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Annotated Anime: One Piece episodes 715-719

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

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari episode 8

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

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episodes 6 and 7

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

Strong Style: Rematch for the big one!

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

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari episode 7

Nov 17 // Anthony Redgrave
Jumping back a spell, this story takes place after the long Summer and the start of a new school year. However, Araragi is playing truant and takes residence in Oshino Meme's old haunt. Shinobu has been largely absent this season and in the opening there was talk about her being separated from Araragi. My memories of the previous seasons are a bit hazy so I'm unsure about the situation. From what I remember they should still be together albeit their last real arc was Shinobu Time that explored Shinobu's backstory. A little bit of digging around on the Bakemonogatari Wikia reveals that this arc actually takes place during Tsubasa Tiger.  Kanbaru makes an appearance shortly after and the two share a lengthy exchange prolonged by diverted topics. Kanbaru is the same headstrong sexually directed person as always and has been growing her hair out foreshadowing her appearance in Hanamonogatari. Araragi asked to meet with her at the abandoned cram school because he wanted her to meet someone else in another place. We don't learn who they are supposed to meet or where. We only know that Araragi is only there to act as a medium between the two parties and they are not meant to meet in the cram school. This isn't out of the ordinary except Araragi starts to question his own organisational skills; why did he want to meet Kanbaru separately from where they were going to meet the other person, or why he was being vague about the other party in general. All this mystery is sandwiched between Kanbaru's requests for Araragi to take her virginity (which was her original thought when Araragi had texted her) and books about famous Japanese author Shugoro Yamamoto. My guess is that Araragi was arranging Kanbaru to meet his sister Karen since he did promise this to Karen at the end of Monogatari: Second Season. By the way, the title of the book referenced 'Bishoujo Ichibannori' or 'Pretty Girl First to Arrive' is entirely fictional. Don't waste those 5 minutes googling it as I did.  The second half of the episode moves the story along with a chance encounter with an empty Samurai armour that attacks the duo. Pushed to defeat, they are only saved by the tiger featured in Tsubasa Tiger engulfing the building in flames. The enemy reveals that he is here for the Oddity Killer Sword (Kokorowatari) that Shinobu had taken from him drawing more connections to last season's Shinobu Time. I'm hoping that they will do a quick recap of the events of that arc as I have forgotten a lot of these details. All the shots that had the Samurai as the subject were great. You never really saw all the details since he was always hidden in shadow and only until the end did you see his full design.  This was my least favourite episode this season. The visuals had a cold dark colour scheme and the tone was more serious. Even during the fun jokey parts at the start of the episode had underlying sinister and mysterious music motifs. You could feel that this was a more serious episode compared to last arcs which ironically dealt with a more serious real world themes. The verbal banter between Kanbaru and Araragi was ok with most of the comedy came from Kanbaru's sexual advances.  Coming away from this episode I did learn one thing; fait accompli. This is a French saying that means 'a thing that has already happened or been decided before those affected had a chance to hear about it or act upon it and ultimately have to accept it'. It's funny that I heard a French saying in Japanese and learnt about it in English [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!]
Monogatari photo
The beginning of the end
Today marks the start of the last of arc in Owarimonogatari; Shinobu Mail. This arc will last half the season and clocks in at 6 episodes. It has only just dawned on me after this episode that I've found the entire season inc...

Strong Style: Rematch time!

Nov 17 // Soul Tsukino
We open with a greeting from Mr. Oh My and Garfunkel himself, Ryusuke Taguchi. IWGP Tag Titles: Meiyu (Goto/Shibata) vs. Bullet Club (Anderson/Gallows): This is the third time we've seen this match on this show, so hopefully these two teams can make it good. Meiyu are the champions after defeating the Club at Wrestle Kingdom 9. The club is also being seconded by Scott Hall's son Cody Hall, who is just starting to get a name for himself. As the champs enter the ring, Shibata gets right in Anderson's face but just stares at him. Goto largely ignores The Club as he gets in the ring. We start the match with Goto and Anderson as there is an aggressive  lock up. Goto pushes Anderson to the rope and gives a clean break, but Anderson reverses things and puts Goto into the ropes. Goto pushes him off and lands some shoulder blocks as he gets the advantage before tagging in Shibata before Meiyu land a double shoulder block. Shibata tries to get in a strike, but Anderson pops right up and rakes Shibata's eyes before landing a strike of his own in the corner. He tags in Gallows who lands a kick in the corner and tries for another with Shibata nailing him. However when Shibata goes for a running strike Gallows kicks his head off!  Gallows picks Shibata up and whips him into the ropes, trying for the clothesline. Shibata ducks rebounds and lands a soccer kick right to Gallows's kneecap. He immediately goes for his no-frills figure four leg lock. Both men roll and counter before getting to the ropes and breaking the hold. Back on their feet as Shibata asks for the knuckle lock, but then kicks him right in the knee! Tag to Goto as Meiyu split Gallows legs. Gallows is back on his feet and regains control as he strikes Goto and sends him flying out of the ring. Anderson sneaks over and pulls Shibata off the apron and then sends him over the barrier and attacks him in the crowd. The Club get in the ring as Goto beats the count. However, he rolls right into the clutches of Gallows who brings him down to the canvas and starts drilling in elbows before getting a chinlock. Goto gets them up to their feet and gets out of it, but when he tries for a move off the ropes Anderson trips him, drags him out of the ring and then powerbombs him onto the ring apron! Anderson is now the legal man as Goto barely rolls into the ring at the count of 18. "The Machine Gun" starts stomping a mudhole on Goto and is just kicking and punching Goto to keep him down. Anderson goes for the cover 3 times in succession, but Goto just won't give up. Anderson tags in Gallows who tosses Goto right into the corner and starts clubbing away. He is well in control before he tries for a suplex. Goto blocks it as both men struggle to get the move before Goto takes the big man over, getting a reaction from the crowd. Both get their tags in as Anderson and Shibata get into the ring. Shibata gets the quick advantage with his forearm uppercuts, sending Anderson down to the corner where Shibata just wears his ass OUT with HARD forearm shots to the head before landing his sweet hanging dropkick in the corner. He pulls Anderson up and goes for the reverse choke when Gallows sneaks in and breaks up the hold leading to Anderson getting in a strike of his own on Shibata. He goes for something off the rope but Shibata ducks and tags in Goto. Goto goes to work on Anderson and sends him into the corner, nailing him with a sweet spin kick. He tries for an attack off the ropes, but Gallows kicks him from the apron. Anderson goes for a move, but Shibata catches him in a choke from the apron. Goto goes for the strike but nails Shibata instead and walks right into a spinebuster! We come back from break with The Club double teaming on Goto. Gallows picks Goto up and Anderson comes off with a gun stun from the top rope, but the cover only gets two. The Club go for the magic killer, but Shibata runs in to break it up. Goto and Gallows then get into a clothesline contest before Goto lands a running clothesline sending the big man down. He tags in Shibata who just starts wearing Gallows out in the corner with forearms. Anderson sticks his nose in but pays for it as Shibata starts giving him forearms. Goto gets back in the ring as Meiyu is working over the guys in opposite corners before switching and hitting their opponents with running kicks. Anderson goes out of the ring while Gallows gets drilled with a clothesline from Shibata. Shibata holds Gallows for Goto, but the big man gets a foot up and breaks Shibata's hold.  Anderson comes in and while Shibata gets nailed, Goto and Anderson have a quick exchange of trying to hit each others moves with Goto trying to land the ushi-karoshi on Anderson and Karl trying to nail the gun stun, with neither getting it. Gallows plows into Goto, but Shibata then comes in. Gallows hits a HIGH powerbomb that knocks Shibata loopy. Shibata gets up and is nailed with an Anderson gun stun to send him down. Goto comes in and he gets a gun stun for his trouble. The Club grabs Shibata and gets him up for the magic killer, but he kicks Anderson off and nails Gallows to get out of the move!  Shibata takes on both men with forearms but can only keep it up for so long before Gallows nails him. Anderson goes for the gun stun again, but Shibata counters out, only to get hit with it again. Shibata is out and the Bullet Club hits the magic Killer for the pinfall to become the new tag team champions for the second time! Backstage Gallows and Anderson say that they are the best heavyweight tag team in New Japan. Kinda hard to argue with them as they have been the top dogs for over a year at this point. We come back from break wth some words from Taguchi about this big rematch. He had asked for this rematch saying that he felt he shouldn't have lost that match. He feels Omega lacks professionalism still and he only added more tricks to win the title the month before.   IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title: Ryuske Taguchi vs. Kenny Omega As we saw a few weeks back, Omega had turned his back on NJPW and joined the Bullet Club to secure a permanent place on the roster. At WK 9, he had the help of the Young Bucks and a whole lot of cheating to take the title off Taguchi. Taguchi enters the ring wearing his own t-shirt and a pair of heart-shaped glasses while Omega comes out with the Bucks in his corner again. Wonderful. Kenny sure takes his time taking off his gear, giving this really cartoony sneer the entire time. Aggressive lock-up to start as Omega goes right for the arm lock. He smacks Ryusuke a few times in the head just to be an ass. Ryusuke reverses it and they trade the armlocks back and forth before Omega gets a headlock. Back up to their feet Omega goes into the ropes and nearly gets a funky weapon to the face, but Kenny catches Ryusuke in a waist lock and hits an atomic drop. Kenny poses for a bit and lands a few feeble kicks, but Ryusuke jumps up and gets Omega running off the ropes and hits the funky weapon! Taguchi lands some ass strikes before sending Omega into the turnbuckle. Ryusuke tries for a move off the ropes, but Nick Jackson grabs the leg and gets the ref and Taguchi distracted. Omega does an AMAZING over the back fameasser to send Taguchi down as Matt Jackson hands Omega the Bullet Club flag. He then proceeds to stick the flag pole right up Taguchi's ass! The ref turns around and sees Omega with the flag, but Omega just shoves him down. Taguchi hits an enziguri kick that gets Kenny stumbling around. Ryusuke grabs the flag and then pokes the end up Kenny's ass. He then uses it to take a whack at both the Jackson's and when Omega turns around, he tries to grab the flag but ends up flying right through the ropes outside the ring. I can't believe I just wrote that. And no, I don't know the proper Japanese term for trying to shove a flagpole up someone's ass.  Anyway, Taguchi hits the funky weapon off the apron to Omega on the outside but decides to bring him back into the ring where he hits the fallen Omega twice with the butt before going for a third. Omega grabs Taguchi's tights but the ref kicks Omega's hand off. They start arguing meanwhile Ryusuke goes for something off the ropes but one of the Bucks low bridges the rope and Ryusuke ends up on the outside. Omega hits dive over the rope right onto Taguchi as Mauro and Josh talk about stains on these guy's tights after the flagpoling. Josh then goes into a spiel about how awesome Japanese toilets are as Mauro can't help but laugh. Omega is working over Taguchi's back on the outside by ramming him into the barricade and the ring apron. He rolls the challenger into the ring and goes for a crap cover and not surprisingly it didn't get the job done. Kenny sends Taguchi from corner to corner before hitting a flying back elbow sending Ryusuke down. He goes for the legit cover but doesn't get it either. He gets Ryusuke up in a suplex, but Ryusuke counters to only the halfway point before Omega dead lifts him BACK up and gets the suplex. Damn! Omega goes for the pin but doesn't get it and... oh here we go! He's pulling the starter, he's getting the motor running. Kenny gives Taguchi THE CHAINSAW. Rubbing that gnarly forearm bristles right into Taguchi's eyes. Omega goes for the atomic drop, but Taguchi is mad. Omega hits another drop and Taguchi is getting madder. Omega goes to the ropes but gets hit with another funky weapon right to the face. Ryusuke clothesline's Omega out of the ring and then nails the summersault placha over the top rope onto Omega. Taguchi hits a slingshot dropkick back into the ring, but a follow-up pin only gets two. Taguchi goes for the dodan slam, but Omega wiggles out, only to get planted with a DDT. Pin only gets two. Back from break as Taguchi goes for a suplex but Omega slips out the back and goes for the full nelson. Taguchi hits a back elbow and goes for the ropes, but Omega grabs his tights and sets him up for the one-winged-angel, but Taguchi slips out of that. Taguchi gets a hard chop to the chest for his trouble and Omega tries to set him up for something, but Ryusuke slips through into a victory roll that he floats into getting the ankle lock. Omega tries to counter but fails and ends up getting a german suplex for his trouble. Somehow Omega is able to recover and land a doctor bomb on Ryusuke and then hits a running knee to Taguchi. Hits sets up Taguchi in his shoulders for one-winged-angel, but Taguchi does a reverse frankenstiener that has Omega land right on the top of his head! Taguchi smells blood now. He grabs Omega in the double chicken wing to set up the dodan, but Omega tries to roll through in a victory roll. Taguchi stops him halfway through the move and just drops down, hitting the top of Omega's head right into the mat. Pinfall only gets two. He hits a running funky weapon. He gets Omega up in the torture rack position, but Omega escapes, leading to an exchange of punches. Taguchi gets run into the corner, but Omega misses the charge. Taguchi goes up the ropes, but Omega catches him and then hits the one-winged-angel! Kenny gets the pin and retains the title! The Bucks get in the ring now as they start in on Taguchi. The refs get thrown out and so do the young boys at ringside. The Bucks both climb the rope and Omega holds him over a chair as they hit the spike tombstone on the chair on Taguchi. Mascara Dorada and the Time Splitters come out to solve things as Omega and the luchador get into a staredown. Backstage Omega and the Bucks gloat about how good they are. Omega says he's beaten everyone and that he is all for fighting a luchador and Dorada. Ryusuke meanwhile is having to be helped back and says Oh my and Gabanna. Don't even want to know. We get studio words from Taguchi as he talks about not wanting to get hit with the one-winged-angel but that he got surprised with the last one. He likes being a former champion better since he doesn't have the expectations that a champion carries. He briefly mentions he might go for the heavyweight tag titles, but that none of the heavyweights on the roster want anything to do with him as we end the show. This was an enjoyable show. The tag match was good even if it dragged in a lot of places. The Jr. Heavyweight match was a lot of fun as well. Not the best episode of this show, but not terrible either. Before we wrap this up, I'd like to make mention of the passing of longtime wrestler Nick Bockwinkel. The veteran heel for the AWA during the 70's and 80's he held the AWA title and was the top dog for a majority of 30 years. While Ric Flair may have gotten the spotlight, the more intellectual Bockwinkel was every bit as good as Flair and really belong in the Hall of Fame, where his name is proudly displayed. He had a lot of great matches, even in his later years, including a 1-hour time limit draw with Curt Henning in 1987. That match was included on the Mr. Perfect DVD released a few years back by the WWE. I highly recommend looking up Nick's matches online as he was a real treat to watch if you like old style wrestling. Cheers to you, Nick. You were one of the greatest! /ul/34497-strong-style-rematch-time-/Match 2ish-620x.jpg
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Return matches from WK 9
Welcome back to another edition of Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. A bit late on this one since I was at the AniMaine convention last weekend, but here we are! Got thrown for another loop ...

