Tofugu » Product Review A Japanese Language & Culture Blog Thu, 10 Sep 2015 20:37:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The 3 Anime You Should Watch This Season: Summer 2015 Fri, 21 Aug 2015 13:00:00 +0000 Looks like it’s time to beat the summer heat by sippin’ some Chu-Hi and watchin’ some anime. Last season was pretty decent, but which shows are worth watching this season? Well, Rich and I have some ideas for you. We watched most of the new shows that came out this summer and are happy to […]

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Looks like it’s time to beat the summer heat by sippin’ some Chu-Hi and watchin’ some anime. Last season was pretty decent, but which shows are worth watching this season? Well, Rich and I have some ideas for you. We watched most of the new shows that came out this summer and are happy to share with you our top picks. Hopefully all of our hard work pays off and helps you find your new favorite show. Onward!


Before starting the season, DBS was pretty much the only one I had some sort of expectation for. And that expectation was that it’d be better than DBGT. And it was. Hooray. But the season did offer up some additional interests. I dunno if I’ll see any of them all the way through, but I’m pretty happy with what I’ve seen so far. Let’s get into my picks.

Dragon Ball Super


I’m sure many of you are at least somewhat familiar with Dragon Ball. Super is the latest iteration of it, taking place about 6 months after the defeat of Majin Buu. The world is at peace, and the Dragon Balls were used to make everyone forget about all the nonsense that happened. Vegeta is a family man, Goku is a farmer, and Gohan is a boring student. Life is simple and quaint. But there is a looming darkness in the universe that looks to be coming closer and closer to our heroes.

Dragon Ball Z was one of the first anime I ever really got into so this show holds a lot of nostalgia value for me, especially after the relative disappointment of GT. I even included it in my Personal Top 10 Anime list. The first couple episodes here are pretty slow and lacking action. But it’s kind of nice to just get a glimpse into the everyday humdrum life of the characters we know and love. It looks like the action is going to start to ramp up soon though, so I’m looking forward to that.

If you were never into Dragon Ball that much, this series probably won’t change your mind. But it’s a nice treat for people who are already fans of the series.

Rokka no Yuusha


The Demon God has arisen and it’s up to six chosen heroes to defeat him. Legend tells of how the six are market by the Saint of the Single Flower and then it is up to these heroes to defeat the god until the process starts all over again. Only problem is that the chosen heroes have no way of finding the others, so they gotta run around and group up before finally traveling west to go kick the Demon God in his behind.

I really like the look of this anime. The style and the colors and the music is all really well done and pleasant. It very much reminds me of a Tales game. It might have something to do with the main character looking like Luke from Tales of the Abyss. But no matter what it’s a good thing. The show is exciting, funny, and interesting and probably the one I’m looking forward to the most this season. The story might be a little shallow, but the characters and the setting make it compelling.



In the world of Charlotte, some people are blessed with special abilities. Our main dude can take over another’s body for five seconds, but loses all control of his own during that time. So far he’s used it to cheat in school, pick up babes, and get revenge on some jerks. Nothing special. Then one day he is taken away to a special school for kids with abilities so it can be made sure they don’t cause any harm to themselves or others.

This show was a surprise to me. I wasn’t expecting it to be so entertaining and funny. All of the powers displayed by the characters so far have some amusing drawback and it was really funny to see how the main character made creative use of his. I’m not sure what to expect from the story. This is another one of those shows where the characters really make the show. The main character is fun to watch, and I just hope that the show can keep up the momentum. Oh, and also – the music is really good. As you might be able to tell from that PV up there.


Japan jam-packs its summer with movies, anime and drama. And the anime summer 2015 season is no different. This season, Dragon Ball fans, both old and young, can join together and bask in the glory of the new series, Dragon Ball Super. I would have made it one of my picks, but the series looks to continue where Z left off; both Dragon Ball fans and haters know what to expect. This season also ushers in the return of series like Wangaria, Durarara, Non Non Biyori, Gatchaman Crowds and Junjou Romantica. Meanwhile Yowamushi Pedal, Haikyu, and Ghost in the Shell are sure to fill air conditioned movie theaters. With so much to choose from, here are my three picks for this stacked anime season!

Non Non Biyori Repeat


“Starting this spring I’ll be my village’s one and only bright, shiny ichinensei.” And so starts Non Non Biyori Repeat; the sequel to Non Non Biyori, a cute, slice of life comedy akin to Azumanga Daioh.

In Non Non Biyori Repeat, a handful of students from a small town Japanese elementary school have innocent and silly life experiences. Don’t expect a heavy plot or deep character development. Biyori Repeat offers a light relaxing experience, perfect for those hot and humid summer days.

I’m enjoying this series because the characters remind me of my kindergarten and elementary school students. Their logic and innocent reactions have an authentic flavor. That being said, Non Non Biyori Repeat will be too light, too cute, and too uneventful for many viewers. But fans of light-hearted affair like Azumanga Daioh and K-On! should enjoy this easygoing comedy.

Ushio and Tora


After an original manga run from 1990 to 1996, Ushio and Tora’s anime has been a long time coming. Although an OVA came out in the early 1990s, the ten episode run barely scratched the series’s surface. Perhaps fans owe Japan’s current yo-kai boom for Ushio and Tora’s revival.

