Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rant: The Legend of Korra (End of Season 1)

NOTE: This post contains spoilers for the whole season of The Legend of Korra.

I'm going to say this right now: I did not enjoy this season at all, and this post is going to be all criticisms and complaints. I'll give the show two credits, it's beautiful art direction seen throughout the season, and some good voice acting from the cast.

OK. So, the first season of Korra is all wrapped up and it was terrible. The final two episodes were just the icing on the cake, heh. This post will be about my criticisms and complaints about the entire season, not just the last two episodes. The best way to go about this is by criticizing the source of everything bad in this series (by which I mean The Legend of Korra, not The Last Airbender): the characters.

But first, I want to move attention to the biggest flaw in this series for me: throughout The Legend of Korra, there was never a sign that benders were evil. All we get are the ruffians in the first episode and a sentence where Mako says his parents were killed by a fire bender; other than that, nothing. How is the audience supposed to sympathize with Amon, or for that matter, actually understand where is passion for equality even comes from? A conflict needs an established source, and the equalist conflict, the conflict that is the driving force behind the entire story of The Legend of Korra, has no discernible or impactful source. It's simply: "we gotta stop that bad guy! Why? Because he's a bad guy!". This is just poor writing. OK, with that point out of the way, onto the characters...

Korra - talk about the destruction of a potentially great character. Basically, all of my fears from the first two episodes came true. While it was obvious the writers would pair Korra up with one of the brothers, I feared the resulting romance would result in the destruction of Korra's character into a cliched and poorly executed mess of a character; and that's exactly what happened. Korra's air bending training via playing in the pro-bending tournaments, as well as her development into a less hot-headed person; all thrown out the window for angsty teenage romance. Korra's character was reduced to the lowest common denominator (espeically as a female protagonist) by becoming a girl who acted simply by impulses, whether it be in her juvenile crush on Mako, or her stupid decisions concerning her battles; Korra was not written as a character, but simply a plot device; something many other characters were also reduced to. Furthermore, Korra severly lacked presence in the overall story; I would guess that Mako had more screentime and dialogue than Korra did. Oh, and moping about the loss of bending at the end did nothing for her character, nor did the return of her bending as a result of said moping. Weak!

Asami - a character obviously created solely for the love triangle sub-plot. No, you know what? The romance wasn't a sub-plot. This whole freakin' series was an angsty teenage romance story the whole way through; the "main plot" was there, but it always felt like it was put into the background of the romance plotline. Asami is proof this, as she had no point other than being an obstacle for Korra to overcome to get Mako. Her whole conflict with her father was unnecessary, as it had very poor development and a poor resoltution. Asami could have been a very interesting character; like Korra, she had potential, but it was ultimately wasted on that nemesis of potentially good plotlines: romance.

Mako - tch, what can you say about Mako. Well, because the whole pro-bending thing was dumped after two episodes, I'd say he was created just to be Korra's love interest; and he was executed terribly. He came off as a complete jerk throughout the middle of the season. He was with Asami, but did nothing but kiss her; he rarely interacted with Asami at all unless it was arguing over Korra. He was useless in combat, did nothing for strategy, and was basically present simply to be pretty and be the heart-throb of the series; just an angsty, angry, good-looking bad boy, the kinda guy every girl wants; right Korra and Asami? (Ugh, this series did nothing for female characters).

Bolin - I thought he'd develop into a clever and funny guy, like Sokka. But instead, he was only used for jokes. That's it. There's really nothing more to say.

Tenzin - the one good character in the show. He was mature, strong, caring, and pretty funny. His animations also brought out a lot of his character; similar to Sokka in TLA. Tenzin is the one who really moved the plot along and was actually more of a main character than Korra in the "main plot". Overall, no complaints about Tenzin; his children on the other hand...

Jinora - what is with children in this world being so interested in romance? She's 12 years-old and all she does is talk about boys and relationships; that's it. That's her only character trait. C'mon writers, girls and women can have other interests!

Ikki - basically nothing to say here, but at least she wasn't all boy crazy like her older sister. Heh, maybe the series should've been about Ikki.

Meelo - the one for the kids to laugh at. That's basically it. Tch, so many characters in this series are such tools created by the writers.

Pema - the writers have said before that their fans of Gainax anime, and it shows here; after all, what Gainax anime wouldn't be complete without the manipulating, assertive, succubus female character. Remember little girls: if your man is in the arms of another woman, you get him to be yours by any means necessary; screw everyone else's feelings but yours. Tch, the female characters these writers create...

