AVAHS – Randy Cunningham 9th Grade Ninja: Happy Hanukkah, Howard Weinerman!

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Plot: Howard is lamenting over his Hanukkah gifts to Randy at the Game Hole when a robot bursts in and starts destroying the place. Randy suits up as the Ninja and takes it out, but finds that the whole thing was a ruse by his enemy McFist who is taking advantage of a building code loophole for the sake of opening up a shoe store for his wife for Hanukkah. However, as long as there is one working game with someone playing it in the arcade, Randy still has a chance to save the Game Hole. As he goes off to get more games, he leaves Howard in charge of playing the lone game left in the building until he returns, and he’s working off of Randy’s last token. Can Randy return with more games before Howard’s final game over?

Breakdown: Well, this is the last animated Hanukkah special I was able to find, and to be honest it’s not even really a Hanukkah special. It plays out like any other normal episode just with a few mentions of Hanukkah.

……But who the hell cares? Looking for Hanukkah specials introduced me to Randy Cunningham 9th Grade Ninja! This show is awesome! The style and humor just mesh so well, and it reminds me a lot of older shows where they were more comfortable with sarcastic humor and fourth-wall breaking in kids’ shows, like Invader Zim, which is fitting because Jhohan Vasquez, creator of Invader Zim, did quite a bit of artwork for the characters in the series.

But of course it’s already been ended/canceled by Disney because of that dumb 100 episode rule (technically it has 50 episodes, but since the episodes are broken into two segments, they count as two, so 50=100) I am definitely going to Cartoon Step-By-Step this, though.

As an episode, this is pretty darn funny with some great action and memorable moments. The characters immediately grow on you, with one exception being Howard. I’m not sure how he is through the series, but here he just complains a lot and diminishes what Randy did because he thinks he’s doing all the work by playing a game.

In regards to the Hanukkah aspect, they do a little more than just mention it. Howard complains how Hanukkah sucks because the gifts are lame and pale in comparison to Christmas (because that never gets old) and McFist is doing all of this as a Hanukkah gift for his wife. Though McFist is an odd Jewish name….

The biggest connection to Hanukkah is pointed out by Randy who explains that Howard kinda replicated the story of Hanukkah by getting through eight levels of the game. Howard was playing a game called Fight Knight, and he made it through eight levels or knights on one token, like how the oil burned for eight nights in the story. Kinda neat, but a fairly loose connection.

Being fair, there is a line in the beginning where they basically admit that they have no interest in making a ‘special holiday episode’ through Howard.

All in all, I really liked this episode and look forward to checking out the rest of the series, but I’m not going to kid myself into saying this is really any semblance of a Hanukkah special.

Happy Hanukkah everyone!

The Wrath of the Ninja (The Yotoden Movie) Review

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Rating: 6.5/10

Plot: Set in the Sengoku period under the rule of Oda Nobunaga, three separate ninja clans, the Kasumi, the Hyuga and the Hagakure, known throughout the land as The Shadow Warriors, are being attacked by a demon sent by Oda Nobunaga himself. The Kasumi clan has been wiped out, leaving a kunoichi named Ayame as the sole survivor with a special holy weapon in the form of a short sword. Ayame changes her name to Ayanosuke to take on a masculine status and vows to take revenge for her village.

The Hyuga were also wiped out by the creature, leaving a man named Sakon, wielder of a holy long sword, as its sole survivor. He becomes a bandit leader, for some reason, and later meets Ayame.

They decide to join up and go to the final clan for assistance, the Hagakure clan. While the Hagakure are glad to help, they soon also get attacked by Nobunaga’s forces, including a group of demons called the Oboro. The main warrior in the Hagakure is named Ryoma and he wields the holy halberd. Together, they must beat Nobunaga’s warriors and get revenge for all they have lost.

Breakdown: I am working off the Japanese version of the movie and not the OVA series, so many of my complaints probably stem from the fact that 45 minutes of runtime were shaved from the OVA series in order to make this movie.

This movie is a bit of mess in the first two thirds. The plot’s cliché (sole survivors of their clans, must get revenge with these awesome magic weapons we have for some reason etc.) and we jump around quite a bit. I also had a slightly hard time connecting emotionally with the main characters, but one of my main beefs was the side characters.

