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Recap

Strong Style: G1 is here!

May 28 // Soul Tsukino
We start off with a greeting from Hiroshi Tanahashi! Tetsuya Naito vs. Bad Luck Fale: Fale's expression in that picture matches mines perfectly when I saw this on AXS TV's schedule. At least this year they didn't hot shot a belt on him to make him look like a bigger threat than he really is. Naito is in a weird "Tranquilo" phase here where he is a lazy, unmotivated tweener who only does anything if he decides he wants to. He is already talking about Los Ingobernobles here, but so far it's just him. Fale comes down the aisle alone surprisingly. I guess with all the other Bullet Club heavyweights involved in the tournament as well  this would make sense. Naito comes out in a black suit and a silver skull mask. Jim and Josh talk about Naito's attitude change. In short he was getting booed in places like Tokyo and Osaka, so he went for a short excursion in Mexico and when he came back he labeled himself as one of the Ungovernables and talked about "tranquilo" and would stall and walk out of matches if the going got tough. Naito takes his time getting his gear off and the bell rings. Lock up into the ropes and Naito ducks Fale's strike and starts chopping the crap out of Fale. Fale just runs him over. Naito bails and starts strolling around the ring before Fale goes after him and tosses him around the ringside seats for a while. We skip ahead, thankfully. Both men are back in the ring as Fale goes for Naito, but Naito lands a dropkick right to the big man's knee. As Fale is on one knee, Naito comes up and slaps him on the head. He goes back for another attack but Fale catches him and dumps him in a Samoan drop and a two-count. Both get up and Fale goes for the charge but Naito hits a dropkick. With the big guy teetering, Naito grabs onto a toehold to send him down and work on the leg more. Fale has enough and kicks him off before blasting him right to the mat. Fale hits the big splash and gets a two-count. Big guy picks Naito up and goes for the bad luck fall (razor's edge). Naito smartly wiggles out, only for Fale to clobber him with a clothesline. Fale sets him up for the fall again, but Naito again wiggles out into a roll-up and the pin. Wait really? The official time was nearly 11 minutes. Not even half of that was shown here. Guess this one really sucked! Naito backstage gives the press crap making sure they can pronounce tranquillo. Katsuyori Shibata vs. A.J. Styles: *drooool* These two have never met before so this is one of those matches fans are really looking forward to. No real storyline here and there really doesn't need to be. Styles is the leader of The Bullet Club but that doesn't play into things much. This will hopefully be better. Styles comes out first alone. Yay! Instantly this match got a whole lot better. Shibata enters with his usual no-frills power walk. Bell rings with both men circling ready to go. Shibata goes for a high kick, but Styles back out. Shibata with a side headlock as Josh notices Shibata's right elbow is taped up. Shibata holds on the headlock despite several whip attempts before Styles sends him to the ropes that lead to a few kick attempts from both guys but no hits. Knuckle lock leads to Styles getting a lock on Shibata's other arm. Styles with a surfboard now. Shibata rolls through and back around right into an abdominal stretch! Awesome work there! Shibata gets a waist lock and Styles scrambles to the ropes but Shibata gives a clean break. "Shibata looks like a deadly human being"- Jim Ross. Truer words have never been spoken. Both guys start open slaps to each other before Styles goes down in the corner. Shibata darts across the ring to set up his hanging low dropkick but Styles leaps right up and follows him and hits a clothesline. Shibata goes to the outside and Styles follows him. Shibata gets the edge and high kicks him right over the metal barrier. Shibata goes back to the ring and Styles follows him but rolls right out. Shibata follows him out and Styles gets to the ringpost. Shibata goes for the kick and Styles ducks! The CLINK of his foot hitting the post is sickeningly loud. Back from the commercial with Styles over Shibata in the corner with some elbows. Shibata wills himself to stand up and hits Styles down into the corner. Shibata runs across and nails the hanging dropkick, kinda forgetting that he JUST KICKED A RINGPOST. He suplexes Styles down for a two-count. Styles hits a strike but it doesn't do anything as Shibata grabs on for another suplex attempt, however, it is Styles who gets him over. Styles goes for the stylesclash but Shibata scrambles out of it. Shibata stands up right into an enziguri. He tries for the stylesclash again but Shibata again escapes, only to end up in the calf killer leglock. Shibata gets to the ropes to break the hold. When Shibata gets up Styles hits some strikes on him but Shibata grabs him and dumps him with a death valley driver! Shibata then locks him in a sleeper and Styles keeps trying for the ropes but Shibata pulls him back. Styles goes for the injured arm with some elbows and momentarily releases the hold. However, Shibata locks in a chinlock with his good arm and bites his own hand to hold on! Styles breaks the contact and then hits the Pele kick. Bloody Sunday DDT! Styles gets the pinfall and 2 points! Studio words from Tanahashi. He has put away his issue with Yano from last year's tournament and is ready for his comeback. He respects Ibushi and remembers Kota taking Okada to the limit when they met not too long ago. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi: This was supposed to be one of the dream matches from last year's tournament but Ibushi ended up with an injury and had to withdraw from the tournament. So this is another dream match. Both guys get good reactions coming to the ring. We come back with the ring of the bell and we get this one underway. Circling around leads into a lock up and a clean break in the ropes. Knuckle lock leads into a grapple into the ropes and Tanahashi gives a small shove. Waistock by Tanahashi but Kota reverses into a knuckle lock and then into an armbar. Hiroshi gets the headlock into a takeover and a quick attempt at a pin before getting up. Hiroshi gets a crowd chant. They circle around again tentatively. Hiroshi gets a headlock and grinds down before Ibushi shoots him off and Hiroshi runs him over. Kota gets up and shoots the ropes, leapfrogs over Hiroshi then dropkicks him. Kota lays in with some hard kicks. He strikes Hiroshi down and tries for a kick but Hiroshi ducks, and rolls away from a moonsault. Kota's got some knee issues from hitting the mat and Hiroshi goes right for it. Hiroshi keeps up with kicks to Ibushi's knee and quad muscles. Hiroshi gets a leg lock on Kota's injured knee. Kota is SCREAMING but he gets to the ropes. Kota gets up and surprises Hiroshi with a stiff kick. He tries another but Hiroshi blocks it and drives the elbow into the injured leg. Kota sends Hiroshi into the buckle but gets an elbow for his effort. Hiroshi goes to the ropes, but Kota catches him with a dropkick and ends the ace outside the ring. Kota lines things up and executes his golden triangle moonsault to the outside! Kota is up and shakes out the injured knee as he rolls Tanahashi into the ring. Kota climbs to the ring apron and when Hiroshi looks up he gets hit with a HIGH springboard dropkick from Ibushi. Serious airtime for that! Both guys get up and start in with the duel of elbows and palm strikes. Kota lands some sidekicks before launching a standing dropkick. Kota gets back up and Hiroshi just nails him in the knee. Kota turns in pain and Tanahashi chop blocks him! Damn dude, you are the good guy! Kota rolls out of the ring but Tanahashi goes up and lands a cross body outside the ring! Hiroshi gets in and as Kota gets caught in the ropes, Hiroshi whips his bad leg three times on the ropes in a row! Hiroshi lands another dropkick to Kota's bad leg but when Hiroshi bounces off the ropes for a strike he runs right into an Ibushi side kick! Out of commercial both guys are slow to get up. Trading strikes now. Not quite the hits someone like Ishii or Makabe would throw, but they are going for it. Tanahashi ends that duel with a kick to the bad knee  Kota counters with a bunch of kicks before Hiroshi hits another screw leg whip. He then locks in a cloverleaf leglock. Kota gets into the ropes and stands up right into a waistlock and German suplex from Hiroshi. Hiroshi goes for the slingblade but gets a kick for his trouble. Undeterred he tries again and actually hits the slingblade into a two count. He tries for the high fly flow, but Kota gets up and gets a cross body for that. Hiroshi goes up again and flys right into  Ibushi's two knees. Both up as Kota hits rapid fire strikes and kicks into a frankenstiener and then Kota launches him right into the corner face first. That couldn't have felt good. Hiroshi rolls to the apron. Kota comes over and grabs Tanahashi over the top rope for a suplex attempt and actually gets him up and over! Wow, that was impressive. Kota goes for the pin but only gets two! Kota tries for a powerbomb but Hiroshi counters. He goes for a punch but Hiroshi ducks it but Kota hits another strike sending Tanahashi to the mat. Kota goes up and tries for a phoenix splash but Hiroshi moves and Kota lands right on his knees. Hiroshi goes up for the flow but Kota jumps up with a kick. Kota nails the frankensteiner off the top rope but Hiroshi kicks out! Kota drags Hiroshi up for the powerbomb again but Hiroshi flips out and nails the neckbreaker. Kota tries for a kick but Hiroshi catches his leg into another leg whip. They exchange strikes back and forth before Hiroshi hits the dragon suplex for two. Hiroshi scrambles up top and hits the high fly flow and gets the pin and 2 points! Kota struggles up and bows to Tanahashi out of respect before rolling out of the ring. Hiroshi grabs the mic. He thanks the crowd and says he's going to win the G1 climax. Backstage Kota says it was an unforgettable match and he accepts the loss. Hiroshi says that as long as Ibushi is there, the future of wrestling is bright. Studio Tanahashi words now and he admits that the header into the turnbuckle still gives him problems in his neck but that he would fight Ibushi again. Opening match aside, this was a fun way to kick off the tournament. The latter two matches were really good and set things up well for the rest of the tournament to come. In Block A matches we didn't see from this show: Hiroshi Tenzan beat Luke Gallows and Togi Makabe beat Toru Yano. So our points standing in block A have Tanahashi,Naito, Styles, Tenzan, and Makabe at 2 points with the others goose egg. But this is only the first day.  Next week we have two episodes of tournament coverage for you! We will see you then!
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
The tournament kicks off!
Hello and welcome back to Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. Welp, after a month-long break we are back with the big G1 Climax tournament. If you read my primer last week then you know what i...

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 6

May 26 // Jeff Chuang
While the Harekaze is not losing any steam, we're at the point of the show where there isn't a whole lot to say. The mystery of the disappearing and mutinous ships continues to push the plot forward and keep up the tension, but we now have the alien rodents squarely in the view. The rest of us just have to cope with the bizarre mix-and-match of cute girls doing cute things and a very diverse and expert set of skills that somehow got assigned onboard the bottom-barrel school-boat. This week's Haifuri builds on last week's with more big-picture setup while the crew deal with more mundane things, from cooking German foods to make Mina more at home, to setting up mine sweeping to clear out the stray mines that Harekaze found themselves in. The naughty threat on the high seas turned out to be genetically modified mice who can interfere with electronics and make people go crazy once the virus carried by the rodents infect their victims. Naturally, this leads to a lot of other questions, and those questions will have to be the new fuel in the boiling furnace of the collective curiosity of Haifuri's viewers. The show takes a few moments to also build up a few intercharacter narrative strands. These big words don't really fit what has happened, but Kuro-chan, the disgruntled engineer and fan of Shiro-chan, tries to dig into the all-too-nice Mike-chan. It's not quite the cat fight Haifuri needed, but it certainly drops some interesting new threads to the oddly upbeat voyage where the girls are always in a pinch. The transitional episode, however, doesn't leave much to say besides all the building up High School Fleet is doing. I think the whole complaint-about-Mike-chan-running-off bit is going to come around pretty soon. At least now I have some time to learn more of their names. [High School Fleet is streaming on FUNimation, Daisuki and Crunchyroll]
Haifuri photo
Virus on a boat
Believe it or not, in 6 episodes a lot has happened in High School Fleet. Our high school frosh class of seafarers swept mines, dodged torpedos, avoided cannon fire, foiled mind-control mice, and developed a vaccine for the possible viral condition that these strange rodents carry. It's surprisingly more like Star Trek than ever.

Strong Style: Things to come

May 21 // Soul Tsukino
The 25th G1 Climax Tournament took place between July 20 - August 16, 2015, over the course of 19 shows held across Japan. 20 of NJPW's best were named to the tournament and then split into two block, A and B blocks. This tournament featured a new wrinkle in scheduling as the two blocks wrestled on their own shows. So each episode will cover the A block or the B block. The rules for this competition are that of a round-robin style tournament. Each competitor will face the other nine men in his particular block for points (2 points for a win, 1 points for a draw, 0 for a loss). The top point earners of each block will face each other in the final, which will be shown July 1rst. The winner will receive a shot at the IWGP title (if he isn't already the champion).  [embed]35033:5628:0[/embed] AXS TV will cover highlights from 9 of those shows including two shows dedicated to the final show held in the famous Sumo Hall in Ryogoku, Tokyo. We here at Strong Style will keep you updated on the point totals for the shows that won't be covered so everyone is up to speed.  [embed]35033:5629:0[/embed] The wrestlers you will see in the coming weeks are (from left to right): Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi (2007 winner), Togi Makabe (2009 winner), Katsuyori Shibata, Tetsuya Naito (2013 winner), Hiroshi Tenzan (winner in 2003, 2004, and 2006), Kota Ibushi, Toru Yano, A.J. Styles, Doc Gallows, and Bad Luck Fale.   Block B:  Satoshi Kojima (2010 winner), Yuji Nagata (2001 winner), Hirooki Goto (2008 winner), Tomoaki Honma (if he wins a match is this it will be a miracle), Shinsuke Nakamura (2011 winner), Kazuchika Okada (2012 and 2014 winner), Tomohiro Ishii, Michael Elgin, Karl Anderson, and Yujiro Takahashi That is your line up! All the factions of NJPW are represented with CHAOS, Global Bash Heel, The Bullet Club, and Los Ingobernables all having men in this one. With so many groups, partners WILL face partners as the competition goes on. Every match is important and wins and losses matter more here. So if you are a fan of puroresu, hold on, strap in, and hang in there for 6 weeks of the best of NJPW! See you all next week!
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
The 25th G1 Climax tournament is coming!
With AXS TV covering concert festivals the last month, Strong Style has taken a bit of a break. Next week, however, we kick things into high gear with 10 shows in 6 weeks covering the 25th G1 Climax tournament.  With so much action crammed into a month and a half,  Japanator gives you a little preview of what to expect from Strong Style and New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 4

May 05 // Jeff Chuang
In some ways, High School Fleet 4 is very impressive for depicting life on a warship in this manner, because it is doing as much as it can to depict the ordinary life of high school sailor girls on an antique destroyer in an ordinary sort of way. The toilet paper (TP) crisis, in which a few dozen teenage girls are running out of TP, is in no way an ordinary problem for a group of people, that, in the viewers' minds, are anything but ordinary. I mean, did anyone expect to hear a description of the differences between Japanese TP and German TP this week? This month? As someone who have seen hundreds of Japanese anime set in the stereotypical high school context, I find Haifuri at least a curious mix. Which is to say, so we're going to a shopping mall on the seas to buy some TP. What's probably more puzzling and troubling, all at once, is the strange rodent (hamster, is it not?) that the Harekaze crew rescued on-board. Does it have mind control powers? Is this at the root of the various mutiny events? Needless to say it raises more questions than it answered at this stage of the game. Thankfully the story quickly quarantined the dangerous animal in the care of Harekaze's doctor, easing the mood that was more akin to from zombies on a boat, even if the episode sort of ends on that note. It's probably safe to say Haifuri plays around with a lot of trope-aware concepts. The mutiny plot thread drives this undercurrent, that ties in with the mind control, the distress call from Musashi, and the adults investigating a strange situation from the start. I like it, to put plainly. If post-modern entertainment is going to be aware of its viewers specific inclinations, it might as well play its cards from the start and give us it knows we have not had before in a way that's all too familiar. And if the only casualty here is my inability to remember all the crew's names, that's not a huge price to pay. I mean, I can remember the gunnery officer as the quiet, timid girl who got mind-controlled by a rodent, versus the torpedo officer as the one person who really, really just wants to shoot stuff up. I think this description will work when I communicate with anyone who has seen the show. This week's Haifuri involves the adults a lot more than last week. We got more glimpses of Shiro-chan's family, and who are the actual Blue Mermaids. And since there are never enough new characters to show us in Haifuri, here are two more ships, their captains, their cats, plus Shiro's sister's subordinate. Maybe now that Harekaze has made contact with the adults in these waters the girls will be spared of their weekly "pinches" and get back to school. Or maybe not. The important thing is we got a bit more of the setting, which arguably is also another character in this story with more characters than I can care to count. [Watch girls named after cats caring for a cat named after a human on Crunchyroll, Funimation and Daisuki!]
Haifuri photo
Toilet paper on a boat
What is the maidens' big trouble on a boat? They ran out of toilet paper. As Harekaze's expedition ran longer than initially expected, the crew listed the supplies they were short of, and it wasn't just torpedoes and depth charges. Haifuri takes us to go sundry shopping this week.


