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

puppets

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

maxresdefault

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

jojos_bizarre_adventure-14-joseph-caesar-poses-colors-dramatic-dododododo

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.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

12) Tatsumi Oga (Beelzebub)

Oga_first_epi

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)

char_74456

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)

vlcsnap-2014-10-31-17h52m48s178

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)

Hughes

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)

maxresdefault

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)

kotetsus_smiling_face_oh_my

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)

Solty6_Small

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)

vegeta_enfadado

*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)

Bleach-Anime-image-bleach-anime-36676024-640-480

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)

Proadvice

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)

George_Joestar_(Anime)

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.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

2015uno

 

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

49063_tokyo_ghoul_ken_kaneki

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

DxnLwzgP

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!)

big_1434054662_image

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

maxresdefault

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

my-love-story

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

408

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

maxresdefault

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!

My-Teen-Romatic-Comedy-SNAFU-TOO-Banner

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

 

2015tres

 

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 

BLO_key3

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

yuri

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

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

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.

—————————————————————————–

10) The Birth of Evil

tumblr_mbsbnb9eZH1rcktu3o1_1280

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

qLwHsig

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

tumblr_mbwrhjv2HQ1rcktu3o1_500

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

Samurai-Jack-Archers-091115

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

165919

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

5544373_samurai-rejacked-episode-iii--the-first_4bc66196_m

 

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

72a7e7cd2f

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

420579-samurai-jack-jack-versus-aku-episode-screencap-4x9

 

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

3463501-x9-samurai_jack-dual_wield

 

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 

static1.squarespace

 

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.

—————————————————————————

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 ^_^

————————————————————————————-

10) Luci Christian 

luci_christian_full3

 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

Mary_Elizabeth_McGlynn_profile

 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

Bria

 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

LG-photo_G737

 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

actor_948

 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

actor_274

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

IMG_news_kwahlgren

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

People_photography_-_Laura_Bailey

 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

Colleen_Clinkenbeard

 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.

number1

 Veronica Taylor

9e4c14fe9bf036a8069fd9edbb24bbcf

 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.

————————————————————————————

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.

Toon Talk- The Sounds of Dubbing

This is something I’ve been meaning to get to for a while but with Funimation’s recent broadcast dub initiative rolling out in full force, this seems as good a time as any to address this. It’s time to talk about what elements make a dub work and where English dubbing is in general right now. Without any further ado let’s jump right in

————————————————————————————-

Dubs v.s. Subs

tumblr_llw6khW1H81qdzjvr

Okay I’m pretty sure everyone can agree this is a really tired and worn out argument so I’m not going to go too much in detail on this one but it needs to be addressed right off the bat. While preference does play a large factor in which kind of audio you’re likely to listen to on a regular basis, from a technical standpoint, “subs” or the Japanese side of the voice acting industry is generally superior. Even speaking as a hardcore dub fan there are only really about 6 or 7 dubs I’ve seen that I would really proclaim as the definitive version of a series and the absolute best way to watch it.

There are a few factors as to why but it mostly comes down to the fact that the Japanese voice acting industry is a much more well oiled machine and said industry is much larger and a lot more rigid when it comes to expectations. Plus it doesn’t have quite as many issues to deal with on a regular basis as the English side does when it comes to what can affect the production in that department. Of course this isn’t to say that seiyuu (Japanese voice actors) are nigh perfect and deliver flawless performances every time because they’re certainly capable of mediocrity (for instance Shunsuke Kazama’s performance as Yugi in Yu-Gi-Oh’s earlier episodes is so monotone that Dan Green’s performance is genuinely better acted in spite of how clearly cheesy it is)  but it’s less frequent.

Now does this mean there’s no merit to dubbing? Not in the slightest. Dubs have always been one of the most reliable methods of getting newcomers into anime and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Plus if like me (and most of the English speaking fandom) you don’t fluently speak Japanese, you’re always going to be at the mercy of someone else’s translation anyway. Dubs are also a pretty good tool for rewatching shows since you can sometimes notice things about a show you may not have paid much attention to while watching it in Japanese  and you can watch them while doing other stuff since the screen doesn’t require as much of your attention. All those technical reasons aside, even though the Japanese side of the industry is more reliable in terms of consistency, there’s plenty of exceptional talent on the U.S. side of things who’s worth paying attention to, and when a production really comes together it can stand on par with (and in extremely rare instances surpass) the original performances.

With that bit settled it’s now time to see exactly where the level of dubbing is in terms of actual quality these days.

 

The Four Stages of Dubbing

Now this is just my own personal way of ranking things and I wouldn’t really hold it as any kind of universal standard but there a few levels at which I normally rate dubs

Bad– Really horrible voice direction and cringeworthy performances or scripting. Perhaps a couple of decent performances in the mix but overall a bad product to the point where even if you aren’t particularly concerned about acting it’s immediately apparent how awkward it is (ex. Revolutionary Girl Utena, Penguindrum, 4KIds One Piece,  Guin Saga)

Serviceable– A dub with a mix of performances ranging from good to mediocre. The good mostly outweighs the bad and the scripting and voice direction are workable. Not particularly great by any means but okay sounding enough that if you aren’t too concerned with the Japanese version and just want to listen to the show in English, it’ll do the job though it may not have much in the way of rewatchability (ex. Majestic Prince, Prince of Tennis, Gatchaman Crowds)

Good– A solid and competently put together dub. The majority of the performances work with only at best a couple of dull sounding ones and a possibly a few that are outstanding. Scripting and voice direction hit the right marks and even if the Japanese version is technically competent in more areas it’s a good enough production that you can stick with it and not miss out on much. Worth revisiting every now and then (ex. Gargantia on the Verderous Planet, Psycho-Pass, From the New World)

Exceptional– An extremely well made dub. A lot of really outstanding performances, great voice direction and a well crafted script. Can be perfectly comparable to the Japanese version in terms of technical competence and in some rare instances can stand out as the superior product. Definitely worth revisiting and recommending to others (ex. Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist, Death Note)

So that’s more or less the general range. Now for as how it pertains to modern day dubs, I’d honestly say that extremely bad ones are generally non-existent now. There’s been some horrible stuff over the years, but for the most part even certain studios that have been notorious for putting out mediocre work such as Seraphim Digital (Sentai Filmworks) or Blue Water have worked things out to the point where they can at least put out a fairly listenable product.

