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Annotated Anime: Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans episodes 4-5

Nov 10 // Josh Tolentino
Iron-Blooded Orphans' fourth episode mostly consists of place-setting, giving out more details as to the situation between Earth and Mars (more on that in a bit), as well as emphasizing what's at stake for the people involved. Now that Tekkadan has its first job - escorting Aina to Earth to appeal for Martian independence - the crew need to go about the hard work of, y'know, getting her to Earth. With Orga and the other leaders off getting CGS' old space-ride up to spec (and sleazebucket Todo planning some kind of betrayal), Mikazuki and the others get some downtime, which they spend picking corn from Biscuit's family farm. It's here that the orphans' hard-luck situation is underlined further. Crappy economics and the stigma of being "Human Debris" - slaves, basically - mean that Tekkadan is their only chance at an honest living. Incidentally, the episode also lays out a little bit more background on Earth's history in the Iron-Blooded Orphans setting. I love this sort of stuff, mainly because of sci-fi anime's propensity for redrawing the map in hilarious, color-coded ways. It's always fun to see the way a given setting organizes its world can clue you into its own worldview. In this case, Earth's four power blocs include the U.S. and Latin America united in the SAU, East Asia, Australia, Oceania, and the subcontinent in their own little co-prosperity sphere, and Europe largely absorbed by Africa, the Middle East, and West Asia. Poor Russia has to make do with Canada and Alaska. All things considered, it's not quite as farfetched as some other anime world maps I've seen, though one can't help but wonder just what in the world took out that huge chunk of New South Wales. A meteor capable of making a crater that big would compare favorably to the one that killed the dinosaurs! Mikazuki also has a run-in with Fareed and Gaelio, who are on Mars trying to investigate just what it is Major Coral is hiding. A bit of bad driving later, Mikazuki accidentally starts a rivalry with both Gjallarhorn agents, and Fareed gets to pull his Candy Man schtick on a couple of kids.  All the setup here pays off in episode five, where the Tekkadan heads to space for the first time. Todo's betrayal - selling out Aina to the Tekkadan's would-be guides and Gjallarhorn - goes down, only to reveal that Orga had it thought through. He's a smart guy not to trust the smirking geezer sporting a Hitler mustache. This is where Tekkadan's own White Base, an assault ship redubbed the Isaribi comes into play, debuting with an asteroid-based anchor turn straight from that awful Battleship live-action movie. It looks better than it sounds. What doesn't look as great is Gundam Barbatos' first turn at space combat. Conceptually, it's great. Nobody in Iron-Blooded Orphans has any beam weapons yet, so it's all about bullets and heavy steel axes, including Barbatos' awesome hybrid of poleax, lance, and pile bunker. For a guy who's never flown, Mikazuki seems a natural at space combat, something Fareed puts down to the kid's Alaya-Vijnana System. Simply put, not only do the horns on Mikazuki's back make the Gundam behave like his own body, but expand his awareness like some kind of Cyber-Newtype (but without the whole thing with "This Pressure!!!"). Strong as that is, though, it's a thing Fareed quickly learns to exploit, targeting the extraneous, spiky bits that Mikazuki can't "feel" naturally, like Barbatos' thrusters. You don't mess with the chocolate man. On a side note, it's interesting to see the closest thing this Gundam has to the "Newtype" archetype cast as something forced on only the lowest of the low classes. Everywhere else, Newtypes are the future of human evolution. In Iron-Blooded Orphans, they're a form of mutilation and, like Gundam Frames, a relic of an old, irrelevant war. That's a contrast I'm actually hoping the show is bold enough to take further. With a bold rescue and a traitor disposed of, we're 2 for 2 in Tekkadan's favor, and despite the fact that Orga, Mikazuki, and the crew have come out ahead pretty much every time they've gone up against the odds, what's fun about Iron-Blooded Orphans is that it still feels pretty great to root for these perpetual underdogs.  [Check out Iron-Blooded Orphans every week on Daisuki and YouTube!]
Iron-Blooded Orphans photo
The Candy Man Can
It's been a little while since we last checked in with Iron-Blooded Orphans, and as a result, we're a little behind. Stuff is definitely happening, though, from table-setting in cornfields to the beginning of what is clearly the Tekkadan's rise to power. Now, won't you take these sweets as a form of apology?

Muv-Luv photo

Mission Complete: Muv-Luv Kickstarter comes to a triumphant close

The Earth is now saved!
Nov 05
// Salvador GRodiles
Ladies and gentlemen. It looks like we've successfully vanquished the BETA, as the Muv-Luv Kickstarter ended a total of $1,255,444 on Nov. 3. Not only did they managed to achieve every stretch goal possible (such as...
Gundam photo

Raise your flag for Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans' chiptune opening

Mars has gone retro
Nov 01
// Salvador GRodiles
With a new Gundam show airing this season, it was only a matter of time until Studio Megaane would use his amazing skills to give Barbatos a retro upgrade. Once again, the guy did an amazing job with capturing the essen...
Gundam the Origin 2 photo
Gundam the Origin 2

Have your first lengthy look at the next episode of Gundam: The Origin

That Artesia, she sad
Oct 21
// Josh Tolentino
It looks like the hot, shirtless boys of Iron-Blooded Orphans aren't the only game in town when it comes to Gundam. There's also the undying chronicles of the Universal Century, which Bandai will never abandon so long a...

