SSBS – Cardfight!! Vanguard Episode 3

SSBS CFV EP3 TITLE

Plot: Aichi’s sister, Emi, has been noticing changes in her brother lately. He’s getting up earlier and coming home from school later. One day, she decides to investigate by following him after school. She first believes that Aichi is getting beaten up regularly by two thug-ish looking guys from his school, but she soon realizes that he’s been playing the card game, Vanguard, with them every afternoon.

Emi secretly watches her brother play a game in Card Central and realizes that playing this game has made him stand a little taller and be a bit more outgoing. He’s very noticeably happy and excited when he’s playing the game, and Emi is happy for Aichi to have found something that he truly enjoys. She reveals what she’s been doing and cheers him on as he starts up another match.

Breakdown: Something I keep praising about this show is how much I love the laid back atmosphere. So many shounen shows love to shove major drama and world-saving stakes down your throat that sometimes you just want to enjoy the game for what it is. After the first handful of episodes in Yugioh, how long was it before the main characters had a friendly match together with nothing on the line again? How many episodes of Beyblade do they go, at maximum, without some startling revelation or dramatic showdown?

Hearing this might make you think the obvious: “Well, without that stuff, the show would be boring.” Vanguard shows that losing that stuff does not a boring show make.

This episode starts off very filler-y. We’re introduced to Aichi’s little sister, Emi, who is one of most tolerable and likable little sister characters I’ve seen in anime in a while. A good chunk of the episode is her having delusions that Aichi is about to get beat up by Morikawa and Izaki. However, even the filler-y aspect 1) is not filler-y because it technically has a point and 2) is pretty funny.

When she finally gets to the card shop, it’s a bit surreal. The main focus is really not too heavy on the match itself. It’s equal parts Emi’s reactions to watching her brother and the match.

Keep that in mind – she’s watching her brother play, not so much watching the match. She doesn’t really understand what’s going on anyway, but she’s far more interested in Aichi’s change in demeanor when he’s playing.

The scenes in which she’s analyzing Aichi’s behavior were a great breath of fresh air. I feel like nearly any other show’s little sister character (Outside of Shizuka from Yugioh, but she’s older than Emi) would probably mock her brother, either internally or otherwise, for being so invested in a card game. But what does Emi do? She’s glad that her brother has found something that makes him involved, happy and little more confident. She even actively starts cheering him on.

In this simple little episode, in which a character I’ve never seen before comes to a revelation I never knew mattered, I felt more emotional response than I have in a long time of watching shounen gaming anime. I am endlessly impressed by how much I’m enjoying this show. I really hope this series keeps its momentum, because I’d hate to have to deal with the same shounen schlock from a really good show.

Speaking of Yugioh, this episode reminded me a bit of a plotline in Yugioh. Well, a very small plotline. In the earlier episodes of Yugioh, Jounouchi is chastised by Yugi for having a deck filled with beasts and absolutely no trap or magic cards to his name. Like many novices, Jounouchi thought card games were all about power and that having cards for support or strategy were pointless.

Here, Morikawa has that same issue. While he’s doing a little better than Jounouchi used to do in his rookie days, Morikawa has loaded his deck with Grade 3 monsters, which can’t be summoned unless they’re built upon Grades 0-2 monsters. This also means he has practically no drive triggers or lower level monsters for support or defense. Like Shin notes, his deck is riddled with balance issues. When we watch him fight Aichi, his balance issues are highlighted while simultaneously showing the audience that one of the reasons why Aichi’s deck is so good is because his deck is extremely well balanced.

This episode really brought to light how great the dubbing is. It’s nothing astounding or anything, but everyone sounds and acts like a real person. Morikawa, voiced by Lucas Gilbertson, was particularly well done in this episode. The writing is also much better than your average shounen gaming anime fare. I was laughing out loud at several lines. TMS did a great job with this series.

The only thing that bothered me was, every time Emi (age 12) was noticed by other students of Aichi’s age (15), they all kept assuming she was either waiting for a boy from the Junior High or that she’s Aichi’s girlfriend. Was a little weird is all, especially considering Morikawa and Izaki made this assumption after she said that Aichi was coming home late. Why doesn’t anyone jump to ‘little sister’?

Rating: 8.5/10

Next time, Aichi vs. Misaki! Whoo girls can play card games!

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Sailor Moon Episode 8 Sub/Dub Comparison

Plot: A girl named Ami is blowing everyone away with her fantastic grades and tests scores. As Usagi tries to create a friendship with her to get help with her exams, Luna believes that she might be an enemy with an evil plot. When it’s revealed that the cram school that she is attending is just a front for evil purposes, it seems like Ami is the culprit, but is that truly what she is, or is she on the side of good?

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A front shot of the house is edited in for the dub to ensure that we knew that they cut to Serena’s house. Also, they cut out a close up shot of the magazine/manga that she’s reading.

They edit out a shot where Usagi’s face goes blank and is covered by a gigantic anime sweatdrop.

In the original, Usagi’s mom asks her how she did on her mock exam. Usagi says not to worry because the results won’t even be back until tomorrow. Then her mom basically says that she doesn’t ask for miracles in terms of her grades, she just asks her to please not fail. Then Usagi starts bawling and says that if someone’s getting the top grades someone must inevitably be at the bottom and that it’s not fair to yell at her just because she gets bad grades. Her mom then tells her that she may not study but she always has time to come up with excuses and that she’s the one who should be crying.

In the dub, Serena’s mom asks her why she’s not studying because she has a test tomorrow. Then Serena says not to worry because it’s tomorrow afternoon. Then her mom stops her and tells her that she and Serena’s father are worried that she might flunk out of school and asks her where they went wrong with her. Serena then starts bawling and says that things are different from when she was a kid and school is a lot harder and there’s more pressure so she desperately needs a break. Then her mom says that that excuse won’t work because she used to use the exact same excuse on her parents.

In the original, Luna walks by and praises Usagi for finally studying. Then Usagi says that’s easy for her to say and that she wishes that she were a cat because they don’t have to do anything. Luna rebuts by saying that she’s doing everything that she can to find the Moon Princess and fight evil. Seriously, why is this even a plot point? Were people really not convinced that the princess was Usagi at this point? We all saw the opening theme song.

She jumps on the desk and discovers that Usagi is reading manga. She scolds Usagi and tells her that finding the princess and fighting evil is her responsibility too. Usagi asks who the evil force is, and Luna replies that even she doesn’t really know.

In the dub we get a long lecture about doing homework from Luna. Serena asks why she even needs to do homework if she’s destined to be a Sailor Scout (Because that comes with a dental plan, right?) and Luna tells her that even Sailor Scouts need to study to learn about the world and yada lecture yada. No mention of the Moon Princess or anything. Also, during this scene in the original, Luna blows out one of those cartoonish puffs of air. In the dub, this is edited out.

At the end of the scene, Usagi makes a displeased face, but this is removed from the dub by repeating and reversing a previous shot of her looking at Luna.

They edit out the title screen of the Sailor V video game when Luna turns it on.

In the original, Luna’s password is “The rabbit on the moon makes rices cakes” to which the person on the other line responds “The moon rice cakes are sticky” Luna replies “When I grilled them they puffed up.” In the dub, Luna’s password is one phrase and it’s something like “I like tuna fish and field mice pudding.” …..Uh….who the hell is making Luna field mice pudding? Ughghghg.

Luna is the one that provides the mystery person on the computer the information about sensing weird energy and showing a picture of Ami. In the dub, the mystery person gives Luna this information.

In the original, there’s a shot of the giant board that has everyone’s mock exam scores on it and everyone’s clamoring over Ami Mizuno getting the best grades. Out in the hallway, Usagi and her friends talk about Ami and state that she’s not only the smartest person in school but in the entire country. Umino then pops up and says that she’s incredibly smart and that her IQ is over 300. I get it, she’s a genius. Also if she’s that smart, shouldn’t she be in college or…space by now?

In the dub, the shot of the grade board is edited out partially because they removed the mention of the mock exam and partly because Japanese. In the hall, they claim that Amy goes to someplace called Brighton Academy which is apparently a place for huge brainiacs. When Melvin pops up he basically shows interest in doing a study on her.

In the original, immediately after that scene, Umino says that she goes to a place called Crystal Cram School. We learn that Ami’s mother is a doctor, that they’re likely rich and that she got into Crystal Cram School on a full scholarship. Then the girls speculate that she’s actually a snob who thinks that she’s better than everyone else because of her intelligence.

In the dub, Melvin says that he’d like to meet her (Well, she’s right down the hall….) And Serena says that he’d blow out his brain cells just by talking to her. We don’t get the same rich/mother doctor/scholarship explanations as the original. Instead, we get early speculations that she’s a snob and then we get speculations that she’s actually stupid and got kicked out of Brighton Academy. Wow, between this and the “Where did we go wrong with you?” comment from before, it sounds like DiC felt like being a jerk to everyone during production.

