Episode One-derland: Mister Ajikko

Plot: Youichi has a great passion for cooking, and is the beloved chef at his mother’s diner. The emperor of the culinary world, Aijou, visits his restaurant with his secretary, Tareme. Youichi had a previous bad run-in with Tareme before and he scoffs at the idea that this child can create any food worthy or Aijou’s palette or any good food period.

Youichi, known as ‘Ajikko’ or ‘child who makes good food’, accepts the challenge of making a good tasting dish for Aijou, even without knowing who he really is. As a testament to his faith in his craft, he puts up the restaurant’s sign as a wager if he loses, subsequently also putting the restaurant’s honor at stake. He makes Aijou his newest dish, a super thick Katsudon.

Though Aijou and Tareme both think this is impossible to make since either of the traditional cooking styles results in either undercooking or burning the meat, Youichi manages to make a delicious and properly cooked super thick katsudon, much to the delight of Aijou who leaves him with his business card and invites him to the Aijou building, a place filled with culinary knowledge and techniques and where only the best chefs are invited.

Breakdown: Ah, yet another ‘Child prodigy’ story. And really that’s pretty much all this is so far. Apparently this series was so influential that it inspired the creation of Iron Chef and helped spawn the whole competitive cooking craze, but this episode is pretty cut and dry ‘kid is insanely awesome at (enter topic here)’

Aijou is a pretty good character. He comes off as extremely abrasive and strict at first, but he’s also very fair, gives credit for anything he likes about a chef’s technique or abilities, fully recognizes and encourages talent that he sees and respects anyone with a true passion for cooking—Holy shit, it’s Gordon Ramsey’s Japanese fictional grandpa.

Tareme is annoying, but then again he’s meant to be.

Youichi is very much typical at this point. He has a great love of cooking, and obtained his skills my imitating his father, a great chef who passed away at some point. He also seems to have plenty of imagination in his cooking and has a great pride in anything he makes. Interesting, despite being honored by Aijou’s invitation, he doesn’t seem to be compelled to leave his family diner and try to be ‘the best (enter profession here)’ like many other child prodigy stories. He’s perfectly fine cooking what he likes to cook at his mother’s restaurant.

However, in the next episode he goes to Aijou’s place anyway so how much of that sticks, I don’t know.

This episode does a pretty good job at laying the ground work for our characters and setting up the bare bones of the plot. Even moderate side characters like Mitsuko, seeming romantic interest, and Shigeru, Mitsuko’s annoying little brother.

The art is a classic style, which I adore, and the animation is surprisingly pretty darn good for such an old title. The music is also very catchy, though slightly stuck in the 80s.

All in all,

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If you have a passion for cooking or just appreciate watching someone explore their own passions, this seems like a pretty good watch so far. Be warned, though, that this show debuted in 1987 so if you’re not into older titles you may be a bit put off by this. It really shouldn’t be a deciding factor, though.

At 99 episodes, I may end up reviewing this one episode by episode. We’ll see.

Recommended Audience: Nothing questionable. E for everyone!

Episode One-Derland – Mado King Granzort

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Plot: In the year 2050, astronauts uncovered an odd dark being that, when revealed, suddenly gave the moon an atmosphere, air and earth-like gravity levels. 50 years later, a boy named Daichi goes on a trip to the moon to spend the summer. He hears of sightings of a strange rabbit man and believes he’s found the being when he finds a little girl with rabbit ears and the ability to teleport called Guri Guri. He accidentally falls into Guri Guri’s house where he sees all sorts of magical items and meets Guri Guri’s aunt, V-Mei, who claims they’re of the long ear race.

He assembles three weapons for them and V-Mei reveals that the weapons are magical weapons used to combat the evil monsters threatening their land. When she senses magical power within Daichi, she sees one of the weapons, a magical gun, react to his presence. Utilizing the power of the magical weapon, Daichi calls upon the mech, Granzort, the mado king of earth, to fight black mats, evil robots, who suddenly appear.

Breakdown: The first part of this episode puts it on real shaky ground for me. There are so many things that either don’t make sense, are annoying or are annoyingly weird. First off, giving the moon an atmosphere, air and earth-like gravity makes it basically a clone of earth? Lush landscapes, clouds, blue skies, bodies of water etc. And people live and travel there willy nilly? Especially given only a fifty year time frame? Sure.

Second, Guri Guri is bound to get insanely irritating. And her face….It’s like someone injected a baby’s face with panda hugs and candy kisses. She’s way too cute, and not in a good way. It’s doesn’t help that she’s a little too young to really be endearing. Usually young cutesy characters are like six or seven. She’s like two or three.

Third, the entire process of the mech thing is just nonsensical, and it basically boils down every magical gir—boy plot and mixes it with a mech design. Main character’s a good guy with hidden magical abilities, obviously gets red as his color, and finds he’s destined to be a hero against evil. He’s an inquisitive, smart, excitable, slightly clumsy, heroic young lad, because of course he is.

This intro gives both a good yet a terrible introduction to the series as a whole. It introduces Daichi, Guri Guri and V-Mei just fine and it kinda establishes the mech thing, but where the hell did it come from? Why is it called from a magic gun? Why does the magic gun only shoot a badge? Why are the three magical weapons a gun, bow and a top? The top just seems really out of place. I don’t care if it’s a legit weapon – one of these things is not like the others.

Who are the evil guys? Why are they evil? What do they want? Why did they wait 50 years before doing anything? Did they wait until the main character arrived? What are long-ears? Have they been living on the moon this whole time? Why? How has no one really caught a decent glimpse of them or caught them considering Guri Guri is roaming public areas and teleporting like nothing? They have carrots? How? The soil on the moon can’t even grow weeds. Why does the music from Daichi’s music box make the weapon pieces turn colors? What does music have to do with weapons and mechs?