Iron-Blooded Orphans photo
Iron-Blooded Orphans

Annotated Anime: Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans episode 3

When Iron Flowers Bloom
Oct 20
// Josh Tolentino
Back when first wrote about Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, I noted that the show's more morally ambiguous, grittier approach seemed to set it apart from its peers in mainline Gundam fiction. As of the latest episode, that sentiment continues to hold true.
Gundam Iron Blood Orphans photo
Gundam Iron Blood Orphans

First Impressions: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans

Steel Yourself
Oct 11
// Josh Tolentino
Another year, another new Gundam series. My interest in Sunrise and Bandai's flagship has waxed and waned over the years, but I'll be the first to admit that I'm rarely attracted to the "mainline" shows that make up the core ...
Gundam photo

Simulcast GET: Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans heads to and Hulu

New Gundam series for everyone!
Sep 30
// Salvador GRodiles
It looks like there's another good reason to be a Gundam fan this year, since the upcoming series, Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans, hits and Hulu on Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Japan Standard Time/3:30 a.m. Pacifi...
Muv-Luv photo

Humanity Wins: Muv-Luv's Kickstarter is off to an amazing start

This calls for a celebration
Sep 27
// Salvador GRodiles
After an amazing great start on Thursday, the Kickstarter for Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative has reached its goal to be localized in the West. In other words, the BETA might as well pack their bags and leave Earth...
Ragnarok photo

It's Showtime: Big O's Director hits us with a cool giant robot short

Can you spot the Marvel reference?
Sep 25
// Salvador GRodiles
You know you're in for a treat when the Japan Animator Expo project releases a mecha anime short that's directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama, the man who brought us The Big O. Even though the piece took place in an area that's in p...
Gundam VS Force photo
Gundam VS Force

Praise G: Gundam Extreme VS Force heads to Asia in English

Cheers, Mobile Suit fans!
Sep 17
// Salvador GRodiles
Now here's something that you don't see every day: During TGS '15's SCEJA Conference Asia Session, the folks at Bandai Namco have announced that they're bringing Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Force, the upcoming title i...
G-Tekketsu photo

Rejoice? The next Gundam series gets Anohana's Director and Writer

The Gundam We Saw That Day
Jul 15
// Salvador GRodiles
[Update: GundamInfo posted a recap video of the show's press conference, which can be watched below] Now this is what I like to call an unexpected turn of events. During the live stream for the next Gundam series, Mobile Sui...
Gundam photo

AX '15: Right Stuf to release Zeta Gundam, Victory Gundam, and more

Believe in the Sign of Zeta
Jul 05
// Salvador GRodiles
Good news, everyone; during Anime Expo '15, the gang at Right Stuf have revealed the next phase of their Gundam distribution deal with Sunrise. This time around, the company plans to release Victory Gundam, Gundam X,&nbs...
Super Robot Wars BX photo
Super Robot Wars BX

Super Robot War BX's first trailer fills our bodies with delicious courage

All part of a well-balanced diet
May 22
// Salvador GRodiles
If there's one thing that the Super Robot Wars series does right with their trailers, it's that they tend to fill people's hearts with a huge surge of hot-blooded energy. In most cases, this high dosage of enthusiasm can res...
Super Robot Wars BX photo
Super Robot Wars BX

Prepare for takeoff: Super Robot Wars BX is now a thing

Our King of Braves has returned
May 20
// Salvador GRodiles
It's been a month since 3rd Super Robot Wars Z Part 2 hit Japan and the next title has been revealed. Titled Super Robot Wars BX, this upcoming game's being made for the 3DS and it plans to improve on the features from Super ...
Iconic Field photo
Iconic Field

Aw, Snap: Iconic Field shows off Eva Mecha Designer's cool artwork

Sounds like a good time
May 08
// Salvador GRodiles
Talk about an amazing turnaround, people. After the Japan Animator Expo project hit us with a remix and a making-of video, their 21st piece, "Iconic Field," graces our eyes with Ikuto Yamashita's (the Evangelion ser...

