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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.
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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!

Week Ender - Collectible Creatures

Feb 06 // Red Veron
[embed]34748:5414:0[/embed] "One Star" Anime: Digimon Savers I never got a chance to see this show but this is a pretty rad song. It's got one of those simple running along a sunset ending and it suits the music well.   [embed]34748:5415:0[/embed] "Let's join hands" Anime: Pocket Monsters - Best Wishes Season 2 Decolora Adventures A happy ending where everyone gets together at the end. Pretty uplifting if you ask me.   [embed]34748:5416:0[/embed] "Youkai Taisou Daiichi" Anime: Youkai Watch This is one of those dancing ending things that a lot of Japanese kid's shows do a lot and I like the idea of kids jumping around getting exercise after sitting for a half an hour in front of the TV.   [embed]34748:5417:0[/embed] "Toshishita no Boku" Anime: Medarot (Medabots in the US) This ending is soooooo 90's that it's giving me super nostalgia pangs. When I see and hear stuff in this style, I am instantly transported to those days when I would watch anime on those warm, late afternoons in my youth in the Philippines. So good.   Is there an anime or anime ending from a show all about collecting sentient creatures that you love? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I wanna know!
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Collection Commercial
They sure did make a lot of cartoons that were secretly commercials back in the day and I gotta say that the ones from Japan were the best. The cartoons (which were secretly anime) had a different flavor compared to the US ca...

Impressions: Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash episodes 1-4

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

OP Up! - Collectible Creatures Edition

Feb 04 // Red Veron
[embed]34737:5404:0[/embed] "Chie to Yuuki da! Medarotto (Wisdom and Courage! Medarot)" Anime: Medarot Known as Medabots in the US, this show aired in english around the world in the early 2000s. This show is taught me all about takoyaki, which they refer to as "Octopus Balls" in english and it is appropriately weird enough that it adds to comedy of that episode. Oh and this show has sentient robots that battle each other. I regret not picking up that DVD of the first season for $5 that one time in that store.   [embed]34737:5405:0[/embed] "XY&Z" Anime: Pocket Monsters XY&Z The latest opening from the Japanese version of Pokemon, this version has male vocals unlike the original and it sounds so much cooler with that opening. So edgy.   [embed]34737:5406:0[/embed] "Geragerapou no Uta" Anime: Youkai Watch It's the new thing that the kids in Japan are into and putting up a great fight against the juggernaut that is Pokemon. A silly opening that is dumber in the US version but not so dumb that it's good like One Piece 4Kids opening.   [embed]34737:5407:0[/embed] "Butter-Fly (tri Version)" Anime: Digimon Adventures Tri The return of a favorite for those kids who watched cartoons in the late 90's/early 2000s, this show looked pretty good and I've her people should check it out now that all the episodes are out. The episodes are all from the first of six films and more are to come in the near future. It feels great to see old friends again.   Is there an anime or opening from anime with collectible creatures that you love? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I wanna know!
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Gotta Collect'em All!
Commercials disguised as TV shows have been around since the dawn of television and they're still around. Anime just is one of those perfect medium (it's not a genre) to sell products to children and even adults, and anime fr...


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...

Week Ender - One Year Anniversary Edition

Jan 31 // Red Veron
[embed]34730:5394:0[/embed] "Hito ni Yasashiku" Anime: The Rolling Girls I know this is opening of the series but the show did that thing where the first episode ends with the anime opening so it still counts and I like this song a lot (this cover version and the original by Japanese band The Blue Hearts). This was a show that started with some cool action but turned out was a sort of road movie type of adventure, at least the first few episodes that I watched were just that. I like look and design and I might revisit this show down the line.   [embed]34730:5395:0[/embed] "Kisetsu wa Tsugitsugi Shinde Iku" Anime: Tokyo Ghoul Root A This is a pretty cool song and great looking ending. I'm glad I got to revisit this one so that I can be reminded to get this song for my music collection. Love that water color art, I think it's watercolor unless someone can correct me on it. I just really like how it looks.   [embed]34730:5396:0[/embed] "Jounsetsu CONTINUE" Anime: Yatterman Night A show set in a distant future where the heroes that once stood for justice and order become the villains that oppress the citizens in a police state rule. In this time, those who descended from villains that those heroes once defeated rise up to fight the injustice cause     [embed]34730:5397:0[/embed] "Colorful" Anime: Saekano: How to raise a boring girlfriend A show that I enjoyed that was harem and poked fun at the idealized elements otaku have with romance and characters. The main character wasn't oblivious to the girls but just wanted to like his 2D waifus.   [embed]34730:5399:0[/embed] "Last Train Home" Anime: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders - Egypt Hen I need to catch up to JoJo so much. Watch it as soon as you can.   Is there an anime ending/opening or anime from about a year ago that you love? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I wanna know.
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525,600 Minutes
It's been a year since I started these features and I'm still not good at it. There was a book that said that it took 10 thousand hours to be an expert at something, and I reckon I only like have 10 minutes of total effort pu...

First Impressions: Myriad Colors Phantom World

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

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!

OP Up! - One Year Anniversary Edition

Jan 29 // Red Veron
[embed]34723:5386:0[/embed] "Flyers" Anime: Death Parade A show that starts out as sort of collection stories of people ending up in a mysterious place where they play games to unveil the truth but turns into something so much more. I've only seen one episode but it is highly recommended by my colleagues here at Japanator.   [embed]34723:5387:0[/embed] "Ano More de Matteru" Anime: Yuri Kuma Arashi The craziest and weirdest show of last year (or at least that season), this one is about a world where bears gained human level of intelligence and rose up against humanity. The show takes place years after the uprising where humans won but everything is all weird and lesbians are involved and it just gets weirder from there on. Apparently inspired off incidents of bear attacks in a rural Japan in the early 1900s, which isn't surprising since the person who conceived Mawaru Penguindrum, a show inspired off of real life terrorist attacks.   [embed]34723:5388:0[/embed] "Miiro" Anime: Kancolle: Kantai Collection Based off a wildly popular online strategy game featuring cute anime girl anthromorphized World War 2 ships fighting alien water crafts, this one mostly doesn't make sense if you think too hard much about it. Just enjoy it for what it is even with the weird setting.   [embed]34723:5389:0[/embed] "Shiawase ni Tsuite Watashi ga Shitteiru Itsutsu no Houhou" Anime: Koufuku Graffiti A pretty show about cute girls enjoying beautifully drawn food that is as appetizing as the cute girls (HEYYOOOO). This also has a cute slice-of-life story too along with the food.   [embed]34723:5390:0[/embed] "Star!!" Anime: THE iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls An anime adaptation of a mobile game. ShibuRin is best girl.   [embed]34723:5391:0[/embed] "Seishun Satsubatsu-ron" Anime: Assassination Classroom An alien threatens the world's destruction in a year and the world cannot stop it, unless he can be killed by his students in a classroom where he is the teacher. Weird? Very interesting though.   So which anime did you love from a year ago? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I wanna know!
OP Up! photo
One Year War
So hey, it's been a year since I came back to Japanator and started these weekly features about anime opening and endings. Yes, I am also a couple of days late but life is much more crazy for me than it was a year ago when I ...

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

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

First Impressions: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

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

Week Ender - Anime Game Edition Part 2

Jan 23 // Red Veron
[embed]34712:5371:0[/embed] "Hanafubuki" Anime: Tokyo Majin An anime based on a franchise that dates back to a Tactical Turn-Based Strategy Role Playing Game on the original Playstation only released in Japan. This anime adaptation marked the first time the franchise made it outside Japan. I liked the show and this ending song is one of my favorite anime ending songs. Just check it out.   [embed]34712:5372:0[/embed] "Fighting Dreamer" Anime: Senran Kagura An anime based on a game created on the premise of wanting show anime boobs in 3D using the 3D display technology of the Nintendo 3DS. This ending sure has some fanservice in it for those who like the big anime boobies.   [embed]34712:5373:0[/embed] "I'll be your home" Anime: Devil May Cry - The Animated Series Based on the popular video game series, this adaptation took some liberties and didn't catch on with the fans that much. I don't really remember much about the show except that they added that little girl character to show off Dante's caring side. They should've just added a puppy or a kitten.   [embed]34712:5374:0[/embed] "Ano Kaze ni Notte" Anime: Valkyria Chronicles Based on the very gorgeous looking video game, this adaptation just wasn't as pretty and had some changes that didn't please the fans. What changes? Well, the female lead had some enlargement in the bust area. A shame this one didn't do so well since the game was absolutely brilliant.   Is there an anime and/or anime opening or ending based on a video game that you love? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I wanna know!
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Game and Watch (Again)
This week's selection of endings is all about Anime based on video games and this is the second time I've done this theme after about doing these features for almost a year. There are enough of these anime to warrant the...

