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Now, this is a sports anime and I was in the middle of two other sports anime and I was really REALLY thinking of passing this one by, but the title arrested me (but I avoided a frisk-and-search), and that is “Yuri!!! On Ice” (and, yes, we need all those exclamation points as well. What is it now with exclamation points?) Now, I got pulled in, as I know what yuri means, but I had a hard time thinking is was a show about yuri types on ice. Well, they are a type of yuri type and….crap, send out the Zamboni and I’ll explain.

We open up at the Grand Prix of Skating final. Our hero and the namesake of the show, Yuri Katsuki (that guy right in the middle) comes in a very disappointing sixth place, not only suffering a crushing defeat overall, but getting clobbered by the reigning champion, Russian figure skater Victor Nikiforov (far right) by 100 points. Before Yuri leaves the arena to fly home to Japan, bereft and uncertain of his future, he is confronted by another Russian, who is double angry, and that is Yuri Plisetsky (Mr. Scowly to the left). He even goes up to Katsuki and tells him, in no uncertain terms “There can’t be two Yuris skating, so you should quit now!”

Once home, after bloating up at least 20 pounds on pork cutlet bowls, he goes to his training rink to meet his friend Yuko Nishigōri, who works for the rink. She is a childhood friend, but not a real girlfriend. Yuri then perfectly mimics an advanced skating routine performed by Victor. When secretly recorded footage of Yuri’s performance is uploaded to the internet, it catches the attention of Victor, who travels to Kyushu and offers to coach Yuri and restart his figure skating career. The story is all the troubles and tribulations that this decision generates, especially since the goal is for Yuri to win the new season’s Grand Prix of Skating.

This story is really strange. For one thing, Victor is nude a lot of the time (thank goodness for a strategically placed plant) and there is a caliber of smoldering sexuality between not only Victor and Japan Yuri, but also some sexual tension amid the other competitors. Yes, there is an idea that most (if not all) male ice skaters are gay, and this show does little to dispel that notion, especially with the flamboyant fashions they wear when doing the routines. What really works are all the troubles and problems that the competitors go through in order to be the best. And you see all of them up there in that splash panel.

Russian Yuri hires a prima ballerina to be more graceful on the ice and within his routines and that is a marvelous failure. Japan Yuri tries to build up his stamina with exercise sessions and a strict diet and that is a marvelous failure. Victor tries to understand what it means to be a coach, a mentor and a friend and that is a marvelous failure. But they learn and grow from these setbacks and we see the changes. The slow part is the competitions themselves.

For me, short of someone falling face flat on the ice, I do not know when a performance is superb and when it is standard. Plus, there is too much internalization going on with the skaters while they do their routines, as they think about their training, their personal problems, the last time they skated, what to have for dinner, did I leave the iron on and so forth. It also felt like I had to see the full routine and not just a minute or so from it.

You do this approach several times over several episodes and it makes me wonder if I can just watch an authentic competition. At least I’ll get genuine commentary as to what they are doing right and wrong and in between. Such is a problem with all sports shows, in that we have seen the rehearsals and preparation, so we need to see the payoff with the end results.

Still, it was a goodly run of things, as we observe all the things that can go wrong as easily as it can go right. A personal problem is that I guessed the ending and that is a bit of a bother, but it was still intriguing enough with the background stories and what people desired and how they tried to throw the other competitors off their game to stick it out.

The execution of the skating sequences was stunning, but it made me wonder if they were using a caliber of rotoscoping, as it seemed too precise for mere free-hand animation. And speaking of animation, I want to recommend the opening credits. I am usually not a fan of those, as I want to get into the story, but it is drawn and executed with amazing grace and subtlety that it is worth watching to see the love of skating that they all bring to the ice.

On a scale of 1 to 10:

Artwork           8 (But naked Victor needs a tan)
Plot                  8 (Good reworking of the comeback idea)
Pacing              7 (Too many skating sequences)
Effectiveness   8 (Strong camaraderie)
Conclusion       7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service      2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)

Overall            8 (A smudge too many performances)

And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Nailed it!

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AniRecs Anime Blog by The Droid - 1w ago

Wow, never have a seen a show with such *ahem* naked fan service and there are a ton of those shows out there (like “Eiken” and “Ikki Tousen” and “Sekerei”), but this one is unabashed about it, as it is all part and parcel as to what goes down. Welcome to “Keijo!!!!!!!!” (also known as “Competitive Girl” or “Hip Whip Girl”) And, yes, we do need all EIGHT of those exclamation points!!!!!!!!

