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Josh Tolentino

Steam Anime Sale photo
Steam Anime Sale

Steam's Anime Weekend sale reveals the depths of our infiltration


'Send the rest', he said
Apr 29
// Josh Tolentino
Sony isn't the only place putting the deals out for Golden Week. Steam, that hive of all other things Japanese when it comes to gaming, has just pulled the trigger on its Anime Weekend Sale. Running through Monday May 2nd, th...

We brain-dove Ghost in the Shell: First Assault Online, and came back with answers

Apr 28 // Josh Tolentino
[embed]34881:5504:0[/embed] 1.) With the Stand Alone Complex subtitle, First Assault Online seems to be related to the Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex TV series. Does the game take place during a specific moment in the show's timeline, or its premise related to events in the show?   The game is inspired by the Stand Alone Complex TV series, but when we were watching the series, we were particularly excited by Episode 24 of Season One, in which Section 9 is forced to take on an opposing Special Ops team to clear their names. The episode really made us imagine what it would be like to fight together as a perfectly synchronized team like Section 9, which is what helped us decide to bring it to life in a team-based shooter. 2.) Players can choose which member of Section 9 to play as during a match, each of whom has a special ability or trait (like Thermoptic Camo for the Major). How did the team decide which special abilities to assign to which character? Were there disagreements?     We worked very closely with the anime creators and discussed what skills would match each character from the original anime. In result, the currently designed skills are in line with the original characters. We also designed these to add more excitement within the FPS game. We plan to consider these also when we design more skills in the future. Another part that we'll also consider is player feedback. We are all open to the players thoughts and would love to hear any great ideas.   3.) On menu screens and in-the game, players can view clips from the Stand Alone Complex anime series. Are there plans to add ways for player to view whole episodes or acquire the series to view on their own?   As we chose to make the game an FPS, we found that it was not easy to to deliver the feel of the original anime. Making the game an FPS might have been slightly easier, but we were most confident in making a FPS game and put our efforts into melting the original anime within our game.  We used these short cuts to give the fans something close to the anime and also make other players interested in the Ghost in the Shell story making the game more enjoyable.   4.) More recent works in the Ghost in the Shell universe have concentrated on Arise, a series set earlier in Motoko's career. Are there plans to add content related to the Arise series to the game?   We believe that both SAC and ARISE are great series. We think that more recent fans would be more familiar with ARISE and previous fans would be more familiar with SAC. If we have the chance, we would definitely like to add contents related to the ARISE series. We'll have to see what we can discuss with the anime creators. [Check out more of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - First Assault Online for free this weekend on Steam!] [embed]34881:5504:0[/embed]
Ghost in the Shell photo
A 'major' incursion
A team-based multiplayer shooter isn't the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a Ghost in the Shell video game - the first thing is a Basset Hound simulator. But after that, Nexon and Neoples have done a p...

Golden Week PSN Sale photo
Golden Week PSN Sale

It's a golden time for Sony's Golden Week 2016 PlayStation sale


Try Gravity Rush, Yakuza, and Suikoden!
Apr 27
// Josh Tolentino
If you have an interest in cool Japanese things - and I'd wager you do, having visited this site and all - you might be aware that Golden Week, that most anticipated cluster of Japanese holidays, begins tomorrow, on April 29t...
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Uh-oh: NIS America cuts ties with Atlus in Europe, Oceania


Apr 26
// Josh Tolentino
It's been a long time since it has truly sucked to be a European gamer, but this latest development certainly qualifies, particularly for Europeans and residents of Australia and Oceania that are fans of Atlus' games. NIS Ame...

Valkyria Azure Revolution photo
Valkyria Azure Revolution

Meet the Grave Sinners of Valkyria: Azure Revolution


Come on in, the Sinning's fine
Apr 25
// Josh Tolentino
It's been a while since we last heard from Valkyria: Azure Revolution, Sega's PS4 follow-up to one of the PS3's (and PSP's) best games, Valkyria Chronicles. Now the company's loosening the tap a bit as the game's planned late...
Persona 5 photo
Persona 5

You've got 'til May 5 to figure out what Persona 5's counting down to


Investigation Team Go!
Apr 22
// Josh Tolentino
It's been a while since we last heard from Persona 5, following the  delay in the game's release date from late last year to sometime this year. Atlus seemed content to know that most folks who cared knew what Persona w...
Star Fox Zero photo
Star Fox Zero

Behold the glory of the Star Fox Zero anime


Barrel Rolls aplenty
Apr 20
// Josh Tolentino
Star Fox is back, folks! And it seems back in a way that explicitly recalls the glory days of SNES-based 3D games and peppy animal-people bloodlessly fighting other animal-people. If nothing else, that Saturday morning carto...

Annotated Anime: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable episode 3

Apr 19 // Josh Tolentino
The big reveal of the episode comes quite quickly, courtesy of what amounts to a director's cut edition of Josuke and Jotaro's interrogation of the defeated Angelo, who notes that, unlike the JoJos, he was given his powers by a strange man wearing a school uniform and wielding a gnarly-looking bow and arrow. It just so happens that the bow and arrow were last seen in the hands of Enya, Dio's confidant and the crazy old lady that Polnareff fought back in Egypt. It seems that someone's been going around handing out Stand powers to anyone that survives their gift, and that someone lives in Morioh. And, as it turns out, it seems that Koichi has come to a similar conclusion (minus the revelations about Stands) independently, thanks to a bit of good old-fashioned detective work. It's refreshing to see that people other than the principal JoJos are competent and capable, though again, given the intro, it's fair to conclude that Koichi will be part of the squad soon enough. In fact, that's likely what will be happening next week, as Koichi gets himself shot through with the very Stand-installing arrow, for the man in a school uniform is one of the Nijimura brothers, the younger of which, Okuyasu, is a Stand user himself. His Stand, The Hand, can "scrape" things into oblivion, and demonstrates the fact by essentially wiping objects, and even spaces from existence, leaving the things on the other side to close in and fill the void. The result is a cool teleporting punch effect that puts to shame a character with a similar gimmick that came out in one of the more recent chapters from Bleach.  Thankfully for our heroes, Okuyasu's kind of a dope, and goes down after taking a few flowerpots to the nads. Koichi remains shot through the throat with the arrow, and gets pulled into the house by Keicho, Okuyasu's brother and the man Jotaro and the rest have been looking for. We'll have to see next week just what the brothers' plans were for the Bow and Arrow, and why they'd need to go around giving Stands to all and sundry, but Diamond is Unbreakable is certainly picking up speed. It'll be interesting to learn just how Okuyasu turns face to become part of the squad later as well. [Catch JoJo's Bizarre Adventure simulcasting on Crunchyroll!]    
Diamond is Unbreakable photo
A Wild McGuffin Appears
In today's episode of Diamond is Unbreakable, the plot thickens a tad, shedding more details on just why Morioh is so boned. Similarly, we meet a new foe who will, given the way the OP sequence goes, will be a member of the squad before long.

PlayStation 4 photo
PlayStation 4

Sony may sell an upgraded PlayStation 4 model codenamed 'NEO' soon


A half generation update?
Apr 19
// Josh Tolentino
It looks like it's almost officially A Thing now: After weeks of rumblings and rumors regarding its existence swirled, more concrete (though still unconfirmed) information has emerged around supposed plans by Sony to produce ...

