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.

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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.

2017 Summer of Anime – Ouran High School Host Club

19 Ouran High School Host Club

The Bachelorette: The Anime

Ouran High School is an elite academy where only those of the highest pedigree may attend.  They’re the children of CEOs, politicians, and the like, which means they all have a lot of money and free time.  The popular spot for the female students to hang out is the Ouran High School Host Club–a club of the six most handsome and eligible male students who seek only to make their clients happy.  Well, actually the Host Club has seven members now.  Haruhi Fujioka is one of the few scholarship students at Ouran without any ties to money, so when she accidentally breaks a vase worth eight million yen, she gets roped into the club to pay off the debt.  To be fair, it takes a while for the entire Host Club to realize she’s a girl since she never dresses like one.  So begins the tale of this poor girl surrounded by a bunch of rich idiots.

I can probably count on one hand the number of shoujo anime I’ve watched all the way through.  (Side note: I was right.)  It’s just not one of the bodies of anime I tend to look to when searching for something to watch.  But, I like rom-coms, and I’ve heard for the longest time that Ouran High School Host Club is one of the better ones out there.  And since I like broadening my horizons during the Summer of Anime, I decided it was finally time to give it a shot.  Glad I did.

First off, Ouran is decently funny.  It’s not the funniest anime I’ve seen, but it often made me smile.  I do wish it had gotten me to actually laugh out loud more, though.  There were a lot of jokes that just didn’t hit as hard as they were meant to.  Especially the fourth wall-breaking ones.  I do think that type of humor can work–hell, it works 90% of the time in the Deadpool film.  But, I don’t think Ouran has the chops to pull it off that much.  There was one where Tamaki Suou declared he was the main protagonist and the rest of the Host Club his homosexual supporting cast.  That one got me to laugh and led to some good payoff later in the episode.  The rest, though, fell short.  Maybe if I was more familiar with shoujo series, then the rest of the jokes in the show would’ve gotten me.  At least I smiled most of the time.

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Best boy…. Best guy?  I don’t know what you say for these.

Other than the humor not getting me to laugh all that much, my biggest complaint with the show is the lack of an ending.  I’m an old hand at rom-coms and an even older one at manga adaptations, so I get that a lot of these anime don’t actually end.  Character arcs go nowhere, there’s no romantic resolution, ass-pull plots for the final two episodes, etc.  I get it, but that hurts Ouran a lot.  Sure, it’s obvious Tamaki and Haruhi will get together sometime in the future since they’re the main protagonists.  Show could’ve really helped their relationship along more, though.  Also, the twins don’t get anymore to their divergent paths, and Kyouya’s family issues just get dropped like someone who’s had one too many drinks.  I’m surprised Ouran has never gotten another season to give this show an ending it deserves.  Yeah, some of the emotional stuff here is built up well enough that it’s earned real closure.  Maybe the first season didn’t do all that great; maybe the creators feel like leaving it open-ended means more money.  I don’t know.

Those are my only real big complaints, though.  Being my introduction to the reverse harem genre, I quite enjoyed it.  I liked seeing that set-up from the other side.  It was fun thinking of character type equivalents in harem and reverse harem shows.  Again, I have to assume the Host Club here are making fun of established tropes in shoujo anime since I don’t know that much.  Haruhi was a pretty good protagonist.  Being raised by an extravagant transvestite father, the antics of others’ don’t phase her much, and she is hardheaded to a fault.  She’s actually not that much different than a shonen harem protagonist:  She’s the straight-man, she’s oblivious, she’s catnip to everyone around her, she’s got a burning desire to help people.  Yet again, it’s interesting seeing the character types that carry from one genre to the other.

Even though the ending’s weak and the comedy bunted more than it actually hit, the cast is genuinely fun, the emotional stuff is done pretty well, and the show is a really easy watch.  Like, I was surprised when I realized I watched all 26 episodes in three days.  Have I watched longer series in a shorter time?  Sure, but I didn’t think I was watching it that fast.  Ouran High School Host Club gets a 7.5.  Better than good, but not good enough to be really good.  You good?

2017 Summer of Anime – Tiger Mask W

18 Tiger Mask W

A tiger, a tiger.  You shall become a tiger!