Final Impressions: Gundam Build Fighters Try

Apr 06 // Josh Tolentino
Really, Build Fighters may have the scrappy, underdog attitude, but the loud, proud commercials for the HGBF line of new plastic models, carefully timed to come after every opening theme and every credit roll, speak to the depth of support the show actually has. Hell, the first season was the Gundam show of its season, with no other "name" to share the slot. It wasn't a one-off, never-to-be-repeated side journey. This was Bandai doing what Bandai does with Gundam, and growing a new limb in the series' ever-branching fictional universes. The Build Fighters universe stands as an equal peer along the siblings that birthed 00, SEED, and the rest. Heck, in a meta sense, it might even last longer, since some of the modularity and universality introduced with the Build Fighters models is sure to trickle into future lines, long after the series have come and gone. But back to the thing I said about scrappy attitudes and such. Regardless of how much of a sure thing Sunrise and Bandai did or didn't believe it would end up, Build Fighters went in like a show with something to prove. It never let up and reaffirmed that the most important thing about Gundam in this day and age isn't sudsy ruminations about war and peace, or about pretty boys getting angry with each other, or even the sci-fi applications of large robots and the mysterious particles that power them. Don't get me wrong, that's all pretty important, but most important thing is having a love of plastic models (especially Bandai's many Gundam-branded plastic models) and the buying, assembling, and customizing thereof. As in the case of Reiji, a love of the Gundam fiction isn't even required, just a love of Gunpla and Gunpla Battle, which represents the prime good and ultimate virtue of joyful competition.  In a sense, then, it's all the more fitting that Build Fighters Try ends at the Meijin Cup, a thinly veiled reference to the yearly Gunpla-customization contest that Bandai holds, though of course, the Build Fighters-verse's Meijin Cup is a contest held with all the pageantry of the Oscars or Golden Globes, all to celebrate some hot-ass customs of all your favorite plastic robots.  The Meijin Cup is right where everyone loves Gunpla for what it is in both this and other worlds: a lovely little modelling hobby. It's where models are judged not on their battle prowess but build quality, where a young Sazaki brother can build a budding bromance with the sickly little kid that never used the stickers, and where you can put together designs as conventional as a Zeta reinterpretation of the Lightning Gundam to...a horrifically embarrassing tribute to everyone's favorite Try Fighter, Fumina. Side note: The designer for Super Fumina is none other than than Fumikane Shimada, known to girls-with-robot-bits-on-'em connoisseurs as the guy behind Strike Witches and more than a few Kantai Collection Fleet Girls. And he did a pretty good job, too, referencing Fumina's first Gunpla, her Powered GM Cardigan, in the design. Anyway, the episode's basically a long victory lap, waxing eloquent about how transformative Gunpla fandom can be, or more philosophically, being a fan, and engaging (positively, of course!) with the subculture that fandom provides. It makes a best-case scenario for when subcultures conquer the world (though to be fair, Gunpla is mainstream "over there" in ways it will never ever be in our universe), and treasures the joy that can only come from experiencing the deeper aspects of fandom for the first time. That said, for as much thematic weight as this last episode carries, structurally it falls prey to the same weaknesses that doom Build Fighters Try to live in the shadow of its predecessor. With the drama all over last week, this week's episode feels weightless, as inconsequential as it is in truth. It's quite similar to the "Gunpla Fair" episode in season one, as it features lots of downtime, low-stakes dustups, and friendly, "let's all be Gunpla Battle fans together" character dynamics. And like season one's version, it would've been much better before the final fight. It's all well and good that Build Fighters Try is striking out for itself, and building its own mythology and stable of original designs. Frankly, I'm not that big a gunpla fan, so I don't even care that most of the biggest stars of the show couldn't possibly be reconstructed using stock parts, the same way that the Star Build Strike, Zaku Amazing, or Wing Fenice were "based" on something "real" to the Gundam fiction. It doesn't really matter that Sekai had to have had access to a 3D printer or nanomachines to have made his Kamiki Burning Gundam a reality, because this is a show where magic fairy dust makes the dolls move like they do in the cartoons. Ultimately, the problems with Build Fighters Try were more in the narrative than in its world-building. Chief among these is that unlike the previous season, the kinds of rivalries and friendships that got built up over the whole series didn't get the room they needed to breath, grow, and establish themselves. In part this was due to the team structure. Many of the most compelling rivalries were between people who would never end up fighting each other. I'd have loved to see how Fumina could match her Star Winning against Sekai or Yuuma's Gunpla, and the series itself acknowledges as much when it refers to Wilfrid and Adou's never-to-be dream duel. But that's small change compared to the way earlier competitors were muscled out of the way once the Nationals started. I can guess that the creators were intent on giving the Try Fighters good opponents from the get-go, to avoid the stint of mook-victories Sei and Reiji went on on their road to the World Championship, but that only makes the pain of seeing Gyanko and Simon Izuna sit on the sidelines for episode after episode more acute. Sure, the Gunpla Academy, Sekai's senpai, and even the SD-R triplets were more compelling adversaries, but it's impossible not to imagine how much better those matches would've been had we, the audience, been nursing a desire to see them fight for realz on the promised day. We cared about the fight between Fellini and Reiji because Fellini had spent most of the series mentoring Reiji - it was a classic master-student showdown. We cared about the fight between Sei and Mao because Mao had been so friendly and helpful every other time, and this was finally were the gloves had to come off. And so on. Build Fighters Try needed to let those relationships grow to bear that sweet emotional fruit, but sadly the show planted the seeds halfway through, instead of at the start. That aside, Build Fighters Try's only crime is in being less impressive than its forebear, and being slightly less awesome than something that's pretty awesome is a decent enough failure to live with. I for one, can't wait for the planned OVA to surface later this year. 
Build Fighters Try photo
A Good Try
In my mind, in the story I've built for myself for lack of genuine information, Gundam Build Fighters is The Little Gundam That Could, a show and concept that someone in the bowels of Bandai or Sunrise had to fight ...

