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Annotated Anime

Annotated Anime: One Piece episodes 715-719

Nov 24 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 715: The Manly Duel - Senor's Elegy of LoveLuffy continues his senseless and losing fight against Bellamy while Leo and co. get Mansherry back to Viola. This is all peripheral to the main stars of the episode; Franky vs. Senor Pink. We have been getting snippets of this fight for many episodes and but it has never progressed further than just trading a few attacks and hits. In retrospect, I think Senor Pink was absolutely trashing Franky, delivering a hit and the sinking back into the ground. This manly fight is backed by pure testosterone. Neither side wanting to back down nor dodging a hit since it would be unmanly to avoid it, or as they eloquently put it "refuse a drink at a bar by pulling the cup away". Senor Pink's ultimatum comes in this episode stating that if Franky can withstand his ultimate attack then he will back down. The final move turns out to be a very fancy Izuna Drop. Mid-way through the descent, Senor Pink mentions that he knows Franky's weak point i.e. his back since that is the only part of him that isn't mechanised. Things are looking bad for the Straw Hat until he rises from the crater like a goddamn Terminator, red eye and all.  Then comes the emotional flashback. I was told that Doflamingo's executives had some really tear jerker back stories and they weren't lying. I didn't think I'll ever relate to a guy looks like an overgrown baby surrounded by bikini babes, and somehow One Piece has me feeling nothing but empathy for the guy. I love the way it is introduced too. Senor Pink sends Franky flying and starts to wax nostalgic about Russian and Gimlet. We're kept in the dark about these names until the second half the episode which makes the reveal hit harder emotionally. Looking back it's understandable he still holds them dear to his heart. He had to live a double life as a pirate and a family man, and neither should ever meet. I'd imagine he kept his family a secret from the Doflamingo Family as he did his pirate life from his actual family.  On first appearances I thought Senor Pink was a wacky Oda creation with no reason for him being dressed as a baby outside of diversity and character design aesthetics. Having a history behind his appearance makes Senor Pink a much deeper character compared to the other villainous lieutenants the Straw Hats face. I'm just surprised I'm getting more emotional reactions out of the antagonistic cast rather than the heroes. Episode 716: Stardust of Death! Diamante's Storm of Vicious Attacks!We continue to take a look at Senor Pink's life and how he dealt with the mocking eyes of everyone when they saw him dressing as a Baby. Surprisingly well for a Man (with a capital M) that once wore stylish suits and chain-smoked cigarettes. I really didn't think Senor Pink's back story should have been included in this episode. At least not separated from the previous episode. It would've been better if they spent an entire episode on Senor Pink's backstory instead of having two halves of two episode. Fortunately, the pacing was still spot on, not dragging too much on familiar ground and concluding with the Tontatta tribe storming the SMILE factory. As the title implies, we return to the three on one fight on top of Flower Hill. Apparently the joint forces of Robin, Kyos, and Rebecca is still not enough to bring down Steve Tyler's One Piece doppelganger. Diamante makes it rain with lots and lots of caltrops catching Kyros in the barrage of iron spiky objects. However not even this is able to bring down the one legged gladiator so Diamante shoots him instead. And even this isn't enough to bring him down though Diamante did just hit is leg instead of anything more valuable like the heart or head.  Kyos delivers a speech prompting Rebecca to finally drop her sword which is good because she hasn't really used it for the past 10 episodes and had merely served as a decorative item to complete the Gladiator ensemble. I had really hoped Rebecca would be more than a damsel in distress. She was really competent before Kyros arrived, taking on gladiators, avoiding death, and fending for her own. Did the sudden re-appearance of her father negate a decade's worth of fighting experience!?  Episode 717: Trueno Bastardo! Kyos' Furious Strike!After my long break away from One Piece, the show is finally finishing off all their major fights. Senor Pink was finished off in the last two episodes, Mansherry has been rescued and Jora was defeated again. Now it's time for Diamante to eat humble pie and be destroyed at Kyros's hands. Not much to say here as it's just fighting. Not many special moves nor smart tactics. Kyros continues to wails on Diamante as they flashback to Scarlet as she joins the two together being Kyros's wife and Diamante's victim. The two do have another thing in common in this episode and that is to have the scariest close-ups ever in One Piece. The camera gets so close to their face that they contort in bizarre shapes and colors. I'm not too sure if they're sword fighting or tripping out on the flower buds.  Diamante is downed and everyone gets a pat on the back as Violet reads off the remaining executives; Pica, Trebol, the big cheese himself Doflamingo, and Bellemy. I wouldn't consider Bellemy an executive considering Doflamingo has tried to kill that guy about three times already. Episode 718: Moving Across the Ground! The Giant Statue Pica's Surprise Maneuver!Pica decides his fight with Zoro is useless and focusses his efforts on killing Riku instead. He reasons that if the entire country wants Riku back in power, killing Riku would prevent him from dethroning Doflamingo or Doffy as his executives call him. Pica then grows to be a Kaiju-sized monster and traverses Dressrosa towards King Riku and the rest of the crew. As Zoro gives chase, we get a glimpse into the swordsman's strategic mind. Unfortunately, this entire episode is played straightedge. We don't have any funny fails in mind planning or does Zoro get lost from following a behemoth. Having a giant CG Pica looked a little weird amongst all the animation but overall the visuals are on par with a normal One Piece episode; acceptable if you don't look at anything outside front and centre.  Episode 719: A Decisive Battle in Midair! Zoro's New Special Secret Technique Blasts!Now it's time to take down that high pitched stone monstrosity that has been avoiding death since the start of Summer. Zoro's plan is to fly to the top of Pica and slice him before he can destroy King's Plateau along with Riku, Usopp, the Samurai, and the other secondary allies the Straw Hats have picked up in the past year. He gets thrown by Orlumbus and flies through the sky like a plan with swords for wings. The picture of Zoro flying at high speeds through the sky with katana akimbo looks ridiculous. He looks like Woody in the first Toy Story as he's being propelled by the rocket strapped to the back of Buzz except this time it's a suited buff dude with a bandana and two samurai swords.  Meanwhile, Pica painfully takes his time flattening Riku and even pauses when he sees the citizens of Dressrosa banding together to sacrifice themselves with the former king. I'm not too sure why he would pause at that moment considering he's probably killed far more people unconsciously traversing to King's Plateau in his Kaiju form. Zoro slices and dices in the nick of time using his new skill: imbuing his sword's with Haki. Pica escapes as per usual but is cornered midair by the swordsman. The show then starts drawing parallels with the first time Zoro fought Mihawk. I think it's because Zoro uses an upgraded version of his Three Thousand Worlds technique against Pica except the thematic parallels don't work due to the context of each situation. This may be Zoro's strongest enemy to date, but he's not fighting against an equally strong swordsman or cutting a material that is inherently difficult to cut. When he fought Mihawk it was almost certainly a losing battle, he was out of depth. When he fought Daz Bones, he was fighting again against the odds since the guy was made of Iron as a devil fruit power. An uncuttable material. This time, we see Zoro slicing and dicing stone like it's made of cheese so it doesn't look like a difficult fight physically. Zoro for most of the series been able to cut brick and motor. The Pica fight should've been trying to test Zoro's cerebral skills to make him into a better swordsman. Without tactics and intelligence, brute force would only get you so far. However the show doesn't show Zoro stressing about it at all, he doesn't have a eureka moment nor worrying about how to beat this impossible opponent. He was always calm, collected, and content on cutting up stone after stone and chasing after Pica. This seems to be a running theme through the post time skip. The crew never grow stronger after every fight, their training appears to be sufficient to tackle these challenges in the new world.  And with that I'm caught up with One Piece and so are you. Hopefully, I won't leave this week's recapping for another five weeks again otherwise I may be court marshalled from the Japanator ship for going AWOL.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
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One Piece catch up extravaganza!
It's been too long my friends for a salty sailor to be denied the high seas. I've saved One Piece until last since little ever happens week to week. And the five weeks I do decide to leave are the five episodes where three executives are taken down, one of the best heart-wrenching flashbacks in this arc occurs, and Zoro imitates an aeroplane. 