Naoto Azuma’s life as a professional wrestler did not start off great.  He and his best friend Takuma Fujii were beaten and could only watch helplessly as their trainer, head of Zipangu Pro-Wrestling, and Takuma’s father Daisuke Fujii was thoroughly defeated and broken by Global Wrestling Monopoly’s Yellow Devil.  Zipangu was disbanded, and the two green-horns went their separate ways.  Takuma was recruited by the group secretly behind GWM, Tiger’s Den–an evil organization that was defeated over 40 years ago by the legendary wrestler Tiger Mask.  Naoto was approached by Kentarou Takaoka–the original Yellow Devil and an ally of Tiger Mask’s–with an offer to train him.  Both young men jump at the opportunities in hopes of someday getting revenge on GWM and Yellow Devil.  In order to do so, though, they must both become tigers!

But, not actual tigers.  Like, metaphorical tigers.  Ah, you know!  So yeah, obviously, this is another of those I started in a previous season, but it only finished this season.  Thus, I’m adding it to the Summer of Anime!  And I’ve been wanting to talk about Tiger Mask W for a hot minute.  It’s not just the fact that it’s a professional wrestling anime that drew me to it.  That was a big influence, but this series is also part of a fascinating legacy.

The original Tiger Mask manga ran from 1968 to 1971, and its anime adaptation ran from 1969 to 1971.  That followed the original Tiger Mask, Naoto Date, as a defector from Tiger’s Den since he couldn’t stand the thought of the children emulating his heel tactics.  The anime was actually followed by another in the ’80s called Tiger Mask II, but Tiger Mask W ignores that one and acts only as a sequel to the original.  This in itself is more than enough to get me interested since I love works of fiction with lengthy histories, continuities, legacies, etc., but real life imitating art was another big catch.  In New Japan Pro Wrestling, five men have taken up the mantle of Tiger Mask and brought the character to real world wrestling.  A manga that ended in the early ’70s inspired a wrestling company to adapt its titular protagonist into an actual wrestler in the ’80s, and that character is still going to this day.  That’s…brilliant.  Hell, you can even see Tiger Mask W wrestling alongside Tiger Mask V (the fifth) in New Japan today!  I love this stuff.

Enough about that interesting history I’ve been dying to talk about.  How’s the anime Tiger Mask W?  Objectively speaking, it’s probably not that good.  It’s obviously cheap, the plot can be formulaic as heck, and fill-in characters can feel a bit bland.  But, we ain’t here to talk about objectively.  I.  Love.  This.  Show.  Even just removing professional wrestling for a bit, the story is about a man taking up the mantle of a hero to combat a returned evil that was thought long dead.  Tiger Mask is a superhero!  You’ve got company, All-Might and One Punch Man!  Okay, maybe he’s not that super, but it’s there.

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Actually, screw that.  He’s a superhero!  Look at that cape!

Oh man, where to even begin?  The fact that despite the cheap animation the big matches feel like they always deliver?  Yeah, let’s start there.  The opponents that line up for Tiger Mask comprise one heck of a murderers’ row.  Black Python, Red Death Mask (“The Mask of Red Death”), Bigfoot, the Saboten, Mister Question, the Miracles, etc.  I love those guys.  Sure, not all of them are GWM wrestlers, but I loved their matches against Tiger Mask with special mention to Miracle IV’s aerial battle.  And y’all, that ain’t even mentioning the insane stuff with the other Tigers.

By the end of the series, we get seven Tigers:  Tiger Mask, Tiger the Dark (Takuma), Spring Tiger (Naoto’s love interest and Takaoka’s niece Haruna), King Tiger (a martial artist), Black Tiger (think Mark Henry in a mask), Big Tiger II (a man of average height whom you’d best not call short), and Tiger the Great the Third (the big bad of the series).  The latter four comprise Tiger’s Den’s Four Heavenly Kings, and I love that trope of the four strongest opponents (ex. Monster RancherPokemonDigimonG Gundam).  As for their matches…well, they’re the best in the series.  Tiger Mask versus Tiger the Dark in the Masked Tournament for the opportunity to fight Yellow Devil (or is it?), the two facing off again in the absolute wonderful batsh*t match that is War Games, and they cross paths again in a fashion I don’t want to spoil.  That’s just the matches involving the main protagonists.  Takuma’s trials in Hell in the Hole, his match against The Third, Tiger Mask’s fight against King Tiger, Big Tiger II and Black Tiger wrecking everyone…. So good!  And then there’s Spring Tiger.