Lin Beifong - a promising character who was pretty close to being pretty good, but ended up failing due to poor execution. She is basically beaten throughout the series, over and over. Never learning from her mistakes, or applying herself. Why? Maybe the writers didn't want her to upstage Korra? Or maybe their just bad writers? Basically, despite a few cool moments, Lin never comes across as a strong character, despite being an adult alongside Tenzin and the daughter of Toph "Kickin' Your Ass" Beifong.

Amon - he had a good start, but when Tarrlok stole his spotlight, everything just went downhill from there. Amon continued to lose his fearful presence as the "revolution" has less and less emphasis put on it, mainly thanks to all the angsty teenage romance. His resolution was also terrible, as it reduced him to a weakling with Daddy issues.

Tarrlok - the writers must think that we're idiots, because it couldn't have been more obvious Tarrlok was a villain from the first time we see him. His execution in the story wasn't terrible, but it was short-lived and he felt more like a long plot device to get to the climax of the season with Amon.

OK. Let's get into the the final two episodes (the finale); which had me laughing out loud at what I was seeing, especially the last 10 minutes.

First, there was the backstory. My first problem here was the absurdness of Yakone altering his face; how does such technology exist in this world setting when they're just now making airplanes? Then, you have the woman who becomes Yakone's wife. Are the women in this world just so desperate that they'll fall for any man who walks their way?!? This guy is a freakin' gangster whose probably killed many people, and a woman falls for him? It's not like he was trying to start over and repent for his misdeads; why should we assume his character was any better than when he was a gangster? Was he really so nice a guy she'd marry him? I find that really hard to believe; so I'll say she was only in the story to have Amon and Tarrlok; after all, what are women good for other than making babies? Am I right? (I'm kidding ladies). Oh well, the whole backstory was a very forced scene anyway that was done to simply make us feel bad for these terrible people. This backstory wouldn't have been so bad if it was near the beginning of the series when we just met Tarrlok, but its way too late to try and make us feel sympathy for these people who've already established themselves as evil. But, let's say the backstory did get to you, and you actually felt bad for Amon and Tarrlok; well, too bad, because they die anyway. How stupid was that!?! What's the point of going out of your way to make us feel sympathy for the two villains of the series, just to have them die anyway, and by their own hand, no less. Terrible writing!

So Amon and Tarrlok's resolution was weak; how about our main characters? Well, even worse!

Now, I thought Korra losing her bending was a great thing. This way, we could see her strength come from somewhere else; maybe she would use her wits or apply her bending skills to physical martial arts, or ..... or she can just pull a Goku on us and use her strength of will to air bend. Now, I would've been fine with this, if the writers actually took the time to explain exactly how Amon was removing people's bending using blood bending, but they never do. So Amon can only take away bending that people know how to do, but there's nothing stopping them from learning other forms of bending? That's ridiculous! Shouldn't it be all or nothing? I don't know, because it was NEVER EXPLAINED!!!

But, it doesn't matter any way, because the writers pulled a deus ex machina and gave Korra her bending back because, you know, she's the avatar, and plot-armor and all that. Oh, and Korra and Mako love each other now, because you know, when (attractive) teenagers spend time with each other, they have to fall in love! But, how does Asami feel about all this? Who the hell cares! Screw her feelings! Makorra is where it's at!!! (sarcasm)

Really, the last ten minutes of the finale just had me laughing the whole time. The writers showed absolutely NO creativity. Instead, they just made everything go right back to normal. Were there any lessons learned? NO! Were there any casualties? NO! Was there a moral for the audience? NO! But, you know what, I bet Mako's getting lucky tonight, and that's all that matters. Oh, and Korra learned air bending, hoo-freakin'-ray! And all it took was finding a man you were willing to save. Way to go Korra!

Honestly, I didn't want to hate this series. Despite having some problems with Avatar: The Last Airbender, it was still an enjoyable series with some good characters, great animation, and some great writing. The Legend of Korra has none of that. The creators tried to make Korra one cohesive story going from episode to episode, instead of creating stories that stand on their own like in TLA, and I think that's where Korra fell apart; there's just a complete lack of focus. And why did the writers focus so much on the romance? It's not as if romance can't be written well (though it's not as if it was done particularly well in TLA either, but still better than Korra's), and it's not like a romance story with these characters couldn't have been good, but if you're going to try and create a setting in conflict and create a story around said conflict, don't constantly detract from it with angtsy teenage romance. Write a romance story instead. Focus, dammit, focus! 