Name change-ish?: Ami (Ah-mee) Mizuno is changed to Amy (Ey-Mee) Mizuno. This is slightly disappointing because Ami’s name has meaning. Her name literally translates to “Friend of Water” Amy apparently means “Much loved” Which, according to that last scene, is wrong. BWAAHAHHAHAHAHAHAH!

After they discover that Ami was listening to them, Usagi laughs nervously and everyone else follows suit and then we get sweatdrops on everyone’s heads. In the dub, the sweatdrops are edited out.

In the original, Usagi wonders how nice it would be to be so smart like Ami. Then she dreads her mother yelling at her about her grades. We see a stillframe daydream where her mother is dragging her off to cram school on a leash. In the dub, Serena’s excited to get home for a snack, but then dreads her mother asking how she did on the test. The daydream is edited out, as is another puff of air and she then says that she should slow down to avoid going home and facing her.

The scene where Luna jumps on Ami is greatly sped up in the dub. It’s almost comical. I dunno if they did this to save time or to make it seem less….’scary’ I dunno.

Okay, what is up with Amy’s dub voice? I conceded to the fact that sometimes dubbers make people who are very polite in the original version English/British because screw Americans sounding polite and intelligent (*belch*) but geez, she sounds almost like a parody. I really don’t remember her sounding so ridiculous.

In the original, Ami says that since Luna jumped down from the sky that she thought that she was an angel. Usagi then thinks to herself that Ami’s a lot sweeter than she thought and then smiles at her. In the dub, Amy says that she heard Melvin say that she thought she was a snob and a brainiac school reject. Serena then says that it was a joke and smiles……

DiC, what is your problem today? Why are you purposely being such a jerk? And how is calling someone a snob a joke? And why would she smile at that? What is going on?

In the original, Usagi introduces herself and Luna. Ami asks if Luna means ‘Moon’ and Usagi gushes and says that she’s correct. She says that, off course, the genius would be able to catch something like that right away, making Ami blush. In the dub, Serena explains all the sites around town like the arcade and the candy stores and Amy asks where the library is. Serena asks why she would want to know that and she responds that she spends her weekends there (I should stop here and say that Ami isn’t a transfer student in the original. She’s just in a different class.) Then Serena basically asks if she’s from outer space because only nerds like Melvin go to the library for fun…..

Two things; One – In the original, Ami is constantly being suspected as a youma/demon on the side of the enemy. Though they don’t call her a demon in the dub and choose to instead say that she’s probably simply working for the Negaverse, they seem to be making something out of her being an alien. They call her an alien at the beginning preview and now this outer space thing. Two – STOP TREATING AMY LIKE CRAP.

In the original, Usagi has a little thought bubble by her head of her as a little demon as she thinks that she can befriend Ami to help her study and get better grades. (IE mooch off of her work). In the dub, instead of painting over that bubble, that cut right before the bubble appears and repeat the ½ second footage of her walking over and over to fill that scene up. It’s horribly edited. I know, I used to use this shortcut when making AMVs to lipsync and it always looked awful. You can see the repeat footage so clearly that Hanna-Barbera would be laughing at DiC right now.

In the original, Usagi offers to show Ami how to play a game at the arcade believing that she can ask for help on the exam in exchange. In the dub, Amy just reacts to Serena saying that sometimes Luna likes to believe she can talk by nibbling on her ear. Amy says she wishes animals could really talk.

The ending animation and Game Over screen are edited in the dub, but I see no reason why. The words Game Over are already in Engli4kids.

I was going to say maybe the gun was the problem, but they keep it in….Poorly edited, I might add.

The video game screen is consistently edited for this entire scene by having a red filter on the footage and I have no clue why.

Subbed:

Dubbed:

Also, I’m pretty sure that they cut out a lot of shots of her score going up.

They edit in the same shot of the game over screen, this time with a score overlay for Ami’s Game Over. I bring this up because someone in the crowd says that she has over 100,000 points, but the screen says she had 6850 points. However, in the further shots, you can clearly see that her score is indeed over 100,000. This is because the further shots are unaltered. This is pointless because the original had no cutaway to the Game Over screen. It’s a given that walking away from the game means that you’re dead. Pointless editing leads to pointless continuity flub. Wahmp wahmp wahhhhh.

Before:

After:

In the original, Ami says that she has cram school every day. (Or that she goes everyday) Usagi asks why and she says that studying is her only talent. In the dub, Amy says that she takes a special computer course twice a week for three hours each…not sure why we needed to know the length of the classes, but whatever.

An outside shot of the cram school is cut out because it has a big sign that says Crystal Seminar.

In order to avoid showing a closeup of a sign that’s covered in Japanese (Dun dun dunnnnn) we see a repeat of a closeup shot of Amy’s floppy disk. I don’t get it. Japanese is okay as long as we’re not seeing it too closely?

Because the reaction shot to hearing Mamoru is in the room contained the closeup of the sign, DiC uses a reaction shot that’s supposed to happen later in the scene. The scene containing Mamoru is also shortened due to this.

In the original, Mamoru asks if Usagi’s finally going to do some studying since she’s at the cram school. He then asks if Luna was talking. That’s what causes Usagi and Luna to get really awkward and suddenly run away.

In the dub, Darien asks if she’s talking to herself again, which causes Serena to get really awkward, not really give a response and then run away. This scene is made incredibly awkward, again, due to edits.

In the original, Usagi suddenly turns around after running away a little to see if Mamoru’s still there. A giant thought bubble with a sweatdrop appears and they run away again. In the dub, as Serena’s running away (with her back turned to Darien, mind you) dialogue is inserted where she says “WHY ARE YOU STARING AT ME!?” and the sweatdrop thought bubble is edited away. Almost like someone with Serena’s voice was behind her talking to Darien, she heard it, stopped and then turned around. Why would she know that he was staring otherwise?

Later they remove another thought bubble sweatdrop after she realizes that she ran away before returning Amy’s disk.

Well, here’s a surprise. The disk shows a blue screen covered in Japanese text that we actually get a pretty good closeup of. However, DiC doesn’t edit over this at all. I won’t give them full credit, though, because Serena asks “What’s all that stuff?” Congrats, Japan! Your beautiful language has been reduced to ‘stuff’.

In the original, Usagi transforms into a university school nurse as a disguise. In the dub, Serena turns into a school superintendent. She doesn’t change outfits for this or anything, it’s just a dialogue change for no reason. I’m pretty sure it’s easier to pretend to be a school nurse than it is to pretend to be in a position such as school superintendent.

Also, Usagi picks a school nurse presumably so that she can have an excuse for suddenly barging into a class, claiming that she got a call about a sick child. In the dub, she barges into the class yelling “Who’s running this bogus class?!”

First of all, saying ‘bogus’ is an instant red flag that you are not an adult, period, let alone a superintendent.

Second of all, who does that? Why even bother disguising yourself if you were just gonna barge in and act stupid?

In the original, the real enemy reveals itself to be the youma of knowledge and wisdom, Garoben, which proves that Ami wasn’t the youma in question like Luna thought. In the dub, the demon doesn’t reveal her name or title. It’s just assumed that Amy didn’t have a role in the plan since she’s being held hostage.

Before the Sailor Moon speech, Usagi says that geniuses are vital to the world because they help make it peaceful. In the dub, Serena delivers jilted dialogue about “Knowing….what you’re up to!” Seriously, guys, if there’s no mouths flaps to match, there’s no excuse for dialogue like that.

Garoben’s quiz question was based on Newton’s law. Why did the apple fall from the tree? Usagi refuses to guess until Garoben’s attack and then guessed that it was a typhoon. Luna calls her an idiot and says it’s because of gravity. Usagi gives the answer and the attack ends because she got it right. In the dub, the monster asks her what 355×268 or something is and no one answers. The reason behind the attack suddenly halting is never given.

The follow-up question is, “What is gravity? Explain in less than 50 words.” Usagi claims it’s impossible. In the dub, the monster tells her that she has two choices, surrender now or surrender later. She says she’ll never surrender.

In the original, one of the reasons that the Crystal disk isn’t taking Ami’s brain energy (Yeah, that sounds stupid now that I’ve written it down) is because she didn’t use the disk often due to the fact that she believes in traditional studying over computer work. In the dub, this entire scene is quiet and the only explanation we can surmise for why her energy isn’t being taken is because she’s really Sailor Mercury.

I’m just now realizing how drastically short the Sailor Scouts’ transformation sequences are compared to Sailor Moon’s. Hers is like 20 seconds long. Mercury’s lasts for like 4 seconds.

