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.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

One Piece (Wan pîsu) (Season Seven)

So if you've kept up with my reviews so far then you know the drill: I'm going to go on and on about how much I hate filler and then give you a fairly tedious plot description about the good parts of the canon material, right? Wrong! While I do believe that filler can kill an otherwise decent series, I don't necessarily believe that all filler material (or even canon material, for that matter) is made equal. Some filler can be damn entertaining. Remember that episode of Dragonball Z (Episode 125: Goku's Ordeal) where Goku and Piccolo tried to learn how to drive? Of course, you do. That was an episode that had absolutely nothing to do with any of the canon arcs and the writers didn't even try to pretend that it was anything otherwise, but it was still somehow damn entertaining. 

However, filler arcs are a bit different. An episode of filler here or there isn't too bad if the writing doesn't suck, but a well-written arc of original material that doesn't upset the status quo of the series is much tougher to come by. It does happen, though. The G8 and Ocean's Dream arcs from season seven of One Piece are good examples of what I'm talking about. Those filler arcs are fairly good. In fact, G8 is probably one of the best filler arcs I've ever seen. 

The Davy Back Fights arc is loosely canon material sandwiched between the G8 and Ocean's Dream arcs, but the Davy Back Fights just doesn't capture my attention the same way. Consisting of episodes 207-219, the Davy Back Fights are just too long and feature just about the most uninteresting and annoying villain in One Piece since Buggy the Clown. 

Ironically, what really kills the Davy Back Fights is the filler that pads it out. Episodes 213-216 are all filler, but they are the annoying as shit type of filler that actually changes the storyline just a bit. 

In the manga this is what happens: Straw Hats lose Chopper in a boat race, regain Chopper after a ball match in the Groggy Ring, and then Luffy steals the Foxy Pirate flag after winning the fight with Foxy. 

In the anime this is what happens: Straw Hats lose Chopper in a boat race, Straw Hats beat the Foxy Pirates in the ball match in the Groggy Ring but choose to free Tonjit's horse (a stupid move no matter how you look at it), and then they win Chopper back after a rollerblade race. With me so far? Now here is where it really gets ridiculous. Luffy accepts yet another three-round Davy Back Fight from Foxy and then proceeds to lose both Chopper and Robin in matches of Red Light-Green Light and Dodgeball. In the final round Luffy does indeed fight Foxy for all the marbles, but this time what is at stake has changed. 

The rules of the Davy Back Fights state that a crew member is lost to the other pirate group when a team loses one of the games. Conversely, if one team wins then they win one crew member of their choosing. With two of their crew members gone and only one match left, the Straw Hats can realistically only win one of the crew members back. Ah, but this is filler (or at the very least bastardized canon material) so it can't upset the status quo. 

The final result is essentially the same, though. Luffy wins the day and draws a goofy picture as the new Foxy Pirates jolly roger. The process just ends up becoming a lot more tedious than it needed to be. I mean, the Davy Back stuff just isn't that good in the first place and making it longer doesn't make it any better. 

If there is any arc in season seven that needed to be fleshed out just a little more than it was the filler arc Ocean's Dream. I rather liked the whole concept of memory loss. Watching Luffy fight Zoro was pretty cool, too. But that Ocean's Dream arc, that could have been just a bit better with a little extra effort, was cut short in favor for bringing Foxy back for a two-episode encore. Ugh. 

Episode 227 returns us to canon material and either starts off the Water Seven arc or ends the Foxy's Return arc. However the hell you want to look at it. It basically works out the same way. 

Still, season seven is worth watching because of the good filler and for the introduction of Admiral Aokiji. The Davy Back Fights would have been better with less padding. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Departures (Okuribito)

This is going to sound extremely odd coming from me, but until very recently I had never seen a live-action Japanese movie. Not even any of the old Godzilla movies. I had seen a few Korean films, a few Chinese films, a few German films, and even a French film that I don't recommend unless you are a complete sicko like me, but I had never seen a Japanese live-action movie. Yeah, I've watched a shit-ton of Japanese cartoons, read some manga, read some translations of classic Japanese novels, listened to plenty of J-rock and some J-pop, but I had never seen a... Well, you know.

So Sunday night I set out to correct that. The tough thing was trying to figure out which movie to watch. There are a few I've had on my list for a while that are more in the horror vein, but I ultimately decided on Departures because I was in the mood for something a bit more laid back. 

True enough, Departures is a bit of a departure from anything else I'd seen before. This film is a very quiet and slow-moving one. It starts out really funny, but then gradually becomes a bit more dramatic until the final reveal at the end. Of course, the final reveal isn't an eye-opening shock or anything and if you are expecting one then shame on you. This isn't like that. 

This movie is about atmosphere and about one man's emotional journey doing a job that few others could want and even fewer could do well. And it's a really good movie at that. There's a reason it won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 

Kobayashi Daigo was a professional cellist player in Tokyo until the orchestra he played in disbanded. Now without a job, Daigo sells his cello and he and his wife Mika move back to Sakata, Yamagata, where Daigo's mom had left him a house. Once back home Daigo begins looking for a new job and the one about "assisting departures" catches his eye. With thoughts of possibly traveling abroad in his head, Daigo immediately calls to set up an appointment. 

Unfortunately for Daigo, the ad was a bit of a misprint and Daigo is in a bit of a shock when he sees three coffins lined up on the wall at the office where he is to have his interview. After being hired on the spot after only one question, Daigo is now a mortician who will have to perform the process of "encoffining" if he wants to keep his job.

I said earlier that this movie started out funny and I meant it. Daigo's first job was one where he had to help prepare a two week old dead body. Naturally, he found it difficult to go anywhere near the body, but when he almost trips over a rotted banana and then starts gagging as he has to grab the body's legs... It's just as funny as it is gross. It gets funnier when the way home everyone on the bus starts moving away from him because he stinks so much. 

Then of course there's the DVD that Daigo and his boss makes where Daigo has to play the part of the dead person getting a piece of cotton shoved up his ass. That was hilarious even though that particular moment was during one of the more drama heavy moments of the movie. 

One thing I won't spoil for you is the opening scene. If that doesn't make you want to watch this movie then nothing will. It's probably the funniest moment in the whole movie. 

Of course, it isn't all a barrel of laughs. This film is ultimately about struggling to accept the turns of life and the inevitability of death. I didn't know this before, but death is apparently a very taboo subject in Japan and Takita Yōjirō, the director, was very worried about how this film would be accepted. I guess he knows the answer now, but he certainly wouldn't have had those fears in America because we love movies about death about as much as we love Little Debbies and American Idol.

The end of the film isn't a huge spoil, but it is engrossing and perfect just the same. It's also the first happy ending to an Eastern Asian movie I think I've ever seen. Go figure, considering the subject matter. 

