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.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Yu-Gi-Oh!, Vol. 1: The Millenium Puzzle by Takahashi Kazuki

Most of us know Yu-Gi-Oh! as the anime that inspired a very popular card game. If you've ever seen the original anime that was Americanized for stateside viewing then you might think you know just what the manga entails. You'd be wrong, though. I first of all wish to point out that there are two anime based off of the original manga. The first anime was simply known as Yu-Gi-Oh! and has yet to be licensed for an English translation. In that particular anime Kaiba's hair is actually green, by the way. 

The second adaptation is known as Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters and that is the version that pretty much all of us know today as Yu-Gi-Oh! in the States. 

Both adaptations of the manga were heavily edited, though. Although I've only read the first volume I can back up that claim with quite a few examples. 

However, what I really want to stress for anyone wishing to start the manga is this: Don't expect a million duel monster battles. In fact, the first volume doesn't feature a single card game, a duel monster, or anything remotely resembling Kaiba. Kaiba isn't even introduced until later in the second volume. So there are no duels happening in the first volume. I know I sound like a broken record, but I want to get that point across. 

This isn't the Americanized television series nor is it the original adaptation that came before that most people haven't seen. This is the manga. 

The art is a lot different, too. So are the names. Tea, Joey, and Tristan are all familiar to fans of the anime, but the manga calls the characters by their original Japanese names. Tristan Taylor is Honda Hiroto. Joey Wheeler is Jonouchi Katsuya. Tea is Mazaki Anzu. 

It may take a minute to get used to the original names, but I don't think anyone will miss the English names anyway. Chances are if you want to read the manga then it is because you want to know the real story. Well, this is the real story.

This volume consisted of seven chapters that essentially introduce us to the main characters of the series, including Yami Yugi and Yugi's grandfather. However, there are some noticeable differences in terms of art style. To my eyes, Jonouchi looks the most different from his anime counterpart although I think he (and everyone else) begins to look more anime-like as the series progresses.

Before I conclude this review I want to describe the Shadow Games as this volume describes them. Indeed, there are no card games duels in this volume, but there are duels of a certain sort called Shadow Games. These Games began not too long after Yugi finally managed to finish putting together the ancient Egyptian artifact called the Millenium Puzzle.

Whenever Yugi gets frustrated or pissed Yami Yugi comes out from the Millenium Puzzle box, possesses Yugi temporarily, and then challenges the wrongdoer to a Shadow Game. The loser essentially loses his sanity (or his life) while the winner lives to see another day. Kinda like a more screwed up version of The Incredible Hulk.

Allow me to elaborate on one chapter in particular to give you a good idea. (With the exception of the first chapter all of the other chapters are almost standalone so I don't feel too bad giving one of these chapters away since it won't hurt the overall storyline.)

In chapter four a man breaks out of jail and holds Anzu hostage at the fast food restaurant where she works. Yugi and Jonouchi happen to be there, but there is nothing they can do since the guy has a gun, right? Well, this is where Yami Yugi takes over and challenges the criminal to a game that Jigsaw from Saw might approve of.

The goal of the game is for Yugi and the criminal to move only one finger of their choosing, but none of the other fingers. Yugi chooses his thumb while the criminal chooses his index finger so he can pull the trigger.

Unfortunately, the criminal has a cigarette in his mouth and a bottle of booze pouring into a glass in his non-gun hand. Yugi gently places a lit lighter onto the man's pouring hand after lighting the guy's cigarette for him. While the alcohol keeps overflowing the glass, the criminal is incapable of moving his hand or else the lighter will tip and he'll end up catching himself on fire.

However, the irony is that he drops his lit cigarette from his mouth first because he was so nervous about moving his hand. And then the guy gets burned alive while Yami Yugi walks away from the scene in total badass fashion.

Yeah, this ain't the Yu-Gi-Oh! you might remember. There's a reason the manga is rated T for Teen.

Personally, the manga made me become a much bigger fan. I do hope there are some card games in the not too distant future, though. Because it just isn't the same without the Dark Magician.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

From Up on Poppy Hill (Kokuriko-zaka Kara)

Studio Ghibli is typically known for their sweeping fantasy films, but that doesn't mean all of them are like that. One film that I love from Studio Ghibli in particular that isn't even remotely fantasy is Grave of the Fireflies. That isn't the only one set in the "real world," but it probably is the most well known. Another Ghibli film that deals with the real world is the film From Up on Poppy Hill. While it is quite a bit more recent than Grave of the Fireflies and not quite as engrossing, I don't think From Up on Poppy Hill gets enough respect as a Ghibli film. Maybe times will change that, maybe not. 

There are a number of reasons for this, though. Those reasons don't have much to do with the film, but they are worth mentioning since they regard the film's director, Miyazaki Goro. Goro is the son of the famous director Hayao and the two of them had previously worked together on Goro's 2006 directorial effort Tales from Earthsea, but creative differences caused Hayao to walk away from the movie. Hayao thought that Goro wasn't ready to direct a movie at the time and maybe the fact that Tales from Earthsea is typically considered to be one of the Studio Ghibli's lesser efforts by many fans proves Hayao right. I dunno. I haven't seen the movie in question yet, but I will. 

I have seen From Up on Poppy Hill, though. And I think that Hayao's actual involvement in this film should tell you a bit about Goro's growth as a director. 

