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Recap

Strong Style: Cash-in time!

Feb 13 // Soul Tsukino
We get a greeting from Kota Ibushi to start off. We start in the studio as we look at clips of the Japan Cup Final match. We replay Kota issuing the challenge for the IWGP belt to the roar of the crowd. He mentions that he can't be the only one to think he has a chance at this. He isn't focused so much on the belt as he is in facing Styles.   IWGP Title: A.J. Styles vs. Kota Ibushi As we saw on this show a few weeks ago, Ibushi came out the winner of the 2015 New Japan Cup tournament. As a result, he is able to pick any title he wants to go for. Not surprisingly, he picked the big one and Styles for the opponent. Styles, of course, is the leader of the Bullet Club so we will see if any of them play a part in this match. Kota comes to the ring carrying the New Japan Cup, which is a really nice piece of hardware. Barnett breaks things down, pointing out that Styles has the experience edge while Kota had his martial arts striking ability. Styles is out with Kenny Omega in his corner. Here's hoping that doesn't turn into anything, especially since Omega and Ibushi used to be partners. We come back from break as the bell rings. They stare off and Ibushi's hand is all taped up something fierce. They posture a bit before finally locking up. They get to the corner and break cleanly. We lock up again Aj sends Kota out but he jumps right back in and go for another lock up. They get to the ropes before Styles gets in an arm drag. He jaws a bit and then they lock up again. Kota gets in an arm drag, and another, and then the frakensteiner to send Styles out. Styles climbs back with the take over into a leg scissors, Kota gets a non-count on a backslide and then a small package leading to a roll up leading into Kota being set up for the Styles clash but he gets out of it, leading to Kota getting a NEAR 3 count on a rollup before Styles kicks out! Test of strength and Styles tries to get the kick in, but Kota catches his foot. They whip into the ropes and Kota kicks Styles right in the gut. Styles tries to whip him but Kota reverses and low dropkicks him outside. Kota tries for the golden triangle moonault on the floor but AJ catches him. He tries for a suplex but Kota flips out of it. Styles catches Kota and suplexes him on the floor right on his face. Back from break as Kota is hurt on the floor.  Kota struggles and gets in at the count of 19. AJ with a big slam and hits a high kneedrop. Kota whipped into the corner where Styles hits a flying clothesline. He follows up with several punches and a backbreaker. Kota fights out of a suplex and comes off the ropes, but gets nailed with a dropkick to the mouth for his trouble. Kota rolls out to the floor again. Styles climbs out and drops Kota across the barricade right in front of the time keeper's table and the belt. Styles rolls Kota back into the ring and locks in the Muta lock! Haven't seen that one in a long time. Styles locks in a chinlock. Kota tries to fight out but no go. He wiggles out and they get to their feet only for Styles to land a forearm. They go into the corner where Styles tries to hit the springboard clothesline but gets clubbed in the gut to send him back out to the apron. Out of commercial. Kota hits two roundhouse kicks and a moonsault to get a two count. Kota tries another kick but Styles catches it and drives an elbow in his knee. Styles gets a low dropkick right to the same knee. and then grinds out a lock on the knee. Kota counters out with some elbows to break the hold.  Kota gets a facelock but Styles lands a kick to the knee. Kota gets a leg whip sending Styles outside. He leaps up and just BARELY lands in the golden triangle moonsault. He takes AJ back in the ring and hits the springboard dropkick. Styles in the corner but Kota comes running into Styles' feet. Kota counters back to land a lionsault combo on the fallen Styles for two. He hits a snapdragon suplex but only gets two again. Kota picks Styles up in the corner. Styles spins around and hits the brainbuster right onto the turnbuckle. Styles gets up and hits Kota into a lionsault into a scorpion deathdrop! Cover only gets two. Styles goes for the clash but Kota counters out as they then trade kicks and strikes back and forth. Styles hits the Pele kick but Kota hits one of his own! Back from commercial as Styles escapes to the apron but Kota comes over and gets on the top rope and wraps up Styles in an awkward looking lock as he is trying to suplex hm back in the ring. Styles counters sending Kota flying backwards. Styles then dives in with the springboard clothesline and adds to it with the bloody Sunday DDT. He doesn't go for the pin and tries for the Styles clash but Kota wiggles out. Styles then locks in the Calf Killer. Kota tries to reverse it into a pin but Styles rolls right through. AJ grabs Kota's knee to pick him up but Kota lands strikes with the other knee! Styles then flattens Kota with a clothesline. AJ gets up and then sets up Kota for a SUPER Styles clash of the top. Kota counters and tries for the Frankenstiener on the ropes but Kota gets out thankfully. Kota jumps up and lands the frankenstiener but only gets two. Kota goes for the powerbomb but when Styles is up with full weight on Kota's shoulders, Kota stumbles backwards awkwardly and drops Styles. That looked painful with all of Styles's bodyweight on Kota's neck like that. Kota recovers and picks Styles up again for the powerbomb but Styles counters out and hits a clothesline. Kota shakes it off and goes for the powerbomb again and nails it for 2. Kota stomps on AJ's face and Kota goes up, but Omega jumps up. The distraction was enough that Ibushi goes for the phoenix splash and AJ CATCHES him into the Styles clash and gets the win! That was really an impressive counter. AJ celebrates as Tama Tonga and Yujiro Takahashi celebrate. Omega seems subdued and just claps a few times. Kota is then carried out of the ring. Back from break as the Club celebrates in the ring, but Kenny has the boohoos. OKADA jumps in the ring and clubs everyone before nailing the rainmaker on Styles! Gedo says that it's payback for what Styles did to them in the same building the year before. Gedo lays down the challenge for the belt. Okada poses for a bit over the flattened Styles before leaving. Backstage Okada says he is back for his belt and man is that welt on his face not getting any better. Kota is not taking things well as he says this is the last big match for him. He gave it all he had and didn't get it. He says he'll get another chance with his own hands. You don't get these kinds of emotions in the stats. In the studio, Kota says that AJ fooled him a few times during the match where he thought he had control but really didn't. When Kenny interfered, he felt like time stopped. Oddly, he says that it didn't effect the outcome of the match and hopes that Kenny will leave the Bullet Club and they could team again.  This was a good one, even if it felt like it should have been twice as quick as it was. It seemed almost like a WWE style match, much like the Jericho/Styles matches we've been seeing lately. The knee psychology didn't really go anywhere but that finish was amazing. Maybe not the best match of the year but it was very enjoyable, the crowd got into it, and I had fun. That's all for thiss week. Next week we are off to a new location! See you then! We get a greeting from Kota Ibushi to start off.   We start in the studio as we look at clips of the Japan Cup Final match. We replay Kota issuing the challenge for the IWGP belt to the roar of the crowd. He mentions that he can't be the only one to think he has a chance at this. He isn't focused so much on the belt as he is in facing Styles.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
The Main Event of Invasion Attack!
It's that time of week again! Japanator's look at NJPW on AXS TV takes us back one more time to the Sumo Hall on April 5, 2015. This week we take a look at the main event of Invasion Attack 2015 in what should be a good one.

Strong Style: The attack is back!

Feb 06 // Soul Tsukino
We are given a greeting by Kazuchika Okada.   IWGP Tag Team Titles: Karl Anderson/Doc Gallows vs. The Kingdom (Matt Taven/Mike Bennett) This match is a result of the New Japan/Ring of Honor deal. The deal here was that in a few prior meetings, Anderson is totally infatuated with Maria (Bennett's wife) and ends up costing him matches. Bell rings and Karl is waving and blowing kisses to Maria. He then locks up with Taven but it doesn't last long as Taven hits 5th gear  and speeds his way into avoiding Anderson's moves until there is a stalemate. They lock up and Taven gets the tag to Bennett who goes right for a wristlock. Anderson, however, makes the tag and Gallows comes in. Bennett tries for the running cross body on Gallows, but the big guy catches him and puts him down with a slam. He turns around and clubs Taven before going in for the pin on Bennett. ANDERSON breaks up the pin because he wants to bring Maria in the ring. They drag her in and Gallows wants to deck her in the mush while Anderson wants to ogle over her. This is soooo wrong. The Kingdom run in and Maria bails as the fight starts. We jump ahead as the club is working over the Kingdom members in the corner. Anderson takes Bennett up into his own version of the neckbreaker slam and the two club members go to finish things off with the magic killer but Taven comes in to break it up. Taven sends Gallows out of the ring with a clothesline leaving Anderson and Bennett in the ring. Anderson is going in for the kill but Maria pops up on the apron smiling and waving, Karl's head goes to mush as he starts blowing kisses and dancing for Maria. Gallows gets sick of this shit and pulls Maria from the apron and threatens to club her in the face again. The kingdom run in and Taven takes out Gallows with a dive. They then score the hail Mary on Anderson and score the pinfall. The Kingdom are the new tag team champions! Backstage Anderson complains about being so close to Maria, Gallows goes insane and threatens to take out Maria, and hints at bringing his wife in the rematch. Kingdom gloats and says they overcame the odds to win the titles. As the Kingdom talks, you can hear Anderson and Gallows yelling at each other in the background. Quick and edited some, but they got a lot of storytelling in so it wasn't bad. Hirooki Goto/Tetsuya Naito/Togi Makabe vs. CHAOS (Shinsuke Nakamura/Tomohiro Ishii/YOSHI-HASHI) Well, this is a bit of a mish-mash isn't it? Goto is usually teamed with Shibata and YOSHI is usually teamed with Okada. The stories here are that Ishii and Makabe hate each other's guts meanwhile Goto has been eyeballing a shot against Nakamura and the Intercontinental title. Goto points the finger right at Nakamura and Shinsuke abides him by starting the match for his team. They lock up and Goto muscles Shinsuke into the corner but breaks clean. They lock up again and Nakamura thankfully doesn't go for that face in the belly but nails Goto and gets him down in the corner. Shinsuke immediately goes for the good vibrations kick and mocks Goto by makes glasses signs over his own eyes as if to say he can't see Goto (Hmmm... where have I heard that before?) Goto is not happy about this and pops up, landing a few forearm shots to Nakamura before landing a big shoulder block. He brings Nakamura to his corner and tags in Togi Makabe. Makabe works over Nakamura some before Shinsuke can get to his corner and tag in The Stone Pitbull, Ishii. Business picks up  (get used to that saying folks.. he's on the way!) as the two rivals start beating the tar out of each other with chops and forearms. Makabe gets a shoulder block in and tags off to Naito. Naito jumps and lands a low sliding dropkick on Ishii before he lands a senton on the big guy. Ishii is sent into the corner where he eats some more forearms. Naito whips him into the ropes but Ishii turns around and nails Makabe. Everyone gets in on the actions now as Makabe and Ishii fight on the floor where Ishii starts choking out Makabe with his own chain! We then skip ahead and Makabe and Ishii are fighting in the ring and Makabe lands a powerbomb on Ishii, but can only get a two count. We come back from a break as Ishii is hurt and has a hard time getting up. He retreats to the corner where Makabe starts landing in some heavy forearm shots. This seems to wake Ishii up and they start trading shot again. Makabe whips Ishii into the ropes but Ishii counters with a big clothesline. Nakamura gets the tag and starts throwing some knees into Makabe, but the unchained gorilla lands a clothesline on Nakamura to stop that idea. Makabe tags in Goto and goes to work on Nakamura. YOSHI runs in for the distractions and things fall apart again with everyone coming in. Goto and Nakamura keep fighting as Goto lands a backdrop suplex. Everyone is still fighting but Goto tries for an attack. Shinsuke ducks and lands the booma ye! He tries for a second one but Goto catches him and hits the ushi-karoshi and then hits a suplex! The pin is then broken up. Goto is still on Nakamura and looks to finish him off. YOSHI runs in and gets hits back out again. Goto lines up and hits Nakamura for the shotenhai suplex and the win for his team! Backstage Goto deems himself the next contender for the Intercontinental title. Nakamura says that Goto is not a real challenger for the title and that he's not a big deal. Okada speaks to us from the studio now. He thought his cardio was up when he entered the last match, but it still ended very quickly. He talks about how Fale is so big, that's what makes him difficult to wrestle. He focused on hitting the tombstone piledriver and talks about how old footage shows how slamming Andre the Giant was still a spectacle in the sport. Kazuchika Okada vs. Bad Luck Fale Oh boy. If you have read this article at all, you know my dislike for Fale.The backstory here is that Fale defeated Okada in a huge upset in the first round of the New Japan Cup tournament and then beat him in a tag match as well. If history proves true, I don't like Fale's chances here. Tama Tonga comes out to the ring with Fale and Gedo is with Okada. Mauro and Josh speculate that Okada's run of losses is a mental breakdown after his emotional loss to Tanahashi at WrestleKingdom 9. We come back from break as Okada goes flying into the big guy and starts whaling away before the bell even rings. Fale counters with a strike that sends Okada down. Okada with the drop toe hold into a sliding dropkick and the crowd is firmly behind Okada. Okada hits the ropes and then gets run over by Fale. and rolls outside. Fale follows him out and runs him over again and then sends him to the barrier. Fale sends him into the barricade again. He then grabs the announcer's tie and yanks Okada around with it around Okada's neck. Tama Tonga then attacks Gedo outside as well for no reason. Fale rolls into the ring as the ref  finally starts counting. Okada just makes it in but Fale grabs him into a nerve pinch and leans on him. Okada makes a futile attempt to fight out but Fale goes right back to the nerve hold.  He positions himself on Okada's back before just grabbing him by the hair and leaning back. Fale's not breaking any speed records as he just kind of stands around as Okada tries to get up. THIS is one of the reasons why I don't like Fale. He literally just got over giving a guy what amounts to a rest hold and then just STANDS THERE like he's waiting for the bus. Not that he's posing or playing to the crowd, just standing there. Mauro mentions that Fale may have stolen Okada's fighting spirit, with Josh saying he say that episode of the Brady Bunch where they stole the tiki idol. Love it. Anyway, Okada fires off some forearms but Fale stops that with one mighty club to the back. He goes for the pin (Hey Stupid, you should have tried that when you were waiting for Godot back there!). He tries for the big splash and misses. He staggers to his feet and Okada hits a clothesline to send Fale over the top rope. Okada attacks sending Fale over the barricade and goes for the running body block but Fale catches him. Fale goes to drop him on the barrier but Okada scoots out and Fale goes over the barrier back into the ringside. Both roll into the ring before Okada hits a running elbow into the corner and then a DDT. Okada goes to tombstone Fale but the big guy won't go.  Fale counters the attempt to lift Okada up and hit the Samoan drop. Okada tries to get up but is hit with a splash in the corner. Fale attempts the pin but only gets two. Fale gets up and goes for the Grenade combination but Okada gets out with an uppercut. He tries for the Tombstone again and that backfires but Okada counters and SLAMS Fale! He then goes up and nails the flying elbow  He goes for the Rainmaker and Fale tries for the grenade but it doesn't work., Fale gets a double handed  choke into the corner. Okada counters back and then picks him up for a neck breaker slam! Damn that's a load! Okada  tries AGAIN for the Tombstone but Fale falls on top of Okada and squishes him. Fale goes for the spear, but Okada leapfrogs and then lands a kick, but Fale nails the spear anyway. the count only gets two. He picks Okada up and drives Okada into the corner. He slams Okada down and then climbs to the top and nails the splash! Okada kicks out! Fale goes for the Bad luck fall, but Okada falls out and nails a dropkick on the big guy's back! Fale goes for the grenade again but Okada dropkicks out. Okada goes for the rainmaker but Fale escapes only to get suplexed for the trouble. Okada tries again for the rainmaker and Fale hits some back elbows to get out. Fale turns around and Okada LIFTS HIM UP! HE HITS THE TOMBSTONE! He then drags Fale back to his feet and hits the rainmaker and scores the pin! In the back, Okada has some words about getting the win. He has a huge welt on the left side of his face to show for it. We end this week with some studio words from Okada as he says this match really made him realize how heavy Fale is really is. He says that it could have been real easy for him to go down the loser's road, but he didn't.   Well, I'm impressed. Okada and Fale did put on a decent match, even with Fale's shortcomings. The first two matches were all right but the edits didn't help them. I wouldn't ut this as one of the best shows of this series, but it wasn't terrible either. Next week we take a look at the main event as Kota Ibushi goes for the big one as he takes on A.J. Styles! See you then! Bell rings and Karl is waving and blowing kisses to Maria. He then locks up with Taven but it doesn't last long as Taven hits 5th gear  and speeds his way into avoiding Anderson's moves until there is a stalemate. They lock up and Taven gets the tag to Bennett who goes right for a wristlock. Anderson however makes the tag and Gallows comes in. Bennett tries for the running cross body on Gallows, but the big guy catches him and puts him down with a slam. He turns around and clubs Taven before going in for the pin on Bennett.   ANDERSON breaks up the pin because he wants to bring Maria in the ring. They drag her in and Gallows wants to deck her in the mush while Anderson wants to ogle over her. This is soooo wrong. The Kingdom run in and Maria bails as the fight starts.   We jump ahead as the club is working over the Kingdom members in the corner. Anderson takes Bennett up into his own version of the neckbreaker slam and the two club members go to finish things off with the magic killer but Taven comes in to break it up. Taven sends Gallows out of the ring with a clothesline leaving Anderson and Bennett in the ring.    Anderson is going in for the kill but Maria pops up on the apron smiling and waving, Karl's head goes to mush as he starts blowing kisses and dancing for Maria. Gallows gets sick of this shit and pulls Maria from the apron and threatens to club her in the face again. The kingdom run in and Taven takes out Gallows with a dive. They then score the hail Mary on Anderson and score the pinfall. The Kingdom are the new tag team champions!   Backstage Anderson complains about being so close to Maria, Gallows goes insane and threatens to take out Maria, and hints at bringing his wife in the rematch. Kingdom gloats and says they overcame the odds to win the titles. As the Kingdom talks, you can hear Anderson and Gallows yelling at each other in the background.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Back to the Sumo Hall!
Hello and welcome back to Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. This week we go back to the Sumo Hall in Tokyo for a look at more of the "Invasion Attack" show from April 5, 2015. This week we have a big title match and a return grudge match. Let's get to the action!

Annotated Anime: GATE episodes 13-16

Feb 02 // Josh Tolentino
By "malign reputation", I am of course referring to the perception in some circles of GATE as a right-wing wet dream of a fiction, supposedly so radical in its fringe ultranationalism that some commentators were prompted to abuse the term "fascist" in reference to it. For the record, GATE isn't fascistic. Given that the show isn't over, I can't say for sure that it's political themes won't ever mimic the murderous, revolutionary populism and expansionist fervor of actual fascist groups, but with perhaps the exception of the Emperor himself and some of the more sinister factions, GATE is definitely not some kind of fascist treatise masquerading under cover of cute anime girls. Accusations of nationalism and a militaristic bent are harder for GATE to dodge, but those qualities are less problems than simply aspects of its general political stance, and the attention brought to them seems more a result of amazement that an anime would dare hold an overt political stance than concerns about supposed "extremism". Written by an ex-member of the SDF, starring a soldier and bearing a subtitle that is literally: "The Self-Defense Fought In That Place, In This Manner", it's hardly surprising that it would come out with a bit of bias in favor of the military, much as you don't play Call of Duty looking for messaging in favor of gun control or disarmament. If anything, this more overt bias makes the show more complex in a way, particularly now that the second season has seen Japan, via the SDF, get more and more involved in the affairs and politics of the Special Region. Incidentally, it's here where the discussions and subtexts start to appear a little more fraught. In the second season, we see the first formal contacts between the Empire and Japan, with diplomats like Sugawara essentially buying influence among the Imperial elites. The buying ranges from currying favor via lavish gifts and good food to "shock-and-awe" via displays of military prowess. Meanwhile, crafty negotiators write up tax-free trade deals for resources the medieval-level natives don't see the value of. And it's here where GATE seems to look a bit like an idealized do-over of Japan's colonial period, with the Special Region representing a perfect, seemingly consequence-free place for Glorious Nippon to "do it right" this time, the right way, of course, represented by the valiant heroes of the JSDF. I won't lie and say that's not at least provocative, especially these days. At the same time, though, GATE's given much more care characterizing the people and factions of the Special Region, especially compared to the ham-handed portrayal in season one of foreign countries and the SDF's political opponents. Even a character whose main goal is to manipulate Japan into utterly destroying the Empire is sympathetic in her rage, even while she's undoubtedly an antagonist. So far in GATE's second season, there have been few truly irredeemable villains, just people working at cross-purposes and doing what they think they have to. To me at least, that's a really interesting way to regard a program that originally sold its appeal on the idea of shooting rockets at dragons.  [Watch GATE on Crunchyroll!]           Accusations of nationalism and a militaristic bent are harder for GATE to dodge, but those qualities are less problems than simply aspects of its general political stance, and the attention brought to them seems more a result of amazement that an anime would dare hold an overt political stance than concerns for "extremism". There's a healthy discussion to be had about the role a military should play in a nation's affairs, particularly in Japan's case, as their constitution abdicates the right to go to war at all, except in self-defense. 
GATE photo
A Tale of Two Dimensions
The last time we checked in with GATE, A-1 Pictures' chronicle of the Japan's encounter with nothing less than an entire other world, I noted that the show was considerably less, well...controversial than I had been led to be...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 728

Feb 01 // Anthony Redgrave
The scales of the fight between Luffy and Doflamingo have been balanced in the previous episode with Doflamingo awakening his Devil Fruit powers causing everything around him to turn to string. Luffy continues to fly around like a balloon trying to find an opening. There is quite a lot of fighting in this episode as there were in the last few, a lot of kinetic high-octane scenes of the two combatants trying to gain the upper hand. On the ground citizens having been motivated by King Riku's inspirational speech on surviving scurry to the centre of Dressrosa. Personally, now that we have found out the Bird Cage doesn't affect buildings made of Sea Prism stone I would have rallied the immobile to stay in the factory. The benefits of not getting sliced like a tomato at Subway outweighs being pushed by the building.  Luffy's barrage eventually connects with a Leo Bazooka, a move that has nothing to do with the character Leo who is featured heavily in this season and Doflamingo flies across the entire town into the side of Flower Fields. Despite the show proclaiming, this was the end of the fight, any One Piece fan worth their salt knows it's a false ending. The celebrations are too muted, Luffy isn't completely drained, and there are still uncertainties around whether Luffy is an ally or foe due to his pirate lifestyle. If this was the ending there would be happier inspirational music, people celebrating a whole lot more, and Luffy being completely drained. Oh and crying. Lots of crying. But the tearful joyful kind. On cue everyone realises Doflamingo hasn't been defeated as the Bird cage hasn't disappeared. Before Luffy can deliver a second attack on the immobilised Doflamingo, Gear 4th runs out. Luckily it doesn't have the side effect of Gear 3rd of turning him chibi. I would've thought it would have this effect considering it uses parts of Gear 3rd to make him a whole lot buffer. Doflamingo emerges with a grin and more inflated head veins than Vegeta. Doflamingo isn't the only pirate after Luffy's head as Jesus Burgess (yeah that guy is still relevant) was waiting for the opportune time to steal the Gum Gum fruit from Luffy. Why he would want a devil fruit that makes a person into the Japanese Mr Fanastic I don't know. It's not as if it's the strongest devil fruit in the series despite winning the most fights. It's not a Logia, and Luffy gets by due to making the most out of the bad devil fruit, scraping through most of his fights. I think Luffy could make any Devil Fruit worth having because he's an excellent creative fighter and works damn hard to make his moves work. The preview for next episode looks to be an intermission between Doflamingo and Luffy meaning we have to wait around a little longer before we can conclude the fight. At least, we are in a position where they have been fighting. My prediction is that they're going to try and get Luffy to Mansherry for a quick patch job with Law so they can stop Doflamingo's regeneration. [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
The Battle Rages On!
It's been a while since I've caught up with One Piece and there's been so much to see. A quick first impression of Fourth Gear is it looked so stupid. And I think that's what Oda was going for because when I saw it in ac...