Another thing I should mention is that the practice of "encoffining" as depicted in this movie isn't a widely used practice anymore. It's a historic practice used only in small towns where such traditional practices are still strictly observed. Kinda like marrying first cousins is still strictly observed in most southern US backwoods (although the "encoffining" practice is the much more dignified of the two). 

So I suppose this movie could be considered a bit of an anachronism. It's still really good, though. It's currently on Netflix and you could do worse than to watch it.

P.S. - Yes, this movie is over two hours long. That shouldn't put anyone off, but I still find myself being surprised about how some folks don't like "long" movies. Especially if the movies are "slow." 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Naruto Shippuden (Season Four)

At this point you're probably all like, "Man, will this dude ever stop talking about Naruto and other stupid shounen anime?" The answer to that question is yes, but that won't be for a while. I do miss watching things that are a bit more realistic and coherent in terms of plot, but endless action, drawn-out fights, and questionable plot turns helped define the sort of anime viewer I am today. I grew up on the filler-filled Dragonball Z so I have a high tolerance for shows that can go on a long time without covering a lot of ground. 

The Naruto series as a whole has its moments where it is really good and moves at a nice clip just like a lot of other shounen anime, but it's the filler that is killer. Season four is really good, but it's sandwiched between filler arcs. Episodes 57-71 were filler (with the exception of the final minutes of episode 71) and all of season five (90-112) is filler. How much you watch is up to you. 

I for one skipped over much of the filler stuff in season three so I could get to season four and I don't regret my decision. 

In season four Naruto resumes his training to create a new Jutsu under the watchful eyes of Kakashi-sensei and Yamato. Since Naruto is of the Wind chakra type he now has to find a way to apply his Wind powers to his Rasengan, a task that is easier said than done. The Rasengan itself is an unfinished technique because the Fourth Hokage couldn't complete it. Since it is incomplete not even Kakashi-sensei can tell Naruto on the next direction to go. It's all up to Naruto to figure out a way to make the Rasengan advance.

Meanwhile, two Akatsuki baddies are up to no good. They've captured the Two Tails Jinchuriki and slaughtered a bunch of monks at a Temple in the Land of Fire (the Temple was introduced in the filler arc the previous season). Shikamaru, Asuma, and two pointless characters are sent to the Temple in the Land of Fire in order to deal with the Akatsuki members. 

These Akatsuki members are Hidan and Kakuzu and they act a lot like an old married couple. Hidan is the loud and obnoxious one and Kakuzu is the quiet one who keeps vowing to kill Hidan. Ain't that sweet?

Hidan definitely succeeded in getting on my nerves. In general, I'm not a very big talker and people who talk about pointless shit for hours on end can get on my nerves. So I actually sympathized with Kakuzu on this matter. 

While the they are on their way to a collection office to get money for a dead monk with a bounty on his head, they argue constantly. Well, Hidan is doing most of the arguing because he is against doing things for money and claims that what they are doing is against his religion. 

It's kind of funny, but it more and more begins to feel like Hidan is yet another of those characters that are nothing more than background padding. Like the guys traveling with Asuma and Shikamaru, Hidan just seems to make Kakuzu look cooler by comparison. I don't really have a problem with that kind of thing, but if that was the case then maybe giving Hidan so much dialog was going a bit too far.

In turns out that Hidan is not a character to be fucked with. As Asuma and Shikamaru and those other guys traveling with them soon find out. Despite being a loud mouth, Hidan has a killer (pun alert) ability that Asuma gets to witness first hand. 

After that it is time to break out the tissues, folks. While Sarutobi Asuma has never been a main character I did always think he was kind of cool. So the moment when Asuma gets killed by Hidan... Well, it's pretty tough. The Third Hokage dying early in the first series was understandable. While a bit of a cruel ploy by the author, it did serve as a notice that even the best and wisest of warriors get killed by bad guys. In a way the death of Asuma is yet another passing of the torch and a bit of a fitting one since Asuma is actually the son of the Third Hokage. Still, the few episodes dedicated to his passing and his funeral are tough slogging because they are so bleak and depressing. However, episode 82 is rather brilliantly animated.

The old Team Ten (Shikamaru, Choji, Ino) reunites against Tsunade's wishes, but Kakashi-sensei chooses to stand in for the departed Asuma when it looks like that Asuma's former students won't be deterred from their quest for vengeance. Team Seven (Naruto, Sakura, Sai, Yamato) is told that they will be the backup for Team Ten and that Naruto has 24 hours to complete his new Jutsu or else Tsunade will choose to send another team as backup. 

Naturally, Naruto completes his Jutsu even if he doesn't actually master it and then it's off to battle.

Team Ten are the first to learn of Kakuzu's ability to spawn hollow-looking (Bleach-reference) creatures from his body thanks to his five hearts. So what initially started out as four versus two quickly escalates into six versus four. Those odds aren't good.

Shikamaru, a genius if ever there was one, decides that the best way to defeat the two stalwarts would be to separate them. Naturally, Shikamaru decides to take on Hidan by himself. 

Kakashi-sensei isn't to be outdone. I can't speak for any filler material or movies, but as far as canon material goes we haven't seen him fight before. Two staredowns with Itachi don't count. And, no, he didn't really fight against Zabuza, either. So if you've been patiently waiting to watch Kakashi-sensei to lay down a gauntlet then consider your patience rewarded. 

It really all comes down to Naruto coming in to save the day, though. With Kakashi-sensei eventually weakening after going all out for too long, Naruto and Team Seven come in at the last moment to save the day. 

Naruto's Wind Style: Rasen Shuriken is pretty badass. Definitely worth the wait to see it in action. 

Well, I think I'm all talked-out. I really enjoyed this season. Unfortunately, season five is all filler as I mentioned earlier. I might watch it or I might skip ahead. I'm thinking I might watch it, though. Because, at the rate I've been going, I really will catch up in no time. We'll see. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

One Piece (Wan pîsu) (Seasons Five & Six)

Even though One Piece is about 630+ episodes and going, I don't think I really thought things through when I set a goal of six months to catch up. Yes, I'm on pace to meet my goal because I'm just that kind of dedicated, but averaging five to six episodes a day isn't as easy as it sounds. Some days I find myself watching two episodes a day and others ten or twenty. I know it sounds silly saying watching anime all day (when not working) takes effort, but it does for me. It's certainly unhealthy and it hasn't helped my precious tanning situation, either. 

Not too mention that I'm watching only two other anime at the moment with one of those being Naruto Shippuden. So I'll be doing some month by month goal setting for quite a while. If I can keep about a 5 to 4 ratio of One Piece to Naruto Shippuden each month I'll be on easy street and be caught up on both at about the same time. Then I can watch other shit while I wait for new episodes to premiere each week.

