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Impressions: Love and Lies

Aug 13 // Karishma Roy
Of course, there is someone who seeks to defy the almighty government. An underdog who just wants to follow his heart, despite the penalties he will face for not completing his civic duty as a Japanese citizen. The penalties include a drop in social status (such as losing your job), not being able to enter the university of your choice, and other rewards from working hard. The hero of our series is fifteen-year-old Yukari Nejima, who falls into the trope of the below average dude in academics and sport. Despite the show featuring a lead with a generally dull personality, he managed to attract two hot and popular chicas. Chica number one is Misaka Takasaki, who Yukari has been in love with since he gave her half his eraser in class before they hit puberty. However, he didn’t have another conversation with her for the next five years. On the night he turns sixteen, he plucks up the courage to confess to her. And what do you know? Misaka has loved him for all these years too! Following this, they proceed to have a steamy make-out session with a white string of saliva connecting their mouths. Two things that I love about the characters is that their teenage horniness is emphasized in the very first episode (most romance anime I’ve seen take five seasons have them join pinky fingers) so this is great. Secondly, I find the term “love” is used way too arbitrarily in our world and in this one too. The “love” they profess to each other would be more believable and hold more substance if they actually knew one other better. I’m not denying that observing someone from afar gives you some insight into their personality, but for the sake of the story, it would have been more realistic if they had at least been acquaintances. Chica number two is Ririna Sanada. She is Yukari’s assigned marriage partner and a fascinating character. She has some tsundere qualities but does not completely fall into this trope. Even initially, I don't find Ririna cold or uncaring. She is socially awkward and refreshingly straightforward but through the series we see her make friends and come out of her shell a bit. Yukari and Ririna form a strange friendship that initially centers around a mutual goal to make team Yukari x Misaka work. Yep, Ririna is a sucker for romance stories and since she isn’t in love with Yukari (yet), she is cheering her supposed rival on. All three of them hang out together and have an interesting time (it’s not a threesome, don’t get your hopes up). This will, as you have already guessed, turn into a love triangle that I am very interested in watching. Yukari and Ririna's attachment slowly starts to escape the friend zone territory so right now the endgame is at fifty-fifty. I think both girls are too good for our main boy but I’m on Team Riri at the moment. Misaka, though, has a layer of mystery surrounding her that intrigues me. I don’t want to force too many spoilers but two strange things stick out about her. Before Yukari gets his notice that confirms Ririna is his assigned marriage partner – it is hand delivered by weird government officials who randomly turn up at his location late at night- he receives a text message that reads Misaka will be his future wife. But the message flashes for barely a second before his phone screen goes blank and the government authorities brush it off as a glitch – that sounds shady. Despite having turned sixteen a few months ago, Misaka has not yet received her notice, and her family has some weird connection with the government. Hopefully, as the series progresses, we'll be rewarded with tasty unraveling that features some dark past. The most obvious questions people will have about this societal structure revolves around the marginalized LGBTQ group. The answer will be revealed in the form of Yusuke Nisaka – a hot homosexual dude who also appears to have an interest in Yukari. Seriously, what is it about him!? So far (we’re at episode six) we don’t know too much about Yusuke’s family life or his past but I’m pretty sure he'll be causing some welcomed upheaval – start a revolution, dude! The premise of this story is gripping and it seems like it will be ambitiously tackling some important themes surrounding forced sexuality, the meaning of love, social control, advanced technology and perhaps other things I cannot currently think of. The art would be more appealing if not for the overly emphasized eyes. In terms of sound, I enjoy the ending song “Can’t you say” by Roys. The opening, “Kanashii Ureshii,” by Frederic is alright, and some of the background music does not fit the scenes well. While the characters aren’t anything special, I’m curious to see how their interactions and relationships will develop. Overall, this anime has me hooked enough to see it through to the end. If you’re a sucker for drama and hot action that has a healthy dose of ecchi, then this is for you.
Love and Lies photo
Both Are Forbidden
Love and Lies is set in an alternate reality where Japan has figured out a way to stop their socioeconomic issue of declining birth rates. How, you ask? They forbade love. In this new system, your marriage part...

Impressions: Golden Kamuy Manga Vol. 1

Jun 24 // Christian Chiok
[embed]35706:6207:0[/embed] Golden Kamuy takes place in early 20th century and it introduces us to Saichi “Immortal” Sugimoto, a Russo-Japanese War veteran, who has become a miner in Hokkaido to provide for the widow of his dead comrade, Toraji. When he stumbles across a map to a fortune in hidden Ainu gold, he sets off on a journey to find it. As expected, Sugimoto isn’t the only one interested in finding the fortune, and everyone who knows about it is willing to kill to possess it. During his quest, he meets an Ainu girl named Asirpa, who helps him survive the harsh conditions of the northern wilderness, ruthless criminals, and rogue Japanese soldiers. The story starts with a flashback/dream where Sugimoto was still in the Russo-Japanese war and mercilessly attacking his enemies, showing how he earned his nickname as “Immortal Sugimoto.” Then the story fast forward a little bit and we see Sugimoto talking to a man while scraping for gold, with no luck, however, and that’s where he learns about the gold rush that happened back then in every river of Hokkaido. At the same time, there was a group of Ainu secretly gathering funds to build an army so they can fight back the Japanese and ban them from fishing and hunting. They managed to gather a lot of gold, however, a man was able to steal all of it and kill all the Ainu guarding it. Then the police were pursuing the man for quite a while until he's sent to prison and sentenced him to death. Before then, the guards, just like everyone else, were trying to figure out where he hid the gold. But because he couldn't send letters to his friends, the prisoners that shared the same cell with him tattooed the location of gold stash hid into their bodies If he reminds me of someone, it would definitely be Gold D. Roger from One Piece — it's probably why I enjoy it a lot, since aside from the Nakama bond and epic fights, I really enjoy stories revolving around the quest for treasure. Speaking of epic fights, while they are more realistic, they still keep you at the edge of your seat as he's been on the verge of death in a few encounters. He's also battle smart, as expected, so that's fun to see. If you want to explore new series, especially seinen, then Golden Kamuy is a great series to pick up. It offers a suspenseful story that keeps you at the edge of your seat as you flip every page and interesting story. If you enjoy stories about journeys with a resolution to find a fortune, but in a mature setting with badass and interesting characters, then Golden Kamuy is for you.  
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Call Me Immortal Sugimoto
One of my favorite things as an Otaku is being introduced to series that I had no idea they existed. When receiving my Dragon Ball Super manga volume from Viz Media, I got Golden Kamuy alongside it. J...

Impressions: Dragon Ball Super Manga Vol. 1

Jun 22 // Christian Chiok
Dragon Ball has always been alive in Japan as we always got video games here and there, and a few specials such as Episode of Bardock, Yo! Son Goku and his friends return, and the Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans remake, in addition to the Dragon Ball Heroes manga by Toyotaro. Then in 2013, comes Battle of Gods, which took the Dragon Ball fan base by surprise—we were finally going to get new material. Afterward, it led to 2015’s Resurrection of F movie and finally the announcement of a new series, in both anime and manga forms, which we know as Dragon Ball Super, the latter which is aso being made by Toyotaro. For those who don’t know, Toyotaro was previously known as Toyble, and was known for creating a Dragon Ball AF manga in the 2000s. Though the manga is still behind, I’ve been enjoying it much more than the anime and I’m really liking the touches Toyotaro is adding (or removing) from the story. The first arc was adapted much better as well. There’s also some things that they added that I really like, like giving Vegeta a Super Saiyan God transformation, and things I didn’t like as much, as Goku not having Super Saiyan Blue Kaioken transformation. Overall, I feel like the manga offers a more cohesive structured storytelling, though I recommend keeping up with both regardless. Dragon Ball Super’s manga, just like the anime, starts with an adaption of Battle of Gods, and it’s much better. Not only does it straight to the point, stretching the movie for no reason like the anime did, but the artstyle was much better. I felt like it highlighted the most important points of the movie well, minus the Bingo scene, sadly. A huge difference from the movie is that this arc introduces us to Champa and Vados—siblings of Beerus and Whis respectively. Considering the manga already expects the readers have seen both Battle of Gods and Resurrection of F, we are only given a few panels of the latter before it moves into the Universe 6 arc. If you’re watching the anime and have yet to read the manga, please do so. Even though the manga is behind the anime, and from the surface both the anime and the manga are the same. You’re missing out on an interesting perspective of the series and doing yourself a disservice if you’re not reading the manga.  
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Subarashii Ningen!
Dragon Ball has been one of the most popular franchises in Japan during the last three decades, and with good reason, and when it finally ended, it really makes you feel empty, at least it did for me when I finished watc...

Impressions: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Manga Vol. 1

Dec 13 // Christian Chiok
For those unfamiliar with Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure, it all starts with the legacy of Jonathan Joestar, the protagonist of Phantom Blood, the first part of the series. In short, the series consist of his struggles with his adoptive brother Dio Brando, which ends with Dio being defeated, or so we thoughts. A hundred years later, we are introduced to Jotaro Kujo who is the grandson of Joseph Joestar, the protagonist of Part 2: Battle Tendency and grandson of Jonathan Joestar. The volume starts off introducing Jotaro, starting off with his childhood years then transitioning to his present teenager years. During a school fight with four delinquents, he discovered that an “evil spirit” possessed him so when incarcerated, he decided to stay. Then comes Joseph Joestar, who already knew the “evil spirit” that possessed Jotaro when Holy mentioned it to him over the phone. This “evil spirit” is known as Stand, which will be a common thing throughout the series. A stand us a powerful apparition created by one’s energy and because it stand’s next to the user, it’s called a “Stand.” With Holly being part of the Joestar bloodline, just like her father and son, she gained the power of a Stand, but unfortunately because of her gentle and non-violent nature made her lack the mental strength necessary to control the Stand, slowly making her ill with a harmful high fever and putting her life at risk. Knowing that, Jotaro and Joseph decided to make a trip to Egypt to defeat Dio and stop the curse. As soon their trips began, Dio’s lackies already started assaulting them and intervening with their trip to prevent them from finding Dio’s hideout.   From beginning to end, I was definitely satisfied with how Viz Media handled the first volume. If you’re a huge fanatic of Jojo prior the new wave of fans that just discovered the series due to the 2012 anime, you probably already have it, but if you’re part of the latter and never read the manga, then I would recommend you to do so. It’s better to start from Phantom Blood, but since you are already up to date with the series, it should be fine to start your manga collection from Stardust Crusaders and experience the series in its original form. 
Stardust Crusaders photo
A Very Bizarre Adventure
If I have to name my favorite Shonen series, more specifically battle series, then I would have to say Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure.  If you been keeping up with Japanator and read my Top 10 from last year, you’l...

Impressions: Dragon Quest Builders Demo

Sep 28 // Red Veron
Dragon Quest Builders (PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita)Developer: Square EnixPublisher: Square EnixRelease Date: January 28, 2016 (JP), October 11. 2016 (NA), October 14, 2016 (EU)MSRP: $59.99 (PlayStation 4) You may have heard of Dragon Quest before, it's a role-playing game series that had its start in Japan in the late 80's on the Nintendo Family Computer (the Japanese Nintendo Entertainment System) and has become pretty much an institution in Japanese culture. Japan loves this series so much, you've probably seen references to Dragon Quest in different Japanese media and you probably might have not noticed. Dragon Quest also part of that popular urban legend of video game stores having to release the game on weekends so schoolkids wouldn't skip class to pick up the latest entry in the series. There have been many attempts to bring the series to the US, but the timing has always been not quite right. Now, we have a very unlikely Dragon Quest spinoff and it is borrowing elements from one of the biggest games in the last decade: Minecraft. While the series has had many spinoffs in other genres, this attempt of creating a sandbox exploration and creation adventure game actually does a really good job. Dragon Quest Builders is set in a world that is generations after the first Dragon Quest game, where the hero in original Dragon Quest chooses to rule half the world with the Dragonlord, the final boss in the game. Of course, the Dragonlord being the big bad, betrays the hero and plunges the world into darkness, along with it, robbing humanity the ability build things. So it is now generations later and players will take on the role of the "Builder", who must save the world from the Dragonlord by building stuff and using said stuff to defeat the Dragonlord. The game has a story, which is not really common in the sandbox-creation-exploration genre, progression is tied to the narrative that also tries to teach you how to do things and keeps you on a track with some freedom in between. This demo covers only very little of the game, so we don't get much of an idea as to how much freedom there is compared to the full game. The demo is the first hour and a half of the Dragon Quest Builders, teaching you the different mechanics of the game as your progress with the story. You are slowly given bits of the narrative while learning the basics such crafting, resource gathering, combat, and other parts from early in the game. Base building is also part of the game, players get to build a town (which is more like a base) and this demo shows a little bit of that mechanic. Building up the town attracts people to help build up the town as well as add more ways to item crafting. The other side to base building is also defending it against monsters aligned with the big bad Dragonlord who will attack your town from time to time. Defenses can be built to keep monsters from destroying your base and townsfolk will also help you fight.  Combat in the demo is basic, only two melee weapons are available, a stick and a club. They do fine against most of the enemies you encounter, except for the dragon which takes a while to fight with such weak weapons. Crafting is easy, all made in a menu at crafting stations, just gather the right items and you can make what is needed. Dragon Quest Builders just looks really good, the chibi-styled Dragon Quest characters look very faithful to the series, as well the much more recognized monsters such as the Slime monsters, the series' de facto mascot. Monsters act like they do in the recent games they are from, attacks and sound cues as well. The game shows off more of its Dragon Quest heritage with much of the iconography in the game are ripped straight from the series. Familiar items are abundant, from healing items to even chimera wings, which is a mainstay in the Dragon Quest games and function the same way. Another way this game shows off its Dragon Quest DNA is through the music. The lovely and soothing orchestral Dragon Quest music is present and just perfect for this new genre where hours fade away. This music is perfect since it was also made for Japanese RPGs that take dozens of hours to complete and it won't drive you crazy from hearing it over and over again. The game's camera can be finicky at times, it zooms in when you're in tight spaces. When you're running through a forest with plenty of trees, it can be hard to see items and enemies under the foliage and will require you to maneuver the camera low for the best view. There is a transparency effect that lets you see through it but it is only wide enough to see a little bit around your character and can make it hard to be able to see enemies near you. These problems with the camera are not a big deal and don't really pop up often. The minor problems are only in the cases I mentioned above, most of the environments are open and controlling the camera isn't difficult. Block placement can be imprecise at times, since the cursor isn't always present and defaults to where your character is facing (which isn't always clearly defined). Placing objects where you don't intend to place them does happen but you don't get penalized for breaking them down (unlike in Minecraft where crafted objects revert to the raw materials) and you only take a very small reduction to the durability of the tool used to break it down. (Update: You can hold L1 & R1 /L & R buttons to be able to precisely stack blocks in front of you.) The small slice of the world in the demo might seem large at first but once the demo is over, you may find it small and a bit empty. However, those who choose to explore the island in the demo will be in for a bit of a treat. Getting to the other side of the mountain will let you see a bit more of the game. There is a little bit more to see but it's not much, though it gives you a better idea of the scale of this world. The Dragon Quest Builders demo is short but it left me wanting more places to explore and build, which is what a demo should do. I played for more than two hours of the demo I enjoyed almost every single moment of it. There's a lot of the world to explore and many things to build, and I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of the game. After looking at people playing the Japanese version, I realized just how little this demo is compared to the vast amount of content in the full game. [embed]35296:5867:0[/embed]
Dragon Quest Builders photo
Save the world one piece at a time
Last night, I streamed Dragon Quest Builders on Japanator Live, the latest spinoff of  Dragon Quest series that takes a lot of inspiration from the sandbox creation genre (made popular by Minecraft) and infuses...

