Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

White Album 2 (Howaito Arubamu 2)

Well, folks, this will likely be my final anime review of the year. That is, unless I finish the last few episodes of Queen's Blade 2: The Evil Eye or do a serious marathon of season five of Naruto. I'm delivering this review to you a little bit earlier than I would have liked thanks to a lovely case of diarrhea. I mean, I really had planned to sleeping at least until nine today. Yet here I am at seven in the morning talking about anime and trying not to shit myself. Even I know there's a line to be drawn somewhere, right? 

Hold that thought....

(In the meantime listen to this.)

Okay, folks, let's get this review underway because I'm feeling wiped out at this point. (See what I did there?)

White Album 2 is the sequel to, you guessed it, White Album (reviewed here). It's an odd sequel, though. There really isn't anything that ties the two shows together. Two of the songs from the first show are featured (the title track gets a lot of heavy play, but Sound of Destiny gets its moment, too), but that is about it. I suppose, thematically speaking, there are a few similarities. Music plays a prominent role in both shows (more so in the second one, though) and the topic of dishonesty in relationships and forbidden love are also tossed about in good measure. Although it seems like the guy in the first show was the only one that really got some on a regular basis. 

White Album 2 takes place ten years after the original and just like the original it is based off of an adult visual novel. Although I've seen quite a few shows that come from the same kind of source material, I always think it is quite bizarre how an adult game can transform into an anime that could be seen by just about anybody and is often seen by just about everybody. Can you imagine anyone in the States adapting a television show or a movie from a porno with the end result becoming a massive success? Okay, maybe not a massive success, but at the very least something that isn't akin to a flop? 

Perhaps that's why few shows actually achieve true mainstream success in the West. Of the shows that have successfully crossed  over (Dragonball Z, Bleach, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, Naruto, Digimon, etc.) none of them are based off of an adult visual novel. In fact, so many of them are aimed at children and young adults (creating a shitload of toys, lunch boxes, trading cards, shirts, hats, and posters featuring everyone's favorite character doesn't hurt that cause, either). 

And I think that is why it seems so odd to me and my conservative Western sensibilities. I think I would be taken aback a bit if I walked into a Wal-Mart and found a Higurashi: When They Cry poster or a School Days action figure in the same aisle where they keep the Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. Of course, Wal-Mart is all about the generic flavor on the month anyway, but that's beside the point. While I have always been a big proponent the whole "not all anime is for kids" argument, I think I should extend that argument to say "most anime isn't for kids." In fact, a lot of it, while not seeming so adult on the surface, often has very adult origins.

Case in point: White Album 2

Unlike its predecessor, this show isn't as tedious or dense in its delivery. In fact, it's the exact opposite: simple and clean. That aura of intense depression and (dare I say it) suspense that clouded the first one isn't there on White Album 2. White Album 2 actually kind of feels like a "normal" teenage romantic comedy type of show at first. Although it isn't a comedy at all. Definitely a drama. But it looks bright and cheery and would be the perfect thing to snuggle up with your girlfriend and watch at Christmas time just before you break up with her. Like a pro. 

While the first show had a real bleak animation style this second show really does celebrate all things bright. I mean, it's tough to take things seriously or think things will turn out so bad when the animation is just so brilliantly colored. To show you what I mean, here are a few stills from White Album 2:

See it? Okay, well, here are a few stills from the first one: 

While that last picture does have a bit of shininess to it the colors don't reach the characters. Which is oddly prophetic, I must say. Most of the characters and backgrounds look just how they are drawn: emotionally deadening with the shade overtaking everything. On the other hand, White Album 2 tries to go for a bit more cutesiness and sparkle and the result is that the characters and backgrounds seem a lot more invigorated and invigorating. Yes, terrible heartbreaking shit will happen White Album 2, but it looks more inviting to the eye so that somehow makes it more palatable, I guess. 

In White Album 2 we have a different cast of characters. Unsurprisingly, they are high school students. Touya was the male lead in the first show, but this time it is the aspiring guitarist Kitahara Haruki we journey with. Since the light music club fell apart two weeks before the school festival, Haruki and his bandmate Iizuka Takeya no longer seem to have a shot at playing at the festival. However, a strange and unseen person has been playing piano in the music room next door. Haruki finds himself playing guitar to the piano and one of the songs they play is indeed White Album. Of course, this mystery piano player is someone Haruki knows quite well... even though it turns out that he doesn't really even know her. 

Then steps in Ogiso Setsuna as she starts singing to their song from the roof of the building and we have the makings of a good old fashioned love triangle. Inevitably, Setsuna and our mystery piano player join the band and while everything seems to be going smooth at the start it isn't until the end of the festival when Setsuna confesses her love to Haruki that things really get mucky. And since none of them followed my advice and elected to not go the threesome route just about everyone ends up getting hurt. 

Comprised of thirteen episodes, White Album 2 covers what is known as the Introductory Chapter of the visual novel. If that is any indication then there might be a sequel to this show on the horizon (White Album 2 2?). That would be welcome since I felt there was no real resolution this time around. It merely feels like the story just stopped. Which it did. 

Not sure I would call this show the sleeper hit of the Fall 2013 season, but it isn't too shabby. Since it is more conventional than its predecessor I am sure it will have more fans. The first series doesn't really need to be watched in order to enjoy this one, but my OCD doesn't allow that kind of thing.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Valvrave the Liberator (Kakumeiki Valvrave) (Season Two)

After being on hiatus for three agonizing months, Valrave the Liberator returned with a vengeance in October with another set of twelve episodes. (I reviewed the first season here.) The criticism of the early parts of the first season may have been that it started a bit slow and seemed a little too kiddie, but that same criticism can't apply to this second season. At all. Episode thirteen of the season picks up where episode twelve of the first season left off with Haruto and L-elf in Valvrave 01 taking on Cain in Valrave 02. Cain inevitably escapes before anything really happens (of course, he does) and we are fast forwarded two months into the future when the students of Module 77 land on the Moon.

After that L-elf decides it is time for a political journey to ARUS on earth, but things take a turn for the worse and they end up crash landing in the enemy territory of Dorssia. While in Dorssia their forces are split up and one of their very own is captured.

Things only get more complicated when a few Dorssian soldiers discover that Cain and the Valvrave pilots might not be human anymore. Things get downright bloody, many pivotal characters die (one of them in particularly you'll see coming a mile away), insurrection happens, and then it's all over and you're left with an oddly satisfied breathless sensation.

I got to say that this is a rather fitting conclusion to a really good mecha show. I do feel that the epilogue of the final episode rushed things a bit, though. Perhaps a more detailed conclusion in the form of an OVA would be the way to go. I'm fairly surprised that so many of the loose ends were tied up. A few still remain, though. Like that future prince seen in so many of the "flash forward" segment. Some of the plot points seemed a little bit too convenient. I mean, I know L-elf is an all-around badass, but it seems like he appears out of nowhere with a plan a little too often. 

But overall I am very satisfied. I'm sure I will watch it again in the future and if there is any company in America with any brains than they'll give this show a good dub and a blu-ray release. If not, I'd settle for a subbed blu-ray release. Whatever works. Although the infamous scene (you'll know when you see it) from episode nine of the first season might ruffle a few feathers. The parts with the students getting massacred by ARUS soldiers in season two will likely have a similar effect. Folks in the States can be such pussies. 