Really, everything wrong with this series comes right down to the writing. 

Alright, that's it for this rant. Sorry for anyone who read this and enjoyed The Legend of Korra. This is just my opinion, you're absolutely free to refute everything I said here and enjoy the series; however, I stand by everything I said in this post. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thoughts on Hayate X Blade

In my opinion, Hayate X Blade is the most under-appreciated manga ever. This doesn't mean a whole lot coming from someone like me who doesn't read that much manga, but I still stand by it.

There is so much to love in HxB that it surprises me how few people know about it. It's filled with superb characters (of which there are well over a dozen), great sword fights, and it's very, very funny. And all of it is supported by mangaka Shizuru Hayashiya's superb writing and art.

While the manga provides some great fights, and some interesting drama and characterization, it's the comedy that really makes it shine. HxB is funny consistently. Every chapter is a riot, even those involving fights, and its always well times, well written, and always within the lines of the characters' personalities.

Actually, I lied, it's not the comedy that makes HxB shine, it's the characters. Every character in HxB is fantastic and bursting with personality and unique characteristics. It would take too long to go through them all, but Hitsugi is one of the greatest characters in manga.

Honestly, I don't know what else I can say about this series. It's absolutely superb, and is my second favorite manga series after One Piece. It's practically perfect in every way. The action is well drawn and greatly executed, and makes fight scenes in other, more popular, Shonen series pale in comparison. The characters are all unique and very likable. It has some great drama and characterization; all of which allows the characters to grow over time, even within the manga's young life it has right now; in fact, HxB manages to develop their characters more in just a few chapters than most other manga do in their whole series. And it's all complemented by superbly written and executed comedy that ranged from witty word-play to pure slapstick (in fact, it's mostly slapstick).

I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but it's all just so great. I highly recommend giving it a try if you are interested in a character focused comedy-drama-action manga filled with great characters and comedy.

If I had any problems with HxB, it would be that some characters are introduced and have some great scenes, but we won't see them again for quite some time. They always return later, but sometimes it can get frustrating when your favorite character doesn't show up for a while. Also, HxB is very character-focused with it's story, comedy, and drama; as such, there isn't much world building, and as such, HxB isn't what one would call "epic" in scale, but because these characters are so endearing, there are definitely moments that scratch that "epic" itch.

Rant: Women in Manga/Anime/Comics

The credentials for a good female character are no different than those of a good male character. Why? Because aside from actions involving the unique genitals of each sex, women and men can do the exact same things. There aren't feelings only women can feel, nor are there any physical actions men can do that women cannot. As such, there shouldn't be some huge checklist of traits that a female character should have. While it may seem sexist to say this: a good female character more than likely could be turned into a male and there should be no major differences in how we view the character as a good one, and that same can be applied to male characters. Women can fight, they can bleed, they can be hot-blooded, they can get angry, and they can kick ass, and yet creators everywhere feel they have to take all of these precautions when creating female characters, when they should just focus on making a good character who simply happens to be female. Just look at Hayate X Blade with it's huge all-female cast composed of very unique and very diverse characters.

Now, that's not to say that unique female characteristics do not exist and can be implemented well into a character. A superb example of this is Izumi Curtis in the manga Fullmetal Alchemist who was a strong and loving person in her own right, but had unique character traits due to her maternal characters. Much of her character was developed through the execution of her as a mother who had been through tough hardships as a mother. These types of characteristics are something unique to her character as a female, because as a female, she is the one who gave birth to her child, and must personally deal with the fact that she will not be able to give birth again. However, she finds happiness in the Elric brothers, and how she became a motherly figure to them, and how she saw them as her sons. This is a perfect example of how to make a great character who must be female. A man in Izumi's positions would not be able to have the same character traits, due to the maternal characteristics of her as a woman.