If this came out in the 1970s, we would have called this ‘trash sports’, much like “Battle of the Network Stars”. It is a caliber of sport, but not what you would consider a real sport. And what is keijo????????

In the middle of a huge pool, and it had best be a squarish pool, so Olympic-sized pools may be too small, there is a float. This is referred to as a ‘land’. Depending on the size of this land, two or four or six ladies (and YES, it HAS to BE a LADY!!!!!!!!) stand on this floating land. Their goal: make the other competitors fall into the water or collapse to the land. And how is this done????????

Well….that is to say….I mean….h-h-how can I put this????????

The ladies must use either their breasts or butt to shove, force, propel or otherwise launch into the water their opponents or force them to the ground. Needless to say, this sport is very popular with the guys. The series revolves around four tyros to the Keijo League and all their struggles to become good enough to go pro and what is required of them to be able to attain that dream. And who are our fair and fulsome maidens to make this endeavor???????? From left to right:

Kazane Aoba, her right hand can copy any opponents attack, but she has to feel their butt
Sayaka Miyata, former judo champion and fast on her feet
Nozomi Kaminashi, former gymnast, her signature move is the Vacuum Butt Cannon
Non Toyoguchi, a country girl with a butt so soft, it absorbs attacks

They all feel they have the right stuff to make it, but are challenged at every turn and curve. They learn a butt-ton of butt exercises and the strategy to use every advantage for their benefit. And if they can move up to Elite Status, they get better food, better training and better support. Yeah, I need to put myself out there.

They are put through their paces, getting expert teachings from past masters and daily challenges to fortify both body and spirit. The high point of the show is the annual West vs East competition.

You see, there are two main schools to learn keijo and the best from both meet for a three-round competition to see which school is better. Our ladies are from the West, and the leading champs (they have won this competition for a solid decade) are from the East. Whereas our ladies are demure and courteous and sociable, those other ladies are cutting and sarcastic and rude. They MUST be put in their place, with a conclusion that was totally readable.

That was a bit of a drag, until I realized that we have to stretch out the episodes so we can see the ladies in their combat garb (bathing suits that even Venus would have a hard time wanting to vend) as they breast and butt their way to Ultimate Victory.

Honestly, this is a thin show. The main idea is about friendship, trust and dedication, but we have wrapped it around very tight or revealing swimsuits so it doesn’t mean much, unless you can use your massive orbs to propel another massive-orbed lady off the land. I am truly surprised I never heard the dig “Hey, lady, how’s the drink?”

I also felt there should have been more resistance from parents. We had one plot point for this, but would you, as a father, want your young daughter using her bedonkadonk to smack some other lady silly? Tough call, as you have to balance things as cautiously as you do when you stand upon the land. (PS, “Bop Girl” is an ‘80s song by Pat Wilson. Check it out; it’s a catchy tune).

On a scale of 1 to 10:

Artwork           8 (Cute girls, strange swim suits)
Plot                  7 (Rather typical approach to an odd idea)
Pacing              7 (Fast and furious)
Effectiveness   7 (Well, it is an unusual sport)
Conclusion      5 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service     5 (A similar show would be “Maburaho”)

Overall            7 (Couldn’t escape self-set traps)

And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. You fail to understand the nature of my butt!

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OK, don’t let the genre categories throw you on this one, although I question if ‘funny prison rape’ qualifies as one and no, there is no prison rape, funny or otherwise, in this series. “Nambaka” (“The Numbers”) relates the tale of our four favorite felons of Cell 13, Block 13. Introductions are in order, from left to right:

Rock, a man who likes to get into fights
Uno, a man who likes to gamble and win
Nico, a man who likes anime
Jyugo, a man who broke out of numerous prisons

They have all been sent to Namba, a floating prison, where the worst of the worst of the worst end up. Sort of. Actually, these are more troublesome felons who need solid discipline to straighten out their lives than anything more socially dangerous. Their prison guard, Hajime Sugoroku, is a tough, no-nonsense caliber of person, who does everything by the book. The problem: these guys try to escape with almost clockwork regularity and it kind of crimps Hajime’s day, as he has to chase after them and stop them. And the breakout is more of a way to alleviate boredom.

