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Nisekoi: Who has the best claim to Raku's Heart?

Aug 02 // Anthony Redgrave
All the suitors without keysIf Nisekoi had made anything clear on Raku's true love it's that he had given her a key. This is bad news for Tsugumi and Haru as they don't have or have not revealed their keys in the show. Relationship wise they are also the furthest from Raku and are indirectly linked via another love interest; Tsugumi is Chitoge's bodyguard and Haru is Kosaki's younger sister. They may have their fantasy crushes on the young master, but he only sees them as friends. I guess friend zoning exists in anime as it does in real life.  3) Onodera KosakiIt pains me to put my favourite girl at the bottom of this short list, but there isn't enough hard evidence to support her claim. Kosaki only has her key and a vague history about playing with Chitoge and Raku as a child. But the show does present her as the most likely candidate. Raku and Kosaki have romantic feelings for one another and they the share the most "flag" moments throughout the show's two seasons. Their relationship can be compared to Persona 3's protagonist and Yukari Takeba from Persona 3, it is strongly hinted but not canon if you choose not to pursue her in-game. Raku's flashback to the promised girl always depicts her with brown hair and since Onodera is the only girl with dark brown hair this can be another strong indicator. However, hair can be dyed and flashback images always change depending who tells the story (especially if it's a teenager talking about their extremely young adolescence) so this cannot be counted as strong evidence. I'll get to the picture book evidence a bit later. Until Kosaki takes Miyamoto's advice and womans up she will be stuck in last place.  2) Chitoge KirisakiThe only one that is in a relationship with Raku even if it's a fake one. Chitoge has a strong claim as Raku's true love starting with their history as recounted by their parent's. The Bee Hive and Yakuza have had dealings in the past so it is likely that Raku and Chitoge had met before. Kosaku only really remembers her middle school days with Raku and her mother doesn't recognise Raku when he starts working there over summer. But Chitoge's parents do recognise Raku as the boy that Chitoge had played with as a child on multiple separate occasions. This means she had met and interacted with Raku in the past before they had met again in high school years later. In the latter half of the second season, Chitoge's ribbon leads onto a key item; the picture book that connects Chitoge, Kosaki, and Raku. Young Raku liked the girl wearing a ribbon in the picture book so Chitoge asked her mother Hana for one. The same ribbon can still be seen on Chitoge as it represents her love for her mother, but previously it was to impress young Raku. In the finale of the episode, the same picture book could be seen in Kosaki's room. If we're being cynical it could be a coincidence that Kosaki had the same book but it doesn't explain why a teenage high school girl would still have it in her room. My best guess is that she kept it close because of sentimental value or she still uses it on a regular basis seeing that it is out and not stored on the bookshelf.  What puts Chitoge at number 2 occurs mid-way through season 1 as she attempts to open Raku's lock with her key and it breaks. According to the Nisekoi Wikia, Chitoge possesses "immense strength" and "astonishing amounts of sheer power". Even though these adjectives cannot be quantified it can be assumed that she has the power to break a thin bit of metal like a key with her fingers. A wrong turn inside the lock could break the key using her strength, but it's more likely is that it doesn't fit. Opening Raku's locket is the definitive piece of evidence for being the chosen girl regardless of everything else and if the key doesn't fit then you're not the one.  1) Marika TachibanaAs a character Marika fluctuates up and down my favourites list. She is the spoiled Veronica to Kosaki's sweet girl next door Betty but isn't afraid of putting in 110%. She's sneaky, very flirtatious, and a tad bipolar but also very genuine in her feelings for Raku. She's not after money, status, or superficiality and is completely infatuated with the boy because of her memories of him. In fact out of all the girls she has the best memory of the boy and why she is in love with him. Her flashbacks are detailed, numerous, and even though we don't see his face, his blue spikey hair is recognisable. Just like Chitoge their families have had a history of previous dealings with one another. Even Raku's father states that Marika is Raku's fiance before they have even met. Excluding the possibility of senility that comes with old age, Raku's father would have a decent memory to support the proposal whether it was from Raku himself or an arranged one between Police and Yakuza.  The problem is that Raku doesn't feel the same way towards Marika as he does towards Kosaki or Chitoge. There's never a moment where Marika captures his eyes and instead the gendered stereotype roles are reversed with Marika pursuing Raku. Raku is actively uncomfortable with Marika's advances but appreciates her company and friendship. The show definitely hints at Raku falling for Chitoge gradually because of their unique relationship, but it's never shown for Raku and Marika.  If effort could be considered then she would be ahead by a landslide. Giant sculptures of Raku made out of chocolate, rigorous training to become the perfect girl for Raku, and in an extremely sweet scene the end of an OVA saving penny by penny for Raku's dream house that he drew with Marika when they were younger. Her efforts go beyond those of Kosaki and Chitoge but are mainly played off for laughs without the impact having an effect.  Getting back to brass tacks there are two pieces of evidence that put Marika in the top spot. She has a key (although it hasn't been tested yet) and an old photo showing them together with Raku's father. This supports Raku's father's testament on Marika being the girl Raku was going to be engaged to. This is the closest we have come to locking down who Raku's chosen girl is due to her past connections with Raku supporting solid evidence in the form of a photograph, witness testimonies to the engagement, and strong memories of the pair interacting in the past. The picture book that bind Chitoge and Kosaki together is missing but to me it just says that Raku liked the girl in the book, he doesn't say the girl looked like the promised girl or any connection to the promised girl. The book may have inspired the locket and keys idea but without more information about this book I cannot draw any other conclusions. With the second season OVA coming up maybe we'll be getting some more information on Raku's true love. I'm still a huge supporter of Marika at this point, but I have a feeling it'll wrap up with Kosaki and Raku in a Hollywood ending. I would love to see a fan voted ending a la visual novel with a good, bad, individual girl and harem endings.  So who do you think will end up with Raku? Will there be another key contesting for Raku's heart? Put a comment below cause I love to hear your theories and thoughts on this. 
Nisekoi photo
Best Girl Battle Royale
Nisekoi is a series that was a chore for me to watch especially during the first season. Too many overreactions over misunderstandings that dragged each episode out to its obvious conclusion. There wasn't a massive amoun...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 702

Aug 02 // Anthony Redgrave
The Doflamingo family were world nobles living in Mariejois, but the patriarch decided to leave to give his family a more humble life. It could be he was under the impression of "the grass is greener on the other side" but when you live in Mariejois also known as the Holy Land of One Piece I don't think you can get any greener grass. Sadly the Doflamingo family are not seasoned veterans of the property market as they move into a village that absolutely hate the World Nobles. It's not like the family did anything wrong or were misunderstood by the villagers leading to a tragic backlash. The people living around them loathe the world nobles for their history of slavery and treatment towards the outside world. Like a tumbling snowball, things go from bad to worst as the Doflamingo family are forced into hiding and are hunted on a daily basis by the residents of the North Blue. This is where another episode would've helped viewers empathize with Doflamingo as we can already see he and Corazon had had a rough childhood, but it was all crammed into the first half of this episode. Literally the patriarch of the Doflamingo family introduces himself to the villagers at the market and is immediately attacked. No provocation, no misunderstanding, just pure hatred.  Back in the present Corazon covers for Law despite the latter's attack on the former and much to Law's surprise he is accepted into the Doflamingo family. The proceeding montage of Law bonding with the other family members is nice as we finally see some happy moments amongst an enemy crew. It's nice to see that these villains aren't one-dimensional killing machines, but they value each other's presence and companionship. The way the episode is presented helps me understand Doflamingo more as a person. He maintains the ruthlessness of a World Noble but values his family that he had lost to commoners thus having no remorse for slavery and absolutely hating anyone thinking they are above him. This makes it even more intriguing why he ended up killing his brother and father.  The episode concludes with Law stating his real name and adding himself to the list of D. members. Corazon also speaks and sparks the beginning of how Law became indebted to Doflamingo's brother. Corazon's voice is badass and didn't think it would fit a goofy violent guy dressed as a clown. It's sad knowing that we won't hear that voice for much longer as I think he will meet his demise in the next two episodes.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Yep this one's pretty good
Doflamingo remains one of my favourite One Piece villains. Despite the shit I had to put up with in Dressrosa it is all worth it to see the good episodes. Doflamingo has one of the more interesting backstories of all the characters in One Piece and I love how you can see how it had directly affected his personality and actions. 

First Impressions: Bikini Warriors

Aug 02 // Anthony Redgrave
The answer is "Yes, but not at 30 minutes apiece". The archaic simulacra of fearsome adventurers wearing nothing more than a napkin worth of armor is played for humour purposes rather than an epic adventure. Standing at 4 minutes each the first episode sets the tone by having our heroes, only being defined by their class or in the case of the dark elf her race wiping on a dungeon due to their impractical outfits. One shopping trip later they are back dungeoneering with better gear but still in their revealing unmentionables and succeeding this time due to the "higher stats" of the armour. And that's it. Each of the three episodes explores a fantasy RPG trope from ungrateful kings to adventurer's rights to plunder any home. These are one note gags so it's good that they had the courtesy of limiting each episode to 4 minutes instead of padding it out a 30-minute episode with fan service. That is not to say Bikini Warriors is light on the cheesecake. I think I spent most of the first episode staring at the Warriors crotch area and not because I'm a red blooded male. It's because they re-use the same shot of her getting knocked back with the camera fixated on the genital region about 4 times. Every episode ends with the leads being humiliated in some way, sometimes it's karmically just and others it's maliciously cruel. If it were a more adult show there would be a lot more un-consensual things that occur after the credits.  I'm all for a cheeky tease and a wink from la belle du jour, but some of the endings of Bikini Warriors leave a sour taste in my mouth. I know it's an acquired fetish but when it's just to get the girls out of their already revealing outfits and into nothing without it feeling fair or consensual makes me feel uncomfortable.  The leads are varied and have some nice character designs and differing personalities. The pink haired warrior is cursed with the wet blanket personality and uninspired character design channeling the spirit of Tyris Flare from the Sega Genesis Golden Axe series. The Wizard is the child of the group but has been gifted with a sizable rack like the rest of the cast. I would think a flat chest would suit her character better, but I guess you won't get the same effect in a bikini. Rounding out the party is the ditzy Paladin and an older sister Dark Elf.  If it weren't for the short run time I wouldn't have given Bikini Warriors a watch in the first place. It's a condensed fan service heavy show that doesn't require a huge commitment to follow each episode and it'll be interesting where they will take the show once they start running out of fantasy tropes. 
Bikini Warriors photo
They're Warriors In Bikinis
I think we are all aware of the ridiculous concept of armour for females in a fantasy setting. As males level up they get to wear more extravagant armour while the ladies are rewarded with higher statistical armour but is represented as beach wear rather than fighting gear. It's a silly trope that is still used to this day. But can there be an interesting anime based off it? 


Annotated Anime: GATE episodes 4-5

Aug 01 // Josh Tolentino
When last we left Itami and his scouting platoon, they'd just blown the crap out of a giant dragon with a rocket launcher and timely help from Chuka the naked elf and Rory Mercury, the goth-loli demigoddess that's taken a liking to the "Warriors in Green". As the squad returns to the newly-built SDF base built on Arnus Hill (and an attractive and defensible star shape, to boot), Itami inadvertently takes a centrally important role once again, thanks to his decision to take in native refugees. The brass are still figuring out what to do about the "Special Region", and those with a mind for geopolitics are contemplating the implications of Japan's access to new, virtually untouched real estate. Will the soldiers Glorious Nippon have to gird their loins, not just to fight the locals, but against people from their own world?  That's the question looming over episode 4, and where GATE tips its political hand just a bit. Maybe this sort of logic - added to the portrayal of non-Japanese Earthlings as craven opportunists - prompted folks to declare it a work of right-wing nutjobbery. And while that characterization is doubtless crude, I'm inclined to think the offense is coming mainly from Americans unused to seeing America portrayed as being real "sinister", at least not alongside the Chinese. Crude characterization is what it is, but so far GATE's distrust of foreign powers is hardly unusual and fits (albeit awkwardly) in the premise of a more "realistic" contemplation of cross-dimensional relations. Foreign policy critiques aside, the incident makes Itami look more appealing as a protagonist. I've always had a soft spot for those sorts of Tylor-esque, Is-He-An-Idiot-Or-A-Genius types, and Itami fits the bill to a tee. He might just be far more cunning than anyone (at least, anyone from his side of the gate) is willing to give him credit for, and that's how he'll be the one to end up changing both worlds before this is all over. The episodes also catch up with the refugees, all amazed by baths, food, Daikon radishes, MOPP suits, earth movers, and the practice of saying "itadakimasu" before meals. Chuka the elf seems to be acting as if her father is still alive (you never can tell with elf magic), and is also quite out of sorts about how to repay the soldiers for their aid. Thankfully, some dragon scales turn up, lest the girls have to resort to taking up The Oldest Profession. The show also takes some time to catch up with the hilariously named Pina Co Lada, princess of the Empire that sent the soldiers through the Gate the first time. She's on her way to find out more about the Warriors in Green, and has been caught up defending the city of Italica from bandits that just so happen to have once been members of the Empire's allied armies. Y'know, the ones the Emperor sent to get killed by the JSDF so as not to pose a threat to the depleted Imperial forces. Incidentally, Italica happens to be where Itami and co. show up to sell their scales. Come to think of it, the more interesting story in GATE right now is less about how the people of our world deal with the discovery of the Special Region, but how the people of the Special Region deal with the disruption caused by their interactions with our world. It may have been the Empire that first sent its troops to rampage through Ginza, but by and large the world most changed by that war isn't ours. Over on the other side, most of the furor lies in political maneuvering and question as to finding out just what the JSDF is doing on the other side of the Gate.  Compare that to the impact of the JSDF's incursion on the Empire. The Empire lost most of its army, as well as nearly every noble leader. The Emperor sent his own allies to slaughter under the JSDF's guns, to put their armies in the same dire straits as his. Villages like Coda and towns like Italica were left leaderless, barely able to defend themselves against bandits. It's an interesting dynamic to see in anime, and perspectives from this angle of the less-powerful are all too uncommon, even if the current storyline, which has Pina cooperating with Itami's squad to break the siege of Italica seems like it's just going to be used as fodder to demonstrate the soldiers' moral superiority once again. Where GATE has been stumbling seems to come from the same place as those ridiculous kill counts from the earlier episodes. The need to demonstrate the dramatic difference in power between the modern-day soldiers and their quasi-medieval opponents has ironically undermined the show's own premise somewhat. It's the same with GATE's ostensible dedication to some form of realism. And I'm not just talking about its 2ch-level grasp of geopolitics, either. For example, why are the press back on Earth so in-the-dark as to what's happening on the other side, when Itami is apparently able to update his favorite light novels via broadband internet? Can't someone just email the soldiers or send a TV signal through as well?  Further, how could anyone say the JSDF's made "peaceful first contact" with the natives when the first thing they did upon crossing the threshold is slaughter a whole generation? If the Special Region is anywhere close to the real-world's population levels around the medieval age, losing 100,000 able-bodied men, not to mention most of the Empire's ruling class, would have far more dire consequences. Chances are the people of Coda should've run screaming as soon as they heard of the Warriors in Green coming, Fire Dragon be damned.  That all sounds like nitpicking, and it definitely is, but in fairness, it's GATE that first asked us to do it with its very premise. We can hardly be blamed for complaining when a story that claims to be realistic doesn't match up to what we know from our own lives.  This isn't to say that it's all for naught. GATE is a fun and engaging watch so far, but a little more verisimilitude would be welcome. [Catch GATE on Crunchyroll!]        
GATE photo
Eh, It's A Living
I like GATE so far. Far from earlier rumors seemingly trumpeting it as "Japan's Tea Party: The Anime", the show has been a thoughtful and interesting take on a topic close to my nerdy heart. And with some of the action r...

Strong Style: New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS S2 episode 10

