Wednesday, January 19, 2011


                If you’re like me you might have problems with trying to keep up with all of the latest anime that’s coming out. This year in particular, has been a difficult one simply because there hasn’t actually been too much to really grab my attention. And then most of the cool anime that I do want to see don’t get a legal streaming service here in the states. But since October I have been eagerly watching every episode of the new otaku comedy Oreimo. Thanks to ANN I have been able to keep up with this fun and eventful show, all without having to pay a cent.
                The story of Oreimo at first sounds pretty generic and disappointing. It’s about a high school boy named Kyosuke Kosaka who lives in the shadow of his over achieving little sister named Kirino; who has seemed to avoid him for the past couple of years. Unlike him, she is athletic, intelligent, attractive, and popular. By contrast he is a completely average guy with nothing special really going for him. And although she seems happy and cheerful in front of everyone else, she constantly treats him like an unwanted puppy. So needless to say there is tension between the two. But this changes when one day he finds anime dvd case in the middle of the hallway, and when he opens it up he finds that it actually contains an adult ero game. After some quick detective work it is revealed that both the dvd and the game belong to Kirino. When he confronts her about the dvd she confesses that she is shamefully a closet otaku and that she needs his help keeping her hobby a secret. This starts off a series of events which revolve around Kyosuke helping his little sister discover her true self, and teaches her not to be ashamed of her hobby. It might also help to mention that Kirino has a particular obsession with magical girl anime and little sister ero games which both combined to make the situation very awkward for Kyosuke.
                Now I wouldn’t blame you if you read the full title of this anime and then pass it off, the full title is Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (My Little Sister Can't Be This Cute). Believe me, I know the title brings to mind images of a generic moe/incest/harem which would offer little to no entertainment value beyond fantasy material for otaku, but this show is actually nothing like that. Sure there is some moe aspect to it, but the majority of the anime focuses of otaku related comedy and delightful characters. And best of all; there’s actually no incest involved.
                I’d say that the strongest point of the anime is the comedy aspect which is build to entertain otaku. It’s best to describe it as a more recent Genshiken. Much like Genshiken, it’s filled with jokes that really only fellow Otaku would be able to fallow. Also, like Genshiken, it involves many different types of Otaku and showing how they interact in a modern fandom. But unlike Genshiken, it has a look which blends in perfectly with all of the other anime which have been made in the later half of the decade. Many of the jokes and plot points revolve around new and old issues of the otaku fandom in Japan and the different types of Otaku which exist. Also keep in mind that the story is shown through the eyes of a non-otaku (Kyosuke) so it will often show the culture shock that many average Japanese citizens face when interacting with otaku.
                Honestly the main characters of the series are nothing special. Kyosuke is your typical teenager with nothing special about him and who is absolutely normal in every way. And Kirino is your classic case tsundere which makes me question just how much of her character is just completely based off Haruhi. But what actually makes the series good is the colorful cast of secondary characters. It’s largely Kirino’s friends that make the show so enjoyable. They breathe much needed life into this otherwise iffy series. Unlike the 2 main characters, the side characters are quite unique and acted as fun and relatable parodies of people from the real world, while at the same time developing into full characters of their own. My 2 favorite characters of the series would have to be Kirino’s otaku friends Kuroneko and Saori. Kuroneko acts mainly as a stereotypical parody of a specific type of otaku. This kind of otaku is mainly obsessed with drama anime aimed at older teens (like Code Geass, Darker Than Black, ext.). She is also a loli cosplayer, and not just you occasional type, she cosplays everyday. Early in the series she is defined, by Kirino, as “post-evangelion bitter”, which I feel reflects a lot of anime fans today (including me). Saori is the leader of a girl otaku organization and is seen by her friends as being an old school otaku that dresses and acts as stereotypical as you can find. She’s an entertaining version of the otaku from the 90s and further back who still obsess over Gundam and were flannel shirts year round. In many ways she’s like a character pulled from Genshiken and thrown into this new series. There are some other fun characters that come up throughout the series, but non quite as entertaining or as relevant as these two. In the end, the only character I truly hated was Manami, who was Kyosuke childhood friend. She is the most generic, moe, fanservice character I have ever seen. Every part with her in it made me want to stop watching the anime. But luckily I toughed it out and made it to the end, and I’m quite happy I didn’t let her ruin the series for me.
                The staff was made up, of people who were well trained in the ways of anime. The director Hiroyuki Kanbe, is notable as an animator involved in Flame of Recca, Yu Yu Hakusho, Rurouni Kenshin, Evangelion, Cowboy Bebeop (movie), ext. and finally as a director in Viper’s Creed. The animation directors, Kana Ishida and Tetsuya Kawakami, are quite well seasoned. They’ve worked on enough big hits to make your head spin. For all of these staff members, Oreimo seems like a step out of the ordinary for them. Nothing these guys have worked on have been quite this comedy driven. And in the end the series felt like it should have been a Kyoto Animation project rather than AIC. But the most out there staff member for this anime has to be Hideyuki Kurata. For those of you not familiar with him, he is a very well established anime writer. He is famous for writing shows like Now and Then Here and There, R.O.D (OVA and series), Cloth Road, Hellsing Unlimited, ext. he even dates back to doing old school sci-fi anime like Android Ana Maico 2010. But he now does a series like Oreimo, it’s kind of shocking to see him adapting to each generation of anime fandom so well over the course of his career.
                Oreimo is based on a light novel series written by Tsukasa Fushimi which, from what I’ve heard, has been very successful over in Japan. The light novel series started in 2008 and in 2010 has already released it’s 7th volume. It’s also adapted into a manga series in 2009 and has character design work by Hiro Kanzaki. Neither series has been licensed in North America as of yet, but if this anime series does well enough here we might see some volumes of the manga or novel make their U.S. debut soon.
                Over all it’s a fun and entertaining series, if you don’t mind a few annoyances. Anyone who is looking for a new otaku comedy should give it a shot. And what’s the harm in giving it a go? It’s free streaming thanks to the folks over at ANN. So don’t let the name fool you, just dive right in and try to enjoy what the show has to offer.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Me and the Devil Blues

