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First Impressions

JapanaFive: The best moments from AJIN's first season

Sep 14 // Karishma Roy
The Showdown between Izumi’ and Tanaka’s Black Ghost (IBM) Okay, my eyes were just as wide as Izumi’s when she gets impaled by these massive black claws. I screamed along with Erito because I thought she was a goner. But, DUN DUN DUN, she is an Ajin as well. Our cute, seemingly timid and often blushing Izumi goes all fierce revealing her very own Black Ghost Kuro-Chan #GirlPower. The fight was kickass and we learn that a black ghost can destroy another by delivering a deadly blow to the head. Was Tanaka covering his eyes because it helped him concentrate better when controlling his IBM? Not sure. I was worried for Erito 'cause I was sure Satou would've killed her but I'm glad she's sticking around.  This Torture Scene I put my Oreos aside and tried not to be sick as I watched this. Kei was brutally tortured as part of the experimental process on Ajins. Clinical equipment including a frickin' drill and a surgical saw was used as a machine measured his brain activity in reaction to the excruciating pain being inflicted upon him. Clearly these surgeons need ethics 101: don't cut off someone's arm for no legit reason. The xenophobic nature within this society is obvious in the face of fear driven atrocities such as this. Kei’s muffled screams made me wish I had my own black ghost and could barge in there and save him. Despite everything, he decided not to kill the surgeons because he was afraid to lose his friendship with Kaito. That moved my heart. Bring me more Kaito and Kei please! Do you guys think these experiments have valid reasoning? Who are the real monsters in this situation: humans or Ajins? Satou's rescue mission Satou is a misanthropic badass. His one man show where he destroys all the armed security guards in the lab to save Kei is so much fun to watch. The dude cuts off his own arm and shoots himself before the tranquilising darts take effect. Killing people is a game to him and he is winning. It was interesting to note that memories can be exchanged between IBM's during Kei and Satou’s showdown on the rooftop. The performance that Satou gave in front of the media following this was remarkable – he can cry on cue! Plus it was an incredibly smart move to announce a protest against the Government so publicly to gather more Ajins in the country. Love him or hate him, you got to be impressed with him. Team Satou demolishing Grant Pharmaceuticals This was the most EPIC scene in the whole of season 1. I laughed when I noticed the name “Clean Fox Company”. You are indeed as cunning as a fox, hat man. Satou arranges an explosion in a nearby skyscraper so it falls on the pharmaceutical building and crushes it. His manic laughs as he rode the falling building gave me chills. And it was kind of cool how he loses his hat when going down, but then a drone delivers another one to him as soon as he is ready to move. Kei watches this whole incident on TV while enjoying a chocolate- chip cookie. Remind me, who is meant to be the hero again? Props to the humans for deploying some smart tactics but despite their numbers and combat experience were defeated by the evil genius. Kei and Kou's escape Firstly, a huge shoutout to the Obasan that protected Kei in the village and was ace at pretending to be a hostage. Most old ladies would've had a heart attack. Heck, I would've peed myself! I was surprised that Kei went through the trouble of saving Kou but it makes sense for two people to take on Satou. Or perhaps Kei was just in the mood for a benevolent act. There was yet another cool action scene between IBM’s. Kuro- Chan has got some mad skills to defeat four of Kei’s IBM’s. Is she just incredibly strong or are Kei’s black ghosts weak since he produces so many? The end of this struggle was almost romantic. Sunset painted the sky with brilliant hues of orange and red as both boys tied each other together to avoid separation before jumping off a cliff into the deep waters *Cue "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion* Although that means drowning time and over before washing up somewhere.  I've got more to say about Ajin's second season coming up, but it's safe to say: Do not judge this anime by your first look at it. Yes, the CGI did initially hurt my eyes as well but the show is thrilling, fast-paced, and before too long, you're too invested in the plot to even notice it.
Ajin photo
Let's break down the highlights
Would you want to live forever? Even if it meant that practically the entire human race wanted you imprisoned? I’m talking secret government agencies who want to torture experiment on you, bounty hunters and national pr...

First Impressions: Thunderbolt Fantasy

Aug 18 // Salvador G Rodiles
If there’s one thing that hinted towards a big change in the story, it’s that the Main Character Shang Bu Huan was placed in an unfortunate situation that made him a part of the group that plans to stop the evil sword collector known as Mie Tian Hai from awakening the Tian Xing Jian, a powerful sacred sword, from its seal. The unfortunate thing about this was that Huan was just a swordsman who just wanted to wander, but he was placed in an unfortunate circumstance where he ended up becoming an enemy of Hai’s evil group, the Xuan Gui Zong. Since Urobuchi loves to make his characters suffer, the idea of the hero having to give up on his routine to fulfill a specific task works well in this favor. Hell, this format tends to lead to some interesting development with the main characters than one where the lead wants to do something good from the get-go, as it shows that an unexpected journey could help someone grow. In Thunderbolt Fantasy’s case, Huan's growth will likely be related to how he handles the ordeals when the group is close to Hai's castle. Even though the majority of the show’s story focused on the main cast formulating their party to stop Hai, the mysterious character known as Gui Niao holds the title of being the possible catalyst in changing the way how people view Pili and Urobuchi’s action-packed puppet show. He was the main reason why Huang is part of the campaign to fight the Xuan Gui Zon, and there are a few characters who have problems with the guy. Depending on how the story goes, I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes the spot as the show’s final villain. That, or we might have different factions and Niao will lead one of them. For now, his connection to the story is a factor that could elevate the series to a higher level and the suspicious vibe that he gives off contributes to the program’s entertaining aspects— especially with his persistent tendency to make sure that he has the prerequisites to overcome the trials that lead to Hai’s lair. While we’re on the topic of characters that could change groups at any time, the addition of a demon and a man who calls himself the Screaming Phoenix Killer contributes to the show’s idea of a group that’s united by a common motive. The idea that the party has their own toxic environment to deal with makes one wonder how things will change when the first major arc comes to a close. These aspects continue to push the audience towards being suspicious of Gui Niao; thus leaving people with the joy of trying to figure out where the story could go. For a team that could turn on each other, their teamwork somehow works out well, as a few of the show’s characters can give it their all when another comrade instigates them into doing something dangerously. Overall, this concept is what makes Thunderbolt Fantasy’s cast great since they’re all in it for a specific motive. Depending on how the direction the story will go later, I’m hoping that this aspect continues to be a recurring element since the team made these segments fun to listen to. Speaking of worthwhile things, the puppetry in Thunderbolt Fantasy gives off a breathtaking feeling. The actions scenes feel like an over-the-top Hong Kong film and the special effects (such as the magical flying weapons and powerful shockwaves) make every action scene a marvelous spectacle that never disappoints its audience. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this is that the show’s puppeteers are doing these segments in real time; thus resulting in a puppet show with one hell of a performance. Aside from the puppet’s impressive movements, the cast’s designs feature some highly detailed clothes and weapons. The craftsmanship in each puppet makes each of them look like a wonderful work of art. Not only that, the fact that the show’s staff uses weather and environmental damage is a solid feat, as the shots and lighting bring life to Thunderbolt Fantasy’s man-made sets. All in all, the team’s combined hard work with the puppetry, special effects and environments work hand-in-hand in creating a stage that grabs the audience's attention. Also, the idea that a majority of the show’s characters are left handed is a nice treat for lefties everywhere. As a person who never got to witness that many action puppet shows (such as The Thunderbirds) before, Thunderbolt Fantasy’s story and action left me blown away with the effort that went into the sets and action scenes. The violent puppets segments and Urobuchi’s writing serve as the true strings that’ll expose the nature of this series, which has started to unravel with Screaming Phoenix Killer’s actions and motives. With Hai entering the battlefield, it’ll be neat to see how everyone bypasses this trial. From the looks of it, this might be the opportunity that’ll allow for Huan to prove to everyone that he isn’t lying about his backstory. No matter what direction the series will take, Thunderbolt Fantasy will remain as a title that I never imagined as a medium that I needed in my life. [Get blown away by Thunderbolt Fantasy’s puppet action on Crunchyroll.]
Thunderbolt Fantasy photo
Lefties rule!
Ever since Urobuchi was involved with Kamen Rider Gaim, my desire to see him tackle other types of mediums outside of his usual things went up since it would be great to see how his writing style would cut up those stories. S...

First Impressions: Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School - Despair Arc

Jul 27 // Salvador G Rodiles
With hope and despair being two things that go hand in hand, Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope Peak’s High School – Despair Arc’s first two episodes work well in making the audience feel relieved after witnessing the intense moments that happened earlier in the week. Hell, the whole thing played out like an over-the-top high school comedy series, as the Ultimate Housekeeper Chisa Yukizome goes out of her way to make sure that the main cast of Danganronpa 2 (except Hajime) uses their school time to create great memories. A majority of the great laughs came from the gang’s exaggerated and wacky personalities, a feature that made them very fun to follow during Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. With the animation being completely original, this lead to some a priceless segments throughout the series, such as Gundham the Ultimate Breeder appearing on top of a bunch of ruins while performing an incantation that might summon a powerful demon, or Nekomaru the Ultimate Team Manager’s deadly farts that are on par with One Punch Man’s Saitama’s punch. So far, it lives up to the game's comedic aspects that occur when no one is getting murdered. When you compare the effort put into the show's crazy scenes alongside Danganronpa 3 – Future Arc’s stuff, it’s possible that a majority of the manpower was placed into Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc; however, these differences are likely a matter of the latter starting off as a comedy than budget management, so there’s a chance that the folks at Lerche are making sure that both sagas have their own distinct style. Overall, this move benefits the series since the audience is getting their taste of hope and despair during the same week. Of course, the best moment from this format is going to be when the tones of the show's two arcs decide to trade places. Even though Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc made sure that Yukizome and the Danganronpa 2 gang’s best quirks were at their highest, the show still reminds us of the later events that’ll set the pieces for the first major tragedy to occur. The interesting part about it is getting to learn about Hajime’s predicament that made him decide to be part of the Ultimate Hope project. In Danganronpa 2 and the light novel known as Danganronpa Zero, I felt that the Hope’s Peak High School Board forced Hajime into this project against his own will. The idea that his desire to remain at Hope’s Peak played a role in being part of the experiment adds a new layer to his character. He saw this opportunity as a hope to overcome the despair of not being able to continue his studies as a reserve course student, yet this choice ruined his future (and the world’s state) until he found his new path at the end of Danganronpa 2. Seeing that the original mastermind is definitely plotting her actions from behind the scenes, the subtle elements of this segment act as the main aspect that goes against the show's current positive vibe. While we’re on the topic of things that’ll lead to absolute despair, the fact that Chiaki was an actual person is one of the most surprising things to come out of Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc. This opens up to a lot of questions in regards to the events in the present; however, there’s still a chance that she might not survive, so this possibility could be thrown out the window. I guess the important question is whether or not something happens to her that results in Yukizome's students becoming the original mastermind's loyal followers. Since both Danganronpa 3 Arcs have a few references to each other, Chiaki’s role as the Ultimate Gamer has the potential to lead to some juicy aspects if she’s a Remnant of Despair that’s still out there in the present. Either way, her inclusion in the series was a nice addition to the “Despair Arc’s” humor, as her passion for games brought everyone together in a fun way. However, once we get past the show's silly segments, I'm certain that her role is likely going to have a large impact on the story later on. Despite the original Danganronpa anime failing to do justice to its source material, Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc was able to overcome this burden and show its audience that it has the potential to become a worthy successor to the previous Danganronpa installments. Since the show’s “Future Arc” accomplished this as well, this proves that a studio that threw a foul ball in the past can step up their game when you have people who care about the series managing the project. If the gang can keep up this up this great record, then they’ll make their audience smile with their complete comic book that’ll present the last piece of evidence that's required to bring Danganronpa’s Hope’s Peak High School story to a triumphant close. In other words, the future is going to be a hopeful one after all. [Fall into despair with Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School – Despair Arc at FUNimation.]
Danganronpa 3 photo
This is not going to end well
Sometimes in life, the greatest things are those that occur out of an unexpected turn of events. These opportunities can give many people the chance to do things that they normally couldn’t do. In my case, Spike Chunsof...

Japanator's Summer 2016 Anime Preview Guide!

