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Inspired by Adventure Time, Minecraft, and Legend of Zelda, May’s Loot Crate has to be my favorite so far! Loot Crate is a monthly subscription box filled with nerdy goodies – toys, stickers, t-shirts, etc. It’s like getting nerd Christmas every month! This month featured a Legend of Zelda t-shirt. If you look closely, it’s Link made out of words. My very favorite item in this Loot Crate was the Adventure Time tin. Not only do you get an awesome character tin, but you get a blind bag figure inside. My tin was Fionna and I got BMO inside! This was my favorite because those are two of my favorite Adventure Time characters.

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A very close second for favorite item is the Legend of Zelda key chain. It doubles as a bottle opener and it has a picture of the famous scene, “It’s dangerous to go alone…” I always love when Loot Crates come with practical items. Another item worth mentioning was a Minecraft blind bag “hanger,” which I guess works as a key chain because the ring on it is sturdy enough for one. I got a skeleton.

Other items in this month’s Crate are tons and tons of stickers from Polaris and Maker studios, as well as a soundtrack for the talk show The Friend Zone.

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One strange thing about this month’s Loot Crate, however, is that it didn’t come with the usual monthly magazine that explains what came in it and the occasional article. Maybe it was just a mistake and they forgot to put it in my Crate?

Either way, I would consider May’s Loot Crate to be my all-time favorite so far. If you like what you see, Loot Crate is $20 per month, including shipping. Go to LootCrate.com to sign up and be sure to follow Loot Crate on Facebook for discounts and contests.

By Tiffany Marshall On 19 Jan, 2014 At 12:54 AM | Categorized As Animation, Featured, Reviews, Reviews | With 0 Comments
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Attack on Titan Eren Titan

Attack on Titan is a fairly recent anime that has gained a lot of popularity amongst Otaku and others alike.  It’s adapted from a manga series written by Hajime Isayama.  The anime is produced by Wit Studio and Production I.G.  The series is currently only available in Japanese.  I recently watched Attack on Titan courtesy of Netflix and I was not disappointed.  Out of all the years that I’ve watched anime, I have to say Attack on Titan is one of the best.  There’s a good amount of story, drama, action, and it never lets up!  But before I get too carried away with telling you just how much I love this series after binge watching all 25 episodes over the course of 48 hours, there is more to Attack on Titan than my love for it.

As we begin the series, Attack on Titan brings you into a world where humans are scarce.  Why are they scarce?  Titans.  Titans are giant humans of sorts that tower at numerous different sizes.  Through the series, we quite often see titans at the heights of 10-14 meters tall.  No one is quite sure where these titans came from or what their motivation is, but they’re there and they love the taste of humans.  To protect themselves, the remaining humans managed to build towering walls that act both as protection and a cage.  The titans can’t seem to get in, but then the humans can’t go out, unless they want to be massacred.

“On that day, mankind received a grim reminder. We lived in fear of the titans, and were disgraced to live in these cages we called walls.” – Eren

Eren Titan MonsterThe protagonist of the series is Eren Yeager.  As the series starts out, he’s a young boy with dreams of joining the Scout Regiment, a branch of their military.  Eren believes strongly with all his will and being that they can eradicate the world of the titans and be free of the walls he feels trapped within.  His adopted sister of sorts is Mikasa Ackerman.  Although she doesn’t agree with the way that Eren goes about things carelessly and fullheartedly, she supports him with every essence of her being and stands beside him to make sure he doesn’t die in the process.  They’re very close to one another and it’d difficult to tell whether their bond is more than friendship.  There is also Armin Arlert that is a friend to them both.  Armin is the cunning and intelligent character that often serves as providing guidance to Eren, Mikasa, and many others in the series.

The military is split into three branches:  Military Police, Scout or Survey Corp, and the Garrison.  The Military Police protect the king and maintain order within the walls, primarily within Wall Sina, the innermost wall.  The Scout or Survey Corp go out beyond the walls to learn more about the titans and destroy as many titans as they can.  The Garrison or Stationary Guard protect the walls.

As you begin the series, in the first episode, everything happens at a rapid pace.  Things go from a peace that lasted for a century to a titan wreaking havoc, kicking a hole in the outermost wall, and letting many, many titans in.  Though many people are evacuated, there were a far many more that were eaten by the titans.  Eren and Mikasa are traumatized while watching their mother being eaten alive after failed attempts at freeing her from a collapsed building.  Eren’s passion in fighting against the titans and getting revenge is only further ignited.

Speed ahead five years exactly where you have Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and their fellow cadets preparing to pick a military branch.  Before they can, another attack eerily similar to the previous one, wreaks havoc on yet another wall.  This time Eren, Mikasa, and others must fight until people can be evacuated.  In the process of this, many die, including Eren.  Or does he?

If you lose, you die. If you win, you live. If you don’t fight, you can’t win!” – Eren

MikasaAs Mikasa finds out of his death and is fighting, she struggles to fight and even gives up with two titans closing in until a mysterious titan saves her, demolishing the titans.  This mysterious titan shows no interest in eating humans, only in destroying titans.  Towards the end of the battle, it is realized that the titan is Eren.  Somehow Eren can change into a titan. But how? Why?

You’ll have to watch the series to find out!!!

Attack on Titan is such a thrilling and amazing anime series.  I give the series an A+.  I highly recommend it to all that want to watch.  Everything about this anime lives up to the hype.  Attack on Titan has earned a spot as one of my favorite anime series of all time.  It’s just that good.  As long as you have no problems with subtitles, you should thoroughly enjoy the series.

Funimation will bring Attack on Titan to North America for purchase some time this year.

“This world is merciless, and it’s also very beautiful.” – Mikasa

By Charles On 19 Sep, 2013 At 07:05 PM | Categorized As Animation, Editorials, Featured, Reviews, Reviews | With 0 Comments
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I made a remark earlier in the year that this has been one of the best years for anime in a while. While normally each successive anime season is a task of plodding through series after series in search of that one or two that will catch my attention long enough to sit a review for, this year I’ve actively had to limit what I’ve been watching, all in the name of time management. For the first time since the Summer of 2011, I’ve juggled four series simultaneously…and I’ve been loving it.