First Impressions: Myriad Colors Phantom World

Jan 30 // Nick Valdez
Based on a novel by Soichiro Hatano, Phantom World takes place in a future where a mysterious virus outbreak accidentally allows humanity to see outerdimensional beings that have always existed beside them. Think of any fantasy creature (like Jinn, ogres, yokai, and the like) and you've gotten the idea. Thanks to the virus, some children developed powers capable of fighting and sealing away some of the more wily phantoms. Haruhiko can draw phantoms and seal them away, but he's full of mostly useless facts since he's got a library in his house. Together with his phantom hunting club mates Mai, who uses martial arts and elemental powers she channels with her body (water from her kidneys, air from her lungs, etc.), and Izumi, a girl with a phantom absorbing stomach, they fight phantoms for sandwiches or something. First things first, Phantom World is absolutely gorgeous. KyoAni's high quality is still up to task here. There are great uses of color, the phantoms all have an interesting technological spin on them (think of them as kinda like Digimon when they appear in the real world and glitch in and out), the actual phantom sealing is beautiful as it takes on this swirling watercolor effect, the opening theme is kinda good, and the characters move with a pleasant fluidity. The character designs themselves are a bit uninspired, but everything moves well in motion so it kind of balances itself out. And despite all of Phantom World's (and my) jokes about boobs, it really lets off after the first episode. But there are a loooot of them. Almost to the point where I have to believe they gave one of their characters a large chest just to poke fun at her. That brings me to my issue with the first three episodes overall.  Unlike Kyoto Animation's tighter premises, there's a distinct lack of focus for this series. It doesn't really know what kind of show it wants to be. Is it an action show? A comedy? Because of this confusion, the pacing of each episode suffers quite a bit. With the series' set 12 or 13 episode run, any sleights are even more egregious. For example, the show has a monster of the week formula. This would be fine had there been at least some character development going on in the background or the phantoms themselves been any interesting, but so far nothing quite has any real depth. The first episode's phantom, telephone poles that force the gang to limbo (thus resulting in Mai's boob bounce weirdness), was goofy enough to work but that brought the episode to a halt. It was an encounter that didn't move the plot forward, and it was super weird seeing as how the first half of the episode dealt with so much world building. You'd figure the premiere would capitalize on it, but maybe they're trying to tell the audience they have a different type of story in mind. Although it sounds like I'm being harsh, I'm pretty sure I'm going to hang around for the rest of the series. By the end of the third episode it doesn't feel like Phantom World is any closer to finding a focus, but there were some positive developments. Episode two introduces Minase, a cool headphone wearing girl who fights phantoms by singing, Haruhiko's ability to summon super cute things, and episode three introduces a kid who probably fights using her teddy bear or something. Basically, there are enough tidbits here and there to keep me hooked through the rest of the series. If not, I'm hoping the show nails its pacing better down the line. At least it seems like its getting better at melding the comedy with the action by the end of the third episode. There's even a little bit of character development!  Myriad Colors Phantom World is definitely off to a rough start. It may be stunning to look at, but right now its best qualities are surface level. Since we're a quarter of the way into the story, it's a bit troubling there's yet to be something of true substance. But if you don't mind just looking at pretty animation and want some kind of new distraction, there certainly are worse options out there.  It's slick, some of the jokes land, and it's pretty cute. So maybe it'll get better over time? I certainly hope so.  [You can stream the myriad of colors of Crunchyroll and Hulu]
Phantom World Impressions photo
Myriad of boobs
Animation is a fantastic medium. With it you can do all sorts of otherworldly things like outlandish hair colors, crazy stories full of physical feats you can't do in the real world, and most importantly, you can really nail ...

Strong Style: The invasion begins!

Jan 30 // Soul Tsukino
The show opens with a greeting from Kazushi Sakuraba. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) vs. Roppongi Vice (Trent Baretta/Rocky Romero) Got to be honest, I kinda pull for the Vice tag team, since my first novel is set in a futuristic Roppongi Hills. The bucks, of course, are representing the Bullet Club while Vice is part of CHAOS, although I've only seen them do anything together with any of the other members once, and that was a match for Ring of Honor here in the states. Josh comes right out and says he is cheering for the Vice since he helped train Rocky Romero and they are very good friends. We start with Baretta and Nick Jackson as Nick acts like a twit and Baretta makes him pay for it with a punch to the mouth. He gets an early suplex on Nick and nearly gets a pin. Rocky is tagged in as they double team Nick with a clothesline. Matt tags in and gets hit for his troubles. Standing moonsault by Baretta nearly gets two. Both Matt and Nick bail outside the ring and decide it's over by grabbing the belts and starting back down the aisle. Vice goes after them only to get superkicked in the aisleway. The Jackson's run back to the ring while the Vice struggle to get back and Baretta shoves Romero back in the ring to beat that count at 19. We jump ahead with Matt Jackson having the advantage over Baretta. Matt teases Rocky on the apron by crotch-chopping using Baretta's hand and Rocky has had enough as he steps in and slugs Matt right in the face, Nick runs in and superkicks Rocky right off the apron in return. Baretta goes for the tag, but no partner so Matt hits an enziguri right to the back of Baretta's head and then gets in a few kicks on the fallen Baretta. Back from break as Nick goes to the top for a swanton and gets met with two knees of Baretta right to the back. Baretta gets the tornado DDT off the ropes and gets the tag to Rocky! He takes down both Jacksons and hits rapid fire clotheslines before he gets a rana on both men! He lands a blockbuster on Nick Jackson but only gets two. Vice double team on Nick hitting a guillotine legdrop on the ropes and a double knee but the pin is broken up. Matt mocks Rocky with the corner clotheslines of his own but Rocky returns the favor in force before Matt nails the superkick and Rocky hits a clothesline to send both men down. Matt takes out both Vice with a neckbreaker and then a dive to the outside. Rocky gets hit with a hangman dive from ropes and then Bucks go for the indytaker (spiked tombstone piledriver), only for Rocky to counter out. Rocky leaps up to meet Nick on the top and tries from the super rana off the top, but Nick blocks it and shoots him off the buckle into Matt's arms. Bucks hit the indytaker! The count is broken up as all four men are in the ring. The ref goes down and Baretta is hit with the double superkick. The Bucks go for their finisher, more bang for your buck combo, but Rocky counters out and Baretta runs back in and jumps up to send Matt down to the mat with a slam. He scoops up Matt and Baretta hits the Omori driver to score the pin and win the titles! Vice celebrate in the ring by grabbing the mic. Rocky states that they are going to have a naughty naughty party tonight! Backstage Rocky says his partner belongs in Japan and that he overcame injury to win this match. Baretta doesn't know what to say but Rocky says it's his partner's birthday and it is time to party! Good fast paced match from these guys. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title: Kenny Omega vs. Mascara Dorada It's The Cleaner! The bad boy of the Jr.s division steps up to defend his title against the masked man from Mexico by way of the CMLL. We saw these two have a bit of a standoff here in a previous episode, now it's time to get it on. Dorada is actually smart as he comes out with the Time Splitters, Tiger Mask, Jushin Liger, and Capt. New Japan in his corner. Omega has Tama Tonga and Cody Hall with him. Omega goes for the tie-up but the masked man slips right by him and bounces off the ropes for some lucha flips and Dorada goes for a diving attack but Omega moves sending Dorada on his face with a splat. Omega takes him into the corner and starts working him over early. Alex Shelley jumps on the apron and Kenny spits right on him for that. Dorada recovers and starts his offence with an armlock. He climbs the ropes like nothing and flips, sending Omega to the outside. Dorada then launches himself into the air and crashes right into Omega who bends backwards over the barrier. Damn!  However, Omega recovers first and tries to send his foe into the barrier. He goes for the running strike but misses. Dorada leaps up for the headscissors but Kenny catches him and slams him down with a powerbomb on the ring apron! We skip ahead as Omega hits the Regal roll but misses the standing shooting star press. Dorada leaps up to his feet and hits a DDT on Omega.  He grabs the armlock again and walks right up the ropes and then walks ON the rope with no effort before blasting Omega with a dropkick. Coming back from break as Dorada gets whipped into the corner. Omega goes for something and ends up on the apron. Dorada launches over the rope and hits a rana on Omega off the apron sending him to the floor. Dorada gets a running start in the ring and belly flops on the canvas as he slides out and hits a splash on Omega on the floor. He is safe on third base with that slide! We skip ahead again as Dorada gets a pin attempt but doesn't get it. He tries to get another but doesn't get it either. Omega to the apron and Dorada tries a suplex but it doesn't go. Omega climbs to the middle of the second rope and gets caught. Dorada leaps up to the top, walks the ropes with no trouble and gets a rana on Omega! He then adds to that bit of awesome when he leaps up, walks the ropes AGAIN, facing the crowd and does a moonsault into the ring. THAT is balance. Dorada makes the mistake of no going for the pin and Omega leaps up and Omega hits the snapdragon suplex on him that nearly scores the pin. He sets Dorada up on his shoulders for the electric chair, but the luchador rolls through with a victory roll. Omega counters out and gets Dorada up and hits the one winged angel slam for the pinfall and the win to retain the title! Being the Bullet Club, Omega grabs the mic and says that he's taken out the Japanese trash, the Mexican trash, now it's time to take out the American trash nd calls out Alex Shelley. Shelley isn't to impressed and gets in Omegas face. Omega points the gun to Shelley's chest, but Alex grabs it and I swear he makes the salute motion from Attack on Titan, fist over heart and everything. That was odd. Backstage Shelley tells the Cleaner that he'll have to clean up his parts after he leaves Omega in pieces in the ring. We get some words from Sakuraba as he talks about wanting to tag with Yano since they are different styles. He loves to watch Yano from the apron since he never knows with Yano will do next. He doesn't think much of Shibata so he doesn't have much to say, think it wasn't very special that he was matched up with him. Gotta love the Japanese logic of not caring about your matches.   Katsuyori Shibata/Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazushi Sakuraba/Toru Yano Talk about strange bedfellows. This is like Vince Russo booking puroreu. The story here is that Tanahashi wants revenge on Yano after the trickster pinned the ace of NJPW in less than 3 minutes during the New Japan Cup we saw two weeks ago. Sakuraba is teaming with Yano because he thinks Yano is funny I guess (Kazushi doesn't seem to have much of a grasp of kayfabe). Shibata used to be partners with Sakuraba when they came back to NJPW as Laughter-7 in 2012 but drifted apart when Shibata was fighting people like Nakamura and Tanahashi for abandoning the company nearly a decade ago. Got all that?  Mauro wonders how Tanahashi and Shibata will work out since they feuded recently. Josh, god bless him, describes Tanahashi as if "Motley Crue and Godzilla had a baby." I'm almost salivating at the idea of his descriptions when matched up with Jim Ross. We come back from break as Tanahashi starts with Yano. Yano goes immediately for the ropes and doesn't want to lock up. He then bails out of the ring. We have less than tem minutes left of the show as Yano is dicking around. Yano goes for the lock up and ducks right through it as he runs over and tags Sakuraba, to which Shibata is tagged in. They go for some grappling with waistlocks and counters that ends up with Shibata going for a heel hook but Sakuraba scoots right out. They both go for anklelocks on each other and that stalemate ends in the ropes. They stand back up as Josh mentions the time Sakuraba went into a big fight wearing an adult diaper (hopefully under his gear) in case he had to take care of business during the fight. Mauro adds that other fighters should probably do the same. No, I do NOT want to hear stories of MMA guys crapping themselves. Sakuraba then tries to play some Yano type games with Shibata by bailing out of the ring and just as Shibata goes for him, he gets right back in again. That goes nowhere. They go right back into the fight as Shibata gets hold of Sakuraba and brings him right back into the corner where he tags in Tanahashi. Hiroshi actually does well against Kazushi and gets him over with a snap mare and unloads a fine European uppercut. Mauro is surprised as he says that while Sakuraba, Shibata, and even Yano have amateur backgrounds, Tanahashi got into wrestling through college (IE backyard) shows. Yano breaks this up as he grabs Tanahashi's ankles and yanks him out of the ring where he blasts him into the barrier. Tanahashi is thrown back into the ring where Sakuraba kicks him a few times before hitting a running double stomp right to Tanahashi's face! Yano tags in and picks Tanahashi up before sending him into the turnbuckles where he had removed the protective pad. Shibata comes in and he gets whipped into the exposed buckles. They spill to the outside where Yano and Kazushi send their opponents into the barrier outside. Tanahashi rolls back in where Yano tries for the yakikiri again but only gets two. He tries for a roll up but again doesn't get it. He tries a running attack but Tanahashi rolls out of the way and Yano crashes into the exposed buckles. Tanahashi tries to get something in, but Yano just pulls the hair again sending Hiroshi down. Shibata gets the tag and so does Sakuraba. Shibata opens up on him with forearms in the corner and then nails him with a series of hard forearms to the face. Kazushi stands up and Shibata hits a quick suplex. He then pulls Sakuraba's jersey over his head and then locks in the figure four. They get to the ropes and break the hold. Kazushi pulls his jersey off and grabs Shibata and starts drilling in some Thai knee strikes. Sakuraba smells blood and locks in the rear naked choke on Shibata. He has it in tight but Shibata is fighting it, all while his eyes roll back in his head. He finally gets to the ropes and the hold is broken. Sakuraba hits a kick and then locks in a tight double wrist lock. Shibata fights it but out of nowhere SHIBATA SUBMITS! In the back, Yano talks about how he is the ace of the company now. Sakuraba says that Shibata should be fighting Tanahashi but if he wants to go, he doesn't mind. In the studio Kazushi says that he was given the chance to tag up, so he went for it. Simply put. He says that he wasn't targeting Shibata, but that's how things worked out. He doesn't know if he and Shibata will fight in a singles match ("It's none of my business") but he still doesn't think Shibata is very special. I don't say this often, but this show underperformed. While the first two matches were entertaining, there were a lot of edits and cuts. The main event wasn't a good match at all with so much goofy shit going on and its small run time. It wasn't a terrible experience by any means, but this show has done better. Next week we see more from this show, hopefully including Kota Ibushi cashing in his New Japan Cup title shot. We will see you then! We start with Baretta and Nick Jackson as Nick acts like a twit and Baretta makes him pay for it with a punch to the mouth.. He gets an early suplex on Nick and nearly gets a pin. Rocky is tagged in as they double team Nick with a clothesline. Matt tags in and gets hit for his troubles. Standing moonsault by Baretta nearly gets two. Both Matt and Nick bail outside the ring and decide it's over by grabbing the belts and starting back down the aisle. Vice goes after them only to get superkicked in the aisleway. The Jackson's run back to the ring while the Vice struggle to get back and Baretta shoves Romero back in the ring to beat that count at 19.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
I don't know why it's called that either
Welcome back to Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. This week we stop by the Sumo Hall in Tokyo for the first part of coverage of the "Invasion Attack" show from April 5th, 2015. Why is it called that when no one is invading? Your guess is as good as mine. Anyway, let's get to the action!

Annotated Anime: Haruchika: Haruta & Chika episodes 2-4

Jan 29 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 2 This episode amazed me right off the bat. While the first episode did so well in introducing Chika to its viewers, it didn't really delve much into anyone else. This episode you find out a lot about Haruta in just the first opening six minutes of the episode. You get a glimpse into his life including his living conditions where he lives by himself in an old apartment and that he has three sisters but doesn't seem to like being around him. There is a bit of a funny scene when Haruta invites Chika into his apartment and Chika panics about a girl going into the apartment of a boy who lives alone, but Haruta shuts that down in an instant. Haruta tends to be blunt and even poke at Chika a little bit. The rest of the episode is based on trying to get a new member into the club named Miyo. Miyo is an oboe player that Haruta has been trying to recruit but she is very standoffish. Honestly, it gets a little creepy as Haruta has this almost stalker like knowledge of Miyo that no one else seems to find a little creepy, but does give an explanation as to why the girl refuses to play her music ever again. The further Chika and Haruta dig into Miyo's past the more heartbreaking it becomes. Finally they, along with a girl who also tried to be friends with Miyo, break through her cold exterior. She presents them with a challenge in the form of an all white colored Rubix cube that she said was left to her as a punishment. She tells them they have until the end of the week to solve it and will join the club if they do. I've got to hand it to the creators of this series, whether this is from the books or not I'm not sure, but this is a moment where you start wondering what exactly is the game here? It's not some obvious answer and makes you more intrigued as to what is there to actually solve instead of just finding the answer. I won't give too much away, but it is a very emotional scene. For a character just introduced less than 30 minutes before, you feel for her when the answer is found. I will admit that I shed a few tears. This episode really impressed me with its story and layout. It accomplished a lot in introducing a new character while explaining details of one of the main characters, it had a creative and original puzzle to solve, a creative way to solve it, and a powerful and emotional story as to why the puzzle needs to be solved. Whoever came up with this particular story knew what they were doing and if this is a sign of the rest of the series, then I will be enjoying the ride.   Episode 3 Thankfully this episode is a lot lighter on the emotions than the last episode was. However, this episode really makes you think a lot more as there is no physical puzzle to solve. The focus of this week's ep is Maren, the saxophone player. Haruta, Chika, and Miyo practically stumble on him as Haruta and Miyo are helping the drama club and it seems Maren is terrible. Of course, Haruta digs more into Maren with the head of the Drama club. We get a little bit into the background of him and his life story of being adopted from China, cut in with scenes of him agonizing over a letter and a metal briefcase. This is when things start getting interesting. Haruta wants Maren to join the club but the drama club president doesn't want to let him go until Maren has performed on stage once. Haruta writes an idea for both clubs to be together in a play but it is rejected.  I REALLY want to mention the scene where we meet the "star" of the drama club, Maya. When Chika tries to greet her, the girl barks at her. Seriously. Turns out she's a bit of a method actor and the drama club instructor wanted her to be in the mindset of a wolf girl or something. The two clubs agree to an interesting challenge. They will take part in an improvised acting challenge. Each club has three people, Haruta, Chika, and Miyo for the brass club, and the drama club president, Maya, and Maren for the drama club. The challenge is for each club to try and make a certain member of the opposite club leave the scene first (Miyo and Maren are the ones picked). The plot of the play is that they are 6 counterfeiters on the run. As in previous episodes, Haruta is the star here as he takes over and tells the story and manipulates the scene. Very creatively done how he gets through this and makes it look easy. You aren't even sure what the "puzzle" of this episode is until it is solved. If there is a drawback here, Haruta once again gets scary accurate in the details of Maren's life and it isn't entirely explained how the heck he found all this out. I think he may have gotten it from the drama club president but it's not really stated. It does stick out a lot on how this kid would know the back-story and details of someone he just met. The episode was still enjoyable and it's a wonder to see Haruta solve all these puzzles, but this one felt like there was something missing in the details. It's still impressive how he solves things and the ending is heartwarming, but it feels like something has been left out.   Episode 4 This episode is a bit different than the ones we have seen. Instead of the episode revolving around introducing a new member to the brass club, this time, the episode revolves around Haruta and his living conditions. This episode delves more into Haruta's family as we meet his oldest sister, Minami, and find out why he thinks living at home is such hell. The episode gets more interesting when the explore a supposedly haunted small apartment building and hear the back-story behind it. The "puzzle" they solve with the building is again, very creative and how it is resolved is also well thought out, like the previous episodes. Like the episode centered around Miyo and the Rubix cube, you are compelled to watch this ep to find out what the answer is and it is wrap up in a nice touching story as well. It's a Christmas episode sure, but it's not your usual Christmas anime episode as it doesn't go over the top and make things too goofy around the holiday. We are at the fourth episode and it may seem odd to do another Haruta based episode, but I'm not sure if this ep would have worked as well as an episode two or three as it was. We had to get to see more of Haruta's personality and the show's rhythm in his abilities to solve these puzzles before we should see something like this. However, this episode seemed different than the others have been. There was more a sense of humor in this one with thing like seeing what has become of Haruta and why he dislikes his family, Chika's teasing of Miyo about the ghosts she's so afraid of, and especially in the flashbacks of why this whole situation is what it is. Dare I say it felt more like an anime episode if that means anything. I'm not familiar with the source material at all so I don't know if this is a filler episode or just one that is made to be a little more lighthearted and different. I'm not saying it is bad. It's certainly not. But there is a difference there, at least, to me anyway.   This batch of episodes was a lot of fun for me. The silliness didn't take over the series, the creativeness in the writing was excellent as not only were the puzzles creative but how they solved them was very creative as well. There is a problem sometimes that you get lost and Haruta does come across as a bit of a stalker, but those things don't kill the show. Still wondering why we haven't seen much from the twins and Keisuke yet, I'd like to know more about them. But, we are just getting started and have much more to go. See you next time! This episode amazed me right off the bat. While the first episode did so well in introducing Chika to it's viewers, it didn't really delve much into anyone else. This episode you find out a lot about Haruta in just the first opening six minutes of the episode. You get a glimpse into his life including his living conditions where he lives by himself in an old apartment and that he has three sisters but doesn't seem to like being around him.   There is a bit of a funny scene when Haruta invites Chika into his apartment and Chika panics about a girl going into the apartment of a boy who lives alone, but Haruta shuts that down in an instant.   The rest of the episode is based around trying to get a new member into the club named Miyo. Miyo is an oboe player that Haruta has been trying to recruit but she is very stand offish. Honestly it gets a little creepy as Haruta has this almost stalker like knowledge of Kiyo that no one seems to find a little creepy, but does give an explanation as to why the girl refuses to play her music ever again.   The further Chika and Haruta dig into Kiyo's past the more heartbreaking it becomes. Finally they, along with a girl who also tried to be friends with Kiyo, break through her cold exterior. She presents them with a challenge in the form of an all white colored rubix cube that she said was left to her as a punishment. She tells them they have until the end of the week to solve it and will join the club if they do.   I've got to hand it to the creators of this series, whether this is from the books or not I'm not sure, but this is a moment where you start wondering what exactly is the game here? It's not some obvious answer and makes you more intrigued as to what is there to actually solve instead of just finding the answer.   I won't spoil the ending, but it is a very emotional scene. For a character just introduced less than 30 minutes before, you feel for her when the answer is found. I will admit that I shed a few tears.   This episode really impressed me with it's story and layout. It accomplished a lot in introducing a new character while explaining details of one of the main characters, it had a creative and original puzzle to solve, a creative way to solve it, and a powerful and emotional story as to why the puzzle needs to be solved. Whomever came up with this particular story knew what they were doing and if this is a sign of the rest of the series, then I will be enjoying the ride.
Haruchika photo
Complete with lots of feels.
So now that we took a look at the first episode of this series, now it's time to see more of what makes this show go and what makes these characters tick. We've already seen that this series is not one of shock and surprise a...

