Dan Carroll

Super Virtua Food Fighter

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Dec 072015

The previous two episodes of Ben-To, 8 and 9, kinda had me worried. I was digging them, but they were straying from the “kick ass to get half price food” bit that was the heart of the series. By focusing on that very specific motivation for fighting, Ben-To had basically become the best fighting anime since Air Master.

But those two episodes strayed from that. The food fighting was referenced. It wasn’t like it disappeared completely. But it was no longer the thing going on. Then the latest episode, number 10, got back to it and delivered the best fight thus far in the series.

I figured these twins were gonna be the second half’s big bad, but I was worried that whatever conflict they wanted to bring about was gonna stray from the path. They seemed to care more about stalking people and playing mind games rather than beating the shit out of you to get some cheap grub. Their antics were pretty amusing, which was a relief since most light novel adaptations tend to get pretty lame when they resort to “antics” to keep your attention.

Instead, all of that now feels like build-up for what went down in this episode. It’s like how the main villain in a shounen fighting series will talk and rant to his underlings or something while the main character wanders about and trains or something. They give you a reason to hate (or love to hate, or root for) the villain by letting him monologue or whatever. Except they’re trying to rape Sato while thinking he’s Ice Witch. Yeah. Something like that.

Whatever, man, I’m just grasping at ways to rationalize how the series went off track. Roll with it.

But damn. That fight where everyone got their asses handed to them by the twins was great stuff. Like, it’s probably the best anime action scene I’ve seen this year that wasn’t in Redline. But what particularly amused me about it was the stylized “blackness” that enveloped all of the twins’ attacks. It totally looked like the “ink” effects you see in Street Fighter 4. That’s especially funny because SF is made by Capcom and Ben-To is blatantly sponsored by Sega. By having the final big bads of the series use a technique used in a rival company’s game is a neat touch. Doubt it’s deliberate, but it’s amusing regardless.

2014: A Year Where Anime Didn’t Suck (But Kinda Did)

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Jan 032015

Hell, everything kinda sucked in 2014– on an anime level– on a personal level– on a cosmic level. Everything was coming up barftastic. Nerd culture pulled off its cheesy latex mask and revealed the serial killer dwelling within that anyone with half a brain knew was there the whole time. The world kept being as shitty as it always has been, but it seemed like more people were getting fed up with current shitty trends. My trivial personal matters (mostly work-related) sank me into the depths of Charlie Brown-like existential apathy.

2014 seemed to give everyone the proverbial rock in the Halloween bag, and it can go fuck itself in the abstract concept hellhole that’s its grave.

But there were a few anime things worth talking about. A few. Maybe half a dozen? Maybe a couple more than that. Sure wasn’t enough to make a full-on Top 10 this year.

Actually, I lied. There’s enough to make a Top 10. The year still sucked. Fuck 2014.

11. Akuma no Riddle

Bad people doing bad things to each other. Said bad people happen to be assassins of the female variety. I’d rather they be adult females, but I’ll take what I can get when it comes to this sort of thing. Akuma no Riddle’s exactly the sort of thing I’m looking for, and for long stretches it was kinda perfect in that regard (DAMN that Romeo and Juliet episode was perfect.), but it botches it all with an atrocious ending that ruins all of the sacrifice and drama that went down. I ranted about that shit here, so there’s no need to repeat it. If you ignore that epilogue, this is all time favorite material. With it, it’s just another also-ran that could have found a place in my black heart, but will forever be pushed aside.

10. Rage of Bahamut: Genesis

The first two episodes of this series are nigh-perfect. They distill a lot of the action-adventure stuff you see in good Hollywood productions and turn it into 20-something minute masterpieces. Had the entire series been like these two episodes, with their riffs on things like Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones and spaghetti westerns, it’d likely be up in the top three. Unfortunately, this thing’s based on some mobile phone collectible card game or whatever, and said game is all about gods and demons and JRPG stuff, and said stuff ends up dominating most of the series. When it’s about the two dudes duking it out over misunderstandings and desires for revenge and whatnot, it’s awesome. When it’s about bad appropriations of Jeanne d’Arc and androgynous angels of all alignments, it’s just as tedious and dull as the video games it’s aping. There’s enough of the former to make this show worthwhile. And then there’s that god duck thing. And the awesome horse. They need to tag team it up and show those god dorks what’s up.

9. Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girls

Sega’s most (in)famous home console systems are anthropomorphized, sent to high school, and make passive-aggressive threats at one another. When it’s working, it’s pretty zany and absurd and cute. When it isn’t working, it has Sonic the Hedgehog stinking up the place with his vile presence (I really hate that thing.). Sega Girls works due to the way the three voice actresses riff off one another. Apparently this is done by (some of?) the same peeps who did that gdgd Fairies thing that I need to check out, and that was that series’ shtick, so they’ve had some practice with this sort of thing. Like the previous two shows on this list, not everything works about the series, but Sonic aside there’s nothing really egregious that turns me off totally. They really should have done more old school games. Less Phantasy Star Mobile Online Pay To Win XZ23 and more Space Harrier and Golden Axe next time. Also, the ending to this thing is strange and kinda morbid if you understand the history of these game systems and the general route Sega’s gone as far as consoles go. They’re going for bittersweet melancholy, but the context turns it more into a death march.

