Shounen Step-By-Step: Yu Yu Hakusho Episode 1

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Plot: Yusuke Urameshi is a punk. He frequently skips class, doesn’t try in school, gets into street fights all the time and has run-ins with basically every type of authority figure that exists. His home life is no better with a drunk lazy mom who seems to pay him no mind at all while loafing about the house. He does have friends, the model student Keiko and the fellow street punk Kuwabara, but they seem to have just as poor of a view on Yusuke as everyone else does.

One day, Yusuke sacrifices his life to save the life of a little boy by pushing him out of the way of a speeding car and getting hit in the process. Yusuke appears near his body as a ghost and is quickly greeted by a flying girl on a boat oar named Botan. She is a shinigami or grim reaper, but she’s not greeting Yusuke to take him to the afterlife, she’s there to give him one more chance to live. See, he was not set to die that day and no one in the other world believed Yusuke would ever risk his life to save a child, one that would’ve, ironically, not have died or even been hit anyway. So, Yusuke is getting a second chance to live due to the error.

Yusuke, however, is not sure he wants to return to his life since he believes everyone dislikes him and everything seems to dump more crap on him. In an effort to get him to see the true value of his life, Botan gives him some time to think about the decision.

In the meantime, Yusuke visits his wake and sees how utterly devastated most of the guests are from his mother to Keiko and even to Kuwabara and one of his teachers. He even sees the grief of the mother of the little boy he saved.

After visiting his wake and taking everything into consideration, Yusuke meets with Botan again to agree to her offer, and Botan starts setting everything up to bring him back to life.

Breakdown: This has been my favorite pilot episode to an anime for a long long time. It is just so wonderfully written, so heartbreaking and so gripping that you can’t help but care for each character, even Yusuke, deeply from the get-go.

It’s also a shining example of how English dubs can really be just fantastic. There’s so much passion and emotion put into their line-reads here that it is just one of my favorite dub jobs ever.

The only negative I really have about it is the fact that two of Yusuke’s teachers really seem like they’re over the top. I mean, one has a character design that just screams ‘weasel’, the other looks like a serial killer and they’re both such complete assholes that they’re at Yusuke’s wake being thankful that he’s dead and even making jokes about how he probably died on accident while trying to steal the boy’s lunch money.

While Kuwabara makes the most impacting scene here, you really have to appreciate the subtleties of Yusuke’s mom’s short scene. She’s just sitting on the floor not saying a word or even showing any real emotion for much of the scenes, almost like she really didn’t care, and then suddenly she just says Yusuke’s name and bursts into sobs. Even the short scene with the little boy and his mother was very well done. It reflected the kid’s inability to really process the death of Yusuke and the gravity that the entire situation had on the mother. She’s both incredibly happy that her boy is alive yet devastated that another kid had to die to save him.

I will say that, while this is just an amazing opening episode, they don’t delve at all into the actual plot of the entire series yet, that being Yusuke eventually becoming a spirit detective and this show becoming essentially a tournament fighter.

The main characters were all very well-established from the start, the atmosphere was great and this really does seem like a pretty original story.

The art basks in that lovely 90’sness that makes me smile and while the animation isn’t amazing it’s still pretty damn nice for its time, the music is wonderful and the OP and ED for this season stay very near and dear to my heart.

This was a great way to start off this awesome show, and I definitely look forward to going over this series again.

Next episode: Yusuke is brought to the spirit world to meet Koenma, ruler of the spirit world, in order to get him started on the task that he will need to complete in order to be brought back to life.

Bamboo Blade Review

Rating: 8.5/10

Plot: The Moroe High Kendo Team is in seriously bad shape. They have very few members and their instructor seems more motivated by food and money than actually helping improve his team. However, after building up a decent team of both newbies and experienced kendo fighters for the club in order to fight another school on the basis of a bet between their instructor and his old senpai, both he and the team get rared up and ready to fight harder, get stronger, celebrate the victories and deal with the losses.

Breakdown: Bamboo Blade isn’t your typical sports anime, and I say that for two reasons; 1 – it’s about kendo and 2 – the team being focused on is mostly girls. Boys really have the market cornered when it comes to sports anime.

I have to say, this show got me really interested in wanting to learn kendo. Too bad there’s no place within a reasonable distance of me to learn at.

It’s difficult for me to really analyze the story. It encompasses about one full year of the team’s various trials and tribulations. It’s a realistic look at what a team actually goes through instead of being one of those predictable sports anime, shows or movies where the underdog constantly wins because that’s the rules of sports shows.

In fact, the team is in three different tournaments in the entirety of the series and they don’t really put that much emphasis on them. I mean, yeah they’re pumped about them but they don’t showcase many matches, they don’t put a huge weight on the outcome and it’s clear that the entire tournament is really about one match or two. That’s both…disappointing and refreshing at the same time. I say disappointing because, in sports anime, it really is supposed to be a big event to have a tournament. Hell, even Pokemon gives their tournaments a few episodes at least, but in Bamboo Blade, the tournaments are always over within one episode.

Let’s talk about the characters.

Tamaki or Tama is an extremely shy (and by that I mean I had to keep my computer’s volume on high just to understand her most of the time) tiny freshman girl who also happens to be a prodigy at kendo. She was taught kendo since the day she was old enough to properly hold a shinai by her father, a well known and respected kendo instructor who runs his own dojo at their house. After showcasing her skills with a sword…..well, okay, broom, Kirino is itching to have Tama join their team, but Tama states that she views kendo as more of a chore instead of an enjoyable activity and declines.

Later, she finds out that the kendo club is being terrorized by two bullies who are the main reason why the kendo club has lost so many members. In defense of the members of the club, she beats the bullies in a match and officially joins the club.

