Annotated Anime

Annotated Anime: Himouto! Umaru Chan episode 8

Aug 31 // Anthony Redgrave
The episode begins with snow falling on Tokyo and Umaru getting really excited. She's excited because it's an excuse to laze around the house as if she needed an excuse to do so. Taihei complies and offers to bust out the kotatsu if she is willing to clean up her mess. With the room clean and kotatsu set up, Umaru promptly falls asleep despite the many many warnings from anime kotatsu users about catching a cold. I never understood this. Everyone seems like they're toasty and warm once they get into a kotatsu so why would they be at risk catching a cold? The show explains that the top half is at risk as the bottom half is the only part that is heated in a kotatsu and that makes sense, but anime has shown the characters looking really warm and relaxed. Wouldn't their top half be shivering and pining to be inside the kotatsu. Anyways isn't it scientifically proven that you cannot catch a cold from just being cold? Either way, I'm really glad the show explained the origins of this warning. I love it when shows explain Japanese culture stuff.  All of Umaru's friends are shown enjoying their own kotatsu and it's nice to see the title giving attention to the side characters. Since Bomber had been introduced as Kirie's brother there is a lot more of them interacting.  We transition to Christmas where Umaru is patiently waiting for her brother to come home. It's another Umaru gets lonely without her onii-chan but when he comes home it is heart warming and nice. Also, Kirie is there because she was on the way. Judging from the snow on her head I'm guessing she was waiting outside for quite some time. I assume she's back to her stalking ways, but that doesn't make sense as she has already made contact with Umaru and they're shown to have a good relationship with each other. Why wouldn't she just go and visit Umaru?  Bomber celebrates the upcoming new years with the Doma family as they laze around and watch TV. Here is the product placement/ snack shilling/ culinary part of the show. It's one of my favourite segments as the way Umaru and Bomber talk about Japanese food makes my mouth salivate. It also helps that the food looks pretty good and the crunch of the chips is satisfying to hear. As the New Year rolls around Umaru and Taihei visit the shrine and make their wishes. Unfortunately for Umaru she had forgotten her New Years resolution inciting a massive scold from Taihei. As her defence, she never stated a time or date for starting the resolution therefore it isn't binding. Well played Umaru, well played... There is a subplot in this episode around side character Kanau; Taihei's and Bomber's boss at the company. She's the pink haired chick that was overtly hitting on Taihei in an earlier episode. Here she is seeing if Taihei had any plans for the Christmas period but turns down his invitation to go drinking with Bomber and him like they use to. Even though she has a tough no-nonsense demeanor like Erza from Fairy Tail or Hana from Nisekoi, there is a definite innocence behind the facade that's adorable when you see it. [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!]
Himouto! Umaru-chan photo
Snow, Kotatsu, Shrines and New Years
Just as Nagato Yuki-chan is entering summer, Himouto! Umaru-chan is entering winter as this episode features all the anime tropes of bringing out the kotatsu, visiting the shrines, and a good ol' colourful party that makes ou...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 707

Aug 30 // Anthony Redgrave
So we continue the One Piece tradition of fight scenes incorporating devil fruit powers while the characters make faces at each other and occasionally spouting exposition in the hopes of provoking a reaction. The show has finally started to colour in Doflamingo's string attacks making them really stand out. It makes them easier to see, but it doesn't fit the lethal nature of his power. I actually liked it when they only showed the light glimmering off the string as it looked like cheese wire or garotte wire. It's thin, mostly invisible, and incredibly deadly. The multicolour string thing he has now looks too cheesy to take seriously.  Since this is a return to the Dressrosa battlefield, One Piece decides to re-introduce all the main players and who they are fighting in the second half of the episode. This feels like padding as nothing new is shown and for long time viewers this is a waste of time. While the Doflamingo-Law fight and Luffy-Fakemingo-Bellamy fight have some good animation and choreography especially from the former, all the auxiliary fights are too brief to mention. They all do one attack and then a reaction face. It's really hard to tell if anyone is winning or losing a fight since this exchange of blows is not shown to affect anyone in the long run. The next episode it could the same person getting hit or the opponent getting hit, the fight doesn't appear to have progressed.  The second half of the episode is not worth watching unless you completely forgot about names of the Doflamingo family executives and would like a refresher. This arc is failing to do simultaneous fights in an engaging way because I don't care enough about the other fights occurring, or should I say I don't care enough about the other fighters fighting. An arc that did multi-fights correctly was Enies Lobby. Each Straw Hat took on a different CP9 agent and each fight was spread across a few episodes so there was some padding like in this arc. The conflict against CP9 was engaging because I knew the stakes were high to save Robin and I cared about each Straw Hat, even Franky who was a dick to them for most of Water 7. And it was entertaining since every character was unique and they were not afraid of expressing their personalities even in a life or death brawl. I don't feel the same way about the gladiators here since they were portrayed as enemies initially and their redemption was too quick for me to fully understand their character. If the Straw Hats were fighting an executive alongside a gladiator, it would me feel more sympathetic since I'm more familiar with the Straw Hats and I won't be adverse to rooting for them. But right now I don't care if they win or lose just as long as they do it quick so we can spend more time with the main story.  At least in this episode we get a better understanding of what the D. family is. Even though I despise the long drawn out nature of this arc, there is a lot of interesting One Piece lore being explained. [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Back to Dressrosa...
After a couple of awesome flashback episodes, this week returns us to current day Dressrosa where exciting battles are going on, While the animation and fight scenes are fantastic, the same plodding pace makes a return reminding us all why we hate this arc. 

Annotated Anime: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode 14

Aug 30 // Anthony Redgrave
  The bibliophilic Nagato Yuki hasn't been struck off the show as of yet as she converses with her lazier self about the events that had occurred after she was hit by the car. It's nice to see these two characters interact as the contrasting personalities with the same appearance re-enforces that they are two different people using the same body. I wish there were more scenes like this. We learn that despite this interaction occurring, Nagato will not remember it when she finally wakes up thus causing it to be semi-pointless. She does reveal the confession she had made to Kyon, and the old Nagato takes it very well surprisingly. (I guess hearing it from yourself is a form of self-discovery). On the opposite side, Kyon has not forgotten the confession and continues to have mixed feelings about his relationship with Nagato. Normally Kyon has warm interactions with Nagato but in this episode he plays off every interaction quickly and cooly. He doesn't want to spend time with Nagato at all and gets by with as little interaction as possible. The awkwardness of the situation is understandable as it's a classic "I know that she knows but she doesn't know that I know, but she told me she knows" that punctuate many soapy dramas on the television box. The situation isn't lingered upon too much as Haruhi makes her triumphant return and proclaims from now on the club will be celebrating Tanabata. The show doesn't explain what this celebration is so it's up to the audience to do Japanese culture homework via tangential learning. From the episode, I gathered it's a celebration originated from two gods that were lovers and people celebrate it by writing wishes on bamboo. It's an excuse to the get the club back to their fun having ways and for Haruhi to feature as a big part in the second half. Koizumi and Asakura start to exchange Oxbridge pleasantries over their wish writing choices. Both of these characters display polite, courteous behaviours and just from this one interaction I started to think they'd make a cute couple. (Oh god, have I really started to ship characters in this anime!?) Haruhi, having discovered the awkward feelings Kyon has Nagato confronts him about them. Strange seeing that she wasn't present for the last 4 episodes so she should be in the dark/ confused about a lot of the details. The lighting and colours in this portion of the show are dark and kind of menacing. Haruhi's fringe casts a dark shadow over her eyes making her look like a killer or an eroge protagonist. However, the dialogue doesn't match this mood as Haruhi states bluntly that Kyon shouldn't worry too much about it. There is an internal aspect to Haruhi's dialogue as she starts to remember when a young Kyon had helped her write a message to potential aliens 4 years ago on the school grounds. I'm quite confused. Wasn't Kyon a lot older when he helped her out or was that only canon in the Haruhi series. Also why would young Kyon use the name John Smith? He didn't time travel like older Kyon so there is no need to hide his identity. I think Haruhi knows Kyon was the John Smith from the past and has started developing feelings for the guy thus bringing the show back to; who will Kyon end up with. But if this was true about identity confirmation then why didn't Haruhi have a stronger reaction to meeting Kyon again back in episode 3? Was she hiding these feelings really well or were they a recent occurrence that she had just remembered? There's too many questions that need answering you just made it more confusing Haruhi! [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!] [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!]
Nagato Yuki photo
Awkward morning after...
And we're officially back to normal high school life with Nagato Yuki-chan. This episode returns to the literature club hanging out and having jokes at Kyon's expense with a dose of Haruhi to liven things up. Watchers may be ...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 706

Aug 27 // Anthony Redgrave
Corazon, for some reason, is still alive and trying with all his might to make sure Law survives this ordeal. As Law awakes he is greeted by Corazon's creepy smile that will bring about more nightmares than comfort in dire situations. Vergo, apparently confident that Doflamingo's birdcage would ensnare the two targets decides to fight with his fellow Marines against the Barrel pirates. As the Doflamingo family slowly approaches, Corazon runs decoy after hiding Law under his mute spell so he doesn't give away his position. From here it is awesome after awesome after awesome material. The show wraps up everything it has to say about Corazon in this episode allowing the audience to finally understand Law's affection for the Doflamingo sibling. But the show also spends some time with Doflamingo in an excellent mid-episode focus. Doflamingo had just gunned down the captain of the Barrel pirates and then stares pensively his flintlock. We are treated to a flashback to his first familial murder using the same weapon. We know the Corazon's fate at Doflamingo's hands but we also know Doflamingo's passion for family. Killing Corazon would mean exterminating the last of his bloodline and this contemplation mid-way through the episode shows the conflict of ideals that's running through his mind. This slow sobering section amidst the frantic chase is a big part of Doflamingo's character, building him up to kill his own brother. We get a few of these explorative moments with Doflamingo and it makes us somewhat sympathetic to some of his actions thus not being a villain for the sake of evil. The Doflamingo family finally catch up to Corazon and soften him up for the boss to deliver the final execution. However considering that Corazon has already survived multiple gunshot wounds, a Haki beat down from Vergo, and a kicking from the rest of the family, would Doflamingo's bullets really put him down for good? Maybe they're imbued with Haki... Corazon's fate is linked to death but there's a twist in the favour for Law. It's a convenient save for the little survivor and it doesn't feel forced like how heroes are saved by death traps thanks to good timing just because One Piece's nature. Tragic incidents occur to the good guys every other day so any fortunate circumstances get a free pass from me. I'd like to think of it as One Piece karma. Eagle-eyed One Piece bookworms would know that this flashback story is also connected to the past another supernovas making the One Piece world more dynamic and connected. This is one of the rare episodes of the show that make the show worth watching after 700+ episodes. Without the knowledge or experience from all those other episodes, it wouldn't have the same hard hitting effect. It's hard to explain it anyone that hasn't seen it but you'll talk endlessly about it to those who have. It's an episode that makes One Piece such a well crafted show. It can perfectly mix action, drama, comedy, and tragedy in 10 minutes without feeling disjointed and contains themes that are telegraphed from the framing and the way characters act.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Here comes the water works
I don't think I've seen such a good episode of One Piece in recent memory. It's not just good, it's great! It's better than the whole Rebecca storyline, Dressrosa stuff, and anything that was done  after the time-skip. It ultimately delivers on why Corazon is such a big part to the Dressrosa story and the origins of Doflamingo-Law connection/ feud. 


