Friday, May 22, 2015

Anime Bowl Toonami Podcast - Episode 7


So it sounds as if I'm talking into a piece of sandpaper in this episode... add that to my Tsuruya-esque lisp, and you may not be able to understand what I'm saying. That's ok, because I let my co-host do most of the talking. It's Episode VII!

Intro: 0:00
Dragonball Z Kai: 0:18
Kill la Kill: 6:28
Sword Art Online II: 14:17
InuYasha The Final Act: 19:40
Naruto Shippuden: 26:02
One Piece: 28:24

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

InuYasha TFA 23: Forest of Illusion

InuYasha The Final Act episode 23 review

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It's only an illusion. It's only an illusion.

These characters do the same stupid things over and over again, and despite the fact that I'm a big InuYasha fan, there's only so much I can take. As I talked about on our podcast which may or may not ever get posted, Sango's irrational attack on the umpteenth Naraku illusion made very little sense. How many times do these characters have to destroy a Naraku illusion before they realize that that's all it is?

I love Rumiko Takahashi and her manga, so I hate to criticize this last part of The Final Act. After all, it is the end for InuYasha. After this, these characters will be put in the vault forever. And this is such a precious anime for me because (as I posted on Facebook) it's the anime that got me into the world of anime fandom back in 2007.

But this Final Act, which started with so much promise, has turned into a dud worthy of only filler episodes. I was expecting an epic final battle, but these last few episodes have dragged on so badly and not offered anything exciting. It's supposed to be really really big, and what we're getting is boring.

Maybe it's that I'm no longer that 22-year-old who watched InuYasha and loved it. (Even at my first watch back in 2007, I was still older than most anime fans are today.) I fell for all the Naraku illusions, I actually thought characters might die. I was emotionally invested in every character, and their fates were connected with mine. I loved Sango especially, and I couldn't wait for the Sango-Miroku marriage.

Now I'm 30. I've experienced every bit of depression and anxiety this world can offer. I haven't been to war, but I've fought wars within my mind. And InuYasha comes across no longer as that innocent series with the fun characters, but as a tired old retread that's seen better days. Perhaps had I seen this back in 2007, I would have loved it and InuYasha would have gone down as one of the greatest.

I don't know. I don't really need to say anything more about the episode, given how old this is by now and that the manga is even older (2008). What's important is how I experience it. It's a big disappointment for me, but maybe under different circumstances it wouldn't be as such.

Then again, even this old and jaded soul can really get into Kill la Kill.

Character of the episode: Miroku
He and Sango were both making one stupid decision after another in this one. I couldn't figure out either of them.

Episode rating (out of four stars): *½

Monday, May 18, 2015

SAO II 8: Ocean's Twelve ex machina

Sword Art Online II episode 8 review

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Even Kirito joined Nudist Beach.

Every week, we hear that SAO II is killing Toonami, but that's not exactly a fair assessment. After all, since Dragonball Z Kai gets the first half-hour of the night, it automatically gets the highest ratings every single night. And that's despite being by far the worst and most boring of any show of the night. (Yeah, Dragonball Z Kai has not grown on me at all.)

So SAO II continues to limp along. We get more grumpy Sinon. No, that's not accurate. More like raging, boiling mad Sinon. Kirito apparently has social anxiety, which I can empathize with, as he is too awkward to talk to Sinon about the actual problem he has. He can't get it out of his mouth what his true objective is, so his talk with Sinon is super-awkward. Unfortunately, it doesn't come off as charming, but rather nasty, because Sinon has become such a bitch.

There's a new term we'll be using for SAO II, which is a verb: "ex machinas." As in, Kirito "ex machinas" his way over to sneak up on Sinon in practically no time at all. Part of his "ex machining" includes stripping off all his clothes and going for a naked swim over to Sinon's sniping spot. Kirito could easily kill Sinon at this point, or vice versa, but instead of course neither decides to do so. Kirito's at least got a reason not to kill Sinon, but Sinon's refusal is mind-boggling. Isn't this the same girl who just one episode ago went on a rant on how she was going to get revenge on Kirito? She was utterly obsessed with Kirito yesterday! This makes absolutely no sense that she won't just pull the trigger and end Kirito's tournament.

