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Annotated Anime

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 3

Apr 30 // Jeff Chuang
In this week's High School Fleet, our boat full of high school frosh girls continue their exercise in running away, via some intrepid naval decisions and challenges. They won by nailing the enemy submarine with their sole depth charge and then by running away. If anything this bit of character building shows us that we may have a handful of misfits and weirdos, but everyone is competent if not excellent at their jobs. It's a bit less common to see a typical submarine battle purely from the surface boat's point of view, so the whole night time warfare aspect of the thing added a little variety in a way. But like my memories of Star Trek, deploying a simple paravane as a way to trip up an enemy U-boat is akin to reprogramming the deflector to solve some mysterious alien challenge. I mean, really?  Well, I probably shouldn't complain too much. The mix of anachronistic stuff is fun to watch, especially when it's so in-your-face. Japanese high school girls struggling to pull the lever to deploy the depth charges? Sure, it's moe, much like putting on faces on your rice balls. And there's the business-as-usual national stereotypes. The German transfer student taking charge of a sub battle by saying it's her specialty to highlight Germany's dependence on its underwater armada during the War? I suppose it's something I can live with, but I am glad that Haifuri probably will only go this far. The officers on the bridge are taking on more personality as they simply get the brunt of the lines every week. In fact I'm glad they are finally dipping into the rest of the crew by slowing rotating those precious lines among this large cast. It's almost too amusing to see, in Engineering, your Scotty archetype in the body of rough-talking little girl, even if she is just as much business as a cranky old Scot. Rotate those monkey wrench, Satoko, because apparently I haven't gotten enough exposure to memorize your name without looking it up, yet. The mystery of Harukaze's mutiny is developing but we haven't seen the plot address much of it, and when it does it happens in between the meat of each episode, which criss-crosses between calm moments at sea or tumultuous naval battles. I think at three episodes in, we can use a bit more exposition! Otherwise, Haifuri might be in a rough stretch if it can't seal the viewer's initial impression at the three episode mark. [Follow Mike-chan's adventure on FUNimation, Crunchyroll and Daisuki!]  
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German on a boat
When I was growing up I watched a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation. One of the things I liked about the show was all these naval-style battle scenes where Captain Picard would say stuff like, "fire" or "full to starboard...

First Impressions: Space Patrol Luluco

Apr 29 // Salvador GRodiles
With a limited timeframe of five to six minutes (not counting the show's opening and ending), each episode of Luluco seems to end right when the segment is about to reach its peak. One moment, our Main Heroine Luluco joins the space patrol to raise money to free her dad from a frozen state, which eventually led to her busting her first criminal. Then things end before we reach that huge bang that gives the segment a proper closure or cliffhanger ending— other than Luluco pointing out that the segment is over. Even though there’s nothing wrong with the show’s premise, every other episode lacked the sparks that piece everything together. In most cases, the audience barely has enough time to take things in. Perhaps the issue with Luluco is that Imaishi’s direction with the show doesn’t work for a five to six-minute format since TRIGGER’s previous shorts felt more complete, such as Inferno Cop. Then again, Imaishi’s direction with the 14th Japan Animator Expo short, “SEX and VIOLENCE with MACHSPEED,” showed us that he could handle a short so it might be that Imaishi and Akira Amemiya don't make a great combo— especially when you compare their collaboration to Imaishi and Kazuki Nakashima working on a project together, such as KILL la KILL. Despite the pacing issues with Luluco’s running time, the folks at TRIGGER delivered nicely in the animation and art department. A good chunk of the show’s sequences show off some ridiculous levels of perspective to each character that moves on screen. Then again, this style is a thing that Imaishi and most of the veterans who came from Gainax apply to their animations so it’s something that we can expect from their major projects. To an extent, it reaches a similar level of randomness present in Gainax’s titles like FLCL. Combined with the simplistic array of colors spread across the cast's designs, Luluco’s presentation is one of the best things that the show has to offer. The title’s Panty & Stocking-like look matches the silly tone that the series is going for. I mean, we have alien Street Sharks-like characters and Over Justice, a guy who’s basically Inferno Cop with Kamina’s shades! The show's presentation has a ton of personality and it looks like TRIGGER just wants to use them to mess around while they have fun with their project. If there's another thing that Luluco has going for, it's the relationship between Luluco, Nova and Midori. The idea of pairing up a guy who wants to shoot everything in sight and a girl who was in charge of a criminal organization with a girl who only wants to save her dad worked nicely on TRIGGER’s side, as their interaction made way for some great jokes, such as storyboard joke during the fourth episode's launching sequence and the build-up to Luluco's reaction to the mission. While Luluco’s short length holds the series back a bit, the animation and cast still manage to hold the show together. With the way how the series is going, it might be a show that’s better to watch in one sitting than one that should be seen weekly. However, the next episode might be the one that’ll cause the anime to reach a new level since the newest character has a major connection to Luluco. After all, we just started season two so we can expect TRIGGER to hit us with a huge surprise. [You can Gun Morphing with Space Patrol Luluco at Crunchyroll.]
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There's not enough time for justice
Whenever a show presents itself as a short, it’s important for the staff to establish a beginning, middle and end in the piece. If it’s a comedy, then the jokes have to be properly established so that the viewers ...

First Impressions: Ace Attorney

Apr 24 // Christian Chiok
The series began just like the very first case of the game began—showing off the murder and the culprit. Right off the bat, it already felt rushed and not as dramatic as the game. Afterward, the series introduces Ryuuichi Naruhodou, or rather Phoenix Wright for us English fans, riding his bike heading to his first case ever. While not part of the game, I liked this scene since it’s a common way to introduce the main character of a series.  Then we are introduced to “The First Turnabout,” also known as the tutorial case of the first game. The anime took a less dramatic approach by having a less intense background song during the introduction of the case. Not using the original game soundtrack, and well as using rearranged versions of some of the iconic tracks was definitely something many fans of the series, including myself, found bothersome. It made things feel less authentic. I know some people hate when they use CGI on anime but I personally thought that they pull it off well when they introduced the court. While many fans are complaining that the art style of the series doesn’t match the game, I personally have no complains with it. I do think that the art style is less serious than the game, but it doesn’t take away from the series. Then are introduced to Masashi Yahari, also known as Larry Butz, who is the accused of this case, childhood friend of Phoenix Wright, and the reason why Phoenix Wright became a defense attorney. While the first case does indeed reveal that Larry is the reason Phoenix became an attorney, the series did get a bit ahead of itself showing scenes of what is supposed to appear in latter cases. During the testimony cross-examination sequences, I really like the formats that they are using, but going back to the soundtrack issue, the lack of the original songs such as the famous testimony and cross-examination tracks from the game was disappointing and took away its identity. I did like that they added one of the wrong answers he usually says though. I thought it was a nice touch, especially with this being the first case. Being that the first case/tutorial case was actually short in the game, I felt like it was nicely adapted into the first episode, naturally any longer would have been highly unnecessary. Some stuff felt highly unnecessary like when the witness was pointing his finger at Phoenix, air emitted out of the witness’ hand this pushing down Phoenix, as well as Phoenix’s “Objection! scene, which the same thing again but this time with the witness, blowing his wig off his head. Nevertheless, that scene was great. Starting from the adaptation of the second case, “Turnabout Sisters,” is where the series felt a bit underwhelming since It feels a bit rushed. Starting from Episode 2, we got the main gist of it, such as the crime and the main dialogue with the involved characters.  What makes it feel rushed is that some of the extra details were excluded, which gives a better understanding of the overall case. Both Episode 3 and Episode 4 cover the main gist of the case—the two trials and the interaction with key characters of the case. Cross-examinations and testimonies felt rushed, and even a witness was removed. Things just happened too fast and it feels 25% of this case was removed. I did enjoy when Phoenix Wright was asking multiple questions to the witness though, something very common in the games to squeeze out more information. So far the series is a bit underwhelming, but enjoyable nonetheless. I just feel that it shouldn’t been rushed. If you aren’t familiar with the games, you can still watch it as it could be enjoyable but you aren’t getting the full set. 
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Rushed & Underwhelming Trials
Growing up as handheld gamer during my middle school days, I played many games on the DS including the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series. What made Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney more interesting than your average Visual Nove...

