My Top 27 Western Animated Shows (The Top 3)

3) Avatar: The Last Airbender

avatar_the_last_airbender

Synopsis: This is the last time I’ll slack off with this I swear 

Why I Like It: Well we all knew this one was coming sooner or later since it’s pretty much impossible to have this kind of list without it, and for good reason. There’s not much I can say about this series that hasn’t been said dozens of times before (and better) but I’ll try. This show is a pretty blatant (though obviously more of a homage than a rip) western take on the action-adventure shonen formula that dominates Japan, and in many ways actually surpasses a lot of those works. The action scenes utilizing real world kung-fu in regards to bending makes for some cool battle choreography, though to be honest the action is far from what makes this series a stand-out.

What really makes it work are it’s characters and themes, though unlike it’s sequel Korra, the more tightly scripted narrative of this series allows it to make better use of both in a more meaningful way. While it’s far from a realistic depiction of war it does do a better job of delving into how affects those left behind by it a lot more than some of it’s contemporaries do and it also covers some interesting stuff in regards to racial propaganda and spirituality. At it’s core though it’s primarily a coming-of-age story for Aang as he grows into his role as the Avatar and the journey towards him fulfilling that destiny makes for one of the greatest animated works of all time.

2) Steven Universe

la-et-st-steven-universe-20131104-001

Synopsis:  The world is protected from evil threats by the Crystal Gems, a group of intergalactic female warriors who use the power of special gem stones embedded on their bodies to summon magical weapons. Steven is a young boy who inherited a gem stone from his mother, a Crystal Gem named Rose Quartz. As Steven tries to figure out the secrets to using his gem, he spends his days in Beach City doing activities with the other Crystal Gems, Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl,  whether it’s helping them save the universe or just hanging out.

Why I Like It:  Given that the series creator, Rebecca Sugar was one of the best writers on Adventure Time before moving over to this show, I had pretty good expectations for it but I’m still amazed at how much I’ve been blown away by it. If Avatar is the ultimate western take on action-adventure shonen, then Steven Universe is in many ways, the ultimate western take on the magical girl shojo genre (albeit with a male protagonist). The show is filled to the brim with a cast of fun and extremely likable characters, all of them getting fleshed out in their own way and makes great use of it’s simplistic artstyle in addition to having a pretty great soundtrack. It’s narrative is also surprisingly more compelling than it would initially seem as the backstory of the Crystal Gems and Steven’s coming-of-age story tie together really well and manages to consistently succeed in making you wonder where it’ll all head next. However these are all just a portion of what makes this show so fantastic.

The real heart and soul of this show lies almost primarily in it’s emotional core. It’s a show that really gets emotional moments without having to blatantly manipulate the audience’s heart strings to do it, and consistently delivers on that front in a way that even anime fails to a lot of the time. Most episodes will have you walking away from them feeling warm and fuzzy in that regard and it’s that element which has allowed it to become a bonafide hit. As it’s still only in the middle of it’s second season there’s still plenty of room for this show to fall apart but it’s managed to knock it out of the park so consistently that I trust the show to keep on delivering, and I’m in this one for the long haul.

And now for the the #1…

number1

1) Ed, Edd n Eddy

Ed__Edd_n_Eddy__Poster_by_Insomniac1313

Synopsis: Ed, Edd n Eddy are a trio of pals with the same name growing up with the suburbs of Peach Creek. They spend their days attempting to con the other kids in the neighborhood out of their money as much as they do trying to fit in.  However failure is the name of the game for these three and neither ever goes as expected.

Why I Like It: So this as my #1 should surprise literally no one who knows me, but I’ve never really taken the time to explain why I have such an unabashed love for this show. Simply put Ed, Edd n Eddy is a show that is 100% straight up about pre-pubescent childhood. I’ve mentioned this element before in regards to some of the other shows at this list but EEnE has something special that really sets it apart from the mold. For the most part, media generally tends to look back on that stage of childhood with a sense of nostalgia. Sure you might occasionally get a story about a perpetually bullied kid every now and then but even those tend to have a fairly optimistic outlook more often than not.

Not so with Ed, Edd n Eddy for it’s here to remind you of one simple fact: your childhood most likely sucked. Kids can be cruel, often for the most simplistic and stupid of reasons, and Ed, Edd n Eddy manages to capture that aspect of childhood completely. Every character can a jerk in some fashion with no one ever being safe from abuse and it’s titular trio suffers far more setbacks than victories in regards to finding their own little place to belong.

However despite the level of sadism that would imply it’s also clear that the show doesn’t really hate any of it’s cast (and the fact that a good 5/6ths of them are heavily implied to have issues with parental guidance certainly helps things) and it does manage to capture the whimsical and fun nature of childhood just as often as it destroys it. While most of the characters are jerks, they’re also just as much relatable and it’s hard not to find at least a little bit of your self in some of them (well hopefully not the Kanker Sisters since I’d like to believe most people don’t have anything in common with serial molesters).  Also despite it’s heavily cynical nature it actually does manage to end on an uplifting note, but one that feels a lot more genuinely earned than most in regards to childhood stories. This series has endured over the years as one of CN’s most beloved classics, even managing to hold as it’s longest running show to date, and for me it stands as one of my favorite shows of all time.

————————————————————————————-

So there you have it. A nice tidy list of my favorite toons to go right alongside my favorite anime. Here’s hoping I don’t have to make any major updates anytime soon.

Previous- (#10-4)

Recommendations- My Top 27 Anime (The Top 3)

3) Casshern Sins

Casshern-sins

 

Synopsis: In a dark future, the world is in ruin and everything is slowly crumbling away into dust. Humanity is almost extinct, while robots desperately seek out new parts to replace their rusting bodies. Their only hope for survival is to devour the one known as Casshern… or so they believe. Meanwhile, Casshern himself has lost all memory of his past. Why are these robots attacking him? Did he really kill the one known as Luna; the Sun that was called Moon? And why is he, alone, unaffected and undamaged by the ruin?

Why I Like It: I’d never really been big on depressingly heavy handed melodrama before this show, and honestly my feelings towards that are still generally the same but this show’s themes really resonated with me. It’s a great allegory on what it truly means to be alive and combines that with a solid character journey and interesting symbolism pertaining to the whole life and death thing, and the various religious motifs that implicates. Beyond the story though, dear god is it a gorgeous looking show. The series has some fantastic art design combining 80’s character designs with a bit more of a higher visual aesthic, and has some really great looking backgrounds that really capture the feel of a post apocalyptic world in all it’s horrific glory. It also features a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack composed by Kaoru Wada of Inuyasha fame, and combines with the show’s visuals to make for a piece that’s as beautiful as it is thematically powerful. People are still pretty divided over exactly how good this show is, but I lean firmly in the camp of it being absolutely fantastic.

 

2) Monster

Monster-Anime-monster-17427085-1280-800

Synopsis: Dr Kenzo Tenma is a genius surgeon working in post-Cold War Germany who has a bright future ahead of him. He is admired by his colleagues, loved by his patients, and due to marry his boss’ daughter, the beautiful Eva Heinemann. One day, when two patients in desperate need of emergency surgery are wheeled into his hospital, Tenma faces a terrible choice of saving the orphaned boy who came first or the mayor of Düsseldorf, whose recovery would raise the hospital’s profile and boost his own career. Against the demands of his superior, Tenma does what he believes is right and saves the child. However, his decision not only damages his prospects, but unleashes a chain of events so horrific that it might have come from the depths of his worst nightmares. Laden with guilt, Tenma begins a journey across Germany in search of a formidable young man who will challenge his morals, his love for life, and his very sanity.