Strong Style: The Final Four

Jan 23 // Soul Tsukino
With that out of the way, we come to this week's show looking at the semifinals and final for the 2015 New Japan Cup. Last week, we looked at the first half of the first round. AXS has decided to skip way ahead of things so here are the matches that you missed. First Round: Togi Makabe defeated Tomoaki Honma Yujiro Takahashi defeated YOSHI-HASHI Katsuyori Shibata defeated Satoshi Kojima Hirooki Goto defeated Yuji Nagata Second Round: Togi Makabe defeated Yujiro Takahashi Hirooki Goto defeated Katsuyori Shibata Tetsuya Naito defeated Bad Luck Fale Kota Ibushi defeated Toru Yano So, now that we are up to speed on things, let's get to the action! We start off this week's show with a greeting from Kota Ibushi as we are at the Hiroshima Sun Plaza on March 15, 2015 New Japan Cup Semifinal: Togi Makabe vs. Hirooki Goto Not exactly a beauty contest is it? Call the hospital, 'cuz this one is gonna hurt. Two hard hitting guys meeting head on and there must be a winner. Goto won three of these tournaments already ('08,'09,'12), can he win a fourth? Mauro mentions who each guy beat to get here as they enter the ring. Lock up to start but goes nowhere. Goto gets the headlock. A few shoulder blocks as Mauro tells us about Makabe's sweet tooth. They go right outside the ring and start bashing each other into the barricade and exchange hits. We jump ahead as we are back in the ring again. Goto gets Togi up and hits the ushi-karoshi! He doesn't go for the pin but instead lifts Togi up awkwardly for something but loses his grip. Togi regains his footing and runs off the ropes, hitting a double axhandle and then a clothesline to the back of Goto's head! Ouch! Togi grabs Goto and lifts him onto the turnbuckle for the spider suplex but as Makabe heads up, Goto throws a few elbows to his opponent's face. He gets turned around on the turnbuckle and hits Togi again, sending him hanging in the tree of woe. Goto comes down and gets Togi in a hanging neckbreaker. He tries for a pin but gets only two. Goto tries to get a suplex on the big guy, but Togi hits a few chops to escape. He follows up with a German suplex but Goto gets out of it and ties Togi's legs up for the gotoshiki and gets the three count! Not entirely what I was expecting there, but still fun to watch! New Japan Cup semifinal: Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi This is a very even matchup and a complete opposite of the first match. Both these guys are the quickest in the heavyweight division (both being former Juniors who moved up in weight class) and this is going to be a fast-paced collision. Looking forward to this and the crowd is fired up for this one too. Lock up into an armbar for Ibushi goes right into counters back and forth for both guys. They run the ropes leading to both guys throwing dropkicks at the same time. We jump ahead and things have picked up as Kota hits the springboard dropkick. Kota lands a standing corkscrew moonsault (Damn!) but doesn't get the pin. Ibushi gets a kick to the face and a neckbreaker from Naito. We skip ahead again (really?) as Naito hits a sweet suplex but he holds on and tries for a dragon suplex that Kota flips right through. They trade strikes as Ibushi catches Naito off the ropes and hits the dragon suplex he was gong for originally. We come back from break with both guys down. Kota up first and gets the slam on Naito before heading up top. Naito catches him twice and climbs up before getting the reverse Frankensteiner on Ibushi from the top! The pin doesn't get it. Naito hits a forearm and Ibushi hits right back. Exchange starts and they are swinging for the fences with these forearms. Naito goes for the home run off the ropes but Kota clotheslines him and Naito spins in the air and down right on his head! Naito hits the rana but the pin is only two. Dragon suplex still only gets two! Naito goes for what looks like a pump handle slam but Kota elbows out. Kota into the ropes and Naito goes for a roll up but Kota catches him halfway and drops him straight down on his head! GANZO BOMB! Damn, how does that not kill guys deader than hell? Naito's injured his shoulder. Kota goes for Naito and Naito SLAPS Kota right in the face. Ibushi lands the high kick to Naito twice. Ibushi hits a HIGH sit out powerbomb and gets the pinfall! Backstage Kota says he can't lose now and he needs to win. Studio words from Ibushi as he talks about how the single elimination tournament style suits him and that he put a lot of his energy into the fight with Ibushi. He says that he thought of Goto as clumsy and straightforward, but they had never met in the ring before. 2015 New Japan Cup Final: Kota Ibushi vs. Hirooki Goto Who's got anything left in the tank to go one more round? Goto seems fine but Ibushi is sucking a little wind on their entrances. Barnett mentions that Goto has less in ring time tonight than Ibushi and that Kota needs to be quick and strike hard. Both men get good crowd response in the intro. Bell rings and they circle before the lock up. They go into the corner and Ibushi breaks with only a pat on the chest, Goto responds with a smack. They exchange strikes and Goto hits the shoulder. Goto gets a headlock and his grinding on it.  Shoot-off ends with Kota hitting a dropkick. Goto goes outside and Kota tries for the golden triangle but Goto gets in the ring and slams Ibushi with a clothesline on the apron that puts Kota down with a flip. Outside Goto kicks the fallen Kota before slamming him into the post. Goto rolls Kota into the ring and climbs up top for a big elbow. Pin gets two and grabs a chinlock before hitting and straight elbow. Goto gets the headscissors and cranks on it. Kota gets a foot on the rope for the break. Kota surprises me as he pops up and lands an elbow to Goto's face, but Goto hits him right back. Kota slides out of a suplex attempt for a dragon suplex, but Goto counters and goes to the ropes only to get a headscissors for his trouble. Goto rolls out of the ring and gets met with the golden triangle moonsualt. Ibushi got BIG air on that one. Both men are tired and  Kota rolls him into the ring and hit another springboard dropkick but doesn't get the pin. Kota lands strikes, slaps, kicks, and finalizes with a standing moonsault onto Goto. The pin doesn't get it, though. Kota tries for the dragon suplex but Goto reverses, only for Kota to reverse but get met with a running Goto clothesline. Goto lands some kicks and lands a flying kick in the corner and a suplex, but only gets two again. Kota gets out of the ushikoroshi and trades some hits before Goto hits a strike before hitting a backflip kick. Kota hits the mafia kick and picks Goto up to the top turnbuckle. Kota follows him with elbows, but Goto hits back and Goto goes for the powerbomb but Kota wiggles out, only to get a clothesline to send him to the apron. Kota jumps up top and hits the super rana off the top rope! Nice! Back from break, as Kota wills himself up and gets Goto up for a powerbomb but Goto gets out and hits the ushikaroshi! He doesn't get it quite right and both guys are hurt and stunned. They start trading elbows while on their knees and soon it picks up into a rapid fire back and forth. Goto wins that exchange and Ibushi collapses. Goto gets up and drags Ibushi to his feet. Goto hits a clothesline but it doesn't work as Kota clotheslines him back. The duel goes for Goto as he hits a spinning clothesline to send Kota down, but only gets two on the pin attempt. Goto picks Ibushi up and gives him a spinning faceplant right to the mat, but again, it only gets two. Hirooki lifts Kota up, possibly for another ushikaroshi, but Ibushi lands the knee to the head, drops out of the suplex and comes off the ropes with a clothesline that sends Goto for a flip in the air. Ibushi tires for his high powerbomb but Goto sits out the lift and wiggles out. He tries for a clothesline but Kota smacks him right in the face. Goto then drops Kota with a strike and picks Ibushi up for a powerbomb but Kota flies out of the counter for the strike. Kota Ibushi lands a kick right to the head. Kota hits his powerbomb he won the last match with but only gets two. Ibushi exhaustedly climbs up and gets the phoenix splash and gets the pin! Kota Ibushi wins the tournament! Kota Ibushi gets a big check and a HUGE trophy. He announces that he wants A.J. Styles and the IWGP title! He stops as the crowd chants his name and he says he will win the belt at the next show on April 5th. Backstage he is grateful to his fans for supporting him as he wins his first title as a heavyweight with this win. He hopes they cheer him on when he goes for the big one. Studio words as he says he is happy he has won and says that both were good matches that night, but that Goto was not like he imagined he would be. He doesn't really elaborate on how he thought Goto would be, though (clumsy and straightforward maybe?) and we end this week on that note. Due to some of the time constraints, this show was a bit on the disappointing side. The main event was great but the editing in the first two matches left things to be desired. Once again Mauro and Josh did their jobs well, especially in covering the ground no shown on TV. It was a fair episode of the show, but I bet next week will be better. See you next week! /ul/34711-/match 3-620x.jpg
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
We wrap up the 2015 New Japan Cup!
Hey hey! The providers of Puroresu are back again this week as Strong Style takes a look at NJPW on AXS TV. We've got a lot to cover before we even get to the action so before we begin let's cover a few things. First, the big...

