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Annotated Anime: Tiger Mask W episodes 23-25

Apr 03 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 23 It's time for War Games! Well, not the war games long time wrestling fans think of when you use that name. This isn't two rings wrapped in a cage. This is something different. So different that everyone who is entering doesn't know what it actually is other than some sort of tournament where the winner challenges for the GWM World Title and gets a $1 million prize. The Third will be participating at his insistence and the challenge is open to anyone. Everyone else is hatching out their plans. Nagata gathers together a bunch of the New Japan guys saying they needed to work together. Wakamatsu wants to join, but Yuji says that only previous champions who have been in a GWM ring qualify. Not only do we see Gedo for the first time this series, but Naito does another one of his mysterious appearances and says he will be there, but he has no interest in working with the others. Meanwhile, Tiger is left scrambling a bit. Since he is freelance, he really doesn't have anyone else to team up with in this thing, that is until he remembers one other person. Fukuwara Mask. Fukuwara is still back in the village he helped last time and agrees to enter if he gets a cut of the money.   We then see what these guys are up against. Oh boy... we are entering Kinnikuman territory again. The rules are this. All the fighters start on the floor and fight each other. If someone scores a pinfall (being counted by Drones of all things. How Vanguard of them) they get to move up to the first ring. If you beat someone there, you move up a level. The fight goes on until there are two people in the top ring who will then fight for the money and the title. The third announces he is putting the belt on the line against anyone who beats him. Bonus! Besides the NJPW guys, Tiger, and Fukuwara, and The Third, we have Tiger The Dark and Kevin Andersen, Yellow Devil, The Metal Brothers, and a bazillion other guys.   The bell rings and we are off as everyone starts plotting and squaring off. The Third scores the first victory and walks right up to the next level. He's the guy to beat! The set up is bizarre and once again stretches the suspension of disbelief, but it does make for a good set up. With so many characters all gunning for the same thing, it makes me want to watch more. It gives us a clear path now that we are winding up season 2 and it gives us something to look forward too! Episode 24 We are still at war as everyone is still fighting it out for a shot at the GWM title and a million bucks at the Max Dome and GWM's War Game. There is a lot going on! Tiger the Dark's main goal is Yellow Devil. After a brief skirmish where Kevin saves Dark's ass, Dark finds him and start beating on him, even though Yellow Devil is not fighting back. We find out in a conversation with Miss X and her assistant Lady, that The Third was the one who ordered Yellow Devil be used in this match. That Tiger the Dark gets worked up when he sees Yellow Devil. I'm not the only one who suspects who The Third really is and that is a major plot reveal in that direction isn't it? Dark finally pins Yellow Devil and pulls off his mask.   Poor Mikasa once again. Poor guy just gets in way over his head. Speaking of, Dragon Young sneaks into the battle and scores a victory to ascend up to the next level of the fight and The Third. Feisty as Wakamatsu is, it doesn't go well.   The Third stays one step ahead as he goes on as the others fight to get to the second level. We don't see every individual advance but with The Third at the third level, Tiger, Tiger the Dark, Fukuwara, Kevin, Tanahashi, Okada, Naito are amongst those that get to the next level. Tiger and Fukuwara then get pins but as they are going to the next level, Tiger goes to save Tanahashi and Fukuwara fights The Third alone.  \ And they recognize each other?!? This is another of those plot points I really hope they expand on. Did they train together? Fight each other? Why does it seem like there is way more to Fukuwara mask than just comedy relief? The fight boils down to the Third and Naito and Tiger Mask and Tiger the Dark. Naito does a decent job and gets some offense in, but one brainbuster later and The Third goes on. Tiger gets part of his finisher in on Tiger The Dark, but Dark counters. With some help from Kevin, Dark gets the Dark Driver on Tiger Mask and ends his run to the surprise of EVERYONE. We get a break as Tiger the Dark recovers in the locker room as a lifeless Tiger Mask is carted away. Well, this certainly had action! A lot going on here but if you kept up with who was in what ring and level you did alright.  Sure, the concept is a far fetched one, but within its realm, this episode carried things out very well. I did not expect that ending and makes me want to see where this goes in the next episode. Like I've said before when this show is on track it is really good with the action and story, but it can go off the rails so easily. If they stay on point this could make for a fun season 2 finale. Episode 25 Wow. That's the best I can say about this episode. In the locker room as Tiger Mask regains consciousness. Fukuwara Mask and Haruna are there with him. During the conversation, Fukuwara Mask tells Tiger that The Third is Yellow Devil and Tiger reveals to him why he is after Yellow Devil. Tiger is pissed and goes to fight Yellow Devil but Fukuwara sternly tells him to sit down and Tiger the Dark won the right for this fight. In the other locker room Takuma is getting looked over and after a brief press conference, the Reporter tells him that the Yellow Devil of 3 years ago disappeared but that is when The Third arrived and that they are the same person. The match begins as Tiger asks The Third straight out if he was Yellow Devil. He challenges the Third for his Mask and the Third goes for it. Loser loses his Mask. Miss X doesn't want it to happen but The Third demands it. The match itself is about as you'd expect. Dark beats him for a while but it turns cut to be part of Third's plan. He uses Yellow Devil's moves on Dark and when he goes for the Devil driver (that injured Daisuke 3 years ago), Dark counters. However, it doesn't last long as the Third starts using different moves until he puts Dark's legs in a figure four and then picks him up and drives him down, breaking his legs and knocking him out. The Third rips Dark's mask off and he is revealed as Takuma to both Daisuke at home, and Tiger Mask in the stands. As he walks away The Third tells Miss X that he is actually the grandson of the original Tiger The Great from the original series and that when two tigers meet, the power is made clear of the winner. Meanwhile, as Takuma is being stretchered out, Tiger Mask runs up to him and tells him he is Naoto. Kevin then goes ballistic telling tiger Mask it was his fault that Tiger the Dark was hurt and he could have won if it wasn't for him. Takuma is whisked away in an ambulance as a crestfallen Tiger Mask stands alone.   This was an amazing show. It got to the point and didn't screw around. No more mystery and running around not knowing what is going on anymore. This is a great set up for a third season hopefully built around making Tiger Mask stronger in revenge against the Third for all he's done. Hopefully, it means the episodes fro here on in won't waste our time anymore.  
Tiger Mask W photo
The War Game!
We are nearing the end of the second season and it looks like The Third has emerged as the new power player for the GWM. Tiger the Dark is back on the active GWM roster and despite the ongoing goofiness of the relationship with Ruriko, Tiger Mask is still chugging along. As we get to another crucial point in the series, let's see where things go.

Annotated Anime: Tiger Mask W episodes 20-22

Mar 12 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 20  We are back to Hell in the Hole as the GWM willfully has their wrestlers kill each other to the delight of a bunch of rich people in a posh house. We pick up where we left off as Takuma (Tiger The Dark without his gear) and Kevin Anderson have teamed up against the veterans of Odin and Billy The Kidman. We are interrupted with more bullcrap concerning Naoto and Ruriko. Naoto visited Fuji in the hospital and Fuji tells Naito that not everyone in the hospital was thrilled with her as a nurse. Turns out her father is the hospital's director and while she wanted to help people, she is so well off she doesn't need to work at all. Naoto doesn't take it well for some reason as the thought of her being so well off makes him feel bad. Yeah, I don't entirely get it either. Anyway back to the real plot here as the four guys are squared off. Things are at a standstill when Red Death Mask shows up. He makes an interesting offer that whoever of the four to turn on their friend and join him would be spared and get te table while the other three would not. Odin freaks out and asks to join the masked man (whispering to Billy to trust him) and that... doesn't go well. Red Death Mask doesn't last much longer thanks to the other three, but neither does Billy the Kidman.  They are rewarded with bottled water and Protein powder to rest up for the final push that leads them to the house with all the rich people in it and The Gatekeeper, a 7-foot tall monster named Blackout. They retrieve the key from him, they get to escape the mountain. They learned very quickly that Blackout isn't entirely what he seems. Takuma and Billy try their best but Blackout just tosses them around like nothing. Odin comes back and he actually does some damage with part of the table Red Death Mask had and actually gets the key. Blackout then has him. Odin fights back with the prize he won earlier, a lighter and... Blackout goes full Terminator! He crashes into the house and immediately goes after EVERYONE! Serves them right. Odin signals for Takuma and Billy to follow him, but not before Takuma watches big mysterious tiger guy stop Blackout with a suplex. We finish things off with Takuma and Billy on a plane heading for Madison Square Garden (how specific) and we see and injured Odin return to his grain fields and his Catherine. This was a great way to conclude this story! I really enjoyed it. And while the Odin storyline was a little last minute, seeing the payoff was nice and I teared up a bit for the poor guy. It played out well and dare I say it was the best payoff to a story yet in the series. I'm not sure if it's the end for all the other GWM guys involved, but if it is, at least it ended well. Episode 21 After last week's episode where we had some storyline progression and an ending to "Hell in the Hole," I think things are off the rails again, especially bad since we are closing in on the end of the second season. We start out with a comparison to what the two kitties are up to. Tiger Mask W is in the main event of a New Japan show teaming with Tanahashi against Okada and Yoshi-Hashi. Tiger and Tanahashi win to the roar of the crowd. Meanwhile elsewhere Tiger The Dark and Kevin Anderson are in an opening match against the Metal Brothers. Wow, do those guys looks familiar! Dark and Kevin win to an anemic response and apathetic crowd. However, the real info to be gathered here is that the mysterious new Tiger guy is named "The Third" and he is the GWM World Champion. He wrestles in the main event again Bigfoot. Uninspired name aside, he looks like a discolored Kinnikuman villain. I can tell right now that NJPW will dressed some gaijin up in that getup and have him wrestle Kota Ibushi in the next live action tiger Mask W match. Mr. X then notifies Tiger the Dark and Kevin they will be going to Japan for the next tour and after Mr. X tells Miss X to make sure the Japanese takeover actually happens this time, The Third says he's going to Japan too. Once at the Max Dome, Dark accidently gets tagged in the face by Kevin during a sparring session and goes to see the doctor. The doc tells him to take off his mask so he can treat Takuma, and when he does Ruriko walks in and recognizes him as "The pudding guy" from when he visited Fujii. She swears not to spill the beans on Tiger the Dark's identity. Meanwhile, Haruna has a meeting with Miss X. X wants a full participation in the next tour, and in a funny bit Haruna jokes about it being for herself. Haruna asks for a raise for tiger and Miss X just gives it to her. Yeah, That's not how it works! We get more whining from Naoto about Ruriko before we get to the night's matches when Tiger the Dark is facing Mike Rodriguez. Miss X tells Kevin Anderson that Tiger the Dark needs to connect with the fans more or else he won't get any higher than where he is. That never stops Roman Reigns! *ba dum pish*. Takuma says the hell with that, if he beats Tiger Mask the fans will just follow him and that is that. Tiger Mask, on the other hand, is facing El Caracas, a GWM Luchador that was one of the guys the GWM snatched from The mother of Saboten from a few episodes back. Tiger wins the match, but just barely and with a Chicken Wing submission oddly. After the match tiger confronts Caracas in the locker room and tells him he needs to go back to Mexico and his home wrestling company. This gathers a crowd in the hallway, including Tiger the Dark who tells him off by saying the strong takes all and the weak lose. Tiger Mask comes back with that the man hiding under that tiger mask couldn't beat him. You kinda asked for that one Naoto. They of course fight, but it is broken up. We end with Miss X saying that this will help hype up their match in the next tour. Ugh. this one was all over the place with all kinds of storylines. It tried to establish way too much in a single episode and was like a hyperactive ferret that someone gave a ring of cars keys to. And worse of all is, even with all that, we still don't know half of what is going on. The one thing this episode did accomplish as if we didn't already figure out, is that Naoto is kind of a little bitch. He mopes and complains because his kinda girlfriend is way richer than he is, and then gets all preachy to a guy he has never even met. Considering Caracas's response, he is probably getting paid a lot more money than he would from that insane woman and he probably needs to money for a damn good reason. I'm going to give this stuff some time to see it play out since we've still got some episodes left to make things clearer.   Episode 22 This episode shows what seems to be the big trade off that shows itself in this series. We have a single clear story to be told. It is a nice story that plays itself out from beginning to end. The trade off? It's a filler episode that has jack all to do with the overall plot. It is a nice story don't get me wrong, but it is completely forgettable in the long run. This episode centers around Fukuwara Mask. The big guy is talking with the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce for a little town he likes to visit during his tours, but the town has fallen on hard times with all the shops closing and people leaving. So he comes up with the idea of holding a wrestling event called "The Fukuwara Wrestling Mishmash" and put up all kinds of posters for it. Too bad he hasn't actually asked anyone on those posters to be on the show. He basically cons Haruna by saying he knows about her being Spring Tiger and sweetens the deal with the fans voting for the MVP of the night getting 10 Million. So both Tiger Mask and Spring Tiger will be there. He then begs Yuji Nagata into getting some NJPW guys to go by promising to appear on the next tour for them. Later we see the few other wrestlers he has gathered along with them like The Candy Pair and Wakamatsu, along with a few other nameless shlubs. The guys hauling the ring are stuck in traffic, so Yuji calls up and has the IWGP ring rushed over instead. And you won't believe who is actually driving the truck! Tetsuya Naito and Evil?!? They have a weird thing with Naito as he shows up in the most random of times in this series, but this takes the cake. He is asked to be o the show, but he will only do so if he is in the main event. No problems there! We see some of the matches from the show. The Candy Pair (with Milk returning from her appendicitis from a few episodes back), take on Spring Tiger and some woman named Viper. Yuji Nagata and Wakamatsu taking on two unknown guys, and the main event of Tiger Mask and Fukuwara Mask taking on Naito and Evil. The match literally goes all over the place, but the good guys win out in the end. We wrap up with Haruna in a hot spring with the Candy Pair as she complains about Fukuwara winning the MVP of the night and the money by stuffing the ballot. Mint actually comes onto Haruna by saying she has a great body and should be a wrestler and little Haruna takes that with as much embarrassment that a comment like that would. Between that and feeling her up before Spring Tiger's debut, I'd say Mint has a thing for Haruna. Sure, this episode is pure filler. This won't lead to anything down the road. But damn if this was a fun little episode. This beat the Saboten luchador episode by a mile as it doesn't get too out there and keeps things believable. It's not trying to be something it's not. So while this is unimportant and filler, it is a nice episode to watch. The shows were enjoyable, but it showed the big weakness of the show. you either have clear stories being told, but completely useless, or you have muddled stuff where they cram in as much plot as they can into 20 something minutes. There really doesn't seem to be an end goal this season so we will have to see where all the meandering goes.
Tiger Mask W photo
We go to Hell and then a hot spring!
We are back as Tiger Mask W rolls on. The second season has been all over the place and doesn't seem to have much direction. Even though the plot advances in baby steps, we still get some storyline development. Naoto and Ruri...

