Saturday, August 31, 2013

Kin'youbi Mosaic: 8/30/13 Vic-tory Gundam Edition

In this weekly series, I simply talk about whatever random news and thoughts I feel like talking about. Don’t expect a whole lot of serious stuff here. The title is a play on the currently-airing "Kin'iro Mosaic", as "kin'youbi" means "Friday" in Japanese.

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A handful of new licenses have appeared over the past two weeks. First is that Crunchyroll has finally picked up Love Lab, the currently-airing show about girls at an all-girls school trying to learn about love. It is one of the three shows this season that had not gotten an official simulcast, and while it is awfully late in the season to start (not really CR’s fault; the international publisher for the show, Dentsu, is new to CR and negotiations probably took forever), I’m glad to see it finally get a legal stream. The show itself has been surprisingly good, balancing great humor with some nice moments of friendship between the girls. The show is currently streaming from episode 9, with episodes 1 and 2 also available; more episodes will be added later (looks like it'll be 2 more old episodes per week).

Also appearing on Crunchyroll are the first two seasons of Rozen Maiden, if you want more in-depth story on the lead-up to the currently-airing season than that one-episode recap gave. Just be warned that, at a certain point in the second season, the plot of the anime diverges from that of the manga, which is what the current anime follows.

Ghost Stories is an old ADV Films release most notable in that the English dub for the show turned it from an average children’s horror show (think Scooby-Doo) to a more audacious comedy with plenty of jokes that cross the line twice. I’m not going to say anything about how good or bad this is, since I’ve never watched it, but regardless, Discotek Media has picked it up to be re-released with both the original Japanese track and the English gag dub.

Finally, Disney has confirmed that they will release The Wind Rises (Japanese: Kaze Tachinu), the latest film by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, in theaters in the US. This film goes a somewhat different direction in that it’s about the life of Jiro Horikoshi, an airplane designer whose plane is unfortunately used in World War II. It’s definitely not a children’s film, but it should be an interesting new addition to Miyazaki’s repertoire all the same.

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English dub voice actor Vic Mignogna is well-known for being a devout Christian as well as a major presence in the English anime world. Recently, Anime News Network conducted an interview with him, which you can listen to on their latest ANNCast. Considering that the site is far from a religious site, it’s definitely worth noting that a very large part of the interview is about Vic’s faith and how it impacts his work, particularly with his presence at conventions.

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Let me be one to say, the Summer 2013 season of anime is absolutely amazing. Of the 18 shows that I covered in my initial impressions posts for the season, none have been dropped, 15 have a current score on my MyAnimeList profile of 7/10 or higher (which for me means that I really like the show), 10 have a score of 8/10 or higher (meaning I love the show a lot), and 5 have a score of 9/10 or higher (meaning I’m liable to break into a total gush-fest from just mentioning the show). One show has even cemented itself as among what I consider my “masterpiece”, 10/10 shows (that would be Tamayura). What’s more, many of these shows have taken a large step up from how they started, improving greatly from their modest starts. Here are some quick thoughts on the shows this season that have greatly impressed me by being much better than they had initially seemed.

Chronicles of the Going Home Club: This show is one of the only shows still scoring below a 7/10, though it’s honestly not too far off. What I think helps this show a lot is that it’s finally found its niche in a season that’s crowded with comedies: it is by far the most meta of them all. Fourth-wall-breaking jokes and pastiches of all sorts of genres abound, and it gives this show a flavor that is allowing it to remain in my giant roster of shows. The latest episode is probably the best yet, featuring the most epic game of shiritori ever.

Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya: What started as a fun little magical girl parody has since become a worthwhile magical girl show in its own right, featuring some absolutely fantastic battle scenes as well as some good comedic moments and even some deeper moments with how Illya is dealing with everything (answer: not very well). It’s currently scoring a high 7/10 and is definitely a fun show to watch. Shame it’ll be over in only two weeks…
Free!: So for a while, this show has been just a romp with this group of well-toned swimmers, providing comedy hijinks as well as plenty of fanservice for female viewers. However, with more recent episodes, we finally start to learn more about the backstory here as well as get into some actual swimming. The result is the high level of storytelling that one can expect of Kyoto Animation, with a compelling storyline that transcends the genders of the characters involved. A solid 8/10 as of now.