Aug 01 // Soul Tsukino
But First! Since this is the final night of the round robin part I'll break it down for you a little clearer. And I will admit up front I was wrong. I believed this would lead to a four-man final with the first AND second place from each block move onto the finals (as with a lot of New Japan's tournaments), but that is not the case. The top men from each block will meet for the final match with the two second place guys wrestling in a 3rd place match. Yes, I am baka for getting wrong the rules of a tournament held last year. Anyway, this is how we break it down: Block A:  Shinsuke Nakamura (14 points): A win tonight would eliminate Fale and Shibata. Holds the Tie breaker over Tanahashi (if both he and Tanahashi won).  Hiroshi Tanahashi (14 points): A win and a Nakamura loss would put him in the final. Katsuyori Shibata (12 points): A win and both Tanahashi and Nakamura loss would have him win the Tiebreaker over both as well as Fale. Bad Luck Fale (12 points) A win and a Tanahashi and Shibata loss would have him win the tie breaker. Block B: Kazuchika Okada (14 points): A win and he goes in no matter what since he'd win the tie with Styles AJ Styles (14 points): A win and Okada loss puts him in the final There, with that settled we are greeted with Okada to begin this episode. Block A: Shinsuke Nakamura VS. Bad Luck Fale: If Fale wins than he is in the tie for at least the second place spot. Anything else and he's out. Also a revenge match for Nakamura as Fale beat him to win the Intercontinental title. Mauro and Josh bringing us the call tonight with a stuffed episode.  We start with a stare down. Fale goes for the avalanche and misses. We jump to Nakamura has the advantage, but Fale counters and hits the Grenade early. Fale goes to the top rope, but Nakamura jumps up with a kick and gives him a brainbuster off the ropes! Nakamura goes for a running kick and Fale spears him and goes for the Bad Luck Fall. Nakamura escapes and gets the big guy down with a sleeper. Nakamura hits a top rope Booma ya on the back of Fale's head before hitting a booma ya on the mat but only gets 2. Another booma ya and Fale is out for the 3.  Well, that was quick. I guess with 4 matches it had to be. Tanahashi gets to go to the finals.   Block B: A.J. Styles vs. Togi Makabe: Pretty much a formality as Togi is way out of the lead and A.J. Style is so far ahead no matter what, he's going to the finals. Styles made a hell of a comeback as he didn't start out very well in this with some big losses. A.J. bails as soon as the bell rings. Styles gets in and Togi gets an armlock before Styles bails again. Styles goes for some shoulder blocks and gets nowhere before he tries for a leapfrog and gets slammed for it. Makabe hits Styles in the corner but Styles counters and gets Togi out of the ring. Whip to the barricade and Styles jumps right over it and then hits Makabe. Cut ahead as Makabe hits a powerbomb on Styles. Styles seated on top and Makabe hits a german suplex right on Styles's NECK. Makabe climbs the top rope but decided against it before slamming Styles again. He goes up top again but misses. Cut ahead as Styles regains the advantage and put Makabe on top. Makabe gets a headbutt and Styles counters with a Pele kick. Styles hits the Styles Clash for the win. Again, cut down quite a bit, but not bad. Styles did his part to move on, let's see what happens. Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Davey Boy Smith Jr.: This match pretty much means nothing now since Nakamura won.  Smith comes out with Taka Michinoku representing the Suzuki Army. Barnett brings up that Hiroshi may be underestimating Smith. Clip to chopping between the two. Hiroshi gets a few low dropkicks to get Smith down. Tanahashi with a leg whip sending the big guy down. Smith chucks Hiroshi over the top, but he skins the cat back in and drags Smith out. Hiroshi hits sliding kick before going over the rope to hit a plancha on Smith. "Gravity is a bitch."- Josh Barnett. Smith breaks the count and keeps on the attack before he hits the powerslam on the floor. Clip ahead as Smith gets Hiroshi down for 2. Smith hits a tiger suplex and NEARLY gets the three. Smith goes the bulldog roll, but Hiroshi gets the sunset flip and nearly gets it. Tanahashi gets a victory roll and another 2 count. Smith hits the bulldog bomb and GETS THE PIN? Wow. Did NOT expect that! Tanahashi is broken up in the back on the floor yelling in frustration. Kinda sucks knowing he got beat in a match that wouldn't have helped even if he did win. We get some words from Okada about this big match for him. He talks about the long tournament and losing to Karl Anderson and Naito, knowing he had to win tonight.   Block B: Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki: Same deal for Okada as it was for Styles. Okada will go to the finals and Suzuki has nothing to lose. That's... scary when you say it out loud. Suzuki comes out with Taka and glares at one of the photogs at ringside so scary I nearly pissed my pants. Okada comes out with Gedo as always. Back from the break as we get the bell. The crowd is hot for this one. Tentative knuckle lock up at first. Okada tries to mess with Suzuki on the ropes and Suzuki gets a quick armbar and then a knee to Okada and goes for the armbar on the ropes and KICKS Okada to the floor. That's what you get for trying to be funny with Suzuki. Armlock over the barricade as Suzuki is just being MEAN. Suzuki stares down Gedo but goes for another armbar on Okada. Kicks on the arm by Suzuki but Okada mans up and tells him to kick his arm. I should mention that Suzuki is stone-faced during all this. Suzuki ties up Okada in a knot before being broken from the ropes. Okada counters a charge with a kick and then hits a DDT, Okada gets a boot on Suzuki and finally gets the advantage. Suzuki suckers Okada in and punches him in the gut, but Okada gets Suzuki out into the crowd and gets a Randy Orton hanging DDT on the floor! Back in the ring with Okada going to the top and lands the flying elbow. Rainmaker pose cut short as Suzuki kicks the devil out of Okada. Kick right to Okada's injured arm. Armbar broken on the ropes again. Exchange of forearms leads to Suzuki getting the armlock again. At this point, I'm waiting for Suzuki to rip Okada's arm off and beat him with it. It's sound strategy, though. Take out his biggest weapon in the rainmaker. Also, Suzuki gets to hurt somebody. LONG armlock but Okada is not giving up! Crowd gets behind Okada now as he finally gets a foot on the ropes. Suzuki gets some strikes on the arm, but Okada gets the leg lock for his Red Ink submission finisher. Suzuki quickly gets to the ropes, but Okada gets his Heavy Rain slam (an F-5) Okada tries to whip Suzuki in but his collapses. He then turns around and hits a SWEET dropkick flattening Okada. Devilish bastard. Suzuki gets a rear naked choke as the crowd chants for Okada. Suzuki tries for the Gotch piledriver Okada sits out. He gets and knee and goes for the piledriver again but Okada gets the reverse into a falling neckbreaker. Both men are on their knees smacking each other with forearms. Back up for more forearms Suzuki ASKS to be hit and LAUGHS at Okada. I'm pretty sure the police in Japan have a special numbered code for when Suzuki is happy. Okada hits a pinpoint dropkick right on the back of Suzuki's neck. Okada tries for the tombstone, but Suzuki says no. Suzuki counters out of another suplex with an armbar but Okada counters with a Gotch version of the Tombstone. Suzuki gets up and gets out of the rainmaker with a straight punch to the face. Okada finally gets the rainmaker and scores the win! DAMN! Okada earned that one. He goes to the finals and will meet Nakamura for the tornament. Suzuki gives a scary rambling promo to the press. in the ring Okada talks about his next match again Nakamura. A few words from Gedo to finish it off. We get some words from Nakamura about the finals. Okada gives us some studio words about how tough the match was and looking forward to fighting Nakamura in the finals. The first 3 matches were clipped badly but were still enjoyable, but man that main event was a good one. Suzuki is just a wonder to watch and Okada made a really good opponent for him. Another entertaining show! Next week we get the 2 episodes as we look at the final show of the tournament in the season 2 finale of NJPW on AXS. I can't wait! Before we conclude tonight, I'd like to make mention the passing of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper earlier tonight. Piper was THE villain of the WWF back in the mid-1980's. There wouldn't have been a Wrestlemania without him. I first saw Piper as a kid when he made his WWE comeback at Wrestlemania 5 but have since been able to see his whole body of work. His interviews are classic and hope that however the means that fans still get to enjoy his work. Been a fan of his style since I was a kid during all his runs with WWF/E and WCW. He was a man who was clear about his past and his issues, even to his own detriment, but he was someone who genuinely did not want to see the rest of the business make the same mistakes he did. He was and still is a treat to watch. Thanks, Roddy. I'll be damned if I didn't think of you showing up to the pearly gates and say these words: [embed]34105:4962:0[/embed]     See you next week for the season finale.   But First! Since we've skipped ahead let's look at the point totals in each block heading into tonight's action! Block A:  Shinsuke Nakamura (14), Hiroshi Tanahashi (14), Katsuyori Shibata (12),  Bad Luck Fale (12), Satoshi Kojima (10), Shelton X Benjamin (8 points),Tomohiro Ishii (8), Davey Boy Smith Jr (8) Yuji Nagata (8) Doc Gallows (6), Tomoaki Honma (0). Block B: Kazuchika Okada (14 points), AJ Styles (14), Tetsuya Naito (10), Minoru Suzuki (10), Hirooki Goto (8), Toru Yano (8), Togi Makabe (8), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (8), Karl Anderson (8), Lance Archer (6), Yujiro Takahashi (6). Block B looks pretty locked up while Block A is stillvery competitive! August 8th, 2014
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
On the doorstep of the finals!
Konnichi wa and welcome to Strong Style! The G1 Climax 24 tournament is almost over and the action is heating up. This week we skip ahead to day 11 of the tournament and the last day before the finals. Ton...

First Impressions: God Eater episodes 1-3

Jul 30 // Josh Tolentino
The good news is, that visually, God Eater is one of the best-looking shows I've seen in years. And it's not just getting by on style, either. Ufotable, as is their way, has created a technical tour de force with their newest series, using multi-layered shading and coloring techniques to create a unique look for God Eater, as well as finally make an anime where CG creations - in this case, the Aragami monsters and large parts of the backgrounds - don't stick out like a sore thumb.  That doesn't sound huge on its own, but considering the way CG is employed in most traditional 2D anime, it's significant. The few shows to do it well were often all-CG (like Fireball Charming or, err...Sega Hard Girls) or kept the 2D and 3D portions carefully separated (like Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex and Etotama). Even Ufotable itself never quite managed the blend with last season's Unlimited Blade Works adaptation. They kept mostly to digital effects, and the CG still looked awkward and out-of-place when used for things like Caster's skeleton warriors or that red water pouring out of the Holy Grail. In most 2D shows, you can usually tell when something's been modeled someone CG comes in just by looking. Whether it's slightly flat colors or an unusual slowness (or smoothness) to the movement, being able to spot the CG in an anime is the "Conspicuously Light Patch" of its age.  To be perfectly honest, that's still technically true in God Eater. It's easy to tell that the Aragami are mostly done in CG, and it's more evident when both monsters and people are on the screen together. Still, the blend on display is better than ever, to the point that after watching the stream on Daisuki, I deliberately sought out a higher-resolution version of the broadcast to see for myself. God Eater just looks that good. More's the pity, then, that the narrative portions of the show simply don't live up to the lavish visuals. In fact, many of the fears some Ufotable fans had about the studio's ability to take on a "heavy" narrative show after five years adapting Type-MOON's "Nasu-verse" for the screen have proven at least partly true so far. Without the dense (and more importantly pre-existing) fiction of the Fate franchise to back it up, God Eater comes across as an Attack on Titan clone where righteous anger has been replaced by a dreary, somewhat undeserved sense of self-importance. It's not all Ufotable's fault, of course. God Eater compared favorably to Monster Hunter in the story department mainly by virtue of actually having a story. As a TV series, God Eater faces much stronger competition, not least of all Ufotable's own stellar work expanding Unlimited Blade Works, just weeks ago. I'd have hoped that they'd be able to make God Eater's world seem less threadbare than in the game, but instead the early results actually seem more stilted than before. In a bitter irony, the game versions of the characters actually seem livelier than in the anime, despite the anime having more "cutscene" in the first three episodes than in the entirety of the game itself. The setup is simple: Ravenous monsters called "Aragami" have destroyed most of humanity, which now hides behind large walled cities under the administration of FENRIR, which employs "God Eaters", warriors that gain superhuman ability when infused with Oracle Cells (the same ones as in the Aragami). God Eaters wield massive weapons called God Arcs to defend mankind's last sanctuaries against the monstrous hordes.  Lenka Utsugi is a newly recruited God Eater in FENRIR's Far East branch. Quite, stoic, and obsessed with taking vengeance upon the Aragami for eating his loved ones, Lenka's a "New-type", who can wield a new, transforming variant of God Arc. His can turn from a massive sword into a massive gun. Being talented, though, makes no substitute for experience, and Lenka's impulsiveness quickly gets him into trouble, forcing the veterans of the 1st Squad, including laid-back badass Lindow Amamiya and his pals Soma and Sakuya to bail him out. Naturally, the kid's got that "something" about him, and by episode 3, Lenka and the squad are working together, and meeting Alisa, another Russian New-type who's got a great hat and, judging by the underboob, might have had the rest of her outfit chosen by her creepy scientist mentor/father-figure. I'm not the kind of guy to go drawing parallels to Attack on Titan When everyone an anime features gross monsters and the people who fight them in a bleakly-toned story, but in this case the parallels are warranted, and unfortunately leave God Eater wanting. The raw anger and passion that underpinned the mood of Eren Jager's saga is here replaced with a dull kind of stoicism. Lenka's strong-but-silent demeanor may be an improvement from the goofball harem tediousness of the God Eater manga's lead, but not by much, and certainly not enough to make Lenka a better lead overall. Worse, points of characterization and flavor that helped the game set a mood in spite of a barebones plot are excised or missing in action here. Story points that might have made God Eater feel less, for lack of a better word, generic, like the privileged status of the God Eater corps or other dynamics, are nowhere to be found, leaving a by-the-numbers "soldiers at the end of the world" moodiness in its place. To be fair, it's still early going, and the show is already forging some newer territory by using flashbacks to the apparent origin of the Aragami and its involvement with FENRIR's higher-ups. It's a sign that Ufotable is beginning to plumb deeper into the lore, which has historically been a strength of theirs as opposed to natural-feeling characterization. Events are moving at a good clip, too, skipping over some of the game's high school shenanigans (at the time used to lazily deploy exposition without spending on animation), so it might not be long before all of it takes a more intriguing turn. Still, there's no avoiding the sense here that some opportunities to make God Eater a more vibrant setting have been missed, and I've no doubt that at least some viewers not hooked on the visuals were turned away by this early narrative blandness. Heck, I'd probably drop the show if I weren't already interested in seeing my favorite MonHun clone get some love.
God Eater photo
No Free Lunch
I've said time and again that God Eater is one of the best - if not the best - attempt yet by competing publishers to take a sip out of Capcom's giant Monster Hunter milkshake. With God Eater, developer Sh...

Strong Style: New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS S2 episode 9

Jul 28 // Soul Tsukino
  BUT FIRST: Let's take a look where we are in the tournament point standings: Block A:  Shinsuke Nakamura (10), Shelton X Benjamin (8 points), Hiroshi Tanahashi (8), Katsuyori Shibata (8),  Bad Luck Fale (8), Tomohiro Ishii (6), Satoshi Kojima (6), Davey Boy Smith Jr (6) Yuji Nagata (6) Doc Gallows (4), Tomoaki Honma (0). Block B:  Kazuchika Okada (8 points), Tetsuya Naito (8), AJ Styles (8), Hirooki Goto (6), Toru Yano (6), Minoru Suzuki (6), Togi Makabe (6), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (6),  Lance Archer (6), Karl Anderson (6),  Yujiro Takahashi (4). Block A is being led by Nakamura with a lot of guys nipping at his heels while Block B is once again a crap shoot. Things are getting down to the wire and both blocks are wide open. So with that in mind let's get to the fighting! Tanahashi gives us a greeting before we head to the arena. Block A: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomoaki Honma:  Oh dear. New Japan's loveable loser taking on the man who beat both of NJPW's top guys. Honma will give you a fight but well... I don't like his chances here. This feel like Honma's being sent to the gallows. Mauro runs down the records in the tournament for both guys. Bell rings and they jump right into bashing each other with forearms. This is intense!  The crowd responds to the fast action and are cheering for Honma!  We skip ahead a bit Shibata lands his running kick but is met with a running elbow. Honma goes for the running headbutt but misses. before he goes for it again and hits it this time. Honma is fired up as he whips Shibata in but gets met with a foot to the face, only to hit a clothesline anyway. Shibata regains the advantage and hits the hanging dropkick. Back from commercial with Shibata looming over a fallen Honma. Shibata gets a suplex, and Honma fights back. Shibata whips his opponent in but met with a headbutt!  Honma tries for a pin and doesn't get it. Honma goes for a Bernard driver as Shibata counters and gets a sleeper out of it.  Honma forces the break and Shibata goes for the penalty kick, which Honma catches. Shibata gives a bunch of rapid-fire slaps, Honma drops him with one mighty bitchslap to the face. Honma gets the Bernard driver and goes for the top rope diving headbutt, and misses. Both men are slow getting up. Shibata goes for the pin a few times before Honma hits a clothesline but doesn't get the pin either. Shibata gets a spinning chop that drops Honma. Shibata hits the GTS and the penalty kick before landing the pin and 2 more points. Shibata leaves as once again the crowd gives Honma an applause as he leaves. Some words from Honma post match where he admits he's not going to be the champion, but he will make sure people know he competed in the G1 Climax. Clipped, of course, but a fight none the less. Sure the outcome probably wasn't in doubt, but Honma manned up and took the fight to Shibata. Fun match! Block B: Yujiro Takahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada:   Mr. R rating vs. The Rainmaker. Takahashi is the NEVER Openweight champion here, but the belt is not on the line. A grudge match here as it was Yujiro who turned on Okada and CHAOS, costing Okada the IWGP Title. Yujiro attacks before Okada even gets to the ring. We get a couple of cuts as Okada gets the advantage with dropkicking Yujiro off the top turnbuckle. We cut again as Okada tries to suplex Yujiro, but he grabs the ref. With the ref distracted Yujiro hits the low blow. Takahashi hits a slam off the shoulder but doesn't get the pin. Yujiro goes for the buckle bomb, but Okada reverses into a 'rana and then dropkicks Takahashi in the back. Forearms are traded in the center of the ring. Good ol rake to the eyes to Okada but gets met with another Okada dropkick. Okada finally kills Takahashi with the Rainmaker clothesline and gets the pin. Post match words from Gedo and Okada. A reporter asks Okada if he feels better for beating Takahashi, and he simply answers "nope" before walking away. This match had some brutal clipping, but honestly seemed kind of tame with the build up. I expected a little more Crush, Kill, Destroy, Swag but then again, flatly crushing Takahashi had Okada making a statement as well. We get some words from Hiroshi Tanahashi about lingering injuries in his neck from the match with Bad Luck Fale before this match and that the matches with Shibata, him, and Nakamura were always exciting and tying with Nakamura in the match from last year weighed on him. Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura:  This is New Japan's version of Cena vs. Orton. These guys have met a bunch of times before and always put on a show. Mauro runs down the accomplishments of both men, even the fact that these two won a tag title together. The King of Strong Style vs. The King of the Air Guitar. The bell rings and things start slowly with some posturing. Arm works by both men and some basic headlocks and takeovers. Tanahashi goes for the arm, but Nakamura gets the leg scissors counter twice. Tanahashi  breaks up the basics with a kick to the gut,  Nakamura counters. This is pretty even. Tanahashi lands a dropkick to get the lead but Nakamura counters with a kick into a judo kick. Things go to the outside where Frank and Mauro talk more about Hiroshi's neck. Nakamura gets in some knees and goes to work on his rival. Nakamura focusing on the neck with kicks and knee strikes, but Tanahashi goes for the rebound. Nakamura goes for his favorite corner kick but Tanahashi counters. Hiroshi gets the advantage with some elbows before landing a senton for the top turnbuckle, only gets a two count. Tanahashi actually does the good vibration kick, but Shinsuke grabs a the foot and counters, before getting the good vibration kick into Tanahashi and landing some knees, getting a two count. Tanahashi gets a dragon screw leg whip on Nakamura. Back up both men trade elbows before Tanahashi kicks him in the knee. Nakamura gets a triangle choke that Tanahashi fights up from but goes back down.  Tanahashi stands up and kicks Shinsuke in the head before countering into a sweet cloverleaf leglock! Shinsuke gets to the ropes, but he is hurt. Tanahashi hits another leg whip as the crowd is getting into it. Nakamura hits a backstabber. He gets in a suplex and sets up for the Booma ya, but Tanahashi hits the sling blade clothesline. Hiroshi goes to the top but misses before Shinsuke hits TWO Booma ya knees Back from break with both men out. Both men drenched with sweat, forearm each other back and forth. This degenerates to just plain old slaps. Tanahashi hits the sling blade to the back of Nakamura's head before he hits the splash, he goes for another one, but Nakamura gets the knees up. Nakamura hits a top rope Booma Ya kick to the back of Hiroshi's head but doesn't get the pin. Ouch! Nakamura hits another Booma ya but again only gets two. The crowd is just waiting for the finish now. Nakamura goes for another kick, but Tanahashi gets a trip and goes for a surprise rolling bridge cradle (A move I seldom have seen since the 80s) and gets the win! Backstage words from Nakamura saying that while he lost, he is still in the hunt. We get some in-ring words from Tanahashi as he fires up the crowd and plays guitar. Backstage Tanahashi says he can't lost at this point in the tournament. In the studio, Tanahashi talks about using the rolling cradle on the anniversary of Karl Gotch's death. He mentions how much the crowds have been watchiing the G1 matches and wanting to win the tournament. We close with some words from Frank Shamrock before Josh Barnett comes back next week. This show was a big improvement in the way Mauro and Frank brought the importance of winning matches means now and puts more perspective on the whole thing. Shamrock's commentary was very good and brought a lot to the table, especially in talking about what it felt like to get hit with some of these moves. The second match suffered from some clipping but the matches were strong. Once again this episode shows me why this is the strongest hour of wrestling on American TV. To finish things off here are the matches not shown from day 8, and the update of points Block A:   Ishii beat Smith, Nagata beat Benjamin, Kojima beat Gallows Hiroshi Tanahashi (10), Shinsuke Nakamura (10), Shelton X Benjamin (8 points), Katsuyori Shibata (10),  Bad Luck Fale (8), Tomohiro Ishii (8), Yuji Nagata (8), Satoshi Kojima (8), Davey Boy Smith Jr (6), Doc Gallows (4), Tomoaki Honma (0). Block B:  Tenzan beat Yano, Goto beat Naito, Styles beat Archer, Suzuki beat Makabe Kazuchika Okada (10 points), AJ Styles (10), Tetsuya Naito (8),  Hirooki Goto (8), Minoru Suzuki (8), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (8),  Toru Yano (6), Togi Makabe (6), Lance Archer (6), Karl Anderson (6),  Yujiro Takahashi (4). See you next week! Block A: Kojima beat Benjamin, Smith beat Gallows, Fale beat Honma, Nagata beat Shibata. Shinsuke Nakamura (10), Shelton X Benjamin (8 points), Hiroshi Tanahashi (8), Katsuyori Shibata (8),  Bad Luck Fale (8), Tomohiro Ishii (6), Satoshi Kojima (6), Davey Boy Smith Jr (6) Yuji Nagata (6) Doc Gallows (4), Tomoaki Honma (0). Block B: Archer beat Yano, Anderson beat Takahashi, Makabe beat Naito Kazuchika Okada (8 points), Tetsuya Naito (8), AJ Styles (8), Hirooki Goto (6), Toru Yano (6), Minoru Suzuki (6), Togi Makabe (6), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (6),  Lance Archer (6), Karl Anderson (6),  Yujiro Takahashi (4).
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Clash of the Titans
Strong Style is here again with your coverage of New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. Looks like my Friday nights are going to be busy for a while as yesterday it was announced that more episodes of New Japan wrestling have bee...