Annotated Anime: Durarara!!x2 Ten episodes 6-8

Nov 17 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 6: Roses has ThornsFrom last we left the city, celebrities Ruri and Kasuka crash Shinra's apartment hoping to get some protection and advice from Kasuka's brother Shizuo. They also bring along a stray cat named Yuigadokusonmaru. It's a name that's frighteningly intimidating to pronounce so I commend the dub cast for pulling it off so confidently. I'm surprised also that a Scottish fold cat was actually left on the street too considering it's high value amongst domestic cat lovers. The story goes on to explore Ruri's backstory and her rise to fame as an idol starting with her monster complex and her obsession with the complex that drove to become Hollywood. We don't learn much about her Hollywood persona and that side of her isn't brought up much this episode. Hollywood had a key role last cour but I felt it was glanced over and underdeveloped due to competing with the other happenings in Ikebukuro. Episode 7: A Cat has Nine LivesTelling the story from Masaomi's perspective was a good change of pace since he has been absent from Ikebukuro since the start of Durararax2. The bulk of the action and drama of these last two episodes is from Ruri's stalker, a crazy martial artist with a serial sociopathic complex wanting to choke the hell out of the idol. We only see the results of months of planning for the stalker as he targets Ruri herself, Shinra as it was his apartment she is seen entering, and Anri who is also entering the apartment at the same time. Fortunately, Mikado was able to rally his new gang the blue squares to their aid and prevent the simultaneous attacks on Ruri and Anri. Shinra however, wasn't as lucky as the stalker was able to beat him down for Celty was informed. This episode shows that Mikado is able to pull the strings like master manipulators Izaya and Jinnai, but unlike the other two isn't afraid of getting his hands dirty too. He saves Masaomi from a similar beat down and asks his friend to leave the city until he has finished masterminding his plan. Mikado's dark side is slowly becoming more apparent as we start to see less of him socializing with Anri and other dollars members and more with the Blue Squares.  Episode 8: Mouth of Honey, A Needle in the HeartEven though a lot of Durarara's story is framed around the exploits of high school students, there are also happening in the adult underworld. And it's all orchestrated by Izaya Orihara. This episode focuses on Izaya's job for the Awakusu group on taking down a gambling ring run by Amphisbaena. Amphisbaena are the rivals of the drug-toting group Heaven's Smile, the gang Akabayashi took out in the bathroom of a club earlier this season. In classic Durarara fashion, the story is told disjointedly with flashes to past events that clear up the actions in the present. The ending and reveal at the end of the episode aren't a game changer but shows us the added manipulative power Orihara has with his new gang he had acquired in the last episode.  Durarara!! continues to not translate the on-screen Japanese text meaning there are some parts of the episodes in complete silence. Although not a large problem it can cause some confusion with the message board politics and identities. It's made worse now that we know Orihara has taken upon multiple message board personalities in hopes of hiding his actions amongst the dollars.  [Watch Durarara!!x2 Ten on Crunchy Roll] [Watch Durarara!!x2 Ten on Crunchy Roll]
Durarara photo
Scottish Folds are my favorite too
Apologies reader, this weekly column has somehow become a monthly one. It has been due to my review work for the site the majority of which went live last week. I have been looking forward to getting back into Durarara!!x2 Te...

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?

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari Episodes 2-6

Nov 08 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 2-3: Sodachi Riddle The opening to each Monogatari arc fits in with the theme, belle du jour, and style the arc is portraying but rarely do I find myself watching them all the way through. Sodachi Riddle is one of the rare exceptions where I really liked the opening. The jazzy instruments, mezzo-soprano vocals, and reflective imagery invoked a mysterious detective vibe, perfect for what the arc had in store.  The story does take us back to the present with Araragi meeting with Sodachi after two years. She has mysteriously come back to school after Araragi had solved the case in the last episode. Thinking the past was behind them, Araragi tries to strike up a friendly conversation with the former class president. It's odd to see Araragi being formally friendly. Normally his sullen look is only broken by an appearance of a loli character or Senjougahara. The sudden change in color from the corridor's warm inviting orange to cool mysterious blue once in the classroom stages the uncertainty of how Sodachi is going to react to Araragi's presence. Suffice to say it's not a friendly reunion. So much so that Senjougahara intervenes putting Sodachi out cold and leaving Araragi to solve another mystery. The story continues with Ougi in tow as Araragi dives back into his past and the origins of his relationship with Sodachi. Ougi's presence is great as she is always one step ahead of Araragi, probing and pointing into Araragi to the right direction. Her friendly personality and helpful demeanor in pushing Araragi makes us completely forget about her ghostly appearance. The arc ends nicely with the main puzzle solved and leaves enough strings curiously un-tied to help lead into the next arc.  Episodes 4-6: Sodachi Lost It's time to tackle the present problem of Sodachi tardiness. But who does Araragi choose as his partner in crime? This is the basis for the first episode of Sodachi lost as we have two contenders; newcomer Ougi or dear sweet Hanekawa. Ougi has already shown her deductive prowess in the first few episodes so she should be the obvious choice. However, we have known Hanekawa longer and she is one of the best at socializing amongst the Monogatari cast. It is also worth noting that Hanekawa is class president so is responsible for the wellbeing of her student body. This would've been a dramatic choice that needed to be made if it weren't for the series tradition of starting each arc in media res.  It doesn't suck all the drama out of the moment. The verbal catfight that ensues between Hanekawa and Ougi is great with the backdrop of congested traffic and factories spewing smoke amongst a red sky framing the entire scene. I really liked how Ougi interacts with Araragi in this scene too. The way she persuades and worms her way into Araragi's head confirms our suspicions that she is one not to be kept too close.  The middling episode of this arc is verbally draining. You may need to prime your eyes for fast subtitles if they are out of shape. Araragi and co. arrive at Sodachi's new residence and confront her about her tardiness. This spills into Sodachi's past, her outlook on life, and why she hates Araragi and her past connections with him. We learn lots about this girl and there aren't a lot of light moments here. Her past is dark and explores domestic violence, neglect, and jealousy. These themes have been explored with other girls in the series but none that refused Araragi's aid. There has been no mention of oddities at this moment so all the bad things happening to Sodachi is real. No external forces requiring exorcising, no supernatural beings, Sodachi was born into a harsh environment making her suffering hit harder than the others. The episode concludes with Sodachi burying the hatchet with Araragi and only returning to school if they can find her mother.  The mother search doesn't require much traveling. Ougi rendezvous with her sempai taunting Hanekawa at her lack of an explanation for her mother's disappearance. Ougi's manipulative nature almost gets to Araragi as she will explain it all if Araragi begs for the answer. Hanekawa makes Araragi refuse the request and asks for 10 seconds to figure out the answer. It's the most intense 10 seconds hair was you will see in anime. I know that last sentence doesn't make much sense and it doesn't make much sense in the context of the anime either, but it does look really cool. Now both the heroines know the answer and it's just us and Araragi that are still in the dark. What follows is both girls giving out various hints hoping to lead Araragi and us to the answer. It's a really good part of the episode as it got my brain working trying to decipher the various hints being spewed out at lightning speed. The answer is equally as dark as the episode that precedes it. The ending to Sodachi Lost takes up the second half of the episode 6 and is filled with warm cozy visuals and Araragi's nonchalant voice recapping the aftermath. The final scene is open-ended allowing for viewer speculation on what was written on the letter. Personally I think it's a thank you in the form of a mathematics problem that only Araragi was able to decipher thanks to his practice with Sodachi.  [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] her friendly personality and helpful demeanor in pushing Araragi 
Monogatari photo
Hanekawa's boobs > Ougi
Since I've been behind on recapping Owarimonogatari, I was planning on writing a recap every time an arc had finished. This plan would've been perfect as it gave me more time in between each write up to catch up on other stuf...

Strong Style: The Big Match!

