Toon Talk- Attack on Netflix: Is Netflix “Killing” Anime?

Woo boy. This is a topic I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while now but also one that I’ve kind of dreaded talking about at full length because of how visceral the discussions around it have been. However over the recent months, and more specifically some of the events of the past week, its grown far too big not to say something about so I guess it’s finally time for me to address the 100 million pound elephant in the room: Netflix. Netflix rolled onto the anime scene a couple of years back with their acquisition of Knights of Sidonia and while their approach of withholding the show until after it’s broadcast and launching it all at once was mostly just something of a nuisance at the time, the outcries against them have grown increasingly louder as they’ve gone after “bigger” titles like Little Witch Academia and The Seven Deadly Sins. Now if you’ve followed me on Twitter for any decent amount of time, then you’ll know my stance has generally been that of the “lesser of two evils” variety when compared to Amazon’s Anime Strike service, but even the lesser of two evils (depending on which you view as the “lesser evil” I guess) is still evil so it’s time to dive into an important question: Is Netflix truly “killing” anime?

On a surface level this seems like a pretty one and done argument. Netflix refuses to simulcast their anime licenses outside of Japan, despite simulcasts being the general standard for the hardcore anime market nowadays. The lack of a simulcast harms discussion for their shows, and even worse makes a lot of people more likely to pirate stuff. The reality of the situation however, is a little more complicated and requires touching upon a subject that a lot of hardcore anime fans are hesitant to admit to: the hardcore anime base that keeps up with seasonal anime and simulcasts and anime is not the majority of the audience that watches anime.

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Now this isn’t to say that the hardcore market isn’t a significant one. After all if it wasn’t, Crunchyroll wouldn’t currently be sitting at over a million subscribers and we wouldn’t have the far greater misfortune of Amazon strong-arming their way into the industry with a cruddy service that keeps stuff behind an insane paywall. But even with all that in mind the truth of the matter is that most people who watch anime do so on a much more irregular schedule and generally tend to come across shows by chance or word of mouth rather than actively combing for the newest stuff the same way folks like myself have gotten used to. Even for Crunchyroll, who pretty much pioneered the simulcast market as it exists today, many of its most well known and popular titles are things that finished ages ago, and they put just as much pride in simulcasts as they do having an extensive catalog of titles that stretches back for decades.

While seasonal fans like us might lament having to wait X amount of months to watch a new show, and may move on in the meantime, there are many more who’ll come across stuff later down the line and won’t even know something was delayed to begin with. Netflix knows this for better or worse, which is partially why they aren’t likely to adjust their current model anytime soon as the amount of hardcore eyeballs they’re losing is probably outweighed by the amount who are just happening to come across something for the first time. Heck the very fact that they’ve continued to push further and further into the market is a pretty clear sign that their anime pickups are hitting whatever numbers they’re currently looking for. So when fans talk about Netflix “killing” anime, they’re primarily talking in terms of their darling show of the season not getting the same amount of attention as other stuff, which granted sucks, and I can totally sympathize with that, but isn’t quite what I’d call death. Especially since the effects that these titles being held out on has on the amount of buzz they get is somewhat debatable. As much outcry as I’ve seen over Netflix supposedly destroying any chance of Little Witch Academia finding an audience, that show was still pretty much everywhere in terms of anime circles while it was airing (which sucked for me since I waited for the Netflix stream but I digress) and I’d have a hard time imagining most people who keep up with this stuff regularly wouldn’t know it exists. The seasonal anime fandom is as such that the argument of anything falling completely under the radar for reasons other than not being all that remarkable is kind of a false one, and even if its not necessarily through legal means, if there’s a hot new show out there worth getting excited about, you can bet the word will spread somehow or another.

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So now that I’ve talked a little bit about the somewhat exaggerated death of anime by Netflix, it’s probably about time to talk about some of the service’s actual benefits as there are a actually a few. Diving into one of them requires once again looking at something most hardcore fans don’t really like discuss at length which is the need to cater to the more casual anime market. Casual audiences are a source of both mockery and dread for pretty much any fandom, and anime fans in particular can get pretty prickly about them but they are a vital part of the industry. After all no one’s really born a fan of anything, and just about everyone starts off casually before going deeper into stuff. However reaching this market typically requires making stuff accessible to them in places they’re likely to find them, and that’s been an ongoing battle within the industry. In the old days, TV deals were pretty much the most surefire way to reach a broader, younger audience, but even with the Toonami block still managing to stay on the air, and being relatively successful, television isn’t really the preferred viewing method for young people anymore. It’s streaming, and at the moment there isn’t really any dedicated streaming service on the planet bigger than Netflix.

The service currently sits at around 100 million subscribers and if even 3-5% of that audience has at least a casual interest in anime (which granted might be an overestimation, but it’s probably impossible to gauge exactly how many people on the planet actually care about anime), that’s still several times the supposed maximum audience Crunchyroll is currently reaching. Couple that with the the fact that the service has a wider reach and offers multi-language dubs for several countries and it’s not really hard to put together which service has the greater potential to create new anime fans. Speaking from personal experienced I’ve talked to quite a few kids who aren’t super into anime, but have gotten interested in shows like The Seven Deadly Sins or Hunter x Hunter because they were easily available on Netflix, and with Little Witch Academia currently available on both the main site and it’s kids show section, it could possibly end up finding an audience with young girls in addition to the 20-30 somethings like me who were probably going to watch it no matter what. In that respect I think Netflix could do a lot to give anime a bit more presence when it comes to reaching out beyond the hardcore sphere, and if some of these titles can end up finding brand new audiences and drawing more people into the fandom then I’m pretty much all for it.

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Going a bit more into the actual industry side of things it’s equally worth mentioning that the reception to the service has been pretty positive on their end. While the amount of money Netflix likely offers for their acquisitions is undoubtedly a contributing factor in that, studios like Trigger have mentioned that they’re a lot easier to deal with than the usual Japanese television networks, and Netflix’s recently announced slew of titles that are being produced exclusively for the service could be a real game changer. Without the initial hassle of a television broadcast these shows don’t have to deal as much with the usual constrictions of things like strict episode runttimes, censorship and most significantly: scheduling. The weekly anime production schedule has long been a merciless problem for the industry and one that’s affected not only the quality of the shows, but the health of the people who work on them. Being able to work on this stuff on a more flexible schedule would be an absolute boon for the industry and one that would frankly be better for just about everyone involved, including fans since unlike their acquired titles, we’re all getting this stuff streamed at the same time, Japan included. It’s hard to say how much Netflix will push this particular initiative and for how long but I really hope that it ends up becoming their basic standard for dealing with anime, because (for the time being at least) it offers nothing but positives.

Having said all that though, it’s worth pointing out that pretty much nothing I’ve said here really negates the fact that the problems currently surrounding Netflix’s form of anime streaming are well…problems. By holding onto their acquired titles until they’ve finished their broadcast run in Japan, they’re undoubtedly encouraging piracy on the behalf of the hardcore fandom and that fact is inescapable. Even more than helping to shape the simulcast market into what it is today, one of Crunchyroll’s (and to a lesser extent Funimation’s) biggest contributions to the industry has been in helping to make piracy less convenient by offering things faster than pirates can keep up with, and giving us just about everything any given season of anime has to offer. Seeing that undermined in any capacity is incredibly frustrating to folks who’ve tried to remain loyal to the industry, and with how long self-justified piracy has been an issue for anime, anything that lends more fuel to that is harmful.

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Additionally while I do think the effects of buzz from hardcore fans are a bit overstated in terms of how much it helps some of these titles, it’s still pretty effective in giving stuff attention in a market that’s flooded with a nigh endless amount of things to watch. Unless you’re dealing with a really massive, somewhat pre-established title, withholding it until the season’s passed WILL hurt interest, and with how quickly new shows come out, it’s extremely difficult for most things to get a second wind when it comes to the hardcore audience. These issues are particularly frustrating because they can easily fixed by Netflix simply choosing to simulcast anime internationally the same way they do select TV shows in the US, and anime in Japan. Sure they might lose some casual viewers by not being able to offer dubs right off the bat (this is almost undoubtedly the main reason they choose to withhold stuff) but if hit shows like Attack on Titan and One-Punch Man (granted they don’t actually own these titles but I doubt their licencors would say no to offering their dubs if they were offered enough money) can thrive on the service with just a sub-only option, there’s no real reason they can’t take a risk with stuff that’s obviously more niche like Kakeguri and throw the hardcore side of the market a bone. These are things that need to be more properly addressed and so long as they aren’t there’s harm in Netflix being a part of this industry and that’s something I’d ideally prefer not to say about any of the companies that are legally providing anime for us.

So is Netflix “killing” anime? Well I suppose that really depends on your exact point of view. There’s a lot of potential long term benefits to their entry into the market like the chance of expanding the audience for their titles, and ligtening some of the burdens when it comes to actual anime production, but the short-term issues they bring to the table by refusing to simulcast their titles are real ones, and the fact that they’re so easily fixable makes them all the more annoying. I don’t expect for anything I’ve said here to convince anyone to stop complaining about Netflix, nor would I want anyone to. After all if they weren’t so stubborn about their binge strategy I could be watching Kakeguri right now (and I REALLY want to watch Kakeguri for uh…reasons) and the only chance anyone has of convincing them to adjust their current strategy is by continuing to speak to them about it. What I do hope though, is that more people take the time to look the benefits Netflix does and can offer (moreso if they actually do choose to listen) for the industry, because they do exist and looking at this purely in terms of the immediate problems feels a little shortsighted. So in the end I’m pretty much starting this the same way I began: that Netflix is at best, the lesser of two evils when compared to Anime Strike whose mere existence is nothing but a nuisance in it’s current form. Unlike Strike however, I do genuinely believe that with time, Netflix could end up becoming a force for good.

 

Toon Talk- The Best of Anime in 2016

Well it’s been a long time coming, but we’ve finally reached the end of 2016. It’s been a very…negative year to say the least in regards to world events and celebrity deaths (and I’m more than a little concerned about if we’ll be able to survive that first one), but it’s been a pretty alright year for Japanese cartoons, and a fair amount of solid stuff managed to make it’s way down the pipeline. So for now let’s forget about all the bad stuff, and take a look at some of the best that 2016 had to offer in the world of anime.


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This category goes to things that aren’t exactly show specific, but nevertheless wanted to point out. That includes theme songs, characters and stuff related to English dubs. Anyway let’s get started:

Best Anime Opening– 99 by Mob Choir (Mob Psycho 100)

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It’s been a fairly solid year for anime openings, and while there hasn’t been an abundance of standouts, there’s always been at least a few each season that managed to leave a mark. For me though, none have left as big an impression on me as Mob Psycho’s. To be honest when I first heard this song, I really didn’t like it, and thought it was a bit too Engrish-y for me, but the more I heard it every week, the more it stuck with me, and by the time I actually discovered how much some of the lyrics tied into Mob’s coming of age story, I couldn’t get it out of my head. It’s accompanied by some bombastic visuals as well as some of the most seamless scene transitions I’ve ever seen, making for a spectacle that’s equal parts catchy and breathtaking. 99 may not have gotten off to the best start with me, but it’s stuck with me more than any other opener I’ve heard this year, and even if you don’t care for the song itself, it’s hard to deny just how well executed of a 90-second music video it is.