Jul 04 // Josh Tolentino
[embed]35116:5717:0[/embed] Berserk Studio: Gemba, Millepensee (Teekyuu, Wake Up, Girls!) Broadcast Date:  July 1, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) An easy candidate for the most effin' metal anime of all time, Berserk has been adapted quite often. The new twist for this latest, TV series-sized attempt is that this will be the first time an animated adaptation has gone beyond the "Golden Age" arc. In all honesty, I couldn't tell you what all that actually means, as I've never seen or read Berserk. Does admitting that mean I have to hand in my otaku membership card? That dude sure does have a big sword, though. The series is airing now, and...well, there'll be more to say about it in our impressions.   [embed]35116:5718:0[/embed] Mob Psycho 100 Studio: BONES (My Hero Academia, Bungo Stray Dogs) Broadcast Date: July 12, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) "From the guy that writes One Punch Man" is probably one of the more effective marketing lines you could ask for these days, but in truth, Mob Psycho 100 seems to be a rather different beast than the saga of Saitama. Shigeo Kageyama (nicknamed "Mob" after the Japanese term for movie extras) is a completely unremarkable high school student, bar the fact that he's got prodigious psychic superpowers. Having superpowers can be a real hassle, though, so he keeps his emotions suppressed to force them into check.  Unfortunately, life usually happens in opposition to well-meaning plans, and things quickly threaten to produce emotional reaction in Mob, leading to the "100" in the title. For when his pent-up feelings reach the breaking point, bad stuff's going to happen. Between the sound of things and the deliberately laid-back aesthetic, Mob Psycho 100 seems to be aiming more a more psychological take on superpowers and action show tropes rather than the "sardonic-but-badass" angle One Punch Man typically explores. I'll be giving Mob Psycho 100 a look once it airs.   [embed]35116:5719:0[/embed] Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak Academy (Side: Future and Side: Despair) Studio: Lerche (School Live!, Monster Musume) Broadcast Date: July 11, 2016 (Future) and July 14, 2016 (Despair) Rejoice, players of Danganronpa, your questions will be answered! Danganronpa 3 arrives not in the form of a game (though an actual new Danganronpa title is in development), but as two simultaneously-broadcast anime series. The first, Side: Future, effectively acts as coda of sorts for Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, recounting the adventures of star Makoto Naegi and his fellow Hope's Peak survivors as they form the Future Foundation, and framed as a trial for Makoto himself in the wake of the events of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.  Side: Despair, on the other hand, promises the secret history of the cast members of Danganronpa 2, and what happened to them before they were thrown into the game. The reason this matters functions as a major spoiler, and both shows seem to presume a familiarity with the games. Both I and fellow Japanator editor Salvador G-Rodiles are big fans of the games. I'll be checking out Future once it hits, and Sal will look at Despair. If you want to catch up, both games are available on PS Vita and on Steam.   [embed]35116:5721:0[/embed] Orange Studio: Telecom Animation Film (Moyashimon, Phantasy Star Online 2) Broadcast Date: July 4, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) Time loop anime seem to be the new "superpowered highschoolers" anime in terms of trendiness right now, and Orange is exactly one of those. Like the leads of Steins;Gate, Re:Zero, and Erased, Naho Takamiya is given the chance to change her future, thanks to a letter written by herself, ten years from now, and sent to herself in the present. And it seems like many of future-Naho's regrets are tied to transfer student and love interest Kakeru Naruse. It's cool to see the sci-fi twists usually used on mystery and suspense fantasies applied to the more romantic stylings of shojou manga, and Orange seems to have a strong reputation in that crowd. I'm hoping to see a bit more of the show's high-concept sci-fi twist manifest itself among the feels and personal relationships. [embed]35116:5723:0[/embed] 91 Days Studio: Shuka (Durarara!! x2) Broadcast Date: July 9, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) Who would've thought that a studio whose staffers helped make shows like Durarara!! and Baccano! would go on to make a new show about the weird underground in a bustling, thriving city? I'm being facetious, but there's definitely merit in sticking with what you know. Following the latest seasons of Durarara!! x2, Shuka take on a setting that's new...-ish: Prohibition-era America. In the fictional city of Lorel, a young orphan named Avilo joins up with the local mafia outfit. The twist is that Avilo lost his family years prior in an attack by the same crime ring, so the newly made man is in it for revenge.  With the screenwriter of Joker Game, last season's bit of period fiction, and plenty of experience making multifaceted plots and juggling an ensemble cast, 91 Days looks like it might be a gritty winner.   [embed]35116:5724:0[/embed] ReLife Studio: TMS Entertainment (Actually, I Am..., Zetman) Broadcast Date: July 1, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) Ever wish you could go back in time and get a redo for your childhood mistakes? Perhaps relive your high school life knowing what you know now as a weathered adult? Lots of anime shows sure seem to think that's what we're after, but not all are as bald-faced about it as ReLife, where Arata Kaizaki, a beaten-down twenty-something stuck in a career and lifestyle rut gets the opportunity to take a magic pill that ages him down to a fresh-faced seventeen-year-old, to repeat a year of high school and refresh his life. It's a tempting premise mainly for the fact that Arata seems like a relatable sort of lead (at least in the mind of this beaten-down thirty-something), and some of the other twists appear to plant the seed for drama to come. I'm just hoping they don't mine the slightly creepy "adult man hanging out with underage kids" angle too hard.   [embed]35116:5727:0[/embed] Taboo Tattoo Studio: J.C. Staff (Selector Infected Wixoss, Flying Witch) Broadcast Date: July 5, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) Stop me if you've heard this one before, but Taboo Tattoo is about Japanese high school students who have special powers and a penchant for getting into fights with each other.  I am, of course, being hideously reductive, but suffice it to say that it's definitely one of those types of shows (the tattoo motif is particularly reminiscent of last season's Big Order), and while it seems unlikely to change peoples' minds, judgment will have to wait until we see more of it in action. For what it's worth, I'm digging the seeming emphasis on martial arts as opposed to "my power is a gnarly weapon". This might make for some cool action sequences.  There's also the backdrop, which casts the Tattoo powers themselves as developments in an ongoing arms race between America and the fictional nation of Selinistan. This might make for a good world-building opportunity to background the rest of the action, so there's hope for this one, at least.   [embed]35116:5729:0[/embed] Alderamin On The Sky  Studio: Madhouse (One Punch Man, My Love STORY!!) Broadcast Date: July 9, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) "Alderamin" sounds like the name of a sleeping pill, which makes sense, because the premise sounds like it could be something of a snoozer. Two nations, Katjvarna and Kioka, whose names sound like the noises you make when you're on Alderamin, are at war, and Ikuta, a lackadaisical and passive young recruit who joined the army with no interest in becoming an officer, has become Katjvarna's greatest military commander after a mere few years. The show purports to tell the story of how he got there. That sounds like it could be interesting, and given Madhouse's pedigree, there may be some potential in the visuals and war setting, but otherwise it sounds less like a historical chronicle than another hagiography in the manner of Mahouka. At the very least, I'm hoping this turns out less like that and more like Lord Marksman and Vanadis, a show that was at least enjoyable for its cast, if not for its tedious core principles.    [embed]35116:5730:0[/embed] Qualidea Code Studio: A-1 Pictures (Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, Asterisk War) Broadcast Date: July 9, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) What happens when you lock the authors of light novel sensations Henneko, Date A Live, and My Teen RomCom SNAFU to hash out a multimedia anime project? This thing, apparently, which frankly reads like it could've come from any single one of them. Get this: High-school age kids have superpowers and are now using them to defend the Earth from an unknown threat. Actually, the threat is aliens, which are literally called "UNKNOWN".  Great.    [embed]35116:5728:0[/embed] Sweetness and Lightning Studio: TMS Entertainment (Yowapeda, Bakuon!!) Broadcast Date: July 4, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) If you've been jonesing for another does of anime parenting to gush over, this season's successor to the likes of Bunny Drop, Barakamon, and the Yotsuba&! anime you'll never ever get looks to be Sweetness and Lightning.  That said, the show does seem to distinguish itself in that the father-daughter relationship here is a literal father-daughter one. No weird non-blood connections to pander to incest fetishists with (Lookin' at you, ending of Bunny Drop!).  It even starts off on a tearjerker, with the father, Kouhei, being recently widowed and struggling to raise his adorable kid Tsumugi without any domestic skills. Enter one of his students, Kotori, who's from a broken home and is looking for companionship, to teach her teacher in the art of domesticity. Sounds heartwarming enough to me, though given the dynamics at work there's some risk of Sweetness and Lightning dodging the incest trap and instead falling into the pothole of winter-spring romance.    [embed]35116:5731:0[/embed] Rewrite Studio: 8bit (The Fruit of Grisaia, Infinite Stratos) Broadcast Date: July 2, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) If you had the power to "rewrite" yourself, i.e. change your own story to suit your needs or whims (think "Editing your character sheet in D&D to give yourself all the best stats"), what would you do? The answer, if Rewrite has its way, is "have adventures and romance with saucer-eyed waifs and amnesiacs".  Indeed, 8bit and the team behind The Fruit of Grisaia are tackling the biggest Key visual novel adaptation since Little Busters!. I've never been a big fan of Key or Jun Maeda, but Rewrite sounds like it might be a different sort of beast, seeing as it was written not by Maeda but by Romeo Tanaka, writer of the superb Humanity Has Declined. I'm not sure if that will be enough to hook me into watching it, but it should be a bit different from the usual Key fodder.   [embed]35116:5732:0[/embed] The Morose Mononokean Studio: Pierrot (Naruto, Level E) Broadcast Date: July 3, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) You know what's big in Japan right now? Yokai. The diverse creatures of Japanese folklore have gone mainstream with the likes of Yo-kai Watch and other vehicles, and it's well deserved. I'm of the opinion that having culturally rooted monsters makes for more interesting design and interpretation that trying to come up with new designs from scratch (see how weird Pokemon have been looking lately). But this isn't a Yo-kai Watch preview though, it's one for The Morose Mononokean, which aims to take a daily-life angle on the godly and supernatural shenanigans covered by the likes of Hozuki no Reitetsu and Noragami. The titular Mononokean is a tea room that serves as the headquarters for an exorcist and the high schooler he takes under his wing. As it's based on a webcomic, I doubt we're looking at the next Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun or something similarly good, but it'll have done its job if it manages to entertain and educate about Japan's supernatural bestiary.   [embed]35116:5733:0[/embed] Amanchu! Studio: J.C. Staff (Shana, A Certain Magical Index) Broadcast Date: July 8, 2016 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) Few anime are better known for being utterly chill than Aria. Set in space-Venice, the show followed the peaceful, if uneventful lives of a troupe of cute girl gondoliers. Now the same team and author are bringing things a little closer to home, by setting Amanchu! in the Tokyo of the present day, as a bunch of cute schoolgirls get really into diving underwater. It's basically ABZU, but with more cute girls and anime.   [embed]35116:5734:0[/embed] NEW GAME! Studio: Doga Kobo  (Plastic Memories, Himouto! Umaru-chan!) Broadcast Date: July 4, 2016 As someone who occasionally writes for Destructoid, I generally know more about game development than I do about anime production. Sadly, I can't say that the previews for NEW GAME! which sounds on paper like Shirobako-but-for-video-games seem all that accurate. But there's still hope, as Shirobako was far cuter and more positive than real-life anime production. Then again, NEW GAME! is aggressive about being cute in a way that I worry might undermine its potential to "tell it like it is". After all, Shirobako was cute and positive, but it also hinged on the kinds of personal relationships and procedural detail that made it so fascinating to watch. Is the crew that gave us Plastic Memories up to that? If they are, we could be sitting on this year's anime of the year. If not...well, it might at least be cute. Sequels, Shorts, and Other Notable Releases: My unfair bias against sports anime and male idol shows continues as I entirely forgot shows like B-Project and Tsukiuta exist. DAYS promises to bring an exotic sport called "Football" to the anime stage, while Battery debuts a sport that must surely be some fictional thing: Baseball. Cheer Danshi! follows around a group of male cheerleaders, which might be unusual had my own high school and university not had their own all-male cheer squads (Blue Eagles the king!). Also, Ouendan exists, so I'm good on that front. On the sequel front, the hilarious but ignored Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! gets a sequel, and signifies it by calling the second season Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE LOVE!. The Seven Deadly Sins is also getting a new season, but may end up ignored if the streaming services lock it down until it's done like last time. After disappointing countless fans looking for the latest from the Code Geass guy, Active Raid shambles into a second offering of frustrating bureaucracy and nonsensical characterization. Barakamon, one of the more adult shows of its season, turns the clock back with a prequel, called Handa-kun. I honestly don't see the point of it, since the whole appeal of Barakamon was in its adult focus, but hey, it's anime after 2008, so high school must somehow be involved, or something. Either that or a raging war between two fictional countries and/or alien invaders. Food Wars, the one Shonen Jump titan you just can't dodge these days, is getting a sequel, and Nick Valdez will be leading the coverage of that. Love Live! hits the reboot button by introducing a gaggle of samefaced girls for Love Live! Sunshine!. Show By Rock! continues in its mission of making catgirls the default for idolatry. Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars is this season's original mecha production, and the fact that I'm giving it the afterthought space speaks to how aggressively generic it is. After duds like Argevollen and others, I'm wondering just what it would take to make non-franchise mecha shows as compelling as they used to be. At least Macross Delta is still running, which would give me the chance to write it up for once. While shows like Taboo Tattoo and Qualidea Code seem constructed to marvel at about how awesome things would be if we had superpowers, Saiki Kusuo no Psi-Nan puts it down for the "mo' powers, mo' problems". Philosophy. The titular character's prodigious abilities are making his daily life miserable, and the director of Cromartie High School is on hand to show everyone just how miserable things can get. I'm definitely down for that. Interestingly, only one overt "boobs anime" made the cut this summer: Masou Gakuen HxH, which doesn't beat around the bush. Its hero literally powers up the fighting girls by getting in close with their chesticles. I imagine a few Hunter x Hunter fans are feeling a bit insulted that this puerile hilarity has taken their beloved acronym while their joy goes on hiatus again. The one sequel I'm angling to watch this season, though, is The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Duststorm Dance. After finally catching up with the show, I already regret not having seen it from the beginning. The animation may have been blah and the quality uneven, but it's as worthy a successor to Legend of the Galactic Heroes as I've found in the last few years. And now this part of the show promises to go to some places of actual consequence. That should do it for our Summer preview. What are you angling to see this season?
Summer 2016 Anime Preview photo
Some like it hot
A happy Monday to you, and a happy July 4th to all our American readers! What better way is there to celebrate American independence than by staying home and watching a buttload of Japanese cartoons? Welcome to Japanator's Su...