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 2

Apr 22 // Jeff Chuang
Just so we're on the same page, it's a tradition in the Japanese navy to serve curry for a meal on Friday. It's gotten to the point that Yokosuka, famous for its naval bases, exports curry as its major local eats. You can buy this navy-themed eats in packs and take it home with you. Thanks to anime, manga and games like Kantai Collection, this marriage of curry rice and Navies continue in popular nerd culture. It would be criminally negligent for Haifuri to skip this massive opportunity to play up its moe side. And yes, even today, the cooks of each boat will make curry their own way, resulting a curry rice flavored based on the ship. This is why we have Harukaze curry in episode 2, named after the scrappy destroyer that carry our protagonists. In this week's Haifuri, Mike-chan and crew once again dodges certain death from an attacking boat that outgunned Harukaze's meager weapons. By running in circles while generating a lot of smoke, the Harukaze was able to sneak near the Admiral Graf Spee (a German cruiser) and deal damage to its hull, slowing it down enough so the destroyer can outrun the larger ship. In the process, Harukaze (or Mike-chan specifically) rescues an exchange student who was escaping the Spee on a runabout. As an aside it also turns out the runabouts on board these historic warships are all modern, jet-ski-like. As the episode ends, while our unfortunate students make the best of their poor and beaten ship, Shiro-chan gets an emergency call from the Musashi. The story is comfortably letting the action and character expositions drive our interests at this point, which is good. I think someone actually interested and engaged in Haifuri will need that extra time and attention before the story gets complicated, because the audience is likely still in a "who was her name again" phase of learning the crew. We might now know that the secretary character is a fun person with her acting and the first officer is has a bit of dere once she gets worked around to Mike-chan's bottomless genki. The doctor (I guess she isn't a real doctor?) is a weird one and the group dynamics between the bridge and engineering teams seem to be developing. There was even a shower scene. I suppose adding one more character to this group, at episode 2, is no big deal? The ending animation this time around shows us that there will be a group of characters that the show focuses on. One of them seems to be the girl from the German boat. In some ways it just affirms my concern that how Haifuri can successfully juggle so many characters, but at the same time I think one more person is not going to make any more difference. I think Haifuri has a tall, tall task of making something more compelling by the end of next week's episode. Arguably, on the surface, there's an unexpected war game happening on top of a moe style anime, but discerning viewers would demand more from this formula. But at the same time, there's a lot going on that the more interesting tidbits may get lost. I guess at the very least there's a lot of cute girls running a battleship to look at, and that might be enough. [Haifuri is on Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Daisuki!]  
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Curry on a boat
At the end of episode 1, Haifuri drops its full name and a cliffhanging curve ball--the protagonists are framed as traitors and attacked one of their own. It's good to learn that the second episode keeps up the pace and follo...


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

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

First Impressions: Haifuri

Apr 14 // Jeff Chuang
Haifuri is an original anime with a large cast of female-only characters. This is something that didn't strike me at all until it was all over, but thanks to that cue, it makes the Girls und Panzer comparison work. Given this element, the play-militaristic take on a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, the evoking of WWII-era war machines, and your go-getter cast of characters with a wide variety of schticks, it's inevitable to make that pairing. What bothered me about Haifuri, or rather, High School Fleet, is that fat cat Isoroku. It is a reference to Isoroku Yamamoto, who is probably the most well-known WWII Japanese military commander to the west, as he created the blueprint for Imperial Japan's plan to defeat the USA as the commander of the Japanese Imperial Navy. Well, I guess people do and can look with a sense of romanticism for legendary commanders of their enemy, so many years later, but are we ready to look at Isoroku similar to how we feel about The Desert Fox? Perhaps. I'm guess there's a joke there that I missed, with the whole fat cat at sea thing. I think that is neither here or there, however. The story drops the viewer right in the middle of action half way through the first episode. Like the marketing material, Haifuri episode 1 has a gap where in one scene we're playing out your usual moe high school hijinks, and then in the second half of the episode we're already playing a game of World of Warships, except with teenager girls busy shouting commands to automated systems that simplify the running of a WWII-era destroyer so 30-some-odd kids can do what hundreds of trained sailors did. Maybe World of Warships is not the best game analogy...Spaceteam? It sure seemed fun and not so much a matter of life or death, even if it kind of was. But there is that WoWs aspect to Haifuri. On one hand we have ancient refitted junk naval cruisers that are over a century old, on the other hand we have sleek futuristic ships blasting autocannon rounds and missiles (and can be operated by one person). If the story is about our adorable protagonists bonding over their naval trials, where Girls und Panzer shined, then the focus wouldn't be on the boats or the fact that they're on a boat, or even Isoroku and the other military otaku nods, but hearty, solid character development. And that just brings us back to the fact that Haifuri has dozens of protagonists onboard the Harekaze. The official English website has a helpful page that gives you a little profile on each one of them, as keeping them straight beyond the first handful will be difficult at this point. The captain, Mike-chan, looks up to her dad, who also captains a ship. Shiro-chan, who is her second in command, plays the straight man in the bridge bunny comedy scenes. The rest of the cast are full of eccentric, if oddly well-trained, characters that would not make up any normal high school class. But I guess that's not the point. What is the point is that this first episode was both fun and well put-together. Throwing the viewer a nasty curve ball at the end helps to drag us to the next episode, since mutiny isn't a term you'd expect from this genre--although it does occasionally happen in other shows of this kind. It would be safe to say that I'm at least curious where Haifuri will go next, even if it isn't exactly in uncharted waters. [It's on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Daisuki!]
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She's on a boat
Keeping up with the news, one thing that I knew about Haifuri before watching the first episode was that it's about a bunch of moe high school girls working as some kind of sea patrol. The soft designs and color schemes on th...

Final Impressions: Myriad Colors Phantom World

Apr 12 // Nick Valdez
One thing I could never fault Phantom World for, thanks to Kyoto Animation's style and love of fluid animation, was its visuals. Regardless of where the story didn't go, the show remained watchable due to how pretty everything was. KyoAni isn't necessarily at the top of the production game, but most of the time their style is a saving grace. For example, one of the main gags was how many times Haruhiko found himself flung across spaces. A common trope, for sure, but these throws rarely looked the same twice. It's just a shame that the fights never quite lived up to their potential. Phantom World was never really focused on fights, so when some of them end up looking super great I was starved for more. But in the same breath, anime adaptations can't rest on visuals alone.  For the entirety of its run I couldn't quite figure out what Phantom World wanted to accomplish. At some times it seemed like a show that wanted to tell a story about kids dealing with Phantoms (and to a lesser extent, deal with the destinies unwantingly placed upon them), then it became a monster of the week show, then a few episodes focused on a singular gag, and then in some sort of last ditch effort, it tried a serious and emotional arc toward the end. Like I had been fearing all along.  In the final three episodes, a super phantom named Enigma began attacking ability users and stealing their powers. Since phantoms weren't successfully built into a credible threat through the season, it seemed weird to suddenly ramp up the tension this way. It's a clearly rushed endgame ringing hollow as we're told that this particular phantom poses a threat when others were clearly treated as jokes before. But the major through line of this final arc was Haruhiko's missing mother. Apparently she walked out on him years before and suddenly Haruhiko's depressed. Even when the show had multiple opportunities to bring up this backstory (such as the episode where Izumi was afraid of what her parents might think of her phantom hunting) or invest any time in Haruhiko at all (so he could at least develop beyond the guy who delivers exposition). Anyway, as Enigma wreaks havoc across the town she accumulates all sorts of neat abilities. Including the ability to pose as Haruhiko's mother.  In the midst of all this, as the rest of the phantom hunting club believes they're talking with Haruhiko's mother, they reveal they all had a bit of a crush on Haruhiko. Once again, there was very little build up to this little development but thankfully that never quite becomes the focus. In fact, the series ends without any of those cliched romantic entanglements anyway. The final battle itself passes by without much fanfare and Haruhiko saves the day by fully summoning the cutesy phantoms he's used in the past. So I guess all the character evolution I've wanted from the series was saved for Haruhiko himself. I'll admit I'm being a bit harsh since KyoAni is at least trying to salvage the series at the end, but it's such a disappointing foray overall. Each week things just kind of happened. It's even hard to summarize the final couple of episodes because there's not much more than a logline's worth of material in each. Everything is so hollow, it's like the series wanted to embody the textbook definition of "Phantom." A lingering spirit of a good premise.  When all is said and done, there's no real reason to search out Myriad Colors Phantom World for yourself. It never quite figured out what kind of series it wanted to be and that confusion kept it from becoming something truly engaging. You can try and argue that it's some sort of "turn off your brain" entertainment without a real message, but it was clearly trying to tell a story at its end.  Besides, why would you seek out a form of entertainment that offers you nothing but background noise? If you're looking for cheap entertainment there are plenty of anime that provide that already. Shows that know you're watching them because of stuff like cool visuals and do their best to provide just that. We as an audience deserve something better than a show with an identity crisis every week. 
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Myriad of rushed conclusions
If you've been following along with my occasional thoughts on Myriad Colors Phantom World, you've no doubt noticed how many times I've gone back and forth on the series as a whole. While folks in the comments suggested that I...

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

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

Japanator's Spring 2016 Anime Preview Guide!