Japanator Live photo
Japanator Live

Japanator Live: Let's try out the Steam version of Steins;Gate

El Psy Kongroo
Sep 10
// Salvador G Rodiles
[Update: The stream is over, but you can watch it here.] So MAGES released Steins;Gate on Steam yesterday, which means that we're going to take the game for a spin tonight. Since Former Japanator Community Manager B...

Japanator's Summer 2016 Anime Preview Guide!

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

Impressions: Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash episodes 1-4

Feb 05 // Salvador G Rodiles
Perhaps this is what makes Grimgar an interesting series to follow. Compared to many other titles in this genre, none of the characters overpower each other. In fact, they all play up the idea of an RPG group where each member has a major role to fulfill. You have your basic party of a Thief, Dark Knight, Fighter, Hunter, Mage and Healer, which make up the core group of the main cast. However, the kicker is that they’re not very good at using their jobs in battle. Instead of the series focusing on a tale about a group of adventurers saving the land or trying to escape from an unknown world, Grimgar touches upon the struggle of the main group trying to make a living in a new location. Even though their tasks seem to be simple in the eyes of many folks who play RPGs or Dungeons & Dragons, the series does a fine job in showing the audience that fighting a creature that’s usually depicted as a weakling in most titles (such as the show’s goblins) can be a threat to those who’re trying to learn the ropes of battle. In a way, it covers that feeling that comes from doing something for the first time, as the cast lacks any previous combat experience. Since the group has no memory of their life in their own world, this gives Grimgar a nice sense of mystery, as the viewers are unsure of how the characters actually are. To an extent, they’re all basically amnesiacs living an entirely new life, which makes one wonder how they’ll change when their memories return to them. Because of this angle, these elements made the series' story intriguing since this could play a major role when they uncover the truth about themselves. With the cast randomly shouting out terms related to our world, there’s plenty of promise with the story's mystery. Despite the series’ fantasy look, the meat of show focuses mostly on the group living their everyday life. The first three episodes gave us the rundown on Grimgar’s setting, along with showing us the gang’s routine during each day. Surprisingly, there’s also a feeling of innocence and curiosity between the main gang, as the staff handled a couple scenes that seemed like they would be played off for perverted laughs in a way that focuses more on the characters’ reaction than what’s happening in front of them. In this case, it works surprisingly well in grounding the group’s relationship with each other. For the most part, the show’s direction resulted in the whole thing being decent. While the show’s first three episodes didn't grab me at first, their story elements utilized made way for a major event that pieced everything nicely. Honestly, I didn’t expect to see this sort of scenario happen this early in the anime since the group was still getting used to hunting goblins for a living. Perhaps the most impactful thing about the outcome is that it resembles a scenario from a D&D campaign or a tough RPG where the player’s mistake can result in a huge consequence, regardless of how small it seems. Of course, Grimgar's visuals are a treat, as the backgrounds are colored in a way where they resemble a watercolor painting. To top it off, the characters’ colors and shading mesh well with the environment which gives off a nice soothing vibe. Thanks to this aspect, this helps most scenes look great when it focuses on the cast performing their daily routine. Even though the show’s soundtrack had some weak rock tunes here and there, there are still a few subtle fantasy tunes that suit the show’s setting. The main opening is alright and the series features a few vocal tracks that pan over a scene, which can be enjoyable at times. Since the music’s quality is the type that grows on the viewer with each passing episode, I could see it getting better later on. At the end of the day, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash presents us with some intriguing ideas on the concept of characters being trapped in a game-like fantasy world. While the show’s presentation resulted in the whole thing being average, episode 4’s tragic event delivers enough impact to make it promising. Since the show gives off a nice .hack//SIGN vibe, I’m hoping that it’ll improve when things start getting even tougher for the main party. In the meantime, the title’s recent event could cause the series to level up soon. [You can live the Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash life at FUNimation]
Grimgar photo
Living the fantasy life isn't easy
There’s something great about playing anime roulette when one chooses a show to cover—especially if it’s a title that one isn’t too familiar with. Before I jumped into the anime adaptation of the light...

Yo-Kai Watch photo
Yo-Kai Watch

Impressions: Yo-kai Watch Manga Vol. 1 and 2

A Spooky Adventure
Dec 24
// Christian Chiok
Ever since the first game released in Japan back in 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS, the Yo-kai Watch franchise has captivated the entire Japanese population. While the manga was published a few months before the game officially re...

Impressions: Kamen Rider Ghost episodes 1-9

Dec 10 // Salvador G Rodiles
Giving off a bit of a YuYu Hakusho vibe, Ghost starts off with a guy called Takeru Tenkuji getting killed by some ghostly creatures called the Ganma. Thanks to the work of the Sage, the guy’s now a ghost and he has to collect the spirits of fifteen heroic figures. If he succeeds, he can use their power to grant himself a wish, which could restore his life. However, he has 99 days to accomplish this goal; otherwise, he’ll remain dead. Since the hero needs to be challenged, he also has to obtain them before his enemies and rivals do. If there’s one thing that I love about the Kamen Rider franchise, it’s when they implement gimmicks where the tide between the heroes and villains changes each week. Kamen Rider OOO did this with the Core Medals and Gaim’s tendency to have characters switch factions while backstabbing others were two great features that made it hard for the audience to guess how the overall story would turn out. With Takeru having a time limit to collect the heroic spirits, this element gives the show that spice that can make people want to keep up with each episode. Not only that, both Riders are able to turn them into eye-shaped items called Eyecons, which goes well with the title’s spooky motif. Add the show’s second Rider, Kamen Rider Specter, to the mix early on, and we ourselves the perfect mix to challenge our main hero. Just like Takeru, Specter has his own reason for wanting to collect the heroic spirits. In fact, the guy has a few of them on his side already. Due to this rivalry, the show has that OOO feeling where anyone could lose their powers at any time. This format works nicely since it affects both sides’ fighting capabilities and the progress of their main objective. Unfortunately, the program’s super low budget prevents it from reaching its true potential. Likely because of the Ghost’s tinier budget, the series’ villains are all mostly the same Ganma grunt creature design, except that they gave them different molds and/or outfits. If you look at the creatures’ basic features, such as the Mozart Ganma and the Lewis Carol Ganma, the differences between the Monsters-of-the-Week are practically nonexistent. In fact, it makes the show look cheaper than your standard Heisei Rider show, which is unfortunate since the bad guys from the first episode sported one design that did a decent job in masking the basic Ganma design. That, and the Tesla Ganma was another one that stood out from the rest. Even though we’ve had shows like OOO or Drive where the monsters would evolve from their henchmen form, the team would make sure that each enemy has their own unique look and body build. Even if the series has to work with less money than usual, it could be possible for them to create an array of different bad guys if they would’ve utilized the two-part format again. Right now, the Ganma’s giant forms are the closest thing to them having something that’s doesn’t look the same, so let’s hope that we see some new changes down the road. This problem doesn’t just apply to the bad guys, as the action and visuals suffer dearly as well. Usually in these types of shows, the first few episodes would always have the heroes performing an array of ridiculous moves to get everyone excited. Not just for wanting to get them to buy the toys, but to make sure that they’re in for a good time. With over eight different Forms shown in the series so far, Spectre’s finishers are the only ones that almost achieve this spark. These mostly apply to Ghost’s scenes, which lack that ‘Oomph’ or ‘Bam’ that many Riders' special attacks have. For example, his first Rider kick during episode 1 had him do his finisher after barely jumping off the ground. While Riders like Kabuto have done finishers where they do a simple move like a roundhouse kick, the attacks are still enforced with good action direction, effects, and camera shots. Perhaps if they experimented with some effects and camera angles, we might’ve ended up with something better, since they could utilize special techniques to make up for the program’s low budget. In this case, this seems to be more of a case of poor action direction that doesn’t focus much on the flashy moves, since smaller titles like Fujiyama Ichiban and Garage Pro TV’s shows have been able to create cool-looking scenes and attacks with their limited funds. That being said, there’s a chance that a few members of Ghost's staff aren’t having fun with the production since that’s a factor that can make or break many projects. Other than that, the wire work for Ghost’s flying scenes felt strange, as his body movements are inconsistent while he's flying. Honestly, this could’ve been fixed with some effects to make him look more phantom-like during these segments. Hell, the typical ghost tail would've made these scenes amazing. On top of that, the fact that the team recycled an entire scene from the Kamen Rider OOO movie during episode 4 is a sign that the show’s production is going through a major struggle. However, things start to get slightly better in later episodes, though the obvious signs of the cheaper look still remain. Despite the show’s cost-related issues, Ghost still has some decent things going on. The main Rider’s hooded jacket looks cool, and his Halloween color scheme work well with the ghost theme— seeing that the show premiered in October. While it’s obvious that Specter’s design having similarities with Ghost’s looks is the result of a smaller budget, it’s still neat that they have a Kamen Rider #1 and #2 vibe going on, as the two classic heroes shared similar design features. At the moment, these two suits are the best costumes in the series so far, which will likely improve when they get their stronger forms. To an extent, both characters' costumes remind me of Kamen Rider Wizard's stylish looks, which remains consistent in Ghost and Specter’s different Souls that represent various historical figures. As the for the show’s story, one of its best elements is Specter’s backstory and reasoning for wanting to obtain the special wish. For a character that’s only been around for four or five episodes, his alignment is an interesting one since the villains don’t see him as a huge threat. Aran seems to know Specter and it looks like Saionji wants to manipulate him as well. Since it’s hard to pinpoint the second Rider’s alignment, this conflict serves as the main piece that save Ghost from its sad state. Even though the group’s mysterious actions are still on track, it’s a bit sad when the supporting cast outsmarts Saionji, who happens to be the main villain at the moment. For now, the only thing that could make him threatening is that he might become an evil Rider or a threatening creature later on. Seeing that Aran has his own motives, this element takes us back to how OOO and Gaim had a few of its characters switch sides or form new factions. Based on the new character Javel’s appearance, the show hints that they’re likely inhabitants of the Ganma’s world, which I could see becoming a big thing soon. Sadly, Ghost’s supporting cast doesn’t hold the same strength as he potential that the evil side has. Akari is your person who refuses to believe that spirits are real and Onari is the ridiculous buffoon that happens to be a monk. They may have been helpful to Takeru from time to time, but they seem to have those same aspects that made most of Wizard’s cast weak. Hopefully, this flaw is temporary, since a good dose of character development can solve this problem right away. I guess the Sage and his ghostly partner Yurusen are alright, as their appearances tend to have some amusing comedic timing to them. Speaking of which, Takeru could use this as well since his basic personality doesn’t make him stand out that much. Even though his quirk is that he brings hope to the people who’re being manipulated by the Ganma, he’s missing that special touch that made most of the franchise’s protagonists great. On the bright side, his quest and will to return to the world of the living could make him better later on. For now, he seems to be on the same level as Haruto from Wizard, which means that he’s close to hitting that same level of blandness that the title’s hero has. Due to its low budget and possible issues with the production’s management, Kamen Rider Ghost continues to suffer from being an average show in the eyes of its predecessors. Perhaps if Kamen Rider Drive’s second half didn't put the toys in the backseat, then the program would’ve gotten higher merchandise sales to would've allowed the latest installment to look better. However, it’s still too early to dismiss the series as a disaster, since there are many elements that can turn things around. With the program starting to shed light on Takeru’s dad’s experiments with the supernatural, I could see this aspect opening up to some shocking surprises that’ll lead to a frightfully good time.
Kamen Rider Ghost photo
G-G-Go Ghost!
If there’s one thing that’s scary about an ongoing franchise, it’s when the latest series gets a budget cut. In some cases, this scenario won’t stop the team from delivering an entertaining program; ho...