First Impressions: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

Jan 27 // Josh Tolentino
I've actually got a theory as to why the job of adapting this manga fell to Studio DEEN rather than the committee that decides what Shun Oguri or some other hot talent gets to star in each year, but first it'd be best to get into what Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (which I'll just call Showa Rakugo for convenience) actually is. Set during the 1960s and '70s, the show stars Kyoji, a newly-released convict who wants to take up rakugo, the old-fashioned Japanese art of storytelling. Through sheer passion and puppy-like charm, he prevails upon the reigning master, Yakumo Yurakutei the 8th, to take him in as a disciple. Kyoji meets Konatsu, the daughter of Sukeroku Yurakutei, Yakumo's old friend and fellow disciple under Yakumo the 7th (rakugo performers usually take new names as their careers bloom - think "Meijin Kawaguchi" and you've got the idea). Sukeroku died in an accident, but Konatsu's convinced Yakumo is somehow responsible. That's the gist of things as far as the core "plot" goes, but there's plenty packed into Showa Rakugo's double-length first episode, such as the fact that Kyoji (now working as name of Yotaro Yurakutei) is finding Sukeroku's style of rakugo to be much closer to his own personality and temperament than Yakumo's. And then there's Kyoji's old boss, trying to pull his underling back into the life. There's also Konatsu's own desire to perform rakugo conflicting with both the glass ceiling and her own inability to release her grudge against Yakumo and let him train her. And then there's almost sinister regard Yakumo himself holds for his departed friend. And then episodes 2 and 3 flip the script, rolling into an extended flashback of Yakumo and Sukeroku's youth, back when they were called Bon and Shin, respectively (and then Kikuhiko and Hatsutaro). Exploring their life before, against the backdrop of World War II and the postwar reconstruction, as well as against the changing fortunes of rakugo itself, not only deepens our understanding of both Yakumon and Sukeroku, but also of the mysteries in the present. How did these two guys, so close they're practically the canon pairing, grow apart? Why did Kikuhiko eventually inherit the name of Yakumo when Hatsutaro (who would be Sukeroku) was clearly the more talented and passionate practitioner? And who's the fancy-looking temptress that shows up looking for their master? And where does the "shinjuu" part of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, which stands for a "lovers' suicide", come in? It's all tightly packed and doesn't let up or repeat itself unnecessarily, and adds more depth to the cast than whole episodes worth of world-building in a different, more genre-bound show.  That's not to say that Showa Rakugo isn't a genre program. It's definitely a historical drama, no question about that. The thing that makes it stand out from your typical seasonal anime, though, is how grounded it is. The usual thread of absurdity that runs through most anime series - even the good ones - isn't here. What I'm talking about is the way other shows often use some form of contrivance to help their hook. Think about ERASED and its element of time travel, or even Shirobako and its occasional outbursts of drift-racing and group hallucination. By comparison, all Showa Rakugo has are its human elements, and rakugo. That groundedness is why I wondered why this isn't a prestige program in live-action. Which leads to my theory, which is that a live-action show about rakugo would require too much actual rakugo. Y'see, rakugo itself mainly consists of a performer sitting in front of his audience and then reciting a story. Usually comedic, the story always involves dialog between multiple characters, forcing the performer to play every role in it with nothing more than his or her personal skill, and a fan for a prop. Add to that that the stories themselves are often well-known to the audience, and it's all up to each individual performer to put their own spin on the delivery. It's Japanese expressiveness in microcosm. That in mind, any actors seeking to play rakugo performers would have to get pretty good at rakugo themselves just to be convincing. It's easier to animate a person being a good actor, by comparison. That puts the onus on the voice cast, which in Showa Rakugo performs brilliantly. Of particular note are Akira Ishida, who plays Yakumo, and Tomokazu Seki, who plays Kyoji. Both give full-length rakugo performances in the first episode, and pull it off with gusto. Ishida in particular goes above and beyond, as his duties in the flashback include acting like a guy who's bad at acting, getting better.  Of course, it might not be for everyone. Showa Rakugo is ultimately a talky soap about an old-fashioned, arguably tedious form of Japanese performance art. But for the right audience, though, it's a particularly rare gem of an anime, one that reminds folks just what's possible for Japanese cartoons.
Showa Rakugo photo
Stand up for some sit-down
If you've ever held the opinion that the medium of Japanese anime could stand to see more mature stories for adults, you absolutely owe it to yourself to at least try watching Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu.  I'm not...

Strong Style: The Final Four

Jan 23 // Soul Tsukino
With that out of the way, we come to this week's show looking at the semifinals and final for the 2015 New Japan Cup. Last week, we looked at the first half of the first round. AXS has decided to skip way ahead of things so here are the matches that you missed. First Round: Togi Makabe defeated Tomoaki Honma Yujiro Takahashi defeated YOSHI-HASHI Katsuyori Shibata defeated Satoshi Kojima Hirooki Goto defeated Yuji Nagata Second Round: Togi Makabe defeated Yujiro Takahashi Hirooki Goto defeated Katsuyori Shibata Tetsuya Naito defeated Bad Luck Fale Kota Ibushi defeated Toru Yano So, now that we are up to speed on things, let's get to the action! We start off this week's show with a greeting from Kota Ibushi as we are at the Hiroshima Sun Plaza on March 15, 2015 New Japan Cup Semifinal: Togi Makabe vs. Hirooki Goto Not exactly a beauty contest is it? Call the hospital, 'cuz this one is gonna hurt. Two hard hitting guys meeting head on and there must be a winner. Goto won three of these tournaments already ('08,'09,'12), can he win a fourth? Mauro mentions who each guy beat to get here as they enter the ring. Lock up to start but goes nowhere. Goto gets the headlock. A few shoulder blocks as Mauro tells us about Makabe's sweet tooth. They go right outside the ring and start bashing each other into the barricade and exchange hits. We jump ahead as we are back in the ring again. Goto gets Togi up and hits the ushi-karoshi! He doesn't go for the pin but instead lifts Togi up awkwardly for something but loses his grip. Togi regains his footing and runs off the ropes, hitting a double axhandle and then a clothesline to the back of Goto's head! Ouch! Togi grabs Goto and lifts him onto the turnbuckle for the spider suplex but as Makabe heads up, Goto throws a few elbows to his opponent's face. He gets turned around on the turnbuckle and hits Togi again, sending him hanging in the tree of woe. Goto comes down and gets Togi in a hanging neckbreaker. He tries for a pin but gets only two. Goto tries to get a suplex on the big guy, but Togi hits a few chops to escape. He follows up with a German suplex but Goto gets out of it and ties Togi's legs up for the gotoshiki and gets the three count! Not entirely what I was expecting there, but still fun to watch! New Japan Cup semifinal: Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi This is a very even matchup and a complete opposite of the first match. Both these guys are the quickest in the heavyweight division (both being former Juniors who moved up in weight class) and this is going to be a fast-paced collision. Looking forward to this and the crowd is fired up for this one too. Lock up into an armbar for Ibushi goes right into counters back and forth for both guys. They run the ropes leading to both guys throwing dropkicks at the same time. We jump ahead and things have picked up as Kota hits the springboard dropkick. Kota lands a standing corkscrew moonsault (Damn!) but doesn't get the pin. Ibushi gets a kick to the face and a neckbreaker from Naito. We skip ahead again (really?) as Naito hits a sweet suplex but he holds on and tries for a dragon suplex that Kota flips right through. They trade strikes as Ibushi catches Naito off the ropes and hits the dragon suplex he was gong for originally. We come back from break with both guys down. Kota up first and gets the slam on Naito before heading up top. Naito catches him twice and climbs up before getting the reverse Frankensteiner on Ibushi from the top! The pin doesn't get it. Naito hits a forearm and Ibushi hits right back. Exchange starts and they are swinging for the fences with these forearms. Naito goes for the home run off the ropes but Kota clotheslines him and Naito spins in the air and down right on his head! Naito hits the rana but the pin is only two. Dragon suplex still only gets two! Naito goes for what looks like a pump handle slam but Kota elbows out. Kota into the ropes and Naito goes for a roll up but Kota catches him halfway and drops him straight down on his head! GANZO BOMB! Damn, how does that not kill guys deader than hell? Naito's injured his shoulder. Kota goes for Naito and Naito SLAPS Kota right in the face. Ibushi lands the high kick to Naito twice. Ibushi hits a HIGH sit out powerbomb and gets the pinfall! Backstage Kota says he can't lose now and he needs to win. Studio words from Ibushi as he talks about how the single elimination tournament style suits him and that he put a lot of his energy into the fight with Ibushi. He says that he thought of Goto as clumsy and straightforward, but they had never met in the ring before. 2015 New Japan Cup Final: Kota Ibushi vs. Hirooki Goto Who's got anything left in the tank to go one more round? Goto seems fine but Ibushi is sucking a little wind on their entrances. Barnett mentions that Goto has less in ring time tonight than Ibushi and that Kota needs to be quick and strike hard. Both men get good crowd response in the intro. Bell rings and they circle before the lock up. They go into the corner and Ibushi breaks with only a pat on the chest, Goto responds with a smack. They exchange strikes and Goto hits the shoulder. Goto gets a headlock and his grinding on it.  Shoot-off ends with Kota hitting a dropkick. Goto goes outside and Kota tries for the golden triangle but Goto gets in the ring and slams Ibushi with a clothesline on the apron that puts Kota down with a flip. Outside Goto kicks the fallen Kota before slamming him into the post. Goto rolls Kota into the ring and climbs up top for a big elbow. Pin gets two and grabs a chinlock before hitting and straight elbow. Goto gets the headscissors and cranks on it. Kota gets a foot on the rope for the break. Kota surprises me as he pops up and lands an elbow to Goto's face, but Goto hits him right back. Kota slides out of a suplex attempt for a dragon suplex, but Goto counters and goes to the ropes only to get a headscissors for his trouble. Goto rolls out of the ring and gets met with the golden triangle moonsualt. Ibushi got BIG air on that one. Both men are tired and  Kota rolls him into the ring and hit another springboard dropkick but doesn't get the pin. Kota lands strikes, slaps, kicks, and finalizes with a standing moonsault onto Goto. The pin doesn't get it, though. Kota tries for the dragon suplex but Goto reverses, only for Kota to reverse but get met with a running Goto clothesline. Goto lands some kicks and lands a flying kick in the corner and a suplex, but only gets two again. Kota gets out of the ushikoroshi and trades some hits before Goto hits a strike before hitting a backflip kick. Kota hits the mafia kick and picks Goto up to the top turnbuckle. Kota follows him with elbows, but Goto hits back and Goto goes for the powerbomb but Kota wiggles out, only to get a clothesline to send him to the apron. Kota jumps up top and hits the super rana off the top rope! Nice! Back from break, as Kota wills himself up and gets Goto up for a powerbomb but Goto gets out and hits the ushikaroshi! He doesn't get it quite right and both guys are hurt and stunned. They start trading elbows while on their knees and soon it picks up into a rapid fire back and forth. Goto wins that exchange and Ibushi collapses. Goto gets up and drags Ibushi to his feet. Goto hits a clothesline but it doesn't work as Kota clotheslines him back. The duel goes for Goto as he hits a spinning clothesline to send Kota down, but only gets two on the pin attempt. Goto picks Ibushi up and gives him a spinning faceplant right to the mat, but again, it only gets two. Hirooki lifts Kota up, possibly for another ushikaroshi, but Ibushi lands the knee to the head, drops out of the suplex and comes off the ropes with a clothesline that sends Goto for a flip in the air. Ibushi tires for his high powerbomb but Goto sits out the lift and wiggles out. He tries for a clothesline but Kota smacks him right in the face. Goto then drops Kota with a strike and picks Ibushi up for a powerbomb but Kota flies out of the counter for the strike. Kota Ibushi lands a kick right to the head. Kota hits his powerbomb he won the last match with but only gets two. Ibushi exhaustedly climbs up and gets the phoenix splash and gets the pin! Kota Ibushi wins the tournament! Kota Ibushi gets a big check and a HUGE trophy. He announces that he wants A.J. Styles and the IWGP title! He stops as the crowd chants his name and he says he will win the belt at the next show on April 5th. Backstage he is grateful to his fans for supporting him as he wins his first title as a heavyweight with this win. He hopes they cheer him on when he goes for the big one. Studio words as he says he is happy he has won and says that both were good matches that night, but that Goto was not like he imagined he would be. He doesn't really elaborate on how he thought Goto would be, though (clumsy and straightforward maybe?) and we end this week on that note. Due to some of the time constraints, this show was a bit on the disappointing side. The main event was great but the editing in the first two matches left things to be desired. Once again Mauro and Josh did their jobs well, especially in covering the ground no shown on TV. It was a fair episode of the show, but I bet next week will be better. See you next week! /ul/34711-/match 3-620x.jpg
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
We wrap up the 2015 New Japan Cup!
Hey hey! The providers of Puroresu are back again this week as Strong Style takes a look at NJPW on AXS TV. We've got a lot to cover before we even get to the action so before we begin let's cover a few things. First, the big...

Strong Style: It's Season 4 baby!

Jan 16 // Soul Tsukino
We get a greeting from Toru Yano! He keeps asking why are they filming him as he stands against the a wall. That is Yano for you. Round 1 match:  Kota Ibushi vs. Doc Gallows Speed vs. strength in this one. Ibushi had a great showing against Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 9 while Gallows is one-half of the IWGP Tag Champions here. Gallows comes to the ring with Cody Hall and Tama Tonga. If you have been keeping up with Strong Style, you notice Cody hasn't wrestled on here yet. Although he is in the Bullet Club, he is still considered a "young boy" in NJPW and only really wrestles in curtain jerkers since he hasn't earned a bigger spot yet. Since this show doesn't waste time with scrub matches, his stuff doesn't get shown. Anyway, back to the match. They circle around and Gallows muscles him a bit in the corner but backs off for the clean break. Doc then just grabs Kota by the throat and throws him around. Gallows runs right into Ibushi with a clothesline right to the throat sending him into the corner. Tama Tonga then clocks Ibushi right in the face from the outside. Doc hits a big suplex and goes for the pin. Doesn't get it. Kota starts whirlwind strikes but gets clobbered to send him down. Doc leans on him with a headlock while clubbing him in the chest. Doc goes for a big splash but misses. Crowd chants for Ibushi and they exchange shots before Kota nails the big guy with a dropkick and hits the golden triangle moonsault out to the floor to wipe out the Club. Ibushi rolls the big guy in the ring and jumps right to the top, hitting a dropkick. Gallows staggers to his feet with Kota trying for the German suplex, but the big guy doesn't budge. Gallows runs off the ropes for a clothesline but Ibushi slides in behind him and lands the German suplex. Gallows recovers and catches Ibushi with his old "12 steps" finisher but doesn't go for the pin. Doc is looking to finish him off with the Hangman's noose but Ibushi reverses it into a roll-up and a 3 count! That was a quick one. But they told the story they wanted in that short amount of time. Good match.   Round 1 match: Tetsuya Naito vs. "Machine Gun" Karl Anderson This is a pretty even match. Although known as a tag team wrestler, Anderson has shown he does well in singles action. And although he is a graduated guy from the Juniors division, Naito can go with the heavys. Once again Tama Tonga and Cody Hall come out for the Club. Josh mentions that these two have met each other a bunch of times so there isn't a lot they haven't seen out of each other in a match. Karl Attacks before the bell and takes things outside on Naito. Naito gets the ring apron powerbomb right off the bat! Damn. Naito struggles up and drags himself up to the apron where Karl rams his head right into the post and sending Naito back out for the count. Naito barely makes it to the apron where Anderson ties him up in the ropes and lands a kick to Naito's face before laying in some shots. Anderson lands another straight kick to the face and Naito is on the floor again. Naito makes it back in at the count of 19 and Karl meets him by trying to pin him 3 times in a row with no dice. Anderson is just killing Naito now with hits and elbows right to the face before getting Naito in a reverse facelock. Tetsuya fights out of it, only to land in a bodyslam to the mat. Anderson goes for a senton but Naito rolls out of the way. At this point, Mauro talks about that weird eye pose that Naito does. Evidently while he was on his excursion in Mexico, racist fans would make that gesture to him to make fun of him being Asian. Naito ended up adopting it as his own to take the sting out of it. Naito has also described it as he is opening eyes around the world. Kind of a cool empowerment story right there. Back to the action as Naito gets Karl in the corner with a fast stiff strikes. Naito goes for a rana but Karl catches him and starts for a running powerbomb, but Naito goes for it and gets the rana off anyway. We come back from a break as Naito is back up to his feet. He and Karl trade wristlocks before Anderson sends him into the ropes and hits a sweet spinebuster (that's a different Anderson) before landing a straight kick right to Naito's face. Naito gets back up but Karl hits a running kick to the face sending Naito for a loop and down on his face. Seeing his moment, Anderson sets Naito up on his shoulders for the gun stun, but Naito wiggles out. He tries for a diving something but overshoots Anderson, who grabs Naito and hits the gun stun! Pin attempts only gets two. Anderson tries for another guns stun, but Naito wiggles out of that and hits and enziguri kick to Anderson before hitting a flying forearm. Naito picks Anderson up and puts him on the top rope for the super rana, but Anderson counters and drops him with a super powerbomb! Anderson goes for the cover as Naito kicks out. Tetsuya will not quit! Trade of forearms  goes nowhere for either man before Karl starts throwing European forearms. Karl goes for the exploder suplex and lands Naito right on his neck on the knee! No pin here. He goes for the gun stun again but Naito gets a backslide for two, goes for another pin and still only gets two. Naito hits the German suplex but still can't win. He goes for broke now as he climbs to the top rope and hits the stardust press and gets the three count! Damn that was a fun one! Backstage Naito says it doesn't matter who he faces in the next round he wants to be the best! Round 1 match: "The Rainmaker" Kazuchika Okada vs. Bad Luck Fale Aw, crap. If you saw my round-up of the last season you know that Fale doesn't exactly set my world on fire. Okada will have to go extra hard to make this on par with the other matches. Fale though really only sees success when NJPW needs him too,  He won the IC title from Nakamura to create the image he could actually win the G1 tournament and then dropped it right back when it was over. He got to the finals of this tournament last year, losing to Tanahashi. The rest of the time he competes in mid to lower card tag matches with the Bullet Club if he even competes at all on a show. Fale comes to the ring with who else but Cody Hall and Tama Tonga (who is criminally underused, especially against Fale's appearances). Okada comes to the ring with Gedo as always. After leaving WrestleKingdom in tears, he wants a win. Lock up as Fale muscles Okada into the corner and goes for the hit as Okada ducks out of that. Okada gets some hits on the big guy and gets a sunset flip. Fale tries to drop on him but Okada moves quick. Okada gets aggressive and kicks Fale right out of the ring. Fale gets on the apron and grabs Okada right by the throat and chucks Okada right out over the top and to the floor! We jump ahead as Fale has the advantage with a slam. He goes for the splash but misses as the crowd is behind Okada here. Okada ducks out of the corner charge and slams the big guy! He hits a few running forearms and then a DDT before a kip-up and hits a flying dive into the corner and then hits a clothesline send Fale to the floor. Fale gets smacked with a kick to the face sending him over the barricade but when Okada goes for the splash, Fale catches him and splats him right n the floor. Back in the ring as we jump ahead as they are trading shots.  Okada hits a kick and a dropkick to send Fale down. He climbs to the top and hits a flying elbow into the Rainmaker pose! He goes for something but Fale counters getting Okada up into a Samoan drop and nearly gets the pin. Fale hits the spear but again only gets two! Okada looks like hell now as Fale goes for a piledriver but Okada counters into the exploder neckbreaker (THAT is Impressive!). Okada goes for the tombstone but Fale is just too big for that. Fale goes for the bad luck fall (razor's edge) but Okada counters. He goes for the Rainmaker but Fale goes for the grenade, Okada counters with a dropkick but Fale gets him up again. Fale detonates the grenade! He goes for the pin but Okada kicks out again! Fale climbs to the top and hits a splash! OKADA KICKS OUT!  Fale can tell he's close though as he gets Okada up for the bad luck fall and with that gets the three count. Wow...really? Of all the Bullet Club members to get to the next round it's Bad Luck Fale... OVER OKADA no less. We get some words from Yano. He talks about running in the Tokyo Marathon (!) but that while he was in shape, he couldn't just wrestle for hours and hours. He talks about how different he and Tanahashi are in that Tanahashi is old-fashioned and trains in old-fashioned ways while he goes out and sells DVDs. Round 1 match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Toru Yano This is a strange one. You have the CHAOS goofball member taking on the ace of New Japan in Tanahashi. Seems a bit of a lopsided contest and a forgone conclusion, but NJPW can surprise people sometimes. Tanahashi is coming off the quick loss of the IWGP title back to A.J. Styles after having the belt for only a month and a half. With Okada eliminated, Tanahashi looks to be the favorite. Yano comes out with a chair, a bottle of water, and a DVD of what looks like a best of CHAOS DVD collection. Josh and Mauro call him deceptively evil and he is trained in MMA and amateur wrestling so he is no joke. Josh mentions being in Yano's corner for his one and only Pancreas fight. Tanahashi comes out air guitaring it. Both men trade waistlocks as Yano seems to have drunk some coffee before the match and is moving at a million miles an hour. Yano gets a very quick wristlock and Tanahashi gets out of it. Yano then bolts right to the corner and pulls off the big turnbuckle pad but Tanahashi grabs him. Mauro elaborates more on Yano's marathon, saying he ran the event and finished in about 6.5 hours and then wrestled a match for Pro Wrestling NOAH THAT NIGHT. That is like Bob Backlund-like crazy training, and Yano has man boobs! They trade some shots before Yano nearly sends Tanahashi into the ref who cowers in the corner. Meanwhile, Yano hits the low blow and then goes for the yorikiri (hair pull into a roll-up) but gets only two. He quickly goes for more roll-up pins but can't get the pin. Tanahashi's had enough and clobbers Yano with a forearm to slow it down. He then SMACKS Yano in the face with a slap, but Yano quickly grabs the hair and into another Yorikiri and gets the three count. Wait what? *reads that back* Toru Yano beat Hiroshi Tanahashi with the yorikiri IN LESS THAN THREE MINUTES?!?!? Wow. Backstage Yano declares himself the new face of NJPW and tells everyone to buy his merch. Tanahashi is PISSED. Studio words from Yano as e says it was his plan for a long time to do this. He said people would say he beat Tanahashi like they were surprised, but Yano is like "Of course I beat him." When asked about the future, he plugs his DVD and album coming out! Well, that was an episode full of surprises! The only real cuts here were during the Okada/Fale match and I suspect it wasn't just for time reasons, but probably helped things along with that one. Mauro and Josh were spot on with their call of the actions, especially with the ending of that last match. A great way to kick off the new season! Speed vs. strength in this one. Ibushi had a great showing against Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 9 while Gallows is one half of the IWGP Tag Champions here. Gallows comes to the ring with Cody Hall and Tama Tonga. If you have been keeping up with Strong Style, you notice Cody hasn't wrestled on here yet. Although he is in the Bullet Club, he is still considered a "young boy" in NJPW and only really wrestles in curtain jerkers since he hasn't earned a bigger spot yet. Since this show doesn't waste time with scrub matches, his stuff doesn't get shown.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
We look at the 2015 New Japan Cup
Strong Style is back! Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV returns tonight as we kick off the new season. This week we dive right into the 2015 New Japan Cup Tournament. The New Japan Cup is a single eliminat...