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

Annotated Anime: Haruchika: Haruta & Chika episodes 11 & 12

Mar 27 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 11 We pick up a little bit after the first round of the competition from the last episode. The Brass Band club has made it through City and prefectural competition and is now at the regional Class B competition level. Good for them! As the club is waiting for practice they are met with a strange woman. After Naoko finds that the piano they have to practice with is out of tune, this woman, named Motoko, challenges Naoko to make something beautiful even after finding out the piano isn't up to snuff. She then pulls out a musicaa (a reed instrument with a keyboard on it, pay attention to the opening of this song and you will see what it is) and plays. It turns out this woman has a link to Mr. Kusakabe, making Haruta jealous immediately. She's the granddaughter of his music teacher. We find out there is a mystery surrounding a piano that belonged to her grandfather and that she was the only one told about the key to its keyboard. The "mystery" here isn't nearly as heavy as some of the others have been. Eventually, they find the answer to the key but comes completely out of left field with little clues leading to it. But this episode seemed more than just the mystery as  Motoko and Naoko form a weird bond that you only find out the true depth of until nearly the end of the show. To be honest I'm not quite sure what this episode was trying to accomplish. We do find out some more of Mr. Kusakabe's past in this, and that he wasn't always the nice kind hearted teacher he is to the Brass band club, but at the same time, that information seemed like an aside. Not a terrible episode, but probably not the best-written episode. The resolution comes out of nowhere with no hint of where things were going and the point of the episode is a muddled and not quite clear. Let's hope the finale is more on point. Episode 12 The finals of the competition are next week so everyone is nervous. However, something pops up that makes Haruta and Chika panic as it looks like Mr. Kusakabe may be leaving them.  The episode opens right up with the class advisoer meeting with two men. With his snooping we find out that Mr. Kusakabe is being offered a conductorship for a big orchestra again. Haruta, of course, is devastated ad Chika isn't thrilled either., but they keep the secret to themselves. However, Haruta wants to tell Mr. Kusakabe how he feels before the teacher leaves. This leads the two kids to follow him. The mystery they solve is the big one. You find out why Mr. Kusakabe ditched his conductorship that has been an underlying theme of the entire show. You don't get any specifics, but you get enough to know why he did what he did. No dramatic reveals or clues or anything, but the ongoing mystery is solved. The show then runs the credits but there is still a third of the show left. We see everyone pcking up and going to the regional contest and we see them play. It's a really touching moment in the series as you see POeople in the crowd calling back to previous episodes and harkens back to the past episodes. Miyo's parents are there holding a picture of her and her brother together, Muren's parents are there, Naoko and her aunt are there, the reporter and Matoko are there too. After that, we find out the results. Not going to spoil it, but we also find out Mr. Kusakabe's decision as well as Naoko's feeling as well. If you followed the series up until now, this part of the episode is the most emotional of the entire series. Whatever they were lacking up until this point in the episode, the after credits scenes more than makeup for. It's not the best series finale I've seen. Heck, I don't even think it's the best episode of this series, but at the same time it's not terrible and it does wrap things up without being nightmarish bad like the Magikano ending or something similar. Its pacing is a little weird. Heck, I'd have put all the stuff with Mr. Kusakabe in the last episode with Motoko and I think it would have played out better, but for what was giving, it was all right. We pick up a little bit after the first round of the competition from the last episode. The Brass Band club has made it through City and prefectural competition and is now at the regional Class B competition level. Good for them!   As the club is waiting for practice they are met with a strange woman. After Naoko finds that the piano they have to practice with is out of tune, this woman, named Motoko, challenges Naoko to make something beautiful even after finding out the piano isn't up to snuff. She then pulls out a musicaa (A reed instrument with a keyboard on it, pay attention to the opening of this song and you will se what it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zB1Q-PfUvN0)   It turns out this woman has a link to Mr. Kusakabe, making Haruta jealous immediately. She's the granddaughter of his music teacher. We find out there is a mystery surrounding a piano that belonged to her grandfather and that she was the only one told about the key to its keyboard.   The "mystery" here isn't nearly as heavy as some of the others have been. Eventually they find the answer to the key, but comes completely out of left field with little clues leading to it. But this episode seemed more than just the mystery as  Motoko and Naoko form a weird bond that you only find out the true depth of until nearly the end of the show.   To be honest I'm not quite sure what this episode was trying to accomplish. We do find out some more of Mr. Kusakabe's past in this, and that he wasn't always the nice kind hearted teacher he is to the Brass band club, but at the same time that information seemed like an aside.   Not a terrible episode, but probably not the best written episode. The resolution comes out of nowhere with no hint of wear things were going and the point of the episode is a muddled and not quite clear. Let's hope the finale is more on point.
Haruchika photo
The end of the song
We've come to the end of the line for Haruchika as we look at the last two episodes of the short series. How will things end and what mysteries will get solved. Let's take a look.

Final Impressions: Oshiete! Galko-chan

Mar 25 // Anthony Redgrave
A very different episode for the finale of Oshiete! Galko-chan. We are taken to the start of the second year where cliques are already starting to form; there's the Gyaru (the popular students), honour students (I guess we know them as preppies), and finally the outsiders which are the people that don't exist in those two categories. In this show that means they're the students that like heavy metal and horror movies. However "Otako" doesn't exist in any of these groups, not even an outsider as she finds reading by herself far less troublesome than socialising, also known as the Oreki philosophy. And then she meets "Galko".  The origin story of how the three friends became friends is something I didn't think we needed exploring for a slice of life anime about asking and answering questions. Anime viewers are accustomed to wacky and weird people socialising together without needing an explanation, let alone spending half an episode to explain and show it. For a show like Galko-chan, it works as a thematic closure. "Galko" is the walking talking definition of misinterpreted stereotyping. In a class full of these stereotypes, "Galko" is always shown to look one way but react in another and even though we see her as a saint or a deeper character behind all the makeup and fashion, she too falls in the ways of stereotyping other people.  The origin story takes up the majority of the episode with the second half only briefly completing "Galko's" character arc of making it to class on time if that can be counted as an overarching series character arc. This episode has a typical slice of life ending. Students head home with the promise of more fun ahead. It's an ending I detest personally as it leaves the series open-ended without anything gained or lost. Oshiete! Galko-chan was a good show to keep me occupied throughout the winter season. The show didn't retain its signature question answer format opting for more character introductions in the latter episodes which I found a little disappointing but I did enjoy the overall light-hearted take on more mature topics in a slice of life anime. The short episode length was also nice as they didn't overstay their welcome with filler or fan service. The show knew how to keep everything succinct and snappy and the bright colorful palette of visuals meant it was fantastic to watch. I'll be eager for a second season or OVA of this show. Oshiete! Galko-chan is a great little anime with an interesting concept, beautiful designs, and a great pace. I picked up some interesting facts while watching this show making it hard to say anything bad about entertaining education. Even if it's facts about Female Hygiene, the genito-urinary system, and breasts.  Things I learnt from watching Galko-chan It's not even their real names! I feel like I've been lied to the whole series "Ideology as Learned from a Cat" sounds like a really interesting read but I feel that it's just a book full of Garfield strips The return of "Galko's" sister as a start of a model magazine called "GAL AGE". Very interesting cover model choice since it's a lady with no eyes I kinda want to know what pill "Otako" received. Is it paracetamol, Ibuprofen? Common painkillers I would've thought "Otako" would know about "Ojou" is a sneaky third wheeler "Galko's" observation skills are very impressive. Detective Conan eat your heart out "Galko" may have come to class early to talk but then she falls asleep. One step forward and two steps back. [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll] [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll]
Oshiete! Galko-chan photo
When Galko met Otako
Slice of Life with a school background is a genre that is overplayed in anime. Used to capture the youthful adolescence of an endless high school as characters transition from immature teenagers to adults often fails in ...

