Episode One-Derland: The Seven Deadly Sins

Plot: Ten years ago, a slue of extremely powerful Holy Knights, guards to the King himself, were slaughtered in an instant by a band of criminals called The Seven Deadly Sins. It was rumored that after this incident, the seven of them were quickly killed, but word has it that they’re all still alive and well, wandering the countryside.

A young boy and his pig own a mysterious bar where a girl collapses while wearing a suit of rusty armor. He helps her recover, but a group of knights soon show up at the bar’s door demanding to know where the person in rusty armor is in order to interrogate them on information regarding The Seven Deadly Sins. The boy helps the girl escape, but they’re soon cornered by the leader of the knights, a massive and ruthless man named Twigo. He identifies the girl not as a member of The Seven Deadly Sins, but as princess Elizabeth. He has his orders to bring her back alive, but doesn’t care and attempts to kill her anyway, planning to explain it away by saying she died as an incident of battle.

In an effort to save her, the boy faces off against Twigo with a broken sword, but manages to handle him with ease. Twigo finally recognizes the boy as the legendary leader of the Seven Deadly Sins, Meliodas. He defeats Twigo with ease and he and Elizabeth set off on a quest to find the other Deadly Sins in an effort to actually band them together to help defeat the Holy Knights, who have secretly overthrown the king and plan to create a massive war.

Breakdown: This one was suggested to me a while ago on Twitter by @hotchocolate29, also known as Meliodas Aino. Now that I know the main character of this anime’s name, I’m going to go ahead and assume they’re a fan. I always like seeking out requests and suggestions, so here I am. Sorry it took so long, though. 😦 While I usually take a while to complete whole series, I figured after all of this wait time I at least owed an Episode One-Derland to them.

So how did this fare in my eyes? Good…..but plenty of room for improvement. As a first episode, the show does a pretty good job at establishing the world, the main plot, the backstory and our main characters. They actually do a little too good of a job on the backstory part because I feel like they repeated the story of The Seven Deadly Sins a bit too much.

The story really isn’t anything to write home about. It’s a pretty typical tale of super powerful sword-wielding warrior bands together with a group of other super powerful people in order to take down an evil group of powerful people under the pleading request of a princess. Despite the fact that these guys are called The Seven Deadly Sins, I see nothing relating to the actual seven deadly sins. They’re not named as such individually and I haven’t heard nor seen any powers relating to it. It’s possible that it’s just a title, but that’s a missed opportunity if it is.

Still, with a strong cast of characters and good enough writing, even a seemingly stale plot can be a gem. And I believe they do have a pretty strong crew here. Meliodas is pretty likable. He’s very laid back and not overly dramatic about his desire to help and save people like a lot of shounen anime protagonists. Still, I feel like he might end up as an annoying main character over time simply because he seems a bit overpowered. He blew away the bad guy of this episode without even batting an eyelash and he never seem concerned in the least. Either he has to be badass enough to let this slide or he has to actually face some challenge very soon. Staying like this will just drain all of the tension out of the show.

Elizabeth….is….nice….Maybe too nice. Who wakes up to someone unabashedly squeezing their boob over and over and doesn’t even react? Meliodas does it again later and she still doesn’t react. Plus, like a typical princess, she seems very much inclined to the damsel in distress trope. That trope is even more painful when you have legit knights and she’s a real princess.

Then we have Hawk, Meliodas’ talking pig sidekick……Hawk is awesome. It’s very difficult for me to enjoy talking animal sidekicks since they always seem more annoying than they are endearing, but Hawk’s just great. Practically every line that comes out of his mouth is funny, and he has great chemistry with Meliodas right off the bat. He also serves as a great foil for Meliodas on several occasions.

Twigo is probably a one-off bad guy, but he’s just a bit ridiculous. He kills everyone just because he doesn’t care. He doesn’t get some pleasure out of it, he really just doesn’t care. He’ll even flippantly kills off his own men. He doesn’t have to kill Elizabeth, in fact he has orders to bring her back alive, he just doesn’t care. I guess he just wants to kill people for some reason.