When junior high school student Ushio mistakenly releases Tora, a legendary demon put to rest by his ancestors, all sorts of spirits and monsters start showing up. To protect his family, friends and put an end to the yokai infused madness, Ushio is forced to team with the finicky, uncooperative demon. Will the unlikely pair cooperate and save the world or kill each other in the process?

Ushio and Tora stays close to the source material, both in visual style and themes. The fun, yokai filled adventures have enough battles and laughs to please both longtime fans and newcomers alike. If you like Yu Yu Hakusho and Kikkaishi, you should give this action-packed mishmash of yokai and school life a look.



Gangsta takes me back to a time when anime first debuted on adult swim. The series would fit in right alongside Cowboy Bebop, Trigun and Outlaw Star. Gangsta’s adult-themed world has all the gritty, stylized stuff that goes over well in the West.

Overwhelmed by the growing power of gangs and drug cartels, local police hire street smart tough guys, “The Handymen” Nic and Worick, to help take care of the dirty work. The two jump headfirst into the dangerous world without hesitation and continue to find excuses to take on the baddies throughout the series.

With edgy characters, a European-flavored setting and its share of mystery, sex, and action, I found Gangsta the most intriguing series of the summer season. Whether Gangsta will embrace a focused narrative and develop deep characters or continue a simple onslaught of cool violent confrontations, I’ll be watching.

Anime Summer 2015 Parting Thoughts


Rich: Alongside these picks, I look forward to continuing my holdovers from last season, My Love Story and Shogeki no Soma. For those looking for a satisfying single-serve anime experience, look no further than Little Witch Academia: Mahou Shikake no Parade. The gorgeous animation, charming characters, and fantastic world compliment this sweet, innocent, yet thrilling roller-coaster ride of an adventure. In under an hour, Little Which Academia offers a more well rounded, rich narrative than some series twelve times the length. Hope you find something cool to keep you cool during this summer’s heat… unless you live below the equator and it’s winter – then, by all means stay warm!

John: Just an aside, Gangsta was nearly edged out of my top 3 by Charlotte. I think Gangsta looks pretty promising as well. That aside – I’m guessing that eventually the nostalgia value will wear off with DBS, and surprisingly I think I’m going to have to say Charlotte is my top pick this season. It looks good, sounds good, and keeps me chuckling. Hopefully the rest of the season doesn’t let me down!

So what were your top picks for the anime summer 2015 season? Any favorites from last season? Let us know in the comments!

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The 3 Anime You Should Watch This Season: Spring 2015 Mon, 01 Jun 2015 13:00:00 +0000 The weather’s been goofy this spring but at least the anime’s been pretty good. The spring anime season is well under way. Last season offered up some good picks and it looks like this one promises to deliver as well. Rich and I checked out each new series and chose the best of the best to […]

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The weather’s been goofy this spring but at least the anime’s been pretty good. The spring anime season is well under way. Last season offered up some good picks and it looks like this one promises to deliver as well. Rich and I checked out each new series and chose the best of the best to present to you. So let’s see which ones rose to the top this season.


Last season my expectations were pretty low and I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t fall in love with anything. This season my hopes were a bit higher and I found a few shows I have some genuine excitement for.

There’s some variety too – we’ve got good action, good over the top goofiness, and some heartwarming cutesy stuff too. I might actually see some of these through to the end. Let’s check ’em out.

Owari no Seraph (終わりのセラフ)

owarinoseraphThis anime tells the tale of a post apocalyptic world threatened by demons and vampires. The vampires hold many of the world’s remaining children in captivity. But one has escaped. It’s up to this kid and the rest of humanity to fight back against the creatures of the night and save earth from certain doom. The main character gets recruited into a vampire hunting military group. He has to learn to fight, work as part of a team, and come to terms with the friends he lost during his escape from the vampires.

After the first episode of this show, I was mildly intrigued. I didn’t feel like it really got rolling so I decided to watch a couple more. After the second episode I was much more interested. The story gets a lot cooler and more interesting. I also really like the art style. All of the backgrounds look like paintings which gives it a unique atmosphere. It has good action, good humor, and an interesting cast of characters.

Punch Line (パンチライン)

punchlineThis show is pretty goofy. The main character’s spirit separates from his body, which is gets possessed by some entity. Now his only companion is a talking spirit cat. Also, if he gets sexually excited twice in a short amount of time – humanity as we know it will be destroyed. But that’s okay because he can go back in time to redo things since time and space don’t work the same for spirit entities. His apartment complex is full of weird tenants, but his main concern is figuring out a way to return to his physical form.

Usually I don’t like shows that are this far out there. If I read the description above before watching, I’d probably dismiss this show as a stupid, over the top, derivative anime. But it’s actually quite amusing. I feel like it’s ridiculous enough to be funny, but not so much that you’re disappointed. It strikes a good balance. It kind of reminds me of Space Dandy from time to time, and that’s a good thing.