I'm committed. Or maybe I should be committed. I'm not quite sure which fits more at the moment.

Anyway, I'm totally rambling. Let's get to season five. Brace yourself for some disappointment, too. The entirety of season five is filler. Now it's only episodes 131-143 so it's not like it is a very long season or anything, but it is still a bit of an annoyance. It's filler. Duh. Coming off the rather good (if not bloated a bit by early and near pace-killing filler) Alabasta arc, it's a bit disappointing for Nico Robin's first adventure as a member of the Straw Hats to be filler stuff. 

To be more specific, season five is comprised of three smaller and independent story arcs. The first few episodes are basically recap stuff of how the Straw Hats came together. Then we have the Goat Island arc and you might as well skip that. The final bit of filler in season five is the Rainbow Mist arc and that isn't too bad. The only real decent filler in One Piece yet. 

That's really all I feel like talking about season five since it's filler. If you are the type to collect the show on DVD then be careful. I'm not quite sure how it's all divided up on DVD, but you might end up with all filler episodes on a DVD set that costs about twenty or thirty bucks and that's not cool. Beware.

Season six...

Ah, the Skypiea arc. At 51 episodes, this is the longest arc I've encountered so far. The first season of the show was 62 episodes, but it contained multiple story arcs. Season six is just one long story arc. 

Things start out innocently enough with the Straw Hats encountering a group of odd salvagers after an old ship seemingly falls out of the sky. Yup, nothing strange here. To make things more odd Nami's log pose is pointing at the sky, too. So somehow the Straw Hats must journey to the sky if they wish to maintain their current heading in the Grand Line. But... how the hell are they going to do that? Ships don't exactly fly, right?

The Straw Hats decide to journey to nearby island Jaya to see if they can uncover more information about this supposed island in the sky. Once there they discover a few unruly pirates, Blackbeard, and a man named Montblanc Cricket. Cricket lives in an odd-looking house by the coast and is friends with the odd salvagers that the Straw Hats ran into earlier. 

Cricket is looking for gold on the seafloor in order to clear the name of an ancestor who claimed to a king to have seen a city of gold in Jaya. This ancestor was named Montblanc Noland and he was called a liar by everyone in the town before being publicly executed by the king for his lies. Parents of snobby bastard children who make a lot of noise in the movie theater should make use of this punishment. 

From Cricket the Straw Hats learn of an infamous current called the knock-up stream (I can think of a few Hollywood actresses that rode that stream) that might take them to this island in the sky. If said island really even exists.

After escaping from Blackbeard, the Straw Hats ride the knock-up stream and reach the land of Skypiea where the seas are actually "sea clouds" where large creatures swim. There's also cloud hard enough for people to live on. Only in this case the people are angels and their leader is actually an unseen but all-powerful God. 

The Straw Hats quickly become wanted in this cloud Heaven because of their refusal to pay an entrance fee with a currency they had never even heard of. I mean, seriously, who down here uses cloud money? 

Things only get more complicated when they are attacked by an army of guerilla warriors who claim a birthright to the "Vearth" that was stolen from them by sky people. 

It turns out this "Vearth" is actually a piece of solid land, not made of clouds but actual dirt and grass and all that good earth shit. This "Vearth" is considered holy land by both the guerillas revolting against God and the sky people as well as God himself. The holy land is where God actually lives people are forbidden from setting foot on it. 

Of course, Monkey D. Luffy can't resist the thought of setting foot on this holy land since he was told not to by everyone. This leads to even more trouble as everyone in the group soon finds themselves split up and caught in a 400 year old civil war with almost no allies in sight. And this God sees everything and strikes with deadly lightning, too. He's even more dangerous than the killer bunny from Monty Python.

Fights ensue, multiple characters almost die, and Luffy ends up trapped in a snake's stomach for ten episodes before escaping and beginning a desperate fight against a homicidal God that wishes to send all of Skypiea to the earth far below. 

Yeah, my day is typically that interesting, too. 

There's a lot more to season six and it's tough to articulate it all, but that's a rough summary. I really liked the arc even though I felt it did start a little slow. Still, at 51 episodes, this arc could afford to take its time to set the story up because the payoff is pretty big. The ending justifies the build-up. Luffy's fight against God and the ringing of the Golden Bell is a pretty epic moment. 

I rather like the allusions to the English settlers of America stealing the land from the Natives. Since the guerillas in Skypiea lived in teepees and had feathers in their hair I figured it's safe to make the assumption that that was indeed the allusion intended. Either that or.. Well, fuck, teepees and feathers are cool, right? So it's just natural that guerrillas would use them, right? 

That's what I thought.

The fact that Skypiea (wow, that term is in my autocorrect) was in the sky above everyone else and its leader was called God (who wasn't technically even God but a superpowered person called God) and most of its people were white and considered themselves entitled to a piece of land... Well, I mean, tell me that ain't a piece of American roasting Oda Eiichirou style. Sure, there are other countries this may apply to, but America is the first one that popped into my mind. The people who save this land of Skypiea aren't even from it and are the down to earth (literally) and largely misunderstood by society kind who really only want money. Yeah, I keep seeing the allusions. 

Political (and religious) interpretations aside for the moment, the Skypiea arc is a really good piece of entertainment. Ultimately, the arc is about Luffy and the gang exploring a new place, trying to look for some gold, and fighting for the underdog if they can find the time. Of course, that's what every arc is about, but there's nothing wrong with that. If it ain't broke don't fix it. 

If there is one thing that felt a bit out of place at first then it was the flashback to the relationship between Noland and Calgary the Warrior. It's a two (maybe three) episode segment that is wedged right in the middle of Luffy's pursuit of the God Eneru. Don't get me wrong, the story totally makes sense in context once all of the episodes are watched and I wouldn't change a thing about the episode order; it's just that the transition between the present to 400 years ago seems odd at first since the current story seems to be approaching its climax.

That's about all I have to say. Now onto season seven. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Maximum the Hormone - Yoshu Fukushu (2013)

So I am a little late to the Maximum the Hormone party, but after listening to their previous album so many times that it became almost all I listened to I decided to change things up a bit by buying Maximum the Hormone's most recent album Yoshu Fukushu. Three days after getting it I've listened to it five times and have formed enough of an idea on the album to hopefully make an interesting review.

Let's start with a bit of background info. I've talked about this rather odd Japanese band before here (here and here) and I like them enough to do so again. I intend to buy up all of their back catalog and give each of the albums reviews here, but that will cost quite a bit of money since they are imports that have a way of vanishing quickly. So these reviews won't exactly happen overnight. 