First Impressions: Ultraman X episodes 1-2

Jul 27 // Salvador GRodiles
In a clash between a red and purple entity, the two figures collide with Earth’s Sun. This ends up causing the phenomenon that people refer to as the Ultra Flare, which awakens the monsters that were sealed under the planet as Spark Dolls (a.k.a. actual creature SofuBi/soft vinyl figurines). Luckily, a group called XiO was formed to protect the people of our world and our main hero Daichi Oozora ends up become the candidate who unites with the show’s Ultra Warrior. Ultraman X’s plot may sound like your usual setup in a giant monster show, but episode 1’s main charm lies in the battles between the large hero and the huge creatures. To an extent, the battles play out like your action scenes from the Godzilla movies, except that you have a guy who uses martial arts and wrestling moves against his foes. Other than that, the shown didn’t have much going for it since the first episode was focusing on the disaster caused by the Godzilla-like monster known as Demaaga. Sure, we got a glimpse of Daichi’s backstory about his parent’s death, but it wasn’t anything grand to pull most people in. At least his fear of height gave him some flaws that could shape his character later on. Thankfully, the second episode helped raise the program’s quality. If there’s one thing that makes series about an organization trying to save the world, it’s the supporting staff themselves. This was an element that made titles like King of Braves GaoGaiGar and Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters’ first half fun to keep up with. Even though Daichi didn’t stand out much in the beginning, his comrades showed great potential. I mean, this series has a freaking scientist that’s a creepy goofy-looking alien. Honestly, Dr. Gourman’s presence in the show alone was enough to bring in some good laughs while we wait for the huge battle between Ultraman X and the Monster-of-the-Week. Of course, the silly alien isn’t the only character that’s fun since the rest of XiO’s members contribute to the show's segments. Rui’s enthusiasm for research and victory is cute and her interactions with Gourman were priceless. Even though the rest of the team mostly played the role of keeping the dangerous areas under control, the later episodes might flesh them out more. Hell, anyone who fights a giant monster with an advanced bazooka and/or gun deserves some mad props. One of the things that might push Ultraman X is that the hero can summon special armors through the use of the Cyber Monsters, digital creatures that are created from the data of the ones who’re sealed in the Spark Dolls. In a way, it’s almost like they were inspired by the Heisei Kamen Rider shows’ Form-changing gimmick. Sure, this means that the Giant of Light will likely have a bunch of different transformations, but it also lets the team experiment with the show's action scenes, such as the hero gaining the ability to fight with huge claws. Since I’ve heard that Tsuburaya toys mostly focus on the kaiju, this element might help them make the program's hero a more marketable character. Come to think of it, this new path might’ve inspired them to depart from the alien using the main hero as a host (or the Ultra Warrior using a human disguise) since the two Ginga shows and X involve a guy uniting with the Giant of Light through a special device. While XiO’s support vehicles that can dock into other machines are only used to stall the viewers until the big fight, their purpose could help with the merchandising side of things. Who knows, they might pull a Gridman/Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad and have them combine with the hero. For now, they serve as another feature that can help Tsuburaya expand on the show's toys. In regards to the two monsters shown so far, the creatures’ cartoony and pudgy designs give off a nice old-school feeling. While it seems lazy for Tsuburaya to reuse Birdon from Ultraman Taro, the franchise has been known for reusing older beasts, which is usually used to pull older fans in. That and to sell toys of the previous enemies to the new generation of children. Also, the staff's decision to feature a creature that looks like Rodan crossed with a chicken is a nice way to add goofy elements to any action scene. Compare to other children toku franchises like Super Sentai and Kamen Rider, I was surprised to see that Ultraman X uses more practical effects than CG. Based on the program's first two episodes, the 3D models might be limited to the XiO defense vehicles. From Birdon’s flying scene to the show’s main fight sequences, the segments ranged from being hilariously cheesy to dynamically entertaining. For example, Birdon's flying segment would've benefited from using a CG creation or having the suit actor flap its wings like an actual bird. Nonetheless, it served as a silly moment before Daichi unites with X. Seeing that this is my first Ultra TV show, I’m not sure if this rule applies to the brand’s previous modern installments. One thing for sure, it shows that relying on mostly practical effects can look great or limit the type of sequences that appear on screen. For the most part, the first two major fights played out nicely and X's new Monster Armors might liven things up even more. With Ultraman X being my second entry into the Ultra franchise, the show has gotten better with each passing episode. Daichi may be a decent character at the moment, but his backstory and his connection to his parents’ Spark Doll might lead to him developing into a better protagonist. For now, the series' neat aspect is that its supporting cast gives off a nice dash of comedy to keep us satisfied until the main battle. Combined with the hero’s ability to equip monster-themed armors, I believe that Tsuburaya’s franchise has reached a new height. I guess you could say that we're in for an Xciting ride. [You can unite with Ultraman X at Crunchyroll and Tsuburaya’s YouTube channel] In a clash between a red and purple entity, the two figures collide with Earth’s Sun. This ends up causing the phenomenon that people refer to as the Ultra Flare, which awakens the monsters that were sealed under the planet as Spark Dolls (a.k.a. actual creature SofuBi toys). Luckily, a group called XiO was formed to protect the people of our world and our main hero Daichi Oozora/group member ends up become the candidate who unites with the show’s Ultra Warrior. Ultraman X’s plot may sound like your usual setup in a giant monster show, but episode 1’s main charm lies in the battles between the large hero and the huge creatures. To an extent, the battles play out like your action scenes from the Godzilla movies, except that you have a guy who uses martial arts and wrestling moves against his foes. Other than that, the shown didn’t have much going for it since the first episode was focusing on the disaster caused by the Godzilla-esque monster known as Demaaga. Sure, we got a glimpse of Daichi’s backstory about his parent’s death, but it wasn’t anything grand to pull most people in. At least his fear of height gave him some flaws that could shape his character later on. Thankfully, the second episode helped raise the program’s quality. If there’s one thing that makes series about an organization trying to save the world, it’s the supporting staff themselves. This was an element that made titles like King of Braves GaoGaiGar and Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters’ first half fun to keep up with. Even though Daichi didn’t stand out much in the beginning, his comrades showed great potential. I mean, this series has a freaking scientist that’s a creepy goofy-looking alien. Honestly, Dr. Gourman’s presence in the show alone is enough to bring in some good laughs while we wait for the huge battle between Ultraman X and the Monster-of-the-Week. Of course, the goofy alien isn’t the only character that’s fun since the rest of XiO’s members contribute to the segments on screen. Rui’s enthusiasm for research and victory is cute and her interactions with Gourman were priceless. Even though the rest of the team mostly played the role of keeping the dangerous areas under control, the later episodes might flesh them out more. Hell, anyone who fights a giant monster with an advanced bazooka and/or gun deserves some mad props. One of the things that might push Ultraman X is that the hero can change his fighting style through the use of the Cyber Monsters, which have the data of the creatures who’re sealed in the Spark Dolls. In a way, it’s almost like they were inspired by the Heisei Kamen Rider shows’ Form-changing gimmick. Sure, this means that the Giant of Light will likely have a ton of different transformations, but it also opens the doorways to more unique fight scenes. Since I’ve heard that Tsuburaya has been struggling with having variety in their toys for their titles, this element might push the franchise in a great new direction. Hell, this new path might’ve inspired them to depart from the alien using the main hero as a host since the two Ginga shows and this one have the guy unite with the Ultra Warrior through a special device. While XiO’s support vehicles that can dock into other machines are only used to stall the viewers until the big fight, their purpose could help with the merchandising side of things. Who knows, they might pull a Gridman/Super Human Samurai Cyber Squad and have them combine with the hero. For now, they serve as another example of this show focusing on selling more toys. In regards to the two monsters shown so far, the creatures’ cartoony and pudgy designs give off a nice old-school feeling. While it seems lazy for Tsuburaya to reuse Birdon from Ultraman Taro, the franchise has been known for reusing older beasts, which is a decent way to pull older fans in. At least it was neat to see the classic beast in action since it looked like a goofy Rodan crossed with a chicken. Compare to other children toku franchises like Super Sentai and Kamen Rider, I was surprised to see that Ultraman X uses more practical effects than CG. From Birdon’s flying scene to the show’s main fight sequences, it’s impressive to see that the company didn’t resort to using 3D models during the crazy scenes. Seeing that this is my first Ultra TV show, I’m not sure if this rule applies to the brand’s previous modern installments. One thing for sure, it’s a welcoming aspect that shows that traditional practices can still impress folks— even if they’re cheesy and campy. With Ultraman X being my second entry into the Ultra franchise, the show’s first two episodes hold up to where we can end up with a fun title. Daichi may be a decent character at the moment, but his backstory and his connection to his parents’ Spark Doll might lead to him developing into a better protagonist. For now, the series neat aspect is that its supporting cast gives off a nice dash of comedy to keep us satisfied until the main battle, which balances out nicely. Combined with the hero’s ability to equip special armors, I believe that Tsuburaya’s franchise has reached a new height. I guess you could say that we’re in for a show that’s both exciting and excellent. [You can unite with Ultraman X at Crunchyroll and Tsuburaya’s YouTube channel]
Ultraman X photo
Xanidium Beam!
For a good while, my only experience with the Ultra franchise was Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends, which was directed by Koichi Sakamoto (Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger and Ultraman Ginga S’ Director). Honestly, I&rs...

Week Ender - Virtual Reality Edition

Jul 25 // Red Veron
[embed]34080:4952:0[/embed]"Yasashii Yoake"Anime: .hack//SIGNMuch like the opening for this show, this ending is just sets itself apart with some abstract and minimal visuals featuring the characters.[embed]34080:4955:0[/embed]"Sora no Kakera"Anime: Dennou CoilI implore you to find Dennou Coil on the internet if you consider yourself an anime fan. This show summed up is a show that is a part Ghibli, part Ghost in the Shell with a splash of Satoshi Kon other-worldliness. So good.This is one of those gentle endings where we get to see a character just going through a changing landscape with plenty of varying sights and events unfolding in the background. I love the song with a soothing vocals and nice guitar playing. That doggy looks so derpy.[embed]34080:4954:0[/embed]"L.L.L."Anime: OverlordPardon me while I haven't had the chance to check out this show yet but I have heard of cool things about this show. I am totally digging this ending with that rockin' song and those pretty character art with that digital painting that looks really good.[embed]34080:4951:0[/embed]"Your Song"Anime: Log HorizonOne of my fave ending songs, this one just fills you up with the warm fuzzies and makes you feel all happy even though the episode ends in something that is nothing like the feeling that the ending evokes in the viewer.Is there an ending from a VR themed anime that I didn't include? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I wanna know! 
Week Ender photo
COUNTERACTION RISING
This week's Week Ender is all about the Virtual Reality and the great worlds beyond that VR brings us that are great settings for fantasy action anime. There's always something interesting with characters from a world similar...

First Impressions: GATE episodes 1-3

Jul 23 // Josh Tolentino
Of course, future episodes of GATE could prove me entirely wrong. The game of subtext is a perilous thing, and if you can find strange ultranationalist right-wing readings in everything from Mahouka to Knights of Sidonia to Attack on Titan, a show that openly stars members of the actual Japanese military (or "Self-Defense Force" if you want to get technical) is even more vulnerable to that kind of examination. Still, based on the evidence at hand, GATE is a perfectly serviceable fantasy with an interesting nerd-catnip hook. It's the hook that does more work than any one aspect of the show thus far. After all, for about as long as fantasy fiction has existed as a genre, people have been wondering how the medieval, swords-and-sorcery mores of your average Tolkienesque would match up against the grim products of the military-industrial complex. Put plain, we've always wanted to see how Gandalf, Frodo, or Sauron might fare against a machine gun, tank cannon, or jet fighter. If you think that sounds likes a simplistic sort of thrill to base an anime on, you're right. "Guns vs. Dragons" is only a few steps removed from "Boobs" on the scale of primal urges driving creativity, but that doesn't mean thought can't be put into its execution, and on that front, GATE does deliver. A portal opens up in the middle of a Ginza thoroughfare, belching out tens of thousands of orcs, ogres, pig-men, quasi-Roman soldiers, and assorted fantasy staples to wreak havoc on Tokyo's innocents. The man in just the right time and place is 33-year-old Youji Itami, an off-duty soldier and doujinshi-loving otaku, whose training helps save lives just in time for the army to repel the invasion. Fast forward three months and a new Prime Minister (I like this particular off-hand joke about how long it takes to get things done) wants to flex Glorious Nippon's muscle by sending a couple of divisions of Self-Defense Force troops through the titular "Gate", to secure a place on the other side and force the dastardly invaders into negotiations.  One incursion and a second slaughter of fantasy troops later, and Youji is placed in charge of a recon team assigned to probe the countryside on "hearts and minds" duty, which is where the story begins proper, complete with a dragon fight, elf-lady rescue, and the requisite encounter with a gothic lolita (named "Rory", no less) demigoddess. This is the point where GATE reveals itself less to be some strange creature born of secret militaristic urges than a spinoff of the now monolithic "trapped in another world" subgenre of light novel adventures. It is kissing cousins less with preachy alt-history explorations like Zipang or The Final Countdown than with genre, er..."classics" like Familiar of Zero, Sword Art Online, and even Log Horizon.  Its closest relative would be Outbreak Company, though the otaku pandering in GATE is so far limited to portraying Youji and his pal as unashamed geeks and pushing the story into familiar harem-assembly patterns. Already you can see the shape of the show's romantic polygon as the taciturn wizard, bouncy elf, saucy goddess, and normal fellow-human girls take their places in the roster. Honestly the main thing that distinguishes GATE's storytelling has been in the soldiers themselves. Given that creator Takumi Yanai was formerly in the JSDF, it's hardly surprising that the story would be friendly to "the troops", but in light of that history, it's also telling about just which parts of the service GATE is happiest to play up. While the blowout victories against the natives is predictable, the shows spends most of its time showing off Youji and his comrades less as warriors than public servants. Most of the soldier glory shots in the opening sequence are of folks in uniform generally being helpful, pulling carts out of ditches and giving rides to refugees fleeing a dragon attack. Youji himself displays an unusual (for typical portrayals of soldiers, at least) wariness of force and its use, refusing to call for backup to avoid risking innocents or provoking the enemy, and generally being a laid-back, intuitive leader. The shades of Irresponsible Captain Tylor And Yang Wen-li are welcome, and help defuse the potential for jingoistic chest-beating in the early goings. Even the enemy gets comparatively sensitive treatment, with the rank and file types portrayed more as victims in a power play wrought by craven leadership (on both sides of the Gate) than bloodthirsty savages. If there's one thing that doesn't quite square with this even-handed treatment, it's in the abject slaughter and seemingly effortless victory of the modern forces. I mean, sure they've got machine guns and artillery support, but it just doesn't feel right that they're effortlessly gunning down a hundred thousand troops in a single night's battle. By all logic the mere first round of shelling and gunfire should've balked the enemy into routing or stalemate rather than to just dumbly march into the bullets, no matter how foolhardy the generals. I'm not any kind of realism purist here, but the body count just seems unnecessarily inflated to make the disparity in force more dramatic. Besides that, GATE shows a lot of potential to be a fun and eminently watchable bit of summer anime. With a bit of luck, it won't get too bogged down in the less compelling harem wish-fulfillment aspects, further capitalizing on its hook and sensitive characterization.
GATE photo
Hellish Dragon v. Hellfire Missiles
Confession time: When I first set out to write about GATE, I was actually prepared to defend it. That's a weird stance to take with regards to a program I had yet to even watch, I'll admit, but I really was about to get all p...

Check out this year's top-tier Sumo fashion crazes

Jul 23 // Soul Tsukino
The Kesho Mawashi is a special ornate sumo belt worn by the wrestlers at the start of the day's matches. These belts can be a design sent in by fan clubs, the wrestler's sponsors, or just something the wrestler came up with himself. I've got to say that Takayasu wins with the Charlie Chaplin reference. I have no idea why he uses that image and looking around I can't seem to find an answer. But go him for being different. So let's see what the trendy Sumo wrestler is wearing for the summer shall we?     I've got to say that Takayasu wins with the Charlie Chaplin reference
Sumo Wrestling photo
The latest in Ceremonial Sumo belts
Thanks to a YouTuber Kintamayama and his wonderful sumo coverage, we got a rare look at the ceremonial Kesho-Mawashi, or entrance ceremony belts that the sumo wrestlers are wearing in the current sumo wrestling tournament held in Nagoya. Japan.

OP Up! Virtual Reality Edition

Jul 22 // Red Veron
[embed]34079:4947:0[/embed]"database"Anime: Log Horizon 2A really great show about what would happen if people were trapped in a VR MMO game. No, this isn't about the main character being super strong and crushing everyone that faces him (Log Horizon features real character development). This one is more than that, it features politics and some social consequences of what might happen in such a setting.[embed]34079:4948:0[/embed]"Prism"Anime: Dennou CoilA definite must watch for anyone who likes anything Ghibli and the works of Satoshi Kon with a light dash of Ghost in the Shell. This one is about a near future where kids have augmented reality glasses and it has been long enough where urban legends have sprung up about AR technology. Combining the imagination of children with the world that this new advanced technology offers creates an amazing setting that is almost magical but still heavily grounded with reality.A cannot recommend this one enough. Try to find this show.[embed]34079:4949:0[/embed]"Obsession" Anime: .Hack//SignOne of the first and most popular anime dealing with virtual reality and being trapped in such a world (Or "The World" is the .Hack series. Part of what we would call a "multimedia experience" nowadays, the franchise spanned more than just anime with video games, manga, novels, card games, etc.[embed]34079:4946:0[/embed]"Ignite"Anime: Sword Art Online 2The main character is strong. There are boobs. There is a guy called Death Gun and has a gun that causes death. A lot of people like this show. I like the opening songs.Did I miss any anime about Virtual Reality? TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS! I wanna know!  
OP Up! photo
Living in the Database
They weren't kidding when they said that the 90's is back, one promise of that decade was this exciting new technology called "Virtual Reality". This technology promised to take humans into new worlds beyond our imaginations ...

