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Japanator Awards

Japanator Awards 2016: Soul's picks for the best of the year

Jan 02 // Soul Tsukino
ANIME:   4) Haruchika: Haruta and Chika A series based on light novels, this series was like the scent coming from an air freshener. It wasn't heavy handed, over the top, but it still made you think. The adventures of two old childhood friends who are in a school's band club while solving puzzles is an interesting pitch and it worked well for the few episodes that it had. The series lacked any time to be able to expand on a lot of the characters, but the ones that were shown were funny and made the series really enjoyable. 3) Attack on Titan: Junior High I loved these little toe rags! Since the series finished in January I can include it here. A parody of Attack on titan, this series took what was VERY heavy and made it hilarious. The hardcore fans thought it was a waste of time but I thought it was a fun way to lighten up. A silly series that made me giggle and have a good time. 2) Sailor Moon Crystal I'm sorry but I loved this series! I waded through all the bitching and moaning people did complaining it's not the original series and really liked what was done here. Sure, the art had some issues, but I got into the story just as much with this series as I did when I first saw the original. I'll admit it had its faults but I took a lot more positive out of it than negative. It was a great series to watch and as an old school Sailor Moon fan I got into it. 1) Keijo!!!!!!!! This series should not have been good. This series should have been skewered to death and destroyed. But you know what? I enjoyed it. Other people enjoyed it. This show had me laughing literally every episode with just how insane it really was. This show took fan service and made it an art form with its creativity and not being afraid to be as silly as it could with a concept like this. Under any other circumstances, you'd think this show was have been buried and loathed, but I'll be damned if people aren't enjoying it for what it is. This not only was the biggest surprise for me but the most fun I've had with an anime series in a long time, so damn right I'm making it my top pick! WRESTLING: Match of the Year: Hiroshi Tanahashi v/s Kazuchika Okada WrestleKingdom 10 These guys had a major hill to climb. Not only did they have to the main event the biggest event of the year, but this was a rematch from the year before so they had to do something new. They delivered. The story of Okada never winning in the Tokyo Dome and facing the guy who not only beat him the year before but ALWAYS won in the Tokyo Dome made for a great stage for this contest. They gave it their all and made the match really exciting. Okada finally getting his big win made the story that much sweeter. Junior of the Year: Will Ospreay No one, and I mean NO ONE has made the splash in wrestling this year like Ospreay has. This 23-year-old Englishman shot to superstardom this year and is wanted around the world. He not only became an instant smash in New Japan but also in WCPW in England and Ring of Honor in the United States. Barring injury, this kid will only get bigger and better in 2017. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here. Dud of the Year: Yoshitatsu Poor Yoshi. Spent a year and a half on the sidelines with a broken neck and finally gets to make his comeback to see it go over like a fart in church. He went from teaming with Michael Elgin and Hiroshi Tanahashi to teaming with Captain New Japan and cosplaying as Triple H in record time. If there is someone in desperate need of a change in career trajectory, it's this guy. Tag Team of the Year: The Young Bucks/Jacksons I didn't want to do it. I REALLY wanted to find someone better. I hate these guys with a passion. But there just wasn't anyone else that had the year these guys have had. Multiple tag title reigns in New Japan with the Jr. tag titles as well as runs with the ROH tag belts here in the U.S., these annoying little snots put on some great matches with teams over the last 12 months. So, having to bite down and bear it, these guys are my top team this year. Wrestler of the Year: Tetsuya Naito I thought over this one a lot, with Kenny Omega and Shinsuke Nakamura being possible other choices, but Kenny's got a bigger 2017 ahead of him and Nakamura is in the U.S. full time. Naito was the guy who was never over like Tanahashi, Okada, or Nakamura as a face. He was just an over glorified junior who got main event shots when the champ needed someone to beat. He would get booed out of buildings and while he had great matches, he just couldn't get over that hump with the fans. A radical change in personality and approach later and he has the crowd eating out of the palms of his hands. As the leader of Los Ingobernables, he has become a real threat in New Japan having won both the IWGP World and Intercontinental belts in the last 12 months and while The Bullet Club is teetering on being a bloated parody of itself, Los Ingobernables is primed to take their place. With great matches, big wins, and a style on his own, I give the master of Tranquillo the top spot for the year. OTHER STUFF WTF story of the year: Parents leave kid alone on a mountain Seriously, was there a more f'ed up story than this during the year? Yamato Tanooka's parents try to teach their misbehaving child a lesson by kicking him out of a car on a lonely mountain road, only to find out when they went back for him that the kid has vanished into the bear-infested, cold forest at the base of a volcano? Yamato seemed to be a tough little guy surviving for five days alone before wondering onto a Self Defense Force training base just as it looked like he wouldn't make it. Hopefully, this is a lesson to all the parents out there to NOT DO THIS. Pop Culture fad of the year: PikoTaro I don't think anyone has made so much out of a blend of writing utensils and produce. Dressed like either a pimp or a used car salesman and with dance movies of a drunk uncle at a wedding, this guy arrived out of nowhere to show use what to do with pens and fruit. Now he's on TV,  has many spoofs, and even has a restraint in tribute to his ode to pineapples, apples, and pens.  Gotta love it.   So with that, I bid adeu to 2016. I hope everyone had a happy holiday and may we all find health and good fortune and luck in the next year. See you all in 2017!
Japanator awards photo
Anime,Wrestling, and other stuff
Hey, Gang! It's that time of the year where we look back at the last twelve months and decide what was the best of the best. Since I like to cover more than just animated adventures, I'm putting my stamp on other things Japan related I've been encountered in the last year. So hope on and here is what I think was the best of the best in 2016.

Japanator Awards 2016: Christian's Top 5 Anime of the Year

Jan 01 // Christian Chiok
[Editor's Note: As with last year's Japanator Awards, our lists are arranged in order, with our #1 pick being our favorite of the year. To qualify for inclusion in the Japanator awards, a candidate must have concluded a broadcast run or season ("cour") within the calendar year of 2016.] 5. Keijo!!!!!!!!! This series had to make it into the list somehow, right? Like many have said before, Keijo!!!!!!!!! Is definitely the gem of the season. Keijo offers the flashiness similar to Kuroko’s Basketball, where techniques are exaggerated and shown as attacks from your typical Shonen series. Additionally, it manages to combine both a wacky and serious tone quite well.  From the outside, it may look like a perverted series of clashing boobs and ass. From the inside, however, the series is about an intense sport called Keijo and the hardship of many of the students that work to be the best at it.  If you like sport series, I would definitely recommend it. Don’t let the wackiness fool you. Additionally, Aoba is definitely the best girl in the series. 4. Haikyuu (Season Two & Three) Aside Kuroko’s Basketball, Haikyuu is definitely one of my favorite sport series in recent anime history. While it doesn’t give out the same intense for “Dragon Ball in sports” feel, the series does a good job at keeping you at the edge of your seat. Coming from Production I.G, the animation is certainly phenomenal as well. Both seasons, the second one which started last year but ended this year and the third one which both aired and concluded this year were certainly enjoyable. Both protagonist, Shoyo Hinata, and deuteragonist, Tobio Kageyama, made tremendous development in both seasons. This isn’t saying that the rest of the Karasuno team didn’t make any development, but these two guys went through a lot which eventually made them better characters. I don’t think Volleyball is as interesting as Basketball, and not to mention, Haikyuu isn’t as unrealistic as Kuroko’s Basketball. Still, a lot of the plays were quite intense and watching them in anime form was enjoyable thanks to Production I.G. 3. Shokugeki no Souma: Ni no Sara Just like last year, Shokugeki no Souma delivered once again with its craziness and delicious plates. Additionally, I also appreciated the references put in some of the matches, especially the one with Megumi and Ryo where both of them had Stands. The tournament arc was quite enjoyable to watch as well — from its delicious food to the same intensity that you get from watching a sport series. My thoughts haven’t changed from last year when I put the first season on my top as well. The series features a variety of characters with different personalities who are certainly memorable. 2. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable If you took your time to read my Top 5 from last year (which I’m thankful for if you did), then you saw this one coming, because I did say I was going to automatically make it my Top 5 of 2016. To me, Diamond is Unbreakable is the best Jojo arc for many reasons. First, it features one of the best villains ever featured in a Shounen series, if not the best. He isn’t your generic “I am evil just because” or “I turned evil because I got friendzoned (looking at you, Obito). Yoshikage Kira has a unique background compared to other villains, and his purpose of doing what he does is unique as well. To add, Killer Queen was great antagonistic stand. Just like it features a great villain, the series though has a great protagonist as well. Joseph and Jotaro are great, and while Giorno Giovanna is my favorite JoJo, Josuke Higashikata definitely comes in second. He’s a hilarious character with a great personality but when it comes to being serious, he’s not playing around. Just like his father, he’s certainly a smart fighter as well. The side characters such as Jotaro, Joseph, Okuyasu and especially Koichi add to the series as well. 1. Orange This is the series that a lot of people in my circle called “If Clannad and Erased had a baby,” including myself of course. However, Orange’s traveling concept isn’t the same as Erased’s. In Orange, the protagonist, Naho Takiyama received letters from her future self to save her classmate, Kakeru Naruse, from comitting suicide. Each letter details on the things present Naho must do to save present Kakeru. Similarly to Clannad, Orange will also take you through the feelings roller coaster, similarly to the former. You’ll find yourself easily attached to many of the characters and feel what they are going through, which is an accomplishment considering the length of the series. I’m no afraid to admit that I shed some tears here and there watching the series. My only gripe is that the series was a bit short but perhaps it’s better if it was “short and sweet.” Honorable Mentions: Mob Psycho 100, Yuri On Ice, Re:Zero, My Hero Academia, Erased, All-Out, and Drifters.
Japanator Awards 2016 photo
Emotional Coasters, Boobs, Food, & More!
With another batch of enjoyable anime released this year, another Top 5 article was certainly obligatory. Unfortunately, just like last year, I didn’t invest my time much in Anime and spent it a lot more video games ins...

