Monday, May 23, 2016

Oreimo season 1 review


You may have wondered why I squeezed both Toonami reviews for the week into Sunday. The reason for that is that I have a new column I'm debuting tomorrow, and also that I want to review this series before I forget about it. The series I am speaking of is called Oreimo. I know what you're thinking: that's that incest anime. After all, its real title translates to My Little Sister Can't Be This Cute. And yes, that means what you think it does. However, there's a lot more to Oreimo than meets the eye.

Let's start out with the premise. Kyousuke Kousaka is your typical high-school boy; think of him as Kyon from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. He serves as the narrator of sorts for the series, and everything is shown from his persepective. He has a little sister named Kirino, who hates him. Or she hated him, that is, until one day Kyousuke finds an eroge DVD (an 18+ visual novel/video game). He finds out that it belongs to his sister, and then he finds out that Kirino is hiding an enormous stash of video games, anime DVDs, figures and other goodies in her closet. How does she get the money for all this? She has a modeling job. But what's more important is that Kirino, the perfect girl on the outside, is actually a closet otaku.

So there's your premise. Where it gets interesting is when Kyousuke tries to help Kirino find friends. She doesn't have any otaku friends, only school friends who would disapprove of her otaku lifestyle if they ever found out. So Kyousuke arranges an "IRL meet" where Kirino gets to meet other otaku. The trouble is, at the meeting, none of the other girls talk to Kirino, and she feels lonely. But one of the girls is also lonely like Kirino, with no one to talk to. So the leader of the meetup, after it is over, brings the two together to talk with each other. (The leader of the meetup uses a nickname that refers to a part of a woman's body - we'll just call her Saori here.) Kirino and the other girl, a gothic lolita under the screen name of Kuroneko, get into an all-out argument over which of their favorite anime is the best. And just like that, they're friends, even though it looks as if they hate each other.

That girl, Kuroneko, is the real star of the show. It's no secret that she's the most popular character in Oreimo. Everything about her is entertaining, whether it be the way she talks, the way she argues with Kirino, the way she dresses, or even the way she crushes on Kyousuke (yes, this is actually a harem anime too). Come for the Kyousuke-Kirino drama, stay for Kuroneko, because this black cat is the one to watch.

Lots of this series is slice-of-life, but very good slice-of-life. Assuming you are reading this blog post, you're probably an otaku. This anime spends a lot of time showing the life of otaku, such as Kirino going to a convention, Kirino playing visual novels, Kirino and Kuroneko writing competing fanfiction, and Kirino's friend cosplaying in order to win Kirino a special figure from her favorite anime, "Stardust Witch Meruru." Meru meru meru meru meru meru me...

The series spans 12 episodes, with an extra 4 tacked on that might be better than some of the normal 12. The OVAs (the extra 4) include special episodes just focusing in on Kuroneko, which end up being better because she's such a great character. The worst episode is episode 6, when the series focuses in on Kyousuke's kind-of-sort-of girlfriend who has no personality; the best episode is tough to decide, because there are so many to choose from.

Now I know what you're thinking: isn't this that incest anime? And it's true; the ultimate goal of the series is to push home a Kyousuke-Kirino relationship. But to be honest, this first season of Oreimo doesn't actually force an incest romance on the viewers. Instead, it simply builds up Kyousuke and Kirino's relationship together in a non-romantic way. In addition, it's harem, so Kyousuke has so many other choices anyway that you're not actually led to believe that he falls in love with his little sister. I haven't seen season 2 yet, however; that may end quite differently. In the meantime, you can enjoy Oreimo's first season with a clean conscience.

Overall rating: ***½ out of 4 stars, or 8/10 for MyAnimeList

Sunday, May 22, 2016

HxH 6: Chopped

Hunter x Hunter episode 6 review

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Can you believe it? It's a female sighting! We finally have our first female character in Hunter x Hunter history. (I'm not counting characters who appeared for less than 30 frames on screen.) Her name is Menchi, and there's good and bad about her. Let's get rid of the bad part first: she's fanservice. There's in fact one scene where the camera focuses in on her breasts. So it's quite obvious what they were going for with their first female: pure fanservice. A shame, too, because of the good part: she's an excellent character. In fact, I like Menchi more than all the other characters I've seen up to this point. Especially Gon, and we'll get to that in a moment.

