2017 Summer of Anime – Tiger and Bunny

24 Tiger and Bunny

The long-awaited Cool Cat and Bugs Bunny anime.

Stern Bild City is home to the hottest television show around–Hero TV.  It’s a reality game show of sorts that follows different sponsored superheroes as they capture bad guys and save citizens.  Each of these heroes are NEXT–Noted Entities with eXtraordinary Talents.  Kotetsu T. Kaburagi is the NEXT known as Wild Tiger on the show, and his power allows him to increase his physical capabilities by a hundredfold for five minutes every hour.  Despite being a hero for over ten years, he’s no longer that popular and performs poorly each season.  He’s a very old-school kind of guy who doesn’t mesh well with the new ways of doing things.  Which is one reason why Tiger is appalled when his new employer Apollon Media forces him to team up with Barnaby Brooks, Jr.–a brand new hero who has revealed his identity to the public and has the same exact power as Tiger.  Now the world gets to see how these two polar opposites fight through their differences and save the day…or destroy everything as they fail to get along.

Tiger and Bunny caught my interest back when it first aired because (obviously) I love superheroes and it sounds like Booster Gold’s dream world.  Never got around to it because, man, CG in anime is still pretty wonky.  I just could not look past the super-suits (shout out to my boy, Frozone) sticking out like the sorest of thumbs.  Decided to finally check it out since I’m still riding high on My Hero Academia and One Punch Man.  It’s cool seeing Western superheroes depicted in the East.  Even if Tiger and Bunny looks to have a good bit of Kamen Rider in it.  (Note: I have never watched a Kamen Rider.  Just judging off what I see.)  I don’t think ol’ T&B is as good as MHA or OPM, but there’s still a lot of really good stuff here.

To go ahead and discuss the CG elephant in the room–it wasn’t that bad.  I grew to be fine with the suits sticking out because…well, they’re supposed to.  They’re superheroes!  They stand out from the ordinary world around them.  It did look real floaty, however.  The blows between characters rarely felt like they connected, and the characters just seemed to too light to be in the world they’re in.  I’ve heard the CG looks better in the sequel movie, but in the series it’s just not as good as it should’ve been.

One of my problems with Tiger and Bunny is the sorta dropped plot threads.  Some minor spoilers here, but the heroes never find out the scope of Ouroboros.  I’m sure they were planning on going into this in another season or a movie (I don’t know if the sequel follows up on it or not), but basing just off this season, the Ouroboros stuff is a bit of a let-down.  As is the thread with Lunatic.  Again, another minor spoiler, but nothing is done about the vigilante Lunatic.  He’s killing criminals, and that’s obviously a problem.  Nothing’s done with him outside of driving a couple episodes and showing up once in a red moon.  Which might be indicative of another gripe I have with the series.

Characters feel really under-utilized.  Along with the titular protagonists, there are six other main heroes on Hero TV.  Blue Rose–the scantily-clad hot chick–gets more screen time and development than the rest of them, but most only got about an episode in which to shine.  Origami Cyclone has serious self-esteem problems, which could’ve been really compelling for a superhero on a prominent television show.  Sky High is a driven man who wants to be the best at whatever he does be it being a hero, throwing a surprise party, or being a friend.  Dragon Kid believes she has to shun the ideas of traditional femininity in order to be successful and bring honor to her family.  Fire Emblem is a black trans superhero who runs his own company and thus, sponsors himself!  (I’m using male pronouns since it’s easier than using plural neutral.  We should really get a gender neutral set of pronouns already.)  We’re given morsels of really cool character with most of them, but there’s so much more that could’ve been done with them.  Especially Rock Bison who is Wild Tiger’s best friend…and that’s about it.

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Ah, yes.  I see he, too, studied under the great master, Joseph Joestar.

Wild Tiger is by far and away the highlight of the show for me.  The first half of the season can probably be considered Barnaby’s show with his past as the main force driving the plot arc, and it does pick up when the show starts exploring that.  Tiger is what keeps all that interesting since he’s the real main character, and the second half of the show is better to me since his story and character are the main driving forces.  Probably my biggest problems with the first half are that Tiger’s status as not only a veteran hero but also as a father don’t feel like they play big roles in who he is.  The latter half fixes that, though.

No spoilers this time, but some stuff goes down later on in the show where Tiger’s wily instincts and drive for justice really come into play.  This is also when he begins to come into his own as a dad.  I was disappointed when I believed Tiger’s daughter Kaede was just going to be background info for him, so I was positively delighted when she became a more prominent character in the second half.  Parenthood isn’t something to take lightly and seeing Wild Tiger come to the realization he needs to be a better father did my heart good.  Also, his biggest dream is his daughter thinking he’s cool.  That’s one of the best, dorkiest things ever.