Ore Monogatari!! (俺物語!!)

oremonogatariThis is a really cute high school rom-com drama show. The main character is a kind hearted giant who always develops crushes on sweet nice girls. Unfortunately, those girls always seem to fall for his insensitive best friend who has no interest in them. When the big guy saves a girl from a groper on the train, the girl and the two friends start hanging out. The big guy assumes that she has a crush on his friend, and his friend actually seems a little interested in her. But could the girl actually be interested in the gentle giant? Maybe.

This show is very much about the characters which is wonderful because the characters are all very funny and amusing. It’s also fun because you’re not really sure what’s going to happen. Who will the girl choose? Will the giant consider himself a candidate for love? I have no idea how long they’ll drag out the confusion, but so far it’s really fun to see everything unfold.


This season marks the first time in ages I don’t have a particular title to look forward to. But that’s not a bad thing. Something special will emerge. Something always does.

In anime news, Ping Pong, my favorite series in recent memory, took television anime of the year at the Tokyo Anime Awards. Funimation announced the rights for its North American release. Also of note is Discotek’s licensing of Dororo, a Tezuka classic about a swordsman battling demons for his stolen body parts.  So keep an eye out for these special series. Now on to my spring 2015 picks!

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan (長門有希ちゃんの消失)

yukichan.02This show is a spinoff of the Haruhi Suzumiya series. The characters Haruhi fans know and love (and hate) are back, but different. The timid bookworm Nagato is less robotic and doing her best to become more social, with the high school literature club in tow. Despite Haruhi’s arrival, expect less of the supernatural and more everyday Japanese school life scenarios this time around.

Those expecting the continuation of the previous Haruhi series are in for a surprise and perhaps… disappointment. Instead of continuing with stories from the original light novels, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan depicts an alternate, normal universe from the manga series of the same name. As a fan of the series, I’m glad to see Haruhi come back in any form, but only time will tell if it lives up to the original’s potential.

Will The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan continue on as the simple moe/slice of life series it appears to be? Or will Haruhi’s appearance cause the show to spiral into the unique weirdness typical of the previous series? Perhaps the “disappearance” mentioned in the title holds the answer…

Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (ダンジョンに出会いを求めるのは間違っているだろうか)

dungeon.02“I want to get stronger!”

Although previous, embarrassing defeats make adventurer Bell Cranel seem far from his goal, he has a few things in his favor. One is a beautiful, well-endowed healing goddess at his side. The other is a plan: forgo the party, battle in dungeons alone, and hog all the experience for himself. Will Bell Cranel’s dangerous plan help him level up, gain confidence, and redeem himself? Or is he doomed to remain a weak noob in the dungeon crawling scene?

I have little interest in the dungeon crawler genre, so Is it Wrong…’s well rounded, RPG-inspired cast, solid animation, and unique, satiric take on the genre has me hooked. As one might expect, it’s fantasy RPG world features all sorts of races, monsters, weapons, and job types.

This series is already making internet waves thanks to a breast enhancing ribbon donned by one of its female leads. And its off to a great start. Hopefully it can continue this momentum. Those with an RPG scratch to itch, but little time to invest should give Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? a look!

Himitsukessha Taka no Tsume DO (秘密結社鷹の爪 DO)

secret.talonAlthough Ninja Slayer is the flash series getting the most attention this season, my money’s on a tried and true title, Himitsukessha Taka no Tsume. In this comedy, Eagle Talon, a Tokyo based evil organization continues to plot world takeover with plans that would make even Cobra Commander blush.

(We couldn’t find a PV (sorry), so this is a link to the first episode.)

Eagle Talon’s crude animation and humor matches its cast of characters that includes its fearless leader, “The Chancellor”, an evil scientist that looks like a cute teddy bear, and Yoshida, a young, red masked mascot character. Occasionally the unheroic hero Deluxe Fighter shows up to put an end to Eagle Talon’s evil plots.

Himitsukessha Taka no Tsume DO‘s style and tone means it has more in common with Cartoon Network’s original Adult Swim cartoons than the average Japanese anime. But that’s also what makes it cool. Sit back and watch the ridiculousness unfold!

Originally rumored to air this season, Digimon Adventure Tri is missing in action and presumably delayed. In theaters I’m looking forward to the Sarusuberi, which looks to mix up great art and music. Dragon Ball Fukkastu no F sees the return of Freiza and all sorts of crazy, power-up infused mayhem.

Spring 2015 Anime Wrap-up


In summary, this season is looking like a pretty good one. There’s lots we already like and there’s still plenty more to look forward to. Hopefully future episodes will just keep getting better! I’m really enjoying my picks so far and Rich is doing the same. Hopefully our experiences have helped you figure out what shows seem worthwhile.

So tell us – what are your top picks this season? Agree with our picks? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!

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Have a Rice Day! Rice Cooker History, Features, Futures, and More Fri, 15 May 2015 13:00:00 +0000 My brother had warned me, “Once you go rice cooker, you don’t go back.” He was right. I had grown up in a household where we cooked rice in a pot, on our stovetop. In college I used a hotpot to the same effect. Then I came to Japan, where a small but mighty appliance forever changed my […]

The post Have a Rice Day! Rice Cooker History, Features, Futures, and More appeared first on Tofugu.