Annotated Anime: Tiger Mask W episodes 17-19

Feb 20 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 17 Togi Makabe has a sweet tooth. That's it! Okay okay. I suppose I'll keep going. So it's fairly common knowledge to New Japan fans that Togi Makabe has a huge sweet tooth. This episode is devoted to that. As NJPW come into another town for their rural tour, everyone is running away from Makabe for some reason. Tiger and Haruna have no idea what is going on as Makabe shows up dragging Honma with him. Turns out he likes to go to the local sweet shops in the town's they are in and he blogs about it. Haruna likes the idea of stuffing her face so the four of them go into town looking for the town's local sweets. This is the whole episode folks. So it turns out that each place they go to, the restaurants are sold out of the thing Makabe blogged about. This goes on and on a bunch of times before one of the owners tells them that bunch of beefy foreigners bought all their desserts. Miss X's assistant randomly shows up, but the GWM aren't the ones buying up the desserts. At this point, I will mention this is the first real showing for Honma and it's actually hilarious. They animated him so it seems like in every scene he just looks completely lost and not knowing what is going on. His voice, though.. It is not accurate so much as you can actually understand what he is saying! It's close, don't get me wrong, but NOTHING compares to the sandpaper-scraped across a gravel road tones that come out of that man's mouth.   So after about 15 restaurants, we find out the culprits are: Yup. The Bullet Club has been eating all these sweets just to mess with him. This leads to a six-man match that turns out is being sponsored by a food company. The idea of getting a tableful of all the food he missed out on sends Makabe in a rage, meanwhile, The Bullet Club are all slow and fatigued from eating all these desserts all day. Things go about as you'd expect. I'm just surprised poor Kenny didn't just hurl all over himself after the match was over. And with Bad Luck Fale, how can you tell the difference?   Yeah, this was a filler episode that was more of an in-joke for Makabe than anything. The sheer goofiness of the episode and Honma's constant look of "huh?" redeems it a bit, but you aren't missing anything here. Episode 18 We finally get some payoff! Of course, it's one of the side plots but it's still some progress none the less. So Haruna has been working out in the gym behind everyone's backs because evidently in the Takaoka residence, no one tells each other anything. Haruna gets a call from her old friends, the Candy Pair: Mint and Milk. It seems the match where they were murdered against Queen and Payne, the American divas, got a lot of people talking and the fans want a rematch. I guess the Candy Pair are gluttons for punishment. Haruna goes to the arena to cheer on her friends when Milk is suddenly struck down with appendicitis and goes to the hospital. Mint can't find anyone to tag with and Miss X says there will be a penalty. Haruna then volunteers to be the partner. Despite the fact that she has never had a match or any formal wrestling training. When even Mint is worried about Haruna getting slaughtered she whips out a big surprise. THE HELL?!? How in the heck did bumbling little Haruna who couldn't even lift the weights or do anything without killing herself get SHREDDED that quickly? Again, stretching that suspension of disbelief like a rubber band holding a piano from an overpass.   So Haruna figures out that if old man Takaoka finds out, she dead meat. She actually has a handmade mask that she was going to market to female wrestling fans on her. She borrows Milk's outfit and calls herself "Spring Tiger".  I guess bringing up the "Tiger Dream" disaster wasn't going to happen huh? Anyway, Spring Tiger and Mint come to the ring to face Queen and Miss X?! Yup. Miss X decides to jump into this because she wanted to make things even (and also wants to kick Haruna's ass). So now we have two pros and two amateurs teaming up. This match should be a real stinker.   What the hell? Despite the fact that Haruna doesn't actually have any real wrestling training she starts cracking out a bunch of leg locks and holds on Miss X. At ringside Fukuwara Mask says that Spring tiger has an "old style" offense of going after the legs and then the arms. So did Takaoka actually train her at some point or not? Anyway the match isn't as terrible and sure enough, Haruna actually gets the first real victory over the GWM by whooping Miss X's butt. Afterward, we get a shower scene of Haruna and we see all the bruises she acquired in the match. How the heck is she going to cover that up? So while this had pretty much nothing to do with Tiger Mask (Tiger and Tiger The Dark were only briefly shown), it actually forwarded a plotline in the series. It's a really bizarre episode in the timeline of things, but I wonder if this story of Haruna becoming a wrestler will continue or not. Episode 19 Hell in the Hole time! So after talking about the subject for weeks, we finally start "Hell in the Hole" that the GWM trainers have been threatening all this time. The episode cuts in some other stuff to break things up, though. We find out that Takaoka expressly promised Haruna's mother he would never let her be a wrestler when he finds the article about Spring Tiger. We get several looks at a lunch date between Naoto and Ririko that really only shows the Max Done has a big shopping mall and a bunch of restaurants in it. I guess that explains why the building looks so much bigger than the 20,000 seat arena we were told about earlier. We go down to the base of the GWM mountain to find Takuma, Odin, and others in jail cells getting mail. We actually get a touching scene with Odin (who we find out is really named Henry) where he gets a letter from back home saying his family is worried that he hasn't had any matches on TV in a while. You feel bad for the guy.   But the real point of this episode is Hell in the Hole. The concept is actually fairly simple. GWM takes it failures and rejects and lets them loose on the side of the mountain. If they bump into each other and fight, the winner of the fight gets granted a weapon. If someone dies, so be it. They are racing up the mountain to meet a mysterious gatekeeper and to challenge them. Cameras are also following them so back at the base a bunch of rich people can make bets on who is going to survive and who is going out. We are introduced to the "party" and.... What the hell? Who is that? Is that Tiger King from the original show? What in the world is going on with this? Whoever he is, he seems to be in control of the whole thing, despite Mr. X being right there. I dunno. Anyway, we get introduced to the nine competitors: Black Python, Red Death Mask, Takuma (not wearing his Tiger the Dark gear), Kevin Anderson, Ricardo (The guy Takuma threw off the mountain in episode 1), Billy the Kidman, Odin, and two other shlubs named Cox and Phantom. A funny moment as they are introduced as Black Python and Red Death Mask are given big applause while Odin barely gets anything. Poor guy just can't get a break. This is the part where the series enters that violent and unnerving area again. Much like the match with Red Death Mask a number of episodes back, the show doesn't really pull any punches here either. They don't expressly say that guys are killed, but they come pretty damn close. It gets bloody in some parts as well. The episode finishes with four of the wrestlers left face off, much to the enjoyment of the rich bastards watching the whole thing.   This episode is much needed. After weeks of goofy filler episodes, we finally get down to some real plot and moving the story forward. We haven't seen much from the GWM side of things and Takuma has been overlooked in this series for a while. Hopefully, things start getting back on track.  But wait! We have real world Tiger Mask news as well! New Japan Pro Wrestling announced that on March 6, in Ota-ku, Tokyo (get it?) IWGP Champion Kazuchika Okada will face Tiger Mask W in the main event of the NJPW 45th anniversary show! Okada laid down the challenge after the Feb. 5 show. The match will be nontitle. And as an added bonus,there will be a"preview" on March 1, Okada will team up with his manager Gedo to face Tiger Mask W and Tiger Mask IV. For the first time, old school and new will team up in a real life ring!
Tiger Mask W photo
More filler than a three-hour RAW
Tiger Mask W seems to have an ongoing struggle with itself. It seems to keep coming off the rails more times than the mine cart in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It sometimes looks like the animators are entertaining t...

Crunchyroll Expo photo
Crunchyroll Expo

Holy Mackerel: Crunchyroll forms their own convention


Crunch and Roll Out
Feb 09
// Salvador G Rodiles
It looks like we're in for a big surprise this year since Crunchyroll gave birth to Crunchyroll Expo, the company's first convention. The neat thing about this news is that it coincided with the service reaching over a millio...

