annotated anime

First Impressions: Heavy Object

Oct 07 // Josh Tolentino
The first five minutes of Heavy Object's opening episode are enough to hang out the "military otaku only" sign, with a barrage of exposition about how, even though it's the future, people just can't stop fighting. This is backgrounded by fancy sci-fi imagery of laser-propelled space shuttles getting blown out of the sky by missiles, and warships and planes launching explosive strikes.  All of that gets eclipsed by the arrival of the first "Object", a giant ball-shaped war machine that gets nuked on its very first day in combat, and still comes out swinging, annihilating the attacking army. From then on, war changes into an Object-oriented arms race, with the world's power blocs competing to get their own Objects, and using the invincible weapons as the centerpiece of all future battlefield action. Virtually all other materiel becomes obsolete, with entire battles decided by a duel between two Objects, with few casualties on either side. Wars become "clean" thanks to the dominance of a single category of weapon. This new battlefield dynamic affects every up and down the chain, which is where the lead characters - the hilariously named Qwenthur and Havia - come in. They're just two grunts, relegated to shoveling snow in Alaska, maintaining an airbase no one will use while Objects are in play. Qwenthur wants to become an Object engineer, and seems to have struck up a friendship of sorts with their local Object's pilot, a blonde loli referred to only as "The Princess". Havia's serving thanks to pressure from his noble family. Both are at the bottom of the totem pole, as ground troops are obsolete in the face of Object-based warfare. It's an interesting premise to start from, not least because the Objects themselves are about as far as possible as one can get from the stereotypical image of Japanese mecha. They're literally giant balls of armor covered in guns, like some demented fan of Gundam's RB-79 Ball took control of the boardroom at J.C. Staff when the time came to decide which shows to animate. It's also got a somewhat interesting angle going for it. After all, it's a rare war story that focuses on the characters who get "left behind" at the rear line. Then again, any military otaku worth his MREs would know that the very notion of war being "clean" and things as fundamental as infantry being outmoded by what is essentially a gigantic tank is preposterous, even for anime. Knowing that, the most likely scenario is our seeing Heavy Object's plot aim to poke holes in its own presumptions, that war can be just as hellish from the cockpit of a 50-meter death ball as it is in the trenches. Well, that's the hope at least. If nothing else, the episode ends on something of a down note, with Qwenthur staring at the shattered remains of The Princess' Object, dreading the prospect of having to fight the enemy Object without backup. That's no picnic, and seeing how he and his deal with the challenge should set the tone for the rest of the show. [Check out Heavy Object's simulcast on FUNimation!]    
A Weighty Topic
Stop me if you've heard this before, but this show is about a piece of military hardware, invented at some undetermined time in the future, that changes the very nature of warfare forever. Practically invincible on the battle...

First Impressions: Owarimonogatari

Oct 06 // Anthony Redgrave
It's a jump back in the timeline from Hanamonogatari and a jump forward since Tsukimonogatari as we join our favourite half vampire Koyomi Araragi still enjoying his days as a high school student. The audience is launched straight into the episode with talk about a Euler's identity and how it is the most amazing mathematic formula ever made. It's plucked straight out of a textbook and would put anyone to sleep if this weren't Monogatari. Taking an abstract concept and linking it into the story in a tangential way to make it seem smarter forms the basis of the Monogatari story telling style. Lots of discussion over different things made entertaining because of the visuals and sharp writing. The first few minutes of this show is a great litmus test to see if Monogatari is a series you can put up with, if not then I suggest Nekomonogatari since that's got a lot of Tsubasa Hanekawa fanservice. The bulk of the episode is a locked room mystery that spirals into a whodunit mystery with color commentary provided by Araragi in his nonchalant style and the mysterious belle du jour Ougi Oshino piping in with probing questions. Araragi's interactions with the different girls of the series is a highlight as he has a totally different dynamic with each of them; overly nice to Hanekawa, on edge with Senjougahara, and tough with his sisters. It's interesting to see him interact more with a character that isn't played off as sexualised. There are far less panty, chest, and poses from Ougi and more on her interaction with Araragi. Ougi is a mysterious character and sometimes we question whether she is a female. The ambiguous nature of Ougi in the story is complemented by her androgynous character design. Always appearing sounding like she's one step ahead of Araragi, her demeanor puts us on edge as she probes Araragi through the mystery.  Since 90% of the episode is spent in a classroom trying to solve a mystery the writing and art have to be on point to keep the episode from dragging. The plot does move along at a steady pace and doesn't linger too long at any one point or repeat/ reiterate the same point over and over. In fact, little is needed to be repeated as the writing and dialogue are at a pace where the story is always moving forward. Viewers not accustomed to this steady stream of words may find a new best friend in the pause button as even seasoned Monogatari veterans like myself still needed to tap the pause more than once to keep up. Throughout the series, the focus has always been on the girls and their oddities. Each oddity effects one girl and Araragi is often the man to guide them through their troubles, but we know very little about the man. Despite having Ougi as the main female lead, it is Araragi who is in the spotlight for character development and this is very welcome addition into the series. We may still have to wait until 2018 for Kizumonogatari, but this provides a deeper understanding on the half vampire lead.  I mentioned before that pausing the episode to catch up with the rapid fire text is a requirement, but it's not just to understand the story. It's to fully appreciate the art direction and cinematography of the episode. An empty classroom as a background can be monotonous especially to those of us that have gone through 18 years of schooling, coupled that with endless streams of dialogue it may be a one-way ticket to snore town USA. But Shaft has the alchemic ability to change these mundane environments into a visual ecstasy. The color schemes of the room are always changing, matching the mood and beat of the plot making the objects pop with contrasting colours and making backgrounds ooze with character. A key scene midway through the episode as chaos erupts in the classroom as it's filled with silhouettes and clashes of chairs and tables. It's effective in conveying the absolute carnage happening in the room despite the verbal debate reality. Another really cool visual was how it represented the other classmates as floating kanji. It's a really smart way of conveying the sense of bizarreness that comes with oddities in Monogatari and also a way of cutting down on designing characters.  The big reveal at the end of the episode was fairly predictable and it's nice to see Tsubasa making another appearance. If I could criticise this episode it would be that there was a lack of comedy throughout. It was a serious episode with little to no gags. I hear that Ougi Oshino will be the main antagonist throughout this season and I can't wait to see how that pans out. She treads the line between welcomingly cute and disturbingly intense at the flip of a switch.  [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!]
Monogatari photo
The return of Arararararararararararagi
Like Christmas, Halloween, and other holidays that I like to celebrate maybe once or twice a year and the same holds true for the release schedule of the Monogatari series. Last year's holiday season brought the four-par...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 712

Oct 05 // Anthony Redgrave
At the end of the last episode, Gladius had unleashed his master plan of blowing up everything around him including his "elite" henchmen in hopes of destroying Cavendish in a move he calls Punc Rock Fest. The misspelling was a tactical one as Oda doesn't want to piss off the real Punks of Japan. The blonde swordsman just barely survives as he is let into Bartolomeo's barrier in the nick of time. As always Bartolomeo is the source of absolute joy in whatever episode he is in, fanboying out at any Straw Hat interaction and acting like an asshole to anyone that doesn't fly under the Straw Hat flag. Dellinger continues to beat the ever loving crap out of one of the more forgettable gladiators Ideo despite his excessively long arms. I think every other gladiator landed one blow at least against their executive except this guy despite fighting pretty well in the coliseum. Angered by his determination, Dellinger reveals his true form as a Fighting Fish Fishman and promptly delivers the first scare of the episode. His child-like appearance and personality with a psychotic smile attached was already quite un-nerving for me to witness in combat. Adding in a transformation that makes Hody Jones and Arlong look like pussies is absolutely terrifying. The cut to red eyes surrounded by darkness was a bit too over dramatic for a show like this, especially when considering what happens later.  Robin continues her ascent towards the Flower Fields to Rebecca's location being covered from below by Bartolomeo. Her running animation looks bad. It looks like they had forgotten to add the in between frames leaving only the keyframes. The result is her moving very awkwardly compared to the how everything else moves in the show. This episode has the signature budget look of the modern One Piece episode as looking past the foreground will reveal a lack of production quality. Flat and undetailed characters that only vaguely look like the character they are representing based on their shape and colour to distinguish themselves from blending into the generic background characters is a common sight in this episode. In a sight gag of Bartolomeo fanboying out over Robin, there is a college of pictures featuring the mature lady. Unfortunately, the college makes her look more masculine and angry compared to the subtle wry smile of the mysterious tall beauty. Nico Robin is one of the hottest females in One Piece and this joke did not show off her good side.  Dellinger, after disposing of Ideo arrives to see Bartolomeo in his barrier, Gladius ordering Dellinger to retreat, and all their henchman cut to ribbons. Cavendish speed line appears and disappears with only glimpses of his face. Some good camera angles are used to obscure his face to add an extra creepy element to the whole scene. This would have caught me completely off guard if it weren't for the handy flashback prompting me to remember his brief transformation in the ring. Dellinger is attacked by the manic Cavendish and is downed without putting up a fight. It's a wasted opportunity for us to finally see Dellinger's final transformation only to have him defeated in the same episode.  The episode concludes with Cavendish attacking Nico Robin making us fear her safety. There are some days where Nico Robin lives up to her name as the Demon Child and at other times she doesn't get even get into any fights or worse she is useless like in Pirate Warriors. In this case, she is able to apprehend the crazed swordsman ending the episode with her trademark coolness. More of this Robin, please! [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
One Scary Piece
I'm not too sure if Toei planned it to coincide with the month of Halloween, but this episode is scarier than the whole of the Thriller Bark Arc. Yep, the arc that is devoted to all things creepy and ghouly was showed up by an episode in the Dressrosa arc. I'd watch this episode with the lights on and when the little ones are already tucked into bed.

Annotated Anime: Bikini Warriors episodes 9-12

Oct 03 // Anthony Redgrave
We start with a mage heavy episode in this cluster of episodes. Except it's not really about the Mage, but rather what the party has done to anger the mage. Unbeknownst to the party the Mage has been possessed and begins attacking them. The rest of the Bikini clad Dungeon and Dragons Classes start to reminisce on why this could be. They range from normal like the Warrior serving less food for the Mage to weird as the Dark Elf breaks the Mage's panties when she tries them on in the middle of the night to really creepy as the Paladin pervs on the Mage as she bathes. The most important info we can gain from this episode is that even with the little armor they have on, they still sleep in the nude!  Next we join the party mid-way through a dungeon having already suffered lots of damage from a previous encounter. They stumble across a chest and start having PTSD flashbacks about all the booby-trapped chests they have opened in the past and ironically for an ecchi show none of them are full of female mammaries. A missed opportunity due to the language barrier. These traps are little more than erotic pose situations with the most bizarre one being full of live eels. I'm guessing they're magic eels to survive that long in a chest without water.  In the penultimate episode, we are treated to a Paladin centric episode. The Paladin is a warrior of God and prides herself in sacrificing her vitality and wishes for the greater good, hence the insistence of doing literally anything for money, the quest, and in this case to progress with the adventure. We see her act as a martyr more often than not in monster encounters but is faced with the toughest sacrifice yet; marriage to progress in their adventure. Marriage, of course, means giving up her virginity which appears to be the source of her resilience when it comes to recovering from the physical damage she has been inflicted in the past. In a semi-poignant scene, she is preparing for the big night (the show wanting to skip the whole ceremony and celebration to skip straight to the sex) and it genuinely feels like her last big sacrifice. This big moment is later retconned in the final episode making this sacrifice less poetic and more confusing. Also, her character always played with her sexuality fast and loose making me question whether she was a virgin or not. That's not to say the actions of people define their sexual activity, but the show has to display these traits to the viewer otherwise it will be taken for face value. The atmosphere was there, but the history of the character destroys the mood. Those hoping we would finally get some nip shots in the T and A heavy show or even some bush will have to wait for any OVA or second seasons that Bikini Warriors may produce. The final episode was bad. The main draw of the show is that it riffs off popular fantasy tropes and it doesn't beat around the bush producing short 4-minute stories, story being the imperative word. The final episode is a random mishmash of battles and set pieces interspersed between limited animation yuri scenes. I'm guessing the Paladin's Gods turn a blind eye to lesbianism. The college of clips had some narrative structure showing the progression of the party from place to place and fighting ever stronger enemies before a final confrontation. They took the 4-minute story structure of each episode and condensed it to a 30-second clip only showing the highlight of that episode. Each clip lands the viewer in media res so the connection between each clip is tenuous making the viewer fill in the gaps. The episode length is too short to incorporate a full epic of journey, betrayal, sacrifice and victory so the finale feels like it is stretched too thin. It ends on a post credits cliff hanger that doesn't work since there is little continuity between each episode. With a series like Bikini Warriors, a fan service heavy beach or hot spring episode would have been more appropriate as a send off. It's something conventional that anime fans are used to and it'll be a new environment for the girls to riff off.  Bikini Warriors is what you can expect. Lots of boobs, bums, crotch shots, and fan service. The animation was good and the art was great with nothing looking out of place in the 12 episode series. The short episode length lends itself well for rewatch purposes, but the character personalities are a little bit too barren for them to be waifu material despite having very good looks. I really liked how they moved away from humiliating episode endings as it made the series a lot easier to watch. If you're in need of a lite ecchi break between marathons of To Love Ru and Highschool DxD, then Bikini Warriors's high fantasy setting will provide the perfect recluse from the hallways of schools.
Bikini Warriors photo
A fond farewell to Ecchi
Seems we are winding down on this season of anime and getting ready for the winter. First Nagato-chan finished, then Umaru-chan, I had dropped GANGSTA from my weekly roster and I hear that has also finished its 12 episode run. Now it is time for Bikini Warriors to take its final curtain call. Will the girls finish with a bang or will they require a nip slip or two to keep the audience's attention?