Attack name change: Bubble Spray is changed to Mercury Bubbles Blast!

In the original, Usagi thinks to herself yet again with a big smirk on her face that Ami will help her with her exams now. But Ami just says that she’s glad to be by her side in the fight against evil. The big smirk and that initial thought are edited out. Serena does, however, ask Ami if she’ll help her do her homework. So that’s something.

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All I can say is thank God Ami’s finally in the picture. Ami makes this series far more pleasant to watch. I can’t really enjoy it much with just Usagi. I dunno when we’ll meet the others, but yay Ami!

Next up, clocks….

SSBS – Cardfight!! Vanguard Episode 2

SSBS CFV EP 2 TITLE

Plot: As Aichi and Kai continue their battle, Kai finally remembers who Aichi is. Aichi and Kai met several years ago. Aichi had just been beaten up by a bunch of bullies so Kai decided to give him the Blaster Blade card, urging him to imagine himself as the great paladin fighting on the planet Cray in order to boost his confidence. It worked, kinda, and from then on Aichi developed a great love of the game.

Aichi always wanted to battle Kai again as thanks for giving him something that helped him believe in himself. However, Kai moved away not too long after that. He still looks up to him and is very grateful for what he did for him, but Kai brushes it off and says he just gave him that card so he could kick his butt in Vanguard much worse than those bullies did that day. Anything Aichi thinks he knows about him is a stupid fairy tale he lets himself believe.

Despite this, Aichi manages to nearly defeat Kai, but it was really Kai letting Aichi play right into his hands. He uses the damage cards Aichi racked up on him to give his Dragonic Overlord several attacks, devastating Aichi and nearly defeating him, but he managed to save himself with a healing drive trigger.

Aichi says he doesn’t believe what Kai says about his motivations for giving him Blaster Blade. He knows what he remembers of how he was back then, and that will never change. He makes another attempt to battle with Kai one damage point away from defeat. Kai has more than enough to defend himself against the assault, but Aichi lucks out with a card that allows him to power up his Blaster Blade and knock Kai’s final damage point down.

Kai knocks the Blaster Blade card back to Aichi, with Aichi having now won it back fair and square. He leaves with barely a word, leaving Aichi to believe that he hates him now.

The next day at school, barely anything’s changed. His classmates still all openly mock him for being shy and not knowing answers in school, and Morikawa, the bully who took his Blaster Blade before, is still bullying him. He’s unimpressed with Aichi’s victory over Kai and moreso believes Kai is a weakling who is too embarrassed to ever show his face around the card shop again after losing to “Shy-chi.” He also refuses to battle Aichi or teach him anything at Aichi’s request.

The status quo seems to be returned when Aichi sadly returns to an empty card shop, but his spirits are quickly heightened when Kai, Morikawa and everyone else return to the card shop wanting to battle Aichi.

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This was a pretty good episode, giving us insight into Kai and Aichi’s background, Aichi’s connection with his Blaster Blade and what Vanguard truly means to him.

Like I mentioned in my Episode One-derland segment, instead of having holograms or real monsters in the card battles, all of the battles are imagined by the players, much like how anyone playing a real-world TCG would likely do. However, it’s a bit more than that. Aichi doesn’t just imagine the monsters and battles for the sake of ‘ooh cool, fighting and monsters!’ he imagines it because it gives him confidence and, in a way, gives him a place of belonging.

To many people, Vanguard is just another TCG, but to Aichi, it’s something that he treasures and makes him feel a little better about himself, even if he seemingly never has anyone to play against.

I appreciate that, and I’m sure many viewers would be able to relate to that.

It’s a little obvious that Kai’s lying about his intentions regarding giving Blaster Blade to Aichi. First of all, his claim makes no sense or makes Kai look stupid. He gave him such a rare and powerful card just so Aichi would learn to play the game, battle him, defeat him very badly, I guess, and rub it in his face or something? That’s very convoluted and time-consuming just to say ‘haha, you suck, person who has barely played the game!’ And what if he still never decided to play? That would mean Kai gave away a powerful rare card for nothing.

Second, his demeanor completely changes when he says this, like he’s trying to rile up Aichi on purpose. Though, to what end, I don’t really know. Maybe so Aichi would be less sentimental about the match?

The battle itself was pretty cool and entertaining, but I won’t deny that it has two ‘heart of the cards’ moments. Maybe not that cheesy, but Aichi survives Kai’s assault on pure luck by drawing a healing trigger, which I can take just fine, but he also has the luck to draw another trigger that wins him the game on his next turn.

Aichi’s character is indeed turning out to be pretty unique for a shounen gaming anime protagonist. Yeah he has loads of beginner’s luck, and I hope he doesn’t develop the newbie messiah syndrome, but he’s shy, has little self-confidence, is just starting out with the game for the most part and has few to no friends.

Plus, when he pulls his first major win out of his ass, no one truly seems impressed by him. No rumors go around school, he’s not heralded as ‘that kid who beat Kai’, he’s not developing an ego off of it, he just wins then goes back to his life. It’s almost like, *gasp*, the world and everyone in it don’t revolve around this card game. BLASPHEMY.

He hopes to see and battle Kai again, and even tries to make friends with the bullies who took his Blaster Blade in the first place. He’s almost the exact opposite of every shounen gaming anime protagonist I’ve ever seen. Watch this and something like Bakugan back to back and the contrast will knock you on your ass.

What confuses me a bit is the ending where everyone comes back to the card shop all happy and raring to battle Aichi. Kai I can understand a bit more because he probably wasn’t angry in the first place and just walked away silently because he’s a stoic lone-wolf character and that’s what they do. However, just minutes prior, Morikawa and the other bully just refused to teach Aichi, refused to battle him as well, and mocked Kai for losing to Aichi, mocking Aichi in the process. Then when they get to the card shop it’s all, ‘Hey, if you want to battle Aichi, I’m playing him first!’ and they’re all good friends? Huh?

All in all, a pretty good episode and a solid conclusion to the first episode. Despite some hard to swallow luck, this series is maintaining its easygoing attitude, and I love that.

Rating: 7.5/10

Next Episode, Aichi’s sister, Emi, discovers his love of Vanguard.

The Crazy Stupid Way I Select Anime to Watch (And Why I’m Content with It)

A recent award question got me rethinking about my anime watching patterns. The question in particular was what shows were I looking forward to watching in Spring 2018. I’ve been asked similar questions, which is not surprising because it’s a common question passed around the anime community. However, my response is almost always ‘Well, the way I select things to watch doesn’t lend me to catching the newest anime as they come out, so I don’t really have any lol’

I’ve explained my, for lack of a better term, “method” of selecting anime a couple of times to some people, but I’ve never really gone in-depth about it, mostly because it’s complicated and makes me look insane…..But I decided I’d share with you this tangled web of nonsense, because I think I actually have a point in here…..Probably not, but let’s see!

There is a method to my madness, I promise. I’ve just gone down a rabbit hole that I, myself, have dug and I can’t get out. If, at any time, you find me to be a nerdy psycho for selecting anime this way……Yes.

Let’s start at the nitty-gritty, which is my anime folders in my bookmarks. I have four different anime folders that arrange anime I’ve either stumbled upon, heard about, read about, randomly saw etc. (sometimes I’ll even scour anime sites and select at least one series by title from each letter of the alphabet.) I bookmark either the streaming page for it or an info page about it. The folders go by episode length. 1-13 eps, 14-26 eps, 27-51 eps and 52+ eps. These are categorized as such because these are the typical lengths shows usually extend out to

Next, I go to the first folder and either select the anime at the top of the list or flick the scroll bar up and down and blindly click on an entry. Then I do the same for the other folders. This becomes my ‘lineup’ so to speak. I will then watch the first episode of each show, probably do an Episode One-derland about each, then, if I like the show, I’ll put it in line for completion (which may or may not be a long line due to laziness and backlogs) or I just drop it. If I really like a show, I’ll bump it to the top of the line and complete it quickly.

Particularly long shows, usually ones in the 52+ folder, get more elbow room for watching since they’re usually just so long that I’d be sidelined for a while if I put too much focus on them at once. For these shows, I’ll watch an episode when I’m in the mood or have some extra time.

Now, currently, I’ve made a massive mess of things in my watch schedule. I have a bunch of stuff backlogged and I keep getting distracted by my other projects (SDCs, Shounen/Shoujo Step-by-Step, Dissecting the Disquels etc.).

To keep myself more organized, I have made up a watch schedule that continuously changes as I complete more shows and need material for my series. For instance, my current schedule now is to watch and review at least one episode of Cardfight!! Vanguard per day (if able), while completing my rewatch of Boogiepop Phantom (Almost done). Then I’ll do at least ten episodes of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch for Shoujo Step-by-Step and then finish Death Parade (Also almost done). And so on and so forth.

