The World Series, Baseball, and Anime

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

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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 !

 

 

 

 

Preliminary Review: My Hero Academia (Boku no Hero Academia), post season 2

The Lowdown:

Show: My Hero Academia (also often referred to as Boku no Hero Academia)

Studio/years aired: Bones, 2016- present

AniB’s thoughts: First off, happy October to everyone! As with any new beginnings, something had to end, and so the last day of September also saw the conclusion of My Hero Academia’s second season- an action packed season that stretched all the way from April.  It also has been a while since I’ve done one of these pieces, and so perhaps there’s no better way to return than by covering my personal favorite pick of the various anime that I covered over the course of the past summer; one in which I even gave in my initial thoughts on a while ago. With the official conclusion of this cour, it’s now time for the full review process to commence, and I couldn’t be happier to note that the show has continued to impress since those first impressions.

With two seasons of brisk, vibrant material to pick through, as well as a (now) full knowledge of the source manga’s full run, it’s safe to say BnHA is in fact, an incredibly faithful translation of the source material. While I noted this key point in my preliminary thoughts on the show, it mostly works to the benefit of the production (though there have been some complaints about how accurate the flashbacks are too). It’s also safe to say that it’s quickly developed into one of the better shonen productions around, mostly striking a critical balance between storytelling and heated action sequences in just the right fashion.

(SOME SPOILERS HERE: SKIP TO GRADING IF YOU WISH TO AVOID.)

After Season 1’s rousing finale featuring top hero All Might in a no-holds barred fight against the incredibly powerful mutant Noumu, Season 2’s was a much more subtle but no less tense event featuring the ever growing audacity and newfound conviction of Tomura Shigaraki (the major antagonist), and his mentor, the hidden All For One, as a looming threat not just growing but beginning to thrive in the shadows. Along the way, fans were treated to an action packed follow-up that built off the end of the first season, from U.A.’s world famous Sports Festival, to the saga of the so called “hero killer”- Stain.

Something that stands out for My Hero Academia in particular is how wonderfully the aesthetic of the super-powered world it exists in pops, from the snappy designs of the extensive cast, to the wide and varied color palette used that does everything from painting U.A. Academy as bright and clean, to the dingy hideout in which Shigaraki carries out his sinister (and still developing) plans. It was in all likelihood an enormously difficult task to truly keep the feeling of the manga run ingrained in here, and while this preliminary review is specifically focused on the show and its merits, it’s hard not to admire how well the cast came to life in full motion and color.

As for the second season in particular, it brought a good deal of major story lines and arcs to the forefront, along with vibrant new additions to the cast, which had varying roles, and along with the growth in the story came progression for the characters, both in their own paths and powers (5% One For All hype!) but also in the growing sense of unease, which persisted as a constant undercurrent through the season, and sometimes, right out in the open, which was the case with Stain. All this primes Season 3 for another big tonal shift when it comes, and, if the manga is anything to go by, the anime-only viewers are potentially in for a real treat.

Two solid seasons with plenty of standout moments and a few, but not major flaws is always a real positive, and I’m looking forward to how the anime progresses (mostly expecting a continued manga-centric path, but being excellent in its own right.) The bar has been set high; simply put the show has gone beyond thus far, but let’s see if it’s truly… PLUS…ULTRA!!!


Animation Quality: As you might expect from Bones (the people who did Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, the quality of the hand drawn, computer shaded 2-D is on point. Vibrant and faithful to its source material, the fight sequences are beautifully crafted; a wide ranging and immersive color palette brings the world of heroes and villains to life, and it’s all done in a tasteful way that completely enhances the effects of the show at every turn. 5/5 points.

Characterization: BnHA has an extensive cast, but a few core players worth mentioning here specifically, led by the main character of the series, Izuku Midoriya.