Annotated Anime: MY Love STORY!! episodes 15-18

Aug 27 // Nick Valdez
Episode 15 Although I've conceded the fact that MY won't have the kind of big emotional breaks I'd see in a more nuanced romantic story, that doesn't mean there's a lack of tension. It's kind of nice to watch something that's so low stakes, every molehill seems like a mountain. The latest stake is the introduction of a new love rival, Saijou, a classmate of Takeo's who's really bad at athletics. When she gets swept up in a relay, she asks Takeo to help train her. In classic Takeo fashion, he's super cool and supportive (and eventually wins the relay with no problems) and Saijou falls for him. All the while Yamato (thanks to input from her friends) catches on to Saijou and is constantly worrying over Takeo. But good ole' simpleminded Takeo sees Saijou as nothing more than another classmate. As Saijou calls him out after school in order to confess, she chickens out and asks Takeo to be her teacher instead.  Episode 16 Since this is as close to a conflict as I'd expect between the two of them, it has to be mined for as much as it can. Thankfully, the whole thing only lasts two episodes as a lesser anime would've stretched it out to at least three. That's sort of the show's best quality and biggest flaw. There's just nothing getting in the way of Takeo and Yamato's burgeoning relationship, so there really isn't any room for outside development. While that leads to some great decisions like having them form a relationship in the first episode, it's a greater effect of the Shoujo genre's flaw. In this episode Saijou is still trying to make advances on Takeo after she tells him she likes him just as a "person," and as pure hearted as Takeo is, he takes it literally and completely ignores her advances. Yamato is worried, but Takeo tells her not to worry because he's not popular with girls (instead of saying he really loves Yamato). When Saijou confesses again (during a particularly well crafted shot), Takeo turns her down and realizes why Yamato was so worried. After a pleasant scene, the two reconcile.  Best part of this episode? Sunakawa comforting Saijou. He always seems so cool and collected (and a great flip on a traditional Shoujo protagonist), but he's in touch with people's emotions. He seems asexual himself, but that doesn't mean he's checked out. It's pretty neat.  Episode 17 Even though I just went into this whole thing about the story not allowing for outside character developments, here comes "My Christmas." As Takeo and Yamato's friends Kurihara and Nanako confess their feelings to their respective friends, the two decide to cheer their friends on and take a back seat in this episode (even if it's their first Christmas as a couple). Since Kurihara is not used to talking with women, he ends up pushing Nanako away with constant jokes. Basically, he's trying the kindergarten tactic of picking on the girl you like in order to get attention (this doesn't work, gentlemen) and it's failing hard. After Nanako is finally fed up and Takeo gives a rousing speech, Kurihara climbs a giant Christmas tree in order to grab its top star (that's said to instantly make two people a couple, or something like that). Then the two reconcile and it's all back to normal.   I didn't quite like this episode. I may complain that the show doesn't explore others well enough, but if the other character's lives aren't engaging, I don't really care.  Episode 18 I'm a little sad it took so many episodes to get to this point, but it's finally happened. Takeo and Yamato kiss! It's also my favorite episode up to this point. It's Takeo's birthday (and also New Year's Day), so Yamato makes it her goal to make it Takeo's best yet. After hearing from Sunakawa that Takeo doesn't want to kiss until Spring (and calling back to one of the best gags of the series, Takeo stealing a kiss from Sunakawa), Yamato decides to push forward and kiss Takeo sometime on his birthday. This episode's full of romantic and well crafted scenes, and has a particularly deft hand with the lighting. It's all so well done, Madhouse just knocks it out of the park here. Story wise, not much happens other than Yamato and Takeo furthering their relationship a bit, but it's just so damn cute. It reminds me of why I fell in love with this in the first place. It's a return to the awkwardness, and I can't help but revel in it.  Truth be told, it just brings up a lot of memories for me. I'm 6'4, so I've always towered over girls I've dated and I've had to take the position above a few times. Just seeing it here warms me up inside.  I hope MY Love Story!! runs for more than 24 episodes, or announces a second season soon, because I don't want this to end yet. 
Annotated Love Story!! photo
Takeo x Yamato forever
I'm a sucker for romantic comedies. But it's been such a long time since I've been drawn to a romantic anime since they've all pretty much become the same thing. It's either an inappropriate relationship, an appropriate but b...

Annotated Anime: Himouto! Umaru Chan episode 7

Aug 26 // Anthony Redgrave
Like all the other episodes, this one is again broken up into different story bits mixing up the lazy Umaru with the delicate perfect school girl form. I found that once you're tired of her chibi form the bishonen face will appear and everything is alright. Dammit! Have I fallen into Umaru's moe trap like her brother does every episode? Was this the studio's plans all along? Conspiracy theories aside, this title continues to entertain because it is always changing. It brings more of the characters together instead of introducing more to the cast and doesn't use the same slightly varied gags. The first segment is typical Umaru exploiting Taihei for her own gain. In this case, playing the guilt card so hard that it forces Taihei to search through garbage for missing auxiliary pieces of a Miku Migu figurine. I really dislike when Umaru throws these temper tantrums. It takes me back to when I used to watch Rugrats and Angelica would become a force of nature with her fits. To me it's not cute or adorable, it's embarrassing considering we see the thankless jobs Taihei does all the time for Umaru. She does get her comeuppance and in doing so wraps up the story in a warmer fashion than if she was directly punished. It's a nice ending that highlights the strong bond Taihei and Umaru have for each other. Then Ebina, Taihei, and Umaru go out for Ramen together. The ramen in this series looks really good. It might be because I'm writing this while cooking dinner, but Ebina's mini ramen looks awesome! I'd totally eat that. Also, Ebina continues to be the Mikuru of this series by struggling to break the chopsticks in half in an adorable fashion.  Taihei gets a segment this episode and it explores his tireless life as a Salaryman with his working bud Bomber. The gag at the mixer is amazing. Nothing really technical and it's actually quite predictable but the timing and facial expression changes on Bomber is fantastic. To cut things short, Bomber has a misunderstanding, meets chibi Umaru, gets creepy, and concludes with a revelation for the audience making the whole world of Himouto! Umaru-chan smaller. This is probably the worst segment of this episode, but it has some tough competition. Umaru in her video game alter-ego UMR takes a trip with her rival friend Sylphynford to an old Japanese sweet shop. A simple premise but it's my favourite segment so far in the whole of the show. It has warm bright colours, cultural references to the sweets of Japan, and a nice character revelation. It reminds me of my favourite K-On episode where Ritsu takes Mugi around town and they end up at an old Japanese sweet shop. Nothing groundbreaking, just two friends shooting the shit and hanging out. It also helps that they are moe schoolgirls being adorable. Finally, Taihei rounds off this episode by following a cat down a road leading to somewhere familiar. And again it's a nice set-up that provides some character depth to Taihei and his strong family ties. Matching these themes with the warm glow of the setting sun after work helps push the nostalgic imagery.  A gag slice of life show about a wunderkind leading a double life as a lazy slob should be enough to carry it through a season with jokes alone. But Himouto! Umaru-chan goes for something more making it similar to the old Keroro Gunso anime. They were both at their core wacky jokey cartoons, but they sometimes slowed the pace down to explore themes of family and familial love that made you feel warm and fuzzy inside.  [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!] 
Himouto! Umaru-chan photo
Mini Ramen!
I love when anime directly references stuff in real life and Himouto! Umaru-chan is one of the better titles to do it. They don't go for the subtle nod or the direct reference with the name bleeped out. Nope, this show goes a...

Annotated Anime: Bikini Warriors episodes 4-8

Aug 26 // Anthony Redgrave
We're back to the 4 minutes of fan service poorly veiled as an RPG spoof show and these next few episodes are more accustomed to my taste. I mentioned last time that I did enjoy the shameless fan service of the show, but the unfairness that lead to the protagonists being left in undesirable situations was a turn-off. Fortunately, this was been replaced by tentacle monster tom foolery which would be worse if they are not swiftly saved mere minutes later.  On the story side, they continue with the RPG tropes with the first two episodes focussing on how poor the party is. If they were playing an RPG properly then money would never be an issue and monsters would be one shotted due to tireless min-maxing, but that's just me. A mayor refuses passage to a dungeon for the party until they run errands for him. Everyone apart from the Warrior thinks it's beneath them so it's up to the red head to do all the bizarre tasks from dog watching to fighting a tentacle monster. It reproduces the bullshit stuff you have to do in RPGs or any other games for that matter to get something that was not worth getting. At least the ending has justice being served. In the following episode, the party is too poor to afford a new staff for the Wizard so they go on a massive sale of all their items. From the treasures they earned at low level to the piles and piles of potions and elixirs stored for a rainy day. RPG fans would get a kick out this episode as I'm sure we have all been there trying to scrounge the last bits of gold to afford the next weapon upgrade. The girls even resort to selling their used Bikinis to the men of the town and the Wizard's prove to be the most popular. I would make a comment regarding the extremely youthful appearance of the Wizard compared to the rest of the party and Japan's fascination of youthful purity as a sexual desire but it's shown that these consumers would rather wear the rags. I'm guessing the Wizard has the smallest cup size so it fits them better? Then comes an episode that is entirely censored Austin Powers style. I have nothing else to say about that. Episode 7 is about how the party first meets with the Dark Elf. In the tavern or the hero recruitment center, they encounter the dark buxom warrior proclaiming she was the real deal. Apart from their talents in magic, martial arts, and knowledge accumulated throughout the decades, they're also excellent braggers, not batting an eyelash whenever they something wrong. Even when the Wizard and Paladin are getting licked over like a fudgesicle, she refuses to see the downsides of her pitiful spells. Even though I'm not drawn to the Dark Elf (I'm a Wizard man) I really liked her confidence. She's a bullshitter and her arrogance carries this episode through to the end. It ends on a cartoony cliff hanger that doesn't get resolved because cartoons (unless you're Space Dandy) Lastly, we are introduced to two new characters; the Hunter and the Valkyrie. Both ladies are interested in joining the party of bikini warriors, but there is only space for one. The Hunter and Valkyrie are very different people. The Hunter is accustomed to roughing in the wild and is versatile in making monsters into "edible" food. To her credit, the food doesn't knock our heroes out after consumption making it more edible than mystery food X from Persona 4. The Valkyrie is a strong fighter that was hand picked by God. Because of this strong accolade she butts heads with the party since they don't ride horses. It culminates intoa "fight" between the Valkyrie and the Hunter to deem which one is better, but it's honestly too embarrassing to recount and ends in potential lesbianism. Although I liked the look of the Valkyrie, I thought the Hunter would be a better fit in the group. She has a wilder personality compared to the current group and the Valkyrie's arrogance and superiority traits can already be seen in the Dark Elf. Bikini Warriors is what it is and I don't think it'll be any more than that. As a side note, I like how the Paladin is hinted at as more sexually forward than the rest of the party by the way she drops hints of wanting to sell her body. Nothing ever comes of it, but I think it's funny that a Paladin (often a warrior for a holy or religious sect) is the most inclined to do indecent activities.  fudgesicle
Bikini Warriors photo
I don't know what else to expect
Boobs, crotch shot, potions, bra, string bikini, hero's journey, slime monster, tentacles, grinding, objectification, RPG trope, and nudity.  If you disagree with three or more of the above words then Bikini Warriors is sadly not for you. If you agree with all of the words above then Bikini Warriors was made for you.

Annotated Anime: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode 13

Aug 23 // Anthony Redgrave
It's the end of exam season and the primary literature club members decide to take their president out for the day to celebrate. Asakura passionately suggests a theme park while Kyon asks Nagato where she'd like to go. They end up going to a used book fair to satisfy the bibliophilic Nagato much to Asakura's insistence on the theme park. Don't worry Asakura I'll take you to a theme park. How's about the new Banksy one Dismayworld? We may have to queue for a while to see the cynically satirical construction of the modern world, but I'm sure it'll be worth the inflated ticket price. In the mind of Nagato she is still struggling with her identity. A re-occurring dream of her spectating past events causes Nagato to think that her old self is coming back. Even Kyon and Asakura think that Nagato is reacting a lot more like her old self rather than the tightlipped monotone alien from the Haruhi series. But this isn't a good thing, at least for Nagato. Having become accustomed to the smiles and pleasures of having friends, the new Nagato is afraid of disappearing only to be replaced by the old Nagato. Which explains the dreams. New Nagato has always been there, inside old Nagato, watching but not touching. I think there are also more personas of Nagato too judging by they change clothes in a bolt of static during the dream sequences.  The second half of the episode focuses on new Nagato's last day in this world. After the next night, the old Nagato will reappear and everything should be back to normal. So she spends the day with Asakura and finishes in front of the library with the book she checked out last episode. As the sun sets she recollects about her new found feelings for Kyon and the fact she couldn't express them before she disappeared. Then he calls. The rest of the episode rolls on like a classic romance film scene. Kyon hastily rushes to Nagato's location as the phone call conversation is played over the top. If there are any anime fans out there who have ever been really frustrated at the fact no-one ever confesses their feelings in anime despite their similarities and mutual feelings then this last part of the episode is extremely cathartic to watch.  This wasn't the best story arc of the series. A lot of the time it was slow, didn't have the comedy or charm of the earlier episodes, and was akin to the mysterious elements of Haruhi that nearly put me to sleep by the amount of explanation needed to understand them. The new Nagato was a nice call back to the previous series whether it's canon or not. I like to think it is and the Nagato from Haruhi's series had a little adventure into the Yuki-chan universe. [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!] [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!]
Nagato Yuki photo
Return of Nagato Yuki
I was listening to a podcast where they were discussing our media's obsession with trilogies. Every new IP has to be a trilogy or at least series that builds on the existing product. However nowadays it's more like trilogies ...

