Friday, July 25, 2014

Rail Wars!

...I can't believe I'm saying this, but Rail Wars! was actually...pretty alright.

For those of you who didn't read my summer preview post from a few weeks ago and don't understand the apprehension, I was basically trolled into watching Rail Wars! and was more than certain it was going to tank.

Well, I've gotten the first episode under my belt...and it held water.

Originally a light novel series by Takumi Toyoda, Rail Wars! (full title: Rail Wars! Japanese National Railway Security Force) is, apparently, pretty popular in Japan, as it has its own manga adaptation, an anime series (of which I am thusly reviewing), and a PS Vita game to be released in Japan this November.  Japan...really likes trains.

Granted, the premise is still laughably ridiculous when you first look at it, a show about train security officers.  It's just a short step away from a series about mall cops, kinda.  But then you watch it for a half hour, and it's basically a cop show...that happens to take place on and around trains.

What I found while watching the first episode of Rail Wars! is that it's actually quite a fun show, so long as you're more invested in the characters and their zany misadventures than the trains and plot (so's a lot of train crap which I don't find terribly interesting).  At least...that worked for me, I'm sure there are some train enthusiasts out there who think I'm being closed minded and don't have good taste.  To those people, I say don't judge me and go back to playing Ticket to Ride.

What I mean to say is that the characters are quirky and fun and watching them interact is enough to give this show a passing grade for me.  There are four main characters who get together early on at their...train school, and through a series of montages we see that each one has their own strengths and they all balance each other out into a well-rounded team.  One's good at running, CQC, athletic type stuff ; one can recite train facts and rule ordinances off the top of her head; one is a like a female John McClane, good at guns and fighting but kind of a loose cannon; and the main character has the leadership and decisive thinking to bring them all together.

While not exactly the same, it reminded me a lot of the scene in 21 Jump Street where Schmidt and Jenko's relationship begins to blossom.

So they get together and bust a theft in the first episode, get fired from the academy and then join the railroad security.  So my best guess as to what the rest of the show has in store is going to be a series of railroad based mysteries and whatnot.  So, Rail Wars! didn't exactly set my world on fire, but it certainly exceeded my expectations

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tokyo Ghoul

Right then, got a lot of shows to talk about, so moving right along: Tokyo Ghoul.

The second show this season with the capitol city of Japan featured prominently in the title, also a strong second for "front runner" this season amongst my fellow anime pilgrims.

Tokyo Ghoul is the animation of the dark fantasy manga series with the same name by Sui Ishida.  It takes place in a modern day version of Japan (and probably the rest of the world) where flesh eating "Ghouls" are a known threat.  They don't come out and say "hey, we're ghouls and we want to eat you", but the Tokyo PD also aren't going around saying "animal attack".

No, ghouls are a real problem.  Their attacks make the news and there are doctors trying to study them.  However, ghouls aren't like zombies, they're just like humans at a glance until they ghoul out and get pure black and red eyes.  They just...happen to only be able to eat human flesh (and, incidentally, coffee), have super strength, toughened skin, and super blood tentacles.



So anyways, the story starts with Ken Kaneki, who's only real character trait is that he reads.  So he goes on a date with this girl, turns out she's a psychopathic, binge-eating ghoul (*gasp*), 

Oh, just down this dark alley?  That's not suspicious

she tries to kill him, there's a horrible accident where she dies and he just gets hospitalized and in a case of life-or-death, a doctor has to swap some of Kaneki's organs.  He wakes up and has one crazy ghoul eye.

He gets his eye under control, goes home and finds out he can't eat anything without throwing up, has an episode in the streets, and has a lot of trouble coming to terms with what he is becoming.  He meets the nicest ghoul in the world, gets into a street fight, is saved by a waitress from earlier in the episode (turns out she's a ghoul, but not a psychopath), and she jams some human flesh down his throat.  And that's episode 1.

It wasn't too bad, really.  I think Tokyo Ghoul's strongest asset is how dark and fucked up it is (guess you kind of have to be when your genre is "DARK FANTASY").  There's lots of blood, squishing sounds, and a really apt metaphor between screwing another man's girlfriend and eating his food (you'll get it when you see it).  However, I would not say that gratuitous darkness equates to being a really great show, a mistake many people seem to make.  I mean, I thought Attack on Titan was only okay, as opposed to Suisei no Gargantia, a decidedly less dark show from the same season.

Maybe it's just not really my speed, I dunno.  I just prefer not to have my spirits crushed at every opportunity.