OP Up! Anime Game Edition Part 2

Jan 20 // Red Veron
[embed]34709:5366:0[/embed] "JAP" Anime: Sengoku Basara A ridiculous over the top adaptation of a game that takes some liberties in retelling the warring states period of Feudal Japan. Historical figures are reinterpreted to be crazy looking characters that are out of a video game (which it is) doing superhuman fighting moves and other things that will make a historian cry. The opening is so action anime, I want to PUT MY GUNS ON!   [embed]34709:5367:0[/embed] "Dimension Tripper" Anime: Hyperdimension Neptunia the Animation An anime based on a video game about characters that are anthromorphised video game systems based on real life video game systems. Confused yet? Well, okay. It's based on a game that is an role playing game about a kingdom where video game systems based on the real life game systems (Playstation, XBox, Nintendo) are rulers of their own nations have to band to together to fight an even greater threat. It's cutesy and some action are in there, it's not as serious as that summary I made but if it sounds and looks appealing to you, try it.   [embed]34709:5368:0[/embed] US Opening? I dunno Anime: Street Fighter II V This is the US opening and not the Japanese one. This show is remembered fondly by people and people loved this show back in the day. Brought to the US in the late 90's/early 2000's, this one isn't exactly accurate to the video games but fighting games tend to be iffy in what is canon anyways due to their nature. This is one is also remembered to NOT be the movie where Chun-li is topless in the shower for all of you wondering.   [embed]34709:5369:0[/embed] "Family" Anime: Gungrave This opening is one of those "non-traditional" openings for the more darker and "adult" anime that was common in the 90's. It suits the anime well and I vaguley remember playing the game, which doesn't hold up since we've come a long way with modern 3rd person shooters on controls and styles. Still looks really good with character designs from the author of Trigun.   Is there an anime based on a game that you love? SHARE YOUR FAVE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I wanna know!
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Game and Watch (Again)
So I've done this theme before, it's been almost a year since I started these opening & ending features and after doing almost 50 of these things, I've learned that I might eventually have to revisit themes and topics. Go...

First Impressions: ERASED

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

Strong Style: It's Season 4 baby!

Jan 16 // Soul Tsukino
We get a greeting from Toru Yano! He keeps asking why are they filming him as he stands against the a wall. That is Yano for you. Round 1 match:  Kota Ibushi vs. Doc Gallows Speed vs. strength in this one. Ibushi had a great showing against Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 9 while Gallows is one-half of the IWGP Tag Champions here. Gallows comes to the ring with Cody Hall and Tama Tonga. If you have been keeping up with Strong Style, you notice Cody hasn't wrestled on here yet. Although he is in the Bullet Club, he is still considered a "young boy" in NJPW and only really wrestles in curtain jerkers since he hasn't earned a bigger spot yet. Since this show doesn't waste time with scrub matches, his stuff doesn't get shown. Anyway, back to the match. They circle around and Gallows muscles him a bit in the corner but backs off for the clean break. Doc then just grabs Kota by the throat and throws him around. Gallows runs right into Ibushi with a clothesline right to the throat sending him into the corner. Tama Tonga then clocks Ibushi right in the face from the outside. Doc hits a big suplex and goes for the pin. Doesn't get it. Kota starts whirlwind strikes but gets clobbered to send him down. Doc leans on him with a headlock while clubbing him in the chest. Doc goes for a big splash but misses. Crowd chants for Ibushi and they exchange shots before Kota nails the big guy with a dropkick and hits the golden triangle moonsault out to the floor to wipe out the Club. Ibushi rolls the big guy in the ring and jumps right to the top, hitting a dropkick. Gallows staggers to his feet with Kota trying for the German suplex, but the big guy doesn't budge. Gallows runs off the ropes for a clothesline but Ibushi slides in behind him and lands the German suplex. Gallows recovers and catches Ibushi with his old "12 steps" finisher but doesn't go for the pin. Doc is looking to finish him off with the Hangman's noose but Ibushi reverses it into a roll-up and a 3 count! That was a quick one. But they told the story they wanted in that short amount of time. Good match.   Round 1 match: Tetsuya Naito vs. "Machine Gun" Karl Anderson This is a pretty even match. Although known as a tag team wrestler, Anderson has shown he does well in singles action. And although he is a graduated guy from the Juniors division, Naito can go with the heavys. Once again Tama Tonga and Cody Hall come out for the Club. Josh mentions that these two have met each other a bunch of times so there isn't a lot they haven't seen out of each other in a match. Karl Attacks before the bell and takes things outside on Naito. Naito gets the ring apron powerbomb right off the bat! Damn. Naito struggles up and drags himself up to the apron where Karl rams his head right into the post and sending Naito back out for the count. Naito barely makes it to the apron where Anderson ties him up in the ropes and lands a kick to Naito's face before laying in some shots. Anderson lands another straight kick to the face and Naito is on the floor again. Naito makes it back in at the count of 19 and Karl meets him by trying to pin him 3 times in a row with no dice. Anderson is just killing Naito now with hits and elbows right to the face before getting Naito in a reverse facelock. Tetsuya fights out of it, only to land in a bodyslam to the mat. Anderson goes for a senton but Naito rolls out of the way. At this point, Mauro talks about that weird eye pose that Naito does. Evidently while he was on his excursion in Mexico, racist fans would make that gesture to him to make fun of him being Asian. Naito ended up adopting it as his own to take the sting out of it. Naito has also described it as he is opening eyes around the world. Kind of a cool empowerment story right there. Back to the action as Naito gets Karl in the corner with a fast stiff strikes. Naito goes for a rana but Karl catches him and starts for a running powerbomb, but Naito goes for it and gets the rana off anyway. We come back from a break as Naito is back up to his feet. He and Karl trade wristlocks before Anderson sends him into the ropes and hits a sweet spinebuster (that's a different Anderson) before landing a straight kick right to Naito's face. Naito gets back up but Karl hits a running kick to the face sending Naito for a loop and down on his face. Seeing his moment, Anderson sets Naito up on his shoulders for the gun stun, but Naito wiggles out. He tries for a diving something but overshoots Anderson, who grabs Naito and hits the gun stun! Pin attempts only gets two. Anderson tries for another guns stun, but Naito wiggles out of that and hits and enziguri kick to Anderson before hitting a flying forearm. Naito picks Anderson up and puts him on the top rope for the super rana, but Anderson counters and drops him with a super powerbomb! Anderson goes for the cover as Naito kicks out. Tetsuya will not quit! Trade of forearms  goes nowhere for either man before Karl starts throwing European forearms. Karl goes for the exploder suplex and lands Naito right on his neck on the knee! No pin here. He goes for the gun stun again but Naito gets a backslide for two, goes for another pin and still only gets two. Naito hits the German suplex but still can't win. He goes for broke now as he climbs to the top rope and hits the stardust press and gets the three count! Damn that was a fun one! Backstage Naito says it doesn't matter who he faces in the next round he wants to be the best! Round 1 match: "The Rainmaker" Kazuchika Okada vs. Bad Luck Fale Aw, crap. If you saw my round-up of the last season you know that Fale doesn't exactly set my world on fire. Okada will have to go extra hard to make this on par with the other matches. Fale though really only sees success when NJPW needs him too,  He won the IC title from Nakamura to create the image he could actually win the G1 tournament and then dropped it right back when it was over. He got to the finals of this tournament last year, losing to Tanahashi. The rest of the time he competes in mid to lower card tag matches with the Bullet Club if he even competes at all on a show. Fale comes to the ring with who else but Cody Hall and Tama Tonga (who is criminally underused, especially against Fale's appearances). Okada comes to the ring with Gedo as always. After leaving WrestleKingdom in tears, he wants a win. Lock up as Fale muscles Okada into the corner and goes for the hit as Okada ducks out of that. Okada gets some hits on the big guy and gets a sunset flip. Fale tries to drop on him but Okada moves quick. Okada gets aggressive and kicks Fale right out of the ring. Fale gets on the apron and grabs Okada right by the throat and chucks Okada right out over the top and to the floor! We jump ahead as Fale has the advantage with a slam. He goes for the splash but misses as the crowd is behind Okada here. Okada ducks out of the corner charge and slams the big guy! He hits a few running forearms and then a DDT before a kip-up and hits a flying dive into the corner and then hits a clothesline send Fale to the floor. Fale gets smacked with a kick to the face sending him over the barricade but when Okada goes for the splash, Fale catches him and splats him right n the floor. Back in the ring as we jump ahead as they are trading shots.  Okada hits a kick and a dropkick to send Fale down. He climbs to the top and hits a flying elbow into the Rainmaker pose! He goes for something but Fale counters getting Okada up into a Samoan drop and nearly gets the pin. Fale hits the spear but again only gets two! Okada looks like hell now as Fale goes for a piledriver but Okada counters into the exploder neckbreaker (THAT is Impressive!). Okada goes for the tombstone but Fale is just too big for that. Fale goes for the bad luck fall (razor's edge) but Okada counters. He goes for the Rainmaker but Fale goes for the grenade, Okada counters with a dropkick but Fale gets him up again. Fale detonates the grenade! He goes for the pin but Okada kicks out again! Fale climbs to the top and hits a splash! OKADA KICKS OUT!  Fale can tell he's close though as he gets Okada up for the bad luck fall and with that gets the three count. Wow...really? Of all the Bullet Club members to get to the next round it's Bad Luck Fale... OVER OKADA no less. We get some words from Yano. He talks about running in the Tokyo Marathon (!) but that while he was in shape, he couldn't just wrestle for hours and hours. He talks about how different he and Tanahashi are in that Tanahashi is old-fashioned and trains in old-fashioned ways while he goes out and sells DVDs. Round 1 match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Toru Yano This is a strange one. You have the CHAOS goofball member taking on the ace of New Japan in Tanahashi. Seems a bit of a lopsided contest and a forgone conclusion, but NJPW can surprise people sometimes. Tanahashi is coming off the quick loss of the IWGP title back to A.J. Styles after having the belt for only a month and a half. With Okada eliminated, Tanahashi looks to be the favorite. Yano comes out with a chair, a bottle of water, and a DVD of what looks like a best of CHAOS DVD collection. Josh and Mauro call him deceptively evil and he is trained in MMA and amateur wrestling so he is no joke. Josh mentions being in Yano's corner for his one and only Pancreas fight. Tanahashi comes out air guitaring it. Both men trade waistlocks as Yano seems to have drunk some coffee before the match and is moving at a million miles an hour. Yano gets a very quick wristlock and Tanahashi gets out of it. Yano then bolts right to the corner and pulls off the big turnbuckle pad but Tanahashi grabs him. Mauro elaborates more on Yano's marathon, saying he ran the event and finished in about 6.5 hours and then wrestled a match for Pro Wrestling NOAH THAT NIGHT. That is like Bob Backlund-like crazy training, and Yano has man boobs! They trade some shots before Yano nearly sends Tanahashi into the ref who cowers in the corner. Meanwhile, Yano hits the low blow and then goes for the yorikiri (hair pull into a roll-up) but gets only two. He quickly goes for more roll-up pins but can't get the pin. Tanahashi's had enough and clobbers Yano with a forearm to slow it down. He then SMACKS Yano in the face with a slap, but Yano quickly grabs the hair and into another Yorikiri and gets the three count. Wait what? *reads that back* Toru Yano beat Hiroshi Tanahashi with the yorikiri IN LESS THAN THREE MINUTES?!?!? Wow. Backstage Yano declares himself the new face of NJPW and tells everyone to buy his merch. Tanahashi is PISSED. Studio words from Yano as e says it was his plan for a long time to do this. He said people would say he beat Tanahashi like they were surprised, but Yano is like "Of course I beat him." When asked about the future, he plugs his DVD and album coming out! Well, that was an episode full of surprises! The only real cuts here were during the Okada/Fale match and I suspect it wasn't just for time reasons, but probably helped things along with that one. Mauro and Josh were spot on with their call of the actions, especially with the ending of that last match. A great way to kick off the new season! Speed vs. strength in this one. Ibushi had a great showing against Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 9 while Gallows is one half of the IWGP Tag Champions here. Gallows comes to the ring with Cody Hall and Tama Tonga. If you have been keeping up with Strong Style, you notice Cody hasn't wrestled on here yet. Although he is in the Bullet Club, he is still considered a "young boy" in NJPW and only really wrestles in curtain jerkers since he hasn't earned a bigger spot yet. Since this show doesn't waste time with scrub matches, his stuff doesn't get shown.
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
We look at the 2015 New Japan Cup
Strong Style is back! Japanator's look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV returns tonight as we kick off the new season. This week we dive right into the 2015 New Japan Cup Tournament. The New Japan Cup is a single eliminat...