Even though the average price for a Maximum the Hormone album is about thirty-something bucks I would say that it's worth it (if this kind of thing is your taste). Especially for Yoshu Fukushu

I'm not just talking about the songs, either. This album is about the size of a DVD case and it includes a bookmark, a 157 page manga, and a lyric sheet. It's all in Japanese (of course), but the artwork is really something to enjoy and I can at least get an idea of what the story of the manga is based on looking at the artwork. Maximum the Hormone seems like a fun band and they aren't a bunch of angst-ridden sad white guys like you'd find in fellow nu-metal bands Korn. MTH also seems to give fans things they actually want, too. 

This manga has made me really want to learn Japanese even more. The song lyrics, too. I think there might even be conversations about each song, but I can't tell. It seems like it, though. Maybe they're just long notes or something. I really wish I could read Japanese. Still, it's pretty fantastic stuff even if I can't understand much of it.

Yoshu Fukushu 5:13 - It starts off with a soft guitar riff meant to lull innocence children to sleep and the beautiful and quiet singing of drummer Nao. Then a sludgy doom riff hits you in the face and Ryo-kun begins speaking about something, but I have no idea what. But he sounds pissed and I wouldn't want to step on his sandals. Then that heavy riff kicks in and the tempo picks up and Daisuke-han joins in with his hybrid brand of rapping and screaming. This is what MTH is about, but the chorus (or maybe it's more of a coda) is where the money is made. It's just so damn emotive and catchy. Great song.

Utsukushiki OP (Tsuki no Bakugekiki) 0:31- A short prelude to the next song. 
Utsukushiki Hitobito no Uta 4:38 - Another really good song to start off the album. I like the choruses in particular. 
Benjo Sandal Dance 4:04 - Listen to that bass riff. The song is a reference to the toilet sandals Ryo-kun wears all the time. I honestly never knew that the Japanese had sandals that were strictly meant for wearing in the bathroom. I knew they changed footwear often, but not that often. Go figure.  
Chu 2 the Beam 4:01 - One of my favorites off of the album and once again bassist Ue-chan really shines. Very poppy chorus. Thrash-like opening riff. 
"F" 4:07 - It's about the Dragonball (manga)/Dragonball Z (anime) villain Freeza (Frieza, Funimation dub). You can't really go wrong with that subject matter, but this song actually fits the mold of the character and the television show. A few of the riffs sound like something inspired by the music from the anime. The song is energetic as hell. Instant fave. 
Tsume Tsume Tsume 4:35 - It starts off with a lot of chaos before abruptly shifting to a new riff and a different kind of chaos. Within the first minute and a half this song makes so many stylistic changes that it's difficult to think that they are all really apart of the same song. Catchy chorus that blatantly contradicts the chaotic main riff follows. This song as well as the previous one were on the EP Tsume Tsume Tsume
Rock Oreimairi (3 Chord de Omae Full-bokko) 2:19 - Heavy and fast hard rock verses with a pop rock chorus and a short mosh-like breakdown in the middle. 
Unbelievable! (Suwomintsu Hokereiro Mifueho) 3:35 - That opening is pure funk worthy to be mentioned alongside the funk greats. The pre-chorus riffs are your typical in your face MTH riffs, though. So don't get too comfortable. The chorus is great. I keep thinking he's saying "He saw me fucking that big fat hoe," but I don't think that's what he is really saying. 
A.L.I.E.N 4:46 - The first two and a half minutes of this song are complete chaos. The transitions are jarring, even more so than usual for this band. It's really tough to tell where this song is going and it seems to go everywhere in a very short time. Then that coda hits at 2:45. You won't see this part of the song coming. It mellows out without any warning and becomes a quiet and poppy ballad/protest song with the only lyrics being "Stop, stop Winny upload." I have no idea if they were talking about that earlier in the song, but that last part of the song is especially good. I think this song is this band's way of trying to troll us. That or they sounded pissed about illegal use of their music. Yeah, I wouldn't cross them. Don't steal their music. 
My Girl 4:02 - I really like this one. The first riff is really good and I like the harmonizing Ryo-kun and Nao do when they sing. I really like the "va-gi-na is my rock & roll" part of the song when the synthesisers hit, too. The cameo by The Temptations song My Girl at the end just icing on the cake. 
Mesubuta no Ketsu ni Binta (Kick mo) 2:41 - A short hard rocker. I really like the ending. 
Beauty Killosseum 5:22 - In a way the initial guitar riff sounds a bit industrial like something from Rammstein's Sehnsucht with a bit of Lamb of God thrown in. Nao sings lead on the choruses while Daisuke-han yells in the background. 
Maximum the Hormone 4:55 - A song named after this very band has some large shoes to fill because it essentially needs to embody everything MTH does well. And it does. It's not my favorite song from the album, but it's solid and unpredictable. 
Koi no Sperm 5:37 - Dear God, it's the 80's again, but that's okay. This song is blatant synth pop rock MTH style. So it's not always poppy. It's good, though. A great way to end the album. Definitely one of my favorite songs from this album and from MTH. 

I really like this album. It's pretty awesome and it deserves to be bought by fans of heavier and/or unpredictable music. If you liked the songs posted (from their official YouTube channel) then buy the album while you can (hopefully) still find it. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Adult Swim Under Fire

First of all read this fantastic research piece:

Now let me ramble a bit, if you will...

I don't watch a lot of television anymore. Instead I stream the shit out of my Roku. However, I'll always have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for Cartoon Network (mostly Toonami) and Adult Swim. Even though I haven't exactly agreed with a lot of their programming choices and as a result a lot of the shows I used to love got transferred over to the Boomerang channel. 

I am 23 years old and not a child anymore, though. I'm not Cartoon Network's target audience anymore, either. I'm also not a parent. I guess you could say that this puts me firmly in the "fence-riding" category of inappropriate content. I am in Adult Swim's target audience, though. I could care less how inappropriate some folks think some of the shows on Adult Swim are because I loved a lot of that inappropriate stuff when I was younger and it didn't harm me. Of course, there are a lot of kids less awesome than I was in this world and you poor parents have my sympathies. 

I think that if you don't let your child watch things you think are inappropriate then it's your job as a parent to find programming that is appropriate for them. Period. You don't have to be friends with your kid. Lay down the law and hope they respect you for it later on. Sure, they'll always find inappropriate content online or from their friends unless you choose to keep your kids living in a giant bubble or something. Parenting is doing what you feel is necessary to keep your child out of trouble and prepping them for adulthood. 

And if saying no to shows on Cartoon Network or Adult Swim is what you think is best then go for it. 

Just know that as a kid I watched violent cartoons and horror movies, wrote violent poems, and listened to evil music and there's no way in hell I could have survived childhood living with some tyrant bible-beating parents. I typically don't like those types of parents. Still, how somebody raises their kids isn't my business. 