Probably the best subplot throughout Tiger Mask W‘s 38-episode run is Haruna’s desire to become a professional wrestler.  Her family is steadfastly against it, but in managing Tiger Mask’s career and aiding in his training, the ring calls to her.  The moment she throws together her Spring Tiger costume to help out her friends Mint and Milk (Candy Pair) is kinda a mark out moment.  I genuinely wish they’d revisited Spring Tiger more often.  In fact, the final episode is all about Spring Tiger.  See, the main plot of W wraps up in the penultimate episode.  The final episode is all about Haruna being scouted as the ace for a new all-women’s wrestling organization and her big match against one of the greatest Japanese female wrestlers of all-time, Mother Devil.  This is legitimately one of the best episodes of the series.  I can’t even begin tell you how big the smile on my face was throughout the run-time.  I’m so hoping this was a set-up for a spin-off show following Spring Tiger.  I will pray to all the gods for that to happen.

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QUEEN OF THE WILD, WILD, WILD!

And there’s just so much other great stuff I didn’t get into.  The bumbling Fukuwara Mask’s true identity and desire to revitalize his dying town; Odin’s drive to become the good guy his hometown thinks he is; Kenny Omega and the Bullet Club buying up sweets just to piss off Togi Makabe; Kevin’s secret love for Takuma; Miss X doing her damnedest to move up in a male-dominated profession; the insanity that is Blackout; Miracle I being legitimately hurt when Tiger Mask didn’t want to be evil with him and the rest of the Miracles; GWM basically as a stand-in for WWE.  I think back to this stuff, and it makes me want to watch the series again.  This show could’ve phoned it in, and to be fair, it does a lot.  But I see a great deal of heart in this show, and it delivers with big characters and bigger matches.  Tiger Mask W gets a 9 out of 10!

Now, go forth, everyone, and become a tiger!

Seasonal Sawce: Spring into Summer of Anime 2017, Part 2

The fusion of Seasonal Sawce and Summer of Anime has returned!  Get excited, y’all!  Or not.  You do you.  I can’t tell you what to do.

Quick rundown as always before we begin:  These are the anime I watched that began and ended during the 2017 spring season ranked from my least favorite to my most favorite.  So, that means no My Hero Academia 2 or Sakura Quest here.  Those two will get their own entries when they end.

Okay.  Buckle up, you crazy kids!

Eromanga Sensei

16 Eromanga Sensei

They know what this is.

Oh, man.  I’m gonna let you all in on a little secret:  I was thoroughly entertained by this show every week.  Like, I almost justified putting it higher.  This is…this is a garbage show.  From the set-up to the characters to the story to the gags to the Imouto Cinematic Universe.  It’s just bad.  But Eromanga Sensei is so bad it’s entertaining.  Not so bad it’s good–oh, goodness no.  Nothing in my being will allow me to call this good.  It just relishes in being so shameless.  You can’t help but be entertained.

That being said, I wouldn’t suggest watching it.  It’s an anime only those who have delved too deep into anime and have morbid senses of humor can enjoy.  Or those who don’t know any better yet.  In fact, they may not be mutually exclusive.  But hey, I’ll give it some legitimate praise.  The show was made with love, and being a writer myself, it always got me motivated to write whenever the characters were talking shop.  I think that’s it.

I’ll give it a 5.5.  It’s not a good score.  It’s not a bad score.  It’s score.

Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor

10 Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor

Look at dem broad shoulders.

This season was full of surprises!  Eromanga Sensei was trashier than even I expected, and Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor made a magical school show feel fresh.  Not brand new…but definitely fresh.  Glenn Radars as the titular bastard is definitely not the average protagonist for these types of shows.  Yes, he does have a good heart, and yes, he is secretly a badass former government agent, but he really is a bastard.  He’s lazy, crude, and loves manipulating others.  He’s such a fun protagonist.  As for the others…eh.

His students, allies, and enemies tick off the cast checklist for this genre.  The tsundere, the rich girl, the adorable weapon, the hot witch, the evil organization hellbent on proving there’s a dark secret the kingdom doesn’t want getting out, etc.  Although Bastard pulls off these characters and arcs with a more adept hand than usual, it’s still what you’d expect from one of these.  Other than Glenn legitimately needing help to win a lot of his big fights.  He’s actually bad at magic, and the show keeps that in mind.  Good on them.

