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Oh the moe

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 7

Jun 05 // Jeff Chuang
A hallmark of late-night otaku fare, self-awareness in anime is a well-respected and at times powerful tool. Just as much, it can be a barrier for shows to overdo its self-awareness, wringing the story dry of any compelling qualities besides never-ending stream of references. I think Haifuri strikes a natural balance where the ludicrousness of its premise set the anchor to as how much of that fourth wall it chooses to lean on. In other words, the show knows what you're thinking, and does enough to assure you that it also knows, with tongue fully planted into cheek. That said, I nearly lost it when the electronic bidet extended into its full swing, give or take a few seconds for my brain to register what was happening. After all it's not every day you get to see one of these in action, even if you live in Japan. And I mean, is this the kind of toilet humor we want--a young lady unintentionally spraying seawater up her nether region? I think so--it's the most improbable of its kind, and creative to boot, executed tastefully. If there's any fault, it's just the bizarreness of this hypothetical is already one step too far from normal to begin with, now we're one robotic water-sprayer away further from what is sensible. It totally distracted me from perhaps another relapsing episode of the "beach" as the girls are still on a boat. Swimsuits are always game. And this time it's because there's no water?In some ways Haifuri even took that up a notch with Scuba wet suits even, as later on some members of the class went to search for missing passengers inside a sinking ship. In expected Haifuri style, the second half of the episode recovers from your weekly half-dose of a sailor's life and dive into some character development. Here is the other noteworthy tongue-in-cheek highlight: when our vice captain finally addresses her complain about the captain running headfirst into trouble, and heads her first away team. It is in these awkward repetitions where a sensible theme emerges about taking responsibility as captain and as someone who is the most important also have to do the most hands-on, or tries. It is a very positive leadership message in my opinon and they were able to convey it successfully, if a bit clumsy. There's a sense of poetry too, when we discover the lost being was a cat and not a child. In a series where the characters inherit household pet-cat names and cats inherit names of past admirals, I guess it makes sense--it makes Haifuri sense, which is probably a degree apart of the more common variety. In any event, Haifuri was able to keep its serious moments rooted in tension. In her moments of desperation, Shiro-chan felt like a converted woman, at least. It is in these moments where Mike-chan grows somewhat as a believable character and less an average spatz-head protagonist, as we assume the level-headed Shiro's point of view. And yes, even at this point, Haifuri is still dropping hints about more development, although we are taking a breather across the board. As Haifuri's mission changes from a survival-renegade mode into search-and-rescue maybe we'll get back into the fray of naval battles. [Watch Haifuri ion Crunchyroll, Daisuki and Funimation!]
Haifuri photo
No water on a boat
As Harekaze's expedition drags on in the search of her missing fleet, the crew runs low on water. It is then we get these hijinks about what saltwater can do for you, or not. The story carries on despite these distractions as this week, High School Fleet performs a search and rescue of a civilian cruiser.

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 6

May 26 // Jeff Chuang
While the Harekaze is not losing any steam, we're at the point of the show where there isn't a whole lot to say. The mystery of the disappearing and mutinous ships continues to push the plot forward and keep up the tension, but we now have the alien rodents squarely in the view. The rest of us just have to cope with the bizarre mix-and-match of cute girls doing cute things and a very diverse and expert set of skills that somehow got assigned onboard the bottom-barrel school-boat. This week's Haifuri builds on last week's with more big-picture setup while the crew deal with more mundane things, from cooking German foods to make Mina more at home, to setting up mine sweeping to clear out the stray mines that Harekaze found themselves in. The naughty threat on the high seas turned out to be genetically modified mice who can interfere with electronics and make people go crazy once the virus carried by the rodents infect their victims. Naturally, this leads to a lot of other questions, and those questions will have to be the new fuel in the boiling furnace of the collective curiosity of Haifuri's viewers. The show takes a few moments to also build up a few intercharacter narrative strands. These big words don't really fit what has happened, but Kuro-chan, the disgruntled engineer and fan of Shiro-chan, tries to dig into the all-too-nice Mike-chan. It's not quite the cat fight Haifuri needed, but it certainly drops some interesting new threads to the oddly upbeat voyage where the girls are always in a pinch. The transitional episode, however, doesn't leave much to say besides all the building up High School Fleet is doing. I think the whole complaint-about-Mike-chan-running-off bit is going to come around pretty soon. At least now I have some time to learn more of their names. [High School Fleet is streaming on FUNimation, Daisuki and Crunchyroll]
Haifuri photo
Virus on a boat
Believe it or not, in 6 episodes a lot has happened in High School Fleet. Our high school frosh class of seafarers swept mines, dodged torpedos, avoided cannon fire, foiled mind-control mice, and developed a vaccine for the possible viral condition that these strange rodents carry. It's surprisingly more like Star Trek than ever.