In the meantime, a character uses Ocean's Twelve ex machina to escape a whole bunch of bullets and then cut down his opponent. However, he gets killed out of nowhere by Death Gun. And now Death Gun aims his sights on Sinon, and a panicked Kirito starts screaming for Sinon to escape.

If there was any sort of consistency from episode to episode or even from scene to scene with Sinon, then maybe she could be a good character. But she's completely schizophrenic in her thoughts, actions and words, so much that I've run out of words to describe her. It's sad to say this, but she is a very poorly written character. And it's not very hard to find well-written female characters in anime, so it's highly disappointing how much of a failure Sinon is.

This episode at least had the line "go play ALO with the fairies!" which was unintentionally (or maybe even intentionally) hilarious. I don't agree with any type of slurs, but the line sounded so funny that I couldn't help but laugh. Please don't sue me, VA; I laughed.

Character of the episode: Kirito
There were only 3 characters listed in the voice acting credits for this episode, which should tell you a lot.

Episode rating (out of four stars): *½

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Kill la Kill 15: Don't lose your way

Kill la Kill episode 15 review

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Mutually assured destruction.

The first half of this episode featured a giant enemy crab, which Sanageyama (had to look up his name) was able to defeat, by attacking his weak point for massive damage. It's the follow-up to last week's episode, as Takarada (the Osaka guy) gets defeated in the most painful way possible. The envelope was perhaps pushed too far at this point.

But remember that part where the teacher threw off his clothes and said he was going to join the Nudist Beach? That apparently wasn't a joke after all; it was an actual plot point! Unfortunately, this Nudist Beach plan fizzles out quickly as Satsuki's Elite Four defeat them rather swiftly and severely.

Oh, who am I kidding? I was cheering for Satsuki and the Elite Four. They've become so likable that even as they're shooting missiles at our beloved Ryuko, there's still a soft spot in my heart for them. Especially our favorite Nonon Jakuzure. "They call us the Elite Four because there's four of us!"

Finally, there's the battle between Satsuki and Ryuko, as these two finally get to go all out against each other. Ryuko uses surprise attacks to get back her Senketsu, and like pretty much every battle ever, our heroine is outpunched for most of the fight. In boxing, they would have called this one for Satsuki, who landed more punches, and especially more power punches.

But this isn't boxing. And Ryuko finds a way to pin down Satsuki, with the chance at killing her and nailing down her revenge for her father's death once and for all. The catch? Satsuki will kill her too, in a Spike/Vicious mutually assured destruction manner. There's a story about the Cold War in there, but for now, Satsuki makes the choice to let Ryuko go.

Thus there's no revenge for Ryuko, although I'm sure she wouldn't be satisfied. But Satsuki is satisfied - she just destroyed Nudist Beach and decimated their operations, which was the true objective of their mission. And if you're Ryuko, you got to hate yourself right now, because Satsuki got her way after all, and you had your chance at revenge and blew it. Meanwhile, Osaka sits in ruins, Evangelion-style.

The Ryuko/Satsuki battle was epic, save for the one moment it was interrupted by Mako. I would prefer if Mako kept her silliness restricted to pre-battle and post-battle, not mid-battle. This episode would have gotten 4 stars from me if not for the "giant enemy crab" silliness.

By the way, you heard the lyrics during the battle. "Don't lose your WAAAAAY..." etc. Those are important lyrics for the "way" this series is going.

Character of the episode: Satsuki
I know where this is going, so I better get my love in for Satsuki while I can.

Episode rating (out of four stars): ***½

Thursday, May 14, 2015

InuYasha TFA 22: What the Naraku was that all about?

InuYasha The Final Act episode 22 review

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According to Wikipedia, Naraku means "hell." I'll take their word for it. This episode was all about Naraku raising hell on the InuYasha gang. For the umpteenth time, they had to face down their worst fears as yet again Naraku created illusions for them to suffer through.

Unfortunately, this is all old and tired, as we've seen it way too many times before. It seemed like this episode was just a compilation of many episodes that were in the first 3 seasons. There was nothing special about it, not even the way Sesshomaru and InuYasha teamed up to defeat the one incarnation of Naraku.

InuYasha: The Final Act had its moments, but for the most part it's been a total bust, for reasons such as this. We're watching the same episodes over and over again, and it's getting tiresome. There's little chance The Final Act redeems itself in the final episodes, but we'll see. It was that amazing final episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood that redeemed so much of its Elric ex machina.