Strong Style: New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS S2 episode 8

Jul 18 // Soul Tsukino
BUT FIRST:  Since we are skipping day 6, here is a points update. Remember that a win is 2 points, a draw is 1 point, and a loss gets you nothing.   BLOCK A:   Shelton X Benjamin (8 points), Hiroshi Tanahashi (8), Katsuyori Shibata (8), Shinsuke Nakamura (8), Bad Luck Fale (6), Tomohiro Ishii (6), Satoshi Kojima (4), Davey Boy Smith Jr (4) Yuji Nagata (4) Doc Gallows (4), Tomoaki Honma (0). BLOCK B: Kazuchika Okada (8 points), Tetsuya Naito (8), Hirooki Goto (6), Toru Yano (6), Minoru Suzuki (6), AJ Styles (6), Togi Makabe (4), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4),  Lance Archer (4), Karl Anderson (4),  Yujiro Takahashi (4). As you can see we have a bit of a log jam in Block A. Should be interesting getting into the second half of this thing. In Block B Okada and Naito are on top, but both Minoru Suzuki and A.J. Styles have caught up and are now sitting with Yano and Goto just off the lead. We get a greeting from Shinsuke Nakamura as we head into this week's action. Block B: Minoru Suzuki vs. A.J. Styles: OH HOLY PURO GOD THANK YOU! *ahem* sorry. Like I said above, both guys had bad starts to this tournament but have picked up some wins to be back in the hunt to win this block. Suzuki has the rep of just being a mean son of a bitch while IWGP Champion Styles can go in epic ways. To say this was a match I am looking forward to seeing is an understatement. We are joined by Mauro and Frank Shamrock this week. Shamrock talks about meeting Suzuki when he was younger and how Suzuki used to just beat the crap out of him. Epic staredown to start. Suzuki with a hard chop as they aren't screwing around. Styles hits a dropkick and they are on the outside. We jump ahead with Styles kicking Suzuki in the corner. Styles goes for a flying hit, but Suzuki pulls the ref in. Suzuki Army member Taka Michinoku jumps in to start on Styles which brings out the Bullet Club and the Elite Squad out for a brawl that clears out of the ring quickly. Good.  Both guys wail on each other with strikes and knock each other down. We comeback from a break as both guys struggle to get up. Suzuki gets the lead here, but Styles kicks his way out of that. Styles holds the gun sign to Suzuki, but Suzuki grabs his hands and damn near breaks Styles's fingers. Styles goes for a spring board strike, but Suzuki gets a Fujiwara armbar while pulling back on his pointer finger! Told you Suzuki was mean. Suzuki gets him in a sleeper hold and goes for a Gotch piledriver. Styles fights out of it. Styles gets Suzuki into the Styles clash position, but Suzuki counters with an ankle lock! Styles reverses with an ankle lock of his own! Suzuki reveres into an armbar while pulling back the fingers. Damn dude, have a heart. Styles gets Suzuki up and hits the Styles clash! Styles is hurting as both men are up and exchanging strikes. These smacks sound like a rifle range. Styles hits the Pele kick before landing the Styles clash again and gets the win! Holy crap was that good! Considering this was called the 2014 match of the year I wasn't the only one to think so. I think I need a break. We get some words from both men after the match basically saying that their groups aren't finished yet. Block B: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Hirooki Goto: We haven't seen much of either of these guys on AXS's coverage of this tournament. While Goto started strong, both he and Tenzan have lost their last 3 matches so this battle is a must win for both guys.  Mauro points out that Tenzan is in his 19th tournament. He's been around a while but still keeps kicking butt. Strong lock up to start as Tenzan gets a headlock. These two are just bulling each other around. Tenzan levels Goto with Mongolian chops Tenzan goes for a suplex, but Goto blocks it. Tenzan gets hit with a knee to the head, but Goto can't get the pin. Goto forearms the crap out of Tenzan before they both start wailing with elbows to each other. Goto hits a headbutt to slow Tenzan down. Tenzan has the crowd behind him and he levels Goto with a few more headbutts. Tenzan hits the Tenzan driver but only gets two. Tenzan gets the Anaconda lock on Goto and hits the slam before Goto taps out! Wow. What a fight! That many headbutts in a wrestling match would have any American promotion wetting themselves in fear, but this is Puroresu. A fairly quick one, but full of action. We get some words from Nakamura. The story here is that these guys are both members of CHAOS. Shinsuke bings up the point Ishii is a tough person who faces guys bigger than him, but they have different styles so he will win. Block A: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tomohiro Ishii: Okay, call me surprised that this match is the featured main event. Nakamura, I get, but Ishii doesn't exactly light the world on fire. This is a battle of Strong Style as I expect these guys to swing for the fences in their moves. Lock up to start. Ishii doesn't seem phased by Nakamura's antics at all. Waist lock on Ishii but is reversed. They trade armlocks and after giving Ishii his trademark belly blow (not kidding here) Nakamura extends a hand but Ishii SLAPS Nakamura in response. Out of a break,  we have a stand off.  Ishii hits a stiff elbow, but Shinsuke responds. He gets Ishii in the corner for his kicks and Ishii grabs the leg. The story is here that both guys know each other well and counter each other before Nakamura hits a hanging DDT and gets in his Good Vibrations kick. Nakamura smacks Ishii around. The big guy ain't going for that and smacks Shinsuke right back. Nakamura gets a pin attempt but doesn't get the win. Shinsuke goes for kicks but misses all of them. Ishii counters and gets a SWEET superplex. Pin attempt only gets two. Ishii lands a powerbomb but still only gets two. Nakamura gets a sleeperhold, but Ishii gets right out of it. Shinsuke gets Ishii with a  falling powerslam! Didn't think he had that in him. Nakamura gets in the corner as Ishii hits a low dropkick!  Back to slugging it out until Nakamura hits a dropkick from the top rope, but the advantage vanishes with a MASSIVE clothesline from Ishii. Ishii hits a clothesline to the back of the head and gets a powerslam of his own. Ishii goes for a clothesline that Nakamura rolls through it into an armbar! After a valiant effort, Ishii gets to the ropes but his arm is gone. Nakamura hits a number of kicks, but Ishii runs him over with a clothesline! Ishii goes for a cover and only gets two! Back from a break as Ishii tries for a suplex,  Shinsuke counters. Shinsuke goes for the Booma ya but Ishii counters with a headbutt knocking Shinsuke stupid. Ishii goes for a corner charge, just to have Nakamura hit a kick to the head and hits the booma ya to the back of the head. Both guys are down now. Nakamura is first with a mafia kick to Ishii's face Exchange of elbows as Ishii tells him to bring it on and Nakamura does. Nakamura hits another Booma ya and a flying kick but Ishii kicks out! Ishii grabs a kick and counters with a headbutt, but Nakamura hits another boomya ya and wins the match! Damn! That was a good one. Ishii's shining fight, even if he lost. They shake hands and Nakamura raises Ishii's hand in a sign of respect. Crowd is chanting Ishii as he is on his hands and knees crawling back to the locker room. We get some in ring words from Nakamura and gives his trademark YEAOH! to the crowd. We get some backstage words from Ishii talking how special the match as. Nakamura gives his praise saying he was  a tough opponent. Back in the studio, Nakamura talks about it being strange fighting his teammate in the beginning but that it was a good match. He talks abnout saying he understands Ishii better now. This was a damn fine show. I have to wonder about the match order as I found it strange. All three matches were tough hard-fought battles and made for a real entertaining night. Now that Mauro brings up records of these guys and point totals, it makes each man's fight mean even more. Great Stuff! Before we head out for another week. Here is the action not shown from day 7 and the point totals  Block A: Kojima beat Benjamin, Smith beat Gallows, Fale beat Honma, Nagata beat Shibata. Shinsuke Nakamura (10), Shelton X Benjamin (8 points), Hiroshi Tanahashi (8), Katsuyori Shibata (8),  Bad Luck Fale (8), Tomohiro Ishii (6), Satoshi Kojima (6), Davey Boy Smith Jr (6) Yuji Nagata (6) Doc Gallows (4), Tomoaki Honma (0). Block B: Archer beat Yano, Anderson beat Takahashi, Makabe beat Naito Kazuchika Okada (8 points), Tetsuya Naito (8), AJ Styles (8), Hirooki Goto (6), Toru Yano (6), Minoru Suzuki (6), Togi Makabe (6), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (6),  Lance Archer (6), Karl Anderson (6),  Yujiro Takahashi (4). Nakamura takes the lead in A Block while we have a 3 way tie at the top of Block B. This is making these matches really important now and anyone can win this. See you next week! BUT FIRST:  Since we are skipping day 6, here is a points update. Remember that a win  is 2 points, a draw is 1 point, and a lose gets you nothing.   BLOCK A:     Shelton X Benjamin (8 points), Hiroshi Tanahashi (8), Katsuyori Shibata (8), Shinsuke Nakamura (8), Bad Luck Fale (6), Tomohiro Ishii (6), Satoshi Kojima (4), Davey Boy Smith Jr (4) Yuji Nagata (4) Doc Gallows (4), Tomoaki Honma (0). BLOCK B:   Kazuchika Okada (8 points), Tetsuya Naito (8), Hirooki Goto (6), Toru Yano (6), Minoru Suzuki (6), AJ Styles (6), Togi Makabe (4), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4),  Lance Archer (4), Karl Anderson (4),  Yujiro Takahashi (4).   As you can see we have a bit of a log jam in Block A. Should be interesting getting into the second half of this thing. In Block B Okada and Naito are on top, but both Minoru Suzuki and A.J. Styles have caught up and are now sitting with Yano and Goto just off the lead.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Day 7 and things are close!
This week Strong Style and AXS TV take us to the famed Korakuen Hall in for day 7 of the G1 24 tournament. Tonight's matches were held on August 1, 2014, and I'm looking forward to it! Before any of that though I'm riding hig...

Week Ender - Fast Edition

Jul 18 // Red Veron
[embed]34073:4940:0[/embed]"Mi-Ra-I"Anime: Sonic XFor a show about going fast, this ending features Sonic just chillin' and watching TV before being reminded to watch TV in a well lit room far from the TV.[embed]34073:4941:0[/embed]"Saihate no Parade"Anime: Over DriveFrom an anime about bicycle racing, this ending pretty rockin' with its song. Of course it features skinny dudes in tight bicycle shorts for those who love that sort of thing. For those who aren't into that stuff, there's a cute girl in a school uniform with some nicely animate skirt gently flapping in the wind.[embed]34073:4942:0[/embed]"Believe Yourself"Anime: IGPX This an anime about giant robots racing in a 60 mile track while trying to shoot each other to disable the opposing team's mech.[embed]34073:4943:0[/embed]"I'm Ready"Anime: Yowamushi Pedal A more recent anime about bicycle racing, this one is quite popular with the a female audience. Is it because of the tight shorts and pretty boys? Maybe. All I know is that the song is pretty good for pumping yourself up and  I will use this for working out.Did I forget any anime about going fast on here? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I wanna know about it.  
Week Ender photo
Pedal to the Metal
We're going fast this weekend for Week Ender! No, I am totally not making up an excuse to write the least amount as possible on here with the excuse that we are going fast and I have no time to write. No time to talk, LET'S GO FAST!Did I forget any anime about going fast on here? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I wanna know about it. 

Annotated Tokusatsu: Garo: Gold Storm Soar episodes 8-12

Jul 18 // Salvador GRodiles
For a second, Gold Storm seem like it was going to lower its intensity levels for a while, but the show somehow managed to follow up nicely on Ryuga and Rian’s first major fight against Zinga and Amily. While there weren’t any big action scenes involved, it was great to see that the show was finally putting the spotlight on the mysterious Makai Priest known as Gald. In a way, his hatred for Makai Knights helped spice up the relationship between him and Ryuga. Sure, it wasn’t on the same level as Rei’s rivalry with Kouga in the original Garo series, but it served as a way to deviate from the typical scenario where a major ally joins the hero’s group right away. Perhaps the most interesting reveal is Ladan’s role in the story. In every Garo series, the final adversary always ends up being a super powerful Horror that’s basically on the same level of a demon overlord. Even though the idea behind the Golden Knight tackling a ridiculous adversary is always a sight to behold, it’s a nice sense of fresh air to see the main threat as a demonic tool this time around. At the same time, this information explained the reasoning behind Zinga being a cannibalistic Horror, which makes us question his true appetite. Because of this new angle, Gold Storm continues to be a great improvement over Garo: The One Who Shines in the Darkness. Of course, you can’t have a good arc without some good old-fashioned character development. Surprisingly, one of the best one came from an episode that focused on Daigo. Part of it had to do with the staff deceiving the viewers into thinking that the Axe-wielding Makai Knight’s master was the child-eating Horror. All in all, the segment worked out nicely as there were many scenes where it seemed that Daigo was in peril. Best of all, the episode still manages to be relevant to the show’s main plot, another feat that the staff deserves props for. In regards to the show’s most recent costume designs, the Monster-of-the-Week that was sent to assassinate Gald’s younger sister sported a nice undead tree-like design. Because of the costumes’ branches and wooden features, the Horror looked like an evil Groot. On top of that, we had a creepy water Horror right in episode 12. From the looks of it, this might be a record for Gold Storm since we saw two suits in a row. While part of the creature’s suit felt like they glued some altered faces of the default Horrors, its design still had that scary feeling that many of the franchise’s non-human adversaries have. Accompanying Gold Storm’s recent development, the program’s choreography mixes it up in some interesting ways. Both Ryuga’s fight against the lighting and water Horror were two great examples of how to handle a scene where the opponent is hard to hit. Hell, the former makes me believe that Makai Knights are trained to endure electricity since a normal person would’ve been dead in less than a second. Then again, the main heroes from the previous Garo shows have been hit with deadly attacks when they were untransformed so we can assume that this element has been set in stone for a good while. On a more positive note, the sword sheathing moment between Ryuga and Zinga was handled well, Even though it only happened for a brief moment, I have to give the two actors and the action team some huge props for pulling a stunt like that— especially the part where they catch their sheaths while in the air. Based on their recurring showdowns, this might be a sign that the show’s final battle won’t disappoint us. Now that we’ve reached Gold Storm’s halfway point, I think it’s safe to say that nothing will prevent the series from losing its glow. Gald’s younger sister Haruna helped move the plot forward and the two characters’ backstory hints at Zinga being the one behind the destruction of their village. Combined with the segments about Daigo, things have been getting juicy lately. Since we’re getting a JAM Project opening theme soon, don’t be surprised if your body experiences a huge surge of golden energy. If anything, summer is looking better than ever now.
Garo: Gold Storm Soar photo
Lightning never hits in the same place
It looks like Garo Gold Storm Soar is picking up from where it left off and things continue to get more real. Along the way, we get a tasty serving of story and character development that sheds more light on the show’s ...

Final Impressions: Unlimited Blade Works

Jul 16 // Josh Tolentino
Except here, by virtue of Unlimited Blade Works' big reveal, we know that the journey of Shirou Emiya has only just begun. Here, after the world has been saved from a big hole spewing red jelly, and a jerk with blond hair's been taken down a few notches, only here is where Shirou Emiya continues down the path to becoming his ideal self.  It's worth pointing out that that self, not even a day before, had been hell-bent on killing him, but Shirou doesn't care. He doesn't care that Archer, the man he would become, wanted nothing more in the world than to un-become, to kill his younger self before he could suffer the pain of learning the true cost of sticking so doggedly to his ideals. That's a price that, here in episode 24, Shirou Emiya is willing to pay. But we knew that already. Shirou's heroic resolve here isn't in question, and it's been the true ending of this scenario since its time as a visual novel. The boldest thing about 2015's take on Unlimited Blade Works is the very last episode, which is an epilogue, and as far as I can remember, is almost entirely new material.  Set months after the final battle, the last episode explores the rest of the "True End" scenario, where Rin and Shirou have graduated from high school and are studying at the Clock Tower in London, headquarters of the Mage's Association. There we catch up with Shirou's not-so-great fashion sense (ew, green cardigan?!), Rin's new hair, and Luvia Edelfelt, a side character from the not-quite-canon spinoff/expansion, Fate/hollow Ataraxia. Brief words are exchanged with Fate/Zero survivor Waver Velvet, and a visit is paid to the alleged grave of King Arthur himself at Glastonbury Abbey. That's all well and good, and frankly not enough anime series actually have a decent denoument, preferring to end things right after the climax and saving the cooldown for the credits. But the most important thing here is hearing Shirou opt out of enrolling at the school, instead opting to do...whatever it is he planned to do next in his quest to become a Hero of Justice. Rin not only expects, but supports the decision, allowing him to drag her around for a change. It's a Big Development because at the traditional end of Unlimited Blade Works, we're filled with hope that the future can be changed, that Shirou would grow up differently, and become someone other than the Archer that would die for his beliefs and spend a purgatory enslaved to an unfeeling cosmic force, every moment confronted with the impossibility of his dreams.  And yet here, we see him consciously, deliberately, rejecting that potential outcome. Here, he's choosing to take another step down the road to becoming the white-haired, dark-skinned, red-clad cynic that seemed to hate everything that he became. At the same time, though, that's where all the difference lies. Shirou himself, through the crucible of confronting his own future, has chosen to accept it, judging the consequence to be worthwhile. He knows how impossible his dream is: A world where no one will ever have to suffer. But he's judged the struggle to put it into being to be worth the pain it will cause him, and possibly the compromises he'll be forced to make. That might sound fatalistic, but contrast his self-awareness here to the essential tragedy of his father, Kiritsugu. All his life, Kiritsugu made those compromises while searching for a miracle with the power to undo the need for sacrifice. Finding out that that miracle didn't exist was what broke him. Shirou faced the same challenge, but thanks in part to seeing - and fighting - his own future, as well as knowing how it turned out for dear old dad, chose to accept that cost. It's an interesting contrast to other, similar stories, especially once you try reading it - as so many other anime can be read - as a parable on growing up and learning to live with the hypocrisies and compromises of adult life. So many heroic stories reward protagonists for never compromising on their ideals. The takeaway for the teenaged Japanese audiences is to highlight the virtue in sticking to one's own guns, and never to accept the old men who undermine one's resolve with platitudes about "how the world works".  Here, though, Unlimited Blade Works, and more specifically this particular adaptation of it, shows another side of that resolve, acknowledging the truth about ideals: That they come at at price, and are often impossible to achieve, and that the true heroism lies not in simply holding those ideals, but to seek them all the same in the face of that impossibility, and to judge the price worth paying. 
Unlimited Blade Works photo
The Life After
And so the hero's journey begins. That's actually the weird thing here, as in these kinds of stories, most heroes are "born" at the beginning of the tale. A Link To The Past's hero is born when a green-clad youth leaves ...

JapanaTen: The Golden Rules of Durarara!!

