Sword Art Online Final Thoughts [Spoilers]

Since completing OITNB season 2 and GoT there really hasn’t been much of anything to watch so we have been binging on anime on Crunchyroll. Here are some thoughts on Sword Art Online. Spoiler warning for anyone who had not yet watched or finished watching the entire series.

I liked the first half of Sword Art Online; The second half not so much because the pacing, among other things falls flat after the completion of Aincrad. Without the threat of actual death and the looming idea that their bodies are deteriorating in the real world, the story isn’t nearly as compelling. The floor progression, which was used a baseline for the first arc’s pacing was replaced by a deadline that relied upon the romantic relationship between Asuna and Kirito; Not nearly as engaging of a plot device as say, people dying. All of this is also ignoring the fact that the ending to both arcs as well as many other conflicts were resolved by straight up Deus Ex Machina.

Additionally, the second arc and the end of the first arc felt just rushed in general. The plot twist was okay, but ALfheim did not feel nearly as fleshed out of a world as Aincrad. I liked a lot of the supporting characters from Aincrad, but they seemed to be underused in the first arc and almost completely absent from the second arc. I feel as if the new setting and new set of characters would have been better suited for Sword Art Online II.

During the second arc, Asuna transforms from a competent and at the very east tolerable female warrior to a helpless caged damsel, effectively halting her character progression. It was disappointing seeing such an awesome character being used as nothing more than a trophy upon a pedestal. Also, what’s with the creepy rapey fanservice? And the love triangle? That was just dumb.

Don’t get me wrong though, Sword Art Online is a fun show to watch and I did enjoy watching it quite a bit. It is a decent show but I would be hard pressed to rate it any higher than that. On a side note: The ending did wrap the series up rather nicely, in that there was close that didn’t involve everyone getting f’d over and dying, which is pretty rare for anime in my opinion, or at least the shows that I usually watch.

Crunchyroll & Anime

Back from Hawaii, posting can now resume. In lieu of there actually being greater than zero anime series that I am interested in watching I decided to give the Crunchyroll subscription trial a go to see how it is. Aside from Attack on Titan, I think it has been at least a year if not several years since I had regularly watched anime. Word on the street is that there are several decent shows that are not only worth watching but conveniently available for viewing on Crunchyroll so the week before last was devoted to small bouts of anime binging in-between wedding/vacation planning and the like.
Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son)
This show  is a slice of life drama about middle school students growing up with gender identity issues. It addresses cross dressing, puberty and gender issues in a down to earth/non-fanservicey manner. It’s serious but not dark or depressing. Shows, particularly anime shows such as this are few and far between.

Wandering Son has a slow but well paced plot line with a fairly gentle story that is surprisingly well balanced. It’s not for everyone but if you are looking for a quiet drama it is definitely worth a watch. Worth noting that this series is obviously geared towards the middle age crowd.
Hajime no Ippo The Fighting
Hajime no Ippo is a shounen boxing anime that follows a 100+ volume manga series of the same name. I am pretty sure that the series on Crunchyroll picks up immediately after where I had left off in Hajime no Ippo but I’m not 100% sure and not 100% sure it even matters plot wise. I am also pretty sure this series falls into the category of unending Shounen anime, but it has always been one of my favorites and one of the only sports anime shows that I really enjoy.
Kill la Kill
A way over-the-top super stylized action/comedy series that dips well into the absurd. Oh and it is also about clothing. Good pacing and likable characters. I mean, all any show or book series needs to have in order for me to at least enjoy it is a decent character story, which Kill la Kill has in spades. It is animated well and has a comic book like aesthetic which I like (thick lines). Kill la Kill is also definitely fanservicey and by definitely I mean that the nudity and boobage play a major  role in the story but ultimately aren’t the primary focus of the show if that makes any sense.

This show fell short of being the series that “saved anime,” but it garnered enough interest out of me to start watching not only kill la kill but other anime series again

The Sky Crawlers

It is really unfortunate that there aren’t too many anime moves, much less good anime movies that aren’t a part of a televised franchise. So when a standalone anime film is released, I feel compelled to view it. The Sky Crawlers was released about two years ago. I’ve know about it for a while but just got around to picking it up. As a general warning, it’s not really a film made for the mainstream audience; If you are looking for a quick war romance or action flick, it is probably not for you. The Sky Crawlers is an intellectual and unconventional film with a deep message that can be pretty difficult to penetrate. However, if you know what to expect from a Mamoru Oshii film, then it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, The Sky Crawlers is arguably one of his more accessible films.

