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Annotated Anime

Impressions: Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash episodes 1-4

Feb 05 // Salvador GRodiles
Perhaps this is what makes Grimgar an interesting series to follow. Compared to many other titles in this genre, none of the characters overpower each other. In fact, they all play up the idea of an RPG group where each member has a major role to fulfill. You have your basic party of a Thief, Dark Knight, Fighter, Hunter, Mage and Healer, which make up the core group of the main cast. However, the kicker is that they’re not very good at using their jobs in battle. Instead of the series focusing on a tale about a group of adventurers saving the land or trying to escape from an unknown world, Grimgar touches upon the struggle of the main group trying to make a living in a new location. Even though their tasks seem to be simple in the eyes of many folks who play RPGs or Dungeons & Dragons, the series does a fine job in showing the audience that fighting a creature that’s usually depicted as a weakling in most titles (such as the show’s goblins) can be a threat to those who’re trying to learn the ropes of battle. In a way, it covers that feeling that comes from doing something for the first time, as the cast lacks any previous combat experience. Since the group has no memory of their life in their own world, this gives Grimgar a nice sense of mystery, as the viewers are unsure of how the characters actually are. To an extent, they’re all basically amnesiacs living an entirely new life, which makes one wonder how they’ll change when their memories return to them. Because of this angle, these elements made the series' story intriguing since this could play a major role when they uncover the truth about themselves. With the cast randomly shouting out terms related to our world, there’s plenty of promise with the story's mystery. Despite the series’ fantasy look, the meat of show focuses mostly on the group living their everyday life. The first three episodes gave us the rundown on Grimgar’s setting, along with showing us the gang’s routine during each day. Surprisingly, there’s also a feeling of innocence and curiosity between the main gang, as the staff handled a couple scenes that seemed like they would be played off for perverted laughs in a way that focuses more on the characters’ reaction than what’s happening in front of them. In this case, it works surprisingly well in grounding the group’s relationship with each other. For the most part, the show’s direction resulted in the whole thing being decent. While the show’s first three episodes didn't grab me at first, their story elements utilized made way for a major event that pieced everything nicely. Honestly, I didn’t expect to see this sort of scenario happen this early in the anime since the group was still getting used to hunting goblins for a living. Perhaps the most impactful thing about the outcome is that it resembles a scenario from a D&D campaign or a tough RPG where the player’s mistake can result in a huge consequence, regardless of how small it seems. Of course, Grimgar's visuals are a treat, as the backgrounds are colored in a way where they resemble a watercolor painting. To top it off, the characters’ colors and shading mesh well with the environment which gives off a nice soothing vibe. Thanks to this aspect, this helps most scenes look great when it focuses on the cast performing their daily routine. Even though the show’s soundtrack had some weak rock tunes here and there, there are still a few subtle fantasy tunes that suit the show’s setting. The main opening is alright and the series features a few vocal tracks that pan over a scene, which can be enjoyable at times. Since the music’s quality is the type that grows on the viewer with each passing episode, I could see it getting better later on. At the end of the day, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash presents us with some intriguing ideas on the concept of characters being trapped in a game-like fantasy world. While the show’s presentation resulted in the whole thing being average, episode 4’s tragic event delivers enough impact to make it promising. Since the show gives off a nice .hack//SIGN vibe, I’m hoping that it’ll improve when things start getting even tougher for the main party. In the meantime, the title’s recent event could cause the series to level up soon. [You can live the Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash life at FUNimation]
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Living the fantasy life isn't easy
There’s something great about playing anime roulette when one chooses a show to cover—especially if it’s a title that one isn’t too familiar with. Before I jumped into the anime adaptation of the light...

Annotated Anime: GATE episodes 13-16

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

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 728

Feb 01 // Anthony Redgrave
The scales of the fight between Luffy and Doflamingo have been balanced in the previous episode with Doflamingo awakening his Devil Fruit powers causing everything around him to turn to string. Luffy continues to fly around like a balloon trying to find an opening. There is quite a lot of fighting in this episode as there were in the last few, a lot of kinetic high-octane scenes of the two combatants trying to gain the upper hand. On the ground citizens having been motivated by King Riku's inspirational speech on surviving scurry to the centre of Dressrosa. Personally, now that we have found out the Bird Cage doesn't affect buildings made of Sea Prism stone I would have rallied the immobile to stay in the factory. The benefits of not getting sliced like a tomato at Subway outweighs being pushed by the building.  Luffy's barrage eventually connects with a Leo Bazooka, a move that has nothing to do with the character Leo who is featured heavily in this season and Doflamingo flies across the entire town into the side of Flower Fields. Despite the show proclaiming, this was the end of the fight, any One Piece fan worth their salt knows it's a false ending. The celebrations are too muted, Luffy isn't completely drained, and there are still uncertainties around whether Luffy is an ally or foe due to his pirate lifestyle. If this was the ending there would be happier inspirational music, people celebrating a whole lot more, and Luffy being completely drained. Oh and crying. Lots of crying. But the tearful joyful kind. On cue everyone realises Doflamingo hasn't been defeated as the Bird cage hasn't disappeared. Before Luffy can deliver a second attack on the immobilised Doflamingo, Gear 4th runs out. Luckily it doesn't have the side effect of Gear 3rd of turning him chibi. I would've thought it would have this effect considering it uses parts of Gear 3rd to make him a whole lot buffer. Doflamingo emerges with a grin and more inflated head veins than Vegeta. Doflamingo isn't the only pirate after Luffy's head as Jesus Burgess (yeah that guy is still relevant) was waiting for the opportune time to steal the Gum Gum fruit from Luffy. Why he would want a devil fruit that makes a person into the Japanese Mr Fanastic I don't know. It's not as if it's the strongest devil fruit in the series despite winning the most fights. It's not a Logia, and Luffy gets by due to making the most out of the bad devil fruit, scraping through most of his fights. I think Luffy could make any Devil Fruit worth having because he's an excellent creative fighter and works damn hard to make his moves work. The preview for next episode looks to be an intermission between Doflamingo and Luffy meaning we have to wait around a little longer before we can conclude the fight. At least, we are in a position where they have been fighting. My prediction is that they're going to try and get Luffy to Mansherry for a quick patch job with Law so they can stop Doflamingo's regeneration. [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
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The Battle Rages On!
It's been a while since I've caught up with One Piece and there's been so much to see. A quick first impression of Fourth Gear is it looked so stupid. And I think that's what Oda was going for because when I saw it in ac...

Annotated Anime: Haruchika: Haruta & Chika episodes 2-4

Jan 29 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 2 This episode amazed me right off the bat. While the first episode did so well in introducing Chika to its viewers, it didn't really delve much into anyone else. This episode you find out a lot about Haruta in just the first opening six minutes of the episode. You get a glimpse into his life including his living conditions where he lives by himself in an old apartment and that he has three sisters but doesn't seem to like being around him. There is a bit of a funny scene when Haruta invites Chika into his apartment and Chika panics about a girl going into the apartment of a boy who lives alone, but Haruta shuts that down in an instant. Haruta tends to be blunt and even poke at Chika a little bit. The rest of the episode is based on trying to get a new member into the club named Miyo. Miyo is an oboe player that Haruta has been trying to recruit but she is very standoffish. Honestly, it gets a little creepy as Haruta has this almost stalker like knowledge of Miyo that no one else seems to find a little creepy, but does give an explanation as to why the girl refuses to play her music ever again. The further Chika and Haruta dig into Miyo's past the more heartbreaking it becomes. Finally they, along with a girl who also tried to be friends with Miyo, break through her cold exterior. She presents them with a challenge in the form of an all white colored Rubix cube that she said was left to her as a punishment. She tells them they have until the end of the week to solve it and will join the club if they do. I've got to hand it to the creators of this series, whether this is from the books or not I'm not sure, but this is a moment where you start wondering what exactly is the game here? It's not some obvious answer and makes you more intrigued as to what is there to actually solve instead of just finding the answer. I won't give too much away, but it is a very emotional scene. For a character just introduced less than 30 minutes before, you feel for her when the answer is found. I will admit that I shed a few tears. This episode really impressed me with its story and layout. It accomplished a lot in introducing a new character while explaining details of one of the main characters, it had a creative and original puzzle to solve, a creative way to solve it, and a powerful and emotional story as to why the puzzle needs to be solved. Whoever came up with this particular story knew what they were doing and if this is a sign of the rest of the series, then I will be enjoying the ride.   Episode 3 Thankfully this episode is a lot lighter on the emotions than the last episode was. However, this episode really makes you think a lot more as there is no physical puzzle to solve. The focus of this week's ep is Maren, the saxophone player. Haruta, Chika, and Miyo practically stumble on him as Haruta and Miyo are helping the drama club and it seems Maren is terrible. Of course, Haruta digs more into Maren with the head of the Drama club. We get a little bit into the background of him and his life story of being adopted from China, cut in with scenes of him agonizing over a letter and a metal briefcase. This is when things start getting interesting. Haruta wants Maren to join the club but the drama club president doesn't want to let him go until Maren has performed on stage once. Haruta writes an idea for both clubs to be together in a play but it is rejected.  I REALLY want to mention the scene where we meet the "star" of the drama club, Maya. When Chika tries to greet her, the girl barks at her. Seriously. Turns out she's a bit of a method actor and the drama club instructor wanted her to be in the mindset of a wolf girl or something. The two clubs agree to an interesting challenge. They will take part in an improvised acting challenge. Each club has three people, Haruta, Chika, and Miyo for the brass club, and the drama club president, Maya, and Maren for the drama club. The challenge is for each club to try and make a certain member of the opposite club leave the scene first (Miyo and Maren are the ones picked). The plot of the play is that they are 6 counterfeiters on the run. As in previous episodes, Haruta is the star here as he takes over and tells the story and manipulates the scene. Very creatively done how he gets through this and makes it look easy. You aren't even sure what the "puzzle" of this episode is until it is solved. If there is a drawback here, Haruta once again gets scary accurate in the details of Maren's life and it isn't entirely explained how the heck he found all this out. I think he may have gotten it from the drama club president but it's not really stated. It does stick out a lot on how this kid would know the back-story and details of someone he just met. The episode was still enjoyable and it's a wonder to see Haruta solve all these puzzles, but this one felt like there was something missing in the details. It's still impressive how he solves things and the ending is heartwarming, but it feels like something has been left out.   Episode 4 This episode is a bit different than the ones we have seen. Instead of the episode revolving around introducing a new member to the brass club, this time, the episode revolves around Haruta and his living conditions. This episode delves more into Haruta's family as we meet his oldest sister, Minami, and find out why he thinks living at home is such hell. The episode gets more interesting when the explore a supposedly haunted small apartment building and hear the back-story behind it. The "puzzle" they solve with the building is again, very creative and how it is resolved is also well thought out, like the previous episodes. Like the episode centered around Miyo and the Rubix cube, you are compelled to watch this ep to find out what the answer is and it is wrap up in a nice touching story as well. It's a Christmas episode sure, but it's not your usual Christmas anime episode as it doesn't go over the top and make things too goofy around the holiday. We are at the fourth episode and it may seem odd to do another Haruta based episode, but I'm not sure if this ep would have worked as well as an episode two or three as it was. We had to get to see more of Haruta's personality and the show's rhythm in his abilities to solve these puzzles before we should see something like this. However, this episode seemed different than the others have been. There was more a sense of humor in this one with thing like seeing what has become of Haruta and why he dislikes his family, Chika's teasing of Miyo about the ghosts she's so afraid of, and especially in the flashbacks of why this whole situation is what it is. Dare I say it felt more like an anime episode if that means anything. I'm not familiar with the source material at all so I don't know if this is a filler episode or just one that is made to be a little more lighthearted and different. I'm not saying it is bad. It's certainly not. But there is a difference there, at least, to me anyway.   This batch of episodes was a lot of fun for me. The silliness didn't take over the series, the creativeness in the writing was excellent as not only were the puzzles creative but how they solved them was very creative as well. There is a problem sometimes that you get lost and Haruta does come across as a bit of a stalker, but those things don't kill the show. Still wondering why we haven't seen much from the twins and Keisuke yet, I'd like to know more about them. But, we are just getting started and have much more to go. See you next time! This episode amazed me right off the bat. While the first episode did so well in introducing Chika to it's viewers, it didn't really delve much into anyone else. This episode you find out a lot about Haruta in just the first opening six minutes of the episode. You get a glimpse into his life including his living conditions where he lives by himself in an old apartment and that he has three sisters but doesn't seem to like being around him.   There is a bit of a funny scene when Haruta invites Chika into his apartment and Chika panics about a girl going into the apartment of a boy who lives alone, but Haruta shuts that down in an instant.   The rest of the episode is based around trying to get a new member into the club named Miyo. Miyo is an oboe player that Haruta has been trying to recruit but she is very stand offish. Honestly it gets a little creepy as Haruta has this almost stalker like knowledge of Kiyo that no one seems to find a little creepy, but does give an explanation as to why the girl refuses to play her music ever again.   The further Chika and Haruta dig into Kiyo's past the more heartbreaking it becomes. Finally they, along with a girl who also tried to be friends with Kiyo, break through her cold exterior. She presents them with a challenge in the form of an all white colored rubix cube that she said was left to her as a punishment. She tells them they have until the end of the week to solve it and will join the club if they do.   I've got to hand it to the creators of this series, whether this is from the books or not I'm not sure, but this is a moment where you start wondering what exactly is the game here? It's not some obvious answer and makes you more intrigued as to what is there to actually solve instead of just finding the answer.   I won't spoil the ending, but it is a very emotional scene. For a character just introduced less than 30 minutes before, you feel for her when the answer is found. I will admit that I shed a few tears.   This episode really impressed me with it's story and layout. It accomplished a lot in introducing a new character while explaining details of one of the main characters, it had a creative and original puzzle to solve, a creative way to solve it, and a powerful and emotional story as to why the puzzle needs to be solved. Whomever came up with this particular story knew what they were doing and if this is a sign of the rest of the series, then I will be enjoying the ride.
Haruchika photo
Complete with lots of feels.
So now that we took a look at the first episode of this series, now it's time to see more of what makes this show go and what makes these characters tick. We've already seen that this series is not one of shock and surprise a...