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 5

May 10 // Jeff Chuang
Again, I have to applaud Haifuri on delivering a lot of stuff I wanted. It gave us fleet battle action this week. It gave us a lot of adults trying to explain and base the chaotic running away that happened to the Harekaze the past four episodes. It asked the important questions, such as "why did you fire on the Harekaze?" and "Why do you use 'washi' for 'I' (because normal people don't use that term)?" It gave us dolphins. It gave us cute girls in swimsuits. It even had time to give us a couple character backstories, such as the traumatic memory of our helmswoman Rin-chan, who wanted to overcome her cowardly countenance but ended up using her running-away skills for the greater good. To do all this in the 23-or-so minutes allotted, however, Haifuri also had to give us rodents of death that can interfere with electronics to disable some missiles? Speaking of which, there were some pretty good hardware fanservice this week in Haifuri. We saw Musashi's fearsome type 94 cannons quite a bit and up close, in action. The anti-sub missiles had even a close-up cut as they deployed the two-fold parachutes for torpedo insertion. That part wasn't even all 3DCG, which was both amusing and unexpected. There was even a blimp in the beginning... Still, it's hard to downplay the roles of those pesky rodents. I mean, really? Is this how you want to play it, Haifuri? Just because a few freaky hamsters ran around the missile pods, we can't stop the Musashi with military hardware that is possibly 100 years more advanced? I suppose if we think of the instructors' fleet as a typical bunch of coast guard types, maybe, but these sure are well-armed ships that doesn't seem to do anything. The plot device rodents definitely undermines the mutiny subplot in terms of the tone, but I suppose I can give Haifuri the benefit of the doubt for the time being, until it unravels some more of its thickening plots, of the other variety. Anyway, for those of us who watch anime for the more dramatic, Haifuri provides even one somewhat-abrupt, but rewatch-worthy scene as Mike-chan forces herself from the rest of the crew in a mad dash to rescue the captain of Musashi, despite Shiro-chan's plea. It seems from the few cutouts that they were able to show us inside the bridge of the Musashi, Moka-chan has barricaded herself in it. Perhaps equally interesting, but in a light-hearted, biting truism kind of way, was a quick interplay between Shiro-chan and Mike-chan when Mii-chan gave a toast for the crew, mentioning the captain's un-captain-like nature. I guess in a season of TV anime where impact short anime series can be a thing, these normal half-hour battleships of the late night variety have to punch at least on the same class. High School Fleet definitely showed that it can, and non-stop, although not everything may come together very well. [High School Fleet is on Crunchyroll, FUNimation, and Daisuki.net!]
Haifuri photo
Gerbils on a boat
High School Fleet, in some simple ways, delivers exactly what you expect from a show like this. It might not seem like a tremendous undertaking for a show ostensibly about cute girls doing cute things to give us exactly that,...

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 4

May 05 // Jeff Chuang
In some ways, High School Fleet 4 is very impressive for depicting life on a warship in this manner, because it is doing as much as it can to depict the ordinary life of high school sailor girls on an antique destroyer in an ordinary sort of way. The toilet paper (TP) crisis, in which a few dozen teenage girls are running out of TP, is in no way an ordinary problem for a group of people, that, in the viewers' minds, are anything but ordinary. I mean, did anyone expect to hear a description of the differences between Japanese TP and German TP this week? This month? As someone who have seen hundreds of Japanese anime set in the stereotypical high school context, I find Haifuri at least a curious mix. Which is to say, so we're going to a shopping mall on the seas to buy some TP. What's probably more puzzling and troubling, all at once, is the strange rodent (hamster, is it not?) that the Harekaze crew rescued on-board. Does it have mind control powers? Is this at the root of the various mutiny events? Needless to say it raises more questions than it answered at this stage of the game. Thankfully the story quickly quarantined the dangerous animal in the care of Harekaze's doctor, easing the mood that was more akin to from zombies on a boat, even if the episode sort of ends on that note. It's probably safe to say Haifuri plays around with a lot of trope-aware concepts. The mutiny plot thread drives this undercurrent, that ties in with the mind control, the distress call from Musashi, and the adults investigating a strange situation from the start. I like it, to put plainly. If post-modern entertainment is going to be aware of its viewers specific inclinations, it might as well play its cards from the start and give us it knows we have not had before in a way that's all too familiar. And if the only casualty here is my inability to remember all the crew's names, that's not a huge price to pay. I mean, I can remember the gunnery officer as the quiet, timid girl who got mind-controlled by a rodent, versus the torpedo officer as the one person who really, really just wants to shoot stuff up. I think this description will work when I communicate with anyone who has seen the show. This week's Haifuri involves the adults a lot more than last week. We got more glimpses of Shiro-chan's family, and who are the actual Blue Mermaids. And since there are never enough new characters to show us in Haifuri, here are two more ships, their captains, their cats, plus Shiro's sister's subordinate. Maybe now that Harekaze has made contact with the adults in these waters the girls will be spared of their weekly "pinches" and get back to school. Or maybe not. The important thing is we got a bit more of the setting, which arguably is also another character in this story with more characters than I can care to count. [Watch girls named after cats caring for a cat named after a human on Crunchyroll, Funimation and Daisuki!]
Haifuri photo
Toilet paper on a boat
What is the maidens' big trouble on a boat? They ran out of toilet paper. As Harekaze's expedition ran longer than initially expected, the crew listed the supplies they were short of, and it wasn't just torpedoes and depth charges. Haifuri takes us to go sundry shopping this week.


Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 3

Apr 30 // Jeff Chuang
In this week's High School Fleet, our boat full of high school frosh girls continue their exercise in running away, via some intrepid naval decisions and challenges. They won by nailing the enemy submarine with their sole depth charge and then by running away. If anything this bit of character building shows us that we may have a handful of misfits and weirdos, but everyone is competent if not excellent at their jobs. It's a bit less common to see a typical submarine battle purely from the surface boat's point of view, so the whole night time warfare aspect of the thing added a little variety in a way. But like my memories of Star Trek, deploying a simple paravane as a way to trip up an enemy U-boat is akin to reprogramming the deflector to solve some mysterious alien challenge. I mean, really?  Well, I probably shouldn't complain too much. The mix of anachronistic stuff is fun to watch, especially when it's so in-your-face. Japanese high school girls struggling to pull the lever to deploy the depth charges? Sure, it's moe, much like putting on faces on your rice balls. And there's the business-as-usual national stereotypes. The German transfer student taking charge of a sub battle by saying it's her specialty to highlight Germany's dependence on its underwater armada during the War? I suppose it's something I can live with, but I am glad that Haifuri probably will only go this far. The officers on the bridge are taking on more personality as they simply get the brunt of the lines every week. In fact I'm glad they are finally dipping into the rest of the crew by slowing rotating those precious lines among this large cast. It's almost too amusing to see, in Engineering, your Scotty archetype in the body of rough-talking little girl, even if she is just as much business as a cranky old Scot. Rotate those monkey wrench, Satoko, because apparently I haven't gotten enough exposure to memorize your name without looking it up, yet. The mystery of Harukaze's mutiny is developing but we haven't seen the plot address much of it, and when it does it happens in between the meat of each episode, which criss-crosses between calm moments at sea or tumultuous naval battles. I think at three episodes in, we can use a bit more exposition! Otherwise, Haifuri might be in a rough stretch if it can't seal the viewer's initial impression at the three episode mark. [Follow Mike-chan's adventure on FUNimation, Crunchyroll and Daisuki!]  
Haifuri photo
German on a boat
When I was growing up I watched a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation. One of the things I liked about the show was all these naval-style battle scenes where Captain Picard would say stuff like, "fire" or "full to starboard...