First Impressions: Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto

May 10 // Nick Valdez
In Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto, the entire school is enamored with the super attractive, super athletic, super smart, and most importantly, super cool Sakamoto. All the girls have crushes on him, all the guys want to be his best friend, and all he wants to do is tend to himself. Naturally his aloof attitude causes dissent among some other students who make it their mission to take them down a peg. But since Sakamoto is a super cool genius extrodinaire, he always manages to best them without trying and somehow become cooler each time. And that's it. That's the premise of the entire series. You enjoyment going forward entirely depends on whether or not you find this single joke amusing.  For those that stick around, each episode is broken up into two 12-13 minute segments. These segments usually cover a chapter or two of content, and all hinge on a single joke. Regardless of the set up, the punchline is always the same. And that's definitely going to devalue the series moving forward. For the first six stories, Sakamoto essentially "teaches" a character how to live their life properly (how to stand up to bullies, how not to bully, etc) by doing nothing to help them. The gag is that Sakamoto is so magnetic, that even the most mundane of skills are read as "super skills" and although he's basically doing nothing it seems like the greatest thing in the world. It's all about how each of Sakamoto's fellow students reacts to Sakamoto's magnetism, and in the first episode their reactions are taken to the extreme.  But can focusing on nothing but the ancillary characters make for a good series? I'm not so sure yet. See, the gag worked for the first episode as we're still getting used to Sakamoto's exaggerated and cartoonish characterization (and has made for plenty of good memes online) but it definitely wears thin as the accompanying plots of the follow up episodes follow the same formula. It's visually interesting as Sakamoto's exaggerated motions make for captivating scenes, but there's not a lot of meat on the bones. That's going to be the ultimate struggle of the show moving forward as the show has a main character they can't really develop. Since the gag is his disconnection from reality, it's going to have to rely on these ancillary characters and plots to succeed.  And it seems like Sakamoto is trying its best to do this. As the episodes roll on, the stories are getting odder. As Sakamoto himself is distancing further from reality, it's like he's becoming less human. Rather than the aloof cool guy showing off in the first episode, he's instead a cold and uncaring individual who only does things to satiate his curiosity. He literally looks through people, refers to them as "humanity" (thus confirming his holier than thou personality), and he refers to one character's as an acne face. When he helps Kubota, most likely a recurring character to bounce Sakamoto off of, get a job at McDoodle's Sakamoto is incredibly wrong about this situation. Kubota's being bullied so he needs money, but Sakamoto assumes he just needs money in general. It's a hilarious miscommunication, but Sakamoto is really only doing what he wants and eventually helps Kubota in a roundabout way. If the show can continue to magnify the less "cool,cooler and coolest" aspects of Sakamoto's personality, they just may develop him in the roundabout way he's so fond of.  The unfortunate thing with gag manga and anime is that what you see is almost always what you get. Generally all humor is subjective and surface level, so if you're looking for a show to stay invested in, chances are this isn't it. But in the same breath, Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto is made with the humor in mind. You're supposed to watch it in passing here or there every few weeks. Taking in a new fifteen minute segment every now and again. It's basically like an afternoon cartoon serving as a palette cleanser for the heavier properties you've seen.  I won't be following this show moving forward, but I'll definitely watch it in a few weeks once it's got a few more episodes under its belt. 
Sakamoto Impressions photo
Haven't you heard? It's alright, I guess
I fell really hard into the manga scene about 10-12 years ago. I pretty much checked manga scan sites everyday. They're not so cool now that I can afford to buy whatever volume of manga I want (and, you know, it's still theft...

First Impressions: Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-

May 03 // Nick Valdez
In Re:ZERO, Subaru Natsuki is an average kid who loves playing videogames and exercising. During a standard trip to the convenience store, Subaru is transported to a fantasy world. After wandering around his new surroundings for a bit. he bumps into a mysterious white haired girl with ice magic. When he realizes her emblem has been stolen (and he saw the blonde haired culprit pass by), Subaru vows to help the girl, who introduces herself as Satella, find it. After some shenanigans, Subaru is killed but soon realizes that he has the ability to reset the day every time he's killed. So it's sort of like a twisted version of Groundhog Day or All You Need is Kill mixed with some of last season's anime like Erased and Konosuba for good measure.  As you may have gauged from the synopsis, there's a lot to unpack in this series. In fact, the series has so many ideas, it needed an hour long first episode. I've never seen an anime company pull that move (given the expensive needs of the industry, hour long episodes are pretty much impossible to maintain on a regular basis) so the show's earned some of my respect for hutzpah alone. But at the same time, I worry there seems to be so much going on, it might be hard to digest the show week to week. In fact, just for the accessibility of this First Impressions post, I'm going to have to narrow down the events of the show to just the current timeline.  In just the first three episodes, there have been three different timelines and Subaru has attempted to get everything he wants three different times with two deaths as a result. The first time, he grew closely acquainted with Satella, the crystal wizard girl who gets her emblem stolen from her before the two are unceremoniously killed in some corner of the slums (which is also why this show's pretty great). The second time he grows closer to Felt, the young thief who stole Satella's emblem in the first place. But in doing so, he doesn't meet Satella and is soon killed in an alleyway (also without grandeur of any kind). And in the final, current timeline, he meets both girls and a third character, Reinhard, who's a super strong knight. The common thread between all of Subaru's lives is a meeting between Felt, and the person who wants to buy the emblem she stole, a mysterious woman named Elsa and also the reason Subaru's died so many times. In Subaru's third life, Elsa is revealed to be a super killer nicknamed the "Bowel Hunter" (for the reason you'd think) and she, of course, is out to kill everybody.  And since Subaru has fought Elsa so much, he does a little better in his third face off against her (due to a combination of his rigorous fitness routine, experience, and knowledge of everyone's abilities at this point). Everyone's hurt, but no one dies in the current timeline (and the show took the pains to show us that each character can and will die) but the risk remains. Re:Zero essentially becomes a show where Subaru is trying to survive not because he doesn't want to die but because he doesn't want to start his relationships from square one all over again. Once he gets over the initial confusion of the first few days (or first few episodes), the show has a variety of options of where to take it. Is it going to be an action show where Subaru learns from death and becomes stronger (as the fight scene in the third episode is well storyboarded)? Is it going to be a show of Subaru's selfishness where he only wants to live to keep from re-meeting his allies? Or is death not an option anymore as the story finally moves forward at the end of the third episode? Either way, I'm pretty interested.  As Reinhard the knight shows up and saves everybody, Subaru learns Satella's real name is Emilia (and Satella is a rude way of acknowledging people with powers). Then Reinhard panics when he sees that Felt has stolen the emblem and now vows to take her back to the castle. So something's up with Emilia's emblem and we're about to find out why it's so important. Unless Subaru dies again and everything resets, of course.  Re:ZERO - Starting Life in Another World - has a lot of ideas, but all of them are interesting rather than debilitating. It's blend of story types and many colors are taking risks with the genre. Overall, it just looks good. It's surprisingly violent, character designs are nice, and I can't wait to see where the story goes. It's going to be a good season. 
Re:ZERO First Impressions photo
- Off to a good start -
Out of all the anime this season, one in particular really stood out to me. Taking two common anime plots and essentially mushing them together into some kind of peanut butter and monster sandwich, Re: ZERO - Starting Life in...

First Impressions: Space Patrol Luluco

Apr 29 // Salvador G Rodiles
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.]
Space Patrol Luluco photo
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. 
Ace Attorney photo
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...

First Impressions: Kabaneri of The Iron Fortress

Apr 16 // Yussif Osman
Ikoma is an engineer, so that's a nice change to soldier or 'guren' titan hunter. And at least in the first episode he has no special ability apart from his ingenuity, he builds a weapon that can pierce the iron heart of a kabane and after becoming infected, manages to halt his transformation. I'd like to add here, that that is an incredibly graphic scene and I applaud how bold the studio was willing to be with it. But as far as Ikoma goes as a character, it might be hard to tell the difference between him Eren and Yuuichirou. That's not to say I don't like that archetype, but they're all basically young men in a post-apocalyptic world, desperate to survive and punish the enemy, whether that's titans, vampires or kabane. But actually, I enjoyed spending time with Ikoma more than I did with Eren or Yuuichi. There are subtle differences. Ikoma isn't driven by a bloodlust against the enemy in the same way he predecessors were, rather he seems driven by a wish define the kind of person he is, to become 'someone I can be proud of', so in the first episode this materialises as someone who can fight back and make up for being helpless when it seems someone he cared about was killed by kabane and in the second episode this this means being someone who will save others, even though he's been rejected by them. I realise he's still basically the same character as his predecessors but the creators are at least trying to explore the archetype, enough so that I'm able to like this character the most out of their creations. The next question, is do we actually want more of the same? And I argue yes. Teturo Araki, director of Attack on Titan was brought back for a reason. Wit Studio have proven finally with Kabane that they do this kind of story very well, creating a fantasy thriller which is exciting and has a high level of intensity, so even if I feel I've seen this before, I'm looking forward to seeing how it will play out this time. And that is the appeal of these kinds of stories, whether that's the Walking Dead or Attack on Titan, discovering how the survivors will not only find their way out of the crisis, but how it will affect them. When writing The Mist, Stephen King emphasised that the story isn't about the monsters in the mist, but about the monsters in the mall, i.e. the survivors themselves. So like Attack on Titan, Kabaneri covers such issues as fear and paranoia and how they affect us as a society, an issue I dare say is quite relevant today. As for how humanity will get out of this mess, again the answer seems to lie with people with special abilities as revealed in the second episode, i.e. the kabaneri, Ikoma being one such being. These are half human, half kabane hybrids who seem to be invulnerable as well as possessing heightened reflexes, speed and strength. I feel like I should come down on the series for using this anime trope, were it not for the human dynamics we've been given quite early on. We have the proud and furious Ikoma, the mysterious Mumei and the homicidal if not honourable Kurusu, tempered by the level-headed Kibito, serving the naïve Ayame. I know what you're thinking, aren't these just the characters from every anime I've ever watched? Well my answer to that is yes, but I think the issue with this show isn't that it's bad because it's not doing anything different, but that it is good because it's doing what we know well, so well. It's a good anime as far as we know anime. My hope is that the 'Iron Fortress' of the title refers to the train they find themselves on in the second episode, I do love my claustrophobic thrillers and think it would make for some tense and compelling storytelling in this apocalyptic setting. I'd like to end on a note on the animation style which I really enjoyed. We have what looks like an animation style from decades ago coloured and stylised in a never before seen, modern way. And unlike say Naruto, it is consistent. As such, the show looks stunning and aids in supporting a solid viewing experience. I think this summarises what I want to say about my first and second impressions of Kabaneri, it is good, it gives us more of the same but it does so well, making us want to know how it will play out this time and reuniting us with characters we know and love.  
Kabaneri First Impression photo
More of the same? Thankfully, yes!
So what can we expect from Wit Studio this time around? Well, more of the same - don't take that as a criticism, it's an observation. Wit Studio has brought us a number of post-apocalyptic stories, where humanity is on the br...

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!]
Haifuri photo
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...

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

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

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 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.