Week Ender - Mystery Edition

Jan 16 // Red Veron
[embed]34703:5358:0[/embed] "Zetsubousei: Hero Chiryouyaku" Anime: Dangan Ronpa: The Animation I love how this ending starts out like an old school Famicom (NES for y'all westerners) game and is also one of those modular endings that change over the course of the show. Plus that song is rad.   [embed]34703:5359:0[/embed] "why or why not" Anime: Higurashi no Naku koro ni Not a bad song. In my opinion, that accent actually adds to the atmosphere of the song. This is one of those songs that add to the impact of what you just watched, letting it sink in while trying to ease you out. Because you're gonna need it for this show. Watch it for the mystery and horror, the true horror in this show is that it takes place in the early 80's where they didn't have mobile phones and internet.   [embed]34703:5360:0[/embed] "For the love of life" Anime: Monster Another one of those songs with that vibe suited for serious anime. It has that somber vibe that suits the show. Watch this show.   [embed]34703:5361:0[/embed] "Kimi ni matsuwaru Misteri" Anime: Hyouka A super cute ending where the heroines are dressed up like Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, while the male leads are criminal scum that are to be apprehended by the adorable detectives. I love this one.   Is there a mystery anime and/or mystery anime opening and/or ending that you love? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I wanna know!
Week Ender photo
It was the butler!
I love mystery anime. There's just something about an animated medium that lends well to presenting a mystery. Live action, the written word and manga can be limited by the talent of the creators, though anime also has those ...

Ghost Dive: Your essential primer to Ghost in the Shell

Jan 14 // Josh Tolentino
The Basics Ghost in the Shell is best known as a 1995 film directed by Mamoru Oshii, but it originated in 1989, as a manga written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow. Since then, several more sequels and adaptations have been produced, including several TV series, manga, and an in-development Hollywood film starring Scarlett Johanssen.  Though never lacking for action-packed gunfights and high-tech mecha designs - particularly the iconic spider-legged "think tanks" - Ghost in the Shell distinguished itself from its "Japanimation" peers by having a philosophical edge. Storylines in Ghost in the Shell frequently tackled larger issues of transhumanism, the nature of consciousness and perception, and the effects of networks and the internet on human society. Even today some of the arguments and dilemmas raised seem timely.  Ghost in the Shell's various works can be organized into four broad categories, corresponding to the original manga by Masamune Shirow, the feature-film adaptations directed by Mamoru Oshii, the Standalone Complex TV series, and the Arise movie series. While not related directly, all Ghost in the Shell works share common themes, and star "Major" Motoko Kusanagi, team leader of Public Security Section 9, a black-ops unit of the near-future Japanese government. The Major and her peers work in a world where cyborg technology is common and "cyberbrains" enable people to access the internet at will, as well as hack everything from senses to memories, giving rise to all manner of new challenges. The Essentials Ghost in the Shell (1995 film) If you're only going to watch one Ghost in the Shell-titled work in your lifetime, you may as well make it the one that made the name popular in the first place. Following the Major and her partner Batou as they solve the case of a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master, the film replaced the verbose banter and cheery pin-up character designs with stark visuals and a more realistic style to suit a borderline-dour mood. Director Mamoru Oshii's emphasis on Ghost in the Shell's more philosophical aspects helped solidify anime's reputation as a more diverse, adult medium than the traditionally child-targeted cartoons markets outside Japan.   The Ghost in the Shell (1989 Manga) There's nothing quite like source material, and Masamune Shirow's original manga certainly fits the bill. While its art style and approach to characterization definitely dates it as a product of its era, it's hard not to be impressed by Shirow's attention to detail, conveyed in part through the use of copious footnotes explaining everything from the state of the world to the reason why a gun's barrel is a certain length. Most of the cases, themes, characters and subplots used in future adaptations would also show up in one form or another throughout the series. Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex (2002 TV series) For many fans, the 1995 film and original manga exist on opposite ends of the tonal spectrum, with the manga being densely constructed and quickly paced, and the film given over to a more contemplative mode. Standalone Complex, produced by famed studio Production I.G. and directed by Mamoru Oshii's protege, Kenji Kamiyama, took a shot at blending the two approaches, and largely succeeded at it. The result is arguably the best representative yet of what makes Ghost in the Shell unique, portraying the Major and Section 9's adventures as an extended cop show of shorts, and leveraging multiple cases to address a wide swath of themes, including the titular "Standalone Complex". The show also took a more political bent, examining philosophical issues from a pragmatic, grounded position, and developed further plots through its second season, titled Standalone Complex 2nd Gig, and the feature-length Solid State Society.  Standalone Complex also serves as the inspiration for the First Assault Online shooter, with abilities and game systems inspired by the Major and Section 9's feats in the series. Further Study Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004 film) A challenging, divisive entry into the canon, Innocence is regarded by some of its critics as the sequel nobody asked for. Set years after the 1995 film, the story doesn't even follow the Major, but her partner Batou and the then-rookie Togusa as they solve a mysterious case involving rampaging androids and human trafficking. More than the lavish, almost surreal visuals and seemingly inconsequential plotting, some fans disliked the even heavier emphasis on philosophy, with long stretches where characters seemed to interact only by quoting philosophers at each other. At the same time, the film is rich in ideas, if not coherence, and serves as interesting viewing, even if it departs from expectations.  Ghost in the Shell 2: Manmachine Interface (2001 manga) If Innocence tried to tell a Ghost in the Shell story without its ostensible protagonist, the Major, Manmachine Interface tries to tell a Ghost in the Shell story using only the Major. Set five years following the events of the original manga, the story of Manmachine Interface both elevates the stakes of those events, while descending into near-incoherence in terms of storytelling. While it's worth reading for fans of the original manga, it also stands out as the closest Ghost in the Shell comes to "overdoing it".   Ghost in the Shell: Arise (2014 film series) and Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie (2015 film) An attempt to refresh Ghost in the Shell for newer, younger audiences, Arise functions as a spiritual prequel of sorts, focusing on the Major as she goes about forming Section 9 itself, and exploring her personal life in greater detail than was typically alluded to in previous works. Between a younger-looking character design, new involvement from Mardock Scramble author Tow Ubukata, and an all-new voice cast, Arise tried to signal newness at every turn, but struggled to differentiate itself in the face of Standalone Complex, failing to reach the highs of that series despite being enjoyable. The Ghost in the Shell (Manga)
Ghost in the Shell Primer photo
Hack some knowledge into your cyberbrain
It's been more than two decades since the original Ghost in the Shell film came out, and the name still resonates as one of the most well-known examples of Japanese anime around. At the same time, it's been quite a while...