Annotated Anime: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode 12

Aug 20 // Anthony Redgrave
So Nagato and Kyon are in the library. Since this new Nagato is a bibliophile she floats through the aisles of books before resting on one that catches her fancy. While our smart mouthed Kyon clashes with a bespectacled librarian despite other patrons calling out for their mothers or giggling over books and not getting reprimanded. As closing time approaches Nagato is still reading at the same spot Kyon had left her, she is determined to continue to the last second of opening. We learn that the new Nagato, along with a greater affinity for books is a lot more determined and forward with other people. This brings about a nice scene where Nagato does her best pout to try and convince Kyon to return her book that ultimately results in a library card being used.  This interaction between Kyon and Nagato is very similar to what happened in Haruhi except in that series it was Kyon narrating over animation of himself struggling to convince Nagato to move from the library. The show is great at re-creating and re-doing past scenes from the Haruhi series to represent the alternative universe idea of Nagato Yuki-chan. After revealing the existing library card in Nagato's possession, there is a flashback to how Nagato met Kyon which was in the same library. In classic romantic novel fashion, Kyon sweeps Nagato off her feet by stealing her book and checking it out at the desk along with setting her up with a library card. What a hunk! Also, Kyon's sister makes a long awaited appearance. Now I'm just hoping we get to see Shamisen in this series.  As the second half of the episode starts we get more hints at the August fireworks festival earlier in the series cause my speculation glands to start secreting. It also follows Checkov-san's Firework Festival; if there is an introduction of a summer festival in a romantic anime series there needs to be a major flag event between the two leads. This half also gets really meta as Nagato starts to flashback to key scenes from the show; the Christmas party, star gazing, and giving chocolates during Valentines, but she isn't viewing it from Nagato's perspective. Instead she is an observer, watching Nagato as she does all these tasks despite our new Nagato being in control of past Nagato's body. There is a piano motif that plays through these scenes that screams to be Gymnopedie no. 1 by Erik Satie. This track was a major thematic track for the movie The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya that sort of serves as a prequel to this series.  I seriously love Gymnopedie; it's slow, warm, mysterious and embodies Nagato's cold exterior in front of her inner human emotion. An appearance in this show will be welcomed with open arms by me and will also help tie the film and this together in terms of musical theme. The piano score that replaces it is serviceable to as to convey the confusion Nagato is feeling when watching these flashbacks but isn't memorable despite following the similar crescendos and decrescendos of Gymnopedie.  [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!] The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
Nagato Yuki photo
I am thou, Thou art I
Hey Haruhi fans, remember when Kyon bunked off looking for paranormal stuff and spent his afternoon in the library with Nagato instead, only to get scolded by Haruhi? Would you like to watch it again with a different art styl...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 705

Aug 20 // Anthony Redgrave
By the grace of Oda, Corazon somehow fought off Barrel's men that had him pinned down by gun point and was able to deliver the Opi Opi fruit to Law. Law, apparently still in shock to see his feathery friend fails to notice the vast number of bullet wounds leaking vital fluid all over the snow. Even at a young age Law is skeptical about the fruit's abilities and only until Corazon force feeds him the devil fruit does he finally ingest the heart shaped power up. This scene's tone is all over the place. First we get a rousing speech by Corazon shouting about being happy about the successful heist and Law's upcoming cure, to a funny scene with Law struggling to fit the entire fruit down his gullet, and finally Corazon lying facedown in the snow slowly bleeding to death.  The gut punch comes when Law attempts to use his newfound power only for nothing to happen. I always assumed after eating the devil fruit, the users will have some way of controlling it or at least turning it on. Sabo ate the flare flare fruit and was tossing fireballs willy nilly in a matter of seconds since he was in a gladiator match and later toe to toe against an admiral. Corazon passes Law some valuable information for Marine eyes only regarding Dressrosa and tells him to run for the Marine ship that was hiding on the West Coast. Unfortunately, the first Marine Law meets up with is the double agent Vergo. Vergo smacks the shit out of Corazon but even Law. Yep, this haki imbued body of pure muscle doesn't waste any time hitting a kid on his death bed and a clown with the power of muteness. The episode ends with Doflamingo arriving with the family and casting bird cage on the island basically preventing anyone from escaping. This makes Vergo stupidly confident as he leaves the clown and the child to die slowly instead of tying them up and leaving them for the family to find.  As of now Corazon has shown more D. family qualities than Law. He is upbeat, wacky, resourceful, and very passionate about helping his friends. He is also stated that he will die with a smile, a very familiar D. trait as shown by Saul and even the famous Gol D. Roger.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] By the grace of Oda, Corazon somehow fought off Barrel's men that had him pinned down by gun point and was able to deliver the Opi Opi fruit to Law. Law, apparently still in shock to see his feathery friend fails to notice the vast number of bullet wounds leaking vital fluid all over the snow. Even at a young age Law is skeptical about the fruit's abilities and only until Corazon force feeds him the devil fruit does he finally ingest the heart shaped power up. This scene's tone is all over the place. First we get a rousing speech by Corazon shouting about being happy about the successful heist and Law's upcoming cure, to a funny scene with Law struggling to fit the entire fruit down his gullet, and finally Corazon lying facedown in the snow slowly bleeding to death.  The gut punch comes when Law attempts to use his newfound power only for nothing to happen. I always assumed after eating the devil fruit, the users will have some way of controlling it or at least turning it on. Sabo ate the flare flare fruit and was tossing fireballs willy nilly in a matter of seconds since he was in a gladiator match and later toe to toe against an admiral. Corazon passes Law some valuable information for Marine eyes only regarding Dressrosa and tells him to run for the Marine ship that was hiding on the West Coast. Unfortunately, the first Marine Law meets up with is the double agent Vergo. Vergo smacks the shit out of Corazon but even Law. Yep this haki imbued body of pure muscle and haki doesn't waste any time in hitting a kid on his death bed and a clown with the power of muteness. The episode ends with Doflamingo arriving with the family and casting bird cage on the island basically preventing anyone from escaping including Law and Corazon if they could get passed Vergo. As of now Corazon has shown more D. family qualities than Law. He is up beat, wacky, resourceful, and very passionate about helping his friends. He is also stated that he will die with a smile, a very familiar D. trait as shown by Saul and even the famous Gol D. Roger.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Bad Luck Favours the Bad Guys
Has anyone else noticed that Swallow Island not only looks like a Swallow from a boat if it is looking at it from the right angle but also looks like a Swallow from birds eye view too? It's funny how coincidences just work in...

First Impressions: Himouto! Umaru-chan

Aug 15 // Anthony Redgrave
The show focuses on the perfect beautiful student Umaru Doma. She is incredible at athletics, academics, popular, sweet, cute and basically the ideal school girl. However, she has a secret that only manifests itself when she comes home. In reality, she is an ultra slacker otaku with borderline hikikomori tendencies if it weren't for the weekly Jumpu and arcades that need visiting on weekends. This is a literal transformation as she goes from moe student to chibi Crayon Shin Chan straight after crossing the threshold of the door. Only her older brother and guardian knows of this secret, but some characters have come dangerously close to discovering it. As a premise, it's quite an interesting one. A lot of anime have otaku characters and they wear their nerdy hobby on their sleeve thus being shunned as outcasts or played for laughs. In the case of Umaru, she has to constantly hide her passions due to her already preconceived image as a sweet feminine student darling. It's also great to see her transform from her selfish home self to her cute outdoor self whenever she wants to get something out of her brother. Most of the time she is in her indoor mode, eating snacks and drinking lots and lots of cola. I'm not an expert, but the amount of cola she drinks a day is evidence of addiction. I'm surprised she doesn't get any shakes or withdrawal symptoms when she's at school.  Since Umaru is based in a high school, the supporting cast is mainly other high school girls that Umaru interacts with. First is the ditzy one Nana Ebina who is basically Mikuru from Haruhi right down to the big chest, next is the hyper competitive Sylphynford Tachibana who is like Tsubasa from Haruhi without the fang, and finally Kirie Motoba the misunderstood girl who doesn't share the likeness with any Haruhi character. Most of the time these side characters are played for laughs due to their extreme personality quirks. If anyone has seen the anime Working!! it's exactly like that. Whenever the set up to a joke is being played out you can accurately predict how each character will react making some jokes to be too predictable and overplayed. This was also the downfall of Working!! as the second season had no new material. Himouto! Umaru-chan is balancing this fine line after seven episodes and it's keeping my attention due to the consistent parody of video games.  I think the bottom line is Himouto! Umaru-chan is if Lucky Star was put in a blender with Working!!. The show works well as a comedy and the art style is very appealing to look at. The only downsides apart from the longevity of the same jokes being used over and over again is that Umaru may not be very likeable in her indoor form. She's lazy, bossy, selfish, and spoilt and watching her cry about wanting more cola or money for a game makes me think back to the cries of toddlers in supermarkets when they reach the sweets aisle. On the plus side they're bringing more characters into the fold so they're no longer one note characters. I'm especially liking Kirie opening up to the Doma family and integrating with Umaru's other friends.  [Cover from Person of Leisure at Pixiv][Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!]  [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!]
Himouto! Umaru-chan photo
The Otaku Jekyll and Hyde
Himouto! Umaru-chan is an anime series I never intended on starting this summer but seeing that I'm now writing an extremely late First Impressions it certainly did catch my fancy after the first few episodes. Himouto! Umaru-chan

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 704

Aug 13 // Anthony Redgrave
Just as Law and Corazon start bond the amber lead poisoning that has been slowly killing Law begins to get serious. He collapses unresponsive to Corazon's cries just after Doflamingo's call via Den Den Mushi. Turns out Doflamingo has found a cure for Law's disease in the form the Opi Opi fruit which he would like Corazon to eat. The fruit is being held by the pirate Diez Barrels hoping to sell it to the Marines for a tidy some but before the exchange the Doflamingo family plan to steal it for themselves. Corazon being a Marine spy and brother to Doflamingo plans to double-cross them both and steal the fruit to cure Law. Turns out it cannot be used to its full potential if the user doesn't have any medical knowledge. We also get full confirmation here that if a person eats two devil fruit that they die as Corazon reasons he cannot eat it despite the intention to heal Law with its powers. But this could be complete superstition passed on from pirate to pirate as we saw earlier Blackbeard get the Yami and Gura fruit powers albeit behind a curtain. People in One Piece do mention giants, floating islands, Government super weapons, and Ohara being myths and they're all real.  The episode is a desperate struggle for Corazon to retrieve the fruit from Diez Barrel's crew before Law dies. With high stakes and slim chances this episode kept me on the edge of my seat. Corazon's power isn't amazing as demonstrated in an interlude of Corazon showing off his power to Law. It's small moments like these that make One Piece still one of the most charming shonen shows on-air. Corazon isn't a goal driven psychopath or an all serious mentor, he's a guy that wants to save Law but also make him happy.  The episode's finale is Corazon utilizing his devil fruit power to steal the Opi Opi fruit from right under Diez's nose. This is quite possibly the only time the Calm Calm fruit would be the most useful fruit ever apart from the Clear Clear fruit. Just as he enters the home stretch, forced clumsiness befouls the clowned hero as he stumbles into enemy hands. What happens next will require a lot of suspension of disbelief if he survives. I found it incredibly hard to fathom when Brownbeard got blasted in the face from point blank range by the Yeti Cool Brothers in the Punk Hazard arc and still survived, but this is like 10 times that.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Corazon the Clown
Corazon reminds me of that weird uncle everyone has. The one that comes around for the holidays, always gives you awesome presents, tells great stories, but is also just plain weird. You were scared of him when you were younger cause he was all up in your face but now you've grown to accept him as an eccentric individual. That's Corazon. 

