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Annotated Anime

Annotated Anime: Tiger Mask W episodes 2-4

Oct 23 // Soul Tsukino
In the first episode of Tiger Mask W, we were introduced to Naoto and Takuma, the last remains of the Jipang wrestling gym that was put out of business thanks to the Global Wrestling Monopoly. They both have their own way of getting revenge not only for the gym disbanding but also putting Takuma's father in the hospital. Takuma becomes Tiger Dark and joins the GWM while Naoto becomes the heroic Tiger Mask and takes on the GWM's best. Now that the introduction episode is out of the way, we move on to see where the story goes from here. Episode 2: The second episode picks up where the debut left off and the immediate fallout of the debut of the mysterious Tiger Mask. The story starts out with Miss X and the GWM demanding an apology and issuing a challenge at a press conference. Haruna goes to answer the challenge and we find out Tiger's next opponent is a veteran wrestler named Black Python. When the two sides start to squabble, we see the real star of this episode, New Japan Pro Wrestling. You can't really be surprised, with them coproducing this series and all, but this episode focused more on their part in this series even more than Tiger Mask himself. They were just kind of there in the first show, being the biggest company in Japan since the GWM had left. This episode they play a part of a third wheel, with real life wrestler Yuji Nagata appearing for the first time, but in a role of a booker/office guy instead of a wrestler. He wants part of the spotlight of Tiger Mask and the GWM too, so he gets Miss X and Haruna to agree to have a big show at their arena during the big tournament. Things get more interesting when he weasels both of them to have a "prelude" tag team match first (a typical move NJPW does in real life). Black Python's partner is Tiger Dark, while Haruna can't come up with a partner, Yuji "provides" them with Wakamatsu, the young boy wrestler who has been hanging around Okada in the first episode. Yuji and Okada later talk to the boy and tell him to look really good in the match so that NJPW gets the attention. If this story sounds like NJPW trying to shoehorn themselves into the story the hardest they can, you would be right. But, I guess you gotta get wrestlers from somewhere to side with Tiger Mask after all. It can be a little distracting, but with it only being the second episode, hopefully, it won't be quite so noticeable in the future. Speaking of distractions, the show didn't take long to get to the fan service with a Miss X shower scene. It wasn't very long, but it didn't exactly do anything either. She's in a shower and answers the phone. That's it. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, I mean, LOOK at her and tell me that fan service isn't the goal here. The actual match isn't bad. Being co-produced by NJPW gives it the benefit of having (mostly) realistic looking wrestling, even if most of the bad guys look like rejects from the old HUSTLE "Fighting opera" promotion from a decade ago (look them up and see the guys they had wrestling for them). Black Python especially looked worse for wear with a white beard and one eye. Seriously, they designed him with a mask with one of the eyes just stitched up. A few minor gripes though didn't detract me too much from the episode, though. Being the second episode it set up a lot more possible things, but it still told a story. This felt like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, It was telling you there were bigger things coming, but still able to put something together for you. It will be interesting to see where this show takes us next. Episode 3: Time for a Flashback! Yup. 3 episodes in and we are having a flashback episode. So I'm guessing the big singles match with Black Python isn't going to happen now, especially since he got pinned by NJPW's young boy Wakamatsu. So instead the GWM is bringing in the Red Death Mask. But that is almost an afterthought. In fact, so is NJPW in this episode as they are barely mentioned either after being the focus of the last episode so much. Instead, this episode serves as a flashback, expanding more on what happened in the beginning of the first episode. Things are touched off with Takuma and Kevin Andersen having a bit of time off in waiting for Red Death Mask. Kevin and Takuma end up going to the hospital where Daisuke is recovering. Instead of talking to his father, Takuma hesitates. The rest of the show is flashbacks to how the JinPang gym was disbanded after the GWM challenged them on the JinPang 10th anniversary show and crushed them. With Daisuke in the hospital, we are introduced to Mr. X, the villain of the first Tiger Mask show. Yellow Mask recruits Takuma to join the Lion's Den as the only way to get strong enough to avenge his father. Meanwhile, Azuma is recruited by Kentaro to train at the Original Tiger Mask's training ground. This episode is a complete 180 from the last one. This is entirely back-story expanding upon the events in the first episode. Between Mr. X showing up and finding out Kentaro was the original Yellow Devil, we get a lot more references to the original show, even finding out what happened to the Tiger Mask of the first show. Interestingly we get a few odd name drops. There is a giant tackling dummy in Tiger Mask's old gym named "Roussimoff", the family name to Andre The Giant, and one of the GWM lackeys in the flashback is named, Billy The Kidman, a reference to former WCW and WWE wrestler Billy Kidman. Which is about as bizarre a reference as you can get from a Japanese show. While I think this episode is good and provides more backstory, it seems to kill off the momentum from the last episode dead. No mention of NJPW, or Black Python, or much of anything. Much like real life wrestling, sometimes the story just takes a dead stop for a week. However, I liked this episode a lot more than last week's by far as the flashbacks flowed well with the story that counts, not trying to shoehorn NJPW down our throats. Episode 4: It's now time for the big match between Tiger Mask and Black Python err.. Red Death Mask. Since evidently, no one has seen this new Red Death Mask before. NJPW has set up a preview match for him against Wakamatsu. Wakamatsu seems confident going into the match as he talks to Tiger Mask and Haruna, even saying he wants to meet up with Haruna afterward. This is where I was really surprised. The level of violence shown in this episode was not what I was expecting. Let's just say that Wakamatsu's match with the GWM newcomer doesn't go well for him as I'm pretty sure Wakamatsu suffers a fractured skull. The idea is that Red Death Mask leaves his opponents with a mask of red death, so whomever he faces gets covered with blood. This show does an amazing job at showing just how bad Wakamatsu is doing when you here the crunch of his skull more than once and then the sound of him meeting the ring post is even worse. We get a little bit of a flashback of when Naoto first arrived at the Takaoka garage. Haruna comes home, just after being accepted into high school. They had a promise that when she graduated from high school she would work for him at the garage. He then breaks it to her that they are closing the garage. She, of course, is upset and takes it out on Naoto. I'm really not entirely sure what this particular flashback was supposed to accomplish really. If it was to show the relationship with Haruna and Naoto, it doesn't do a very good job. About the only thing it does show is that despite her appearance Haruna is of legal age, making the earlier scene with Wakamatsu a lot less creepy. We also see more of the wrestling reporter Hikari. She briefly appeared at the end of the last episode, but this is a more proper introduction as she tries to interview Tiger Dark and the other two GWM guys, Kevin Anderson and Mike. She doesn't get much from then and they walk away. However, we do see Tiger Dark and Kevin later. Dark bitches at Miss X that his match is second on the show and Tiger Mask's match is the semi-main event. She basically tells him "Tough Titty!" and he and Kevin go out and wrestle in front of a sparse barely interested audience. Welcome to wrestling kid! Anyway, it's time for the match and yeah, it's even more brutal that the match we saw earlier. There is a really funny spot as Yuji Nagata is at ringside commentating and then tries to go into the ring, only for Red Death Mask to throw him back to the commentator's table. I'm not going to give too much away, but as I've said before, the actual wrestling in this show is amazing and the holds and counter holds are not only well done, but very clever as well. Outside of the flashback scene, this episode is very good, even if it cranks up the violence and gore up several notches. If you are not a fan of animated blood than this wouldn't be for you. But I like that Red Death Mask is actually built up as a dangerous threat and not just plopped into the plot like Odin or Black Python. I also like the subplot here of Tiger Dark being a curtain jerker and getting mad about it. If wrestling has taught me anything when guys get into that frame of mind anything can happen so this may turn into a much bigger part of the plot. However, I wonder if the show peaked TOO early with having Red Death Mask getting his match in episode four. This guy comes just short of collapsing a guy's skull and the first real threat to Tiger Mask. What is the show gong to do between now before we get to the inevitable matches with Yellow Devil and Tiger Dark? I'd hate to see this show become "Monster of the week" like the original Sailor Moon, so that makes me wonder what else this show has in store. Overall, these episodes show this anime is going to be an interesting one. You had three very different episodes here, each putting their contribution to the story. While some of these plots seemed oddly placed, we will see how they fit into things as the show goes on. I can't wait!  
Tiger Mask W photo
Continuing the story
After a smashing premier, what does this new generation of Tiger Mask have to keep the momentum going? Turns out quite a bit!

Final Impressions: Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School - Despair Arc

Oct 12 // Salvador G Rodiles
While a possible outcome for Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc’s stopping point would’ve been before the Danganronpa Zero light novel started, show chose to cover the event that gave birth to the Tragedy that plunged the world into despair. My guess is that the story where Junko lost her memories happened right after the Hope’s Peak High School’s 77th class became her followers. Nonetheless, the series picked a great spot to wrap things up since the point of this whole show was to make the audience miserable. Unfortunately, Hope’s Peak High School’s major event couldn’t surpass the despair from Chiaki’s sad fate. Sure, lots of lives were lost during this catastrophic moment, but it doesn’t come close to the pain that we had to deal with when the Ultimate Gamer experienced the first punishment scene. Either way, it was neat that we were given an idea of how things went haywire before the events of the first game. In the end, it doesn’t hinder Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc solid pacing that got made things more intense each week. The show’s transition from a whacky comedy to a title that makes folks miserable helped the whole thing come together nicely. One moment, you’re laughing at the 77th class’ antics. Then you’re hit with an array of emotions that range from shocked reactions to literal sadness. This feeling that came from watching the show is the spirit of the Danganronpa series since the games played with our emotions in many different ways. Even though the show’s designs didn’t capture the game series’ stylish visuals, Lerche’s strengths in Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc was the way how they handled the cast’s reactions to things, along with the timing behind specific scenes. The show’s comedic segments were filled with many exaggerated expressions and the despair-inducing moments are handled in a way where they do their job. Thanks to these aspects, one could tell that everyone was doing their best to ensure that the series achieved its goal of making people suffer greatly. Despite the series’ goal to drive the audience to despair, Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc was meant to fill our hearts with misfortune while we awaited the resolution to the events that Makoto and the Future Foundation were dealing with in Danganronpa 3 – Future Arc. In the end, I came out in a state of sadness while I waited to see how the whole program would get resolved. It was this feeling that got me to tune in every week since the projects team made did their best to make sure that the transition from a fun title to a depressing one would go smoothly. Another aspect that made the show’s “Despair Arc” fun was its Easter Eggs and the way how they portrayed the gang’s Ultimate Talents. Whether it was seeing brief cameos of characters from the Danganronpa Zero light novel (such as the Ultimate Secret Agent) or seeing Nagito and the Ultimate Hope’s abilities in action, these elements contribute to the evidence that this whole title was a labor of love. Lerche may have had a bad record with the original Danganronpa anime that adapted the first game’s story, but their involvement with Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School proved to us that they can create a show that’s a worthy sequel to the previous titles. This shows that when you have the right folks involved in a project, the final product can result in a wonderful thing that’ll exceed people’s expectations. If Spike Chunsoft decides to join forces with Lerche for another original Danganronpa show again, then we might be in for another entry that’ll bring us the good kind of despair. In the end, I guess this means that hope triumphs after all. [Witness the birth of Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc's Tragedy on FUNimation]
Danganronpa 3 photo
Hope will never die
Ever since the Danganronpa 3 anime’s staff was revealed, I always had faith that this show would do a great job in wrapping up the whole series. With Kazutaka Kodaka (The Danganronpa game series’ Writer) being inv...

First Impressions: Keijo!!!!!!!!

