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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Anime to Look Out For This Season (2014 Summer)

Posted by: Arthur Hargrave on Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It has come time again for the Anime to Look Out For This Season post and this season but only a hand full made the list. Their are a number of decent series this season but these four really stuck out to me.


Zankyou no Terror

A well directed and beautifully illustrated series that isn't high adrenaline but gets your heart going. Zankyou no Terror is about a pair of "brothers" who are committing terrorist acts for some unknown reason. The story itself isn't too special but the way it's handled and presented makes it a true thriller; sort of like the difference between your mom and a professional chef cooking the same dish. The brothers go by the name Sphinx and each of their riddles is a recurring reference to the Greek tragedy of Odepius handing the viewer a riddle as to how this all might end. If you don't know the story and history of Odepius, that's okay. Detective Shibazaki will fill you in along the way and interesting enough, he does it without ever being boring.


Zankyou no Terror is one of those thriller series that play out like a movie, utilizing camera techniques that one would only see from a live action film. I am still unsure of Lisa's role in everything and at the moment she simply feels like a side character who will become the light at the end of the tunnel for Sphinx or vice versa.

Tokyo Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul has been kinda rushed but it's still pretty good thus far. A series that forces the MC (Kaneki) to survive as a Ghoul and struggle as a human in a world where the two sides are basically at war. Calling this series an internalized version of Romeo and Juliet seems kind of fitting as Kaneki attempts to live as a Ghoul/Human hybrid but is constantly reminded that the two sides simply cannot coexist. Tokyo Ghoul is indeed a typical shonen series but with horror in a taste of psychological trauma sprinkled on top. These are what make Tokyo Ghoul worth watching.

Kaneki's inner struggle to accept his new Ghoul identity is something that is short lived but his psychological struggles are still ongoing as he attempts to find his place in two very different worlds.

Ao Haru Ride

Ao Haru Ride is kind of like your typical romance series filled with the whole "I love you but I won't say it" kind of theme. Unlike some though, this anime also contains other elements including, loving your former crush all over again and falling in love with the guy your best friend likes while maintaining your friendship. Besides the main romance, the unforbidden and one sided love between Murao and Tanaka Sensei is also an interesting side story.


All in all, Ao Haru Ride is still a pretty direct series when it comes to it's approach to the romance between Kou and Futaba. Anyone who enjoys a good romance should definitely pick up Ao Haru Ride.

Aldnoah.Zero

Aldnoah.Zero; one of this season's gems brought to us by Gen Urobuchi and the music styling of Hiroyuki Sawano. Aldnoah.Zero is dramatic, entertaining and pretty exciting. The characters are a mixed bag of personalities each with their own goal in mind except for our MC who seems to be a genuine robot. He's not a machine but his personality certainly seems that way. Despite being the main character, Inaho is a character that you will only want to see during mecha fights as his battle strategies seem to be the only plans capable of winning against the Martians.


Slaine makes for a better MC and as of recently he has become a much bigger piece of the plot. A assassination attempt, a conspiracy to unleash war, a god complex and a sense of over whelming oppression with the MC's brilliant strategies as the last sliver of hope are Aldnoah.Zero's main selling points. It has its faults but overall this is an anime that one should definitely look out for this season.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Bad, The Decent and The Great: July 2014 Monthly Roundup

Posted by: Arthur Hargrave on Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Bad: Rail Wars
Rail Wars in a nutshell.

Yeah, this is just plain bad. A series about a group of students working as security for a train company. Right off the bat that premise didn't really sound like much but I was hoping  for a surprise. I actually got less then what I expected. The fan-service in this show is just plain cliche and sadly, it can't even convince me to at least watch it for the fan-service since it has nothing else of interest. Panty shots, face to tits, bouncy cleavage, mistakenly grabbing tits, you name it. Action? blah, comedy? bland, drama? what?, music? didn't even notice it, animation? average. There's nothing to take interest in when it comes to Rail Wars and now that I really think about it.....DROPPED!