Tama’s a very nice character and another welcome change from the loud and egotistical main characters that usually spawn up in sports anime. She’s also essentially our main focus in the show…..however, you may notice that I used a word that I really hate to use in sports and gaming anime…..’prodigy’.

Yeah, Tama’s a kendo prodigy who can’t be touched by anyone on their team, not even their instructor. She easily takes down people twice her size and age with ease and everyone is always amazed by her skills and speed. And yes, it does get annoying after a certain point because it essentially devolves into the messiah trope. Everything always rides on Tama’s shoulders and it really seems like, a lot of time, it’s up to the others to merely keep the team’s head above water while Tama ensures their win.

Tama’s not without weakness. Like I said, she’s incredibly shy to a fault. She’s quick to get flustered in situations that she doesn’t know how to deal with, as long as it’s not kendo. But when it does come to kendo she’s nearly untouchable.

I say nearly untouchable because her biggest weakness in kendo is when anyone takes the high stance, an advanced stance that Tama’s deceased mother usually took when fighting. When people take this stance against her, she always tenses up and becomes extremely distracted. However, due to the fact that this stance is for advanced fighters, hardly anyone uses it against her.

Characters like that almost always have to succumb to the other trope of the ‘fallen hero’. Eventually Tama loses a match, and because she’s such a prodigy who has never once lost a match, she is utterly shattered by this revelation that she can indeed lose to the point where she actually resigns from the team.

It’s basically like Yugi’s first loss in YGO only without the catatonic state and having a loved one’s soul on the line.

I mean, I’ve never been nearly so good at something that I’ve never lost at it, so maybe I just can’t relate, but when you’re on a team of people who frequently lose and still manage to get back up every time and learn from it, what kind of message is that sending them to quit after your very first loss EVER? Hell, her first loss coincides exactly with another character, Miya-Miya, also basically quitting kendo because she also lost in the same tournament Tama did, but the reason she quit was because she had never once WON in kendo even after training her ass off for months.

Tama is a really good character and despite the messiah-ism, she is very enjoyable to watch while fighting. To be fair, she actually had a fairly good reason for being as affected by that loss as she was. She still viewed kendo as a chore with her ultimate goal being to do nothing but win, and it didn’t help that her team was constantly shoving it in her face that she was a shoe-in and would definitely win no matter what. When she finally lost, she also lost that sense of purpose and had to decide whether she still viewed kendo as a chore or if she now truly enjoyed it.

Tama has a strong sense of righteousness and justice, which is part of what drives her to join the kendo team to begin with. This is due to the fact that Tama’s actually quite the big anime geek, most notably with a Power Rangers (or more to the point, Super Sentai) -type series called Blade Bravers. Tama’s soft-spoken and generally passive attitude can easily be felled when Blade Bravers or anime is involved, She’s especially inspired by the leader of the Blade Bravers, the Red Braver, whom she bases much of her personal philosophy on.

Her one true rival over the course of the series is actually someone who idolized a character named Shinaider, a villain and I guess anti-hero in Blade Bravers.

Ishida is the team’s instructor and, at first, he really comes off as a lazy and somewhat flippant kendo instructor. He leaves most of the team’s activities to the team captain, Kirino, in the beginning and really only becomes inspired to actually make something of his team after gathering more members for a match between his girls’ team and that of his old senpai, Ishibashi, on the basis of a bet.

Ishida lives paycheck to paycheck and is constantly scrounging together money, even from his students, to barely be able to eat. Thus the bet is that Ishibashi will take him out to a sushi dinner if he wins and Ishibashi gets the trophy Ishida won from their last kendo tournament if he loses. Ishida doesn’t give a crap about the trophy, he just wants the sushi.

However, he eventually matures and grows to deeply care about his team and wishes nothing more for them than to grow and get stronger while also having as much fun as possible.

Kirino is the team captain and has been called the heart of the team by Ishida. Kirino is by far the most enthusiastic and optimistic of the team and she basically stood as the team’s sole member before recruiting the others.

Kirino is always the first to cheer on her teammates and she does it loudly and proudly. She is also not one to ever discount or look down upon fellow team members, no matter their skill level or even their attitude. She seems like a really great person to have as a friend. Kirino’s biggest weakness is the fact that she overextends herself to please others and always puts on a smiling face no matter how much she’s going through.

Yuji is one of very few male members of the team and he’s a very handsome lawn ornament—I mean character! Yeah that…Look as much as I like Yuji as a character, he’s very nice, well spoken, knowledgeable in kendo etc…..he doesn’t do much…He’s just kinda there. He gives pep talks to characters, usually Tama, but as a team member, he doesn’t do much.

See, since the focus is mostly on the girls’ team, this means that almost all of the male team’s activities are non-existent. Yuji usually spars with the only other active male member of the club, that he actually recruited, Danjuro or Donny and really that’s about the only person you even see him fighting at all. It’s a shame too because Yuji seems to be almost as passionate and knowledgeable at kendo as Tama. He was on his junior high team and was part of the dojo that Tama’s father runs. It’s also implied that Yuji and Tama have a bit of a thing going together, but the hints that are there are fairly subtle and they’re both clueless about the opposite sex.

It’s even worse considering that he doesn’t even really grow or change at all over the series. Donny at least shows that he’s getting better and has clear weaknesses that need to be addressed (his height allowing for easy head strikes) while also showcasing his actual strengths. With Yuji, there’s nothing. Again, he’s just kinda there.

Danjuro or Donny as he’s nicknamed in the English dub, is a very short and weird looking little guy who is full of enthusiasm and on some occasions himself. He’s recruited by Yuji after Ishida informs him that they need more members, though his membership is basically moot since, as I said, the boys’ team really does nothing.

