Final Impressions: Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma

Oct 07 // Nick Valdez
Leading into the finale, the Autumn Election preliminaries were nearly over. Group B finished their turn and Alice Nakiri, Arato Hisako, Takumi Aldini, and Megumi Tadakoro are the first four to advance to the actual competition. When we last left Group A, Ryo Kurokiba made his mark by taking first place with 93 points and the rest of the Polar Star dorm, while good, struggled to reach that height. At episode's end Akira Hayama stepped up to serve his dish,  weird curry souffle looking thing that spewed all sorts of tantalizing scents when punctured (that he called a "fragrance bomb"). And with the finale, we learn why it's so effective. Thanks to a mix of holy basil and yogurt (to balance out its pungent nature) his curry throws the judges for a loop. After some reaction shenanigans, they give his dish 94 points, with two of the judges giving a max score of 20 (it's important to note the spread was 18/20/18/20/18). But right as Akira was celebrating his win, Soma revealed that he too worked on a "fragrance bomb" type of meal.  Learning from his past losses and mistakes (such as losing to his Dad a few episodes back and nearly failing the buffet task with his omelets during the boot camp), Soma slyly combines the two efforts as a way to get back at his past self. Serving curry rice inside of an omelette pocket, he's managed to learn all about spice from the few days he learned about curry from Akira. Like how Akira balanced his spice with yogurt, Soma made a mango chutney in order to give it a bit of sweetness. Unfortunately, the dish wasn't enough to earn the top spot and Soma nets 93 points. But three of the judges rated his dish higher than Akira's, however (so it's 19/18/19/18/19) thus deepening their rivalry. That brings Group A to a close, and seven students are confirmed for the finals. Then the kids all celebrate, though Soma vows to work harder in order to claim victory. There's an eighth student to be revealed later (though the episode doesn't say this), and he's such a huge part of the semifinals, I'm sure they're saving his reveal for the next season. If there is one.  Although I had a lot of fun with the series overall, I'm pretty worried about the future of the show. Community members MSJ and RoboYuji pointed out that my complaint of cutting everything short was unfounded, and I'll admit that I didn't consider that the show would need filler in order to give the manga time to get further ahead. I'd hate to see what a filler arc would like since the official filler here (whatever the heck the "Karaage Wars" was) was pretty garbage. But since the manga has gone far past the Autumn Elections already (and has a more natural endpoint) it feels like we've been shafted since we're cut off before the actual fun of the show starts. But then again, that's just me being greedy. I just like the premise so much, I wanted more of it. I mean, what's the point of having two completely different title sequences if you're going to cut it off now?  There are bigger elements at play here since the show most likely didn't have the biggest audience (and a sequel season rests entirely with secondary sales), it's been rife with budget problems from the get go (as lots of shortcuts were taken with the animation and sound design was particularly spotty early on), but the property's so much fun. It just feels like Food Wars is ending right when it hit its groove.  But given my biggest problem with Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma was there wasn't enough of it, I guess it wasn't so bad after all. 
Final Food Wars  photo
"Happy to serve!"
I first found Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma through manga. Although I fell out of touch with the anime for several years, I've been periodically reading manga through that time. One of my favorites turned out to be Food W...

First Impressions: Heavy Object

Oct 07 // Josh Tolentino
The first five minutes of Heavy Object's opening episode are enough to hang out the "military otaku only" sign, with a barrage of exposition about how, even though it's the future, people just can't stop fighting. This is backgrounded by fancy sci-fi imagery of laser-propelled space shuttles getting blown out of the sky by missiles, and warships and planes launching explosive strikes.  All of that gets eclipsed by the arrival of the first "Object", a giant ball-shaped war machine that gets nuked on its very first day in combat, and still comes out swinging, annihilating the attacking army. From then on, war changes into an Object-oriented arms race, with the world's power blocs competing to get their own Objects, and using the invincible weapons as the centerpiece of all future battlefield action. Virtually all other materiel becomes obsolete, with entire battles decided by a duel between two Objects, with few casualties on either side. Wars become "clean" thanks to the dominance of a single category of weapon. This new battlefield dynamic affects every up and down the chain, which is where the lead characters - the hilariously named Qwenthur and Havia - come in. They're just two grunts, relegated to shoveling snow in Alaska, maintaining an airbase no one will use while Objects are in play. Qwenthur wants to become an Object engineer, and seems to have struck up a friendship of sorts with their local Object's pilot, a blonde loli referred to only as "The Princess". Havia's serving thanks to pressure from his noble family. Both are at the bottom of the totem pole, as ground troops are obsolete in the face of Object-based warfare. It's an interesting premise to start from, not least because the Objects themselves are about as far as possible as one can get from the stereotypical image of Japanese mecha. They're literally giant balls of armor covered in guns, like some demented fan of Gundam's RB-79 Ball took control of the boardroom at J.C. Staff when the time came to decide which shows to animate. It's also got a somewhat interesting angle going for it. After all, it's a rare war story that focuses on the characters who get "left behind" at the rear line. Then again, any military otaku worth his MREs would know that the very notion of war being "clean" and things as fundamental as infantry being outmoded by what is essentially a gigantic tank is preposterous, even for anime. Knowing that, the most likely scenario is our seeing Heavy Object's plot aim to poke holes in its own presumptions, that war can be just as hellish from the cockpit of a 50-meter death ball as it is in the trenches. Well, that's the hope at least. If nothing else, the episode ends on something of a down note, with Qwenthur staring at the shattered remains of The Princess' Object, dreading the prospect of having to fight the enemy Object without backup. That's no picnic, and seeing how he and his deal with the challenge should set the tone for the rest of the show. [Check out Heavy Object's simulcast on FUNimation!]    
A Weighty Topic
Stop me if you've heard this before, but this show is about a piece of military hardware, invented at some undetermined time in the future, that changes the very nature of warfare forever. Practically invincible on the battle...

First Impressions: Owarimonogatari

Oct 06 // Anthony Redgrave
It's a jump back in the timeline from Hanamonogatari and a jump forward since Tsukimonogatari as we join our favourite half vampire Koyomi Araragi still enjoying his days as a high school student. The audience is launched straight into the episode with talk about a Euler's identity and how it is the most amazing mathematic formula ever made. It's plucked straight out of a textbook and would put anyone to sleep if this weren't Monogatari. Taking an abstract concept and linking it into the story in a tangential way to make it seem smarter forms the basis of the Monogatari story telling style. Lots of discussion over different things made entertaining because of the visuals and sharp writing. The first few minutes of this show is a great litmus test to see if Monogatari is a series you can put up with, if not then I suggest Nekomonogatari since that's got a lot of Tsubasa Hanekawa fanservice. The bulk of the episode is a locked room mystery that spirals into a whodunit mystery with color commentary provided by Araragi in his nonchalant style and the mysterious belle du jour Ougi Oshino piping in with probing questions. Araragi's interactions with the different girls of the series is a highlight as he has a totally different dynamic with each of them; overly nice to Hanekawa, on edge with Senjougahara, and tough with his sisters. It's interesting to see him interact more with a character that isn't played off as sexualised. There are far less panty, chest, and poses from Ougi and more on her interaction with Araragi. Ougi is a mysterious character and sometimes we question whether she is a female. The ambiguous nature of Ougi in the story is complemented by her androgynous character design. Always appearing sounding like she's one step ahead of Araragi, her demeanor puts us on edge as she probes Araragi through the mystery.  Since 90% of the episode is spent in a classroom trying to solve a mystery the writing and art have to be on point to keep the episode from dragging. The plot does move along at a steady pace and doesn't linger too long at any one point or repeat/ reiterate the same point over and over. In fact, little is needed to be repeated as the writing and dialogue are at a pace where the story is always moving forward. Viewers not accustomed to this steady stream of words may find a new best friend in the pause button as even seasoned Monogatari veterans like myself still needed to tap the pause more than once to keep up. Throughout the series, the focus has always been on the girls and their oddities. Each oddity effects one girl and Araragi is often the man to guide them through their troubles, but we know very little about the man. Despite having Ougi as the main female lead, it is Araragi who is in the spotlight for character development and this is very welcome addition into the series. We may still have to wait until 2018 for Kizumonogatari, but this provides a deeper understanding on the half vampire lead.  I mentioned before that pausing the episode to catch up with the rapid fire text is a requirement, but it's not just to understand the story. It's to fully appreciate the art direction and cinematography of the episode. An empty classroom as a background can be monotonous especially to those of us that have gone through 18 years of schooling, coupled that with endless streams of dialogue it may be a one-way ticket to snore town USA. But Shaft has the alchemic ability to change these mundane environments into a visual ecstasy. The color schemes of the room are always changing, matching the mood and beat of the plot making the objects pop with contrasting colours and making backgrounds ooze with character. A key scene midway through the episode as chaos erupts in the classroom as it's filled with silhouettes and clashes of chairs and tables. It's effective in conveying the absolute carnage happening in the room despite the verbal debate reality. Another really cool visual was how it represented the other classmates as floating kanji. It's a really smart way of conveying the sense of bizarreness that comes with oddities in Monogatari and also a way of cutting down on designing characters.  The big reveal at the end of the episode was fairly predictable and it's nice to see Tsubasa making another appearance. If I could criticise this episode it would be that there was a lack of comedy throughout. It was a serious episode with little to no gags. I hear that Ougi Oshino will be the main antagonist throughout this season and I can't wait to see how that pans out. She treads the line between welcomingly cute and disturbingly intense at the flip of a switch.  [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!]
Monogatari photo
The return of Arararararararararararagi
Like Christmas, Halloween, and other holidays that I like to celebrate maybe once or twice a year and the same holds true for the release schedule of the Monogatari series. Last year's holiday season brought the four-par...

Final Impressions: MY Love STORY!!