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 711

Oct 01 // Anthony Redgrave
Lao G's defeat in the last episode has not phased Doflamingo's executives as they continue to fight against the gladiators and Straw Hats. Pica still remains elusive enough to avoid Zoro's attacks despite the size of the high pitched Stone Stone fruit user. King Elizabello II offers up is King Punch to take out the executive, but Zoro refuses aid. Either out of pride or strategy he suggests that the King Punch should be saved in case something stronger comes along. Sounds like me and saving rocket launcher ammo in any FPS. And if they're like me they will save it until passed the credits. On the other side of Dressrosa, there is another major fight occurring amongst a flowery field that has been made flag like by Diamante. Despite being one of the major fights of the Dressrosa arc, it has so far been monotonous to watch. Kyros may be a badass in the ring, Rebecca looks hot and is a capable enough fighter, and Diamante has a semi-interesting fruit ability, but the whole thing is really slow. The only progression here is Kyros doesn't let Rebecca fight and Diamante takes advantage of this fact by picking on her. From watching feminist videos online, this is an example of inserting Rebecca into a vulnerable female role for a male paternal figure to protect. We have seen her fight capably herself in the ring so why is she just sitting on the sidelines watching her Dad protect her. Arguments saying she is injured don't fly when we have Law struggling through an amputation. Speaking of, over at the palace roof Doflamingo is double teaming Law with a newly assembled Trebol. Sadly it isn't my yaoi doujin of the Doflamingo family but more akin to the BDSM doujin I saw in Comiket 2 years ago. It's not funny how brutal they are with Law barely giving him time to catch his breath. The animation here is made passable as there are some crudely drawn frames in some areas. The previous segment with Kyos and Rebecca has rough spots and boring animation but the movement of Law and Doflamingo as they trade blows is pretty good and dynamic. Below Luffy continues to plea with Bellamy as the latter uses his last ounce of strength to try and take down our protagonist. There are two parts that stand out this episode. The first is the updated visuals to show Bellamy's introduction to the series and the famous beat down he gives Zoro and Luffy in the bar of Jaya town. Definitely makes the visual style more cohesive when they aren't using the 12-year old footage. The second is Bellamy's pride and philosophy. He's a pirate scumbag that made a lot of wrong decisions, one of them is trusting the devil incarnate. But his pride prevents him from going against past decisions. He cannot forgive himself. He let go of the past and find a future with Luffy, the man he shamed and mocked for his dreams despite Luffy's change of heart. It's a battle on a much deeper level compared to two pirates being on opposite sides of the moral spectrum. Luffy has to respect a man that follows his dreams/ pride but doesn't want to defeat an already broken man. [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Pride among Pirates
Better late than never with this week's annotated anime. Let's get on with the show that was formerly about a kid wanting to be a pirate but is now about trying to escape a kingdom midway through a coup d'etat.  coup d'etat

Annotated Anime: Himouto! Umaru Chan episode 12

Sep 30 // Anthony Redgrave
Before we can indulge in Himouto! Umaru-chan style of beach time fun the main cast must find a way of getting there. Having seen an advert for a 8 seater family car, Umaru persuades Taihei to go out and buy one. I know Taihei is a practical and sensible man. He cooks, cleans, works and basically takes care of Umaru since the slacker version of herself acts like a 5-year old child. But this has to be his biggest lapse in logical thinking. He humours Umaru's request on buying a car as it'll get her out of the house more and he promised that he would take her to the ocean. There are cheaper solutions Taihei! You even said yourself that you take the train to work so there is no practical reason for having a car except to get Umaru out of the house for this one trip. At the car showroom, they are greeted by the world's most energetic salesman. Umaru spots the car from the advert gets Taihei to give it a test drive. However, it has been a long while since Taihei has been behind the wheel and I think we have all been in his position of constant worry that an accident will happen at any moment. The best part of this section is the inclusion of a Ridge Racer style Race Queen before Taihei sets off. It something so unexpected yet perfect for this show. With Bomber roped in to drive the Doma family and friends to the beach after Taihei's traumatic experience, Umaru and Taihei try to get some sleep before their day at the beach. The excitement of sun, sea, and fun is too much for the two as they gaze up at the ceiling in quiet anticipation unlike those bratty kids in the Disney land commercial. Taihei, Ebina, and Kirie all gather at the front of the house waiting for Bomber to pick them up. The reveal of Umaru in her outside form surprises Bomber and Kirie who only know Umaru in her chibi form. What's even more surprising is that Bomber is dumb enough to think Kirie is not his sister because she changed her hair and is also wearing Luffy's Straw Hat. The face, voice and violent outbursts don't give it away? The episode progresses with lots of sight seeing, food eating, and generally pleasant vibes and visuals. Nothing looks too out of place here unlike last week and the freeze frame panning were just bearable to watch without over doing it to visual monotony. As the group head towards the beach, Kirie starts to open up a bit more to Umaru. She reveals that her initial violent outburst at her brother during the entrance ceremony caused her to be feared by the rest of the class and it was something she could never live down. Her confidence only grew once she started hanging out with chibi Umaru and Taihei. It's a really sweet scene and the feeling of her arc coming full circle explaining her creepy look at the start of the series. It would've been perfect if she also revealed herself to Bomber as Kirie, but I guess the ruse of looking, sounding, acting, and having the same name as his sister will continue. Sylphynford makes a last minute appearance on the beach with her brother Alex spying on the party from their yacht and they play and play and play on the beach. The only thing I got from the final moments of this episode was that frilly swimsuits were in this year. As the finale of the show, it didn't feel complete. There was a lot of interesting juxtaposition throughout of the series showing the similar domestic units between Taihei's work friends and Umaru's school friends that should have concluded in them discovering their various similarities. It was a finale that felt like a good episode but not the end of a season.  I don't think this will be the last we see of the anime Jekyll and Hyde as an OVA or two before the next season will be a welcome addition to my watch list. It's a show that is fun, light-hearted, and perfect for the gaming otaku that likes to watch anime.  [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!]
Himouto! Umaru-chan photo
Let's Drive to the Beach!
Ok, Japanators I think we all know the drill for a high school beach episode. Cue the excessive bloom from the sun, girls in bikinis except the token flat chest in a junior high swimming costume, beach style food like fried octopus balls and soft ice creams, and silly shenanigans that show off both the exquisite sights of girls and the surroundings. We all ready? Set? Good! On with the recap.

Annotated Anime: Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma episodes 21-23

Sep 29 // Nick Valdez
Episode 21 After waking up from his brief nap teased at the end of last episode, Souma reveals he's been cooking some kind of rice and spice dish, but that's all we really see before the episode cuts to Group B and Tadakoro. As the crowd begins to turn on her due to her nervous demeanor, she pulls out her cout de grace, a difficult monkfish she showfully butchers. She learned how to cut it back home in order to help her family, and seeing them here in support has given her the confidence to nail it. But the brunt of this episode was devoted to the fierce rivalry between Erina Nakiri's aide, Arato, and her creepy stalker introduced two episodes ago, Nao. The judges in Group B have been especially tough as no chef has gotten over 20 points, but Nao and her super smelly laksa and kusaya curry manages to get 84 points (resulting in the header image). But Arato, with her focus in medicinal herbs and spices, manages a healthy curry which cleanses the judges of all previous flavors and basically got the taste of Nao's curry out of their mouths. She scores 92 points as the episode's close draws attention to the Aldini brothers.  It's a shame the show's going to end soon because I'm loving the anime's adaptation of the reactions. They're the best thing from the manga, but seeing them play out on screen adds an entirely new level.  Episode 22 As we join Group A's proceedings, Miyoko Hojo (the character who hates Tadakoro for relying on men and feels she needs to be stronger than all the men in order to succeed in the field) has started things off with a strong Chinese and pineapple infused curry and nets 87 points, Polar Star Dorm resident Yuki nets 86 points for her wild game curry, but then the Aldini brothers take the stage. Both present Italian inspired dishes with the younger Aldini, Isami serving a curry calzone scoring 87 and the older Aldini, Takumi serves a pasta curry and gets 90 points thanks to his putting cheese inside the pasta noodles. then Alica Nakiri blows the judges away (and shows her chops) with her science cooking as her deconstructed curry gets a hefty 95 points. Then, finally, we have the best girl Tadakoro. After everyone hilariously forgot about her, she serves the result of her hard work and love of her town, monkfish dobu-jiru curry.  Tadakoro manages to score 88 points (earning her new rival Hojo's respect) and earns her place in the top eight along with Alice Nakiri, Hisako Arato, and Takumi Aldini. Yay Tadakoro! Episode 23 We're back in Group A as the judges continue giving low scores (with some giving no score at all). But Ryo Kurokiba, Alice's aide with his shifting personality, manages to break that rhythm with a lobster and cognac curry (which he tells the main judge to slurp like a savage, hilariously) and 96 points. But none of the other chefs let that get to them as Polar Star residents Ryoko, Marui, and Ibusaki all net 86 and 88 points respectively with their dishes as Nikumi gets 86 with her meat don (which she's crafted thanks to her early shokugeki with Souma). But as the episode draws to a close, the arguably strongest student (since we really haven't seen his skills yet) Akira heads up to serve his dish and directly challenges Souma with his taste. As Souma begins to eat, he realizes there's a delicious scent pouring out.  Well, that's it. The final episode is up next and this is what I mean about terrible sequel series. Now we're stuck here until Food Wars 2 or something like that comes out. Hopefully it's gotten enough support overseas to warrant a second season. But until then, I totally recommend the manga. It's pretty good. But this show's been pretty entertaining in its own right (and I'll get into that with the final impressions after I see the last episode), and I can't help but love the exaggerated world. I hope there's more. 
Annotated Food Wars! photo
Sexy curry
I hate how some shonen series are handled. If a shonen manga doesn't have the audience or allotted budget of a big Shonen Jump property like One Piece or Gintama, then its anime adaptation is doomed to "seasons." Instead of c...

