10 Thoughts: Week of June 18th

Now presenting live: a week of heroes and villains, plus some other animation musings.

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It’s Hero Week unofficially here at AniB Productions- between the highly anticipated debut of Incredibles 2 this past Friday and the current arc in My Hero Academia, it’s hard for it to be anything else.

 

1.This week’s thoughts came a week late, thanks to the comprehensive Incredibles review that was posted last Monday instead. Before jumping into the highly anticipated sequel  this past weekend, it was worth a look back into its predecessor, which was an absolutely terrific film. Check out the review here if you haven’t!

 

2. Naturally, Incredibles 2 was a Day 1 viewing for me, and it lived up to the hype, which was impressive considering how good the original film actually is. While I don’t intend for this week’s 10 Thoughts to turn into a shilling column for The Incredibles franchise, here’s a link to that review as well.

 

3. One more Incredibles thought: It was an almost surreal experience to finally revisit that universe after all that time and anticipation, and while the true measuring stick for the sequel will be against its illustrious predecessor, this film will be the clubhouse leader for Best Animated Film of the Year, particularly at the Academy, where the revised rules as of last year made it far harder for foreign films to win at the expense of critics who often don’t take animated fare that seriously unless they specialize in the field. Much as I enjoy Pixar films and The Incredibles in any capacity, this is a change that feels for the worst- and in its first year of implementation resulted in The Boss Baby and Ferdinand getting nominations, which simply felt off.

 

4. Alright, I suppose it’s time to talk about My Hero Academia again, isn’t it? The series’ biggest fight to date in the anime finally occurred, and for those of you keeping up with the series, you’ll be well aware of the stakes that were involved in this one…which was translated pretty nicely from the manga.

 

5. I’m sure the followers of My Hero Academia also want more details on my thoughts of the fight that are spoilery for everyone else, so skip down to #7 if you haven’t seen or followed the series.

 

6. All For One is one scary dude with a terrifying Quirk that makes his options virtually limitless in a fight. Chances are that his abilities to augment Quirks was the inspiration for the Noumu program he’d spawned, given that the creatures are known for being essentially organic meatheads of stacked combat Quirks with enhanced physicals acrost the board.

What you really came to ask about though, was my thoughts on All Might’s final battle against his archenemy. It is in a word, symbolic. It’s not just that All Might throws the final embers of One For All in his body into defeating All For One, but it’s also the proverbial passing of the torch to Midoriya at last. Izuku is now truly the wielder of One For All, and the weight of that finally hits him as he gets All Might’s victory message… More importantly, it is a total changing of the guard. All For One is probably headed to a max-security outfit where he’ll no longer be in the picture, while All Might is no more as a hero, meaning Izuku and Shigaraki- who was teleported out of the battlefield against his will- now represent the new generation. (For the sake of knowing the manga, I’m just going to keep it to anime spoilers that I discuss here, but I’ll say this much: don’t expect things to slow down.)

 

 

7. Don’t look up if you want to avoid spoilers! It was definitely a fitting arrangement to have events go down the way they did in My Hero Academia and Incredibles 2 releasing in back to back days, which made for a vividly entertaining weekend in animation.

 

8. In non-hero week related stuff, the request to write a piece on “a anime harem of my choice” was quite entertaining, partially because it was so unexpected, but I do thank The Luminous Mongoose again for the nomination to do so. I think it embodied something important about life though: sometimes, when you write something outside of your usual routine, you grow from it, and even get rejuvenated to some extent as well. So it was a fun exercise!

 

9. Heard from a friend that Disney’s DuckTales reboot has had some more character developments, including a Gyro Gearloose that in their words, “is much meaner.” I’ve yet to sit down and really dig into the series, but I am intrigued, and last year even wrote an initial impressions piece based on the very entertaining pilot.

 

10. Since the success of the past character piece featuring Nagisa Shiota from Assassination Classroom, I’ve been hard at work on a new one, which hopefully I’ll release sometime this week. There’s also a few other ideas in the works going forward, so every day and week will continue to bring surprises!


I hope everyone has a great week, and feedback is always appreciated! If there’s any animation show, character, movie, or even episode you might want me to take a look at, let me know!

Build a Harem! (Special Post)

See Deku’s face? Welcome to AniB’s stab at an interesting request.

Well, it finally happened. I got a request to write about an anime harem that I’d pick according to these rules set here and well…I guess you could say challenge accepted!

First off, thanks to The Luminous Mongoose for the nod to do this piece. His blog is here if you wanna check it out, and he writes some quality, fun anime pieces.