Impressions: Shuriken Sentai Ninninger episodes 1-30

Sep 27 // Salvador G Rodiles
At one point in time, a man with the title of the Last Ninja managed to seal away a group of Yokai that were lead by a ruthless warlord called Gengetsu Kibaoni. Flash forward to the present, and a mysterious fellow who goes by the name of Kyuuemon Izayoi has awakened most of the creatures that were sealed away.  Standing in his way are the five relatives of the legendary shinobi, who are also in training to become great warriors. As they work hard to save humanity, the team is also competing to see who can become the Last Ninja’s successor. From the get-go, the main thing that sets Ninninger apart from most other Sentai shows is that the five heroes are also rivals. Despite their ambitions for wanting to become the next Last Ninja, the group still has to work as a team to overcome all odds. Because of this format, this lets us see the main cast’s relationship exhibit different levels of chemistry during training and in real battle. Hell, the team’s trials are played out like an actual school, since students are ranked by their grades and overall performance until they graduate. At the same time, they still help each other out during tough situations, which brings us an interesting take on the franchise's teamwork theme. Even through the series features a neat take on the team’s relationship, it’s unfortunate that the staff is trying too hard to replicate Kyoryuger’s over-the-top aspects. Obviously, I love it when a Sentai program has off-the-wall elements, but it’s important for these aspects to come off naturally. For example, Takuharu Igasaki/Aka Ninger gives off a Daigo/Kyoryu Red vibe, but the guy’s overly exaggerated enthusiasm and his tendency to use the phrase ‘fired up’ and ‘hot’ lacks that special zest that made the King's hot-blooded phrases great. Instead, his actions make him a bit annoying at times. Speaking of attempts to replicate successful elements, the final part of the team’s roll call has to do with running wild and the show’s sixth Ranger made his debut early in the series. Based on these aspects, it’s likely possible that Ninninger’s staff is hoping that these elements will replicate Kyoryuger’s success. Luckily, the show doesn’t come off as a poor excuse to market merchandise to kids based on the brand name alone, since there are a few moments that stand out on their own. Despite Takaharu’s slightly irritating habits, the rest of the cast manages to balance out his negative traits. With two young heroes that provide great support, a magic ninja, a scientific genius, and a cowboy that loves to take selfies with monsters, the rest of the Ninninger balance out the red shinobi’s bad qualities. I guess you could say that each member covers their own weaknesses in battle and in life. All in all, the group’s interactions play off for some good laughs here and there, which helps keep viewers entertained before the action kicks in. As for Kyuuemon’s group, the show’s format prevents them from being fleshed out too well. This was due to the fox demon’s tendency to revive Gengetsu’s Generals one at a time, which prevented most of the major bad guys from reaching their full potential. One villain that suffered dearly from this was Raizou Gabi, who seemed like he was going to be Takaharu’s rival throughout the entire show— kind of like Takeru/Shinken Red and Juzou’s encounters in Shinkenger. Even though the later Commanders are still alive, their role hasn’t reached the same pinnacle as the blood-thirsty samurai. For now, Izayoi shows some promise, since his backstory is connected to the Igasaki Ninja Clan. That and it’s cool to see that Gengetsu’s high-ranking members wear broken Noh masks; thus adding a neat aesthetic to the group’s Warring Era theme. Perhaps if Gengetsu and his top officers were awake from the get-go, Ninninger might’ve had a stronger villain cast. Then again, Ninja Sentai Kakuranger featured a similar format to the latest ninja team’s adversary, so the issue here is how the bad guys interact with the heroes. Hell, in titles like Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters, a series with a small general count, the thing that let Enter stay strong throughout the series was his constant interaction with his enemies. Whether he was eating a pizza while commencing his evil scheme or greeting the team in French, his presence was a welcoming aspect for the show. Sadly, the Kibaoni Army’s commanders (except Raizou) weren't able to deliver a great dynamic between them and the good guys, which was due to them not crossing swords with the heroes too often. Where the villains were lacking, the Monsters-of-the-Week managed to keep the series’ conflicts entertaining. Besides being actual yokai crossed with random objects, most of these creatures leave us with some silly moments here and there. I mean, we got to see Frankenstein's Creature become a fan of cute 2D girls, a moment that I didn't expect to see outside of Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger. Due to Kyuuemon’s desire to collect people's fears, we get to see these baddies scare humans through actions like using walls to crush people’s dreams or trapping people inside of difficult board games. Even when the Izayoi Clan ninjas took over as the weekly adversaries for the heroes, they still managed to carry the spirit of the other bad guys. Going back to Kyuuemon, his role in the show is now one of the bigger things that could turn the villains around. Aside from his mysterious motives, he played a decent role in giving the show’s sixth Ranger, Kinji/Star Ninger, a challenge while he was trying to become the Last Ninja’s student. As the ninja fox demon starts to show more of his true colors, I could see him becoming a bigger villain than Gengetsu later on. For now, this is aspect is something that could turn the evil side into a more lovable group. In regards to the team’s weapon designs, their #1 Sword sports a colorful look, which goes well with its role as a changing device and main combat gadget. Just like Ninja Sentai Kakuranger’s heroes, the Ninninger all have the same gear, since their other tools include a transforming shuriken and a frog gun. Nonetheless, each member’s strengths and weaknesses allow for everyone to use the items in different ways, such as Yakumo/Ao Ninger combining magic with his special attacks. Thanks to their special shurikens that can be inserted into each weapon, the show’s staff has ensured that the Ninninger are able to add some more flair to the action scenes on screen. Of course, these segments go well with the group’s usage of ninja techniques like substitution and clone move; thus acting as another decent callback to the two previous ninja-themed Sentai shows. As for the gang’s costumes, the suits manage to compliment the show’s motif, as each hero’s helmet has a different shuriken that acts as their visor. On top of that, the scrolls on their chests complete the great package that makes up these great designs. While Star Ninger’s attire lacks these features, his cowboy elements were a clever way to utilize the sheriff’s star as part of the team’s association with spiked throwing weapons. While we’re on the topic of Star Ninger, the hero’s cowboy hat-shaped helmet and poncho work as a great way to compliment his American origins. Sure, he’s a parody of Texan and Wild West stereotypes (the guy transforms with a freaking cheeseburger cellphone, for crying out loud), but it’s these aspects that make his character fun. In a way, he’s like a glorious fusion between Ninpu Sentai Hurricanger’s Shurikenger and Shinkenger’s Shinken Gold, since he likes to add English words to phrases and he has a gold costume that has blue on it. Just like Kyoryuger’s mecha dinosaurs, Ninninger’s signature robots also feature a colorful toy-like design. If there’s one thing that sets them apart from the samba dinosaur show, it’s that the team’s Ninja Allies don’t share a similar motif. When you think about it, a giant ninja, a dragon, a dump truck, a dog, a train, an elephant, a U.F.O., a surfer, a lion fortress, and a Western ninja that rides a buffalo A.T.V. wheeler have nothing in common. Then again, most of these things are seen as cool things, which might’ve been a factor in their decision to give the gang machines that lack a common motif. Even though the Ninninger’s Ninja Allies look like something to come out of a ‘Cool Japan’ campaign, the shear ridiculousness behind these units using each other as thrones is both an awesome homage to its ninja theme, along with being a great way to replicate the great aspects from show like Gurren Lagann into a live-action series. From day one, this was an idea that I was on board with from the beginning, and Ninninger has yet to disappoint me with this theme. With all said and done, Ninninger may be a show that tries too hard to replicate Kyoryuger’s zaniness, but its other ideas prevent it from being a disappointing Sentai series. Based on its progressions, it’s not the right kind of bread to complete the sandwich that contains ToQger and its predecessor, since its major villains lack the elements that made the ones from the two previous shows great. However, this could change with Kyuuemon’s new ninja clan and Gengetsu’s true debut, so anything could happen at this point. Another great thing that kept the series fun was its return to the family theme present in Sentai titles like GoGo V and Magiranger gave the series its own charm, since it gave the main cast the chance to partake in lots of silly segments. Whether it was Kinji’s attempts to defeat the other heroes or the group’s early reactions to Takaharu’s old friend/possible love interest, these aspects continue to remind me why I find this format to be great. Based on the way how things are going now, the show’s looking to be an enjoyable title by the time things get super real— especially with the whole ordeal with Kyuuemon creating ninjas out of Tsumuji’s ninja abilities. If the show's staff plays their cards right with this one, we might be in for a cool scenario soon. While it might not reach Tokusatsu of the Year quality, the series has enough decent content for many folks to enjoy. In other words, hiding doesn't stop party night!
Shuriken Sentai Ninninger photo
It's all about that Shinobi Love
When it comes to delicacies that blend things together, the sandwich is one of those meals that smash a bunch of stuff in between two slices of bread. So what does this have to do with tokusatsu? Well, one thing that I’...

Strong Style: New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS S2 episode 5

Jun 27 // Soul Tsukino
With that, here are the participants: [embed]34001:4875:0[/embed] A Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi (2007 winner) Satoshi Kojima (2010 winner) Yuji Nagata (2001 winner) Tomoaki Honma (Replacing an injured Kota Ibushi) Katsuyori Shibata Shinsuke Nakamura (2011 winner) Tomohiro Ishii Shelton X Benjamin Davey Boy Smith Jr Doc Gallows Bad Luck Fale B Block: Togi Makabe (2009 winner) Hirooki Goto (2008 winner) Tetsuya Naito (2013 winner) Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2006 2004 2003 winner) Kazuchika Okada (2012 winner) Toru Yano Minoru Suzuki Lance Archer AJ Styles Yujiro Takahashi  Karl Anderson So we begin on the first night of the tour at the Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center on July 21 2014. Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomoaki Honma: Interesting match with NJPW's big star taking on the perennial underdog. The announcers point out that Honma is replacing Ibushi who is out of the competition with a concussion. Honma gets a great reaction from the crowd. The picture being painted is that Honma may be the underdog, but he is hanging every step with Tanahashi. Honma actually dominates and sets up for his falling headbutt finisher, but as usual, he misses. Tanahashi hits a dragon suplex, but Honma kicks out. Honma nearly gets a pin with a roll up. Honma hangs tough, but Tanahashi hits the sling blade clothesline and a diving splash to get the win and two points. Brief, especially with the edits, but it got the point across. Block B: A.J. Styles vs. Kazuchika Okada: Really surprised this wasn't the feature match. Both "The Rainmaker" and "The Phenomenal One" have been featured on this show before so there isn't much new that I'll explain. Styles is the reigning IWGP Champion in this match as well, having beaten Okada. The crowd is FIRMLY behind Okada in this one. Styles is out here by himself while Okada has Gedo in his corner. Okada starts thing off with an awesome dropkick with Styles sitting on the top turnbuckle. They do an amazing spot where Styles is whipped into the ringside barricade, but leaps right over it into ringside, only to have Okada leap over and hit Styles. Further along in the match the ref is down. Okada goes for the win when Takahashi comes in as expected but gets dropkicked in the mouth for his troubles. They exchange moves including Okada hitting a tombstone out of a styles clash position before Okada decrapitates Styles with the rainmaker clothesline for the win and 2 big points. We get some words from Okada in the ring where he promises to beat Styles of the IWGP title and he will win the whole tournament. Gedo says pretty much the same thing. We get a few words from Shibata about his mindset going into this match. He talks about how he wondered what the fans would think of their match, and also how much Nakamura had changed since they were together 10 years ago. Block A: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Katsuyori Shibata: The announcers do a great job of explaining how Shibata had left NJPW for over 7 years to go to MMA and various paces while his dojo classmates Nakamura and Tanahashi stayed. The difference in these two is night and day. Shibata  comes out in black tights and no flash. Very much like Dan Severn while Nakamura comes out with his usual flash and posing. The match starts tentatively as both men go for a classic style lock up.  Nakamura does some clowning, but Shibata makes him pay for it with some kicks. Seeing Shibata going for sit outs and lock ups shows he's had amateur wrestling training up the wazoo. Shibata puts Nakamura in a sleeper and then powers him over the top rope. Shibata's emotionless approach to calmly throwing Nakamura into the barricade and the ring posts is scary. Things slow down as Shibata goes for an early figure four leg lock. They break the hold and we go into Shibata smacking Nakamura around before Shinsuke gets fired up and takes over. The match is showing that while Shibata is the emotionless badass, Nakamura is every bit his equal and can fight as well. Shibata hits a sweet kick that knocks Shinsuke flat before Shibata hits a hanging dropkick (!). Nakamura goes for his finisher, but his met with a dropkick laying out both men as we go to a break. We come back as both men exchange forearms again and neither is going down. Nakamura hits two Boom-mae-yae knees to the skull, but Shibata gets up from the pin and then counters Shinsuke's charge with another dropkick. Shibata NAILS Shinsuke with a hell of a kick and gets the pin! Wow, not the result I would have guessed. Okay, now I see why this was made the feature! Nakamura gives us some words that his loss was a result of bad luck while Shibata doesn't really say much of anything. Badass? Yup. Promo man? Not even close. We get some studio words from Shibata saying he feels the match got a mixed reaction from fans (Huh? really?) but he's ready for more. As good a show is this is, watching it you can see the flaw of covering such a big tournament with just a 1-hour show. Each night is going to have 10 or 11 matches (and was 4 1/2 hours long), but really they could only show one full match and only clips of just two others. You miss some of the context here, but since it was only the first day of the tournament, Mauro and Josh didn't have to tell you about how many points each person had or what they had to do to stay in the race. Next week we shall see just how much of the rest of the tournament the announcers explain. I, on the other hand, don't have to worry about such things. Here is the quick results of the rest of night 1 and the points update. Block A: Fale beat Ishii, Benjamin beat Gallows, Kojima beat Nagata,  (Tanahashi/Shibata/Fale/Benjamin/Kojima all get 2 points) Block B: Tenzan beat Anderson, Yano beat Suzuki, Takahashi beat Naito, Goto beat Makabe (Okada/Tenzan/Yano/Takahashi/Goto all get 2 points) And there you have it. See you next week with more from the G1 Climax 24! With that here are the participants A Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi (2007 winner) Satoshi Kojima (2010 winner) Yuji Nagata (2001 winner) Tomoaki Honma (Replacing an injured Kota Ibushi) Katsuyori Shibata Shinsuke Nakamura (2011 winner) Tomohiro Ishii Shelton X Benjamin Davey Boy Smith Jr Doc Gallows Bad Luck Fale B Block: Togi Makabe (2009 winner) Hirooki Goto (2008 winner) Tetsuya Naito (2013 winner) Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2006 2004 2003 winner) Kazuchika Okada (2012 winner) Toru Yano Minoru Suzuki Lance Archer AJ Styles Yujiro Takahashi  Karl Anderson So we begin on the first night of the tour at the Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomoaki Honma Interesting match with NJPW's big star taking on the perennial underdog. A.J. Styles vs. Kazuchika Okada Really surprised this wasn't the feature match. Both "The Rainmaker" and "The Phenomenal One" have been featured on this show before so there isn't much new that I'll explain. Styles is the reigning IWGP Champion in this match as well. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Katsuyori Shibata /ul/34001-/match2-620x.jpg [embed]34001:4864:0[/embed]
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The G1 Climax Begins!
Welcome back to Strong Style! This week we begin something very cool as NJPW on AXS TV begins its coverage of the 24th annual G1 Climax Tournament! The coverage of the tournament will take us all the way into August with high...

