anime

Annotated Anime: GANGSTA episodes 3-4

Aug 03 // Anthony Redgrave
We know already that Nic is a deaf mixed race killing machine and is feared in the town because of his dog tag. But we don't know that much about Worick apart from his faux pirate appearance. Episode 3 introduces Worick's other job as a Gigolo. Yep, good looks can't be wasted in Ergastulum as his past had caused him to enter the sex trade from an early age. Unlike Alex, Worick isn't strong armed into continuing this profession which makes for an interesting comparison between the two. The Handymen don't only deal death and sex but also drugs, Twilight drugs to be exact. This drug is a critical part of the story as Alex and Nic make their rounds through the city emphasizing the necessity and reach the drug has on the town.  The next episode explores how Nic met Worick. We find that Worick was educated as a young man and Nic was assigned as his bodyguard. Like all great duos they didn't initially get along due to Worick feeling sour for receiving a disabled bodyguard but they do warm to each other. Or should I say, Worick cools off about Nic's disability. I find with GANGSTA's story telling a little hard to follow at times. This might be intentional as it's gradually feeding information to the viewer as showing its whole hand would ruin the big reveals but it's hard to grasp the lore when there are multiple names used interchangeably i.e. dog tags, Twilight, Twilight drugs. That's when I have to resort to wiki to set things straight but potentially ruin major plot points. The episode ends with Nic engaging with another dog tag of the same rank. I'm really hoping the next episode opens with some action. GANGSTA has shown it's got an interesting world and it would be a cherry on top of a blood filled sundae if it has some great fight sequences.  I wonder if they're gonna meet a dog tag that Nic doesn't have to slice and dice? [GANGSTA streams on FUNimation] Ergastulum
GANGSTA photo
That's Nic's Girl
I tend not to look too deeply into a new anime series' before I watch them. If I'm a late comer then I'll do a quick wiki search to get a feel for the show before diving in but apart from that I came into GANGSTA like a sprin...

Attack on Titan: Junior High preview released

Aug 02 // Soul Tsukino
The series has a familiar start it seems with a gathering of the town.. sort of...okay it's the first day of the school year ceremony. A guest arrives to watch over the ceremony. The reaction is one of surprise. But as you can see things stray a bit from how these events played out in the original. Yeah, this is gonna be a different kind of Titan series.. I mean THIS is the school they are going to: It looks like the Industrial arts wing of Hogwarts. I mean the titans are still scary. But I have a hard time seeing this series having people chewed in half or having met their end going face first into a giant tree. But fear not! This little preview DOES show there is a lot of eating going on. I just D'awwwwed. I bet you did too, be honest. The series looks to be released sometime in October of this year, so in the meantime see this preview of the adventures of Mini-Erin and all his buddies. [embed]34116:4965:0[/embed]     The series has a familiar start it seems with a gathering of the town.. sort of...okay it's the first-day school ceremony.
Attack on Titan photo
But will Senpai notice them?
The mega-popular anime and manga series Attack on Titan has played host to several spin-off stories from the series. Now you can add one more to the list with Attack on Titan: Junior High, where things get slightly smaller, a...

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

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

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 702

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


First Impressions: Bikini Warriors

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

Annotated Anime: GATE episodes 4-5

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

Hammerhead photo
Hammerhead

Animator Expo's 25th short is ready to smash things up


It's Hammering Time!
Jul 31
// Salvador GRodiles
It seems that I was right about the Japan Animator Expo project returning this week since their latest short is up on their site. Since this is the first episode of the series' third season, it's fitting for the 25t...

First Impressions: God Eater episodes 1-3

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

Japan Animator Expo photo
Japan Animator Expo

Here's a quick sample of Animator Expo's Third Season


Summer is about to become cool
Jul 24
// Salvador GRodiles
At last, the Japan Animator Expo project has uploaded a trailer for their upcoming season. From the looks of it, the third installment sounds like it'll be better than ever. I mean, we get to see another Tsuburaya hero g...

First Impressions: GATE episodes 1-3

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

OP Up! Virtual Reality Edition

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

Final Impressions: Unlimited Blade Works

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

JapanaTen: The Golden Rules of Durarara!!