Annotated Anime: Tiger Mask W episodes 14-16 and more!

Jan 29 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 14 So here we are after the big reveal that Yellow Devil was not who everyone hoped he was. You would think this episode would be a big step into where things go next and in a way it is, just not in the direction I was expecting. On the GWM side of things, Takuma confronts Billy the Kidman on the plane about Yellow Devil. Billy is in rough shape in a hard neck collar, but Takuma roughs him up anyway. Turns out the Yellow Mask from 3 years before is a mystery and no one knows who he is or where he is now. Kevin has to pull Takuma off of Kidman. Later when Takuma and Kevin are going back to the Tiger's Den, Takuma explains the whole thing to Kevin. Once in the bottom of the mountain, Odin is overjoyed that the "great hope of the Tiger's Den" has failed and will be the tackling dummy for rookies now. Takuma decides to enter "Hell in the Hole" instead of rotting away down here. Kevin also signs up, and Odin finally does as well. Meanwhile, Miss X is having problems of her own. It seems that the GWM can't draw flies in their new arena and they are losing money FAST. In a conference with Mr. X. he tells her that she was only allowed to live after Tiger Mask won the tournament, but that it was time to exploit him to fill the arena. Later Miss X tells Tiger that he has to appear on the GWM cards or else he will have to pay a huge penalty. Sucks to be you, dude. Now, if this was all to the episode it would actually be interesting. Instead, that is only the first ten minutes. THE REST of the episode of is Naoto running around to go on a totally-not-a-date date with Ruriko, Daisuke's nurse at the hospital who wants to go see the matches at the Sumo Hall. So a majority of the episode is Naoto running around trying to avoid Haruna and wrestle (against Bad Luck Fale of all people) as well as be with Ruriko. This has 80s sitcom humor all over it and is just a waste of time. Why can't Naoto tell Haruna or even Takaoka that he is doing this is beyond me? Anyway, this all leads to Ruriko saying at the end of the night that she is leaving her job at the hospital, since it was a job her Father got her, and becoming a ringside nurse for the GWM at the Max Dome. So they spent almost an entire episode of bad romantic comedy just to set up that Ruriko and Naoto will be at the Max Dome together, but that Ruriko doesn't know that Naoto is Tiger Mask. Ummm okay. This episode did provide some good story points coming off the last episode. You at least know what both sides are up to, but the romantic stuff between Naoto and Ruriko really doesn't do anything for me. I'm hoping this isn't the main storyline for the rest of the season, but it looks like it will be a major one. Episode 15 Oh boy. This episode. This will stretch your suspension of Disbelief like a high tension rubber band. So the GWM has Tiger Mask bound to appear at the Max Dome, and it works to increase profits as having him on the bill sells out the arena in advance. Miss X holds a press conference to announce Tiger Mask's opponent and it is Bigfoot. Yeah. I think the animators got a little too fanciful with this one. He appears to be over 9 feet tall and demonstrates how awesome he is by cutting down a tree with only his grip. I'm sorry but this is stupid. Yeah, it's a cartoon I know, but up until now it has kept things largely very realistic (mostly) and didn't stretch things beyond the realm of the plausible. This crap pretty much kills it. They try to justify it by having a flashback later from the Original tiger Mask show by talking about Gorilla Man, but that doesn't really help. However, another announcement is made that plays into one of the other subplots. Remember the Divas match from the Masked World Tournament? Well, it seems those two women, Queen and Payne are now teaming up! They will compete for the first ever GWM Diva tag team title. Their opponents are The Candy Pair: Mint and Milk.   The differences are noticeable. What is also interesting here is that they actually say "divas" here instead of Joshi. After the conference is over, our favorite reporter asked Miss X about Tiger the dark and Miss X says he joined the "farm team" and goes on a spiel about how sometimes you lose everything after only one loss and how it makes you better building yourself back up. Back at the garage, Haruna is in awe of the women and tries to train by lifting weights. Of course, she puts to much weight on the bar and can't lift it.   At the arena, the show begins with Fukuwara Mask against Tiger the Dark's other running buddy Mike Rodriguez. Backstage Tiger Mask goes to check on Ruriko in the medical office, under the guess of wanting a roll of medical tape. She secretly tells Tiger she is rooting for him. I should also mention Mike hit on her right out of the medical office earlier, so she must be loving her new job. Haruna goes out and happens to come across the dressing room for the Candy Pair. She is amazed that they are fighting Americans on the GWM stage and they are only 20 years old. She might be impressed, but most Japanese women get into wrestling much younger than that so it's not THAT big of a deal.   Things don't go well for the Candy Pair. They pretty much get massacred. Haruna goes by their dressing room and they are crying. Ruriko and the doctor come by and eventually are let in. Makes you just want to dive in there and fight doesn't it Haruna? Tiger's match goes as you'd expect. You can only win by a knock out 10 count or "forfeit". I think they mean submission here as I've never heard of a match where you expressly have to win by not having the other guy show up. He does the smart thing by going for speed and technique against the big guy. But it turns out that Bigfoot has better stamina and can mat wrestle way more than anyone thought. Tiger overcomes the odds and Bigfoot well... you can make your own "A giant wrestler walks into a bar" joke here. This episode kept the subplots going that's for sure. I'm really not a fan of them stretching reality here with Bigfoot, but that's just me. The Haruna wanting to be a wrestler storyline has me wondering how it will pay off. At first, it just seems like a silly thing so we can get bits of Haruna trying to train and failing, but seeing the Candy Pair crushed like that makes me wonder if things are going to get more serious with that. The Ruriko storyline was there as well, but not nearly as dominant as last week's show. So if anything this episode had me wondering more than anything.  Episode 16 What the hell is this? Did I accidently get an episode of Ranma 1/2 or something? This episode may be funny but it is completely useless! The plot of this episode is that the New Japan guys are holding a show in some village in the middle of nowhere to a bunch of old people. Along for the ride is this woman who is a big shot Mexican promoter. She is trying to get Nagata to let her have Tiger Mask to go to Mexico. Evidently, GWM bought up all the big Mexican stars and Lucha Libre is suffering for it. Nagata explains that Tiger is freelance and that he has a manager. She literally kicks him in the junk for that. So promoter woman calls Haruna and works out a deal where he would go to Mexico for a one time match for 5,000. You can already guess where this is going since she doesn't exactly say 5,000 of what she is offering. Haruna thinks it's dollars and thinks they are getting $50,000 for one match. Haruna hops in her car and bolts right to the village only to find out it was 5,000 pesos or only 278 bucks. They then hatch out a wager that if Tiger loses the match tonight against the promoter's son, The Saboten, Tiger will have to do it but if Tiger wins, they get a vacation in Acapulco. While the other wrestlers are directed to the villages secret hot spring, Tiger and Haruna go explore the villages old school. Lucha manager directs her son to go follow Tiger and hurt him before the fight, but he is so stupid he hurts himself more than anything including falling out of a second-story window. Meanwhile, at the spring, We have peepers! It's the village's old ladies taking pictures! Nagata and the boys are about to have them arrested when the mayor of the village says they are taking pictures of the guys so that the ladies send them to women in other villages in the area so that they bring their husbands to the show. With that, every is willing to pose for pics. And if the idea of a septuagenarian taking a cell phone pic of Bad Luck Fale in nothing but a towel makes you vomit in your mouth a bit, you aren't alone. As if I'm expecting anything other than lunacy at this point, Tiger and Saboten have their match. It's as insane as you should expect at this point as Tiger is attacked before the bell but quickly regains control. Mexican promoter lady then attacks Tiger and gives her son a cactus (WTF?!?) to use. He sticks his own mother in the ass with it and she flips out and chases him out the door. Saboten is counted out and Tiger wins as all the old people throw money and seating pads in the ring like a sumo match. Even Tiger Mask himself wonders why we have this episode. Yeah, this episode is complete filler and has absolutely no effect on the story at all. That being said it was funny in a slapstick kind of way. This feels like a typical anime troupe type of episode for yuks than anything else. Completely passable. Well, this batch of episodes was completely all over the place. They may be setting up things for down the road but that hot spring episode really makes me think they are killing time and stumped on ideas. If this kind of inconsistency keeps going, it's going to be a long road for the rest of the 39 episodes. Bonus Match! We go to the real life Tokyo Dome for this match from WrestleKingdom 11 on January 4, 2017. Since this match won't be shown on AXS TV, We are covering it here instead. This match kicked off the big show and we have ROH's Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino calling the action for us. TV Animation Special Match: Tiger Mask W vs. Tiger the Dark Tiger the Dark makes his way out first. We get a Crunchyroll plug from Kevin Kelly as he tries to explain how good the show is, even explaining Tiger the Dark's backstory accurately. The man under the mask is no big secret here as it is former Ring of Honor star ACH, who not only is a huge anime fan but also used to dress like Goku and Luffy for some of his matches. While to us fans this might not look like the best spot in the world, he is kicking off the biggest show of the year and gets to cosplay from a show he probably watches. So he is probably in hog heaven right now. Tiger Mask W comes to the ring first and he is accompanied by Suzuko Mimori, the voice of Haruna on the show. She is cosplaying Haruna here. Steve Corino talks about him and his 3-year-old son watching this show. Steve also puts in that the two men under the Masks will give it their all, even if the moves aren't the same from the show. I've heard that Kota complained about the Mask he wore when he wrestled as Tiger Mask last time and it does appear the mask has been redone slightly. The Bell rings and we are off! Tiger with a headlock and he gets shot off into the ropes and gets a shoulderblock. He hits the ropes again, Dark with a leapfrog and gets in and armdrag to take Tiger down. Tiger gets in an armdrag of his own and then both guys go for dropkicks at the same time. They both kip up and we have a staredown to the applause of the Tokyo fans. As they circle around Kevin explains how Haruna calls herself Tiger's manager and that Steve Corino should check out Miss X on the show. "Why is that? I'm a married man?". Dark gets Tiger in the corner and hits a strike before trying to whip Tiger. Tiger tries the reverse but Dark comes out with a backflip into a dropkick. Tiger slides outside to ringside and Dark crisscrosses the ring before launching himself into a backflip and clears the top rope before crashing down on Tiger! Dark throws Tiger back in the ring and tries for a cover but only gets two. Kevin makes a quick plug for Tiger Mask W's second season as Dark picks Tiger up and hits a chop. Corino mentions that both these guys are trained professionals ("Maybe even well known, we don't know.") and still want to win. Dark lands a spinning forearm and goes for a clothesline, but tiger ducks and lands another sweet dropkick. Dark goes stumbling out of the ring. Not a good place to be in this match!  Tiger points to the heavens before launching off a moonsault from the middle turnbuckle to Dark on the floor! Big applause for that! Tiger rolls dark back in the ring at the count of 14 and goes right for the pin. He gets 2. As they stand up Tiger launches into a lightning quick palm thrust and kick combination that literally wows the crowd. With Dark seated Tiger goes for a swinging kick and a standing moonsault, but Dark gets the knees up. Dark tries to get Tiger in the Dark driver but Tiger resists. He instead locks tiger into the Dark lock instead. Both Kevin and Steve mention both moves as favorites of Tiger the Dark in the show. Tiger tries to power out of it, but Dark gives a shot to the ribs before releasing the hold. Dark runs in and Tiger counters quickly by scooping Dark up for the tombstone, but Dark reverses it and nails the dark driver! He goes for the pin but only gets 2. Tiger is the dark is SHOCKED! As Kevin Kelly goes over all the cameos you will see in the series, Dark is left scrambling before he snatches Tiger up for a double underhook suplex but Tiger counters out and gets Dark into a waistlock. Dark wiggles out and goes for a clothesline but Tiger ducks it and locks in a full nelson before switching into a waistlock again and nails the German suplex! Dark gets up and Tiger grabs him in a double chicken with for the tiger Suplex! pin attempt only gets two. Tiger picks him up again in the double underhook and lifts him up. He then picks Dark up real high and hits the Tiger bomb and gets the 3 count! Tiger Mask W wins! "So the light shines bright here in Tokyo dome."- Kevin Kelly. These guys were in a bit of a tough spot here. They were the opener for this huge show and essentially went out there to promote a cartoon more than anything. they didn't get a huge amount of time, but in the end, both guys made the most of it. NJPW really put an effort into this as not only did the wrestlers themselves know how to go with the moves from the show, but the broadcasters genuinely sounded like they knew what they were talking about. I think it was a great job on all parts, and better than anything the WWE would have done in a similar situation. This was no comedy match or crapfest with fans booing it to death. This was fun and entertaining while still doing its job. Good match from everyone.
Tiger Mask W photo
Real life Tiger Mask as well!
We are back with the second season of Tiger Mask W. The big match between Tiger Mask and Yellow Devil ended with disappointment for Naoto as well as Takuma as their quest for revenge hits a roadblock. Where do we go from here? Let's see!