So the way this episode goes is like an episode of Iron Chef, Chopped, or you-name-the-Food-Network-show. The exam takers are given an ingredient that they must find and cook for our two examiners. Pork is the ingredient of the day, and there are lots of pigs available for cooking. However, it's all-too-convenient how Gon easily figures out the weak point of the pigs which he must attack for massive damage. Everyone else looks like a fool, while Gon gets it right on the first try.

But then comes the funny part: the fat guy shown above eats every dish served to him and loves them all. Menchi, however, turns them all down. Every single one receives an "X" from her, and thus this means that every single exam taker has failed the Hunter exam! No one's making it through this year. Somehow this was all-too-familiar for me, having had several professors at the crapholes that are Penn State New Kensington and Penn State Erie, who had egos bigger than that guy's stomach and who acted just like Menchi, trying to fail every single person in their class.

However, another examiner comes in and forces Menchi to give everyone a second chance. This time around: cooking spider eagle eggs. It looks as disgusting as it sounds. Cooking and eating spider eggs? Okay, they're spider eagles, but they look just like those eggs in the cobwebs in your basement. Menchi easily jumps into a crevice, grabs an egg, then floats back up from a tailwind very much like those you'd find in New Super Mario Bros. U. But when the test takers try it, some of them miss the wind and end up plummeting to their deaths (and no one blinks an eye, of course, because in Hunter x Hunter, death is meaningless). Gon, however, figures out perfectly when to jump, and he causes everyone else to jump at the right time because he's always right.

This bothers me about Gon. Are we going to have to change the "n" in his name to a "d" because he's all-knowing and all-powerful? I can understand a character being a prodigy, but give me a break! Gon has done nothing but excel far beyond any of the other characters, to the point of it being extreme. In most shounen series, your hero doesn't reach the point of overpowered until he's gone through a whole lot of training. Seriously, do InuYasha, Ichigo Kurosaki, Monkey D. Luffy or even Edward Elric start out as unstoppable and unbeatable? Absolutely not. It takes upwards of 70 episodes for that to happen. Here, Gon's the perfect character, just because of his sense of smell, and we're only in episode 6.

With 40 or so characters left to continue taking the exam, we move on to the next portion of the test. And along we move with the best episode by far of the series up to this point. Menchi provided the show with a little spunk that we haven't gotten out of Mr. Perfect or any of his pals. And I seriously hope a future episode of Chopped forces contestants to cook spider eggs.

Character of the episode: Menchi

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

Samurai Champloo 21: Who Are You

Samurai Champloo episode 21 review

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This episode was actually a pretty good one. Both Jin and Mugen have met their match with the blind girl. She causes Jin to fall off a bridge and then carves up Mugen. It's the first time Mugen and Jin have had a battle where they didn't just destroy their opponent in one swipe, and for that, I appreciate it. I loved hearing Mugen make the "Dragon Ball Z sound effect" - which, if you're not familiar with it, is - "Ngh! Ungh!"

We even got a scene that boosts morale for Mugen x Fuu shippers, whoever you are out there. Fuu throws herself on top of Mugen to stop the blind girl from killing him. Then Fuu goes and tends to Mugen's wounds. It's actually quite a touching scene and it makes this whole search for the sunflower samurai seem like it's been worthwhile.

The one thing I didn't get is that when the blind girl finally gives up and lets Mugen kill her, she makes it clear that her son is dead, meaning that her pursuit of fulfillment by following orders was pointless. And I don't get it - suppose she works for a big-time villain. For argument's sake, let's give him a completely random name. How about Orochimaru? So she works for Orochimaru, and Orochimaru promises to save her son if she kills Mugen and Jin. But as it turns out, her son is dead. So why continue to obey Orochimaru? Why not just run off on your own? Unless you're afraid that Orochimaru is going to kill you, too - but that ends up happening anyway.

Back to the episode - I even liked the scenes with Jin and the guy who saved Jin. That guy was crazy, and that moment where he tries to catch a fish but fails miserably was absolutely hilarious. The look on Jin's face - well, you can see it above. It's priceless.

And you know what - so was this episode. Samurai Champloo has really hit its stride here in the back 9. It may not ever be able to reach "Amen," but it was still a very entertaining episode and a nice conclusion to the previous episode's buildup.

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

Friday, May 20, 2016

#FlashbackFriday: Sailor Moon episodes 27-28 review


After a small portion of the series where we got some actual progression, we've fallen back into the old routine of "Monsters of the Week," with just a little bit of movement forward in the second of the two episodes for this week. Episode 27 was enticing; the idea of a boy who falls in love with Ami sounded like a great storyline. But he got put on a bus (literally) to end the episode and that was the end of that.