Annotated Anime: Gundam Build Fighters Try episodes 23-24

Mar 30 // Josh Tolentino
If you were thinking that Sunrise would be using up two of the season's last three episodes for the battle everyone's been waiting for - the championship bout between Celestial Sphere and the Try Fighters - you'd be wrong. Episode 23 is all prep work, which feels a little bit ludicrous. Don't get me wrong: I'm no fan of overly drawn-out fights, but honestly, the kind of pep talks and character building and introspection involved in episode 23 hardly merits taking up all the allotted time. If I were in charge, I'd have compressed the sequence to the first half and spent the second half and the rest of episode 24 on the fight proper. For better or worse, though, I'm not in charge, and episode 23 reiterates a number of points we've heard before, including the not-exactly-new revelation that Sekai considers himself an amateur, unqualified to truly call himself a "build fighter" (title mention!) due to his inexperience with the building and Gundam lore aspect of the Gunpla Battle scene. That seems a bit at odds with Build Fighters' "enjoy Gunpla however you like" philosophy, but it does stand to reason that the idealized Gunpla Battler would be someone who's at least willing to try engaging with Gunpla on its most involved terms. Let's remember that even if Reiji never watched a Gundam episode in his life, even he got to building his own Gunpla. Besides the brief episode introducing Minato Sakai, Sekai's yet to fly his own work, content to win in Sei, then Yuuma's assemblies.  But of course, now's not the time to play snap-build, because there's fightin' to be done and championships to be won, and while I have my issues with the pacing of the episodes (and the series as a whole), there's no denying that this final battle is one of the most intense Sunrise have delivered for the franchise to date. Going above and beyond the previous encounters, everyone involved in the championship match gets a moment to shine, as well as work together as a team. There's something for every kind of battling fan here: For the teamplay enthusiasts, seeing everyone cooperating, doing combo attacks, and actually using tactics is a treat. Fans of one-on-one dueling and precious drama get that in spades too, as Fumina, Yuuma, Adou, and Shia all take each other out of contention with all the theatrics and epic, trope-filled Gundam gloriousness expected of a marquee mecha show. Heck, Adou and Yuuma even experience the classic "pilot's face dissolves into a white outline" mecha-explosion "death" moment, and it's great. In the end, though, there can only be one (against one), and it's Wilfrid and Sekai that close out the proceedings with a sudden death overtime match, their gunpla cobbled together from the parts of their partners' devastated machines. I can't help but wonder if Bandai will be selling Sekai's Try Burning Frankenstein's Monster, because that'd be a pretty good opportunity to sell gunpla fans on the modular nature of the GBF model kit line. Universal polycaps are almost literally the key to victory in the fight to end all the fights, and even enable Sekai to pull off some truly inventive combinations using the features of the Lighting, Winning, and Burning in complement.  As expected, though, it's the Try Fighters that come out on top, ending the Gunpla Academy's six-year winning streak, rewarding fans with the only glimpse of Sei Iori we're likely to get, and hinting at potential future seasons as the Try Fighters prepare to resolve their respective subplots. After all, Fumina at least has to beat down her heroine, Lady Kawaguchi, right? Then again, there is still one last episode to go. I doubt that this is a thread Build Fighters Try intends to tie off, but you never know what can happen in a denouement.
Gundam Build Fighters photo
Fun, Isn't It?
Welcome to the latest installment of Annotated Anime, brought to you by the Church of GunplaBattology. In the header you can see the benefits being a Build Fighter™ can bring to your life. Our two latest recruits have g...