Review: Trillion: God of Destruction

Apr 18 // Josh Tolentino
Trillion: God of Destruction (PS Vita [Reviewed])Developer: Compile Heart & Preapp PartnersPublisher: Idea Factory InternationalMSRP: $39.99Released: March 29, 2016 (US), April 1, 2016 (EU), July 23, 2015 (JP) Well, saying Trillion is "a game with one battle" may be a bit misleading. Players will actually fight the titular boss quite a few times as they trudge towards victory. Trillion is an ancient god out to consume the underworld, and the Great Overlord Zeabolos is all that stands in his way. After being killed in his first battle with the beast, Zeabolos makes a pact with a mysterious interloper (she's named "Faust", just to give you a hint of what she's all about), granting him the ability to bestow his power onto one of his subordinates, tasking them with training up to eventually take on the threat and kill it - or die trying. The wrinkle in this grand plan is that only one of these lesser Overlords - who just so happen to all be cute anime girls themed after various Deadly Sins - can take Trillion on at a time, and will likely buy the farm doing so. But progress is guaranteed, as any Overlord that wounds Trillion will pass on her strength to the next girl in line, and so on until victory. It actually makes for a touching story about sacrifice, legacy, and struggle against certain death, and in my opinion is one of the most effective stories produced by Compile Heart. Given that Compile Heart is known mainly for Neptunia titles, one shouldn't go in expecting Shakespeare, but the moments it goes for "work" more consistently than the comparatively inconsequential narrative offerings that are par for the course for the studio. [embed]34899:5568:0[/embed] In fact, there's a certain irony to this, as these types of games are usually much stronger in gameplay than story. While charming characters and cutesy anime-soaked banter is to be expected, it's usually deep, complex battle and progression systems that are the true draw. Unfortunately, this is where Trillion is least compelling, or at least makes the worst impression.  Trillion isn't a tactical strategy game, as some folks who assumed it would be Disgaea-like were thinking. It's actually closer to a hybrid of Nippon Ichi's ZHP: Zettai Hero Project, and an old-school dating sim/training game, the kind with character stats to raise periodically, such as in the Tokimeki Memorial series, the newer Long Live The Queen. And raising your stats is the name of the game, as Trillion, the final boss, is a tough nut to crack. Simply getting close enough to land a blow will be any given player's first real achievement, and after that, it's a matter of whittling down the boss's trillion hit points. Yes, one thousand billion HP. That and other absurdly large numbers are Trillion's primary stylistic gimmick, and while somewhat inconsequential in the grand scheme of things (the game's approach to shorthand quickly reduces these numbers to easier-to-manage sums). They do help set the game apart from some of its peers, as well as hammering home the idea that the whole game is about making incremental progress, grinding away at a threat rather than challenging it to a brief, flashy showdown. Getting your Overlords strong enough to burn through all that health is the game's primary goal, and that takes a lot of grinding and raising your Overlord's stats. That takes grinding...a lot of it. Which brings me to Trillion's primary problem, that being that the bulk of its gameplay consists of puttering through various menus to assign your Overlord to train her stats. You'll go through a menu, select a task, and a brief animation will play, showing how well the Overlord did, earning her some points to spend on buying stat increases. Training increases her fatigue, which in turn increases the chance that she'll be injured and unable to train for several days. Fatigue in turn can be managed by resting or doing fun things like going on dates with Zeabolos himself. Some of these "dates"can take on an awkward air given that some of the Overlords are Zeabolos' blood relatives, but they are technically demons, so... Anyway, this kind of light time management makes up the bulk of the game, and can feel quite tedious thanks to a lack of fun stuff like flavor text or a more detailed, interesting approach to presentation. Story events pop up during the daily cycle of activities, like the "skits" in a Tales game, and these are easily the best part of the Trillion: God of Destruction. In many ways, these events were what kept me pushing through the menus long after the daily grind had ceased to be interesting. I normally dislike bringing a game's price into the argument considering that value is such a personal thing, but one feels that a game charging this price should have more. The event scenes and character art are cute, but there isn't enough of it to balance out the inherent repetitiveness of the training cycle. Overlords can also be assigned to delve into the Valley of Swords, a randomized dungeon complex. Delving the dungeons resembles a roguelike in the style of Shiren the Wanderer, where your girls and enemies take their turns simultaneously, with tactical positioning and turn sequence being the key to surviving. Expeditions into the Valley can net your girl stat-boosting gear or usable items, but are given hard turn limits, necessitating careful planning of a route to the good loot.  All of this grinding must be done before Trillion wakes up. Each phase of the game is divided into multiple weeks of training occasionally interspersed with training matches against Mokujin, a Trillion-sized simulacra. The training matches are important for figuring out the bosses' pattern and how to deal with the smaller minions and hazards that appear in your Overlord's path. And once Trillion himself wakes, your Overlord goes to battle, armed only with the gear you collected, the knowledge you gained, and the stats you grinded, all of it shielded by "affection points" gained by treating her nicely during the cycle. Chances are, though, is that she'll eat it trying to take him down, leaving the next girl, armed with her predecessor's knowledge and stat bonuses, to grind through the next phase and try again, stronger than ever. Unfortunately, the battles themselves aren't especially engaging, mainly consisting of walking up a long corridor full of minor enemies and deadly squares, while trying to keep out of the instant-kill areas and get close enough to start attacking. The controls for some reason are extremely unwieldy, and never stop feeling awkward. Movement simply should not be this much of a hassle in a game this outwardly simple.   Add to that the fact that fights with Trillion are easy to predict. Once the pattern is found, it's only a question of having high enough stats to succeed. This tends to exacerbate the tedium of the training sections, and highlight how thin the content can feel once you've stopped fully engaging with the game's other systems. Trillion: God of Destruction is a spirited game with a number of interesting concepts, brought down by fumbled execution and anemic presentation. Like its titular final boss, its big, strong idea is hobbled by a swarm of niggling flaws. Though its strengths in narrative and characterization will persuade some to put up with these issues (perhaps enough to finish the game multiple times to get all the endings), there's no avoiding the feeling that putting a dent in a boss deserves to be more fun than this.   [embed]34899:5568:0[/embed]
Trillion PS Vita Review photo
By A Thousand Billion Cuts
The Final Boss Battle has been a staple of game design since about as long as games have had combat in them, and for the most part, a game is about how players lead their heroes to that final encounter, often plowing through ...

Godzilla Resurgence photo
Godzilla Resurgence

Check out the Studio Ghibli Kaiju short that inspired the new Godzilla


Prelude to Resurgence!
Apr 14
// Josh Tolentino
If you've just seen the trailer for the new, Japan-originated Godzilla movie, Godzilla Resurgence, you might have been surprised to find that none other than Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi are collaborating on the film. Tha...