Nov 07 // Soul Tsukino
We start this episode off with a greeting from Tanahashi. We return from the opening credits with Tanahashi in the studio talking about Okada's return from the States (where TNA made him into a knockoff of Kato from Green Hornet) and how he had grown so much since he had left. He then talks about having to follow the unbelievable Ibushi/Nakamura match that we saw last week. IWGP Heavyweight Title: Kazuchika "Rainmaker" Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi Tanahashi is the champion here after defeating A.J. Styles while Okada won the G1 Climax tournament to earn the title shot here at the biggest show of the year. These guys have met each other many MANY times before, so let's see if they can rise to the occasion on that biggest stage in the land of the rising sun. We go to ringside as Okada makes his entrance first. His entrance on this big stage is incredible. Tanahashi comes out playing air guitar of course. Mauro tells us Tanahashi has main evented this show 5 times in a row at this point and that these two have wrestled 7 times before this match. To say this is comparable to Orton vs. Cena is not that far off, both good and bad points taken. The bell rings and we get things started. The crowd is hot for this one. Tentative lock up to start leads to a go behind and basic stuff to start. They go down to the canvas with Tanahashi getting a headlock. Mauro and Josh talk about Tanahashi's height advantage and what Okada has to do to win. Tanahashi sent into the ropes and plays some tricks as he drops down next to Okada and gets the headlock on him. They speed things up a bit with some chain wrestling, but it ends in a stalemate. They grapple to the ropes and keep things clean until Okada fakes a clean break and hits a chop. Tanahashi doesn't take to kindly to that and comes out swinging with forearms. We got a slugfest early on. Hiroshi goes to the top rope and Okada NAILS him with an uppercut to send him to the floor. Things go outside as Hiroshi eats barricade and then gets a clothesline before he gets hit with a draping DDT on the floor. Okada breaks the count but goes right back out, dragging Hiro to the ramp. Each guy tries for the tombstone piledriver but end up clubbing on each other. Tanahashi backs up for a running charge but gets hit with Epic Rain! Back right to the ramp with a splat! Back from break as Okada picks Hiroshi up and drops an elbow on the champ's neck before rolling him into the ring. Okada hits a sliding shining wizard before going for the one-foot pin. Okada is taking his time now as he lands a few elbows. Okada misses a charge but recovers quickly, but then misses a senton and Hiro is back up! He lands a running forearm and hits a second rope senton, but only gets two. Okada gets the flapjack off of Hiroshi's rebound. He goes for the elbow in the corner and gets hit. Hiro goes for something but gets hooked into a 2/3s facelock that Okada calls Deep N Debt. Hiroshi gets to the rope to escape getting applause from the crowd. Okada to the apron and hits the over the top rope senton, but goes for a crap cover and doesn't even come close to a pinfall. Both men back up as Okada SCREAMS and Tanahashi as they exchange strikes and forearms. "HIT ME HARDER!" Okada screams. Tanahashi catches Okada's foot and drives and elbow right to the knee. Okada comes back and hits the power dropkick, sending the champ flying backwards. Okada picks Tanahashi up and goes for the heavy reign again, but Tanahashi counters into the slingblade clothesline! Okada somehow recovers and gets Hiro sitting on the top rope, but gets kicked in the head before he can hit the dropkick. Okada nails him and goes for the heavy rain again but Hiro counters and pushes him off. He goes for the high fly flow but misses. Okada goes for the serious pin but still only gets two. Okada heads up top and lands the Randy Savage elbow before going for the rainmaker pose. Okada goes for the rainmaker to finish it, but Hiroshi rolls through for a pin attempt. Tanahashi hits a leg whip on Okada sending them both down. Tanahashi goes for the legs now and after a whip lands a dropkick to Okada's knee. They end up outside where Hiro goes for the whip into the barricade, but Okada reverses it and sends Okada over the barrier outside. Tanahashi gets into the ring and goes up top?!? He hits the high fly flow from the top rope, over the barrier, and lands on Okada! Back from break as Hiroshi brings Okada back in the ring and tries for another high fly flow. Okada pops up and tries to go for the rainmaker, but Hiroshi hits the slingblade again. Tanahashi goes up again and hits the bodysplash, but Okada rolls through and gets Hiro in the tombstone position, but Tanahashi reverse it. He heads up and hits the flow off the top onto Okada's back. he then goes up and hits another one! He goes for the pin, but OKADA KICKS OUT! Hiroshi tries for the cloverleaf but can't get it. Tanahashi wanders around staring into the crowd for some reason now, but Okada pops up and hits a uppercut. Tanahashi hits the slingblade again. He then does the rainmaker pose and then goes for the rainmaker, but Okada reverses it and hits the rainmaker himself. he tries for the cover but doesn't get it. Okada is the first to stir, but soon both are trying to get up. Okada hits a forum first, but neither guy is able to do much. more Okada forearms. before Tanahashi hits some of his own. Okada scoops him up for the tombstone, but Hiroshi rolls through and gets a two count before striking the leg again. SLAP to the face now as Okada will not go down. Hiroshi goes for a punch, but Okada gets a roll through. Hiroshi traps him in a dragon suplex but only gets two, he hits another suplex and then another! Okada gets out and hits a dropkick to Tanahashi. Hiroshi goes for the roll up but Okada blocks, only to get a screw legwhip for his trouble. As the challenger is tangled in the ropes, Hiro lands a top rope splash on Okada. He then climbs up and hits the high fly flow and then goes for it again and GETS THE PIN!! Neither man can move after that match. Gedo comes in to check on his man as Hiro looks down on him. Okada rolls to the outside and after that many body splashes his insides must feel like Jello. Tanahashi celebrates and gets his belt strapped around him. We see Okada is in tears as he leaves the ring area with Gedo helping him. However, a bunch of people in the crowd are chanting his name. Tanahashi grabs the mic and tells him "IWGP is far from here." the same thing Okada told Hiroshi when he returned from the states. Backstage Okada is distraught saying if he can't liven up NJPW, who can make the money rain. Gedo gets in some forceful words saying his man is still awesome. Back in the ring, Tanahashi gives the crowd some final words before we see him on the stage playing air guitar. He tells the crowd the he loves them. In the studio, Hiroshi gives compliments to Okada saying he will overtake the older guys soon and that the fans were talking about Okada after the match as much as him. He says that he isn't evaluated as highly as he wants and that the Undertaker has many records in the WWE, and he wants to break more records. That certainly lived up to the title of main event. These guys know how to get a performance out of each other! The crowd was hot for the whole match and it was great to watch, even at this point. Great show all around as they really gave as much as they could in covering this important match. A lot of fun to watch! Next week things are going to be delayed a bit as I will be at the AniMaine convention next weekend. I will be hosting my Damn Write! writing panel Saturday afternoon and getting lots of good pictures and stuff to bring to you on Japanator. If you are in the area, check it out, and for those of you who aren't, I'll be reporting back here with all the details! So stay tuned as I will have lots of stuff to present not only here on Strong Style, but on Japanator as well! See you all then! We start with Tanahashi in the studio talking about Okada's return from the States (Where TNA made him into a knockoff of Kato from Green Hornet) and how he had grown so much since he had left. He then talks about having to follow the unbeleivable Ibushi/Nakamura match that we saw last week.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
WrestleKingdom Goeth
Greetings and welcome back to Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. This week we have the big match here as we take a last look at the WrestleKingdom 9 show from January 4th of this year. We end the five weeks of coverage from the Tokyo Dome with the main event getting the full hour it deserves. So let's get right into it.

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episode 5

Nov 05 // Josh Tolentino
The first test of the week, of course, is Saitama and Genos' application to join the Hero Association, the NGO that regulates hero activity in the world of One Punch Man. And what an application it is!  It's easy to get distracted by the visuals and the awesome punching, but another thing that I find great about One Punch Man is its particular take on otherwise western-style superheroes, in part because the whole premise of a "Hero Association" (and even that name!) is so very Japanese. I mean, of course they would rearrange the whole concept of superhero adventures into something managed by a thoroughly bureaucratic process! Having recently taken the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, I could see the shades of it permeating the wholet testing montage (minus the athletic stuff). Sure, we've seen similar twists in the likes of Tiger & Bunny and even Zetman, but it's One Punch Man's interpretation that strikes me as particularly resonant with Japanese culture. I can only imagine how much more resonant it might be with the people who do live over there.  Naturally, once it's over, Genos gets himself catapulted to S-rank hero, while Saitama's poor written testing is rewarded with a C-rank. Between the orientation seminar led by one Snakebite Snek, an A-class jerkface, we see the world of the Hero Association is just as consumed with office politics, factionalization, and hazing the new guys. That's emphasized further with some new material, an impromptu meeting with none other than Amai Mask, celebrity, top-rank A-class hero, and apparently a kingmaker of sorts in the Association, one who's got his eye on Genos. For Saitama, on the other hand,  seeing what used to be a hobby turned into a day job might not be the best thing. It's an interesting thing to point out, as anyone who's ever tried to make a living off  a thing they used to do for fun has experienced. It's not all world-building and highly Japanese superheroics, though. This episode contains my favorite battle of the whole series: A sparring match between Saitama and Genos, with Genos going all out to try and push his "master" and reveal some secret to his power. There's some really great stuff in this fight. Of course, much of it thanks to the manga and Yuusuke Murata's lavish artwork, but there really is something to see it in motion. Madhouse even adds a few embellishments that help push things even further over the top. It's good that we're finally getting more hints of the real substance of One Punch Man's world, in addition to the visual splendor and hilarity of seeing Saitama win at (almost) everything. It took a bit of time, but this episode taps most deeply into the things that have made the manga such a hit with so many people. [Check out One Punch Man on Daisuki and Crunchyroll!]
One Punch Man photo
Passing the test
Things start to pick up in the animated chronicle of the man who Belive In Justice and Hold A Determination To Fist*, as the theme of this week's episode is "testing", whether against bureaucracy, your teacher, or yourself. Let's get some udon when we're done! *Symphogear is the 2nd best punching anime this year *Sorry, Symphogear reference

First Impressions: Anitore! EX

Nov 03 // Anthony Redgrave
Anitore! EX can best be described as an anime exercise video made into four-minute episodes. It's those "Get Fit with (insert washed up celebrity here)" videos that plague the discount bins and supermarket media sections except in anime form. Each episode has a different set of exercises and a different girl taking you through them. Of course, if you're not motivated by the tsundere flat chest, maybe the spunky gluttonous one will get you motivated to do some push ups. There isn't much story from each episode but according to the wiki page each girl is an aspiring idol wanting to improve their physique through exercise routines.  Each episode is shot in a POV style with the viewer taking the form of a training partner. I think you are supposed to do the exercises alongside the video. Except since I'm always taking screen shots and trying to read dialogue that mainly consists of "don't forget to exhale" and "hopefully it'll make my breasts bigger too", it's not too effective as an exercise tool. Also, the girls get tired after doing ten reps. I'm not talking just a little winded but sweaty and struggling for the last rep. These girls have a long way to go if they want to achieve that perfect beach body for Summer 2016.  The animation and art style, for the most part, is nice. The girls don't have the most original designs or personalities, but it works for the short duration of each episode. They cater to a specific moe and they all look nice while they work out. The camera has an eye for the female form but thankfully doesn't linger for too long to be part of ecchi territory. The chibi versions of each character are cute and adorable for cheering on the girls as they work out and providing practical tips during each exercise.  There isn't too much substance here. The details on each exercise are minimal and provide a basic explanation on the muscle groups they work out. If you've been on the fence about the concept of working out but have never pushed up or squatted in your life then maybe this is worth a watch. However, I cannot stress that 'maybe' enough. Personally, I've been wanting to add more exercise routines to my repertoire so the 4 minutes episodes filled with cute anime girls isn't a bad investment every week. Just don't be expecting some high or even low-brow stuff with this anime.  [Anitore! EX streams weekly on Crunchy Roll] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
Anitore! EX photo
Get on the Summer body early
There has always been sports anime around that I can never get into. Either I have no interest in the sport or the drama part takes too much away from the sport that I like, or the show is more interested in showing off ...

Strong Style: 8-Man Mayhem

Oct 31 // Soul Tsukino
We open the show with a greeting from Shinsuke Nakamura.   Suzuki Army (Takeshi Iizuka, Shelton X Benjamin, Killer Elite Squad) vs. Taru Yano, Naomichi Marufuji, Mikey Nicholls, Shane Haste  The story here is that Yano and Iizuka were members of CHAOS together, but Iizuka turned on Yano and joined the Suzuki Army. Iizuka picked his fellow army members Benjamin, Smith and Archer (jumping back and forth with NOAH) and challenged Yano to find partners of his own. He also picked three NOAH guys in Marafuji and the team known as TDMK as his partners and here we are. We start things off with Iizuka coming through the crowd while the other three guys walk down the ramp normally. Taka Michinoku is in their corner. the NOAH logo appears on the massive video wall and Yano comes out first followed by TMDK (The Mighty Don't Kneel) followed by  Marafuji. Marufuji is the NOAH GHC champion and for some reason decked out in gear that looks like a mix of Hayabusa and a sentai trooper. The brawl starts before the bell with all eight guys brawling. We get down to Iizuka and Yano. Iizuka immediately goes for his Iron gantlet but misses. He then takes a rope out from his tights, but Yano grabs him right by the beard and sends him down. Yano removes one of the big pads on the far corner, but when he tries to send Iizuka into it, it is reversed and he hits it instead. Benjamin comes in now and takes over on Yano briefly before tagging in Archer. The KES worked together and deliver the old Hart foundation Hart Attack clothesline on Yano. We come back from commercial as Archer is in against Yano. Yano pulls the hair that just pisses off Archer. Lance makes the charge but goes flying into the exposed corner. Yano makes the tag and Haste comes in. He hits Archer with a dropkick, sending him over to tag Smith Jr. into the ring. Haste meets him by getting him up in a running powerslam (insult to injury as of course that was the finisher of Smith's father). TMDK Lifts Archer up for a double slam, but Smith breaks that up. Archer turns around and DRILLS Haste with a very high chokeslam. Archer tags Iizuka in as Haste tags Marufuji. Marafuji kicks the crap out of the bearded one several times over. He goes for a cover and doesn't get it. Marafuji gets set on top with Shelton LAUNCHING Marafuji with a suplex that sends him across the ring. Iizuka comes in and uses a rope on Marufuji, but Haste comes in with a kick. TMDK double team on Iizuka sending him into a knee uppercut from Marafuji and gets the pin! Well, that was quick! Backstage words from the Killer Elite Squad as they are FURIOUS. They destroy the table and scream and yell about TMDK and how they are the better team and will crush the Aussies next time they meet. TMDK counters by saying they are glad the KES is angry. TMDK is the dominant and better team and invite the Squad to come and get it. We get some studio words from Nakamura. He talks about how he expected New Japan would have a worthy competitor prepared for this show, but he got a Joker, we then cut to the footage of Nakamura standing in the ring ASKING for a Joker. They had wrestled a really good match before in 2013, but the rematch for the G1 is 2014 was canceled with Ibushi's injury. Nakamura is going in with big expectations for this match. IWGP Intercontinental Title: Kota Ibushi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura We saw the set up here a few weeks ago where Nakamura regained the IC Title and then challenged someone to fight for this show. Ibushi snuck out and suplexed him on the back of his head. Challenge accepted. We are starting this match fairly early tonight so this one isn't going to be a quick no-nothing match. Ibushi comes out looking ready and getting a good reaction from the fans. The champion comes out dressed as the King FROM GO LION! Crown, cape, the whole bit. Good on Josh Barnett for pointing this out. Voltron represent! A night like this was made for this guy, no doubt about it. We come back from break as we get started. Crowd is geared for this one. They circle slowly as Ibushi lands a low kick. Nakamura goes in low but gets caught in a face lock. Push against the ropes and Nakamura tries for the belly rub thing, Kota smacks him in the face for that. Not fooling around tonight. The trade some light knee strikes on each other but neither get anyway. Nakamura extends a hand and Ibushi shakes it, only to get a knee from Nakamura! He lands a few more strikes before going for a big knee strike, but Ibushi avoids it. Kota gets Nakamura down in the corner with a hit. Ibushi goes for the good vibrations kick! Shinsuke is pissed, leaps up, knees Kota and hits the move on Ibushi. Shinsuke hits more knees and strikes, eventually hitting a guillotine knee of the apron to the outside. Nakamura goes back in the ring, but Ibushi really struggles to get in the ring after that. Shinsuke catches him in a cravat headlock. Kota sends him into the ropes, but Nakamura hits a knee to take Kota down. Shinsuke doesn't get a 3 count but locks in a rear choke, before transitioning into a half crab on the arm. Kota reaches the rope to break the hold. Kota bows up and hits Nakamura with some hits to the chest where Shinsuke returns the favor. Kota goes down and Shin goes for a SWEET spin kick but misses. Kota slaps him and then slaps him again. Nakamura gets a suplex on Kota, but he lands on his feet and hits a hurrancanrana sending Nakamura outside the ring. Kota leaps off the top to hit a triangle asai moonsault! Awesome! Kota rolls Shin in the ring and hits a springboard dropkick. He hits a few strikes and finally a spin kick to send Shinsuke down. A standing moonsault only gets two. Into the corner now as Kota tries for something, but Nakamura counters it. Kota on the outside where Shinsuke tries to suplex in the ring but Kota lands a knee to the head to end that. Kota tries another springboard dropkick, but Shinsuke hits a superkick and flattens Kota dead on the mat. Back from a break with both guys down. Nakamura first up and hits a spin kick and front suplex before hitting the MMA knees to Kota's head. He goes for the Booma ye, but Kota ducks. They struggle up to the top rope and Kota hits the frankenstiener from the top rope! He doesn't get the count, though. Kota with the full nelson and hits the snapdragon suplex that looks brutal. A head kick and then a moonsault! He still only gets two. Kota tries for the piledriver, but Shinsuke counters it by grabbing the leg. He tries it again but rolls through it into a sunset flip. Only gets two, but Ibushi hits the kick right into Shinsuke's face. He hits the powerbomb but kicks out. Ibushi goes up to the top and misses the phoenix splash. Shin hits the booma ye to the back of the head. Nakamura gets up and lands some stomps on Ibushi's head. Shinsuke is PISSED! Ref backs Nakamura off and Ibushi just stands up. He smacks Nakamura with some HARD palm strikes before just hitting him with straight fists. IT IS ON! Ibushi gets hit with a knee strike so Nakamura goes for the armlock submission. Kota stands up and starts stomping Shinsuke in the head to get out of the hold. Kota hits the reverse powerslam and MOCKS Nakamura with his poses before hits the booma ye! Pin only gets too as he punches Nakamura in the head. Shinsuke hits some angry elbows and then a soccer kick to the head. He then drives the toe of his boot into Kota's mouth! Damn, there is a nasty move right now. They trade strikes before Shin tries for the booma ye off the ropes and Ibushi counters and hits a double stomp to the stomach! Ibushi up first and the crowd is going crazy for this. Nakamura goes to the apron, but Ibushi climbs to the second rope and deadlifts Nakamura up with a german suplex over the ropes! Holy Crap dude, you are a junior heavyweight. You aren't supposed to be able to do that! He gets Shinsuke up for a powerbomb, but Shin counters out of this and pounds the hell out of Kota before he hits the booma Ye. Kota SMILES AT HIM! DAMN! He hits a knee, but Nakamura lands another booma ya and finally pins him! Both guys are down as the crowd rightly gives them both a standing ovation. Nakamura gets to his knees and gets his belt. He checks on Kota and says something to him as they exchange a fist bump of respect. Shin grabs the mic and talks about how close he was to losing. He gives props to Ibushi and then a Yeaoh! before leaving. Post match words from Ibushi. He says he gave it his all but still lost. Despite that, he thinks the match showed that he had potential as a heavyweight (fairly safe to assume there) and that he wants to fight Nakamura again as well as other heavyweights down the road. Nakamura gives comments backstage saying that during the match, he felt overwhelmed. That is something that rarely happens and made Ibushi a special opponent for him. We get some studio words now from Nakamura who agrees with me that this was the perfect match that he has been trying to achieve in all his years of wrestling. It was a very tough battle and he reiterates that Ibushi was a special opponent. This was a lot of fun! The 8 man match was blindingly quick but still had a lot of action in it and Marufuji looked great in it. The main event, however, was every bit of the 5-star Match of the year candidate that it was being hyped as. No matter how you do it  (hopefully nice and legally) track down this match and watch it if you want a perfect Puroresu match of the modern age. Next week we have THE main event of Wrestlekingdom 9 when IWGP champion Hiroshi Tanahashi takes on challenger Kazuchika Okada that takes up the full hour.  See you next week! Naomichi Marufuji & Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
It's a gang fight tonight!
It's Strong Style time again kiddies as Japanator looks at NJPW on AXS TV. This week is week 4 of 5 looking at the WrestleKingdom 9 show from January of this year. We are back at the Tokyo Dome with two big matches tonight so let's get to the action!