Adding to this nonsense is that all the prison guards are ridiculous fashion plates, with long, flowing hair and/or outrageous make-up styles and/or over-the-top garb. And they are all guys! The head warden, Momoko Hyakushiki, the only woman in the show, is hopelessly in love with Hajime, but, as the warden, she cannot express herself, so it is unrequited love. Hajime is oblivious to this and the rest of the guards mistake Momoko’s actions, reactions and demeanor for anger or rage or frustration.

The series is all the nutty and silly adventures they have and it is, as always, put into the 4-4-4 sequence: the first four episodes establish the characters, the middle four episodes complicate matters and the last four episodes have the plot show up and some element of seriousness comes into play.

The one thing that bothered me most about this show is that everyone sparkles all the time! (You can see a couple of sparkles on Rock). But it is relentless to the point of extreme annoyance, which is a shame, as it really is a goofy show. Jyugo wants to escape because it is something to do and not that he wants to escape. Besides, you are on a great floating island in the middle of the ocean; where would you go after a break out?

Plus, things are pretty plush in the prison. I mean, look at what they are wearing! Under normal circumstances, those earrings or chains or metal numbers could be used as weapons. Nope, not for these guys. The cells are very spacious, more like a luxury hotel suite and the food is pretty damn good (there is a monster cook who takes pride in all he does in the kitchen. Like Steven Seagal without all the macho junk.)

I was trying to figure out how big this place is, and it all depends on the monorail (Huh?) There are 13 cell blocks, each holding 100 inmates. Your number designation is the first two numbers of your cell block (13, for example) and the number you are assigned within that cell block (15, you see that on Jyugo’s face). So, he is Inmate 1315. Now, there are 13 cell blocks and it takes about an hour by monorail to get from stem to stern. So, how fast does it go and how long are the stops? Well, that just adds to the absurdity of the situation.

The ending dictates a second season, as the problems manifested have not been fully addressed. And as I was working on this review, season two started right up, so there is more hysteria in store.

On a scale of 1 to 10:

Artwork           7 (But some of those guards are absolutely fabulous)
Plot                  7 (A bit on the silly/goofy/strange side)
Pacing              8 (Moves along consistently)
Effectiveness   7 (Takes a while for the plot to show up)
Conclusion       7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service      2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)

Overall            7 (Got a bit too ‘wide-eyes’ for me)

And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Funny prison rape?

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This was a show that was full of promise, but ended up devolving into the usual fight for supremacy genre that seem to bedevil this caliber of show. “Bungo Stray Dogs 2” (“Bungō Sutorei Doggusu” or ”Literary Stray Dogs”) started off the second season with an interesting take. The first season had us dealing with Atsushi Nakajima (dead center), who has the ability to change into a were tiger. He was taken on board by the Armed Detective Agency, a group dedicated to fighting the Port Mafia, a band of outlaws who also have an arsenal of people with special abilities.

I though the second season was going to see things from the Port Mafia’s point of view and how they dealt with the ADA. Alas and alackaday, things got knocked into a cocked hat when a third faction, The Guild, came into town. Now we have a problem: do we fight a two-front war against everyone, or do the Port Mafia and ADA put aside their differences to take on a more implacable foe and then take up the sword against each other for Season Three?

It’s that the novel idea (Ha, ha, ha. What a wretched pun) got really overworked. You see, everyone is named for a literary author (some are Japanese, so you don’t immediately recognize it as such) and their special ability is named for one of their works. The Guild deals with European and American authors, so that aspect of the tale comes into clear focus, and then it becomes stupid.

You start to notice that the villains are named like Herman M or Jane A or Fyodor D and their abilities are dubbed “Moby Dick” or “Sense and Sensibility” or “Crime and Punishment” and it completely undermines the original thrust of the show (Atsushi has a bounty on his head and the Port Mafia want to kidnap him and sell him off. And no, it’s not $$60 billion).

The fight sequences get rather tiresome, as the powers and abilities are pretty well matched, so it ends up being a bit of a draw, as no one can land a telling blow. Also, since these people have these special abilities, they are overweening prats or conceited ego-maniacs or just plain irritating with the needling and their version of “needer, needer, needer!” The only reason I wanted the Guild’s main plan to work is that it would have really cleared the decks, as it were, and then, the show would be over.

