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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ace of Diamond (Daiya no Ēsu)

I'm not a big fan of baseball. I grew up in Alabama. Baseball just isn't very popular around these parts. I've tried watching games, but I don't really feel that deep and immediate connection. Sure, I can watch it, but much like hockey I don't really keep up with it that much. There's Alabama football (and in the SEC in general, too), NASCAR (although not as much these days), and the NFL (I typically follow the Manning brothers since they were SEC QB's) and that's pretty much it for me. I respect baseball and its history, though.

Of course, sports anime is another matter. I recall watching a sports-related anime about tennis (a long time ago and you can guess which one) and thinking it was amazing but it is still my opinion that tennis is one of the most boring sports in existence.

There are a lot of sports anime out there, too. Track, basketball, soccer, American football, swimming, rugby, baseball, volleyball, cycling, figure skating, racing, boxing, and wrestling have all found themselves being anime material. I'm sure there are a few others, too.

Baseball alone has a few anime tributes. One of them happens to be the more recent Ace of Diamond. I generally don't watch a lot of sports anime because I prefer to stick with sports in real life and leave anime to epic ninja fights and stuff like that. However, I decided to watch Ace of Diamond back in July after I finished up No Game, No Life because I wanted something a bit different from the usual fair. 

I just finished up episode 50 believing that the ending would be soon, but this anime will continue on until March of 2015. It might even continue beyond that for all I know, but right now I think I have a solid opinion of this anime and I am ready to share it. 

There are a number of terms I learned from this anime like knuckleballs, cut fastballs, and forkballs. So at the very least I can say it is partly educational. I really don't know a lot about baseball, though. I know how many outs there are in an inning, but once I start looking at stats and stuff my head starts hurting. I'm sure it's easy enough to learn, but I'm just that unfamiliar baseball.

I can say that this anime is fairly entertaining as long as you don't ask too much of it. It's neither too deep nor too superficial. There's just the right amount of humor and drama. There's plenty of character growth, too. However, this anime will probably be appreciated more by fans of action anime then anyone looking for a romantic angle or a real-life scenario. I'm pretty sure Super Saiyan-like auras do not surround players who are determined to hit a difficult pitch. 

The primary character of this anime is Sawamura Eijun and he is a left-handed pitcher with dreams of becoming the ace of a team going to the nationals. Despite knowing very little about baseball and without having a lot of proper training, Eijun has managed to carry his losing middle school team on his back thanks to his enthusiasm. 

His talents do not go unnoticed by one of the scouts from Seido High School, either. 

Although he initially didn't want to go to that school since it would cause him to abandon his current teammates, he is forced to make the decision that is best for his future. 

Seido High School might just be his one shot at the nationals, but its going to take a lot of hard work to get there. Seido already has an ace pitcher in the form of Tanba Koichiro, a third year who is determined to keep his place as the team's ace. There's also another pitcher-to-be in the form of Furuya Satoru, a first year like Sawamura who won't back down despite his stamina problems.  

On a team that does not lack good players or potential, Eijun does not have a lot of time to establish himself but he must do so and quickly if he wants to become the ace. There's also the nationals to consider. This is a team that wants to win right now and last year's loss to Inashiro still burns them. Will Eijun be able to make himself useful to a team that wants it all?

The baseball games in this anime are typically delivered in multi-episode format and we are given a brief history of all of the perceived enemies. So there's definitely a reason to watch from week to week since there are cliffhangers. Of course, the games that go on for multiple episodes can sometimes seem like they drag on, but compared to the actual game of baseball the episodes of this anime fly by. 

The only thing that sometimes puts me off is the artwork, but I can't really figure out why. Maybe it's the thick eyebrows and way too big smiles on every character. 

This anime is still pretty good, though. I'm just not sure how it will resonate with me once I am finished with it. It feels too generic at times to leave a lasting impression, but when it is good it really does seem greater than the sum of its parts. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014


In 1988, director Otomo Katsuhiro released the theatrical adaptation of his very own manga, Akira. That movie has since been considered one of the greatest and most influential animated films of all time. It's also one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time.

However, 1988 wasn't a year that lacked classic anime movies. My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies came out during the same year, too. So what makes Akira worthy of its own mention in a year that produced two excellent films in their own right? 

Well, for starters, this movie helped start the 1990's boom in the Western Otaku-culture. It is also an extremely well-made movie. The dialog was actually pre-recorded and the animation of the mouths was made to match what was said (something that wasn't done so often in those days). It's animation, despite its age, really is spectacular. There's also a sense of something archetypal about the story. 

It's a dystopian post-war fantasy epic without stereotypical bad guys. Tetsuo, the primary antagonist, isn't as much of a bad guy as he may seem. He's the sympathetic villain and it is his powerless best friend Kaneda that must save the day even when it seems like the Japanese army cannot. Kaneda is the goofy hero without any powers and Tetsuo is the larger than life almost godlike creature trying to destroy the world. 