To date this film is Goro's only other directorial effort, but with Hayao's retirement supposedly cemented I don't think it could hurt Goro to make another film. From Up on Poppy Hill certainly showcased his considerable talent well. 

We start with our main character Matsuzaki Umi. Umi is a typical high school student living in a boarding house overlooking the port of Yokohama. Every morning she raises flags to honor her father who was killed when his ship sank in the Korean War. The flags are meant to wish sailors a safe journey.

Then one day there's a poem about Umi in the school newspaper. The author of the poem just happens to be Kazama Shun, the school newspaper president. It seems like a perfect high school love story, but then the Board of Education decides to demolish the clubhouse Quartier Latin in time for the 1964 Olympics and it's up to Umi and Shun to save the building. 

Along the way they grow closer, but Shun discovers something about Umi's father that might just put the kibosh on their blossoming relationship. 

The atmosphere of this movie is very easy-going and the sense of nostalgia is strong. I didn't even grow up in Japan in 1963 (Hell, I wasn't even alive until 27 years later), but the movie did give me that sense of yearning for simpler times that a lot of coming of age stories do so well. And that really is what From Up on Poppy Hill is. While I'm not quite sure a lot of other Stateside viewers felt a strong connection, I do think that the connection is certainly there if you use your imagination a bit. Culture may not be universal, but childhood certainly is. 

This movie is definitely a breath of fresh air and it does what it does very well. It's certainly not the greatest film Studio Ghibli ever made, but I can't think of a reason why anyone would actively dislike it. You know, outside of someone just wanting to be a cynical prick. 

I enjoyed this movie. 

Naruto Shippuden (Seasons Fourteen & Fifteen)

Folks, I don't think I've been this hyped about about a season of Naruto Shippuden since season eight. Season fifteen is the bomb. Season fourteen... eh, not so much. Season fourteen is largely dedicated to filler so I really don't have much to say on that front. However, episodes 296-301 are canon so I will say that you shouldn't skip all of season fourteen. Just skip episodes 302-320 and that will take you back to canon material and to season fifteen. 

Season fourteen kicks off with Naruto and Killer Bee finally making their way to the battlefield. In order to cover more ground Naruto makes multiple shadow clones and sends them to all of the major battle sites. The major focus of the canon episodes in season fourteen is the fight Gaara and his Company wages against the Fourth Kazekage (Gaara's reanimated father), the Second Mizukage, and the Third Raikage. Naruto's shadow clone helps out by making it there just in time, but elsewhere another fight starts that will make a lot of Naruto fans really, really happy. 

I'm talking about Naruto and Killer Bee Vs. Uchiha Itachi and Nagato (formerly known as Pain). 

It isn't until this fight that I realized two things. The first is that Naruto didn't have a prayer of beating Nagato a second time. An undead Nagato with all of his former powers resurrected is almost unstoppable. Almost. 

If not for Itachi then all hope probably would have been lost right there. Itachi, genius that he is, actually manages to free himself from Kabuto's brainwashing and helps Killer Bee and Naruto take Nagato down. 

That's not to say I wasn't sad to see Nagato go. Nagato may have killed Jiraiya and he have been one of my most hated characters at one point, but as a reanimated slave to Kabuto you've got to feel for him. Not only was he used by Tobi for much of his life he was also used by Kabuto in death. The guy just can't get a fair deal. It really is no wonder he turned out the way he did. Naruto did make him see the error of his ways before his "first" death, though. So when we see him and Itachi again it's like seeing two long lost friends. Until they meet up with Naruto and Killer Bee they are just chatting, wondering why they've been brought back and hoping that someone will stop them. You know, just like normal everyday people. 

It was during those moments that the two of them actually became two of my favorite characters in the series. 

I mean, Itachi was already creeping up my list of favorite characters, but Nagato gained some serious ground with his second appearance. I was sad to see him be sealed away by Itachi, but glad that he could be put to rest again. Sometimes dead is better, right?

Now I know you must be asking yourself this, "How the hell did Itachi free himself from Kabuto's grip?" Well, this is where Itachi turns out to be a genius. Remember when Itachi left Naruto some of his power just before he died? Although initially meant for Sasuke, the power Itachi left was a form of genjutsu that would make the victim of the genjutsu wish to protect the Hidden Leaf Village. Itachi certainly hadn't planned on using the genjutsu on himself, but doing so overrode Kabuto's control over Itachi's body and mind. 

Free from Kabuto's grip, Itachi decides to set off after Kabuto himself to stop the reanimation jutsu while he tells Killer Bee and Naruto to go after Tobi. Of course, he has to swear Naruto to secrecy that he won't go blabbing to everyone about what really happened on the night Itachi slaughtered the Uchiha clan and that Itachi is actually a badass hero. 

After episode 301, I highly recommend you skip to 321 and commence season fifteen. All you will miss is Naruto trying to make it to every battlefield in time. It makes Goku trying to travel all of snake way in eight episodes in Dragonball Z look tolerable. 

Now let's get to the good stuff. 

For starters... the resurrection of Uchiha Madara and the REAL identity of Tobi, the man in the mask who has been claiming to be Madara for the past few seasons. 

I'm about to drop some serious spoilers on your ass so get out of here right now if you don't want to  be permanently damaged. 

When Madara appears on the battlefield against Gaara, Ohnoki, and Naruto's shadow clone you know shit has just gotten real. Because Madara, the real one, is the ultimate badass. Reanimated or not, Madara is one of the strongest characters out there. Period. When the rest of the Kage make an appearance to aid Ohnoki and Gaara then you have to know how serious this situation is. If that doesn't send the point home then maybe the moment when Madara uses a jutsu to summon two fucking METEORITES will. 