Annotated Anime: Ace Attorney Episode 5

May 02 // Christian Chiok
Right after, we jump straight to the case. Will Powers, the actor who plays the Steel Samurai, was accused of murdering his co-start Jack Hammer, the actor who plays Evil Magistrate, the villain of the series.  Phoenix not having a client in so long, Maya suggests that he should take this case as she believes in his innocence. Naturally, they go to the detention center to talk to their new client. So far, the episode remains faithful to the series, with Maya instantly changing her mind about Will Powers’ innocence after taking a look at him but after Will Powers showing how nice he actually is, caring about what the kids that look up to him would think of the Steel Samurai, she changes her mind once again. Will Powers was portrayed really well, too. I try not to be too picky when it comes to anime adaptations but this is where things start to feel disconnected.  After meeting Will Powers, Phoenix and Maya decide to go to the studio to find clues, and this is where they meet the security guard—Wendy Oldbag. While in the game she comes out really obnoxious, it didn’t transfer too well into the game, but at least her talkative trait remained intact. This entire scene already feels rushed as they already introduced a character that isn’t supposed to appear until a lot later in the case and combined the interaction between Wendy Oldbag and Detective Gumshoe. Right after that, most of the investigation part got completely skipped. Luckily, even in the original game the investigation part of the case wasn’t too exciting but it shouldn’t have been skipped either. Then we jump straight to the trial, which of course, it was a bit rushed as well, especially after skipping the investigation part which actually brings some details into the case. Just like the previous two cases, it indeed gives you the gist of the trial but it gets to the point too fast. At least, during the final part of the first trial, it was very on par with the game—with both the dramatic and intense feel that it emitted as well as the soundtrack from the game. While not really a gripe, this episode made Maya look a lot more young compared to previous episodes. I thought she look really cute but maybe a little a little bit too cute for her age. While she is indeed a fun and charismatic character, I feel like the anime series is obviously trying to make her too “moe.”
Ace Attorney photo
A Hero On Trial
So Episode 5 is the start of "Turnabout Samurai,” the third case in the original Phoenix Wright game.  Just like the game, it begins with Maya watching “The Steel Samurai: Warrior of Neo Olde Tokyo,” a ...

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 3

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

Strong Style: One match, One belt!

Apr 23 // Soul Tsukino
We start the show greeted by Okada and after the credits roll, we see him in the studio. He is the reason NJPW has returned to Osaka-Jo Hall and he is the reason the building is sold out. My my, That's heel talk. He says Styles stole the belt from him and he is looking to get it back. Styles is a great wrestler and he keeps you on your toes. You have to have a great mind as well as the body when you fight Styles. IWGP Title: "The Phenomenal One" A.J. Styles vs. "The Rainmaker" Kazuchika Okada The Bullet Club vs. CHAOS with the big belt on the line. No love lost here as Styles beat Okada for the title one year before this and Okada hasn't forgotten.  Okada comes out with Gedo as always. Barnett puts over Gedo's importance to Okada's success. Styles enters next ad JR brings up the Georgia Mountain Center in Gainesville and the shows from his WCW days. I remember hearing about that place and "Georgia Power Safety Night". Crap does that bring me back. The ENTIRE Bullet Club comes out. Really? The ref is going to allow this? Barnett brings up a neat point that Okada's look is a reference to Asian good luck charms to bring in lots of money. Neat bit of info there. The crowd is already chanting for Okada while the Bullet Club go too sweet. We come back from the commercial break as we get this match underway. Some circling around leads into a lock up that rolls into the corner. Okada goes for a hit, but just pats Styles on the chest instead. Armbar by Styles into a wristlock, Okada rolls out of it into the reversal then AJ counters right into a side headlock. Okada rolls into getting a side headlock on the mat. Okada shot into the ropes and Styles leapfrogs into a roll up and into a series of arm drags before a standoff. Styles rolls out of the ring after that. Great chain wrestling to start. Styles gets back in the ring and we restart into in a knuckle lock but Styles kicks and then hammers on Okada's back. Styles goes into the ropes and runs right into a HIGH Backdrop. With Styles retreating into the corner, Okada hits some strikes and gets Styles down and hits a running low dropkick into the praying headlock. One of the derp club members jumps up briefly to break the lock but Okada goes right back to Styles but then starts in with the Club. Styles tries to attack but Okada counters and hits the ropes when Amber Gallows grabs the foot and Styles hits a spinning kick. Okada goes down as Styles hits a high knee drop as we go to break. After the billionth commercial for David Hasselhoff's new stupid show, we are back in the action. Styles brings Okada to his feet and pays for it as Okada hits some strikes, but rebounds off the ropes right into a Bret Hart backbreaker and then snaps Okada's throat right under the bottom rope. Okada to the floor as the Club beat up on him and the Ref just stands there with his finger up his nose. Okada back in as Styles hits a snap suplex. Okada gets up and hits the forearms but once again rebounds off the ropes right into a dropkick. Okada goes outside and ONCE AGAIN, the club beats on him. Red Shoes the ref finally sends them out and act like babies the whole time as Karl Anderson calls the ref a son of a bitch. Nothing is happening in the ring before Red Shoes comes back. Styles grabs a takedown on Okada and grinds down on him in a chinlock then into a headlock. Okada elbows out and hits some forearms to Styles, but AGAIN, goes to the rope where he is met with a strike. Okada returns and gets a running start into a big hit as they both go down. We come out of a break of all the same AXS commercials they've played too many damn times and we aren't even halfway done. Both guys struggle to get up and Okada lands a forearm strike and hits a DDT with a kip up. He gets Styles up on the ropes for a dropkick but Styles kicks away from that but gets met with a strike anyway.  Into the corner and Styles hits Bloody Sunday DDT! He whips Okada into the corner but Okada sends Styles over the rope onto the apron. Styles goes for the over the rope forearm but Okada gets him on the ropes. Okada NAILS his high dropkick to send AJ out of the ring to the floor. Styles against the barricade but Styles reverse and nails Okada sending the both into the ringside seats. He drags Okada back into the ring and goes inside. Okada tries a strike but Styles hits a flapjack and goes for the pin, only to get two. Styles puts Okada in the corner and goes for a dive but Okada moves and Styles goes into the corner. Styles goes to the apron for his flying forearm but Okada nails the dropkick again right to the gut. Okada hits a knee and gets Styles up into a suplex position but Styles elbows out. Styles hits his own suplex and then rolls out of the ring and gets his slingshot forearm. Styles tries for a styles clash but Okada reverses it into a ushigoroshi neckbreaker! Back from another break as both guys get up and Okada goes for the tombstone but Styles blocks it. Okada with a forearm and Styles hits back. Exchange now as they just going back and forth and then nose to nose before Okada hits the Dory Funk Jr. uppercuts. Styles with a big hit and floors Okada. Styles with a chop and then goes for the ropes to run right into a Dropkick. Okada gets him up in the tombstone, Styles counters, Okada counters, Styles counters and finally hits it. He goes to the apron and hits the springboard 540 splash. He goes for the pin but Okada kicks out. The crowd goes wild as Styles tries to pick Okada back up but he's no go. A.J. goes outside and climbs the buckle taking Okada up with him. Okada hits a few palm strikes and gets Styles up in the fireman's carry, but DROPS HIM. Oh wow, Styles tumbles down to the apron and the floor. That's not good. Styles climbs right back up(!) to the apron and goes for another springboard and Okada nails him with another dropkick. Both guys got hurt on that one. Okada gets Styles up and hits the tombstone! He picks Styles up and goes for the Rainmaker but Style hit's the Pele kick. The crowd goes "oooooh." Styles goes for the Styles clash Okada counters out, Styles counters into a roll up, and they reverse it before Okada drills Styles with a clothesline. Styles back up and Okada goes for the Rainmaker, Styles ducks it and goes for a suplex, but Okada reverses that. Okada NAILS a back suplex and then hits the Rainmaker and gets the win! Holy crap what a finish! We come back from break as both guys are still down and I don't blame them. Okada gets up and leans on the ropes before he is presented with the belt. He gives the rainmaker pose and the crowd goes wild for it. Gedo has the mic. Rainmaker's property has returned to his waist. He will win G1, Tokyo Dome, and be unopposed from now on. Okada has some words for the crowd. He will win the G1 tournament. He will show us all a bright future and take ALL of Pro Wrestling to the next level, and then the money will reign Backstage Styles falls on his face on the floor. Okada has some words saying he couldn't wish for more being in a sold-out building and winning the belt.  He wants to come to the Osaka-Jo every year. They drink beer to celebrate as Gedo DOWNS this beer. Gedo says it's a good beer but Okada's never had it before. That must be some damn good beer. In the studio, Okada says he was nervous but it felt great to beat the guy who beat him for the title. Styles is a great wrestler and he raised Okada's caliber.  This is just one of those matches where my words do not do it justice. This was a great main event and both guys brought everything. I'm not a fan of the Bullet Club crap in the beginning, but I guess you'd have to establish why the club wasn't running down to help Styles later and allow the Okada win to take place. A great way to end these matches from this show! See you all next time!
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Dominion's main event!
Hello, Japanator readers and welcome back to Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. Ths week we conclude our look at the 2015 Dominion card with the main event of that show. We've had some incredible action so far from this show so this is expected to be a real barn burner. So let us go back one last time to the Osaka-Jo Hall and July 5, 2015, for the action!

Annotated Anime: Haifuri episode 2

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

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

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

Strong Style: Osaka ass-kicking time!

Apr 16 // Soul Tsukino
We start things off with a greeting from Hirooki Goto   IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title: Kenny Omega vs. KUSHIDA Omega took himself out of the Super Jr.'s tournament and challenged whoever won the tournament. Makes sense. Kushida won with a stellar victory over kyle O'Reilly so the Time Splitter gets the shot. The men have met before and there is no love lost here so this should be good. Kushida comes out first carrying the trophy for winning the BOTSJ tournament. The Cleaner comes out with the Bucks with him, of course, and sweeping a broom down the ramp in an oddly cartoony kind of way. The ref holds up the belt and we get started with some staring but Omega smacks Kushida right in the mouth with a slap. Kushida doesn't take kindly to that and start throwing some strikes of his own. H picks Kenny up into a reverse atomic drop and then nails him with a dropkick. Kenny quickly stops this onslaught by grabbing Kushida right b the belt and launching him outside. Kenny goes out after him but Kushida meets him and sends him into the metal barrier. He grabs a trashcan that the buck brought out and puts it on Omega before landing a dropkick sending the cleaner out into the front row. Omega stumbles back into ringside but Kushida grabs his arm and bashes it on the metal barrier. Kushida gets back in the ring and Kenny rolls in. Omega somehow fires off a dropkick sending Kushida back outside and Kenny gets a running start and does a big swan dive over the top rope! We cut ahead now as both guys are back in the ring. Kenny gets the full nelson for the dragon suplex but Kushida squirms out. Kushida gets out of another lock attempt that ends out with Omega going flying outside. The bucks try to help him up but Kushida jumps on the turnbuckle and does his own swan dive on all three men! Back from commercial as Kushida rolls back in the ring. Omega stumbles in but Kushida hits the running dropkick and then leaps up top for a moonsault that only gets two. Running kick to the face! Kushida goes for the arm lock but Kenny scoops Kushida up into a stampede into the corner and a clothesline. Kushida gets up and goes for the baseball punch but Omega counters into the full nelson and a suplex. Both get up and trade a few kicks before Kenny gets caught and sent right into the middle buckle face first. Kushida lands a kick to Kenny's arm as he gets up and then locks in the hoverboard lock! Omega is struggling but finally gets to the ropes! Kushida goes after the arm again with an arm wrench and then lands a standing enziguri. He seems to have tweaked his knee landing for the enziguri, but he tries for a springboard back elbow, only to get kicked right in the knees. Omega slaps Kushida few times before he grabs him and sends him on the top turnbuckle. Kushida fights him off but Kenny jumps right back up. Kushida sends Omega down but Kenny gets up and goes back up and gets a leg locked suplex. Kenny goes for the pin but pulls the tights too much as Kushida squirms out. Kenny goes for the gutwrench but can't get it because of his arm Somehow Kenny gets up and gets Kushida up with a powerbomb with one arm. Pin gets 2. Omega goes for the one-winged-angel but Kushida counters out into a Pele kick. Kenny gets hit with a suplex and nearly loses but Kushida's leg gives out and he can't get the pinfall. Kushida goes up and tries for a corkscrew but misses. Omega nailed him with a high knee to the face and then goes for the one-winged-angel but Kushida gets the hoverboard lock in for the counter. Omega nearly gets to the ropes but Kushida brings him back in and the cleaner submits! We have a new champion! Hell of a match! Backstage Omega says the title is now garbage because Kushida holds it and he has to clean him out. Kushida said he had to win for all those he beat in the tournament. He takes pride in the match and that New Japan can count on him. We get some words from Goto. He talks about only being in the arena for concerts before and how it is a great crowd. He doesn't really want to talk about the match but he wished it was the main event. He was angry at Nakamura after all he did and had to beat him in their last match for it.   IWGP Intercontinental Title Hirooki Goto vs. Shinsuke Nakamura Shinsuke mocked Goto leading up to their previous match by6 saying that he couldn't see Goto as a challenger for his title, even making mocking binnocular motions at him during a tag match. When they met one on one goto took Nakamura to the limit and beat him for the belt. I bet Nakamura sees him now!  Nakamura comes out in a red sequence ninja gear. complete with face mask and headband. A sight to behold. JR compares Nakamura to Shawn Michaels and Goto to Bret Hart. Good comparison t make when you think about the two guys and their approach to things. Back from Commercial and we get started. Nakamura  gets off a few stray kicks but they do nothing. Cautious knuckle lock starts into a Goto waist lock counter into a Nakamura  wristlock. Trading an arm lock as Josh talks about training with Goto. Nakamura  counters out of a lock into a cartwheel into a reverse into a headlock. Nice chain! Goto sucks Nakamura  in and gets a headlock Into the ropes and Nakamura  does his belly thing again. Goto goes for him but Nakamura  spins right around and nearly nails Goto but Goto reverses and sends Nakamura  down for a pin that gets 2. He applies a chinlock and drives an elbow into the head. Goto then cranks onto a headlock and then into the leg scissors. Nakamura  gets into the ropes but Goto squeezes a bit more before the break. Elbow to the neck as the story is being told of Goto going for Nakamura's neck now. Goto gets Nakamura  into the corner and gets a few strikes. Whip into the corner but Nakamura reverses and goes for the high knee but misses. Goto strikes sending Nakamura out. Nakamura  lands the apron kick and then a knee lift before dragging Goto around and sending him into the barrier. Nakamura then lands a knee right to Goto's back sending him outside the barrier. Returning from the break as Nakamura is back in the ring. Goto gets back in and is a met with a kick by Nakamura. Snapmare into another knee into a chinlock. Goto gets in the ropes and Nakamura  breaks. Arrogant kicks by Nakamura  and it's pissing Goto off. Nakamura  then shuts it down with a kick to the chest. Nakamura  starts messing with him again and Goto strikes back. Nakamura  tries a running strike but gets an elbow to the mouth for his trouble. Both guys trade forearm shots. Nakamura tries to run the ropes, but Goto does the same, going for a clothesline. Nakamura catches him and gives him a suplex! Nakamura sends him into the ropes but Goto bounces off and counters into the clothesline. He lands some tough kicks and sends him into the corner and into a perfect bulldog! There is a move you don't see much of in Japan! Pin only gets two and Goto goes for another suplex. but Nakamura is in the ropes.  Knee by Nakamura  into a spin kick that takes Goto down. Nakamura  goes for a kick but Goto catches him. Nakamura lands and a knee and sends him into the corner for Good vibrations. He goes for the big face wash but Goto moves out of the way. Nakamura catches him though and gets him up on the buckle for the running kick. Nakamura tries for a pin but doesn't get it Both guys struggle up and Goto fires off the ropes but runs right into a kick to the mush. Shinsuke tries for a pin but is unsuccessful. He starts in with the MMA knees to the head and then goes for the booma ye but Goto dodges it. Both guys get back to their feet. Goto tries for a clothesline but Nakamura a counters right into an armlock then into a triangle choke! Goto gets into the ropes to break it. Nakamura  gets a standing front facelock before sliding into a sleeper with a body scissors. Goto fights out of nearly passing out and they stand up before Nakamura  hits a lung blower and then a reverse powerslam. Nakamura  hypes himself up and goes for the Boomaye and gets NAILED with a clothesline! We are back as both men struggle up. Goto goes for the Saito suplex and Nakamura  tries to counter but Goto gets it anyway and nearly gets the pin off it. Nakamura  sent into the corner and hit with a clothesline to the back of the head. Goto picks him up and sits him on the top buckle before dropping him with a hanging neckbreaker. Goto lands some strikes but Nakamura struggles up into the corner. He picks Nakamura  up on the buckle again and tries for the ushigoroshi but Nakamura slides out and NAILS a superbomb on Goto and then hits the boomaye! Nakamura's in pain now with his neck and can't make the cover.  Both up now as Nakamura  hits an elbow and they start exchanging strikes right to the head before Nakamura  hits a scissors kick and Hits the boomaye again and goes for the pin but Goto kicks out! Goto dodges two more boomaye kicks and catches Nakamura  and hits the ushigoroshi! He hits the shotenkai and goes for the pin but Nakamura  kicks out! Goto hits some headbutts and gets in the shotenkai again for the pinball and the win! Goto beats him again! Backstage Nakamura  is in a stairwell. He wonders why there is so much press back there. He says there is some magic in that belt insinuating a rematch Back in the ring, Goto gives a BANZAI! to the crowd. He leads a cheer from the ramp. Backstage he says that losing here wouldn't change anything so he had to win. His next goal is the G1. Studio words as Goto talks about breaking the pattern of Nakamura  beating guys in rematches and once again says that he is focused o the G1 tournament. With that, we end the show. These were both great matches. This shows that Kenny Omega can have really good matches when he and the Bucks aren't dicking around on the outside. The IC title match was even across the board and both guys brought a lot into the match. great show tonight! Next week is the main event as we see A.J. Styles defend his title against the Rainmaker! See you then! /ul/34951-/match 2-620x.jpg
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Another helping from Osaka
Welcome back puro fans to Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. Before we begin I'd like to send my thoughts to those in the Kyushu area of Japan right now as they've been hit with a couple of s...