Now, to move onto the poor executions of female characters, which basically come down to the simple action of a creator having a female character for the sole purpose of showing off T&A or simply having them present as something for men to have sex with. I find the worst example to be the latter, so I'll begin with that. If you look at a series like Queen's Blade, where there are solely female characters, sure, there is a lot of T&A, but its never for the enjoyment of some other character, rather its simply there for fanservice purposes. But when you get into series that present men and women, many times the situation comes up where the women are simply objects for the men to ogle and harass, or even have sex with. I see this as just exploitation of the female character, even when they are prevelant chracters in their respective manga/anime/comic. Just look at every Gainax anime, where the women are simply present as a means to an end for the male character(s) of each series to look more manly by seeing these female characters naked, touching their breasts, or being aroused by them. In other series, we see instances of male characters having sex with (often nameless) female characters simply for the sake of making them look more manly; an example of this being the character of Agon in the manga Eyeshield 21, who would have sex with and consistently date many nameless female characters throughout the series for the sake of just making him look more manly. Why do this!?!? Having sex with a lot of women does not make a man "manly". Being strong, responsible, and a good leader is what makes a man "manly", not how many women you've had sex with. It's a shame, because this whole "manly" image created from having a lot of sex is in practically every sitcom, drama, and soap opera on TV (at least here in the United States), and I'm guessing it's no different throughout the world considering this type of execution of "manly" characters is prevalent throughout all entertainment media aimed at older teens and above. This is what happens when men dominate creative media, and yet I've seen many women's creations have similar executions of character, even on the female side, where women have pride over how many women they've had sex with. So, I guess this is just something I just don't understand; both in why creators consistently create these types of characters as well as why so many people enjoy these types of characters.

Like I've said so many times before: sex is for porn; keep it there.

The next situations arises from just using women for T&A in general. Look, in manga/anime/comics, where men are the often the main source of readers and men are the majority of the creators, I can see why there is T&A; however, there are right and wrong ways to go about this. Quite simply, don't use women as objects that are simply made to be gawked at. Make them good characters who simply happen to be sexy; just look at One Piece, which has many attractive female characters, but I guarantee you that if you ask any fan of the manga to say what they think about them, the first thing they say will not be that "she has big breasts" or "she's sexy". But when you get into manga/anime like Fairy Tail (or any of Mishima's works for that matter), you just get female characters who are simply present to be "sexy for the camera" and harassed by the male characters so that not only more sex appeal can arise from the female characters (the female character's respect and characterization be damned) and for the male characters to look cool and "manly". If you need further examples of the exploitation of the female body in the form of a female character see any harem manga/anime or American comic. In fact, American comics may be even more guilty of using female characters simply for their "sexy bits" than even manga/anime. At least manga/anime are often clear from the very beginning that "this is going to be an ecchi series; so don't show the kids!", but when looking at American comics, it's often something thrown into the comic because it's on some checklist every comic artist has. I was really surprised at how many female characters in comics were, for lack of a better term, sluts.

This all just annoys me. I've got nothing against fanservice, but it can get to the point where I just get pissed off really quick. I had to stop reading Fairy Tail for the reasons above. Things definitely aren't getting any better, but at least there are still a lot of manga that still keep it classy or keep their fanservice on low levels and just let the fan-artists and doujin creators do their work.

I know that I may have looked over certain things throughout this post simply because this was just a rant I felt like writing after learning about the contents of the newest Fairy Tail chapter, but I still think I made a point in all this. I really just want to point out that a good female character doesn't have to be sexy, nor does it mean a good female character can't be sexy. A great character is developed out of their actions, and if you make your female character a slut, there's no good that's going to come out of that (see Gainax's Panty and Stocking anime), nor does having a man have sex with a lot of female characters doesn't make him "manly" nor does it do anything good for the image of females in your creative work. Develop a character out of their actions, make us love the character out of what they do and who they are; if that character happens to be female, that's fine, if she happens to ooze with sex appeal, that's fine too, just treat her with respect. That's all I ask.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My "Favorite" Anime

I don't watch anime much, but the ones I do watch, I tend to really enjoy, but since I don't watch many, it'd be kinda pointless to make a "Top 10", so here's the anime I've enjoyed the most over the years.

Now as far as my opinions go with anime, I haven't found one I'd call perfect, but there are several who've come close. And by perfect, I mean an anime I find no flaws in; I simply enjoy every aspect about it. And, of course, by "perfect", I mean perfect in my eyes. When it comes to anime, I REALLY have different likes and dislikes than most people; so this list could be baffling to some, heh.