Why I Like It: So compared to an earlier show on this list, Kaiji, this show is almost it’s polar opposite as a thriller. It’s pretty slow moving and spans a long 74 episode run that can feel as lengthy as it is rewarding. However it makes up for that by and large with it’s themes on human nature, which as opposed to Kaiji’s occasional cynicism, leans firmly towards the pro-humanity camp. Monster is a show about what it really means to be human, and as it goes through the journies of Dr. Tenma and it’s massive cast of characters, explores the things that can drive people towards becoming monsters. In spite of what we’re all capable of though, the show truly believes that almost no one is ever truly beyond redemption, and that while we have the choice to embrace monsterdom much like the series villain Johan, we also have the choice to do the utmost amount of good that we can, with the show always leaning towards the latter option. It’s an absolutely fantastic thriller but more than that, it’s a piece that reminds us our humanity can triumph over all the various crap we’re capable of and in a world where said crap happens on a pretty consistent basis, it’s a much needed reminder. Unfortunately thanks to the show having been a massive flop for Viz, it’s possible it’ll never see the light of day here in the states again but in the meantime there’s always that Australian release.

Streaming Availability: None (available through Madman’s Australian release on disc)

Now for my #1…

number1

1) Sword Art Online

1ebd89eecffabf3deaf4928f9a4f735e

Why I Like It: I know I’ve given this show a lot of flack but in reality I’ve just been acting tsun-tsun towards it. Asuna has forever been my waifu and I feel that every man should aspire to be like Kirito. I mean for heaven’s sake, the man’s pretty much video game Jesus. The writing is some of the best I’ve ever scene and the show handles everything from AIDS to borderline rape with the utmost tact and respect. Screw the haters this is the best darn show ever made, and I can only hope that Aniplex makes another 6 seasons of it.

Okay, I had to make at least one joke entry here. Now for my actual #1:

number1

1) Penguindrum 

mawaru-penguindrum

Synopsis: Kamba and Shouma Takakura have taken care of their sickly younger sister Himari since their parents disappeared years ago – that is, until the day she died. But as the boys grieve by her hospital bed, Himari sits up, adorned with a strange penguin hat. Suddenly, the three of them are transported to a vibrant world where the hat, using Himari’s body as a puppet, charges these brothers with a task: find the Penguin Drum and their sister’s life will be saved! Now aided by some odd penguins they received in the mail, the duo must find this mysterious item or risk losing the sister they care for so much. However, they aren’t the only ones with their sights on the Penguin Drum, for new enemies await them around every turn, all connected in ways they would have never imagined…

Why I Like It: As I mentioned before with Yurikuma Arashi, Ikuhara is a very eccentric director and of the three major works he’s produced so far, this is by far the weirdest. The show’s storyline is the most accessible compared to his other stuff, and doesn’t play second fiddle to it’s themes as to the same extent as them. It’s a tale filled to the brim with various twists and turns that can be really funny, really weird and also extremely compelling. Of course as with his other works, the show’s execution of it’s themes are what really sells it,  and many of the themes of self-sacrifice for love, and sexuality that are prevalent in his other works can be found here. At it’s core however, it’s a tale about the importance of family and that the sins of your parents don’t define who you are wonderfully told through it’s cast of characters that are all as fun as they are complex. Also much like with Casshern Sins the show has an gorgeous looking visual aesthetic thanks to Ikuhara’s weird sense of style and it’s a very pretty looking show with some great looking design. In that respect, Sentai’s disc release and dub of the series are…less than stellar, but hey you can’t win em all right? Of Ikuhara’s three masterpieces, this one is easily my favorite and it’s the one I feel the most confident recommending if you aren’t already familiar with how his stuff works.

Streaming Availability: Hulu, The Anime Network

————————————————————————————-

So there we go, my all time top 27 favorite anime. Since I like to be fair, and it would feel weird not doing it I plan to do a list of my top 27 favorite western toons…eventually. Hopefully I can actually get to that before the summer, but for now at least I have the anime side of things covered.

Previous #10-4

Recommendations- My Top 27 Anime (#10-4)

10) Gungrave

gungrave_01_1024

Synopsis: Brandon Heat and Harry MacDowel were best friends who lived by the law of the street, until one day they picked a fight with the wrong people and their life of freedom was suddenly taken away. With no one to turn to and nowhere to run, the choice to join Millenion, the city’s most powerful syndicate, seemed like an offer they couldn’t refuse. Now, amidst heartache, tragedy, and utmost betrayal, Brandon must take up the gun and help Harry climb the ranks of Millenion to succeed, in order to protect the people he loves, even if it means killing countless others in the process.

Why I Like It: Based off the game of the same name and created by the same guy who brought us Trigun, this show a bonafide mafia drama, and the first I’ve ever really seen in anime. The story of the two leads is a pretty tragic one as they climb up the ladder and make decisions that slowly drive them apart and eventually turns them into enemies as Harry’s ambition is weighed against Brandon’s devotion to his family. It also manages to weave the elements of the game into the narrative in a way that feels natural and though it certainly has the look of a more generic action show, it’s a drama at it’s core. Sadly the first episode doesn’t exactly help to give that impression but at least it can be skipped since it’s eventually covered in better context later down the line anyway.

 Streaming Availability: Funimation, Hulu, Netflix

 

9) Hajime no Ippo (all seasons)

