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I am Anthony Redgrave.
Long time reader of Japanator, longer time watcher of anime and really crappy artist.

Nowadays I exclusively watch subbed One Piece but some of my favourites are Welcome to the NHK, Azumanga Daioh, Monogatari Series and Fullmetal Alchemist (both).
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I hope everybody at Japanator has had a wonderful new years and is excited for 2015. I know I am because Tsukimonogatari has been released and I'm super excited. After completing Hanamonogatari two weeks prior, I'm ready for the next installment. I've decided to list a few reasons of why I love this series so much before diving head long into the latest series. 

1. Monogatari is always surprising me
Nothing is more disappointing than a predicatble story. I went into Bakemonogatari expecting a typical harem anime with some supernatural elements. I expected to be catered for with gratuitous upskirts, ample cleavage, and lots and LOTS of misunderstandings for the protagonist to get away from out of order sexual harassment. Ok, I cannot go on and say "Instead I got a tasteful anime disguised as a harem thus it surprised me" as Senjougahara certainly panders to the male libido in the second episode. Instead it was the stalward nature of Araragi staying by Senjougahara despite affections from multiple girls in the series. His loyalty to one girl shouldn't be possible in a harem anime but it is an underlying focal point in the series. Another is the way everything is vaguely connected. At the end of a serious arc we always treated to little bit of expositon justifying the monster of week. It makes the Monogatari world bigger than we are actually viewing.


2. It's Funny
I think predictability is linked to comedy. If you can predict a joke coming then it won't be funny once it's delivered. One way of subverting this, is misdirecting the audience and throwing another punch line instead of the obvious. Monogatari doesn't do this but peppers the scenes with outragous and goofy reaction faces. These reactions juxtaposed with the otherwise clean and aesthetically pleasing art style, punches harder in the comedy region. 
The verbal jousts Araragi has with la belle du jour is also a goldmine for comedy, often in the form of word puns, jests, and put downs. Senjougahara is the Queen when it comes to sharp tongued quips and articulated acumen. I feel a great deal of the comedy is missing whenver Senjougahara isn't part of an arc.


3. The characters are all in some way likeable
Partly due to Akio Watanabe's work on making every character look colorful, attractive, and visually appealing. No one in the series made me groan with pain whenever they were on screen.
I'm going to get a lot of hate from the Monogatari purists, but I disliked Hachikuji. I'm not a loli fan and while her "my tongue slipped" gag was cute, it went on for too long. I also disliked Kaiki. He was the antagonist for nisemonogatari and looked really creepy. However despite my initial feelings for these characters I did grow to like them as the series progressed. Hachikuji's sorrowful goodbye was heartfelt and Kaiki's arc during final story of Monogatari: Second Season was brilliant, completely changing my opinion of him.


4. Tsuhiki Araragi and Platinum Disco
Catchy, ridiculously cute, and I LOVE IT. Oh and the opening is pretty good too.


5. It's fricken beautiful
Whenever I talk about the Monogatari series on my blog or on Japanator, I always need to mention how amazing it looks. Environments are bright with strong bold constrasting colours highlighting the objects and characters. Each scene evokes familirity but with a surreal nature as the characters monologue keeping things visually interesting and emphasising the oddities that litter the Monogatari world. I've read once before that you can take a screen shot of any scene in Monogatari and it'll make a wonderful desktop wallpaper. This is not a lie or hyperbole, it's the truth.

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1:20 AM on 12.05.2014

If you're like me then you're about the girl J-Rock group from Osaka SCANDAL. And if you're also like me, you've been waiting desperately for the EU to get some SCANDAL love for some time. Sure you can import the CDs or get a lot of their albums via the American iTunes store, but only a handful have made their way to the UK store

Fortunately times are changing with their latest release 'HELLO WORLD'. Not only is an international release of their latest album available via iTunes RIGHT NOW! but also, a physical release is scheduled via JPU records and a world tour has been booked! SCANDAL may be playing in a major city near you fellow EU fans. Now that's a way to say HELLO WORLD

Trust me, I'm psyched to see more of my favourite japanese groups get interanational releases and branch out from the land of the rising sun. I've seen Asian Kung Fu Generation live at London last year, something I thought I needed to travel to Japan to see. SCANDAL have previously played at various anime expos interanationally but never on a headlining world tour. I'll be looking forward to seeing The Pillows following in the J-Rock take over. 