Annotated Anime: Oshiete! Galko-chan episode 11

Mar 20 // Anthony Redgrave
Even though the show has a Hollywood grade A starlet in the looks department, she doesn't flaunt those curves for the camera every time she is on screen. There is some cheesecake here and there as expected by anime standards except it refrains from the ridiculous perversive situations of a typical harem ecchi. Apart from this episode which has a silly premise right off the bat. The question of the show asks 'whether strange things happen in the school hallways' and the scenario features Otao skipping class due to his anaemia. On his way back he hides when he hears the girls coming back from swimming class. Suffice to stay he isn't spotted despite taking peeking lessons from Tony Tony Chopper. Cue punch line of Japanese nosebleed after erotica.  It's a typical slice of life fan-service gag formula downplayed since Galko-chan hardly makes these kinds of jokes. The shows comedic strengths were always in the situations sometimes sexy and the reactions from it, often Galko's. This, however, is more voyeuristic and a tad perverse which doesn't suit the show. I didn't feel the gag worked and was just an excuse to see the girls in school bathing suits. Since the show's premise is based on asking questions, it'd be more appropriate if all the girls were asking about different hair types and how the reacted to water or even the difficulty of swimming different strokes. That way there is a reason for them to be in swimming costumes and discussing these topics. Instead, the show asks a question that I doubt has ever been asked and used it to show girls in school swimsuits without really answering the question.  The following sections are more entertaining than the start. We join an un-named character shrouded by bangs ordering a coffee before observing Galko's actions. Of course, as Galko dresses in Gyaru fashion, she is immediately typecast as a Valley Girl sort. We view Galko from her eyes as she sees what we already know about Galko; childish, expressive, and embarrassed over adult material (which apparently is BL). This scene is linked to the next one in the classroom where the class is learning about the different utensils throughout time to wipe your bottom. Some interesting facts if true. From a character perspective, we learn that Galko likes to over share some information with her bestie Otako. From my experience, it isn't unusual for girls to share this information over SMS although it's best not to pry too far into a maiden's text log.  For the next recreational class activity, the whole class is open to nominations and voting of movies. Despite not winning with Galko-chan's choice of a direct to DVD movie (could it really be that good!?) Ojou is generous enough to allow Galko to watch it on her home cinema screen with Otako rolling the whole thing into a slumber party. The actual event is nothing to go on about as it is covered in still images of their activities. Before heading off, Otako debates the most important of feminine hygiene questions; should I take pads in case of a period. I really liked Otako's imagination of Ojou. It was something out of left field and carried an old joke regarding Ojou's choice of period products. After next week, we'll have to be bidding goodbye to the blonde high school girl that teaches us things. I really hope the last episode will be better in the question department. I'll be expecting the extra amount of fan service seeing it is a season finale with Galko's sister's eyes finally being revealed! Things I learnt from watching Galko-chan People used swan necks for what!? Back and forth! The nurse looks cute but I can't shake the fact it looks like Otao's mom What the hell is Naked Eating? Is it like Naked Gun? From Otako's imagination, I expected Ojou's house to be the Playboy Mansion Aku-On! sounds like K-On mixed with Wolf Children. Looks like an H-game. [update 03.21.16] The Mangaka has posted on his twitter about the cast of Naked Eating [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll] Things I learnt from watching Galko-chan Ojou VA does the narration, and it's adorable The faceless narrator has an adorable voice Ojou has her own sound effect Otao represents 90% of the viewer base for Galko-chan Nikuko has the god-like breast control whilst running [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll]
Oshiete! Galko-chan photo
Galko x Ojou
I'm not sure what to think of Galko-chan nowadays. The last few episodes have been ho-hum since I'm not learning much but we're getting a lot more slice of life character introductions. It's becoming something that is the same and when I loved it when it was different. Oh! Galko-chan.. you're tearing me apart!

Annotated Anime: Haruchika: Haruta & Chika episodes 8-10

Mar 18 // Soul Tsukino
Episode 8 Straight up, this episode is bizarre as hell. It is either being really metaphorical or someone lost their damn mind but the imagery here leaves you scratching your head. Things open up decent enough. There are two months left until qualifications for the B class finals for the Brass club. The "friend" of Naoko's who was also the person behind the mysterious radio show has joined the group. He is a first year named Kaiyuu. But this episode revolves around Naoko, the girl we met a few episodes ago who is losing her hearing. It seems her aunt who has been living in Australia is moving back to Japan and wants Naoko to live with her. Naoko, of course, doesn't want to. For some reason, Naoko's aunt is seeing a "First Love Sommelier" who is one of the upperclassman based on the first floor along with the other weirdo clubs we've seen in previous episodes. Haruta and Chika go to check things out with Naoko. This is where things get really weird. It seems Auntie's first love is tied to Onigiri, so as they are being prepared she tells this story of  a small child being lost in the woods and meeting "The children of the forest" who are a bunch of anthropomorphic animals. She meets a bear guy named Benjant and helps him make onigiri for the others. She goes and feeds the birds and comes back, seeing some leftovers. She takes one bit and Benjant sees her, BEFORE HE ATTACKS HER. She is made an outcast as a result. And the whole point of this is that she can meet Benjant again. Is this some weird illusion to her being raped or something? I'm totally missing something here. Anyway, the rest of the episode plays out with Naoko, Haruta, Chika, and the Sommelier going to stop Naoko's aunt and we find out, at least, part of the story of just what the hell she was talking about. If only a little bit. Outside of that confusing part, there is a lot in this episode that explores the relationship between Naoko and Chika. While it was painted out in previous episodes that Naoko wouldn't give Chika a second thought, we find out that Naoko actually has admiration for Chika in that she has friends. Naoko even offers to give Chika a "one day lesson" to help with her flute playing. So in all, if you actually ignore the bizarre main story line nearly completely, you find there are some real touching moments in the episode. But the main plot IS there, so this one isn't one of their best shows.   Episode 9 This episode is more like it. Something more normal and not some weird illusionist stuff about a bear man and forest children. When Mr. Kusakabe falls faint, we find out he's been advising a Brass band from the upper-class high school close by while their advisor is out on a suspension. The school's students don't know why the teacher known as "The Gorilla" was suspended, but they report he had been acting very strange the last few weeks and mysteriously was rearranging the seating assignments in his homeroom class. Haruta dives right in, since he wants Mr. Kusakabe only for their class, in wanting to find out why The Gorilla was suspended, so, of course, Chika jumps in as well. However, Kaiyuu also joins them in finding out what was going on. We really get to see Kaiyuu in this episode. It turns out he is as good a problem-solver as Haruta is. As he says "I spent a lot of time around old people, I've learned a lot of superfluous things." You notice he always has his drumsticks with him and is often tapping away. He seems to get along with others really well. Great showing more of him as a person. The story plays itself out well as we meet and hear from those around the mystery teach and what may have lead to his suspension. The clues actually make sense and there are no great leaps between clues and plot points. Everything seems to flow in a good line and does end up giving you a twist ending or anything like they did with the old man artist and his trip to America a few episodes ago. No denying that for me, this is a much better episode than the last one. The plot not only was realistic and made a lot more sense, but everything lined up perfectly from beginning to end. What the last episode lacked this one made up for in spades.   Episode 10 The competition is here! It's the morning of the big competition and the Brass Band club is gathering together in the meeting hall. Seems Chika had a heck of a morning as she saved a little kid who had fallen out of a window. Seriously? Yup, poor Chika hurt her wrist and hip catching the tumbling toddler, but she says she is okay. However, both Haruta and  Mr. Kusakabe are not here yet. Seems Haruta found himself a friend. This episode is obviously just a primer for the next two episodes with shoehorning in a mystery about who is the owner of this large dog. Don't get me wrong, it is still a good episode, but with only 2 episodes left and it being the morning of the big competition, you know that there are bigger things to come in the final two episodes. The mystery is simple, Haruta finds a dog that is worth a lot of money and two people claim it is theirs. A little girl and some guy.  Haruta and Chika have to solve the mystery in a short amount of time before they have to run back to practice for the competition. Honestly, when trying to find the answer I over thought it out and came to a much different and more complex explanation, but the answer was much simpler than I had guessed. Things seem to be setting up nicely already. Besides paying off the season long main storyline of the competition itself, you have a somewhat shifty reporter hanging around who knows a lot about Mr. Kusakabe, and you even have an appearance from "The Gorilla" and his club who let Chika and her club use their practice room since they perform much earlier.   An interesting batch of episodes here. Episode 8 is really nuts with no explanation as to what the hell was going on there, but 9 and 10 are both pretty straight forward.  The finale is coming up so things are set up for something interesting to happen. We shall see where the ending takes us. Strait up, this episode is bizarre as hell. It is either being really metaphorical or someone lost their damn mind but the imagery here leaves you scratching your head.     Things open up decent enough. There are two months left until qualifications for the B class finals for the Brass club. The "friend" of Naoko's who was also the person behind the mysterious radio show has joined the group. He is a first year named Kaiyuu.     But this episode revolves around Naoko, the girl we met a few episodes ago who is losing her hearing. It seems her aunt who has been living in Australia is moving back to Japan and wants Naoko to live with her. Naoko of course doesn't want to. For some reason Naoko's aunt is seeing a "First Love Sommelier" who is one of the upperclassman based on the first floor along with the other weirdo clubs we've seen in previous episodes. Haruta and Chika go to check things out with Naoko.     Things is where things get really weird. It seems Auntie's first love is tied to Onigiri, so as they are being prepared she tells this story of her as a small child being lost in the woods and meeting "The children of the forest" who are a bunch of anthromorphic animals. She meets a bear guy named Benjant and helps him make oniguri for the others. She goes and feeds the birds and comes back, seeing some left overs. She takes one bit and Benjant sees her, BEFORE HE ATTACKS HER. She is made an outcast as a result.     And the whole point of this is that she can meet Benjant again. Is this some weird illusion to her being raped or something? I'm totally missing something here.     Anyway the rest of the episode plays out with Naoko, Haruta, Chika, and the Sommelier going to stop Naoko's aunt and we find out at least part of the story of just what the hell she was talking about. If only a little bit.     Outside of that confusing part, there is a lot in this episode that explores the relationship between Naoko and Chika. While it was painted out in previous episodes that Naoko wouldn't give Chika a second thought, we find out that Naoko actually has admiration for Chika in that she has friends. Naoko even offers to give Chika a "one day lesson" to help with her flute playing.   So in all, if you actually ignore the bizarre main story line nearly completely, you find there are some real touching moments in the episode. But the main plot IS there, so this one isn't one of there best shows.  
Haruchika photo
Yeah, things get weird
We are closing in on the end of Haruchika: Haruta and Chika, the big concert competition is fast approaching and all the members of the Brass band club we will meet are here. We have a concert to perform and mysteries to solve! Let's jump right in.