Okay, so being perfectly honest, I initially laughed at the idea of building a harem, in part because I’m like the least fan-service oriented, harem-obsessed critic out there. But then a great idea came to me in light of this nomination, which was to of course, do something unconventional. Instead of the generic listing of anime waifus and has-been girls, I’ve decided instead to build a squad of 5 characters that best emphasize a desired trait that can be valued in a character. (By “trait” here, I don’t mean boobs and butt- I mean actual tangible qualities of a person.) So in turn, this “harem” isn’t the usual high-school comedy group that goes all over, but rather, picks that reflect the strongest personification of that quality I’d want in that individual. So, without further ado, here’s my picks:


Determination: Gon Freeccs (Hunter x Hunter)

I wrote a while back about Killua Zoldyck, and while he’d be an obvious choice for this exercise, given that he’s my favorite anime character in existence, it turns out that for this specific “harem” his best friend Gon was actually a better fit. Gon is the paragon of determination in a character. He won’t quit to achieve his ends, even if his recklessness could cost him his life- a price he comes all too often close to paying. However, there are few characters in anime with more conviction for their goals than the young Hunter, and even fewer that are willing to suffer, even greatly, in order to achieve them.

 

Truth: L (Death Note)

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Truth is justice, and justice is truth, if you’re the world’s greatest detective. L is someone who behind his eccentricities and unusual upbringing is ultimately only after the truth of the toughest crimes in the world so that he can solve them, and in his case, he gives Light Yagami all he can handle in his dogged pursuit to find “Kira,” the persona given to the man committing mass murder in the name of “justice.”

 

Love: Edward and Alphonse Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)

I thought carefully about this pick, but the brothers represent a very deep sort of brotherly love that is inseparable in the quest to regain Alphonse’s lost body. They are tasked with fixing a grievous wrong that was self-inflicted, but in turn, find themselves wrapped into immeasurable danger as their quest to find the so-called “Philosopher’s Stone” continues to get darker at every turn. Edward in particular is driven to ensure his brother’s survival, and is shown to be selfless in his pursuit of regaining his brother’s lost body.

 

Trust: Karma Akabane (Assassination Classroom)

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So why in the world would I pick Karma? At first glance, he doesn’t seem like a good fit for this type, but then you take a deeper dive…He’s a genius with a streak of frighting crazy behind those eyes, but he’s also a man who carefully evaluates the people around him, and for those he chooses to ally himself with, there’s a bond of brotherhood that can be forged as if it were put through fire. Karma’s acceptance of Class 3-E, along with his personal character arc that relates to his friendship with Nagisa Shiota, reflect this quality strongly.


Well, this group certainly isn’t a “harem” in any traditional sense of the word, but they are surprisingly strong characters in their given traits (and they’re also all boys. Apologies for anyone expecting cute girls doing cute things.)

I’m also not entirely sure who to nominate, but here’s 5 folks who might be interested:

1. negativeprimes

2. TheAniMessenger

3. Oishi

4. Shokamoka

5. (AniMo)nologues

….

Alright, here’s one girl for your troubles:

The Eternal Try-Hard: Yuuko (Nichijou: My Ordinary Life)

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Yuuko is someone who always keeps going, despite being a constant magnet of bad luck and downright unfortunate circumstances. She’s not the smartest or sharpest tool in the toolbox, but she is perhaps the one that is most admirable as she pushes onwards in her ordinary life, be it through silly games, poorly thought out jokes, or misadventures at a restaurant. Comedy, like life, ain’t easy.


Like what you see here? Any thoughts on this post? Leave a comment!

 

10 Thoughts: Week of June 4th

 

Alright, so back again with this week’s 10 Thoughts column! It’s finally June, which means summer is truly just about here at last. While this means the season of being outdoors, swimming and every other summer pursuit is very much here to stay for a few months, there’s still plenty to talk about when it comes to animation. Here’s this week’s musings:

 


1. Rewatching Assassination Classroom’s OPs actually gave me a newfound appreciation of them. Seriously, watch them in this video back to back to back:

There’s a condensed version of the show’s narrative being told in them, and even more cool (which can’t be noted here) is the fact that as new students or teachers join the class, they actually join the OP. This was most noticeable after Irina Jelevic joined the staff in season 1, as well as two other “transfer students.”  The amount of detail as a result, is actually worth noting…as is the silly dancing of the first two iterations of the OP, which grows on you. Sometimes, the lesson to to be learned is that a refreshed look at some aspect of a show can make you learn new tidbits, and appreciate it all the more.

 

 

2. As has started to become a habit in this column, My Hero Academia isn’t far from the mind, and especially so with such a hugely pivotal episode hanging in the balance for next week. For those of you not watching the third season yet, this information should probably serve to ignite more intrigue, and for those of you who are watching, it’s going to be appointment television. (Then again, it’s really more like computer streaming these days. Seriously, I always liked the phrase, but it really made me just stop and think about my audience, and now I feel old.)