Best known as “Deku” (his chosen hero name) from both fans of the show and the actual cast alike, Izuku’s dream of becoming the world’s number one hero is a pipe dream for him in a world where 80% of the population possesses superpowers, (or “Quirks”, as they’re referred to in-universe) and he has none. His life changes though with a chance encounter with the current #1 hero and his idol, All Might- where he is bestowed the powerful “One For All” quirk. Driven by relentless determination and a kind heart, Izuku’s got a lot of crazy in him- jumping into situations with little regard for himself- but he’s also committed to the suddenly steep and difficult journey that piece by piece, unfolds before him.

Speaking of which, All Might serves as a major character in the show, juggling multiple roles as Midoriya’s mentor, his still-extant run as the #1 hero, and a brand-new teaching position at U.A. Academy- the premiere school for training future heroes in the BnHA canon. As a hero, he’s the stereotype of a Silver Age comic book hero on the outside, wielding the awesome power of One For All- but hides his true form as a skinny man with disheveled hair and baggy clothes from all but a few. Despite the huge difference in strength and appearance, All Might is the same on the inside as a steadfast protector of the people and takes seriously his role as the “Symbol of Peace,” so much so that he’s unable to pace himself in his hero work…

Deku’s archrival from childhood is the brash and ill-tempered Katsuki Bakugo (spelled “Bakugou” in the manga). True to his personality, his Quirk allows his sweat to have nitroglycerin-esque properties, which in turn allows him to create localized explosions from the palms of his hands. A prodigy in terms of skill, his persistently foul moods mask to many his brilliance or his undying resolve to also be the top hero. As BnHA unfolds, Bakugo begins to resent Deku more and more, which leads to the beginnings and development of said rivalry on a grand scale.

It would take a while to highlight every last important character on the cast beside these three, but there are a few more worth mentioning in brief due to having larger supporting roles:

Ochaco Uraraka is the first person Deku meets at the U.A. Entrance exams, and after said sequence of events, they become quick friends. Noted for her ability to manipulate the gravity of objects with her fingertips, she’s bright, kind and hard working…but also has a crush on Deku, which is low-key but quite obvious.

There’s also Tenya Iida, who despite his uptight nature, becomes close to Deku and Uraraka as well. The younger brother of the hero Ingenium, Iida looks up to his sibling and has a stringent, strict sense of honor and decorum…but there’s more to his character than meets the eye, as he has an ability that grants him great speed produced from the jets in his calves…

Gaining a great deal of relevance in Season 2 is Shoto Todoroki, the son of a very famous hero (no spoilers on that!) and another prodigy with a powerful Quirk that allows him manipulation of both ice and fire. Since he’s a walking spoiler for parts of season 2 (for those who have not seen the show) I’ll note that his resourcefulness and power are very impressive, though his level of control and personal path to walk pose their own issues for him.

Finally, I’ll mention Shigaraki again. I talked about him in my thoughts, but know he’s the major threat moving forward.

It’s a bit of a shame that this section can’t cover every last one of these characters in the show, but it’s a solid cast that translates the incredible design work of the manga well and in turn, the animation itself does wonders in bringing them to life thus far. 4.25/5 points.

Story quality: As you may have guessed from the character section, My Hero Academia’s tale is following Izuku Midoriya’s tale of “how he became the the #1 hero.” However, it’s never quite as simple as getting from point “A” to point “B” in a good to great series, and so it’s the vibrant mix of character development and different subplots converging at key moments that really makes the show’s story. It’s got a good flow and pacing for the most part; there have been gripes from some about the show’s usage of flashbacks, particularly in key moments, but this slight drawback hardly outweighs what otherwise is an enjoyable ride as heroes and villains alike gather their strength on the collision course known as “destiny.” 4/5 points.

Themes: Perhaps the most impressive themes of the series are the comprehensive exploration of “just what does it mean to be a true hero?” and the ever-well received (and in this case, well executed) message of one’s ability to always aim higher and break past their limits in a worthwhile pursuit to be great at one’s goals. There’s plenty of other more typical themes in there, from the friendship and rivalries aspect that’s typical in shonen, but the in-depth look and partial subversion of the hero genre is really very, very interesting thus far. 4/5 points.

