Anime Flashback: The Gundam of the new Millenium.

The great Gundam franchise has many faces. Since the 80s, there's been numerous iterations of the series and, if you're familiar with them, you'll have your favorites. It's a nice pool to choose from, but one has stood out as not only a fan favorite but as the grandfather of the Mecha anime genre, if not anime in general. I remember watching this series as a youngin, in awe of the beautifully crafted and colored giant robots wrecking havoc amongst the stars. The series was new and bold and complex, something I had never seen. It was dark, gritty, and I didn't know what the fuck was going on, cause I was 10, but it looked so cool. It's name was Gundam Wing.

Fast-forward to now. While this version is still one of the more popular series in the franchise, in the "Gundam community" it's often seen as overrated in comparison to the many other iterations of the series. I needed to see for myself if my dear memory had betrayed me, so I decided to go back and re-watch the series as a socially damaged adult.

What immediately stood out to me was how censored the version I originally watched on Toonami must have been at the time. This series is 15x more gruesome than I remember. First aired in North America on Toonami in the year 2000, Gundam Wing tells the story of Heero Yuy, a 16 year old assassin/freedom fighter sent to Earth from a space colony, along with 4 other teen Gundam pilots, to fight for its freedom in a battle with the forces on Earth. The root of this series lies in the conflicts between one faction and another sprinkled in with the standard twisted bad guy ideologies here and there. Occasionally, the sub par dialogue does a bad job of actually explaining the plot, but the intense action and drama is enough to keep you engaged.

When introducing the main characters, the pace of the show is so fast that it leads to concepts that grow beyond the standard formula: Backstory, training, and finally using their Gundams. All 5 pilots and their Gundams are immediately introduced and are death clouds of carnage and hellfire wrapped in teenage bodies, causing havok in the name of justice and freedom on behalf of the ruled colonies in space. As the series progresses, all of the main Gundam pilots go through varied experiences that push their ideologies to the edge and makes them question their involvement in various conflicts that usually result in a lot of folks dying, even a few you won't see coming in true Gundam fashion. Whether it's the faction they're fighting for betraying them out of fear or their enemy going through their own internal civil war, for its time and place on American television this show told the story of these kids while also painting a symphonic space drama.

The visuals are a perfect representation of classic 90's animation, with designs as detailed and intricate as I remember. From your first time watching Gundam Zero 1, you can appreciate the amount of detail paid to the science of what makes the Gundams tick(And mobile suits in general for that matter) as well as what makes each Gundam unique. That showing of mecha brilliance with 01-05 (the various Gundams) is what you'd expect from the father of the giant robot genre, and this iteration furthered that and much more. Coupled with a dramatic tune and theme, the space and land combat is fluid whether the Gundams are fighting 1 mobile suit or 100 of them.

Although there are better Gundam series out there, Gundam Wing was perfect to introduce a new, young American audience to a genre that continues to deliver such high quality content. The nostalgia might carry the load for a bit when the story falters but the action, drama, and political chess that's played, combined with an outstanding second half and OVA, makes Gundam Wing more than worth another look. Take one and see what made this Gundam series really standout out West-Mars

-Mars

Do You Watch “Anime?”

Sailor Moon, Pokemon, and Dragonball Z! Chances are that if you grew up in the 90s then you’ve watched at least one of these shows. Whichever one that may have been was probably your introduction to anime. However, like most kids, you likely didn’t realize this at the time. I wouldn’t realize it myself until sometime in the early 2000s, after Cartoon Network started airing Tenchi Universe on it’s Toonami block and Yu Yu Hakusho premiered on Adult Swim. Since then, I’ve recognized and viewed anime as a product of Japanese animation. That is, until Avatar: The Last Airbender began to air. Since then, and with the addition of similar shows that blur the line of what is and isn’t anime, I’ve had my doubts as to whether or not my simplistic definition was sufficient. So, I began searching for a better definition by acknowledging some of anime’s key characteristics.

