Impressions

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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=101&v=EGCsYr4a-3Y 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]
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
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!
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
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!
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
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!
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
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 delivered...in 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 GRodiles
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?
 photo

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.
 photo

[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?
 photo

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...

 photo

A look at Higurashi When They Cry #11


Mar 07
// OxKing
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 ...
 photo

A look at Higurashi When They Cry #9-10


Feb 28
// OxKing
While the anime adaption of the visual novel Higurashi When They Cry gets a bad wrap because of its animation and horrendous English dub, I still highly regard the franchise as having one of the most thril...
 photo

A look at Pandora Hearts #4


Feb 05
// Kristina Pino
To summarize the story so far in two long sentences, Pandora Hearts is a manga about 15 year old Oz Vessalius, who has been dumped into a legendary "broken toy chest" of a prison called The Abyss. He escapes after b...

The Bible Black story or: How I learned to love hentai

Jan 20 // OxKing
However, the real meat of this story begins at about springtime in 2009. I'm sitting in a small room with my good friend Thomas, each of us typing away on our laptops, listening to music or whatever, just minding our own business in private, waiting for something to happen later that night. I can't quite remember his exact movement, or how he twisted or jerked in his seat- all I can assume is that he moved in his seat to get a bit more comfortable-, but when he did move, his earphones came out of the jack on the computer, and echoing throughout the room, the voices of young women screamed, oh, something along the lines of "...iku! Iku! Kimochiiiiii~!! Sempai genki desu ka?" followed by a plethora of sounds involving liquids that I didn't have time to identify. It was all over in about 4-5 seconds, as my friend, like a madman, struggled so hard to get his earphones plugged right back into his computer. What he was watching wasn't exactly clear at the time, but the single fact that I knew, though, was that it was most definitely porn. There was no denying that.I would have been content with just guessing whatever the hell was on his computer for the rest of my life, having it linger in the back of my mind until I ultimately forgot about it. But unfortunately, the long, long silence between the two of us was broken when my friend said in a playful tone: "Well, THAT was awkward".I gave a light chuckle to ease the mood, but I had a strong feeling that things were going to become more estranged between us if he continued talking."Well, see...I was actually watching something pretty cool". He said.Oh God, I'm dying here, I thought. It was one of those situations where you find yourself in such deep shit, way too sudden and through no fault of your own, and you can't help but clench your teeth, waiting for it to end. "Uh-huh" was along the lines of what I answered back to him."No man, it's- Well, have you ever seen Kite yet? It's an anime-"Things are getting so worse at this point. Here I am, believing that my childhood friend is suggesting porn to me while in a situation where God only knows what will happen between us in this isolated room. It was the worst feeling ever, which was threatening me to feeling a lot worse if thing kept going.However, I just kept breezing along this conversation, until he finally moved his laptop towards me to show me a small clip, promising it was more than I expected. A small detail I'll never forget is the split second my heart jumped when he turned the screen around towards me. As he was turning the screen, he was also moving the player on the video backwards to earlier in the film, and in a freaking blink of an eye, right before he skipped back, I saw the freeze frame of where he had stopped to talk to me. I saw full penetration of a man into a high school girl, and I thought that my friend was going to change our relationship forever. As he showed me the now famous bathroom shootout scene from Kite, he explained to me a bit about the movie. Kite was released in around 1998, and was about an hour long. It was explained to me by my friend that the film uses hyper-violence and explicit sex to send a message about our over-indulgence in these things, and also as some sort of heeded warning had society not changed it's views. Not in a literal "everyone's going to die" kind of way, but rather about the- damn it, I'm getting off topic here.As I watched, I actually could understand what he meant by that, and after it was all over, I ended up really liking it. It was both a beautiful, yet ugly anime; bittersweet in a sense. It was an anime that really sent a message to me, and along side that, it had and interesting plot and excellent ending. Pretty much, I over-estimated Kite, and was really glad that I ended up seeing such a classic anime instead of my worse-case-scenario.