429216

Synopsis:  Ippo Makunouchi is a loser. He has no friends, he spends his free time helping his mom with work, and he’s constantly being beaten up by bullies. But that all changes when one day he’s saved from another beating by Takamura, an up-and-coming boxer. Soon, Ippo turns his life around with a passion for the newly discovered sport, but his new lifestyle is far from easy! Before he can even dream of becoming champion, he’ll have to overcome a slew of fierce rivals and learn what ‘dedication’ really means.
Why I Like It: Alright so I said before that the appeal of sports shows is almost never found in the sports themselves but this show is the exception. As a series about boxing it features some pretty grand fist-to-fist brawls and has what is hands down some of the best fight scene chorography ever made with some of the matches featuring really explosive animation. It’s also a pretty fun cast of lovable jerks and works as a solid character piece as the main character Ippo slowlyn matures from a spineless doormat into a confident young man ready to take the world by storm with his fists. The manga it’s based on has been running for ages and likely isn’t ending anytime soon but what we do have animated is more than sufficient and it makes for some great viewing.
Streaming Availability: Seasons 1&2 (none), Season 3(Crunchyroll)
8) Hikaru no Go
key_art_hikaru_no_go
Synopsis:  While examining an old Go board in his grandfather’s basement, twelve-year-old Shindo Hikaru is possessed by the restless spirit of Sai, an ancient Go master who has waited for over one thousand years to play the Hand of God: the perfect move. Sai convinces Hikaru to act as a vessel for making his moves, but it is soon clear that Hikaru also enjoys Go and wants to play his own games. Moreover, the rules of Go have changed since Sai’s time, and Go players from all over the world are now much stronger, having had the benefit of hundreds of years of evolution and experimentation by the masters before them. Can this unlikely pair form a successful partnership and rise to the top of Japan’s Go community, and can Sai finally play the Hand of God and find some peace?
Why I Like It: So Go isn’t really all that interesting sport and having tried it once or twice after seeing this show I can attest to that. Thankfully this show more than makes up for it in it’s character journey as it follows the life of Hikaru as he improves his skills at the game under Sai’s influence and gradually grows to become a skilled player in his own right. Also much like with Cross Game it’s also a series about overcoming the loss of a loved one, and that theme really hits hard in the show’s final stretch, but makes for an emotional conclusion and one that can really hit home for anyone who’s had to go through that kind of loss. Similar to Cross Game it’s a bit on the slow side but it has a lot more character work, and it easily stands as my favorite sports anime.
Streaming Availability: Neon Alley, Hulu
7) Yu Yu Hakusho
118505573
Synopsis: Yusuke Urameshi was a normal middle school punk until he was hit and killed by a car, while saving a child. His selfless action earned him the right to gain his life back and serve as a detective of the spirit world, keeping the world of the living safe from a myriad of demons. But being reborn has its price: Yusuke must hatch a spirit beast that will develop according to his actions, and if he doesn’t act in a good and honest manner, it will eat his soul. Can Yusuke protect the human and spirit worlds and still manage to save himself in the process?
Why I Like It: I’m a simple person at heart and I generally enjoy a good battle shonen, though I also prefer them to be well paced and actually have an ending which is where this show takes the cake. The characters are fun, and the action’s solid with some excellent pacing and choreography courtesy of veteran director Noriyuki Abe, who’s an old pro at that genre. Though it doesn’t stray as far from it’s shonen roots as the creator’s other big series, it does get progressively darker and more complex as it goes along somethings withdrawing from action entirely in favor of character work and more grounded solutions to the situations the cast find themselves in. It’s hands down one of the best battle shonen ever made and thanks to it’s pacing and fairly tolerable episode count, one of the easiest to sit through and rewatch.
Streaming Availability: None (available for purchase through online and physical retailers)
6) Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
FMA-Brotherhood-full-metal-alchemist-7982871-1024-768
Synopsis: The foundation of alchemy is based on the law of equivalent exchange; you cannot produce something from nothing. As such, alchemy is bound by one taboo – human transmutation. Four years ago two young brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, broke this taboo when they tried to resurrect their dead mother. During the process Al’s body disintegrated and Ed lost his leg. In a desperate attempt to prevent his brother from disappearing completely, Ed sacrificed one of his arms so he could affix Al’s soul to a suit of armor. When his missing limbs are replaced by auto mail parts, Ed bears the name of the Fullmetal Alchemist – the youngest ever State Alchemist and dog of the military. Now, alongside his brother, Ed uses his status within the military to attempt to find any way that he can return their bodies back to their original state.
Why I Like It: Keeping in line with my simplicity this is another big action-adventure show crammed with some fantastic battle animation courtesy of BONES, but one with a bit more meat to it. It’s not as character driven as it’s 2003 counterpart, but I’m a bit more of a fan of stories with a narrative that feels completely whole, where it feels everything’s planned and nothing’s wasted, which this series accomplishes on a grand scale. It also leans more towards the idea of overcoming tragedy and becoming stronger for it, rather than having to just live with and accept it, which while a bit more of an idealized message, is one I gravitate a bit more towards. Brotherhood may not be quite as deep as it’s other half, and is slightly hindered by the series partially assuming you’ve seen the 2003 version, but it’s a great action-adventure piece and there’s nothing out there quite like it.
Streaming Availability: Funimation, Netflix
5) Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars
SHINGU_525x717
Synopsis: In the year 2070, a giant object appears over the skies of the small town Tenmo, scrambling the electrical grid and confirming the existence of extra terrestrial life. To young Hajime Morata, this news is exciting and new – but to the townspeople, school council members and even the new exchange student Muryou Subaru, nothing going on in the skies is out of the ordinary. For it seems that Earth houses both intergalactic ambassadors and planet defenders alike – at least one of whom can use the power of the giant Shingu to battle incoming invaders – and Hajime is somehow connected. In addition to helping plan school festivals and living his day to day life, Hajime slowly begins to discover the secret behind his town and himself.
Why I Like It: This is another extremely personal choice for me backed the fact that I’ve rewatched it more times than just about anything else, and is one of the first things I ever really got into, but it’s still a really nice show. Despite the potential heavy sc-fi premise it initially offers, in actuality the series leans more towards slice of life antics as the characters go about their daily lives while the mysteries concerning the larger story at hand are slowly rolled out in the background. It’s a really relaxing little show, and the characters are all warm and fun to watch even the plot takes it’s sweet time getting anywhere.  I don’t really expect anyone to get as much miliage out of it as I did as it’s a really slow burn a good chunk of the time, but it’s good nonetheless and worth giving a shot if you have the time.
Streaming Availability: Hulu, Youtube
4) Hunter X Hunter (2011)
33657l
Synopsis: Drawn to the mystique of the unknown, Hunters travel the world in search of terrifying creatures, incredible riches, and unexplored lands. Gon Freecss is a naive-yet-determined young boy who aspires to join the ranks of these individuals, in order to find his missing father Ging – a master of the profession himself. To reach his goal, he partakes in the formidable Hunter Exam, a series of tests that push the participants to their physical and mental limits, with a Hunter License as the prize. During the exam Gon befriends vengeful Kurapika, doctor-to-be Leorio, and skilled assassin Killua, who have entered for their own reasons. But with the sinister Hisoka standing in their way, will Gon and his friends be able to succeed in obtaining their reward, or even escaping with their lives?
Why I Like It:  Yoshihiro Togashi is a very strange writer, and one who seems to enjoy a lot of experimenting in his titles. His other major work on this list, Yu Yu Hakusho also became gradually different as it went along but this series is a much more polished product in that respect. As Gon goes through his journey to find his father, the series explores various genres and themes, which each story arc being almost completely unrecognizable from the others. It’s also not afraid to get into much darker territory than it’s  predecessor and occasionally reaches points where it’s barely recognizable as a shonen. The material itself is also greatly helped by the show’s outstanding production for a long running series, delivering consistent animation, a great soundtrack (well aside from the infamous theme song never leaving), and some really brilliant direction in the later arcs.  Sadly, the manga is doomed to stay within an endless state of flux thanks to Togashi’s constant hiatuses but the anime reaches a perfect stopping point and is thankfully almost completely self-contained on it’s own. Hunter X Hunter is a work that transcends the boundaries of it’s genre (and often genre period) to make for an excellent masterpiece. If ever you need an example to prove shonen can have some serious substance, this is it. As of this writing, this show unfortunately has yet to be licensed for home media here in the states but hopefully it happens someday soon.
Streaming Availability: Crunchyroll, Netflix
————————————————————————————-
Now onward to my top 3!
Previous- #19-11                                  Next- The Top 3

Recommendations- My Top 27 Anime (#19-11)

19) Tiger & Bunny

tiger_bunny_anime

Synopsis: In Sternbuild City, corporate logos not only cover billboards, but also the costumes of the super-powered heroes that act as its protectors. Veteran and newcomer warriors of justice alike compete in a reality TV show that offers points for apprehending criminals while giving champions’ sponsors a chance to promote their brand. When the low-ranking Wild Tiger loses his backing after a string of outrageous, botched rescues, he finds himself paired with an up-and-coming spotlight-seeker called Barnaby. But with their wildly different personalities, will the pair be able to save their beloved Sternbuild City and win the game show, or will their constant tension be the undoing of the world’s first hero team?