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...

Strong Style: Back for more!

Apr 09 // Soul Tsukino
We are greeted this week by "Mr. Charisma" Katsuyori Shibata! Tetsuya Naito/Tomoaki Honma vs. The Bullet Club (Back Luck Fale/Yujiro Takahashi) This is an odd one. The Bullet Club enters with a cute girl on Takahashi's arm. Jim Ross makes a Rick Rude and Ric Flair reference with these two guys in the ring. I swear I can hear the spinning from Rude's grave as he says that. Honma comes out for his team. "Honma is a unique guy"- Jim Ross. As he gets in the ring The Club attack as Naito just kinda hangs back and lets it happen. Yep, Naito heel turn coming. The bell rings with Yujiro beating on Honma, who hasn't even got his coat off. Naito doesn't seem to really care as he dicks around at ringside. Yujiro tries for a suplex but Honma gets him over instead and takes off the jacket. He tries for a tag and Naito again doesn't care. Honma tries for the headbutt and Fale runs him over like a truck. Yujiro takes back over with some punches and the crowd starts in with the Honma chant. Whip into the corner as Fale comes in and kicks and punches  before going for the corner charge but misses. Honma goes for the tag and gets nothing. Fale slams Honma hard but the pin only gets two. Fale goes for the bad luck fall but Honma wiggles out and lands some clotheslines to Fale and it takes three shots off the ropes to take him down. Naito finally tags in and lands a low dropkick and takes both guys down before he just sits in the ring a bit before decided to hop up top and hits a diving moonsault on the Club outside the ring. Back from break, as Naito is sitting in the ring, looking bored. Fale climbs back in and Naito hit Fale with a dropkick and then a low dropkick to the knee. Naito then locks in the figure-four and the crowd in booing. Fale gets into the ropes and breaks. Fale gets up and flattens Naito with a clothesline before tagging in Takahashi. Naito comes off the ropes and hits a flying forearm. Honma wants the tag and Naito doesn't do it so he tags himself in and gets some running shots in before being taken down. He ends up fighting off both guys as Naito is outside the ring looking bored again. Fale lands a massive clothesline and Yujiro tries a pin but fails. Yujiro gets a gut wrench up but topples over with Honma landing on Yujiro's head. Honma hits a running headbutt but only gets two . Yujiro and Honma exchange hits before Honma hits a headbutt and then a slam before climbing up for the kokeshi headbutt and he LANDS IT! Honma gets the win! Naito just walks away. Honma wants him back in the ring but Naito gets in and walks right back out again. Backstage Naito rambles a bit before if the reporter remembers the name of his "team" of Los Ingobernables (we'll see more of that soon enough).  Honma wonders what was he thinking. NEVER Openweight Title: Togi Makabe vs. Tomohiro Ishii Here we go again! These guys have a long history going back 6 or 7 years when Ishii turned on Makabe when Global Bash Heel broke up to form CHAOS. Recently they've been feuding over the title and damn near killing each other every time. By the way, before this one starts, as I was putting this  together I found this picture: I don't know the context or where this picture is from, but I can't stop laughing and also I'm now hungry for pastry and fruit. Togi seems the same. Can we make this a meme? ANYWAY "Are you in the mood for a slobberknocker?" - Jim Ross. If there ever was an appropriate time for THAT question, this would be it. Ishii comes out and we get a "Killer" Karl Kox reference out of JR. Stare down right at the start. Hard lock up now. Ishii has the lock up before running off the ropes and running OVER Makabe with a clothesline. Screw that "feeling out process" garbage! Togi rolls right out of the ring as Ishii climbs up the rope?!? He JUMPS OFF THE TOP ROPE with a cannonball and clips Makabe right in the shoulder! DAMN! Togi rolls into the ring but he's in pain. Ishii starts with chops and headbutts as he puts Togi down, But Makabe is back up but Ishii lands more chops to send him down again. Ishii gets Togi over with a suplex. Ishii lands a few headbutts but Togi gets up again and lands a forearm. He rebounds back and Togi gets a powerslam. Ishii tossed into the corner where Togi lands the punches to the head and a northern lights suplex for 2. Makabe pops him right in the head. Ishii lands a forearm and then goes to works with chops and strikes right to the center of the chest. Ishii then gets a powerslam in but again only gets 2. Togi is asking for a strike now and it's only pissing him off. Togi strikes right to Ishii's head and now they are swinging strikes at each other. Right to head! Ishii lands a hit to the jaw but goes off the ropes and runs right into a clothesline. Double strike and both guys go down. Ishii gets up and lands the running low clothesline on a sitting Togi. Ishii strikes him again but BARELY gets only two. Ishii goes for the brainbuster but Makabe knees him in the head to counter. Togi picks him up and snake eyes right to the face. He locks in the full nelson and gets the dragon suplex but only gets 2 again. Togi gets another clothesline and then hits another to the back of Ishii's head. That will shorten your career. Togi runs him over a third time but Ishii throws a strike to Togi's neck. They trade strikes to the neck and Makabe ends up the better and Ishii is hurt now. Togi picks him up and hits a series of clotheslines and Ishii is out. The doctor is checking on him but Togi yells at the old fart and then Togi picks Ishii up on the ropes and hits the spider German suplex as he climbs the ropes with the King Kong knee drop and gets the win! We get words from Shibata now. Sakuraba was the one who brought him there and how they started as a team but began to focus on himself more. He started to like pro wrestling more and feels Sakuraba wasn't expecting that. Osaka Jo is where he had his first match after training with Sakuraba so it is only fair that the match happens here. He got motivated after Sakuraba defeated him last time they met. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kazushi Sakuraba: The story here is that Sakuraba trained Shibata in MMA and they had a match against each other in PRIDE back in 2007. They were partners when Shibata returned to NJPW but Shibata has gone on his own way. Sakuraba comes out wearing that weird mask of his. It's like a kabuki mask with horns on it. I liked his EVA entrance better. Josh talks about their MMA match in 2007 in PRIDE fighting. Shibata oddly takes him time coming out but pops up and deadpan walks his way to the ring. He walks right up to Sakuraba and glares at him. Back from break, as the match begins. Circling to begin before going into the wristlock, Double body hug into the ropes. Shibata with a smack in the back on the break. With a trade of some kicks before they go down to the mat and Sakuraba goes for the armlock. Shibata counters out and we go back up. Shibata goes for the full nelson and then for a penalty kick but Sakuraba escapes that. Both go out but Sakuraba right gets in and attacks with kicks on Shibata. Shibata gets him in the corner and goes for the running knee but Sakuraba follows him in with a strike and then a choke, Shibata throws Sakuraba down and growls at him before landing a running kick. Strikes sends Sakuraba down before Shibata gets a hanging dropkick to the face and then another one! Shibata lands a knee strike and then does some goofy kicks to Sakuraba's head. He kicks Sakuraba in the chest and then stomps on the heads in the ropes. Sakuraba leaps right up and gets into Shibata's face before landing some knee strikes and then kneeing him into the corner! He strips the pad off his foot and lands some strong kicks right into the chest and Shibata BEGS him to give him more! Finally, he gets enough and falls over. Sakuraba lands a strong knee strike and Shibata is outside the ring. Sakuraba LAUNCHES himself over the top to Shibata on the outside! Talk about uncharacteristic. He didn't learn that from PRIDE. Back from break, as both are outside the ring. Sakuraba rolls back in and Shibata crawls into the ring . He jumps up and nails Sakuraba with a running knee and sends Sakuraba down. He goes for a leg lock but Sakuraba grabs and ankle lock before transitioning to a rear chinlock and into a sleeper. Sakuraba goes and wrenches back on BOTH arms and Shibata had to get the rope break with his teeth. Sakuraba breaks and then gets hit with a clothesline for his trouble. Sakuraba scrambles and gets a rolling pin for two but he grabs and armlock while using his own shinbone to choke Shibata. That's neat! Shibata gets to the rope Sakuraba gets up and lands some kicks on Shibata and then goes for a wristlock again. They get up and into the ropes where Shibata shoos him off but he goes right back to it. Shibata lands a suplex and a big kick He picks Sakuraba up for something but Sakuraba gets a rear choke into the sleeper and Katsuyori fights out of it! Sakuraba goes for the kick and Shibata slaps him in the face before locking into his own sleeper. Sakuraba counters with an armlock but Shibata lands some knees and locks in the rear sleeper again. Shibata shoots off the ropes and DRILLS a penalty kick onto Sakuraba and gets the win! As Sakuraba is nearly unconcious in the ring, Shibata calmly walks out of the ring, up the ramp and turns, making a small bow. Backstage Shibata says that Sakuraba is as tough as he always was and that this was a big day for him in Osaka. He says the bow after the match means he respects Sakuraba for all he has done. He hopes Sakuraba gets a better taste of today's wrestling. Studio words as Shibata thinks Sakuraba was having fun during the match and even used a plancha during the match to show how much he got into it. I can't imagine getting your face kicked as being fun but whatever, right? We get some wrap-up and end it for the week. This was a fun one with three big matches and they were all good. Even with the storyline of Naito turning heelish in the tag match it still was a good showing and kinda cool that Honma bassically won the thing on his own. Next week we have Shibata's buddy Hirooki goto and Shinsuke Nakamura in what is sure to be a rip-snortah (to quote Michael Chavello) and more! See you then! /ul/34929-strong-style-back-for-more-/Match 1-noscale.jpg
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Makabe and Ishii have more fun
Hello Hello, fans and welcome back to Strong Style, Japanator's look at new Japan Pro wrestling on AXS TV. This week we are back at the Osaka-Jo Hall looking at the Dominion card from 2015. This week's matches are a bit of a ...

Strong Style: No Foolin'

Apr 02 // Soul Tsukino
We are greeted by Hiroshi Tanahashi IWGP Jr. Tag Title: Young Bucks vs. Roppongi Vice vs. Reddragon These three teams lock horns again for these belts because they are pretty much the entire Jr. Tag team division.  JR makes note this is the first time NJPW has been in this arena in 21 years. We have truncated entrances. The Bucks have Cody Hall with them and are the champions coming into this match. We start with Matt Jackson and Beretta and JR mentions both guys are wearing headbands and how that would have driven Bill Watts bonkers back in the day. Listening to the story of Ol' Cowboy Bill and biscuits, that doesn't surprise me. Kyle tags in and gets a headlock on Baretta and the Bucks interfere but the men in the ring send them out to the floor. Rocky tags in and get some kicks on Kyle before landing a senton for a 2 count. Fish comes in but Matt Jackson tags him out quick. Matt tries something on Rocky, but Rocky pops him right in the mouth. Matt tries to tag out but Reddragon leaves him inside. Rocky then goes ballistic with his corner clotheslines. The Bucks bail and try to leave, but Reddragon stops them at ringside, only to have Vice dive over the ropes and nail them. The Jackson go back out and superkick both men of Vice on the ramp abut Rocky makes it before 20. The Jackson's then land double kicks from the ring and a dive from Matt takes out all four opponents. Back from break as Barretta is going to town on everyone. He takes out both Jacksons and then hits a swinging DDT on Fish. The Jacksons hit each other on the ring apron and the Vice hits a double team on one of the Jacksons. Back in the ring, Rocky goes off with his clotheslines again on both Reddragon. Rocky hits a diving dropkick on Nick Jackson who is hanging on the ropes and nearly gets a pin. Bobby Fish gets hit by both Vice members before Kyle comes in and takes them both out. Rocky up top but Reddragon takes him down with double kick. Fish hits a top rope falcon arrow and tries for the pin but it's broken up. Fish tries a heel hook on Romero, but both Jacksons dive in from the top to break things up. Nick hits the running cannonball and a senton but only gets two count. They go for the buckle bomb kick combo. The Bucks set Romero up for a top rope suplex but Beretta throws one of the Bucks into a suplex but he rolls threw it. O' Reilly goes for the tombstone and the Bucks land kicks on Romero who is then dropped on his head, then kick Kyle too. The Bucks land the More bang for your buck to win the match to retain the titles. Backstage the Bucks toot their own horn and say they are the main event no matter what match on the card they are on. They bring prestige to the titles or so they say. IWGP Tag Titles: The Kingdom vs. The Bullet Club Revenge match time as Anderson and Gallows look to get their titles back. The last time we saw these two team Karl Anderson said he was DONE with Maria. We will see about that loverboy. The Club comes out first with Amber in their corner. "Hi Maria!"- Karl Anderson. Oh lord Kingdom comes out and the hentai camera guy is already at it again. We jump in with all four men go right at it. Karl goes out and Kingdom goes to work on Doc. Punches and dropkicks before a clothesline sends Doc out and then a Kingdom dive sends them both down. We go with Taven and Doc in the ring with Taven landing the springboard kick to the mush. Gallows saves the pin but that only leads to the Kingdom working over Anderson more. They work over Doc before going back to Karl who is looking at Maria and gets his ass kicked for it. The Club then work over Taven with kicks and punches but doesn't get the pin. Anderson hits an F5 and nearly gets the pin but he is looking at Maria. Count gets two. Maria climbs up on the apron and screams at Anderson but he is still drooling. Doc comes in and what he says he is going to do to Maria is not repeatable. Maria jumps down as Karl starts after her and she runs right into Amber who drops her. She climbs into the ring where the Bullet Club is waiting for her. She then proceeds to kick both of them in the balls. Back to Anderson and Taven before Bennett comes on and nearly gets the pin. We skip ahead now as Kingdom goes for a spike piledriver but Amber stops with a trip. Maria jumps up to protest but Doc KICKS HER IN THE HEAD. Bennett is PISSED but Doc and Anderson double up on him before hitting the magic killer for the pin as the Bullet Club win back the titles! We see another look at Doc kicking Maria right in the side of the head and then showing her laid out on the floor. In the studio now as Tanahashi said it was excited to be in the Osaka-Jo Hall. He is mad that because of Yano he is not in the main event at this arena and Okada is. Yano is a strong guy and has a strong grip in his matches Hiroshi admits. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Toru Yano As we saw here a number of weeks back, this stems from the first round of the New Japan cup where Yano scored a major upset and pinned Tanahashi. Since then they've met in some tag matches and Tanahashi scored a win over Yano the last time we saw them face each other. Yano comes out with a handful of DVDS a chair and a bottle of water. Fitting this guy is in the main event of the April Fool's episode.  Josh pretty much said Yano was a pain in the ass during his training days and followed comics as much as wrestlers. Hiroshi comes out playing air guitar. He also has a bandage on the side of his head. That probably hurt. We are back as action starts. Yano avoids the lock up and hangs on the ropes screaming at the ref. Hiroshi misses a clothesline and Yano tries to get into the ropes to protect himself but Hiroshi slides out of the ring and grabs Yano's feet, straggling Yano in the ropes. Hiroshi then opens up with elbows and forearms. Yano goes for the hair pull pin again but Tanahashi kicks out. Yano gets whipped into the ropes but holds on. He goes right for the buckle pad but we see Tanahashi doing the same thing in the opposite corner! Hiroshi grabs hold of Yano and tries to send him into the buckle but Toru stops short. Tanahashi charges and he runs right into the buckle. Yano hits a leg sweep and sends Hiroshi outside the ring and into the barricade. Hiroshi reveres a whip sending Yano into the barrier, but in the follow-up charge, Hiroshi goes over the barrier and slams his head on the floor. Yano grabs Tanahashi and drags him into the audience and starts beating on him. Yano bolts back into the ring as Hiroshi struggles to get up as the count is going. He just makes it in the ring right before the 20 count. He gets met with a kick to the head. Tanahashi gets up and is met with an eye rake before Yano sends him into the bare buckle again. Tanahashi goes to the apron and Yano strangles him on the ropes before putting his fingers up Tanahashi's nose. Yano tries another whip into the buckle but Tanahashi reverses it. He hits a flying forearm on Yano but only gets two. Tanahashi hits a sweet elbow strike combo but Yano kicks him in the guts to stop that. Tanahashi grabs Yano by the hair and goes for the cradle pin but it only gets two. Yano back up tries to throw Tanahashi over the top rope but he skins the cat Steamboat style and gets a full nelson on Yano who tries for the rope. Hiroshi switches to a waistlock and then lands a German suplex. Hiroshi goes up top but Yano shoves the ref into the ropes sending Tanahashi down on the buckle. Yano grabs Hiro and lands a powerbomb into a cover. We return from commercial with both guys are just getting up. Hiroshi goes for the charge but Yano pulls the ref in and he gets squashed. Yano somehow gets a chair and waffles Hiroshi with it. Hiro recovers and hits the slingblade before heading up. He hits the high fly flow but Yano covers himself with the chair and Tanahashi rolls off in pain. Tanahashi gets up and goes for a dropkick but Yano catches him and slingshots him into the bare buckle AGAIN. He then hits a powerbomb right onto the CHAIR. Can't feel good. Pin only gets two though. Yano tries for a cradle but Tanahashi blocks it. Tanahashi is sent into the metal buckle AGAIN before Yano grabs a handful of tights for a 2 count. Yano kicks low for another failed pin attempt. Hiroshi had enough of this and kicks Yano right in the balls but can't get the pin either! Back up, Tanahashi hits a rolling neckbreaker. He then hits the slingblade clothesline before he heads up and hits the high fly flow! He gets the pin and Revenge is sweet!  Tanahashi is holding his balls but he is celebrating while Yano is rolled out of the ring. Backstage Tanahashi he gives credit to Yano. He says that Yano is talented in strange ways. Tanahashi is disappointed he's not in the main event. In the studio, he talks about being revived by this match and being ready for the G1 climax with this win and we head out for the week!   A mixed bag this week. Honestly, the 3-way tag match didn't feature anything that these teams don't already do in EVERY MATCH they do. It was alright if a bit predictable. The Tag match was better than that god awful mixed match they had. The Main event was good so the show isn't bad, but not out of the park either. Next week we take another look at Dominion with Sakuraba taking on Shibata! See you all then! IWGP Tag Titles: The Kingdom vs. The Bullet Club Revenge match time as Anderson and Gallows look to get their titles back. The last time we saw these two team Karl Anderson said he was DONE with Maria. We will see about that loverboy.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Starring Toru Yano of course!
Hello again you motley crew of April fools and welcome to Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. While most wrestling fans have their eyes to Texas this weekend for Wrestlemania, we turn our eyes...