With the five Kage set to take the stage against the real Madara, Naruto's exhausted shadow clone disappears and Naruto has no choice but to trust the Kage with that fight. 

Meanwhile, the real Naruto and Killer Bee confront Tobi and the resurrected Jinchuriki. Of course, Tobi made sure things would be as hard as possible by implanting each of the Jinchuriki with both Sharingan and Rinnegan eyes. Not to be outdone, Tobi has also implanted himself with a Rinnegan so he has both, too. 

On their way to help the dynamic duo are Kakashi and Guy, but will the addition of the two of them really be enough to take on seven Junchuriki accompanied by seven tailed beasts and one homicidal maniac wearing a mask?

Well, the answer is no. They don't stand a chance in Hell... without some blind luck and the help of Kurama.

Now wait just a second. Who is this Kurama person? That's surely what you are asking yourself right now, isn't it? No, I'm not talking about the character from Yu Yu Hakusho. Kurama is actually the name of the nine-tailed fox inside of Naruto. In fact, all of the other tailed-beasts have names, too. During some of the episodes there's even a neat little singalong that helps us remember all of their names as well as the names of the Jinchuriki, but that song does get annoying after a while. 

During this season Kurama and Naruto become tight and I'm talking BFF tight. They even bump fists in true bro fashion. That's pretty awesome.

Of course, even with Kurama willingly helping Naruto and the aid of Kakashi and Guy things still seem grim.

If not for Itachi I've got to wonder how things would have turned out. While the five Kage are fighting the real Madara and Naruto is fighting the other "masked" Madara, Itachi and Sasuke have actually teamed up against Kabuto to make the most unlikeliest of alliances.

It's during this time that Itachi not only handles business with Kabuto, but he also comes clean 100% about what had happened in the past to Sasuke.

And it is moments like these that make me realize once again just how awesome Itachi is and what a little shit Sasuke is. The lengths Itachi goes to sacrifice for the Leaf Village are astounding and Sasuke just doesn't get it.

When Itachi gives his farewell to Sasuke and finally tells him how much he loves him... Yeah, you'll get those feels. Itachi went out like a true boss a second time. It really is such a shame that he has such a stupid younger brother. I mean, right after Itachi sacrifices himself again, Sasuke decides to revive Orochimaru.

Are you fucking kidding me? Sasuke, can't you just stop being an annoying fucker and get with the program?

Still, I am curious as to why Sasuke revived Orochimaru. Very curious indeed.

Getting back to the fights, the real Madara is owning the five Kage until the reanimation jutsu is undone. For a moment there, things looked really grim for the five Kage. On the other battlefield the seven Jinchuriki disappear and the tailed beasts go back to laying dormant inside of the Gedo statue. Everywhere else all of the reanimated shinobi disappear, too.

Now all that has to be done is to stop Tobi from getting a hold of Naruto and Killer Bee, right?

You couldn't be more wrong.

The real Madara has actually found a way to break free of the reanimation jutsu in such a way that not even Itachi could. Madara actually manages to rescind the reanimation jutsu contract and retains control over his own body thanks to a series of well-timed hand signals.

Like I said, the real Madara is the ultimate badass. And the real Madara easily defeats the five Kage and joins Tobi on the battlefield against Naruto, Killer Bee, Guy, and Kakashi.

At this point we all know who Tobi really is by now and it is no wonder that it was Kakashi who knew who it was before anyone else did. Since they technically share eyes.

In episodes 119 and 120 of season six of Naruto Shippuden we saw a glimpse of Kakashi's younger days and how he became friends with a young Uchiha named Obito. These episodes showed us how Kakashi got his Sharingan eye from the dying Obito and how Kakashi's outlook on life changed after his father committed suicide, but they also served a much greater purpose.

They served as a glimpse at Tobi's childhood as well although I'm not sure just how many people might have guessed it at the time.

Because Tobi is actually Kakashi's childhood friend, Obito.

Oh, snap.

In turns out that Obito did not die from his wounds, but actually got nursed back to health in an underground cave by, of all people, an aging Madara.

A series of flashback episodes at the end of season fifteen help fill in the gaps between Obito's "demise" and the rise of the Akatsuki as a power of evil. Don't skip those. They are important.

Man, what a rush. Next up is another filler season, but that one is only twelve episodes. After that I'll be caught up with the simulcast and posts about Naruto Shippuden will become a lot more infrequent. I know some of you are probably grateful for that.

I can't wait to see how all of this turns out, though.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi (Abenobashi Mahō Shōtengai)

This bizarre anime was suggested to me by an old school friend on Facebook late last year and I can't believe I am just now getting around to making a post about it. So I'd like to apologize about that. Matthew Pituk, this one is for you.

You want to talk about bizarre? Abenobashi will get your bizarre fix going on. You want enough obscure anime and cultural references in an anime to feel like you need liner notes to explain all of them? Abenobashi has you covered there, too. 

I've been trying to cut down on buying anime I haven't seen lately because I knew that if I keep doing that I will quickly find myself becoming something akin to an anime hoarder. And as I've said many times previously anime is very expensive. However, I chose to buy this anime for myself when I heard someone on Amazon describe it as Fooly Cooly as written by Lewis Carroll. I haven't actually read Lewis Carroll, but I am familiar with the tale of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (as we all are) and I can verify that that description is quite accurate. 