Honorable Mentions: History Maker by Dean Fujioka (Yuri on Ice), The Day by Porno Graffiti (My Hero Academia), Great Days by Karen Aoki and Daisuke Hasegawa (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable)

 

Best Male Character– Yoshikage Kira (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable)

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I could probably think of more compelling male characters if I wanted, but none have proven to be as consistently entertaining as Kira. For parts 1-3 of Jojo’s, Dio was pretty much THE villain, and while the Pillar Men were fun in their own right, there was no getting past the pure ham that comprised most of Dio’s evil antics. Amazingly though, what makes Kira such an interesting villain, is that in a lot of ways he’s almost Dio’s total opposite. He doesn’t particularly engage in ham (or what constitutes as ham by Jojo’s standards) and instead opts for a more pragmatic approach to his villainy, and his humble goals of just wanting to live a quiet life, strike an interesting contrast to the usual villain goals of world domination or power. Most of all, he’s a villain that actually progresses in becoming stronger, much in the same way you’d generally expect the heroes to, and by the time he’s managed to work his way towards becoming a truly horrifying threat, it’s as shocking to the audience as it is to the heroes. This shift in expectations was enough to really make Kira stand out as a villain, and while he’ll probably never be as beloved as Dio, I found him to be just as fun.

Honorable Mentions: Yuri Katsuki (Yuri on Ice), Mob (Mob Psycho 100), Izuku Midoriya (My Hero Academia)

 

Best Female Character– Tsumugi Inuzuka (Sweetness and Lightning)

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Again, I could probably come up with someone better if I tried but gosh darn it, I really want to give this one to the adorable 4 year old. Portraying kids as well…kids has always been a challenge for most forms of media and the same goes for anime. The last time anime notably managed to get it right was with Naru from Barakamon, and while I found her endearing, I didn’t quite see her as the soul of the show in the same way that many others did. Here though, the stage really belongs to Tsumugi, and her infectious nature really helps in keeping Sweetness and Lightning consistently heartwarming. She really feels like an actual little kid from her curiosity about the things around her, to spontaneous tantrums that result from the tiniest problems, and all of those little quirks help in making her an absolute delight to watch. For all of that though, the real reason she’s topped the list for me is that her cute expressions managed to kill me every episode. Like seriously it should be illegal to make something this adorable *dies*

Honorable Mentions: Kayo Hinazuki (Erased), Nico Niyama (Kiznaiver), Asuka Tanaka (Sound!! Euphonium 2)

 

Best English Dub– Your Lie in April

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I already talked about this one in my 25 Days of Dubs list so I won’t go too much into it, but this dub was a real standout. Patrick Seitz may not direct stuff often, but when he does, he really knows how to deliver. Everything from the direction to the scriptwriting works extremely well, and they’re matched by some equally great performances. Max Mittleman’s Kousei does a fantastic job at selling the character’s depression, and Erica Lindbeck’s Kaori works just as well, with the two playing off each other pretty well. The rest of the actors are strong too, and it’s a super-solid effort from top to bottom, as each of them manage to pull off the hefty amount of turmoil displayed throughout the series. There’s been some other solid dubs this year, but this one was easily the best of the bunch, and if you haven’t given it a peek yet I highly recommend it.

Honorable Mentions: Rage of Bahamut, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

 

Best English Voice Actor– Max Mittleman

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While things managed to pick up a bit towards the end, this has been a fairly lukewarm year for dubs, and while there’s been some good individual performances, I haven’t seen much in the way of actors consistently hitting all the right marks. Of course there’s always an exception and this year that crown goes to Max Mittleman. While he’s only snagged two lead roles this year (and one is much more widely recognized than the other) his work on both proved to be excellent, with his aforementioned Kousei managing to standout as a very emotional performance, while his Saitama proved to be a lot more deadpan and comedic than I ever expected from him. Both roles showed that he has quite a bit of versatility, and his smaller roles this year have managed to work out pretty nicely as well. He’s well on his way to becoming the next JYB or Bryce Papenbrook of the California dub pool, and going by some of the work he’s displayed this year, it’ll likely be a title that’s well earned.

Honorable Mentions: Ricco Fajardo, Jad Saxton, Erika Harlacher

 

Best Japanese Voice Actor– Tasuku Hatanaka

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I’ve been meaning to highlight some of my favorite Japanese VA’s for a while now, so I figure that now is as good a time as any to start. I’d first heard Tasuku Hatanaka as Yuma in Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal and given that Zexal is well…garbage, that didn’t exactly leave me with the best first impression of him. His work as Ushio in Ushio & Tora on the other hand, managed to pull a complete 180 for me, as he did a great job of selling the brash but endearing nature of the character, and his delivery of Ushio’s breakdown during the final arc of the series, really stood out to me as one of the more memorable performances I’d heard on the Japanese side of things this year. His Ikoma from Kabaneri, while less compelling than his Ushio was also a really solid performance, and there’s a very unique quality to his voice that really sticks out amongst the usual stock anime leads, and feels a lot more rough and grounded. I’m glad to see that he’s gradually getting more work these days, and while he may have gotten off to the wrong foot with me, he’s since become a pleasure to listen to.

Honorable Mentions: Megumi Han, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Akira Ishida

 

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This category is centered around genre stuff. Unlike the best series which we’ll get to afterwards, this for things that stood out really well as a genre piece moreso than as an overall series. That said there’s still plenty of good stuff to be found here, so let’s take a look:

 

Best Comedy Series– Keijo!!!!!!

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It’s been a really weak year for anime comedies (though coming off of something as off the wall as Mr. Osomatsu, there was nowhere to go but down) but a couple of good ones managed to work their way through the cracks. Among them was, Keijo which to be perfectly honest I wasn’t even going to watch at first. Almost everything about it’s premise seemed like an excuse for gross fanservice so I was happily surprised when it not only turned out to be a lot cleaner than I expected, but way more entertaining than it had any right to be. Keijo is completely aware of how silly it’s premise is, but rather than simply going the skeevy route, it has fun with it, and treats the “sport” as though it’s legitimate competition with everything from training arcs to “sad” character backstories, which sounds awkward in theory, but the show does a good job of making it all work. What makes it a great comedy though is all in the Keijo battles, as the crazy special attacks are all delightfully ridiculous, and over-the-top, never failing to deliver at least one or two good laughs. It feels strange saying good things about the show centered around bikini butt battles, but it’s certainly earned that much, and while the premise might more than a little off-putting, if you’re looking for a good time, this one’s more than likely to keep you entertained.

Honorable Mentions: Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, Taboo Tatoo, Dagashi Kashi

 

Best Action Series– Thunderbolt Fantasy

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When I first heard that Gen Urobuchi was doing a show about puppets, I was more than a little disappointed since I was really looking forward to his return to anime scriptwriting. Needless to say I was surprised when said puppet show, not only turned out to be good, but is also quite possibly the single most entertaining thing the man has ever written. The story follows a lot of the usual fantasy beats, but it has some solid execution both in part due to the show’s rich character dialogue as the conversations between the core cast are almost always excellent, and the over the top action action sequences, as the fight scenes have some surprisingly good action choreography and special effects which all make for a real treat. Of course if you’re a fan of the Booch’s usual sense of style there’s still some of that here too as he sprinkles in a few messages regarding tradition and what really lies beneath any “heroic” legacy, but he’s mostly here to entertain this time around, and if you found Fate/Zero or Madoka to be a bit too dour, this one’s a lot lighter in comparison. Urobuchi’s return to scriptwriting may not have happened the exact way I expected, but I’m more than happy with what we actually ended up getting, and I’m glad that there’s more of it coming our way in the future.

Honorable Mentions: Mob Psycho 100, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Diamond is Unbreakable, My Hero Academia

 

Best Drama Series– Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju

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It always feels a bit pretentious to say that something is “for adults”, but there’s really no other way to accurately describe this one. The series is a slow moving drama, and centered around an artform that’s about as strictly Japanese as it gets, which makes it a tough sell for both younger audiences and anime fans at large, but for all it lacks in broad appeal it makes up for in execution. The tragedy concerning the lives and respective downfalls of Yakumo and Sukeroku is a compelling one and the innate struggles concerning the former’s sexuality and the latter’s sense of identity really helps in painting a picture of what it was like to struggle as an artist during one of the harshest time periods in Japan’s history. I also found myself really getting drawn in to the show’s frequent demonstrations of Rakugo demonstrations, and they did an excellent job of simultaneously showing the insane level of skill required for the craft while also using some of the pieces as solid metaphors for some of the events that were going on around them. As I said before though it’s a very slow moving series, and I’m not really surprised at how much it flew by the radar for most people, but for me it was easily the most moving anime drama to come out this year, and one of it’s best shows in general.

Honorable Mentions: Yuri on Ice, Orange, Sound!! Euphonium s2

 

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And now we’ve finally arrived at the best series for the year. You may notice that I have two series listed here instead of one, but that’s because I’ve picked the best based on two sub-categories: best adaption and best original work. While both adaptions and original projects both carry the intent to pick up an audience, they’re generally trying to accomplish different things as an adaption has to be a good piece of entertainment while maintaining the strengths of it’s source material where as an original work needs to stand completely on it’s own two feet and draw in a crowd on it’s own merits. As such I feel it’s only appropriate to bring up which two series did the best at tackling those things so without any further ado, here they are:

 

Best Anime Series (Adaption)– Mob Psycho 100

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One-Punch Man was one of the biggest mainstream anime successes in recent memory, and as a series by the same author, Mob Psycho 100 had some big shoes to fill. Fortunately the team of animators at BONES and director Yuzuru Tachikawa of Death Parade fame were up to the task and delivered on an adaption that not only went toe to toe with it’s predecessor, but for me, exceeded it. As an adaption one of the biggest difficulties concerning this series was whether or not to stick to the original author, ONE’s, crude artstyle considering that One-Punch Man did not. However Tachikawa and co. made the decision to stick to that style, and while it might have cost the show the opportunity to enjoy the same level of mainstream success as it’s sister series, it gave the animators free reign to go all out with the show’s art design, making for one of the most impressively animated shows of the last decade, and giving it a unique visual aesthetic that really stands out from just about any other anime made in the last few years.

Of course while the show’s visuals are part of it’s appeal, the real heart lies in it’s storytelling, and it’s portrayal of Mob’s journey through adolescence. A lot of Mob’s issues concerning his abilities and his humbled attitude, seem reminiscent of Saitama from OPM at first glance, but it quickly becomes clear that his issues are less about his overwhelming talent causing him to hit wall, and more learning to deal with the reality that his abilities alone won’t get him on a fast track through life. It’s not a gigantic shift in perspective, but it’s enough of one to make Mob’s story his own, and he’s joined by a fun cast of supporting characters, all of whom manage to do a good job of standing out on their own. Especially Reigen, who managed to go from semi-annoying comic relief in the show’s early episodes, to it’s moral center and easily the best written character. All in all, Mob Psycho turned out to be a fantastic ride, and while it may not have been able to step out of the shadow of OPM’s popularity, it was certainly able to shine on it’s own as a stellar series.