The plot of this movie shouldn't work, but it does because Tetsuo isn't the only one with powers to be found. It would be pretty boring if Tetsuo just destroyed everything, right? There are three small (and very old-looking) children that seem to have a bit of Tetsuo's power and they might be all that stands between Tetsuo and mass destruction. 

Still, explaining the plot to this movie is like explaining the plot to 2001: A Space Odyssey or just about any other Stanley Kubrick movie, for that matter. You just have to see it or you won't really get it. 

Akira may or may not be the most original concept, but because it was animated and because of the time it made its debut it made a mark that can't be underestimated. It really was the perfect storm. 

But the fact that it was animated isn't the main attraction. It's what was animated. This film, which came along long before Paprika and seven years before Ghost in the Shell, is a visual spectacle. As the movie continues it becomes more and more absurd and pushes the boundaries for animation. When it comes to animation there are no limits and Katsushiro knows this. He's so immersed in the story, probably because he understood his own 2000+ page story better than anyone else (and was still involved with it at the time), that it shouldn't be any surprise how much of a punch it packs. 
The movie also didn't steer away from tough and violent scenes. Not just violence, but gore, too. It wasn't overwhelming gore, but an absurdist type of gore that becomes an integral part of the landscape. Tetsuo's transformation at the end is a good example of what I am talking about. 

There's also a few very uncomfortable scenes that involve an attempted sexual assault and some nudity. I've watched plenty of modern anime that had some shocking scenes, but the scenes from this movie are not without their shock value even if they weren't intended to be shocking. Age is not a crutch for this film. What it was meant to do in 1988 it still accomplishes in 2014. 

This movie proved that there was a market for Japanese animation in America. But even if you throw out all of that, there's also just the fact that it is an excellent movie. That's why it is a classic. That is why you can't really call yourself an anime fan if you haven't seen this movie. It's like calling yourself a fan of poetry without reading Shakespeare. That's how I view this movie. Even if you don't like it, if you respect the history of Japanese animation then you can't not watch this movie. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Imagine a world where, if you get too stressed out from your job, you get a knock on your door and a high tech gun called a Dominator in your face. You'll be hit with a paralyzing effect (if you're lucky) and dragged to a therapy session in hopes of getting the color of your psycho-pass back to normal. If it doesn't recover you will be treated as a latent criminal and life as you know it will end. 

You could very well end up as an Enforcer for the Criminal Investigation Division. As an Enforcer you'll essentially be treated like a dog by the Investigators (people who don't have clouded psycho-passes) and do all of the dirty work to track down latent criminals like yourself before they can do anything too terrible. 

You'll be armed with the Dominator, a gun that will choose for itself whether to person in its sights will get to live or die. This Dominator is operated by the Sybil System and that is the system under which the Japanese people live. If pointed at you the gun could do you in, too. The only difference between you and the people you are pointing your gun at is that you are being given a second chance. 

You will have no free will despite not having committed an actual crime, but merely because the likelihood is high that you might commit a crime. 

This is your life if you are an Enforcer in Psycho-Pass. While it does sound rather disheartening, it is quite entertaining to watch. I have no shame. 

This anime began in 2012 and finished in 2013, consisting of 22 episodes (each 22 minutes long) by the time it ended. It was eventually re-edited into 11 one hour episodes, undoubtedly to help promote the upcoming second season. I really enjoyed this anime so much more than I thought I would. I can't wait for season two. 

I'm not sure how they'll be able to top this particular season, though. This anime is one of the great ones. Just run through the list of influences that the creators listed. First up we have L.A. Confidential. Then we have Gattaca, Brazil, and Blade Runner. There are also mentions of the likes of Philip K. Dick, Jonathan Swift, George Orwell, Joseph Conrad, Marcel Proust, and Max Weber, too. The anime, and certainly the source material manga which I haven't read yet, knows where its influences lie and it uses them. I even learned a thing or two. It makes me want to read Proust. 

While definitely a gruesome (at times) showcase of cyberpunk, Psycho-Pass is also an intelligent anime with strong characters, great dialog, and a fantastic finale. I would dare say that it is even better than Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. There's nothing remotely cutesy about it, either. If you are sick of moe then this should be able to cure that affliction. This is throwback anime the way it is supposed to be made. 

I especially liked the rivalry between Kogami Shinya and Makishima Shogo. There just are not rivalries like that anymore outside of shounen anime. I don't think I've seen that kind of thing since Cowboy Bebop. Sure, a lot of people throw that phrase around but in this case it is true. 

This anime was really refreshing to watch. I highly recommend it. It's a great dystopian work and it really does get better with each episode. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Attack On Titan: No Regrets Vol. 1 by Gun Snark and Suruga Hikaru

At the risk of sounding like a complete and total heretic, I'm not sure I see a point in a prequel detailing how Levi came to be the great Captain Levi of the Survey Corps. He's certainly a popular character among fans, but does he deserve his own manga? The primary series is very much a grand and sweeping epic and its wide scope is what gives it such an appeal. While Eren is the lead character he is surrounded by many characters that are given more depth over time and really grow. Plus there are amazing titan vs titan fights. The question is whether or not this manga prequel is a legit manga or if it is just a cash-in.