I know I listed more negatives than positives, but I actually had a great time watching Tiger and Bunny.  Yes, some plot threads are dangled, most of the cast doesn’t get anywhere near as much development as they should have, and the CG isn’t great, but to contrast those, the main plot is pretty satisfying, every character gets enough to be memorable and likable, and the CG doesn’t detract from the rest of the really cool art style.  Throw in an amazingly great main character in Wild Tiger, and you’ve got an anime I’ll give a solid 8.  It’s not as good as the big two superhero anime, but if you’re looking for a number three, check out Tiger and Bunny.

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2017 Summer of Anime – One Punch Man

23 One Punch Man

And his sidekick, Arm-Fall-Off-Boy.

In Z-City, there is an abandoned district with only one resident.  For a few years now, monsters have been appearing and attacking all of the cities, but Z-City has always been hit the worst–with the mysterious beings seemingly originating from the abandoned area.  The one man who lives there doesn’t mind it, though.  In fact, he finds it rather uninteresting.  He is Saitama, and he’s a hero for fun.  Normally, a hero would be tirelessly busy in such a wild city, but Saitama’s a bit different.  After three years of training, he’s become too strong.  Every opponent–no matter the size, skill, or power–falls from just one punch.  Never before has a hero looked so genuinely bored.

I’m only slightly surprised it took me this long to watch One Punch Man.  See, it didn’t air on Crunchyroll, took forever to get decent subs on a streaming service (ya flubbed up, Hulu), and the blu-ray costs more than I was willing to pay for a series I’ve never seen.  I assumed I would like it since I love superheroes, ONE’s other major anime adaptation Mob Psycho 100, and Yusuke Murata’s art, but it was never that big a priority for me since I knew it would mainly be a comedy.  But, after the cry-fest that was Your Lie in April, I figured it was time to put a smile on my face.  And a smile on my face was certainly put.

I’ll give credit where credit is due, the one punch gag surprisingly didn’t get old.  I was expecting to get very tired it, but the build-up was usually pretty funny in itself.  The build-ups could drag a little every now and then, though.  Also, had they not added another recurring joke in that Saitama rarely gets the credit he deserves for his heroic actions, the first running joke definitely would’ve gotten old.  Actually, one of my favorite moments of the series is when Saitama plays up his lazy reputation to preserve the integrity of the heroes who failed where he succeeded.  Good man.

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Be the person Mumen Rider believes you can be.

And man, Saitama is a great lead.  You can really sympathize with his borderline depression.  I mean, nothing in life excites him anymore.  He doesn’t feel anything.  He decided to start saving people, but even that doesn’t help him much.  It’s not until he meets Genos, Mumen Rider, and other heroes that Saitama starts to get out of his funk.  I wish more of the heroes we meet had gotten better characterization, but with so many showing up at once, I understand some things had to be sacrificed.  They did a great job with Mumen Rider.  Love that guy.  I do wish the powers were more creative, though.  Every hero seems to be a regular Joe, a martial artist, a cyborg, an ESPer, or just really strong.  That might be part of the parody in that those seem to be the defaults for a lot of heroes in both the East and West, but after so much of My Hero Academia, you kinda want a little more.

The villains were mostly great, too, with each being a parody as well.  Couldn’t tell you what all of them are making fun of, but Boros looks like he came straight out of Dragon Ball Z to fight Saitama.  Also, the wonderful Miyuki Sawashiro lent her talents as the voice of Mosquito Girl.  I wish she had been named “Mosqueeno,” but any time I get to hear Sawashiro’s voice is a great time.

What allows these characters and the gags to come off so wonderfully is by far the animation.  Madhouse absolutely killed it here.  I’ve been a huge fan of Yusuke Murata’s art since I read Eyeshield 21.  It’s like it’s the purest art style for shonen manga.  I don’t really know how to explain it better than that.  I am so glad he drew a remake for this series.  Yes, Bones did an amazing job adapting ONE’s extremely simplistic art for the Mob Psycho anime, but Murata’s style just fits One Punch so beautifully.  Plus, the anime knows when to revert to ONE’s style for comedic purposes.

I’ve done almost nothing but praise this anime, but I am giving it an 8.5.  Obviously, that’s a darn good score.  I guess I was expecting to be wowed more.  Something just didn’t fully click with me and One Punch Man.  I love the art and animation, most of the characters, and most of the gags.  Maybe it was too short, or maybe I wish it had more character development and plot.  I get it’s a parody series, but that only goes so far.  It could also be I’m comparing it to Mob Psycho 100, and I feel that’s the legitimately superior show.  Who knows?

Still loved the hell out of it, though.

2017 Summer of Anime – Your Lie in April

22 Your Lie in April

I think those are tears they’re lying in.

At age 11, Kousei Arima was the best pianist of his generation.  He could play each score perfectly in every competition.  So much so, he was even referred to as the Human Metronome by most everyone in the music world.  The reason he was so good, though, was due to the rigorous and often inhumane training his physically and emotionally abusive mother put him through.  Despite this, after her death, Kousei was traumatized.  He could no longer hear his own music and abandoned the piano.  Two years have passed since his mother’s death, and the world around him still seems dull and grey to his eyes.  Things change for him when his childhood friend Tsubaki Suwabe invites him out with her, his best friend Ryouta Watari, and one of her friends who has a crush on Watari one Saturday.  Said friend is a vibrant violinist named Kaori Miyazono, and for the first time in a long time, Kousei thinks the world is a little colorful after all.