Gets a 7.5 from me.  Better than good, but not quite in that upper tier.

Love Tyrant

12 Love Tyrant

“Akane’s not the picture?!”

Is Love Tyrant funny?  Well, I sure did laugh lot.  Not like I laughed at Eromanga Sensei, but like legitimate laughter.  The jokes landed for me.  This show’s humor is my humor.  Plus, all they had to do was show Akane Hiyama on screen and all my worries went away!  Yes, Akane is best girl of spring 2017!  Shout it from the mountaintops!  All hail our yandere redhead assassin overlord!  Well…that was a mouthful.

So yeah, obviously the comedy and at least one character did it for me, but I also really like the rest of the cast.  Seiji makes a great straight-man, Guri’s quest to understand romantic love is always funny and heartwarming, Yuzu gets more than just her crush on her sister, Shikimi is always a delight when she shows up, and the demon penguin Stolas…well, I don’t know what to say about him.  Even in a show about an angel cosplaying as a shinigami putting herself in a polyamorous relationship via her Kiss Note…Stolas is random.  But it was great seeing all these characters every week.  Heck, Yuzu and her mom are responsible for one of my favorite jokes in all of anime.  It’s a terribly simple pun, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

Akane and her funny friends earn an 8 out of 10!

Kado: The Right Answer

17 Kado the Right Answer

There are no strings on m…huh.

Okay, so, this is a bit tricky.  Kado: The Right Answer started off with a lot of promise.  Like, I was getting ready to tout it as a modern classic.  It’s a much slower-paced, thinking sort of science fiction anime you don’t see too much anymore.  The anisotropic alien Yaha-kui zaShunina’s relationship and conversations with the negotiator Koujirou Shindou, the devices zaShunina brought with him, and the world’s reactions to said devices were awesome to watch every week.  The ideas presented really got me thinking about other ways one could view the universe.  It wasn’t always terribly compelling, but it was so good.  And then, there was a bit of a tone shift.

I really, really don’t want to get into spoilers, so I apologize if this sounds maddeningly vague.  A character reveals something that seriously changes the game, and this action forces the hand of another.  That’s the moment Kado enters it’s second phase of sorts.  Truth be told, I loved the shift.  It caught me off guard, and I thought it added a lot to an anime I was already thoroughly enjoying.  This did all lead to an ending that has divided the fans of the show.  It is a true love it or hate it episode.  How do I feel?  I’ll admit it came off as rushed, and I wish they’d resolved something differently, but I mostly love it.  There’s a moment involving a message on a cellphone that’s one of my favorite anime scenes.  I legitimately marked out.

Had it not been for the fumbled ending, this would probably be my number one show for the spring 2017 season.  As it stands, I’ll give it an 8.5.

What could possibly be number one?  Well, if you read the last post, then I doubt you’re surprised.

Attack on Titan Season 2

9 Attack on Titan Season 2

This seems like a rather unfair game of “Pat-a-cake.”

Yes, my favorite anime that began and finished its run this season is Attack on Titan Season 2.  Trust me, I’m kinda tired of second seasons dominating these, too.  What can I say, though?  There’s a reason I watch season twos–I love those season ones so much.  Granted, had I watched the new season of Berserk it probably would’ve been near the bottom, but that’s just an awful adaptation of a magnificent series.

But yeah, Attack on Titan is great.  The anime does a wonderful job of presenting the art style in an awesome fashion, the soundtrack is killer, all hail Mikasa, and just when we think we have all the answers, they change the questions!  The second season isn’t as plagued with pacing problems as the first was, and that allows it to feel a little more lean instead of thin by having just one cour.  For the most part, at least.  The final stretch to the season finale felt drawn out a bit, but it didn’t bother me much.

Gonna give this one a 9.  I love Titan, but it’s never clicked with me enough for me to put it too close to 10.

That’ll do it for this round of Seasonal Sawce.  I’ve fallen behind on my Summer of Anime posts (as I’m sure you can tell), but there’s only one more to go until I’m caught up and ready to breathe a little easier.  And I can’t wait to talk about it.

Peace out, and stay bizarre.

2017 Summer of Anime – Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation

16 Yowamushi Pedal New Generation

HIME FIST!