Let’s just say that a third season was guaranteed, no matter what the outcome was going to be for Season Two. And the original story that I thought would be there, the Port Mafia point of view and their plans for domination, was jettisoned for the interminable fight sequences.

I sometimes got the feeling that there was no real plan in dealing with any of this, short of “If you see ‘em, you fight ‘em!”, so a lot of the story was handled by Margaret M and her special ability, “Gone With the Wind”.

On a scale of 1 to 10:

Artwork           7 (Far too many angry eyes)
Plot                  6 (A bit of retrenching)
Pacing              8 (Brisk but predictable)
Effectiveness   7 (Loss of better idea, loss of purpose)
Conclusion      5 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service     2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)

Overall            7 (Same old same old)

And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. I will fight you and win!

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I have to assume that anything related to dealing with the spirit or yokai realm is a huge amount of hassle. I guess they are rather unpredictable and since many of them are scary/ugly/hideous (to our scale of thinking) most folks shy away from it or have zero idea as to what is really happening (like being in Washington D.C.). The story we have here, “The Morose Mononokean” (“Fukigen na Mononokean”) elaborates on this theory.

Hanae Ashiya (that collegiate-looking guy in the middle) is starting out in a new school, but is beset by some mysterious illness that saps his strength. At first, he thinks is a cold or the flu or some other disgusting disease, but he can’t shake it. He then sees this fuzzy creature on his shoulder, but can’t get rid of it. Not willing to be bested, he finally drags himself to school…..where he ends up in the nurse’s office after collapsing in class.

In trying to physically rid himself of this yokai, he finds a poster from another student, Haruitsuki Abeno (blondie) who is an exorcist. Ashiya calls to set up an appointment to rid himself of this yokai. However Abeno thinks he is looking to work for him and asks him to come by his office.

Once there, we discover that the room is a dimensional portal, which can bend the rules of space and physics, much like a magician. Ashiya balks at the job, but asks that the yokai be removed. Abeno does so, to reveal the truth behind the creature known as Fuzzball (that hairy volleyball Ashiya is holding). Normal protocol is to send it back to the spirit realm, but we learn of Fuzzball’s needs and he is allowed to remain.

However, there is the subject of payment. You can’t get something for nothing and the amount of the bill is staggering (not like $$60,000,000,000, but it’s pretty bad) and needs to be paid in Underworld currency

In order to work it off, Ashiya has to be the assistant to Abeno, who is the current mononokean. OK, let’s clear up some things. The mononokean is a classic square tea room; it has four long tatami mats aligned so that they surround the ro. This is where Abeno usually is, but the mononokean is a yōkai and it expresses itself through a scroll hanging on one wall. So I got confused, as the scroll is very happy, but Abeno is, well, morose.

Anyway, since Ashiya has an ability to see yokai, they form a caliber of working relationship. It’s an anime “Odd Couple”, but without them having to actually live together. They still go out and do good deeds, like sending yokai back to the Underworld. So, they are not fully exorcised and sent into the æther, but guided to a city where they will not be feared and actually rub shoulders or elbows, or whatever they have, with other yokai. So, the series is putting them two guys through their paces as they do their job while Ashiya tries to pay off his massive debt.

The girl up there is Zenko Fujiwara. She calls upon their assistance when her father, who runs a temple, becomes cursed and she becomes a kind of auxiliary help with their yokai hunting.

The only sour note comes near the end, when Ashiya does something that will affect his relationship with Abeno. Can’t reveal it, as it is a plot point, but I kinda felt it was a paste-on problem: it wasn’t that serious, but we couldn’t merely have the Exorcism of the Week approach to this show. I also wish I saw more of Abeno’s softening of things. He did come off as a bit of a cranky old man, but we never really discovered or understood why he is the way he is. Like yokai, it is just another mystery of nature.

On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork           7 (Got into that weirdness of monsters thought pattern)
Plot                  7 (OK, but lacked background)
Pacing              7 (Moves along in jumps and starts)
Effectiveness   7 (Again, not really given the overall picture)
Conclusion       6 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service      0 (A similar show would be “Honey and Clover”)

Overall            7 (Never really hits its stride)

And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Right now, I’m the Master.