Why I Like It: I’m a sucker for good superhero stuff and this show combines those elements with a fun buddy cop show. The core cast of characters are all a blast and for the main character Kotetsu in particular, it’s really nice to get a series with a middle aged protagonist. It’s a series that generally mixes camp with western sensibilities and while it gets notably darker in the second half it never strays too far away from fun, always believing in the themes of heroism and never giving up what you want to do. Sadly despite it’s massive and unexpected success, a second season has yet to be confirmed but in the meantime, what we’ve got is still pretty fantastic.

Streaming Availability: Neon Alley, Hulu

 

18) Black Lagoon (all seasons)

Black_Lagoon

 

Synopsis: Rokuro Okajima is a small-time salaryman who is carrying documents for his company, when the ship he’s traveling on is attacked by pirates. Kidnapped, he discovers to his dismay that his employers’ main concern is to ensure the documents don’t get into the wrong hands, even if it means sending the carrier to the bottom of the sea. Now, with his former life ruined and his kidnappers seeming comparatively friendly, “Rock” decides to join their merry band of mercenaries, and sets out with a new career to the shadier corners of the South China Sea.

Why I Like It: This series is effectively the ultimate Hollywood action flick, filled to the brim with guns, explosions and great gunfight choreography. Pretty much every character is a villain in their own right but they’re all fun to watch and it makes for some great interactions. Though while Hollywood theatrics are it’s bread and butter it gets progressively darker as it goes along, displaying an increasingly more cynical world view in turn, which even if you don’t necessarily find yourself agreeing with makes for some interesting material. Especially so with the lead character Rock, who while trying to battle against the corruption of the world he now finds himself in, slowly becomes more and more of a villain himself.

Streaming Availability: Funimation, Hulu

 

17) Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)

409463

 

Synopsis: Once upon a time, two brothers passed the happy days of their childhood by studying alchemy, which is governed by the equal transfer principle: an eye for an eye — you can’t get more than you give. But these brothers tried to defy that law, and a horrific accident resulted. Now, the older brother, Edward, is called the Full Metal Alchemist because of his metal limbs, and the younger, Alphonse, is a soul without a body, trapped within the confines of an automaton. Together they search for the power to restore themselves, to find the lives they lost so long ago…

Why I Like It: Okay so debates between this series and it’s more manga-faithful counterpart are endless but those exist for a good reason. While as you’ll see later I lean more towards the latter this series still holds up extremely well on it’s own and it’s proof that anime adaptions doing something different isn’t always a bad thing. Compared to the more grand scale nature of Brotherhood, this one is a bit of a smaller tale as it’s more about dealing with personal tragedies that makes for a much more character driven story and it combines that with some cool fantasy concepts and solid action that makes for a compelling show (even if that dang movie negates what made the ending to the TV series work so well). Even if you lean more towards the manga/Brotherhood this show is still worth giving a shot on it’s own merits.

Streaming Availability: Funimation, Hulu, Netflix

 

16) Vandread

Vandread141

Synopsis: In a far and distant future, men and women have become mortal enemies. Each living on seperate planets, an interstellar war is being fought between the two very different peoples. Hibiki, a mere 3rd class worker, finds himself in the middle of a huge space battle, facing the nemesis of mankind: Womankind!

Why I Like It: Alright so this one is an extremely personal choice backed by the fact that I’ve rewatched the darn thing so many times it’d feel weird not to include it, but it’s a solid show nonetheless. It’s a pretty classic space opera mecha series mixed with some coming-of-age stuff (and some pseudo-Evangelion material that doesn’t really go enough of anywhere to be worth mentioning). What really sells the show is that it actually makes pretty clever use of it’s premise and despite what it would normally imply, manages to avoid being a harem series by pretty significant margin (only two girls are ever actively trying to get in Hibiki’s pants and a technical third who wants to use him for…other reasons). The whole gender divide thing is handled creatively, with the two sides coming together in a way that makes sense, and the romance between the two leads is kind of cute. It’s not a show that’ll exactly set the world on fire for anyone but it’s still pretty good, which is while I’ll continue to hold a grudge against Funimation for marketing the re-release of the series as a by the numbers boobs show (with the 90 second trailer ironically containing almost every notable instance of fanservice in the show’s 24 episode run).

Streaming Availability: Funimation, Hulu

 

15) Bokurano

2541

Synopsis: When a group of children discover a strange cave at the beach, their lives are forever changed. Inside they find a hide out filled with computers and a man named Kokopelli who gives them a curious offer: to participate in a special game in which they save Earth from fifteen giant monsters. To defeat the invaders, he will give them a powerful mecha of black armor. The children eagerly sign the contract, name their new weapon Zearth, and must now take turns to pilot it; but the ‘game’ is in fact all too real and the consequences of battle become the stuff of nightmares. With no option to cancel the contract, is there any way to stop the game before it is too late for all of them?

Why I Like It: Before there was Madoka, there was Bokurano and while I admittedly saw this show after the former. they cover some fairly similar territory. It has a pretty interesting sci-fi premise but more than that, Bokurano is a story about the meaning of self-sacrifice, and what that means for each of us as individuals. As the show explores the stories of each pilot, they’re all forced to find their own reasons to sacrifice themselves, and in some cases can’t find any reason at all. Though the show mostly revels in nihilism in that respect (with the show featuring one of the most disturbingly appropriate theme songs ever made as it’s entirely about that point of view) it also more often than not balances it out with warmth and love. Like with Evangelion (though not quite to that ridiculous an extent) the ending is more about about that particular theme than the sci-fi aspect, but it all comes together to make an extremely compelling story.

Streaming Availability: None (available for purchase at online retailers)

14) Attack on Titan

403477

Synopsis: Over a century ago, mankind was devoured by giant beings of unknown intelligence and origin known as Titans – creatures that eat humans alive indiscriminately and for no apparent reason. The remaining population has managed to survive the last hundred years only by building a multi-walled city capable of keeping the Titans at bay, training military recruits to patrol the perimeter and gather intelligence about their mysterious foe. Eren and Mikasa have lived a relatively peaceful life behind the city’s walls, but when a massive Titan appears, smashing the outer barrier and unleashing a wave of terror, their lives are brutally changed forever.

Why I Like It: Alright so I’m not a very original person, but this show stands as a testament to the fact that how something is adapted is just as important as the adapted material itself. The story works as a great action drama piece about the dual sided nature of humanity, as both savage and caring, banding together against a greater force, in this case being giant monsters.  It’s source material is compelling enough but Tetsuo Araki’s direction ramps it up to eleven, making for a much more dramatic and over the top spectacle, combined with some great music (and an opening theme song that would spawn a thousand parodies) and great battle choreography (even if the show didn’t always have the animation to match). This show’s garnered the attention it has for good reason, and hopefully  subsequent seasons can keep it up.