Most these days generally fall into the serviceable and good range with Sentai/Seraphim stuff mostly leaning towards the serviceable end, Funimation stuff on the good end and California stuff all over the place between serviceable and exceptional work. Though speaking frankly, out of the 30+ dubs or so that are put out on average every year, only about 3-5 of them ever really fall into the exceptional category on average for me, but things are at least at the point where horrifically bad stuff is even more of an exception.

 

The Three Core Elements

So now that we’ve looked at what the general range is for dub quality nowadays it’s time to look at what elements affect them most. There are a few factors involved but it mainly comes down to these three things:

Casting

casting_call

Casting a pretty obvious thing so there’s no real need to go into why that’s important but there are aspects to it worth addressing. Specifically the idea of what counts as “miscasting” since more often than not, people (myself included sometimes) usually default to the idea that English VA’s not imitating a seiyuu’s performance = bad. At the end of the day seiyuus are also lending their voice to a characters that have already largely been written for them the same way dub actors are, and while they should be used as a general baseline to determine what a character should sound like in English, they don’t always have to be the absolute standard.

For instance in Sentai’s recent dub of Log Horizon, there’s a pretty distinct difference in tone between how the character Nyanta sounds versus how he sounds in the original version. His character is that of a smooth, polite sounding older man, and Joji Nakata portrays in the Japanese version as sounding like a middle aged butler while in the dub Jovan Johnson’s portrayal is that of a suave, jazzy sounding gentleman. The difference is pretty clear and definitely one that can take you for a loop but both are valid interpretations as they get what makes that character work and personally after hearing it, it’s hard to imagine him sounding any other way in English.

Now mind you this logic doesn’t always work as genuine miscasting happens more often than it should and even instances where it does won’t always equate to two equal interpretations of a character (I find Brina Palencia’s Yuno in Future Diary to be a mostly valid interpretation of that character, but Tomoe Murasa’s works better by far) but it is something that needs to be taken into account a bit more.

Voice Direction

logo_gros

Bad performances are a pretty clear issue when it comes to voice acting, and the direction actors receive is often the culprit. Even with the industry here not being as large as it is in Japan, most of the talent pool at least has some degree of talent, so the difference between a good performance and a bad one can often come down to how an actor is told to portray their role (or isn’t in many instances) by whoever is handling the ADR (dub syncing and direction).

Funimation and Sentai’s talent pools often intertwine for example but there’s a clear dissonance between how some of them perform in Funimation dubs v.s. how they sound in Sentai ones as poor voice direction has long been an issue for the latter. Even California dubs which pretty much use the same talent pool across the board (well with the exception of union stuff but that’s a whole other thing) can sound distinctly different depending on who’s handling things behind the mic. Thankfully as dub work increases, new ADR directors pop up and old ones improve, but as a whole there’s still enough inconsistency in this area that there’s a lot of room for improvement.

Scripting

awesome-script

This is an aspect of dubs that often gets overlooked in favor of voice direction, but it’s also a really crucial factor. Scripting can make or break a dub production and it’s significance is often understated. Part of translating a show into English means the script too, and given that most of the time whatever the Japanese version of the script was is something that wasn’t quite intended to work in English, it often requires a few minor alterations to make the adaption work.

Given that, it’s important to note that sometimes dubs can go too far in adaptation, and even a few changes in dialogue can completely change the effects of certain scenes (for better or worse) and the quality of the dub itself, Funimation’s recent dub of Attack on Titan for instance is extremely well acted and casted, but there are more than a few questionable script choices (courtesy of J. Micheal Tatum who’s now become infamous for that sort of thing) that drag the whole production down a bit and keep it from being a masterpiece. Most cases aren’t quite as extreme but there are definite boundaries that have to be considered when making an English script.

That said, much like with casting, complete and absolute faithfulness isn’t exactly a requirement for an English script to work (in some instances it can just lead to some really awkward sounding dialogue). YuYu Hakusho’s dub has stood the test of time pretty well but it’s script is actually pretty liberal in more than a few instances and the dialogue is generally snarkier than it’s original Japanese counterpart. However the dub works well because it stays true to the core of what makes the series work and knows when to play things straight. Ultimately it comes down to a case by case basis as some shows work better with a more liberal touch while others can crumble with even the slightest alteration. As with voice direction it’s an area of dubbing that’s led to plenty of mixed results and is one that can stand for more improvement in order to find the best balance for each show.

————————————————————————————-

There’s a lot to the world of dubbing and it’s something that’s continued to evolve over the years. With the advent of broadcast dubs, it’s about to undergo another one and I’m curious to see how it effects the quality going forward. Dubs have their flaws (some more than others) but they still play a significant role on this side of the anime industry, and as they take the next step, I’m hoping that we’ll still be seeing things improve rather than the opposite.

