AgentJ (Level 13)

Batman is Anime, and Zelda's an RPG. These are a few of the most dumbest (sic) things.
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Is there anything better than a day off in the entire world? 
 
If there is, its probably the gorgeous opening to Angel Beats! The song and animation are beautiful,  though it gives me a strong feeling that Tenshi is going to die by the end of it all... I don't think I can overstate it. The opening is amazing. Perhaps my favorite since the end of the first season of Code Geass, and that one didn't even have animation. 
You comin' on to me? 
You comin' on to me? 

Belied by the emotional opening is the content of the actual episode, which I found uproariously funny. The situation near the beginning with the pole-ax guy (name?) where the music began to play was so great that I had to go back and watch it again. And again. It doesn't stop being funny no matter how many times I watch it. I would really look forward to seeing a good dub of this, but even without the humor has been top-notch so far.    
 
The animators really succeed with the animation. The fight and explosion near the end are pretty and well-scripted. Also something I found impressive was that they do a good job making the attacks on Tenshi feel... uncomfortable. She's just this fragile little schoolgirl, who is being attacked mercilessly by all sorts of weapons and explosives. 
 
Very surprising was that while it wasn't shown on screen, one of the characters suffered a death violent enough to send other characters into bouts of vomiting. Since deaths are like Hersheys kisses in this world, you'd think nothing would surprise the SSS. I guess thats what happens when you're transported into a quicktime event from Resident Evil 4. Also surprising was that we got Yuri's backstory so early. That stuff usually doesn't happen until much later. 
 
Still... it all seems very formulaic two episodes in. You start with Yurippe sending orders, everyone battles Tenshi, and they live happily ever after. From the feedback I've gotten, I assume this must not be the case forever, but the formula is a bit distracting. 
 He sacrificed himself...
 He sacrificed himself...

I also feel like some of these characters remind me of others, besides the obvious Haruhi inspirations. Shiina the ninja has the same demeanor as Shiina the ninja from Tales of Symphonia. Otonashi's gay friend (:P), while not being quite the same character, has a bit of a certain combat butler in him. And is Otonashi Emiya, of Fate/Stay Night? I suppose only time will tell. But as I continue through the show, I get the impression that it started out as "lets throw all our favorite characters into one anime!". Not really a criticism, just an observation. 
 
I don't know if TK is from something else, but he's still awesome. He uses his horrible engrish so confidently. 
 
Edit: Am I the only one getting a "last supper" vibe from the ED?
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Was there ever an anime more tailor-made for Adult Swim than this?  

Combine the adorable character models and witty humor of Genndy Tartakovsky's "Dexters Laboratory" and "Powerpuff Girls" with the maturity level of "The Venture Bros" or particularly nasty "South Park" episodes and you've got a show that has no reason not to be on Cartoon Network's Sunday night block. Its even segmented into two ~13 minute halves, just like old standbys like Dexter, Johnny Bravo, Courage the Cowardly Dog, or any other (good) cartoon of the 90's.   

However, don't let that Tartakovsky comparison fool you; this is still Gainax at the animation helm. And while the animation is very good throughout, it turns fantastic for
Panty and Stranger
Panty and Stranger

 moments at a time. The typical anime style is nearly entirely eschewed (save for the stereotypical-ish transformation scene) for the typical simple American animation, but it runs with an incredibly high frame rate with CGI added in nearly seamlessly.  The incredible animation is demonstrated in the second half of the first episode, with hundreds of police cars making their own movements in one glorious mass, not to mention all the acrobatic action shots (all cleverly obscuring Panty's lack of panties). Manga-style visible sound effects fly around incessantly. It really is a treat to watch. 

The titular characters are, for lack of a better word, certainly memorable. Stocking is hopelessly addicted to sweets, and Panty has an insatiable appetite for the Y chromosome. As fallen angels, they are given orders by their overseer, the priest "Garterbelt" in order to earn currency they can use to buy their way back into heaven.  


Beautiful in motion
Beautiful in motion

The show is fantastically crude. The first scene introduces us to Panty as she wakes up with some random guy. She then discusses "morning wood" with Stocking, before their dog-thing farts, causing the two to kick it so hard its brains and feces are left behind on the wall it hit. The rest of the episode demonstrates their abilities (granted by the items from which their names are derived) as they fight a giant poop monster. Their batmobilie is a pink hummer called "Seethrough" and their batcave exits into a cemetery. This is all in the first ~3 minutes.
 