Robert Johnson is a name instantly recognizable to any music fan, he is known world wide as the greatest blues man ever. But what is possibly even more iconic than his music is the legend about how he became so good. In many ways the story has out grown the man himself. The legend is so popular in fact that it has spawned a great manga titled Me and the Devil Blues. Named after Robert Johnson’s famous song this fallows the fictional tale of Robert Johnson after he has sold his soul to the devil.

As the manga begins Robert Johnson (a.k.a RJ) is a young, soon to be father, who works on a farm in the dirty south. But at night he and his friends like to unwind from a hard day’s work by heading down to the local bar and listening to the blues. But just listening to it isn’t enough for RJ he wants to play it. The problem is he sucks no matter how hard he tries. He is often laughed off stage every time he tries to pick up a guitar. One night though he hears the legend of the cross roads which claims that all you have to do is go down to the cross roads, play a song, and then the devil will appear. He’ll take your guitar, tune it, and play a few chords then from that day on you’ll be the greatest blues man around but you’ll have lost your soul. After hearing this story RJ ends up trying this out while a bit drunk and lost. But sure enough from that day on he could play the blues, and strange things happen to him. When he comes too he learns that he’d been away longer than he imagined, and life changing events occurred in his absence which sends him on the road, with no other companion other than the devil. The rest of the story consists of him running into one painful situation after another and letting the reader explore the early 1900’s south. The dark and gritty story breaths new life into the infamous myth and creates a compelling plot which will keep you at the edge of your seat.

Easily one of the strongest aspect of this title is the amazing art work through out the manga. The mangaka, Akira Hiramoto, is a rookie on the scene but with is first release has created quite a buzz about him. Anyone who picks up this manga will instantly notice the breath taking art work, dark shades and all. Now held up by many fans as a prime example of mangaka not complying to the typical “manga style” is uses incredibly detailed art unlike anything else on the scene. His style is truly his own and when you see his work there is no mistaking that Hiramoto had drawn that. It is so refreshing to see such a wonderfully crafted series being released. I truly can not even begin to explain just how well done the art work is. And reading the manga you get the feeling that every line and shade had a thoughtful purpose for being there. The art serves as a way to create mood, tone, and atmosphere is a brilliant way. And the moments when music is being played the style really shows how hard hitting the blues can be and it makes an attempt to capture that feeling on paper.

The story of this manga is extremely compelling and will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat as you patiently wait to see what comes next. I’m not sure if there’s any manga out there that I can really compare this work to. It’s a very unique story with a powerful movement about it that lets you linger in each scene just long enough to get the mood but not long enough to get bored. Another great thing about the writing is that Akira Hiramoto was able to paint the picture of depression era south in a brilliant way. The facts of it all is obviously not 100% accurate but he does have a way of making you feel like this is all actually taking place in that time period. He made sure to keep the time frame in mind while writing the story and drawing the pictures. On top of that throughout the story RJ runs into icons of the time like Clyde Barrow, one half of the most famous outlaw duo in history; Bonnie and Clyde. This appearance of such an iconic figure of that time further immerses you in the idea and feel of this time. And yes, seeing as the story’s main character is a young black man in the deep south, early 1900s America the issue of racism comes up quite often. But Hiramoto is able to illustrate this issue with great subtly and maturity making this a very compelling aspect of the plot.