 

Animation Talk- The Best of Anime in 2014

2014 is slowly coming to an end and it’s almost time to greet the new year. This past year has been a pretty interesting one for anime with some surprising revivals, interesting experiments, and some major disappointments. There’s been quite a bit of bad but for the most part there’s generally been a lot of good to be had so it’s time to talk about the best of the best when it comes to anime in 2014

—————————————————————————–

MISCELLANEOUS 

Best Anime Opening- Unravel by T.K.

There’s been a lot of good anime openings this year like Amazing Break for Terraformars, a few done by Back-On, and Moon Pride for Sailor Moon Crystal (and in the case of that last one it’s arguably better than the show itself) but Tokyo Ghoul’s is a standout. It’s a pretty catchy song and has some nice visuals to go with it but more than that, the lyrics to the song perfectly capture Kaneki’s transformation over the course of the series as he struggles between his humanity and his inner ghoul. Opening songs that are actually about the show they’re for rather than to sell a music label are pretty rare and even though there’s been a few others like that this year, this is the one that best understands the spirit of the show it’s for.

Best English Dub- Toradora

Toradora

It’s been a good year for dubs, and there’s been a lot of big ones like Sailor Moon, Kill la Kill and of course Attack on Titan, with all of them being successes (or mostly successful in AoT’s case thanks to a certain script writer). With all that the dub that really stood out the most this year was for a show many never expected to see dubbed, and has probably fallen under most everyone’s radar because of it. Toradora has stood the test of time as a series and the dub had some big shoes to fill but the actors really went above and beyond to deliver with a lot of extremely exceptional performances, and really sticking to the heart of what made the show so beloved in the first place. I’ve mentioned this before in my review of the series this year, but even if you’re not particularly big on dubs, it’s definitely one that deserves taking a look at.

Available for streaming on Crunchyroll

Best Character- Favarro Leone (Rage of Bahamut: Genesis)

favaro_leone_62982

Anime’s generally always been filled with fun personalities and this year was no exception but Favarro easily blows away the competition. He’s the kind of lovable rogue that doesn’t really pop up much in modern anime and the show really knows where to take his anti-hero traits and make him likable enough that you can’t bring yourself to hate his guts, even when he’s at his worst. Of course anti-heroes do have at least a bit of hero in theme and as the show progresses he becomes a somewhat more heroic and well layered character while still sticking to the traits that make him so much fun to watch. He’s a shining example of how to do that character type right and hopefully he won’t be the last.

———————————————————————————-

BEST OF GENRE

 Best Mecha Series- Gundam Build Fighters Try

GBF_Try_poster

Mecha shows haven’t fared to well this year with shows Captain Earth starting out well, but ultimately not going anywhere and Argevollen being a decent war commentary but too slow to grab anyone’s attention. So interestingly rather than so-called “Gundam killer” Aldnoah or even this year’s actual Gundam  series, Try takes the crown. It’s legitimacy as a mecha show is sometimes questioned but it’s hard to deny it’s charms, even if it’s an obvious toy commercial (and a darn good one) and it’s hard also hard to ignore the sheer fun that is plastic models beating the crap out of each other. The show never tries to be anything too ambitious but that’s to it’s favor as where other mecha shows this year failed by not saying enough, this one takes the cake by just being as is.

Available for streaming on Youtube

Best Comedy Series- Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun

monthly-girls-nozaki-kun

Comedies have done pretty well this year and there’s some pretty good stuff to choose from like Kawai Complex and Gugirri-san but Nozaki-kun is really something special. The show serves as a nice affectionate parody of shojo manga tropes, often putting a spin on some of the different character archetypes, while also not shying away too much from what makes those work. It’s almost always funny, it’s characters are charming and it’s hard to not root for Chiyo getting with Nozaki, even if the show’s not likely to let that happen anytime soon.

Available for streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu

Best Action Series- Akame ga Kill

4fe71ff4ce4cf1b0d13b814d42ba51bc1404629753_full

Akame isn’t exactly the best written action show this year, and far from the best animated, but when it comes pure action, this show has some edge. The battles throughout the series are always intense, it’s characters never safe from death (if sometimes too much so) and there’s almost never a moment where something crazy isn’t happening. It’s a non-stop thrill ride from beginning to end, and even if it’s not always as smart as it thinks it is,  it knows how to deliver on over-the-top action

Available for streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu

Best Slice of Life Series- Shirobako

Top_All

Slice-of-life shows have fared just as well as comedies have this year, with the two sometimes intermingling, but Shirobako stands out from the rest of the pack. It’s a pretty nice look into how the anime industry works behind the scenes, and portrays both the creativity and the struggles that come with working in that industry, even if it’s not completely honest about the latter. More than that though, it’s also a nice coming-of-age story for young adults trying to find their place in the world, and the balance between pursuing your dreams and handling reality. The show’s still continuing on into next year so hopefully it can keep it’s momentum going, but for now, it’s looking to be a winner.

Available for streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu

Best Sci-Fi Series- Knights of Sidonia

796978016440830635

There’s been a lot more notable sci-fi series this year such as World Trigger, Parasyte and Psycho-Pass 2, but most of them have struggled (and in the case of Psycho Pass 2 turned into a non-stop trainwreck). Though while Parasyte is a better show, nothing quite gets sci-fi this year the same way Sidonia does. The world of the series is fascinating, full of mystery and really fun to explore as the show delves into it. It’s completely 3DCG animation actually helps to add to the atmosphere of the show rather than take away from things, and really gives the show the feel of a retro 80’s sc-fi epic, and the show pretty much takes that ball and runs with it.