I'm immediately a fan. Panty and Stocking is funny in an immature way, appealing to the teenager in me that loves Mr Hankey the Christmas Poo and Austin Powers. At least, before I beat it into submission again with more respectable comedy such as Dr. Strangelove and Hot Fuzz. So I'm an abusive father... 
 
The obvious references to american cartoons are often there and gone with a flash, but a few that stood out to me in the first sitting; 
  • Their dog thing is Grrr from Invader Zim. I say obviously as someone who never really watched the show.
  • Some very round eyes are borrowed from the Powerpuff Girls, mostly on background characters. 
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Suzumiya Yurippe  
Suzumiya Yurippe  

I remember well all the hubub about Angel Beats! when it was making its initial run through Japanese TV. The main character was an obvious Haruhi Suzumiya clone. It could be nothing more than a "Sci-fi Melancholy". Opinions changed very quickly, but after watching the first episode, I was left with that very impression.  
 
Angel Beats!' main character, Yuri, is little more than a palate swap from being the infamous "god character" herself. She has the same peppy altitude, a legion of male and female archetype followers (my favorite of which so far is TK) and... a beret + sniper rifle? Okay, maybe she isn't quite exactly the same, but Angel Beats! had a very obvious source of inspiration. If it turns out that Yuri is in fact god, then... well... this might as well be Haruhi fanfiction. 
 
If Yuri is Haruhi, than that makes the evil, villainous, mischeveous, and downright despisable "Tenshi" is actually Yuki Nagato. That lengthy description seems to be the impression of Yuri's SSS (SOS?) Brigade, though through the eyes of the stereotypical protagonist Otonashi, Tenshi just looks like any typical unassuming girl..
 
And when I say "stereotypical", I mean in the worst way. Has there ever been an amnesic dead guy this boring before? I have to believe so. And while most of the characters are well designed, Otonashi almost looks like he was drawn differently, if not worse. Its as if they pasted some Fate/Stay fanart into certain scenes instead of giving the protagonist the proper animation treatment he deserves.  

The plot is fairly interesting, in that everyone at the school (seemingly the only location in the afterlife) is dead, stuck in limbo. They have options; join the "NPCs" that populate the world and live a normal life, eventually disappearing (and possibly resurrecting), or skip classes and be a punk to stay in this school-world. You can die over and over (as the protagonist does repeatedly in the first episode) and will simply wake up later, fully recovered from your injuries, and still in the afterlife.  The idea is used to good comedic effect, first as Otonashi asks to be killed to prove a point, then is victim to a 100 hit combo, and then by a hidden trap.  
 
So I'm not really sure what to make of this show yet. It seems like standard fare so far, not quite what I was expecting from all the praise I've heard. Then again, its rare that the first episode is reflective of a shows' quality as a whole, so perhaps I'm just being too judgemental. The animation is quite nice and it seems to have a certain level of style, but I'm... cautious. 
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If you'd rather skip the lengthy "how (person x) got into anime", simply scroll past the break to get to the good stuff.  
 
There once was a young boy who loved Power Rangers with a great deal of passion. Every birthday and christmas, this boy would beg and plead for the latest versions of the robots and megazords, and enjoyed nothing more than to transform them, put them together, and take them apart. Then, this boy discovered Beast Wars on Cartoon Network. Nothing was ever asked for that wasn't the new Rattrap, K-9, Optimus Prime, or Depth Charge. The transforming aspect was forefront in his mind. So when he saw a commercial for Gundam Wing showing a robot change into a jet, well, that became the boys' new thing. And that was his first foray into anime.  
  
It all started here 
It all started here 
This boy (yes, its me) went on to discover Outlaw Star, Yu Yu Hakusho, Ruroni Kenshin, Ronin Warriors, and lots more Gundam. But that wasn't enough for the lad, so he begun to branch out in the directions available to him. Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, FLCL, and Fullmetal Alchemist scratched the itch, but anime was turning into a full-blown rash. To satisfy it, the boy, now becoming a teen, resorted to print after reading an article about Shonen Jump in the local paper. It had more Yu Yu Hakusho, and that was reason enough to subscribe (six years later, the 19 volume series run finally ended, becoming the first and so far only multi-volume property to run in its entirety in the magazine). That first volume (volume 5 to be exact) opened up a whole new world, and the boy had officially become an "animeniac" at the ripe old age of 12.  
 