First Impressions: Active Raid

Jan 10 // Josh Tolentino
The answer to the immediate question is "Not quite". Patlabor was always a character-driven comedy first, and a giant robot show second (though the star Patlabor "Alphonse" could definitely be considered a character of sorts). Active Raid is more a straight-faced action title, and in truth, its robots aren't actually that large.  The stars are definitely still cops, at least. But unlike Patlabor, where the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, Special Vehicles Unit, Division 2, were a bunch of misfits regarded as barely competent, Active Raid's Public Security Division 5, 3rd Mobile Assault Unit 8 are more a squad of loose cannons, getting quality results, through a complete disregard of protocol and procedure.  Similarly, Patlabor's 30-foot robots have been traded in for the WillWear, a human-sized battle suit that seems to take its cues less from Gundam and more from Kamen Rider or Super Sentai, with perhaps a bit of The Centurions and Tiger & Bunny thrown in for good measure.  As may be expected of a first episode, our initial outing with Unit 8 accompanies newbie member Asami Kazari, who tends to spout English when stressed, and suffers from delusions of grandeur, somehow led to believe that she's been assigned to Unit 8 to "take control" and reform it as a paragon of the "justice" associated with sticking to the rules and regs. As a result, it sucks to be Asami, as roughly the whole plot is employed in shutting her down at every possible opportunity. Her theories are dismissed, she's interrupted rudely, ignored routinely, and ends up doing it wrong from start to finish. All she gets for her trouble is a face full of hot speedo-clad manservice. That said, I can't say I feel sorry for her because she's super annoying about it. Rather than being a hapless rookie who takes her lack of experience as a challenge, Asami constantly gripes for attention, her delusions about being there to take charge of things looking more baseless by the minute.  Of course, I know that the goal here is to establish the initial conflict, for Asami's uptight manner to eventually loosen as she comes to terms with Unit 8's unorthodox style, but Active Raid may have overdone it a bit. Instead of looking like a fish out of water, Asami comes across as beyond help, the stick up her butt inextricable. With luck, future episodes will give her a fairer shake, but for someone who is ostensibly the viewpoint character for the show and someone the audience is supposed to root for, this isn't a great sign. The other members of Unit 8 are more tolerable but thinly drawn. Takeru and Souichirou are the squad's WillWear users, and make up Active Raid's "ACTIVE" (as their special cop-issue WillWear is the "Armored Combined Tactical Intelligence Vanguard Element"). They're pretty much the Red and Blue Rangers, respectively, with Takeru as the Maverick to Souichirou's Iceman. Section head Funasaka's an old hand who pulls strings to get Unit 8 its operational carte blanche, Kyoukai is the slightly creepy tech guy, Madoka's the computer nerd that doesn't talk, Haruka's into buses, and the Chief is absurdly young-looking. Seriously, she could cosplay as the Professor from Nichijou. Together they're a pack of misfits who have the temerity to see policework as a profession rather than a sacred mission.  Active Raid seems less interested in the crimes being committed than in the way the cops go about stopping it. Case in point: The robbery that kicks off this episode's event is barely contemplated. The show goes out of its way to dismiss the perps' motivations as destructive attention-seeking by a pair of teens, and Asami's speculation of an organized crime connection are dismissed as fanciful, but everything from Unit 8's sweet police train (which reminds me of the Police Express from ToQger) to the three-step transformation process for the squad's WillWear is displayed in detail.  It's also here where Unit 8 is shown to be less of a wild bunch than Asami seems to think (in turn making her complaints seem even less reasonable). They patiently wait for authorization to use their weapons, and even find roundabout solutions when their chase is called off because it could threaten a nearby, politically-connected anime studio. Takeru even grins and bears it while Funasaka twists arms to allow him to use his WillWear's super move. Those sound less like loose cannons and more like a wily group of veteran cops with little tolerance for bureaucratic nonsense.  Active Raid seems to be engaging at first glance, despite some missteps in its characterization. Whether or not it will be this generation's successor to Patlabor remains to be seen. [Catch Active Raid weekly on Crunchyroll!] ACTIVE system (standing for "Armored Combined Tactical Intelligence Vanguard Element")
Active Raid photo
Mighty Morphin' Power Rozzers
If you held a gun to my head and demanded I tell you my favorite anime series of all time (you could've just asked, jeez!), Patlabor: The Mobile Police would definitely be on that list. Though I encountered it relatively...

Annotated Anime: Attack on Titan: Junior High episodes 11 & 12

Jan 04 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 11 It's school festival time (what did I say last time about anime requirements?) and the class of our first-year buddies have to run two different events during the festival. Since there are not enough kids to staff both events during the festival, they will have to take shifts at each. The events decided on, a stage play of Snow White and running a Cheeseburger stand.   The food stand, of course, gets almost all the attention. They are stuck right next to Rico and her class's rice stand (which actually is a giant rice pot) that won the award last year (In sales? Popularity? They never really say). Eren, of course, takes the competition way too seriously as he leads the team of himself, Mikasa, Armin, Mina (who has done squat the whole series), along with Franz and Hanna.   Easily the star of the burger stand scenes is Armin. He takes his role dead serious and even gives himself an internal monologue to fire him up before he's dolled up to look like a cute girl. Seeing him give out a strategy for beating Rico's class and acting like a cute girl n the same breath are hilarious.   Outside of the food stall battle we see some of the other stalls going on. We check back to the play which gets worse and worse as more of the cast disappear to help Eren. We also check in with the maid cafe with Christa and Ymir (And Ymir's attempts to keep Reiner from enjoying Christa's prepared food), along with Hitch and Annie's time in the "Cat Snuggle Cafe" (that hits close to home for me as an ardent cat person), and Hange's insane demonstrations with Sawney and Beane that have way to much of an S&M vibe to it.  The ending is either completely predictable if you have been following the series or a bit of an "Oh Crap!" moment if you have been caught up in the antics of the episode.   This series is not known for its writing and this is a good example of it. There isn't really much of a story here and it is standard fair for a "school festival" episode. It's not a terrible episode, but if you've seen enough anime and have been following along with this series, it doesn't exactly come up with anything new or surprising. Episode 12 The episode picks right up where we left off. Eren is PISSED. Nobody messes with his chee-burgs! He's rip-snorting angry and wants to go get his burgers back. Mikasa isn't going to let Eren kill himself, and soon the others join in. They quickly face resistance from the teaching staff but Eren isn't hearing any of it. He tries to get the upperclassmen on his side, but they resist. Eren isn't satisfied and decides to do this on his own. Once again, the others join him.   The rest of the episode plays out as the gang scurry through the Titan's part of the school building. It goes about as well as you'd expect from this show. They get some help from Rico and her class as they lost their rice stand as well, but after that, the episode just gets absolutely bizarre.   Featuring Titans in raver gear, A musical number by blindfolded upperclassmen, The reappearance of Jean's secret crush, and a parody of the "boulder" battle from the original series really doesn't describe how insane the episode turns. What the last episode lacked in originality, this episode makes up for in spades.   But you know what? I got into it. I know, it's a show where thought isn't a prerequisite. It's a goofy nonsense parody of a dark and brutal series, but by god I was cheering on these little guys in their quest to get the chee-burgs back. I thought the ending was heartwarming. it was like that the main series doesn't have real good endings for most of the characters, but here these little guys give you the good things the main series can't give you.   The finale really lets loose and brings some weird insanity that some of the previous episodes lacked. It started in line with the rest of the series but started getting into Excel Saga levels of crazy in the second half, but brought everything back together to give a good ending and wrap it all up in a happy chee-burgy way.   I'll wrap up the entire series in its own article, but I give this finale a big thumbs up. It was something that caught your attention, wrapped things up, and most of all was fun! It's school festival time (what did I say last time about anime requirements?) and the class of our first-year buddies have to run two different events during the festival. Since there are not enough kids to staff both events during the festival, they will have to take shifts at each. The events decided on, a stage play of Snow White and running a Cheeseburger stand.   The food stand of course gets almost all the attention. They are stuck right next to Rico and her class's rice stand (which actually is a giant rice pot) that won the award last year (In sales? Popularity? They never really say). Eren of course takes the competition way to seriously as he leads the team of himself, Mikasa, Armin, Mina (who has done squat the whole series), along with Franz and Hanna.   Easily the star of the burger stand scenes are Armin. He takes his role dead serious and even gives himself a internal monologue to fire him up before he's dolled up to look like a cute girl. Seeing him give out strategy for beating Rico's class and acting like a cute girl n the same breath are hilarious.   Outside of the food stall battle we see some of the other stalls going on. We check back to the play which gets worse and worse as more of the cast disappear to help Eren. We also check in with the maid cafe with Christa and Ymir, Hitch and Annie's time in the "Cat Snuggle Cafe", and Hange's insane demonstrations with Sawney and Beane that have way to much of an S&M vibe to it.   The ending is either completely predictable if you have been following the series, or a bit of an "Oh Crap!" moment if you have been caught up in the antics of the episode.   This series is not known for its writing and this is a good example of it. There isn't really much of a story here and it is standard fair for a "school festival" episode. It's not a terrible episode, but if you've seen enough anime and have been following along with this series, it doesn't exactly come up with anything new or surprising.
Attack on Titan: Jr high photo
Chee-burg Backlash!
The zany ride comes to an end.  We take a look at the last two installments of the most chibi of this season's anime shows of Japan, Attack on Titan: Junior High. How will our ragtag group of first-year friends wrap thin...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episodes 722-724

Dec 27 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 722: A Blade of Tenacity - The Gamma Knife Counterattack!I will skip the first half of the episode as it boils down to the rest of Dressrosa suddenly realising that the Birdcage is slowly closing in around them. The morbid person within me wanted to see some people getting sliced up like cheese slices by the Birdcage. Doflamingo states that it will take an hour to destroy everything and that he can always rebuild a new kingdom. Marines attempt to evacuate civilians back to the centre of Dressrosa whilst Usopp panics and the rest of the cast look nervously towards the Castle where Luffy is battling Doflamingo.  Back on the roof, Luffy barrages Doflamingo with attacks and vice versa. These few shots are dynamic and energetic showing off Luffy's agility at avoiding Doflamingo's string attacks. I could do without the multicolour string as it makes his attacks look less lethal and more childish and cheap looking. As Luffy closes the gap between him and Doflamingo, Law uses shambles to plant a Gamma Knife Attack on Doflamingo. In a turn of events, Law had created a room so large that it was unable to be seen outwards by Trebol allowing him to get the drop on the Heavenly Demon. Law's supposed death was faked and just like most magicians there was a body double that took the brunt of the damage, in this case, was a nearby Doflamingo pirate. The body switch was a smart move.  Together Law and Luffy were able to bring Doflamingo to the ground. Trebol is happy not to contribute for some reason and is more inclined to shout encouraging messages to Doflamingo. The plot progression could've taken 5 minutes to do, 10 minutes if you extended it to make it more dramatic and flashy with top notch animation which they did. The rest of the episode were re-treads of old material or reactions to the Birdcage event. And despite this, those 10 minutes of Law, Luffy and Doflamingo fighting were worth watching the whole episode.  I would expect this to be near the end game for Doflamingo if it not for next episode's title. Episode 723: Haki Clash! - Luffy vs. DoflamingoLike a horror movie, Doflamingo stands tall after a bad fall. In classic One Piece fashion, there is more than one way a devil fruit power can come in handy and it's all up to the creativity of its user. In this case, Doflamingo is able to use his string powers to repair all the internal damage caused by the Gamma Knife attack. I'm pretty sure you have to be medically trained to be messing around with the insides of a human and I doubt a guy like Doflamingo is. Before Doflamingo is able to kill Law (for good this time), he is interrupted by Luffy and begins to have a Haki Struggle (the One Piece equivalent of a beam struggle in DBZ). The big reveal in this episode is that Doflamingo also possesses the extremely rare Conqueror's Haki or Haki of the Colour of the Conquering King if we were to give it the literal translation. He first demonstrated it when he and his family were being tied up and tortured showing how they were able to get out of that mess. Trebol discovered Doflamingo and took him under his wing presenting him with his signature weapons; a pistol and the String-String Fruit. Trebol's ominous narration explains that Doflamingo is the one chosen by heaven showing qualities of a king foreshadowing his lineage as a resident of Mariejois. We also see a young Vergo with a silly bowl cut. He looks like a mega dork as a kid, Finally, the episode turns into Dragon Ball Z as the action is so fast you can only see the impact from air pockets appearing in a zig-zagging line. Luffy relentlessly attacks Doflamingo as the latter defends or gets hit. Nothing really phases Doffy throughout this episode. It ends almost as it had begun with Doflamingo mocking their attempts, Law on the ground too weak to fight the Luffy struggling to keep up.  Episode 724: Unassailable! The Stunning Secret of Trebol!Misleading titles are common in One Piece so after watching this episode I'm still not 100% certain about what Trebol's stunning secret really is. The episode begins with Trebol holding down Luffy so Doflamingo could finish off Law without interruption. However, Law's provocative calling at Trebol gains his attention and proceeds to make Law the next upcoming bukkake actor. Trebol's power isn't derived from a Logia fruit. His sticky-sticky power is actually papier mache as his body is hidden within all the sticky substance making him immune to Haki imbued attacks. Could this be Trebol's stunning secret? Law's big mouth causes Trebol to recount how Doflamingo was found by him, Pica, Diamante and Vergo. They pledged their allegiance to the young Doflamingo as they saw potential in the boy due to his Haki. Every little thing that had hurt Doflamingo, the family would go on and destroy making them a very powerful crime family rather than pirate. Think Godfather instead of Pirates of the Carribean. Through this, they groomed Doflamingo into a selfish, ambitious man and the evilest person destined to be the king of the sea. Despite acting like they are under Doflamingo as one of the executives, Trebol reckons he and Doflamingo were equals since it was Trebol that gave Doflamingo his start as a powerful individual. Is Trebol being equal to Doffy the stunning secret? I would expect at this point for Doflamingo to prove otherwise and destroy Trebol and then make a speech about how he was just using the family for his own gain i.e. what Law was saying the whole time.  I think this episode was already entertaining with another flashback covering how Doflamingo was integrated into the rest of the family but then it got better. Law manipulates his severed arm (somehow still gripping his sword) and drives it into Trebol revealing a very frail old man beneath all the gunk. It was completely out of the blue as I had expected Law to do another switch a roo. Trebol's mucus is actually flammable and as a last-ditch attempt ignites everything completely destroying the castle roof. Is the flammable property of the mucus the stunning secret? Fortunately, Luffy is able to grab Law and escape with Doflamingo following swiftly behind. Apparently Doflamingo has no need for a frail old man with a massive gash over his torso. The episode closes out 2015 on a cliffhanger as bullet strings heading towards Law and Robin. I have a feeling that Luffy's fight was Doflamingo will finally begin here now that Trebol has been defeated. Law is also in the presence of Mansherry so he can get fixed up and possibly join the fight. Whether her powers extend to reattaching limbs has yet to be seen.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] Episode 722: A Blade of Tenacity - The Gamma Knife Counterattack!I will skip the first half of the episode as it boils down to the rest of Dressrosa suddenly realising that the Birdcage is slowly closing in around them. Doflamingo states that it will take an hour to destroy everything and that he can always rebuild a new kingdom. Marines attempt to evacuate civilians back to the centre of Dressrosa whilst Usopp panics and the rest of the cast look nervously towards the Castle where Luffy is battling Doflamingo. The morbid person within me wanted to see some people getting sliced up like cheese slices by the Birdcage.  Back on the roof, Luffy barrages Doflamingo with attacks and vice versa. These few shots are dynamic and energetic showing off Luffy's agility at avoiding Doflamingo's string attacks. I could do without the multicolour string as it makes his attacks look less lethal and more    Episode 723: Haki Clash! - Luffy vs. Doflamingo [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] Episode 722: A Blade of Tenacity - The Gamma Knife Counterattack!I will skip the first half of the episode as it boils down to the rest of Dressrosa suddenly realising that the Birdcage is slowly closing in around them. Doflamingo states that it will take an hour to destroy everything and that he can always rebuild a new kingdom. Marines attempt to evacuate civilians back to the centre of Dressrosa whilst Usopp panics and the rest of the cast look nervously towards the Castle where Luffy is battling Doflamingo. The morbid person within me wanted to see some people getting sliced up like cheese slices by the Birdcage.  Back on the roof, Luffy barrages Doflamingo with attacks and vice versa. These few shots are dynamic and energetic showing off Luffy's agility at avoiding Doflamingo's string attacks. I could do without the multicolour string as it makes his attacks look less lethal and more childish and cheap looking. As Luffy closes the gap between him and Doflamingo, Law uses shambles to plant a Gamma Knife Attack on Doflamingo. In a turn of events, Law had created a room so large that it was unable to be seen outwards by Trebol allowing him to get the drop on the Heavenly Demon. Law's supposed death was faked and just like most magicians there was a body double that took the brunt of the damage, in this case, was a nearby Doflamingo pirate. The body switch was a smart move. After that many bullets pumped into a guy I didn't think Law would survive. But this is One Piece so he could've managed a few more episodes slowly bleeding to death or to unleash his final ultimate attack that he's been saving for a suicidal attempt to kill the main bad guy.  Together Law and Luffy were able to bring Doflamingo to the ground. Trebol is happy not to contribute for some reason and is more inclined to shout encouraging messages to Doflamingo instead of physically helping him out. The plot progression could've taken 5 minutes to do, 10 minutes if you extended it to make it more dramatic and flashy with top notch animation which they did. The rest of the episode were re-treads of old material or reactions to the Birdcage event. And despite this, those 10 minutes of Law, Luffy and Doflamingo fighting were worth watching the whole episode.  I would expect this to be near the end game for Doflamingo if it not for next episode's title. Episode 723: Haki Clash! - Luffy vs. Doflamingo [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] Episode 722: A Blade of Tenacity - The Gamma Knife Counterattack!I will skip the first half of the episode as it boils down to the rest of Dressrosa suddenly realising that the Birdcage is slowly closing in around them. Doflamingo states that it will take an hour to destroy everything and that he can always rebuild a new kingdom. Marines attempt to evacuate civilians back to the centre of Dressrosa whilst Usopp panics and the rest of the cast look nervously towards the Castle where Luffy is battling Doflamingo. The morbid person within me wanted to see some people getting sliced up like cheese slices by the Birdcage.  Back on the roof, Luffy barrages Doflamingo with attacks and vice versa. These few shots are dynamic and energetic showing off Luffy's agility at avoiding Doflamingo's string attacks. I could do without the multicolour string as it makes his attacks look less lethal and more    Episode 723: Haki Clash! - Luffy vs. Doflamingo [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Sans filler episode
And now we close on another year in Dressrosa. We had made substantial progress through the arc with most of the executive fights over and only the biggest fight to tackle now. The pacing is still slower than a tortoise and t...

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari Episode 12

Dec 21 // Anthony Redgrave
The episode opens with Araragi still at the shrine and calling his significant other Senjougahara. He explains the danger he will be going through soon and questions his position as Shinobu's second minion, a minion that has been chosen by Shinobu but is inadequate for the position compared to the Samurai. He goes about it by asking Senjougahara if she would leave Araragi if she had found someone better than him. In classic Senjougahara fashion, she bluntly agrees and goes on to explain a relationship is a continuous process of effort and love to prevent the other from leaving for a better suitor. Their conversations often have Araragi and Senjougahara throwing witticisms at each other making this scene very endearing for the couple. Rarely do they open hearts and discuss their problems and when they do Senjougahara would step up to the plate since she is more dominant in the relationship. This does not happen as she lets Araragi fight for Shinobu and puts his mind at ease about Tsubasa. Lastly this conversation marks the first time they explicitly express their love for each other. And it's wonderful. The episode moves briskly onto the dual. On the school grounds, Gaen explains the rules. As Araragi has waning Vampire powers and the Samurai has recently been reborn with his oddity powers relatively intact, the dual has been designed in regards to the power difference. Gaen places a Kendo sword between Araragi and the Samurai and the first to reach it after taking ten paces away and strike the other will win. A mix of both marital ability and agility. During the preparations, Gaen informs Araragi that Tsubasa and Senjougahara are in danger. As this scene takes part side by side to Tsubasa Tiger, she is referring to the tiger oddity that burnt down both the cram school and Tsubasa's house and is currently targeting Tsubasa who is staying with Senjougahara.  This puts Araragi at a crossroads. Does he stay and fight a meaningless fight for the sake of a Vampire that refuses to face her past, or does he try and save his loved ones. This part really exemplifies Araragi's three-way commitment to the three most important girls in his life. Each one plays a large role in his life and his choice will determine as the most important. He ends up sending Kanbaru to attend to Senjougahara and stays for the dual. Even though it is a pointless fight, Araragi has to prove to himself that he is deserving of Shinobu. It's a matter of pride more than anything. Before the fight begins, without showing herself, Shinobu drops the Kokorowatari blade in place of the Kendo sword raising the stakes. Previously Araragi could lose the dual but not die and then Gaen and Episode would've exorcised the Samurai and now there is a real danger of Araragi losing his head in the dual. As the fight begins, the Samurai ditches the armour and makes it to the sword first. Araragi, however, outsmarts everyone by placing Meme's seal (previously used in Nadeko Snake) onto the Samurai. The rules had called for the first strike which can be translated as 'first touch' thus being victorious. The seal causes all the oddities that made up the Samurai to wash away as the Samurai calls out for Shinobu. A poignant end as Shinobu appears distraught at the sight of her first minion dying again. In the end, the Samurai really did have feelings for Shinobu and wanted to return to being her minion. I think in a way so did she but was too afraid of confronting him about it and was already with Araragi despite the separation. Shinobu tearfully eats the remnants of her former minion as Araragi dashes to save Tsubasa from Kako. Only these last two episodes reveal Shinobu's tragic relationship with the Samurai. He was someone she didn't think she would see again like an ex and like an ex, carries lots of emotional and psychological baggage she doesn't want to let out. This is why she was being very cautious about avoiding him, about not wanting a confrontation. The only time she sees him is when she has to devour the oddities he is made up of.  Owarimonogatari had some of the darkest and troubling arcs of the series and it wrapped up the loose ends introduced in Monogatari: Second Season. A chronological release of the series would've made me understand the series a lot better holistically and retain the fine minutia behind each scene. This is especially true for the final arc Shinobu Mail and Tsubasa Tiger as they happen at the same time as each other. Everything is interlinked and you'll only find it if you have a stupid good memory or are Gaen. There isn't a year long break between Monogatari instalments as Kizumonogatari will be released next month following on with it's official English translation of the novel.  The Monogatari fan inside me would've liked more funny wacky moments and more Tsukihi (there is never enough Tsukihi) in this season. Owarimonogatari has slate my thirst for the oddity ramblings and drop dead gorgeous art direction and provided some very interesting stories and character development in the process.  [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!]
Monogatari photo
I hate break ups
The Monogatari series can be sometimes hard to follow. Lots of characters interact in the background, a substantial amount of lore and exposition is dumped on the watcher every two episodes, and if you're a subtitle reader yo...