Back in the Spring, I attempted to do a full review of the 6 (!) shows I was actively viewing. Ultimately, three were dropped, and I never gave proper space to Gargantia. Summer 2013 started out much the same, with a full queue of shows: from the moe slice of life “Love Lab” to the distinctly shounen “Blood Lad,” the quirky “Uchouten Kazoku” and hilarious “Watamote.” Two of those shows there didn’t last beyond 4 weeks. The other two joined the still-amazing Attack on Titan in my weekly rotation.

tomokoMuch discussion has been made about “Watamote” in recent months, owing to the extremely self-referential nature of the show, its awareness of “a certain segment” of the populace, and it’s often brutal depiction of social anxiety. One Kotaku review went so far as to call it “the most mean spirited anime” he has ever watched, a criticism that definitely holds weight when the series is viewed by those unaware of the “otaku stereotype,” or those with particular sympathies for bullying. Over at Beneath The Tangles, Charles gave it a much more sympathetic look, but still highlighted some of the issues surrounding the utterly deluded Tomoko.

This reviewer still enjoys the show, despite those valid points. What creates Watamote’s appeal for the many who watch it is that same awareness- we can see a bit of ourselves in Tomoko (or people we might know and be friends with), and understand that the series is playing up a strong parody of those traits it espouses. Yes, I said parody, which is exactly what the series is. It’s not meant to be taken especially seriously. It is a look at some of the extreme views that are levied against “otaku,” cloaked in the trappings of a slice-of-life comedy. While the characterization of its “eccentric” lead (and eccentricity is a huge theme this season) borders on slander, the intent of the series is not to demonize or demoralize the behaviour, just to make apparent the activities, and point out some of the emotions behind it. Or at least that’s what I am getting from it.

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Fortunately, not all series this season take such a stance on eccentricity. Easily the breakout series of the summer, and one that would easily fly under the radar of the more general anime fan, Eccentric Family mixes a deep understanding of Japanese folkore with elements of the slice of life genre to create something refreshing, and unique among a season full of refreshing and unique takes on classic genres.

eccentric-family-bannerSet in modern-day Kyoto, the series revolves around the (mid)adventures of a young tanuki, Shimogamo Yasaburou. The middle child in a family of so-called “idiot blooded” yokai who spend most of their time in human form, he spends his days wandering the city, interacting with the cranky “professor” Akadama (a tengu who lost his ability to fly), helping his youngest brother deal with bullies, evading the machinations of rival tanuki clans, and crossing paths with the crafty human, Benten, who may or may not be trying to make him into a stew.

The generally humorous and lighthearted tone of the series is counterbalanced by a meta-plot involving the death of Yasaburou’s father years earlier, and discovering both how and why the great elder tanuki managed to get himself eaten. While visibly carefree in his day-to-day, Yasaburou is still shaken up by the loss of his father, which in turn causes him to poke his nose where it doesn’t belong, earning him the “wrath” of both his flamboyant mother, and straight-laced brother, who himself is trying to inherit the mantle of community leader their father once wore so proudly.

the-eccentric-family-1Eccentric Family succeeds admirably in telling their tale. Rather than being bogged down by unnecessary details on heady drama, the show balances the serious themes of love and loss alongside some of the truly crazy shenanigans the Shimogamo family perpetrates. From floating parlours to drunken tengu, the show moves along at an appropriate pace, giving the source material and heavy meta-plot equal attention throughout. Yasaburou himself is easily the most relatable member of his family, mixing in the trickster tendencies found in most tanuki legends with a healthy dose of ambiguity as the story progresses. Even when he’s being serious, you can see the twinkle in his eye and the mischief in his actions.

These become even more pronounced when he interacts with the mysterious Benten, a woman who presents a constant danger not only to the tanuki, but to Professor Akadama. While not a villain per se, the human woman woman (who is named after one of the powerful water-associated kami, Benzaiten) is as ruthless as any other, hiding her motivations while keeping her intentions plainly clear. She has a taste for tanuki, trickery and control, and she wields all three to perfection, even in the early episodes.

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Tanuki trash talk

At its core, Eccentric Family lives up to its moniker, however- its a show about family, and how they stick together during the hard times. Not unlike the latter seasons of the landmark 70s series “Good Times,” this is a show defined by loss, and how each character perceives and deals with it (and deal with it differently, they all do). Yasaburou, for all his wit and good-natured trickery, is also self-destructive at times, placing himself in dangerous situations where his safety is in doubt. His elder brother, Yajirou, runs away from the world because he cannot come to grips with what he blames himself for doing, and eldest brother Yaichiro seeks to become the father he lost, regardless of whether it is for the right reasons.

Eccentric Family is anything but cliche, which is the show’s strongest attribute. With just enough tension to keep the plot moving from episode to episode, and intriguing characters throughout, it highlights many of the “hidden traits” of Japanese family structure, and the abilities of the country’s most visible folkloric creature. A show like this doesn’t come along very often, and should be appreciated for what it accomplishes.

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Finally, eccentricity is on full display in the ridiculously magnificent “Gifuu Doudou,” a “dazzling Sengoku period drama” (that is the exact description made during the opening) about two samurai known for their “odd behaviour” and prowess on the battlefield. Set during the warring states period in Japan, the story follows best friends/retainers Naoe Kanetsugu and Maeda Keiji- two Kenichiro lookalikes with unnecessary muscle mass and a flair for acting outrageously both on and off the battlefield, as they spend a night drinking sake by moonlight and recounting adventures from their younger years.