I have been actively avoiding Your Lie in April since it aired back in 2014-2015.  Not because I thought I wouldn’t like it or anything.  I was always pretty sure I’d like it.  Just knew that it would be a sad anime.  I looked at the set-up and the hype, and I went, “This one’s gonna be a feels-train.”  Then I read some spoilers and knew my heartstrings would surely be played like a violin (how about that simile).  After getting tired of it staring at me from my Crunchyroll queue, I decided to bite the bullet and finally watch this sequel to March Comes in Like a Lion (that’s a joke there, son).  And I’m here to say I loved it.  And, yep.  I cried.

So, one thing I can see being a problem for someone watching this is Kousei’s backstory as an abuse victim.  That’s not necessarily a no-no in fiction, but when said character is subject to a lot of slapstick gags and getting hit by his friends for often mundane reasons, it can get a little uncomfortable when you start to think about it.  It didn’t really occur to me way later that it was a questionable choice, but I can’t deny a lot of the slapstick was pretty funny.  In fact, the the heavy drama could’ve been crushing without the comedy in the show.  I did not expect to laugh as much as I did.

A definite problem I had with the series is the aforementioned drama.  Again, nothing wrong with drama.  It did sometimes feel like sad things just happened because sad things needed to happen.  The story didn’t really call for some of those events to take place, but they still did.  I’m all for something pulling my heartstrings.  The coincidences here took me out of the story once or twice, though.  Sorry for the vagueness, but I don’t want to spoil anyone who hasn’t already spoiled this series from themselves (like I did).

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Just duet already.

I think that’s it for my complaints.  Well, I would’ve liked to have seen Kousei’s old rivals, Emi Igawa and Takeshi Aiza, a bit more, but that’s about it.  I didn’t even know there would be pianist rivals in this show.  That was a genuinely welcome surprise.  I love those characters.  Then again, I love all the characters in this show.  The anime does a really good job of showing you where they all come from and why they do what they do and feel what they feel.  I think Watari is the only one who gets left behind in that department, but even he had his moments.  Also, I have to respect this anime for getting me to understand a child abuser.  Not like or agree with them.  But understand them.  That’s…impressive.

As you would expect from a show about musicians, the soundtrack is fabulous.  Both OPs and EDs, the insert music, and the pieces the characters play are the best.  I didn’t expect the show to look as damn pretty as it does, though.  I mean, I didn’t know it was from A-1 when I first started it.  In fact, going back to my earlier joke, I thought it shared some staff with March Comes in Like a Lion.  Just similar themes and imagery like depression and overcoming trauma through art/competition…while also following a bespectacled protagonist as an exuberant girl pulls him out of his listless life.  You know, maybe I’m onto something with the two being related.

The story is one where you can’t help but to root for everyone involved in their musical and romantic endeavors, the soundtrack is one of the best out there, it’s beautiful to look at, the cast is wonderful, there’re some legitimately funny moments throughout, and tears are almost guaranteed to be shed (sometimes when you least expect it).  Your Lie in April is a great show, but some of the forced drama and physical jokes can go a bit far.  Gonna give this one a 9.  Check it out if you want to watch an anime that’ll make you want to be a better person.  Or, ya know…cry.

So, Batman and Harley Quinn Walk Into a Bar…

Batman and Harley Quinn

Glad Batman’s getting that Harley Quinn push.

Poison Ivy has teamed up with the nefarious Floronic Man to enact some nasty plant plot that will naturally put humanity at risk.  Batman and Nightwing are obviously on their trail, but the two green villains aren’t easy to find.  Even though they have ARGUS’s resources available to help stop Ivy and her new friend’s evil scheme, the two heroes will need help to find them.  They need someone who knows Ivy like the back of their hand.  They need Ivy’s nearest and dearest friend.  They need a woman who looks good in red and black.  They need Harley Quinn.

This is a movie I was cautiously optimistic about.  I am no different from damn near every other Bat-fan out there:  I love Batman The Animated Series with all my Bat-heart.  Obviously, the prospect of another movie that’s kinda in that DC Animated Universe continuity sounded too good to be true.  And, after the massive fumbling of The Killing Joke, it keeps me wary of these non-New 52 movies now.  So, how is this new kinda sorta maybe DCAU movie?

A mixed bag.

The Bad

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Yes, Nightwing, you have to be here for this.