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi simply defies all logic and does whatever the hell it wants to. That's not to say there isn't a plot, though. There are actually a few plots. One of them being quite a bit more difficult to understand than the other. 

But first let's talk about the nerdy stuff. Each episode is kind of like a smorgasbord of pop culture references. So much so that I can't really recommend this to newbies of the anime genre. To really get everything you have to be well-versed in the ways of the nerd. Space (the mecha genre, in particular), high school romances, Hong Kong fight movies, Hollywood, and even hardboiled noir all get there own episodes as Sasshi and Arumi try desperately to make it back to their own Abenobashi.

Why are Sasshi and Arumi unable to get back to their own world? Well, that is the primary question asked by the series and I'd like to leave that to the series to adequately explain.

I will say that issues with maturity do enter the equation, though. I mean, we all have to grow up sometime and face certain bitter truths. Although you certainly wouldn't think so judging from appearances, but that is one of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi's central lessons. 
Of course, I didn't think there were going to be any lessons at first. The first half of the series seemed to be nothing more than a barrage of references and anime parodies. It wasn't until the second half that the real story began to form and anime became compulsively watchable. 

I think there is something in this anime for everyone, but everything is crammed together so quickly that I think it makes it tough for most people to really get. That's one of the reasons why, even though this anime was released in 2002, you don't often see this title high on the list of anime to watch. In fact, before I had been recommended to watch the anime I had not heard of it, either. Yet I find it difficult to believe that Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi has an extremely small audience when Fooly Cooly can become a Toonami mainstay for years. Plus there are Monty Python references!

Abenobashi was popular enough to get a dub and good DVD release, though. On the DVD there are outtakes by the English dub cast as well as commentary from the English dub cast. There are also liner notes (as I mentioned earlier) that might help you get the story better. I didn't watch the episodes with the liner notes so I'm not quite sure what they try to elaborate on, but I'm sure I'll give them a once-over sometime later on for the sake of completeness. 

The dub is certainly an odd one because all of the characters talk with a Southern twang. I didn't watch the dub, but I did watch a few of the outtakes and I think that the voices actually sound competent and like a good substitute for the Osakan accents used by the Japanese actors. However, Southerners saying Japanese names is... odd. Maybe that's why this anime didn't take off in the States. 

Before I end my review I should mention that this anime isn't for kids. At all. There's quite a bit fanservice and nudity and even some foul language (mostly in the Hollywood episode where one of the characters drops the F-bomb about fifteen times). 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Paprika (Papurika)

Directed by the late Kon Satoshi and released in 2006, Paprika is one of the most mesmerizing movies you could ever hope to see. What can only be described as the anime film Stanley Kubrick might have directed if had chosen to direct such films, Paprika stands tall above many of its fellow animated brethren as a visually outstanding and conceptually bizarre piece of cinema. 

There are few movies I find as fascinating as Paprika. Animated or not, there just aren't movies made like this anymore. I'm talking about movies that are designed to be experienced rather than just seen. I'm talking about movies that will blow the hinges off your mind and leave you wondering what planet you are on. I've seen my fair share of summer blockbusters and CGI effect bonanzas, but very few of them are legitimately fascinating. 

Paprika is fascinating and marvelous. I'd recommend it to anyone. Even if you've never seen anime. And if you like Inception you will probably get a kick out of this movie too because Christopher Nolan was influenced by this movie to a certain degree when he made his film. Although, if you really care to compare them like many on the internet have chosen to do so, you'll find that they aren't the same and Paprika is by far the more surreal of the two. 

Plot-wise, Paprika is about a dream terrorist and the unlucky few who get the job of fighting him. Chiba Atsuko and her dream alter-ego Paprika are on the frontlines of this dream assault as they try to piece together who could be behind the theft of the dream therapy device, the DC Mini. Whoever this thief is happens to be using the DC Mini to invade the dreams of others and drive them insane. 

It certainly won't be an easy job because as the fight against the dream terrorist is prolonged reality and the dream world begin to collide. 

I won't go too much more into the story than that because this is a movie meant to be experienced rather than summarized. 

The dialogue and plot are certainly important, but there are times where a coherent understanding of what is happening seems less important than what you are seeing. At times you'll probably feel confused and wonder what the hell is going on, but everything looks so damn cool you really don't make a big deal about it. 

This movie thrives so much on the outlandish that you really can't just sit and "digest" it after one viewing, anyway. Repeated viewings are certainly recommended. However, the dialogue is the key to understanding the story. I watched the subtitled version with the Japanese dialogue and managed to hold my own for pretty much all of the film, but you might need to watch the dubbed version in order to really pay attention to what is going on. 

I can't speak for the dubbed version, but I will say that the music on the subbed version is excellent and very fitting. This is actually the first film to use a Vocaloid on its soundtrack. You might not know what that is, but it has this bizarre sound that fits perfectly with this type of movie. You know how Justin Bieber isn't a real singer? Well, Vocaloid singers aren't even real because they are programs, but they still sing better than the Beibs. 

Anyway, I highly recommend this flick. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Company Man

Have you ever had a job that you just couldn't stand? I think we've all been there a time or two. Of course, most of us don't start hating our jobs immediately. It's typically a little by little kind of thing for most people and the same was certainly true for Ji Hyeong-do. He put on his suit and tie and clocked in at the office just like many other people, but unlike other people Hyeong-do would start killing people because that was his job. I can see how somebody might grow to hate that after a while. 