Annotated Anime: Gundam Build Fighters Try episodes 21-22

Mar 14 // Josh Tolentino
Despite the entry of Granada's team Von Braun, and the building up of Lucas Nemesis as a highly-skilled spoiler angling to take a crack at Sekai (and who isn't?), it's team Celestial Sphere and the Gunpla Academy kids that get the luck of the draw and treating viewers to a look at battle the way the pros do it. That's episode 21 in a nutshell, showing off a fight between two fully coordinated, committed teams. No offense to the Try Fighters, but in many ways, our three protagonists are essentially lucky amateurs, getting by on talent, heart, and the protection of narrative import. There's no denying their skill, but they're there as upstarts. Both Celestial Sphere and Von Braun, on the other hand, have been training for these kinds of moments for years, and it shows. In fact, Lucas may have been training for it for much of his childhood, judging by the way he name-drops his inspiration, Aila Jykiainen.  That isn't to say the passion is absent from the battle, but there's a coldness and almost clinical precision to the fight that even the hot-blooded antics of Adou and his Gundam-eating Gunpla can't dispel. Even the way Wilfrid wins his final clash with Lucas, after Celestial Sphere scuppers Von Braun's tactic of feeding Lucas' custom-tuned Crossbone extra Plavsky fuel, carries a kind of fatalistic air. There's no moralizing or speeches, no dirty tricks or discussions of philosophy in this match: Just two teams fighting to end each other the best way they know how. And Celestial Sphere comes out on top, thanks almost entirely to skill, and a bit of technical gimmickry, from Shia's highly convenient built-in Haro-powered repair system, and Wilfrid's own version of the Burning Burst System (it's the new hotness in heroic Gunpla action!). They certainly earn their victory, but the battle feels almost preordained. Contrast that to the next episode, featuring the duel between the Try Fighters and Minato Sakai's Build Busters, which is all hot-blooded passion, speeches, and the most bad-ass gunpla fighting you can ask for. The passion in question is Yuuma's. Minato  resents his eastern rival because he thinks Yuuma's a wishy-washy putz who can't commit, either to Gunpla Battling or Gunpla Building. And he has a point, Yuuma himself said as much, so one can hardly blame Minato  for his burning desire to be the blue-haired boy's...rival. Yes, rival. Just...rival. But again, it's all about passion. Minato 's passion to kindle their burning rivalry, Yuuma's passion to prove himself after being such a putz for so long, Fumina's passion to see herself and her boys take that Winning Road, the other Build Busters members' passion to have some good memories to leave high school with, and of course, Sekai's passion just to have a good fight. It's all hot, and all on display as the Try Fighters take on the Tryon 3 and its super duper mega ultra zebra Plavsky robot powers. Minato accuses them of not having respect for the romance of super robots when they try to interrupt the Build Busters' transformation sequence, but, c'mon, both teams are playing to win and you know that once a super robot gets its "gattai" on, winning gets a lot harder for the other guys. But this is (finally), Yuuma and Minato 's show, which provides Build Fighters Try another opportunity to display how weirdly dangerous Sekai's "Assimilation" gimmick is, after Tryon 3's Boomerang Stagger strikes the Try Burning in the spine. And it practically cripples Sekai! I can't wait to see what happens should team Celestial Sphere decide to kick the Try Burning in the crotch! The Try Fighters, thanks again to Fumina's incredible building skills - seriously, she's still admiring Sei Iori when from any reasonable standpoint, she's surpassed him in nearly every respect - survive the Tryon 3's ultimate attack, leaving Yuuma to finish the fight in a knock-down-drag-out brawl reminiscent of last season's duel between Sei and Reiji and Fellini. There's no draw, this time, though: Yuuma takes the win with a surprise beam burst that silences one of the only true Super Robots in Gundam history. Ye shall be missed, Tryon 3! These episodes seem designed to showcase two sides to the kind of passion people can bring to competition. Celestial Sphere's utter skill and professionalism as the incumbent champions, and the Try Fighters pluck, gumption, and other youthfully heroic passions. Now the two are set to clash soon, as the final match of Gundam Build Fighters Try kicks off.
Gundam Build Fighters Try photo
Ah, whiskey and pocky: The snack of champions. Gunpla Battle champions, that is! With the latest installments of Build Fighters Try out of the way, the road has been paved to the finals, with the buildup handled by two of the better engagements in the series' run so far. 

Annotated Anime: Kantai Collection episodes 5-6

Feb 15 // Josh Tolentino
And of the two sea lanes that diverged in an ocean, the one Diomedea seems to have picked is whichever one is wackiest.  Indeed, fans hoping for more emotion after the teary grapple with grief Mutsuki went through in episode four (amid the scene-stealing distractions of the Kongou sisters) may find themselves disappointed by the last two weeks of Kan Colle, where the truth was revealed: The Kongou Sisters are the main event. Or rather, not the sisters, but their screwball exploits and light tone. Kisaragi's loss was a tragic mistake. I imagine Kisaragi fans might not want to take that lying down, but I can't help but think the show is better off for having drifted off the tragedy course. I don't think anyone in their right mind was signing onto Kan Colle for the drama, and while there's something to be said for the benefits of the unpredictable, it was always doubtful that Diomedea had the will or wherewithal to commit to the kinds of maneuvers needed to make Kan Colle the Madoka Magica of mecha musume shows. Long story short: Dumb fun is the rule of the day for episodes five and six, as Fubuki gets roomed in with a bunch of other, older, meaner girls (plus Kongou), and then takes the backseat completely as the Akatsuki-class destroyers compete in a curry-cooking contest. One could argue that this is the way Kan Colle should've been from the start. I did mention early on that it behaved too much like it was the only show in its genre, when titles like Girls und Panzer and Uppote!! cut through the narrative fat with an efficiency and militarily precise "punchiness". Kan Colle now seems to be hitting its stride, leaning into things like the Fleet Girls speaking their catchphrases, being catty with each other (Kaga and Ooi are particularly brutal), and making thinly veiled jokes about game mechanics like expeditions and Akagi's hunger for Bauxite. Even historical jokes aren't gone from the show's quiver. Shoukaku tends to find herself in compromising positions, referencing her history of taking major damage in battles while her sister carrier Zuikaku remained untouched for the majority of the war. Shimakaze's obsession with speed (her being one of the fastest WW2 destroyers ever built) filters down into her taste for instant food.  I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that the show's better off for having shunted its main character to the sidelines, but it has managed to recapture my interest by focusing not on several boring characters (sorry, Fubuki), but on a bigger picture of the full cast. It's simply folly to expect depth from these kinds of characterizations, so having Kan Colle embrace that one dimensionality has come out a net positive.   
Kantai Collection photo
Two Fleet Girls, One Teacup
Kantai Collection has an identity crisis. It's trying to split the difference between a splashy, substance-free fan-service fiesta for existing fans of the game it's based on, a more sedate genre piece featuring girls be...

