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12 Days of Anime #1 – 1000 Years of Backlogging

I haven’t watched many anime this year. Heck, I hardly watch anime at all compared to my peers (manga is less time-consuming). The interest is still there, however, and the ever growing lists of anime I must watch, either because of their historical importance or many who clamor about how amazing they are. So to start off my 12 Days of Anime, I will talk about some anime I haven’t seen that aired in 2015 but have a fairly significant interest in.

Shirobako
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A late 2014 show that leaked into March of this year (so it counts) due to it being 2 cour and having multiple delays, Shirobako won the hearts of many it went on for months nonstop in my circle for its cast and (somewhat) realistic take on what goes on within the anime industry. Knowing the origins of what you consume is important, and what better way to start is there than learning it from the product itself?

Sound! Euphonium
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I never cared to check out Kyoto Animation‘s projects before because of the stigma attached to them, not counting their Full Metal Panic! adaptions since I didn’t know it was by them. My mind has changed after a few years associating with other anime fans. From what has been shared it turns out that KyoAni’s newer works are pieces of art, rich in meaningful legs for days cinematography  and great animation. Sound! Euphonium happens to be one of their most praised worksso it’s higher on the list.

The Boy and the Beast
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I meant to see this one with a friend a few months back but was not feeling well. The Boy and the Beast is a film by Mamoru Hosoda, known for directing the first two Digimon movies and various original works. The only works I’ve seen from him were the former Digimon movies many years ago, and feel the need to reacquaint myself after hearing how damn good his films are supposed to be.

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Video Games

Whips and Chains; Why We Should Have Bloody Tears for Simon Belmont’s Lack of Inclusion in Smash

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The Super Smash Bros. franchise started out as the dream crossover between iconic and popular Nintendo characters. Super Smash Bros. Brawl shocked the world when one of Metal Gear Solid‘s most important protagonists, Solid Snake, suddenly appeared at the end of the game’s reveal trailer. Konami’s Metal Gear franchise had little to do with Nintendo as a whole; the first game appeared on the NES/Famicom, but was an altered port from the MSX2. The (original) sequel never appeared on a Nintendo console, and instead was given Snake’s Revenge. The Nintendo Gamecube received an enhanced port of Metal Gear Solid years after it’s original release. The reason behind Snake’s inclusion is Kojima personally requested he be put in Super Smash Bros. Melee. The game was too far in development, but he got his chance with Brawl.

Konami has another property that is closer to Nintendo than Metal Gear and nearly any other 3rd-party franchise: Castlevania. I’m not a huge fan of the series, but I really, really want it to be involved with Super Smash Bros. My reasoning thus follows:

1. The Franchise Started and Thrived on Nintendo Consoles

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I did state this already in the first paragraph, but it means nothing without context. This section does not include spin-offs.

The series debut was in Japan on September 26, 1986. It was originally released on the Famicom Disk System (with the MSX2 borrowing it instead) and was localized in American and Europe the following two years on the cartridge-based Famicom. It received strong sales and critical acclaim. Naturally, it spawned two sequels: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (1987) and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (1989). There was also two Gameboy titles.

The Super Nintendo enjoyed the exclusivity of Super Castlevania IV (1991). Nintendo consoles suffered a drought of Castlevania titles due to competing consoles taking the sequels as exclusives, but managed to receive a third and final Gameboy title, Castlevania Legends (1998). Before the 20th century ended, the series had it’s first two 3D games appear on the Nintendo 64: Castlevania and Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness (1999).

The franchise received many titles for the Gameboy Advanced and Nintendo DS and one for the 3DS.

Lastly, Simon Belmont was the protagonist of the first two games, making him the most historically relevant.

2. We Would Get Amazing Music

The Castlevania franchise is known and often praised for it’s soundtracks. It is no wonder; the music is thrilling and fits the current environment/situation.


From the first game. It really gives you a sense of a new and daring adventure. Fitting for a pilot title.


The sequel ups the ante with the most famous track in the series. It’s more exciting and up-beat to encourage the returning hero to once against purge Dracula once again. There are many remixes to this theme, and I encourage you to look some of them up.