Oh, jeez, where to even start with the bad stuff in this one.  The sex stuff?  Yeah, sure I’ll start with the sex stuff.  Okay, so some people who work on these movies seem to have it in their mind that in order for a movie to be more mature or adult it has to have sex jokes, innuendos, and just actual sex.  Now, I’m a man who loves fan-service and women in general, so I don’t have a problem with sexy stuff, but you gotta do it right.  There’s a reason the Batman/Batgirl scene from The Killing Joke is so maligned.  It’s just…wrong.  And that trend continues here as Nightwing and Harley Quinn bump uglies.  Again, not much wrong with that except for what I imagine is a decent age difference, but hey, they’re both adults.  (Sidenote: This is the second film in this series to feature Harley as a major character, and the second time she’s had sex in one of these.  Just throwing that out there.)  It’s the lead-in to it and just everything that happened before that makes it a wee bit uncomfortable.  There are also a number of sexual jokes throughout the movie that are just plain juvenile and unfunny.

And that’s really how a lot of the humor is in this.  I never thought I’d be watching an honest-to-goodness Batman film and there’d be a fart joke.  Yeah.  An extended fart joke.  From now on, I want to use the phrase, “That joke went over like a fart in the Batmobile.”  Some of the gags go on too long, and you start to wonder why they were even there in the first place.

The big detractor for me here, though, is Harley’s voice.  Look, I’m all for casting young up-and-comers and/or taking chances by giving new people legitimate roles, but Melissa Rauch just was not a good fit here at all.  Maybe if she’d had more time with the character in a smaller capacity, but you put her there with the Batman Kevin Conroy and she’s going to sound downright amateurish.  I dunno if Arleen Sorkin officially retired from voicing Harley, but surely Hynden Walch or Tara Strong could’ve come in for this.  I have nothing against whatever else Rauch has done.  I just don’t want her to voice Harley again.  Everything sounded so forced, and that’s about the worst thing to hear in an animated feature.

The tone of the movie is also a little off-putting.  I’m fine with a comedic Batman film.  We’ve had a string of pretty dark DC animated films, and I quite love both The Lego Batman Movie and Batman: The Movie.  So, this was a welcome change of pace.  People die in this movie, though, and it isn’t played for laughs.  One in particular was heavily played for drama, and it just came out of nowhere.

A’ight.  That’s enough of being a sourpuss.  Let’s get to some positives!

The Good

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The Nuclear Option.

Movie looks great.  Obviously.  It’s done in the DCAU style, so what else would you expect?  Seeing Kevin Conroy once again voice the version of Batman he cemented in the consciousness of Bat-fans around the world is the best.  Having Loren Lester voice his Nightwing was pretty cool, too, but Lester sounded like he had a bit of voice-rust in re-visiting Dick Grayson.  The opening credits sequence is also really cool and cute.  Props to the people who made that.

For as many jokes that miss, there are also quite a few that hit.  Even if the voice wasn’t right, Harley’s interactions with Ivy are some of the highlights of the movie.  There’s also a great scene that includes a good many shout-outs and callbacks to BTAS and the 1966 Batman show.  Don’t want to spoil that one (even though it, too, has its drawbacks), but it is delightful.

The story is fine.  I hesitated to put it under “The Good” part, but I enjoyed it.  It’s your basic road trip movie with Batman, Nightwing, and Harley Quinn.  And again, some of the plot points you can’t help but smile at in this lighthearted tale.  It really is great seeing a fun Batman.

The Word

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Squad goals.

There are some things I haven’t brought up yet that I’m still not sure are positives, negatives, or neutrals:  The Superbabes restaurant where the waitresses dress up in skimpy versions of super heroine and villainess costumes (or just regular New 52 costumes for Starfire and Harley); Swamp Thing; Poison Ivy seemingly getting high on The Green…. Like I said earlier–this movie is a mixed bag.  It is a fun movie without a doubt.  Getting these characters in these designs again in an adventure we haven’t seen before alone is worth watching the movie.  But some very questionable over-sexualization here and there, a lot of failed jokes and gags, and a genuinely underwhelming performance on Melissa Rauch’s part (I’m trying so hard not to pick on her) make this movie an uneasy recommendation.

If you have a friend who has it, then definitely check it out.  I’d caution you against buying it at full price, though.  It is by far not the best Batman movie out there, but it is also definitely not the worst.

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Seasonal Sawce: This 2017 Summer Animain’t No Bummer, Part 1

Ah, summer.  The best time to watch anime because the sun punishes those who dare step outside their doors.

Since every anime I’m watching is now at least six episodes in, it’s time to take a look and list them from the one I’m least hype for every week to the one I’m most hype for.  Essentially, my least favorite to most favorite.  This season I almost got an Amazon Anime Strike subscription, but those greedy SOBs can suck it.  Also, Netflix seems to hate their subscribers who like anime, so nothing from there either.

Let’s get to it.

8) Knight’s and Magic

Knight's and Magic

Because poor literacy is cool.

Some nerd dies in a car accident in our world, but–as in so many other anime–that’s not quite the end for him.  He winds up being reincarnated as the androgynous son of a noble family, Ernesti Echavalier, in another world where knights pilot mechs called Silhouette Knights to fight demon beasts.  Somehow Ernesti’s vague recollections of his past life building mech model kits make him a savant of sorts as he designs, builds, and pilots these magic mechs better than everyone else.  And he’s 12.