All the while, this is peppered with stuff I need to update as I post more blogs. For example, I might throw in some Pokemon, an Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) episode, a western animated movie and some manga.

In essence, the way I watch anime is very sporadic. An organized mess, if you will.

I will admit, this is far from an efficient way to select or complete anime. By all means, I should drop it entirely and adopt something better. I have no clue when I even started doing this, because sometimes I get into weird obsessive modes and make up stuff like this only to forget why I structured it like that in the first place, but, like I said, I’m pretty deep into the rabbit hole I’ve dug for myself. I find the familiarity and wonky structure to work for me on some strange level. Plus, I think this method has more benefits than one might think.

I get to watch and learn about all sorts of anime from the dawn of the medium to today. I get to uncover old lost gems and even old fun garbage that I don’t think I ever would’ve considered otherwise. I also get exposed to a multitude of genres that I might not have ever delved into. I give nearly each and every thing I randomly select a fair shot instead of pigeon-holing myself into a few categories.

I also don’t have to suffer through any drama that might be spawning from a current series, writer, producer, studio etc. Or at least, if I do, I get to avoid the brunt of it.

The biggest sacrifice of this is that, yeah, I typically don’t get caught up on any newer shows unless I really really want to watch them (and even then, I sometimes falter. I’m only now watching Digimon Adventure Tri, for example). So I’ll never be on the front lines of anime news and kick myself in the butt when I finally manage to watch a really great newer show and wish I had watched it sooner.

I also tend to take much longer finishing series than I’d like because so many series so little time.

It’s a trade-off, but I’m oddly content with it.

 

Pokemon Episode 46 Analysis: Attack of the Prehistoric Pokemon

Pokemon Ep 46 Title

CoTD(s): None

Evolutions: Ash’s Charmeleon → Charizard

Plot: Our heroes are wandering through Grampa Canyon (No map gif can help me now) when they run into a bunch of people with picks and shovels. Gary appears and explains that it’s the great fossil rush. Everyone’s gathering to dig up Pokemon fossils, including himself.

As everyone digs, Team Rocket sets up their latest plan – blowing the canyon up with dynamite and taking all of the fossils for themselves. Ash and the others hear their plans, and while Ash tries to stop the fuse, Misty and Brock go off to warn everyone.

It’s a huge race between Ash, Squirtle and Pikachu against Team Rocket as they try to extinguish the fuse and Team Rocket tries desperately to keep it lit. They fall down the cliffside, and in an effort to stop the fuse, Pikachu shocks the stockpile of dynamite, accidentally igniting it and blowing the place to ruins.

The ground opens up and swallows up everyone except Squirtle. The opening of the crevice quickly becomes sealed with nearby falling rocks. Squirtle manages to stay above ground and reunite with Brock and Misty, who immediately try to dig Ash and the others out.

Meanwhile, Ash and Team Rocket awake in a huge cave deep underground, and they soon realize that they’re not alone. The fossil Pokemon, believed to be extinct, Kabuto, Kabutops, Omanyte and Omastar angrily confront the group.

Ash calls on his Charmeleon to keep them at bay, but he refuses to listen to Ash and instead takes a nap.

They all get attacked by the fossil Pokemon, but they suddenly flee when they hear the call of the fearsome Aerodactyl. Charmeleon gets smacked by Aerodactyl, triggering its rage and desire to battle.

It nabs up Ash in its claws and flies out of the cave with Pikachu and Charmeleon hanging on its tail.

Aerodactyl continues to smack Charmeleon around, and they start taunting each other. Angered by Aerodactyl’s taunts, Charmeleon evolves into Charizard and they start a confrontation in the sky. Ash is ecstatic, believing Charmeleon evolved to save him, but when Charizard starts recklessly shooting off Flamethrowers in his direction, he realizes he evolved to fight Aerodactyl.

Jigglypuff arrives and Misty tells it to sing its song for everyone. It gladly agrees, and the lullaby soon makes everyone sleepy. Charizard is able to fight the effects by plugging his ears. Aerodactyl falls asleep, dropping Ash in the process. Charizard catches him and sets him down on the ground safely before also falling asleep.

Meanwhile, Aerodactyl falls back into the cave, which seals itself back up again with the aftershock of Aerodactyl’s landing.

After everyone awakens, Jenny assures everyone that there was no prehistoric Pokemon, and any sightings of them was just a dream caused by Jigglypuff. Furthermore, with the instability caused by Team Rocket’s bombs, digging will no longer be permitted in Grampa Canyon.

Ash and the others are happy that Aerodactyl and the other ancient Pokemon will be able to rest now, but they didn’t leave the great fossil rush empty handed. Ash reveals that he stumbled upon a Pokemon egg after he woke up and decided to take it. The three then argue over who gets to care for the egg.

Meanwhile, Team Rocket are trembling in fear, still trapped in the cave with the now sleeping fossil Pokemon.

————————-

– Yeah, I’m so sure you direct archaeologists to their dig sites with signs that have pictures of shovels and picks with an arrow.

– Hi Gary!

– Gary: *In reference to Ash* “Even a nerd like you shoulda heard about the great fossil rush.” ‘Nerd’ implies a great deal of intelligence, so this line makes no sense. Come on 4Kids, this isn’t difficult.

– Ash: “Loser?! That know-it-all!” That line implies that Gary knows Ash is, in fact, a loser.

– Brock: “I don’t feel right about digging up old Pokemon fossils, especially after they’ve been resting in the earth for such a long time.” As opposed to those Pokemon fossils that have been resting in the earth for a few minutes? Also, I get where Brock is coming from, respect for the dead and all, but is he making an anti-archaeology/paleontology argument?

Misty: “If they’ve been lying underground for thousands of years, maybe they’d like a little fresh air.”

Ash: “I think it’s your brain that needs some fresh air.” Wow, Ash. Uncalled for.

– STILL using the Pokemon logo in the title screen when saying ‘Pokemon’? Wow, I was off by light years.

– I tend to give some shows leeway when it comes to topics like this, and for all I know the laws in the Pokemon world are somehow different, but actively digging up and collecting fossils is a heavily regulated practice, not to mention that extracting a fossil, intact and without damage, is very difficult even for trained experts. This massive group of ten to twenty year olds should not be able to just crowd a single area like this and smack away at it.

– I’m no archaeologist, but I don’t think this looks right in any way. The fossil is perfectly cut out of the ground by Gary merely picking at it, there’s no rubble on top of it despite Gary seeing this exact image immediately after hitting the area with a pick, and the rock with the fossil is a drastically different color than the rock surrounding it. If the footage didn’t suggest otherwise, and I didn’t know Gary was too good for cheating, I’d say someone dug a small hole and plopped a fossil in it.

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– I know Gary’s disappointed that he found a poop fossil, but isn’t that still valuable? Don’t scientists learn a lot about diets and prehistoric vegetation and whatnot from poop fossils?

– Brock: “All these people digging and no one’s found any fossils yet.” Uh, Gary just found one. It’s poop, but it’s fossilized poop – it counts. Also, you’re greatly underestimating how long this process typically takes.

– James: “Once we blast Grampa Canyon to smithereens, we’ll be able to scoop up all those Pokemon fossils.” Yeah, because they’re impervious to dynamite.

– Misty: “Did you hear that? They’re going to blow up this whole canyon!” Yeah, we all heard, Misty. Team Rocket was literally yelling out their plans for no other reason than to alert nearby main characters about their plans.

– Oh hey a Team Rocket plot that involves explosives and mass murder. Every now and then, I feel like calling them Terrorist Rocket.

– James: “Oh it’s that pest again!”

Jessie: “Always messing up our plans!” Technically, you screwed yourself here with your yelling, Jessie. If you just kept your trap shut, Ash and the others would be dead along with the 50+ people you’re about to try and murder by now.

– I’d also like to point out that Meowth is perfectly allowed to use a zippo lighter here, but in Snow Way Out that same lighter will be painted into a candle for no reason.

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– Again, if they just didn’t alert Ash to the fact that the fuse was already lit, their plans would’ve gone through. Team Rocket, I implore you to get more intelligent, because there’s only so much you can wring out of idiot vs. idiot(s) storylines.

– Squirtle should be a good enough shot to have gotten that fuse before it even left the cliff, but I guess this might show contrast and development in how awesome Squirtle’s accuracy gets later on, especially in the Orange League.

– I know Team Rocket is trying to stop Ash from extinguishing the fuse, but….*sigh* do I even need to ask if they realize that they’re running towards a massive bomb, and, should they succeed, they’ll have front row seats to a massive murder explosion of death?

– Pikachu, there is no reason whatsoever, even in a panic, that you should’ve believed electrocuting dynamite was a good idea in any capacity.

– The reactions are priceless, though.