What makes Gifuu Doudou such a good time (apart from the leads, who are both intentionally crazy, and unintentionally hilarious) is the peppering of details from Japanese history thrown about in the story. Seriously, this show is a history lesson all its own, but rather than outright explaining the “whos” and “whats” of that dramatic period of warfare, it simply makes the viewer aware of the players and the campaigns, and offers enough motivation to look into them some more. The characterizations around such well-known names like Oda Nobunaga (who gets one helluva introduction) and Toyotomi Hideyoshi (who has a definite sniveling air about him) fit well with the historical descriptions, and make the show feel more like “Sengoku Basara” than “Seven Samurai.” Just watch Keiji play his biwa like a rock guitar before slicing some mook’s throat, and you will “get” the entire point.

gifuu_doudou_01_2While I was ready to write this show off after a pilot that made me exclaim “what the fuck was that?” aloud on a bus ride from NY-DC back un July, it grew steadily on me with promises of sweeping battles and intriguing characters, which it delivers on both fronts. While firmly situated on the side of the bizarre, Gifu Doudou nonetheless is a fun time, and a wonderful complement to a night’s viewing that also includes both aforementioned series.

By Charles On 23 Apr, 2013 At 07:58 PM | Categorized As Animation, Featured, Reviews, Reviews | With 0 Comments
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According to Twitter, it’s always a good problem when an anime season has too many good shows. This logic is sound: I would rather spend my time choosing between awesome series than trying to find just ONE to hold my interest. In addition to keeping my occupied, it also adds just enough spice to long road trips, because now I’ve got a backlog to work on instead of just staring out the window.

Spring 2013 is one of those good seasons. Seriously, between apocalyptic battles between man and monster, giant robots, elder gods and something new from Gen Urobuchi, it was a challenge to find that one show to follow until summer. So I decided to follow four, with the potential for a fifth to come later. Hence, this will be part one of my Spring 2013 impressions, the second to come after I’ve fully caught up.

First Pick: Valvrave the Liberator

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I’ve had a really low opinion of giant robot shows for the past few years. While my “formative time” as an anime fan was spent watching a lot of Gundam, recently (since around the time Code Geass was airing) I discovered how little I cared about mecha as a genre. Gundam AGE didn’t strike a chord with me (or anyone, really…), and I would be hard-pressed to identify a single robot series that I found compelling or interesting. And then came Valvrave.

Off the bat, this show plays like Gundam Seed did a decade ago. Space colonies at war, hidden weapons of destruction, betrayal, espionage, schoolchildren, a stab at the Russians…the pilot was scene for scene a rehash of Seed (with a single nod to Destiny midway through), and yet did not come off as being “fake” in any way. It moved quickly, hooking me as a viewer and making me feel invested in a narrative that’s been done to death by every other mecha franchise since ever.

Valvrave-the-liberator-illustrationThen came the “obligatory” curve: the machine itself was either sentient, or some kind of channel for powers beyond the comprehension of man. Cue awesome neon lights, an ass-kicking, and an enemy army on the run. Okay, been there, but this is pretty flashy. What else you got? Pilot gets shot- repeatedly- but gets up and bites a his assailant. Okay, vampires? Unexpected, especially for a science fiction series? No, wait…not vampires…he BODY-SWAPPED with him? And now he can use all those “1337 ninja skillz” against his foes? What IS this show? I DO NOT CARE!

Valvrave, no matter how derivative it comes off at times, is fun, and even a bit refreshing. It drops hints slowly as to what the bigger picture is, so while fans can appreciate the nods to past mecha series, they can also look forward to twists and turns as the story progresses. As of the second episode, none of the characters are all that different from the “cookie cutter” mold established thirty years ago, but the influx of animation technologies and grandiose fight scenes help you forget its “roots.” I’m eager to see where this series goes in the end, but as long as it keeps up the bells, whistles and head-shots, I think I can live with the results. After all, Valvrave is also wicked fun, not bogged down in political jargon or complicated diplomatics. There’s a war, there’s a giant robot, let’s see where this goes. It adds up to being fun, which in the end is one of the major reasons for watching anime in the first place.

Valvrave-the-Liberator-01-20Valvrave gets an A, for awesome. And there’s a post-credit scene in episode 1.

Second Pick: Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)

titan 2Last summer I watched a series where humanity was in a state of decline and “otherworldly” beings were now the masters of Earth. This season that theme comes back, but it’s no longer cute little faeries creating bread from rubber, megalomaniacal skinless chickens, and yaoi criticism. Attack on Titan is a dark, moody show that depicts mankind not just in decline, but on the defensive against a powerful, predatory foe eager to devour us all. How does it feel being knocked down a peg on the food chain?

The plot establishes itself quickly: in the face of monstrous, androgynous beings called “Eotena” (who are deliciously creepy thanks to wide grins, sharp teeth and an utter lack of both clothing and genitalia), mankind has withdrawn behind massive walls built to keep our dwindling population safe from being eaten off the face of the planet. These walls, and the people living behind them, have stood for a century without breech, a fact which leaves some of the residents more complacent about our standing in the world. A young boy dreams of a future where he (and the rest of humanity) can rise up and strike down their tormentors, and establish a new world outside the walls, where men are no longer “livestock,” but the true masters of nature.

Then the destruction comes. Confronted with an Eotena far larger and stronger than any encountered before, the walls are breached, and mankind once again becomes cattle to be devoured by their gigantic foes. Attack on Titan weaves together a powerful message of survival, politics, ambition, and annihilation, as the resources and resourcefulness of humanity as a species must contend with forces beyond our control, and capability to fight. The Eotena are mindless killing machines with no thought other than acquiring prey. The soldiers lack courage needed to fight against them, or find themselves hopelessly outmatched. Bravery and food are both in short supply, enough to spur on suicide missions against an unbeatable foe, mostly in the name of “population control.”

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Lunch time…

This is a very dismal series. Recalling imagery from “War of the Worlds,” “Berserk,” and “Gojira,” it depicts civilization on the brink on collapse. Heroes are born, but are powerless to institute change. Like its kaiju-cousins, its better to run, hide, and survive than fight back, but where is the honor in that? Is it even possible to be honorable when life as you know it is coming to an end? (Or, as one character puts it: you lack the strength to save the world. I lack the courage.) What must you do to survive? These are themes explored in just the first two episodes, with promises of secret powers and weapons to come later.