Oct 11 // Nick Valdez
Keijo!!!!!!!! (from here on out, I'm going to refer to it without eight exclamation points) follows Nozomi, an eighteen year old girl (which the episode hilariously points out before the fan service begins in full) who dreams of being a pro Keijo player because they make a lot of money. Keijo is a sport where girls try to knock each other off of floating platforms without using their hands and feet. Which means, of course, each girl's butt is the weapon of choice in this sport. When Nozomi is accepted into an academy for budding Keijo athletes, she meets several rivals who are out of her skill level. Including her best friend, Sayaka, who has a habit of giving herself a swimsuit wedgie before she competes.  At first glance, Keijo doesn't have much to offer beyond your standard "look at these girls bounce around." Once it gets passed its abrasive opening theme and credits (as it feeds almost too much audiovisual information at once), you'll find that it's basically that. The story and characters don't really have any interesting or new characteristics that'll separate them from other offerings. That'll most likely come out the longer the show runs, but at least there are interesting quirks in the dialogue. For one, Nozomi and another main character speak with an accent and Nozomi pointing it out is a cute moment. When Nozomi says something like "Her butt muscles are incredible!" or one girl declaring "Is that a butt that looks like giant boobs?" the story's serious tone wonderfully clashes with the inanity of its visuals as the animation works with the funky dialogue. But thankfully for everyone involved, the dialogue is not the focal point of the series.  The first episode runs us through a typical Keijo match as it flashes back to the mock trial in the academy's entrance exam. And boy does it pop off. Impressively, Keijo shocks with how competently it animates its movements. If you're unaware of its production company, Xebec, just know they're pretty good when it comes to stuff like this. As seen in shows like Shaman King, Tokyo ESP, or its more fan service fare like To Love-Ru, Love Hina, and Maken-Ki!, Xebec is very good at highlighting a character's movements with stuff like squalls (basically when a character moves really fast and wind is shown flowing around them to accent it) and action lines. So as weird as it is to see these techniques utilized on peaches, it's never truly disorienting. In fact, the surprise of seeing it all in such smooth animation put a giant smile on my face. It's a matter of wondering how far the show will go or how intense these girls' techniques are.  For example, when one girl spins her hip around so fast she knocks others unconscious it's sort of the best idea ever. Then Keijo goes and tops itself when Nozomi counters that move with faceplanting right into her bottom because she realized that girl attacks jaws with her butt power. And then it tops itself once more with the booty guillotine! It's one surprise after another as the "sports" part of this anime begins to reveal itself and becomes as entertaining as say, a good match in Prince of Tennis. But the harsh matter is whether or not Keijo will be entertaining beyond these moments. Because when the dust finally settles and we go back into the story proper, it falls back into the same types of archetypes we've seen before.  In the end, I'm not sure if my ironic love has gotten quite to un-ironic level quite yet. This is one of the better first impressions I've gotten from a series this season, however. On concept alone, Keijo!!!!!!!! earns all eight of its exclamation points. But like all surprises, it's impossible to capture that feeling again once you're aware of what's going on. Whether or not Keijo!!!!!!!!! is a fleeting joy will reveal itself over the next few weeks. But at least there is a joy.  [Keijo!!!!!!!! gives new meaning to "headbutt" on Crunchyroll.]
Keijo First Impressions photo
I found you, Ms. New Booty
Keijo!!!!!!!! has both the best and worst first episode I have ever seen in anime. It's most likely one of the biggest surprises of the Fall season merely for its audacity to exist. In a wonderful maelstrom of fan service, sl...

First Impressions: Tiger Mask W

Oct 02 // Soul Tsukino
The story starts off, to no surprise in a wrestling match. Wrestler Daisuke Fujii is getting his clock cleaned by a masked wrestler named Yellow Devil. As poor Daisuke is bleeding and in pain, outside the ring we are introduced to his two young boys, Daisuke's son  Takuma and his friend Naoto Azuma. They are cheering on Daisuke when another wrestler, Odin, comes over and smacks Takuma right in the face. Daisuke gets cut and is bleeding as Yellow Devil slams him down right on the back of his neck and cripples him. Putting him in the hospital and destroying his wrestling gym in the process. This episode does a great job of introducing some of the key players and concepts. We are shown both Takuma and Naoto's methods of training for the last 3 years, and also introduced to the concept. The man who crippled Daisuke and destroyed his gym worked for the Global Wrestling Monopoly, or GWN, and are out for revenge. We are shown the shows first real villain, Miss X, and the wrestlers working for her (including Takuma as Tiger Dark), and the grand entrance of Naoto as Tiger Mask. The animation is a bit of a mixed bag. It features both 2D and 3D animation, but the 2D is a bit uneven at times as it can look like a Flash animation show from the CW or Cartoon Network more than an anime show at times. It tries very hard to match the style of the original show and for the most part, it works, but every so often it slips and misses the mark a bit. As I mentioned before, the story is laid out in a simple way. Nothing to over think here. It comes across as a bit cliché with things like Naoto's coach having a pesky niece who follows him around and Miss X seems to be ... gifted... enough to raise the Titanic, but I think that is the charm of the series. This isn't trying to cash in on the latest fads in what people think anime is supposed to be but is harkening back to a classic series without trying to be something it's not. Of course with NJPW being involved in this show (Kazuchika Okada appears in this ep with more to be featured in future episodes) they got their product placement in as well, even if it only barely fit in the story at this point. But all that was contained in a single short scene so it doesn't linger. Overall, I am digging the first episode. It has a pronounced old school vibe. New fans may not get it as much as us old farts as it doesn't blow you away with its story or animation, but it is just plain fun. You don't need to be an expert on the original series to get it (I have never seen the original) so it can bring in old and new fans alike. So for some old school fun anime, I'd give this one a go!
Tiger Mask W photo
The spirit is born again!
A number of months ago, it was announced during a New Japan Pro Wrestling show that the company was working with animators to bring a new Tiger Mask series to the airwaves of Japan. The day has finally come with the debut of ...

Annotated Anime: Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School - Despair Arc episodes 3-8

Sep 07 // Salvador G Rodiles
If there’s one thing that I wasn’t expecting, it was the show taking us down a trip through memory lane as it revisits one of the key aspects of Danganronpa 2’s second trial. In the game, I assumed this was an incident that happened before Fuyuhiko, Mahiru, Hiyoko, Ibuki and Mikan attended Hope’s Peak High School since none of the other cast members were in incident’s setting. Nonetheless, the beauty about this segment was witnessing the major elements that lead to the unfortunate fate of the Ultimate Little Sister. All in all, the strength of this scene was how well the outcome hit everyone. The happy school times were diminishing and the show's real tone was creeping in on us. Even though we’re aware that things were going to take a turn for the worse, Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc’s current strengths lie in how it pieces everything together, along with continuing its trend of placing the main cast in a couple priceless silly moments. Perhaps one of the most priceless moments that occurred recently was how they exaggerate Nagito’s luck. Not only did this guy get a couple people expelled to the point where it resulted in a deadly conflict during Danganronpa 3 – Future Arc, the guy somehow ends up in the most convenient spot during situations where many folks wouldn’t survive. Sure, he pulled off some ridiculous maneuvers in Danganronpa 2, but the timing behind how Lerche animated the scenes brings out a wonderful side of his talent. Other than that, the other thing was getting the chance to learn more about the Ultimate Imposter. Out of all the characters in the cast, he was the only one who we didn’t get to know more about. His connection to Ryota Mitarai the Ultimate Animator shows us his caring side that he exhibited when he wanted to protect everyone during the first chapter of Danganronpa 2. The relationship between the two characters is an example of one of the possible hopes that’ll likely be crushed down the road. One person wants an identity to maintain their great talent and the other wants to create an anime that’ll change the world; thus setting up the foundation for the mastermind to crush their dreams. While Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc was doing its best to maintain its humor when things were starting to get real, the staff’s efforts are finally paying off as the two major Ultimate Despairs make their debut at Hope’s Peak. The wonderful thing about this outcome was that the elements for them to create absolute despair were made before they even attended the school. Hajime already lost his emotions to the Ultimate Hope/Kamakura Project and the school’s trustees have already covered up a tragic event. Even though Junko had a couple things planned, her trump card was exploiting the situations that already unfolded before she came into the scene. It's thanks to this setup that the show's transition to its real tone has been a fun ride so far. Throughout the show’s recent batch of episodes, I was thinking that the best point for Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc to end the series would be after the event that made way for the Danganronpa Zero light novel since the team was likely aiming to tell a story that fans of the franchise haven’t heard yet. Instead, we witnessed the major events that gave birth to the first major incident that put Hope Peak’s High School’s reputation on the line. The fact that we got to see Junko’s manipulation and analytical skills at work well in getting us excited for when she brings the whole world down. Since she paid attention to Ryota’s animation, I have a feeling that she’ll utilize the art of subliminal message to convert everyone towards the path of despair. Honestly, the ridiculousness behind her schemes is what makes this whole series entertaining. At the same time, it reminds us why every game segment that involves her leaves the audience entertained. The catch is that we have to experience the unfortunate feeling from witnessing the seeds that’ll lead to our favorite Danganronpa 2 characters succumb to despair. If Mikan’s situation is anything to go by, Junko might use the same method she learned from Ryota to win everyone over to the despair side. While this was an inevitable situation, it doesn’t change that the fact that it’s going to be sad seeing most of these characters to become an entirely different person. Nonetheless, the staff still found some ways to turn this sad moment into something worthwhile, such as Nagito getting out-lucked by the Ultimate Hope. Honestly, it’s impressive that the team can still throw in some humor when the situation at Hope’s Peak Academy is taking a turn for the worst. Since there are still a few loose ends around, Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc still has some secrets that we have yet to see. With this segment and Future Arc passing their halfway point, there’s a ton of open content that’ll be worthwhile when we learn about the other major mastermind. So far, the show continues to be a great addition to the franchise with its story containing the right elements to please those who kept up with every Danganronpa installment. As the program’s despair levels begin to rise, I’m certain that things will only continue to get even better later on. Of course, I’m waiting to see what the show will do with Chiaki, since it’ll likely be something that’ll hit us very hard. [You can give on hope with Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak Academy – Despair Arc at FUNimation.]
Danganronpa 3 photo
What is hope?
For a second I was expecting Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc to mostly focus on its comedic elements until the saga was halfway done. Lo and behold, things have started leaning towards the grimmer side of things as the seri...

First Impressions: Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School - Despair Arc

Jul 27 // Salvador G Rodiles
With hope and despair being two things that go hand in hand, Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope Peak’s High School – Despair Arc’s first two episodes work well in making the audience feel relieved after witnessing the intense moments that happened earlier in the week. Hell, the whole thing played out like an over-the-top high school comedy series, as the Ultimate Housekeeper Chisa Yukizome goes out of her way to make sure that the main cast of Danganronpa 2 (except Hajime) uses their school time to create great memories. A majority of the great laughs came from the gang’s exaggerated and wacky personalities, a feature that made them very fun to follow during Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. With the animation being completely original, this lead to some a priceless segments throughout the series, such as Gundham the Ultimate Breeder appearing on top of a bunch of ruins while performing an incantation that might summon a powerful demon, or Nekomaru the Ultimate Team Manager’s deadly farts that are on par with One Punch Man’s Saitama’s punch. So far, it lives up to the game's comedic aspects that occur when no one is getting murdered. When you compare the effort put into the show's crazy scenes alongside Danganronpa 3 – Future Arc’s stuff, it’s possible that a majority of the manpower was placed into Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc; however, these differences are likely a matter of the latter starting off as a comedy than budget management, so there’s a chance that the folks at Lerche are making sure that both sagas have their own distinct style. Overall, this move benefits the series since the audience is getting their taste of hope and despair during the same week. Of course, the best moment from this format is going to be when the tones of the show's two arcs decide to trade places. Even though Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc made sure that Yukizome and the Danganronpa 2 gang’s best quirks were at their highest, the show still reminds us of the later events that’ll set the pieces for the first major tragedy to occur. The interesting part about it is getting to learn about Hajime’s predicament that made him decide to be part of the Ultimate Hope project. In Danganronpa 2 and the light novel known as Danganronpa Zero, I felt that the Hope’s Peak High School Board forced Hajime into this project against his own will. The idea that his desire to remain at Hope’s Peak played a role in being part of the experiment adds a new layer to his character. He saw this opportunity as a hope to overcome the despair of not being able to continue his studies as a reserve course student, yet this choice ruined his future (and the world’s state) until he found his new path at the end of Danganronpa 2. Seeing that the original mastermind is definitely plotting her actions from behind the scenes, the subtle elements of this segment act as the main aspect that goes against the show's current positive vibe. While we’re on the topic of things that’ll lead to absolute despair, the fact that Chiaki was an actual person is one of the most surprising things to come out of Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc. This opens up to a lot of questions in regards to the events in the present; however, there’s still a chance that she might not survive, so this possibility could be thrown out the window. I guess the important question is whether or not something happens to her that results in Yukizome's students becoming the original mastermind's loyal followers. Since both Danganronpa 3 Arcs have a few references to each other, Chiaki’s role as the Ultimate Gamer has the potential to lead to some juicy aspects if she’s a Remnant of Despair that’s still out there in the present. Either way, her inclusion in the series was a nice addition to the “Despair Arc’s” humor, as her passion for games brought everyone together in a fun way. However, once we get past the show's silly segments, I'm certain that her role is likely going to have a large impact on the story later on. Despite the original Danganronpa anime failing to do justice to its source material, Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc was able to overcome this burden and show its audience that it has the potential to become a worthy successor to the previous Danganronpa installments. Since the show’s “Future Arc” accomplished this as well, this proves that a studio that threw a foul ball in the past can step up their game when you have people who care about the series managing the project. If the gang can keep up this up this great record, then they’ll make their audience smile with their complete comic book that’ll present the last piece of evidence that's required to bring Danganronpa’s Hope’s Peak High School story to a triumphant close. In other words, the future is going to be a hopeful one after all. [Fall into despair with Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School – Despair Arc at FUNimation.]
Danganronpa 3 photo
This is not going to end well
Sometimes in life, the greatest things are those that occur out of an unexpected turn of events. These opportunities can give many people the chance to do things that they normally couldn’t do. In my case, Spike Chunsof...