Available for streaming on Netflix

———————————————————————————–

BEST SHOWS OF 2014

Best Series(Adaptation)- Parasyte-the maxim & Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (tie)

2bcd38ad773ee30a317a8b02b02bd04c1412697769_fullkey

 Adaptations are always mixed in execution throughout the year, and this year especially show as there were a lot of heavy hitters, but while some succeed in finding an new audience, others failed spectacularly with many more being left in the middle of the road. With all that said, these two shows are exceptional adaptations and so much so that it was pretty much impossible for me to choose between one or the other. Parasyte does a good job of modernizing it’s source material while sticking to its strengths, telling the chilling story of Shinichi’s transformation into something not quite human. Tokyo Ghoul covered similar territory, and pretty well at that, but Parasyte has a lot more breathing room to tell that story and it uses it very well, having it all occur gradually while never shying away from violence (which Tokyo Ghoul was a little short on thanks to censorship) and hard hitting tragedy (now if only the musical score was better…)

Fate/Stay Night also takes the best of it’s source material and uses it as a springboard, taking some of the best elements from it’s original three separate storylines, and weaving it into one solid piece of storytelling. The show’s tale of idealism v.s. reality when it comes to heroism is a familar one, and told slightly better by it’s prequel Fate/Zero but while it’s not quite as deep, the show is a much better production with some of the best action sequences this year (though Parasyte’s no slouch in that department either) and great visual direction. Both shows stand as examples that an adaption doesn’t necessarily have to be an exact panel by panel recreation to succeed and hopefully there can be more like these in the near future.

Parasyte available for streaming on Crunchyroll

Fate/Stay Night available for streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu

 

Best Series (Original)- Rage of Bahamut: Genesis

495fe2eae65dfdde04e494a7a276d7ef1388282893_full

This one shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen my episode reviews of the series on The Fandom Post but I adore this show and it’s really something special. It’s a gigantic love letter to Hollywood cinema in terms of theatrics and an incredibly gorgeous looking production with a fun cast of characters and some solid storytelling. The series never really looks to break the mold in any particular way in terms of genre tropes but it really knows how to have fun with them and takes the best of both worlds by having tons of surface level fun and giving just enough depth to it to make the show hard to dismiss. It’s also a show that has the potential to reach a more casual audience and hopefully Funimation takes the opportunity to capitalize on that. In the meantime though, this series stands as one of the best if not the best for the year and if you haven’t seen it, you should go and correct that mistake immediately.

Available for streaming on Funimation, Hulu

————————————————————————————-

And there you have it. Some of the best of the best when it come to 2014. This year has been a mixed one but after a slow start it’s ended on a pretty high note in terms of notable shows  and there’s plenty to check out. Now hopefully 2015 proves capable of doing even better.

Animation Talk- 10 Best Events in Naruto

It’s been several years in the making, but at last we’re towards the end of Naruto, though it’s an event with met with mixed feelings. Naruto has dragged on it’s final arc far too long for it’s own good so I’m personally not too torn about it on that end and yet as the show that got me and many across the globe into the hardcore anime scene, it’s also a little sad to know it’ll be gone for good. As we head closer towards the grand finale of the series, let’s reminisce for a bit and look at some of the greatest events from the journey of our favorite orange jumpsuit wearing ninja.

————————————

#10- Naruto’s Graduation

2236822-umino_iruka_naruto_anime

It’s often said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step and so it’s fitting to look back at what got the journey started in the first place. Naruto started off his tale as the village outcast with everyone staying away from him. He was also the class clown, not being good at any jutsu, and his teacher initially failed him on his final exam. Since his worst skill was the Clone Jutsu he did some secret training with the help of a special scroll given to him by another teacher (who’s CLEARLY not evil) and masters it just in time to find out the real reason why everyone in the village hates him. Before he can give into despair, his teacher tells Naruto about his own past and says that he still has faith in him, giving him the courage he needs to beat the evil teacher and also conveniently graduate.

#9- Birth of the Rasgengan

378779-attack__fury_of_the_rasengan_

Every hero needs a flashy special move and while the Shadow Clone Jutsu did some cool stuff, it just wasn’t cutting it. Naruto had some trouble figuring out the technique at first due to the complexity of having to do two things at once, but thanks to his skills with Shadow Clones he figures out a loophole to accomplish that and figures it out just in time to rip a giant hole in poor Kabuto’s chest. Thus the Rasengan was born and would then go on to have a ridiculous amount of variations and movie tie ins including one done by riding on a speeding fat guy (I kid you not)

#8- Naruto vs Neji

Narutovsneji8

Before Naruto added “war is bad” to it’s list of convoluted messages, it was a originally the tale of an underdog defying expectations. This fight best highlights that message as it pits our favorite underdog against Neji who’s regarded as a genius and believes that everyone’s abilties and fate are determined from the outset. The odds are (obviously) against Naruto and he appears pretty outclassed at first but with some clever tricks and a newfound mastery over his Nine-Tails chakra he manages to defy expectations and win the match as well as teach Neji that talent and skill aren’t necessarily pre-determined.

#7- Squad 10 vs Hidan & Kakuzu

maxresdefault

Shikamaru was already a stand out amongst the other Konoha rookies (and was also deservedly the first to become a Chunnin) but Asuma’s death at the hands of the zombie duo marked the highlight of his character development as it forces him and his teammates to grow up the hard way. They decide to get their revenge on the duo and even though Naruto partially steals the spotlight with a new technique, Shikamaru still gets to show off his smarts by luring the immortal Hidan into a trap he can’t escape and leaving the guy trapped in rubble (hopefully no one gets any ideas about digging him out). The battle ends with our heroes victorious and Shikamaru  inheriting Asuma’s will to protect the next generation as well as his unborn child.