On the surface level, this movie is gorgeous looking: The aerial combat is fantastic and the scenery is top notch. I usually dislike blending 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional effects, but in this case it works fairly well, even if there are a couple of graphically awkward moments. I don’t know if it is because the film was granted a higher budget or if it is because technology has progressed to a point where we can do stuff like this and not make it look like 90s cheese. I suspect both. Either way, it’s pleasing to look at.

I’m on the fence about discussing the plot, even though I probably will. It’s not really that hard to get the gist of what The Sky Crawlers is about (I’m pretty sure the back of the blu-ray packaging summarizes it), but I feel as if the movie should be treated almost like a mystery. In some sense that is what it felt like, to me at least. The film begins with a few clues and very little background information. As the narrative progresses, bits and pieces of the story are revealed. The characters themselves have no background; Everything that we learn about them is revealed through observation.

The character designs are simplistic and austere to a point, with heavy, if not exclusive focus on interaction. The Sky Crawlers illustrates a world in which immortal children or “Kildren” are trapped in a bleak, meaningless cycle of never ending, never progressing destruction and conscious ignorance. The pacing of the mirrors the characters’ mindset: A dreary haze that reiterates itself day in and day out. If the sprites within competitive online games, Team Fortress 2 for example had lives, this movie would be a pretty close approximation to what I would expect them to be like: Unending, repetitious conflict void of meaning and context. It’s a cruel version of ground hog day.

On one level, The Sky Crawlers seems like an anti-war film, we have the tired soldier and the bloody war. But if you take a closer look, it becomes pretty clear as the film progresses that Oshii is painting a very critical picture of the modern day anime industry. The scene with the foreigners and the fact that Oshii has made this film so self referential (Jin-Roh, Kusanagi) makes it pretty apparent. The outsiders look at this “fantasy world” and at the Kildren, a race completely disconnected from modern society, with fascination and udder adoration, not knowing that the pilots themselves are doomed to a cycle of unending, drab repetition. The pilots, like most anime series are literally interchangeable: One dies and is replaced by another pilot who is like in appearance in mannerism, differing only in name. No one cares, no one questions it. They represent the drudgery of escapism.

Oshii’s message penetrates the media so much in terms of pacing, atmosphere and length, almost to a fault. Though very strong, the action scenes are far in-between. Essentially, The Sky Crawlers is a 2 hour feature film of slow and deliberate “slice of life”-ish scenes of people going about their daily routines. It is a film of subtle gesture and emotion. Many important points of the story are narrated with little more than an odd glance between characters. If you don’t get the overall message and how it applies to the film thematically and mechanically, The Sky Crawlers is going to come across as dull and painfully slow.

It is a very good film intellectually, but perhaps not so much from an entertainment perspective (though I really really did like the plane fights). Even so, if you know what to expect and can appreciate it, The Sky Crawlers is a solid movie and well worth a watch. Oh and make sure to watch the movie through the credits. There is a scene afterwards.

Scott Pilgrim (The Comic Series)

I admit, I have known about the Scott Pilgrim series for some time, heard that it was good, but just put off reading it because I figured that it would either be overly goofy or some lame action manga rip off. Well, it’s not. In fact, it’s probably one of the better comics that I have read. I know that both the movie and the game will have already been released by the time I bother posting this entry but, go pick up the graphic novels if you have a chance. It’s not that long of a series at 6 volumes but it’s well worth reading.

If you are put off by the art style for some reason, don’t be. Bryan Lee O’Malley follows his own style: Relatively simple character designs against detailed background. The overall plot is a simple and somewhat ludicrous story that is at heart, an honest story about a young man’s post college struggles with life, love and himself. So, if you are in that age category, go read this series because it should resonate with you on some level.