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Sniff, sniff. That smell. Can’t you smell that smell? The smell is all around you. Yes, it smells like….and E/I show! Quick, lock the doors, as no one gets out of here.

One of the reasons I am not a big fan of Educational/Informational shows is that they tend to suck the life out of their efforts, so not only isn’t it all that educational and informational, it’s not even all that entertaining. “Time Travel Girl” or, if we go by the full and complete title, “Time Travel Girl: Mari, Waka, and the Eight Scientists” (“Taimu Toraberu Shōjo: Mari Waka to Hachi-nin no Kagakusha-tachi”) wants to be something more, but ends up falling short, by buying into tropes and traps of its own doing. But, on to the plot:

Mari Hayase (that glowing number) is a school girl, whose father, Eiji, disappeared three years ago, leaving behind a pendant known as the armillary compass. One day, after coming across a peculiar book about various scientists throughout history (that self-same book she is holding), the armillary compass glows, sending Mari back in time. Mari, supported by her best friend Waka Mizuki (that stunned maiden up there) and her brother Shun, travels all across time in search of her father, meeting the famous scientists who changed the way people think about electricity.

OK, so far-ish, so good-ish. There is a double concern here. The first is WHY we are visiting all of these specific great scientists and inventors (and if you want to know who the eight are, in order of appearance, they are William Gilbert, Benjamin Franklin, Alessandro Volta, Michael Faraday, Samuel F B Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Heinrich Hertz and Thomas Alva Edison.) The second is WHY are all the guys so hunkaliscious? I mean, we present these guys as real hotties and you could certainly generate some electricity with them (Hyuk, hyuk!)

On the one hand, you learn about their specific contribution to the science around electricity and it is a good learning experience, but, on the other hand, we have the subplot that dogs it. It seems that the evil businessman (and isn’t that redundant?) Jo Mikage, is interested in the timeslip machine, researching about the “transporter matter”, which the energy source used in the laboratory to power this device. He sees it as a means to an end to further his own financial and political power and will do anything to obtain it, even destroying himself and others in the process.

Although each individual episode is interesting and intriguing, I feel that Mr. Peabody and Sherman did a better job of this with their WABAC Machine. The other thing is that you are absolutely shocked as to how under-educated Hayase is. You may not know all the details, but the names should mean some degree of something and not just to be stunned and amazed. Also, there is no telling how much actual time she gets to spend there. I could be an afternoon; it might be a few days. But when it’s time to go, she glows and goes. Just. That. Easy.

And I’m not even going to talk about any time-meeting conundrums. I think they abound, but since I am not a physics theorist, I can’t explain any of it, except that it feels off in when she lands at that particular juncture. This might be a good introduction to anime for someone a tad younger, but for the rest of us, I feel that there is a disconnect somewhere.

On a scale of 1 to 10:

Artwork           7 (Can’t vouch for how the Heroes of Electricity actually looked)
Plot                  7 (Feels forced)
Pacing              7 (Moves along in jumps and starts)
Effectiveness   7 (Helpful for those who just may not know that much)
Conclusion       6 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service      2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)

Overall            7 (Never grasped the overall reason for things)

And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. She’s a-glowin’!

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AniRecs Anime Blog by The Droid - 1M ago

I have remarked that when you see an uptick in OVAs or short runs of a series that completed its first season, it is a prelude to the release of the next season, but they want to let you know it’s coming with a bit more than a notice on the internet going “The second season is coming! Sale starts on Friday!” It’s just there was a two-run OVA about a year or so ago and now “Nanatsu no Taizai: Seisen no Shirushi” (“The Seven Deadly Sins: Signs of the Holy War”) came out with what they refer to as a TV Special that acts as a prelude to the new season.

It is the aftermath of the great and grand battle against Dreyfus and Hendrickson and the city is rebuilding. Six of the Deadly Sins are here (listed from left to right), Merlin, Ban, King (floating in the air), Meliodas, Diane and Gowther. The last one, Escanor, has yet to make an appearance anywhere, save for a drawing on a wanted poster (“Why can’t they get the nose right?”). They are trying to be normal to the point that Diane is taking ‘normal’ pills so she is not her giantess self, but something more normal-sized.

Also not seen up there is Elizabeth Liones, the third princess of the kingdom of Liones, who actually help gather these people to take the kingdom back from the Holy Knights (the aforementioned Dreyfus and Hendrickson) and restore calm and peace. This four-episode runs details their efforts to make things regular as they try not to get into too much trouble, but that isn’t going to work.