First Impressions: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable

Apr 10 // Josh Tolentino
It starts with the beginning. Previous JoJo's parts - or at least their animated versions - invariably began with some kind of epic setup scene: Phantom Blood opened on the carriage accident that first tied together Jonathan Joestar and Dio Brando's fathers, setting in motion the chain of events that would lead to their battle. Battle Tendency started at the expedition that discovered the Pillar Men, who would be the prime antagonists for that arc. Stardust Crusaders began as Dio's coffin was pulled from the depths of the sea. Diamond is Unbreakable starts with breakfast. A hand prepares a hearty meal of bacon, eggs, and toast as a radio DJ greets the morning in the small town of Morioh. It's all well and good until the music starts to distort, revealing that the hand isn't actually attached to anyone. I've yet to see the significance of this grotesque tableau, but the shift in tone and presentation for this part in the JoJo's saga is clear enough to see. Diamond is Unbreakable focuses more on characters than events, where Morioh, its environs, and the people outside the main cast are just as significant as the superpowers and battles to come. In fact, there's little sense of crisis in the initial episode, a style unprecedented for JoJo's so far. Phantom Blood traded in scenes of domestic bliss, sure, but the feeling of fateful tension ran through every such occurrence. Here, there's little to do but play "Getting to Know You", with Jotaro and young Koichi serving as our lens for seeing the JoJo of 1999, Josuke Higashikata. Apparently the love child of old Joseph Joestar, the 16-year-old high-schooler is the 28-year-old Jotaro's uncle, technically. To be honest, he doesn't make the best first impression. Other than resorting to violence at the first mention of his weird hair, he's less obviously heroic, kowtowing to bullies in a way that no previous JoJo would countenance - at least until they insult his do.  As he rolls into his first fight, with the murderer/rapist Angelo and his Stand Aqua Necklace, we see more of what he's capable of. There's a level of quick-thinking and misdirection at work that recalls the creativity of old Joseph, but his personality and character are as yet a bit undefined. No matter, though. As I mentioned, Diamond is Unbreakable stands out for having a much stronger presence from minor characters. Josuke's mom is a treasure on par with Lisa Lisa in a series that's had a paucity of compelling female presences. His grandfather, an aging policeman, serves as an Uncle Ben of sorts for Josuke by dying to strengthen his heroic resolve, but like uncle Ben, his presence can't be discounted. And of course there's Jotaro, in a snazzy white outfit and playing the role of elder mentor to the young bucks.  Morioh itself seems to be a star of sorts in Diamond is Unbreakable, as well. Where all the previous parts preferred to play the jet-setter, traveling abroad quickly and never halting the journey, it seems this portion of the Bizarre Adventure will be taking place close to home. This ought to be an interesting development, one that seems to foreshadow the appeal of even other media, like the Persona games. It's a bit early to pass judgment as yet, but so far Diamond is Unbreakable  seems quite solid, both as a JoJo's show and as a departure from the aspects of the brand that have risked feeling trite after many, many episodes and chapters of development. I can't wait to see what's coming to town next. [Catch more of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure on Crunchyroll!]
Diamond Is Unbreakable photo
A Crazy Diamond in the Rough
I honestly didn't know what to expect going into David Production's latest phase in adapting the epic JoJo's Bizarre Adventure manga, Diamond is Unbreakable. Besides some background details gleaned from Wikipedia and the...

JapanaHow: Tips for Bathing Your Catgirl

Apr 01 // Josh Tolentino
1.) Assess your Catgirl's needs Every Catgirl or Catboy is different, and this goes for grooming as much as personality. Before beginning the bath, ask yourself a few questions: Is your Catgirl a human with cat ears or a human-shaped cat? What type of coat do they have? Is their fur confined to the head and scalp or does it extend downward into a set of clothing-like strips on the body (also known as the "Felicia" cut)? The answers to those questions can influence everything from the type and quantitiy of shampoo called for to the need to use soap or other human-targeted bathing tools. 2.) Make your Catgirl want to bathe This step may be difficult, and will depend on your Catgirl's personality, as well as your relationship to your Catgirl. Playful Catgirls may be happy to take a bath with you, and in cases where you are your Catgirl's master (or they your maid), they may be obliged to follow your commands. More adventurous or headstrong Catgirls may need more cajoling, or even a bit of trickery to get into the bathing state of mind. Try placing favored treats, precious gems, or high-level equipment in the bathing area to attract them to the location. 3.) Do not ambush your Catgirl This is important. Catgirls, like cats, have keen senses and a hunting instinct, and can become violent if shocked or cornered. It is unlikely that a mere human would be able to take them by surprise. Furthermore, ambushing a Catgirl, even with the best of intentions, can be interpreted by authorities as harassment, coercion, or even assault . A Catgirl's consent is required before any bathing takes place.  4.) Comfort your Catgirl when it's over This can be a fun and engaging activity for both of you. Catgirls may be cold after bathing, and will likely want to stay warm as they dry out. Pet or stroke your Catgirl gently (within the limits of the law), and be rewarded by appreciative mewling or cooing. [Special thanks to WikiHow, Sketcher2007, Kedama, Mako Tatekawa, and Hisashi Kawata]
JapanaHow photo
No need for a cat-astrophe
Hello, and welcome to JapanaHow, our new semi-regular How-To column covering the basics of life once you've Made Anime Real.  If you're one of the growing number of people who've Made Anime Real, you may find yourself th...

Japanator's Spring 2016 Anime Preview Guide!