Annotated Anime: Tiger Mask W episodes 11-13

Jan 09 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 11 If you love training videos then this is the episode for you! This episode takes place just after last week's show has ended. Tiger has a week until his next round match against Tiger the Dark and he needs to come up with a new killer move. Wakamatsu and Tanahashi invite him to train at the NJPW dojo, which Tiger agrees too. This pisses off Takaoka who is so old school he talks about a bodyslam or keylock being a killer move once. Anyway, most of the episode is literally a commercial for New Japan as both Tanahashi and Okada (where has he been this whole time?) take turns beating the crap out of Tiger Mask at the New Japan Dojo. I have to admit the animators must have made a trip to the Tokyo building because they get the inside of the training hall scary accurate! Kudos to them for that. Another interesting point in all this is a random appearance of Tetsuya Naito. He doesn't play a part in the story and is only on for a few minutes, telling Tiger Mask to chill out and Tranquillo and that's it. That was... useless. What the hell was the point of that? Unless Los Ingobernalbes show up to help Tiger Mask beat Tiger the Dark there was no point to this cameo at all. It literally would have made more sense to have Nagata, Fukuwara Mask or hell, even Gorilla Jeet Sign show up here more than that! After his time at the gym, Tanahashi and Wakamatsu take Tiger to a waterfall to stand under, with Tanahashi saying it was something Hirooki Goto did to find his finisher, to which Wakamatsu said that it was to collect himself when he lost to Okada. Either way, Hirooki Goto hasn't even appeared on this show so unless you are a fan of New Japan wrestling, it will just fly over your head. Outside of watching Tiger get his clock cleaned a number of times and pointless mentions and cameos, We see what the GWM guys are doing with their training! It's all atmosphere and pressure chamber space age technology with them as it's just like the training montage from Rocky IV. Tiger the Dark wants to be just as strong as Yellow Devil. We also see Takuma go to the hospital where his father is, but he still can't face him so he leaves some pudding with the nurse and leaves. His father figures out where the pudding from his hometown came from and tries to go after Takuma but he is still wheelchair bound. This episode flat out was not very good. It seemed more like an advertisement from NJPW and its top wrestlers more than anything that really advanced the plot. Nothing here couldn't have been accomplished in a 2-minute flashback and didn't need to be played out like this. Total skippable episode. Episode 12 It's time for the next match as the semifinals of the masked world tournament are tonight. However Tiger is still training with Tanahashi to try and get his new finishing move down at the NJPW gym. I can't say this is a good idea, but this is anime and that changes things. We even get a little bit of Haruna training at the home gym a little bit as she is toying with the idea of becoming a wrestler. The training bag ends up hitting her and knocking her down to the floor. The big show starts promptly at 3 pm and Tiger Mask, Dragon Young, and It's-The-Ace are not there. Tonight's matches are an opener of a couple of jobbers, Ken Anderson and Mike take on Poseidon and Dragon Young, and the two semifinals. Tiger and his buddies don't show up until the opening match is just ending so poor Poseidon is standing there just as his partner shows up (in a cab no less) and they run to the ring and promptly lose because they keep hitting each other. They then start fighting. Umm, okay. Yellow Devil and It's-The-Ace are up next and no surprise that Tanahashi does more damage to Yellow Devil than anyone else. Were you expecting any different? But since NJPW is producing this, Tanahashi loses without actually being pinned or submitted because screw you that's why! When your main villain of the season can't be bothered to pin a dude, that doesn't really look all that great when the final happens does it? Tiger Mask and Tiger the Dark finally go at it. It is actually really disappointing as the match really isn't much to talk about. Tiger the Dark unveils his own new special move, a modified Octopus hold, and Tiger nearly passes out. But Haruna had invited Daisuke and the nurse to watch the show! They arrive just in time and not only does this revive Tiger, but Tiger the Dark freaks out, as you could imagine. It doesn't help that Daisuke is cheering for Tiger Mask and not him. Well, stupid, if you'd actually face you father and tell him what you are doing this wouldn't have happened now would it? Anyway, Tiger Mask unveils his new move, which is a flying knee to the face. Seriously, he got his ass kicked by NJPW's guys, stood in a waterfall, and got jabbed at with sticks on fire just to come up with a flying cartwheel knee to the face. This doesn't put Tiger the Dark down, it just splits open his old scar from Yellow Devil and pisses him off. Dark goes to retaliate but just passes out from the blood loss and Tiger Mask wins. This episode was disappointing. It still was able to hit some plot points but man it was like the match with the two tigers was just an afterthought. That match should have taken WAY more of the episode instead of messing around with all the extra crap. This episode wasn't a total disaster, but I would have done this one a whole lot differently. Episode 13 It's now time for the finals of the Masked World Tournament. But first, it's time for a women's match for no particular reason! Yup. GWM puts on a women's match right before the finals, proving that even in an anime, women matches get the death spot on a card. It's kind of weird as the subtitles refer to it as a "divas" match while you clearly hear them say "Joshi". Both describe a women's wrestling match but have much different connotations. Divas was the term the WWE used for women wrestlers but did away with at Wrestlemania last year as many of the women found it demeaning. Joshi conjures up images of the AJPW women's dojo and beating the tar out of 15-year-old girls before throwing them in the ring. Seriously, look up some vids online of that place. Scary. The only point for this is that originally they were supposed to go 30 minutes, letting Yellow Devil and Tiger Mask rest before the fight, but Miss X shortens it to 10 minutes. They don't actually explain it, but the idea is that Tiger Mask just got done a fight while Yellow Devil is sitting back relaxing. As this match is going on Tiger Mask is PISSED. He yells at Hikari going to his dressing room when she tries to get some questions. Turns out that in the match with Tiger the Dark, he actually screwed up his new big move and that kneeing him in the skull was an accident. Botchamania time for Tiger Mask! Meanwhile, Yellow Devil brings up a good point to Miss X, saying a fighter's top fear is the unknown. He then shows that he is not known for his headbutt but will use it against Tiger. The women's match ends with both unconscious on the mat, with them only going 5 minutes meaning not only does Tiger have to turn around and go back out there, but that the GWM needs to stick their women fighters to some endurance training. Tiger Mask and Yellow Devil start the match and Tiger is ready to kill right out of the bell. He tries for big moves like a tombstone but nothing is working. Yellow Devil is just tossing Tiger around before tossing him out of the ring. Tiger gets so furious he dents the metal barrier outside. Daisuke, Takaoka, Haruna, and Fukuwara Mask all notice Tiger is mad and tells him to calm down (THIS would have been a good Naito reference with Tranquillo). Tiger finally calms down and gets back in. It's around this point that Tiger The Dark wakes up and staggers out to watch the fight too. The match sequence is actually pretty good. Much better than the Tiger the Dark fight. Tiger counters Devil's moves but Devil has had enough of that and strangles Tiger with a choke and then headbutts him so hard Tiger starts bleeding. Daisuke freaks out saying that this isn't the Yellow Devil he knows. Everyone else freaks out as Yellow Mask damn near killed Tiger. Devil picks Tiger back up and goes for the choke and headbutt again but Tiger has a mental episode and counters it. He gets Devil back in the corner and finally hits his move correctly to knock Devil out and win the match. It's a corner cartwheel into a lung blower and monkey flip. I'd stick to the knee to the face. He grabs Yellow Devil and we find out that the masked man wasn't who everyone thought it was, pissing tiger off immensely. As he walks to the back in disgust, Tiger the Dark realizes that Tiger Mask is after Yellow Devil as well. After a couple of duds, this was a good episode. The women's match part of it wasn't the greatest, but they delivered in the actual meat of the episode. Since this was the finale of Season 1 (of 3) I wondered what this show would do. They had a climax with plenty of reason to keep watching (as good wrestling should). Not only does Tiger keep fighting, but a seed has been planted between Tiger and Tiger the dark now that they have a common goal.
Tiger Mask W photo
The climax of the tournament
We are back at it with the further adventures of Tiger Mask W after a holiday break. We are at the end of the first season and the GWM's Masked World tournament is in it's second round so let's get started with the action!