Annotated Anime: GANGSTA episodes 6

Aug 11 // Anthony Redgrave
Again this episode is split up between the present where Nicolas and Doug were successfully stabilised by Nina after Worick had dragged their asses to the surgery and the past with Young Master Worick and Nic trying to co-exist with the increasing anti-twilight hostility. The flashback sequences are the show stealers in each episode as they convey much more emotion than the action driven present. GANGSTA carefully peppers these flashbacks without giving away the full story and mixes them into the story of the present to help explain the Handyman's relationship with one another. The show makes the point that despite the difference in their social standing they still share the same miseries and hardships.  Worick having enough time to collects his thoughts talks to Nic about the big bad behind the massacre and the motive behind Monroe's hit. Before Worick leaves for the office to find out what happened to their new secretary he states that he doesn't want to abuse the 3 laws to control Nic again. This shows that Worick is Nic's master and if an order is given by Worick, Nic cannot disobey. I'm guessing in the finale we'll see what happens if a Twilight does disobey a master. Dog tags aren't robots as far as I know so there isn't a self-destruct and they don't seem honourable to commit suicide. The only group have any control over the Twilights as a whole is the Guild run by Gina so I'm guessing she'll be responsible for any rogues.  Back at the office my prediction at the end of last annotated anime was correct, it was the kind Dr. Theo looking to check up on Alex. Turns out she was under the effects of withdrawal symptoms of a drug that pimps used to control their prostitutes. Think of it as the GANGSTA version of heroin or cocaine with the disposition of schizophrenia causing Alex to hallucinate about her former pimp Barry. Personally I would've liked to see a supernatural element with a ghost Barry haunting Alex. Whenever he was on screen the lighting and colors had all the elements of a supernatural horror so it would've lent itself well to that genre. Worick gets a lot of great parts in this episode as he fixes Alex with some good ol' shonen violence (or a headbutt) ironically hurting himself more than her. My favourite part is how nonchalantly he plays off Alex coming onto him and immediately starts to bitch about what a shitty day he has had.  [GANGSTA streams on FUNimation] [GANGSTA streams on FUNimation]
GANGSTA photo
Gangsters have feelings too
GANGSTA continues to entertain week on week and this week is no different. I was going to write about how it still continues the trend of being slightly too vague to follow coherently until I gave up midway through my fi...

Annotated Anime: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode 11

Aug 10 // Anthony Redgrave
The episode opens with a recap of last episode narrated by Nagato (H) in a similar manner as Endless Eight, lots of reused footage with different framing. We learn that Nagato (H) is aware she has hi-jacked Nagato (D)'s body but is having problems with the memory side of things. Fortunately, she is still in tune with Nagato (D)'s feelings and can act accordingly when interacting with Kyon and Asakura. Mother bird Asakura takes this news very well considering her friend has a completely new personality and chooses to treat the new Nagato in the same way as Nagato (D) until Nagato (D) resurfaces. With the blessings from the hospital, Nagato (H) is discharged to continue treatment at home and attempts to live the life of the previous Nagato (D). See what I mean by confusing. The first quarter of the episode has the same muted tone as last episode to match Nagato's new personality. The next half is more in line with the fluffy slice of life comedy expected from the show complete with comedic facial reactions and friendly smiles to counter hardships. However, the elephant in the room prevents the show from recapturing the spirit of a high school rom-com. Nagato is no longer Nagato so the beats and timing of each gag take a pause to see whether Nagato (H) would react the same as Nagato (D). In this way, the show does a grand job in exemplifying the disappearance part and how it affects the characters on the show. I think introducing Nagato (H) was a good choice. A lot of the romantic elements in anime tend not to lead anywhere and constant hinting/ near misses puts me in the frustrating situation of wishing the show would shit or get off the pot. Another 9 episodes of will they/won't they would get old unless it was backed up with some solid comedy, so introducing a familiar face helped mix things up. [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!] The episode opens with a recap of last episode narrated by Nagato (H) in a similar vein as Endless Eight, lots of partially reused footage with different framing. We learn that Nagato (H) is aware that she has hi-jacked Nagato (D)'s body but is having problems with the memory side of things. Fortunately, she is still in tune with Nagato (D)'s feelings and can act accordingly when interacting with Kyon and Asakura. Mother bird Asakura takes the news very well considering her friend has a completely new personality and opts to treat Nagato (H) in the same way as Nagato (D) until Nagato (D) resurfaces. With the blessings from the hospital, Nagato (H) is discharged to continue treatment at home and attempts to live the life of the previous Nagato (D). The first quarter of the episode follows the same muted tone as last episode to convey the tone of uneasiness of Asakura and Kyon to Nagato's new personality now that they have deduced it is no longer Nagato (D). The next half is more in line with the fluffy slice of life comedy expected from the show with facial reactions to dramatic situations and friend's supporting each other emotionally. However, the elephant in the room prevents the show from recapturing the spirit and feel of the whimsical nature of a high school romcom. Nagato is no longer Nagato so the beats and timing of each gag take a pause to see whether Nagato (H) would react the same as Nagato (D). In this way, the show does a grand job in exemplifying the disappearance part and how it affects the characters on the show. I think introducing Nagato (H) was a good choice for the show. A lot of the romantic elements in anime tend not to lead anywhere and constant hinting/ near misses puts me in a frustrating situation wishing the show would shit or get off the pot. Another 9 episodes of will they/won't they would get old unless it was backed up with some solid comedy so introducing a familiar face helped mix things up.
Nagato Yuki photo
The real disappearance
I never thought I'd miss the new dopey Nagato Yuki but I really do. It's going to get confusing talking about the two Nagato's so I'll label them as such; the new Nagato to this series will be Nagato (H) as she...

Annotated Anime: GANGSTA episode 5

Aug 06 // Anthony Redgrave
I asked for action in the last annotated anime of this show and action I received. Nic goes toe to toe against the young dog tag Doug and although the enemy may not have Nic's brute force he can definitely out manoeuvre our deaf protagonist. The animation isn't the best during these sequences as the level of detail is toned down as seen in the screenshots making the characters reveal their amiibo derpy faces. Even though Monroe is being targeted by Doug he remains unfazed and chooses to make bets on which Dog Tag will come out on top considering they are the same rank. We gain a better understanding of how Twilights fit in the town of Ergastulum. Dog Tags are feared for their brutality and subsequently barred various outlets like restaurants creating a class divide. But the show hasn't really emphasised the negative sides of being a Twilight. Nic has been respected for most of the show and his only weaknesses seem to be susceptibility to downers. Apart from that he is a cold-hearted killing machine dispatching gangsters easily. The negatives of taking too many uppers have not been shown and have been working well for the deaf swordsman as it mutes the pain caused by Doug. This episode introduces a guild made up of Dog Tags under the leadership of Ginger. They seem to be a big deal as they easily put a stop to Doug and Nic's fight and even disarm Worick without any struggle. I like how they introduced these girls as a threat and indicate the Dog Tag/ Human relationship will be unstable without guild intervention.  Dog Tags start to become allegorical in this episode as each of them is bound to three laws if they are to stay in the town. If you've seen I, Robot it's basically that. I wish they were more original when it came to thinking up rules for a master-servant relationship, but it's difficult to argue with one of the best all-encompassing sets of laws to represent this dynamic.  Throughout this long day, Alex has been laying about at Handyman HQ having hallucinations about her former pimp Barry who was killed in the first episode. It's actually pretty interesting to see a former prostitute go through these panic attacks as most anime heroines live the life of Riley once they have been rescued. In the final stretch there are some great horror moments leading to a cliff hanger ending.  My guess, it's the doctor.  [GANGSTA streams on FUNimation] [GANGSTA streams on FUNimation]
GANGSTA photo
I, GANGSTA
Did a quick google search for 'GANGSTA' before writing this piece and it turns out that the first two results are for the manga and not the thuggish lifestyle of urban America. Japanese animation and manga industry is cu...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 703

Aug 06 // Anthony Redgrave
Along with the greatest shit eating grin in the whole of One Piece, Corazon sits down with Law and talks vaguely about the D. legacy and how his brother is probably the evilest thing ever conceived. Law isn't having any of it and threatens to tell Doflamingo of Corazon's selective muteness. Coinciding with the muteness theme, Corazon possesses the devil fruit power of muteness too. Devil Fruits come in two varieties; they are either vague enough to mean the user can do anything related to its broad definition of the power or they are too specific so they are extremely useful in one instance. In this case he uses it to talk to Law without anyone else hearing them including a curious Baby 5 and Buffalo. As Donquixote pirates prepare to leave the town Corazon kidnaps Law determined to find a cure for his Amber Lead poisoning much to Law's chagrin. This episode also sets up the beginning of Vergo's infiltration of the Marines. Vergo was the previous Corazon in the family before the present one took over meaning Corazon is a rank not a name. It's strange that the Marine's wouldn't recognise Doflamingo's previous right-hand man and would allow him to transfer to G-5. I guess Vergo is ridiculously good at avoiding the camera like Sanji. But Vergo isn't the only backstabber in this flashback as Corazon holds a Commander rank in the Marines working directly under Sengoku. Again considering Doflamingo has so many connections it's strange that he is unaware of his brother's actions against him.  The rest of the episode follows Corazon has he frantically searches hospital after hospital for someone to cure Law's disease. Of course, everyone has eaten the lie that Amber Lead poisoning is contagious prompting the Marines to hunt down Law and Corazon. We get some insight into Law's personality and why he joined with Donquixote. After Flevance, he was rejected because of his disease but was accepted into the Donquixote family thus prompting a large amount of respect and gratitude to Doflamingo. Corazon however made him relive the days he could not make human contact causing even more pain on Law despite Corazon's primary motivation for finding a cure. This episode also brings to light Corazon's personal interest in Law and it's far more interesting than the family D. stuff I mentioned before.  Another great episode this week. Whenever One Piece is out of Dressrosa the story becomes more interesting, better paced, and generally more entertaining. Thankfully there is more of this in the next episode.   [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Corazon does it for the D.
Today I like to make a shoutout to user Japanator reader Confuseddalek. Corazon really shines in this episode and we get to see why Law thinks so highly of him. Sadly we also get more vague information about what the infamous...

Annotated Anime: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode 10

Aug 06 // Anthony Redgrave
Because the hot springs episodes may have been a bit too racey and fast paced for regular Nagato Yuki-chan watchers with the inclusion of Haruhi, episode 10 slows the pace way down. Even though our heroine had escaped the crash relatively unscathed, Asakura goes super protective mother bird mode on her discovering new injuries every minute. Even if the physical injuries are relatively minor, Haruhi watchers will be familiar with the state that Nagato has reverted to which compliments the slower pace of this episode. For a while I thought it was because of shock from the car incident and it would take the collective efforts of the literature club to pull her out of this funk. This episode reminds me of the Digimon Adventures episode Home Away from Home where Tai gets to return back to Tokyo without his friends. It's vastly different from all the episodes before it with a muted tone and feel making it slightly eerie. At the literature club, Kyon tries to make conversation with Nagato but is greeted with the same specific answers as Asakura. This new Nagato does have a penchant of reading french books like The Mystery of the Yellow Room which Kyon has a hard time engaging with. How is Kyon going to get it together with Nagato if he doesn't understand the language of love? I loved the ending of this episode as it has me hungry for more. I was really tempted to watch the next one subbed just so it'll quench my curiosity. If you were thought Nagato Yuki-chan was too lackadaisy slice of life then this episode will revitalise your interest in the series even if it's quite slow. [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!] [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!]
Nagato Yuki photo
Wait, you can add cheese to curry?
Whenever I'm watching too much anime I tend to see anime in my anime. Like characters looking like other characters from other anime series' or storylines that have been covered by older anime. In this case, it's the Toyota A...