Annotated Anime: Attack on Titan: Junior High episodes 2-4

Oct 29 // Soul Tsukino
All right, now that the fangirls have stopped screaming, we are introduced to Levi. He is an upperclassman at the school. After taking down a titan so easily, Eren wants to know what club this sempai belongs to so he can learn how to take down titans so easily. But first we see why Armin has been so holed up. He is a weak and sickly little boy who has a Linus-like attachment to his favorite futon blanket. His house is kept at a blazing hot temperature so he doesn't catch a cold. Suddenly Levi bursts into the room and steals Armin's futon before he runs away. Instantly Armin starts sneezing. Even though he is wearing cat pajamas. We catch up to the others and it seems that their attempts at joins clubs have all been disasters. Sasha's run in the culinary club didn't go well since she ate all the ingredients, and the sports clubs all are ruined by titans. They start talking about a super secret club that is trying to change and get rid of the titans, but it is hush-hush. Of course, they find the club room easily and well advertised. We get to see some of the older classmen who are members of the Attack Junior High Scout club, including Oluo who always seems to bite his tongue, Petra, and the ever bonkers  Hange. Eren wants to see Levi again, so the best way to get Levi to arrive? Putting an empty plastic bottle in a trash bin. Levi shows right up and after some begging and pleading, Levi makes them all members of the secret club. Except that the club is unofficial and secret so the school puts them all on wall cleaning duty instead. Episode 3 In this episode, we look at Annie. She doesn't like Eren since he declared he liked cheese burger steak during the opening ceremony, making everyone laugh at him. Annie likes Chee-burg too but doesn't want anyone to know. I'm only guessing, but it makes it sound like in Japan, cheeseburger steak is something for little kids and that junior high students would've grown out of eating it. Annie lies and tells everyone she likes mozuku seaweed. The class dodge ball tournament is coming up and since Annie on a different team than Eren, she vows to crush him, Eren doesn't know why. Each of the classes is split into an A team and a B team. Jean heads up class 4's A team and Annie heads Class 4's B team. Things don't look good for Class 4's A team as Eren hasn't shown up. The rules are that everyone has to play and the team has to cover up that Eren isn't there from Mr. Keith. As a result of being separated from him, Mikasa doesn't have the will to move. Sasha is constantly eating (improving her dodge skill but taking away her hands to catch anything), and Conny doesn't even know what he's doing as he hands the opposing team the ball before being eliminated from the first match. Somehow they survive the match and the team watches as Annie's team crushes their opponents. Class 4's A team tries to dress Jean up as Eren so they won't get in trouble with Mr. Keith, but Annie tells them that if he doesn't show up for the match, she'll tell him anyway. Finally, Eren arrives and instantly Mikasa is revived. The battle goes down as people are eliminated one by one. Eventually, it comes down to Eren and Mikasa against Annie. She uses to advanced technique to keeping hitting Eren with the ball, but since Mikasa keeps recovering the ball after he is hit, he doesn't get eliminated, just gets the crap beaten out of him. Eren asks why Annie hates him so much and she confesses her reason. Eren and Annie make up as the others all applaud. Suddenly the ball taps Annie on the head as Conny finally learns the rules of the game and wins it for class 4. Later at lunch Eren drops his only chee-burg on the ground, so Annie give Eren hers. Mikasa gets made and keeps shoveling fish and veggies in his mouth so he wouldn't pay attention to Annie. Jean speculates a love triangle has been made.  Episode 4 It's time to start cleaning the outer walls! For Eren and the gang, it's the first day of the wall cleaning club that they were shoe-horned into in episode 2. The wall cleaning club once had 100 members, now it's only down to the club president, Rico. So it's up to the first year students to keep the club going!  Each person is assigned a scrub bucket with supplies and are told to clean the windows of the school building. No one likes being there, but since all the human clubs are full, they'd be stuck joining titan clubs instead if they quit. Jean is especially mad since everyone laughs at them and tries to quit, but Rico comes swooping in on the omnidirectional mobility gear and hits him. Instantly everyone falls in love with the new gadget and are told they'd have to work hard to earn the right to wear them. They rush back into the building and clean the windows so well it blinds Rico, who says that even though they are first-year students, he is going to teach them. In a plotline that seems oh so familiar, everyone seems to get the hang of the gear almost instantly, except Eren. He has a moment of existential crisis over being told he'd be kicked out of the club if he couldn't learn to use the gear (Uhh... first year students weren't supposed to be using them anyway. What's the problem?) Until the club advisor, The drunk school janitor Mr. Hannes shows up and straps the gear on, not noticing the belt is damaged and crashing into Jean and the others. Eventually everyone sees the gear is broken. Rico blames Mr. Hannes for it, so she wouldn't look bad. When given a fixed set of gear Eren accomplishes being able to stand upright in it. We then see WHY there is a wall cleaning club in the first place. Yup, Titans are also graffiti making bastards. Eren runs out to try and attack them, but it doesn't end well. See, he only is able to balance in the gear, but Rico hadn't trained him how to properly use it yet.   Overall these three episodes picked up right where the first episode left off. They are fun, cute, and the plot isn't complex. I especially like the work done on episode four with how they were able to parody such an iconic scene from the source show, but still make it work for this universe. As "Weird" Al Yankovic once said of his work, doing original ideas is tough, but parody is even harder. These episodes did a great job at looking at some of Eren's friends and showing some of their funny quirks on top of Eren's adventures. And since I've made it clear who my favorite character is, here is a count of the things Sasha was eating in these eps. An entire box of "sticks" that she nearly choked on, At least 3 yams, at least one baked potato, a bowl of ramen, and a carrot. Surprisingly she didn't eat a thing in episode four. That's no good for a growing young lady like herself! Get her a sammich before she faints! Still love this series and these episodes only made it easier to like it. All right, now that the fan girls have stopped screaming, we are introduced to Levi. He is an upperclassmen at the school. After taking down a titan so easily, Eren wants to know what club this sempai belongs to so he can learn how to take down titans so easily.
Attack on Titan: Jr high photo
Lessons in life, love, and chee-burg
Episode 2 has Eren and the gang wondEreng about the long absence of their classmate Armin. Seems Armin doesn't like to go out in the cold so he hasn't been to school all winter. Eren gets tasked with going to Armin's house to...

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episode 4

Oct 27 // Josh Tolentino
I am, of course, being facetious here, though the focus of this week's episode is definitely on villains, in particular the redundantly-named "Speed O'Sound Sonic", a sadistic, slender ninja man with a penchant for smiling like a crazy person whenever he gets his blood up.  Like our guy Saitama, he's mainly looking for a challenge, but unlike our guy Saitama, he's a true villain, chopping people's heads off at the slightest provocation with his ninja skills. Fans of the manga will note that Sonic is effectively the series' first true, enduring, antagonist. Though that's not saying a whole lot considering the relative thinness of One Punch Man's plot, knowing he'll come back someday lends the show a sense of continuity that wasn't present in the first three episodes. Also, Saitama accidentally punches Sonic in the junk, in a scene that shows off just how much Madhouse was enjoying animating the sequence: We're also introduced, ever so briefly, to Mumen Rider, the cyclist for justice. Considering his positioning in the intro sequence, as well as the surprisingly long scene and detailed animation he gets, even non-readers might be suspecting a recurring role in store for him. Spoiler alert: They're right! Besides the glorious junk-punishment meted out to the speedy ninja, we're treated to yet more spiffy takes on the manga scenes, such as a series of hyper-accelerated beheadings, courtesy of Sonic, and the local villain Hammerhead powering up his Battle Suit like the Dragon Ball villain he resembles. Even Genos gets some extra screentime, as the anime foreshadows a future, potentially gorgeous-looking battle in a coming episode. Finally, Saitama himself takes the next step in heroing: Making it a job. He used to be a "hero for fun", but starting next week, he'll be seeing life through the eyes of a professional, registered super.  [Check out One Punch Man on Daisuki and Crunchyroll!]          
One Punch Man photo
The Lowest Blow
So, it turns out that Madhouse's big twist in their adaptation of the wildly popular One Punch Man would be to turn Saitama into the villain! Who'd have thunk it?! No true hero would stoop so low as to punch a vulnerable enemy in the junk, after all. Dick strikes are the preserve of craven knaves alone!