My brother had warned me, “Once you go rice cooker, you don’t go back.”

He was right.

I had grown up in a household where we cooked rice in a pot, on our stovetop. In college I used a hotpot to the same effect. Then I came to Japan, where a small but mighty appliance forever changed my cooking ways.

Although I had had a rice cooker at my disposal upon arrival in my Japanese apartment, I felt reluctant to use it. The kanji labeled buttons intimidated me. It did not appear intuitive.

In retrospect, I’m not sure why I worried. What was the worst that could happen? My rice turns to porridge? It took a visit from my brother to teach me the wise ways of the rice cooker.

Measure the rice. Dump it in. Wash it. Measure the water. Dump it in. Press the big red button. Go enjoy life until you hear “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Enjoy perfect rice every-time.

But that’s not all. New models push the limits of the term “rice cooker.” Equipped with features like magnetic fields, fuzzy logic and artificial intelligence, and with cooking versatility ranging from stew to bread, today’s rice cookers are the go-to kitchen appliance.

So forget the microwave and give your gas bill a break. Join us as we compare models and features and decide which rice cooker is best for you. If you’re still feeling reluctant, don’t be (like I was). Learn to stop worrying and love the rice cooker.

A Grainy History

Photo by TANAKA Juuyoh

Sometimes referred to as “denshi jaa” (電子ジャー) or “suihanki” (炊飯器) rice cookers were born out 0f Japan’s post-war revival. Before then, people cooked rice on kamado, large stoves made to accompany giant pots.

The nature of these stoves made controlling temperatures tricky and cooking delicious rice difficult. A short lyric attempted to make up for the lack of technology at the time. Kids Web Japan describes the old rhyme:

Hajime choro choro, naka pappa, butsu butsu iu koro hi o hiite, instructs the cook to begin at low heat, then increase the heat, and then lower the heat again when the inside of the pot begins to bubble.

The post-war period left companies scrambling for new commodities. With cash scarce, rice was also accepted as payment. War factories closed down and left Japan with plenty of electricity but few ways to utilize it. These two factors would soon lead to a rice cooking revolution.

At the time Sony focused on modifying and repairing radios built to strict wartime specifications (like limited stations), but looked to expand. How could they take advantage of the electrical productivity of a rice-fed nation like Japan?

The (first) electric rice cooker, made by merely interlocking aluminum electrodes which were connected to the bottom of a wooden tub, was a primitive product. The result depended heavily on the kind of rice used and the weight of the water. Tasty rice was a rarity, as the rice cooker produced mostly undercooked or overcooked rice. It was a memorable first failure.(Sony)

But Sony wasn’t the only company dreaming of a convenient rice cooking apparatus and thanks to competition, the quality of rice cookers improved. According to Kids Web Japan, Toshiba would release the first commercially successful rice cooker in 1955.

After much trial and error, the company came up with a method called “double-pot indirect cooking,” in which a cup of water was poured into the outer pot, and the machine automatically turned off when all of this water evaporated, signaling that the rice was ready. (Kidswebjapan)

Because of how they drastically altered the standard of living for households in the 1950’s, Japan dubbed the refrigerator, television and washing machine The Three Treasures. The rice cooker could have easily been declared the fourth. The convenient appliance became a cultural mainstay, offering safely cooked, delicious rice while rendering the more dangerous, inconsistent kamado obsolete.

Fuzzy Logic, A.I. and Rice Cookers of the Future

Photo by Alex Shultz

Competition between brands meant rice cookers would continue to improve. For example, “in 1960, the first rice cookers that could keep rice warm after it was cooked went on sale, as did some models with timers.”(Kidswebjapan)

Rice cooker technology continues to march into the future, cooking rice faster while bringing out the best taste. Old machines relied on simple mechanical settings, ignoring factors that are now considered like air pressure, weight, temperature and planetary alignment (okay, maybe not the last one).

Technological advancements have even made direct heating obsolete. Induction heating or “IH” (for those in-the-know) became the industry standard.

Here’s how an IH cooker works. An electric current is passed through coils around the pot. This produces a magnetic field, which in turn produces an electric current in the pot’s metal. Metal heats up when an electric current runs through it, so the entire pot quickly rises to a high temperature and cooks the rice evenly. (Kidswebjapan)

The next wave of machines incorporated computer chips and fuzzy logic. As  explains,

Fuzzy logic has to do with mathematical sets, or groups of items known as elements. In most mathematical sets, an element either belongs to the set or it doesn’t. For example, a sparrow would belong to a set of birds, but a bat wouldn’t. In fuzzy logic, though, elements can belong to sets in varying degrees. So since a bat has wings, it might belong to a set of birds — but only to a certain extent. Fuzzy logic is basically a way to program machines so they look at the world in a more human way, with degrees of truth.

Fuzzy logic allows rice cooker to make “judgement calls” based on collected data and rewards its owners with consistently delicious rice, despite life’s variables.

