution also tries to claim that her testimony isn't credible since she was unconscious at Makusu's apartment, so she can't know what happened -- as if a teenaged girl being found unconscious, against her will, in the apartment of a 50-something-year-old man presents no problems for the court. This episode, I just...this is logic poison. This is logic cancer. But wait, there's more! Turns out that Makusu's plan all along was to pin Stabler's murder on Cecil, because pinning his heinous crimes on other people is what he does. Fortunately, Ageha and Chouno earn their pay this week by producing a witness who reveals that Makusu is a lying bastard: the judge who we thought Makusu shot to death recently. I kind of glossed over it because it didn't seem that important at the time, but Makusu shot a bunch of people who were involved in the conspiracy 6 years ago to keep them from talking. However, once Cecil started sniffing around, helpful precog Sasori (who's the hidden MVP of this show if you ask me) saw that he was in danger and warned him to don a bulletproof vest before Makusu could shoot him. Anyway, having the judge who sentenced Cecil's mother to death admit that the whole thing was a set-up destroys Makusu's plans but good. But wait, there's still more! Even with all this going on, Cecil still faces the problem that she has no evidence that summoning magic was used on her, and that evidence is necessary to substantiate the charges against Makusu. Frankly, I think the giant occult symbol that appeared in the sky at the exact same time the summoning was supposed to have gone down could maybe count as evidence; I mean, they made a big deal that everyone in Tokyo could see it, too, but apparently the writers just forgot. Luckily for Cecil, Stabler's last act was to magically hide the Grimoire 365 inside of the Cell Phone Charm of Conscience and Contrivance, so she had the evidence she needed with her all along! Thanks Stabler! Speaking seriously for a minute, it's pretty lame how little Cecil contributed to the resolution here. Stabler was the real hero for slipping her the evidence in his last act before death, and the Butterfly Law team produced the critical witness without her aid. Given the way Cecil has been for the whole show, it would be out of character if she suddenly came up with a brilliant plan all on her own, but the fact that the tasks that won the day were all carried out by other people is kind of sad; she's seen little to no character growth at all. She's still someone who talks a good game about producing justice, but her own efforts fail and she's reduced to reacting to what the more effective characters do. In our last dumb courtroom fight, Makusu tries to kill everybody before he can be sentenced, apparently forgetting that Cecil is the BEST MAGE EVER and can take him down without breaking a sweat. Makusu is sentenced to prison, where presumably Cecil's Mom will ensure he has a warm welcome, and all's well that ends well. The series ends with the Butterfly girls having a sleepover, with Moyo on the cusp of revealing who she really is to Cecil: stay tuned for the announcement of the Episode 13 OVA, "My Sleepover With Satan." Closing Arguments I've been talking about everything that's wrong with Wizard Barristers for weeks now, so I'll try not to repeat myself too much. Still, this was a series that had a lot of potential that really went awry due to poor writing. For a while, the quality production values were enough to keep the show mostly afloat despite the poor scripts, but even that failed; by the end, production was so strained that the climax was aired with unfinished animation. I really wonder how much of this is due to director Yasuomi Umetsu; between this and last season's Galilei Donna, he seems to have a habit of creating shows with really strong first episodes that disintegrate almost immediately, and become downright embarrassing by the end. Maybe he should just stick to short OVAs, like Kite. Assuming this isn't all Umetsu's fault, I think this show is a testament to how the breakneck production pace of modern TV anime can doom promising shows before they even hit the screen. This was most obvious when episode 11 wasn't even finished in time for airing, but I think this was the problem with this series at its conception. The problem with Wizard Barristers wasn't the concept; the idea of a supernatural law procedural is interesting, and something that really hasn't been done in anime. I didn't like Cecil much, but a lot of the other characters had potential, and the criminally-underused familiars had a lot of charm. With episode 5, probably the high point, we actually got a tiny glimpse of what a smart anime supernatural law procedural might look like...and then, it was all downhill from there. The problem was that it seemed like staff was forced to use the first draft of the story, without any oversight or anything of that nature. If there had been time for someone on staff to actually research real law practices, they could have given the courtroom scenes enough grounding in reality that they wouldn't have taken us out of the story all the time. If they'd had time to refine the scripts in general, they might have caught on to why everything about the whole America/Canada field trip smacked of ignorance. Perhaps most importantly, they might have realized that it doesn't make sense to design 6 or so adorable mascot characters and not give them anything to do for the entire series; this whole thing seemed like a criminal waste of the always-great Norio Wakamoto's time. Still, the one thing I can say for Wizard Barristers was that at least it tried to do something different; it failed, but the attempt has to count for something. I can only hope that other creators will take a look at this show, think "Hmm, you know this could have worked if only they'd taken it more seriously/given it more time," and will be inspired to take on a similar challenge. For now though, it seems like a supernatural law procedural was just too tall an order for a weekly anime series.