First Impressions: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

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

First Impressions: ERASED

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

First Impressions: Haruchika: Haruta & Chika

Jan 13 // Soul Tsukino
Haruchika: Haruta & Chika is a series that, much like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, is based off a series of light novels. Already that gets my attention as a fiction writer, but also as an anime fans since it's something about anime based off books made me tend to think it will have an interesting premise and story more than a run of the mill paint by numbers anime that was crapped out to take advantage of the latest trend and mimic another show's big success. The series starts off on a different note right off the bat as the first episode starts at the end. You see a number of high school kids getting ready to take the stage. You aren't told who they are, why they are there, not much of anything until you hear a voice talking about how they all had arrived at that point. Yes, it seems this series is told entirely as a flashback. This episode introduces us to Chika and her first day of high school. It does a really good job of introducing her as it shows not only her habits, attitudes, and interaction with people but also her goals and what she wants to do now that she is in high school. She wants to cast off her old ways and be a different person in this new environment, namely by taking up the flute.   We also get introduced to the other characters, but there really isn't a lot given out about them. Although the other title character, Chika's old childhood friend Haruta, gets a little more look into his character, it's mostly done in showing flashbacks of when he and Chika were children. Yes, a flashback in a series that is a flashback, reminds me of a joke made in Scott Melzer's fan parody Fanboy Soze Vs The Reanimators of the Otakulypes. The big plot point in this episode, and it seems the rest of the series, is that a puzzle appears before Haruta and Chika and the rest of the club as they try to figure out this musical code left on their board, painted in red paint. Chika has little training in classical music so she struggles with the clues to figure things out (at one point she confuses "Bach" with "baka"). The way they and the other brass instrument club members figure things out is really interesting, but the end of the episode gives you a big surprise that I'm not going to spoil here. After watching the first episode, I can say I am interested in seeing more. You have interesting characters, a premise that is not usually found in this type of show, and just a bit of silliness and goofy bits to make me enjoy following along. Think of a gentle mix of K-on!, Haruhi, and Azumanga Daioh mixed into a warm cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter's day.   [Check out Haruchika streaming on FUNimation!] Haruchika: Haruta and Chika is a series that, much like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzamiya, is based off a series of light novels. Already that gets my attention as a fiction writer, but also as an anime fans since it's something about anime based off books made me tend to think it will have a interesting premise and story more than a run of the mill paint by numbers anime that was crapped out to take advantage of the latest trend and mimic another show's big success.   The series starts off on a different note right off the bat as the first episode starts at the end. You see a number of high school kids getting ready to take the stage. You aren't told who they are, why they are there, not much of anything, until you here a voice taking about how they all had arrived to that point. Yes, it seems this series is told entirely as a flashback.   This episode introduces us to Chika and her first day of high school. It does a really good job of introducing her as it shows not only her habits, attitudes, and interaction with people, but also her goals and what she wants to do now that she is in high school. She wants to cast off her old ways and be a different person in this new environment, namely by taking up the flute.   We also get introduced to the other characters, but there really isn't a lot given out about them. Although the other title character, Chika's old childhood friend Haruta, gets a little more look into his character, it's mostly done in showing flashbacks of when he and Chika were children. Yes, a flashback in a series that is a flashback, reminds me of a joke made in Scott Melzer's fan parody Fanboy Soze and the reanimator's of the Otakulypes.   The big plot point in this episode, and it seems the rest of the series, is that a puzzle appears before Haruta and Chika and the rest of the club as they try to figure out this musical code left on their board, painted in red paint. Chika has little training in classical music so she struggles with the clues to figure things out (at one point she confuses Bach with baka). The way they and the other brass instrument club members figure things out is really interesting, but the end of the episode gives you a big surprise that I'm not going to spoil here.   After watching the first episode, I can say I am interested in seeing more. You have interesting characters, a premise that is not usually found in this type of show, and just a bit of silliness and goofy bits to make me enjoy following along. Think of a gentle mix of K-on!, Haruhi, and Azumanga Daioh mixed into a warm cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter's day.
Haruchika photo
Think Haruhi if she wasn't a psychopath.
I'm not exactly sure why I picked this new show of the winter season, really. I had no idea what it was about or the background behind it. Just a very brief description and one picture from a preview of the new anime debuting...

First Impressions: Active Raid

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

Final Impressions: Attack on Titan Junior High

Jan 06 // Soul Tsukino
I don't care if the plots to most of the episodes are cliché and following numerous anime tropes. I don't care if the show's writing can get predictable at times. And I don't care if it's not the deeply written psycho shockfest of the source manga or show. It's a fun parody of a popular show that isn't supposed to be taken seriously. It's not trying to drive home a lesson on mortality or finding my own strengths in adversity, it's about me sitting down for 15 minutes and watching a group of big-headed chibified kids running around and getting into goofy situations all the while under the threat of large naked giant people stomping in to steal their lunches. No deep thinking required and that's just what I wanted. Visually I enjoyed the show as well. It's not Miyazaki, I got that before I started. But I love the way the characters expressions are done and the visual gags are presented during the course of the series. I would prefer something done in this kind of art style over some of the eps of Naruto, Bleach, Space Dandy, or One Piece that were animated in that crappy style where they were trying to save time and money by skimping on the details. If there is a knock I have, and it's one I mentioned before, is that once you get past the episode where Jean has a crush from a Titan, Eren and Hange's actions during the rest of the eps come off in a totally different light. Hange start coming off as some weird psycho dominatrix the way she "experiments" on Sawney and Beane, and Eren talking about destroying the titans and how much he hates them comes off as really hateful and downright mean coming from a first-year junior high kid. But I think I'm over-thinking the whole thing.   This isn't the best anime ever. Hell, even I'll concede it's not even the best anime this season. But while a lot of people complain that it is worthless and why is this being made when the original series has so much left to tell, I sit back, take in the goofiness, laugh for a while and enjoy myself. So here's to you, you chee-burg bastards for giving me 12 reasons to laugh this anime season! I don't care if the plot's to most of the episodes are cliché and following numerous anime tropes. I don't care if the show's writing can get predicable at times. And I don't care if it's not the deep written psycho shockfest of the source manga or show.   It's a fun parody of a popular show that isn't supposed to be taken seriously. It's not trying to drive home a lesson on mortality or finding my own strengths in adversity, its about me sitting down for 15 minutes and watching a group of big headed chibified kids running around and getting into goofy situations all the while under the threat of large naked giant people stomping in to steal their lunches. No deep thinking required and that's just what I wanted.   Visually I enjoyed the show as well. It's not Miyazaki, I got that before I started. But I love the way the characters expressions are done and the visual gangs are presented during the course of the series. I would prefer something done in this kind of art style over some of the eps of Naruto, Bleach, Space Dandy, or One Piece that were animated in that crappy style where they were trying to save time and money by skimping on the details.   If there is a knock I have, and it's one I mentioned before, is that once you get past the episode where Jean has a crush from a Titan, Eren and Hange's actions during the rest of the eps come off in a totally different light. Hange start coming off as some weird psycho dominatrix the way she "experiments" on Sawney and Beane, and Eren talking about destroying the titans and how much he hates them comes off as really hateful and downright mean coming from a first year Junior high kid. But I think I'm over thinking the whole thing.   This isn't the best anime ever. Hell, even I'll concede it's not even the best anime this season. But while a lot of people complain that it is worthless and why is this being made when the original series has so much left to tell, I sit back, enjoy the goofiness, laugh for a while and enjoy myself.   So here's to you, you chee-burg bastards for giving me 12 reasons to laugh this anime season!
Attack on Titan: Jr high photo
Sad to see the little guys end
I'm in the minority here. I'm not following what seems to be the popular opinion. I'm not following what as an anime fan I am supposed to like this season.   I loved Attack on Titan Junior High. I'm in the minority here...

Annotated Anime: Attack on Titan: Junior High episodes 11 & 12

Jan 04 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 11 It's school festival time (what did I say last time about anime requirements?) and the class of our first-year buddies have to run two different events during the festival. Since there are not enough kids to staff both events during the festival, they will have to take shifts at each. The events decided on, a stage play of Snow White and running a Cheeseburger stand.   The food stand, of course, gets almost all the attention. They are stuck right next to Rico and her class's rice stand (which actually is a giant rice pot) that won the award last year (In sales? Popularity? They never really say). Eren, of course, takes the competition way too seriously as he leads the team of himself, Mikasa, Armin, Mina (who has done squat the whole series), along with Franz and Hanna.   Easily the star of the burger stand scenes is Armin. He takes his role dead serious and even gives himself an internal monologue to fire him up before he's dolled up to look like a cute girl. Seeing him give out a strategy for beating Rico's class and acting like a cute girl n the same breath are hilarious.   Outside of the food stall battle we see some of the other stalls going on. We check back to the play which gets worse and worse as more of the cast disappear to help Eren. We also check in with the maid cafe with Christa and Ymir (And Ymir's attempts to keep Reiner from enjoying Christa's prepared food), along with Hitch and Annie's time in the "Cat Snuggle Cafe" (that hits close to home for me as an ardent cat person), and Hange's insane demonstrations with Sawney and Beane that have way to much of an S&M vibe to it.  The ending is either completely predictable if you have been following the series or a bit of an "Oh Crap!" moment if you have been caught up in the antics of the episode.   This series is not known for its writing and this is a good example of it. There isn't really much of a story here and it is standard fair for a "school festival" episode. It's not a terrible episode, but if you've seen enough anime and have been following along with this series, it doesn't exactly come up with anything new or surprising. Episode 12 The episode picks right up where we left off. Eren is PISSED. Nobody messes with his chee-burgs! He's rip-snorting angry and wants to go get his burgers back. Mikasa isn't going to let Eren kill himself, and soon the others join in. They quickly face resistance from the teaching staff but Eren isn't hearing any of it. He tries to get the upperclassmen on his side, but they resist. Eren isn't satisfied and decides to do this on his own. Once again, the others join him.   The rest of the episode plays out as the gang scurry through the Titan's part of the school building. It goes about as well as you'd expect from this show. They get some help from Rico and her class as they lost their rice stand as well, but after that, the episode just gets absolutely bizarre.   Featuring Titans in raver gear, A musical number by blindfolded upperclassmen, The reappearance of Jean's secret crush, and a parody of the "boulder" battle from the original series really doesn't describe how insane the episode turns. What the last episode lacked in originality, this episode makes up for in spades.   But you know what? I got into it. I know, it's a show where thought isn't a prerequisite. It's a goofy nonsense parody of a dark and brutal series, but by god I was cheering on these little guys in their quest to get the chee-burgs back. I thought the ending was heartwarming. it was like that the main series doesn't have real good endings for most of the characters, but here these little guys give you the good things the main series can't give you.   The finale really lets loose and brings some weird insanity that some of the previous episodes lacked. It started in line with the rest of the series but started getting into Excel Saga levels of crazy in the second half, but brought everything back together to give a good ending and wrap it all up in a happy chee-burgy way.   I'll wrap up the entire series in its own article, but I give this finale a big thumbs up. It was something that caught your attention, wrapped things up, and most of all was fun! It's school festival time (what did I say last time about anime requirements?) and the class of our first-year buddies have to run two different events during the festival. Since there are not enough kids to staff both events during the festival, they will have to take shifts at each. The events decided on, a stage play of Snow White and running a Cheeseburger stand.   The food stand of course gets almost all the attention. They are stuck right next to Rico and her class's rice stand (which actually is a giant rice pot) that won the award last year (In sales? Popularity? They never really say). Eren of course takes the competition way to seriously as he leads the team of himself, Mikasa, Armin, Mina (who has done squat the whole series), along with Franz and Hanna.   Easily the star of the burger stand scenes are Armin. He takes his role dead serious and even gives himself a internal monologue to fire him up before he's dolled up to look like a cute girl. Seeing him give out strategy for beating Rico's class and acting like a cute girl n the same breath are hilarious.   Outside of the food stall battle we see some of the other stalls going on. We check back to the play which gets worse and worse as more of the cast disappear to help Eren. We also check in with the maid cafe with Christa and Ymir, Hitch and Annie's time in the "Cat Snuggle Cafe", and Hange's insane demonstrations with Sawney and Beane that have way to much of an S&M vibe to it.   The ending is either completely predictable if you have been following the series, or a bit of an "Oh Crap!" moment if you have been caught up in the antics of the episode.   This series is not known for its writing and this is a good example of it. There isn't really much of a story here and it is standard fair for a "school festival" episode. It's not a terrible episode, but if you've seen enough anime and have been following along with this series, it doesn't exactly come up with anything new or surprising.
Attack on Titan: Jr high photo
Chee-burg Backlash!
The zany ride comes to an end.  We take a look at the last two installments of the most chibi of this season's anime shows of Japan, Attack on Titan: Junior High. How will our ragtag group of first-year friends wrap thin...