Going back to before the beginning and focusing on Levi, a relatively uninteresting character when he isn't killing titans in amazing fashion and treating other characters like dirt, doesn't seem like an ideal prequel. Certainly of all of the potential storylines a prequel could be made from in the world of Attack On Titan, I wonder if a Levi story is the way to go about making one.

I don't know right now. It's early. I have only finished this volume and I must wait for the next entry in the series.

The artwork seems different than the primary series, but that is because the artwork is done Suruga Hikaru. The original artwork by Mr. Isayama has a much more unique feel to it. No, it's not as smooth as a lot of other mangaka, but Isayama has a very distinct style. Mr. Suruga somewhat removes that distinction in favor of more clarity and sleekness. The characters look more refined, but those that are familiar to us like Levi or Erwin lose a bit of that trademark touch. That's not to say that the art isn't good because it is very good. It just lacks the distinctive style that I have thus associated with Attack On Titan. It's close, but not quite there.

This volume is very short and not a lot happens. Well, aside from the fact that Levi meets Erwin and the members of the Survey Corps for the first time. He also gets to battle a titan for the first time. We also meet Furlan and Isabel, two of Levi's friends that are original to this particular manga. This being the series that it is, I doubt that they'll survive for very long since they haven't been mentioned until now.

At the beginning of this volume Levi and his cohorts are on the run from the Survey Corps because the stole some 3D Maneuvering Gear. Oddly enough, there's a bonus prologue at the end of this volume that shows the start of the chase. 

Erwin eventually catches them and tells them that they can either join the Survey Corps or endure a great deal of hardship. Apparently, Erwin sees something in these three that others don't and he's willing to use them in the war against the titans. Levi agrees cautiously, but only because he wants to get close to Erwin and cause him some hardship. 

This is certainly an interesting start, but it isn't exactly jaw-dropping. I'm going to wait and see what the next volume has to offer. 

The Inbetweeners

Aside from my frequent indulges in all things Monty Python I have never been much for British comedy. Why? Well, I just haven't watched it because I haven't had the chance to get too well-versed in that world. For some reason I keep thinking of Austin Powers even though the man behind him is the very much not British and only sometimes funny Mike Myers. Mainstream British comedy seemed to be tainted in my mind before I could even enjoy it. 

But this series came highly recommended to me from a reliable source so I decided to give it a go. While I enjoy a good comedy, I admit that it is tough to make me laugh. I may smirk, I may giggle, I may chuckle, but I rarely laugh. 

Not since Wolf of Wall Street has anything really made me hold my sides laughing. 

This series has comedy that will hurt. The comedy is so cringe-inducing that it literally hurts when you start laughing. At times, I just couldn't watch. I looked away like a scared little kid watching The Exorcist for the first time. It was just too painfully funny to watch all the way through. 

I think the crowning achievement for me was when Simon (the character played by Joe Thomas) threw up on Carli's little brother. I mean, there are a lot of moments in this short eighteen episode series that will kill with laughter, but that one etched itself a firm spot in my memory.

This series definitely went for some gross-out gags and there's a lot of sexual innuendo and foul language, but in some ways this series reminded me a bit of Scrubs, with the hopeless and borderline incompetent main character that you still somehow root for and an overbearing authority figure that delights in that character's misery. Of course, I'm talking about Greg Davies as Mr. Gilbert. Greg Davies, with his rather limited screen time compared to the rest of the gang, is absolutely hilarious with his ability to keep straight face and be a dick. 

This is a fairly short series so I don't have a lot more to say about it. I'm not very familiar with the actors or the director. I'd have to Google their history. Still, I don't think I recognized any of them. But I really enjoyed this series, anyway. It doesn't have a lot of character depth to it and it can feel repetitive at times (all the jokes are basically about sex), but it does play to its strengths and it keeps things funny. What is funny in episode one is typically still funny in episode six and so on. 

BBC's Sherlock

I love whodunits. I love mysteries. More than that I love competent characters who can solve mysteries using deduction and reason without a lot of the dribble that pollutes modern day television shows. Those are the purest of mystery solvers, I think. That's why shows like C.S.I. just kinda leave me feeling pretty meh these days. Now that Grissom is gone, one of the few genuinely interesting characters created by the franchise, I don't see an appeal to the show anymore. The Mentalist is probably the only other show on television that I think I can enjoy when it comes to solving mysteries. Simon Baker's character is legitimately interesting. 

Sherlock, though. That's the granddaddy of them all. Well, for the most part. 

If I am anything like most people that like Sherlock Holmes (and it is indeed a rarity that I am like most people) then I'd like to argue for a general consensus that most people who do like Holmes have never touched a single work by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I think everyone is the same way when it comes to James Bond or Jason Bourne, too. You know the characters, but I would like a show of hands as to just many of you have actually read any of the source material. If you have then I'd love some recs. 