Review: Kaiju Girls

Jan 05 // Salvador G Rodiles
Kaiju GirlsStudio: Studio PuyukaiViewed On: CrunchyrollPremiere Date: September 27, 2016 As a person who’s still new to the Ultra franchise, I found the anime staff’s depiction of some of the giant monsters to be faithful to the original creatures. For example, the anime manage to capture Pigmon’s cute characteristics that make it one of the series’ friendliest beasts. This acts as a neat reward for viewers who’re familiar these monstrosities. At the same time, it contributes to the idea that many of these life forms have their own set of instincts. While Kaiju Girls’ depiction of the monsters as cute ladies is one of its strengths, the show doesn’t do much to take advantage of its ideas. Even though the show’s premise involves a group of called GIRLS that trains women with the souls of large monsters to protect people, the program fails to do anything grand with this concept. Instead, the title focuses on the everyday lives of three heroines who’re based on the Capsule Monsters from Ultra Seven, the third show in the Ultra franchise and the second Ultraman installment. For the most part, the staff’s decision to focus on the daily life of girls with giant monster souls worked decently. The idea of Windom being a closet fujoshi who envies Eleking, another otaku Kaiju Girl, lead to some cute moments that brought a smile to my face, and Pigmon’s tendency to be a cute person while giving off a serious authoritative presence was enough to make me giggle. Even though this format was entertaining at times, most of the skits were hit or miss. The episodes that featured fight scenes fell flat since the show’s three-minute episode timeframe didn’t give Kaiju Girl’s conflicts the chance to shine, such as the Shadow Monsters and the ladies with monster souls who went berserk. Since the series’ strengths lied in its skits between the girls, the story outside of the Capsule Monsters’ training and everyday life segments were weak at times, as they didn’t appear until the show was nearing its end. In any other Ultra show, these sorts of moments might’ve worked, but in a series of small shorts, you need more time to flesh things out. Of course, the cast’s hard work in making the girls sound like cuter versions of their original monster counterparts was one of the primary elements that helped make a few of Kaiju Girls’ segments entertaining. Sora Tokui (Milky Holmes series’ Nero, Is the order a rabbit? series’ Maya) gave off the right tone to make Pigmon sound adorable while showing her authority as one of GIRLS’ leaders, and Yurika Endo (Ace of Diamond series’ Haruno, Sakura Trick’s Rina) contributed to making Windom’s closet otaku personality seem funny. Since Kaiju Girl’s main focus is on the dialogue and the cast’s characteristics, the show doesn’t take advantage of the gang’s powers. The only elaborate part is the magical girl-like transformation sequence where each character is shown in a full-body design when they tap into their monster souls. For the most part, it’s a simple show that aims to bring amusement with the chibi girls’ expressions and the voice actress’ performances. Even though Kaiju Girls doesn’t complement the Ultra franchise’s tendency to feature ridiculous wrestling moves between a Giant of Light and a huge monster, Studio Puyukai uses the show’s simplicity to bring us something that could bring a smile to many folks. Each character almost showcases the right personality that complements their specific monster soul, and it works as a neat spinoff where the Ultra Warriors aren’t the star of the show. Unfortunately, some of the skits can be hit or miss, and the series’ major conflicts are a bit of a letdown; however, the title’s small episode timeframe might be enough for some folks who’re in the mood for some cuteness in short bursts— especially if they’re familiar with the Ultra franchise’s giant monsters and aliens. [This review is based on a streamed version of the series viewed by the reviewer at personal expense.]
Kaiju Girls photo
Unleash your inner Monster Soul
When it comes to tokusatsu franchises branching out into other mediums, I’m always open for these types of ideas since they can pull off things that could be hard to pull off in a live-action series. In this case, Tsubu...

Annotated Anime: Tiger Mask W episodes 8-10

Dec 12 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 8 This episode really was a mixed bag of a few things. Each of its points actually had a purpose, but it just put a lot of them to you as a viewer for a single episode. Think of it like one of the episodes of wrestling either right before or right after a big show where it has lots of storylines to give you. The first part of this episode is delving into Naoto's past before he became a wrestler. Naoto and Haruna visit Daisuke in the hospital and then on the way to the matches he shows Haruna that he had been living in a temporary relief shelter when he lost his home and family in an earthquake. We then see flashbacks of a younger Naoto begging Daisuke to train as a wrestler. We get to see him getting the rough treatment and meeting Takuma for the first time. It's a nice bit of background, but at this point do we need it? The next part of the episode shows us what Naoto and Takuma are both up to. Akuma and his two friends as training in a ring  (inside a cage, inside a CAVE) beating on poor Odin. Seems this is where he ended up, as a sparring partner. Miss X tells them they will be part of the big tournament in Japan. Odin begs her for mercy. She tells him she will relent only until after he competes in "Hell in the Hole" whatever that means. Sounds kinda dirty. Odin freaks out about "the Hole".  Meanwhile, Tiger Mask is competing in a NJPW show. He and Tanahashi are teaming up against... aw crap... Yup. Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale. The match is short and the good guys win, earning a tag title shot at the next big show.  Not much else to report here really. We see what both Tigers have been up to and setting the stage for the tag title shot. We then finally get to the main point. the GWM announces their new Japanese arena, the Max Dome, and the GWM Masked World Tournament. Tiger the Dark will be there, so will European champion Wagner, and Yellow Devil. Miss X opens it up to any masked wrestler to take part. Naoto wants to compete, but GWM schedules it at the same time as NJPW's show. The NJPW guys aren't happy about this either. Nagata, Okada, Wakamatsu. and Tanahashi, see this and want no part of it. There is actually a really funny line as Nagata tells the other wrestlers to tell "Liger" (referring to NJPW legend Jushin "Thunder" Liger) they are not participating. Someone then asks about "Captain" (The wrestler formally known as Captain New Japan now as Bone Soldier) and Nagata answers "He wouldn't go even if I told him too." BURN! As soon as that's agreed on Tiger Mask shows up and says he can't make the Tag Title match because he will be in the tournament instead. The NJPW guys aren't happy but Tiger has made up his mind. They all silently understand so they don't bust his chops too badly. The episode seems to bounce around a bit but we have a clear goal in sight. The Masked World Tournament seems to be the finale of the first part of this series (it was announced this show has 39 episodes). So while it touched on a lot of things, they all seemed to be gearing towards that in some way. So it didn't focus on the action, but it did serve the purpose of setting things up. Episode 9 It's tournament time! This episode, unlike many of the ones from this series, focuses on the single point of the big World Masked Tournament the GWM is putting on in their new Max Dome. We see the announcement of the eight participants. Tiger Mask is entered, along with Fukuwara Mask. Yuji isn't pleased to hear that, but it turns out Yuji didn't bother to make him an offer not to enter. Yellow Devil, Tiger the Dark, and Wagner are also entered. Rounding out the field are a wrestler named Poseidon, and two goofballs named "Oriental Magic" Dragon Young and  "The Japanese Trump Card" It's-The-Ace. Ya know, I've been accused of being a cynical wrestling fan but those guys look REALLY familiar. Leading up to the afternoon show, We see some minor stuff like Tiger Mask and Fukuwara Mask chumming together at the arena, Fukuwara, and Haruna not being allowed to sell their merch because they aren't GWM talent, and we find out the European Champion is just Tiger The Dark's running buddy Kevin Andersen and Wagner is just made up. Miss X comments it happens all the time.  The big show kicks off with a fan making the "random" draw for the tournament. Tiger the Dark vs. Fukuwara Mask,  Tiger Mask vs. Wagner, Poseidon vs.  It's-the-Ace,  Dragon Young vs. Yellow Devil. If you don't see how this bracket will work out on the next few episodes, then I suggest you go back to the recap of the first episode and start this over again. We get to the action and the first match between Tiger the Dark and Fukuwara Mask doesn't last very long. Tiger Mask makes his entrance for his match and Wagner... isn't there? That doesn't make much sense. Someone ELSE arrives and lays down the challenge to Tiger Mask instead.   Evidently, he is Mister Question, a character from the original show who wants to see if this new Tiger Mask is up to snuff. Okay, kind of random. Wagner finally shows up and he is pissed, but Mister Question quells that argument rather quickly.   Finally, we have a straightforward path in this series, maybe a little too straightforward, but at least we know where we are going and hopefully there won't be a lot of filler anymore. Even though you kinda know how this will play out, I still feel compelled to watch and see how they get there.  Episode 10 The tournament continues! We pick up where we left off with the last episode. Tiger Mask is staring down his new opponent in the tournament, Mister Question. As the match begins we see that Mister Question is no ordinary guy, and I don't mean the white bell-bottomed suit with a turban as part of his mask. It appears he is super flexible.   Like REALLY flexible. Did a Kinnikuman villain walk onto the wrong show? Fukuwara Mask jumps in on commentary and explains that Mister Question is from India, and India is known for Yoga. Anyway as the match progresses, Tiger seems at a loss. Miss X then tells Mister Question that he would be rewarded for taking out Tiger Mask, but he turns that down flat. He's not in this for the money and glory. Miss X is not amused. Tiger is about to get beat when he sees something that fires him up.   After the match ends Mister Question says he will tell Tiger who he is later. Meanwhile, we get the next match of Poseidon vs. It's-the-Ace. There is no question who It's-The-Ace is and the show doesn't even try to hide it. The match ends predictably and in the locker room we find out that Poseidon was actually Mikasa, The former Jinpang wrestler who was Odin's original opponent in episode 1. During the match though we get a meeting backstage between Tiger Mask and Mister Question. The gist of the meeting is that Tiger can't beat the GWM the way he is now, and the man from India tells Tiger he needs to develop a new killer finisher, just like the original Tiger Mask did after the original Mister Question broke Tiger's original finisher. Guess that's Tiger's next goal.  We get to the final match of the first round as Dragon Young faces Yellow Devil. This goes about as well as you'd expect. Poor Wakamatsu doesn't stand a chance and it's over quick. We get an announcement that the next round is next week and that is pretty much it. The second round has Yellow Devil facing It's-The-Ace and Tiger Mask and Tiger the Dark in the other match. This episode was clear and straightforward, a lot less meandering around as some of the episodes been this season. The big reveal of Mister Question isn't exactly anything worth noting but it does play into the storyline. I don't see this as the most noteworthy or best episode so far, but at least you could see where they were going with the story. So with these episodes, we are seeing the climax of the first season starting to take shape. We have a goal and a path to get there. We've seen the villain and he is a rough dude. The next few episodes should be a lot of fun!
Tiger Mask W photo
We finally have some direction
The adventures of Tiger Mask W continues here as we look at the next batch of episodes from the series. So far we've had some ups and downs as far as episodes go but so far I've been enjoying it. Where do we go now? Let's find out!

Kiss Him, Not Me photo
Kiss Him, Not Me

Kiss Him, Not Me : Fangirling, Feels and Boys' Love


Who are you shipping?
Dec 06
// Karishma Roy
Kae Serinuma, the protagonist of Kiss Him, Not me, is a fujoshi – a term that describes female fans of any media (anime, manga, light novels) that depicts romance between gay men. She constantly fantasises about the hot...
Crunchyroll photo
Crunchyroll

WWE and Crunchyroll tag team up for slamming savings


Best team since Sonny and Cher
Nov 22
// Soul Tsukino
The WWE and Crunchyroll have paired up for the best internet streaming deal of the season. By taking advantage of this special deal you can sign up for both the WWE Network and a Crunchyroll account for $19.98 and you get both for 3 months!