Attack on Titan also receives an A, for allegory and adult themes.

By Charles On 19 Mar, 2013 At 04:43 PM | Categorized As Animation, Featured, Reviews, Reviews | With 0 Comments
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earthseaA few years ago, I found myself sitting in a movie theatre watching an animated adaptation of Ursula LeGuin’s landmark “Earthsea” series. Produced by the legendary Studio Ghibli, it marked the directorial debut of one Goro Miyazaki, son of the acclaimed animator and storyteller Hayao Miyazaki. I left the show feeling satisfied with the end result, and pondering where this new voice in filmmaking would go with his next piece, should he actually direct a second film.

Earthsea ended up receiving a lot of heat from the animation community, panned for weak storytelling, unfinished ideas and a rushed “feeling” to the entire project. For my part, I saw the film as an emulation of what Ghibli had produced before: it definitely lacked the sense of identity and “personal voice” that classics like “Princess Mononoke,” “Spirited Away,” and “Pom Poko” had utilized to great effect, and at times felt like it was “trying too hard” to be a Ghibli film. Rather than create its own space, it was too preoccupied with fitting a specific mold that its predecessors had established.

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Much of that blame was laid squarely on the shoulders of the younger Miyazaki. It’s no big secret that his father did not want him making that film. It’s no big secret that the elder Miyazaki had once tried to do the same, but was met with roadblocks from author LeGuin. It’s also no big secret that Goro’s insistence that he make the film translated to tensions between father and son. And it’s also no big secret that Earthsea itself is one of those “impossible projects:” literary works that are downright incompatible with translation to the screen (if you don’t believe me, feel free to watch the SyFy original movie adaptation of Earthsea…or just watch a film version of anything by Alan Moore).

I mention this because over the weekend I was fortunate enough to attend to US premiere of Goro Miyazaki’s latest film, “From Up on Poppy Hill,” a project he worked on in conjunction with his father as a sort of animated “olive branch” between two strained family members. And the first thought to run through my mind after the credits rolled was: “see, he can make a great film with the right source material.”

For starters, this film, which was adapted from the comic “Kokuriko-zaka Kara” by Chizuru Takahashi and Tetsuro Sayama, returns to a time period that Ghibli has had great success with in the past: postwar Japan. Set against a backdrop of the looming 1964 Olympic games, 16 year old Umi Matsuzaki must come to terms with both the loss of her father years earlier, and the emotions in her own heart as she builds a friendship with fellow student Shun Kazama.

poppy hillThis type of story is one that Ghibli has done time and again, from Laputa in the 1980s to 1995‘s Whisper of the Heart: strong themes of love, loss, nostalgia and reconciling the past and present in a time of great change pervade every line and scene, introducing westerners to many of subtle (and often unrecorded) path of “progress” Japan has been on since the mid-1800s. Conflict between heritage, history and embracing the future has been a frequent one, and finding that balance between the two is both challenging and rewarding- in many ways, this film is a sort of “collective version” of the under-known “Only Yesterday,” a similar tale with a similar outcome, and similarly satisfying in its resolution.

As the film progresses (and quite humorously, at that), Umi and Shun becomes leaders in a “cleanup” for their school’s historic “Latin Quarter:” a clubhouse that has fallen into disrepair and is in danger of being torn down to make room for “progress” in the form of a new facility building. As their efforts gradually build, more of their fellow students join in the cause, transforming the repair work into a near school-wide project that serves, as Umi states, to bring them together as a community. More than just a home for the “misfit” clubs, the building symbolizes that intangible connection that runs through all students in the school, and while some might be apathetic to the loss, it simply makes those dedicated to the project work that much harder.

latin quarterAt the same time, Umi is struggling to come to terms with both her lost father, her feelings for Shun, and a revelation that threatens to derail the friendship that has allowed for them to spearhead the Latin Quarter project. This part of the narrative is similar to many that Ghibli has done in the past, and might even be considered obvious for anyone who has watched the “canon” before. Though, in its defense, it is handled very well, and far more “organically” than earlier films like Whisper of the Heart. While the true joy of the film revolves around the Latin Quarter, neither plot feels overblown or underdeveloped, but rather balances and revolves well around each other (something which was lacking in films like Arrietty). You actually care about that old Latin Quarter building- partly because of its playful charm, and partly because of all the students and alumni who cherish the memories they made there. You feel hope for the young Umi, ever diligent in her raising of the signal flags, pointing a way home for her lost father. You laugh at the exaggerated mindsets of the club members, so enthralled by their studies, but still willing to come together for a collective goal that unifies and defines what they share, and are at risk to lose. You actually develop a stake in the entire affair, rather than simply watch a story unfold.

Plot aside, this film is also absolutely lovely to watch: the “Ghibli aesthetic” is wonderfully present in lush colors, the variety of character/face designs and the use of shadow and subtlety to differentiate between cities and settings. Fresh is fresh, dingy is dingy, locations come alive of their own accord- all things that Ghibli has perfected over the years, and viewers have come to expect. While it lacks some of the “fantastic” elements found in the elder Miyazaki’s classics, it still manages to reflect and convey its own distinct form of “old world charm” in both the clubhouse and the surrounding port town. (In particular, that first glimpse inside the Latin Quarter is probably the most “Glibli-like” visual sequence in the film: some might wonder if they would get lost amidst the dust and gathered relics of clubs past.)

When I speak about the films of studio Ghibli, I often make mention that if Earthsea is the worst film Goro Miyazaki makes, it’s a pretty good start to his career. From Up on Poppy Hill is proof of that: his ambition is clearly present in the direction, while his father’s steady hand keeps him from running “off the page.” As a collaborative effort, this film is both solid and enjoyable. It’s not perfect, but much like the setting and story, neither are those who live in it, and that just adds to its charm.