Much like Dracula as well, the character of Sherlock Holmes has become far more attached to the actors who have portrayed the intelligent sleuth on screen. Perhaps the most famous portrayal belonging to that of the brilliant South African-born English actor Basil Rathbone. Of course, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Jeremy Brett, and even Robert Downey Jr. have all had their stay in 221B Baker Street, too. I suppose everyone has their favorites, but for me it would be Mr. Rathbone.

Until now.

I was very impressed by Benedict Cumberbatch when I saw him in Star Trek Into Darkness. Having never heard of him before, I was taken quite unawares. After that I decided to look up some of his previous work to wonder just how I'd miss someone like him. I discover through my search that he had portrayed Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock. I was definitely intrigued, but also a little bit put off. I'm not a big fan of the show Elementary and I've already seen the almost-Sherlock character of Gregory House do his House thing so many times it isn't even funny. To me, House felt more like Holmes than that guy in Elementary. I'm just really tired of seeing diluted Sherlocks. I just wasn't in a mood for yet another take of the man with the drug addiction and penchant for solving complex crimes. Or so I thought. 

What did convince me was Benedict Cumberbatch. I mean, the guy has presence. A cool name, too. I thought that the role of Sherlock Holmes would have been made for him just as much as the role of Khan. The temptation to watch a modern day Sherlock played by a modern day Khan was just too great and I was rewarded for my curiosity.

Benedict nails it.

Martin Freeman's role as a surprisingly competent Watson was also rewarding. Much better than Lucy Liu's female Watson or the often cringe-inducing performances in later films by Nigel Bruce. 

The only thing I was a bit hesitant about as I started watching was the modern day setting, but the transition was not all that jarring after a couple of minutes. Watson being a blogger and Holmes being a texting addict doesn't seem that out of sorts. Outside of solving crimes, they are largely shut-ins. It kind of makes sense. 

But the technology doesn't provide a crutch for Sherlock because he is by far the genius he is supposed to be. The technology only seems to be there to confirm something he already knows or to provide an extra layer to a mystery. It's also used to tremendous effect in the episode regarding Irene Adler's phone. 

Perhaps the most bizarre update presented in this nine episode series (as of this writing) is that of The Hound of the Baskervilles. That story was my first introduction to onscreen Sherlock when I was a kid and I have seen both the Hammer and 20th Century Fox versions of the story many times. So the idea that the infamous hound was the result of genetic mutation at the secret base Baskervilles was a bit odd, but it was quite interesting. I don't recall Christopher being haunted by that particular monstrosity, but the episode as written was very clever and won me over. 

Of course, the true test was Moriarty. While at first I wasn't entirely convinced of Andrew Scott's performance as the infamous nemesis, I really began to appreciate him in the finale of the second season. 

This series started in 2010 and still only has nine episodes. Each of those episodes are an hour and a half so it is really like seeing nine movies, but the cliffhangers at the end of each season are killer. Season four looks like it will come out in early 2016. That's an agonizing wait. 

Highly, highly recommended, though. Wait be damned. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Attack On Titan Vol. 13 by Isayama Hajime

Well, I'm back in the waiting game now. I have to wait until November to get the fourth volume of the wildly popular Attack On Titan manga series. Thankfully, there are the two spin-off series No Regrets and Before the Fall I can enjoy in the meantime. Both of which are prequels, with the former telling the backstory of Captain Levi. Although I don't think those will be able to touch the main series in terms of quality since they are not done by Mr. Isayama. However, Attack On Titan: Junior High might be able to overcome the shadow of its inspiration if only through sheer absurdity. 

First off, I just want to state how epic this cover art for this volume is. It reminds me of something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie. Or maybe The Usual Suspects. I think that this artwork really sells the way this series is actually perceived by the fans. Previous covers just didn't quite capture the sense of majestic awesomeness that it is capable of conveying.

This cover tells you the gang's all here and looking badass. Of course, one of the main characters is in drag and holding a shotgun. So maybe badass isn't quite the right word. 

The last issue left off with everyone escaping the fight against the Colossus and Armored Titans with the exception of Ymir. If you recall, Ymir actually chose to follow Bertolt and Reiner for whatever reasons. 

Our heroes, in the meantime, are being forced to pick up the pieces after a fierce battle yet again. The Survey Corps is making Eren and Krista lay low because there's a very good chance they may be kidnapped again.

Erwin is recovering from having his right arm eaten by a titan and the leader has never looked more frail, but he still has his metaphorical hands full now that Hange suspects that the village of Ragako was somehow transformed into titans. 

If you recall, that's the village where Connie's mother lived and where he found a titan that looked suspiciously like her. Hange's suspicion would also support the fact that there was no new wall breach that let the titans inside this time. 

With all of this stress, I'm a bit worried about Erwin. I'm also beginning to wonder what the connection between Eren and Krista really is. There are definitely some odd things going on here. 

Things only get worse for Erwin's stress level when it appears that the Military Police murdered Pastor Nick, the Wallist Priest that the Survey Corps had been trying to protect so they could get information. Not only that, but the conspiracy to retrieve Eren and Krista seems to go all the way up to the top of the food chain. 

