Welcome back to another session of midway musings. This time we look at one of my favorite anime franchises: Hajime no Ippo. While far from perfect it is a wonderful show that captures the spirit of the sport that it portrays and does so with style and flair while still keeping a firm foot planted in reality. The first season was amazing showing the road to Ippo becoming the featherweight champion of Japan. While the second season did show Ippo defending his title the main focus was on his friend Takamura going for the world junior middleweight championship. It was a great second season filled with powerful moments and amazing animation but felt more like filler than a true step forward for the series. Now we enter the third season showing Ippo defending his title two more times. In between this we see Aoki go for the Japanese Championship as well.
Once again I give full props to this studio for their amazing work at the animation. While doing an acceptable job in the day to day life the animation that takes place in the ring is truly special. The choreography is outstanding making each fight feel powerful and impactful. I couldn't help but stand up and shout when Ippo unleashed his evolved Dempsy Roll against Sawamura. It was brutal, strong, and accomplished what I feel every sports anime should, which is to be able to make you feel like you are part of the crowd.
One aspect of this show which I feel makes it stand out is that it is able to give a superhuman quality to these fighters and their fighting abilities while still keeping everything grounded in reality. Their moves may be accentuated on screen by special effects and flashy colors but there is a logic to what they do and the show does a great job of straddling that line. A great example of this was Aoki's fight for the championship. His ability to play mind games with his opponent did seem a little ridiculous but at the same time was able to highlight the mental battle of boxing.
The story for this season was a step up from the last season mainly from Ippo's end. One of my complaints with the last season was that Ippo took a backseat to the other characters and his fights have felt less important and nail biting. In this season he comes front and center and all his previous title defenses are now given greater context. He could never compete on a world stage because while he was a champion he still had many weak spots that could be exploited. His fight with Sawamura elevated itself by being a career defining match for Ippo that would determine if he was ready to move onto the world stage. Despite being the champion Ippo once again felt like the underdog in the fight. The fight itself was fantastic and ranks as one of my favorite fights in the entire series.
Since I don't read the manga I have no idea where the show will go from here but I am very excited nonetheless. This show reminds me why I can still love and enjoy anime and what it can do as a creative medium.
Hey hope everyone enjoyed my previous blog regarding SAO. Now that I have finished the show I will be putting up a review soon but before I do I want to briefly talk about some of my thoughts regarding the second half of SAO.
In the opening of the second half Kirito is back in the real world and has spent the last 3 months in rehab getting his strength back and adjusting to his normal life. However, Asuna is still trapped within the Nervegear. He learns that she has been held prisoner by Suguo an employee in her father's company who is also planning to marry her while she is unconscious to take over the company. He has her trapped in another online game created by the company RCT which took over the servers after the company that created SAO was dissolved. He enters the game hoping to save her and meets another player called Leafa who in the real world is his cousin Suguha although neither of them realize it. She helps him to find Asuna and break her out
I went into the second half of the show a little more skeptical. After all I expected the entire series to take place within its titular name. The idea of a MMO based on fairies did not sound appealing to me at all. Also I was disappointed that Asuna had been transformed from a strong power character to a princess who needed rescuing. It felt like this show was going downhill. Oh how wrong I was. I was extremely surprised and pleased with the second half of the show and it ended up being my favorite part of the anime. While there are issues that I have with ALO I think from top to bottom it was a more well realized world and the story as well as the relationships between the characters was more interesting.
Once again the animation in this show is fantastic. Each world is beautifully realized and the mere thought that this is an online game is something that makes me very wishful that I was a part of that world. It also felt more fantastical and fun to be in than SAO through the use of magic and flight. The magic system is a really cool system and is used very well. I also enjoyed the story and relationships between the characters more in the second half. Sugo is a far more despicable villain and one I loved to hate. He is a less enigmatic character than Kayaba and his motivations for keeping Asuna prisoner as well as creating ALO is more despicable but interesting. I also enjoyed the relationship between Kirito and Suguha. Initially I was put off by the whole forbidden love that Suguha had because it has been done practically to death in anime and while there are a few exceptions (ie. Usagi Drop) it usually comes across as creepy and uncomfortable. Here however, it does work as not only it provides more complexity to the characters but also gives a good reason as to why she plays these online games an idea that was not even touched upon in the first half. Overall I found the second half of the show much more enjoyable to watch and helped elevated my opinion overall. Look forward to my full review which will be up soon
Welcome vicers. I have finished the first half of Sword Art Online and want to take a moment to reflect on the series, the highs, the lows, and my hopes going into the second half of the season. Before I begin I just want to remind those reading that there will be spoilers ahead though I will try and minimize those.