Okay, so, on the plus side time passes quickly.  I think over a year has passed in the first six or seven episodes of Knight’s and Magic (that title will never not bug me).  Also, whenever the kid surprises everyone with his magic and mech mastery, it can be cool.  Other than that, this is pretty basic.  It’s an isekai show.  Down to the letter.  Nerd becomes surprisingly cool badass in fantasy land and all kneel before his superior nerdery.

I guess it’s harmless for the most part.

7) Restaurant to Another World

Restaurant to Another World

In Soviet Russia, restaurant goes to you!

There’s a quaint little eatery called Western Restaurant Nekoya situated in an unimpressive nook in a shopping district.  The patrons love the food, though, thanks to the owner’s impressive cooking skills.  Nekoya’s closed to its normal clientele on weekends because every Saturday the door to the restaurant appears in various locations in another world populated by elves, demons, dragons, and the like.  These denizens of this fantasy world also love Nekoya’s food and treat it as a neutral zone if usual enemies happen to be dining at the same time.  This is all extremely fascinating to Nekoya’s first waitress–a demon girl named Aletta–since she’s never been met with such kindness nor tasted food so wonderful.

Don’t let its spot so close to the bottom discourage you.  Restaurant to Another World is a perfectly competent show.  It blends the isekai genre with the fresh, flourishing food-porn genre of anime.  It looks good, and the characters are all likable.  (Especially the dragon Red Queen…. What?  I have a weakness for redheads.)  The reason it’s this low is that nothing really happens.  People come in and eat.  We get some backstory to flesh out the magical world a bit, but that’s it.  There’s no story or development so far.  And yeah, you could argue that’s just slice of life, but even that genre has a goal or a growing relationship that brings the audience back.  This just has fantasy beings eating omelets and cutlets and whatnot.

It’s a fine cooldown anime, but I just wish there were more meat on this bone.  (Get that?  That’s a food joke right there!)

6) Elegant Yokai Apartment Life

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life

I keep thinking he’s wearing a soccer jersey.

Three years ago, Yuushi Inaba moved in with his uncle’s family after his parents died in a car accident.  Although they loved him, Inaba knew he was a massive strain on his uncle’s family.  Now that he’s entering high school, Inaba has chosen a school with a dorm so that he can move out of his uncle’s house.  As luck would have it, though, the dorms are burnt down and will take six months to be rebuilt and reopened.  The poor kid is finally able to find an affordable apartment in the old building Kotobuki-so.  It almost seems to good to be true.  His room is cozy, the food is delicious, there’s a cute girl who lives on his floor, the ghosts are friendly, the…wait.

Maybe it’s just me, but Elegant Yokai Apartment Life feels like it was supposed to come out in the early aughts.  The designs for the humans and otherworldly beings, the music, the tone, the eyecatches, etc.  Like, this is something I would’ve seen on Adult Swim or Tech TV or something.  Anyway, I’m enjoying it so far.  I admire Inaba’s drive to strike out on his own, and the residents of Monster House are a lot of fun.  I also appreciate how the show is not afraid to get super dark at times.  I do wish the animation was better and that everything would just flow more smoothly.

If you’ve been hankering for some cute occult anime, then you could do a lot worse.

5) My First Girlfriend Is a Gal

My First Girlfriend Is a Gal

Dress code at their school must be pretty lax.

Junichi Hashiba isn’t exactly a piece of sh*t, but he’s pretty close.  His friends are actual excrement, and even though he frowns on their shenanigans, he tends to go along with them.  One such shenanigan sees his three sh*tty pals put a fake confession letter in the locker of the gal in their class, Yukana Yame.  Junichi shows up to the promised confession location hoping to at least get pity sex from the allegedly easy gal, but there is no such luck for him.  She pretty much sees right through him and taunts him for being a virgin, but there’s something about the way he carries himself and the way he acts that Yukana can’t help but find funny.  To the shock of Junichi and the school the next day, the beautiful Yukana actually agrees to go out with him, so now both of them have to figure out how the whole relationship thing is supposed to go.

Full disclosure here, My First Girlfriend Is a Gal might objectively be the worst show I’m watching this season.  There’re not really any fan-service, jokes, or characters here that haven’t been done better elsewhere.  But, somehow, the show has a certain charm to me.  Despite the super dubious base of their relationship, I do enjoy seeing Junichi and Yukana get closer.  Yukana obviously likes him, and Junichi is finally seeing past her looks and realizing he likes her as a person, too.  Then the other characters happen.  Two of the other three female characters are fine, but the giant-breasted loli is a trope so tired it should be put to sleep.  Also, Junichi’s friends can just f*ck right the hell off.  The show would actually be good without them.  Especially the fat guy.  I don’t know who thinks he’s funny, but they should nix that character.

At no point can you call it good, and I don’t even think many could call it entertaining.  I can’t say I don’t look forward to it every week, though.