All that aside….yeah, it’s tickling that soft spot on my heart. Old series about magical g—boys and mechs? Sign me up! I don’t care if nothing’s making sense, you’re having fun with it and I am too.

Art and animation-wise, it’s old and it’s odd. It’s clunky in the animation department sometimes, but nothing too bad. The art has that dated 90’s feel, though Daichi’s head is just way too friggin’ big.

In the music department, it’s pretty good. I especially like the OP. It’s some catchy stuff.

Final Verdict:

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I can’t help it. It’s not a masterpiece of writing by any means, but dammit if you like mechs, magical girl boy shows and nostalgic anime, then this is a fine watch. If not, feel free to walk away after episode one. I don’t think you’d be missing anything.

Recommended Audience: Nothing questionable so far. E for everyone!

Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Lloyd in Space

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Plot: Lloyd Nubulan has just turned 13, so he’s leaving behind childhood and embracing manhood. But what does it really mean to be a man?

Breakdown: Here’s a show I actually have some mileage in. Lloyd in Space was on ABC’s One Saturday Morning lineup, and I caught it several times when it was airing. I watched it enough to be nostalgic about it a little, but not enough to get excited when this popped up as Episode One-Derland fodder.

How well does it stand up?

Well, let’s just say, I can understand why this wasn’t a must-see show when I was a kid.

Let’s tackle the big picture before we get to the main episode material. Lloyd in Space is basically every typical day-in-the-life-of-a-typical-kid show….in space. That’s probably why they just decided to call it Lloyd in Space. They ‘space’ up the dialogue and the character designs are alien’d, but it’s seriously just any old slice-of-life kid show. The comedy’s mediocre at best, no character is very memorable and the best they have to offer is tons of destructive slapstick.

Getting into the main episode, we can break this up rather easily. Lloyd turns 13 and suddenly decides to be an insanely boring adult, which is totally not how any 13 year old has ever acted ever. When you turned 13, what did you want to do? What did that mean for you? How did you act?

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Most people would say they asked for a larger allowance or if they could do cool things like use their dad’s power tools, take the wheel of the car for a minute or stay up late, or you may even have asked for more responsibility like going places by yourself, walking to school alone or having a cell phone (though the latter is being commonly presented to five year olds now. Damn kids and their rap music.)

Did you ever consider foregoing cake and ice cream because you thought only kids ate that stuff, then say you’d rather have cheese and fruit as dessert? Did you forego sugary cereal for bran flakes? Did you rudely refuse toys as gifts and state that you’d rather have clothes? (okay, admittedly, that one might be believable for 13 year old girls) Did you ever backtalk your teacher saying you were above writing a book report and invited your teacher over to discuss the true meanings behind heavier reading material over a cappuccino?

If you said ‘no’ to all or most of those questions, you’re far more normal than Lloyd. I don’t know why any kid would purposely want to pursue the more boring developments of perceived adulthood over the more exciting ones. It’s like if you were imagining being a college student as a teen and you looked forward more to student loans, crushing stress and shitty jobs than college parties, drinking and being on your own.

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After Lloyd spends the first third of the episode being obnoxious, he gets taken down a peg when his teacher responds to his bullshit by telling him he can indeed avoid his book report, but has to write a 50MB essay on what it means to be a man instead.

He wracks his brain for a while, realizing he really doesn’t know what it means to be a man, so Station, the space station that Lloyd lives on, taking the form of a robotic neurotic eyeball that can emerge from numerous spots around the station, takes him to a poker game consisting of a bunch of robots – more specifically a robot phone, a robot vacuum and a robot toaster. And if you were worried that they didn’t make tons of puns about what objects they are, worry your pretty little head no more because that’s about 95% of what they do.

It’s in this poker game where Lloyd is taught his first valuable lesson – Adults lie (learned through bluffing….and them literally saying that adults lie.)

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He gets a birthday hologram call from his grandpa, and in an effort to help Lloyd determine what it means to be a man, he gets his second valuable lesson – Men fish. (learned through space-fishing)

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He accidentally blows up a power plant with a fish…..I’d explain exactly what happened there, but anything you imagine is probably more entertaining than the actual reason. Being taken back home in a squad car, the officer taking him home offers to let him drive for a bit since his dad did that for him when he was 13 as a rite of passage.

This is surprisingly normal, but they mess it up with the third valuable lesson – Adults are in control. The way to seem in control is to act like you’re in control (lesson learned through leaning back and acting like a cocky douche while driving)

He tries to be even more laid back by attempting to turn on the radio, and in a literal ‘don’t touch the red button!’ moment, he activates the boosters and crashes into the parking bay.

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Back at home, with his mother listing off his financial costs of the damages for the day, wracking up to tens of thousands of dollars for the smaller stuff and, while they don’t say it, probably billions for the power plant, she gives him the stern, harsh, turn away from the screen and grit your teeth punishment of……..

Grounded for a month.

Okay, I will admit, the crash is moreso on the cop’s shoulders so Lloyd shouldn’t get much flak for that, but grounded for a month after all of that destruction? I had harsher punishments for accidentally cussing.

Lloyd stews in his room over being grounded when his little sister, Francine’s, daycare calls asking for Lloyd’s mom who is actually the commander of the space station. He says she’s not there, but there’s an emergency. Francine’s going crazy in a temper tantrum for some reason, causing her to telekinetically float the other kids and everything in the daycare around and she even starts cracking the glass walls.

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Lloyd decides the best course of action, instead of calling his mom, is to go there and settle her down himself. The daycare is in another region of space, so Lloyd needs to break his grounding and commandeer a vehicle to get there.