Jul 16 // Anthony Redgrave
10. Nothing will top the first opening of Durarara!!   Baccano had one of the greatest openings in modern anime. The theme of changing points of views and how it all their stories intertwined was prominent in the opening and it did it to one of the jazziest beats this side of Cowboy Bebop's "Tank!". Then Durarara!!'s opening happened and it got you psyched for the show ahead. Maybe not the most fitting of songs since a lot of Durarara!! is walking around and talking especially during Mikado's parts but damn is this song good. The latest openings have a more muted style to match the darker stories going on at the time so it never got me excited to see the show as Theatre Brook's opening. I loved the bright colors, the frenzied rapid cuts between each character, and that incredibly strong drum beat that crescendoed with the guitars and vocals. All of these make for a fantastic opening that still hasn't been topped.  9. There will be an explanation episode Like Baccano before it, Durarara!! likes telling its story in media res. Mikado might be a proxy for the viewer since he's experiencing all this for the first time too, but Ikebukuro is a city with an expansive history that's itching to let out its secrets. You may be confused about why a character is acting oddly or who the hell this new character is but it won't be for long as an exposition episode is right around the corner. It can feel like an exposition dump at times so it would be nice to see more hint dropping in the main story rather than just in Izaya's story. 8. You will always be confused with who's who in the Dollars chat room A lot of Durarara!! is based in the Dollars forum with the main characters talking amongst themselves but using alias's. It gets very Death Note-y when you have to decipher not only who's who but who knows who's who and what they think of them. My personal confusion stems from Izaya having a girl icon and his icon color his not matching his outfits color scheme despite all the other's displaying this trait*, and the dubbing. The dubbing opts for vocalizing the wrong voice actor to read the on-screen text of another person. x2 Sho does it better by finally having the right voice actor chime in at the appropriate time but to add dramatic effect, the point of view character will sometimes read the chat logs out loud making you extremely confused on who's saying what. Fortunately, some nice Redditors directed me to this diagram explaining the whole thing but without it I'll still be lost on who the fuck Kanra is. (*Apart from Anri also who wears blue like Mikado due to their school uniform but we do find out explicitly that she is the red icon so it's fairly easy to remember that) 7. The Japanese text and Russian script won't be translated I'm thinking this is a dubbing problem more than a subbed one. Most of the on-screen text is never translated, not even the Japanese subtitles for when Simon is conversing in his native tongue. This is extremely frustrating during the finale of Durarara!! when Simon and Izaya talk entirely in Russian and the dub audience has no idea what they are saying. Celty also gets a shaft in this regard considering that some of her phone texts aren't spoken prompting the viewer to read it to add drama or it's arbitrarily not translated. Again x2 Sho improves on this by translating a lot more kanji including the title screens but mid-way through they decided to stop only to pick it up again for the final few episodes. Is this Funimation's subtle hint for the audience to learn Japanese? 6. Seiji and Mika will do something totally irrelevant So far there have been three arcs in Durarara!! and only once have they had an active role. And yet they still get top billing along with the rest of the cast in the Durarara!! openings. They should've been replaced by Horada at least in the second opening considering he was quite obviously the villain of that arc. You could argue that Mika teaching Anri and Erika to cook in x2 Sho is important as it leads to one of Izaya's more human and childish moments, but ultimately this couple serves no purpose at all outside the first arc. 5. An enemy will become an ally Or in the case of Masaomi, friend becomes enemy becomes friend again through redemption. Durarara!! has some of the most charming characters in anime thanks to their voice actors, writing, and character design so it's really hard to dislike anyone in the series. This makes their change of heart even sweeter as we can root for them despite their misdemeanors in the past. Anri takes responsibility of her Slasher powers, Rokujo mellows out after his brawl with Kyohei, all we need now is for Izaya to stop being a dick and the circle will be complete.  4. Retconning the first episode The first episode was a brilliant introduction to the crazy world of Durarara!!. But Masaomi's relationship and knowledge seem to precede himself, most glaringly his interaction with Kyohei's gang. In the first episode, they are relatively friendly to one another except we know now that they once rival gang members that had shakily reconciled over the kidnapping Masaomi's ex-girlfriend. Something like that would not manifest itself as a friendly wave upon meeting on the street. Another would be the dissolution of many color gangs when they clashed at Saitama. We only know of two color gangs; Yellow Scarves and Blue Squares and they dissolved after Masaomi quit due to said kidnapping. Either we still haven't seen this clash in a flashback or Masaomi needs to keep his mouth shut before he retcons anything else in Durarara!!. 3. Simon's sushi will flip-flop between really good to horrendously bad I'm willing to put a lot of stock in Simon. He's a really friendly guy, strong, dependable, and is very passionate about his sushi. Even Mikado, Anri, and Masaomi look genuinely excited to go in every time the first opening ends. Except we learn that their cuisine is very hit and miss. In the OVA Kasuka passionately compliments the dishes but when Kyohei and Masaomi congregate there to air out some dirty laundry they're practically sick after the first bite. Russia Sushi, you will be one of Ikebukuro's many, many mysteries. 2. There Will Be Blood Baccano References Isaac and Miria appear as part of the Dollars in the first arc so does that mean the billboards showing clips of Baccano actually just showing a documentary of the past? Another one of Ikebukuro's many mysteries. 1. Shizuo Heiwajima will always save the day If anime has taught me anything it's that 90% of life's problems can be solved by simply beating the hell out of it. That's Shizuo's bread and butter and he's damn good at it. Durarara!!'s modern world setting makes you think that; silent takedowns, bureaucratic paper cuts, and blackmail would be the biggest dangers in Ikebukuro, but apparently it's running into Shizuo on a bad day that tops the shit list. So it's a good thing that Shizuo is always on the right/ good side of the story. He was introduced as a person not to fraternize with but if you stick with this guy there's a good chance you won't be slashed, beaten up, or kidnaped. No Durarara!! arc is complete without Shizuo kicking ass and destroying public property.   And that's my ten. What other golden rules do you have for Ikebukuro's Strongest Anime?
The Rules of DRRR!! photo
Living For The City (of Ikebukuro)
I picked Durarara!! back up last month and it became a fast favourite amongst my weekly lineup. The colors, the violence, the fantastic English voice direction, and the air of supernatural elements mixed in with the heavy urb...

OP Up! Fast Edition

Jul 15 // Red Veron
[embed]34065:4931:0[/embed]"Reclimb"Anime: Yowamushi PedalNow that I think about it, cycling isn't about going fast. It's also about endurance but hey you still need to get there first at the end. So enjoy this opening about bicycles and dudes in tight shorts.[embed]34065:4932:0[/embed]"Sonic Drive"Anime: Sonic X Sonic was created in the early 1990's to appeal to kids who had outgrown Mario using Sonic's 'attitude' and this opening embodies all that spirit. Surprisingly it has more 'tude than the US adaptation's opening. I'll have that at the bottom of this post.[embed]34065:4933:0[/embed]"Around the World"Anime: Initial DThis anime has become synonymous with eurobeat music, which suits the high-octane and blood pumping race drifting. [embed]34065:4934:0[/embed]"Mach GO GO GO"Anime: Mach GO GO GO (Speed Racer) Nothing beats the grand daddy of all anime about going fast. The opening music sounds familiar since it was adapted into the Speed Racer recognizable theme song.BONUS VIDEO[embed]34065:4935:0[/embed]Sonic X Are there openings that are about going fast that I didn't include? SHOW ME IN THE COMMENTS! I wanna know!
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GOTTA GO FAST
This week's OP Up! is all about going fast! So less time reading nonsense preamble to all these openings and let's get to it! LET'S GO!Are there openings that are about going fast that I didn't include? SHOW ME IN THE COMMENTS! I wanna know!

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 701

Jul 12 // Anthony Redgrave
Law's backstory is one of the most horrific in the series. His story is told to Baby 5 while she and the other executives are on a raid. They talk so casually about the whole thing while being attacked, shot, and fired upon by cannons you would think they were paying more attention to the story than the actual mission. It's a tale of a wealthy town that becomes poisoned over time from the mineral that had made them rich. It's non-contagious, but that doesn't stop the Government from imposing a quarantine on the town. Eventually, the neighboring nations retaliate under the guise of self-defense and kill everyone in town apart from Law who escapes under some dead bodies.  The Mother Sea leitmotif doesn't play in this episode and I suspect it's because we don't spend enough time in Law's rosy family life. It cuts between the executives verbally telling the story to scenes from Flevance and it's surprisingly easy to follow despite these changes. Baby 5's reaction reflects our own as she is told this story becoming more depressed and understanding of Law's personality.  However, I cannot feel the same way when Law pulls this face. It's the same face as Luffy when he lost Ace back in Marineford. I always relate it to an "oh I'm comically scared face" rather than I'm completely and emotionally broken. The rest of the Straw Hats have relatively conserved shocked and sorrowful expressions when compared to this white-eyed huge mouth facial feature.  In the next episode, we go even further back in time to Doflamingo's and Corazon's childhoods. I'm really looking forward to this episode as we'll finally see why this Celestial Dragon was banned from Mariejois.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] Law's backstory is one of the most horrific in the series. His story is told to Baby 5 while she and the other executives are on a raid. They talk so casually about the whole thing while being attacked, shot, and fired upon by cannons you would think they were paying more attention to the story than the actual mission. It's a tale of a wealthy town that becomes poisoned over time from the mineral that had made them rich. It's non-contagious, but that doesn't stop the Government from imposing a quarantine on the town. Eventually, the neighboring nations retaliate under the guise of self-defense and kill everyone in town apart from Law who escapes under some dead bodies.  The Mother Sea leitmotif doesn't play in this episode and I suspect it's because we don't spend enough time in Law's rosy family life. It cuts between the executives verbally telling the story and scenes from Flevance. The pacing is steady and easy to follow despite the changes to scenery and Baby 5's reaction reflects our own as she is told this story. She becomes more and more depressed and understanding of Law's personality.  However, I cannot feel for the losses Law is experiencing when he pulls this face. It's the same with when Luffy lost Ace back in Marineford, I always relate it to an "oh I'm comically scared face" rather than I'm completely and emotionally broken. The rest of the Straw Hats have relatively conserved shocked and sorrowful expressions when compared to this white-eyed huge mouth facial feature.  In the next episode, we go even further back in time to Doflamingo's and Corazon's childhoods. Doflamingo isn't such a bad guy towards his family and that's something I can respect. He berates Jora for scaring Buffalo and threatens anyone that would harm his biological brother. I'm really looking forward to this episode as it has been hinted at throughout this arc. We'll finally see why this Celestial Dragon was banned from Marijois.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] Law's backstory is one of the most horrific in the series. I think it's an amplification of Robin's background but to a greater degree. His story is told to Baby 5 while she and the other executives are raiding pirates. They talk so casually about the whole thing while being attacked, shot, and fired upon by cannons you would think they were paying more attention to the story than the actual mission. It's a tale of a wealthy town that becomes poisoned gradually over time by the mineral that had made them rich. It's non-contagious, but that doesn't stop the Government from imposing a quarantine on the town. Eventually, the neighbouring nations retaliate under the guise of self-defense and kill everyone in town apart from Law who escapes under some dead bodies.  The Mother Sea leitmotif doesn't play in this episode and I suspect it's because we don't spend enough time in Law's rosy family life. It cuts between the executives verbally telling the story and scenes from Flevance. The pacing is steady and easy to follow despite the changes to scenery and Baby 5's reaction reflects our own as she is told this story. She becomes more and more depressed and understanding of Law's personality.  In the next episode we go even further back in time to Doflamingo's and Corazon's childhoods. Doflamingo isn't such a bad guy towards his family and that's something I can respect. He berates Jora for scaring Buffalo and threatens anyone that would harm his biological brother. I'm really looking forward to this episode as it has been hinted at through out this arc. We'll finally see why this Celestial Dragon was banned from Marijois. 
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Law has seen some S***
We've now entered the back story portion of the arc where tragedy is the dish of the day. No matter how pleasant and beautiful the setting may seem, the shit will hit the fan and the tear ducts will open once Mother Sea begins to play. I've never cried while watching One Piece, it so happens something gets in my eye when that song plays. 

First Impressions: GANGSTA

Jul 12 // Anthony Redgrave
GANGSTA has more in line with Panty and Stocking than 50 cent's thug life despite the title's connotation. The similarities with the rude, crude angels begin with partner mercenaries specialising in different weapons and having hearts of gold and end as it's an action anime rather than cartoony comedy. Nicolas and Worick are in the business of dealing death to enemies too risky for the police and being shouted at by the captain for their methods. A classic set up that would be tired if not for the interesting leads. Nicolas is the muscle and Worick is the silver-tongued negotiator making for an endearing duo that work well together. The show is not for the faint hearted as it's a mature show with a capital M. Drugs, murder, abuse to women, and bloodshed is present in each episode. The dialogue doesn't pull punches as it dishes out racial slurs, explicative insults degrading women and crude language making the show feel and sound like a violent dystopia. Fortunately, the show isn't all doom and gloom as the characters are very charming and colourful as mentioned before. The art style is warm to contrast with the majority of the characters decked in dark threads. Black shadow accent the unsavoury and rough nature of the show. The show's character design is attractive despite its thematically ugly world and I have not seen any major animation hiccups in the first two episodes. GANGSTA will be something I continue with during this season. I'm a fan of the action and the unpleasantness world is something I adore in fiction especially when they have likeable heroes that I can root for. The aesthetics are a beautiful topping on this delicious piece of anime.   [GANGSTA streams on FUNimation] GANGSTA is more in line with Panty and Stocking than 50 cent's thug life despite the title's connotation. The similarities with the rude, crude, angels begin with partner mercenaries dubbed Handymen specialising in different weapon and having hearts of gold and end as this is more action orientated than cartoony comedy. Nicolas and Worick are in the business of dealing death to enemies too risque for the police and subsequently being shouted down by the commissioner. A classic set up in many works of fiction that would be overplayed if not for the interesting leads. Nicolas is the muscle and Worick is the silver-tongued negotiator making for an endearing duo that work well together. The show is not for the faint hearted it's a mature show with a capital M. Drugs, murder, verbal and physical abuse to women, and blood flows rampant in each episode. The dialogue doesn't pull punches when it comes to racial slurs, explicative insults, and degrading women making the show feel and sound like a violent dystopia. Fortunately, the show isn't all doom and gloom as the characters are very charming and colourful as mentioned before. The art style is bright and warm to contrast with the majority of the characters that choose dark themed threads. The show's character design is attractive despite the thematically ugly world and I have not seen any major animation hiccups in the first two episodes. GANGSTA will be something I continue with during this season. Although the story is still ramping up, I like the world and it's inhabitants. I'm a fan of dystopian worlds like Fallout and the main leads are likeable enough to keep me engaged with their exploits.
GANGSTA photo
Violence! Racism! Misogyny!
Truncated versions of words bug the hell out of me. I always hear it in my mind's ear being spoken by an loud spoken and arrogant individual; 'GANGSTA!' emphasis on the -STA part with a line a spit flickering from their ...

Review: The IDOLM@STER Cindrella Girls Season 1

Jul 12 // Jeff Chuang
The Idolm@ster Cinderella Girls Season 1 Studio: A-1 Pictures Format: Streaming via Daisuki/YouTube Release Date: January 10, 2015 The idea behind Cinderella Girls as the next iteration of the franchise is that by opening the gates with a large swath and wide variety of characters, each player (or viewer in the anime's case) will invariably find somebody they like. It works for AKB48, so why wouldn't it work for anything else? I guess the question sits at the center of the Cinderella Girls experience. But that's in reference to the whole of Cinderella Girls, which, beyond the anime, holds itself as one of the pioneering and successful mobile games in Japan. It's not too different than, say, how thanks to the Rage of Bahamut mobile games, we got an sword-buckling adventure anime to go with. Where these two franchises diverge is the way how Cinderella Girls is just one head of a multi-headed hydra that makes up the IDOLM@STER franchise. Beyond the anime and the mobile game, we're talking about a mix of media, besides obviously the anime on home video. It includes also live events, radio shows, and the sub-unit CDs that the anime sells in an almost-direct way. When you watch each episode of the anime as an invested fan, there's a lot more to it than sitting back and enjoying the story. Of course, like any other type of fans, everyone gets on social media and chat about the latest episode as soon as possible (and thanks to Daisuki's prompt simulcast even I can do that to a degree). Easter eggs and other nods to the rest of the IM@S franchise often are the biggest cues for discussion among fans. What's more, new announcements and reveals relevant to the entire franchises sometimes happens within the latest episode of the anime. To take the last episode in the first half as an example, do you know Triad Primus? Just that scene between Nao and Karen sent some into frenzy, only because it's one of the more popular sub-groups within the game that was quietly done away with after New Generations was initially announced from the first Cinderella Girls anime promo. That's not even include more obvious ties like the weekly bonus audio drama in-game, or the freebie SR cards and other loot that go live in the proper Cinderella Girls game right after you finish watching the week's episode. The Japanese broadcast even reinforces its full-force consumer message through its self-sponsored commercials in the CM breaks of its own anime. That's a view from deep inside the rabbit hole. I think most of us out west don't care for it, at least at first. A lot of us out likely found out about the IDOLM@STER franchise first via the 2011 TV series, curio news reported from oversea fan being silly, or various MAD videos featuring IM@S. The line of games had been in the purview of hardcore importers, or people willing to think differently about iOS apps by paying the asking price on Shiny Festa. There may be an underground group of English-speaking, mobile game types that cling to the three major IM@S social games, but nowhere is that visible above the surface of the world wide web, so to speak. You had to dig down to find these Producers. When Bandai-Namco focused its mainline 765Pro IM@S products and events to point to and collaborate with the two social game platforms, some fans worried--the original characters (and their voice actresses) are not getting any younger--will this bring about a drastic change to the franchise? At the same time many Producers are simply getting familiar and are welcoming the Cinderella Girls. Under that context, our 346 Production idols are in a battle of their lives to find longer-term acceptance within this multi-head hydra of a family that is the IDOLM@STER. That road is not particularly complicated, thankfully. In the context of the Cinderella Girls anime, well, it's idol anime, where the audience come to enjoy cute girls singing catchy songs while doing cool dances. We also see at times how these girls fail and then overcome various obstacles, personal or otherwise. I think that really sums up the core idol anime experience. Of course, your mileage may vary, but everyone seems to have the best time together when the experience come together, each part of the idol concept firing on all cylinders. In the shadow of these daunting questions, I can safely say that is exactly the IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls that we got. But for those of us who are watching the show for what it is--A-1's animation featuring a new brand of animated idol--does it deliver? Will the extra baggage get in the way? It's the most important question, and one that I am now ill-suited to answer. One of IDOLM@STER's trademark themes has to do with people struggling emotionally that come together to face their mutual challenges. The performers and their producer have to come to term with their differences and opposing views to achieve their shared goals. Several times in the story so far, the problem in a particular plot arc may lie in the way how the Producer character fails to communicate with his charges, and vice versa. A lot of the times conflict arise because people have mistaken expectations or out of inexperience, and we see it across the board. In that sense, Cinderella Girls is an admirable vehicle to express these struggles. It's about overcoming them with uplifted feelings, and not so much ticket or CD sales. At the same time, given its progress at the half-way point, it is pretty difficult for Cinderella Girls to achieve even just a fraction of these objectives.  There are just too many characters, too many in-jokes, and too many thematic and story checkpoints that the narrative has to play things very directly. Mio's breakdown in mid-season, for example, became somewhat of a point of confusion because the story didn't take time to explain her mentality clearly. The way Dekorations got separated or how the producer was unable to explain himself to the cops is yet another. I guess these contrivances are not deal breakers, but discerning viewers might argue it adds to the pile of small problems that degrades the experience. The animation too, had its up and downs. At times Cinderella Girls anime looks sublime, such as the pilot episode. Sometimes, however, it looks rushed. The mid-point recap, as adorable as it was, is not exactly the best thing. (Producer's CV, Takeuchi, is only 17 years old! His natural voice is deeper than the Producer's voice.) I think to be fair, Cinderella Girls is a competently put-together production, but there were some seams showing throughout the series that might rub against the more picky viewers. When it comes to where rubber meets the road, so to speak, the dance and new musical numbers from Cinderella Girls are pleasing, perhaps even very exciting. Moreover, the series avoids a monster-of-the-week issue with enough unpredictability thrown in there. The girls are cute, and if one of them appeals to you, congratulations. What does it leave those of us who aren't warming up to any of them? I'm guessing the second half of the Cinderella Girls anime experience will continue to focus on some of these characters while introducing more. One of my pre-anime favorite, Anzu, played the role of a wise-cracker. Rin, Cinderella Girls's iconic cool beauty, didn't get very far besides the initial induction into the 346 fold. But at the same time, I'm not sure if that's enough of a carrot on the stick to keep those of us who are not into idols for idols's sake going forward. Maybe that's okay. For those of us ever become curious as to what IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls has to offer, the anime is a splendid gateway to become a patron of IM@S's multi-faceted castle of a franchise. Just be aware that not only there's a deep rabbit hole beyond it, there are also a bunch of pitiful creatures living off of said animation like yours truly, clinging on to every word and visual symbol. [This review is based on a streaming copy viewed by the reviewer.]
Idolm@ter CG Review photo
And it didn't even cover half the idols
What happens when you take one of the longest running media-mixed franchise about idols and give it new life? What happens when you take a mobile game money mill and try to develop its CCG-style characters? What is an idol? T...

Week Ender - One Piece Edition

Jul 11 // Red Veron
[embed]34051:4922:0[/embed]"Run Run Run"I like that this one shows off the cast as kids just running around like kids do,  then showing them sharing a meal and fighting over the last piece you think they would do before getting all their attention to their next big adventure.[embed]34051:4923:0[/embed]"Eternal Pose"This is the only ending I really really like. Set to a cool chilled rap with a slide show of the Straw Hat pirates and what they wore during the major arcs. It's a blast from the past seeing Zoro bandaged in a Hawaiian Shirt or Nami's dancing girl outfit. My favourite moments from each arc flashback into my mind when I see them again and it's incredibly nostalgic to see how far the Straw Hats have come on their journey.[embed]34051:4925:0[/embed]"Shining Ray"A simpler ending that doesn't feature much movement until the end, this one is more about a calm feel with characters waiting out a rain. Taking a moment to ponder about other things while out on an adventure. I like endings that show you characters from a show with constant action just take a moment to wait out a rain just like you and me.[embed]34051:4926:0[/embed]"Before the dawn"This ending is pretty fun, I've got a soft spot for endings or openings that just feature the characters of a show just chill' or having fun. It makes me feel better for characters in shows that feel like they're locked in an endless cycle of fights and never ending plots. Pirates need a break too, you know.Got a favorite ending that didn't make it on here? SHOW ME IN THE COMMENTS! I wanna see!!!
One Piece photo
700 episodes is a lot of Endings!
One Piece just reached its 700th episode and on this week's Week Ender, we're celebrating by giving you some One Piece endings for your viewing pleasure! When the first episode of One Piece aired, Clinton was still in the Whi...