Annotated Anime: Gundam Build Fighters Try episode 15

Jan 21 // Josh Tolentino
Mirai might have been chosen as the tourney's mascot, but if there's anyone who represents the soul of Gundam Build Fighters, it's Meijin Kawaguchi and his partner in theatrics, Lady Kawaguchi. Seriously, right at the opening they launch into this spiel and act like they're rallying the troops...with no one around to watch. It seems we were all wrong when we thought that Gunpla Battle prowess was the defining feature people look for when selecting the next Meijin. By this performance, the quality Bandai wants in its Meijins is being crazy and in-character 24/7, a Stephen Colbert of Gunpla, if you will. Wilfrid's going to have his work cut out for him if he intends to succeed the title - he's not nearly absurd enough. You know who IS absurd, though? Minato Sakai, Osaka builder maestro. It seems that mastering the Gunpla Shingyo School of building involves becoming a ridiculous person, as his dreams of a properly dramatic rivalry with Yuuma are hilarious and one-sided. His amazing triple-animal mega-Gunpla is based on the ZZ Gundam, which is appropriate, as the ZZ is the most super robot-like of the heroic Gundam suits. Big guns, bulky physique, and a thoroughly cartoonish series to inhabit make for a properly nutty building job. As for our heroes, they and everyone else are gunning for the leaders: The Gunpla Academy team, and are bringing the upgrades to prove it. Yuuma's been sensible as ever, adding a mega-backpack to the Lightning Gundam Full Burnern, referencing 0083 Stardust Memory's Zephyranthes upgrade, and making his Gunpla capable of outrunning a trans-am-empowered enemy...without transforming. That's fast. Fumina adds a pair of funnels and a gunblade to make the Star Winning Gundam, giving her something to do other than bust off her parts to attach to her teammates. And Sekai? It seems that they've noticed that everything is better if you do it while on fire, and the Try Burning Gundam takes that philosophy to its logical extreme. Poor Ohtkosk Academy of South Hokkaido are the first to feel the Try Fighters' upgraded wrath, which is a minor tragedy considering that their leader's Gunpla was named "Salty Kyrios". Names like that deserve victory, dammit!
Build Fighters Try 15 photo
Getting Ready To Rumble
It hasn't even been 24 hours since the last Build Fighters Try recap, but let's get this train going. After all, we've finally arrived at...THE NATIONALS. Let's fighting!