Final Impressions: Haruchika: Haruta and Chika

Mar 29 // Soul Tsukino
After getting through all of the episodes, though, I feel like this show didn't quite deliver on its potential. Now don't get me wrong. I enjoyed this show. It's cute, knows when to put in some adorable humor along with serious topics, and had some compelling characters. But its execution and delivery were uneven and seems like it was being held back from it only being 12 episodes.  Breaking things down, you have GREAT episodes like the first four episodes, but then you had some weird episodes like Naoko's aunt's weird story and the episode with Motoko and the piano. The Miyo episode about the Rubix cube and her dead brother laid out a great mystery and have good clues leading up to the ending, same with Naoko's debut episode, while you had some episodes mysteries just come out of nowhere and not make much sense, like they were tacked on to have a mystery for the episode like the dog mystery. I liked the characters that are in this show. Chika shines as the star here. She has a Usagi Tsukino like quality of being in way over her head, but still does the best she can for her friends, even if she doesn't have a clue what is going on half the time. Haruta makes a good foil for her as the smart person that seems to figure things out quicker than anyone else and keeping Chika from getting too out there and hopefully on target.  But the problem lies with the other characters. Miyo, Muren, Akari, Naoko, and Kaiyuu all had time devoted to them to introduce them but then were immediately put in the background. Only Naoko got any more focus on her once she was introduced. Meanwhile, you had the club president and the Twins sitting there the whole time and never got much of character development or inclusion at all. They had to have motivations to be there as well. I'm not sure if the books delve into these characters anymore, but I felt disappointed they didn't get time of their own on the show. Visually This show is great. I love the animation style and even when the show had it's more "anime" moments it didn't get too cartoony with its art style. The multicolored eyes helped set this show apart for more as it makes the characters seem more alive and full of spirit for me. Great work. In the end, it feels like a show trapped by its short length and even its concept. I think with a full 26 episodes and scaling back on the mysteries this show could be a great slice of life show. Give it space to explain more into the characters and their motivations. Give stories time to play out without having to cram everything into such a short time. And showing us more of Chika, Haruta, and the others doing silly things outside of some convoluted mystery that ends up not amounting to much in the end. But for all its flaws, it's still a cute and enjoyable show.   After getting through all of the episodes, though, I feel like this show didn't quite deliver on it's potential.   Now don't get me wrong. I enjoyed this show. It's cute, knows when to put in some adorable humor along with serious topics, and had some compelling characters. But it's execution and delivery was uneven and seems like it was being held back from it only being 12 episodes. Breaking things down, you have GREAT episodes like the first four episodes, but then you had some weird episodes like Naoko's aunts weird story and the episode with Mokoto and the piano. The Miyo episode about the rubix cube and her dead brother laid out a great mystery and have good clues leading up to the ending, same with Naoko's debut episode, while you had some episodes mysteries just come out of nowhere and not make much since, like they were tacked on to have a mystery for the episode.   I liked the characters that are in this show. Chika shines as the star here. She has a Usagi Tsukino like quality of being in way over her head, but still does the best she can for her friends, even if she doesn't have a clue what is going on half the time. Haruta makes a good foil for her as the smart person that seems to figure things out quicker than anyone else and keeping Chika from getting to out there and hopefully on target. But the problem lies with the other characters. Miyo, Muren, Akari, Naoko, and Kaiyuu all had time devoted to them to introduce them, but then were immediately put in the background. Only Naoko got any more focus on her once she was introduced. Meanwhile you had the club president and the Twins sitting there the whole time and never got much of character development or inclusion at all. They had to have motivations to be there as well. I'm not sure if the books delve into these characters any more, but I felt disappointed they didn't get time of their own on the show.   Visually This show is great. I love the animation style and even when the show had it's more "anime" moments it didn't get to cartoony with it's art style. The multicolored eyes helped set this show apart for more as it makes the characters seem more alive and full of spirit for me. Great work.   In the end it feels like a show trapped by it's short length and even it's concept. I think with a full 26 episodes and scaling back on the mysteries this show could be a great slice of life show. Give it space to explain more into the characters and their motivations. Give stories time to play out without having to cram everything into such a short time. Ad showing us more of Chika, Haruta, and the others doing silly things outside of some convoluted mystery that ends up not amounting to much in the end. But for all it's flaws, it's still a cute and enjoyable show.
Haruchika photo
The story of love, music, and mysteries
What an interesting trip Haruchika has been. The concept of two reunited childhood friends trying to save a school club by solving mysteries was an interesting one from the start and a good hook. The fact that it was based on...

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

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

Strong Style: It doesn't get better than this!

Mar 26 // Soul Tsukino
We start the show with a greeting from Kushida. We start with some words from Kushida and he talks about being the favorite. He felt he had to keep up his game to be in that spot. He knows Kyle was popular in ROH but is a bit of an unknown as a singles guy in Japan. He wondered if the crowd would really get into Kyle as a wrestler but they seems to grasp it. He had faced Kyle in 3 way matches with Chris Sabin in the tour leading to the tournament, so he has some experience fighting him. Best of the Super Jr.s XXII Tournament Final: Kushida vs. Kyle O'Reilly Kyle comes out first as Josh Barnett talks about Kyle's MMA training. Kushida comes out to a neat video package showing movies of him as a kid and training to be a wrestler. JR mentions Kushida going to Canada and Mexico to train to be a wrestler, having to borrow money from his mom to do it. We get a Chris Benoit mention, still not quite used to that. We get the introductions before heading for a break. Bell rings and here we go! We start with some Greco-roman lock up attempts before Kyle takes Kushida down with a leg take down as Kyle start going for some soft lockup holds. Kushida reverses it and gets up and he starts in some soft locks as well. This is playing out more like an MMA fight as both guys trade mat work. Kyle gets Kushida in a knuckle lock and takes him down for the cover and a bridge. Kushida tricks Kyle on the canvas and goes for a leg lock but doesn't quite get it. We get a traditional lock up now as Kyle gets a headlock and into a shoot off the ropes as Kyle walks up Kushida's spine and then goes for a backslide. Kyle goes down from a low kick and then a dropkick to his head! Kushida locks in an armlock before Kyle rolls into the ropes. Kyle backs into the corner where he is met with some hard chops. Kushida whips Kyle into the corner but gets a boot to the face for his trouble. Kyle starts kicking away before going for a pin. Kyle takes Kushida and drops him in a backbreaker and then goes for another pin. Both guys get up and trade some strikes until Kyle wraps up Kushida's arm and drops him, making Kushida scream in pain. Kyle keeps working the arm with a bunch of strikes as Kushida's left arm is tied behind him. Kyle wraps up Kushida for a tie- up pin but transitions right into an octopus hold on the mat. Kushida in the ropes and breaks it up. Kushida gets some chops in but Kyle hits the arm and then locks in a butterfly on Kushida before suplexing him 3 times from that position! Back from break as O'Reilly tries for a suplex but Kushida fights out. He scrambles to the apron and grabs Kyle's arm and snaps it over the rope and then hits a springboard chop. He lands some kicks before hitting a springboard back elbow. Both guys avoid each other before getting into an arm lock chain of reversals before Kyle lands a kick and then locks in the front choke! Kushida grabs his arm and gets a wristlock to counter! Never seen that counter before. Kushida works the arm but Kyle counters out and goes up to the top. Kushida goes after him and they trade armlocks sitting on the ropes. Kyle, still holding the armlock, leaps off the ropes with Kushida and comes down right on Kushida's head! OUCH! Kyle locks in another armbar but the time Splitter gets out. They both get up but Kushida hits a German suplex and Kyle hits the ropes and gets hit with another! Kushida hits an armlock, but goes for a second and Kyle locks in the sleeper! Kushida counters out and gets nailed with a knee. Kyle goes to the ropes but Kushida hits a double heel kick sending Kyle outside. Kushida goes up top and hits a swan dive off the top outside. Kyle struggles into the ring and Kushida hits a dropkick. He goes up for a moonsault but Kyle catches him into an armlock. Kushida struggles and gets his foot under the ropes. Kyle sets up Kushida on the top rope and goes for the back suplex but Kushida elbows out and snaps Kyle's arm to send him off the ropes. Kushida tries to stand but Kyle hits him into pain, crotching the turnbuckle. He climbs up and lands the back suplex. Kyle goes for the pin but Kushida kicks out! Back from break, both guys are in pain on the mat. Kyle wills himself up first and lands a kick to Kushida's chest. He hits two more but Kushida catches his foot and launches into some strikes and kicks before Kyle catches Kushida and suplexes him. He goes for the pin but Kushida kicks out. They get up and Kyle lands a kick and then a strike right to the head, Kushida winds up and lands his baseball punch right to Kyle's face, drawing the attention of JR for using a clenched fist. Kushida hits a Pele kick and Kyle comes right back with a clothesline and a big suplex. Pin only gets 2 but Kyle goes right for the armlock and then into a reverse armbar that Kushida breaks on the ropes. Damn! The crowd is going crazy now as both guys are on the apron.  Kyle lands a kick and then tries for the arm but Kushida pushes him off. Kyle then gets the front Choke on before Kushida grabs him and hits a brainbuster right on the ring apron! Both guys barely make it back on the count of 19. Back from break now as both guys look like they've been through a war!  They have trouble getting up and only get to their knees before exchanging elbows and strikes. They finally get to their feet and Kushida hits some hard elbows right to the face! Kyle stays standing as they just grab each other and start whaling each other n the head before Kyle hits the discus punch and flattens Kushida! Replay shows it lands right in the side of the head and Kushida's hurt. Both guys get up in opposite corners and Kyle goes for the change but Kushida catches him and sends him face first into the corner. Kushida drives Kyle down and goes for the cover. Kushida climbs up the buckle and goes for corkscrew dive but he whiffs it, landing just off Kyle's head. Kushida goes for the pin anyway but Kyle kicks out. Kyle whips Kushida in but Kushida gets in the hoverboard lock! He tries to counter out but Kushida locks in a double wristlock and gets the submission! Hot damn was that a good match! Kushida celebrates but collapses. Both guys give each other the stare down and then they go to shake hands but Kyle bows to the canvas, Kushida reciprocates and Kyle raises the winner's arm. In the back, Kyle admits Kushida was the better man but vows that he will win the tournament the next year. Back in the ring Kushida receives the trophy and thanks the crowd for cheering for him. He asks the crowd to support the tournament next year. It's not about where you are from, it's where you are going, it's not about what you've done, it's what you are going to do. Words to live by. The other Japanese Jr.s come in and show their respect as well. Studio words as Kushida said that both men shared the passion for winning the tournament. He wishes to take the tournament to a bigger stadium and this match went in that favor. He says there are a few people he hasn't faced yet like Ricochet, Matt Sydel, and even his partner Alex Shelley. This match was amazing! This was totally different than what you would expect from these two. Even Josh and JR mentioned that this wasn't some foolhardy flip and fly contests, but a mostly mat wrestling game with both guys busting ass in there. This is one of the best matches I've seen on this show and probably the best Junior heavyweight match this show has produced.  I don't usually do this, but if you are a fan of good wrestling, Track down this match on Youtube or Dailymotion or NJPW world, whatever works for you, this one gets my highest recomendation. See you all next time! We start with some words from Kushida and he talks about being the favorite. He felt he had to keep up his game to be in that spot. He knows Kyle was popular in ROH but is a bit of an unknown as a singles guy in Japan. He wondered if the crowd would really get into Kyle as a wrestler but they seems to grasp it. He had faced Kyle in 3 way matches with Chris Sabin in the tour leading to the tournament, so he has some experience fighting him.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
The Finals of the Super Jr.s
Greetings Puro fans and welcome to Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. Last week we took a look at the first day of competition from the 2015 Best of the Super Jr.s tournament. The competition...

Final Impressions: Oshiete! Galko-chan

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

Annotated Anime: Oshiete! Galko-chan episode 11

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

Strong Style: Junior Tournament time!