Character of the episode: Naraku
Not sure really who to give it to here.

Episode rating (out of four stars): *

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Kill la Kill announcement


I have to make an announcement, because it has a huge impact on this blog, the podcast and pretty much anything I do with anime.

Yesterday I marathoned through the rest of Kill la Kill. And man oh man, is it good. We're talking Evangelion-Madoka good. This is the stuff legendary anime series are made of.

But obviously I can't continue to masquerade here like I haven't seen it. It'd be disingenuous to write my posts like I don't know what happens. At the same time, I refuse to give spoilers, not the least of the reasons being that I don't want anyone to lose out on the experience you'll get down the stretch.

So my reviews may be a bit clouded, a bit blurry. I have to keep some things secret (for good reason!) as I go through these episodes. But I will let you know that starting now Kill la Kill gets good. You don't want to miss any of the next four or five episodes because of what goes down.

Also, Toonami seems to be running a "rerun marathon" in two weeks which will slow things down even more. But be patient, because the payoff is totally worth it. It's going to be tough waiting so long to put out my thoughts on some of these episodes, but unlike a Bleach, it's going to all end up worthwhile when you see what happens.

(We'll be retiring our "who won the night?" segment when it comes to best anime, because there's no way Kill la Kill loses even once.)

In the meantime, get your seatbelts on, because Kill la Kill is about to kill it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

SAO II 7: Obsessed with Kirito Disorder

Sword Art Online II episode 7 review

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If The Hunger Games visits the trials of Katniss dealing with PTSD, then I think Sword Art Online (II) deals with the adventures of several characters dealing with OKD. Instead of OCD - a very real brain disorder that I suffer with 24/7 - the characters of SAO suffer from "Obsessed with Kirito Disorder." Every single one of them has an over-the-top stalker-esque obsession with everything about Kazuto Kirigaya.

And it's not just Suguha who has an obsession with her brother. Nor is it just Asuna, his love interest. It's all his friends - Lisbeth, Silica, Klein, even the figment of imagination known as Yui. And his nurse. Oh, and Sinon. Especially Sinon.

Shino Asada - whose last name I kept hearing as "Asuna" - has a ridiculous fury and bitterness in her heart directed at Kirito. But why? She had a chance to shoot him at point-blank range and failed to do so. But she's mad at him because somehow he did something bad to her. What Kirito did to her, I can't figure out. Is she mad that Kirito did the incredibly nonsensical thing of not even trying in the final? I'm mad at Kirito for that reason, too, mind you, but she had her chance to beat him. I am having a hard time getting my head around what she's so upset about.

Maybe the series is trying to establish the idea that Sinon is someone with an extreme case of schizophrenia, but honestly, I don't think SAO's smart enough to tackle an issue like that. I just get this feeling that Sinon is written like a fanfic character who changes from chapter to chapter based on the author's mood. (I'm guilty as charged.)

We've got Shino claiming that she "used to be normal" but I fail to see that when the whole gun incident happened when she was very young. And she seems to be just fine when she isn't angry at Kirito. This is what's known as a poorly written character. Sinon is not Yoko Littner. For all the flaws that Gurren Lagann had (not the least being Yoko's relegation from main character to just a pretty face), Sinon can't compare to Yoko. She doesn't have any consistency from episode to episode or even from scene to scene. She's pretty much just an amoeba-like enigma.

Never mind the serious talk that Kirito had with his nurse, when it became painfully clear that even Kirito's nurse is obsessed with him. Actually, it wasn't a serious talk so much as it was an "emo Kirito" moment. I think this is the reason why my "Sword Art Online sucks" post resonates with so many people (comparatively to my other posts, that is). Kirito gets like Shinji Ikari one moment, and then the next minute he's fine. It's as if these problems bounce right off these characters. I kind of wish we had Kill la Kill Mako's brother (yes, brother) running up and saying "what the f--- was that all about?"

I do like Suguha/Leafa. She's the only thing about SAO I really like - not that she's a "thing," but that there isn't anything else in this series I can think of that I like. Well, I do like that SAO's brought me some notoriety. That's always good. I'll continue to hate on SAO as long as it raises my post count ever so slightly.

Character of the episode: Suguha
What, you were expecting Sinon here?

Episode rating (out of four stars): ½