13) Puella Magi Madoka Magica

7facd20f5216202349ad2fc3119e2e5b1329936788_full

Synopsis: One night, Madoka has a terrible nightmare – against the backdrop of a desolate landscape, she watches a magical girl battle a terrifying creature, and lose. The next day, the teen’s dream becomes reality when the girl – Homura – arrives at Mitakihara Middle School as a transfer student, mysteriously warning Madoka to stay just the way she is. But when she and her best friend Miki are pulled into a twisted illusion world and meet a magical creature named Kyubey, the pair discovers that magical girls are real, and what’s more, they can choose to become one. All they must do is sign a contract with Kyubey and agree to fight witches that spread despair to the human world, and in return they will be granted a single wish. However, as Homura’s omen suggests, there’s far more to becoming a magical girl than Madoka and Miki realize…

Why I Like It: Again, I’m not a very original person, but hey this show is good. I’ve never been too much of a magical girl fan outside of the obvious stuff like Sailor Moon, so a darker take on that concept was a pretty appealing prospect to me and it delivered on that in spades. It puts an interesting spin on all the tropes magical girl shows tend to be built on, and much like Bokurano earlier is a story that looks at the idea of self-sacrifice with a perspective of both nilhlism and love. However it’s a much more tightly scripted tale, and combines those themes with interesting concepts thanks to it’s darker take on magical girl material, along with some great looking art curtesy of Akiyuki Shinbo’s direction. Like with Attack on Titan, this show’s gotten the level of praise it has for good reason and it’s one that will undoubtedly continue to stand the test of time.

Streaming Availability: Crunchyroll, Hulu, Netflix

12) Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (both seasons)

Section_9_operators_in_2nd_GIG

Synopsis: It is the year 2029, and as many rush to embrace the changes that cybernetic technology bring to mankind, the seedier side of humanity is even quicker to take advantage of it. This series follows Public Peace Section 9, a government organization that plays behind the scenes to stop the worst of these criminals. Join Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team as they take you through an incredibly vivid world filled with plots of such depth and intrigue as is seldom seen.

Why I Like It: Ghost in the Shell is one the most sophisticated shows ever made, and one that masterfully explores various social and political themes through a well thought out cyberpunk setting. It’s science fiction at it’s finest and mixed together with  gorgeous visual design that still holds up today, and a great soundtrack courtesy of Yoko Kanno has allowed the show to hold it’s place as a beloved franchise.

Streaming Availability: Hulu

11) Cowboy Bebop

cowboy-bebop

Synopsis: Follow interstellar bounty hunters Spike Spiegel and Jet Black as they scour the galaxy for criminals with prices on their heads. Hoping to escape their past, they live on the spaceship Bebop, but it’s a dangerous business and old enemies don’t forget easily. Allies come from unlikely sources, however, as they find comrades in the beautiful swindler Faye Valentine, the genius child hacker Ed and the genetically engineered ‘data dog’ Ein. Will they be able to help each other though their respective struggles, or is their fate really inevitable?

Why I Like It: Well this was bound to show up at some point, and hilariously enough just outside of my top 10. Pretty much everyone’s seen the show at this point (and if you haven’t I’d recommend fixing that pronto) so there’s no need to go too in depth on this one but it’s a fun ride mixed with crazy adventures, cool action and a sweet, sweet jazz soundtrack that helped to make Yoko Kanno the legend she is today. I generally prefer the show’s various standalone episodes to the core story, but it does make for a grand tale of a group of people drifting through life while never really connecting with each other and ultimately arriving at their own separate destinations. It’s a great combination of jazz and noire and it continues to hold it’s place as one of the most celebrated anime of all time.

Streaming Availability: Funimation, Hulu

Previous #20-27                                                              Next- #10-4

Recommendations- My Top 27 Anime (#27-20)

So this is another one of those things I’ve been meaning to do for a while and since my review schedule for Fandom Post is a little less hectic this season, I finally have some time for it. I’ve never been particularly good at keeping track of how I rank the shows I watch and almost anything that isn’t directly in my top 10 is toss off into the endless void of “shows I really liked but not the point of being the best thing ever” for me. Frankly I’m still not really too down with making a concrete list since people tend to pay more attention to where stuff’s ranked than what’s actually on it, but I could use the peace of mind as far as knowing where I’d place this stuff so here it is. I compiled this based on three factors: the quality of the story, how much entertainment value I got out of it, and how well it holds up as an actual show. That last one in particular holds a lot of water so if there’s a certain few shows that got omitted from here, you know why. I’ll also list any places the shows are currently available for legal streaming if anyone’s interested in checking them out. With that out of the way, let’s get started

WARNING: There’ll (obviously) be some potential spoilers about some of the shows listed here

** All series synopses from Anime Planet

————————————————————————————-

27) Welcome to the NHK

52675

Synopsis: Tatsuhiro Sato is a university dropout and a “hikikomori” – a person suffering from social withdrawal. To Sato’s dismay, his self-imposed exile from the world is rudely interrupted when a mysterious girl knocks on his door. She has charged herself with the task of curing Sato of his hikikimori ways! Now, as new problems ranging from hentai games to internet suicide spring up, can Sato manage to overcome his hermit-like ways, or will the imaginary N.H.K conspiracy force him to remain a hikikomori forever?

Why I Like It: Shows about otaku culture and hikikomoris are a dime a dozen these days but this one easily stands above the crowd for being the one that best looks at that stuff from a psychological perspective. It takes a good hard look at the issues that can drive someone to being a shut-in and makes it clear that there’s no easy way to escape from it. Battling depression and a whole other slew of mental issues is no easy feat but this show tackles that and manages to be a pretty entertaining ride at the same time

Streaming Availability:  Funimation, Netflix

 

26) Kaiji (both seasons)

3fa25448454d0bad417932c968ab08dd1372814041_full

 

Synopsis: Kaiji Ito is as pathetic a person as they come; a man who gambles his days away, only winning enough to lose significantly more. He hates himself, is riddled with envy for others, but is ultimately too weak to think of a way out of his massive debts. Then one day he is approached by a strange man who offers him what seems the solution of a lifetime – to take a short journey on a ship called Espoir, during which time he will be given the chance to win more cash than he can dream of in a card game like no other. Ever the desperate, Kaiji takes the gamble of his life; however, the game turns out to be far darker than he expected and the hard lessons pile on thick and fast. Now stuck in a closed world of unsavory characters willing to do anything to destroy him, can Kaiji gather enough courage to outwit them all?

Why I Like It: Really good thriller is a hard thing to come by in anime as the moment it starts taking itself too seriously, it can fall apart if there’s not enough substance. Kaiji doesn’t really have too much in the way of that but it more than makes up for by being a non-stop high octane thrill ride. The stakes are always absurdly high and the tension of the games are matched only by how over the top  the show can get about them. That’s not to say the show lacks any substance as there’s some solid cynicism about the self-centeredness of human nature v.s. our ability to help our fellow man, but mostly it’s about the high stakes games, and in this case that’s more than enough.

Streaming Availability: Crunchyroll

 

25) Psycho-Pass (season 1)

PsychoPasscast

 

Synopsis: In the future, a system called Sibyl presides over the country and provides order to every facet of life. It dictates which job fields citizens should go into based on aptitude tests, and can even read each resident’s mental state and predict which ones are likely to commit crimes in the future. Fresh from exams, Akane Tsunemori is beginning her career as an Inspector, a specialized police officer who works to apprehend these latent criminals and stop crimes before they happen. But not all that get caught are eliminated or jailed, some join the police force as Enforcers to provide insight into criminals’ minds, and Akane is warned not to get too close to them, as they’re considered little more than hunting dogs. Though skeptical of this advice, and Sibyl’s judgement, Akane is determined to work together with her Enforcers to protect the peace of her city and its inhabitants.