Apr 01 // Josh Tolentino
[embed]34850:5522:0[/embed] Mayoiga Studio: Diomedea Broadcasting: April 1, 2016  Mayoiga might be a dark horse of this spring, and not just because original anime productions tend to be the dark horses in these adaptation-dominated days. For one, it's got some notable talent behind it, including Tsutomu Mizushima, director of my two favorite anime of the last two years (Girls und Panzer and Shirobako), and Mari Okada, the popular but divisive screenwriter of Ano Hana and Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. Second, this story of people visiting a mysterious, uninhabited village after signing up to a weird bus tour is an actual crowdfunding success. The anime industry has met with mixed results from its flirtations with crowdfunding campaigns, but this is one of the few times a full-featured seasonal series has made it onto the airwaves.   [embed]34850:5523:0[/embed] JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable Studio: David Productions Broadcasting: April 1, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) Need I say more? It's JoJo's! The next step in David Production's lengthy plan to adapt all the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure manga continues into the roaring '90s, starring a new fellow named Josuke Higashikata. Diamond Is Unbreakable is a wide favorite among JoJo's fans, even beyond the better-known Stardust Crusaders. I myself will admit that I haven't read the original manga version, so Josuke's small-town Stand-wielding adventures will be new to me.   [embed]34850:5524:0[/embed] Terra Formars: Revenge Studio: Liden Films Broadcasting: April 2, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) I never quite cottoned onto Terra Formars, despite its tonal similarities to the parts of Attack on Titan that I liked. That said, it did turn out to be an alright, properly absurd edgy battle show, one whose other positive qualities ultimately outweighed the super racist-looking designs on the Martian roach-men. Perhaps the fans saw past that as well, because if certain rumors are true, it's due to the show's solid performance on foreign streaming services like Crunchyroll that Terra Formars is getting a new season at all. As for me, I'm looking forward to the ways they plan to weaponize obscure insects and animals in a recreation of a modern-day, Japanese take on the old Visionaries cartoon.   [embed]34850:5525:0[/embed] Ace Attorney Studio: A-1 Studios Broadcasting: April 2, 2016 Ace Attorney or Gyakuten Saiban, as it's known in Japan, is perhaps the greatest evidence both for and against the practice of localization, i.e. adapting content to suit the culture and language it's being sold to. I love the Ace Attorney games. They're are all pretty well-written and practically ooze character and charm. The problem is is that this anime is called Gyakuten Saiban. I'm attached to some schlub lawyer named "Phoenix Wright" and his pals "Mia Fey" and her sister "Maya Fey". I don't know "Ryuuichi Naruhodou" and his friends. Still, stories are stories, so we can hope that it carries over well enough,   [embed]34850:5526:0[/embed] Macross Delta Studio: Satelight Broadcasting: April 3, 2016 Wow, has it really been seven years since Macross Frontier? I would've thought they'd be less content to sit on it the way they have, considering that every year brings a new Gundam or two, but here we are. I've actually been avoiding contact with Macross Delta and its new story of mysterious diseases that can only be cured by the power of song, Valkyrie-piloting idol groups, knightly Valkyrie orders. Still, based on the lengthy previews available online, things are looking up.   [embed]34850:5527:0[/embed] Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear Studio: Kinema Citrus Broadcasting: April 3, 2016 This one isn't quite another Polar Bear Cafe; The miko in question isn't the bear, but a human named Machi, tending to the shrine where the bear, Natsu, is worshipped. The twist here is where the bear is the worldly one: Machi's a complete bumpkin with no knowledge of the modern world, and Natsu's great bear knowledge includes the vagaries of society, technology, and rice cookers. Kinema Citrus is on a roll of sorts with the warm family comedies after Barakamon, and they may be playing to their strengths with this show.   [embed]34850:5528:0[/embed] Joker Game Studio: Production I.G.  Broadcasting: April 5, 2016 (Broadcasting on Crunchyroll) Japan doesn't have the best track record for exploring its imperial period, but recent stories like Night Raid 1931 and portions of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu have been braver about exploring this more modern, more divisive period. Joker Game, an espionage-themed mystery thriller set just before Japan joined World War II, appears to be taking after Night Raid 1931 in its tone and premise. With a Ghost in the Shell director onboard, we could be looking at a cool, historical take on Standalone Complex, or at least Arise.    [embed]34850:5529:0[/embed] Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Studio: White Fox Broadcasting: April 3, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) A young Japanese high school student living an ordinary life gets dropped into a strange and unfamiliar world. Sound like seemingly every light novel adaptation ever made? You wouldn't be wrong, but Re:ZERO's twist will either make or break the show: Time rewinding. Ordinary high-schooler Natsuki Subaru returns to the moment he arrived in the other world whenever he gets killed, remembering everything that happened up to that point. It's more All You Need Is Kill/Edge of Tomorrow and Groundhog Day rather than ERASED or Steins;Gate, and while that storm of names obviously means the gimmick isn't nearly as novel as it could be, some solid direction and writing could make the show sing in a way most others in its genre don't.   [embed]34850:5530:0[/embed] Kiznaiver Studio: Trigger Broadcasting: April 9, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) Some of the luster may have come off of the Trigger brand since the cute-but-forgettable When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace and the divisive Ninja Slayer, but the studio's still around, and still has a ton of talent. As for the story itself, I find its central idea of a weird system that links people together by having them share their wounds on a physical level seems a bit on the nose as a way of securing world peace. But hey, we don't have that in real life, and the world's definitely not at peace, so what do I know?   [embed]34850:5531:0[/embed] Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto Studio: Studio DEEN Broadcasting: April 7, 2016 (Streaming via Hulu) Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto has one joke, and it's that the titular Sakamoto is the best. The best at what, you ask? Everything. He's just super awesome at everything he does and seems to know it. That's a problem when the premise anchors something serious like Sword Art Online (ha!) but it's golden when it's the core of a gag show. Already in the trailer I'm seeing it as something like Mahouka through the lens of Cromartie High School or Tonari no Seki-kun.  Studio DEEN has been on a hot streak lately with arguably the best show of last season and solid comedies like Konosuba, so let's hope they can continue the trend.   [embed]34850:5532:0[/embed] Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress Studio: Wit Studio Broadcasting: April 7, 2016 A lot of fans were disappointed when it was announced that the next season of Attack on Titan would be delayed to give time for the manga to build up more material. This new project from Studio Wit and the Attack on Titan team feels like them trying to fill that void. I'm not even being facetious: Kabaneri looks like an off-brand Attack on Titan, set more in a steampunk early-Meiji-period Japan (called "Hinomoto") than a quasi-European countryside. Mankind lives in walled cities called Stations and travels in ironclad armored steam trains to escape the threat of giant, iron-skinned zombie-men called Kabane. Sound familiar? I thought so.  That's not necessarily a problem, though. The animation looks good, the character designs pleasantly retro, and to be frank the Attack on Titan template is far from completely exhausted. Besides, I wasn't that hot on Attack on Titan myself, so having Wit try their hand at something original in that vein might be a good way to see just where my problems with it lie.   [embed]34850:5533:0[/embed] My Hero Academia Studio: Bones Broadcasting: April 3, 2016 (Streaming via FUNimation) Now here's the hype monster. My Hero Academia is the big Shonen JUMP hit of its time, and excitement to see BONES - a studio known for top-shelf animation - adapt the manga has been through the roof. I'll admit that I have yet to read a chapter of the thing despite having a subscription to JUMP, but as a reader of western superhero comics, the premise has me intrigued. On the surface, it's bog-standard "earnest boy protagonist" stuff, but seeing Midoriya strive to become a hero as the only unpowered boy in a school full of superpowered kids ought to be engaging. And the presentation is up there with some of BONE's best.   [embed]34850:5534:0[/embed] Bakuon!! Studio: TMS Entertainment Broadcasting: April 4, 2016 "Cute girls riding motorcycles" would be the quickest way to describe Bakuon!!, and...well, I'm having difficulty saying much more than that. To its credit, though, I am getting a sort of Girls und Panzer vibe from it, in that the show (or its trailers, at least) seems to understand that "cute girls" and [insert subject matter] are equal parts of the whole when it comes to making widely entertaining moe, rather than simple fodder for otaku. Not even a favorite moe show of mine, K-ON!, truly understood that.   [embed]34850:5535:0[/embed] Bungo Stray Dogs  Studio: Bones  Broadcasting: April 6, 2016 Osamu Dazai. Doppo Kunikida. If you know those two names, but don't know anything about Bungo Stray Dogs,  then congratulations: You're more familiar with Japanese literature than most outsiders, or are capable of using Wikipedia.  In any case, Bungo is more than just a nickname frustrated Destiny players use for their developer of choice, but also the key to understanding this mystery detective show. The names above are code names, drawn from the history of literature, and the people bearing those names have powers apparently related to the works of those authors. It's like having a guy in your squad named Chuck Palahniuk who suffers from a split personality and is really good at beating people up and not talking about it. If nothing else, Bones appears to be aiming to make this one its marquee production, putting director Takuya Igarashi on it. Among other things he helmed Star Driver and Captain Earth, two shows that were very pretty, if not always narratively satisfying.    [embed]34850:5536:0[/embed] Kuromukuro Studio: P.A. Works Broadcasting: April 7, 2016 Given that P.A. Works made its name on personal, often high-school-based fantasy soaps, you'd think they'd spend their 15th Anniversary making one of those. I can't say I'm unhappy to see that they're instead making what looks to be a samurai mecha anime.  Kuromukuro's premise is fairly standard for the times, in which a time-lost samurai gets transported to an alternate 2016 in which mecha are standard equipment in life and industry. What's less standard is the involvement Tensai Okamura, director of Darker Than BLACK and writing staff that had a hand in Moribito.
Spring 2016 Anime Preview photo
New blooms, new shows!
It may be April 1st today, but it's also the start of the Spring Anime Preview, which means that folks can have fun with boisterous humor and anticipation for the latest in Japanese cartoon goodness. This is Japanator's Spring 2016 Anime Preview Guide! Head on below for a roundup of the most notable anime series of the quarter, and tell us in the comments about what you're planning to watch!