In the art department…..Okay, call me a hipster, call me old, call me a nitpicker….I just don’t like the newer styles of anime. This show has a look about it that a lot of new anime seem to have. The characters more or less have ‘baby fat face’ syndrome where there’s a lot of overly rounded edges in the face, the details seem sparse, the lines appear too thick and even the colors seem too saturated for my tastes. I will say that all of these things, except the baby fat face thing, are probably to make more fluid animation more easily. This is actually kinda odd because shows like these tend to have moments where the animation is ridiculously cheap then they have moments that are so fluid that I feel like they’re rotoscoped. The art’s not particularly bad, and the animation can be very great sometimes, I just want to be honest in saying that the art style is really not my taste.

Music-wise, nothing really hooked with me so far but it’s very fitting for the story, tone and theme.

Final Verdict?

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It may have been a slightly disappointing first venture, but I believe this episode showed that there is enough here to keep you entertained even through the tropes and cliches. I hope this series only gets better as we move on.

Recommended Audience: Extended clothed boob groping and one scene of a bunch of dead bodies, but nothing really outside of that so far. MAL rates this as 17+ though which makes me wonder….for this episode, however, 8+

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Episode One-Derland: Blue Dragon

Plot: Thousands of years ago, at the dawn of humanity, God blessed the world with prosperity and light. However, the humans, greedy for more, wished for darkness as well. They were granted their wish, and darkness fell upon them. It invaded the hearts of men, and humanity had to fight against it. Warriors of light emerged and triumphed over the darkness, but now the darkness has returned, heralding in the call for warriors of light.

A dark and evil king named Nene is terrorizing villages everywhere looking for a special power, kidnapping children that he believes possesses the ability to wield it. One day, Nene’s forces target the village of a boy named Shu, who wishes for nothing more than to be a brave warrior called a Knight Master and travel the world looking for adventure.

He believes he’s found a Knight Master when he meets the stoic woman named Zola, but is disappointed when she states that she is no such thing. When the attack commences on Shu’s village, he races to find Zola and her companion, a boy named Jiro, to recruit them to help fight them off. They refuse, however, and tell him that if he wants his village saved he must do it himself.

Jiro and his friends, a girl named Kluke and three others, make a valiant effort to fight off the soldier, but to no avail. The leader of the soldiers is met with Zola and he prepares for battle by calling on his shadow, which turns into a goblin-like beast. Zola too calls upon her shadow, a killer bat. The goblin is no match for Killer Bat, but the resulting battle causes debris to fly everywhere. Just as Shu’s friends are about to be killed by a falling heap of debris, he leaps into the line of danger with nothing but the wish to save them behind him. As he’s about to get crushed, his shadow suddenly emerges as a brilliant blue dragon, aptly named Blue Dragon, the incredibly power everyone’s been looking for.

Breakdown: Blue Dragon is a title I’ve been aware of for quite some time, but I’ve never bothered to look up any information on it.

At face value, there’s not really anything special about this series so far besides the Akira Toriyama aesthetics. Being clear, Toriyama only lent his talent to the art. He had no hand in the story. The opening in particular about the powers of light and darkness battling each other was some dry milky toast. The aspect of the shadows is also not horribly creative since it’s basically just a fancy way of saying ‘familiar’

As a first episode, it fares okay. We get the personalities of all of the main characters fairly well, even if a good chunk of them are also stereotypes. Shu is the headstrong shounen fighting fantasy anime lead character who has a heart of gold, wants to protect the people he loves and is kinda dense. But he has the best power because main character. I’ll stave off of making a stark comparison between him and Goku for now.

You have the perpetually grumpy rival in Jiro. Kluke is kinda a generic love interest, though she’s also sort of a big sister to Shu and her love of gadgetry is a nice touch.

Zola in particular caught my eye because holy shit it has gotten annoying to not have many prominent legit female fighters throughout shounen. Zola is one kickass pirate-clad assassin girl.

The enemies are horribly generic, destroying villages and beating up kids while chuckling evilly. Even the leader’s shadow is a typical goblin thing.

Shu discovering his power through a desire to save his friends is also typical…..I know I praise some shows that use tropes, but I just don’t feel like this show is bringing enough to the table to make me ignore the tropes.