Strong Style: Tokyo Dome Domination

Oct 24 // Soul Tsukino
We open with a greeting from Katsuyori Shibata this week. The Bullet Club (Jeff Jarrett, Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale) vs. Tomoaki Honma, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima So it's the dregs of the Bullet Club taking on two veterans and the lovable loser of NJPW. I don't think there is any specific feud between these teams, this was more an excuse to get the Bullet Club B-team on the card and give Jeff Jarrett his time since he had the rights for the English language broadcast of this event to help promote his Global Force Wrestling venture. Jarrett comes out first, of course, accompanied by his wife Karen (whom I hate even more than Jeff) and Canadian promoter Scott D'amore, followed by Fale and Yujiro. The opposing team comes out together. Once in the ring, Karen starts pushing Honma leading to all six men going at it in the ring. Fale and Takahashi are run together as TenKoji double suplex Fale. We boil down to Tenzan and Yujiro before Kojima comes in and machine gun chops Yujiro. Fale interferes sending Kojima down as Jarrett comes in legally. Fale comes back in and goes after everyone. Kojima gets whooped on as Yujiro comes into the ring and rakes Kojima's eyes. Kojima hits the Kojima cutter (stone cold stunner) and gets the tag into Honma who goes wild on Yujiro. Honma goes for a diving headbutt and misses.  Yujiro hits a suplex. Yujiro then tries for a move, but Honma blocks before landing a sweet flying headbutt. Karen distracts the ref so Jarrett gets his guitar but accidently hits Yujiro (wouldn't be a Jarrett match with smashing a guitar). TenKoji hits a few double team moves before Honma climbs the ropes for the Kokashi headbutt from the top rope and HITS IT! HONMA GETS THE PIN! Crowd goes wild! Mauro goes wild! "Charlie Brown finally kicked the football!"- Mauro Ranallo The match was quick paced and short. This wasn't about having a back and forth, this was more about getting Jarrett on the card, since he was sponsoring the English language version of this event in America, and also about having Honma getting the feel good moment as he actually hit his big move and won the match for his team. They did that very well so I'm not faulting them for it. UWF Rules: Minoru Suzuki vs. Kazushi Sakuraba UWF Rules refers not to Bill Watts, but Universal World of Fighting, a "worked shoot" promotion in Japan in the 80's and early 90s that was like a worked MMA company. In this case, it just means there are no pins and that the match is won with a submission or a knockout. This match was supposed to be shown last week but was bumped for some reason. These are two old veterans of MMA and they do not like each other. Suzuki is here on loan from NOAH and the leader of the Suzuki Army. As has been said before, is a bit off kilter and a reputation of not being the nicest guy in the ring. Sakuraba is an MMA legend known as The Gracie Killer for his defeats of several members of the famed Brazilian Ju-jitsu family, and also known as a huge otaku, especially for EVA. These two have locked horns before, but now they are fighting one-on-one. Suzuki comes out wearing all white, even bleaching his oddly cut hair and even his eyebrows. He looks even more ominous now looking like this. As Sakuraba comes out Mauro rattles off his MMA credentials, including the four Gracie members he has defeated.  Sakuraba gets a waist lock before reversing. Suzuki gets him down on a brief mount, but Sakuraba gets out. The work to the mat then Sakuraba stands up and gets a kick on Suzuki's thigh and then goes for the scorpion deathlock, but ends up getting a heel hook instead. Suzuki crawls to the ropes and pulls out of the hold, getting under the bottom rope. Suzuki ends up on the apron as they trade strikes and kicks. Suzuki gets the armbar on the ropes, but it is broken up by the ref. Outside the ring now as they go up the ramp. They trade strikes and kicks on the ramp and Sakuraba goes for the kimura. The ref goes ballistic on Sakuraba before finally getting Sakuraba back in the ring. He stands there patiently waiting as Suzuki is in pain already. Back from a break now with Suzuki struggling to crawl back to the ring. His arm is injured now from the kimura. Suzuki gets to the floor before  Sakuraba says the hell with it and rolls Suzuki into the ring and starts striking and kicking the arm now. Suzuki is down and the ref starts counting. Suzuki stands up and then pops Sakuraba right in the face with a palm strike. OUCH! He gets Sakuraba down, but Sakuraba gets right back up. Suzuki goes strong style telling Sakuraba to hit him harder. Sakuraba then gets an armbar on Suzuki as Suzuki fights through it and gets to the rope. Sakuraba kicks and kicks onto Suzuki, but the crazy man won't give up. Suzuki just beats the count as his arm is useless. Suzuki toughens up and hits slaps on Sakuraba's face. These guys are screaming at each other as they trade strikes. Suzuki gets the sleeper choke, slams him with the hold still on. Sakuraba is fading. Sakuraba is OUT! Suzuki won the match with one arm! They look each other over and they shake hands. Respect for these two for each other for the beating.  Backstage Suzuki talks about waiting for this match for years and says that despite what the media and the fans had said about Sakuraba not doing much in Puro, he doesn't look down on Sakuraba one bit. A media member asks what Suzuki said to Sakuraba when they hugged, and Suzuki tells the guy if he wants to know, get in the ring and find out before calling the guy a loser. Studio words from Shibata talking about fighting Goto and then teaming with him. He then compliments Gallows and Anderson saying they are powerful guys. He then goes on to talk about wanting a belt and that the Tag League wasn't enough for him since it was just a record thing and that belts are what matters.   IWGP Tag Titles: Meiyu (Shibata/Goto) vs. The Bullet Club (Anderson/Gallows) The build-up to this was shown a few weeks ago when Meiyu defeated the champs in the finals of the World League tag team tournament a few months before this show. Meiyu comes out to videos of them together and pictures of them together in high school to angelic style music. I will say Goto wears the coolest ring jackets that would go great with a convention cosplay. Shibata is all business. It's like the ass kicking Mythbusters of Puro. The Club has The Bullet Babe Amber Gallows and Tama Tonga with them. We start the match with Karl and Goto. Headlock to head scissors trade ends in a stalemate. Karl hits a few strikes, but Goto hits some of his own before getting kneed by Gallows. Karl gets to close to the corner as Shibata grabs him, but when Goto goes to strike he hits his own partner, sending Shibata to the floor. Gallows comes in and lands a superkick to Goto. Club double teams on Goto but doesn't get the pin. Karl hits the leg lariat on Goto, but Goto fights on out of a pin. He goes over and knocks Shibata off the apron again. Gallows comes in and chokes Goto on the ropes before Amber slaps him and Gallows clubs the crap out of Goto in the corner. We come back from break with Goto still getting beaten up. Goto gets Gallows with a kick before he gets Gallows down and tags in Shibata. Shibata gets Gallows down with a bunch of forearms. He goes for the running kick but is met with a clothesline. He hits a dropkick on Gallows and then goes for his octopus, but Karl comes in to break it up. Goto comes in and Meiyu scores stereo corner kicks on the Club. Shibata holds Gallows for a Goto kick, but Karl gets interference.  The Club double team on Shibata as they hit the decapitator on Shibata as Goto saves the pin. They get the reverse 3D on Shibata, but he kicks out. The Bullet Club go for the magic killer but Goto sends Gallows out. Goto blocks the Gun Stun twice from Karl Anderson as Goto hits the ushi-karoshi into the penalty kick from Shibata. Gallows comes in and ends that by steamrolling over both guys. Gallows goes up to the top rope but gets caught into a double Ushi-Karoshi. Meiyu double team Gallows with a kick into a sleeper, but it's broken up. Finally, Gallows goes down as Shibata hits the penalty kick and gets the pin! We have new tag champions! The one year reign of the champions is over! Meiyu strap the belts onto each other and celebrate in the ring Backstage the new champs talk about starting in a little wrestling club in high school and they are now the champions. Shibata talks about leaving NJPW but coming back feeling that a belt held power and that he was glad they won. In the studio, Shibata talks about having the fans cheering him on. He says his body just seemed to know what to do next in the ring leading to the victory.  He ends this week's show by saying he really likes the design of the tag belts. This was a very quick paced show, but these were also very quick-paced matches. The six-man tag match was more about the moment than the action, but it wasn't offensive. I happened to be really into the singles match, even when watching it the first time. It wasn't a marathon match by any means but with two guys in their 40's, it wasn't expected to be. The final tag match maybe was a little too short for its own good. I could have seen this going longer, but for what it was it wasn't terrible. It was a fun hour! Next week we will have the big 8-man tag team match as well as Kota Ibushi and Shinsuke Nakamura locking horns for the IWGP intercontinental title. See you then! The Bullet Club (Jeff Jarrett, Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale) vs. Tomoaki Honma, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Tag action from WrestleKingdom 9
Welcome back to Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. This week at on show number three in our coverage of WrestleKingdom 9. So we are back at the big Tokyo Dome from January of this year. This ...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episodes 713+ 714

Oct 24 // Anthony Redgrave
The episode kicks off right where the previous had ended. Nico Robin had just captured Cavendish before he could attack her. Subduing the blonde swordsman, it is revealed that his violent personality is called Hakuba and is a lot more aggressive than Cavendish. The reveal isn't played dramatically but instead for laughs. Cavendish desperately tries to regain control of his body, Hakuba wrestles against Robin's restraints, and Bartomeleo tries to understand what the hell is going on. The humour isn't dragged out as Gladius takes advantage of the situation by placing a bomb on the mountain side. Bartolomeo is placed in a difficult defensive position that puts him or Nico Robin at risk. I think if I didn't like Bartolomeo, this fight with Gladius would've been disappointing. Bartolomeo was another character that was rather polarising when he was first introduced since his character design and personality mimicked a minor antagonist. This soon turned around once he started fanboying over Luffy and any other Straw Hat he saw. There was little action or kinetic energy between Bartolomeo and Gladius, but the tension and drama are present making it a suspenseful episode. I really liked the ending of this episode as a result of the fight. An executive goes down, Bartolomeo has his moment of epicness, and Robin is finally where she needs to be to help Rebecca.  Episode 714 brings us back to the Tontatta's campaign to rescue Princess Mansherry. The episode isn't spent too long on the actual rescue process i.e. Leo and Kabu running through the castle to find her and more on why Doflamingo had captured Princess Mansherry.  Princess Mansherry is the eater of the Heal Heal fruit which is a devil fruit that makes studying for medicine obsolete. Jora having been healed previously, tries to force Mansherry to use her power on the defeated executives. For me, it isn't the drama that lies with an executive coming back and causing the defeat of an ally, it's the idea that this arc may be prolonged because they have to fight the executives again. It's an unfortunate reason since it implies I'm not enjoying watching One Piece or I wouldn't enjoy more of it, but this does also heighten the tension in this episode. Jora discovers that Mansherry doesn't have to use her powers voluntarily as a tear from her eyes can heal anyone it touches prompting her to beat the dwarf princess. It's an uncomfortable scene, more so than the savage beatings seen in the fights that have caused disfigurement, blood shed, and even death.  The finale of the episode was decent wrapping up the Tontatta campaign and moving back to the fight with Luffy and Bellemy. I'm hoping the show keeps ups this pace and shows Franky's fight with Senor Pink soon. Every clip we have seen looks absurd when taken out of context and it's been so long sine we checked into the fight that I barely remember what the context is! [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Cavendish 'Two Face' Dent
Cavendish is a good character for One Piece. His character design is nice and provides some fan service for the lady viewers who'd prefer the prince characters over the overly macho Zoro. Cavendish isn't just eye candy e...

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.
One Punch Man photo
One Punch Man

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episode 3

Get Fit with Saitama
Oct 19
// Josh Tolentino
One Punch Man? More like One Punch Per Week Man, am I right? The Fall season's prettiest show continues into its third week, as Saitama and Genos head out to confront their first real enemy, the House of Evolution. Will this be the week that Saitama needs more than a single blow to fell his foes? Spoiler Alert: Nope!

Strong Style: Ooooh, that's gotta hurt!