Japanator Awards 2016: Sal's Top 5 Anime of the Year

Jan 01 // Salvador G Rodiles
5. Tonkatsu DJ Agetaro If there are two things that I never imagine seeing in the same place, it’s preparing food being and becoming a DJ. Somehow, Tonkatsu DJ Agetaro drags us into a tale where a guy aims to be become a DJ through applying his experience of working at his family's tonkatsu (fried pork cutlets) restaurant to perfect his techniques. For the most part, the show made this whole thing seem ridiculous while making us root for this underdog who just wants to create a fun mix for people to enjoy. Even though the show’s looks wasn’t the best out there, the whole thing blended well with the series’ bizarre combination of themes. With each episode running at ten minutes, it was nice to see how well the tonkatsu theme played a huge role in Agetaro’s journey to become a great DJ. At the same time, I loved how this concept went well with the idea how one can apply their experience from a previous field in one that’s entirely different— in terms of understanding the new path better. Of course, it’s hard to deny a show where food and music go hand-in-hand to create a fun ride. To top it off, it deserves some props for giving a positive outlook on the word “chill out.”   4. Space Patrol Luluco While we’re on the topic of interesting shorts, Space Patrol Luluco served as an example of a series that reward me for sticking with it until the end. Even though the idea of Luluco being a series of shorts made me skeptical at first, the show ended up growing on me. We got to see a surprising origin story that’s relevant to Studio TRIGGER itself, along with a ridiculously over-the-top love story that took us through different worlds and galaxies. However, the big thing about this series was how much the series accomplished with its length. In 12 short episodes, we saw the show go from a tale of a girl following her dad’s footsteps to be a space officer so that she could use the money to free him from being frozen to story that took the idea of romance and used it in a scenario where everyone’s lives were on the line. At the same time, Luluco was a fine example of a project where the team at Studio TRIGGER just wants to have lots of fun while they mix a bunch of random off-the-wall ideas to create something wild. As a person who’s a fan of Hiroyuki Imaishi’s stuff, it was nice to see him make his over-the-top ideas work well in a series made up of seven-minute episodes. To top it off, the idea of seeing M.A.O./Mao Ichimichi (Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger’s Luka/Gokai Yellow) as Luluco and Tetsu Inada (Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger’s Doggie Kruger/Deka Master) as the show’s police chief, Chief Over Justice, felt like a dream come true since they both had solid roles in the Super Sentai franchise.   3. Konosuba – God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! When it comes to comedic fantasy titles, I do my best to catch them when I can. As a person who enjoys titles with a wacky gang of heroes who get into lots of trouble, such as Slayers and Louie the Rune Soldier, Konosuba quenched my thirst for this genre. The idea of having a NEET who was revived in a fantasy world after experiencing a humiliating death, a goddess who the main guy took with him, a delusional Arc Wizard who’s super obsessed with the explosion spell, and a masochistic Crusader who can’t hit her target joining forces worked well in creating a random cast that made each episode really amusing. This is thanks to series is placing this team in many situations where their quirks contribute to the show’s humor. With moments that range from the gang struggling to slay simple creatures to somehow taking out a powerful boss who works for the main villain that threatens the land, Konosuba made way for many surprises; thus making it one of the funniest trapped-in-another-world shows to grace 2016. Last but not least, Megumin the Crimson Demon might be the show’s best girl, which may nor may not be a factor into Konosuba’s placement on this list. In all seriousness, I had lots of fun with the show’s ten episodes and I hope that its sequel will continue to deliver in the humor department.   2. Mob Psycho 100 As a person who adored One Punch Man, there was zero chance that I would find Mob Psycho 100 to be a disappointment. Lo and behold, this ended up being the case since the series presented us with a powerful hero who only wishes to live life as a normal person that doesn’t rely on his special abilities. While the show focused on the whole “with great power comes responsibility” type of story, it also conveyed the idea of someone who wants to be a competent person outside of their forte. Even when people envy Mob for his powers, the guy only wants to live a normal life without having to worry about his abilities going out of control when he gets pushed to the edge. Because of his drawback, the show is a nice parallel to ONE's One Punch Man since they both present us with different takes on stories with overpowered characters. Of course, his relationship with the supporting characters was another thing that made the series worthwhile. One of the show's most noteworthy aspect was his relationship with his boss, Reigen, who happens to be a con artist that tricked Mob into thinking he’s stronger than him. Then there’s the show’s tendency to make people laugh through subverting signature tropes, such as the one where the lead might save a club from going under. Combined with Bones utilizing sketchy lines in the show’s action to complement ONE’s simplistic designs, we were left with another fine piece that did justice to its source material.   1. Re:ZERO  -Starting Life in Another World- If there’s one thing about life that’s harsh, it’s how things don’t always go your way. Re:Zero took this idea and had its main character Subaru suffer while he fought hard to achieve the best outcome when things went wrong. The idea of him being a shut-in sent to a fantasy world who can relive his life after death somehow was a nice take on the trapped-in-another-world genre of stories. It helps that our main hero is a normal person outside of his ability and that each arc pushes him to push towards discovering the right choice to save those he cares about. No matter how bad he suffered from his attempts to do well, the payoff was always exciting as the fruits of his labor lead to some wonderful confrontations. Hell, I found myself rooting for Subaru when he would find a way to save someone from an impossible situation. Because of the major steps Subaru had to go through, he easily became a great lead since he slowly went from being a shut-in to a person who can bring people together for a great cause. The idea of his ordeal being the fantasy version of reality slapping you in the face really hard was what got me hooked on the series. I wanted to see how his mistakes made things worse and how he would resolve them, which lead to my decision of making Re:Zero my top show of 2016. Honorable Mentions: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Keijo!!!!!!!!!, Kiznaiver, Durarara!! X2 Ketsu, Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak Academy, Erased, Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt
Japanator Awards 2016 photo
Never giving up is the name of the game
With 2016 coming to a close, it’s time for us to reminisce about the stuff that made our year worthwhile. Thanks to this tradition, this gives us the excuse to talk about our favorite anime shows that made our day. Even...

Japanator Awards 2016: Nick's Top 5 Anime of the Year

Dec 31 // Nick Valdez
5. Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School  The Danganronpa visual novels were one of my favorite video game series of the last few years. A dark series full of death, kooky characters, and mystery was naturally primed for an anime series. But unlike Spike Chunsoft's first attempt, which only summarized the events of the first game, Danganronpa 3 fleshed out the series' ever evolving story. This ambitious show laid out its story over two series: the Despair Arc, a prequel telling the events leading up to the games, and the Future Arc, a sequel bringing the narrative to a close. While it won't have much to offer for non-fans, this series was an absolute delight for those who've devoted their time to the series. Series characters got more development, especially fan favorite Chiaki, and the brutal death scenes are still some crazy stuff. I kind of prefer the story told in this matter, also, rather than reading through endless lines of text in games. If you're a Danganronpa fan, you should check it out if you haven't already.  4. My Hero Academia There just aren't enough anime shows with positivity, much less action oriented ones, so My Hero Academia was a welcome breath of fresh air. Mixing both Eastern and Western superhero tropes, the series follows the young Midoriya as he tries to be a superhero in a world full of heroes. Struggling with his lack of power, his bright, never give up attitude eventually grants him the opportunity to join the titular academy and it was fun throughout. The action is slick, with a color palette aping Western cartoons (complete with thick bold outlines), the character design is kooky (I love the invisible girl, haha), and I can't wait for season two. Also, the fact that his power is activated by yelling out "Smash!" is one of the most inspired things ever. More please.  3. Mob Psycho 100 Much like ONE's other prolific effort, One Punch Man, Mob Psycho 100 defies your expectation of what an "anime" truly is. With its crude, but highly expressive art style, this is series is just as bold and kooky as its narrative. A story about young psychic who bottles up his emotions until they explode in an awe-inspiring display of power and his con-man mentor, this series is one of the most unique projects to release in quite some time. Its fight scenes alone are the most gorgeous and slick scenes this year, and honestly, some of the best anime has to offer.  What's even better than its animation is its central hero, Mob. Much like the rest of the series on this list, Mob is a non-traditional character than prefers to chase self-improvement for his own sake rather than rely on his godly psychic talents to get ahead. Mob's just a simple guy who's just happy to have people in his life, and that's a good message you don't get anywhere else. And I still haven't mentioned Reigen, one of the best new characters of the year! This is definitely a must watch.  2. Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Ever since I started reading as a kid, I've always been drawn to stories of growth. The monomyth (or hero's journey) is an outline many anime series follow, but Re:ZERO was the first time I had seen it used so effectively. What many stories fail to grasp properly is the "struggle" part of the hero's journey. Struggles and hardships are what spark character evolution, and no series excelled at struggle better than Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-. The series' main character, Natsuki Subaru, wakes up in a fantasy world (much like other anime shows sharing the same premise), but unlike other characters, he's forever trapped in a Groundhog Day-esque time loop that resets every time he dies.  Along with the pain of death, Subaru is constantly forced to confront his poor choices as he relives his bad days over and over again. At the start of the series he's a selfish loner, but after facing all kinds of heartbreak, mortality, and anguish, Subaru becomes less so. The greatest thing is that his changes aren't explicit, nor drastic. He's not some superpowered hero who grows in strength thanks to his bonds or something like that. He's just a normal guy who makes small changes to his personality, and it's awesome to see how his differing choices affect the characters around him. Re:ZERO is an intentional grind of a series, but it's so worth the trouble.  1. She and Her Cat: Everything Flows She and Her Cat is pure art. A short miniseries about a girl struggling to find work, told through the narration of her cat Daru, had quite the emotional effect on me. I'm still astounded at how a series that's twenty minutes in total could do so much. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles the rest of the anime on this list have, but it's not needed. It's just a short and sweet bundle of pure happiness.  Sometimes that's all you need.  Honorable Mentions: Digimon Adveture Tri. (because it's still not finished!), Gate, ERASED, KonoSuba
Nick's Top 5 Anime photo
Death, heroes, and cats
While 2016 has been kind of a bummer year all around, there have been some great anime releases. Series challenging typical action tropes, traditional animation, conventional character growth, and even redefined how long an a...