 

 

3. A big thank-you to all the new followers this week, and the continued support of those who’ve stuck around for a while here on AniB Productions. You know who you are- and it means the world to me. As for the past week’s pieces: It’s really true what they say about your favorite pieces not getting as many views, but plenty of love from the audience you care about the most, and that was certainly true with young Nagisa from Assassination Classroom. The feedback was pretty awesome on that piece, and for anyone still on the fence about the show in question, watch it! (Heck, I even talked about its OPs as point 1.)

 

4. I’m going to believe to the end of time that Coco was the best film of 2017. No, not just best animated film, but best overall film. It had everything- eyecandy animation that augmented the storytelling, an authentic cultural experience, lovable characters, a heart-rending narrative, and one of the most emotional endings I’ve seen in any film. I did write about it at Christmas, but this thought was reinforced after seeing quite a few of last year’s films since the semester ended.

 

5. Since we’re on the topic of movies, I really hope the third iteration of DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon franchise really flies next year. To put it bluntly, the first two films are the only thing in the last decade that even remotely reached the level of Pixar (or now, Walt Disney Animation’s) finest movies in the same stretch, and they were both a pleasure to watch, complete with wonderfully fluid animation that brought this intoxicating, rough world of Vikings and dragons to life, and an emotional core to match. Maybe it’ll win the Academy Award this go-round though. Who knows?

 

6. Last week, I brought up Martian Successor Nadesico. I’ll be looking to try and turn that into a review, perhaps even this week. One heck of a catchy opening in that show, as I noted in the previous 10 Thoughts.

 

7. I’ve been meaning for a while to do a deeper dive into retro Western animation. You may or may not recall a while back that I did in fact take a look at Hanna-Barbera’s The Huckleberry Hound Show, and also wrote about the classic Looney Tunes episode “Duck Amuck,” but not much else. The classics are the classics for a reason though, and I’m very fond of them, and there’s a reason for that, beyond the history: most of them are still really, really good productions.

 

8. I noted recently that in a little over a month, it will mark the ten-year anniversary of the Avatar: The Last Airbender finale of “Sozin’s Comet.” What an incredible finish to an incredible show, and one that still resonates as deeply now as it did when it debuted.

 

9. Since I asked last week, if you’ve got a favorite character, leave a comment below! I might turn it into a “What’s in a Character piece” for the future, and that could be exciting.

 

10. Now I definitely need an Incredibles 2 thought in here: We’re finally within a tangible distance away from the movie’s release and I’d be lying if this wasn’t my most hyped movie in forever. It’s not just the fact that audiences waited 13 and a half years for this sequel to come along, but it’s also the fact that The Incredibles has always been my favorite film, since I first saw it in theaters back during December of 2004. The timeless narrative, which had an appeal to people of every age, and the innovative blending of a dynamic family narrative and the silver age of superheroes combined to form one heck of a movie, and one that bias aside, can still be consider one of Pixar’s best. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have an Incredibles review in the next 10 days…and then of course I’ll cover the film. I know my M.O. is shows, but my first love was always movies and you bet I’ll be covering this one.


Like what you see? Enjoy the 10 Thoughts column? Still have a character or show you want to see done? Leave a comment!

What’s In a Character: Nagisa Shiota

Unassuming danger, and a boy who looks to follow Korosensei. But down which path?

Well, I kept everyone waiting yet again. After the Christmas treat that was Nonon’s character piece, it took a while again to really put together one of these special character pieces for the “What’s in a Character?” series. Today’s entry takes a pretty dramatic turn away from one crazy school in Kill la Kill to Kunugigaoka Junior High’s Class 3-E. Yup, we’re taking a trip to the Assassination Classroom once more (here’s the review on the show), and who better to guide that journey than the main character and narrator of that series, student #11, Nagisa Shiota? There’s a lot more to that wispy frame and flowing blue hair than meets the eyes, and his talent for both reading people, and more unnervingly, assassination, is undeniable. Get ready to come face to face with one of Korosensei’s well-trained pupils, in both military training and in life.

WARNING: Major spoilers for Assassination Classroom follow.


Initially speaking, the obvious character choice to talk about from this series is Koro-sensei- the one of a kind Mach-20 octopus man and crack teacher. In fact, it’s entirely conceivable that he could still be talked about in another character piece, but for today, the spotlight instead shines on the actual main protagonist and narrator of the show- Nagisa.

So what’s unique about this kid? Quite a lot actually.