Oct 17 // Soul Tsukino
Things get even weirder as we don't get a greeting and start with a cold opening. I'm wondering if there has been some last minute editing to this week's show outside of what was shown in Japan on the World Pro Wrestling Returns shows that these episodes are taken from. Oh well. Tetsuya Naito vs. A.J. Styles These guys had some bitchin' matches during the G1 tournament so let's see what they can do here. Interesting as Styles comes out alone without the Bullet Club. Styles jumps Naito right as he gets in the ring and goes for the Styles Clash early, but Naito counters out of it. Naito gets sent  outside and Styles tries for the moonsault but Naito misses, but Styles lands on his feet. Naito gets a dropkick off the apron to send Styles down on the floor. Both men get back into the ring as Naito hits another dropkick. Styles goes into the corner but counters Naito and goes for the previously injured leg with a rack attack. Back from commercial with Styles hitting the shinbuster. Naito tries to fight back, but Styles kicks the knee again. Indian deathlock on the knee as Styles has slowed things down. Naito gets to the rope to break the hold Naito gets to his feet as they exchange elbows. Styles keeps going for the knee, but Naito gets the spinning DDT to turn things back his way. They exchange before Naito hits a hiptoss right into a dropkick on Styles and then hitting the senton. Naito hits a neckbreaker and then goes for the pin to get two. Styles gets set on the top rope, but Naito jumps up to block him. Styles hits a headbutt to knock him off, but both men go down before Styles hits a springboard forearm shot on Naito. Styles goes for the suplex, but both guys fight it before Styles gets him up but gets him in a neckbreaker! They fight over a german suplex with Styles getting it, he tries for another, but Naito gets the roll up. Naito gets a suplex for the bridge, but Styles kicks out. Styles and Naito exchange strikes before Styles hits another forearm. Naito goes to the top rope, but Styles hits his leg and sending Naito down. Styles tries for the suplex but Naito rolls through it. Styles gets in the calf killer submission! Naito fights and fights it! He struggles but finally gets to the rope to break the hold. Back again from break  as Naito is hurting now. Styles goes for the leg, but Naito fights him off. Naito hits a kick and then a side suplex. Styles hits the dragon suplex into a pin attempt, but Styles kicks out. Naito goes for an odd octopus hold, but Styles hits the Pele kick and then the bloody Sunday DDT. Styles for the Clash but Naito picks him up and dumps him over the rope to the floor. Styles just barely beats the count as now both guys are hurting. Naito hits a dropkick to the mouth and gets Styles on the top rope. NMaito steps up and tries for the hurrancanrana, but Styles BLOCKS. He gets the Stylesclash on Naito and gets the pin! Backstage, we get some words from Styles. He says he used Naito as a stepping stone to get another shot at the IWGP title. He mentions hurting Yoshi Tatsu with the Styles Clash. He states that The Bullet Club has no leaders and that he has to get his back iced cause he's a Warrior! We get some words from Makabe who SPOILS THE ENDING OF THE NEXT MATCH by talking while sitting next to the NEVER belt. He speaks about establishing the belt's identity. He talks about how similar he and Ishii are. NEVER Openweight Title: Togi Makabe vs. Tomohiro Ishii Ishii is the defending champion here. There is a history between these two as back in 2009 Makabe lead a group called Global Bash Heel which Ishii was a member. However most of the members of the group started turning on Makabe starting with Toru Yano and Shinsuke Nakamura to form team CHAOS, Ishii soon did the same. The Stone Pitbull taking on the Unchained Gorilla. I expect these guys will throw a lot of punches and clotheslines. Call it a hunch. Josh mentions Togi was the one to teach him how to curse in Japanese. Always a good skill to have.  We come back from break and they run right into clotheslines as it's a stalemate. Punches and then shoulder blocks before Ishii hits a powerslam, only for Makabe to hit one of his own. Mexican stand-off now before they go back and forth with punches and hits. Punch to the throat sends Makabe down (damn dude). Headbutt on Makabe puts down again. Makabe then stands up GLARING at Ishii and they are back at the punches going back and forth. Makabe gets the corner mount and punches down on Ishii's head. Clubbing Vader punches now as they are whaling on each other.  Makabe hits a suplex that gets Ishii down. Makabe hits some punches before Ishii screams at him. Ishii hits some punches and then a clothesline to send Makabe down! Makabe sent to the top with Ishii picking him up and hitting the delayed superplex! Ishii hits a powerbomb for a two count. Ishii tries for a clothesline, but Makabe hits one of his own before hitting a powerbomb! These guys just do not quit! Togi goes for a german suplex, Ishii blocks it, but Togi gets it anyway! Ishi hits the corner and Togi hits a clothesline before setting him up on the rope for the spider suplex, but Ishii blocks it. Makabe gets knocked over with his leg caught in the ropes but lifts himself back up and hits a Death valley bomb from the top rope! Count only gets two. Both stagger up as Togi hits a clothesline and then a kick before BLASTING Ishii with a clothesline that literally knocks the slobber from his mouth!  Ishii struggles to get up and lands a german suplex of his own, but Togi rolls through it, only to get clobbered with a clothesline. Another two count as they start hammering in each other with clotheslines. Togi hits a Mongolian chop to the head, but Ishii rams a headbutt to send Togi down. Ishii hits a low dropkick but only gets two. Enziguri on Togi sends him down for a two count. Togi hits with clothesline and another before he gets a dragon suplex on Ishii for a two count. Damn!  Forearms from their knees as they get up and yell each other to hit them HARDER! Headbutts knock both men stupid before Togi hits the Polish power double axhandle hit and then a clothesline to send Ishii down before Togi tries a cover. Makabe goes up and hits the King kong kneedrop and not so surprisingly (from the clip earlier) wins the title! Togi rolls over and hits a few more punches on Ishii, but he just collapses from the battle. Say what you want about pro wrestling, but those guys have to be sore as hell from a match like that. Ishii stumbles as he tries to leave the ring and has to be helped back to his feet.  Backstage, Makabe gives us some words saying that the NEVER matches are different from the other titles and he is tough. When asked what kind of champion he would be, he replies that his words would never change and that he will show us what real wrestling is. He rambles on and on for a bit, finishing every sentence with an exhausted grunt, making for a weird interview. He mentions that Rikki Choshu trained both of them, but he is the better man. He also says that Ishii will probably be back since he is the type to not lay down since the belt was taken from him. Studio words now as Makabe talks about going after the Intercontinental belt. He talks about his flower blooming earlier than Ishii's did as a wrestler even though they debuted in the same year. He states that Ishii's time will come soon though for his flower to bloom. We finish with some closing words from Mauro and Josh as we head out for the week. Well, this show was a bit off. I still wonder if something was changed last minute with the switching of matches and there not being the usual greeting at the beginning. However, this show was still enjoyable. Styles and Naito had a good match that wasn't what you'd expect from the two, but it had a great telling of Styles working on Naito's leg the whole match. The Makabe/Ishii fight was a slugfest and was nothing less than what you would expect from two stand up sluggers to give you. Good stuff! Next week we have a couple of tag matches, and maybe the match with Suzuki and Sakuraba. we will have to tune in to find out! Interesting as Styles comes out alone without the Bullet Club. Styles jumps Naito right as he gets in the ring and goes for the Styles Clash early, but Naito counters out of it. Naito gets sent  outside and Styles tries for the moonsault but Naito misses, but Styles lands on his feet. Naito gets a dropkick off the apron to send Styles down on the floor. Both men get back into the ring as Naito hits another dropkick. Styles goes into the corner but counters Naito and goes for the previously injured leg with a rack attack.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
More action from WrestleKingdom 9
Welcome back to Strong Style's coverage of NJPW on AXS TV. This week we go back to the Tokyo Dome for more matches from WrestleKingdom 9 from January of 2015.This week things seems to have been switched up on me, We were supp...

Annotated Tokusatsu: Ultraman X episodes 8-13

Oct 17 // Salvador GRodiles
You know that a segment is gonna get serious when you bring out a monster that literally wiped out the original Ultraman. While I never got around to watching the second Ultra show (Ultra Q is the first), I remember hearing about Zetton being one of the Giant of Light’s toughest adversaries. That being said, this sort of element is the kind of thing that one usually saves for a big moment. Unfortunately, the impact wasn’t as big as the one during the battle against Gargorgon. Yes, there was a twist during Daichi’s quest to create the Cyber Zetton Card, but this type of thing felt a little too sudden at this point in the game— unless if they're building up towards the appearance of an evil force that’s planning to invade the planet. Nonetheless, this didn’t stop the episode from having a few fun moments. Whether it was X using the Zetton Armor to reflect attacks and a ridiculous energy tornado attack or Ultraman Max’s cameo, the action side of things was enjoyable. Luckily, the series decided to change things up to prepare for its next phase. Considering that most of Ultraman X’s scenarios were catastrophes caused by large monsters and/or aliens, it was neat to see that the team left us with a few humorous segments. Honestly, I never imagined seeing an episode that’s dedicated to a guy helping a group of extraterrestrials win a game of rugby. For the most part, it served as a great diversion from the show’s usual formula, as it gave us the chance to see a bunch of people in monster suits acting like fools. Speaking of which, the situation with the creature Houlinga served as a fine example of a crisis where one has to investigate the situation before acting. While XiO’s members lost some points for the way how they handled the crisis, this was one of the few moments where Daichi showed more personality. Sure, his stunts have made him an okay person to follow, but there aren’t enough scenes where we actually see the guy stand out. In this case, he was the only person who put the effort in understanding Houlinga’s motives, which is a step in the right direction for his character. Other than that, I was surprised to see that the episode showed us a scenario where humans and large monsters can coexist. If anything, this might lead up to an interesting scenario later on. Speaking of Daichi, his whole bit with trying to summon Cyber Gomora reminds us of how he’s suffering from a case of wasted potential. From the moment that his backstory was revealed to be a sad one, the staff has avoided this element in favor of making him a character that people can insert themselves into. Sure, he isn’t a completely blank state character, but it’s getting to this point where his performance doesn't make him stand out too much from the rest of the XiO's colorful members. At least his actions and reactions to things make him a decent person, so we can only hope that he gets better as the story behind his parents becomes more relevant later on. Despite this plot element being a little too late in the game, it’s hard to deny that Cyber Gomora’s debut was in battle was quite a treat. I mean, the guy’s already a formidable beast in previous Ultra installments, so it was inevitable that his new variant would kick all sorts of butt in his debut. To an extent, it gave off a nice Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend and Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle vibe, since the idea of summoning a large creature to fight an enemy gave off a Rei vibe. Even though Daichi’s method is different, there’s something magical about seeing a non-Ultra Warrior as a good guy. Of course, this isn’t the height of the series’ latest progress, as it started to take things up a notch. Usually, the segments where X would be in peril would last one or two episodes; however, with the introduction of Gina Spectre, the team has outdone themselves again.  This is thanks to her being part of an empire known as the Gua Army, which already makes her presence bigger than the previous the show’s previous baddies. Combined with the fact that she’s played by Minami Tsukui (Kamen Rider W’s Grasshopper Woman/Hopper Dopant and Kamen Rider Gaim’s Yoko/Kamen Rider Marika), Tsuburaya managed to hit us with another solid entree. For once, the team was able to make this situation into a major event for Ultraman X. I mean, if you’re going to bring in a previous Ultra Warrior to the mix, you know that something big is about to go down. This happened with Zero and Max's cameo appearance, which were both amusing on their own behalf. If that doesn't happen, then you're likely left with a terrible scenario where we end up with a huge pile of garbage *cough Toei’s Super Hero Wars movie series. In this case, Ultraman Victory only made this arc more exciting— especially when Daichi thought that he couldn’t speak Japanese. Also, the idea behind Victory’s flute sword and his ability to perform special attacks with the Spark Dolls left me with a good impression on the character. Going back to Daichi, the weakest part of the arc was the staff pulling off another last minute attempt to emphasize on his character. Even if this scene wasn't that emotional, the idea behind Ultraman X’s Exceed Form worked as a decent way to show that his bond with the alien has grown stronger throughout the series. That and to show off his determination to find his parents. Again, these segments would’ve shined well if we saw him deal with his personal problems earlier in the series. But hey, Ultraman Exceed X uses his headgear as a sword, so something good came out of this event. Based on Exceed X’s debut, it looks like his style mostly involves using his sword and fabulous rainbow energy. Not that it’s a bad thing since his segments were pretty flashy; however, with Ginga and Victory’s more versatile skills, I’m hoping that Daichi will get to use the Cyber Monster Cards with his new Form. That way, the series won’t neglect the toys that it’s been marketing to people during these past few weeks. Even though the Ultra franchise was stuck in a situation where it production staff couldn't manage its budget, Ultraman X continues to take the brand to new heights. While the Gua Army was another example of the company recycling assets from previous shows, the team still managed to bring a new spin on Andro Super Warriors’ major villains. Since the series’ heroes were four Ultra Warriors who fought evil while donning special suits, I guess this still count as them bringing back older bad guys, except that they’re given an updated look. If the show’s 14th episode marks the end of this group, then their presence proved to us that the staff is willing to have segments that extend beyond two episodes. From the looks of it, the second half of Ultraman X might top this moment easily. Who knows, that one villain that X knocked into the sun could return after this next week's episode; thus resulting in a climactic moment for the series. [You can awaken Ultraman X's Ultimate Form at Crunchyroll and Tsuburaya's YouTube channel]
Ultraman X photo
A chokehold that transcends dimensions
Man. Ultraman X has gone through a lot during these past few weeks. From intense major event battles to sports games, the show is packing a ton of different elements recently. Perhaps the biggest thing to happen is that we mi...

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episode 2

Oct 15 // Josh Tolentino
Earlier on I mentioned that the main problem I could forsee with this adaptation of One Punch Man would be that Madhouse would be unable to sustain production at the level needed to deliver the kind of visual, well...punch needed to do the source justice. As much as I do like One Punch Man, its joys are more presentational than narrative in nature. Yusuke Murata's excellent grasp of space and eye for detail make ONE's simple (but effective) story stand out.  We enlightened souls of the 21st century tend to privilege "the writing" above any other yardstick in pop media, but presentation matters, especially in visual media like anime and manga. That's why it's important to read things like Kevin Cirugeda's excellent article on appreciating good animation, even if you yourself don't plan to become a "sakuga otaku" yourself.  The short-wordcount version of what I just said is that as of this week, One Punch Man still looks 'effin gorgeous, with particular flair in today's fight scenes. This is a good thing because looks matter, and One Punch Man as a manga is great partly because it looks so good. This is where I'm also reminded that a very faithful adaptation of a manga isn't always a good thing, particularly in shows where detailed plotting is not the primary draw. Long story short? One Punch Man's pace is p-l-o-d-d-i-n-g. The stretching of time isn't as obvious or blatant as the kind of padding out that goes on in the likes of the Naruto anime or anything like that, but it's clear that Madhouse are being fairly deliberate in their choices of how much content to cover in each episode. The result is, for folks that look for more substantial narratives, feels stretched a bit thin. One unfortunate side effect of this necessity is that the ways in which One Punch Man evolves past its original schtick aren't as obvious here. People can read manga faster than they can watch a TV show, and the advantage is that the initial, simple jokes are over with quickly. Even if Saitama's struggle to find a worthy fight is gone over again and again, it passes by without a chance to grow truly irritating. That's not quite the case here, and some more impatient viewers are more than likely already going "Look, I get it, he's invincible and can't lose, alright? Let's move on." Thankfully, the second episode does move on, by introducing none other than Genos, the blond cyborg who is pretty damn awesome. In many ways, he'd be the kind of character to anchor his own damn show if Saitama weren't the star. He's the archetypal badass anime/manga protagonist, and the show has a lot of fun with his overly elaborate (and repetitious) backstory, his shtick in the episode recalling shades of Yuki Nagato's famous "I'm an alien" monologue from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.  It would be one thing if Genos were merely a gag character, a one-off encounter solely meant to poke fun at the tropes of fight manga. But such things are for lesser series. In fact, thanks to a great fight against animal-hybrid villains from "The House of Evolution", Genos looks to be a continuing presence in One Punch Man, and to good effect. At the risk of spoiling anime-only viewers, it's on his robotic shoulders - as well as the shoulders of other characters coming later - that much of One Punch Man's enduring qualities rests on. They provide what Saitama alone cannot, and it's in that style of fully utilizing the potential of the genre even as it mocks it mercilessly - that the source has garnered as much appeal as it has. [Get mosquitos to bug out on Daisuki!]
One Punch Man photo
Convenient Signage in the Aftermath
Welcome to the latest recap of One Punch Man, the only anime series that probably doesn't need a recap, for so obvious is the plot, am I right? As it turns out, not quite. A fair bit goes on in today's installment, and while deviations from the source are few, newer viewers may find the latest developments engaging.  