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 2

Apr 22 // Jeff Chuang
Just so we're on the same page, it's a tradition in the Japanese navy to serve curry for a meal on Friday. It's gotten to the point that Yokosuka, famous for its naval bases, exports curry as its major local eats. You can buy this navy-themed eats in packs and take it home with you. Thanks to anime, manga and games like Kantai Collection, this marriage of curry rice and Navies continue in popular nerd culture. It would be criminally negligent for Haifuri to skip this massive opportunity to play up its moe side. And yes, even today, the cooks of each boat will make curry their own way, resulting a curry rice flavored based on the ship. This is why we have Harukaze curry in episode 2, named after the scrappy destroyer that carry our protagonists. In this week's Haifuri, Mike-chan and crew once again dodges certain death from an attacking boat that outgunned Harukaze's meager weapons. By running in circles while generating a lot of smoke, the Harukaze was able to sneak near the Admiral Graf Spee (a German cruiser) and deal damage to its hull, slowing it down enough so the destroyer can outrun the larger ship. In the process, Harukaze (or Mike-chan specifically) rescues an exchange student who was escaping the Spee on a runabout. As an aside it also turns out the runabouts on board these historic warships are all modern, jet-ski-like. As the episode ends, while our unfortunate students make the best of their poor and beaten ship, Shiro-chan gets an emergency call from the Musashi. The story is comfortably letting the action and character expositions drive our interests at this point, which is good. I think someone actually interested and engaged in Haifuri will need that extra time and attention before the story gets complicated, because the audience is likely still in a "who was her name again" phase of learning the crew. We might now know that the secretary character is a fun person with her acting and the first officer is has a bit of dere once she gets worked around to Mike-chan's bottomless genki. The doctor (I guess she isn't a real doctor?) is a weird one and the group dynamics between the bridge and engineering teams seem to be developing. There was even a shower scene. I suppose adding one more character to this group, at episode 2, is no big deal? The ending animation this time around shows us that there will be a group of characters that the show focuses on. One of them seems to be the girl from the German boat. In some ways it just affirms my concern that how Haifuri can successfully juggle so many characters, but at the same time I think one more person is not going to make any more difference. I think Haifuri has a tall, tall task of making something more compelling by the end of next week's episode. Arguably, on the surface, there's an unexpected war game happening on top of a moe style anime, but discerning viewers would demand more from this formula. But at the same time, there's a lot going on that the more interesting tidbits may get lost. I guess at the very least there's a lot of cute girls running a battleship to look at, and that might be enough. [Haifuri is on Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Daisuki!]  
Haifuri photo
Curry on a boat
At the end of episode 1, Haifuri drops its full name and a cliffhanging curve ball--the protagonists are framed as traitors and attacked one of their own. It's good to learn that the second episode keeps up the pace and follo...

First Impressions: Haifuri

Apr 14 // Jeff Chuang
Haifuri is an original anime with a large cast of female-only characters. This is something that didn't strike me at all until it was all over, but thanks to that cue, it makes the Girls und Panzer comparison work. Given this element, the play-militaristic take on a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, the evoking of WWII-era war machines, and your go-getter cast of characters with a wide variety of schticks, it's inevitable to make that pairing. What bothered me about Haifuri, or rather, High School Fleet, is that fat cat Isoroku. It is a reference to Isoroku Yamamoto, who is probably the most well-known WWII Japanese military commander to the west, as he created the blueprint for Imperial Japan's plan to defeat the USA as the commander of the Japanese Imperial Navy. Well, I guess people do and can look with a sense of romanticism for legendary commanders of their enemy, so many years later, but are we ready to look at Isoroku similar to how we feel about The Desert Fox? Perhaps. I'm guess there's a joke there that I missed, with the whole fat cat at sea thing. I think that is neither here or there, however. The story drops the viewer right in the middle of action half way through the first episode. Like the marketing material, Haifuri episode 1 has a gap where in one scene we're playing out your usual moe high school hijinks, and then in the second half of the episode we're already playing a game of World of Warships, except with teenager girls busy shouting commands to automated systems that simplify the running of a WWII-era destroyer so 30-some-odd kids can do what hundreds of trained sailors did. Maybe World of Warships is not the best game analogy...Spaceteam? It sure seemed fun and not so much a matter of life or death, even if it kind of was. But there is that WoWs aspect to Haifuri. On one hand we have ancient refitted junk naval cruisers that are over a century old, on the other hand we have sleek futuristic ships blasting autocannon rounds and missiles (and can be operated by one person). If the story is about our adorable protagonists bonding over their naval trials, where Girls und Panzer shined, then the focus wouldn't be on the boats or the fact that they're on a boat, or even Isoroku and the other military otaku nods, but hearty, solid character development. And that just brings us back to the fact that Haifuri has dozens of protagonists onboard the Harekaze. The official English website has a helpful page that gives you a little profile on each one of them, as keeping them straight beyond the first handful will be difficult at this point. The captain, Mike-chan, looks up to her dad, who also captains a ship. Shiro-chan, who is her second in command, plays the straight man in the bridge bunny comedy scenes. The rest of the cast are full of eccentric, if oddly well-trained, characters that would not make up any normal high school class. But I guess that's not the point. What is the point is that this first episode was both fun and well put-together. Throwing the viewer a nasty curve ball at the end helps to drag us to the next episode, since mutiny isn't a term you'd expect from this genre--although it does occasionally happen in other shows of this kind. It would be safe to say that I'm at least curious where Haifuri will go next, even if it isn't exactly in uncharted waters. [It's on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Daisuki!]
Haifuri photo
She's on a boat
Keeping up with the news, one thing that I knew about Haifuri before watching the first episode was that it's about a bunch of moe high school girls working as some kind of sea patrol. The soft designs and color schemes on th...