Final Impressions: Space Patrol Luluco

Jul 14 // Salvador G Rodiles
Perhaps the thing that made the show’s seasonal format work was Luluco’s development as a person who’s in love for the first time, as it remained a recurring thing in each episode. Hell, the payoff from this lead to a ridiculously satisfying final battle that’s on par with Imaishi’s other works, such as Gurren Lagann and KILL la KILL. Honestly, it’s impressive that the team were able to capture this sort of magic in a seven-minute episode. As random and unexpected as Luluco was, the whole thing gave off a feeling that its format was intentional from the very beginning. If there was one thing that would lead to this show being similar to FLCL, it’s that both shows found a way to link these elements together; thus creating a glorious build up when the viewers reach the end of the tunnel. Considering that love can cause many people to feel strange early on, the high-octane moments were likely used to convey the unpredictable nature of the obstacles that can obstruct the feeling of romance. Aside from the show being a ridiculous love story hiding under a whacky space police show, Luluco’s other strengths was in how the main character’s heart flourished throughout the series. Luluco’s brief moments with Nova represented the nourishing phase of her romance and the show’s final seasons showed us her resolve to stick with her true feelings— even if it would drive her to tears. Considering that the program accomplished a ton of things during its short timeframe, it’s impressive that the TRIGGER veterans were able to throw the audience into an emotional state towards the end. While Luluco was placed in an unfortunate scenario against the Blackholian’s leader, her will to face her last opponent on while dealing with her inevitable loss made way for a great moment that gave off a feeling that was similar Simon’s resolve in Gurren Lagann’s final battle. This showed that Imaishi is capable of working well with a series that's made up of shorts, which makes me hope that he can take advantage of this format in any future TRIGGER projects where he wants to go all out. Compare to most of the previous TRIGGER shorts, it was a nice treat to see that the show features the most animation out their previous smaller titles. Other than the crazy perspectives and angles featured in the show’s actions scenes, the idea of having Luluco crossover with the other original TRIGGER projects was an idea that complemented the series’ overall style since it allowed for the gang to attempt to throw our main heroine off her game, such as the priceless scene when Sucy thought that her poison mushrooms would end Luluco's life. One great payoff from this direction was how the show ended up making way for the origin story of the company’s mascot; thus making Luluco the series that links all of the studio’s works together. Going back to TRIGGER’s gutsy move of ending the show during the beginning of its fifth season, the wonderful thing about this action is that they gave us a bit of hope to go off of towards the end. Not only do we get a moment that’s likely a reference to the Super Sentai franchise’s Red Ranger hand-off scenes, we’re given a beacon of hope that might lead to Luluco earning her true happy ending. It’s the combination of these two feelings that leave us really satisfied with the way how Space Patrol Luluco turned out. Of course, the idea of seeing the supporting cast doing better showed that their decision to support Luluco rewarded everyone nicely. I may have been a bit concerned about the length of Luluco’s episodes in the beginning, but Imaishi and the gang showed me their true colors of justice, as they used their short timeframe to give us one hell of a love story that was filled with tons of unexpected moments. Each scene made showed that the team was having a blast as they likely threw logic out of the window while they placed their heart and soul into the piece. If TRIGGER’s veterans continue to maintain this amazing routine like they did with Luluco, then there’s a chance that the Little Witch Academia TV series will end up making Trigger-chan proud. [Give Space Patrol Luluco a big high five at Crunchyroll]
Space Patrol Luluco photo
Love is Justice!
Not many shows have the guts to end during the beginning of a new season. One possible reason is that it would confuse the masses if the title were to end after making a comeback. Despite this move being very risky, this is w...

Japanator's Summer 2016 Anime Preview Guide!

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

Annotated Anime: Space Patrol Luluco episode 12

Jun 24 // Salvador G Rodiles
It’s thanks to this format that Luluco has been a huge roll for a good while. While this episode wasn’t the one where the gang confronted the Blackholian’s leader, the whole thing played off nicely with the concept of how one values their feelings for their first crush. Since M.A.O.’s performance hit the right notes in delivering a powerful yet cute moment during Luluco’s big scene, it shows how everything was pieced together just for this big event. Hell, the team’s idea to give the whole thing a final battle treatment while our heroine sticks to her resolve gave it a dynamic that’s on the same level as the penultimate confrontation in most of Gainax and TRIGGER’s titles. Honestly, the big thing that made this whole thing magical was how everyone decided to set aside their differences to make sure that Luluco wins Nova over, as the whole thing breaks out into an all-out battle against the Blackholians. This whole build-up worked well in conveying the idea of someone who has the support of their close ones while they build up their confidence to confess to the person that they love. Considering that Luluco’s goal was powerful enough to get her parents to help her out, TRIGGER was able to bring us a neat take on the saying “Love conquers all!” Even when Imaishi and the TRIGGER veterans were putting Luluco and the gang through random situations each season, the one thing that always remained consistent was the heroine’s feelings for Nova. To an extent, this tone probably represents the obstacles that one has to deal with, as the insane situations could be a representation of the factors that attempt to ruin one's focus on their main goal. For a show that was presented as a short that was filled with many off-the-wall segments, Space Patrol Luluco managed to present its audience with a memorable love story of the season. This was thanks to TRIGGER’s subtle moments between Luluco and Nova, which served as a great pay off for people when it reached its climax. At the same time, their use of timing and anticipation in these scenes allowed for them to capture the hearts of people during these brief segments. In the end, it’s amazing to see that the show will end on us with a season that’s only one episode. Then again, TRIGGER might pull a fast one with this last segment, so it’ll be interesting to see how the chapter’s title will come into play. One thing for sure, this anime might take the prize as the best five-season series of the year. [Confess to Space Patrol Luluco at Crunchyroll]
Space Patrol Luluco photo
Double Love Xtreme!
For a second, I thought that Luluco’s fourth season was going to be the end the series. Not that I’m against there being a new season, as there are still many things that the show has yet to resolved. If anything,...

Annotated Anime: Space Patrol Luluco episodes 5-11

Jun 12 // Salvador G Rodiles
I don’t think the word "fun" is enough to describe the time that Imaishi and his crew are having with Luluco lately. From episode 5 and beyond, the team has been launching the series into greater heights than many folks have imagined. With her mother Lalaco showing great promise, she served as that piece to takes things up on a notch. In other words, the TRIGGER veterans must be having the time of their lives with this project. This might just be a speculation of mine, but I had a feeling that Lalaco being a space pirate was likely connected to one of Mao Ichimichi/M.A.O.’s previous roles. The reason behind this link was that she played as Luka Millfy/Gokai Yellow in the pirate-themed Super Sentai series known as Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, which featured a flying red pirate ship. When you look at Lalaco’s ship, the color scheme almost resembles the Gokai Galleon from the series. For now, this scenario might just be a coincidence; however, I still found this random observation to be something that helped make this arc more entertaining than it was. Most importantly, the big thing was how the series brought back elements from KILL la KILL, as Lalaco’s pirate outfit seemed like it was made from Life Fibers. Whether it is or not, the beauty about it was how it made way for the show’s TRIGGERverse season where Luluco and the group had to reclaim their home that was stolen by Lalaco. While we got to go back to KILL la KILL and Little Witch Academia during this arc, the highlight was the return of Imaishi’s Japan Animator Expo short, “Sex & Violence with Machspeed,” making a comeback. All in all, the clash between our heroine’s full-color palette with the world’s usage of black, yellow and white gave it a distinct style. The cool part was that it retained the Panty & Stocking-like humor that the original short had while maintaining the spirit of Luluco's randomness. Even though the series gave off a feeling that TRIGGER’s goal was just to have a blast and push things to overdrive, you have to hand it to them for inserting the pieces for the show’s climatic arc. From the “Alpha” and “Omega” terms in Nova’s name to Midori’s Black Hole App, the team harnessed these things that many people likely thought were just random and brought us a segment that took us back to the Anti-Spiral from Gurren Lagann— except that the show’s villain's scheme is all about stealing things. The thing that sealed it for me was the ongoing arc about Luluco’s love for Nova as tragedy befell the show’s main heroine. Perhaps the neat part about this scenario was how TRIGGER foreshadowed an element from it during the show’s ending sequence. It’s these little aspects that amplify the major parts of episode 10’s big scene— especially Lalaco’s reaction to the whole thing. Combined with a lecture by a certain iconic TRIGGER character in the episode after it and we have ourselves a wonderful moment that makes us want to root for the anime’s main heroine. When I first started watching Luluco, I wasn’t sure how to react to the show’s short length; however as I kept keeping up with each episode, I started to slowly see the vision that TRIGGER was going for as they threw a ton of unexpected challenges to force Luluco to aim high in her mission to save her father and her hometown, along with nabbing the guy of her dreams. From the looks of it, the show might be shooting for a theme about how one should just take a risk and plunge into whatever obstacle that you’re tackling for the first time, along with holding on to the things you value the most. Whether the team intended for Luluco to be the series that connects every original TRIGGER anime to create a TRIGGER-verse or not will continue to be a thing that’s up to the viewer’s interpretation of the anime; however, it might just be an idea they wanted to mess with for this title as it left us with some priceless scenes, such as the group defeating the Life Fibers with a simple solution. With Space Patrol Luluco Season 2 and 3 being a huge improvement over the first, it looks like the series finale will leave us surprised as something unexpected comes our way. Based on TRIGGER’s work so far, they’ll get to accomplish more things than a majority of anime titles that run for four seasons. Of course, the best part is that they’ll do it with lots of love and “Justice!”
Space Patrol Luluco photo
Is this the birth of the TRIGGER-verse?
You got to hand it to shows that outdo themselves to the point where they can convert any doubtful viewer into a fan. In this case, my concern for Luluco’s episode length was wiped out of my system as Imaishi and t...

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 7

Jun 05 // Jeff Chuang
A hallmark of late-night otaku fare, self-awareness in anime is a well-respected and at times powerful tool. Just as much, it can be a barrier for shows to overdo its self-awareness, wringing the story dry of any compelling qualities besides never-ending stream of references. I think Haifuri strikes a natural balance where the ludicrousness of its premise set the anchor to as how much of that fourth wall it chooses to lean on. In other words, the show knows what you're thinking, and does enough to assure you that it also knows, with tongue fully planted into cheek. That said, I nearly lost it when the electronic bidet extended into its full swing, give or take a few seconds for my brain to register what was happening. After all it's not every day you get to see one of these in action, even if you live in Japan. And I mean, is this the kind of toilet humor we want--a young lady unintentionally spraying seawater up her nether region? I think so--it's the most improbable of its kind, and creative to boot, executed tastefully. If there's any fault, it's just the bizarreness of this hypothetical is already one step too far from normal to begin with, now we're one robotic water-sprayer away further from what is sensible. It totally distracted me from perhaps another relapsing episode of the "beach" as the girls are still on a boat. Swimsuits are always game. And this time it's because there's no water?In some ways Haifuri even took that up a notch with Scuba wet suits even, as later on some members of the class went to search for missing passengers inside a sinking ship. In expected Haifuri style, the second half of the episode recovers from your weekly half-dose of a sailor's life and dive into some character development. Here is the other noteworthy tongue-in-cheek highlight: when our vice captain finally addresses her complain about the captain running headfirst into trouble, and heads her first away team. It is in these awkward repetitions where a sensible theme emerges about taking responsibility as captain and as someone who is the most important also have to do the most hands-on, or tries. It is a very positive leadership message in my opinon and they were able to convey it successfully, if a bit clumsy. There's a sense of poetry too, when we discover the lost being was a cat and not a child. In a series where the characters inherit household pet-cat names and cats inherit names of past admirals, I guess it makes sense--it makes Haifuri sense, which is probably a degree apart of the more common variety. In any event, Haifuri was able to keep its serious moments rooted in tension. In her moments of desperation, Shiro-chan felt like a converted woman, at least. It is in these moments where Mike-chan grows somewhat as a believable character and less an average spatz-head protagonist, as we assume the level-headed Shiro's point of view. And yes, even at this point, Haifuri is still dropping hints about more development, although we are taking a breather across the board. As Haifuri's mission changes from a survival-renegade mode into search-and-rescue maybe we'll get back into the fray of naval battles. [Watch Haifuri ion Crunchyroll, Daisuki and Funimation!]
Haifuri photo
No water on a boat
As Harekaze's expedition drags on in the search of her missing fleet, the crew runs low on water. It is then we get these hijinks about what saltwater can do for you, or not. The story carries on despite these distractions as this week, High School Fleet performs a search and rescue of a civilian cruiser.