Last example I’ll post. A random YouTube commentator says it well:
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3. It Would Reunite the Captain N Cast

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Okay, so this one is not exactly favorable since it was a terrible show that somehow butchered simple characters. It would still be cool for the novelty and laughs.

4. He Could Be a Really Fun Character

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When it comes to Sakurai, move sets rarely end up as expected. This is evident with Rosalina’s puppeteer-esque abilities, and Ganondorf being a wanna-be Captain Falcon (he’s still cool though). Nevertheless, Simon has plenty of options. The image above is a good example of how some of his moves could work.

Simon would likely have several long-ranged standard attacks. He might end up as a zoner because of this and his special attacks focusing on small projectiles. Conversely, he could play like Marth by having his moveset being quick but weak whip attacks. One ability from some of the games is that, even if it got in, probably won’t work with the Smash 4 engine, is when if you hold down the attack button, you can move the chain around in 360 degrees. One of Sheik’s attacks was sort of like that in Melee and Brawl, and could catch opponents:

Conclusion

Simon Belmont is overshadowed by characters such as Wolf, Snake, and Ridley, who should be taking up plenty of ballot votes. His 3rd-party AND newcomer status make him an unlikely pick for this game. Regardless, I hope people who’ve read this start supporting the character’s inclusion… or one of the other Belmonts.

Or Alucard.

Or Goku.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castlevania
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Castlevania_media#Video_games
http://castlevania.wikia.com/wiki/Castlevania_Wiki

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Anime

Parasyte Episode 1 – Flying Demon Corgis

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Well it’s actually an alien, but it looks pretty darn evil!

Real-life parasites can be pretty scary. Eating beef that is just a tad bit under cooked can cause a ten-foot long living strip of tape to take abode in your intestines. You see this adorable little guy? That pseudo bumblebee rapes mosquitoes so that when one bites you, their larvae will grow inside your skin – sometimes in your head! Speaking of head parasites, that is somewhat how they function in this anime.

My, what big teeth you have grandma!

Parasyte is about how the normal anime protagonist named Shinji becomes one of the many victims of a sentient worm from outer space. The difference between him and the others is that the parasite which infected him failed to reach his head, thanks to quick thinking and a piece of string. Unfortunately, it ended up inside his right hand instead. He must now learn how to live with his new curious, apathetic elastic talking hand monster while also fighting other parasites on occasion.

I read the entirety of the manga and it was fantastic. So far this adaption is doing the original story justice. Nothing bad can be said right now; the animation is fluent and expressive, the story is faithful while not being afraid to add a few changes, there is no unnecessary censorship like in Stardust Crusaders or Terra Formars, and the use of CG is sparing. I am very much looking forward to the following episodes and hope the quality stays consistent.

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Anime

No Game No Life Episode 1 – World of Weirdcraft

The official guilty pleasure of the season has arrived, and it has an eye-popping, eye-searing visual style. That’s the primary thing that drew me to No Game No Life; the plot, about gaming siblings trapped IN ANOTHER WORLD! where people play games to become rulers of a kingdom, is not my style, fun though it can be. Fortunately, this is fun, though not a bucket of fun, and it does have some obstacles to overcome before it can get that bucket.

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Sora (18) and Shiro (11) are a close pair of NEET siblings who are star players of online gaming, so good that even cheating players and programs designed to beat them aren’t much of a challenge. Perhaps this is because they are, literally, constantly playing games, only sleeping when they are bored or can’t take it anymore, but it seems to be an almost-supernatural amount of smarts, luck, and chance that’s gotten them so far. So after a weird email asks them if they’re happy in the world they’re in (obviously as NEETs who never leave the house except for food, they answer no), they end up transported to an alternate universe, where a cute rainbow-hued god(?) named Tet explains the rules of the universe, that pretty much entirely revolve around games. Though Tet tells them that cheating is against the rules, the pair discover after playing around a bit that pretty much everyone’s doing it, so Sora, the more energetic of the two, decides to take the challenge for rulership, with his little sister’s help.

Not exactly the most original premise, it makes up for it by being funny. The only dramatic monologues in the story are quickly shot down with humorous reactions from characters, and the overreactions of characters while playing games are so over-the-top that it’s impossible to even remotely believe that this is supposed to be taken seriously. Indeed, approaching this show as a serious drama is a grave mistake. This is what sets it apart from the myriad other gaming-themed anime of recent years, which all try to out-action, out-edgy each other to the point of boring the audience. The show knows it’s ridiculous to a point, and tries to roll with it instead of justifying it one way or another.