The monarchy itself seems to be willing to sabotage the Survey Corps and the rest of humanity. 

Erwin's plan is now clear: The Survey Corps must overthrow the royal government. 

I really loved this volume because it focused more on the political intrigue than on the titan battles. While I have enjoyed the battles, the politics behind the walls are interesting in their own right and they kind of bring the series down to earth a bit. After all of the action, it's kind of nice to bring things to a more personal level and really get in touch with citizens again. With all of the badassery you'd almost forget that the citizens still consider the Survey Corps to be a waste of taxpayer money. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

InuYasha - The Movie 3: Swords of an Honorable Ruler

It's been a while since I finished watching the InuYasha series. While I will never consider it one of my all-time faves, InuYasha is definitely an anime that is worth watching at least once. The movies for the series, much like movies for just about every anime series, are kind of hit and miss. The first two movies were not that spectacular. Much like many of the early Dragonball Z movies, they felt like episodes that had simply been elongated. That, to me, feels like a wasted opportunity. 

A movie should be a spectacle and should have the scope of one. InuYasha, to its credit, has a very fantastic world and a lot of interesting characters and in Swords of an Honorable Ruler we actually get a story that is more than just another overlong filler episode. 

If you know the storyline of InuYasha then that is a plus. If you don't then you need some studying up to do. Just go here to read my review of the series. 

Swords of an Honorable Ruler is an epic and action-packed anime movie. Even though it is over ten years old at this point, the animation is still pretty spectacular. Much better than the series prior to InuYasha: The Final Act. A blu-ray release would look spectacular, but for now I'll just keep my old DVD. 

One of the strongest things about the InuYasha series was the action, but that was critically underutilized throughout much of the series in favor of never-ending maudlin sentimentality. None of that is present in this movie, though. 

This movie is fast and mean and dark. The main premise of this movie goes back to the death of InuYasha's father and the three swords he claimed as his own. Fans of the series will recognize the fact that Tessusaiga and Tenseiga are the swords of the great dog demon, but there was actually another sword according to this movie. This sword is the great sword Sounga, but this sword was not carved from his fang. This sword's past is mysterious, but it somehow made its way into the possession of Inu no Taisho. 

After his death the sword was thought to be lost, but it is found again in the present time at the Higurashi family shrine by Kagome's grandfather. And it comes back to life. 

This sword has the ability to summon 100 dead souls with one strike and it wants to be in the possession of someone it can consume and use as a body. 

Sounga travels using InuYasha as a host from the Higurashi shrine in the present day to the feudal era of Japan, but the sword wants more than just to use InuYasha. It wants to destroy everything. 

InuYasha by himself is too weak to destroy it. The only way he might stand a chance is if Sesshomaru, InuYasha's brother, decides to lend a hand. (I just made a hilarious pun if you are familiar with this series and/or this movie.) Of course, Sesshomaru would much rather just kill InuYasha then save him. 

This is a really good anime movie, considering that it is a series-related release. It's not Studio Ghibli or anything like that, but it is good in its own right and worth watching again and again. I've seen the movie at least four times, I think. If only the series had been as epic throughout its running, but when it was at its best it was pretty epic. Just like this movie. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0

I decided to binge-watch this a few days ago. After all, my anime quota for the year is down and I was hoping that a short eleven episode anime would be able to help inflate my numbers a bit. I want to reach forty titles by the end of the year and right now I am sitting at a paltry twenty-five. Of course, I took into account that I've watched nine seasons of One Piece and seventeen seasons (give or take some filler seasons) of Naruto Shippuden this year, too. But, just like things go in the workplace, the result is the only thing that matters and everything else is an excuse. So I'm short of my self-imposed quota for the year with less than four months to go. I am ashamed. I'll do better.

Believe it or not I've had Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 on blu-ray for a while, but I had never seen it before. I find it odd how I can be in a mood to buy things but not in a mood to watch them. I'm sure I'm not the only one who does that, but it's certainly an odd behavior nonetheless. 

I watched it without even thinking that the anniversary of 9/11 was approaching. Had I thought about it, I probably wouldn't have been in such a mood to watch it. Well, actually that isn't quite true. I wasn't in a mood to watch a specific anime as much as I was just in a mood to watch something to kill the time between morning boredom and night shift. At eleven episodes, this seemed ripe for a binge-watch.

When I think about disaster shows and flicks the content is almost always kind of corny and/or action-packed. For some reason the title of this anime made me think about all of those crummy SyFy movies and I really wasn't sure how to approach it. 

I watched it, anyway. I found myself quite shaken by the time I finished. This anime certainly prides itself on being very accurate in depicting what might happen should an 8.0 earthquake ever strike Tokyo. Looking at it, although it was animated, it certainly seemed more realistic than The Day After Tomorrow. For one thing, this anime was simpler and grittier. With a much narrower scope than a lot of disaster flicks, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 felt so much more immediate and intimate. 