By Charles On 1 Mar, 2013 At 09:15 PM | Categorized As Animation, Editorials, Featured, Reviews, Reviews | With 0 Comments
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and’s she’s quite the looker too…

In Japan, there is a certain goddess. A pillar of righteousness, she sits high in the heavens, casting her light down upon everything beneath her. Countless other gods, enraptured by her splendor and majesty, hurry about trying to cull favor from this radiant maiden of unearthly beauty. Her name is Amaterasu, the embodiment of the sun itself, ancestor of the imperial family, and possessor of the supreme power of all kami: ready to defend her people at a moment’s notice against evil and ever vigilant in her watch over all those beneath her.

At least until her favorite anime comes on. Then, you’re s-o-l.

A playful entry into the winter 2013 anime season, SHAFT’s Sasami-san@ganbaranai (Ms Sasami @ Unmotivated) is an alternate take on the legend of the sun goddess, told from the point of a cute, hikikomori schoolgirl and her faceless brother. But while the legend of Amaterasu is a tale of bullying, retreat and the eventual emergence of the brilliance of the sun, Sasami’s story is a little more…relatable? Typical? Expected? Actually, it’s hard to put into words.

sasamiBy day, the spunky Sasami Tsukuyomi is content to lounge around, taking time out of her busy schedule of gaming and sleeping to spy on her elder brother while he works his job at the local high school she should be attending. By night, she demands that he profess his love to her, feed her, wash her and put her to bed, so the following day she can repeat the process. Punish his supposed ecchi moments, act aloof until he’s swooning, and deflect his advances continuously.  Not too different from any pampered princess living out her daily dreams of not doing anything.

But Sasami is different. Unlike a mere mortal royal, she is the heir to the power of the sun itself, and with it has the ability to force anyone – god or human alike – to do her “bidding,” those wishes she has in her heart that she rarely vocalizes. These “transformations” come back to haunt her time and again, but still she resists, preferring the life of a shut in to that of a responsible person. For shame, denying the obligations of the mighty sun goddess- she would never do such a…oh…OH!, I get it now. Clever girl…

From the outset, Sasami-san@ganbaranai borrows liberally from the legend of the “original hikikomori,” Amaterasu. In the legends, the maiden of the sun is driven underground by her brother, the “vile” Susano-o. Taking refuge in a cave, she refuses to come back out, depriving the world of her radiance and allowing for monsters to run rampant. Some clever and enterprising folks manage to use her own envy against her, convincing her (through the use of several well-placed mirrors) that they have chosen a new sun goddess, and luring her back out. From then on her, place remains in the sky, driving off ghostly spirits and giving light to the people. All that’s missing here is the computers.

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kawaii…and not a little reminiscent of Chobits…

Sasami, the heir of this cosmic power, lives her life indoors. Every time she attempts to leave the house, a powerful wave of nausea and disorientations overtakes her. She retreats back inside. She finds amusement in petty things. She can’t take care of herself. And her brother, kami bless, him, dotes on her unceasingly. Continue along this path until forced to leave, in order to protect the brother she realizes she loves, from sacrificing himself for her. Not a word-for-word updating of the original tale, but close enough to provide a cute, modern insight into the source material. (Even cuter when you realize her faceless bother Kamiomi is Tsuki-yomi, the “faceless” god of the moon- ever present, ever mysterious, ever-doting…well, maybe that last part is a stretch.)

Of course, her brother is “assisted” in his duties by three “sisters,” the Yagamis, who are themselves human incarnations of the three regalia of Japan – the mirror, the sword and the “jewel” – tasked with assisting in Sasami’s “upkeep” and making sure the transformations she seems to throw around like proverbial candy don’t come back to take a bite out of HER. Each sister, from the innocent, yet still oddly busty, Tama, to the almost mecha-musume Kagami, to the slightly skewed Tsurugi (also a teacher at Sasami’s high school), play important roles in maintaining a balance between the real world and Sasami’s whims. Each one also plays a deeper role than even Sasami realizes, though saying anything else would be spoilers.

On the surface, Sasami-san@ganbaranai feels a lot like a certain other moe-style show from a few years ago: a light novel series about girl seeking something more from life, subconsciously gains the power to influence reality to meet her desires, then needs to be “saved” by a cadre of fellow students brought together because of her existence and affect on cosmic balance…we’ve heard all this before…

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The difference between Sasami and Haruhi, however, lies in the fact that unlike the latter, she isn’t an arrogant (at least not too much), relatively unlikable tsundere forcing her interests on others. In fact, Sasami is more innocent, perhaps even sweeter, than Haruhi Suzumiya ever could be. And that innocence makes her character far more interesting and relatable. When she makes a mistake, she tries to fix it. When she realizes how her actions impact those she loves, she attempts to make amends. And unlike Haruhi, she eventually gains a full understanding of what she is, and grows from it.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Sasami-san@ganbaranai is the moe show I’ve been looking for. More fun than Jintai, a better use of folklore than Inu X Boku and at times sillier than Haiyore!, this is the kind of show I’d expect from SHAFT: nothing groundbreaking, but a better use of tropes and narrative than simply cute girls doing cute things. A solid entry for winter season, and enough to tide one over until the spring.

By Garrett Green On 3 Feb, 2013 At 06:24 AM | Categorized As Animation, Featured, Reviews, Television, Videos | With 0 Comments
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Nickelodeon’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle was met with controversy and fan outrage before it actually premiere. The new CG style turned a lot of people off and no one knew if this show would be any good. I’ve seen almost every iteration for the Turtles from the original cartoon to the movies to the really crappy live action tv show with the fifth female turtle. (And if you remember the Coming Out of Our Shells tour, extra brownie points for you) I had my reservation as well but after seeing the first hour-long episode, I was hooked!

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And so were most of the naysayers. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles quickly became Nickelodeon’s highest rated program with 3.9 million viewers in it’s premiere week and constantly pulling in the viewership. This rendition of the turtles has managed to not only pay homage to its predecessors, but stand out on it’s own with a well balance of action and comedy.