First Impressions: School-Live!

Aug 11 // Nick Valdez
School-Live! follows the School Life Club, four girls who are living within school grounds named Yuki, Yuri, Kurumi, and Miki. The show opens with Yuki, a bright and optimistic young girl who's the typical anime protagonist. She's a bit airheaded, lazy, but genuinely enjoys school. But there's also something very special about Yuki, and that's what sets the show in motion. You see, the girls are victims of a zombie apocalypse. After an outbreak, the girls were forced to live in the school in order to survive. Within the first couple of episodes, we don't know the extent of the outbreak other than its damaged the entire school and the four girls (and their teacher, which Yuki refers to as "Megu-nee") are the only survivors. The awesome thing is that you wouldn't know all of this from the outset.  As the first episode follows Yuki, everything seems fine. There are other students, the school is pristine, and like as mentioned before, everything about Yuki screams "typical." But that image shatters fast when you realize Yuki's just living in a huge daydream. When the apocalypse is revealed halfway through the first episode (so I'm not spoiling it for you), it's actually shocking. This show's pretty good about hiding things. Although some of the hints are heavy handed (like how Miki refuses to acknowledge anyone other than Yuki during the classroom scenes), there's an attempt to save most of it for an emotionally charged finale. Seeing the delusional Yuki talking to herself in a bloodstained classroom makes for a terrifyingly gripping image. The series also adds a bit of darkness into its opening CV from episode two on. You'll have to see it just to absorb how truly jarring it is.  Like the better zombie media out there, Live! is more about the survivors dealing with a changing world rather than the zombies. It's just in place of adults, it's little anime girls. I thought the art would push me away at first (since I'm still not used to the sexualization of young girls in these shows), but the use of bright color awesomely clashes with the gritty material. It's entirely unique to the series, and I don't think I can find that aesthetic anywhere else. That's most likely why Yuki's world looked so inviting at first. There's a sense of displacement seeing these girls interact with the zombies. For the first time in a while, the zombies feel more disturbing than not because they clash so much with the character design. Seeing the cutesy frames of these characters twisted in a dark fashion is an accost to the viewer. Live! is just full of great little design choices like that.  As for the story itself, the setting is at least groundbreaking if nothing else. I'll give a lot of credit for skewing the age of these survivors (it's been a long time since I've seen zombie media focus on a child's perspective), but it runs the risk of growing stale. Yuki's delusional state is definitely the anchor of series, and the first three episodes explore this, but I want to learn more about why she ended up that way. I'm waiting for the inevitable fallout where Yuki's forced to accept that zombies are real, and that'll either be thanks to an attack or someone close to her finally breaking the news to her. I'm also curious as to how far her delusions extend. Is Megu-nee real? Does no one listen to her as a joke or is she made up in Yuki's mind as well?  I guess the overall darkness of the show took me by surprise. Although I knew it was going to be a heavier type of show going in, seeing it in action is something else all together. I got to hand it the production team, Sentai Filmworks, on this. Since this is adapted from a manga I'm sure the story's pretty much the same, but I've been taken aback by the visual choices here. It's changing opening CV, the girl's designs, the zombies highlighted by shading rather than blood, it's all so wonderful to take in.  School-Live! looks so good, it's got me interested in the story. That's never happened to me before. This is all new territory for me. 
School-Live Impressions photo
Life with the afterlife
Zombies are played out at this point. Numerous movies, television shows, comics, manga, and anime have been churned out each tackling the genre but failing to do anything interesting for a long time. Each piece of zombie medi...

Kinoko Collection photo
Kinoko Collection

Sure, why not make game about Mushroom Girls?


Meet your new Shroom-mates!
Dec 16
// Josh Tolentino
Really, why not? The last few years have seen a Cambrian Explosion for weird games, and people are now taking notice of good ol' Japan, which has been doing weird for longer than just about anybody. Of course, I could just be...
Tekken 7 photo
Tekken 7

Tekken 7's producer is NOT happy about what you think of his idol


Great job, internet!
Dec 10
// Josh Tolentino
Another day, another teacup-sized tempest. Today's videogame drama is brought to you by Tekken 7, which began its spate of character reveals by leading with a new girl named Lucky Chloe, a blonde, twin-tailed breakdance-figh...
Happy July 4th! photo
AMERICA
It's AMERICA day today, and you know what's pretty cool and American? The United States Navy! And you know what cool American thing is grossly underrepresented in Kantai Collection, everyone's favorite strategy game &nbs...

Madness.moe photo
Madness.moe

Dream up a logo for '.moe' domains, win mad bank


And yes, there are .moe domains now
Apr 12
// Josh Tolentino
Are you ready for .moe to take over the internet? No, not "moe", that weird otaku concept. That's already taken over the internet. I'm talking about ".moe", a new domain being operated by Japanese internet provider Inter...