But we'll see. Either way this show gets a two thumbs up from me. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Naruto (Season Four)

When we left off, Naruto and Gaara were involved in an epic battle while the Third Hokage and Orochimaru were being forced to relive the same exact two minute scene for eight straight episodes. Well, the beginning of the fourth season finds that arc coming to a close with the death of the Third Hokage, the escape of a now-handicapped Orochimaru, and the inevitable stalemate between Naruto and Gaara.

The Village Hidden in the Leaves mourns for the loss of the Third Hokage and all of the others who were felled in Orochimaru's attack, but the chaos is not over just yet. Orochimaru may have made a temporary retreat, but a group known as the Akatsuki (of which Orochimaru used to be a part) is just starting to make its move. In this group is a man named Uchiha Itachi and he is the older brother of the douchebag Sasuke. Together with a guy who looks oddly like a shark, Itachi journeys to the Village Hidden in the Leaves with the sole purpose of capturing Naruto and the Nine Tailed-Fox that dwells within him.

While in town Itachi puts a serious hurting on both Sasuke and Kakashi Sensei before departing to do evil deeds elsewhere. Jiraiya and Naruto leave the Village Hidden in the Leaves in search of the legendary Sannin, medical specialist, and poor gambler Lady Tsunade with the hopes that she will be able to save Sasuke, Kakashi, and even the hobbled Rock Lee. Of course, the Village Hidden in the Leaves chooses to name Tsunade as the Fifth Hokage so finding her is even more important than ever.

Of course, Orochimaru is still out there and he just happens to be looking for Tsunade, too. He thinks that, even though he had part of his freaking soul sucked out through his arms, she will be able to create some sort of special jutsu to heal him of that particular ailment. Because, well, you know, band aids probably just won't do in that particular situation. 

Inevitably, Orochimaru, Tsunade, and Jiraiya all cross paths and get into a big fight while summoning all sorts of giant beasts and whatnot. It's an epic battle that ends in a stalemate, but Tsunade ends up siding with the good guys so that in itself is a victory. 

This summary is the bulk of the fourth season (episodes 79-104), but there are a few things I have left out. Episodes 97 and 101-104 are all filler episodes. 97 and 101 aren't too bad if you just want a few laughs, but they are too oddly placed within the series. The Race in the Land of Tea episodes (episodes 101-104 as well as 105-106 from season five) are a little bit too time consuming for me, but that isn't exactly my biggest grievance.

When the real storyline resumes on episode 107 we have the long-awaited clash between Naruto and Sasuke and Sasuke's subsequent turn to the dark side. That's some serious shit, folks. The fillers concluding the fourth season and starting the fifth season feel way out of sorts with the direction the series seems to be headed and are nowhere near as engaging. 

However, the dilution of this series is only beginning. After the series reaches its real conclusion on episode 135, the series continues by pumping out 84 consecutive filler episodes. Episodes 136-220 are all filler. 

I am really not looking forward to that at all. 

I think I'll just skip that stuff once I reach 135 and go straight into Naruto: Shippuden. However, this season was pretty darn good. Just too filler-y. 

P.S. - Sakura continues to be a useless character. Only in the fillers does she seem to do anything worthwhile. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pacific Rim

This is one of those films that I both really wanted to see, but I also really didn't want to see. I know that sounds like I could very well be cybil, but I'm not. (Oh, yes, he is, and I can prove it!) I think the biggest reason I wanted to see it was because of my fondest for anime and the mecha genre. The Big O, Neon Genesis Evangelion, the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise, Gurren Lagann, Eureka Seven, Code Geass, Escaflowne, Gargantia on the Verduous Planet, Valvrave the Liberator, and so on and so on. Plus there's Transformers, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, The Iron Giant, and Super Sentai

I think robots are cool, okay? Robots fighting inter-dimensional monsters or aliens or modified human beings are even cooler. 

However, the classic movie fan side of my brain figured that the movie would probably be incredibly stupid with a terrible no named cast. So I ended up not seeing the film in theaters. 

The temptation was too great to not see the movie, though. So I did so on blu-ray. 

At an intimidating 131 minutes runtime, I'd say it's worth it. Very much so. If you approach it in the right mindset, that is. First of all, and this really does need to be stressed, this movie is about big robots fighting big aliens with enough buildings being destroyed to make the climax of Man of Steel look like an underachiever. Characterization, depth of story, and all that... Yeah, don't even bother. You're watching this because of the fights just like you might watch a Jackie Chan movie for the fights. 

With the exception of Ron Perlman (he doesn't even appear in the first hour so don't even watch it just because he's in it... if you are one of those weird people like me who only watch certain movies because of certain actors), I couldn't tell you the name of a single person in this movie. I suppose a lot of them are adequate actors and such, but they didn't really show that in this movie. After the epic fight in the first fifteen minutes of the movie, the next forty-five minutes are all about the characters and that's definitely not the strength of this movie. And it shouldn't be any surprise at all that the Japanese lady ends up being the main character's co-pilot. Of course, it's the only Japanese character in the movie, right?

The movie becomes sort of a waiting game for the next big fight during the characterization period. But once the final hour arrives we finally get some serious mecha vs. monster action. After all the mecha anime I've seen, I can say without a doubt that this movie doesn't exactly break any new ground. In fact, the part about "the Drift" just screams of the ghosts of anime past. The look of the Gypsy Danger is a lot like a fusion between Metroid and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Look at these pictures and tell me I'm wrong.

The action is really good, though. Unlike Michael Bay's Transformers movies, the fights are actually intelligible and well-choreographed. It actually feels like I'm watching an epic battle instead of being subjected to shaky-camera movement that tries to assume I know an epic fight is going on. Had the pesky humans in this movie been given smaller roles (or the parts given to much better actors) with better dialog then this movie would be a lot better. 

But the action does bring this movie way up because the special effects really are fantastic. It's no Mobile Suit Gundam SEED or Neon Genesis Evangelion, but it's the closest to a live action adaptation of a mecha anime there has been (whether or not del Toro says that was his intention is beside the point). Again, the acting sucks and the characters are kinda vanilla, but if you can just get through that then you'll be rewarded with some serious mecha action. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

For the past two years I have been posting about what I've gotten for Christmas. I'm not sure if this is a good habit or not, but it sure does help keep my memory straight. This year I didn't ask for any books because I already have Dr. Sleep and as well as a Kindle; I'd just feel silly asking for a physical book. 

Instead I asked for movies and clothing. I actually did sit down and make a list a stuff to help ease the burden of guesswork. Since I have so many movies, CD's, and anime (something I didn't bother asking for because I buy plenty of that myself), I suppose I can be very tough to buy for. 

However, my clothing is fairly simple and straightforward. I typically wear blue jeans (preferably dark blue) and a black shirt of some sort. In fact, I generally always wear at least something black. I suppose my "goth" phase is something I'll never quite shake. Now that my brother got me two pairs of Rude "skinny" jeans from Hot Topic I suppose I'll have to revive my old pair of "Frankenstein shoes" because my none of my other shoes would quite go with them. I also got a really good Black Sabbath shirt and another Slayer shirt. My old Black Sabbath shirt is a medium and doesn't fit so well, but this new one is large and it has a better design. 