Annotated Anime: Myriad Colors Phantom World episodes 7-9

Mar 15 // Nick Valdez
Episode 7 Each episode of Phantom World starts with Haruhiko elaborating on the episode's central idea. Some episodes it's a scientific theory, and others it's some sort of philosophical idea. As he explains Schrodinger's cat experiment (where a cat is stuck in box with poison and is technically both alive and dead until someone confirms otherwise), subtly all but goes out the window as a loose phantom turns everyone in the school into cats. Well, anime cats (so just cat ears and tails) anyway. As the series amplifies its cute premises and character designs, the stakes aren't as huge. And while this was a negative at first, it ends up being a comfortable groove for the series to settle into. All these cat ears also tie into the mission of the week, finding a little girl's lost cat. The Phantom Hunting club then heads into an abandoned school building where cats used to hang out in search of the Phantom and then Kyoto's affinity for crazy visuals kicks in. Crazy hallucinations, the myriad of colors the title's been promising since inception, and an awesome Phantom design (leading to a literal interpretation of "house cat"). Then the episode ends with none of the characters growing or learning anything. But that's okay for now.  Episode 8 When a hot spring suddenly appears in the middle of the school, we get a continuation of the fun from last episode. Instead of weighing itself down with things like story or character development, Phantom World decides to amp up everything that's actually working. Unfortunately that comes with a bit more perverse jokes (and finally dipping into the harem trappings), but to balance it out we finally get a look at something I've wanted from the beginning. When the show started, it said the new generation of kids got powers through mutation and I've wanted to see more of those powers since then. As student after student fights the phantom-of-the-week (a gang of perverted monkeys), it's both visually interesting and humorous. Some of the jokes were clumsy, but I laughed quite a bit. It's a shame that it took eight episodes for me Phantom World to finally feel like a complete show.  Gags were influenced by character quirks, and I finally got a good grasp of who each of these characters were. It's not a lot, to be honest, but I'm happy to even have something here. With all of that, however, Mai is developing feelings for Haruhiko and that's what I didn't want. The show's been avoiding this stuff entire series and has been great for it, so don't drop it on us now.  Episode 9 Continuing the trend of using the monster-of-the-week formula to its fullest and just having fun with it, a girl we've never seen before says she needs the Phantom Hunting Club's help with the drama club's latest play (a samurai tale). As they practice, they realize that a phantom's been lurking by. On the day of their performance, the new girl suddenly reveals she's a phantom and transforms the stage into the actual Edo era. The gang figures out they have to successfully finish the play in order to satisfy the Phantom completely. The gang finishes the play, and everything kind of goes back to normal. No big developments here like in the last few episodes, but it's still and entertaining enough story. It's just not as gripping as the past two episodes. That's alright, but we can't really afford to waste time anymore. If KyoAni wants to swing for the fence, they've got to land it. We've gotten some good examples of a lighthearted, fun romp so I definitely want more of it. Either way, it's been okay so far. 
Annotated Phantom World photo
Myriad of actually interesting stuff
I've been hard on Myriad Colors Phantom World since its inception because I went in expecting more from Kyoto Animation's effort. Their past shows have been great when they work, so I was hoping this too would be one of the b...

Annotated Anime: Oshiete! Galko-chan episode 10

Mar 13 // Anthony Redgrave
With the show starting to head towards the final stretch of its 12 episode season, we're starting to learn a bit more about the rest of the cast that Galko interacts with. In this case, it's those three boys that just can't get enough of the blonde protagonist. This episode's lead is Charao, the blonde dude with the earrings. He's not the nerdy one or the tall silent boy, he's the guy that sometimes talks to Galko and, like his entourage, isn't a stranger of imagining Galko is different situations that are far from the truth. Case in point where he notices that Galko is wearing a male shirt causing him to assume Galko is seeing someone. Like the last episode, there isn't a lot of learning to be done here. One question is whether baldness is caused by a high sex drive. Enter Otako to mention something to do with the levels of hormones and family genetics. Not an in-depth answer but enough to subside the question and to bring up the fact that Galko is a nosey person. She can't stop mothering the whole class thus joining in with every conversation including male-centric ones about bikini models.  Even though this episode features the least screen time for Galko, she is still the topic of most discussions. It would've been interesting to see the male version of Galko with the guys asking male mysteries such as: do males sit down to pee or do they prefer to wear boxers or briefs? The episode was decent overall as it was surprising how much I enjoyed following the male members of the cast. The finale with Charao and his Kouhei is sweet and I would like to see more of them in the future.  Things I learnt from watching Galko-chan Ojou VA does the narration, and it's adorable The faceless narrator has an adorable voice Ojou has her own sound effect Otao represents 90% of the viewer base for Galko-chan Nikuko has the god-like breast control whilst running [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll] Things I learnt from watching Galko-chan Ojou's smug look is amazing We cannot trust everything Otako says is true It could be possible that when losing weight your boobs go first because it's made of different fat.... possibly. They never really clarify it. [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll]
Oshiete! Galko-chan photo
What do the boys think?
When I first started watching Oshiete! Galko-chan it wasn't for the visuals or the premise, it was because it was kinda interesting to see the show answer these quite weird questions. Questions and queries that made you go 'h...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 732

Mar 07 // Anthony Redgrave
Not a lot can be done in one minute and therefore not a lot is done in this episode. Rebecca is still slowly advancing on Viola under the control of Doflamingo, Luffy is still waiting for his Haki to recharge like a battery, and the rest of the Straw Hats are desperately trying to stop the impending Bird Cage from destroying all of Dressrosa, or what's left of it.  In a twist of fate, it is Gatz that proves to the hero of the episode. Just as Mansherry's healing power starts to wear away, Gatz is able to rally the people of Dressrosa to their aid. He acts like Luffy's hype man, revealing Lucy's identity to the rest of the population that still don't know and gets the crowd pumped for his return. It's actually quite effective and entertaining despite it being stuff we have already heard before. Luffy has been out of action for a few episodes, so we as an audience are very excited to see him return to action. The countdown is cut short as Doflamingo attacks Gatz bringing the mood to a low. The cheering stops, Rebecca is launched into a final attack against Viola, and Luffy is nowhere to be seen as the clock runs passed a minute. It's a short beat of lowered mood before we see the hero return and save the damsels in distress. We all know Luffy will return so it was how he made his appearance and when which makes this beat so effective. Bringing the mood down and all that built up momentum to a standstill was the contrast that made Luffy's reappearance hit harder than if he were to appear immediately after the countdown.  The grounds are set for Luffy to end this arc finally. I'm guessing Luffy's final attack will take approximately five episodes to actually execute and bring down Doflamingo. Alternatively, the Bird Cage is brought down or stopped so Doflamingo and Luffy can prolong their fight without the constant worry of the Bird Cage completely obliterating Dressrosa before the fight is over.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
A hero's come back
I know anime takes a lot of liberties with real world scientific laws. Pretty much everything we know about modern science can be skewed in anime and then thinly explained before becoming the norm in that series. Time isn't o...

Annotated Anime: Oshiete! Galko-chan episode 9

Mar 05 // Anthony Redgrave
This week's Galko-chan is lite on learning. The show kicks off with Galko refusing to open her mouth for reasons that are explored throughout the episode but boil down to; she still has a mindset of a child. Otako is able to weasel this out of her eventually leading to the next segment about Ojou. Ojou is a character that is largely left to the background, faithfully playing second fiddle to Otako's schemes. I really like her character design and her supporting role is fantastic when we see her doing bizarre things in the background. However, I feel that we never get enough out of her every episode leaving her whole persona something to be desired.  Fortunately, she takes a larger role in this episode as wanting to be more like Otako. Her big moment comes as she explains to the girls why the inside of a Vagina is always pink regardless of skin colour or race. I'm not sure why she went straight to the genital area when the same is true for the entire digestive system from the mouth to the anus but I think it's because Otako dives for the explicit topics.  The final part of this episode is another Galko being childish bit. She gets scared because Otako says something mildly disturbing and Otako has to put things right before the episode is over. Rinse and repeat. Overall this episode is one of the weaker ones in the series. It didn't provide a lot of information and it mainly focussed on Galko being immature despite her mature appearance and sometimes mature personality. We did get some good visuals including Galko's sister as a high schooler, Galko as a Middle Schooler, and Ojou having more screen time.  Things I learnt from watching Galko-chan Ojou's smug look is amazing We cannot trust everything Otako says is true It could be possible that when losing weight your boobs go first because it's made of different fat.... possibly. They never really clarify it. [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll] [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll]
Oshiete! Galko-chan photo
Ojou wants to join in
I wonder what we will learn today.