Final Fantasy XV photo
Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV gets a release date, demo out now


Also a pinball game?
Mar 31
// Josh Tolentino
You've heard (and probably seen) the new Final Fantasy XV anime episode by now, but surely it's the game itself that matters most? Indeed, Square Enix's premiere boy band road trip simulator will be ready for consumptio...
FLCL photo
FLCL

Praise Atomsk: New episodes of FLCL are incoming


Thanks, Toonami
Mar 25
// Josh Tolentino
If you're an anime fan of a certain age, you're probably going to find this news quite exciting (or perhaps terrifying): New episodes of FLCL are on the way!  For the uninitiated, FLCL (aka Fooly Cooly) was a G...
MangaGamer photo
MangaGamer

MangaGamer puts the axe to Soul Link and Shuffle!


Get one of them while you can
Mar 24
// Josh Tolentino
Here's a quick PSA for folks hankering for a classic visual novel to read: MangaGamer is discontinuing sales of two titles by March 31st: Shuffle! and Soul Link, both developed by Navel.  According to the company, t...
Trillion photo
Trillion

Yes, Trillion: God of Destruction is also kind of a dating sim


GET CLOSER TO MAMMON
Mar 21
// Josh Tolentino
It wouldn't be a niche JRPG without some vaguely salacious feature, and Trillion: God of Destruction is set to provide on that front, thanks to a set of romance-sim-inspired features. The latest trailer covers the game'...
Sword Art Online photo
Sword Art Online

Bring it home to Aincrad in Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization


Or rather, 'Ainground'
Mar 20
// Josh Tolentino
While the most interesting Sword Art Online-related news of the week was the yesterday's infodump regarding IBM's VR take on The Kirito Show VR Edition Sword Art Online: The Beginning, folks interested in actual videoga...
PSN Flash Sale photo
PSN Flash Sale

Hot deals on JoJo's, Fatal Frame this weekend on PSN


And more
Mar 19
// Josh Tolentino
Destructoid's Jordan Devore claims that grabbing Platinum Games' rollicking brawler Transformers: Devastation for less than a Jackson* is the centerpiece of this weekend's PSN Flash Sale. I respectfully disagree, because...
Sword Art Online VR photo
Sword Art Online VR

Virtual Reality Sword Art Online actually works, it turns out


Well...sort of.
Mar 19
// Josh Tolentino
When IBM announced its intention to Make Anime Real™ by producing a Sword Art Online-based virtual reality experience, I was a tad skeptical. After all, even the most advanced VR tech in the world can just barely convi...
GDC 2016 photo
GDC 2016

GDC pays touching tribute to the late Satoru Iwata


Not a dry eye in the house
Mar 17
// Josh Tolentino
One of the sadder events in recent memory for gamers was the passing of former Nintendo President Satoru Iwata. Aged 55, he played a key role at Nintendo for many years, contributing to the development of games like Balloon ...
Danganronpa 2 photo
Danganronpa 2

Hello, Goodbye Despair: Danganronpa 2 gets a PC port


Catch the murder fever!
Mar 14
// Josh Tolentino
The Danganronpa games are fantastic. Stylish, tense, and utterly engrossing, they're easily among my favorite visual novels, and I recommend that everyone play them. Thankfully, that just got a lot easier, as people won't hav...
Beat Takeshi <3 photo
Beat Takeshi <3

Takeshi Kitano heads up Section 9 in Ghost in the Shell live-action movie


The Old Monkey gets a face
Mar 04
// Josh Tolentino
The long-planned live-action Hollywood adaptation of Ghost in the Shell takes another step towards being An Actual Thing™, as the casting announcements have begun to roll in. And in a move that seems to break with ...
Square Enix sale photo
Square Enix sale

Square Enix's Steam sale chops chunks off Final Fantasy and more


Lightning Returns....for fat bargains!
Mar 04
// Josh Tolentino
It's no surprise that here at Japanator we're into Japanese games, but we're also into saving a bit of money while getting them, which makes Square Enix's Publisher Weekend sale on Steam quite relevant to both of those intere...

Review: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4

Feb 28 // Josh Tolentino
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Cyber Connect 2Publisher: Bandai NamcoReleased: February 4, 2016 (JP), February 5, 2016 (EU), February 9, 2016 (NA/SA)MSRP: $59.99 Indeed, Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is purportedly the last of the series, despite this particular installment being the first of its kind that Cyber Connect 2 have brought to this generation of consoles, complete with jazzed-up visuals and just the right place in the Naruto storyline to take advantage of some high-octane ninja magic.  And there is a lot of ninja magic in this one. With the characters at the height of their power and the stakes almost literally apocalyptic, there's no holding back on a grand series of massive, world-shaking battles. That's what the whole single-player mode really is, come to think of it. With the previous numbered installment covering the minor and major skirmishes of the Fourth Ninja World War, the entirety of the story is spent almost exclusively following the original members of Team 7 - Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, and Kakashi -  as they take their final steps and confront the last three villains of the saga. I'll decline to name them here on the off chance that there's a reader out there whose primary source of information about Naruto is these games, but suffice it to say that the matchups are suitably grand in scale and significance. The game makes few allowances for people new to Naruto, but the story is simple enough to follow even without in-depth familiarity, and Naruto fans will find that the visuals and action lend a spectacular, explosive edge to a manga finale that practically slogged at the end.  [embed]34755:5449:0[/embed] With the narrative being as condensed as it is to the principal cast, one might be forgiven for thinking that Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 would have a shallower bench than usual, but the opposite is true. Dozens of characters across the entire series' timeline are present and playable. Young or old, dead or alive, if one was a ninja in Naruto, one is on this game's roster. Of course, a large cast has always been a selling point for the series, so that's hardly surprising at this point. Perhaps more damning is the fact that many of the fighters available are, but for a different costume and a high-resolution touch-up, almost identical to their incarnations from previous titles. Though that does dull the value proposition somewhat for longtime players, in this case it's better to have too many options for play than too few. Both concerning and comforting is how similarly the game plays to almost every other edition of the franchise. The controls haven't changed - most characters control similarly, and differ mainly in their selection of combos and available powers - and minor adjustments to balancing won't really resonate outside the minority of players that take the combat and competitive aspect of the game seriously. That said, folks into either aspect of Ultimate Ninja Storm 4's combat are well-taken care of. Online play comes with a number of desirable options for customization, stat-tracking, and organizing tournament and ranked play. The online experience is quite connection-dependent, though, so one shouldn't expect matchups from faraway lands to play especially well. The real party piece is the new ability for players to swap between any member of their chosen team during a match, almost at will. Whereas in previous games players would select a character and two supports to be called at the tap of a shoulder button, a flick of the right stick can switch out characters to extend a combo, escape a bad situation, or even move over to a more suitable moveset. In adding this new feature, Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 evokes shades of Marvel vs. Capcom, a similarly frantic fighter, and one whose vision of team-based play fits well with the coordination and combination techniques so common in the manga. In the end, the game doesn't stray too far from formula, trading the risk of the overly familiar to refine and emphasize the aspects that made the game so notable in the first place: A massive roster, eye-popping visuals, and an obvious love for all things Naruto. That doesn't make for a huge amount of novelty, but thankfully, endings aren't about the new, but about remembering all that came before. In that, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is a good way to go out.   Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Cyber Connect 2Publisher: Bandai NamcoReleased: February 9, 2016MSRP: $49.99
Naruto Storm 4 Review photo
Ninja War Never Changes
Endings are hard. Whether you're putting the finishing touches on a blog post or finding a way to wrap up a decade-and-a-half-long epic, concluding almost any affair in a way that satisfies all involved is a challenge. That's...