Why I Like It: This show is something of a spiritual successor to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and while it’s not on the same level as that, it’s good stuff. The series explores some interesting social commentary and ideas about what exactly makes laws valuable to society as a whole and while the admittedly goofy nature of it’s premise holds it back from quite reaching  it’s maximum potential the execution generally makes up for it. Also if you’re wondering why I specified season 1, it’s because only one season exists and you will never be able to convince me otherwise. Second season? What second season?

Streaming Availability: Funimation, Netflix

24) Cross Game

cross-game

Synopsis: When Koh was eleven years old, he lived a quiet and peaceful life, delivering sporting goods for his family’s store and batting frequently at the Tsukishima Batting Center. Though Koh had no interest in baseball, he started the play the sport anyways after a series of events, much to the delight of his best friend, the beautiful Wakaba Tsukishima. However, soon life dealt Koh a tragic turn, changing him forever. Now, years later, Koh attends Seishuu Academy and is soon pulled back into the world of baseball. Alongside Wakaba’s talented sister, Aoba; old friend and fighter Nakanishi; and plenty of new teammates and companions, Koh will once more pick up the pitcher’s mitt and see if he has what it takes to be a champion.

Why I Like It: The sports genre is an interesting one because what makes the shows compelling is almost never the sports themselves. In this instance the sport itself is baseball (which to be honest I’m not really into), the theme of the show is centered around life after the death of a loved one and trying to move onto new relationships. The cast of characters are all  generally charming and the way the core romance between the two leads is built up is handled with a level of tact a lot of similar stories lack. It’s a bit of a slow grind but the payoff is extremely rewarding and it makes for a definite winner

Streaming Availability: None

 

23) Neon Genesis Evangelion 

Neon.Genesis.Evangelion.full_.1353773

Synopsis: In the future, a devastating event known as Second Impact has destroyed Tokyo as we know it, giving rise to Tokyo III – a city under siege by mysterious lifeforms known only as Angels. Mankind’s only line of defense are the Evangelions, a set man-made machines piloted by a trio of fourteen year-old teenagers, Rei, Shinji, and Asuka. The fate of Japan and the entire world now lie with these three children, though they might not have the power to save the most important thing of all: each other.

Why I Like It: Well there’s not much I can really say about EVA that hasn’t been said thousands of times before, but still it’s great. The show combines a pretty interesting sci-fi premise with the psychological issues concerning it’s cast of characters. Especially so with it’s lead Shinji who battles with constant depression, things in his life consistently going horribly, and daddy issues versus having to meet people’s expectations by manning up and saving humanity with his robot (which he generally does in spite of all the stuff he goes through, so I’ll never understand why the western fandom gives him so much crap). The ending is pretty controversial and how much you get out of it depends on how much you cared about Shinji’s development versus the sci-fi stuff but if you lean towards the former then it’s about as good a resolution as you’re going to get (and if you lean towards the latter then there’s always End of Evangelion).

Streaming Availability: None (available for purchase through online retailers)

 

22) Yurikuma Arashi

Yuri-Kuma-Arashi-720x5561

 

Synopsis: After an asteroid explosion and meteor shower lit up the sky over planet earth, strange adorable bears began to attack and devour humans. The earthlings responded with violence of their own, and in the end, a massive barrier – the Wall of Extinction – was erected to separate man from bear. This fragile peace lasted until two high school girls encounter a yuri flower blooming – only to be shaken by the piercing warning of the Bear Alarm! Once again, bear and man- or bear and girl -will be pitted against each other in a deadly and mysterious showdown.

Why I Like It: Anyone who somehow managed to make it through my weekly reviews of the show on Fandom Post shouldn’t be too surprised to see it included here and it’s definently a show that deserves mention. Ikuhara is one of anime’s most eccentric directors thanks to his empahasis on visual metaphors and thematic resolution over a linear narrative, and that’s pretty much the case here. In this case all of that is centered around a fairy tale narrative that serves as an excellent allegory on societal views about homosexuality and what true love actually means, that’s both over the top fun and extremely heartwrenching in it’s depiction. It’s a testament to his skill that Ikuhara can handle  that kind of topic with grace, and while it’s not his greatest masterpiece, it’s still a masterpiece and full of great visual flair. I wouldn’t really recommend seeing it before any of his other series as it’s the least inviting for anyone not familiar with how his stuff works, but it’s definitely worth seeing none the less.

Streaming Availability: Funimation, Hulu

 

21) NANA

nana-character-listing-wallpaper

 

Synopsis:  Nana Komatsu is on her way to Tokyo; now she can finally be with her boyfriend after a year of dating long-distance! On the train there, Nana Komatsu meets Nana Osaki – a girl who shares her name but seems to be everything Nana Komatsu is not; cool, street-wise, and a punk rocker. The two hit it off and spend the entire journey getting to know each other, but when they get to Tokyo, circumstance separates them seemingly forever. However, fate is not finished with these two. Whilst hunting for a place to live the two Nanas again cross paths. They decide to share a flat and become best friends in no time. Nana K. must learn to be independent and mature, while Nana O. works on becoming famous with her band; but together, they will learn about love and loss, and the growth that comes with it.

Why I Like It: People usually say that the years that define the rest of your life are around your teens but really it’s your 20’s as the decisions you make upon first gaining true independance from parents or family are some of the most important you’ll ever make and usually have the most amount of consequences. Nana is a show that understands this in spades as it details the lives of two young women coming into their own, and dealing with their respective love lives neatly meshed together with music industry drama. The show holds nothing back about how hard the decisions you have to make at that age are and can be almost excruciatingly painful to watch at times because of it because it hits a very real place for many, but it also believes that you can triumph over those situations and find your own sense of happiness, even if it doesn’t necessairly come with your dreams attached.

Streaming Availability: Neon Alley, Hulu

20) Toradora

Toradora

Synopsis: Ryuuji Takasu has an eventful life: his classmates think he’s a delinquent due to his ‘killer’ eyes; his crush Minori seems ever out of reach; and he’s just had an unfortunate encounter with ‘palm-sized Taiga’ – a feisty and dainty wench in his class. With different cleaning habits and tempers, the two clash like night and day; that is, except for the fact that Taiga and Ryuuji have crushes on the other’s good friend! With school rumors abounding, the duo must now work together to play matchmaker for each other. Who will end up with their true love?

Why I Like It: High school romance is a well worn genre and one that often pulls out the same old tired tropes but this one is a definite standout. The issues concerning the characters are at the forefront of the story rather than being used a vehicle for last minute drama like most of it’s brethren, and while the core romance is a pretty familiar one, it’s executed in a way that feels genuine and really rewarding after all the things the characters go through. In a sea of similar shows it’s the one that gets the most right and certainly worth checking out

Streaming Availability: Hulu, Crunchyroll

Next- #19-11

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.

Review: Ouran High School Host Club- Reverse Harem Charms

Ouran_High_School_Host_Club_199021357_2e80127bd3

Synopsis: Haruhi Fujioka is a honors student recently transferred to Ouran Academy, a school for the rich and fabulous. One day she accidentally wanders into the school’s host club, which is a group of pretty boys who spend their time serving ladies, and ends up getting indebted to them. She’s forced to join the club and also serves as a host for the girls, while the rest of the club tries to conceal her actual gender.