First Impressions: Dobutsu Sentai Zyuohger episodes 1-3

Mar 02 // Salvador G Rodiles
Luckily, the time to tap into our inner beasts worked out perfectly, as Zyuohger’s introduction to the Zoologist Yamato left us with a good impression. One thing that went well in his favor is that the staff didn’t exhibit the medical condition where they’re trying too hard to replicate the aspects of a successful Sentai series. On top of that, the guy’s passion for studying animals and their wildlife made him feel right at home with the show’s theme about two different races working together to protect the planet. Due to Yamato's dedication to his job, he reminded me of Ryoga/Aba Red from Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger, who was a wildlife investigator, along with being a committed father to his adopted daughter. The idea of him taking care of his animal comrades, the Zyuman, while they protect the Earth from the Dethgaliens places him in this parental role since he has to make sure that his new buddies blend with society. Like with any concerned parent in a series, the zoologist's reactions to his allies' antics are priceless. When you look at everything the show has to offer, Zyuohger manages to make its elements complement each other. The Dethgalien’s invasion is similar to how hunters partake in events where they take down a specific target, and the main heroes are the prey that's fighting back. Thanks to this great flow, the series left me intrigued with what it had to offer. Also, the villains use coins to revive their subordinates as giants; thus adding a video game twist to the evil group's pastime. In regards to the other team members, the Zyuman showcase a lively attitude so far. From their shocked reaction to Yamato entering their land to their childish nature on Earth, the whole angle takes me back to Shougeki Gouraigan and Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger since their reaction to humanity’s way of life leaves us with a good laugh. Perhaps the silliest thing about the guy's new friends is that they'll cost him financially as they're all broke. While I wasn’t a fan of the main robot’s toy, the actual Zyuoh King suit doesn’t look too bad since it’s almost like a cube-shaped version of the Shinken-Oh from Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. For the most part, the issue with the machine is that it doesn’t translate well into a combining toy, as the bulky look present in Sentai mecha figures made it look like a rectangular cube with arms and legs. Despite the robot’s issues, Zyuoh King still has the potential to be a fun machine when more of its gimmicks are revealed throughout the series. The mecha’s recent combinations show that it’ll have various finishers and special attacks based on its fighting modes, which might result in some combining sequence similar to the Getter Robo series. Since the team will obviously get more robots in the future, I'm hoping that the designs could evolve into something that works better in merchandise form. Aside from the machines, the Zyuohger’s chest section of their suits continues to be one of the weaker parts of their design. I guess it’s the staff’s weird choice to place a detailed animal illustration on the costume, which throws the whole look off balance. Hell, I still think that they feel like something you would see on a cheaply-made sports team shirt. At least, the helmets are fun to look at, as they live up to the franchise's reputation of having cool masks that resemble a creature biting a head. Thankfully, the team’s fighting style made up for the costume’s flaws, as the gang utilizes their signature animal traits in battle, which resembled the Abaranger’s Abare Mode. As a big fan of the latter, it was nice to see another group use a similar ability since it lets the staff experiment with other types of action scenes outside of the hand-to-hand and weapon-based fighting styles. Even though Zyuohger sported a few average designs for the heroes, the overall presentation left us with a potentially fun title that’s filled with themes that complement each other. The main Zyuman group's fish-out-of-water story opened up to some funny segments with Yamato, and the cube motif’s purpose connects nicely with the animal people’s dilemma. As Yamato starts to develop his own animal abilities, the 40th Sentai series might place him in a strange situation down the road. Just like an actual cube, this show has every face, corner and side distributed evenly. Luckily, the time to tap into our inner beast worked out perfectly, as Zyuohger’s introduction to the Zoologist Yamato left us with a better impression on his character. One thing that went well in his favor is that the staff didn’t exhibit the medical condition where they’re trying too hard to replicate the aspects of a successful Sentai series. Complimenting the animal theme, the guy’s passion for studying animals and their wildlife made him feel like right at home with the show’s theme about two different races working together. To some extent, his personality was a callback to Ryoga/Aba Red from Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger, who was a Wildlife Investigator, along with being a dedicated father to his adopted daughter. Even though the first episode didn’t cover much of this similarity, the idea of him taking care of his animal comrades, the Zyuman, while they protect the Earth from the Dethgaliens that are invading the place as part of their little game. Also, the villains use coins to revive their subordinates as giants. When you look at everything the show has to offer, Zyuohger manages to make its elements complement each other. The Dethgalien’s invasion is similar to how a group of hunters hold an event to take down a specific target and the main heroes are practically the prey fighting back. Thanks to this great flow, the series left me intrigued with what it had to offer. In regards to the other team members, the Zyuman showcase a lively attitude in both episodes. From their shocked reaction to Yamato entering their land to their childish nature on Earth, the whole angle takes me back to Shougeki Gouraigan since their reaction to humanity’s way of life gives off a good laugh. While I wasn’t a fan of the main robot’s toy, the actual suit doesn’t look too bad since it’s almost like a cube-shaped version of the Shinken-Oh from Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. For the most part, the issue with the machine is that it doesn’t translate well into a combining toy, as the bulky look present in Sentai mecha figures made it look blockier than usual. Despite the robot’s issues, Zyuoh King still has the potential to be a fun machine when more of its gimmicks are revealed throughout the series. The mecha’s recent combinations show that it’ll have various finishers and special attacks based on its modes, which might result in a formation sequence similar to the Getter Robo series. Depending on the types of robots the team gets later on, there’s a chance that the designs could evolve into something that works better in merchandise form. Aside from the machines, the Zyuohger’s chest section of their suits continues to be one of the weaker parts of their design. I guess it’s the staff’s weird choice to place a detailed animal illustration on the costume, which throws the whole look off balance. At least the helmet and the rest of the body look fine; thus leaving us with an above average look. Thankfully, the team’s fighting style made up for the costume’s flaws, as the gang utilizes their signature animal traits in battle, which resembled the Abaranger’s Abare Mode. As a big fan of the latter, it was nice to see another group use a similar ability since it lets the staff experiment with other types of action scenes outside of the hand-to-hand and weapon-based fighting styles. Even though Zyuohger sported a few weird design choices, the overall presentation left us with a title that’s filled with themes that complement each other. The fish-out-of-water story with the Zyuman opened up to some funny segments with Yamato, and the cube motif’s purpose connects nicely with the animal people’s way of life. With the sixth Ranger being foreshadowed early in the game, the 40th Sentai series is looking to be a beastly good time. Just like an actual cube, this show has every face covered nicely.
Dobutsu Sentai Zyuohger photo
Please insert coin to continue
It’s hard to believe that the Sentai franchise is now airing its 40th installment. Honestly, this feeling comes from the fact that the previous series, Shuriken Sentai Ninninger, was celebrating the franchise&rsquo...

The Trial of Myotismon: Growing Up and Digimon's Legacy

Mar 01 // Yussif Osman
I'd like to first off admit, that my experience of Digimon is the English dub, so many of the names I use will be the English ascribed names for characters, concepts and creatures. So what is the appeal of the original Digimon series? I'm a fan of Pokémon, but to make my point, just to begin with, I will make comparisons with it and the first season of Digimon. I'd like to begin on the surface. Atmospherically, it is a beautiful series, whereas as the world of Pokemon is very much a human world akin to ours, the Digital World is bizarre, vast and desolately beautiful, as telephone poles breach lakes surrounded by rain forests, towns populated by ghosts and deserts. And whereas in many anime, there's a set format for the adventure, for example gym leaders and Team Rocket in Pokémon or searching for discs in Monster Rancher, Digimon was a blank slate. Anything could happen, they could meet anyone, do anything, the world was literally vast in terms of the plot as any kind of story could be pursued. I would go as far as to argue that the awe and excitement in exploring the Digital World for the first time ever was a feat comparable to a Studio Ghibli film in the fantasy genre, like Spirited Away. Moving on, I'm going to forego the argument that Digimon was conceived before Pokémon as I believe that says little about the series itself. But I will say this, where Pokemon introduced us to a world of interesting and fun creatures, Digimon when they were first introduced were not creatures in the same sense. They were people. Let me qualify this. Whereas Pokemon were creatures to be trained, apart from the odd legendary like Mewtwo, they were not characters, they lacked character development and though bonds were stressed in the show, these were pets, and this was fine for what the anime and the games had in mind. Digimon on the other hand, did not merely have the ability to speak, but had their own personalities, quirks and goals. [embed]34807:5461:0[/embed] Digimon were more than just props in their world, they were characters with motivations and principles. As such, it was possible for the Digimon themselves to be both heroes and villains, whereas we can quote Ash as saying directly “...there can't be an evil Pokémon”. The simian Etamon was as colourful as a Bond villain, the vampiric Myotismon as haunting as Darth Sidious and the insidious Piedmon as disturbing as the Joker. The Digimon grew up with their child counterparts, their relationships developed and evolved as the Digimon themselves came to terms with what they represented to their respective Digi-destined. Many anime are guilty of having children in them simply for the sake of it, saying little about what it means to be a child or the significance of growing up. Each child possesses a crest representing a quality or emotion, Taichi possessing courage and Mimmi possessing sincerity for example. As the series draws to its climax and the children confront their most terrible foe in the form of Myotismon and the world literally crumbles around them, they step-up and display the qualities that will define them, whether that's courage, sincerity, compassion, love or hope and the Digimon themselves are analogues for this, conduits or avatars if you will as the characters grow-up. No one ever has it is easy in life, but it's those opportunities when we get to show who we really are and as cheesy as that may sound, this is a kid's show and sometimes they have a point. Digimon became a story about children growing up and taking responsibility for their lives, something we all must do and something which should be liberating and fulfilling as we come to know who we are and evolve. Much like the Digimon themselves when their children come to terms with their crests.   The Digi-destined spend most of their time exploring the Digital World before returning to  Earth to face Myotismon, when they have to put forward all they've learnt and gathered as people, in a story arc where they're faced with such issues as sacrifice, friendship, the value of family and tragedy. Whereas the Digital World is an analogue for childhood, Myotismon and his assault on Earth I argue is representative of growing-pains, when the children's crests activate and they come into their own. And just as Myotismon is defeated, Piedmon and the Dark Masters make their assault and the children must bring with them not only everything they've learnt, but now everything they've become as well. Just like life, as what we believe the pivotal trial comes to an end, a grander one presents itself, asking everything we have of us and more. I am conscious of the fact that generally this is the way storytelling works, that as the story draws to a close, the stakes are highest. However, in Digimon, the stakes painfully increased in relentless waves and even though it still takes the form of a typical adventure story, I believe adventure stories overall tell us a lot about life. The genre of Magical Realism for example, pioneered by Gabriel Marquez used fantasy not to escape the real world, but to more adequately talk about it. To make emotions vivid and characters more representative of the human condition. Nothing says flawed like a special power you can't control and nothing says compassionate like a monster companion. But this isn't a grim story, if it were, I don't think it would create nearly the level of nostalgia that it does. Though I've argued here that the anime deals with the mature theme of growing up, it is fundamentally a children's story and so, a hopeful one. I believe that is the appeal of children's stories to us when we've become grown, in part it's that we've grown up with them, but it's also that they're necessarily hopeful. And so in a subtle way, for us who struggled with the Digi-destined, it gives us hope too. Hope by definition requires high stakes, this is true of the series and the vibrant, early Digimon movies that followed and I believe of life itself. So how did I feel about Digimon Tri now that its first installment has been released? A full review is beyond the scope of this article, but I believe it's still too early to make a verdict on the sequel.  What we've been given so far is a mere introduction and though I admit it lacks the wonder, colour and vigour of the original series, I remain hopeful and would encourage other fans of the series to be as well. In anime and in life.    
Digimon Adventure Tri photo
Exploring the legacy of Digimon season 1
In the second half of 2015, something amazing happened in the world of anime. Digimon returned. But not just any incarnation of the series, rather Digimon Tri is a continuation of the original first season, based on Taichi and the other Digi-destined who befriended Agumon and fought with Myotismon and traversed the vast and beautiful Digital World for the first time.     

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
Oshiete! Galko-chan photo
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!

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. 
Dimension W  photo
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...