Suddenly, he had an entire bookshelf dedicated to manga (that hasn't changed, though the books are stacked two-deep), including exotic names like Bleach, D.Gray-Man, Buso Renkin, Black Cat, Hunter x Hunter, Hikaru no Go, and of course, Death Note. From there, I (can I please stop talking in the third person now?) further branched out, and as time went on, my tastes gradually, yet obviously changed, especially as I came into my own, hard-earned money. Negima and Love Hina
 My first love...
 My first love...
became Hayate the Combat Butler and Air Gear, which became Black Lagoon and Welcome to the NHK, which became MonsterMushishi, and Vagabond.  

 But as I became more involved in the black and white comic side, the animation got left behind. Toonami and Adult Swim, which planted the anime seed, began to cut back on the medium, leaving me to buy what I wanted.  Early paychecks picked up a number of series I was interested in, including Ergo Proxy, Elfen Lied, Evangelion, Gankutsuou, Le Chevalier D'eon, Samurai 7, GTO, Ghost in the Shell, and of course, BECK. But with a new work schedule and college to deal with, as well as an ever-mounting pile of video games, time for anime was restricted. Time to watch all these DVDs was restricted, and even today I own some shows that I have yet to watch (So sorry Tsukihime...).  
 
Bleach was a gateway drug 
Bleach was a gateway drug 
Not that I was some anime angel; like most fans these days, I obtained quite a few series through the internet. Black Lagoon, Bleach, and Fate/Stay Night were three such series. I own all three on DVD now. I caught Code Geass and Gurren Lagann through Anime News Network and Netflix respectively. They are quite high on my to-buy list. The idea is that I, save for extreme cases, later buy what I read or watch online. I've been reading Bleach online for 5 years now, yet have bought every english-released volume to date. This is true of every series I have read online. I find this to be a very important point as I detail my plans for this blog.  
 
You see, as a house-squatting college student at the ripe age of 21, I have spent the first day of every trip my parents take without me watching the entirety of an anime that I own on DVD in a marathon format. Through this strategy I have discovered the masterpiece that is BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad, as well as Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo and Le Chevalier D'eon. I've also discovered some less amazing shows, like Peacemaker Kurogane, Green Green, and This Ugly yet Beautiful World (shudder). Two weeks ago, that show was Baccano! And, as I experienced one of the most confusing pieces of media I have ever put in front of me, I suddenly rediscovered my love for anime. I don't know if it was the animation, the great dub, or the humor, 
The promised land 
The promised land 
but something clicked, and now I find myself on the precipice of what seems to be a hidden valley of anime. Shows that I have put off or ignored for months or years, despite being greatly interesting or highly recommended. That ends now.  
 
 
 
 

I have put together a list of shows that I feel I have to watch, much like the list of games that I keep at Giantbomb. I'm starting with three relatively short franchises that have all made their mark in the past year.  

Each of these is well-known for different reasons; Angel Beats for being a surprisingly emotional supernatural action slice-of-life show, High School of the Dead for Action-Thriller, and Panty and Stocking for being a shocking parody .  
 
I will watch each of them roughly simultaneously, posting my thoughts directly afterward. There will be days where I watch more than one episode, and others where I don't watch any at all (after all, my Sounders are my first priority :P)  

Also, if things go well and people don't rally for my head on a stake, I'd like to do some rewind posts at a later date, going through a show I haven't seen in years. I'll leave that to readers (if I have any) to choose from my library. Of those, preferred reruns would be Gundam Seed, FMA, Yu Yu Hakusho, Death Note, any of the movies, and of course, BECK.  
 
I'll have the first episode out sometime tonight. I'm really looking forward to hearing from anyone :P
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Sorry, movies and manga are exempt. This list is for shows only. 
I have a number of critically acclaimed series in the on deck circle, so this list may change rapidly. Among those are Gurren Laggan, Darker than Black, Blade of the Immortal, Baccano, and Hetalia.

10. Yu Yu Hakusho
Yusuke > Toguro
Yusuke > Toguro

This is one of the shows that I credit for getting me in to anime. It is also probably the singular reason why I didn't develop a hate for dubs. Justin Cooks performance, in retrospect, singlehandedly made this show worthwhile. After trying to watch subs of this show I realized that without the Yusuke that Cook developed, Hakusho was just an exceedingly average shonen property. So thank you Justin Cook. (He also does a great job in the number one on this list)




9. Gundam Seed
Freedom = Best gundam ever
Freedom = Best gundam ever

Just ignore the whiny bitch that was Shinn in Gundam Seed Destiny. Gundam Seed was a perfect modernization of the original Gundam, containing both emotional complexity and fun, if not great mech fights. 