Annotated Anime: Gundam Build Fighters Try episode 12

Dec 27 // Josh Tolentino
As expected of a three-time consecutive World Gunpla Battle Championship winner, the Meijin cockblocks all of Saga's best shots with his Amazing Red Warrior, which besides being red is a pretty cool tribute to 1982's Plamo Kyoshiro, the granddaddy of Build Fighters' "gunpla as videogame" conceit. But Alan stops the battle short just before he can unleash his ultimate move, the Plavsky-powered Dead End...something, we'll find out when Yuuma takes him on in the Nationals, presumably. We do get to see the full, cape-free form of the Gundam The End, and it looks as weird as its name implies, complete with a strange set of rainbow-hued "eyes" that, when open, make it look a bit like Ryuko Matoi from Kill la Kill in her combat outfit. The body reminds me of Gundam 00's Seraphim Gundam, that sub-suit that formed the "face" on the back of Tieria Erde's Seravee, but otherwise it seems like an original creation. [embed]33400:4369:0[/embed] Saga, predictably, wants to go on to the World Championship and take on the best of the best, namedropping season 1 folks like Ricardo Fellini, Luang Dallara, and Greco Logan. Considering the new team-based structure of Gunpla Battle, I wonder who those three have teamed up with... For his part, Sei collapses from the stress of whatever "assimilation" is (it seems even Mr. Ral knows about the phenomenon), and he gets taken to the clinic to sit out the episode while Yuuma abandons the arena in a fit of angst. Again, I can't help but bring up how petty his issues seem, but I do remember getting riled up and emotional over dumb bullshit when I was a teen, too, so I can't exactly hold it against him. What these kids need, it seems, is a dose of hands-on therapy, courtesy of the Meijin and the mysterious blonde bombshell, "Lady Kawaguchi", inheritor of the Kawaguchi name. Given that Yuuki Tatsuya is still the Meijin, I have to wonder just what that means. She's too old to be Yuuki's daughter, and they don't seem to be married, so the "Kawaguchi" must have to do with the position of Meijin. Did she beat Yuuki to become next in line for the title? It's been seven years since Build Fighters, which means that the Meijin lost the World Championship at least three times, so he could've lost to her. Maybe she's the Meijin's teammate, part of a "Team Kawaguchi" that competes in the championships? Anyway, both Fumina and Yuuma learn about what they're missing through the power of getting their asses handed to them in battle.  The Meijin proves the Lightning Gundam's potential by using it to beat Yuuma, who gets the privilege of piloting the Amazing Red Warrior himself. Yuuma realizes he's been fighting not to lose, when the key is to, er, fight to win. It's a lesson not unlike the last one Reiji taught to Sei, where the reason Sei sucked at controlling his Gunpla was that he loved his models too much to risk damage in pursuit of victory. On a side note, it's a goddamn crime that the Amazing Red Warrior's "Total Intensity" statistic is anything less than MAXIMUM. Please fix this in the disc versions, Sunrise.  Lady does the job in her SD-model Zero Gundam. It seems a bit sexist that all the women are fighting in SDs right now, but the Zero Gundam appears to be in stock configuration, so I doubt that's what she'll be using when the chips are down. Despite putting on a good show - and showing off the immense amount of gimmicks packed in the Winning Gundam, like a buzzsaw shield and a V-fin crossbow - Fumina can't quite grasp what she's missing. Until she does, but we'll have to find out exactly what that is next week. If I were to hazard a guess, it's that she's built her Gunpla to enable Sekai and Yuuma, rather than fight for herself. Worse, she can't handle most of her own gadgets, despite a valiant effort to use the Winning Launcher with her own beam rifle. Fumina certainly gets the need for a team's captain to hold up her members, but has been doing so by sacrificing her own role. There is such a thing as being too selfless (see: Shirou Emiya), and Fumina is that, at the moment. The coming weeks would be a good time for her to have a rethink on the Winning Gundam, or to prove that she isn't the weak link in the team. And what of Sekai? He gets to meet the obligatory mysterious beauty, right before the credits, as well as, through his absence, affirm that he's the poster boy for Build Fighters Try's philosophy. He's not in need of any particular attitude adjustments. On the contrary, both his friends end up (or will end up) improving themselves by being a little more like him. It's a bit of an odd message considering that another core theme of Build Fighters is that everyone enjoys Gunpla (and by extension life) in their own way, but there's no denying that of the trio, Sekai's had the least in the way of baggage. Maybe it's part of the martial arts training or something, but he's been copacetic so far.
Build Fighters Try photo
Let's Get Amazing!
Another week, another installment of my third-best anime of 2014. But as a fitting Christmas Eve present (the episode went live on December 24th), we get to unwrap the lovely gift that is the timely arrival of Meijin Kawaguchi III, and his legendary Gunpla, the Amazing Red Warrior.

Gundam photo

Animator Expo's Gundam Short will please your burning soul

Dec 05
// Salvador GRodiles
Right when I thought that Animator Expo was only dedicated to showcasing original anime shorts, the project's fifth piece ended up being a tribute to Yoshikazu Yasuhiko (Gundam's Character Designer and Animation Director) and...
Gundam The Origin photo
Gundam The Origin

Gundam the Origin's subbed trailer shows off blue-eyed Char

Deikun's baby blues!
Dec 04
// Josh Tolentino
In case you haven't gotten enough Char in your life from the last Gundam The Origin trailer, it's time to have some in a language you can understand! Yep, they've officially subtitled the first trailer in English, which...
Build Fighters Try photo
Build Fighters Try

Gundam Build Fighters Try's first opening gets an amazing 8-bit remix

Please set your Retro Base
Nov 14
// Salvador GRodiles
As Gundam Build Fighters Try continues to impress us with its Solid Winning Streak, Studio Megaane has used his Retro Gunpla building skills to turn the show's opening into an 8-bit masterpiece. All in all, Megaane's ta...
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Rejoice: Right Stuf to distribute more Gundam shows in North America

More Mobile Suits are heading your way
Oct 11
// Salvador GRodiles
At long last, Right Stuf's deal with Sunrise has expanded outside of Gundam UC, as the company's been given the rights to release the original Gundam series in North America. On top of that, Right Stuf is distributing Gu...
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Daily Dose

