Legacy and the Aging Protagonist: In Defense of Dragon Ball Super

Dragon Ball Super is one of those series that’s incredibly easy to dismiss as an easy cash-in to a long-lived franchise (though honestly, that title belongs moreso to the Dragon Ball Heroes card game). New characters are introduced for the purpose of story-expansion, and new power-ups are invented almost to accompany every new addition to the cast. And yet a good 50+ episodes in, the series has been doing a surprisingly solid job of not only continuing the story from where it left off, but also progressing each character’s arcs, keeping in mind the series’ 30+ years of in-world history to pinpoint where characters currently are emotionally. Not bad for a show about dudes punching alien-dudes until they die or befriend each other.

DBSuper Vegeta v Freeza

r we besties yet? Y/N

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A good chunk of the ReLIFE EDs have been covered by Goose House

relife / goose house
ReLIFE
is a fascinating series for a number of reasons. For the uninitiated, it started off as a webcomic by author Yayoiso telling the story of an unemployed 27-year-old given a second chance at a more fulfilling life by entering the ReLIFE program where he’s turned back into a teen to re-live his final year at high school. And if that wasn’t enough of a pull for you, crunchyroll has mirrored its Japanese streaming counterparts and has released the entirety of the anime adaptation Netflix-style for any and all people prone to binge-watching over weekly-viewing.

I’m a bit behind on the anime version myself, but I did notice that episode 2’s Ending Theme had been previously covered by Japanese group Goose House, known for the second Ending Theme in the Silver Spoon anime, and the first Opening Theme in the Your Lie in April anime. Curious, I figured I’d check ReLIFE‘s full list of endings and found that 1) holycrap, there’s a different ED for all 13 episodes, and 2) a whopping 8 of those 13 songs have been covered by Goose House at one point or another, some of which date from back when the group went by “playyouhouse.”

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Correlation Between Modern Manga Writing and Short-Episode-Count Anime

Anime adaptations of manga are nothing new. Checking upcoming anime every season, there’s always an interest in discussing what manga is deserving of an adaptation. That said, while interests in different subgenres continue to crop up among modern anime, episode counts are continuing to drop. Long gone are the days when 50-100+ episode anime was the norm. Now more than ever, anime episode count is dwindling, and it’s been affecting manga-ka in an unexpected way, having them take different approaches when it comes to writing their stories in hopes of nabbing that sought-after anime adaptation.

wanpawnnnnnnnch
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Gabe Finally Watches: Nana

Nana tells the story of two 20-year-olds named Nana that have a chance encounter on a train to Tokyo—probably the most American-style setup for a josei I’ve ever seen. And the Western influence doesn’t stop there. From the apartment the two end up sharing, to the burger/bar the girlier Nana frequents, nearly everything about the series makes a point of distancing itself as far from your typical Japanese dramas as possible.
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Digimon Tri Episodes 1-4: Twittered

Digimon 00
I think we all know the lyric should be “ON MY LOVE.”

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3 Things I Liked in the Live-Action Attack on Titan Movie

Was the live-action Attack on Titan movie bad? No. Would I watch the live-action Attack on Titan movie again? No.

(insert "they wasted all their budget on trailer-specific scenes" joke here
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s three movie-only details that were pretty enjoyable: Read more of this post

Gabe finally Watches: Michiko and Hatchin

So Toonami recently started airing Michiko and Hatchin, which I’ve used as an excuse to finally watch the series in its entirety myself.

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Gabe Finally Watches: Genshiken

It’s strange to be able to refer to college in the past-tense. It’s even stranger to compare your college experience with those told in works of fiction only to see how painfully inaccurate they were to your dull, dull existence as an undergrad. Thankfully, Genshiken has my back when it comes to the ordinary (yet entertaining!) college life.

genshikencap01

Genshiken (shorthand for “Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyūkai” or “The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture”) tells the story of an anime/manga/gaming college club and the people that inhabit said club’s clubroom. Actual scenes of the characters attending classes, studying, etc are few and far between, as the series’ main focus is on what the characters do in their spare time. As such, a lot of time is spent bumming around in Genshiken: playing retro videogames on an old 4:3 TV, having rambling conversations referencing last week’s anime episodes and in general just trying to forget that by the end of your academic career, you’re expected to nab a job and join the rest of the working world. That said, the series resonates with me to a painful degree.

You would think that the idea of nerdy college students spending their days bumming around making nerd references may get old fast, but the series keeps things fresh by constantly switching focus to different characters. Initially, you are introduced to college freshman Sasahara, who comes off as a rather plain guy that joins Genshiken on a whim. But as the series progresses, it begins to focus on other club members, like Madarame—poster-boy for anime fanboy, and Kasukabe—a complete non-nerd, who puts up with the club’s nonsense since her boyfriend Kohsaka is a regular member.