First Impressions: Myriad Colors Phantom World

Jan 30 // Nick Valdez
Based on a novel by Soichiro Hatano, Phantom World takes place in a future where a mysterious virus outbreak accidentally allows humanity to see outerdimensional beings that have always existed beside them. Think of any fantasy creature (like Jinn, ogres, yokai, and the like) and you've gotten the idea. Thanks to the virus, some children developed powers capable of fighting and sealing away some of the more wily phantoms. Haruhiko can draw phantoms and seal them away, but he's full of mostly useless facts since he's got a library in his house. Together with his phantom hunting club mates Mai, who uses martial arts and elemental powers she channels with her body (water from her kidneys, air from her lungs, etc.), and Izumi, a girl with a phantom absorbing stomach, they fight phantoms for sandwiches or something. First things first, Phantom World is absolutely gorgeous. KyoAni's high quality is still up to task here. There are great uses of color, the phantoms all have an interesting technological spin on them (think of them as kinda like Digimon when they appear in the real world and glitch in and out), the actual phantom sealing is beautiful as it takes on this swirling watercolor effect, the opening theme is kinda good, and the characters move with a pleasant fluidity. The character designs themselves are a bit uninspired, but everything moves well in motion so it kind of balances itself out. And despite all of Phantom World's (and my) jokes about boobs, it really lets off after the first episode. But there are a loooot of them. Almost to the point where I have to believe they gave one of their characters a large chest just to poke fun at her. That brings me to my issue with the first three episodes overall.  Unlike Kyoto Animation's tighter premises, there's a distinct lack of focus for this series. It doesn't really know what kind of show it wants to be. Is it an action show? A comedy? Because of this confusion, the pacing of each episode suffers quite a bit. With the series' set 12 or 13 episode run, any sleights are even more egregious. For example, the show has a monster of the week formula. This would be fine had there been at least some character development going on in the background or the phantoms themselves been any interesting, but so far nothing quite has any real depth. The first episode's phantom, telephone poles that force the gang to limbo (thus resulting in Mai's boob bounce weirdness), was goofy enough to work but that brought the episode to a halt. It was an encounter that didn't move the plot forward, and it was super weird seeing as how the first half of the episode dealt with so much world building. You'd figure the premiere would capitalize on it, but maybe they're trying to tell the audience they have a different type of story in mind. Although it sounds like I'm being harsh, I'm pretty sure I'm going to hang around for the rest of the series. By the end of the third episode it doesn't feel like Phantom World is any closer to finding a focus, but there were some positive developments. Episode two introduces Minase, a cool headphone wearing girl who fights phantoms by singing, Haruhiko's ability to summon super cute things, and episode three introduces a kid who probably fights using her teddy bear or something. Basically, there are enough tidbits here and there to keep me hooked through the rest of the series. If not, I'm hoping the show nails its pacing better down the line. At least it seems like its getting better at melding the comedy with the action by the end of the third episode. There's even a little bit of character development!  Myriad Colors Phantom World is definitely off to a rough start. It may be stunning to look at, but right now its best qualities are surface level. Since we're a quarter of the way into the story, it's a bit troubling there's yet to be something of true substance. But if you don't mind just looking at pretty animation and want some kind of new distraction, there certainly are worse options out there.  It's slick, some of the jokes land, and it's pretty cute. So maybe it'll get better over time? I certainly hope so.  [You can stream the myriad of colors of Crunchyroll and Hulu]
Phantom World Impressions photo
Myriad of boobs
Animation is a fantastic medium. With it you can do all sorts of otherworldly things like outlandish hair colors, crazy stories full of physical feats you can't do in the real world, and most importantly, you can really nail ...

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...

Yo-Kai Watch photo
Yo-Kai Watch

Impressions: Yo-kai Watch Manga Vol. 1 and 2


A Spooky Adventure
Dec 24
// Christian Chiok
Ever since the first game released in Japan back in 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS, the Yo-kai Watch franchise has captivated the entire Japanese population. While the manga was published a few months before the game officially re...

Impressions: Kuroko's Basketball Extra Game

Nov 12 // Christian Chiok
A couple of months after the main series has ended, Tadatoshi Fujimaki released its continuation called Kuroko’s Basketball: Extra Game which features Kuroko and Kagami alongside the Generation of Miracles working together as Team Vorpal Swords aiming to beat Team Jabberwock, a street American Basketball team composed of  Nash Gold and Jason Silver, who have extraordinary talents that surpasses the Generation of Miracles, as well as other three nameless players who are on the same level as the former Teiko players. The arc starts off with Jabberwock playing against Team Strky, a team composed of recently graduated third years from Shutoku, Too, Rakuzan, Kaijo and Yosen. After Jabberwock defeated Strky by a landslide, Jabberwock insulted Strky and as well as the entire country of Japan by stating that they are monkeys and they have no right playing Basketball. As that kind of person that really gets involved and engaged with stories, seeing Team Strky get humiliated made me feel a bit hopeless, as if I was part of that setting. I can't say that their arrogance and their need to insult Japanese players really affected me, but it made me dislike the characters from the start. While it may sound contradicting, in cases like Kuroko's Basketball, I consider giving me a good reason to dislike the antagonist a good way to get myself engaged in a story.  Kagetora offended (as well as the rest of Japan, of course), it drove him to form Team Vorpal Swords and scheduled a game against Jabberwock for the following week. As a result, Kagetora had to pay for their expenses as well. Ever since the original series started, I always wondered how well can the Generation of Miracles fare with American players, especially a team that has beaten some professional NBA players. As soon as I read that, I was already expecting them to get crushed, of course, to a much lesser extend compared to Team Strky. Overall, this first chapter was a good introduction on the new set of antagonists. While I think addressing Japan as “monkeys” went too far, and it gave me enough reason to immediately despise the characters, it was still a good way on showing their personalities and more reason to root for Team Vorpal Swords once the game started. Whether its a battle series, sports series or any series that features competition, I consider it important that the antagonists are shown destroying the protagonists' comrades as a way to tease their abilities and power. It may be cliche, but Fujimaki pulled it off right. With Team Strky being annihilated by Jabberwock despite Strky being composed of highly skilled players, plus the insults, it made the anticipation of the main match even harder.  The best part of the chapter was the ending, where all seven players, being Kuroko, Kagami and the rest of the Generation of Miracles met up in the gymnasium to train, as it felt like it was a throwback to their former Teiko days—before they turned arrogant and showed comradery. It was definitely one my favorite arcs in the series. While Kagami wasn’t part of Teiko of course, seeing him with the Generation of Miracles was good fan service.  If you're a fan of the original series and was left with the need of more content, I would definitely recommend that you read Extra Game. The first chapter so far starts off well featuring the Dream Team we wanted to see since the series ended.  Naturally, as stated above, before reading Extra Game, it is imperative that you watch or read the original Kuroko's Basketball series. 
Kuroko photo
Make It Flashy!
Ever since emerging myself into the wonderful world of Anime and Manga, I’ve being a fan of many sports series such as Hajime no Ippo, Captain Tsubasa, Slam Dunk, and Prince of Tennis. One of my rece...

First Impressions: Anitore! EX

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

First Impressions: Durarara!!x2 Ten

Oct 12 // Anthony Redgrave
Durarara!!x2 Ten picks up immediately after the last episode left off. The Toramaru-Dollars conflict had been quelled and with Shizuo's intervention the two Russian assassins had been apprehended. The previous cour had ended on a cliffhanger with Izaya being stabbed in the back (literally not figuratively) by the mysterious Jinnai Yodogiri. Fortunately, eager watchers don't have to wait long to see the aftermath as the first episode is dedicated to how people are reacting to this news.  Getting back into this series can be a daunting task. There are so many different characters, plot threads that are interlaced within one another it feels like you would need to rewatch the first half of this season. I've never been a fan of rewatching the openings of anime every week since the opening only needs to be watched once to see the new visuals and hear the new song. But, Durarara!! retains the tradition of incorporating small flashbacks and reminders of events gone by into the opening and it is often related to the same episode allowing viewers to caught up with the plot. It's extremely abridged, but the cherry-picked sound bites and clips shown do an adequate job in keeping me up to date on the happening's in Ikebukuro even if they were referencing events from the first season.  So far x2 Ten has been fairly mellow and slow in terms of the plot. It comes hot off the heels of a massive gang war so characters are taking it easy before the next big event. These first few episodes focus on some of the secondary characters like Mizuki Akabayashi and the Seiji/ Mika storyline. Like all Durarara!! protagonists newcomer Mizuki is a very charming and likable goon of the Awakusu largely in part to the incredibly strong voice acting. I was surprised by how much I grew to like Mizuki from that one episode seeing him only as an unimportant Lieutenant for the Awakusu in the previous cour. The big break out of these first few episodes was Mika. I had mentioned before that I don't have any interest in Seiji/Mika/Namie love triangle thing in Durarara!! as their actions rarely affect the overarching plot of each series. The Mika episode helped demonstrate the importance of her presence in the story as she is a lot stronger and smarter than we had anticipated. When we consider Ikebukuro's internal political manipulation that goes on behind the scenes, Mika is another person we need to be looking out for.  A more interesting love triangle has emerged this series between badass Shizuo, Verona the Russian Hit girl, and Akane the mob boss daughter. Shizuo is as aloof as any other harem protagonist, but his lack of social skills make sense due to his history. Shizuo isn't lumped in with the spineless harem protagonists because he doesn't display the pathetic horniness combined with ignorance towards overtly romantic cues. His job is a violent one so he keeps people at a distance wanting to keep his friends and family safe but isn't heartless enough to brush them off when they want to say 'Hey' or come to him for help. This new love triangle has a great dynamic between the girls and Shizuo; Shizuo acts as a mentor for both of them but at the same time the girls' primary motive is to kill Shizuo.  The look and feel of Durarara!! are part of its core appeal and it has not changed one bit. I've always liked how everything was extremely colorful and dynamic. The animation and art direction have been very good up to now, both staying consistent and smooth. At the start Mizuki's episode during an encounter in the bathroom, there is a very large drop in quality with crappy looking characters but this is an isolated incidence. In the audio department; the voice acting is still amazing helping to engross you in the charming delights and dangers of Ikebukuro and the heightened emotion in each scene is backed with strong melodic choruses from a familiar soundtrack.  After taking a whole season respite from the city, it's good to be back. [Watch Durarara!!x2 Ten on Crunchy Roll] internal political manipulation that goes on behind the scenes
Durarara photo
Never mess with Shizuo Heiwajima
The release of Durarara!!'s second cours dubbed started broadcasting last month and it went completely under my radar. 5 episodes in and I've become reacquainted with the denizens of Ikebukuro and the thin line called destiny that intertwines all of their actions together. 

Gundam Iron Blood Orphans photo
Gundam Iron Blood Orphans

First Impressions: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans


Steel Yourself
Oct 11
// Josh Tolentino
Another year, another new Gundam series. My interest in Sunrise and Bandai's flagship has waxed and waned over the years, but I'll be the first to admit that I'm rarely attracted to the "mainline" shows that make up the core ...

First Impressions: Heavy Object

Oct 07 // Josh Tolentino
The first five minutes of Heavy Object's opening episode are enough to hang out the "military otaku only" sign, with a barrage of exposition about how, even though it's the future, people just can't stop fighting. This is backgrounded by fancy sci-fi imagery of laser-propelled space shuttles getting blown out of the sky by missiles, and warships and planes launching explosive strikes.  All of that gets eclipsed by the arrival of the first "Object", a giant ball-shaped war machine that gets nuked on its very first day in combat, and still comes out swinging, annihilating the attacking army. From then on, war changes into an Object-oriented arms race, with the world's power blocs competing to get their own Objects, and using the invincible weapons as the centerpiece of all future battlefield action. Virtually all other materiel becomes obsolete, with entire battles decided by a duel between two Objects, with few casualties on either side. Wars become "clean" thanks to the dominance of a single category of weapon. This new battlefield dynamic affects every up and down the chain, which is where the lead characters - the hilariously named Qwenthur and Havia - come in. They're just two grunts, relegated to shoveling snow in Alaska, maintaining an airbase no one will use while Objects are in play. Qwenthur wants to become an Object engineer, and seems to have struck up a friendship of sorts with their local Object's pilot, a blonde loli referred to only as "The Princess". Havia's serving thanks to pressure from his noble family. Both are at the bottom of the totem pole, as ground troops are obsolete in the face of Object-based warfare. It's an interesting premise to start from, not least because the Objects themselves are about as far as possible as one can get from the stereotypical image of Japanese mecha. They're literally giant balls of armor covered in guns, like some demented fan of Gundam's RB-79 Ball took control of the boardroom at J.C. Staff when the time came to decide which shows to animate. It's also got a somewhat interesting angle going for it. After all, it's a rare war story that focuses on the characters who get "left behind" at the rear line. Then again, any military otaku worth his MREs would know that the very notion of war being "clean" and things as fundamental as infantry being outmoded by what is essentially a gigantic tank is preposterous, even for anime. Knowing that, the most likely scenario is our seeing Heavy Object's plot aim to poke holes in its own presumptions, that war can be just as hellish from the cockpit of a 50-meter death ball as it is in the trenches. Well, that's the hope at least. If nothing else, the episode ends on something of a down note, with Qwenthur staring at the shattered remains of The Princess' Object, dreading the prospect of having to fight the enemy Object without backup. That's no picnic, and seeing how he and his deal with the challenge should set the tone for the rest of the show. [Check out Heavy Object's simulcast on FUNimation!]    
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A Weighty Topic
Stop me if you've heard this before, but this show is about a piece of military hardware, invented at some undetermined time in the future, that changes the very nature of warfare forever. Practically invincible on the battle...