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari episode 8

Nov 23 // Anthony Redgrave
After the desperate escape and rescue by Ononoki, Araragi recaps the events to the doll and his plans his next moves. Ideally he wanted to take Kanbaru somewhere safe so she won't be harmed by the Samurai oddity but since she had made physical contact with it, she is now connected to it. Also, Araragi still hasn't fulfilled his promise to Gaen of introducing Kanbaru to her so that Gaen can make use of Kanbaru's monkey paw. This is all laid out and recapped by the conversation between Araragi and Ononoki. This clears a lot of the motivation and goals of the show as previously I was unsure of which person Araragi wanted to introduce Kanbaru to. Trying to follow the story of Monogatari can be difficult amongst the streams and streams of dialogue that is spouted out every episode and it's made even more difficult when it does the Haruhi thing of airing the series out of chronology.  I once spoke to a friend about the airing schedule of Haruhi and he replied it was part of the show, that it was supposed to confusing and awkward. However, when a show has large amounts of continuity with the same characters all interacting with one another both on and off screen, it is really difficult to grasp the story and relate to the characters. Since Araragi wants to continue to protect Kanbaru from the Samurai, he proceeds with his original plan to meet with Gaen in the park. Namishiro Park specifically. A commonly revisited site for Monogatari. It has a really nice design too with boldly coloured jungle gyms and play sets contrasting strongly against the uniformly grey block of flats in the background. The middle portion of the episode has Araragi and Kanbaru getting lost a la Mayoi Cow, wondering the streets endlessly. In a case of fourth wall smashing, Kanbaru remembers the solution for the Cow oddity better than Araragi who actually experienced the oddity first hand and they arrive at the park 3 hours past the original meeting time. In a strange turn of events, they do not find Kanbaru's Aunt but a sleeping Shinobu underneath a swing set having just fought off a Monkey oddity. I really like Shinobu as a character. She is coy, confident, and the loli appearance rounds it off. Having Kanbaru jumping up and down excitedly behind the fence is great too, acting as a proxy for Shinobu fans.  The episode concludes on a cliffhanger as the oddity Shinobu was fighting returns. The dark shadow that reaches towards the camera is imposing and the glare of the background light masks the oddity in shadow, capturing the feeling of mystery and menace in one shot.  [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!]
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Eat up!
From reading posts by anime fans whenever a show has a selection of female characters (often attractive) one of them will be selected as best. This is an entirely opinionated but I think the most common favourite in the ...

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episodes 6 and 7

Nov 22 // Josh Tolentino
But first, an aside: Perhaps the most interesting news to come out of One Punch Man in the last couple of weeks has come from its production team. Chief Animation Director Chikashi Kubota recently revealed that, contrary to lay expectations (mine included), One Punch Man is animated using an "average-sized" budget, and is not the moneyed behemoth many thought it was judging by the high quality of its action scenes and prominence as a Shonen JUMP headliner. It just goes to show how "anime" One Punch Man is, and not merely in adhering to cultural quirks most folks associate with "anime-like" things, but also in a more classical sense. Japanese TV anime developed many of its stylistic and storytelling conventions from the need to make the most of very limited resources. Compared to the Hollywood-led productions of the time, the style of animation pioneered by Tezuka Productions and other postwar studios is filled with cost-saving techniques that directly influenced the way stories are told in the medium today. It's one of the reasons Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki famously disliked having their works lumped in with "anime", as to them, the term represented something defined by having been made on the cheap. Whatever the case, Kubota's tweet is a resounding affirmation on the talent at work with One Punch Man, that they can "hide the seams" so effectively that people think the show is much more expensive than it actually is. Moving on, the first "hit" of episode six is the one most everyone will be familiar with, regardless of punching strength. After all, few things have more of an impact on a person than a good ol' reality check. In this case, Saitama learns of the world of work, as he realizes that C-ranked heroes like himself need to stop crime on a regular basis to keep from being dropped from the roster. Given that he's always been far too powerful to consider stopping muggers and helping old ladies worth his while, this leads to a mad scramble across town in search of bad guy to take down.  The bad guy in question is Speed o' Sound Sonic, who opens his second appearance in the One Punch Man canon spoiling for a rematch. Needless to say, Saitama provides, absentmindedly filling his quota and inadvertently proving his superiority in one fell chop to the back of the head.  The real meat of the episode, though, is in seeing the Hero Association conduct more investigations into the origins of monster activity in Saitama's hometown, City Z. Besides a cool boardroom sequence featuring reports from various high-class heroes, the task falls to two A-rank ringers, the slingshot-toting Golden Ball and the mustachioed Spring Mustachio. Facial hair is his superpower, alongside a wicked sword thrust that recalls the likes of Bleach's Gin, but somehow cooler. After a cool action scene, the two heroes get plastered by a weird seaweed creature and learn little about the apparent mystery behind City Z (Hint: It's Saitama!), but we do get a further look into the inner workings of the Hero Association, including an early cameo by Tornado of Terror, a petulant, childlike telekinetic diva.  After the period of relative downtime in episode six, things pick up steam in episode seven. Then again, how could they not? A meteor's about to hit the city, after all. In case folks were wondering about our lead characters' lack of screentime, episode seven is mostly about Genos, who has many steps yet to go in his heroic journey. I've remarked before about how Genos could probably anchor a stereotypical action show all on his own. He's young, has a tragic backstory, and if not for his master, would probably be the star. That feeling's reinforced here, as he tries his damnedest to stop the meteor, despite a lack of aid from the apathetic Metal Knight and Bang, an aged martial-arts guru who's seen a lot of crap. Naturally, Saitama ends up stepping in to save the day, but there's never a doubt who the most heroic person was in this particular incident.   That doesn't mean our One-Punch wonder is completely without virtue, though. He may be oblivious, and kind of a dick, but he's the hero we deserve, especially compared to some of his peers. An incident with a pair of tank top-wearing jerks seems to impress that, with few exceptions, most of the heroes in the Hero Association are hardly heroic at all. Instead, the ranks are filled with preening, status-obsessed d-bags who care more for their place in the rankings than doing the right thing. By comparison, the only decent people are relative outsiders, like Saitama, Genos, and Bang, or the downtrodden, like the powerless Mumen Rider. One can't help but wonder if that's some kind of meta-commentary on how turning passion into work can lead ideals astray, but suffice it to say that being bad isn't exclusive to villains.  [Watch more of One Punch Man on Daisuki and Crunchyroll!]     chief animation director Chikashi Kubota
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That Feel When No One Knows You
The last couple of weeks of One Punch Man have delivered a couple of big hits, and neither courtesy of the titular "man" himself, Saitama. One hit is more psychological/philosophical than anything else, and the second is literal in a way that befits a show as straightforward as to have a title like One Punch Man.

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari episode 7

Nov 17 // Anthony Redgrave
Jumping back a spell, this story takes place after the long Summer and the start of a new school year. However, Araragi is playing truant and takes residence in Oshino Meme's old haunt. Shinobu has been largely absent this season and in the opening there was talk about her being separated from Araragi. My memories of the previous seasons are a bit hazy so I'm unsure about the situation. From what I remember they should still be together albeit their last real arc was Shinobu Time that explored Shinobu's backstory. A little bit of digging around on the Bakemonogatari Wikia reveals that this arc actually takes place during Tsubasa Tiger.  Kanbaru makes an appearance shortly after and the two share a lengthy exchange prolonged by diverted topics. Kanbaru is the same headstrong sexually directed person as always and has been growing her hair out foreshadowing her appearance in Hanamonogatari. Araragi asked to meet with her at the abandoned cram school because he wanted her to meet someone else in another place. We don't learn who they are supposed to meet or where. We only know that Araragi is only there to act as a medium between the two parties and they are not meant to meet in the cram school. This isn't out of the ordinary except Araragi starts to question his own organisational skills; why did he want to meet Kanbaru separately from where they were going to meet the other person, or why he was being vague about the other party in general. All this mystery is sandwiched between Kanbaru's requests for Araragi to take her virginity (which was her original thought when Araragi had texted her) and books about famous Japanese author Shugoro Yamamoto. My guess is that Araragi was arranging Kanbaru to meet his sister Karen since he did promise this to Karen at the end of Monogatari: Second Season. By the way, the title of the book referenced 'Bishoujo Ichibannori' or 'Pretty Girl First to Arrive' is entirely fictional. Don't waste those 5 minutes googling it as I did.  The second half of the episode moves the story along with a chance encounter with an empty Samurai armour that attacks the duo. Pushed to defeat, they are only saved by the tiger featured in Tsubasa Tiger engulfing the building in flames. The enemy reveals that he is here for the Oddity Killer Sword (Kokorowatari) that Shinobu had taken from him drawing more connections to last season's Shinobu Time. I'm hoping that they will do a quick recap of the events of that arc as I have forgotten a lot of these details. All the shots that had the Samurai as the subject were great. You never really saw all the details since he was always hidden in shadow and only until the end did you see his full design.  This was my least favourite episode this season. The visuals had a cold dark colour scheme and the tone was more serious. Even during the fun jokey parts at the start of the episode had underlying sinister and mysterious music motifs. You could feel that this was a more serious episode compared to last arcs which ironically dealt with a more serious real world themes. The verbal banter between Kanbaru and Araragi was ok with most of the comedy came from Kanbaru's sexual advances.  Coming away from this episode I did learn one thing; fait accompli. This is a French saying that means 'a thing that has already happened or been decided before those affected had a chance to hear about it or act upon it and ultimately have to accept it'. It's funny that I heard a French saying in Japanese and learnt about it in English [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!]
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The beginning of the end
Today marks the start of the last of arc in Owarimonogatari; Shinobu Mail. This arc will last half the season and clocks in at 6 episodes. It has only just dawned on me after this episode that I've found the entire season inc...