Japanator Awards 2016: Josh's Top 5 Anime of the Year

Dec 30 // Josh Tolentino
[Editor's Note: As with last year's Japanator Awards, our lists are arranged in order, with our #1 pick being our favorite of the year. To qualify for inclusion in the Japanator awards, a candidate must have concluded a broadcast run or season ("cour") within the calendar year of 2016.]  5. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans Season 1 and Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt Over the last few years, my favorite Gundam productions have engaged with Gundam not just as a common brand but as a cultural phenomenon and an artifact of history shared by all its fans. Shows like Build Fighters and games like Gundam Breaker thought of the famous mecha franchise as a series of toys rather than weapons of war. For all intents and purposes, the fourth wall between Gundam and the world didn’t exist in those titles. Iron-Blooded Orphans and Thunderbolt, which tie for this place, do a similar thing, but in a different way. Instead of breaking down the fourth wall and recognizing Gundam as the toy and media property it is, these two series – Orphans in particular, grapples with the longstanding patterns and archetypes of Gundam stories, tackling them in fresh new ways and re-contextualizing them to examine, and even challenge their old meanings. Iron-Blooded Orphans takes the traditional Gundam standby of the teenage pilot and recasts its aura over the child soldiers of Tekkadan, framing their struggles as a heroic, but fundamentally tragic and flawed quest to carve out a place in the world the only way they know how – by brutal violence. It doesn’t shy away from the compromised morality of their position, allowing the viewer to think outside the good-guys-bad-guys dichotomy and see war, even justified war, as the tragedy it is. And this all happened in Season 1. Season 2 is ongoing, and proves Orphans as the rare multi-cour anime that gets better as it goes on. Similarly, Gundam Thunderbolt frames war’s consuming nature through the stories – and bodies – of its pilots, and looks and sounds absolutely stunning while doing it. Both series succeed where shows like Gundam 00 tried and failed, finding a fresh, character-driven approach to familiar themes. 4. Keijo!!!!!!!!! Keijo!!!!!!!! is this year’s trashy treasure, and a blazing, bouncy reaffirmation of the fact that you can’t judge any anime series by its premise alone. It manages to be credible sports/battle anime in a year chock full of entertaining sports series, but distinguishes itself by its utterly ludicrous premise: That there is a genuine competitive scene out there for ladies who like to knock each other into pools using only their chests and hindquarters. It’s magnificent. Sure, ludicrous premises for sports are part and parcel of the anime experience, and in the end Keijo!!!!!!!! doesn’t quite come up to the level of, say, Girls und Panzer, Yowapeda or Haikyuu for elevating the genre. But it gets credit in my book for really leaning into the fan service in a way not even dedicated fan service shows manage to, selling the sexier aspects as a real facet of the proceedings on-screen, rather than just horndog opportunism and pandering. That they had to do it by structuring the entire show around weaponized fan service is telling, of course, but what matters is that it works and has led to true glory in this case. 3. Girlish Number I love Shirobako and consider it one of my favorite anime of all time, thanks to the strength of its direction and its appealing cast, but also because it was almost a documentary, revealing the production side of anime creation at its stress-ridden studio source. That said, there’s no denying that the show was fundamentally more positive and optimistic in its outlook, tending to gloss over some of the industry’s quirks and (very real) problems. By contrast, I call Girlish Number “Shirobako with bloodshed on its mind.” The show, penned by My Teen RomCom SNAFU author Wataru Watari. Knowing it’s from the author that brought the world a butthead like Hachiman might have been a dealbreaker for me, but Watari’s typically cynical disposition is tempered by charm and sarcastic comedy. Its sharp-tongued jabs at the industry’s troubles come from a better place as well: Where SNAFU’s downer snark made its characters too unlikeable for me to stick with, Girlish Number’s attitude comes from exasperation and a tired but essentially hopeful mindset. Perhaps that’s what’s needed to survive in the anime industry these days, but whatever the case, Girlish Number gets the job done.   2. Mob Psycho 100 I may have picked One Punch Man as one of my anime of the year, but I have to admit that I thought of it as a fluke. The pairing of an irreverent webcomic satire of battle manga tropes with the most talented and dynamic battle manga (and anime) producers around was a great juxtaposition, and the result was the best kind of appropriation you could ask for. On the other hand, Mob Psycho 100 seemed different. While retaining its notion of a nearly omnipotent lead, it struck me as a more typical story at first, and I wondered if the same approach would reap the same awards. I shouldn’t have worried. Bones took a different, yet equally effective tack in adapting their source. Rather than play up the highly detailed, deliberately conventional style of Yuusuke Murata’s One Punch Man, they hewed closer to the squashed and deformed caricatures of the original webcomic, supplementing it with brilliant handcrafted effects work and crackerjack characterization. Bones really helped sell the struggle of one young boy as he tried not to be driven bonkers by life’s little ordeals, lest he unleashed his omnipotent psychic powers. But like the deeper appeal of One Punch Man, Mob Psycho 100’s lush visuals and action cloak a series of sometimes-touching personal dramas. A boy that struggles to communicate with the people around him. A mentor trying to live up the image of him held by his pupils. A brother wrestling with his sense of inferiority. These relatable, everyday conflicts formed a strong foundation for the insanity on-screen to grow from.   1. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu Perhaps it’s telling that the best anime of 2016 is the show that is the least “anime”, at least as we go by the commonly-held stereotypes of what anime is. There are no giant robots, destined heroes, wacky sports, boob humor, or high school age students. Instead, there is an old man, a young man, a young woman, a long legacy, a name freighted with meaning, an obscure, old-fashioned art form, and a time period that your parents likely lived in. It could have been a live-action prestige drama series or a feature film. It could have been a big novel. It could’ve been a lengthy stage play. But now it’s an anime, and it’s a thing to see and hear. Expert performances sell two eras and a sharply written, almost painfully tragic personal history. The only qualms I have about picking Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu for anime of 2016 will be that I may be pressured to not pick next year’s continuation as the anime of the year in 2017. Honorable Mentions: Sound! Euphonium, Yuri On Ice, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Osomatsu-san, My Hero Academia
Japanator Awards 2016 photo
Five Lights In the Grim Darkness
It’s that time of the year again, and increasingly I’ve found the biggest challenge of picking an anime of the year is actually remembering what I watched. This isn’t to say that the shows have been bad...

The Japanator Awards 2015: Red's Top 5 Japanese Games of the Year

Jan 03 // Red Veron
Honorable Mentions: Dragon Quest Heroes, Oneechanbara Z2, Hatoful Boyfriend, Steins;Gate, Bloodbourne, Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Cold Steel, Earth Defense Force 2 Portable.   Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain I easily spent 30 hours in this game and I have only tapped into a quarter of the game's content (if not less). This game, considered now the swan song for the now defunct (but born anew) famed Kojima Productions over at game publisher/developer Konami in the long running Metal Gear franchise. This game, even in the era of first person shooters where you can run on the sides of buildings, can make hiding in the cardboard boxes so much fun. I absolutely loved the fine tuned mechanics such hiding and shooting. The new open world sandbox just keeps it so fresh and each encounter can be new every time adding to the tension you just don't get in other games. There is just so much in this game that you wouldn't think would be there and some even bordering into the absurd.   SuperBeat Xonic From the developers of DJMAX, this new game aims to satiate those rhythm music game fans that loved the DJMAX series and/or just loved the genre. This one has a great selection of music and great gameplay with mechanics that compliment both touch and physical controls well. A great start for the new studio, this new title has the great potential and I can't wait to see the next game in the series.   Yakuza 5 I've only barely scratched the surface of this game, and I am already loving it. This game is basically a Japanese RPG set in modern day Japan with a beat-em-up combat system along with a cheesy, over-the-top dramatic crime drama. I am told by many that this is one of those games that let you experience Japan by walking through the streets and going into places such as restaurants that capture the atmosphere and ambiance really well.   Once Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 I am not a One Piece fan at all but being a Warriors fan, I loved this entry. This game has more improvements over the past two games and runs amazingly. I thoroughly enjoyed this beat-em-up formula set in the One Piece universe that suits it very well. More characters and following the actual manga story, this new entry impresses a lot with also its great stylish combat and overall fun gameplay.   Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair A great update to the latest entry of the Earth Defense Force series, this one takes advantage of the new hardware muscle of the PS4 for better performance and added content with some tweaks along the way. Those who got put off by how the game ran on older consoles should give this new one a try, it works so much better and makes it a much more enjoyable game. They added more missions and even a giant robot sequence which regrettably brings the game to its knees in performance.
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
Games from the Far East
Growing up, most (if not exclusively) of the video games I loved came from Japan, but in the previous generation of consoles with the XBox 360 and PS3 took most Japanese game developers quite some time to acclimate to changin...