However... there are certain awareness groups that think it is their job to raise your children by telling you what's bad and certain parents lazy and dumb enough to let them do so. This is something I can't stand. I, as a human being, don't like violence in real life. I hate violence and I've successfully evaded fighting ever since childhood. I'm a pacifist. That being said, if it's just entertainment, then bring on the buckets of blood because I'm smart enough to know it's all bullshit and sane enough to not go on a killing spree because of it. 

Kids are smart, too, folks. Smarter than we are and they can be even smarter with just the right amount of guidance and wisdom and a good work ethic to help them along. Thing is, that guidance isn't always there. The majority of television these days screams of entitlement and poor decision-making. From the shit reality TV shows and even to sporting events. A lot of people just want to be famous and make a lot of fucking money by doing as little work as possible. And that's bullshit logic. When you let your kid watch whatever they want this is the kind of shit they will get exposed to and those same kids will probably end up being lazy and looking for easy ways to make money. It happens all the time. 

So Cartoon Network should seem like a safe channel to let your kid watch, right?

Well, apparently, there's this group called the PTC that is trying to come down hard on the Adult Swim side of Cartoon Network. By expanding to an earlier hour, Adult Swim has come under some fire. Again. This group has decided that Family Guy, King of the Hill, The Cleveland Show, and that anime stuff are far too evil for little children to watch. Far too evil. If you let a child watch that you'll turn them into an antichrist or an abortioning-approving homosexual. Either way they surely amount to the same thing. This group would much rather you make them watch episodes of Duck Dynasty, Law & Order SVU (nevermind, too libby), or the FOX News channel (Now we're talkin'). You know, wholesome entertainment for the whole family. 

I don't get the rage. I mean, the section of late night TV on Cartoon Network is called Adult Swim and it has been around for a decade. Shouldn't be no secret at this point. It's prime time gold even though it's not something heavily advertised and it is expanding. So what? It is the job of the parents to make sure their children avoid watching it if that is how uptight they choose to be. I won't judge them for it. Parenting is a job and it's something you do 24/7. You can't just let your television raise your child when you don't want to or let other people bully you into thinking their way about raising them. A little bit of effort and shows with a mature rating or questionable content will vanish off your child's television. It's called parental block. Learn how to use it. Getting rid of channels that show children shows for most of the day isn't really the answer. 

But if parental block is too much of a pain and if you really think Family Guy will fuck your kid up that much then turn the TV off and play a card game or something. Do family bonding things. Tell humorous stories about how stupid you were when you were a child. Maybe about that time your dad caught you looking at a porno mag or about the time your mom caught you masterbating on your sister's panties. Teach them how to drink and drive since that will probably be a life skill they will need at some point. Whatever floats your boat, really. I won't judge you. Parents always make right decisions because they knew what it meant to be raised the right way by their own parents. 

Just don't let those annoying little bastard children watch Family Guy because that will really corrupt them. Get rid of Cartoon Network and every other station that plays it before midnight, period. They are not worth paying for. Trust me, they'll much prefer watching copious amounts of internet porn and you will too because porn on the internet is free. And the best things in life are free and easy and require little effort and time from you. See, I bet you feel much better now. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Escape Plan

I really like The Expendables movies and I can't wait for the third one to come out. The reason I like the movies so much is because they really go all out with bringing all of the action stars together. Yeah, the plots are kinda... eh, whatever, but when you get to watch Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sly kicking ass in the same movie you just can't beat that. 

That is, unless you count Escape Plan. I thought at first that Escape Plan was going to be kind of like The Expendables-lite. Instead of having everybody and their brother in the movie it will just be the two big names in the same film as the lead stars for the first time ever. The plot would probably be just as brainless, but it'd be cool to see the film anyway and I'd probably like it. At the very least it would be something to tide me over until The Expendables 3

While the plot of this movie sounds like your typical action fair and is to a point (a guy who breaks out of prisons for a living being sent to a prison that is supposedly unbreakable, etc.), the pacing, the writing, and the supporting ensemble (boasting of Vincent D'Onofrio, Sam Neill, and a very good Jim Caviezel) really bring this flick to a higher level. And, I swear, there are times when it seems like the Governator is actually acting. 

This is not your typical junk food Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. This movie is more in the vein of maybe Face/Off meets Escape from Alcatraz than, say, Rambo meets Commando

This is a prison-break movie (well, duh) and Stallone is definitely the thinking leading man while Schwarzenegger is the favor sidekick man. It's a pretty good dynamic and while it seems a little bit forced at first it soon begins to feel pretty natural. Later on you even discover why their relationship felt forced (it wasn't exactly bad acting or writing), but I won't talk about that unless you want to be spoiled. 

Mikael Håfström is a director that has been fairly spotty the past. Most folks know him for 1408 (not too bad) or The Rite (not too good). He also directed a film called Evil that got pretty high ratings on IMDB, but I haven't seen that one. I'd bet most people haven't, either. Håfström certainly wouldn't have been my first choice as a director for a film like this, but I'll be damned if he didn't surprise me. 

One thing that initially put me off seeing this movie was Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson. I remembered Righteous Kill and how he helped bring mediocrity to the second on-screen pairing of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Thankfully, Mr. Curtis Jackson is relegated to the sidelines and kept to a very simple role. 

If there's anything I can really knock this film for is that the dialog doesn't have the snappy one-liners we'd all like to hear, but that's okay because the rest of the film makes up for it. I certainly won't say this movie will change your life, but as far as action movies go you can't go wrong with this one. 

It's good. Really good. 

Attack On Titan Vol. 5 by Isayama Hajime

The trial. Perhaps one of the more famous scenes of the anime is the trial in which Levi completely whips Eren's ass and puts the fear of Captain Levi into a crowd of self-righteous pricks. This is an important turning point in the series because it is essentially what allows Eren to join the Survey Corps by showing everyone that Eren and his bizarre titan power could be "handled" by Levi if need be. The same scene allowed Levi's popularity to skyrocket with audiences. If they thought he was cool and badass before then he was even cooler after this. 

It's good to see that that whole scene came directly from the manga. It was just too good to have been something changed during the adaptation process. 

I should stress that Levi isn't a main character. Eren, Armin, and Mikasa are the main characters with Eren taking center stage. Levi would probably get forth billing. However, future installments might feature more Levi because of his popularity. Levi's barely been in the series up to this point and that might disappoint some folks. Even this volume, which is the most Levi has been featured in so far, isn't about Levi so I want to get that point across. Very little is known about Levi so far other than the fact that he is short and can whip some titan ass. That's what sets him apart from the main characters because we know the main characters almost by heart by now. Of course, there's always things still to be found out. 