Annotated Anime: Myriad Colors Phantom World episodes 4-6

Mar 01 // Nick Valdez
Episode 4 So after some complaining over how light on story the first three episodes were, the fourth finally has some character development. Unfortunately for us, it's not very compelling. In this episode we learn that Reina's parents don't really approve of her fighting phantoms in her down time (although it doesn't make sense since we were first introduced to the character in the middle of a phantom fight), and that's caused her to act a bit weird. Thus leading to the phantom of the week, a ghost bus that takes Reina to a house with bunny parents. After some shenanigans, it turns out Reina genuinely connected with these faux parents and has a tearful goodbye. Then, all of a sudden, everything's resolved by episode end as Reina says her parents are okay with everything after all. It's sloppy and lazily handled. For one, we never actually meet her parents (which is probably a good thing since the show can't even handle getting its core characters right) and it's not really developed. This plot doesn't have any threads moving forward into future episodes, and I still don't feel like we know Reina all that well. But I guess if you wanted to see her in bunny ears, you've got your wish. It just left a bad taste in my mouth overall.  Episode 5 To follow the pattern from the last episode, the fifth episode is trying to do some character work with the fourth member of the phantom hunting club, Koito. She's a derivative character you've seen many times in the past: a stoic loner who's power isolates her. But Phantom World refuses to be dark enough to make this whole plot work. You see, the reason she's been so alone and weird to everyone else is because she once fought a phantom as a kid and caused a bunch of damage. Rather than make the stakes highly emotional, or at the very least heavier (i.e. her fight causing injury or worse), nothing really has any narrative worth. Just like the previous episode, everything feels resolved too easily. And while the show's been doing its best to avoid typical harem traps (which is why I was drawn to the series initially), it plants the seeds of one here. As Haruhiko refuses to leave Koito alone (which a typical anime protagonist is want to do), he somehow makes some kind of impact on her. You can't really tell given the episode has very little development on this end, but apparently he's done something other than cause her harm. Seriously, the two times he jumps in to help only makes it worse for her. By the end of the episode, Koito joins the group full on but she really shouldn't have. There's no evidence supporting that she'd do better with a group than without at this point.  Episode 6 During the events of the previous episode, the fifth member of the phantom hunting club revealed herself. The fourth grader, Kurumi Kumamakura, with the ridiculous name and the ability to turn her teddy bear, Albrecht, into a giant monster fighter. This episode chooses to develop her as Haruhiko and Kurumi end up stumbling into Kurumi's fantasy world of talking bears and war. Since Kurumi has been anxious about fighting the phantoms (y'know, since she's a child), she retreats to this fantasy world where her bear can talk. It's not a particularly engaging character story here either, but the episode is saved by its stylistic choices. By just being generally weird and different than the rest of the series, this is definitely a stand out episode. Mixing in this series' love of colors with Kyoto Animation's love of fluid movement and weird character design, it all came together into a pleasant package. It's hard not to love how cute all of this is, and I appreciate that Kurumi doesn't get involved with the Phantom club at the end because of a crush on Haruhiko or something.  Once again Haruhiko finds himself inexplicably involved with a character's story, but doesn't really add much of value. I have loved how the female characters are much more valuable to the series overall, and none of them seem to be pulling along because of the male protagonist. In fact, he's basically a harem protagonist without all of the skeeviness that comes along with it. So he's pretty dopey and useless, but not really perverted or even attracted to any of these girls around him or vice versa.  I may have been hard on how light on content the series is, but if this trend continues and all these characters just go on a monster hunt week after week then I'll be fine with it. The only problem is its time frame. It's not like this show is scheduled to go on forever. And with an end imminent, Myriad Colors Phantom World needs to find a reason to exist quickly.  Also, Kyoto Animation needs to work on some kind of magical girl series. Could you imagine how good that'd look?  [You can stream the myriad of colors of Crunchyroll and Hulu]
Annotated Phantom World photo
Myriad of problems
To tell you all the truth, I've been drafting and deleting this article for awhile now. The more I write recaps, and the more I start watching anime (I just finished Netflix's Seven Deadly Sins a bit ago, too), the more I sta...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 731

Mar 01 // Anthony Redgrave
Throughout Dressrosa, there is a massive rally for people to start pushing against the descending bird cage. Dressrosa civilians, gladiators, and even the monarchy are joining up with Zoro, Franky, or Robin to push against the Bird Cage. Even the Marines join the cause with Fujitora turning a literal blind eye towards the pirates to help push by imbuing his blade with Haki. I thought it was really cool seeing Zoro do this for the first time against Pica, but with the arrival of generic Marine than can imbue their weapons with Haki, it's just another super power that's tossed around. Those Marines aren't even officer class! They're just Marine grunts that get tossed around by any main or slightly interesting tertiary character. Rebecca gets assigned to crowd control duties by her dad and grows tired of not being part of the action. And like a child going through their troublesome teens, she picks up a blade and has the urge to murder. Fortunately, her target is Doflamingo who has already extinguished the last of Luffy's protection. Violet, having the same idea as Rebecca, engages Doflamingo in mortal combat instead. It's sad to say that this is extremely stupid because both these girls are leagues below Doflamingo. Like stupidly so. A pointless sacrifice that gets Violet beaten down hard. At least, there are some cool martial arts moves animated in this fight.  As the episode winds down, the Bird Cage Brigade are able to stop the stringed menace for a few seconds giving evidence for a possible solution or delayed death. The same is sadly not true for Violet as she is caught up in Doflamingo's strings with a manipulated Rebecca heading towards her with her blade raised. It's a twisted death at the hands of her niece being controlled by Doflamingo except the ex-warlord has forgotten one thing. Rebecca always fights with a blunt blade due to being completely against attacking other contestants. I have no idea why she would bring a blunt blade when going to assassinate Doflamingo apart from that is what she is most comfortable using.  The clock ticks down like a doomsday clock or when Noah was about to descend on Fishman Island. The clock strikes one minute to midnight and it will take exactly one minute before Luffy can recover. This could be the longest 60 seconds in anime history if the next episode doesn't run the time limit.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
One Piece photo
Rebecca does something stupid
There is so much in anime that happens in between minutes of time that if I was able to that much done in the span of a few short minutes, you would see a lot more Annotated Anime articles on Japanator each week. One Piece's  time manipulation is kicked into high gear this week as the 10-minutes takes more than 20 minutes real-world time to tick down. 

Annotated Anime: Oshiete! Galko-chan episode 8

Feb 27 // Anthony Redgrave
The episode opens with the boys ranking the breast sizes of the female members of the class. Of course, Galko is on the list but newcomers Nikuko a foodie futsal player and the Occult Japnese goth chick Okako also make the list. I imagine Nikuko is a play on words as Niku is a Japanese derivative for meat. To complete the logic circle, I only know this information because of a character in Haganai been given the nickname Niku due to her breast size. Anime's hidden agenda is to passively teach you Japanese. I've talked previously about how this title is an insight into the female conversation and said it it's interesting if it were true. On the flip side, I cannot say that I've had the same debate over the female student body bust ranking during my time in education. According to Galko-chan, the male student body cannot get over the intrigued and fascination over Galko's actions or changes in appearance. There is some truth behind this as any male going through puberty would have a hard time not finding something interesting about Galko.  The second story focusses on nails and manicures. Class Prez breaks a nail and Galko goes about fixing it much to Class Prez's chagrin. The gang discusses Galko's nails and how she's able to cook with them, to which the reply is with disposable rubber gloves. Galko's sister, always quick to come up with an alternative option causing Galko to be embarrassed. The great thing about this anime is that the sexual joke isn't lost nor is it explicitly said. You still get the punch line of Galko cutting off her sister and the definitive sexual answer without beating around the bush or leaving it entirely to the imagination. Galko's motherly actions and innocent facade will put her high on the waifu list this year.  Lastly, we expand the classroom cast to include the emo boy in the corner. Constantly annoyed by the outlandish behaviour of Galko, he is saved by her after coming into school with a terrible case of bed head (don't worry we feel your pain brother). Expert stylist Galko is able to change the sullen looking boy into a more fashionable sullen looking boy garnering the attention of Ojou and Otako. Another example of why Galko is pretty much the best person ever.  Things I learnt from watching Galko-chan How cup sizes of Bras work How to accurately determine where someone's nipples are accurately according to their ears. I don't think they work on fakies The importance of fixing broken nails The process of a manicure That emo boy possibly lives with a mom that is mute and a troll. [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll] [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll]
Oshiete! Galko-chan photo
Anime teaches you the best things
I'm not adverse to learning new things but the stuff that really stick are told through anime. Detective Conan/ Case Closed  has taught me the signs of cyanide poisoning, Lucky Star the benefits of leaving curry out...