So what does the future of rice cookers hold? Perhaps we only have to look to sci-fi films, like The Terminator, 2001: Space Odyssey or Rojin Z for scary but delectable predictions. For example, Jordan Shapiro of Forbes contacted Zojirushi, the premier rice cooker producer, about their new lines of A.I. rice cookers. He reported,

 Zojirushi tells me that (its rice cooker) learns from each cooking experience so as to adjust to your cooking idiosyncrasies. I didn’t ask, so I’m not sure what rice cooking behaviors it “learns” from, but I imagine it could adjust to variables that may stay constant for each particular user: i.e. different brands of rice, the moisture in your climate, the particular chemistry of your water.

I’m hoping for a “smart” rice cooker I could control with a phone app. Or at least a talking rice cooker, similar to HAL from 2001 Space Odyssey that could create well balanced meals on its own. “Dave, your rice is ready. Please eat before it gets cold.”

Rice Cooker Features

Photo by esPose de


Rice cookers come in various shapes and sizes. Choose a model that best fits your lifestyle. If you’re single, the smaller the better, no need for a family-sized behemoth. But if you have a family or plan on hosting parties, go big!

Choosing the Best Pot

Even the cooking pots vary. Some have chemically treated, nonstick surfaces to make cleaning easy. Aluminum is also a popular option. But if you want to avoid those surfaces, for their purported health detriments, go with a more natural option like steel or clay.

Programming and Settings

Of course, some rice cookers boast more features than others. Even those made strictly for cooking rice often feature multiple rice cooking settings. Making brown rice? Hit “brown.” Feeling under the weather and need some kayu rice porridge? Hit the special button. A clock and timer add to a cooker’s convenience. Other models even feature digital screens for detailed options and settings.


Why mention it twice? Because a timer is a rice cooker’s must-have feature. Set it before you go to bed to have fresh rice in the morning. Set it when you head off to work to have fresh rice waiting when you get home.

Multipurpose Versatility

Rice cookers now take cooking convenience to the next level and smash the excuse, “I don’t have time to cook.” You can steam some veggies, broccoli or barbecue some meat and have a healthy, fresh, affordable home cooked meal in minutes. And with some rice cookers, you can cook it all at the same time in the same appliance!

If you want to cook more than rice, you could take your chances with a standard “rice only” model, but its cooking settings and rice-centric fuzzy-logic might make for over cooked, mushy meals. But don’t fret, many of today’s “rice” cookers accommodate multipurpose needs. Special cooking settings make cooking soups, stews and even steaming vegetables and meats as easy as the push of a button.

Some rice cookers feature special steaming trays. Others double as crock pots and pressure cookers. With the help of a timer you can prepare all of your ingredients in the morning, set the timer and have a well balanced scrumptious meal waiting for you when you get home.

One of my current models, the Vitaclay 2-in-1 Rice N’ Slow Cooker, has special settings for making stew and soup (I can smell the tomato and chicken stew stewing as I write!).

Charm Points

On top of all of the shapes, sizes and technological advancements and features, rice cookers also feature charm. Although I love my Vitaclay, my Zojirushi takes the prize for charm.

For one, it has a convenient, self winding plug that stores internally and never gets in the way. There’s also a removable container to catch spill water from the lid. But best of all, the Zojirushi plays “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” when the rice is done.

The rice cooker universe is surprisingly vast. Please examine all the options (and read the next section) before buying one!

Rice Cooker Battle!

Photo by Eric Hunt

Now that we’ve covered the appliance’s history, technology and features it’s time to look at specific models. Which will come out on  top? You be the judge!

Zojirushi NP-NVC10/18

The Zojirushi NP-NVC10/18 is the top-of-the-line, rice connoisseur’s model.  The giant (15.4 x 10.1 x 8.6 inches, 13 pounds) NP-NVC10/18 flashes some bling in its a “platinum infused nonstick coating.” Apparently this coating makes for the best rice which is the NP-NVC10/18’s goal.

The model features both fuzzy-logic and AI and takes pressure into account. Settings allow users to make the rice as soft or hard as they prefer, and rice can even be toasted and crispy with the NP-NVC10/18’s “scorch” setting. The clock and timer means you can have your preferred style of rice when you want it.

The top of the line, this rice cooker comes in sizes and price ranges to match. If rice cookers equalled street cred, MC’s would be rhyming about the NP-NVC10/18 instead of spinners and medallions. Although it lacks versatility in terms of cooking foods other than rice, if you want awesome rice prepared nearly any way (brown, gabba brown, scorched, umami, sushi rice, or porridge), the NP-NVC10/18 is the model for you.

Panasonic SR-DE103 (13 X10 X8)

The Panasonic SR-DE103 is a well balanced model with a few extra features at a great price. Fuzzy logic helps the SR-DE103 alter the cooking time to net delicious rice every time. Although its choices in rice cooking settings pale in comparison to the NP-NVC10/18, it features a steam tray and steam and cake push-button settings that give it the edge in versatility. It’s also more compact (13 X10 X8 inches), making it easier to store.

With a timer that lets you have rice when you want it the Panasonic SR-DE103 offers what’s expected of a traditional rice cooker with a few convenient features. Priced under $100, the Panasonic SR-DE103 offers a high end cooker at a more affordable price.

Aroma Digital Rice Cooker and Food Steamer

The Aroma Digital Rice Cooker and Food Steamer offers easy, one button controls (white rice, brown rice, keep warm and steam). It comes in various sizes so you can choose one that suits your needs.