Don’t insult the viewer: Clean-cut with just the right amount of rawness around the edges for a superhero shonen show, My Hero Academia’s an easily engrossing watch. There is some minimal fanservice, but hardly enough to warrant a deduction in the intagibles of the show (I’m looking at you, Mineta). A special note for the OST of this series, which has been fantastic up to this point and fits the essence of this world and its characters perfectly. 5/5 points.

Total Score: 22.25/25 (89%). A joy to watch unfold, My Hero Academia captures both a great sense of fun and storytelling within its immersive world; with a Season 3 coming at an undisclosed time (as of this writing) it’s a rock-solid start for a show that figures to stay on the forefront of conversations.

 

Review: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

A magical experience that defies stereotypes.

The Lowdown:

Show: Puella Magi Madoka Magica (often shortened to PMMM or just Madoka)

Studio(s)/years aired: Shaft/Aniplex, 2011

AniB’s thoughts: Well, well, well… some of you have patiently waited for this review for a while (shout-out to S.G.), and frankly, it’s a pleasure to have written it. Simply put, Madoka is a terrific show, defying the cringy stereotypes of the magical girl genre while delivering an highly favorable impact in only 12 episodes.

To be honest, it was hard to know what one should expect given that it was a blind watch and the genre has never been my usual choice to watch in animation, but experience took over and all the aspects that exists in any good to great animated show- gripping characters, stellar animation quality, and a very interesting story with progression- were all in place, along with some very thought-provoking thematic elements that created an unexpected depth in the storytelling.

It’s also worth adding that it was very pleasing to see a dearth of fanservice in this type of show. The genre lends itself to the stereotype, but instead, the show focused its efforts on its core experience that it delivered- and at the heart of it are some terrific characters. Madoka’s a likable, personable main character, but it is Homura- the mysterious magical girl with the power of time manipulation, and the strange creature known as Kyubey that truly steal the show. Both have very interesting motivations that drive them, and Homura in particular received an outstanding character arc.

It’s evident that Madoka Magica is the magical girl show for people who don’t normally watch these types of shows, simply because it is a great piece of work. It’s true the cast is mostly cute girls, but the themes they grapple with and the decisions they find themselves making in this world are all too real, with a gravity and dramatic tension that is nicely balanced. Based on my viewing, it’s safe to say Madoka is definitely one of the better anime from the East this decade and probably the best of its kind out there.

Now, onto grading:


Animation Quality: Modern 2-D anime, hand drawn but computer-shaded. Madoka pops off the screen, as good anime all tend to do- but its visuals also helps sell the complex and rich narrative it provides as well, along with its intriguing cast and thought-proving themes. Action sequences in particular are unique, using several different styles to indicate the chaos of witches in the show as an example. The animation does a wonderful job drawing the viewer into a compelling world. 5/5 points.

 

Characterization: The show focuses on the titular lead character, Madoka Kaname, and her role to play in the mysterious dealings of Kyubey, a strange alien being responsible for the creation of magical girls. Appearing as a small white, cat-like creature with red eyes and long ears adorned with hoop rings, Kyubey’s appearance and voice only add to the strangeness of this creature…and whose ulterior motives become more evident with the passage of time.

 

Madoka herself is a kind young junior-high girl who despite her musings about magical girls and their activities, is reluctant to become one due to the consequences of how Kyubey creates them- namely through a special, eternally binding contract. However, she is thrust inevitably into the middle of a looming crisis involving a super-powerful witch’s arrival, and the cruel consequences for all parties involved in this mysterious world.

 

Her best friend from school, Sayaka Miki, also finds herself intimately intertwined in the web of intrigue, but is is lured in by the promise of a unbounded wish as part of the magical girl contract with Kyubey. She cares deeply for a friend who suffered a crippling hand injury in an accident, and so Sayaka’s sense of justice is both pure and idealistic.

 

However, the most mysterious magical girl is Homura Akemi, a seemingly cold individual uninterested in the usual rules of being one, and with the highly unusual ability to manipulate time. What her purpose and goals are are shrouded in mystery through the show, but slowly reveal themselves.