OP Up! - Mystery Edition

Jan 13 // Red Veron
[embed]34693:5351:0[/embed] "Grain" Anime: Monster Based on the critically acclaimed manga of the same name, this show has garnered attention even in the west with the likes of director Guillermo del Toro because it is just that good. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, just check it out for yourself if that little piece of info intrigues you enough.   [embed]34693:5352:0[/embed] "Sekai wa Hitotsu! Janai!!" Anime: Tantei Opera Milky Holmes Imagine if famous fictional detectives from literature had cute girl descendants who were detectives with super powers that fought skilled thieves who also have super powers. Now imagine those detectives lose their powers and are really incompetent and useless without said powers. This is that show, with comedy of just how silly the characters are and the ridiculous situations they get into while trying to get their powers and reputation back.   [embed]34693:5353:0[/embed] "Mikansei Stride" Anime: Hyouka This show is notoriously slow and can put some of you to sleep. But on the upside, studio Kyoto Animation makes everything look pretty and when stuff does get interesting when stuff happens in the show with regards to the characters solving mysteries in their school.    [embed]34693:5354:0[/embed] "Never Say Never" Anime: DanganRonpa: The Animation Special High schoolers find themselves locked in a special high school where a talking stuffed bear pits them all against each other in a twisted game of survival where they have to try to murder each other and face each other off in a trial to literally get away with murder. Dark and thrilling, this is a fun show despite the grim premise and has garnered quite a following.   Is there a mystery anime and/or mystery anime opening that you love? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I wanna know!
OP Up! photo
Whodunnit?
The mystery genre is quite common in manga and anime, its a nice change from all the action involving swords and martial arts. The thrill and suspense rely more on the cerebral aspects and with a visual medium like anime and ...

First Impressions: Haruchika: Haruta & Chika

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

Final Impressions: Ultraman X

Jan 12 // Salvador GRodiles
From day one, it was obvious that Ultraman X was going to go down a full circle, as the return of the villain that X knocked into Earth’s Sun ended up being a huge thing. Despite, the final villain Greeza resembling a random tokusatsu grunt character, the gang at Tsuburaya made sure to turn this guy into a menacing entity. From the moment it stepped foot on our planet, we were treated to a hopeless scenario where many defense facilities fell to this powerful entity. Like with many giant monster shows and movies, all we heard was a creepy screech that when an area was about to go bye bye. Throw in a major loss for the home team, and we’re taken back to the most of the franchise’s intense finales (such as the original Ultraman series). Going back to Daichi’s character, I was surprised by how much is defeat affected me during the show’s last moments. Yes, his character comes off as a bit of an avatar for the viewers to witness the situations around them, but his will to see his dreams come true shined through the image that his presence gave off. Despite my slight issues with how they didn't give Daichi’s personal dilemmas the spotlight too much, this didn’t stop me from being affected from his defeat. That being said, this shows that Tsuburaya added enough spices to make us feel this way. Going back to a thing I said in a previous post, the thing that made Daichi’s character great for me was his ideals and the way how he bonded with the entire cast. For a guy to gain the trust of a giant dinosaur monster deserves a huge freaking medal. Through his role as a scientist at Xio, we grew to love Gourman and Rui’s antics. In combat, we saw him bring out the best out of Asuna, Hayato, and Wataru. On top of all that, his pact with X helped the giant learn more about Earth customs and mannerism, which is something that a bland character could never achieve. While the series mostly centered on the random monster attacks caused by the Ultra Flares, the amount of screen time that each character was given gave us that wonderful sense of family and teamwork that XiO uses during each big crisis. The science division gave us Rui’s huge obsession with nonhuman lifeforms and the amazing timing behind Dr. Gourman’s random appearances, which made them one of the great representations of the show’s concept of being able to live alongside other creatures. With segments like Tachibana's dilemmas as a parent and Wataru having to accept that he might not get to date his childhood friend, the show’s brief character-focused episodes brought life to the cast, as we see them deal with other issues outside of protecting the city from danger. Everyone’s working towards the same goal and the contributions of each member play a role in saving the day— regardless of the size of their task. Aside from the gang’s teamwork skills and dilemmas, X’s segments where humans bonded with the franchise’s monsters were some of the most heartwarming segments of the series. The Houlinga and the Pigmon episodes were two moments where one can’t rely on stereotypes to judge the world around you. In this case, the common misconception was that almost all creatures want to obstruct everyone’s way of life. This also goes back to the franchise’s idea that most of the show’s giant monsters are like animals. You have your vicious territorial creatures and you have those who tend to be peaceful around others. In the end, I found these segments to be the ones that express the show’s coexistence theme the most. Despite Tsuburaya’s tendency to cut corners on certain segments (such as reusing older monsters from the franchise), Ultraman X’s new angle shined well through in through, as the potential shown from day one continued to go higher each week. The Mons Armors allowed for the crew to experiment with different action scenes and attacks, an element that helps many of the Heisei Kamen Rider shows in promoting their toys. This also allowed for X to use a variety of moves outside of the Ultra Warriors' usual beams and wrestling moves that they're known for. Since each form had a cool gimmick, I’m hoping that this could evolve into a new trend for future Ultra titles— as long the gang continues to show the same passion that went into X’s different transformations. With the few original designs that entered the show’s realm, the team didn’t hold back with these arcs. These segments mostly gave off a ridiculous finale type of feeling, as they ended up being played during the key points in the series. Overall, Gargorgan, the Gua Army’s updated look, and Greeza’s final form all had some neat designs that gave off that menacing feeling that many major adversaries from giant monster titles exhibit. Other than the powerful bad guys, Demaaga, Rudian, and Houlinga were some other great examples of some nice costume work that was put into the franchise’s new characters. as a guy who loves great-looking monster suits, the costume team deserves some praise for their work on the X-exclusive creatures. When I first decided to watch Ultraman X, I came for the fierce giant warrior on monster action. However, I ended up staying with a fun tale about a group of people who fight to protect the peace while doing their best to turn the world into a place where all types of life forms can live together. Sure, the story with Daichi’s parents was never resolved, but we can only hope that the show's upcoming film will give our hero the ending that he deserves. With Tsuburaya doing some interesting things with the series, let’s hope that this is a sign that they’ll keep this rainbow strong with their later installments. In the meantime, X got me more interested in the Ultra franchise, so I plan to dive further into it in the future. Thanks to its fun run, I guess you could say that it’s one of my favorite tokusatsu shows from last year. [You can unite with Ultraman X one last time at Crunchyroll and Tsuburaya’s YouTube channel]
Ultraman X photo
Somewhere over the rainbow
This might just be me, but 2015 felt like an average year for tokusatsu. The usual stuff ranged from average to enjoyable, and only one of them was consistently fun. However, things weren’t too bad, as I discovered the ...

Week Ender - High School Life Edition

Jan 11 // Red Veron
[embed]34690:5346:0[/embed] "Glitter Days" Anime: Kuroko no Basuke There hasn't been a super successful basketball anime/manga since Slam Dunk! in the early 90's until show came along, probably due to it appealing to shounen sports fans and a lot of the female audience that loves to fantasize about the characters in one way or another.   [embed]34690:5347:0[/embed] "Shissou" Anime: Ouran High School Host Club I love this ending and I love this show, a comedy with a bit of romance, this show is all about a poor student being roped into the "Host Club" in the rich school that the student goes to on a scholarship. Mix-ups happen and this is a superfun show with good comedy, don't let the flowery and girly opening fool you, this show is worth it for the laughs.   [embed]34690:5348:0[/embed] "Bokura no Tsubasa" Anime: Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukinai A group of friend-less people in a school start a club in order to learn how to get friends. Great comedy here.   [embed]34690:5349:0[/embed] "Brave Song" Anime: Angel Beats! A student finds himself in a weird school where a club has dedicated themselves to fighting another student who seems to have super powers. Weird? Well, just watch it and brace yourself for the sad emotions you are about to feel. You have been warned!   [embed]34690:5350:0[/embed] "Ohi-sama" Anime: Daily Lives of High School Boys A great comedy about the silly and dumb things that high school aged boys do. That is the premise. The ending above does a great job in showing how this show is random and dumb but still worth a watch.   Is there an anime or anime opening/ending set in a high school that you love? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I wanna know!
Week Ender photo
IM LATE IM LATE IM LATE
I'M LATE, I'M LATE! Oh hello! Sorry about that, we had some technical problems and I had some stomach problems this past weekend so this was hella late. So let's just get on with this week's selection of anime endings for Wee...