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

Dec 31 // Salvador GRodiles
5. Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Ever since I watched Fate/Zero and The Garden of Sinners, it was certain that ufotable should be the go-to studio for all major TYPE-MOON-related adaptations. When it was announced that they would be remaking Fate/Stay Night’s “Unlimited Blade Works” route, this seemed like the perfect ingredient to bring joy to the hearts of fans of the original visual novel game. In the end, the studio struck us with a spectacle that did justice to the route’s great moments. To top things off, they were able to add some nice touches that benefited those who watched Fate/Zero before diving into the original Fate/Stay Night visual novel. While my only experience with the series is the anime installments, Shiro’s sheer determination to become a true hero of justice against all odds showed us how most folks are able to accept reality’s harsh truth when they take a risky path in life. Like with most dreams, it takes a lot of guts to journey into a realm that many individuals consider to be crazy, which is one of the things that made this series worthwhile. With ufotable applying the elements I mentioned earlier, it felt like we were getting the key things of the experience that Studio DEEN denied us in their movie version of Unlimited Blade Works. Also, the pretty colors and dynamic battles acted as the cherry to complete this delicious ice cream sundae. 4. Gatchaman Crowds Insight Speaking of heroes, when a person walks the path of true justice, he/she might have to find a way to bring a resolution to both opposing parties. In order to accomplish this feat, one must undergo a major sacrifice; therefore making this path a difficult one to take. This is where Gatchaman Crowds Insight shined over its predecessor, as it challenged its main heroine in making the proper choice that would benefit society. Usually in life, there are lots of moments where people follow a certain trend or view while pressuring others to do so. The real kicker was that this happened within the team as well, which kept us guessing on how things would get resolved. With the way how the new character Gel’s abilities were used in this factor worked amazingly in creating the right conflict for the show’s main cast. Just like its predecessor, the series handled this theme without resorting to the typical good punching out evil to save the day scenario. Instead, it showed us how the media and technology affect people’s lives in many ways. Whether they were positive or negative, the effects it had on the characters made way for a ride that kept me invested throughout its run. Also, the music continues to be catchy as hell. 3. One Punch Man Despite my love for Gatchaman Crowds Insight and its special take on the superhero genre, One Punch Man knocked my expectations out of the water. Right when you felt that this show was going to focus on a hero’s unfortunate journey to find that one adversary that would give him the fight of his life, the series hits us with the message on what it is to be a good hero. To an extent, it took me back to Tiger & Bunny where you had certain people who were only in it for the fame and those who really wanted to protect those who need help. Because of this moral, the low-rank heroes (such as Mumen Rider) were the ones who expressed this theme the strongest— especially when you compare them to the show's higher ranking superheroes. When the show focuses on Saitama one-shotting his opponents, the buildup towards this moment always manages to increase the audience’s excitement, which results in a satisfying conclusion that leaves them with a burst of joy. Combined with the great punchlines thrown into these scenes, there’s never a dull moment in One Punch Man. Seeing that this show is running on an average budget, it’s amazing to see that the anime adaptation was being made by a group that placed their heart and soul into each frame of animation. That being said, the payoff from their work is shown nicely in the final product, which shows that this title packs quite a punch. 2. Japan Animator Expo I’m not going to lie. While I had a good time with this year’s offering of anime, the Japan Animator Expo was the one that stood mostly stood out for me. Each week was a great surprise as we many shorts acted as a canvas for various animators to express their full creativity without anyone holding them back. Whether it was Hiroyuki Imashi’s spiritual sequel to Panty & Stocking, Akira Amemiya of Ninja Slayer expressing his love for the classic Tsuburaya toku series Gridman, the follow-up to "ME!ME!ME!," or the perverted humor of Hiroyuki Okiura's (Jin-Roh and A Letter to Momo's Director) Robot on the Road, there were a ton of wonderful surprises that left my jaw wide open. Combined with an array of comedy and wonderful love letters to classic stuff like Ultraman and Daicon IV, this project was jam packed with lots great treats. Even though there were some pieces that would’ve worked better as larger pieces, I found the majority of them to be shining gems. In the end, most of these shorts left me with a wonderful impression in a shorter time span than the titles mentioned earlier in this segment. Seeing that it isn’t too often that an opportunity like this one drops by, this played a role in Japan Animator Expo making it on here. Also, Megumi Hayashibara (Slayer's Lina, Cowboy Bebop's Fae) and Koichi Yamadera (Cowboy Bebop's Spike, Ranma's Ryoga) deserve mad props for voicing every character in the project. 1. Shirobako If a group's dedication and commitment were to affect my decision in this year’s segment, I’d have to say that Shirobako takes the cake on this one. While I wasn’t able to catch the series when it premiered last Fall, the great things that I heard from it in the past gave me the drive to marathon it before the curtains closed on 2015. And boy was everyone right about it being stupendous. In fact, this method caused me to experience a huge joyful waterfall of tears as I rooted for Miyamori and the rest of Musashino Animation on their quest to deliver solid anime titles to the masses. Despite me being a person who gave up on pursuing the path of animation, my knowledge of the medium and my experience with going to school with other possible future animators went hand in hand in improving the whole show for me. The drive and determination behind each member of the studio showed us how they were willing to jump over all of the hurdles that would ruin the project. All in all, it was amazing to see how each character grew between each project that they tackled, as it felt like we were working with these people in real life. When the team got hit by impossible odds, Shirobako drove me into a state of rage, as the situation drove a huge stake through the staff’s objectives. However, the journey also made me feel sadness and joy when they tore down each wall. It’s not too often that a show throws me into different states of emotions during each episode, as P.A. Work’s hard work paid off with how they handled each dramatic moment in both of Musani’s productions. Most importantly, it changed the way how I view donut from now one; therefore deserving the number one spot in my heart. Honorable Mentions: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
Let's go nuts!
It felt like it was only yesterday that we started 2015 with a bang. I guess that’s what happens when one loses track of time. While I had the great luck of catching more shows this year, it turns out that most of them ...

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

Dec 31 // Red Veron
5.) Shigatsu wo Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April) So let's the get this one over with first. Many emotions were felt this year with this entry. If you haven't watched this by now and not know how the story goes, just try and watch it. The beautiful visuals and music do well to serve this story where boy meets girl. This one is where boy has gone through a traumatic experience years prior and girl helps rediscover what he lost. Sounds typical but I do indeed love this show. Though I have encountered people who thought the story was cheesy and not very dramatic but the presentation was the best part. If you've seen other sad anime or Japanese movies, you know where this will lead but this anime is just a really good way to tell that story efficiently and in a beautiful way.   4.) Yuru Yuri San Hai! The third season of a great comedy show that is framed as a parody of Yuri school anime that does way more than it should for a comedy about cute girls. Don't let the cute facade turn you away if you're immediately repulsed by moeblobs but this show barely goes into trying to woo people with cute characters. The entire appeal of the show lies in its comedy, from parodying elements in the romance genre and even archetypes to ridiculous comedy without becoming absurd, this show does a lot of that. This third season continues to be strong in its comedy and even the different studio behind the animation resulting in not so ideal visuals, the comedy shines through.   3.) Non Non Biyori: Repeat The second season to a show about girls who live in the Japanese countryside is back and it is charming as ever. No, this one has cuteness but doesn't try to the usual moe pandering with the cute girls and this one has a lot of heart. More laughs and beautiful scenery to be seen in this one, newcomers can try to watch this one without seeing the first season and just have some plain fun. The show is mostly innocent fun in a rural setting that is pretty close to reality without much contrived genre. It's a great slice-of-life comedy without resorting to crude humor or sexuality like other comedies and should be checked out for a breath of fresh air.   2. Osomatsu-san (Mister Osomatsu) How do you modernize a comedy anime from the 1960s? Well, the first episode of this show goes into just that and raises the bar so high for the rest of the show and does keep up a lot. A sequel to a comedy anime from 1960s updated to reflect contemporary humor, this show is one the best comedies in recent years (Nichijou is still best) and also features an all male cast. No trying to sell female character goods here, just plain good comedy. This sequel has the characters all grown up and are still up to their antics but now they're good for nothing NEETs (basically unemployed losers) trying to get the occasional job or just going about their day and random things.   1.) Gintama° The fourth anime series(?) to adapt the comedy action manga came back this year after a couple of years of hiatus and it is still one of the best overlooked action comedies in anime. Why is it good? It still maintains the same comedy we expect in the anime even after more than 260 episodes (skip the first two episodes, those are bad) and the action still shines when it shows up on occasion. What is Gintama? Well, imagine Rurouni Kenshin but space aliens come to Japan (and Earth) instead of the Americans in the late 1800s. Though the space aliens only serve to accelerate the technology to modern times though keeping the pre-western era Japan. The comedy part ranges from pop culture references to absurd humor while the action part that shines most in the short serious and focused story arcs. Want to get a satisfying shounen action story in 4-5 episodes instead of 50 while still packing plenty of action and drama? Gintama just has that plus sprinkle in many laughs.   Honorable Mentions: Shirobako Yuri Kuma Arashi Prison School Himouto! Umaru-chan School Live!
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
Much Laughter and Some Tears
The end of this year is here and boy, it was a fun year for anime. I should say that I didn't get to watch much because of life getting in the way but the ones I did watch are ones that I do love and thoroughly enjoy. I notic...

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

Dec 31 // Jeff Chuang
5. Hackadoll & Wooser's Hand-to-Mouth Life: Phantasmagoric Arc I'm cheating here by clubbing two half-length shows together for the fifth spot, but these two shows consistently entertained me. They belong to the same anime block, so maybe it's okay?  Being half-length gave Hackadoll and Wooser huge advantages as comedies to not outstay their welcome (although I wish I could say the same for some other shorts that still ran too dry). I think what worked well in both are their ability to change up the genre every week. Even if the characters remain the same, the humor comes off differently in different situations and moments. Both Wooser and Hackadoll are also remarkable for somewhat meta reasons. Hackadoll is the first anime made to promote a mobile app that delivers news links to your phone or tablet. While the app itself is Japanese only, it isn't region limited and it works pretty well. But think about it, here you are reading a rec for a TV show promoting an app that can deliver online posts about anime (possibly like this one) to your phone. It's one of the few nuggets of meta about anime that just tickles me. Not to be outdone, Wooser's third season features a voice-over role for a certain Crunchyroll mascot. That is also a first of another type, even if watching Hime-chan on Crunchyroll seems kind of natural. I guess that's what it means when the show is co-produced with CR's involvement. 4. Saekano Saekano was hard to put a finger on while it was airing. Somehow during the spring season I noted that it was my favorite, and looking back it was hard to recall the love I had for the show until I put it on again. I loved this super-cheeky story about a nerd who blogged about light novels, tried to be ethical in her rejection of getting to know the girl of her dreams, and ends up making a visual novel. It's the most convoluted nonsense, yet it works so well to entertain. That makes this show really cerebral in a sense, and it's safe to say that Saekano can be an acquired taste. There are a lot of layers at work in Saekano, and like many harem series we have to take some things for granted--like why this guy and what's the big deal anyway. However as the narrative peels back each layer to the story, inside Saekano was a mind-blowing origami of different layers of meta that meshed with each other, creating some freakish phenomenon of fanservice that catered to not just the id, but the ego and super-ego all at once. Oh, the animation for those scenes are also top notch. And once I started watching it, all of that visual language and snappy direction just brought my affection for the show back. Lastly, while this was more timely 9 months ago, Saekano also gets bonus points for talking about ethics in light novel journalism. 3. Non Non Biyori Repeat Rather than getting sick and tired of reboots and sequels, in the year of 2015, it's about appreciating what silver lining there is left unexploited. And in that sense, what makes a good original work outstanding is how it's creative, not that it's not a sequel or reboot. For appreciating creativity for creativity's sake, Non Non Biyori Repeat is actually as good as it gets. Unfortunately I think it's a huge spoiler to tell you what is really creative about Non Non Biyori's second season, yet it's the most compelling reason to watch it. Well, maybe the head-turning gambit is just the second-most compelling reason. If you loved season one of this country-side daily-life story, season two doubles down on all those charming moments and adds somewhat more snap to its comedic timing. And even after letting up its gambit from the first episode, this reboot/sequel does not feel tiresome at all. If anything Renchon's antics really soothes that cynic spirit! If we're to get another Azumanga Daioh anime, maybe this is how it has to be done. But short of that, Non Non Biyori is the best we will get. The reboot simply keeps the good going, and that's enough for a rec. 2. Sound! Euphonium Kyoto Animation's Sound! Euphonium was one of the best youth dramas you can find on TV in 2015. I think if there were any flaws to it, it was that the story plays really typical to the East Asian form of high school drama that litters mainstream TV and movies. Thankfully, Kyoto Animation's measured and subtle adaptation speaks to us beyond the simple character acting, with its expressive character animation on full-throttle as usual. It's nice to hear some sharp brass band going at it, covering some all-time Jpop hits or even just typical recital music. A big reason why Euphonium was really good is because the animation was really, really good. The portrayal of the emotional highs and lows, how the characters read between the lines, and the feelings for each, comes through loud and clear without having it all spelled out for us. The voice acting from our heroine was even just as good. Really, this is one of the best put-together anime I've seen in a very long time. 1. Shirobako  Shirobako might be an orphan, a two-cour show stuck between 2014 and 2015, but Shirobako defined what anime is capable of doing as far as filling my heart with feelings of all sorts, and filling my mind with ideas of all sorts. It ignites my imagination and brings catharsis through both tears and laughter. As Shirobako was so good by the end of the first cour, I did not hesitate to call it the anime of the year last year. When it ended in Winter of '15, I naturally used it as a bar to measure all the subsequent works in 2015. And it's with slight disappointment that I don't hesitate to do so again to crown Shirobako my top show in 2015. I hoped all year long for some other show to whisk me away and take all my attention, but that didn't happen. Perhaps I was asking too much of every other show, but the human drama really hit a bulls eye in Shirobako, to me, as someone who watched a lot of anime over the past 10+ years. It's more than just the references or the idealized studio, it goes beyond the perfect mix of cynicism and comedy, or the reoccurring themes about finding and pursuing your dreams or what's important to you. But yeah, those too. Honorable Mentions: Blood Blockade Battlefield, Log Horizon S2, Overlord, IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, Love Live the Movie, The Anthem of the Heart, Little Witch Academia 2, Animator Expo, Food Wars, Charlotte, Monster Musume, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Fate/stay Night UBW, Death Parade, Classroom Crisis, Maria the Virgin Witch, One Punch Man, Koufuku Graffiti (and Wakakozake), Umaru, Punch Line, Plastic Memories, Danmachi. Bonus nods to Concrete Revolutio, Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Osomatsu-san and Ace of the Diamond as on-going series.
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
From White Box to Black Box
Nothing says that 2015 was a good anime year than how I had a rough year with countless real-life responsibilities competing with anime time, and it still won. On average I kept up with at least 10 series per season, not coun...