Strong Style: New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS S2 episode 7

Jul 11 // Soul Tsukino
BUT FIRST:  Let's do an update on the points. Tournament wins are worth 2 points, a draw is 1 point, and losses are worth nothing. Luckily since AXS covered day four last week, you haven't missed anything. Here is how the points stand. BLOCK A:   Shelton X Benjamin (8 points), Hiroshi Tanahashi (6), Bad Luck Fale (4), Satoshi Kojima (4), Katsuyori Shibata (4), Shinsuke Nakamura (4), Tomohiro Ishii (4), Davey Boy Smith Jr (2), Yuji Nagata (2), Doc Gallows (2), Tomoaki Honma (0). BLOCK B: Kazuchika Okada (6 points), Hirooki Goto (6), Tetsuya Naito (6), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4), Togi Makabe (4),  Toru Yano (4),  Lance Archer (2), AJ Styles (2), Karl Anderson (2),  Minoru Suzuki (2), Yujiro Takahashi (2). We start with a greeting from Tetsuya Naito before we get to the action. In a surprise, we get Frank Shamrock on commentary this week with Mauro. Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Bad Luck Fale: Would have probably said this was going to be a one-sided match, but with Fale doing well in past tournaments, and his win of the Intercontinental title over Nakamura, This is more evenly matched than would meet the eye. A bit of a slow start as Fale just bulls around Tanahashi. Tanahashi counters a test of strength with an armbar and a headlock.  Fale yanks Tanahashi out of the ring and just tosses him around. We skip ahead as Fale goes for the Granade finisher, but Tanahashi counters. Both men end up outside the ring and Hiroshi hits a top rope dive outside the ring to the big guy, but Fale quickly recovers and smacks Hiroshi. Back in the ring Tanahashi gets the sling blade clothesline and then the frog splash, but Fale grabs him by the neck and gets off the Grenade finisher (Chokeslam/Asian spike combo), but Tanahashi kicks out. Fale goes for the Bad Luck Fall drop but is countered before he goes for the move and nails it and pins Tanahashi! Clipped, but what was shown it seemed like a typical WWE match more than anything. Fale isn't the greatest of technical wrestlers, but Tanahashi worked well with what he had.     Block A: Tomoaki Honma vs. Shinsuke Nakamura:  Oh boy. Do not like Honma's chances here. Japan 's favorite underdog has no wins going for him so far in the tournament and  he's up against one of New Japan's top guys. Mauro points out that Honma is winless. Mauro actually for the first time mentions Nakamura's part in the tournament, including matches we didn't see. Shinsuke goes for his usual antics, but Honma isn't going for it. He gets Nakamura down and goes for the headbutt but misses. Nakamura gets a couple of harsh knees on Honma hanging off the ring apron. We jump ahead with Nakamura kneeing the hell out of Honma. Shinsuke goes for his favorite corner knee strike, but Honma jumps up and lands a clothesline. Honma gains the advantages and Honma lands his headbutt! Nakamura lands a kick to the side of Honma's head to regain the advantage and lands more knee strikes on Honma. We come back from a break where Nakamura has a face lock over Honma but Honma counters with a DDT. He hits Nakamura with a piledriver and juuust comes up short on the three counts. Nakamura regains the lead but runs right into a Honma headbutt and Mauro is going crazy for this one. Honma goes for the diving headbutt and misses (as usual), but gets back up for an exchange with Shinsuke but gets a knee to the jaw. Nakamura looks to finish things off, but Honma gets a roll up and nearly gets it! Nakamura lands 2 Booma ya knees to finally finish Honma off. However, the crowd starts a massive chant for Honma as he is carried from the ring! We get some words from both men as Nakamura tells everyone he is on a roll while Honma asks why he can't win a match. He makes some comments about winning the Intercontinental title and changing it to yellow. Well, the crowd loves him anyway so he has that going for him! Coming back from a break we get a few more words from Naito. He talks about not having pressure on him after winning the 23rd G1 Climax and that Okada and Styles were the ones he was looking for. He mentions that is the place he badly injured his knee so it has memories for him, but they are bitter.       Block B: Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazuchika Okada: Now this should be good. You have the 2013 and 2012 G1 Climax champions facing off. Okada is the leader of the B block, but after pinning the IWGP Champion last week, I'm convinced Naito can beat anyone in the block. We get both men's entrances as we are in main event territory now.  Naito is still sporting the bandage on his head. Shamrock gives some insight on what it's like to suffer an injury like Naito's knee injury and how it stays in your mind, especially going to back to the place where it happened. We come back from a break as the match begins. The crowd is loud for this one. Mauro tells that these men only have met six times, but they have split their matches. Naito starts in with an armlock, but Okada reverses it. They get to the ropes where Okada teases smacking Naito, but doesn't. Quick exchange ends up with Naito landing a dropkick to Okada's  face. Naito lands a bunch of elbows on Okada and then ASKS OKADA TO HIT HIM. Okada obliges. Naito Bushido to the max. Naito ends up outside the ring and Okada chokes him on the barricade before rolling Naito into the ring. Okada keeps the edge over his opponent with a kick to the face!    Ouch! Okada hits the DDT but only gets 2 on the pin attempt. Okada's approach seems to be methodical, even cocky. The crowd is just waiting for Naito to counter and he does with a dodge of a corner elbow and a hanging neck breaker on Okada. Naito gets BIG air with a missile dropkick. Okada counters Naito's corner attack and hits a knee to Naito's neck. Okada gets the flying elbow and goes for the Rainmaker pose and the finishing clothesline, but Naito counters with a spinning DDT. Naito hits the corner hanging dropkick and then a top rope frankensteiener on Okada. Naito nearly gets it with a nice german suplex. Okada tries to counter but is met with a Naito SLAP. Okada, however, grabs Naito for a tombstone and gets it, but when he goes for the Rainmaker clothesline, Naito counters, and counters again before landing a kick to Okada's head. Back from the break with both men down on the mat. they stumble up as these two just exchange smacks and elbows. Okada whips Naito into the ropes, but Naito hits a shoulder block and goes for the top rope, but Okada hits a sweet dropkick. Okada goes for the rainmaker again, but Naito hits another counter before hitting the stardust press and the win! Wow! We get some post-match words from Okada who is disappointed he won't win EVERY match in the tournament before being helped away by Gedo. In the ring Naito thanks the crowd for cheering for him. Mauro tells a quick funny story on how Naito is still an active member of the NJPW fan club since he was a kid Quick backstage words from Naito promising to win the tournament again this year We get some studio words from him about the match saying this match was to remind people that he too was capable of winning the tournament, not just Okada or A.J. Styles. The shows closes out with a nice tribute to The God of Japanese Wrestling, Karl Gotch, saying he would have enjoyed the match we just saw.     This was a decent showing in this episode. Frank took a little time it seemed to get warmed up but his commentary was good, sharing what he could in a field he probably doesn't have a lot of knowledge in (Ken Shamrock on the other hand...). Mauro finally making mention of other matches is a start, but think about this, Shelton Benjamin is the leader of the Block A group and hasn't even been mentioned yet on the show. The first two match were clipped but not nearly as bad as the Anderson match from last week. The main event was amazing and showed just how good NJPW can be.   Before we go, here is the action from each block you didn't see and the points at the end of the night. BLOCK A: Gallows beat Ishii, Smith beat Kojima, Shibata beat Benjamin Shelton X Benjamin (8 points), Hiroshi Tanahashi (6), Bad Luck Fale (6), Satoshi Kojima (4), Katsuyori Shibata (6), Shinsuke Nakamura (6), Tomohiro Ishii (4), Davey Boy Smith Jr (4), Yuji Nagata (2), Doc Gallows (2), Tomoaki Honma (0). BLOCK B: Archer beat Tenzan, Suzuki beat Takahashi, Yano beat Anderson, Styles beat goto Tetsuya Naito (8), Kazuchika Okada (6 points), Hirooki Goto (6), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4), Togi Makabe (4),  Toru Yano (4),  Lance Archer (4), AJ Styles (4),  Minoru Suzuki (4), Karl Anderson (2), Yujiro Takahashi (2).   See you all next week! BUT FIRST:  Let's do a little catching up heading into day 4. Once again I will point out in this tournament wins are worth 2 points, a draw is 1 point, and losses are worth nothing. I won't bother with the specific results of days 2 and 3 but here are the point totals heading into this episode. BLOCK A:   Hiroshi Tanahashi (6 points), Shelton X Benjamin (6), Bad Luck Fale (4), Satoshi Kojima (2), Yuji Nagata (2), Katsuyori Shibata (2), Shinsuke Nakamura (2), Tomohiro Ishii (2), Davey Boy Smith Jr (2), Doc Gallows (2), Tomoaki Honma (0). BLOCK B: Kazuchika Okada (6 points), Hirooki Goto (6), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4), Tetsuya Naito (4), Yujiro Takahashi (2), Togi Makabe (2),  Toru Yano (2),  Lance Archer (2), AJ Styles (2), Karl Anderson (0),  Minoru Suzuki (0). Seriously, The reigning IWGP Champion has only one win, and Suzuki doesn't have any? Still early, but that is really surprising. Now with that settled we will get to the action! We are welcomed by Shibata for the second week in a row as we kick things off   Block A: Shinsuke Nakamura V/S Yuji Nagata: "King of Strong Style" vs. "Blue Justice". Nagata comes out wearing an "Anti-Aging Hero" shirt. Love it.  As both men are trained in amateur wrestling as well as MMA, it leads to Mauro talking about a conversation he had with Samoa Joe about the influence of MMA in pro wrestling. The start off is slow, but we skip ahead where things are heating up. This match is not fast but hold and counter hold. Lots of kicks and strikes and blocks and dodges. Josh Barnett adds something here because he not only wrestled Nagata before, he had his debut against Nagata. The match ends with Nakamura hitting 2 Booma yae knees to the head and scoring the pin. We get some post-match words from Nakamura before going to break. Probably had a lot clipped, but you still got the general feel of how the match played out. Block B: Tetsuya Naito vs. A.J. Styles: Naito may be smaller than most in this tournament, but he has shown on this program before that he can hang with the big guys. Doesn't get any bigger than the IWGP Champion. The story here is that Naito won last year's G1 and looking to repeat, while Styles wants to become the first gaijin winner of the G1. The match starts off with trading arm locks and headlocks to gain an advantage. Mauro mentions that Naito already has a bandaged cut on his head from Tora Yano. Naito gains an advantage and then messes with Styles by doing A.J.'s pose. Sure enough Naito's cut starts trickling blood. Both men get furies of offense, but Styles shuts Naito down with a poke in the eye. We skip ahead as now Naito is gushing blood, but still holding the advantage. Mauro gets bonus points from me for making a point to reference someone I admire, Gordon Solie. Styles nearly gets the Styles Clash on Naito, but Naito counters. Naito hits his Gloria suplex and then hits the top rope corkscrew for the WIN! Post-match comments from Naito saying that he respects Styles, but just beating him wasn't enough. He wants a title shot. Again, edited a lot but this match was still very entertaining to watch and a big surprise for Naito to pick up the win. Block B: Kazuchika Okada vs. Karl Anderson:  To say that "The Machine Gun" from the Bullet Club has an uphill climb here is an understatement. Block B top point holder taking on the bottom of Block B. Anderson attacks before Okada even finishes his entrance. We skip ahead as both men are outside the ring. We skip ahead again as Anderson is just mauling Okada. A lot of clipping here. Okada gets in a DDT to stop Anderson's offense.  We clip again as Okada lands the top rope elbow and goes into his Rainmaker Pose. He goes for the Rainmaker clothesline but gets caught in a Liger bomb. Anderson gets a top rope neck breaker (A cool move I've not seen before) and a Bernard Driver but can't put Okada away. Clipped again as Anderson goes for his finisher, the gun stun (Stone Cold Stunner) but is countered, countered again, and countered AGAIN before Anderson actually hits the move and gets the win! Wow, that easily is the most clipped match I've seen on this show ever. Anderson talks some smack in the post match. Okada and Gedo have nothing to say as they go straight past the press for the locker room. We get some in studio comments from Shibata before our main event. He talks about how this is an important match and we get some clips of Shibata and Tanahashi feuding when Shibata returned to New Japan in 2012. Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Katsuyori Shibata: Main event time! We got a good look at Shibata last week with the oddly emotionless way he destroys people with his MMA influenced style. Here he's taking on NJPW's golden boy. These two were once part of New Japan's "Three Musketeers" in 1999 along with Nakamura. We've got about 25 minutes left in the show, so hopefully this match wouldn't be the hatchet job the last one was. Tentative start once again and oddly Shibata is already sweating. Shibata SLAPS Tanahashi, like totally bitch slaps him. Tanahashi returns the favor. Yup, these guys do not like each other. The action picks up quick with each man dodging big strikes and kicks before Tanahashi leaves the ring. Shibata hurts his knee from a dive and now Tanahashi has something to target. Despite the injury, Shibata takes Tanahashi outside the ring and beats on Tanahashi including a running kick to the face. We come back from a commercial break with Shibata standing over Tanahashi. Tanahashi makes his comeback with an elbow before hitting a senton on Shibata. Shibata gets a knee to Tanahashi to regain the lead here. Shibata shrugs off a drop kick while in the corner before beating Tanahashi's head in with several elbows before hitting his sweet hanging drop kick. Tanahashi gets a forearm and then a german suplex, but Shibata pops right up and grabs a suplex of his own. Shibata goes for a kick, but Tanahashi catches it and goes for a few leg whips before putting on a cloverleaf leg lock. Josh mentions the lock is actually putting pressure on Shibata's good leg, not the injured one. Nice touch there from Josh Barnett. Small comments like that make this commentary more legit than anything else out there. After releasing the hold, Tanahashi just kind of stands there awkwardly, looking for a crowd reaction that isn't there and gets booed heavily for it. He lands the sling blade clothesline on Shibata before Tanahashi lands a frog splash. He goes for a second but Shibata gets his knees up. The crowd is chanting for Shibata loudly now. Both men trade forearms as it's a standoff.  Shibata lands a NASTY spinning backhand that literally smacks the sweat off Tanahashi's face. Shibata goes for the Go-To-sleep knee to the head, but it's countered, only for him to hit it again. he nails Tanahashi with a running penalty kick and scores the pin. The two men begrudgingly shake hands before Shibata calmly leaves the ring and walks to the back in his typical style. Post match Tanahashi is on the floor in pain as he questions the last 10 years of his career. Shibata pretty much agrees. In the studio, Shibata talks about how much the match was important to him before we close out the show for the week. That main event was incredible, no denying that. Even more than last week though, the weakness of having a one-hour show covering this big of a tournament shown through. The Anderson/Okada match was clipped to death. Also, I get the idea is to focus more on the action, but they make little if any mention of the points each man holds going into these matches which may not be a huge deal, but kind of leaves out part of the story. Saying that,Mauro and Josh were spot on tonight and made the show that much more enjoyable to watch. In keeping track of things,  here is the action from each block you didn't see and the points at the end of the night. BLOCK A: Kojima beat Fale, Benjamin beat Smith Jr., Ishii beat Honma. Shelton X Benjamin (8 points), Hiroshi Tanahashi (6), Bad Luck Fale (4), Satoshi Kojima (4), Katsuyori Shibata (4), Shinsuke Nakamura (4), Tomohiro Ishii (4), Davey Boy Smith Jr (2), Yuji Nagata (2), Doc Gallows (2), Tomoaki Honma (0). BLOCK B: Suzuki beat Tenzan, Yano beat Goto, Makabe beat Archer. Kazuchika Okada (6 points), Hirooki Goto (6), Tetsuya Naito (6), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4), Togi Makabe (4),  Toru Yano (4),  Lance Archer (2), AJ Styles (2), Karl Anderson (2),  Minoru Suzuki (2), Yujiro Takahashi (2). And with that, I hope all of you American readers have a great July 4th weekend. And those of you looking to just have fun, take a lesson from the Florida Brothers. You don't have to be born American to enjoy the holiday, just American at heart.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Day 5 from G1 Climax 24
Back again this week as Strong Style takes a look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV's coverage of the G1 Climax 24 tournament. So far we've seen some great matches selected from the tournament's action. Tonight we look at ...

Final Impressions: Plastic Memories

Jul 09 // Josh Tolentino
Unfortunately, I've got my critic hat on here, and Plastic Memories ending well (more on that in a bit) doesn't exactly excuse an almost infuriatingly bland middle. Indeed, the would've been a much tighter, more riveting experience as a six- or eight-episode miniseries, but the need to push things out to twice that length has left the show stretched thin, both emotionally and narratively.  Therein lies the good news, though: Plastic Memories' ending almost wipes out the bad feelings of before because it's honestly a lovely piece of bittersweet (emphasis on the sweet) closure. It helps because the show, early on, put the kibosh on any idea that Isla's fate could be avoided somehow. There's no bargaining with death in this story, which makes what little time she has with Tsukasa all that much more precious, even when it feels like it's being squandered on teenage blush-antics (see episode 7). That aside, though, it pays off, as the last several episodes see Isla's true importance being revealed. No, she's not some kind of ultimate weapon, nor is she special or destined in the way someone like Chobits' Chii was. She's just a Giftia with a gift for empathy and a way of bringing people over to her way of thinking. As it turns out, it was Isla's compassion and love both for the Giftias she retrieved and the people who owned them that changed this branch of the Terminal Service. It's established that they're the only ones who go full-in on the therapy and touchy-feely side of separating a Giftia from its owner, and that's because Isla convinced Kazuki and the others to that philosophy. That's why it works in Plastic Memories' larger context. Isla may have only had 9-ish years in the world, but her legacy lives on in the compassion and empathy of the Terminal Service branch she worked with. She's made her mark on the world and the people around her. That goes for Tsukasa, especially. It's not often that a show that opens with something as cliche as "love at first sight" pays off, but it does here. Well, sort of. It works here thanks again to the inevitability of Isla's passing. Seeing Tsukasa force a smile and watch his resolve start to crack, as he spends their final date trying to bargain with fate, makes up for the fact that this love story started with her seeing her moping in an elevator.   Lastly, it works because it knows when, or rather, how, to quit. Let's take another series about letting go: Anohana. That show's characters spent almost the whole story in varying states of denial, none of them able to get over the loss of their friend, and finally saying goodbye by screaming it out to the heavens. It's over-the-top, and while it did work for some folks, it left others cold for the intensity of that melodrama. There's no screaming at the end for Plastic Memories. Only a girl who gets to spend her last moments with the boy she loves, knowing that everything's alright in the world, and perhaps hoping that someday they might be reunited.  That's all well and good, but as I mentioned earlier, it doesn't quite wipe out Plastic Memories' other structural problems. Narratively, the show was about as clumsy as Isla was in her android dotage. In fact, the last two or three episodes were accompanied by no less than four different montage sequences. And let's not even get into the fact that the show would've been much more interesting earlier on if it had explored things from a less tiresomely teenage point of view. But, perhaps that's not the point anymore. Plastic Memories is about going out with the good bits in mind, and the ending certainly makes a much better impression. And if that's to be Isla's legacy, it'll be all good.
Plastic Memories photo
Remember She
Plastic Memories ended well. For a show that's all about what people leave behind, about legacy, about leaving the world with a lot of good memories, and about literally ending on an up note, that's the best outcome one could ask for. 