4) A Centaur’s Life

A Centaur's Life

Is a joke here really Nessus-ary?  (I am hilarious.)

In a world not vastly different from our own, evolution took a different path.  Everyone the world over has horns or tails or wings or just straight up resembles what we consider mythological creatures.  Even here, the high school centaur girl Himeno Kimihara just lives her normal life.  She worries about her body, finding love, and doing well in school.  Nothing too major.  Just hanging out with her winged friend Nozomi Gokuraku and her horned friend Kyouko Naraku.  That’s her life.

I know I didn’t sound that enthusiastic last paragraph, but I do legitimately look forward to A Centaur’s Life every week.  I genuinely never thought I’d care for the monster girl genre, but here we are in 2017 and some of the most interesting anime we’re getting fall under that umbrella.  The art style was the first thing to get me, the characters are fun enough they interested me, but the world-building is what’s kept me.  There was a great amount of thought and care put into figuring out how this society works and how these races co-exist.  Every little bit of info we get just fascinates me more and more.  Plus, the Antarctican snake people are really cool.  I do wonder why the mermaids have thighs before they have fishtails, though.

I know slice-of-life and monster girl anime aren’t everyone’s bag, but there’s so much love and charm put into this world.  It’s a great cool-down anime.  Even if it does have some pretty dark implications casually thrown out every now and then.

3) Fastest Finger First

Fastest Finger First

GET SMART, SCRUB.

Pidge…er…Shiki Koshiyama has always preferred books over people.  This has left him with a great deal of knowledge but not much in terms of people skills.  That’s why when he’s randomly selected to compete in a quiz competition at the beginning of his first year of high school he’s unable to buzz in despite knowing the answers.  Furthermore, he’s impressed and intimidated by his classmate Mari Fukami who is able to buzz in long before some of the questions finish!  Shiki quickly realizes she’s determining the answers by listening for key phrases early in the questions and winds up answering an extremely difficult one himself to everyone’s surprise.  The thrill was nice but Shiki goes back to his books as soon as it’s over, but Mari’s seen his potential and tries to recruit him for the school’s competitive quiz team.  Sit down and buzz in if you want to become The King of Quizzes!

So, I might be a little bias here.  I was on my school’s academic team for three years (and captain for the last one of that three), and Fastest Finger First is essentially just that.  We met up, answered questions, went to competitions, and buzzed in to answer questions.  This is the first sports/competition anime I’ve watched where I have a legitimate connection to the subject matter.  But hey, this is definitely a sports anime.  Ragtag group that our hidden master protagonist joins, a whole new world of events to win, rivals appearing out of the woodwork, and so and so forth.  It would be higher if the last couple episodes hadn’t felt so filler-y, but them’s the breaks when going by the first half-ish (you know what I mean) of an anime.

Quite a bit more academic than other sports anime, but it is sports anime nonetheless.  Also has a cool OP.

2) Classroom of the Elite

Classroom of the Elite

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Advanced Nurturing School was established by the Japanese government in order to educate and foster the future generations who will be responsible for supporting the country.  Within the walls of the giant school, the students are almost completely autonomous.  They live by themselves, can wear whatever styles they choose, and they even receive a monthly stipend of points that can only be used on school grounds.  There is a catch, though.  The points a class receives depend on how well those students are doing.  First year D-class–the lowest of the classes for all three years–finds this out the hard way when they get no points their second month after goofing around for the first.  This is the predicament protagonist Kiyotaka Ayanokouji finds himself in.  He aims for average and often attains it in order to stay out of everything.  The determination of his desk neighbor, Suzune Horikita, to move up to A-class by any means necessary begins to rub off on him, though.  Operating from the shadows as best he can, Kiyotaka begins making D-class look a whole lot better.

Can’t remember who, but I saw someone describe Classroom of the Elite as Assassination Classroom but starring the core cast from Oregairu.  As a bare bones premise, yeah, that’s pretty close (they even have a smoking-hot smoking teacher).  It’s kinda hard for me to explain why I like this show so much, though.  I think Kiyotaka walks that fine line of self-insert protagonist and legitimate compelling character you want to know more about.  Same with Suzune, Kikyou Kushida, Sakura Airi, and most of the rest of the cast.  The tension inside the school is also built really well, and the mental games of chess the students play as they try to out-gambit each other are tons of fun.

The set-up is pretty cookie-cutter, I’ll admit.  Watch the first couple episodes, though, and there should be enough things to get you hooked.

1) Gamers!

Gamers!

It’s all about the game and how you play it.

In his second year in high school, Keita Amano still doesn’t have any friends…but he has his games!  He plays games of all sorts and loves them for all their different aspects.  This is what catches the eye of the most popular girl in school and president of the Gaming Club, Karen Tendo.  She invites him to join her club, and the poor kid is just awestruck by his crush asking him to join anything.  Little does he know Karen kinda has a thing for him, too.  The other players waiting in the lobby to join the game are the top guy in Keita’s class Tasuka Uehara, Tasuku’s adorable girlfriend Aguri, and super gaming nerd Chiaki Hoshinomori.  Press A to begin and get ready for a true comedy of errors.