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

Dec 29 // Christian Chiok
5. Plastic Memories When I read the description for Plastic Memories, my expectations for the series were entirely different from what it was.  The series started off quite interesting with its futuristic setting and the androids called Giftia, which have emotions and a life span. After their life span reached their expiration date, they basically turned into a zombie-like form, losing their identity and went berserk if not picked up by SAI Corporation. From what the series introduced, I definitely thought it was going to take a darker approach but instead the series took a more romantic route with the protagonists of the series, one being a Giftia herself. While the series didn’t really turn out to be what I was expecting, I still really enjoyed it all the way through. The characters are enjoyable and the story can get emotional. 4. Assassination Classroom I was first introduced to Assassination Classroom when Koro-sensei got revealed as a playable character for the Shonen Jump crossover J-Stars Victory VS. I thought both his character and moveset were interesting so I decided to check out the manga fight after. Almost a year later, the Anime adaptation was released and I definitely had to check it out. Assassination Classroom is one of those series that it has too many characters (mostly students) that you probably won’t remember half of them by the end of the series, except for those who really stood out. What I really liked the most about the series was that despite Koro-sensei’s goal of destroying the Earth, he helped the students gain more confidence and value themselves, since they were put in the worst class in their school. In just one season, there was a lot of character development for all the characters, especially the protagonist— Nagisa Shiota. 3. Shokugeki no Soma Something that we can all agree on is that Food Wars is definitely one of the most unique series that was released this year with its over-exaggeration when the characters appreciated the food. Aside from the amazing looking food, the series had great comedy and a simple yet entertaining story. Just like Assassination Classroom, I really enjoy series that introduces variety of characters with different personalities, especially unlike the former; the competitive setting in this series is more obvious. 2. Kuroko's Basketball Season 3 As I stated in my Extra Game review, I really love sport series, especially Kuroko’s Basketball since there’s special charm that keeps you engaged throughout the series. Just like the first two seasons, the animation was definitely phenomenal, especially the last few episodes. What made this season most enjoyable though was seeing the Teiko arc in animated. It’s definitely one of the most dramatic yet most powerful arcs of the series. 1. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Battle in Egypt I’ve been a huge fan of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure since 2007, so it was very hard for me not to make this my top series of 2015. While Stardust Crusaders isn’t my favorite arc (Diamond is Unbreakable is, automatically making it my Top 5 of 2016), both anime adaptations were highly enjoyable and it was very pleasing that it finally got the animation treatment it deserved. The animation was great and it definitely has a great set of characters. 
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
A Bizarre Year Of Anime
With this being my first year writing for Japanator, this is my first time writing a “Top 5” piece for the website. To be honest, while Anime is still one of my biggest hobbies, I haven’t invested my time in...

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

Dec 28 // Anthony Redgrave
5. Owarimonogatari How can I not put a Monogatari series on this list? It's reportedly the best selling anime this millennium. Even if I complain about how there are exposition dumps, confusing story lines, and never enough Tsukihi Araragi, the fact is that Shaft produces some of the highest quality anime in the industry right now. Each episode looks brilliant. Cinematically and from an art direction point of view. At this point, I've grown attached to Araragi and his harem of girls so anything they do I'll want to see. I favored the first half of this series for exploring Araragi's past and personal philosophy, having one of the darkest and tragic heroines and storylines in the whole franchise and bringing the mysterious Ougi into the limelight as the central antagonist/ mysterious helper. It's not one for the newcomers or the slow readers not literate to moonspeak. 4. Durarara!!x2 Sho I actually started Durarara!! last year and dropped it after the first arc. Back then there were other things occupying my mind and watching a nerdy kid try and start a Tokyo street gang wasn't all that appealing. But if luck would have it, I picked it back up and was engrossed with the story and characters all over again. Durarara!!x2 Sho is on the list because it was like coming back to familiar territory after a hiatus. Familiar faces, familiar environment, same old with some fresh new appearances. There are few shows that are as charismatic as Durarara!! making you love every single focal character even if they are gangster scumbags, sociopathic goons, or teenage kids wanting to roll with an internet street gang. This is also one of the few shows that were actively producing the English dub version about 3 episodes behind the Japanese release which is fantastic for those wanting to stay up to date and hear Crispin Freeman shout Izaya over and over again. The second cour of the arc Durarara!!x2 Ten also saw a release this year with the dub following in Fall meaning you didn't have to wait too long to see what hijinks the characters got up to next in Ikebukuro. 3. Kantai Collection: KancolleThis was one of the few new anime I started watching this year and it was sparked from a YouTube video talking about a game voiced by a Brit. The sardonic and dry wit of the commentary was humorous and entertaining, but the character designs and interesting setting were enough for me to give the first few episodes a watch. The anime was a great mix of school girl slice of life and period war drama. This really odd dichotomy helped keep the whole show feeling fresh. Having not played the browser game before I thought it was interesting to see how the gameplay features were implemented into the anime, they weren't overt as to appear like an advert nor too subtle that most viewers would miss them. It was a surprise that I liked the show as much as I did and I think it's also down to the fact that the characters were all memorable. Maybe because they were girls posing as 10000-pound naval war machines. 2. Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade I have no idea it took me this long to discover Little Witch Academia. It's a superb blend of JK's British magical adventure and Trigger's brilliant art design and animation. Beginning as a 30-minute short film, this was the efforts of their Kickstarter campaign in 2013 and we have seen the fruits of their labor in October 2015. My highest praises go towards the art and animation department, capturing the colorful wonder of magic and adorable ambitious youths making all the characters incredibly endearing and fantastic to watch in motion. Speaking of motion, Trigger had perfectly captured the kinetic nature of free falling, high-speed chase, and acrobatic abandon. A present for the eyes and thrill to behold. It also features my waifu of 2015, Professor Ursula, a mature teacher that retains the charming flair seen in every frame of this show.  1. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: Battle in Egypt I don't think I can give any more praises to this show. Every episode was a spectacle, having me at the edge of my seat until the final minute. I had grown attached to every character through every tribulation and it all lead to this. Carrying on the story from the first show Phantom Blood, the whole crusade felt bigger and more grandiose as the show continued. JoJo always has a way of combining humor, horror, action, and drama seamlessly keeping me on my toes at every turn. I adored the monster of the week or should I say Stand of the week format. A familiarity I grew accustomed to watching after school specials. I guess it was strong because of the base material it was based on was excellent. Having not read the manga and experiencing it all for the first time is something out this world. If I were to recommend any anime of 2015 to my non-anime watching buddies it would have to be this. Every episode was a thrill as it's never a dull moment with the Joestar family. Honourable mentionsHimouto: Umaru-chan, Bikini Warriors, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan Stardust Crusaders: Battle in Egypt
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
The Anthony Awards for Anime
It's that time of the year to wax retrospective about the year we just had. Whether it was good or bad, we give this year a final look before looking forward to 2016. Today is my day to look back at my top 5 anime of 2015. Th...