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 6

May 26 // Jeff Chuang
While the Harekaze is not losing any steam, we're at the point of the show where there isn't a whole lot to say. The mystery of the disappearing and mutinous ships continues to push the plot forward and keep up the tension, but we now have the alien rodents squarely in the view. The rest of us just have to cope with the bizarre mix-and-match of cute girls doing cute things and a very diverse and expert set of skills that somehow got assigned onboard the bottom-barrel school-boat. This week's Haifuri builds on last week's with more big-picture setup while the crew deal with more mundane things, from cooking German foods to make Mina more at home, to setting up mine sweeping to clear out the stray mines that Harekaze found themselves in. The naughty threat on the high seas turned out to be genetically modified mice who can interfere with electronics and make people go crazy once the virus carried by the rodents infect their victims. Naturally, this leads to a lot of other questions, and those questions will have to be the new fuel in the boiling furnace of the collective curiosity of Haifuri's viewers. The show takes a few moments to also build up a few intercharacter narrative strands. These big words don't really fit what has happened, but Kuro-chan, the disgruntled engineer and fan of Shiro-chan, tries to dig into the all-too-nice Mike-chan. It's not quite the cat fight Haifuri needed, but it certainly drops some interesting new threads to the oddly upbeat voyage where the girls are always in a pinch. The transitional episode, however, doesn't leave much to say besides all the building up High School Fleet is doing. I think the whole complaint-about-Mike-chan-running-off bit is going to come around pretty soon. At least now I have some time to learn more of their names. [High School Fleet is streaming on FUNimation, Daisuki and Crunchyroll]
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Virus on a boat
Believe it or not, in 6 episodes a lot has happened in High School Fleet. Our high school frosh class of seafarers swept mines, dodged torpedos, avoided cannon fire, foiled mind-control mice, and developed a vaccine for the possible viral condition that these strange rodents carry. It's surprisingly more like Star Trek than ever.

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 5

May 10 // Jeff Chuang
Again, I have to applaud Haifuri on delivering a lot of stuff I wanted. It gave us fleet battle action this week. It gave us a lot of adults trying to explain and base the chaotic running away that happened to the Harekaze the past four episodes. It asked the important questions, such as "why did you fire on the Harekaze?" and "Why do you use 'washi' for 'I' (because normal people don't use that term)?" It gave us dolphins. It gave us cute girls in swimsuits. It even had time to give us a couple character backstories, such as the traumatic memory of our helmswoman Rin-chan, who wanted to overcome her cowardly countenance but ended up using her running-away skills for the greater good. To do all this in the 23-or-so minutes allotted, however, Haifuri also had to give us rodents of death that can interfere with electronics to disable some missiles? Speaking of which, there were some pretty good hardware fanservice this week in Haifuri. We saw Musashi's fearsome type 94 cannons quite a bit and up close, in action. The anti-sub missiles had even a close-up cut as they deployed the two-fold parachutes for torpedo insertion. That part wasn't even all 3DCG, which was both amusing and unexpected. There was even a blimp in the beginning... Still, it's hard to downplay the roles of those pesky rodents. I mean, really? Is this how you want to play it, Haifuri? Just because a few freaky hamsters ran around the missile pods, we can't stop the Musashi with military hardware that is possibly 100 years more advanced? I suppose if we think of the instructors' fleet as a typical bunch of coast guard types, maybe, but these sure are well-armed ships that doesn't seem to do anything. The plot device rodents definitely undermines the mutiny subplot in terms of the tone, but I suppose I can give Haifuri the benefit of the doubt for the time being, until it unravels some more of its thickening plots, of the other variety. Anyway, for those of us who watch anime for the more dramatic, Haifuri provides even one somewhat-abrupt, but rewatch-worthy scene as Mike-chan forces herself from the rest of the crew in a mad dash to rescue the captain of Musashi, despite Shiro-chan's plea. It seems from the few cutouts that they were able to show us inside the bridge of the Musashi, Moka-chan has barricaded herself in it. Perhaps equally interesting, but in a light-hearted, biting truism kind of way, was a quick interplay between Shiro-chan and Mike-chan when Mii-chan gave a toast for the crew, mentioning the captain's un-captain-like nature. I guess in a season of TV anime where impact short anime series can be a thing, these normal half-hour battleships of the late night variety have to punch at least on the same class. High School Fleet definitely showed that it can, and non-stop, although not everything may come together very well. [High School Fleet is on Crunchyroll, FUNimation, and!]
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Gerbils on a boat
High School Fleet, in some simple ways, delivers exactly what you expect from a show like this. It might not seem like a tremendous undertaking for a show ostensibly about cute girls doing cute things to give us exactly that,...

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 4

May 05 // Jeff Chuang
In some ways, High School Fleet 4 is very impressive for depicting life on a warship in this manner, because it is doing as much as it can to depict the ordinary life of high school sailor girls on an antique destroyer in an ordinary sort of way. The toilet paper (TP) crisis, in which a few dozen teenage girls are running out of TP, is in no way an ordinary problem for a group of people, that, in the viewers' minds, are anything but ordinary. I mean, did anyone expect to hear a description of the differences between Japanese TP and German TP this week? This month? As someone who have seen hundreds of Japanese anime set in the stereotypical high school context, I find Haifuri at least a curious mix. Which is to say, so we're going to a shopping mall on the seas to buy some TP. What's probably more puzzling and troubling, all at once, is the strange rodent (hamster, is it not?) that the Harekaze crew rescued on-board. Does it have mind control powers? Is this at the root of the various mutiny events? Needless to say it raises more questions than it answered at this stage of the game. Thankfully the story quickly quarantined the dangerous animal in the care of Harekaze's doctor, easing the mood that was more akin to from zombies on a boat, even if the episode sort of ends on that note. It's probably safe to say Haifuri plays around with a lot of trope-aware concepts. The mutiny plot thread drives this undercurrent, that ties in with the mind control, the distress call from Musashi, and the adults investigating a strange situation from the start. I like it, to put plainly. If post-modern entertainment is going to be aware of its viewers specific inclinations, it might as well play its cards from the start and give us it knows we have not had before in a way that's all too familiar. And if the only casualty here is my inability to remember all the crew's names, that's not a huge price to pay. I mean, I can remember the gunnery officer as the quiet, timid girl who got mind-controlled by a rodent, versus the torpedo officer as the one person who really, really just wants to shoot stuff up. I think this description will work when I communicate with anyone who has seen the show. This week's Haifuri involves the adults a lot more than last week. We got more glimpses of Shiro-chan's family, and who are the actual Blue Mermaids. And since there are never enough new characters to show us in Haifuri, here are two more ships, their captains, their cats, plus Shiro's sister's subordinate. Maybe now that Harekaze has made contact with the adults in these waters the girls will be spared of their weekly "pinches" and get back to school. Or maybe not. The important thing is we got a bit more of the setting, which arguably is also another character in this story with more characters than I can care to count. [Watch girls named after cats caring for a cat named after a human on Crunchyroll, Funimation and Daisuki!]
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Toilet paper on a boat
What is the maidens' big trouble on a boat? They ran out of toilet paper. As Harekaze's expedition ran longer than initially expected, the crew listed the supplies they were short of, and it wasn't just torpedoes and depth charges. Haifuri takes us to go sundry shopping this week.

Annotated Anime: Ace Attorney Episode 5

May 02 // Christian Chiok
Right after, we jump straight to the case. Will Powers, the actor who plays the Steel Samurai, was accused of murdering his co-start Jack Hammer, the actor who plays Evil Magistrate, the villain of the series.  Phoenix not having a client in so long, Maya suggests that he should take this case as she believes in his innocence. Naturally, they go to the detention center to talk to their new client. So far, the episode remains faithful to the series, with Maya instantly changing her mind about Will Powers’ innocence after taking a look at him but after Will Powers showing how nice he actually is, caring about what the kids that look up to him would think of the Steel Samurai, she changes her mind once again. Will Powers was portrayed really well, too. I try not to be too picky when it comes to anime adaptations but this is where things start to feel disconnected.  After meeting Will Powers, Phoenix and Maya decide to go to the studio to find clues, and this is where they meet the security guard—Wendy Oldbag. While in the game she comes out really obnoxious, it didn’t transfer too well into the game, but at least her talkative trait remained intact. This entire scene already feels rushed as they already introduced a character that isn’t supposed to appear until a lot later in the case and combined the interaction between Wendy Oldbag and Detective Gumshoe. Right after that, most of the investigation part got completely skipped. Luckily, even in the original game the investigation part of the case wasn’t too exciting but it shouldn’t have been skipped either. Then we jump straight to the trial, which of course, it was a bit rushed as well, especially after skipping the investigation part which actually brings some details into the case. Just like the previous two cases, it indeed gives you the gist of the trial but it gets to the point too fast. At least, during the final part of the first trial, it was very on par with the game—with both the dramatic and intense feel that it emitted as well as the soundtrack from the game. While not really a gripe, this episode made Maya look a lot more young compared to previous episodes. I thought she look really cute but maybe a little a little bit too cute for her age. While she is indeed a fun and charismatic character, I feel like the anime series is obviously trying to make her too “moe.”
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A Hero On Trial
So Episode 5 is the start of "Turnabout Samurai,” the third case in the original Phoenix Wright game.  Just like the game, it begins with Maya watching “The Steel Samurai: Warrior of Neo Olde Tokyo,” a ...

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 3

Apr 30 // Jeff Chuang
In this week's High School Fleet, our boat full of high school frosh girls continue their exercise in running away, via some intrepid naval decisions and challenges. They won by nailing the enemy submarine with their sole depth charge and then by running away. If anything this bit of character building shows us that we may have a handful of misfits and weirdos, but everyone is competent if not excellent at their jobs. It's a bit less common to see a typical submarine battle purely from the surface boat's point of view, so the whole night time warfare aspect of the thing added a little variety in a way. But like my memories of Star Trek, deploying a simple paravane as a way to trip up an enemy U-boat is akin to reprogramming the deflector to solve some mysterious alien challenge. I mean, really?  Well, I probably shouldn't complain too much. The mix of anachronistic stuff is fun to watch, especially when it's so in-your-face. Japanese high school girls struggling to pull the lever to deploy the depth charges? Sure, it's moe, much like putting on faces on your rice balls. And there's the business-as-usual national stereotypes. The German transfer student taking charge of a sub battle by saying it's her specialty to highlight Germany's dependence on its underwater armada during the War? I suppose it's something I can live with, but I am glad that Haifuri probably will only go this far. The officers on the bridge are taking on more personality as they simply get the brunt of the lines every week. In fact I'm glad they are finally dipping into the rest of the crew by slowing rotating those precious lines among this large cast. It's almost too amusing to see, in Engineering, your Scotty archetype in the body of rough-talking little girl, even if she is just as much business as a cranky old Scot. Rotate those monkey wrench, Satoko, because apparently I haven't gotten enough exposure to memorize your name without looking it up, yet. The mystery of Harukaze's mutiny is developing but we haven't seen the plot address much of it, and when it does it happens in between the meat of each episode, which criss-crosses between calm moments at sea or tumultuous naval battles. I think at three episodes in, we can use a bit more exposition! Otherwise, Haifuri might be in a rough stretch if it can't seal the viewer's initial impression at the three episode mark. [Follow Mike-chan's adventure on FUNimation, Crunchyroll and Daisuki!]  
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German on a boat
When I was growing up I watched a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation. One of the things I liked about the show was all these naval-style battle scenes where Captain Picard would say stuff like, "fire" or "full to starboard...

First Impressions: Space Patrol Luluco

Apr 29 // Salvador G Rodiles
With a limited timeframe of five to six minutes (not counting the show's opening and ending), each episode of Luluco seems to end right when the segment is about to reach its peak. One moment, our Main Heroine Luluco joins the space patrol to raise money to free her dad from a frozen state, which eventually led to her busting her first criminal. Then things end before we reach that huge bang that gives the segment a proper closure or cliffhanger ending— other than Luluco pointing out that the segment is over. Even though there’s nothing wrong with the show’s premise, every other episode lacked the sparks that piece everything together. In most cases, the audience barely has enough time to take things in. Perhaps the issue with Luluco is that Imaishi’s direction with the show doesn’t work for a five to six-minute format since TRIGGER’s previous shorts felt more complete, such as Inferno Cop. Then again, Imaishi’s direction with the 14th Japan Animator Expo short, “SEX and VIOLENCE with MACHSPEED,” showed us that he could handle a short so it might be that Imaishi and Akira Amemiya don't make a great combo— especially when you compare their collaboration to Imaishi and Kazuki Nakashima working on a project together, such as KILL la KILL. Despite the pacing issues with Luluco’s running time, the folks at TRIGGER delivered nicely in the animation and art department. A good chunk of the show’s sequences show off some ridiculous levels of perspective to each character that moves on screen. Then again, this style is a thing that Imaishi and most of the veterans who came from Gainax apply to their animations so it’s something that we can expect from their major projects. To an extent, it reaches a similar level of randomness present in Gainax’s titles like FLCL. Combined with the simplistic array of colors spread across the cast's designs, Luluco’s presentation is one of the best things that the show has to offer. The title’s Panty & Stocking-like look matches the silly tone that the series is going for. I mean, we have alien Street Sharks-like characters and Over Justice, a guy who’s basically Inferno Cop with Kamina’s shades! The show's presentation has a ton of personality and it looks like TRIGGER just wants to use them to mess around while they have fun with their project. If there's another thing that Luluco has going for, it's the relationship between Luluco, Nova and Midori. The idea of pairing up a guy who wants to shoot everything in sight and a girl who was in charge of a criminal organization with a girl who only wants to save her dad worked nicely on TRIGGER’s side, as their interaction made way for some great jokes, such as storyboard joke during the fourth episode's launching sequence and the build-up to Luluco's reaction to the mission. While Luluco’s short length holds the series back a bit, the animation and cast still manage to hold the show together. With the way how the series is going, it might be a show that’s better to watch in one sitting than one that should be seen weekly. However, the next episode might be the one that’ll cause the anime to reach a new level since the newest character has a major connection to Luluco. After all, we just started season two so we can expect TRIGGER to hit us with a huge surprise. [You can Gun Morphing with Space Patrol Luluco at Crunchyroll.]
Space Patrol Luluco photo
There's not enough time for justice
Whenever a show presents itself as a short, it’s important for the staff to establish a beginning, middle and end in the piece. If it’s a comedy, then the jokes have to be properly established so that the viewers ...