There are other magical girls as well, one of which is a bit of a spoiler for those who haven’t seen this show, but the other is Mami Tomoe- who introduces both Madoka and Sayaka to the duties and responsibilities of the role, should they accept Kyubey’s contract.

Madoka is definitely a show that excels with its small cast and does a terrific job developing them in the concise, tight narrative that exists. It’s a treat to watch the development that takes place, and how well the show ties its cast into the overarching plot seamlessly. 4.75/5 points.

 

Story quality: Overarching plotline. Madoka’s story is quite difficult to boil down into a few words, let alone without spoilers, but overall, it’s a tale about the choices people make and their implications, just what exactly does it mean when one says “the greater good”, and the sacrifice involved with it, and a tale about true friendship and even love (in a non-romantic sort of way). It’s a terrific character-driven plot that has intrigue, action, and is hardly what you’d think a show featuring “magical girls” would look and feel like, especially given the narrative weight. 4.5/5 points.

 

Themes: Like the story, there is much to unpack in the thematic elements of this show. The consequences of all choices, and the idea that there is no such thing as a “free wish” is key, as is the idea that “the decisions you make seal your fate.” Also key is the idea of “what is selflessness vs unselfishness?” and “What is the cost of doing something that can be portrayed as altruistic? What does sacrifice truly mean?” Much is asked in this show, and these answers are given in surprisingly thorough detail for a 13 episode anime. 4.5/5 points.

 

Don’t insult the viewer: In an anime where the temptation is to have loads of fanservice, this really isn’t an issue here at all, and the show gains much for it. Tightly choreographed, briskly paced with action and dramatic tension throughout, it’s a gripping little watch. 5/5 points.

 

 

Total Score: 23.75/25 (95%). A case of where expectation pleasantly did not meet reality, Madoka Magica is a heavily thought-provoking watch with a lot more weight to its narrative and cast than one would officially be led to believe. It’s worth a look, even for those not into the magical girl genre as an all-around excellent show.


Like what you see? Enjoy Madoka? Leave a comment!

 

Hunter x Hunter is getting Greed Island in English: Why that’s a big thing

Nearly 15 years after the first animated attempt of Greed Island, the arc gets an dub.

As many of you may know from reading the material on this blog, Hunter x Hunter is a big favorite on here, which earned a highly favorable review, deservedly so, and also has an ongoing series where I’m comparing the 2011 anime to the arcs it shares with the 1999 anime, and a character piece about Killua. However, this article is about the final arc both animes share- Greed Island, and the very significant event happening in the anime right now- that the arc is finally getting a dub, which is unprecedented, and frankly, long overdue between the two anime versions. Here’s a brief look at the history of Greed Island in the Hunter x Hunter franchise (and specifically the anime.)


2001: Yoshihiro Togashi begins publishing the Greed Island arc in fall of 2001 in Shonen Jump.

2002: Nippon releases the first of three OVA sets; this one completes Yorknew City’s arc, which was not finished in the initial run of the show.

2003: The first of two Greed Island OVA’s is released. The manga version of the arc concludes in October of that year.

2004: Nippon Animation releases the final round of their OVA’s, which were Greed Island’s entire arc. This would also be their last outing on the Hunter x Hunter franchise and the definitive ending to the first anime, though it was left open-ended at the end of Nippon’s interpretation for the yet-to be created Chimera Ant arc (which never happened in 1999.)

2011: Hunter x Hunter is rebooted by Madhouse, which is a complete restart on the series with no binding ties to the first production.

2012: The Yorknew and Greed Island arcs air in their entirety (not as OVAs) for the first time. The anime also begins airing the Chimera Ant arc for the first time between either version as well.

2016: Two years after Hunter x Hunter finishes its run in Japan, the English dub begins for the show on Adult Swim’s Toonami block in May. Most of the year is the Hunter Exam and Zoldyck Family arcs.