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Donny’s a very laid back and kind individual as well as being Yuji’s best friend, but he’s mostly preoccupied with his girlfriend, Miya-Miya, who most people can’t believe he’s dating due to their stark contrast in physical appearance. They’re usually being incredibly lovey-duvey with each other. It’s somewhat weird in the first few episodes, but their relationship actually grows and becomes very sweet over time……even if Miya-Miya initially liked Donny because he reminded her of her old pet pangolin….

Speaking of Miyako or Miya-Miya, she was arguably the most complex character and a really surprising one at that. When she first showed up, she really seemed like she’d be an annoying ditz who only cared about her boyfriend and nothing else, but she evolves quite a bit and there is definitely more to her than meets the eye.

Miya-Miya is actually a very angry, dark and violent individual to the point where she’s almost a bully to some people, especially Azuma. When not talking to or being looked at by Donny, she presents a visible dark aura that freaks out nearly everyone. She’s recruited by Donny and initially finds kendo boring, but the darker side of her loves the fact that she gets to fight. She is the greenest member of the team alongside Donny, but whereas Donny (supposedly) grows so much to the point that Yuji says he might surpass him by the time they graduate, Miya-Miya struggles quite a bit and never once wins a match over the course of the series until the very end.

She has two big weaknesses; 1 – The fact that her anger and that she loves to hit people seriously gets in the way of her moves. She fights very aggressively and while this can sometimes work to intimidate fighters, it also results in very sloppy swings, attacks and footwork, allowing her opponents to easily find openings for attack. Sometimes, this anger even causes her to make possibly dangerous moves. For example, she’s the first to showcase a throat strike, which is considered the most dangerous legal move in kendo that only advanced fighters are supposed to employ.

2 – She has a stalker from her old school named Reimi who freaks her out so much just at a glance that she quickly loses concentration and ends up losing. She does eventually get much better both in attitude and skill, and I’m always up for an underdog story.

Saya is Kirino’s best friend and the only other lasting member of the kendo club besides Kirino and the bullies, Iwada and Toyama, before the others join. However, Saya’s initial participation in the club was widely unreliable because of how consumed she gets by wanting to create a wonderful song or great story.

She always finds failures in these areas, which commonly devastates her to the point where her friends treat her outbursts of depression and even suicidal remarks with flippant responses. Saya doesn’t really change much over the course of the series either, but she is a very close friend to Kirino and is always the first to realize when something is wrong with her.

Azuma is the final member of the team to join in order to make a full five member kendo team to be official in tournaments. It takes her half the series to actually become a character with only very brief appearances beforehand. There’s sadly not much to say about Azuma. Both the ED and the OP make her look pretty bad as I had assumed that she was going to be one of those incredibly annoying characters whose only schtick is constantly falling over, but she’s actually fairly bland.

She’s a talented kendo practitioner who ended up quitting kendo when she reached high school. Despite her hard work, constant studying and dedication to her schoolwork, her grades continuously falter because she’s so scatterbrained and makes little mistakes that end up costing her greatly. Since her parents believed kendo was only distracting her more and making her worse, she promised to give up kendo to improve her grades. However, it was noted that she is actually incredibly focused and calculating when she is fighting, and she was convinced by the team to hone these skills to actually help her grades. Along the way Kirino and Donny, who are actually some of the best students at the school, help improve her with her schoolwork. However, this plotline is never brought up again after she joins so we just have to assume it worked.

Azuma is somewhat of a doormat, and she’s the target of some abuse by Miya-Miya. However, despite this, Azuma actually becomes somewhat of Miya-Miya’s own personal kendo teacher, especially after Miya-Miya finds a drive to train much harder in order to beat an American opponent (who obviously has a bitchy attitude, snotty manner of speaking, red hair, huge lips and huge boobs) named Carrie who also has a crush on Donny because he reminds her of her pet armadillo.

Can I just say it’s insanely weird to want to pursue a relationship with someone on the basis that they remind you of an animal?

There are various side characters, mostly opposing kendo teams, who get varying degrees of spotlight. Most of these characters are funny and likable, but they didn’t get enough spotlight in my opinion. I would’ve liked to have seen a sequel to get a rematch against most of the people we saw them fight.

In terms of learning about the sport, you do learn a fair degree about the footwork, stances, terms, strikes and strategies involved in kendo, and I really enjoyed learning about the sport as it’s always been one to intrigue me after seeing it showcased in several forms of media.

This show handles both the drama and the comedy extremely well. None of the drama was unbelievable or seemed like it was thrown in to hook audiences. Some of the situations seemed a bit hokey like the tournament involving a serious cheater (and by serious I mean she injures people before the match to either make them quit before the match even starts or to humiliate them and make them suffer during the match if they decide to fight anyway) but it’s nothing too drastic.

Art: The art was very sharp, bright and appealing. It mixed a shoujo-like style with more realistic very well. The animation was also very fluid and clean with nary a hiccup or odd scene in sight.

Music: I really loved the music, OP, ED and BG for the series. It’s somewhat generic, but it adds its own flare to make it more unique. Although, I’d like to know what ‘I’m calling the star rise’ means….I will say that one of the sentimental pieces of BG music was starting to get irritating. Considering that there’s one to five tender moments in nearly every episode, it starts to get grating, but only towards the very end.

Voice acting: English – Funimation provides superb quality yet again. The English dub was excellent, maybe one of their best works I’ve seen so far. Only thing I’d note is that Tama is just too quiet sometimes.

Bottomline: This is a very enjoyable sports anime with plenty to enjoy in terms of characters, story, comedy, drama and of course kendo. Even if you don’t like sports anime or kendo, this is still a good watch just for the characters, comedy and the actually believable storyline.