The guy in the garage tells Lloyd that he can’t just give a vehicle to a kid, so Lloyd implements valuable lesson one – lying. He lies and says a poker chip is a special permission chip his mom gave him for emergencies. The guy actually believes him and is about to just give him a vehicle, but still says he’s too young to drive, so Lloyd convinces him to take him.

About to be pulled over by a cop and the garage guy ducking down because he can’t be caught outside of the station in a vehicle because reasons (DUI?….Possession?) Lloyd has to talk his way out of being pulled over. He implements valuable lesson three – acting like a douche. He acts like a douche and the cop finds nothing wrong with a clearly underage kid driving and leaves them alone. Lloyd, you could’ve explained the situation to him and maybe even gotten a more legit and faster ride. Oh, but wait, he’s trying to be an adult, and adults lie. Guess telling the truth is for kids and intelligent people.

He gets to the daycare center and finds out that the reason Francine is freaking out is because her favorite doll, Rosie, is stuck high up in a ‘tree’. Lloyd points out the obvious and asks why she doesn’t take it down with her powers, and she gets even angrier saying she’s trying but it won’t come unstuck. How it got up there and how it got so stuck is never explained.

Lloyd decides to implement his third and final valuable man lesson – Men fish.

He ties a yoyo to a ruler, wraps it around Rosie and yanks her down. He gives it back to Francine and she calms down….

No….Just no. You can’t have a kid using such powerful telekinetic abilities that she’s easily floating a room full of kids and many heavy objects around like crazy and cracking apart the building….be unable to free a little doll….when Lloyd can do it with a yoyo and ruler.

You remember that scene in Pokemon where a young Sabrina demolishes her house easily with her telekinetic abilities? Imagine that scene is immediately followed by her being unable to pick an apple from a tree with her abilities then Ash gets it down with a jump rope. Seems stupid, doesn’t it?

Back home, Lloyd’s mom apparently is forced to drop Lloyd’s grounding and any additional punishment for what he’s done now because he’s an infinite hero at the daycare….uh….who…cares? What authority do they have over her parenting? Even if they did have any authority in that regard, she’s a major space station commander. I think she outranks a daycare employee.

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Lloyd says he now knows what being a man is, and his mom points out the obvious before I do that apparently being a man means lying, stealing a car (acting like a douche) and fishing. Lloyd, and by that I mean the writers, subvert this by saying no, that’s what it means to be a man. In fact, that stuff got him grounded for a month.

Being a man is about doing the right thing, even though you may have to break rules to do it. It means putting someone else ahead of yourself. It means—nope. No. You can’t do that. You can’t disregard those things as illegitimate or detrimental lessons when you clearly made a point to ensure each and every lesson was integrated into your heroics. You even included audio flashbacks to each lesson before he did it.

Each of those lessons did initially get him grounded, but utilizing those lessons helped calm down Francine and saved the daycare. Those lessons are stupid, but this story was trying to reintegrate them for the sheer purpose of trying to convince us that they were important. Maybe the real lesson should be ‘you can take bad lessons and turn them into something that can benefit you in a crises.’ That’s also not a very good lesson, but at least I’m not ignoring that these lessons were used in the end.

Lloyd realizes that he finally understands what it means to be a man, so he goes off to write his essay. He also leaves his birthday cake and says he’ll eat it at breakfast, which Francine thinks is weird in a bad way for some reason. Again, no little kid would react to that statement that way. They’d probably say if their older sibling gets cake for breakfast, they want some for breakfast too, or that it’s unfair or they’re lucky. Etc.

As a first episode, it’s fine. It establishes the world effectively, the characters are introduced well enough and it does an okay job trying to start off the story. However, the characters aren’t very interesting, the writing never hits a joke that even makes me want to consider thinking about smiling, and it’s just very bland and mediocre at very best. Not to mention that Lloyd spends a good chunk of this episode being annoying, and the morals for this episode are so beyond confused and screwed up.

This whole thing is stupid anyway. Everyone knows you’re not really a man until you have a mustache.

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Final Verdict:

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This brought me back a ways to The Weekenders and Fillmore! And actually looking forward to waking up on Saturday mornings, but there’s just not much being offered here. I did realize that I memorized the theme song, though. So that’s something. Not much, considering the lyrics are mostly dialogue clips and the song itself is rather muted and not worth memorizing, but still.

Episode One-Derland: Fantasista Dolls

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Plot: Uzume is a former card tournament champion who has recently entered middle school. On the train to school one day, she feels her bag being jossled, but is surprised to find nothing missing. Instead, she finds someone has actually placed a weird card reader in her bag. At school, she panics since she believes someone is after her, and she hears a voice asking to sign an entry form in order to gain the voice’s assistance against the threat. She agrees, and a girl named Sasara emerges. Sasara is a fantasista doll; a virtual being with various powers based on equipment. She, as well as the equipment, are kept in cards until they’re called upon by their master; and Uzume is now Sasara’s master.

Uzume gets attacked by a fellow student who also has a fantasista doll and is apparently after one of the cards in her possession. Once Sasara is properly equipped, she manages to defeat her. Later, Sasara introduces to the other fantasista dolls in Uzume’s possession; Madeleine, Katia, Shimeji and Akari. She agrees to help protect them and be a proper master, even if she has a lot to learn about what that really means. Uzume suddenly gets a call from a strange man with a monocle and a suit, named Lord Rafflesia, who gives her a bunch of flowers and reveals he was the one who gave her the dolls. He wants her to become a card master and ‘become that which is like a dream’.

Breakdown: I’m going to describe this show the best way that I can. It’s a monster battling, gaming, magical girl anime. There. That sums it up.

I can’t really make good heads or tails of this as an intro. Uzume is a former card champion, but of what card game we’re never told. Someone mentions a game called Magic: To Gather, which might either be a translation error or a direct reference to Magic: The Gathering. Either way, we’re not really told what game she used to play nor how to play it.