There's even less known about the Commander of the Survey Corps, Commander Erwin Smith. Other than just looking kind of cool and menacing he has yet to have a role in this story. He's just been a figure so far. That changes a bit at the trial and then later on when he gives his rather intimidating recruitment speech to all of the trainees. Boasting that the Survey Corps has had a 90% casualty rate over the last four years while trying to rebuild a supply route that has now been completely lost isn't exactly a confidence-builder for any of the trainees. Naturally, the Survey Corps receives the least amount of recruits while maintaining the highest percentage of personnel loss. 

Yet, perhaps unsurprisingly, all but a few of the commonly featured supporting characters as well as Mikasa and Armin have chosen to join the Survey Corps. Either they are all incredibly brave or just incredibly stupid. We'll see. 

The Corps embark on a test journey outside of the wall to get the trainees accustomed to life outside of the wall and to the formation, but even a test can go horribly wrong once the safety of the walls are left behind. This is titan country, where anything can happen if there is even one slip-up or careless mistake. 

And things do go horribly wrong as a new titan makes an appearance. This titan appears to be intelligent...and female. She also appears to be leading other titans as they attack the Survey Corps. 

And that's where volume five ends. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Silenced (aka The Crucible)

Anytime the subject of child abuse is brought up in media there will always be a bit of a kneejerk reaction to it. There's a good reason for that, too. People who abuse children should have their eyeballs sewn to the floor and hot skewers shoved up their asses. People who sexually molest children deserve even worse. When a movie takes on that kind of subject matter a lot of people won't see it just on principle even if they agree with the overall theme of the movie being that child abuse is indeed bad. Most folks can't take looking at children being beaten or molested even if it isn't actually what they are seeing. 

In the West these subjects are often thrown into the "horror" realm because child abuse is horrifying, but no one takes horror very seriously because there's always a bunch of blood and guts and sex scenes and bad characterization thrown around, too. If people are going to enjoy their blood and guts they don't want child abuse mixed in with it. There's something odd about equating horror with fun but that's a discussion for later. While I believe that Jack Ketchum's novel The Girl Next Door is a benchmark for severe child abuse in literature, I would like to claim that the Korean film Silenced (international title) is the benchmark for severe child abuse in cinema. 

However, I know there are horror fans that like watching and reading stuff simply because it is more extreme than what their buddies are reading or watching. I suggest that those folks stay away from Silenced because Silenced isn't a horror movie and shouldn't be viewed as such. There's barely any violence compared to so many other Korean films and there is very little action. 

Actually, this film is more of a courtroom drama, an emotional journey, and a morality tale than anything else. It's not horror.

And yet... this film, that could never have been made in America, will haunt you for a long time. Perhaps it will haunt you even more because of the true story that inspired this one. 

This movie is about the students of the Ja-ae Academy (the fictional stand in for the Gwangju Inhwa School), a school for the deaf, and a recently transferred teacher named Kang In-ho (Gong Yoo in an understated performance). In-ho believe that something is wrong with his students shortly after he begins classes. Many of them are very stand-offish and refuse to open up to him. After a while he begins to notice how bizarre the other teachers act around the students and vice versa. 

There is a reason for this. Albeit a fucked up one. Many of these students have been or are sexually molested after school hours by members of the staff, including the school's principal and administrator. Since so many of the students are orphans or have parents that are special needs themselves the children have no one to turn to. 

In-ho enlists the help of a human rights activist Seo Yoo-jin, but the two of them soon realize that this goes beyond the school grounds. The police, churches, prosecutors, and just about everyone else are actually trying to keep everything quiet. With the system pressuring In-ho and Yoo-jin to keep quiet, they find themselves in an unthinkable situation. 

This movie and the novel that helped inspire it are a rallying cry in response to the crimes that happened over a four year span in the Gwangju City School. When the book was released in 2009 it opened people's eyes to some horrible things that had been happening and the justice that was stolen from so many children. Then when director Hwong Dong-hyuk got a hold of the book he created a movie that turned that turned a public outcry into a public roar that caused the court the reopen the 2005 case, issue harsher punishments, change laws, and close the corrupt school down. 

This movie, make no mistake about it, is a piece of brilliant cinema designed to piss you the everloving fuck off. The children who portrayed the deaf students in this movie are excellent. I don't know how many of them are really deaf, but there are so many fantastic performances all around I don't know where to begin. Some of the scenes they are featured in seem like there almost had to be some editing magic involved. I'm not sure I can believe that some of those kids were really in some of those scenes. Of course, this is a foreign flick designed to shock the audience into action so I don't really know. But trust me when I say that there is no way in hell this movie would have been made in America. It probably would have been poorly handled and even more poorly accepted if it had been. 

Some of the scenes depicting the sexual abuse made me wince and look away and I don't wince and look away very often. It was painful to watch and their screams were painful to listen to. When the children are telling their experiences to In-ho using their sign language you really do feel their pain. The skill it takes to perform in silence while moving an audience is something most actors today don't have in them. Yet so many of these kids did it with flying colors. 

You will be moved. You will be shocked. And the ending will have you believing that maybe the bad guys really do win more often than not. 

That's not always the case, though. Sometimes they do win, but when enough people get pissed off about something you'll be surprised some of the changes that can be made. 

This movie was an agonizing and emotional watch. About halfway through I didn't know if I'd be able to make it to the finish. It is just such a bleak film with scenes of child abuse and molestation that were just soul-sucking even if they weren't the overtly violent type depicted in Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door

I don't regret watching this movie, though. Not for a minute. It's a damn good movie and I think everyone who reaches a certain age needs to watch this movie as a rite of passage or something. These types of things, as farfetched as they may seem, do happen and they happen more often than we'd wish to think. Although this film was filmed on foreign soil and depicts events that happened on foreign soil, it hits a nerve that is all too close to home and it often does so in complete silence. 

Recommended. Just don't make it your date movie for Valentine's Day. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Yellow Sea

It's been a minute since I've watched and reviewed any foreign or Asian cinema, but I just haven't been in a movie viewing mood for a while. Aside from Network and Skyfall, I haven't done any movie viewings this year. That's pretty unacceptable to me and I really want to end this year with thirty-five or more movie posts. I'm not quite sure how many I did last year, but I want to have at least thirty-five this year.

One movie that I had been curious about seeing for a while, but never really acted on the urge to watch it until last night was The Yellow Sea. Despite being directed by the same guy that directed The Chaser (as well as being a film recommended to me by someone who has better taste than I do), The Yellow Sea had to patiently wait in my Netflix queue. Of course, the best things in life are worth the wait. Unless you are a Denver Broncos fan, I guess.

The Yellow Sea is a really good movie that warrants multiple watchings for a variety of reasons. The first one that springs to mind is the pacing. In a way I'd liken The Yellow Sea to Led Zeppelin's song Stairway to Heaven in that it starts out slow and engrossing and gradually begins to build up steam before things get insane during the final third of the movie.