#6- Naruto vs Gaara

hqdefault

Naruto’s been an outcast all his life, but through hard work and finding people who have faith in him, he’s managed to get by. However he’s given a pretty clear picture of what he could have become without all that encouragement when he encounters Gaara, a murderous psycho who grew up an outcast much like himself, and also for the exact same reason. Though Gaara’s past is much more tragic and he’s a lot more unstable, Naruto still manages to see a bit of himself in Gaara and after duking it out with him in spectacular fashion he manages to convince Gaara to believe in others again, eventually leading him to become the Kazekage years later (whoever said bloodlust looked bad on your resume?)

#5- Taming the Nine Tails

41307Boss_Battle_Naruto_vs_Nine-tails_Battle_01

The Nine-Tails has long been at the core of Naruto’s anguish as it’s the primary reason he grew up isolated and without the beast inside him, he’d have probably grown up as the son of a hero. So when Naruto is forced into his final confrontation with him. he’s also forced to face parts of himself he hates the most and the resentment he felt towards those who shunned him. At first he’s overwhemled by the fox’s power but with some beyond the grave assistance from his mother, he manages to gain control over the Nine-Tails and also marks the beginning of humanizing him.

#4- The Truth Behind the Uchiha Massacre 

3sPVCh5

Itachi was the initial source of Sasuke’s massive angst trip over the course of the series, and was bitterly remembered by his resentful brother for murdering their entirely clan. After finally managing to track him down and narrowly defeat him, Sasuke eventually learns the truth behind his brother’s actions. As it turns out the Uchiha clan was planning to overthrow Konoha which would have consequently lead to another world war. Itachi was forced to make the hard decision of selling out his family and killing them to prevent future tragedy but ultimately couldn’t bring himself to kill his precious little brother, turning a cold enigma, into an extremely tragic character. Too bad his precious little bro’s response to said revelation was to decide to wipe out everyone in the village in retribution, even though the elders were the sole ones responsible, but eh what can you do?

#3- Kakashi Chronicles

162481527b229eca1463ee9527a48d1b1249592509_full

Despite being occasionally mishandled and Kishimoto constantly teasing at his death, Kakashi still remains the best character in the series, so it’s appropriate his backstory is a huge highlight(even if it ties into the main storyline less than ideally). Before becoming the cool and protective guy we know today, he was cold and distant thanks to his father having died disgracefully and bringing shame to his family for putting his allies over the success on the battlefield. When a mission with his teammates Rin and Obito takes a turn for the worst though, Kakashi learns the importance of camaraderie when Obito dies protecting him and allows Kakashi to inherit his trademark Sharingan eye. This event is the first in a series of tragedies that turns Kakashi into the man he currently is, and why he’ll put his life on the line every time to protect those closest to him.

#2- Naruto vs Sasuke at the Final Valley

rasengan-vs-chidori-full-on

Naruto and Sasuke’s relationship got off to a pretty bad start (and a moment that would launch a thousand slash fanfics) but over time the two began to slowly connect so when Sasuke decided to run off and join Orochimaru, Naruto chased after him eventually resulting in a confrontation. As the two fight, Naruto reveals just how much Sasuke has become like a brother to him, though the latter is pretty desperate to break that bond between them. The battle itself is pretty intense but in the end Sasuke emerges the victory and spares Naruto’s life, showing that he’s not quite as willing to cut ties with him as he thinks. Though Sasuke has abandoned him and Sakura, Naruto vows to chase after Sasuke for as long as it takes to get him back (and boy is it a long chase…)

#1- Naruto’s Talk with Nagato

378343-screenshot220

After battling against several incarnations of him. Naruto eventually comes face to face with Nagato, the man behind Pain. Nagato reveals his views on the world, it’s endless wars and the cycle of hatred that comes from it as he questions how Naruto intends to resolve any of it. Unlike most of his previous encounters with villains though, Naruto can’t bring himself to muster up any level of forgiveness for Nagato’s actions as they helped to bring about the death of their mentor Jiraiya and forced him to experience his first true loss. In spite of the hatred he feels towards him, Naruto decides to spare Nagato states that while he doesn’t have a definitive answer to Nagato’s argument he won’t stop until he does find and answer and resolves to struggle for as long as it takes. This allows him to win over Nagato and marks the biggest moment in Naruto’s character development. The resolution so heartfelt that it’s almost easy to overlook the deus-ex-machina that immediately follows it, but even that’s not enough to fully take away the impact.

—————————–

And there you have it folks, the greatest highlights in Naruto’s journey. Thoughts? Comments? Let me know what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animation Talk- The Importance of Rewatching Shows

There’s a lot of stuff out there to watch and with the internet and thanks to various streaming services making it easier than ever to find new things it’s rare that you won’t be able to find something you haven’t seen before that might appeal to you. Of course if there’s a lot of stuff out there to watch it begs the question of whether or not it’s worth it to retread some of the stuff you’ve already seen before. The answer is that there is some value in rewatching things and there are a couple of reasons why it can be essential to occasionally go back over them:

How Well Does the Show Hold Up?

As time passes people change and more often than not their tastes tend to change along with them. While we’d all like to think that we’ve always had good tastes in shows there’s no guarantee that everything you’ve seen previously will hold up to your current tastes. Personally I’ve seen and read a lot of things that I know for a fact probably wouldn’t hold up well for me at all and I’d be amazed at how I got through them.