The Moe Files

Mar 21 // LB Bryant
What is moe? As something of a moe aficionado, the question I've been asked most often regarding the genre is 'What is moe?'. This is not an easy question to answer as everyone has a different definition of the word. For me though, the best definition that I've come across (and the one that I personally subscribe to) is this: imagine that right in front of you is the cutest kitten or puppy that you've ever seen in your life. Now, imagine how you would feel if you could pick up said kitten or puppy: the joy, the comfort, the wish to do nothing but protect this beautiful and cute creation from all of the evils of the world and keep it all to yourself for so long as you both shall live. Now imagine feeling those same feelings for an anime character. That's moe. What isn't moe? While some might disagree with me, moe is NOT a sexual thing. It's not about which character you want to turn into your plaything and it's not about which character you want to see naked. It's about which character(s) you want to love and protect from the world because they are just too beautiful to be sullied. That, in my opinion, is moe. Now, sometimes I jokingly say that I have my own tsundere harem of characters in my head, but that isn't about moe either; that's something entirely different that I should probably talk to a therapist about.  In conclusion, The Moe Files aims to entertain and educate on the wonders of moe and all that it can do to enrich your life. Moe isn't some disease that is plaguing the anime industry, it's just part of the natural cycle of anime life. One could even argue that moe has been there since long before the word even existed starting back with Minky Momo or Lum.  Regardless, moe has become a staple of modern anime and, like it or not, does not appear to be going anywhere in the near future. So I hope that you'll join me in the coming weeks and months as I go through all of the series and characters that make up the world of moe.  [Editor's Note: The opinion that there isn't enough moe on Japanator is not endorsed by Japanator, its parent company, or any subsidiaries thereof. In fact, whenever we try to have the "do we need more moe?" discussion, fights break out and sometimes people end up upside down in trash bins, so who even knows. We only agreed to The Moe Files because it makes L.B. sound like he is an awesome detective.]
Moe Files photo
What is moe?
I've now been working with Japanator for about three months and I've noticed something: There's a severe lack of moe content on this site for whatever reason, and that needs to be fixed. That's why I've decided to step up and...

Review: Blessing of the Campanella

Mar 17 // LB Bryant
Blessing of the Campanella Complete Collection (DVD)Studio: AICLicensed by: Right StufRelease Date: 2/4/14MSRP: $49.99 Let's dispense with this right away... this is a moe harem series through and through. All of the characters are designed to be cute and lovable and the fan service is plentiful. This is a series where you are meant to find at least one character to attach yourself to and feel something special about them. Not that this is a bad thing; not in the least. I'm just letting everyone know ahead of time that if you're looking for some sword-clanging Record of Lodoss War-style fantasy action, you're going to be very disappointed.  If you're going into this series realizing that what you're getting is pure fluff, you'll find that this isn't a bad release at all. It's actually quite fun once you dispose yourself of the notion that Blessing of the Campanella is going to deliver anything particularly hard-hitting or deep. This is twelve episodes (thirteen if you count the OVA episode bundled as an extra) of cute wrapped up in adorable.  As you go through it you're bound to notice all sorts of fun little treats and tidbits. For instance, this is a surprisingly musical series, filled with various theme and insert songs. None of the songs are particularly wonderful (this series isn't trying to be K-ON after all) but they are certainly catchy and so don't be surprised if you find yourself whistling or humming one or more songs from this series long after you've finished watching it.  The big complaint that I have with Blessing of the Campanella is that it relies way too much on fan service to sell the female characters to the audience. Breast shots and bathing scenes are common throughout the series to the point of being pointless and distracting. Hell, one of the extras included on each disc are various 3D animated bathing scenes of the different female characters, which are nothing more than two minute nude scenes. Seriously.  Ignoring that one complaint though, Blessing of the Campanella has a solid story progression all the way through the series. The first few episodes are dedicated to introducing the characters and developing their personalities. We eventually learn everything we want to know about where Minette came from, and why the villain named Aberdeen wants to kidnap her and use her for his own nefarious purposes. The climax has everyone coming together to fix a major problem with their world, and wraps up in a satisfying manner. Overall I enjoyed this series though. It's fun and never takes itself too seriously, which is exactly the right attitude to have when watching this. Go and pick this one up if you're looking for a lighthearted fantasy romp.  Score: 7.0 – Good. Films or shows that get this score are good, but not great. These could have been destined for greatness, but were held back by their flaws. While some may not enjoy them, fans of the genre will definitely love them.
Review: Campanella photo
Fantasy world boobies
In 2010, Funimation simulcasted a fantasy series called Blessing of the Campanella and then, once concluded, it quietly went away. For months no one brought it up again until 2013 when Right Stuf revealed at a summer convent...

Monster Monpiece photo
Monster Monpiece

Monster Monpiece is heading west, losing some loli cards


Idea Factory playing it work-safe
Jan 22
// Josh Tolentino
Wow. I suppose this is truly the flipside of advocating for more diversity in videogames. After all, there's always the chance that a new type of game might not be something you're into, or even something you dislike. That s...

First Impressions: Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren

Jan 10 // Chris Walden
This show, unsurprisingly, is all about the humble chuunibyou. While they appear to be seemingly ordinary eighth-graders, they actually battle swarms of demons and protect humankind from supernatural disasters that you aren't even aware of...or at least, that's what they think is happening. You and I would just consider them very imaginative kids; the kind that run around with sticks battling invisible hordes of bad guys. In the first series, Yuuta was a notorious chuunibyou, which forced him to attend a high school far away to make sure no one knows about all the embarrassing things he did. While enjoying a fresh start, he met Rikka a girl in his class who very much hasn't outgrown the 'phase', and who was dead set on drawing Yuuta into her fantasy world. While the previous series was an absolute treat with its sense of humor and colorful characters, it also finished with a solid conclusion. This was great, but it also meant that a sequel was completely unexpected; unnecessary, even. With the story all wrapped up, where could the show go from here to keep up anywhere near the same levels of interest? As funny as the main cast and their antics are, I don't think it could get very far without something of a plot to carry it along. So, do we have one? Quite frankly, it's too early to tell. The first episode of Ren was a typical reintroduction episode. Well, I say typical, but I suppose a high school student who believes her right eye wields a terrible power that can "vanishment the world" is a little atypical. We quickly discover that Rikka is the same adorable girl she was from the first season, though she's temporarily shacked up with Yuuta after the rent wasn't paid on her old room. This seems like a typically ditzy Rikka thing to do, though I wonder if she was even the one responsible for paying the rent. With all of the hints that someone significant has moved into her room already, I've no doubt that there will be screams of foul play-- even if it's the chuunibyou in Rikka shouting them. My bets are on the interloper being an old friend of Yuuta's, back from when he was a chuunibyou at his previous school.  Everyone that matters is back for the reintroduction, including both Nibutani and Isshiki sporting new looks. Interestingly, Nibutani's previous look is what shows up in all of Rikka's delusions, in particular when she is fighting with her sister. There's still the great rivalry between Nibutani and Dekomori, which doesn't fail to make you crack a smile. But let's be honest, the star of the show was definitely Kumin: not only for getting clobbered by a ladle several times, but for her constant eagerness to participate with the others. Her attempt at fighting Rikka's sister made the episode for me.  So, all in all, this was a pretty good reintroduction. We're still lacking the plot to keep us going through the whole season, but I believe we're due to get some proper story in the next episode. My only complaint thus far is with the sheer absence of Rikka's vertical butt-wiggle, with her past efforts ousted from the opening sequence, but thankfully we have Kumin making up for it in the ending. The new opening is actually really good, and I'll admit that I laughed after seeing Rikka fall over on the revolving platform. The accompanying music is a little odd, but I think we'll get used to it within a few episodes. Oh, and if you were after some fanservice, be sure to check out the ending-- I'm glad it was kept out of the show proper.
Chu2koi! Ren photo
Astonishing lack of Rikka's butt-wiggle
Wonderful, wonderful Chuunibyou, what a surprise conclusion to 2012's slate of anime you were. It's no secret that I'm quite fussy with the shows that KyoAni pumps out, but this slice-of-life/science fiction/romance/comedy wa...