Strong Style: A look back at season 3

Dec 19 // Soul Tsukino
  Scariest dude of season 3 Minoru Suzuki/Katsuyori Shibata (tie) Both these men are not ones I'd ever want to see standing in the opposite corner. Both these guys are bad dudes for sure. Shibata is an emotionless ass kicking machine. He is no frills, no smiles, no showboat. He literally marches to the ring, destroys anyone who opposes him, and then leaves. It didn't matter if you were rival Tanahashi or his own high school friend Hirooki Goto, he would kick your ass just the same. This season we saw him win his first title with Meiyu partner Goto and take guys like Tanahashi, Nakamura, and Guns and Gallows to their limits. He may not win all of them, but he'll make you remember him. MMA pioneer Minoru Suzuki, on the other hand, is just as scary because he likes torturing people. He takes delight in finding new ways to hurt his opponents and make them squeal. He'll bite your fingers, twist your ankles, and stretch you like a rubber band. The leader of the Suzuki Army made his final NJPW appearance (for now) at WrestleKingdom this season, but he left a mark of just being a scary torture master who didn't care what anyone thought.   Most fighting spirit of the season Tomoaki Honma Despite recent headlines concerning his personal life, New Japan told the perfect story with Honma. A former Big Japan hardcore wrestler who comes up short in most of his matches, but will still put everything he has into every match. This season we saw him in the losing effort against Ishii, but his best moment was when he scored the winning pinfall against the Bullet Club at WrestleKingdom. Mauro Ranallo described the moment best when he said "Charlie Brown finally kicked the football!"   Worst performance of the season Bad Luck Fale I almost went with Bruce Tharpe on this one, but at least the guy is valiantly trying to keep the NWA name alive when it should have been killed off years ago. "The Underboss" of the Bullet Club's match with Shinsuke Nakamura for the Intercontinental Title was easily the most disappointing match of the season, let alone a featured match. Fale's plodding bag-man style may work well in the States (well, to Vince McMahon anyway) but was not what I've come to expect in the action on this show. Combine with him losing the title so soon after he had won it last season, it made him look so out of place being in the spot he was.   Biggest Derp of the season Spoiling the main event of Togi Makabe vs. Tomoshiro Ishii. Yup, that one. The Stone Pitbull and the Unchained Gorilla were going to lock horns for Ishii's NEVER Openweight title. It was a lesson in smashmouth hard-nosed wrestling. However the producers of the show in Japan (and AXS TV for leaving it in) decided to air an interview with Makabe with the belt he WON IN THE MATCH THEY WERE GOING TO SHOW! Thanks for the tip off guys.   Best visual of the season All the gold on the table.  The big 8 man match right before Wrestlekingdom with Tanahashi/Makabe/La Sombra/Ibushi vs. Okada/Nakamura/Ishii/YOSHI-HASHI was big enough considering what was on the landscape at the time, but the shot of all 3 men's heavyweight titles plus the WK title shot briefcase on the table showed just how big the match was. That image really drives the point home that this was the all-star match of the year. Nothing drove the point home of how top level this match was than seeing that much heavy metal together.   "WTF is going on here?" of the season The "lost" episode: At the beginning of the season, AXS TV released a list of the episodes that were going to air for season 3. AXS kind of fell off the wagon near the end of the season when the November 13th episode was pre-empted for basketball coverage. Not only did the episode not air, but the two part coverage of the matches from Sendai were moved up a week. This missing show was to have covered matches from the January 19th, 2015 card and feature 3 matches with stars from Mexico, including a big 8 man tag match. I've asked around, but no one seems to know if this unseen show was even made let alone if it will ever air.   Best line of the season Ryusuke Taguchi: "Oh my and Garfunkel" Was there any doubt? Junior heavyweight Taguchi cracked out this gem in the first show of the season after winning the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title from Kushida. It's random, goofy, and no one is quite sure where he came up with it, but it became a line that Mauro and Josh loved to repeat for the rest of the season. It became a mantra of just how different Taguchi really is. Fun to say, a mystery to know, and an expression of individualism.   Coolest move of the season Kenny Omega's Chainsaw With his makeover in becoming "The Cleaner" for The Bullet Club, Canadian Jr. heavyweight Kenny Omega cracked out this gem at WrestleKingdom against Taguchi. With the over the top set up of pulling an imaginary starter cord, his goofy facial expressions, and the thought of someone's arm hair stubble raking across your eyeballs, this move was just flat out creative. We got to see Omega use this again in the rematch with Taguchi (the one where the flagpole went up people's butts) and it was just as fun the second time around.   Best finisher of the season Hirooki Goto's ushi-karoshi.  Had to go with this one as it looks like one of those moves that there is no way people don't feel something afterward. Goto picks you up in a fireman's carry and launches you up in the air, but instead of just landing on your back on the mat (I.E. John Cena's AA), Goto brings his knee up and connects right to the base of your NECK. This is the type of move you will never see come to the WWE and with one wrong move, someone could end up paralyzed or dead. Thankfully Mr. Goto is a professional and mastered the timing of the move so no one has ended up permanently hurt from it. A great visual and one the people believe can really hurt you.   Tag team of the season Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson This pick was a no-brainer. Guns and Gallows of the Bullet Club are the dominant tag team in New Japan right now and it was reflected on this show. They spent much of the season in matches with Meiyu, but also beat the team of Okada and YOSHI- HASHI as were in a six-man tag team match as well. Although their matches often had interference, they were perfectly capable of winning on their own.   Match of the season Tanahashi vs. Okada (WrestleKingdom 9)  This was a tough one for me as there were probably 4 other contenders for this, showing just how good the action was this season. Ultimately I had to go with this match. It was the biggest match pin the biggest stage with the two biggest guys for the biggest prize. This wasn't filled with a ton of interference like a lot of the Bullet Club matches, nor was it cut to ribbons in the editing room. This was built up perfectly and this show did the match justice in showing how important it was with giving it its own episode. Although outside of this show there may have been better matches that NJPW presented, in the confines of this show, this match takes top honors.   Wrestler of the season Shinsuke Nakamura  This guy is the star of this show, no question about it. While Tanahashi may be the ace of the company, Nakamura is the one that this show centers around. Mauro and Josh love this guy and his antics, he puts on great matches (Bad Luck Fale aside) and the way he conducts himself in the ring and on the mic really sets him apart as someone different and not cut from the same cloth. While Tanahashi, Styles, and Okada were hovering around the IWGP title, Nakamura was making the Intercontinental Title the belt to watch with all the different opponents he had. Even in tag matches, he was able to shine in a large group of top notch competitors and when he got on the mic you were never sure what he was going to say. While Puroresu values athletic ability more so that the major league here in the states, it's still a form of entertainment and Shinsuke Nakamura has the art down to a T. Season 3 covered some great action this year. With Wrestlekingdom hovering over everyone's head this season, it really brought out the best in an already amazing show. Luckily we won't have to wait long to get things going again as a new season is coming up shortly. However, it is an end of an era of sorts for NJPW on AXS TV. During the past week it was announced that our favorite announcer, Mauro Ranallo will be joining the WWE as the lead announcer for Smackdown starting in early January. I've asked around and no replacement has been named for the next season of this show, so we will have to wait and see who gets to fill the role. Meanwhile, I congratulate Mauro for getting the role. I've said that Mauro is one of the best wrestling announcers going today and if anyone can help improve the announcing quality of WWE programming, it will be him. I'll say it here like I tweeted to him, I hope that they let him be HIM, and not be what an out of touch billionaire wants him to be. If the WWE is serious about upping the show's game for their start on the USA network, they certainly got the best start they can by hiring him. And with that, we bring season 3 to a close here at Strong Style. We will be picking up soon with season four soon enough so stay glued to Japanator for more wrestling action!  
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Ending the year with a look back
Hello again Japanator wrestling fans to this special edition of Strong Style. This week we are taking a look back at the awesomeness that was season 3 of New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV.  This season covered the months...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Ultraman X episodes 14-20

Dec 16 // Salvador GRodiles
One of the deal breakers for this decision was that the show’s 14th episode presented us with another fight that’s on par with most final battles in tokusatsu. The Spectre siblings fused into a powerful entity, and we got to see Victory and Ginga perform their little fusion routine. Of course, this segment worked out nicely, as we got to witness an overkill of ultra proportions. I mean, if you have Exceed X and Ginga Victory together, whoever’s facing up against them is doomed. Honestly, it’s this type of action that gave this bit a fine closure to the Gua Army’s attempt to conquer Daichi’s world. While the next episode to follow was another recap, I guess this served as a point for the staff to gain extra time to finish up the rest of the show’s content. Again, X always manages to make up for these segments when it delivers something that makes up for it. This time, the highlight was its team doing a fine job with conveying Kamiki’s issues with trying to save the city while attempting to attend his daughter’s marriage. All in all, this episode managed to show us the struggle that many working parents have— especially when Japan is being attacked by giant monsters every week. Of course, the team’s decision to hold a giant monster boxing match made way for some great scenes of the Captain showing us his moves. Add an episode where we see an incident being told through the perspective of a reporter, and we have another fine addition to X’s track record of experimenting with its format. Even though this show mostly revolves around XiO thwarting stand-alone threats, the real treat is the way how they handle each segment, since each crisis makes a specific character the star. Of course, the big thing that’s making things exciting is that the Dark Thunder Energy seems to be the bridging element that’s setting up for the appearance of the program’s final catastrophe. Along the way, we cried over the bond between a young girl and classic Ultra series monster Pigmon. Not only did the creature sport a distinct type of cuteness, the show got us to care about it, as we're reminded of that warm feeling that comes from having a special friend that sticks by our side. This actually adds a nice layer to the icing on the Ultra cake. Thanks to my love for these types of moments, it was certain that X’s love dilemma and his fight against Gomora would hit me as well. With a romance-themed episode thrown into the mix, we now have a combo that teaches us about the life’s cruel moments. Honestly, it’s always interesting to see a children’s show cover these types of themes since many fictional titles tend to focus on the person we’re following getting the girl. Of course, Mu-chan is probably one of the silliest looking monsters to date, as she happens to have very cartoony cat look. And to think that her abilities played an important role in the episode’s topic. Back to the emotional segments, one recurring theme in X is Daichi’s connection to Gomora. The creature represents the final thing that his parents left behind, and it’s also the first monster that he bonded with. Of course, this resulted in another emotional moment for our hero, which contributes the series theme of coexistence. More important, it’s hard to go wrong with a segment where a large dinosaur-like creature performs special tricks for its best buddy while giving him a big thumbs up. It’s thanks to these themes that Lt. Tachibana’s moment was another strong moment for the series. Due to the way how Ultraman Nexus’ powers work, this was a neat way to write the Silver Giant into the series— even if it was for a brief moment. In a way, this segment showed us that distance can’t stop a mother from wanting to save her family from danger. Hell, the show deserves some props for retaining the Space Monster’s desire to eat other humans intact. Even though this contradicts with the group’s idea of coexistence, it shows that there are just some beings that can’t be persuaded. Based on my brief experience with the series, it’s practically impossible to make friends with a group of creatures that act as humanity’s predators. On top of that, they're considered to be evil creatures in their corresponding show. Despite the franchise’s recurring theme of reusing older monsters, the way how X gives them the spotlight makes up for this money-saving decision. Each episode depicts the creatures in a different way than their predecessors, and we get to see how they impact the main cast, along with the civilians who get to interact with them. During these last few weeks, the show treated us to a dynamic fight, the concept of making big sacrifices for the greater good, and the strong moments that come from a powerful bond. In a way, these aspects act as the bridge that connects most of the show’s episodes that seem like stand-alone segments at first. Because of the program's format, this resulted in each chapter being a blast. With two episodes left until Ultraman X ends, the show has already proven to us that it’ll likely end on a high note. Seeing that the Dark Thunder Energy occurrences are the major thing that’s affecting everyone right now, this means that the program’s last arc should put an end to its source. One thing for sure, I can’t wait to see X’s main adversary in action, as it’s going to be a fight to remember. [You can unite with Ultraman X at Crunchyroll and Tsuburaya's YouTube channel]
Ultraman X photo
Never doubt a mom's love for her family
It’s been a while since we took a look at Ultraman X’s progress. Let’s just say that a few obstacles got in the way of this segment. Aside from being treated to a nice finale to the Gua Army Arc, a bunch of ...

Annotated Anime: Attack on Titan: Junior High episodes 8-10

Dec 15 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 8 It seems like an anime requirement that a show like this has a ghost episode. I'm fairly sure this isn't really taking a whole lot from the original series, but that's okay because while it might be an anime trope, it still produces some really funny incidents. The premise here is that the upperclassmen of the "secret club" are getting a bit of revenge for the first year students challenging them right before the sports day covered in the last batch of eps. Our chibi gang are given a "Test of Courage" that requires them to come to school at night. They are split into two teams, one takes the left stairway and one takes the right. They have to go to the art room, the music room, and the science room before meeting up in the gym. During this Scooby-Dooesque run around both group tell of the "7 wonders of Attack Junior High" all the while getting the pants scared off them by what is obviously the upperclassmen. This episode is light on actual story, but let's face it, if you have been following along you have figured out that has never been the point of this series. This was mostly reaction shots of the different characters and how silly things could get. The good part of this episode was we got to see a lot more of Ymir and Christa than we really have before. They've been there, but not a whole lot has been shown with them. So while there wasn't a whole lot of story or progression here, it was just a silly little romp through the school at night and a cute take on the "haunted school" episode that pops up a lot in anime. Episode 9 Speaking of tropes, we have a summer festival episode! Seriously, this is like a radio station having to say it's call letters and city of license every hour, it's like a requirement of an anime show. Reiner wants to go to the summer festival with Christa and wants his friend Bertholdt to invite Annie since he has a thing for her and everyone seems to know it. Ymir gets in on the idea, but it ends up with everyone from our group of toe-headed scamps inviting themselves along. Once at the festival, Reiner keeps hatching these ideas for his friend to show how manly he is for Annie. Reiner explains each of these plans hilariously with a candied apple and a chocolate cover banana that as I write this reads a whole lot dirtier than it really is.   Of course, it wouldn't be funny without all these plans failing to work. When one finally DOES work, Bertholdt is unhappy with the whole thing a walks off. Annie finds him and they talk things out and we find out where things are for them. Unlike the last episode, this does have more of a story to it. There actually is a goal and a reason for things to happen here, The episode isn't just a lead up to one big punchline at the end, instead telling a very normal sounding story. Reiner, Bertholdt, and Ymir are the stars here and boy do they shine. This was a big character builder for all three, and in the case of Ymir shows more of her personality than even the previous episode does. Again, it is a well-used trope, but instead of doing an over the top goofy episode, they toned back, just a bit, for this episode. Oh, it's still the same show, but it was done in a very sweet way. Episode 10 It's a beach episo- what? This isn't a beach episode? Huh, we were on such a roll covering the anime requirements. Nope! This time around the gang tackles politics! A scandal has erupted as the student president has been tossed out and a new election has to be held to elected the student representative at Attack Junior High. Of course Jean wants to run, so he can get more of the girls to like him. Eren also decides to run, so he can eliminate the Titans. Gotta admit that after the episode where Jean's crush was a Titan the whole time, It makes Eren sound like the warrior from the original series and more like a candidate pulling his "Trump" card. We get to see some of the other candidates as well like Rico, Oruo, and Reiner. We see Rico giving speeches and Oruo having put up posters while Eren and Jean seem to be competing against each other. Meanwhile caught in the middle of this is Press club representative Ilse, who the crew mistake as having a notebook full of secrets. This finally leads to everyone giving their last speeches before the election and seeing what becomes of them. Although Eren and Jean take up much of the focus, Ilse and Marco get their share of the spotlight as well. Unlike the previous two episodes, this very clearly draws from the "trial of Eren" storyline from the original, although obviously they went way off the beaten trail with it. It took me a little while to see the reference, but it shows up. I have to give them credit for this. They could have really shoe-horned something more obvious in here in a parody of the original material, but instead when with this more original take of the action. You do kind of knew where this is going, but the ending is no disappointment either. Wrapping up this batch, you get a little of everything. You get Eren, but also more of the secondary characters that this series doesn't mind giving a spotlight too. Sure, eps 8 and 9 are well-used plot devices and they don't exactly break any new ground with either of them, but they aren't terrible episodes either.This show stays the course of enjoyment from me! Bertholdt
Attack on Titan: Jr high photo
Secondary characters have lives too!
Japanator's look at the chibified adventures of the gang from Attack on Titan continues as this time around we look at episodes 8,9, nd 10. We get to see some of the minor members of the team run around and live life today as well as more from Eren, Mikasa, and Armin. What will our favorite first-year class be up to this time? Read on and find out!

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari Episode 11

Dec 14 // Anthony Redgrave
The first minion or Samurai as I have been referring to him in these recaps doesn't engage in immediate fisticuffs with Araragi after their meeting in the bookstore. Instead, they go the diplomatic route and exchange their differences with words and a drink. The Samurai doesn't want to hurt Shinobu but does want Araragi to separate from her. Araragi is naturally skeptical over the sudden change of heart. The foot mark left by Ononoki that has been a point of ridicule and humor throughout this arc plays an important role here as it is a mark of a Specialist. Similar to how animals mark their prey, a specialist will mark their oddity so other specialists are unable to harm them.  Araragi is then saved by Gaen and Episode prompting the Samurai to make his leave. Before departing, he challenges Araragi to a dual at night for Shinobu. To me, Episode appeared to be a new character to the series and is another oddity specialist working with Gaen. Looking into the Wikia for the character, he has appeared before in Tsubasa Tiger. His design is much more shonen than the other males or specialists, carrying a massive red cross as a weapon and hurling it at oddities. Other specialists don't seem to carry weapons unless you count drowning people in exposition.  Heading back to the temple finally with books, bra, and magazines in hand, Araragi is pulled into a bush by Ononoki as she has been spying on the fight between Kanbaru and Shinobu. The bulk of the second half of the episode is spent between the two girls arguing over Shinobu's actions. The relationship partner metaphor is shown in full light here as Kanbaru is trying to make Shinobu face the Samurai directly instead of having Araragi or Gaen pass on the message. It's the "messy breakup, no closure scenario". Kanbaru wants Shinobu to face up to her actions and end the relationship with the Samurai since she is with Araragi, but Shinobu doesn't want to go through with the anguish of doing so. The layout of the scene is fitting. Shinobu has clearly overpowered Kanbaru and threatens to kill her as Kanbaru speaks the harsh truths. Shinobu's dominant position is her trying to squash all the difficult feelings and thoughts she has for her past minion as represented by Kanbaru. Kanbaru is still able to get to her and slowly grinds her down. It's the thoughts and feelings that cannot be overcome by physical prowess and only through resolution will Shinobu be able to overcome this burden. [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!]
Monogatari photo
Relationship advice for the Vampire
The Monogatari series is part of the rare breed of anime genres of having a lot of harem traits and showing the consequences of misleading actions. Araragi being a harem lead has perverted tendencies, but also the decency&nbs...

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episodes 9-10

Dec 12 // Josh Tolentino
Of course, things were already looking rather bleak for anyone that wasn't Saitama. Puri Puri Prisoner, Lighting Max, Allback Man, Snakebite Snek, and others had already been trounced hard in episode 8. Genos gives his best as well, with a devastating opener and a solid effort thereafter, but in classic superhero fashion, the baddie takes advantage of the hero's natural altruism and uses a civilian in danger to gain the upper hand. This leaves everything up to the otherwise powerless Mumen Rider, who suffers the most of all involved, summing up the circumstances in one unfortunate gif:  I'd like to believe that Madhouse intentionally highlighted this particular sequence as a twist on the best scene in The Avengers, because the contrast between the Hulk's cutting short Loki's monologue and the Sea King absent-mindedly pulping poor Mumen Rider is exquisite. The Avengers scene is quick and unexpected and played for surprise and laughs. Here in One Punch Man, though, the same scene is long, drawn out, and with the roles of the two combatants reversed (the "Hulk" is the bad guy, here), almost painful to watch. And yet Mumen Rider gets up, delivering a speech worthy of the best. The soul of heroism isn't in having the power to win, but in having the courage to stand up and do the right thing when no one else is willing or capable. Extra points go to Mumen Rider's voice actor, Yuichi Nakamura, who must have been real tired of playing d-bag male leads like Oreimo's Kyousuke and Mahouka's Tatsuya (who is his own story's "One Punch Man"). Nakamura really sells it, and combined with properly cheesy/uplifting piano music and a well-timed incitement of the crowd, conveys classic heroism in the best traditions of Marvel, DC, and Toei.  And speaking of Marvel, here's a bit of interesting trivia: Nakamura is also the Japanese voice of Captain America in those editions of the Marvel movies. It seems fitting, somehow. Saitama eventually shows up to end the fight, ripping the Sea King a new blowhole with a punch so hard it stops the rain. But that's to be expected. What happens next, though, is more interesting, as Saitama opts to make himself out to be the villain, just as the crowd is about to turn against the fallen heroes for having the temerity to fail where Saitama succeeded. Pretending to have simply cleaned up after Genos and the rest weakened the monster, he helps the heroes who did try their best save face (not that they deserved to lose it in the first place) and honors their sacrifice.  It's a good new revelation of Saitama's character. We've seen his fundamentally selfish desire for a challenge, and we've also seen his "I don't give an eff" attitude towards his public image, solidifying his status as more the savior we deserve than the one we want. But here, he does help show that doing the right thing doesn't always involve standing up against a bad guy, but sometimes taking one for the rest of the team, and giving credit where credit's due. There's no doubting that the real heroes of the day were the guys who got their asses handed to them, after all. If episode nine was a more thoughtful reflection of the soul backing up One Punch Man's more superficial appeal, episode ten is a return to the show's more typical form, capitalizing on gags, light slapstick, and creator ONE's oddball Japanese take on an American-style superhero ecosystem. The Hero Association takes center stage once more, assembling all the S-class heroes (with Saitama tagging along) for an emergency briefing. Characters like Atomic Samurai, Child Emperor (whose Japanese name is a hilarious pun on the slang term for "virgin"), Silver Fang, Metal Bat, and Terrible Tornado (who gets the most screen time of all thanks to a cold-open fight against a Godzilla-sized monster) fill out the ranks, with notable absences in the form of the increasingly sinister-seeming Metal Knight, and someone named "Blast". The reason for the gathering is an absurd guarantee from a late seer that something bad will happen...soon! It's as ridiculous as it sounds, but it seems to be proven true in a matter of seconds, as a massive Macross-sized spaceship shows up and pulls an Independence Day on the city surrounding Hero HQ.  With hundreds of thousands, if not millions annihilated in an instant, such a titanic loss of life would be devastating in a more serious series, but it's a good thing that One Punch Man is not that kind of show. After all, there are cool fights to be had, and now that the best of the best are involved, that's what we'd best care about. [Watch more One Punch Man on Daisuki] If anything, the punishment taken by the heroes in this particular engagement is best summed up in the following gif.
One Punch Man photo
The Bald Man and the Sea (King)
One Punch Man  might be a comedy, but just as even the grimmest, darkest fiction isn't completely free of levity, this satirical send-up of all things superheroic can sometimes swing things straight and earnest. And from the pace of proceedings, the showdown with the Sea King is the place to do it.