In this list, I'll list all of my favorite anime and give concise (as best I can) explanations on why I like them, as well as what I don't like about them (meaning, why I don't think they're perfect). Also, to note, this anime is not ranked in any particular order. And, with that, here I go:

- Cowboy Bebop. Probably the one anime on this list that is part of the "mainstream". I enjoy it for the obvious reasons of great animation, characters, stories, and music. My favorite aspects of Cowboy Bebop are the movie-like execution of each episode and the superb and stylish soundtrack from Yoko Kanno. Surprisingly, despite some mature tones in some of Bebop's stories, I never got that uncomfortable feeling I get with other violent anime; probably because each episode is separated from one another, so I knew everything would go back to normal in the next episode. I loved the stylish execution of the episodes, as well as the variety there-of; sometimes an episode would be full of action, sometimes it was a comedic episode, and other times it was a serious affair. This episode variety combined with the incredible soundtrack made for a truly entertaining anime.

My only problem with Bebop lies in the melancholy tone of the series. Overall, the series isn't that fun. It's definitely enjoyable, but the atmosphere was always a dark one; which worked in Bebop's favor, but as someone who likes to leave an episode with a smile on my face, I couldn't get that every episode. Regardless, Bebop is easily the best runner for my favorite anime of all time; rivaled only by...

- Nichijou. I freakin' love this anime. It is basically the polar opposite of Cowboy Bebop, and yet I enjoy both series immensely. Nichijou is the funniest anime I've ever seen and also one of the most entertaining. The animation by Kyoto Animation is the most impressive I've ever seen in an anime; it's insanely stylized yet beautiful, and never does the animation take a dip in quality throughout the 26 episode length. What is most impressive, however, is the superb direction of the series. The pacing of each episode is superb, leaving little to no time for dull pauses of boredom. Furthermore, the voice acting is incredible, and each voice actor really gave it their all. Overall, Nichijou just felt like a blank canvas where all of the talented artists and directors at Kyoto Animation got together and just had a lot of fun. The result is what is perhaps my favorite anime of all time.

If I had a problem with Nichijou, it would be that there were a few episodes that weren't as funny as others. This isn't a huge problem, but if the anime could have remained consistently superb all the way through, it would easily be my favorite anime. But, I suppose I can't expect an anime to run flames blazing all the time.

- Kill Me Baby. Here's an anime that, at first glance, is very simple. There are only 4 characters in the whole anime, and it focuses on two of them for 90% of the series. Luckily, the anime is written very well and the voice actresses to a superb job on their characters. What really sells this series, however, are the two main characters and how they work off of one another. The end result is something both funny and relatable, for nearly everyone has had a friend like Yasuna or Sonya.

My only problem with Kill Me Baby would be that there were times when Sonya was a bit too mean to Yasuna. I know that's how they work off of each other, but I think Sonya went two far three times. Also, I think the series would've benefited from some yuri subtext; their interactions were practically begging for it.

- Bodacious Space Pirates. A series that is actually currently running, but is easily one of my favorite anime of all time. The series is beautifully directed and has a superb sci-fi setting. BSP also has some great leading female characters who really started off great and continued to impress as the series went on. What I a lot about the series is how it handles conflicts. Whenever conflict arose in the series it was often settled in non-violent ways; often becoming a battle of wits and savvy. I love this aspect about the series, as it is really refreshing to see conflict play out this way rather than with fists and guns like in most other series. The most impressive aspect of the series is the writing. BSP is the most well written anime I've ever come across; rarely are lines wasted, episodes are superbly paced and executed, and all of the sci-fi "mumbo-jumbo" is explained very well and in just enough detail for everyone to understand the complexities of the technology in the world setting. Also, the series contains some nice yuri subtext, as well as a canon yuri couple (though they aren't main characters).

My only problem with the series is also something I enjoy about the series: it's very relaxed. While there is definitely conflict, rarely does it feel like the characters lives are in grave danger. While this makes the conflicts a little less impactful, it also lets me come away from episodes with a smile on my face; so it's a double-edged sword.

- Queen's Blade (Exiled Virgin, Beautiful Warriors, Rebellion). The first and favorite of the "all-girls" anime to hit this list. I am a huge fan of "all-girl" anime, and often I will watch any "all-girl" anime I can find. By "all-girl" anime, I mean an anime that has a main cast consisting of entirely females. I enjoy these types of series because I like to see how writers develop and execute female characters in anime. I feel like I've seen enough male main characters to last a lifetime; so when I come across a series that consist of only female main characters, I become immensely intrigued; and I've actually never been disappointed so far when it comes to "all-girl" anime series.