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By virtue of being in Class 3-E, Nagisa was looking to overcome the odds along with the rest of his class. From the start of the series, it is shown that he’s an extremely perceptive individual, but at the time also lacks the sort of confidence in himself you’d hope for. Quite a few details are omitted and then brought to light as time went on: an unlikely prior friendship with Karma Akabane, the bad boy genius of 3-E; an almost abusive mother who projected her fantasies of wanting a girl onto Nagisa, reflected in his long blue hair that he usually kept tied up in those “floofs,” and his own dreams being suppressed in turn by said mother, which means Nagisa as a person blossomed in his one year as a 3-E student.

The discovery of Nagisa’s latent natural talent at assassination and the subsequent question of what his future holds forms a major aspect of his character arc. His talent is foreshadowed immediately in “Assassination Time” (episode 1), with the “suicide” tactic Terasaka cooks up for him; again in “Assembly Time” (episode 5) when the class is required to attend a school assembly and Nagisa’s mere look terrifies two would-be bullies, and it becomes readily apparent to everyone else in “Talent Time” (episode 13), when Nagisa turns the tables on Takaoka, displaying the unnerving ability to turn a combat veteran’s hardened experience again him, along with full use of his unassuming and normally non-threatening appearance to its full advantage. The dynamic only continues to intensify during the class’s vacation to the resort island, when Nagisa once again defeats Takaoka in a rematch coordinated by the rogue mercenary as a means of revenge (and unintentionally good training for the class.)

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Takaoka should have quit while he was ahead. This is one battle he won’t win.

Since I brought it up, I’d be amiss not to talk at least briefly about his long-standing friendship with Karma. It’s revealed immediately that the two are on friendly terms the moment Karma steps into 3-E, surprising the other students, and while they are in fact friends, there was also a fierce rivalry that boiled beneath the surface of the two boys’ relationship. Even more intriguing was the contrast in combat styles: Nagisa was an assassin in the purest sense of the word, always looking for an opening and a quick takedown, while Karma was a brawler with a bag of dirty tricks, his fist backing up his mouth and his mind as a threat. Nagisa always felt in the shadow of his friend, but the dynamic in 3-E shifted as he grew through the year, especially in his skills with assassination, and eventually, everything came to a head in one of the best fights of the series:

I suppose if you want to make a lasting point, you settle it like men.

There was also  the relationship with Kaede Kayano that boiled over in the same season. For what it’s worth, it might be one of the better shipping fakeouts in anime, largely because everything prior to Kayano’s tentacled reveal can be questioned as whether it was genuine or not, given her role as a professional actress. What was not in question was that Nagisa regarded her as a friend and potential romantic interest. The specific way in which he helped stop her rampage was also a pretty unexpected callback to the technique Irina Jelevic used on him back in “Grown-up Time” (episode 4) and in an ironic twist, the skill Nagisa had carefully accumulated over time probably saved a life that day instead of taking one.

In turn, Nagisa’s aptitude in taking what he’d learned and practically applying it to situations served him incredibly well in another way aside from the assassin arts- as a teacher. In a heartfelt episode (“Before and After Time,” episode 28) , after the class accidentally breaks an elderly principal’s leg, Koro-sensei bans them from studying for the midterms…and in exchange, 3-E is tasked to repair the run-down school of the principal in question. It is here that Nagisa mentors a young girl beat down mentally by past acts of bullying in her life, and helps her back to a place of confidence as the school is completely renovated and repaired. In subsequent episodes, it is shown that Nagisa continued to help her out even after the class’s commitment to the school was paid off in full. It also provided an alternate glimpse into what Nagisa could become- someone dedicated to the forming and teaching of young minds, which presented an interesting conundrum: would he take after the Korosensei that was the “God of Death” from his previous life, or become like Korosensei the teacher, blessed with immense talent in certain ways but sworn to use it for the good of others?

 

 

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Much has been made of Nagisa’s androgynous appearance, and I believe this was a conscious character design choice with storyline implications that were surprisingly well-played out, gradually and steadily. To start with, Nagisa is not lazily homosexual as this stereotype might perpetuate; it’s reinforced subtly and obviously that he’s very much a straight boy outside of his appearance, and while his frame and hair allows him to easily crossdress, the two episodes in which he does, both times out of necessity (and actually forced by Karma and Rio Nakamura in the latter moment), there is clearly discomfort in having to do so, going beyond simply being uncomfortable in the opposite sex’s clothes, which I don’t doubt would be off-putting for plenty of people (and a turn on for others, but I digress.) Instead, it actually plays a very important part in the deeper inner conflict of Nagisa’s life with his mother and her delusional dreams of wanting a girl, despite the fact that she has been gifted a fairly kind and perceptive young man for a son. Nagisa’s appearance also has the patently useful side effect of making for great disguise when it comes to being an assassin, but I suspect the protagonist probably favored the high-tech P.E. uniforms supplied to them by the government around the midway point of the show. Further to the point though, Nagisa’s appearance also suggests the personal inner conflict of what his future holds. Will it hold his mom’s demands? Will it hold the quiet and sordid life of a master assassin? What will it be? In that sense, Nagisa’s appearance is that of a book yet to be written; one that will resolve itself with a resoundingly definitive answer.