The Japanator Awards 2015: Christian's Top 5 Games of the Year

Jan 01 // Christian Chiok
Honorable Mentions Toukiden; Kiwami (PS4, PS Vita, & PC), Dragon Quest Heroes (PS4, PS3, & PC), Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson (3DS), Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance (PS4), Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim (PC), and The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (PS3 & PS Vita) 5. Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water (Wii U) As a huge fan of the Fatal Frame series (or Project Zero as known in Japan), I was really happy that Nintendo of America took the risk to port this game over to the west. While some of the costumes as well as scenes were unfortunately censored, it doesn’t hinder from the overall gameplay and it’s a gem you must play if you need to add to your horror game’s collection. 4. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 (PS4, PS3, PS Vita, & PC) It’s really hard to say that Pirate Warriors 3 isn’t the best entry in the series. While I enjoyed the first title since it did a great job recreating the first part (before the time-skip) of the One Piece series, the gameplay was really annoying and hard to appreciate, as if it was trying to separate itself from the Musou genre while still being a Musou. The second title fixes that issue, but the “What If” story wasn’t really that appealing.  Then comes Pirate Warriors 3, which mixes both the great gameplay from the second title, and improves it, and it actually retells the story of One Piece, starting from the first arc. So if you’re and One Piece fan and own any of the platforms above, but still haven’t gave the game a chance, then do yourself the favor of playing the game. 3. Dragon Ball Xenoverse (PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 & PC) This definitely had to go on my Top 5 of 2015 for various reasons. For once, it’s the first Dragon Ball game that implanted “Create a Character” that right way, giving us various races and options for our character. Second of all, it’s almost original story was definitely felt fresh and it was a good change from the usual story mode we have been playing for the past two decades. While the gameplay isn’t on par with games like the Sparlking or the Budokai series, this is definitely the best Dragon Ball game we have received since Raging Blast. 2. Bloodborne (PS4) At first, for the sake of making this list “Otaku”, I wanted to exclude Bloodborne from the list and make Dragon Quest Heroes my fifth recommended title. However, Bloodborne is a Japanese-developed game, so it counts. If you haven’t played the game yet and own a PS4, I don’t know what you have been doing all year. While the combat isn’t an exact replica of the Souls games, Bloodborne is still a game that Souls fans can enjoy. It’s certainly faster too. 1. Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U) Considering I kept this list exclusive to Japanese games, this made it easily as my favorite game of 2015 (Otherwise it would have been a tie with The Witcher 3). Xenoblade X is a great game for many reasons, including its massive world, gameplay, combat, and it’s variety of classes and weapons. While the story is definitely enjoyable, it’s definitely inferior to its predecessor. The same can be said about its soundtrack.   Note: For those curious of my overall Top 5 Video Games of 2015, it would be; Xenoblade Chronicles X, The Witcher 3, Bloodborne, Splatoon, and Fallout 4.  
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
A Great Year For Fan of Japanese Games
First of all, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Like I stated on my Top 5 Anime of the Year, I mostly spent my time playing video games, so making this list was a lot easier to make than the former. However, sin...

The Japanator Awards 2015: Sal's Top 5 Anime of the Year

Dec 31 // Salvador G Rodiles
5. Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Ever since I watched Fate/Zero and The Garden of Sinners, it was certain that ufotable should be the go-to studio for all major TYPE-MOON-related adaptations. When it was announced that they would be remaking Fate/Stay Night’s “Unlimited Blade Works” route, this seemed like the perfect ingredient to bring joy to the hearts of fans of the original visual novel game. In the end, the studio struck us with a spectacle that did justice to the route’s great moments. To top things off, they were able to add some nice touches that benefited those who watched Fate/Zero before diving into the original Fate/Stay Night visual novel. While my only experience with the series is the anime installments, Shiro’s sheer determination to become a true hero of justice against all odds showed us how most folks are able to accept reality’s harsh truth when they take a risky path in life. Like with most dreams, it takes a lot of guts to journey into a realm that many individuals consider to be crazy, which is one of the things that made this series worthwhile. With ufotable applying the elements I mentioned earlier, it felt like we were getting the key things of the experience that Studio DEEN denied us in their movie version of Unlimited Blade Works. Also, the pretty colors and dynamic battles acted as the cherry to complete this delicious ice cream sundae. 4. Gatchaman Crowds Insight Speaking of heroes, when a person walks the path of true justice, he/she might have to find a way to bring a resolution to both opposing parties. In order to accomplish this feat, one must undergo a major sacrifice; therefore making this path a difficult one to take. This is where Gatchaman Crowds Insight shined over its predecessor, as it challenged its main heroine in making the proper choice that would benefit society. Usually in life, there are lots of moments where people follow a certain trend or view while pressuring others to do so. The real kicker was that this happened within the team as well, which kept us guessing on how things would get resolved. With the way how the new character Gel’s abilities were used in this factor worked amazingly in creating the right conflict for the show’s main cast. Just like its predecessor, the series handled this theme without resorting to the typical good punching out evil to save the day scenario. Instead, it showed us how the media and technology affect people’s lives in many ways. Whether they were positive or negative, the effects it had on the characters made way for a ride that kept me invested throughout its run. Also, the music continues to be catchy as hell. 3. One Punch Man Despite my love for Gatchaman Crowds Insight and its special take on the superhero genre, One Punch Man knocked my expectations out of the water. Right when you felt that this show was going to focus on a hero’s unfortunate journey to find that one adversary that would give him the fight of his life, the series hits us with the message on what it is to be a good hero. To an extent, it took me back to Tiger & Bunny where you had certain people who were only in it for the fame and those who really wanted to protect those who need help. Because of this moral, the low-rank heroes (such as Mumen Rider) were the ones who expressed this theme the strongest— especially when you compare them to the show's higher ranking superheroes. When the show focuses on Saitama one-shotting his opponents, the buildup towards this moment always manages to increase the audience’s excitement, which results in a satisfying conclusion that leaves them with a burst of joy. Combined with the great punchlines thrown into these scenes, there’s never a dull moment in One Punch Man. Seeing that this show is running on an average budget, it’s amazing to see that the anime adaptation was being made by a group that placed their heart and soul into each frame of animation. That being said, the payoff from their work is shown nicely in the final product, which shows that this title packs quite a punch. 2. Japan Animator Expo I’m not going to lie. While I had a good time with this year’s offering of anime, the Japan Animator Expo was the one that stood mostly stood out for me. Each week was a great surprise as we many shorts acted as a canvas for various animators to express their full creativity without anyone holding them back. Whether it was Hiroyuki Imashi’s spiritual sequel to Panty & Stocking, Akira Amemiya of Ninja Slayer expressing his love for the classic Tsuburaya toku series Gridman, the follow-up to "ME!ME!ME!," or the perverted humor of Hiroyuki Okiura's (Jin-Roh and A Letter to Momo's Director) Robot on the Road, there were a ton of wonderful surprises that left my jaw wide open. Combined with an array of comedy and wonderful love letters to classic stuff like Ultraman and Daicon IV, this project was jam packed with lots great treats. Even though there were some pieces that would’ve worked better as larger pieces, I found the majority of them to be shining gems. In the end, most of these shorts left me with a wonderful impression in a shorter time span than the titles mentioned earlier in this segment. Seeing that it isn’t too often that an opportunity like this one drops by, this played a role in Japan Animator Expo making it on here. Also, Megumi Hayashibara (Slayer's Lina, Cowboy Bebop's Fae) and Koichi Yamadera (Cowboy Bebop's Spike, Ranma's Ryoga) deserve mad props for voicing every character in the project. 1. Shirobako If a group's dedication and commitment were to affect my decision in this year’s segment, I’d have to say that Shirobako takes the cake on this one. While I wasn’t able to catch the series when it premiered last Fall, the great things that I heard from it in the past gave me the drive to marathon it before the curtains closed on 2015. And boy was everyone right about it being stupendous. In fact, this method caused me to experience a huge joyful waterfall of tears as I rooted for Miyamori and the rest of Musashino Animation on their quest to deliver solid anime titles to the masses. Despite me being a person who gave up on pursuing the path of animation, my knowledge of the medium and my experience with going to school with other possible future animators went hand in hand in improving the whole show for me. The drive and determination behind each member of the studio showed us how they were willing to jump over all of the hurdles that would ruin the project. All in all, it was amazing to see how each character grew between each project that they tackled, as it felt like we were working with these people in real life. When the team got hit by impossible odds, Shirobako drove me into a state of rage, as the situation drove a huge stake through the staff’s objectives. However, the journey also made me feel sadness and joy when they tore down each wall. It’s not too often that a show throws me into different states of emotions during each episode, as P.A. Work’s hard work paid off with how they handled each dramatic moment in both of Musani’s productions. Most importantly, it changed the way how I view donut from now one; therefore deserving the number one spot in my heart. Honorable Mentions: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
Let's go nuts!
It felt like it was only yesterday that we started 2015 with a bang. I guess that’s what happens when one loses track of time. While I had the great luck of catching more shows this year, it turns out that most of them ...

The Japanator Awards 2015: Red's Top 5 Anime of the Year

Dec 31 // Red Veron
5.) Shigatsu wo Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April) So let's the get this one over with first. Many emotions were felt this year with this entry. If you haven't watched this by now and not know how the story goes, just try and watch it. The beautiful visuals and music do well to serve this story where boy meets girl. This one is where boy has gone through a traumatic experience years prior and girl helps rediscover what he lost. Sounds typical but I do indeed love this show. Though I have encountered people who thought the story was cheesy and not very dramatic but the presentation was the best part. If you've seen other sad anime or Japanese movies, you know where this will lead but this anime is just a really good way to tell that story efficiently and in a beautiful way.   4.) Yuru Yuri San Hai! The third season of a great comedy show that is framed as a parody of Yuri school anime that does way more than it should for a comedy about cute girls. Don't let the cute facade turn you away if you're immediately repulsed by moeblobs but this show barely goes into trying to woo people with cute characters. The entire appeal of the show lies in its comedy, from parodying elements in the romance genre and even archetypes to ridiculous comedy without becoming absurd, this show does a lot of that. This third season continues to be strong in its comedy and even the different studio behind the animation resulting in not so ideal visuals, the comedy shines through.   3.) Non Non Biyori: Repeat The second season to a show about girls who live in the Japanese countryside is back and it is charming as ever. No, this one has cuteness but doesn't try to the usual moe pandering with the cute girls and this one has a lot of heart. More laughs and beautiful scenery to be seen in this one, newcomers can try to watch this one without seeing the first season and just have some plain fun. The show is mostly innocent fun in a rural setting that is pretty close to reality without much contrived genre. It's a great slice-of-life comedy without resorting to crude humor or sexuality like other comedies and should be checked out for a breath of fresh air.   2. Osomatsu-san (Mister Osomatsu) How do you modernize a comedy anime from the 1960s? Well, the first episode of this show goes into just that and raises the bar so high for the rest of the show and does keep up a lot. A sequel to a comedy anime from 1960s updated to reflect contemporary humor, this show is one the best comedies in recent years (Nichijou is still best) and also features an all male cast. No trying to sell female character goods here, just plain good comedy. This sequel has the characters all grown up and are still up to their antics but now they're good for nothing NEETs (basically unemployed losers) trying to get the occasional job or just going about their day and random things.   1.) Gintama° The fourth anime series(?) to adapt the comedy action manga came back this year after a couple of years of hiatus and it is still one of the best overlooked action comedies in anime. Why is it good? It still maintains the same comedy we expect in the anime even after more than 260 episodes (skip the first two episodes, those are bad) and the action still shines when it shows up on occasion. What is Gintama? Well, imagine Rurouni Kenshin but space aliens come to Japan (and Earth) instead of the Americans in the late 1800s. Though the space aliens only serve to accelerate the technology to modern times though keeping the pre-western era Japan. The comedy part ranges from pop culture references to absurd humor while the action part that shines most in the short serious and focused story arcs. Want to get a satisfying shounen action story in 4-5 episodes instead of 50 while still packing plenty of action and drama? Gintama just has that plus sprinkle in many laughs.   Honorable Mentions: Shirobako Yuri Kuma Arashi Prison School Himouto! Umaru-chan School Live!
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
Much Laughter and Some Tears
The end of this year is here and boy, it was a fun year for anime. I should say that I didn't get to watch much because of life getting in the way but the ones I did watch are ones that I do love and thoroughly enjoy. I notic...