-- Fast-forward to about one month later. Me and Thomas visit a few other friends to hang out...you know, just kind of as a nice, relaxing night talking and making jokes about stuff that were topical then. We began talking about what anime we were currently watching...I think I was watching the new season of Haruhi...actually, yeah, I'm pretty sure it was, because we got onto the topic of how I was the only one who liked Endless Eights. Everything was going pretty great.Thomas leans into the group and says: "Marc and I here watched an anime called Kite not too long ago". I sunk into my chair a little bit.Oh God."Really? What's that about?" asked another friend.Oh...God..."Well, it's a really cool anime that sends messages about the way violence and sexuality is portrayed in a futuristic society, but in an ironic way of being really bloody and stuff. It kind of makes you think about how we're all so immune to it all anymore and, really, it's just a classic anime. Plus, it has a teenage girl assassinating people, so you can't go wrong."We all share a laugh, and everyone says they'll check it out.Finally, Thomas goes "Yeah, there's a hardcore sex scene in it, too."The  three seconds of silence is broken by thunderous laugh from everybody in the room. Yeah, it was over for me. I felt like complete shit for that short period of time. Then my friends said some stuff that I never expected."Hey, don't worry man, I saw 10 minutes of Boku no Piko on a dare once…""Dude, that's nothing! I should link you some of the horrible doujinshi I've seen, good God…"And everyone started to try and out-do each other in their perverted stories. At first, I was kind of glad that I had friends who brushed off my embarrassment and didn't care about what dumb stuff like that. But then, I realized exactly how bloodthirsty and unforgiving they are when it comes to good ero stories."Dude, Marcus, you should watch all of Bible Black" one of my friends joked."Yeah, Marc!  You'd totally be the best if you do it!"I gave a loud laugh. "Ehhhh, nah guys…I'm cool--""C'mon, man! It's not like you've seen anything else like we have! Who knows? It might end up being somewhat watchable"."Besides, I'll give you, like, $30" another friend said. I don't know what it was about the way these guys worded it all, but somehow, it all seemed very convincing. Or maybe it was just the 30 bucks they all bribed me with. Who knows, huh? Either way, I accepted the challenge.  At the time, I was volunteering at a smaller website and writing reviews for anime and manga I was watching at the time. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone, and try and create something more controversial on the site, rather than countless Full Metal Alchemist reviews and Bleach facts. Since I was tying these two things in, I realized that I had to go about watching porn on a some-what professional level. So I made some mental notes and specifications for my viewing. First off, I MUST watch all seasons and spin-offs of Bible Black in completion. Second, I can skip around the sex scenes a little, but for the majority of the duration, I was on my own. Finally, while I don't need to complete it, I have to at least check out the original eroge this was all based on. With those rules set, I began watching Bible Black. Would this first episode exceed my expectations? Would it actually have a cohesive story that follows more than just sex?Well, no, not really. In fact, the first episode was unbearable. Well, there goes that miracle, I thought. But do you know the funniest damn thing about this whole thing was? Can you guess what made me actually contemplate if I was watching the right show?! Once I was done with about 7-8 episodes, the fucking thing started gaining depth! It became convoluted and has a whole well-thought out setting that actually follows continuity and shit! I'll save you the trouble of details by linking to the wiki page, but Bible Black's story is good, I tell you! Now, I know something like that is hard to swallow (no pun intended…oh, God, what’s wrong with me?), but to be as perfectly fair and honest as possible, it seemed there was actually some motive to move the plot forward and, dare I say it, I was curious how it would all end over its numerous seasons.  While it’s easy to say that the plot sucked compared to even under-averaged anime, it all comes back humorously to me.  Just think about it: more care, detail, and mythology were given to this hentai than about half of the first 10 more recent anime I can name off the top of my head!  I don’t even feel the need to add the suffix “…it’s good for a hentai” when relating it to the plot; it’s well written and paces properly, even if it’s as ridiculous as it is.  It’s just that the content is what will turn people off (or on, depending on whom you are).  Needless to say, though, a plot is the last thing needed in porn, although this was a pleasant surprise nonetheless.Oh, you want to know about the sex scenes? Oh yeah, dicks everywhere. Yeah, story-telling aside, this shit is balls-to-the-walls hardcore (again, no pun intended). It also changed me into what fetishes I'm fine with. Futa is great. No, really. Bible Black convinced me that futanari is just a-okay. Putting a penis on a female? Sign me up. Using a shotgun for intercourse? Alright, Bible Black…when did you hire Stanley Kubrick to write out your elaborate sex choreography out? That's just brilliant! Oh, you're going to fire a shell from that shotgun into the chicks forbidden parts? That deserves a standing ovation. As you can tell, there hardly is a dull moment in Bible Black in terms of outraging the audience.Really, I was surprised over the month that I watched all of these episodes, and was so thoroughly entertained that it didn't even register to me that I was watching pornography anymore, I was watching concentrated hilarity in it's purest form. Bouncing back and forth between the Japanese and English dub was one great treat (PROTIP: They're both terrible), and I remember