First Impressions: Owarimonogatari

Oct 06 // Anthony Redgrave
It's a jump back in the timeline from Hanamonogatari and a jump forward since Tsukimonogatari as we join our favourite half vampire Koyomi Araragi still enjoying his days as a high school student. The audience is launched straight into the episode with talk about a Euler's identity and how it is the most amazing mathematic formula ever made. It's plucked straight out of a textbook and would put anyone to sleep if this weren't Monogatari. Taking an abstract concept and linking it into the story in a tangential way to make it seem smarter forms the basis of the Monogatari story telling style. Lots of discussion over different things made entertaining because of the visuals and sharp writing. The first few minutes of this show is a great litmus test to see if Monogatari is a series you can put up with, if not then I suggest Nekomonogatari since that's got a lot of Tsubasa Hanekawa fanservice. The bulk of the episode is a locked room mystery that spirals into a whodunit mystery with color commentary provided by Araragi in his nonchalant style and the mysterious belle du jour Ougi Oshino piping in with probing questions. Araragi's interactions with the different girls of the series is a highlight as he has a totally different dynamic with each of them; overly nice to Hanekawa, on edge with Senjougahara, and tough with his sisters. It's interesting to see him interact more with a character that isn't played off as sexualised. There are far less panty, chest, and poses from Ougi and more on her interaction with Araragi. Ougi is a mysterious character and sometimes we question whether she is a female. The ambiguous nature of Ougi in the story is complemented by her androgynous character design. Always appearing sounding like she's one step ahead of Araragi, her demeanor puts us on edge as she probes Araragi through the mystery.  Since 90% of the episode is spent in a classroom trying to solve a mystery the writing and art have to be on point to keep the episode from dragging. The plot does move along at a steady pace and doesn't linger too long at any one point or repeat/ reiterate the same point over and over. In fact, little is needed to be repeated as the writing and dialogue are at a pace where the story is always moving forward. Viewers not accustomed to this steady stream of words may find a new best friend in the pause button as even seasoned Monogatari veterans like myself still needed to tap the pause more than once to keep up. Throughout the series, the focus has always been on the girls and their oddities. Each oddity effects one girl and Araragi is often the man to guide them through their troubles, but we know very little about the man. Despite having Ougi as the main female lead, it is Araragi who is in the spotlight for character development and this is very welcome addition into the series. We may still have to wait until 2018 for Kizumonogatari, but this provides a deeper understanding on the half vampire lead.  I mentioned before that pausing the episode to catch up with the rapid fire text is a requirement, but it's not just to understand the story. It's to fully appreciate the art direction and cinematography of the episode. An empty classroom as a background can be monotonous especially to those of us that have gone through 18 years of schooling, coupled that with endless streams of dialogue it may be a one-way ticket to snore town USA. But Shaft has the alchemic ability to change these mundane environments into a visual ecstasy. The color schemes of the room are always changing, matching the mood and beat of the plot making the objects pop with contrasting colours and making backgrounds ooze with character. A key scene midway through the episode as chaos erupts in the classroom as it's filled with silhouettes and clashes of chairs and tables. It's effective in conveying the absolute carnage happening in the room despite the verbal debate reality. Another really cool visual was how it represented the other classmates as floating kanji. It's a really smart way of conveying the sense of bizarreness that comes with oddities in Monogatari and also a way of cutting down on designing characters.  The big reveal at the end of the episode was fairly predictable and it's nice to see Tsubasa making another appearance. If I could criticise this episode it would be that there was a lack of comedy throughout. It was a serious episode with little to no gags. I hear that Ougi Oshino will be the main antagonist throughout this season and I can't wait to see how that pans out. She treads the line between welcomingly cute and disturbingly intense at the flip of a switch.  [Watch Owarimonogatari on Crunchy Roll!] [Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!]
Monogatari photo
The return of Arararararararararararagi
Like Christmas, Halloween, and other holidays that I like to celebrate maybe once or twice a year and the same holds true for the release schedule of the Monogatari series. Last year's holiday season brought the four-par...

First Impressions: Attack on Titan: Junior High episode 1

Oct 05 // Soul Tsukino
AOT: Junior High was first produced as a comedy parody spinoff manga that got many  people's attention for being the exact opposite of what AOT was known for. It's silly, adorable, and made for a zany side series. Could the anime version do the same? Right off the bat you know something is different when you see the familiar opening, only with more cute chibified characters with big heads standing in a stark field covered in blood. However that is only a bad dream as the main character of this series, Erin, wakes up in a field with his friends during lunch break.  That scene right there was a cute little nod that this was not the original series. We get to follow Erin, Mikasa, and all their friends as they go to the first day of Junior High. Gone is the start quasi-European world of a walled-in village and we are taken to modern (if made extremely adorable) Japan. We get introduced to more of Erin's friends like the eating machine Sasha, the friendly Christa and her over protective friend Ymir, along with Jean, who seems to be Erin's foil for the series. We also get introduced to the titans, who go to the school next door. Oh, These titans are hungry all right! But their tastes in this series tend to be a little more benign. This series is not here to make you think, it's here to make you laugh. It's a silly comedy show much in the vein of Puni Puni Poemy or The Adventures of Haruhi-chan. Although it's hard to tell how deep the writing will be from just the first episode, it seems that this show uses a lot of sight gags and spoofing of anime troupes, including poking fun at its own source series, for its humor. While that kind of humor may not play to some. I think this show is hilarious! For fans of the original material, you will get a laugh of just how adorably reimagined your favorite characters are in this series. For those of you that aren't familiar with attack on Titan can still enjoy the series as it does a good job at introducing the characters and the things they do are so silly, you won't need to have a prior knowledge of things when watching this to enjoy it. Attack on Titan is currently streaming on Hulu and Funimation's website, so go ahead and check it out!   AOT: Junior High was first produced as a comedy parody spinoff manga that got many  people's attention for being the exact opposite of what AOT was known for. It's silly, adorable, and made for a zany side series. Could the anime version do the same?
Attack on Titan: Jr. High photo
The D'awww will eat you alive!
Attack on Titan is one of those series that it doesn't matter what they do, people pay attention to it. The graphically violent and gruesome series shot to popularity first as a manga and then as an anime series. Soon all kin...

First Impressions: One Punch Man episode 1

Oct 04 // Josh Tolentino
Just in case the title isn't explanatory enough for you, One Punch Man follows the exploits of Saitama, a hero who's trained so hard he's gone bald, and as a result, he's become too powerful; any fight he gets into is ended as soon as he takes a swing, his enemy left as nothing more than a stain on his gloves. To prove the point, this first episode lines up a parade of epic villain knockoffs for Saitama to knock off, from a blue Piccolo to an off-brand Colossal Titan. Fans familiar with the manga will see the first chapter recreated almost to the panel, which given how well-regarded the art is, is generally a good thing. I might be understating things here, because the show looks really, really good. Some might not be too fond of some of the more loose-looking characters in a couple of scenes, with Gainax-esque deformation most apparent during the not-Titan fight, but it's clear that MADHOUSE has spent a lot of time and care making both the static frames and the movement as splendid-looking as possible.  Another thing I may be understating is the quality of the storytelling in general. Though the premise is as simple as they come, and the central conceit/problem of a "guy that's too powerful" is about as old as Superman himself, the story excels in evoking the emotions behind it all. The episode (and the source it's based on) really manages to capture Saitama's boredom at being invincible, and you actually feel sorry for him when the one thing he wants in the world - a worthy challenge - comes to him only in dreams.  The anime also finds time to elaborate on it slightly, with some original scenes and effective visual gags. One that stuck with me, in particular, was seeing Saitama fumbling with change in line at the grocery while a monster stepped nearby, taking off the roof and turning darkness into daylight. It's an effective way of showing the scale of the monster while taking advantage of the animated medium. If there's a true point of concern here, it's that the show may not be able to keep this kind of work up for the whole run. But that's a worry for next week. [Watch One Punch Man on Daisuki.net and Viz.com!]    
One Punch Man photo
Done In One...Punch
One Punch Man is easily the most anticipated anime series of this Fall, and for good reason. ONE and Yusuke Murata's manga is a heavy hitter in the pages of Shonen Jump, and its lead character, Saitama, is the heaviest h...

First Impressions: Himouto! Umaru-chan

Aug 15 // Anthony Redgrave
The show focuses on the perfect beautiful student Umaru Doma. She is incredible at athletics, academics, popular, sweet, cute and basically the ideal school girl. However, she has a secret that only manifests itself when she comes home. In reality, she is an ultra slacker otaku with borderline hikikomori tendencies if it weren't for the weekly Jumpu and arcades that need visiting on weekends. This is a literal transformation as she goes from moe student to chibi Crayon Shin Chan straight after crossing the threshold of the door. Only her older brother and guardian knows of this secret, but some characters have come dangerously close to discovering it. As a premise, it's quite an interesting one. A lot of anime have otaku characters and they wear their nerdy hobby on their sleeve thus being shunned as outcasts or played for laughs. In the case of Umaru, she has to constantly hide her passions due to her already preconceived image as a sweet feminine student darling. It's also great to see her transform from her selfish home self to her cute outdoor self whenever she wants to get something out of her brother. Most of the time she is in her indoor mode, eating snacks and drinking lots and lots of cola. I'm not an expert, but the amount of cola she drinks a day is evidence of addiction. I'm surprised she doesn't get any shakes or withdrawal symptoms when she's at school.  Since Umaru is based in a high school, the supporting cast is mainly other high school girls that Umaru interacts with. First is the ditzy one Nana Ebina who is basically Mikuru from Haruhi right down to the big chest, next is the hyper competitive Sylphynford Tachibana who is like Tsubasa from Haruhi without the fang, and finally Kirie Motoba the misunderstood girl who doesn't share the likeness with any Haruhi character. Most of the time these side characters are played for laughs due to their extreme personality quirks. If anyone has seen the anime Working!! it's exactly like that. Whenever the set up to a joke is being played out you can accurately predict how each character will react making some jokes to be too predictable and overplayed. This was also the downfall of Working!! as the second season had no new material. Himouto! Umaru-chan is balancing this fine line after seven episodes and it's keeping my attention due to the consistent parody of video games.  I think the bottom line is Himouto! Umaru-chan is if Lucky Star was put in a blender with Working!!. The show works well as a comedy and the art style is very appealing to look at. The only downsides apart from the longevity of the same jokes being used over and over again is that Umaru may not be very likeable in her indoor form. She's lazy, bossy, selfish, and spoilt and watching her cry about wanting more cola or money for a game makes me think back to the cries of toddlers in supermarkets when they reach the sweets aisle. On the plus side they're bringing more characters into the fold so they're no longer one note characters. I'm especially liking Kirie opening up to the Doma family and integrating with Umaru's other friends.  [Cover from Person of Leisure at Pixiv][Watch Himouto! Umaru-chan on Crunchy Roll!]  [Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan on FUNimation!]
Himouto! Umaru-chan photo
The Otaku Jekyll and Hyde
Himouto! Umaru-chan is an anime series I never intended on starting this summer but seeing that I'm now writing an extremely late First Impressions it certainly did catch my fancy after the first few episodes. Himouto! Umaru-chan

First Impressions: School-Live!

Aug 11 // Nick Valdez
School-Live! follows the School Life Club, four girls who are living within school grounds named Yuki, Yuri, Kurumi, and Miki. The show opens with Yuki, a bright and optimistic young girl who's the typical anime protagonist. She's a bit airheaded, lazy, but genuinely enjoys school. But there's also something very special about Yuki, and that's what sets the show in motion. You see, the girls are victims of a zombie apocalypse. After an outbreak, the girls were forced to live in the school in order to survive. Within the first couple of episodes, we don't know the extent of the outbreak other than its damaged the entire school and the four girls (and their teacher, which Yuki refers to as "Megu-nee") are the only survivors. The awesome thing is that you wouldn't know all of this from the outset.  As the first episode follows Yuki, everything seems fine. There are other students, the school is pristine, and like as mentioned before, everything about Yuki screams "typical." But that image shatters fast when you realize Yuki's just living in a huge daydream. When the apocalypse is revealed halfway through the first episode (so I'm not spoiling it for you), it's actually shocking. This show's pretty good about hiding things. Although some of the hints are heavy handed (like how Miki refuses to acknowledge anyone other than Yuki during the classroom scenes), there's an attempt to save most of it for an emotionally charged finale. Seeing the delusional Yuki talking to herself in a bloodstained classroom makes for a terrifyingly gripping image. The series also adds a bit of darkness into its opening CV from episode two on. You'll have to see it just to absorb how truly jarring it is.  Like the better zombie media out there, Live! is more about the survivors dealing with a changing world rather than the zombies. It's just in place of adults, it's little anime girls. I thought the art would push me away at first (since I'm still not used to the sexualization of young girls in these shows), but the use of bright color awesomely clashes with the gritty material. It's entirely unique to the series, and I don't think I can find that aesthetic anywhere else. That's most likely why Yuki's world looked so inviting at first. There's a sense of displacement seeing these girls interact with the zombies. For the first time in a while, the zombies feel more disturbing than not because they clash so much with the character design. Seeing the cutesy frames of these characters twisted in a dark fashion is an accost to the viewer. Live! is just full of great little design choices like that.  As for the story itself, the setting is at least groundbreaking if nothing else. I'll give a lot of credit for skewing the age of these survivors (it's been a long time since I've seen zombie media focus on a child's perspective), but it runs the risk of growing stale. Yuki's delusional state is definitely the anchor of series, and the first three episodes explore this, but I want to learn more about why she ended up that way. I'm waiting for the inevitable fallout where Yuki's forced to accept that zombies are real, and that'll either be thanks to an attack or someone close to her finally breaking the news to her. I'm also curious as to how far her delusions extend. Is Megu-nee real? Does no one listen to her as a joke or is she made up in Yuki's mind as well?  I guess the overall darkness of the show took me by surprise. Although I knew it was going to be a heavier type of show going in, seeing it in action is something else all together. I got to hand it the production team, Sentai Filmworks, on this. Since this is adapted from a manga I'm sure the story's pretty much the same, but I've been taken aback by the visual choices here. It's changing opening CV, the girl's designs, the zombies highlighted by shading rather than blood, it's all so wonderful to take in.  School-Live! looks so good, it's got me interested in the story. That's never happened to me before. This is all new territory for me. 
School-Live Impressions photo
Life with the afterlife
Zombies are played out at this point. Numerous movies, television shows, comics, manga, and anime have been churned out each tackling the genre but failing to do anything interesting for a long time. Each piece of zombie medi...