But it isn't the science that drives this series. 

This story, for the most part, follows three people as they try to make their way home on foot after Odaiba has been damaged by the massive quake. The distance they must travel is a cushy nine miles. 

Mirai is a first year middle school student and her younger brother Yuuki is a third year elementary student. They are in Odaiba to see a robot exhibition. Of course, Mirai didn't want to go because she thinks doing stuff during her summer vacation is annoying. She doesn't even want to take any summer courses, the little slacker. 
While in Odaiba the two of them are stranded in the aftermath of the disaster. There parents are back at home, a thirty minute drive away, and the two of them have no way of knowing if their parents are even alive. 

From the group of survivors around them, they run into the familiar face of Kusakabe Mari. Mari is a motorcycle courier and is in the mall looking for a birthday gift for her daughter. Desperate to get back to her daughter but unwilling to let two children wonder home alone, Mari promises Mirai and Yuuki that she will stay with them until they can all get back home. 

Of course, none of them can be sure if the have any homes or anyone to come home to anymore. 

I honestly didn't want to continue after a while because I could sense that not everything would end so nice and cheery. I mean, despite the massive earthquake and all, the series started out deceptively carefree. There were even moments where Mirai and Yuuki continued on like nothing happened. This is mostly thanks to Yuuki and Yuuki is indeed an angel. Mirai remains distant and moody at first, but soon begins to open up not just to her brother but to Mari as well. The three bond and it almost seems like a surrogate family. 

But nothing is really peaches and cream. 

Everything has been destroyed and there's nothing thrilling about watching life falling apart. We watch and we are horrified because something like this really could happen and probably will sometime in the future. Or even now. 

This is not an easy series and it does not get easier. Do not be deceived. This is indeed a tragedy and it will leave you with a knot in your stomach. This anime will move you in a way that I think only a film like Grave of the Fireflies could. If you want action or cheesiness or comedy then look elsewhere. This is for the heart. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Attack On Titan Vol. 12 by Isayama Hajime

Cocaine wrapped in tobacco wrapped in heroin wrapped in xanax without any of the negative side effects. That is probably the best way to describe the feeling I get from all things Shingeki no Kyojin at this point. This series has kicked my butt so much that I will probably need a butt transplant. Once this manga does conclude I will probably start going through withdrawals and temper tantrums and just be an all-around unpleasant person (more so than usual) to be around for about three weeks to five months. It all depends on my rate of recovery.

Volume 12 brought down the house. This really is a case of each volume getting better and better. We left off with Ymir and Eren being held captive in the Titan Forest by Reiner Braun and Bertolt Hoover, now known as the Armored and Colossus Titans, respectively.

For whatever reason the girl formerly known as Krista Lenz and now known as Historia Reiss plays some sort of role in Reiner's motives and for a while it seems that Ymir and Reiner have a common goal. Eren, even though he is technically in the same situation as Ymir, feels that he can't trust Ymir. I don't blame him, either. Considering that, with the exception of Eren, all of the Titan-shifting people introduced to the story have shady motives. 

Actually it seems like almost everyone has a shady motive. I'm not really sure if anyone can be trusted at all outside of Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and a few others. 

Just what the final goal of Bertolt and Reiner is is a bit of a mystery, but it is made clear that they are searching for someone who has the ability of the "Coordinate." That is why they left their homeland. 

Just what a "Coordinate" is isn't made clear, but they do seem to find what they are looking for at the end of this volume. The only problem is that they aren't so happy with who seems to possess just such an ability. However, it appears to be an ability that can control titans. Although I'm not sure if that is quite the case or not. There's probably a lot more to it. 

Now, before everyone starts clamoring for more Levi (he's been noticeably absent lately), I think we should all start giving some props to Commander Erwin. In this volume he really proves his worth as a leader. Erwin hasn't really had a lot of time in this series as far as "main character" moments go. Not since the fiasco in the Titan Forest when the Survey Corps. tried unsuccessfully to capture the Female Titan has he really had a lot of face time. 

In this volume Erwin has his moment and it is indeed a glorious one. 

More and more, I can't wait for the anime to resume. All of this is going to be AMAZING as an anime. Anyone who hasn't read the manga up until this point is going to be rocked to their core. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail

You gotta love an anime where an unkillable maid goes on an all-out killing spree against the U.S. Army (and just about everyone else in her way) for her killing her master. Black Lagoon didn't feature everyone's favorite maid quite so heavily, but in this five episode OVA masterpiece Roberta is back and ready to seriously kick some ass.

I had forgotten how fun Black Lagoon was. I mean, it's been over a year since I had seen it and I suppose that I should've watched it again before I decided to watch this OVA, but I remembered just enough to figure I could give this OVA a go without too much trouble. 

I have had the OVA on blu-ray for over a year now and I honestly can't tell why I put it off for so long. The five episodes combined are just short of three hours and can be watched in one sitting as a movie. That's the way I did it, anyway. These episodes are numbered 25-29 and take place after the events of the second season. Each of the episodes are about ten minutes longer than their television counterparts and bring back just about all of the primary players for a great encore. 