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If this is justice, then I'm a banana
In the final episode of everyone's favorite poorly-written supernatural law procedural, Cecil agrees to defend her worst enemy in court, because no one in this world has ever heard the phrase "conflict of interest." However, ...

Delusional photo

All Mai Husbandos

They're all mine, get your own
Apr 01
// Karen Mead
[WARNING: Spoilers for Kill La Kill episode 24, read at your own risk!] Kathy awoke that day as she did every morning: to the smell of an indulgent espresso beverage, freshly-brewed by a certain blond bartender of unparallele...

Announcement: All Fanfiction, All the Time

Apr 01 // Karen Mead
Surely, it's only a matter of time before Brittany writes the Fifty Shades of Grey equivalent for the Dragonball Z universe, then she can change the name Vegeta to "Victor" and get a massive publishing contract. Then we'll all have swimming pools full of money and be able to afford all the wall scrolls and garage kits and PVC figures we could ever...I mean, then we'll have the resources to fully commit ourselves to raising the quality of anime storytelling, one AU male pregnancy fic at a time. I hope, dear readers, that you'll support us in this most noble of creative endeavors.
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Let's show these bastards how it's done
There's no easy way to say this, so I'm just going to come out and say it: anime writing is kind of terrible. Maybe it was good at one point, but these days it's all swimsuit episodes, school festival episodes, and being trap...

Jtor AM 24: Introducing The Custodian

Mar 29 // Karen Mead
[embed]32074:3776:0[/embed] Download Listen on iTunes Show Notes: News: 0:01:49 -- Square Enix and Yen Press team up to publish e-manga 0:05:52 -- The pre-season licensing bout has started 0:09:17 -- Sailor Moon Crystal website exists, and that's about it 0:11:08 --  Log Horizon S2 announced so more LIVIN' IN THE DATABASE WOOO 0:13:14 -- Space Daddy Dandy S2 is on the way: will the second half be more consistent? 0:16:00 -- Friendly reminder that new Fate/stay Night is on the way  Anime Talk: 0:18:34 -- Samurai Flamenco 21 0:23:05 -- Kill La Kill 23 0:28:04 -- Golden Time 23 0:31:45 -- Space Dandy 12 0:36:10 -- Wizard Barristers 11 0:39:14 -- Nisekoi 11 0:44:23 -- Super Sonico 12 0:46:55 -- Pupa 11 0:49:25 -- Sakura Trick 11 0:51:19 -- Recently My Sister is Unusual 12 (END) Stuff: 0:54:01 -- Final Fantasy X/X2 HD Collection, some Dynasty Warriors game, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Titanfall, the whole Oculus Rift situation, Princess Nine and Maburaho.
Jtor AM photo
A new Fate/Stay Night servant for our times
To add some spice to this episode, I try to stir up drama by plotting a seed of disagreement about Space Dandy between Ben and Tim; however, instead of having a big fight, they both cordially agree that their levels of admira...

Annotated Anime: Wizard Barristers, Ep. 11

Mar 26 // Karen Mead
I guess the only thing I can do at this point is act like this is an actual episode of Wizard Barristers instead of the colossal embarrassment for everyone involved that it is, so let's get into the story. Stabler has taken his police crew to raid Butterfly Law searching for Cecil, and I have to ask; what's his legal pretense here? At least he made up the ridiculous human trafficking charge to get into Shark Knight, but he has no reason at all to hit Butterfly. Hachimitsu and Nana Genie run off to confront the police threat while Cecil tries to get to safety, and waitaminute-- Nana Genie went off to fight the police like the manly frog he is, and we don't get to see a single second of him in action? This episode should get a 0/10 just for that, and we've barely even started. Hachimitsu uses his water powers against the SWAT team with some success, because there's some kind of rule in effect this episode that only the men are allowed to kick ass, despite the fact that the show's been pretty gender-neutral about that up to this point. However, his efforts are for naught when Stabler catches up with Cecil, Sasori and Natsuru in a subway tunnel. Our favorite corrupt detective uses his wind powers to easily knock out Sasori and Natsuru, and okay -- I can buy that. Sasori's powers aren't useful in combat, and it's never really been established how strong a wizard Natsuru is supposed to be. But then Cecil gets up, all full of piss and vinegar now that Stabler's hurt her friends, and he knocks Cecil out as well, and that's...kind of ridiculous bullshit. How exactly did Stabler overpower Cecil in Mage-to-Mage combat? We've been shown continuously that she has powers faaaaaaaaaaar beyond that of your average WUD, and we saw just two episodes ago that she's perfectly capable of blocking his magic with her own. It would be one thing if he played dirty by sneaking up on her or something, but no-- you can clearly see her summon her magic and prepare to face him head-on, so he didn't have the element of surprise. He shouldn't be able to beat her in a fair fight, and the only possible explanation is that Cecil was too nice and was holding back; of course, since the scene wasn't animated and all we see is the subway tunnel wall while the two of them actually fight, we'll never know. I hate this goddamned episode. In other news, Quinn dies in the hospital, and it's pretty sad. It looks like I was wrong last time when I guessed that she wasn't hurt that badly; I can't believe the bastard actually killed her. Bad Stabler, bad! You're off my Imaginary TV Boyfriend list now, that's how mad I am! Fortunately, Moyo is conveniently omnipotent and brings Quinn back to life, since it would make Cecil sad if Quinn stayed dead, and Moyo just won't stand for a frowny-faced Cecil. I'm glad Quinn was revived since I do like her, but this scene would have