Recommended Audience: This show is basically as clean as you could possibly get. Even the episode that states ‘first public bath’ shows no nudity (in fact, I’d call foul on that title because they completely skip the bath scene entirely). There’s no real swearing, no sex, no blood, no gore. The absolute worse thing that happens is one of the characters injures their ankle, and even that’s just a bad sprain. E FOR EVERYONE!

Underdog (Manga) Volumes 1 and 2 Review

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Rating: 6.5/10

Plot: Naoto is a very angry and perverted college student. He lives his life hating the world around him and makes a hobby out of setting up cameras in apartments where he knows the women living there are sexually active. His entire life, he’s been known as the ‘ghost boy’ as no one ever notices him and he hardly had any friends outside of his best friend, Yuuki. One day, a woman named Noa comes to him with a proposition; she is part of an organization that holds a tournament. The winner gets to rule the world. The rules? Kill your opponent without directly causing them harm.

Breakdown: I have a bit of a thing for ‘death tournament’ titles. Something about the concept seems so interesting to me and it can make for some really cool stories and scenarios. This one is dark and interesting, but also kinda stupid and confusing.

First of all, while they do establish the rules of the tournament clearly, even written out for us, I don’t get who this organization is nor why they have the power to give the winner the ability to dominate the world. Surely, if they did control the world, allowing third parties and the cops to know about the tournament wouldn’t be a problem.

Second, the ecchi is very prevalent here and it just doesn’t fit. Yes, Naoto being a creeper does lay the ground work to put suspicions on him when he’s being followed by the cops later, but the shots of all the sex aren’t really necessary, especially when unrelated ecchi is used as eyecatches for interludes between chapters and volumes. I’m definitely not a prude, and I stomach plenty of fanservice and ecchi in my anime watching career, but there’s no reason for half of these sex shots to be there and there’s definitely no reason why Noa has to look like a prostitute whose boobs are planning a prison break from her ‘blouse’. Half the manga is darkness, murder and depression and the other is deranged sex.

The ‘bad’ cop, Detective Satou, is incredibly over the top and stupid. Yeah, I’m so sure that a serial killer would be dumb enough to leave his student ID and stack of peeping tom porno DVDs at the scenes of his crimes. He’d also make a big production out of attacking his sister afterward. That won’t raise suspicions. It’s not like that doesn’t reek of a frame job or anything.

But that’s really not his biggest problem; that would be his

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You know the angry ‘attack dog’ detective trope? This guy is the raging ‘Kujo’ detective trope. He is obsessed with catching Naoto to the point where he will openly torture the guy in a room full of cops, without even turning the camera off, to get him to confess. Naoto had been accused of two murders and an assault on his sister up to that point. He had no personal vendetta here, and being a detective he should be well used to murders, but nope. He’s beating the hell out of him, he’s depriving him of sleep and probably food and water and it takes the ‘good cop’, Detective Arashiro, to finally tattle on him to their higher-ups and get him kicked off the case. Not that it matters because he still follows a tip from Naoto himself to an abandoned location, alone and fully intent on just straight up murdering him in spite of the fact that they have no evidence to connect him to any crimes.

I’m getting a bit far into this without laying out the story, so here goes.

Naoto is a miserable college student who spends most of his time breaking into apartments and setting up spy cameras to watch women having sex so he can masturbate to them. He became such a miserable person because, when he was a kid, he was constantly mocked and taunted being called ‘Ghost boy’ because he’s never noticed…..But that doesn’t really make sense because if you really were ignored constantly then you wouldn’t be mocked constantly. The two kinda contradict each other. If he was so well known that he had a nickname and the taunting was so frequent that it ruined his personality growing up then he was being paid plenty of attention, it was just negative.

His dad is also a complete ass to him for no reason, but his mom and sister clearly love him a lot.

One day, as Naoto has a sudden meeting with the police, he’s ‘saved’ by the barely dressed huge boobed Noa, who offers him an opportunity to participate in a tournament. Nearly 200 people are paired up twice a month to kill each other before two weeks are up. The hitch is that the participants can’t tell anyone about the tournament and they cannot directly harm their opponent. They also cannot hire anyone to kill them by proxy. Basically, they have to set it up so that the opponent either dies in an accident that is not of their doing or they have to kill themselves.

Naoto kinda accidentally agrees and he’s paired up with over-the-top bad guy #2, Hiuchi Masaya. He’s a serial killer who is batshit crazy. Seriously, he paints himself up in full body warpaint to commit his murders, he hangs from the ceiling to scare people like a super villain and has zero conscience whatsoever. His reasons for killing are simply to make a mark on the world.

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I told the guy at the facepainting stand to give me ‘the Joker’ and he adds kitty whiskers. I really can’t trust anyone at the state fair.

Naoto is a scared puppy throughout most of the first half of this match up as Hiuchi keeps killing people and framing Naoto for his crimes. This is not to get Naoto to kill himself or get him the death penalty as this would be way beyond the two week limit, but it’s to set it up so that bad cop kills him at a crime scene.

He is eventually arrested when his sister, Mirai, is kidnapped by Hiuchi and assaulted. He set up the room to make it look like Naoto did it, lured him to the location and let the cops tail him there.

Despite the evidence against Naoto, they don’t have enough to pin him to the murders, especially since the evidence planted in his room, a student ID of one of the victims and a severed hand of another, and his porno DVDs were taken and disposed of by his best friend, Yuuki, at the request of his sister, who didn’t know of the murder evidence.