Strong Style: 'Tis the end of the season of Strong Style beatings!

Dec 12 // Soul Tsukino
We kick things off with a greeting from Blue Justice himself, Yuji Nagata! NWA Jr. Heavyweight Title: Chase Owens vs. Jushin Liger Rematch here for the belt as Liger is the champion coming into this one. He is wearing a cool alt version of his mask that is white with red trim. On the other side, we have Strong Style's favorite dollar store A.J. Styles, Chase Owens. Owens has now even started wearing long black tights and grown his bread out, wonder where he got that idea from. Owens, of course, is seconded by Bruce "I took third place in a Buddy Holly lookalike contest" Tharpe, president of the NWA. Mauro actually says that outside of the ring, Tharpe is actually a nice soft spoken person and a lawyer. Jokes on that contradiction begin now. Chase gets the waistlock and Liger takes him down with a leg scissors. Owens tries to get out but goes for the ropes. We jump ahead a little bit as both men chopping each other in the center of the ring. Tackle sends Owens out to the floor and then Liger hits a sliding dropkick. Liger goes for the dive off the top, but Tharpe gets in the way. Chase gets the advantage off the distraction and goes for the pin but gets two. Owens gets some punches in but then stops and poses. Owens go for the running start and is stopped with a palm strike. Liger sets Owens on the top and hits the top rope hurancanrana! Vintage Liger! He goes up again and goes for the dive only to meet the knees. Chase hits the gutbuster and gets a two count, only to go for it again. Owens gets the slingshot backbreaker and then hits another one. Owes goes for the package piledriver twice (ironic because I know another guy named Owens who used that move) only to get blocked but gets a sunset flip for two. Owens gets up and gets a waistlock, that is reversed, reversed again and Liger gets the pin! Backstage Owens grumbles about losing and vows to get the belt the next time.   NWA Title: Rob Conway vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan It's the Con-man! Rob Conway comes out wearing the title and with Tharpe as Mauro gives a brief rundown of how important the NWA Title used to be. Sadly it isn't the case anymore. Rob has let his hair and beard grow out now, so he looks a lot like Hercules Hernandez here. Rob's career never really got off the ground as he was a big developmental stand out for the WWE, but then got shoe-horned into las resistance and spent more of the next few years having Jim  Ross explain that he wasn't a french guy, even though he was dressed like it and waived a french flag. Tenzan, on the other hand, has held just about every title there is in Japan, including being the winner of all three major single's tournaments in Japan. Bell rings as Tenzan is the crowd favorite. Conway attacks off the Tharpe distraction and unloads on Tenzan in the corner with chops and punches. Conway hits a clubbing clothesline. We get a small jump ahead as  Tenzan goes Strong Style on Conway and then lands the rolling thunder kick and hits a bunch of Mongolian chops and then a running axe bomber in the corner. Tenzan goes up and hits a knee to the back down to the mat. Only gets two, though. Tenzan comes off the ropes and gets a kick to the gut by Conway, Tenzan then reverses into a thunder bomb. He goes up and hits a diving headbutt before going for the anaconda vice! They are up to their feet only for Tenzan to hit the anaconda buster! Tharpe up on the apron just as Conway taps. Conway grabs the belt and nails Tenzan with it, but Tenzan kicks out of the pin! Back from break as Conway hits a spear for two. Conman hits a swinging neckbreaker but can't land the three count. Conway tries for the hanging neckbreaker on the ropes, but Tenzan reverses it and hits Conway's finisher on him! Tenzan slams Conway on the mat and goes up. Tharpe runs up, but Tenzan blasts him with three headbutts, splitting the lawyer open across the nose. He then hits a MOONSAULT and wins the title! Tenzan thanks the crowd for cheering him and asks for their continued support. Clipped and a quick one, but man Tenzan can still lay down the hurt. Backstage Rob bitches about he was cheated, not defeated. Tharpe gets in a threat in Japanese. We get some studio words from Yuji. He talks about being after revenge from the G1 and how Nakamura creates his own world of wrestling instead of being just about a belt. IWGP Intercontinental Title: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Yugi Nagata: I am ready to be amazed. Nakamura has been featured on this show several times with his Freddie Mercury appearance and style while also being a devastating wrestler. Yuji Nagata on the other hand really only had a couple of matches in this show's run. Yuji is the wily veteran as he got started in the early 90's, including a run in WCW here in the States in 1997. Both men had brief MMA careers, but in losing efforts against some very big names. As Nagata makes his entrance, Mauro heaps weel deserved praise on both men, saying that Nakamura is Daniel Bryan's favorite. Josh Barnett mentions training with both men and facing Nagata for the IWGP title during his record ten defense run. Yuji has his friends with him as TenKoji and Nakanishi are supporting him. Josh mentions how both men have great amateur wrestling backgrounds, with the difference being Shinsuke was freestyle while Nagata was trained in Greco-roman wrestling and thus favors suplexes more. Bell rings and they square of going for the knuckle lock and grappling. Nagata has the advantage but Shin counters out. Yuji goes for the armbar early. Shin gets out and Yuji pops to his knees. Crowd is LOUD but split right down the middle. Shinsuke gets him down with a waistlock and Nagata goes for the armbar again. Shinsuke cartwheels out of it. They start trading kicks and Nakamura grabs hold and pushes back to the ropes and then goes for the belly rub and gets nailed with a knee and some stiff kicks for his troubles. He just never learns. Yuji gets the armlock again, but Nakamura gets his foot on the rope. Shinsuke rolls to the outside, but Yuji follows and starts kicking the crap kicked out of him. Nakamura grabs on and slams Yuji to the barrier lands a knee to the back. Shinsuke lands some kicks before rolling Yuji in the ring with his head exposed over the apron. Nakamura hits the running knee and climbs on the apron and hits another knee of Yuji's head. Both men up and starts trading elbows. Nagata hits Shinsuke's knees and gets a kick to the chest. We keep getting shots of the NJPW announcer at ringside. The story is is that this guy kept getting attacked by Iizuka and getting his shirt ripped off until Nagata came out and saved him, so the announcer calls Yuji his guardian angel and is pulling for him to win. Back in the ring, Shinsuke lands some hard kicks, but goes for the cocky pin, only getting a two count. Yuji gets to the corner where Nakamura gives him the good vibrations face wash. Shinsuke goes for the corner kick, but Yuji gets a well times knee in to send Nakamura down. Nagata lands some big time kicks in the corner. Nakamura gets up and they are exchanging STIFF elbows to the face!  Nagata lands the exploder suplex and gets a two. More forearms and Shinsuke gets the whip for the kick, but Nagata rolls through and hits a low dropkick. More elbows! Nagata's elbows are lightning quick by the way, faster than Nakamura's and like a shot. This guy's amazing, especially for 46 years old. Nakamura gets him in the corner and lands some kicks before landing a suplex and driving his knee into the back of Nagata's head. Shinsuke goes for the Booma Ye but Nagata gets off a sweet belly to belly suplex. Yuji hits the roundhouse kick and then slaps Nakamura in the face. Slap exchange now and Yuji floors Shinsuke with a smack. Nagata yells at Shinsuke and seems pissed at Shinsuke's weaker slaps. Yuji bleeding from the ear now, that's a scary thing to happen. Mauro speculates that Yuji's suffered a ruptured eardrum. We are back from commercial as Yuji hits a running clothesline. He sits Shinsuke on the top rope and goes for the superplex, but Nakamura counters with elbows and a headbutt but Yuji keeps holding on, finally falling down after the third headbutt. Yuji hits a high kick right to Nakamura to counter, though. He goes up and gets the over the head belly to belly from the top rope! Yuji gets him up and hits an enziguri, then goes for the Saito suplex. Shinsuke counters with a German suplex and then strikes with a knee right to the back! Nakamura hits the flapjack and gets all fired up. Yuji gets in a knee for his trouble and then set up with knees to the gut on the top rope. Shotgun knee and Shinsuke then hits the Booma Ye, but gets a crap cover and Yuji kicks out. Nagata gets the backdrop suplex as we see Yuji's wife and son. Nagata goes for the Saito suplex again. Shin counters but gets stuck in the cross armbreaker and Yuji's eyes roll back as he is going to rip Shinsuke's arm off. Shinsuke gets the rope, but Nagata kicks him right in the arm before hitting some kicks. Yuji tries the suplex again, but Nakamura gets a facelock to c counter. Yuji tries for a suplex as Shinsuke hits an enziguri and Yuji stands right up, he gets another one and Yuji stands up, Booma Ye hits and finishes off Nagata for the three count. Wow! We get a shot of the announcer and he is in tears. Nakamura grabs the mic. He gives praise to Nagata saying he reached a new level. Shinsuke gives respect to the crowd and a YEAH-OH! Backstage Yuji said he did not go easy, and that tonight Nakamura was the better man. The announcer arrives and Yuji looks at him and asks "Do you think that's it for me?" and, of course, the announcer says no. Yuji says he's just getting started and it is not over. He gets up and hugs the announcer telling him to stop crying. Tenzan and Nakanishi both congratulate Nagata for a hell of a match. Studio words as Yuji says he should have kept the match more grounded in the beginning He was surprised how much support he got from the fans of Sendai. After the match, he says his young son told him better luck next time, and that he was glad that his son was able to see how strong of a fighter his dad was. Nice way to end things for the week.   Like I mentioned before, this show had an old vs. young feel going for it and the older stars showed they still had it. Although the first two matches were cut for time, they were still enjoyable, if brief. Yuji showed just how dangerous he was and hats off to Mauro and Josh, especially for the main event with how much insight they had.  Well, that's is it for new episodes until January. I'm not going anywhere of course, and neither is Strong Style as we will have a whole new round of action from Japan for the new year. Until next time, Fight-o!     /ul/34577-strong-style-tis-the-end-of-the-season-/Match 3-620x.jpg
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
We finish off the season with a fight!
Hello again everybody to this week's Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. This week we take a trip back to Sendai for the "New Begining" show from February 14th, 2015. It's odd that we are endi...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episodes 720+ 721

Dec 08 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 720: So Long! Bellamy's Farewell Blow!With the last of Doflamingo's Lieutenants falling by Zoro's hands and the SMILE factory being destroyed by the Tontatta tribe everything is looking up for the Straw Hat- Heart Pirate Alliance. Trebol is still under the impression that they still have Mansherry's healing powers to fix everything, but we know that she got saved by Leo some episodes back and this episodes is able to rendezvous with Robin, Rebecca and Kyros.  Apart from that nothing happens in this episode. Most of it is patting each other on the back or looking at the now tertiary characters briefly. I had completely forgotten about Kaola and her investigation until this episode. We do get a small flashback to when Zoro learnt to imbue his sword with Haki from Mihawk at the expense of being completely teetotal. I assume it's so Zoro doesn't get into the bad practice of sword fighting and drinking like Hyouzou.  I think what everyone wants to see is the conclusion of the Bellamy- Luffy fight and that doesn't occur until the last 5 minutes of the episode. Fortunately, it is a good 5 minutes. The finale of the episode recaps Luffy's entire relationship with Bellamy and his choice to finally end his suffering. It goes through the themes of honour, weakness, acceptance, and pride, things that we have seen before during this fight which seems overplayed now since this fight has been really drawn out. It ends with Luffy re-creating the Jaya arc and downing Bellamy with one punch. It's easily the best part of the episode. As the blow is struck, all audio is cut off and you can only see the rage of Luffy's expression mixed with the complete defeat from Bellamy. The impact is made so much stronger without any audio accompaniment. Episode 721: Law Dies - Luffy's Raging Onslaught!The last episode ended with a bit of a cliffhanger as Doflamingo and Trebol leer over a bullet-ridden Law corpse. Winding the clocks back a few minutes we see the last two executives mercilessly beating the crap out of the Heart Pirate captain. Doflamingo does offer Law an ultimatum; if he performs the eternal youth operation on Doflamingo then Doflamingo will grant Law one wish after he dies. I'm unsure of the validity of the request since Doflamingo is probably the evilest person in the whole of One Piece and Law would never know whether his final request was respected. Like many D.'s before him, he spits on Doflamngo's request making the Heavenly Demon lose his shit and pop many many many caps into Law.  Just as Luffy arrives on the scene, Doflamingo begins to shrink his Birdcage destroying Dressrosa and it's inhabitants, also known as the destroy everything because it's fucked up. By this point Doflamingo is cutting his losses and a fight with Luffy is completely meager now that Law is dead. I would have to agree. Luffy was having trouble fighting off a Doflamingo puppet so he would no match against both Doflamingo and Trebol together.  This episode was slightly better than the previous but again re-treads old ground with the same themes explored in the same manner. Doflamingo's tantrum at Law did reveal some interesting points around Law. Law's Heart Pirates name might be referring to the position Corazon once had in the Doflamingo family and the position Law was supposed to take after Corazon's death. Law wears Corazon branded clothing as a mocking gesture at Doflamingo as he is carrying out his will even in death against his brother.  Again there is a cliff hanger with Law whispering some advice to Luffy. After point-blank musket shots to a person, you'd think they would be too mangled to make coherent words or thoughts. In the world of One Piece, unless you die by the sword, bullets and explosions are mostly meaningless.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] So Long! Bellamy's Farewell Blow!
One Piece photo
Click bait titles
Whenever this show has a juicy title, you can always guarantee that 90% of the episode will be filler. The part you want to see will be at the very beginning then quickly revisited at the end for a cliff hanger. Or on the fli...

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari episodes 9-10

Dec 07 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 9: Shinobu Mail, Part ThreeKicking off this episode is action. A fitting opening since in the last episode ended with a cliffhanger. The oddity had a very interesting form. It was an amalgamation of all the oddities Araragi had dealt with in back in Bakemonogatari, but it's body was made up of floating kanji. The art direction for the opening was bold and beautiful with the muted black, grey and white background contrasting with the bold yellow jacket of the oddity.A decisive play is made by Araragi and Kanbaru using their odd dojutsu (kanji in the iris) that goes wrong because Araragi is an idiot. Shinobu throws them a bone and by bone I mean the Apparition Killer blade allowing Araragi to deliver the killing blow.   After the fight, Shinobu informs the duo that Izuko Gaen is in another castle in a very odd fan servicey way possible. I'm a fan of Shinobu's character design since she is a ridiculously cute girl with an archaic way of talking. But because of her 10-year-old appearance that makes me uncomfortable when the show sexualizes her as fan service. I'm just not into lolis. Fortunately, this episode is more prude in this area, if only it was like this for most episodes involving a loli character. After making their way to the shrine and finally meeting with Gaen, we get a massive text dump that takes up the rest of the episode. Gaen falsely introduces herself as Meme's younger sister then proceeds to talk for the rest of the episode about her thoughts on the mysterious man in the Samurai Armour.  Bottom line is as a Vampire you can never die even when exposed to sunlight so Shinobu's first follower that had committed suicide by walking into the light has now regenerated 400 years later.  Episode 10: Shinobu Mail, Part FourGaen continues to leak out exposition and explanation like a gushing water tap almost designed to piss off both Araragi and Shinobu. Whenever Gaen refers to the Samurai she always says that he was Shinobu's first prompting the jealous side of Araragi to become exposed. Shinobu later reassures Araragi that the number before or after doesn't matter and that she is with him now. I thought this was a nice line to include as it shows the strong connection Shinobu has with her current host Araragi. The North Shirahebi Shrine (or Kita-Shirahebi Shrine) is a location revisited many times in Monogatari and it has shown up again as the location of an air spot. The place where all the ashes of the Samurai also known as Shinobu's first partner had gathered and began resurrecting.  Gaen leaves the problem with the team saying that if things aren't sorted out soon then they will need assistance from Kagenui since she specialises in immortal oddities.  Gaen is an interesting character for the series. I really like her character design, taking a lot of inspiration from hip hop fashion and appearing very youthful considering that she is actually classed as middle age. Her character in the story also wavers from mildly antagonistic to helpful to the protagonists. Never directly helping but serving as an adviser for Araragi and company even if she does so in an incredibly arrogant manner.  I found this episode to be dull. A lot of it was more exposition from Gaen and it began to be confusing to understand what the next plan of action was. The episode does try to tie everything back together by putting all the oddities encountered in Bakemonogatari chronologically and it would've been useful if I had seen that season recently. Since the original had first broadcast almost 7 years ago, it's hard to remember details of what occurred in each story. At least the last third of the episode lightened things up with some playful banter between Araragi and Kanbaru.  Kanbaru's Boys Love interest is revisited as she requests Araragi to buy her the latest issue of Brutal Garcon Huff-Huffs a Half-Blood Boy and a bra. The title is strange enough on its own so when I saw that the book had a Kaiki look alike (I assume this is the Garcon) suggestively holding an Armin look alike (again assuming that's the half-blood boy). I don't think I'll ever understand the yaoi genre. Araragi also ponders whether he has been showing too much interest in young girls bordering on fetishistic and picks up a couple mature gravure magazines. This also doubles to hide the BL novels he is also buying though the cover is quickly blown by the cashier. Then he bumps into the Samurai having taken a leaf out of Orochimaru's book of possessing a girl and looking super creepy doing it. [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] Episode 9: Shinobu Mail, Part Three
Monogatari photo
Gaen is hippest of the hop
Monogatari fans that love reading will really enjoy these next two episodes. Monogatari fans that like Izuko Gaen and think that she isn't in the show enough will really like these episodes. Monogatari fans that also like Monogatari would also be excited by the new trailer for Kizumonogatari part 1: Tekketsu-hen that was released recently.  What a time to be a Monogatari fan.

Strong Style: Ichi-barnburner!

Dec 05 // Soul Tsukino
Tonight's matches come to us from the February 14th, 2015 show at the Sendai Sunplaza Hall. We get no greeting and just jump right into things. Kota Ibushi/Tetsuya Naito vs. Toru Yano/Kazushi Sakuraba Well, this is a nice bonus match. Not a whole lot of backstory here. Both Naito and Ibushi compete as heavyweights but are on the lighter side. Their opponents are a mish-mash team with MMA legend Sakuraba and the walking foreign object that is Yano. Sakuraba starts the match with Kota as Sakuraba tries some small stuff to start, but Kota lands a right. Really odd seeing Ibushi tries to mix it up with Sakuraba, and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Kota tries some slaps but gets nothing. They get into the corner with a clean break. Kota tries some kicks, but they are blocked. Waistlock by Kota only gets an armlock from the submission expert. Crowd applauding the good grappling. Yano gets the tag and Naito comes in on the other side. Naito gets armlock, but Yano gets to the ropes. Yano gets a wristlock, but it instantly gets reversed and into the rope where Yano SCREAMS for the break. Naito lands an elbow and then a dropkick sending Yano down. He grabs a wristlock again and Yano screams that it hurts. Yano pulls Naito's hair to get him down and then chucks him out of the ring He grabs the ring pad off the nearest turnbuckle and a chair and goes to work on Naito with it. Ref, of course, sees nothing. Jumping ahead with Naito getting a neckbreaker on Yano as both guys tag in. Sakuraba avoids the missile dropkick and goes for kicks on Kota, Kota fights back with strikes and then hits the springboard kick. Round kick to the gut. Kota goes for something but gets caught in a triangle choke. Kota picks him up but Sakuraba gets in the armbar, but it is broken in the ropes. Kicks to the arm now has Kota in pain. Kota tries for something, is blocked, but Ibushi gets the suplex! Yano and Naito tag back in where Naito hits the exposed buckle. Naito, however, hits a dropkick and a senton. He climbs to the top for a missile dropkick, but Sakuraba breaks it up. Yano then tags in. Naito trades waistlocks with Yano, hits the enziguri and a slam before he heads up again but doesn't get there as Sakuraba stops him, but Ibushi sends him out. Yano catapults Naito into the exposed buckle. Yabo tries for the lock, but Naito gets out, nearly running into the ref, Yano gets the low blow, He goes for his finisher but Naito reverses and gets the pin! Kind of an odd match here. Not terrible, just very odd. Hiroshi Tanahashi/Meiyu vs. The Bullet Club (Anderson/Gallows/Tonga) Jeez, Meiyu and Anderson and Gallows have wrestled each other a lot huh? I think this is the fourth time they've faced each other this season. At least this time around we have Tanahashi and Tonga to spice things up a bit. Meiyu comes out first, then Tanahashi.  Tanahashi has a bandage on his face from the nasty gash he got fighting A.J. Styles with stitches. The Bullet Club comes out with the KISS makeup from the above picture. The OCD in me wishes they had a fourth guy to be made up as Ace. Also, Tama Tonga's "Catman" makeup is weak. Gallows and Shibata start this off with Gallows going right after Shibata and pounding him. Shibata counters with some slick mat work and goes right for the figure four! Gallows rolls right into the ropes to break. Shibata tries it again but gets kicks for his trouble. Goto and Anderson tag in now as Karl gets the early advantage but misses a senton and Goto his the shoulder before Tanahashi tags in. Tama Tonga interferes from the apron as Anderson climbs up the buckle and bites Hiro right in the stitches! Quick jump as Hiroshi is in the corner and gets hit by everyone. The Club goes for the pin, but Goto breaks it up. Tama hits the Tonga twist but still can't get the pin. He goes for the charge, but Goto jumps in and hits the ushi-karoshi! All three work on Tama but all six men get in the ring. Shibata hits the running dropkick on all three men of the Club! Hiroshi hits the slingblade on Tama and hits the high fly flow and scores the pin! That was quick! With three matches, some things had to get cut, so I'm guessing some was taken out of this match for it. We get some studio words from Ishii for a change. He says that Honma means nothing to him. He wanted to beat Togi Makabe for the title and no one else so this match is meaningless to him. NEVER Openweight title: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoaki Honma The NEVER belt doesn't get the coverage on this show that the other titles do so we missed the belt changing hands this season. These two do have a bit of a history as both were members of Togi Makabe's Global Bash Heel group a few years back. When Toru Yano and Shinsuke Nakamura turned on Makabe to form CHAOS, Ishii followed right behind while Honma stayed loyal to Makabe, even to this day. Speaking of Togi Makabe, he was the champion coming into this show but as Mauro explains, he came down with a case of severe flu and New Japan stripped him of the belt. His buddy Honma stepped in to take his place in this match. Honma has the height advantage and the crowd solidly behind him. Lock-up to start and it's an aggressive one. Gets to the ropes with a clean break. They lock up again and back to the ropes where a shoving match erupts into an elbow to the face duel! Damn! Honma hits a shoulder block and then misses the kokashi headbutt... twice. Ishii hits some teasing kicks before hitting a chop. Ishii kicks him in the heads and rakes his boots over Honma's face! Honma back up hits some chops on Ishii, but gets a nasty chop right back! Honma is back in the corner and Ishii with chops and strikes. The announcers bring up Ishii trained by Genchiro Tenryu, who just recently retired from wrestling. Mauro tells of how Tenryu is the only man to hold pinfall victories over Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki. Tenryu could have been a big star, but horrible timing and wanting to do his own thing got in the way of that.   Honma hits a shoulder and sends Ishii down, but he pops right up. Honma hits the bulldog and goes for the headbutt and misses again! Both men up and start a chopping duel! Holy crap they are just going back and forth the crowd is loving this! They chop back and forth for what seems like forever before Honma breaks down the Stone Pitbull. He then HITS THE HEADBUTT! An attack on Ishii as Honma goes for the suplex but can't get him up, Ishii can't get it either, Ishii finally gets the suplex off. Back from break with both guys down. Ishii up first as he whips Honma into the corner and then clotheslines the stuffing out of him! Honma being set up on the top and Ishii climbs to the second rope. Honma blocks the brainbuster attempt. He grabs Ishii and drops down, snapping his neck on the rope! Reminds me of Tetsuhiro Kuroda from the old FMW promotion. Honma hits the blockbuster and then a slam. He climbs up for the headbutt, but Ishii catches him. Honma gets the sunset flip, but Ishii grabs the turnbuckle. Honma gets the powerbomb lift, but Ishii counters out. Ishii aims a chop right in Honma's throat and then does it again and then gets a powerbomb. Pin attempt only gets two.  Ishii then locks in the double chicken wing on the canvas. Honma gets to the rope for the break out of the hold. Ishii sets Honma up on the buckle again and gets a delayed suplex down to the mat. Ishii tries for the pin, but only gets two as the crowd is roaring for Honma now. Clothesline by Ishii but Honma gets the DDT and STICKS Ishii into the mat like feet straight up in the air. Ishii's seemingly always injured shoulder is out now. Both hit double clotheslines, but Ishii hits a shot to the jaw and both guys clobber each other with clotheslines. Honma up first as Ishii is on the apron and nearly gets Honma up for a suplex to the floor, but Honma blocks and they exchange strikes. Honma hits a running clothesline on the back of Ishii's neck sending him right into the post and on the floor. OUCH! He then climbs the buckle to hit the kokashi to the outside and he HITS IT! "One of the dumbest moves I've ever seen" Josh Barnett proclaims. Seriously that was insane. Back from break as Honma is up first and gets Ishii in the ring. Clothesline blocked, gets hit with a forearm but Honma slams him with a clothesline that rattles Ishii's teeth. Honma only gets two for the pin. Honma goes for something, but it is blocked. Ishii hits the back suplex as both guys are hurting now. Honma up first and starts kicking Ishii in the head a few times before hitting some forearms but Ishii isn't going for it! He's mad now. Ishii clobbers Honma with a clothesline and then sets him up again to the top rope and hits the avalanche brainbuster, pin attempt only gets two. Holy crap is this amazing! Ishii hits the clothesline and then runs him over with another one.  Two count. Ishii goes for the suplex but counters, Honma hits an elbow and then hits a running forearm. Another suplex attempt blocked and Honma MUSCLES Ishii up and hits a brainbuster of his own but Honma still only gets two. Ishii nearly gets Honma up on the shoulder, but Honma hits a kick and then hits the running headbutt into Ishii's spine, then hits a DDT, but only gets two, That is a scary spot for both guys and a hell of a chiropractic adjustment! Honma goes for the top rope kokashi headbutt but misses! Neither guy is quick getting up Ishii hits a German suplex, but Honma pops right up. He hits him again and Honma kicks out at one! Honma hits a clothesline but only gets one! Elbows traded now as Ishii hits multiple strikes but Honma counters with palm strikes. Ishii hits a clothesline, but the pin attempt only gets two! Suplex attempt but Honma gets a headbutt. Ishii counters with one of his own as they trade headbutts. Ishii hits the low clothesline but doesn't get the pin. Ishii hits the headbutt and finally gets the win and the title! This match is the DEFINITION of strong style. The fighting spirit in this was so strong you'd need a temple priest to keep it from cursing your dojo. Backstage Honma growls as he is on the floor that he can't seem to win the big one. However, he will not give up and will keep fighting. Ishii, on the other hand, says that this match meant nothing (are you kidding me?!?) and that he is only holding a temporary belt until he can't fight Makabe for it. He tells Makabe to get better so they can fight. Studio words as Ishii says that he strives to make the NEVER belt awesome. Not only does Makabe fire him up, but everyone does, as they should be fired up when they fight him. Oh man. That main event was incredible. Especially from two guys you would not expect to pull off a match of the year candidate like that. Once again we have a case of a good opener, a forgettable middle match, and a hell of a main event. This episode was worth every bit of it on just that match alone! Next week it looks like we will be returning to Sendai for more wrestling action. I will see you then! /ul/34552-/match 1-noscale.jpg
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
The NEVER Openweight belt headlines!
Here we are once again with Strong Style, Japanator's coverage of New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. After taking the holiday off while AXS covered college basketball, we are back with what is supposed to be the season finale...