Honorable Mentions: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Sweetness and Lightning

 

Best Anime Series (Original)– Yuri!! on Ice

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So before this series even began, I was already pretty sure I’d like it. Sayo Yamamoto is a director with a lot of style, and her work on Michiko and Hatchin really won me over with it’s flare and strong feminist commentary. What I wasn’t expecting though, was exactly how much I’d end up digging this show, and I sure as heck wasn’t expecting so much of the anime fandom to latch onto it that it’s become the biggest mainstream success of the year. In a lot of ways though, it’s kind of fitting that this show would end up becoming so widely beloved, because love itself is what really lies at the core of the series.

Yuri on Ice is about love, and love in various forms. Familial love, sexual love, and most of all, being able to love yourself, as told through Yuri’s journey of self-discovery and his realization of the significance behind the various relationships that surround him. What’s really impressive is that none of this is every explicitly stated through the usual hamfisted means we’ve come to expect from most anime, and Yuri’s coming to terms with these feelings comes off in very much the same way you’d expect of someone his age in real life. Although, as is widely known by this point, one of the biggest highlights of this show lies in Yuri’s relationship with Victor, and the fact that their romance is portrayed in a way that’s just blatant enough that any denial of their sexuality would be delusional, while also having enough subtly and nuance to feel like a genuine relationship between two adults rather than the usual “will they or won’t they?” antics of anime, and I feel as though it’d mostly draw the same kind of reaction from me even if one of them was a woman.

The show isn’t without it’s problems of course, as it mildly suffers from some heavy repetition in it’s latter half, and the overambitious nature of the production in regards to animating every one of it’s figure skating scenes, leads to some serious woes. Ultimately though, these issues feel like minor gripes in comparison to everything else it achieves and between it’s stellar soundtrack and fun cast of characters, it’s hard not to get lost in the magic of everything it’s attempting to do. Yuri on Ice is by no means a perfect show, and if I were grading on consistency alone, Rakugo would probably beat it out as my favorite show this year, but this one spoke to me, and apparently a lot of other people in way that nothing else this year did, and for a show with about as anti-mainstream a premise as gay figure skaters, that’s one heck of an accomplishment.

Honorable Mentions: Thunderbolt Fantasy, 91 Days, Flip Flappers


And that’s it for me this year. A big thank you to everyone for reading my crappy little blog, and while it’s hard to say exactly what the future will bring for next year, I plan to keep writing as much as possible, and I’m looking forward to pumping out more work. Until then, have a happy new year, and stay animated.

Toon Talk- Monthly Retrospective (October 2016)

We’ve finally hit November and this long year is finally starting to wind down. October saw the start of a new season and with it some new shows as well as some new highlights so let’s take a brief look at some of what happened last month.


New Season, New Anime

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The beginning of October marked the start of the Fall 2016 anime season, which means a ton of new shows have come out over the last few weeks. I already went over my first impressions of a lot of these shows earlier so I won’t go into too much detail on individual stuff again, but I will say that despite some of the reservations I brought up while I was doing those (and nearly burning myself out in the process) it’s actually looking to be a pretty strong season. There’s a lot of chaff as always but stuff like Izetta: The Last Witch and Flip Flappers have stayed consistent enough that I’m fairly confident they’ll make for a fun ride the whole way through, and while Yuri on Ice already seemed like it was easily going to be the best show of the season, it’s only improved since it’s first episode, and to my amazement it seems to actually be popular. It’s certainly nice to see something that doesn’t scream super-mainstream actually picking up steam (and weirdly not many people seem to be actively talking about Drifters despite that being the obvious big action title of the season) and I guess it’s another sign that times are changing. Time will tell if the bigger Fall titles manage to stick the landing in the end but now that I’ve got the amount of shows on my plate down to a manageable number, I’m certainly pleased with what I’m seeing so far.

 

Toei FINALLY Brings Dragonball Super to the States

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So it’s finally happened. After over a year of being denied Dragonball Super despite DBZ being about as mainstream as anime can get when it comes to the U.S., Toei’s finally decided to wisen up and bring the show to legal streaming channels ala Crunchyroll and Daisuki. All I can say is: it’s about time, and while it’s easy to speculate over what the hold up was (knowing Toei I imagine it was them trying to push for television deals first) at this point I’m just glad it’s been made available. As of right now I have yet to actually check out Super since I have a ton of other things on my plate to shift through, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it from both enthusiastic and jaded Dragonball fans alike, and I’m looking forward to taking a peek at it whenever I get the chance.

 

Shelter and the “Anime” Debacle

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One of the most interesting and simultaneously irritating discussions of the month came when a short music video called Shelter was uploaded to Crunchyroll. It looked absolutely gorgeous, and was helmed by some of the folks at A-1 Pictures, but despite that listing, having a Japanese voice actress attached to it, and being having some marketing in Japan, the fact that it was partially produced by American musician, Porter Robinson was enough for the mods at Reddit’s anime forums to declare it “not-anime” and similar debacles were brought up elsewhere. Honestly I have to say that it’s really frustrating to still be having this conversation in 2016, but apparently some parts of the anime fandom haven’t moved past gatekeeping culture, and the whole thing has gotten to be tiresome. I’ve made my stance on the whole east v.s. west thing and what exactly defines “anime” pretty clear, so I’m not going to go into too much of a tirade on that, but as far as I’m concerned if it was animated in Japan, features Japanese voice talent and was marketed for Japanese audiences in some capacity: it’s anime and arguing otherwise is kind of nonsensical.

Co-productions have been a thing for years now, and with the ever increasing influence of the western market and China on anime sales they’re only going to grow in number and it’s time for folks to start getting with the program. It’s fine to debate over exactly how much good or ill western influences might have on what gets produced, but arguing their validity is inherently pointless when you take into account how fragile the west’s definition of “anime” is, and the time people spend arguing over this stuff, is time taken away from actually evaluating the works themselves, and for what it’s worth, Shelter was pretty good, and the overall reception seems to have been positive. Sadly I don’t imagine this’ll be the last time these kinds of debates pop up, and all the more considering stuff like Children of Ether is coming down the pipeline, but I do wish certain sections of the anime fandom would give it a rest already.


And that’s it for this time. This one was kind of short despite October being a fairly big month, but I mostly just wanted to get my thoughts out on the Shelter thing (and to be frank I almost forgot about doing this entirely). Hopefully I’ll have a bit more to talk about next time but until then, stay animated.

Toon Talk: Monthly Retrospective- September 2016

So I don’t really have much in the way of a clever segeway this time, but quite a bit went down in September, so might as well hop straight to it

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Crunchyroll and Funimation do the Fusion Dance

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There’s been a lot of feuds between U.S. anime licensors, and as the market has started to revolve more and more around the viability of streaming, the one that’s shaped the industry for the last couple of years has been the one between Funimation and Crunchyroll. A few years ago seemed to be more or less common knowledge that the two companies didn’t particularly like each other due to the latter’s checkered past, and those rumors of bad blood have persisted to this day, so the last thing anyone was expecting was an alliance between the two. It does however, make a great deal of practical sense from a business standpoint given the rising cost of anime licenses, the threat of streaming giants like Amazon Prime and Netflix, and the apparently fast growing anime market in China, all of which have the potentially to doom the two companies to irrelevancy so it’s a good way of fighting back.

As many have already pointed out by now, there’s a lot of potential good and bad to this little alliance. The good is that between the two companies, you’re effectively getting 70-90% of the new shows for each season in one place, with both companies lowering their subscription prices to make everything more affordable for fans. It also means more dubs, and now that Funimation doesn’t have to spend as much time, if any at all on subtitle translations (which they’ve been kind of iffy on for a while anyway) they can put more time on dub production, allowing us to get their simuldubs closer to the start of Japanese airing, and dub fans can get their fix faster. On the downside though, while this alliance won’t have any real effect on companies like Aniplex USA or PonyCan whose continued partnership with CR and their monopoly on properties belonging to their respective parent companies grants them immunity, and Viz who’s selective about what anime they get to begin with, it could end up cornering companies like Sentai, who already seems to be taking quick measures in making some of their simulcasts exclusives. It could also end up having an adverse effective on the quality of the dubs as well since Funimation has but only so many resources, and taking on more shows could hurt them, not to mention that having even more dubs potentially shipped to Texas wouldn’t do much for the sake of variety either. Of course there’s always the chance Funimation could expand their dubbing operations to LA or elsewhere so I suppose we’ll have to see how that goes. For now though, it looks like we’re witnessing the start of a new age, and regardless of what exactly it entails it’s clear there won’t be any turning back.

 

Summer 2016 Anime Come To An End

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Yesterday marked the end for a few of the summer’s remaining stragglers and now there were some definite winners and losers as to which shows successfully crossed the finish line. Among the winners were shows like Mob Psycho 100, which despite having a slower start than it’s predecessor OPM, managed to outdo it in the end, with it’s combination of stronger themes and a more rounded cast of characters, along with Sweetness and Lightning which managed to maintain it’s perfect level of fluffiness and genuine warmth right through to the final episode. 91 Days also managed to stick the landing in achieving the mafia movie aesthetic it was going for, and Thunderbolt Fantasy managed to consistently stay the most entertaining work of the season bar Jojo’s with Boochi instead opting to go for clever writing rather than a heavy amount of thematic depth. As for the losers, they were more or less the shows that seemed to be doomed from the start. Taboo-Tattoo was one of the most entertaining anime trainwrecks I’ve seen in a while, but that certainly isn’t enough to detract from how utterly trashy it was, and while I gave Hitorinoshita- The Outcast a pass on it’s first episode, it proved to be a gigantic slog the whole way through, with both shows definitively being the worst things of the season. On the bright side though I can at least say that nothing really ended up cratering which is always nice and while Berserk 2016’s overall reception is still pretty negative, the strength of it’s source material still shone through fairly well, and I’m cautiously anticipating the second half in 2017 (hopefully they’ll have improved the CG by then). All in all I have to say that looking back, it was a pretty good season for anime. Not exactly a standout, but there were enough humble offerings to get by, and the bigger titles managed to pull their weight well enough to compensate, so I can at least say that it’s nowhere near as bad as the Winter season was. Here’s hoping I can say the same thing about the fall…

 

Zoids Rising From Beyond the Scrapyard?

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So this last one isn’t exactly big, or potentially even animation related, but it’s fairly important to me on a personal level so here it is. While I watched bits of Gundam as a kid and enjoyed what I saw, it was the Zoids franchise that more or less defined my childhood where giant robots were concerned and arguments concerning the practicality of actually making a Liger were frequent playground discussions when I was growing up. I’ve seen at least parts of all four Zoids shows from the 00’s including Zoids Genesis which somehow never made it here despite Viz dubbing it, but the franchise as a whole has mostly been in complete radio silence for the last decade, so the prospect of a new series or a potential reboot both sound pretty appealing to me. Though while it’s certain that there’s a new Zoids project in the works it’s possible that it could be anything from a new video game to a live-action movie going by the visual Takara Tomy uploaded and an anime may or may not be a part of whatever’s coming. Of course it would be nice to get a new Zoids anime (and maybe even picked up by Viz for old time’s sake) but whatever this is, it’s nice to see one of my favorite childhood franchises being brought back from the dead so I’m pretty excited.


Well that’s more or less it for this month. Sorry if this one seems a bit short since I was juggling both this and my first impressions of the Fall anime shows at the same time. September came with a pretty big change in the world of anime for the U.S. and as we head into October, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Toon Talk: Monthly Retrospective- August 2016

Well September just started…so what better time than now to talk about all the stuff that happened in August? As far as animation news goes, it was a relatively quiet month, but the discussion on the other hand has certainly been pretty lively…though not necessarily for all the best reasons. Let’s dive into it.