The Decent: Aldnoah.Zero

Gen Urobuchi + Hiroyuki Swano = this. What is this exactly? A series about humanity divided into two people; the Martians (humans living on Mars) and the Terrans (humans who stayed on Earth). Sort of like the hatred between hardcore Democrats and Republicans, a brutal battle takes place between two people who are virtually the same but despise each other for their difference in political and sometimes religious beliefs. I'm not big on mecha series but anything Hioyuki Swano composes for, I have to take a look at and I'm glad I did with Aldnoah.Zero.


I believe Urobuchi gets a lot more hate than he deserves and this series is one of the reasons why I think so. Aldnoah.Zero is just a brutal anime of pure oppression by a greater and more powerful force. Sawano's music emphasizes each scene perfectly, creating an emotional feel. The only thing I am bummed about when it comes to Aldnoah.Zero is the old theme of kids saving the world in ways the adults could never think of. Somehow a group of teens manage to take down what was once thought immortal whereas an entire battalion of trained military officers couldn't come up with any of the same deductions or battle plans as our stoic MC; Inaho Kaizuka. LOL, no wonder Terrans were getting fucked over by the Martians so badly.


Besides that old theme and the MC without a personality, Aldnoah.Zero is still an emotional and highly dramatic anime that I look forward to every week. Now if only Inaho could grow a personality rather than walk around as a cold and calculating robot, I would give this series a straight 4.5/5.

The Great: Blue Spring Ride

I tend to fancy romance series now and again and this season I have my eyes set on the series; Ao Haru Ride which has certainly lived up to my expectations. I am not familiar with the manga so the anime is my first experience with the series which has a lot of love from my fellow Anime Club members. I can see why. Our MCs, Kou "Tanaka" Mabuchi and Futaba Yoshioka were originally friends in middle school who held mutual romantic feelings for each other. A misunderstanding leaves both unable to confess their feelings which is tough since Kou ends up moving away because of family issues. During their high school years, they meet each other once again but both of them have changed drastically and Futaba attempts to find the old Kou she loved in the new and darker Kou she has reunited with.


Kou's severe personality change has us all questioning what exactly did Kou go through to turn him from the easily embarrassed middle schooler to the blunt and slightly heartless high schooler he is now. Who knows but Futaba's constant searching for the answer and attempts at holding onto the old Kou proves for a touching romantic drama/comedy. It's clear that the new Kou doesn't love Futaba but he still cares for her so the potential for a second budding of love is there.


Besides the main cast, we also have a couple of strong supporting characters ranging from the cute Yuri Makita, to the eccentric and overly friendly Aya Kominato to the quiet and reserved Shuko Murao. Makita serves as a reminder of Futaba's middle school self. Aya has a crush on Shuko who has a one sided romance with a teacher who happens to be Kou's older brother. There's no shortage of content when it comes to romance, comedy and drama with this series and what's better is that it doesn't really look like Ao Haru Ride (Blue Spring Ride) will take the same path as Kimi ni Todoke.


Kimi ni Todoke just seemed to run around in circles with the mutual romance and the side characters were primarily for comedy (minus Kurumi). Ao Haru Ride (for now) seems pretty straight forward and this show is more about rebuilding the old romance that once was.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Are You Willing to Pay a Monthly/Yearly Subscription to Read Manga?

Posted by: Arthur Hargrave on Thursday, July 31, 2014

So if you haven't heard, the Japanese government is planning to launch attacks on sites that illegally stream manga and anime. The attacks are mainly if not entirely targeting Chinese sites that are estimated to have caused a profit loss of nearly 560 Billion Yen (U.S$ 5.6 Billion Dollars). We don't know when or if these attacks will be aimed at American sites but it pains me to think about my favorite manga sites being shut down. I understand the reasoning though but at the same time, I am also well aware piracy exist for a number of reasons; some due to people being cheapskates but it's mostly due to legal alternatives being few in number or having a limit to their reach and their library. Personally, I like to consider the existence of illegal streaming anime sites as a blessing in disguise but I also can't ignore that yes, the publishers and those who work on anime and manga are indeed losing money.