Oct 06 // Nick Valdez
Leading into the finale, Yamato got herself a part time job at a bakery over spring break, hoping that she'd be able to pick up some tricks of the trade. But much to Takeo's chagrin, the head patisserie Ichinose (who, as the show likes to point out, has all the qualities of a traditional shoujo protagonist) has a crush on her and vows to Takeo that he'll tell her after taking first place at his big baking competition. So Takeo spends the first half of the final episode dejected, and this is entirely a new feeling for Takeo. As he questions whether or not he should actually be with Yamato, he gets steady reassurance from all of their friends that Yamato chose to date him because he's so great. And it's not like the audience needed reassurance as we've seen his greatness throughout the entire series. It completely makes sense for the kind hearted (but not completely pure hearted, as I'll discuss later) Yamato to fall in love with Takeo, a guy who'd happily sacrifice his own well being to help someone else find happiness. And that's put to the test here in the finale, as well.  When Ichinose realizes he's forgotten his baking tools, Yamato asks Takeo for help. Being the big goof that he is, he runs all the way to the bakery and to the contest without a second thought (only reflecting on helping Ichinose win after all the craziness settles), catching Ichinose by surprise. After Ichinose wins, he confesses to Yamato (right in front of Takeo like a damn goob) but Yamato rightfully turns him down. She explains that she's never really felt the same way (thus clearing up the only major problem with this beat as we never really know what she's thinking during all of this) and genuinely loves Takeo. After some loving awkwardness, Takeo calls Yamato by her first name, Rinko, and the two clumsily shuffle off into the future.  I didn't enjoy this final arc since it was the first time it was about Takeo alone, rather than the two working out relationship stuff, but I won't really let it hinder my enjoyment of the overall package. As community member John Seiler helped point out, this show is one of the few available that reveals different types of love. My Love Story!! is technically everyone's love story as I'm sure there's any type of relationship you can cling to. There's the fast developing Kurihara and Nanako, the already established of Takeo's parents, the teacher student dynamic between Saijou and Takeo, the crippling shyness leading to idolization between Yukika and Sunakawa, the unrequited love of Suna's sister and her admirer, and the nearly asexual Sunakawa who just wants to avoid all of that together. While the focus is given to Takeo and Yamato's central relationship, we're always given little peeks into these outside loves so no one feels left out. And it's all just so it hammers the main message home, that there's never one right way to love.  My Love Story!! felt more personal than not, because for the first time, I legitimately felt that a show was trying to tell my story. As a towering man of 6'3 and 300 pounds, any girl I've ever been interested in has been smaller than me so I know all too well what Takeo went through. His awkwardness that made him stand out from his friends, his inability to believe that someone would actually have feelings for him, and being so hilariously inept at relationships that he couldn't figure out how much Yamato wanted to take their relationship further. That's also a great part of this series too. Although Yamato's meek demeanor would perceive otherwise, she's always been the more active one. You'd expect her to be fall into the shoujo traps of the "pure hearted maiden," but that hilariously went to Takeo. Neither character ever acted the way they were expected to, and that's what makes a great watch.  Couple that with the show's use of color, outrageous reactions to things (as Takeo's many faces and forms led to quite a few laughs), and its ability to hit that sweet spot of romance and comedy on more than on occasion, My Love Story!! was the best anime of the Spring and Summer seasons. It's a love story everyone'll love. 
Final Love STORY photo
"Suki da"
Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, as I'm sure I've said this in the past, but I'm a sucker for good romantic comedies. While there isn't exactly a big list of films I could point to, there are definitely a boatloa...

First Impressions: Attack on Titan: Junior High episode 1

Oct 05 // Soul Tsukino
AOT: Junior High was first produced as a comedy parody spinoff manga that got many  people's attention for being the exact opposite of what AOT was known for. It's silly, adorable, and made for a zany side series. Could the anime version do the same? Right off the bat you know something is different when you see the familiar opening, only with more cute chibified characters with big heads standing in a stark field covered in blood. However that is only a bad dream as the main character of this series, Erin, wakes up in a field with his friends during lunch break.  That scene right there was a cute little nod that this was not the original series. We get to follow Erin, Mikasa, and all their friends as they go to the first day of Junior High. Gone is the start quasi-European world of a walled-in village and we are taken to modern (if made extremely adorable) Japan. We get introduced to more of Erin's friends like the eating machine Sasha, the friendly Christa and her over protective friend Ymir, along with Jean, who seems to be Erin's foil for the series. We also get introduced to the titans, who go to the school next door. Oh, These titans are hungry all right! But their tastes in this series tend to be a little more benign. This series is not here to make you think, it's here to make you laugh. It's a silly comedy show much in the vein of Puni Puni Poemy or The Adventures of Haruhi-chan. Although it's hard to tell how deep the writing will be from just the first episode, it seems that this show uses a lot of sight gags and spoofing of anime troupes, including poking fun at its own source series, for its humor. While that kind of humor may not play to some. I think this show is hilarious! For fans of the original material, you will get a laugh of just how adorably reimagined your favorite characters are in this series. For those of you that aren't familiar with attack on Titan can still enjoy the series as it does a good job at introducing the characters and the things they do are so silly, you won't need to have a prior knowledge of things when watching this to enjoy it. Attack on Titan is currently streaming on Hulu and Funimation's website, so go ahead and check it out!   AOT: Junior High was first produced as a comedy parody spinoff manga that got many  people's attention for being the exact opposite of what AOT was known for. It's silly, adorable, and made for a zany side series. Could the anime version do the same?
Attack on Titan: Jr. High photo
The D'awww will eat you alive!
Attack on Titan is one of those series that it doesn't matter what they do, people pay attention to it. The graphically violent and gruesome series shot to popularity first as a manga and then as an anime series. Soon all kin...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 712

Oct 05 // Anthony Redgrave
At the end of the last episode, Gladius had unleashed his master plan of blowing up everything around him including his "elite" henchmen in hopes of destroying Cavendish in a move he calls Punc Rock Fest. The misspelling was a tactical one as Oda doesn't want to piss off the real Punks of Japan. The blonde swordsman just barely survives as he is let into Bartolomeo's barrier in the nick of time. As always Bartolomeo is the source of absolute joy in whatever episode he is in, fanboying out at any Straw Hat interaction and acting like an asshole to anyone that doesn't fly under the Straw Hat flag. Dellinger continues to beat the ever loving crap out of one of the more forgettable gladiators Ideo despite his excessively long arms. I think every other gladiator landed one blow at least against their executive except this guy despite fighting pretty well in the coliseum. Angered by his determination, Dellinger reveals his true form as a Fighting Fish Fishman and promptly delivers the first scare of the episode. His child-like appearance and personality with a psychotic smile attached was already quite un-nerving for me to witness in combat. Adding in a transformation that makes Hody Jones and Arlong look like pussies is absolutely terrifying. The cut to red eyes surrounded by darkness was a bit too over dramatic for a show like this, especially when considering what happens later.  Robin continues her ascent towards the Flower Fields to Rebecca's location being covered from below by Bartolomeo. Her running animation looks bad. It looks like they had forgotten to add the in between frames leaving only the keyframes. The result is her moving very awkwardly compared to the how everything else moves in the show. This episode has the signature budget look of the modern One Piece episode as looking past the foreground will reveal a lack of production quality. Flat and undetailed characters that only vaguely look like the character they are representing based on their shape and colour to distinguish themselves from blending into the generic background characters is a common sight in this episode. In a sight gag of Bartolomeo fanboying out over Robin, there is a college of pictures featuring the mature lady. Unfortunately, the college makes her look more masculine and angry compared to the subtle wry smile of the mysterious tall beauty. Nico Robin is one of the hottest females in One Piece and this joke did not show off her good side.  Dellinger, after disposing of Ideo arrives to see Bartolomeo in his barrier, Gladius ordering Dellinger to retreat, and all their henchman cut to ribbons. Cavendish speed line appears and disappears with only glimpses of his face. Some good camera angles are used to obscure his face to add an extra creepy element to the whole scene. This would have caught me completely off guard if it weren't for the handy flashback prompting me to remember his brief transformation in the ring. Dellinger is attacked by the manic Cavendish and is downed without putting up a fight. It's a wasted opportunity for us to finally see Dellinger's final transformation only to have him defeated in the same episode.  The episode concludes with Cavendish attacking Nico Robin making us fear her safety. There are some days where Nico Robin lives up to her name as the Demon Child and at other times she doesn't get even get into any fights or worse she is useless like in Pirate Warriors. In this case, she is able to apprehend the crazed swordsman ending the episode with her trademark coolness. More of this Robin, please! [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
One Scary Piece
I'm not too sure if Toei planned it to coincide with the month of Halloween, but this episode is scarier than the whole of the Thriller Bark Arc. Yep, the arc that is devoted to all things creepy and ghouly was showed up by an episode in the Dressrosa arc. I'd watch this episode with the lights on and when the little ones are already tucked into bed.

Final Impressions: School-Live!

Oct 05 // Nick Valdez
When we last left the School Living Club, they were caught in quite a predicament. As zombies flooded the school, the four were separated and feeling pretty hopeless. Yuri was dealing with an infected Kurumi and whether or not she had to kill her, Miki was trapped in the basement after tracking down a possible vaccine, and Yuki was trying to fight her way through the school after finally breaking out of her delusion and coming to grips with losing her teacher, Megu-nee. When Yuki reaches the school's broadcasting room, she's nearly attacking by zombies herself before zombie Taroumaru comes to her rescue. When she realizes the zombies still retain some of their memories (and as evident from the last episode when zombie Megu-nee is seen writing the girls' names), she broadcasts that school is out of session and all the students are to return home. And this surprisingly works! As the zombies clear out, Miki is able to vaccinate both Kurumi and Taroumaru. Unfortunately, Taroumaru's been sick for too long so he loses his life in his weakened state (but after giving Miki some closure). I've never been good with dog death in media, so this hit me pretty hard. I know it's a cartoon and all, but he was such a cute puppy!  When the girls realize the school's no longer habitable after the attack (as the generators have been fried and most of the building has been damaged by fire), they decide to leave the school toward either a university or corporate building. Either way, the girls know that the people they deal with may not be friendly. But before all of that, to bring closure to this chapter in their lives, the girls hold a makeshift graduation ceremony and it's the most heartfelt scene of the series. I guess it's because I fell so hard for the premise (and it admittedly won't appeal to everyone in the same way since I'm so fond of cutesy things), but it as great seeing the girls finally grow up. Just like a real graduation into the real world, these girls have finally accepted that their lives have changed. There's no longer a lingering grief over the past, and each of the girls have accepted their own flaws. That's a major part of growing up, and the show absolutely nailed it. The greatest thing is the show didn't have to directly say all of this. Through silent moments and great art effects that truly show how much these girls' optimism clashes with the world's darkness, the finale brings a sense of closure to the viewer as well.  But looking at the episode's ending tag, there's more planned for these girls. I'm just not sure if I want more of this. This graduation episode brought everything full circle and tied up most of the loose ends (including the fate of Miki's lost friend, Kei), but I'm not sure I care about the rest of the stuff still open. For example, one of the bigger things is probably going to be investigating how much their high school knew about the pandemic beforehand and potentially finding a cure, but that's like so much generic stuff out there already. At this point, I'm content with what we've gotten. From the opening episode, this show's been building up to a end with its tight, twelve episode arc. The girls got a happy-ish ending with one of those "driving into the future" closers, the opening theme was reused for the final scene (as is expected from an anime finale), and lots of the tricks it employed here (like the surprising clash between its bright colors and dark monsters or its slowly changing opening credits sequence) won't hit as well the second time.  School-Live! was compelling, interesting, and most importantly unique. If it ever does get that second season, it'll be ruining what makes it so special. There's nothing else out there like it right now, and it should stay that way. 
Final School-Live! photo
I hope you had the time of your life
School-Live! (or Gakkou Gurashi!) nearly slipped under the radar. If you had no idea of the more sinister plot afoot, you'd probably skip the series thinking it's yet another show about four young girls doing young girl thing...