showing Thomas an especially funny part one night in our schools computer lab (the shotgun scene). After I was done showing him, I kind of realize how glad I was that he showed me Kite. Without that, not only would I have been out of watching that classic, as well as Bible Black, but I also wouldn't have had the doors of stuff like doujinshi opened up to me in the future. It was a huge milestone for me. I was thinking all of this as he left the computer lab that night, and as I was finishing up my latest episode, and I thought to myself that I should thank him the next chance I get."What the FUCK are you watching?!" came a booming voice from behind me.As soon as I heard those words, memories of Benny flashed through my head. The only thing I heard after that was me turning in my chair and quickly hitting the keyboard, mouse, ANYTHING to take the image of a she-male fucking another female off that computer. The person I saw at the doorway wasn't a complete stranger. She was a student I've seen walking around campus, someone who maybe casually said "hi" to a friend of mine as I idly stood aside. She turned in disgust and left, laughing at the sight she just saw.Aww…shit.I grabbed my stuff and got the hell out of that computer lab. Never before had I been in a scenario where if I didn't Solid Snake my ass out of a place, my future could be fucked up for like. I was panicking, and the last thing I needed was to be spotted by an authority figure with that girl by their side. After taking about ten steps down the hall, I realized that I hadn't singed out of the computer in the lab. A screenshot of Bible Black would be flashing in whoever's face when they come in the next morning, and my name and school ID would in plain sight, hidden only by hitting the Start Menu. I did about five double-takes, deciding to get out of there or risking my ass getting caught again. When I finally did go back, I remember groaning loudly to myself all the way back into the empty room, thinking: "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING YOU IDIOT GET YOUR DUMB ASS OUT OF THERE!". I turned the damn thing off, grabbed my stuff again, and jogged quickly out of the place.When I got back to my bedroom, it was only then that I felt relaxed. However, worries of the next day crossed my mind. Does that girl know me well enough to know my name? Is someone going to confront me before I get to my classes? Are people going to call me out during class?! Damn, damn, damn! Reluctantly, though, I went to my classes the next day, fearing the worst and paranoid as fuck.Nothing happened.No one talked to me, no one had heard a rumor, and to this day, I don't think I've ever ran across the girl since. However, something inside tells me that had my actions ever been brought to light, and people got a wind of what that girl saw, it wouldn't be that bad in the end. I mean, it really made me relate back to Benny's story, and how he ended up being just fine. It actually made me wonder what kind of person Benny was, really. Was he just an anime fan that likes a bit of hentai and eroge once in a while? Or was he misunderstood while taking a bet, like I was? What was he even looking at when caught? Then, I started posing myself larger questions. Is it really that hard to consider hentai as another form of pornography in comparison to something else? I find myself knowing a lot of anime fans who can't stand the idea of H-games and explicit sexuality involving anime and manga, almost as if it's tainting it's image and "increasing the problem". I like chocolate and bananas, but I'm going to have pornography that features those two things ruin my love of it. It's the fact that people like Benny and many others don't let hentai get in the way of their closet-otaku lifestyle that's really made me reflect about this whole experience. Anime and sexuality are not too uncommon. The idea of hentai being a prominent role in anime shouldn’t be as shameful as it is now, and I'm definitely at fault, too, in believing differently. My shyness and embarassment about Kite all the time ago was completely in contrast to my friend Thomas, and his open attitude about all that stuff. Why was I so embarrassed? So what if people know I liked watching an anime that had a sex scene? So what if people know that I watched all of Bible Black? In the end, it seemed that Thomas and Benny had the right idea of not letting anything, or what anyone believes, get in the way of what you love. -- And so later in the month, I finished Bible Black. I was happy with myself, mainly because I was 30 dollars richer, of course. After I sent it, the anime reviews site I was working with denied my email containing my Bible Black review. Unfortunately, the anime was in bad taste, and the website didn't want to be associated with "smut like 'hentai', which has no articulate value to it". After all that I went through, and all that I questioned myself for, following that reply I immediately quit writing reviews for the site, and went on to find another anime site that has it's own rules to follow, with a cool staff and a great community to lounge about with...and guess which one I found?Now I'm happy to be apart of this awesome staff, and you awesome readers. While I know some of you are sort of dreading the rest of Ero Week in fear of getting caught by your boss while visiting Japanator at work, just remember how great of a place this is when we can tell stories like this... or that... or even this! The freedom we get, and even the freedom you get, in letting go and writing your first experiences of this stuff is what makes anime fans relate with one another.Here's to a great rest-of-Ero-Week, and an even greater sense of how hentai and eroge make us all somewhat related to each other!
 photo