First Impressions: Ace Attorney

Apr 24 // Christian Chiok
The series began just like the very first case of the game began—showing off the murder and the culprit. Right off the bat, it already felt rushed and not as dramatic as the game. Afterward, the series introduces Ryuuichi Naruhodou, or rather Phoenix Wright for us English fans, riding his bike heading to his first case ever. While not part of the game, I liked this scene since it’s a common way to introduce the main character of a series.  Then we are introduced to “The First Turnabout,” also known as the tutorial case of the first game. The anime took a less dramatic approach by having a less intense background song during the introduction of the case. Not using the original game soundtrack, and well as using rearranged versions of some of the iconic tracks was definitely something many fans of the series, including myself, found bothersome. It made things feel less authentic. I know some people hate when they use CGI on anime but I personally thought that they pull it off well when they introduced the court. While many fans are complaining that the art style of the series doesn’t match the game, I personally have no complains with it. I do think that the art style is less serious than the game, but it doesn’t take away from the series. Then are introduced to Masashi Yahari, also known as Larry Butz, who is the accused of this case, childhood friend of Phoenix Wright, and the reason why Phoenix Wright became a defense attorney. While the first case does indeed reveal that Larry is the reason Phoenix became an attorney, the series did get a bit ahead of itself showing scenes of what is supposed to appear in latter cases. During the testimony cross-examination sequences, I really like the formats that they are using, but going back to the soundtrack issue, the lack of the original songs such as the famous testimony and cross-examination tracks from the game was disappointing and took away its identity. I did like that they added one of the wrong answers he usually says though. I thought it was a nice touch, especially with this being the first case. Being that the first case/tutorial case was actually short in the game, I felt like it was nicely adapted into the first episode, naturally any longer would have been highly unnecessary. Some stuff felt highly unnecessary like when the witness was pointing his finger at Phoenix, air emitted out of the witness’ hand this pushing down Phoenix, as well as Phoenix’s “Objection! scene, which the same thing again but this time with the witness, blowing his wig off his head. Nevertheless, that scene was great. Starting from the adaptation of the second case, “Turnabout Sisters,” is where the series felt a bit underwhelming since It feels a bit rushed. Starting from Episode 2, we got the main gist of it, such as the crime and the main dialogue with the involved characters.  What makes it feel rushed is that some of the extra details were excluded, which gives a better understanding of the overall case. Both Episode 3 and Episode 4 cover the main gist of the case—the two trials and the interaction with key characters of the case. Cross-examinations and testimonies felt rushed, and even a witness was removed. Things just happened too fast and it feels 25% of this case was removed. I did enjoy when Phoenix Wright was asking multiple questions to the witness though, something very common in the games to squeeze out more information. So far the series is a bit underwhelming, but enjoyable nonetheless. I just feel that it shouldn’t been rushed. If you aren’t familiar with the games, you can still watch it as it could be enjoyable but you aren’t getting the full set. 
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Rushed & Underwhelming Trials
Growing up as handheld gamer during my middle school days, I played many games on the DS including the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series. What made Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney more interesting than your average Visual Nove...

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 2

Apr 22 // Jeff Chuang
Just so we're on the same page, it's a tradition in the Japanese navy to serve curry for a meal on Friday. It's gotten to the point that Yokosuka, famous for its naval bases, exports curry as its major local eats. You can buy this navy-themed eats in packs and take it home with you. Thanks to anime, manga and games like Kantai Collection, this marriage of curry rice and Navies continue in popular nerd culture. It would be criminally negligent for Haifuri to skip this massive opportunity to play up its moe side. And yes, even today, the cooks of each boat will make curry their own way, resulting a curry rice flavored based on the ship. This is why we have Harukaze curry in episode 2, named after the scrappy destroyer that carry our protagonists. In this week's Haifuri, Mike-chan and crew once again dodges certain death from an attacking boat that outgunned Harukaze's meager weapons. By running in circles while generating a lot of smoke, the Harukaze was able to sneak near the Admiral Graf Spee (a German cruiser) and deal damage to its hull, slowing it down enough so the destroyer can outrun the larger ship. In the process, Harukaze (or Mike-chan specifically) rescues an exchange student who was escaping the Spee on a runabout. As an aside it also turns out the runabouts on board these historic warships are all modern, jet-ski-like. As the episode ends, while our unfortunate students make the best of their poor and beaten ship, Shiro-chan gets an emergency call from the Musashi. The story is comfortably letting the action and character expositions drive our interests at this point, which is good. I think someone actually interested and engaged in Haifuri will need that extra time and attention before the story gets complicated, because the audience is likely still in a "who was her name again" phase of learning the crew. We might now know that the secretary character is a fun person with her acting and the first officer is has a bit of dere once she gets worked around to Mike-chan's bottomless genki. The doctor (I guess she isn't a real doctor?) is a weird one and the group dynamics between the bridge and engineering teams seem to be developing. There was even a shower scene. I suppose adding one more character to this group, at episode 2, is no big deal? The ending animation this time around shows us that there will be a group of characters that the show focuses on. One of them seems to be the girl from the German boat. In some ways it just affirms my concern that how Haifuri can successfully juggle so many characters, but at the same time I think one more person is not going to make any more difference. I think Haifuri has a tall, tall task of making something more compelling by the end of next week's episode. Arguably, on the surface, there's an unexpected war game happening on top of a moe style anime, but discerning viewers would demand more from this formula. But at the same time, there's a lot going on that the more interesting tidbits may get lost. I guess at the very least there's a lot of cute girls running a battleship to look at, and that might be enough. [Haifuri is on Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Daisuki!]  
Haifuri photo
Curry on a boat
At the end of episode 1, Haifuri drops its full name and a cliffhanging curve ball--the protagonists are framed as traitors and attacked one of their own. It's good to learn that the second episode keeps up the pace and follo...

Annotated Anime: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable episode 3

Apr 19 // Josh Tolentino
The big reveal of the episode comes quite quickly, courtesy of what amounts to a director's cut edition of Josuke and Jotaro's interrogation of the defeated Angelo, who notes that, unlike the JoJos, he was given his powers by a strange man wearing a school uniform and wielding a gnarly-looking bow and arrow. It just so happens that the bow and arrow were last seen in the hands of Enya, Dio's confidant and the crazy old lady that Polnareff fought back in Egypt. It seems that someone's been going around handing out Stand powers to anyone that survives their gift, and that someone lives in Morioh. And, as it turns out, it seems that Koichi has come to a similar conclusion (minus the revelations about Stands) independently, thanks to a bit of good old-fashioned detective work. It's refreshing to see that people other than the principal JoJos are competent and capable, though again, given the intro, it's fair to conclude that Koichi will be part of the squad soon enough. In fact, that's likely what will be happening next week, as Koichi gets himself shot through with the very Stand-installing arrow, for the man in a school uniform is one of the Nijimura brothers, the younger of which, Okuyasu, is a Stand user himself. His Stand, The Hand, can "scrape" things into oblivion, and demonstrates the fact by essentially wiping objects, and even spaces from existence, leaving the things on the other side to close in and fill the void. The result is a cool teleporting punch effect that puts to shame a character with a similar gimmick that came out in one of the more recent chapters from Bleach.  Thankfully for our heroes, Okuyasu's kind of a dope, and goes down after taking a few flowerpots to the nads. Koichi remains shot through the throat with the arrow, and gets pulled into the house by Keicho, Okuyasu's brother and the man Jotaro and the rest have been looking for. We'll have to see next week just what the brothers' plans were for the Bow and Arrow, and why they'd need to go around giving Stands to all and sundry, but Diamond is Unbreakable is certainly picking up speed. It'll be interesting to learn just how Okuyasu turns face to become part of the squad later as well. [Catch JoJo's Bizarre Adventure simulcasting on Crunchyroll!]    
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A Wild McGuffin Appears
In today's episode of Diamond is Unbreakable, the plot thickens a tad, shedding more details on just why Morioh is so boned. Similarly, we meet a new foe who will, given the way the OP sequence goes, will be a member of the squad before long.

First Impressions: Haifuri

Apr 14 // Jeff Chuang
Haifuri is an original anime with a large cast of female-only characters. This is something that didn't strike me at all until it was all over, but thanks to that cue, it makes the Girls und Panzer comparison work. Given this element, the play-militaristic take on a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, the evoking of WWII-era war machines, and your go-getter cast of characters with a wide variety of schticks, it's inevitable to make that pairing. What bothered me about Haifuri, or rather, High School Fleet, is that fat cat Isoroku. It is a reference to Isoroku Yamamoto, who is probably the most well-known WWII Japanese military commander to the west, as he created the blueprint for Imperial Japan's plan to defeat the USA as the commander of the Japanese Imperial Navy. Well, I guess people do and can look with a sense of romanticism for legendary commanders of their enemy, so many years later, but are we ready to look at Isoroku similar to how we feel about The Desert Fox? Perhaps. I'm guess there's a joke there that I missed, with the whole fat cat at sea thing. I think that is neither here or there, however. The story drops the viewer right in the middle of action half way through the first episode. Like the marketing material, Haifuri episode 1 has a gap where in one scene we're playing out your usual moe high school hijinks, and then in the second half of the episode we're already playing a game of World of Warships, except with teenager girls busy shouting commands to automated systems that simplify the running of a WWII-era destroyer so 30-some-odd kids can do what hundreds of trained sailors did. Maybe World of Warships is not the best game analogy...Spaceteam? It sure seemed fun and not so much a matter of life or death, even if it kind of was. But there is that WoWs aspect to Haifuri. On one hand we have ancient refitted junk naval cruisers that are over a century old, on the other hand we have sleek futuristic ships blasting autocannon rounds and missiles (and can be operated by one person). If the story is about our adorable protagonists bonding over their naval trials, where Girls und Panzer shined, then the focus wouldn't be on the boats or the fact that they're on a boat, or even Isoroku and the other military otaku nods, but hearty, solid character development. And that just brings us back to the fact that Haifuri has dozens of protagonists onboard the Harekaze. The official English website has a helpful page that gives you a little profile on each one of them, as keeping them straight beyond the first handful will be difficult at this point. The captain, Mike-chan, looks up to her dad, who also captains a ship. Shiro-chan, who is her second in command, plays the straight man in the bridge bunny comedy scenes. The rest of the cast are full of eccentric, if oddly well-trained, characters that would not make up any normal high school class. But I guess that's not the point. What is the point is that this first episode was both fun and well put-together. Throwing the viewer a nasty curve ball at the end helps to drag us to the next episode, since mutiny isn't a term you'd expect from this genre--although it does occasionally happen in other shows of this kind. It would be safe to say that I'm at least curious where Haifuri will go next, even if it isn't exactly in uncharted waters. [It's on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Daisuki!]
Haifuri photo
She's on a boat
Keeping up with the news, one thing that I knew about Haifuri before watching the first episode was that it's about a bunch of moe high school girls working as some kind of sea patrol. The soft designs and color schemes on th...