NB: UK guys, they haven't linked where to buy tickets on the official site but you can actually grab them here 

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4:46 AM on 09.14.2014

Dear Future Self, I hope you are well. 
Please refrain from reading tumblr before writing the weekly One Piece Showdown as it may contain spoilers from the latest episode. Even though the tumblr you follow is often hilarious because it points out the various horrible animation and art in each One Piece episode, it's on the ball when it comes to spoiling MAJOR plot points.
-Past/Present Self

P.S. Buy milk. The one in the fridge is starting to smell.

Law and Doflamingo continue their epic battle on the bridge that connects Dressrosa to Green Bit. Although not as epic as some of the Straw Hat's previous confrontations, its cool to see Doflamingo finally get into some one on one combat and see some of his moves in action. Law, from overusing his Ope Ope Fruit powers starts to struggle to use his Room ability and loses the edge in the fight. Diamente (an officer in the Doflamingo family) calls Doflamingo to say Violet has betrayed them and they know nothing of the Straw Hat's next move. The Holy Demon convinces Diamente to head to the SMILE factory knowing their plans to destroy it.
Before the episode break, it looks like Doflamingo gives Law a killing blow but it seems Oda wants to make it a little bit more tragic.

The last time we saw Bellamy, he had been knocked out of his Block B by Bartolomeo and received orders from Doflamingo to assassinate Luffy. Creeping up to a distracted Luffy who had been reunited with Zoro and Kine'mon, Bellamy gets flashbacks of Luffy cheering him on and that he no longer had any qualms with Luffy upon meeting him again. Unable to follow through with the killing he flees before Luffy can spot him. 
Bellemy is greeted by Dellinger (a member of the Diamente army). A weird looking kid as his face looks male and he sounds male but is dressed in hot pants and high heels. I guess anything goes in Dressrosa. Anyways, Dellinger teases Bellemy over the failed murder and informs him that Doflamingo wasn't expecting him to follow through either, but was an excuse to get Bellamy out of the way. Dellinger was also sent to eliminate Bellamy too. 

The Straw Hats all connect up via Transporter Snail with Sanji and the Sunny Protection Squad acting like a switchboard. They get everyone up to speed and talk about their next move. Luffy doesn't want the Tin Soldier to go to war due to Rebecca's cries that he will die if he did. Franky on the otherhand disagrees with the Captain. After spending time with the Tontatta he realises he cannot follow through with Law's plan of keeping Doflamingo alive to take down Kaido. Franky wants to fight with the Riku supporters to bring down Doflamingo reign in Dressrosa. Luffy gives Franky the all clear which makes me wonder if he even understands Law's plan fully? 

Out of the blue Law comes crashing into Dressrosa with Doflamingo following swiftly, wrecking the whole town with his String String abilty. Positioned perfectly infront of Luffy, Doflamingo executes Law with a pistol, over and over and over again. I can already hear the cries of a hundred fangirls resonate throughout the internet. 

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8:15 AM on 09.08.2014

I always thought Doflamingo was one of the more interesting characters in One Piece. Never introduced to the Straw Hats until much later but always seen orchestrating major events with the world govenment in-between arcs. He's quite literally the master of puppets. Every appearance he has made prior to this arc is filled with mystery, a devilish grin, and hints of something a lot bigger than the Straw Hats. I'm gonna be sad when he is inevitably Gomu Gomu no Bazooka'd into the afterlife but at least the four warlords of the sea are still largely unknown.

Continuing with Tin Soldier's story; Doflamingo continues to carry out the Dressrosa massacre by controlling Riku and his guards via the string string fruit. In the castle, undercover agent Monet opens the castle doors to allow the Doflamingo family in but is discovered by Riku's daughter Violet. Violet also possesses a special power of Clairvoyance that is of special interest to the intruders.

Doflamingo finally enters the fray after the hearts and minds of the Dressrosa people had been broken and stops Riku's rampage. The people of Dressrosa are thankful even though Doflamingo and his crew are pirates and cheer on their saviour. Doflamingo makes a deal with Riku's daughter Violet; in exchange for not killing Riku, Violet has to be loyal to the Doflamingo family. She agrees and changes her name to Viola progressing up to becoming an officier for the family.

Tin Soldier concludes their plan is to dethrone Doflamingo today relying upon the amount of Toys living in Dressrosa that hate Doflamingo thus having the numbers and also the fact that legendary hero Uso-land (descendent of Montblanc Noland) is here to assist them. 

Next episode I hope Rebecca's match finally finishes. She's been fighting for like 10 episodes now and she's just a side character! No Straw Hat has fought that long in this arc yet, they must be slacking after Punk Hazard.