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– I call bullshit on them living through that. I get the cartoon logic, but, come on. That thing looked like a nuke when it went off and cracked the ground in two. No way did they get off without a scratch.

– How did Squirtle get separated from the others? He was in the same cluster that Ash, Team Rocket, Arbok and Weezing were in when the bomb went off. If anyone should be separated, it should be Pikachu because he escaped from the cluster beforehand to go off and be an idiot.

Even if he did somehow separate, how did he not fall into the crevice? It was massive. If it took Pikachu, surely it would take Squirtle.

– How is Weezing falling if it can float?

– Our friends fell into a massive hole that is being covered by rocks! Quick! Walk on top of it and chuck the rocks away!

Best case scenario, they don’t know how deep this chasm is and believe Ash and the others are just covered by rocks, which, hate to break it to you, but corpses.

Even if they lived through that and this hole wasn’t deep, they have no clue where they would be. They could be chucking stones ONTO to Ash or Pikachu.

Worst case scenario, they shift the rocks so much they collapse the stones that are plugging it up, causing them to fall into the hole and inevitably crush the people below before they also die. Not exactly sure about the best way to approach this, but certainly it isn’t that.

– Jigglypuff thinks a mound of rocks is a stage with lights and everything….So…what has Jiggy really been puffin’?

– It seems like one of the most pointless scenes of fanservice/filler or whatever to have Jigglypuff all entranced by a rock stage, see the pile of rocks fall down, then get pissed that they fell.

– I think I’ll give a generous pass to (almost) every time characters survive huge falls because otherwise I’d have to call out whenever Team Rocket survives getting blasted off.

– Jessie: “Looks like we got blown all the way to the moon.” Jessie…*sigh* I’ll be nice and chalk this one up to head trauma.

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– Ash is not the slightest bit concerned about where his Squirtle is. For all he knows, it’s dead.

– That rock formation doesn’t look like it follows the laws of physics…or gravity….or anything.

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– Realistically, the only fossil Pokemon I can believe has glow-in-the-dark red eyes is Kabuto. Everyone else just had it done for dramatic effect.

– I am so baffled by how ungodly pissed Omastar looks here.

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The best part of waking up is–MURDERING YOU!

– Uhm, gonna call bullshit on them sleeping for thousands of years. 1) Why would they do that? 2) How could they do that? 3) How did they survive all that time? 4) You’re telling me that in thousands of years, they’ve never been woken up or decided to go outside?

– Jessie: “Argh, nevermind! Let’s just capture them! Pokeball, go!” They’re being far too stupid in this episode for me to take them forgetting that Pokemon need to be weakened before capture as being note-worthy….except for the fact that I noted that I wouldn’t note it…..urr…Uhm….

– Those Pokeballs hit Meowth and didn’t even open. This just brings up the question of whether Meowth truly does have an owner.

– Ash: “We have to battle! Charmeleon! I choose you!”

Here we go.

Ash Being a Charmoron Count:

2 (I’m giving him a pass for the first time in The Problem with Paras, but not for the second time.)

In case this isn’t clear, this is a count for every time Ash calls out Charmeleon/izard and just expects it to obey him + bonus points if he uses him in incredibly stupid situations or if Charmeleon/izard creates a hazard by being out.

I will, however, give a pass for the incredibly obvious x4 disadvantage he’s not seeing. While he could’ve just looked up the typing quickly before selecting a Pokemon, he did have his Pokedex out a few seconds ago afterall, it’s incredibly hard to tell what types the fossil Pokemon are, even if blue snails are a little obvious.

– Geodude gets to do stuff! Whoo!

….It’s just moving rocks…..but whoo!

– Blah blah, the anime forgets that Rock Pokemon are not immune to Electricity, blah blah. Actually, scratch that, not only do they mistake Rock for Ground yet again, but Kabutops are part Water, so that should be very effective.

– I’m going to give Ash another pass for calling on Charmeleon again, considering he’s in a tense situation and Charmeleon is already out, but I will mark him off for not trying any of his other Pokemon. Squirtle may be out of the picture, but he still has Bulbasaur (who would be awesome right now) and Pidgeotto.

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Pictured above: Everyone’s expression when Ash let’s out Charmeleon/Izard.

– I kinda wish Charmeleon/izard had kept that cool ‘scar’ on its forehead. Would’ve been some neat although minor characterization.

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And he could be a stand-in for Harry Potter.

– I love how they yell to Ash to ‘watch out!’ when Aerodactyl has his entire body clutched in its talons/feet. Yeah, he can totally avoid that.

– Here we are. The point of ranting about Charmeleon’s cheap as hell evolution. You can definitely make the case that Charmander was at the right time to evolve into Charmeleon. You can also make the argument that it deserved to become a Charizard at least before Cinnabar Island or the Indigo League conference. But I cannot accept this evolution as being anything other than bullshit. It’s been all of, what, three episodes since it evolved? And it hasn’t even won any battles since then (except kinda against Paras) because it wouldn’t listen to Ash, and it wasn’t even in Jigglypuff’s debut episode.

The only way I can really justify it a little is that Charmander was overleveled when it evolved into Charmeleon, so it only need a small nudge to make its way into Charizard. However, if he was stopping himself from evolving, like Squirtle and Bulbasaur seem to do, why? Why would he choose, of all times, The Exeggutor Squad episode to jump into Charmeleon?

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He looks like an eight year old who just got told he couldn’t get ice cream for lunch.

I saw someone mention the hordes of Exeggutor that it beat as being the source of an ungodly amount of experience, but 1) we’re meant to believe Melvin beat like half of those and 2) I don’t believe even beating all of those Exeggutor (who were god knows what level) would be enough to jack his level that high.

Even if he was overleveled, you need to level again before you can evolve, and bullshit he got experience from being smacked by Aerodactyl a couple of times to evolve when he’s around level 36.

Even that explanation seems illogical because he didn’t get experience here.

He was just pissed.

Here’s Charmeleon’s evolution scene entirely.

Charmeleon mocks Aerodactyl by…swiping his fingers against his forehead?

Aerodactyl responds with a ‘bii-daa’, which, I don’t even understand how it knows that considering it’s supposed to have been underground for thousands of years, thus would have no way of knowing Japanese schoolyard taunts.

Charmeleon stamps its feet and has a tantrum.

Evolve.

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That’s it. That’s everything. Some people justify this by saying he evolved in order to beat Aerodactyl, but I just keep feeling like that’s more bullshit. Whether numeric levels and quantitative experience exist or not, there’s no denying that you need these things in order to evolve. Otherwise, most Pokemon would do it a lot more often. It’s a permanent change that requires thought, sure, and their paws may always be on their internal B button, but imagine if it really is supposed to work that way.

You could catch yourself a bunch of base evos, beg your Pokemon to evolve so you don’t have to grind exp, because that’s boring, and rare candies are like….rare, and poof, let’s mow down the gyms before the weekend.

If we revisit The Problem with Paras for a bit, it’s suggested that experience and evolution is based on perception, so cocky twats like Charmeleon evolve with no problem (Charmander was looking a bit proud in the Exeggutor episode) However, I’m having a harder and harder time believing that too, because that would mean pretty much all arrogant Pokemon would evolve in a snap and no self-depreciating Pokemon would ever evolve.

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Chalk up yet another instance of Ash crying that I can remind myself about when he’s stone-faced during actual emotional moments.

Can we just be honest here and admit that the writers desperately wanted Charizard to come on the scene because everyone loves that overrated orange dragon? I like Charizard (as a Pokemon) too, it was my first ever fully-evolved starter in Pokemon Red, but could we have at least a little bit of time with Charmeleon before you chuck it aside for Charizard? Mid-evos, particularly starter mid-evos, get shafted enough as it is.

From a less skeevy viewpoint, maybe they realized that Ash was already nearing the end of his Kanto journey and had zero fully evolved powerhouse Pokemon? Outside of Muk, but, remember everyone, he can’t have Muk around because it stinks even in its Pokeball. So he never, ever uses it, ever. Despite having the omnipotent Messiahchu, he needed a Pokemon that also looked like a powerhouse. Gary was going to get Blastoise so his Squirtle wasn’t much of an option, and Bulbasaur……Pbt. Dragons>leavy frog dinosaur.

And don’t even mention Pidgeotto.

– Uhm, Misty, I understand this is a crucial moment and everything, time is of the essence and whatnot, but uh….don’t you think it might be a bad idea to play Jigglypuff’s song right now? Doesn’t that seem just a smidge dangerous? Charizard will fall asleep in midair, crash, and die. Aerodactyl, the Pokemon carrying your friend through the air, will fall asleep, crash, and Ash will die….And so will Aerodactyl.

– Props to Charizard for being smart enough to plug his ears.