Since this is one of those I’ve talked about in a previous post (here it is!), I won’t go into too much depth with the intro paragraph.  I’ve also written about season two and the movie right here.  Okay, reigning Summer Inter High champion Sakamichi Onoda is in his second year of high school at Sohoku High.  His cycling team is already training for their next Inter High, but their rivals are working just as hard, and Sohoku is especially far behind because they’ve lost half their winning team.  Time to Hime Hime, y’all!

Jeez, I’ve been watching Yowamushi Pedal for almost four years now.  My, how time flies.  This anime sure don’t, though!  *Laugh track*  I praised New Generation when it was six episodes in for how much the pace had stepped up from previous seasons.  And it kept to that…for a while.  I’m an old hand at sports series, so I’m no stranger to sudden flashbacks, thinking/talking as free actions, and drawn out matches, but it really does feel like Yowapeda has mastered the art of padding.  Those whiplash-inducing flashbacks returned in a hurry, and this season ends before the first day of the Inter High is over.  The bit before the race felt like it took forever.  Getting to know everybody, getting to see their backstories, getting to hear everyone’s thoughts, etc.  Again, it’s a sports series.  I get it.  But three seasons in and most of the cast returning from the previous two…you don’t really need to spend too much time on this stuff by now.  Or at least do it better.  Eiichiro Oda is so unbelievably adept at making long flashbacks feel natural in One Piece.  Yowapeda is far from being that good at it.

My other big complaint about this season, and I’m sorry if this is a spoiler, but I gotta get this off my chest:  This feels exactly like the last Inter High so far.  Sohoku sent two sprinters for the sprint checkpoint against Hakone’s one, Onoda gets separated from the rest of his team by the pack and has to fight his way back, Midosouji messes with him as he does so, Sohoku has to make a desperate call for the mountain checkpoint.  I just described the first day of both Inter Highs.  It is unabashedly similar.  I genuinely hope things get changed up for the rest of the race, but it ain’t looking too good.

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Best timeline?  Worst timeline?  I…don’t really know.

I know it sounds like I’m being harsh on Yowapeda, but it comes from a place of love.  It is a true delight to see all these characters again, and the new additions are quite welcome.  The new kid on Sohoku’s team who’s somehow dumber and more hot-blooded than Naruko, Hakone’s monster Doubashi, Kyoto Fushimi’s…masseuse.  They bring familiar characteristics to the table, but they all feel different enough to not be redundant.  I also love how existing characters have to step up into roles like with Teshima and Izumida becoming the captains of Sohoku and Hakone, respectively.  It’s interesting to see how they approach the struggles and responsibilities as captains of two of the best teams in the country.  Teshima especially stands out in this season as he not only has to race to win his spot as captain, but he also has to man up in the mountain stage of the Inter High.  Dude has definitely become one of my favorites.

And yeah, the show can still get me hype when it wants to get me hype.  I wish it didn’t take so long to get from one hype to the next, but such is Yowapeda.  Also, it continues to have the best stingers in anime.  Bar none.  I can’t tell you how funny these things are.  My favorite has to be when Kyoto Fushimi’s former captain has a nightmare of catching grasshoppers as a kid and one of them turns into Midousuji.  I laughed so hard.  There’s also a really special one at the end of the last episode.  Again, the show can easily get me hype when it wants to.

Despite New Generation doing everything good that previous entries in the Yowapeda franchise have done with great characters, races, and humor, it also does everything bad that the others have done with ham-fisted flashbacks and woefully drawn out episodes.  I’ll give it a 7.5.  Probably my least favorite season, but I do still love it so.

2017 Summer of Anime – Evangelion 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo

15 Evangelion 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo

Touched by an Angel.

Shinji Ikari got in the damn robot and saved Rei Ayanami.  Third Impact was about to happen, but Kaworu Nagisa descended from the heavens like the Angel he is, speared Shinji’s Eva Unit 01, and stopped Third Impact.  Or so we thought.  Fourteen years later, Shinji wakes up on the Wunder–a massive ship part of WILLE’s fleet.  WILLE is an organization that’s at war with NERV in the post Near Third Impact world, and it’s led by former NERV members Misato Katsuragi and Ritsuko Akagi.  Mari Illustrious Makinami and Asuka Langley Sor…Shikinami pilot Evas for WILLE, but thanks to the “Curse of Eva” neither has aged at all in the 14 years since Shinji triggered a near extinction-level event.  Everyone’s hostility is driving Shinji into his old woe-is-me self until he’s liberated by who he thinks is Rei Ayanami and taken back to NERV where his father Gendo still just wants him to get in the damn robot.  This kid really just can’t catch a break.