That being said, Tokyo Ghoul keeps its shit in check (as much as it can without losing it's "dark fantasy" street cred) and is a really solid show.  I'm interested to learn more about ghouls and their society (did I forget to mention that there's apparently some kind of ghoul government or something), I really like Touka (the waitress) who is a BADASS, and I'm genuinely invested in Kaneki's personal development.  Right now he's just kind of pussyfooting around being a ghoul and how that's bad, but we shall see, won't we.  The Hulu image for this show has Kaneki with a Hannibal Lecter style mask on, so here's to hoping he becomes some kind of ghoul vigilante or something.

Tokyo Ghoul is getting into it's third week, so it won't take long to get caught up if this seems like your bag.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tokyo ESP

It's been a big week for me in terms of show watching.  Me and my gang of ne'er-do-wells threw down on the first episodes of 8 different shows.  Most of them were on my list from last week, but a few snuck in there that I hadn't planned on watching.  However, rather than do a massive batch of mini-reviews, I'm going to spend time talking about each of them in detail.

So without further ado, let's start with Tokyo ESP.

Tokyo ESP is originally a manga by Hajime Segawa, and it's about--you guessed it--Espers, wielders of varying paranormal abilities.  It was animated by the people at Xebec studios and, to their credit, it looks MARVELOUS.

As I said in my preview post, this was the show I was most looking forward to, and I was not disappointed.

The episode starts off on Christmas Eve and the National Diet Building (Japan's House and Senate, for those who were thrown by the misleading name) comes floating over Tokyo, a radio broadcast from a terrorist organization announcing that the reign of Espers was beginning, and a shit-ton of baddies with really cool powers doing bad things.

So, got me Tokyo ESP, I'm on board.  Now, a lot's going on, but we--the viewers--really aren't being told a whole hell of a lot about what's happening.  My theory is that we're experiencing a kind of flash-forward, that this is a sneak peek at events that will be unfolding around episode 6-10...or something.  Further evidence of this presents itself as everyone keeps talking about a "white haired girl" (Shiroi shoujo: lit. "white girl", lol) in the same way people talk about Batman or Superman.  That being said, I expect the next couple of episodes (the start of the series proper) are probably going to be a bit slow, and I couldn't be more excited for it.

So, the first episode winds down with a lot of carnage, shit comes to a head, the White Girl appears (sans pants), and the episode ends.  I am, DOWN with Tokyo ESP, hot damn!  I will say, part of what I love about it is that it's not afraid to have blood and violence, but doesn't feel obligated to be over-the-top like, oh, say, the latter episodes of Attack on Titan where people are being kicked into red mist or bitten in half without a second thought.

Consider this a hearty recommendation for Tokyo ESP which is getting into its second week of airing.  I plan to be following this show with religious fervor.  It was--

Damn.  Good.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Summer 2014 Anime Preview

I realize that I've been...a little negligent with this blog recently.  I would apologize, but I haven't really been watching a lot of anime recently.  No lie, folks.  But here's the good news, with the frankly oppressive heat in my neck of the woods, Summer is upon us, and that means a fresh, new anime lineup (among other things).

However, I would like to break protocol for a brief tangent here.  BBC America has been running their new show The Musketeers for three weeks now and it's SUPER good.  The first season's already had it's 10 episode run on BBC proper so if you don't feel like know...there are ways of watching this show.  It's just great, quality television if you're into that sort of thing.

Anyways, I recently scouted the Summer Lineup at 

Among the admittedly staggering number of options this season, more than a handful of shows have caught my eye, or the eyes of those I directly associate myself with.  I can't promise I'll watch all of these shows, but if you're looking for a recommendation based on book covers and the judgements formed therein, you've come to the right place.

First, I think I'll touch on the returning favorites.  I told myself a while ago that I wouldn't do "second seasons" on these kinds of posts, but I figure a recommendation to pick up a second season is a retroactive recommendation for the original, so before we touch off on the new stuff, let me introduce the reigning champions.

The first local favorite to be making it's triumphant return is Sword Art Online.  I'll admit that I was not one of the pioneers of this show.  I didn't watch the original japanese run and only ended up seeing the first season little over a month ago dubbed on Netflix.  So sue me.

I showed up late to the Sword Art Online party, and partied my ass off with this show.  The first season was amazing, so my cadre and I are super pumped for Sword Art Online II.

Since this preview box provides literally no synopsis, I'll give a brief rehash.  Sword Art Online is about a guy's adventures in "full-dive" MMORPGs (virtual reality.  You literally go inside the game).  The first game, the titular Sword Art Online happened to be created by a mad genius with a god complex who turned the game into a literal reality for the players, and lives were on the line.