Side characters pop up like the strike of a match and then get extinguished just as quickly. Some prime examples are Kikyo, Kayo and Jinpei. These are supposedly people with strong connections to the main characters and yet they appear so briefly and don’t do much until they croak.

I can forgive the clicheness as the title is rather old and it brings some stuff to the table to spice things up, but the first two thirds really left me not caring very much.

I can’t even remember most of the Oboro members. And I love how one of them actually said that we should’ve guessed that it was his doing when the character hadn’t even been introduced yet and no one knew the guy.

The final third is when the bets are off. The final battle is pretty good, and includes some fairly brutal battles and plot twists. However, it doesn’t make much sense.

SPOILERS

Ranmaru, Nobunaga’s right hand man, turns out to be the real bad guy in this whole mess. (The battle with Nobunaga is actually kinda disappointing.) He’s really a demon (if the red eyes weren’t a giveaway) who orchestrated the whole thing. The holy weapons, the clan genocides, the betrayals, everything was in order to open a gate to the underworld and call forth powerful demons. He claims that, since he made the holy weapons, they can’t harm him, and it seems that he’s right since Ayame’s short sword powers don’t faze him at all….Yet, what defeats him and seals the gate?

…..Combining the powers of the holy weapons.

Yup.

Grade A plan you made there, dumbass.

A plan that was, I’m not lying here, over five CENTURIES in the making! Five centuries to make this incredibly complex, somewhat convoluted plan and one of the steps is to give three of the best ninja clans in existence three holy weapons that have the power to both kill you and thwart your plans. Oh yeah, that’s not a recipe for disaster or anything.

END OF SPOILERS

Besides that, the ending actually is good and I did get emotional at a point. Not nearly crying or anything, but I felt for the character.

The main characters, Ayame/Ayanosuke, Sakon and Ryoma are alright. Ayame is not an annoying female main character like this genre tends to favor and she actually does stuff! WOW! She’s brave and some of her fighting moves are pretty cool, even if she does get the lamest holy weapon.

She does tend to cry a lot, but she has good reason at least, and you can tell that Sakon and Ryoma definitely outrank her in power much of the time. However, that can also be excused since they’re seemingly ‘masters’ and she’s, for all I know, just another Kasumi ninja. She’s still a lot stronger than most female leads are in fighting shows, especially back in the 80’s, and she has a few moments that are badass.

Sakon is interesting as he doesn’t really have a drive to fight much after a certain point and even leaves in the middle of a war. He has good reason as he just doesn’t find much point in the battle. He sees it as warriors throwing their lives away for no reason, and even states that if the others were fighting to give the other clans and innocent people a chance to escape that he’d gladly lay down his life for the cause.

Sakon eventually comes back for no given reason. I’d suppose it’s for Ayame’s sake, but I can’t be sure. He stays up in the mountains doing nothing but meditating and trying to reach enlightenment or something, explains how, even if he wanted to help them, that he’s too far out of practice to do much good, yet a couple scenes later he suddenly comes to the rescue….in a mask that he’s wearing for no reason.

Ryoma’s kinda boring, but he’s, by no means, a bad character. He loses quite a few people that he knew and loved right in front of his eyes as opposed to Ayame and Sakon where we got small flashbacks (with Sakon we barely got anything). However, even this isn’t very impacting since, like I said, we don’t get to know these characters much at all so it’s hard to empathize with any of them when they die. However, he’s very loyal and kind and a great character to follow.

Art and Animation: The art and animation are pretty good for 1989. The art never seemed bad and was pretty consistent throughout the film. The animation wasn’t fantastic, but it was still pretty good. The motions were fluid and I didn’t find many animation errors.

Music: Here’s another part where I fell off. For the most part, the music is awful. It’s unfitting synthesizer music that sometimes sounds like an NES game. Some points even have music that is really inappropriate for the scene. “Oh hey this character that we don’t care about yet one of the main characters loves is dying by the hands of aforementioned main character! Let’s play really upbeat heroic-ish music!” Not all of the music was bad. Some of it was actually good and fitting, but that just irked me.

Bottomline: It’s a harmless movie, but I’d try to track down the OVA as that likely goes into more detail about the main and side characters and might make you give more of a damn. Seeing as how this series is very highly praised, it’s likely a good bet. The ending does make up for a lot of my complaints, but it still wasn’t fantastic to me.