As for her personality, she’s nice enough and a little on the dense side, but she’s also pretty whiny and a bit of a fraidy cat. Seriously, she ran screaming and hid only to take lengthy orders, which amount to a contract, with a strange voice in her head that promises to protect her is because she heard a noise while changing in the locker room and felt someone pat her back. Instead of turning around to see who it was after maybe having a brief freakout, she instead just bolts through the school without looking back and hides in the closet.

Sasara is a bit rough, but seems to mean well enough.

We learn absolutely nothing about her enemy nor her fantasista doll, and we also don’t really learn any real character traits of the other four dolls outside of their clear stereotyped personality traits such as big boobed responsible one, loli and goth loli.

Plus, Lord Rafflesia could not be more Tuxedo Mask-ish. Not only does he have the same mannerisms, flowery speech and pose of Tuxedo Mask, but he also uses flowers quite a bit and practically has Tuxedo Mask’s theme song. Listen to it and call me crazy.

We kinda learn how the battles with the fantasista dolls work. You summon a doll from a card and modify them by equipping them with fashionable outfits that grant them various powers. For instance, the enemy fantasista doll used shuriken while Sasara’s gave her powerful fencing abilities.

When a doll is defeated, you get a card from them that gives the card master various powers. For instance, Uzume’s won card was a repair card which, conveniently, allowed her to fix everything the dolls broke during their battle.

I will admit, having a group of people fight for you instead of a bunch of monsters is interesting, even if the fanservice-y outfits being the equipment is a little meh. Plus, I’m a sucker for both magical girl anime and gaming anime, so this is basically designed to force me into watching it.

I pretty much enjoyed the first episode, but I will admit it did somewhat of a sloppy job setting up the plot and ‘game’.

Art and animation-wise, it’s very generic shoujo style art, though it is pretty detailed. The animation is pretty good as well.

Music wise, this was a weak spot for me. The OP and ED are as generic as they come and the BG music was completely unmemorable.

Final verdict:

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This will probably be a short shoujo step-by-step given the subject matter, but it seems like it’s worth a look-see if you want a girlier gaming anime or a magical girl show with a gaming slant.

Recommended Audience: The girls default outfits don’t leave much to the imagination and there’s a couple panty shots. There’s a tiny bit of blood, but it’s just a scratch. 6+

Episode One-Derland: Chihayafuru

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Plot: Chihaya is the younger sister of a famous and gorgeous model, and while she has become a beautiful young woman in her own right, she is known as a wasted beauty in school since she is tomboyish, naive, blunt and obsessed with Karuta, a card game based on poetry. She has loved the game for years and tries desperately to get people to play with her like she and her friends Taichi and Ayata used to when they were kids. However, not many people play, Taichi seems uninterested and Ayata no longer goes to the same school or communicates with Chihaya often. Despite all of this, she is still determined to keep the game not just alive but thriving.

Breakdown: Wow, this was probably the best entry in Episode One-Derland so far. This anime not only does a fantastic job of establishing the main plot as well as the characters, but it also explores why Chihaya is so ecstatic about the game and why it means so much to her.

In just this one episode, we connect strongly with all three characters, even the abrasive Taichi who, while seeming like a jerk in the flashback, acts very much like a believable guy with a crush on his good friend.

But the real highlight of the episode is the game between Ayata and Chihaya. Ayata is an outcast at school due to his odd manner of speech, quiet nature and the fact that he’s fairly poor. Chihaya, being the kindhearted individual that she is, wonders why everyone seems to be making an effort to be mean to him when he’s done nothing wrong. That and the fact that he has a job and an incredible memory intrigue Chihaya to him, leading him to inviting her to his house after they both get soaked in the rain thanks to Taichi. He reveals that he loves the game of karuta, but not many people play the game in Tokyo unlike his hometown. His dream is to be the best karuta player in the world.

He mostly plays by himself with a tape player helping recite the verses necessary to play, and he has trained to be a fantastic player, swiping away cards so swiftly that they end up getting imbedded in the wall several times. Chihaya is not familiar with the game and has only memorized half of the poems that the game focuses on, making her fall far behind very quickly until she realizes that she has a chance to get at least one card that she knows fairly well, which she achieves in doing.

While the game was horribly one-sided, Chihaya and Ayata both have a great time with the game and Ayata commends her for being able to take even one card away from him. Chihaya ends up more excited than ever since she has been able to crack Ayata’s shell and catch a glimpse of his passion, allowing her to finally make a dream that is for herself.

One of the best things about this episode is that it really does capture passion for a particular activity perfectly. This showcases two sides of a coin – someone who is incredibly good at the activity and someone who is new and not that good. Ayata has a great love of the game simply because it means a lot to him and because he has such a good time playing it, even by himself. While he does compete in it and is incredibly good, it really seems like his passion flows purely from the game itself and not simply striving to be the best.

With Chihaya, she has never played the game before and has only memorized half of the poems for the game. Note that the game involves swiping away cards with parts of a poem verse when the start of the same poem is recited by the reader, or in this case a tape. In order to be really good at the game, you need to fully memorize all 100 poems. Despite this, she is amazed by Ayata’s moves and gets psyched when she is simply able to take one card from him, despite the complete loss either way. True enjoyment even in the face of utter defeat is also a root of passion.

Finally, making a strong connection with someone because of a passion makes the activity more enjoyable and creates bonds that much stronger. I can see why current day Chihaya is so bummed that her efforts to revive karuta completely fail, even when Taichi shows up at her school. She still holds onto that great passion for the game, but feels alone in her passion, much like Ayata used to when they were kids.