Though, to be honest, this is another stupid point. The ID, hand and DVDs out of the way….Mirai is an eyewitness who knows her brother is innocent. She spent at least a half hour or so with Hiuchi since he was trying to trick her into believing he was Naoto’s old friend to get her drugged. She remembers Hiuchi and his alias. She remembers his appearance, his actions, what he was wearing, how he sounded, everything. She even remembered him going to strangle her after she mentioned that she was jealous of Hiuchi’s skinny build. She could’ve cleared Naoto right there and got the police to go after Hiuchi, but she lied and said she didn’t remember anything.

That’s not just dumb for Mirai, that was dumb of Hiuchi. You left an eyewitness, dumbass. Hell, you tried to strangle her in a FAST FOOD JOINT. Tons of people could back up her up on this claim. Good thing Mirai’s an idiot. Right, Hiuchi?

Right as Naoto is released, Satou reveals that Hiuchi had done something very horrible to Mirai that they didn’t notice when he had her in that warehouse. This enrages Naoto enough to finally snap and make a plan to fight back.

He realizes that Hiuchi has a pattern of attacking a girl three times before killing her, even though he didn’t seem to do this with the other two girls, and realizes that Mirai is in danger yet again. So Hiuchi, being predictable and dumb, paints himself up in his warpaint, dons a black cloak and waltzes into the hospital where Mirai is….While carrying a bag full of crossbows and weapons that are in plain sight. It’s only because Yuuki was there to stop him that Mirai didn’t get attacked again.

As Yuuki beats the crap out of Hiuchi, Naoto realizes that he’s so enraged that Yuuki will probably end up killing him if he doesn’t stop him. Despite this allowing him to win this round, Naoto decides against it since he doesn’t want the blood on Yuuki’s hands. Instead, he takes Hiuchi’s unconscious body and an accomplice of Hiuchi’s, his psychiatrist, to set it up so that it looks like Naoto is about to kill the accomplice. Luring Satou to the building across the street, it would allow Naoto to kill Hiuchi in the same manner that he had planned on getting him killed.

However, Hiuchi’s accomplice refuses to take orders from Naoto anymore, even in spite of the blackmail he has over her, and hits him over the head with a pipe. Since both Naoto and dumbass pedo doctor bitch are both too stupid to maybe tie Hiuchi up or do something to him that ensures that he sleeps through the whole thing, Hiuchi gets up and knocks both of them out, setting them up with strings to make the scene look like Naoto about to shoot the accomplice.

With Satou already in the neighboring building, Hiuchi is all set up to get Naoto killed. However, he didn’t count on Arashiro, having intelligent suspicions about the whole situation from the start, showing up and stopping him from shooting Naoto. With their backs to the wall, Hiuchi reveals that he has somehow kidnapped Mirai a-friggin’-gain and threatens her with death. End of volume two.

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Like I said, the story is pretty good, but it’s just over the top and too insane sometimes. It keeps hugging the line between realistically creepy to stupid insanity. And really, Mirai is kidnapped again? It’s been shown that it’s not against the rules of the tournament to tell third parties about your opponents as long as you avoid telling them about the tournament. This is shown when Naoto is allowed to tell Yuuki about Hiuchi. Naoto could just tell the cops about the situation and they’d put her under secure protection.

Hell, just the fact that Naoto was framed for her attack and the murders would be enough to put her under guard yet they don’t even up hospital security after the first time a maniac with a bag of weapons nearly got into her room. Hell, did the cops even learn about that? A huge fight, complete with deadly weapon drawn, broke out in the middle of a hospital; bad enough for Naoto to believe Hiuchi would die from it. Hospital staff didn’t catch wind of it? I know she went to the building on her own, how she knew they were there I don’t know, but still if she was under guard they would’ve stopped her from leaving and thus stopped her from getting kidnapped again.

The characters are mostly fine. Arashiro, Mirai and Yuuki are obviously the most likable, even if Mirai was a dumbass that one time. Naoto is fine. He’s a creeper who hates the world and nearly everyone in it, but he’s not a terrible guy. He obviously loves and cares for Yuuki and Mirai. Hiuchi is a decent villain, but he’s just so over-the-top most of the time. The fact that his big backstory is being mocked for being skinny and not eating a lot is also kinda silly. Satou is completely unlikable, though. Some might say he just has a strong sense of justice, but I just don’t think so. He’s an enraged lunatic who can’t see through his own anger to see the glaring problems in the murder case, leading him to torture a guy for something he was not guilty for. He’s itching for a perp and will mow down the sheep to get to the wolf. This isn’t a good cop or justice; this is a psychopath.

In this regard, even Arashiro is not blameless as he watched this happen and basically just said ‘if you keep this up, I’m leaving.’ Yeah, he did get him kicked off the case later, but that was only after the torture and right before Naoto was about to be cleared.

Sadly, I believe this title has been canceled. MAL and Anime-Planet list this as finished with three volumes and 17 chapters, and it lists the year as 2007 to 2009. I was only able to read two volumes and 11 chapters. The thing is, even two volumes in, Naoto is still on his first opponent of the tournament. The series was likely intended to be quite long especially if there are nearly 200 participants at the start. Unless something happens in volume three that ends everything out of the blue, and I doubt it, this manga was likely canceled.

It’s a shame because, despite its flaws, there is a pretty good tournament set up here. Usually stories like these involve direct killing and the twist of needing to find some other way to the kill the opponents is interesting and leaves it open to a lot of possibilities. I have to admit, though, I really can’t imagine an end-game here.

Art: The art is very detailed, though in a dreary fashion.

Bottomline: Since it’s probably unfinished, I can’t give this a full recommendation, but if you like these death tournament kinds of story, check it out. It’s not fantastic, but it is fairly interesting for what it is.

