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Girls

Review: Little Witch Academia (Season 1)

Jul 05 // Nick Valdez
Little Witch Academia (Season 1)Director: Yoh YoshinariRating: TV-Y7Release Date: June 30, 2017 (Netflix) Akko's (Megumi Han/Erica Mendez) been dreaming of going to the Luna Nova Magical Academy ever since she was a child. Although she has no real magical abilities herself, she's been inspired by her idol Shiny Chariot, a famous witch entertainer who disappeared ten years ago, to become a great witch herself. The first season then follows Akko and her accidental friends, the studious Lotte (Fumiko Orikasa/Stephanie Sheh) and the poison lover Sucy (Michiyo Murase/Rachelle Heger), as they stumble and fumble through their first couple of weeks at the academy, unlock the mysteries of Shiny Chariot's Shiny Rod, and prove they're as good as everyone else.  You can't discuss a Studio Trigger series without getting passed the necessary praising of its animation. I was wondering how Trigger's fluid action animation would translate into a world with a tone completely offset from what they've done in the past, and it seems the choice was to embrace a more slapstick vibe. Drawing influence from everything from, uh, Pawn Stars to Looney Tunes (which was super noticeable when Akko accidentally gave herself rabbit ears), Little Witch Academia has tons of personality in every frame. It's slightly reflective of that art design philosophy where as long as you can recognize the character, they're on model. Trigger's most prominent squash and stretch techniques are used here primarily to emote. Akko is probably one of my favorite Trigger series characters because the team wasn't afraid to constantly make her look ridiculous. Giving her a true underdog charm that really helps elevate the standard formula most of episodes have.  As these first 13 episodes are about Akko's daily life in the school, most of the episodes share the same outline: Akko learns about a new thing, messes up the new thing, stumbles around until she fixes the new thing. It's super cute, yes, and doesn't devalue Akko as a character, but it really hammers home how standard of a hero's journey story the series is telling. Since the episodes tend to have a week-by-week pace (meaning most developments don't seem to carry over from episode to episode) rather than emphasize the greater story arc of the Shiny Rod and its seven super spells, some plot feels like filler. I'm sure some episodes are here for strictly character development, and it's great to see completely fantastical settings from time to time (such as "Akko's Adventures in Sucyland"), but I found myself not caring about whether or not Akko was going to pass her fish exam or whatever.  But even with a few weaker episodes, the strengths of smaller moments help give Little Witch Academia its own footprint. For a show about a magical school where crazy things are possible, at one point Akko chases a bee around a ballroom while "Flight of the Bumblebee" plays in the background. Rather than fuel utterly fantastical mayhem, the magic of the world is used to make situations more unworldly. This Looney Tunes-esque scene plays out in a natural fashion, oddly enough. This scene, goofy as it is, completely fits the series and Akko's character. Very few things are out of place. This grounded, yet otherworldly nature of the world eventually gives more weight to the more emotional beats toward the end of the season too.  Little Witch Academia, like its central character, has a ton of hidden potential. Since this first season was all about setting up the world-at-large, there's definitely something more interesting in its future. But as it stands, Academia is a fun, and light series that'll be worth watching for fans of great animation but light on plot you can truly invest in.  I can't quite recommend this series yet, but seeing as how it started as a short film, then a longer film adaptation, now a TV series, and even spreading to games, Little Witch Academia has an appeal not many other shows have. It's just so pure. 
LWA Review photo
My name is Akko and I love to get Wakko
I've been anticipating Little Witch Academia for quite some time. Studio Trigger, the studio behind Kill la Kill and Space Patrol Luloco, produced a series created by Yoh Yoshinari, who's worked on&nb...

Final Impressions: Keijo!!!!!!!!