The Eccentric Family: The “family” part is definitely fitting for this show, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be talked about much. A big theme of this show is family, as we learn more about the circumstances surrounding the death of the tanuki family’s father. Making all this even more complicated is main character Yasuburo’s relationship with Benten and the Friday Fellows who are responsible for cooking his father in a tanuki hotpot in the first place. It’s definitely a very nuanced story, and it is incredibly fascinating; for now, I’d consider it just barely a 9/10.

Silver Spoon: And then there is this show. This show has become one of my favorites of this season, with some of the best characterization I have seen in anime. It incorporates a lot of information on farm life, too, and allows some of the grittier aspects of farming to challenge the main character, such as in his having to accept that they are raising animals to eventually kill for their meat. There’s also his strained relationship with his family, as well as his budding relationship with a female classmate, that is all being done incredibly well, and it’s balanced out with a great supporting cast. It’s an amazing show, and I’m glad that there’ll be more coming early next year, because 11 episodes just isn’t enough for this. Right now I consider this a high 9/10.

Beyond these, there’s still a number of other great shows. Servant x Service is shaping up well, especially with some nice development in the relationship between two of the main characters, there’s the aforementioned Love Lab, and as far as giving me a weekly dose of sheer cuteness with some great humor, nothing can replace Kin-iro Mosaic. And I haven’t even gone into shows like WataMoteThe World God Only KnowsGenshiken, or the Monogatariseries. Seriously, this is a great season of anime.

Friday, August 30, 2013

My Otaku Little Sister Anime Can't End This Way! (Part 2)

Part 1 was a criticism of the ending of Oreimo, and the direction it went in. It was a very in-depth criticism, one that to some might seem like I rather hate the series. Honestly, though, that is not the case. I gave a deep criticism because I cared about the show a lot. (It's easier for me to criticize something I care a lot about; anything that's just bad, I'd just give some quick criticisms and then just leave it in the trash pile.)

But that's enough criticism. This post is dedicated to all that was great, and is still great, about the Oreimo series.

Warning: Spoilers after the jump.


Art by ge ge gedou.

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Otaku Little Sister Anime Can't End This Way! (Part 1)

So, the final 3 episodes of Oreimo Season 2 have gone up on Crunchyroll for premium members, and will be available for everyone a week afterwards (on Saturday). I watched my way through all of them, and...

...well, honestly, I was disappointed.

In addition to not liking these last episodes, now I find it hard to figure out just what is my overall opinion of this second season and of the show as a whole.

What follows in this post is some writing about how I disliked the direction this show ended up going in. A later post will look at my resulting overall view of this show.

WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR THE ENDING OF OREIMO AFTER THE JUMP (AND THE PIC).


I still like Kirino, though. Art by yakan (2281101).

Friday, August 16, 2013

TOUHOU HIJACK!

I was going to do another Kin'youbi Mosaic today, but then I realized that all I wanted to talk about was one thing, so have a side post on the insane Touhou series.

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Among the various non-anime/manga otaku-related things I follow is the Touhou series. This series of doujin danmaku (a.k.a. "there are too many bullets on the screen!") shoot-'em-up games is known for three things: the blistering difficult games with lots of fancy patterns, the large cast of girls based on youkai and other aspects of Japanese (and Western) mythology and the sheer amount of fan art produced for it, and some of the best video game music tracks ever created entirely by one person, plus the sheer extent to which said music gets remixed.

I haven't done too much with the games themselves (I've played some of the 8th game, Imperishable Night, but still can't do anything higher than Easy), so there I mostly just watch gameplay videos on YouTube of people far better than I am. Take, for example, the following person clearing the 12th game, Undefined Fantastic Object, on the hardest difficulty level, like a boss:


If you're watching the video, remember to enjoy the music; that final boss music, in particular, is one of my absolute favorite pieces of music from anywhere.