Additional Information and Notes: The Wrath of the Ninja (The Yotoden Movie) was directed by Osamu Yamazaki and was written by Shou Aikawa, who also wrote for Angelic Layer, Fullmetal Alchemist, Love Hina and Oh! Edo Rocket. It was produced by JC Staff, and was licensed in the US by Central Park Media, but the license has since expired.

Runtime: 87 Minutes

Year: 1989

Recommended Audience: Holy crap, this is gory. People get slashed in half, beheaded, eaten alive, people’s heads blow up (which is another thing that made no sense to me. The monster making these people’s heads blow up can do it with just a glance, yet when he gets to Ryoma he suddenly can’t do it anymore and can’t even crush him properly.) people blow up entirely – just a lot of blood and gore. One instance of nudity which came up for what seems like no reason, but even that was from far away. No sex, no real swearing. 16+

30DAC – Day 29: An Anime You Wish Was Real

There are a lot of anime I wish actually existed. Pokemon, Digimon, One Piece and Fullmetal Alchemist. Some I’d like to exist purely to have the powers and mecha but then I’d have to remember that I’d be living in the same world they do, and it’s usually not pleasant.

To tell you the truth, I was going to choose FMA because the prospect of alchemy usage the way they present it is just so incredibly awesome and the world itself is perfectly livable and nice for the most part….barring the genocides and war. But I feel I’ve been singing FMA’s praises too long, so I went a different route.

My choice is Naruto. Why? Because that was literally the first thought I had when I first learned of the series. ‘Damn, I wish that was real.’ I mean, no matter your stance on the series, mine being decent, you can’t deny that the aspect of a ninja school (One for kids, no less) as well as learning all sorts of cool ‘magic’ ninja abilities would just be awesome. Not to mention all the cool weapons and specialized capabilities like bloodline abilities and ones that you can just invent to customize your style.

Granted, I’m being a little bit of a hypocrite here because, despite the world of Naruto being pretty cool, it can also be incredibly frightening when you think about it. People can control your every move through your shadow, control your mind, crush you to death with sand, blow fireballs at you etc. Plus, if you’re a civilian, you’re especially screwed if an enemy ninja targets you.

But eh, it’s not that bad for the most part. There are frightening aspects of our world, so I can’t be too strict there. It’s just a really interesting concept for a world as a whole.

….I just really want to write ‘Ninja’ on a resumé, okay? 😐

30DAC – Day 21: Favorite Goofy Character

I’m a fan of deadpan comedy characters. The comedy market is just so saturated with wacky and hyper characters, in all genres, that deadpan comic relief is usually a huge breath of fresh air when it’s pulled off well. For example, I think the funniest character in Fruits Basket is Hana with her censored threats of electric wave attacks and monotonely explaining that she’s failing her tests with a soft smile.

Just because you’re a deadpan character doesn’t mean you can’t be ‘goofy’ and that is perfectly highlighted with the character Agiri from Kill Me, Baby!

Kill Me, Baby is a series about two girls; a ‘normal’ girl named Yasuna and an assassin named Sonya. The series is basically a bunch of skits typically involving slapstick with Yasuna being the brunt of Sonya’s abuse, but the only reason Sonya abuses Yasuna is because she purposely annoys her.

Agiri is a lesser seen yet also prominent character. She’s a ‘ninja’ who typically pops up from nowhere with some odd ninja technique that is usually just a trick or to try to sell ninja items to the girls. And despite how it may seem, it actually appears that she is a legit ninja. Her house is even traditional styled and is covered in traps and tricks.

*gasp* Old man Jenkins? I mean, Agiri?!

She was definitely my favorite character on the show and even though she wasn’t in the spotlight as much as Yasuna and Sonya, she stole the show everytime she was on screen with her sneaky little smile and her light yet cheerful voice that never changes no matter what the situations.

While Sonya and Yasuna’s schtick tended to get old after time, Agiri kept coming back with weirder and weirder ninja tricks and sillier ninja items. Some of her tricks actually seem legit, which makes them all the funnier when they’re shown to just be a cheap trick somehow.

Agiri herself seems like a bit of airhead, and she seems to prove this time and again, but she also outwits the girls on several occasions, leaving them baffled and me laughing either way.

Now say ‘bye’ to the nice people, Agiri.