Review

Ouran is considered one of the classics of the mid 2000’s and the most notable pioneer in the reverse harem genre. It’s a show I’d never quite gotten around to as it’s only in recent years that I’ve taken more of an interest in shojo series, and though I tried it a couple of times in the past that barrier took a while to get past, preventing me from getting that interested in it. Though having now seen a fair share of solid shojo series and a couple of other reverse harem shows, I figured that it was about time to revisit this and give it another go.

Right off the bat, the show gives off a sense of charm that’s hard to ignore with it’s characters. Each of the guys more or less fills a certain archetype (which the show is self aware enough to frequently point out) such as main guy Tamaki being attempting to come off as a “prince”, though really being more of a goofball than anything else, while the twins Hikaru and Kaoru are whimsical trolls. Haruhi herself on the other hand comes across as a pretty down to earth heroine, though she doesn’t always play straight-man to the hi-jinks of the other characters as her general lack of concern over half the things that happen is played for laughs just as much.

Honey-ouran-high-school-host-club-20413453-400-300

Aww, look at him! He’s so adorable…and deadly. Very deadly

Most of the episodes revolve around the club members helping out their guests with their personal problems or delving into the backstories of the club members. Some of the stories involving the guests are hilarious, others fairly touching and most being a mix between the two. Much of it is pretty standard fare for a harem series, but the show really plays up the reverse aspect of it quite a bit and plays it to the fullest. It doesn’t always knock things out of the park in terms of humor but it’s charming enough to stay fun even when it’s not at its funniest.

However the show is also pretty  good with how it handles some of its drama. Specifically, the club member backstories as each of them has their own hurdles to deal with and being in the club has helped them to broaden their horizons and open up more thanks to Tamaki’s influence. Not all of them are handled that seriously, but a couple of them such as the story behind the twins can be genuinely heartwarming . Despite being the main character, Haruhi’s background isn’t focused on quite as much as the others, but even she is slowly shown to progress from being incredibly straight-laced to learning how to get more enjoyment out of life, which is a theme the show puts a lot of emphasis on.

ouran

Someone just give these two a hug

Interestingly though, what doesn’t get quite as much emphasis on the other hand is the actual romance aspect of the series. Or at the very least not in the way that would usually be expected. A couple of the club members such as Tamaki and Hikaru are shown to be interested in Haruhi over the course of the series (especially Tamaki, who’s fawning over her is constantly used as a joke), but the attraction is generally looked at from their perspective rather than Haruhi’s which is a bit odd for a shojo series. In fact, Haruhi more or less never shows any serious romantic interest in any of the guys (except Tamaki…maybe) and generally doesn’t like to put much emphasis on her gender which is kind of refreshing.

Haruhi herself is actually one of the strongest aspects of the show in that respect, although it does make a couple of missteps to undermine her somewhat. The beach episode where she’s berated by the other club members for stepping in to save a couple of girls from some thugs since she’s a girl as well, comes across as a bit sexist. While it’s obviously meant to demonstrate that she’s not invincible, and her fear of thunderstorms which is introduced in the same episode reinforces that fact, it puts an unnecessary emphasis on her gender that otherwise didn’t really need to be there, and it felt as though the show could have found another way to emphasize that point without taking away that’s generally an incredibly strong example of a heroine. Thankfully it’s the one and only time the show ever brings it up but it’s something that feels unusually problematic for what the show otherwise does with her.

ouran

And just where were YOU when she needed help? Huh, Tamaki?

However, more so than romance related to her, the relationship the show instead decides to focus on the most is the group as a whole. All of the group members have their own problems and the glue that holds them together as people are the other club members, specifically Tamaki. They give off the illusion of a hilarious, but also somewhat broken, dysfunctional family more than anything else although, as the show goes on and how they view each other changes, some of the characters do notice that the illusion’s in danger of being shattered. Unfortunately things wrap up before it can show the end results of that aspect, but it does end on a high note as it highlights the importance of that bond, and how much personal freedom they’ve gained because of it.

BONES, who’s been well known for gorgeous looking shows such as Fullmetal Alchemist and Soul Eater, handled the animation for this series, and it mostly shows as it’s a consistent looking production, although far from their greatest. The character designs are pretty typical for shojo and look a bit dated as a result but the show is generally nice to look it. However the music for the series is mostly forgettable and is hindered by Funimation’s decision to do english covers for the opening theme “Sakura Kiss” and the ending theme “Shissou” as both are pretty badly performed and to the point of being downright skippable.

Funimation’s dub for the series on the other hand is a solid effort, as normally expected of their work in those days. Catlin Glass does a great job of making Haruhi sound androgynous and Vic Mignogna delivers on a spectacularly hammy performance as Tamaki, which has gone on to be one of his most iconic anime roles next to Edward Eric in Fullmetal Alchemist. None of the performances are particularly stand out but all of them are well handled and a lot of fun to watch. Interestingly this show is one of the few instances of a Funimation dub using japanese honorifics and they blend in well for the most part, though the script being so literal occasionally leads to a few jokes being lost in translation though not enough to take away from the dub entirely.

Ouran is one of the most iconic shojo series out there and the most heavily referenced when it comes to any mention of reverse harem stuff. It’s easy to see why the show is so beloved as the characters are pretty fun, and the show itself is a pretty solid comedy. It hasn’t aged perfectly as the designs are a bit dated as well as a couple of view points, but where the show excels it excels well as it’s an entertaining ride, and has the right amount of depth to it to keep it from being forgettable. It’s not a flawless show by any means, but it’s stood the test of time as a classic for good reason, and it’s definitely something worth looking back on.

ouran

Overall: 8.3/10

Available on Hulu, Netflix & Funimation.com

Review: The Legend of Korra Book 4: Balance- Balancing Games

legend-korra-season-4-spoilers-book-4-balance-will-be-awesome-teases-creator-bryan

 

Synopsis: Broken both physically and psychologically after her battle with Zaheer, Korra returns home to the Southern Water Tribe and spends the next three years recovering. In the meantime a woman named Kuvira has taken charge of the Earth Kingdom, and become a dictator bent on forcing the entire nation to her will. As Korra sets out to stop her she must rise not only to face this challenge, but herself as well

Review

The Legend of Korra has gone through a lot over the course of it’s run and its been a journey of ups and downs. Book 1 was relatively satisfying in making the show seem like a solid successor to the first series while Book 2 brought the franchise  as a whole to some of its lowest points (and lowest ratings which started a whole other slew of problems for it). Book 3 on the other hand was a full return to grace and it seemed like for the first time the series actually had the potential to outdo it’s predecessor. Unfortunately the final book doesn’t quite meet those expectations for a multitude of reasons but still manages to bring a proper end to Korra’s character arc and a relatively satisfying ending for the series a whole.

The name for this book is rather appropriate, not only because of the theme but largely because the season feels as though it’s trying to balance several things at once. On the one hand it’s got Korra’s character arc, on the other it has Kuvira’s threat and then on top of that it’s trying to give development to a slew of other characters while trying to make it all tie together. Needless to say it doesn’t handle that juggling act quite well as it gets certain aspects of it better than others and has more good ideas than knows how to execute th

Starting with the more mishandled parts of the season, is Bolin part in the season. His arc in joining and defecting from Kuvira’s army after seeing she brings more harm than good is an interesting one on paper, but for the most part it doesn’t do much to change him as a character, and if anything kind of makes him look dumb for not realizing sooner that Kuvira was a threat. Varrick getting thrown into the mix and defecting with him does make it a bit more interesting though Varrick’s reason for switching sides feels out of character for him since he’s generally been lovably amoral for the most part, and having him betray her just because she tried to kill him would have worked just as well.