Final Impressions: Myriad Colors Phantom World

Apr 12 // Nick Valdez
One thing I could never fault Phantom World for, thanks to Kyoto Animation's style and love of fluid animation, was its visuals. Regardless of where the story didn't go, the show remained watchable due to how pretty everything was. KyoAni isn't necessarily at the top of the production game, but most of the time their style is a saving grace. For example, one of the main gags was how many times Haruhiko found himself flung across spaces. A common trope, for sure, but these throws rarely looked the same twice. It's just a shame that the fights never quite lived up to their potential. Phantom World was never really focused on fights, so when some of them end up looking super great I was starved for more. But in the same breath, anime adaptations can't rest on visuals alone.  For the entirety of its run I couldn't quite figure out what Phantom World wanted to accomplish. At some times it seemed like a show that wanted to tell a story about kids dealing with Phantoms (and to a lesser extent, deal with the destinies unwantingly placed upon them), then it became a monster of the week show, then a few episodes focused on a singular gag, and then in some sort of last ditch effort, it tried a serious and emotional arc toward the end. Like I had been fearing all along.  In the final three episodes, a super phantom named Enigma began attacking ability users and stealing their powers. Since phantoms weren't successfully built into a credible threat through the season, it seemed weird to suddenly ramp up the tension this way. It's a clearly rushed endgame ringing hollow as we're told that this particular phantom poses a threat when others were clearly treated as jokes before. But the major through line of this final arc was Haruhiko's missing mother. Apparently she walked out on him years before and suddenly Haruhiko's depressed. Even when the show had multiple opportunities to bring up this backstory (such as the episode where Izumi was afraid of what her parents might think of her phantom hunting) or invest any time in Haruhiko at all (so he could at least develop beyond the guy who delivers exposition). Anyway, as Enigma wreaks havoc across the town she accumulates all sorts of neat abilities. Including the ability to pose as Haruhiko's mother.  In the midst of all this, as the rest of the phantom hunting club believes they're talking with Haruhiko's mother, they reveal they all had a bit of a crush on Haruhiko. Once again, there was very little build up to this little development but thankfully that never quite becomes the focus. In fact, the series ends without any of those cliched romantic entanglements anyway. The final battle itself passes by without much fanfare and Haruhiko saves the day by fully summoning the cutesy phantoms he's used in the past. So I guess all the character evolution I've wanted from the series was saved for Haruhiko himself. I'll admit I'm being a bit harsh since KyoAni is at least trying to salvage the series at the end, but it's such a disappointing foray overall. Each week things just kind of happened. It's even hard to summarize the final couple of episodes because there's not much more than a logline's worth of material in each. Everything is so hollow, it's like the series wanted to embody the textbook definition of "Phantom." A lingering spirit of a good premise.  When all is said and done, there's no real reason to search out Myriad Colors Phantom World for yourself. It never quite figured out what kind of series it wanted to be and that confusion kept it from becoming something truly engaging. You can try and argue that it's some sort of "turn off your brain" entertainment without a real message, but it was clearly trying to tell a story at its end.  Besides, why would you seek out a form of entertainment that offers you nothing but background noise? If you're looking for cheap entertainment there are plenty of anime that provide that already. Shows that know you're watching them because of stuff like cool visuals and do their best to provide just that. We as an audience deserve something better than a show with an identity crisis every week. 
Phantom World photo
Myriad of rushed conclusions
If you've been following along with my occasional thoughts on Myriad Colors Phantom World, you've no doubt noticed how many times I've gone back and forth on the series as a whole. While folks in the comments suggested that I...

First Impressions: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable

Apr 10 // Josh Tolentino
It starts with the beginning. Previous JoJo's parts - or at least their animated versions - invariably began with some kind of epic setup scene: Phantom Blood opened on the carriage accident that first tied together Jonathan Joestar and Dio Brando's fathers, setting in motion the chain of events that would lead to their battle. Battle Tendency started at the expedition that discovered the Pillar Men, who would be the prime antagonists for that arc. Stardust Crusaders began as Dio's coffin was pulled from the depths of the sea. Diamond is Unbreakable starts with breakfast. A hand prepares a hearty meal of bacon, eggs, and toast as a radio DJ greets the morning in the small town of Morioh. It's all well and good until the music starts to distort, revealing that the hand isn't actually attached to anyone. I've yet to see the significance of this grotesque tableau, but the shift in tone and presentation for this part in the JoJo's saga is clear enough to see. Diamond is Unbreakable focuses more on characters than events, where Morioh, its environs, and the people outside the main cast are just as significant as the superpowers and battles to come. In fact, there's little sense of crisis in the initial episode, a style unprecedented for JoJo's so far. Phantom Blood traded in scenes of domestic bliss, sure, but the feeling of fateful tension ran through every such occurrence. Here, there's little to do but play "Getting to Know You", with Jotaro and young Koichi serving as our lens for seeing the JoJo of 1999, Josuke Higashikata. Apparently the love child of old Joseph Joestar, the 16-year-old high-schooler is the 28-year-old Jotaro's uncle, technically. To be honest, he doesn't make the best first impression. Other than resorting to violence at the first mention of his weird hair, he's less obviously heroic, kowtowing to bullies in a way that no previous JoJo would countenance - at least until they insult his do.  As he rolls into his first fight, with the murderer/rapist Angelo and his Stand Aqua Necklace, we see more of what he's capable of. There's a level of quick-thinking and misdirection at work that recalls the creativity of old Joseph, but his personality and character are as yet a bit undefined. No matter, though. As I mentioned, Diamond is Unbreakable stands out for having a much stronger presence from minor characters. Josuke's mom is a treasure on par with Lisa Lisa in a series that's had a paucity of compelling female presences. His grandfather, an aging policeman, serves as an Uncle Ben of sorts for Josuke by dying to strengthen his heroic resolve, but like uncle Ben, his presence can't be discounted. And of course there's Jotaro, in a snazzy white outfit and playing the role of elder mentor to the young bucks.  Morioh itself seems to be a star of sorts in Diamond is Unbreakable, as well. Where all the previous parts preferred to play the jet-setter, traveling abroad quickly and never halting the journey, it seems this portion of the Bizarre Adventure will be taking place close to home. This ought to be an interesting development, one that seems to foreshadow the appeal of even other media, like the Persona games. It's a bit early to pass judgment as yet, but so far Diamond is Unbreakable  seems quite solid, both as a JoJo's show and as a departure from the aspects of the brand that have risked feeling trite after many, many episodes and chapters of development. I can't wait to see what's coming to town next. [Catch more of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure on Crunchyroll!]
Diamond Is Unbreakable photo
A Crazy Diamond in the Rough
I honestly didn't know what to expect going into David Production's latest phase in adapting the epic JoJo's Bizarre Adventure manga, Diamond is Unbreakable. Besides some background details gleaned from Wikipedia and the...

Japanator's Spring 2016 Anime Preview Guide!

Apr 01 // Josh Tolentino
[embed]34850:5522:0[/embed] Mayoiga Studio: Diomedea Broadcasting: April 1, 2016  Mayoiga might be a dark horse of this spring, and not just because original anime productions tend to be the dark horses in these adaptation-dominated days. For one, it's got some notable talent behind it, including Tsutomu Mizushima, director of my two favorite anime of the last two years (Girls und Panzer and Shirobako), and Mari Okada, the popular but divisive screenwriter of Ano Hana and Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. Second, this story of people visiting a mysterious, uninhabited village after signing up to a weird bus tour is an actual crowdfunding success. The anime industry has met with mixed results from its flirtations with crowdfunding campaigns, but this is one of the few times a full-featured seasonal series has made it onto the airwaves.   [embed]34850:5523:0[/embed] JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable Studio: David Productions Broadcasting: April 1, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) Need I say more? It's JoJo's! The next step in David Production's lengthy plan to adapt all the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure manga continues into the roaring '90s, starring a new fellow named Josuke Higashikata. Diamond Is Unbreakable is a wide favorite among JoJo's fans, even beyond the better-known Stardust Crusaders. I myself will admit that I haven't read the original manga version, so Josuke's small-town Stand-wielding adventures will be new to me.   [embed]34850:5524:0[/embed] Terra Formars: Revenge Studio: Liden Films Broadcasting: April 2, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) I never quite cottoned onto Terra Formars, despite its tonal similarities to the parts of Attack on Titan that I liked. That said, it did turn out to be an alright, properly absurd edgy battle show, one whose other positive qualities ultimately outweighed the super racist-looking designs on the Martian roach-men. Perhaps the fans saw past that as well, because if certain rumors are true, it's due to the show's solid performance on foreign streaming services like Crunchyroll that Terra Formars is getting a new season at all. As for me, I'm looking forward to the ways they plan to weaponize obscure insects and animals in a recreation of a modern-day, Japanese take on the old Visionaries cartoon.   [embed]34850:5525:0[/embed] Ace Attorney Studio: A-1 Studios Broadcasting: April 2, 2016 Ace Attorney or Gyakuten Saiban, as it's known in Japan, is perhaps the greatest evidence both for and against the practice of localization, i.e. adapting content to suit the culture and language it's being sold to. I love the Ace Attorney games. They're are all pretty well-written and practically ooze character and charm. The problem is is that this anime is called Gyakuten Saiban. I'm attached to some schlub lawyer named "Phoenix Wright" and his pals "Mia Fey" and her sister "Maya Fey". I don't know "Ryuuichi Naruhodou" and his friends. Still, stories are stories, so we can hope that it carries over well enough,   [embed]34850:5526:0[/embed] Macross Delta Studio: Satelight Broadcasting: April 3, 2016 Wow, has it really been seven years since Macross Frontier? I would've thought they'd be less content to sit on it the way they have, considering that every year brings a new Gundam or two, but here we are. I've actually been avoiding contact with Macross Delta and its new story of mysterious diseases that can only be cured by the power of song, Valkyrie-piloting idol groups, knightly Valkyrie orders. Still, based on the lengthy previews available online, things are looking up.   [embed]34850:5527:0[/embed] Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear Studio: Kinema Citrus Broadcasting: April 3, 2016 This one isn't quite another Polar Bear Cafe; The miko in question isn't the bear, but a human named Machi, tending to the shrine where the bear, Natsu, is worshipped. The twist here is where the bear is the worldly one: Machi's a complete bumpkin with no knowledge of the modern world, and Natsu's great bear knowledge includes the vagaries of society, technology, and rice cookers. Kinema Citrus is on a roll of sorts with the warm family comedies after Barakamon, and they may be playing to their strengths with this show.   [embed]34850:5528:0[/embed] Joker Game Studio: Production I.G.  Broadcasting: April 5, 2016 (Broadcasting on Crunchyroll) Japan doesn't have the best track record for exploring its imperial period, but recent stories like Night Raid 1931 and portions of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu have been braver about exploring this more modern, more divisive period. Joker Game, an espionage-themed mystery thriller set just before Japan joined World War II, appears to be taking after Night Raid 1931 in its tone and premise. With a Ghost in the Shell director onboard, we could be looking at a cool, historical take on Standalone Complex, or at least Arise.    [embed]34850:5529:0[/embed] Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Studio: White Fox Broadcasting: April 3, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) A young Japanese high school student living an ordinary life gets dropped into a strange and unfamiliar world. Sound like seemingly every light novel adaptation ever made? You wouldn't be wrong, but Re:ZERO's twist will either make or break the show: Time rewinding. Ordinary high-schooler Natsuki Subaru returns to the moment he arrived in the other world whenever he gets killed, remembering everything that happened up to that point. It's more All You Need Is Kill/Edge of Tomorrow and Groundhog Day rather than ERASED or Steins;Gate, and while that storm of names obviously means the gimmick isn't nearly as novel as it could be, some solid direction and writing could make the show sing in a way most others in its genre don't.   [embed]34850:5530:0[/embed] Kiznaiver Studio: Trigger Broadcasting: April 9, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) Some of the luster may have come off of the Trigger brand since the cute-but-forgettable When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace and the divisive Ninja Slayer, but the studio's still around, and still has a ton of talent. As for the story itself, I find its central idea of a weird system that links people together by having them share their wounds on a physical level seems a bit on the nose as a way of securing world peace. But hey, we don't have that in real life, and the world's definitely not at peace, so what do I know?   [embed]34850:5531:0[/embed] Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto Studio: Studio DEEN Broadcasting: April 7, 2016 (Streaming via Hulu) Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto has one joke, and it's that the titular Sakamoto is the best. The best at what, you ask? Everything. He's just super awesome at everything he does and seems to know it. That's a problem when the premise anchors something serious like Sword Art Online (ha!) but it's golden when it's the core of a gag show. Already in the trailer I'm seeing it as something like Mahouka through the lens of Cromartie High School or Tonari no Seki-kun.  Studio DEEN has been on a hot streak lately with arguably the best show of last season and solid comedies like Konosuba, so let's hope they can continue the trend.   [embed]34850:5532:0[/embed] Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress Studio: Wit Studio Broadcasting: April 7, 2016 A lot of fans were disappointed when it was announced that the next season of Attack on Titan would be delayed to give time for the manga to build up more material. This new project from Studio Wit and the Attack on Titan team feels like them trying to fill that void. I'm not even being facetious: Kabaneri looks like an off-brand Attack on Titan, set more in a steampunk early-Meiji-period Japan (called "Hinomoto") than a quasi-European countryside. Mankind lives in walled cities called Stations and travels in ironclad armored steam trains to escape the threat of giant, iron-skinned zombie-men called Kabane. Sound familiar? I thought so.  That's not necessarily a problem, though. The animation looks good, the character designs pleasantly retro, and to be frank the Attack on Titan template is far from completely exhausted. Besides, I wasn't that hot on Attack on Titan myself, so having Wit try their hand at something original in that vein might be a good way to see just where my problems with it lie.   [embed]34850:5533:0[/embed] My Hero Academia Studio: Bones Broadcasting: April 3, 2016 (Streaming via FUNimation) Now here's the hype monster. My Hero Academia is the big Shonen JUMP hit of its time, and excitement to see BONES - a studio known for top-shelf animation - adapt the manga has been through the roof. I'll admit that I have yet to read a chapter of the thing despite having a subscription to JUMP, but as a reader of western superhero comics, the premise has me intrigued. On the surface, it's bog-standard "earnest boy protagonist" stuff, but seeing Midoriya strive to become a hero as the only unpowered boy in a school full of superpowered kids ought to be engaging. And the presentation is up there with some of BONE's best.   [embed]34850:5534:0[/embed] Bakuon!! Studio: TMS Entertainment Broadcasting: April 4, 2016 "Cute girls riding motorcycles" would be the quickest way to describe Bakuon!!, and...well, I'm having difficulty saying much more than that. To its credit, though, I am getting a sort of Girls und Panzer vibe from it, in that the show (or its trailers, at least) seems to understand that "cute girls" and [insert subject matter] are equal parts of the whole when it comes to making widely entertaining moe, rather than simple fodder for otaku. Not even a favorite moe show of mine, K-ON!, truly understood that.   [embed]34850:5535:0[/embed] Bungo Stray Dogs  Studio: Bones  Broadcasting: April 6, 2016 Osamu Dazai. Doppo Kunikida. If you know those two names, but don't know anything about Bungo Stray Dogs,  then congratulations: You're more familiar with Japanese literature than most outsiders, or are capable of using Wikipedia.  In any case, Bungo is more than just a nickname frustrated Destiny players use for their developer of choice, but also the key to understanding this mystery detective show. The names above are code names, drawn from the history of literature, and the people bearing those names have powers apparently related to the works of those authors. It's like having a guy in your squad named Chuck Palahniuk who suffers from a split personality and is really good at beating people up and not talking about it. If nothing else, Bones appears to be aiming to make this one its marquee production, putting director Takuya Igarashi on it. Among other things he helmed Star Driver and Captain Earth, two shows that were very pretty, if not always narratively satisfying.    [embed]34850:5536:0[/embed] Kuromukuro Studio: P.A. Works Broadcasting: April 7, 2016 Given that P.A. Works made its name on personal, often high-school-based fantasy soaps, you'd think they'd spend their 15th Anniversary making one of those. I can't say I'm unhappy to see that they're instead making what looks to be a samurai mecha anime.  Kuromukuro's premise is fairly standard for the times, in which a time-lost samurai gets transported to an alternate 2016 in which mecha are standard equipment in life and industry. What's less standard is the involvement Tensai Okamura, director of Darker Than BLACK and writing staff that had a hand in Moribito.
Spring 2016 Anime Preview photo
New blooms, new shows!
It may be April 1st today, but it's also the start of the Spring Anime Preview, which means that folks can have fun with boisterous humor and anticipation for the latest in Japanese cartoon goodness. This is Japanator's Spring 2016 Anime Preview Guide! Head on below for a roundup of the most notable anime series of the quarter, and tell us in the comments about what you're planning to watch!