First Impressions: Durarara!!x2 Ten

Oct 12 // Anthony Redgrave
Durarara!!x2 Ten picks up immediately after the last episode left off. The Toramaru-Dollars conflict had been quelled and with Shizuo's intervention the two Russian assassins had been apprehended. The previous cour had ended on a cliffhanger with Izaya being stabbed in the back (literally not figuratively) by the mysterious Jinnai Yodogiri. Fortunately, eager watchers don't have to wait long to see the aftermath as the first episode is dedicated to how people are reacting to this news.  Getting back into this series can be a daunting task. There are so many different characters, plot threads that are interlaced within one another it feels like you would need to rewatch the first half of this season. I've never been a fan of rewatching the openings of anime every week since the opening only needs to be watched once to see the new visuals and hear the new song. But, Durarara!! retains the tradition of incorporating small flashbacks and reminders of events gone by into the opening and it is often related to the same episode allowing viewers to caught up with the plot. It's extremely abridged, but the cherry-picked sound bites and clips shown do an adequate job in keeping me up to date on the happening's in Ikebukuro even if they were referencing events from the first season.  So far x2 Ten has been fairly mellow and slow in terms of the plot. It comes hot off the heels of a massive gang war so characters are taking it easy before the next big event. These first few episodes focus on some of the secondary characters like Mizuki Akabayashi and the Seiji/ Mika storyline. Like all Durarara!! protagonists newcomer Mizuki is a very charming and likable goon of the Awakusu largely in part to the incredibly strong voice acting. I was surprised by how much I grew to like Mizuki from that one episode seeing him only as an unimportant Lieutenant for the Awakusu in the previous cour. The big break out of these first few episodes was Mika. I had mentioned before that I don't have any interest in Seiji/Mika/Namie love triangle thing in Durarara!! as their actions rarely affect the overarching plot of each series. The Mika episode helped demonstrate the importance of her presence in the story as she is a lot stronger and smarter than we had anticipated. When we consider Ikebukuro's internal political manipulation that goes on behind the scenes, Mika is another person we need to be looking out for.  A more interesting love triangle has emerged this series between badass Shizuo, Verona the Russian Hit girl, and Akane the mob boss daughter. Shizuo is as aloof as any other harem protagonist, but his lack of social skills make sense due to his history. Shizuo isn't lumped in with the spineless harem protagonists because he doesn't display the pathetic horniness combined with ignorance towards overtly romantic cues. His job is a violent one so he keeps people at a distance wanting to keep his friends and family safe but isn't heartless enough to brush them off when they want to say 'Hey' or come to him for help. This new love triangle has a great dynamic between the girls and Shizuo; Shizuo acts as a mentor for both of them but at the same time the girls' primary motive is to kill Shizuo.  The look and feel of Durarara!! are part of its core appeal and it has not changed one bit. I've always liked how everything was extremely colorful and dynamic. The animation and art direction have been very good up to now, both staying consistent and smooth. At the start Mizuki's episode during an encounter in the bathroom, there is a very large drop in quality with crappy looking characters but this is an isolated incidence. In the audio department; the voice acting is still amazing helping to engross you in the charming delights and dangers of Ikebukuro and the heightened emotion in each scene is backed with strong melodic choruses from a familiar soundtrack.  After taking a whole season respite from the city, it's good to be back. [Watch Durarara!!x2 Ten on Crunchy Roll] internal political manipulation that goes on behind the scenes
Durarara photo
Never mess with Shizuo Heiwajima
The release of Durarara!!'s second cours dubbed started broadcasting last month and it went completely under my radar. 5 episodes in and I've become reacquainted with the denizens of Ikebukuro and the thin line called destiny that intertwines all of their actions together. 

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 ...

Strong Style: WrestleKingdom 9 in HERE!

Oct 10 // Soul Tsukino
This week we are greeted by Kenny Omega. Did not expect that. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles: The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) vs. The Time Splitters (Kushida/Alex Shelley) vs. Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov/Rocky Romero) vs. ReDRagon (Kyle O'Reily/Bobby Fish)  This is gong to be a tough one to cover!  ReDRagon are the champs going into this one, along with being the ROH tag champions. We get a look at the setup for the arena and it is incredible with a MASSIVE three level entrance ramp with a video wall and a very long ramp to the ring. As the teams come to the ring Mauro talks about the history of the Jr. tag titles and the people who have held the belts. We start the match off with Kushida and Bobby Fish. Wristlock to get this going into a leg takedown into a headlock by Kushida.  Chain wrestling leads to both men throwing dropkicks that miss, only for Kushida to hits a second one.  Kyle O'Reilly and Alex Shelley come in before the Bucks come in and get sent out by the Time Splitters. The Splitters work on Fish before Fish sends a knee to Kushida. Kozlov tags himself in  and gets a head scissors before he does his cossack kicks on Fish. Fish fights back sending Kozlov down as Kyle and Rocky come in for a brief exchange, but it goes back to Kozlov and Fish. Josh reminds us this is a one fall match so people will be breaking up pin attempts to save the match for their team. The Bucks come in and work over Shelley before going after Kozlov. Nick sets up Kozlov for Matt to hit the running apron kick, but the Russian moves out of the way and Matt takes out his own brother. Kozlov then takes out Nick in the ring with a really cool spinning kick and then tags in Rocky. Rocky takes out both Bucks after they try to double team and then sets up both Bucks and ReDRagon in all the corners before going ballistic with clotheslines on all of them, missing Fish and getting hit by the Bucks. The Bucks try to work on Romero, but Kushida gets the blind tag in the ring.  Kushida gets in a DDT and ends up sending everyone outside. One of the Bucks gets caught in the ring with the Splitters, but ReDRagon come in and takes out both Splitters. This is wild! Things spill outside the ring as Romero dives over the rope with a tope`, only for Kozlov to hit the over the top rope dive. Nick Jackson does a dive as well as bodies are piling up on the floor with Kushida going to the top rope and diving on everyone at ringside. Back from a commercial break as it's Shelley on Matt Jackson. Kushida gets the moonsault into a pin but only gets two. The Splitters get a double kick combo in the corner and go for another move, but the Hooligans break it up. The Bucks come out firing with SUPERKICK PARTY! Rocky hits a double doomsday device on both the Bucks, but somehow the Bucks are able to recover enough to pop back up with more superkicks before hitting the Meltzer driver. Kushida comes in to face off with ReDRagon, but the Bucks come in as well and hits the double superkick on the Time Splitter. The Bucks then go for their finisher, More Bang for your Buck, but that gets interrupted by Fish and O'Reilly. They hit a swift kick and then a kneedrop on Kushida sending him out. One of the Bucks comes in but ends up getting hit with a Super Falcon Arrow of the top rope by Bobby Fish. Kozlov comes in and is met with ReDRagon's finisher, the Chasing the Dragon suplex/kick combo and ReDRagon pick up the win and retain the titles! Holy crap was that match good. It was a match that was really fast paced and always had something going on. My description doesn't do it justice and is a great way to kick off this show! Backstage ReDRagon talk about how they are the number one Jr. team after winning that match.  We come back from break with words from Omega. He talks about wanting to be part of NJPW, but only getting to be in the Super juniors tournament each year, so he joined the Bullet Club to be part of the show. He talks about Taguchi being funny and goofing around, but he is serious. He mentions how they were the less popular members of different tag teams, but that is in the past and tonight it's about them and the title. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title: Ryusuke Taguchi vs. "The Cleaner" Kenny Omega Omega made his return to NJPW a few months before this match, revealing not only had he joined the Bullet Club, but undergoing a makeover as well. Gone were his days as the goofy blond Canadian, now stood a bad all clad in black. Taguchi, of course, accepted the challenge with a hearty "Oh my and Garfunkel" and here we are. Omega comes out with the Bucks and a SWEET duster jacket. Taguchi comes out as Mauro relates the Funky Weapon of Taguchi to the butt-butt of Iceman Parsons from WCCW. Nice callback there. "Let's break Eddie Guerrero's neck huh"- Matt Jackson, ever so gracefully taking about Taguchi's intentional resemblance to Latino Heat.   The two men lock up as Omega uses his size advantage to get Taguchi to the ropes, where he mocks the champ with a light slap. They lock up again with Omega getting pushed to the ropes, where Taguchi mocks him and then getting spit on the face for his trouble. They turn it into high gear with both men hitting the ropes and diving out of moves before Omega gets met with the Funky Weapon right to the face! Omega gets sent to the corner but escapes with a sweet cartwheel. He tries for a move, but Taguchi catches him in an anklelock, leading to Omega to get to the outside. The Bucks jump up to distract the ref as Omega grabs a can of something and sprays it in Taguchi's face, damn near coating him. We get a close up of the can and Josh says it's basically spray liniment. Think about getting sprayed on with Icey Hot. That makes my skin crawl thinking about what happens when that stuff goes in the wrong place. With Taguchi not being able to see, Omega gets him in the corner where he lands a back elbow. He tries for a pin, but it only gets two. Taguchi lands some soft punches but with an eye rake and a front kick, Omega puts him down. Kenny tries for a suplex, but Taguchi blocks it. Kenny, however, muscles Taguchi's dead weight up and lands a suplex anyway. Then comes one of the coolest things I've ever seen. The Chainsaw Face attack. As it was explained to me, one of Kenny's rituals was to leg the hair on his forearms grow out for a big match, then like a day before the fight he would shave them, leaving stubble. Kenny makes the motion of pulling the cord before he takes Taguchi's face and RAKES his forearm with it. Taguchi gets up to his feet and gets Omega down, hitting a charging kick. He goes to the ropes, but the Jacksons trip him and hold him to the ropes. Omega comes in for the hit, but Ryusuke dives out of the way and all three men end up on the floor. Taguchi then dives over the ropes and hits the plancha on the Bullet Club. With Omega rolling back in the ring, Taguchi hits a springboard dropkick but count only gets 2. Taguchi hits the 3 amigos suplexes, but Omega blocks the third with a bunch of slaps to the back. Omega hits a low dropkick on Ryusuke's leg and then a famasser for a two count. Back from the break as Omega gets the nelson into a waist lock. Omega sends him down and gets the some kicks before picking him up for a buckle bomb, only to have it turned into a rana sending Omega into the corner. Omega rolls back towards the center of the ring as Taguchi climbs the ropes. omega meets him and tries for a superplex, only to get shoved off the ropes. Kenny tries it again, only to get pushed off again. Taguchi then launches into a dropkick but Omega DROPKICKS HIM OUT OF THE SKY.  Kenny gets up and hits the Dr. bomb, but only gets two for the pin attempt. Kenny tries another move, but Taguchi counters into the Dodan but can't hit it as Omega rolls through for another pin attempt for two. Taguchi then hits the Dodan proper and goes for the anklelock. Here Josh Barnett gets some game cred for breaking out the Konami code, saying that Omega has to find the cheat code to win at this point. The Jackson's jump onto the apron again and Omega gets sent into them again. Taguchi hits another Dodan but again only gets two! Taguchi tries for the torture rack, but Omega fights out. Taguchi goes for the Funky Weapon only to get caught in a dragon suplex, Taguchi staggers up and gets picked up in the air where he is brought down on his back and neck in the One Winged Angel bomb. Omega covers and gets the pinfall! We have a new champion! Backstage Omega says he is HERE. He calls Taguchi a CHUMPion. He pays tribute to the founder of the Bullet Club, Prince Devitt (NXT's Finn Baylor), saying he was the greatest Jr. heavyweight of all time. But that he is part of the New Bullet Club and that he will be the greatest of all time. Taguchi gives an Oh My and Garfunkel and says he will take things more seriously and that he wants his rematch, Saying for now only he'll seriously fool around. Studio words from Omega talking about how he knows Taguchi will be back and better, but he will still beat him. He's here to clean out all the sucky wrestlers like the Japanese guys, the young boys, and especially the NWA guys, who really suck. His words, not mine.  This was a fun show! I'll say that my words here probably don't do it justice because I had a hard time keeping up with either of these matches. While the first match wasn't about "telling a story" (I.E. WWE's way of doing things) it was hard on the action with little moment's rest. The singles match was a good match as well with some really impressive stuff. Great way to kick off our coverage here! Next week we have Ishii vs. Makabe for the NEVER openweight title and the grudge match with Minoru Suzuki vs. Sakuraba in a show that will make everyone feel sore! /ul/34355-/Match 1-620x.jpg
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
The biggest NJPW show of the year!
Welcome to Strong style, our coverage of NJPW on AXS TV. This week is a big one as we kick off FIVE weeks over coverage of the WrestleKingdom 9 show from the Tokyo Dome. WrestleKingdom is New Japan's big show, their WrestleMa...