Summer of Steven Heats Up Some Controversy

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August brought us the remaining Steven Universe episodes of the Summer of Steven (plus one) and with them both joy and headache. With the back half of this event seeing the show delving back into Gem lore, it’s produced an interesting array of topics to discuss, but the one that caught the most attention for better or worse was the episode “Bismuth” and it’s titular character. Particularly in having brought up the issue of whether or not it’s okay to kill one’s oppressors through the eyes of Bismuth who wants to crush the Homeworld Gems at any cost and Steven who believes in trying to reach an understanding with them without resorting to murder (or shattering in this case). This being a kid’s show, we’re obviously meant to sympathize more with the latter view point and it’s caught the ire of fans who feel it’s too heavy handed (The fact that Bismuth resembles and has the voice of a black woman only added to this outcry) and that the show should have handled it with more grace. .

While I can certainly understand where people might see some unfortunate implications here (as a black person myself I wouldn’t read too much into that race bit, but I obviously can’t speak for others) for the most part it just feels really overblown. Steven Universe has always embraced empathy and understanding as it’s core values, and Steven’s world view is pretty much consistent with that of the show itself, so taking issue with it this late in the game feels odd. I recall seeing similar complaints over the final moral conflict in Avatar: The Last Airbender back in the day, and I’d be lying if I said that was executed perfectly, but it was handled decently, and this was done much more tactfully in comparison. Even though it’s clear we’re supposed to lean more towards Steven’s point of view, the show itself points it out as just that, his point of view, and not only is Bismuth’s perspective made fairly sympathetic, but the conclusion points out that there can be negatives to Steven’s pacifistic views, and that he’ll have to live with those consequences if he wants to maintain that viewpoint. If anything it serves as further proof that Rebecca Sugar and co really know how to throw these kind of ideas at children without talking down to them, but I suppose there’s always going to be the question of if they aren’t pushing things far enough. Well at least the latest episode gave us the show’s best musical number yet, that also doubles as a collaboration with Japanese animator Takafumi Hori and it’s really neat, so hopefully we can all at least agree to be happy about that one…right?

 

Ash Loses the Pokemon League…Again

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It’s that time of the year again (well couple of years I guess but whatever) where all of Ash Ketchum’s hopes and dreams must be crushed in order to keep the Pokemon anime train going. As someone who’s used Pokemon as Saturday morning background noise for over a decade, I’ve seen my share of ridiculous losses (the Darkrai deus-ex machina in the Sinnoh League being the worst offender) but this one particularly stings. The XY season has seen Ash make some real strides as a trainer, learn some good lessons and build up a roster that actually looks pretty darn competitive. Adding to that was the show introducing rival trainer Alan, who had decent dynamic going with him, and had already beaten him a couple of times before the League tournament had even began. Combined with the fact that this season may very well be the last one with traditional leagues, it seemed like things were really in favor of Ash’s victory this time, and even skeptics like myself felt the slight twinge of hope that it might actually be possible this time…then reality struck.

Needless to say that even though I wasn’t surprised at the outcome, I was kind of disappointed, and I wasn’t the only one apparently as that sentiment seems to have echoed across the internet, and even the Japanese fandom seems to be pretty upset about it. Of course this is all more or less status quo at this point, and long past the point of being a joke in and of itself, but that’s basically the problem. To the anime’s credit, there is a tremendous amount of value in teaching kids the lesson that failure is a part of life, and that you can’t let setbacks stop you from achieving your dreams and it genuinely worked…the first couple of times. You can only repeat the same lesson so many times before it starts getting ridiculous, and while it’s easy to make the argument that each Pokemon season is meant for a different generation of kids, and therefore shouldn’t be judged in a general sense of continuity, that frankly just makes things even worse.

Why should it be the exact same lesson every season? Shouldn’t the writers find other big themes to explore at this point? While it’s unfair to say the Pokemon anime’s been running completely on auto-pilot (well BW came closest and the ratings suffered for it) it’s definitely been afraid of changing the status quo and their over-reliance on it has only become more blatant over the years. It’s depressing because there are any number of ways to shake things up a bit and many of which don’t have to necessarily involve removing the anime’s most iconic characters (which seems to be the driving fear behind these stunts). Of course status quo has long been the way of the franchise in general, and the upcoming Sun & Moon games look to it’s first real attempt to break free from it. With some luck that sentiment might end up carrying over to the anime too (and the fact that we have yet to hear any information on the Sun & Moon season of the anime makes it somewhat plausible) but at this point I’m not sure I have enough faith in the anime producers to think they’ll make the effort.

 

Bleach’s Ending Has It’s Fans Seeing Red

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Speaking of controversies, there was another one that occurred the same morning as Ash’s latest downfall (well officially the Monday after but unfortunately the speed of manga scanlators is not to be underestimated). After years of the manga’s final arc stretching onward from fight to fight, with the ending feeling a lot further out of reach than it should have, the story finally concluded…very, very abruptly. The outcry over Bleach’s supposed cancellation has been going on since the beginning of July where it was made clear exactly how much time was left and that it wasn’t nearly enough to resolve everything, leading to all kinds of conspiracy theories on how Bleach’s author Tite Kubo somehow got screwed over by his editors. Personally I’d say it’s more likely that his editors got tired of his stalling and/or gave him a specific deadline that he had to rush out the remainder of the manga in order to reach, but we can only really speculate either way. I was however, able to come across the most plausible explanation behind it and the downfall of the series in general through a rather detailed video analysis (which I’d link but it seems to have been the latest victim of Youtube’s nonsensical policy enforcement changes) and while we’ll never know the exact answer, it’s at least clear that Kubo was running on borrowed time .

As for the ending itself, it was about as good as could really be expected after all this. I’ve long since lost interest in Bleach’s actual plot, and things got so rushed towards the end that the final chapter had to quickly shoehorn in Ywatch’s motivation while simultaneously pretending the series had an actual ongoing theme (and felt incredibly tacked on in both accounts) but it was nice to see what Ichigo and his core group of friends were doing as adults. That in itself seems to have caused the biggest controversy of all though as the fandom at large seems to have been incredibly displeased with the manga’s final romantic pairings of Ichigo ending up with Orihime and Rukia with Renji. While I recall seeing a similar outcry during the end of Naruto when the titular character ended up with Hinata and not Sakura, the blowout here seems to have been much worse and so much so that there’s been numerous videos and pictures of angry fans destroying their Bleach collections in frustration. While I don’t want to make this entirely about pairings (though having spent much of this year powering through the Bleach anime I can say that Ichigo and Rukia’s relationship felt incredibly platonic, and even Kubo himself apparently said so during a commentary in the Hellverse movie, so this all seemed like the most probable outcome) I do think it’s more than a little silly to see people destroying merchandise they paid for just because they were mad about who ended up with who, and they could have at least sold them and got their money back or something. Thank goodness Eiichiro Oda’s made it so One Piece won’t ever have these kinds of problems.

 

Voice Acting Blaz-blues 

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Well this last bit isn’t totally animation related, but I consider voice acting to be a pretty vital part in what makes this stuff work so it’s worth pointing out. Voice acting saw it’s own share of controversies in August  as a couple of big things came to light. The first was video game publisher Aksys Games deciding not to include an English audio track for Blazblue: CentralFiction the latest game in the franchise, despite having dubbed all the previous entries. From what’s been publicly stated this seems to have been an issue of speed more so than any financial woes (which is usually the simplest explanation when stuff like this happens) and they feel like not dubbing it will get the game out to the audience faster. While there’s certainly a lot of truth to the idea, it feels incredibly short sighted, since they are in effect taking something away from their audience and that typically never ends well.

Though some will make the argument that people will still buy the game regardless and that it’d be “worse” for them to delay it for such a reason, what’s often missed a lot of the time is that in a similar vein to how anime releases with dual-audio work, people are generally pretty willing to wait if it means getting a more ideal product. Though it’s certainly true that interest fades over time and it’s best to get stuff out while the iron is hot, they’re a lot more likely to lose sales by including one audio track then they are to gain or maintain them, as history as show that stuff typically sells better when people are given more options. It sucks that things had to come to this when it could have been avoided, and it’s all the more frustrating for the VA’s who were involved with the games and had gotten attached to their characters over the years. Of course there’s always the slight chance they could change their minds or include an English audio option later on, but if the game sells regardless, then what reason would they have to go back and spend more money on a option they don’t “need” in order to make money? It’s a lose-lose situation either way, and while those who prioritize getting stuff quickly might be pleased with this outcome, the rest of the fandom seems to have been left in disappointment.

This isn’t the only VA related issue to have happened during the month though, as when voice actress Krystal LaPorte was asked why she didn’t reprise her role in the second season of Chika the Coffin Princess, she revealed through a long statement that she’d been somehow exiled from Sentai Filmworks for reasons unknown. It’s bizarre to think something like this would happen for no reason, but it seems to have really been the case, and it’s very alarming. While it’s pretty much impossible to speculate about why this happened, it’s ridiculous that it occurred at all , and it’s beyond depressing to see a voice actor being treated like this, or frankly anyone for that matter. I sincerely hope there aren’t similar horror stories for other VA’s regularly employed with Sentai, but even if it isn’t this just seems both incredibly heartless and downright unprofessional, and really hope more people call them out on it. With all that said, I suspect that we’ll probably never learn what Sentai’s exact reasons were for all this, but for now it’s definitely knocked down my respect for them a few pegs.


And there’s my thoughts on August in a nutshell. Yeesh, that was a lot more negative than I thought it would be. Here’s hoping September turns out to be a lot brighter.

Toon Talk: Monthly Retrospective- July 2016

So in a bid to stay committed to actually doing semi-regular posts here, I’ve decided to try my hand at doing retrospectives for anything interesting that happened over the last month (I’d go for doing this weekly, but I’m not sure I’d have enough to talk about). It’ll mostly just be me shooting the breeze and talking about anime, western toons, dubs or whatever recent news seems interesting. Anyway, let’s get started.


Summer Anime Begins

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Well I already gave my first impressions about a few of the summer shows, a couple of weeks ago, and my initial assessment was that summer looked to be as dry as a desert. Between now and then though, I’ve had more time to decide what I’m actually going to bother sticking with and most of what I’m watching looks to be solid enough to carry me through the season. 91 Days and Sweetness & Lightning are still the big flagships here, but Mob Psycho 100 looks like it’ll be as interesting as it is pretty, and I’m still enjoying some other stuff like Orange and Love Live Sunshine. I also decided to try New Game the other day and I’m enjoying it, but so far the biggest surprise of the season really seems to be Thunderbolt Fantasy. It’s hard to imagine that a show by Gen Urobuchi involving puppets wouldn’t at least be entertaining, but I wasn’t prepared for how over the top in turned out to be. Everything about it is loud and silly, but it knows how to make that work to it’s advantage and while the story itself is pretty much your standard JRPG fare, the execution is strong, and there’s hints that some of Urobuchi’s usual insight might rise from beneath the show’s campiness. This season’s certainly strange for me in terms of how stuff is paced out (I usually have at least one or two shows every day but most of what I’m watching is crammed Friday through Monday) but if most of the big stuff holds out, it could be a fairly solid season overall, even if not a terribly remarkable one.