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For anyone who may not now what TMNT is about, four turtles where mutated into human size, intelligent beings that learned ninjustu from their master Splinter, once human but now a giant rat, and battle their arch nemesis, The Shedder. In this reimagining of the turtles, series creator Ciro Nieli, set out to show the brotherhood between the turtles. Being a fan of the turtles since the comics, Nieli really wanted to make each turtle an individual, and man did he succeed. Each turtle really stands apart from the rest, from the way they act to the way they look. These turtles really look different from each other, and I’m not just talking about a different skin tone, but their height, body build, even eye color is unique to each turtle.

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These turtles really do feel unique. Their personalities shine with both original and new flare.  Of course they touch on the Leo and Raph rivalry, but I really like what they do here with Don and especially Mikey. While Mikey is always the younger brother and the “party dude,” I feel like he truly exudes the younger brother wonderment and innocence. April was turned into a teenager to be closer to the turtles. So far, it works really well, yet many times she turns into the damsel in distress. And Donatello’s crush is funny, yet sometimes creepy. With Casey Jones already announced for the second season, it’ll be interesting to see how this dynamic changes. Master Splinter was also de-aged and is much younger then what he is normally portrayed in other iterations. This also works with the series, as he is powerful and funny. And of course we can’t forget the shedder, who is truly foreboding and scary. It took a little while for him to really show up, but when he finally did, the payout was superb. The fight was brutal and you truly get a sense of his evilness.

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While an awesome show, not everything is great though; the first couple episodes really felt like a “monster of the week” formula, and April feel under used. A lot of people were complaining about the CG before the show aired but for it’s style it works perfectly. I really can’t find too much to complain about. I love this show; it is the perfect mix of comedy from the original series and dark from the 2003 series. If you have not given this show a chance yet you are doing yourself a disfavor. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles airs at 11 am on Saturday mornings. Watch it and be amazed. BOOYAKASHA!!!

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By jotsuka On 20 Jan, 2013 At 03:31 AM | Categorized As Animation, Editorials, Featured, Movie News, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments
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Thankfully we all survived the apocalypse so that we can create our personal year-end lists and Google everyone else’s. “Personal” should be a keyword when it comes to such obligatory and ultimately arbitrary rankings. “Best” and “worst” are labels in the eye of the beholder. It really boils down to what any given critic, blogger, or Joe Schmo likes or dislikes. For me, the best storytelling of any year occupies the middle grounds between intellectual ambition and simple entertainment, technical filmmaking craft and plot, and a sense of heavy importance and light re-watch-ability. So keeping in mind individual taste, pretensions, and the pool of films from this year that I didn’t see, here is my personal list of the best films released in 2012.

(NOTE: This list was comprised before the wide release of Amour, a Best Picture nominee and a film that’s already racking up various other awards, nominations, and making the majority of critics’ Top 10 lists.)

The Best

10. Beasts of the Southern Wild

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I had the privilege of seeing the world premiere of Beasts of the Southern Wild at the Sundance Film Festival last January. Executed by a first-time filmmaker with a non-professional cast, I knew it was something special when I got the chills during its opening credit sequence. But I didn’t fully appreciate it as a whole until a second viewing when it opened in wide release. The film exists in a surreal magical realism whirlpool of present/past, timeliness/timelessness, and profoundness/naiveté. It follows the post-Katrina experiences of a little girl named Hushpuppy, who lives in a portion of the bayou dubbed “The Bathtub” with her rough around the edges father. Through cinema verite style accounts of her interactions with her dad, others around her, giant beasts she imagines, and her strangely insightful childish voiceover musings, we come to share a bit of her worldview, complete with melting polar ice caps and the belief that “in a million years, when kids go to school, they gonna know: Once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in The Bathtub.” Who among us doesn’t secretly want such a thing?

 

9. The Avengers

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There isn’t much left to be said about The Avengers. If you’ve seen the movie, its success speaks for itself, and one would be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn’t seen it. (It may even be difficult to find someone who hasn’t seen it more than once.) We got fan service in the jokes, the fights, and the references, but the whole thing worked well enough as a movie in general that anyone could get on board and have a good time. A deft balancing act in action, story, dialogue, humor, and overall nerdgasmic ambition, it was about as good as we could have been given.

 

8. Footnote

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In stark contrast to The Avengers, Footnote is a small-scale, character-driven Israeli film that received a foreign language Oscar nomination in 2011, but wasn’t released until last year. It focuses on the conflict between father and son scholars who resent one another for their varying degrees of esteem in the academic community. The film takes on a visual style and tone that matches its characters’ idiosyncratic personalities, vamping up a somewhat simple narrative’s dramatic and emotional resonance. In a single scene that takes place in a cramped conference room with way too many people, we understand everything the film is trying to say about not only academia politics, but the general socially constructed hierarchies and bureaucracies in which we all find ourselves.

 

7. Moonrise Kingdom

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You don’t have to love Wes Anderson to love Moonrise Kingdom, but I don’t see how any fan could not adore it. It’s a no shag movie that achieves Anderson’s precise technical dexterity while still mustering up enough emotional presence to make it richer than something like The Life Aquatic or The Darjeeling Limited. Its primary focus is on the nature of community and how it can both make us conform and fulfill us as individuals at the same time. Look no further than the description of an orchestra in the film’s introductory sequence to take in this theme. Adults act like kids, kids act like adults, and a bunch of surreal business abounds, ultimately amounting to the humble sentiment that wherever we find ourselves—even if it’s not the best—is probably a better place than being lost and alone.

 

6. Compliance

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This movie year offered an abundance of squirm-inducing moments, ranging from torture, to beatings, to catastrophic disasters, to drug abuse, but Compliance may be the most persistently hard to watch of all. This may seem ironic, given that the entire narrative takes place amongst a handful of minimum-waged ordinary people in the back room of a fast food restaurant. Based on a true story, it reenacts the startling events that would have made Stanley Milgram giggle with glee, while leaving us flabbergasted and resistant to the idea that they’re based on fact. In a deft opening segment of no more than 15 minutes, we’re introduced to the setting, the atmosphere, and the restaurant’s staff, led by a worn-down, middle-aged manager played by Ann Dowd in one of the best performances of the year. A mysterious man calls the restaurant claiming to be a cop and stating that he has reason to believe one of the female employees has stolen from a customer’s purse. Things spiral out of control as he spends the remainder of the day handing out completely ludicrous and unreasonable orders that the staff unquestionably comply with, believing he is a voice of authority. You won’t want to watch what these subservient characters are capable of, but you won’t be able to look away either. It will leave you with a bitter aftertaste that will have you condescendingly shaking your head while timidly wondering how much of it you would have done differently, had it been you.