I have been trying to expand my style a bit, though. Less goth-rocker-nerd and more casual hipster, I guess. 

My mom and dad got me three pairs of George pants (blue, khaki, black), a George shirt (red), three Faded Glory shirts (brown, blue, black), and two London Fog jackets (one tan, one black). My brother also got me a jacket, but this one was from Hot Topic and will match the "skinny" jeans and my Black Sabbath or Slayer shirt pretty well. I tried the "skinny" jeans on not too long ago and it was kind of weird. They fit, but they are like wearing stretchy jean tights. They are made up of 2% Spandex, though. Not really my style, but hey, I can wear 'em with confidence and style. They are kind of neat, though. Weird, but neat. I hope this doesn't trigger some horrible 80's Axl Rose hairspray phase on my part. Either way, I sure as hell hope they don't shrink during the washing. There's no room left for that. 

The London Fog jacket was something I wanted although I wasn't really expecting it. The one I have is a bit small and it was more or less bequeathed to me by a former next neighbor who died from lymphoma when I was much younger. So there's a lot of sentimental value with that old jacket. However, it's time to retire that jacket and the only way I could do it was to do so with another London Fog. I certainly wasn't expecting two of them and they don't quite replace my original, but they are pretty nice in their own right. 

I also got a multi-purpose knife, a pair of gloves I can wear when it's a little chilly, a Dove shampoo set, and six blu-rays (The Wolverine, Man of Steel, The Avengers, Pacific Rim, Iron Man 3, and Thor). 

Honestly, I got everything I asked for this year. It pays to make a list, right? 

The only things I didn't get were blu-rays of the first two Iron Man movies, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, and a trench coat. But that's cool. I can do a little bit of post-Christmas shopping. I don't know about you, but I have always wanted a nice trench coat, but those things are understandably expensive. That could very well be on my next Christmas list, too. 

Perhaps the odd thing about this Christmas is how much shopping we all did at Belk, Dillard's, and J.C. Penney's. Kohl's, too. I know I went to J.C. Penney's twice, Kohl's twice (oddly enough I ended up not buying anything on both trips... unless you count digital purchasing on my Kindle from Amazon), two different Dillard's in two different counties, and Belk at least once. I am so "shopping mall-ed out" I can't remember if I got anything at Belk, though. I only bought one thing at Target and thankfully my account hasn't been hacked. Yet. Other than that I shopped online.

I got my brother an oilskin duster and a faux leather jacket (and we apparently live in a crazy universe where an oilskin duster is cheaper than a faux leather jacket). I also got my dad a faux leather jacket, too. The big gift for my mom (from me, at least) was The Bond 50 collection that included every single official Bond movie on blu-ray. That bad boy was one of my online purchases. 

All in all, we had a very good Christmas from a materialistic standpoint. We are also pretty happy in each other's company so I don't want to hear nothing about us being a bunch of materialistic heathens, either. 

P.S. - I also got a Pokey toy. This was a joke thing because I said I wanted a pony or a camel on my Christmas list. Because I wanted to give everyone a goal to reach. Me and my big mouth. But I got some Pez with Spider-Man, Thor, Wolverine, and Hulk dispensers so I think that makes up for Pokey. I just wish I hadn't been told to open the Pokey toy last. 

Anyway, I hope you all got what you wanted. ;)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Re-Visiting Stephen King's The Shining #3 - Part Two: Closing Day

Re-reading a book is something that has never really appealed to me. It's not a matter of remembering things (I used to be very good at things like that, but I'm not quite so good at it anymore... I practically had most of the events of The Stand memorized at one point, but that's all gone now), but a matter of feeling like I've "conquered" a particular book and conquering the same book twice (or more) seems kind of silly. To me, anyway. Of course, there's always the enjoyment factor of a book and it certainly has been a long time since I read this book for the first time. I remember enjoying it and being inspired by it.

It's a tedious book, though. That's something I am beginning to remember (or rediscover), too. The first two parts took me a long time to read when I first read the book. Of course, they also took me a long time this time around, but for different reasons. Since I read The Shining as an attempt to essentially teach myself how to read a novel for enjoyment in high school I found it to be tough sledding; I also wasn't good at reading and I read very slow. I kept having to read things over again because my comprehension sucked. And The Shining itself is not a very fast-paced book. Sure, you could fly through the pages if you were really committed to it (and much better read than I was), but the first hundred-fifty or so pages are essentially characterization pieces. The Overlook is indeed shown, but nothing of real importance happens concerning the Overlook. Although the most interesting thing to happen in part two is the conversation between Hallorann and Danny about the shining. Stephen King does pretty good at creating characters, but it seems that so much of the early part of this book is nothing but characterization and that can be brutal if you are just starting out trying to read or want something a little bit more in-your-face. You keep waiting for that big scary moment to happen and nothing does happen for a long time. 

There's nothing wrong with that process (as long as the end result is worth it), but it does take some patience. When I was younger I found that patience tested a bit too much so when I finally gave up on the book just after finishing part three. Briefly gave up, but gave up nonetheless and returned the book back to the school library before I could get a late fee. About six months later (or something like that) I saw the book in a Wal-Mart (the yellow pocket books edition with the author introduction) and my dad got it for me and I finished reading by picking up right where I left off (Yeah, I used to have that kind of memory). It was (unsurprisingly, considering it was the climax and all that) a bit faster-paced toward the end.

Although I have only just started the third part on this second go around, I think I know why I came back to the book. For starters, everything that has happened so far in this book is interesting. Maybe a little bit dry and wondering in delivery (going directly from Danny's perspective to Wendy's and then going back to Danny  within the space of a sentences is kind of annoying), but still fairly interesting. However, what made me pick it up again was that I knew it would be a great book if I could only finish it. It was the longest thing I ever attempted reading at the time, but I knew I could finish it and that the end result would be good if I just stuck with it. 

I was right, I think. I hope I'm right this time, too. My memory does suck, though. We'll see. 

Onto Part Three: The Wasp's Nest (aka the "I don't remember any of this stuff from before" part).

Monday, December 23, 2013

Yu-Sibu: I Couldn't Become A Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job (Yūsha ni Narenakatta Ore wa Shibushibu Shūshoku o Ketsui Shimashita)

And another anime bites the dust. I always think it is rather depressing when I come to the end of an anime I at least like a little bit. I think I liked this one a little bit. If I had to grade it I would probably give it a B-. Or maybe a B+. Not really sure at the moment. I Couldn't Become a Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job is a rather "fanservice-ier" version of a show from summer called The Devil is a Part-Timer! 

However, Yu-Sibu isn't quite the comedy gold that The Devil is a Part-Timer! is. They do tread the same ground, though. That of bizarre otherworldly individuals (the devil, the heroic demon-slayer, the demon lord's daughter, etc.) taking everyday hick jobs (fast food cook, store clerk, etc.) to make ends meet. In fact, I would like to see the two shows crossover at some point even though I don't believe they take place in the same worlds. Still, this is anime, so anything can happen. If Raul Chaser (Yu-Sibu) could travel to Tokyo and meet up with Mao then certainly a lot of fun hijinks would occur. 