There's also a ton more violence this time around. Not since Elfen Lied or Higurashi have I seen such violence in an anime, but not a bit of it feels like it's done without giving meaning to the plot. If anything it makes every action that much more fascinating because you really don't know what will cause the next violent outburst. Black Lagoon has always been a bit on the darker side of things, but this OVA really goes for the throat. Rock, Roberta, and even Revy seem to reach different boundaries. 

Of course, Roberta's character is given the most depth since this is her OVA and all that. While she certainly gets up to some depraved and dark things almost as bad as anything I've read in a Bryan Smith novel, Roberta always seems to come across as being human for the most part. Sure, she turns into a flat-out monster that would have to make her one of the more tantalizing characters in any recent anime, but there are times where you'll just want to root for her. I mean, I certainly didn't want to, but in the world of Black Lagoon there are no true good guys and you have to identify with whatever comes the closest, I think. 

Revy is also quite possible at her coldest when she kills an injured man in cold blood. And you know that is messed up when one of Roberta's maid companions tells her that is cruel. 

Rock, for his part, continues a bit of a downward spiral that is both dangerous and disappointing. I think even Revy is becoming a bit frightened by how he is changing. Of course, when you live with criminals and killers I don't think you can maintain a mental balance and health no matter how hard you try. Not a lot of sunshine to be had in that environment, even if that is your way of sticking it to the man and trying to live free. There's also not a lot of closure with his relationship with Revy, but there's only so much that can be done in three hours. 

Especially when the namesake of this OVA is taking mental stimulants, biting through swords, and punching people in the face until they have no face anymore. 

Just so much epic in this OVA. Highly recommended, but be sure to watch the anime first. It's worth it. 


In 2002 Bee Train unleashed .hack//SIGN, an anime that set the standard for the multi-media project dubbed Project .hack, on Japan. Combining the talents that made the likes of NoirGhost in the Shell and even Neon Genesis Evangelion possible, Bee Train succeeded in making .hack//SIGN a classic... although I do use that term "classic" with a bit of hesitation. 

The anime made its way into America in 2003 and I remember watching it and just not understanding it at all. Yes, I was thirteen at the time, but the anime was so dialog-heavy that I just didn't quite grasp it. Which only reinforces my point that anime is not always for the young 'uns.

This anime, despite taking place inside of an MMORPG, is an in-depth study on things like angst and escapism. There is not a lot of action here. Think The Godfather or a Shakespearean play. It's all about the characters and the interaction between the characters. There's just not a lot of action at all and if you lose the dialog then you will lose the story. You only know what you are told. 

These days anime like Sword Art Online are all the rage, but you have to go back to .hack//SIGN to really gain an appreciation for the story of the character who could not log out of the game. There are not a thousand explosions going off or an enemy you'll hate with an intensity to rival that of your congressman. I certainly love Sword Art Online and I like to heap praise on it, but it is nowhere near .hack//SIGN in terms of story. I don't mean that as a compliment or an insult one way or the other, but merely to reinforce the idea that (although they may share a similar premise or setting) they are nothing alike.

Sword Art Online could please Attack on Titan, Naruto Shippuden, and One Piece fans everywhere.

.hack//SIGN is meant more for those who like Ghost in the Shell, Noir, and Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Those two target audiences are completely different from each other. I'm just one of those rare people that happens to fit into both of them.

I can certainly understand why a lot of people became frustrated with this anime and still become frustrated by it, but I think there is a certain hypnotic charm to be found in it. Yes, the characters talk a lot and a half the time things happen with almost no explanation (ironic given how much conversation there is in this series), but the story is a bit deeper than the words presented or the actions taken.

For whatever reasons Tsukasa cannot log out of The World and gets befriended by an odd cat fellow and a blob that takes delight in killing other players. He has no memory of anything before the game and doesn't even know if he is a human in the outside world or if he is a character original to the game. As more characters come to believe that he is in fact a player incapable of logging out, Tsukasa finds himself becoming surrounded by people who want to help him as well as people who want to use him.

Tsukasa doesn't know how to respond to all of this, though. He's a very withdrawn character (or person) and goes to find solace in a place that doesn't seem to exist in the game for anyone else. In that place a strange girl floats over a bed and a voice in the sky tells Tsukasa everything he needs to hear.

What does all of this mean? Well, you have to find out for yourself.

The answers given here aren't given easy. You just have to follow along and read between the lines. 

Anime fans will typically regard this as one of the classics because of its age and because it does seem to maintain an appeal more than ten years after its debut, but it is an odd duck. People either love it or hate. I didn't love it or hate it, but I'm always one of the weird ones. 

There are certainly quite a few good things things about this anime. It is quite fascinating and the ambiguous female relationships Bee Train are fond of creating are certainly present in this series. That makes things bit refreshing. People who like Bee Train will appreciate this series. 