[I almost never have any stories to tell, really. I mean, I hardly ever do anything crazy each day, and even when me and other friends decide to roam about town, nothing too extreme comes out of it...just a funny experienc...

Why do I love it: Kimi ni Todoke

Jan 03 // OxKing
 When it comes romance, there's not too much in live-action that brings me the same emotions I feel in animation. Very few other mediums have me fall in love with a sweet story, simply because those mediums rely on unnatural acting between a couple of actors, something that has to be perfect before I can enjoy it. It's the lack of freedom, the suspension of disbelief that things like novels and animation have, where detail to body language is not as important as the words coming out of the characters mouths. Because we're conditioned to know that animation is not real, we aren't looking for a quivering lip, or a couple dancing fluently at a ball. The important aspects of animation romance are the words, and the emotion behind them. It's also the slightly exaggerated movements, like an eye twitch, or a hearty smile that show what the characters feel without spelling it out for the viewer. It's the ease of attention, the feeling of accepting imperfectness, that gives animation that feeling of lessening attention on detail, and focusing more on characters and how they relate to yourself through words. With that aside, lets move onto Kimi ni Todoke.  Did you watch the video above?  About one year ago, I had a job that gave me a paycheck every week. I also had a girlfriend who lived pretty far away, and I only got to see her a few amount of times during the month. Despite that, this video, the opening theme to the first season of the Kimi ni Todoke anime, was one of my most looked forward to things each and every week. Excusing the rather average direction of the animation, it was the song,  "Kimi ni Todoke" by artist Tanizawa Tomofumi, that made my week 25 times in-a-row.Now, I'm a very impressionable person. Sometimes, that isn't so healthy. I base a lot of my thoughts about something from the moment I first see it. That's not to say I never learn more about people than what initially appears after my first impressions, but let's just say that I'm never going to eat octopus, or that I'll never re-watch the Iron Man anime again. To me, this means that the opening theme, which sets me in the perfect mood to watch an anime like this, plays a large...large role in my love towards Kimi ni Todoke. When it comes down to it, it does not really matter to me as much that the episode is as good as it could have been, but rather that I am in the perfect mood before, and after, I watch the anime. This opening is the key to that feeling. It's the symbolism that the opening has, in relation to the warmth I feel after every episode, that gets me psyched and excited to watch it. It's the concrete definition for Classical Conditioning.The anime itself doesn't completely make me love Kimi ni Todoke, rather it's the anticipation for feeling the warmth after the episode itself that I love the most. It's a very complex cycle.  I'm not saying that the plot and animation itself isn't art, and that the focus should be only on the music. Of course the plot is important in maintaining the mood, and the scenes where the only things focused on are simplistic and work wonders. However, it's not the gripping drama, or the entangled character bio's that Kimi ni Todoke is best known for. To me, it's the fact that you want to care for these characters, not that you feel like you have to. In many tragic stories, there are always clear attempts to paint a character as sad and pathetic, and come off as someone who needs you to be rooting for them. Sawako, as sad as her attempts to find friends and maybe love, has nothing but a cheerful, optimistic approach on life. This turns her from a mopey, "I-want-you-to-pull-through" character, into someone who I can actually look up to and learn a few things about. Sawako's best friends, Chizuru and Ayane, just end up reflecting the audience in that they are just as impressed by Sawako's outlook as we are, making them relatable for everyone to fall in love with, too. I don't believe Sawako is an all-too realistic representation of an actual teenage girl, and the absolute perfect innocence she has, as well as her ability to seem hideous to her peers despite in actuality being quite beautiful, screams cliche and unlikely in the real world. But I've never been focused on how realistically innocent and naive Sawako is when I say she's a great character, or even how the whole technicalities of the works are very lackluster. Instead, I'm much too focused on not only seeing Sawako change over her time in the quick-paced and unfamiliar surrounding she's in, but also having some changing occur to myself. There's a picky "film buff" in me, and he loves to break down movies to it's simplest form, and either suckle on the great choreography and cinematography of the project, or rip it a new asshole and point out all flaws, continuity errors and, overall, break all immersion. Kimi ni Todoke is horribly predicable, not very original and has a simplistic style at times.And yet...I set all of that aside. I whisk away any gripes with the animation, or the predictions of the budget the series had, because all that mattered to my enjoyment, in the end, was due to the pacing of the show, how loosely, yet still interestingly grounded into reality it was, and the excellently emotion-felt monologues Sawako delivered. To me, the strongest aspect an anime, manga, film, book, video game, comic, anything... can benefit from is an emotional attachment, or caring, for a main character. Put simply, when my mood is set from the opening, Sawako adds to that with her charming, and the ridiculously impossible innocence she has. It's as if it's nearly unfathomable to meet a girl as sweet and friendly as her, yet there's still some reality to the situation.I think that's all that I can really explain for Kimi ni Todoke. I mean, it may not seem like it, even to me, but it's high up there with my favorite things of my entire life. It's not the first of its kind, yet I've hit such a great note along with this that it pretty much forced me to read any form of medium about it. It's opened up Kuragehime into the same boat for me, and I feel almost the exact same towards that as I do Kimi ni Todoke. And with the second season of Kimi ni Todoke on the way, what better way to begin the year for myself than with the loud scream of a certain onomatopoeia.[Catch Kimi ni Todoke Season 2 on this seasons Annotated Anime from Brad, the lucky guy...]
 photo