Anime has had a better time then manga due to the fact that fans don't have to buy individual DVDs just to watch a series but instead can buy a monthly or yearly subscription to sites like FUNimation and Crunchyroll and easily get their fill. If you just want to watch and not own, then it's a great and cheap way to get your fill of anime as the two giants put together tend to capture most if not every anime of the season (after their founding) but still, these two have their limits. Our European brethren are still short on available anime and usually have to resort to using VPNs to get around Crunchyroll's and FUNimation's licensing limitations. Even if you can't pay for it, Crunchyroll and FUNimation still stream anime (with commercials) for free. Another issue is that not every anime in history can be found on legal streaming sites, making pirate sites all the more attractive. Anyway, there are fewer reasons to watch illegal anime streams over legal ones but sadly, manga hasn't been given the same advantage.


For manga, buying volumes individually has become the best legal way of reading manga and those tend to cost anywhere from $4 to $12 per volume (if you can find them) to own which really adds up for a long series like Naruto or Bleach but all of that may be changing with Crunchyroll's recent move. Crunchyroll has begun giving manga the same treatment as anime and now fans can purchase a monthly or yearly subscription and read all of Crunchyroll's acquired titles which are currently few but growing none the less. It's unclear for now if this will prompt other sites like VIZ to change their style of manga publication but we'll certainly find out in the long run. Ever since Fakku's streaming deal with Kitty Media in 2011 and their recent publishing deal with Wanimagazine, I have faith that maybe one of the larger illegal manga sites can someday take the Crunchyroll route in life and become a massive legal site with a monthly or yearly subscription for fans to read their entire library.


I started off watching anime on Toonami and then when I finally got my own PC (seven years ago) the first place I started reading manga was OneManga and anime on Anilinkz. I won't judge pirates especially since I still tend to watch some series on illegal sites if I can't find them on Crunchyroll. I'm still contemplating a subscription to FUNimaion but their Roku and Android apps haven't received the greatest reviews. Even when I warming up to legal anime streaming, I find myself stuck with illegal manga streaming. I'm not the type to own anime and manga, I prefer to watch/read once and be done. The only time I watch an anime a second time is when the dub release comes out or it's rerunning on Toonami and I've never went back to reread a manga a second time. Basically, for someone like me, buying a volume digitally or physically would be a waste of money but I could see myself paying for a yearly subscription to Mangahere or to Crunchyroll when it's library gets bigger.


In the end, my question to you is would you be willing to pay maybe $40 to $60 a year to your favorite manga site if you were given the opportunity.

P.S: here's a thank you to all of the legal paying fans from M.A.G (Manga Anime Guardians)

Monday, July 21, 2014

First Impressions: Glasslip, Ao Haru Ride and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-Kun

Posted by: Arthur Hargrave on Monday, July 21, 2014


Glasslip

Studio: PA Works

Genre(s): Romance, Slice of Life

Summary:
On the other side of the glass, you can see tomorrow. The daughter of a glass artisan family, Fukami Touko, spends relaxed days at a cafe called Kazemichi at a friend’s house. On the summer vacation of her third year in high school in front of Touko appeared a transfer student boy Okikura Kakeru. He spoke out to her, that he can hear the voices of the future. If someone knew in advance what their future would look like, what would they wish for? While feeling never before felt tremors in herself, Touko realizes that she has started getting a sense in her heart which she can’t leave alone…


Another dramatic (possibly supernatural) love polygon anime brought to us by PA Works. Group of friends spends their days happily together with one sided romance hidden underneath their friendship. A new guy comes in and disrupts their peaceful way of life and his presence ends up bringing out the underlying feelings the group held for one another. Seen it before but I've enjoyed NagiAsu, Ano Natsu de Matteru and Kokoro Connect thoroughly giving each a solid 4/5 so I'm willing to watch this.


This first episode didn't lay out anything for me other than the cast's names and personality. I can already sense where this series was planning to go right off the bat tho. The transfer student Okikura is a really weird guy who at least half of the main group are immediately suspicious of and carries the same exact personality as Tsumugu from NagiAsu. Suggested from his earlier stunt with the chickens, he will turn out into the most hated character in the bunch, become the Touko's love interest which will conflict with Yukinari's feelings for Touko and slowly create a domino effect . My first impressions of Glasslip is that it's pretty bland but will probably end up being pretty great if not decent due to it's immediate similarities with NagiAsu and AnoNatsu.