However, this series is sometimes too deliberately odd. The anime itself was a bit of an experiment and sometimes things went too far in one direction. The music was either too loud and you had to struggle to hear what certain characters were saying or cliffhangers at the end of an episode are downplayed in favor of more exposition before the events from the cliffhanger are ever revealed. Whatever suspense there might have been otherwise in this series was greatly diminished. 

This series left me feeling a bit wanting, but I can't help but think that that was the intention of the series the entire time since this is only a chapter in the multi-format saga. There are games and light novels and manga that all tell a bit more of this story. I'm just not sure how much more time I want to spend in The World, though. Especially when a series like Sword Art Online seems so much more in your face by comparison. 

However, there is a quite a bit of nostalgia for me with this series. 

One of the most important messages of this series is how to deal with reality when things go bad and it is something I always connected with and still do. Reality in this series is rarely shown, but when it is shown it is done so in a grainy black and white vision where no sound is heard. Anything that might be said is done so using title cards like old silent movies. Only bad things seem to be happening in reality. No one one is happy when we catch our very few glimpses of the characters in the real world. 

Compared to the game, I'm sure you can guess which vision seems more appealing. There's something to be said about that. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Led Zeppelin I (2014 reissue)

I've discussed Led Zeppelin just about as much as I possibly could in my Worst to First list. However, there's the matter the reissues with all of the snazzy bonus tracks to discuss. Thanks to car payments and too many expenditures made on anime, I really haven't had much of a chance to pick up any of the Zeppelin reissues. Until today. 

There are few albums I'm willing to buy a second time. This is my second time getting Led Zeppelin's famed debut on CD, but it's never sounded so good to me. Of course the real treat for me is the second disc, a concert from 1969 in Paris that I had never heard before. 

This concert has the shortest live version of Dazed and Confused I've ever heard. Only fifteen minutes? Man, what a breeze that performance was. It's like you blink and it's over. Of course, that really is true for their performance of Heartbreaker, a song reduced to not even four minutes. 

While I don't think live show is anywhere near as good How the West Was Won (the definitive live Zep album for me), I do think it is much more honest than The Song Remains the Same. Definitely more raw, too. Of course, there's a reason this is a bonus disc and not a standalone liveset. It just isn't strong enough, given the uneven live sound and the shortness of the set. However, they certainly do feel very live. You could close your eyes and pretend to be right there in the midst of the action. I'm sure previous bootleg versions of the show were much worse and this version is definitely not bootleg quality. Plus this was 1969, too. Pretty darn good for its age. 

I really liked the performance of White Summer/Black Mountain Side. That's one of those you don't hear too often live compared to other Zeppelin songs. It's a welcome refresher from the ten minute renditions of Stairway to Heaven that would occur on later live releases. 

I'll be getting the other reissues before too long. I just have to figure out what to do with my old ones. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Attack On Titan Vol. 11 by Isayama Hajime

Now that we know the identities of who the Colossus and Armored Titans are there's no choice on Eren Yeager's part, but to kick some righteous ass. Well, he tries, anyway. The first part of this volume is an epic fight between Eren in his titan form and the Armored Titan, revealed to be Reiner Braun in the previous volume.

The Colossus Titan, now known as Bertolt Hoover, doesn't seem as menacing anymore. I mean, in titan form he is very impressive and probably the most well-known titan from the series, but I just can't look at him the same way anymore. I don't want to say that I am disappointed with this particular turn of events, but I am wondering if the Armored Titan is really the bigger threat. Reiner Braun definitely seems way more unhinged than Bertolt. I'm not sure who I can understand more right now. I mean, the willingness to destroy humanity is a bit extreme, but I don't think even I can quite understand just why they want to do so. Sure, I can think of plenty of reasons why I would, but I don't know why they want to do that.

And what about the still-unknown Beast Titan?

Now that everyone knows that there is no hole in the wall and yet somehow titans have made it inside, does that mean that the titans are somehow digging under the ground? Or does it mean that ordinary people are turning into titans. That could explain how Connie mistook a titan's appearance for his own mother. 

We've certainly seen a precedence for such an occurrence. Eren, Annie, Ymir, Reiner, and even Bertolt are titans. Who the hell isn't a titan by now?

I don't really know at this point. It wouldn't surprise me at this point Hange Zoe was a titan. Or Commander Erwin Smith. Hell, just make the entirety of the Survey Corps into titans while we are at it. 

Eren's fight with Reiner is cut a bit short by the Colossus Titan falling down on them and Eren subsequently gets kidnapped in the aftermath. Ymir gets kidnapped, too. 

They get taken to the Titan Forest where they cannot escape and it is there we begin to see just a little bit more about Reiner Braun's "condition." 

Definitely an interesting turn of events. 

And I still want to know just what the hell Krista Lenz (now known as Historia) has to do with all of this stuff.

Questions, questions, questions... Ugh, it's agony. 

I guess it is time to buy volume twelve. 

I am not quite sure how long Mr. Isayama can keep up this particular story, but it really is just getting better and better. This is going to be so amazing as an anime. Believe it.