Annotated Anime: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode 6

Jul 09 // Anthony Redgrave
Kyon may be quick with the comebacks, but he's lacking in the conventional intelligence department. With exams on the horizon, he seeks assistance from Asakura which causes a misunderstanding from Nagato because of their increased contact. Fortunately, the misunderstanding trope does not smother the whole episode as the show outright says that it's a misunderstanding straight after the suggested relationship. This is something some anime shows need to catch onto *cough* NISEKOI *cough*, instead of overexaggerating the reactions and wasting whole episodes of building up misunderstanding.  Haruhi and her lapdog Koizumi make an appearance having been granted official access to the North High school grounds under Nagato's absent minded request. Being from a prep school Haruhi states she is leagues ahead of Kyon and Asakura which brings forth a Mathematics challenge between the two rival schools. Yep the main conflict is down to an algebra 'solve for x question'. I've been out of high school for half a decade, and I swear it was never this difficult. The saviour surprisingly (or unsurprisingly if you consider she is still the same person) is Nagato Yuki as she answers the question without writing anything down. Her method is something to be desired as she will not be scoring marks for jotting down the random garbage that starts spewing out of her mouth. Honestly, I was not expecting that from a love stricken PSVita addict.  [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!] Kyon may be quick with the comebacks and wise enough to ask the right questions, but he is sadly lacking in the intelligence department. With exams on the horizon, he seeks assistance from Asakura since she is a paragon of studentship. Cue misunderstanding from Nagato Yuki because of their increased contact and everything is resolved. Fortunately, the misunderstanding trope does not smother the whole episode as even this series has caught on and outright says that it's a misunderstanding. This is something some anime shows need to catch onto *cough* NISEKOI *cough*.  Haruhi and her lapdog Koizumi make an appearance having been granted official access to the North High school grounds under Nagato's request. Being from a prep school Haruhi states she is leagues ahead of Kyon and Asakura which brings forth a Mathematics challenge between the two rival schools. Yep the main conflict is down to algebra solve for x question. I've been out of high school for half a decade, and I swear it was never this difficult. The saviour surprisingly (or unsurprisingly if you consider she is still the same person) is Nagato Yuki as she answers the question sans working out. Her working is something to be desired as she will not be scoring marks for jotting down the random garbage she starts spewing out. Honestly, I was not expecting that from a love stricken PSVita addict. 
Nagato Yuki photo
Hot for Teacher Asakura
We are nearing the half-way point of Nagato Yuki-chan and so far it's been very good. I really like the familiar elements and emphasised comedic moments when comparing it to Haruhi. A lack of Asahina dials down the uncom...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 700

Jul 08 // Anthony Redgrave
It seems that this episode is self-aware of the significance of 7 as the title shows up in the 7th minute. That means more than a quarter of this episode can be skipped. No, wait that's a lie. After the 10th minute, we return to the main action with Luffy, Law, and Doflamingo. The first 10 minutes were retreads old Fujitora dialogue from three episodes ago. Man, they were really padding for time with this one. Do yourselves a favour and skip to the 10-minute mark because I'm sure they'll repeat the marine talk in a later episode if you still don't understand their motivation. Finally, we begin the backstory between Law and Doflamingo which may be very significant as one of them may join the Straw Hat's if deemed tragic enough. Turns out Law's devil fruit has the death-defying ability to grant immortality at the cost of the devil fruit eater's life. But Law doesn't have any interest in this ultimate power thus putting him in dire straits with Doflamingo. We get a flashback to 10-year-old Law seeking acceptance into the Doflamingo family. He gets beaten on mercilessly by a younger Diamante and Trebol while kid version's of Baby 5 and Buffalo laugh at his misfortune. The family accepts children and have no qualms in kicking the shit out of them either. This shockingly equal treatment speaks volumes of Doflamingo's philosophy.  In the last few moments of the show, we get glimpses of Doflamingo's brother Corazon. He looks like One Piece's version of the Joker even more than the pirate with the epithet 'The Clown". It fits with his rather unpredictable personality of being extremely clumsy yet intimidating from his fits of violence towards children and absolute muteness. Psychotic tendencies must be a genetic trait.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] It seems that this episode is self-aware of the significance of 7 as the main title shows up in the 7th minute. That means more than a quarter of this episode can be skipped. No, wait that's a lie, after the 10th minute we return to the main action with Luffy, Law, and Doflamingo. The first 10 minutes were retreads of what Fujitora had said three episodes ago. Man, they were really padding for time with this one. So do yourselves a favour and skip to the 10-minute mark because I'm sure they'll repeat the marine talk in a later episode for those that don't understand their motivation. Finally, we begin the backstory between Law and Doflamingo which may be very significant as one of them may join the Straw Hat's if deemed tragic enough. Turns out Law's devil fruit has the death-defying ability to grant immortality at the cost of the devil fruit eater's life. But Law doesn't have any interest in this ultimate power thus putting him in dire straits with Doflamingo. We get a flashback to 10-year-old Law seeking acceptance into the Doflamingo family. He gets beaten on mercilessly by a younger Diamante and Trebol while kid version's of Baby 5 and Buffalo laugh at his misfortune. The family accepts children and have no qualms in kicking the shit out of them either. This shocking yet equal treatment speaks volumes of Doflamingo's philosophy.  In the last few moments of the show, we get glimpses of Doflamingo's brother Corazon. He looks like One Piece's version of the Joker even more than the actual clown of the show Buggy. It fits with his rather unpredictable personality of being extremely clumsy yet intimidating from his fits of violence towards children and absolute muteness. Psychotic tendencies must be a genetic trait.
One Piece photo
Tragic Backstory Time
Whew! 700 episodes. I can still remember starting One Piece nearly a decade ago. Back then there were no official streaming sites so I had to go by Youtube episodes that were chopped up into 3 bits. I was inspired to watch it...

OP Up! One Piece Edition

Jul 08 // Red Veron
[embed]34044:4913:0[/embed]"Bon Voyage"Although it may not be the most flashy openings One Piece has had, I think it nicely encompasses the themes explored throughout the show. This opening touches upon each Straw Hat's backstory, the camaraderie they find as part of the Straw Hats, and the freedom they have as pirates. The downside is that we don't get to see any butt-kicking action.[embed]34044:4914:0[/embed]"Kokoro no Chizu"My mind jumps straight to this opening when thinking One Piece apart from the Engrish We Are! There is so much here that I love. The colours, the action, the upbeat song that is synched to the visuals, and being paired to one of the strongest arcs in the series.[embed]34044:4915:0[/embed]"Jungle P"From this intro onwards, One Piece started to extend their intros to two verses instead of the one+ chorus. I assume it was to pad out each episode so they didn't have to show as much per episode. Anyways this is another strong intro even if it's let down by the appearance of Brook and Luffy destroying a civil service boat. [embed]34044:4916:0[/embed]"We Are Special"Yep, we had to have We Are somewhere on this post. I went for the latest as the visuals are easier on the eyes. It's a funky rendition with the visuals being updated to feature more of the Straw Hat's Rogue Gallery. [embed]34044:4917:0[/embed]"Fight Together"After the darker turn of events that were occurring in the show and the previous sombre opening One Day, Fight Together was what we needed as fans. It contrasted the gloominess and depressive feeling of being separated from loved ones with the passion and determination to grow stronger to protect them. This intro is also better than the entire Post-War Arc episodes dedicated to each individual Straw Hat.So which one is your favorite One Piece opening? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! Let us celebrate some One Piece love together!BONUS VIDEO[embed]34044:4918:0[/embed]
OP Up! photo
700 episodes is a lot of Openings
Having 700 episodes in 16 years, the One Piece anime has amassed quite a collection of openings and endings throughout its run. So this week's OP Up! and Week Ender selections are special, as we celebrate 700 episodes of One ...

Japana-Seven: The 7 best One Piece anime filler arcs

Jul 07 // Anthony Redgrave
7. Boss Luffy Historical SpecialsOut of the whole list, this is probably the furthest connected to the One Piece canon. It's based in the Edo era and all the Straw Hats are re-imagined as period characters. I like the whole concept of a new setting with familiar faces and this filler is just that. They're super light-hearted and it's nice to see villains and heroes play off one another in this fresh new setting. They're an hour a piece and I wouldn't recommend watching them all, but they were one of the fillers I always enjoyed whenever they aired. 6. Inherited Recipe! Sanji the cooking expert (Post-Alabasta Arc)Sanji has always been my favorite Straw Hat. He is one of the few characters in the show that can be badass, funny, and smart. The last trait is often missing in many of the Straw Hat's hard hitters, but Sanji has it all. This episode sees the Straw Hats come across a Navy boat with a young cook struggling to make the famous naval curry. Not much happens in terms of action, plot, or even humor, but it's how Sanji mentors the young chef into how to cook. By the mid-point, it's almost like a cooking show, taking the viewer step by step from raw materials preparation to serving suggestions. 5. Ice Hunter Arc/ Lovely Land ArcI would rank this higher on this list because this filler was really good apart from the ending. The set up was great; bounty hunters steal the Straw Hat's flag and they have to get it back while battling them. I love how the show always kept the bosses' appearance hidden until the reveal making him ten times more intimidating than he really was. Also, the fights were pretty good. Luffy had a hard time with the magnetic duo and the team up between Sanji and Usopp against the ice skating couple was great. There seriously needs to be more team up fights in One Piece. 4. Baron Omatsuri and the Secret IslandJust like direct to video movies based on a TV series, One Piece movies are like hour long episodes. In most cases, the main drama stems from the Straw Hats having a falling out before regrouping to fight in the finale. Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island also follows this formula but differs in two key areas that makes it an interesting One Piece movie. The art style and tone. The art style is drastically different making the animation look fluid and at times gloopy and the tone gets really dark in the second half. I say give it a watch if you want to see One Piece being taken somewhere different.  3. Omake: Report Time and Monster TimeThese Omake shorts were aired alongside the Enies Lobby arc. Again most of them are re-imaginings of the Straw Hats in different settings but these are the two I think are worth a watch. Report Time has an interviewer talking to the Straw Hats about the cuisine they lived by before Sanji joins and Monster Time is what it says on the tin, it's Straw Hats as mythical monsters. Both are intended for comedic purposes and are great side distractions without spending a huge time investment. 2. Ocean's NavelThis is the first special episode shown on One Piece and in my young mind it didn't feel like a filler. It's a side story of the Straw Hats exploring an undersea island for treasure. Treasure hunting is an activity pirates should be doing instead of liberating islands from tyrannical rulers. This episode is great, newly joined Sanji cements himself as a new powerhouse by drop kicking a massive octopus, Nami and Usopp playing off each other as the two weakest members of the crew in hilarious ways, and there's a talking skeleton that looks like LeChuck from Monkey Island. It's a fun little episode that sparks the feeling of adventure rather than the mission/objective lead arcs like Alabasta and Impel Down.  1. Davy Back FightThis is technically cheating because it is a canonical arc but really, apart from meeting Aokiji at the end everything else can be skipped. Unless the last chapter has the Straw Hats facing off against Blackbeard in a Davy Back Fight for One Piece you can safely skip the entire game section. Except you shouldn't because it is really fun. The anime version adds more events; roller race, dodgeball, and red light/green light but they don't contract from the spirit of the arc. It's great to see the Straw Hats use their unique abilities in unorthodox ways to win each game. The filler does go against the established canon specifically Chopper overdosing on Rumble Balls without turning into his monster form. But that shouldn't stop you from watching this arc. One Piece is about having fun on the high seas and the Davy Back Fights has that in spades. The whole arc has a nice green grass, blue sky pleasant fun vibe that makes it perfect to turn your brain off and see your favourite characters play, fight, and enjoy themselves before things get serious in the next arc.  7. Boss Luffy Historical Specials Out of the whole list, this is probably the furthest connected to the One Piece canon. It's based in the Edo era and all the Straw Hats re-imagined as period characters. I like the whole concept of a new setting with familiar faces and this filler is just that. They're super light-hearted and it's nice to see villains and heroes play off one another in a fresh new setting. They're an hour a piece and I wouldn't recommend watching them all but they were one of the fillers I did enjoy whenever they aired. 6. Inherited Recipe! Sanji the cooking expert (Post-Alabasta Arc) Sanji has always been my favorite Straw Hat. He is one of the few characters that can be badass, friendly, funny, and smart. The last trait is often missing in many of the Straw Hat's hard hitters, but Sanji has it all. This episode sees the Straw Hats come across a Navy boat with a young cook struggling to cook the famous naval curry. Not much happens in terms of action, plot, or even humor, but it's how Sanji mentors the young chef into how to cook. By the mid-point, it's almost like a cooking how taking the viewer through step by step from raw materials like grinding together spices to serving suggestions. 5. Ice Hunter Arc/ Lovely Land I would rank this higher on this list because this filler was really good apart from the ending. The set up was great; bounty hunters steal the Straw Hat's flag and they have to get it back while battling them. I love how the show always kept the bosses appearance hidden until he was revealed making him ten times more intimidating than he really was. Also, the fights were pretty good. Luffy had a hard time with the magnetic duo and the team up between Sanji and Usopp against the ice skating couple was great. There seriously needs to be more team up fights in One Piece. 4. Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island Just as many direct to video movies based on a TV series, One Piece movies can be considered longer episodes. In all cases there is one point the Straw Hats have to have a falling out before regrouping to fight once more. Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island also follows this formula but differs in two key areas. The art style and tone. The art style is drastically different making the animation look fluid and at times gloopy and the tone gets really dark in the second half. I say give it a watch if you want to see One Piece being taken somewhere different as it's my favorite of all the filler movies so far. A close second would be Clockwork Island Adventure because of wedding dress Nami. 3. Omake: Report Time and Monster Time These shorts were aired alongside the Enies Lobby arc. Again most of them are re-imaginings of the Straw Hats in different settings but these are the two I think are worth a watch. Report Time has an interviewer talking to the Straw Hats explores the cuisine they lived by before Sanji joins. Monster Time is what it says on the tin, it's Straw Hats as mythical monsters. Both are intended for comedic purposes and are great side distractions without spending a huge time investment. 2. Ocean's Navel This is the first special episode shown on One Piece and in my young mind it didn't feel like a filler. It's a side story of the Straw Hats exploring an undersea island for treasure. Treasure hunting is something pirates should be doing instead of liberating islands from tyrannical rulers. This episode is great, it has Sanji showing off his stuff against big ass monsters cementing himself as a new powerhouse, Nami and Usopp playing off each other as the two weakest members of the crew and a talking skeleton that looks like LeChuck from Monkey Island. 1. Davy Back Fight This is technically cheating because it is a canonical arc but really, apart from meeting Aokiji at the end everything else can be skipped. Unless the last chapter has the Straw Hats facing off against Blackbeard in a Davy Back Fight for One Piece you can safely skip it. Except you shouldn't because it is really fun. The anime adds more events; roller race, dodgeball, and red light/green light and they don't contract from the spirit of the arc. The filler does go against some of the established canon specifically Chopper overdosing on Rumble Balls but if you can get passed that then the Davy Back Fights is one filler you don't want to skip.
One Piece photo
700 episodes makes for a lot of filler
Today I'm here to count down the top 7 animated fillers in One Piece as part of the 700th episode celebration. To make this list, it can be anything animated with One Piece slapped on it, from movies to omake. However, if Oda...

Japana-Seven: The 7 best One Piece storylines

Jul 07 // Anthony Redgrave
7. Little Garden ArcAfter Vivi was discovered to be the princess of Alabasta and not a ranking member of the criminal organisation Baroque Works, the mission was now to escort her back to her war-torn kingdom. This arc makes the list because of the main antagonists; Mr. 3 and Miss Golden Week, the artistic duo. From this arc, you see the creativity or required suspension of disbelief needed when viewing Devil Fruit Powers. Mr. 3's power, for example, is the wax wax fruit and yet he can turn typical candle wax into something as strong as steel! This arc has a lasting effect on Zoro as his amputation escape plan can still be seen on his shins. This was played off as a gag but added a sense of futility and desperation Vivi, Zoro, and Nami were going towards to escape.  6. Thriller Bark ArcI think One Piece's biggest strength is the widely different scenery each arc takes place in and the different tropes explored. Thriller Bark explores many horror tropes including; the ghost ship, zombie, and skeletons. Very fitting considering One Piece has a maritime setting, well except the zombie part. Like Little Garden, I love the main villain Gecko Moriah. One Piece fans first heard his name earlier in the series as part of the Seven Warlords of the Sea and speculation ran rampant on what he was like, powers, appearance etc. This air of mystery is what drove me to love him as a character and he did not disappoint when we met him on Thriller Bark. He also utters one of the most chilling lines to Luffy in the whole series just before his defeat. 5. Davy Back Fight ArcI am cheating by placing this on the list as it was in the top 7 filler arcs, but I really like it just because it's silly fun. Pirates are all about having a good time compared to the super serious ninja rivals so it makes sense that there is a universal gambling game in the One Piece world. This arc has team up fights with superb action, great jokes, and it's awesome to see each character use their special abilities to win each event. There are too many shonen shows that lose their charm by taking themselves too seriously and dramatically increasing the stakes as their series continues. One Piece never loses sight of it's childish roots and celebrates it with this arc.   4. Arlong Park ArcI felt that this was the last arc before the Straw Hats headed onto the Grand Line as the Loguetown was more like filler. Arlong Park explores Nami's past and showed the evil effects pirates had on many islands and towns. The crews before would destroy, bully, and abuse townsfolk but not to the extent Arlong did to Cocoyashi. The whole arc felt depressing, dark, and unpleasant and made even worse by Nami's betrayal and her tragic backstory. However, it also makes her redemption and Luffy's involvement even more satisfying as it plays out. The walk to Arlong Park with Overtaken in the background is probably the most badass moment in the whole show. There's no action, no fancy animation. Just walking with determination for justice and sake of their nakama. 3. Impel Down ArcI'm going to say it; I wasn't affected by Ace's death. He was a cool character with a cool power, but his action in Alabasta wasn't enough for him to be endearing. His death didn't come as a tearful gut punch but more of an interesting "huh...". Impel Down, however, was a great arc except the part where there is a transgendered paradise hidden in the maximum security prison. Lots of old faces were re-introduced, impossibly difficult enemies were faced, and best of all, villains became unlikely allies. I love it when that happens! Many of the Straw Hat's Rogues gallery had grown stale and weak so it was fun to see once legitimate threats Buggy and Mr. 3 struggling to keep up with Luffy. 2. Enies Lobby ArcThis whole saga was perfect. Water 7 was hot off the heels of the fun carefree Davy Back Fight despite the scuffle with an admiral and the Straw Hats were enjoying spending their new found wealth from Skypiea. But underlying cracks begin to grow bigger and bigger in the form of a hidden history between Nico Robin and the world government, Franky's backstory and the elephant in the room, Going Merry's condition. What I like about Enies Lobby is that it wrapped all of this up but didn't bog us down with tiresome explanations. The action was fantastic as an added level of drama was layered on with Robin slowly edging towards the Towers of Justice. CP9 (One Piece's equivalent of MI5) were brilliant as the main foes due to their colorful contrasting personalities that foiled the Straw Hat's own personas.  1. Skypiea ArcWhenever I think of long arcs I always think of this one even though it was nowhere the episode count of later arcs. Skypiea was a whole new world outside of sea that inspired exploration and adventure. It felt like an alien land, rich in history and lore. This was emphasised with the different races of Skypieans and Shandia and their different customs too. Montblanc Noland's backstory framed the arc and was  so powerfully tragic that when Mother Sea started playing I started bawling like a baby. It was a story of friendship, loss, misunderstanding, and broken promises, concepts that really hit home for me. The visual themes in this arc were gods, angels, and manifest destiny. All interesting concepts that I liked seeing in One Piece fashion and helped ground me so the whole setting wasn't too alien. The Straw Hats bring their comedy A game too in this arc; Usopp and Luffy breaking the fourth wall by singing Sanji's image song, Robin's dark humor and Zoro's Tarzan yell. Skypiea is an arc I will look back on fondly as it was a enclosed story within the saga. All the loose ends were wrapped up concerning Skypiea and you could follow it through from Noland's first landing to Luffy's liberation by ringing that golden bell.  7) Little Garden Arc After Vivi was discovered to be the princess of a Alabasta and not a ranking member of the criminal organisation Baroque Works, the mission was now to escort her back to her war-torn kingdom. This arc makes this list because of the main antagonists; Mr. 3 and Miss Golden Week, the artistic duo. You can see the creativity or required suspension of disbelief needed when viewing Devil Fruit Powers. Mr. 3's power is the wax wax fruit and yet he can turn typical candle wax into something as strong as steel! I also love Zoro's determination to get out of a trap by attempting to amputate his own legs, scars of this incident can still be seen. 6) Thriller Bark Arc I think One Piece's biggest strength is the widely different scenery each arc takes place in and the different tropes explored. Thriller Bark explores the ghost ship, zombie, and talking skeleton tropes. I love seeing what other tropes One Piece does and Thriller Bark combines all the creepy supernatural stuff into one. Like Little Garden, I love the big bad Gecko Moria. One Piece fans heard his name earlier in the series as part of the Seven Warlords of the Sea and speculation ran rampant on what he was like, powers etc. This air of mystery is what drove me to love him as a character and he did not disappoint when we met him on Thriller Bark. He also utters one of the most chilling lines to Luffy about the new world before his defeat. 5) Davy Back Fight Arc I am cheating by placing this on the list as it was in the top 7 filler arcs but I really like it just because it's just silly. Pirates are all about having a good time compared to the super serious ninja enemies so it makes sense that there is a big gambling event that pirate crews partake. One Piece does a phenomenal job in mixing the serious life or death battles and events with humorous interludes so we can catch our breath. Too many shonen shows lose this charm and become take themselves too seriously but One Piece knows when to ease up on the drama and hit the cheese button. 4) Arlong Park Arc I feel that this was the final arc before the Straw Hats went onto the Grand Line as the Loguetown arc felt more like filler, no major set piece battles just a quick stop with Buggy, Smoker, and cameo by Dragon. But Arlong Park was when the Straw Hats became whole with Nami finally joining the crew officially. Nami always felt sketchy, always leaving the crew to find treasure and using them to get her own way. This arc shows why she was doing this and why I thought Fishmen were all evil until the Fishman Island arc. Arlong is one hell of a bastard and his crew were one of the most intimidating the Straw Hats had faced. Not only was Zoro injured but Fishmen had the advantage as they were powerful on land but even more in the water. Nami's backstory is also one of the most saddest in the whole series which makes the conclusion of the arc all the more satisfying. 3) Impel Down Arc I'm going to say it; I didn't mind Ace's death. He was a cool character but wasn't endearing to me so it didn't come as a tearful gut punch and more of an interesting "huh...". Impel Down however was a great arc except the part where there is a transgendered paradise hidden in the maximum security prison. Lots of old faces re-emerged, impossibly difficult enemies had to be faced, and best of all villains became unlikely allies. I love it when that happens! Many of the Straw Hat's Rogues gallery had grown stale and weak and it was fun to see once legitimate threats Buggy and Mr. 3 struggle to keep up with Luffy as he traversed the increasingly difficult Impel Down. 2) Enies Lobby Arc I think people were expecting this to be no. 1 and will be angry to see that's it at no.2. I do love Enies Lobby and still remains one of the best arcs. Water 7 was the perfect set up by adding the mystery between Nico Robin and her history with the world government, drama between Usopp and Luffy over the Going Merry, and the Franky's own tragic past. It all came together to a grandiose showdown between the Straw Hats and CP9 (One Piece's equivalent of MI5). Each Straw Hat squared off against one agent in the hopes of freeing Robin and tension rose 10 ten fold as Robin was slowly transported towards the Gates of Justice and an impending Buster Call was issued. It all cumulated into non-stop action extravaganza that is only topped by: 1) Skypia Arc Whenever I think of long arcs I always think of this one even though it was no where near the lengths of later arcs. Skypeia was a whole new world outside of sea that inspired exploration and adventure. It felt like an alien place rich in history and lore so we were experiencing at the same time as Straw Hats so everything felt fresh and exciting. There are a lot of little parts of Skypia that makes it my favourite arc. Montblanc Noland's backstory is the best tragic backstory because we were introduced to him as a fairy tale liar but gradually discover that was a fabrication making it even more unfortunate that no one will know the truth. I also really like the themes explored in this arc that of gods, angels, and manifest destiny. A highlight was when Usopp and Nami come face to face with Enel and they have to use their wits to escape. It perfectly mixes the tense moment of them dying at any moment with their laughable foolish attempts at escape.
One Piece photo
Sixteen years of the pirate's life
The Straw Hats have been through a lot in their 16 years on TV. Through smiles, tears, Gomu Gomu no's, and devil fruits I've sat through it all just to see a glimmer of that almighty One Piece. So to celebrate 700 episodes/ 3...