I really like both Chihaya and Ayata as characters. They hooked me in with one of the best character and friendship/relationship budding scenes I’ve seen in ages, and while Taichi might take a while to warm up to, he was also relatable and tugged at the heartstrings a little bit since it’s obvious that he never got over his crush of Chihaya, yet can’t bring himself to admit it to Chihaya, especially since she still seems somewhat hung up on Ayata. I don’t know how current day Ayata is personality-wise, but right now I’m really pushing for Chihaya and Ayata to get together.

The art and animation are simply beautiful with believable and memorable character designs as well as beautifully detailed environments. The music is just alright, which might be the only weak spot in this show so far.

If it wasn’t obvious enough;

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I’ve heard great things about this show and I can’t wait to continue it. It’s not your typical ‘gaming’ anime, if it even qualifies for such a thing, but it’s definitely worth a watch.

Recommended Audience: Other than some bullying, there’s nothing questionable so far. E for everyone.

Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Zorro Generation Z

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Plot: Diego Dela Vega, grandson of the original Zorro, has taken it upon himself to become the new Zorro when his father suddenly gets kidnapped by his political rival.

Breakdown: It’s Batman Beyond with Spanish accents.

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….What? I’m not lying. It is. The art and animation’s crappier, the tone’s lighter and the gadgets are silly, but it is basically just a big Batman Beyond rip off. And I did my homework; it’s not the reverse because Batman Beyond was made in 1999 and this was made in 2006. And just to rile up comic fans, Zorro Generation Z was made by Rick Ungar, a former Marvel Studios executive.

Back to the Batman Beyond comparisons, some kid inherits a superhero moniker because the original one is too old to do the job (or in this case is dead) where he wears black and red with a bullet-proof cape, utilizes a bunch of gadgets and has someone back at the underground base, complete with a glass case shrine of the old superhero outfits, who gives him advice and technical support. The kid in question is snarky, always makes jokes and the opening plot line involves a threat against his father.

If you want to make a stronger Batman comparison, Diego is the son of a wealthy man who owns ‘Dela Vega Industries’ and basically owns most of the town. He’s also essentially perfect in that he’s smart, incredibly acrobatic and skilled in martial arts and even has time to be a motorcycle racer.

Pushing that out of my mind, though, this first episode still fails on several levels. The very first scene that we see of older Diego, after the flashback of him as a very excitable child, is him getting the message that his father has been kidnapped and rushing off to save him. We get no time to connect with him as a character before this. All we see him doing is racing dirt bikes.

He and his mute tech genius friend, Bernado, out-fox, if you’ll forgive the pun, a bunch of goons. Goons, who, by the way, are some of the dumbest bad guy goons I’ve ever seen.

‘Hey, maybe we should look slightly to our left to see if there are any kids climbing out of a manhole that is literally five feet away.’

‘Nah!’

‘Hey, where did those kids go? Oh my god, you mean they were behind that wall that they just hid behind 30 seconds ago this whole time? Wow!’

They stumble upon the batcav—Errr….the uhh….Zorro cave? Which really is a better lit batcave with all the bells and whistles. And then Diego just says ‘Heh, guess I’m Zorro now!’ He claims that the reason for needing a new Zorro is not just for his dad’s sake, but apparently the entire town is suffering under the political grip of the bad guy, even though I have neither seen nor heard evidence of that.

The whole conflict of this plot is really difficult to get into considering the person we’re worrying about, Diego’s father, has been nothing but a douche the entire episode. Yes, he shows concern for his son, but he tells his father, the original Zorro, to not tell his young son fairy tales, IE stories about Zorro, because he wants this six year old boy to be more interested in the real world.

And when he comes face to face with the new Zorro, of course not recognizing his own son, he still mocks him, calls him a psycho with fancy toys, and acts like a jackass even though Zorro risked his neck to save him. Why the hell should I care about this guy?

Especially when it really seems like Diego doesn’t. He’s smiling and making cute little quips throughout the entire episode, never really showing an iota of caring that his father is currently being held captive, set to be killed, by a very powerful political rival.

Wanna know how little he cares? He takes a nap in the Zorro cave while his friend Bernado does all the work in making him new gadgets and stuff in what seems like a really small time frame. And as Bernado tries to wake him up, he acts like a little kid telling him not to wake him up and making excuses not to go to school.

Speaking of Bernado, this kid is ungodly amazing with tech stuff. He can do basically anything unrealistic-hacker-tech-genius-y in seconds, and he is really the main driving force behind this dynamic.

Oh and did I mention Zorro’s lightsaber boh staff? Yeah, that’s totally a thing. It makes the lightsaber noises and everything. I seriously believe they designed a laser sword for Zorro, like his predecessors used real swords, but it was so close to a lightsaber that they changed it at the last second to a boh staff that somehow cuts things to avoid possible copyright infringement.

Anyway, as you’d expect, Zorro comes in to save the day, bad guy acts evil, goons easily get knocked out, bad guy has one more trick up his sleeve and Diego’s dad is restrained when she appears.

Though she’s not given a superhero name in this episode, her name is the Scarlet Whip and she is very obviously the bad guy’s daughter, Maria, because quite literally no other females have been seen during the entirety of the episode, and they’re not even trying to hide her identity. Hell, she doesn’t even wear a mask, just a visor where you can clearly see her eyes. And of course since the bad guy is just as stupid as Diego’s dad, he also doesn’t recognize his own flesh and blood. Her weapons of choice are two laser whips, because girls always get whips for some reason, and of course the laser color is frickin’ pink….Which….kinda makes her name make no sense….scarlet is a red color, writers.

She sneaks into the room where Diego, his father and the bad guy have trapped themselves and comes to help Diego. To be continued.

I really don’t think this plot warrants a two-parter but whatever.