A Daily Dose of Music: Old School Thursdays

From Earth to Iskandar
Sep 11
// Josh Tolentino
Time now for your blast from the past! It's Old School Thursdays! Today's dose contains some real history for your ears, as we've got the original theme from Space Battleship Yamato, the anime that started it all. Well, almo...
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Licensing GET: Discotek grabs Shin Mazinger Z Impact

Discotek Media is on a roll
Jun 16
// Salvador GRodiles
Today is a joyous day for Go Nagai and super robot anime fans everywhere. Discotek Media has announced on their Facebook page that they've licensed Shin Mazinger Z Impact (a.k.a. Shin Mazinger: Shogeki Z-Hen!). As a pers...

First Impressions: Captain Earth

Apr 07 // Elliot Gay
Daichi Mahatsu is a second-year high school student about to enter summer vacation. Friendly and pleasant to be around, he's not without friends or people that care about him. School isn't exactly his forte though; he just doesn't care about class and would rather read books, play games, or surf the net. Daichi's life changed dramatically when his father, an astronaut, died in space during an accident of some kind. One day while hanging with some friends, he sees a news report about a strange circular rainbow floating in the sky above Tanegashima, his old home. This phenomenon is more than just familiar: Daichi once saw something similar when he was but a child. Digging deep into his memories, he remembers the day he met a mysterious boy named Teppei, and the time they spent together at an old, sealed off facility on the island. Filled with a sense of foreboding, Daichi heads back to his hometown, breaking into the old building in the hopes of figuring out what exactly is going on. He meets a young girl, some crazy things happen, and eventually he finds himself piloting a giant robot called the Earth Engine. Hurled into space against an incoming enemy of unknown origin, it would appear as though fate has something great in store for Daichi. Well that was a packed first episode. The pacing of the first half wasn't so hot, but it nonetheless did the job of delivering important information to the viewer in a timely fashion. Much to my surprise, Captain Earth didn't hold back on dumping mysterious plot elements all over the place right off the bat. Weird circular rainbows, children who definitely aren't normal, a naked girl in an energy sphere; all this and more, and in flashbacks no less. Hell, even the antagonists (?) get some screen time, applying a face to the enemy super early in the series. Shout outs to their odd greeting which, while nowhere near as good as "kira boshi!', still managed to elicit a smile from me. Of course, like any giant robot series that takes itself too seriously, the dialogue is wrought with eye-rolling cliches. In some ways though, that's part of the charm. It feels like Bones is out to make a traditional mecha show, and whether or not that succeeds, I can at least respect that they seem to be diving in head first. I'm not really sure how I feel about Daichi as the protagonist as of yet; his aloofness bothered me in the first half, but his goofiness made up for a lot of that toward the end of the episode. I gotta love Bones rolling with the old school "boy pilots giant robot for the first time to defend Earth without any training" trope and not giving a damn. Plot zaniness aside, this was another lavish opening episode for studio Bones. Not unlike Star Driver, Captain Earth features a very lush art style that really does justice to the island setting. There's wasn't a whole lot of action to speak of this week, but the tantalizing bits and pieces of robot animation were great. In particular, the Earth Engine gattai sequence was great fun, combining the look of a super robot with a grounded, almost analog-esque formation sequence. I imagine we're probably going to see that scene a whole lot in the coming episodes. Musically, Star Driver alumni Satoru Kousaki heads up the score, and it's as big and booming as his previous work. I was amused to find that the first episode of Captain Earth already featured an insert song, and I'm hoping that the musical elements are as tied to the core narrative as they have been in this team's prior works. Captain Earth's first episode was an enjoyable robot romp, despite the sometimes cringe-inducing dialogue and weird pacing. I'm always down to watch a Bones mecha anime, and with so many strong veterans working on the project, I can only hope that things go up from here.  If nothing else, I'll settle for more pretty insert songs and long-as-hell gattai sequences. 
FI: Captain Earth photo
Longest gattai sequence ever
I secretly loved Star Driver. The ridiculously over-the-top posing, flashiness, strange imagery, and the beautiful animation; it all came together to make for an entertaining whirlwind of confusion and glee. That shouldn't co...

Anime photo

Aldnoah.Zero reveals new trailer, images and staff!

The era of orange mechs starts this summer.
Mar 26
// Dae Lee
Acclaimed Fate/zero director Ei Aoki and the show's writer Gen Urobuchi are teaming up once again, this time for the original mecha series Aldnoa.Zero, slated for this July. At AnimeJapan this past weekend, anticipating anim...
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Finally! Fafner: Exodus' first trailer has launched

The war against the Festum resumes next year
Dec 28
// Salvador GRodiles
At long last, Xebec has launched its first trailer for Fafner: Dead Aggressor: Exodus! Personally, I was a bit disappointed that we didn't to see any of the Fafner units in action. On the bright side, we get to see Kazu...

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