8. Tonari no Seki-kun

Dude slacks off in class by playing with toys and shit. Dude doesn’t realize there’s a girl who obsessively watches him. Dude is a complete dumbass. It’s funny stuff. It’s also my high school years in animated form. Most relatable anime of the year, man. Doesn’t quite “stick” for whatever reason. I had to remind myself a few times it aired this year.

7. Ai Mai Mi: Mousou Catastrophe

This year’s best short anime (that I finished). It’s something of a soul sister to the brilliance of Teekyu, but it doesn’t quite have the same manic bite of its superior sibling. Still, this is some madcap insanity with its own brand of twisted, high-strung humor. I totally wanna play those 8-bit mash-ups from the credit sequence.

6. Witch Craft Works

There’s a lot going on in this thing. You got some neat stuff with gender role reversals, where the dude is the “princess” and the girl’s the cold, stoic protector. You have some neat magical battle stuff. You have cool characters with cool gimmicks and visual quirks. It’s the sort of fluffy, generic “high school is important because of magic” thing you expect from modern anime, but it’s elevated beyond such triviality by being damn good at what it does. I’d call it the best of its type since the likes of season one of Haruhi. It also has a llama being burned at the stake in one of its episodes and an end credit sequence all about fantastical witch torture, so it makes me all warm and giggly inside.

5. Sabagebu

It’s everything Akuma no Riddle should have been without actually being everything Akuma no Riddle should have been.

4. Psycho-Pass 2 3

I swear, there’s an actual season 2 of Psycho-Pass hidden away in some vault that details everything we needed for the actual season that exists to make sense for the masses. There’s something that helps set up the relationships between these characters, like Akane and her grandmother and the team with that new super-bonkers dude that does super secret but not really stuff to screw them over. As it is, the season we got is something of a disjointed mess of emotions and ideas that don’t really mesh, but make for some kind of perfect procedural spectacle all about competing abstract manifestations of collective consciousness and the judgement of groups and the death of the individual as a viable concept. It’s some real fucked up shit that hits you over the head with its unwieldy concepts with a proverbial sledgehammer, and if you survive the blow you’re rewarded with some of the craziest, most worthwhile nonsense I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.

3. Lupin the Third: Daisuke Jigen’s Gravestone

This is exactly what I wanted to see post-Fujiko. It keeps the same vibe of that series while going off and having fun with a typical Lupin story. Jigen being targeted by a swanky hitman while in the middle of a jewel heist is classic Lupin stuff. Fujiko being forced to fight a giant robot with a drill for its crotch for the amusement of rich millionaire sickos is the sort of stuff straight out of the new series. A whole series like this would be perfection. Shame it’s just a two part OVA thing.

2. Garo

It ain’t over yet, but what we’ve seen of Garo so far is pretty damn great. It’s basically a tokusatsu show taking place in a medieval setting, complete with transformations and crazy cg martial arts combat. There’s also a lot of stuff going on about parents and parent figures letting down their kids and how said kids struggle to live up to their expectations. The world is going to shit, and these people just might save us all, but they ain’t gonna save themselves, and that’s alright. We’ll see if the second half lives up to the first half, but so far it looks to be a real keeper. Right on the verge of being a personal favorite. Hopefully they jump off that ledge and go full on crazy with their ideas.

1. Space Dandy

Pure animated storytelling bliss. Second half better than the first. Everything I want out of this cartoon shit and more. We aren’t good enough for Space Dandy.

Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girl #2 does what Landon’t

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Oct 162014

God-effing-dammit! I knew that joke was coming. I knew it! It was dumb. It was predictable. And it induced in me, a bout of involuntary, real life… laughter.

I refer to the headbutt, naturally. I tried to mask it as a sneeze but man, when it predictably happened at the end there, I laughed for realz-yo.

Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girl 4 Anime of the Year for no other reason than elliciting an involuntary positive response from me. I remember only laughing for realz a couple times in the last few years. This is one of ‘em.

As for the episode itself, it’s your classic case of repeating a joke until it becomes funny. And it pulls it off.

Garo: Hoono no Kokuin #2, Kamen Rider Drive #1 & Kamen Rider Blade #1

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Oct 122014

Tokusatsu post, as it were.

Garo: Hoono no Kokuin #2
I’m writing this after just finishing up this episode. I liked it. I actually did. To tell the truth, I wasn’t sure about episode one. It seemed above average. But I wasn’t sure if my view was clouded by my wanting a Tokusatsu based property to succeed. But episode #2 is really solid. It opens with a terrific little scene and the rest of the episode was a good mix of exposition and action with a little humor and some world building thrown in. It feels way more balanced than the first episode.