First Impressions: Bikini Warriors

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

First Impressions: God Eater episodes 1-3

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

First Impressions: Ultraman X episodes 1-2

Jul 27 // Salvador G Rodiles
In a clash between a red and purple entity, the two figures collide with Earth’s Sun. This ends up causing the phenomenon that people refer to as the Ultra Flare, which awakens the monsters that were sealed under the planet as Spark Dolls (a.k.a. actual creature SofuBi/soft vinyl figurines). Luckily, a group called XiO was formed to protect the people of our world and our main hero Daichi Oozora ends up become the candidate who unites with the show’s Ultra Warrior. Ultraman X’s plot may sound like your usual setup in a giant monster show, but episode 1’s main charm lies in the battles between the large hero and the huge creatures. To an extent, the battles play out like your action scenes from the Godzilla movies, except that you have a guy who uses martial arts and wrestling moves against his foes. Other than that, the shown didn’t have much going for it since the first episode was focusing on the disaster caused by the Godzilla-like monster known as Demaaga. Sure, we got a glimpse of Daichi’s backstory about his parent’s death, but it wasn’t anything grand to pull most people in. At least his fear of height gave him some flaws that could shape his character later on. Thankfully, the second episode helped raise the program’s quality. If there’s one thing that makes series about an organization trying to save the world, it’s the supporting staff themselves. This was an element that made titles like King of Braves GaoGaiGar and Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters’ first half fun to keep up with. Even though Daichi didn’t stand out much in the beginning, his comrades showed great potential. I mean, this series has a freaking scientist that’s a creepy goofy-looking alien. Honestly, Dr. Gourman’s presence in the show alone was enough to bring in some good laughs while we wait for the huge battle between Ultraman X and the Monster-of-the-Week. Of course, the silly alien isn’t the only character that’s fun since the rest of XiO’s members contribute to the show's segments. Rui’s enthusiasm for research and victory is cute and her interactions with Gourman were priceless. Even though the rest of the team mostly played the role of keeping the dangerous areas under control, the later episodes might flesh them out more. Hell, anyone who fights a giant monster with an advanced bazooka and/or gun deserves some mad props. One of the things that might push Ultraman X is that the hero can summon special armors through the use of the Cyber Monsters, digital creatures that are created from the data of the ones who’re sealed in the Spark Dolls. In a way, it’s almost like they were inspired by the Heisei Kamen Rider shows’ Form-changing gimmick. Sure, this means that the Giant of Light will likely have a bunch of different transformations, but it also lets the team experiment with the show's action scenes, such as the hero gaining the ability to fight with huge claws. Since I’ve heard that Tsuburaya toys mostly focus on the kaiju, this element might help them make the program's hero a more marketable character. Come to think of it, this new path might’ve inspired them to depart from the alien using the main hero as a host (or the Ultra Warrior using a human disguise) since the two Ginga shows and X involve a guy uniting with the Giant of Light through a special device. While XiO’s support vehicles that can dock into other machines are only used to stall the viewers until the big fight, their purpose could help with the merchandising side of things. Who knows, they might pull a Gridman/Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad and have them combine with the hero. For now, they serve as another feature that can help Tsuburaya expand on the show's toys. In regards to the two monsters shown so far, the creatures’ cartoony and pudgy designs give off a nice old-school feeling. While it seems lazy for Tsuburaya to reuse Birdon from Ultraman Taro, the franchise has been known for reusing older beasts, which is usually used to pull older fans in. That and to sell toys of the previous enemies to the new generation of children. Also, the staff's decision to feature a creature that looks like Rodan crossed with a chicken is a nice way to add goofy elements to any action scene. Compare to other children toku franchises like Super Sentai and Kamen Rider, I was surprised to see that Ultraman X uses more practical effects than CG. Based on the program's first two episodes, the 3D models might be limited to the XiO defense vehicles. From Birdon’s flying scene to the show’s main fight sequences, the segments ranged from being hilariously cheesy to dynamically entertaining. For example, Birdon's flying segment would've benefited from using a CG creation or having the suit actor flap its wings like an actual bird. Nonetheless, it served as a silly moment before Daichi unites with X. Seeing that this is my first Ultra TV show, I’m not sure if this rule applies to the brand’s previous modern installments. One thing for sure, it shows that relying on mostly practical effects can look great or limit the type of sequences that appear on screen. For the most part, the first two major fights played out nicely and X's new Monster Armors might liven things up even more. With Ultraman X being my second entry into the Ultra franchise, the show has gotten better with each passing episode. Daichi may be a decent character at the moment, but his backstory and his connection to his parents’ Spark Doll might lead to him developing into a better protagonist. For now, the series' neat aspect is that its supporting cast gives off a nice dash of comedy to keep us satisfied until the main battle. Combined with the hero’s ability to equip monster-themed armors, I believe that Tsuburaya’s franchise has reached a new height. I guess you could say that we're in for an Xciting ride. [You can unite with Ultraman X at Crunchyroll and Tsuburaya’s YouTube channel] In a clash between a red and purple entity, the two figures collide with Earth’s Sun. This ends up causing the phenomenon that people refer to as the Ultra Flare, which awakens the monsters that were sealed under the planet as Spark Dolls (a.k.a. actual creature SofuBi toys). Luckily, a group called XiO was formed to protect the people of our world and our main hero Daichi Oozora/group member ends up become the candidate who unites with the show’s Ultra Warrior. Ultraman X’s plot may sound like your usual setup in a giant monster show, but episode 1’s main charm lies in the battles between the large hero and the huge creatures. To an extent, the battles play out like your action scenes from the Godzilla movies, except that you have a guy who uses martial arts and wrestling moves against his foes. Other than that, the shown didn’t have much going for it since the first episode was focusing on the disaster caused by the Godzilla-esque monster known as Demaaga. Sure, we got a glimpse of Daichi’s backstory about his parent’s death, but it wasn’t anything grand to pull most people in. At least his fear of height gave him some flaws that could shape his character later on. Thankfully, the second episode helped raise the program’s quality. If there’s one thing that makes series about an organization trying to save the world, it’s the supporting staff themselves. This was an element that made titles like King of Braves GaoGaiGar and Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters’ first half fun to keep up with. Even though Daichi didn’t stand out much in the beginning, his comrades showed great potential. I mean, this series has a freaking scientist that’s a creepy goofy-looking alien. Honestly, Dr. Gourman’s presence in the show alone is enough to bring in some good laughs while we wait for the huge battle between Ultraman X and the Monster-of-the-Week. Of course, the goofy alien isn’t the only character that’s fun since the rest of XiO’s members contribute to the segments on screen. Rui’s enthusiasm for research and victory is cute and her interactions with Gourman were priceless. Even though the rest of the team mostly played the role of keeping the dangerous areas under control, the later episodes might flesh them out more. Hell, anyone who fights a giant monster with an advanced bazooka and/or gun deserves some mad props. One of the things that might push Ultraman X is that the hero can change his fighting style through the use of the Cyber Monsters, which have the data of the creatures who’re sealed in the Spark Dolls. In a way, it’s almost like they were inspired by the Heisei Kamen Rider shows’ Form-changing gimmick. Sure, this means that the Giant of Light will likely have a ton of different transformations, but it also opens the doorways to more unique fight scenes. Since I’ve heard that Tsuburaya has been struggling with having variety in their toys for their titles, this element might push the franchise in a great new direction. Hell, this new path might’ve inspired them to depart from the alien using the main hero as a host since the two Ginga shows and this one have the guy unite with the Ultra Warrior through a special device. While XiO’s support vehicles that can dock into other machines are only used to stall the viewers until the big fight, their purpose could help with the merchandising side of things. Who knows, they might pull a Gridman/Super Human Samurai Cyber Squad and have them combine with the hero. For now, they serve as another example of this show focusing on selling more toys. In regards to the two monsters shown so far, the creatures’ cartoony and pudgy designs give off a nice old-school feeling. While it seems lazy for Tsuburaya to reuse Birdon from Ultraman Taro, the franchise has been known for reusing older beasts, which is a decent way to pull older fans in. At least it was neat to see the classic beast in action since it looked like a goofy Rodan crossed with a chicken. Compare to other children toku franchises like Super Sentai and Kamen Rider, I was surprised to see that Ultraman X uses more practical effects than CG. From Birdon’s flying scene to the show’s main fight sequences, it’s impressive to see that the company didn’t resort to using 3D models during the crazy scenes. Seeing that this is my first Ultra TV show, I’m not sure if this rule applies to the brand’s previous modern installments. One thing for sure, it’s a welcoming aspect that shows that traditional practices can still impress folks— even if they’re cheesy and campy. With Ultraman X being my second entry into the Ultra franchise, the show’s first two episodes hold up to where we can end up with a fun title. Daichi may be a decent character at the moment, but his backstory and his connection to his parents’ Spark Doll might lead to him developing into a better protagonist. For now, the series neat aspect is that its supporting cast gives off a nice dash of comedy to keep us satisfied until the main battle, which balances out nicely. Combined with the hero’s ability to equip special armors, I believe that Tsuburaya’s franchise has reached a new height. I guess you could say that we’re in for a show that’s both exciting and excellent. [You can unite with Ultraman X at Crunchyroll and Tsuburaya’s YouTube channel]
Ultraman X photo
Xanidium Beam!
For a good while, my only experience with the Ultra franchise was Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends, which was directed by Koichi Sakamoto (Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger and Ultraman Ginga S’ Director). Honestly, I&rs...

First Impressions: GATE episodes 1-3

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

First Impressions: GANGSTA

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

Japanator's Summer 2015 Anime Preview Guide!