The Japanator Awards 2015: Jeff's Top 5 Anime of the Year

Dec 31 // Jeff Chuang
5. Hackadoll & Wooser's Hand-to-Mouth Life: Phantasmagoric Arc I'm cheating here by clubbing two half-length shows together for the fifth spot, but these two shows consistently entertained me. They belong to the same anime block, so maybe it's okay?  Being half-length gave Hackadoll and Wooser huge advantages as comedies to not outstay their welcome (although I wish I could say the same for some other shorts that still ran too dry). I think what worked well in both are their ability to change up the genre every week. Even if the characters remain the same, the humor comes off differently in different situations and moments. Both Wooser and Hackadoll are also remarkable for somewhat meta reasons. Hackadoll is the first anime made to promote a mobile app that delivers news links to your phone or tablet. While the app itself is Japanese only, it isn't region limited and it works pretty well. But think about it, here you are reading a rec for a TV show promoting an app that can deliver online posts about anime (possibly like this one) to your phone. It's one of the few nuggets of meta about anime that just tickles me. Not to be outdone, Wooser's third season features a voice-over role for a certain Crunchyroll mascot. That is also a first of another type, even if watching Hime-chan on Crunchyroll seems kind of natural. I guess that's what it means when the show is co-produced with CR's involvement. 4. Saekano Saekano was hard to put a finger on while it was airing. Somehow during the spring season I noted that it was my favorite, and looking back it was hard to recall the love I had for the show until I put it on again. I loved this super-cheeky story about a nerd who blogged about light novels, tried to be ethical in her rejection of getting to know the girl of her dreams, and ends up making a visual novel. It's the most convoluted nonsense, yet it works so well to entertain. That makes this show really cerebral in a sense, and it's safe to say that Saekano can be an acquired taste. There are a lot of layers at work in Saekano, and like many harem series we have to take some things for granted--like why this guy and what's the big deal anyway. However as the narrative peels back each layer to the story, inside Saekano was a mind-blowing origami of different layers of meta that meshed with each other, creating some freakish phenomenon of fanservice that catered to not just the id, but the ego and super-ego all at once. Oh, the animation for those scenes are also top notch. And once I started watching it, all of that visual language and snappy direction just brought my affection for the show back. Lastly, while this was more timely 9 months ago, Saekano also gets bonus points for talking about ethics in light novel journalism. 3. Non Non Biyori Repeat Rather than getting sick and tired of reboots and sequels, in the year of 2015, it's about appreciating what silver lining there is left unexploited. And in that sense, what makes a good original work outstanding is how it's creative, not that it's not a sequel or reboot. For appreciating creativity for creativity's sake, Non Non Biyori Repeat is actually as good as it gets. Unfortunately I think it's a huge spoiler to tell you what is really creative about Non Non Biyori's second season, yet it's the most compelling reason to watch it. Well, maybe the head-turning gambit is just the second-most compelling reason. If you loved season one of this country-side daily-life story, season two doubles down on all those charming moments and adds somewhat more snap to its comedic timing. And even after letting up its gambit from the first episode, this reboot/sequel does not feel tiresome at all. If anything Renchon's antics really soothes that cynic spirit! If we're to get another Azumanga Daioh anime, maybe this is how it has to be done. But short of that, Non Non Biyori is the best we will get. The reboot simply keeps the good going, and that's enough for a rec. 2. Sound! Euphonium Kyoto Animation's Sound! Euphonium was one of the best youth dramas you can find on TV in 2015. I think if there were any flaws to it, it was that the story plays really typical to the East Asian form of high school drama that litters mainstream TV and movies. Thankfully, Kyoto Animation's measured and subtle adaptation speaks to us beyond the simple character acting, with its expressive character animation on full-throttle as usual. It's nice to hear some sharp brass band going at it, covering some all-time Jpop hits or even just typical recital music. A big reason why Euphonium was really good is because the animation was really, really good. The portrayal of the emotional highs and lows, how the characters read between the lines, and the feelings for each, comes through loud and clear without having it all spelled out for us. The voice acting from our heroine was even just as good. Really, this is one of the best put-together anime I've seen in a very long time. 1. Shirobako  Shirobako might be an orphan, a two-cour show stuck between 2014 and 2015, but Shirobako defined what anime is capable of doing as far as filling my heart with feelings of all sorts, and filling my mind with ideas of all sorts. It ignites my imagination and brings catharsis through both tears and laughter. As Shirobako was so good by the end of the first cour, I did not hesitate to call it the anime of the year last year. When it ended in Winter of '15, I naturally used it as a bar to measure all the subsequent works in 2015. And it's with slight disappointment that I don't hesitate to do so again to crown Shirobako my top show in 2015. I hoped all year long for some other show to whisk me away and take all my attention, but that didn't happen. Perhaps I was asking too much of every other show, but the human drama really hit a bulls eye in Shirobako, to me, as someone who watched a lot of anime over the past 10+ years. It's more than just the references or the idealized studio, it goes beyond the perfect mix of cynicism and comedy, or the reoccurring themes about finding and pursuing your dreams or what's important to you. But yeah, those too. Honorable Mentions: Blood Blockade Battlefield, Log Horizon S2, Overlord, [email protected] Cinderella Girls, Love Live the Movie, The Anthem of the Heart, Little Witch Academia 2, Animator Expo, Food Wars, Charlotte, Monster Musume, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Fate/stay Night UBW, Death Parade, Classroom Crisis, Maria the Virgin Witch, One Punch Man, Koufuku Graffiti (and Wakakozake), Umaru, Punch Line, Plastic Memories, Danmachi. Bonus nods to Concrete Revolutio, Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Osomatsu-san and Ace of the Diamond as on-going series.
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
From White Box to Black Box
Nothing says that 2015 was a good anime year than how I had a rough year with countless real-life responsibilities competing with anime time, and it still won. On average I kept up with at least 10 series per season, not coun...