Mar 19 // Soul Tsukino
The two blocks stack up like this: Block A: Jushin Liger, Ryuskue Taguchi, Yohei Komatsu, Baretta, Gedo, Barbaro Cavernario, Kyle O'Reily, Chase Owens Block B: Tiger Mask IV, Kushida, Alex Shelley, Mascara Dorada, David Finlay, Rocky Romero, Bobby Fish, Nick Jackson. Tonight we kick off things from the first night of the tournament. We are at the famed Sumo Hall on May 22, 2015 We are greeted by Gedo! BOTSJ Block A Tournament Bout: Jushin Liger vs. Yohei Komatsu Aw yeah, it's Liger bitches! Jushin is a LONG time veteran who may have lost a step and adjusted his style for his age, but he can still put on good matches. We've not seen any of the young lion in Yohei. Komatsu has only been wrestling for 3 years at this point and was largely an opening match trainee type. Basically, this is Liger teaching one of his students in front of a live crowd. Yohei comes out and he is fired up. Liger comes out and the crowd loves it. Yohei attacks before the bell and takes out the camera guy! Liger rolls to the outside and Yohei throws him back in and gets a top rope cannonball before getting some forearms in. Liger counters with a palm strike to end that. Liger lands a powerbomb. He gets some air and tosses Yohei outside the ring before going out and landing a brainbuster on the floor! Damn, these guys are fired up for this! Josh Barnett makes an interesting point that the weight limit for the Jr. Heavyweights is 220 pounds, which in regular terms is still a big guy. Might sound large today, but back in the day, 220 was considered "light" by wrestling standards. Thank Vince largely for that notion. Back from a break as Yohei isn't getting up from the floor. He finally crawls to the ring apron and collides with the apron before stumbling back in at 19. Liger hooks on the surfboard and stretches the poor kid. Komatsu punches his way out but Liger picks him up for a Ligerbomb, but only gets two. Liger hooks in the camel clutch and Yohei fights out, but only to get hooks into a half crab. Yohei reaches the rope and stands up as Liger starts in with some chops. He whips Yohei into the buckle but misses the charge. Yohei lands some forearms and a fine looking dropkick. He gets a bridge suplex but Liger kicks out. Yohei hooks in his half crab but Liger gets to the rope. Yohei goes for a suplex but Liger blocks it. Yohei rolls through it but runs right into a backbreaker. Liger tries for a powerbomb but Yohei rolls trough it and then gets a falcon arrow for a close two count. Yohei goes up top but Liger catches him and hits a suplex but Yohei pops right back up, only to hit with a clothesline. Liger lands a running palm strike and another one strike but Yohei won't die! Brainbuster by Liger finally puts it away. Liger actually gives the young guy credit backstage saying he has some nice moves, but he needs experience and he is too straightforward. He expects big things from Yohei in the future.   BOTSJ Block B Tournament Bout: KUSHIDA vs. Mascara Dorada We've seen both these men in recent weeks taking on Kenny Omega. Kushida is one-half of the Time Splitters but as a former Jr. champion, he is hardly pegged as a tag team guy, while Dorada took Omega to the distance and has Lucha Libre going for him. Dorada comes out in a sparkling gold and white outfit (insert outdated internet joke about a dress here). Shake of hands to begin. Dorada with a facelock which is reversed and reversed back. Both guys in mat grappling with the leg takedowns. Dorada is the first to the ropes and a bunch of flips and dives lands Dorada right into an armlock by Kushida. Kushida holds the arm as he goes to the apron and cranks the arm over the ropes. He then does it again. Kushida lands an atomic drop and a low dropkick before then a regular dropkick before he goes back to the arm scissors into a gogoplata (a judo form of a key lock). More arm work by Kushida. Kushida lands a few chops on Dorada but runs into a boot on the charge and Dorada lands a dropkick to the knee. Back from the break as both guys are in pain. Back up as Dorada leaps up to the second rope and dances around before landing a dropkick that sends Kushida outside. Dorada goes up top and does an amazing moonsault outside onto Kushida outside the ring. Dorada gets some kicks in before he rolls Kushida in. Dorada tries the pin but gets two. He goes up for a moonsault but lands right up into Kushida's fully extended legs. Dorada rolls out and Kushida jumps up and launches a swan dive plancha on Dorada! Kushida gets in a running dropkick that was perfectly timed. Kushida launches him in the ropes but Dorada rolls into a pin attempt. Dorada slams Kushida in the ring and lands a senton from the middle of the top rope. Kushida tries for a kick but gets caught right into an elbow into the knee. He counters and kicks Dorada's arm before he gets in the hoverboard lock and gets the win! Backstage Kushida talks about 10 long years and he finally had Lucha Libre eating out of the palm of his hand. He wants to make the Super Jr.'s beyond the G1 climax tournament. We get some studio words from Gedo. He hasn't been in this tourney in 5 years and is a last minute replacement for Omega. He talks about working his own pace and keeping control in his matches. He was surprised his match was the main event of the first night, not only that but Okada is at ringside doing commentary. BOTSJ Block A Tournament Bout: Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Gedo The Funky Weapon returns! Taguchi is the class clown of NJPW and a former Jr. Champion while Gedo is the long time vet. He's been around since the early 90's in the WAR and FMW promotions along with his partner Jado. It this point he is 46 years old and largely been acting as a manager for Kazuchika Okada. Gedo enters first before Taguchi comes out mimicking Gedo with the bandana pulled low and sunglasses. Dude, Gedo was a member of Team No Respect. He will kill your goofball ass. Gedo does what was expected and superkicks Taguchi right in the chest. Taguchi though surprises Gedo with a roll up and gets two count! Gedo goes to work with a hanging DDT from the apron to the floor. Taguchi barely makes it in the ring for the count but Gedo grabs him and tosses him right back out of the ring. Gedo grabs the bell mallet and whacks him a few times with it. He rolls into the ring and as the ref is counting, he undoes the corner pad to expose the buckle. Taguchi rolls in and Gedo rips his t-shirt off before Gedo whips Taguchi into the exposed corner. Gedo starts jaw-jacking Taguchi and the crowd cheers for it! Guess the crowd likes the veteran bad boy. Gedo kicks right to the back of the neck and then slams Taguchi into the exposed buckle. Gedo leans on Taguchi with a knee. He then gets him down and gets a facelock in with a knee to the back. Snapmare into the chinlock now as Gedo is cranking down on him. Taguchi finally starts getting to his feet and breaks the lock before going into the ropes and Gedo pops him right in the face. Gedo cheers from the crowd again! Gedo snaps him over and lands a side kick to the face. Gedo goes for the pin and Taguchi kicks out.  Gedo is just MEAN tonight. Gedo goes to whip into the turnbuckle, but Taguchi blocks it, Gedo blocks it, and Taguchi tries for the butt bump but misses, then he lands it a couple of times before both guys go flying outside the ring. Taguchi is up first and throws Gedo in the ring. He drives his hip into Gedo's head a few times before sitting Gedo in the ropes and then running the ropes and landing his hp attacks 3 times. Gedo wills himself up and gets a facelock on Taguchi before getting a double wing lock before transitioning to the Gedo clutch (crossface). Taguchi reverses into an ankle lock before he switches legs on Gedo. Gedo reveres the lock into a roll up but only gets two. Taguchi lands the hip attack and then a reverse suplex before going up top and lands a flying hip attack. The pin only gets two as the crowd chants for Gedo again. Taguchi goes for the Dodan, but Gedo fights out. Taguchi lands a low dropkick for a pin attempt before locking in a toehold. The crowd is screaming for Gedo now. They get up and Taguchi lands the dodan but only gets two! Man, they love Gedo! Taguchi goes for a torture rack but Gedo rolls out and goes outside. Taguchi goes after him as Gedo grabs the mallet again. Taguchi misses a strike but Taguchi brings the mallet into the ring. The ref goes to throw it away and Gedo low blows Taguchi and gets the pin! Balls to the wall offense! Gedo has a big smile on his face s Gedo waves goodbye to Taguchi. Backstage Taguchi "Oh It's the ultimate oh my and Garfunkel." Gedo takes a seat at the broadcast table as Okada asks to interview Gedo for the crowd. Gedo looks at him and asks if it was Okada who said he couldn't win. Okada laughs and said that he didn't think Gedo could win the whole thing, but now says that he'll will this tournament AND the next one too. Gedo says he gained a lot of confidence in this match because Taguchi was the favorite of their block and he just beat him. His goal is to be a double main event for the July show with him and Omega fight for the title and Okada and Styles fighting for the IWGP heavyweight title. They jump into the ring and pose for the cheering crowd. In the studio he says that he didn't want to have Taguchi get into a rhythm so that's why he attacked, He says the NJPW junior division is the best there is and that the best stage of Junior heavyweights might be in NJPW.   MAN this show was good! Usually, Jr.s are known for the high-speed gymnast offense of guys like the Young Bucks or Reddragon, but these weren't quite that fast, and that's a good thing. All three matches told great stories in the ring with the vet vs. young lion in the first match, the arm and leg work in the second, and the returning vet taking on the current favorite in the third. I enjoyed this show quite a lot! Next week we get some more from the Jr.s and the tournament continues! BOTSJ Block A Tournament Bout: Jushin Liger vs. Yohei Komatsu   Aw yeah, it's Liger bitches! Jushin is a LONG time veteran who may have lost a step and adjusted his style for his age, but he can still put on good matches. We've not seen any of the young lion in Yohei. Komatsu has only been wrestling for 3 years at this point and was largely an opening match trainee type. Basically, this is Liger teaching one of his students in front of a live crowd.   Yohei comes out and he is fired up. Liger comes out and the crowd loves it. Yohei attacks before the bell and takes out the camera guy! Liger rolls to the outside and Yohei throws him back in and gets a top rope cannonball before getting some forearms in. Liger counters with a palm strike to end that. Liger lands a powerbomb. He gets some air and tosses Yohei outside the ring before going out and landing a brainbuster on the floor! Damn, these guys are fired up for this!   Back from the break as Yohei isn't getting up from the floor. He finally crawls to the ring apron and collides with the apron before stumbling back in at 19. Liger hooks on the surfboard and stretches the poor kid. Komatsu punches his way out but Liger picks him up for a Ligerbomb, but only gets two. Liger hooks in the camel clutch and Yohei fights out, but only to get hooks into a half crab.   Yohei reaches the rope and stands up as Liger starts in with some chops. He whips Yohei into the buckle but misses the charge. Yohei lands some forearms and a fine looking dropkick. He gets a bridge suplex but Liger kicks out. Yohei hooks in his half crab but Liger gets to the rope. Yohei goes for a suplex but Liger blocks it. Yohei rolls through it but runs right into a backbreaker. Liger tries for a powerbomb but Yohei rolls trough it and then gets a falcon arrow for a close two count.   Yohei goes up top but Liger catches him and hits a suplex but Yohei pops right back up, only to hit with a clothesline. Liger lands a running palm strike and another one strike but Yohei won't die! Brainbuster by Liger finally puts it away.   Liger actually gives the young guy credit backstage saying he has some nice moves, but he needs experience and he is too straightforward. He expects big things from Yohei in the future.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Best of the Super Jr.s begins!
Hey hey gang we are back with Strong Style as Japanator looks at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. This week we start a look at the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. This tournamnt is much like the G1 tournament where yo...

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

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

Annotated Anime: Oshiete! Galko-chan episode 10

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

Strong Style: Belts and Beauties

Mar 12 // Soul Tsukino
We are greeted by Karl Anderson, obviously sitting in a hotel room   IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tile: Kenny OPmega vs. Alex Shelley This match was set up a number of weeks back when after defeating Mascara Dorada, he challenged Shelley, who was at ringside, to a match. The Cleaner and one of the Time Splitters go at it! I'm a little surprised that this match opens the show this week. Alex Shelley comes out wearing a Jagi helmet from Fist of the North Star. Omega comes out with The Young Bucks. jeez, what will happen there?  JR asks why Omega is the cleaner and Josh tells him he doesn't know for sure. Bell rings as Omega offers a shake and Shelley give him the finger. Lock up into an Omega armbar. Omega gets a drop toe hold into a facelock that Shelly counters out into a wristlock of his own. Omega counters into his own wristlock Shelley spins and dances around before getting Omega down to the mat. Omega tries for the counter a few times before kicking Shelley off and they have a standoff. Knuckle lock and Omega gets in some kicks and punches to gain the advantage. Omega SINGS the Attack on Titan theme and does the pose!! Alex makes him pay and with a few elbows to the mush before getting an atomic drop in off the ropes. They trade a few strikes and start running the ropes before Shelly lands a low dropkick to the seated Omega's face. Shelley sends him outside with a clothesline and goes for a tope but matt Jackson grabs Alex's leg. Alex turns around and stomps on his hand as Omega grabs a trashcan, but Shelley baseball slides into it and sends Omega into the barricade. Back from break as Omega and the ref fight over the trash can lids. While the ref is distracted Omega drives the can into Shelley and then hits a suplex, but pin only gets two. Both roll outside and Omega smacks Shelley on the apron. He puts the can over Shelley and beats on it. Omega sets the can on a chair and tries for a powerbomb, but Shelley reverses it and Omega gets smacks on the can. After all this the ref starts actually counting. Omega crawls onto the apron but Shelley runs up, dives over the top rope and drives Omega down to the floor with a DDT outside the ring! Skipping ahead as Shelley lands an attitude adjustment and nearly gets 3 but the Bucks pull the ref out. Kushida gets into the ring but is tossed out by the Bucks. Kushida dives out and takes care of the Bucks while Shelley gets in sliced bread 2 and a near fall. Crowd is chanting for Alex now. Omega lands a knee and then a running knee before One winged Angel puts this match away. Omega grabs the mic and says he has given the best match of the night, night after night. He has beaten the "last Gaijin hero". He says he is not entering the Best of the Jrs tournament since he is the champion. And wishes the best pieces of trash luck.  We get some words from Karl Anderson in his hotel room. He talks about losing the belts to the Kingdom last time, and he didn't care for the belts, only about Maria. He then gushes about her, saying she is kawaii. He was actually sad that Amber was coming to beat up Maria. Oh lord. "He's been away from home too long"- Jim Ross explaining this. Mixed tag match: Bullet Club (Doc Gallows/Karl Anderson/Amber Gallows) vs. The Kingdom (Matt Taven/Mike Bennet/Maria) The issue here is that Anderson is infatuated with Maria and that cost the Bullet Club the titles in a match shown a few weeks back. to counter Maria's interference, Doc Gallows got his wife, Amber "The Bullet Babe" Gallows to be their partner tonight. Jim ross points out this is NOT an integender match and that the rules are men vs. men and women vs. women only. Jim ross points out that history is being made here as the last woman to compete in an NJPW ring was Chyna "back during the Inoki days". History shows that women wrestlers were in their own companies instead of sharing a stage with the guys (FMW being the exception). Also as Josh points out, two married couples facing each other with Maria and Bennett on one side and the Gallows couple on the other. Gallows keeps reminding Anderson to pay attention. Anderson doesn't even do his typical machine gun entrance. The Kingdom come out and the camera immediately goes for her butt and breasts. Cameraman seems to be a "little H" for this one. Naughty boy. Karl waves from the apron, "Hi Maria!" Back from break as Bennett starts with Doc. Lockup into the corner and Bennett starts in with punches. Taven comes in and they hit a double dropkick. Taven tries a whip but doesn't go anywhere and Taven gets thumped. Anderson comes in but immediately bails out of the ring and starts chasing Maria around. Bennett then clobbers Karl with a punch to the mouth. Kinda deserves it. Karl gets rolled into the ring and right into a Taven neckbreaker. Anderson lands a punch and regains the advantage, but Amber then tags in, meaning Maria has to come in as well. Maria gets to close to the wrong corner and Doc grabs her by the hair while Anderson protests. Amber goes to work on Maria with some strikes but Maria counters with a superkick and runs over to tag. Gallows and Taven come in and lands a damn fine kick to Taven before dropping the elbow and getting a near fall. The Club goes for the double team but Anderson keeps going for Maria. Gallows whips Taven HARD in the corner and then lands a backbreaker before a two count and the camera shoots right to Maria's boobs. Karl and Doc argue about Maria and she tells them to both shut up. Maria gets tagged in but Anderson wants to wrestle her. Amber comes in and gets hit with a clothesline and Maria gets a takedown. Maria goes outside and starts to climb the turnbuckle as the hentai camera guy gets a close up of her... lady bits... before she lands the crossbody. Anderson comes in and lands some moves on Taven, but the camera guy is focused on Maria the whole time. When did Kevin Dunn start directing New Japan television? Taven hits a flying splash outside the ring as the women are still legal. Anderson tries grabbing Maria but Bennett comes in, only to get hit with the gun stun. Taven then gets hit with one as well. Maria and Anderson meet in the ring and Karl starts dancing for her. She kicks him in the nuts for it and sends him down. Amber comes in and tries something but Maria rolls her up in a cradle for the win! Backstage Karl says that the Club is together. Big talk from the losing team. In his hotel room, Karl talks about Maria and the match. He doesn't even remember Taven and Bennett, just Maria. He still thinks of Maria. He talks about wanting to win singles gold in the future. Tomohiro Ishii/Toru Yano/Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi/Togi Makabe/Katsuyori Shibata Some backstory here. Ishii and Makabe were feuding over the NEVER title and as you saw a few weeks ago they beat the snot out of each other the last time they met. Tanahashi and Yano were at odds over Yano's fluke victory during the first round of the New Japan Cup. Yano had picked Sakuraba as a partner recently so Tanahashi picked Shibata to counter the MMA legend.  We don't have a lot of time left so this will be quick. We start with everyone in the ring with Makabe and Ishii is starting! Lock up, shoot into ropes and shoulder blocks right off the bat. Elbow duel now and they start giving each other some smack talk. Shots to the head by Makabe. They hit each other and tumble into the corners as Sakuraba and Shibata come in and lock up MMA style. They trade waistlocks before Sakuraba gets a double wristlock. They go for armlocks and tumble around for a bit before the ref breaks it up. Sakuraba with a jumping guard but Shibata shoots out of it and barely misses a soccer kick. Lockup into the corner and Yano tags but hesitates to come in. Tanahashi comes in  and they lock up to crowd cheers. They go into the ropes and then trade armlocks into the ropes. Yano ties himself in the ropes and screams at the ref, Tanahashi goes in and starts hitting him immediately. Hiroshi starts in on Yano when Sakuraba locks in a choke, but then Shibata locks in a choke from the apron on Yano. Yano and Sakuraba double team on Tanahashi outside the ring and then into the crowd! Back from the last break as things are falling apart Makabe and Ishii beating on each other now as they trade clotheslines. Both men down. Makabe tags in Shibata and lands a kick to the face as Sakuraba comes back in and Shibata wails on him with elbows driving him in the corner before hitting the running dropkick. Shibata lands a suplex and an armlock but Sakuraba counters and gets his own wristlock attempt before getting up and laying in the kicks. Shibata counters and gets Sakuraba up for a death valley bomb. Yano tags in and Shibata kills him dead before tagging in Tanahashi. Hiroshi hits elbows on Yano before hitting a splash from the second rope that is rolled through by Yano. Yano pulls off the turnbuckle and throws Tanahashi into it before a roll up for a near fall. Yano keeps going to the hair pull but Tanahashi hits a atomic drop and then the slingblade twice. Everybody is fighting now as Tanahashi goes to the top and goes for the high fly flow right into Yano's knees. He blocks the impact though and takes over on Yano. He hits him a few times before grabbing the hair into the roll up and the win! Backstage Tanahashi is glad he got one over on Yano now, but they aren't finished. We get a wrap up from Jim Ross as we close out the show. This was a strange one. NJPW has been known to copt the WWE sometimes and the first two matches showed that. Jim Ross harping how a title can change hands on a DQ when I've rarely seen a DQ finish on this show (if at all) kinda looked foolish. The mixed tag match seemed like such a waste with a goofy attitude era storyline with four guys who have shwon they can go, and the 6 man match wasn't given any time (on this show anyway) to really do anything. This felt more like a Monday night RAW than NJPW. Hopefully it will just be a one time deal. So, with that, we will see you next week!   IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tile: Kenny OPmega vs. Alex Shelley This match was set up a number of weeks back when after defeating Mascara Dorada, he challenged Shelley, who was at ringside, to a match. The Cleaner and one of the Time Splitters go at it!
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
6 person matches!
Happy Weekend to you all and welcome to Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. This week we go back to Wrestling Dontaku 2015, held in Fukuoka on May 3rd. In our second part of looking at the event, we have two big title matches and an all-star 6 man match waiting for us. Jim Ross and Josh Barnett join us in the booth once again.