Recommended Audience: While you don’t see anyone killed on panel, several people do get badly wounded. There are some corpses but none of them are dismembered or anything. Outside of an arrow to the face, they’re pretty intact. The subject matter in itself is a more mature one as is the tone. The biggest issue in this department would be the nudity and sexuality. They get about as close to showing straight up hentai as they can. They somehow manage to avoid showing genitals, even in the more graphic sex scenes, but there are at least five sex scenes in the first two volumes, two of them with underage boys, though not shota levels. 17+

30DAC – Day 10: Favorite Fighter Anime

I’m taking the meaning of this prompt as like brawl fighting, tournaments a theme etc. I was torn between two shows for this. Yu Yu Hakusho and Dragonball.

While I do truly love Dragonball, I can’t deny that Yu Yu Hakusho just has slightly more to offer in terms of interesting characters and cool powers. I didn’t include DBZ in this because, while I do like that show too, it gets monotonous after time, and the battles are drawn out too much.

Yu Yu Hakusho centers around a boy named Yusuke Urameshi who died while trying to save a kid from getting hit by a car. He’s brought back to life by a shinigami named Botan and Koenma, ruler of the spirit world, though technically a prince, under the condition that he become a spirit detective, a person with immense spiritual powers who solves cases for the spirit world typically involving demons.

He is quickly joined by his best friend/rival Kuwabara, who had heightened spirit awareness far before Yusuke, Hiei, a fire apparition and Kurama, a reincarnated fox demon.

While the animation isn’t fantastic, the fights are incredible and many of them are very memorable. My personal favorite is the Dark Tournament arc because not only do we showcase the main group’s powers, but we also get introduced to all sorts of different demons and abilities that constantly change up the battle. There’s a couple other tournament arcs, but I find the Dark Tournament more diverse and interesting.

Plus, it introduced us to Jin and he’s just awesome.

The characters are really memorable, even if Hiei really gives off a Vegeta vibe, only without the rivalry with the main character, and the storylines, while not being insanely original, are also memorable and well-written.

It’s just an overall great fighting anime that I’d be glad to recommend to anyone.

G Gundam Review

G Gundam Review

G Gundam

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: In the distant future, earth has been essentially abandoned for established space colonies. In order to maintain peace and control between the various colonies, a tournament was created to choose the colony that would reign over the others for a year. This tournament is called the Gundam Fight. One person from each nation is chosen to pilot a mobile suit and is sent to earth. There they must fight other Gundam fighters from other nations using earth as a battleground. Due to this, earth has become a desolate wasteland, supporting only handfuls of people across the globe with many dying.

Our main character, Domon, has only one goal for being Neo-Japan’s Gundam fighter; he wants to find and confront his brother Kyoji, whom he believes killed his mother and was the cause of his father being imprisoned in a comatose state. He knows Kyoji has fled to earth with the terrible Dark Gundam and he’ll do whatever it takes to find him.

Reasons for rating:

This is a slap of nostalgia, huh? G Gundam; geez. I used to love this show, but man is it unbelievably cheesy at times. Basically the entire series is laid out for us in a nutshell, Domon is obsessed with finding his brother and he has to fight other Gundam fighters to find him. I don’t really have any qualms about the story. In fact, I find it to be quite good, if not somewhat-ish cliche. The reason why this gets lower marks is because of various reasons.

1 – Domon is not very likable. He’s constantly moody and emo (and he wears a cape/cloak for no reason) and he’s always angry. When he’s not being moody or angsty, he’s actually very enjoyable to watch, but he doesn’t act happy very often. I’d say only about 3% of his screentime is him being happy and the rest is him being miserable when he’s not fighting. Not to say that he doesn’t have a reason to be a little upset. I mean, taking this off of the illusion episode, he seems to have been a very happy person and also seems that way when he’s with Master Asia, but that doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable to watch a lot of the time.

2 – The acting’s pretty damn corny at numerous times. Rain has an especially lame voice actress. When she’s not acting terribly she’s annoying the crap out of me and/or yelling “DOMON!” Granted, at least her voice sounds okay and it’s not grating or super high pitched, but the acting gets on my nerves. I don’t expect masterpieces out of a show this aged, but still, pretty damn corny.

3 – The art’s blah and the animation’s fairly cheap unless they’re in a super important battle and, even then, it’s not great. Lots of animation is also recycled over and over, mostly in terms of attack animations and when the fighters are getting suited up into their Gundams.

 

I should also skew from the topic for a minute mention that the Gundams are piloted in such a weird way. There’s no real controls. The Gundams are controlled through use of a full body skin-tight rubber/latex outfit that is always custom fit to the fighter upon entry. Apparently this is not only for functionality but also so that the fighters, for whatever reason, can feel the blows from the enemy and actually get physically wounded when their Gundams are damaged. I know they did it this way to showcase the fighters actually fighting with their Gundams instead of just pressing buttons and triggers and whatnot, but surely there’s a better method to this.

4 – The ending is the cheesiest cheese ever cheesed. (Spoilers, obviously) I’m still debating which is more cheesy, this ending or Eureka 7’s. Seriously, it’s a tossup, but I’d have to lean more towards this. Just slightly. I mean, come on. The ending is cheesy enough with the declaration of love and Rain jumping into Domon’s arms as his cape (which seems to become insanely big during this scene for some reason) flowing gracelfully around them without them riding off into the sunlight with Domon holding Rain wedding-style as they ride off through a rainbow heart while riding on a Pegasus. I am in no way, shape or form kidding.

5 – Shining and Burning Finger have to be the two stupidest attack names I’ve ever heard, barring magical girl anime. I was actually hoping the dub was to blame for this and that the actual attack names were like Shining Hand or the God Hand/Hand of God (His Gundam was called the God Gundam in the original, hence the name G Gundam) but nope. Apparently that’s a completely accurate translation…Wow. Also, the speech he always gives before he makes the move is unnecessary and corny, but I guess that’s what makes it so quotable.

