Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2010 Spring Anime Breakdown

Well, it’s spring, and anime are blooming all around more so than Krosa’s, Llanowar’s and Yavimaya’s vegetation all put together (if you don’t get the joke, don’t worry). Honestly, in all my years watching anime, I haven’t seen such a diverse and full anime season as this one. There’s something for everyone’s taste, however, from all the anime there, more than half of them are to my liking (which is a rare thing). So, I’ll be making a breakdown of these anime, but I’ll only be talking about the ones I’m watching, I won’t make any comments on the ones I don’t know anything about. I’ll tackle them in alphabetical order, I think that’s fair. Here we go:

Angel Beats!
You know all those shounen anime where the characters go to high school during the day and fight supernatural beings by night, being part of a secret organization? Angel Beats! turns this whole thing around and takes it to a new level. From the very first scene we find ourselves confronting the heroine, Yurippe, aiming a big-ass rifle (I’ll leave it to my brother to detail exactly what kind of rifle it is) at a white-haired girl in the distance and telling our main hero that he is dead and that this high school represents the afterlife and that they have to fight the white-haired girl, who is actually an angel, because if they don’t, they’ll be erased. What follows is action, humour, a diverse cast of characters and a strange desire to find out the truth. Yurippe, the heroine, gives off an aura similar to Haruhi Suzumiya, both because of the character design, as well as her bossy attitude, however she shows the compassion the tsundere Haruhi so rarely revealed. At first it seemed like a funny anime which one would take lightly, then, during the second episode, Yurippe reveals the memories of her (past) life and suddenly you freeze. Shock, fear, pity and disgust are the only feelings that linger after her story. Remember So-Ra-No-Wo-To? You know, this winter’s light-hearted comedy anime which half-way turns into a military drama? If you don’t remember it, don’t worry, I’m gonna have a review up soon. Anyway, that was the anime shock of that season, and I think this little gem will be the anime shock of this season. It’s funny, surprising, exciting and heart-warming at the same time. There’s huge potential behind this anime and I’m looking forward to more.

Arakawa Under the Bridge
I believe every season has an anime which relly is out there, and certainly Arakawa Under the Bridge is the candidate for this season. What if you are the successful son of a successful company president? What if your life philosophy was to never ever owe a debt to anyone? What if suddenly a homeless girl saves your life? The obvious answer is that you take her into your home and a slapstick romantic comedy ensues. That’s not really what happens here. The twist is, the girl doesn’t want a home, she is very satisfied living under the bridge, instead her request is “fall in love with me”. And that’s how Ichinomiya Kou ends up being Nino-san’s lover and starts living with her under the bridge. To top it all off, she’s a Venusian (or so she claims). And she’s not alone, the riverbed is full of strange characters: the Village Chied, who’s a kappa; Shiro, who made a rule to marry a chicken if he stepped off the white lines; Sister, the local nun, who carries around an uzi and would resemble a Sister of Battle more than a nun, if he were a woman to begin with; and many many more. The whole story is seen through the skeptic eyes of Kou who is drawn into this weird community against his will, reminiscent of Kyon being dragged by the necktie into the club room by the violent Haruhi, resulting in all sorts of misadventures. If weird is to your liking, you’ll love this.

B Gata H Kei
Japanese animation is really pushing their western audience to the limit with shows such as this one. The show follows a young girl, Yamada, who’s just gotten into high school (aged 15), and her goal is to obtain 100 sex friends before graduation. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see anything wrong with this premise. I mean it. Honest. There have been harem anime by the hundreds (if not thousands), it was about time the main character was a girl chasing boys and not the other way around. Now I have to admit that the heroine (if you can call her that) is more direct than your usual slightly perverted male stuck in pleasant yet embarrassing situations (often leading to painful consequences). As such, she has no qualms with stripping out of the blue in the library in front of the guy she wants to have sex with. When asked by a friend if she was worried about having a slutty reputation, she eagerly answers “But I want that kind of reputation.” Of course, she is a virgin and is afraid that she would mess things up, so in order to have a successful first time, she tries to find a guy who’s a virgin and even more inexperienced than her, but still hot. She sets her eyes on Takashi Kosuda, who is a huge loser (and not only that, but he gets a hard on from almost kissing her… get a grip, man!), and their complicated relationship gives rise to comical situations galore. No, you don’t have to be a genius to foresee that she’s going to fall in love with the guy, unless something really unexpected happens by the end of the series. So, all in all, why is this anime worth mentioning? Two such reasons, actually. Again, it may be just me, but I think Yamada is beautiful, by anime standards, of course. Maybe it’s because everyone in the anime says she is, and so you tend to see her like that, however I feel that she gives off an aura much like Allison from Allison & Lillia, or Kurumi from Kimi ni Todoke. That may not be a reason for watcing the anime in itself, however, the second one is: this series is hilarious. Once again, it may be just me (if you don’t like my taste in anime, why are you reading this post?), but this anime made me laughing harder than any other anime this season. The situations are somewhat foreseeable, yet they really surpass all expectations and leave you with tears in your eyes and stomach aches in your… well… stomach.