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 732

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

Strong Style: Don'taku go away!

Mar 05 // Soul Tsukino
We open the show greeted by Hirooki Goto Kazuchika Okada/YOSHI-HASHI vs. A.J. Styles/Yujiro Takahashi CHAOS vs. Bullet Club here and a bit of a strange pairing on the Bullet Club side. Takahashi hasn't popped up a whole lot on this show, and here is is teamed up with the current IWGP champion. However, Takahashi was the one who turned on CHAOS to join the Club. Okada and Styles faced off at this event the year before, so there is some history here. Jim does into a Monday night RAW mode where he tells everyone what matches we will see and where we are. Some things never die. YOSHI and Okada comes out first and Jim puts over Okada as the future of the business. There is some high praise there. Takahashi comes out and looks like a total jobber. He is wearing a Bullet Club muscle shirt with a horrible A.J. Styles entrance video. Styles then comes out by himself. The match starts instantly in chaos (no pun intended) as all four men go at it. Okada and Styles are left in the ring going back and forth before Okada hits a BIG body drop on Styles. Both go out as YOSHI and Takahashi come in briefly before it's right back to Okada and Styles. We skip ahead as Okada lands a dropkick and a DDT on Styles. Yuji tags in and Okada lands the flapjack and a near fall. He gets a flying butt bump in the corner before heading up to the top. Yuji gets up as Okada jumps but rolls through. Okada tries for a kick but Yuji counters by grabbing the foot and tossing Okada down. Styles in as he goes for the clash but Okada catches him and drops him with his neck right on the knee. Okada goes for the Rainmaker but AJ Counters into the Pele kick and Okada nails a clothesline. We come back from break as they both try to get up. YOSHI gets in first and hits a SWEET neckbreaker on Styles. HASHI hangs him on the ropes and nails him for a 2 count broken up by Yuji. CHAOS doubles up on Styles with a splash in the corner and a blockbuster but only gets 2. Things break down again with Styles and HASHI in the ring with Styles hitting a reverse bomb and pulling the tights but only gets two. Yuji hits a high knee and then the Club hits the double suplex. Yuji misses a running splash on Okada.  Styles and YOSHI try to go up, but Styles is sent back down. YOSHI wants to go for something but Yujiro grabs the ankle. Styles gets up and hits a slam off the ropes. He dives off and nails the bloody Sunday DDT and then the stylesclash for the win. The action does stop though as Okada tries to get in the ring but Styles grabs him and tries for the clash onto the belt, but Okada counters and nearly hits the Rainmaker before Styles scrambles out of the ring and the two have a stare down. Styles has some words backstage saying that Okada has to beat him for the belt and lays down the challenge. Okada counters that Styles is a great champion, but he is the one who will take the belt when they meet in July. Studio words from Goto. He says his desire for the belt isn't as strong as his desire to beat Nakamura up after all the taunting in their last meeting in the tag match (he refers to the IC belt as looking like a 10 yen coin). It's been 3 years since Nakamura beat Goto for this belt and Goto is looking to even the score. IWGP Intercontinental Title: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hirooki Goto Oh, this will be good! There is history here as well. 3 years before in a much different time, Goto lost the belt to Nakamura. Shinsuke went on the make the IC title into something big, comparable to the IWGP title in popularity. Then, in a recent tag match shown a few weeks ago, Nakamura insulted goto by making binocular gestures when he face Goto saying that he didn't see Goto on the horizon as a serious challenger to the title. Time to see if Nakamura was right. Have I mentioned how awesome Hirooki Goto's entrance video and music are? The Samurai indeed. Nakamura then comes out and is awesome. Jim Ross goes over NJPW rules for new fans and we get the full introductions here. This as the main event of this show and it gets treated like it. Bell rings and we get a stare down to begin before the match starts with some amateur grappling. The crowd gives applause for respect. Knuckle lock gets into the waistlock leads to an early sleeper hold. Nakamura lets go. Goto gets the waistlock into a wristlock that Goto rolls through into a wristlock of his own. Nakamura reverses and Goto reverses that into a headlock.  Into the ropes with the headlock and Nakamura does not do the belly rub thing. Hoping he would so Goto would knock his block off for it. JR and Josh talk about Danny Hodge and "Strangler" Lewis as guys who could knock guys out with a simple headlock. The conversation is cut short as Goto hauls off and smacks Nakamura right in the face! Nakamura makes the charge but Goto is too quick and dodges out of the way before he starts landing some kicks on Shinsuke and runs Nakamura right out of the ring. Nakamura tries to screw with Goto by making the binoculars motion again. Goto goes out and Nakamura tries to roll in at the same time but Goto catches him, drags him out and slams him right into the ringpost. A few more kicks to wake Nakamura up before Nakamura sends Goto into the steel barrier. He lays Goto on the broadcaster's table before jumping and hitting a knee right to Goto's head before he hits another knee to the head. Goto rolls in at 19 and Nakamura kicks him before locking in a chinlock into a headlock.  Goto makes it to the ropes and Shinsuke throws some paltry insult kicks. Asshole. Goto gets up and lands some slaps before Naka sends him down with a knee to the chest. He hits a falling knee but doesn't get the pin. Nakamura knees Goto into the corner before hitting the Good Vibrations but missing the running kick. Goto gets up but Nakamura gets in a waistlock and covers Goto's eyes in the corner. You Can't See Me? Goto gets pissed and goes for a hit but Nakamura lands a clothesline, Goto recovers and nails Nakamura and goes for the pin but doesn't get it. They trade elbows now and it's a standoff. Nakamura counters a whip attempt and goes for the kick but Goto ducks just to get hit with a spin kick himself! Back from the break, Nakamura gets up first and hits a drastic kick to Goto but Goto's getting mad. Shinsuke hits another kick and then drives in the MMA knees to the head. He floats into a rear choke. They get to their feet in the hold and Nakamura turns it into a Front suplex. Nakamura misses a knee but Goto misses the counter and hangs up on the top rope where he gets a running kick. The pin is only two. Nakamura goes to the second rope but Goto hits a rolling kick to send Nakamura to the floor. Shinsuke climbs in where Goto catches him on the apron where they try to suplex each other. Nakamura goes up but lands back on his feet. He locks in a sleeperhold only for Goto to counter with an Angle slam! Pin attempt gets two. He picks Shinsuke up and hits a knee to the neck. He looks to go for an F-5, but Nakamura tries to wiggle out. Goto hits him with the reverse ushigoroshi (Thanks Mauro for the spelling on this). Somehow Shinsuke gets up and surprises Goto with a big clothesline and then a lung blower. Shinsuke tries for another running kick but Goto moves and lands a BRUTAL clothesline. We come back from the break with a replay of that hard clothesline we saw. Both get to their knee and start through forearms at each other. They get to their feet still trading shots to the face before Goto goes for the ropes. Nakamura runs the same ropes and hits Goto with a diving kick to the face. Goto rolls to the apron. Nakamura goes to kick him off but misses and gets his leg caught in the rope. Goto drills him and do to the way he twisted, Nakamura's legs gets caught awkwardly in the ropes.  There's a good way to destroy your knee. Goto doesn't go for the pin but decides to go up to the top rope. Nakamura gets up and climbs up after him. The try to counter out of the superplex position but Goto lands some straight headbutts and gets Nakamura in the superbomb position. Nakamura raises up and sends Goto to the canvas before flying off and hitting the super booma ye! He then runs up and hits a second booma ye! Goto kicks out at two somehow. Both get up as Nakamura goes for a third booma ye knee but Goto counters with a combo of headbutts and another clothesline. He really seems to like those clotheslines. He gathers Nakamura up and gets him on the turnbuckles before climbing up himself. he then hits a SUPER ushigoroshi! Goto goes for the cover but only gets two. Goto ain't done yet as he picks Nakamura up and hits the shotenkai before covering and getting the pin! Nakamura is carried out. in the back he has nothing to say. He says no one expects anything from Goto. He then, in his own way, challenges for the rematch. Back in the ring the crowd is chanting for Goto and he thanks them. Good results come to those who don't give up. He thanks Shibata and then leads crowd in a 3 cheers. Backstage it kenpai time as a bunch of guys cheer and drink to Goto. He is asked about the color of the belt (the belt used to be a bronze color and now is gold with a white strap) and says he won't change it back. That is the past and his focus is to hold the belt for even longer than Nakamura held it. In the studio He feels like he got a whole new belt since Nakamura made it his own. He says Nakamura is the number 1 guy he doesn't want to lose to. He caught up to Nakamura as a wrestler and went past him.   What a pick from this show. Two really good ones here. The tag match was a fast paced show and the main event was just that. Jim did a great job in his own style nd if anything got Josh Barnett to speak more on these shows. I think JR will do fine at this job. Before I go this week. I have to do part of being a wrestling fan doesn't want to do and say goodbye to one of our heroes. Last night I found out through Mauro Ranallo that Eiji "Hayabusa" Ezaki had passed away at the age of 47 from a hemorrhage on his brain.  I became aware of Hayabusa in the mid-1990's through the old wrestling magazines of the day. I was reading about the high flying masked guy who was the top star of this small promotion in Japan that blew each other up with  explosives, barbed wire and time bombs. Oddly my first experience of seeing him wrestle was as "Hannibal" in the WCW V/S NWO video game and then from his one high profile match in the U.S. when he and Jinsei Shinseki took on Sabu and RVD at an ECW pay per view back in the day. It wasn't until the Tokyo Pop FMW DVDs were released that I got to see a lot more of him and FMW as well cementing my respect for what he did and love of the character. [embed]34826:5465:0[/embed] Tragically Eiji's career ended when he broke his neck and was paralyzed on a live FMW pay-per-view. Sine FMW lived and died with Hayabusa, the company did the later without it's top hero. Eiji help launch his own promotion, Wrestling's Marvelous Future (see what they did there?) as well as a career as a singer. All from a wheelchair. Last year he was part of an FMW relaunch and held a touching ceremony where he stepped foot inside a wrestling ring, with the help of a cane, for the first time since the accident. His wrestling career only lasted 10 years, and was a star for less than 6, but he had a big impact on a lot of fans, wrestlers, and anyone who was familiar with him. It seems, for now, that the phoenix has burned out, hopefully, to be reborn again. Thank you Eiji. And thank you to all of you. I'll see you next time! [embed]34826:5465:0[/embed]
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
IC Title on the line!
Hello, again gang. After a week off we are back with Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. This week we start a new era of the show as Jim Ross becomes the new play by play man for our weekly lo...

Annotated Anime: Oshiete! Galko-chan episode 9

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

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 731

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

Annotated Anime: Oshiete! Galko-chan episode 8

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

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

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

First Impressions: Oshiete! Galko-chan

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

Strong Style: Man up!

Feb 20 // Soul Tsukino
We start off with a greeting from Togi Makabe. NWA World Title Hiroshi Tenzan vs. Big Daddy Yum Yum Oh, good heavens it's Yum Yum. For those unfamiliar, Big Daddy Yum Yum is a former WWE developmental wrestler. He is a big guy at about 6'6" and pops up inNew Japan every so often. He is also not known for his great wrestling work. Tenzan is a long time veteran that has held the IWGP title in his day and had beaten Rob Conway to get the NWA title he is defending here. As Tenzan comes to the ring Mauro lists off a bunch of the old NWA champions such as Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, and so forth. When Tenzan gets in the ring we are greeted with current NWA President Bruce Tharpe who looks like he cleaned out the closet of the Rod Roddy estate sale. The bell rings and they lock up with Yum powering Tenzan back into the corner. Tenzan escapes with a kick to the gut. A few shoulder blocks go nowhere. Yum chops him down and hammers him with punches before he runs him over with a shoulderblock. Tenzan counters with a straight punch before throwing some of the Mongolian Chops he is known for. We aren't very far in this match and it's already not looking good. Mauro calls a spade a spade and says this match is not even close to the level of matches the NWA Title used to have back in the day. Yum gets in a few kicks and then tosses Tenzan outside the ring. He follows him out but doesn't do much. We thankfully jump ahead with both men back in the ring. They trade some shots back and forth but this match is in the sewer already. Yum goes for a spinning clothesline but Tenzan blocks. Tenzan runs him into the corner and hits a clothesline and then a brainbuster but only gets two.  Tenzan hits a Samoan drop but the cover only gets two. Josh and Mauro are not talking about this match by the way. Both guys try covers but don't get it. Yum lands a HORRIBLE mafia kick and then a crappy looking AA. I can see why the WWE dropped him from developmental. Yum hits a standing moonsault to my surprise but gets a two count. Yum hits a few slaps but runs right into a spin kick by Tenzan. Tenzan goes up but Tharpe interferes and gets headbutted a bunch of times. Tenzan lands a hit but doesn't get the pin. He then locks in the anaconda vice into the buster. Yum kicks out but Tenzan locks the vice back in and Yum submits. THANK THE GODS! We go to the studio where Togi Makabe talks about how he got the flu from his "old lady" 3 days before the big match he was supposed to have with Ishii. He was surprised when after winning the vacant belt, Ishii wouldn't recognize himself as champion until he beat Makabe and no one else. NEVER Openweight Title: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Togi Makabe The match Ishii has wanted for a while. These two go back a few years when Ishii was one of the men to turn on Makabe and leave the Global Bash Heel group to form CHAOS. Makabe defeat Ishii back in January for the title, and they were supposed to have a rematch, but as explained earlier, Makabe got the flu. He was stripped of the title and Ishii defeated Togi's buddy Tomoaki Honma to win the belt. Togi is healthy now, so we have our match. Ishii comes in glaring at Makabe. Makabe glares right back. The bell rings and Ishii gets the side headlock. Togi whips in and shoulderblock goes nowhere. They butt into each other like mountain goats but no backing down. Ishii is first to go down when Togi throws some forearms and Ishii counters but gets sent into the corner. Togi gets him down and gives him a knee in the corner. Ishii gets up but gets met with some chops for his trouble. Ishii lands a chop right to Togi's throat, picks him up, and does it again!  The shots to the Adam's apple take their tolls as Makabe goes down in the corner. Ishii slaps him in the head and throws some petty insulting kicks but Makabe looks right up at him and asks if that's all he had. He throws some forearm shots but Ishii throws some more of his own to send Makabe down again. Togi asks for more and Ishii answers. Ishii hits a headbutt to send Togi down. Ishii tries for a suplex but neither guy wants to lose before Togi picks up Ishii and lands the suplex. He picks him up into the corner and lands some means clotheslines before Ishii runs out and tosses Makabe down. He then straight hits him right in the head. Togi asks for more and Ishii gives him strikes and chops but Makabe ain't feeling it. Ishii runs into with full body force but not affecting Togi. Togi catches Ishii and slams him, before setting him up in the corner and hitting the northern lights suplex. Makabe hits a powerslam but the pin is only 2. Back from break as Togi picks up Ishii and goes for a piledriver but Ishii reverses it sending Togi down. Makabe pops right up and hits Ishii with an uppercut to send him down. Ishii struggles to get up as Togi talks smack. Togi slaps him a few times and then hits a forearm and Ishii is hurt. Ishii tries to fight back but it isn't working. Ishii slaps the mat in frustration but he gets to his feet and glares at Togi, countering each of Togi's forearms with his head before sending Togi down and then hitting another shoulderblock. Jackknife cover only gets two before He locks in the shoulder lock on Togi. Togi stands up and Ishii hits the tiger suplex. Ishii goes for the clothesline but misses and Togi locks in a waist lock but gets backed into the corner where Ishii hits the clothesline. Ishii sets Togi on the ropes for a superplex and sends him crashing down to the mat, pin only gets two. Both guys get up and counter each others clotheslines. Togi locks in a waist lock but gets hit for his trouble. Ishii hits some headbutts before he gets the clothesline to the back of the head. Ishii's hurt his shoulder but that doesn't stop these two clotheslining each other a bunch of times. Both are sucking wind now before Ishii hits a clothesline, but Togi hits a clothesline as well sending both down to the mat. Togi hits the powerbomb but Ishii kicks out!  Togi tries for a waist lock, gets an elbow, but Togi smacks him. They exchange hits and palm strikes before Ishii hits him with a clothesline to send him down. They go for the clothesline but counter each other before they exchange hits. Makabe clasps his hands together and hits the double axe handle right to the face to send Ishii down. Hit right on the top of the head to Ishii leads to Togi landing a German suplex into a pin attempt that doesn't get it. Back from break as Makabe gets up and lands a clothesline to the back of Ishii's head and set him up for the spider suplex. Ishii tries to fight it, but Togi slams his head into the post and then dumps him backwards right on the bad shoulder. Togi goes for the King Kong kneedrop but Ishii moves out of the way. Both are slow to get up. Togi comes running into the foot, but counters into a clothesline. Togi hits the ropes and Ishii dropkicks him! The crowd of 2,900ish are cheering for Makabe at this point. Strikes traded back and forth now. Both guys are just screaming at each other now to bring it. Ishii hits a suplex and then hits the enzigri and finally a hard headbutt to get Makabe down, but can't score the pin! He tries for the brainbuster but Togi squirms out of it Togi hits the rabbit clothesline and tries for a suplex but Ishii counters. Chops to the neck for Togi but Togi hits the tiger suplex and dumps Ishii right on the top of his head. Both get up as Togi hits some clotheslines but Ishii won't go down. They trade clotheslines before Makabe hits the running clothesline to send Ishii to the mat. Makabe tries for the pin, but only gets two again. Ishii jumps right up and lands some chops and headbutts to Makabe. Togi counters with a clothesline and then hits another one but Ishii kicks out of the pinfall. Togi ax handles him several times and climbs to the top. He hits the kneedrop and that is it as Ishii is pinned for a three count. Togi Makabe regains his title! Back from break as Togi addresses the crowd. He says THIS is pro wrestling and no matter how many times they got knocked down, they got back up. He gives the crowd some thanks and says he wants to appreciate the crowds. Backstage, he talks about how great NJPW is and gives credit to Ishii, something he doesn't usually do. He then challenges all the other champions of the company for their belts. Studio words as Togi talks about the match and hoping it appealed to the crowd and how the match was about heart, not just getting hit. He really puts things into perspective and shows the attitude differences with puroresu and American wrestling. This match wasn't just two guys clobbering each other, it was about the spirit of the match and getting back up when they got knocked down. You don't see that in WWE or much of anywhere else in this country. Mauro has some words of thanks to the show's fans as we sign off. Talk about night and day with this show. The first match was the drizzling shits. Even Josh and Mauro couldn't hide how awful Big Daddy Yum Yum is. I have found someone on this show I hate more than Bad Luck Fale! Let's hope we don't see much of him on this show ever again. Luckily this match was short and they had a strong main event to wash the bad taste out of my mouth. Meanwhile, once again Togi Makabe and Tomohiro Ishii tore the house down. I love watching these two wrestle and if you want to know what Strong Style is, watch one of their matches. Next week we get to hear Jim Ross return to announcing a weekly show and let's see how he fairs with Japanese action and no out of touch billionaires screaming in his ear. Later!   We start off with a greeting from Togi Makabe.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
The NEVER title is up for grabs!
Welcome back everyone to Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. This week we have two title matches from the April 29th, 2015 show at the Grand Masse Kummamoto in Kyushu. The title...