The fight scenes are good, but not really the focus of the story. Most of the plot is driven by character interactions and dialogue. In fact, I would say that the characters themselves are defined by their voice and interactions and not by their character design. Without spoiling the last volume, I really liked the closure and the character growth the last volume offered. The series has a good message; It’s a fun read without being too heavy.

Thoughts on FMA: Brotherhood and Anime

I hope everyone’s 4th of July weekend was filled with lots of booze, explosives and marginally legal fun :P. I feel a strong urge to post something well, can’t really think of much to post about. In lieu of the holiday, we called off the weekend raids and other than a couple of rounds of WipEout HD I didn’t really do a whole lot of gaming. I did though, play with the server quite a bit so uuh, if anyone noticed, it kind of went down for about 5 minutes then rolled back to a restore point earlier that morning. Whoops. Oh, there is also a footer at the bottom of this site now if anyone cares…

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood finished up its 64th and final episode this weekend. I don’t know if it is because I am fairly oblivious or if it is because I haven’t been actively into anime fandom in uuh years, but I didn’t notice a whole lot of buzz going around for Brotherhood, given how many people are watching it. I guess everyone got it all out during the first television series?

Anyway, FMA:B follows the manga’s story line. It thankfully rushes past the overlap and splits off at around episode 16 or so. Past that point, it is a very different show than its predecessor. The early parts of FMA:B are still kind of heavy on the dumb short jokes but not to a grating degree. The manga’s storyline is well paced and plotted out as expected. It is probably one of the best new anime series that i have seen in a while for whatever that is worth.

The animation, particularly the combat scenes retains its quality throughout the entire series which is notable given its length. In fact, the pacing and the story quality in general were right on track for all 64 episodes. It never at any point diverged off into a filler story or degenerate into a clip show. It’s still worth seeing the first series. I think FMA:B assumes that you have seen the original show based on the amount of content that was cut from the first part of the series in order to cut down on the repetition. Awesome show, definitely recommended.

Does anyone have any good suggestions as to what we should watch next? Other than a half-assed viewing of Durarara I really haven’t picked up any new anime series in several seasons. It’s about that time of the year where the new summer season series start to come out anyways so I might just do the, “download the first and second episode of anything interesting” bit again and see how that goes.

Anime Expo was this weekend. You know, for as long as I have lived in Southern California I have never bothered attending that convention. I would say maybe next year, but we are tentatively planning on attending PAX next year (I formally announced it on the internet so it will happen right?) so I don’t know how my vacation and the con schedule will be.

To the two people who signed up for Linode via my referral code: You both rock.

Kemono no Souja Erin

So here is an underrated yet excellent series that I have been following recently. The anime bug hit me again a while back, so I was looking another evening fix. Kemono no Souja Erin came up on several lists of very good 2009 shows to watch, yet I had trouble finding decent information and reviews on it. I don’t think too many people are blogging or following this series, which is a shame because it is quite good.

Kemono no Souja Erin is a 50 episode series by Production I.G. It’s an anime adaptation of a novel series by Nahoko Uehashi (yay Wikipedia) centered around Erin. Erin is a precocious green eyed, green haired girl living with her mother Soyon in Ake, a small village given the task of raising Touda for the Grand Duke. Touda are semi-aquatic beats used as mounts in combat against the neighboring kingdom. As a general point of reference: They kind of look like the giant lizards that Obi-Wan Kenobi was riding in Star Wars: Episode 3 (but stickier and with horns).

Erin and her mother Soyon are outsiders. Soyon was born as one of the Mist people (thus the green eyes and hair), an aloof and not-so-well trusted people of mysterious ways and origins. She was accepted into the village only because she fell in live with and married the chief’s now deceased son. Though Soyon is well respected and even admired as a skilled beastinarian, her ancestry raises suspicion amongst the villagers. Her expertise with the Touda is pretty much the only reason why Soyon and Erin are permitted to still live in Ake, a fact that the villagers remind her of on a daily basis.

Erin aspires to become a beastinarian just like her mother. She is an overly curious and genuinely kind girl who cares for all living beings. The focus of Kemono no Souja Erin is on her journey as well as the trials and tribulations of raising animals. First of all, don’t judge this series based off of the art style or first few episodes. It comes off as a kiddy show because I suppose it kind of is, but overall I would consider it more along the lines of a series good for people of all ages to watch.