A Company Man isn't an entirely original film, but it is certainly a decent film. In fact, I'd say it deserves a bit better than the 6.6 IMDB rating it has. While not as good as some of the other Korean films I've seen, A Company Man can hold its own against many films and that is thanks in large part to So Ji-sub's fantastic performance and the balls against the wall climax. 

This film was Lim Sang-yoon's directorial debut and at times it does feel like the work of a first-time director. Certain scenes just feel underdeveloped and rushed (especially during the beginning) and the hour and a half running time doesn't help matters, either. 

However, that's about all I can hold against this movie. It doesn't do anything new, but it all still works on a certain level. The movie kept my attention and the good far outweighs the bad. 

I'd certainly recommend it to fans of Asian cinema and anyone looking to get their action and feels fix. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

If I haven't made my love for Crunchyroll rather clear then let me state that I spend 85% of my TV time watching Crunchyroll. The rest of the time I'm hitting up Netflix or Funimation or checking out the NFL Network. Thanks to my Roku, I can watch Crunchy on my lovely HDTV instead of my Kindle Fire HD or my Chromebook. 

But also on Roku is the KDrama channel, Crunchyroll's sister site. In case you don't know, Crunchyroll features both anime and dramas. Naturally, anime is overwhelming favorite on Crunchyroll, but there are more than a few dramas on Crunchyroll and since I've started watching Korean movies I've also wondered what their dramas must me like. So I started watching some drama on Crunchyroll. There's some pretty damn good stuff up on there, but KDrama is even better. Not only does KDrama include all of the dramas on Crunchyroll, but it also features dramas that aren't on Crunchyroll. 

Unfortunately, the Roku app for KDrama only features the Crunchyroll stuff, but I'm hoping an update will change that. 

If you like watching things on your desktop or laptop then all you have to do is go to KDrama and sign up. If you are a Crunchyroll member then you get a grace period before you have to pay a fee. Since I'm an all-access Crunchyroll member (I pay for both the drama and anime accounts) I don't have to pay a dime to KDrama until January of 2015. 

What this means for Crunchyroll's drama I don't know, but if you want your drama fix then give KDrama a visit.

Because, I mean, how can you seriously not like Korean dramas?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Attack On Titan: Junior High by Nakagawa Saki

For those of us that watched Attack on Titan while it was being simulcasted the hype has pretty much gone away. Yeah, the show's English dub is being shown on Toonami and that's awesome, but what we really want is a second season. Most of us probably bought the special edition blu-ray anyway. Unfortunately, the second season is a ways off so all we can do is read the manga. I'm still hesitant to continue down the primary manga route because I really want to wait for the anime, but I need something to read, though. So a couple months ago I ordered Attack on Titan: Junior High

I have been very lazy reading stuff so I've only gotten around to this review. In fact, I'm not technically even finished with the manga yet. I'm close enough, though. Nothing wrong with taking your time, right?

For starters, I thought this little spin off series was hilarious. In case you can't guess by the title, this parody series takes place within a school setting. The humans are in one school while the titans are in the other and they rarely interact with each other. 

Eren Yeager wants to interact with the titans, though. And by "interact with the titans," I mean "kill all of the titans." It all happened one day when the colossal titan stole Eren's lunch (cheese loaf, I believe it was) and ate it in front of him. 

One thing I loved about this series is its wit. Pop culture references should be nothing strange to anime and manga fans (hell, entire anime and manga can be built from such references), but Junior High really uses it with a razor sharp effectiveness. I don't know just how much was changed during the translation, but the translation as it is is funny. 

One of my favorite quotes is, "You can insult me all you want, but when I'm done with you, you'll long for death! It'll be torture! Worse than a Cameron Diaz movie marathon!"

Another is, "Stop whining, you little pansies. If all you want is more for your money, then go to WalMart, not Wall Rose!"

Genius. Again, I don't know if those are the closest to the original translations, but as they are they are pretty funny within the context of the series. 

Purists might not like this series because it isn't suspenseful at all and it does spend most of its time poking fun at Attack on Titan, but if you don't take anything too seriously and fancy a good insult then Junior High is well worth your time. The American version bundled all three volumes together and that's pretty convenient. Or at least the Kindle version is that way. I'm not sure about the paperback. 

If you like the series then you should enjoy this unless you are just too much of a fanboy. If you don't like the series then you still might like this manga since it does spend plenty of time making fun of the story. And no, you don't have to be too familiar with the original story although being familiar with it will help you get a lot of the jokes. I'm mostly talking from a spoiler point of view. 

P.S. - You also get to see the titans perform in a rock band. Now that's something I'd love to see animated. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

More Than Blue

I don't normally turn to Korean films for my feels fix. I normally do that with certain Japanese anime, but I wanted to do something different this time. South Korea has produced some excellent action and serial killer films, but until More Than Blue I had never seen a South Korean romance film. Honestly, my hopes weren't that high for the film because... Well, I typically don't watch romance flicks. This film surprised me, though. I'm not just saying that, either. There was a legitimate twist three-fourths of the way into the film that I didn't expect at all.

The story itself is a simple one. I'd even go so far as to say that it is a cliched one. Our principal characters are K and Cream and the two of them just happen to be childhood friends that are living together. The fact that they are living together should be a sign, but main characters are often very dense in these kinds of situations. In fact, most romance films feature insanely stupid characters. 