2017: The anime finishes the Heavens Arena arc and for the first time, airs the final few episodes of Yorknew (that were OVA only in ’99 and Japanese only between both series) into English for the first time, and that brings us to now (at the time of this writing) where Greed Island is underway at last.


So over 13 years after Greed Island first made its animated debut, the arc finally getting an English dub is certainly an exciting prospect as initially stated. It will be interesting to see how key characters and interactions are handled with VA work going forward, and it will continue to serve as a slow-drip re-watch for long-time fans of the series as well. It’s also going to be a pleasure to listen to the ending credit song again- REASON, which is very nice:

(Skip to 0:17).

The biggest reason to be excited however, is that this fantastic series will continue to become more accessible to Western audiences who don’t follow subs. While I’m of the opinion that 2011’s Japanese VA work is actually excellent, a great dub always takes the cake for me if I can find one, and Hunter x Hunter has been no exception; it is well worth a look in English as it goes forward, not only for this arc, but for the four completed arcs already released (and it’s officially surpassed the released material of the 1999 dub) as well as the particular work already put in by the English cast.


Like what you see? Are you a fan of HxH and love this arc? Leave a comment!

 

Preliminary Review: Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) (post season 2)

The long anticipated second season of the show proved to be action packed and a solid continuation of the series.

The Lowdown:

Show: Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)

Studio (NA network)/ years aired: Wit Studio (Adult Swim/Toonami), 2013-

(NOTE: SPOILERS abound ahead, so skip to the grading if you want to avoid them.)

AniB’s analysis: Well, that went fast, didn’t it? After years of anticipation and waiting, the 12 episode second season of Attack on Titan ripped by in a flash, but the frenetic pace and non-stop action gave us an overall worthy continuation and adaptation in the series. I suspect season 3 will feel like the second half of a whole in regards to the current season that just concluded, but the anime still covered a great deal of ground, from the debut of the Beast Titan, to the low-key reveals of Bertoldt and Reiner as the Colossal and Armored Titans respectively, and even the slowly dawning revelations of a Titan’s origins.

It’s hard to find an exact starting point in discussing this frenetically-paced season. A good point to was the leading role Ymir emerged to take in the season, along with the increasingly interesting role of Christa, who in fact was disbarred royalty- her true identity being that of Historia, a bastard child of a royal lineage; the back-room mechanizations of the “priests” inside Wall Rose, and of course Ymir’s tragic, strange and unique backstory. The idea of Titan shifters, first brought to life in Eren and then Annie Leonhart in the form of the Female Titan, took a dominant role here- and Ymir introduced a small 5m form as opposed to the huge Shifters that existed elsewhere in the series. Her backstory was and is tragic- and in turn, her decision-making became much clearer in light of her own past and the future she saw ahead for herself.

Of course, the other huge dynamics at play were the aforementioned reveals of Reiner and Berthold as the Armored and Colossal Titans, respectively, and their own motivations for why they launched the fatal attack at the beginning of the series. This question of what drives them and their actions is pivotal in Season 2, where there’s a certain struggle for identity between the Scouts they’d become in the fight for humanity, or their actual purpose as infiltrators, meant to find “the Founding Titan” (who in fact is revealed to be Eren.) Needless to say, it brings another dynamic to the show…and between them and Ymir, there’s a lot of flashbacks to their training days in the military.

Finally, there’s the return and continuation of the Eren-Mikasa-Armin dynamic, with the latter 2 sworn to protect Eren, and the full circle completion of the events of 5 years ago in one sense, as Hannes gets involved as well. We also get to see Sasha’s (the potato girl’s) backstory and she gets a really neat episode where she rescues a single child from a Titan with nothing but her bare fists and a lot of running; and one other highly important point occurs- the mysterious origin of Titans begins to become devastatingly clear, with highly dramatic implications.

Season 3 promises to be one of high tension with plenty of story points moving forward, from Titan origins, to the continued role of the Beast Titan, and perhaps even the mysterious motives of the priests inside the walls. Finally… Dedicate Your Heart is one amazing opening song. SASAGEYO!


Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D anime, with computer cel shading. Attack On Titan, as you might expect, looks gorgeous… which also makes the various scenes of violence and destruction much more impressive. Character models are nice, and the whole show’s atmosphere is set up largely in part because of the animation, which captures all the little details like sunlight glimmering off Scouts’ capes, or the detailed features of city carnage. 5/5 points.
Characterization: The show’s main three characters are Eren Jaeger, an impulsive, hotly determined young man with the mysterious ability to transform into a Titan, and his two running mates, Mikasa and Armin. Eren himself is best described as passionate, where he throws himself fully into whatever he does and never gives up in a seemingly hopeless situation. He’s not the most talented individual, but his resolve and drive turns him into a top cadet out of his military training class, and in some ways, makes him ideal in possessing his Titan form.

The former (Mikasa) is a girl who was fostered by Eren’s family at a young age and later serves as his protector with few words and highly impressive combat skills. She usually is all buisness in dealing with Titans and other people, but has a warm side to those who she is close to. She is considered a prodigy as a Soldier and finished at the top of the cadets in her training class.

The latter (Armin) is a kind-hearted, but somewhat unsure kid who is also a master tactician and genius. His confidence grows as the first season wears on, and continues into the next season, where he is determined to protect Eren.

The show also features many other important characters, which are worth noting in addition to the ones highlighted in my thoughts: Ervin Smith, the formidable captain of the Scouts, and his right hand man, the skilled Captain Levi, the scientist Scout Zoe Lange, and several fellow trainees of Eren’s training cadet group (who have been shown to play huge roles). Overall, the cast is varied and well done, and recieved more time with development in season 2, which was very good. 4.5/5 points.

 

Story quality: There’s a heavy story-based plot structure with over-arcing elements, which makes sense, not only from a storytelling perspective, but also a director-based one (Tetsuro Araki also did the adaptation of Death Note, another heavily story-based anime.) There are no fillers, and the action stays constant through the series so far, with occasional pauses for more emotional moments and flashbacks. It’s well done so far, but still needs more time to mature into the final result, something that remains true after 2 seasons. 4.5/5 points.

 

Themes: Probably the most interesting part of the show so far is its deep and intimate exploration of emotions, morality, and practicality. The characters range in their philosophies, some of which are very difficult to grasp as an audience, such as Capt. Ervin Smith’s belief that sacrifice is not a personal affair, but a necessary one for the greater good of winning a war… It’s dark, and resonant, perhaps too dark at several points, but undeniably complex. 4/5 points.

 
Don’t insult the viewer: There’s a ton of blood and guts, but the writing is excellent, and the narrative throughout the two seasons assures Titan is not just a mindless, gory mess. There’s emotional gravitas and some really solid character development, which means while there’s a lot of death and destruction, it usually has the proper emotional heft to it. Titan’s also got some amazing openings and solid endings, which is always a big plus. 4.75/5 points.

 

Total Score: 22.75/25 (91%). A dark, chilling action thriller epic, Attack on Titan is a grimly gripping narrative of humanity, morality, and other such implications. It is an experience that should only be for 17 years and older, but for those of age, and willing constitution, the spectacle is immensely gripping and the emotional impact deep. The show will probably air a 3rd season sometime in 2018.


Like what you see? Have thoughts on Attack on Titan? Leave a comment!

Review: Monster

A perfect blend of action, thriller and mystery elements makes one terrific anime.

The Lowdown:

Show: Monster

Studio(US network)/years aired: Madhouse (SyFy), 2004-2005 (USA 2009-2010)

AniB’s thoughts: The name of this show- Monster– doesn’t pop off the page as an overtly exciting concept, but as it turns out, it’s another classic case of excellent execution on a pretty great concept and as a result, is one of the best anime I’ve seen.