First Impressions: Active Raid

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

OP Up! - High School Life Edition

Jan 06 // Red Veron
[embed]34675:5335:0[/embed] "Driver's High" Anime: Great Teacher Onizuka Though this one is set in a middle school but when it comes to school-set anime/manga, Great Teacher Onizuka deserves a mention. The drama can be quite heavy here that you may forget that these kids are in middle school and not high school at times. GTO is a sequel to an okay delinquent manga with the titular character wanting to go teach high school so he can hit on high school girls and maybe even lose his virginity. Though one thing is in the way: he has a conscience and a heart even with his rough ways and looks. The anime is good but watered down compared to the manga because of the heavy stuff in the manga.   [embed]34675:5336:0[/embed] "Sekai wa koi ni ochiteiru" Anime: Ao Haru Ride (Blue Spring Ride) A love story set in high school but started long ago in middle school. It's girl meets boy and they agree to hang out but boy doesn't show up. Girl goes to high school and meets boy again but he has a different name. I loved the manga but caught up to it, I've seen a tiny bit of the show but this opening is just so good and one of my fave shoujo openings.   [embed]34675:5337:0[/embed] "Kirameku" Anime: High School Girls (Girl's High) High school girls get into all sorts of stuff in this one, not a slice of life but there is fun and drama in there. I've only seen a bit and I did enjoy it.   [embed]34675:5338:0[/embed] "Kimi + Nazo + Watashi de JUMP!!" Anime: Baka and Test Here is the supernatural magic school setting anime, when I first heard of the premise--- a high school where students compete to be the best alongside having summon beasts and such. But this one is a straight up comedy where the usual main character is a dense idiot and everyone know about it rather than using dumb excuses as to why the MC just doesn't get that the ladies want him. A really fun show that will please SHAFT fans since the main staff behind this worked on shows by SHAFT. Avoid the manga, I hear it is bad.    Is there an anime or anime opening set in a high school that you love? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I wanna know!
OP Up! photo
High School High
High School. It's a setting often seen in anime and manga. For those of that are in that high school age, it's a time of self-discovery and that time between childhood and adultlife where new things open up. It also happens t...

Final Impressions: Attack on Titan Junior High

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

Let's break down the Kizumonogatari movie trailers

Jan 04 // Anthony Redgrave
Before we start, Kizumonogatari is actually the first part of a trilogy of movies. The first one coming out is called Tekketsu-hen, second is Nekketsu-hen, and finally Reiketsu-hen. Or to put it in English terms; Iron-Blooded, Hot-Blooded, and Cold-Blooded referencing Kiss-shots full name and title Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade the iron-blooded, hot-blooded, cold-blooded vampire.  If you thought the trend of splitting the last book of a series into two movies is bad, they're doing a Hobbit here by splitting a 344-page book into three movies.  [embed]34670:5332:0[/embed] Kizumonogatari I- Tekketsu Trailer (10.10.15)  One of the first shots is of a tree with narration in the background. The tree isn't actually referenced in the book at all, or at least in any significant detail. However, we do know that there is a massive tree that grows out of the Cram School which is featured heavily throughout the series and that includes Kizumonogatari. The tree grows out of a hole in the roof of the cram school that was created by Kiss-Shot once she regains her true form.  Oshino and Araragi are sitting down in a sparse room that looks like a station. While the two of them are seen conversing with one another alone it is often done in the Cram school rather than any other location so that leads me to believe that this is still the cram school. However, the cram school has always been described as abandoned and unused. This being Shaft I can always suppose it holds a cinematographic purpose more than an accurate one.  Kiss-shot is shown bloody and limbless on the floor of a train platform. While this is the basis of Kizumonogatari the location differs from the book. In the book Araragi finds her on the street illuminated by a sole street light and is able to identify her as a Vampire due to her lack of shadow. 'You aren't going to save me' is a reference to Araragi's initial hesitation to help Kiss-shot. Ah yes, the panty scene. During Araragi's initial encounter with Tsubasa, a gust of wind blows up her skirt while she is adjusting her braid causing her panties to be revealed to Araragi. The book takes a long time describing the situation in great detail for something that takes a few seconds in the trailer. Earlier in the trailer, you see Tsubasa catch up to Araragi. This takes place after Araragi sees Tsubasa pants. I know this compared to any other times Araragi meets Tsubasa throughout the book because of the line 'You walk fast, Araragi' as Araragi was trying to get away without embarrassment from seeing her pants.  Araragi inspecting a young blonde girl on the ground surrounded by chairs is just after he awakes after saving Kiss-shot. The location is supposed to be the cram school which I can see through the use of the plastic school chairs. Araragi running crazily to the right in a sort of frenzy is when he attempts to save Kiss-shot. In the book Araragi internally debates whether or not he should save her and ultimately abandons his humanity to do so hence the crazy running. Some of the last shots in the trailer have people engulfed in fire. This is because vampires are weak to certain things and sunlight is one of them. The first figure is Araragi having just discovered this weakness and the second is Kiss-shot in her now 10-year-old form saving Araragi from burning to death. [embed]34670:5331:0[/embed] Kizumonogatari I- Tekketsu Trailer 2 (12.24.15)  The second trailer doesn't have a lot more to add that hasn't already been seen in the first. But we do get a glimpse of the three vampire hunters that are after Araragi and Kiss-shot throughout Kizumongatari.  Araragi's first bites of dialogue follow the novel as he pleas with the Vampire Hunters not to kill him because he is human. Despite at this point having just turned into a Vampire by Kiss-shot. The first Vampire Hunter shown is Dramaturgy, as described in the books to be a seven feet tall man with unkempt hair held back with a hairband.  Next is Episode. Now he has already made a reappearance in the latest Owarimonogatari as part of Shinobu Mail and also earlier in Tsubasa Tiger as part of Monogatari Second Season. For the most part, he looks the same as his TV anime counterpart including the giant cross he slings over his shoulder.  Last is Guillotine Cutter. The trailer has a glare behind him so it shadows most of his clothing. In the book, he is described to be wearing priestly robes, docile face, and hedgehog-like hair. The light shining from behind him may be a reference to his holy background. Another interesting point is Araragi's duds. Araragi is never described in the books and it was character designer Akio Watanabe who had made him the way he looks now. What's interesting is that Araragi has the same sense of style as he does in the anime; hoodie, vest, and jeans but he is also rocking a peace medallion. Could this be referencing the lie he tells his sisters that over the holidays he is on a journey of self-discovery? One of the last shots is Araragi holding Kiss-shot in his arms with blood spray across the ground. From the pose and Kiss-shot's lack of limbs, I think this is just as Kiss-shot feeds on Araragi to save herself.  [embed]34670:5333:0[/embed] Kizumonogatari Movie Trailer (2012)- VERY MUCH SPOILERs This is a little bonus. Before Kizumonogatari exists as we know it now, there was a lot of talk about releasing it as a stand-alone movie in 2012. There were a lot of delays and radio silence about the project before 2015 finally revealed the trilogy. They were able to bring out a trailer for Kizumonogatari before all this uncertainty and it shows a lot more of the story than the previous two.  This section will include massive spoilers for the whole book since there are scenes from the finale featured in the trailer.  First it is more accurate than the more recent trailers having Kiss-shot actually being found on the street illuminated by a sole street lamp just as it's described in the book.  Next is Araragi's first confrontation with the Vampire Hunters. Dramaturgy is seen in the left lane, Episode can be identified in the right fork with his massive silver cross. And Guillotine Cutter appears from behind Araragi just as it's described in the book. The character designs for the three Vampire Hunters look a little rougher than their other anime counterparts. Episode looks a tad older and without his white school uniform and is instead in a generic white shirt.  Dramaturgy doesn't even look human here although his hair and physique still match his description. It could be a reference to his true form as a Vampire. We get a better shot of Guillotine Cutter here as it's obvious that he is in a priestly garb, still with a calm demeanor. No better shot of his hedgehog-like hair, though. Next we see Meme Oshino intervening against the three vampire hunters taking down Araragi. This is very faithful to the book as he adopts the same weird pose to block all three simultaneous attacks.  Episode's cross is seen connecting with Araragi with a splash of blood emitting from his shoulder. This is from Araragi's battle with Episode where Araragi discovers another one of his vampire weaknesses.  Tsubasa watches the fight from the background. This is either from the first or the second fight as she is witness to both. However judging from the previous shot referencing Episode's fight with Araragi I'm thinking it's from that fight also. Tsubasa faces away from a pair of hands inching creepily towards her. From the background, I know that it's the scene where Araragi asks to touch Tsubasa's breasts. Next is Oshino Meme holding up Kiss-shot's stolen heart moments before he returns it to Araragi. The corpse is Guillotine Cutter after he is eaten by Kiss-shot in her newly regained perfect form. The next few scenes are fairly chronological. Kiss-shot arrives on the school sports field to do battle against Araragi. Her landing destroys the ground due to her leaping from the Cram school to Araragi's school grounds. Then Araragi and Kiss-shot fight each other, completely decimating each other with each hit. Again very similar to the novel as their vampire strength is able to destroy the bodies but their healing factor can regenerate the lost flesh. Overall this trailer is very faithful to the novel it is based on. It also retains the anime style that Shaft had been using for the past few seasons compared to the style being incorporated into the films now.  Kizumonogatari I- Tekketsu Trailer (10.10.15)
Kizumonogatari photo
Did something good happen just now?
It's a very interesting time for English literate Monogatari fans. With the first officially translated Monogatari light novel coinciding with the often delayed and heavily anticipated Kizumonogatari movie set to re...