 

The Summer of Steven Makes Some Waves

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Speaking of summer, we’re currently in the middle (?) of CN’s “Summer of Steven” promotion as new episodes of Steven Universe’s third season come out every weekday. So far the episodes have mostly been a little on the slow side as the show steps back from the Gem stuff to go back to Beach City, but I don’t mind it. There’s been a lot of arguments over the interwebs over how “relevant” some of this stuff is, but as compelling as the Gem stuff is, it’d get pretty tedious if the show was doing that all the time, and I certainly appreciate the breathers. As for this particular batch though, they’ve been pretty hit or miss (or what qualifies as a “miss” by SU’s typically high standards) with the “Beach City Drift” episode probably being my favorite of the side stuff almost entirely due to the Initial D reference while stuff like “Restaurant Wars” is kind of forgettable aside from a couple of good gags. Of course there’s been a few bits of Gem stuff in the mix here and there but while “Alone At Sea” and “Mr. Greg” are the ones that draw the most attention (and rightfully) so I also appreciate bits like “Greg the Babysitter” since it’s always nice to see flashbacks of Greg and Rose’s relationship, and those have gone a long way in turning Greg into one of the best characters on the show. It’s not exactly the big wave other fans seemed to be hoping for, but even slow SU episodes are still pretty solid, and it’ll make it all the more rewarding when the show starts ripping out hearts out with major Gem stuff again, so I’m looking forward to riding out the rest of this summer

 

One-Punch Man Hits Toonami, and Jojo’s Follows in Style

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With the rather unexpected arrival of Hunter X Hunter to the Toonami block earlier this year, it seemed pretty much inevitable that One-Punch Man would follow suit, and has since made it’s debut a couple of weeks ago. Unsurprisingly it’s looking to be a smash hit for the block (no pun intended) and the dub looks to be off to an equally great start. Max Mittleman is a perfect Saitama, and I really appreciate that the staff at Bang Zoom went the extra mile in terms of casting, since little things like Bryce Papenbrook and Paul St. Peter to respectively voice Titan and Leomon look-alikes in the show really add to the joke. On the downside I’m not too sure how I feel about Zach Aguilar’s Genos yet, but he nails the delivery where he needs to so I’m not too worried and if the show manages to keep things up, OPM’s dub seems like it could be a contender for one of my favorites this year

Of course while OPM is certainly a big edition to the block, another one looks to be arriving in fall by way of Jojo’s. With the amount of issues concerning that franchise’s status here, and Toonami’s current abundance of long runners, I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be seeing it on the block, and figured that even if we did it’d probably be Stardust Crusaders or the still-airing Diamond is Unbreakable. Seems I was wrong on that account as we’re not only getting it but we’re starting from Phantom Blood. My initial feelings about were…mixed to say the least since I’ve already seen/own the dub so for my part I would have preferred a fresher dub premiere, and the fact that Jojo’s could potentially hold onto it’s timeslot till Toonami dies a second time didn’t help things. At the same time though, it’s a pretty smart business decision to have a slow like that running as long as possible so it’s no mystery why Adult Swim opted for it, and since Warner’s garbage release kept a lot of people from checking out the dub anyway, I suppose it might as well be a dub premiere, and the dub itself is certainly strong enough that I don’t mind listening to it again. I’m just hoping that Jojo’s Toonami run doesn’t cause Viz to delay on releasing the later parts of Jojo’s because I’d really rather not wait 2 years for a Diamond is Unbreakable dub. I guess we’ll have to see how that goes.


And that’s the month for me in a nutshell. See you again in 4 weeks…provided I actually remember to stick to this.

 

Animation Talk- The Best Dads of Anime

So dads tend to get a pretty bad rap in anime. They’re usually either evil, abusive, not around, dead or some strange combination of the four. Any anime dads that still draw breath are usually hated by their children, and 9 times out of 10, the only good anime dad is a dead one. It’s incredibly easy to point out a list of all the horrible anime dads, out there but surely there’s at least a few good ones, right? I’d certainly like to think that, so in honor of Father’s Day this weekend I have taken it upon myself to do the impossible: to come up with a list of the best anime dads out there. I’ll be sticking to blood-related/adopted fathers not father figures, and I also made sure to pick ones that are actually alive at the start of the series, so no one can accuse me of cheating.

So before we begin I’ll address the elephant in the room: Yes I know about Bunny Drop, and yes I know the anime only covers the first part of the manga, and Daikichi could therefore sort of qualify. But I also know how that manga ends, and I can’t in good faith put him on here knowing what happens later on, so please don’t ask why I’m not including him. Anyway on to the actual nominees

WARNING: There’ll be spoilers for pretty much every series mentioned so read at your discretion.

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12) Tatsumi Oga (Beelzebub)

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When you’re the lord of the Demon World, you’ve certainly got a lot of influence, so why involve yourself with child rearing when you can get some poor mortal smuck to do it for you? Enter delinquent Tatsumi Oga, who’s expected to raise little Baby B’eel into the future king of the demon race. Needless to say he’s not thrilled by the idea, and there’s numerous gags about him trying to pawn the little tyke onto someone else, but as time passes the two of them form a pretty close bond, and Oga helps Baby B’eel to learn how to be a “real man” (or whatever qualifies for a demon infant). Oga may not exactly seem like dad material, but he does a surprisingly effective job in helping B’eel grow, even if it’s not in the way the Demon Lord probably had in mind.

 

11) Father Fujimoto (Blue Exorcist)

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Alright, so I know I’m already stretching my own rules a bit, but he was alive for two whole episodes, which is more than can be said for a lot of anime dads out there. Much like Oga above, this priest was charged with raising a pair of twins named Rin and Yukio, who were spawned from Satan himself, and looked after them well into their teenage years. Unfortunately tragedy strikes when Satan comes back looking to claim Rin, but even when Rin rejects Father Fujimoto after hearing the truth, he still considers himself to be the boy’s real father and sacrifices himself to protect him. Father Fujimoto might not have survived as long as the other dads on this list, but it’s clear that he cared a lot for his adopted sons, and is still remembered pretty fondly after his passing.

 

10) German Luis (Garo: The Animation)

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German Luis aka Zorro serves as one of the legendary Makai Knights, and also the father to one angsty, Leon Luis. After losing Leon’s mother Anna to a series of witch hunts, German was left to raise the boy on his own, and trained him in the way of the Makai Knights so that he’d eventually be worthy of wielding the ultimate Makai Armor, Garo. Of course, German’s also quite a womanizer, and it’s a lifestyle that admittedly hasn’t earned much respect from Leon, but he constantly tries to get Leon to expand his horizons and hopefully find a desire to help others that outweighs his need to avenge his mother’s death. Though unfortunately it ends up something that German ultimately regrets not being able to accomplish before it led to tragedy. German may be far from an ideal dad, but he does his best to leave behind a legacy for his son that’s worth following.

9) Maes Hughes (Fullmetal Alchemist)

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Well we all knew this one was coming right? If there’s one thing associated with Hughes, it’s his constant gushing over his little daughter Alicia, and often to the point where his friends wish he’d shut up. Needless to say he’s a pretty devoted father, and also serves as something of a father figure to the Elrics as he takes charge of looking after them during their time living in Central. Sadly he’s a bit too nice of a guy for his own good, and ends up getting killed when his desire to help the Elrics leads him to find something he shouldn’t have, but for the time he was given, Hughes was a good dad, and one who’s certainly earned his spot here.

8) Soichiro Yagami (Death Note)

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Soichiro is Japan’s national chief of police, and a man dedicated to his sense of justice. Though this also means that he doesn’t get to spend much time around his kids. However what earns him his spot on this list is that when his son Light is accused of being the serial killer, Kira, Soichiro decides to have faith in him in spite of the evidence, and even puts his life in danger several times in order to prove Light’s innocence. Of course since Light actually IS Kira, it’s all pretty much just cruel irony on Soichiro’s part, but he believes in his son till the bitter end, and while that doesn’t make him the best cop, it certainly makes him a good father.

 

7) Kotetsu T. Kaburagi (Tiger & Bunny)

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Well Kotetsu’s more of a “dad who tries” than a “good dad”, but it’s not often you get a middle aged protagonist in anime so he’s worth mentioning. It’s not easy trying to follow your dreams while raising a kid at the same time, and it’s made even harder when his wife passes away and their daughter Kaede has to deal with his busy schedule. Kotetsu tries his best to balance his life as a hero while also spending time with Kaede but trouble with the latter often ends up taking priority. But when his career starts to go south, and he realizes just how lonely Kaede is without him, he decides his work isn’t worth not being with his daughter. Ironically when Kaede learns the truth about Kotetsu’s hero life, she’s the one who convinces him to go back to it, but this time he’s earned her admiration, and when push comes to shove, she’s far more important to him.

 

6) Roy Revant (Solty Rei)

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Like Kotetsu, Roy’s more “flawed” than he is “good”, but he’s also got a lot more baggage to deal with. After losing his wife to cancer, and having his daughter go missing in an accident, the last thing Roy wants is someone else to look after, but that’s what happens when an android girl named Solty crashes into his life, and various circumstances him into her legally adopted father. He initially considers Solty nothing more than a nuisance to both his life, and his bounty hunting gig, but as the two spend more time together, he gradually starts to look after her as though she was his real child, and in time she eventually helps him to reconnect with his long-lost daughter. Roy’s far from the nicest anime dad out there but he’s definitely one of the better ones.

 

5) Vegeta (Dragonball Z)

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*sigh* I didn’t want to have to come to this. I REALLY didn’t want things to come to this. But yes, the man who once committed genocide for a living is somehow too decent an example to ignore. For one thing he actually sticks around for the entirety of his son Trunks’s childhood, which is a heck of a lot more than can be said for some other anime dads *cough*Goku*cough* and in all that time the worst thing he’s ever done to him is training him to be a great Sayain warrior like himself. Even when Vegeta briefly decides to go back to his evil ways, it’s his love for his son that convinces him to stop, and even sacrifices himself to protect him (well however much you can count that consider how easy it is to cheat death in Dragonball). Vegeta may never beat Goku when it comes to a contest of strength, but he’s certainly proven himself to be a better family man.

 

4) Isshin Kurosaki (Bleach)

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So my feelings on Bleach are a little mixed these days and generally leans towards apathy, but even so it’s hard to deny Isshin’s a pretty good dad. Following the pattern of most of the dads on this list, his wife Masaki was murdered by a monster called a Hollow, and he was left to raise their three children, Ichigo, Yuzu and Karin on his own.  Though his methods of parenting are a bit…different from what might be expected, as he acts like a perpetual goofball and often to Ichigo and Yuzu’s annoyance. As the series progress however, it quickly becomes clear that his goofy nature is mostly a facade to help his kids deal with the loss of their mother, and respects Ichigo’s boundaries enough to let him deal with his own problems. Of course he’s got plenty of plot related reasons for his behavior too, but it’s still pretty sweet that he’d play dumb for the sake of his children, and for that, he’s certainly got my respect.