This show just doesn’t look appealing to me at all. Diego is too perfect and seemingly uncaring about the people he’s trying to protect. He doesn’t even have finesse like Zorro’s meant to have; he’s just forcing it. The story really seems lifted right from Batman Beyond, albeit made sillier, such as with the gadgets, mostly for the bad guys, being just doofy.

For instance, because I guess this is some time in the future and to avoid showing real guns, the bad guys have to use laser guns and the guns are designed to look like either remote controls or small hand vacuums. The only character who peaks my interest is Bernado, but I doubt he’ll ever get much focus, and all of his rightfully earned glory will all go to Diego. Maria’s not even interesting; she’s a rebellious daughter of an asshole and doesn’t outwardly care about her father at all.

The art is very craggy with few details, and the colors are too saturated. I also find it weird that so many extras have blue hair when I assume it’s meant to be black. The animation is not the worst I’ve seen but it is still pretty damn bad. In the first scene, young Diego rides on his rocking horse and the animation is horrid. It’s like he’s having a seizure. There are many missing frames and a complete misuse of fades. Later on, as Diego and Bernado walk into the Zorro cave, their basic walk cycle animation looks screwed up. They look twitchy and like someone is constantly pulling on their clothes. Not to mention I really believe they recycled the same walk cycle twice in that long shot.

I like the bright red Z transitions, but they happen after every single scene and I can see it getting very old very fast.

The theme song is catchy, but the singing is a bit too high pitched for me most of the time.

The voice acting is blech. No one seems to emote, the bad guys are really hamming it up, and everyone either seems to have an on-off accent like Diego, a super thick ‘Speedy Gonzalez’ voice, an actually believable Spanish accent or none at all.

So it’s really no surprise that I give this show a–

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There’s just nothing for me here. I’d much rather watch Batman Beyond or really anything Batman. Even negating the similarities to Batman, there are much better superhero shows out there.

To clear the air, I’m not biased because I’m a Zorro fan. I’ve really never watched anything Zorro before. I know the plot, and I’ve seen a few episodes of the black and white series when it aired way back on the late night block of the Disney Vault or whatever that was called, but I haven’t had much exposure to it. If you’re a fan and you want a more modern or even futuristic take on the series, this might be more of your cup of tea, but I can’t even imagine Zorro fans would like it that much.

Recommended Audience: Very minor and goofy violence. Nothing outside of that. E for everyone!

Episode One-Derland: SA – Special A

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Plot: Hikari excelled in wrestling as a child until her father introduced her to another trained wrestler child named Kei Takashima, who wiped the floor with her. Ever since then, Hikari has has been determined to beat Kei at something, anything, yet always comes in second place, earning her the unwanted nickname from Kei as ‘Miss Second Place’. Still, she has become a terrific and well-rounded student, second in her class only to, well, you can guess. Because of this, she’s allowed into the very exclusive special class called Special A which consists of the best and brightest of the school.

Breakdown: Well, that was quite the fun first episode.

The premise is laid out for us very well. In fact, it’s so well done that this episode could stand as a one-shot and work just as well.

Our main characters are introduced and explored very well. Hikari is a bit obsessed with beating Kei, but they play out this quirk without making her come off as annoying. In fact, she’s very honorable in her quest to beat Kei. She’s not interested at all in cheating to beat Kei and works her ass off to come out on top in many subjects. In addition, while she may be very competitive with Kei, she’s really not vindictive of him. She respects how good he is at various subjects and treats him like a friend. Though that’s not to say there’s not playful and friendly smack talk.

Kei really is just perfect. He’s handsome, incredibly athletic, first in the class, and comes out on top of literally everything. His only flaw, supposedly, is Hikari mentioning that he’s pale as a child, but it’s not noticeable at all and not really a character flaw. I’m slightly worried that mentioning he’s pale could indicate illness or something in the future, though. Hm.

The other students in the SA class, of which there are seven are, in order of class rank, Jun, who is a violin genius and third in the class. His younger sister Megumi, fourth in the class, who is an incredibly talented vocalist with such a powerful voice that she can cause illness from being too close to her while singing. She’s usually mute to preserve her voice and speaks using a notepad.

Tadashi who is a wanderer and fifth in the class. He seems to be the joker of the group.

Akira is Hikari’s best friend, sixth in the class, and seems to hold a bit of a crush on Hikari.

Finally, there’s Ryuu, seventh in the class, who is briefly seen caring for a sloth.

As you can tell, the entire group has yet to be really fleshed out outside of their bare foundations, but there’s plenty of room for growth.

The SA class itself is a bit weird. We see them go throughout an entire school day and only see the SA students in class once for PE. They seem to spend a lot of their time in the really fancy building doing whatever they want and drinking tea with nary a teacher in sight. The SA students are treated like gods amongst the regular students, yet none of them really seem conceited. This is even more impressive considering that most if not all of the SA students are rich, to really no one’s surprise.

Kei’s really the only one who seems conceited sometimes and that’s really only when he’s trying to push Hikari’s buttons or when someone else is pushing his.

The rivalry between the two is pretty entertaining and can get a little outlandish sometimes. I don’t think they’ve gone quite far enough yet with it to be really hilarious, and I can see Kei always coming out on top becoming monotonous or predictable, but I have hope that they’ll do more interesting things with it in the future.

They’re obviously setting up these two as a romantic couple in the future, and I’m actually really okay with that. They have really good chemistry and already know each other very well.

The comedy aspects are done well with some great visual gags and very good timing. The ending before the other classmates show up made me laugh out loud for a good minute.

The dramatic aspects were a bit over the top, but also a bit of indulgence and sweet justice.

I do find it a bit weird that I can’t really find a reason for this show to need to take place in such an atmosphere. Why rich people? Why a super exclusive class? Why couldn’t this have taken place in a regular school with regular people with regular classes? The setting just doesn’t seem to have a point so far.