Sword Art Online photo
Sword Art Online

Finally, an actual Sword Art Online Virtual Reality game


As the gods intended
Feb 22
// Josh Tolentino
File this one under "It's happening!", because it really is: Sword Art Online is getting a game adaptation in the medium that it helped make famous: Virtual Reality. IBM have announced a new online VR game project title...

Annotated Anime: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu episodes 4-6

Feb 17 // Josh Tolentino
In case you've forgotten, episode three ended on what seemed to be a dramatic cliffhanger, with the Yakumo the 7th's mistress Miyokichi showing up, seeking the master. In a different story, she'd be like a live grenade tossed into the cast, exploding the old, comfortable dynamic and setting the plot in writhing motion. Except she's absent for most of the fourth episode, which devotes its eye solely to the relationship between Kikuhiko and Sukeroku (née Bon and Shin), living together in an apartment following their promotion to futatsume. It's at this time that some of the subtle subtexts lurking in Shouwa Rakugo bubble up to the fore, clear to see even for folks who aren't into close reading or other film studies piddle-paddling.  It's hard not to see Kikuhiko's longing for his best friend, even as he only slowly comes to realize it himself over the course of the next few installments. But for us viewers, it's plainly evident in the married-couple banter the pair exchange, Kikuhiko's apparent indifference to the opposite sex (including a bond with Miyokichi that seems more maternal than romantic), and even the way the camera and framing of the scenes treat Sukeroku. Of course, this cat isn't out of the bag (or closet) just yet. The show's historical context virtually ensures that Kikuhiko's path of self-discovery would be an ambivalent one. Hell, we already know what he's like in the future, and "out and proud" isn't one of those things. At this point, we're on the hook to find out just how he, Sukeroku, and Miyokichi are involved in leading to the present state of Yakumo Yurakutei the 8th.  If nothing else, the journey to finding out remains riveting as ever. Ably voiced by Megumi "Rei" Hayashibara, Miyokichi is less a plot grenade than a fire pot of character work, playing a grounded, perceptive, utterly attractive woman for whom a term like "temptress" feels both accurate and unforgivably reductive. Her role in catalyzing the events that lead to Kikuhiko discovering his own style of Rakugo also can't be overstated.  It's not all happy, though. As good as one feels for the characters and their journey so far, the shinjuu in the title still looms. In fact, Kikuhiko discovering how to make his mark on Rakugo brings him one step closer to the sly, sinister, troubled old man we met in the first episode, and to whatever tragedies made him that way. [Watch more of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu on Crunchyroll!] née
Shouwa Rakugo photo
The plot thickens
The last time we checked in on Shouwa Rakugo, it was shaping up to be one of the best (or at least, most grown-up) anime series to air in years. Anime fans looking for more mature, grounded plotting and complex character work...

Naruto x Steam photo
Naruto x Steam

Now you can get your Naruto anime fix on Steam


Jouki no Jutsu!
Feb 07
// Josh Tolentino
Rejoice, ninja fans, because Naruto has come to Steam! And no, I'm not referring to the bountiful slate of Ultimate Ninja Storm releases, but instead to a raftload of honest-to-goodness anime, courtesy of ...

Annotated Anime: GATE episodes 13-16

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

MangaGamer Giveaway photo
MangaGamer Giveaway

Answer some questions and win a free game from MangaGamer


Show them your Kindred Spirit
Feb 02
// Josh Tolentino
Are you into lesbian ghosts?  If not, how about a free game? All you've got to do is tell MangaGamer, publisher of far more than lesbian ghost games, about what you want to see from them, by filling out this handy survey...
The Raid Samurai Edition photo
The Raid Samurai Edition

Check out this awesome samurai short from The Raid's director


Getting chanbara all up ins
Jan 28
// Josh Tolentino
The Raid was one of the coolest martial arts films of all time, and a lot of that was due to the expert choreography of director Gareth Evans and his crew. So count me as interested when he puts out a kick-ass samurai-themed...

First Impressions: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

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

First Impressions: ERASED

Jan 19 // Josh Tolentino
That said, the concept isn't immediately clear in ERASED's opening scenes. Instead, we're treated to the inner voice of Satoru Fujinuma, a 29-year-old frustrated manga artist who knows exactly where he's going wrong: He's too afraid "to get into the heart of [his] own mind", that is to say, to really dig deeper and see how to put more of his soul into his work. Coming from his editor, that sounds like a load of bull, but since he's saying it himself, I'll give it a pass.  In any case, the source is some rather traumatic occurrences in his past, involving a series of kidnappings, the loss of a childhood acquaintance, and a friendly stranger by the riverbanks. I can't blame the guy for not wanting to open that can of worms. This is where the bit about addressing old regrets comes in. Satoru just so happens to have a power of sorts. Called "Revival", the power resembles a literalized deja vu: When something bad happens that Satoru is in a position to prevent, he gets rewinded back a few minutes, and needs to figure out just what's in the scene that's going to go all wrong. Revival is demonstrated in rather dramatic fashion in the first big scene of the opening episode, but ERASED quickly pulls the rug out from under assumptions that the show would turn out to be some kind of case-of-the-week program, with Satoru struggling to puzzle out the latest incident before it's too late. Instead, after being framed for the apparent murder of his (awesome) mother, Satoru gets rewound all the way back to 1988, 18 years earlier. He quickly figures that solving the case he was involved in way back then, and saving Kayo Hinazuki, the girl who was killed by his kidnapper, would be the key to preventing his mother's own death, which came at the hands of someone who may be the real killer. It sounds a bit complicated, but ERASED plays the tension high, and keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, wondering what'll happen next, and how the hell Satoru will be able to solve the central mystery, with his 29-year-old mind trapped in his 11-year-old body (think Detective Conan and you're on the right track). There's also an element of getting a "do-over" on life's old mistakes in the show, where Satoru gets to bond with the girl that he'd originally dismissed as weird, when in fact she was suffering domestic abuse. In any case, ERASED opens strong, and will hopefully continue on in that vein for the rest of the run.  [Check out more of ERASED via Crunchyroll!]
ERASED photo
You CAN go home again
If there's anything universal to the experience of being an adult, it's probably regret. Or more specifically, regretting the mistakes of childhood. Come on, you've done it before, too, I'm sure. Perhaps you've lost touch wit...