Annotated Anime: Tiger Mask W episodes 5-7

Nov 16 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 5 This seems like a tale of two kitties. The big thing about this episode is that despite the complete BLOODBATH that occurred in the last episode. It's completely ignored. Wakamatsu getting his skull crushed and then ran into the ring post? He's perfectly fine! Tiger Mask bleeding worse than the infamous Muta scale match with Hiroshi Hase (look it up on YouTube if you aren't squeamish)? Nope, he's all good. I know Japan is known for wrestlers not selling big moves but C'mon! Anyway, the big story point here is that Tiger Mask has joined New Japan Pro Wrestling officially. Before his first match, he runs into Fukuawara Mask. An odd trickster type character who bares a striking resemblance to real life wrestler Ebbasan from about ten years ago. We see Fukuwara mask wrestle Wakamatsu in a match and totally trick Wakamatsu in getting carted out. Tiger Mask ends up fighting Tomoaki Honma.. and of course, pins him after Honma misses the Kokeshi headbutt. Well, give the producers points for accuracy there! At a different arena, the GWM is having a show. Tiger the Dark crushes some guy and it turns out things are not united with the GWM wrestlers. Seems the vets don't like how a newcomer like Tiger the Dark is dominating his opponents, especially the main guy Bosman. It is now apparent that Tiger The Dark (Takuma), Kevin Andersen, and Mike are an island unto themselves in the GWM. This leads to both Tigers being in different battles royal (the proper way to plural battle royal according to Gordon Solie). Tiger the Dark draws number one in a royal rumble style where a new man enters the ring every few minutes (facing 18 nobodies and Bosman) and Tiger Mask is in a regular battle royal where we see Okada, Wakamatsu, Honma, Ishii, Fukuwara Mask, Makabe, and Nagata as an in-ring competitor. They are fighting it out for...rice. Seriously, the biggest wrestling names in Japan are fighting over rice. This episode is short on story. Other than having Tiger Mask join NJPW, there isn't a lot of exposition here. It is a much lighter episode than the last one, but they pretty much ignore everything that happened in that episode too. No healing, no revenge, no nothing. Really detracts from the flow of the series.  Hopefully, this branches into something bigger. Episode 6 Straight up, this episode makes little sense and is so not important to the story it seems to be spoofing itself. So now that he has joined NJPW Tiger Mask's next opponent is Gorilla Jeet Singh. A scimitar wielding psychopath that barely speaks any decipherable language and grunts a groans a lot. Of course, this is a spoof of Tiger Jeet Singh, a wrestler originally from the Punjab (later living in Canada) who was recruit by Antonio Inoki to play a foreign bad guy against him in the '70s, despite not having a whole lot of actual wrestling skill. He would run to the ring carrying a fencing saber and attack fans in the crowd. He wrestled (brawled would be more accurate) for over 30 years, most of it in Japan. Anyway in the lead up to the fight, NJPW is going to have "the next generation of Idol singers" sing a song before the fight. These two little brats are Nama Ham and Yaki Udon, you know their names because they say it constantly and speak in the third person. They hate wrestling and even send out a message on their website about how they were tricked into doing the show. They arrive in the ring for the show and the women wrestling fans damn near boo them out of the building and throw trash at them in the ring. What does any of this have to do with the plot of the series? Red Shoes, got any ideas? Yup. That sums up my feelings on this one. Tiger Mask fights the guy, and the only good thing out of this episode is Gorilla signs voice acting. It is hilarious. One the other hand, the idol singers look and sound awful. I still can't figure out if they just act that way to get attention, they are trying to "play heel", or if they really are as big of brats as they sound. They also both sound, and are animated to look like they are 30 years old. Short and sweet, you can skip this episode completely and you won't lose a thing. Episode 7 This episode was titled "Naoto and Naoto" and promised to be something more about the original Tiger Mask anime. Did it live up to its promise? This episode thankfully has way more purpose than the last episode did. It does have a lot going on with more than one storyline at work in this episode. There is a lot of mention of the past, but it isn't the sole story being told here. Tiger Mask and Haruna are in Okinawa for a New Japan wrestling show. The Main Event is Tiger Mask and Yuji Nagata facing Okada and his CHAOS buddy Yoshi Hashi. But before any of that, we see the reporter  Hikari digging around in some archive and then asking a distracted Haruna for an interview with Tiger Mask. The interview is very brief. Hikari tells the story of the original Tiger Mask to him and asks if he is from the Tiger's Den, if he is related to Tiger Mask, and why use the name. He answers he is not from the Den, not related to Naoto Date, and he answers that she should be able to find out why he took the Tiger Mask name on his own. This episode also gave us some background on the bad guy side of things as well. In a follow-up from two episodes ago, Tiger the Dark gets his shot at the GWM US title, thanks to winning the battle royal. He is facing off against Bosman (in the "Kow Bell" arena in Texas) and beats him for the belt. His rookie buddies Kevin and Mike congratulate him backstage \and soon the other wrestlers do too. Bosman is demoted to indy shows and Miss X is called to Mr. X's office. He then explains the story of the original Tiger Mask from their side of things. Original Tiger Mask beat the then top executive of the company Tiger The Great, and nearly sank the organization, leading to the original Mr. X to die is despair. He doesn't say how he became Mr. X or how Miss X got to where she is, but between this and the earlier scene, it does get us up to speed a bit on what has happened since the original show. The other ongoing plot here follows an old street vendor and his granddaughter. The old guy is banged up after a drunken argument over wrestlers being stronger than karate guys. This leads to him seeing an ad about the new Tiger Mask wrestling and he thinks it's the original. His granddaughter follows him to the show, and it's her first wrestling event. She's enthralled but the old guy is skeptical of anyone using the Tiger Mask name. He watches the main event and starts having flashbacks when he sees Tiger Mask use the back suplex just like the original did. Like I said earlier, this episode had a clear purpose of linking the shows together, and it worked. However, it didn't take the clear path to do it, and that's good in this case. An episode like this in most other shows would literally be two characters talking with a mountain of flashbacks and not much else going on, but this show not only breaks things up with stuff going on like Tiger the Dark winning the title and The tag match, but we even got to see the events of the original from both perspectives of the story. And look who also shows up? Speaking of the flashbacks, I give credit because they did these scenes perfectly. The flashback scenes were animated to look as close to anime in the early '70s as possible. The animators here did an amazing job with the retro style in these scenes and I believe having that distinction really made the flashback scenes work. Big Kudos for doing that. So this was easily a much better and more productive to the story episodes than the last one. It had a purpose and fulfilled that, and didn't take the easiest road to do it either. Hopefully, this means we are back on track after going off the rails a bit. Overall These eps were a mixed back. Episode 5 was alright, but a let down after the bloodfest of the previous episode. Episode 6 is a totally skippable wash, but Episode 7 gets it right. Fight On Tiger Mask! [Catch Tiger Mask W on Crunchyroll.]
Tiger Mask W photo
The good, the bad, and the kitty
Heya Japanator readers! Welcome to our look at the Tiger Mask W anime with episodes 5-7. When we last saw our hero, Naoto, under the mask of Tiger Mask, he got the crap beaten out of him but was able to defeat Red Death Mask in the end. Meanwhile, Tiger the Dark is being overlooked. Ley's see what happens next!

First Impressions: March comes in like a lion episodes 1-3

Oct 29 // Red Veron
March comes in like a lion introduces us to Rei Kiriyama, a teenage professional Shogi player who happens to be really good at it. Though that setup sounds like he has it good but he has no real family and very few friends. The show starts out pretty quiet and a bit dreary when we first meet Rei. He lives by himself in a new town where he just moved to and lives a rather lonely existence in his apartment with a nice view of the river. The first episode begins as we follow him as he starts his day and he goes to a shogi match. As we get to know more of Rei, we find that his life isn't all bad but not exactly perfect. Rei is in that self-discovery part of his life (like most teens his age), trying to find his place in the world and figuring things out. These things are explored as Rei plays shogi, the one thing Rei is good at, which makes Rei feel conflicted with each win he makes takes something away from someone else. The second half of the first episode has a dramatic shift in tone that really came out of nowhere. Everything did feel dreary and sad but once that shift in tone happnes, I felt like I was getting hit with a train. Except that train was made of rainbows and happiness. This very much sets up the show, there will be plenty of quiet and sad moments punctuated by some happy and funny moments to break it up. It's much like real life, where even if everything isn't going well, people will try to find something to break that up with something happy to keep their sanity intact. We get to meet more characters in the first few episodes and we find that Rei isn't exactly alone. There are people around him, he has a bit of a problem with connecting with others because of his past, which we learn more and more. The characters we meet are an interesting bunch, providing a lot of comedy and contrast to Rei's more reserved nature. The secondary characters are given some development early on and most of them probably will much like in Honey and Clover. Shogi plays a minor part in the show, with Rei being a professional Shogi player but the viewer doesn't need to know the game at all to enjoy. The Shogi playing is a backdrop and more a plot device used more to show off the nature of the characters playing Shogi. I really want to talk about everything in the show but it would spoil all the good stuff that can surprise viewers. Visually, SHAFT does an excellent job in bringing Chika Umino's art to life and I honestly thought I was watching more of the author's previous work with Honey and Clover, which was made by J.C. Staff, an entirely different studio. While SHAFT made this show, the first episode was much more subtle than their usual work and their trademark motifs and touches are only noticeable to those very familiar with their work. SHAFT faithfully recreates Umino's pretty character designs and even her watercolor pastel art style from her artwork very well.  SHAFT's fingerprints do show up more often with each episode. The very SHAFT moments do make things better in this show, as it perfectly lends itself to the comedy while adding more to the dramatic moments. This is all due to the director, Akiyuki Shinbou, who worked on popular SHAFT productions such as Hidamari Sketch and the Monogatari series, and March comes in like a lion is full of those elements from those shows. Those worried that SHAFT might screw this up or take it too far should be rest assured that SHAFT has had experience with slower paced slice-of-life anime. The songs they chose to start and end the show are by Bump of Chicken and they are just superb. Not quite as diverse as Honey and Clover's soundtrack, but the songs that bookend the show and insert songs go really well with the show and set up the mood just right. Fans of Chika Umino's work will find familiar themes from her previous work, a slice-of-life story with drama that can get heavy at times. It's a coming-of-age story in trying to find a place in the world and not knowing how things will turn out. No actual romance in yet this early in the show, but there might be some down the line. The first episode is a good example of what to expect, and the following two prove that there is more to the show with comedy and not just gloomy teenager stuff all the time. I highly recommend this show for people to watch if they want a grounded and solid slice-of-life drama to balance out all the action and waifu/husbando shows from this season. [Catch March comes in like a lion on Crunchyroll and Daisuki.]
First Impressions photo
Game of Life
It's been almost a decade since the first time I watched the anime adaptation of Chika Umino's Honey and Clover. I was hooked right from the first episode; from its beautiful art and animation to the memorable characters, it ...