had much more impact if Quinn and Cecil had any significant interaction; as it stands, it's kind of odd that Moyo would save someone that Cecil's barely even talked to for the entire run of the show. I know I, know: Cecil is so pure and wonderful and honest that she loves everyone equally, even characters she's barely acquainted with. Everyone bless Saint Cecil of Cecilun. At Macal HQ, an unconscious Cecil is surrounded by sexy mood lighting while tons of cult members give their lives in the process of putting Lucifer (Moyo's) soul into Cecil's body. So Moyo was Lucifer all along! That makes sense: she kicked way too much ass, so she had to be a dude in disguise. Interestingly, being possessed by a demon the devil makes Cecil's limiter hair clips snap off, and with her hair down she looks less dumb than she has for the entire series, even with a giant forked tail poking out of her skirt. Daddy Stabler thinks that as part of the summoning ritual, he's now entitled access to Lucifer's powers, but Lucifer puts an end to that notion: he/she wasn't summoned. Moyo's been in the human world for six years, ever since Cecil was brought back to life the first time; you can't summon something that's already here. "Summoner? Dahling, I hardly know her!" Now, that's neat. For once I'm being serious, but the whole summoning deal is actually pretty darn cool. Daddy Stabler is probably a pretty crappy summoner if he didn't realize that the devil he summoned six years ago was never dismissed, but the whole "the laws of summoning don't apply to me because I'm already here so I'll just hijack your ritual-in-progress, thanks ttyl!" plan of Moyo's is probably the most clever thing this show has done. Moyo/Lucifer says that she/he wants to give his/her power to Cecil since Cecil has the purest, most wonderful soul in the world; what a shame for Moyo that she/he never met Super Sonico, who is a lot like Cecil only better in every conceivable way. Of course, Wizard Barristers then has to go and ruin the cool thing they just did by having Stabler rescue Cecil by blasting the Cecil/Lucifer hybrid with his wind magic, which apparently disrupts the ritual and undoes the entire thing. Really? Like 30 cult guys gave their lives so that Lucifer could be magically bonded to Cecil, and one little blast of wind ixnays the entire spell? You'd think that a ritual you can only do once every few hundred years would be a little harder to cancel. Daddy Stabler is obviously kind of miffed that the thing he's been planning for his entire life was just destroyed by his own idiot son, so he shoots Stabler a whole bunch of times. However, this is one of those instances where the animation gets really lazy and we can barely see what's happening, so it's more like we see a gun and hear gunshots and then assume Stabler is maybe dead; he essentially dies off camera. Before going to the big WUD jail in the sky however, he does manage to give Cecil back the Cell Phone Charm of Honor and Contrivance, so err, good for him I guess? I would say he redeemed himself, but he still killed Quinn, so meh, he would still be off my Anime boyfriend list even if he weren't dead. Attention all Cecils, mecha fight imminent, STICK YOUR BUTT IN THE AIR In the climax of the episode, and the show, Cecil and Daddy Stabler each summon their own diaboloids (hey, remember when we were told that being able to summon diaboloids was a rare power? LOL) and have a huge mech fight. This 3D sequence is actually animated, only there's one problem; the mechs look a lot alike and it's really hard to tell who's doing what to whom. Daddy Stabler's mech is red, but with the dark lighting, it's often hard to make out the color. Natsuru, Tsunomi and Sasori come to assist Cecil at one point, but the animators couldn't be bothered to draw them, so we just hear their voices from offscreen. There's also a few frames of Daddy Stabler where the animation is so borked that it looks like it was taken from episode 4 of Gurren Lagann; see header image. Cecil wins the robot fight, because she is Cecil the Super-Mage, despite what her fainting like an 18th century woman with the vapors from Stabler's assault earlier in this episode might lead you to believe. In typical Cecil fashion though, she can only beat Daddy Stabler by essentially destroying both their robots in midair, leaving both of them to plummet to their deaths. Naturally, to deal with this, Cecil spontaneously develops the new power to grow wings (off screen, because that's how this God-forsaken episode rolls) and saves both herself and Daddy Stabler. Why did she save her mortal enemy? So he can face his day in court, but of course! I liked this scene way better the first time it happened in Sailor Moon Super S. Finally, we've reached an end to this nonsense -- or have we? Apparently Daddy Stabler wants Cecil to defend him in court, because someone on the writing staff just remembered that this show is called Wizard Barristers and not Wizards Intermittently Blow Shit Up and Go To Canada. This likely means that the last episode will focus on courtroom drama, which is appropriate for this series, but do you realize what this probably means? It means that the next episode is going to be largely talking heads, thus relatively cheap, and they still didn't have the money/time/whatever to animate this episode -- the climax of the story with actual action -- properly. Anyway, Cecil shouldn't have to defend the guy who nearly had her killed and destroyed her family, but she totally will because she is Saint Cecil and letting one of her partners defend him, like a sane person would, is just not something she'll stand for. One episode left, guys; man, I know I'm repeating myself, but I honestly can't even believe what happened to this show. I can't even. What a coincidence, I was making the same face for this whole episode.