– I’ll also give him props for showing that, despite everything, including nearly frying Ash to death several times while trying to beat Aerodactyl, Charizard caught Ash and safely put him on land.

– Rrrgh…..

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Frickin’

Egg.

– Where did hell did that egg come from anyway? Where are Togepi’s parents?

– See? Jigglypuff inexplicably has a microphone marker out of nowhere.

– Jenny: “Some of you are claiming that you saw a prehistoric Pokemon here in the canyon. That is ridiculous. Let me assure you it was only a dream caused by Jigglypuff’s song.”

Wha–…What? The song that they didn’t even hear until they had already been watching an Aerodactyl nearly eat Ash for over two minutes? Also, what are you saying? That 50+ people all had the exact same dream? That’s even weirder than seeing a previously-thought-to-be-extinct Pokemon.

This is very much cover-up-ish, but if so, why? It might be to protect the fossil Pokemon, but there’s nothing to protect them from, besides Team Rocket and they died in the second cave-in. I get the good intentions behind these ‘we have to keep pretending they’re not here so they won’t be bothered’ motivations, but I doubt the government, of all things, would see previously-thought-to-be-extinct Pokemon and just ignore them for the sake of maintaining their peace and quiet.

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Now just wait a moment and my associate, Will Smith, will make you all look into at a pen for a second.

We have no clue how many of these Pokemon are even living underground. They could be a thriving species and studying them might do no more harm than studying anything else.

Prohibiting mass excavation of the land I can definitely buy in this situation both for the safety of the people and the Pokemon, but I still don’t see why such a big coverup is needed. Especially seeing as how, later, we’ll see a certain someone caught Aerodactyl on film.

– Gary, you believing this dream stuff is just out of character for you, even if you are quietly questioning it to yourself.

– Brock: “But I think Aerodactyl and the others would be happy just going back to sleep.” They’ve been asleep for thousands of years. Why do you believe they’d find happiness in perpetually being asleep? Not much of a life, if you ask me.

– First Brock is asking if Ash should even take the egg from the area, then he and Misty are all gung-ho about straight-up stealing it from him. What a confused ending. Suck it, Togepi’s parents!

—————————

Outside of the evolution and the weird coverup, I’m pretty alright with this episode. There’s not too much wrong with it outside of the evolution, but there’s not a lot going for it in regards to fun or interesting things, in my opinion. I think they could’ve done a lot more with the fossil Pokemon, and jam-packing all of them in one episode is a bit too much, but I guess I can see why they went down that road. Also, for an episode about the fossil Pokemon and starting with a ‘great fossil rush’ we see all of one fossil and it’s of crap. What prompted the great fossil rush anyway?

The evolution really is the biggest mar on this otherwise alright episode. I never got over how insanely cheap it was. They want to make a big to-do about Charizard finally appearing, but they chose such a random moment to debut him in. I always constantly forgot what episode Charmeleon evolved in, and he’s a Charmeleon for such a short amount of time that you barely remember him.

Looking back on it, it would’ve been so much better to have him evolve into Charizard in the Volcano Badge episodes. It’s a two-parter, which means it’s already a big deal to begin with, it’s centered on Fire Pokemon, it contains a notable rival to Charizard (Magmar), Charmeleon could eek out more experience between now and then, and there’s a much better motivation lying there.

Instead of Pikachu getting his ass handed to him by Magmar, have Charmeleon, cocky and hot-headed, get whupped. Have him contemplate his standing as a fighter, because Charmeleon just do that, then evolve right before the rematch or during the volcano disaster or something. Have him evolve not in a fit of immature rage triggered by insults but in a pure desire to defeat a worthy opponent.

Next episode, we play doctor…~~ Actually, considering the next CotD, that joke is incredibly creepy.

Hell Girl Episode 26 (FINALE): The Ephemeral Review

Hell Girl ep 26 FINALE 1

Plot: Ai’s escaped her ride to hell, and she won’t let Hajime and Tsugumi off so easily. She whisks Hajime to the realm of eternal twilight, trapping him until she can complete her plans. She traps Tsugumi in her apartment and hands her the straw doll, trying to convince her that her dad is worthy of her hatred and deserves to go to hell. If she succeeds, she’ll managed to lock both of their souls to hell.

The decision rests with you, Tsugumi.

Breakdown: Is it series season finale time already?

The Spider, and I’m just going to call him that because it’s easier to type than The Master of Hell and that’s what every official source calls him, is angry that Ai broke his cardinal rule of never unleashing her hatred. Hell has hungered for Ai’s vengeful soul for hundreds of years, and now it looks like they’ll get it. However, Ai realizes that she’s not done. Hajime and Tsugumi have survived her onslaught and she must finish her final mission. The Spider tries to restrict her and stop her from leaving, but she bamfs off of the boat and back to the land of the living.

She essentially kidnaps Wanyuudou, Ren and Hone Onna and goes to Tsugumi and Hajime’s location. As Hajime and Tsugumi are talking about why Sentarou didn’t try to save Ai, Hajime mysteriously vanishes.

Ai shows Tsugumi a vision of Hajime’s final conversation with Ayumi before her car accident. At the scene of said crash, we get a bit more of the story that we weren’t shown prior. Hajime repeats to himself, like a mantra, that it wasn’t his fault.

Ai ends the vision and chastises Hajime for being such a cruel person, focusing only on absolving himself of the blame instead of admitting that he essentially sent his wife off to die. I’m still not sure if they’re saying Ayumi committed suicide or she just wouldn’t have crashed if she hadn’t been emotionally driving in the rain.

Her reasons for all this are to make Tsugumi mad enough at her father to wish he be sent to hell. That way, Ai will kill two birds with one stone by instantly damning Hajime and eventually damning Tsugumi. She gives her a doll, which I guess means there really is no age limit for this stuff as Tsugumi’s a mere seven years old. Either that or Ai told that rule, should it exist, to fuck off.

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She keeps tormenting Tsugumi into making the decision, claiming that she didn’t do much to change her opinion of him. Deep down, she’s truly hated Hajime since the day her mother died. Tsugumi vehemently denies this, but Ai won’t let up.

Meanwhile, Hajime is hanging out in the realm of eternal twilight with Hone Onna and Ren, who are conveying Ai’s story to him. She became Hell Girl not of her own volition but as punishment sent down from hell itself for unleashing her rage upon the village 400 years ago. She is forced to watch the suffering caused by exacting revenge over and over without allowing her own feelings of vengeance, or really any emotions, to spill over. She even went to the trouble of locking her own memories away so she’d have even less of a chance of rekindling the rage.

Ren points out that, over the years, she had been making some progress in washing away her sins and letting go of her hate, but when Hajime and Tsugumi came around and not only reminded her of her tragic past but also revealed that Sentarou’s bloodline was alive and well, she snapped.

Ai’s grandmother, who has never spoken to anyone but Ai, suddenly speaks to Hajime claiming that she’ll release him from the realm of eternal twilight if he agrees to do her a favor.

Back in Ai’s house of fun, Tsugumi is unable to leave her house because Hell Girl won’t let up on torturing her until she pulls the thread. She even shows her a vision of her mother begging for Tsugumi’s help as blood pours down her face. Tsugumi, struggling with her decision and seeing no way out, is about to grab the thread when Hajime shows up.

Ren and Hone Onna also appear, trying to convince Ai to stop, but she just slams them into a wall and continues about her mission. Hajime tries to take Tsugumi away, but she refuses. She asks what really happened to her mother and Ai shows them all the vision of the car crash. Tsugumi walks toward Hajime with the doll, wondering if he’ll act the same way he did in Ai’s previous vision, but instead he collapses to the ground stating that it should’ve been him who died that day.

Truthfully, Hajime loved Ayumi with all his heart and that never changed from day one. He loved her so much that he felt he had to work as hard as he did in order to give her a good life, but most of what he gave her was loneliness since he was never around. When Ayumi cheated on him, he was so angry that it consumed him and he even wished her dead, but he never believed it would actually happen. When it did, he was wracked with guilt, even if it wasn’t technically his fault.

Still not clarifying the suicide thing.

He apologizes to Tsugumi for making her feel alone all that time and going through such heartache because of him.

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Ai says it’s too late for frivolous apologies and keeps telling Tsugumi to pull the string. Accepting his punishment, Hajime tells her to do it too….uhhh, it’s fine if Hajime believes he deserves to rot in hell for his guilt over what happened to his wife, it’s even okay for Tsugumi to be considering this, but he is telling his seven year old daughter to damn her soul to hell in order to send him to hell. Not to mention the lifetime of guilt and mental trauma she’ll surely go through should she actually do it.

Tsugumi slaps him and says she might miss her mother, but she’s adored the times she’s had with Hajime. He’s her favorite person and she’d never trade him for anything. Hajime feels the same, telling her that each day with her is a blessing. They embrace in the rain of the vision, and I’m left to wonder what Ai hoped to achieve with this.