The various girls are also interesting, mainly for the greater lore that they all are a part of. Touhou might not be a heavyweight in terms of storytelling, but it does do a lot in terms of worldbuilding to make the land of Gensokyo appealing and interesting, and the stories themselves are fairly interesting as a result. Aesthetically, while the girls might not look that well-drawn in the games themselves (chalk that up to the creator, ZUN, not being particularly skilled in art), they are well-designed, which allows for the legions of fan artists to craft up some great fan art.

Hina Kagiyama, Stage 2 boss of Mountain of Faith. Art by apple da-ze.

Anyways, I bring this up because the 14th game (not including side games), Double Dealing Character, came out earlier this week. There's lots of interesting stuff in here. The story involves the heroines' weapons going berserk and a bunch of weaker youkai becoming aggressive and looking to overturn the society where the strong rule. There's a neat cast of characters here, including a mermaid, a werewolf, a descendent of a race of little people, and two sisters who are animate musical instruments.

Benben and Yatsuhashi Tsukumo, a biwa and a koto, respectively.  Art by hourai ninjin.
The game itself is as insanely difficult as ever, if not even more so. The music is also simply fantastic. Overall, it's another great entry in the Touhou series.

There's even a shout-out to Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan):

The name of this attack just replaces the kanji for "huge person" with that for "small person".
To finish, here's some additional YouTube links if you want to see (or hear) more from this particular game:

1cc on Lunatic (hardest difficulty)
Extra Stage (a bonus level with a marathon boss)
Playlist with the game's music

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Otakon 2013 Madness: Bandai License Rescues and More!

Otakon 2013 has come and gone, but not without making a big splash in the current North American anime industry. There's one particularly large piece of news that affects two major U.S. licensors, plus plenty of smaller news of note.

So without further ado, let's jump in with the big one and get on with this show!

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Sunrise Licenses Out Former Bandai Entertainment Titles to FUNimation & Sentai Filmworks

Early in 2012, Bandai Entertainment stopped releasing anime titles in the U.S., and then some months afterwards closed their doors for good. As a result, all the titles they had previously held the license for have gone back to their original Japanese licensors. Knowing that there is still an audience for these titles, one of these licensors, Sunrise, has been in talks with Funimation and Sentai Filmworks to license out these titles again.

These talks have finalized, and now these two companies have announced a number of titles each that they plan to re-release in North America.

Before I go into which titles each company have licensed, keep in mind that this only concerns titles formerly released by Bandai Entertainment for whom Sunrise is the original licensor. In other words, don't expect anything like, say, Haruhi Suzumiya to come up here (that one's owned by Kadokawa, for the record). Also, as of the moment, none of the Gundam titles have been approved for re-licensing, so don't expect anything on that end, either. There are some huge titles among them, though, so here's a look at everything that's going to be re-released.

Sentai Filmworks
Brain Powered
Betterman
Z-MIND
Argento Soma
Zega Pain
The Girl Who Leapt Through Space
Infinite Ryvius
Kurokami: The Animation
Sacred Seven

Overman King Gainer
s-CRY-ed
The Big O (I & II)


This is definitely a pretty varied list. The Big O is definitely the biggest title here, having a very successful Toonami run; s-CRY-ed is another title that's appeared on Toonami. Another interesting title is Sacred Seven, as that title has yet to have a video release in North America, so Sentai will be releasing that one for the first time. Whether these will be released on Blu-ray or not has yet to be confirmed; likewise, whether a dub will be produced for The Girl Who Leapt Through Space (previously released by Bandai sub-only) or Sacred Seven has yet to be confirmed.

(Also, it's worth noting that, despite the similar names, The Girl Who Leapt Through Space has absolutely nothing to do with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.)