Annotated Anime: School-Live! episodes 7-11

Sep 25 // Nick Valdez
Episode 7 After a few episodes of flashback, we're back in the series proper. When Yuki brings up their mall outing, Miki briefly forgets she's supposed to lie about Megu-nee and Yuki nearly cracks her delusion as brief images of a grisly scene flashback. Miki thinks it's time to stop lying to Yuki since it's not really healthy, but Yuri simply states that she'll tell her soon. After Yuki stumbles on some stationary, the girls decide to take their mind off things for a bit and write some letters to folks on the outside. During all of this, Miki stumbles on a key leading to some place in the staff room but hides it from the other girls. After some shenanigans involving carrier pigeons, the girls send their letters through the sky and we find that Miki's written one for her lost best friend, Kei (the one who abandoned Miki at the mall in search of a better kind of survival).  Kei's probably a zombie, folks. It's usually how these things turn out.  Episode 8 Miki gives the key she found to Yuri as the two start searching the staff room for clues as to what it leads to. But before all of that, the girls start talking about the future. Naturally since Yuki is still stuck in her weird state of mind, all she can think about is graduation and potentially getting a job in the adult world. It's a sad conversation as the girls try and look positively toward their futures (Kurumi wants to be wife, Yuri wants to do something I forgot about already, sorry), but this all feels like it's leading up to something big. In fact, that's one of the most impressive parts of this show. Every episode feels like we're inching closer and closer to some kind of terrible end. Starting with the opening credits (which have been slowly getting more and more violent as the show progresses), helped along by the heavy amount of foreshadowing (each episode someone notes how more and more zombies are gathering outside of the school), and with happier moments like this, I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  And it does. The girls discover that Megu-nee's key led to a lockbox containing an emergency manual for the school when a biological weapon is released.  Episode 9 As the girls fret over the manual, which details why the school has multi-tired facilities and stuff like solar panels and gardens, Yuki takes their minds off of it with a suggestion: to turn the ugly water tank into a pool area for a pool day. Then it's a super happy, fan service heavy episode. I wouldn't think we'd get an episode like this in the series, but it sort of makes sense. It's something Shakespeare made famous. You see, back when Shakespeare was a big hit, people used to sit and watch plays for several hours. Naturally people would get bored if you kept the entirety of the play the same tone, so he'd add bits of levity every few acts in order to accomplish two things. First, it's to keep interest. If a program remained a flat, dreary tone throughout its duration, people wouldn't pay attention. Secondly, it's to make the coming bits of drama hit that much harder. And I think that's what's going on here. This episode is our last breath of fresh air before everything starts coming down. And if the episode's tag is anything to go by (as Taroumaru escapes downstairs to the basement and sees something tragic), it's going to be a doozy.  Episode 10 So here's a little trick as to how I write these annotations: I write these blurbs as I watch each episode rather than try to summarize them all at once. I only open with this because I want you to know that I was not ready for all of this chaos. At the end of last episode, we saw Taroumaru escape from his leash and run through the school so the girls wake up and go looking for him. As Kurumi follows his tracks downstairs into the basement, she finds an infected Taroumaru trying to bite her face off. After managing to lock him up in a room, she stumbles on the truly messed up thing: Megu-nee's zombie. Failing to stop Monster-nee's advance, Kurumi's bitten. As the girls try and figure out what to do now, Kurumi's condition worsens (and leads to an awful amount of screaming as the infection spreads) and the girls are split up as zombies break their way into the school. Yuki is locked in a room after zombies attack, Yuri's sitting with Kurumi and slowly breaking, and Miki is in search of the medicine (and possible antidote) the manual claims the school has but breaks down at the thought of losing Taroumaru. As the episode closes, and everything is traumatic for everyone, Yuki starts remembering the tragedy that sparked her mental breakdown.  Episode 11 Ugh, I need a breather. Deep - breath -, okay. As Yuki runs to Miki and gives her strength to go and search for the antidote, lightning strikes the school's generators and cuts off the power while starting a fire. So there's yet another thing to worry about as Yuri comes to grips with possibly losing Kurumi to the infection. We've seen Yuri as the slightly older girl who's acted as a rock, so this is the first time she's truly shown emotion. It's quite interesting watching her slowly break as she decides whether or not to kill her friend before she turns into a zombie. Then we shift back to Miki, who's fought her way down to the school's basement. As she comes face to face with Megu-nee's zombie (who still retained her memories of the other girls and evidenced by her zombie writings), she assures her they're doing fine before giving her peace. But Miki is soon cornered by zombies when she finds the medicine. Then we cut back to Yuki, who's slowly breaking free of her delusion. After some emotional resolution (and Megu-nee guiding her to the broadcasting room), she finally accepts Megu-nee's death and says goodbye. It's too much.  What started out as a cute series became far more emotional than I would've guessed. Looking at the premise of the show should've given it away, but I never thought it'd hit that hard. Maybe it's because it's so sudden. It's not a revolutionary story or anything like that, but there's so much care put into the buildup, the payoff is fantastic. The final episode's sure going to be something. 
Annotated School-Live! photo
I've got a complicated relationship with zombambos. I've gotten tired with the genre, but I can't help but stay invested in how different characters are effected in different medias. Each media provides unusual takes, and ani...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 710

Sep 20 // Anthony Redgrave
The battle rages on in Dressrosa with Lao G fist fighting Don Chinjao and Sai coming to terms with the affectionate Baby 5. Baby 5's misinterpretation of Sai's fighting words is still very humourous as it has kept the boring fights featured in the last few episodes varied and entertaining. To test the subservience of Baby 5, Sai asks if Baby 5 would kill herself to which she readily complies. Sai has a change of heart when he sees his request being taken seriously.  Don Chinjao tries to prevent Sai from interfering with her suicide resulting in a clash between allies. A confrontation that is quickly resolved in Sai inheriting his grandfather's command of the Chinjao family. This whole bit between Sai, Baby 5, and Don Chinjao is very sweet and awesome amongst all the fighting. Sai starts to come to terms with the power of his words and so can now take over from his grandfather Don Chinjao, Don Chinjao respectfully steps down as the leader of the family since he has been bested by the younger generation, and Baby 5... well she finally finds someone that is not willing to take advantage of her need to please people.  The show then dives into Baby 5's up bringing. Amongst all the flashbacks we have had in the Dressrosa arc (and there has been a lot), this is the most disturbing. The imagery of Baby 5's mother and the environment they are in is encased in a creepy dark atmosphere. Baby 5 looks like an accurate representation of a child version of her, but her mother looks like a black Groot silhouette. We learn why Baby 5 has the compulsion to be needed and I guess the maid costume is also to emphasise her servient nature as well as moe fan service. The action portion of this episode is really good for a gladiator-executive fight. Watching Lao G bounce around the battlefield delivering acrobatic G shaped attacks against Don Chinjao is great to watch. The dynamic movements are fluid and it's always funny to see his insistence of finding the G in every sentence. But this doesn't hold a candle to when he later beefs up Master Roshi style to take on Sai. Don Chinjao is taken out and it is up to the newly promoted Sai to take on the old Geo first master. The final clash uses a different art style incorporating more highlights and brighter colours making it more flashy and dramatic. This episode introduces and nicely wraps up Sai's and Don Chinjao's little arc. I hope this isn't the end of Baby 5 as she seems like a really cool character to more of. Maybe a manga cover story of how she and Sai are coping with married life a la newly weds? [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] servient
One Piece photo
All is fair in Love and War
For those hoping there'd be some resolution on the Bellamy-Luffy confrontation, you'll be very disappointed. A very small part of the episode is spent on the fight, but it doesn't progress in any way unless you count Bellamy gobbing a bloody lugy on Luffy. The rest of the episode however is spectacular. It resolves two fights, has awesome action, and another feels heavy backstory.

Annotated Anime: Himouto! Umaru Chan episode 11

Sep 20 // Anthony Redgrave
The show kicks off with Umaru expressing the most common of desire, a craving for pizza. It's a feeling familiar for most young adults, but motherly Taihei isn't having any of it because of the lack of nutrients in a Chicago slice. Ebina pays a visit to the Doma household to give them a bag of rice called Akita Komachi. This isn't the run of the mill Walmart rice, but high-grade short grain rice from the Akita prefecture. The show even captures the bag decal sporting the Akita Komachi mascot emblazoned on the front. Even though Taihei puts his mastery of cooking to good use by whipping up a luncheon for Ebina and Umaru, he doesn't use the rice to it's strengths. A quick Google shows that Akita Komachi is best in portable foods like Onigiri. The next two stories are bad. First up is Umaru trying to decide on what snack to get at a grocery store while Taihei has to attend a meeting and introduce a proposal. The two are vaguely connected and only come back together at the end so the majority is focussed on Umaru's internal debate. It's a lot wackier by the inclusion of lots of chibi Umarus doing the Umaru debate about junk food. It loses a lot of the show's charm by not incorporating any of the show's grounded reality since it's Umaru running rampant inside her own head. If you like chibi Umaru then this would be ok for you. This is followed by food adventures with Ebina and Umaru. The problem here is not with the characters. This high school duo is my favorite pairing third to Taihei's work buddies and the Doma siblings, but there's just no substance in this segment. It's literally them eating parfaits. There are freeze frames with the camera panning across the two of them eating for 3 minutes. No animation just freeze frames. To make matters worse, this whole episode has a lower quality of animation. It's made clear in this story as the freeze frames and close-ups show the disproportions in their facial features especially with Ebina. Her boobs get a lot of limelight in this episode too but sadly this highlights the problems with having a large bust such as clipping issues with the rest of the body. Before Umaru gets to relish in the Japanese summer she must first endure the rainy season. Fortunately for her it only lasts 2/3rds of a story and there is Kirie to accompany her through the misery. Taihei attempts to brighten the mood by listing the positives of rain but ultimately resorts to telling them the summer is right around the corner. There are hints of a beach trip, but this is saved for another time. The brief Sylphynford appearance in this episode helped me learn two things; in Japan they have Hagan Daaz in crane games and that there is a correct way to eat tub ice cream. The show goes as far as explaining the first step; licking the lid. Hey, what about the other steps? Have I been doing it wrong the whole time!?As I said there is not much to this episode except food. I'd advise not watching this on an empty stomach or if you have an uncontrollable urge for frozen dairy confectionery.  [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!]
Himouto! Umaru-chan photo
Ebina and Umaru vs. Food
The one word to summarise this week's episode is Food. There is lots and lots of food on display here. To be more specific it's ice creams to welcome the Summer period to the show, even though in real life we are saying goodbye to the warm weather and hello to falling leaves and Pumpkin Spice Latte's.  Himouto! Umaru-chan