Strong Style: NJPW on AXS season 2 Episode 4

Jun 13 // Soul Tsukino
First and foremost though, I want to take this opportunity to pass along my thoughts and condolences of the passing of wrestling legend "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. I grew up on Dusty, getting into wrestling just before he would appear in the WWF in his polka dots. I had read about him in the wrestling magazines of the day and that was when I got to see him in action. In 1990 I was ringside in the Augusta, Maine Civic Center to see him and Sapphire with Miss Elizabeth in their corner take on "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Queen Sherri Martel with Brother Love in their corner. Dusty was a big part of me enjoying wrestling since then, whether I realized it or not. He was a man unto himself not only in the ring or behind the mic, but backstage as well. Someone pointed out how ironic it was that the last big WWE show before he passed ended with a "Dusty Finish". It may not always garner the best reaction from fans, but it served as a great element to a story.  He was a great influence to the business and his legacy will live on with all of the young talent he influenced in NXT over the years.  So in tribute and to tie things together, here are some Dusty Rhodes classics with a bit of Nippon flare. Dusty V/S WWF Champion Bob Backlund from 1980 [embed]33945:4813:0[/embed] Dusty V/S Abdullah The Butcher from 1983 (WARNING: This is Bloody!) [embed]33945:4811:0[/embed] Dusty Rhodes: Cosplayer [embed]33945:4812:0[/embed] Tomoaki Honma & Yuji Nagata V/S  Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata: Little surprised they didn't show the Styles/Takahashi V/S Okada/Ishii match instead of this one, but that's how it goes. Nagata has been around since the 90's. WCW fans may remember his lower mid-card feud with Ultimo Dragon in the late 90s. He's a former IWGP champion and while he is still considered a top card wrestler, his best days are behind him, even if he holds Pro Wrestling Noah's top belt, the GHC Title. His partner Honma was mostly a hardcore death match style wrestler when he first started, but developed into a more well rounded wrestler in the late 2000's. He's popular with fans as an underdog hero. Goto is a wrestler who started in New Japan as a jr. heavyweight competitor who moved up to the heavyweight division. He is a midcard wrestler who has had brief brushes with main events, but never stayed there. His partner Shibata is actually a high school classmate of Goto's and also a second generation wrestler (His father was New Japan's Katsuhisa Shibata). He is also a trained MMA fighter with a 6 year run in K1 fighting.  Mauro and Josh welcome us again and Barnett points out that Goto and Shibata are the young guns in this match while their opponents are vets of the ring. Honma kicks things off literally as he and Shibata go back and forth. No feeling out process, strait to the heavy hits. Nagata and Honma take the early lead with stiff as hell strikes and kicks. Shibata BLASTS Honma in the face and pretty much knocks him motionless, but doesn't go for the pin and just brings in Goto instead. They switch back and forth on Honma and man Shibata is just MEAN. Did Honma owe him money or something? He's just punking Honma out here with kicks and strikes, but Honma fights back! Nagata finally geets the tag and HAULS OFF on Shibata with kicks. They get into a stand off with forearms with Nagata getting the advatage with a mafia kick. Nagata lands a exploder suplex but Shibata runs right up and counters with a olympic suplex. Goto tags in and gets right into an armbreaker before Yuji tags in Honma. Honma goes for his finsher, a falling top rope headbutt, but misses. Goto goes for the kill but Honma keeps fighting. All four start going at it.  Nagata and Shibata fight in the crowd as Goto scores the pin in the ring. However Nagata and Shibata just keep fighting into the back. Damn that match was wild! Bet all these guys were sore after that one. We get some words from Fale, in English no less! He talks about wanting to set himself as a big player in NJPW and wanting to destroy Nakamura over winning the belt.   Intercontinental Title: Shinsuke Nakamura V/S Bad Luck Fale: The challenger Bad Luck Fale (prounced Fah-Lay) Is the heavy of The Bullet Club. He tends to be more of a bodyguard than a wrestler, but here he is getting a title shot after nearly beating Nakamura in the New Japan Cup Tournament final. Coming from Tonga by way of New Zealand, he is a former rugby player who debuted in 2010. Nakamura is one of my favorites and someone who is a star for New Japan. He is an interesting sort. He has an artist-like way he wrestles his matches with weird movements and always seemingly looking at his opponent like a blank canvas to create art on. However, this man is a former MMA fighter and three time IWGP champion, so he's no pushover. When he won the IC title, he elevated the title to a main event status in New Japan so that shows just how good he is in the ring. Fale comes to the ring with Tama Tonga so expect cheating.  Nakamura comes to the ring dancing to his own beat as always. Josh and Mauro go into the hate that MMA got from fans going back into the late 90's when NJPW founder Antonio Inoki was having the pro wrestlers enter shoot fights and getting slaughtered. The bell rings and there is a lot of posturing before they lock up. Quickly the tale of this match is Fale being the much stronger of the two. Nakamura gets the edge by stomping on Fale's foot and kneeing him in the corner. Fale runs over Nakamura with a clothesline. This sends him out of the ring where Tama Tonga starts punching away. Fale takes Nakamura over the metal barrier. Mauro starts in on how the NJPW wrestlers are the best in the world, but the refs aren't so much. No respect for poor Red Shoes. He does have a point though. Nkamura gets in the ring as Fale dominates. After a mauling, Nakamura decides enough of that crap and mans up. Coming back from a break as both men are reeling.  Nakamura takes over with forearms and kicks. He misses a knee giving Fale an advantage but loses it just as quickly. Nakamura goes for a neckchoke but Fale counters with a suplex. Fale squashes Nakamura in the corner but doesn't get a pin. Fale goes for a Chokeslam/Asian spike combo (A move he calls The Grenade) but Nakamura kicks out of it and takes over. He gets Fale on the top rope and knees the heck out of him but Runs over Shinsuke with a clothesline. he goes for the Grenade but Shinsuke kicks out again. Fale goes to the top (!) but Nakamura gets him in a BIG superplex. Nakamura gets him in an over the shoulder suplex (good lord!) before Nakamura hits two Boom ba ye knees but gets speared when he goes for a third. Fale goes for a double chokeslam, but Nakamura counters with a head scissors, only to get dropped in a powerbomb. Fale then goes up and lands a huge splash, but Shinsuke kicks out! Fale hits the outsider edge and scores the pin! The Bullet Club celebrate in the ring as Nakamura is hauled out on a stretcher. We get some Bullet Club yammering before Fale closes us out with how important the match was to his career. That main event match was way better than it should have been. You'd think with a big inexperienced lug like Fale, they would have had a ton of outside interference and a ref bump, but nope, outside of one flurry of punches, the match was one on one. While Fale may not be a top card kind of guy, he showed me something here. Good show all around!
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Intercontinental Title on the line!
Welcome back to Strong Style! This week's show has AXS TV going back for our third episode of New Japan Pro Wrestling's Dominion 2014 event from Bodymaker Coliseum in Osaka. This week's show includes a heavy hitting tag match and an Intercontinental Title match.

Strong Style: New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS season 2 episode 3

Jun 06 // Soul Tsukino
We start off this week's episode with a few words from Togi Makabe before we get to our first match. NWA Tag Team Title: Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr./Lance Archer) V/S Ten-koji (Hiroshi Tenzan/Satoshi Kojima):  Smith and Archer both had mediocre runs in the WWE with Smith Jr. being a patsy for their wellness policy while Archer was a pick up from  TNA who had a minor push in the WWE's version of ECW. They both found much better success in Japan as part of the Suzuki Army, lead by Minoru Suzuki who we saw last week. Kojima and Tenzan have on and off teamed since 1999 when they were part of NWO Typhoon and later Team 2000. They are both former world champions and actually met in a match where both the IWGP title and Triple Crown Titles (the main title for competing wrestling company All Japan Pro Wrestling) were defended, making the winner, Kojima, the only man to hold both belts simultaneously. Also adding to this match is the title itself. The NWA (National Wrestling Alliace) was once the biggest organization in pro wrestling starting in 1948, So much so that the U.S.government nearly took them to court for operating as a monopoly. However, their clout pretty much died in 1986 when the territories it covered either were bought out or went broke. The name has been revived a few times, including WCW and New Japan in the early 90s and TNA in the first half of the 2000s, but after TNA gave up the name it really didn't mean anything anymore. In the last few years both NWA World and Tag titles are almost exclusively defended in Japan now as secondary titles. Mauro gives us some background on the NWA tag titles, pointing out the NWA didn't officially recognize tag titles until 1992 and the Miracle Violence Connection of Terry Gordy and Steve Williams. Chaos breaks out as all four men go at it. No feeling out process here as Tenzan and Smith smash each other. Kojima goes for his rapid fire corner chops and lays about 20 in on Archer. This is a no finesse match as  the hits just keep on coming. We come back from a break as Smith has the advantage over Kojima but Kojima fights his way back. Smith gets a chinlock in  as Mauro reminds us that Smith debuted as a wrestler at 10 years old (!) while Smith rips Kojima's breathe-right strip off. Tenzan comes in and swings the match for his team but Archer gets him down and goes up top for a MOONSAULT?! That is an impressive sight. Tenzan gets up from that though and keeps the match going. Kojima gives Smith the rapid chops and a diving elbow, but Smith gets up. Jeez, these hits are stiffer than a bottle of grain alcohol. The Squad hit the old Hart Attack move but Kojima kicks out again. Ten-koji goes for the Ten-koji cutter (the 3D) but Archer breaks up the pin. The Squad go for the Killer bomb (full nelson into powerbomb) but the count is broken again. Smith goes for a clothesline on Kojima, but Kojima ducks and smashes Smith was a Stan Hansen style clothesline and scores the win!   We get more words from Makabe as he explains that he is teaming with Tanahashi to represent NJPW against The Bullet Club. He also talks about wrestling with a broken jaw that he had suffered the month before. That's Japanese wrestling, just short of breaking your arm or leg like a twig, or your heads flies off in the second row, you wrestle! IWGP Tag Titles: Ace to King (Togi Makabe/Hiroshi Tanahashi) V/S The Bullet Club (Karl Anderson/Doc Gallows): Well this is an interesting match. Gallows and Anderson are the defending Champions. Gallows had roles in the WWE (Festus, Fake Kane, Luke Gallows) and TNA wrestling in the past. Anderson wrestled for mostly small indy feds before finding much better success in NJPW. They are also founding members of The Bullet Club along with Fergal Devitt (NXT's Finn Baylor). Tanahashi is basically New Japan's John Cena. He pretty much was the guy who helped resurrect NJPW in the early 2000's when pro wrestling's popularity was down thanks to MMA. He won the IWGP title several times and was a main feature of this show last season. His partner Makabe is known as "The Unchained Gorilla" and takes after the famed Bruiser Body in his wrestling, in other words he is a brawler who uses chairs and weapons a lot. Makabe isn't known for being a top card hero, so him teaming with Tanahashi does make for an odd combination. Hiroshi and Karl start things out as Hiroshi gets an edge and breaks out the air guitar. This match starts out more scientific than the opening match did. However, Gallows get his his shots from the outside early as well. Makabe comes in as the crowd cheers for him and the Club wants little to do with him. They have a stand off and Gallows hit him right in the JAW! Hiroshi comes in as Makabe decides to take a time out. Things break down with Makebe and Gallows on the outside and Karl and Hiroshi on the inside. Yeah, the landing didn't feel good for Tanahashi. The Club take advantage as both members of Ace to King as not in good shape. Hiroshi is getting beat on in the ring and while this is going on The club attacks Makabe at ringside. This has become a handicapped match as The Bullet Club have their way with Hiroshi. Hiroshi puts up a fight with forearms but isn't getting much in. Makabe gets back on the apron, mouth bleeding, before he comes in and goes to town on the Club. Crowd is solidly behind Makabe in this one. Makabe and Gallows face off with Togi getting the upper hand. The story of this match seems that whenever the challengers get the upper hand, the Club just shuts them down. Anderson hits an F-5 on Hiroshi but Tanahashi kicked out. Tanahashi nearly scores the win with a frog splash, but Anderson brings his knees up. We come back from break as Anderson gets the advantage. Makabe in but he gets kicked right to the jaw. He gets a powerbomb on Anderson but only gets a 2 count. Tanahashi scores a frog splash and Makabe goes for something of the top rope before Gallows whacks him with a chair. Makabe still kicks out. Tanahashi eats a Magic Killer from the Bullet Club and then they hit Makabe with the same move and keep Makabe down for a 3 count. Makabe gives us some final words about the fight as he talks about wrestling with a broken Jaw and teaming with Tanahashi as we are out. A nice change of pace from the high flying juniors we've seen the last few weeks, this was good ol' smash mouth tag team wrasslin'. All 4 teams manned up and didn't goof around n there. Ten-koji in the first match showed that they hadn't slowed down a bit over the years and in the second match I just kept cringing seeing all those hits to Togi's broken jaw. Once again a great presentation. Next week we get the third and final look at Dominion 2014!
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Tag Team Tussle!
New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS brings us back to Bodymaker Stadium in Osaka for the second of three episodes looking at the Dominion card for June 21, 2014. This week we look at some tag team action from the heavyweight division. Two Titles are on the line and none of these teams are pushovers.