 

5. Skyfall

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James Bond seemed to be reinvented yet again this year, even if Daniel Craig was still the man in the tux. With the capable Sam Mendes at the directorial helm, we got a stylish thriller that stripped itself down to franchise basics while feeling strikingly relevant and fresh—something that the film itself addresses through numerous cynical characters questioning the contemporary merits of MI6. Bond mainstays were played up—including the musical theme, returning characters, and a memorable maniacal villain—but we also got to see some interesting new aspects of the 007 universe in the form of a vulnerable aging Bond (he even gets shot for the first time!), the mother-son relationship between him and M, and a plot that favored character backstory over save-the-entire-world heroics.

 

4. Zero Dark Thirty

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All political controversy aside, Zero Dark Thirty should be assessed as a film—and it’s a damn good one. Even better than director Kathryn Bigelow’s last film, the Best Picture winning The Hurt Locker, it dramatizes America’s hunt for and assassination of Osama bin Laden. Through the lens of our protagonist, CIA agent Maya (Best Actress frontrunner, Jessica Chastain), the procedural-loving film takes us through the last decade of paranoia, bloodlust, and pain that America has undergone since 9/11. Opening on a black screen to the sounds of September 11th distress calls, and punctuated throughout by the various terrorist attacks of the last 10 years, the narrative concludes on the infamous raid of bin Laden’s compound. There isn’t a false beat to be found in the film, while Bigelow and writer Mark Boal expertly manage to somehow work-in character development and drama in an otherwise clinical picture. The final shot of the film single-handedly sums up not only the picture, but the collective consciousness of the entire post-9/11 era. Like Maya in that final moment, we neither want to stand up and cheer, nor hang our heads in desperation. Torture scenes and all, the film is a perfect reflection of our nation’s moral, political, and emotional ambiguity.

 

3. Holy Motors

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With Hugo, The Artist, and My Week with Marilyn, 2011 wasn’t unfamiliar with movies about Movies, but 2012’s Holy Motors outshines them all. It’s French writer/director Leos Carax’s ode to cinema’s power, and a general lamentation over what the movies have become and where they are headed. Denis Lavant plays the craftily-named Oscar, a man whose apparent profession is to be driven around in a limo, changing costumes and inhabiting different personas as he acts out “scenes” in different locations around town. We soon come to realize that Oscar is a stand-in for various types of movie characters in different genres, and with each vignette he takes part in, we gain a deeper understanding of what Carax may be getting at. Whether it is action, melodrama, musical, motion capture-produced fantasy, or a bizarre concluding love story between Oscar and a chimpanzee, the film seems to be hypothesizing that cinema manifests itself through many faces and forms, and rather than dying, it will continually be reborn.

 

2. The Master

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P.T. Anderson’s latest is 2012’s best example of the kind of film you know is great and admirable without fully comprehending why. It’s a tricky and complex masterpiece that you can’t quite decipher, but will remain with you long after you’ve seen it. I’m not sure even Anderson could unpack all of its layered meanings, but I don’t think I’d want him to since, like a great novel, retroactively interpreting its symbolic ambiguities is half the fun. Loosely based on the creation of scientology, its primary focus is on the relationship between a pseudo-cult’s leader, Lancaster Dodd, and a mentally unstable drifter, Freddie Quell, each played with awe-inspiring adroitness by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, respectively. Like Anderson’s other films, The Master feels thematically weighty without being pretentious, and showcases his peerless aesthetic craftsmanship. The hands down best scene of the year comes in the form of a technically simplistic dialogue exchange between Hoffman and Phoenix, as they sit down to undergo a “processing” interview in the lower deck of Dodd’s yacht.

 

1. Django Unchained

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It’s difficult to pinpoint why Django is the favorite of the year. Like nearly all of Quentin Tarantino’s films, many people read it as a shallow exercise in style with limited moral weight and nothing much to say. Others have reduced it to Inglorious Basterds 2.0. While there are degrees of truth to each of these assessments, this story of a German bounty hunter who exchanges a slave’s assistance for a reunion with his wife, presents a complex revisionist fantasy that genre-mashes blaxploitation, spaghetti western, period piece, and the revenge narrative that Tarantino never seems to tire of. With a menagerie of talented cast members (Leo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson) giving top notch performances, the pithy and lively script is brought to life with not only naturalism, but a sense of authenticity and enthusiasm. It’s tough to know when we’re supposed to be cheering, laughing, or wincing at the onscreen goings on. White and black audiences are likely to process the film in very different ways, but it teeters just on the favorable sides of the contemporary borders surrounding both racism and apologist guilt. From a storytelling standpoint, the film loses its footing a little in its final act, slipping into some conventional violence-for-violence’s-sake territory, but it doesn’t destroy the preceding glory of the movie’s character-driven dramatic conflict, study in race relation, and the unsettling general enjoyment that’s to be found in this least of expected places.

 

The Rest

20. Oslo, August 31st

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This scruffy film is foreign, bleak, and not the slightest bit uplifting, but I urge you to watch it. It follows a recovering drug addict through his experiences on August 31st in Oslo. You don’t have to be a user or addict of any kind to identify with this complex protagonist.

 

19. Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I didn’t get around to many documentaries in 2012, so I may be biased, but I’m still upset this one didn’t get an Oscar nom. Jiro is a cantankerous, neurotic old chef who runs the most renowned sushi shop in the world. People come from far and wide to his little subway station restaurant to sample his perfect sushi meals. The film explores his profession, his sons, and the beauty of his craft.