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that it may not jive with the opinions of Japanator as a whole, or how ...

First Impressions: Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi

Jul 05 // Josh Tolentino
The marketing line seems to angle Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi (Ms. Wolf and Her Seven Friends) as a romantic comedy take on traditional fairy tales and fables. For better or worse, though, the angle is rather shallow, exploiting the classics in motif rather than theme. Perhaps it's a consequence of having to fit the whole "High School Life Romantic Comedy" structure, but I'm not about to complain. There have been enough attempts - anime and otherwise - to bring "edge" to old stories (which themselves need no help being "omg grimdark" in their original form) that my inner cynic growls in displeasure when made aware of such things.Instead, the fairy tales provide a pleasantly fluffy schema for names, visuals, character stereotypes, and plot devices. Ryouko Ookami (whose looks would certainly inspire wolf-like behavior in male otaku) dorms with her friend/Red-Riding-Hood-analogue Ringo Akai, and serves as the muscle behind the "Otogi Bank", a student club that deals in fixin' problems and doing favors, presumably on the guarantee that the favors be returned "when the time comes". Especially amusing is the not-quite-subtle implication that the kids' little club is more "Don Corleone" than "Mother Teresa". Sadly, a choice opportunity to have one potential client "kiss the hand" went untaken.  Besides Ringo and Ms. Wolf herself, the Bank supports several other characters, including a maid who gets off on reciprocity (really), a wicked-witch inventor, a President-Secretary sibling pair whose fairy tale references I can't place, and two people named Urashima and Otohime, proving that the tales to be exploited are not all of western origin.If it ended there, of course, the show would be just be called "Ms. Wolf and Her Six Friends." Which brings up Ryoushi Morino, a secret admirer of Ryouko's who suffers from a severely exploitable case of Scopophobia. Following a pathetically awkward confession and ethically dubious HR processing, Ryoushi ends up as the Bank's newest recruit, his first mission to aid a client in preventing a permanently injured tennis club member from resigning his position. Definitely not the work of a socially beneficial organization.Failure after failure plagues Ryoushi's assignment (mostly due to his fear of being looked at), and desperation leads to a blind pumpkin-carriage chase scene that ends in the Cinderella-esque client drop-kicking the Prince of Tennis in the face. A quick after-school heart-to-heart has Ryouko finally accepting Ryoushi as a Bank member, though in midst of that mandatory mawkishness are the infinitely more interesting pair of Ryouko's boxing gloves, the Neko Neko Knuckles, which leave a cat-face imprint on poor bastards' faces.The best came last, however, as the show's fairy tale references kicked into higher gear. I won't spoil it for you completely, but suffice it to say: that the Prince (of Tennis)'s search for a foot to match his assailant's shoe pays off. Visually, Ookami-san is rather splendid. It doesn't quite have the decadent production values of a Kyoto Animation or Production I.G. gig, but it's consistently smooth, boasts a high frame rate, and "pops" quite well. It compares very favorably to A Certain Scientific Railgun, which was also animated by J.C. Staff. They've been on a roll of late, I have to say.The voice performances are equally solid. As might have been expected, the show was carried by its slate of Railgun veterans. Shizuka Itou (aka Index's Kaori Kanzaki) and Kanae Itou (aka Railgun's Saten-san) deliver a great coodere and bloody-minded loli, respectively, but the true landmark acting came from a character who didn't appear on-screen at all: The Narrator, who is voiced by Satomi Arai. She comments on the happenings in the manner of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 viewer, but fully immersed in Kuroko's personality and mannerisms, making her and a perfect fit for the show's "Once Upon A Time" pretensions. The cast also boasts Rie Kugimiya and Yui Horie, but their roles got so few lines that they were all but unrecognizable. As time goes on I'm hoping their characters' presences will grow to fit their talents better.In the offing Ookami-san looks to be an entertaining, if otherwise unremarkable experience. It shows promise and stands to be really clever if it can take care not to run some of its gags into the ground. Alright already, we know Ryouko's flat as a pancake and Ryoushi cowers when seen, let's move on! It didn't exactly blow me away in amazement on first sight, but then again, neither did Index, Railgun, Familiar of Zero, or ToraDora!. Make me proud, J.C. Staff!
 photo