So why do I still refer to it as a “guilty pleasure”? The main thing is the fanservice. Not the amount of it, mind you (it’s relatively low-level in this episode), but the type it is. Suffice it to say that if you have a problem with the low level of service in Black Bullet, you’re really going to squirm a bit during NGNL. I won’t speak their names, but the show looks so far as if it traffics in the two most controversial flavors of fan-pandering, and in a time where the dreaded i-word in anime is rearing its unwanted head in ridiculous numbers (there are at least two other shows this year alone that have featured it), it makes Sora and Shiro’s relationship seem a bit too weird. So far it’s at tame, barely-suggested levels, but it’s hard to not predict something along those lines in the future. Especially when you consider how the show treats the adorable Shiro. She as a character does not behave disturbingly, but the way the camera treats her is a bit uncomfortable. Or a lot. (Depends on your tolerance level I guess.) The other female characters are more appropriately treated, but not by much, and if the tail-end of the first episode is any indication I don’t think those looking for eye candy (and not just visuals that just look like candy) will not be disappointed. If you’re more averse to fanservice, like I am, you may not share the same opinion.

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The first episode, thankfully, moved at a quick pace with not a lot of exposition. The animation does the beautiful colors of the series enough justice; thankfully these pretty pictures move fluidly too! The OP is at the end of the episode, it seems, and it’s a catchy-yet-unspectacular number more notable for its animation sequence and lack of fanservice than anything music-related. Overall the series is doing well in the production department, which is great as I worried it would do nothing but sit pretty.

To keep it short, I’m sure that (like Black Bullet) No Game No Life hasn’t hit its stride yet, but this was a fun episode. If it doesn’t immerse itself in gross fanservice at expense of story and characterization, or make the protagonists too overpowered to make the series any fun, it will retain its status as my guiltiest pleasure this season.

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Black Bullet Episode 1 – Bugging Out

Hey, kids! You miss Attack on Titan? Me too. (Just finished it yesterday because I am a slow streamer.) Want something to fill the void until the next season comes along? You may find some fun to be had in Black Bullet. I did, anyway. It was very much the kind of anime that my twelve-year-old, Shakugan no Shana-loving self would’ve enjoyed immensely, and even though the pacing of the first episode was shoddy and a bit was glossed over, it still manages to be fun, interesting, freaky, and funny in equal amounts.

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Okay, so it loses a few originality points in the synopsis department. Rentaro is a teenage(?) guy living in the future world, where these giant bugs called Gastrea terrorize humanity. Rentaro is assigned to protect Tokyo from these freakish beasts, which attack humans and inject them with a virus that makes them into Gastrea as well. He’s not alone in this though: He’s got an adorable partner named Enju, who looks about 10 years old but is immensely powerful despite this. Why is this? Enju is what they call a Cursed Child, a young girl who was infected with the virus while still in the womb and benefits from its power boosts. In this first episode, we basically get an idea of what life is like for the pair, a really cool fight with a Gastrea which resembles a Joltik more than anything else (complete with gruesome, violent transformation scene!), and exposition. Which is fair. This is a first episode, after all. It would have been nicer to see it in action though.

So, the Attack on Titan comparisons. Aside from the synopsis of giant beings terrorizing humans being more than slightly reminiscent of AoT, the city has walls up to protect humans from the Gastrea. (They aren’t all-encompassing like the ones in AoT and are more of a repellent than anything else, but still.) The main male character is voiced by Yuuki Kaji, who voiced Eren Jaeger in AoT. Youngsters seem to be the only hope of beating the enemy, in addition, which leads to something that will spoil AoT if I say any more. The OP has some of that ominous chanting that came along with the AoT themes. And the opening scene reminded me of the first AoT episode more than anything else. In short, calling this Attack on Gastrea wouldn’t be too far off. The tone here is a bit more comedic and light novel-y (if you know adaptations of light novels, you may be able to get what I mean), but I expect that to change soon; after all, gruesome transformation scenes don’t often pop up in shows with no intention to delve into the dark, and there is already heavy implication that Enju’s condition could lead to some interesting explorations of what is and isn’t humanity. There’s a bit of Gunslinger Girl here too in the powerful-girl-teamed-with-older-guy dynamic which is never not interesting to me, though hopefully Black Bullet won’t be AS depressing as that lovely series, despite my hope that it gets dark.