Honestly, what does this title make you think of? If it’s old school mecha shounen, then you’ve hit the spot! The hero, Joey (yes, he is American, the whole series is set in the States, isn’t that awesome, for starters?!), is very kind-hearted, but poor and is being bullied at school by the rich kids. He’s friends with a nutty professor (doesn’t this sound like Back to the Future?) who manages to make contact with an alien race who decides to invade the Earth. A broken robot toy that one of the rich kids throws away finds shelter and love in the arms of Joey, and when it is zapped by some kind of dimensional-whatever ray, it becomes the only thing that can stop the invading alien race. I can’t believe I wrote that summary. Please go back and read it again, then ask yourselves “why in the world would I want to watch this?” The answer is, because it’s nostalgic. Surely if you haven’t watched anything similar in your childhood, stay far away from this anime. But if you’ve seen any shounen anime or even heroic cartoons back in the 80s and 90s, hell, this is the best thing there is to bring out your inner child! When I read the synopsis and decided to give it a try, I was a bit skeptic myself, but then I was absorbed and found it genuinely entertaining. It has some fantastic animation, but retains all the clichés and good bits of those old anime and cartoons we used to grow up on. If you don’t know what to do, let me give you a hint: if you’ve even remotely liked Power Rangers or Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, give the first episode a go, you will immediately know if you want to continue watching or not.

It is important to note that there are two exclamation marks in the title. Yes, this is the second season (if you look it up, you’ll notice the first one had only one exclamation mark). I’m actually listening to the ending theme while I’m writing this review, it’s simply amazing. If you felt that K-On! ended too soon, if you felt your heart throbbing faster when you were about to watch the later released OAV, then this is the thing for you. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading and go watch the first season. Ok, I’m still going to explain what this is about, besides it being pretty much useless, since those who know about it don’t need explaining, and those who don’t, won’t care, but here goes. In anime, there is a thing called moe. I’ve come to realize it’s what the overrated “normal” people find discusting in anime: the sweet voices, the big eyes, the tsundere (characters which are violent on the outside, but deep inside feel attached and care about others), the girls with glasses, the cat ears, the clumsy maids, the childhood friends… all of that. Most anime have at least one element of moe, a few lack it entirely, while some thrive on it, with moe oozing out of every possible crevice, making you go “cuuuuuuuuuute!!!” every two seconds. K-On! is one such anime. If I were to compare it to something, I would most likely say it resembles Manabi Straight! The second season continues where the first one left off and it doesn’t disappoint in any way (especially with the awesome new opening and ending).

Kiss x Sis
Another bold one, not for your average westerner. This series has seen some really bad reviews, mostly due to the controversial nature of its content. Ok, completely due to the controversial nature of its content. Simply put, it’s an incest anime. Now, this may not be surprising if it were a hentai, however, it’s not. At least, not entirely. There are certainly no explicit scenes, and the nipples are removed, which allows for it to air during child-friendly hours. However, this does not change the content. A guy and his twin stepsisters, they have a crush on him, he likes it, but considers it wrong, the parents actually encourage it, the girls tease him sexually, what more can I say? I would actually go as far as classifying this as soft hentai. While a few years back, something as innocent as Futari Ecchi was labeled hentai, nowadays we get away with this not being called that. I think it’s somewhere on the same level though. Who would enjoy this series, besides your average otaku? Probably someone who would enjoy B Gata H Kei (though it is nowhere near as good as that series, also I believe that one is suited for a broader audience), or Chu-Bra!! (again, suited for a broader audience), or something along these lines. There’s really not much more to add. Either you like it, or you don’t. Period. Next!