Annotated Anime: Durarara!!x2 Ten episodes 9-12

Dec 03 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 9: Eloquent & CompetentFollowing directly on from the previous episode, episode 9 clarifies a lot of unanswered questions that may have been raised. And it does so by exploring Izaya Orihara's backstory and his close friendship with Shinra. But first we are introduced to Nakura being interviewed about Izaya. The first thing that is striking about Nakura is that he dresses almost exactly like Izaya and that's not a coincidence seeing that Izaya has been using Nakura's name ever since the first season. Another is that we never see his eyes making me think he makes his living as a Hentai protagonist. As the episode unfolds we get more information about Izaya and Shinra's middle school days as when the former wasn't pissing off the most dangerous man in Ikebukuro, he was being hounded to form a biology club and running an illegal baseball betting ring inside the school. Izaya continues to be one of the most interesting characters in the whole show. He is often portrayed as an overarching antagonist but with episodes like these he fits more in the anti-hero role.   Episode 10: Blessed are the FoolishI really hope the Durarara!! cast will stop expanding otherwise we'll be heading towards Bleach syndrome. This episode is narrated by that scary dude with a wicked scar and sunglasses that work for the Blue Squares. His name is Ran Izumii older brother of Aoba Kuronuma. The origin of the scar? It was when Dota-chin's group saved Saki in the first colour gang war. Yep, the narrator was the leader of the Blue Squares back then. When I first saw that flashback I thought that dude was a minor character as the subject was Masaomi and him being in over his head with the gang wars. His more recent appearances are tied to Izaya's recently acquired muscle group. While not a whole lot happens this episode, the incident at the end of the episode is the trigger for the finale and it's all orchestrated by Izaya himself.  What makes Izaya so fascinating is that is loyalties are constantly changing, his actions are hard to predict, and everything that happens in the series is somehow linked to him. He's a character that if hidden from the viewer would supply the mystery portion of a show but instead he is always open with his schemes and plans. It makes him a lot more relatable despite not being able to predict his motives, moves, or actions.  Episode 11: Birds of a FeatherThe effects of Kyohei's incident spread through Ikebukuro as the rest of his group: Walker and Saburo hit all the major gangs trying to sniff out who was the one that planned the hit on Dota-chin. I'm not too sure if Saburo is barking up the right tree as he starts to target high school kids loitering outside of a supermarket. They're not even old enough to drive and yet you try to shake them down for information!? Walker is smarter and goes for the newly reformed Yellow scarves being headed by Masaomi. After a tense stand-off between the two, Walker is assured that Masaomi will snuff out the culprit if they are within his crew. Kyohei's Gang are known to be goofy oddballs that fight for the right side and for that they're super likable within the show. I've never realised the extremely psychopathic and violent nature of Kyohei's gang. They are willing to make threats of arson and torture to those that cross them, all with a smile and manga on the mind. They're like crazy otaku except out for blood and not limited edition phone cards. On the other side of the city, Mikado and Aoba round up their gang to go to an abandoned building so Mikado can surf the web. I'm amazed that they are able to get such a strong internet connection in an unused building, but this is Japan we are talking about. The Wi-Fi there is better than my "fibre optic" connection used to write this post. Throughout this whole cour, we have barely spent time with Mikado. He's always on the periphery or briefly shown after major events. This separation shows us how different he has become from his former shy, schoolboy self. He's now is a cold calculating gang leader under the influence of Aoba.  Episode 12: It Takes A Thief To Catch A Thief It's time for the last episode to wrap up the middle cour. With the news of Shizuo getting arrested, Verona starts to wonder how she is able to repay the lanky bartender for all his favours like the canned coffee and fancy take whilst also debating when is the ideal time to kill him off would be. She runs into an old buddy Sloan who is now working for Izaya as his hired muscle as part of compensation with the Awakusu. Speaking of Awakusu, Akabayashi pays Mikado and the rest of the Blue Squares a visit under the direction of Celty and basically asks the Dollars to join the Awakusu in the most gangster fashion i.e. join us or we'll destroy you. He also brings along Shuji Niekawa, the reporter father of Haruna (the antagonistic Seika from last time) since he is still looking for his daughter and has traced her to the Dollars. However, we all know that Haruna is actually part off Izaya's newly formed motley crew. Unlike previous series finales, there isn't a whole lot of action in this episode. Walker comes face to burnt face with Ran Izumii looking for revenge. This fight doesn't last long at all and is interrupted in the funniest way possible. A huge turn of character from Izumii as he receives a phone call from presumably Izaya calling him off fighting Walker. As the episode winds down, Celty confronts Mikado about everything; what the hell has he been doing this entire arc? Turns out he is purging the whole of the Dollars of troublemakers, those that rock the boat and go against his word. Hanging out with Aoba has changed him and now he is preparing for war with Masaomi and the Yellow Scarves since Masaomi's plan is to stop Mikado's mad power trip.  Both are very capable leaders of their respective factions and it really reminds me of Death Note. L and Light never fought personally but were always trying to out-predict one another which we get a glimpse of near the end of this episode. The final shot for this cour is quite bizarre. If anyone remembers the UFO ending in Silent Hill where all the previous protagonists greet the player after passing the threshold then you will have a very similar feeling at the end of this one. Confused, oddly comforted but unable to shake what you have just experienced. It's sad to already time to depart from the urban jungle of Ikebukuro. I feel this middle cour was very meandering. Not much happened and was all preparation for the big fight for the final part of the season. The joys of Durarara!! weren't wasted in this cour as it still provided lots of colourful characters presented with wonderful and strong voice direction. Finding out how all the characters are intertwining, connecting, and tangentially related to one another is still the double-edged sword of the show. It's not entirely necessary to understand all the character's relationships with each other, but it helps engrain yourself into the world of Durarara!! [Watch Durarara!!x2 Ten on Crunchy Roll] [Watch Durarara!!x2 Ten on Crunchy Roll]
Durarara photo
Last train out of Ikebukuro
I really cannot catch a break with recapping this series. When last last weekend rolled around I was only expecting to binge watch One Piece, read some dialogue heavy Owarimonogatari, and enjoy just ONE episode of Durarara!!x...

Annotated Anime: Attack on Titan: Junior High episodes 5-7

Nov 28 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 5 The summer is coming up on our favorite little munchkins as this episode takes place just after the big bunch of tests before the summer break. While some of the kids are doing just fine, Armin scores perfectly on everything, some of the students are going to have to do some makeup tests to get their grades up, namely Sasha and Conny. Sasha gets levied a big threat that if she flunked the makeup test, she would no longer be allowed to eat her lunch. Our favorite food eating machine is desperate to find someone to help her study. No one wants to help her, but she asks Armin who is more than happy to help her and Conny score better on their make up tests. Conny forgets about staying after and wanders home. Armin sits Sasha down and they begin to tackle algebra, Her worst subject. Armin figures out a trick that instead of thinking about Xs and Ys, to think about food prices. While he starts with apples and oranges, Sasha starts rattling off bizarre food combinations, like Tempura and Watermelon. Armin isn't too impressed with the idea of these foods together, but at least she's getting the idea. While this is going on, Eren and Mikasa visit their senpais in the "super secret" club. Oruo goes on and on about getting horrible grades because he took things too easily (biting his tongue multiple times). He tells the younger students he doesn't need to study, but one of the others in the room says that his mom had said Oruo stays up late at night the night before tests studying in his room. Finally when everyone takes out their tests, it turns out his "bad score" was a 94 and still better than everyone else's. He talks about how year one tests are so much easier than year two tests, and how the year one students can't help him. Petra then punches him for just wanting to gloat. Our favorite Science club nutbar shows up as Hange is looking for Levi. She bets him that whoever did better on the test treats the other to Yakisoba bread (This is a thing?). He, of course, says no. She is broke but very hungry, he tell her to go buy some cheap squid. Having figured out that Levi was a no go, she decides to try and con the lower classmen in his name. It doesn't work. When Eren asks why she is so short of money, Hange takes them to the science room where she shows off two Titans she has captured (sound familiar?). She names them Sawney and Beane after a bug and a crab she used to take care off. She is broke from having to feed them all the time. The Titans keep trying to take a bite out of her when she gets too close, but she just gets her kicks from it (this does sound familiar right?). Seeing her plight, Levi gives her a loan that she has to pay back. A bag of dog food for the Titans. She then eats a handful. Later that night it is dark out and Sasha and Armin are heading home. Sasha has done well on her practice questions and seems to be picking up on things that Armin showed her. As he walks away Sasha thinks that she used to think of Armin as just weak, but that he is actually a friendly person. He comes bolting back to Sasha crying because he is scared of the dark street ahead. HEY! STOP IT YOU TWO! THIS ISN"T THAT KIND OF SHOW! We jump ahead to the makeup tests and Sasha is at first pleased to see an X and Y problem, but... she gets a little off track. She flunks the test and Conny never even shows up. Now both of them have to take refresher classes. Episode 6 We start things off by the shoe lockers as people are leaving for the day. Marco and Jean run into Conny and Sasha who are heading home together because Conny had told Sasha of a noodle place he had found. They then run into Hanna and Franz, the lovey-dovey couple always seen together holding hands. They start talking about marriage, but they were the ones who brought it up. Eren and Mikasa stroll by and Jean finally flips out on Eren saying that he is jealous. Eren goes to fight, but Mikasa carries him away. Jean then says that no woman in the school appreciates him when he opens his locker, there is a LOVE LETTER! Class begins as Jean shows up with his hair all combed and styled. Eren and his friends are shocked, especially when Eren smells cologne. Mikasa is not impressed.   Jean sits down and begins to think who could have sent him the letter. At first he ponders Sasha but realizes he'd lose all his money feeding her. He then thinks of Christa, since she would fit the style of person who would write a letter like that, then thinks of the boyish Ymir, who he dreams of dumping Christa to marry him. He gets frustrated that he'll be suspicious after every girl in school and then dreams of Rico and Petra trying to steal him away, finally ending with all the girls fighting over him. Eren, Armin, and Mikasa tell him he is getting too caught up in his own fantasy. Jean, however, doesn't hear it and begins to wonder if Mikasa sent him the letter, but then Annie shows up. Mikasa and Annie get in a back and forth as Annie has something to tell Jean, but Mikasa says she can relay the message to him (he is sitting right between them). I should mention in the background it seems each of the characters drew portraits of each other. They are adorable! Back to Jean who thinks he is causing all these conflicts with people. As Mikasa and Annie have a stare down, Jean tries to stop them and it doesn't end well for him. As he is on the floor a love letter falls out of Annie's pocket, but before he can say anything, she clubs him. Later during class, he catches her looking at him. As they are leaving for the day, Marco tries to put it gently that Jean isn't popular as he thinks. Jean tells him to shut up. They then catch Annie putting something in Jean's locker before she runs away. Jean goes into fantasy mode instantly thinking back to the dodgeball episode where he images that Annie and Mikasa were arguing over him (it was actually Eren if you remember). He grabs the letter and it says to meet him at the park. Jean takes off but when everyone else turns around, there is Annie. She asks for some advice. At the park, Annie shows up and Jean says that she can go out with him. She then runs him over and says that the letters were from her friend. She then calls her out by giving a blood-curdling scream. Oh man, this.. this can't be good for Jean. Yup. His suitor is a Titan. Turns out Annie and the Titan go to the same cram school together and that Annie is learning to speak titan. Annie says that the Titan is cute and shy and that she didn't forget when Jean gave her his lunch when she was hungry a few days before. As it turns out Jean threw his lunch at her as a distraction so he and Marco could run away as she ran towards them at the park. Jean, of course, gets some ribbing from his friends. jean goes into shock thinking his first love letters were from a titan so he freaks out and tries to tell everyone she is human.   After getting crushed, he snaps out of it and says that he can't go out with a huge woman like her, leaving the Titan in tears. She smashes him on the ground and runs away, vowing she wouldn't give up. I gotta tell you, I feel bad for the Titan here. Sasha takes pity on Jean and shows him what it's like to be popular by having a daikon and a Curry bread argue over who Jean should eat. Jean goes with it. Poor bastard. Episode 7 This episode starts off with Sasha and lunch (there is a surprise) She is dashing for her favorite Yakisoba bread when it is snatched up by Hange, leaving Sasha in tears. Jean comments that the first years aren't even supposed to buy bread and that it is just the upperclassman flaunting their seniority. Eren mentions how Jean has been skipping out on the wall cleaning club and that Rico is not happy with him, so he better show up. When they get to the club Rico is pissed at Jean and asks him where he has been. Jean comes up with horrible lies of where he has been (online karate classes being my favorite) and Rico tells them to get their enthusiasm back by going to clean all the windows. Since they had to do that they were all late for the secret club and the upperclassman gives them all hell for showing up late, and then picking over their clothes telling them what they can not do as first-year students. Eren finally has enough and tells everyone to shut up. Oruo takes to the shock by biting his tongue. Ymir, Christa, Marco, and Jean show up and literally are doing everything the upperclassman are railing about and drive them all nuts. The first years are given cleaning duty as punishment. The door opens and Hange and Levi show up and... wait, they are all on cleaning duty and Levi shows up? Oh, no.. OH NO! Hange gives the idea of having a contest between the first year kids and the upperclassmen. Whoever does worse at the sports day games between the three different years would have to clean the Titans building. We jump to the next day as the sports festival began. Christa has become a cheerleader for the team, along with Annie who isn't so up to the challenge. The first event is a bun eating race. Of course, Sasha is the year one representative, but also competing is Hange. Uh oh, this is about to get real.  Really bad for Sasha as Hange decides to bend the rules a bit. Saying that Sawney and she were like two halves of the same whole. Next up is the ball tossing game between year 1 and year 2. It looks like the object is to get your teams balls into the opposing teams basket. Year 1 cheats as Jean uses the omnidirectional gear to avoid people. Rico is furious and uses the incoming balls as ammo and takes Jean right out of the air. It... doesn't go well from there.  Year 1 is way behind now and things are looking bad. Mikasa steps in and gives everyone a strategy and pep talk. Actually, she says that all of them are unskilled and weak and that she will do things alone (There is that familiar feeling again), but despite being insulted, it fires the team up. As the game starts Mikasa is doing better than everyone else of course. She even gets sneaky by distracting Petra by dressing in everything the upperclassman told them they couldn't while Eren sneaks up and grabs the bandana of a year 2 leader. The game turns absolutely brutal as Armin sacrifices himself to take out another team. Eren and his team go on as you hear the screams of the other teams in the background. They break through to find the year 3 leader and... he's cleaning. The boys go for it, but Levi ends that quickly enough. Just then Hange comes flying in with Sawney and Beane with a giant ball of something. She falls out of the basket and pulls the cord, releasing MOUNTAINS of confetti. The game is ended and Levi isn't too pleased. We cut to later as the first year kids are cleaning the mess when the second year kids decide to join them, saying that Levi and the third year kids beat them last year too, but they helped them clean as well. The first year kids all bow and apologize. They then wonder what happened to Levi and we find him chasing Hange around. I think she is enjoying it. Wrapping this up This series is still a lot of fun! Seeing what these kids do and how it harkens back to the original series is really enjoyable. Having episodes focusing on characters like Jean and Sasha was great too as you got to see a lot more of what makes them tick. And, as mentioned here many times, Sasha is my favorite character, so this was a lot of fun seeing her! If there is any complaint, it was Episode 6. Not that it was a bad episode, but showing that the Titans have feelings and thought REALLY screws up the series. I know it's meant to be a joke, but not only did I feel bad for the Titan in that episode, but it made Eren look like a horrible racist little kid and Hange's set up REALLY questionable. But then again, maybe I'm over thinking this. Anyway, big thumbs up for this series and can't wait to see what these kiddies are up to next! [Watch Attack on Titan: Junior High on FUNimation] Episode 5   The summer is coming up on our favorite little munchkins as this episode takes place just after the big bunch of tests before the summer break. While some of the kids are doing just fine, Armin scores perfect on everything, some of the students are going to have to do some make up tests to get their grades up, namely Sasha and Conny. Sasha gets levied a big threat that if she flunked the make up test, she would no longer be allowed to eat her lunch.   Our favorite food eating machine is desperate to find someone to help her study. No one wants to help her but she asks Armin who is more than happy to help her and Conny score better on their make up tests. Conny, forgets about staying after and wanders home.   Armin sits Sasha down and they begin to tackle algebra, Her worst subject. Armin figures out a trick that instead of thinking about Xs and Ys, to think about food prices. While he starts with apples and oranges, Sasha starts rattling off bizarre food combinations, like Tempura and Watermelon. Armin isn't too impressed with the idea of these foods together, but at least she's getting the idea.   While this is going on Eren and Mikasa visit their senpais in the "super secret" club. Oruo goes on and on about getting horrible grades because he took things to easily (Biting his tongue multiple times). He tells the younger students e doesn't need to study, but one of the others in the room says that his mom had said Oruo stays up late at night the night before tests studying in his room.   Finally when everyone takes out their tests, it turns out his "bad score" was a 94 and still better than everyone else's. He talks about how year one tests are so much easier than year two tests, and how these year one can't help him. Petra then punches him for just wanting to gloat.   Our favorite Science club nutbar shows up as Hange is looking for Levi. She bets him that whomever did better on the test treats the other to Yakisoba bread (This is a thing?). He of course says no. She is broke but very hungry, he tell her to go buy some cheap squid. Having figured out that Levi was a no go, she decides to try and con the lower classmen in his name.   It doesn't work. When Eren asks why she is so short of money, Hange takes them to the science room where she shows off two Titans she has captured (sound familiar?) .  She names them Sawney and Beane after a bug and a crab she used to take care off. She is broke from having to feed them all the time. The Titans keep trying to take a bite out of her when she gets too close, but she just gets her kicks from it (this does sound familiar right?).   Seeing her plight, Levi gives her a loan that she has to pay back. A bag of dog food for the Titans. She ten eats a handful.   Later that night it is dark out and Sasha and Armin are heading home. Sasha has done well on her practice questions and seems to be picking up on things that Armin showed her. As he walks away Sasha thinks that she used to think of Armin as just weak, but that he is actually a friendly person. He comes bolting back to Sasha crying because he is scared of the dark street ahead.   We jump ahead to the make up tests and Sasha is at first pleased to see an X and Y problem, but....she gets a little off track.     She flunks the test and Conny never even shows up. Now both of them have to take refresher classes.
Attack on Titan: Jr high photo
Hope you like Sasha and Jean!
Hello, Japanator readers! It's time for us to take a look at the next three episodes of the chibified adventures of the Attack on Titan gang. What adventures and junior high troubles will Eren and the gang face this time around? Let's find out!