Don’t think I’ve gotten to talk about it here, but I love me some Neon Genesis Evangelion.  I mean, it’s one of the first mecha shows I knew about other than Gundam Wing.  The characters really stick with you.  Say what you will about the effects it’s had on the industry in terms of Eva clones, Rei clones, Asuka clones, etc., but the original series is pretty good…mostly.  Yes, the multiple frustrating endings are legendary by this point, but there’s a morbid fun to be found in how confounding they are.  So, I very much belong to the camp that believes the Rebuild films take place after the End of Evangelion, and this is the new world with Shinji trying to make it right.  The first film was good, the second film is amazing, and this one–Evangelion 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo–is…well, it’s definitely Eva.

And that’s the biggest problem.  I’m a seasoned Eva fan, and I have spent actual hours reading up on NGE lore to get ready for this and understand 3.0 better.  I’m all for treating the audience like real, thinking people and not idiots, but you gotta throw some bones once in a while.  What’s the Curse of Eva?  How is the Spear of Cassius different from the Spear of Longinus, and why are they allegedly in Central Dogma with Lilith and Eva Mark.06?  What are the “Vessels of the Adams?”  Why does Asuka have an eyepatch?  Who knows?  Again, I love mysteries, but Eva has a history of giving vague answers, and that’s putting it nicely.

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Still the baddest bitch in the ‘bots.

Other than that, I had a helluva time watching this movie.  Even though I probably love making fun of Eva more than I love praising it, I do thoroughly enjoy seeing these characters fighting against what just might be unbeatable odds.  After all, we’ve seen the end of humanity how many times now?  Okay, I’ll stop with the jokes.  Maybe.

Despite the majority of the movie following Shinji, Kaworu, and Rei Q, Asuka and Misato continue to be the highlights of the franchise for me.  They’ve been my favorites since I was a kid, and they’re still going strong.  I genuinely appreciate how Asuka’s rage really seems to have that “I’m a 28-year-old trapped in a 14-year-old’s body” edge to it.  It’s not elaborated upon since we don’t see her too much, but I definitely felt like it was there.  Misato, too, is visibly carrying the weight of her part in the Near Third Impact.  At first, I hated how she was so dismissive and spiteful toward Shinji after they saved him from orbit (yeah, I may have skipped some stuff in the intro), but it makes sense when you remember she’s the one who essentially pushed Shinji into kickstarting the Third Impact.  She even let the kid go instead of killing him when she had the chance.  She’s still the old Misato, but there are layers of cold determination she’s had to put up in order to carry on.

Mari would probably be my favorite if she had more character other than glasses and, “I like to fight sh*t.”  She’s basically Asuka’s sidekick now, so that was a bit of a disappointment.  Rei Q is another character I wish they would’ve done more with with her whole being a clone thing.  Maybe we’ll get some of that in the fourth movie that’s definitely totally for realsies gonna happen.  I do actually like how Shinji and Kaworu were handled in the movie.  For the first time ever, I understood Shinji’s…Shinji-ness.  No one would tell him anything other than 14 years have passed since he tried and failed to save Rei.  That’s it.  Everyone treated him like a threat and a piece of crap at the same time.  That’s what leads him to becoming fast friends with Kaworu.  They’re both treated pretty much the same, so they find a bond in that.  Kaworu seems more genuine here than he did in the original series.  I think he’s still out to end humanity (maybe), but it does look like he really wants Shinji to be happy in his life.  Good Angel.

 As always, the music is simply fantastic, and the animation is some mighty fine eye-porn.  Even though I love the characters and seeing them survive on in a truly horrific world, the immense lack of solid answers in terms of characters and plot leave this as probably my least favorite of the Rebuild films.  Giving You Can (Not) Redo a 7 out of 10.  Evangelion continues to be amazing.  And frustrating.  It’s frustrazing.

2017 Summer of Anime – Eden of the East

11 Eden of the East

It’s been one week since you looked at me, cocked your head to the side, and I erased my memory.