Jan 11 // Nick Valdez
One of the things I noted back when I first covered the series was how impressed I was by its smooth action animation. Luckily that indeed continued as the season rolled on to its end. As the girls' attacks became more ridiculous, so did the animation. Unlike other sports anime, which only bent physics, Keijo!!!!!!!! often incorporates many flashing lights and colors not unlike ones you'd see in traditionally shonen anime. In the last mini-arc, as sort of a graduation exam from their time at the Keijo Academy (which was only a year long, for some reason), the girls found themselves facing off against a rival academy from the East. This meant the series suddenly found itself in even wackier circumstances than before. This mini-arc presented the best episodes in the series as girls suddenly started using spiritual qi attacks, harnessed wind, and, of course, the absolutely nuts "Gate of Bootylon."  But ridiculous as the visuals were, I found myself not caring about any of it. As was indicated in the first episode, these girls have no character beyond what techniques they use. Nozomi had an interesting motive for joining the sport (wanting fame and fortune, which is pretty atypical for the sports genre) but that was dropped after the premiere. Even when the series slowed down for its brief training intermissions, these episodes felt like filler. Just as how it became a shonen series in animation, it took on some of the worst characteristics of shonen storytelling. The filler training episodes were more about developing certain techniques rather than use the development of those techniques for character growth. For example, Nozomi training to use her signature Vacuum Butt Cannon only resulted in her learning the move rather than have the move be a resolution to a personal problem. It wasn't to overcome any weakness, or something a bit more worthwhile character wise, it was just because. While that's characterization in itself, it's still not strong enough to warrant following this character through the series.  But as you've probably guessed, strong character work isn't exactly Keijo's top priority. That's totally fine, but it doesn't save the show from being hollow. At least it does a few different things toward season end that actually might be interesting additions if/when the show continues. Along with the flashier moves and kookier characters, a bit of characterization is introduced in the final mini-arc. The top keijo player in the rival East school is a girl named Maya. We're given a bit of her background in which she's teased for her inhuman strength until her mother introduces her to keijo (by having Maya break a hole in a bed with her butt), but her anxiety over the sport created a second, more antagonistic personality, Kaya (complete with new eyes and hair color). Her inner conflict (solved within two episodes, on par with the series' rapid pace) ends up an outer conflict against Nozomi and it's a bit interesting. Nothing to write home about, but better than the zero character work than I expected. It's just a shame Nozomi doesn't develop herself as a result. All she gets is a 'Super Saiyan' like mode which helps her win the day. I suppose there's an argument for having a blank slate main character as Keijo becomes more of a shonen-action series, but the best shonen anime give their main characters personalities, if small ones. Yu Yu Hakusho's Yusuke was a brash punk, One Piece's Luffy is blindly optimistic and selfish, and even Dragon Ball's Goku more often fights for himself than others. Then again, those series had time to flesh out their characters. Keijo's hugest flaw is how much it wants to cram into its short, 12 episode run. The series just has too many characters doing things at one time to really focus on anyone. Apparently the season took place over the course of a year, and that year was Nozomi's entire time at the Keijo Academy. That's insane. Because at the end of the season the girls start talking about their love for one another, but there's not enough evidence of this before it's all just dumped on the viewer. Much like taking a hip whip to the face, the series blindsides you with how fast it goes.  It's like butt whiplash.  I may not be interested in Keijo!!!!!!!! anymore, but I'm glad it has its fan base. There are already quite a bit of anime productions littered with fan service, so viewers might as well enjoy the competent one. If you're going to look at boobs and butts, then I fully support looking at ones used as tools and weapons.  I mean, when nipples are hardened to the point where they're used as acupuncture to achieve a "Super Saiyan" transformation, I can see the appeal.  [You can stream Keijo!!!!!!!! on Crunchyroll and Funimation Now] 
Keijo Final Impressions photo
Zoom-a zoom-zoom-zoom and a poom poom
At the start of the Fall 2016 season, as the Japanator staff chose anime to cover, Managing Editor Josh Tolentino warned me about selecting Keijo!!!!!!!!. He told me to be sure about covering this show because I'd have to kee...