Annotated Anime: Durarara!!x2 Ten episodes 6-8

Nov 17 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 6: Roses has ThornsFrom last we left the city, celebrities Ruri and Kasuka crash Shinra's apartment hoping to get some protection and advice from Kasuka's brother Shizuo. They also bring along a stray cat named Yuigadokusonmaru. It's a name that's frighteningly intimidating to pronounce so I commend the dub cast for pulling it off so confidently. I'm surprised also that a Scottish fold cat was actually left on the street too considering it's high value amongst domestic cat lovers. The story goes on to explore Ruri's backstory and her rise to fame as an idol starting with her monster complex and her obsession with the complex that drove to become Hollywood. We don't learn much about her Hollywood persona and that side of her isn't brought up much this episode. Hollywood had a key role last cour but I felt it was glanced over and underdeveloped due to competing with the other happenings in Ikebukuro. Episode 7: A Cat has Nine LivesTelling the story from Masaomi's perspective was a good change of pace since he has been absent from Ikebukuro since the start of Durararax2. The bulk of the action and drama of these last two episodes is from Ruri's stalker, a crazy martial artist with a serial sociopathic complex wanting to choke the hell out of the idol. We only see the results of months of planning for the stalker as he targets Ruri herself, Shinra as it was his apartment she is seen entering, and Anri who is also entering the apartment at the same time. Fortunately, Mikado was able to rally his new gang the blue squares to their aid and prevent the simultaneous attacks on Ruri and Anri. Shinra however, wasn't as lucky as the stalker was able to beat him down for Celty was informed. This episode shows that Mikado is able to pull the strings like master manipulators Izaya and Jinnai, but unlike the other two isn't afraid of getting his hands dirty too. He saves Masaomi from a similar beat down and asks his friend to leave the city until he has finished masterminding his plan. Mikado's dark side is slowly becoming more apparent as we start to see less of him socializing with Anri and other dollars members and more with the Blue Squares.  Episode 8: Mouth of Honey, A Needle in the HeartEven though a lot of Durarara's story is framed around the exploits of high school students, there are also happening in the adult underworld. And it's all orchestrated by Izaya Orihara. This episode focuses on Izaya's job for the Awakusu group on taking down a gambling ring run by Amphisbaena. Amphisbaena are the rivals of the drug-toting group Heaven's Smile, the gang Akabayashi took out in the bathroom of a club earlier this season. In classic Durarara fashion, the story is told disjointedly with flashes to past events that clear up the actions in the present. The ending and reveal at the end of the episode aren't a game changer but shows us the added manipulative power Orihara has with his new gang he had acquired in the last episode.  Durarara!! continues to not translate the on-screen Japanese text meaning there are some parts of the episodes in complete silence. Although not a large problem it can cause some confusion with the message board politics and identities. It's made worse now that we know Orihara has taken upon multiple message board personalities in hopes of hiding his actions amongst the dollars.  [Watch Durarara!!x2 Ten on Crunchy Roll] [Watch Durarara!!x2 Ten on Crunchy Roll]
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Scottish Folds are my favorite too
Apologies reader, this weekly column has somehow become a monthly one. It has been due to my review work for the site the majority of which went live last week. I have been looking forward to getting back into Durarara!!x2 Te...

Annotated Anime: Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans episodes 4-5

Nov 10 // Josh Tolentino
Iron-Blooded Orphans' fourth episode mostly consists of place-setting, giving out more details as to the situation between Earth and Mars (more on that in a bit), as well as emphasizing what's at stake for the people involved. Now that Tekkadan has its first job - escorting Aina to Earth to appeal for Martian independence - the crew need to go about the hard work of, y'know, getting her to Earth. With Orga and the other leaders off getting CGS' old space-ride up to spec (and sleazebucket Todo planning some kind of betrayal), Mikazuki and the others get some downtime, which they spend picking corn from Biscuit's family farm. It's here that the orphans' hard-luck situation is underlined further. Crappy economics and the stigma of being "Human Debris" - slaves, basically - mean that Tekkadan is their only chance at an honest living. Incidentally, the episode also lays out a little bit more background on Earth's history in the Iron-Blooded Orphans setting. I love this sort of stuff, mainly because of sci-fi anime's propensity for redrawing the map in hilarious, color-coded ways. It's always fun to see the way a given setting organizes its world can clue you into its own worldview. In this case, Earth's four power blocs include the U.S. and Latin America united in the SAU, East Asia, Australia, Oceania, and the subcontinent in their own little co-prosperity sphere, and Europe largely absorbed by Africa, the Middle East, and West Asia. Poor Russia has to make do with Canada and Alaska. All things considered, it's not quite as farfetched as some other anime world maps I've seen, though one can't help but wonder just what in the world took out that huge chunk of New South Wales. A meteor capable of making a crater that big would compare favorably to the one that killed the dinosaurs! Mikazuki also has a run-in with Fareed and Gaelio, who are on Mars trying to investigate just what it is Major Coral is hiding. A bit of bad driving later, Mikazuki accidentally starts a rivalry with both Gjallarhorn agents, and Fareed gets to pull his Candy Man schtick on a couple of kids.  All the setup here pays off in episode five, where the Tekkadan heads to space for the first time. Todo's betrayal - selling out Aina to the Tekkadan's would-be guides and Gjallarhorn - goes down, only to reveal that Orga had it thought through. He's a smart guy not to trust the smirking geezer sporting a Hitler mustache. This is where Tekkadan's own White Base, an assault ship redubbed the Isaribi comes into play, debuting with an asteroid-based anchor turn straight from that awful Battleship live-action movie. It looks better than it sounds. What doesn't look as great is Gundam Barbatos' first turn at space combat. Conceptually, it's great. Nobody in Iron-Blooded Orphans has any beam weapons yet, so it's all about bullets and heavy steel axes, including Barbatos' awesome hybrid of poleax, lance, and pile bunker. For a guy who's never flown, Mikazuki seems a natural at space combat, something Fareed puts down to the kid's Alaya-Vijnana System. Simply put, not only do the horns on Mikazuki's back make the Gundam behave like his own body, but expand his awareness like some kind of Cyber-Newtype (but without the whole thing with "This Pressure!!!"). Strong as that is, though, it's a thing Fareed quickly learns to exploit, targeting the extraneous, spiky bits that Mikazuki can't "feel" naturally, like Barbatos' thrusters. You don't mess with the chocolate man. On a side note, it's interesting to see the closest thing this Gundam has to the "Newtype" archetype cast as something forced on only the lowest of the low classes. Everywhere else, Newtypes are the future of human evolution. In Iron-Blooded Orphans, they're a form of mutilation and, like Gundam Frames, a relic of an old, irrelevant war. That's a contrast I'm actually hoping the show is bold enough to take further. With a bold rescue and a traitor disposed of, we're 2 for 2 in Tekkadan's favor, and despite the fact that Orga, Mikazuki, and the crew have come out ahead pretty much every time they've gone up against the odds, what's fun about Iron-Blooded Orphans is that it still feels pretty great to root for these perpetual underdogs.  [Check out Iron-Blooded Orphans every week on Daisuki and YouTube!]
Iron-Blooded Orphans photo
The Candy Man Can
It's been a little while since we last checked in with Iron-Blooded Orphans, and as a result, we're a little behind. Stuff is definitely happening, though, from table-setting in cornfields to the beginning of what is clearly the Tekkadan's rise to power. Now, won't you take these sweets as a form of apology?