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“Is it okay if I become an assassin?”- Nagisa Shiota, to Koro-sensei during career counseling  

Before we get there however, there was the influence of the greatest teacher anyone could ask for, and his role in his pupil’s life. Yes, Koro-sensei provided personalized guidance to every last one of his students, but it was with Nagisa alone that one of his class might try and take after his profession- but which one? As was said earlier, Nagisa showed natural aptitude and a rare skillset that made him an ideal assassin…but he also showed a talent for touching the hearts of people who seemed closed off or in need, from  the young girl at the at the old schoolhouse the class repaired, to a raging Kayano in her darkest moments. As with everything else, Koro-sensei let Nagisa discover the answers for himself as time proceeded. A duality existed between master and pupil: the ability to flip a switch the moment life and death was on the line, but a kind and almost disarming ease when not in the heat of battle, not only characterized by Nagisa’s distinctively non-threatening appearance most times, but also Koro-sensei’s ability to win over an entire class of people aiming to kill him in an entire year through superb teaching, heartfelt life lessons, and just enough unpredictability to keep everyone guessing.

 

“Goodbye…Korosensei.” – Nagisa Shiota, upon being given the final task of Class 3-E

The final resolution to follow Koro-sensei’s footsteps not as an assassin, but as a teacher, is a triumphant validation of the former “God of Death’s” duty fulfilled: a natural prodigy raised in a year long environment of both assassination and school instead chose the “classroom” part of “Assassination Classroom.” It is also the validation of Nagisa’s wishes and dreams, signaling his independence of decision making from his reluctant but now understanding mother, and it also in the grandest of traditions, the figurative passing of the torch, as Nagisa alone carries the academic flame of 3-E into the future. As we find out though, our little blue-haired assassin still kept those skills, and put them to very good use in his first ever teaching assignment. (Truth be told, he probably remembered the punks from the Kyoto trip in the first season, but those punks were now his students. And trust me, he was ready:)

Through tragedy, flowers blossom upon the fertile soil of the next generation. Be it Korosensei’s sense of duty to his fallen lover, or a student looking to follow the master’s footsteps, that too is part of the life lessons to be learned in Assassination Classroom. But this is about Nagisa at the end of the day, and he’s got a wonderfully complex character that comes together nicely over the course of the show, with heartfelt emotional highs and lows, and an underdog mentality to beat the odds, whether that be the open defiance of Kunugigaoka Junior High’s caste system, the takedown of a professional mercenary on a helipad, the drive to help his friends, from Karma and Kayano to his other classmates, or the important gain in self-confidence that finally allowed him to confront his mother and her repressive wishes for his life. Nagisa represents what it means to be constantly learning, even as we grow older, and the ability to find our way forward in life provided we trust in others, some good guidance, be it from God, family, or a giant octopus man, and ultimately, the reality that making tough decisions in life can be painfully transformative in ways we’d never imagine. But most of all, Nagisa Shiota is one heck of a character with a unique aesthetic and plenty of reasons to root for him. “What’s In a Character” is quite the promotion from E-Class for this young man, but he deserves every bit of it.

 


Like what you see? Fan of Assassination Classroom or Nagisa? Leave a comment!

10 Thoughts: May 28th Edition

There’s always something new to talk about.

Dear readers,

Since the first 10 Thoughts wound up being so successful, I decided to bring it back for another round, but also the question in my head if people would like this to be a weekly column going forward. It’s been a good bit of fun to do, and in turn, I hope the new reviews this past week were up to people’s expectations. They were enjoyable to put together, and definitely featured some thought-provoking shows. Moving on then:

1. As promised, I finally sat down and went through the final half of Star vs the Forces of Evil’s 3rd season…and it did not disappoint. Without spoiling anything for anyone who might have not picked up the show and still wish to watch it sometime, family dynamics are an incredibly tricky aspect of life to manage, and perhaps doubly so when you’re a bunch of magical royals in a dimension where sometimes corn is more important than common sense for the people. A satisfying conclusion to the season, no doubt, and I’ll look to get a review out this week.