Like the Panasonic SR-DE103, the Aroma Digital features a black nonstick coated aluminum cooking pot. It also has a special “steam” setting that allows users to steam vegetables in the fitted tray while cooking rice. Take advantage of the timer to have balanced meals ready when you need them!

What’s the difference between the Aroma Digital and Panasonic SR-DE103? Size, shape and material. The Panasonic SR-DE103 is a rectangular plastic box. The Aroma Digital is a round, crock-pot styled rice cooker with a stainless steel shell (8.7 x 8.5 x 9.3 inches for the 8-cup model).

VitaClay VF7700-6 Chef

VitaClay’s claim to fame is its clay pot; a natural, stick-free alternative to most rice cooker pots’ artificial coatings. Although I love the clay pot, it can be a double edged sword. If you tend to drop things, the breakable clay pot might prove problematic. Although extra pots can be purchased online, it’ll cost you. But for the sure-handed readers out there, the clay pot is easy to clean and won’t pell after prolonged use like non-stick coated pots do. It also presents a nice aesthetic when it’s carried to the dining room table!

The VF7700-6 Chef encourages experimentation; its stew and soup settings work well in preparing curries, sauces, as well as ANY types of soups and stews. My only gripe is its lack of a steam tray. Like the Aroma Digital Rice Cooker, the VitaClay comes in a crock-pot styled shape.

Aroma Simply Stainless

As the Japanese-English phrase goes, sometimes “Simple is best.” And in the case of the Aroma Simply Stainless, it’s cheap too. This no-nonsense model features a lid, pot and plastic casing. A bare bones rice cooker, Aroma’s Simply Stainless line comes in three sizes and one touch simplicity. The pot is made from surgical-grade 304 stainless steel, so it’s a great option for those looking to avoid aluminum and chemically coated surfaces. The pot also boasts the ability to cook soups, stews, chili and oatmeal.

Although some reviews complain about steam and water spurting from the hole on the lid, the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Want a no-fuss, affordable and tiny rice cooker? The Aroma Simply Stainless is your best bet!

Not Just for White Rice Anymore

Photo by Rich

When I first arrived in Japan I asked a Japanese acquaintance, “Can I cook brown rice in my rice cooker?”

“Oh… you better not,” she warned.

Japanese take their white rice very seriously, and I’ve heard the myth repeated time and time again, “Rice Cookers are for white rice.” But nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve cooked brown rice, beans, and even fish and vegetables in a rice cooker only meant for rice. Slight odors and staining of the white plastic shell proved to be the only downsides.

Whether cooked through induction heating, fuzzy logic, or artificial intelligence, at its very core a rice cooker is a heated pot. Like some of the models mentioned above, many rice cookers are moving to multi-functionality. And taking advantage of these features can be simple and fun.

A simple Youtube search reveals all sorts of things that can be cooked in a rice cooker – from various types of rice to pasta, eggs, pancakes, cake and bread. Resources to help you become a cooking everything-other-than-rice rice-cooker master.

Karate Rice

A site offering tips on how to prepare the perfect rice as well as various rice-based dishes, Karate Rice proves anyone can cook for themselves. I recommend the “Japanese Sweet Potato and Rice” and “Rice Chili Stew.” Add extra garlic and cumin to the stew to give it more zing!

Ariel Knutson’s 21 Surprising Things You Can Make in a Rice Cooker

A less traditional collection of recipes that often abandons the rice altogether. Although Mac and Cheese is always popular, I love the Vegetable Frittata as a quick, well balanced meal. Just looking at the “Tofu and Asparagus’s” deep green asparagus, soft brown tofu cubes and rich broth made my mouth water.


The offers all sorts of articles aimed at dedicated dog lovers. It even features a recipe for dog food (though I’m considering trying it as people food) made in a rice cooker. Instead of cooking with a dog, cook for a dog!

The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook

With the subtitle, 250 No-Fail Recipes for Pilafs, Risottos, Polenta, Chilis, Soups, Porridges, Puddings, and More, Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufman’s book puts cooking within reach of even the most inept household chefs.

Learn to make risotto, chunky or smooth applesauce, tapioca pudding, and hot breakfast cereals. Although I haven’t run into any problems myself, reviewers say this book nets the best results with fuzzy-logic models.

Bask in the Glory of Well Cooked Rice!

More versatile than the name implies, rice-cookers are clean, safe, and super convenient! After not using one for most of my life, aside from the refrigerator it has become the most used appliance in my kitchen. I don’t even own a microwave, toaster or oven anymore and have no plans on investing in any of them. Don’t get me wrong, the rice cooker can’t outperform those appliances, but for me it’s an acceptable alternative.

Rice cookers make cooking easy.  Timers and extra features can make cooking convenient for even the busiest of people. Best of all, it’s easy to make healthy, well balanced meals. Plus experimenting with new recipes is fun and (usually) rewarding.

If you have a rice cooker to recommend or recipes or recipe websites, please comment below. Happy rice (and everything else) cooking to all!

Bonus Wallpapers!