Speaking of Ami, I have to apologize. There is one person who I have deeply offended and hurt, and I desperately need to apologize. Yes, that person is none other than... Ami Mizuno herself. I butchered her character and completely ruined her in my fanfics. I made her someone she actually isn't. She didn't deserve to be made into a crafty villain. She's not like that at all. She never deserved to be twisted into being a mastermind villain - she may be a genius, but not an evil genius. And for that, Ami, I sincerely apologize.

Now, onto episode 28. This one is something we've seen before - in fact, many, many times before. The plot line isn't much different from the episode preceding it. Instead of a boy who falls in love with Ami and gets turned into a temporary monster, it's a girl who paints a picture of Usagi and Mamoru and gets turned into a temporary monster. But at the end of the episode, there's a bit of character building with Tuxedo Mask, including an admission from him that he might not actually be on Sailor Moon's side. (We all know though the truth.) What is for sure is that we're going to keep on having good guys turned bad and then Sailor Moon turning them back good again - for a long, long time.

Episode 27 rating (out of four stars): **
Episode 28 rating (out of four stars): **½

Thursday, May 19, 2016

#ThrowbackThursday: Cardcaptor Sakura episodes 27-28 review


The first episode (#27) is a dull episode where Sakura gets trapped back in time by The Return, where she sees a conversation between her brother and Ms. Mizuki, her teacher. You'd think an episode involving time travel would be interesting, but this one managed to disappoint.

Not so with #28, however. In this episode, a woman is selling Chinese knockoff Clow Cards. No joke, that's what this episode is about. All those cards you see in the above picture? Fakes. But the girls at Sakura's school swear by them. They're called "charm cards." They buy them, then the cards cause them to improve at areas in their lives. One girl gets a "Jump" card and it causes her to succeed at gym class. Another girl gets cards to help her with her music. Another girl has one called "Diet" - I'm not making this up! But the most entertaining is when Meiling buys a "Love" card to try to make her love with Syaoran increase.

Then comes the most interesting part - one of the Chinese knockoffs was actually a real Clow Card! It wasn't a Chinese knockoff at all; it was The Shot. And Meiling has it! She accidentally activates it by saying the word "shot," and it starts shooting at Syaoran! So then Sakura has to use her Mirror card to help deflect the shots of The Shot back at itself, so that she can then capture it. It's a fun episode.

Episode 27 rating (out of four stars): *½
Episode 28 rating (out of four stars): ***½

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Anime Bowl Toonami Podcast - Episode 47

Intro: 0:00
Dragon Ball Z Kai: 0:35
Dimension W: 6:38
Hunter x Hunter: 20:02
Samurai Champloo: 30:13
Naruto Shippuden: 34:42
One Piece: 40:09
Who won the night?: 43:40

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dimension W 12: Somewhere in My Memory

Dimension W episode 12 review

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Elizabeth is cute, isn't she? She looks like a blonde version of Loly Aivirrne from Bleach. If you're reading this blog, you probably already know my love for Loly. Elizabeth is a lolita and a very pretty one at that. Why I bring her up first (besides the fact that she's in my screenshot for the day) is that her English dub voice sounds very... off. She sounds too old, too rough. No offense to her voice actress, because as anyone with knowledge of the voice acting field knows, the blame always lies with the director. And Elizabeth's voice was either miscast or misdirected. It's as simple as that.

On to other matters that don't involve Elizabeth. This episode was a bit confusing, as most episodes in this series have been, very much like the second half of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. The episode on the whole, however, was pretty good. Seameyer defeats Loser and tries to defeat Kyoma as well, but Mira finds a way to get Kyoma's memory back. Why does memory matter so much? Honestly, the best I could figure out is that memories are the real "Dimension W." So people's memories can actually change things in the real world. At least, that's what I got out of it. If that isn't accurate, then I apologize, because that's the best I could take out of this.

In any case, Kyoma defeats Seameyer, but Loser is dead (hence Elizabeth's crying). Everyone goes home happy, and Kyoma goes back to being a Collector. For a capping episode, it's actually pretty good and satisfying. Of course, Dimension W as a whole was pretty disappointing. And why was that, you may ask? Convoluted, confusing storylines with unlikable main characters would be the best way I can sum it up in one sentence. I give Adult Swim credit for picking it up; they swung and missed, but at least it was a pretty big cut. Now we move on to Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. And yes, this is going to be the first Gundam series I've ever watched. Oh, and by the way, this is the 1400th post in the history of Anime Bowl.

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

Series overall rating (out of four stars): *