Annotated Anime: Haruchika: Haruta & Chika episodes 11 & 12

Mar 27 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 11 We pick up a little bit after the first round of the competition from the last episode. The Brass Band club has made it through City and prefectural competition and is now at the regional Class B competition level. Good for them! As the club is waiting for practice they are met with a strange woman. After Naoko finds that the piano they have to practice with is out of tune, this woman, named Motoko, challenges Naoko to make something beautiful even after finding out the piano isn't up to snuff. She then pulls out a musicaa (a reed instrument with a keyboard on it, pay attention to the opening of this song and you will see what it is) and plays. It turns out this woman has a link to Mr. Kusakabe, making Haruta jealous immediately. She's the granddaughter of his music teacher. We find out there is a mystery surrounding a piano that belonged to her grandfather and that she was the only one told about the key to its keyboard. The "mystery" here isn't nearly as heavy as some of the others have been. Eventually, they find the answer to the key but comes completely out of left field with little clues leading to it. But this episode seemed more than just the mystery as  Motoko and Naoko form a weird bond that you only find out the true depth of until nearly the end of the show. To be honest I'm not quite sure what this episode was trying to accomplish. We do find out some more of Mr. Kusakabe's past in this, and that he wasn't always the nice kind hearted teacher he is to the Brass band club, but at the same time, that information seemed like an aside. Not a terrible episode, but probably not the best-written episode. The resolution comes out of nowhere with no hint of where things were going and the point of the episode is a muddled and not quite clear. Let's hope the finale is more on point. Episode 12 The finals of the competition are next week so everyone is nervous. However, something pops up that makes Haruta and Chika panic as it looks like Mr. Kusakabe may be leaving them.  The episode opens right up with the class advisoer meeting with two men. With his snooping we find out that Mr. Kusakabe is being offered a conductorship for a big orchestra again. Haruta, of course, is devastated ad Chika isn't thrilled either., but they keep the secret to themselves. However, Haruta wants to tell Mr. Kusakabe how he feels before the teacher leaves. This leads the two kids to follow him. The mystery they solve is the big one. You find out why Mr. Kusakabe ditched his conductorship that has been an underlying theme of the entire show. You don't get any specifics, but you get enough to know why he did what he did. No dramatic reveals or clues or anything, but the ongoing mystery is solved. The show then runs the credits but there is still a third of the show left. We see everyone pcking up and going to the regional contest and we see them play. It's a really touching moment in the series as you see POeople in the crowd calling back to previous episodes and harkens back to the past episodes. Miyo's parents are there holding a picture of her and her brother together, Muren's parents are there, Naoko and her aunt are there, the reporter and Matoko are there too. After that, we find out the results. Not going to spoil it, but we also find out Mr. Kusakabe's decision as well as Naoko's feeling as well. If you followed the series up until now, this part of the episode is the most emotional of the entire series. Whatever they were lacking up until this point in the episode, the after credits scenes more than makeup for. It's not the best series finale I've seen. Heck, I don't even think it's the best episode of this series, but at the same time it's not terrible and it does wrap things up without being nightmarish bad like the Magikano ending or something similar. Its pacing is a little weird. Heck, I'd have put all the stuff with Mr. Kusakabe in the last episode with Motoko and I think it would have played out better, but for what was giving, it was all right. We pick up a little bit after the first round of the competition from the last episode. The Brass Band club has made it through City and prefectural competition and is now at the regional Class B competition level. Good for them!   As the club is waiting for practice they are met with a strange woman. After Naoko finds that the piano they have to practice with is out of tune, this woman, named Motoko, challenges Naoko to make something beautiful even after finding out the piano isn't up to snuff. She then pulls out a musicaa (A reed instrument with a keyboard on it, pay attention to the opening of this song and you will se what it is   It turns out this woman has a link to Mr. Kusakabe, making Haruta jealous immediately. She's the granddaughter of his music teacher. We find out there is a mystery surrounding a piano that belonged to her grandfather and that she was the only one told about the key to its keyboard.   The "mystery" here isn't nearly as heavy as some of the others have been. Eventually they find the answer to the key, but comes completely out of left field with little clues leading to it. But this episode seemed more than just the mystery as  Motoko and Naoko form a weird bond that you only find out the true depth of until nearly the end of the show.   To be honest I'm not quite sure what this episode was trying to accomplish. We do find out some more of Mr. Kusakabe's past in this, and that he wasn't always the nice kind hearted teacher he is to the Brass band club, but at the same time that information seemed like an aside.   Not a terrible episode, but probably not the best written episode. The resolution comes out of nowhere with no hint of wear things were going and the point of the episode is a muddled and not quite clear. Let's hope the finale is more on point.
Haruchika photo
The end of the song
We've come to the end of the line for Haruchika as we look at the last two episodes of the short series. How will things end and what mysteries will get solved. Let's take a look.

Final Impressions: Oshiete! Galko-chan

Mar 25 // Anthony Redgrave
A very different episode for the finale of Oshiete! Galko-chan. We are taken to the start of the second year where cliques are already starting to form; there's the Gyaru (the popular students), honour students (I guess we know them as preppies), and finally the outsiders which are the people that don't exist in those two categories. In this show that means they're the students that like heavy metal and horror movies. However "Otako" doesn't exist in any of these groups, not even an outsider as she finds reading by herself far less troublesome than socialising, also known as the Oreki philosophy. And then she meets "Galko".  The origin story of how the three friends became friends is something I didn't think we needed exploring for a slice of life anime about asking and answering questions. Anime viewers are accustomed to wacky and weird people socialising together without needing an explanation, let alone spending half an episode to explain and show it. For a show like Galko-chan, it works as a thematic closure. "Galko" is the walking talking definition of misinterpreted stereotyping. In a class full of these stereotypes, "Galko" is always shown to look one way but react in another and even though we see her as a saint or a deeper character behind all the makeup and fashion, she too falls in the ways of stereotyping other people.  The origin story takes up the majority of the episode with the second half only briefly completing "Galko's" character arc of making it to class on time if that can be counted as an overarching series character arc. This episode has a typical slice of life ending. Students head home with the promise of more fun ahead. It's an ending I detest personally as it leaves the series open-ended without anything gained or lost. Oshiete! Galko-chan was a good show to keep me occupied throughout the winter season. The show didn't retain its signature question answer format opting for more character introductions in the latter episodes which I found a little disappointing but I did enjoy the overall light-hearted take on more mature topics in a slice of life anime. The short episode length was also nice as they didn't overstay their welcome with filler or fan service. The show knew how to keep everything succinct and snappy and the bright colorful palette of visuals meant it was fantastic to watch. I'll be eager for a second season or OVA of this show. Oshiete! Galko-chan is a great little anime with an interesting concept, beautiful designs, and a great pace. I picked up some interesting facts while watching this show making it hard to say anything bad about entertaining education. Even if it's facts about Female Hygiene, the genito-urinary system, and breasts.  Things I learnt from watching Galko-chan It's not even their real names! I feel like I've been lied to the whole series "Ideology as Learned from a Cat" sounds like a really interesting read but I feel that it's just a book full of Garfield strips The return of "Galko's" sister as a start of a model magazine called "GAL AGE". Very interesting cover model choice since it's a lady with no eyes I kinda want to know what pill "Otako" received. Is it paracetamol, Ibuprofen? Common painkillers I would've thought "Otako" would know about "Ojou" is a sneaky third wheeler "Galko's" observation skills are very impressive. Detective Conan eat your heart out "Galko" may have come to class early to talk but then she falls asleep. One step forward and two steps back. [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll] [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll]
Oshiete! Galko-chan photo
When Galko met Otako
Slice of Life with a school background is a genre that is overplayed in anime. Used to capture the youthful adolescence of an endless high school as characters transition from immature teenagers to adults often fails in ...

Annotated Anime: Oshiete! Galko-chan episode 11

Mar 20 // Anthony Redgrave
Even though the show has a Hollywood grade A starlet in the looks department, she doesn't flaunt those curves for the camera every time she is on screen. There is some cheesecake here and there as expected by anime standards except it refrains from the ridiculous perversive situations of a typical harem ecchi. Apart from this episode which has a silly premise right off the bat. The question of the show asks 'whether strange things happen in the school hallways' and the scenario features Otao skipping class due to his anaemia. On his way back he hides when he hears the girls coming back from swimming class. Suffice to stay he isn't spotted despite taking peeking lessons from Tony Tony Chopper. Cue punch line of Japanese nosebleed after erotica.  It's a typical slice of life fan-service gag formula downplayed since Galko-chan hardly makes these kinds of jokes. The shows comedic strengths were always in the situations sometimes sexy and the reactions from it, often Galko's. This, however, is more voyeuristic and a tad perverse which doesn't suit the show. I didn't feel the gag worked and was just an excuse to see the girls in school bathing suits. Since the show's premise is based on asking questions, it'd be more appropriate if all the girls were asking about different hair types and how the reacted to water or even the difficulty of swimming different strokes. That way there is a reason for them to be in swimming costumes and discussing these topics. Instead, the show asks a question that I doubt has ever been asked and used it to show girls in school swimsuits without really answering the question.  The following sections are more entertaining than the start. We join an un-named character shrouded by bangs ordering a coffee before observing Galko's actions. Of course, as Galko dresses in Gyaru fashion, she is immediately typecast as a Valley Girl sort. We view Galko from her eyes as she sees what we already know about Galko; childish, expressive, and embarrassed over adult material (which apparently is BL). This scene is linked to the next one in the classroom where the class is learning about the different utensils throughout time to wipe your bottom. Some interesting facts if true. From a character perspective, we learn that Galko likes to over share some information with her bestie Otako. From my experience, it isn't unusual for girls to share this information over SMS although it's best not to pry too far into a maiden's text log.  For the next recreational class activity, the whole class is open to nominations and voting of movies. Despite not winning with Galko-chan's choice of a direct to DVD movie (could it really be that good!?) Ojou is generous enough to allow Galko to watch it on her home cinema screen with Otako rolling the whole thing into a slumber party. The actual event is nothing to go on about as it is covered in still images of their activities. Before heading off, Otako debates the most important of feminine hygiene questions; should I take pads in case of a period. I really liked Otako's imagination of Ojou. It was something out of left field and carried an old joke regarding Ojou's choice of period products. After next week, we'll have to be bidding goodbye to the blonde high school girl that teaches us things. I really hope the last episode will be better in the question department. I'll be expecting the extra amount of fan service seeing it is a season finale with Galko's sister's eyes finally being revealed! Things I learnt from watching Galko-chan People used swan necks for what!? Back and forth! The nurse looks cute but I can't shake the fact it looks like Otao's mom What the hell is Naked Eating? Is it like Naked Gun? From Otako's imagination, I expected Ojou's house to be the Playboy Mansion Aku-On! sounds like K-On mixed with Wolf Children. Looks like an H-game. [update 03.21.16] The Mangaka has posted on his twitter about the cast of Naked Eating [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll] Things I learnt from watching Galko-chan Ojou VA does the narration, and it's adorable The faceless narrator has an adorable voice Ojou has her own sound effect Otao represents 90% of the viewer base for Galko-chan Nikuko has the god-like breast control whilst running [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll]
Oshiete! Galko-chan photo
Galko x Ojou
I'm not sure what to think of Galko-chan nowadays. The last few episodes have been ho-hum since I'm not learning much but we're getting a lot more slice of life character introductions. It's becoming something that is the same and when I loved it when it was different. Oh! Galko-chan.. you're tearing me apart!