Queen's Blade is my favorite as it not only has an all-female cast, but it's also set in a medieval fantasy setting, which is really rare in anime, especially nowadays. The cast is what really makes Queen's Blade shine; each character is designed by a different artist, and as a result, the cast is extremely varied. And it is when this varied cast begins to interact with one another that QB truly shines. I love good character interaction, and when it is combined with a unique setting, varied characters, and some fanservice and yuri subtext, magic is made. Also, the QB anime has some of the best music I've heard in an anime, and, alongside Cowboy Bebop, is the only anime where I've gotten the OSTs to listen to in my spare time.

My only problems with QB lie in a few scenes (spread throughout the series) that I think went a bit too far (often in terms of violence) to get a point across. An aspect of QB that I love is how light-hearted it tends to be, but sometimes the writers went a little to far to prove a point. Also, the fanservice can be a little much at times, but overall, it's fine.

- A Channel. Now here is one under-appreciated slice-of-life anime. At first glance, A Channel appears to borrow heavily from K-ON; and it does in a few aspects, but it differs heavily from K-ON in its unique execution. A Channel keeps episodes very light on conflict (though there are some serious episodes, but it's never anything major) and really just keeps things enjoyable, funny, and "soft, alongside this are insert songs that really add to the style and characters of A Channel. The end result is an anime that always keeps a smile on your face, even though it isn't that funny. The characters really shine in A Channel, especially Tooru, who is the most original character in a slice-of-life I've seen in quite some time. Overall, while it may not be the best anime out there, it's truly an enjoyable anime that always left a smile on my face when it was over. I really didn't want this one to end.

I really can't think of anything bad about this series; I suppose it's only flaw is that it wasn't mind-blowing in any way. It was a standard, though superbly executed, slice-of-life; nothing more, nothing less.

- Kanamemo. Another great slice-of-life series. The series sets itself apart by having a diverse cast of characters. The focuses on a girl named Kana who just lost her grandmother, and it's from there that we see Kana grow in maturity alongside her new "family". It's all very heart-warming as well as funny. Also, this series has a canon yuri couple that consistently show their affection for one another. I love how the anime portrays them not as any type of fanservice or plot device, but rather they simply are a couple and they love one another. I hope more anime have similar canon yuri couples in the future.

I have no real problems with this series. It balances the comedy and drama very well, and it always enjoyable. I suppose, like A Channel, there's nothing mind-blowing here, but the canon yuri couple was a pleasant surprise.

- Strike Witches. Another "all-girls" anime, and one of my favorites. I really enjoyed the setting of SW, and I love how it continues to expand though light novels and manga. The characters of SW are really the bread-and-butter of the series, and when combined with a very interesting setting, it leads to some great action, comedy, and drama. At times SW comes across as a slice-of-life, but other times it feels more like a drama; these different genres never clash with each other, though. Like I said, the characters are really the best part of the anime, and anime's execution really lets the characters shine by having stories focus solely on the characters and their interactions with each other. The end result is a great anime that allows us to see these characters interact and develop over the course of 26 episodes. I really hope a third season is made at some point.

My only problem with the series is that I feel it could have used some more action. There are some great action scenes spread throughout the series, but it's never much.

- Sengoku Otome. Another great "all-girls" anime. This anime truly impressed me. At first, I was expecting an all-female Sengoku Basara, but instead I got an anime more emotional, impactful, historically correct (ironic, I know), and fun than Sengoku Basara. The series' focus on characters, like Queen's Blade and Strike Witches, really helps it shine as both an entertaining and fun anime. The character of Oda Nobunaga is particularly interesting, as we see her develop through her interactions with a young girl from the present. The set-up for Sengoku Otome may be cliche, but its story development in later episodes is anything but. This series really surprised me in how well it executed its story-telling. It may have only been 12 episodes, but it was a great story and time well spent. Also, there's some nice yuri subtext and love woven into the story, and its superbly done.

My only problem with this series is Shiro, who is a dog and acts as the only male character in the show; except he doesn't act like a dog, rather he acts like a man. So he's basically the source of the "bad fanservice" I spoke about in an ealier blog post. It isn't too bad, but the anime would have been perfect without him.