Funimation
Angel Links
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (including R2 and Akito the Exiled OVAs)
Crest of the Stars/Banner of the Stars (including II and the Passage of the Stars ~Birth~ special)
Tales of the Abyss
Witch Hunter Robin
Mai-HiME (known in the U.S. as My-HiME, but I refuse to use that title)
Mai-Otome (known in the U.S. as My-ZHime, but I refuse to use that title; includes O ~S.ifr~ and Zwei OVAs)
Outlaw Star
Escaflowne movie + The Visions of Escaflowne
Cowboy Bebop

Yes, that is a rather impressive list, and not just because Cowboy Bebop is on there. Though that one is the big one, and Funimation has confirmed that they do plan to release the series on Blu-ray sometime in 2014. Whether any of the other series will be released on Blu-ray has yet to be confirmed. Tales of the Abyss and Mai-Otome O ~S.ifr~ were released sub-only, but considering that Funimation dubs everything, chances are those will get dubbed. Finally, it's worth noting that Code Geass: Akito the Exiled has yet to be released in the U.S. (in fact, it's still being released in Japan), so that counts as a new license.

Anyways, this is all very big news, and perhaps you recognize some (or a lot) of these titles. Maybe you missed out on them the first time around; well, this is your chance to own them on DVD again. Many of these will likely also be available for streaming, too (Cowboy Bebop already has plans for streaming on Daisuki.net), if you'd rather go that route. Which ones are you excited to see back in the U.S.? (I'm personally a fan of the Crest of the Stars series as well as Mai-HiME.)

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Sentai Filmworks To Experiment With Sub-Only Blu-rays

In addition to all of their Bandai license rescues, Sentai Filmworks has also announced their plans for December. Unfortunately, they have decided that two of my favorite titles of late, Humanity Has Declined and The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, would not be profitable to dub, and so they, along with So, I Can't Play H! (which, though I don't care about at all, I'm most surprised at not getting a dub), will be released as sub-only.

However, there's a surprising silver lining in this cloud of bad news: these three titles will be the first titles that Sentai will try releasing on Blu-ray despite being sub-only. This is quite notable, as previously, Sentai has stated that they would not release anything on Blu-ray without a dub, since the production costs for Blu-rays are high enough that they only want to do it with good sellers, which is the same thing they consider for dubs. However, at fan request, they will try to find a middle ground with these sub-only Blu-rays.

This is great on one end as we will still be able to enjoy Humanity Has Declined and The Pet Girl of Sakurasou in full HD, which we wouldn't be able to under past policy. Furthermore, should this experiment be a success, it could lead to two big things: looking to the past, previous titles that were released on sub-only DVDs could possibly get Blu-ray re-releases, and looking to the future, other great titles that might not be profitable to be dubbed could still get Blu-ray releases.

For that reason, I highly encourage those with the funds to do so to buy Humanity Has Declined and The Pet Girl of Sakurasou this December (they will go on pre-order on RightStuf sometime towards the end of this month). Both are amazing shows and I highly recommend them, though that's not surprising if you've read my Hall of Fame induction for the former and my review for the latter.

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Viz Media to Release Ranma 1/2 on Blu-ray

Remember Ranma 1/2? That crazy martial arts comedy about a guy who changes into a girl when drenched in cold water and who ends up engaged to a man-hating violent girl? ...actually, I don't, because it was before my time as an anime fan. But whether you're an older fan for whom this show holds nostalgic value or a new fan wondering what the craze was about back then, there's some great news here from Viz: they will be re-releasing Ranma 1/2 in the US, and not only on DVD, but on Blu-ray! Now, you might be wondering what is the point of releasing something on Blu-ray that is from a time before when HD telecasting became a thing, but it's worth noting that the recent Blu-ray release of this series in Japan cleaned up a lot of the animation to give everything a much nicer look, so this is one older series that will be worth upgrading for.