The Japanator Awards 2015: Soul's Top 5 Pro Wrestling Moments of the Year

Dec 30 // Soul Tsukino
  5) The end of Takeshi Morishima's career. Takeshi Morishima at one time was the biggest young prospect coming out of Japan. The big man first came to the United States in 2003 but gained his reputation from his time in Ring of Honor, where he became the ROH Champion in 2007, drawing similarities to Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy. He was honored with the Cauliflower Alley Club "Future Legend" award that same year. He was well on his way to becoming the next big star in Japan. It never truly panned out for Morishima though. Upon returning to Japan full time, he stayed true to Pro Wrestling NOAH during the time where New Japan Pro Wrestling was growing by leaps and bounds. He won many titles for the NOAH promotion, but could never break out as NJPW was dominating wrestling.  Hampered by injuries and bad health, Morishima was never able to reclaim the promise that he had shown in his earlier days. In 2015, he hung it up for good citing reoccurring injuries that stopped any forward momentum he had in the industry. While he certainly doesn't have anything to be ashamed of in his career, it never really lived up to the lofty goals some fans and those in the industry heaped onto him. 4) Genichiro Tenryu's retirement Genichiro Tenryu has been a known name in Japanese wrestling since the mid 70's after retiring from Sumo wrestling. The one time handpicked successor to Giant Baba was on the cusp of being the main man in All Japan Pro Wrestling when he split with the company to form his own group (SWS) in 1990.  In the 25 years since he has started other companies, made some appearances for the WWE (then WWF), and wrestled for every major (and a lot of minor) wrestling companies in Japan. After a remarkable 40 year career, this after 13 years of Sumo (starting when he was just 13 years old) Tenryu finally decided to hang it up. After making his plans known in February to retire at the end of the year, Tenryu went around Japan on his "retirement tour" before making a surprise appearance in New Japan Pro Wrestling to challenge "The Rainmaker" Kazuchika Okada to be his opponent in his last match. The match was the main event of a huge multi-promotional show on November 15th. Tenryu lost the match, but the final bout for this ageless star was voted Match of the Year by Tokyo Sports. Not a bad way to wrap up a career of four decades.   3) All Japan's biggest star (and many others) goes Freelance  While New Japan soars to new heights in wrestling, its former rival just can never seem to catch a break. The once mighty promotion under the lead of Giant Baba has seen its roster depleted by many mass migrations away from the company. This year did not do them any favors and several of its current stars decided to go "freelance", as in they would not be signed to any company and could wrestle wherever they wish. Stars like KENSO (the former Kenzo Suzuki), Kotaro Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru all announced their intentions to go freelance this year, but the biggest (in more ways than one) blow to the company was when former sumo grand champion Akebono announced he too would be going freelance so that he could devote more time to a return to mixed martial arts. Akebono was not only a big name for AJPW as well as part of the office of the company, but a known name in Japan for being the first non-Japanese Yokozuna and his celebrity status in the country. Although AJPW is still going and doesn't look like it will close anytime soon, its status in Puroresu continues to be a shadow of the company that it used to be.   2) WrestleKingdom 9 shown on American pay-per-view. This was a big deal for not only New Japan, but Japanese wrestling in general. The January show at the Tokyo Dome has been the biggest show in Puroresu for decades under various names. However, when it came to the American market, the best exposure the card had in its history was when WCW covered 3 of the shows in the early 90's, months after the fact of when they were held (calling them the WCW/New Japan Super Shows).  In recent years, these shows, now under the WrestleKingdom banner, had some coverage on internet pay-per-view systems but nothing that would be considered mainstream. But with NJPW looking to expand more into the American market, with some help from Jeff Jarrett in promoting his upcoming Global Force Wrestling project, they were able to bring WrestleKingdom to American pay-per-view systems for the very first time. Broadcast on a few hours delay and with English commentary from Jim Ross and Matt Striker, the show did good numbers for a non-WWE event. In 2016 the show will be shown on NJPW's New Japan World streaming service and will feature the English commentary or Matt Striker, ROH announcer Kevin Kelly, and former WWE wrestler Yoshi Tatsu providing some direct translations. Considering there is a sizable English speaking audience that subscribes to New Japan World, this event will once again expand its audience well beyond the land of the rising sun. 1) New Japan lands American TV deal.   In late 2014 when it was announced to wrestling fans that cable network AXS TV would be showing New Japan Pro Wrestling in English, there was a lot of cautious optimism. Although it was great that NJPW was getting a weekly English language show in America, we were quick to remember what can go wrong with similar concepts (Tokyopop's coverage of FMW being the big example of what can go wrong). We had nothing to worry about. Starting in January, the New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV show not only opened many people's eyes to Japan's biggest wrestling company but also blew away longtime and hardcore fans of wrestling who were impressed with the presentation of the show. The commentary team of Mauro Ranallo and Josh Barnett, both of whom were known more in the mixed martial arts world, had some people wondering how good they could be in the pro wrestling environment. They did not disappoint as Mauro's long time involvement in wrestling (starting in Canada when he was just 16), and Barnett's experience wrestling many of the big names in Japan proved to be a winning combination that not only provided great detail and context behind every match but brought a legitimacy to wrestling not seen since the days of Gordon Solie. The show proved to be a hit. While New japan and AXS had at first ordered 13 shows, they have since broadcast two more seasons and extended the show through 2016, with the new season starting January 15th. Mauro himself did such an impressive job on this show, he landed the role of lead announcer for WWE's Smackdown show starting in early January (having already recorded the next season of NJPW it seems). This show proved not only was there a market for Japanese wrestling in the United States but that it can be presented in a way that doesn't take away from the product or insult the fans. It brought a shot of publicity for the company it had been trying to achieve in the last number of years more so than anything else. 2015 was an interesting year for Japanese wrestling with a lot of ups, downs, and in some cases the really bizarre. What does 2016 hold for the Japanese wrestling world? We shall wait and see. Takeshi Morishima at one time was the biggest young prospect coming out of Japan. The young man first came to the United States in 2003, but gained his reputation from his time in Ring of Honor, where he became the ROH Champion in 2007. He was honored with the Cauliflower Alley Club "Future Legend" award that same year. He was well on his way to becoming the next big star in Japan.   It never truly panned out for Morishima though. Staying true to Pro Wrestling NOAH, it was New Japan Pro Wrestling that ahieved the greater success in Japan and around the world. Hampered by injuries and bad health, Morishima was never able to reclaimed the prmoise that he had shown in his earlier days. In 2015, he hng it up for good citing reaccuring injuries that stopped any forward momentum he had in the industry. While he certanly doesn't have anything to be ashemed of in his career, it never really lived up to the lofty goals some fans and those in the industry heaped onto him.
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
The best in pro wrestling in Japan
As we here at Japanator count down the days until the new year, each of us is looking back in our own ways at the year that was 2015. Since pro wrestling in Japan, or puroresu, is a good chunk of my beat here on the site...

The Japanator Awards 2015: Christian's Top 5 Anime of the Year

Dec 29 // Christian Chiok
5. Plastic Memories When I read the description for Plastic Memories, my expectations for the series were entirely different from what it was.  The series started off quite interesting with its futuristic setting and the androids called Giftia, which have emotions and a life span. After their life span reached their expiration date, they basically turned into a zombie-like form, losing their identity and went berserk if not picked up by SAI Corporation. From what the series introduced, I definitely thought it was going to take a darker approach but instead the series took a more romantic route with the protagonists of the series, one being a Giftia herself. While the series didn’t really turn out to be what I was expecting, I still really enjoyed it all the way through. The characters are enjoyable and the story can get emotional. 4. Assassination Classroom I was first introduced to Assassination Classroom when Koro-sensei got revealed as a playable character for the Shonen Jump crossover J-Stars Victory VS. I thought both his character and moveset were interesting so I decided to check out the manga fight after. Almost a year later, the Anime adaptation was released and I definitely had to check it out. Assassination Classroom is one of those series that it has too many characters (mostly students) that you probably won’t remember half of them by the end of the series, except for those who really stood out. What I really liked the most about the series was that despite Koro-sensei’s goal of destroying the Earth, he helped the students gain more confidence and value themselves, since they were put in the worst class in their school. In just one season, there was a lot of character development for all the characters, especially the protagonist— Nagisa Shiota. 3. Shokugeki no Soma Something that we can all agree on is that Food Wars is definitely one of the most unique series that was released this year with its over-exaggeration when the characters appreciated the food. Aside from the amazing looking food, the series had great comedy and a simple yet entertaining story. Just like Assassination Classroom, I really enjoy series that introduces variety of characters with different personalities, especially unlike the former; the competitive setting in this series is more obvious. 2. Kuroko's Basketball Season 3 As I stated in my Extra Game review, I really love sport series, especially Kuroko’s Basketball since there’s special charm that keeps you engaged throughout the series. Just like the first two seasons, the animation was definitely phenomenal, especially the last few episodes. What made this season most enjoyable though was seeing the Teiko arc in animated. It’s definitely one of the most dramatic yet most powerful arcs of the series. 1. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Battle in Egypt I’ve been a huge fan of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure since 2007, so it was very hard for me not to make this my top series of 2015. While Stardust Crusaders isn’t my favorite arc (Diamond is Unbreakable is, automatically making it my Top 5 of 2016), both anime adaptations were highly enjoyable and it was very pleasing that it finally got the animation treatment it deserved. The animation was great and it definitely has a great set of characters. 
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
A Bizarre Year Of Anime
With this being my first year writing for Japanator, this is my first time writing a “Top 5” piece for the website. To be honest, while Anime is still one of my biggest hobbies, I haven’t invested my time in...

The Japanator Awards 2015: Anthony's Top 5 Anime of the Year

Dec 28 // Anthony Redgrave
5. Owarimonogatari How can I not put a Monogatari series on this list? It's reportedly the best selling anime this millennium. Even if I complain about how there are exposition dumps, confusing story lines, and never enough Tsukihi Araragi, the fact is that Shaft produces some of the highest quality anime in the industry right now. Each episode looks brilliant. Cinematically and from an art direction point of view. At this point, I've grown attached to Araragi and his harem of girls so anything they do I'll want to see. I favored the first half of this series for exploring Araragi's past and personal philosophy, having one of the darkest and tragic heroines and storylines in the whole franchise and bringing the mysterious Ougi into the limelight as the central antagonist/ mysterious helper. It's not one for the newcomers or the slow readers not literate to moonspeak. 4. Durarara!!x2 Sho I actually started Durarara!! last year and dropped it after the first arc. Back then there were other things occupying my mind and watching a nerdy kid try and start a Tokyo street gang wasn't all that appealing. But if luck would have it, I picked it back up and was engrossed with the story and characters all over again. Durarara!!x2 Sho is on the list because it was like coming back to familiar territory after a hiatus. Familiar faces, familiar environment, same old with some fresh new appearances. There are few shows that are as charismatic as Durarara!! making you love every single focal character even if they are gangster scumbags, sociopathic goons, or teenage kids wanting to roll with an internet street gang. This is also one of the few shows that were actively producing the English dub version about 3 episodes behind the Japanese release which is fantastic for those wanting to stay up to date and hear Crispin Freeman shout Izaya over and over again. The second cour of the arc Durarara!!x2 Ten also saw a release this year with the dub following in Fall meaning you didn't have to wait too long to see what hijinks the characters got up to next in Ikebukuro. 3. Kantai Collection: KancolleThis was one of the few new anime I started watching this year and it was sparked from a YouTube video talking about a game voiced by a Brit. The sardonic and dry wit of the commentary was humorous and entertaining, but the character designs and interesting setting were enough for me to give the first few episodes a watch. The anime was a great mix of school girl slice of life and period war drama. This really odd dichotomy helped keep the whole show feeling fresh. Having not played the browser game before I thought it was interesting to see how the gameplay features were implemented into the anime, they weren't overt as to appear like an advert nor too subtle that most viewers would miss them. It was a surprise that I liked the show as much as I did and I think it's also down to the fact that the characters were all memorable. Maybe because they were girls posing as 10000-pound naval war machines. 2. Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade I have no idea it took me this long to discover Little Witch Academia. It's a superb blend of JK's British magical adventure and Trigger's brilliant art design and animation. Beginning as a 30-minute short film, this was the efforts of their Kickstarter campaign in 2013 and we have seen the fruits of their labor in October 2015. My highest praises go towards the art and animation department, capturing the colorful wonder of magic and adorable ambitious youths making all the characters incredibly endearing and fantastic to watch in motion. Speaking of motion, Trigger had perfectly captured the kinetic nature of free falling, high-speed chase, and acrobatic abandon. A present for the eyes and thrill to behold. It also features my waifu of 2015, Professor Ursula, a mature teacher that retains the charming flair seen in every frame of this show.  1. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: Battle in Egypt I don't think I can give any more praises to this show. Every episode was a spectacle, having me at the edge of my seat until the final minute. I had grown attached to every character through every tribulation and it all lead to this. Carrying on the story from the first show Phantom Blood, the whole crusade felt bigger and more grandiose as the show continued. JoJo always has a way of combining humor, horror, action, and drama seamlessly keeping me on my toes at every turn. I adored the monster of the week or should I say Stand of the week format. A familiarity I grew accustomed to watching after school specials. I guess it was strong because of the base material it was based on was excellent. Having not read the manga and experiencing it all for the first time is something out this world. If I were to recommend any anime of 2015 to my non-anime watching buddies it would have to be this. Every episode was a thrill as it's never a dull moment with the Joestar family. Honourable mentionsHimouto: Umaru-chan, Bikini Warriors, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan Stardust Crusaders: Battle in Egypt
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
The Anthony Awards for Anime
It's that time of the year to wax retrospective about the year we just had. Whether it was good or bad, we give this year a final look before looking forward to 2016. Today is my day to look back at my top 5 anime of 2015. Th...