They don’t explain these powers much at all in this episode. We know that some people can summon monsters through their shadows and that’s about it. We have no clue what constitutes gaining this ability, why certain people get certain shadows, why it seems like they were collecting kids for the sake of summoning the blue dragon (you can’t really argue that only kids can summon shadows because the leader guy is definitely an adult and Zola’s a teen at least), what’s so special about the shadows, how they work etc. Hell, they don’t even explain Nene and the Gran Kingdom well.

That being said, it is obviously very stylized because Akira Toriyama and I never felt bored while watching. I was never really immersed in it that much, but I didn’t find it to be that bad, especially with Zola.

Final verdict:

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A slightly reluctant yes. Yet another freshly hatched Shounen Step-By-Step. Hopefully it just gets better after this point.

Recommended Audience: There’s some minor swearing and violence but nothing that bad. 8+

Episode One-Derland: Cardfight!! Vanguard

Plot: Trading card games have become incredibly popular over the years, and there’s one game that stands as the most popular; Cardfight! Vanguard. A boy named Kai is the best around, but finds he’s bored with battling even the supposedly toughest players around. A very shy and timid boy named Aichi truly loves the game, but he’s never really battled before. He just likes the cards. One day, his most prized card, Blaster Blade, gets stolen by a bully and then lost on an ante battle to Kai. Aichi challenges him for at least the chance to win him back. Graciously, Kai lets Aichi borrow Blaster Blade since he’s new to the game and even explains the rules as they battle. But is Aichi’s bond with Blaster Blade enough to defeat Kai?

Breakdown: Shounen gaming anime. So we meet again. Like I’ve mentioned before, I sure do have a soft spot in my heart for shounen gaming anime and I’m glad to say that this is one of the better anime in recent memory. Why? Because they take it easy.

Sure, the monsters do show up as actual creatures and implement real attacks, but the thing is that all of the battles, so far anyway, are merely in their imaginations. Now, you might be thinking ‘wow, that sounds really…..stupid.’ And it’s understandable that you would think that, but consider any time that you’ve played a trading card game such as that. A lot of people do the same thing. It’s just illustrated for the audience here.

As I was saying, they take it easy. At least so far. The game is just a cool game. They have fun with it, but they’re not going over the top or going bonkers with ‘the world rests on our ability to play a card game’ stuff. The worst that happens is that Aichi gets beaten up for a rare card, and in my experience with Pokemon and Yugioh cards back in the day, that’s, sadly, not unrealistic.

They also do a pretty great job introducing the characters. Kai’s a very skilled player and a stoic character, but he’s definitely not an ass like most characters in his archetype tend to be. He has mercy, he enjoys the game and he helps people out. He has a couple assy moments, but they’re not that bad and one of those moments turns out to maybe not be assy.

Aichi is also likable since he’s not the big loud undefeated newcomer that usually is the main character trope in these shows. However, he might have the stink of ‘prodigy newcomer’ on him. He really loves the cards and seemingly is very interested in playing the game, he just has trouble making the connections to actually battle people.

Even the bully in this situation, whose name escapes me, wasn’t over the top Muahahaha villain-esque bully. He was a kinda idiot brute who uses brute force to try and reclaim whatever honor he thinks he has.

The only bad character so far to me is Taishi. He’s Kai’s ‘friend’ and really his only role in this episode is to make fun of people and crack jokes that aren’t funny.

Since Aichi is (seemingly?) a complete newbie to the game, they do a very thorough job explaining the game to the audience without shoving exposition in our faces. It’s also really not a complicated game at all, and I’d like to give it a try some time.

The art is obviously pretty simplistic and none of the character designs stand out well. But the animation isn’t too shabby.

The music’s alright and fitting for the genre, though the OP and ED really haven’t hooked onto me. Broken Engrish abounds, too.

Final verdict:

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Congrats, we have another Shounen Step-By-Step contender! This show seems to be off to a great start. I really love when shounen gaming anime just have fun for the love of the game, and I really hope it keeps up.

Recommended Audience: Nothing objectionable. E for everyone!

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!