Although it starts out fun and frothy enough (Hawk runs away and everyone has to find him, another fight between Ban and Meliodas, King and Diane spend some time together), the dark forces appears to be gathering again and we end the run on that somber note.

Certainly, if you enjoyed the series, you need to catch this offering, as it explains and set-up for what appears to be the climactic second season with the arrival of the ever-missing Escanor. We finally get to see a lot of Merlin and how she acts and interacts with everyone. She made a late-show arrival the first year and has been spotty at best, so it is nice to see her put through the paces and catch up with the rest.

Gowther is still a big mystery, as he comes off as rather nebulous and vague, although we know he is far more than that. But we would have to wait for his arrival to make the team complete and then, then we can really get down to the matters at hand. And they will be a handful.

On a scale of 1 to 10:

Artwork           8 (Good, strong design and execution)
Plot                  7 (Played more for laughs)
Pacing              8 (Moves along briskly)
Effectiveness   8 (Good utilization of the numerous rivalries)
Conclusion       7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service      2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)

Overall            8 (We learn a bit more about our team)

And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. I am the King of Leftovers!

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The past is the future is the present. That’s not an ‘alternate fact’; the rather cryptic line is the best way to describe “Kuromukuro” (“Black Relic”), this iteration mecha show. Yes, as a lot of folks know, mecha is my most detested anime genre, beating out sports and vampires. I once mentioned that if there was an anime about sports-playing vampire Gundams, voiced by Chris Ayres, then it’s everything I hate all in one spot. But this one tried to do something more with the genre, and for that it deserves a bit more credit.

It is actually the slight future (like 2030 or so. Still no hoverboards). We are at the Lurobe Dam, a magnificent structure of mechanical engineering and graceful beauty. However, when it was being constructed sixty years earlier, some odd items were discovered, referred to as “Black Relics”. They include a mecha, some large cube and a series of unnaturally-shaped stones.

They have been examined and irradiated and examined and carbon-dated and examined and licked and examined (well, you know those archaeological types; they are weird birds), but to no avail. It is more puzzling than hockey Blue Line rules. Now, there is a UN force at the dam. I assume it has some caliber of importance that it must be protected, but from whom? Camera-wielding tourists? Never mind.

Hiromi Shirahane (that professional woman in the back to the left) is leading the current research on these items. Her daughter, Yukina (front and left), accidentally triggers a cube component of the Kuromukuro (the mecha), releasing Kennosuke (samurai guy) from cryostasis. Well, all hell breaks loose as Ken (as he is later referred to) is naked, naked, naked. (Clothes can’t travel but skin does? Never mind.)

After being subdued, we learn the story about him and his mecha: some 450 years ago, an extraterrestrial force called Efy Dolgh (or Efydolgh) invaded Earth. The people of the Sengoku era called the enemy machines and drones as ‘Oni’. The Washiba Clan fall victim to them, but clan heir Yukihime and her samurai retainer Kennosuke Tokisada Ouma (samurai guy’s full name) fight back with a stolen mecha, which they name the “Black Relic” (Kuromukuro). They succeed in vanquishing their foes, but when the Black Relic is caught in an enemy explosion, Yukihime disappears.

Now, if this wasn’t enough, the Efydolgh come back, looking for their stuff. You know what that’s like: you go to a hotel and discover you left something of yours behind, but not until you are like 450 miles away and you have to go back for it, right? Well, they want to finish what they started, so they send down their drones (given some absurd names like ‘Cactus’) to do battle, but unaware of the presence of Kuromukuro.

Here’s the real trick with the mecha and that is it needs two pilots. And wouldn’t you know it? Yukina fills that role quite well. Except she doesn’t want that role. This is more than she can handle and she is not all that reliable.