Annotated Anime: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu episodes 4-6

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

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 729

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

Strong Style: Cash-in time!

Feb 13 // Soul Tsukino
We get a greeting from Kota Ibushi to start off. We start in the studio as we look at clips of the Japan Cup Final match. We replay Kota issuing the challenge for the IWGP belt to the roar of the crowd. He mentions that he can't be the only one to think he has a chance at this. He isn't focused so much on the belt as he is in facing Styles.   IWGP Title: A.J. Styles vs. Kota Ibushi As we saw on this show a few weeks ago, Ibushi came out the winner of the 2015 New Japan Cup tournament. As a result, he is able to pick any title he wants to go for. Not surprisingly, he picked the big one and Styles for the opponent. Styles, of course, is the leader of the Bullet Club so we will see if any of them play a part in this match. Kota comes to the ring carrying the New Japan Cup, which is a really nice piece of hardware. Barnett breaks things down, pointing out that Styles has the experience edge while Kota had his martial arts striking ability. Styles is out with Kenny Omega in his corner. Here's hoping that doesn't turn into anything, especially since Omega and Ibushi used to be partners. We come back from break as the bell rings. They stare off and Ibushi's hand is all taped up something fierce. They posture a bit before finally locking up. They get to the corner and break cleanly. We lock up again Aj sends Kota out but he jumps right back in and go for another lock up. They get to the ropes before Styles gets in an arm drag. He jaws a bit and then they lock up again. Kota gets in an arm drag, and another, and then the frakensteiner to send Styles out. Styles climbs back with the take over into a leg scissors, Kota gets a non-count on a backslide and then a small package leading to a roll up leading into Kota being set up for the Styles clash but he gets out of it, leading to Kota getting a NEAR 3 count on a rollup before Styles kicks out! Test of strength and Styles tries to get the kick in, but Kota catches his foot. They whip into the ropes and Kota kicks Styles right in the gut. Styles tries to whip him but Kota reverses and low dropkicks him outside. Kota tries for the golden triangle moonault on the floor but AJ catches him. He tries for a suplex but Kota flips out of it. Styles catches Kota and suplexes him on the floor right on his face. Back from break as Kota is hurt on the floor.  Kota struggles and gets in at the count of 19. AJ with a big slam and hits a high kneedrop. Kota whipped into the corner where Styles hits a flying clothesline. He follows up with several punches and a backbreaker. Kota fights out of a suplex and comes off the ropes, but gets nailed with a dropkick to the mouth for his trouble. Kota rolls out to the floor again. Styles climbs out and drops Kota across the barricade right in front of the time keeper's table and the belt. Styles rolls Kota back into the ring and locks in the Muta lock! Haven't seen that one in a long time. Styles locks in a chinlock. Kota tries to fight out but no go. He wiggles out and they get to their feet only for Styles to land a forearm. They go into the corner where Styles tries to hit the springboard clothesline but gets clubbed in the gut to send him back out to the apron. Out of commercial. Kota hits two roundhouse kicks and a moonsault to get a two count. Kota tries another kick but Styles catches it and drives an elbow in his knee. Styles gets a low dropkick right to the same knee. and then grinds out a lock on the knee. Kota counters out with some elbows to break the hold.  Kota gets a facelock but Styles lands a kick to the knee. Kota gets a leg whip sending Styles outside. He leaps up and just BARELY lands in the golden triangle moonsault. He takes AJ back in the ring and hits the springboard dropkick. Styles in the corner but Kota comes running into Styles' feet. Kota counters back to land a lionsault combo on the fallen Styles for two. He hits a snapdragon suplex but only gets two again. Kota picks Styles up in the corner. Styles spins around and hits the brainbuster right onto the turnbuckle. Styles gets up and hits Kota into a lionsault into a scorpion deathdrop! Cover only gets two. Styles goes for the clash but Kota counters out as they then trade kicks and strikes back and forth. Styles hits the Pele kick but Kota hits one of his own! Back from commercial as Styles escapes to the apron but Kota comes over and gets on the top rope and wraps up Styles in an awkward looking lock as he is trying to suplex hm back in the ring. Styles counters sending Kota flying backwards. Styles then dives in with the springboard clothesline and adds to it with the bloody Sunday DDT. He doesn't go for the pin and tries for the Styles clash but Kota wiggles out. Styles then locks in the Calf Killer. Kota tries to reverse it into a pin but Styles rolls right through. AJ grabs Kota's knee to pick him up but Kota lands strikes with the other knee! Styles then flattens Kota with a clothesline. AJ gets up and then sets up Kota for a SUPER Styles clash of the top. Kota counters and tries for the Frankenstiener on the ropes but Kota gets out thankfully. Kota jumps up and lands the frankenstiener but only gets two. Kota goes for the powerbomb but when Styles is up with full weight on Kota's shoulders, Kota stumbles backwards awkwardly and drops Styles. That looked painful with all of Styles's bodyweight on Kota's neck like that. Kota recovers and picks Styles up again for the powerbomb but Styles counters out and hits a clothesline. Kota shakes it off and goes for the powerbomb again and nails it for 2. Kota stomps on AJ's face and Kota goes up, but Omega jumps up. The distraction was enough that Ibushi goes for the phoenix splash and AJ CATCHES him into the Styles clash and gets the win! That was really an impressive counter. AJ celebrates as Tama Tonga and Yujiro Takahashi celebrate. Omega seems subdued and just claps a few times. Kota is then carried out of the ring. Back from break as the Club celebrates in the ring, but Kenny has the boohoos. OKADA jumps in the ring and clubs everyone before nailing the rainmaker on Styles! Gedo says that it's payback for what Styles did to them in the same building the year before. Gedo lays down the challenge for the belt. Okada poses for a bit over the flattened Styles before leaving. Backstage Okada says he is back for his belt and man is that welt on his face not getting any better. Kota is not taking things well as he says this is the last big match for him. He gave it all he had and didn't get it. He says he'll get another chance with his own hands. You don't get these kinds of emotions in the stats. In the studio, Kota says that AJ fooled him a few times during the match where he thought he had control but really didn't. When Kenny interfered, he felt like time stopped. Oddly, he says that it didn't effect the outcome of the match and hopes that Kenny will leave the Bullet Club and they could team again.  This was a good one, even if it felt like it should have been twice as quick as it was. It seemed almost like a WWE style match, much like the Jericho/Styles matches we've been seeing lately. The knee psychology didn't really go anywhere but that finish was amazing. Maybe not the best match of the year but it was very enjoyable, the crowd got into it, and I had fun. That's all for thiss week. Next week we are off to a new location! See you then! We get a greeting from Kota Ibushi to start off.   We start in the studio as we look at clips of the Japan Cup Final match. We replay Kota issuing the challenge for the IWGP belt to the roar of the crowd. He mentions that he can't be the only one to think he has a chance at this. He isn't focused so much on the belt as he is in facing Styles.
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The Main Event of Invasion Attack!
It's that time of week again! Japanator's look at NJPW on AXS TV takes us back one more time to the Sumo Hall on April 5, 2015. This week we take a look at the main event of Invasion Attack 2015 in what should be a good one.

Strong Style: The attack is back!

Feb 06 // Soul Tsukino
We are given a greeting by Kazuchika Okada.   IWGP Tag Team Titles: Karl Anderson/Doc Gallows vs. The Kingdom (Matt Taven/Mike Bennett) This match is a result of the New Japan/Ring of Honor deal. The deal here was that in a few prior meetings, Anderson is totally infatuated with Maria (Bennett's wife) and ends up costing him matches. Bell rings and Karl is waving and blowing kisses to Maria. He then locks up with Taven but it doesn't last long as Taven hits 5th gear  and speeds his way into avoiding Anderson's moves until there is a stalemate. They lock up and Taven gets the tag to Bennett who goes right for a wristlock. Anderson, however, makes the tag and Gallows comes in. Bennett tries for the running cross body on Gallows, but the big guy catches him and puts him down with a slam. He turns around and clubs Taven before going in for the pin on Bennett. ANDERSON breaks up the pin because he wants to bring Maria in the ring. They drag her in and Gallows wants to deck her in the mush while Anderson wants to ogle over her. This is soooo wrong. The Kingdom run in and Maria bails as the fight starts. We jump ahead as the club is working over the Kingdom members in the corner. Anderson takes Bennett up into his own version of the neckbreaker slam and the two club members go to finish things off with the magic killer but Taven comes in to break it up. Taven sends Gallows out of the ring with a clothesline leaving Anderson and Bennett in the ring. Anderson is going in for the kill but Maria pops up on the apron smiling and waving, Karl's head goes to mush as he starts blowing kisses and dancing for Maria. Gallows gets sick of this shit and pulls Maria from the apron and threatens to club her in the face again. The kingdom run in and Taven takes out Gallows with a dive. They then score the hail Mary on Anderson and score the pinfall. The Kingdom are the new tag team champions! Backstage Anderson complains about being so close to Maria, Gallows goes insane and threatens to take out Maria, and hints at bringing his wife in the rematch. Kingdom gloats and says they overcame the odds to win the titles. As the Kingdom talks, you can hear Anderson and Gallows yelling at each other in the background. Quick and edited some, but they got a lot of storytelling in so it wasn't bad. Hirooki Goto/Tetsuya Naito/Togi Makabe vs. CHAOS (Shinsuke Nakamura/Tomohiro Ishii/YOSHI-HASHI) Well, this is a bit of a mish-mash isn't it? Goto is usually teamed with Shibata and YOSHI is usually teamed with Okada. The stories here are that Ishii and Makabe hate each other's guts meanwhile Goto has been eyeballing a shot against Nakamura and the Intercontinental title. Goto points the finger right at Nakamura and Shinsuke abides him by starting the match for his team. They lock up and Goto muscles Shinsuke into the corner but breaks clean. They lock up again and Nakamura thankfully doesn't go for that face in the belly but nails Goto and gets him down in the corner. Shinsuke immediately goes for the good vibrations kick and mocks Goto by makes glasses signs over his own eyes as if to say he can't see Goto (Hmmm... where have I heard that before?) Goto is not happy about this and pops up, landing a few forearm shots to Nakamura before landing a big shoulder block. He brings Nakamura to his corner and tags in Togi Makabe. Makabe works over Nakamura some before Shinsuke can get to his corner and tag in The Stone Pitbull, Ishii. Business picks up  (get used to that saying folks.. he's on the way!) as the two rivals start beating the tar out of each other with chops and forearms. Makabe gets a shoulder block in and tags off to Naito. Naito jumps and lands a low sliding dropkick on Ishii before he lands a senton on the big guy. Ishii is sent into the corner where he eats some more forearms. Naito whips him into the ropes but Ishii turns around and nails Makabe. Everyone gets in on the actions now as Makabe and Ishii fight on the floor where Ishii starts choking out Makabe with his own chain! We then skip ahead and Makabe and Ishii are fighting in the ring and Makabe lands a powerbomb on Ishii, but can only get a two count. We come back from a break as Ishii is hurt and has a hard time getting up. He retreats to the corner where Makabe starts landing in some heavy forearm shots. This seems to wake Ishii up and they start trading shot again. Makabe whips Ishii into the ropes but Ishii counters with a big clothesline. Nakamura gets the tag and starts throwing some knees into Makabe, but the unchained gorilla lands a clothesline on Nakamura to stop that idea. Makabe tags in Goto and goes to work on Nakamura. YOSHI runs in for the distractions and things fall apart again with everyone coming in. Goto and Nakamura keep fighting as Goto lands a backdrop suplex. Everyone is still fighting but Goto tries for an attack. Shinsuke ducks and lands the booma ye! He tries for a second one but Goto catches him and hits the ushi-karoshi and then hits a suplex! The pin is then broken up. Goto is still on Nakamura and looks to finish him off. YOSHI runs in and gets hits back out again. Goto lines up and hits Nakamura for the shotenhai suplex and the win for his team! Backstage Goto deems himself the next contender for the Intercontinental title. Nakamura says that Goto is not a real challenger for the title and that he's not a big deal. Okada speaks to us from the studio now. He thought his cardio was up when he entered the last match, but it still ended very quickly. He talks about how Fale is so big, that's what makes him difficult to wrestle. He focused on hitting the tombstone piledriver and talks about how old footage shows how slamming Andre the Giant was still a spectacle in the sport. Kazuchika Okada vs. Bad Luck Fale Oh boy. If you have read this article at all, you know my dislike for Fale.The backstory here is that Fale defeated Okada in a huge upset in the first round of the New Japan Cup tournament and then beat him in a tag match as well. If history proves true, I don't like Fale's chances here. Tama Tonga comes out to the ring with Fale and Gedo is with Okada. Mauro and Josh speculate that Okada's run of losses is a mental breakdown after his emotional loss to Tanahashi at WrestleKingdom 9. We come back from break as Okada goes flying into the big guy and starts whaling away before the bell even rings. Fale counters with a strike that sends Okada down. Okada with the drop toe hold into a sliding dropkick and the crowd is firmly behind Okada. Okada hits the ropes and then gets run over by Fale. and rolls outside. Fale follows him out and runs him over again and then sends him to the barrier. Fale sends him into the barricade again. He then grabs the announcer's tie and yanks Okada around with it around Okada's neck. Tama Tonga then attacks Gedo outside as well for no reason. Fale rolls into the ring as the ref  finally starts counting. Okada just makes it in but Fale grabs him into a nerve pinch and leans on him. Okada makes a futile attempt to fight out but Fale goes right back to the nerve hold.  He positions himself on Okada's back before just grabbing him by the hair and leaning back. Fale's not breaking any speed records as he just kind of stands around as Okada tries to get up. THIS is one of the reasons why I don't like Fale. He literally just got over giving a guy what amounts to a rest hold and then just STANDS THERE like he's waiting for the bus. Not that he's posing or playing to the crowd, just standing there. Mauro mentions that Fale may have stolen Okada's fighting spirit, with Josh saying he say that episode of the Brady Bunch where they stole the tiki idol. Love it. Anyway, Okada fires off some forearms but Fale stops that with one mighty club to the back. He goes for the pin (Hey Stupid, you should have tried that when you were waiting for Godot back there!). He tries for the big splash and misses. He staggers to his feet and Okada hits a clothesline to send Fale over the top rope. Okada attacks sending Fale over the barricade and goes for the running body block but Fale catches him. Fale goes to drop him on the barrier but Okada scoots out and Fale goes over the barrier back into the ringside. Both roll into the ring before Okada hits a running elbow into the corner and then a DDT. Okada goes to tombstone Fale but the big guy won't go.  Fale counters the attempt to lift Okada up and hit the Samoan drop. Okada tries to get up but is hit with a splash in the corner. Fale attempts the pin but only gets two. Fale gets up and goes for the Grenade combination but Okada gets out with an uppercut. He tries for the Tombstone again and that backfires but Okada counters and SLAMS Fale! He then goes up and nails the flying elbow  He goes for the Rainmaker and Fale tries for the grenade but it doesn't work., Fale gets a double handed  choke into the corner. Okada counters back and then picks him up for a neck breaker slam! Damn that's a load! Okada  tries AGAIN for the Tombstone but Fale falls on top of Okada and squishes him. Fale goes for the spear, but Okada leapfrogs and then lands a kick, but Fale nails the spear anyway. the count only gets two. He picks Okada up and drives Okada into the corner. He slams Okada down and then climbs to the top and nails the splash! Okada kicks out! Fale goes for the Bad luck fall, but Okada falls out and nails a dropkick on the big guy's back! Fale goes for the grenade again but Okada dropkicks out. Okada goes for the rainmaker but Fale escapes only to get suplexed for the trouble. Okada tries again for the rainmaker and Fale hits some back elbows to get out. Fale turns around and Okada LIFTS HIM UP! HE HITS THE TOMBSTONE! He then drags Fale back to his feet and hits the rainmaker and scores the pin! In the back, Okada has some words about getting the win. He has a huge welt on the left side of his face to show for it. We end this week with some studio words from Okada as he says this match really made him realize how heavy Fale is really is. He says that it could have been real easy for him to go down the loser's road, but he didn't.   Well, I'm impressed. Okada and Fale did put on a decent match, even with Fale's shortcomings. The first two matches were all right but the edits didn't help them. I wouldn't ut this as one of the best shows of this series, but it wasn't terrible either. Next week we take a look at the main event as Kota Ibushi goes for the big one as he takes on A.J. Styles! See you then! Bell rings and Karl is waving and blowing kisses to Maria. He then locks up with Taven but it doesn't last long as Taven hits 5th gear  and speeds his way into avoiding Anderson's moves until there is a stalemate. They lock up and Taven gets the tag to Bennett who goes right for a wristlock. Anderson however makes the tag and Gallows comes in. Bennett tries for the running cross body on Gallows, but the big guy catches him and puts him down with a slam. He turns around and clubs Taven before going in for the pin on Bennett.   ANDERSON breaks up the pin because he wants to bring Maria in the ring. They drag her in and Gallows wants to deck her in the mush while Anderson wants to ogle over her. This is soooo wrong. The Kingdom run in and Maria bails as the fight starts.   We jump ahead as the club is working over the Kingdom members in the corner. Anderson takes Bennett up into his own version of the neckbreaker slam and the two club members go to finish things off with the magic killer but Taven comes in to break it up. Taven sends Gallows out of the ring with a clothesline leaving Anderson and Bennett in the ring.    Anderson is going in for the kill but Maria pops up on the apron smiling and waving, Karl's head goes to mush as he starts blowing kisses and dancing for Maria. Gallows gets sick of this shit and pulls Maria from the apron and threatens to club her in the face again. The kingdom run in and Taven takes out Gallows with a dive. They then score the hail Mary on Anderson and score the pinfall. The Kingdom are the new tag team champions!   Backstage Anderson complains about being so close to Maria, Gallows goes insane and threatens to take out Maria, and hints at bringing his wife in the rematch. Kingdom gloats and says they overcame the odds to win the titles. As the Kingdom talks, you can hear Anderson and Gallows yelling at each other in the background.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
Back to the Sumo Hall!
Hello and welcome back to Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. This week we go back to the Sumo Hall in Tokyo for a look at more of the "Invasion Attack" show from April 5, 2015. This week we have a big title match and a return grudge match. Let's get to the action!