Review: Gravity Rush Remastered

Jan 16 // Josh Tolentino
Gravity Rush Remastered (PS4)Developer: SCE Japan Studio and Bluepoint GamesPublisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Japan and AsiaReleased: December 10, 2015 (Japan/Asia), February 2, 2016 (NA/EU)MSRP: $29.99 [Note: This review is based on the English-language version of the game released in Asian regions on December 10, 2015. We expect that there will be few if any significant differences between this release and the upcoming North America/EU releases.] The most striking part of Bluepoint's work on Gravity Rush Remastered is on the technical side. The game runs at a smooth, uninterrupted 60 frames per second, at a native 1080p resolution. Higher-resolution textures sport additional detail and sharpening while improved lighting and antialiasing brings out the color in the game's unique cel-shaded aesthetic. No one's going to mistake Gravity Rush Remastered for a "native" PS4 game, but it does look much like the way I (fondly) remember the Vita original, which is high praise considering that I can compare the two side-by-side and see just how much work went into the porting job.  While Bluepoint has made some considerable improvements to Gravity Rush Remastered's graphical quality and performance, it was more conservative in terms of content, opting just to add the original's three downloadable content packs as standard, and a gallery mode to check out concept art, character designs, and unlocked cutscenes. This may dilute the game's value proposition somewhat for existing Gravity Rush owners on the fence about double-dipping since the game is identical in content and design to the Vita version. [embed]34700:5357:0[/embed] If there's anything about the game that qualifies as "bad news," it's rooted in the fact that the content itself is unchanged. As such, the criticisms raised by Jim Sterling in his review of the original do stand, to an extent. The game's mission design never really lives up to the sheer joy of its central gravity-shifting mechanic, and no amount of frame rate improvement or antialiasing can change that. Combat and control in stressful situations can still be a little squirrely, though the better "feel" of a DualShock 4 controller, combined with the extra awareness afforded by a larger screen, makes it easier to compensate. Even players who enjoyed the tilt- and touchscreen-based features of Gravity Rush are accommodated, thanks to the DualShock 4's own motion sensing and touch panel (though these can be turned off if desired). The narrative is also much more proficient at establishing atmosphere and personality than at answering the questions it raises, and by the end of the campaign it can feel like has read  an incomplete set of obscure foreign comic books, not knowing when or where the next issue will turn up. That said, I'm of the opinion that these rough edges are not nearly as serious in their impact as some may think, and to players in the right mindset, even add to Gravity Rush's considerable charm. The writing, dialog and story all emphasize Kat's character as a somewhat hapless amateur superhero (think "anime Ms. Marvel with a different power set") just getting started in her crime-fighting career, and she's exactly the kind of person who might whiff on landing a gravity kick and go flying into a pile of boxes. Just in the way that deliberately "slow" controls can improve the atmosphere of a horror game like Amnesia,occasional finickiness and flubs reinforce Gravity Rush Remastered's sense of character (albeit unintentionally). In the end, Bluepoint deserves credit for managing to bring out the best in an already-pretty-good game, allowing PS4 owners the chance to experience the charm of Gravity Rush unhampered by the limitations of its original platform.  [This review is based on a retail copy of the game acquired by the reviewer.] [embed]34700:5357:0[/embed]
Gravity Rush Remastered photo
Falling with style
Gravity Rush is and remains one of the coolest games on the PS Vita, even three years after its original 2012 release. Unfortunately for fans of cool games, the PS Vita didn't get into nearly as many hands as Sony was ho...

Ghost Dive: Your essential primer to Ghost in the Shell

Jan 14 // Josh Tolentino
The Basics Ghost in the Shell is best known as a 1995 film directed by Mamoru Oshii, but it originated in 1989, as a manga written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow. Since then, several more sequels and adaptations have been produced, including several TV series, manga, and an in-development Hollywood film starring Scarlett Johanssen.  Though never lacking for action-packed gunfights and high-tech mecha designs - particularly the iconic spider-legged "think tanks" - Ghost in the Shell distinguished itself from its "Japanimation" peers by having a philosophical edge. Storylines in Ghost in the Shell frequently tackled larger issues of transhumanism, the nature of consciousness and perception, and the effects of networks and the internet on human society. Even today some of the arguments and dilemmas raised seem timely.  Ghost in the Shell's various works can be organized into four broad categories, corresponding to the original manga by Masamune Shirow, the feature-film adaptations directed by Mamoru Oshii, the Standalone Complex TV series, and the Arise movie series. While not related directly, all Ghost in the Shell works share common themes, and star "Major" Motoko Kusanagi, team leader of Public Security Section 9, a black-ops unit of the near-future Japanese government. The Major and her peers work in a world where cyborg technology is common and "cyberbrains" enable people to access the internet at will, as well as hack everything from senses to memories, giving rise to all manner of new challenges. The Essentials Ghost in the Shell (1995 film) If you're only going to watch one Ghost in the Shell-titled work in your lifetime, you may as well make it the one that made the name popular in the first place. Following the Major and her partner Batou as they solve the case of a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master, the film replaced the verbose banter and cheery pin-up character designs with stark visuals and a more realistic style to suit a borderline-dour mood. Director Mamoru Oshii's emphasis on Ghost in the Shell's more philosophical aspects helped solidify anime's reputation as a more diverse, adult medium than the traditionally child-targeted cartoons markets outside Japan.   The Ghost in the Shell (1989 Manga) There's nothing quite like source material, and Masamune Shirow's original manga certainly fits the bill. While its art style and approach to characterization definitely dates it as a product of its era, it's hard not to be impressed by Shirow's attention to detail, conveyed in part through the use of copious footnotes explaining everything from the state of the world to the reason why a gun's barrel is a certain length. Most of the cases, themes, characters and subplots used in future adaptations would also show up in one form or another throughout the series. Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex (2002 TV series) For many fans, the 1995 film and original manga exist on opposite ends of the tonal spectrum, with the manga being densely constructed and quickly paced, and the film given over to a more contemplative mode. Standalone Complex, produced by famed studio Production I.G. and directed by Mamoru Oshii's protege, Kenji Kamiyama, took a shot at blending the two approaches, and largely succeeded at it. The result is arguably the best representative yet of what makes Ghost in the Shell unique, portraying the Major and Section 9's adventures as an extended cop show of shorts, and leveraging multiple cases to address a wide swath of themes, including the titular "Standalone Complex". The show also took a more political bent, examining philosophical issues from a pragmatic, grounded position, and developed further plots through its second season, titled Standalone Complex 2nd Gig, and the feature-length Solid State Society.  Standalone Complex also serves as the inspiration for the First Assault Online shooter, with abilities and game systems inspired by the Major and Section 9's feats in the series. Further Study Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004 film) A challenging, divisive entry into the canon, Innocence is regarded by some of its critics as the sequel nobody asked for. Set years after the 1995 film, the story doesn't even follow the Major, but her partner Batou and the then-rookie Togusa as they solve a mysterious case involving rampaging androids and human trafficking. More than the lavish, almost surreal visuals and seemingly inconsequential plotting, some fans disliked the even heavier emphasis on philosophy, with long stretches where characters seemed to interact only by quoting philosophers at each other. At the same time, the film is rich in ideas, if not coherence, and serves as interesting viewing, even if it departs from expectations.  Ghost in the Shell 2: Manmachine Interface (2001 manga) If Innocence tried to tell a Ghost in the Shell story without its ostensible protagonist, the Major, Manmachine Interface tries to tell a Ghost in the Shell story using only the Major. Set five years following the events of the original manga, the story of Manmachine Interface both elevates the stakes of those events, while descending into near-incoherence in terms of storytelling. While it's worth reading for fans of the original manga, it also stands out as the closest Ghost in the Shell comes to "overdoing it".   Ghost in the Shell: Arise (2014 film series) and Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie (2015 film) An attempt to refresh Ghost in the Shell for newer, younger audiences, Arise functions as a spiritual prequel of sorts, focusing on the Major as she goes about forming Section 9 itself, and exploring her personal life in greater detail than was typically alluded to in previous works. Between a younger-looking character design, new involvement from Mardock Scramble author Tow Ubukata, and an all-new voice cast, Arise tried to signal newness at every turn, but struggled to differentiate itself in the face of Standalone Complex, failing to reach the highs of that series despite being enjoyable. The Ghost in the Shell (Manga)
Ghost in the Shell Primer photo
Hack some knowledge into your cyberbrain
It's been more than two decades since the original Ghost in the Shell film came out, and the name still resonates as one of the most well-known examples of Japanese anime around. At the same time, it's been quite a while...