 

2. At the pace things are going, My Hero Academia’s midseason finale is setting up to be something huge. While I’m aware of how these events will probably all unfold, thanks to the manga, watching it get executed in animated form right now is a treat. Also, very happy they brought back simul-dubbing for this season. Both the dub and sub are pretty good, but for whatever reason, the English voice-over was behind by a few weeks when they aired season 2B, and not having the option to choose when the episodes first aired in Japan was a bummer.

 

3. Appreciative of the feedback received on the Devilman Crybaby review. While it’s only generated a handful of hits, it has in turn generated some really interesting conversation, which feels only right given that it’s a very polarizing kind of show with its content and context. I’ll say this- irregardless of what anyone thinks of the show, anytime a healthy discussion can be ignited from it is a pretty amazing aspect to consider. Animation’s definitely all about having a sense of fun and wonder- but it’s also a serious medium deserving of the same sort of discussion and attention live-action shows and movies receive- and in turn, that’s remained a constant point in my mind as I’ve continued to watch shows and movies.

 

 

4. Speaking of things worth talking about, I’d recommend Assassination Classroom to everyone, especially as the school year wraps for many and graduation season is in full swing. I wrote a review about the show roughly a year ago, and it might be one of the few productions I re-watch, simply because it’s so wonderfully fun, serious and unexpected in the best sorts of ways. I’ve always enjoyed simple premises in theory becoming far more than you’d imagine, and this series embodies that.

 

5. I’ve often wondered the reasoning behind why characters in shows/movies can be more or less popular among fanbases. For me, a well developed individual with a great storyline and a pleasing aesthetic to boot is ideal, but I’m wondering what any of your favorite characters might be and why. Leave a response in the comments! (And if you can’t tell already, make a great response and I might just be persuaded to turn that into something for the “What’s In a Character” series.)

 

6. Great themes are part and parcel with great shows. An undercurrent of politicization is not, unless it’s a clever parody or more rarely, actually insightful commentary.

 

7. Another show I’ve fallen far behind on is Cartoon Network’s popular Steven Universe. I was up to date with the series about a year ago, and since then…nothing, though apparently several huge events happened in that show. Despite a reputation that paints it as having a toxic fandom, it’s a solid show which someday, I’ll probably sit down and write about on here.

 

8. Not that anyone’s claiming that I have recency bias towards shows, but the last anime I watched was Martian Successor Nadesico, from the mid 1990’s. The plan is to bring a review of that show along soon, but as for quick thoughts, it’s definitely got the main hallmarks of 90’s anime: space adventures and giant mechs, with a shady organization pulling the strings to boot. It also has a super catchy opening, “You Get to Burning.” More than anything though, I’d definitely recommend to try out shows from different eras- it’ll give you a better appreciation of where the medium came from and how it has progressed along over time…and well, these shows are still pretty darn entertaining.

 

9. In turn about older shows, I’m always open to hear suggestions on pre-2000’s series I should undertake. I’ve seen some of the big ones in anime and in the West, but anything from Astro Boy to The Smurfs is fair game, so comments on that are also very much appreciated.

 

 

10. Finally, on a completely unrelated note that has nothing to do with animation, the Washington Capitals are playing the expansion Vegas Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup, which is an extremely cool story for a variety of reasons. The city of Las Vegas rallied around their first Big 4 sports team after the mass shooting last year, and in turn, the Golden Knights have turned in the finest expansion season to date of any professional team, blowing away the prevailing experience that these new teams are generally terrible. Some will blame an expansion draft that gave Vegas more favorable conditions than in the past, but it was really always more about having a GM who picked the right players (George McPhee), a coach who got the most out of them (Gerard Gallant) and well, the players themselves, who believed when no one else did. And on the other side, you have the hard-luck Capitals, who return to the Finals for the first time since ’98, when they where swept by Detroit. The difference is that it’s the first Cup appearance for superstar Alexander Ovechkin, and to date, the defining moment of a legacy dogged by comparisons to Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, he of the 3 Stanley Cups. This series promises to be fun, so if all you non-sports/hockey fans out there want to see why we root for things the way we do, this is a great opportunity. (Finally, for the record, I’m a Buffalo Sabres fan. We’re getting Rasmus Dahlin!)


Like what you see? Comments are much appreciated, especially for points 5 and 9. Don’t forget, free speech is the hallmark of an open republic. And this column is pretty darn fun to write.

The World Series, Baseball, and Anime

As the World Series arrives, so does anime’s wacky takes on baseball.