Strong Style: New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS season 2 episode 2

May 30 // Soul Tsukino
We are at the Bodymaker Coliseum in Osaka for what is the first of 3 shows that are matches from the Dominion card from June 21, 2014. IWGP Jr. Tag Team Title: Time Splitters V/S Young Bucks: As was pointed out last week, the Time Splitters are Kushida and American Alex Shelley with a Back to the Future gimmick. The Young Bucks are brothers Matt and Nick Jackson, an American team that has been around the horn with runs in Ring of Honor as well as TNA. They have a bit of a reputation for thinking way to much of themselves and being dicks, but I think a lot of that is just hype. Here they are part of The Bullet Club, a bad guy stable that was started by Fergal Devitt (NXT'S Finn Baylor), before being lead by TNA and ROH stalwart A.J. Styles. Think the NWO with a little DX mixed in and that describes the Bullet Club, and no I don't say that as a compliment. The Bucks are the IWGP Jr. Tag team champions. The cocky champions come walking in with big smiles and threats of superkicks. This continues in the match with lots of crotch chops and "suck it" taunts. The story of his match is that the Splitters keep trying to keep the speed up while the Jacksons want to slow things down. The fun thing about Japanese wrestling is that you can hear what's going on in the ring and after a double chop to the chest, Nick Jackson screams "Oh my god!". The match is edited a bit for time but it's not taking too much away from the match. The team moves of the Spillters is a thing of beauty as they go on the attack but The Bucks counter with double moves of their own, especially the move they call "The Indytaker" where one man holds his opponent upside down while the other man dives off the rope, driving the opponent straight down on his head. The crowd is bonkers for this one as both teams go for finishers but the Splitters get the win when Kushida uses the "Hoverboard Lock" to get the submission and the titles. We get some words from the Splitters, actually Kushida does all the talking, in the post match press conference.   Takashi Iizuka & Minoru Suzuki V/S Toru Yano & Kazushi Sakuraba: The people in this match kinda scare me. On one side you have Suzuki (left bottom), an amateur wrestling champion and MMA pioneer who one of the founders of the Pancrase MMA promotion in 1993. He also is known as a an off kilter man who can basically destroy anyone, even as he has gotten older. His partner Iizuka (Top Left) is a grizzled veteran on NJPW (debuting in 1986) who isn't a walk in the park to wrestle either. On the other side you have Sakuraba (Bottom Right), an MMA master known as "The Gracie Killer" after having beaten 4 members of the famed Jujitsu master family. He is also a huge Otaku and known for his anime themed entrances to fights. He is partnered up with Yano (Top Right), a lot younger than the others in this match. He is a former amateur champion as well although like Iizuka, he is a brawler and heavy hitter. This match came about as Yano and Iizuka were partners in Team Chaos going against Suzuki's group of the Suzuki Army. Iizuka turned on Yano (a match shown last season on AXS). Sakuraba comes in as just a big name of MMA that could stand up to Suzuki. 3 of the 4 guys are around 50 years old, showing off another trait of Japanese wrestling where when guys get older, they start appearing in mid-card tag matches most often instead of main events and title matches (Wish companies in the States did that). Also, no beauty queens here for this one! Iizuka does the Bruiser Brody entrance through the crowd while Suzuki comes out with the towel over his head as a bad ass. Broadcaster Josh Barnett, it turns out, has had a hand in either training, or training with the people in this match, even teaming with Iizuka. Suzuki and Sakaraba, the MMA fighters start off in a classic grappling match before they just glare at each other and tag out to their partners. Things break down in a fight as a weird dynamic on the Yano/Sakuraba team develops with the wrestler Yano screaming orders as the MMA fighter Sakuraba, not always with success. This is a grudge match so lots of foreign objects are used like chairs, a hammer that rings the bell, a mic cord, and the tag rope are used, with the referee not disqualifying anyone. Sakuraba at one point tops Iizuka with palm strikes to the eye (ouch!) before Iizuka counters with a choke with a mic cord. After a spot where Yano and Suzuki fight over an exposed turnbuckle Yano gets clobbered with both a chair shot and and the "Iron Fist" of Iizuka (refer to the pic abovee of Iizuka), Suzuki hits a cradle piledriver on Yano to win the match for his team. The Army keep up the attack going after Sakuraba with the glove and piledriver as well. Suzuki gives us some words of how awesome he is to the press before we get to the main event of this show. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title: Kota Ibushi V/S Ricochet: As we saw last week Ricochet won the Best of the Super Juniors tournament to earn this title shot against Ibuchi. Kota Ibuchi is a long time Jr. Heavyweight with a Karate background. He hasn't had that big of an impact in the U.S. but had been featured on this show a few times in the first season. He also not only wrestles for New Japan, but also for the smaller Dramatic Dream Team (DDT) promotion as well. Ricochet's background was largely covered last week if you want to know more about him. We get some words from Ibushi before we get into the match as he talks about how much of an opponent Ricochet is after watching him in the BotSJ tournament. Both guys are "good guys" and for being under 220 pounds, neither are stick figures with muscles to spare. As the match starts the fans are solidly behind Ricochet surprisingly.  Both guys trade kicks to get things going but start up the action with a quick run of attempts for moves and the other guy flipping out of the way with cartwheels, moonsaults, and flips. No plodding here!  Ricochet gets an advantage with a move known as the Zig Zag (used by Dolph Ziggler) and goes to work over Ibushi with a mix of strikes and submission holds. Ibushi finally gets the advantage with a missile dropkick. He then dives outside the ring with a spring off the ropes and does a flip onto Ricochet nearly on the other side of the ring!  Richochet counters with his own missile drop kick that is a marvelous thing. Both men are back and forth on each other with the attacks getting bigger, turning the match into a game of 'Can you top this?'. Ibushi nearly kills himself when he falls off the top turnbuckle and hits himself in the face with the metal buckle. Ricochet gets him back up for a flying rana but Ricochet counters by doing a complete flip and landing on his feet! I'm loving this! Ibushi goes for a spinning phoenix splash (tribute to one of my favorites, Hayabusa) but misses, however Ricochet still can't get the pin. Ricochet goes for the Benedryller twice but Ibushi counters it. He hits a kick before going for the Phoenix Plex, a move I have never seen before in my life. He sets Ricochet for a powerbomb but when he gets him onto his shoulders, Ibushi grabs Ricochet's head and pulls in tight, before going backwards, looking like a tightly held version of the Kinnikuman Muscle Buster. Ibushi scores the pin with this one to retain the title to the roar of the crowd. Ricochet honors the winner by handing him the belt and the winner's trophy in the ring. We get words from both men after the match and then words from Ibushi praising Ricochet's resilience and power to end the show.  Holy crap, I had been told the main event match was incredible, and it was! My words aren't doing that match justice. The Middle tag match did provide a nice breather between the to Jr. Heavyweight matches and even that was kind of enjoyable in a kooky kind of way. The announcers were ON tonight as not only were they into the matches as much as the fans were, but Josh Barnett gets some credit with his experience with the men in the middle tag team match. This week once again, this show proves why it is a must watch for people who like really good wrestling instead of 25 minute promos and sketches involving fake Russians macking out on a guy like a horny school girl. See you all next week!
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Ibushi V/S Ricochet
[Welcome to Strong Style, Soul's new regular column covering the high-flying antics of Professional Wrestling in Glorious Nippon and beyond! - Josh] This week on New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV we pick up from last wee...

Strong Style: New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS season 2 episode 1

May 24 // Soul Tsukino
We start the second season of New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV the same way we left off, Mauro Ranallo and Josh Barnett are back with the play by play of the best action going on in Japan. As I have mentioned here before, This show is not a "first run" show like a Monday Night RAW or Smackdown. Instead it is a show that looks back at key matches and shows from recent NJPW history. This episode takes us to June 8th, 2014 and the Yoyogi National Gymnasium for the semi-finals and finals of the 2014 Best of the Super Juniors tournament. BotSJ is a tournament that was first held in 1988 and is a big spotlight on the lighter weight class in NJPW. Unlike "one and your done" style tournaments (IE: NCAA Basketball tournament), this competition is stet up much like Olympic Ice hockey where the 16 competitors are split into 2 groups. Each man fights all the other men in his bracket for points, the two top point-getters in each bracket face each other on this show with the winners of the semi-finals fighting for the trophy in the final. The show starts with one of our competitors tonight in Kushida. He shares his thoughts on competing that night before we get to our first match. Kushida vs. Taichi:  This is a very interesting match. Both men were trained in some part by 90's Japanese wrestling superstar "Dangerous K" Toshiaki Kawada. These two are also familiar to me from their runs 10 years ago in a promotion called HUSTLE that was so over the top it referred to itself as a "Fighting Opera" instead of wrestling. Taichi is a member of Team Chaos, a rule breaking stable in NJPW, and as Ranallo points out, a bit of an underdog to have gotten this far. Kushida is one half of a tag team called The Time Splitters.   A tag team who's gimmick is based off Back to the Future. Bless you Japan. Kushida also as noted is in this match as a replacement for his partner Alex Shelley who was injured. The match is a chaotic mess as Taichi attacked Shelly during his entrance with a chair and started a fight before the bell rings. This is like a fast paced cheating heel V/S good guy style match as both men have partners interfering on their behave and getting the referee to miss all of it. Taichi even pulls out a classic Eddie Geurrero spot where he tosses Kushida a cane, only to collapse in fake pain, making the ref think Kushida nailed him with it. The match comes to an end when Kushida unveils his new finisher, The "Hoverboard Lock", A flying kimura armlock. I'd have called it the McFlying armlock myself. The move gets the quick submission and sends Kushida to the finals.     Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Ricochet: Taguchi has popped up on this show before as one of NJPW's top Juniors,  He is the favorite of the tournament as he won the 2012 BotSJ and would have made the semifinals of the 2013 tournament but had to withdraw because of injury. Rochochet is an American wrestler with a large independent following, and here is representing the Dragon Gate promotion. Many will also know of his as Prince Puma, champion on the American Lucha Underground show. This match plays out with an opposite dynamic from the last match as both men are fan favorites and they play the match that way. It is very fast paced and it's a show of who can top who. There is a bit of a skip in the match, but it's not very big and you don't seem to miss much. Ricochet scores the win with his finisher, the Benedryller kick, to score the win. Both semis were kept short, under 8 minutes, as both winners would be coming back. These matches weren't hacked to death and were shown for the most part. As with last season Ranallo and Barnett do a great job of explaining to context of each guy as well as the tournament itself We get some more words from Kushida about his new finisher and about that night as well. Final: Kushida V/S Ricochet:  This match is amazing and feel like 3 different matches in one. The first part of the match is a slower paced mat wrestling match with hold, counter hold, escape, to get things kicked off. It switches to a million-miles-an-hour face-paced match where both men are keeping the pace up and landing several moves at once. Finally the match becomes a battle of attrition as each man is throwing out their biggest moves joined together with some hard kicks and elbows. The match is close to 40 minutes long, which to some American fans is unthinkable for Junior heavyweights. The story that is told during the entire match is Kushida keeps going for Ricochet's arm to set him up for the Hoverboard Lock, while Ricochet is wearing down Kushida for the Benedryller. To say they throw everything at each other is not an overstatement. These guys used every one of their biggest moves, and even some moves from other people to try to get the victory. The battle finally ends when Ricochet nails Kushida with a kick right to the head and then the Bendryller that folds Kushida in half before being pinned. During the entire match not only is the crowd very into the battle, but so are the announcers. No old timey vaudeville jokes, no bickering, no talks about women's underwear or whatever they pulled from the headlines to be topical for the week. Not only to both announcers put over the importance and history of the tournament, they put over the moves and action in the ring with more legitimacy than anything else going on in wrestling on TV. We get some post match words from Kushida who is sweating buckets and on the locker room floor before we get some in ring words from Ricochet, who challenges NJPW Junior Heavyweight Champion, Kota Ibushi, to a match (Ibushi accepts). We then get some in studio comments from Kushida where he talks about how the crowd was cheering for Ricochet in the finals and that putting on a good showing not only for himself, but Junior Heavyweights as a whole, was the goal of the match. Once again this show is my favorite. Josh Barnett and Marro Ranallo have not lost a thing since the first season  of shows and the producers put together a great 1 hour look at the show that night. The editing wasn't a hatchet job and a lot of the action was shown, while still having some comments from Kushida to get some insight into what one of the competitors was thinking during the course of the night. I encourage more people to watch this show and see what a wrestling show that takes itself more seriously can be like. Next Week we will see the match between Ricochet and Ibuchi for the title and feature the Time Splitters together in action going after the Jr. Heavyweight tag titles against the Young Bucks.
New Japan Pro Wrestling  photo
The best of Japan for American fans
Welcome to Strong Style, Japanator's look into Japanese wrestling! This time out we look at my favorite wrestling show on American TV as it returns for a second season. Can AXS keep up everything that made this show amazing during its first season? What does the producers pick to highlight from New Japan wrestling action? Take a read and find out!  

Impressions: Yamada-Kun and the Seven Witches

May 13 // Red Veron
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches starts off with Ryu Yamada, a high school delinquent type of guy who’s bad at school and gets a lot of heat from the teachers for it. After a scolding from a teacher, he runs into Urara Shiraishi at the stairs, a diligent female honor student who always seems to have her head buried in a book. Yamada tries to take a bit of his frustration on her by cutting her off while going up the stairs but trips and falls onto her. Yamada awakens later to find out that he’s switched bodies with Shiraishi. Later on, Yamada and Shiraishi learn more about this body swapping and find out that Yamada has the ability to switch bodies with anyone he kisses on the lips. Yamada and Shiraishi are then roped into reviving the Supernatural Studies club by Student Council Vice President Toranosuke Miyamura and are joined by supernatural phenomenon fan Ito Miyabi.In the club, the members learn more about Yamada's ability and each other through the body swapping hijinks by using it in many ways, by using it to their advantage in different situations (mostly for their gain). They also start to uncover what really is going on with Yamada's 'ability' and those who may know and posses other abilities as well. The supernatural bent of the show is implied by the title but don’t let that deter if you want a comedy set in a school with a story. Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches has no supernatural creatures, superpowers, flashy or fancy visuals in it. The show maintains a grounded feeling having the supernatural powers be subtle whenever it is used by the characters. It makes the show feel more like a comedy than one about supernatural abilities.The voice acting is my absolute favorite part of the Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches anime. The body-swapping aspect lends well into showcasing the great talent and vast vocal range of the voice actors. For example, Yamada being in Shiraishi's body has Shiraishi's voice actress doing her most loud tomboyish voice, which is vastly different from her portrayal of Shiraishi's calm and cool demeanor. All the actors do a great job and you can easily tell the difference in the characters while not in their original bodies. The great acting further enhances the comedic situations that arise in the different body-swapping scenarios. As you would expect from a show that has some cross-gender body swapping via smooching, there is fanservice in this show. At the most, it's characters in underwear, keeping it tasteful. Plenty of kissing to go around which includes guy-on-guy lip locking for those of you who like that thing (for those who don't like that, don't worry as it's played off as comedy too).I enjoyed the Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches manga and I was impressed by this anime adaptation, it looks really good and the voice acting is great. I love the opening and ending sequences; the opening has a simple storybook-inspired look and gives you a nice glimpse at the many characters in the show. I also love that opening song, "くちづけDiamond" (Diamond Kiss) by WEAVER, which is a sentimental love song about a kiss and a promise that has a pop-y ballad feel. Not the typical kind of song you'd have opening a show about supernatural body swapping high school students. The first few episodes don’t really get into the ‘witches’ part of the story, but more on introducing the primary characters with some of the secondary characters. I’ve read the manga and wonder how far they’ll get into the story, since they are moving at a slow pace. I worry that we won’t get to see all of the seven witches or have enough time to show them off properly.I like how they handled this adaptation and I’ll be definitely follow it and it has been a while since I read the manga. I would definitely recommend this one for those looking for a school comedy with a bit of a different twist.
Yamada x Seven Witches photo
Freaky Witchy Friday
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is the latest work from manga author Miki Yoshikawa, whose previous popular work was Yankee-kun and Megane-chan (Known in some territories as Punk Flunk Rumble), a comedy about a delinquent g...