6 – The shuffle alliance thing just seems tacked on. Domon constantly spouts out that he’s the King of Hearts, but the other shuffle alliance members get no real focus on their titles. In fact, spoiler, but the original shuffle alliance only appears in one episode before they die and pass on their titles. The new shuffle alliance members hardly ever get any spotlight on their titles. Hell, I watched this series all the time when I was younger and rewatching it I couldn’t remember who got what title until the actual episode and I still have trouble remembering. Even if they did, what good is it, and why do holographic-esque icons appear on their hands because of it? I just never got that.

Other than that, though, the other characters such as Allenby and Sai Saichi are enjoyable, there are numerous tear-jerking moments and it’s a pretty enjoyable ride. Some Gundam fans may not enjoy the tournament setting, but I found the tournament setting a welcome change from the constant Gundam series that are just wars between two factions. All of the different nations coming together to fight the Dark Gundam was also pretty damn cool.

The music is also very memorable and great. The OP fits the theme perfectly and it’s great to get you hyped up for action. The ED is just okay and the background animation for it is repetitive as hell. It is literally nothing else but the same picture of Rain repeated over and over by zooming in on the reflection in her earring.

Let’s run through the characters real quick.

Domon: I’ve already explained him. He’s not a horrible main character, but he’s not all that likable either. When he’s actually relaxing and not being an angst ridden scowl face, he’s a pretty likable character, but sadly these moments are few and far between.

Rain: Rain is Domon’s crew for the Gundam and his love interest. She’s a lot more useful than most females in these kinds of anime, but that by no means means that she’s not annoying. She’s kidnap fodder/damsel in distress, her dialogue gets annoying sometimes, she gets knocked out more than an Ultimate Fighter and her particular brand of emo-ness causes her to be the crux in the ending. Also, their relationship just bugs me. They may be childhood friends, they may banter, but they just don’t seem to have good chemistry in my opinion.

Allenby:
Allenby is Neo-Sweden’s fighter, pilot of the Noble Gundam and Rain’s only romantic rival in the series. Allenby is a very independent, spunky girl (also she seems to be the only female in the entire Gundam Fight. Rain has used Shining and Burning Gundam on occasion, though.) I really liked her character. In fact, I wished Domon would’ve gotten with her instead of Rain. It seems like, I dunno why, but it looks like it’s hinted that Allenby ended up with that blind Gundam fighter in the end….Her and Domon just have such great chemistry together and Allenby is a much more interesting and likable character than Rain, to be honest.

Sai Saichi: Neo-China’s fighter, Sai Saichi seems to be the youngest Gundam Fighter around and perhaps ever. He can’t be more than 12 or 13. Despite his age, he’s noted as being the first person to ever legitimately force Domon into a draw. He uses the Dragon Gundam and is fighting for the revival of the dying Shaolin Temple. He’s a very energetic, yet focused and strong kid with a heart of gold. I really like Sai Saichi. His crew is made up of his two mentors/guardians who are also monks of the Shaolin temple.

Argo Gulskii: Argo is Neo-Russia’s fighter piloting the Bolt Gundam. He is fairly unique in that he’s a prisoner during the entire Gundam Fight. He used to be a space pirate before he and his friends were caught and imprisoned. His reason for fighting is to earn the freedom of him and his friends. Argo’s a pretty stoic character. He doesn’t talk much, but he’s still a really cool character. He’s very honorable and wise for a former space pirate. His main crew member is the warden of his prison, a woman named Natasha whom I’m convinced was designed after one of the artists watched a prison porn…Seriously, she has a whuppin’ stick and everything. She’s also basically Argo’s love interest throughout the series.


Chibodee Crocket:
Neo-America’s fighter and the pride of both Neo-America and earth’s America, Chibodee is a boxing champion and pilot of the Gundam Maxter who is the embodiment of the American dream. Chibodee’s not terrible, but he’s a bit annoying. He’s a loud mouth who calls mostly everybody by their chosen nation affiliation (He usually calls Domon Neo-Japan etc.) and he’s a bit of a lech too. His crew is made up of four attractive ladies who also double as his cheer squad.

George De Sand: Neo-France’s fighter, George is the epitome of a knight. George is incredibly boring. (Also, wtf is up with his hair?) He’s a cliché on top of a cliché. He’s a knight whose only goal is to fight for his country, his pride as a knight and his love interest, the princess Miss Marie-Louise. (BTW, this pairing is pretty lame to me. Watch the first episode with his debut and you’ll see why. She’s way more into him than he is into her. She even fakes her own kidnapping to see if George will fight for her. Pretending that you’re in danger to see if your man will fight for you isn’t horribly uncommon, but usually those fights don’t involve giant robots, guns, lasers swords, bombs and the huge possibility of death. Remember, even though it’s frowned upon to kill another Gundam Fighter in battle, it happens all the time. Even if it doesn’t, there’s a very very very high risk of severe injury.) His crew consists of his butler whose name escapes me.

Master Asia: Neo-Hong Kong’s fighter, Master Asia is the former King of Hearts, the previous Gundam Fight’s champion and is known as the Undefeated of the East. He is Domon’s martial arts master and basically raised him from about 10 or 12 into his twenties. Master Asia is a pretty good character, but I never understood his intentions…Oh, he also has no crew that is ever seen.