Annotated Anime: MY Love STORY!! episodes 19-23

Sep 18 // Nick Valdez
Episode 19 Takeo's mom has been pregnant on the sidelines, and it finally comes to a literal head in this episode. Takeo's been concerned with his mom's health ever since she told him about it (even if he's the one who's always reckless with his body), but she's maintaining a high level of activity despite his wishes. She's tough, and Takeo knows it, but he can't help but worry. After saving another pregnant woman from a fall, his mother feels a pain in her side and ultimately goes to the hospital. Takeo understandably freaks out and after running frantically and carrying his mother to her hospital room, Takeo's left to worry on the sidelines. After some consoling for Suna, he calms down and after retrieving a charm from Yamato wishing a safe delivery, Takeo's mom gives birth to the adorable giant baby you see above. In case you were wondering the show wouldn't crack a joke about that, Suna notes that she's the biggest baby in the room. It's actually the cutest and funniest thing.  Episode 20 This is my favorite episode to date. When Takeo laments that he never gets chocolate from a girl on Valentine's Day (and notes that Suna always receives tons of chocolate along with one from a secret admirer each year), he remembers Yamato and suddenly freaks out. Beaming with happiness, his friends corner him and ask if there's a way they could hang out in a huge group with Yamato's friends like they did at Christmas. During the group date, Yamato gives everyone chocolate cookies and Takeo's constantly wondering when he's going to get his special Valanetine's chocolate from Yamato. He's depressed when he thinks he won't get one, suddenly realizes he should've appreciated the cookies, and he acts like a giant, adorable idiot the entire episode. Of course, Yamato shows up with some kind of giant chocolate mountain and Takeo blows a super kiss from a couple of floors up. It's a good year for them both.  Ugh, this show is so cute I can't stand it.  Episode 21 During my last recap, I noted how Sunakawa is not only disinterested in women, but romance in general. He's clearly in tune with emotions as the show's proven that he cares about Takeo (going so far as to not date any of the girls who secretly joked about Takeo behind his back), but he's never pursued anyone for himself. It's a forward thinking asexual person that I hope wasn't the writer's happy accident. Anyway, the first person to challenge this and show a definite romantic interest in Suna is Yukika, a girl who's had a crush on him for ten years now. Her major flaw, however, is her crippling shyness that keeps her from actually approaching Suna in any way. the only way she's expressed her love is through Valentine's chocolate throughout the years with a note reading "I don't need anything, I just want you to love me back" or something to that effect. When Takeo and Yamato finally convince Yukika to approach, she suddenly blurts out a confession and Suna oddly agrees to go out on a group date.  While this episode tests my theory, it also posits that none of the girls were unique enough to have a relationship with a main character. Yukika's got all of the design of a new main character (silver hair, personality traits, uh, love?) but I never quite dug her. I actually found her quite annoying and way too stalkery to actually lead to a healthy relationship. Regardless, this episode's hilarious because Takeo's radar like senses always spotted Yukika.  Episode 22 While the last episode challenges Suna's bachelor lifestyle, this episode highlight's Suna's greatest quality and, potentially, his biggest flaw. You see, he's such a nice guy that he's willing to put everyone else's happiness ahead of his own. While that may be an anime staple, Suna's is actually kind of tragic. You see, as the group all go out to the zoo, Suna's just humoring Yukika the entire time. He doesn't really react to anything (except to Takeo, which Yukika points out later as a sign that he's truly interested in someone), and rather than it resembling traditional shoujo love interests, it actually adds to Suna's mysterious nature. We're never really sure what he's thinking and in fact we don't really find out till episodes end when he ultimately (and understandably given that she watched him from the shadows for ten years) declines Yukika's love. He gives her a notebook, and she loves that she even got to spend some time with the object of her affection. Of course, there was some weirdness in the middle when she freaked out on Suna since he had no interest in her. That only cemented how annoying she was. I'm glad it didn't really work out.  Episode 23 As a sort of palette cleanser, this episode is a light affair that returns to Takeo and Yamato's relationship. When Yamato gets a job at a bakery in order to better learn how to craft desserts, Takeo gets jealous for the first time in the series. When a handsome looking patisseire, Ichinose (always a hilarious ring of a traditional shoujo protagonist), mistakes Yamato's interest in cakes for an interest in him, he eventually challenges Takeo's relationship. He runs to Takeo and asks if Takeo really belongs with Yamato and states that she deserves someone more alike to her. Takeo, for the first time in the series, doubts himself and thinks Ichinose might've had a point. The episode ends as Takeo stands on shaken ground for the first time. Will Takeo actually give up on his relationship with Yamato? Nah, probably not. But this is an intelligent way to bring Takeo's untraditional nature and design in the genre to light. And it'll most likely bring about a good end to the season, and more likely, the series.  I'm not ready for this show to end, but as no sequel season was announced, I'm pretty sure the next episode is the last. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when it's over.
Annotated Love Story!! photo
I love this show so much
Have I told you that My Love Story!! is my favorite anime of the season? Although I jumped into these annotations majorly late, I've been glued to the screen each week just waiting on the latest release. It's the most fun I'v...

Annotated School-Live! photo
Annotated School-Live!

Annotated Anime: School-Live! episodes 4-6

Zombeh -eh -eh -eh -oh -oh -eh -yaaaa
Sep 14
// Nick Valdez
Last time I talked about School-Live! (which was a bit ago, sorry), I noted how much I loved how its cutesy art clashed with its dark world. Despite how seemingly annoyingly cute it is, it grabbed my attention and never let g...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 709

Sep 14 // Anthony Redgrave
Doflamingo relinquishes his grasp on Bellamy stating cryptically that Bellamy has always been free. This prompts the show to divulge into Bellamy's past and get a few more uses out of the Jaya arc footage. Bellamy was always the asshole realistic pirate that wasn't disillusioned by the sense of adventure or grand treasure One Piece. He looked up to Doflamingo's ruthless attitude and sought to fly under his banner. Unperturbed by the threats of Diamante and Trebol's aggression, Doflamingo agrees to the young pirates wishes but we later learn that Doflamingo doesn't take lightly to weak members.  Flash forward to Luffy's encounter with Bellamy in Mocktown and his humiliating defeat at the hand of Luffy's one punch. The Jaya arc felt like there was a lot more going on apart from the immediate story line. There was Bellamy's crew (an associated pirate crew of the much stronger Doflamingo family), Blackbeard's introduction (with Ace hot on his heels), and the parallels Bellamy's bar fight with Luffy have with Shank's bar fight against Higuma at the very start of the series. Only now are we starting to see how all those individual events are connecting together which is a very cool for a long time fan. Anyway's after Bellamy's defeat he is fortunately given one more chance by Doflamingo in the arena to win the Flare Flare fruit. As we all know Bellamy's luck doesn't improve culminating in him being betrayed by his master and freed by a former enemy.  Despite being rescued by Luffy, Bellamy chooses the use the last of his energy to execute his signature move; Spring Hopper on Luffy. And here I was thinking Bellamy would become an ally and help Luffy up to the roof using his springs. I can't imagine it ending well for Bellamy given his track record. On the other side of Dressrosa, Gladiators continue to fight against Executives and we also get a fight finished in this episode! Yes! I'm so excited that there is one less fight to see. Big giant Hajrudin was usually seen being crushed by Machvise over and over again. Unlike the other fights where the combatants actually traded blows, Machvise could outmaneuver the giant but also hit him really hard with his power. The show does a great job in making you feel the pain and strain that Hajrudin goes through and this translates well when he starts getting second wind and fights back. The epic clash during the climax is classic One Piece making you feel the moment Hajrudin pushes against Machvise's attack. If Hajrudin does survive this encounter he'll be needing one hell of a doctor to patch him up. Also after the graphic nature of last week's episode I expected Machvise to look like the cheese on top of a pizza before it's been heated but that's just the gore hound in me. Next week, we are going to get a lot more gladiator fights (sigh I know) but this time it's with Baby 5 against Sai. I don't really care about Sai in this fight, but I do love seeing Baby 5 get more screen time. To me, her dependency personality quirk makes her an entertaining character to watch and it was funny to see her announce these feelings to a bemused Sai. She's one of the few villains in this show that I'll root for because she's so utterly adorable. [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
The Bellamy Biopic
This week you won't hear me raging about how the plot pacing of this episode is back to the tip toeing filler filled monotony that Dressrosa is becoming quickly known for. God knows I've done enough of that in the past few Annotated Animes. Because this episode was pretty good since the first half is entirely about Bellamy and his back story. 

Annotated Anime: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode 16

Sep 13 // Anthony Redgrave
I've noticed that the last few episodes framed Kyon as the main character rather than the titular Nagato Yuki. He is the one to deliver the opening lines and the episodes follow him and his awkwardness around Nagato. Summer is halfway over and he still hasn't gotten over the confession Nagato had made before she had disappeared. But since he's in possession of a Y chromosome, the thoughts and feelings nonsense is best suited bottled up until Summer is over. With some Haruhi interference, Kyon finds himself meeting with Nagato a lot more and still struggling to talk to her about anything. I think the show displays this awkward behaviour very well through Kyon's internal dialogue. Many times I have internally chastised myself for not speaking up or acting strange in front of a lady of interest making Kyon's struggles understandable. The activities of baseball batting and bowling aren't particularly interesting to watch as there aren't many gags during these activities. They are used to show the lack of interaction between Kyon and Nagato compared to earlier in the series when he was very friendly towards her. There is also a lack of Asakura intervention and Asakura in general in this episode. No overly mothering tendencies or calming Haruhi down. She is more of a background/ side character than one of the main leads. An Asakura redemption with her accepting the impending relationship between Kyon and Nagato and being more forceful with Kyon to interact with Nagato would've brought her arc full circle instead of being pushed to the side in the last episode. Haruhi is another character who's arc goes forgotten too. As the fireworks festival is in full swing, Kyon drags Nagato away from the group to finally clear the air. The show subtly hints at Haruhi accepting her defeat in pursuing Kyon, but I felt that this wasn't fully explored as an option. Throughout Nagato Yuki-chan, there were hints that Haruhi had some history with Kyon and it was the source of conflict in the Valentine's day arc. Only in the last few episodes does this resurface as Haruhi remembers more about John Smith helping her write messages to the aliens implying feelings for Kyon. This is why it doesn't feel complete as Haruhi doesn't pursue Kyon or make any indication of her feelings known. The two characters didn't spend enough time together so bringing it back up in the last episode makes the arc feel incomplete.  As Kyon runs through the crowds and fireworks, he pours his heart out to Nagato about everything. His feelings, the reason he's been acting weird lately, and that yes with time he would've grown to like Nagato too. It's a very sweet scene made more poignant at the glimpses of the new Nagato smiling at Kyon's reply to her confession. Unfortunately, this is not for the titular Nagato as Kyon's entire speech is completely muffled by festival noise. I was honestly expecting Kyon and Nagato to get together by the end of this episode or at least admit their feelings for one another amongst the colours of fireworks but alas romantic closure isn't anime's strong suit. At least one version of Nagato Yuki is happy. The episode concludes with a post credit sequence continuing the tradition of linking Haruhi's and Nagato Yuki-chan's universes together. Some fans will like this reference but if you're like me, you'll groan at its implication. As a fan of Haruhi, I was pleasantly surprised by how easily I could get back into watching a show set in a different genre. I grew to like the show's art design, re-familiarise myself with their comedy, and the light-hearted premise encapsulated all the fun aspects of the previous series. An ending like this is expected; everything returned to the status quo so if it were to be picked up again there can be more of the same i.e. light hearted adventures with the same character quirks and relationships. Fans of the Haruhi series may want to watch an abridged version of this show; first few episodes to get an idea of the characters again, skip to end of episode 10/11 for the real disappearance and then finally maybe this final episode to close out Nagato Yuki's confession. You'll get the drama, some laughs, and a lot of classic Nagato Yuki. [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!]
Nagato Yuki photo
Closure for some
As the summer fades from 2015 it does so with Nagato Yuki-chan marking the finale for the show. The foreshadowed fireworks festival is finally upon the Literature club, but Haruhi still hasn't had her fill of Summer activities so you can expect more wacky antics in this episode before the series is finished.

Annotated Anime: Himouto! Umaru Chan episode 10

Sep 12 // Anthony Redgrave
Another fun heart warming multi-story episode in this week's Himouto! Umaru-chan kicking off with illness! Umaru spent too long on the computer last night (like we all do) with the AC on. Taihei doesn't have time to pamper Umaru at home due to work commitments so leaves Umaru to suffer at home with a fever. Much to Umaru's delight this doesn't impede her ability to veg out in front of a back-lit screen making a full recovery the day. In a twist of fate, Taihei ends up getting the same massive fever prompting Umaru to be Mother for the day. I mentioned last week that I love learning about Japanese culture through anime, but this week's episode makes me question the credibility of some of its content. I can see the benefits of excessive sweating as a cure for an illness but using a green onion like a suppository is more akin to a fetish than a traditional cure.  Moving on, Taihei prepares dinner and presents a selection of Japanese food for Umaru to eat. This show knows how to display contemporary Japanese cuisine that gets my mouth salivating every week. Umaru channels her inner Shin-chan and refuses to eat green peppers due to their bitter taste. Next day's lunch time finds her favourite dish; Hamburger Steak packed into her bento but it's made using the left-over green peppers infused into the patty. Ebina is impressed these culinary skills that Umaru claimed as her own causing a guilty Umaru to act like a tsundere when she returns home. Also, Kirie has probably the most adorable bento boxes ever!  The show's main theme is Umaru gets what she wants. It is rare that she has an unhappy ending and generally Taihei is happy to comply with his sister's wishes. But I think a lot of the show is Umaru learning to appreciate the hard work Taihei puts in to make her happy. It's something we can all relate to living in the modern world of convenience and being engrossed in the fast non-stop lifestyles. A lot of favours become expected and appreciation becomes diluted. I'm glad there are episodes like this one in Umaru-chan that allows Umaru some redemption and appreciate the efforts Taihei goes through to make her happy. It makes the protagonist a much more likeable instead of a bratty moe blob. The next two segments are heavily Umaru focussed with little to no side character interactions. They're good but the weakest part of the episode. The first of the two is fun to see as Umaru discovers that breaking the router means no internet. It's strange how a high school Ace would have extremely ditzy moments. Maybe it's the blonde-ness coming out? Next is Umaru visiting the world's most quiet and well-stocked manga cafe in the world.  As always the last segment that focusses on Taihei is the best of all the stories this week. It takes place during his high school days when he was the class genius and spare time were spent with the dumb best friend Bomber and overly forward Kanau. The interaction's that Bomber and Kanau share arguing and vying for Taihei's attention is hilarious. Kanau has some savage put-downs and Bomber's wackiness helps keep things entertaining throughout. While visiting a new arcade after school, they all try their hand at a 100 yen crane game. As well as being an entertaining moe culture show, Himouto! Umaru-chan will also teach you various crane game techniques.  This show is consistently entertaining every week by never focussing on one character for too long or a setting. Even though Umaru is the main star, the side characters are interesting enough to hold their own for one or two segments. I don't think there is a side character that I massively dislike and having their big personalities in the show helps ward off the fatigue of Umaru's bratty tendencies.  [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!]
Himouto! Umaru-chan photo
Umaru RNA
This episode has made me realize that Umaru is the female version of Crayon Shin-chan. They're both drawn in a chibi style and most episodes are about them getting away with throwing temper tantrums and demanding selfish wish...