Summary: Once Upon A Time there were scopophobics, grown-up Taigas, flat chests, Cinderella drop-kicks, a bunch of Railgun alumni, and Neko Neko Knuckles. And they lived happily ever after.Let's get this bit of semi-relevance...

 photo

E3 10: Rune Factory 3 has plenty of human-monster bonding


Jun 20
// Tim Sheehy
As most of you probably know by now, Rune Factory is a spin-off of the popular Harvest Moon series -- focusing more on action than farming. That's not to say that farming doesn't happen during the series, but it's safe to say...
 photo

E3 10 : A look at Natsume's Harvest Moon DS: Grand Bazaar


Jun 20
// Tim Sheehy
Before E3 ended, I managed to swing by Natsume's booth to check out their upcoming games. With sequels to both Harvest Moon, and its fantasy based spin-off, Rune Factory, as well as several new titles -- includ...

E3 10: Koei Tecmo's booth was beautiful and brutal

Jun 16 // Tim Sheehy
Upon approaching the booth, you're greeted by a display featuring a sleek set of Japanese samurai armor. On the other side is a life-sized statue of Kenshiro from their upcoming game Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage -- previously known to us as Fist of the North Star Musou. Dale managed to snag  a couple photos, so I'll try to include those at a later date. Once you enter the booth, you're confronted with a wall featuring their upcoming titles such as Quantum Theory, a 3rd person shooter that some have referred to as the "Japanese Gears of War," and Warriors: Legend of Troy. While both look impressive, I'm definitely looking forward to the release of Quantum Theory. What I did play of it was really fun, and frankly I enjoyed the Japanese aesthetic that Legends of Troy clearly lacked.I really loved getting to sit down and play Fist of the North Star. While the AI issues that were previously reported still exist, I imagine the demo was set to a lower difficulty setting. The visuals are even more brutal in person and the gameplay felt solid, which is good since I was expecting it to be a bit clunky. I also noticed that both the Xbox 360 and Ps3 versions were side by side and while I didn't get to experience the slow loading of the 360, the colors were still visibly washed out in comparison. Finally, I sat down with Samurai Warriors 3 for the Wii. It was hooked up with a classic controller, much like Sengoku Basara was, and while I was intimately familiar with the gameplay from previous titles in the series, I found the visuals to be slightly lacking in comparison. That said the story mode of the game is really where the bread and butter is, and that definitely shows promise. I'm looking forward to hearing more as the game gets closer to launch. I'm still excited about Samurai Warriors but getting this chance to sit down with Fist of the North Star and Quantum Theory really have me pumped. Anyone else looking forward to these?
 photo

Recently merged, Koei Tecmo's combined library of upcoming titles seem to go together like apples and cinnamon. The booth on the other hand puts forth the image of singular entity, despite the fact that in addition to their own games, they also have NIS America's upcoming releases on display. I'll save NIS America for later, but you can check out Koei Tecmo's offerings after the jump.