Ao Haru Ride

Studio: Production I.G

Genre(s): Romance, Drama, Slice of Life, Comedy, School life

Summary: Yoshioka Futaba has a few reasons why she wants to “reset” her image & life as a new high school student. Because she’s cute, she was ostracized by her female friends in junior high, and because of a misunderstanding, she couldn’t get her feeling across to the one boy she has ever liked, Tanaka-kun. Now in high school, she is determined to be as unladylike as possible so that her friends won’t be jealous of her. While living her life this way contentedly, she meets Tanaka-kun again, but he now goes under the name of Mabuchi Kou. He tells her that he felt the same way as she did when they were younger, but now things can never be the same again. Will Futaba be able to continue her love that never even started from three years ago?


Ao Haru Ride seems to have a decent following and I can why. Production I.G decided to flesh out the same art and atmosphere they gave to Kimi ni Todoke on this series as well. The chalky background is just as oddly beautiful in Ao Haru Ride as it was in Kimi ni Todoke. Besides art, the romance here is definitely taking a different route than the usual awkward and "too nervous to say something" theme are not present here. Mabuchi and Futaba have both underdone severe changes since they've last seen each other and the pair that had a secret love one another are no longer present. They both love what the other used to be so this series is more focused on whether or not they can love what they see before them now.


I think I'm actually going to enjoy this romance more so than the awkward cuteness of Sawako and Kazahaya. The renewing of old romance is just one of two themes as loving one's self as they truly are will also be a major theme in this series. The cruel bishounen Mabuchi may revert back to his more feminine ways as the tomboyish Futaba learns to care less about what other people think, drop her fake friends and return to her cutesy moe self. I'm looking forward to all of those changes.



It's kind of weird how he can say that with such a smile.

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-Kun

Studio: Dogokabo

Genre(s): Romance Slice of Life, Comedy, School life

Summary: Sakura Chiyo confesses to her crush, Nozaki-kun, but he mistakes her as a fan! Unable to convey her feelings, what happens when he invites her to his house? Find out in this hilarious series!


I wouldn't say that this series is absolutely hilarious but it managed to make me laugh here and there. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-Kun states that it's suppose to be a romantic comedy but really it will most definitely be a completely comedic series with our Chiyo crushing on Nozaki all season. Sadly though,  feel like this show will probably go the same way Mangaka-san to Assistant-san went. It's pretty funny at first but then there's recycled jokes and the same comedic situation being reused and the jokes becoming stale. That's the obstacle all comedy based series have to overcome tho. Some are good at it and some aren't. I'll hope that Nozaki-Kun is one of those anime that manages to get funnier and funnier every week but I doubt it.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Irregular at Magic High School Ep 13-14: One Match to Win Them All

Posted by: Arthur Hargrave on Friday, July 11, 2014


I guess double post might be the norm if I don't manage to get back in the swing of things. On the other hand, doing double post might be for the best for a series like Mahouka which has slow development with little to talk about. Not to rip the series but it is far from even coming close to the hype that was built for it.


In the last two weeks, the Nine School's Competition has been underway and yet another "accident" has occurred and it involves the No-Head Dragons after all. To a certain extent, I feel underwhelmed that their grand scheme involves rigging high school competitions to win bets. I guess international crime syndicates don't have a lot to do these days to get money if they have to get into the business of rigging high school competitions. Talk about how the mighty have fallen.


Like the last arc, this one uses their terrorist group (in this case, a criminal organization) as a another means of escalating the tension between the students which is where the real drama comes from in this series. If not for the No-Head Dragon's interference during the Monolith Code match, Tatsuya wouldn't be up against mister Crimson Prince and Cardinal George so even if they are wind up being easily defeated by a bunch of high schoolers; at least they were still of some kind of use to the overall plot.


Tatsuya might have finally me his match in both military strength and technical capability in the form of Ichijou Masaki the Crimson Prince and Kichijouji (Cardinal George) Shinkurou respectively. Besides the mess Tatsuya has to deal, it turns out he was right all along about having a Weed on the team causing a rift within the chosen representatives of 1st High School. Morisaki still cannot get over his superiority/inferiority complex and it's only bound to get worse after he finds out that Tatsuya will be replacing him in the Monolith Code match.