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari Episodes 2-6

Nov 08 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 2-3: Sodachi Riddle The opening to each Monogatari arc fits in with the theme, belle du jour, and style the arc is portraying but rarely do I find myself watching them all the way through. Sodachi Riddle is one of the rare exceptions where I really liked the opening. The jazzy instruments, mezzo-soprano vocals, and reflective imagery invoked a mysterious detective vibe, perfect for what the arc had in store.  The story does take us back to the present with Araragi meeting with Sodachi after two years. She has mysteriously come back to school after Araragi had solved the case in the last episode. Thinking the past was behind them, Araragi tries to strike up a friendly conversation with the former class president. It's odd to see Araragi being formally friendly. Normally his sullen look is only broken by an appearance of a loli character or Senjougahara. The sudden change in color from the corridor's warm inviting orange to cool mysterious blue once in the classroom stages the uncertainty of how Sodachi is going to react to Araragi's presence. Suffice to say it's not a friendly reunion. So much so that Senjougahara intervenes putting Sodachi out cold and leaving Araragi to solve another mystery. The story continues with Ougi in tow as Araragi dives back into his past and the origins of his relationship with Sodachi. Ougi's presence is great as she is always one step ahead of Araragi, probing and pointing into Araragi to the right direction. Her friendly personality and helpful demeanor in pushing Araragi makes us completely forget about her ghostly appearance. The arc ends nicely with the main puzzle solved and leaves enough strings curiously un-tied to help lead into the next arc.  Episodes 4-6: Sodachi Lost It's time to tackle the present problem of Sodachi tardiness. But who does Araragi choose as his partner in crime? This is the basis for the first episode of Sodachi lost as we have two contenders; newcomer Ougi or dear sweet Hanekawa. Ougi has already shown her deductive prowess in the first few episodes so she should be the obvious choice. However, we have known Hanekawa longer and she is one of the best at socializing amongst the Monogatari cast. It is also worth noting that Hanekawa is class president so is responsible for the wellbeing of her student body. This would've been a dramatic choice that needed to be made if it weren't for the series tradition of starting each arc in media res.  It doesn't suck all the drama out of the moment. The verbal catfight that ensues between Hanekawa and Ougi is great with the backdrop of congested traffic and factories spewing smoke amongst a red sky framing the entire scene. I really liked how Ougi interacts with Araragi in this scene too. The way she persuades and worms her way into Araragi's head confirms our suspicions that she is one not to be kept too close.  The middling episode of this arc is verbally draining. You may need to prime your eyes for fast subtitles if they are out of shape. Araragi and co. arrive at Sodachi's new residence and confront her about her tardiness. This spills into Sodachi's past, her outlook on life, and why she hates Araragi and her past connections with him. We learn lots about this girl and there aren't a lot of light moments here. Her past is dark and explores domestic violence, neglect, and jealousy. These themes have been explored with other girls in the series but none that refused Araragi's aid. There has been no mention of oddities at this moment so all the bad things happening to Sodachi is real. No external forces requiring exorcising, no supernatural beings, Sodachi was born into a harsh environment making her suffering hit harder than the others. The episode concludes with Sodachi burying the hatchet with Araragi and only returning to school if they can find her mother.  The mother search doesn't require much traveling. Ougi rendezvous with her sempai taunting Hanekawa at her lack of an explanation for her mother's disappearance. Ougi's manipulative nature almost gets to Araragi as she will explain it all if Araragi begs for the answer. Hanekawa makes Araragi refuse the request and asks for 10 seconds to figure out the answer. It's the most intense 10 seconds hair was you will see in anime. I know that last sentence doesn't make much sense and it doesn't make much sense in the context of the anime either, but it does look really cool. Now both the heroines know the answer and it's just us and Araragi that are still in the dark. What follows is both girls giving out various hints hoping to lead Araragi and us to the answer. It's a really good part of the episode as it got my brain working trying to decipher the various hints being spewed out at lightning speed. The answer is equally as dark as the episode that precedes it. The ending to Sodachi Lost takes up the second half of the episode 6 and is filled with warm cozy visuals and Araragi's nonchalant voice recapping the aftermath. The final scene is open-ended allowing for viewer speculation on what was written on the letter. Personally I think it's a thank you in the form of a mathematics problem that only Araragi was able to decipher thanks to his practice with Sodachi.  [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] her friendly personality and helpful demeanor in pushing Araragi 
Monogatari photo
Hanekawa's boobs > Ougi
Since I've been behind on recapping Owarimonogatari, I was planning on writing a recap every time an arc had finished. This plan would've been perfect as it gave me more time in between each write up to catch up on other stuf...

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episode 5

Nov 05 // Josh Tolentino
The first test of the week, of course, is Saitama and Genos' application to join the Hero Association, the NGO that regulates hero activity in the world of One Punch Man. And what an application it is!  It's easy to get distracted by the visuals and the awesome punching, but another thing that I find great about One Punch Man is its particular take on otherwise western-style superheroes, in part because the whole premise of a "Hero Association" (and even that name!) is so very Japanese. I mean, of course they would rearrange the whole concept of superhero adventures into something managed by a thoroughly bureaucratic process! Having recently taken the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, I could see the shades of it permeating the wholet testing montage (minus the athletic stuff). Sure, we've seen similar twists in the likes of Tiger & Bunny and even Zetman, but it's One Punch Man's interpretation that strikes me as particularly resonant with Japanese culture. I can only imagine how much more resonant it might be with the people who do live over there.  Naturally, once it's over, Genos gets himself catapulted to S-rank hero, while Saitama's poor written testing is rewarded with a C-rank. Between the orientation seminar led by one Snakebite Snek, an A-class jerkface, we see the world of the Hero Association is just as consumed with office politics, factionalization, and hazing the new guys. That's emphasized further with some new material, an impromptu meeting with none other than Amai Mask, celebrity, top-rank A-class hero, and apparently a kingmaker of sorts in the Association, one who's got his eye on Genos. For Saitama, on the other hand,  seeing what used to be a hobby turned into a day job might not be the best thing. It's an interesting thing to point out, as anyone who's ever tried to make a living off  a thing they used to do for fun has experienced. It's not all world-building and highly Japanese superheroics, though. This episode contains my favorite battle of the whole series: A sparring match between Saitama and Genos, with Genos going all out to try and push his "master" and reveal some secret to his power. There's some really great stuff in this fight. Of course, much of it thanks to the manga and Yuusuke Murata's lavish artwork, but there really is something to see it in motion. Madhouse even adds a few embellishments that help push things even further over the top. It's good that we're finally getting more hints of the real substance of One Punch Man's world, in addition to the visual splendor and hilarity of seeing Saitama win at (almost) everything. It took a bit of time, but this episode taps most deeply into the things that have made the manga such a hit with so many people. [Check out One Punch Man on Daisuki and Crunchyroll!]
One Punch Man photo
Passing the test
Things start to pick up in the animated chronicle of the man who Belive In Justice and Hold A Determination To Fist*, as the theme of this week's episode is "testing", whether against bureaucracy, your teacher, or yourself. Let's get some udon when we're done! *Symphogear is the 2nd best punching anime this year *Sorry, Symphogear reference

First Impressions: Anitore! EX

Nov 03 // Anthony Redgrave
Anitore! EX can best be described as an anime exercise video made into four-minute episodes. It's those "Get Fit with (insert washed up celebrity here)" videos that plague the discount bins and supermarket media sections except in anime form. Each episode has a different set of exercises and a different girl taking you through them. Of course, if you're not motivated by the tsundere flat chest, maybe the spunky gluttonous one will get you motivated to do some push ups. There isn't much story from each episode but according to the wiki page each girl is an aspiring idol wanting to improve their physique through exercise routines.  Each episode is shot in a POV style with the viewer taking the form of a training partner. I think you are supposed to do the exercises alongside the video. Except since I'm always taking screen shots and trying to read dialogue that mainly consists of "don't forget to exhale" and "hopefully it'll make my breasts bigger too", it's not too effective as an exercise tool. Also, the girls get tired after doing ten reps. I'm not talking just a little winded but sweaty and struggling for the last rep. These girls have a long way to go if they want to achieve that perfect beach body for Summer 2016.  The animation and art style, for the most part, is nice. The girls don't have the most original designs or personalities, but it works for the short duration of each episode. They cater to a specific moe and they all look nice while they work out. The camera has an eye for the female form but thankfully doesn't linger for too long to be part of ecchi territory. The chibi versions of each character are cute and adorable for cheering on the girls as they work out and providing practical tips during each exercise.  There isn't too much substance here. The details on each exercise are minimal and provide a basic explanation on the muscle groups they work out. If you've been on the fence about the concept of working out but have never pushed up or squatted in your life then maybe this is worth a watch. However, I cannot stress that 'maybe' enough. Personally, I've been wanting to add more exercise routines to my repertoire so the 4 minutes episodes filled with cute anime girls isn't a bad investment every week. Just don't be expecting some high or even low-brow stuff with this anime.  [Anitore! EX streams weekly on Crunchy Roll] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
Anitore! EX photo
Get on the Summer body early
There has always been sports anime around that I can never get into. Either I have no interest in the sport or the drama part takes too much away from the sport that I like, or the show is more interested in showing off ...