 

3) Ryouji “Ranka” Fujioka (Ouran High School Host Club)

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Like Isshin above, Ranka operates under something of a facade when dealing with his daughter Haruhi, but his is something a bit different as he also works as a professional crossdresser. His energetic nature and penchant for spending money aren’t things that exactly mesh well with the more straight-laced Haruhi, but he maintains a strong relationship with his daughter, and tries his best to be a reliable parent, while making sure to respect Haruhi’s rather high level of self-reliance. It’s not quite what you’d expect from a normal father-daughter relationship, but it’s certainly one of the better ones in anime.

 

2) George Joestar I (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure)

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So this is another case of a father that didn’t actually last all that long in the show, but nevertheless George Joestar is among the best. Like most of the dads here, he ended up losing his wife in an accident, and raised his young son Johnathan to be a proper English gentleman. He’s pretty strict on Johnathan growing up, but does so only to make sure the boy the will be strong enough to look after himself and considering Johnathan Joestar grew up to become well…Johnathan Joestar, it certainly paid. More impressively though was his decision to take in his adopted son Dio despite (or perhaps because) knowing his real father was a scumbag, and treated him as if he were his own flesh and blood. Unfortunately Dio decided to repay that kindness, by ultimately playing a part in his death, and George dies protecting Johnathan from his wrath. George Joestar isn’t exactly the most remembered of the Joestars, but his legacy as a father and a heroic soul, paved the way for the many future generations of the clan to come.

1) Akio Furukawa (Clannad)

There’s definitely more good anime dads out there than given credit for, but none are quite as good as Akio. When we’re first introduced to him, both he and his wife come off as a bit odd, but we quickly learn that he’s the more level headed of the two and fiercely devoted to his daughter Nagisa. However things weren’t always that way as we eventually learn that much like Kotetsu above, there was a time where he had to balance both raising Nagisa and his dreams, while leaning more towards the latter, but when his negligence almost ended up costing her life, he threw everything away to be a stay at home parent so he could devote all his time to his daughter. He does a pretty good job of keeping up with this lifestyle, and when tragedy strikes later on in the series, he even takes charge of looking after his granddaughter Ushio, while her real dad attempts to work through his various issues. That’s some serious dedication, and a lot more than can be said for most anime dads. In a lot of ways Akio is perhaps too ideal (and especially so when it comes to the circumstances involving his granddaughter), but in a sea of crappy anime dads it’s hard to deny that he sets a shining example to follow.


And there you have it folks, a list of some of the best anime dads out there. There’ll always be horrible anime dads, and that stigma isn’t going to go away anytime soon, but it’s nice to know that there are a least a few of them out there who can break the mold. Enjoy your Father’s Day, everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animation Talk- Best of Anime in 2015

Well another year has almost gone by meaning it’s once again time to talk about the highlights. As a whole this has been one of the strongest years for anime in recent memory and despite a few disappointments here and there, there’s been a lot of strong content to check out. So without any further ado, let’s jump in.

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This category goes to things that aren’t exactly show specific, but nevertheless wanted to point out. That includes theme songs, characters and stuff related to English dubs. Anyway let’s get started:

 

Best Anime Opening-Mazeru na Kiken by Kinniku Shojo Tai (Ushio & Tora)

 This was a pretty good year for anime openings for me as there was a good mix of great standalone songs, and made-for-series theme songs. With that. I had a pretty hard time deciding which I liked best but in the end I had to give it to Ushio & Tora’s . When I first started on the show, I came in expecting it to be a GAR-fest and the opening ended up delivering on that in spades as it’s 90 seconds of pure testostrone filled visuals and enough to even give Fist of the North Star’s opening a run for it’s money. It also works really well as a standalone song, mixing together heavy guitar rock and bits of japanese folktale music making for a theme song that makes for a really blood-pumping opener.

Honorable Mentions: Raise Your Flag by Man On A Mission (Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans), Ai no Prison by Kangoku Danshi (Prison School), Flyers by Bradio (Death Parade)

Best English Dub- Tokyo Ghoul

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This has been a pretty good year to be a fan of of English dubs as between the rise of Broadcast dubs, Sentai Filmworks getting some of their shows on Toonami and a surprisingly decent number of California-based dubs, there’s been plenty to go around. As with every year though there’s a handful of dubs that managed to rise above and beyond, this one being no exception as my two of my other favorites Blood Blockade Battlefront and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure were pretty close in quality to this one. In the end though I had to give it up to Tokyo Ghoul as Mike McFarland once again demonstrates why he’s one of the best ADR Directors in the business.  The voice direction in the show carries his usual level of high quality and the voice work itself delivers on a variety of fantastic performances from Austin Tindle’s Kaneki fully capturing both personas of the character perfectly to Monica Rial’s surprisingly creepy Rize and of course J. Micheal Tatum’s delightfully hammy Tsukiyama. It also manages to nail things pretty well script wise too and enjoys a script that’s liberal enough to have a little bit of fun with itself but not so much that it ends up overriding the material of the series itself like a few other Funimation dubs this year. I’ve had my share of issues regarding Funi’s dubs this year but when it comes to this one, I’m willing to give credit where credit is due.

Honorable Mentions: Blood Blockade Battlefront, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, A Lull in the Sea

Available for streaming on Funimation

Best English Voice Actor- Erica Mendez

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Coming into this year I was already fairly impressed with her work on Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic as Aladdin and what I’d seen of her as Ryuko Matoi in Kill la Kill but I still wasn’t sure how much her performances were going to stick with me. Between then and the end of the year though, she’s managed to nab a lot more roles and all of them have proved to be pretty stellar. There’s been a lot of individual performances from actors that I’ve really enjoyed this year but she’s managed to deliver in everything I’ve heard her in this year (the one thing I haven’t being SAO II since you couldn’t get me to touch that series again with a 10-foot pole) and has proven to be pretty versatile as she’s handled a variety of different characters and played all of them effectively with my particular favorite probably being her work in A Lull in the Sea as Akari. Erica Mendez is quickly becoming a household name when it comes to California dubs and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her work in the coming year.

Honorable Mentions: Austin Tindle, Max Mitterman, Micah Solusod

Best Anime Character- Gouda Takeo (My Love Story!)

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Shojo has long been a genre dominated by predatory pretty boys (with more than a few putting the extra emphasis on predatory) as the romantic leads so a show instead opting to go with a giant manly-man (who’s usually a side character if they appear at all in this genre) and an extremely gentle hearted one at that is certainly quite unexpected. Especially when he’s made the actual protagonist  as opposed to our heroine Yamato. This could have just come off as a blatant attempt to subvert the usual genre tropes and nothing more, but Takeo proved that he’s a more than worthy lead. He’s a character with a heart as big as himself, and he’s the kind of clumsy and awkward guy that you can’t help but root for, despite the fact that he technically gets his happy ending pretty early into the show’s run. As a bit of a big guy myself it’s nice to see a protagonist that doesn’t have to adhere to the usual standards of attractiveness and he’s proof that what really matters is on the inside (I swear this is the only time I’ll be this sappy).

Honorable Mentions: Klaus von Reinhart (Blood Blockade Battlefront), Maria (Maria the Virgin Witch), Mumen Rider (One-Punch Man)

2015dos

This category is centered around genre stuff. Unlike the best series which we’ll get to afterwards, this for things that stood out really well as a genre piece moreso than as an overall series. That said there’s still plenty of good stuff to be found here, so let’s take a look:

Best Mecha Series- Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded-Orphans

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So similarly to last year it hasn’t exactly been the best one for mecha series(mainly because there were surprisingly few), and to be frank I can’t recall the last good one we’ve had in the last half-decade. As  such, it’s once again a Gundam series that rises to the mantle of carrying the genre for the year and this time it’s a serious one. Compared to a lot of the Geass-clones that have plagued the genre for the last few years, this show prides itself on having a lot of grit more than anything else (which is certainly a surprise given the writer is none other than the queen of melodrama herself Mari Okada) and carries it’s darker elements as being associated more with the overall setting of the show than any attempt to hamfist it in. It certainly does have it’s share of drama though as it centers itself around the theme of family and brotherhood while also being a pretty darn cool robot action spectacle with  plenty of great mecha fights to go around. This is my first “real” Gundam series (I’ve seen bits of Wing, G Gundam and SEED growing up but never watched any of them in full) and it’s certainly proving to be a great entry point.

Honorable Mention: Comet Lucifer

Available for streaming on Funimation, Daisuki

Best Romance Series- My Love Story

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So to be frank aside from a couple of other series there hasn’t been too much in the way of legitimate romance series this year (though the Kiyoshi X Hana “romance” in Prison School will always be dear to my heart) but dang it, it would feel weird not to bring up this show when it comes to genre stuff so there you go. For years entertainment media has convinced audiences that showcasing a healthy, stable relationship in full force would be boring since there’s no tension and has instead fed us melodrama and occasionally horrifically unstable relationships because that’s way more dramatic. However My Love Story proves that not only can a show about a happy couple be interesting, it’s downright infectiously charming. The chemistry between the two lead characters helps to sustain the show pretty well and while it doesn’t carry itself with too much drama, there’s just enough of it to keep things from getting too saccharine and it makes for a show that’s as genuine as it is sugary-sweet. In a world where the media actively veers from happy relationships, My Love Story is here to remind us that they’re happy for a reason

Honorable Mentions: Snow White with the Red Hair, Yurikuma Arashi

Available for streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu

Best Comedy Series- Mr. Osomatsu

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It’s been another solid year for comedies and there’s been a few standouts but the best for me proved to be a darkhorse than I don’t think any of us saw coming. This series opened up at full throttle by parodying pretty much every big hit it could get it’s hand on before eventually introducing audiences to it’s own brand of comedy and I’ve been laughing ever since. Series director Yoichi Fujita (who’s also directed a little anime comedy you might have heard of called Gintama) clearly knows how to make people laugh, and the show brings that out in spades as it’s cast of loveable jerks never fails to make me crack a smile. Of course while it’s great for laughs it’s also proven to be surprisingly witty and it’s depiction of our NEET protagonists makes for some occasional social commentary. I certainly wasn’t expecting this series to be such a standout, but now I’m glad it’s here to grace us with it’s presence.

Honorable Mentions: Prison School, Gintama season 4, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!

Available for streaming on Crunchyroll

Best Action Series- One-Punch Man

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Okay so I’m not being terribly original here, but you can at least give me some credit for putting it here instead of as best comedy. While OPM is two parts comedy and action, the anime adaption put a bit more focus towards the action side of things and in the biggest way possible. Director Shingo Natsume aka the other mind behind Space Dandy besides Watanabe managed to assemble a crack team of animators (so no it doesn’t have anything to do with the B-word and the animators themselves have said as much) to deliver on a glorious spectacle. The show features some of the best action animation highlights of the year and every episode has at least one impressive  sequence or two, with the finale in particular featuring what is hands down the best TV animated fight I’ve ever seen. Of course OPM is also a comedy and it does pretty well for itself in that area in addition to using it’s superhero ranking system as workplace commentary, but even if those elements don’t quite work for everyone it’s hard to deny that as an action piece it’s knocked out the rest of the competition this year with one solid punch.

Honorable Mentions: Ushio & Tora, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc, Blood Blockade Battlefront

Available for streaming on Hulu, Daisuki

Best Drama Series- My Teen Romantic Comedy Snafu TOO!