[Desktop – 5120×2880 / 1280×720] ・ [Mobile]


The post Have a Rice Day! Rice Cooker History, Features, Futures, and More appeared first on Tofugu.

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The 3 Anime You Should Watch This Season: Winter 2015 Tue, 03 Feb 2015 14:00:00 +0000 Another year, another season of anime to plow through, hoping to find a golden nugget or two amongst the dirt. We’re changing up the (p)review format a bit here – instead of giving our first impressions on as many shows as we can watch, we’re just going to let you know what our top three […]

The post The 3 Anime You Should Watch This Season: Winter 2015 appeared first on Tofugu.

Another year, another season of anime to plow through, hoping to find a golden nugget or two amongst the dirt. We’re changing up the (p)review format a bit here – instead of giving our first impressions on as many shows as we can watch, we’re just going to let you know what our top three picks for the season are. So, we’ll be telling you which ones we think will end up being the best and which ones we’re most excited about. If you were looking forward to us bashing the shows we thought were stupid, you’re outta luck this time, buddy. Onto the review!


To be honest, I wasn’t very excited about this season at all when I was first looking through the list of new shows. Unfortunately, my initial impressions seemed to prove true this time around. My top 3 picks for the season are some of the last shows I checked out, so up until that point I was very afraid this season was going to be a total letdown. Thankfully, these three shows gave me a little hope that winter 2015 might not be a total waste after all.

Death Parade


Death Parade takes place in a sort of purgatory bar. When two people die at the same time, they get sent here and play a random game to decide whose soul gets reincarnated and whose gets sent into the void. The main character and judge of these souls is a white haired dude named Decim. It doesn’t seem to matter if you actually win the game, though. Your fate depends more on your true nature being revealed during the match.

The show has good production values and also a pretty interesting premise. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it will be able to keep my interest long term. I’m not sure if there will be any sort of overarching story since it looks like each episode will focus on two different people playing a game. I tend to like shows that have longer story arcs, so we’ll have to see how this plays out. For now, I am intrigued and interested to see if this blossoms into anything more. It’s enjoyable so far, but only time will tell.

Maria the Virgin Witch


This story centers around witches in France during the Hundred Years’ War. A unique premise, to be sure. France is battling England and Maria hates war. That being the case, she does her best to stop the two sides from killing each other. There are other witches around, and each has an incubus and succubus at their command. It’s an interesting alternate history.

I can’t say I was really expecting to enjoy this show, but I think it ended up being my top pick for the season. The characters are all really interesting and the action and magic is well done and exciting to watch.

The only thing that seemed a bit out of place to me was the outfits of the witches and their companions. Given the setting and subject matter, they’re all dressed a lot more skimpy than I would have expected. There are a decent amount of sex jokes from the succubus, but I suppose that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Overall, the show is very interesting and seems like it could develop into a solid series with a story worth following all the way through.

Tokyo Ghoul √A


This is the second season of Tokyo Ghoul. You can check out my write up of the first season here. Basically, the show continues to follow a kid who is half human, half bloodthirsty ghoul. The first season showed him making this transition and struggling with the consequences. This season, he’s pretty much come to terms with the new person he’s become.

To be honest, I never actually finished the first season. I watched a handful of episodes and then got distracted by other things. I actually wasn’t planning on watching any of √A, but the debut shows this season were so lackluster I decided to give √A a shot. The first episode is jam packed with action, blood, and new characters I either hadn’t seen before or totally forgot about. It made me wish that I knew more from the first season because there was a lot going on.

If you are new to the series, definitely start with season 1. This isn’t a show you can just jump into. That being said, the first episode of √A made me want to go back and watch some more of the first season to see if my interest reignites. Will they? I’m not sure. But this show made me want to at least give the first season another go.

Rich Duffy

After delving into a bunch of promising series last fall, I ended up dropping them all. Instead I picked up Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis thanks to swelling praise on message boards. Its crisp plot and unbelievable, cinema-worthy production values made it my favorite series from last season. At a glance, Winter 2015 boasts the least exciting lineup in recent memory. That made choosing my top three, which includes two anticipated sequels and the celebration of a classic series, an easy task.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 2nd Season


High school delinquent Jotaro Jostar and company continue their pursuit of the evil vampire Dio in the second half of 2014’s Stardust Crusaders. But they better watch out as Dio’s host of Stand (bizarre spirits with very specific powers)-using allies await our heroes at every turn. Will Jotaro be able to discover Dio’s secret and finally defeat his family’s arch-nemesis?

Tired of the repetitive, overpowered battles of most shonen series? Do you long for pose striking characters named after musical acts? If so (and even if you’re not so keen on the second part), give Stardust Crusaders a look. Unlike most battle series, power levels don’t play a role in the JoJo universe. Instead, Stand users outsmart their opponents by taking advantage of their unique abilities – often with graphic, cringe-worthy results.

Add great animation and a production team that sticks close to the JoJo manga’s roots and you have the makings of an awesome adaptation. 2014’s series merely provided a warm-up for what was to come, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more bizarre cast, more unique battles, or a more badass protagonist among this season’s line-up.