Comprised of 12 episodes (and certainly not overstaying its welcome), Yu-Sibu proved to be a wise choice for me to watch during the Fall 2013 season. It had humor, a touch of harem (which I admittedly thought was underused), and enough fanservice at times to make me wonder if I was watching hentai. Indeed, poor Fino Bloodstone (the demon lord's daughter, of course) always seemed to be getting in sticky situations that sometimes involved tentacled creatures. The third episode in particular comes to mind. 

As for the plot, well, don't put too much stock into it. But rather than just saying, "Hey, it's got enough bouncing and jiggling to cure your Queen's Blade hangover so why go ahead and watch it?" I will try to sell you this show based on a more elaborate summary. 

Raul Chaser wanted to be a hero and slay the demon lord. Unfortunately, someone beat him to the punch and now he and a lot of other heroes are out of the job. After peace ensues, Raul becomes (reluctantly) a store clerk at the Magic Shop Leon. There he is forced to smile at customers (one of whom just happens to be a lecherous japanese Captain Picard) while his sword rusts in a closet somewhere. 

He enjoys his job, though. 

Then Fino Bloodstone starts working at Magic Shop Leon and things start getting complicated. It's one thing to have her as a next door neighbor who can't seem to stay dressed, but it's another to teach her how to sell magical goods to customers without her scaring everyone off with her bizarre sales techniques. "This lovely washing machine will wash out even the toughest bloodstain! Hahahahaha!" doesn't exactly do it, right?

The more I think about this show the more I like it. Had I watched it all in one day I could expand on the show a bit more, but I watched it as it was being simulcasted so some of the earlier moments were kind of fuzzy until just now. Weird how that happens. 

One thing I always liked about this show was Fino's laugh. It was just a quirky mischievous laugh that I think will be tough to duplicate by an English dub. (I know a lot of folks find the Japanese female "anime" voice annoying, but I think that is kind of an unfair judgement. There are plenty of annoying English female anime voices, too. Colleen Clinkenbeard who played Gohan in Dragonball Z Kai is an especially egregious offender even though I do think she really is a talented voice actress. I do like many of her roles. That voice of hers just wasn't right for Gohan and I much prefered Stephanie Nadolny's voice. Anyway, I better stop myself. I could go on all day about  "Sub Vs. Dub," but that isn't the point of this post. To keep things short I will say that I like both, but dubs suck more often than subs do.) I do hope this show gets an English dub, but it probably won't. Who really knows, though. Queen's Blade got one. Maybe there's hope for a nice blu-ray release in the States for this one, too. 

In the meantime, there is the anime the way it is intended for the Japanese audience and that one is good enough for me. If for nothing else than Fino's laugh. It's streaming on Crunchyroll right now and you could do worse than to give it a try. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Looking to 2014

This year is coming to an end very soon. Less than two weeks. I don't know if this year has been really, really long for me or not. It's tough to say. They say the years get shorter as you get older, but right now last year and this year don't seem all that much different. If there is anything that really marked 2013 then it was the death of Hummer, one of our cats. I suppose I do get overly attached to animals because I prefer them to most people because most people suck. On the other hand I have yet to meet a dog or cat that I didn't feel a certain kinship with. Mostly cats, though. I suppose this proves that I should not be the one to give advice on how to properly socialize with people, but if you need to get along with your cat and don't know how to then feel free to give me a shout out. 


As of now this is a list of anime, TV shows, and movies I want to see and blog about next year. While I am sure I will come across more things in the coming days this is what I have so far:

Anime (this excludes any new anime that might come out in 2014... so this list will certainly grow)

One Piece***
Rurouni Kenshin***
Tenchi Muyo! GXP
Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar
Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail***
Naruto: Shippuden*** (assuming I ever actually finish Naruto)
Fullmetal Alchemist
Captain Harlock
Galaxy Express 999
Silver Spoon
Sword Art Online***
The Eccentric Family
Kill la Kill
So, I Can't Play H
Nagi no Asukura
Samurai Flamenco
Strike the Blood
Beyond the Boundary
Hunter X Hunter
Asura Cryin'
Arata the Legend
Sunday Without God
Queen's Blade Rebellion
Mongolian Chop Squad***
Michiko & Hatchin
Last Exile - Fam, the Silver Wing
Fairy Tail
Deadman Wonderland

Movies (a lot of these films are upcoming, but some of them are also films I've just had around in the house or on my queue but haven't watched yet):

Captain America: The Winter Soldier***
Grudge Match 
The Expendables 3***
The Wind Rises***
X-Men: Days of Future Past***
Barry Lyndon
Battle of the Bulge
J. Edgar
Logan's War
The Prestige
X-Men: First Class***
A Better Tomorrow
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2
Cold Fish
Spirit of Jeet Keen Do
The Front Line
The Two Jakes
Back to 1942
The Secret Reunion
Zulu Dawn
Lone Wolf McQuade
Boy Wonder
The Wave
The Red Barron
Charley Varrick
World's Greatest Dad
The Yellow Sea
Witness for the Prosecution
The Boys from Brazil (I have seen this one, but I want to see it again so it will be fresh in my mind when I blog about it)
The Good, The Bad, The Weird
The Human Centipede: First Segment (I keep putting this off. Probably for good reason.)
An American Crime
Stand Up Guys
Lost in Translation***
Battle Royale
Glengarry Glen Ross***
Miller's Crossing
IP Man
Apocalypse Now
The Grey

Books (this list is a lot smaller):

Doctor Sleep***
Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road***
The Freakshow
Kayla Undead
Attack on Titan*** (remaining manga volumes)
Locke & Key (I figure if there is any American comic I would start then this would be it)
Mr. Mercedes
High School of the Dead (Haven't even started this manga)
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan*** (remaining manga volumes)
House of Blood
Queen of Blood

Well, this is a very vague idea of what you can expect from this blog in the coming year. I will also be trying to get all of the installments of my story My Forever Coma up and running. So hopefully next year will be an even busier year for The Blog House. 

(By the way, *** = Priority as of now)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Attack On Titan Vol. 2 by Isayame Hijame

So if you haven't read the first volume of the manga and want to or if you haven't watched the anime want to without any idea of what is going to happen (because there are apparently some folks who will only watch an anime if they know what will happen to all of the characters) then kindly get the hell off this page. Don't mean to sound harsh, but I am going to drop some serious spoiler bombs on you. 

Continue at your own peril. 


At the end of the first volume the main character Eren Yeager was eaten by a titan. That's right. The kid who was so determined to eradicate all of the titans off of the planet got brutally and unceremoniously killed by one of those very same titans. All of that build-up to his story cast aside like so many pearls before swine. Chances are good you didn't see that one coming. I sure as hell didn't see it coming as I began making my way through the anime. So you aren't alone.

The second volume picks up with Mikasa Ackerman, Armin Arlert, and the rest of the Survey Corps. dealing with the aftermath of a mission gone wrong. With their supplies dwindling and their 3D-Maneuvering Gear running out of gas, it seems that soon all of them will be forced down onto a ground overrun with titans. 

But a strange titan makes an appearance and this one titan seems not to be interested in eating people. Instead this titan is beating the shit out of other titans. 

This is where the series becomes "great" in both the manga and the anime. Before it was good and interesting, but now it's great. The death of Eren Yeager and the appearance of a titan that kills other titan are really where this series sinks or swims. And for me this one swims. Boy, does it. 