Final Impressions: Gundam Build Fighters Try

Apr 06 // Josh Tolentino
Really, Build Fighters may have the scrappy, underdog attitude, but the loud, proud commercials for the HGBF line of new plastic models, carefully timed to come after every opening theme and every credit roll, speak to the depth of support the show actually has. Hell, the first season was the Gundam show of its season, with no other "name" to share the slot. It wasn't a one-off, never-to-be-repeated side journey. This was Bandai doing what Bandai does with Gundam, and growing a new limb in the series' ever-branching fictional universes. The Build Fighters universe stands as an equal peer along the siblings that birthed 00, SEED, and the rest. Heck, in a meta sense, it might even last longer, since some of the modularity and universality introduced with the Build Fighters models is sure to trickle into future lines, long after the series have come and gone. But back to the thing I said about scrappy attitudes and such. Regardless of how much of a sure thing Sunrise and Bandai did or didn't believe it would end up, Build Fighters went in like a show with something to prove. It never let up and reaffirmed that the most important thing about Gundam in this day and age isn't sudsy ruminations about war and peace, or about pretty boys getting angry with each other, or even the sci-fi applications of large robots and the mysterious particles that power them. Don't get me wrong, that's all pretty important, but most important thing is having a love of plastic models (especially Bandai's many Gundam-branded plastic models) and the buying, assembling, and customizing thereof. As in the case of Reiji, a love of the Gundam fiction isn't even required, just a love of Gunpla and Gunpla Battle, which represents the prime good and ultimate virtue of joyful competition.  In a sense, then, it's all the more fitting that Build Fighters Try ends at the Meijin Cup, a thinly veiled reference to the yearly Gunpla-customization contest that Bandai holds, though of course, the Build Fighters-verse's Meijin Cup is a contest held with all the pageantry of the Oscars or Golden Globes, all to celebrate some hot-ass customs of all your favorite plastic robots.  The Meijin Cup is right where everyone loves Gunpla for what it is in both this and other worlds: a lovely little modelling hobby. It's where models are judged not on their battle prowess but build quality, where a young Sazaki brother can build a budding bromance with the sickly little kid that never used the stickers, and where you can put together designs as conventional as a Zeta reinterpretation of the Lightning Gundam to...a horrifically embarrassing tribute to everyone's favorite Try Fighter, Fumina. Side note: The designer for Super Fumina is none other than than Fumikane Shimada, known to girls-with-robot-bits-on-'em connoisseurs as the guy behind Strike Witches and more than a few Kantai Collection Fleet Girls. And he did a pretty good job, too, referencing Fumina's first Gunpla, her Powered GM Cardigan, in the design. Anyway, the episode's basically a long victory lap, waxing eloquent about how transformative Gunpla fandom can be, or more philosophically, being a fan, and engaging (positively, of course!) with the subculture that fandom provides. It makes a best-case scenario for when subcultures conquer the world (though to be fair, Gunpla is mainstream "over there" in ways it will never ever be in our universe), and treasures the joy that can only come from experiencing the deeper aspects of fandom for the first time. That said, for as much thematic weight as this last episode carries, structurally it falls prey to the same weaknesses that doom Build Fighters Try to live in the shadow of its predecessor. With the drama all over last week, this week's episode feels weightless, as inconsequential as it is in truth. It's quite similar to the "Gunpla Fair" episode in season one, as it features lots of downtime, low-stakes dustups, and friendly, "let's all be Gunpla Battle fans together" character dynamics. And like season one's version, it would've been much better before the final fight. It's all well and good that Build Fighters Try is striking out for itself, and building its own mythology and stable of original designs. Frankly, I'm not that big a gunpla fan, so I don't even care that most of the biggest stars of the show couldn't possibly be reconstructed using stock parts, the same way that the Star Build Strike, Zaku Amazing, or Wing Fenice were "based" on something "real" to the Gundam fiction. It doesn't really matter that Sekai had to have had access to a 3D printer or nanomachines to have made his Kamiki Burning Gundam a reality, because this is a show where magic fairy dust makes the dolls move like they do in the cartoons. Ultimately, the problems with Build Fighters Try were more in the narrative than in its world-building. Chief among these is that unlike the previous season, the kinds of rivalries and friendships that got built up over the whole series didn't get the room they needed to breath, grow, and establish themselves. In part this was due to the team structure. Many of the most compelling rivalries were between people who would never end up fighting each other. I'd have loved to see how Fumina could match her Star Winning against Sekai or Yuuma's Gunpla, and the series itself acknowledges as much when it refers to Wilfrid and Adou's never-to-be dream duel. But that's small change compared to the way earlier competitors were muscled out of the way once the Nationals started. I can guess that the creators were intent on giving the Try Fighters good opponents from the get-go, to avoid the stint of mook-victories Sei and Reiji went on on their road to the World Championship, but that only makes the pain of seeing Gyanko and Simon Izuna sit on the sidelines for episode after episode more acute. Sure, the Gunpla Academy, Sekai's senpai, and even the SD-R triplets were more compelling adversaries, but it's impossible not to imagine how much better those matches would've been had we, the audience, been nursing a desire to see them fight for realz on the promised day. We cared about the fight between Fellini and Reiji because Fellini had spent most of the series mentoring Reiji - it was a classic master-student showdown. We cared about the fight between Sei and Mao because Mao had been so friendly and helpful every other time, and this was finally were the gloves had to come off. And so on. Build Fighters Try needed to let those relationships grow to bear that sweet emotional fruit, but sadly the show planted the seeds halfway through, instead of at the start. That aside, Build Fighters Try's only crime is in being less impressive than its forebear, and being slightly less awesome than something that's pretty awesome is a decent enough failure to live with. I for one, can't wait for the planned OVA to surface later this year. 
Build Fighters Try photo
A Good Try
In my mind, in the story I've built for myself for lack of genuine information, Gundam Build Fighters is The Little Gundam That Could, a show and concept that someone in the bowels of Bandai or Sunrise had to fight ...

Final Impressions: Shirobako

Mar 28 // Josh Tolentino
Honestly, there's not that much more to say: After the director and Aerial Girls creator Nogame worked out their compromise in the previous episode, the only hurdle remaining was to actually produce the episode and get it under three weeks. Of course, animating five hundred cuts and ten thousand tween frames at a quality needed to cap off a popular series is a monumental task in and of itself, but at least there's no crisis like the wrath of "God" affecting production as last week. Nevertheless, it's an all-hands-on-deck effort, as pretty much everyone at the studio, and many more beyond, are pulled in to work on the Aerial Girls finale. Even Segawa transfers to the office proper, resulting in much strange awkwardness from Endou and fueling the imaginations of a thousand fanfic authors. There's even a hilarious reference to Nichijou, another anime series which I'm positive was as much a "passion project" for Kyoto Animation as Shirobako is for P.A. Works. Even the show's final challenge, an epic six-way cross-country scramble to get the final on-air tapes to broadcasters out in the boondocks, feels almost perfunctory. Fun as it is to watch it's little more than a way to hark back to Aoi's drifting talents in episode one, and see their roots in office manager Yuka Okitsu's past career as a legendary production assistant. Then again, the train ride home from Hiroshima serves as a way to tie up Aoi's character arc, in its own way. Viewers paying attention will note that Aoi's been struggling to find her own "reason to fly", and trying to find out why she perseveres. In that respect, the creative and technical types like Midori, Ema, Misa, and even the long-suffering Shizuka have it a little easier: They've tailored their skills towards making anime, so that's naturally what they'd try to do. By contrast, Aoi's experience in production is more managerial, only rarely interacting with the final product. The episode even implies that with enough time, Aoi's future career could mirror Okitsu's, with even less involvement with the things Musani makes. Given how much anime and manga life advice tends to hinge on finding one's niche and leaning into it - seriously, how many times have you read a line like "This is something only you can do!" - that's a tough challenge for a generalist like our Oi-chan. And what it takes is a bit of soul-searching and deciding, for realz, that making anime is what she wants to do. That might not seem like a big step, but consider how many people go through life only thinking about getting to the next day. Aoi declaring, with confidence, that this is what she wants to do, is probably the most important thing she could ever do at this stage in her life. Good on her. As to the "why" of it, that's covered in her speech at the after party. Honestly, it's almost cringe-inducing in its earnestness. Hell, if you replaced the references to anime-making with stuff about ninjas and "The Will of Fire" you'd be able to slide her comments into a chapter of Naruto without missing a beat, it's that sappy. And I still effin' adore it, and her, for saying it. This is because, as I said last week, Shirobako is not a documentary. It's an ideal, a love letter, and a statement of intent. It celebrates the making of anime and the people who make it, and hopes and prays that everyone's doing it because they love doing it. That's not the same as "whitewashing" away the industry's many, many problems, though. There's no question that the show is light at its core, and never intended to be the kind of tough wake-up call that some think is needed. But that's sort of the point, in a way. Shirobako's intent is to put the spotlight on the people who "make it happen", and focuses on the good. But the bad's still there, lurking in the margins. Heavy drinking, bad food, worse pay, and lengthy hours are all more than evident, enough that anyone paying enough attention might actually be scared away. No one is going to come away from the show thinking that any of it is easy, and that's all that really needed to be said. And so ends a lovely little series with a whole lot of heart, about how tough it can be to do a good job, but how wonderful it can be to see it through all the same.
Shirobako photo
(Do)Nuts About Making Anime
Spoiler alert: Shirobako ends happily.  Of course, that's really only a spoiler to the most stubborn and obnoxious of curmudgeons. There was really no other way for this show to end. And to be frank, it ended as it should have: Full to bursting with sappy, sentimental, idealistic, feel-good cliche. I love it. 

Impressions: Gundam The Origin I: Blue-Eyed Casval

Mar 01 // Josh Tolentino
Of course, Char's real name, Casval Rem Deikun - and his status as the lost sun of Zeon founder Zeon Zum Deikun - were plot points that have been known for coming on forty years now, when they were revealed in the original TV series.  The difference, though, is in the details, and this episode's aims are as telling as its that the title, "Blue-Eyed Casval". Not only does it refer to Char's true name, but also his eyes, which in most Gundam fiction, he takes pains to hide behind masks and hilarious wraparound shades. As might be imagined, we spend most of this hour in a period never before visited in the Universal Century: Char Aznable's life before he became "Char Aznable". And it looks like the word for that life is "rough". Not to say that he was by any means poor, but being the son of an embattled politician carries its own costs. The near-messianic aura of Zeon Zum Deikun, and his sudden death at the podium, hangs over the Deikun family for the whole episode, coloring every experience Casval and his sister Artesia (the future Sayla Mass) go through in the aftermath. "Blue-Eyed Casval" also steps in early to draw battle lines between the future Char and his enemies, the Zabi family, as well as establishing his extended "family" of allies in the form of a younger Ramba Ral and other Zeon loyalists. Given Gundam The Origin's status as a refinement of the original TV series' plot, the fact that Sunrise have opted to start adapting this story arc first (it originally appeared much later in The Origin's publication timeline) means that this story may well be the accepted "canon" for the foreseeable future.  [embed]33588:4546:0[/embed] That said, though Casval is the title character of the episode, he and his sister are still just children, and their lot in life is to be shuffled around by the schemes of both the malicious and well-meaning. Ramba Ral and the Zabis, by comparison, have far more to say and do as things fall apart in the Republic of Munzo, and both factions end up humanized a great degree by the end of the hour. Dozle, Ramba, and Kycilia Zabi in particular get moments and motivations that make their future deaths seem all the more tragic. Stylistically, Sunrise has gone harder on the retro angle here than they did for Gundam Unicorn. Where Unicorn was a fairly modern Gundam anime with faux-retro character designs, Gundam The Origin includes callbacks not only to the faces of yesteryear, but its sense of humor as well. With all the orchestral swell and the weight of history behind it, you wouldn't expect a whole scene of Ramba being flustered by Artesia's admiration and getting himself mauled by the Deikuns' pet cat. You also wouldn't expect Gihren, the arch-villain, to play a hilariously elaborate game of computer Go during a portentous conversation. But they do, and it's a relief to be disarmed so, especially given modern Gundam's reputation for self-seriousness. Given its premise, the episode is somewhat light on hot mecha action, which is understandable. That said, what is in there, like a lavish view of the Battle of Loum, and a Guntank brawl later on, is satisfying to watch. Sunrise's CG work is impeccable, and conveys speed - a critical requirement for portraying the Red Comet - in a fashion unlike the usual stereotypes of awkward anime CGI. It's also a treat to see the Black Tri-stars in their first outings. It remains to be seen just how far this adaptation of Gundam: The Origin will go, but if this episode is any indicator, future installments will make this series a look back that's worth taking.
Gundam The Origin photo
Red Comet, Blue Eyes
Char Aznable. In all of Mobile Suit Gundam's long history, there's perhaps no better icon of the franchise (besides the Gundam itself) than the Red Comet and his trademark mask. In fact, Char himself has become a fixture of G...