Annotated Anime: Attack on Titan: Junior High episodes 2-4

Oct 29 // Soul Tsukino
All right, now that the fangirls have stopped screaming, we are introduced to Levi. He is an upperclassman at the school. After taking down a titan so easily, Eren wants to know what club this sempai belongs to so he can learn how to take down titans so easily. But first we see why Armin has been so holed up. He is a weak and sickly little boy who has a Linus-like attachment to his favorite futon blanket. His house is kept at a blazing hot temperature so he doesn't catch a cold. Suddenly Levi bursts into the room and steals Armin's futon before he runs away. Instantly Armin starts sneezing. Even though he is wearing cat pajamas. We catch up to the others and it seems that their attempts at joins clubs have all been disasters. Sasha's run in the culinary club didn't go well since she ate all the ingredients, and the sports clubs all are ruined by titans. They start talking about a super secret club that is trying to change and get rid of the titans, but it is hush-hush. Of course, they find the club room easily and well advertised. We get to see some of the older classmen who are members of the Attack Junior High Scout club, including Oluo who always seems to bite his tongue, Petra, and the ever bonkers  Hange. Eren wants to see Levi again, so the best way to get Levi to arrive? Putting an empty plastic bottle in a trash bin. Levi shows right up and after some begging and pleading, Levi makes them all members of the secret club. Except that the club is unofficial and secret so the school puts them all on wall cleaning duty instead. Episode 3 In this episode, we look at Annie. She doesn't like Eren since he declared he liked cheese burger steak during the opening ceremony, making everyone laugh at him. Annie likes Chee-burg too but doesn't want anyone to know. I'm only guessing, but it makes it sound like in Japan, cheeseburger steak is something for little kids and that junior high students would've grown out of eating it. Annie lies and tells everyone she likes mozuku seaweed. The class dodge ball tournament is coming up and since Annie on a different team than Eren, she vows to crush him, Eren doesn't know why. Each of the classes is split into an A team and a B team. Jean heads up class 4's A team and Annie heads Class 4's B team. Things don't look good for Class 4's A team as Eren hasn't shown up. The rules are that everyone has to play and the team has to cover up that Eren isn't there from Mr. Keith. As a result of being separated from him, Mikasa doesn't have the will to move. Sasha is constantly eating (improving her dodge skill but taking away her hands to catch anything), and Conny doesn't even know what he's doing as he hands the opposing team the ball before being eliminated from the first match. Somehow they survive the match and the team watches as Annie's team crushes their opponents. Class 4's A team tries to dress Jean up as Eren so they won't get in trouble with Mr. Keith, but Annie tells them that if he doesn't show up for the match, she'll tell him anyway. Finally, Eren arrives and instantly Mikasa is revived. The battle goes down as people are eliminated one by one. Eventually, it comes down to Eren and Mikasa against Annie. She uses to advanced technique to keeping hitting Eren with the ball, but since Mikasa keeps recovering the ball after he is hit, he doesn't get eliminated, just gets the crap beaten out of him. Eren asks why Annie hates him so much and she confesses her reason. Eren and Annie make up as the others all applaud. Suddenly the ball taps Annie on the head as Conny finally learns the rules of the game and wins it for class 4. Later at lunch Eren drops his only chee-burg on the ground, so Annie give Eren hers. Mikasa gets made and keeps shoveling fish and veggies in his mouth so he wouldn't pay attention to Annie. Jean speculates a love triangle has been made.  Episode 4 It's time to start cleaning the outer walls! For Eren and the gang, it's the first day of the wall cleaning club that they were shoe-horned into in episode 2. The wall cleaning club once had 100 members, now it's only down to the club president, Rico. So it's up to the first year students to keep the club going!  Each person is assigned a scrub bucket with supplies and are told to clean the windows of the school building. No one likes being there, but since all the human clubs are full, they'd be stuck joining titan clubs instead if they quit. Jean is especially mad since everyone laughs at them and tries to quit, but Rico comes swooping in on the omnidirectional mobility gear and hits him. Instantly everyone falls in love with the new gadget and are told they'd have to work hard to earn the right to wear them. They rush back into the building and clean the windows so well it blinds Rico, who says that even though they are first-year students, he is going to teach them. In a plotline that seems oh so familiar, everyone seems to get the hang of the gear almost instantly, except Eren. He has a moment of existential crisis over being told he'd be kicked out of the club if he couldn't learn to use the gear (Uhh... first year students weren't supposed to be using them anyway. What's the problem?) Until the club advisor, The drunk school janitor Mr. Hannes shows up and straps the gear on, not noticing the belt is damaged and crashing into Jean and the others. Eventually everyone sees the gear is broken. Rico blames Mr. Hannes for it, so she wouldn't look bad. When given a fixed set of gear Eren accomplishes being able to stand upright in it. We then see WHY there is a wall cleaning club in the first place. Yup, Titans are also graffiti making bastards. Eren runs out to try and attack them, but it doesn't end well. See, he only is able to balance in the gear, but Rico hadn't trained him how to properly use it yet.   Overall these three episodes picked up right where the first episode left off. They are fun, cute, and the plot isn't complex. I especially like the work done on episode four with how they were able to parody such an iconic scene from the source show, but still make it work for this universe. As "Weird" Al Yankovic once said of his work, doing original ideas is tough, but parody is even harder. These episodes did a great job at looking at some of Eren's friends and showing some of their funny quirks on top of Eren's adventures. And since I've made it clear who my favorite character is, here is a count of the things Sasha was eating in these eps. An entire box of "sticks" that she nearly choked on, At least 3 yams, at least one baked potato, a bowl of ramen, and a carrot. Surprisingly she didn't eat a thing in episode four. That's no good for a growing young lady like herself! Get her a sammich before she faints! Still love this series and these episodes only made it easier to like it. All right, now that the fan girls have stopped screaming, we are introduced to Levi. He is an upperclassmen at the school. After taking down a titan so easily, Eren wants to know what club this sempai belongs to so he can learn how to take down titans so easily.
Attack on Titan: Jr high photo
Lessons in life, love, and chee-burg
Episode 2 has Eren and the gang wondEreng about the long absence of their classmate Armin. Seems Armin doesn't like to go out in the cold so he hasn't been to school all winter. Eren gets tasked with going to Armin's house to...

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episode 4

Oct 27 // Josh Tolentino
I am, of course, being facetious here, though the focus of this week's episode is definitely on villains, in particular the redundantly-named "Speed O'Sound Sonic", a sadistic, slender ninja man with a penchant for smiling like a crazy person whenever he gets his blood up.  Like our guy Saitama, he's mainly looking for a challenge, but unlike our guy Saitama, he's a true villain, chopping people's heads off at the slightest provocation with his ninja skills. Fans of the manga will note that Sonic is effectively the series' first true, enduring, antagonist. Though that's not saying a whole lot considering the relative thinness of One Punch Man's plot, knowing he'll come back someday lends the show a sense of continuity that wasn't present in the first three episodes. Also, Saitama accidentally punches Sonic in the junk, in a scene that shows off just how much Madhouse was enjoying animating the sequence: We're also introduced, ever so briefly, to Mumen Rider, the cyclist for justice. Considering his positioning in the intro sequence, as well as the surprisingly long scene and detailed animation he gets, even non-readers might be suspecting a recurring role in store for him. Spoiler alert: They're right! Besides the glorious junk-punishment meted out to the speedy ninja, we're treated to yet more spiffy takes on the manga scenes, such as a series of hyper-accelerated beheadings, courtesy of Sonic, and the local villain Hammerhead powering up his Battle Suit like the Dragon Ball villain he resembles. Even Genos gets some extra screentime, as the anime foreshadows a future, potentially gorgeous-looking battle in a coming episode. Finally, Saitama himself takes the next step in heroing: Making it a job. He used to be a "hero for fun", but starting next week, he'll be seeing life through the eyes of a professional, registered super.  [Check out One Punch Man on Daisuki and Crunchyroll!]          
One Punch Man photo
The Lowest Blow
So, it turns out that Madhouse's big twist in their adaptation of the wildly popular One Punch Man would be to turn Saitama into the villain! Who'd have thunk it?! No true hero would stoop so low as to punch a vulnerable enemy in the junk, after all. Dick strikes are the preserve of craven knaves alone!

Annotated Anime: One Piece episodes 713+ 714

Oct 24 // Anthony Redgrave
The episode kicks off right where the previous had ended. Nico Robin had just captured Cavendish before he could attack her. Subduing the blonde swordsman, it is revealed that his violent personality is called Hakuba and is a lot more aggressive than Cavendish. The reveal isn't played dramatically but instead for laughs. Cavendish desperately tries to regain control of his body, Hakuba wrestles against Robin's restraints, and Bartomeleo tries to understand what the hell is going on. The humour isn't dragged out as Gladius takes advantage of the situation by placing a bomb on the mountain side. Bartolomeo is placed in a difficult defensive position that puts him or Nico Robin at risk. I think if I didn't like Bartolomeo, this fight with Gladius would've been disappointing. Bartolomeo was another character that was rather polarising when he was first introduced since his character design and personality mimicked a minor antagonist. This soon turned around once he started fanboying over Luffy and any other Straw Hat he saw. There was little action or kinetic energy between Bartolomeo and Gladius, but the tension and drama are present making it a suspenseful episode. I really liked the ending of this episode as a result of the fight. An executive goes down, Bartolomeo has his moment of epicness, and Robin is finally where she needs to be to help Rebecca.  Episode 714 brings us back to the Tontatta's campaign to rescue Princess Mansherry. The episode isn't spent too long on the actual rescue process i.e. Leo and Kabu running through the castle to find her and more on why Doflamingo had captured Princess Mansherry.  Princess Mansherry is the eater of the Heal Heal fruit which is a devil fruit that makes studying for medicine obsolete. Jora having been healed previously, tries to force Mansherry to use her power on the defeated executives. For me, it isn't the drama that lies with an executive coming back and causing the defeat of an ally, it's the idea that this arc may be prolonged because they have to fight the executives again. It's an unfortunate reason since it implies I'm not enjoying watching One Piece or I wouldn't enjoy more of it, but this does also heighten the tension in this episode. Jora discovers that Mansherry doesn't have to use her powers voluntarily as a tear from her eyes can heal anyone it touches prompting her to beat the dwarf princess. It's an uncomfortable scene, more so than the savage beatings seen in the fights that have caused disfigurement, blood shed, and even death.  The finale of the episode was decent wrapping up the Tontatta campaign and moving back to the fight with Luffy and Bellemy. I'm hoping the show keeps ups this pace and shows Franky's fight with Senor Pink soon. Every clip we have seen looks absurd when taken out of context and it's been so long sine we checked into the fight that I barely remember what the context is! [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Cavendish 'Two Face' Dent
Cavendish is a good character for One Piece. His character design is nice and provides some fan service for the lady viewers who'd prefer the prince characters over the overly macho Zoro. Cavendish isn't just eye candy e...