Simulcast photo
Simulcast

Simulcast GET: Crunchyroll grabs Saki The Nationals


Over-the-top Mahong for everyone!
Dec 28
// Salvador G Rodiles
As we're preparing for the 2014 Winter Anime Season, Crunchyroll is getting ready to play their hand in the game known as anime simulcasting. For their first move, Crunchyroll has announced that they're going to simulcast Sak...
Saki Zenkoku-hen Trailer photo
Saki Zenkoku-hen Trailer

Ron! Next season of Saki gets a teaser trailer


RIIIISING SUNNNN
Dec 23
// Chris Walden
So then folks, who has been keeping up with the Saki anime? Shame on you if you haven't, because it really is the show that caters to everyone's tastes. Moe? Check. Crazy special powers? Check. Not so hidden yuri moments? Ch...

Otakon '13: An Interview with Oreimo's creators

Aug 17 // Jeff Chuang
The interview took place roughly two hours before the Oreimo OVA screening at Otakon. Present at the interview was the light novel author Tsukasa Fushimi, novel editor Kazuma Miki, and anime director Hiroyuki Kanbe. We were joined with also Aniplex's Mr. Goto and Ms. Tsukamoto. The Q&A began after exchanging pleasantries-- Japanator: How do you feel about screening the finale to Oreimo at Otakon even before the Japanese audience? Fushimi: I'm happy that lots of people are watching it. I'm looking forward to it as well, because now I can see the final episodes on the big screen. I have not seen the anime's ending yet, so this will be my first time. J: How do you hope people will react to the ending of the anime? F: I would be really happy if people can just enjoy the episodes. I would like to have fun watching everyone else having fun watching it. J: From Oreimo anime's website, there is a lot of English-translated text, to go with the "From Chiba to the World" campaign. Whose idea was it to have such an international campaign? Miki: It's the idea from Mr. Takashi Yuma of Aniplex's. He is in charge of the PR and marketing for the show. He is a dangerous man. J: How is he dangerous? M: He spends a lot of money. *laugh* J: Have you listened to the Oreimo web radio? If you did, how do you feel about the oversea fan letters? F: I didn't listen to the radio, but I am delighted to read and hear about the oversea fan messages. M: I see the fan mail for the radio come in from dozens of countries all over the world. The letters say how they love Oreimo and we're very happy about that. We're surprised even with the help of the internet, that people are able to catch the show and follow what is happening. Kanbe: I occasionally listen to the radio! J: Which countries do you think has the loudest fans and the most fans? F: Regarding the novels, Taiwan has the loudest. Then China is second. K: Maybe someone from Aniplex can tell us how the anime is doing. Tsukamoto: For the anime, American fans are probably the loudest. J: When the ending of the novel was published, there were some fan murmuring about the ending. How do you feel about it? F: First I'm surprised that you know about this! We did get a lot of feedback and I'm happy about the feedback regardless what they are. Because it is the last volume, I want to slowly savor the fan responses one by one. J: Kirino's relationship with her brother--is this something that is inspired by something you know or something you came up completely? F: That is something I came up completely from scratch. J: How about the characters themselves? F: It's not really based on any real people. J: Kuroneko or Kirino? F: If I answer this question I will probably get some threatening letters! *Everyone laughs* M: Kirino for me. K: Kuroneko for me. F: Maybe I really like everyone? They are characters that I made and gave birth to, so I love them all. J: Between Kyousuke and the girls around him, is there a particular girl that you enjoyed writing the most? F: It has to be Ayase and Kirino. J: Why are these two the most interesting? F: I don't really know the reason myself. It's just that when I started to write, the readers react strongly to them and I end up enjoy writing about them more. J: I have a question about the title of the work. First, who came up with the title? And second, there are a lot of light novels with similar structure for the name as OreImo [Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai], so why are these novel names so long? F: I came up with the title of the show with editor Miki.  M: And yeah, you are right, light novel names are really long! How do you know about them? J: There's all these anime adopted from light novels with these long names! M: Ah that is true. It's kind of like a fad. It's just how this age of light novels are. In the previous age, the names were simple. The long names are just for the current round of books. Sooner or later it will change to something else. J: How is the process of working on the anime for the script of the show? K: Every week there is a script meeting. Mr. Kurata [series writer] will present the concept of how the novel will be translated into the anime. We will work with Fushimi-san to determine the result. J: How was this changed in season 2 compared to season 1? How was editing the novel story to fit into the length of the second series? F: The biggest difference between season 1 and 2 was that the novel wasn't completed by season 2's planning.  M: We waited until Fushimi-san was done before we can go ahead with the anime. J: Why was the anime for seasons 1 and 2 both extended into the OVA episodes? K: Well, TV anime is usually one or two cours, so if it fits then it works, if not we will have to come up with another way. We originally wanted to fit in to one season irrespective to the original story but it didn't work that well. Aniplex then suggested to make more episodes so we can do a better job matching the story. The same happened with season 2. J: Of all the various marketing and promo events for Oreimo, which ones do you like the most? F: Otakon would be the one I'm hoping to like the most! K: I would hope for Otakon as well, since it hasn't been done before that the US gets something before the Japanese. Also I like Oreimo Festival, which is an event where the voice actors talk about the show. M: For me, it's the monorail promotion. The entire monorail train has a full wrapping for Oreimo characters. I was surprised that the Oreimo themes continued inside the rail cars. J: Is there anything you can tell us about new works? F: We are working on a new project. Mr. Miki and I were on this 13-hour flight from hell to here and we were working on it on the way. K: I have a few projects planned right now. I'm also going to work on other anime as an animation director. J: And to wrap it up, any final words for your oversea fans? F: Thank you for watching or reading Oreimo to the end. I would be happy if everyone has at least one favorite heroine, may it be Kirino or Kuroneko or anyone else. I hope you will remember them. K: I hope for those who has not watched the show yet, they will check it out! M: Originally, the project in Japan was just between me, Fushimi-san and Kanzaki-san [Light Novel Illustrator]. It was originally made for young Japanese people so we never expected it to be this big in America. We are glad to be able to share the same feelings about Oreimo with you! J: Thank you very much! [Special thanks to Otakon's George Endo for interpreting and Aniplex's Tsukamoto-san for facilitating!]  
Oreimo Premiere photo
Team OreImo under the spotlight
To get you ready for the world simulcast of the Oreimo OVAs on Saturday, Japanator chatted up the Oreimo guests at Otakon 2013--light novel author Tsukasa Fushimi, his editor Kazuma Miki, and the director of the anime se...