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

OP Up! Fast Edition

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

G-Tekketsu photo
G-Tekketsu

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


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

SDCC '15: Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters' uncut episodes are now on Crunchyroll


Believe in the heart of the cards
Jul 12
// Salvador GRodiles
Good news, everyone; the folks at 4K Media Inc., the company that handles the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise's license and marketing, have announced at Comic Con that Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters is now on Crunchyroll in its uncut glory. As ...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 701

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

First Impressions: GANGSTA

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

Review: The IDOLM@STER Cindrella Girls Season 1

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

Final Impressions: Plastic Memories

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

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

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

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 700

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

OP Up! One Piece Edition

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

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

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

Japana-Seven: The 7 best One Piece storylines

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

Annotated Anime: Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma episodes 9-12

Jul 06 // Nick Valdez
Episode 9 Since the Aldini Bros did so well in the test (and used duck as their main ingredient rather than fish like the rest of the students), this motivated Souma to try something completely off the wall. Exploiting the rule that they could use any ingredient in the area, Souma decides to use Chef Inui's bag of chips. After some ingredient rummaging, Souma and Tadakoro (the best) make up some fish using the chips as breading. But as Chef Inui proves to be slightly absent minded, the two never find out whose dish was better. After some levity, we find out everyone from the Polar Star Dorm made it through the first day but then a harsher challenge appeared. Each student was tasked with serving fifty bodybuilders within an hour or they'd be instantly expelled. Souma naturally finishes the task quickly (thanks to all the experience of serving in his family restaurant), and ends up colliding with Nakiri as they both were humming along with the anime's ending theme. I love when shows break the fourth wall like that. It was a good sequence all around.  Episode 10 The first half of the episode dealt with fallout from the first day's challenges. The entire Polar Star dorm survived the evening test, and everyone is trying to rest a bit. Tadakoro's (the best) not confident in herself, so she's always afraid she'll mess up the dishes. We also learned a bit more about God Tongue Nakiri from Chef Doujima (who Souma meets in the bath), as we learn her skill is setting her out to be the top of the school. The second half kicks off Day 2 with Chef Shinomiya, the harshest of the Totsuki alumni judges for the camp. He's already expelled 30 students, and even expelled a student for using a scented shampoo on the first day. He's assigned them a recipe they have to duplicate, a highly technical French dish called the Terrine of Nine Vegetables (with nine veggies stacked on top of each other in a little cube with the same kind of texture).  He also forces them to work alone (and think of each other as "enemies") which hurts Tadakoro even further since she's relied a bit of Souma to this point. So she's left with some cauliflower that's begun to oxidize and fixes it with wine vinegar. But because she's changed the recipe (even if it tasted great), Chef Shinomiya fails her. When Souma calls him out on the poor ingredients, Shinomiya admits that he purposefully added spoiled ones to limits the students that'd pass. Then Souma challenges Shinomiya to Shokugeki and it gets mad intense! Ugh, Tadakoro is so cute though.  Episode 11 Although Tadakoro will always be my number one, Chef Inui is strongly vying for that top spot. Essentially a more evolved Tadakoro, she adorably argues Shinomiya's decision. As Chef Doujima hears of the Shokugeki, he forces Shinomiya to accept and now Souma and Tadakoro have to cook for their lives in an unofficial cook off to keep Tadakoro in school. As per Doujima, the Shougeki is set at two hours using leftover ingredients from Day 2's challenges with the Totsuki alumni deciding the victor. And more importantly, Tadakoro is made head chef who will decide the recipe. After some panic, Souma was able to calm her down and Tadakoro decided on a recipe. Thanks to some much needed levity (as the other alumni pick on Shinomiya) we learn a bit more about him too. After graduation he went to France and opened several restaurants and earned the moniker "The Magician of Legumes" because of his good use of vegetables.  Shinomiya serves his dish first, and it's a basic cabbage roll with high end ingredients. It's so good it leads to this week's header image. The last few episodes have been tense, and this one follows suit, but there's a good balance of comedy here. I laughed much more thn I have in the past. It's this kind of episode that brings me back week to week (and keeps me writing these chunks of summaries, haha).  Episode 12 Tadakoro serves her dish, a rainbow terrine (in order to show off her terrine recipe) with seven different combinations of vegetables and flavors. The alumni all like her dish so much, they alike her to a household yokai that delivers vegetables (since Shinomiya is the "Magician of Legumes") but unfortunately vote in Shinomiya's favor. But Doujima convinced Shinomiya to try Tadakoro's dish in order to understand why they favor her so much. Because her cooking comes with heart, which is something Shinomiya lacked and caused him to stagnate in his growth. So basically, the Shokugeki was all crafted by Doujima in order to give Tadakoro some confidence and to show Shinomiya that he can't continue coldly ignoring others if he wants his cooking to improve. It was a nice, light hearted ending to the arc.  Although Souma really didn't appreciate the loss. He hasn't lost anything to this point and it got to him. But seeing as how Tadakoro was happy, he'll let it slide.  That's it for this chunk! Next heap of episodes continues the camp and the start of Day 3. You know how we always have a few screencaps of each episode for you? Funny thing was that since I like Tadakoro so much, and that these episodes had a heavy focus on her, these were almost all Tadakoro faces. She's so adorable and the team always gives her good reactions. As for the little things, I don't notice them as much anymore. Now that the show has settled into a nice arc, everything seems more focused. The background noise isn't as wily, the characters are more developed, and there's far less intrusive fan service bits. Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma has definitely come into its own. 
Food Wars 9-13 photo
Tadakoro now, Tadakoro forever
Last time we left off, Souma and the other chefs were taking part in an annual Totsuki Academy camp where they have to pass a few tests. We're currently in the middle of the first test as Chef Inui wants pairs of chefs to coo...