The art and animation are fantastic. While there’s nothing really special about the character designs, everything is very well-detailed and looks gorgeous. The colors are great, the lighting is great, the angles are great. It’s a very visually appealing anime courtesy of Gonzo.

The music is nothing to write home about, but nothing bad. I can see it growing on me.

Overall, I give this show an enthusiastic

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Recommended Audience: Nothing offensive so far; E for Everyone!

Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) BattleTech

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Plot: The inner sphere is a federation of numerous planets. While they lived in peace for many years, the planets within their borders have waged centuries of war against each other. During the midst of the wars, the entire federation was attacked by a new enemy who call themselves the clans. Adam Steiner, a man of royalty and high military ranking from the planet Somerset, seeks to wage battle against the clans after they take over his home planet.

Breakdown: The first episode does a meh job of introducing you to the world in which this show takes place. We’re thrown in the middle of the invasion with no idea who anyone is or what’s going on until about four minutes into the show where we get our plot breakdown via the always helpful pre-opening song narration.

After that, it still doesn’t do a great job of introducing us to the main characters. The most prominent ones I remember are Adam, who apparently maybe got a free ride in the military due to his vague royal status on a low ranking planet. He’s seemingly a noble guy who merely wants to save his home planet and he’s a responsible soldier as he still refuses to pass one of his friends in a mech piloting test or give her a second shot at the test since she showed she didn’t have the right frame of mind to pilot them.

Kylie is the student who was failed, and she’s headstrong and a little bitchy. She blames Adam for not passing her or giving her another chance even though she stupidly failed the simulation and got herself virtually killed because she wanted to be a show off. She seems to stay on the Somerset liberation team as a Banshee (plane) pilot…..However, I don’t quite get why she’s good at that but not mech battles. The same mistake she made in that test could easily apply to battle planes.

Then there’s a red headed guy named Ciro who’s just a complete asshole, a guy who is hella into his job as an officer named Hawk, another asshole who was a smuggler turned ally named Sakamoto, some chick with goggles who’s basically there to spout out information and plot developments and that’s about it.

We get no information on the bad guys outside of the fact that they have weird green tattoos on their faces, glowing red eyes sometimes and are evil.

The cast I’ve seen so far is actually incredibly diverse. While some depictions of certain races can be seen as a bit racist, mostly what are meant to be Japanese people, this show is really diverse……Then again, you have to keep in mind that no matter how diverse the cast is, the main character is still a pretty white guy.

The story itself is pretty generic. War with evil invaders and whatnot. We get some mechs which are nice and some cool action scenes given the environment that they live in. They’re really trying to stake their own claim in this genre, but there’s just not enough differentiation as far as I’ve seen.

Art and Animation: I will start by saying this show was a pioneer in combining CGI with traditional animation, and I commend them for that. However, that doesn’t mean that either animation style has stood the test of time. The traditional art is merely passable looking like it belongs more in the mid 80’s than the mid 90’s, and it really didn’t age well. The animation is filled with coloring errors, odd shifts in body parts while talking and is just not very nice to look at. The CGI has not aged well at all. It’s on par with Reboot’s art and animation, which makes sense because Reboot came out right around when this was made. It’s not so much melded with the traditional art and animation, the scene shifts from traditional scenes to scenes made entirely in CGI.

Voices: Half and half. Much of it is pretty good, actually. Others are just flat or kinda stereotype-y, though I can’t fault the actors too much for that since it was the dialogue and direction that made it that way.

Music: Completely forgettable.

Bottomline: I can see how someone would like this and have nostalgia for it, but I don’t see a point in continuing this series. It’s pretty short at 13 episodes, but I believe it’s too predictable and cliché to clinch my attention for further episodes.

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Recommended Audience: Some violence, implications of death but nothing outside of that. 5+

Episode One-derland: Hitohira

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Plot: Mugi Asai is an incredibly shy girl who gets so nervous in crowds that she sometimes loses her voice entirely. However, in times when she’s particularly excited and forgets where she is, she proves to have a powerful voice. As she enters into high school, she is drafted by the drama research society after they hear her voice when she yelled after reading her acceptance into the school on the board, but can a girl so shy really be in such a club?

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Breakdown: Hitohira’s first episode does a fairly good job at establishing our main characters with only a few dangling in the wind. Mugi is very shy to the point where she can lose her voice entirely in crowds or if she feels she’s embarrassed herself in front of someone. I can relate to her situation pretty well, so it does break my heart when she’s in particularly stressful social situations.

Mugi’s a very nice girl, and her shyness doesn’t really get irritating to me like it sometimes did with Tama of Bamboo Blade, but that was really just with the volume of her voice sometimes. I will say that her voice….I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t really seem to fit with her character design and personality. It seems more suited for someone older and more outgoing, which might be for sometime in the future when she performs on stage and improves her vocal ability, but still her VA should have the range to make her default voice a bit more fitting.

Kayo is Mugi’s best friend and one of the only people that Mugi can talk to comfortably. She understands Mugi’s situation and tries to help her out, but this first episode kinda makes her seem mean about it sometimes. For instance, Mugi tries to write out what she’ll say in the class introduction so she’ll be more comfortable talking in front of the class when called upon and Kayo tells her to ‘stop making such useless things’. She seems to have more of an attitude of ‘you really need to get over this’ without addressing it as a real problem. I haven’t seen enough of her to say she’s a bad friend, and she really doesn’t seem like it, but her attitude at Mugi’s situation puts me off a bit.

Nono is the president of the drama research society and one of the founding members. She’s a very calm, reserved and interesting person. Her scenes with Mugi are a bit weird though. I know Nono’s really kind, but are they setting up a romance with her and Mugi? It’s hard to tell.