Annotated Anime: Keijo!!!!!!!! episodes 2-5

Nov 08 // Nick Valdez
Before I begin, I'd like to discuss a bit of the discourse I've seen surrounding that first episode. While some (rightfully) declared Keijo was an offensive work, others (also rightfully) defended its parodical content. Neither perspective is incorrect since the women (18 and over, as poignantly noted) do have agency, as they have yet to make a decision for someone other than themselves, but the fan service nature of its production rejects that agency. But as I've noticed throughout the last four episodes, the balance between the two perspectives is thrown out of whack when the girls aren't competing.  For example, episode two and three are a training episodes. As Nozomi and her friends practice to take an elite class entry exam, they train in various techniques. Like most sports anime, Keijo adheres to the training episode narrative (girls struggle before eventually succeeding when they exploit a new technique). But try as it might to take this part of the story seriously, the episode's fan service point of view negates a lot of its attempted narrative work. You see when the girls are competing, there's a sense of seriousness in the work regardless of how ridiculous its imagery gets. The girls may fight each other with their butts and boobs, but they're treated like tools or fists. There's a respect for these girls in the animation when they compete. Shots are composed at wide angles, and they usually don't linger in compromising positions. Yet, in the training episodes, there are several shots dedicated to zooming in on these same body parts with less respect. These "butt figure eights" or Nozomi's constriction suit are shown in lower POVs, emphasizing the girls' assets, instead of reflecting hard work (as you would see in sports anime). Then its a matter of breaking down Keijo's parodical take on sports anime. When does the fan service perspective outweigh the exaggerated comedy? As mentioned, the girls' Keijo battles are definite highlights. Leading to things like "Titty Hypnosis," "Shoryucans," "W-Acceleration," "Vacuum Butt Cannon," and "Cerberus," the flame dog automatic butt attack that literally bites into the other girls. With these moments, we're laughing with the series. And so far, the ratio has been on the more positive end. While the second episode (and one match in episode 4), made the imagery more titilating, the rest of the episodes have yet to do that so far. But the visuals wouldn't be as big of a deal as I'm making them if the rest of the show had anything to work with.  Since Keijo's  personality is entirely derived from its imagery, its characterization falls flat. The girls themselves are, forgive me, two dimensional. The only development each girl received so far is a new technique. and only two of those reveals are relevant to the girl's personality type (i.e. the shy girl talks when her skill is revealed to be dope, the klutz has a butt cushion which helps her accidentally steal victory). The worst part about all of this is I'm forgetting all of their names. That's the trouble with exploitation media in general. You can argue stuff like story and characterization away by simply stating "it's meant to be a joke!" But sexual exploitation is always icky when not subverted by the rest of the production. You need something to say its alright to enjoy its explicit fan service. Whether its humor or some kind of satire, it just needs to be something of importance to elevate its schlock. Otherwise, it won't last long.  The difference between Keijo!!!!!!!! and intentionally exploitative productions (such as Grindhouse or Black Dynamite) is there is still not enough done to elevate its exaggeration. It's slowly making its way toward more fun, but right now it's hollow fan service. I'll even go as far to say that if it were not my job, I most likely would not continue on with this series.  But since I've already invested the time, I will keep hoping something more concrete eventually hits the series. While I still believe Keijo!!!!!!!! indeed succeeds as a fan service delivery system, it has lost that unique sense of fun and confusion I felt after watching the premiere.  [Keijo!!!!!!!! is now streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation Now]
Annotated Keijo photo
Get it right, get it right, get it tight
The series premiere of Keijo!!!!!!!! was probably the most confusing anime I've seen this season, and most likely the year. Introducing a world in which busty girls attack each other with their butts for money, I expected the...

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

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


Robot Girls Z photo
Robot Girls Z

Robot Girls Z is full of wonderful


More of this, please~
Jul 30
// Josh Totman
Speaking frankly, I'm not a mecha kid of guy. It's pretty hard to find me watching anything that has to do with mecha outside, say, Macross. Even then, I come for the music and stay for the action. Anyways, what I am is a gu...
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Discotek Media licenses Gunbuster 2: Diebuster


Prepare for hot blood and manly tears
Jan 08
// Pedro Cortes
Long time readers may remember that I reviewed Diebuster a couple years back. I fellated the show, and with good reason. It's one of my favorite OVAs, only topped by it's predecessor, Gunbuster. The only problem is that ...
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Friday Night Fights: Rally Vincent vs. Revy


Jun 29
// Josh Totman
*ding ding ding* IT'S OVER!! With the wave of her fan and jiggle in her step. Mai Shiranui is the winner! (14 > 11) We are going to keep this lady train a move'n. This time around, girls with guns. In one corner we have th...
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Pregnant and new mothers get their own manga reading room


May 17
// Bob Muir
Here's a novel idea: a manga reading room that caters exclusively to new and expecting mothers. It's the brainchild of 37-year-old Ayako Ueki, who thought of the idea while on maternity leave. The room is located in Tokyo's N...
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Candy ad comes under fire for controversial AKB48 kiss


Apr 23
// Bob Muir
A recent ad for Pucchu candy featuring AKB48 has caught the eye of the Broadcasting Ethics and Program Improvement Organization, a Japanese broadcasting standards group. They claim the ad, which depicts members of AKB48 passi...
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John Goodman's face on anime girls is the best blog today


Apr 13
// Bob Muir
It's Friday. You've almost made it through a long work week. You're looking forward to relaxing over the weekend, and I can help with that. I've got something special for you, baby. Let me whisper it in your ear: "John Goodma...
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Science! Why tsundere girls are appealing


Mar 05
// Bob Muir
Why do guys like tsundere girls? Surely going after a girl that doesn't abuse you seems a lot safer? Is there some reason why guys will go along with the verbal barrage (other than the obvious reason)? Yoshihito Naitou, ...
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9 things that Japanese girls don't like about otaku


Feb 16
// Bob Muir
Japan's dating scene has gotten so bad that even the government is getting involved, in hopes of getting more couples to get it on. They're pushing girls to put themselves out there more and teaching guys how to be likable on...
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Official Surge Concerto images reveal... pretty girls