And we’ve finally arrived in the land of serious anime. Right before the anime starts, we get a notice warning us about the explicit content of the anime (explicit being written in red characters), and also the need to use such explicit scenes in order to accurately portray the events of the time. This anime is not about sex or violence. It is about inmates, which may or may not have to do with sex or violence. The anime focuses on seven youngsters in post-WW2 Japan, when the economy is booming, having been blown up (I know, stupid pun). The narrator tells us that the ones to suffer most were the children, and immediately we are shown six of the seven inmates being transported to the correctional facility. The only explicit scene in the first episode is an anal check-up to see if they “have hemorrhoids, parasites or weapons”, as the doctor kindly puts it. The oppressive guard is a cliché, but the atmosphere is indeed gritty and the overall feel of the anime is very realistic. Reminds me of Papillon. It’s actually too early to pass judgment on this one, but it looks really promising. The atmosphere and the characters are a hit. Let’s hope the story doesn’t flop.

Senkou no Night Raid
This is probably the best anime in the season. It has everything: fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles… well, it doesn’t really have all that, if that’s what you’re looking for, check out the Princess Bride. But what this anime has is action, drama, spies, superpowers and more. Set in Shanghai between the two world wars, the story follows the actions of an elite Japanese spyforce (I just invented that word, cool, isn’t it?) armed with paranormal powers. Now, leaving aside the fact that the four squad members pretty much exhaust the uses of “tele-“ as a prefix (having telekinesis, telescopic vision, telepathy and teleportation), the intrigues and stories are really good. They remind me of old spy TV series, such as The Saint or The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but with superpowers… like The Avengers. That’s right; this anime feels very much like The Avengers. It is very well paced, the story is serious, the action isn’t over the top, the superpowers are intelligently used, and overall, it’s a very good anime. I really can’t tell you anything more, just go ahead and have a look, I’m sure most of my readers will enjoy it.

Finally, reached the last anime on my list. The family restaurant Wagnaria. The hard-working high-school student who looks like a 12-year old, the self-proclaimed minicon (lover of things small and cute, such as children, puppies, water fleas) who adores her and decides to work there to help her out, the 28-year-old manager who seems to be doing no work at all and apparently has relations with the local yakuza, the quiet serious chef and his partner the talkative smiling chef, the shift chief who always carries a katana at her waist, the androphobic waitress who reflexively punches the protagonist because “men are violent”, bring them all together and… do you need anything else? Working!! was a four-panel manga before it was adapted into an anime, and it shows. The show is full of funny (sometimes idiotically so) moments, characteristic of that carefree style we’ve come to love in Azumanga Daioh! and Yotsuba& (though those weren’t four-panel manga). I gave those examples because, if you’ve paid attention to the list of characters, those are the closest you’re going to get to this series. It is funny. Period. If you don’t like that kind of humour, I pity the empty life you’re living and your attempts at filling it with meaningless promises of life after death or who knows what. I’m joking (somewhat), but really, if you can’t simply disconnect and enjoy these kinds of anime, then you must be leading a sad life. Oops, I did it again! Anyway, you get the picture. Working!! is that kind of anime.

Finally… That was tiring, but fun. I’d love to hear your comments and, by all means, if you think there’s an anime out there this season that I’d like, but missed, I would be graciously kind to you if you’d point me towards it.

Next time, who knows what I’ll be writing about. Until then, pleasant viewing!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Container for Your EDH Deck!

Well, I was supposed to post my video review, but although the recording is done, the editing takes a lot longer than I thought. A lot of things happened to me this week, so I thought I'd post some of them, until I finish my video review. Hope you don't mind.

Here's a question: what do you do with your booster boxes after they run out of boosters? You would normal hold cards in them, right? That, or you throw them away. A few weeks ago I found a really nice article on, in which they tell you how to turn the thing on the left of the image into the thing on the right:

Awesome, isn't it? What is it? Why, it's a deckbox, of course. Not only any kind of deckbox, it's a deckbox that can even hold an entire EDH deck, as can be seen in the following photos (showing my Jaya Ballard deck):

In case you want to make one yourself, just visit Also, one of the things they don't tell you is that you mustn't bind the edges too tight, otherwise the cards will have to be jammed in, they'll still fit, but they won't slide out nicely.

Happy crafting! Next time, 2010 Spring Anime Breakdown...