Final Impressions: Thunderbolt Fantasy

Oct 28 // Salvador G Rodiles
While Thunderbolt Fantasy’s scene that involved Yao Tu Li resulted in a moment that ended too quickly, it’s thanks to the team’s surprises that this segment was made into a big thing. We barely knew anything about Shang Bu Huan’s background or the limit of his abilities, so his finishing move ended up being the thing that was big enough to leave us amazed with his latest arsenal that no one knew about. Of course, the thing that made the show’s finale spectacular was the fight between Mie Tian Hai and Gui Niao/Lin Xue Ya. Prior to this finale, the series made it seem that this whole story was going to lead to Huan being the one to face off the Xuan Gui Zong’s leader. Aside from the glorious clash between the two characters, the idea that we learned about Ya’s real motives was made this confrontation even more worthwhile. Not only that, the guy was as mysterious as Huan. In a way, his idea of stealing from powerful egotistical villains to break them goes well with Thunderbolt Fantasy’s possible theme about realities’ harsh truths. The nice part about this element was that it applied to any character in the show, regardless of their alignment. Since the butcher does his best to make sure that everyone gets a taste of the knife, his goal to make his characters suffer suited the whole theme of how things don’t always go the way they planned. Whether it was a certain character getting the last laugh on Ya or getting a glimpse of Huan’s true power, Thunderbolt Fantasy was filled with many surprises that made up for its quick battle between Huan and Yao Tu Li. Honestly, that the battle against Yao Tu Li was handled poorly; it's that wasn’t as fleshed out as the previous fights that appeared throughout the series. Nonetheless, the way how Huan took it down was what made the whole thing amazing. While it seemed like something that came out of the left field, it added to the main hero’s mysterious nature. Seeing that the series is getting a sequel, this element could be something that they could expand upon in this new show. For now, it serves as a way to show us that he likely has more surprises up his sleeve than Ya. On top of that, it was nice that he found a way to give Dan Fei hope after it seemed like her mission was going to end in failure; thus fulfilling the butcher’s requirement of a bittersweet ending, except happier than his usual stuff. Even when Thunderbolt Fantasy started off as a straightforward tale about stopping Hai, the show was filled with many elements that foreshadowed towards things getting out of hand. Most of the cast had mysterious backgrounds and there were many folks who exhibited ulterior motives. Accompanied with the weekly over-the-top puppet on puppet action, every episode featured the right amount of elements to keep the audience entertained. This was also thanks to the crew’s hard work in designing the characters and environments for each scene. Throughout the series, the staff did their best to present a set of large environments for the puppets while using both digital and practical effects to give the setting some life. Overall, the detail that the team put into the stages worked well in pulling us into Thunderbolt Fantasy’s world. The show’s food props gave off a mouthwatering feeling and the weather segments were executed in a way that it seemed like the studio was hit with an actual storm. Of course, it was a treat to see the staff go out of their way to showcase their puppets in high-speed battles that knock the world out of balance each week. Just like the environments, the team’s puppet designs were one of the show’s highlights. The detail placed into the cast’s outfits gives each character an elegant look, as the various colorful fabrics make each person shine. To top it off, the puppets’ sculpts on the puppets made sure that each one exhibited a sense of mystery or ridiculousness. One example was Hai’s design, which had him sport a black robe with fancy gold pieces and jewelry. His exquisite mask and collection of swords worked well in making him look threatening, along with being someone of high power. In Urobuchi’s quest to be involved with different mediums, he’s shown us again that his cutting techniques are qualified for high-octane marionette action shows. His style was able to mix well with Pili’s tendency to blow people away with their puppets. Together, they came up with a fine project that taught the main cast the harsh truths about reality, along with giving a new hope to those who survived the final outcome. While the main story is over, there are still plenty of things that Thunderbolt Fantasy could pull off with its sequel. For now, this series is the start of a beautiful thing that can blossom into something that’s even greater than it already is. In fact, it could keep us tied up for a good while. [Feel Thunderbolt Fantasy's shock at Crunchyroll.]
Thunderbolt Fantasy photo
Now that's what I call electrifying
It’s hard to believe that one of the best shows of the summer was a series that featured puppets involved in cool action sequences. Honestly, Thunderbolt Fantasy’s biggest treat was the way how Urobuchi, Pili Inte...

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!

Review: Orange

Oct 11 // Karishma Roy
Orange Studio: TMS Entertainment Viewed on: Crunchyroll  Premiere Date: July 4, 2016 Orange is a character driven story and as such every single action and interaction matters. Naho, as the female protagonist, is a vexing character. She is a massive introvert verging on social ineptness. Despite knowing exactly what to do, thanks to the letter, she lacks the confidence to step out of her comfort zone and can often be found crying or running away. I felt that Naho’s growth as a character should’ve been made more evident to avoid audience frustration. Several times, I found myself saying, “Get an effing grip, gurl”, and this was especially true when she unnecessarily wastes time being indecisive or worrying about things like why her love interest might stretch out his hand with a longing look in his eyes. Thankfully her friends enlighten her on the age-old concept of hand-holding in romance. In some ways Naho’s weak personality is an advantage because it creates both internal and external conflicts that make the story eventful. She eventually gets her shizz together and towards the end appears much less timid. Kakeru, the male protagonist, may come across as playing into the trope of an angsty teenager but he suffers from depression and suicidal ideation. Episode 12, in particular, pulled at my heartstrings as it gave a gravely accurate picture of the severity of mental health issues. Research shows that Japanese people have very little understanding of depression, and suicide rates (especially among young men) are rather high, so I applaud this series for raising awareness about this serious condition. It was easy to understand Kakeru’s guilt and self-hatred and I found myself ruining my mascara as I ugly cried for him more than once. The romance between Naho and Kakeru was a bit clumsy and I’m just glad that Suwa existed - hats off to the best wingman ever! He was the most likeable character and is basically a saint. The determination with which he supports Naho and Kakeru, despite his own feelings for her, is truly remarkable. Our two main lovebirds would’ve been lost without him. The friendship is strong in this story – Hagita, Azu and Takako, along with Suwa, all come together to help Naho and attempt to save Kakeru. I appreciated that his friends noticed his depression, took it seriously and were actively doing something about it. The whole squad naturally complemented each other and I enjoyed their mundanely comical banter. Their different personalities were evident as the story played out, thankfully avoiding the need for character summations. The character design and aesthetics were visually pleasing except in episode 9 where the drop in animation quality made me gasp in shock. But, that is forgivable. Aside from that, the beautiful scenery and calm background music conveyed well the slow and steady slice-of-life feel to the story. Even though the mood is mellow on the surface, we are made aware that disaster is brewing underneath and the audience can’t quite relax. I liked the ending song, but I felt the opening was too upbeat whereas a slower and more emotional song would suit the melodramatic feel of Orange. So, should you watch it? I think yes. The overarching theme of Orange is about not wanting to carry regrets which I believe everyone can relate to. Most people tend to regret the things they didn’t do and this story encourages us all to become braver individuals who take risks. In that sense, Orange is inspiring. While I was dissatisfied with the romance mainly due to Naho’s initial characterisation, I accept that it was necessary to push the plot forward and allow the story to be told over 13 episodes. In every other way, this tale left my heart feeling full and fragile. The narrative about depression is accurate and it was refreshing to see a very prevalent mental health issue laced in with this anime. Orange is a good blend of romance, friendship, and slice-of-life with a sci-fi twist. If you find those genres appealing, then I believe it will be more than worth your time. [This review is based on a streaming copy of the series viewed on a premium account paid for by Japanator]
Orange Review photo
Would you change your past?
I was very excited for Orange, an anime adaptation of the manga, since it did incredibly well as a live-action film and there was generally a positive buzz surrounding this series. Did it meet my expectations? I enjoyed it an...

Children of Ether photo
Children of Ether

Rejoice: LeSean Thomas and Crunchyroll team up for Children of Ether


This is going to be sweet
Oct 09
// Salvador G Rodiles
Whenever I hear about a bunch of cool groups collaborating on a production, I tend to rejoice over this wonderful news. Speaking of team-up projects, Crunchyroll revealed at New York Comic-Con '16 on Oct. 6 that they're worki...

Annotated Puppetry: Thunderbolt Fantasy episodes 7-12

Sep 29 // Salvador G Rodiles
It’s these real moments that complete the Butcher’s latest concoction as the main cast’s journey isn’t as straight forward as it seemed to be. The gang’s different backgrounds start to contribute to the show’s conflict and Gui Niao’s true colors start to blossom. While the change in the story didn’t result in any ridiculously shocking tragic moments, the constant air of doubt that entered the atmosphere acts as an alternate form entertainment that still stays true to the guy’s style. The unfortunate outcome from this change was dealing with the fact that we had to part ways with the show’s story about a band of characters that would usually not see each other eye to eye team up to go on a quest to stop a powerful person from releasing a powerful sword from its seal. In a way, it’s almost like Thunderbolt Fantasy was teaching us that all good things must come to an end. There was only so much that we could indulge from Huan tolerating most of the party while they reach Hai’s lair since the cast’s destination was meant to set up for the main turning point in the series. Even though the show started off like it could’ve become a series about a group that became closer during the adventure, the staff was likely aiming for a scenario where things don’t always go as planned. Huan ended up doing more of the work in the journey than Niao intended to and the wandering swordsman’s patience almost jeopardized the entire mission. Just like in real life, there’s always a chance that a well-thought out plan won’t go well. One has to learn to adapt and find a way to move forward while making modifications along the way. Sure, it almost made most of the gang’s roles in the trials a bit useless, but the treat was that it gave the Butcher the ammo that he needed to get the ball rolling. It’s this element that opened up the strings of betrayal that went on during the scenes in Hai’s lair. Characters that seemed like they could be heroes ended up showing a new side to them and Niao’s true identity starts to take things up a notch. All in all, this direction works better in piecing together a finale that’ll exceed many folk’s expectations. Hell, Urobuchi’s usual style of killing off a character before things got real was changed up as it ended up being someone who seemed like they could’ve been around until the main battle against the true final adversary. Of course, the show’s extravagant puppetry continues to be the star, with one of the highlights being the large golem. Compare to most of the fights, it was one of the few moments where we saw the puppeteers use the puppets to fight a large creature. Sure, it may have been a quick segment, but the fact that it seemed like Huan was scaling a stone monstrosity shows that the team's skills in moving the marionettes across the large stone creature were very effective. As a fan of practical effects, it’s still a treat to stare at the detail of the sets and creatures that Pili added to the scene. Since the show is nearing its finale, there’s no stopping this team from blowing everyone away. Speaking of breathtaking action scenes, Pili’s use of effects when they showed off Huan’s true skills resulted in various scenes where my jaw dropped from the way how he can manipulate his qi in battle. In a way, they made him seem like an even more ridiculous version of Twilight Suzuka from Outlaw Star, as we see another badass slaughtering people with a wooden weapon. While his backstory might continue to remain a mystery when the show ends, the idea that we don’t know much about Huan background is what makes him intriguing. Nonetheless, it’s his tendency to go with his instinct that made him a fun lead to follow since he does his best to adjust to situations that he’s been put through against his will— even if they make him upset or to follow someone who he sees as a shady individual. As Thunderbolt Fantasy went from being an adventure story to a tale of betrayal, the show has been quite the ride so far. Considering that the truth behind the Tian Xin Jian’s purpose has been revealed, the series might be setting up for the gang to fight a colossal being, which works well in the staff’s favor to end this show with a bang. No matter what happens, the end result might be a tale that teaches folks about accepting reality and using its harsh truth to grow into a stronger person. Someone is likely going to make one last major sacrifice, but that’ll just mean that the person involved has found his/her resolve. Of course, the high-speed lightning action will only make these moments even better.  [Experience Thunderbolt Fantasy’s changes on Crunchyroll]
Thunderbolt Fantasy photo
A Game of Marionettes
It was only a matter of time until Urobuchi would slice Thunderbolt Fantasy with his special knives. While it took a while for his blade to pierce through the show’s main story, the effect is still worthy of his us...

Anime photo
Anime

Holy Macaroni: Crunchyroll and FUNimation join forces


CrunchyFUNi-boiled Xtreme!
Sep 08
// Salvador G Rodiles
Remember that time when Crunchyroll revealed that they were entering the home release market? Well, it turns out that this was one of their plans with their new relationship with FUNimation to bring more anime to the masses. ...