Indivisible photo

Indivisible Indie GoGo Campaign Launched

From the makers of Skullgirls
Oct 05
// Anthony Redgrave
Before people start rolling their eyes at another post about a crowd-funded game needing backers, listen to me. These guys know what they're doing and they've gone through development hell with their last game and came out o...

Final Impressions: Garo: Gold Storm Soar

Oct 05 // Salvador GRodiles
When you look at the big picture, it makes sense that Garo: Gold Storm Soar was going to have the heroes win earlier than before. Not that it’s a bad thing, as the show has been doing a great job in handling the segments that made way for Zinga becoming the owner of Ladan. Since each episode served its own purpose, the whole thing didn’t feel like it was rushed. One moment, Ryuga and the gang are trying to save Rian. Then we see them get ready to confront the show’s main adversaries in a fight that’ll determine the fate of humanity. Also, we had a scene with a guy protecting the city with a massive magical electric guitar; therefore making this finale an exciting moment for the series. Compare to Garo: The One Who Shines in the Darkness’ Zedom battle, the staff pulled no punches with Ladan’s designs, as we’re treated to a giant castle with Gothic architecture that’s fused with a grim reaper. All in all, it managed to recapture the magic that makes from the franchise’s final fights worthwhile, which shows that they were able to make it up to the viewers for how they used the program’s budget in the third installment. Even though Ryuga didn’t get a one-time Super Form, it was still cool to see his use his Dark Armor again. If anything, this probably makes him the second Makai Knight in the Garo toku franchise to be able to fly. Again, the staff’s decision to bring back this design was a fine way to give folks the suit that they missed out on during the series’ third installment. In a way, it almost cancels out the lack of him having a special transformation that’s exclusive to this installment. I guess the giant Garo that's made of people's lifeforce counts as something too, so there's that. If there was one issue to be had with the show’s resolution, it’s that we didn’t get a proper closing to the cast’s story. Yes, the city was saved and everyone went back to their normal lives, but I felt that we were deprived of a proper closure to Ryuga and Rian’s relationship. Then again, you have to give the show some props for having the girl focus on her other priorities, which implied that she’s saving her big move after she accomplishes her dream— especially with the way how the two main characters interacted towards the end. Come to think of it, Gold Storm Soar's ending was almost similar to the original series. Our heroes walk off into the horizon while they prepare for their next journey. In the end, this segment tends to work well since a Makai Knight and Priest’s job never ends. As long as people with malevolent intent exist in our world, the Horrors will continue to terrorize society. When this happens, the Makai Knights and Priest will always be there to protect the planet’s citizens from their danger. That being said, it might be a while before Ryuga and Rian’s journey ends, so there’s a chance that they could return in a new series, special, or movie. Part of the thing that made the series fun was how each episode slowly unraveled the mystery behind Zinga and Amiri’s plans for awakening Ladan. Even though it was obvious that they were meant to be a Ryuga and Rian’s evil opposites, the Destroyer of Worlds alone was enough to make the bad side interesting. Whether it’s his psychotic expressions or his tendency to taunt his opponents, Masahiro Inoue nailed his role well in Gold Storm Soar. At the same time, it shows how much he’s evolved from when he played as Tsukasa/Decade from Kamen Rider Decade. While Garo: Gold Storm Soar’s quality felt like a step down from Garo: Makai no Hana, the series somehow showed us that it had what it took to dominate the spring and summer season. The small amount of Horrors-of-the-Week comprised of people in creepy suits may have been smaller than its preceding live-action installment, but there was still a great amount of variety between the CG creatures and the costumed ones. That and we had not one but two Makai Knights that weren’t 3D models, which is a step in the right direction. Because of these elements, this shows that the franchise is at its best when its creator, Keita Amemiya, is part of the show’s staff; otherwise, the team might have issues if they’re working with a smaller budget than usual. Of course, the only downside of this scenario is that in exchange for the guy being involved with the franchise, Amemiya ends up being stuck in the Garo loop again. Hopefully, there'll come a time when the staff could pull off a great show without his involvement. That way, he could focus on his own projects— just like the time when he worked on Shougeki Gouraigan. Since the first Garo anime did well without his supervision, the tokusatsu side of the franchise might achieve this goal one day. At the end of the day, I think it's safe to say that this year’s live-action Garo installment was still a fine treat for fans of the franchise. Considering that Sho Aikawa (Kamen Rider Decade and Eureka Seven AO's Writer) and Toshiki Inoue (Kamen Rider 555 and Kamen Rider the First's Writer) are part of the second Garo anime's staff, this is a sign that it’ll be a disaster. On a more positive note, we can rest assure that Garo: Gold Storm Soar left us on a good note; therefore leaving us satisfied until the next set of Garo-related goodies. When you look at the big picture, it makes sense that Garo: Gold Storm Soar was going to have the heroes win earlier than before. Not that it’s a bad thing, as the shows been doing a great job in handling the segments that made way for Zinga becoming the owner of Ladan. Since each episode served its own purpose, the whole thing didn’t feel like it was rushed. One moment, Ryuga and the gang are trying to save Rian. Then we see them get ready to confront the show’s main adversaries in a fight that’ll determine the fate of humanity. Also, we had a scene with a guy protecting the city with a massive magical electric guitar; therefore making this finale an exciting moment for the program. Compare to Garo: The One Who Shines in the Darkness’ Zedom battle, the staff pulled no punches with Ladan’s designs, as we’re treated to a giant castle with Gothic architecture that’s fused with a grim reaper. All in all, it managed to recapture the magic that comes from the franchise’s final fights, which shows that they were able to make it up to the viewers for how they used the series’ budget. Even though Ryuga didn’t get a one-time Super Form, it was still cool to see his use his Dark Armor again. If anything, this probably makes him the second Makai Knight in the Garo toku franchise to be able to fly. Again, the staff’s decision to bring back this design was a fine way to give folks the suit that they missed out on during the series’ third installment. In a way, it almost cancels out the lack of him having a special transformation that’s exclusive to this installment. If there was one issue to be had with the show’s resolution, it’s that we didn’t get a proper closing to the cast’s story. Yes, the city was saved and everyone went back to their normal lives, but I felt that we were deprived of a proper closure to Ryuga and Rian’s relationship. Then again, you have to give the show some props for having the girl focus on her other priorities, which implied that she’s saving her big move after she accomplishes her dream— especially with the way how the two main characters interacted towards the end. Come to think of it, Gold Storm Soar almost ended like the original series. Our heroes walk off into the horizon while they prepare for their next journey. I guess this segment is perfect since a Makai Knight and Priest’s job is never over. As long as people with malevolent intent exist in our world, the Horrors will continue to terrorize society. When this happens, the Makai Knights and Priest will always be there to protect the planet’s citizens from their danger. That being said, it might be a while before Ryuga and Rian’s journey ends, so there’s a chance that they could return in a new series, special, or movie. If not, then we can still rest assure that Gold Storm Soar ended on a fine note for the entire cast, which resulted in a great year for the franchise. Part of the thing that made the series fun was how each episode slowly unraveled the mystery behind Zinga and Amiri’s plans for awakening Ladan. Even though it was obvious that they were meant to be a Ryuga and Rian’s evil opposites, the Destroyer of Worlds alone was enough to make the bad side interesting. Whether it’s his psychotic expressions or his tendency to taunt his opponents, Masahiro Inoue nailed his role well in Gold Storm Soar. At the same time, it shows how much he’s evolved from when he played as Tsukasa/Decade from Kamen Rider Decade. While Garo: Gold Storm Soar’s quality felt like a step down from Garo: Makai no Hana, the series somehow showed us that it had what it took to dominate the spring and summer season. The small amount of Horrors-of-the-Week comprised of people in creepy suits may’ve been smaller than its preceding live-action installment, but there was still a great amount of variety between the CG creatures and the costumed ones. That and we had not one but two Makai Knights that weren’t 3D models, which is a step in the right direction. Because of these elements, this shows that the franchise is at its best when its creator, Keita Amemiya is involve is part of the show’s staff; otherwise, the team might have issues if they’re working with a smaller budget than usual. Since the latest Ryuga series was an improvement over the third Garo TV show, this year’s live-action installment was still a fine treat for fans of the franchise. If the second Garo anime’s writing staff is a sign that it’ll be a disappointing title for the brand, the viewers can rest assure that Garo: Gold Storm Soar left us on a good note. 
Garo: Gold Storm Soar photo
It never hurts to smile
Have you ever had that feeling where a show that you’re keeping up with ends sooner than expected? In my case, it feels stranger for the latest Garo toku series to end at episode 23, since each installment of the franch...

First Impressions: One Punch Man episode 1

Oct 04 // Josh Tolentino
Just in case the title isn't explanatory enough for you, One Punch Man follows the exploits of Saitama, a hero who's trained so hard he's gone bald, and as a result, he's become too powerful; any fight he gets into is ended as soon as he takes a swing, his enemy left as nothing more than a stain on his gloves. To prove the point, this first episode lines up a parade of epic villain knockoffs for Saitama to knock off, from a blue Piccolo to an off-brand Colossal Titan. Fans familiar with the manga will see the first chapter recreated almost to the panel, which given how well-regarded the art is, is generally a good thing. I might be understating things here, because the show looks really, really good. Some might not be too fond of some of the more loose-looking characters in a couple of scenes, with Gainax-esque deformation most apparent during the not-Titan fight, but it's clear that MADHOUSE has spent a lot of time and care making both the static frames and the movement as splendid-looking as possible.  Another thing I may be understating is the quality of the storytelling in general. Though the premise is as simple as they come, and the central conceit/problem of a "guy that's too powerful" is about as old as Superman himself, the story excels in evoking the emotions behind it all. The episode (and the source it's based on) really manages to capture Saitama's boredom at being invincible, and you actually feel sorry for him when the one thing he wants in the world - a worthy challenge - comes to him only in dreams.  The anime also finds time to elaborate on it slightly, with some original scenes and effective visual gags. One that stuck with me, in particular, was seeing Saitama fumbling with change in line at the grocery while a monster stepped nearby, taking off the roof and turning darkness into daylight. It's an effective way of showing the scale of the monster while taking advantage of the animated medium. If there's a true point of concern here, it's that the show may not be able to keep this kind of work up for the whole run. But that's a worry for next week. [Watch One Punch Man on and!]    
One Punch Man photo
Done In One...Punch
One Punch Man is easily the most anticipated anime series of this Fall, and for good reason. ONE and Yusuke Murata's manga is a heavy hitter in the pages of Shonen Jump, and its lead character, Saitama, is the heaviest h...