The characters so far are likable. Rentaro is a little bit Generic Male Light Novel Anime Protagonist, in the Kyosuke Kosaka (of Oreimo fame) mold rather than the Yuji Sakai (of Shakugan no Shana) mold, but it’s not overbearing; he’s a bit grouchy and serious and occasionally snarky, but he’s clearly got a bit more to him than the mold and he’s not a dense moron like the typical light novel anime protagonist. More interesting, and sadly less-seen in the first episode, is Enju, who as said before is insanely cute and badass at the same time, and openly crushing on Rentaro, who is several years older than her. It’s refreshing that she wears her affection on her sleeve; anime girls are often so cagey about expressing their true feelings that it gets a tiny bit old. Sometimes the way she goes about it is a bit too pandering to the parts of the audience that I shall not speak the name of, which are the only times I didn’t enjoy her character (it’s mitigated by the fact that Rentaro is not AT ALL interested in her that way); overall, her cuteness is just too hard to not enjoy, and the overly formal, overly intelligent way she speaks is charming. It’s plain hard not to like a kid who can take out a giant bug with seeming ease. Kisara, the probable actual love interest, could be an interesting character as she shows glimpses of personality and not just empty bitchiness, but I’ll need to see more of her before I can fully judge. There’s a Sensei character too who is weird and says a couple inappropriate things that are meant to be humorous, and this will probably affect some sensitive types’ enjoyment of the show, but I thought she was hilarious.

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I don’t know what’s next for the show. I desperately want to see more action. This episode was a bit short on it. (Again, it’s a first episode, that’s to be expected a little). The only fight scene in this first episode was exciting, and the show’s got some lovely animation and bright character designs that could use more excitement. I assume we’ll be seeing more Gastrea, and probably more of the masked man Rentaro encounters in the beginning of the episode. It is, after all, an action series.

I’m not sure whether I can fully recommend the series based on this first episode alone, as it has yet to reach its truly interesting points, but it’s a good setup with a bunch of entertaining moments, and I’m looking forward to what’s next.

Worth a look so far.

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One Week Friends Episode 1 – Once-a-Week Feels

The biggest gauge of how much you’ll enjoy this series depends on one question: How cute do you like your anime?

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Granted, One Week Friends is by no means empty cuteness, like some sort of mascot character filler series. There’s substance and melancholy to it, but it’s very cute and sweet and all that other stuff that can make the teeth of super manly-men (and hyper-cynical women) curl and rot. If you like an element of irony to your contrived plot devices, this is not the series for you. Going in, you need to accept that the premise is far-fetched, or you’re not going to have a good time even before the utter cuteness of this fully sinks in.

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to what is by far most likely to become my favorite anime of the season.

The plot: Yuki Hase is a good-hearted kid who wants to befriend an aloof-ish girl named Kaori Fujimiya. His motivation, aside from the fact that she’s cute, is that she has no friends and doesn’t bother with… well, anyone. She turns his offer of friendship down, saying that she “can’t” make friends. Dejected, Yuki still decides to pursue Kaori’s friendship, and all that week the two eat lunch together. It becomes apparent to Yuki that Kaori isn’t cold-hearted, but incredibly kind and lively, which confuses him all the more as to why she can’t, or won’t make any friends.

Then, Friday comes, and Kaori tells him not to talk to her anymore. Her reason for why she can’t make friends is revealed, and it’s literal rather than figurative: come Monday, all of her memories of her friends, or people she is trying to become friends with, disappear. Yuki doesn’t believe this until Monday, when Kaori stares at him in a way that proves that she’s not bluffing at all. Undeterred, in part because his best friend tells him to keep trying, Yuki endeavors to make friends with Kaori every week, even while knowing that her memories of him will disappear.