However, K isn't really that dense. He does love Cream, but he hides his feelings because he has terminal cancer and he doesn't want her falling in love with him. 

Cream on the other hand seems like a complete and total self-serving bitch for the first hour and twenty minutes or so. I had to wonder if she was a complete idiot for not seeing that this dude was head over heels for her. Plus he was like all dying and shit while she was out flirting with some random dude.

However, there is a method to her madness that is revealed in the final twenty minutes. 

Since K is dying from cancer he doesn't want Cream to be alone after he's gone so he goes to insane stretches to ensure that she ends up with someone. He even attempts to blackmail the current fiance of glasses-dude so that glasses-dude could be free to marry Cream.

I don't really know the name of glasses-dude anymore than I know the actual names of the main characters, but I didn't really like glasses-dude at all. When Cream started flirting with him, completely oblivious of both K's condition and feelings, I automatically decided that I didn't like her. And when she decided to marry glasses-dude I decided that maybe I'd give up on the movie. It was just so insanely depressing and sad that I didn't see the point of sticking around for another twenty minutes. 

However, I am glad I did. Until that point this movie didn't really stick out. It was certainly sad, but it seemed pointless. The movie ended on a bit of a happy note, though. Or at least the closest this type of film could manage to a happy ending. 

I really don't want to spoil it so I'll give you a chance to stop reading now... although you may continue reading after the spoiler ends.


What you don't see until the end is that Cream was actually in love with K the whole time. She also knew about his condition. When he told her, a bit offhandedly in conversation, that he wanted her to find someone and get married she took that to heart. She quite literally found some random dude and started forming a relationship with him. Cream wanted to be with K, but K didn't want her to know so she respected his wishes and married glasses-dude just to please K. 

When K did die, Cream committed to suicide to join him in death. You don't actually see any bloodshed or anything like that. In fact, you don't even see her again after K dies. The final twenty minutes are told in flashback form from Cream's point of view. Then things skip to the present and you hear Cream's final wishes to K after her suicide. 

I really liked the way this played out, honestly. And I actually felt sorry for glasses-dude in the end since he discovered that Cream had never really loved him at all. 


All in all, it's a brilliant ending that makes everything seem worthwhile.

Of course, a lot of the plot seems a bit too convenient at times, but the movie is well done in terms of its atmosphere and presentation that you won't notice so much while watching. 

I thought Kwon Sang-woo (K) carried the film really well and while the story certainly seemed like the overdramatic type, his performance was actually pretty restrained. There isn't a single steamy sex scene to found in the movie and this movie is better for it. In fact, restraint is what the film is all about and there are few love stories that actually pursue that direction without the characters being written as willfully stupid. 

More Than Blue's trick is that you just think some of the characters (like Cream) are stupid, but as they are fleshed out you begin to see differently. 

This is a bit of a tough watch, though. It's not a feel good movie at all and there's very little in the way of comedy. Well, there is a cat girl. She doesn't add jack to the story, but she's a cat girl and everyone loves cat girls. 

The singer guy in the movie (you'll know him when you see him) and the whole song schtick is a bit of an annoyance, too. But the main story makes up for it so I don't see it as negatively impacting the movie in my eyes. 

It's on Netflix at the moment and if you are thinking about sad anniversary movie you want to watch with your significant other or are planning out your next Valentine's Day movie way early then maybe you should give this movie a watch. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Naruto Shippuden (Seasons Twelve & Thirteen)

Howdy, folks. It's that time again. But before I delve into season twelve I want to give you a chance to get caught up on all of my thoughts on the Naruto anime series.


Naruto Shippuden

Episodes 243-293 make up the twelfth and thirteenth seasons of Naruto Shippuden and they essentially cover the start of the Fourth Great Shinobi War. So if you've been waiting for some serious fighting action then you've come to the right place.

First we've got to have our build-up, though. Naruto, Guy, and Yamato arrive at an island where Naruto is told he is supposed to participate in a secret mission to help aid the Allied Shinobi War Effort. However, that isn't quite the case. The real reason both Bee and Naruto are on the island is so that they can be hidden from the eye of the dreadful Madara and his remaining Akatsuki members. 

With both Naruto and Bee being the primary targets of Madara, the Allied Shinobi Force decided to keep them out of sight for the duration of the war. Of course, we should know by now that won't happen. This show is Naruto and not People Not Named Naruto for a reason. 

While they are on the island Naruto asks Bee to train him to control the tailed-beast within him. Bee initially refuses Naruto even though one of the reasons Naruto and Bee are at their particular location is so that Bee could train Naruto.

The primary reason that Bee refuses to train Naruto is because Naruto isn't really at peace with himself. He is thus led by one of Bee's friends to the Waterfall of Truth where he is asked to confront his dark side. Of course, he won't be able to control the Nine-Tails until he beats his dark side. 

How do you beat someone who is... well, you? The answer is kinda obvious at this point. The answer is you don't beat yourself. You've got to accept yourself and try to make your weaknesses better through positive means. 

After successfully winning that fight, Bee decides to train Naruto. The two of them, joined by Yamato, go to a room that sort reminded me of the Hyperbolic Time Chamber (The Room of Spirit and Time) from Dragonball Z. It's a room that just seems to go on forever and you've got to wonder who the hell built the damn thing and just what the construction costs were like. 