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

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

Annotated Anime: One Piece episodes 722-724

Dec 27 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 722: A Blade of Tenacity - The Gamma Knife Counterattack!I will skip the first half of the episode as it boils down to the rest of Dressrosa suddenly realising that the Birdcage is slowly closing in around them. The morbid person within me wanted to see some people getting sliced up like cheese slices by the Birdcage. Doflamingo states that it will take an hour to destroy everything and that he can always rebuild a new kingdom. Marines attempt to evacuate civilians back to the centre of Dressrosa whilst Usopp panics and the rest of the cast look nervously towards the Castle where Luffy is battling Doflamingo.  Back on the roof, Luffy barrages Doflamingo with attacks and vice versa. These few shots are dynamic and energetic showing off Luffy's agility at avoiding Doflamingo's string attacks. I could do without the multicolour string as it makes his attacks look less lethal and more childish and cheap looking. As Luffy closes the gap between him and Doflamingo, Law uses shambles to plant a Gamma Knife Attack on Doflamingo. In a turn of events, Law had created a room so large that it was unable to be seen outwards by Trebol allowing him to get the drop on the Heavenly Demon. Law's supposed death was faked and just like most magicians there was a body double that took the brunt of the damage, in this case, was a nearby Doflamingo pirate. The body switch was a smart move.  Together Law and Luffy were able to bring Doflamingo to the ground. Trebol is happy not to contribute for some reason and is more inclined to shout encouraging messages to Doflamingo. The plot progression could've taken 5 minutes to do, 10 minutes if you extended it to make it more dramatic and flashy with top notch animation which they did. The rest of the episode were re-treads of old material or reactions to the Birdcage event. And despite this, those 10 minutes of Law, Luffy and Doflamingo fighting were worth watching the whole episode.  I would expect this to be near the end game for Doflamingo if it not for next episode's title. Episode 723: Haki Clash! - Luffy vs. DoflamingoLike a horror movie, Doflamingo stands tall after a bad fall. In classic One Piece fashion, there is more than one way a devil fruit power can come in handy and it's all up to the creativity of its user. In this case, Doflamingo is able to use his string powers to repair all the internal damage caused by the Gamma Knife attack. I'm pretty sure you have to be medically trained to be messing around with the insides of a human and I doubt a guy like Doflamingo is. Before Doflamingo is able to kill Law (for good this time), he is interrupted by Luffy and begins to have a Haki Struggle (the One Piece equivalent of a beam struggle in DBZ). The big reveal in this episode is that Doflamingo also possesses the extremely rare Conqueror's Haki or Haki of the Colour of the Conquering King if we were to give it the literal translation. He first demonstrated it when he and his family were being tied up and tortured showing how they were able to get out of that mess. Trebol discovered Doflamingo and took him under his wing presenting him with his signature weapons; a pistol and the String-String Fruit. Trebol's ominous narration explains that Doflamingo is the one chosen by heaven showing qualities of a king foreshadowing his lineage as a resident of Mariejois. We also see a young Vergo with a silly bowl cut. He looks like a mega dork as a kid, Finally, the episode turns into Dragon Ball Z as the action is so fast you can only see the impact from air pockets appearing in a zig-zagging line. Luffy relentlessly attacks Doflamingo as the latter defends or gets hit. Nothing really phases Doffy throughout this episode. It ends almost as it had begun with Doflamingo mocking their attempts, Law on the ground too weak to fight the Luffy struggling to keep up.  Episode 724: Unassailable! The Stunning Secret of Trebol!Misleading titles are common in One Piece so after watching this episode I'm still not 100% certain about what Trebol's stunning secret really is. The episode begins with Trebol holding down Luffy so Doflamingo could finish off Law without interruption. However, Law's provocative calling at Trebol gains his attention and proceeds to make Law the next upcoming bukkake actor. Trebol's power isn't derived from a Logia fruit. His sticky-sticky power is actually papier mache as his body is hidden within all the sticky substance making him immune to Haki imbued attacks. Could this be Trebol's stunning secret? Law's big mouth causes Trebol to recount how Doflamingo was found by him, Pica, Diamante and Vergo. They pledged their allegiance to the young Doflamingo as they saw potential in the boy due to his Haki. Every little thing that had hurt Doflamingo, the family would go on and destroy making them a very powerful crime family rather than pirate. Think Godfather instead of Pirates of the Carribean. Through this, they groomed Doflamingo into a selfish, ambitious man and the evilest person destined to be the king of the sea. Despite acting like they are under Doflamingo as one of the executives, Trebol reckons he and Doflamingo were equals since it was Trebol that gave Doflamingo his start as a powerful individual. Is Trebol being equal to Doffy the stunning secret? I would expect at this point for Doflamingo to prove otherwise and destroy Trebol and then make a speech about how he was just using the family for his own gain i.e. what Law was saying the whole time.  I think this episode was already entertaining with another flashback covering how Doflamingo was integrated into the rest of the family but then it got better. Law manipulates his severed arm (somehow still gripping his sword) and drives it into Trebol revealing a very frail old man beneath all the gunk. It was completely out of the blue as I had expected Law to do another switch a roo. Trebol's mucus is actually flammable and as a last-ditch attempt ignites everything completely destroying the castle roof. Is the flammable property of the mucus the stunning secret? Fortunately, Luffy is able to grab Law and escape with Doflamingo following swiftly behind. Apparently Doflamingo has no need for a frail old man with a massive gash over his torso. The episode closes out 2015 on a cliffhanger as bullet strings heading towards Law and Robin. I have a feeling that Luffy's fight was Doflamingo will finally begin here now that Trebol has been defeated. Law is also in the presence of Mansherry so he can get fixed up and possibly join the fight. Whether her powers extend to reattaching limbs has yet to be seen.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] Episode 722: A Blade of Tenacity - The Gamma Knife Counterattack!I will skip the first half of the episode as it boils down to the rest of Dressrosa suddenly realising that the Birdcage is slowly closing in around them. Doflamingo states that it will take an hour to destroy everything and that he can always rebuild a new kingdom. Marines attempt to evacuate civilians back to the centre of Dressrosa whilst Usopp panics and the rest of the cast look nervously towards the Castle where Luffy is battling Doflamingo. The morbid person within me wanted to see some people getting sliced up like cheese slices by the Birdcage.  Back on the roof, Luffy barrages Doflamingo with attacks and vice versa. These few shots are dynamic and energetic showing off Luffy's agility at avoiding Doflamingo's string attacks. I could do without the multicolour string as it makes his attacks look less lethal and more    Episode 723: Haki Clash! - Luffy vs. Doflamingo [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] Episode 722: A Blade of Tenacity - The Gamma Knife Counterattack!I will skip the first half of the episode as it boils down to the rest of Dressrosa suddenly realising that the Birdcage is slowly closing in around them. Doflamingo states that it will take an hour to destroy everything and that he can always rebuild a new kingdom. Marines attempt to evacuate civilians back to the centre of Dressrosa whilst Usopp panics and the rest of the cast look nervously towards the Castle where Luffy is battling Doflamingo. The morbid person within me wanted to see some people getting sliced up like cheese slices by the Birdcage.  Back on the roof, Luffy barrages Doflamingo with attacks and vice versa. These few shots are dynamic and energetic showing off Luffy's agility at avoiding Doflamingo's string attacks. I could do without the multicolour string as it makes his attacks look less lethal and more childish and cheap looking. As Luffy closes the gap between him and Doflamingo, Law uses shambles to plant a Gamma Knife Attack on Doflamingo. In a turn of events, Law had created a room so large that it was unable to be seen outwards by Trebol allowing him to get the drop on the Heavenly Demon. Law's supposed death was faked and just like most magicians there was a body double that took the brunt of the damage, in this case, was a nearby Doflamingo pirate. The body switch was a smart move. After that many bullets pumped into a guy I didn't think Law would survive. But this is One Piece so he could've managed a few more episodes slowly bleeding to death or to unleash his final ultimate attack that he's been saving for a suicidal attempt to kill the main bad guy.  Together Law and Luffy were able to bring Doflamingo to the ground. Trebol is happy not to contribute for some reason and is more inclined to shout encouraging messages to Doflamingo instead of physically helping him out. The plot progression could've taken 5 minutes to do, 10 minutes if you extended it to make it more dramatic and flashy with top notch animation which they did. The rest of the episode were re-treads of old material or reactions to the Birdcage event. And despite this, those 10 minutes of Law, Luffy and Doflamingo fighting were worth watching the whole episode.  I would expect this to be near the end game for Doflamingo if it not for next episode's title. Episode 723: Haki Clash! - Luffy vs. Doflamingo [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] Episode 722: A Blade of Tenacity - The Gamma Knife Counterattack!I will skip the first half of the episode as it boils down to the rest of Dressrosa suddenly realising that the Birdcage is slowly closing in around them. Doflamingo states that it will take an hour to destroy everything and that he can always rebuild a new kingdom. Marines attempt to evacuate civilians back to the centre of Dressrosa whilst Usopp panics and the rest of the cast look nervously towards the Castle where Luffy is battling Doflamingo. The morbid person within me wanted to see some people getting sliced up like cheese slices by the Birdcage.  Back on the roof, Luffy barrages Doflamingo with attacks and vice versa. These few shots are dynamic and energetic showing off Luffy's agility at avoiding Doflamingo's string attacks. I could do without the multicolour string as it makes his attacks look less lethal and more    Episode 723: Haki Clash! - Luffy vs. Doflamingo [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Sans filler episode
And now we close on another year in Dressrosa. We had made substantial progress through the arc with most of the executive fights over and only the biggest fight to tackle now. The pacing is still slower than a tortoise and t...

Final Impressions: One Punch Man

Dec 26 // Josh Tolentino
I am, of course, kidding. Now that One Punch Man is done for the time being, I have to admit that I was feeling not deceived, but relieved. The reason for that is episode eleven, which largely functioned to deliver the setup for episode twelve.  Why would that get me stressed, you ask? It's because episode eleven simply didn't look quite as good as the rest of the show. It's a little thing, true, but for a program that's made its name by looking utterly gorgeous without breaking the bank, a few too many of the seams peeked out while Saitama infiltrated the Macross-sized alien flagship, and while Genos, Tornado, Atomic Samurai and the rest tangled with the alien Melzargard on the ground below. To be fair, even on an off day, One Punch Man puts to shame the finales of many lesser series, but I couldn't help but feel a twinge of worry whenever the camera cut to a featureless shot of the alien ship's underside, or lingered too long on Melzargard's telepathic bickering with the octopus-like Geryuganshoop. Tiny frays in the hem of the production like that spoke of cost-cutting, leading overly sensitive fans like me to worry that the money or time had run out somehow. Had Madhouse run into production problems? Would this be a repeat of The Rolling Girls finale episode, or worse? Hey, don't call me Chicken Little, but I've seen Shirobako. Shit hits the fan all the time, man!  Thank goodness I was dead wrong. And let me tell you, I've never been happier to eat my words, because the finale of One Punch Man is quality animation of the highest order. Utterly enthralling as a work of craft and visual excess, Saitama's fight with Boros even manages to top the rest of the series in ways I wouldn't have thought possible, and certainly not on the reportedly modest budget Madhouse worked with the whole way through.  Also, Saitama gets kneed into the moon. Then he comes back. When shit that amazing is going down, it doesn't even matter how many times he ended up having to punch Boros before the fool finally went down. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is that he got serious, pulling out his final trump card: A Serious Punch. There's even a little more to it than that in translation, because the way Saitama names his attack is so casually blunt, bordering on rude, that it absolutely fits his "don't-give-an-eff" attitude. For a strike of such biblical scale, its name is literally as casual as saying "Hit a guy and mean it". The man has no sense of drama whatsoever, which might even play a part in why he can't do anything but win. And though the fight ends with a punch that splits the clouds and rustles daisies on the other side of the world, perhaps the most surprising thing about this finale is that the episode itself doesn't even end for another twelve minutes. That's right, the triumphal score and second verse of JAM PROJECT's theme all took place in the first half, before even the commercial break. The rest is an extended aftermath, covering the heroes, Amai Mask's dressing down the S-classes, and a teaser for more of Genos' subplots. While it's more than a little odd for the series to end on such a mundane note after the utter triumph of the first twelve minutes, it makes absolute sense as a way to get fans slavering for a second season, which has yet to be announced. Folks hoping to see something next year might be disappointed, as the current manga content following Boros isn't quite up to supporting a full season, but given the reception to the show so far, I have no doubt that it'll happen eventually. Besides, this is exactly the kind of program I'd rather not rush. For a show that's ostensibly about a guy who wins too much, it's quite gratifying to see that this adaptation of One Punch Man has been nothing less than a victory on almost all fronts. I don't say this out of particular affection for the source (though I do like it), but out of appreciation for the craft Madhouse managed to bring to the task. You could even say it was a real knockout blow for the season, and for the year in anime. [Watch One Punch Man on Daisuki!]  
One Punch Man photo
Endless Combo
Hey, wait a minute! I think he punched that guy, like, three times! At least!  I feel deceived.

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari Episode 12

Dec 21 // Anthony Redgrave
The episode opens with Araragi still at the shrine and calling his significant other Senjougahara. He explains the danger he will be going through soon and questions his position as Shinobu's second minion, a minion that has been chosen by Shinobu but is inadequate for the position compared to the Samurai. He goes about it by asking Senjougahara if she would leave Araragi if she had found someone better than him. In classic Senjougahara fashion, she bluntly agrees and goes on to explain a relationship is a continuous process of effort and love to prevent the other from leaving for a better suitor. Their conversations often have Araragi and Senjougahara throwing witticisms at each other making this scene very endearing for the couple. Rarely do they open hearts and discuss their problems and when they do Senjougahara would step up to the plate since she is more dominant in the relationship. This does not happen as she lets Araragi fight for Shinobu and puts his mind at ease about Tsubasa. Lastly this conversation marks the first time they explicitly express their love for each other. And it's wonderful. The episode moves briskly onto the dual. On the school grounds, Gaen explains the rules. As Araragi has waning Vampire powers and the Samurai has recently been reborn with his oddity powers relatively intact, the dual has been designed in regards to the power difference. Gaen places a Kendo sword between Araragi and the Samurai and the first to reach it after taking ten paces away and strike the other will win. A mix of both marital ability and agility. During the preparations, Gaen informs Araragi that Tsubasa and Senjougahara are in danger. As this scene takes part side by side to Tsubasa Tiger, she is referring to the tiger oddity that burnt down both the cram school and Tsubasa's house and is currently targeting Tsubasa who is staying with Senjougahara.  This puts Araragi at a crossroads. Does he stay and fight a meaningless fight for the sake of a Vampire that refuses to face her past, or does he try and save his loved ones. This part really exemplifies Araragi's three-way commitment to the three most important girls in his life. Each one plays a large role in his life and his choice will determine as the most important. He ends up sending Kanbaru to attend to Senjougahara and stays for the dual. Even though it is a pointless fight, Araragi has to prove to himself that he is deserving of Shinobu. It's a matter of pride more than anything. Before the fight begins, without showing herself, Shinobu drops the Kokorowatari blade in place of the Kendo sword raising the stakes. Previously Araragi could lose the dual but not die and then Gaen and Episode would've exorcised the Samurai and now there is a real danger of Araragi losing his head in the dual. As the fight begins, the Samurai ditches the armour and makes it to the sword first. Araragi, however, outsmarts everyone by placing Meme's seal (previously used in Nadeko Snake) onto the Samurai. The rules had called for the first strike which can be translated as 'first touch' thus being victorious. The seal causes all the oddities that made up the Samurai to wash away as the Samurai calls out for Shinobu. A poignant end as Shinobu appears distraught at the sight of her first minion dying again. In the end, the Samurai really did have feelings for Shinobu and wanted to return to being her minion. I think in a way so did she but was too afraid of confronting him about it and was already with Araragi despite the separation. Shinobu tearfully eats the remnants of her former minion as Araragi dashes to save Tsubasa from Kako. Only these last two episodes reveal Shinobu's tragic relationship with the Samurai. He was someone she didn't think she would see again like an ex and like an ex, carries lots of emotional and psychological baggage she doesn't want to let out. This is why she was being very cautious about avoiding him, about not wanting a confrontation. The only time she sees him is when she has to devour the oddities he is made up of.  Owarimonogatari had some of the darkest and troubling arcs of the series and it wrapped up the loose ends introduced in Monogatari: Second Season. A chronological release of the series would've made me understand the series a lot better holistically and retain the fine minutia behind each scene. This is especially true for the final arc Shinobu Mail and Tsubasa Tiger as they happen at the same time as each other. Everything is interlinked and you'll only find it if you have a stupid good memory or are Gaen. There isn't a year long break between Monogatari instalments as Kizumonogatari will be released next month following on with it's official English translation of the novel.  The Monogatari fan inside me would've liked more funny wacky moments and more Tsukihi (there is never enough Tsukihi) in this season. Owarimonogatari has slate my thirst for the oddity ramblings and drop dead gorgeous art direction and provided some very interesting stories and character development in the process.  [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!]
Monogatari photo
I hate break ups
The Monogatari series can be sometimes hard to follow. Lots of characters interact in the background, a substantial amount of lore and exposition is dumped on the watcher every two episodes, and if you're a subtitle reader yo...