- Arakawa Under the Bridge. Before Nichijou came along, I would have said that Arakawa was easily the funniest anime I've ever seen. Animated by Shaft, Arakawa is an anime that is both hilarious, stylish, original, and thoroughly enjoyable. The sheer amount of personality that stems from each unique character in Arakawa is something to behold, and their interactions with one another make for some great humor. Arakawa is also quite charming, as it mixes drama in with it's comedy quite well. A very original and funny anime.

My only problem with Arakawa is that the main character, Ric, can be annoying at times. It's never a problem, but it can be irksome at times.

- Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. OK, so Bebop wasn't the only mainstream hit on this list. I have to say though, I didn't expect Madoka to erupt in popularity the way it did. Madoka is probably the only "dark" anime on this list. I honestly don't have much to say on Madoka. I originally watched it because it was advertised during Arakawa and it was an "all-girl" anime. Overall, I feel that I respect Madoka more than enjoy it, as it was pretty dark. But I really enjoyed the characters and the stories they had to tell, especially Homura. Episode 10 of this series is one of the best episodes of anime (or anything) I've ever seen; it really touched me.

My only problem with this series is the character of Miki Sayaka. Who I understand was supposed to be the tragic character, but I really couldn't get behind her actions (sacrificing herself for a boy; tch, worst way you could go, imo).

- Tantei Opera Milky Holmes. Here's an odd yet enjoyable series. It's full of visual gags, parodies, and slapstick humor, and yet it's superbly animated and has some of the best action scenes I've ever seen in anime. It's definitely a weird one, but very enjoyable nonetheless. I really enjoyed the characters of this series, particularly Henrietta/Arsene, who has a very interesting and complicated relationship with the main character of Sheri. It's really interesting to see how the characters interact, even among all of the craziness.

My problems with this series stem from the simply fact that I'm not savvy to Japanese culture, as a result, I miss a lot of jokes and parody gags in the show. Also, I kinda wish the show was serious more, as the show is really at its best when its serious and focusing on the character relationship between Sheri and Henrietta.

- Mitsudomoe. This show is just insane. It's the type of comedy you can't really respect until you're done laughing. As the comedy in Mitsudomoe is based solely on misunderstandings. This may sound like it gets old, but the writers managed to make it last two seasons of hilarity. Mitsudomoe is also quite perverted, and yet its not. So many jokes have a perverse context (the fact that the main characters are children doesn't help, heh), and yet nothing perverse ever happens in the show. It all works out superbly, and it's just so funny.

If I have a problem with Mitsudomoe, it would be that, like Nichijou, some episodes are just funnier than others, and some jokes just aren't as funny as others. But, hey, I may just be asking for too much.

- Yuru Yuri. Finally, an anime focused solely on yuri! Huh? What do you mean there's no actually yuri? Well, regardless, YY is heavy on the yuri subtext and basically feels like a story showing us the budding of several yuri relationships between the cast of young girls. Like A Channel, the anime is very well directed, and really doesn't try to be anything more or less than what it set out to be: a slice-of-life focusing around yuri subtext. The characters are all great, and make for some interesting character interaction, whether for yuri purposes, comedic purposes, or dramatic purposes.

As with A Channel, I have no real complaints to make, simply that it just didn't blow my mind with any of its content.

- Astro Boy (90's anime). This anime is the perfect example of how I like my plot-focused stories to be executed. Have drama and mature themes present, but present them in a light-hearted way, i.e. through the eyes of a boy. This anime brings up a lot of dramatic story themes, particularly concerning the uneasy relationships between humans and robots. Astro Boy has been around for as long as anime has been around, and while I enjoyed the original series, I feel this series executed the themes of the story in just the right way so get them across better without having them shoved in our faces. This anime has made me cry several times, and yet I always end an episode with a smile. That's some good story-telling.

My only problem with this series is that it's hard to find it in a good-quality video. Even the remastered DVD set doesn't look that great. Also, the english dub isn't too great.


OK. That's my list. Now, I may have forgotten some anime, but I'm pretty sure these are my favorites. I didn't include a lot of those classic series like Gundam Wing and Outlaw Star because I think a large part of why I have fond memories of those anime is because they were the first ones I watched back in the Toonami days, so I'm not too sure if I'd like them now. Also, if you're wondering why Fullmetal Alchemist isn't on the list, its because I don't think its that great. It's definitely not bad, but I do think its over-rated, not as much as other anime like Bleach and Fairy Tail, but still kinda over-rated.