Impressions: Stella Women's Academy Class C3

Aug 06 // Josh Tolentino
For those unfamiliar with the terms, airsoft is best described as paintball's nerdier brother. Played with meticulously-modeled replica guns shooting plastic pellets, the emphasis is more on simulation rather than sport. Themed matches featuring teams doing what practically amounts to military cosplay are common. Airsoft is especially popular for doing "MilSim", basically mock scenarios using real military tactics. What does that have to do with young Yura Yamato, a high school freshman seeking her social debut at an all-girls academy? Not much, really. The first two episodes fit almost smack-dab onto early K-ON! as Yura gets badgered into joining the C3 Club - an airsoft club. The "C3" comes from the less-SEO-friendly military abbreviation "C3" for "Command, Control & and Communications", but really, it's named that way because you can pronounce it as "C-Cubed" in Japanese. You can even figure out which K-ON! archetypes map onto which characters. Yura is Yui and Azusa with a dash of social anxiety and a tendency to daydream (more on that later), while the rest of the club are mixes of Mugi and Ritsu tempered by varying quantities of Mio-ness. Club head Sonora, voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, is the consummate badass who does real shooting and can't be bothered to wear her uniform properly. Mind you, I say these things not to be reductive, but rather give an impression of how mundane the first couple of episodes feel. It's one thing to start out slow and build up to more excitement with time, but in the saturated field of cute girls doing cute things things need to distinguish themselves right off the bat. It's a necessary thing to avoid being dropped, or say, being forgotten about until a busy blogger remembers that it exists and that he had committed to watching it weeks ago. Which is totally not a thing that happened to this busy blogger. No, sir! These episodes just barely drop hints that there's more to Class C3 than girls in a girls' club not actually doing the thing their club is for. In fact, the C3 Club does plenty of airsoft, so much so that Yura gets carried away into various action-movie references, including Rambo, The Bodyguard, and more. Yura's overactive daydreaming is something of a plot device, even, and it's implied later on that it's practically her superpower. Speaking of superpowers, perhaps the oddest aspect of Class C3 - at least, it'll be odd for the viewer that watches for the airsoft - is how readily the show steps into superpower territory...sort of.  In Class C3, airsoft, that nerdier brother of paintball and likely origin of the term "Tacticool", is treated with a level of reverence that is, well, ludicrous, even for the most hardcore hobbyists. Sonora has an airsoft "master" that taught her the ropes like it was a martial art, and has a personal airsoft policy that frankly makes no sense (though the show acknowledges that part at least). Karira has an inexplicably insane level of agility, performing spinzaku-like feats of wall-running and backflips up the wazoo. A rival airsoft team chews Yura out for forfeiting, lambasting her lack of resolve, which leads Yura to cut her hair in a show of determination. The result is something of an identity crisis, one that might be linked to the fact that it's about airsoft. One of the things that feels "off" about airsoft (and MilSim-level paintball), is that it falls into a simulation "Uncanney Valley". When you play airsoft, you're effectively simulating an otherwise deadly firefight...except you're not. Your average airsoft gun can hold far more plastic pellets than any real firearm. At regulation strength, an airsoft pellet strike at combat range impacts with less force than a rubber band, and there's no substantial recoil to speak of. Actual physicality aside you'd get a more accurate firearms simulation playing Call of Duty. Of course, physicality counts for quite a lot, and Class C3 pulls out some fun stuff. Seemingly accurate hand signals permeate the early encounters, and as far as I know, the different "Survival Game" game modes mentioned seem to be real things.  Character development is also more of a priority in this show than it ever was in the likes of Girls und Panzer or Upotte!. Though the rest of the crew is decidedly one-note so far, Yura and Sonora have their own motivations, history, and personalities, even if they are still two-dimensional (which is more than one, at least).   But the identity issues persist. Is Class C3 about airsoft? Is it a straight sports-team show? A slice-of-life-er about a girls' club? An absurdist parody? Or about a girl finding herself? It's all of these things, but doesn't quite do enough on any one front to fully satisfy. There's certainly time left to both raise the stakes and get more balls rolling, so I'll be sure not to forget it moving forward.
Stella Class C3 photo
Girls und Airsoft
Melding cute girls and an unusual activity of some kind is hardly a new thing. Hundreds of full anime, manga, and book series have been mined from the rich vein of "Girls x [Weird Pastime]", and Gainax's Stella Women's A...