Kemono no Souja Erin starts off a little slow (not too unusual for a long series). The first 5 episodes focus on introducing the characters and the general setting while following the, “Touda problem of the week” formula. More interesting events don’t start to occur until around episodes 6 or 7. Kemono no Souja Erin actually has a fairly dark undertone that is slowly introduced as the series progresses. It paints a fairly strong message without being preachy

It almost feels like something Studio Ghibli might make in regards to the show’s general feel. It has a solid story with well developed characters. The art style is composed of beautifully painted pastel backdrops with fairly simple character designs, allowing the story to be fairly dramatic without being explicit or inappropriate for younger viewers. There’s no fan service, the animation isn’t flashy like most new series and there isn’t an excess of any forced anime cliches. There are a couple of comedic characters, but they are well balanced and develop beyond being laugh fodder.

Kemono no Souja Erin is different than new series that are currently out. It won’t cure anyone’s thirst for boobies or bloody shounen action, but if you are looking for a relaxing show with a good plot and good characters, give this one a try.

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0


Since there’s absoutely nothing on normal television to watch and no new games that I’m interested in playing, I’ve been on an anime bender lately. So bear with me while I make an entry or two about several things that I liked.

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is a disaster themed 11 episode drama by BONES, the same studio that has produced the Cowboy Bebop movie, Fullmetal Alchemist, Soul Eater, etc. It’s airing in the noitaminA block on Fuji Television (Higashi no Eden, Honey and Clover; I guess it’s a drama time slot?).  I ended up marathoning most of this series earlier this week. It’s one of my favorite series of the season, if that means anything considering how little anime I’ve picked up recently…

The premise of the story is revolves around the prediction that there is a 70% chance that a magnitude 7.0 or greater earthquake will hit the Tokyo are within the next 30 years. Tokyo Magnitude depicts a series of events and consequences that might occur if a magnitude 8.0 quake hit a large metropolitan area. Much of the story itself is supposedly based on interviews, data and research from actual earthquakes.

The story is centered around Mirai, a middle school freshman just about to start summer vacation. While taking her little brother Yuuki, a cheerful third grader to visit a robotics convention in Odaiba (a man made island in Tokyo’s bay), the quake hits. Somewhere along the way the meet Mari, a motorcycle deliver woman who lives with her mother and young daughter. Together they must get home to their families.

There is a lot that Mirai should be thankful for: a loving family, the privilege of being able to attend a very prestigious school and a stable social life, but she’s not and spends the entire first episodepissmoaning about every little thing whenever she doesn’t get her way. But, that’s pretty much the point I guess. Mirai’s characters leaves a lot of room for personal growth and realization. Take note of the relationship between Mirai and Yuuki throughout the series.

Take the disclaimer at the beginning of each episode with a grain of salt. Tokyo Magnitude is best viewed as a fictional representation of a large natural disaster with a high degree of realism, rather than a documentary or simulation. If you want to nitpick, the story takes a dive in believability during certain segments of the show (particularly during the second half). But the focus of the series isn’t in the authenticity of every single small detail, but rather the in how the characters develop react with each other and the environment (it is a character dramaafter all).

Tokyo Magnitude is a fairly short series at 11 episodes, but it doesn’t feel short because it is very well paced. There’s not really any filler and nothing drags on too long. Some of the drama is a bit drawn out at times, but overall it’s interesting, consistently well animated and a very good series.

Spring Anime: Afterthoughts

My anime binge petered out around two months ago, but I’ve kept up with a few series (and more or less dropped or put a hold on the rest). I haven’t yet checked to see if there is anything interesting and new coming out this summer. Hashihime though, has a good preview list that I will finish reading later.

Eden of the East was one of my favorites this season; a very good though not great series. It’s quirky, thought provoking and consistently animated well throughout the entire series. I don’t really like cliffhanger endings, but this one was decent I suppose, if not incomplete. It’s hard to review the story as a while since it isn’t technically over until the two announced movies are released.

What I didn’t love about Eden: The mystery that had originally pulled me into Eden in the first episode or two leveled off, dulled and flew out into numerous directions by the time the series hit mid season. I also thought that the characters though decent, felt pretty average; No one was particularly memorable. Being a big Honey and Clover fan, I did though like the art style a lot.