Japanator Live photo
Japanator Live

Japanator Live: Sal attempts to unravel La-Mulana's mysteries

Watchout for eyeballs
Oct 03
// Salvador GRodiles
[Update: The stream is over, but you can watch it here.] Now that I beat Ys Origin as Hugo, it's time for me to travel into another title. Continuing from last week's segment, I'll be figuring out how to navigate through La-M...

Review: Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

Oct 03 // Josh Tolentino
[Note: This review will mention certain elements from both Danganronpa games that may be considered spoilers. No major plot developments in Ultra Despair Girls will be discussed but some details that hint to towards the circumstances of the other games are unavoidable.] Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls  (PS Vita [reviewed])Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: Spike Chunsoft (JP) / NIS America (EU, US)Released: September 25, 2014 (JP) / September 1, 2015 (US) / September 4, 2015 (EU)MSRP: $39.99 The change I'm referring to, of course, is the swapping of the core games' visual novel mechanics with third-person shooting gameplay. Players will use a specialized, bullhorn-shaped "hacking gun" to shoot "truth bullets" with varying effects at the legions of Monokuma, the two-tone robotic death bear that serves as the series' mascot.  The mechanics themselves are serviceable but unremarkable, with the act of shooting resembling nothing so much as a stripped-down version of the laser-sight-guided gunplay of Resident Evil 4 and the like. Different truth bullets have different effects and enable varied tactics against enemies. Knockback bullets send hostiles flying while Dance bullets stun enemies with the power of funky music. Link bullets take control of enemies by remote while the Detect "bullet" is more of a flashlight that highlights puzzle clues, rather than a tool for combat. Ammunition is kept relatively scarce, privileging good aim as players can save on shots by hitting oncoming foes in their weak spots, and enemies come in varying shapes, sizes, and attack patterns. The game also mixes things up with "game rooms", essentially puzzle sections with specific win conditions and restrictions on ammo type. One room might demand that players clear every enemy in a single explosion, or by exploiting both the special functions of the different truth bullets in conjunction with environmental elements. [embed]34161:5059:0[/embed] It's all solid and works fine, for the most part, but Ultra Despair Girls hardly distinguishes itself against any dedicated shooters on the strength of its gameplay. And for the most part, that's not what fans of the Danganronpa series will be playing the game for in any case. Thankfully, the parts of Ultra Despair Girls that Danganronpa fans will be playing the game for - the bizzarro narrative twists, the off-the-wall characters and unpredictable storytelling - are all intact and fully present. Any fears that becoming a shooter would diminish the series' ability to spin an engrossing yarn are quickly proven unfounded. As with the core games, virtually all but the most cursory discussion threatens spoilers, so I'll keep the summary somewhat vague: Players take on the role of Komaru Naegi, sister to Danganronpa protagonist Makoto, as she and a partner fans will find familiar roll through the ruined city of Towa, fighting a group calling themselves "The Warriors of Hope". The narrative is quick to let on that virtually nothing is what it seems at first, and even subverts some of the core games' key themes through its story beats. Fans of the deeper lore will also find plenty of interesting references and callbacks to both Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair, as Ultra Despair Girls functions, chronologically, as a bridge of sorts between the two games. Twists and turns aside, Ultra Despair Girls also features good characterization, quickly and effectively establishing its cast in the over-the-top manner unique to the series. The English dub is effective, with key performances from actresses Erin Fitzgerald and Cherami Lee anchoring the project. The quality of the other voices is a bit more variable, but overall it works, and purists have the option of grabbing the original Japanese voice track (which helpfully adds subtitles to the cutscenes) as free DLC on the PSN Store. Side content is also plentiful, as collectible books poke fun at common tropes in Japan's geek-literary scene. Fans who don't mind reading on the Vita's screen can also peruse a tie-in novel included on the game cartridge, starring Danganronpa alumnus Hiro Hagakure.  All this in mind, one can't help but feel that Ultra Despair Girls' greatest flaw isn't that its adoption of shooting gameplay doesn't work - it works fine - but that the game is almost as good without it. Just as some may make the credible argument that the original games' minigame sections were a blemish on an otherwise pristinely entertaining visual novel, here, it's the gameplay portions of this game that are the least remarkable aspect. In the end, though, that's hardly an offense, and everything works well enough that it's quite easy to recommend putting up with mediocre shooting to get to a meaty and substantial entry into the Danganronpa canon.
Danganronpa Review photo
Shot Through The Heart
When it was first announced that Spike Chunsoft's third Danganronpa game wouldn't be a visual novel, a lot of folks, including yours truly, were understandably apprehensive. Trigger Happy Havoc and its fantastic seq...

Week Ender - Macross Edition

Oct 03 // Red Veron
[embed]34334:5080:0[/embed] "Deja Vu (Soba ni ite)" Anime: Macross 2 OVA This one is from the black sheep of the Macross franchise that is not considered as part of the series when the studio behind the original, Studio Nue, didn't want to work on the franchise anymore. Big Studio West, the sponsor of the original Macross,wanted to continue the series and we got this OVA series. I would say this ending's song still makes it worthy to be in a show with the Macross name, I get the same vibe that I got from the original show with this song.   [embed]34334:5081:0[/embed] "My Friends" Anime: Macross 7 A solid ending with a song that leans more to pop than rock while still going with the J-Rock theme of the show. The ending also features the heroine Mylene, WHO IS 14 YEARS OLD SO STOP BEING  CREEPER.   [embed]34334:5082:0[/embed] "Northern Cross" Anime: Macross Frontier A really good pop song from an era where a lot of pop songs are so generic, this one stands strong and really captures the sound that the Macross Fronier heroine pop diva Sheryl Nome performs in the show. I also dig the minimal silhouette and art sketch visuals in this ending that's really done well.    [embed]34334:5083:0[/embed] "Runner (Duet Version)" Anime: Super Dimensional Fortress Macross Those who saw Macross in its original form will recognize this one, I only got to watch Macross much later when the internet enabled me to watch it in its unadulterated form. A really beautiful song that is just perfect to end each episode.   Was there a Macross ending that you like that wasn't on here? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! Tell me!!
Macross photo
Minmay Attack!
Macross is one of those recognizable anime properties around the world, though it may be in due to Robotech, the US cartoon franchise that combined Macross with two other unrelated robot anime to be able to syndicated on...

Strong Style: Eight-Man Scramble!

Oct 03 // Soul Tsukino
We are greeted by Hirooki Goto as we start this week's show. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Kota Ibushi, La Sombra vs. CHAOS (Shinsuke Nakamura. Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI, Kazuchika Okada) This is a big time preview of the WrestleKingdom show as three of the big matches are previewed here, and for some reason YOSHI and CMLL star La Sombra are included as well. All 3 singles champions in one match. We skip the ring introductions and open with all eight men in the ring. Okada and Tanahashi start off quick as Okada goes for the rainmaker nearly from the start. Ibushi comes in and so does Nakamura. They trade some standing kicks  but ends in a stalemate. They go for a lock up that leads into the Nakamura armbar that Ibushi reveres. Nakamura gets him to the ropes but skips the belly rub thing. He gets Ibushi into the corner, but Kota escapes the knee, Tanahashi's team come in for a 4 man drop kick! La Sombra gets a plancha in as we skip ahead to Makabe and Ishii smash mouthing each other with elbows. These guys are strong style no doubt about it! Makabe hits a clothesline and gets Ishii down. Makabe gets the headbutt, but Ishii lands a clothesline. Ishii goes for the superplex and hits it. Pin only gets two. Both men stagger up and get into a clothesline duel that sends them both down to the mat. Back from break now as Tanahashi comes in and fights Okada as they go back at it. Forearms and elbows fly as Okada gets a leg whip, but Tanahashi gets a flapjack. After a back and forth in the corner, Okada gets the neck driver on the knee and then goes for the tombstone, but Tanahashi reverses it. Okada hits a dropkick, but Tana hits the Slingblade.  YOSHI comes in and goes to work and gets a blockbuster. CHAOS gets Tanahashi alone as they land a bunch of moves on the corner before YOSHI gets the diving blockbuster. Things are breaking down with fights outside the ring with Tanahashi and YOSHI still in the ring. YOSHI lands an axe-bomber clothesline, but Tanahashi kicks out of the pin. Yoshi gets the bridging powerbomb, but Tanahashi kicks out AGAIN. Everyone comes in and starts beating each other. Ibushi flies out of the ring onto Nakamura, and Sombra does the same on the other side of the ring. We are back to YOSHI and Tanahashi in the ring as Tanahashi hits the Slingblade and then the High-Fly-Flow to get the pin for his team The bell rings as Okada and Tana stare down while refs are trying to separate Makabe and Ishii. Nice way to set up the big show in one match. Lots of action! Some words from Goto talking about struggling as a team with Shibata right when the World Tag League tournament began because they needed to win.  They knew how good Anderson and Gallows were and figured they would meet them in the tournament final. World Tag league Tournament Final: Meiyu (Hirooki Goto/Katsuyori Shibata) vs. The Bullet Club (Doc Gallows/Karl Anderson) This is the finals of the World Tag League Tournament. It's pretty much like the G1 Climax tournament, only for teams. 16 teams were split into 2 blocks in a round robin tournament for points. Gallows and Anderson are the defending tournament champions and had won Block A, while Meiyu had won Block B. The IWGP tag titles are on the line, but if Meiyu wins, they not only win the tournament but get the title shot at WrestleKingdom. The Bullet Club comes out with just about the entire group. That doesn't bode well. Meiyu comes out ready to go and Shibata looks like he's gonna kill a bitch as usual. Mauro runs down how each team got to this match, basically saying that Gallows and Anderson snuck into the finals in a really convoluted way. We come back from break as the match begins. Anderson starts with Goto, former partners here as they won the tournament in 2012. Lock up and puts them into the ropes with a clean break. Headlock by Goto leads to a head scissors that repeats itself 3 times, ending in a stalemate. Mauro takes a moment to mention recent NJPW returnee Yoshi Tatsu, who after the first match in the tournament pulled out because of injury. I turned out he had broken two bones in his neck in a previous match after taking a Styles Clash from A.J. Styles. Exchange again has Meiyu double teaming on Anderson as Shibata takes over. Karl rakes the eyes and hits elbows on Shibata, but Shibata don't care before leveling Anderson.  Wristlock by Shibata as Gallows come in and hammers fists into Shibata. Shibata hits some low kicks and gets the figure four on the big man. Doc reverses it, but he rolls it back over. Doc gets to the rope and breaks it as Shibata drags the big man over as Meiyu double team him. Gallows hits a clothesline on both Meiyu members to send them outside into the clutches of the rest of the Bullet Club. Karl sneaks out and blasts Goto with a powerbomb on the ring apron. Nearly getting counted out, Shibata runs over and helps Goto back in the ring. Goto fights up to the apron but Gallows throws him into the barricade outside. Goto climbs in at a count of 16 with Gallows going in for the kill. He lands a bunch of elbows onto the weakened Goto, but can't get the pin. Doc torques him into the corner with a whip before Karl comes in and lays down a bunch of knees, but the pin attempt don't get it. Back from break as Karl is just messing with Goto now, giving him some light kicks to the head. Goto gets up and lands some elbows, but when he hits the ropes he is tripped from the outside. Karl hits a legdrop from the apron. The ref Red Shoes nearly throws out the Club, but doesn't, serving some of the hate he gets from Mauro and Josh.  Seeing his partner in trouble outside the ring, Shibata runs over and starts swinging on the entire Bullet club to get Goto and get him in the ring. Shibata climbs up to the apron where he is hit by Gallows. Doc turns around and starts hammering on Goto before dropping a leg on him.  Karl comes in with a chinlock, but Goto fights out of it. Karl hits a leg strike but the pin only gets two. The crowd is chanting for Goto as he has been the guy getting the ass beating for a while now.  Karl goes for a suplex, but Goto blocks it and reveres it. He gets the tag! Shibata and Anderson get in a back and forth, but Shibata gets him down in the corner and hits with a sweet  hanging dropkick. Shibata gets a suplex but only gets 2 with it. Shibata struggles but gets Anderson in that nasty Surfboard/Octopus combo he uses. Gallows comes in and saves his partner, only to get sent out by Shibata.  Anderson hits a kick and then a strike. Both Club members attack but Shibata fights out and hits a sweet dropkick on Doc. Goto tags in and takes Doc down, but gets hit from Karl. All four men in now and its a fight! Goto and Doc meet with clotheslines and finally sends Gallows down. Goto lands some elbows, but Doc sends him down with a kick. Karl tags in and again he toys with Goto, as he hits a forearm on Goto.  and then another. He goes for the charge but runs right into a choke from Shibata, leading the Meiyu to collide on the ropes when Anderson ducks an attack. Goto gets hit with the Gun Stun. Doc hits the splash. Doc and Karl hurt Goto with work in the corner. Pin gets broken up by Shibata. Anderson hits the Gun Stun but Goto kicks out! Club his the decapitation, but Goto just won't quit!  Shibata comes in and breaks things up, but he gets double teamed for his trouble. Karl goes for the Stun Gun, but counters and they go back and forth before Goto hits the Ushi-karoshi. Shibata gets Karl before Goto hits a clothesline and a choke before Shibata hits the PK on Karl and Goto hits the Shoten Kai and gets the pin! Damn that was a hell of a match! The Club bitch in the back, cussing away, saying the didn't need to win tonight since they won the tournament last year. they are the champs and that is more important, but when it comes time to face Meiyu again they will come back with more firepower. Back in the ring Meiyu celebrate with a big-ass cheque and some nice winner's trophies. Shibata gets the mic saying this was his first big achievement in wrestling. He says it's time to wear a belt. Goto says the time is right and their next target is a belt. We have some words from Meiyu in the back wth Shibata saying he believes in his partner. Goto says they haven't changed since high school and that he can rely on his partner. Studio words from Hirooki Goto as he says he is happy to achieve something with his partner Shibata and that it is natural for them to work together. he says they are not going to rest and are gunning for the belts. This was like the NJPW equivalent of the go-home RAW before Wrestlemania. It served the purpose of giving a taste of what was to come with WrestleKingdom. The two matches were both really good, even if the 8 man was cut down for time. The broadcast team did well in giving the background, especially in the Tag tournament match whereas we never saw any of the other matches. Good show! Now with that out of the way we start FIVE weeks of coverage of the matches from WrestleKingdom 9. Here is the lineup: IWGP Jr. Tag Titles: ReDRagon vs. Forever Hooligans vs. Young Bucks vs. Time Splitters IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title: Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Kenny Omega Never Openweight Title: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Togi Makabe Grudge match: Minoru Suzuki vs. Kazushi Sakuraba IWGP Tag Titles: Anderson/Gallows vs. Meiyu A.J. Styles vs. Tetsuya Naito TenKoji, Tomoaki Honma vs. Bad Luck Fale, Jeff Jarrett, Yuji Takahashi Toru Yano and 3 mystery Partners vs. Takashi Iizuka, Killer Elite Squad, Shelton Benjamin IWGP Intercontinental Title: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi IWGP Title: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kazuchika Okada   See you all next week! /ul/34332-/match 1-620x.jpg
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Last stop before WrestleKingdom 9!
It's Friday night and it's time for a fight. Welcome back to Strong Style as we take a look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. This week we are taking a look at a couple of matches from the December 7th, 2014 show from Nag...