Bonus Round: Anime I Hate

- Harem anime. Holy crap! Do I hate harem anime! I mean, if the female characters are meant to be the focus of the anime since they're the most interesting characters, why bother having a male character there in the first place?!? Why!?! It just demeans the female characters to be reduced to an item to pick off the shelf at the end of the series. This genre is also responsible for 90% of "bad fanservice". I hope this genre dies out soon.

- Gainax anime. Now, I truly respect Gainax's animation style; it's creative and very stylish. With that said, I really don't like their anime. With the exception of Evangalion, they always give off the vibe of an anime that's about having fun with crazy visuals and wacky characters, but when they actually get underway, they're always the story about how a teenage boy gets a boner. Every freakin' one (with the exception of Diebuster).  My hate for these anime really comes down to their characters; I hate basically every Gainax character. I find none of them likable, especially the female characters, which is a big deal coming from me, heh. It just annoys me how such talented animators waste their time with these stories; they could do so much more if they just stopped trying to be do deep with their stories all the time. The end result is often just confusing and uncomfortable. I know my opinion here is childish, but this is just what I think.

- Dark anime. Sex and violence. No, thank you.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why Dragon's Crown is the only game I'm currently excited for.

Now, E3 is in only a few days, so the statement made in the title may be changed within a few days, but as of this writing, I stand by my title.

So, why am I only excited for Dragon's Crown? Well, it actually doesn't have to do much with DC itself, but all the other games out there. Simply put, in my opinion, no developers other than Vanillaware (at the moment) are trying to do anything new with their game design and execution.

To make myself clear, I'll use some examples: Let's look at PlatinumGames' Anarchy Reigns: there is very little originality to this game. It's simply a 3D brawler with mediocre character and world design, standard 3D brawler gameplay, and just nothing beyond what one would expect from the genre. And that's where my problem lies: I'm not finding any developers who are trying to exceed expectations, rather, I find most are just making the games that the mass public would expect from the respective genre and just make that. Personality is also something I find many games are lacking, there's just a huge lack of creator's personal touches these days. Thank goodness for Kirby's Return to Dreamland and Skullgirls, as they've both showed me that creative visions in games are still existent.

Now, lets get to Dragon's Crown, and why I'm excited for it. First, I'll get the elephant in the room out of the way: yes, we know very little about the game. And, yet, with just the little we know about the game, I can't help  but be excited. First thing apparent is Vanillaware's beautiful art style, and it is perhaps more apparent in Dc than any of their previous games. The environments are incredibly detailed and beautiful, and I can't wait to see them moving. Then there are characters, each having a strong and distinctive look and presence, but most apparent is how they are more anatomically correct than previous Vanillaware character sprites, by which I mean they aren't "chibi" in their look. And finally, the promises of gameplay. The character descriptions on the website already promise unique and interesting playing styles for each character, and the genre being a 2D beat-em-up practically guarantees a high replay value. Furthermore, unlike other classic 2D beat-em-ups, DC will use a mission structure, thus allowing a more casual and enjoyable execution to the gameplay.

I think I'll stop there. What I'm trying to get at here is that Vanillaware is really advancing the 2D-beat-em-up genre while providing their own unique visual and gameplay style. The end result is a game that is both familiar and unique. When it comes to all the other future releases, they all simply feel like the same thing I've played before; even the more bigger titles. Look at Metal Gear Rising. Yes, it looks amazing, and it's almost guaranteed to have some great gameplay. But it just looks like another great 3D-action game from PlatinumGames, and that's it. This is why I need Kamiya to give us another Okami-esque game; something that's just so different in execution, but still plays to a developers strengths. This is perhaps why I like Vanillaware so much; each one of their games, excluding Grimgrimoire, is essentially an Action-RPG, but they're all very distinct from one another in their execution. And that's what I want more of: developers who aren't afraid to try new things and attempt to create new worlds, new stories, new visions. It's not as if they cannot create something new without playing to their strengths; just look at Okami, Metroid: Other M, Super Mario Galaxy, and Kid Icarus: Uprising.

Of course, I know every videogame is made with a lot of hard work, and that in the videogame business, it's very risky to try new things, but I still wish there were more developers like Vanillaware and Reverge Labs out there.