Through episode 13 and 14, the only real point of interest for me was Tatsuya's well thought plan regarding his aunt and why he carries himself in such a modest fashion. Turns out that killing his aunt has crossed his mine and even believes that he can beat her in a one on one match; something that even his aunt believes as well. Even so, the rest of the Yotsuba family will most likely not follow him and thus only end up making himself an target to be eliminated. Sticking to his double life as a student on the weekdays and a solider/technological genius on the weekend while staying under the watchful eye of the Yostubas is better then living on the run and fighting the clan alone. His secret as Taurus Silver seems to be a necessary key in keeping that scenario from happening which makes Azusa's curiosity about Taurus Silver's true identity all the more worrisome but not to worry, our harem inducing MC has a plan for just about any and everything.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

First Impressions: Akame ga Kill

Posted by: Arthur Hargrave on Thursday, July 10, 2014


Studio: White Fox

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Psychological

Summary:
Tatsumi is a self-acknowledge country bumpkin who is nonetheless a well trained fighter. He and two companions leave their remote village to head to the Imperial City to find a way to relieve their friends and family from ruinous taxation imposed by the authorities. Yet the Imperial City is filled with unimaginable amounts of corruption and evil from supernatural sources. Tatsumi is immediately swindled after reaching the City and nearly loses everything soon after, but finds himself allied with an unlikely group of assassins.


Well damn, that was a mixed bag of awesomeness. A big switch from comedic action to dark as fuck gore in under half an hour. Akame ga Kill has all of the hallmark trade signs of a typical hack and slash shock factor series but if I enjoy I'm willing to still think highly of this series. I haven't read the manga so I didn't know things turned so dark so quickly and in such a fucked up way. I was genuinely surprised by the how things so easily became through a arrow right in a heart. There was little to no exposition for Tatsumi's friends but I still felt for them after learning their fate.


The entire episode can be best summed up in the meme; "The cake is a lie!" The first half may have been more geared towards letting the viewers guard down so you would never expect the second half and it worked, on me at least. You have my attention Akame ga Kill and I will watch you closely. I don't care too much if a series relies on shock factor if it's entertaining; it's what made Attack on Titan pretty successful after all but I do hope that gore isn't all Akame ga Kill has to offer. It's a gory action series so I'm probably wishing for a bit much.


Friday, July 4, 2014

First Impressions: Tokyo Ghoul

Posted by: Arthur Hargrave on Friday, July 4, 2014

Studio: Studio Pierrot

Genre: Horror, Drama, Psychological

Summary:
The suspense horror/dark fantasy story is set in Tokyo, which is haunted by mysterious "ghouls" who are devouring humans. People are gripped by the fear of these ghouls whose identities are masked in mystery. An ordinary college student named Kaneki encounters Rize, a girl who is an avid reader like him, at the café he frequents. Little does he realize that his fate will change overnight.


That was a great first episode to say the least and there were only a few small changes compared to the manga. Of course the biggest thing bothering me is the censorship which is more of a testament to how much I enjoyed this episode. Since censorship of gory series like Tokyo Ghoul is pretty much mandatory, I saw it coming but it's the only thing I can complain about which is a good thing.


Some have stated that it was pretty rushed but it followed the pacing of the manga pretty closely and delivers the life changing drama of Kaneki's new hybrid life perfectly. A smooth yet subtle introduction to beings known as Ghouls running through the cities transitions to Kaneki being attacked by one such creature and then it ends with a full blown show case of what Ghouls are capable of. To me at least, this first episode managed to get straight to the point without throwing too much at the viewer, allowing them to digest everything that's just happened to Kaneki. I honestly have nothing to complain about (besides the censoring which isn't the animator's fault).


Few psychological series tend to actually be psychologically damaging or challenging for the main characters but nothing is more psychologically challenging than forcing someone to abandon their humanity. Besides the long battle Kaneki has ahead of him regarding him trying to cling onto his humanity, he also has to deal with the near animal like culture of Ghoul society and being hunted down by the CCG. Tokyo Ghoul certainly looks like a keeper but first episodes are almost always great so only time will tell whether this series is really as deserving of it's hype. I hope Tokyo Ghoul will not disappoint.