Even some of the stuff people consider to be all time favorites may not always hold up as well as expected. For instance my 3rd favorite anime of all time used to be Madhouse’s Kiba, which I enjoyed for it’s dark action tone as well as the main character being more serious than most shonen leads I’d seen at the time and after rewatching the show a few years later I found that while I still mostly enjoyed the show, it was plagued with issues, some minor and some major, that I hadn’t noticed before and it brought my opinion of it down considerably. There’s not a lot of necessity in revisiting everything you’ve seen but at the very least, it’s at least good to revisit some of the shows in your top 10 or so every now to see if those shows are worthy of staying in that position and for some of the middle of the road stuff you might get a good laugh out of mocking yourself for having managed to sit through something you now see as bad the first time.

Second Viewing, New Experience

The other major issue some tend to find with rewatching shows is the assumption that regardless of feelings on it, the experience of watching them will generally be the same since it’s the same material you’ve seen before. To an extent this can be true, but there are quite a few instances where rewatching a show can put an entirely different spin on it for you.

There are some things for instance, that only ever really make sense on a second (and possibly even more than that in some extreme cases like the Watchmen comic) viewing as certain plot points  or symbolism that you might not have payed much mind to in the first viewing, can come back with enormous levels of clarity upon re-watching it as it’s a lot easier to connect the dots and see where certain events may have been foreshadowed or layed out. I remember when I saw Casshern Sins the first time I liked it a lot but there were also quite a few aspects of it that didn’t make sense to me but when I rewatched the show for the first time a few months later it worked a lot better for me since I could see a bit better how some of the minor plot points I thought originally didn’t go anywhere had actually worked out and the show shot up to being in my top 3 as a result.

Additionally if you watched a show on a week-by-week basis, there are some series that flow much better when marathoned as it’s once again easier to be more attentive to certain aspects of the story that way. It may not happen for every show but second viewings can dramatically alter the experience of a series.

Just One More Chance

This one kind of barely counts but nonetheless there can be some obvious benefit to attempting to revisit something you may have dropped or lost interest in before. Admittedly I have pretty low standards when it comes to just watching stuff, so if I actually happen to drop or lose something it’s rare I’ll ever bother to give it another show but there have been instances where I found it was worth it. While I never really disliked Adventure Time and I found the episodes I’d seen to be okay at best I never really understood why it was popular until I made the decision to epic marathon it  and get a clear picture of the whole thing, after which I fell in love with it and haven’t looked back since. Again this is a rare occurrence, and that’s the same for pretty much everyone, but it’s always possible you may come across that one series where giving it another shot worked out in your favor.

 

While it’s always good to try and check out as much new stuff as you can since that keeps things interesting, there is some benefit to making the attempt to revisit things every now and then. You might find that your opinion of a show may have lessened overtime but there’s always the possibility of coming across something that works out even better for you the second time around.

10 Most Memorable Villains

Ah villains. They can be so much fun to hate or really horrifying to watch depending on the circumstances and they usually don’t fail to entertain you over the course of a series. However, despite the fact that it’s generally easier to make a good villain than an interesting protagonist, making a villain that’s capable of leaving a lasting impression well after you’ve finished watching/reading something is easier said that done.  So here’s a list of some of the most memorable villains in animation and manga who have earned their claim to infamy through their complexity, epicness, insanity and for just being a total prick.

*WARNING!!* I’m going to be going in depth on a few of these and that’ll include some potential spoilers so there you go

#10. Slade (Teen Titans)

185px-SladeTTanimated2003

Teen Titans runs though several central antagonists over the course of it’s five season run. Slade is by far the most remembered of them and for good reason. He’s a pragmatic and manipulative criminal mastermind whose end goals are pretty much a total mystery but for the first two seasons where he’s the main villain he’s out to find himself an apprentice to take up the reigns and he’ll do anything to achieve that end.

When he actually does manage to succeed in that goal at the end of those seasons though, he’s show to be ridiculously abusive and controlling and his abuse of his second apprentice Terra specifically, has some pretty disturbing rape like subtext to it (which can come off as weirdly ironic if you know what their relationship is like in the original comics). The guy is effectively the world’s most effective child predator and even in some of the later seasons it’s shown that even death isn’t enough to stop him from being totally creepy and obsessive.

#9. Eddy’s Brother (Ed, Edd n Eddy)

20100731122133!Eddys-Brother

Eddy’s Brother makes exactly one appearance in the show during the movie finale, and even then he only really appears for about five minutes. However in those five minutes we get a fully fleshed out character and the only true villain of the show. Eddy spent most of the series proclaiming his brother to be a great guy and a total hero but when we finally meet the man we see get to see him for how he really is. As it turns out, he’s pretty much been physically abusing Eddy for his entire life (and if this doesn’t come off as that creepy to you keep in mind that Eddy is only 12 and his brother is at least somewhere in  his 20’s) and is the cause behind Eddy’s mask of arrogance and his inferiority complex.

He’s also not show to be above harming other kids as well and it’s pretty heavily implied that the reason he works at an amusement park is because enjoys messing with children in general. The revelation of his depravity is enough to make the neighborhood kids (who were practically out to kill the Eds at that point) sympathetic towards Eddy and even the Kanker Sisters were disgusted by him. You know you’re bad if you can make borderline serial rapists look good.