There’s also Kai who is a bit rambunctious, but doesn’t seem like that much of a trouble maker. I liked him so far. I also thought the short scene where he smiles at Mugi when she’s looking at his drawing was cute.

Another founding member of the club is Takashi who doesn’t get explored much. He seems responsible and somewhat boring so far.

Risaki is another founding member of the club, and she’s really loud mouthed and kinda violent. She’s Kai’s older sister, but that wasn’t relayed in the first episode. I don’t particularly like her so far.

We also skew off from this main group to follow a girl named Kanna who is incredibly moved by the drama club’s performance of a play that she quickly joins.

The club’s current president, Sakaki is barely here, but she seems fairly kind and humble. It seems like she can’t do the club anymore or is quitting or something at the end of her scenes.

The show also does a very good job at starting our story off with smooth pacing. The story itself is pretty interesting and I can’t really think of another show to compare it to, so it’s fairly unique in that regard.

The art is nice. It’s a toned down shoujo style. The girls are cute and stuff like hair and eyes are exaggerated of course, but the eyes aren’t gigantic like they commonly are in shoujo shows. They’re at just the right size to be nice and expressive without being distracting. The overall style of the eyes was also nice and natural. The character designs weren’t horribly memorable, but they were nice. The one I remembered most out of all of them was Takashi because his hair is so weird.

The overall art is very detailed and the animation is fluid and nice with only a few small hiccups I saw. However the colors can be downright ugly, especially inside the school. I hope you like orange and brown.

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I mean….eugh. The uniforms on their own are perfectly fine, I actually really like them, but when they’re put in such an orange and brown classroom….eugh. The walls are yellow-orange, the desks are orange, the floor is brown, the uniforms are light brown for the guys and beige-ish orange for the girls with brown skirts. The only color of contrast in this whole room is green and that just makes it more ugly. I feel like this school is what the fairy godmother would’ve made out of the pumpkin if Cinderella needed a school for some reason.

It would be better if the colors weren’t so muted. It just melts into a pile of earth toned mush in front of your eyes.

The music is okay, but completely forgettable.

I’m interested to see how this will go in the future, and the first episode was a really easy watch, when they weren’t in that classroom, with plenty of interesting moments and room for growth.

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Recommended Audience: Nothing so far. E for everyone!

Episode One-Derland: Tokimeki Tonight

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Plot: Ranze Eto is the daughter of a vampire and a werewolf but believes herself to be a normal human girl. She’s so normal that her parents move to the human world to allow her to live a normal human life, barring her odd home life. However, when she becomes very angry at a classmate, she unwittingly bites her, revealing a somewhat vampiric nature. Not only that, but she discovers that when she bites a person she instantly transforms into them and can only be transformed back with a sneeze. These newfound powers and additional restrictions on her future only make her life more complicated.

Breakdown: This show seems really…..meh so far.

It doesn’t really take a lot to set up the plot. Vampire dad, werewolf mom, normal kid. The first episode also does a pretty decent job of introducing us to our main characters.

Ranze is a pretty normal girl, though a bit scatterbrained and bratty. The love interest, Makabe is a troublemaker but ultimately a nice and goofy guy. Her parents are quirky and easily the best part of the show, but even they can have their meh moments.

They really overdid the antagonist for this show, Yoko Kamiya. She is a complete and utter irredeemable bitch. Her first three lines in the show are thinking insults to Ranze. She calls her a dimwit, an idiot and a bitch in succession. I should mention that, before the bitch remark, she did absolutely nothing but introduce herself to the class and seem a little infatuated with Makabe. The bitch remark was after she was starting to get a little closer to Makabe, not romantically mind you, and since Yoko takes Makabe to be her unwilling/witting(?) fiance, she calls her that.

She then bends her umbrella (who was Ranze’s father…..he can do that) in half in anger at her doing nothing and then later runs back into the school in a rage, tells her to back off of Makabe and slaps her when she says she doesn’t want to. Geez.

The final character to address is Ranze’s younger sister, Rinze, and she’s not really explored much outside of the fact that she’s a kind and loving little girl.

Ranze’s story after she discovers her powers is also a bit farfetched. Her parents are ecstatic because they were worried she’d never develop powers and then they explain to her what her powers entail. The important part is that her fiance has already been chosen for her in the demon world, though he’s never revealed to them, and since she is betrothed, she can not fall in love with any human. This devastates Ranze because she’s so in love with Makabe.

She’s known Makabe all of a day, has not shown the slightest bit of romantic interest in her, in fact he turned down the offer to even be friends so he could make a show of how cool he is, and they’ve had no moments that even hint of romantic connection. She has a crush. The end. Yet she really is so distraught at this that she runs away from her parents when they tell her this and she declares to herself that Makabe is the only guy for her. And reading up on this, this plot point runs throughout the entire show. I get that she’s a teenager and to her a crush might seem like the love of her life, but to the audience it really seems like a stupid reason to fly off the handle.

Art and Animation wise, this show is fairly old debuting in 1982, and it hasn’t aged well. The character designs are okay at best and bad at worst, especially when comedic moments are happening. The backgrounds are terrible, though.

In the music department, it’s really forgettable.

I am really at a crossroads here because I don’t feel this show is really bad enough to drop outright, yet I don’t feel much incentive at all to watch this all the way through sometime. Not only that, but the wiki page outright admits that this series was basically forced to end in a cliffhanger because it finished airing over a decade before the manga completed its run.

So, I’m going to have to give my first undecided verdict.

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This will basically be shows that I may return to in the future and catch an episode or two to see if things pick up, but I won’t be sitting down for numerous episodes or outright dropping it, at least at the moment. If or when I return to them and if I drop them, I’ll update the Episode One-Derland entry with the new verdict. As of now, though, it’s on the back burner.

Recommended Audience: Yoko uses some brash language a little, but that’s it. 5+