As October looks to finish its final stretch into Halloween, the long and arduous Major League Baseball season is winding down yet again with the crown jewel of the sport: the chance to win the pennant and the World Series! So why in the world is AniB writing about sports on an animation blog? Well, for one, I truly love sports and while the focus of my writing might not be on it primarily, I still avidly root for my teams and follow a great deal of happenings in several leagues. The other reason makes much more sense, that being that several memorable baseball episodes have occurred in some of the anime I’ve watched, and as a result, it might just be quite amusing to see Japan’s take on a sport they really have made their own, despite its Western origins. (Their Little League team won the world championship in Williamsport, PA back in August, and it overall has become an incredibly popular sport there, even producing some MLB stars.) At any rate, we’ll take a look at 3 particularly fun iterations of the game in animation, which we can all partake in, regardless of your feelings (or lack thereof) towards the Astros and Dodgers at the time of this writing. Play ball!

Edo-Period Ballgame? America’s Pastime in Samurai Champloo

Among the many funkier, modern element interwoven into Samurai Champloo, one of the more infamous episodes happens to be this baseball game, in which an American team, comprised of a hilariously overwrought Commodore William Perry and his men, challenge Mugen, Jin and Fu to a exhibition match, presumably to flex off American imperial might and industrial superiority. What ensues is a bizarrely fierce game with the Americans resorting to a number of underhanded tactics against the superior speed and agility of the Champloo crew’s team, and overall, a memorable episode where (brutal) hilarity ensued.

 

 

Challenge Accepted! Assassination Classroom’s Class 3-E against the school’s team

A major theme in Assassination Classroom, which I wrote about here, was the growth of the class collectively in overcoming challenges both individually and as a group, whatever the odds stacked against them- and in this case, the full deck of cards was against them. In a spite-filled exercise, the school’s principal had mandated a game in which the “inferior” 3-E was to have an “exhibition” against the actual baseball team of Kunugigaoka Junior High, and so, behind a highly unorthodox plan of teamwork, their one legit baseball player (who was made a pariah but had skill), and some of that Class 3-E moxie and magic, they have an outing to remember.

(I should note, this is the whole episode, but it’s really very good.)

 

A Battle Between Gods! Dragon Ball Super, episode 70

Our final game is decidedly more absurd than either the supposed largese of the fictional American team in the Edo period, or the improvised tactics of Class 3-E in Assassination Classroom- it’s baseball, Dragon Ball style. That should tell you all you need to know really, but this game is literally issued by a god, and played by Goku and company in an explosive match that predictably, and hilariously, appears to constantly teeter on the brink of disaster despite being billed as a “good will game” between our heros’ Universe 7 and the rivaling Universe 6 (yes, there’s a multiverse in Dragon Ball now, for anyone out of the loop), a fact easily lost between Gods of Destruction, overeager Saiyans, and competitive tensions that run far too high. However, it is the much maligned Yamcha of DBZ misfortune (and Dragon Ball fame) that literally steals the show as the only true baseball player in the motley crew: “taking one for the team” might not be better personified than the beating the poor man takes for victory.

(There’s some slightly better quality clips, but this is the whole game.)

 

As you can clearly see, there’s been quite a few odd, hilarious and offbeat rendition of baseball in anime. Just be thankful it’s not Goku and company playing the World Series, though- or we might be looking at a lot more damage than the runs on the scoreboard. Here’s to an always entertaining World Series, and a few clips that hopefully brought a smile or two.


Like what you see? Are you a big baseball fan? Leave a comment !

 

 

 

 

Review: Assassination Classroom

A quirky, unique anime with a original premise hides a lot more depth than you’d expect.

The Lowdown:

Show: Assassination Classroom

Studio(NA Distrubutor)/Years aired: Lerche (Funimation)/ 2015-2016

AniB’s thoughts: This show’s title is ultimately misleading, but not inaccurate. The basic premise of the show- where a class of misfits at an elite junior high school in Japan are tasked with attempting to kill their new teacher- a strange octopus-like creature named Koro-sensei- sounds janky at first and perhaps even heavy handed, and I won’t lie, I was somewhat skeptical of how the entire production would turn out. As it is, this is a time I’m very glad to have been wrong, because this is a great show overall.

Derived from Shonen Jump, the famed manga publication, as so many other noted anime are, the show does have some of the usual things you might expect- some nods and brief fanservice, and references to other Jump franchises, from Naruto to Fist of the North Star. However, this show is very savvy about this sort of anime-specific craziness, and has a wonderful way of weaving these potential cliche tropes into its narrative, usually to comedic effect, but sometimes, also into a serious moment or plot line, and as result, it doesn’t waste time.

Split into two seasons spanning 47 episodes, Assassination Classroom flows thanks to a lack of filler, interesting, dynamic characters who by the nature of the show’s premise, literally develop as both people and students over the course of the show’s run, while learning quite a bit about themselves…and forging relationships and memories to last a lifetime.

If you can get past the unconventional premise (which the show does a great job of), you’re in for a real treat. Perhaps in a weird way the show resonated strongly with me considering my own circumstances in school (and recent graduation from college), but regardless of that, it’s a blind pick that turned out great.