Iron-Blooded Orphans photo
Iron-Blooded Orphans

Annotated Anime: Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans episode 3

When Iron Flowers Bloom
Oct 20
// Josh Tolentino
Back when first wrote about Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, I noted that the show's more morally ambiguous, grittier approach seemed to set it apart from its peers in mainline Gundam fiction. As of the latest episode, that sentiment continues to hold true.
One Punch Man photo
One Punch Man

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episode 3

Get Fit with Saitama
Oct 19
// Josh Tolentino
One Punch Man? More like One Punch Per Week Man, am I right? The Fall season's prettiest show continues into its third week, as Saitama and Genos head out to confront their first real enemy, the House of Evolution. Will this be the week that Saitama needs more than a single blow to fell his foes? Spoiler Alert: Nope!

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episode 2

Oct 15 // Josh Tolentino
Earlier on I mentioned that the main problem I could forsee with this adaptation of One Punch Man would be that Madhouse would be unable to sustain production at the level needed to deliver the kind of visual, well...punch needed to do the source justice. As much as I do like One Punch Man, its joys are more presentational than narrative in nature. Yusuke Murata's excellent grasp of space and eye for detail make ONE's simple (but effective) story stand out.  We enlightened souls of the 21st century tend to privilege "the writing" above any other yardstick in pop media, but presentation matters, especially in visual media like anime and manga. That's why it's important to read things like Kevin Cirugeda's excellent article on appreciating good animation, even if you yourself don't plan to become a "sakuga otaku" yourself.  The short-wordcount version of what I just said is that as of this week, One Punch Man still looks 'effin gorgeous, with particular flair in today's fight scenes. This is a good thing because looks matter, and One Punch Man as a manga is great partly because it looks so good. This is where I'm also reminded that a very faithful adaptation of a manga isn't always a good thing, particularly in shows where detailed plotting is not the primary draw. Long story short? One Punch Man's pace is p-l-o-d-d-i-n-g. The stretching of time isn't as obvious or blatant as the kind of padding out that goes on in the likes of the Naruto anime or anything like that, but it's clear that Madhouse are being fairly deliberate in their choices of how much content to cover in each episode. The result is, for folks that look for more substantial narratives, feels stretched a bit thin. One unfortunate side effect of this necessity is that the ways in which One Punch Man evolves past its original schtick aren't as obvious here. People can read manga faster than they can watch a TV show, and the advantage is that the initial, simple jokes are over with quickly. Even if Saitama's struggle to find a worthy fight is gone over again and again, it passes by without a chance to grow truly irritating. That's not quite the case here, and some more impatient viewers are more than likely already going "Look, I get it, he's invincible and can't lose, alright? Let's move on." Thankfully, the second episode does move on, by introducing none other than Genos, the blond cyborg who is pretty damn awesome. In many ways, he'd be the kind of character to anchor his own damn show if Saitama weren't the star. He's the archetypal badass anime/manga protagonist, and the show has a lot of fun with his overly elaborate (and repetitious) backstory, his shtick in the episode recalling shades of Yuki Nagato's famous "I'm an alien" monologue from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.  It would be one thing if Genos were merely a gag character, a one-off encounter solely meant to poke fun at the tropes of fight manga. But such things are for lesser series. In fact, thanks to a great fight against animal-hybrid villains from "The House of Evolution", Genos looks to be a continuing presence in One Punch Man, and to good effect. At the risk of spoiling anime-only viewers, it's on his robotic shoulders - as well as the shoulders of other characters coming later - that much of One Punch Man's enduring qualities rests on. They provide what Saitama alone cannot, and it's in that style of fully utilizing the potential of the genre even as it mocks it mercilessly - that the source has garnered as much appeal as it has. [Get mosquitos to bug out on Daisuki!]
One Punch Man photo
Convenient Signage in the Aftermath
Welcome to the latest recap of One Punch Man, the only anime series that probably doesn't need a recap, for so obvious is the plot, am I right? As it turns out, not quite. A fair bit goes on in today's installment, and while deviations from the source are few, newer viewers may find the latest developments engaging.  

First Impressions: Durarara!!x2 Ten

Oct 12 // Anthony Redgrave
Durarara!!x2 Ten picks up immediately after the last episode left off. The Toramaru-Dollars conflict had been quelled and with Shizuo's intervention the two Russian assassins had been apprehended. The previous cour had ended on a cliffhanger with Izaya being stabbed in the back (literally not figuratively) by the mysterious Jinnai Yodogiri. Fortunately, eager watchers don't have to wait long to see the aftermath as the first episode is dedicated to how people are reacting to this news.  Getting back into this series can be a daunting task. There are so many different characters, plot threads that are interlaced within one another it feels like you would need to rewatch the first half of this season. I've never been a fan of rewatching the openings of anime every week since the opening only needs to be watched once to see the new visuals and hear the new song. But, Durarara!! retains the tradition of incorporating small flashbacks and reminders of events gone by into the opening and it is often related to the same episode allowing viewers to caught up with the plot. It's extremely abridged, but the cherry-picked sound bites and clips shown do an adequate job in keeping me up to date on the happening's in Ikebukuro even if they were referencing events from the first season.  So far x2 Ten has been fairly mellow and slow in terms of the plot. It comes hot off the heels of a massive gang war so characters are taking it easy before the next big event. These first few episodes focus on some of the secondary characters like Mizuki Akabayashi and the Seiji/ Mika storyline. Like all Durarara!! protagonists newcomer Mizuki is a very charming and likable goon of the Awakusu largely in part to the incredibly strong voice acting. I was surprised by how much I grew to like Mizuki from that one episode seeing him only as an unimportant Lieutenant for the Awakusu in the previous cour. The big break out of these first few episodes was Mika. I had mentioned before that I don't have any interest in Seiji/Mika/Namie love triangle thing in Durarara!! as their actions rarely affect the overarching plot of each series. The Mika episode helped demonstrate the importance of her presence in the story as she is a lot stronger and smarter than we had anticipated. When we consider Ikebukuro's internal political manipulation that goes on behind the scenes, Mika is another person we need to be looking out for.  A more interesting love triangle has emerged this series between badass Shizuo, Verona the Russian Hit girl, and Akane the mob boss daughter. Shizuo is as aloof as any other harem protagonist, but his lack of social skills make sense due to his history. Shizuo isn't lumped in with the spineless harem protagonists because he doesn't display the pathetic horniness combined with ignorance towards overtly romantic cues. His job is a violent one so he keeps people at a distance wanting to keep his friends and family safe but isn't heartless enough to brush them off when they want to say 'Hey' or come to him for help. This new love triangle has a great dynamic between the girls and Shizuo; Shizuo acts as a mentor for both of them but at the same time the girls' primary motive is to kill Shizuo.  The look and feel of Durarara!! are part of its core appeal and it has not changed one bit. I've always liked how everything was extremely colorful and dynamic. The animation and art direction have been very good up to now, both staying consistent and smooth. At the start Mizuki's episode during an encounter in the bathroom, there is a very large drop in quality with crappy looking characters but this is an isolated incidence. In the audio department; the voice acting is still amazing helping to engross you in the charming delights and dangers of Ikebukuro and the heightened emotion in each scene is backed with strong melodic choruses from a familiar soundtrack.  After taking a whole season respite from the city, it's good to be back. [Watch Durarara!!x2 Ten on Crunchy Roll] internal political manipulation that goes on behind the scenes
Durarara photo
Never mess with Shizuo Heiwajima
The release of Durarara!!'s second cours dubbed started broadcasting last month and it went completely under my radar. 5 episodes in and I've become reacquainted with the denizens of Ikebukuro and the thin line called destiny that intertwines all of their actions together. 

Gundam Iron Blood Orphans photo
Gundam Iron Blood Orphans

First Impressions: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans

Steel Yourself
Oct 11
// Josh Tolentino
Another year, another new Gundam series. My interest in Sunrise and Bandai's flagship has waxed and waned over the years, but I'll be the first to admit that I'm rarely attracted to the "mainline" shows that make up the core ...

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...

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.

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?

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

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.

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...