Annotated Anime: Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma episodes 13-16

Aug 03 // Nick Valdez
Episode 13 For the final day of Totsuki's survival camp, students are challenged to serve some kind of egg dish to 200 people within 2 hours at an all you can eat buffet. The major push of this episode goes toward introducing two new rivals, Alice Nakiri and her henchman Ryo Kurokiba. Since Alice is related to Erina, they have quite a fierce family rivalry (which leads to some funny introductions between the two and Souma), but Souma pays them no mind and ends up developing an egg souffle. But Erina quickly looks down the idea and notes Souma is making a huge mistake, When Souma gets placed next to Erina in the serving area, he's quickly dominated by Erina's eggs benedict dish covered in dry fish egg powder. The other students seem to be faring well, but Alice's egg dishes are completely ignored since they look like plain eggs served different ways. But Souma's dish is also struggling. No one seems to be choosing his souffle and they're collapsing fast.  Episode 14 Finally realizing what Erina was talking about the episode prior, Souma stumbles when he sees his egg souffles crumbling and ignored (since buffet goers usually don't eat every food when they're prepared, a souffle was a bad idea since they don't hold form for long). After taking a brief pause, Souma decides to draw in 190 customers within the final 30 minutes of the task. Jumping into this impossible task, Souma decides to live cook each of the dishes in order to draw attention. This episode had the slickest cooking animation I'd seen yet. To reflect his massive task, and how fast he was going, Souma was accent with speed lines, quick edits, and it was the right kind of flashy. This show has trouble at times since it wants everything to look slick (since cooking isn't exactly full of action), but thanks to this sequence we get all the action we need. Souma was able to complete his servings barely before the buzzer sounds. As we check in with the rest of the students, we learn Erina served something like 400 dishes, Alice (whose egg dish actually was meticulously calculated through science cooking) served 300, and everyone else managed to make it through the task. After some celebration of the final task of camp, about 2/3 of the students who first attended camp made it through the week. Souma then realizes he's glad he came to Totsuki Academy in the first place.  Episode 15 With the Totsuki survival camp over, it's time to head into the next arc, The Autumn Elections. After Souma and Erina miss the bus home, they have a chat about the Autumn Elections which will serve to get their name known to restaurant owners and chefs. That's also why the survival camp exists as sort of a preliminary exam for the Elections. But as the gang returns to the Polar Star dorm, an unexpected guest shows up, Souma's dad Joichiro. Souma then learns some interesting things about his dad: he travels worldwide and cooks, he was a former Elite Ten member at Totsuki (the ten best cooks in the school), and he and Dojima were once members of the Polar Star dorm and their Shokugekis helped expand the dorm to what it is today. At the end of the episode, Joichiro challenges Souma to a Shokugeki in order to see how much Souma has/hasn't grown.  And with a new direction for the series, we also get a new opening sequence. Highlighting some folks we haven't met yet, and playing around with how wacky its visuals get, this opening is fun and intense at the same time. But I think I prefer the first opening's song. Also, maybe because the show's spent a huge chunk of its budget, there were plenty of shortcuts here. The animation surely taken a hit, but that's okay given that it's not necessary until we get to bigger scenes.  Episode 16 As Souma and his dad enter a new super early morning Shokugeki, they get the household caretaker Fumio, the nudist Isshiki, and a poor sleepy Tadakoro to be the judges. To reflect how early it was, Fumio decides the challenge will be a breakfast dish that invigorates the three for the day ahead. Souma creates an apple risotto, an interesting choice given that apples would be hard to cook within a risotto. But thanks to some apple juice, the risotto is filled with the right kind of flavor and ultimately leads to the image above. But Joichiro unleashes his worldly strength and produces an all vegetable ramen (one he perfected working with a vegan monk), and resoundingly wins the challenge. Which makes that 0/490 for Souma, and it also explains why Souma's never nervous for anything since he's been trying to overcome his dad's strength all these years.  Remember when I mentioned how action lines can be used weirdly two episodes above, that happens a ton here. Have fast moving backgrounds clash with the static characters in an attempt to make them feel like they're being adequately animated is a cheap ploy. And it's certainly a lack of budget seeping through. I hope it's being saved for the Elections themselves. If it's anything like it is in the manga, it's gonna be sooooooooooo good.  I'll try to keep these closer together once the Elections start, so hope you'll keep reading! 
Annotated Food Wars! photo
Eggcellent
Shokugeki no Soma is quickly turning into the highlight of my week. The only problem with covering a Shonen-type series like this is that each episode isn't very substantial on its own, but the overall package is compelling e...

Annotated Anime: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episodes 6-9

Aug 03 // Anthony Redgrave
Those expecting lots of T&A in this trilogy will be sorely disappointed. We spend more time looking at the bare chests of Kyon and Koizumi than the girls. These episodes feature more Haruhi and Koizumi as they drag the North High Literature club around the tourist sites. Haruhi brings the selfish bold headed charm into Nagato's meek world and it comes as a nice change of tone from the lovey dovey storyline. Laughs can be found in each episode from visual gags to Kyon being treated like shit throughout the trip. I especially liked the boy's interaction with one another as Koizumi is played off as an extreme version of himself from Haruhi which means some uncomfortable situations for Kyon.  Despite Haruhi energizing the show, the first episode has the pace of Aunt Jane's Japan Holiday slide show. They spend too much time going to different sites, messing around in the gift shop, praying at the shrine, and even on who sat next to whom instead of pushing the story along. The show had slowed down and I don't think it can handle more characters than Nagato, Asakura, and Kyon at once. There are fewer character interaction and more time on what they're doing which proved to be charming but meaningless. Asakura gets some character development in this trilogy as we finally understand her fear of getting Nagato with Kyon. However, these set of episodes contain almost no drama. Whenever it gets to be an interesting moment it is immediately diffused in place for a joke thus losing all tension.  Ultimately I think these episodes can be skipped. Viewers that pay attention to this show will already know why Asakura is worried about Nagato's relationship and if they don't then a synopsis search online will clear it up. They are nice distractions but don't provide any information that we have not seen before. [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!] [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!]
Nagato Yuki photo
The Hot Spring Trilogy
We've now hit the middle of the season so it's time for some fan service-y filler episodes. In Haruhi they went to Koizumi's beach house to solve a murder, in Nagato Yuki-chan they're heading to Tsuruya's Hot Springs under th...

Annotated Anime: GANGSTA episodes 3-4

Aug 03 // Anthony Redgrave
We know already that Nic is a deaf mixed race killing machine and is feared in the town because of his dog tag. But we don't know that much about Worick apart from his faux pirate appearance. Episode 3 introduces Worick's other job as a Gigolo. Yep, good looks can't be wasted in Ergastulum as his past had caused him to enter the sex trade from an early age. Unlike Alex, Worick isn't strong armed into continuing this profession which makes for an interesting comparison between the two. The Handymen don't only deal death and sex but also drugs, Twilight drugs to be exact. This drug is a critical part of the story as Alex and Nic make their rounds through the city emphasizing the necessity and reach the drug has on the town.  The next episode explores how Nic met Worick. We find that Worick was educated as a young man and Nic was assigned as his bodyguard. Like all great duos they didn't initially get along due to Worick feeling sour for receiving a disabled bodyguard but they do warm to each other. Or should I say, Worick cools off about Nic's disability. I find with GANGSTA's story telling a little hard to follow at times. This might be intentional as it's gradually feeding information to the viewer as showing its whole hand would ruin the big reveals but it's hard to grasp the lore when there are multiple names used interchangeably i.e. dog tags, Twilight, Twilight drugs. That's when I have to resort to wiki to set things straight but potentially ruin major plot points. The episode ends with Nic engaging with another dog tag of the same rank. I'm really hoping the next episode opens with some action. GANGSTA has shown it's got an interesting world and it would be a cherry on top of a blood filled sundae if it has some great fight sequences.  I wonder if they're gonna meet a dog tag that Nic doesn't have to slice and dice? [GANGSTA streams on FUNimation] Ergastulum
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That's Nic's Girl
I tend not to look too deeply into a new anime series' before I watch them. If I'm a late comer then I'll do a quick wiki search to get a feel for the show before diving in but apart from that I came into GANGSTA like a sprin...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 702

Aug 02 // Anthony Redgrave
The Doflamingo family were world nobles living in Mariejois, but the patriarch decided to leave to give his family a more humble life. It could be he was under the impression of "the grass is greener on the other side" but when you live in Mariejois also known as the Holy Land of One Piece I don't think you can get any greener grass. Sadly the Doflamingo family are not seasoned veterans of the property market as they move into a village that absolutely hate the World Nobles. It's not like the family did anything wrong or were misunderstood by the villagers leading to a tragic backlash. The people living around them loathe the world nobles for their history of slavery and treatment towards the outside world. Like a tumbling snowball, things go from bad to worst as the Doflamingo family are forced into hiding and are hunted on a daily basis by the residents of the North Blue. This is where another episode would've helped viewers empathize with Doflamingo as we can already see he and Corazon had had a rough childhood, but it was all crammed into the first half of this episode. Literally the patriarch of the Doflamingo family introduces himself to the villagers at the market and is immediately attacked. No provocation, no misunderstanding, just pure hatred.  Back in the present Corazon covers for Law despite the latter's attack on the former and much to Law's surprise he is accepted into the Doflamingo family. The proceeding montage of Law bonding with the other family members is nice as we finally see some happy moments amongst an enemy crew. It's nice to see that these villains aren't one-dimensional killing machines, but they value each other's presence and companionship. The way the episode is presented helps me understand Doflamingo more as a person. He maintains the ruthlessness of a World Noble but values his family that he had lost to commoners thus having no remorse for slavery and absolutely hating anyone thinking they are above him. This makes it even more intriguing why he ended up killing his brother and father.  The episode concludes with Law stating his real name and adding himself to the list of D. members. Corazon also speaks and sparks the beginning of how Law became indebted to Doflamingo's brother. Corazon's voice is badass and didn't think it would fit a goofy violent guy dressed as a clown. It's sad knowing that we won't hear that voice for much longer as I think he will meet his demise in the next two episodes.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
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Yep this one's pretty good
Doflamingo remains one of my favourite One Piece villains. Despite the shit I had to put up with in Dressrosa it is all worth it to see the good episodes. Doflamingo has one of the more interesting backstories of all the characters in One Piece and I love how you can see how it had directly affected his personality and actions. 

First Impressions: Bikini Warriors

Aug 02 // Anthony Redgrave
The answer is "Yes, but not at 30 minutes apiece". The archaic simulacra of fearsome adventurers wearing nothing more than a napkin worth of armor is played for humour purposes rather than an epic adventure. Standing at 4 minutes each the first episode sets the tone by having our heroes, only being defined by their class or in the case of the dark elf her race wiping on a dungeon due to their impractical outfits. One shopping trip later they are back dungeoneering with better gear but still in their revealing unmentionables and succeeding this time due to the "higher stats" of the armour. And that's it. Each of the three episodes explores a fantasy RPG trope from ungrateful kings to adventurer's rights to plunder any home. These are one note gags so it's good that they had the courtesy of limiting each episode to 4 minutes instead of padding it out a 30-minute episode with fan service. That is not to say Bikini Warriors is light on the cheesecake. I think I spent most of the first episode staring at the Warriors crotch area and not because I'm a red blooded male. It's because they re-use the same shot of her getting knocked back with the camera fixated on the genital region about 4 times. Every episode ends with the leads being humiliated in some way, sometimes it's karmically just and others it's maliciously cruel. If it were a more adult show there would be a lot more un-consensual things that occur after the credits.  I'm all for a cheeky tease and a wink from la belle du jour, but some of the endings of Bikini Warriors leave a sour taste in my mouth. I know it's an acquired fetish but when it's just to get the girls out of their already revealing outfits and into nothing without it feeling fair or consensual makes me feel uncomfortable.  The leads are varied and have some nice character designs and differing personalities. The pink haired warrior is cursed with the wet blanket personality and uninspired character design channeling the spirit of Tyris Flare from the Sega Genesis Golden Axe series. The Wizard is the child of the group but has been gifted with a sizable rack like the rest of the cast. I would think a flat chest would suit her character better, but I guess you won't get the same effect in a bikini. Rounding out the party is the ditzy Paladin and an older sister Dark Elf.  If it weren't for the short run time I wouldn't have given Bikini Warriors a watch in the first place. It's a condensed fan service heavy show that doesn't require a huge commitment to follow each episode and it'll be interesting where they will take the show once they start running out of fantasy tropes. 
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They're Warriors In Bikinis
I think we are all aware of the ridiculous concept of armour for females in a fantasy setting. As males level up they get to wear more extravagant armour while the ladies are rewarded with higher statistical armour but is represented as beach wear rather than fighting gear. It's a silly trope that is still used to this day. But can there be an interesting anime based off it? 