8. Cowboy Bebop
Ed for President
Ed for President

I'm well aware that Bebop would be on the very top of most peoples lists, and there is little question that it is a stepping stone in the medium. I didn't enjoy it as much as some of the other shows on this list, but that takes nothing away from what an achivement this show was, especially in its heyday. 





7. Gundam 08th MS Team
Short and sweet. Well, by short I mean dozens of meters tall
Short and sweet. Well, by short I mean dozens of meters tall

This is the first gundam that I watched after  the awesomeness that was Gundam Wing, and I was struck by the more serious tone and setting. It really showed me that anime could be more than just tournaments and energy attacks. I didnt realize until recently that I hadn't actually seen the end of the show, and proceeded to fix that. The ending was a little cliche, but that doesnt take away from the overall experience.





6. Bleach
As a shonen property, you could do much worse
As a shonen property, you could do much worse

Please dont hate me for including Bleach. I've been following (and loving) it ever since I saw the first preview in the american Shonen Jump, and the huge cast of characters seems like it was tailor built for me. There are few characters that I dont like, and soooo many that I love (as evidenced by my favorite characters list). The action is top notch, even if the animation isnt (the quality can be very sketchy). Besides all that, every once in a while the show has a good story, as exemplified by the betrayal of he who must not be named. But in the end, Bleach is all about the action and the characters.




5. Trigun
Finally, I'll own the series in a week or two
Finally, I'll own the series in a week or two

Trigun exemplifies what I look for in an Anime. A show focused on action, but with a good dose of humor thrown in, is a show on the fast track to my heart. The funnies may be laid on too thick for some people, but in my opinion, Vash has the perfect mix of nuttiness and awesomeness for a lead role. Its worth mentioning that he pretty much single-handedly carries this show, as there aren't a lot of recurring characters and the story, while interesting, isnt deep enough to justify the series. 





4. Fullmetal Alchemist
Also short (lol) and sweet
Also short (lol) and sweet

What hasn't been said about FMA? A cast of loveable characters, a mature storyline, high level animation, and a number of high level themes running throughout made this series a revolution in anime fandom a few years ago. The hoopala surrounding this show was bigger than any new series since FLCL, and the people involved (especially Vic Monaga) still garner huge lines and crowds at anime conventions. The new series follows the manga on which this series was based on more closely, but it will be interesting to see whether it can match the quality or fandom of the first edition. Also, HUUUGHESSSSSSSSS!!!!!  



3. Fate Stay Night
No, I haven't played the source material. Yet.
No, I haven't played the source material. Yet.

Looking back, I'm not sure why I love this one so much. The characters are good, but other than the few leads, none of them are fleshed out very much. The fights are great, but there aren't all that many of them. It looks very good (thank you Type Moon), but while I like nice visuals as much as anyone, it never makes a show good by itself. The best I can figure is that it's all thanks to the end. I wont spoil it for anyone, but it is a heartbreaker, or at least it was for me. 





2. Great Teacher Onizuka
I have a new idol
I have a new idol

I just watched this one this past week, and It was a ton of fun despite the outdated visuals. The audience for the series is treated to a maturation of a man through teaching his students and helping them solve their various problems. The students and staff dont make it easy for him and his unusual methods, but this former delinquent knows how to reach students who have lost trust in teachers. top notch character development combined with first class humor and the occasional suspenseful scene make this an instant favorite.



1. Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad
 Yes, his performance is better than Haruhis
 Yes, his performance is better than Haruhis
Maybe it's just my love for alternative music that makes me gush over this anime, but I see Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad as an achivement not just as an animation, but as a TV show in general. Throughout my viewing session (singular, because once I started watching it I couldn't stop), the cast constantly had me feeling a number of emotions, and I'd often come out of a scene realizing that I either had a great big smile or clinically depressed frown on my face. I nearly cried when Yukio spent months getting his borrowed guitar repaired, only for it to be destroyed again. I felt his pain when he went on stage and was betrayed by a rival. Between all of that, I laughed at Chiba's antics, and smiled when Yukio and Maho had their pool scene. The dub performance is extrordinary, with a number of characters played even better in the dub than in the sub (remember me talking about Justin Cook earlier? He plays the goofy grunge rocker Chiba, and excels). The music is so good that I have every track on my Ipod and listen to them regularly. On top of all of this, the story progression, character development, and ending, for lack of a better word, rock. There is no bad aspect to Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad. 







By the way, This Ugly Yet Beautiful World is the worst money that I ever spent.
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