Annotated Anime: Haruchika: Haruta & Chika episodes 5-7

Feb 22 // Soul Tsukino
Episode Five This episode gets it's comedic bits out of the way right off the bat as we see a smaller girl in a different uniform from the school being chased around the hallway before meeting Haruta, Chika, and Miyo. Haruta, ever attentive, figures out the girl is from the local junior high and figures out what instrument she plays. It seems Haruta's adventures of solving mysteries for people has got around and the girl, named Akari needs his help.  The mystery here is an interesting one. Akari had been told that her grandfather was dead, but she recently been told that he is alive. A long time ago he had promised to get married to her grandmother but was going to study art in America for a year. She found out she was pregnant and didn't tell him so not to worry him, but after the year was up he never came back. He had been found in Japan recently, but seems to have very vague memories of what happened to him during that time, only speaking of seeing "The Elephant's Breath". Akari wants to find out what he had been doing so she could scold him for abandoning her grandmother. As you can imagine, this mystery is more abstract than a Rubix cube or a strange house. The grandfather isn't about to give up any information, and you can sense he is of sound mind and doing that on purpose. They sneak in some humor of having the old man make lecherous comments about Chika's long legs, but the further you go on in this, I just got this horrible feeling this isn't going to be a happy ending.  The way the story unfolds is wrapped around this story that is told about an Elephant and how it was being held by people but escaped. Once free it finds a young elephant that got separated from its pride and raises it until it grows up. The younger elephant asks why its father has chains around his leg and the older Elephant says that those are its troubles and sadness. The younger elephant than breaks it's chains and free him from his long torment. This starts becoming more and more accurate to the theme as the episode goes on. The ending, as you can guess, is not the happy "wrap everything up" ending that has been in a few of the previous episodes. Akari, as well as the viewers, find out what really happened to him. As you can guess there is no waving of a magic wand that makes everything better, but you till get resolution. This episode is sad, no doubt about it. Sure it has little bits of comedy to lighten the mood just a bit but still doesn't mask the solemn tone this mystery takes. However it does not mean it's a strike against this episode, the exact opposite really. This is a very well told story and the ending may very well surprise you with its answers. Even if it seems like this episode doesn't have much impact on the rest of the series, it's still a great part of the series and I'm glad it is in there.   Episode Six We are back to business in this episode  where right off the bat we hear the story of a young girl who walks the line of music to set herself apart from her family. Since a young age she doesn't want to be like her father and grandfather  who are over confident in their jobs, nor does she want to be like her mother. Heck of a way to start of this episode. We start off during spring break (not American spring break. No beaches and cheap alcohol here) as Chika is trying desperately to recruit more members to the Brass Band club. Of course, her recruiting is a dismal failure. She meets up with Haruta up on the roof as he is practicing. They have a real funny back and forth about the type of people they are attracted too before we find out that some of the other brass members are scattered around the roof of the building...and one other it seems. A mysterious person is playing the clarinet from one of the classrooms before she is stopped and the window is closed. Soon enough the mystery is afoot as we find out that a girl named Naoko Serizawa. She has been snooping around the band room before school every day for some reason. She is described as being brilliant with aspirations to go pro. When Chika suggests that she join the club, a metaphor of D&D characters is used with a hilarious little animation that details what they are explaining. Out of the mold of the show's past episodes, the mystery behind Naoko doesn't last very long and not only is Chika the one to figure it out (on her own, mind you) but she has a clever solution to help Naoko during the rest of the episode. I am not sure if it was the show creator's intent, but this scene, as innocent as it seems, finally shows Chika is not stupid. She doesn't get a lot of the references that the other characters may make, but she's not an idiot either and this episode shows that better than any other episode has so far. Another interesting part of this episode is Naoko makes an illusion to her friend as for why she was snooping in the band room. They even show us his face. Considering both characters appear in the opening credits this will come back in a future episode. Between that and the conversation she has with some of the band members about their future goals, there is a lot of foreshadowing going on here. Considering this is the halfway point, maybe things are going to get more interesting at this point in the show. This episode also plays good contrast to the last one. Whereas the last episode was very sad and solemn, this one is more positive. There is more humor in this episode and even a few "anime" moments sprinkled in the mix. A good pick-me- up from the last outing.   Episode Seven This episode gets off on the best of beginnings as a girl sits in the dark and ends up calling a radio show that is about helping lost souls. The girl talks about wanting to die and they make jokes. Yeah, That's not how your supposed to do that. Anyway, this episode starts the new school term. The band club ended up getting a bunch of new members, including Akari from episode five. So now they have more members (though we don't meet any of them) and Akari is now a regular character on the show. This episode had an unusual approach as it seemed like you had two different plotlines going, the one that is alluded to in the opening with this counseling radio station that is visited in the opening and again in a hilarious scene when it turns out Haruta is one of the callers and Chika finds out, and the other being the mysterious geological club, entirely made up of shut in students who didn't like going to school at all. This episode impressed me with not only the way it brought together these two plotlines of the mysterious radio station and the hunt for the geological club to get more funds to the Brass Band club, but it also made references back to the last episode as well. The show was giving us clues to a mystery it hadn't even revealed yet. And the best part is that they don't seem to be finished yet. You don't get much resolution in this episode though, but it also seems like it's leading into the next episode more than standing on its own. Like the 6th Harry Potter book. It's not the greatest episode on its own, but it leads to bigger things. For what it is, it is a pleasant, very funny at times, and even touching episode of the series that also makes me want to see where this is going and what else may pop up. These three episodes bring emotional to the table, somewhat like The Miyo episode, but in a different way. When you find out the real story of Akari's grandfather, it is a tug at your heart. And as someone who has had those feelings before, you crack a smile in seeing what happened to that lonely girl who wanted to die, even if the way it happened is not something recommended as a response to ANYONE feeling that way. Now that we are narrowing in on the end of the series things are pulling together a little more and we still have plenty to watch in the future. Love this series. This episode gets it's comedic bits out of the way right off the bat as we see a smaller girl in a different uniform from the school being chased around the hallway before meeting Haruta, Chika.   Haruta, ever inattentive, figures out the girl is from the local Junior high and figures out what instrument she plays. It seems Haruta's adventures of solving mysteries for people has got around and the girl, named Akari needs his help.   The Mystery here is an interesting one. Akari had been told that her grandfather was dead, but she recently been told that he is alive. A long time ago he had promised to get married to her grandmother, but was going to study art in America for a year. She found out she was pregnant and didn't tell him so not to worry him, but after the year was up he never came back. He had been found in Japan recently, but seems to have very vague memories of what happened to him during that time, only speaking of seeing "The Elephant's Breath". Akari wants to find out what he had been doing so she could scold him for abandoning her grandmother.   As you can imagine, this mystery is more abstract than a rubix cube or a strange house. The grandfather isn't about to give up any information, and you can sense he is of sound mind and doing that on purpose. They sneak in some humor of having the old man make lecherous comments about Chika's long legs, but the further you go on in this, I just got this horrible feeling this isn't going to be a happy ending.   The way the story unfolds is wrapped around this story that is told about an Elephant and how it was being held by people, but escaped. Once free it finds a young elephant that got separated from its pride and raises it until it grows up. The younger elephants asks why it's father has chains around his leg and the older Elephant says that those are it's troubles and sadness. The younger elephant than breaks it's chains and free him from his long torment. This starts becoming more and more accurate to the theme as the episode goes on.   The ending, as you can guess, is not the happy "wrap everything up" ending that has been in a few of the previous episodes. Akari, as well as the viewers, find out what really happened to him. As you can guess there is no waving of a magic wand that makes everything better, but you till get resolution.   This episode is sad, no doubt about it. Sure it has little bits of comedy to lighten the mood just a bit, but still doesn't mask the solemn tone this mystery takes. However it does not mean it's a strike against this episode, the exact opposite really. This is a very well told story and the ending may very well surprise you in its answers. Even if it seems like this episode doesn't have much impact in the rest of the series, its still a great part of the series and I'm glad it is in there.
Haruchika photo
Uplifts, bummers, and everything else!
We are checking in with our favorite high school friends of the Japanese TV season again as we look at the next three episodes of Haruchika: Haruta and Chika. The gang is finishing up the school term and new faces arrive to make their lives more interesting. Let's take a look.