Annotated Anime: Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma episodes 17-20

Sep 09 // Nick Valdez
Episode 17 When Souma goes back home to the Yukihira Diner for Summer break, he finds out his hometown has been struggling a bit thanks to a super shopping center, Mozuya, opening close by.  After re-reuniting with his childhood friend Mayumi (who has a crush on him, of course), Souma learns a little bit more about the Mozuya shopping center. Thanks to its specialty karaage (a type of meat chunk covered in different spices and sauces) recipe and ability to cater to tons of different people by the train station, Mozuya has been stealing his hometown's business. Mozuya's manager, Kinu, realized they were scoping the competition and completely revealed the recipe to Souma since she was so confident that they'd never be able to beat out her karaage. Seeing her so cocky, Souma directly challenges Kinu and states that not only will Yukihira make better karaage, but his hometown's shopping district will take back all the business.  Souma enlists the help of Ikumi Mito since she's the meat master, and must figure out a recipe that not only grabs traveler's attention but represents his shopping district as a whole.  Episode 18 After going through several types of karaage types and delivery systems, the trio devise a way to wrap the karaage into some kind of mobile burrito. The shopping district beats Mozuya and gets all the business. That's really all there is to the episode. The "Karaage Wars" arc is short, lame, and only serves to introduce a new key player, Eizan Etsuya, the ninth seat of Totsuki's Elite Ten and his mastery of the business world. It also serves to completely introduce the Autumn Elections as Souma's told he was one of the sixty chefs selected.  As you can probably tell by how brief this is, I really don't like this arc. It felt unnecessary then, and it's unnecessary now. Makes even less sense in an anime adaptation since there's very little progress involved. Characters don't move forward, the ninth seat isn't at all interesting, and Souma's just being Souma so he succeeds with little challenge. Let's just move on.  Episode 19 The Autumn Elections finally begin! Totsuki's Elite Ten sat down and handpicked sixty students, separated into two groups of thirty, to compete in front of the culinary world's elite. All of the main characters are obviously selected along with a few new rivals: Miyoko Hojo (who forms a rivalry with Tadakoro based on the news of her Shokugeki and disappointment that she was helped by Souma), Nao Sadasutka (a creepy girl who stalks Erina), Kurokiba Ryo (Alice Nakirki's right hand), and Akira Hayama (a chef with a specialty nose who can cook just be scent alone). Only the best eight dishes will make it to the next round, and with the task of making a curry dish, Souma and Tadakoro seek out the help of someone his dad recommended, Professor Shiomi, since she's good with spices. After some hilarious introductions and posturing, Hayama pretty much becomes Souma's biggest rival to date.  I love how Food Wars! pokes fun at the genre. It constantly interrupts big posturing (and has made ridiculing Takumi Aldini's rivalry a running gag) and undercuts a lot of the show's serious tone. You never forget how ridiculous all of this is, and I'm glad the anime has embraced all of this. Sure the constant chibi reactions reek of a smaller budget, but it's still good.  Episode 20 After taking a month studying different spices and curry techniques, the Autumn Elections finally, finally start up. Students are separated into two groups of thirty and only four from each group will advance. Group A includes hopefuls like Souma, Hayama, and Kurokiba, while Group B has the Aldini brothers, Alice Nakiri, and best girl Tadakoro. Nothing much else happens since this is also pretty much filler, but we at least get introduced to the judges, the Sendawara sisters, who're huge in the curry business, and there are some spots of notable prep work that'll come into play later on (like Nao's super toxic brew and Kurokiba's personality shift). It also pushes Hayama into the spotlight again since he's labeled as the strongest contender. It's a bit of a lark considering we haven't met him until now, and all this pushing rings false but whatever. It's such a shonen trope I just can't stand it sometimes.  Finally, finally, the good stuff is picking up. Next chunk of episodes we'll find out why Souma was asleep, see some crazy dishes (and their reactions), and the tone of the entire series is about to shift to something a bit quicker in pace. Can't wait. 
Annotated Food Wars! photo
Spice of life
In the last annotated recap, I couldn't stop talking about how great the next arc, the Autumn Elections, was going to be. It's the manga's best to date, and if the anime plays its cards correctly, it's going to be the show's ...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 708

Sep 07 // Anthony Redgrave
Even though Law ended the last episode by landing a hit on Doflamingo, it doesn't appear to have any effect on the antagonist. No weakened moves, sluggish movement, or even any visible damage. The Heavenly Demon shrugs it off just like he shrugged off Luffy's attack earlier. Law and Doflamingo continue their one-sided epic fight as the combat is heavily weighted on Doflamingo's side. At this point he is toying with Law, making snide jabs at his devotion to Corazon as he gleefully dodges and parries everything Law has to throw at him. Despite Trebol regaining control of his body, he doesn't lend a hand in the fight choosing instead to mock Law from the sidelines. Things don't look too fresh with Luffy's fight either as the string Doflamingo continues to hide behind Bellamy. Nothing we haven't seen before. We do feel Luffy's frustration in this fight as he just wants to punch Doflamingo one more time and yet his philosophy prevents him from harming Bellamy even though they have had a rocky past. I was getting sick of Luffy's pacifism in this fight as it was always one step forward and one step back because of Bellamy's interference. So I was glad that this episode finally ends this back and forth with Luffy punching the shit out of the String String double. It was extremely satisfying see a mock Doflamingo made of string split apart and crumble to the floor. Hopefully next week we can see that happen to the real Doflamingo. After weeks and weeks of absence, we finally progress ever so slightly with the Pica-Zoro fight. And by progress I mean it's almost the same as before; Zoro slashes Pica and mouths off about his high pitched voice, the Doflamingo minions call him an idiot as Pica gets pissed and becomes a bigger Pica. This time Pica channels the Titan in the post-credits scene of the Attack of Titan second season anime series which does look really cool. I wonder if could make multiple copies of himself out of stone so the castle can resemble Mt. Rushmore with just Pica's face representing all the presidents. One Piece is a series that I don't associate with overly violent imagery. The closest it got to gruesome was in Marineford with Whitebeard's face being blown in half although it was a lot tamer in the anime version and Ace suffering the worst fisting of all time. But this episode's climax was worse than both of those things. I know that it has happened before in One Piece but the big difference here is that it shows the direct aftermath. I really hope that character isn't out of it completely because that person is one of my favourite. It'll be interesting to see that character cope with it or will Oda magically find a way to reverse/ fix what has happened once Luffy has Gomu Gomu no Bazooka'd Doflamingo into oblivion?  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Attack on Pica
So we're back again in Dressrosa with pirates, dwarves, marines, and gladiators all trying to topple the World Noble turned pirate turned Warlord of the Sea. I didn't think things would get exciting but this episode proved me wrong with none stop action and little deviation away from the characters we love.

Annotated Anime: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode 15

Sep 07 // Anthony Redgrave
The show has skipped over the highly pressured and stress filled exam season of High School life and now it's time for the summer holidays. With Haruhi at the helm of the Literature club, their summer activities will be completely unrelated to reading or even associating with books. Instead, it is a beach visit thanks to the rich friend and associate of the club Tsuruya. Whenever the show/ Haruhi wants a massive set piece or a trip to exciting places in Japan Tsuruya is always the answer. It's a bonus she brings the fan service too in the form of Mikuru.  At the beach, they do the usual activities of showing off the ladies bikinis, swimming, and watermelon breaking. Nothing out the ordinary if you have seen any other anime beach episode. During the holiday, Kyon's little sister is along for the ride but she isn't what I remember from Haruhi. Previously she was a cute tag along, content on sitting in the background looking very sweet and adorable. Here she is just what Kyon describes her as, a brat. Definitely doesn't work well in her favour as she acts spoilt throughout.  Yuki is back to being her reclusive and shy self, absorbed in the glow of the PSVita rather than partaking in the beach activities. Yellow bikini Asakura orders her to play with Kyon and it transpires to some incredibly boring filler. The scene shows the ball being passed from Yuki to Kyon as silence lingers in the air. We feel the same as Kyon as the awkward silence is very apparent whilst Yuki feels joyful at the seclusive play session with her crush. However the awkwardness isn't translated well as the silence and repeated animation made this scene feel boring, as if they were padding the episode's run time rather than showing the conflicted feelings Kyon has for Yuki knowing that she likes him. As I watched the ball fly across the scene time after time, it reminded me of Endless Eight.... The second half moves the group away from the beach and into the mountains for bug hunting and late night ghost walking. It's a typical Haruhi led game so Haruhi wins and Kyon loses thus getting a penalty in the form of an X on his forehead that is swiftly removed in the next scene. Winning games was common for Haruhi in the previous series as a depressive turn for the girl could lead to world destruction which is why I think a lot of the characters catered to her best interests. A happy Haruhi means a safe world. But this is Yuki's world so why does Haruhi still win? Is she really that good at all the wacky stuff she puts the rest of the club through? The ghost walk was the final activity that would've been un-eventful if it weren't for the finale. I thought that this episode was taking a step back for Kyon and Yuki's relationship. They were no longer talking as much, both had different opinion's on each other, and I thought they had lost the initial spark that had me invested in seeing them get together. It's the penultimate episode and if nothing happened here I assumed everything would be crammed in the next episode or it would end with nothing being accomplished except for some nice times together. I'm still leaning on the latter as it's an anime and it is rare to see love interests end up together at the very end. What this ending brings is a small chance that everything will be resolved in the next episode. [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!] tsuruya
Nagato Yuki photo
Beach Time Fun
The beach episode has come later than I expected for a slice of life high school romance anime. Usually, it'll be mid-season to serve as fan service-y padding and an excuse to put the female characters in bikinis since a beach is the only socially acceptable place to wear a bikini outside of an RPG. 