Now Sword Art is back, and I am personally going to jump on it so hard it's going to need back surgery.

Moving on to our second returning favorite: Space Dandy 2

If you've been keeping up with this blog, you'll know that I absolutely loved Space Dandy in it's first 12 episode run.  I love each of the characters, it's wacky self-parodizing nature, the art, the animation, the ridiculous premises, and it being simulcast in both Japanese and English.

I cannot overstate how highly I think of Space Dandy.  It's just a great, great show.  Super fun, super funny.  Watch it if you haven't and join me for season 2.

Now, I knew about this next one a long time before I even looked at the chart, but it's finally here, the remake of Sailor Moon, the original Magical Girl

Understand, I have never personally seen enough of Sailor Moon to say I've ever actually watched it, so a lot of the hype was largely lost on me.  But, a lot of my friends are really into it who you wouldn't think would be and my fiance has always wanted to watch, so I'll be along for the ride this time around.

Finally, before we get onto new shows, I'd like to address one final returning show.  Well...more like the anime adaptation of the port of a game which has also had it's own anime adaptation.  I am, of course, referring to Persona 4: The Golden Animation

P4:GA is the anime for Persona 4: The Golden which, as I said, is the PS Vita port of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (originally on the PlayStation 2).  I am a bit of a Persona fan, and 4 in particular, and The Golden had a bunch of additional content that I really loved.  Now, I've already seen Persona 4: The Animation, but only managed to snare part 1 for my collection, so I'm very excited about P4:GA because it's the game I love, with the amazing extra content, and another excuse to give Atlus ALL my money.

And so, with all of the rehashes and revisits out of the way, we can finally address all of the virgin territory that placed between the 6 and 10 on Danny's excitement graph.

First up is Tokyo Ghoul

Seems to me like a zombie show, and I was about to overlook it, but the whole "identities masked in mystery" thing caught my attention.  Are people who need to eat flesh?  I dunno, but I'll check it out.  If it's weak, I'll bail, but a friend of mine has already posted the opening to her Facebook, so I'm guessing that I will at least leave this show with moderate satisfaction.

Next we have Rail Wars

I'm going to be completely honest with you, folks, this show made it onto my docket as a joke.  When I read the premise, my eyes almost rolled out of my skull.  This smacks to me as one of those attempts Japan occasionally makes to turn something completely mundane into something interesting.  I'll get back to you after I've watched episode 1, but prospects are not high on this one.

Moving ever onward, we come across DRAMAtical Murder.

I blame this one on my fiance.  I'm not closed minded or anything, but "boys-love" really isn't my shtick.  But hey, could be eye opening for me.  It could be awesome, I don't know.  Like Sherlock Holmes or something.  Whatever, I'm down, we'll see where this goes.

This one will come as a shocker, but I am actually responsible for Sabagebu!

Reading the synopsis, I figure it might be like K-On! meets The Hunger Games.

Wait...this sounds familiar.  Oh yeah, that's almost exactly what I thought about blah-blah-blah C3 bu from a year ago, which I totally bailed on after...what...2 episodes?  Whatever, I won't get fooled again.  It gets 2 episodes to impress me and then we're done.

At this point of the blog, we reach the first new show that I'm really excited for, Tokyo ESP

Yes, it's got a crazy premise, I'll give you that, but that's also how Gravity Rush started, and I love the ever-living crap out of that game.  If my instincts are right about this show, I think there will be superhuman streetfights about, so I'm strapped in for Tokyo ESP, and here's to hoping it doesn't go all "gravedigger show" on me (high expectations met with...utter disappointment, you might remember also from a year ago).

Last on the list, we come to Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance.

If you have trouble finding this one (after it airs, of course), try switching the words "Blade Dance" in your search for "kenbu", that might yield better results.  Anyways, Seirei Tsukai, based on the premise alone, seems like it's going to be a fantasy-harem-comedy(?) [<- I'll hedge my bets on that last one].  All in all, I'd surmise it as a "Fantasy Infinite Stratos".  Sidebar, Infinite Stratos is pretty good...and funny.

And those are they.  Granted, there are a ton of other shows coming out this season, so if there are any other shows that catch your eye that you want me to check out, feel free to drop it in the comment section or what have you.  I've got a lot on my plate this season and I can't wait to hit the trail again, watching new shows, spreading the hype on great shows, dropping the hammer on shitty ones, and generally speaking embark once again on this crazy wild journey called life...with anime.

Thanks for reading, have a great Summer Season, folks!