Packed into 75 episodes, Monster’s a mid-length experience that truly feels excellent every step of the way, expertly weaving a complex story while seamlessly transitioning from one part of the story to the next; its midpoint “finale” is incredible, only to be one-upped by the stunning conclusion, and the character development is mind-blowingly excellent. There may not be a “perfect anime,” but on many levels Monster is very close. It nails both “psychological thriller” and “mystery” genres flawlessly into one package; runs multiple plotlines parallel to the main one, seemingly disparate at times, but ultimately ties them all together in a very satisfying manner…and if that wasn’t enough, gives us one of the great villains in animation. It’s truly a monster of an experience.

What does this all mean to me beyond gushing effusive praise? It’s proof that you can find a great show if you keep looking under rocks. I was unaware of Monsters existence until occasional guest writer and friend Onamerre discovered the intro theme on a Youtube search, and suggested I watch the show based off his impression of that opening. (Goes to show you openings do in fact, have a key first impression.) It’s a show that’s the best representative of the seinen anime label if you wish to call it that- clearly intended for slightly more mature audience, but hardly edgy or contrived, like some shonens, and it’s been something that I was quite excited to write about for a while based on how much this was both an enjoyable and good experience.

One last note: It was difficult to write this piece and not spoil the whole plot. For those of you who have seen the series, you’ll understand exactly why that is, given the twists and moments of discovery in this show. For those unfamiliar with the show, know that you’re in for a treat best seen without spoilers and an expectation of being ready for anything. Perhaps the reason this show was so terrific was in part because the manga writer also spearheaded the anime- but it’s overall an excellent example of what the best of anime has to offer. Onwards to grading!


Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D anime. The usage of the animation in this series is vital in telling the tale it wishes to convey, and as a result, it’s beautifully and hauntingly scripted. With pleasant character models, detailed settings, and meaningful imagery, Monster’s usage of the art form is sublime. 5/5 points.

 
Characterization: Featuring a diverse cast of characters, the show centers on Kenzo Tenma, a Japanese neurosurgeon, and a boy he rescues from a bullet in the head, Johan Liebert. Tenma is shown to be a rising star in the medical field in Germany (right after reunification) who has his career sidetracked by the surgery-when he decides to save the boy instead of a prominent, but corrupt politician who also needs brain surgery. To make matters worse, the boy disappears shortly afterwards from the hospital, with his attending doctors found dead…pushing into the main events of the show. Overall, Tenma is a kind person and a brilliant neurosurgeon, but his character arc is complex and riddled with difficult decisions and dangerous paths.

 

Additionally, the story features Nina Fourtiner (Anna Liebert), Johan’s sister- who is entangled in the show’s central plot and mystery as she searches for her past and the truth of the mysterious night where her brother was brought into the hospital; Detective Heinrich Lunge, a crack BKA officer and an obsessive workaholic bent on catching criminals no matter how hard or difficult the case, and Ava Heinemann, the one-time fiancee of Tenma,who becomes estranged after the events of the beginning of the show, turning into a bitter alcoholic with many regrets. Finally, there’s Dieter, a young boy who is rescued from the last vestiges of a horrific social experiment…

There’s plenty more that could said about the cast, but in the case of Monster, it would amount to one massive spoiler. Know that there are several other key characters in what proves to be a strong cast, and the character development is top notch- and you’ll be left amazed at the show’s central villain and the twists this show delves into. 5/5 points.

 
Story quality: One massive overarching plot line, with smaller arcs comprising a wholly connected story. Monster’s story is all about its characters and their different, yet similar quests all leading back to each other, tied together by a certain fateful operation.

Unfolding in smaller arcs, the pacing is steady and has no filler so to speak; every episode either focuses on plot or character development or both, and the answers to various questions are fulfilled in interesting and ultimately satisfying ways. 5/5 points.

 
Themes: There’s a heavy focus on various relationships and competing ideas of philosophies on life, and the whole question of one’s own value and the very idea of personhood and humanity. Deep and complex, Monster’s explorations of these ideas can be occasionally disturbing, but on the whole, brilliant and in line with the sort of expectations it sets. 4.5/5 points.