Annotated Anime: Haruchika: Haruta & Chika episodes 8-10

Mar 18 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 8 Straight up, this episode is bizarre as hell. It is either being really metaphorical or someone lost their damn mind but the imagery here leaves you scratching your head. Things open up decent enough. There are two months left until qualifications for the B class finals for the Brass club. The "friend" of Naoko's who was also the person behind the mysterious radio show has joined the group. He is a first year named Kaiyuu. But this episode revolves around Naoko, the girl we met a few episodes ago who is losing her hearing. It seems her aunt who has been living in Australia is moving back to Japan and wants Naoko to live with her. Naoko, of course, doesn't want to. For some reason, Naoko's aunt is seeing a "First Love Sommelier" who is one of the upperclassman based on the first floor along with the other weirdo clubs we've seen in previous episodes. Haruta and Chika go to check things out with Naoko. This is where things get really weird. It seems Auntie's first love is tied to Onigiri, so as they are being prepared she tells this story of  a small child being lost in the woods and meeting "The children of the forest" who are a bunch of anthropomorphic animals. She meets a bear guy named Benjant and helps him make onigiri for the others. She goes and feeds the birds and comes back, seeing some leftovers. She takes one bit and Benjant sees her, BEFORE HE ATTACKS HER. She is made an outcast as a result. And the whole point of this is that she can meet Benjant again. Is this some weird illusion to her being raped or something? I'm totally missing something here. Anyway, the rest of the episode plays out with Naoko, Haruta, Chika, and the Sommelier going to stop Naoko's aunt and we find out, at least, part of the story of just what the hell she was talking about. If only a little bit. Outside of that confusing part, there is a lot in this episode that explores the relationship between Naoko and Chika. While it was painted out in previous episodes that Naoko wouldn't give Chika a second thought, we find out that Naoko actually has admiration for Chika in that she has friends. Naoko even offers to give Chika a "one day lesson" to help with her flute playing. So in all, if you actually ignore the bizarre main story line nearly completely, you find there are some real touching moments in the episode. But the main plot IS there, so this one isn't one of their best shows.   Episode 9 This episode is more like it. Something more normal and not some weird illusionist stuff about a bear man and forest children. When Mr. Kusakabe falls faint, we find out he's been advising a Brass band from the upper-class high school close by while their advisor is out on a suspension. The school's students don't know why the teacher known as "The Gorilla" was suspended, but they report he had been acting very strange the last few weeks and mysteriously was rearranging the seating assignments in his homeroom class. Haruta dives right in, since he wants Mr. Kusakabe only for their class, in wanting to find out why The Gorilla was suspended, so, of course, Chika jumps in as well. However, Kaiyuu also joins them in finding out what was going on. We really get to see Kaiyuu in this episode. It turns out he is as good a problem-solver as Haruta is. As he says "I spent a lot of time around old people, I've learned a lot of superfluous things." You notice he always has his drumsticks with him and is often tapping away. He seems to get along with others really well. Great showing more of him as a person. The story plays itself out well as we meet and hear from those around the mystery teach and what may have lead to his suspension. The clues actually make sense and there are no great leaps between clues and plot points. Everything seems to flow in a good line and does end up giving you a twist ending or anything like they did with the old man artist and his trip to America a few episodes ago. No denying that for me, this is a much better episode than the last one. The plot not only was realistic and made a lot more sense, but everything lined up perfectly from beginning to end. What the last episode lacked this one made up for in spades.   Episode 10 The competition is here! It's the morning of the big competition and the Brass Band club is gathering together in the meeting hall. Seems Chika had a heck of a morning as she saved a little kid who had fallen out of a window. Seriously? Yup, poor Chika hurt her wrist and hip catching the tumbling toddler, but she says she is okay. However, both Haruta and  Mr. Kusakabe are not here yet. Seems Haruta found himself a friend. This episode is obviously just a primer for the next two episodes with shoehorning in a mystery about who is the owner of this large dog. Don't get me wrong, it is still a good episode, but with only 2 episodes left and it being the morning of the big competition, you know that there are bigger things to come in the final two episodes. The mystery is simple, Haruta finds a dog that is worth a lot of money and two people claim it is theirs. A little girl and some guy.  Haruta and Chika have to solve the mystery in a short amount of time before they have to run back to practice for the competition. Honestly, when trying to find the answer I over thought it out and came to a much different and more complex explanation, but the answer was much simpler than I had guessed. Things seem to be setting up nicely already. Besides paying off the season long main storyline of the competition itself, you have a somewhat shifty reporter hanging around who knows a lot about Mr. Kusakabe, and you even have an appearance from "The Gorilla" and his club who let Chika and her club use their practice room since they perform much earlier.   An interesting batch of episodes here. Episode 8 is really nuts with no explanation as to what the hell was going on there, but 9 and 10 are both pretty straight forward.  The finale is coming up so things are set up for something interesting to happen. We shall see where the ending takes us. Strait up, this episode is bizarre as hell. It is either being really metaphorical or someone lost their damn mind but the imagery here leaves you scratching your head.     Things open up decent enough. There are two months left until qualifications for the B class finals for the Brass club. The "friend" of Naoko's who was also the person behind the mysterious radio show has joined the group. He is a first year named Kaiyuu.     But this episode revolves around Naoko, the girl we met a few episodes ago who is losing her hearing. It seems her aunt who has been living in Australia is moving back to Japan and wants Naoko to live with her. Naoko of course doesn't want to. For some reason Naoko's aunt is seeing a "First Love Sommelier" who is one of the upperclassman based on the first floor along with the other weirdo clubs we've seen in previous episodes. Haruta and Chika go to check things out with Naoko.     Things is where things get really weird. It seems Auntie's first love is tied to Onigiri, so as they are being prepared she tells this story of her as a small child being lost in the woods and meeting "The children of the forest" who are a bunch of anthromorphic animals. She meets a bear guy named Benjant and helps him make oniguri for the others. She goes and feeds the birds and comes back, seeing some left overs. She takes one bit and Benjant sees her, BEFORE HE ATTACKS HER. She is made an outcast as a result.     And the whole point of this is that she can meet Benjant again. Is this some weird illusion to her being raped or something? I'm totally missing something here.     Anyway the rest of the episode plays out with Naoko, Haruta, Chika, and the Sommelier going to stop Naoko's aunt and we find out at least part of the story of just what the hell she was talking about. If only a little bit.     Outside of that confusing part, there is a lot in this episode that explores the relationship between Naoko and Chika. While it was painted out in previous episodes that Naoko wouldn't give Chika a second thought, we find out that Naoko actually has admiration for Chika in that she has friends. Naoko even offers to give Chika a "one day lesson" to help with her flute playing.   So in all, if you actually ignore the bizarre main story line nearly completely, you find there are some real touching moments in the episode. But the main plot IS there, so this one isn't one of there best shows.  
Haruchika photo
Yeah, things get weird
We are closing in on the end of Haruchika: Haruta and Chika, the big concert competition is fast approaching and all the members of the Brass band club we will meet are here. We have a concert to perform and mysteries to solve! Let's jump right in.

Annotated Anime: Myriad Colors Phantom World episodes 7-9

Mar 15 // Nick Valdez
Episode 7 Each episode of Phantom World starts with Haruhiko elaborating on the episode's central idea. Some episodes it's a scientific theory, and others it's some sort of philosophical idea. As he explains Schrodinger's cat experiment (where a cat is stuck in box with poison and is technically both alive and dead until someone confirms otherwise), subtly all but goes out the window as a loose phantom turns everyone in the school into cats. Well, anime cats (so just cat ears and tails) anyway. As the series amplifies its cute premises and character designs, the stakes aren't as huge. And while this was a negative at first, it ends up being a comfortable groove for the series to settle into. All these cat ears also tie into the mission of the week, finding a little girl's lost cat. The Phantom Hunting club then heads into an abandoned school building where cats used to hang out in search of the Phantom and then Kyoto's affinity for crazy visuals kicks in. Crazy hallucinations, the myriad of colors the title's been promising since inception, and an awesome Phantom design (leading to a literal interpretation of "house cat"). Then the episode ends with none of the characters growing or learning anything. But that's okay for now.  Episode 8 When a hot spring suddenly appears in the middle of the school, we get a continuation of the fun from last episode. Instead of weighing itself down with things like story or character development, Phantom World decides to amp up everything that's actually working. Unfortunately that comes with a bit more perverse jokes (and finally dipping into the harem trappings), but to balance it out we finally get a look at something I've wanted from the beginning. When the show started, it said the new generation of kids got powers through mutation and I've wanted to see more of those powers since then. As student after student fights the phantom-of-the-week (a gang of perverted monkeys), it's both visually interesting and humorous. Some of the jokes were clumsy, but I laughed quite a bit. It's a shame that it took eight episodes for me Phantom World to finally feel like a complete show.  Gags were influenced by character quirks, and I finally got a good grasp of who each of these characters were. It's not a lot, to be honest, but I'm happy to even have something here. With all of that, however, Mai is developing feelings for Haruhiko and that's what I didn't want. The show's been avoiding this stuff entire series and has been great for it, so don't drop it on us now.  Episode 9 Continuing the trend of using the monster-of-the-week formula to its fullest and just having fun with it, a girl we've never seen before says she needs the Phantom Hunting Club's help with the drama club's latest play (a samurai tale). As they practice, they realize that a phantom's been lurking by. On the day of their performance, the new girl suddenly reveals she's a phantom and transforms the stage into the actual Edo era. The gang figures out they have to successfully finish the play in order to satisfy the Phantom completely. The gang finishes the play, and everything kind of goes back to normal. No big developments here like in the last few episodes, but it's still and entertaining enough story. It's just not as gripping as the past two episodes. That's alright, but we can't really afford to waste time anymore. If KyoAni wants to swing for the fence, they've got to land it. We've gotten some good examples of a lighthearted, fun romp so I definitely want more of it. Either way, it's been okay so far. 
Annotated Phantom World photo
Myriad of actually interesting stuff
I've been hard on Myriad Colors Phantom World since its inception because I went in expecting more from Kyoto Animation's effort. Their past shows have been great when they work, so I was hoping this too would be one of the b...

Annotated Anime: Oshiete! Galko-chan episode 10

Mar 13 // Anthony Redgrave
With the show starting to head towards the final stretch of its 12 episode season, we're starting to learn a bit more about the rest of the cast that Galko interacts with. In this case, it's those three boys that just can't get enough of the blonde protagonist. This episode's lead is Charao, the blonde dude with the earrings. He's not the nerdy one or the tall silent boy, he's the guy that sometimes talks to Galko and, like his entourage, isn't a stranger of imagining Galko is different situations that are far from the truth. Case in point where he notices that Galko is wearing a male shirt causing him to assume Galko is seeing someone. Like the last episode, there isn't a lot of learning to be done here. One question is whether baldness is caused by a high sex drive. Enter Otako to mention something to do with the levels of hormones and family genetics. Not an in-depth answer but enough to subside the question and to bring up the fact that Galko is a nosey person. She can't stop mothering the whole class thus joining in with every conversation including male-centric ones about bikini models.  Even though this episode features the least screen time for Galko, she is still the topic of most discussions. It would've been interesting to see the male version of Galko with the guys asking male mysteries such as: do males sit down to pee or do they prefer to wear boxers or briefs? The episode was decent overall as it was surprising how much I enjoyed following the male members of the cast. The finale with Charao and his Kouhei is sweet and I would like to see more of them in the future.  Things I learnt from watching Galko-chan Ojou VA does the narration, and it's adorable The faceless narrator has an adorable voice Ojou has her own sound effect Otao represents 90% of the viewer base for Galko-chan Nikuko has the god-like breast control whilst running [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll] Things I learnt from watching Galko-chan Ojou's smug look is amazing We cannot trust everything Otako says is true It could be possible that when losing weight your boobs go first because it's made of different fat.... possibly. They never really clarify it. [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll]
Oshiete! Galko-chan photo
What do the boys think?
When I first started watching Oshiete! Galko-chan it wasn't for the visuals or the premise, it was because it was kinda interesting to see the show answer these quite weird questions. Questions and queries that made you go 'h...

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