Japanator's Summer 2015 Anime Preview Guide!

Jul 04 // Josh Tolentino
New Series: [embed]33867:4893:0[/embed] Gangsta. Studio: Manglobe (Deadman Wonderland, Ergo Proxy, The World God Only Knows) Director: Shukou Murase (Ergo Proxy, Genocidal Organ) Broadcasting: July 1, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) One of my pet armchair-anime-historian theories is that the true successors to the hyper-masculine era of anime and manga in the '80s and early '90s, the heirs to the likes of Fist of the North Star and its ilk, aren't the "superhero" titles of the modern day, but gritty, crime-and-violence action franchises, of which Black Lagoon stands as current exemplar. That's just a fancy way of me saying that Gangsta., whose title and content seem to originate from two different facets of criminal pop culture, is after that crown, like Jormungand was not so long ago. While I have my doubts that it can make off with it, considering the high regard Black Lagoon still commands these days, the saga of two badasses who pull crazy jobs for both cop and crim alike, stands to be an enjoyable action romp. It's also out right now!   [embed]33867:4894:0[/embed] Chaos Dragon Studio: Silver Link (Fate Kaleid Liner Prisma Ilya, Watamote) Director: Masato Matsune  Broadcasting: July 2, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) Hey, kids! You know what's cool? The works of Gen Urobuchi, Kinoko Nasu, Ryougo Narita, and Makoto Sanda, that's what! Their combined record of creativity boasts such titles Madoka Magica, Fate/stay night, Durarara!! and Record of Lodoss War. Therefore, Chaos Dragon, which brings all these creators under one project's roof, should be at least five times as awesome as any single one, right? Well, maybe. The "too many cooks in the kitchen" adage still holds true in most things, though there's no denying the appeal of wanting to see what results when you put a number of famous talents in a room, have them play Dungeons & Dragons, then adapt the transcripts into a real live anime series.    [embed]33867:4895:0[/embed] Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace Studio: Lerche (Carnival Phantasm, Assassination Classroom) Director: Seiji Kishi (Angel Beats!, Persona 4 The Golden Animation) Broadcasting: July 2, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) The honor of this summer's first official simulcast debut goes to Rampo Kitan, which also happens to be commemorating a whole host of other occasions, including the return of detective-themed anime after a brief surge in popularity a few years ago (when you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting some kind of take on loli Sherlock Holmes), and the 50th anniversary of the death of Edogawa Rampo, a famous Japanese mystery novelist.  I've never been much of a fan of mystery fiction, so I honestly couldn't tell you if we're seeing much of Rampo's work or influences in Rampo Kitan, but he's an author of a similar era to Ango Sakaguchi, who wrote the book that another 2011's somewhat overlooked detective anime Un-Go is based on. Rampo Kitan appears to be angling to push similar buttons.   [embed]33867:4896:0[/embed] GATE Studio: A-1 Pictures (Sword Art Online, Anohana) Director: Takahiko Kyogoku (Love Live! School Idol Project) Broadcasting: July 2, 2015 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) One of the most enduring and - I'll freely admit - fun thought exercises in nerd culture is trying to find out how people from the real world would fare in the many fantastical settings preferred by genre fiction. This usually takes the form of "If you lived in [Insert Fantasy Setting Here], how would you do?"-types of questions, but one particularly popular mutation of that exercise is pitting fantasy against reality, usually a bunch of dudes with guns and tanks against things like dragons, elves, and other magical creatures. It's a staple of everything from Reign of Fire to Pax Romana, even to recent anime like Outbreak Company and arguably the now massive "stuck in a game" subgenre. GATE is a slightly different beast, though, in that it tosses the real-life Japan Self-Defense Force trough a magic portal full of monsters, elves, and lolita mages. In fact, the promo visuals for GATE looks like a Call of Duty or Battlefield soldier accidentally got copy-pasted onto the box art of a Compile Heart JRPG. This could be an interesting watch, provided one tries not to look too hard at the potential for right-wing-nutjob-levels of subtext.   [embed]33867:4897:0[/embed] SHIMONETA: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn't Exist Studio: J.C. Staff (Danmachi, Food Wars) Director: Youhei Suzuki (The Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat, Aki no Kanade) Broadcasting: July 4, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) Right as America celebrates its freedom from the oppression of the British, another world celebrates the freedom for high schoolers to run around telling filthy jokes and yelling about copulation, intercourse, and all the less-polite terminology for sexual congress between consenting adults. Expect to hear a lot of screeching, see a lot of fan service, and detect comically obvious subtextual criticism of recent "youth development" legislation with the potential to affect pop culture content.   [embed]33867:4898:0[/embed] God Eater Studio: Ufotable (Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Fate/Zero) Director: Takayuki Hirao (GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack, Magical Sisters Yoyo & Nene) Broadcasting: July 3, 2015 (Streaming on Daisuki) Considering how much I got hyped up for Unlimited Blade Works, being excited about Ufotable's latest project, now that they're nominally free of the Nasuverse's clutches (at least until they start crunching on the Heaven's Feel movie), should be a no-brainer. And it is! I am indeed hyped, for God Eater is my favorite Monster Hunter competitor, and it's got a style all its own. In fact, it's just stylish enough and takes itself seriously enough that the Ufotable of this era is the perfect studio to pick it up. I'm already mildly optimistic thanks to their choice of a new, original protagonist to replace the canonical putz that is the manga-based "Yuu Kannagi". This new guy seems to be constructed more in the Eren Jaeger mold of being really mad at monsters, but it should at least make for more engaging character dynamics than the boringly earnest audience stand-in. Not that it even matters, given that the game's protagonists are fully customizable by default, anyway. In any case, if God Eater ends up being a lavishly animated action romp and no more, it'll have done its job perfectly.   [embed]33867:4899:0[/embed] School-Live! (Gakkou Gurashi!) Studio: Lerche (Carnival Phantasm, Assassination Classroom) Director: Masaomi Ando (White Album 2, Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse) Broadcasting: July 9, 2015 (Licensed by Sentai Filmworks) Three schoolgirls have an impossibly idyllic high school life. Everything is perfect, except for the fact that they're hallucinating, and in fact they're the only survivors of a zombie apocalypse and are trying to survive.  It's a deliciously weird premise that sounds right up the alley of the staff, many of whom are veterans from Gen Urobuchi's Nitroplus, an outfit long known for disturbing and tragic stories. Some folks are describing the manga this is based on as a real emotional rollercoaster (one that mostly angles down), but I'm not fully convinced of that yet. If nothing else, it does promise to be something outside the norm for typical "everyday life" fare.   [embed]33867:4900:0[/embed] Prison School Studio: J.C. Staff (Danmachi, Food Wars) Director: Tsutomu Mizushima (Girls und Panzer, Shirobako) Broadcasting: July 10, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) Five men. A thousand women. One high school. That's normally a setup I wouldn't pay a huge amount of attention to, and if I'm honest, I'm mainly interested in Prison School just by virtue of it's being attached to Director Tsutomu Mizushima. Pretty much every show of his that I've watched has ended up on my favorites list (though admittedly I haven't seen it all), and I see no reason to stop giving him opportunities to add to it.  Besides, the Prison School manga has apparently garnered a reputation as a hilarious (if divisive) satire of the whole "harem high school" concept. Here, the few men at a formerly all-girls school are treated less like kings (as is the common conceit) and more like prey, which, honestly, is the far more likely scenario.   [embed]33867:4901:0[/embed] Everyday Life with Monster Girls Studio: Lerche (Carnival Phantasm, Assassination Classroom) Director: Tatsuya Yoshihara (Arve Rezzle, Yatterman Night) Broadcasting: July 7, 2015 Well, it took 'em long enough. Ever since a little comic called "Life with Lamia" made its way off Pixiv some years ago, I had been expecting someone to go and make a proper anime out of the whole "Monster Girl" conceit. As a natural extension of the whole catgirl phenomenon, it was inevitable, but I am genuinely surprised it didn't happen sooner. Unfortunately, though, besides the many amazing athropomorphizations of various mythical beasts and creatures, the show itself appears to be a standard harem/fan service rom-com. Not that anyone would expect that much different from a show titled "everyday life". Plus, that's, like, the whole appeal of monster girls anyway.   [embed]33867:4902:0[/embed] Actually, I Am (My Monster Secret) Studio: TMS Entertainment (Yowapeda, Zetman) Director: Yasutaka Yamamoto (Hero Bank) Broadcasting: July 6, 2015 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) "Actually, I Am"...what? What is she? The answer to that question would depend on who you ask, and forms the central conceit of this season's other monster girl anime, as a milquetoast young man who can't keep a secret to save his life is charged with concealing the true, monstrous natures of his female friends from the general public. Fans of the less human aspects of the monster girl concept might be a bit disappointed initially, seeing as the monsters hinted so far trend towards humanoid types like vampires and aliens and things that aren't lamias or snake-women. That said, I'm getting a bit of a similar vibe here to Spring's Yamada-kun and Seven Witches, so that could end up a net gain.    [embed]33867:4903:0[/embed] Overlord Studio: MADHOUSE (My Love STORY!!, The Tatami Galaxy) Director: Naoyuki Itou (Digimon: Data Squad, Hunter x Hunter: Phantom Rouge) Broadcasting: July 7, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) Oh look, another anime where a dude gets stuck in an online RPG game world made real. How novel!  It's easy to dismiss this rapidly growing subgenre with a yawn, but I'd be lying if I said that the gamer within me isn't at least mildly interested. Besides, there does seem to be a bit of a twist in MADHOUSE's latest, with our lead not merely trapped in his game, but reincarnated into the role of the title's final boss, the titular, skeleton-bodied Overlord. That's a trope in and of itself, but hey, at least it's not yet another story about an ace gamer dude meeting with unending success as usual.   [embed]33867:4904:0[/embed] Snow White with the Red Hair  Studio: BONES (Captain Earth, Heroman) Director: Masahiro Ando (Sword of the Stranger, Blast of Tempest) Broadcasting: July 6, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) Fairy tale deconstruction, thy name is "Snow White". Good old "Shirayukihime" is anime's go-to character whenever Glorious Nippon wants to take on the roots of western fantasy fiction. That said, there's not a whole lot here to promote the thought that this might be the next Ookami-san, either, with the Snow White in question being a red-headed commoner who flees a forced marriage to the local prince with the help of a young noble named Zen. Romance and fantasy tourism ensue. That actually works for me. After all, not every fantastical setting has to be milked for epic adventure, and some of my favorite fantasy anime are low-key explorations of an exotic land with a side of feelings, rather than rollicking action. And it'll be interesting to see BONES get back on that particular genre horse after a long time.   [embed]33867:4905:0[/embed] Sky Wizards Academy Studio: Diomedea (Kantai Collection, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!) Director: Takayuki Inagaki (Desert Punk) Broadcasting: July 8, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) You know that feeling you get when you look at an anime poster or even just hear its title and feel like you can predict the plot, characterization, and setting details from all that? And you're not cheating because it's one of those deliberately obvious light novel titles? That's the vibe I'm getting off Sky Wizards Academy right about now, with its story about a magical academy of (wait for it) Sky Wizards and the one disgraced ace wizard who takes on a class of misfit young girl wizards.  This, of course, is not to say that it can't be good or enjoyable, or even that my predictions will be wrong. It's just fascinating to see how even in a nominally creative industry you can still produce artistic works that just outwardly *scream* "product", if you get my meaning.   [embed]33867:4906:0[/embed] Charlotte Studio: P.A. Works (Shirobako, Hanasaku Iroha) Director: Yoshiyuki Asai Broadcasting: July 4, 2015 (Broadcasting on Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Daisuki) Pay no attention to the Director credit on Charlotte (sorry, Asai-san), because the big name here is Jun Maeda, he of Key and Sad Girls in Snow. Maeda is like M. Night Shyamalan for anime feelings, in the sense that pretty much everyone who knows his name likes to think they know exactly what he's doing when he does things. Whether or not that notion is actually true doesn't even matter.  In any case, it's also big because Charlotte is Maeda's first anime original since Angel Beats!, with much of the same team at P.A. Works helping produce it. Personally I liked Angel Beats!. Cliche as it was I did derive properly satisfying feels from all the tragic backstory. Ironically, though, it was the romantic bits that I bounced off of. Perhaps it's a good sign for me, then, that the action-to-melodrama balance of the trailer leans more towards the former?   [embed]33867:4907:0[/embed] Classroom Crisis Studio: Lay-duce (Go! Go! 575, Magi: Adventure of Sinbad) Director: Kenji Nagasaki (Gundam Build Fighters, Gundam 00) Broadcasting: July 3, 2015 (Streaming on Daisuki and Crunchyroll) Despite the rather banal high-school-students-with-jobs conceit and its classification as a rom-com, Classroom Crisis might just be this season's show to get the sci-fi juices flowing. Sure, the kids are in high school and have jobs, but when the high school is on frickin' Mars, and the jobs are designing custom spaceships, then you've got my attention.   Sequels, Shorts and Other Notables I've never really believed in the concept of the "Summer Doldrums", but thankfully for anime preview writers who are running terribly late, this summer is strangely stuffed with sequels and short-form productions. Most prominent there would be the new Dragon Ball Super, the first actual sequel to the Dragon Ball Story in nearly two decades. I've never been much of a Dragon Ball person, but it is quite exciting to see that segment of the fandom get all excited again. Then there's the continuation of Durarara!! x2, with the Ten portion of that arc getting its due, ideally this time with the studio not forgetting to animate entire portions of the final episode. The divisive Gatchaman Crowds also gets a second dip, where people may once more fall in love (or hate) with the way Hajime talks. I think it's cute, for the record. Also of interest is Aquarion Logos, a quasi-sequel to Aquarion EVOL, which turned out to not be a sequel to Aquarion at all. Non Non Biyori, Wagnaria, To LOVE Ru, Junjou Romantica and Hetalia also get new seasons after a lengthy absence from the scene, as well as a third (!) season of Fate Prisma Illya, which I honestly didn't think possible. Then again, Symphogear is also getting a third season this summer, so I guess anything is possible if you IMASINE it. Idolmaster Cinderella Girls continues the saga of me almost regretting calling myself an Idolmaster fan when I just can't get into all these new cast members.  Short anime really have come into their own after treasures like Tonari no Seki-kun and, er, Sega Hard Girls, which means that there are even more of them around now across an ever-expanding line of premises. You've got the usual idol and everyday life fodder like Danchigai, Sore ga Seiyuu!, Million Doll, and Wakaba Girl, but also in the margins are weird things like Pillow Boys a show about body pillows turned into cute boys, and Wakako-zake, a show about Miyuki Sawashiro visiting pubs and getting plastered. Even cute-bait and boobs anime have made a jump to the short format, with My Wife Is The Student Council President! and Himouto! Umaru-chan and the so-obvious-I-barely-need-to-preview-it Bikini Warriors. Life is good if you've only got 5-10 minutes to spare in your life for anime-viewing. And that's most of what she wrote! What are you watching this season? [embed]33867:4893:0[/embed] School-Live! (Gakkou Gurashi!) Studio: Lerche (Carnival Phantasm, Assassination Classroom)
Summer Anime Preview! photo
The Heat Is On
The Summer is nigh and the sun is out, and you know what that means, folks: Huddle indoors and watch Japanese cartoons! Well, come to think of it, that's our solution to every season, but hey, we're probably biased. After all...


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