It is in this combination of newbie fan, fanboy, and non-fan that Genshiken begins to show its true colors as a thesis on what truly defines one as an “otaku.” And while the series may come off as meandering at times, if you are able to relate to any of the characters, then it’s well worth the watch.

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The series continues to roll with this concept in its subsequent OVA episodes, where a fourth type of fan is introduced in new freshman Ogiue—the closet fan. While the OVAs only total at three episodes, they do add something fresh to the table in its new character as well as continue to flesh out old ones—particularly Madarame and Kasukabe, who have become something of a foil to each other.

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It is in its second full season (Genshiken 2) that the series begins to take a somewhat different approach to its formula. While storytelling remains consistent with the past season and OVA, visual representations of the characters’ conversations have become noticeably more… explicit. Before this season, characters referencing sex (either in real life or in the games/anime they consume) would mainly keep the details to themselves. This season, however, seems to take full advantage of the clearly higher quality animation it’s been granted by showing in full glory the gritty and borderline not-safe-for-work perverted thoughts running through some of the characters’ heads. Fanservice in general begins to crop up more frequently with this season, resulting in some of the more out-there episodes.

Nonetheless, the series continues to deliver, not only repeating the same formula it’s started with, but applying it in slowly changing situations, as each of the characters begin to grow, ultimately ending in some of the upperclassmen graduating.

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One of the bigger factors that kept me watching the series with each new season was its clear passing of time. For those not in the know, Japanese colleges typically last for three years. That said, it seems like the series as a whole grants just the right amount of time for viewers to be fully acquainted to the characters before they graduate and are given significantly less screen time. Even as I finished up the first season, I still wasn’t able to remember each character’s name. But by the end of the second season, character names were remembered just in time for me to get sad when they left.

Genshiken Second Season (which is technically closer to a third season) introduces a new batch of freshmen. The club is now primarily female, and as such, club conversations have slowly become fujoshi-oriented. Speaking as a guy, it was jarring but interesting to see this sudden shift. Technically, the conversations were still nerdy, but it was geared more towards this different subculture that I’m just completely unfamiliar with. Talks about couplings, and who would be the proper “on top” partner… it’s all just so foreign to me. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to note just how the club changed in mood due to a sudden shift in gender ratio.

On top of the blitz of new characters/secondary characters coming to the forefront is Madarame—former chairman of Genshiken and recent graduate. Having taken on a job nearby campus, Madarame has taken on the role of the strange uncle that stops by the club room perhaps more often than he should. Knowing this, he begins to feel melancholic, not really seeing any progress in his life at all. As his personal story begins to unfold this season, we as the viewers are given a new dimension to the series. Build up emotions and character interactions from past seasons all begin to pay off this time around, which is especially amazing considering how episodic the series felt like until this point. While each season of Genshiken can be enjoyed as its own separate entity, Genshiken Second Season is definitely made with the long-time fans in mind.

And while the latest season has ended with Second Season, the source material manga is still ongoing, continuing to balance current otaku “funny because it’s true” jokes while fleshing out the series’ well-established characters.

Gabe Finally Watches: Code Geass

The first time I ever heard of Code Geass was many moons ago back when I moderated a Death Note forum, and a poster asked for anime suggestions with similar theming. At the time, I just shrugged off the suggestion and went about my merry way, content that my modern anime know-how was limited to whatever the American Shonen Jump articles took the time to hype up.

If only I stayed that content.

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Initial Thoughts: Anime Summer 2013 Season

Another season, another batch of anime to spot check. With this being my second “real” season of checking out multiple anime as they air, I like to think I’ve learned some things about which titles to stick with and which to drop like a bad habit.

(Insert standard disclaimer of me just being one guy that doesn’t want to sift through multiple episodes of garbage before officially deeming it unwatchable. Sometimes I side with the common opinion on anime of the season. Other times I won’t. It’s kinda expected when you try to develop these things called “opinions.”)

And now, in no particular order…

WATAMOTE – No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular

WATAMOTEI read a couple chapters of the Watamote manga a while back and thought it was decent enough—a story about an unpopular girl that’s too caught up in her own delusions of what high school should be like to really develop something of a friendship with any of her peers. It had this whole unapologetic feel about it, especially when it came to main character Tomoko and her sincerely “hard to watch” embarrassing attempts at being more social. In general, its subject matter felt like something I’m sure most anime/manga enthusiasts could relate to. And if skimming the internet’s proven anything, it’s definitely done at least that much.