E3 10: Hands on with the Capcom booth

Jun 16 // Tim Sheehy
After I sat down and played a few rounds, I was really impressed with how they tried to stay true to the roots of the series, despite the visual enhancements. If you're used to playing Marvel vs Capcom 2, however, you might need some time to adjust to the new three button "light, medium, hard" system and dedicated pop-up button -- Tatsunoko vs Capcom players might have a slight advantage as a result.  Also, you might like to know that Dante is cheap as f*#k and totally broken -- kind of like he's the new Cable. That said, he's incredibly fun to use. I also had a chance to sit down with Ghost Trick, which played much like the demo that Destructoid posted the other month. Again, it's an interesting twist on the detective story we've all become so used to seeing from the Ace Attorney series. Hopefully we'll be able to post an English flash demo at some point to share with all of you.Dead Rising 2 was also available to play, though I didn't get nearly as much with it as I would have liked. The game does play similar to the previous title in the series, and from what I witnessed, the environments are pretty spectacular. I'm looking forward to possibly seeing more later today.Finally, I got to sit down and play a bit of Sengoku Basara Samurai Heroes.  Let me tell you, for a Wii game, it looks fantastic. I would even say the visuals rival that of the HD port for Koei's Dynasty Warriors 5 that was released in Japan, and while the gameplay may seem similar at first glance, the actual mechanics are quite different. In fact, I soon realized that I was running around like an idiot after trying to musou every time I found a group of enemies. After getting the hang of it though, I found the gameplay to be solid and seemingly more open-ended than Koei's Samurai Warriors series. There was actually decent AI involved, which helps. Also note that the unit I played on used a classic controller pro. I'm not sure how the game will control out of the box, but assuming you buy the bundle with the controller, it'll be fun times.  That's it for now, next up? Koei Tecmo and NIS. If you guys have any questions, I'll try to field them when I get some time.
 photo

I'm glad that I've finally found time to sit down with a somewhat, but not very, reliable internet connection so I could share these impressions from the E3 floor. Despite the fact that Tuesday was insane -- relatively, at le...

First Impressions: Persona -Trinity Soul-

Jan 11 // God Len
Persona –Trinity Soul- Developed by: A-1 Pictures First aired January 5, 2008 on Animax The story of Persona –Trinity Soul- revolves around three brothers this time around. The eldest one, Ryo, is the chief of the Ayanagi City Police, and is a busy man because of the amount of people who have been diagnosed with “Apathy Syndrome” as of lately. So busy that he forgets to pick up his two younger brothers from the air port, Shin, and Jun who will now be living with Ryo. These three will somehow be thrown into the conspiracy surrounding the Apathy Syndrome, and will come to terms with their own power known as persona. The art and animation is great so far, combining the old-school 2D, with the new and not always welcomed CG inserted objects and scenes. This isn’t the next Ghost in the Shell or Ergo Proxy, but good enough to get the job done. Music, on the other hand, is fantastic. It was one of the first things I picked up on as I started to watch this. At first it seems to be a little bit more dramatic than Persona 3’s Jpop-inspired soundtrack, but becomes more like its forerunner later on in the episode. Taku Iwasaki did the music for this anime, and I was surprised to find out that the last anime he worked on was Gurren Lagann; so its safe to assume that it will continue its awesomeness regardless of the other parts of this show.     So far, this anime seems to be a lot more serious than Persona 3. Not only is the story darker, but the overall look of the anime is dark as well. At this point it reminds me more of Darker Than Black, than an anime that would better suit Persona 3, like Fate/Stay Night; which combines both action, comedy, and romance together in a semi-perfect matter. But that does not mean it’s bad. Persona –Trinity Soul- is its own entity with its own attitude, while Persona 3 is different and unique on its own as well. So far I can’t say if this will be a show worth watching this winter season. Like most anime, the first episode hardly fed us enough to please our appetite.  But if its anything like Persona 3 then we shouldn’t be worried; which just might happen in the next episode when Shin and Jun go to school for the first time. If you ever played one of the games, or like anime with spiritual summons like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, or Shaman King, or a darker show like Darker than Black, than I believe this might be the show for you.
 photo

A majority of those who played Persona 3 for Playstation 2 have known, in the bottom of their hearts, that this would make a wonderful anime. For the game plays much like an anime itself, perfectly switching between an acti...

 photo

The Tribe known as otaku


Dec 18
// God Len
There comes a time in everyone’s life to reexamine who we are and what we have become; but lucky for us we do not have to do this anymore because the people over at Riuva did it for us by writing a great article about...

Auto-loading more stories ... un momento, corazón ...