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So, Otakon might not have had as much news quantity-wise as Anime Expo, but the news that did come out was undoubtedly just as big. Some other smaller news, such as Aniplex of America licensing next season's Kill la Kill (from the director of Gurren Lagann, which will appear on Neon Alley along with Ranma 1/2 this fall), have also come up. All in all, it was definitely quite a convention!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Kin'youbi Mosaic: 8/2/13 Sols Eater Edition


In this weekly series, I simply talk about whatever random news and thoughts I feel like talking about. Don’t expect a whole lot of serious stuff here. The title is a play on the currently-airing "Kin'iro Mosaic", as "kin'youbi" means "Friday" in Japanese.
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While a number of anime companies are likely preparing all their big announcements for Otakon next weekend, one anime company has news of particular note. Anime Sols is different from other companies in that they specialize in older anime, and more notably, they rely on crowdfunding to raise the money needed to release a series on DVD. Basically, how it works is as such:
1.       They put out a number of old anime titles, and start streaming one episode of each a week for free.
2.       They set a goal for each series (around $20,000) to raise within 2-3 months, in order to release a 13-episode box set and keep streaming the series; a number of pledge packages are offered for people to pledge with. (Note that while this is structured similar to Kickstarter, it is not done through Kickstarter.)
3.       If the goal is met, a 13-episode box set is released, and a new (somewhat lower) goal is set for the next 13-episode set, and the process repeats.
4.       They go back to step 1 and repeat; any shows which failed to meet their goals have their streams taken down at that time.
Anime Sols hasn’t had much success with their first slate of titles, though two of them did meet their goals for their first 13-episode sets: the magical girl series Magical Angel Creamy Mami and Osamu Tezuka’s famous medical drama series Black Jack. Expect the DVDs to be available for pre-order on Rightstuf at some point.
It’s definitely an interesting project, though one with some kinks that I hope get sorted out; their initial slate was perhaps a bit too big and made it somewhat unfeasible to try to support multiple projects (and the titles themselves weren’t that popular), and I wish they could find some way to at least continue streaming series that failed their DVD set goals. Still, on principle, this is a cool endeavor that I’d like to see be successful. If you’re a fan of older anime, why not check it out?
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As for a crowdfunded project that is much more successful, the Kickstarter for Little Witch Academia 2 has met its stretch goal of $500,000 with 5 days to spare. (As of the time this post was written, it is at $516,600, well exceeding the initial goal of $150,000.) For reaching the stretch goal, the Blu-ray release of Little Witch Academia 2 (expected around April 2015) will come with an audio commentary from the staff, and the limited edition of the release will come with a soundtrack.
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Earlier in the week I made a post about Sister Princess and how the show demonstrates how becoming part of a family and learning to care for the sisters caused the male lead to grow up. I also mentioned that my fond feelings for this show and the role it served in my overall anime history is why I am currently watching this season’s Brothers Conflict, regardless of how horrible the show ended up being, simply because the show is essentially the reverse of Sister Princess premise-wise.
On that note, I should mention that by no means does Brothers Conflict (or BroCon for short) display any of the themes that I had noted in Sister Princess. Part of the reason is that the female lead, Ema, is extremely passive and has yet to take any real initiative in caring for her brothers, mostly just responding to whatever they ask her to do. Of course, the fact that many of her brothers are outright flirting with her—one has actually kissed her, and another asked her out—doesn’t help things at all.
So… yeah. Sister Princess might have some gems hidden underneath what looks like trash, but BroCon right now is nothing but trash. It’s trashy in a way that I can enjoy in an ironic, snarking way, but it’s still trash. Who knows, though, maybe it will improve somewhat. I’ll probably do a more detailed comparison of the two series after this season.
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I recently finished Our Home’s Fox Deity, a 24-episode show about a fox spirit that joins a family to protect them from various supernatural forces, and the combination of hijinks and supernatural conflicts that ensue. It’s a show that is definitely enjoyable, as it has a very charming cast that all interact well, and there’s plenty of fun stuff within. It’s not particularly deep, and it has its flaws, most notably in one arc that goes on much longer than others and gets a bit too convoluted with multiple factions involved, but it is overall a good show. It’s not one I’m dying to recommend to others (hence it won’t be in my Hall of Fame), but it should do well if you’re looking for a fairly light-hearted show with Japanese supernatural beings.
If you want to check it out, it is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.
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Next week, "Kin'youbi Mosaic" will become "Topic no Inai Nichiyoubi" ("Sunday Without Topic") as that is Otakon week and I will wait until all the panels are over on Sunday before posting my random thoughts which will inevitably involve announcements from that convention.