Over all this is an amazing, yet not very popular, manga series that I think anyone who likes a good drama will enjoy. Currently Del Ray is releasing the first 4 volumes of this manga. But they are selling it buy combining two volumes into one so it appears that there is only 2 volumes in the U.S. (but don’t be fooled this is all 4 volumes). Unfortunately the mangaka has put this series on hiatuses and know one is quite sure why. So until he decides to finally start the series back up we just have to be content with the amazing work that we have available to us now. If you are fan of manga, drama, Robert Johnson, or even just a fan of good stories you will not be disappointed in checking this series out. So to end it of I’ll conclude with a quote from the song Me and the Devil Blues (the song which inspired the title of the manga) “Early this morning, when you knocked upon my door. And I said hello Satan I believe it’s time to go.”

I'm back

After dealing with one problem ofter another (mainly techincal issues) I have finally gotten to the point where I can start the blog back up. So now that I have this all fixed I should be able to post a new review soon.

Monday, March 22, 2010


When you hear the name Satoshi Kon you usually think of his extremely successful anime film career, but he wasn’t always the super director that we see today. Just like any other anime creator he had to get his start some where. For Kon, his earliest work can be traced back to the forgotten and left behind manga that is Kaikisen. Not much is known about this manga besides that it was a one tankoubon manga released in 1990, other than that there’s not much more to go one. And this manga is quite hard to find, it’s only be released in Japan and France and I’m sure aren’t very popular in either country. On top of that it’s a long forgotten seinen series so there aren’t many scan groups that would be willing to invest time into something like this. But, never the less, I was able to find a few chapters scaned with minimal effort. But sadly this has prevented me from completing the whole series. But what I have read truly impressed me.
Kaikisen tells the story of Yosuke, a member of the Yashiro family, whose father is the priest of a local shrine. But this family has a secret which they have been protecting for generations; they possess a mermaid’s egg. As legend has it Yosuke’s ancestors once made a pact with a mermaid. The deal was that they would protect this egg and, in exchange, the mermaid would insure the town had good fishing seasons. But now Yosuke’s father sees no point in keeping the egg a secret and decides to reveal the egg to in front of the media to try and attract people to the shrine. This sets in motion a strange set of events which Yosuke can not even begin to imagine.
I went into this manga thinking that Satoshi Kon’s brilliance wouldn’t transfer well into a manga format, but I was mistaken. This manga is truly a strange and unique manga which fits Kon’s style perfectly. As the writer and artist for this manga we get to see a side of Satoshi that is rarely seen today. In his recent works he doesn’t really deal much in the way of the actual animation process anymore. He started off as a man who would work on the art of the movies he worked on like in Roujin Z in which he was involved in Key Animation. But as the years went on he became more and more focused on directing and screenplay writing that, now at the most he’ll work on character design. But this manga gives us a pure and clean look at Satoshi’s art style that we’ll most likely never see the likes of again. But his animation style is quite high quality. In fact if even half of the manga I read had this good of animation I would be a very happy otaku. And many of the elements in the art seem to foreshadow the style which his films would take on down the road.
But animation isn’t the only thing he did well on with this manga, the story was also quite wonderful. The story had a edgy blend of fantasy and drama which is quite easy to read and fallow while at the same time it excites you with the mystery of what’s to come. And what’s truly fun about reading this is seeing all the story elements which become quite common in Satoshi Kon’s work down the road. One element which you can often see is the clash of traditions and the old ways of Japanese culture clashing with the new age of modernization. In Kaikisen this is shown through Yosuke’s grandfather conflicting with yosuke’s father. We soon learn that the grandfather is a strong believer in the legend and is extremely upset with yosuke’s father. But the other characters often over look him and see him as nothing more than an old man who is stuck in his ignorant ways and should just stay in the hospital. Another common theme in Satoshi’s work is the idea of fame which can be seen in his flims like Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, and Paranoia Agent. In the manga Yosuke’s family quickly becomes an overnight sensation as word spreads about the mysterious mermaid’s egg in their shrine. In this story the power of fame tends to get into Yosuke’s father’s head and blur his judgment. It his work in this manga gives us a good look at where Satoshi has been, and where he may be going.