Typical flatness and huge eyes aside, the techniques used in Japanese animation are just as distinctive as they are diverse! The variety of artistic elements, such as the use of color and lighting, and the character designs, like the spiked hair of a shonen protagonist and the soft fluffiness of a shojo MC, are testament to the sheer amount of distinguishing art styles that exist within the medium. It’s production tends to center itself around creating as realistic a setting as possible while utilizing camera effects to combine cinematography with hand-drawn art. Moreover, since anime focuses on realism in both movement and image, environments are produced in which audiences can become easily immersed. A great use of this technique can be found in the works of Satoshi Kon, director of Paranoia Agent and Paprika.

Gif of Satoshi Kon's Paprika to illustrate cinematography's use in anime to create realistic movement

Furthermore, the story-telling mechanism of these shows are easily distinguishable. While most American cartoons are intended for children, the themes of anime are multifaceted and complex. In fact, there are five basic types of anime. Each one is focused on a specific target demographic, with content that ranges from imaginative children’s stories intended to teach morals and principles to tales of a violent, psychological, or even pornographic nature about revenge, addiction, and love. Continue Reading

Welcome to Class: My Hero Academia Arrives

My Hero Academia. This title, along the graphic associated has passed by my eyes more times than I care to admit. I’ve seen it pop on lists of what to watch. I’ve been told to check it out from friends. I’ve literally been given links on to where to find the manga in full up to its current issue yet, like the great procrastinator I am, I waited. Well, the time finally came on a boring Sunday night, and just like clockwork, I instantly regretted holding off on this amazing series. My Hero Academia was def an instant winner.

 

The plot of this anime series written by Izuku Midoriya, tells the tale of a young boy named Izuku Midoriya born powerless in a powerful world. An event on earth has led to most of its population being granted with special powers or “quirks” as its called in series with the number growing more by each generation (Think mutants from the X-men, ‘cept these traits are often passed down hereditarily from parent to child). These powers have of course led to the birth of heroes and villians with both sides using abilities to hurt, help, or just plain out exploit society. In the center of the chaos lies the greatest hero, All Might, who notices the true heroism inside the main character Izuku after rescuing a childhood bully from a villian. From their All Might passes down his power to the rookie as the series shows the young lad starting his first year at the top hero Academia U.A

Boku no Hero Academia Episode 004 - Watch Boku no Hero Academia Episode 004 online in high quality.MP4_000628072

The diverse cast of characters in this series is what caught my eye initially with every hero & villian being as detailed in personality as they are in design. Quirks in this series literally mold and change the everyday person so to witness a cast ranging from a kid who has a head like a hawk but body like a boy, another kid who sweats nitro glycerin, and another one that has pink skin and black eyes but is the every day school girl was refreshing in a sense of the normality of this series is essentially the abnormal. You can see HEAVY inspiration taken from american comics in the costume designs of each character giving it a nice little twist. Continue Reading

REVIEW: Neon Genesis Evangelion

                      ”And what’s wrong with running away when reality stinks!”

                                                                                                                                     -Shinji Ikari

I’m all for real emotions being portrayed in animations. If anything, I enjoy them. They bring the characters to life for me but Neon Gensis Evangelion is whirlwind I wasn’t expecting. I didn’t know whether to cry and turn my tv off or smile as I watched with grief.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is the story of Shinji Ikari. The bastard son of Gendo Ikari and the Commander of Nerv. Nerv is a special organization that combat the Angels after the Second Impact and is the organization responsible for creating Evangelions. Second Impact was a global cataclysm which occurred on September 13th, 2000. Evangelions are cyborgs; Integrating a mostly biological being with substantial mechanical infrastructure including a capsule called an entry plug-in. Which is where the pilot sits and controls the Eva’s actions through the extent of this control can waver. The only people who can pilot Eva’s are fourteen-year-old’s whose mothers have died after the Second Impact. Pretty fucked up right?