But I still can’t get into it.

Watching the first episode of the anime, all the problems that only felt minor in the manga felt more noticeable now that I was watching it in all its animated glory. Pacing felt slow, especially for a series that leans more towards a comedy. Scenes with Tomoko’s extended musings about defending her unpopularity seem to ramble for longer than necessary. And the general feel of the series just makes me not like her as a main character. Rather than taking all her undesirable habits and turning them on their head into something funny and enjoyable to watch, I’m led to believe that I’m supposed to cling to her character based solely on the relatability of her problem, which I personally can’t do.

Not saying I’m in denial about having never been in an awkward situation. My having a blog pretty much hints that I’ve had at least a good handful of awkward situations in my life. Just saying that WataMote isn’t my cup of uh… awkward tea.

(I will say Tomoko’s relation with her brother is probably one of the most accurate portrayals of a brother/sister relationship in all of anime. The degrees of “not caring” her brother has about her own problems is painfully accurate.)

Blood Lad

Blood LadI feel I’ve seen this show before, except done a million times better. Oh yeah, I did. Last season.

Blood Lad is yet another anime about a quirky demon and his developing interest in the human realm. Though rather than initially being a textbook baddie that develops a soft spot for humans and their daily strives, the demon in question is essentially a Japanophile. And a really obnoxious one at that.

Furthermore, the constant use of reference humor in the first episode alone just rubs me the wrong way. I get that we’re talking about a demon Japanophile, but when some of his most recent references are about Dragon Ball, signs usually point to the rest of the series’ humor being of the “least common denominator type.” And anime fans as well as the viewing public deserve better.

(Though considering that Grown Ups 2 actually happened, as well as half the trash that airs on the big 3 networks, I honestly think this is what a majority of us deserve.)

Chronicles of the Going Home Club

Chronicles of the Going Home ClubSpeaking of shows you’ve seen done better before…

For those living under a rock, the “cute school girls forming a club about nothing and having equally ‘nothing’-types of conversations” has been done a million times over to the point that I feel like if another show of similar genre pops up next season, I fear the worst (insert Ghostbusters “dogs and cats living together” bit).

Don’t get me wrong; I feel like treading the same genre past said genre’s peak is possible. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment that was last season’s Aiura. Then again, maybe the 4 minutes per episode was more helpful than I initially thought it was.

Whatever the case, Chronicles of the Going Home Club is essentially an empty husk that shows exactly how far we’ve gone from the likes of Haruhi, Lucky Star, etc. The entire cast is bland and uninteresting; the goofy situations they get themselves into have been done and done a lot better; its inexplicable seal mascot just doesn’t cut it; even the animation feels like something from 5+ years ago.

I will say that the one thing the show has going for itself is its almost Animaniacs style of self awareness, with characters constantly mentioning things like the ending theme animation. Though I’m sure even that tiny sliver of light won’t be enough to make this show shine.

Servant x Service

Servant x ServiceServant x Service is essentially the third season of Working!! except with an entirely different cast and setting. I like to think both shows take place in the same universe a la The Cosby Show and A Different World.

The main characters are a batch of social workers going through the everyday ins and outs of working for the man, with most of the humor coming from the characters’ own specific brands of wackiness rather than coming from the situations they get themselves into. You have Lucy, the well endowed main character that’s become a public servant to seek revenge on the public servant that OK’d her disgustingly long legal name; Miyoshi, the fresh out of college worker that just found her first job ever; and Hasebe, the slacker that surprises everyone whenever he gets one of the other two out of a jam. Each character, as well as the supporting cast has his or her own shtick, but for a show like this, it works.

It’s one of those shows that has a unique enough premise that hasn’t been done to death (yet), so I’m pretty forgiving when the jokes are mediocre at best. It knows exactly what it wants to be, aims for that, and is pretty decent when it comes to delivering. One of the few shows I’m actually following this season.

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club

aka "swimming anime" if tumblr is any indication

aka “swimming anime” if tumblr is any indication

Free! is this season’s Flowers of Evil, in that all its negative hype seems to be working for it. For the uninitiated, the show originated as a 30-second animation bit that exploded on the internet and resulted in a full-on show not only being made, but being made by Kyoto Animation (Haruhi, Lucky Star, K-ON!, etc). All its hype came from the fact that the 30-second bit well… appealed mainly to the female demographic in the most visual way possible. Or at least that’s how most people would put it.