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So truth be told I got into this series while the second season was airing, but there’s a solid difference in quality between the two seasons so I don’t think I’m being too biased here. While I enjoyed the first season’s more cynical approach towards high school and teen relationships, I’m also glad the show was willing to acknowledge that point of view isn’t exactly sustainable when making the transition to adulthood and this season demonstrates that in full. Especially so in regards to the protagonist Hikki who’s cynicism, while effective in dealing with problems on a superficial level, ultimately serves to make himself unhappy and that as he grows closer to those around him, he inevitable has to start changing even if the prospect of getting hurt by others terrifies him. Of course he’s not the only one going through changes in this season as our two heroines and other various members of the supporting cast are also forced to take a deeper look at themselves and where they stand in regards to the relationships they’ve made. Sadly this season ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and it’s hard to say when we’ll get more, but this sequel made an already solid show really strong, and while some may feel the second season’s approach against cynicism is a betrayal of the first, it’s definitely where this series needed to be headed and I’m looking forward to getting more some day.

 Honorable Mentions: Noragami Aragoto, Death Parade, Maria the Virgin Witch

Available for streaming on Crunchyroll

 

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And now we’ve finally arrived at the best series for the year. You may notice that I have two series listed here instead of one, but that’s because I’ve picked the best based on two sub-categories: best adaption and best original work. While both adaptions and original projects both carry the intent to pick up an audience, they’re generally trying to accomplish different things as an adaption has to be a good piece of entertainment while maintaining the strengths of it’s source material where as an original work needs to stand completely on it’s own two feet and draw in a crowd on it’s own merits. As such I feel it’s only appropriate to bring up which two series did the best at tackling those things so without any further ado, here they are:

Best Series (Adaption)- Blood Blockade Battlefront 

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I liked both of Yasuhiro Nightow’s previous works Trigun and Gungrave, and Rie Matsumoto’s direction for Kyusogiga helped to make that series my favorite of the year it came out so when I saw this series was going to involve those two minds melding together I was pretty excited. That said I wasn’t expecting it to nearly as much of a standout as it ultimately ended up being one of the year’s strongest success both in terms of quality and financially since it’s finally given BONES their first genuine hit in a long time. The show’s loose storytelling could have proved to be overwhelming in the wrong hands, but even at it’s most dense it’s never too difficult to follow and it’s really east to get caught up in the show’s ficitional version of New York as it provides a mismash of everything from aliens to the supernatural. Although while the series generally functions in an episodic manner and especially so for the manga going by what I’ve heard of it, Rie Matsumoto also managed to inject some of her own themes through the Black/White storyline that persists through most of the show and it’s really effective. In blends into the source material pretty well and not only does it manage to avoid feeling out of place, it helps to enhance several of the show’s other elements as well in regards to Leo’s coming of age story and finding his own sense of self-worth. I know people sometimes have the tendency to look down on adaptions that feel like more of the director’s product than the original author’s but there’s something to be said for ones that manage to insert the director’s ideas without negating what makes the source material great and this series stands as proof that it can be done right. While I can’t say I’m exactly foaming at the mouth for another season, I certainly wouldn’t mind one, and even if we don’t this is a perfectly solid piece on it’s own.

Honorable Mentions: One-Punch Man, Noragami Aragoto, Maria the Virgin Witch

Available for streaming on Funimation, Hulu

Best Series (Original Work)- Yurikuma Arashi

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2015 was a solid year of highs for anime as we got a pretty good plethora of good content, and so much of it that I can actually name no less than 14 shows I really enjoyed. That said while there’s been a lot heavy hitters this time around, in the end there’s just no beating an Ikuhara show for me. This series continues director Kunihiko Ikuhara’s bizarre mix of sexual themes and over the top visual symbolism found in both Revolutionary Girl Utena and Penguindrum to create yet another interesting piece of art. Though where Utena and to a much lesser extent Penguindrum briefly explored lesbian relationships, this one is all about gay prejudice in society, the value of true love over sexual desire and of course loads and loads of bears. As with pretty much anything Ikuhara related it’s an acquired taste, but if you dig his sense of style then you’ll be happy to know it’s all over the place here and delivered in his strangest fashion yet. Given the show’s subject matter, I briefly considered putting it as my top romance series of the year but sadly the show doesn’t have as much time as Ikuhara’s other two series to devote to characterization and while our three heroines are certainly likable, there was definitely plenty of room for them to be fleshed out better. As such I’d probably have to say that among Ikuhara’s three masterpieces this one’s the weakest, but calling something a weak masterpiece is hardly an insult, and what it does do well, it does extremely well. Ikuhara’s done it once again as the overall package here is more than enough to make this show an easy pick for my favorite among this year’s original works (and in general), and also strong enough to stand as one of my favorite anime yet.

Honorable Mentions: Death Parade, Yatterman Night, Gatchaman Crowds Insight

Available for streaming on Funimation, Hulu

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And that’s 2015 for me in a nutshell. All in all this was a much stronger year than I was expecting as there’s been a lot of things I’ve liked and surprisingly few things I was disappointed by (Gangsta‘s probably the only anime adaption that failed to meet my expectations this time). With 2016 on the horizon there’s looking to be quite a few big adaptations and anticipated sequels coming out of the woodwork, with more than a few I’m really excited for. With any luck, it’ll be just as good of a year if not better than this one and even if it doesn’t I can at least say that this was a tough year to beat.

 

Animation Talk/Recommendations-10 Best Samurai Jack Episodes

So if you’ve been on the inter-webs recently you’ve likely noticed that everyone’s in a hubbub over a little show called Samurai Jack being brought back from the dead for a new season in 2016. The show has been held up throughout the years as a beloved classic, and having reviewed the show a year ago, I can confirm that it’s stood the test of time fairly well. So if you need a refresher on what made the series so great or haven’t seen it and are curious to see what all the excitement’s about, here’s a list of my 10 favorite episodes from the show in honor of it’s revival.

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10) The Birth of Evil

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Every story needs a beginning, but in this case we’re going to the beginning-beginning. This is the episode that finally explained Aku’s origins as well as the origins of Jack’s legendary sword (which oddly enough despite being forged by several gods, none of them were Japanese ones) and it’s the only episode where our titular hero is nowhere to be found, with the story instead being told through the perspective of his late father. Given this was told as a two-parter it’s one of the show’s more cinematic pieces and it’s chockful of the show’s usual brand of action and direction, making for a really nice prequel and one that answered a couple of burning questions.

9) Jack and the Scotsman

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Samurai Jack is a show with little to no continuity so it’s nice to get a recurring character besides our hero and villain, and the Scotsman proved to be a welcome addition to the series. Out of all the episodes he’s featured in though, his first appearance is definitely his strongest. In addition to being another solid action piece for the show, it’s really fun to see his brash personality play off of Jack’s more reserved persona, making for some good comedy and one of the better uses of the “handcuffed together” scenario (and as I type this my mind is now filled with horrifying images of the slash fics this may have inspired) as the two are forced to work together in order to fight off the various bounty hunters after their heads. With Jack being something of a lone wolf half the time, it was nice to see him find at least one ally in the future, and their team-up here proved the two most dangerous men on the planet are even more dangerous together (darn, I did it again!)

8) Jack Remembers the Past

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The series carries with it, many different moods and stories, but this is one of the few that’s genuinely about our hero himself. Given Jack’s story started off with him being sent off to train against Aku, there wasn’t really anytime to see his childhood before that so this serves as a window into what his life was like before disaster struck. More importantly though, it serves as a reminder that Jack is pretty much alone, as there’s still no way for him to actual return to his home and his look back on bygone days helps to make this one of the show’s more quiet entries and proof that dialogue isn’t always necessary to strike an emotional cord.

 

7) Jack and the Blind Archers

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Speaking of silence, it’s pretty much impossible to do a list like this without this episode being in there somewhere. This early entry in the show’s run features Jack being pitted against a trio of mystic archers in order to gain access to a wish granting well that could return him back to the past (bet you can’t guess what DOESN’T happen!). What really makes this one stand out is that it was one of the first episodes in the series to prove how well direction could carry a mood even without much dialogue, something practically unheard of for western animation at the time (and in some ways is still the case unfortunately). The silent samurai movie nature of it, makes for a really cinematic action piece and while the ending twist isn’t too surprising it caps off the tension of the episode pretty well  and if you need an example of how well the show can handle that kind of style, look no further than this.

6) Jack and the Lava Monster

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Like the previous episode, this one is another action centric entry but this one has some actual story  to it giving it an extra punch. In this one Jack encounters a monster that’s actually the spirit of a Norse warrior who tried to resist against Aku’s hostile takeover of his homeland, only to be cursed by the demon. Now he’s stuck in this body and unable to ascend to Valhalla with the rest of his brethren unless he can die a warrior’s death at Jack’s hands. This makes for a pretty tragic tale in addition to the usual epic fight scene with the combination making it a standout among the show’s earlier entries. It also makes for one of the show’s darkest when you consider this was an episode of a children’s cartoon where the main character was effectively helping a guy to commit suicide. Nighty, night kids!

5) The Premiere

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It wouldn’t be fair to do one of these without mentioning the episode that started it all.  The premiere is a great introduction into Samurai Jack’s world, displaying everything from how epic, to how downright weird the series can get as we see the beginnings of Jack’s fight against Aku and his first encounter with the distant future he now finds himself trapped in (the latter of which involves talking dogs). All of the show’s sense of direction, fight choreography and killer soundtrack can be found full force here, making for a perfect segway into getting people interested in the show. One of the things that stands out the most about it though is the climatic battle between Jack and Aku’s robot army which features what still holds up as one of the most cleverly constructed middle fingers to violence censorship ever conceived.

4) The Good The Bad and the Beautiful

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So this one isn’t as widely remembered as some of the others but it’s pretty solid. This episode is a western spoof featuring Jack on the run from a pair of bounty hunters…who also happen to be divorced and spend just as much time stabbing each other in the back as they do trying to kill Jack. If the premiere is everything great about the show in movie form, then this one is everything fun about it distilled into 22 minutes of pure entertainment. It’s funny, action packed, and clever, making for a great testament to the kind of material you can generally expect from the show when it’s just out to have a good time. 

3) Jack v.s. Aku

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Despite what the title of the episode implies, this one is almost entirely comedy and as far as that goes, it’s the show’s best effort. In a surprising moment of self-awareness, Aku realizes just how repetitive the battles between him and Jack have become so he offers to settle things in a mano-a-mano fight to the finish. Of course Aku being the slippery devil that he is, tries to cheat his way through the battle with Jack trying to counter all his plans, making for a hilarious “I know, you know, that I know” setup (Light Yagami would be proud).  It’s always nice to see a show have the balls to make fun of itself, and this episode succeeds at that in spades.

2) The Tale of X-9

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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a robot mook? The answer’s probably no, but too bad because Samurai Jack shows it to you anyway, and the result makes for one of the show’s strongest entries. We follow the titular X-9 who used to be one of Aku’s elite robot enforcers until he decided to settle down and live the quiet life with his pet Lulu (sweet thing). That is until Aku calls him for one last job in trying to get rid of Jack and holds Lulu hostage to ensure he goes through with it. Since X-9’s name doesn’t happen to be Samurai Jack though, his fate is sealed the moment he encounters our hero and it makes for a pretty sad ending. I’m a fan of noir spoofs (mainly because noir is impossible for me to take seriously) and this delivers on all fronts, so the next time you encounter a robot mook in a game, you might wanna think about who he could be leaving behind before you slaughter him. You monsters.