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episode 8

Nov 26 // Josh Tolentino
It's ironic, then, that the "realness" of today's big setup comes courtesy of two characters that are practically impossible to take seriously, and for reasons that aren't really funny, in all honesty. I am, of course, referring to the big baddie, the Sea King, and the most powerful non-lead  character we've seen fight, the S-Class Hero Puri-Puri Prisoner. Both are, unfortunately, tremendous missteps in the enduring quest for sensitivity in anime character design, since they act and speak like raging gay stereotypes of that peculiarly Japanese, "Cho Aniki" variety.  For the uninitiated, it's worth pointing out that Japan's conception of gay stereotyping runs slightly differently than in America and the west. Over in (In)Glorious Nippon, the things usually held "suspect" are the hyper-masculine, bodybuilding types, with looks and designs pioneered by the likes of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Fist of the North Star, and others. Yup it's not the effete, effeminate fashion-hound of a guy that trips your average Japanese person's gaydar, but the genetic beast lobster.  I am, of course, generalizing, but it's telling that Sonic, who's also in the episode and normally wears an outfit that's more snug than body paint, is the one that gets treated like a hyper-cool male badass. In comparison, Puri-Puri Prisoner is basically a prison rapist. Hard not to look at that and wonder why these S-Class types are still called "Hero".  But, it's not all bad. They may be terrible stereotypes, but Sea King and Puri-Puri Prisoner actually still manage to be pretty cool. Prisoner does it by going way over the top, striking a flamer-hulk performance that recalls the likes of Cars and AC/DC from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Sea King does it by being the most powerful and terrifying baddie the show's yet seen.  Unlike the Colossal Titan ripoff from episode 1 or Carnage Kabuto, the Sea King's out to kill, and makes mincemeat of anyone he comes across, eventually breaking into the emergency evacuation shelter in order to slaughter the puny humans inside. This is where things get more intense, as clearly doomed heroes still make a stand, despite knowing they're far outclassed and don't stand a chance. Even a jerk like Snake-Bite Snek gets some redemption. As most folks can agree, heroism isn't about your actions when you're not being challenged. It's about what you do when you're so scared you've soiled yourself. [Watch more of One Punch Man on Daisuki!]
One Punch Man photo
S-Class Went To The Sea Sea Sea (King)
If last week's installment of One Punch Man was about complicating the world of heroism for our man Saitama - and to an extent, for us as observers of the show's world, this week's episode is all about intensifying it. In a word, things get real this week.

Annotated Anime: One Piece episodes 715-719

Nov 24 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 715: The Manly Duel - Senor's Elegy of LoveLuffy continues his senseless and losing fight against Bellamy while Leo and co. get Mansherry back to Viola. This is all peripheral to the main stars of the episode; Franky vs. Senor Pink. We have been getting snippets of this fight for many episodes and but it has never progressed further than just trading a few attacks and hits. In retrospect, I think Senor Pink was absolutely trashing Franky, delivering a hit and the sinking back into the ground. This manly fight is backed by pure testosterone. Neither side wanting to back down nor dodging a hit since it would be unmanly to avoid it, or as they eloquently put it "refuse a drink at a bar by pulling the cup away". Senor Pink's ultimatum comes in this episode stating that if Franky can withstand his ultimate attack then he will back down. The final move turns out to be a very fancy Izuna Drop. Mid-way through the descent, Senor Pink mentions that he knows Franky's weak point i.e. his back since that is the only part of him that isn't mechanised. Things are looking bad for the Straw Hat until he rises from the crater like a goddamn Terminator, red eye and all.  Then comes the emotional flashback. I was told that Doflamingo's executives had some really tear jerker back stories and they weren't lying. I didn't think I'll ever relate to a guy looks like an overgrown baby surrounded by bikini babes, and somehow One Piece has me feeling nothing but empathy for the guy. I love the way it is introduced too. Senor Pink sends Franky flying and starts to wax nostalgic about Russian and Gimlet. We're kept in the dark about these names until the second half the episode which makes the reveal hit harder emotionally. Looking back it's understandable he still holds them dear to his heart. He had to live a double life as a pirate and a family man, and neither should ever meet. I'd imagine he kept his family a secret from the Doflamingo Family as he did his pirate life from his actual family.  On first appearances I thought Senor Pink was a wacky Oda creation with no reason for him being dressed as a baby outside of diversity and character design aesthetics. Having a history behind his appearance makes Senor Pink a much deeper character compared to the other villainous lieutenants the Straw Hats face. I'm just surprised I'm getting more emotional reactions out of the antagonistic cast rather than the heroes. Episode 716: Stardust of Death! Diamante's Storm of Vicious Attacks!We continue to take a look at Senor Pink's life and how he dealt with the mocking eyes of everyone when they saw him dressing as a Baby. Surprisingly well for a Man (with a capital M) that once wore stylish suits and chain-smoked cigarettes. I really didn't think Senor Pink's back story should have been included in this episode. At least not separated from the previous episode. It would've been better if they spent an entire episode on Senor Pink's backstory instead of having two halves of two episode. Fortunately, the pacing was still spot on, not dragging too much on familiar ground and concluding with the Tontatta tribe storming the SMILE factory. As the title implies, we return to the three on one fight on top of Flower Hill. Apparently the joint forces of Robin, Kyos, and Rebecca is still not enough to bring down Steve Tyler's One Piece doppelganger. Diamante makes it rain with lots and lots of caltrops catching Kyros in the barrage of iron spiky objects. However not even this is able to bring down the one legged gladiator so Diamante shoots him instead. And even this isn't enough to bring him down though Diamante did just hit is leg instead of anything more valuable like the heart or head.  Kyos delivers a speech prompting Rebecca to finally drop her sword which is good because she hasn't really used it for the past 10 episodes and had merely served as a decorative item to complete the Gladiator ensemble. I had really hoped Rebecca would be more than a damsel in distress. She was really competent before Kyros arrived, taking on gladiators, avoiding death, and fending for her own. Did the sudden re-appearance of her father negate a decade's worth of fighting experience!?  Episode 717: Trueno Bastardo! Kyos' Furious Strike!After my long break away from One Piece, the show is finally finishing off all their major fights. Senor Pink was finished off in the last two episodes, Mansherry has been rescued and Jora was defeated again. Now it's time for Diamante to eat humble pie and be destroyed at Kyros's hands. Not much to say here as it's just fighting. Not many special moves nor smart tactics. Kyros continues to wails on Diamante as they flashback to Scarlet as she joins the two together being Kyros's wife and Diamante's victim. The two do have another thing in common in this episode and that is to have the scariest close-ups ever in One Piece. The camera gets so close to their face that they contort in bizarre shapes and colors. I'm not too sure if they're sword fighting or tripping out on the flower buds.  Diamante is downed and everyone gets a pat on the back as Violet reads off the remaining executives; Pica, Trebol, the big cheese himself Doflamingo, and Bellemy. I wouldn't consider Bellemy an executive considering Doflamingo has tried to kill that guy about three times already. Episode 718: Moving Across the Ground! The Giant Statue Pica's Surprise Maneuver!Pica decides his fight with Zoro is useless and focusses his efforts on killing Riku instead. He reasons that if the entire country wants Riku back in power, killing Riku would prevent him from dethroning Doflamingo or Doffy as his executives call him. Pica then grows to be a Kaiju-sized monster and traverses Dressrosa towards King Riku and the rest of the crew. As Zoro gives chase, we get a glimpse into the swordsman's strategic mind. Unfortunately, this entire episode is played straightedge. We don't have any funny fails in mind planning or does Zoro get lost from following a behemoth. Having a giant CG Pica looked a little weird amongst all the animation but overall the visuals are on par with a normal One Piece episode; acceptable if you don't look at anything outside front and centre.  Episode 719: A Decisive Battle in Midair! Zoro's New Special Secret Technique Blasts!Now it's time to take down that high pitched stone monstrosity that has been avoiding death since the start of Summer. Zoro's plan is to fly to the top of Pica and slice him before he can destroy King's Plateau along with Riku, Usopp, the Samurai, and the other secondary allies the Straw Hats have picked up in the past year. He gets thrown by Orlumbus and flies through the sky like a plan with swords for wings. The picture of Zoro flying at high speeds through the sky with katana akimbo looks ridiculous. He looks like Woody in the first Toy Story as he's being propelled by the rocket strapped to the back of Buzz except this time it's a suited buff dude with a bandana and two samurai swords.  Meanwhile, Pica painfully takes his time flattening Riku and even pauses when he sees the citizens of Dressrosa banding together to sacrifice themselves with the former king. I'm not too sure why he would pause at that moment considering he's probably killed far more people unconsciously traversing to King's Plateau in his Kaiju form. Zoro slices and dices in the nick of time using his new skill: imbuing his sword's with Haki. Pica escapes as per usual but is cornered midair by the swordsman. The show then starts drawing parallels with the first time Zoro fought Mihawk. I think it's because Zoro uses an upgraded version of his Three Thousand Worlds technique against Pica except the thematic parallels don't work due to the context of each situation. This may be Zoro's strongest enemy to date, but he's not fighting against an equally strong swordsman or cutting a material that is inherently difficult to cut. When he fought Mihawk it was almost certainly a losing battle, he was out of depth. When he fought Daz Bones, he was fighting again against the odds since the guy was made of Iron as a devil fruit power. An uncuttable material. This time, we see Zoro slicing and dicing stone like it's made of cheese so it doesn't look like a difficult fight physically. Zoro for most of the series been able to cut brick and motor. The Pica fight should've been trying to test Zoro's cerebral skills to make him into a better swordsman. Without tactics and intelligence, brute force would only get you so far. However the show doesn't show Zoro stressing about it at all, he doesn't have a eureka moment nor worrying about how to beat this impossible opponent. He was always calm, collected, and content on cutting up stone after stone and chasing after Pica. This seems to be a running theme through the post time skip. The crew never grow stronger after every fight, their training appears to be sufficient to tackle these challenges in the new world.  And with that I'm caught up with One Piece and so are you. Hopefully, I won't leave this week's recapping for another five weeks again otherwise I may be court marshalled from the Japanator ship for going AWOL.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
One Piece catch up extravaganza!
It's been too long my friends for a salty sailor to be denied the high seas. I've saved One Piece until last since little ever happens week to week. And the five weeks I do decide to leave are the five episodes where three executives are taken down, one of the best heart-wrenching flashbacks in this arc occurs, and Zoro imitates an aeroplane. 

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari episode 8

Nov 23 // Anthony Redgrave
After the desperate escape and rescue by Ononoki, Araragi recaps the events to the doll and his plans his next moves. Ideally he wanted to take Kanbaru somewhere safe so she won't be harmed by the Samurai oddity but since she had made physical contact with it, she is now connected to it. Also, Araragi still hasn't fulfilled his promise to Gaen of introducing Kanbaru to her so that Gaen can make use of Kanbaru's monkey paw. This is all laid out and recapped by the conversation between Araragi and Ononoki. This clears a lot of the motivation and goals of the show as previously I was unsure of which person Araragi wanted to introduce Kanbaru to. Trying to follow the story of Monogatari can be difficult amongst the streams and streams of dialogue that is spouted out every episode and it's made even more difficult when it does the Haruhi thing of airing the series out of chronology.  I once spoke to a friend about the airing schedule of Haruhi and he replied it was part of the show, that it was supposed to confusing and awkward. However, when a show has large amounts of continuity with the same characters all interacting with one another both on and off screen, it is really difficult to grasp the story and relate to the characters. Since Araragi wants to continue to protect Kanbaru from the Samurai, he proceeds with his original plan to meet with Gaen in the park. Namishiro Park specifically. A commonly revisited site for Monogatari. It has a really nice design too with boldly coloured jungle gyms and play sets contrasting strongly against the uniformly grey block of flats in the background. The middle portion of the episode has Araragi and Kanbaru getting lost a la Mayoi Cow, wondering the streets endlessly. In a case of fourth wall smashing, Kanbaru remembers the solution for the Cow oddity better than Araragi who actually experienced the oddity first hand and they arrive at the park 3 hours past the original meeting time. In a strange turn of events, they do not find Kanbaru's Aunt but a sleeping Shinobu underneath a swing set having just fought off a Monkey oddity. I really like Shinobu as a character. She is coy, confident, and the loli appearance rounds it off. Having Kanbaru jumping up and down excitedly behind the fence is great too, acting as a proxy for Shinobu fans.  The episode concludes on a cliffhanger as the oddity Shinobu was fighting returns. The dark shadow that reaches towards the camera is imposing and the glare of the background light masks the oddity in shadow, capturing the feeling of mystery and menace in one shot.  [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!]
Monogatari photo
Eat up!
From reading posts by anime fans whenever a show has a selection of female characters (often attractive) one of them will be selected as best. This is an entirely opinionated but I think the most common favourite in the ...

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episodes 6 and 7

Nov 22 // Josh Tolentino
But first, an aside: Perhaps the most interesting news to come out of One Punch Man in the last couple of weeks has come from its production team. Chief Animation Director Chikashi Kubota recently revealed that, contrary to lay expectations (mine included), One Punch Man is animated using an "average-sized" budget, and is not the moneyed behemoth many thought it was judging by the high quality of its action scenes and prominence as a Shonen JUMP headliner. It just goes to show how "anime" One Punch Man is, and not merely in adhering to cultural quirks most folks associate with "anime-like" things, but also in a more classical sense. Japanese TV anime developed many of its stylistic and storytelling conventions from the need to make the most of very limited resources. Compared to the Hollywood-led productions of the time, the style of animation pioneered by Tezuka Productions and other postwar studios is filled with cost-saving techniques that directly influenced the way stories are told in the medium today. It's one of the reasons Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki famously disliked having their works lumped in with "anime", as to them, the term represented something defined by having been made on the cheap. Whatever the case, Kubota's tweet is a resounding affirmation on the talent at work with One Punch Man, that they can "hide the seams" so effectively that people think the show is much more expensive than it actually is. Moving on, the first "hit" of episode six is the one most everyone will be familiar with, regardless of punching strength. After all, few things have more of an impact on a person than a good ol' reality check. In this case, Saitama learns of the world of work, as he realizes that C-ranked heroes like himself need to stop crime on a regular basis to keep from being dropped from the roster. Given that he's always been far too powerful to consider stopping muggers and helping old ladies worth his while, this leads to a mad scramble across town in search of bad guy to take down.  The bad guy in question is Speed o' Sound Sonic, who opens his second appearance in the One Punch Man canon spoiling for a rematch. Needless to say, Saitama provides, absentmindedly filling his quota and inadvertently proving his superiority in one fell chop to the back of the head.  The real meat of the episode, though, is in seeing the Hero Association conduct more investigations into the origins of monster activity in Saitama's hometown, City Z. Besides a cool boardroom sequence featuring reports from various high-class heroes, the task falls to two A-rank ringers, the slingshot-toting Golden Ball and the mustachioed Spring Mustachio. Facial hair is his superpower, alongside a wicked sword thrust that recalls the likes of Bleach's Gin, but somehow cooler. After a cool action scene, the two heroes get plastered by a weird seaweed creature and learn little about the apparent mystery behind City Z (Hint: It's Saitama!), but we do get a further look into the inner workings of the Hero Association, including an early cameo by Tornado of Terror, a petulant, childlike telekinetic diva.  After the period of relative downtime in episode six, things pick up steam in episode seven. Then again, how could they not? A meteor's about to hit the city, after all. In case folks were wondering about our lead characters' lack of screentime, episode seven is mostly about Genos, who has many steps yet to go in his heroic journey. I've remarked before about how Genos could probably anchor a stereotypical action show all on his own. He's young, has a tragic backstory, and if not for his master, would probably be the star. That feeling's reinforced here, as he tries his damnedest to stop the meteor, despite a lack of aid from the apathetic Metal Knight and Bang, an aged martial-arts guru who's seen a lot of crap. Naturally, Saitama ends up stepping in to save the day, but there's never a doubt who the most heroic person was in this particular incident.   That doesn't mean our One-Punch wonder is completely without virtue, though. He may be oblivious, and kind of a dick, but he's the hero we deserve, especially compared to some of his peers. An incident with a pair of tank top-wearing jerks seems to impress that, with few exceptions, most of the heroes in the Hero Association are hardly heroic at all. Instead, the ranks are filled with preening, status-obsessed d-bags who care more for their place in the rankings than doing the right thing. By comparison, the only decent people are relative outsiders, like Saitama, Genos, and Bang, or the downtrodden, like the powerless Mumen Rider. One can't help but wonder if that's some kind of meta-commentary on how turning passion into work can lead ideals astray, but suffice it to say that being bad isn't exclusive to villains.  [Watch more of One Punch Man on Daisuki and Crunchyroll!]     chief animation director Chikashi Kubota
One Punch Man photo
That Feel When No One Knows You
The last couple of weeks of One Punch Man have delivered a couple of big hits, and neither courtesy of the titular "man" himself, Saitama. One hit is more psychological/philosophical than anything else, and the second is literal in a way that befits a show as straightforward as to have a title like One Punch Man.

Strong Style: Rematch for the big one!

Nov 21 // Soul Tsukino
We have a greeting from Tanahashi to get things under way. Ever muscle cell in his body is ready. We get some studio words from Tanahashi as he talks about how good Styles is and will answer his challenge as many times as Styles wants. It is a great rivalry and it was meant to be. IWGP Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. A.J. Styles As I said before, Tanahashi is the champion here, having beaten Styles a few months prior. Tanahashi had gotten by Okada at Wrestle Kingdom, so it seems only natural for the rematch with the guy he beat for the title to be the next match for him. They the full entrance of both guys, as Styles comes out with the entire Bullet Club behind him. That's a sign of bad things to come I expect. Hiroshi comes out to a really impressive rock opera laser show as the air guitar is playing. As an aside, despite not being the top arena (that would be the Tokyo Dome) this arena in Osaka is a pretty impressive looking place in itself. We get the full introductions of both guys and they get loud responses. We come back from break as things get underway. Bell rings and both guys pose fro the crowd. Lock up gets into the corner and a clean break. They circle around with reversing waist locks before Tanahashi gets an armbar. Styles reverses and he starts jaw-jacking. Hiroshi goes for a counter and Styles drags himself out of the ring. Styles slowly gets in the ring and goes right for a headlock. He grinds on Hiroshi, but powers out into a struggle over an armlock before Hiroshi gets him down on the mat with an armbar. Styles gets up and goes for the hair, but Tanahashi whips him right back to the mat before driving the knees to Stylus's face. Styles tries dragging Hiroshi over, but Hiroshi rolls right through it right back to the arm. Styles whip Tanahashi into the ropes, gets off and impressive leap frog, and goes for a dropkick, but Tanahashi holds the rope and Styles hits the mat. Back from break as Hiroshi is hitting uppercuts before going for the straitjacket hold. Styles counters out and hits a kick to regain the advantage. He locks in a keylock before they go to the ropes. Hiroshi fights out, but Styles hits a dropkick to send Tanahashi out. Styles goes for the over the ropes splash but misses. Hiro hits a dropkick to Styles and then goes for the cannonball but misses that. The Bullet Club mobs on him and then kicks Capt. New Japan's ass for trying to break it up. Hiroshi is rolled into the ring like nothing happened. Styles comes in and hits a backbreaker on Hiro and then hits another one. Styles keeps things going by hitting a snap suplex and then power whips the champ into the corner. Tanahashi starts hitting some elbow shots but Styles whips Tanahashi into the corner and hits the flying forearm. Hiroshi avoids the hit but gets hit with a suplex for his trouble. Styles goes for the cover but only gets two. Styles then hooks in a surfboard as the story here is Styles going for the back. Hiroshi tries to power out, but Styles keeps holding on. Hiroshi breaks the hold and Styles goes for a forearm. Hiro blocks it and they trade punches before Hiro hits a back body drop to send Styles down to the mat. Out of commercial and Hiroshi has the advantage. He gets in a slam and goes to the top rope and gets in a somersault senton for a two count. Styles throws him over the top rope, but Tanahashi tries to skin the cat. The Bucks interfere, but he kicks them off and then drags Styles over the top rope with a head scissors. He then climbs the top and hits the high fly flow onto the entire Bullet Club! But uh-oh, They replay that to show Tanahashi legit conked heads with matt Jackson on the way down. Hiroshi is bleeding and the gash is not pretty. That's hardway and if both guys don't have a concussion from that, I'd be surprised. Both guys in the ring now as they hit a clothesline on each other. Styles is up first and hits a suplex into the corner buckle. Styles hits a flying forearm off the top rope and we See Matt Jackson isn't looking good either from that collision. He's got a nasty welt on his noggin. Styles goes for the bloody Sunday DDT, but Hiroshi reverses it into a trapped arm suplex for two. Tanahashi keeps the waist lock and hits another suplex! Styles grabs the ref and gets a low kick to the balls to send Hiroshi down. Yujiro Takahashi jumps up to distract the ref, but Tanahashi is the one to take advantage with a hit to Styles's yam bag as payback. Both guys get to their feet and exchange forearms back and forth and then  open palm strikes. Styles gets Tanahashi into the piledriver position, but Hiroshi counters into a sunset flip that is rolled through. Hiroshi then gets a surprise dragon screw leg whip to send Styles down. Back from the break as things are getting good now. Hiroshi gets up first and hits the slingblade! Holy crap that head wound is bad. He gets to the top rope and goes for the high fly flow, but Styles gets his knees up. Styles is exhausted now as he goes to the apron and tries to springboard in with a 450 splash, but Tanahashi gets the knees up. Hiroshi crawls out to the apron and climbs the ropes, but Styles hits the ropes sending Hiroshi down on the corner. Styles goes up and goes all the way up for the brainbuster, but Tanahashi fights out. Styles goes for the frankenstiener, but Hiroshi catches him! He tries for the styles clash, but Styles fight out of it. Styles hits the Pele kick that sets up into the Clash, but Hiro fights out of it. Styles just drops down on his head anyway in a ganzo bomb and then hits a bloody Sunday DDT! He gets the Styles clash and gets the win! Styles is the champion once again! We see Tanahashi being taken in the back, he is in bad shape. He seriously has to have a concussion after conking heads, let alone that cut. I commend him for keeping things going after that. Back from the break as the Club is in the ring celebrating. Karl Anderson gets on the mic and jaws with the crowd. He feels the need to go through and introduce every member of the Club individually. We get a shot of the lump on Matt Jackson's head. He can't be feeling good either with that one. I'm wondering if Karl isn't just stalling for time and the match cut a bit short from the concussion hit. Styles finally sounds off with the usual knock-off NWO stuff. Backstage the Club gloats about how cool they are and say nothing of note. Karl actually brakes kayfabe by wondering who was booking and getting color during the match.  In the studio, Hiro talks about trying to take all the Club by himself and failing. He mentions the hit to the head saying the blood got under his contact lenses and screwed up his sight (That must REALLY suck. He then says that while he is down for losing the belt, he feels he can win it back and that will lead him to the New Japan Cup. We end with some words from Mauro as we are done for this week. A great match and Mauro and Josh made a great presentation with it. This was a very enjoyable show and gave the main event match the time it deserved. I have to wonder about the actual booking as it sends the message of not wanting Styles, as a gaijin, to be in the main event of their biggest show of the year, but either way these guys once again had a great match! Since they moved some show around, I'm not entirly sure what will air next week, but I will be here to bring it to you no matter what it is! Saiyoooooonara! We get some words from Tanahashi as he talks about how good Styles is and will answer his challenge as many times as Styles wants. It is a great rivalry and it was meant to be.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Tanahashi and Styles go at it again
The magical express that is Strong style is back once again as Japanator looks at New Japan Pro wrestling on AXS TV. This week we return to the Bodymaker Collesium in Osaka for the main event of the New Beginnings show from F...


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