Fullmetal Alchemist hit the point in which the manga and the first anime series diverge last week. Until that point, the series was more or less a recap of what I have already seen already. The tone, pacing and some plot differences than began to surface and the series progressed were different, but overall it seemed…rather familiar. I am really looking forward to seeing how the plot unfolds in comparison to the first series. I have read the manga a bit past where it majorly splits off from the anime, but not really any further.

Oh, I also finished K-On recently. That show just drips with moe, but I enjoyed watching it, even though I don’t usually like anime series of that nature. I guess there isn’t a whole lot else to be said about it. It’s cute and had a fun premise. I still need to finish up the last few episodes of Ristorante Paradiso. I don’t think I typed up a blurb on it in the other Spring anime post, but it’s a pretty good slice-of-life show. Also behind on Cross Game,Hajime no Ippo, Bleach, and Naruto.

I think Bleach is heading off into filler. Slow pacing is slooooow. Ummm, isn’t the anime sort of catching up to the manga, being roughly in the same arc and all? Word is that Naruto is back on track with the manga plot, I might start watching it again. I am a pretty big Narutard, owning a domain with a name that is based off of the series and all (bah, it wasn’t that popular of a series yet and seemed like a good idea at the time), but not even I can stomach the filler. Why is it so bad….

Spring 2009 Anime

Obligatory and occasional non World of Warcraft related post :P. I’ve gotten back into watching anime lately and for once, kept tabs on some of the this season’s lineup. These are the shows that I am definitely going to continue watching, though I might end up dropping K-On in lieu of patch 3.1 and all.

Fullmetal Alchemist  Brotherhood:
FMA 2 Brotherhood_0

If you haven’t seen the original Fullmetal Alchemist series, it’s no big deal; Brotherhood isn’t a continuation, but rather a remake following the manga (I think).

Except for Ed and Al, I think all of the voice cast has changed. The only difference that I noticed was in Colonal Mustang’s voice, but it wasn’t a real big deal. What else can I say? FMA is one of my favorite series. *fangasm*

Valkyria Chronicles:
Valkyria Chronicles_0

The anime adaptation of the Playstation 3 game of the same title. I’m usually suspicious of RPG to anime transitions, since most end being cheesy and awkward.

This one though was quite good. The animation, character designs, and music are more or less identical to that of the game. Good introduction to the series, looking forward to watching more.

Cross Game:
Cross Game_0

I wasn’t going to watch Cross Guard because I was under the impression that was a sports shounen series, but it was highly recommended by several people so I gave it a go.

Very impressed by the first two episodes. It’s looks to be a good slice of life show; the baseball is secondary to the characters and interactions.

Eden of the East:
East of Eden_0

Not quite sure what this series is about yet, but the first episode had intrigue, very high production quality, action and most importantly, penis humor. I can’t really ask for much more.

Oh, I’m too lazy to look this up at the moment, but the character designs in Eden look very very similar to those in Honey and Clover. I’m betting that they were designed by the same person.


I enjoyed watching this show even though it’s cliche moe at best. It’s cute, I like the premise and rock bands are awesome even if they are cheesy and girly.

My guess is that they perform some kind of awesome concert at the end of the series. Unless K-On gets really bad, I’ll probably continue to watch it.

Watching: Dr Horrible & Anime

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is free again via Hulu. It is a musical tragicomedy directed by Joss Whedon (of Buffy, Firefly, etc fame) and starring Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day, Nathan Fillion, and Simon Helberg. It’s three 14-minute episode series about a super-villain, a hero, a girl and so much more! Short, sweet and awesome. You must watch it, there is no reason for anyone not to watch it!

I used to watch anime constantly in college. My interest in it has tapered off since graduating (and being employed and thus able to purchase every game that I was too poor to buy or lazy to pirate). People talk about Gurrin laggan and Gode Geass frequently; I don’t know anything about the other two other than they are supposedly good and worth watching. I’ll acquire the first 5 episodes or so of each and give them a go:

…I like having things to watch while I level characters. Getting Doombeard to 70 and possibly leveling the mage before Fall is my next project.