Annotated Anime: Bikini Warriors episodes 9-12

Oct 03 // Anthony Redgrave
We start with a mage heavy episode in this cluster of episodes. Except it's not really about the Mage, but rather what the party has done to anger the mage. Unbeknownst to the party the Mage has been possessed and begins attacking them. The rest of the Bikini clad Dungeon and Dragons Classes start to reminisce on why this could be. They range from normal like the Warrior serving less food for the Mage to weird as the Dark Elf breaks the Mage's panties when she tries them on in the middle of the night to really creepy as the Paladin pervs on the Mage as she bathes. The most important info we can gain from this episode is that even with the little armor they have on, they still sleep in the nude!  Next we join the party mid-way through a dungeon having already suffered lots of damage from a previous encounter. They stumble across a chest and start having PTSD flashbacks about all the booby-trapped chests they have opened in the past and ironically for an ecchi show none of them are full of female mammaries. A missed opportunity due to the language barrier. These traps are little more than erotic pose situations with the most bizarre one being full of live eels. I'm guessing they're magic eels to survive that long in a chest without water.  In the penultimate episode, we are treated to a Paladin centric episode. The Paladin is a warrior of God and prides herself in sacrificing her vitality and wishes for the greater good, hence the insistence of doing literally anything for money, the quest, and in this case to progress with the adventure. We see her act as a martyr more often than not in monster encounters but is faced with the toughest sacrifice yet; marriage to progress in their adventure. Marriage, of course, means giving up her virginity which appears to be the source of her resilience when it comes to recovering from the physical damage she has been inflicted in the past. In a semi-poignant scene, she is preparing for the big night (the show wanting to skip the whole ceremony and celebration to skip straight to the sex) and it genuinely feels like her last big sacrifice. This big moment is later retconned in the final episode making this sacrifice less poetic and more confusing. Also, her character always played with her sexuality fast and loose making me question whether she was a virgin or not. That's not to say the actions of people define their sexual activity, but the show has to display these traits to the viewer otherwise it will be taken for face value. The atmosphere was there, but the history of the character destroys the mood. Those hoping we would finally get some nip shots in the T and A heavy show or even some bush will have to wait for any OVA or second seasons that Bikini Warriors may produce. The final episode was bad. The main draw of the show is that it riffs off popular fantasy tropes and it doesn't beat around the bush producing short 4-minute stories, story being the imperative word. The final episode is a random mishmash of battles and set pieces interspersed between limited animation yuri scenes. I'm guessing the Paladin's Gods turn a blind eye to lesbianism. The college of clips had some narrative structure showing the progression of the party from place to place and fighting ever stronger enemies before a final confrontation. They took the 4-minute story structure of each episode and condensed it to a 30-second clip only showing the highlight of that episode. Each clip lands the viewer in media res so the connection between each clip is tenuous making the viewer fill in the gaps. The episode length is too short to incorporate a full epic of journey, betrayal, sacrifice and victory so the finale feels like it is stretched too thin. It ends on a post credits cliff hanger that doesn't work since there is little continuity between each episode. With a series like Bikini Warriors, a fan service heavy beach or hot spring episode would have been more appropriate as a send off. It's something conventional that anime fans are used to and it'll be a new environment for the girls to riff off.  Bikini Warriors is what you can expect. Lots of boobs, bums, crotch shots, and fan service. The animation was good and the art was great with nothing looking out of place in the 12 episode series. The short episode length lends itself well for rewatch purposes, but the character personalities are a little bit too barren for them to be waifu material despite having very good looks. I really liked how they moved away from humiliating episode endings as it made the series a lot easier to watch. If you're in need of a lite ecchi break between marathons of To Love Ru and Highschool DxD, then Bikini Warriors's high fantasy setting will provide the perfect recluse from the hallways of schools.
Bikini Warriors photo
A fond farewell to Ecchi
Seems we are winding down on this season of anime and getting ready for the winter. First Nagato-chan finished, then Umaru-chan, I had dropped GANGSTA from my weekly roster and I hear that has also finished its 12 episode run. Now it is time for Bikini Warriors to take its final curtain call. Will the girls finish with a bang or will they require a nip slip or two to keep the audience's attention?

Robot on the Road photo
Robot on the Road

Hiroyuki Okiura's recent piece takes us on a road trip with a perverted traveler

Yee Haw!
Oct 02
// Salvador GRodiles
For some unknown reason, I've always found it fascinating when a project would release a new segment that shares a similar theme with its predecessor. In this case, the Japan Animator Expo's 34th short, "Robot on the Road" (N...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 711

Oct 01 // Anthony Redgrave
Lao G's defeat in the last episode has not phased Doflamingo's executives as they continue to fight against the gladiators and Straw Hats. Pica still remains elusive enough to avoid Zoro's attacks despite the size of the high pitched Stone Stone fruit user. King Elizabello II offers up is King Punch to take out the executive, but Zoro refuses aid. Either out of pride or strategy he suggests that the King Punch should be saved in case something stronger comes along. Sounds like me and saving rocket launcher ammo in any FPS. And if they're like me they will save it until passed the credits. On the other side of Dressrosa, there is another major fight occurring amongst a flowery field that has been made flag like by Diamante. Despite being one of the major fights of the Dressrosa arc, it has so far been monotonous to watch. Kyros may be a badass in the ring, Rebecca looks hot and is a capable enough fighter, and Diamante has a semi-interesting fruit ability, but the whole thing is really slow. The only progression here is Kyros doesn't let Rebecca fight and Diamante takes advantage of this fact by picking on her. From watching feminist videos online, this is an example of inserting Rebecca into a vulnerable female role for a male paternal figure to protect. We have seen her fight capably herself in the ring so why is she just sitting on the sidelines watching her Dad protect her. Arguments saying she is injured don't fly when we have Law struggling through an amputation. Speaking of, over at the palace roof Doflamingo is double teaming Law with a newly assembled Trebol. Sadly it isn't my yaoi doujin of the Doflamingo family but more akin to the BDSM doujin I saw in Comiket 2 years ago. It's not funny how brutal they are with Law barely giving him time to catch his breath. The animation here is made passable as there are some crudely drawn frames in some areas. The previous segment with Kyos and Rebecca has rough spots and boring animation but the movement of Law and Doflamingo as they trade blows is pretty good and dynamic. Below Luffy continues to plea with Bellamy as the latter uses his last ounce of strength to try and take down our protagonist. There are two parts that stand out this episode. The first is the updated visuals to show Bellamy's introduction to the series and the famous beat down he gives Zoro and Luffy in the bar of Jaya town. Definitely makes the visual style more cohesive when they aren't using the 12-year old footage. The second is Bellamy's pride and philosophy. He's a pirate scumbag that made a lot of wrong decisions, one of them is trusting the devil incarnate. But his pride prevents him from going against past decisions. He cannot forgive himself. He let go of the past and find a future with Luffy, the man he shamed and mocked for his dreams despite Luffy's change of heart. It's a battle on a much deeper level compared to two pirates being on opposite sides of the moral spectrum. Luffy has to respect a man that follows his dreams/ pride but doesn't want to defeat an already broken man. [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Pride among Pirates
Better late than never with this week's annotated anime. Let's get on with the show that was formerly about a kid wanting to be a pirate but is now about trying to escape a kingdom midway through a coup d'etat.  coup d'etat

Gundam photo

Simulcast GET: Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans heads to and Hulu

New Gundam series for everyone!
Sep 30
// Salvador GRodiles
It looks like there's another good reason to be a Gundam fan this year, since the upcoming series, Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans, hits and Hulu on Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Japan Standard Time/3:30 a.m. Pacifi...