While the overall plot of Evangelion sounds simple enough… These characters are complete psychological wrecks in every sense of the word. It takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Humanity is fighting a bunch of supernatural beings and a 14-year-old in a robot is supposed to kill them all. The shows introduces us to 3 pilots:  Rei Ayanami, Asuka Langley Soryu, and Shinji Ikari (Respectfully known as the 1st – 3rd child).  Each character lives through their own personal hell suffering from the effects of Second Impact.  Rei is a socially inept person that doesn’t speak, but has some real baggage that you’ll see in the series. Asuka is a fiery redhead child prodigy that has real attachment and mommy issues. Shinji is tormented by complex emotional conflicts by the need to be wanted or needed. He is deeply insulated from the world around him and he wants to be left alone, yet, if he does nothing everyone is going to die. He’s insanely conflicted over the most basic of decisions and he just can’t catch a break.

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Anime Flashback: Jyu-Oh-Sei, A tale of a different Thor.

It’s 2010 in a dope on-campus apartment me and my best friend had named, Greenland on a random ass, hot ass day in July. We had just been introduced to the wonders of Netflix so the boring summer days were filled with viewing random series and movies under the effects of copious amounts of herb. On this day, my mans Slug (also an avid anime watcher) was over, and as tradition goes, we smoke and pick some random weird anime to check out. That’s when we found Jyu-Oh-Sei A.K.A Planet of the Beast King.

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This short little Gem of a series, written by Natsumi Itsuki in 1993 (manga; the anime debuted in 2006) , takes place in a distant future where the humans have taken to the stars for unknown reasons. Stretching across the galaxy, humanity now has colonies in huge spaceships and inhabit other terraformed worlds that mimic earth. This story is the tale of Two twin brothers, Thor and Rei, who live on the space colony ship Juno. From jump the brothers come home to find their parents murdered and immediately after they’re kidnapped and dropped off to the planet Chimera. A planet where they send the worst of the worst criminals with also a HIGHLY carnivorous ecosystem ranging from Giant, motorbike chasing plants, and trees that will literally suck you in kill you. (Ha)

From there the kids try to figure out why their luck is so shitty and how they ended up in such a fucked up place when, as far as they knew, they were just to normal space kids. They encounter the populace of the planet and learn that the people have split into “Rings”, which are basically clans, that fight to be the Beast King, which is the only way to leave the planet. They end up in the “Ocre Ring” and from there the way to the top to escape begins. Continue Reading

An overlooked gem: Magi

 

magi_2There’s always that one series that you may have scrolled passed on Netflix, seen on the internet, heard about from a friend and you just never checked it out cause it just didn’t feel right. Years passed and Magi remained untouched and passed up until I decided to give it a shot on a Saturday afternoon after looking for a series that had a good amount of episodes I could pour my attention into. From the jump, Magi captivated me with it using a unique art style in the anime that mixes Arabic and Japanese elements and tells an even more unique storing using characters from the legendary collection of Arabic tales, One Thousand and One Nights. 

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Anime Review | Gate

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In many fantasy and sci-fi series we often see the crossing over of two worlds or the brave step into other dimensions or even the revealing of a secret culture, this is often done by a select few (such as in Stargate,Doctor Who and Tron) or much of the world is effected at the emergence of another  culture (such as in Avatar The Legend of Korra,The Akira manga series or X-men) These unions of vastly different species, caste,mutants and what have you, often create a civil war rigmarole adventure for us to sit back and enjoy. Gate takes the premise of our world being invaded by horse and dragon riding armored solders, Orc and even Pig-men and turns it on it’s head.

Screenshot 2015-08-30 10.19.25 A massive greco-roman style gate has appeared in the midldle of Japan (I KNOW RIGHT!) and out comes the above mentioned battalion. They came bearing gifts of malice and destruction. Slaughtering civilians overturning cars and terrorizing the immediate area of Japan meanwhile our protagonist Itami as an Otaku who is creepily obsessed with the art form of Doujin (self published short stories and manga), he also happens to be a member of the JSDF but only because he loves and has to support his hobby. When shit hits the proverbal fan Itami (pictured above) goes to work disarming the viewer and removing his sluggish by disarming an armored solider and stabbing him in the neck, he then goes on to save many lives and is dubbed “The Hero of (GINAHASHF)” while also being promoted. None of this interest him as all this real life action made him miss the super doujin sale. A very peculiar protagonist but the gag wears thin early on.  Many months later Japan decides to sends it’s army through the gate and that is where are story truly steps away from other series.

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