Annotated Anime: Attack on Titan: Junior High episodes 8-10

Dec 15 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 8 It seems like an anime requirement that a show like this has a ghost episode. I'm fairly sure this isn't really taking a whole lot from the original series, but that's okay because while it might be an anime trope, it still produces some really funny incidents. The premise here is that the upperclassmen of the "secret club" are getting a bit of revenge for the first year students challenging them right before the sports day covered in the last batch of eps. Our chibi gang are given a "Test of Courage" that requires them to come to school at night. They are split into two teams, one takes the left stairway and one takes the right. They have to go to the art room, the music room, and the science room before meeting up in the gym. During this Scooby-Dooesque run around both group tell of the "7 wonders of Attack Junior High" all the while getting the pants scared off them by what is obviously the upperclassmen. This episode is light on actual story, but let's face it, if you have been following along you have figured out that has never been the point of this series. This was mostly reaction shots of the different characters and how silly things could get. The good part of this episode was we got to see a lot more of Ymir and Christa than we really have before. They've been there, but not a whole lot has been shown with them. So while there wasn't a whole lot of story or progression here, it was just a silly little romp through the school at night and a cute take on the "haunted school" episode that pops up a lot in anime. Episode 9 Speaking of tropes, we have a summer festival episode! Seriously, this is like a radio station having to say it's call letters and city of license every hour, it's like a requirement of an anime show. Reiner wants to go to the summer festival with Christa and wants his friend Bertholdt to invite Annie since he has a thing for her and everyone seems to know it. Ymir gets in on the idea, but it ends up with everyone from our group of toe-headed scamps inviting themselves along. Once at the festival, Reiner keeps hatching these ideas for his friend to show how manly he is for Annie. Reiner explains each of these plans hilariously with a candied apple and a chocolate cover banana that as I write this reads a whole lot dirtier than it really is.   Of course, it wouldn't be funny without all these plans failing to work. When one finally DOES work, Bertholdt is unhappy with the whole thing a walks off. Annie finds him and they talk things out and we find out where things are for them. Unlike the last episode, this does have more of a story to it. There actually is a goal and a reason for things to happen here, The episode isn't just a lead up to one big punchline at the end, instead telling a very normal sounding story. Reiner, Bertholdt, and Ymir are the stars here and boy do they shine. This was a big character builder for all three, and in the case of Ymir shows more of her personality than even the previous episode does. Again, it is a well-used trope, but instead of doing an over the top goofy episode, they toned back, just a bit, for this episode. Oh, it's still the same show, but it was done in a very sweet way. Episode 10 It's a beach episo- what? This isn't a beach episode? Huh, we were on such a roll covering the anime requirements. Nope! This time around the gang tackles politics! A scandal has erupted as the student president has been tossed out and a new election has to be held to elected the student representative at Attack Junior High. Of course Jean wants to run, so he can get more of the girls to like him. Eren also decides to run, so he can eliminate the Titans. Gotta admit that after the episode where Jean's crush was a Titan the whole time, It makes Eren sound like the warrior from the original series and more like a candidate pulling his "Trump" card. We get to see some of the other candidates as well like Rico, Oruo, and Reiner. We see Rico giving speeches and Oruo having put up posters while Eren and Jean seem to be competing against each other. Meanwhile caught in the middle of this is Press club representative Ilse, who the crew mistake as having a notebook full of secrets. This finally leads to everyone giving their last speeches before the election and seeing what becomes of them. Although Eren and Jean take up much of the focus, Ilse and Marco get their share of the spotlight as well. Unlike the previous two episodes, this very clearly draws from the "trial of Eren" storyline from the original, although obviously they went way off the beaten trail with it. It took me a little while to see the reference, but it shows up. I have to give them credit for this. They could have really shoe-horned something more obvious in here in a parody of the original material, but instead when with this more original take of the action. You do kind of knew where this is going, but the ending is no disappointment either. Wrapping up this batch, you get a little of everything. You get Eren, but also more of the secondary characters that this series doesn't mind giving a spotlight too. Sure, eps 8 and 9 are well-used plot devices and they don't exactly break any new ground with either of them, but they aren't terrible episodes either.This show stays the course of enjoyment from me! Bertholdt
Attack on Titan: Jr high photo
Secondary characters have lives too!
Japanator's look at the chibified adventures of the gang from Attack on Titan continues as this time around we look at episodes 8,9, nd 10. We get to see some of the minor members of the team run around and live life today as well as more from Eren, Mikasa, and Armin. What will our favorite first-year class be up to this time? Read on and find out!

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari Episode 11

Dec 14 // Anthony Redgrave
The first minion or Samurai as I have been referring to him in these recaps doesn't engage in immediate fisticuffs with Araragi after their meeting in the bookstore. Instead, they go the diplomatic route and exchange their differences with words and a drink. The Samurai doesn't want to hurt Shinobu but does want Araragi to separate from her. Araragi is naturally skeptical over the sudden change of heart. The foot mark left by Ononoki that has been a point of ridicule and humor throughout this arc plays an important role here as it is a mark of a Specialist. Similar to how animals mark their prey, a specialist will mark their oddity so other specialists are unable to harm them.  Araragi is then saved by Gaen and Episode prompting the Samurai to make his leave. Before departing, he challenges Araragi to a dual at night for Shinobu. To me, Episode appeared to be a new character to the series and is another oddity specialist working with Gaen. Looking into the Wikia for the character, he has appeared before in Tsubasa Tiger. His design is much more shonen than the other males or specialists, carrying a massive red cross as a weapon and hurling it at oddities. Other specialists don't seem to carry weapons unless you count drowning people in exposition.  Heading back to the temple finally with books, bra, and magazines in hand, Araragi is pulled into a bush by Ononoki as she has been spying on the fight between Kanbaru and Shinobu. The bulk of the second half of the episode is spent between the two girls arguing over Shinobu's actions. The relationship partner metaphor is shown in full light here as Kanbaru is trying to make Shinobu face the Samurai directly instead of having Araragi or Gaen pass on the message. It's the "messy breakup, no closure scenario". Kanbaru wants Shinobu to face up to her actions and end the relationship with the Samurai since she is with Araragi, but Shinobu doesn't want to go through with the anguish of doing so. The layout of the scene is fitting. Shinobu has clearly overpowered Kanbaru and threatens to kill her as Kanbaru speaks the harsh truths. Shinobu's dominant position is her trying to squash all the difficult feelings and thoughts she has for her past minion as represented by Kanbaru. Kanbaru is still able to get to her and slowly grinds her down. It's the thoughts and feelings that cannot be overcome by physical prowess and only through resolution will Shinobu be able to overcome this burden. [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!]
Monogatari photo
Relationship advice for the Vampire
The Monogatari series is part of the rare breed of anime genres of having a lot of harem traits and showing the consequences of misleading actions. Araragi being a harem lead has perverted tendencies, but also the decency&nbs...

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episodes 9-10

Dec 12 // Josh Tolentino
Of course, things were already looking rather bleak for anyone that wasn't Saitama. Puri Puri Prisoner, Lighting Max, Allback Man, Snakebite Snek, and others had already been trounced hard in episode 8. Genos gives his best as well, with a devastating opener and a solid effort thereafter, but in classic superhero fashion, the baddie takes advantage of the hero's natural altruism and uses a civilian in danger to gain the upper hand. This leaves everything up to the otherwise powerless Mumen Rider, who suffers the most of all involved, summing up the circumstances in one unfortunate gif:  I'd like to believe that Madhouse intentionally highlighted this particular sequence as a twist on the best scene in The Avengers, because the contrast between the Hulk's cutting short Loki's monologue and the Sea King absent-mindedly pulping poor Mumen Rider is exquisite. The Avengers scene is quick and unexpected and played for surprise and laughs. Here in One Punch Man, though, the same scene is long, drawn out, and with the roles of the two combatants reversed (the "Hulk" is the bad guy, here), almost painful to watch. And yet Mumen Rider gets up, delivering a speech worthy of the best. The soul of heroism isn't in having the power to win, but in having the courage to stand up and do the right thing when no one else is willing or capable. Extra points go to Mumen Rider's voice actor, Yuichi Nakamura, who must have been real tired of playing d-bag male leads like Oreimo's Kyousuke and Mahouka's Tatsuya (who is his own story's "One Punch Man"). Nakamura really sells it, and combined with properly cheesy/uplifting piano music and a well-timed incitement of the crowd, conveys classic heroism in the best traditions of Marvel, DC, and Toei.  And speaking of Marvel, here's a bit of interesting trivia: Nakamura is also the Japanese voice of Captain America in those editions of the Marvel movies. It seems fitting, somehow. Saitama eventually shows up to end the fight, ripping the Sea King a new blowhole with a punch so hard it stops the rain. But that's to be expected. What happens next, though, is more interesting, as Saitama opts to make himself out to be the villain, just as the crowd is about to turn against the fallen heroes for having the temerity to fail where Saitama succeeded. Pretending to have simply cleaned up after Genos and the rest weakened the monster, he helps the heroes who did try their best save face (not that they deserved to lose it in the first place) and honors their sacrifice.  It's a good new revelation of Saitama's character. We've seen his fundamentally selfish desire for a challenge, and we've also seen his "I don't give an eff" attitude towards his public image, solidifying his status as more the savior we deserve than the one we want. But here, he does help show that doing the right thing doesn't always involve standing up against a bad guy, but sometimes taking one for the rest of the team, and giving credit where credit's due. There's no doubting that the real heroes of the day were the guys who got their asses handed to them, after all. If episode nine was a more thoughtful reflection of the soul backing up One Punch Man's more superficial appeal, episode ten is a return to the show's more typical form, capitalizing on gags, light slapstick, and creator ONE's oddball Japanese take on an American-style superhero ecosystem. The Hero Association takes center stage once more, assembling all the S-class heroes (with Saitama tagging along) for an emergency briefing. Characters like Atomic Samurai, Child Emperor (whose Japanese name is a hilarious pun on the slang term for "virgin"), Silver Fang, Metal Bat, and Terrible Tornado (who gets the most screen time of all thanks to a cold-open fight against a Godzilla-sized monster) fill out the ranks, with notable absences in the form of the increasingly sinister-seeming Metal Knight, and someone named "Blast". The reason for the gathering is an absurd guarantee from a late seer that something bad will happen...soon! It's as ridiculous as it sounds, but it seems to be proven true in a matter of seconds, as a massive Macross-sized spaceship shows up and pulls an Independence Day on the city surrounding Hero HQ.  With hundreds of thousands, if not millions annihilated in an instant, such a titanic loss of life would be devastating in a more serious series, but it's a good thing that One Punch Man is not that kind of show. After all, there are cool fights to be had, and now that the best of the best are involved, that's what we'd best care about. [Watch more One Punch Man on Daisuki] If anything, the punishment taken by the heroes in this particular engagement is best summed up in the following gif.
One Punch Man photo
The Bald Man and the Sea (King)
One Punch Man  might be a comedy, but just as even the grimmest, darkest fiction isn't completely free of levity, this satirical send-up of all things superheroic can sometimes swing things straight and earnest. And from the pace of proceedings, the showdown with the Sea King is the place to do it.

Annotated Anime: One Piece episodes 720+ 721

Dec 08 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 720: So Long! Bellamy's Farewell Blow!With the last of Doflamingo's Lieutenants falling by Zoro's hands and the SMILE factory being destroyed by the Tontatta tribe everything is looking up for the Straw Hat- Heart Pirate Alliance. Trebol is still under the impression that they still have Mansherry's healing powers to fix everything, but we know that she got saved by Leo some episodes back and this episodes is able to rendezvous with Robin, Rebecca and Kyros.  Apart from that nothing happens in this episode. Most of it is patting each other on the back or looking at the now tertiary characters briefly. I had completely forgotten about Kaola and her investigation until this episode. We do get a small flashback to when Zoro learnt to imbue his sword with Haki from Mihawk at the expense of being completely teetotal. I assume it's so Zoro doesn't get into the bad practice of sword fighting and drinking like Hyouzou.  I think what everyone wants to see is the conclusion of the Bellamy- Luffy fight and that doesn't occur until the last 5 minutes of the episode. Fortunately, it is a good 5 minutes. The finale of the episode recaps Luffy's entire relationship with Bellamy and his choice to finally end his suffering. It goes through the themes of honour, weakness, acceptance, and pride, things that we have seen before during this fight which seems overplayed now since this fight has been really drawn out. It ends with Luffy re-creating the Jaya arc and downing Bellamy with one punch. It's easily the best part of the episode. As the blow is struck, all audio is cut off and you can only see the rage of Luffy's expression mixed with the complete defeat from Bellamy. The impact is made so much stronger without any audio accompaniment. Episode 721: Law Dies - Luffy's Raging Onslaught!The last episode ended with a bit of a cliffhanger as Doflamingo and Trebol leer over a bullet-ridden Law corpse. Winding the clocks back a few minutes we see the last two executives mercilessly beating the crap out of the Heart Pirate captain. Doflamingo does offer Law an ultimatum; if he performs the eternal youth operation on Doflamingo then Doflamingo will grant Law one wish after he dies. I'm unsure of the validity of the request since Doflamingo is probably the evilest person in the whole of One Piece and Law would never know whether his final request was respected. Like many D.'s before him, he spits on Doflamngo's request making the Heavenly Demon lose his shit and pop many many many caps into Law.  Just as Luffy arrives on the scene, Doflamingo begins to shrink his Birdcage destroying Dressrosa and it's inhabitants, also known as the destroy everything because it's fucked up. By this point Doflamingo is cutting his losses and a fight with Luffy is completely meager now that Law is dead. I would have to agree. Luffy was having trouble fighting off a Doflamingo puppet so he would no match against both Doflamingo and Trebol together.  This episode was slightly better than the previous but again re-treads old ground with the same themes explored in the same manner. Doflamingo's tantrum at Law did reveal some interesting points around Law. Law's Heart Pirates name might be referring to the position Corazon once had in the Doflamingo family and the position Law was supposed to take after Corazon's death. Law wears Corazon branded clothing as a mocking gesture at Doflamingo as he is carrying out his will even in death against his brother.  Again there is a cliff hanger with Law whispering some advice to Luffy. After point-blank musket shots to a person, you'd think they would be too mangled to make coherent words or thoughts. In the world of One Piece, unless you die by the sword, bullets and explosions are mostly meaningless.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] So Long! Bellamy's Farewell Blow!
One Piece photo
Click bait titles
Whenever this show has a juicy title, you can always guarantee that 90% of the episode will be filler. The part you want to see will be at the very beginning then quickly revisited at the end for a cliff hanger. Or on the fli...