Once there Naruto frees the Nine-Tails from his confinement and the two of the them start duking it out inside of Naruto's mind, leaving Yamato and Bee to watch over Naruto's physical body. 

The last time that the Nine-Tails went on a rampage was during the fight with Pain and what stopped Naruto from being consumed completely was the sudden appearance of the late Fourth Hokage, Naruto's dad. This time Naruto gets help from his mom, Kushina.

While a lot Naruto flashbacks are a serious pain in the ass, the flashback episodes concerning Minato and his fight with the man in the mask (Tobi?) as well as his and Kushina's final moments are some of the best episodes in Naruto-dom. I hadn't been so moved by an anime since the deaths of Jiraiya and Itachi in season six. I really have to hand it to Kishimoto. A lot of fairly well-known shounen anime and manga don't play the death card with a sense of seriousness and drama. I love One Piece to death, but no one has really died yet after 300+ episodes. In Dragonball Z people died all the time, but they always came back. With many action anime having no real sense of finality, Naruto (and primarily its sequel series Naruto Shippuden) is a breath of fresh air. That's not saying characters can't come back or won't come back. There are always things like flashbacks and filler stories and even the canon Reanimation Jutsu (more on that later), but not all of the characters come back to be seen again. 

And even if they do come back what really makes Kishimoto's story stand out is that it feels like you'll never see the characters again when they really do die.

One trend I have noticed over the series is that even the baddest of bad guys is often portrayed in a bit of sympathetic light. I thought Pain was one of the baddest mtoherfuckers in the series and I hated his guts, but somehow my opinion about him changed by the time he died. I still don't like the fact that he killed Jiraiya, but at the end he did turn over a new leaf. 

Kisame was the same way in a sense. Kisame certainly didn't have as many redeeming qualities about himself and he never turned his back on evil, but he felt like a flesh and blood character in his final moments instead of just another faceless bad guy. His death didn't happen until after Naruto's ascension to Nine-Tails Chakra Mode, but it wasn't Naruto who managed to bring him down. In fact, Kisame decided to commit suicide. By taking all of his secrets with him he died honorably and that made me respect his character quite a bit more. 
The next death in the series is Konan's. I really didn't like Konan at first since she also helped Pain, but she also turned over a new leaf. After Naruto defeated Pain, Konan returned to the Hidden Rain Village and tried to live out a life of peace. Of course, Tobi/Madara had to show his ugly mug in search of Nagato's Rinnegan eyes.

Rather than blindly following Tobi again, Konan gives it all she has to take down the masked man. Until this fight I never realized just how strong Konan was by herself. Just the fact that she managed to damage Tobi's precious mask and take his right arm should be enough to prove this. The Paper Ocean attack where she actually parted the seas and created a huge paper bomb attack was amazing. It didn't work, though. I kind of wished it would have, but Tobi/Madara is on a different level. But if not for Izanagi, Tobi would have been killed.

Konan's death was really sad and the scene showing her reunited with Nagato, Jiraiya, and Yahiko in the house where they trained was the watery icing of the feels cake. 

I really do hope that Tobi gets his real soon. 

Kabuto, too. I think Kabuto, Tobi, and Sasuke are the only villains in this series I don't give two shits about, but Tobi is the far more likeable of the three. With the exception of a few flashback episodes, Sasuke isn't anywhere to be found in season twelve or thirteen and that's fine with me. Fuck him. 

Unfortunately, we get a big helping of Kabuto. 

Kabuto is a first rate prick, but this is the first time I've actually felt like he might be more dangerous than Tobi. Kabuto's use of the Reanimation Jutsu is particularly brutal, but the partnership forged between Tobi and Kabuto was done so in a way that it felt like Kabuto had certain intel on Tobi that gave him a decisive advantage. 

I think I have a good idea what Kabuto knows, too. 

Season twelve is split up by some flashback Sasuke filler, but just before that Yamato gets kidnapped by Kabuto. I'm kind of worried about him now because I haven't heard anything about him in quite a few episodes. I hope he isn't dead. That'd piss me off. 

Meanwhile the war is going on in all of its epic glory. Naruto is barely even featured during this time as he continues to train with Killer Bee to perfect his Chakra Mode and that gives a lot of other characters time to shine. Faced with the bizarre White Zetsu Soldiers and countless reanimated Shinobi like Sarutobi Asuma, Ginkaku, and Zabuza, the Allied Shinobi Force has its hands full, though. 

Things only get worse when Tobi decides to enter the battlefield himself (albeit briefly) with his giant Gedo Statue. 

Naruto isn't going to be pushed aside in favor of a bunch of other characters, though. His new form gives him the ability to sense chakra and he quickly learns that while he has been training the war has already been going on for quite some time. Naruto decides to escape from the island where he has been training and Killer Bee decides to join him. 

Even if it means taking on the Fourth Raikage and Lady Tsunade, Naruto won't stand by as his fellow Shinobi fight. Of course, we all know that Lady Tsunade won't fight Naruto, but the Fourth Raikage is another story.

Okay, folks, I know I have been yapping enough, but my post is almost at an end. The only thing I have left to talk about are the Power episodes at the end of season thirteen. These episodes are all filler just like the six episodes before it were, but what sets Power apart is the fantastic movie quality animation. These six episodes were originally intended to be a movie, but that plan was shelved and the story became filler instead. These episodes act as a bit of a prequel to the Fourth Great Shinobi War, but I wouldn't really swear by them.