Wizard Barristers photo
They sacrificed the animation to Satan
It's been a few days and I still can't quite get over just how bad the animation in this episode was. Really, "bad" isn't quite accurate, because scenes have to actually exist before they can even qualify as badly animated; w...

Japanator's Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide!

Mar 26 // Karen Mead
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders [embed]31835:3724:0[/embed] Studio: David Production (JoJo: Phantom Blood, JoJo: Battle Tendency) Air Date: April 4 This is already the standout show of the season for many before it's even aired -- to the extent that people are saying "Who even cares what else is airing in the spring, there's more Jojo!" Personally I missed the boat on Jojo, but considering just how excited anime fans are for this second season, it looks like I'm going to have to catch up if I want to retain what little cred I have as an aniblogger. However, that won't be my job next season, as Elliot will clearly need another weekly brew of over-the-top action to inject directly into his veins once Kill La Kill comes to an end. Expect him to be all over this like show like Mako Mankanshoku with a plate of piping hot croquettes. Knights of Sidonia [embed]31835:3725:0[/embed] Studio: Polygon Pictures (Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, Sky Crawlers) Air Date: April 10 "Though this one more or less flew under the radar as a manga, as an anime it's had quite a few folks intrigued. Sidonia offers mecha-based, high-concept anime with an almost Titan A.E.-like post-apocalypse plot, full of generation ships, gene-engineering, third genders and a voluminous cast. Sidonia seems to be what older anime fans who watch for sci-fi have been waiting for. It also reminds me a bit of Broken Blade, the serious sci-fi darling of a few years ago."-- Josh Tolentino. What Josh says. The CG-animation will be a turnoff for some viewers, but I'm willing to give it a shot. I didn't watch Arpeggio of Blue Steel, but this show has some surface similarities; I think the fact that it doesn't include ships personified into adorable moe girls may lead to it being taken more seriously. I hope this show ends up being a quality example of hard sci-fi, because it seems like that's a genre that anime tends to botch more often than not. I'm going to be covering this, and though I'm only a casual sci-fi fan -- I've always been a fantasy gal at heart -- maybe this will be the story that converts me. The Irregular at Magic High School [embed]31835:3726:0[/embed] Studio: Madhouse (Wolverine, Iron Man, X-Men, Redline) Air Date: April 6 "I figured it was inevitable that this light novel series would get an anime adaptation. I know this because even as far back as Accel World's 6th episode, where billboards and posters advertised the novels and even implied an anime was on the way."-- Josh Tolentino This is the show that everyone's saying is going to be "the next Sword Art Online," and as Japanator's resident person who doesn't hate Sword Art Online, I thought I'd give it a shot. However, I'm having second thoughts; this is by the same people that did the X-Men anime? Really? That was one of the worst shows I've ever seen. Plus the main character is supposedly bad at magic and goes to magic high school, only all the girls totally want him for some mysterious reason; it's one of those deals. Plus, this is one of those shows where all the girls have weird-looking boobs. Seriously, I'm okay with boobs getting an emphasis, but if you want to showcase breasts, learn how to draw breasts; is that really so much to ask? Oh well, it looks like this may be typical harem fare, a la Infinite Stratos II, but maybe this one will surprise us. I'll try to keep an open mind and see what there is to learn at this latest magical school; it certainly can't be any duller than this season's Magical Warfare. It just...can't. No Game, No Life [embed]32032:3743:0[/embed] Studio: Madhouse (Wolverine, X-Men, Redline) Air Date: April 9 So instead of a tale of one awesome gamer who gets pulled into a video game, No Game, No Life features a brother-sister pair of awesome gamers who get pulled into a video game. I'm tempted to poke fun at how many of these sorts of shows we've seen lately, but the fact of the matter is, there's nothing inherently wrong with the "pulled-into-a-video-game" format; it's only a problem when the writing isn't any good. I don't know how the writing is going to be for this one, but at the very least, from the trailer the animation seems to have some spark to it; I'm kind of digging those weird glowing eye-worm thingies a few characters are sporting, among other things. Who knows, maybe this will be the video game anime that puts other video game anime to shame. At the very least, it should help keep fans of Sword Art Online and Log Horizon occupied until those shows return in the summer and fall, respectively. L.B. has donned his iridescent, flame-retardant gear and is prepared to cover this, along with about ten other shows; seriously, if there's a show you're interested in that isn't listed here, you should probably just assume L.B. is covering it. He's a go-getter, that one. Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin (Nanana's Buried Treasure) [embed]31835:3727:0[/embed] Studio: A-1 ([email protected]) Air Date: April 10 The Noitamina block just ain't what it used to be. When it started out, it was where you looked to find original anime that had something new and different to offer. However, ever since the baffling decision to air Black Rock Shooter years ago, the brand no longer stands for creativity and artistic merit the way it once did. Now, with Nanana's Buried Treasure, the once celebrated platform for creative, original shows is being used for...a magical girlfriend show. A young man encounters a beautiful girl with magical powers, and hijinks ensue, blah blah blah you know the rest. Unless this is the show that's going to perform a massive deconstruction of the magical girlfriend show (yeah, ok), it looks like yet another harbinger of Noitamina's slow decline. Still, Aniplex of America ran out and licensed this before it even premiered, so maybe they know something about this show that we don't; after all, it is possible that the bog-standard premise could be hiding something more interesting. I checked who signed up to cover this, and apparently Amber signed up to cover Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin and L.B. signed up to cover Nanana's Buried Treasure, so they've both laid claim to it in different languages. You guys? Work this out among yourselves, okay? Don't make this have to go to a cage match, you have no idea what that does to our insurance premiums. Goukoku no Brynhildr (Brynhildr in the Darkness) [embed]31835:3729:0[/embed] Studio: Arms (Wizard Barristers, Elfen Lied) Air Date: April 6 A brainchild of Lynn Okamoto, the creator of Elfen Lied, the big question on everybody's lips about the upcoming Brynhildr is "Will this be super-violent like Elfen Lied, or just kind-of-sort-of violent?" Either way, we didn't have much violence this past season (with the exception of the Guillotine Gorilla Incident that will forever live in infamy), so fans who like some proper gore with their entertainment are definitely going to have to give this a shot. The set-up -- featuring a sad boy who is made less sad when he encounters a girl who looks exactly like his dead childhood friend -- doesn't really tell us much, so it's mainly the Elfen Lied pedigree that draws interest here. Studio Arms also did Wizard Barristers though, and after the travesty of justice that was Wizard Barristers 11, let's just hope that they manage their animation budget a little better this time around; it kind of defeats the purpose of gore if you can't see it. Brittany, our mistress of horror coverage, will be tackling this one, but of course. Mekaku City Actors [embed]31835:3730:0[/embed] Studio: Shaft (Nisekoi, Madoka Magica) Air Date: April 12 All the trailers for this show so far do that annoying thing where they just show still character artwork but make the camera zoom all over the damn place to try to fool you into thinking it's animated. Fortunately, since this is a Shaft project, we already have a pretty good idea what this show's going to look like: expect plenty of supposedly "normal" locations that actually look like they take place on an alien planet, or perhaps in some bizarre hell dimension where everyone's neck is triple-jointed. I've read like five summaries and I still don't quite get the concept of this show; supposedly it's based on a series of popular Vocaloid music videos. I mean, I know what all of those words mean individually, but what? Anyway, the story is about a guy who meets a magic vocaloid and gets magical powers...and is also an actor, I think? Then he and a team of actors use their new powers to fight, I don't know, Beyonce? This sounds like it has all the makings of a hot mess to me, unless it comes back around from the other direction and becomes fabulous. Chris missed his Shaft fix by forgetting that Nisekoi existed this season, so he's going to give Mekaku the old college try. Ping Pong The Animation [embed]32032:3736:0[/embed] Studio: Tatsunoko Productions (Gatchaman Crowds, Wake Up, Girls!) Air Date: April 10 This one is a bit of an oddity. A popular sports manga being tapped for an anime adaptation is certainly nothing new, but it's pretty unusual for a studio to go back and pick a manga from twenty or so years ago. Plus, it's being directed by Maasaki Yuasa of Tatami Galaxy fame, which means it's a sports anime with a really respected director at the helm. I've been hearing for years that Tatami Galaxy is a woefully unappreciated masterpiece, so I look forward to seeing what the guy can do with the story of a bunch of dudes playing ping pong; I should also go back and watch Tatami Galaxy already, but that's neither here nor there. Yuasa's trademark art style -- which many people consider ugly -- is on full display in the trailer, so it's possible the visuals may turn some viewers off right from the outset. However, as a card-carrying fan of Flowers of Evil, there is no anime with characters too ugly for me to get into! NONE! Ben, always quick on the draw when something with good critical buzz comes along, will be covering this to fill the hole in his life after Samurai Flamenco is over. Of course, we all know that nothing can truly replace Samurai Flamenco, but hey, that's not Ping Pong's fault. Black Bullet [embed]32032:3737:0[/embed] Studio: Kinema Citrus (Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, Yuyushiki) Air Date: April 8 In the year 2031, Tokyo still exists, and there are magical girls