First Impressions: Thunderbolt Fantasy

Aug 18 // Salvador G Rodiles
If there’s one thing that hinted towards a big change in the story, it’s that the Main Character Shang Bu Huan was placed in an unfortunate situation that made him a part of the group that plans to stop the evil sword collector known as Mie Tian Hai from awakening the Tian Xing Jian, a powerful sacred sword, from its seal. The unfortunate thing about this was that Huan was just a swordsman who just wanted to wander, but he was placed in an unfortunate circumstance where he ended up becoming an enemy of Hai’s evil group, the Xuan Gui Zong. Since Urobuchi loves to make his characters suffer, the idea of the hero having to give up on his routine to fulfill a specific task works well in this favor. Hell, this format tends to lead to some interesting development with the main characters than one where the lead wants to do something good from the get-go, as it shows that an unexpected journey could help someone grow. In Thunderbolt Fantasy’s case, Huan's growth will likely be related to how he handles the ordeals when the group is close to Hai's castle. Even though the majority of the show’s story focused on the main cast formulating their party to stop Hai, the mysterious character known as Gui Niao holds the title of being the possible catalyst in changing the way how people view Pili and Urobuchi’s action-packed puppet show. He was the main reason why Huang is part of the campaign to fight the Xuan Gui Zon, and there are a few characters who have problems with the guy. Depending on how the story goes, I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes the spot as the show’s final villain. That, or we might have different factions and Niao will lead one of them. For now, his connection to the story is a factor that could elevate the series to a higher level and the suspicious vibe that he gives off contributes to the program’s entertaining aspects— especially with his persistent tendency to make sure that he has the prerequisites to overcome the trials that lead to Hai’s lair. While we’re on the topic of characters that could change groups at any time, the addition of a demon and a man who calls himself the Screaming Phoenix Killer contributes to the show’s idea of a group that’s united by a common motive. The idea that the party has their own toxic environment to deal with makes one wonder how things will change when the first major arc comes to a close. These aspects continue to push the audience towards being suspicious of Gui Niao; thus leaving people with the joy of trying to figure out where the story could go. For a team that could turn on each other, their teamwork somehow works out well, as a few of the show’s characters can give it their all when another comrade instigates them into doing something dangerously. Overall, this concept is what makes Thunderbolt Fantasy’s cast great since they’re all in it for a specific motive. Depending on how the direction the story will go later, I’m hoping that this aspect continues to be a recurring element since the team made these segments fun to listen to. Speaking of worthwhile things, the puppetry in Thunderbolt Fantasy gives off a breathtaking feeling. The actions scenes feel like an over-the-top Hong Kong film and the special effects (such as the magical flying weapons and powerful shockwaves) make every action scene a marvelous spectacle that never disappoints its audience. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this is that the show’s puppeteers are doing these segments in real time; thus resulting in a puppet show with one hell of a performance. Aside from the puppet’s impressive movements, the cast’s designs feature some highly detailed clothes and weapons. The craftsmanship in each puppet makes each of them look like a wonderful work of art. Not only that, the fact that the show’s staff uses weather and environmental damage is a solid feat, as the shots and lighting bring life to Thunderbolt Fantasy’s man-made sets. All in all, the team’s combined hard work with the puppetry, special effects and environments work hand-in-hand in creating a stage that grabs the audience's attention. Also, the idea that a majority of the show’s characters are left handed is a nice treat for lefties everywhere. As a person who never got to witness that many action puppet shows (such as The Thunderbirds) before, Thunderbolt Fantasy’s story and action left me blown away with the effort that went into the sets and action scenes. The violent puppets segments and Urobuchi’s writing serve as the true strings that’ll expose the nature of this series, which has started to unravel with Screaming Phoenix Killer’s actions and motives. With Hai entering the battlefield, it’ll be neat to see how everyone bypasses this trial. From the looks of it, this might be the opportunity that’ll allow for Huan to prove to everyone that he isn’t lying about his backstory. No matter what direction the series will take, Thunderbolt Fantasy will remain as a title that I never imagined as a medium that I needed in my life. [Get blown away by Thunderbolt Fantasy’s puppet action on Crunchyroll.]
Thunderbolt Fantasy photo
Lefties rule!
Ever since Urobuchi was involved with Kamen Rider Gaim, my desire to see him tackle other types of mediums outside of his usual things went up since it would be great to see how his writing style would cut up those stories. S...

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...

Crunchyroll photo
Crunchyroll

Aw, snap: Crunchyroll enters the dub and home release field


How will this affect the anime market?
Jul 03
// Salvador G Rodiles
If there's one unexpected piece of news to come out of Anime Expo '16, it's that Crunchyroll revealed that they're planning to release anime on Blu-ray and DVD with English dubs. The interesting thing about this announcement ...

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...

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 ...

Review: Fafner: Exodus

Apr 21 // Salvador G Rodiles
Fafner: ExodusStudio: XEBEC Zwei Viewed On: CrunchyrollPremiere Date: January 8, 2015 When people say that patience is a virtue, they are not kidding. From day one, Fafner Exodus moving forward, as Kazuki and the gang has adjusted to their lives after Soushi’s return during the end of Fafner: Heaven and Earth. Even though the new series takes place two and a half years after the movie, the show does its best to get its audience reacquainted with the main cast again. Unfortunately, the drawback is that the newer pilots from Fafner: Heaven and Earth gave off the least amount of impact, as their presence wasn’t as big as Kazuki and his friends. Luckily, this isn’t too much of an issue when most of the new gang was placed on the team that was meant to help a section of the Earth Forces who were interested in coexisting with the Festum. Thanks to this angle, the show’s first half mostly focused on the movie group who remained on the island to help the newer pilots and the folks who left to help the military group with their mission to communicate with a new Mir that was heading to Earth. All in all, this direction worked well in distributing the cast so that people could get acquainted with new characters. After all, this element is important since the show’s death scenes have to hit the viewers hard. Of course, none of the veteran characters were safe from this aspect, which conveys the risks that the gang has to go through to achieve their goal. While it took a while for the series to pick up, the payoff worked well since the show dealt with the idea of sacrificing one’s humanity for the greater good. Whether it was the Fafner upgrades that change the pilot's bodies or the inner conflict between the Earth military, Exodus place the main cast in more intense scenario than the previous shows. Hell, there were the losses turned the tides on some of the major events in the series. Through this format, the series dealt with the team facing off against other humans, which was a great change of events from the previous installments, as it placed everyone in a big corner. Due to the situation, it made the veteran characters and the new pilots question their own actions while they tried to find their own resolve in the big conflict at hand. Compare to the original Fafner series, Exodus’ animation quality has improved from its predecessor. While it wasn’t on the same level as Fafner: Heaven and Earth, the fights between the Festum and the Fafner units left us with some dynamic air fights, along with a few moments where a character’s finishing move felt fulfilling to watch. Since there were a few machines that fought similar to the ones of the deceased characters from the first title, it worked as a way to appease to those who’re interested in seeing how they would fight with Xebec’s current skills. While Hisashi Hirai’s style suffers from a case of his characters from different shows looking similar, the guy’s art has improved a bit— in comparison to his art in Gundam SEED and Linebarrel of Iron.  His designs may not be the best out there, but they work with what Fafner: Exodus has to offer. If anything, it showcases his improved skills from the Majestic Prince anime. Just like the previous Fafner installments, Angela returns to sing the show’s opening. As always, she manages to hit the high notes well in both “Exist” and “Dead or Alive,” with the latter featuring some aspects that likely paid homage to “Shangri-La,” the first series’ theme song. Hell, the same can be said about the ending themes since it complements the previous tunes when the show’s credits drop in. It may have taken a while for Fafner to get a new series, but the show’s resolution to the war between the humans and the Festum made it worth the wait for anyone who wished to see the story progress further. While the program brought us a conclusion to Kazuki and Soushi’s story, there’s still a chance that a new installment could happen one day. Despite Exodus’ first half trying to get us more acquainted with the new cast and the movie’s characters while they cram a bunch of important things into the story, the payoff turned out well when the series set the pieces for the ultimate showdown between the title’s factions. Most importantly, its ending was a great of example of how patience can reward those who’re willing to wait— even if most of the new cast’s development was a bit rushed in the beginning. [This review was based on a streamed version of the series viewed by the reviewer at personal expense.]  When people say that patience is a virtue, they are not kidding. From day one, Fafner Exodus moving forward, as Kazuki and the gang has adjusted to their lives after Soushi’s return during the end of Fafner: Heaven and Earth. Even though the new series takes place two and a half years after the movie, the show does its best to get its audience reacquainted with the main cast again. Unfortunately, the drawback is that the newer pilots from Fafner: Heaven and Earth gave off the least amount of impact, as their presence wasn’t as big as Kazuki and his friends. Luckily, this isn’t too much of an issue when most of the new gang was placed on the team that was meant to help a section of the Earth Forces who were interested in coexisting with the Festum. Thanks to this angle, the show’s first half mostly focused on the movie group who remained on the island to help the newer pilots and the folks who left to help the military group with their mission to communicate with a new Mir that was heading to Earth. All in all, this direction worked well in distributing the cast so that people could get acquainted with new characters. After all, this element is important since the show’s death scenes have to hit the viewers hard. Of course, none of the veteran characters were safe from this aspect, which conveys the risks that the gang has to go through. 
Fafner: Exodus photo
Patience is a virtue
There’s something wonderful about seeing an older title receive a sequel after a very long time. It shows that the team was pushing hard to continue the story they set in place, and it lets the viewers see the program e...

Ultraman photo
Ultraman

Streaming GET: Ultraman Ginga and Ginga S head to Crunchyroll


Tsuburaya keeps on giving
Mar 02
// Salvador G Rodiles
With Crunchyroll achieving its new form as the go-to place to watch the Ultra series, the group has united with two more titles in the franchise. This time around, Ultraman Ginga and Ginga S are now on Crunchyroll; howev...

Annotated Anime: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu episodes 4-6

Feb 17 // Josh Tolentino
In case you've forgotten, episode three ended on what seemed to be a dramatic cliffhanger, with the Yakumo the 7th's mistress Miyokichi showing up, seeking the master. In a different story, she'd be like a live grenade tossed into the cast, exploding the old, comfortable dynamic and setting the plot in writhing motion. Except she's absent for most of the fourth episode, which devotes its eye solely to the relationship between Kikuhiko and Sukeroku (née Bon and Shin), living together in an apartment following their promotion to futatsume. It's at this time that some of the subtle subtexts lurking in Shouwa Rakugo bubble up to the fore, clear to see even for folks who aren't into close reading or other film studies piddle-paddling.  It's hard not to see Kikuhiko's longing for his best friend, even as he only slowly comes to realize it himself over the course of the next few installments. But for us viewers, it's plainly evident in the married-couple banter the pair exchange, Kikuhiko's apparent indifference to the opposite sex (including a bond with Miyokichi that seems more maternal than romantic), and even the way the camera and framing of the scenes treat Sukeroku. Of course, this cat isn't out of the bag (or closet) just yet. The show's historical context virtually ensures that Kikuhiko's path of self-discovery would be an ambivalent one. Hell, we already know what he's like in the future, and "out and proud" isn't one of those things. At this point, we're on the hook to find out just how he, Sukeroku, and Miyokichi are involved in leading to the present state of Yakumo Yurakutei the 8th.  If nothing else, the journey to finding out remains riveting as ever. Ably voiced by Megumi "Rei" Hayashibara, Miyokichi is less a plot grenade than a fire pot of character work, playing a grounded, perceptive, utterly attractive woman for whom a term like "temptress" feels both accurate and unforgivably reductive. Her role in catalyzing the events that lead to Kikuhiko discovering his own style of Rakugo also can't be overstated.  It's not all happy, though. As good as one feels for the characters and their journey so far, the shinjuu in the title still looms. In fact, Kikuhiko discovering how to make his mark on Rakugo brings him one step closer to the sly, sinister, troubled old man we met in the first episode, and to whatever tragedies made him that way. [Watch more of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu on Crunchyroll!] née
Shouwa Rakugo photo
The plot thickens
The last time we checked in on Shouwa Rakugo, it was shaping up to be one of the best (or at least, most grown-up) anime series to air in years. Anime fans looking for more mature, grounded plotting and complex character work...

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