Impressions: Gun Caliber: Bootleg Edition

Aug 16 // Salvador G Rodiles
In a world where many heroes have lost their way of justice, Gun Caliber focuses on Soma, a mild-mannered individual who works at a Smartball Parlor. Actually, the film’s main protagonist isn’t that mild-mannered at all, since he’s a perverted womanizer who loves to consume drugs and alcoholic beverages. Despite Soma’s dirty habits, the man is capable of transforming into the gunslinging warrior known as Gun Caliber, a hero that loves to shoot evil in the dick. Even though Gun Caliber: Bootleg Edition presents itself as comedic movie with tons of vulgar jokes, the film surprisingly contains a story that manages to shed some light on Soma’s true character. At first sight, Soma felt like he was going to be a straight up jerk that only cares about pleasuring himself. However, once the film transitions into its real premise, the movie gives us a brief glimpse at Soma’s tragic past, which might explain why he became the washed up hero that he is today. While the guy’s past isn’t fully explored in the movie, one of the film’s charms is seeing Soma regain his will to fight a great evil when it seemed that all hope was lost. All in all, it's a nice little touch that makes Gun Caliber different from your usual hero flick, as we see a guy who's hated by the masses attempt to do something right for a change. Of course, the film’s first act focused on the comedic elements. Each joke revolves around drugs, booze, boobs, sex, and heavy cursing. Throughout this entire moment, Gun Caliber: Bootleg Edition shows its viewers how corrupt the film’s heroes have become through various pranks, skits, and perverted segments without pulling any punches. Surprisingly, a majority of the movie’s humor has a Western feel to it, which allows for the film's humor to be accessible to many viewers while they're getting acquainted with Gun Caliber’s setting. That being said, the timing behind each joke'll ensure that the film's audience will crack up -- unless if you aren’t into raunchy jokes. Combined with the movie’s main villains, Skulldier, and a series of funny yet over-the-top action sequences, Gun Caliber: Bootleg Edition brings an atmosphere that feels like a parody of the original Kamen Rider series with a sprinkle of campy elements that managed to contribute to some of the film’s great aspects. From Gun Caliber’s suit to the Skulldier’s monsters, the movie’s simplistic design choices makes it seem like it came from the 70s, which adds to the film’s campy elements. While the film's running on a small budget, one could tell that Bueno and Garage Hero put a lot love into Gun Caliber's creation. Watching Soma in action is a blast, due to his tendency to fight with firearms, along with the fact that he uses a finisher where he kicks his opponents in the groin. On top of that, the rest of the movie's action sequences are well-choreographed to the point where each scene gives off a dynamic and/or comedic feel. Thanks to these elements and more, Gun Caliber's team has ensured that the fights'll pull you in from start to finish. Overall, Gun Caliber: Bootleg Edition does a great job in delivering a hilarious tale that transitions nicely into a more personal story. Even though the film’s official soundtrack was absent during the stream, we’re treated to some established tunes like “Rocks” by JAM Project, which added a humorous feeling to the scenes that they were used in. I mean, it’s hard to take a fight seriously when you hear “SUPA ROBO” being shouted out constantly during a climatic showdown. One thing for sure, Bueno and Garage Hero have an interesting movie series on their hands. Unfortunately, the movie ends on a cliff hanger, so we’ll have to wait for the next installment to see how Soma’s story’ll conclude. All in all, Gun Caliber’s team have laid down some great bits for the sequel, so it'll be neat to see where Bueno and Garage Hero’ll take the series next. Anyway, if you don’t mind being exposed to raunchy jokes, then you should give Gun Caliber: Bootleg Edition a shot. Who knows, you might start seeing Soma as a man who has the potential to become a great hero to older toku fans everywhere. [Catch Gun Caliber: Bootleg Edition on YouTube (link NSFW) from August 15th through the 17th]
Impressions photo
Brought to you by Yu-Dai
Being a hero can be a very tough job, since you’re forced to be on the look out for villainous activities at all times. On top of that, vacations are nonexistent, due to evil's inability to sleep. While these policies c...

Impressions: L'Arc~en~Ciel Live Concert Viewing

Mar 26 // LB Bryant
After arriving extremely early for the show, I got comfortable in my seat and noticed right away that this was not going to be a sold-out screening in Seattle. It wasn't even close. I can't say exactly how many people were attendance by the time the show started, but I can say that the first fifty people to arrive were supposed to get special prizes like posters and glow sticks, yet there were enough leftover that I got multiples of these prizes.  Despite the small numbers in the theater, this did not deter anyone from having a great time. From the first moments when the band appeared on stage to the closing fireworks show, the audience had a great time for the most part. While the host of the event encouraged us to get up and dance if the mood struck us, no one did so. Mind you it wasn't because the music was bad or unenjoyable, as there were plenty of occasions when the audience was singing along.  For one day though, the audience really got to feel like they were part of the show. The audience in Japan was very hyped for the concert and the audience around me felt included as well, as Hyde constantly looked directly into one of the cameras. He always seemed to remember that he was playing for an international audience, and it made a big difference. There were really only two moments during the screening when the audience was really taken out of the moment and reminded that we were watching a broadcast. The first came about thirty minutes into the screening when the feed dropped and we were treated to two minutes of a blank blue screen. The second time came towards the middle of the show when L'Arc~en~Ciel played what those of us in the audience guessed was either a new or a copyrighted song that they did not have the rights to broadcast around the world. As a result, we sat there waiting for ten minutes, bored and slightly annoyed, as the camera focused on the stadium audience back in Japan. This wasn't the fault of the concert promoters but it was certainly a complaint that many people had as they left the theater after the show.  Overall, L'Arc~en~Ciel put on a great concert and Live Viewing Japan did fans a great service by bringing it to audiences around the country. Should they ever decide to do this again with another band, I know that I'll be going. Furthermore, if L'Arc~en~Ciel ever decide to play a concert in my neck of the woods I have every intention of attending. I wouldn't go so far as to say that this was a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity, but it was certainly one that I'll remember for months and years to come. 
Impressions photo
And a fun time was had by all in attendance
I've known about the Japanese singer Hyde ever since hearing his theme song to the anime Blood+ and I've known about the band L'Arc~en~Ciel since hearing their theme for the anime Moribito. Over the years, I haven't heard muc...

First Impressions: Nobunaga the Fool

Jan 21 // Hiroko Yamamura
The show kicks off with a bizarre foreshadowing dream sequence, which apparently links the fates of the lovely Jean D’Arc and Oda Nobunaga. Japan is seemingly engulfed in the hellish flames of battle, and our heroine is iconicity being burnt at the stake. What is she doing in Japan? Our question are actually answered quite quickly as Jean & Leonardo Da Vinci set off for the East, in hopes of finding their destiny. The ship they are on is piloted by the watchful Magellan, who is also conveniently carrying one of Da Vinci’s War Armors. Jean gets a feeling that they should head for The Eastern Planet, so they depart immediately, causing Megallan’s forces to attack and pursue. From there they run into Nobunga, who has been given the nickname “The Fool”, by the people of the Eastern Planet, perhaps do to his reckless and whimsical nature. Reall though, he seems like a pretty OK guy, with his head on his shoulders, probably not deserving the nickname, but why not. He is joined by his friends Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Akechi Mitsuhide. Those who follow Japanese history might want to note that Mitsuhide was a general that crosses Nobunaga, leading to his demise. Things seem a lot more chill here, with the three friends seemingly having a good time riding their flying horses and hunting. They observe the forces of Takeda attacking an outpost, and the harrowing one sides loss that follows. The crew gather their wits, and extra weapons that are laying around, and figure out they must warn Nobanaga’s father, the King.Before they make their way back, Jean & Da Vinci’s escape pod which is carrying a War Armor crashes into ground, with Magellan’s forces in hot pursuit. Destiny unfolds as Jean meets her Saviour King, and Nobunaga convinetly bonds with the War Armor, which he later names, “The Fool.” He kicks butt quite easily, until the mecha powers down. They then make their way back to the castle to warn of impending war, and Nobunaga makes The Fool do a little posing. At this time we also find out that Julius Ceasar is sent on hot pursuit by King Arthur and the other people of the Western Planet. We end up with Jean pretending to be a man, and finding out that Nobunaga is his sister’s lover. Wait, what? This might be a great show after all! While I enjoyed the mechs aspects of the show, its pacing and saturation are a bit off putting. Perhaps things will slow down a bit later, but there’s just too much stuff going on, and way too time spent on trivial things. I enjoy the dynamic presented by the East & West Planets, but find the way everyone’s just smashed together a bit off. Not to mention none of the designs match anything related to the person they are based on. You guys know character designs can make or break a show for me, and unfortunately here is the latter. Asides from some decent looks from Jean, I can’t stand the way anyone looks here. It’s likeSaint Seiya characters were thrown into an episode of Fate/Zero & drawn by 100 different people. Perhaps the idea is that everyone would have a completely unique look, but it’s way to jarring for my liking. Nobunaga is an OK character, but he has a bit too much of a Kamina thing going on right now. The mecha design looks fantastic though, and the battles are pretty well done. The animation looks pretty consistent, with things going full 3D in mech battles. Inconsistency is still apparent in some areas, with a few things being really well detailed, with some things like the flying horses looking drab and uninspiring. The voice acting isn’t bad, but I have yet to really give a crap about any characters yet. The music is large and epic, but not yet memorable. I guess it’s still a bit early to decide wether or not I dislike the show yet. It’s just that nothing is really sparking my interest yet besides the mech designs. I could be a bit of a victim of Kawamori hype, but honestly, this feels like one of the most generic anime series I’ve watched in a long time. The scale of things is a bit hard to digest, but it may all gel together later on, and I’m hesitant to walk away from it yet. There’s a whole cast of characters we haven’t really been introduced to yet, and maybe I’ll latch onto something. If they would spend as much time focusing on the character designs as they do Jean’s boob designs, the show may have hope. [Act a Fool over at Crunchyroll]  
Nobunaga The Fool photo
I want to like you
The newest series by Satelight, created by Macross mastermind Shoji Kawamori is pretty much a history buffs dream come true, or their worst nightmare. Being that my history knowledge is quite bad, I can’t tell you all t...

Impressions: AnoHana the Movie

Jan 20 // LB Bryant
It was a typical, foggy January day in Seattle. I woke up early excited to see the movie that I had literally been waiting months for. The bus ride couldn't have felt slower if it had tried but finally I arrived at the theater about 45 minutes early only to find that there were at least twenty people in line ahead of me talking about various anime and things. I even caught one girl wearing her Jintan cosplay as she waited in line. This was going to be a fun time to be sure.  After getting my free gifts (I even scored one of the special letters from Menma!) I settled in and waited for the movie to begin. Finally I was going to get to see the film that I had heard surprisingly little about up to this point but once the movie began all of my excitement went away and was replaced with sheer joy.  I'm going to do my best to not review this movie so much as just give an idea of what it is about and share my impressions of my time in the theater. I hope you'll forgive me if I stray too far into one territory or the other. The story of the AnoHana movie takes place on the first Obon after the group has sent their friend, Menma, to the afterlife by granting her wish (no spoilers on what that wish actually was). Over the course of the ninety or so minutes that this film runs, everyone in the group of friends reflects on their experiences with coming back together to grant Menma's wish and attempt to write individual letters to her in heaven.  When this movie was first announced to exist many people were uncertain on what direction it would take and if it would live up to the original series. AnoHana was an emotionally driven and powerful series that wrapped up the story with very few loose ends left over. What could this movie deliver that wasn't already presented to the audience already? Would it just be another recap movie that attempted to milk the audience for more money without giving them anything new? The answer to those questions are "lots" and "sort of".  As you watch this movie, you'll very quickly realize that it is indeed a recap movie that will take the audience back through the entire series from start to finish in the form of flashbacks and memories. As each character attempts to write their letter to Menma, the scenes from the TV series flood back to them as they remember what they went through as the main character Jintan approached them one by one to convince them that their friend had returned as a ghost and wanted to bring everyone back together.  What is wonderful about AnoHana the Movie however is that despite being about 50-60% recap, it never feels like it is being weighed down or dragged by the "old" material. Despite having seen it more than once in the past, all of this footage felt just as powerful as the first time I saw it. Interspersed between all of the new scenes, seeing the story told again from slightly new perspectives gives the series new emotional depths and makes it accessible to everyone watching. As I watched this movie, I occasionally glanced around the theater to see if I could get an idea of how much other people were enjoying the movie and was always pleased to see that very few people in the theater weren't having a good time. I mean, besides the one guy who sat a row ahead of me constantly shaking his head and darting out of the theater with his party once the credits started to roll. Other than that, the reactions I saw were pretty universal among the audience. They laughed together when Poppo did or said something ridiculous and they wiped tears away from their eyes when Anaru struggled to write her letter because of her still unconfessed feelings for Jintan. No matter what was happening in the movie, the audience told me with their actions that this movie was getting its point across and I knew that I was a part of something special. Fans of various ages and tastes had come together to see this movie and it was reaching their hearts. It's not everyday that you get to see that happen and to witness it first hand is truly something special that I will remember for many months to come.  Now a full day removed from seeing the movie, I'm still remembering scenes in my mind and smiling as I type up this post. The movie isn't perfect but it's near enough that I already want to buy it, watch it again and show it to others. The movie itself was a joy but the experience of seeing it with others in the theater made it extra special. I'm already looking forward to the day when I can get my hands on my own copy and add it to my personal collection. 
Impressions: AnoHana photo
The feels! I'm drowning in feels!
In 2011 I, along with many others around the world, discovered and fell in love with a little series known simply as AnoHana. It tells the tale of a group of estranged friends who are reunited by the ghost of their dead child...