There’s some magical realism going on here, but this is very much a reality-grounded comedic drama with possible hints of romance in the future (which may be definitely hindered by Kaori’s memory impairment). And it plays it all completely straight, and for tears and “aww”s. Despite everything, it pulls it off remarkably well. This is most likely because of the lack of irony or mockery of Kaori’s condition. Honestly, if you were in a similar situation (either as the affected or the wannabe friend), how would you feel? Naturally, it would hurt, and friendship would be difficult. But this pain that’s buried underneath this show’s sugary-sweet surface somehow brings out the sweetness even more. Hello Kitty this isn’t; expect to cry just a little.

It should be said now that the first episode is pretty much a flawless adaptation of the first manga chapter. Also wonderfully replicated is the beautiful artwork, which is soft and delicate, further adding to the show’s atmosphere without going too far in the washed-out lengths of some other series with wispy watercolor artwork. The animation isn’t flawless, but it’s extremely fluid and never choppy. The music is light and sweet, never melodramatic, and the OP and ED songs are both enjoyable and accompanied by lovely animations. The character voices fit wonderfully and never feel overdone. In short, the package here is very well put-together, making the viewing a complete pleasure (even if one does not find the story compelling, I’d wager).

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I haven’t read more than a couple chapters of the manga, so I’m not sure where the story goes. Whether it gets darker or stays light and fluffy, I’m sure it will be lovely to follow these characters for 11 more episodes. A bit of exploration of the darker side of Kaori’s condition would be preferred, but if this isn’t that kind of show it’s fine too. I’m on board, and I absolutely love it. I wanted to watch the first episode again immediately after finishing it, and that never happens.

I can’t recommend it enough. It’s damn near perfect at what it does, and if the show stays on this track it could even go on to be one of my favorites. But let’s take it one week at a time.

 

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Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro Episode 1 – Grand Theft Waifu

This is pretty spoiler-rific so I don’t recommend reading this unless you don’t mind knowing the gist. 

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                                                                   The old man’s face cracks me up.

Why fantasize about your love when you can just kidnap her?

Let me just say I love the classical opening song. It is an artful tranquility seemingly lost with the times. Yet music is immortal, stepping on all the stones of time no matter how small. Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro’s first impression is the opposite; it is boisterous and lacking etiquette of any form, and won’t likely pass the test of time. That doesn’t mean it is bad though, which I’ll be getting to later.

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The titular character is a crude bully with nonexistent manners with some “authority” issues. He has no shame in deliberately stealing another student’s work in plain sight during class and man-handling school staff members. Naturally the only person there he is nice to is the sexy shoujo-esque teacher(?) Minami. Later on Matsutaro says that seeing her is the only reason he goes to school. I can actually sympathize with him on the last part knowing how I’ve felt about past crushes.

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After school he goes through his daily routine of kicking dirt in a dog’s face, getting old ladies wet, literally stealing candy from a baby (one of his five siblings), stealing other people’s bento, and using ridiculous shonen powers to save old men from their menial duties. Afterwards he deliberately sets up a situation where he pretends to be filled with rage to convince a truck driver to haul his load of coal that was blocking the road. Although he seems stupid, Matsutaro is pretty sharp even though he usually focuses on brute force.

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He commandeers the truck, nearly runs over his family, literally steals the girl of his dreams, then crashes through a Women’s Bath. Finally he gets arrested along with the old man. The entire episode was about some asshole doing asshole things so it is inherently awful, right? No, because it is the first episode of a genre that always has the main character improve through discipline. Obviously he will become a sumo wrestler and become a better person blah blah blah.

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Despite Matsutaro being so contemptible, I couldn’t help but be amused by how blunt and uncaring he is throughout the episode and everyone outright acknowledges he is a horrible jerk. The main reason I find this funny is because faulty characters like this aren’t normally universally condemned for ill behavior in anime. Everything after the car-jacking was also hilarious for all the low-key GTA-ness that happened.

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I believe the aim is to show us how unforgivably horrible the protagonist is in a bitterly humorous way, then pave the way for development. It wasn’t the best decision, because now most expect the show to simply be about an asshole being an asshole and not, well, something not like that. Though I’m not 100% sure of the direction this is taking, the writing is competent enough for it to (hopefully) end up being a heartwarming story about a dysfunctional, occasionally half-naked brute maturing and having more drunken waifu-stealing misadventures with old men.

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