 

18. ParaNorman

It was a disappointing year for Pixar with Brave, and Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph was abnormally good, but ParaNorman is the best animated film of 2012. Don’t listen to those Ice Age and Madagascar-loving morons.

 

17. Take This Waltz

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Michelle Williams, a tourist destination pamphlet writer, is married to Seth Rogen, a boring chicken cookbook writer. She meets Luke Kirby, a handsome rickshaw driver, and falls in love. Sound annoyingly twee enough? It kind of is, but it works.

 

16. Magic Mike

A personal biggest surprise of the year, this movie is about way more than male strippers. Steven Soderbergh crafts a story of economic turmoil, male identity, and occupational passion versus financial security. For the dudes out there who are uncomfortable with seeing Channing Tatum strip, take solace in a topless Olivia Munn (queen of the nerds) in the opening scene.

 

15. Lincoln

Likely to win multiple Oscars next month, including a probable Best Picture statue, Lincoln’s true achievement is in its adept script and Daniel Day-Lewis’s masterful performance.

 

14. Killer Joe

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A self-proclaimed “twisted, redneck trailer-park murder story” that showcases Matthew McConaughey in yet another strong supporting role of late (see Bernie and Magic Mike). You’ll never look at a KFC drumstick the same way again.

 

13. Argo

With the exception of his dry performance, Ben Affleck hits the nail squarely on the head this time around. A tense, entertaining popcorn flick that’s based on true events but enhanced by old fashioned Hollywood flare.

 

12. Looper

Writer/director Rian Johnson reunites with Joseph Gordon-Levitt for his clever take on time travel sci-fi. Were all the narrative loops closed? Not exactly, but we’ll cut it some slack due to its overall awesomeness.

 

11. The Cabin in the Woods

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An incredibly smart piece of horror movie satire. Through its meta perspective on the genre, filmmaking, and us—the passive audience—The Cabin in the Woods is an extremely enjoyable and funny send up of the predictable horror clichés we all hate to love and love to hate.

 

Simple and/or Guilty Pleasures

10. Pitch Perfect—campy good fun that transcends chick-flick trappings

9. Goon—a messy, throwaway hockey movie that’s enjoyable throughout

8. The Raid: Redemption—a bloody, Korean, video game-esque action piece

7. Chronicle—not the best, but the most unique superhero movie of the year

6. Ted—as funny as Family Guy with much more heart

5. The Grey—Liam Neeson fighting off wolves and pondering God’s existence

4. Jeff, Who Lives at Home—the Duplass brothers’ latest small-but-big indie

3. Prometheus—narratively dreadful, but ambitiously juicy

2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey—familiar, but in a good way

1. The Dark Knight Rises—endless plot holes, but still Nolan’s glorious trilogy capper

By GovPancakes On 15 Jan, 2013 At 07:29 AM | Categorized As Animation, Featured, Reviews, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments
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So here is GovPancakes with Real Otaku Gamer again with another anime review, this time it isn’t something as mainstream as Blue Gender, its more of a hidden gem called Natsume’s Book of Friends . Its about a boy who’s Grandmother was cursed by having the ability to see demons. She held amazing spiritual powers and could fight the demons. As a result she created The Book of Friends and sealed/made the demons she defeated slaves to her every whim just by saying their names.

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Now in present time Natsume himself shares the same curse. His parents pass away and he moves from relative to relative while dealing with this curse. He runs to a shrine to avoid some demons and ends up releasing a powerful demon named Madara that takes the form of a Lucky Cat but can transform into a giant wolf-like creature. Madara informs then confronts Natsume about the book and tries to take it. Natsume defeats him and Madara decides to watch over Natsume while Natsume tries to release all the demons, and Natsume promises that Madara can have the book if he dies in return for helping.

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Now I haven’t watched the whole anime yet I’m about 8 episodes in and I’m enjoying it a ton. Its a mix of an action/comedy/adventure. The music is pretty fitting to the anime nothing outstanding. The animation is pretty nice and the demons and characters are definitely remember-able and not just basic redraws of the same type. I’ve only found it subbed not dubbed and I’m completely fine with that. What’s drawing me to the anime is the story. Every time Natsume releases a demon he learns more of his grandmother and the demons himself. Also there are others with his curse that he finds that cause conflict. The story just grabs me to watch it.

By GovPancakes On 16 Dec, 2012 At 11:28 PM | Categorized As Animation, Featured, Games You Slept On, Reviews, Reviews | With 0 Comments
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Hello everyone this is GovPancakes with Real Otaku Gamer here to bring you new anime to watch. This time its an anime called Blue Gender. Now you may not of heard of it because its a older anime. The Genre is Action/Mecha, now before i start a lot of people go “oh man it has mechs in it I don’t wanna watch that”. Stop it. This anime isn’t focused on the mechs its focused on the people.

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The anime starts off with a Recovery team trying to recover these people called sleepers (humans that were put into a cryogenic stasis because of an unknown disease). The main character Yuji, just happens to be one. He gets forced awake into a time where humans (not all but a mass amount) have been pushed into space to live on a space port called Second Earth by these Bug-like Creatures called The Blue. The Blue are a special kind of bug that can eat organic and inorganic objects…so basically everything. They only have one weakness which is their “core”, which later in the anime becomes an issue.

Yuji joins the recovery team and their second in command Marlene, who’s job is to transport Yuji to Second Earth. Reality hits him that time has definitely changed since he was in stasis that all that he knows is gone. The humans of this time are a lot more heartless and act completely different from his time.

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Now what makes this anime good is how realistic it is. Its really raunchy and gory, sex scenes, blood in about every episode, swearing, but its not over the top. The people are completely heartless just like The Blue are. Its an amazing story about survival. The action is amazing and realistic. If someone looks like they are about to die then they probably are. The relationship between characters is also a factor in the battles which adds to the story. The art style for its time was great and its still good now. The voices aren’t bad and the music is sub par at best.

In conclusion I say if you liked Starship Troopers give it a shot. It has almost the same focus but its not funny, and a lot more serious. Amazing anime that I give a 8/10

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