If she altered the events of the actual accident to make it seem like Hajime was being a selfish dickhead back then, surely she’d have to believe he’d act differently (or the same? We never see what really happened) when she showed it to both of them. And surely Tsugumi would lose any hatred in her heart the instant she saw her father collapse in grief and beg for forgiveness.

Tsugumi had never shown any actual hatred up until this point – she was just at a dead end in finding a way out of the trap Ai put her in, was emotionally exhausted by her visions, and had no way of getting Hajime back. That’s really the only reason that she even considered pulling the string.

I never felt like she’d actually do it once Hajime showed back up, even if she demanded to know what really happened with her mother.

Maybe Ai was so blinded by a lack of faith in humanity that she believed Hajime would indeed act like the asstard she made up or if Tsugumi’s supposed inner hatred would be on the same level as hers, but it’s never that convincing.

Kudos on both Hajime and Tsugumi’s scene here as it is horribly tragic and beautiful at the same time. While I didn’t cry, I was definitely feeling the urge to do so, which I typically don’t do in happy endings.

Ai is shocked at the show of forgiveness and love and transports them back to the cherry blossom tree, which is temporarily restored back to its former glory after having been destroyed in the previous episode. Tsugumi returns the doll and tells Ai that Sentarou truly loved her as much as she loved him. He just couldn’t face the same fate she and her parents were damned to.

Tsugumi doesn’t mention this, but either way Ai was going to die. Sentarou had absolutely no chance to save her at that point. His only other option besides helping bury her was to die with her, and he couldn’t do it. His cowardice filled him with guilt for many years and drove him to build the Seven Child Temple as an apology to her.

Ai tearfully transports them to the temple and burns it to the ground, even killing the poor priest inside. Not cool, Ai. At least teleport him out.

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Hajime is about to theorize why Ai burned the temple down, but stops himself—Uh guys, seriously. Person in the burning building. Call the fire department and wax poetic later.

Just to show how terribly inconsistent the Wiki is sometimes, Sentarou’s biography explains that Ai burned the temple down as a rejection of his apology while the entry for this episode explains that she did it in order to finally forgive Sentarou, since the temple was built as a symbol of his guilt. I’m more inclined to believe the latter because the former just makes it seem like she finally learned of true forgiveness just to say ‘fuck your apology, Sentarou.’

You still killed a man, though, Ai. I wouldn’t even bring it up outside of maybe a joke if they didn’t show him getting engulfed in fire, but they did so, Ai, you killed a guy as an ‘I forgive you’ card.

Tsugumi: “Promise me you’ll never leave me again, Hajime.”

Hajime: “I won’t. Cross my heart.”

And he was never seen again.

Not making a joke. Even though Tsugumi is seen throughout the next three seasons, Hajime never appears again. According to his Wiki page, he writes a book about Hell Girl, presumably as part of his deal with Ai’s grandmother that we never learn the details of, and he mysteriously vanishes after that. You’d wager he might’ve been sent to hell, but even Ai and her assistants don’t know where he went.

I assume that, since this series didn’t seem to be designed to last more than a season, they had no clue what to do with Hajime and just wrote him out.

In season three, Tsugumi even states that Hajime is dead from off-screen the-writer-said-so-they-were-extremely-lazy-with-this-itis.

The end.

Oh wait, there’s a Marvel end credits scene.

Hell Girl ep 26 FINALE 5

We see a bloodied dead cat, because why not end the series on something I’ve been actively trying to avoid? A girl kneels in the rain in an alley with the black doll and Ai appears before her stating that the decision rests with her.

Ai’s back to her old tricks again because she is still required to do so, and as Ren, Hone Onna and Wanyuudou explain over a montage of every client from the series, as long as there is hatred and a need for vengeance, their work will never be done.

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I’ll be wrapping up my final thoughts on the series as a whole in a full revamped review I’ll be releasing shortly, but I love this finale.

Even though Ai’s efforts to get Tsugumi to pull the string are a little questionable in their true effectiveness, it was a great parallel to her own story and a very fitting way to close it out. Ai had been so wrapped up in her own hatred that she never stopped to try and forgive Sentarou or even attempt to empathize with what he was probably feeling back then. It took seeing Tsugumi forgive her father to finally open her heart enough to wipe his guilt away.

The fact that these two stories work in conjunction with each other so well means they can both be closed out simultaneously with little issue, creating as clean of an ending as we can get with Ai still being Hell Girl. I am a little annoyed that we never learn what Hajime promised to Ai’s grandmother since it seemed important enough to allow him to leave the realm of eternal twilight, but I guess we can just chalk that up to a little more laziness.

The art and animation were improved a little more for the finale, which is good. But I really could’ve gone without ending the series with a dead cat emblazoned on my brain.

Rating: 9.5/10

SSBS – Zoids Chaotic Century Episode 2

SSBS Zoids ep 2

Plot: Van takes Fiona and Zeke back to his village to introduce them to his sister and the villagers. However, he soon realizes that doing so has lead the same gang members from before to his village. They want Zeke, and they’re willing to attack the village to get what they want. When they kidnap Van’s sister, Maria, he has no choice but to pilot the Shield Liger and rescue her.

Breakdown: If first episodes are usually meant for establishing certain aspects of the plot, second episodes are usually for transitional periods and more establishment. And that’s really what this is. In addition to being a slight continuation of the last episode, we’re moreso focusing on transitioning Van to his main plot objective of traveling the countryside and eventually meeting up with new friends and joining the war effort, while also more firmly establishing certain things like there being a legit link between Fiona and Zeke, solidifying Zeke’s importance in the functionality of the Shield Liger and the roles of Maria and some of the villagers.

The enemies are even less threatening this time around, even if their actions are worse. Nothing significant happens in their attacks and they make off with nothing. So…pbbt. Also, again with the ridiculous bragging that you’re besting a child in a 3 on 1 robot battle.

The art and animation are somehow faltering even worse in this episode. It’s not terribly distracting, but it’s bad enough to notice. The voice acting is suffering in a similar fashion. Fewer VA’s seem to be giving a crap this time around and VA’s who were doing alright last time seem to be phoning it in.

Finally, Fiona is very annoying in this episode, but mostly in her complete lack of knowledge in anything (she can, like a machine, pinpoint the exact thread location of a small hole in a blanket, but she doesn’t know what a tree is.) and her almost vaudeville-esque back and forth with Van about what she does and doesn’t know.

It’s an alright episode given its necessity. But hey, we get Irvine next! Hooray!

Rating: 7/10

Hell Girl Episode 25: Hell Girl Review

Hell Girl Episode 25

Plot: What did Sentarou do to Ai to make her hate him so much that she even attempts to damn his ancestors to hell? A tragic circumstance 400 years in the making.

Breakdown: Ai is pissed! Everybody haul ass!

Actually, immediately after Ai proclaims that she’ll finally end this and as the cherry blossom tree goes up in flames, Ai mysteriously disappears, leaving only the spider behind. Meanwhile, Hajime and Tsugumi have loads of fun swimming in the river in the middle of winter.

Just kidding. They do the Time Warp again and are transported to Edo period (sorta) so we can learn the true details of Ai’s backstory.

Sentarou is actually Ai’s cousin and her only friend in the world. The village believes that Ai has strange powers and is a demon girl, so she’s always being picked on by the local kids and told to disappear. Sentarou is quick to defend her and even beat up the other kids when they make her cry, no matter if he’s outnumbered or not.

Ai gets chosen for the Seven Sending sacrifice and they don’t even give her parents more than a few hours to say goodbye. Wow.

Despite telling Ai’s parents that it’s a great honor to be the maiden of Seven Sending, Sentarou fiercely argues against this. He believes Ai was only chosen because the village believes she’s an evil spirit and want her gone…Uh, wouldn’t that be a bad idea to give an evil spirit to a pseudo-god as a sacrifice? Aren’t sacrifices supposed to be pure? Hence why sacrifices are always little girls or virgins?

By the by, it’s never exactly explained why the villagers believe Ai is a demon or evil spirit. The bully kids mentioned that she brought a butterfly back to life, but this is the only example beyond just saying that she’s different, and Ai explained the butterfly thing away by saying the butterfly wasn’t even dead to begin with. Though it does connect her backstory with the trademark butterflies that are common throughout the series, a little more exploration into this would be nice.

Ai’s parents conspire with Sentarou before the ritual begins. The ceremony starts with a cleansing to ensure she’s pure….Uh, then wouldn’t that be enough to rid her of her alleged demonness?

Sentarou is tasked by Ai’s parents to save her from the sacrifice. They realize that this is horribly dangerous because, should the villagers find out, they’ll surely be violently targeted until they get her. Even worse, the mountain spirit may unleash its wrath upon the village for failing to get a sacrifice.