During her senior year of college, Saki Morimi decides to take a trip to Washington D.C. and tries her hardest to throw a coin into the fountain in front of the White House since she sees it as the center of the world.  She misses, but some officers noticed her throwing something and start going after her.  Saki is then miraculously saved by the appearance of a naked amnesiac Japanese man holding a gun and a cellphone.  The two escape and wind up at the man’s apartment where he starts getting some unsettling clues to his identity.  He has a stockpile of guns and fake passports and a cellphone which connects to a woman named Juiz who can make seemingly anything happen using the 8.2 billion yen available to him.  He chooses the Akira Takizawa passport and heads to the airport with Saki.  As he finds out more about the world around him, Akira becomes afraid that he’s connected to Careless Monday–the day three months prior when 11 missiles struck Japan but amazingly didn’t kill anyone.  The truth is much larger than Akira can possibly imagine, and now he’s pulled Saki into this dangerous game neither of them know they’re playing.

I actually watched the first episode of Eden of the East back when it first aired.  I thought the set-up was pretty neat, but for some reason, I never watched the next episode.  Genuinely couldn’t tell you why.  After its 11-episode run and two sequel movies, I had planned to finally sit down and check it out, but I kept hearing that the show never lived up to the mysteries in the first episode.  I…agree and disagree on that.

Don’t really want to get into spoilers for why Akira had lost his memories, what happened with Careless Monday, who Juiz really is, etc.  Yeah, this show is eight years old now, but hey, I didn’t know going in.  So yeah, the answers to some of them were pretty satisfying and great.  They led to more action and drove the plot.  But then some answers tried to make a cannonball in the pool and did a belly flop instead.  Granted, most of my problems with that are from the movies, so I don’t necessarily hold that against the actual show too much.

The show itself is pretty good.  The chemistry between Saki and Akira is believable, and the series was at its dullest when the two weren’t together (even though Akira did do some things that irked me).  I loved seeing those crazy kids help each other out with Saki aiding Akira in uncovering his identity and Akira being the catalyst for Saki becoming her own person.  I even wound up liking the side characters quite a bit more than I thought I would–both Saki’s friends and Akira’s fellow Selecao (super phone-wielding special people).

The pacing was off sometimes, and it is a true crime that Funimation didn’t (or couldn’t–don’t know which) get the rights for “FALLING DOWN” by Oasis as the OP for each episode.  That ED is a thing of beauty, though.  The long and the short of it is I’ll give the 11 episodes of Eden of the East an 8.  Had the ending faltered, it would’ve been lower, but it was a solid, satisfying conclusion for the most part.

Now, to the movies.

13-14 King of Eden and Paradise Lost

You wear your heart on your sleeve?  He wears himself on his shirt!

Although I did like it, the first movie, The King of Eden, was kind of a letdown.  Even knowing I had another movie to watch, I couldn’t help but go, “Wait…that’s it?” when the credits began to roll.  The weak answers, pacing issues, and my own problems with Akira from the series are exacerbated here.  I’m all for taking your time to get from Point A to Point B, but man, this just felt like it really didn’t want to get to Point B.  It was great seeing the fallout of the show’s finale and more of the characters I loved, but there are only, like, two important things that happen in the first movie.  It might even be closer to one-and-a-half.  Anyway, I can’t bring myself to give it lower than a 6.5 or 7.  I did enjoy it, and I do think its good, but I also feel like this was a bit of a cash-in.

The second movie, Paradise Lost, on the other hand, was legit.  Pretty much the entire cast got their time to shine.  I actually marked out when Saki’s friends got tired of sitting around and jumped into the thick of things.  The reveal of who set up the phones, the 10 billion yen, and Juiz was actually good.  It’s something that definitely felt like they’d been building up to, and the mastermind was more than I’d hoped he’d be.  Once again, though, Akira does some things one might consider questionable or stupid, some scenes get way more time than they should, and other resolutions came off easy.  But, I’ll give this movie an 8 like I did the show.  Pretty much had the same problems in the same doses.

Now, I didn’t touch on the themes of the series like nationalism, the NEET culture, the place of youth in society, etc., and there is one thing that happened that really needed some better explanation (someone grows wings).  So, if this felt rushed to you, then I have the perfect excuse:  It is!  Yeah, I fell behind a bit because I actually decided to visit some friends and family and stay with them.  Got at least two more of these Summer of Anime posts coming up fast, so keep a weather eye out.