 

#8. Freeza (Dragonball Z Kai)

1274130-frieza_

Dragonball Z has a lot of powerful villains, but their usually know for their power rather than their actual villainy. Freeza however, is by and far the exception to the rule. He’s introduced as a power hungry evil overlord who wants to rule the universe and when he learns that his loyal servants the Sayains may someday produce a legendary “Super Sayain” who is the only being capable of defeating him, he proceeds to wipe out the entire race. While this is by and far his largest act of villainy in the series it’s far from his last as he ruthlessly annihilates the Namekians and Goku’s friends in his pursuit of immortality before finally  being defeated by the very thing he feared.

What really puts him above some of the other major villains from the franchise is that he wasn’t created to be a menace (Cell) or is too naive/insane to understand what he’s doing (Majin Buu) and gleefully commits genocide of his own free will. Though he walks around with an air of politeness and pretends to act like a gentleman there’s no hiding the horrifying monster underneath (Oh and if you’re wondering why I mentioned Kai in the listing and not regular DBZ it’s because he came off a bit differently in the old Funi dub and the less said about Granny Freeza the better).

#7. Azula (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

Azula_relishes_victory

The main villain of the series is established pretty much from the get go, but Azula stands out the most. Whereas her father, Fire Lord Ozai is a pretty generic evil overlord (his saving grace is being voiced by Mark Hamil) Azula is much more interesting to watch as she’s a lot more calculating and manipulative constantly staying one step ahead of our heroes and playing others to get what she wants.

Her most notable trait though is her need for dominance. So much so that it’s slowly revealed to be more of a instability than a weapon for her villainy as she constantly tries to keep people in fear of her so she can’t be betrayed, but when that fear is lost and she slowly loses those closest to her, she subsequently breaks down and we she how broken she truly is underneath it all.

#6. Shinobu Sensui (Yuyu Hakusho)

Sensui

After going through several arc villains whose actions and motivations were pretty straight forward (though Younger Toguro was fairly interesting) Sensui brought something different to the table as his personality and motivations were much more complex.

As a child he grew up with a very white and black sense of morality with humans being good and demons being evil. Because of this he was recruited to become the Spirit Detective of Earth and hunt down criminal demons but he wasn’t prepared to learn that humans could be just as cruel-if not more so-than demons and subsequently went insane from that revelation. After viewing some of humanities greatest atrocities first hand through a video called “Chapter Black” (which is full of some of our greatest hits like the Holocaust and Hiroshima) he resolves to destroy humanity by flooding the human world with demons. 

His insanity is largely masked by his suave and classy demeanor as he was one of the progenitors for more sophisticated villainy in later series made by other authors, but it makes him a more compelling character as the more we learn about him, the more we see just how unstable of a person he truly is. He’s ultimately a pretty tragic villain however as his fate could have been avoided and his real desire is something much more personal.

 

#5. Kumagawa Misogi (Medaka Box)

Misogi_Kumagawa

 

Being the anti-thesis of the main character in many ways, Kumagawa is the Joker to Medaka’s Batman and has the personality to match as he comes across as what would happen if the Joker had a love affair somewhere in Japan. Where Medaka is extremely talented and constantly trying to get people to better themselves, Kumagawa is a born loser and resolves to drag talented people down to his level. Though outwardly friendly, he constant trolls and deceives others through pragmatic-ism and underhanded tactics which generally makes him incredibly entertaining to watch.

Through it all though he remains surprisingly earnest about his desire to defeat so called “elite” people to the point where he could almost be completely heroic if his personality wasn’t so twisted. As a born loser his destiny prevents him from pretty much never being able to truly win the things he wants but even though he’s miserable he considers himself a beacon to other miserable people that there’s someone out there more miserable than they are and yet smiling through it all.

#4. Light Yagami (Death Note)

light-kira-light-yagami-1523113-1280-960

 

As he’s also the protagonist of the series, there are some who don’t really consider him to be a villain but his evil is established so thoroughly over the course of the series that it’s pretty much impossible to paint him as anything else. After picking up the Death Note and quickly learning that it’s exactly what its advertised as, he resolves to rid the world of evil and eliminate heinous criminals. This would seem like a pretty noble goal  except for the fact that he’ll go to pretty much any means to achieve it. He constantly controls and manipulates others to get what he wants and he lives by trying to stay one step ahead of those who are after him.

While he generally remains pretty dedicated to his new world order project, his priority quickly becomes eliminating those who are in his way including his allies he’s more than willing to kill them if they present even the slightest threat to his goals. His biggest flaw however is his pride which eventually leads to his downfall, but by the time he gets there there’s pretty much nothing left of the man he used to be as he’s becoming nothing more than a ruthless criminal confusing himself with godhood and is called out as such. Though he’s much better remembered for his incredibly planning skills and genius rather than his heartlessness Light stands out as one of the most heinous villains in fiction.

#3 The Joker (DCAU)

joker

There isn’t much I could say about the Joker that hasn’t been said already, but the Joker has been talked about a lot for a reason. If Batman is the personification of order and justice then the Joker is the pure embodiment of chaos and he pretty much runs with it. He commits atrocities and mass murder pretty much for laughs (the most infamous being in the Batman Beyond movie where he mind rapes and tortures Tim Drake for weeks just for the heck of it) but if he has any one true motivation it would pretty much be Batman.