This is one of those I wasn’t going to watch because the premise sounds about as basic as a rom-com can get.  Gamers! relishes in that, though.  The anime takes the tried and true tropes of the genre and, well, plays with them.  Everyone is almost completely mistaken about everyone else’s motivations and actions, but it’s played for so very much comedy.  I have found myself laughing repeatedly in every episode.  Also, the cast is an immensely likable group of dorks.  These goofballs and their misunderstandings are just wonderful.  The art style is really cool as well, and the soundtrack is solid fun.

This is easily the anime I look forward to the most every week.  I adore everything about it.  If Shakespeare made an anime, it’d be Gamers!

And that is gonna be it for this time around.  I am so happy to see one of these Seasonal Sawce posts not dominated by second seasons and the like.  This is all stuff I wasn’t familiar with at all before starting this season.  Hell yeah.

Hopefully my next post will be a continuation of the Summer of Anime, but until then….

Peace out, and stay bizarre.

The Book of Sawce, Chapter 21 – A Book Your Mom Loves

21 The Green Mile

Starring: Mr. Jingles

I was lucky enough to be born to two individuals who were pretty avid readers in their respective days.  My dad would often recite Shakespeare to me when I was just a baby, and it was his glowing praise of Watership Down that led me to picking it for a previous entry.  Even as a child I was aware of how much he’d read from different authors, but I only remember my mom devouring the books of a single author–Stephen King.  She is the sole reason I read the entirety of The Dark Tower series in high school.  So, when I saw “A book your mom loves” on the list, I knew Mr. King would be making his first appearance in the challenge.  When I asked her which one I should get, she didn’t think too long before she gave her answer.  It’s time, my friends, to walk down Stephen King’s The Green Mile.

Getting stuck in a nursing home by his grandkids has given Paul Edgecombe a lot of time to reflect back on his long life, and he decides to write about the strange things that happened to him in 1932.  As a younger man he was the “bull-goose screw” of E Block at Cold Mountain Penitentiary, nicknamed “the Green Mile” thanks to the color of the floor. Being the boss of a death-row wasn’t easy, but it was during the Great Depression and he worked with some genuinely good people, so Paul stuck with it.  That began to change when they received the largest inmate E Block would ever see–the 6’8″ black man covered in scars by the name of John Coffey.  He was convicted of raping and murdering two little white girls, but for some reason, Paul Edgecombe shook John’s hand when he arrived on the Mile.  That was weird in itself, but Paul really gets interested in the new inmate when John touches him and heals the urinary infection that had brought Paul to his knees one morning.  Boss Edgecombe soon comes to believe John Coffey is innocent and realizes the large man is far more than what he seems.  Still, no one could know what effect the mysterious, seemingly ever-crying man would have on the lives of everyone on the Green Mile.

I haven’t read too many of his books (I think I’m at ten now), but King is definitely one of my favorite authors.  Most of the fantasy I read is either set in another world or presents a hidden culture in a world much like our own.  King was sorta my introduction to certain fantastical things being there just because they’re there.  His are books are often very grounded compared to my normal fare.  Despite it being years since I last read one of his books, I was looking very forward to this.  And, y’all…Watership Down finally has a contender for my favorite book in this reading challenge.  What can I say?  My parents have good taste.

I only mentioned two characters in that set-up paragraph, but there are so many great characters in this book (le gasp).  Best mouse Mr. Jingles, best bro Brutus “Brutal” Howell, best warden Hal Moores, worst prisoner Wild Bill, worst guard Percy Wetmore, best lady at nursing home Elaine Connelly, best…you get the idea.  King is really good at giving you flawed heroes you find yourself cheering for, but he excels at making real bastards you want to see get their comeuppance.  And you get both here!  For the most part.  I still can’t believe I felt bad for Eduard Delacroix who found himself on the Mile for raping and murdering a girl and then killing six more people by accident when he set her body on fire to cover up the evidence which caused the building next to her to burn down.  King can play with your emotions with the best of them.  Giving Del a mouse arguably smarter than he was definitely helped, though.

Aside from the mystery of what Paul was doing in the shed on the nursing home grounds every day, there wasn’t much that kept me invested in the present day narrative.  That was compelling and Elaine is great, but the introductory chapters of all six parts sometimes felt like they were keeping me from John Coffey.  Which is fascinating now that I think about it.  Paul often mentions how Coffey had a hypnotic effect on people when he wanted to.  You couldn’t help but be drawn to him.  Looks like he got me, too.

As with most Stephen King novels, this one isn’t for the faint of heart.  There are deaths both peaceful and gruesome.  Also, I genuinely cried at one point.  I didn’t just tear up.  I didn’t just get a single tear from getting all feels-y.  I cried, and it took me a good while to pick the book back up.