To help keep things a bit anchored in the emotional side of the story we are shown a bit of Mikasa's backstory as well as how she met Eren. These things are important to know when it comes to understanding Mikasa's character. She is almost a textbook Tsundere although sometimes she seems a bit Yandere (I keep expecting her to turn her rage against humanity against other humans instead of just titans). These parts are just as incredible as much of the story that takes place in the "present. The terrible things that happened to her had nothing to do with the titans and more to do with the dark side of humanity. 

Back to the present. 

Titans are surrounding the supply hold. If Mikasa, Armin, and the others want to survive they have to make it there and defeat the titans there just to get re-supplied. With all of their hopes seemingly dashed, Armin comes up with an absolutely ballsy as shit idea that involves leading a certain titan-killing titan to the supply-hold with the hopes that it will distract all of the titans while the Survey Corps. can re-supply and make good their escape. 

Phew. This volume (like the previous one) is a white-knuckle thrill ride. 

And, true to form, this one ends on a cliffhanger that could very well trump the previous cliffhanger. If Eren's death was shocking (and it was) then discovering that... Well, nevermind. Read the manga. Watch the anime. 

Time for me to read volume three. That's where we meet Captain Levi for the first time, by the way. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Noucome: My Mental Choices are Completely Interfering with My School Romantic Comedy (Nōkome: Ore no Nōnai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Rabu Kome o Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru)

Amakusa Kanade is just your average high school kid who just happens to be forced into making bizarre decisions on a daily basis or else he will succumb to an intense and unrelenting pain. Okay, so maybe that doesn't make him quite so average. The condition he suffers from is called Absolute Choice and it is a condition known to only a few people on the planet. Surviving the condition is easy if you don't mind embarrassing yourself on a daily basis, but curing it is something else entirely. That's something that only the "Flippant God" and his odd servant Chocolat can help with. Unfortunately, Chocolat hurt her head when she fell out of heaven and can't remember jack about what she is actually supposed to do. Instead she just freeloads at Kanade's place and eats his kitchen out of food. The Flippant God himself is a never-seen character who communicates with Kanade by phone and seems to lead him on missions that often seem more embarrassing than his Absolute Choices. 

So is there really an escape from Absolute Choice? Perhaps. 

At only ten episodes (with an OVA on the horizon), Noucome is a ridiculously short anime from the Fall 2013 season. It's freaking funny, outlandish, childish, fanservice-y, and has very little story to it to top it all off. So it is the perfect no string attached anime comedy. I admit I generally like shows with a bit of meat on them story-wise, but this one really hit the spot for me in ways that Dog & Scissors couldn't. This show was genuinely funny. Next to WateMote, I think Noucome is the only show I've seen all this year that made me laugh hard on a consistent basis. 

If I had to choose a favorite character it would probably be Chocolat. She is a trip. And when she bumps her head and reclaims her memories things get pretty interesting for a minute. 

If this were a bona fide harem anime I wouldn't mind Chocolat being the victor, but this isn't technically a harem anime. It does have its moments, though. A second season certainly go further down the harem route. 

The gang of dudes that has the one guy who always tries to sexually assault Kanade is also a trip. Not many things can make dude butt rape seem potentially hilarious, but this show does. Dude butt rape is still creepy and gross, though. And trauma inducing. Don't try it at home. As Kanade frequently says, "There's something wrong with that last guy." And indeed there is. Indeed there is. If the banana dream scene didn't prove it I don't know what will. 

Well, I think I have gone on enough about this show. If it got a second season I would probably watch it. I just hope the writers don't try to make everything a bit more dramatic. Some shows work well (and much better) with a dramatic turn, but I don't think this one would. When the main character has to choose between shooting onion juice shoot up his nose or shooting onion juice up his butt... Well, no, a dramatic turn in this show just wouldn't do. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Naruto (Season Three)

Fights. That is what this season is about. Sure, the previous seasons had some fighting, but there was also a little bit of story to go along with it. Aside from a little bit about Orochimaru's past and Gaara's past (neither of which are particularly gripping stories... interesting, yes, but not edge of the seat type of stuff) all we have are some badass ninja fights. Although some of these fights go on way too long. The fight between the Third Hokage and Orochimaru in particular comes to mind.

However, I am getting ahead of myself a bit. So I'll go back to the ending of the second season...

We left off with Naruto receiving some special training from Ebisu because Kakashi-sensei was busy training Sasuke. Then Jiraiya entered the picture. At the beginning of the third season Naruto ditched Ebisu and decided to make Jiraiya his mentor instead. After some petty back and forth, Jiraiya agreed to watch over Naruto's training before eventually teaching Naruto the Summoning Jutsu and a bit more about awakening his inner demon power.

Seven episodes later the Chunin Exams finally resume and Naruto gets his first real test by fighting Neji, the douchebag of the Hyuga clan. Of course, Naruto wins. It's close, but Naruto still wins. I hope that isn't spoiling everything for everyone, but it's not like this show is called Neji.

Then we see a few more fights, but the only one anybody really cares about is the fight between Sasuke and Gaara. Sasuke is late in arriving so the fights are rearranged to buy time until Sasuke can arrive. This happened at the insistence of the sinister-looking Kazekage and if that didn't send up any warning flags to the Third Hokage than I don't know what would have. Something like, "Gee, could this guy actually be Orochimaru in disguise?" should have occurred to him at some point. 

Well, the Third Hokage allowed Sasuke to have extra time to arrive and then the fight finally began. Then the shit hit the fan. Orochimaru launches his attack on the Hokage and then Gaara goes absolutely batshit and transforms into a sand demon. 

Okay, so a lot of stuff actually happened in this third season (episodes 53-78... going by Crunchyroll's season descriptions) and pretty much all of it was interesting. Although they stretched the fight between Orochimaru and the Third Hokage to an extreme level. Not even the fight itself, but just one freaking scene from the fight. For about seven episodes we are shown the Third Hokage with a sword through his chest grabbing Orochimaru by the shoulders. Seven episodes. No, it is far from the only thing that happened during those episodes, but why even show a minute and a half long scene each episode for seven straight that is essentially two characters grunting the same things over and over again with nothing else actually happening? It's like the animators couldn't think of any cool filler to help beef up the run time. They just used the same damn scene over and over again. I kind of felt bad for the voice actors for having to say the same stuff over and over again. Then I remembered that they're getting paid for it. What dicks. Seriously, the Hokage should have dropped dead six episodes ago. 

If there is any real problem I had with this season then that dragged out scene was it. Everything else was pretty killer. I think I should also mention that this season was the first season that actually felt it was about Naruto. The first season certainly had its moments, but the second season seemed to only be about Sasuke. That was pretty annoying. 

At the end of episode 78 Sasuke is down for the count (I know I can't be the only who thinks the guy is vastly overrated, right?), Sakura is being her typical useless self by being the damsel in distress, and Naruto is just starting to duke it out with Gaara. Chief Toad Gamabunta is also helping out. Good stuff. 

On to season four. 

The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa

With no sequels in sight for the foreseeable future I suppose the natural assumption to make is that The
Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya is the last book in this odd little series. However, I certainly hope that is not the case. It's not that I don't feel satisfied with this book, but I don't quite feel satisfied with this book as a conclusion to the series. If that makes any sense at all. 