Despite playing video games since I was 5 years old there have been several genres that do not fall within my wheelhouse. One of them is the MMORPG. Time commitments and financial constraits have prevented me from enjoying them in the past. However, even though I haven't played them I do enjoy the appeal of playing in a massive world with thousands of other players. Also the idea of not just playing a game but being part of one where all of your senses are completely immersed in the game is a great idea. I also have not watched the .hack series. So I went into this show with a curious sense of optimism. SAO is a show in which a new MMORPG has emerged and through the use of a new device called the NerveGear players are able to be completely immersed within the game. All goes well until the players realize that they cannot log out of the game. The game creator then notifies them that they are trapped in the game and the only way to escape is to beat the final boss. The protagonist is Kirito a solo player. He meets many people along the way including a girl named Asuna. Initially they are at odds with one another but slowly develop a close friendship eventually falling in love with each other. By the end of the first half of the show they manage to discover the secrets of the game including the final boss, and the motivations of the creator to do what he did and in the end they beat the game and escape.
As always I want to talk about the things I like before I lay my criticisms. My biggest compliment to the show is the animation and art style. This world is very well realized and is an absolute joy to look at. The simple idea that people can be transported to a world like that is very exciting. Even if the monster or boss design is not as unique as it could have been they are animated so well it more than makes up for it. The fight with the chimera in particular was really fun to watch. There are also some concepts that are interesting and I wish could have been expanded on further. Games like EVE Online have shown that virtual worlds can be intricate and that game contains entire corporations built by players and a very advanced economy system. In SAO the intricacies of guilds and their political and social complexities are teased but never really expanded upon which I found both interesting and disappointing.
Unfortunately I also had a lot of issues with the show. While it was fun to look at the story did not hold up. The first few episodes feel very chaotic with no through line other than the main character. Characters such as Sachi, Yui, and Liz are introduced and immediately removed or thrown to the side within one episode. I guess they exist to evolve Kirito and explain some of his reasons for being a solo character but despite this I still found him a rather simplistic character lacking any great deal of depth. It was fairly refreshing to see Asuna in a more empowered role rather than being a damsel in distress she is a very capable and confident woman which is refreshing. However, the chemistry and romance between the two was simple and predictable. This was disappointing given how much time the show devoted to their romance.
One great thing about games is that they offer escapism and allow us to become empowered characters in a fantastical world. If you could truly envelop your senses in that world would you return to reality? What if you were a high lord with a vast kingdom under your rule in a virtual world but a lowly employee at a company in the real world? Which life would you chose? As I grow older my expectations in the media I consume grows. While I still enjoy simple mindless entertainment I appreciate art that challenges my views and helps me to see the world in a deeper and better way. Maybe its not fair to level my own expectations as complaints against SAO. The show still has potential to grow and offer more than what it has showed me. Here's hoping it does.
Hello internet world. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, Hanukah, or whatever winter holiday you may celebrate. I know that it has been a long time since I have been back on this website but quite a lot has been going on in my life. Most notably I have finished my medical school and am currently working towards finishing my residency. As one may expect this has taken a big toll on my ability to watch a lot of anime. I have kept up with some of the longer running shows such as Naruto and One Piece but other than that have not had a chance to watch any new series. As a result my list of shame has grown quite considerably both in terms of new shows and old shows. Now that my schedule has lightened a bit I plan on participating a bit more in terms of reviews and opinions on various shows. I would love to get anyone's opinion on new shows to watch. I recently found out that Hajime no Ippo just started its third season for which I am very excited to jump into. I also started Sword Art Online and will post a midseason blog and a final review. I look forward to contributing to the website again and wish everyone a very Happy New Year
I've never understood fillers. What is the point in them? Why do they exist? From a business point of view I get the fact that you need to keep your fans watching your show but from an artistic point of view they are terrible, boring, and do nothing for the world or characters. This is twice as true for Naruto Shippuden. Over the last year I've done two things that have greatly improved my experience when watching shonen anime. The first is to skip all filler episodes. The second is to wait until about 10-15 episodes build up and then to watch them in one sitting. This allows the pace to be much faster and my impression of the show to be more pleasant and objective. With that in mind let me give my impressions of the 5 kage summit arc of Naruto Shippuden
This arc brings back Sasuke into the spotlight as his kidnapping of Killer Bee doesn't go unanswered by the Cloud Village. They convene a meeting of the 5 kages to discuss the fate of Sasuke and the actions of Akatsuki. Naturally this means that we get introduced to a whole new bunch of characters. I won't even begin to try and tell you who they are because one I can't remember most of them and two I doubt that they will play any major role in the future. However, a character I am beginning to like more and more now is Sai. Ever since the Sasuke Retrieval arc he had very little screen time which I found a little disappointing because his change was great. The first few episodes of this arc really shows him beginning to understand the concept of feelings and relationships as he tries to strengthen the ones he formed himself. He also had quite possibly the most kick ass moment in the entire Shippuden show when he basically goes up to Sakura and calls her a bitch for the way she has treated Naruto which I totally agreed with.