The main dude remains the weakest part of the show but next episode will feature Zaruba, so he might improve a tad. If the rest of Garo: Hoono no Kokuin is able to keep this level of quality, I’d say it’ll be one of the better straight up adventure anime of the year (note the very specific category). Between this and Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis, it looks like we’ll be closing the year with a solid batch of pure adventure programming.

Kamen Rider Drive #1
Saw this when it came out. It’s pretty decent for what it is. As with many Kamen Rider shows, especially the sillier ones aimed at kids, it opens with mass murder.

The pilot opens with an event known as the Global Freeze, which messes with everyone’s time. People suddenly freeze in their tracks or slow down, but their perception of time is still going at a regular rate. During which, monsters immune to this effect, start indiscriminately (and arbitrarily) murdering everyone. A diner full of people are shot with lasers which explode in slow motion, so they’re conscious in real time whilst they’re being blown to bits in slo-mo. Meanwhile, a giant bowling pin (or was it a bowling ball?) from the local bowling alley is knocked off the roof and is slowly about to crush a group of hapless bystanders; when suddenly, a monster jumps outta nowhere and kicks it at them. So they’re quickly smashed to bits rather than slowly crushed. That’s hilarious, since they were gonna die anyway. That monster dude’s just being a dick there.

Anywho, we skip to the future/present, where our main character is a slacker cop in a division that investigates “Slowdowns”. Blah blah blah, it’s a very kiddy show feel here. Monsters appear, our hero learns to transform and defeats them through the power of merchandise driven powers. The end.

Overall, a nice first episode and I’m somewhat intrigued for the second episode. It’s doubtful that Drive will be another Gaim, simply because Drive’s format will be 2 episode shorts, which wouldn’t be very conducive to Gaim’s style of serial story telling. The tone seems to lighthearted but not overly silly, despite the fact that magical little toy cars seem to be a very integral motif. Hopefully Drive will be solid overall and make a good gateway series for the filthy casuals, like Kamen Rider W.

Kamen Rider Gaim’s still the way to go if you’re from an anime background though. I’d recommend sticking through that till ep 4, ’cause that’s when the show stops sucking, and if you can stand it, watch till ep 14, ’cause that’s when the show actually gets good.

Kamen Rider Blade #1 (live-ish)
Supposedly one of the better Kamen Rider shows, although it too supposedly had a slow start. I’m writing this as I watch, so this might be a live-ish (edit: definitely a live-ish) thing. We open with motorcycle riding and someone fighting Batman (psst, it’s Kamen Rider Garren vs a Bat Undead). This is followed by abseiling because, DUH, what else would you do after riding a bike and fighting a monster?

The main dude is asked to hurry on his bike to go and save the guy fighting the bat monster. The guys at mission control are asking him if he wants to save the dude, if so, to hurry. But… well, we get sound effects that he’s hurrying, but our eyes tell us that he’s travelling at a very leisurely pace. Guess Blade doesn’t want to save Garren after all.

As Blade arrives to help out, we cut to the opening sequence, which is HILARIOUS given the death battle we were just witnessing. Not a bad opening though. I like it.

We get a nice chase scene out of it. Especially given the technical capabilities of the time (2004 to 2005). Blade uses Tackle! It is the opposite of Super Effective!

AHAHA! Garren just told Blade that fighting blind is no good… against a bat monster. OHOHO, oh you subbers.

More AHAHAing, the main guy returns to his apartment and it turns out the landlady rented it out while he was out of town. What a bitch (not because she rented out a tenant’s room without letting him know, but because she rides a muscle bike).

Okay, I’ve just finished ep 1 and I like it. I heard peeps saying the first few eps were slow but I totally disagree. The first ep gets a lot of backstory out of the way, considering we know this series has multiple main characters. It also sets things up for future intrigue.

While Kamen Rider’s always been about the merch, this was from a time when the merch was less obvious. So unlike the toy commercial pilots we’ve been getting for the last half dozen years or so, there’s no shilling at all in this ep. I mean, yeah, the characters have ostentatious designs and use gimmicky equipment, but this first ep is very much a straight up sci-fi/horror drama so far. The only humor is where this dude’s niece sass at him.

If this show only gets better from here on out, I might have to reassess my Kamen Rider rankings.

Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girl #1

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Oct 122014

11 minute short, I like it.

Of course, it’s mostly filled with retro references, but some of the jokes are legitimately funny. I for one, liked when they asked Sega Saturn what kinda guy she liked. If you’re familiar with the Sega Saturn commercials, it’s obvious what kinda guy she’s into (Segata Sanshiro, duh!). Megadrive having a book with a presumably huge library is also an obvious but still amusing design choice. And Dreamcast and her internet connectivity…

Then there’s the obvious but nostalgic school song.

From the previews, the girls are gonna get beat up by Akira from Virtua Fighter next episode. Color me excited.