Schwartz Bruder: Neo-Germany’s fighter (Considering who he really is, don’t you have to be native to the nation you’re representing in order to be their Gundam Fighter?) Schwartz is masked throughout most of the series, but his identity is essentially revealed in his name (According to Wiki, his name translates to Black Brother in German. Racist jokes aside, if you speak German, they basically hand you his identity on a silver platter.) Also, his voice, in the dub at least, is too notable to not guess who he is the instant he appears. Also, also, there’s no other reason for him to be masked if he just up and hands out his name. Sure masked people are a staple in Gundam series, but he had no other reason for wearing one. However, Schwartz appears mid-way through the series and essentially becomes Domon’s replacement mentor for Master Asia. He’s a pretty cool character and is even on par with Master in terms of skills. He has no crew to speak of either and pilots the Shadow Gundam (Gundam Spiegel in the original. Spiegel apparently translates to “mirror” so I don’t understand why that needed to be changed.)

And that’s about it. Despite not being as–…..What? ….I don’t see any elephant in the room. ….Okay, okay. One of the things that puts people off of this series is the slew of racial stereotypes. Domon, Neo-Japan’s fighter is a master martial artist who is all about pride and honor as a fighter.

Sai Saichi dresses in very monk-ish style clothes and is also all about pride as a fighter and whatnot. Also, his main reason for entering the tournament is to save a martial arts temple and honor his country. Also, his Gundam is the Dragon Gundam…

Argo’s got huge-ass eyebrows, is incredibly stoic and seemingly cold, but Natasha is moreso the stereotype IMO.

Chibodee is almost insulting just with his name. (“Hey guys, what’s something American-y-ish?” “….Uhhh…Davey Crocket?” “Brilliant!”) He’s very loudmouthed, surrounded by pretty girls, wants nothing but money, fights and pretty girls and all of Neo-America and earth’s America is obsessed with watching his boxing matches.

Probably the worst of these offenders is George. Like I said, he’s a (bishounen) knight who fights for his honor as a knight, the pride of his country and his princess. (Yes, I’m being serious, she’s an actual princess.) His manner of speech, mannerisms and everything screams French stereotype (I’m honestly surprised we never see him wearing a beret and eating cheese) Hell, if you wanna go further, look at his Gundam. It’s called Gundam Rose, looks like a giant knight and uses roses as his main attack. Also, he fences.

And that’s just the main characters. There’s also Andrew Graham from Neo-Canada who pilots Grizzly Gundam (Lumber Gundam in the original…both are fairly stereotypical) Unsurprisingly, he wears plaid, has a big burly beard, suspenders and lives out in the woods usually chopping wood with his axe. (Sorry if you were hoping he worked in a maple syrup factory between hockey games.) His Gundam also uses two axes as his weapons.

Neo-Egypt’s Gundams are the Sphinx Gundam and the Mummy Gundam. Also, the first debut of Neo-Egypt, the pilot was a mummified version of the previous pilot. Yeah, someone tell the writers that mummification hasn’t been used in Egypt for like eons.

Neo-Greece has a Zeus Gundam, because Greek gods and all that.

Neo-India uses a Cobra Gundam.

Neo-Kenya has a Zebra Gundam.

Neo-Holland’s Gundam is called the Hurricane Gundam and is a giant friggin’ windmill.

Neo-Spain uses a Matador/Toro Gundam which basically looks like a giant bull.

Neo-Mexico’s original Gundam name was Tequila Gundam (Again, not kidding.) The dub, however, changed this to Spike Gundam. Still, the Gundam looks stereotypical. It looks like it’s wearing a sombrero and has cacti all over it. But hey, if that’s not stereotypical, the pilot of Spike Gundam was named Chico Rodriguez. I don’t think you can get more ‘Mexican’ than that name.

Despite these stereotypes, however, not one person speaks with any sort of an accent and that is just really freakin’ weird. Maybe the dubber didn’t want to instill any more stereotypes than the anime already does, but not one person, not one, has any sort of accent. Natasha has the slightest of accents, but that could just be her voice.

Whether or not you’re offended by these stereotypes depends on how easily you’re offended. You really start feeling the stereotypes when the finals start and all of the Gundams show up. Sure they’re stereotypes, but none of them seem inherently bad. One could argue that all stereotypes are bad stereotypes, but I see it as long as the character is good person, I’m not that offended.

 

If anyone should be offended, it’s Italy. Their Gundam is called Neros Gundam, named after a Roman emperor who committed various atrocities in his reign including setting fire to a village to make room for a palace and its pilot is a raging asshole lunatic too. Also, apparently there’s a Gundam for Neo-Italy called the Ferrari Gundam and it does seriously look like a robot Ferrari…whether or not that is offensive is up in the air.

Art:
Like I said, the art and animation are pretty damn rough, but it could be worse.

Voice acting: Also brought this up, but most people are voiced alright and it never seemed like anyone was bored with their roles, except maybe George’s VA, but that could just be George. There’s a bunch of cheesiness in the acting and Rain annoys the crap out of me, but nothing really horrible.

Music: The music is really good and I love the opening themes. The final song in the series is an uncut version of the second season’s opener and I really love it. In the original run on American TV, they just kept editing in the old theme song for some reason so I always supposed this was just a song made for the ending. Now that I hear the cut version at the beginning of the episodes I get disappointed that it stops so abruptly.

Bottomline: All that aside, this series has some great action, great characters and some touching moments. If you can stomach some serious amounts of cheese and aren’t easily offended by various stereotypes, check it out. There’s even a moment or two when you might feel like crying. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go eat a cheeseburger in my pickup truck while singing The Star-Spangled Banner.

Additional Information and Notes:

G Gundam was directed by Yasuhiro Imagawa who also directed Berserk.

It was written by Fuyunori Gobu, and produced by Sunrise.

Bandai currently holds the licensing rights to G Gundam in North America.

Year: 1994-1995

Episodes: 49

Recommended Audience: There isn’t really too much to write home about. There’s no swearing, but there’s a lot of violence and fighting. Various people do get killed, but I don’t remember seeing much blood or anything. No sex, minor nudity. Eh, 10+