Annotated Anime: Himouto! Umaru Chan episode 9

Sep 07 // Anthony Redgrave
It begins with Kirie trying to make cookies for Umaru and also chibi Umaru known to her as Master aka Umaru's little sister. Unfortunately, Kirie is as good as cooking as she is not looking super creepy at the back of class staring at Umaru. Her daydreaming causes the first batch to burn which means she can daydream for hours. Instead of dumping the burnt batch like a sane person, she wraps them up instead and intends to use them if the next batch is bad. Out of all the girls on the show Kirie is the most polarising for me and I think that is the show's intention. She can be adorable whenever she doesn't have the dark leering face and her actions are blissfully awkward. She is motivated by good intentions, but they come off as unnerving because of her appearance. This is shown when she visits the Doma household after Valentine's only to spend the day with Taihei instead. A very long and awkward day. Chocolate making doesn't stop there as Umaru and Ebina have a go too. Unlike Ebina and Kirie, Umaru's chocolate are not intended to be given out but instead to satisfy the female desire for chocolate that occurs every millisecond. Herr experimentation of having chocolate with a popular Japanese beer snack embedded is even weirder considering most westerners have never heard of these things. I think Umaru has a bright future as a Snack Chef or hosting a YouTube Cooking show with a moderate to large cult fan base. It wouldn't be Himouto! Umaru-chan without an appearance from the hyperactive Sylphynford. In this episode, Umaru dons her gaming persona UMR and responds to a desperate call from her rival to rendezvous at the local anime shop. It wasn't a cry for help but rather a cry to say the latest merchandise is here! We are then treated to girls shopping but it's not for boring stuff like clothes and accessories because that was done in Episode 5. Instead, it's cool stuff like anime and games. This is the best segment of the episode as we learn a bit more about Sylphynford's character and that she has a dual persona she keeps hidden from her brother. A nice call back to her bizarre behaviour in the gaming finals. There are a lot of these contrasting similarities theme running through this show that I really like. Finally, we end on a Phoenix Wright spoof with Umaru and Taihei. The case is who consumed the last pudding cup left for Umaru. A large part of this section is just spoofing the popular DS game and it's goofy seeing how serious they're taking the whole case. Ironically it is Taihei that is pushing this Phoenix Wright reference and not Umaru. You can probably already guess the real culprit before the trial starts so it's inaccurate in the fact there is no miraculous turnabout.  [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!] Sylphynford
Himouto! Umaru-chan photo
Valentine's comes late for Umaru
Anime is a great way to see the differences in culture and Valentine's is a perfect example to see the contrasts. Here in the UK, the exchange of a $2 pre-written card is the modern way of courting that special someone on Val...

Annotated Anime: Himouto! Umaru Chan episode 8

Aug 31 // Anthony Redgrave
The episode begins with snow falling on Tokyo and Umaru getting really excited. She's excited because it's an excuse to laze around the house as if she needed an excuse to do so. Taihei complies and offers to bust out the kotatsu if she is willing to clean up her mess. With the room clean and kotatsu set up, Umaru promptly falls asleep despite the many many warnings from anime kotatsu users about catching a cold. I never understood this. Everyone seems like they're toasty and warm once they get into a kotatsu so why would they be at risk catching a cold? The show explains that the top half is at risk as the bottom half is the only part that is heated in a kotatsu and that makes sense, but anime has shown the characters looking really warm and relaxed. Wouldn't their top half be shivering and pining to be inside the kotatsu. Anyways isn't it scientifically proven that you cannot catch a cold from just being cold? Either way, I'm really glad the show explained the origins of this warning. I love it when shows explain Japanese culture stuff.  All of Umaru's friends are shown enjoying their own kotatsu and it's nice to see the title giving attention to the side characters. Since Bomber had been introduced as Kirie's brother there is a lot more of them interacting.  We transition to Christmas where Umaru is patiently waiting for her brother to come home. It's another Umaru gets lonely without her onii-chan but when he comes home it is heart warming and nice. Also, Kirie is there because she was on the way. Judging from the snow on her head I'm guessing she was waiting outside for quite some time. I assume she's back to her stalking ways, but that doesn't make sense as she has already made contact with Umaru and they're shown to have a good relationship with each other. Why wouldn't she just go and visit Umaru?  Bomber celebrates the upcoming new years with the Doma family as they laze around and watch TV. Here is the product placement/ snack shilling/ culinary part of the show. It's one of my favourite segments as the way Umaru and Bomber talk about Japanese food makes my mouth salivate. It also helps that the food looks pretty good and the crunch of the chips is satisfying to hear. As the New Year rolls around Umaru and Taihei visit the shrine and make their wishes. Unfortunately for Umaru she had forgotten her New Years resolution inciting a massive scold from Taihei. As her defence, she never stated a time or date for starting the resolution therefore it isn't binding. Well played Umaru, well played... There is a subplot in this episode around side character Kanau; Taihei's and Bomber's boss at the company. She's the pink haired chick that was overtly hitting on Taihei in an earlier episode. Here she is seeing if Taihei had any plans for the Christmas period but turns down his invitation to go drinking with Bomber and him like they use to. Even though she has a tough no-nonsense demeanor like Erza from Fairy Tail or Hana from Nisekoi, there is a definite innocence behind the facade that's adorable when you see it. [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!]
Himouto! Umaru-chan photo
Snow, Kotatsu, Shrines and New Years
Just as Nagato Yuki-chan is entering summer, Himouto! Umaru-chan is entering winter as this episode features all the anime tropes of bringing out the kotatsu, visiting the shrines, and a good ol' colourful party that makes ou...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 707

Aug 30 // Anthony Redgrave
So we continue the One Piece tradition of fight scenes incorporating devil fruit powers while the characters make faces at each other and occasionally spouting exposition in the hopes of provoking a reaction. The show has finally started to colour in Doflamingo's string attacks making them really stand out. It makes them easier to see, but it doesn't fit the lethal nature of his power. I actually liked it when they only showed the light glimmering off the string as it looked like cheese wire or garotte wire. It's thin, mostly invisible, and incredibly deadly. The multicolour string thing he has now looks too cheesy to take seriously.  Since this is a return to the Dressrosa battlefield, One Piece decides to re-introduce all the main players and who they are fighting in the second half of the episode. This feels like padding as nothing new is shown and for long time viewers this is a waste of time. While the Doflamingo-Law fight and Luffy-Fakemingo-Bellamy fight have some good animation and choreography especially from the former, all the auxiliary fights are too brief to mention. They all do one attack and then a reaction face. It's really hard to tell if anyone is winning or losing a fight since this exchange of blows is not shown to affect anyone in the long run. The next episode it could the same person getting hit or the opponent getting hit, the fight doesn't appear to have progressed.  The second half of the episode is not worth watching unless you completely forgot about names of the Doflamingo family executives and would like a refresher. This arc is failing to do simultaneous fights in an engaging way because I don't care enough about the other fights occurring, or should I say I don't care enough about the other fighters fighting. An arc that did multi-fights correctly was Enies Lobby. Each Straw Hat took on a different CP9 agent and each fight was spread across a few episodes so there was some padding like in this arc. The conflict against CP9 was engaging because I knew the stakes were high to save Robin and I cared about each Straw Hat, even Franky who was a dick to them for most of Water 7. And it was entertaining since every character was unique and they were not afraid of expressing their personalities even in a life or death brawl. I don't feel the same way about the gladiators here since they were portrayed as enemies initially and their redemption was too quick for me to fully understand their character. If the Straw Hats were fighting an executive alongside a gladiator, it would me feel more sympathetic since I'm more familiar with the Straw Hats and I won't be adverse to rooting for them. But right now I don't care if they win or lose just as long as they do it quick so we can spend more time with the main story.  At least in this episode we get a better understanding of what the D. family is. Even though I despise the long drawn out nature of this arc, there is a lot of interesting One Piece lore being explained. [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Back to Dressrosa...
After a couple of awesome flashback episodes, this week returns us to current day Dressrosa where exciting battles are going on, While the animation and fight scenes are fantastic, the same plodding pace makes a return reminding us all why we hate this arc. 

Annotated Anime: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode 14

Aug 30 // Anthony Redgrave
  The bibliophilic Nagato Yuki hasn't been struck off the show as of yet as she converses with her lazier self about the events that had occurred after she was hit by the car. It's nice to see these two characters interact as the contrasting personalities with the same appearance re-enforces that they are two different people using the same body. I wish there were more scenes like this. We learn that despite this interaction occurring, Nagato will not remember it when she finally wakes up thus causing it to be semi-pointless. She does reveal the confession she had made to Kyon, and the old Nagato takes it very well surprisingly. (I guess hearing it from yourself is a form of self-discovery). On the opposite side, Kyon has not forgotten the confession and continues to have mixed feelings about his relationship with Nagato. Normally Kyon has warm interactions with Nagato but in this episode he plays off every interaction quickly and cooly. He doesn't want to spend time with Nagato at all and gets by with as little interaction as possible. The awkwardness of the situation is understandable as it's a classic "I know that she knows but she doesn't know that I know, but she told me she knows" that punctuate many soapy dramas on the television box. The situation isn't lingered upon too much as Haruhi makes her triumphant return and proclaims from now on the club will be celebrating Tanabata. The show doesn't explain what this celebration is so it's up to the audience to do Japanese culture homework via tangential learning. From the episode, I gathered it's a celebration originated from two gods that were lovers and people celebrate it by writing wishes on bamboo. It's an excuse to the get the club back to their fun having ways and for Haruhi to feature as a big part in the second half. Koizumi and Asakura start to exchange Oxbridge pleasantries over their wish writing choices. Both of these characters display polite, courteous behaviours and just from this one interaction I started to think they'd make a cute couple. (Oh god, have I really started to ship characters in this anime!?) Haruhi, having discovered the awkward feelings Kyon has Nagato confronts him about them. Strange seeing that she wasn't present for the last 4 episodes so she should be in the dark/ confused about a lot of the details. The lighting and colours in this portion of the show are dark and kind of menacing. Haruhi's fringe casts a dark shadow over her eyes making her look like a killer or an eroge protagonist. However, the dialogue doesn't match this mood as Haruhi states bluntly that Kyon shouldn't worry too much about it. There is an internal aspect to Haruhi's dialogue as she starts to remember when a young Kyon had helped her write a message to potential aliens 4 years ago on the school grounds. I'm quite confused. Wasn't Kyon a lot older when he helped her out or was that only canon in the Haruhi series. Also why would young Kyon use the name John Smith? He didn't time travel like older Kyon so there is no need to hide his identity. I think Haruhi knows Kyon was the John Smith from the past and has started developing feelings for the guy thus bringing the show back to; who will Kyon end up with. But if this was true about identity confirmation then why didn't Haruhi have a stronger reaction to meeting Kyon again back in episode 3? Was she hiding these feelings really well or were they a recent occurrence that she had just remembered? There's too many questions that need answering you just made it more confusing Haruhi! [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!] [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!]
Nagato Yuki photo
Awkward morning after...
And we're officially back to normal high school life with Nagato Yuki-chan. This episode returns to the literature club hanging out and having jokes at Kyon's expense with a dose of Haruhi to liven things up. Watchers may be ...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 706

Aug 27 // Anthony Redgrave
Corazon, for some reason, is still alive and trying with all his might to make sure Law survives this ordeal. As Law awakes he is greeted by Corazon's creepy smile that will bring about more nightmares than comfort in dire situations. Vergo, apparently confident that Doflamingo's birdcage would ensnare the two targets decides to fight with his fellow Marines against the Barrel pirates. As the Doflamingo family slowly approaches, Corazon runs decoy after hiding Law under his mute spell so he doesn't give away his position. From here it is awesome after awesome after awesome material. The show wraps up everything it has to say about Corazon in this episode allowing the audience to finally understand Law's affection for the Doflamingo sibling. But the show also spends some time with Doflamingo in an excellent mid-episode focus. Doflamingo had just gunned down the captain of the Barrel pirates and then stares pensively his flintlock. We are treated to a flashback to his first familial murder using the same weapon. We know the Corazon's fate at Doflamingo's hands but we also know Doflamingo's passion for family. Killing Corazon would mean exterminating the last of his bloodline and this contemplation mid-way through the episode shows the conflict of ideals that's running through his mind. This slow sobering section amidst the frantic chase is a big part of Doflamingo's character, building him up to kill his own brother. We get a few of these explorative moments with Doflamingo and it makes us somewhat sympathetic to some of his actions thus not being a villain for the sake of evil. The Doflamingo family finally catch up to Corazon and soften him up for the boss to deliver the final execution. However considering that Corazon has already survived multiple gunshot wounds, a Haki beat down from Vergo, and a kicking from the rest of the family, would Doflamingo's bullets really put him down for good? Maybe they're imbued with Haki... Corazon's fate is linked to death but there's a twist in the favour for Law. It's a convenient save for the little survivor and it doesn't feel forced like how heroes are saved by death traps thanks to good timing just because One Piece's nature. Tragic incidents occur to the good guys every other day so any fortunate circumstances get a free pass from me. I'd like to think of it as One Piece karma. Eagle-eyed One Piece bookworms would know that this flashback story is also connected to the past another supernovas making the One Piece world more dynamic and connected. This is one of the rare episodes of the show that make the show worth watching after 700+ episodes. Without the knowledge or experience from all those other episodes, it wouldn't have the same hard hitting effect. It's hard to explain it anyone that hasn't seen it but you'll talk endlessly about it to those who have. It's an episode that makes One Piece such a well crafted show. It can perfectly mix action, drama, comedy, and tragedy in 10 minutes without feeling disjointed and contains themes that are telegraphed from the framing and the way characters act.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Here comes the water works
I don't think I've seen such a good episode of One Piece in recent memory. It's not just good, it's great! It's better than the whole Rebecca storyline, Dressrosa stuff, and anything that was done  after the time-skip. It ultimately delivers on why Corazon is such a big part to the Dressrosa story and the origins of Doflamingo-Law connection/ feud. 