The first hour or so of this movie is largely a character piece about the main character Gu-nam (Ha Jung-woo). Gu-nam is a joseonjok, a Korean (descendant or otherwise) living in China, and when he isn't driving cabs he is gambling. 

Unfortunately, Gu-nam's gambling puts him in too much debt and when he gets fired from his job his remaining pay gets eaten up by the debt collectors. 

Needing more money, Gu-nam gets in contact with a mob boss named Myun Jung-hak (Kim Yoon-seok) and gets an offer he can't refuse. If Gu-nam goes to South Korea and kills a businessman he will get the equivalent of ten thousand dollars. 

This proves convenient for Gu-nam because that means he can look for his wife, too. Gu-nam's wife had gone away to South Korea with a promise of sending money back, but Gu-nam hasn't heard back from her and suffers from nightmares about her having affairs. 

After getting smuggled out of China, Gu-nam begins his new role as hired killer/wife searcher. Of course, the life of a hired killer isn't easy. He only has ten days to make the hit if he doesn't want his mother and daughter harmed and getting to his target won't be easy. Looking for his wife could prove even harder. 

It isn't until the night of the hit that this film really flexes its muscles and the plot begins to unleash twist after twist all while moving at a million miles an hour. It takes a bit of suspension of disbelief because there are times when Gu-nam seems unkillable. The sheer amount of people chasing after Gu-nam after the hit goes wrong makes you wonder if Gu-nam really is a cab driver down on his luck or the Korean version of James Bond. The same goes for mob boss Myun Jung-hak who seems to be more like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees than a thug with connections. 

There's also a surprising lack of gunfire in this movie. Everyone uses knives and axes instead. Not quite sure what the reasoning is (I'm sure there is one), but it makes for some brutal fight scenes and even more intense chase scenes. Hell, maybe that is the reason. A gun could stop a chase a lot quicker than an axe, but an axe just looks more menacing than a gun. 

The plot itself is a whirlwind. At the time I was watching I was a bit fatigued and had been up for too long and thought that maybe it was just me who sometimes felt lost. Apparently there are a few others out there who felt the same, though. All I can say is that you just have to kind of keep up with it and hopefully you'll get it. Watch the credits, too. There's a scene hidden there. 

With all of the action being thrown your way a lot of the plot twists can go a bit unnoticed. With this being a subtitled movie it can be even harder to follow. The dialog can be so crucial and sometimes pausing a scene here or there might be necessary to really get what some of the characters are saying. I like to think that I've gotten a bit better at keeping up with subtitles since I watch everything with subtitles anyway, but even I miss a few beats every now and then. While watching The Yellow Sea I did find myself pausing a bit more than usual to try and piece things together in my head.

Still, The Yellow Sea is an excellent film. I promise you it will reward your patience as well as your inner bloodlust. Can't recommend it enough if you like crime, action, and/or a good story. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Naruto Shippuden (Seasons Two & Three)

Oddly enough, I recall seeing quite a bit of season two on television before. It was probably before I knew what Naruto Shippuden even was because I recall not remembering what the fuck was going on. Why is Naruto a bigass fox? Why is he fighting Orochimaru? Who is this Yamato dude? Who is Sai? Why are they meeting on a bridge anyway? Where's Sasuke? 

None of it made any sense to me. I felt like I did after Super Bowl XLVIII minus the intense feelings of rage and depression. Just confusion. Intense confusion. My confusion was certainly understandable and after about eight episodes I stopped watching because I hate it when I spoil stuff for myself when I have no idea what's going on. And some shit was already kind of spoiled for me just by watching those episodes. Just googling anything about Naruto Shippuden is freaking dangerous and finding these pics to accompany this post was nerve-wracking. 

I'm fairly OCD about my watching habits. If I miss an episode or two of some show I will stop watching, period. This is true of live action shows like NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS, The Walking Dead, The Mentalist, Deadliest Catch, etc, but it's even more true of anime. Until I can watch all of those motherfuckers in order from first to last then they might as well have been cancelled after the last episode I watched. Even if that means waiting years and spending lots of money on blu-ray or DVD releases. It really all depends on how much I care about the show. 

Thank God for streaming. 

The second season of Naruto Shippuden takes place in the aftermath of Sakura's battle with Sasori and Gaara's subsequent resurrection. Before dying Sasori had declared that he had a subordinate working under Orochimaru as a spy and that in ten days Sasori was supposed to meet up with said subordinate. 

However, Kakashi is hospitalized after overexerting himself using his Mangekyo Sharingan and won't be able to accompany his team on this newest mission. Considering Kakashi's new(?) ability is something that you have to get by killing your best friend (according to something Itachi said anyway), I'd greatly like to know how and when he came across this technique. That curiosity aside for the moment, an ANBU Black Ops member given the codename of Yamato is appointed as the substitute for Kakashi until Kakashi can get better. 

Now I'd like to make a quick aside and rant about the ANBU Black Ops. If you've seen the show then you know that they are generally useless. I mean, this group is supposed to be elite and do all kinds of fantastic and mysterious shit, but they always get their asses handed to them. Always. I know this is shounen anime, but can't the writers make these fuckers at least a little bit less pussy-like? Just because you need some extra characters getting their asses kicked to pad out the plot a bit doesn't mean you can't at least make them somewhat menacing. Wearing mouse masks and cloaks doesn't equate to menacing. 

The ANBU Black Ops are a joke as of season three of Naruto Shippuden and I have yet to see anything to change my mind about them. I suppose Yamato might be the exception to this rule. He's actually pretty cool. Of course, he didn't get cool until he put down his incredibly intimidating and mysterious ANBU Black Ops mouse mask and began acting like a normal person. So maybe he's not that much of an exception, after all. 

Sai's introduction to the series happened at the end of the first season, but his importance isn't really revealed until the second. If you don't like Sai (and I guarantee you that you won't at first) then just give him time. Sure, he's deceitful, too pale, and dresses a bit too androgynous for my taste, but he will surprise you. He's a master troll. When Sasuke defected from the Leaf Village and became a pupil ot Orochimaru, Sai was more or less chosen to be Sasuke's replacement in Team Kakashi. Just how is something you better find out for yourself. And whether or not he's a "true member' is also something you'll have to find out, too. 

Once Team Kakashi makes it to the Tenchi Bridge then the shit hits the fan. Sasori's spy is actually Orochimaru's disciple Kabuto and if history has taught you anything then it's that Orochimaru isn't very far behind when you see Kabuto.

Yamato's brilliant Sasori disguise is seen through and things quickly get out of hand as Naruto and Orochimaru begin to exchange blows. Once Naruto loses control and awakens his fourth tail all kinds of shit gets destroyed. I pity the guy who has to do bridge, road, and lawn maintenance. Actually, I'd like to know if that same company is currently hiring. That'd be some steady employment with some serious hours guaranteed. Probably overtime and free ramen, too. I like ramen. 