in it; there is also one dude with a gun, who interacts with the magical girls. There's some kind of magical virus at work, but it only affects females, and...honestly, this sounds like the most generic light novel adaptation ever and I'm having trouble mustering up the interest to even write a few sentences about it. That's not to say it's necessarily going to be bad, and in a moment of foolishness I agreed to cover it, so I hope it has something going for it. But it sounds like every other light novel that's been adapted in the last four years...that doesn't feature a bunch of people trapped in an MMO. Since I have nothing else to say about the show, let's talk about the song by fripside that's playing in the trailer: is it just me, or does every song that fripside has put out since Only My Railgun sound just like Only My Railgun, only not nearly as good? Discuss! Kenzen Robo Daimidaler (Daimidaler the Sound Robot) [embed]32032:3738:0[/embed] Studio: TNK (Ikkitousen: Xtreme Xecutor, High School DxD) Air Date: April 5 First of all, this show may have the most annoying website I have ever seen. I'm conflicted about Daimidaler; on the one hand, the villains are supposedly giant penguin robots, and I am all about giant penguin anything. However, the enemy mechs in the trailer don't actually look all that penguin-like and apparently, our protagonist powers his robot through lust and can only go into combat after groping a girl's soft bits...all brought to you by the studio responsible for Ikkitousen: Xtreme Xecutor. Is there any sentence in existence that inspires less confidence then "From the studio that brought you Ikkitousen: Xtreme Xecutor?" Not too many, I'm sure. I don't know if the alleged penguin motif can do anything to save this one, but there's always a chance it'll turn out to be wacky, self-parodying fun, so who knows. So far, no one has stepped up to the plate to cover this, but someone's going to have to check on it at some point to confirm whether or not the whole Penguin Empire thing is just a tease. Captain Earth [embed]32032:3739:0[/embed] Studio: BONES (Space Dandy, Noragami) Air Date: April 5 Listen to this premise: aliens from outer space come and attack, and a young boy must pilot a giant robot to fight them. C'mon BONES, are you even trying? At least put in something about how the robot can only be powered by his hormones/suppressed memories/cotton-poly blend jumpsuit! A dull premise, and to add insult to injury, the title led me to believe this was going to be some awesome Captain Planet redux, but alas. All that said, the trailer looks nice enough and Bones has been doing some good stuff lately -- like whenever an episode of Space Dandy has a decent script for them to animate. I'm still kind of mad at them for making No. 6, but that was years ago already and I have to let it go. Elliot needs some more mecha in his life so he'll be covering this one for us; I sincerely hope this show gives him the giant robot action he's looking for, and not just boys with beautiful, soulful eyes staring at each other endlessly...not that there's anything wrong with that. Ishuukan Friends (One Week Friends) [embed]32032:3741:0[/embed] Studio: Brains Base (My Little Monster, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU) Air Date: April 6 This is a 4koma adaptation, but instead of being all about girls just hanging out (or boys plotting during class like mad geniuses; still love you, Tonari no Seki-kun), it's seems to be a much more somber affair. Chronicling the story of a sad girl who loses her memories of her friends after only one week, and the boy who endeavors to be friends with her in spite of that, this might tick that box of "anime that makes me need a good cry" after Golden Time comes to an end. I don't know about you, but I've scoped out a perfectly good crying spot and I don't want to stop using it just because Banri and Koko are no longer making each other miserable on the regular. I'm curious how the pacing is going to work, because while I'm very familiar with how comedy 4koma stories translate into anime, this could be a different beast. Then again, just because it deals with chronic memory loss doesn't mean there can't be humor -- perhaps of the wistful and wry variety. If all else fails and this turns out to be a bust, I guess we can all just go watch The Notebook and bawl our eyes out. In any case, newcomer Dae Lee is on sobbing coverage duties. Hitsugi no Chaika (Chaika the Coffin Princess) [embed]32032:3740:0[/embed] Studio: BONES (Heroman, Captain Earth) Air Date: April 9 I have to admit, for all the magical girls out there, I haven't seen too many that are packing sniper rifles, so that's something Chaika immediately has going for it. We don't know much about this one except that the titular Chaika seems to be carrying a coffin on her back and pals around with a soldier, but my interest is piqued because the original light novel is written by Ichirō Sakaki, who recently penned Outbreak Company. He also wrote Scrapped Princess, which I know has its own contingent of fans, but I haven't seen it so I can't comment. But still, as little as we have to go on here, Outbreak Company showed us that even a flimsy premise can be made to work if it's written with the proper care. Apparently Sakaki wrote Hitsugi no Chaika before Outbreak Company though, and what little I've heard about the