These episodes were made to commemorate the 500th episode of the Naruto series and I think they did a good job. I would have preferred canon material to this, but the Power episodes are still good enough in their own right and I wouldn't recommend skipping them since they are pretty cool.

Now to season fourteen!

Friday, May 2, 2014

My 11 Favorite Songs featuring the F-Word

It has been a while since I did a music list (okay, maybe I did one or two last month...) so I figure I better knock out a quick music list before we get too deep into May and I can think of no subject matter better than songs that heavily feature the F-word. None of this is otaku-related at all, but it's my blog so nanny nanny boo stick your head in doo doo.

When I get home from work and feel pissed or just wake up in a bad mood these are some of the songs I turn to. They aren't listed in any specific order, either. 

I Love to Say Fuck - Murderdolls (or Wednesday 13's Frankenstein's Drag Queens From Planet 13) - This song is so good there are two different versions. I linked the one by Murderdolls but the other one is good, too. This song is just fucking good no matter how you listen to it. 
Fucking Hostile - Pantera - There are many Pantera songs with the F-word in them, but I think that word was utilized the best in Fucking Hostile. Especially since it is in the title. 
Surfacing - Slipknot - Corey Taylor cusses a lot. That's true of a lot of other singers, but until Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses) came out I didn't know that Corey Taylor could sing a song without dropping the F-bomb. In fact, I thought that was all he could say. The first Slipknot album featured quite a few colorful metaphors, but "Fuck it all, fuck this world, fuck everything that you stand for" just has a certain ring to it. 
It's So Easy - Guns N Roses - This is the first time I ever heard the F-word used in a song. It warped my fragile little mind. Of course, I could list just about every other Guns N' Roses song, but that'd be cheating. 
Fuck You (In Memory Of) - Wednesday 13 - Wednesday 13 cusses so much that he gets the honor of appearing on my list twice, but he was smart enough to have multiple bands in order to gain that honor. This time he's on here singing in nostalgic ballad form. This is a great drinking song for thinking of that certain special someone. 
Liberate - Disturbed - I'm not a big Disturbed fan. I really only like them because of their connection to certain Dragonball Z movies, but Liberate has its own charm. I have no idea what it is supposed to mean, but the singer certainly says "motherfucker" a lot during the verses. Cuz' fuck choruses. 
St. Anger - Metallica - I actually like this song. The use of the F-word isn't as blatant as others on this list, but it is used enough to warrant a mention. And I just like the fucking song. Sue me. 
Sick Bubblegum - Rob Zombie - I like the part where he says "rock, motherfucker."
So What - Anti-Nowhere League - This is the soundtrack to my workday. Like literally. I should hand out cassettes of this song out to every single whiny ass co-worker who calls in because of a headache. You gotta headache? Well, so fucking what. 
Irresponsible Hate Anthem - Marilyn Manson - I was in the sixth grade when I discovered Marilyn Manson and his album Antichrist Superstar. Scared the shit out of me. Naturally, the album gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling these days. This was the first track from that album and it's fairly easy to see why he became so controversial. Not many skinny white goth kids can get away with dropping the N-word in a chorus. Of course, he had previously done so with his cover of Patti Smith's Rock N' Roll Nigger, too. Not sure he won many popularity contests as a kid. 
Fuck You - Cee Lo Green - Surprised you, huh? You thought you were going to see something else here, right? Well, I like this song, too. I wouldn't exactly blast it from my stereo or anything like that, but I approve of his use of the word "fuck" in the chorus. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014


One thing I like to do every now and then is to highlight certain Japanese music acts that play a large part in the anime community. I've already covered Maximum the Hormone and I'm sure I've mentioned Hirano Aya a couple of times somewhere, but I haven't really mentioned anyone else.

So I'm going to talk about Flow this time. Flow is a J-pop rock band that was founded in 1998 and currently consists of two vocalists, a guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer. The two vocalist approach isn't seen very often in rock unless we're talking about vocalists that also perform instruments. Asakawa Kōshi does play the occasional rhythm guitar, but he is literally billed as "occasional rhythm guitar" on the Wikipedia page. 

Naturally, I was exposed to Flow through anime. A couple of anime, actually. In fact, I think that anime is pretty much how everyone comes across bands like Flow and Maximum the Hormone and that shouldn't be much of a surprise. If you don't watch anime (specifically anime that retains its original Japanese theme songs) then you might not know that certain acts can make a career out of creating anime theme songs and that quite of few of those songs can be good. Not all of them are (and a lot of what is good and bad depends on your taste of course), but I find myself enjoying quite a few. And if you really watch anime on a consistent basis then more often than not you'll enjoy a lot of the tunes. 

Flow has had three of their songs as Naruto theme songs with two of them being OPs in the first series and the third being an OP in Shippuden. So if you watch Naruto then you are already quite familiar with them. Of course, they aren't one trick ponies when it comes to anime. Flow has also had songs featured in Eureka Seven, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, and even the movie Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods

I've decided to post a few of their videos. Mostly my favorites from their catalog... and yeah, pretty much all of them were the ones I just listed that I could find official videos for. I have listened to other songs by them, though. I've got their album Microcosm on heavy rotation in Google Play. 

The one below is a cover of the classic Japanese OP to Dragonball Z. This cover doesn't touch the original, but I do like it. 

And this is probably their best songs. It's kinda tough to listen to as well if you've seen the sixth season of Naruto Shippuden. You not only get to have it as the soundtrack to the death of one important character, but two.