First Impressions: Owarimonogatari

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

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 712

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

Final Impressions: School-Live!

Oct 05 // Nick Valdez
When we last left the School Living Club, they were caught in quite a predicament. As zombies flooded the school, the four were separated and feeling pretty hopeless. Yuri was dealing with an infected Kurumi and whether or not she had to kill her, Miki was trapped in the basement after tracking down a possible vaccine, and Yuki was trying to fight her way through the school after finally breaking out of her delusion and coming to grips with losing her teacher, Megu-nee. When Yuki reaches the school's broadcasting room, she's nearly attacking by zombies herself before zombie Taroumaru comes to her rescue. When she realizes the zombies still retain some of their memories (and as evident from the last episode when zombie Megu-nee is seen writing the girls' names), she broadcasts that school is out of session and all the students are to return home. And this surprisingly works! As the zombies clear out, Miki is able to vaccinate both Kurumi and Taroumaru. Unfortunately, Taroumaru's been sick for too long so he loses his life in his weakened state (but after giving Miki some closure). I've never been good with dog death in media, so this hit me pretty hard. I know it's a cartoon and all, but he was such a cute puppy!  When the girls realize the school's no longer habitable after the attack (as the generators have been fried and most of the building has been damaged by fire), they decide to leave the school toward either a university or corporate building. Either way, the girls know that the people they deal with may not be friendly. But before all of that, to bring closure to this chapter in their lives, the girls hold a makeshift graduation ceremony and it's the most heartfelt scene of the series. I guess it's because I fell so hard for the premise (and it admittedly won't appeal to everyone in the same way since I'm so fond of cutesy things), but it as great seeing the girls finally grow up. Just like a real graduation into the real world, these girls have finally accepted that their lives have changed. There's no longer a lingering grief over the past, and each of the girls have accepted their own flaws. That's a major part of growing up, and the show absolutely nailed it. The greatest thing is the show didn't have to directly say all of this. Through silent moments and great art effects that truly show how much these girls' optimism clashes with the world's darkness, the finale brings a sense of closure to the viewer as well.  But looking at the episode's ending tag, there's more planned for these girls. I'm just not sure if I want more of this. This graduation episode brought everything full circle and tied up most of the loose ends (including the fate of Miki's lost friend, Kei), but I'm not sure I care about the rest of the stuff still open. For example, one of the bigger things is probably going to be investigating how much their high school knew about the pandemic beforehand and potentially finding a cure, but that's like so much generic stuff out there already. At this point, I'm content with what we've gotten. From the opening episode, this show's been building up to a end with its tight, twelve episode arc. The girls got a happy-ish ending with one of those "driving into the future" closers, the opening theme was reused for the final scene (as is expected from an anime finale), and lots of the tricks it employed here (like the surprising clash between its bright colors and dark monsters or its slowly changing opening credits sequence) won't hit as well the second time.  School-Live! was compelling, interesting, and most importantly unique. If it ever does get that second season, it'll be ruining what makes it so special. There's nothing else out there like it right now, and it should stay that way. 
Final School-Live! photo
I hope you had the time of your life
School-Live! (or Gakkou Gurashi!) nearly slipped under the radar. If you had no idea of the more sinister plot afoot, you'd probably skip the series thinking it's yet another show about four young girls doing young girl thing...

Annotated Anime: Bikini Warriors episodes 9-12

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

Strong Style: Eight-Man Scramble!

Oct 03 // Soul Tsukino
We are greeted by Hirooki Goto as we start this week's show. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Kota Ibushi, La Sombra vs. CHAOS (Shinsuke Nakamura. Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI, Kazuchika Okada) This is a big time preview of the WrestleKingdom show as three of the big matches are previewed here, and for some reason YOSHI and CMLL star La Sombra are included as well. All 3 singles champions in one match. We skip the ring introductions and open with all eight men in the ring. Okada and Tanahashi start off quick as Okada goes for the rainmaker nearly from the start. Ibushi comes in and so does Nakamura. They trade some standing kicks  but ends in a stalemate. They go for a lock up that leads into the Nakamura armbar that Ibushi reveres. Nakamura gets him to the ropes but skips the belly rub thing. He gets Ibushi into the corner, but Kota escapes the knee, Tanahashi's team come in for a 4 man drop kick! La Sombra gets a plancha in as we skip ahead to Makabe and Ishii smash mouthing each other with elbows. These guys are strong style no doubt about it! Makabe hits a clothesline and gets Ishii down. Makabe gets the headbutt, but Ishii lands a clothesline. Ishii goes for the superplex and hits it. Pin only gets two. Both men stagger up and get into a clothesline duel that sends them both down to the mat. Back from break now as Tanahashi comes in and fights Okada as they go back at it. Forearms and elbows fly as Okada gets a leg whip, but Tanahashi gets a flapjack. After a back and forth in the corner, Okada gets the neck driver on the knee and then goes for the tombstone, but Tanahashi reverses it. Okada hits a dropkick, but Tana hits the Slingblade.  YOSHI comes in and goes to work and gets a blockbuster. CHAOS gets Tanahashi alone as they land a bunch of moves on the corner before YOSHI gets the diving blockbuster. Things are breaking down with fights outside the ring with Tanahashi and YOSHI still in the ring. YOSHI lands an axe-bomber clothesline, but Tanahashi kicks out of the pin. Yoshi gets the bridging powerbomb, but Tanahashi kicks out AGAIN. Everyone comes in and starts beating each other. Ibushi flies out of the ring onto Nakamura, and Sombra does the same on the other side of the ring. We are back to YOSHI and Tanahashi in the ring as Tanahashi hits the Slingblade and then the High-Fly-Flow to get the pin for his team The bell rings as Okada and Tana stare down while refs are trying to separate Makabe and Ishii. Nice way to set up the big show in one match. Lots of action! Some words from Goto talking about struggling as a team with Shibata right when the World Tag League tournament began because they needed to win.  They knew how good Anderson and Gallows were and figured they would meet them in the tournament final. World Tag league Tournament Final: Meiyu (Hirooki Goto/Katsuyori Shibata) vs. The Bullet Club (Doc Gallows/Karl Anderson) This is the finals of the World Tag League Tournament. It's pretty much like the G1 Climax tournament, only for teams. 16 teams were split into 2 blocks in a round robin tournament for points. Gallows and Anderson are the defending tournament champions and had won Block A, while Meiyu had won Block B. The IWGP tag titles are on the line, but if Meiyu wins, they not only win the tournament but get the title shot at WrestleKingdom. The Bullet Club comes out with just about the entire group. That doesn't bode well. Meiyu comes out ready to go and Shibata looks like he's gonna kill a bitch as usual. Mauro runs down how each team got to this match, basically saying that Gallows and Anderson snuck into the finals in a really convoluted way. We come back from break as the match begins. Anderson starts with Goto, former partners here as they won the tournament in 2012. Lock up and puts them into the ropes with a clean break. Headlock by Goto leads to a head scissors that repeats itself 3 times, ending in a stalemate. Mauro takes a moment to mention recent NJPW returnee Yoshi Tatsu, who after the first match in the tournament pulled out because of injury. I turned out he had broken two bones in his neck in a previous match after taking a Styles Clash from A.J. Styles. Exchange again has Meiyu double teaming on Anderson as Shibata takes over. Karl rakes the eyes and hits elbows on Shibata, but Shibata don't care before leveling Anderson.  Wristlock by Shibata as Gallows come in and hammers fists into Shibata. Shibata hits some low kicks and gets the figure four on the big man. Doc reverses it, but he rolls it back over. Doc gets to the rope and breaks it as Shibata drags the big man over as Meiyu double team him. Gallows hits a clothesline on both Meiyu members to send them outside into the clutches of the rest of the Bullet Club. Karl sneaks out and blasts Goto with a powerbomb on the ring apron. Nearly getting counted out, Shibata runs over and helps Goto back in the ring. Goto fights up to the apron but Gallows throws him into the barricade outside. Goto climbs in at a count of 16 with Gallows going in for the kill. He lands a bunch of elbows onto the weakened Goto, but can't get the pin. Doc torques him into the corner with a whip before Karl comes in and lays down a bunch of knees, but the pin attempt don't get it. Back from break as Karl is just messing with Goto now, giving him some light kicks to the head. Goto gets up and lands some elbows, but when he hits the ropes he is tripped from the outside. Karl hits a legdrop from the apron. The ref Red Shoes nearly throws out the Club, but doesn't, serving some of the hate he gets from Mauro and Josh.  Seeing his partner in trouble outside the ring, Shibata runs over and starts swinging on the entire Bullet club to get Goto and get him in the ring. Shibata climbs up to the apron where he is hit by Gallows. Doc turns around and starts hammering on Goto before dropping a leg on him.  Karl comes in with a chinlock, but Goto fights out of it. Karl hits a leg strike but the pin only gets two. The crowd is chanting for Goto as he has been the guy getting the ass beating for a while now.  Karl goes for a suplex, but Goto blocks it and reveres it. He gets the tag! Shibata and Anderson get in a back and forth, but Shibata gets him down in the corner and hits with a sweet  hanging dropkick. Shibata gets a suplex but only gets 2 with it. Shibata struggles but gets Anderson in that nasty Surfboard/Octopus combo he uses. Gallows comes in and saves his partner, only to get sent out by Shibata.  Anderson hits a kick and then a strike. Both Club members attack but Shibata fights out and hits a sweet dropkick on Doc. Goto tags in and takes Doc down, but gets hit from Karl. All four men in now and its a fight! Goto and Doc meet with clotheslines and finally sends Gallows down. Goto lands some elbows, but Doc sends him down with a kick. Karl tags in and again he toys with Goto, as he hits a forearm on Goto.  and then another. He goes for the charge but runs right into a choke from Shibata, leading the Meiyu to collide on the ropes when Anderson ducks an attack. Goto gets hit with the Gun Stun. Doc hits the splash. Doc and Karl hurt Goto with work in the corner. Pin gets broken up by Shibata. Anderson hits the Gun Stun but Goto kicks out! Club his the decapitation, but Goto just won't quit!  Shibata comes in and breaks things up, but he gets double teamed for his trouble. Karl goes for the Stun Gun, but counters and they go back and forth before Goto hits the Ushi-karoshi. Shibata gets Karl before Goto hits a clothesline and a choke before Shibata hits the PK on Karl and Goto hits the Shoten Kai and gets the pin! Damn that was a hell of a match! The Club bitch in the back, cussing away, saying the didn't need to win tonight since they won the tournament last year. they are the champs and that is more important, but when it comes time to face Meiyu again they will come back with more firepower. Back in the ring Meiyu celebrate with a big-ass cheque and some nice winner's trophies. Shibata gets the mic saying this was his first big achievement in wrestling. He says it's time to wear a belt. Goto says the time is right and their next target is a belt. We have some words from Meiyu in the back wth Shibata saying he believes in his partner. Goto says they haven't changed since high school and that he can rely on his partner. Studio words from Hirooki Goto as he says he is happy to achieve something with his partner Shibata and that it is natural for them to work together. he says they are not going to rest and are gunning for the belts. This was like the NJPW equivalent of the go-home RAW before Wrestlemania. It served the purpose of giving a taste of what was to come with WrestleKingdom. The two matches were both really good, even if the 8 man was cut down for time. The broadcast team did well in giving the background, especially in the Tag tournament match whereas we never saw any of the other matches. Good show! Now with that out of the way we start FIVE weeks of coverage of the matches from WrestleKingdom 9. Here is the lineup: IWGP Jr. Tag Titles: ReDRagon vs. Forever Hooligans vs. Young Bucks vs. Time Splitters IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title: Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Kenny Omega Never Openweight Title: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Togi Makabe Grudge match: Minoru Suzuki vs. Kazushi Sakuraba IWGP Tag Titles: Anderson/Gallows vs. Meiyu A.J. Styles vs. Tetsuya Naito TenKoji, Tomoaki Honma vs. Bad Luck Fale, Jeff Jarrett, Yuji Takahashi Toru Yano and 3 mystery Partners vs. Takashi Iizuka, Killer Elite Squad, Shelton Benjamin IWGP Intercontinental Title: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi IWGP Title: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kazuchika Okada   See you all next week! /ul/34332-/match 1-620x.jpg
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Last stop before WrestleKingdom 9!
It's Friday night and it's time for a fight. Welcome back to Strong Style as we take a look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. This week we are taking a look at a couple of matches from the December 7th, 2014 show from Nag...

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