First Impressions: Oshiete! Galko-chan

Feb 20 // Anthony Redgrave
Sarcasm aside, I'm actually really impressed with this anime from what I have watched. In the starring role as is the titular Galko, a buxom blonde student that looks like she should be texting her bae in the side seat of a Mustang with the other Californian raisins. She's actually modelled after the Japanese fashion gyaru and while her outward appearance matches the American stereotype, her personality is more traditional. This is supposedly the source of the comedy with a physically opposite character Otako looking like Miyamoto's sister from another mister provides all the jabs and insinuations of racy behaviour. Rounding out the main cast is Ojou, the rich girl used to provide contrast and commentary on the excessively rich in Japan. So the characters aren't the most original. They've been put together many times before. It's almost the Lucky Star crew minus the game spewing Konata and drawn differently so they can make different jokes. It wouldn't be a great anime to talk about if it wasn't for the content of their conversations which gives each episode the plot. It's been a while since I've seen a slice of life not talk about school work, golden week, or base jokes on pop culture. Instead Oshiete! Galko-chan goes for the more "realistic" conversation topics of a mid-twenties group of women. Whenever you hear girls say they share everything with their girlfriends and you begin to question what they mean everything, this anime will be your keyhole into the female dialogue. Topics on female hygiene products, panties for when you're on a period, tanned nipples at the salon, and whether your eyebrows match the pubic hair (also known as the carpet and drapes discussion) are all fair game in this anime. It's enough to make this title feel fresh as not only do they openly discuss these surprisingly mature topics for a high school anime, they don't fanny around with the answers either. Even after the initial blush expression, the topic continues to the end not going for the tease of character reveals. The show even provides some snippets of education including the anatomical reason why females require the restroom more than males to the weight of E cup breasts. I never found myself guffawing with laughter as the jokes still stem from the ecchi brand of embarrassing situations, but the psychological test episode was pretty funny.  The anime just like it's main lead is a stunner to look at. Even if you're put off by the unsavoury discussions, the optic pleasures should be enough to make it through the 7 and a half-minute episode. Oshiete! Galko-chan uses bright colours to make the picture really pop as seen by the pop art style backgrounds when focussing on a character. The character design is also a refreshing change from the large-eyed moe fests that is common in 'slice of life' in favour of a simple cartoony style. Overall it gives off a wonderful childish colourful style that is hard to dislike. The show's a fan service anime all the way using saucy topics of discussion as fire to fuel the visuals. It's a hook that works as each topic has me engaged more so than the framed visual stimulants. I'd be inclined to use the word mature to describe the various conversations but that's only applicable to the topic and not how it proceeds. The short episodes mean that they don't linger on the same topic for too long allowing the episode to move a brisk pace. It's not for everyone as the tried and true school girl formula is still in effect making the whole premise a walk through deja vu. Give it a try if you really want to know burning questions like: Is it true that virgins use pads and non-virgins use tampons? [Watch Oshiete! Galko-chan on Crunchy Roll] Oshiete! Galko-chan
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Questions you never wanted answered
It's another anime that I joined a little behind the viewing schedule and now it's halfway through the season. This time, it's an anime about high school girls discussing their daily life in a high school peppered with jokes, nice visuals, and plenty of fan service. A totally original concept!

Annotated Anime: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu episodes 4-6

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

Impressions: Dimension W episodes 1-6

Feb 16 // Nick Valdez
Dimension W takes place 20 years in a future where mankind has discovered a fourth dimension, the titular "Dimension W" (as it lies across from the X,Y, and Z axis), that's full of usable energy. Harnessing that power through little devices called "coils," society eventually became consumed by their use until 2070-something and the New Tesla Energy conglomerate eventually monopolizes the devices. In response people have started making their own bootleg versions, and that led to the rise of "Collectors," people who shut down the use of illegal coils. The story follows one collector in particular, Kyoma, who hates the coils and refuses to use any of their technology as he stumbles one a young robot girl Mira whose father was some former big wig at New Tesla who commits suicide to avoid capture. Now that they're both at a loss, Mira joins Kyoma in his hunt for illegal coils.  Now there's quite a bit of jargon in that synopsis, and unfortunately that's one of the key issues early on. There's so much world building shoved into the first couple of episodes, and at such a rate, that it's kind of difficult to digest everything. That's also why W does that classic anime thing where it has a brief summary of its premise before its opening credits those first three episodes. It seems tedious at first, but by the third episode (with two weeks or so inbetween) I definitely needed a refresher on some of the world's key elements since they were kind of blazed through before. I'm also sure W has another season planned since there are plenty of loose threads that won't get satisfying resolutions within its slotted 12-13 episode run. For example, there's still the weird magical thief Loser, Kyoma's past as a super soldier, why Mira is as advanced a machine as she is, and what a certain group of powerful coils (known as the "Numbers") have to do with anything. Regardless of its early pace issues, Dimension W eventually settles into a groove. It eventually uses its science fiction premise to evoke a pretty unique style. All of the pieces form a nice package, too. The art style is slick and has a nice fluidity while character designs range anywhere from strong to middling. Kyoma's is particularly notable since he reminds of Samurai Champloo's Mugen and even moves in the same fashion. Mira's yet another robot girl, but her schtick is her cat like tail and ears. The opening and closing themes are fine, if inconsequential rock music. But all of that converges into W's intriguing world. There's a two part episode early on about some kind of ghost mystery, and for a few minutes the show becomes this odd, supernatural body horror anime complete with a nearly naked Mira hanger from the rafters by chains while a bunch of ghost monsters growl beneath her (and of course, this is also an episode where a collector who uses robotic bats and wears a gothic lolita outfit is introduced). It's a weird tone but it's a nice technological spin on stuff we've seen before. The plot itself made no sense, however.  Unfortunately, that's the issue overall. Even after watching six episodes, I really have no idea where Dimension W is going. Unpredictability is great for a series, but there has to be a rooted idea to keep folks coming back. With as stylistically weird W is, it feels like it's all over the place. You know how I mentioned it became a supernatural horror earlier? Yeah, the tone shifts like that from episode to episode. In particular, this show is one of those "gut punch" shows where every episode most likely hides some kind of darkness halfway through without really building up to it. Episode five in particular has an unusual amount of murder, sexual violence, and just all around depression atmosphere. It's all too sudden to be either enjoyable or comfortable. It's just "Oh, that guy definitely killed that guy" and we move on. It's not like the show pretended to be something other than serious, it's just a little off putting when it's so sudden.  Regardless, I'll be keeping an eye on Dimension W. I'm already halfway through the season and felt strong enough about it to write on it here, so what's the harm it watching it through the end? This definitely feels like Dimension W was trying to find its footing, and whatever its setting up next might be fun to watch.  Now that it's got all of its world building out of the way and it's found a tone to work with, it'll hopefully be less confusing going forward. If you've followed along well enough, tell me about it. Maybe there's something I missed in all the madness. 
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Dimension what?
Anime with a futuristic, science fiction setting are always a toss up. For example, another science fiction series this season, Luck & Logic, ended up being awful halfway through its second episode. So I was really nervou...

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 729

Feb 15 // Anthony Redgrave
The episode kicks off where the last one ended, Luffy powers down to his normal form and is picked up by one of the most irrelevant characters in the arc, Gatz. If you don't remember him, he is the commentator of the gladiatorial matches. Turns out that Law's prediction of Luffy running out of Haki is true and it takes exactly 10 mins for it to recharge. 10 minutes may be a short time for us mere mortals but when you have a crazy puppet controlling psychopath on your ass studios can stretch it out to 10 episodes. There is a silver lining as Luffy states that when he has recovered he will finish off Doflamingo. I'll be personally holding you to that Luffy! So begins the great chase with Gatz carrying Luffy and the minor gladiators providing protection and support. I liked how there was a brief beat where all the gladiators reconciled their differences with Luffy and vowed to protect him. It's a small plot point that is seen in other One Piece arcs where the denizens begin to count on the Staw Hat's support against the central antagonist. This familiar plot structure feels like progression is happening in this two-year-old arc. Although we can expect all the crudely drawn Gladiators to die and the more defined gladiators to have a more sophisticated death.  As foreshadowed last episode, Jesus Burgess bursts through taking advantage of Luffy's condition. Fortune favours the pirates as Sabo comes to Luffy's aid and intercepts the attack. This episode highlights the either sheer stupidity of the entire cast of One Piece or their lack of perception as it comes to a shock for all involved that Sabo was the one that ate the Flare Flare fruit in the arena and had replaced Luffy as Lucy in the last fight. Even if I missed a few episodes showing that Sabo had taken Luffy's place I would've recognised that it was Sabo underneath the fake beard and sunglasses! Actually judging from Jesus's first attack on Sabo completely missing due to not imbuing it with Haki and going straight through the Logia user supports my claim that pirates are stupid. He clearly knows that Sabo ate a Logia fruit so why doesn't he attack with Haki exclusively!? All other attacks are completely useless unless you too are a Logia user! The conclusive scene of the episode is something out of nightmares as Doflamingo literally slaughters the gladiators trying to buy time for Luffy. It's a subtle edit but if you imagine the string tentacles with red instead of dark purple it paints a much more gruesome picture.  [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation] [One Piece streams weekly on FUNimation]
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Let the streets run red
From browsing Reddit, I stumbled upon an excellent Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike match between Dudley and Ryu where they go back and forth, back and forth. And it's how I feel about the final match between Luffy and Doflamingo. A hopefully ending soon match of Pong. 

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]
One Piece photo
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.
Showa Rakugo photo
Stand up for some sit-down
If you've ever held the opinion that the medium of Japanese anime could stand to see more mature stories for adults, you absolutely owe it to yourself to at least try watching Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu.  I'm not...

First Impressions: ERASED

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

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, [email protected] 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...


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