If you read my review for The Dissociation of Haruhi Suzumiya here then you know at least a little about the plot of this particular book since The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya is a direct continuation. Technically, they are the same exact book. In Japan they were released in three separate volumes but in the U.S. they were released in just two. The reason you see two cover pictures here for one book is because these were the Japanese covers for Volumes 2 and 3 or basically what comprises the content of the U.S. edition of The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya. All of the artwork from Volumes 2 and 3 is included so that is good. 

As far as the actual story is concerned... Hmm, let me phrase this delicately. It is a good story, but it takes its own time. That is probably why it took me a month to read it. Since it is currently December 11th and the book came out November 19th. I was also purposely dragging it out a bit because I wasn't sure I wanted it to end. If there is another book within two years it could be four years before it gets an official translation. That would be a pain in the ass to wait for. 

In this book we begin to see the two realities get a little bit closer and closer. As to why there are two realities isn't explained until the final chapter, but we do get a few clues that there certainly are two realities going on simultaneously even if Kyon (who narrates the series) doesn't. Or perhaps I should say "even if Kyon A or Kyon B do not get it." Since, in a way, there are two Kyons in this book. Three actually, now that I think about it. Or maybe it is more like four. 

While a slow-moving book The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya does have everything I think a person could want from this series, though. We have time travel, duels in closed space, split realities, characters coming back from the dead, and a bit of slice of life as well. However, there are three things which I feel must be resolved before this series really does end. If you read this book then you probably will know what three things I mean. If you haven't and want to then go away because I am about to unleash some spoilers. 

At the end of novel when the two realities are merged back together and Haruhi's alter ego does her vanishing act, we are left with a few mysteries. Just what is the present that Kyon buys Haruhi for the anniversary of the SOS Brigade? When will that metal thingy on Tsuruya's property be used? And just how the hell is future Haruhi Suzumiya going to react now that she saw two Kyons at the same time? That last thing is all I really care about, really. The present and the metal thingy are things I would like to know, but this last issue just can't be brushed aside. While we weren't shown another Kyon accompanying future Haruhi, her shocked reaction certainly provided a hint. And then Kyon himself admitted that Haruhi had indeed saw two Kyons because he apparently saw his future self. 

If Haruhi has seen actual proof of time travel... Well, this entire series is about her not learning about these things because she is supposedly a godlike being but doesn't know it. If she learns about time travel then chaos could erupt throughout all time-frames. She could subconsciously manipulate the very fabric of the world by simply wishing for everyone to be a time traveller. Same thing about ESPers, aliens, and sliders. And who is to say that isn't what has been happening the whole time?

But if she becomes consciously aware of the strangeness of the world and of her role in it... Well, I really want to know how that particular issue gets resolved. Because there aren't a lot of excuses one can make for being in two places at once. 

Anyway, I suppose this is all I have to say on this subject for quite a while. At least until The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan Vol. 5 gets released in February. Of course, that's really a different series altogether. 

I wish the anime would continue by adapting these core novels, though. The folks that only know about the anime don't understand how important a character like Tsuruya is and they've never met Fujiwara or Asahina Michiru. Asahina Mikuru has also gone through a lot of character development, too. In the anime she really didn't have all that much importance except for a few episodes. Haruhi, Kyon, and Nagato have developed, too. The only one who seems to be the same is Koizumi and I don't think Koizumi will ever change, either. 

The anime really is only the beginning, but the novels tell the whole story. It's far from a perfect series, but when it is good it is really good. The short story collections could have been better, but I suppose they serve their purpose too since I don't regret reading them. It's just more time spent with the SOS Brigade. That isn't too much of a bad thing, right? 

For now this is the last hurrah.

It's been interesting. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka)

"September 21, 1945. That was the night I died."

In the opening moments of the movie we are shown a boy named Seita as he is starving to death in Sannomiya Station. His last moments alive are spent thinking about his dear sister younger Setsuka and the struggle he went through to help her survive. Then he dies and the movie jumps into flashback mode with Seita's spirit telling the story of what happened before he died. 

Based on the 1967 novel of the same name by author Nosaka Akiyuki and released in 1988, Grave of the Fireflies is about as depressing and bleak a movie there is. It is an unforgiving and unflinching look at a boy struggling to provide for his sister after losing everything in the aftermath of the incendiary bombs being dropped on Kobe in 1945 a few months before the end of World War II. 

With their mother mortally wounded and their father overseas (possibly dead), the two of them must make their own way through a world where everyone is coping with the effects of devastation. Many of them coping rather poorly by becoming cold and selfish and angry. These same folks will not take the time of day to help Seita or Setsuka. An aunt of theirs takes them in, but even she eventually pushes them out. And those that really do want to help them cannot because they are struggling themselves. This evenhandedness only contributes to the sense of tragedy. 

Food and shelter are the most valuable things left and it is up to Seita, only fourteen years old, to take care of his four year old sister. 

And things don't necessarily work out so well. 

Honestly, there isn't a bad thing I can say about this movie. Perhaps the lack of mentioning Japan's role in the war as being one of the bad guys could be considered a "flaw," but I think it'd be an egregious offense to this movie and its subject matter. This isn't a war movie as much as it really is a movie about survival and family and growing up in a harsh world. These things are universal, stretching beyond the boundaries of time and culture, and anyone can watch this movie and feel for the suffering of the two main characters. This film is a classic. 

The now legendary Studio Ghibli (co-founded by Miyazaki Hayao and the director of this film Takahata Isao) has always produced some great films including Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and My Neighbor Totoro, but Grave of the Fireflies is something else. I mean, Spirited Away is one of my favorite films of all time, but Grave of the Fireflies is so very different in terms of subject matter. It is tough to compare a tragic survival movie with a fantastical slice of life story especially when the survival movie is largely rooted in the real world and real life. The book it is based on is a semi-autobiographical one and based on many of Akiyuki's life experiences. I really would like to find an English version of it. 

This movie is a tough watch. Rewarding, but tough. It doesn't have an especially fast pace (it moves slowly at its own pace like so many other movies about growing up) or a bunch of fight scenes between soldiers (soldiers are rarely seen in this movie). Mostly we just see bombs getting dropped on ordinary people who just happen to be living in the wrong place at the wrong time. Seita and Setsuka being just two of the many. 

Highly recommended. 

Bring your tissues, too. It will move you. 

P.S. - I watched the subtitled version with the Japanese audio. There are two different English dub tracks on my blu-ray, but I don't have it in me to watch the movie two more times to do a comparison between the three audio tracks. The Japanese cast is excellent in its own right, though. I don't imagine watching it in English could do it justice. The voice of Setsuka is especially one I don't think could be done any better. Her character is the heart of this movie. Shiraishi Ayano, in her only voice acting performance that I know of, was fantastic. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Panic in Needle Park

Before the world knew Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in the mafia classic The Godfather, Al Pacino was in a little film called The Panic in Needle Park. This marked his second film appearance, following up his first film appearance in 1970's Me, Natalie. If you haven't heard of The Panic in Needle Park then I don't think that should be a very big surprise. With films like Scarface, the aforementioned The Godfather, Scent of a Woman, and Dog Day Afternoon to his credit, I suppose a title like The Panic in Needle Park tends to get shuffled into the "obscure movies" file more often than not. However, I think it is a bit of a mistake to go through life thinking this film doesn't exist or not watching it because it was made before Al Pacino was famous. 