Annotated Anime: GATE episodes 4-5

Aug 01 // Josh Tolentino
When last we left Itami and his scouting platoon, they'd just blown the crap out of a giant dragon with a rocket launcher and timely help from Chuka the naked elf and Rory Mercury, the goth-loli demigoddess that's taken a liking to the "Warriors in Green". As the squad returns to the newly-built SDF base built on Arnus Hill (and an attractive and defensible star shape, to boot), Itami inadvertently takes a centrally important role once again, thanks to his decision to take in native refugees. The brass are still figuring out what to do about the "Special Region", and those with a mind for geopolitics are contemplating the implications of Japan's access to new, virtually untouched real estate. Will the soldiers Glorious Nippon have to gird their loins, not just to fight the locals, but against people from their own world?  That's the question looming over episode 4, and where GATE tips its political hand just a bit. Maybe this sort of logic - added to the portrayal of non-Japanese Earthlings as craven opportunists - prompted folks to declare it a work of right-wing nutjobbery. And while that characterization is doubtless crude, I'm inclined to think the offense is coming mainly from Americans unused to seeing America portrayed as being real "sinister", at least not alongside the Chinese. Crude characterization is what it is, but so far GATE's distrust of foreign powers is hardly unusual and fits (albeit awkwardly) in the premise of a more "realistic" contemplation of cross-dimensional relations. Foreign policy critiques aside, the incident makes Itami look more appealing as a protagonist. I've always had a soft spot for those sorts of Tylor-esque, Is-He-An-Idiot-Or-A-Genius types, and Itami fits the bill to a tee. He might just be far more cunning than anyone (at least, anyone from his side of the gate) is willing to give him credit for, and that's how he'll be the one to end up changing both worlds before this is all over. The episodes also catch up with the refugees, all amazed by baths, food, Daikon radishes, MOPP suits, earth movers, and the practice of saying "itadakimasu" before meals. Chuka the elf seems to be acting as if her father is still alive (you never can tell with elf magic), and is also quite out of sorts about how to repay the soldiers for their aid. Thankfully, some dragon scales turn up, lest the girls have to resort to taking up The Oldest Profession. The show also takes some time to catch up with the hilariously named Pina Co Lada, princess of the Empire that sent the soldiers through the Gate the first time. She's on her way to find out more about the Warriors in Green, and has been caught up defending the city of Italica from bandits that just so happen to have once been members of the Empire's allied armies. Y'know, the ones the Emperor sent to get killed by the JSDF so as not to pose a threat to the depleted Imperial forces. Incidentally, Italica happens to be where Itami and co. show up to sell their scales. Come to think of it, the more interesting story in GATE right now is less about how the people of our world deal with the discovery of the Special Region, but how the people of the Special Region deal with the disruption caused by their interactions with our world. It may have been the Empire that first sent its troops to rampage through Ginza, but by and large the world most changed by that war isn't ours. Over on the other side, most of the furor lies in political maneuvering and question as to finding out just what the JSDF is doing on the other side of the Gate.  Compare that to the impact of the JSDF's incursion on the Empire. The Empire lost most of its army, as well as nearly every noble leader. The Emperor sent his own allies to slaughter under the JSDF's guns, to put their armies in the same dire straits as his. Villages like Coda and towns like Italica were left leaderless, barely able to defend themselves against bandits. It's an interesting dynamic to see in anime, and perspectives from this angle of the less-powerful are all too uncommon, even if the current storyline, which has Pina cooperating with Itami's squad to break the siege of Italica seems like it's just going to be used as fodder to demonstrate the soldiers' moral superiority once again. Where GATE has been stumbling seems to come from the same place as those ridiculous kill counts from the earlier episodes. The need to demonstrate the dramatic difference in power between the modern-day soldiers and their quasi-medieval opponents has ironically undermined the show's own premise somewhat. It's the same with GATE's ostensible dedication to some form of realism. And I'm not just talking about its 2ch-level grasp of geopolitics, either. For example, why are the press back on Earth so in-the-dark as to what's happening on the other side, when Itami is apparently able to update his favorite light novels via broadband internet? Can't someone just email the soldiers or send a TV signal through as well?  Further, how could anyone say the JSDF's made "peaceful first contact" with the natives when the first thing they did upon crossing the threshold is slaughter a whole generation? If the Special Region is anywhere close to the real-world's population levels around the medieval age, losing 100,000 able-bodied men, not to mention most of the Empire's ruling class, would have far more dire consequences. Chances are the people of Coda should've run screaming as soon as they heard of the Warriors in Green coming, Fire Dragon be damned.  That all sounds like nitpicking, and it definitely is, but in fairness, it's GATE that first asked us to do it with its very premise. We can hardly be blamed for complaining when a story that claims to be realistic doesn't match up to what we know from our own lives.  This isn't to say that it's all for naught. GATE is a fun and engaging watch so far, but a little more verisimilitude would be welcome. [Catch GATE on Crunchyroll!]        
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Eh, It's A Living
I like GATE so far. Far from earlier rumors seemingly trumpeting it as "Japan's Tea Party: The Anime", the show has been a thoughtful and interesting take on a topic close to my nerdy heart. And with some of the action r...

First Impressions: God Eater episodes 1-3

Jul 30 // Josh Tolentino
The good news is, that visually, God Eater is one of the best-looking shows I've seen in years. And it's not just getting by on style, either. Ufotable, as is their way, has created a technical tour de force with their newest series, using multi-layered shading and coloring techniques to create a unique look for God Eater, as well as finally make an anime where CG creations - in this case, the Aragami monsters and large parts of the backgrounds - don't stick out like a sore thumb.  That doesn't sound huge on its own, but considering the way CG is employed in most traditional 2D anime, it's significant. The few shows to do it well were often all-CG (like Fireball Charming or, err...Sega Hard Girls) or kept the 2D and 3D portions carefully separated (like Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex and Etotama). Even Ufotable itself never quite managed the blend with last season's Unlimited Blade Works adaptation. They kept mostly to digital effects, and the CG still looked awkward and out-of-place when used for things like Caster's skeleton warriors or that red water pouring out of the Holy Grail. In most 2D shows, you can usually tell when something's been modeled someone CG comes in just by looking. Whether it's slightly flat colors or an unusual slowness (or smoothness) to the movement, being able to spot the CG in an anime is the "Conspicuously Light Patch" of its age.  To be perfectly honest, that's still technically true in God Eater. It's easy to tell that the Aragami are mostly done in CG, and it's more evident when both monsters and people are on the screen together. Still, the blend on display is better than ever, to the point that after watching the stream on Daisuki, I deliberately sought out a higher-resolution version of the broadcast to see for myself. God Eater just looks that good. More's the pity, then, that the narrative portions of the show simply don't live up to the lavish visuals. In fact, many of the fears some Ufotable fans had about the studio's ability to take on a "heavy" narrative show after five years adapting Type-MOON's "Nasu-verse" for the screen have proven at least partly true so far. Without the dense (and more importantly pre-existing) fiction of the Fate franchise to back it up, God Eater comes across as an Attack on Titan clone where righteous anger has been replaced by a dreary, somewhat undeserved sense of self-importance. It's not all Ufotable's fault, of course. God Eater compared favorably to Monster Hunter in the story department mainly by virtue of actually having a story. As a TV series, God Eater faces much stronger competition, not least of all Ufotable's own stellar work expanding Unlimited Blade Works, just weeks ago. I'd have hoped that they'd be able to make God Eater's world seem less threadbare than in the game, but instead the early results actually seem more stilted than before. In a bitter irony, the game versions of the characters actually seem livelier than in the anime, despite the anime having more "cutscene" in the first three episodes than in the entirety of the game itself. The setup is simple: Ravenous monsters called "Aragami" have destroyed most of humanity, which now hides behind large walled cities under the administration of FENRIR, which employs "God Eaters", warriors that gain superhuman ability when infused with Oracle Cells (the same ones as in the Aragami). God Eaters wield massive weapons called God Arcs to defend mankind's last sanctuaries against the monstrous hordes.  Lenka Utsugi is a newly recruited God Eater in FENRIR's Far East branch. Quite, stoic, and obsessed with taking vengeance upon the Aragami for eating his loved ones, Lenka's a "New-type", who can wield a new, transforming variant of God Arc. His can turn from a massive sword into a massive gun. Being talented, though, makes no substitute for experience, and Lenka's impulsiveness quickly gets him into trouble, forcing the veterans of the 1st Squad, including laid-back badass Lindow Amamiya and his pals Soma and Sakuya to bail him out. Naturally, the kid's got that "something" about him, and by episode 3, Lenka and the squad are working together, and meeting Alisa, another Russian New-type who's got a great hat and, judging by the underboob, might have had the rest of her outfit chosen by her creepy scientist mentor/father-figure. I'm not the kind of guy to go drawing parallels to Attack on Titan When everyone an anime features gross monsters and the people who fight them in a bleakly-toned story, but in this case the parallels are warranted, and unfortunately leave God Eater wanting. The raw anger and passion that underpinned the mood of Eren Jager's saga is here replaced with a dull kind of stoicism. Lenka's strong-but-silent demeanor may be an improvement from the goofball harem tediousness of the God Eater manga's lead, but not by much, and certainly not enough to make Lenka a better lead overall. Worse, points of characterization and flavor that helped the game set a mood in spite of a barebones plot are excised or missing in action here. Story points that might have made God Eater feel less, for lack of a better word, generic, like the privileged status of the God Eater corps or other dynamics, are nowhere to be found, leaving a by-the-numbers "soldiers at the end of the world" moodiness in its place. To be fair, it's still early going, and the show is already forging some newer territory by using flashbacks to the apparent origin of the Aragami and its involvement with FENRIR's higher-ups. It's a sign that Ufotable is beginning to plumb deeper into the lore, which has historically been a strength of theirs as opposed to natural-feeling characterization. Events are moving at a good clip, too, skipping over some of the game's high school shenanigans (at the time used to lazily deploy exposition without spending on animation), so it might not be long before all of it takes a more intriguing turn. Still, there's no avoiding the sense here that some opportunities to make God Eater a more vibrant setting have been missed, and I've no doubt that at least some viewers not hooked on the visuals were turned away by this early narrative blandness. Heck, I'd probably drop the show if I weren't already interested in seeing my favorite MonHun clone get some love.
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No Free Lunch
I've said time and again that God Eater is one of the best - if not the best - attempt yet by competing publishers to take a sip out of Capcom's giant Monster Hunter milkshake. With God Eater, developer Sh...