Gundam photo
Gundam

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


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

Celebrate USA's birthday with anime videos of America

Jul 04 // Red Veron
[embed]34026:4885:0[/embed]LawsuitAh. Nothing like a good old fashioned lawsuit for maximum justice.[embed]34026:4886:0[/embed]Hotdogs (WARNING: LANGUAGE)Hawtdawg.[embed]34026:4887:0[/embed]Straight outta BrooklynFuggedaboutit.[embed]34026:4888:0[/embed]In AmericaThe Greatest American ever in Anime. Ever.
4th of July photo
Welcome to Earth
Happy Birthday, USA! This weekend is the celebration of the great nation of the United States of America. So using the rights I am granted by this great nation, I've thrown together a few videos from Japanese animes featuring some USA-related stuff to celebrate the founding of this great union.So slap some burgers and hotdogs on the grill, sit back and enjoy some videos from anime about the USA.

Shaft photo
I'm sooo happy right now
Shaft has to be one of my favourite anime studios just because they made the Monogatari Series. I love that anime to pieces; from the extremely witty dialogue to the contrasting colour art style. The studio is coming up to it...

OP Up! Love is Love Edition

Jul 01 // Red Veron
[embed]34020:4880:0[/embed]"Kimi = Hana"Anime: Junjou RomanticaI know nothing about BL anime so I'll just comment on this opening. I like the song in this opening. Pretty minimal in the budget but you don't really need that much for an anime about pretty dudes holding hands and getting close.[embed]34020:4881:0[/embed]"Hanaji"Anime: Maria HolicA pretty crazy opening and it's from SHAFT, the studio that makes crazy looking stuff. Visually striking with all the colors blending in with the minimalist style that studio employs, along with using painting as a theme (like painting stuff, not art). A fun and weird one to watch.[embed]34020:4882:0[/embed]"LΦvest"Anime: Love Stage!!I must apologize that I am not familiar with BL and this show, so I will comment on the opening. I really like this opening; it's pretty, the character designs are great, and it shows off the show well. The show involves the main character, Isumi, who is a very androgynous guy who actually looks to cause some pants confusion, and Ryoma, a guy who fell for Izumi while Izumi was dressed up as  a girl ten years prior to them meeting again.[embed]34020:4883:0[/embed]"I've been waiting in that forest"Anime: Yuri Kuma ArashiA crazy show that a need to finish watching, this one is about a bears gaining intelligence equal to humans and rising up against humanity. Somewhere along the line, lesbian bears happen. It's a crazy premise but it is a visually beautiful show and is a never ending source of insanity.Did I not post your favorite opening from a boy's and/or girl's love anime? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!!!
OP Up! photo
Never back down on LOVE
Being able to love the one you love is great and here at Japanator, we support that. I mean, if you want to spend the rest of your life with someone you love, you should have that choice to do it. So this week's OP Up! is all...


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