We have to depend on the other UN mecha force (that’s them, looking like Holstein cows) and you can just catch their mechas (GAUS) way in the back. But the Efydolgh forces are just a bit better, both in combat experience and machinery, so it ends up being a war of attrition. The series outlines the numerous fights that occur between everyone. I mean it. Everyone. We have:

Ken trying to get people to trust him.
Ken trying to get Yukina to be in the machine
Hiromi trying to get Yukina to be in the machine.
Yukina trying not to be in the machine.
The other two sets of mecha pilots trying to do their job against implacable foes.
The other two sets of mecha pilots trying to get Ken and Yukina to be in the machine.
The other two sets of mecha pilots trying to get Ken and Yukina to do their job against implacable foes in their machine.
The implacable foes trying to steal all the things they left behind.
The people of Japan getting their homes and schools and cities and Starbucks blown up by implacable foes in their machines.
Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria!

My beef with mecha shows is that it all appears to be endless fighting and this one, on that level, is no different. The bad guys dispatch people in that ‘next in line’ mode, rather than sending down overwhelming numbers to crush all resistance, so they get mad that things aren’t going well and end up being surprised when these Earth people manage to gain the upper hand at times.

It’s just I wasn’t certain what was the story they wanted to tell. Are we going to see Ken mainstreamed into a society that is completely alien to him? Will Yukina accept her fate and get into the co-pilot seat? Is the UN going to do much more than run around and get flattened by every foe they encounter?

To add to all of this, there are a couple of late-inning revelations that alter the color and character of the show. It’s not a deal breaker, but it felt like it complicated already complicated problems that weren’t all that complicated to begin with, just to inject in a tad more tension and uncertainty.

Now, if you enjoy mecha but want to be freed from the Gundam nexus, this is a good choice for you. They try to balance the GFR portions of it with the ‘stranger in a strange land’ approach as Ken acclimates, but none too smoothly. It doesn’t always succeed (the UN pilots are a caliber of butt head), but they are trying for something new in a rather overworked genre.

On a scale of 1 to 10:

Artwork           7 (They seem to be trying too hard on a lot of levels)
Plot                  7 (Rather typical of the ‘fish out of water’)
Pacing              8 (Although the fights scenes are a bit much)
Effectiveness   7 (Runs pillar to post)
Conclusion      5 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service     2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)

Overall            7 (Good story, hurt by an uncertain direction to go)

And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. I am a samurai.

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There are two kinds of super heroes: those who are born to it and those who are made. Superman and Wonder Woman are examples of those who were born to it; The Flash and Spider Man are those who were made, by some bizarre accident or event. This show, “Taboo Tattoo”, is about ‘ordinary’ people who possess super powers, granted by a special mark that they receive.

We start off with Justice “Seigi” Akatsuka (1), who has a strong sense of justice in wanting to help those that are downtrodden and beaten upon. One night, he saves a downtrodden and beaten upon homeless man. Ahh, but things are never as they seem and for his efforts, received a special mark or ‘tattoo’ on his hand. This is actually a special activation crest for a weaponized ancient artifact of great power which can shift the balance of power in the world. And you though no good deed goes unpunished.

Now, his is like super special crunchy awesome, as this tattoo was the latest in technology. His Power Crest (Void Maker; they all have to have some ultra-cool name to go along with it), allows him to create black holes and regenerate from injuries, and it doesn’t require a trigger like the other tattoos need. And, yes, only one tattoo per customer, so no sneaking back in line!

He then meets Bluesy “Izzy” Fruesy (2). She’s a U.S. Army lieutenant in charge of recovering the tattoos in Japan. Despite appearing to be of high school age, Izzy is older than people think, a side effect of her Power Crest which is stopping her from aging. Along with Tom Shredfield (4), they are not only trying to recover tattoos, but prevent the forces of evil from do the same for their nefarious schemes. I guess we should look at those Dark Side people.

It is actually folks from the Kingdom of Selinistan, which I assume is somewhere between Wattalottaland and Lower Volta. Led by Princess Aryabhata (5 or “Arya” to her friends….if she had any friends), she is a nationalist who desires world domination. To this end, she seized power in a coup d’état which killed both of her peace-minded parents.

She admits to Seigi that she wishes to change the world to suit her own ends regardless of what others may think or feel. She is assisted by Iltutmish or “Il” (3) and they will either co-op or kill those who stand in their way. The show is about the struggles to reacquire the tattoos and resist the machinations of those who bode ill of others. Live in peace or rest in peace.

It’s just that having these powers must be frustrating, as you can’t do a lot with them and they can be easily held in check with a wad of chewing gum or a joy buzzer. Tom’s power allows him to negate the abilities of other users. However, he doesn’t have the chops for fighting and get flatted out with clockwork regularity.