First Impressions: GATE episodes 1-3

Jul 23 // Josh Tolentino
Of course, future episodes of GATE could prove me entirely wrong. The game of subtext is a perilous thing, and if you can find strange ultranationalist right-wing readings in everything from Mahouka to Knights of Sidonia to Attack on Titan, a show that openly stars members of the actual Japanese military (or "Self-Defense Force" if you want to get technical) is even more vulnerable to that kind of examination. Still, based on the evidence at hand, GATE is a perfectly serviceable fantasy with an interesting nerd-catnip hook. It's the hook that does more work than any one aspect of the show thus far. After all, for about as long as fantasy fiction has existed as a genre, people have been wondering how the medieval, swords-and-sorcery mores of your average Tolkienesque would match up against the grim products of the military-industrial complex. Put plain, we've always wanted to see how Gandalf, Frodo, or Sauron might fare against a machine gun, tank cannon, or jet fighter. If you think that sounds likes a simplistic sort of thrill to base an anime on, you're right. "Guns vs. Dragons" is only a few steps removed from "Boobs" on the scale of primal urges driving creativity, but that doesn't mean thought can't be put into its execution, and on that front, GATE does deliver. A portal opens up in the middle of a Ginza thoroughfare, belching out tens of thousands of orcs, ogres, pig-men, quasi-Roman soldiers, and assorted fantasy staples to wreak havoc on Tokyo's innocents. The man in just the right time and place is 33-year-old Youji Itami, an off-duty soldier and doujinshi-loving otaku, whose training helps save lives just in time for the army to repel the invasion. Fast forward three months and a new Prime Minister (I like this particular off-hand joke about how long it takes to get things done) wants to flex Glorious Nippon's muscle by sending a couple of divisions of Self-Defense Force troops through the titular "Gate", to secure a place on the other side and force the dastardly invaders into negotiations.  One incursion and a second slaughter of fantasy troops later, and Youji is placed in charge of a recon team assigned to probe the countryside on "hearts and minds" duty, which is where the story begins proper, complete with a dragon fight, elf-lady rescue, and the requisite encounter with a gothic lolita (named "Rory", no less) demigoddess. This is the point where GATE reveals itself less to be some strange creature born of secret militaristic urges than a spinoff of the now monolithic "trapped in another world" subgenre of light novel adventures. It is kissing cousins less with preachy alt-history explorations like Zipang or The Final Countdown than with genre, er..."classics" like Familiar of Zero, Sword Art Online, and even Log Horizon.  Its closest relative would be Outbreak Company, though the otaku pandering in GATE is so far limited to portraying Youji and his pal as unashamed geeks and pushing the story into familiar harem-assembly patterns. Already you can see the shape of the show's romantic polygon as the taciturn wizard, bouncy elf, saucy goddess, and normal fellow-human girls take their places in the roster. Honestly the main thing that distinguishes GATE's storytelling has been in the soldiers themselves. Given that creator Takumi Yanai was formerly in the JSDF, it's hardly surprising that the story would be friendly to "the troops", but in light of that history, it's also telling about just which parts of the service GATE is happiest to play up. While the blowout victories against the natives is predictable, the shows spends most of its time showing off Youji and his comrades less as warriors than public servants. Most of the soldier glory shots in the opening sequence are of folks in uniform generally being helpful, pulling carts out of ditches and giving rides to refugees fleeing a dragon attack. Youji himself displays an unusual (for typical portrayals of soldiers, at least) wariness of force and its use, refusing to call for backup to avoid risking innocents or provoking the enemy, and generally being a laid-back, intuitive leader. The shades of Irresponsible Captain Tylor And Yang Wen-li are welcome, and help defuse the potential for jingoistic chest-beating in the early goings. Even the enemy gets comparatively sensitive treatment, with the rank and file types portrayed more as victims in a power play wrought by craven leadership (on both sides of the Gate) than bloodthirsty savages. If there's one thing that doesn't quite square with this even-handed treatment, it's in the abject slaughter and seemingly effortless victory of the modern forces. I mean, sure they've got machine guns and artillery support, but it just doesn't feel right that they're effortlessly gunning down a hundred thousand troops in a single night's battle. By all logic the mere first round of shelling and gunfire should've balked the enemy into routing or stalemate rather than to just dumbly march into the bullets, no matter how foolhardy the generals. I'm not any kind of realism purist here, but the body count just seems unnecessarily inflated to make the disparity in force more dramatic. Besides that, GATE shows a lot of potential to be a fun and eminently watchable bit of summer anime. With a bit of luck, it won't get too bogged down in the less compelling harem wish-fulfillment aspects, further capitalizing on its hook and sensitive characterization.
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Hellish Dragon v. Hellfire Missiles
Confession time: When I first set out to write about GATE, I was actually prepared to defend it. That's a weird stance to take with regards to a program I had yet to even watch, I'll admit, but I really was about to get all p...

Final Impressions: Unlimited Blade Works

Jul 16 // Josh Tolentino
Except here, by virtue of Unlimited Blade Works' big reveal, we know that the journey of Shirou Emiya has only just begun. Here, after the world has been saved from a big hole spewing red jelly, and a jerk with blond hair's been taken down a few notches, only here is where Shirou Emiya continues down the path to becoming his ideal self.  It's worth pointing out that that self, not even a day before, had been hell-bent on killing him, but Shirou doesn't care. He doesn't care that Archer, the man he would become, wanted nothing more in the world than to un-become, to kill his younger self before he could suffer the pain of learning the true cost of sticking so doggedly to his ideals. That's a price that, here in episode 24, Shirou Emiya is willing to pay. But we knew that already. Shirou's heroic resolve here isn't in question, and it's been the true ending of this scenario since its time as a visual novel. The boldest thing about 2015's take on Unlimited Blade Works is the very last episode, which is an epilogue, and as far as I can remember, is almost entirely new material.  Set months after the final battle, the last episode explores the rest of the "True End" scenario, where Rin and Shirou have graduated from high school and are studying at the Clock Tower in London, headquarters of the Mage's Association. There we catch up with Shirou's not-so-great fashion sense (ew, green cardigan?!), Rin's new hair, and Luvia Edelfelt, a side character from the not-quite-canon spinoff/expansion, Fate/hollow Ataraxia. Brief words are exchanged with Fate/Zero survivor Waver Velvet, and a visit is paid to the alleged grave of King Arthur himself at Glastonbury Abbey. That's all well and good, and frankly not enough anime series actually have a decent denoument, preferring to end things right after the climax and saving the cooldown for the credits. But the most important thing here is hearing Shirou opt out of enrolling at the school, instead opting to do...whatever it is he planned to do next in his quest to become a Hero of Justice. Rin not only expects, but supports the decision, allowing him to drag her around for a change. It's a Big Development because at the traditional end of Unlimited Blade Works, we're filled with hope that the future can be changed, that Shirou would grow up differently, and become someone other than the Archer that would die for his beliefs and spend a purgatory enslaved to an unfeeling cosmic force, every moment confronted with the impossibility of his dreams.  And yet here, we see him consciously, deliberately, rejecting that potential outcome. Here, he's choosing to take another step down the road to becoming the white-haired, dark-skinned, red-clad cynic that seemed to hate everything that he became. At the same time, though, that's where all the difference lies. Shirou himself, through the crucible of confronting his own future, has chosen to accept it, judging the consequence to be worthwhile. He knows how impossible his dream is: A world where no one will ever have to suffer. But he's judged the struggle to put it into being to be worth the pain it will cause him, and possibly the compromises he'll be forced to make. That might sound fatalistic, but contrast his self-awareness here to the essential tragedy of his father, Kiritsugu. All his life, Kiritsugu made those compromises while searching for a miracle with the power to undo the need for sacrifice. Finding out that that miracle didn't exist was what broke him. Shirou faced the same challenge, but thanks in part to seeing - and fighting - his own future, as well as knowing how it turned out for dear old dad, chose to accept that cost. It's an interesting contrast to other, similar stories, especially once you try reading it - as so many other anime can be read - as a parable on growing up and learning to live with the hypocrisies and compromises of adult life. So many heroic stories reward protagonists for never compromising on their ideals. The takeaway for the teenaged Japanese audiences is to highlight the virtue in sticking to one's own guns, and never to accept the old men who undermine one's resolve with platitudes about "how the world works".  Here, though, Unlimited Blade Works, and more specifically this particular adaptation of it, shows another side of that resolve, acknowledging the truth about ideals: That they come at at price, and are often impossible to achieve, and that the true heroism lies not in simply holding those ideals, but to seek them all the same in the face of that impossibility, and to judge the price worth paying. 
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The Life After
And so the hero's journey begins. That's actually the weird thing here, as in these kinds of stories, most heroes are "born" at the beginning of the tale. A Link To The Past's hero is born when a green-clad youth leaves ...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 701

Jul 12 // Anthony Redgrave
Law's backstory is one of the most horrific in the series. His story is told to Baby 5 while she and the other executives are on a raid. They talk so casually about the whole thing while being attacked, shot, and fired upon by cannons you would think they were paying more attention to the story than the actual mission. It's a tale of a wealthy town that becomes poisoned over time from the mineral that had made them rich. It's non-contagious, but that doesn't stop the Government from imposing a quarantine on the town. Eventually, the neighboring nations retaliate under the guise of self-defense and kill everyone in town apart from Law who escapes under some dead bodies.  The Mother Sea leitmotif doesn't play in this episode and I suspect it's because we don't spend enough time in Law's rosy family life. It cuts between the executives verbally telling the story to scenes from Flevance and it's surprisingly easy to follow despite these changes. Baby 5's reaction reflects our own as she is told this story becoming more depressed and understanding of Law's personality.  However, I cannot feel the same way when Law pulls this face. It's the same face as Luffy when he lost Ace back in Marineford. I always relate it to an "oh I'm comically scared face" rather than I'm completely and emotionally broken. The rest of the Straw Hats have relatively conserved shocked and sorrowful expressions when compared to this white-eyed huge mouth facial feature.  In the next episode, we go even further back in time to Doflamingo's and Corazon's childhoods. I'm really looking forward to this episode as we'll finally see why this Celestial Dragon was banned from Mariejois.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] Law's backstory is one of the most horrific in the series. His story is told to Baby 5 while she and the other executives are on a raid. They talk so casually about the whole thing while being attacked, shot, and fired upon by cannons you would think they were paying more attention to the story than the actual mission. It's a tale of a wealthy town that becomes poisoned over time from the mineral that had made them rich. It's non-contagious, but that doesn't stop the Government from imposing a quarantine on the town. Eventually, the neighboring nations retaliate under the guise of self-defense and kill everyone in town apart from Law who escapes under some dead bodies.  The Mother Sea leitmotif doesn't play in this episode and I suspect it's because we don't spend enough time in Law's rosy family life. It cuts between the executives verbally telling the story and scenes from Flevance. The pacing is steady and easy to follow despite the changes to scenery and Baby 5's reaction reflects our own as she is told this story. She becomes more and more depressed and understanding of Law's personality.  However, I cannot feel for the losses Law is experiencing when he pulls this face. It's the same with when Luffy lost Ace back in Marineford, I always relate it to an "oh I'm comically scared face" rather than I'm completely and emotionally broken. The rest of the Straw Hats have relatively conserved shocked and sorrowful expressions when compared to this white-eyed huge mouth facial feature.  In the next episode, we go even further back in time to Doflamingo's and Corazon's childhoods. Doflamingo isn't such a bad guy towards his family and that's something I can respect. He berates Jora for scaring Buffalo and threatens anyone that would harm his biological brother. I'm really looking forward to this episode as it has been hinted at throughout this arc. We'll finally see why this Celestial Dragon was banned from Marijois.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] Law's backstory is one of the most horrific in the series. I think it's an amplification of Robin's background but to a greater degree. His story is told to Baby 5 while she and the other executives are raiding pirates. They talk so casually about the whole thing while being attacked, shot, and fired upon by cannons you would think they were paying more attention to the story than the actual mission. It's a tale of a wealthy town that becomes poisoned gradually over time by the mineral that had made them rich. It's non-contagious, but that doesn't stop the Government from imposing a quarantine on the town. Eventually, the neighbouring nations retaliate under the guise of self-defense and kill everyone in town apart from Law who escapes under some dead bodies.  The Mother Sea leitmotif doesn't play in this episode and I suspect it's because we don't spend enough time in Law's rosy family life. It cuts between the executives verbally telling the story and scenes from Flevance. The pacing is steady and easy to follow despite the changes to scenery and Baby 5's reaction reflects our own as she is told this story. She becomes more and more depressed and understanding of Law's personality.  In the next episode we go even further back in time to Doflamingo's and Corazon's childhoods. Doflamingo isn't such a bad guy towards his family and that's something I can respect. He berates Jora for scaring Buffalo and threatens anyone that would harm his biological brother. I'm really looking forward to this episode as it has been hinted at through out this arc. We'll finally see why this Celestial Dragon was banned from Marijois. 
One Piece photo
Law has seen some S***
We've now entered the back story portion of the arc where tragedy is the dish of the day. No matter how pleasant and beautiful the setting may seem, the shit will hit the fan and the tear ducts will open once Mother Sea begins to play. I've never cried while watching One Piece, it so happens something gets in my eye when that song plays. 