In the end this manga is high on my list of recommendations. Not just because of the compelling story line and very well done art, but also because of the relevance that this manga now carries. If you are a fan of Satoshi Kon’s work, like me, I highly recommend you check this manga out.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

R.I.P. Nujabes

In case you you haven't heard the sad news yet; Nujabes, hip-hop artist and music composer, died in a tragic car accident February 26 in Tokyo. At the time he was only 36 years old. I think I speak for everyone when I say that he will be deeply missed. He was best known in the U.S. for his work on composing the music for Samurai Champloo.

Like many others I first hear Nujabes' work when watching Samurai Champloo, but this would not be the last time I listened to his wonderful music. After becoming obsessed with the music from the Samurai Champloo OST I decided to find what else this underground producer/DJ could do. Soon I found all of his other works and fell in love with his music and won the position of best hip-hip artist in my opinion. When i learned about his death I was crushed to hear that such a talented artist had passed on.

If you'd like to hear more of his music I'd suggest checking out his critically acclaimed album Metaphorical Music.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Top 3 manga of the Year

1. 20th Century Boys:
This is hands down one of the best manga I have ever read and finally it received it’s American release this year. The story and art was masterly crafted to complete the feel of suspense and drama. While at the same time the story some how seemed to stay grounded to earth and made the characters seem extremely life like. I never thought that these characters were “anime characters” it seemed more like they were people somehow taken right off the streets and thrown onto the page. It’s a plot of peaceful reflecting, crazy cults, and world conspiracies. If you haven’t had the chance to read this manga do it now!

2. Pluto
And yet another Urasawa manga makes the top of my list. This brilliant and darker adaptation of the Astro Boy chapter “The World’s Strongest Robot” has blown me away. All though this is shorter than his other works it lacks absolutely nothing in comparison. It’s in stores now so go out there and by this amazing series.

3. Soul Eater
I started as a fan of the anime series and after that, quickly began the manga. The twisted animation that we grew so fond of in the anime can still be found in this manga, and in fact its even more twisted. It starts as basically the exact same thing that you would have seen in the series but down the road it starts to differ so don’t just write this manga off. It’s a winner.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best Anime of the Decade

Best Sci-fi: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
You just cant get any better than this masterpiece. It was a perfection of it’s era, painting a vivid and multi-layered world while juggling a complex array of stories and characters that came together to form a wonderful series. Everything from the writing, which was by Dai Sato, to the directing, provided by Kenji Kamiyama, was perfectly formed. The series was able to portray a whole new world to the viewer without being to blunt or apparent. It seemed to just instantly throw you into this complex new setting, but somehow, instead of turning away it encouraged people to keep watching. Some how the mystery of how this futuristic society worked seemed to make the viewer even more engrossed in the story. And when you finally get a grasp on the concept of this world you didn’t feel like you were watching a stereotypical futuristic world of plain robots and spaceships. Some how this world seemed like a real possibility of what could be to come; which made the stories that much more relevant and powerful. The characters in the series were masterly crafted as well. Not only showing depth and the ability to make fleshed out characters, they were even able to make icons. The Laughing Man has become an enduring figure to anyone who has watched the show and even became a bit of an internet icon. On top of all of this GITS also possessed the dub which many claim to be the best to date. Casting a long list of famous and highly skilled voice actors they were able to make a dub that even non-dub-fans had to enjoy.

Best Drama: Cowboy Bebop
This is an instant classic in my book. From start to finish this series created classic characters and stories that went on to become some of the best known and highly acclaimed of the decade. The characters and so fleshed out and likeable that while watching the series you find yourself becoming attached to them, which makes the emotional aspect of the stories that much more effective. From episode one it hits you with a power house collaboration of the all star staff which makes a notable impact on the psyche. And on top of the flawless action sense and powerful emotional aspects, it also has some of the best music ever used in an anime. This series mastered the art of using music to set the mood of the story in a way that few series have been able to match.

Best Fantasy: Mushi-shi
No matter how many times I watch this series it never fails to move me. The stories are so unique and powerful and the directing doesn't try to push action or anything. The series is a one of a kind that can never be replicated quite as good as it was. It puts you into this strange new world but you don’t feel lost in it, in fact you accept it. Each episode gives you an in depth look into the world in which mushi exist and the characters surrounding them. And the stories are quite modest but at the same time seem to hit you the hardest. The creatures that are called mushi throughout the series are some of the most imaginative and unique things I’ve ever heard of. Just the thought of them gives you the feeling of something magical that is unreal and yet surreal at the same time. It wins best fantasy hands down.