Annotated Anime: School-Live! episodes 7-11

Sep 25 // Nick Valdez
Episode 7 After a few episodes of flashback, we're back in the series proper. When Yuki brings up their mall outing, Miki briefly forgets she's supposed to lie about Megu-nee and Yuki nearly cracks her delusion as brief images of a grisly scene flashback. Miki thinks it's time to stop lying to Yuki since it's not really healthy, but Yuri simply states that she'll tell her soon. After Yuki stumbles on some stationary, the girls decide to take their mind off things for a bit and write some letters to folks on the outside. During all of this, Miki stumbles on a key leading to some place in the staff room but hides it from the other girls. After some shenanigans involving carrier pigeons, the girls send their letters through the sky and we find that Miki's written one for her lost best friend, Kei (the one who abandoned Miki at the mall in search of a better kind of survival).  Kei's probably a zombie, folks. It's usually how these things turn out.  Episode 8 Miki gives the key she found to Yuri as the two start searching the staff room for clues as to what it leads to. But before all of that, the girls start talking about the future. Naturally since Yuki is still stuck in her weird state of mind, all she can think about is graduation and potentially getting a job in the adult world. It's a sad conversation as the girls try and look positively toward their futures (Kurumi wants to be wife, Yuri wants to do something I forgot about already, sorry), but this all feels like it's leading up to something big. In fact, that's one of the most impressive parts of this show. Every episode feels like we're inching closer and closer to some kind of terrible end. Starting with the opening credits (which have been slowly getting more and more violent as the show progresses), helped along by the heavy amount of foreshadowing (each episode someone notes how more and more zombies are gathering outside of the school), and with happier moments like this, I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  And it does. The girls discover that Megu-nee's key led to a lockbox containing an emergency manual for the school when a biological weapon is released.  Episode 9 As the girls fret over the manual, which details why the school has multi-tired facilities and stuff like solar panels and gardens, Yuki takes their minds off of it with a suggestion: to turn the ugly water tank into a pool area for a pool day. Then it's a super happy, fan service heavy episode. I wouldn't think we'd get an episode like this in the series, but it sort of makes sense. It's something Shakespeare made famous. You see, back when Shakespeare was a big hit, people used to sit and watch plays for several hours. Naturally people would get bored if you kept the entirety of the play the same tone, so he'd add bits of levity every few acts in order to accomplish two things. First, it's to keep interest. If a program remained a flat, dreary tone throughout its duration, people wouldn't pay attention. Secondly, it's to make the coming bits of drama hit that much harder. And I think that's what's going on here. This episode is our last breath of fresh air before everything starts coming down. And if the episode's tag is anything to go by (as Taroumaru escapes downstairs to the basement and sees something tragic), it's going to be a doozy.  Episode 10 So here's a little trick as to how I write these annotations: I write these blurbs as I watch each episode rather than try to summarize them all at once. I only open with this because I want you to know that I was not ready for all of this chaos. At the end of last episode, we saw Taroumaru escape from his leash and run through the school so the girls wake up and go looking for him. As Kurumi follows his tracks downstairs into the basement, she finds an infected Taroumaru trying to bite her face off. After managing to lock him up in a room, she stumbles on the truly messed up thing: Megu-nee's zombie. Failing to stop Monster-nee's advance, Kurumi's bitten. As the girls try and figure out what to do now, Kurumi's condition worsens (and leads to an awful amount of screaming as the infection spreads) and the girls are split up as zombies break their way into the school. Yuki is locked in a room after zombies attack, Yuri's sitting with Kurumi and slowly breaking, and Miki is in search of the medicine (and possible antidote) the manual claims the school has but breaks down at the thought of losing Taroumaru. As the episode closes, and everything is traumatic for everyone, Yuki starts remembering the tragedy that sparked her mental breakdown.  Episode 11 Ugh, I need a breather. Deep - breath -, okay. As Yuki runs to Miki and gives her strength to go and search for the antidote, lightning strikes the school's generators and cuts off the power while starting a fire. So there's yet another thing to worry about as Yuri comes to grips with possibly losing Kurumi to the infection. We've seen Yuri as the slightly older girl who's acted as a rock, so this is the first time she's truly shown emotion. It's quite interesting watching her slowly break as she decides whether or not to kill her friend before she turns into a zombie. Then we shift back to Miki, who's fought her way down to the school's basement. As she comes face to face with Megu-nee's zombie (who still retained her memories of the other girls and evidenced by her zombie writings), she assures her they're doing fine before giving her peace. But Miki is soon cornered by zombies when she finds the medicine. Then we cut back to Yuki, who's slowly breaking free of her delusion. After some emotional resolution (and Megu-nee guiding her to the broadcasting room), she finally accepts Megu-nee's death and says goodbye. It's too much.  What started out as a cute series became far more emotional than I would've guessed. Looking at the premise of the show should've given it away, but I never thought it'd hit that hard. Maybe it's because it's so sudden. It's not a revolutionary story or anything like that, but there's so much care put into the buildup, the payoff is fantastic. The final episode's sure going to be something. 
Annotated School-Live! photo
I've got a complicated relationship with zombambos. I've gotten tired with the genre, but I can't help but stay invested in how different characters are effected in different medias. Each media provides unusual takes, and ani...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 710

Sep 20 // Anthony Redgrave
The battle rages on in Dressrosa with Lao G fist fighting Don Chinjao and Sai coming to terms with the affectionate Baby 5. Baby 5's misinterpretation of Sai's fighting words is still very humourous as it has kept the boring fights featured in the last few episodes varied and entertaining. To test the subservience of Baby 5, Sai asks if Baby 5 would kill herself to which she readily complies. Sai has a change of heart when he sees his request being taken seriously.  Don Chinjao tries to prevent Sai from interfering with her suicide resulting in a clash between allies. A confrontation that is quickly resolved in Sai inheriting his grandfather's command of the Chinjao family. This whole bit between Sai, Baby 5, and Don Chinjao is very sweet and awesome amongst all the fighting. Sai starts to come to terms with the power of his words and so can now take over from his grandfather Don Chinjao, Don Chinjao respectfully steps down as the leader of the family since he has been bested by the younger generation, and Baby 5... well she finally finds someone that is not willing to take advantage of her need to please people.  The show then dives into Baby 5's up bringing. Amongst all the flashbacks we have had in the Dressrosa arc (and there has been a lot), this is the most disturbing. The imagery of Baby 5's mother and the environment they are in is encased in a creepy dark atmosphere. Baby 5 looks like an accurate representation of a child version of her, but her mother looks like a black Groot silhouette. We learn why Baby 5 has the compulsion to be needed and I guess the maid costume is also to emphasise her servient nature as well as moe fan service. The action portion of this episode is really good for a gladiator-executive fight. Watching Lao G bounce around the battlefield delivering acrobatic G shaped attacks against Don Chinjao is great to watch. The dynamic movements are fluid and it's always funny to see his insistence of finding the G in every sentence. But this doesn't hold a candle to when he later beefs up Master Roshi style to take on Sai. Don Chinjao is taken out and it is up to the newly promoted Sai to take on the old Geo first master. The final clash uses a different art style incorporating more highlights and brighter colours making it more flashy and dramatic. This episode introduces and nicely wraps up Sai's and Don Chinjao's little arc. I hope this isn't the end of Baby 5 as she seems like a really cool character to more of. Maybe a manga cover story of how she and Sai are coping with married life a la newly weds? [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] servient
One Piece photo
All is fair in Love and War
For those hoping there'd be some resolution on the Bellamy-Luffy confrontation, you'll be very disappointed. A very small part of the episode is spent on the fight, but it doesn't progress in any way unless you count Bellamy gobbing a bloody lugy on Luffy. The rest of the episode however is spectacular. It resolves two fights, has awesome action, and another feels heavy backstory.

Annotated Anime: Himouto! Umaru Chan episode 11

Sep 20 // Anthony Redgrave
The show kicks off with Umaru expressing the most common of desire, a craving for pizza. It's a feeling familiar for most young adults, but motherly Taihei isn't having any of it because of the lack of nutrients in a Chicago slice. Ebina pays a visit to the Doma household to give them a bag of rice called Akita Komachi. This isn't the run of the mill Walmart rice, but high-grade short grain rice from the Akita prefecture. The show even captures the bag decal sporting the Akita Komachi mascot emblazoned on the front. Even though Taihei puts his mastery of cooking to good use by whipping up a luncheon for Ebina and Umaru, he doesn't use the rice to it's strengths. A quick Google shows that Akita Komachi is best in portable foods like Onigiri. The next two stories are bad. First up is Umaru trying to decide on what snack to get at a grocery store while Taihei has to attend a meeting and introduce a proposal. The two are vaguely connected and only come back together at the end so the majority is focussed on Umaru's internal debate. It's a lot wackier by the inclusion of lots of chibi Umarus doing the Umaru debate about junk food. It loses a lot of the show's charm by not incorporating any of the show's grounded reality since it's Umaru running rampant inside her own head. If you like chibi Umaru then this would be ok for you. This is followed by food adventures with Ebina and Umaru. The problem here is not with the characters. This high school duo is my favorite pairing third to Taihei's work buddies and the Doma siblings, but there's just no substance in this segment. It's literally them eating parfaits. There are freeze frames with the camera panning across the two of them eating for 3 minutes. No animation just freeze frames. To make matters worse, this whole episode has a lower quality of animation. It's made clear in this story as the freeze frames and close-ups show the disproportions in their facial features especially with Ebina. Her boobs get a lot of limelight in this episode too but sadly this highlights the problems with having a large bust such as clipping issues with the rest of the body. Before Umaru gets to relish in the Japanese summer she must first endure the rainy season. Fortunately for her it only lasts 2/3rds of a story and there is Kirie to accompany her through the misery. Taihei attempts to brighten the mood by listing the positives of rain but ultimately resorts to telling them the summer is right around the corner. There are hints of a beach trip, but this is saved for another time. The brief Sylphynford appearance in this episode helped me learn two things; in Japan they have Hagan Daaz in crane games and that there is a correct way to eat tub ice cream. The show goes as far as explaining the first step; licking the lid. Hey, what about the other steps? Have I been doing it wrong the whole time!?As I said there is not much to this episode except food. I'd advise not watching this on an empty stomach or if you have an uncontrollable urge for frozen dairy confectionery.  [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!]
Himouto! Umaru-chan photo
Ebina and Umaru vs. Food
The one word to summarise this week's episode is Food. There is lots and lots of food on display here. To be more specific it's ice creams to welcome the Summer period to the show, even though in real life we are saying goodbye to the warm weather and hello to falling leaves and Pumpkin Spice Latte's.  Himouto! Umaru-chan