First Impressions: GANGSTA

Jul 12 // Anthony Redgrave
GANGSTA has more in line with Panty and Stocking than 50 cent's thug life despite the title's connotation. The similarities with the rude, crude angels begin with partner mercenaries specialising in different weapons and having hearts of gold and end as it's an action anime rather than cartoony comedy. Nicolas and Worick are in the business of dealing death to enemies too risky for the police and being shouted at by the captain for their methods. A classic set up that would be tired if not for the interesting leads. Nicolas is the muscle and Worick is the silver-tongued negotiator making for an endearing duo that work well together. The show is not for the faint hearted as it's a mature show with a capital M. Drugs, murder, abuse to women, and bloodshed is present in each episode. The dialogue doesn't pull punches as it dishes out racial slurs, explicative insults degrading women and crude language making the show feel and sound like a violent dystopia. Fortunately, the show isn't all doom and gloom as the characters are very charming and colourful as mentioned before. The art style is warm to contrast with the majority of the characters decked in dark threads. Black shadow accent the unsavoury and rough nature of the show. The show's character design is attractive despite its thematically ugly world and I have not seen any major animation hiccups in the first two episodes. GANGSTA will be something I continue with during this season. I'm a fan of the action and the unpleasantness world is something I adore in fiction especially when they have likeable heroes that I can root for. The aesthetics are a beautiful topping on this delicious piece of anime.   [GANGSTA streams on FUNimation] GANGSTA is more in line with Panty and Stocking than 50 cent's thug life despite the title's connotation. The similarities with the rude, crude, angels begin with partner mercenaries dubbed Handymen specialising in different weapon and having hearts of gold and end as this is more action orientated than cartoony comedy. Nicolas and Worick are in the business of dealing death to enemies too risque for the police and subsequently being shouted down by the commissioner. A classic set up in many works of fiction that would be overplayed if not for the interesting leads. Nicolas is the muscle and Worick is the silver-tongued negotiator making for an endearing duo that work well together. The show is not for the faint hearted it's a mature show with a capital M. Drugs, murder, verbal and physical abuse to women, and blood flows rampant in each episode. The dialogue doesn't pull punches when it comes to racial slurs, explicative insults, and degrading women making the show feel and sound like a violent dystopia. Fortunately, the show isn't all doom and gloom as the characters are very charming and colourful as mentioned before. The art style is bright and warm to contrast with the majority of the characters that choose dark themed threads. The show's character design is attractive despite the thematically ugly world and I have not seen any major animation hiccups in the first two episodes. GANGSTA will be something I continue with during this season. Although the story is still ramping up, I like the world and it's inhabitants. I'm a fan of dystopian worlds like Fallout and the main leads are likeable enough to keep me engaged with their exploits.
GANGSTA photo
Violence! Racism! Misogyny!
Truncated versions of words bug the hell out of me. I always hear it in my mind's ear being spoken by an loud spoken and arrogant individual; 'GANGSTA!' emphasis on the -STA part with a line a spit flickering from their ...

Review: The IDOLM@STER Cindrella Girls Season 1

Jul 12 // Jeff Chuang
The Idolm@ster Cinderella Girls Season 1 Studio: A-1 Pictures Format: Streaming via Daisuki/YouTube Release Date: January 10, 2015 The idea behind Cinderella Girls as the next iteration of the franchise is that by opening the gates with a large swath and wide variety of characters, each player (or viewer in the anime's case) will invariably find somebody they like. It works for AKB48, so why wouldn't it work for anything else? I guess the question sits at the center of the Cinderella Girls experience. But that's in reference to the whole of Cinderella Girls, which, beyond the anime, holds itself as one of the pioneering and successful mobile games in Japan. It's not too different than, say, how thanks to the Rage of Bahamut mobile games, we got an sword-buckling adventure anime to go with. Where these two franchises diverge is the way how Cinderella Girls is just one head of a multi-headed hydra that makes up the IDOLM@STER franchise. Beyond the anime and the mobile game, we're talking about a mix of media, besides obviously the anime on home video. It includes also live events, radio shows, and the sub-unit CDs that the anime sells in an almost-direct way. When you watch each episode of the anime as an invested fan, there's a lot more to it than sitting back and enjoying the story. Of course, like any other type of fans, everyone gets on social media and chat about the latest episode as soon as possible (and thanks to Daisuki's prompt simulcast even I can do that to a degree). Easter eggs and other nods to the rest of the IM@S franchise often are the biggest cues for discussion among fans. What's more, new announcements and reveals relevant to the entire franchises sometimes happens within the latest episode of the anime. To take the last episode in the first half as an example, do you know Triad Primus? Just that scene between Nao and Karen sent some into frenzy, only because it's one of the more popular sub-groups within the game that was quietly done away with after New Generations was initially announced from the first Cinderella Girls anime promo. That's not even include more obvious ties like the weekly bonus audio drama in-game, or the freebie SR cards and other loot that go live in the proper Cinderella Girls game right after you finish watching the week's episode. The Japanese broadcast even reinforces its full-force consumer message through its self-sponsored commercials in the CM breaks of its own anime. That's a view from deep inside the rabbit hole. I think most of us out west don't care for it, at least at first. A lot of us out likely found out about the IDOLM@STER franchise first via the 2011 TV series, curio news reported from oversea fan being silly, or various MAD videos featuring IM@S. The line of games had been in the purview of hardcore importers, or people willing to think differently about iOS apps by paying the asking price on Shiny Festa. There may be an underground group of English-speaking, mobile game types that cling to the three major IM@S social games, but nowhere is that visible above the surface of the world wide web, so to speak. You had to dig down to find these Producers. When Bandai-Namco focused its mainline 765Pro IM@S products and events to point to and collaborate with the two social game platforms, some fans worried--the original characters (and their voice actresses) are not getting any younger--will this bring about a drastic change to the franchise? At the same time many Producers are simply getting familiar and are welcoming the Cinderella Girls. Under that context, our 346 Production idols are in a battle of their lives to find longer-term acceptance within this multi-head hydra of a family that is the IDOLM@STER. That road is not particularly complicated, thankfully. In the context of the Cinderella Girls anime, well, it's idol anime, where the audience come to enjoy cute girls singing catchy songs while doing cool dances. We also see at times how these girls fail and then overcome various obstacles, personal or otherwise. I think that really sums up the core idol anime experience. Of course, your mileage may vary, but everyone seems to have the best time together when the experience come together, each part of the idol concept firing on all cylinders. In the shadow of these daunting questions, I can safely say that is exactly the IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls that we got. But for those of us who are watching the show for what it is--A-1's animation featuring a new brand of animated idol--does it deliver? Will the extra baggage get in the way? It's the most important question, and one that I am now ill-suited to answer. One of IDOLM@STER's trademark themes has to do with people struggling emotionally that come together to face their mutual challenges. The performers and their producer have to come to term with their differences and opposing views to achieve their shared goals. Several times in the story so far, the problem in a particular plot arc may lie in the way how the Producer character fails to communicate with his charges, and vice versa. A lot of the times conflict arise because people have mistaken expectations or out of inexperience, and we see it across the board. In that sense, Cinderella Girls is an admirable vehicle to express these struggles. It's about overcoming them with uplifted feelings, and not so much ticket or CD sales. At the same time, given its progress at the half-way point, it is pretty difficult for Cinderella Girls to achieve even just a fraction of these objectives.  There are just too many characters, too many in-jokes, and too many thematic and story checkpoints that the narrative has to play things very directly. Mio's breakdown in mid-season, for example, became somewhat of a point of confusion because the story didn't take time to explain her mentality clearly. The way Dekorations got separated or how the producer was unable to explain himself to the cops is yet another. I guess these contrivances are not deal breakers, but discerning viewers might argue it adds to the pile of small problems that degrades the experience. The animation too, had its up and downs. At times Cinderella Girls anime looks sublime, such as the pilot episode. Sometimes, however, it looks rushed. The mid-point recap, as adorable as it was, is not exactly the best thing. (Producer's CV, Takeuchi, is only 17 years old! His natural voice is deeper than the Producer's voice.) I think to be fair, Cinderella Girls is a competently put-together production, but there were some seams showing throughout the series that might rub against the more picky viewers. When it comes to where rubber meets the road, so to speak, the dance and new musical numbers from Cinderella Girls are pleasing, perhaps even very exciting. Moreover, the series avoids a monster-of-the-week issue with enough unpredictability thrown in there. The girls are cute, and if one of them appeals to you, congratulations. What does it leave those of us who aren't warming up to any of them? I'm guessing the second half of the Cinderella Girls anime experience will continue to focus on some of these characters while introducing more. One of my pre-anime favorite, Anzu, played the role of a wise-cracker. Rin, Cinderella Girls's iconic cool beauty, didn't get very far besides the initial induction into the 346 fold. But at the same time, I'm not sure if that's enough of a carrot on the stick to keep those of us who are not into idols for idols's sake going forward. Maybe that's okay. For those of us ever become curious as to what IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls has to offer, the anime is a splendid gateway to become a patron of IM@S's multi-faceted castle of a franchise. Just be aware that not only there's a deep rabbit hole beyond it, there are also a bunch of pitiful creatures living off of said animation like yours truly, clinging on to every word and visual symbol. [This review is based on a streaming copy viewed by the reviewer.]
Idolm@ter CG Review photo
And it didn't even cover half the idols
What happens when you take one of the longest running media-mixed franchise about idols and give it new life? What happens when you take a mobile game money mill and try to develop its CCG-style characters? What is an idol? T...

Final Impressions: Plastic Memories

Jul 09 // Josh Tolentino
Unfortunately, I've got my critic hat on here, and Plastic Memories ending well (more on that in a bit) doesn't exactly excuse an almost infuriatingly bland middle. Indeed, the would've been a much tighter, more riveting experience as a six- or eight-episode miniseries, but the need to push things out to twice that length has left the show stretched thin, both emotionally and narratively.  Therein lies the good news, though: Plastic Memories' ending almost wipes out the bad feelings of before because it's honestly a lovely piece of bittersweet (emphasis on the sweet) closure. It helps because the show, early on, put the kibosh on any idea that Isla's fate could be avoided somehow. There's no bargaining with death in this story, which makes what little time she has with Tsukasa all that much more precious, even when it feels like it's being squandered on teenage blush-antics (see episode 7). That aside, though, it pays off, as the last several episodes see Isla's true importance being revealed. No, she's not some kind of ultimate weapon, nor is she special or destined in the way someone like Chobits' Chii was. She's just a Giftia with a gift for empathy and a way of bringing people over to her way of thinking. As it turns out, it was Isla's compassion and love both for the Giftias she retrieved and the people who owned them that changed this branch of the Terminal Service. It's established that they're the only ones who go full-in on the therapy and touchy-feely side of separating a Giftia from its owner, and that's because Isla convinced Kazuki and the others to that philosophy. That's why it works in Plastic Memories' larger context. Isla may have only had 9-ish years in the world, but her legacy lives on in the compassion and empathy of the Terminal Service branch she worked with. She's made her mark on the world and the people around her. That goes for Tsukasa, especially. It's not often that a show that opens with something as cliche as "love at first sight" pays off, but it does here. Well, sort of. It works here thanks again to the inevitability of Isla's passing. Seeing Tsukasa force a smile and watch his resolve start to crack, as he spends their final date trying to bargain with fate, makes up for the fact that this love story started with her seeing her moping in an elevator.   Lastly, it works because it knows when, or rather, how, to quit. Let's take another series about letting go: Anohana. That show's characters spent almost the whole story in varying states of denial, none of them able to get over the loss of their friend, and finally saying goodbye by screaming it out to the heavens. It's over-the-top, and while it did work for some folks, it left others cold for the intensity of that melodrama. There's no screaming at the end for Plastic Memories. Only a girl who gets to spend her last moments with the boy she loves, knowing that everything's alright in the world, and perhaps hoping that someday they might be reunited.  That's all well and good, but as I mentioned earlier, it doesn't quite wipe out Plastic Memories' other structural problems. Narratively, the show was about as clumsy as Isla was in her android dotage. In fact, the last two or three episodes were accompanied by no less than four different montage sequences. And let's not even get into the fact that the show would've been much more interesting earlier on if it had explored things from a less tiresomely teenage point of view. But, perhaps that's not the point anymore. Plastic Memories is about going out with the good bits in mind, and the ending certainly makes a much better impression. And if that's to be Isla's legacy, it'll be all good.
Plastic Memories photo
Remember She
Plastic Memories ended well. For a show that's all about what people leave behind, about legacy, about leaving the world with a lot of good memories, and about literally ending on an up note, that's the best outcome one could ask for. 


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