Jan 30
// Elliot Gay
Surprise, surprise. We can now confirm through a new set of images that Gust's recently announced Vita game, Surge Concerto: Ciel no Surge, contains a plethora of attractive women. I know many of you are as blown away as I am...
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The newest AKB48 member isn't real


Jun 20
// Bob Muir
It seems like new idols are being made every day in Japan, but rarely is it as literal as with this story. The latest member of the idol group AKB48, Aimi Eguchi, is entirely virtual. However, unlike fellow virtual idol Hatsu...
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Italian ramen gains fans from girls watching their weight


Mar 05
// Bob Muir
Ramen is awesome. Noodles in swirls of fat and salt make for one tasty treat, albeit on that's high in calories and sodium. So for women in Japan, it's easy to see why they might try to avoid it if possible, making ramen more...
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SDN48 debuts first single and poses for Weekly Playboy


Dec 03
// Bob Muir
As if super girl group AKB48 wasn't big enough, they have a ton of sister groups. (One thinks that having all these sister acts get together on stage might cause gravity to collapse and form a black hole that consum...
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First Impressions: The World God Only Knows


Oct 07
// Pedro Cortes
Katsuragi Keima likes flat girls. No, not of the delicious flat variety. I'm talking about straight 2D, like on the screen of a PSP. The man likes him some galge and to those on the net he's known as the "God of Conquest...
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New hobby combines hot anime girls and cars for total win


Oct 05
// Crystal White
A new hobby is emerging in Japan called itasha. Of all the unusual hobbies we hear of from Japan, what could this one possibly be? It's actually quite tame compared to some, but brings all the fun of Pimp My Ride (c...
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Japanese women don't understand men, sun rises yet again


Sep 19
// Bob Muir
It seems Japanese women just don't understand their men. According to a survey posted on What Japan Thinks, women find themselves perplexed over twenty different things men do that just don't make any sense to them. Some of t...
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Bring an iPhone to a dating party and be a hit with girls


Jul 31
// Bob Muir
Chalk up another victory to the iPhone in Japan. Not content with just being a hot gadget, Apple's iPod reinvention has begun to sneak its way into the dating scene. Special apps are coming out devoted to "gokon" (s...
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Cosplay Goddess Alodia to be in WoW movie


Jul 31
// Red Veron
In my opinion, Japanator's been long overdue for a post about the Cosplay Goddess Alodia, who has been making waves in the international Cosplay scene with her amazing cosplay crafting talents. If you've never heard of her, ...
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Strike Witches manga is on hiatus due to disorganization


Jul 30
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Were you aware there was a Strike Witches manga? Because I wasn't aware there was a Strike Witches manga. Apparently there are several! I thought the anime was ridiculous enough without creating more of the property. But don'...
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Gyaru girls march in support of...tampons?


Jul 27
// Bob Muir
Well this is certainly one way to get people to notice your cause. According to Japan Probe, the Unicharm Corporation apparently convinced around 100 gyaru to wear pink shirts and wave fans around in order to promote the use ...
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Damn, girl


Jul 19
// Dale North
Call me when you get done being a bitch in the background footage of weather news broadcasts.
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AKB48 to get a new sister group


Jul 13
// Crystal White
That's right, kids! In Japan's ever growing quest to endlessly churn out more and more popstars, the famous AKB48 and SKE48 groups are getting a new sister group to add to the list. Osaka based NMB48, named after th...
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You are going to thank me: Horikita Maki in LovePhoto


May 31
// Colette Bennett
As you all know, my first j-drama was Hana Kimi, and not only did I develop severe lust for Oguri Shun back then, but I also got a terrible girl-crush on Horikita Maki, who played the lead character and was just exactly the t...
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Oricon votes on hottest celeb lips, Matsujun and Aya win


May 21
// Colette Bennett
I've decided I want to work at Oricon. All these freaking people do is sit around surveying the Japanese on who's hot, who would be fun to kiss, who has the best ass, who would make the greatest boyfriend, who would perform c...
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Anime's Most Memorable: Noriko Takaya


Apr 25
// Pedro Cortes
Hot blood, GAR and robots go together like peanut butter, marshmallows and chocolate: Though you can have any one without the other, the combination far surpasses the individual parts. Think of all the awesome robot shows you...
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More details about Sleeping with Hinako


Jan 04
// Jon Snyder
Thanks to my secret industry connections DannyChoo, more information about the upcoming OVA Sleeping with Hinako has been revealed. Apparently, this incarnation of Hinako is designed as a nighttime companion; the interactive ...
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Record of Agarest War trailer is hella sexy


Jan 03
// Jon Snyder
I'm not an avid gamer, so I wasn't too interested in the Record of Agarest War box art controversy from a few months ago. Hell, I can't even be bothered playing a JRPG unless the title begins with "Tales of". Howeve...

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