I’d go into a ramble on the issue myself, but I feel like Mr. blogsuki worded it perfectly (check out the rest of his blog, btw):

“Women fanservice would be non-threatening guys who know how to install kitchen cabinets and crown molding, hence why the Property Brothers have three shows on HGTV right now. Boy fanservice would just be nakkid ladies. Men fanservice would just be nakkid ladies. So it’s a bit charming Kyoto is approaching Free! as they would K-On!.”

The main characters in the show are essentially gender-swapped versions of the ones most anime fans are familiar with, which is its main draw. You have the overly cutesy one, the brains, the serious-minded one, and the rival to the serious-minded one. It’s a formula that’s been done time and time again, so who’s to question it?

I will say, though, that as incredibly “for the ladies” as the 30-second bit was, the first episode seemed significantly tame (sans the ending animation, at least). If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought it was more of a sports anime than anything else. All it needs is the super finicky female sports club manager and we’re set.

As for whether or not I’ll actually keep up with it past the first episode, I can’t say. Part of me is sincerely interested in just how a “manservice” show will go, while the more sensible part of me just doesn’t care. Like I said, I think of it as the Flowers of Evil of this season.

Gatchaman Crowds

Gatchaman CrowdsI never watched Battle of the Planets or G-Force: Guardians of Space, and I’m sure I’m better off watching this reboot of the Gatchaman franchise without having done such.

From what I’ve gleamed of the original series, it’s essentially Power Rangers in anime form. 5-man team, mecha, forces of evil… pretty standard stuff. The problem with the jump to this reboot is just how downplayed the actual team’s been so far. Three episodes in, and only two of the crew is given any significant screen time, with the rest given just enough time for a snarky one-liner or two.

Seeing Gatchaman Crowds from a more objective standpoint, the focus mainly on Gatchaman members Hajime and Sugane works decently enough. Sugane is the seasoned vet, and a straight-shooter when it comes to getting his bad guy. Hajime, meanwhile, is the “think outside the box” rookie that the team needs. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, and three episodes in and it works alright enough.

Where the show really shines is in its world-building. In a world where not only are smart phones used in the noblest way possible, but moleskin notebooks are the hot commodity for civilians and superheroes alike—it makes for an interesting setting, at least. To have scenes with the Tiger & Bunny-looking Gatchaman mechas duking it out with flying rubiks cube monsters be less interesting in comparison to scenes with civilians saving each other with the help of their GALAX phones is interesting to say the least.

The show’s pacing so far is surprisingly slow, especially for an action series, and the character designs are a bit out of the ordinary (think Tatami Galaxy minus being paired with beautiful backgrounds, so I start to mind) but to have the underlying message so far be that the civilians are the true heroes leaves me interested as to where the show will go from here.

Yami Shibai

Yami ShibaiAt about 4-minutes per episode, Yami Shibai is essentially Are You Afraid of the Dark? for people with even shorter attention spans. Like most shows of this type, episodes have either been hit or miss (unsure how to feel about having the source of the jump scare be immediately arrested in the following scene), but the traditional Japanese paper puppet-style of animating the majority of the series as well as its short run time is enough to keep me following.

Turning Girls

Turning Girls…speaking of 4-minute shorts with limited amounts of animation.

Turning Girls is about a group of twenty-somethings living in what the Naruto series has coined as “the springtime of youth” (yep, it’s 2013 and I’m making a Naruto reference). The number of misadventures the trio of girls goes on reminds me of some of the less sadness-inducing scenes in Solanin (or any Inio Asano work, really) in that they probably aren’t the best of its kind, but you can really relate to the cast and their seemingly aimless meandering through their late twenties.

So basically, all the relatable-ness that I should have felt in WataMote ended up here in my case.

Monogatari Series: Second Season

Monogatariah, the piece de resistance.

Funky naming aside (Nisemonogatari and Nekomonogatari aired following the original Bakemonogatari, so this isn’t a “second season” by any stretch), like most returning series, I’m sure most are already decided. And while a majority of the internets deem the Monogatari series as nothing more than an incredibly text-heavy fanservice show with nothing of any substance, I can’t disagree more. The text-heavy conversations the characters have among each other on the surface seem so superficial, but as the episodes progress, you begin to see just where the meaning behind the conversations go. And when that moment clicks, you feel a certain sense of being treated to something so much more than what one would initially expect.

The general premise of “oddities” taking over people is second banana to this series’ top-notch writing, which is honestly all I could ever ask out of any series (How you gonna reference something said in the first series’ character commentary three shows later and not be praised? HOW?).

I can’t praise this franchise enough, and for those willing to delve into something more atypical, I’m sure you’ll feel the same. Or you’ll bitch about how you have to read so many subtitles, which… I mean c’mon, really?

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