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari episodes 9-10

Dec 07 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 9: Shinobu Mail, Part ThreeKicking off this episode is action. A fitting opening since in the last episode ended with a cliffhanger. The oddity had a very interesting form. It was an amalgamation of all the oddities Araragi had dealt with in back in Bakemonogatari, but it's body was made up of floating kanji. The art direction for the opening was bold and beautiful with the muted black, grey and white background contrasting with the bold yellow jacket of the oddity.A decisive play is made by Araragi and Kanbaru using their odd dojutsu (kanji in the iris) that goes wrong because Araragi is an idiot. Shinobu throws them a bone and by bone I mean the Apparition Killer blade allowing Araragi to deliver the killing blow.   After the fight, Shinobu informs the duo that Izuko Gaen is in another castle in a very odd fan servicey way possible. I'm a fan of Shinobu's character design since she is a ridiculously cute girl with an archaic way of talking. But because of her 10-year-old appearance that makes me uncomfortable when the show sexualizes her as fan service. I'm just not into lolis. Fortunately, this episode is more prude in this area, if only it was like this for most episodes involving a loli character. After making their way to the shrine and finally meeting with Gaen, we get a massive text dump that takes up the rest of the episode. Gaen falsely introduces herself as Meme's younger sister then proceeds to talk for the rest of the episode about her thoughts on the mysterious man in the Samurai Armour.  Bottom line is as a Vampire you can never die even when exposed to sunlight so Shinobu's first follower that had committed suicide by walking into the light has now regenerated 400 years later.  Episode 10: Shinobu Mail, Part FourGaen continues to leak out exposition and explanation like a gushing water tap almost designed to piss off both Araragi and Shinobu. Whenever Gaen refers to the Samurai she always says that he was Shinobu's first prompting the jealous side of Araragi to become exposed. Shinobu later reassures Araragi that the number before or after doesn't matter and that she is with him now. I thought this was a nice line to include as it shows the strong connection Shinobu has with her current host Araragi. The North Shirahebi Shrine (or Kita-Shirahebi Shrine) is a location revisited many times in Monogatari and it has shown up again as the location of an air spot. The place where all the ashes of the Samurai also known as Shinobu's first partner had gathered and began resurrecting.  Gaen leaves the problem with the team saying that if things aren't sorted out soon then they will need assistance from Kagenui since she specialises in immortal oddities.  Gaen is an interesting character for the series. I really like her character design, taking a lot of inspiration from hip hop fashion and appearing very youthful considering that she is actually classed as middle age. Her character in the story also wavers from mildly antagonistic to helpful to the protagonists. Never directly helping but serving as an adviser for Araragi and company even if she does so in an incredibly arrogant manner.  I found this episode to be dull. A lot of it was more exposition from Gaen and it began to be confusing to understand what the next plan of action was. The episode does try to tie everything back together by putting all the oddities encountered in Bakemonogatari chronologically and it would've been useful if I had seen that season recently. Since the original had first broadcast almost 7 years ago, it's hard to remember details of what occurred in each story. At least the last third of the episode lightened things up with some playful banter between Araragi and Kanbaru.  Kanbaru's Boys Love interest is revisited as she requests Araragi to buy her the latest issue of Brutal Garcon Huff-Huffs a Half-Blood Boy and a bra. The title is strange enough on its own so when I saw that the book had a Kaiki look alike (I assume this is the Garcon) suggestively holding an Armin look alike (again assuming that's the half-blood boy). I don't think I'll ever understand the yaoi genre. Araragi also ponders whether he has been showing too much interest in young girls bordering on fetishistic and picks up a couple mature gravure magazines. This also doubles to hide the BL novels he is also buying though the cover is quickly blown by the cashier. Then he bumps into the Samurai having taken a leaf out of Orochimaru's book of possessing a girl and looking super creepy doing it. [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] Episode 9: Shinobu Mail, Part Three
Monogatari photo
Gaen is hippest of the hop
Monogatari fans that love reading will really enjoy these next two episodes. Monogatari fans that like Izuko Gaen and think that she isn't in the show enough will really like these episodes. Monogatari fans that also like Monogatari would also be excited by the new trailer for Kizumonogatari part 1: Tekketsu-hen that was released recently.  What a time to be a Monogatari fan.

Annotated Anime: Durarara!!x2 Ten episodes 9-12

Dec 03 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 9: Eloquent & CompetentFollowing directly on from the previous episode, episode 9 clarifies a lot of unanswered questions that may have been raised. And it does so by exploring Izaya Orihara's backstory and his close friendship with Shinra. But first we are introduced to Nakura being interviewed about Izaya. The first thing that is striking about Nakura is that he dresses almost exactly like Izaya and that's not a coincidence seeing that Izaya has been using Nakura's name ever since the first season. Another is that we never see his eyes making me think he makes his living as a Hentai protagonist. As the episode unfolds we get more information about Izaya and Shinra's middle school days as when the former wasn't pissing off the most dangerous man in Ikebukuro, he was being hounded to form a biology club and running an illegal baseball betting ring inside the school. Izaya continues to be one of the most interesting characters in the whole show. He is often portrayed as an overarching antagonist but with episodes like these he fits more in the anti-hero role.   Episode 10: Blessed are the FoolishI really hope the Durarara!! cast will stop expanding otherwise we'll be heading towards Bleach syndrome. This episode is narrated by that scary dude with a wicked scar and sunglasses that work for the Blue Squares. His name is Ran Izumii older brother of Aoba Kuronuma. The origin of the scar? It was when Dota-chin's group saved Saki in the first colour gang war. Yep, the narrator was the leader of the Blue Squares back then. When I first saw that flashback I thought that dude was a minor character as the subject was Masaomi and him being in over his head with the gang wars. His more recent appearances are tied to Izaya's recently acquired muscle group. While not a whole lot happens this episode, the incident at the end of the episode is the trigger for the finale and it's all orchestrated by Izaya himself.  What makes Izaya so fascinating is that is loyalties are constantly changing, his actions are hard to predict, and everything that happens in the series is somehow linked to him. He's a character that if hidden from the viewer would supply the mystery portion of a show but instead he is always open with his schemes and plans. It makes him a lot more relatable despite not being able to predict his motives, moves, or actions.  Episode 11: Birds of a FeatherThe effects of Kyohei's incident spread through Ikebukuro as the rest of his group: Walker and Saburo hit all the major gangs trying to sniff out who was the one that planned the hit on Dota-chin. I'm not too sure if Saburo is barking up the right tree as he starts to target high school kids loitering outside of a supermarket. They're not even old enough to drive and yet you try to shake them down for information!? Walker is smarter and goes for the newly reformed Yellow scarves being headed by Masaomi. After a tense stand-off between the two, Walker is assured that Masaomi will snuff out the culprit if they are within his crew. Kyohei's Gang are known to be goofy oddballs that fight for the right side and for that they're super likable within the show. I've never realised the extremely psychopathic and violent nature of Kyohei's gang. They are willing to make threats of arson and torture to those that cross them, all with a smile and manga on the mind. They're like crazy otaku except out for blood and not limited edition phone cards. On the other side of the city, Mikado and Aoba round up their gang to go to an abandoned building so Mikado can surf the web. I'm amazed that they are able to get such a strong internet connection in an unused building, but this is Japan we are talking about. The Wi-Fi there is better than my "fibre optic" connection used to write this post. Throughout this whole cour, we have barely spent time with Mikado. He's always on the periphery or briefly shown after major events. This separation shows us how different he has become from his former shy, schoolboy self. He's now is a cold calculating gang leader under the influence of Aoba.  Episode 12: It Takes A Thief To Catch A Thief It's time for the last episode to wrap up the middle cour. With the news of Shizuo getting arrested, Verona starts to wonder how she is able to repay the lanky bartender for all his favours like the canned coffee and fancy take whilst also debating when is the ideal time to kill him off would be. She runs into an old buddy Sloan who is now working for Izaya as his hired muscle as part of compensation with the Awakusu. Speaking of Awakusu, Akabayashi pays Mikado and the rest of the Blue Squares a visit under the direction of Celty and basically asks the Dollars to join the Awakusu in the most gangster fashion i.e. join us or we'll destroy you. He also brings along Shuji Niekawa, the reporter father of Haruna (the antagonistic Seika from last time) since he is still looking for his daughter and has traced her to the Dollars. However, we all know that Haruna is actually part off Izaya's newly formed motley crew. Unlike previous series finales, there isn't a whole lot of action in this episode. Walker comes face to burnt face with Ran Izumii looking for revenge. This fight doesn't last long at all and is interrupted in the funniest way possible. A huge turn of character from Izumii as he receives a phone call from presumably Izaya calling him off fighting Walker. As the episode winds down, Celty confronts Mikado about everything; what the hell has he been doing this entire arc? Turns out he is purging the whole of the Dollars of troublemakers, those that rock the boat and go against his word. Hanging out with Aoba has changed him and now he is preparing for war with Masaomi and the Yellow Scarves since Masaomi's plan is to stop Mikado's mad power trip.  Both are very capable leaders of their respective factions and it really reminds me of Death Note. L and Light never fought personally but were always trying to out-predict one another which we get a glimpse of near the end of this episode. The final shot for this cour is quite bizarre. If anyone remembers the UFO ending in Silent Hill where all the previous protagonists greet the player after passing the threshold then you will have a very similar feeling at the end of this one. Confused, oddly comforted but unable to shake what you have just experienced. It's sad to already time to depart from the urban jungle of Ikebukuro. I feel this middle cour was very meandering. Not much happened and was all preparation for the big fight for the final part of the season. The joys of Durarara!! weren't wasted in this cour as it still provided lots of colourful characters presented with wonderful and strong voice direction. Finding out how all the characters are intertwining, connecting, and tangentially related to one another is still the double-edged sword of the show. It's not entirely necessary to understand all the character's relationships with each other, but it helps engrain yourself into the world of Durarara!! [Watch Durarara!!x2 Ten on Crunchy Roll] [Watch Durarara!!x2 Ten on Crunchy Roll]
Durarara photo
Last train out of Ikebukuro
I really cannot catch a break with recapping this series. When last last weekend rolled around I was only expecting to binge watch One Piece, read some dialogue heavy Owarimonogatari, and enjoy just ONE episode of Durarara!!x...