Impressions: Puella Magi Madoka Magica - Rebellion

Dec 13 // Tim Sheehy
Aniplex held the US premiere at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood -- an older venue built back in the 1920s. The theater features a large auditorium capable of seating over 600 people, and they seemed to do a pretty good job of filling it. Before the film, there were some lines that almost streched around the building. They also had some limited edition Madoka Magica merchandise on hand, though the lines for that also seemed lengthy. Fans who had purchased admission to the premiere were also given a gift bag and while I'd love to discuss the contents, my press credentials apparently didn't entitle me to one. Too bad, so sad, I guess. I also had to purchase my own snacks -- total deal breaker, am I right? I suppose I can't complain too much; I did have one of the best seats in the house. Once we were seated, they treated us to a trailer for the Madoka Magica fone app, which was good news for anyone hoping they'd bring that over to the states, as well as a brief introduction to the film by some of the Japanese seiyuu. Fun fact -- I actually had the American voice actors sitting directly in front of me the whole time, so that was kind of interesting. They were basically whispering to each other the whole time, but not loud enough to distract anyone, so at least they were really polite about it. Alright, so down to business -- I'm going to do my best not to spoil anything and to just give a general impression. We'll provide a full review, along with an appropriate score, once the film is released for home video. The film starts off much like the series, though given the events of the previous films, it should be obvious that nothing is quite what it seems. To top that off, all five -- that's right, count 'em -- magical girls, Madoka included, happen to be present. None of them seem to realize anything is wrong, until Homura slowly begins to piece things together.However, therein lies the very first gripe I have with the film: if you're not familiar with the series (or the previous films), you're going to be completely lost. They don't bother stopping to explain a single thing. So, in order to properly enjoy this film, you'll need to be a fan, or have at least sat through the recaps. You can also expect to miss out on the in-jokes, of which there are plenty sprinkled throughout the film.So, with the feature clocking in at roughly over two hours, the first half focuses on Homura's attempt to unravel the mystery of how this specific reality, or timeline, came to be. She questions each of the girls in turn, which leads to a pretty violent stand-off with Mami -- in fact, many might consider that the true highlight of the film. Eventually the truth about the world reveals itself, and though it might not be so shocking, it becomes a major turning point. I think, had they decided to end the film there, it would have made for an excellent cliffhanger. In fact, it would've also given us a sense of closure, having solved the key mystery plaguing the first half of the film. At this point the plot becomes incredibly convoluted and while some fans might already be used to that, everyone has to deal with the fact that most of what occurs is communicated through constant exposition. If you don't have your wits about you, you'll probably miss something important. It also becomes incredibly hard not to spoil anything. We're presented with plot-twist upon plot-twist similar to The Matrix, or Inception. Perhaps even worse, everything feels very rushed, as if they tried to cram everything into this final portion of the film, only to culminate in an ending that feels all-to-abrupt -- like the middle of a five-act play. There's simply no closure to be had. When asked about this following the film, Shaft president Mitsutoshi Kubota claimed that this was by design -- to allow you to decide if the ending was a happy ending or a tragedy. In reality, it seemed more like a cop out for what I could only describe as not just ambiguous, but confusing. If this truly is the end of the story (and considering they originally planned this as the third part of a trilogy), then you have to question why they'd end the film in such a manner. Perhaps they'll present us with a real ending at a later date. For all its problems, I can't deny that the film is something to marvel at. Rebellion is visually breathtaking and will leave you stunned in your seat, but in terms of plot and pacing, it suffers greatly. It's as if Shaft tried to do too much, and simply couldn't edit itself. I should also note that the film was submitted to the Academy Awards and, though the film perhaps deserves a nod, it would be difficult to top something as well put together as Miyazki's The Wind Rises. Did any of you also catch a screening? I'd be interested to hear what our community thinks.
Madoka Magica Rebellion photo
The final film in the Madoka trilogy...
Last week, fans finally had an opportunity to attend screenings of Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion, the third and final chapter of the trilogy. Given the ending of the previous film -- or the series itself, see...

PAX 2013 photo
PAX 2013

PAX: General impressions

A mix of everything
Sep 05
// Josh Totman
The Seattle video game epic that is known as PAX Prime is now over. All four days were loud and crowded as usual, but what would you expect from a convention that had been spawned from Penny Arcade. The total amount of things...

A look at: Cirque du Freak #9

May 25 // Kristina Pino
This volume was very fast paced. We got a resolution to the entire conflict that had been boiling up in volume eight with a big fight and crazy unexpected ending. Well, it's unexpected if the manga is your first exposure to the Cirque du Freak story. If it isn't, this volume served to put you through a really dramatic loss (again) and a huge plot twist that made me incredibly frustrated. Frustrated, in the sense that the situation has become so incredibly unfortunate for the main character (due to the loss of a main character) you're mad that something happened that shouldn't have. It might seem like a vague summary, but I'm sure there are plenty of stories you've read like that (and I'm trying to avoid spoiling this too much...). X happened, which stinks, but then you find out that it didn't need to happen in order to achieve goal Y (Killing the leader of the Vampanese, as it were). Meanwhile, you're "grieving" over a loss and wondering if you even want to keep on reading the series (cause seriously, this dude kind of made the manga). That's how I felt after this volume, anyway. It's not that the series is bad; this plot twist was good, but about as frustrating as Sirius Black's sudden death was in the Harry Potter series when that book first came out. I kept reading it anyway, but I'm still upset it had to happen. This volume had a lot of action in it. The story picked up really well and left off at a good spot with no fluff in between. The fighting scenes got a little confusing for me at some parts, but that happens to me with all manga that contain fighting. I don't understand all the sketchy black and white drawings sometimes, so it might just be me. Anyone else enjoying Cirque's manga adaptation?

A little over two months ago I looked at volume eight of this series, and things were getting pretty good. For those of you who didn't read me then, cliff-notes: Darren, main character, meets a vampire and is turned into one ...

First Impressions: Wakfu

Mar 25 // Kristina Pino
Game Title and Platform(s): Wakfu, for PC, Mac OS and LinuxDeveloper: AnkamaPublisher: Square-Enix (for North America region)Release Date: 2011MSRP: Free to play Wakfu is a game that gives you a lot of choices. Maybe too many choices, but nonetheless you are bombarded with them from the get-go. In closed beta I was able to choose from just a few classes, but up to now there are 14 classes in the works for the full game. When you fire up the game for the first time, you get a nice little introduction before the character selection comes on. Once you pick your class, you can make all kinds of adjustments, from hair and skin color to starting outfits after choosing your class gender. After that, it's all very simple (supposed to be, anyway). You're dropped off at Incarnum, a newbie zone up in the sky and above the clouds with a denizen called Catskill to send you down to the land of the living when you're ready. You attain a little blob that tails you and acts as a sort of guide throughout your time. To my understanding, the blob has a lot more utility than just being a guide once you get much further into the game. For now though, it's just a blob that follows me around. In my personal experience while going through the newbie zone, I had no idea at all where I was going and what I was supposed to do. I didn't even find the tutorials until after I'd hung around the "Earth" zones for a while and went back up to Incarnum out of curiosity. I was thrust into this nation, told I needed a passport before I could do anything and didn't receive much help from the NPCs. While at Incarnum, you're supposed to meet a few other NPCs that show you a thing or two about combat and spell casting in general. In my case, I learned it all first-hand by wandering around before I even found the tutorials. You're supposed to learn the basic mechanics of the game at Incarnum, and you'll also find signs that tell the story of the game's premise. Above is an image of one of such signs. I thought they were beautiful. This one in particular is showing you the Orc's tears that drowned the world (after throwing his ex girlfriend into the pits of hell, which you can see on the left side). Speaking of beautiful, this game is just that. For a free-to-play MMORPG, Wakfu is surprisingly gorgeous while remaining clean and smooth. Your character has a surprisingly high range of movement and lots of wonderful gear (I keep on some bunny slippers and a bunny hat, myself) to wear. Emotes and movement are also "dropped" by enemies. Pretty much everything you'd want or need in the game has to be hunted, gathered or crafted. In the case of gear and tools, there is neither an Auction House in the game at this time, nor are there merchant NPCs. The entire economy is player-based. In order to attain items, you have to make money by either mining the ore and literally, physically making money, or farming other items for crafters that make gear and weapons you want. Wakfu gives you the freedom to choose any and all professions you want, but honestly there is no point of trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. It's a waste of time, and now I'm getting to the more negative stuff, because it's all a big grind. It is to be expected of most (if not all) MMORPGs, but this game is nothing but grind. This is definitely one of those games that I wouldn't expect anyone to play for five hours a day, six days a week. It is the sort of game I'd expect to be casual fun for anyone who likes the world or is a fan of Ankama. The world of Wakfu isn't like Final Fantasy XI or World of Warcraft where you literally need to make friends with others and make guilds to beat big baddies for awesome gear. It also isn't one where you need to team up with several people to gain EXP or run through missions and quests. It's a game that you can casually play by yourself if you are so inclined, or team up with friends and be more of an achiever. That isn't to say that you can't play FFXI or WoW casually when you like, but to get through missions or attain the high-end stuff you absolutely do need to group up with other folks. Either way, Wakfu is what you make of it, and that's its charm. The world is 100 per cent player maintained. Players decide which crops and animals thrive and which die out; they decide if they want to be more on the "creation" end (Wakfu) or "destroying" (Statis) end of things. All actions within the world have consequences. Whether you like to create or destroy isn't important. Neither is viewed as the more positive choice, although one would initially venture to believe that "creation" or Wakfu is the way to go. While shortage exists, so does overage, so those with Statis are equally valued as keepers of balance. In reality though, what matters is whether or not you act according to the wishes of the major NPCs. There are major NPCs in the game, called Clan Members (such as Master Owl above), who control their own zones and have a little icon at the top left of your game screen whenever you're in their area. They'll show you what the crop, plant and animal levels are in their area and where they want them to be. If you act against them, you lose Citizen Points. These points are among the more important things to keep track of while playing, because how many points you attain will determine your privileges. On the flip side, losing points might very well lead you to in-game jail. What's this, a game jail? Yes, one of the other downsides to this game (for me, anyway) is that it really takes the consequence thing seriously. If you aren't aware of the flow of battles and politics within the world, even if you just want to play by yourself, and wander into enemy territory, you can get attacked by other players in PvP, jailed or whatever else falls into the laws of your in-game nation. You read that right. You have to follow the laws of your in-game nation, or you get into in-game trouble. Sounds a lot like playing a game that is a little too much on the reality side, yes? Not to worry, it isn't easy to get so much on the bad side of your Clan Members that you'll get tossed into jail, but the threat is there. Honestly, this game reminded me a lot of another game I do play regularly, called Hello Kitty Online. Oh yes, it exists, and it's disgustingly adorable. It's another game that is free-to-play, smooth and feels like it's more for the fans than for the general gaming populace. The games are all grind-based, but HKO differs in that instead of having a political system there are lots of missions and team things to do. You spend more time discovering Sanrio characters and doing "cute" things than being a hunter-gatherer. The only complaints I have with the game beyond what I've already mentioned is that it isn't entirely translated. I can't expect it to be perfect, though, and it's in French! It makes a few professions quests a little difficult since you have to read the in-game guides in order to start up a new job. All you need to do to learn a profession is wander around the map and find Clan Members who will teach you. The further you run from town, the higher level everything is, but almost no monsters will actually attack you on sight if you're just hunting down denizens. Speaking of running away from town, I also found I like the music in the areas that are furthest away/ more high level. The game's soundtrack is overall very fun and pleasant, but it definitely feels like the higher level zones have more intricate themes. Maybe I feel that way because I spend more time in the lower level zones and thus the themes just play out after a while. Over all though, it's great and there is no loading screen between zones to speak of, the only indicator being the music fading from one to the other and a banner coming up on the middle of the screen announcing the new zone (as well as the Clan Member icon popping up and telling you something new). After all that, I've only breached the tip of the iceberg. This game is so incredibly involved, it's hard to punch out all the details in one article. I gave you the basic mechanics of the game, and what I thought of them, but if you are the least big intrigued you should just find out for yourself if or when North America gets its open beta. We'll post that information if or when it becomes available. Wakfu is a game I do recommend for anyone that likes games that don't necessarily need to take up too much time, but are pretty to look at and have a lot of history. You'll never run out of things to do, and you can choose to be a loner or be part of a guild, even run for governor of your nation. When I say that the entire world is maintained by players, I do literally mean, Fable style, you can make anything happen. It is the charm of the game that I can see turning a lot of people off, but honestly Wakfu is a breath of fresh air.

[Update: This article originally listed an April start date for the North American open beta, however we've been informed that this is not the case. The international open beta taking place in April will not be open to North ...

A look at: Cirque du Freak #8

Mar 15 // Kristina Pino
Since I haven't read volumes one through seven, I expected to be completely out of the loop. I don't know whether it's a good or a bad thing, but it was easy to pick up on enough of the story and what I needed to know in order to follow along. Not just that, but half of this volume was very slice-of-life, Darren being trapped into going back to school after living the vampire life for over a decade and reuniting with his old girlfriend. He also ran into his ex best friend, who added to the ups and downs. The second half of it was more fast-paced and exciting, a vicious battle ending it and leaving us with a bit of a cliff-hanger. Reading this bit actually sparked my interest in glossing through what's happened up until now and keeping up with what follows. They're at a pretty high point in the series, where Darren's (main character and vampire) lover has been abducted and his best friend has turned on him in the worst way. The story is in the middle of some epic battle between vampires and vampaneze, some other version of blood beings that are all demonic-looking. It seems rather plain, but I like the drawing style and I like that I was able to follow the story even this far into it. It doesn't look like it's much more than a dude who is fighting in some crazy war with vampires and his past comes back to him suddenly to mix him up. I guess I started reading at a more interesting part of the story! Have any of you folks gotten into this manga?

When I think of Cirque du Freak, the first thing that comes to mind is that odd-looking movie that sort of came and went, with John C. Reilly as one of the lead actors playing a vampire. Mr Reilly caught my attention, but "hi...


A look at Higurashi When They Cry #11

Mar 07
I had the great pleasure of giving a look at the previous volumes of the Higurashi When They Cry manga last week, an arc that spun a new outlook on what the Higurashi setting is capable of providing in way of interesting and ...

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