 


Animation quality: Modern 2-D anime. It’s really very good looking, and the animation enhances the sort of whimsical, yet dramatic storytelling the show seeks to do. Character modes are on point and varied, to say the least, and mostly, the style is used to good effect.  4.75 points.

 

Characterization: The shows focuses on the titular “Assassination Classroom”- formally known as Class 3-E, a group of junior high students outed as misfits, underachievers, oddballs, and potential “late bloomers.” As it is, they need the inspiration of a great teacher to bring out their true potential, and so the mysterious yellow octopus-like creature whom they dub “Koro-sensei” is it. While he is blamed for destroying 70% of Earth’s moon, he also serves another purpose, hence the name of the show: the kids have one year to take him out, or the Earth will be destroyed. Koro-sensei has many fantastic abilities, including regeneration and speed up to Mach-20, but his greatest is that he’s a fantastic teacher- and cares about every one of his students…which seems greatly at odds with his initial reputation.

Nagisa Shiota serves as the show’s main character and protagonist. Slim built and noted for his long blue hair that collectively gives an androgynous vibe, he serves as the show’s narrator in most episodes while trying to discover his own path. Initially billed as weak, Nagisa shows frightening promise and aptitude as an assassin despite his unassuming size and strength, but does that mean the career of an actual hitman is in his future?… He’s noted for his kind disposition and willingness to lend a helping hand to his fellow classmates and anyone else who needs it, but possesses unsettling blood-lust in high pressure situations.

Karma Akabane is the top student in Class 3-E after his transferal from suspension there in the 1st term. Noted for his vivid red hair, seemingly slacker attitude and sharp tongue, Karma possesses genius intellect and hand to hand combat skills, only matched by his latent sadistic side (which is usually more impish on most days). He initially is blood-lusted to “kill his new teacher”  (he had a previous grudge against the one who got him punted down to E-class), but like the other students, Koro-sensei finds a way to win him over.

Kaede Kayano is the other “main character” student, though uniquely between her, Nagisa, and Karma, she plays much more of background/supporting role through most of the series. While her major involvement in the plot is largely unveiled in the second and final season, it would be a massive spoiler to mention it here…pegged as a kind, cheerful, and even somewhat ditzy person, Kayano is the epitome of “don’t judge appearances.”

While there are 28 students in Class 3-E and all of them receive some time in the spotlight, a few play bigger roles than others, and so it would be difficult to talk about every last one of them. I’ll say collectively they are as charming a classroom you’ll ever find in this genre, and for the most part, there’s an organic growth to their relationships as a group and in terms of character development that spans a collective range of emotions unusual to the genre and the sorts of tropes you might expect from a show like Assassination Classroom.

Additionally, other major side characters exist in the show outside of 3-E’s crew, from the rest of the academy they attend, to actual professional assassins, and Defense Corps. people. While each and every one of these characters could have something written about them, in this case, it’s best to discover it for yourself along with the class in the show…and for anyone who’s seen Assassination Classroom, this approach makes plenty of sense. I will commend the show’s ability to juggle a large complex cast rather skillfully as well- all while staying below 50 episodes, which is all very impressive. 4.5/5 points.

 

Story quality: An overarching plot structure with plenty of specific episodic bits sprinkled in, especially in season 1, but no filler. Given the unconventionally simply premise of the show, Assassination Classroom possesses a great deal more depth than initially meets the eye; while its humor might be slightly more geared in mind with seasoned anime fans (which is to say, it’s still decent for anyone), its drama hits all the right points at key moments and the story flow is excellent. 4.25/5 points.

 

Themes:  Incredibly enough, this show’s about growing up, seeking out one’s own potential and the capacity to learn in the school called “life.” It’s a quirky twist that in a show that features the idea of assassination in its name and core premise, it’s much more about the value of life and what you take from it, the relationships you make, and the lessons you learn from the trials one endures. 4.25/5 points.

 

Don’t insult the viewer: Surprisingly tricky to nail down the exact grade here. They do the occasionally cringeworthy thing…and then somehow parlay back into the main narrative seamlessly rather than as a one-off gag, and I’m not sure I’ve seen that before. It’s got a pretty solid dub as well…I’m not too high on the openings, but they still have a weird quirky charm if you watch them enough. 4.75/5 points.

 

Total Score: 22.5/25 (90%). A surprisingly great show with a unique premise, a fresh take on the tired high school tropes in anime, and a dynamic cast of characters, Assassination Classroom succeeds in hitting both humor and serious drama while being savvy to tropes and references. A must watch.


Like what you see? Have you seen this show before? Leave a comment!