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

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

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

Jan 03 // Red Veron
Honorable Mentions: Dragon Quest Heroes, Oneechanbara Z2, Hatoful Boyfriend, Steins;Gate, Bloodbourne, Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Cold Steel, Earth Defense Force 2 Portable.   Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain I easily spent 30 hours in this game and I have only tapped into a quarter of the game's content (if not less). This game, considered now the swan song for the now defunct (but born anew) famed Kojima Productions over at game publisher/developer Konami in the long running Metal Gear franchise. This game, even in the era of first person shooters where you can run on the sides of buildings, can make hiding in the cardboard boxes so much fun. I absolutely loved the fine tuned mechanics such hiding and shooting. The new open world sandbox just keeps it so fresh and each encounter can be new every time adding to the tension you just don't get in other games. There is just so much in this game that you wouldn't think would be there and some even bordering into the absurd.   SuperBeat Xonic From the developers of DJMAX, this new game aims to satiate those rhythm music game fans that loved the DJMAX series and/or just loved the genre. This one has a great selection of music and great gameplay with mechanics that compliment both touch and physical controls well. A great start for the new studio, this new title has the great potential and I can't wait to see the next game in the series.   Yakuza 5 I've only barely scratched the surface of this game, and I am already loving it. This game is basically a Japanese RPG set in modern day Japan with a beat-em-up combat system along with a cheesy, over-the-top dramatic crime drama. I am told by many that this is one of those games that let you experience Japan by walking through the streets and going into places such as restaurants that capture the atmosphere and ambiance really well.   Once Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 I am not a One Piece fan at all but being a Warriors fan, I loved this entry. This game has more improvements over the past two games and runs amazingly. I thoroughly enjoyed this beat-em-up formula set in the One Piece universe that suits it very well. More characters and following the actual manga story, this new entry impresses a lot with also its great stylish combat and overall fun gameplay.   Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair A great update to the latest entry of the Earth Defense Force series, this one takes advantage of the new hardware muscle of the PS4 for better performance and added content with some tweaks along the way. Those who got put off by how the game ran on older consoles should give this new one a try, it works so much better and makes it a much more enjoyable game. They added more missions and even a giant robot sequence which regrettably brings the game to its knees in performance.
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
Games from the Far East
Growing up, most (if not exclusively) of the video games I loved came from Japan, but in the previous generation of consoles with the XBox 360 and PS3 took most Japanese game developers quite some time to acclimate to changin...

Week Ender - Best Endings of 2015 Edition

Jan 02 // Red Veron
[embed]34662:5317:0[/embed] "believe" Anime: FATE/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Another adaptation from this series that pretty much erases that horrible attempt more than a decade ago, this ending has a great song by kalafina and shows us some glimpses to the lives of the protagonists of this show.   [embed]34662:5318:0[/embed] "Hello, Shooting Star" Anime: Assassination Classroom A pretty ending for a show about trying to kill and alien teacher in a classroom or the the world will end. I love that chalkboard styled art with that soft rock song. I really need to finish the first season.   [embed]34662:5319:0[/embed] "Sugar Song to Bitter Step" Anime: Kekkai Sensen (Blood Blockade Battlefront) I know nothing about this show but I read Josh's description of it on his Japanator Awards list and seeing the ending above, immediately shot this show up to my top priority watch list.    [embed]34662:5320:0[/embed] "Never Say Never" Anime: Durarara!! X2 Shou The latest in the anime adaptation of this series about all the crazy stuff happening in urban metropolitan Tokyo, I am digging that song a lot.   WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE ANIME AND/OR ANIME OPENING/ENDING FROM THIS YEAR?! SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I WANNA KNOWOWOW
Week Ender photo
Look back at the Best Endings of 2015
I gotta clear up one thing: The endings featured on here aren't the best endings of anime this past 2015 but the endings OF the best anime of 2015. There might be some anime from last year that may have been not so good but h...

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

Jan 01 // Christian Chiok
Honorable Mentions Toukiden; Kiwami (PS4, PS Vita, & PC), Dragon Quest Heroes (PS4, PS3, & PC), Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson (3DS), Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance (PS4), Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim (PC), and The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (PS3 & PS Vita) 5. Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water (Wii U) As a huge fan of the Fatal Frame series (or Project Zero as known in Japan), I was really happy that Nintendo of America took the risk to port this game over to the west. While some of the costumes as well as scenes were unfortunately censored, it doesn’t hinder from the overall gameplay and it’s a gem you must play if you need to add to your horror game’s collection. 4. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 (PS4, PS3, PS Vita, & PC) It’s really hard to say that Pirate Warriors 3 isn’t the best entry in the series. While I enjoyed the first title since it did a great job recreating the first part (before the time-skip) of the One Piece series, the gameplay was really annoying and hard to appreciate, as if it was trying to separate itself from the Musou genre while still being a Musou. The second title fixes that issue, but the “What If” story wasn’t really that appealing.  Then comes Pirate Warriors 3, which mixes both the great gameplay from the second title, and improves it, and it actually retells the story of One Piece, starting from the first arc. So if you’re and One Piece fan and own any of the platforms above, but still haven’t gave the game a chance, then do yourself the favor of playing the game. 3. Dragon Ball Xenoverse (PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 & PC) This definitely had to go on my Top 5 of 2015 for various reasons. For once, it’s the first Dragon Ball game that implanted “Create a Character” that right way, giving us various races and options for our character. Second of all, it’s almost original story was definitely felt fresh and it was a good change from the usual story mode we have been playing for the past two decades. While the gameplay isn’t on par with games like the Sparlking or the Budokai series, this is definitely the best Dragon Ball game we have received since Raging Blast. 2. Bloodborne (PS4) At first, for the sake of making this list “Otaku”, I wanted to exclude Bloodborne from the list and make Dragon Quest Heroes my fifth recommended title. However, Bloodborne is a Japanese-developed game, so it counts. If you haven’t played the game yet and own a PS4, I don’t know what you have been doing all year. While the combat isn’t an exact replica of the Souls games, Bloodborne is still a game that Souls fans can enjoy. It’s certainly faster too. 1. Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U) Considering I kept this list exclusive to Japanese games, this made it easily as my favorite game of 2015 (Otherwise it would have been a tie with The Witcher 3). Xenoblade X is a great game for many reasons, including its massive world, gameplay, combat, and it’s variety of classes and weapons. While the story is definitely enjoyable, it’s definitely inferior to its predecessor. The same can be said about its soundtrack.   Note: For those curious of my overall Top 5 Video Games of 2015, it would be; Xenoblade Chronicles X, The Witcher 3, Bloodborne, Splatoon, and Fallout 4.  
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
A Great Year For Fan of Japanese Games
First of all, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Like I stated on my Top 5 Anime of the Year, I mostly spent my time playing video games, so making this list was a lot easier to make than the former. However, sin...

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

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

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

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

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

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

OP Up! - Best Openings of 2015 Edition

Dec 30 // Red Veron
[embed]34655:5309:0[/embed] "Ring of Fortune" Anime: Plastic Memories [From Christian's List] A cute but still serious take on human and android relations in a world where humans coexist with human-looking androids that have emotions. The setting and the androids certainly lend well to the drama and this show has those as well as cute moments with the female lead who is just the best ever.   [embed]34655:5310:0[/embed] "Flyers" Anime: Death Parade [From Josh's List] A great show that's all about a purgatory-eque setting where people are judged to be sent to hell for their past sins. Pretty entertaining and certainly changes itself up for the better.   [embed]34655:5311:0[/embed] "I've been waiting in the forest" Anime: Yuri Kuma Arashi [From My Upcoming List] A bizarre show inspired from a series of bear attacks in rural Japan in the early 1900s which features lesbians and bears that turn into girls set in a world after all the bears gained human levels of intelligence. Still with me on this? Just watch the saccharine opening that equals the strangeness of this show.   [embed]34655:5312:0[/embed] "Kakushinteki☆Metamaruphose! (かくしん的☆めたまるふぉ~ぜっ!)" Anime: Himouto! Umaru-chan [From Anthony's List] An anime about the perfect teenage girl that is beautiful and just an all around amazing student that is looked up at school. Then she gets home and becomes just like us, who loves anime and video games while gorging on chips and soda. A lot of people hate her character. Probably because we are her and we hate ourselves.   WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE ANIME AND/OR ANIME OPENING FROM THIS YEAR?! SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!
OP Up! photo
Best Openings of 2015
2015 was a great year for anime, we had anime that had bears that turned into girls set in a post-apocalyptic bear world and we even had a cute girl that was as much as a trash weeb we are in real life. Everyone has their per...