The actual sacrifice of the ritual starts, but we don’t see what Sentarou did to free Ai.

Some time passes and the villagers’ crops are all failing. Sentarou is sent off in the middle of the night to bring food and a change of clothes for Ai, who is taking refuge in a small shrine.

Back in present day, we see Ai lying in a fetal position on her boat as she takes a ride down the river Styx, presumably because she exacted revenge against her targets and pulled the string on her internal doll. Wait, if that’s right, then Ai has always had the ability to send more than one target to hell? I’m a bit angry about that considering the jackass ringmaster is still alive.

Back in the Edo period, six years pass, and the village is suffering greatly. The crops continue to be garbage and people are starving. Ai is, surprisingly, suffering few ill effects from spending her days sitting alone in a shrine in the mountains 24/7. She’s not even dirty or disheveled and her hair is just as neatly trimmed as it always is. Sentarou visits her every night so she’ll have some company for at least a little while.

Little buds of romance start blooming between the two, and he even suggests that they run away together. Yes, they’re still cousins. Spoiler alert, though – it goes nowhere and obviously ends badly.

They get discovered one night by the same band of bullies who used to torment Ai. They angrily chastise Sentarou for incurring the wrath of the mountain spirit and making everyone starve….Uh, guys. If you wanted me to feel even a little for this supposedly starving village, maybe not have one of the bullies be a fat guy.

Sentarou tells Ai to run off while he tries to stop the bullies, but he’s pinned to the ground by his father. The bullies catch Ai and start tormenting her in the river. She begs for Sentarou’s help, but he’s powerless.

Meanwhile, back in the present, we get a throwaway backstory line about how Hone Onna, Ren and Wanyuudou owe their souls to Ai since she saved them all from eternal damnation somehow. Thanks for that. It’s important to explore their backstories too, but maybe not smack in the middle of Ai’s backstory and maybe not in a two line exchange.

In the Edo period, Sentarou is forced to watch as another ceremony is performed to beg the mountain spirit for forgiveness. This time, not only is Ai being sacrificed, but also her parents. They blindfold them, bash them all over the head with shovels and chuck them into a pit. Ai’s still barely alive when she feels a teardrop from Sentarou on her cheek.

Sentarou tries to comfort her, but is stopped by his father who hands him a shovel. The priest tells him that Ai’s parents are atoning for their deception through death, and now Sentarou must pay for his through being the one to kill Ai by burying her alive. He doesn’t want to, but is being pressured by the villagers around him. He breaks and shovels some dirt into the hole. Ai, heartbroken at his betrayal, starts crying blood and her eyes turn red.

Sentarou only shovels a bit and stops when he hears Ai’s voice. The villagers nab the shovel from him and finish the job. Sentarou cannot bear what he has done and runs off into the woods while crying. Ai, still seething with betrayal and anger, curses them all before finally passing away.

Some time passes, and Sentarou, plagued by nightmares about Ai, decides to leave the village for good one night. As he leaves, he notices that there’s a large fire at the village and returns. He sees a ghostly Ai singing the song “Children of Seven”, a song she used to sing all the time with Sentarou. She has engulfed the village in flames, massacring the villagers in vengeance.

Sentarou runs away, laughing, and gets several cuts by…something whooshing by him in the woods. I’m gonna need someone to walk me through this one because A) Why would he be laughing that the villagers all died? One of the reasons he caved was because people were dying supposedly due to the lack of sacrifice. He might be laughing that Ai is back and getting her just desserts against the villagers, but that’s not something to rejoice given that she’s now a vengeful spirit who is laying waste to those who have wronged her….and one of those people she’s murdering is Sentarou’s father.

B) What the hell is cutting him? Who is cutting him? Why? I guessed it was Ai, but I believe she assumed Sentarou died in the fires in the village. Even if she knew he was where he actually was, why would she opt to just giving him a few cuts instead of setting him ablaze? He’s her main source of hatred and her central power is fire. I also theorized that it’s the spider cutting him with spider webs, but why? They focus on it so much that I feel like it must have a meaning, but if there is they don’t give it in this episode and I doubt they’ll explain it in the next one.

Hajime and Tsugumi snap out of their vision while on dry land in front of a shrine. I assume the spider, who by the way is the Master or God of Hell, did it since he’s closeby, but again, why? And was he the one who gave them that vision? Why? Only reason I can figure is that he saved them so he could still keep Ai around, but that still doesn’t explain why they got that vision besides plot convenience.

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All in all, I do like this episode, and Ai’s backstory is great, but there are various problems.

First, I would’ve liked to have spent a little longer with Sentarou and Ai to allow their relationship to grow a bit more so we could feel more betrayed when Sentarou finally started burying Ai.

Second, we never learn why Ai seemed to have supernatural powers or why she was ‘different’ before this ever happened. She never showed any powers besides that butterfly thing she already explained away, so why was she considered so evil or demonic? She seemed like a normal little girl. Then, before she even dies, she gains blood red eyes seemingly through pure hatred.

I guess you could ask the same question of Tsugumi, especially considering she appears to be the only one in the Shibata bloodline to have gotten these visions.

Third, the art and animation are back to crappy again, which is just disappointing because of how vital this episode is. It’s not as crappy as it has gotten recently, but it’s still just on a medium level with several cut corners like snapshot animation. Studio Deen, you save your budget for important episodes. That’s the rule. That’s always the rule. And as an additional rule of thumb, the last three episodes of damn near any anime are always the most important.

Rating: 8/10

Episode One-Derland: Fractale

Plot: The world of Fractale makes everything run so smooth that life seems nearly perfect for everyone. Many people choose to be in two places at once using doppels, which are holographic robots taking the form of the user’s chosen avatar. Clain is a tech buff who lives with his two parents, almost always taking the form of their doppels. One day, he spots a girl being chased through the air by a blimp and watches her fall to the cliffside in an effort to escape. Clain climbs down to save the girl, named Phryne, and they start to develop a friendship. She suddenly disappears, leaving only her pin behind. Clain discovers that the pin has some old data embedded into it and is shocked when a doppel named Nessa emerges from it.

Breakdown: I will admit two things about this series. The backgrounds are beautiful, and the premise is interesting. Considering the old 1800’s style setting, combining that with a world made of robots and holograms is pretty intriguing, but as a first episode, this is cut, dry and boring.

First of all, we don’t even learn the names of our main characters until the very end of the episode. And Phryne’s is tossed into a throwaway mention. We establish that Clain is a tech junkie and Phryne is an awkward weirdo who is obviously hiding something, which is good, but I don’t feel the connection.

Second, it has a pretty tired story structure. Ordinary boy living an ordinary life has his world turned upside down when he spots a girl running away from some bad guys and rushes in to save her. He does, they spend some time together, the time involves that ever so familiar awkward sexual tension and psuedo-fanservice, and there’s some big twist at the end that starts a continuous search for a macguffin. Combine that with boring unsalted cracker characters and you’ve got something that can’t hold my interest.

I will admit, I was starting to get entertained by the ‘bad guys’ who were chasing Phryne – Enri (whose name isn’t spoken this episode) and her goons (who are her brothers?). Their shtick at the door was funny for a minute but went on for too long, and you quickly shift from thinking they’re funny to finding them insanely annoying. If these guys are the antagonists, then I see no tension in the future.

Nessa, despite only having one line, was equally annoying.

The character art is mostly forgettable, and I’ve heard from other reviews that the art in contrast to the manga art is some of the worst adaptation work ever. I’ve seen worse, honestly, but looking at the side-by-side comparisons, they are starkly different. The THEM review noted that the hair colors of Phryne and Nessa is a component to a very important plot thread later, so changing it screws up the story. I don’t know how true that is, but it’s worth noting.

The music, outside of the song Phryne sings, is nice, but it, for lack of a better term, blends in with the background. It’s like one of those songs you listen to in order to relax, but once it’s over you’d be damned trying to hum it back to someone.

I liked the song that Phryne sings quite a bit though.

The voice acting is a mixed bag. I liked Clain (Brina Palencia) and Phryne (Caitlyn Glass) but Nessa and Enri grate on the ears immensely. Which is a shame, because I usually like Luci Christian and Monica Rial respectively.

Final Verdict:

750spsl

I was less than impressed by the starter episode and no review I’ve read gives me any reason to move on beyond this point.

Recommended Audience: There’s some of the most hidden fanservice imaginable, supposedly because the creator, Yutaka Yamamoto, wanted this to be an antithesis of otaku pandering shows of late, but….uh, dude, you still have the story elements of the fanservice, you just don’t have the fanservice. Other than someone believing Clain slept with Phryne, there’s nothing. 5+