Best Mecha: Gurren Laggan
Its not just your run of the mill mecha series. There is always more to it beyond the jokingly stereotypical super robot story they hide a message of hope and encouragement. I think it's this message which gave the series life and made it such a big success. When you were done watching the series you were left with a feeling that if you try hard enough you can reach the starts. I think this spoke to allot of people and that’s why the catch phrases of the anime can all to often be heard shouted throughout the halls of any given anime con.

Best Comedy: Lucky Star
Sometimes this anime is seen as the bastard child of Kyoto Animation in between the two Haruhi seasons but in many ways I find Lucky Star to be better. The style of comedy is one that had never been seen in anime before and, I think, really broke the mold of your typical comedy anime. It's style of showing life-like events in a comedicly clumsy light makes it the type of comedy that makes you think "it's funny because it's true." And the use of everyday conversations gives it it's unique Seinfeld-esk feel. When your asking for best comedy there is really no other option, its Lucky Star hands down.

Best Adventure: Darker Than Black
Personally I found this series to be far superior to his companion Full Metal Alchemist for the main reason that it didn’t cheapen the drama or suspense. Darker Than Black was just an amazing show, period. I can think of few others that are able to balance drama, action, and a few cases of comedy in same way this adventure does. Sure they aren’t looking for treasure or something cliché like that but that doesn’t make this series any less of an adventure. The action scenes were very well done and the animation was a testament to how great Bones studio is. From start to finish this series kept me interested and watching as the plot thickened and the story unfolded. And you can bet that I have a back log of the new season just waiting to be watched. This series actually went above my expectations and blew its competitors out of the water.

Best Action: Samurai Champloo
Is it really that much of a surprise? When I first saw this series aired on Adult Swim I was blown away by the intensity and precision the action sequences were done. This anime mastered the genre in a way to no other has before, leaving the critics breathless. I find it hard to even fathom a discussion of anime action without Samurai Champloo quickly becoming a point of conversation. No other series can and, most likely, will be able to match the amazing fight scenes that were shown in this series. And on top of that it had some amazing music. Fallowing in the shoes of Watanaba’s previous works, this series incorporated music as a key aspect of the series. This was the first time most Americans had ever heard of the artist Nujabes and it definitely wouldn’t be the last.

Best Mystery: Ergo Proxy
Sure I would have liked to say Monster but I haven’t finished it yet so I don’t find that fair. And sure most people would say Death Note but I think I speak for everyone that half way through the series it has a major drop in quality of story. So there is only one real choice here today and that would be Ergo Proxy. This series was able to present a mystery that I think few can match. There are so many mysteries to solve in this series it’s enough to make your head spin. You basically start off completely in the dark about nearly everything, but as the story goes on you learn new things that make you see this world in a new light and bring you one step closer to solving everything. It’s the type of series that pulls you along taunting you to try and solve the riddle. And the setting is very interesting, a cyber punk/post-apocalyptic world that has a strong undertone of darkness.

Best Shonen: Soul Eater
Few shonen anime manage to entertain me but this one just blew me way. It had everything perfectly done great music, imaginative plot, unique setting, and some mind blowing action scenes. I honestly cant find anything to complain about with this series. Only a hand full of shonen series has managed to impress me but this one goes above and beyond and stole a special place in my heart. This is not only my favorite of the decade but my favorite shonen of all time. If you haven’t seen this series yet you should asap.

Best OVA: Now and Then, Here and There
This was a tough call for me to make, I love FLCL and Now and Then equally but I had to make a choice and it went to Now and Then. I figured enough people were already going to praise FLCL as it was and Now and Then need some love. This series is one of the best and most depressing things I have ever seen. In as few as 12 episodes it puts you through a whole story that is often enough to make you cry. It doesn’t let up from being depressing and power at the same time. It makes you get attached to the characters and you hate to see all the bad things they go through over the course of the series but some how that’s what is so great about it. It’s a beautiful masterpiece that everyone must watch.

Best Movie: Undecided
This was a category that I just couldn’t deice on. I was able to narrow it down to 5 choices though. I’d have to say that the 5 best movies this decade were Spirited Away, The Girl Who Lept Through Time, 5cm Per Second, Millennium Actress, and Paprika. These movies set the bar up higher than most creators can ever hope to reach and they’ve set the standard for excellence for years to come. I think few could argue with a list like this. Each of these movies mastered their craft and put forth their best effort in animation, story, characters, and entertainment. These will be the legends of this decade that future anime creators will strive to succeed.

Best of manga list still to come!