OP Up! Macross Edition

Sep 30 // Red Veron
[embed]34325:5077:0[/embed] "Seventh Moon" Anime: Macross 7 A crazy 90's J-rock infused opening that let's you know of the crazy over-the-top show you're into where a guy controls a transforming jet robot with an electric guitar.   [embed]34325:5078:0[/embed] "Macross" Anime: SDF Macross The original that started it all, this opening combines a great song with a grounded feel with the plane launch sequence that transitions into full science fiction robots and aliens with space ships.   [embed]34325:5079:0[/embed] "Macross" Anime: Fever Macross Pachinko A nice remake of the original opening of the first Macross from the most surprising of places, a pachinko machine. A nice update to the opening but not as good as the visuals from Frontier.   [embed]34325:5076:0[/embed] "Lion" Anime: Macross Frontier My favorite opening from the series, this one has a high energy song with all the good pop star and space combat action rolled into one nice minute and a half package to get you ready for more.   Is there a Macross opening that you love that I didn't feature on here? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!!!
Macross photo
So who's excited over the news of a new Macross show on the horizon with Macross Delta? I've always loved the series' mix of future science fiction transforming jet robots with pop music idols. I'm so looking forward to ...

Annotated Anime: Himouto! Umaru Chan episode 12

Sep 30 // Anthony Redgrave
Before we can indulge in Himouto! Umaru-chan style of beach time fun the main cast must find a way of getting there. Having seen an advert for a 8 seater family car, Umaru persuades Taihei to go out and buy one. I know Taihei is a practical and sensible man. He cooks, cleans, works and basically takes care of Umaru since the slacker version of herself acts like a 5-year old child. But this has to be his biggest lapse in logical thinking. He humours Umaru's request on buying a car as it'll get her out of the house more and he promised that he would take her to the ocean. There are cheaper solutions Taihei! You even said yourself that you take the train to work so there is no practical reason for having a car except to get Umaru out of the house for this one trip. At the car showroom, they are greeted by the world's most energetic salesman. Umaru spots the car from the advert gets Taihei to give it a test drive. However, it has been a long while since Taihei has been behind the wheel and I think we have all been in his position of constant worry that an accident will happen at any moment. The best part of this section is the inclusion of a Ridge Racer style Race Queen before Taihei sets off. It something so unexpected yet perfect for this show. With Bomber roped in to drive the Doma family and friends to the beach after Taihei's traumatic experience, Umaru and Taihei try to get some sleep before their day at the beach. The excitement of sun, sea, and fun is too much for the two as they gaze up at the ceiling in quiet anticipation unlike those bratty kids in the Disney land commercial. Taihei, Ebina, and Kirie all gather at the front of the house waiting for Bomber to pick them up. The reveal of Umaru in her outside form surprises Bomber and Kirie who only know Umaru in her chibi form. What's even more surprising is that Bomber is dumb enough to think Kirie is not his sister because she changed her hair and is also wearing Luffy's Straw Hat. The face, voice and violent outbursts don't give it away? The episode progresses with lots of sight seeing, food eating, and generally pleasant vibes and visuals. Nothing looks too out of place here unlike last week and the freeze frame panning were just bearable to watch without over doing it to visual monotony. As the group head towards the beach, Kirie starts to open up a bit more to Umaru. She reveals that her initial violent outburst at her brother during the entrance ceremony caused her to be feared by the rest of the class and it was something she could never live down. Her confidence only grew once she started hanging out with chibi Umaru and Taihei. It's a really sweet scene and the feeling of her arc coming full circle explaining her creepy look at the start of the series. It would've been perfect if she also revealed herself to Bomber as Kirie, but I guess the ruse of looking, sounding, acting, and having the same name as his sister will continue. Sylphynford makes a last minute appearance on the beach with her brother Alex spying on the party from their yacht and they play and play and play on the beach. The only thing I got from the final moments of this episode was that frilly swimsuits were in this year. As the finale of the show, it didn't feel complete. There was a lot of interesting juxtaposition throughout of the series showing the similar domestic units between Taihei's work friends and Umaru's school friends that should have concluded in them discovering their various similarities. It was a finale that felt like a good episode but not the end of a season.  I don't think this will be the last we see of the anime Jekyll and Hyde as an OVA or two before the next season will be a welcome addition to my watch list. It's a show that is fun, light-hearted, and perfect for the gaming otaku that likes to watch anime.  [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!]
Himouto! Umaru-chan photo
Let's Drive to the Beach!
Ok, Japanators I think we all know the drill for a high school beach episode. Cue the excessive bloom from the sun, girls in bikinis except the token flat chest in a junior high swimming costume, beach style food like fried octopus balls and soft ice creams, and silly shenanigans that show off both the exquisite sights of girls and the surroundings. We all ready? Set? Good! On with the recap.

Review: Attack on Titan Part II: End of the World

Sep 29 // Josh Tolentino
[Spoiler Warning: This review will discuss some plot points from Attack on Titan: Part I, including the ending. Some of these points will be well-known to anyone familiar with the manga or anime, though.] Attack on Titan: End of the WorldDirected By: Shinji HiguchiProduced By: TOHO PicturesPremiere Date: September 19, 2015 (Japan), September 23, 2015 (Philippines), September 30, 2015 (US), October 20, 2015 (Canada)Licensed By FUNimation (NA) Attack on Titan: Part I ended on a cliffhanger of sorts, with the cast now dumbfounded at having discovered that Eren (Haruma Miura) can turn into a Titan himself. End of the World picks up at this point, choosing the opening quarter of the movie to deliver all the exposition and world-building missing from Part I in big, heaping helpings. The truth of the world's history, as well as the nature of the Titans, is revealed in a series of lengthy monologues worthy of a Metal Gear Solid 2 cutscene. Building out a setting as complex as Attack on Titan's isn't an easy task even under ideal circumstances, but the lengthy interlude serves to both ground the movie and act as an albatross around its neck.  For what it's worth, those stretches do include stylistic flourishes that produce some of the film's most interesting visuals, including effective use of Skeeter Davis' "The End of the World", and some great bits of real-world footage edited to have Titans in them. Director Shinji Higuchi's decision to ground the film in the real world's future, in an actual place, starts to make sense at this point. All the more unfortunate, then, that the plot these interludes serve devolves into a traditional, anime-like "teens versus ideologues" setup. It does take stabs at cautioning against both the static control of fascists and the chaos of revolution, but all in all, it's a downer compared to the more primal, gory thrills of the first half. Not to mention that End of the World frequently flashes back footage of Part I, making it all the more evident that there wasn't enough material to fill even a 90-minute movie. I wonder if the whole thing wouldn't be better off edited into single two-hour production, rather than being staggered out in this manner*. If nothing else I wouldn't have had to buy a ticket for it twice. End of the World even fails to adequately capitalize on its own strengths in visuals. Whereas the scenes of creepy-faced Titans eating people and making it rain blood and limbs in Part I gave off a visceral, classic-horror thrill, End of the World is more of a straight action movie, with even the Titans behaving more like pro wrestlers or MMA fighters than the mindless monsters of the last release. This is justified by the plot (and the source), but the shift is definitely less exciting and novel, not to mention that the original Titans barely make an appearance here. Hopes for the cast getting further character growth are also dashed. While the cast manages to shine more thanks to being separated from Eren early on, not much happens to give either the new characters more than one dimension or the older ones like Armin (Kanata Hongo) time to grow into the ones fans know and love. It seems as if Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara)'s victimization at the hands of the film's writers is permanent. Hans (Satomi Ishihara) once again steals every scene she's in by sheer force of personality, but unfortunately there are fewer of those, so even that bright light is diminished. Early in this review I noted that elementally speaking Attack on Titan: End of the World is more of the film the fans demanded, initially. In light of seeing the end product, though, that notion is shown to be as hollow as it is. Given the revelations in End of the World about the true nature of all the things, it feels fitting to end this piece with a quote from The Matrix, as delivered by an Attack on Titan fan who actually enjoyed Part I: "Not like this." [This review is based on a general screening of the film viewed by the reviewer.] *It's worth noting that FUNimation's release of the films in North America will allow viewers to see both Part I and End of the World in quick succession. Whether or not being able to view both movies as a single release (of sorts) will improve the experience remains to be seen.
Attack on Titan 2 Review photo
Why do the birds go on singing?
Broken down, point by point, Attack on Titan: End of the World is far closer to what Attack on Titan fans claimed to want from a live-action adaptation of their beloved manga. It delves deeper into the mysteries beh...