OreImo 2 OVA stream photo
OreImo 2 OVA stream

OreImo 2's last episodes to be streamed worldwide


From fourteen to sweet sixteen
Jun 18
// Josh Tolentino
Oh that greedy imouto! We're already approaching the end of OreImo 2's TV run, but in true "modern anime industry" fashion, there are to be several more episodes intended to round the story out at a sweet sixteen outings...
Girls und Panzer photo
Girls und Panzer

Girls und Panzer gets the best hug pillow ever


Hugs in the night for your HE ammo
May 05
// Josh Tolentino
Ah, the dakimakura. Few things in otaku culture are more indicative of one's...*ahem* "power level" than being in possession of a large hug pillow emblazoned with the visage of your 2D spouse. That is, unless you're a fan of ...
Girls und Panzer movie photo
Girls und Panzer movie

Panzer vor! Girls und Panzer gets a movie


The lengthy wait begins anew
Apr 28
// Josh Tolentino
YES! One of the best shows of 2012 (and 2013, since we're technically allowed to count the belated final two episodes) is getting more. While I'd frankly have been content to see Girls und Panzer laid to rest in its near...
Mooooo photo
Mooooo

This milking game is udderly ridiculous.


Insert sexual reference here
Apr 13
// Eric Koziol
Mei is an ambitious girl. When her father was kicked in the head by the horse that was being hitched to take them to her mother’s funeral, Mei had two funerals to attend all of a sudden. Determines not to let the sadnes...

Final Impressions: Tamako Market

Apr 09 // Josh Totman
What I mean by "satisfying crunch" was a better story that made me want to watch more. Historically, moe anime is not really about an engaging story, but it’s about the slice of life of the characters within the show. While this is true with Tamako Market the story just didn't really fit. The entire prince story was the main problem for me. I just didn't care about him or his needing to find a wife before he takes the throne. What I can get over is the fact that Dera was a talking bird that could be turned into a projector at any time. He did bring some needed humor to the show, but not enough to make it a better show. Speaking of characters, I had no problems with the cast. Most of them I liked right off the bat for their quarks. If Tamako Market was real with these types of people running the shops, I would be there everyday buying stuff! Who wouldn't want to by their tofu from a Japanese man with an afro? Actually the flower lady with the manly voice kind of creeps me out…kind of. Also, how cute is it to go to a mochi shop where the little girl is nicknamed Anko? Very, that how much! This is one of the times I really hope that they will have Nenderoid play sets available sometime down the road. Kyoani’s production values were just as I would have expected. There was not a time where I could really see that they slacked off at all. The bright and colorful world was always welcoming in every episode. Let’s go back to the story for a bit before I wrap this up. In case you haven’t watched it, Tamako Market is about Tamako and her day to day life in the market where she lives with her grandfather, father, and little sister making mochi. Then one day a talking bird named Dera comes to the market to find a bride for his prince. From there on, we meet everyone in the market and find out little by little about everyone. We do find out that Tamako was the one picked out for the prince. Surprised, right? In the end, everything returns to normal. There is no real ending to ruin in this show because there was no real big story to accompany it. The prince part mattered so little that in the middle of the series I almost forgot about it completely. I kind of wished the creators did too because I would have rather seen the story go more towards the inhabitants of the market. That would have been more entertaining overall. As much as I didn't like how the story went, I still really enjoyed the show overall. The artwork, animation, characters, and silliness kept me around for the entirety of the show. I would sell this show as moe light or moe diet. It has the same great moe taste, but not as filling as normal moe. Hopefully, this will tide me over till the next great moe show comes along. I do have a sweet tooth for cuteness that needs to be filled once in a while. Romantic comedies only get me so far, same with harem shows.
Tamako Market photo
A market I would shop at
Moe can be a hard pill to swallow to a lot of people. For me, I put it into a bowl with sugary cereal and milk and consume in mass quantities. OK, so that was a little over the top. I do enjoy moe shows more than a grown...

OreImo is 16 episodes photo
OreImo is 16 episodes

OreImo season 2 runs longer than you might think


My show can't be this long!
Apr 01
// Chris Walden
Greedy imouto, Sixteen episodes before, Sixteen once again.
Vividred Operation PS3 photo
Vividred Operation PS3

Vividred Operation PS3 gets a new commercial, mini-game


Hyper Intimate Power! Also mayo
Apr 01
// Josh Tolentino
This is no joke, it's: "Hyper Intimate Power" With mayo toppings
Chuu2Koi photo
Chuu2Koi

KyoAni hints at a new Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai work


Return of the (moe)blob
Mar 27
// Josh Tolentino
Prepare to experience love, middle-schooler syndrome, and other delusions once again, because now that Tamako Market has just ended (Josh Totman's Final Impressions are pending), it's time to think of the future. And in...
Vanguard Princess English photo
Vanguard Princess English

Get yourself some Vanguard Princess in English


After four long years
Mar 03
// Josh Tolentino
Looking for another 2D sprite-based fighter to get your fix, between now and whenever Lab Zero release their Skullgirls DLC? Why not try Vanguard Princess? EigoManga have released an English-localized ver...
Vividred Operation PS3 photo
Vividred Operation PS3

Operation Vividgame: Vividred Operation getting PS3 title


Butts and Forehead Kisses: The Game?
Mar 02
// Josh Tolentino
We should definitely have expected this, given that Namco Bandai is pretty much the official hub of licensed anime games, but the positive sign here is that based on the screenshots, Vividred Operation: The Game looks mu...

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