Tekken IRL photo
Tekken IRL

Watch this martial artist bring Tekken's Kazuya to life


Eat it, Evil Ryu!
Jan 10
// Josh Tolentino
Most fighting games may not have an especially strong connection to real-life martial arts, but that doesn't mean they're completely unrealistic or impossible to "do" in meatspace. The trick is in finding the right game to r...

First Impressions: Active Raid

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

Look at this jerk photo
Look at this jerk

Try to ignore the d-bag marketing for this neat translator gizmo


Cool device, uncool dude
Jan 07
// Josh Tolentino
Here's a new one to file under "Why We Can't Have Nice Things": Tone-deaf marketing stunts. Like this one, for a neat little thing called the "ili" Wearable Translator. It's a little white slab about a bit smaller than an Ap...

The Japanator Awards 2015: Josh's Top 5 Anime of the Year

Dec 27 // Josh Tolentino
[Note: In order to be considered for the list, a program needs to have ended its broadcast run within the calendar year of 2015. Series that have not yet finished, for whatever reason, are ineligible.] 5. Fate/Stay night: Unlimited Blade Works Despite 2015 being a pretty good year for anime I liked, I had to work pretty hard this year to avoid just nominating Shirobako, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, and Unlimited Blade Works again, in a repeat of 2014's list. However, I had to make an exception for this, and not just because I'm a Fate fan. Y'see, 2015, for whatever reason, was something of a banner year for shows that took an alternative look at what makes a hero, from the over-strong badass that was Saitama to the everyday heroes of Gatchaman CROWDs. For its part, Unlimited Blade Works was a welcome reminder to everyone that heroism, exemplified by the bravery of people who refuse to back down from their ideals and to do everything that's needed to realize them, has a price. For Shirou, that price might be his very future, for the anime-original epilogue of episode 25 shows him ultimately committing to a path that, in all likelihood will turn him again into Archer, an unfeeling cynic that regrets everything. In light of that, Unlimited Blade Works turns its ending from the typical heroic triumph to a glance at the other side of that coin, and a sober, bittersweet nod to the reality of ideals, and the cost of sticking to them.   4. Blood Blockade Battlefront  If Unlimited Blade Works reminded us of the cost of heroic resolve, and One Punch Man showed us how winning is often the least important part of being a hero, Blood Blockade Battlefront was a triple-rad demonstration of raw-ass heroism in action. Delaying that final episode for a whole three-plus months proved to be worth it, as Bones' epic finale involved nothing less than a battle against Satan himself, while still affirming the show's fundamental, positive message about the grace to be found in being able to live normally in a place as twisted and over-the-top as Hellsalem's Lot. Add to that the combination of Yasuhiro Nightow's seemingly limitless imagination and the inimitable stylishness of Rie Matsumoto, and Blood Blockade Battlefront ended up a glorious (though uneven) gem to watch.   3. Death Parade Death Parade could have gone real wrong, real quickly. Set in what amounts a purgatorial reality show where people compete in games of chance while realizing the depth of their sins is an easy way to make twelve episodes of grotesque revenge fantasy, reveling in the voyeuristic glee of passing judgment on others. Even in a fictional setting, that wouldn't exactly be classy entertainment. Thankfully, though, the show quickly upends that notion, turning around and asking just who we are, or who anyone is, to judge a person's whole life on the few scattered moments and vignettes surrounding their deaths. This might not have been the greatest step for some folks who were looking forward to debating the relative guilt of the people who end up in Quindecim, but it made for a great, ultimately humanistic message, and an infinitely more watchable show.   2. Gatchaman CROWDS Insight Death Parade might have subverted its original, dread potential by adopting an altogether more complex theme, but Gatchaman CROWDS Insight did no less than demolish the thesis set forth in the first season of Gatchaman CROWDS, and in doing so, become perhaps the only anime to successfully tackle the internet and contemporary social media culture.  Far too often, when we talk about a sci-fi anime, we're really just talking about an anime with a mecha in it. For better and worse, most sci-fi anime are really just anime with a futuristic setting, and often exhibit stories that could've easily happened without the sci-fi trappings. Not so with Gatchaman CROWDS, whose thick, thoughtful thematic mix is so potent that it's impossible to watch without ending up thinking hard about the manifold implications of the way we communicate and form relationships in the internet age. Better still, Gatchaman CROWDS Insight refuses to offer simple solutions, instead preferring to provoke thought while emphasizing the importance of empathy, expertise, and the humanity at the center of all this progress. Now that's some good sci-fi.   1. One Punch Man Was there ever really any doubt? There were programs on the air this year that were more thematically complex, thought-provoking, narratively cohesive, and outright "better" by some measures. All the same, I'm damned lucky that One Punch Man concluded its season just a couple of weeks ago, because nothing else in 2015 made me as plainly happy to watch as Madhouse's adaptation of the Shonen JUMP mega-hit, and I'd feel like I was lying if I had to put a different show in this spot because of our new rules.  Maybe it's the gorgeous animation or the rapidly expanding world of Saitama, Genos, and the Hero Association, or the devastatingly effective storytelling or the sheer hilarity of the antics on display. It's hard to pin down besides the simple fact that I had a more rad time with One Punch Man than anything else this year, which is why it's at the top of my list.   Honorable Mentions: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc Shirobako Sound! Euphonium GATE Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn't Exist        
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
A Fistful of Honors
With this year on the wane and a new year imminent, it's time to reflect on what came before: Our life choices, the state of the world, and most importantly: The Japanese cartoons we watched! It's time for 2015's Japanator Aw...


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