The Japanator Awards 2015: Soul's Top 5 Pro Wrestling Moments of the Year

Dec 30 // Soul Tsukino
  5) The end of Takeshi Morishima's career. Takeshi Morishima at one time was the biggest young prospect coming out of Japan. The big man first came to the United States in 2003 but gained his reputation from his time in Ring of Honor, where he became the ROH Champion in 2007, drawing similarities to Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy. He was honored with the Cauliflower Alley Club "Future Legend" award that same year. He was well on his way to becoming the next big star in Japan. It never truly panned out for Morishima though. Upon returning to Japan full time, he stayed true to Pro Wrestling NOAH during the time where New Japan Pro Wrestling was growing by leaps and bounds. He won many titles for the NOAH promotion, but could never break out as NJPW was dominating wrestling.  Hampered by injuries and bad health, Morishima was never able to reclaim the promise that he had shown in his earlier days. In 2015, he hung it up for good citing reoccurring injuries that stopped any forward momentum he had in the industry. While he certainly doesn't have anything to be ashamed of in his career, it never really lived up to the lofty goals some fans and those in the industry heaped onto him. 4) Genichiro Tenryu's retirement Genichiro Tenryu has been a known name in Japanese wrestling since the mid 70's after retiring from Sumo wrestling. The one time handpicked successor to Giant Baba was on the cusp of being the main man in All Japan Pro Wrestling when he split with the company to form his own group (SWS) in 1990.  In the 25 years since he has started other companies, made some appearances for the WWE (then WWF), and wrestled for every major (and a lot of minor) wrestling companies in Japan. After a remarkable 40 year career, this after 13 years of Sumo (starting when he was just 13 years old) Tenryu finally decided to hang it up. After making his plans known in February to retire at the end of the year, Tenryu went around Japan on his "retirement tour" before making a surprise appearance in New Japan Pro Wrestling to challenge "The Rainmaker" Kazuchika Okada to be his opponent in his last match. The match was the main event of a huge multi-promotional show on November 15th. Tenryu lost the match, but the final bout for this ageless star was voted Match of the Year by Tokyo Sports. Not a bad way to wrap up a career of four decades.   3) All Japan's biggest star (and many others) goes Freelance  While New Japan soars to new heights in wrestling, its former rival just can never seem to catch a break. The once mighty promotion under the lead of Giant Baba has seen its roster depleted by many mass migrations away from the company. This year did not do them any favors and several of its current stars decided to go "freelance", as in they would not be signed to any company and could wrestle wherever they wish. Stars like KENSO (the former Kenzo Suzuki), Kotaro Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru all announced their intentions to go freelance this year, but the biggest (in more ways than one) blow to the company was when former sumo grand champion Akebono announced he too would be going freelance so that he could devote more time to a return to mixed martial arts. Akebono was not only a big name for AJPW as well as part of the office of the company, but a known name in Japan for being the first non-Japanese Yokozuna and his celebrity status in the country. Although AJPW is still going and doesn't look like it will close anytime soon, its status in Puroresu continues to be a shadow of the company that it used to be.   2) WrestleKingdom 9 shown on American pay-per-view. This was a big deal for not only New Japan, but Japanese wrestling in general. The January show at the Tokyo Dome has been the biggest show in Puroresu for decades under various names. However, when it came to the American market, the best exposure the card had in its history was when WCW covered 3 of the shows in the early 90's, months after the fact of when they were held (calling them the WCW/New Japan Super Shows).  In recent years, these shows, now under the WrestleKingdom banner, had some coverage on internet pay-per-view systems but nothing that would be considered mainstream. But with NJPW looking to expand more into the American market, with some help from Jeff Jarrett in promoting his upcoming Global Force Wrestling project, they were able to bring WrestleKingdom to American pay-per-view systems for the very first time. Broadcast on a few hours delay and with English commentary from Jim Ross and Matt Striker, the show did good numbers for a non-WWE event. In 2016 the show will be shown on NJPW's New Japan World streaming service and will feature the English commentary or Matt Striker, ROH announcer Kevin Kelly, and former WWE wrestler Yoshi Tatsu providing some direct translations. Considering there is a sizable English speaking audience that subscribes to New Japan World, this event will once again expand its audience well beyond the land of the rising sun. 1) New Japan lands American TV deal.   In late 2014 when it was announced to wrestling fans that cable network AXS TV would be showing New Japan Pro Wrestling in English, there was a lot of cautious optimism. Although it was great that NJPW was getting a weekly English language show in America, we were quick to remember what can go wrong with similar concepts (Tokyopop's coverage of FMW being the big example of what can go wrong). We had nothing to worry about. Starting in January, the New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV show not only opened many people's eyes to Japan's biggest wrestling company but also blew away longtime and hardcore fans of wrestling who were impressed with the presentation of the show. The commentary team of Mauro Ranallo and Josh Barnett, both of whom were known more in the mixed martial arts world, had some people wondering how good they could be in the pro wrestling environment. They did not disappoint as Mauro's long time involvement in wrestling (starting in Canada when he was just 16), and Barnett's experience wrestling many of the big names in Japan proved to be a winning combination that not only provided great detail and context behind every match but brought a legitimacy to wrestling not seen since the days of Gordon Solie. The show proved to be a hit. While New japan and AXS had at first ordered 13 shows, they have since broadcast two more seasons and extended the show through 2016, with the new season starting January 15th. Mauro himself did such an impressive job on this show, he landed the role of lead announcer for WWE's Smackdown show starting in early January (having already recorded the next season of NJPW it seems). This show proved not only was there a market for Japanese wrestling in the United States but that it can be presented in a way that doesn't take away from the product or insult the fans. It brought a shot of publicity for the company it had been trying to achieve in the last number of years more so than anything else. 2015 was an interesting year for Japanese wrestling with a lot of ups, downs, and in some cases the really bizarre. What does 2016 hold for the Japanese wrestling world? We shall wait and see. Takeshi Morishima at one time was the biggest young prospect coming out of Japan. The young man first came to the United States in 2003, but gained his reputation from his time in Ring of Honor, where he became the ROH Champion in 2007. He was honored with the Cauliflower Alley Club "Future Legend" award that same year. He was well on his way to becoming the next big star in Japan.   It never truly panned out for Morishima though. Staying true to Pro Wrestling NOAH, it was New Japan Pro Wrestling that ahieved the greater success in Japan and around the world. Hampered by injuries and bad health, Morishima was never able to reclaimed the prmoise that he had shown in his earlier days. In 2015, he hng it up for good citing reaccuring injuries that stopped any forward momentum he had in the industry. While he certanly doesn't have anything to be ashemed of in his career, it never really lived up to the lofty goals some fans and those in the industry heaped onto him.
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
The best in pro wrestling in Japan
As we here at Japanator count down the days until the new year, each of us is looking back in our own ways at the year that was 2015. Since pro wrestling in Japan, or puroresu, is a good chunk of my beat here on the site...

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

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

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

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

Week Ender - Fall 2015 Edition

Dec 27 // Red Veron
[embed]34644:5296:0[/embed] "Orphans no Namida" Anime: Mobile Suit Gundam: IRON BLOODED ORPHANS A simple ending full of emotion aided by a dramatic song. I love that pretty painting with everyone on the Gundam.   [embed]34644:5297:0[/embed] "Tokimeki poporon" Anime: Is your order a rabbit? Season 2 To quote the great Travis Touchdown, "MOE~". Full of cuteness to warm your frigid winter heart (even though it has been a warm winter in the US), this lives up to the moeblob cuteness of the show.   [embed]34644:5298:0[/embed] "Hoshi yori Saki ni Mitsukete Ageru" Anime: One Punch Man A gentle and happy pop song to calm your manly macho jumping punch jets after each action filled episode. I mean, the animation studio has to calm everyone down or viewers  might go out punching stuff.   [embed]34644:5299:0[/embed] "Nirvana" Anime: Noragami Aragoto Pretty uplifiting song that swells up to that nice feeling at the end. I love the simple visuals with some nice coloring to highlight and give a different feel to each scene.   Is there an anime show/opening/ending from last season that you loved? SHARE IN COMMENTS BELOW! Embed it there if you want! I wanna know!
Week Ender photo
Last Season, I gave you my heart.
The final season of the year is over and we transition into the new year, I know many of you busy people are using the downtime in the holidays to catch up on anime, just like I am. So to give some of you a taste of the endin...

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

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


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