Like I said earlier, The Green Mile is a top contender for my favorite book I’ve read during this challenge.  It’s by one of my favorite authors, it’s populated by a great cast, and that there story ain’t none too shabby either.  It’d make a pretty good movie!

We’re getting to that spoopy (as the youngsters say) time of year, so it’s appropriate the next book is a book that scares me.

What will it be?  Stay tuned to find out.

2017 Summer of Anime – Outlaw Star

20 Outlaw Star

You can’t take the sky from me…. Wait.

Gene Starwind and his little buddy Jim Hawking will take on just about any job if the price is right.  That’s why they didn’t think much about it when a beautiful woman comes to them on the backwater planet Sentinel III looking for a bodyguard.  They soon come to regret that when they’re attacked by the Kei Pirates and find out their client is the infamous outlaw “Hot Ice” Hilda.  Hilda has stolen something very important to both the pirates and the Space Forces–the key to the powerful grappler ship XGP 15A-II, which the two organizations built to find the Galactic Leyline.  And since getting involved with the outlaws, pirates, and Space Forces wasn’t quite enough, it turns out the key is a naked bio-android girl named Melfina.  Gene’s got no choice but to get over his space-phobia now as he’s forced to head out into the final frontier and find out just what the hell is so great about the Galactic Leyline.

Outlaw Star is something of an old shame of mine.  It’s probably the most noteworthy anime from the Toonami/Adult Swim days that I never really saw any of, and I don’t think I have a good excuse for that.  I pretty much just never had the urge to catch it even though I love Cowboy Bebop and count Trigun as one of my all-time favorite anime (I’ve always considered these the “Three Big Space Westerns” of anime).  Couldn’t tell you why.  I remember the ads on Toonami that were so well done.  They’d give me chills, but I’d never watch the show.  That is until a friend of mine who kinda worships the show handed me one of his DVD copies for the 2017 Summer of Anime.  It wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be, but it’s still a damn fun anime to watch.

I’d like to start this off with the crew of the titular ship.  Gene is a really interesting main character.  He’s a bit of a drunk and a womanizer, but he’s also a great hand to have in a fight and determined to finish whatever job he gets hired for.  He’s not as cynical as Spike nor as optimistic as Vash, but his loud brashness makes him the perfect lead for this show.  I wish more would’ve been done with the other four members.  I appreciate how Jim just kinda has that ride or die mentality, but I don’t think we ever find out what led him to Gene or why they’re so close.  Melfina has the typical robot stuff (“Am I really alive?” “Why was I made?” etc.), and that’s about it.  The super awesome badass bounty hunter babe “Twilight” Suzuka and the catgirl Ctarl-Ctarl officer Aisha Clanclan are similarly let down in the backstory and character growth departments.  They are a really fun cast, though.  Even if it takes them a while to get together.

The antagonists sorta fare better.  Gene’s main rivals in all things outlaw are the dreaded MacDougall brothers.  Ron is the older, more grizzled two and uses a caster gun and pilots a grappler ship like Gene.  Harry is the younger MacDougall who’s essentially the Melfina of his and his brother’s ship, but his character arc is actually one of the more fascinating in the series.  Genuinely surprised me.  The other main antagonists are some of the more powerful Kei Pirates, Lord Hazanko and the Anten Seven.  The encounters with the Seven can be extremely comedic, absolutely heartbreaking, or anything in between.  The first one the crew deals with–Shimi–is by far my favorite, and I really wish the others had gotten solid episodes like he did.  Hazanko’s just the big evil bad guy with all the magic stuff.  Cool main antagonist, but he felt more like a final boss in a video game than an actual character.

tumblr_lezishytnt1qef28wo1_1280

Usually.

Okay, my two big complaints can kinda be summed up in one–pacing.  To flesh out those two, though…first, it takes too long for the crew to come together.  They don’t get their ship until episode four, I think Suzuka joins them in episode seven, and Aisha finally gets on the ship for good in the eleventh episode.  It takes almost half the show for the crew we’ve seen in the opening since the first episode to come together.  Secondly, some of the filler can be rough to sit through.  It took me longer to watch Outlaw Star than I expected just because I was never sure if I was gonna get pointless episode or not.  That tends to happen far too often throughout its 26-episode run.  So yeah, this anime can drag at times.

But, I basically love everything else.  The series just oozes everything cool about the ’90s.  The way it looks, moves, feels, and sounds embraces the time it was made.  And I love that stuff.  Making something timeless is often the goal of any creator, but there’s also something to be said for those time-capsule gems of their eras.  Outlaw Star is so gloriously 20 years old that it’s amazing.  It’s OP is a great earworm, the character designs are lovingly exaggerated, and the ships have that cool, sleek hand-drawn feel about them.

When all is said and done, Outlaw Star is an 8 or 8.5 for me.  Even though I love how well it represents the period of anime I grew up watching, the severe pacing issues prevent me from calling it truly great.  It’s barely just south of it, though.