Annotated Anime: Attack on Titan: Junior High episodes 5-7

Nov 28 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 5 The summer is coming up on our favorite little munchkins as this episode takes place just after the big bunch of tests before the summer break. While some of the kids are doing just fine, Armin scores perfectly on everything, some of the students are going to have to do some makeup tests to get their grades up, namely Sasha and Conny. Sasha gets levied a big threat that if she flunked the makeup test, she would no longer be allowed to eat her lunch. Our favorite food eating machine is desperate to find someone to help her study. No one wants to help her, but she asks Armin who is more than happy to help her and Conny score better on their make up tests. Conny forgets about staying after and wanders home. Armin sits Sasha down and they begin to tackle algebra, Her worst subject. Armin figures out a trick that instead of thinking about Xs and Ys, to think about food prices. While he starts with apples and oranges, Sasha starts rattling off bizarre food combinations, like Tempura and Watermelon. Armin isn't too impressed with the idea of these foods together, but at least she's getting the idea. While this is going on, Eren and Mikasa visit their senpais in the "super secret" club. Oruo goes on and on about getting horrible grades because he took things too easily (biting his tongue multiple times). He tells the younger students he doesn't need to study, but one of the others in the room says that his mom had said Oruo stays up late at night the night before tests studying in his room. Finally when everyone takes out their tests, it turns out his "bad score" was a 94 and still better than everyone else's. He talks about how year one tests are so much easier than year two tests, and how the year one students can't help him. Petra then punches him for just wanting to gloat. Our favorite Science club nutbar shows up as Hange is looking for Levi. She bets him that whoever did better on the test treats the other to Yakisoba bread (This is a thing?). He, of course, says no. She is broke but very hungry, he tell her to go buy some cheap squid. Having figured out that Levi was a no go, she decides to try and con the lower classmen in his name. It doesn't work. When Eren asks why she is so short of money, Hange takes them to the science room where she shows off two Titans she has captured (sound familiar?). She names them Sawney and Beane after a bug and a crab she used to take care off. She is broke from having to feed them all the time. The Titans keep trying to take a bite out of her when she gets too close, but she just gets her kicks from it (this does sound familiar right?). Seeing her plight, Levi gives her a loan that she has to pay back. A bag of dog food for the Titans. She then eats a handful. Later that night it is dark out and Sasha and Armin are heading home. Sasha has done well on her practice questions and seems to be picking up on things that Armin showed her. As he walks away Sasha thinks that she used to think of Armin as just weak, but that he is actually a friendly person. He comes bolting back to Sasha crying because he is scared of the dark street ahead. HEY! STOP IT YOU TWO! THIS ISN"T THAT KIND OF SHOW! We jump ahead to the makeup tests and Sasha is at first pleased to see an X and Y problem, but... she gets a little off track. She flunks the test and Conny never even shows up. Now both of them have to take refresher classes. Episode 6 We start things off by the shoe lockers as people are leaving for the day. Marco and Jean run into Conny and Sasha who are heading home together because Conny had told Sasha of a noodle place he had found. They then run into Hanna and Franz, the lovey-dovey couple always seen together holding hands. They start talking about marriage, but they were the ones who brought it up. Eren and Mikasa stroll by and Jean finally flips out on Eren saying that he is jealous. Eren goes to fight, but Mikasa carries him away. Jean then says that no woman in the school appreciates him when he opens his locker, there is a LOVE LETTER! Class begins as Jean shows up with his hair all combed and styled. Eren and his friends are shocked, especially when Eren smells cologne. Mikasa is not impressed.   Jean sits down and begins to think who could have sent him the letter. At first he ponders Sasha but realizes he'd lose all his money feeding her. He then thinks of Christa, since she would fit the style of person who would write a letter like that, then thinks of the boyish Ymir, who he dreams of dumping Christa to marry him. He gets frustrated that he'll be suspicious after every girl in school and then dreams of Rico and Petra trying to steal him away, finally ending with all the girls fighting over him. Eren, Armin, and Mikasa tell him he is getting too caught up in his own fantasy. Jean, however, doesn't hear it and begins to wonder if Mikasa sent him the letter, but then Annie shows up. Mikasa and Annie get in a back and forth as Annie has something to tell Jean, but Mikasa says she can relay the message to him (he is sitting right between them). I should mention in the background it seems each of the characters drew portraits of each other. They are adorable! Back to Jean who thinks he is causing all these conflicts with people. As Mikasa and Annie have a stare down, Jean tries to stop them and it doesn't end well for him. As he is on the floor a love letter falls out of Annie's pocket, but before he can say anything, she clubs him. Later during class, he catches her looking at him. As they are leaving for the day, Marco tries to put it gently that Jean isn't popular as he thinks. Jean tells him to shut up. They then catch Annie putting something in Jean's locker before she runs away. Jean goes into fantasy mode instantly thinking back to the dodgeball episode where he images that Annie and Mikasa were arguing over him (it was actually Eren if you remember). He grabs the letter and it says to meet him at the park. Jean takes off but when everyone else turns around, there is Annie. She asks for some advice. At the park, Annie shows up and Jean says that she can go out with him. She then runs him over and says that the letters were from her friend. She then calls her out by giving a blood-curdling scream. Oh man, this.. this can't be good for Jean. Yup. His suitor is a Titan. Turns out Annie and the Titan go to the same cram school together and that Annie is learning to speak titan. Annie says that the Titan is cute and shy and that she didn't forget when Jean gave her his lunch when she was hungry a few days before. As it turns out Jean threw his lunch at her as a distraction so he and Marco could run away as she ran towards them at the park. Jean, of course, gets some ribbing from his friends. jean goes into shock thinking his first love letters were from a titan so he freaks out and tries to tell everyone she is human.   After getting crushed, he snaps out of it and says that he can't go out with a huge woman like her, leaving the Titan in tears. She smashes him on the ground and runs away, vowing she wouldn't give up. I gotta tell you, I feel bad for the Titan here. Sasha takes pity on Jean and shows him what it's like to be popular by having a daikon and a Curry bread argue over who Jean should eat. Jean goes with it. Poor bastard. Episode 7 This episode starts off with Sasha and lunch (there is a surprise) She is dashing for her favorite Yakisoba bread when it is snatched up by Hange, leaving Sasha in tears. Jean comments that the first years aren't even supposed to buy bread and that it is just the upperclassman flaunting their seniority. Eren mentions how Jean has been skipping out on the wall cleaning club and that Rico is not happy with him, so he better show up. When they get to the club Rico is pissed at Jean and asks him where he has been. Jean comes up with horrible lies of where he has been (online karate classes being my favorite) and Rico tells them to get their enthusiasm back by going to clean all the windows. Since they had to do that they were all late for the secret club and the upperclassman gives them all hell for showing up late, and then picking over their clothes telling them what they can not do as first-year students. Eren finally has enough and tells everyone to shut up. Oruo takes to the shock by biting his tongue. Ymir, Christa, Marco, and Jean show up and literally are doing everything the upperclassman are railing about and drive them all nuts. The first years are given cleaning duty as punishment. The door opens and Hange and Levi show up and... wait, they are all on cleaning duty and Levi shows up? Oh, no.. OH NO! Hange gives the idea of having a contest between the first year kids and the upperclassmen. Whoever does worse at the sports day games between the three different years would have to clean the Titans building. We jump to the next day as the sports festival began. Christa has become a cheerleader for the team, along with Annie who isn't so up to the challenge. The first event is a bun eating race. Of course, Sasha is the year one representative, but also competing is Hange. Uh oh, this is about to get real.  Really bad for Sasha as Hange decides to bend the rules a bit. Saying that Sawney and she were like two halves of the same whole. Next up is the ball tossing game between year 1 and year 2. It looks like the object is to get your teams balls into the opposing teams basket. Year 1 cheats as Jean uses the omnidirectional gear to avoid people. Rico is furious and uses the incoming balls as ammo and takes Jean right out of the air. It... doesn't go well from there.  Year 1 is way behind now and things are looking bad. Mikasa steps in and gives everyone a strategy and pep talk. Actually, she says that all of them are unskilled and weak and that she will do things alone (There is that familiar feeling again), but despite being insulted, it fires the team up. As the game starts Mikasa is doing better than everyone else of course. She even gets sneaky by distracting Petra by dressing in everything the upperclassman told them they couldn't while Eren sneaks up and grabs the bandana of a year 2 leader. The game turns absolutely brutal as Armin sacrifices himself to take out another team. Eren and his team go on as you hear the screams of the other teams in the background. They break through to find the year 3 leader and... he's cleaning. The boys go for it, but Levi ends that quickly enough. Just then Hange comes flying in with Sawney and Beane with a giant ball of something. She falls out of the basket and pulls the cord, releasing MOUNTAINS of confetti. The game is ended and Levi isn't too pleased. We cut to later as the first year kids are cleaning the mess when the second year kids decide to join them, saying that Levi and the third year kids beat them last year too, but they helped them clean as well. The first year kids all bow and apologize. They then wonder what happened to Levi and we find him chasing Hange around. I think she is enjoying it. Wrapping this up This series is still a lot of fun! Seeing what these kids do and how it harkens back to the original series is really enjoyable. Having episodes focusing on characters like Jean and Sasha was great too as you got to see a lot more of what makes them tick. And, as mentioned here many times, Sasha is my favorite character, so this was a lot of fun seeing her! If there is any complaint, it was Episode 6. Not that it was a bad episode, but showing that the Titans have feelings and thought REALLY screws up the series. I know it's meant to be a joke, but not only did I feel bad for the Titan in that episode, but it made Eren look like a horrible racist little kid and Hange's set up REALLY questionable. But then again, maybe I'm over thinking this. Anyway, big thumbs up for this series and can't wait to see what these kiddies are up to next! [Watch Attack on Titan: Junior High on FUNimation] Episode 5   The summer is coming up on our favorite little munchkins as this episode takes place just after the big bunch of tests before the summer break. While some of the kids are doing just fine, Armin scores perfect on everything, some of the students are going to have to do some make up tests to get their grades up, namely Sasha and Conny. Sasha gets levied a big threat that if she flunked the make up test, she would no longer be allowed to eat her lunch.   Our favorite food eating machine is desperate to find someone to help her study. No one wants to help her but she asks Armin who is more than happy to help her and Conny score better on their make up tests. Conny, forgets about staying after and wanders home.   Armin sits Sasha down and they begin to tackle algebra, Her worst subject. Armin figures out a trick that instead of thinking about Xs and Ys, to think about food prices. While he starts with apples and oranges, Sasha starts rattling off bizarre food combinations, like Tempura and Watermelon. Armin isn't too impressed with the idea of these foods together, but at least she's getting the idea.   While this is going on Eren and Mikasa visit their senpais in the "super secret" club. Oruo goes on and on about getting horrible grades because he took things to easily (Biting his tongue multiple times). He tells the younger students e doesn't need to study, but one of the others in the room says that his mom had said Oruo stays up late at night the night before tests studying in his room.   Finally when everyone takes out their tests, it turns out his "bad score" was a 94 and still better than everyone else's. He talks about how year one tests are so much easier than year two tests, and how these year one can't help him. Petra then punches him for just wanting to gloat.   Our favorite Science club nutbar shows up as Hange is looking for Levi. She bets him that whomever did better on the test treats the other to Yakisoba bread (This is a thing?). He of course says no. She is broke but very hungry, he tell her to go buy some cheap squid. Having figured out that Levi was a no go, she decides to try and con the lower classmen in his name.   It doesn't work. When Eren asks why she is so short of money, Hange takes them to the science room where she shows off two Titans she has captured (sound familiar?) .  She names them Sawney and Beane after a bug and a crab she used to take care off. She is broke from having to feed them all the time. The Titans keep trying to take a bite out of her when she gets too close, but she just gets her kicks from it (this does sound familiar right?).   Seeing her plight, Levi gives her a loan that she has to pay back. A bag of dog food for the Titans. She ten eats a handful.   Later that night it is dark out and Sasha and Armin are heading home. Sasha has done well on her practice questions and seems to be picking up on things that Armin showed her. As he walks away Sasha thinks that she used to think of Armin as just weak, but that he is actually a friendly person. He comes bolting back to Sasha crying because he is scared of the dark street ahead.   We jump ahead to the make up tests and Sasha is at first pleased to see an X and Y problem, but....she gets a little off track.     She flunks the test and Conny never even shows up. Now both of them have to take refresher classes.
Attack on Titan: Jr high photo
Hope you like Sasha and Jean!
Hello, Japanator readers! It's time for us to take a look at the next three episodes of the chibified adventures of the Attack on Titan gang. What adventures and junior high troubles will Eren and the gang face this time around? Let's find out!

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episode 8

Nov 26 // Josh Tolentino
It's ironic, then, that the "realness" of today's big setup comes courtesy of two characters that are practically impossible to take seriously, and for reasons that aren't really funny, in all honesty. I am, of course, referring to the big baddie, the Sea King, and the most powerful non-lead  character we've seen fight, the S-Class Hero Puri-Puri Prisoner. Both are, unfortunately, tremendous missteps in the enduring quest for sensitivity in anime character design, since they act and speak like raging gay stereotypes of that peculiarly Japanese, "Cho Aniki" variety.  For the uninitiated, it's worth pointing out that Japan's conception of gay stereotyping runs slightly differently than in America and the west. Over in (In)Glorious Nippon, the things usually held "suspect" are the hyper-masculine, bodybuilding types, with looks and designs pioneered by the likes of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Fist of the North Star, and others. Yup it's not the effete, effeminate fashion-hound of a guy that trips your average Japanese person's gaydar, but the genetic beast lobster.  I am, of course, generalizing, but it's telling that Sonic, who's also in the episode and normally wears an outfit that's more snug than body paint, is the one that gets treated like a hyper-cool male badass. In comparison, Puri-Puri Prisoner is basically a prison rapist. Hard not to look at that and wonder why these S-Class types are still called "Hero".  But, it's not all bad. They may be terrible stereotypes, but Sea King and Puri-Puri Prisoner actually still manage to be pretty cool. Prisoner does it by going way over the top, striking a flamer-hulk performance that recalls the likes of Cars and AC/DC from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Sea King does it by being the most powerful and terrifying baddie the show's yet seen.  Unlike the Colossal Titan ripoff from episode 1 or Carnage Kabuto, the Sea King's out to kill, and makes mincemeat of anyone he comes across, eventually breaking into the emergency evacuation shelter in order to slaughter the puny humans inside. This is where things get more intense, as clearly doomed heroes still make a stand, despite knowing they're far outclassed and don't stand a chance. Even a jerk like Snake-Bite Snek gets some redemption. As most folks can agree, heroism isn't about your actions when you're not being challenged. It's about what you do when you're so scared you've soiled yourself. [Watch more of One Punch Man on Daisuki!]
One Punch Man photo
S-Class Went To The Sea Sea Sea (King)
If last week's installment of One Punch Man was about complicating the world of heroism for our man Saitama - and to an extent, for us as observers of the show's world, this week's episode is all about intensifying it. In a word, things get real this week.

Annotated Anime: One Piece episodes 715-719

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

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari episode 8

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

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episodes 6 and 7

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

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari episode 7

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

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

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

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

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

Annotated Anime: Owarimonogatari Episodes 2-6

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

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episode 5

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

First Impressions: Anitore! EX

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

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

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

Annotated Anime: One Punch Man episode 4

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

Annotated Anime: One Piece episodes 713+ 714

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

Iron-Blooded Orphans photo
Iron-Blooded Orphans

Annotated Anime: Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans episode 3


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

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