This film is about two heroin users who are in love in a place called "Needle Park." The "panic" part of the title comes from what happens when there is a big drug bust and the amount of heroin on the streets dwindles. 

Believe it or not, it seemed a bit odd watching Al Pacino portray a struggling heroin-addict. Maybe it is just because I kept picturing him snorting copious amounts of cocaine in a mansion. 

However, Al Pacino is his typical Al Pacino self in this movie. There's a reason he became an acting icon and legend. 

The other primary figure in this movie is Kitty Winn and she is someone who is in the "Where are they now?" file. Her only other semi-well-known role was as Sharon Spencer in The Exorcist and again in the terrible sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic. She hasn't been in anything since 1984. 

For a brief moment she stood on the same level as Al Pacino, though. As Pacino's love interest in the movie, she gradually follows Pacino down a twisted and ever-darkening path only to become the main protagonist at the end. If not exactly saving either Pacino or herself she at the very least takes a step in the right direction. Maybe. The ending is admittedly very vague. And that is either a strength or a weakness depending on what you think of vague endings. 

This movie's impact relies on how well the two main characters seem alive and in this case they do seem very much alive. Had the original plan of having The Doors' Jim Morrison be the main character worked out I don't think his movie would be half as watchable. The exclusion of music in general works to this film's advantage, too. There are no frills to be had here. It's a very somber and depressing movie with nothing to distract you from that fact. 

Apparently, this movie was actually very difficult to get made because no one would back a film that featured a nobody like Al Pacino as the lead. Imagine a world where the name Al Pacino is unknown by most people. How very bizarre, right? Director Jerry Schatzberg stuck to his guns, though. And thank God for that. In 1973 Schatzberg and Pacino would do their second and only other film together. That one is called Scarecrow. Coming after Pacino's massive success in The Godfather (as well as co-star Gene Hackman's success in The Poseidon Adventure), Scarecrow didn't quite capture the audience the same way at the time. 

Before I end my post I should mention the name of Richard Bright. As a huge fan of all things The Godfather, I was pretty excited to learn that the guy who played Michael Corleone's bodyguard Al Neri in all three films was actually the guy who played Pacino's brother in this movie. And Bright actually talks in this movie, too. He is more of a secondary character in this movie, but his role is still enough to make me want to mention him. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Thor: The Dark World

So Wednesday night I saw Thor: The Dark World. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing, really. 

Yeah, I'd been wanting to see it, but I hadn't really had the opportunity or the energy. I have been really impressed with Marvel's handling of The Avengers-related material so far (I can't say anything about Agents of S.H.I.EL.D because I haven't seen it) and the second Thor movie is certainly another impressive entry. Had X-Men (as a whole) or Spider-man (I personally don't care for either live action version of Spider-man... and I find it all the more astonishing that The Amazing Spider-man 2 is actually happening) been given this kind of attention than D.C. wouldn't be in the sole lead with their superhero adaptations thanks to The Dark Knight Trilogy and Man of Steel

However, if the Ben Affleck-driven Batman movie flops (a la The Green Lantern) and Marvel can keep up the standard with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the inevitable Iron Man 4, and The Avengers 2 then I think we'll see a serious changing of the guard. X-Men: Days of Future Past will have something to say about this, too.

While this particular superhero movie doesn't necessarily break any new ground (although it does break dimensions), it does what it does quite well. In fact, a lot of this movie's plot can be summed up by saying "I should have expected that." I mean, I knew that Loki was going to try to do something. And when he did... Well, I found myself saying "I knew it would happen, but I thought for sure it wouldn't happen this time." 

I suppose that's one of those funny things about villains... they're crafty little bastards. But if they are too crafty they can get annoying and that is always a danger zone. 

Anyway, if you are a little bit tired of Loki's shenanigans then you might want to miss this movie or at least come back to it later. But if you still hold a lukewarm interest in all things Loki then I think you could be rewarded by this movie. Sort of. 

I've heard some folks call the movie a little bit Game of Thrones-y and I suppose that's fair. The same guy that directed this movie also helmed a few episodes of the series. The direction is a little bit weak, too. The underdeveloped overacted dramatic moments (what happened to Loki and Thor's mother comes to mind), the very last scene pre-credits, and the ever zig-zagging dimensional travel climax/fight scene seem a bit forced.  

A lot of these superhero movies are all about being over the top and being kind of cheesy, though. So it's all par for the course, really. Unlike The Dark Knight or Man of Steel (for the most part), the Marvel movies aren't focused as much on a sense of realism as they are on making the ride fun. When these Marvel movies get too dramatic they don't really fly and when they get too silly they can get annoying. It's a fine line, really. Not understanding this balance is why so many superhero movies fail. 

Hearing about Loki getting passed over in favor of Thor gets annoying after a while, too. (Not to sound too crude, but Loki needs to quit being a whiny little bitch and *SPOILER* get killed off already or completely written out of the story. He's starting to become a bit like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees without the "being intimidating" part.) 

If you liked the first Thor movie then the chances are pretty good you will like this one. However, if you are all "superhero-ed" out or "Loki-ed" out then this film isn't really for you. Feel free to re-watch whatever your favorite superhero movie is instead.

With some reservations I will place this movie in my Blog House Catalog of Greatness. I just hope that the mid-credits scene isn't something I have to watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D to understand. I don't have time for that.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Attack On Titan Vol. 1 by Isayama Hajime

For those of you who haven't been following your favorite otaku's blog for very long, I want to go back in history a bit for this particular entry. During the summer of 2013 I came across a fantastic anime called Attack on Titan. I talked about it here. Once the show ended its first season (there will at least be one more... or there damn well better be) I made a vow to actually read the manga. In fact, I made that vow before I actually finished the anime because this show literally had me hooked and you know what I say about supporting the industry, right? 

I really don't say I am hooked too often. While there have been many shows that I have liked watching and looked forward to seeing, I cannot ever saying that a television show automatically made my day better just for coming on that particular day. Thanks to streaming I don't really need to worry about when an episode debuts because it will be there when I want to watch it anyway. But not Attack on Titan. I had to watch it as soon as humanly possible lest my brain explode and ooze out of my body. Indeed, those premiere Saturdays on Crunchyroll graced by scenes of giants eating people and people killing giants were the highlight of my entire summer.

This is normal behaviour, right?

Anyway, my goal to read the manga was easily achievable since it was available for Kindle download at about seven bucks per issue. Each issue clocks in at about 190 pages so far (I am actually on the second volume right now) and generally contain four chapters. I think there's only one issue that contains five chapters. 

My Kindle edition also contained an interview with manga author Isayama Hajime. I'm not sure if those are included in the physical editions or not, but if you aren't into spoilers then don't read the interviews until you are well into the series or have actually seen the anime.

The artwork is similar to the anime, but the anime is definitely more refined. The manga has a certain raw feeling to it. That is probably due to the fact that Hajime is not much of a sketch artist. In fact his greatest strength is in nailing down the setting and weapons. The characters themselves... Well, they aren't poorly drawn, but it seems like sometimes certain characters are drawn perfectly while others are a little uneven.