The Japanator Awards 2015: Josh's Top 5 Anime of the Year

Dec 27 // Josh Tolentino
[Note: In order to be considered for the list, a program needs to have ended its broadcast run within the calendar year of 2015. Series that have not yet finished, for whatever reason, are ineligible.] 5. Fate/Stay night: Unlimited Blade Works Despite 2015 being a pretty good year for anime I liked, I had to work pretty hard this year to avoid just nominating Shirobako, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, and Unlimited Blade Works again, in a repeat of 2014's list. However, I had to make an exception for this, and not just because I'm a Fate fan. Y'see, 2015, for whatever reason, was something of a banner year for shows that took an alternative look at what makes a hero, from the over-strong badass that was Saitama to the everyday heroes of Gatchaman CROWDs. For its part, Unlimited Blade Works was a welcome reminder to everyone that heroism, exemplified by the bravery of people who refuse to back down from their ideals and to do everything that's needed to realize them, has a price. For Shirou, that price might be his very future, for the anime-original epilogue of episode 25 shows him ultimately committing to a path that, in all likelihood will turn him again into Archer, an unfeeling cynic that regrets everything. In light of that, Unlimited Blade Works turns its ending from the typical heroic triumph to a glance at the other side of that coin, and a sober, bittersweet nod to the reality of ideals, and the cost of sticking to them.   4. Blood Blockade Battlefront  If Unlimited Blade Works reminded us of the cost of heroic resolve, and One Punch Man showed us how winning is often the least important part of being a hero, Blood Blockade Battlefront was a triple-rad demonstration of raw-ass heroism in action. Delaying that final episode for a whole three-plus months proved to be worth it, as Bones' epic finale involved nothing less than a battle against Satan himself, while still affirming the show's fundamental, positive message about the grace to be found in being able to live normally in a place as twisted and over-the-top as Hellsalem's Lot. Add to that the combination of Yasuhiro Nightow's seemingly limitless imagination and the inimitable stylishness of Rie Matsumoto, and Blood Blockade Battlefront ended up a glorious (though uneven) gem to watch.   3. Death Parade Death Parade could have gone real wrong, real quickly. Set in what amounts a purgatorial reality show where people compete in games of chance while realizing the depth of their sins is an easy way to make twelve episodes of grotesque revenge fantasy, reveling in the voyeuristic glee of passing judgment on others. Even in a fictional setting, that wouldn't exactly be classy entertainment. Thankfully, though, the show quickly upends that notion, turning around and asking just who we are, or who anyone is, to judge a person's whole life on the few scattered moments and vignettes surrounding their deaths. This might not have been the greatest step for some folks who were looking forward to debating the relative guilt of the people who end up in Quindecim, but it made for a great, ultimately humanistic message, and an infinitely more watchable show.   2. Gatchaman CROWDS Insight Death Parade might have subverted its original, dread potential by adopting an altogether more complex theme, but Gatchaman CROWDS Insight did no less than demolish the thesis set forth in the first season of Gatchaman CROWDS, and in doing so, become perhaps the only anime to successfully tackle the internet and contemporary social media culture.  Far too often, when we talk about a sci-fi anime, we're really just talking about an anime with a mecha in it. For better and worse, most sci-fi anime are really just anime with a futuristic setting, and often exhibit stories that could've easily happened without the sci-fi trappings. Not so with Gatchaman CROWDS, whose thick, thoughtful thematic mix is so potent that it's impossible to watch without ending up thinking hard about the manifold implications of the way we communicate and form relationships in the internet age. Better still, Gatchaman CROWDS Insight refuses to offer simple solutions, instead preferring to provoke thought while emphasizing the importance of empathy, expertise, and the humanity at the center of all this progress. Now that's some good sci-fi.   1. One Punch Man Was there ever really any doubt? There were programs on the air this year that were more thematically complex, thought-provoking, narratively cohesive, and outright "better" by some measures. All the same, I'm damned lucky that One Punch Man concluded its season just a couple of weeks ago, because nothing else in 2015 made me as plainly happy to watch as Madhouse's adaptation of the Shonen JUMP mega-hit, and I'd feel like I was lying if I had to put a different show in this spot because of our new rules.  Maybe it's the gorgeous animation or the rapidly expanding world of Saitama, Genos, and the Hero Association, or the devastatingly effective storytelling or the sheer hilarity of the antics on display. It's hard to pin down besides the simple fact that I had a more rad time with One Punch Man than anything else this year, which is why it's at the top of my list.   Honorable Mentions: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc Shirobako Sound! Euphonium GATE Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn't Exist        
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
A Fistful of Honors
With this year on the wane and a new year imminent, it's time to reflect on what came before: Our life choices, the state of the world, and most importantly: The Japanese cartoons we watched! It's time for 2015's Japanator Aw...

Japanator Awards 2014: Sal's Top 3 Toku Shows

Dec 31 // Salvador G Rodiles
  3. Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger When Koichi Sakamoto and Riku Sanjo were announced as Kyoryuger’s Main Director and Main Writer, it was certain that this show was going to click well with me, since I was a huge fan of Kamen Rider Fourze and W. Luckily, the their involvement with the series resulted in a super campy series that brought joy and excitement to many viewers. While the show’s beginning was all over the place, Kyoryuger eventually found its ground, as the heroes and villains were fun to follow. Since Riku Sanjo wrote every episode, the series is also one of the few Sentai shows where the side episodes were all solid, as the writing's quality remained more consistent this time around. In fact, there were even a few occasions where the side episodes surpassed the show’s main story. Even though Kyoryuger had its moments where it became Daigo Sentai Kingranger, this didn’t stop it from becoming a terrible series that abandoned the important aspect that's present in every Sentai series. I guess you could say that the Kyoryuger’s teamwork was more similar to the ones found in shows like One Piece than the usual format that people were used to. Even then, there were still segments where the cast had to work together as one, so things balanced out in the long run. On top of that, it’s hard to go wrong with a show that features Dancing Dinosaurs, Western Dinosaurs, Kung Fu Dinosaurs, Space Dinosaurs, Dinosaur Gladiators, and a whole assortment of goodies and explosions that only serve to pump people’s enthusiasm to the max.   2. Gun Caliber: Bootleg Edition Perhaps one of 2014’s biggest treats was Garage Hero's showing Gun Caliber on their YouTube channel. At first, the film came as a raunchy comedy movie where the show’s main hero drinks, does drugs, fools around with women, and partakes in some random actions that include ruining a young boy’s birthday; however, the indie toku film’s big surprise was that these segments were used to build up to the real story where Soma’s given the opportunity to redeem himself as a hero. At the same time, Bueno and his crew’s hard work has shown us that you don’t need a huge budget to create an amazing movie, due to the fact that the production team made use of what they had to the best of their ability. Of course, the end result paid off when they made sure that Gun Caliber’s first half kept us laughing until the serious moments kicked in. While I could easily list Gun Caliber: Bootleg Edition as my number one tokusatsu for the year, I felt that it would be unfair to give the award to a movie that hasn’t reached its complete form yet. Since we haven’t seen the final finished product, Gun Caliber is still eligible to appear in my 2015 end-of-year list. For now, it’ll just have to settle as number two, which is still an impressive feat.   1. Kamen Rider Gaim Speaking of great delicacies, this year was also the time when Kamen Rider Gaim reached its true potential. Even though Urobuchi’s involvement with the series ensured that it would become a whole new beat for the franchise, it wasn’t until 2014 that we were hit with the big moment that changed the story for everyone. The show's premise about bunch of teens fighting in Pokémon-like battles for control of the dance stage ended up taking the backseat, as the series transformed into a dark tale that changed the way how people viewed fruits. Just like Gen the Butcher’s previous works, the story went into a downward spiral towards despair during the second arc and above. Other than that, Gaim even decided to take a member of the main cast that we didn’t care about much, and turn him into one of the most hated characters of the year-- and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg, folks. Despite the show’s issues with its epilogue, Gaim has shown us that under the right hands, a tokusatsu series can break out of its usual formulas (such as the Monster-of-the-Week format) on certain occasions. Since it's not everyday that a franchise breaks out of its style in a well-written manner, Kamen Rider Gaim has earned its rightful place as my favorite toku shows of the year.   Honorable Mentions: Kanpai Senshi After V, Garo: Makai no Hana
Sal's Toku Picks of 2014! photo
Don't say no, just list more!
Due to there being a short amount of tokusatsu airing on television these days, I was on the fence on doing a list about my favorite hero shows for the year. Compare to the 70s and 80s, there aren't that many shows airing bes...