Naturally this gathering of powers doesn't go unnoticed by Madara. Before I go any further though I just want to say I can never say his name properly without adding a Japanese accent...anyway. He tells Sasuke that Danzo will be at the meeting as he has now appointed himself the new Hokage. This immediately causes Sasuke to go over there to exact his revenge on him. Personally I think that's pretty fucking bold for him to try and murder Danzo in a room filled with the most powerful shinobi in the world. The meeting is held in the country of Iron which is a neutral country protected by samurai. I don't know how I feel about having samurai in my ninja show yet and for better or for worse they are not in there long enough for me to render a judgment. As Sasuke infiltrates the complex his cover is blown and he is attacked by the Raikage who is seeking revenge for his brother's kidnapping. This is where the volume gets turned up to 11. Having a battle take place with the kages was something I knew would be awesome and it didn't disappoint. Each kage brings their own fighting style and set of tricks and just when you thought that you saw the most badass shit they throw something even more badass at you. The Tsuchikage in particular had a move that I loved. All this culminates in Sasuke being defeated but is then rescued by Madara who goes on to reveal his grand secret plan for world domination. I know that is selling the story way short and in reality there is some nice plot development that happens along the way but honestly how surprised can these fucking people be. All villains either want world domination or complete chaos. It never changes folks. Anyway he declares the Fourth Ninja War forcing the Kages to form an shinobi alliance.
Meanwhile Naruto who went to the Iron Country and tried to reason with the Raikage to spare Sasuke but failed. He gets a visit from Sakura who finds out that everyone in Konoha has abandoned Sasuke and is ready to kill him if need be. She tries to convince Naruto to stop chasing Sasuke by basically telling him that she loves him and that he doesn't have to fulfill his promise he made to her. Now for those who can't tell I hate that pink whore. She is the one character in the whole series I have never liked and this was the most infuriating moment I had with her. Not only is she lying to Naruto but she is doing so by trying to manipulate and mess with his feelings. Also while we are on the subject of romance I thought it was weird how they never addressed the fact that Hinata confessed her feelings to Naruto. I really hope they do at some point and he hooks up with her. I like her better. Anyway Naruto doesn't fall for it and later learns the truth from Sai but also learns from Gaara that the attack on the Kages has made Sasuke an international target. All this proves too much for Naruto who collapses and is forced to recover and take a break. I actually really liked Naruto in this arc. One thing about the time-skip that I really didn't like was that he didn't really mature much mentally or emotionally. He was still the same kid but just older. I feel like over the last 2 arcs he has really show tremendous growth and has begun to understand the deeper problems in the shinobi world. This allows him to interact with his elders and provide a more profound insight. This is how I think every show involving kids should handle growth and maturity. One of the great things about growing up is that the world doesn't change but our perception of that world does and how we chose to live and interact with the world changes. While I certainly do miss the happy-go-lucky mood and attitude of the original series I feel like moments like these really exemplify an evolution of the Shippuden series over the original as opposed to a change in tone.
The final coda of this arc deals with Sasuke's battle with Danzo who in the middle of the ruckus at the summit escaped. Danzo reveals not only what is hiding beneath his bandaged eye but also behind his right arm. His special technique is Izanagi and while I certainly like the concept behind it I was a little put off by how abstract it was. Much like the X-men or any superhero based universe the powers that the characters wield may be extraordinary but they all follow the basic laws of our world or at least follow the laws of their own twisted world. Izanagi is a move that seemed a little too far-fetched which is saying a lot in the world of Naruto. Either way Danzo is eventually defeated and taken by Madara. In the end Danzo ended up being an anti-villain and one who I really enjoyed. The show does a great job of making him seem like a cruel fuck but then turn it around in the end by portraying him as a self-sacraficing man who understood the shinobi world better than anyone and as someone who cared for his village as much as any of the other Hokage. His character twist was something I didn't expect but really came to enjoy. With the battle now over Sasuke prepares to retreat but is ambushed by Sakura and Kakashi, and later Naruto. What transpires is easily the weakest part of the entire series because it features one of my most annoying elements of anime which is the flashback. It seems every fucking time Naruto and Sasuke meet they have to go into a fucking flashback. They came so often and lasted way too long. The worst part was that at times they were flashbacks of episodes in this arc. I mean what the holy fuck?! How fucking lazy can you be to pad out your episode with something that happened 5 episodes ago. I guess they have to remind you in their retarded way that it still is a shonen anime and can't get too close to manga. Thankfully this nuisance was only in the last few episodes so it didn't ruin the experience but definitely tainted what was otherwise a great arc. Sasuke leaves with Madara and everyone returns to their village to prepare for the upcoming war.
Overall this was another solid entry into the Shippuden storyline. I am glad that I decided to adopt this new build-up method of watching anime because I can see myself painting a much more derisive and vengeful review if I had to wait a week only to skip through half of the show. Giving myself about 6-7 hours of footage and skipping through all the crap allowed me to see a great arc. I found myself drawn to the plot and the characters more than the action this time around. This arc sets up some shit down the road and undoubtedly I see Naruto undergoing another training session which should be very exciting.