Annotated Anime: Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma episodes 21-23

Sep 29 // Nick Valdez
Episode 21 After waking up from his brief nap teased at the end of last episode, Souma reveals he's been cooking some kind of rice and spice dish, but that's all we really see before the episode cuts to Group B and Tadakoro. As the crowd begins to turn on her due to her nervous demeanor, she pulls out her cout de grace, a difficult monkfish she showfully butchers. She learned how to cut it back home in order to help her family, and seeing them here in support has given her the confidence to nail it. But the brunt of this episode was devoted to the fierce rivalry between Erina Nakiri's aide, Arato, and her creepy stalker introduced two episodes ago, Nao. The judges in Group B have been especially tough as no chef has gotten over 20 points, but Nao and her super smelly laksa and kusaya curry manages to get 84 points (resulting in the header image). But Arato, with her focus in medicinal herbs and spices, manages a healthy curry which cleanses the judges of all previous flavors and basically got the taste of Nao's curry out of their mouths. She scores 92 points as the episode's close draws attention to the Aldini brothers.  It's a shame the show's going to end soon because I'm loving the anime's adaptation of the reactions. They're the best thing from the manga, but seeing them play out on screen adds an entirely new level.  Episode 22 As we join Group A's proceedings, Miyoko Hojo (the character who hates Tadakoro for relying on men and feels she needs to be stronger than all the men in order to succeed in the field) has started things off with a strong Chinese and pineapple infused curry and nets 87 points, Polar Star Dorm resident Yuki nets 86 points for her wild game curry, but then the Aldini brothers take the stage. Both present Italian inspired dishes with the younger Aldini, Isami serving a curry calzone scoring 87 and the older Aldini, Takumi serves a pasta curry and gets 90 points thanks to his putting cheese inside the pasta noodles. then Alica Nakiri blows the judges away (and shows her chops) with her science cooking as her deconstructed curry gets a hefty 95 points. Then, finally, we have the best girl Tadakoro. After everyone hilariously forgot about her, she serves the result of her hard work and love of her town, monkfish dobu-jiru curry.  Tadakoro manages to score 88 points (earning her new rival Hojo's respect) and earns her place in the top eight along with Alice Nakiri, Hisako Arato, and Takumi Aldini. Yay Tadakoro! Episode 23 We're back in Group A as the judges continue giving low scores (with some giving no score at all). But Ryo Kurokiba, Alice's aide with his shifting personality, manages to break that rhythm with a lobster and cognac curry (which he tells the main judge to slurp like a savage, hilariously) and 96 points. But none of the other chefs let that get to them as Polar Star residents Ryoko, Marui, and Ibusaki all net 86 and 88 points respectively with their dishes as Nikumi gets 86 with her meat don (which she's crafted thanks to her early shokugeki with Souma). But as the episode draws to a close, the arguably strongest student (since we really haven't seen his skills yet) Akira heads up to serve his dish and directly challenges Souma with his taste. As Souma begins to eat, he realizes there's a delicious scent pouring out.  Well, that's it. The final episode is up next and this is what I mean about terrible sequel series. Now we're stuck here until Food Wars 2 or something like that comes out. Hopefully it's gotten enough support overseas to warrant a second season. But until then, I totally recommend the manga. It's pretty good. But this show's been pretty entertaining in its own right (and I'll get into that with the final impressions after I see the last episode), and I can't help but love the exaggerated world. I hope there's more. 
Annotated Food Wars! photo
Sexy curry
I hate how some shonen series are handled. If a shonen manga doesn't have the audience or allotted budget of a big Shonen Jump property like One Piece or Gintama, then its anime adaptation is doomed to "seasons." Instead of c...

Kamen Rider Ghost photo
Kamen Rider Ghost

Raise your hoodies: Kamen Rider Ghost's new preview has entered the building

Just in time for Halloween
Sep 28
// Salvador GRodiles
As Kamen Rider Ghost gets ready to materialize in our world this Sunday, a new preview has arrived from the spirit world to give us a better look at our new spooky hero. So far, it's doing a fine job in giving us the main th...
Today in Anime photo
Today in Anime

Today in Anime: Red Moon turns your favourite waifus into women

By the power of the Blood Moon
Sep 28
// Anthony Redgrave
I hope Japanator readers were able to catch a glimpse of the Supermoon lunar eclipse today. It happened around 3 am in my neck of the woods, but it was worth rubbing those sandy eyes to see that red dot in the sky. The more o...

Ouch, that's harsh, Bandai Namco

Sorry, Vesperia fans
Sep 28
// Josh Tolentino
I guess it's time for Tales fans to give up on the dream. Even Bandai Namco's Twitter account is quick to put the kibosh on any hopes these last few holdouts had. Then again, it has been years and years since Tales of Ve...
Muv-Luv photo

Humanity Wins: Muv-Luv's Kickstarter is off to an amazing start

This calls for a celebration
Sep 27
// Salvador GRodiles
After an amazing great start on Thursday, the Kickstarter for Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative has reached its goal to be localized in the West. In other words, the BETA might as well pack their bags and leave Earth...

Impressions: Shuriken Sentai Ninninger episodes 1-30

Sep 27 // Salvador GRodiles
At one point in time, a man with the title of the Last Ninja managed to seal away a group of Yokai that were lead by a ruthless warlord called Gengetsu Kibaoni. Flash forward to the present, and a mysterious fellow who goes by the name of Kyuuemon Izayoi has awakened most of the creatures that were sealed away.  Standing in his way are the five relatives of the legendary shinobi, who are also in training to become great warriors. As they work hard to save humanity, the team is also competing to see who can become the Last Ninja’s successor. From the get-go, the main thing that sets Ninninger apart from most other Sentai shows is that the five heroes are also rivals. Despite their ambitions for wanting to become the next Last Ninja, the group still has to work as a team to overcome all odds. Because of this format, this lets us see the main cast’s relationship exhibit different levels of chemistry during training and in real battle. Hell, the team’s trials are played out like an actual school, since students are ranked by their grades and overall performance until they graduate. At the same time, they still help each other out during tough situations, which brings us an interesting take on the franchise's teamwork theme. Even through the series features a neat take on the team’s relationship, it’s unfortunate that the staff is trying too hard to replicate Kyoryuger’s over-the-top aspects. Obviously, I love it when a Sentai program has off-the-wall elements, but it’s important for these aspects to come off naturally. For example, Takuharu Igasaki/Aka Ninger gives off a Daigo/Kyoryu Red vibe, but the guy’s overly exaggerated enthusiasm and his tendency to use the phrase ‘fired up’ and ‘hot’ lacks that special zest that made the King's hot-blooded phrases great. Instead, his actions make him a bit annoying at times. Speaking of attempts to replicate successful elements, the final part of the team’s roll call has to do with running wild and the show’s sixth Ranger made his debut early in the series. Based on these aspects, it’s likely possible that Ninninger’s staff is hoping that these elements will replicate Kyoryuger’s success. Luckily, the show doesn’t come off as a poor excuse to market merchandise to kids based on the brand name alone, since there are a few moments that stand out on their own. Despite Takaharu’s slightly irritating habits, the rest of the cast manages to balance out his negative traits. With two young heroes that provide great support, a magic ninja, a scientific genius, and a cowboy that loves to take selfies with monsters, the rest of the Ninninger balance out the red shinobi’s bad qualities. I guess you could say that each member covers their own weaknesses in battle and in life. All in all, the group’s interactions play off for some good laughs here and there, which helps keep viewers entertained before the action kicks in. As for Kyuuemon’s group, the show’s format prevents them from being fleshed out too well. This was due to the fox demon’s tendency to revive Gengetsu’s Generals one at a time, which prevented most of the major bad guys from reaching their full potential. One villain that suffered dearly from this was Raizou Gabi, who seemed like he was going to be Takaharu’s rival throughout the entire show— kind of like Takeru/Shinken Red and Juzou’s encounters in Shinkenger. Even though the later Commanders are still alive, their role hasn’t reached the same pinnacle as the blood-thirsty samurai. For now, Izayoi shows some promise, since his backstory is connected to the Igasaki Ninja Clan. That and it’s cool to see that Gengetsu’s high-ranking members wear broken Noh masks; thus adding a neat aesthetic to the group’s Warring Era theme. Perhaps if Gengetsu and his top officers were awake from the get-go, Ninninger might’ve had a stronger villain cast. Then again, Ninja Sentai Kakuranger featured a similar format to the latest ninja team’s adversary, so the issue here is how the bad guys interact with the heroes. Hell, in titles like Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters, a series with a small general count, the thing that let Enter stay strong throughout the series was his constant interaction with his enemies. Whether he was eating a pizza while commencing his evil scheme or greeting the team in French, his presence was a welcoming aspect for the show. Sadly, the Kibaoni Army’s commanders (except Raizou) weren't able to deliver a great dynamic between them and the good guys, which was due to them not crossing swords with the heroes too often. Where the villains were lacking, the Monsters-of-the-Week managed to keep the series’ conflicts entertaining. Besides being actual yokai crossed with random objects, most of these creatures leave us with some silly moments here and there. I mean, we got to see Frankenstein's Creature become a fan of cute 2D girls, a moment that I didn't expect to see outside of Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger. Due to Kyuuemon’s desire to collect people's fears, we get to see these baddies scare humans through actions like using walls to crush people’s dreams or trapping people inside of difficult board games. Even when the Izayoi Clan ninjas took over as the weekly adversaries for the heroes, they still managed to carry the spirit of the other bad guys. Going back to Kyuuemon, his role in the show is now one of the bigger things that could turn the villains around. Aside from his mysterious motives, he played a decent role in giving the show’s sixth Ranger, Kinji/Star Ninger, a challenge while he was trying to become the Last Ninja’s student. As the ninja fox demon starts to show more of his true colors, I could see him becoming a bigger villain than Gengetsu later on. For now, this is aspect is something that could turn the evil side into a more lovable group. In regards to the team’s weapon designs, their #1 Sword sports a colorful look, which goes well with its role as a changing device and main combat gadget. Just like Ninja Sentai Kakuranger’s heroes, the Ninninger all have the same gear, since their other tools include a transforming shuriken and a frog gun. Nonetheless, each member’s strengths and weaknesses allow for everyone to use the items in different ways, such as Yakumo/Ao Ninger combining magic with his special attacks. Thanks to their special shurikens that can be inserted into each weapon, the show’s staff has ensured that the Ninninger are able to add some more flair to the action scenes on screen. Of course, these segments go well with the group’s usage of ninja techniques like substitution and clone move; thus acting as another decent callback to the two previous ninja-themed Sentai shows. As for the gang’s costumes, the suits manage to compliment the show’s motif, as each hero’s helmet has a different shuriken that acts as their visor. On top of that, the scrolls on their chests complete the great package that makes up these great designs. While Star Ninger’s attire lacks these features, his cowboy elements were a clever way to utilize the sheriff’s star as part of the team’s association with spiked throwing weapons. While we’re on the topic of Star Ninger, the hero’s cowboy hat-shaped helmet and poncho work as a great way to compliment his American origins. Sure, he’s a parody of Texan and Wild West stereotypes (the guy transforms with a freaking cheeseburger cellphone, for crying out loud), but it’s these aspects that make his character fun. In a way, he’s like a glorious fusion between Ninpu Sentai Hurricanger’s Shurikenger and Shinkenger’s Shinken Gold, since he likes to add English words to phrases and he has a gold costume that has blue on it. Just like Kyoryuger’s mecha dinosaurs, Ninninger’s signature robots also feature a colorful toy-like design. If there’s one thing that sets them apart from the samba dinosaur show, it’s that the team’s Ninja Allies don’t share a similar motif. When you think about it, a giant ninja, a dragon, a dump truck, a dog, a train, an elephant, a U.F.O., a surfer, a lion fortress, and a Western ninja that rides a buffalo A.T.V. wheeler have nothing in common. Then again, most of these things are seen as cool things, which might’ve been a factor in their decision to give the gang machines that lack a common motif. Even though the Ninninger’s Ninja Allies look like something to come out of a ‘Cool Japan’ campaign, the shear ridiculousness behind these units using each other as thrones is both an awesome homage to its ninja theme, along with being a great way to replicate the great aspects from show like Gurren Lagann into a live-action series. From day one, this was an idea that I was on board with from the beginning, and Ninninger has yet to disappoint me with this theme. With all said and done, Ninninger may be a show that tries too hard to replicate Kyoryuger’s zaniness, but its other ideas prevent it from being a disappointing Sentai series. Based on its progressions, it’s not the right kind of bread to complete the sandwich that contains ToQger and its predecessor, since its major villains lack the elements that made the ones from the two previous shows great. However, this could change with Kyuuemon’s new ninja clan and Gengetsu’s true debut, so anything could happen at this point. Another great thing that kept the series fun was its return to the family theme present in Sentai titles like GoGo V and Magiranger gave the series its own charm, since it gave the main cast the chance to partake in lots of silly segments. Whether it was Kinji’s attempts to defeat the other heroes or the group’s early reactions to Takaharu’s old friend/possible love interest, these aspects continue to remind me why I find this format to be great. Based on the way how things are going now, the show’s looking to be an enjoyable title by the time things get super real— especially with the whole ordeal with Kyuuemon creating ninjas out of Tsumuji’s ninja abilities. If the show's staff plays their cards right with this one, we might be in for a cool scenario soon. While it might not reach Tokusatsu of the Year quality, the series has enough decent content for many folks to enjoy. In other words, hiding doesn't stop party night!
Shuriken Sentai Ninninger photo
It's all about that Shinobi Love
When it comes to delicacies that blend things together, the sandwich is one of those meals that smash a bunch of stuff in between two slices of bread. So what does this have to do with tokusatsu? Well, one thing that I’...