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5:53 AM on 08.31.2014

We are now in the exposition part of the One Piece formula so the Straw Hats can feel justified in fighting. For those not in the know about One Piece and have been reading this series out of curiosity, the One Piece cycle repeats itself every arc or every island they land on. Landing, split up straw hats, introduce villains and inhabitants, exposition, pair up straw hats with respecting villain to beat up, beat them up then celebrations+ plot points hinting at future events or previous world lore.†

It's Tin Soldier's turn to recall the secret past of Dressrosa but this time from the royal families perspective. King Riku's reign was a hard but peaceful time. 800 years passed with no wars but the citizens were not rich either. Drought caused many to live in poverty but were able to get by via help from the Tontatta Tribe. But everything changed when Monet starting working in the Palace (please note we do not see Monet at all in the flash back).†

10 years ago during Riku's reign, Don Quixote paid a visit to the monarch of Dressrosa with the intent of taking back his kingdom. He offered two options;

1) Fight Don Quixote and his pirates that were recently attacking towns thus breaking the 800 year streak of no wars. This would also end in King Riku's defeat and the deaths of his citizens due to the infamy of the Donquixote pirates

2) Buy the kingdom off Don Quixote for 10 Billion Berries and cannot tell his people of Don Quixote's involvement

Riku, to protect his people decides to send his soldiers as armed tax collectors to round up every scrap of cash in the kingdom. Just as thing were going ok, the classic One Piece Tragedy turns its ugly head. Don Quixote uses his power to control Riku and his soldiers, going on a murderous rampage throughout Dressrosa hence the Riku Massacre. His plan; make the people of Dressrosa hate Riku and the Doflamingo family will come to save the day.

Finally, to answer Usopp's question; if Rebecca is the granddaughter of King Riku and her mother was a Lady, the Tin Soldier would be the scion or prince of the Riku line. This isn't too hard to believe as nobles often marry into royalty unless they are a disney princess.
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If you try to look up the Monogatari anime series you will see that it doesnít follow the typical naming system of seasons 1, 2, 3 etc. Instead each season is named with the latest season being called Monogatari Series: Second Season. However confusingly Nisemonogatari is the direct sequel that follows on from Bakemonogatari and a prequel season called Nekomonogatari: Kuro that precedes it. Very Oddity.

Nisemonogatari is similar to Bakemonogatari in which each arc focuses on a girl and her problems. Except we arenít introduced to more heroines. The Belle du Jours are Araragiís sisters Karen and Tsukihi. These girls seen at the end of every arc in Bakemongatari waking up Koyomi. I warmly accepted the series going more in depth with Karen and Tsukihi as they were present in Bakemonogatari but didnít have any screen time to explain anything about them.

The most inFamous scene in Nisemongatari
However I didnít enjoy Nisemonogatari as much as I did itís prequel. I think itís because the series decided to go down harem road. Bakemonogatari understood that Koyomi was popular with the girls and made it a obstacle for him to remain faithful to Senjougahara. Nisemonogatari has every single girl he had encountered trying to get into his pants and he acts clueless or worse. This combined with a lack of Senjougahara left a sour taste in my mouth. Itís bad when some of the ecchi moments happen between himself and his biological sisters! I know Koyomi is a pervert and who isnít when they are 18, but in Bakemonogatari he could at least control himself.

That aside, I thought Nisemonogatari focussed more on Karen than Tsukihi. Karenís arc was longer and half the episodes from Tsukihiís arc, Tsukihi doesnít even play a major role! Karen fills in for her. I can see the appeal of Karen; she is a less perverted Kanbaru and does get a great fight scene with Koyomi but Tsukihi is the better character. Tsukihiís character design is adorable, her opening is adorable and she has some of the best scenes of the series.

Best face from Nekomongatari provided by Tsuhiki
Nekomongatari Kuro is a four episode prequel to the whole of Monogatari and fills in the gaps that were hinted at during Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari. I thought this was an unnecessary edition to the series. It revisited the themes of Tsubasaís oddity, Sawarineko and explored the relationship between Koyomi and the vampire Shinobu. †The series didnít need to elaborate what happened in Golden Week and it just confused my perception of Tsubasaís and Koyomiís Relationship. So he has a crush on her but itís just a lust crush, but then he offers to kill himself because of that crush but later in Bakemonogatari he shows no signs of liking Tsubasa?

A briefer summery of Nekomonogatari Black
I only have Monogatari Second Season to watch now and I have a feeling that it will be similar to Nisemongatari. Girls chasing after Araragi and getting into ecchi scenes due to misunderstanding. At least the character design, animation and comedy are still consistently amazing.
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