Annotated Anime: MY Love STORY!! episodes 15-18

Aug 27 // Nick Valdez
Episode 15 Although I've conceded the fact that MY won't have the kind of big emotional breaks I'd see in a more nuanced romantic story, that doesn't mean there's a lack of tension. It's kind of nice to watch something that's so low stakes, every molehill seems like a mountain. The latest stake is the introduction of a new love rival, Saijou, a classmate of Takeo's who's really bad at athletics. When she gets swept up in a relay, she asks Takeo to help train her. In classic Takeo fashion, he's super cool and supportive (and eventually wins the relay with no problems) and Saijou falls for him. All the while Yamato (thanks to input from her friends) catches on to Saijou and is constantly worrying over Takeo. But good ole' simpleminded Takeo sees Saijou as nothing more than another classmate. As Saijou calls him out after school in order to confess, she chickens out and asks Takeo to be her teacher instead.  Episode 16 Since this is as close to a conflict as I'd expect between the two of them, it has to be mined for as much as it can. Thankfully, the whole thing only lasts two episodes as a lesser anime would've stretched it out to at least three. That's sort of the show's best quality and biggest flaw. There's just nothing getting in the way of Takeo and Yamato's burgeoning relationship, so there really isn't any room for outside development. While that leads to some great decisions like having them form a relationship in the first episode, it's a greater effect of the Shoujo genre's flaw. In this episode Saijou is still trying to make advances on Takeo after she tells him she likes him just as a "person," and as pure hearted as Takeo is, he takes it literally and completely ignores her advances. Yamato is worried, but Takeo tells her not to worry because he's not popular with girls (instead of saying he really loves Yamato). When Saijou confesses again (during a particularly well crafted shot), Takeo turns her down and realizes why Yamato was so worried. After a pleasant scene, the two reconcile.  Best part of this episode? Sunakawa comforting Saijou. He always seems so cool and collected (and a great flip on a traditional Shoujo protagonist), but he's in touch with people's emotions. He seems asexual himself, but that doesn't mean he's checked out. It's pretty neat.  Episode 17 Even though I just went into this whole thing about the story not allowing for outside character developments, here comes "My Christmas." As Takeo and Yamato's friends Kurihara and Nanako confess their feelings to their respective friends, the two decide to cheer their friends on and take a back seat in this episode (even if it's their first Christmas as a couple). Since Kurihara is not used to talking with women, he ends up pushing Nanako away with constant jokes. Basically, he's trying the kindergarten tactic of picking on the girl you like in order to get attention (this doesn't work, gentlemen) and it's failing hard. After Nanako is finally fed up and Takeo gives a rousing speech, Kurihara climbs a giant Christmas tree in order to grab its top star (that's said to instantly make two people a couple, or something like that). Then the two reconcile and it's all back to normal.   I didn't quite like this episode. I may complain that the show doesn't explore others well enough, but if the other character's lives aren't engaging, I don't really care.  Episode 18 I'm a little sad it took so many episodes to get to this point, but it's finally happened. Takeo and Yamato kiss! It's also my favorite episode up to this point. It's Takeo's birthday (and also New Year's Day), so Yamato makes it her goal to make it Takeo's best yet. After hearing from Sunakawa that Takeo doesn't want to kiss until Spring (and calling back to one of the best gags of the series, Takeo stealing a kiss from Sunakawa), Yamato decides to push forward and kiss Takeo sometime on his birthday. This episode's full of romantic and well crafted scenes, and has a particularly deft hand with the lighting. It's all so well done, Madhouse just knocks it out of the park here. Story wise, not much happens other than Yamato and Takeo furthering their relationship a bit, but it's just so damn cute. It reminds me of why I fell in love with this in the first place. It's a return to the awkwardness, and I can't help but revel in it.  Truth be told, it just brings up a lot of memories for me. I'm 6'4, so I've always towered over girls I've dated and I've had to take the position above a few times. Just seeing it here warms me up inside.  I hope MY Love Story!! runs for more than 24 episodes, or announces a second season soon, because I don't want this to end yet. 
Annotated Love Story!! photo
Takeo x Yamato forever
I'm a sucker for romantic comedies. But it's been such a long time since I've been drawn to a romantic anime since they've all pretty much become the same thing. It's either an inappropriate relationship, an appropriate but b...

Annotated Anime: Himouto! Umaru Chan episode 7

Aug 26 // Anthony Redgrave
Like all the other episodes, this one is again broken up into different story bits mixing up the lazy Umaru with the delicate perfect school girl form. I found that once you're tired of her chibi form the bishonen face will appear and everything is alright. Dammit! Have I fallen into Umaru's moe trap like her brother does every episode? Was this the studio's plans all along? Conspiracy theories aside, this title continues to entertain because it is always changing. It brings more of the characters together instead of introducing more to the cast and doesn't use the same slightly varied gags. The first segment is typical Umaru exploiting Taihei for her own gain. In this case, playing the guilt card so hard that it forces Taihei to search through garbage for missing auxiliary pieces of a Miku Migu figurine. I really dislike when Umaru throws these temper tantrums. It takes me back to when I used to watch Rugrats and Angelica would become a force of nature with her fits. To me it's not cute or adorable, it's embarrassing considering we see the thankless jobs Taihei does all the time for Umaru. She does get her comeuppance and in doing so wraps up the story in a warmer fashion than if she was directly punished. It's a nice ending that highlights the strong bond Taihei and Umaru have for each other. Then Ebina, Taihei, and Umaru go out for Ramen together. The ramen in this series looks really good. It might be because I'm writing this while cooking dinner, but Ebina's mini ramen looks awesome! I'd totally eat that. Also, Ebina continues to be the Mikuru of this series by struggling to break the chopsticks in half in an adorable fashion.  Taihei gets a segment this episode and it explores his tireless life as a Salaryman with his working bud Bomber. The gag at the mixer is amazing. Nothing really technical and it's actually quite predictable but the timing and facial expression changes on Bomber is fantastic. To cut things short, Bomber has a misunderstanding, meets chibi Umaru, gets creepy, and concludes with a revelation for the audience making the whole world of Himouto! Umaru-chan smaller. This is probably the worst segment of this episode, but it has some tough competition. Umaru in her video game alter-ego UMR takes a trip with her rival friend Sylphynford to an old Japanese sweet shop. A simple premise but it's my favourite segment so far in the whole of the show. It has warm bright colours, cultural references to the sweets of Japan, and a nice character revelation. It reminds me of my favourite K-On episode where Ritsu takes Mugi around town and they end up at an old Japanese sweet shop. Nothing groundbreaking, just two friends shooting the shit and hanging out. It also helps that they are moe schoolgirls being adorable. Finally, Taihei rounds off this episode by following a cat down a road leading to somewhere familiar. And again it's a nice set-up that provides some character depth to Taihei and his strong family ties. Matching these themes with the warm glow of the setting sun after work helps push the nostalgic imagery.  A gag slice of life show about a wunderkind leading a double life as a lazy slob should be enough to carry it through a season with jokes alone. But Himouto! Umaru-chan goes for something more making it similar to the old Keroro Gunso anime. They were both at their core wacky jokey cartoons, but they sometimes slowed the pace down to explore themes of family and familial love that made you feel warm and fuzzy inside.  [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!] 
Himouto! Umaru-chan photo
Mini Ramen!
I love when anime directly references stuff in real life and Himouto! Umaru-chan is one of the better titles to do it. They don't go for the subtle nod or the direct reference with the name bleeped out. Nope, this show goes a...

Annotated Anime: Bikini Warriors episodes 4-8

Aug 26 // Anthony Redgrave
We're back to the 4 minutes of fan service poorly veiled as an RPG spoof show and these next few episodes are more accustomed to my taste. I mentioned last time that I did enjoy the shameless fan service of the show, but the unfairness that lead to the protagonists being left in undesirable situations was a turn-off. Fortunately, this was been replaced by tentacle monster tom foolery which would be worse if they are not swiftly saved mere minutes later.  On the story side, they continue with the RPG tropes with the first two episodes focussing on how poor the party is. If they were playing an RPG properly then money would never be an issue and monsters would be one shotted due to tireless min-maxing, but that's just me. A mayor refuses passage to a dungeon for the party until they run errands for him. Everyone apart from the Warrior thinks it's beneath them so it's up to the red head to do all the bizarre tasks from dog watching to fighting a tentacle monster. It reproduces the bullshit stuff you have to do in RPGs or any other games for that matter to get something that was not worth getting. At least the ending has justice being served. In the following episode, the party is too poor to afford a new staff for the Wizard so they go on a massive sale of all their items. From the treasures they earned at low level to the piles and piles of potions and elixirs stored for a rainy day. RPG fans would get a kick out this episode as I'm sure we have all been there trying to scrounge the last bits of gold to afford the next weapon upgrade. The girls even resort to selling their used Bikinis to the men of the town and the Wizard's prove to be the most popular. I would make a comment regarding the extremely youthful appearance of the Wizard compared to the rest of the party and Japan's fascination of youthful purity as a sexual desire but it's shown that these consumers would rather wear the rags. I'm guessing the Wizard has the smallest cup size so it fits them better? Then comes an episode that is entirely censored Austin Powers style. I have nothing else to say about that. Episode 7 is about how the party first meets with the Dark Elf. In the tavern or the hero recruitment center, they encounter the dark buxom warrior proclaiming she was the real deal. Apart from their talents in magic, martial arts, and knowledge accumulated throughout the decades, they're also excellent braggers, not batting an eyelash whenever they something wrong. Even when the Wizard and Paladin are getting licked over like a fudgesicle, she refuses to see the downsides of her pitiful spells. Even though I'm not drawn to the Dark Elf (I'm a Wizard man) I really liked her confidence. She's a bullshitter and her arrogance carries this episode through to the end. It ends on a cartoony cliff hanger that doesn't get resolved because cartoons (unless you're Space Dandy) Lastly, we are introduced to two new characters; the Hunter and the Valkyrie. Both ladies are interested in joining the party of bikini warriors, but there is only space for one. The Hunter and Valkyrie are very different people. The Hunter is accustomed to roughing in the wild and is versatile in making monsters into "edible" food. To her credit, the food doesn't knock our heroes out after consumption making it more edible than mystery food X from Persona 4. The Valkyrie is a strong fighter that was hand picked by God. Because of this strong accolade she butts heads with the party since they don't ride horses. It culminates intoa "fight" between the Valkyrie and the Hunter to deem which one is better, but it's honestly too embarrassing to recount and ends in potential lesbianism. Although I liked the look of the Valkyrie, I thought the Hunter would be a better fit in the group. She has a wilder personality compared to the current group and the Valkyrie's arrogance and superiority traits can already be seen in the Dark Elf. Bikini Warriors is what it is and I don't think it'll be any more than that. As a side note, I like how the Paladin is hinted at as more sexually forward than the rest of the party by the way she drops hints of wanting to sell her body. Nothing ever comes of it, but I think it's funny that a Paladin (often a warrior for a holy or religious sect) is the most inclined to do indecent activities.  fudgesicle
Bikini Warriors photo
I don't know what else to expect
Boobs, crotch shot, potions, bra, string bikini, hero's journey, slime monster, tentacles, grinding, objectification, RPG trope, and nudity.  If you disagree with three or more of the above words then Bikini Warriors is sadly not for you. If you agree with all of the words above then Bikini Warriors was made for you.