former light novels isn't too good, so I may be getting excited for nothing. Fortunately, Elliot is doubling down on his BONES coverage and will be able to let me know if this one turns out to be another pleasant surprise. Mahou Shojou Taisen (Magica Wars) Studio: Gainax (Stella Women's Academy, High School Division Class C3) Air Date: April 8 Now, this is interesting. This is a magical girl show starring 47, yes 47 magical girls, each one based on one of Japan's prefectures. The "create a magical girl based on your prefecture" project was undertaken by the TV show Otaku 2.5 Dimension, and all the girls have been designed by artists on Pixiv. To further cement the whole "local pride" thing, the girls are played by voice actresses who hail from each of their respective prefectures. Cute. What about the plot?, you ask. What kind of stupid question is that? Who even needs a plot? This show has 47 magical girls in it, do you even understand? I have no idea if this is actually going to work as an anime (and Gainax's recent track record has been less than stellar), but it's interesting as a design project if nothing else. Amber is going to be checking this one out to see if it really has 47 magical girls or if some of them are just palette-swaps, but I know I have to try at least an episode of this for myself just to see what it looks like. Selector Infected Wixoss [embed]32032:3744:0[/embed] Studio: JC Staff ( A Certain Scientific Railgun, Witch Craft Works) Air Date: April 4 Now this project is truly a strange witches' brew of concepts and staff. It's ostensibly about girls playing a magical card game, which makes you think it's going to be a cheerful and super-commercial kids show. But then you watch the trailer, and it's all dark, foreboding imagery with a hard-edged industrial soundtrack. On the creative side we have Takuya Satou, the director of Steins;Gate. I for one thought Steins;Gate was brilliant -- and not only because it has a semicolon in the title. But then we also have Mari Okada doing series composition, and her style is controversial to say the least. I don't hate her the way some otaku do, but I do think she's very uneven; Nagi no Asukara is pretty decent, but the Kenshin New Kyoto Arc OVA was absolutely god-awful. Based on the trailer and knowledge of Satou's involvement, I think this one has a lot of potential, but I'm only very cautiously optimistic; I'm sensing that this could become one of those anime that seems to have a zillion promising ideas thrown into a blender, but never really forms into a cohesive whole. I'm definitely going to give it a shot anyway, but regardless, L.B. will be delivering the verdict on this one. Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara (Once She's Flagged (?)) [embed]32032:3742:0[/embed] Studio: Hoods Entertainment (Fantasista Doll, Mysterious Girlfriend X) Air Date: April 7 The title translates to something like "Her flag has flipped over," but I've yet to see a proper English translation for this puppy yet, so I'm going with the snappier Once She's Flagged, which amuses me more than it probably should. I can only hope the sequels will be called Once She's Flagged Again and Once She's Flagged Xtreme Xecutor. This appears to be a harem anime where the twist is that the main character can see "flags" over the girls' heads, just as though he were playing a visual novel, only it's real life-- or, err, real life inside the anime. You know what I mean. I'm not confident this title will have much appeal beyond the cross-section of people who are already fans of both harem shows and visual novels, but hey, The World Only God Knows has achieved a fair amount of popularity, so its certainly not out of the question. I'm afraid this could end up being very boring, but unlike me, Brittany has no fear and has volunteered to cover this. Hey: how much do you want to bet the main dude spends the whole anime trying to save the tragic girl marked with the "death" flag? I will bet you an entire box of Pocky this is the case. Mangaka-san to Assistant-san (The Comic Artist and His Assistants) [embed]32032:3746:0[/embed] Studio: Zexcs (The Legend of the Legendary Heroes, Mushi-shi, Chu-Bra!!) Air Date: April 8 Hey, this is by Zexcs, the studio that did Chu-Bra!! Yaaay! I realize I'm the only one in the world who's excited by that, so I should mention that they also do Mushi-shi. This is based on a 4Koma about a plucky comic artist and his beautiful assistants; I don't know why he has so many beautiful assistants, but apparently he does. He wants to draw sexy times in his manga, and they're willing to model for him to help him draw sexy times, but how far will they go? And is his manga any good? Honestly, this could be the lamest comedy ever and I would probably still enjoy it, just because I love comics and I love shows about people making comics. Still, I hope the humor actually has to do with manga, and it's not just a typical harem/sex comedy that happens to take place in an office with piles of drawings and ink pens around. I'm covering this one, needless to say. Akuma no Riddle (Riddle Story of the Devil) Studio: Diomedia (Gingitsune, Astalotte's Toy) Air Date: April 4 Diomedia is in my good books for animating Gingitsune, everyone's favorite coming of age story about divine fox heralds and the cozy little shrine they live in. As a follow up, the studio is taking on Akuma no Riddle, which is about...a whole bunch of teenaged girl assassins killing each other to death. Well, never let it be said that Diomedia doesn't have some range. The two main female characters fall in love, but it remains to be seen whether this show has some serious yuri vibes going on or if the love affair is just a minor distraction from the murder and mayhem. See, now I'm imagining Sakura Trick, only full of vicious career killers who also happen to be adorable schoolgirl lesbians; that's probably not what this show's going to be like, but it sounds awesome, so I can dream. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen what any of this has to do with the Devil or riddles; maybe L.B. can tell us after he checks this one out. Haikyuu!! Studio: Production I.G. (Eden of the East, Kuroko's Basketball) Air Date: April 6 Another sports anime, only this time the sport of choice is volleyball. Recent seasons have brought us baseball and basketball anime, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before this sport got its day in the sun. Somewhere out there is an otaku who loves playing volleyball, and for them, this anime will represent a wonderful convergence of interests; however, I am not that person. I never want to write anything off, since you never know what series may end up holding surprises, but this is a sports anime based on a Shonen Jump manga; if you've ever seen one of those, you probably already know what to expect. No one jumped up to claim this (sigh), but eventually someone will have to give in to the urge to post screenshots displaying witty dialogue like "I love the way you handle balls," and it will be covered. Question: if these sports anime keep proliferating like rabbits, when am I going to get a good figure skating anime? It's gotta happen, right? Atelier Escha and Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky Studio: Studio Gokumi (The Ambition of Oda Nobuna, The Severing Crime Edge) Air Date: April 10 I really think they should have just dubbed this series Alchemists of the Dusk Sky and left well enough alone. Or how about just Alchemist Dusk? That's actually kind of catchy. I've never played any of the Atelier series of games, even though the combination of grinding and item crafting via alchemy sounds right up my alley. I'm really just afraid I'll get super-addicted and end up putting 600 hours into Atelier Cream Pastry, or whatever the latest game in the series is called. Maybe with this adaptation I can dip my toe into the world of Atelier without my OCD kicking in big time. Something tells me that the item-synthesis based gameplay of Atelier may not translate that well to a television show; I'm sensing there are going to be a lot of talking heads here. Still, if the art on the show looks anything like the game then it's at least worth checking out, because Atelier has a really pretty, classy, style that I'd like to see more of. No one's volunteered for this yet, but I'll probably drop in to Duskland to see if this anime with the convoluted title has anything new to bring to the table. Kamigami no Asobi: Ludere deorum (Tricks of the Gods) Studio: Brains Base (Blood Lad, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU) Air Date: April 5 Here's another one of those reverse harem shows about a gaggle of absolutely gorgeous guys romancing one lady on an idyllic, palatial academic campus. However, this show one-ups other reverse harems by making the handsome heroes literal gods; heroine Yui has been appointed, by no less than Zeus himself, to teach young gods about love. I kind of like the fact that they skipped the pretense of making the guys in any way human/realistic. Usually the "romance" in these shows is pretty tame, but there's a sick little part of me that's kind of hoping this show will go all Fifty Shades of Grey on us out of nowhere. Then the internet can go nuts having arguments about whether or not Yui is able to consent to sex with angels, or if they are just so eminently desirable that she has no agency, or something. C'mon, Tricks of the Gods! Get all weird and perverse on us so someone will actually remember this show a few months from now! Surprise genre-switching notwithstanding, I doubt that this show is going to appeal to anyone who wouldn't normally watch a reverse-harem, but maybe the whole divine backdrop will add some points of interest we haven't seen before. If nothing else, it could be a gift from the gods to sustain rabid Uta No Prince-Sama fans until that show returns in 2015.   So, that's a lot of shows to look forward to. Obviously, there's more anime slated to air this season that isn't covered in this guide; we just picked what we felt were by far the highest-profile shows that carry the greatest expectations, plus a few personal picks. Still, there's some anticipated sequels on the way (Date a Live II, Love Live II, plus the return of Fairy Tail) and plenty of other titles to consider. Tell us: what are YOU watching this season? Besides Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, obviously.
Spring Preview photo
Oh, all the series we will watch
Spring hasn't really sprung for me in my neck of the woods yet, but it's officially the season of flower buds and abundant sunshine, no matter what my thermostat says. Fortunately, even if I have to wait a while for warm, bea...

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