Japanator Live photo
Japanator Live

Japanator Live: It's the Ys Origin Final Countdown

We're almost at the top!
Sep 26
// Salvador GRodiles
[Update: The stream is over, but you can watch it here. Since I finished Ys Origin, I started La-Mulana, which can be watched here.] Well, folks. It looks like I managed to reach the Tower of Darm's final set of floors in Ys ...

Strong Style: Kickin' it in Osaka

Sep 26 // Soul Tsukino
We open the show with a quick greeting from Shinsuke Nakamura. Never Openweight Title: Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii Ishii is the champion here and sporting tape on his shoulder.  Shoulder blocks start early and no one backs down. Here we go with the elbows back and forth and the crowd is LOVING IT. Goto finally gets Ishii down before a slam. Each man blocks clothesline attempts as they are smacking each other but damn no one is going down. Goto lands a kick to the guts before hitting a clothesline sending Ishii down, but he pops back up and lands a couple of clotheslines before both go down. Josh says it's like watching two kaiju fighting. I agree. These guys are throwing clotheslines like they were trying to chop down a tree! Ishii goes for a headbutt but Goto counters. Ishii lands the ushi-karoshi, which is Goto's specialty. We skip ahead and elbows are flying again! Goto lands a blow to send Ishii down again as Ishii is bleeding from the mouth. Ishii lands a head kick, but Goto recovers quickly as they kill each other with more clotheslines. These guys are stiffing the hell out of each other and just will not go down! Goto goes for the reverse ushi-karoshi, then hits the normal version with a knee to the back of the head. Clothesline sends Ishii down, but he kicks out! Goto goes for the suplex, but Ishii gets the counter and then a headbutt and a clothesline on Goto. Both men down again. Ishii hits a low clothesline, but Goto kicks out. Ishii hits the brainbuster and gets the pin! Holy crap that was intense. THAT is strong style wrestling right there. Tough guy Togi Makabe comes in the ring to check on Goto. Ishii makes it a point to stand over Goto and get right in Makabe's face. Backstage Makabe is a not happy about the disrespect and lays out a challenge for the belt. In his own backstage comments, Ishii says "Let's do it."   Kazuchika Okada/YOSHI-HASHI vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi/Kota Ibushi CHAOS vs. Team New Japan in a preview of what will take place at WrestleKingdom. Taking a cue from American wrestling, they two the two main eventers of the big show and gave them partners for a tag match to wet the appetite a bit. Have a bad feeling Kota's gonna take the pin on this one, let's see if I'm right. Each guy gets their own separate entrance here. They bring out the two lower card guys out first and then the two headliners. Interesting. Okada and Tanahashi face off and both want to start and they do, making to crowd gasp. Josh mentions how hot the Osaka crowds are as compared to other areas. Good observation as Japanese crowds are known to be reserved, but not here! Think of a Philly wrestling crowd but with less swearing. Basic start with Okada getting the headlock in. Okada gets the early lead sending Tanahashi down. A miss with a big charge we get an exchange with Funk forearms, but Tanahashi gets a leg whip. We jump again as Ibushi is in now. He goes for a moonsault on Okada but gets to feel Okada's knees for his trouble. Okada gets the flying elbow in and the Rainmaker pose! Tanahashi comes in and gets a tombstone!  Jumping ahead as YOSHI is working over Ibushi as he gets a couple of neckbreakers on Kota. Skipping ahead again as both Okada and YOSHI double teaming Tanahashi with a catapult clothesline. Things break down as Ibushi comes in and gets a hurricanrana and a two count. He kicks Yoshi and hits a sit out powerbomb, but Yoshi kicks out. Ibushi hits the flying twisting press and scores the win!  Well, that shut me up. These kinds of matches usually don't end that way. It was a good match for what was shown but clipped to crap like this mid show tag matches usually do. Some words from Nakamura looking back at the challenge he made to Shibata after the tag match we saw three weeks ago on this show. He mentions that while Shibata makes a desirable opponent, Shinsuke says that Shibata is a different person now since he buried the hatchet with Tanahashi and is seemingly on team NJPW now, and doesn't have to prove himself in every match anymore like an outsider.   Intercontinental Title: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Katsuyori Shibata Talk about night and day huh? It's like Freddie Mercury fighting Dan Severn in terms of personality and presentation. But, looks aside both guys can hang and we've seen these two face each other before. I'm hoping for good things in this one. Josh and Mauro point out that Nakamura has the better MMA record and although he is different and strange, he can still kick butt. Both basically ignore the introductions and just GLARE at each other. Back from break as we get started. Exchange of kicks doesn't go anywhere to start.  Some grappling on the mat into an MMA guard position. Both guys going for heel locks sends them both to the ropes. Shibata goes for the stomp and Nakamura dodges out of the ring. Back inside and into another knucklelock. Shinsuke gets an armbar and sends it down on the mat. Shinsuke works the arm before going into a surfboard. Shibata rolls out of it and gets a cobra twist lock, but Nakamura gets into the rope. Into an exchange of swift kicks leads to a stalemate. Nakamura goes for that goofy belly face rub thing and Mauro gives him hell for it. Shibata does the smart thing and locks in a guillotine choke. That'll teach him. Nakamura gets kicked sending him outside with Shibata following him out. Nakamura gets sent over the barricade right into the broadcast desk. Back in, Shibata locks in a figure-four leglock. Shinsuke tries to counter but fails, but he gets to the rope to break. Shibata slides out of the hold and gets a standing heel hook and kicks Shin in the head while he does it. Dude is badass. Both guys exchange elbows with Shibata getting the advantage. Shibata goes for a running kick, but Nakamura gets the knee! Shinsuke gets his good vibrations kick, but Shibata catches the foot and stands right up. Shibata goes for something but gets hung up on the top turnbuckle, leading to Nakamura landing a kick. Pin attempt only gets two. Shinsuke tries for a suplex, but Shibata gets some elbows in. Both men go down. Back up each man goes for a sleeper before Shinsuke sinks it in. Shibata reverses it and transfers into an octopus hold and bends Shin's arms backward so much they actually touch! Ouch! That has to hurt no matter who you are. They get into the ropes and Shinsuke is in pain. Shibata works him over in the corner with strikes. At this point, Mauro wonders if a "certain MMA promoter" (Dana White) thinks this is fake. Ooooh, burn. Both men get hits in as they are down. Back from break. as Shibata gets a suplex. Nakamura is down and Shibata goes for the penalty kick, missing and Nakamura lands his own kick. They struggle to their knees and exchange strikes. Jeez. Nakamura gets a powerslam, but Shibata pops right back up to land a german suplex.  Shibata gets in a sleeper hold. Shinsuke gets in a knee to the gut and  tries for the Booma ya, but gets dropkick in the mouth for that idea. Exchange of kicks and Shibata ends that with a SLAP and a kick. Shinsuke gets out of a fireman's carry into an elbow, but Shibata hits the GTS. Shin kicks out of the pin attempt. Shibata goes for the penalty kick, but Shinsuke catches him. He lands the Booma ya, and then another to the back of the head to get the pin! In the ring, Shinsuke talks about going to the Tokyo Dome for Wrestlekingdom and is all out of cards to play with. He says that he is looking for a joker to play. Behind him, Kota Ibushi scampers out, slides into the ring, and nails Nakamura with a german suplex! Nakamura gives out his Yeaoh yell and gets up smiling. He likes what he sees and accepts the challenge. Guess we know why Ibushi got the pin in the tag match now. Backstage Nakamura says that the rivalry with Shibata is over. He is looking forward to Wrestlekingdom and wanted someone crazy for the big show and Ibushi is perfect. We finish with some studio words from Nakamura. He talks about how Shibata was not the same wrestler he faced over a decade before, but after wrestling him a few times since he had returned, he was used to Shibata's moves. He then talks about the challenge from Ibushi and how he is a good opponent that got his blood flowing. That was a fun show if you like guys just beating the bloody hell out of each other. The opener was one of those matches where you just cringe at how hard these guys were hitting each other while the main event was a great match in a technical MMA style. The tag match really suffered from its editing as it just seemed to lose control and go everywhere. But it's not like the middle match on this show getting the hack job is anything new. Lots of fun to watch! Next week is the last stop before Wrestlekingdom 9. We will see a big 8-man tag match that will probably make my hands explode trying to cover. See you next week! /ul/34306-/match 1-620x.jpg
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
These guys will be sore in the morning!
Konnichiwa to this week's strong style! This week NJPW on AXS TV once again takes us back to the Bodymaker Coliseum in Osaka for our second week. We have two big title matches on tap sandwiched around a tag team match. This s...

Ragnarok photo

It's Showtime: Big O's Director hits us with a cool giant robot short

Can you spot the Marvel reference?
Sep 25
// Salvador GRodiles
You know you're in for a treat when the Japan Animator Expo project releases a mecha anime short that's directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama, the man who brought us The Big O. Even though the piece took place in an area that's in p...

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