As long as Batman exists the Joker will commit to his crime spree to see if he can eventually break good ol’ Bat enough to get him to actually  killing him and without Batman his existence is without meaning as the Joker rarely directly tries to defeat him. One will pretty much never exist without the other and the Joker’s brand of crazy stands out in pretty much every incarnation of the character as he never fails to be horrifying and entertaining all at the same

 

#2. Hao Asakura (Shaman King )

3480355-8842282861-HaoAs

 

As the main antagonist of the series and the evil twin of the hero, he’s successfully managed to avert most of the cliches that would be expected of that kind of character. Being the most powerful Shaman in history with mastery over the elements and even death itself, Hao’s main goal is to become Shaman King, the elimination of regular humans and the creation of a world only for Shaman after having a vision of humans eventually destroying the planet . Though this puts him at odds with our heroes he generally tries to remain pretty friendly with them while slowly manipulating them towards his own ends and much like with Sensui his exact motivations behind his goal are a bit more complex than the end goal itself would appear to be initially. While his anime counterpart (though still a very solid villian) doesn’t fully capture his character and abilties, his manga incarnation stands out a lot more for doing the one thing no shonen villain before him was ever able to:

*WARNING* EXTREME SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT

He wins.

He successfully manages to become the Shaman King. In fact the final arc of the series isn’t even so much the main characters trying to stop him from becoming the Shaman King (they all pretty much acknowledge they can’t beat him) but to stop his end goal of wiping out humanity and while they kind of succeed in that department, they only convince him to delay it while they attempt to find a way to show him that humanity is worth saving. Of course that goal doesn’t seem to work out much either as the characters still haven’t quite found an answer well into adulthood. Perhaps their children in the sequel series Shaman King Flowers will fare better in convincing him (though considering he has them fighting on his behalf that seems unlikely) but for the moment Hao stands as pretty much THE most successful shonen villain of all time.

#1. David Xanatos (Gargoyles)

davidxanatosqh9

 

Xanatos is one of two main villains to the series, but he stands out not only above the other but over most villains in general. He seemingly starts out as an ally to the titular characters as he introduces them to the modern world a bit, but he’s quickly revealed to be using them for his own goals and they come at odds with each other before too long.

The thing that stands out the most about his villainy is how pragmatic he is. Even more so than villains of his archetype are generally expected to be.  He’s almost always one step ahead of his opponents, generally having anywhere from one to several backup plans in place to ensure his victory and even in rare cases where he actually does lose he makes an honest effort to learn from those experiences never makes the same mistake twice. He’s also extremely careful to avoid many of the typical pitfalls villains of his archetype would normally make. He never tries to take anything personally (the one time he actually does kind of do something out of vengance it costs him), never attempts to go to any major extremes, and tries to stay on good terms with the Gargoyles rather than directly antagonize them so long as they aren’t an immediate threat to his goals.

However he’s well remembered for being a really great villain one of the things that makes  him great is that while he does grow as a villain where most villains typically don’t he also grows as a person over the course of the series. His character arc, while generally subtle, is handled pretty well and by the time he gets to where he is at the end of the second season, it feels like he was always meant to go in that direction.

Honorable Mentions

Demona (Gargoyles)

Demona

 

Demona is the other main antagonist of Gargoyles and while she doesn’t leave as much of a lasting impression as Xanatos, she’s still a pretty interesting villain. She’s the former lover of the protagonist Goliath and holds an undying hatred of humanity for the annihilation of their clan. While this seems pretty stereotypical as the show goes on her backstory is fleshed out bit by bit as see what drove her to the breaking point as how much of the tragedies she’s caught in are self inflicted. Her inability to take responsibility for the things she’s done is her greatest flaw, but it’s also part of the reason why she didn’t make the list(the other being I didn’t want to have two villains from the same series on it) as that whole schick can get a bit repetitive.

Sosuke Aizen (Bleach)

Sousuke_Aizen_345377

 

Much like Xanatos and Light above, Aizen is well known for being a master manipulator and a brillaint chessmaster in terms of planning as he goes through his scheme to take over the Soul Society and Earth, and his planning abilties are so over the top that even when the series goes downhill later on it’s entertaining to see what he’s mapped out next. However unlike some of the other chessmasters on the list Aizen is a bit one dimensional in terms of his goals and motivation and for all his scheming he’s defeated pretty anti-climatically

Ragyo Kiryuin (Kill la Kill)

ogKPUJJj

 

Ragyo will likely go down in history as one of the worst anime parents of all time putting even Gendo Ikari to shame (sadly the only reason he isn’t on the list is he doesn’t technically qualify as a villain) as she physical and sexually abuses her two daughters and even casually attempted to dispose of one of them as an infant when the results of her experimenting on them didn’t go as well as she’d hoped. Oh and she’s also sold out humanity to an alien race of clothing monsters who want to take over the universe. She was actually extremely close to making the list but as she’s extremely recent it’s hard to say exactly how well she’ll stand the test of time and for all her epic villainy she isn’t really given an exact motivation for the whole selling out humanity thing.

Dio Brando (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure)

dio_brando_19367

 

Dio grew up with an abusive alcholic for a dad but it’s pointed out pretty quickly that this is just an excuse on his part and he’s pretty much a total prick cause he wants to be. He makes his adopted brother Johnathan’s childhood a living nightmare, stealing his girlfriend’s first kiss and literally setting his dog on fire before eventually attempting to kill his stepfather and becoming a vampire in the process. He pretty much exists to be hated as he delights in his villainy and is hammy enough about it to avoid coming across as generic. Sadly for all his ham he’s just barely one-note enough to not make it on the list.

And there you have it folks. Some of the most memorable villains out there from child abusers to genocidal maniacs. I would have included movies in the list but doing so would have flooded the list with Disney villains and I’m pretty sure that’s been covered enough be others as is.

So thoughts? Comments? Let me know what you think.