Japanator Awards 2014: Sal's Top 5

Dec 28 // Salvador G Rodiles
5. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders When it comes to mediums that know how to be fabulous, the JoJo series ceases to amaze people with its cast of characters who love to pose for the camera. While Stardust Crusaders replaced the Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency's format with the Monster-of-the-Week formula, the show did its best to place its ragtag group of heroes in as many crazy situations where their special abilities can be utilized in a clever and over-the-top manner. In the end, this style suited the series well, as it resulted in many viewers wanting to know what sort of danger that Jotaro and the gang would face each week. Since David Production’s was given a higher budget for this installment, the studio did a great job in making the manga effects and dynamic moments pop out better than its previous season. Thanks to the way how they handled Hirohiko Araki’s bizarre series, the studio has proven to us that The Adventures of Manly Michael Jackson and Sean Connery is in great hands.   4. Samurai Flamenco As the tokusatsu guy around these parts, it's no surprise that Samurai Flamenco would appear somewhere in my list. While I felt that the show’s toku references where done decently in comparison to the actual medium or parody shows like Akibaranger and After V, the shout-outs were only there to push the main story forward. In reality, SamuMenco’s great strength wasn’t in its homages to the Henshin Hero genre, but in the way how it expressed Hazama’s ordeal to become a true hero to the public. Even though the show switched genres on people before they could take a huge breath, this format helped shape Hazama’s resolve throughout the series, since it let him come up with some interesting ways to take down his foes (such as the special hug). Due to Takahiro Omori’s creative direction with the show, the evil forces of the Off-Model Animation Frames Empire weren’t strong enough to bring this series down. Sure, SamuMenco didn’t receive a happily ever after, but that doesn’t mean that the ending was terrible, since it did its best to end things in a realistic manner. Just like the various toku shows that have aired in the past, the purpose behind its finale was to give people hope that things will eventually improve for everyone down the road. If not, then evildoers’ll have to answer to Samurai Flamenco’s inspiring words!   3. Gundam Build Fighters Try Back when the original Build Fighters series was first announced, I quickly dismissed the show as a total disaster, since Kenji Nagasaki (No. 6’s Director) was directing the anime. Lo and behold, I ended up eating my own words when the series turned out to be an amazing installment for the Gundam franchise. This was thanks to the way how the series depicted the Gunpla hobby, since the show showed us a world where the hobby was accepted as a national pass-time. Besides expanding on the concept of building custom model kits, Build Fighters gave us the opportunity to see various Mobile Suits from all corners of the Gundamverse battle each other in a glorious manner. The end result was seeing the show’s animators placing their heart and soul into each frame to ensure that each showdown burned the audience’s soul. While Nagasaki didn’t direct Build Fighters Try, the show’s second season still carried the original series' heart and soul. Sure, Try’s story hasn’t been able to reach the same level as the first season, but the drive behind the main cast continue to make the show a fun ride each week. Speaking of Build Fighters Season 1, I was originally skeptical of Try, since it wasn’t focusing on Sei learning to fight without Reiji’s help. Then again, being surprised by Build Fighter Try’s new direction was a fine way to destroy my foolish skepticism once and for all.   2. KILL la KILL KILL la KILL may have been a fun show when it premiered during the Fall 2013 Anime Season, but it wasn’t until 2014 that the series reached its true potential. Even when TRIGGER was working under a low production budget, Imaishi and his crew made sure that each animation keyframe was a sight to behold-- even when it wasn’t moving smoothly. Combined with the expanded setting, seeing the show transition from Ryuko trying to kill Satsuki to an even bigger story was a delightful banquet on its own behalf. Perhaps the neatest part about the series was how the team brilliantly used the concept of super-powered clothes and being comfortable with one’s body to compliment the main story. Thanks to these aspects, the fanservice in KILL la KILL essentially became part of the story to the point where it helps turn the show into a ridiculous (such as NUDIST BEACH). Of course, anything that references Go Nagai well is always good in my books. That, and I had fun with Kazuki Nakashima's writing in Gurren Lagann and Kamen Rider Fourze, so it didn't take much for me to be impressed.   1. ME!ME!ME! It may seem out of the left field for me to list an anime short as my number one title for the year, but ME!ME!ME! accomplished so many things within its six-minute timeframe. At first sight, the piece looks like an otaku’s inner fantasy gone wrong, but there’s more to the short than meets the eye. Whether it’s about a guy who’s trying to move on from his last relationship, or a person trying to overcome his fear of real women, ME!ME!ME! is told in a way where people can view it from different angles. In fact, every time I go back to this short, I tend to find a new clue that might lead to the piece's true premise. Seeing that ME!ME!ME! is a music video, the project's team has shown us once again that you don’t always need a lengthy anime with dialogue to tell a good story, as TeddyLoid and daoko’s music sets up the mood for each scene. Not only that, the short has some gorgeous animation sequences, as we're hit with an array of abstract sexual content that adds the final icing to the cake itself. Since the music and visuals worked well hand-in-hand, ME!ME!ME! is definitely a piece that'll stick with me for a long time, which is why I listed it as number one on my list.   Honorable Mentions: Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, Space Dandy, 20min Walk From Nishi-Ogikubo Station, 2 Bedrooms, Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, 2mos Deposit, No Pets Allowed
Sal's Picks of 2014! photo
Anime shorts need love too
It’s hard to believe that 2014 is almost over. While I didn’t get to watch a lot of anime shows during the year, there were still a few titles that brought joy to my life. I guess you could say that I was lucky wi...

Japanator Awards 2014: Josh's Top 5

Dec 25 // Josh Tolentino
For a lot of reasons, and for a lot of people, 2014 has been a pretty rough year. While lacking in that apocalyptic flavor that can make a true annus horribilis, there was enough bad news going around to make one long for "tomorrow" for the sole reason that it means "today" is over and done with.  In an environment like that, the best way to keep going is to find something, anything to look forward to, no matter how petty or mundane. As such, with a few exceptions, my favorite shows were reliable, dependable, and importantly, almost constant presences throughout the year by dint of scheduling and planned length. My year in anime enjoyment was a year of having something I could see on the next week's schedule and know that that next 24 or so minutes would be free from any trouble whatsoever.   Mainly that meant a 2014 of good old-fashioned entertainment. Cool, fun, and, yes, I'll admit, largely unchallenging.    5. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders It almost doesn't feel fair to be including Stardust Crusaders on this list, given that, as a rule, JoJo's anything is almost unassailable. It's been a center of attention for most of its existence, and it'd be a shoo-in for a "Best of" list, no matter what year it is. Plus, it's barely half over, with the best bits yet to come in next year's Egypt arc. If 2015 is as much a year for "comfort" anime as 2014 has been, I might end up putting the other half of this show in the same spot next year.  At the same time, though, I can't deny that it's been a hell of a ride. David Production's largely gotten over the production humps it faced adapting Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency, and the show's been a looker almost every time it's been on-screen. And the same characters and battles that have made JoJo's Bizarre Adventure as influential as it has been these last decades remain as entertaining as ever.  In short, it's JoJo's, how could I not?   4. Log Horizon Log Horizon is the "videogame anime" I've always wanted as a lifelong gamer. Most shows - most non-game stories involving games, really - simply use games as just another fantasy backdrop: a gimmick to set apart the plot. Log Horizon is different, because it couldn't exist in any other way than without the involvement of Elder Tale, the game that, for the story's cast, ends up replacing the world at large. That tension between "game" and "real" forms the core of Log Horizon's many crises. Just as their expertise with the game's systems gives them advantages, they learn that more and more, they can't just rely on those skills, as new crises test them as people as much as characters. Log Horizon manages that blending of real-world concern with the fantasy framework much better than its peers in this burgeoning subgenre, and the result is, for me at least, the first anime series I've seen to engage me the same way Legend of the Galactic Heroes used to.   3. Gundam Build Fighters Try I'm frankly amazed by Gundam Build Fighters and Build Fighters Try. 2014 was a pretty good year overall for anime series, but few others in any year seem so effortlessly enjoyable as Sunrise's pet project. The saga of Sei, Reiji, the Try Fighters, and the plastic models they pilot could've easily been an "off-year" project for Bandai and its pet studio, an easy nostalgia-bait cash grab to sell a new line of semi-modular Gundam models.  Instead they came up with the most fun Gundam show -- heck, the most fun mecha show in years, simply by embracing their own illustrious legacy. The magic of Build Fighters is in its lack of pretense, but the delicious irony is that it simply couldn't exist without the pretense held by every other marquee Gundam show. It's simply "fun" because almost everyone else in its "family" takes themselves so seriously, and I can think of no higher praise for Build Fighters and Gundam in general. Also, it's a rare production that can treat toys with such beatific, worshipful awe (see the Red Warrior above) and totally get away with it. It's a love letter like no other.   2. Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Speaking of reliable, Fate/stay night - and animated adaptations of it and other Type-MOON properties - have become something of an institution in themselves over the last decade and change.  Unfortunately, that hasn't meant very much, considering their quality, which meant that they had to become "reliable" in a new way, by proving just how good Ufotable are at doing their jobs. If there was a single "showpiece" anime series of 2014 (and beyond, considering that the show's taking a couple seasons off after this season), it was Unlimited Budget Blade Works.   Ufotable was also the studio to prove that looks do matter, considering that this series has, thus far, been so gorgeous as to outshine a number of feature films. It's almost (almost!) a shame that such looks have so far been attached to the hyper-chuuni "Nasuverse" rather than more accessible settings and plots. It'll be really interesting to see Ufotable take on new properties once its obligations to Type-MOON are complete. But it'll be a long, enjoyable wait until then.    1. Shirobako If Gundam Build Fighters is a love letter, Shirobako feels like a diary entry. But not to Gundam but rather by studio P.A. Works themselves. They're making a show about what they know, and what they and director Tsutomu Mizushima know is how to make Japanese anime. And that's what makes it not just my anime of the year, but possibly one of the most important anime series made to date. Truth is, when it comes to anime, we rarely get to see "how the sausage is made", so to speak, and the times we do are almost never as entertaining as Shirobako manages to be, while at the same time being the "realest" anime out there. It's educational, in the best way possible. At the same time, it's far from dry. P.A. Works has been making its name of late on soap opera-style melodramas like Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari, but the drama - and magic - of Shirobako is in just how mundane it is. Seeing Aoi and her high school buds simply amble through life, meeting crises and struggling to keep chasing their dreams is something any working adult can empathize with, whether or not they make anime for a living. In its way, Shirobako offers a more realistic "slice of life" than any anime I've ever seen that had the "slice-of-life" label attached to it.   Honorable Mentions: Space Dandy, When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace, Knights of Sidonia, Chaika the Coffin Princess, Parasyte, Sega Hard Girls, Lord Marksman and Vanadis
Josh's Picks of 2014! photo
A happy handful of faves for the holiday!
It's that time of the year, everyone. That time that tells us to think back on the year that just passed us by, and see what of it was best worth remembering. Memories made, lessons learned, and most importantly, Japanese car...


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