Jul 04 // Josh Tolentino
New Series: [embed]33867:4893:0[/embed] Gangsta. Studio: Manglobe (Deadman Wonderland, Ergo Proxy, The World God Only Knows) Director: Shukou Murase (Ergo Proxy, Genocidal Organ) Broadcasting: July 1, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) One of my pet armchair-anime-historian theories is that the true successors to the hyper-masculine era of anime and manga in the '80s and early '90s, the heirs to the likes of Fist of the North Star and its ilk, aren't the "superhero" titles of the modern day, but gritty, crime-and-violence action franchises, of which Black Lagoon stands as current exemplar. That's just a fancy way of me saying that Gangsta., whose title and content seem to originate from two different facets of criminal pop culture, is after that crown, like Jormungand was not so long ago. While I have my doubts that it can make off with it, considering the high regard Black Lagoon still commands these days, the saga of two badasses who pull crazy jobs for both cop and crim alike, stands to be an enjoyable action romp. It's also out right now!   [embed]33867:4894:0[/embed] Chaos Dragon Studio: Silver Link (Fate Kaleid Liner Prisma Ilya, Watamote) Director: Masato Matsune  Broadcasting: July 2, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) Hey, kids! You know what's cool? The works of Gen Urobuchi, Kinoko Nasu, Ryougo Narita, and Makoto Sanda, that's what! Their combined record of creativity boasts such titles Madoka Magica, Fate/stay night, Durarara!! and Record of Lodoss War. Therefore, Chaos Dragon, which brings all these creators under one project's roof, should be at least five times as awesome as any single one, right? Well, maybe. The "too many cooks in the kitchen" adage still holds true in most things, though there's no denying the appeal of wanting to see what results when you put a number of famous talents in a room, have them play Dungeons & Dragons, then adapt the transcripts into a real live anime series.    [embed]33867:4895:0[/embed] Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace Studio: Lerche (Carnival Phantasm, Assassination Classroom) Director: Seiji Kishi (Angel Beats!, Persona 4 The Golden Animation) Broadcasting: July 2, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) The honor of this summer's first official simulcast debut goes to Rampo Kitan, which also happens to be commemorating a whole host of other occasions, including the return of detective-themed anime after a brief surge in popularity a few years ago (when you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting some kind of take on loli Sherlock Holmes), and the 50th anniversary of the death of Edogawa Rampo, a famous Japanese mystery novelist.  I've never been much of a fan of mystery fiction, so I honestly couldn't tell you if we're seeing much of Rampo's work or influences in Rampo Kitan, but he's an author of a similar era to Ango Sakaguchi, who wrote the book that another 2011's somewhat overlooked detective anime Un-Go is based on. Rampo Kitan appears to be angling to push similar buttons.   [embed]33867:4896:0[/embed] GATE Studio: A-1 Pictures (Sword Art Online, Anohana) Director: Takahiko Kyogoku (Love Live! School Idol Project) Broadcasting: July 2, 2015 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) One of the most enduring and - I'll freely admit - fun thought exercises in nerd culture is trying to find out how people from the real world would fare in the many fantastical settings preferred by genre fiction. This usually takes the form of "If you lived in [Insert Fantasy Setting Here], how would you do?"-types of questions, but one particularly popular mutation of that exercise is pitting fantasy against reality, usually a bunch of dudes with guns and tanks against things like dragons, elves, and other magical creatures. It's a staple of everything from Reign of Fire to Pax Romana, even to recent anime like Outbreak Company and arguably the now massive "stuck in a game" subgenre. GATE is a slightly different beast, though, in that it tosses the real-life Japan Self-Defense Force trough a magic portal full of monsters, elves, and lolita mages. In fact, the promo visuals for GATE looks like a Call of Duty or Battlefield soldier accidentally got copy-pasted onto the box art of a Compile Heart JRPG. This could be an interesting watch, provided one tries not to look too hard at the potential for right-wing-nutjob-levels of subtext.   [embed]33867:4897:0[/embed] SHIMONETA: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn't Exist Studio: J.C. Staff (Danmachi, Food Wars) Director: Youhei Suzuki (The Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat, Aki no Kanade) Broadcasting: July 4, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) Right as America celebrates its freedom from the oppression of the British, another world celebrates the freedom for high schoolers to run around telling filthy jokes and yelling about copulation, intercourse, and all the less-polite terminology for sexual congress between consenting adults. Expect to hear a lot of screeching, see a lot of fan service, and detect comically obvious subtextual criticism of recent "youth development" legislation with the potential to affect pop culture content.   [embed]33867:4898:0[/embed] God Eater Studio: Ufotable (Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Fate/Zero) Director: Takayuki Hirao (GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack, Magical Sisters Yoyo & Nene) Broadcasting: July 3, 2015 (Streaming on Daisuki) Considering how much I got hyped up for Unlimited Blade Works, being excited about Ufotable's latest project, now that they're nominally free of the Nasuverse's clutches (at least until they start crunching on the Heaven's Feel movie), should be a no-brainer. And it is! I am indeed hyped, for God Eater is my favorite Monster Hunter competitor, and it's got a style all its own. In fact, it's just stylish enough and takes itself seriously enough that the Ufotable of this era is the perfect studio to pick it up. I'm already mildly optimistic thanks to their choice of a new, original protagonist to replace the canonical putz that is the manga-based "Yuu Kannagi". This new guy seems to be constructed more in the Eren Jaeger mold of being really mad at monsters, but it should at least make for more engaging character dynamics than the boringly earnest audience stand-in. Not that it even matters, given that the game's protagonists are fully customizable by default, anyway. In any case, if God Eater ends up being a lavishly animated action romp and no more, it'll have done its job perfectly.   [embed]33867:4899:0[/embed] School-Live! (Gakkou Gurashi!) Studio: Lerche (Carnival Phantasm, Assassination Classroom) Director: Masaomi Ando (White Album 2, Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse) Broadcasting: July 9, 2015 (Licensed by Sentai Filmworks) Three schoolgirls have an impossibly idyllic high school life. Everything is perfect, except for the fact that they're hallucinating, and in fact they're the only survivors of a zombie apocalypse and are trying to survive.  It's a deliciously weird premise that sounds right up the alley of the staff, many of whom are veterans from Gen Urobuchi's Nitroplus, an outfit long known for disturbing and tragic stories. Some folks are describing the manga this is based on as a real emotional rollercoaster (one that mostly angles down), but I'm not fully convinced of that yet. If nothing else, it does promise to be something outside the norm for typical "everyday life" fare.   [embed]33867:4900:0[/embed] Prison School Studio: J.C. Staff (Danmachi, Food Wars) Director: Tsutomu Mizushima (Girls und Panzer, Shirobako) Broadcasting: July 10, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) Five men. A thousand women. One high school. That's normally a setup I wouldn't pay a huge amount of attention to, and if I'm honest, I'm mainly interested in Prison School just by virtue of it's being attached to Director Tsutomu Mizushima. Pretty much every show of his that I've watched has ended up on my favorites list (though admittedly I haven't seen it all), and I see no reason to stop giving him opportunities to add to it.  Besides, the Prison School manga has apparently garnered a reputation as a hilarious (if divisive) satire of the whole "harem high school" concept. Here, the few men at a formerly all-girls school are treated less like kings (as is the common conceit) and more like prey, which, honestly, is the far more likely scenario.   [embed]33867:4901:0[/embed] Everyday Life with Monster Girls Studio: Lerche (Carnival Phantasm, Assassination Classroom) Director: Tatsuya Yoshihara (Arve Rezzle, Yatterman Night) Broadcasting: July 7, 2015 Well, it took 'em long enough. Ever since a little comic called "Life with Lamia" made its way off Pixiv some years ago, I had been expecting someone to go and make a proper anime out of the whole "Monster Girl" conceit. As a natural extension of the whole catgirl phenomenon, it was inevitable, but I am genuinely surprised it didn't happen sooner. Unfortunately, though, besides the many amazing athropomorphizations of various mythical beasts and creatures, the show itself appears to be a standard harem/fan service rom-com. Not that anyone would expect that much different from a show titled "everyday life". Plus, that's, like, the whole appeal of monster girls anyway.   [embed]33867:4902:0[/embed] Actually, I Am (My Monster Secret) Studio: TMS Entertainment (Yowapeda, Zetman) Director: Yasutaka Yamamoto (Hero Bank) Broadcasting: July 6, 2015 (Streaming via Crunchyroll) "Actually, I Am"...what? What is she? The answer to that question would depend on who you ask, and forms the central conceit of this season's other monster girl anime, as a milquetoast young man who can't keep a secret to save his life is charged with concealing the true, monstrous natures of his female friends from the general public. Fans of the less human aspects of the monster girl concept might be a bit disappointed initially, seeing as the monsters hinted so far trend towards humanoid types like vampires and aliens and things that aren't lamias or snake-women. That said, I'm getting a bit of a similar vibe here to Spring's Yamada-kun and Seven Witches, so that could end up a net gain.    [embed]33867:4903:0[/embed] Overlord Studio: MADHOUSE (My Love STORY!!, The Tatami Galaxy) Director: Naoyuki Itou (Digimon: Data Squad, Hunter x Hunter: Phantom Rouge) Broadcasting: July 7, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) Oh look, another anime where a dude gets stuck in an online RPG game world made real. How novel!  It's easy to dismiss this rapidly growing subgenre with a yawn, but I'd be lying if I said that the gamer within me isn't at least mildly interested. Besides, there does seem to be a bit of a twist in MADHOUSE's latest, with our lead not merely trapped in his game, but reincarnated into the role of the title's final boss, the titular, skeleton-bodied Overlord. That's a trope in and of itself, but hey, at least it's not yet another story about an ace gamer dude meeting with unending success as usual.   [embed]33867:4904:0[/embed] Snow White with the Red Hair  Studio: BONES (Captain Earth, Heroman) Director: Masahiro Ando (Sword of the Stranger, Blast of Tempest) Broadcasting: July 6, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) Fairy tale deconstruction, thy name is "Snow White". Good old "Shirayukihime" is anime's go-to character whenever Glorious Nippon wants to take on the roots of western fantasy fiction. That said, there's not a whole lot here to promote the thought that this might be the next Ookami-san, either, with the Snow White in question being a red-headed commoner who flees a forced marriage to the local prince with the help of a young noble named Zen. Romance and fantasy tourism ensue. That actually works for me. After all, not every fantastical setting has to be milked for epic adventure, and some of my favorite fantasy anime are low-key explorations of an exotic land with a side of feelings, rather than rollicking action. And it'll be interesting to see BONES get back on that particular genre horse after a long time.   [embed]33867:4905:0[/embed] Sky Wizards Academy Studio: Diomedea (Kantai Collection, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!) Director: Takayuki Inagaki (Desert Punk) Broadcasting: July 8, 2015 (Streaming via Funimation) You know that feeling you get when you look at an anime poster or even just hear its title and feel like you can predict the plot, characterization, and setting details from all that? And you're not cheating because it's one of those deliberately obvious light novel titles? That's the vibe I'm getting off Sky Wizards Academy right about now, with its story about a magical academy of (wait for it) Sky Wizards and the one disgraced ace wizard who takes on a class of misfit young girl wizards.  This, of course, is not to say that it can't be good or enjoyable, or even that my predictions will be wrong. It's just fascinating to see how even in a nominally creative industry you can still produce artistic works that just outwardly *scream* "product", if you get my meaning.   [embed]33867:4906:0[/embed] Charlotte Studio: P.A. Works (Shirobako, Hanasaku Iroha) Director: Yoshiyuki Asai Broadcasting: July 4, 2015 (Broadcasting on Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Daisuki) Pay no attention to the Director credit on Charlotte (sorry, Asai-san), because the big name here is Jun Maeda, he of Key and Sad Girls in Snow. Maeda is like M. Night Shyamalan for anime feelings, in the sense that pretty much everyone who knows his name likes to think they know exactly what he's doing when he does things. Whether or not that notion is actually true doesn't even matter.  In any case, it's also big because Charlotte is Maeda's first anime original since Angel Beats!, with much of the same team at P.A. Works helping produce it. Personally I liked Angel Beats!. Cliche as it was I did derive properly satisfying feels from all the tragic backstory. Ironically, though, it was the romantic bits that I bounced off of. Perhaps it's a good sign for me, then, that the action-to-melodrama balance of the trailer leans more towards the former?   [embed]33867:4907:0[/embed] Classroom Crisis Studio: Lay-duce (Go! Go! 575, Magi: Adventure of Sinbad) Director: Kenji Nagasaki (Gundam Build Fighters, Gundam 00) Broadcasting: July 3, 2015 (Streaming on Daisuki and Crunchyroll) Despite the rather banal high-school-students-with-jobs conceit and its classification as a rom-com, Classroom Crisis might just be this season's show to get the sci-fi juices flowing. Sure, the kids are in high school and have jobs, but when the high school is on frickin' Mars, and the jobs are designing custom spaceships, then you've got my attention.   Sequels, Shorts and Other Notables I've never really believed in the concept of the "Summer Doldrums", but thankfully for anime preview writers who are running terribly late, this summer is strangely stuffed with sequels and short-form productions. Most prominent there would be the new Dragon Ball Super, the first actual sequel to the Dragon Ball Story in nearly two decades. I've never been much of a Dragon Ball person, but it is quite exciting to see that segment of the fandom get all excited again. Then there's the continuation of Durarara!! x2, with the Ten portion of that arc getting its due, ideally this time with the studio not forgetting to animate entire portions of the final episode. The divisive Gatchaman Crowds also gets a second dip, where people may once more fall in love (or hate) with the way Hajime talks. I think it's cute, for the record. Also of interest is Aquarion Logos, a quasi-sequel to Aquarion EVOL, which turned out to not be a sequel to Aquarion at all. Non Non Biyori, Wagnaria, To LOVE Ru, Junjou Romantica and Hetalia also get new seasons after a lengthy absence from the scene, as well as a third (!) season of Fate Prisma Illya, which I honestly didn't think possible. Then again, Symphogear is also getting a third season this summer, so I guess anything is possible if you IMASINE it. Idolmaster Cinderella Girls continues the saga of me almost regretting calling myself an Idolmaster fan when I just can't get into all these new cast members.  Short anime really have come into their own after treasures like Tonari no Seki-kun and, er, Sega Hard Girls, which means that there are even more of them around now across an ever-expanding line of premises. You've got the usual idol and everyday life fodder like Danchigai, Sore ga Seiyuu!, Million Doll, and Wakaba Girl, but also in the margins are weird things like Pillow Boys a show about body pillows turned into cute boys, and Wakako-zake, a show about Miyuki Sawashiro visiting pubs and getting plastered. Even cute-bait and boobs anime have made a jump to the short format, with My Wife Is The Student Council President! and Himouto! Umaru-chan and the so-obvious-I-barely-need-to-preview-it Bikini Warriors. Life is good if you've only got 5-10 minutes to spare in your life for anime-viewing. And that's most of what she wrote! What are you watching this season? [embed]33867:4893:0[/embed] School-Live! (Gakkou Gurashi!) Studio: Lerche (Carnival Phantasm, Assassination Classroom)
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The Heat Is On
The Summer is nigh and the sun is out, and you know what that means, folks: Huddle indoors and watch Japanese cartoons! Well, come to think of it, that's our solution to every season, but hey, we're probably biased. After all...


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