 

1) Jack and the Spartans 

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This is another one of the show’s most looked back upon episodes and for good reason. This one features Jack teaming up with a small army of Spartans in order to help defend what remains of their domain, and while at first glance it seems like an obvious homage to the movie 300, it actually aired well before that and is instead a tribute to an earlier film called The 300 Spartans as well as the novel that inspired it. As such, the episode is shot in a deliberately cinematic fashion, ramping up the show’s usual mix of direction, action and storytelling considerably. It’s an episode that stands at the pinnacle of the show’s sense of style, and shows just what it’s capable of accomplishing in a mere 22 minutes when all of it’s elements are in perfect harmony. It also helps that this episode has nothing to do with Aku, making for a great standalone piece, and one I’d highly recommend if you haven’t seen the show before, but are curious as to why it’s so highly regarded. The show has a lot of greats, but this is by far one of it’s most brilliant.

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And there you have it. Samurai Jack is a show with a lot of style, and these episodes are prime examples of said style at it’s best. As we look onward to the new season, it’s hard to say what else the show will end up accomplishing, but I’m certainly looking forward to finding out.

 

 

Animation Talk- My Top 10 English Anime Voice Actresses

Well I finally found some time to spare for this, so here’s the list of my favorite english anime voice actresses to match my previous voice actor list. Unsurprisingly this list was a lot harder to pin down compared to my male VA’s list and I briefly considered including some Honorable Mentions because of it, but then I realized I’d have to go back and do that for the male list and that’s a bit too much extra work. Like with the previous list, I kept the choices centered around anime because it would be an almost completely different list if I were just going with english voice actresses in general. Enjoy ^_^

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10) Luci Christian 

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 Notable Roles: Nami (One Piece), Nagisa Furukawa (Clannad), Mitsukuni “Honey” Haninozuka (Ouran High School Host Club), Makina Hoshimura (Corpse Princess)

Luci Christian has been around for quite a while now and is one of the most prominent voice actresses for both Funimation and Sentai Filmworks, though she’s mostly with the latter these days. Her main forte is largely in doing hot-blooded young boys or girls, but her vocal range extends wide enough to voice teenagers, adults and even more soft-spoken characters on occasion. She’s maintained a pretty solid track record all across the board and her performances almost always manage to deliver on getting a lot out of the characters she’s played. It’s easy to see why she’s been around so long, and I’m always eager to hear her in a new role.

9) Mary Elizabeth McGlynn

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 Notable Roles: Major Mototo Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex), Kurenai Yuhi (Naruto), Cornelia vi Britannia (Code Geass), Julia (Cowboy Bebop)

So these days, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn is more behind the scenes doing ADR work than actual voice acting, and is pretty well regarded in that area, but her skills behind the mic are also still pretty legendary. She has a very distinct “lady of war” voice that’s become somewhat iconic and her role as Motoko in Ghost in the Shell is still extremely definitive in that area and hasn’t quite yet been matched in the level of presence it carries. Of course while that role and that character type are what she’s best known for, she can play other types of roles quite well, and has a fairly solid vocal range. While her voice work isn’t quite as common as it used to be, it’s still pretty unmistakable and when it comes to ladies in charge for anime, it’s hard to do better.

8) Brina Palencia

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 Notable Roles: Touka Kirishima (Tokyo Ghoul), Tony Tony Chopper (One Piece), Lyuze (Casshern Sins), Juvia (Fairy Tail)

Brina Palencia is one of Funimation’s more prominent VA’s these days and for good reason. She’s done a wide variety of roles, from young boys, to psychotic villains and even the occasional talking animal, with all of them carrying a strong level of emotional intensity. However she does her best work with really dramatic characters and does an effective job at playing them for all their worth without veering into outright silliness (though she can certainly handle that when it’s appopriate). Lately she’s been doing a lot of cross-region work as well so I’m looking forward to hearing her in dubs outside of Funimation, and seeing a lot more of her work.

7) Michelle Ruff

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 Notable Roles: Rukia Kuchiki (Bleach), Fujiko Mine (Lupin the 3rd franchise), Euphemia li Britannia (Code Geass), Luna (Sailor Moon)

On the note of extremely prominent VA’s there’s Michelle Ruff, bs whose work is also pretty common these days though largely centered around the California dubbing scene. She’s been around since some of the earliest days of California dubs and has managed covered a wide variety of roles, including little girls teenagers and sultry adults. Her performances are pretty much always solid and when she gets the chance to really emote, she can bring out some really fantastic work. While the frequency of her voice work is such that it almost feels a bit over-saturated at times, it’s also easy to see why she’s managed to stick around so long and you can pretty much always expect something good from her.

6) Stephanie Sheh

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 Notable Roles: Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon (Sailor Moon), Hinata Hyuga (Naruto), Kriem (Tiger & Bunny), Eureka (Eureka Seven)

Stephanie Sheh’s another voice actress whose work is nearly impossible to escape when it comes to California dubs, but it’s generally good work so there’s hardly much to complain about. While in her earlier days she was known more for playing extremely reserved or shy characters, lately she’s been cast on the exact opposite end, playing more energetic and loud characters including the iconic Sailor Moon herself. Beyond those two main typecasts, she’s maintained a pretty decent variety of characters and gives very natural sounding performances for just about all of them though she can be hammy when the situation calls for it. Her work is extremely consistent and it’s helped in making her one of the most iconic VA’s in the industry.

5) Wendee Lee

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Notable Roles: Faye Valentine (Cowboy Bebop), Haruhi Suzumiya (Haruhi Suzumiya), Yoruichi Shihoin (Bleach),  Yahiko Myojin (Rurouni Kenshin)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSLfBR4D0Hg

As you’ve no doubt surmised, I’m not being terribly original at this point, but dang it does it really matter at this point? There used to be something of an ongoing joke that Wendee Lee’s work was so common she actively taking away roles from other starving actors, and she once even held a spot as being the most prolific anime voice actress of all time and having the largest amount of roles. Since then that spot’s been taken by Monica Rial, but Wendee Lee’s work is still pretty frequent and justly so. She’s handled a variety of character types over the years and all of them well performed. While I think her voice works somewhat better to me for older characters than teenagers and she’ll almost always be Faye Valentine in my heart, she can handle both with relative ease, and with an equal amount of mileage in terms of their strengths. Her level of consistency has helped make her into something of an icon for the industry, and like some of the others on this list, her frequent use speaks well to her level of talent.

4) Kari Wahlgren

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Notable Roles: Haruko Haruhara (FLCL), Karina Lyle/Blue Rose (Tiger & Bunny), Celty Strulston (Durarara), Saber (Fate/Zero)

So moving away from extreme household names to regular household names, there’s Kari Wahlgren. Like the others on this list she’s been around for a long time and has handled a wide variety of roles from crazy nutcases to sultry temptresses, though I think she does the best with the former considering that her work with characters like Haruko is what helped propel her to stardom in anime. Of course she can handle more grounded characters pretty well too, though the thing that really sets her apart is how distinct her voice is. Sometimes anime girl voices have the tendency to sort of blend together after a while, but Kari Wahlgren’s always easily recognizable and stands out from the crowd. She also has the acting skills to match and while she’s more involved with western animation these days, she still pops up in anime from time to time and it’s always a delight to hear her.

3) Laura Bailey

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 Notable Roles: Kid Trunks (Dragonball Z), Maka Albarn (Soul Eater), Lust (Fullmetal Alchemist & Brotherhood), Amber (Darker Than Black), Dieter (Monster)

Well it was pretty much impossible to get through this list without her name coming up at some point, though it’s not too hard to get why. Laura Bailey’s been in voice acting since the days of the old Funimation DBZ dub and used to be one of Funimation’s most prominent VA’s before moving to California and blowing up even further in notoriety there. She’s one of the few voice actresses with an an all-encompassing vocal range and can handle female characters of every age and archetype(along with little more than a few little boys too), playing all of them pretty believably. Her performances are almost always phenominal and she’s created more than her fair share of iconic roles over the years. While she’s largely involved in video games these days and seems to have mostly left the anime side of things, she still has a couple of ongoing roles, and I’m still hoping we’ll be able to hear her again in something new in the future.

2) Colleen Clinkenbeard

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 Notable Roles:  Monkey D. Luffy (One Piece), Erza Scarlet (Fairy Tail), Riza Hawkeye (Fullmetal Alchemist & Brotherhood), Son Gohan (Dragonball Z Kai)

Veering back towards super prolific VA’s (this is the last time I promise), where would this list be without Colleen Clinkenbeard? Though she hasn’t been around quite as long as some of the other names on this list, she’s held the fort as one of Funimation’s most notable veterans and especially so when it comes to actresses. Her work is quite frequent at this point and for every 10 Funimation dubs, the odds are pretty good she was at least in 7 of them and whatever ones she wasn’t in she was working on behind the scenes. Though as always that’s not really a complain and it just speaks to how reliable her work is. Her main forte is in older characters and young boys such as Gohan or Luffy, though she can certainly do teenagers well enough, and she consistently delivers on great performances for each of them. Also similarly to Kari Wahlgren she also possesses one of the most distinct voices in the industry and her work is always very recognizable and impactful. It may be impossible to escape from her work these days, but it’s always good enough that it’s hardly an issue.

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 Veronica Taylor

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 Notable Roles: Ash Ketchum (Pokemon 4Kids dub), Amelia Wil Tesla Saillune (Slayers franchise), Iron Maiden Jeanne (Shaman King), Setsuna Meioh/Sailor Pluto (Sailor Moon)

 https://youtu.be/ZoSNiCe2QUs?t=957

Well this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to anyone who saw my reaction on Twitter to her popping up in Sailor Moon but I have a lot of love for Veronica Taylor’s work. She was around during the earlier days of the NY voice acting scene, and has endured as being simultaneously one of the overrated and underrated VA’s in the industry. To this day she’s still recognized by her eternally iconic role as the original voice of Ash Ketchum back in the yesteryears of the 4Kids dub(with her replacement Sarah Natochenny’s Ash still sounding pretty underwhelming to date), and while that still holds up as a pretty solid performance it doesn’t quite speak well to her level of talent. Like Laura Bailey she also has a pretty all-encompassing vocal range and has voiced a variety of female character archetypes and young boys all extremely well, with the quality of her work even shining though some of the mediocre direction that often plagued 4Kids dubs.

Though while she’s mostly known for her work over there, she’s done quite a few regular anime roles as well and maintained a place as one of the go-to regulars for NY anime dubs. Just as notably, her vocal range is distinct enough that a lot of her characters can come off as pretty unrecognizable from one another, and she’s managed to hold up multiple roles in the same show/dub with almost zero issue and all of them sounding very natural and well-performed. For a while it seemed as though she had mostly disappeared with the NY voice acting scene at large but now that she’s doing work in California, I’m hoping we’ll get to hear a lot more from her again, and I’m pretty excited at the prospect.

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So that’s the female side of my list, though I’m kind of annoyed I couldn’t find better clips for some of them. Next up will be a list of male and female JP VA’s which I imagine will probably be easier in that respect, but harder to choose from. Should be interesting…whenever I manage to get around to that.