Annotated Anime: GATE episodes 13-16

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

Annotated Anime: One Piece episode 728

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

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]
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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 ...

Strong Style: The invasion begins!

Jan 30 // Soul Tsukino
The show opens with a greeting from Kazushi Sakuraba. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) vs. Roppongi Vice (Trent Baretta/Rocky Romero) Got to be honest, I kinda pull for the Vice tag team, since my first novel is set in a futuristic Roppongi Hills. The bucks, of course, are representing the Bullet Club while Vice is part of CHAOS, although I've only seen them do anything together with any of the other members once, and that was a match for Ring of Honor here in the states. Josh comes right out and says he is cheering for the Vice since he helped train Rocky Romero and they are very good friends. We start with Baretta and Nick Jackson as Nick acts like a twit and Baretta makes him pay for it with a punch to the mouth. He gets an early suplex on Nick and nearly gets a pin. Rocky is tagged in as they double team Nick with a clothesline. Matt tags in and gets hit for his troubles. Standing moonsault by Baretta nearly gets two. Both Matt and Nick bail outside the ring and decide it's over by grabbing the belts and starting back down the aisle. Vice goes after them only to get superkicked in the aisleway. The Jackson's run back to the ring while the Vice struggle to get back and Baretta shoves Romero back in the ring to beat that count at 19. We jump ahead with Matt Jackson having the advantage over Baretta. Matt teases Rocky on the apron by crotch-chopping using Baretta's hand and Rocky has had enough as he steps in and slugs Matt right in the face, Nick runs in and superkicks Rocky right off the apron in return. Baretta goes for the tag, but no partner so Matt hits an enziguri right to the back of Baretta's head and then gets in a few kicks on the fallen Baretta. Back from break as Nick goes to the top for a swanton and gets met with two knees of Baretta right to the back. Baretta gets the tornado DDT off the ropes and gets the tag to Rocky! He takes down both Jacksons and hits rapid fire clotheslines before he gets a rana on both men! He lands a blockbuster on Nick Jackson but only gets two. Vice double team on Nick hitting a guillotine legdrop on the ropes and a double knee but the pin is broken up. Matt mocks Rocky with the corner clotheslines of his own but Rocky returns the favor in force before Matt nails the superkick and Rocky hits a clothesline to send both men down. Matt takes out both Vice with a neckbreaker and then a dive to the outside. Rocky gets hit with a hangman dive from ropes and then Bucks go for the indytaker (spiked tombstone piledriver), only for Rocky to counter out. Rocky leaps up to meet Nick on the top and tries from the super rana off the top, but Nick blocks it and shoots him off the buckle into Matt's arms. Bucks hit the indytaker! The count is broken up as all four men are in the ring. The ref goes down and Baretta is hit with the double superkick. The Bucks go for their finisher, more bang for your buck combo, but Rocky counters out and Baretta runs back in and jumps up to send Matt down to the mat with a slam. He scoops up Matt and Baretta hits the Omori driver to score the pin and win the titles! Vice celebrate in the ring by grabbing the mic. Rocky states that they are going to have a naughty naughty party tonight! Backstage Rocky says his partner belongs in Japan and that he overcame injury to win this match. Baretta doesn't know what to say but Rocky says it's his partner's birthday and it is time to party! Good fast paced match from these guys. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title: Kenny Omega vs. Mascara Dorada It's The Cleaner! The bad boy of the Jr.s division steps up to defend his title against the masked man from Mexico by way of the CMLL. We saw these two have a bit of a standoff here in a previous episode, now it's time to get it on. Dorada is actually smart as he comes out with the Time Splitters, Tiger Mask, Jushin Liger, and Capt. New Japan in his corner. Omega has Tama Tonga and Cody Hall with him. Omega goes for the tie-up but the masked man slips right by him and bounces off the ropes for some lucha flips and Dorada goes for a diving attack but Omega moves sending Dorada on his face with a splat. Omega takes him into the corner and starts working him over early. Alex Shelley jumps on the apron and Kenny spits right on him for that. Dorada recovers and starts his offence with an armlock. He climbs the ropes like nothing and flips, sending Omega to the outside. Dorada then launches himself into the air and crashes right into Omega who bends backwards over the barrier. Damn!  However, Omega recovers first and tries to send his foe into the barrier. He goes for the running strike but misses. Dorada leaps up for the headscissors but Kenny catches him and slams him down with a powerbomb on the ring apron! We skip ahead as Omega hits the Regal roll but misses the standing shooting star press. Dorada leaps up to his feet and hits a DDT on Omega.  He grabs the armlock again and walks right up the ropes and then walks ON the rope with no effort before blasting Omega with a dropkick. Coming back from break as Dorada gets whipped into the corner. Omega goes for something and ends up on the apron. Dorada launches over the rope and hits a rana on Omega off the apron sending him to the floor. Dorada gets a running start in the ring and belly flops on the canvas as he slides out and hits a splash on Omega on the floor. He is safe on third base with that slide! We skip ahead again as Dorada gets a pin attempt but doesn't get it. He tries to get another but doesn't get it either. Omega to the apron and Dorada tries a suplex but it doesn't go. Omega climbs to the middle of the second rope and gets caught. Dorada leaps up to the top, walks the ropes with no trouble and gets a rana on Omega! He then adds to that bit of awesome when he leaps up, walks the ropes AGAIN, facing the crowd and does a moonsault into the ring. THAT is balance. Dorada makes the mistake of no going for the pin and Omega leaps up and Omega hits the snapdragon suplex on him that nearly scores the pin. He sets Dorada up on his shoulders for the electric chair, but the luchador rolls through with a victory roll. Omega counters out and gets Dorada up and hits the one winged angel slam for the pinfall and the win to retain the title! Being the Bullet Club, Omega grabs the mic and says that he's taken out the Japanese trash, the Mexican trash, now it's time to take out the American trash nd calls out Alex Shelley. Shelley isn't to impressed and gets in Omegas face. Omega points the gun to Shelley's chest, but Alex grabs it and I swear he makes the salute motion from Attack on Titan, fist over heart and everything. That was odd. Backstage Shelley tells the Cleaner that he'll have to clean up his parts after he leaves Omega in pieces in the ring. We get some words from Sakuraba as he talks about wanting to tag with Yano since they are different styles. He loves to watch Yano from the apron since he never knows with Yano will do next. He doesn't think much of Shibata so he doesn't have much to say, think it wasn't very special that he was matched up with him. Gotta love the Japanese logic of not caring about your matches.   Katsuyori Shibata/Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazushi Sakuraba/Toru Yano Talk about strange bedfellows. This is like Vince Russo booking puroreu. The story here is that Tanahashi wants revenge on Yano after the trickster pinned the ace of NJPW in less than 3 minutes during the New Japan Cup we saw two weeks ago. Sakuraba is teaming with Yano because he thinks Yano is funny I guess (Kazushi doesn't seem to have much of a grasp of kayfabe). Shibata used to be partners with Sakuraba when they came back to NJPW as Laughter-7 in 2012 but drifted apart when Shibata was fighting people like Nakamura and Tanahashi for abandoning the company nearly a decade ago. Got all that?  Mauro wonders how Tanahashi and Shibata will work out since they feuded recently. Josh, god bless him, describes Tanahashi as if "Motley Crue and Godzilla had a baby." I'm almost salivating at the idea of his descriptions when matched up with Jim Ross. We come back from break as Tanahashi starts with Yano. Yano goes immediately for the ropes and doesn't want to lock up. He then bails out of the ring. We have less than tem minutes left of the show as Yano is dicking around. Yano goes for the lock up and ducks right through it as he runs over and tags Sakuraba, to which Shibata is tagged in. They go for some grappling with waistlocks and counters that ends up with Shibata going for a heel hook but Sakuraba scoots right out. They both go for anklelocks on each other and that stalemate ends in the ropes. They stand back up as Josh mentions the time Sakuraba went into a big fight wearing an adult diaper (hopefully under his gear) in case he had to take care of business during the fight. Mauro adds that other fighters should probably do the same. No, I do NOT want to hear stories of MMA guys crapping themselves. Sakuraba then tries to play some Yano type games with Shibata by bailing out of the ring and just as Shibata goes for him, he gets right back in again. That goes nowhere. They go right back into the fight as Shibata gets hold of Sakuraba and brings him right back into the corner where he tags in Tanahashi. Hiroshi actually does well against Kazushi and gets him over with a snap mare and unloads a fine European uppercut. Mauro is surprised as he says that while Sakuraba, Shibata, and even Yano have amateur backgrounds, Tanahashi got into wrestling through college (IE backyard) shows. Yano breaks this up as he grabs Tanahashi's ankles and yanks him out of the ring where he blasts him into the barrier. Tanahashi is thrown back into the ring where Sakuraba kicks him a few times before hitting a running double stomp right to Tanahashi's face! Yano tags in and picks Tanahashi up before sending him into the turnbuckles where he had removed the protective pad. Shibata comes in and he gets whipped into the exposed buckles. They spill to the outside where Yano and Kazushi send their opponents into the barrier outside. Tanahashi rolls back in where Yano tries for the yakikiri again but only gets two. He tries for a roll up but again doesn't get it. He tries a running attack but Tanahashi rolls out of the way and Yano crashes into the exposed buckles. Tanahashi tries to get something in, but Yano just pulls the hair again sending Hiroshi down. Shibata gets the tag and so does Sakuraba. Shibata opens up on him with forearms in the corner and then nails him with a series of hard forearms to the face. Kazushi stands up and Shibata hits a quick suplex. He then pulls Sakuraba's jersey over his head and then locks in the figure four. They get to the ropes and break the hold. Kazushi pulls his jersey off and grabs Shibata and starts drilling in some Thai knee strikes. Sakuraba smells blood and locks in the rear naked choke on Shibata. He has it in tight but Shibata is fighting it, all while his eyes roll back in his head. He finally gets to the ropes and the hold is broken. Sakuraba hits a kick and then locks in a tight double wrist lock. Shibata fights it but out of nowhere SHIBATA SUBMITS! In the back, Yano talks about how he is the ace of the company now. Sakuraba says that Shibata should be fighting Tanahashi but if he wants to go, he doesn't mind. In the studio Kazushi says that he was given the chance to tag up, so he went for it. Simply put. He says that he wasn't targeting Shibata, but that's how things worked out. He doesn't know if he and Shibata will fight in a singles match ("It's none of my business") but he still doesn't think Shibata is very special. I don't say this often, but this show underperformed. While the first two matches were entertaining, there were a lot of edits and cuts. The main event wasn't a good match at all with so much goofy shit going on and its small run time. It wasn't a terrible experience by any means, but this show has done better. Next week we see more from this show, hopefully including Kota Ibushi cashing in his New Japan Cup title shot. We will see you then! We start with Baretta and Nick Jackson as Nick acts like a twit and Baretta makes him pay for it with a punch to the mouth.. He gets an early suplex on Nick and nearly gets a pin. Rocky is tagged in as they double team Nick with a clothesline. Matt tags in and gets hit for his troubles. Standing moonsault by Baretta nearly gets two. Both Matt and Nick bail outside the ring and decide it's over by grabbing the belts and starting back down the aisle. Vice goes after them only to get superkicked in the aisleway. The Jackson's run back to the ring while the Vice struggle to get back and Baretta shoves Romero back in the ring to beat that count at 19.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
I don't know why it's called that either
Welcome back to Strong Style, Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. This week we stop by the Sumo Hall in Tokyo for the first part of coverage of the "Invasion Attack" show from April 5th, 2015. Why is it called that when no one is invading? Your guess is as good as mine. Anyway, let's get to the action!

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...


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