You see that picture just to the left? Well, this is a good idea of what I am talking about. The titan with the mean and ugly face is drawn pretty damn well. Honestly, even better than the colorized cover art pictured above. The creature looks like something out of Clive Barker's Hellraiser.

Now if you look below the titan's head at the bottom panel you will see a few kids staring up the the 167 foot/50 meter titan in pure terror. Three of those kids are main characters. The black-haired kid with the jacket and the girl with the scarf, especially. Am I the only one who notices a bit of disparity between the execution of the top two panels and the bottom one? The kids just don't look like they were drawn as well.

However, this really is a minor issue. The story is so addicting you will kind of stop noticing after a while. And you can at least tell the characters apart even from a distance.

I've probably just been spoiled to the anime. But the sense that the drawings are uneven in terms of quality persists. 

The strength of this manga is the pace, though. It moves fast. The anime was pretty much the same way, but I didn't realize just how much faster the manga moved until I began it. The first volume takes us up until about episode five of the anime and the ending of this issue such a cliffhanger that I couldn't imagine anyone reading it wouldn't immediately buy the next volume ASAP. In fact, I highly recommend that you keep the next volume on stand-by. Precious time spent doing things like waiting to download the next volume or arrive in the mail is time you could actually be reading the next volume of Attack on Titan. Don't be that guy. 

Volume 1 has a ballsy ending, especially considering it was around before the anime or before any other issue for that matter. However, Attack on Titan specializes in ballsy cliffhanger endings. Just waiting a week for the next episode was insanely trying, but waiting even longer for an unpublished second volume? Oh, that must have been an ordeal for the Japanese folks who discovered this manga before everyone else did. Now I am waiting forever for the next season to come out and it could very well be months before that happens. At least I have the manga for now and I will try to make it last longer than a month. 

However, I have already started the second volume and I can say that the source material is certainly worth picking whether you've seen the anime or not. If you love action, violence, apocalyptic destruction, and a large helping of hell-bent-for-cliffhangers then look no further. 

There's some foul language and a lot of bodies being ripped apart (in case you haven't already gathered that) so I wouldn't give this to your twelve year old as a Christmas gift. But making it a gift to yourself wouldn't be a bad idea. 

And if reading this story about giants eating people puts you in the mood for some kielbasa then feel free to purchase the special Attack on Titan brand of kielbasa, too. 

Queen's Blade: Wandering Warrior/The Exiled Virgin (Kuīnzu Bureido Rurō no Senshi)

There is no other anime that I can think of that contains such an over the top amount of fanservice and yet retains a compulsive watchability. That is an odd thing for me to say if you know my typical viewing habits. Generally speaking, I like drama anime and gritty action anime. Comedies aren't a big part of my collection, but there are a few exceptions here and there. I mean, Girls Bravo is borderline hentai compared to so many other shows, but I do have it on DVD anyway. 

However, there is one show that leaves Girls Bravo in the dust in terms of fanservice and that show is Queen's Blade. It's not even a contest, really. In the first five minutes of the first episode of Queen's Blade a character shoots material-dissolving acid out of her nipples. Then at the end of the episode her boobs get clogged-up (don't you hate it when that happens?) and grow to the size of Goodyear Blimps before exploding. 

This show is for mature audiences only, folks.  

There is another character that wears a live snake as her underwear. Yup, you read that right. She is pictured here for purely demonstrative purposes, too. Because even I wouldn't go so far as to post the acid-nipple scene. So you'll just have to deal with snake lady.

I have always believed that fanservice is overrated. But I don't think it can never be a bad thing either as long as it doesn't destroy the mood. I mean, boobs are good things, right? So while I don't mind seeing them, I don't watch anime (or anything else for that matter) just for boobs. Otherwise I'd be kind of a creep. And I really did steer clear of this show for a long time because I had heard about how over the top it was and I kind of figured this show was some sort of lesbian porn or something. Not that there's anything wrong with that. To each their own, right?

But this show isn't lesbian porn. Although there are a helluva lot of yuri overtones as well as a metric shit-ton of naked boobs being shown. There are scarcely any male characters in the show and that is obviously an intentional thing, too. So this is close to being lesbian porn, but it's not. 
That's not sexually suggestive at all, is it?

Women fighting each other like badasses in almost see-through armor is the simplified premise of this show. Now just how armor can be effective when it is about the size of a bikini or smaller I don't know, but it is best to just sort of accept the rules of the anime world presented here. 

However, this show really is about more than boobs. It is kind of like Xena: the Warrior Princess meets Game of Thrones. Although I suppose I am stretching my credibility a bit by saying that. With the mind-boggling amount of bouncing and jiggling going on I know it sounds difficult to believe that there could be any characterization or any sort of plot development in the works. But there is more to this anime than you might think.

The main character of this show is Leina Vance and she is the heir to Count Vance's throne. But she doesn't want to take over and runs away in order to find her own way. Inevitably, she enters the Queen's Blade tournament with the hopes of becoming a stronger fighter. Along the way she meets Risty the Benevolent Bandit of the Wilderness, Echidna the Elven Mercenary (snake lady), Tomoe the Warrior Priestess, Irma the Assassin of the Fang, as well as a bunch of others who seek to enter the Queen's Blade Tournament to become the Queen. But first they must actually make it to Gynos/Gainos alive or else none of them will realize their dream of becoming queen. Each of these characters do have a backstory and some are more likeable than others, but they all seem interesting and that is a plus. 

If I had to choose my favorite character in this series it would probably be Echidna. Especially considering what she did at the end of the first season to help out Leina. Plus she has a snake for underwear. 

Standing in the way of the heroic characters (aside from various skirmishes with each other) are Airi the Infernal Temptress, Melona the Protean Assassin (acid-nipple lady), and Menace the Ancient Princess. Their sole job is to disrupt the Queen's Blade. They are subservient to the unseen character Swamp Witch as well. 

I suppose that's enough plot description for now. This show does have enough action, fights, and characterization to at least make this a decent story. It really is an epic journey. Yeah, there's boobs (and lots of them), but there's some story, too. Although I will say that Melpha and Cattleya are just ridiculous when it comes to their boobs. Those damn things are huge. I don't even understand how they can move with those things hanging down. At the very least they should have a case of scoliosis or something. 

Anyway, the first twelve episodes of this show were a breeze. I find myself happily starting season two and wondering what is going to happen. Since this show debuted in 2009 and is fairly well-known among certain circles there's obviously a few things I know will happen, but thankfully not all of it has been spoiled for me. 

If you think this show might be for you then it probably is. If you think it isn't then it probably isn't. 

P.S. - I knew Hirano Aya voiced a character in this show and I thought for sure it might be Leina, but she actually voices the annoying angel Nanael. Nanael is kind of like this show's Jar-Jar Binks character for a while, but there actually comes a time where she shows that she is capable of whipping some ass and doing more than just being annoying. And the "holy milk" she has to carry with her and keep from spilling is just... Well, I don't even know what to think of that. Nanael is a hoot, though. And I personally don't find her anywhere near as annoying as Leina's sister Elina. 

Now on to season two, Queen's Blade 2: The Evil Eye.