Of course, Yamato has a special ability for moments when Naruto loses his shit so all hope is not lost. 

Once the brutal battle is put on hiatus a chase ensues as Team Kakashi follows the evil pricks to their hideout. At said hideout is Sasuke and we finally get to catch a glimpse of some of the evil shit he can do now. 

Season three picks up after Naruto's failure to retrieve Sasuke. By all rights everyone in Team Kakashi should have been slaughtered but Orochimaru stopped Sasuke's attack because he wants Team Kakashi to eliminate more of the Akatsuki members. Well, you know what they say about the enemy of my enemy, right? It's that same kind of thing although it does feel a little too convenient when used here. Not quite deus ex machina because the reasoning makes sense, but it still feels kinda cop out-ish. 

With Kakashi out of the hospital Naruto begins training that will hopefully make him a lot stronger in a very short amount of time without having to rely so much on the nine tails. The goal is to create a new jutsu that will kick some serious ass. Specifically, Sasuke's and Orochimaru's asses. 

Unfortunately, this training is interrupted when filler rears its ugly head. Episodes 57-71 are all filler. Well, the final few minutes of episode 71 aren't, but that's kind of nitpicking. That bit just introduces two more members of the Akatsuki that you'll get to meet fully in the first episode of season four.

I watched a few episodes of the filler and then skipped to the final minutes of episode 71, but you can do whatever the hell you want. Based on what little bit I saw of the filler, I guess it might have been interesting if only for the canon story that followed. The details of the Land of Fire and the Guardian Shinobi Twelve are expanded on a little bit. Another character named Sora is introduced and Naruto feels a certain kinship with him and all that. Again, do with the filler as you please. Although I hope you don't like Sora too much since he is a filler character. 

I personally don't regret skipping the filler, but I still feel a little pissed even though I know the episodes really don't matter. But I've got a lot to watch and don't want to spend all year reviewing older seasons of Naruto Shippuden. Or One Piece for that matter. 

Onto season four now. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The 10 Best Anime in 2013

This was a fairly intimidating list to compile, I admit. That's one of the reasons I'm two months late in delivering it. Another reason is because I am about as lazy as I am busy. 

I more or less chose to cheat by including only the anime that were first time viewing for me during 2013. So no Tenchi Universe or Yu Yu Hakusho. Now before anyone says anything (assuming someone is actually reading this...) allow me to explain a bit. A few of these anime aren't from 2013 at all, but the title of this post should hopefully reinforce that point. These are anime that I saw in 2013 and not ones that necessarily debuted during 2013. Everybody does their "best of lists" differently and this is how I will do mine. 

With as many shows as I watched in 2013 I admit that my memory of the ones from earlier in the year are going to be a bit fuzzy. However, I believe that the first ones to come to mind are always the right ones. If I got to think about it then it mustn't be a sure-fire winner, right?

So this is my list. Period. I've reviewed them all on here before so I will include the links to those reviews in the titles of each respective show. Hopefully, you'll enjoy at least one of them if you haven't seen them. If you have seen one then feel free to tell me how terribly wrong I am and how terrible my taste is. 

07. Gungrave

Well, there we have it. I suppose my top few make me sound like a flavor of the month kind of guy, but I really did enjoy all of these. I'm kind of kicking myself for not including Darker Than Black or The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (as well as a few others), but my list stands because I'm too tired and/or too stubborn to change it. 

Naruto Shippuden (Season One)

I enjoyed the first Naruto series well enough. I watched the first 135 episodes and then skipped all of the filler junk at the end and went straight into Naruto Shippuden. Damn, did I make a good decision. Of course, Naruto Shippuden has a lot of filler too (like One Piece, Dragonball Z, Bleach, Inuyasha, etc.), but not eighty straight episodes of filler. Not yet anyway. 

The first season of NS contains 32 episodes and is thankfully filler-free. It also gets right to the action.

It's been two and a half years since Naruto set off to train with Master Jiraiya. In that time Gaara has become the Fifth Kazekage and just about everyone else has become either a Jonin or Chunin. 

Despite getting trained by one of the legendary three Sannin and having more chakra than just about any of the Jonin or Chunin, Naruto still remains a lowly Genin. However, Naruto won't have time to try to take the Chunin exam again after returning to the village with the Akatsuki on the move and the deadline for Orochimaru's body switch with Sasuke hovering over the horizon. 

Naruto's reintroduction to the village and everyone in it is pretty cool. It's nice to see what's happened to everyone since Naruto has been gone. It's also cool to see that Sakura finally became useful during Naruto's absence. A lot of female characters in shounen anime are typically weak and used as nothing more than damsels in distress or just something pretty to look at. So if you are a more feminist type then chances are you won't like a lot of shounen anime, but there are moments in certain anime that often take you by surprise. The first season of NS provides a welcome surprise. 

Sakura flat-out kicked some ass in the first season. Her and Granny Chiyo rocked the joint. No doubt about it. So anyone (me included) who had been knocking Sakura for not having a bigger role or stronger powers can finally shut up a bit. Although it's really the fault of the writers for not knowing how to properly handle their female characters. So take note of this because there's no telling how often this will happen in the later seasons. For this one brief moment in the first season of NS Sakura was the bomb.

The main reason we got to see Sakura in action was because of the Akatsuki making its move. Now if you don't know what they are then I'd advise you to watch the first 135 episodes (or so) of Naruto. But, long story short, they are a group of bad guys that are after the Jinchuuriki. The Jinchuuriki are the poor and unfortunate bastards like Naruto and Gaara that are cursed with having one of the nine tailed beasts implanted in their bodies. Gaara has the one-tailed while Naruto has the nine-tailed. 

Uchiha Itachi and the shark dude (you'll know him when you see him) are just two of Akatsuki and they were they only ones introduced in the first series. Two more are introduced right off the bat in NS and they are Sasori and Deidara. 

That particular evil duo are out to take Gaara of the Sand (even though Deidara is really the one that fights Gaara) while Naruto and Sakura test their new abilities against their old team seven leader Hatake Kakashi. Surprisingly, Gaara loses his battle and gets taken by the Akatsuki. Having passed their test with flying colors, Naruto and Sakura join Kakashi's team as equals instead of students this time around and one of their very first missions is the rescue of Gaara from the Akatsuki. They must do so quickly, too. If the Akatsuki can manage to extract the tailed beast from the Jinchuuriki then the Jinchuuriki will die. Gaara's life is quite literally hanging in by a thread. 

You can't count out Team Kakashi, though. Or Team Guy. 

Once they arrive on the scene we get some serious kick-ass action. 

The best fight of all the first season is the one between Sakura, Granny Chiyo, and Sasori. Believe it.