Some of the Independents (there are about 13 tattoo users out there) also come along with tons of baggage and are not going to help Seigi understand his powers and how to use it best. We have thrown him into the deep end of the pool and it’s time to sink or swim. Glub, glub.

I also was uncertain as to what they were trying to present. The Princess is such a flat character with her relentless evil streak that she becomes less scary and more petulant. This is what she wants and she’ll hold her breath and turn blue until she gets it. Even Seigi is not really certain what ‘justice’ means to him at the end of the day.

Also the serious undertones of the show get diverted by some humor that, although needed, seemed to be mistimed for a better effect. It could have been more than just one of those ‘us vs them’ situations. A lot of anime is that, but how you handle it makes all the difference. It is not only the external battles that are being fought, but the internal ones as well, as you wrestle with greater issues than you had initially imagined and try and get along with your co-workers. I need them guys to get the job done, but they really are a grouping of low-grade morons.

I can run down a list of shows like that (“God Eater”, “Sousei no Onmyouji”, “Big Order”, even “Fune o Amu”), but the key is how you can tie it all together so we accept our circumstances and will work against the fate that we are heading towards. And with the hanging ending, the promise of a second season is out there so we can restore the world to its normal equilibrium….more or less. Whether we see it or not is another matter.

On a scale of 1 to 10:

Artwork           7 (Got a bit too moody and shadowy)
Plot                  7 (Rather typical)
Pacing              7 (Almost too frenetic)
Effectiveness   7 (Goals are set, but not actively pursued)
Conclusion      5 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service     5 (A similar show would be “Maburaho”)

Overall            7 (Undone by its own uncertainty)

And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. I need that tattoo.

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It’s time to notice new trends! What is the new trend that I am seeing? “Episode #0”!

You may call them ‘one-shot’ or ‘test balloons’ or ‘toss-offs’. They are NOT OVAs, as there has to be a series tied to it before it can be an OVA. Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. We can argue that an OVA has honestly nothing to do with any given series, so, in an open sense, it is an OVA. But I have seen them tied to a series, so I consider them part and parcel of the whole series effort and not just some one or two episode escapade to see what can be done with a story.

But I have seen enough of these “Episode #0” that later became a series of some caliber, so I have my thoughts. I feel it is done to see if there is enough interest in the special to decide to convert it into a full-blown run. Such is the case with “Luger Code 1951”.

Welcome to 1951. Definitely no hoverboards. We are currently in the Ardennes Region of Europe, where three soldiers are dragging along a caliber of wolf-girl (the grumpy one in front; we’ll call her Yonaga). Look, if you were chained against your will and yanked along in the freezing weather, snow eddies swirling about you, dressed like that (she is also muzzled), you’d be a tad out of sorts as well.

They are being followed by Sergeant Alex Rossa (him to the right) and Professor Testa Lielbert (him to the left). Him to the left is a young genius university professor (at 17!) who is able to learn any language. He is asked to decipher a code used in wireless communication: the Luger Code, developed by werewolves, enemies to mankind.

We do not fully know how this war developed, but it was an offshoot of WWII and has been a pitched battle these last six years and the werewolves appear to be winning. Yeah, they are much stronger and have those big, nasty, sharp teeth and appear to be impervious to regular weaponry (silver is a rather costly metal for bullets).

Startled to find that he has difficulties in deciphering the code and desperate to study it, the professor embarks on a journey to capture a living werewolf to aid him and learn this language directly, rather than from questionable recordings and general uncertainty.

This is a classic origin episode, as it has all the elements in place to send us off into the full series, but it was a mere three-chapter manga in its original form. Whether they wish to pursue this as a full episode run is another matter, but it certainly has enough interest in it to potentially warrant such a decision.

I do not wish to tip off too much here, as I would like you to check it out. There is enough action and story line to pique your interest in it. I do not know if a petition to the company would help, but I would like to see more of this series. You should see it as well.

On a scale of 1 to 10:

Artwork           8 (Better than I expected)
Plot                  8 (Holding its own for a test shot)
Pacing              8 (Strong and dramatic)
Effectiveness   7 (A bit thin, but it is a one-shot)
Conclusion       7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended. Hopefully.)
Fan Service      2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)

Overall            7 (Such a tease!)

And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Wait up for me.

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