Annotated Anime: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode 13

Aug 23 // Anthony Redgrave
It's the end of exam season and the primary literature club members decide to take their president out for the day to celebrate. Asakura passionately suggests a theme park while Kyon asks Nagato where she'd like to go. They end up going to a used book fair to satisfy the bibliophilic Nagato much to Asakura's insistence on the theme park. Don't worry Asakura I'll take you to a theme park. How's about the new Banksy one Dismayworld? We may have to queue for a while to see the cynically satirical construction of the modern world, but I'm sure it'll be worth the inflated ticket price. In the mind of Nagato she is still struggling with her identity. A re-occurring dream of her spectating past events causes Nagato to think that her old self is coming back. Even Kyon and Asakura think that Nagato is reacting a lot more like her old self rather than the tightlipped monotone alien from the Haruhi series. But this isn't a good thing, at least for Nagato. Having become accustomed to the smiles and pleasures of having friends, the new Nagato is afraid of disappearing only to be replaced by the old Nagato. Which explains the dreams. New Nagato has always been there, inside old Nagato, watching but not touching. I think there are also more personas of Nagato too judging by they change clothes in a bolt of static during the dream sequences.  The second half of the episode focuses on new Nagato's last day in this world. After the next night, the old Nagato will reappear and everything should be back to normal. So she spends the day with Asakura and finishes in front of the library with the book she checked out last episode. As the sun sets she recollects about her new found feelings for Kyon and the fact she couldn't express them before she disappeared. Then he calls. The rest of the episode rolls on like a classic romance film scene. Kyon hastily rushes to Nagato's location as the phone call conversation is played over the top. If there are any anime fans out there who have ever been really frustrated at the fact no-one ever confesses their feelings in anime despite their similarities and mutual feelings then this last part of the episode is extremely cathartic to watch.  This wasn't the best story arc of the series. A lot of the time it was slow, didn't have the comedy or charm of the earlier episodes, and was akin to the mysterious elements of Haruhi that nearly put me to sleep by the amount of explanation needed to understand them. The new Nagato was a nice call back to the previous series whether it's canon or not. I like to think it is and the Nagato from Haruhi's series had a little adventure into the Yuki-chan universe. [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!] [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!]
Nagato Yuki photo
Return of Nagato Yuki
I was listening to a podcast where they were discussing our media's obsession with trilogies. Every new IP has to be a trilogy or at least series that builds on the existing product. However nowadays it's more like trilogies ...

Annotated Anime: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode 12

Aug 20 // Anthony Redgrave
So Nagato and Kyon are in the library. Since this new Nagato is a bibliophile she floats through the aisles of books before resting on one that catches her fancy. While our smart mouthed Kyon clashes with a bespectacled librarian despite other patrons calling out for their mothers or giggling over books and not getting reprimanded. As closing time approaches Nagato is still reading at the same spot Kyon had left her, she is determined to continue to the last second of opening. We learn that the new Nagato, along with a greater affinity for books is a lot more determined and forward with other people. This brings about a nice scene where Nagato does her best pout to try and convince Kyon to return her book that ultimately results in a library card being used.  This interaction between Kyon and Nagato is very similar to what happened in Haruhi except in that series it was Kyon narrating over animation of himself struggling to convince Nagato to move from the library. The show is great at re-creating and re-doing past scenes from the Haruhi series to represent the alternative universe idea of Nagato Yuki-chan. After revealing the existing library card in Nagato's possession, there is a flashback to how Nagato met Kyon which was in the same library. In classic romantic novel fashion, Kyon sweeps Nagato off her feet by stealing her book and checking it out at the desk along with setting her up with a library card. What a hunk! Also, Kyon's sister makes a long awaited appearance. Now I'm just hoping we get to see Shamisen in this series.  As the second half of the episode starts we get more hints at the August fireworks festival earlier in the series cause my speculation glands to start secreting. It also follows Checkov-san's Firework Festival; if there is an introduction of a summer festival in a romantic anime series there needs to be a major flag event between the two leads. This half also gets really meta as Nagato starts to flashback to key scenes from the show; the Christmas party, star gazing, and giving chocolates during Valentines, but she isn't viewing it from Nagato's perspective. Instead she is an observer, watching Nagato as she does all these tasks despite our new Nagato being in control of past Nagato's body. There is a piano motif that plays through these scenes that screams to be Gymnopedie no. 1 by Erik Satie. This track was a major thematic track for the movie The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya that sort of serves as a prequel to this series.  I seriously love Gymnopedie; it's slow, warm, mysterious and embodies Nagato's cold exterior in front of her inner human emotion. An appearance in this show will be welcomed with open arms by me and will also help tie the film and this together in terms of musical theme. The piano score that replaces it is serviceable to as to convey the confusion Nagato is feeling when watching these flashbacks but isn't memorable despite following the similar crescendos and decrescendos of Gymnopedie.  [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!] The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
Nagato Yuki photo
I am thou, Thou art I
Hey Haruhi fans, remember when Kyon bunked off looking for paranormal stuff and spent his afternoon in the library with Nagato instead, only to get scolded by Haruhi? Would you like to watch it again with a different art styl...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 705

Aug 20 // Anthony Redgrave
By the grace of Oda, Corazon somehow fought off Barrel's men that had him pinned down by gun point and was able to deliver the Opi Opi fruit to Law. Law, apparently still in shock to see his feathery friend fails to notice the vast number of bullet wounds leaking vital fluid all over the snow. Even at a young age Law is skeptical about the fruit's abilities and only until Corazon force feeds him the devil fruit does he finally ingest the heart shaped power up. This scene's tone is all over the place. First we get a rousing speech by Corazon shouting about being happy about the successful heist and Law's upcoming cure, to a funny scene with Law struggling to fit the entire fruit down his gullet, and finally Corazon lying facedown in the snow slowly bleeding to death.  The gut punch comes when Law attempts to use his newfound power only for nothing to happen. I always assumed after eating the devil fruit, the users will have some way of controlling it or at least turning it on. Sabo ate the flare flare fruit and was tossing fireballs willy nilly in a matter of seconds since he was in a gladiator match and later toe to toe against an admiral. Corazon passes Law some valuable information for Marine eyes only regarding Dressrosa and tells him to run for the Marine ship that was hiding on the West Coast. Unfortunately, the first Marine Law meets up with is the double agent Vergo. Vergo smacks the shit out of Corazon but even Law. Yep, this haki imbued body of pure muscle doesn't waste any time hitting a kid on his death bed and a clown with the power of muteness. The episode ends with Doflamingo arriving with the family and casting bird cage on the island basically preventing anyone from escaping. This makes Vergo stupidly confident as he leaves the clown and the child to die slowly instead of tying them up and leaving them for the family to find.  As of now Corazon has shown more D. family qualities than Law. He is upbeat, wacky, resourceful, and very passionate about helping his friends. He is also stated that he will die with a smile, a very familiar D. trait as shown by Saul and even the famous Gol D. Roger.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] By the grace of Oda, Corazon somehow fought off Barrel's men that had him pinned down by gun point and was able to deliver the Opi Opi fruit to Law. Law, apparently still in shock to see his feathery friend fails to notice the vast number of bullet wounds leaking vital fluid all over the snow. Even at a young age Law is skeptical about the fruit's abilities and only until Corazon force feeds him the devil fruit does he finally ingest the heart shaped power up. This scene's tone is all over the place. First we get a rousing speech by Corazon shouting about being happy about the successful heist and Law's upcoming cure, to a funny scene with Law struggling to fit the entire fruit down his gullet, and finally Corazon lying facedown in the snow slowly bleeding to death.  The gut punch comes when Law attempts to use his newfound power only for nothing to happen. I always assumed after eating the devil fruit, the users will have some way of controlling it or at least turning it on. Sabo ate the flare flare fruit and was tossing fireballs willy nilly in a matter of seconds since he was in a gladiator match and later toe to toe against an admiral. Corazon passes Law some valuable information for Marine eyes only regarding Dressrosa and tells him to run for the Marine ship that was hiding on the West Coast. Unfortunately, the first Marine Law meets up with is the double agent Vergo. Vergo smacks the shit out of Corazon but even Law. Yep this haki imbued body of pure muscle and haki doesn't waste any time in hitting a kid on his death bed and a clown with the power of muteness. The episode ends with Doflamingo arriving with the family and casting bird cage on the island basically preventing anyone from escaping including Law and Corazon if they could get passed Vergo. As of now Corazon has shown more D. family qualities than Law. He is up beat, wacky, resourceful, and very passionate about helping his friends. He is also stated that he will die with a smile, a very familiar D. trait as shown by Saul and even the famous Gol D. Roger.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Bad Luck Favours the Bad Guys
Has anyone else noticed that Swallow Island not only looks like a Swallow from a boat if it is looking at it from the right angle but also looks like a Swallow from birds eye view too? It's funny how coincidences just work in...

First Impressions: Himouto! Umaru-chan

Aug 15 // Anthony Redgrave
The show focuses on the perfect beautiful student Umaru Doma. She is incredible at athletics, academics, popular, sweet, cute and basically the ideal school girl. However, she has a secret that only manifests itself when she comes home. In reality, she is an ultra slacker otaku with borderline hikikomori tendencies if it weren't for the weekly Jumpu and arcades that need visiting on weekends. This is a literal transformation as she goes from moe student to chibi Crayon Shin Chan straight after crossing the threshold of the door. Only her older brother and guardian knows of this secret, but some characters have come dangerously close to discovering it. As a premise, it's quite an interesting one. A lot of anime have otaku characters and they wear their nerdy hobby on their sleeve thus being shunned as outcasts or played for laughs. In the case of Umaru, she has to constantly hide her passions due to her already preconceived image as a sweet feminine student darling. It's also great to see her transform from her selfish home self to her cute outdoor self whenever she wants to get something out of her brother. Most of the time she is in her indoor mode, eating snacks and drinking lots and lots of cola. I'm not an expert, but the amount of cola she drinks a day is evidence of addiction. I'm surprised she doesn't get any shakes or withdrawal symptoms when she's at school.  Since Umaru is based in a high school, the supporting cast is mainly other high school girls that Umaru interacts with. First is the ditzy one Nana Ebina who is basically Mikuru from Haruhi right down to the big chest, next is the hyper competitive Sylphynford Tachibana who is like Tsubasa from Haruhi without the fang, and finally Kirie Motoba the misunderstood girl who doesn't share the likeness with any Haruhi character. Most of the time these side characters are played for laughs due to their extreme personality quirks. If anyone has seen the anime Working!! it's exactly like that. Whenever the set up to a joke is being played out you can accurately predict how each character will react making some jokes to be too predictable and overplayed. This was also the downfall of Working!! as the second season had no new material. Himouto! Umaru-chan is balancing this fine line after seven episodes and it's keeping my attention due to the consistent parody of video games.  I think the bottom line is Himouto! Umaru-chan is if Lucky Star was put in a blender with Working!!. The show works well as a comedy and the art style is very appealing to look at. The only downsides apart from the longevity of the same jokes being used over and over again is that Umaru may not be very likeable in her indoor form. She's lazy, bossy, selfish, and spoilt and watching her cry about wanting more cola or money for a game makes me think back to the cries of toddlers in supermarkets when they reach the sweets aisle. On the plus side they're bringing more characters into the fold so they're no longer one note characters. I'm especially liking Kirie opening up to the Doma family and integrating with Umaru's other friends.  [Cover from Person of Leisure at Pixiv][Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!]  [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!]
Himouto! Umaru-chan photo
The Otaku Jekyll and Hyde
Himouto! Umaru-chan is an anime series I never intended on starting this summer but seeing that I'm now writing an extremely late First Impressions it certainly did catch my fancy after the first few episodes. Himouto! Umaru-chan

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