 
Don’t insult the viewer: Brilliantly paced and deeply compelling, Monster is a masterpiece in the genre with its writing, with maybe the occasional hard to watch moment….which really adds to the dramatic tension in this case. It’s a show that stays vibrantly packed to the brim with flowing action and plot progression, different locales and a excellent sense of pacing. Finally…the opening theme is perfect for this show- haunting, serious and just terrific.  5/5 points.

 

Total Score: 24.5/25 (98%). Brilliantly adapted and deeply complex, Naomi Urusawa’s Monster is a hidden masterpiece that is relatively unknown outside anime circles. Due to its incomplete airing on the SyFy network, a US station not traditionally known for animation, it has flown under the radar as one of the 2000’s best shows. It’s a must watch for animation fans and a solid recommendation even to others based on its strong mystery, psychological and thriller elements.


Like what you see? Know about Monster? Leave a comment below!

 

First Impressions: My Hero Academia (Boku no Hero Academia)

Hello long-awaiting readers,

It has been a while since I posted something, but I’ve not been simply twiddling my thumbs, and so my star summer anime project has turned out to be finally watching what’s been released so far of My Hero Academia. Consider this a very strong impression, indeed…PLUS ULTRA!

If you’re a fan of anime or have been following anything at all the past year or so, the biggest show outside of the long-awaited Season 2 return of Attack on Titan was this one- My Hero Academia, often referred to by its Japanese name, Boku no Hero Academia, or BnHA for short. The bottom line here is simple from yours truly: it’s becoming the next big shonen to erupt in the popular conscience…and it’s really, really good.

For those who don’t know (like myself before watching), it’s a show about a version of Earth in which superpowers- known as “quirks” in the BnHA universe- manifest and become commonplace, so much so that society itself becomes the stuff of comics, and regular humans with no such abilities dwindle to a mere 20% of the population. In turn, there’s heroes and villains- and becoming a hero has become a highly sought after and revered position in society. For the main character- a quirkless boy named Izuku Midoriya- this is his dream, though his status as a normal kid makes him a big dreamer and fanboy of the actual pros but not much else.

As fate would have it, it all changes with a fated encounter where Midoriya is rescued by his childhood hero, who also happens to be the world’s symbol of peace- All Might….and it takes off from there.

While I normally don’t like summarizing the beginnings of plots at all, these sort of initial impressions are almost difficult to do without them since in my excitement, I’ve caught up to the current run of the show. I’ll also mention that BnHA is being simulcast online via Funimation. But to get to the meat of what really is at stake here: this is a show absolutely worth watching for a number of reasons:

-The characters: Just from watching many shows and writing many reviews, there’s a premium to be placed on character development and a great cast, and this show delivers, big time. Midoriya is a delightful protagonist, and the rest of the main and supporting cast is diverse and interesting, with distinct personalities– a must in a show that features the superhero genre.

-The animation: The studio doing the show is Bones- and if you know anything about them, they’re the folks behind Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (which I gave a glowing review of.) The action sequences are richly detailed and vibrant, the colors pop, and everything is just so lively.

-The soundtrack: There’s some really catchy tunes and appropriate music that enhances this show exponentially. The theme songs in particular are real winners. Here’s a taste.

-Faithful manga adaptation: While I’m not really so much of a stickler about the exact 1:1 accuracy of manga adaptations, this show’s really faithful. It also doesn’t have filler, which is a huge plus in my book.

-Themes: Strong, straightforward themes are given a new lift and weight by the other strong story and character elements…plus, there’s some very real issues that occur aside from the tropes you’d expect in a show of this style.

 

I’ve completely fallen in love so far with My Hero Academia, and while I’m not doing a graded analysis today (given this is an impressions piece), I will give a 2-season preliminary review once the second half of the current season finishes its run. The show’s well worth a look as both a summer treat and for viewing purposes in general, and while I could say much more that is specific to the show, I’d like others to experience it too without spoilers. Find out what it truly means to be a hero and go beyond…


Like what you see here? Love My Hero Academia or has your interest been piqued? Leave a comment!