Annotated Anime: MY Love STORY!! episodes 19-23

Sep 18 // Nick Valdez
Episode 19 Takeo's mom has been pregnant on the sidelines, and it finally comes to a literal head in this episode. Takeo's been concerned with his mom's health ever since she told him about it (even if he's the one who's always reckless with his body), but she's maintaining a high level of activity despite his wishes. She's tough, and Takeo knows it, but he can't help but worry. After saving another pregnant woman from a fall, his mother feels a pain in her side and ultimately goes to the hospital. Takeo understandably freaks out and after running frantically and carrying his mother to her hospital room, Takeo's left to worry on the sidelines. After some consoling for Suna, he calms down and after retrieving a charm from Yamato wishing a safe delivery, Takeo's mom gives birth to the adorable giant baby you see above. In case you were wondering the show wouldn't crack a joke about that, Suna notes that she's the biggest baby in the room. It's actually the cutest and funniest thing.  Episode 20 This is my favorite episode to date. When Takeo laments that he never gets chocolate from a girl on Valentine's Day (and notes that Suna always receives tons of chocolate along with one from a secret admirer each year), he remembers Yamato and suddenly freaks out. Beaming with happiness, his friends corner him and ask if there's a way they could hang out in a huge group with Yamato's friends like they did at Christmas. During the group date, Yamato gives everyone chocolate cookies and Takeo's constantly wondering when he's going to get his special Valanetine's chocolate from Yamato. He's depressed when he thinks he won't get one, suddenly realizes he should've appreciated the cookies, and he acts like a giant, adorable idiot the entire episode. Of course, Yamato shows up with some kind of giant chocolate mountain and Takeo blows a super kiss from a couple of floors up. It's a good year for them both.  Ugh, this show is so cute I can't stand it.  Episode 21 During my last recap, I noted how Sunakawa is not only disinterested in women, but romance in general. He's clearly in tune with emotions as the show's proven that he cares about Takeo (going so far as to not date any of the girls who secretly joked about Takeo behind his back), but he's never pursued anyone for himself. It's a forward thinking asexual person that I hope wasn't the writer's happy accident. Anyway, the first person to challenge this and show a definite romantic interest in Suna is Yukika, a girl who's had a crush on him for ten years now. Her major flaw, however, is her crippling shyness that keeps her from actually approaching Suna in any way. the only way she's expressed her love is through Valentine's chocolate throughout the years with a note reading "I don't need anything, I just want you to love me back" or something to that effect. When Takeo and Yamato finally convince Yukika to approach, she suddenly blurts out a confession and Suna oddly agrees to go out on a group date.  While this episode tests my theory, it also posits that none of the girls were unique enough to have a relationship with a main character. Yukika's got all of the design of a new main character (silver hair, personality traits, uh, love?) but I never quite dug her. I actually found her quite annoying and way too stalkery to actually lead to a healthy relationship. Regardless, this episode's hilarious because Takeo's radar like senses always spotted Yukika.  Episode 22 While the last episode challenges Suna's bachelor lifestyle, this episode highlight's Suna's greatest quality and, potentially, his biggest flaw. You see, he's such a nice guy that he's willing to put everyone else's happiness ahead of his own. While that may be an anime staple, Suna's is actually kind of tragic. You see, as the group all go out to the zoo, Suna's just humoring Yukika the entire time. He doesn't really react to anything (except to Takeo, which Yukika points out later as a sign that he's truly interested in someone), and rather than it resembling traditional shoujo love interests, it actually adds to Suna's mysterious nature. We're never really sure what he's thinking and in fact we don't really find out till episodes end when he ultimately (and understandably given that she watched him from the shadows for ten years) declines Yukika's love. He gives her a notebook, and she loves that she even got to spend some time with the object of her affection. Of course, there was some weirdness in the middle when she freaked out on Suna since he had no interest in her. That only cemented how annoying she was. I'm glad it didn't really work out.  Episode 23 As a sort of palette cleanser, this episode is a light affair that returns to Takeo and Yamato's relationship. When Yamato gets a job at a bakery in order to better learn how to craft desserts, Takeo gets jealous for the first time in the series. When a handsome looking patisseire, Ichinose (always a hilarious ring of a traditional shoujo protagonist), mistakes Yamato's interest in cakes for an interest in him, he eventually challenges Takeo's relationship. He runs to Takeo and asks if Takeo really belongs with Yamato and states that she deserves someone more alike to her. Takeo, for the first time in the series, doubts himself and thinks Ichinose might've had a point. The episode ends as Takeo stands on shaken ground for the first time. Will Takeo actually give up on his relationship with Yamato? Nah, probably not. But this is an intelligent way to bring Takeo's untraditional nature and design in the genre to light. And it'll most likely bring about a good end to the season, and more likely, the series.  I'm not ready for this show to end, but as no sequel season was announced, I'm pretty sure the next episode is the last. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when it's over.
Annotated Love Story!! photo
I love this show so much
Have I told you that My Love Story!! is my favorite anime of the season? Although I jumped into these annotations majorly late, I've been glued to the screen each week just waiting on the latest release. It's the most fun I'v...

Annotated School-Live! photo
Annotated School-Live!

Annotated Anime: School-Live! episodes 4-6

Zombeh -eh -eh -eh -oh -oh -eh -yaaaa
Sep 14
// Nick Valdez
Last time I talked about School-Live! (which was a bit ago, sorry), I noted how much I loved how its cutesy art clashed with its dark world. Despite how seemingly annoyingly cute it is, it grabbed my attention and never let g...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 709

Sep 14 // Anthony Redgrave
Doflamingo relinquishes his grasp on Bellamy stating cryptically that Bellamy has always been free. This prompts the show to divulge into Bellamy's past and get a few more uses out of the Jaya arc footage. Bellamy was always the asshole realistic pirate that wasn't disillusioned by the sense of adventure or grand treasure One Piece. He looked up to Doflamingo's ruthless attitude and sought to fly under his banner. Unperturbed by the threats of Diamante and Trebol's aggression, Doflamingo agrees to the young pirates wishes but we later learn that Doflamingo doesn't take lightly to weak members.  Flash forward to Luffy's encounter with Bellamy in Mocktown and his humiliating defeat at the hand of Luffy's one punch. The Jaya arc felt like there was a lot more going on apart from the immediate story line. There was Bellamy's crew (an associated pirate crew of the much stronger Doflamingo family), Blackbeard's introduction (with Ace hot on his heels), and the parallels Bellamy's bar fight with Luffy have with Shank's bar fight against Higuma at the very start of the series. Only now are we starting to see how all those individual events are connecting together which is a very cool for a long time fan. Anyway's after Bellamy's defeat he is fortunately given one more chance by Doflamingo in the arena to win the Flare Flare fruit. As we all know Bellamy's luck doesn't improve culminating in him being betrayed by his master and freed by a former enemy.  Despite being rescued by Luffy, Bellamy chooses the use the last of his energy to execute his signature move; Spring Hopper on Luffy. And here I was thinking Bellamy would become an ally and help Luffy up to the roof using his springs. I can't imagine it ending well for Bellamy given his track record. On the other side of Dressrosa, Gladiators continue to fight against Executives and we also get a fight finished in this episode! Yes! I'm so excited that there is one less fight to see. Big giant Hajrudin was usually seen being crushed by Machvise over and over again. Unlike the other fights where the combatants actually traded blows, Machvise could outmaneuver the giant but also hit him really hard with his power. The show does a great job in making you feel the pain and strain that Hajrudin goes through and this translates well when he starts getting second wind and fights back. The epic clash during the climax is classic One Piece making you feel the moment Hajrudin pushes against Machvise's attack. If Hajrudin does survive this encounter he'll be needing one hell of a doctor to patch him up. Also after the graphic nature of last week's episode I expected Machvise to look like the cheese on top of a pizza before it's been heated but that's just the gore hound in me. Next week, we are going to get a lot more gladiator fights (sigh I know) but this time it's with Baby 5 against Sai. I don't really care about Sai in this fight, but I do love seeing Baby 5 get more screen time. To me, her dependency personality quirk makes her an entertaining character to watch and it was funny to see her announce these feelings to a bemused Sai. She's one of the few villains in this show that I'll root for because she's so utterly adorable. [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
The Bellamy Biopic
This week you won't hear me raging about how the plot pacing of this episode is back to the tip toeing filler filled monotony that Dressrosa is becoming quickly known for. God knows I've done enough of that in the past few Annotated Animes. Because this episode was pretty good since the first half is entirely about Bellamy and his back story. 

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