Kuvira herself is also a pretty large misstep for the season as compared to previous villains she doesn’t have a lot going for her. Her motivations are largely unexplained (until the ending) making her come across as a bit one dimensional and bland. She also doesn’t represent enough of a personal threat to Korra as a character as many of her greatest feats of villainy feel to indirect to Korra’s character arc and while there are clearly supposed to be parallels between her and where Korra’s character was for most of the series, the parallels don’t intersect as much as they need to make things work.

Of course with all the bad there’s also good, and for some of the things the season can’t quite juggle there are things it does well. Bringing back Asami’s father and having the two restore their broken relationship was a nice touch and made his sacrifice at the end a touching one, even if he wasn’t in the spotlight enough for there to be much impact. Similarly, Toph’s role in the season is much appreciated as she helps Korra along her road to recovery and also mends her own broken relationships with her daughters which is a nice follow through on that arc from the previous season. Prince Wu’s character development over the season from a self absorbed jerk to a decent politician is also an interesting one though it’s a bit bumpier than some of the stronger character arcs in the season as he’s a bit overly used for humor.

The strongest part of the season is by and large the ending to Korra’s journey as a character. Her road to recovery is a tough one as she’s forced to confront her biggest fear: being powerless. Compared to Aang’s rejection of his destiny as the Avatar in the original series, Korra can only define herself as such and having that sense of power taken away from her physically does a number on her as she desperately tries to find a way to fix her health. However it’s in this powerlessness that for the first time she learns to empathize  with the perspectives of others, including some of her former enemies (which doesn’t work quite as well as the show thinks it does since Zaheer was the only villain the series who actually believed in what he was doing) and eventually confronts her fears by facing the one who took away her sense of power in the first place.

Her strengthened sense of empathy plays a large part in the final battle as rather than a large blown out duel like with Aang and Ozai, it’s by trying to understand Kuvira that she triumphs in the end as the two find their similarities and make peace. Unfortunately this confrontation occurs largely after the bulk of Korra’s character arc is already completed, and Kuvira’s characterization was too limited for most of the season as she mainly just comes across as a generically dictator(though not quite to Ozai’s Darth Siddus levels in the original)so the scene doesn’t work as well as it should thematically. It puts a nice bow on Korra’s journey as a person but most of the conflict throughout the season doesn’t quite carry the sense of scale that a series finale should and especially not compared to the grand finale for the original series.

That said the show does have a pretty notable ending, as it delivers on a sensible but pretty unexpected to actually happen pairing. Korra and Asami’s bond has been subtly built up over Books 3 & 4 and the two had some decent chemistry together compared to most of the couples the show had to offer (well with the exception of Varrick and Ju-Li but then they wrapped things up with that one) though the show actually following through on that seemed like a long shot. However the final scene between Korra and Asami more or less unambigously (there will be those who argue otherwise but the parallels between the scene and the scene confirming Aang and Katara’s romance at the end of the original are pretty much impossible to deny) pairs the two together. Whether it’s the possible start of a relationship or the cementing of one is nicely left up to interpretation but it’s definitely one of the boldest things Nick has ever done.

The Legend of Korra has had some big shoes to fill as it’s predecessor stands as one of the greatest animated shows ever made, and it’s been a hard fit as the show has struggled a lot more in terms of tone and characters due to the bulk of the series being an initially unplanned continuation(and it really showed in Book 2). For all those bumps though it’s had it’s highs as well, and has done a solid job in expanding the world of the franchise as a whole. While the show may end up being remembered more for the last three minutes of the finale than anything else, it’s earned it’s place as one of the most memorable pieces of action animation produced in the west. It’s not nearly as good as the original series as a whole, but its a solid journey and a mostly worthwhile successor.

Overall: 7.6/10

Available on Nick.com

Review: Over The Garden Wall- The Olden Days

otgw

 

Synopsis:  Two brothers named Wirt and Greg end up getting lost in some mysterious woods called “The Unknown. Together with a talking bluebird named Beatrice, they search for a woman called Adele who can show them the way home while avoiding an evil entity known as “The Beast”

Review

Over the Garden Wall is the first miniseries that Cartoon Network has ever done (well depending on how you count the IGPX shorts) and it’s a pretty interesting undertaking for them. They’ve been pretty risk averse the last few years so it was questionable how they’d handle such a thing and if it would go for something ambitious or merely serviceable. Thankfully the show has gone for the latter and in the process has turned into not only the first real miniseries they’ve ever done but also one of the best things they’ve ever done.

What stands out right away about the series is its massive homage to some of the classic cartoons of yesteryear. The artstyle feeds that aesthetic really well and it’s pretty breathtaking to behold as it gives everything a rustic old country feel that can be both beautiful and horrifying whenever the mood requires it. Everything from the creatures, to the music, and even to how the characters talk, gives off the vibe of a classic Disney film and it’s hard not to feel nostalgic when watching it.

Even a lot of the narrative style gives off this vibe, and it’s very reminiscent of old fairy tales. The story starts off in media res wth the brothers already lost with no idea how to get back home. This leads them to an encounter with a mysterious woodsman who offers to help them out while warning them of an evil beast that lurks the woods. After a slight falling out with him though, they instead end up in the care of a talking bluebird named Beatrice who offers to take them to see Adele, the Good Woman of the Woods who can show them the way home. Their journey through the Unknown brings them on several different adventures, some being creepy and some being charming with each feeding into the show’s colonial aesthetic.

Along the way Beatrice gets a bit closer to the two and reveals the  exact reason why she’s a talking bluebird. It comes at a price though since she’s had her own agenda for most of the time, which leads to a pretty shocking betrayal when it appears she’s been playing them the whole time and the good woman of the woods turns out to be not so good after all. In the meantime the show also delves a bit into what’s going on in the background between the woodsman and the beast as well as why the two are connected.

This all plays into the show’s final act where it starts laying all it’s cards on the table. While the countryside aesthetic holds a lot for the series, at it’s core it’s really about the relationship between the two brothers, and it ties into things in a big way as things take a slight step back to look at how the brothers got there in the first place. While Wirt is never a downright jerk to his younger brother Greg, he does dismiss his optimism a lot and is quick to blame him when things go south. This combined with Wirt’s own lack of confidence, leads to him taking his brother for granted, and also helped to land them in the accident that got them there. However it’s only when Wirt decides to confront the beast in order to protect his brother that everything comes to light and everyone is able to get a happy ending with the show (thankfully) being ambiguous to whether or not the whole affair was dream and/or purgatory.

Cartoon Network’s first mini series has made for a pretty interesting tale, and a pretty ambitious project on their part. The show’s classic cartoon homage makes for some fun stuff, and it also manages to tell a fairly touching story as well. While the narrative isn’t completely flawless the overall aesthetic easily up for it and the ending is pretty sweet. This may be the first true mini series the network has done but it most certainly shouldn’t be the last.

Overall: 9.3/10

Available On Demand or at CartoonNetwork.com