Durarara!!x2 Shou


Headless bikers, monster cops, Internet gangs, mad scientists – anything goes in the streets of Akihabara. Ride the flow of conflict as it sweeps Durarara’s large cast into conflict after conflict in this chic anime soap opera. This time around, a maniac masquerading as Hollywood movie monsters is on the prowl, shaking things up for our protagonists. A sensational gold afro-ed TV host, rising media star, and new students and gangsters add to the list of suspects in Durarara’s ever-growing cast of eccentric characters.

Durarara!!x2 Shou picks up where 2010’s Durarara left off, with high quality animation, cool character designs and charismatic BGM by Makoto Yoshimori (Princess Jellyfish). Though Durarara touts a large cast, the characters’ drastic differences in look and personality make keeping track of them a simple task. If you’re a fan of quirky, dark, character-driven movies like Snatch and Pulp Fiction, or the animated series Baccano! (also based on a Ryōgo Narita novel series) Durarara!!x2 Shou is for you.

Yoru no Yatterman


Faced with a dying mother, a little girl and her three companions are left with no choice but to travel to the Yatter Kingdom to seek help from the legendary Yattermen heroes. However, their approach is met with violent resistance. Why did the Yattermen, supposed heroes, turn their backs on out protagonists? Dismayed but not broken, our protagonists retreat but swear to exact revenge on the heinous Yattermen.

I love Tatsunoko Pro’s guts to re-imagine their beloved, classic series. They did it with Gatchaman (Crowds), Casshern (Sins) and (Shin) Hurricane Polymar. 2015 marks Yatterman’s 40th anniversary and to celebrate, Tasunoko has reworked one of its flagship series. Only this time the script has been flipped and the descendants of Yatterman’s original villains have become the heroes.

In this world “Yatterman!” is shouted in a fascist storm-trooper-like salute, and there are fleets of Yattermen soldiers. Yoru no Yatterman is cute, silly, warm fun. Tastunoko’s art and animation continue to impress me. I can’t wait to see how things have gone topsy turvy, and whether Yatterman can reattain their former glory.

My list runs the gamut of source materials, Stardust Crusaders is based on manga, Durarara started as a light novel, and Yatterman was an original animated series. As a fan of each series’ source material I know I will see these shows through – unlike last season. But I’m looking forward to each week’s Yoru no Yatterman most because it’s the most mysterious of the three!

Michael Richey

Well, hot dog, I really didn’t know what to expect with this season. A cursory glance of Winter 2015’s titles left me with no excitement whatsoever. But, as I dug deeper into this pile of show, I found a few I like and a few more worth sticking with. Here are my top three.

Samurai Warriors


Samurai Warriors is set in Japan’s Warring States period, one of the most storied eras in Japanese history. It’s the medieval times of Japan. Samurais, battles, castles, heroes, and villains. In the subsequent Edo period, the exploits of heroes from the Warring States period got embellished to the point that their feats seemed almost superhuman.

Take those already exaggerated tales of Sengoku heroism, view through the lens of anime and video games, and you get this show. Based on a video game series by Koei, Samurai Warriors gives the Sengoku heroes extraordinary powers that match those seen in the aforementioned game. Heroes take out entire units of soldiers in one swipe, jump 20 feet in the air, and are only matched by other heroes.

This is one of those shows you’re either going to love or hate. I usually have mixed feelings about shows like this, but after the first episode I fell to the side of loving it. It’s certainly cheese, but cheese with such commitment and skill that I can’t help but like it.

The design is such that the character costumes are the only things that are really anachronistic, and even they are stylized versions of what one might see in ukiyo-e. The set dressings and and landscapes stay (comparatively speaking) realistic, which is what gives this show its charm. The backdrop is traditional and the heroes pop in the foreground.

There’s nothing deep here, story or character-wise, but the time spent is sheer fun. Give it a try if you love history and Naruto/Bleach/Dragon Ball type shows.

Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu)


If this show is anything, it’s unexpected. I’m not even sure how to begin describing it, but I’ll give it a shot:

One day, half of the moon explodes (stay with me here). Soon, the earth’s leaders learn it was the doing of a smiley-faced squid creature with inhuman abilities. All efforts to kill him have been futile. The creature promises to delay his destruction of Earth for one year if he is made the homeroom teacher of high school seniors.

Here’s the catch: in addition to regular subjects, he will teach the class how to assassinate him. If the class can do so by graduation, they will save the earth and win ¥10 billion. If they fail: bye-bye earth. This assassination is no easy task, as the creature can move as fast as mach 20, and has amazing reflexes.

If you still don’t follow, watch the show. It’s tough to tell from the first few episodes if this one will be good in the long run, but the premise alone is worth your watching. It has great potential for character development in the students and creature teacher. There are a lot of burning questions to push you through at least the first season: Will the students succeed? Where did the creature come from? Why is he so nice if he wants to ultimately destroy the earth?

There’s a bit more to this one that I don’t want to spoil, so be sure to experience this wacky action comedy sci-fi horror drama for yourself.

Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!


This was an unexpected favorite. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! is a shoujo show in the magical girl genre with a twist: These magical girls are guys.

The plot revolves around 5 handsome underachieving boymen. While two of our heroes are bathing in a sentou, an interdimensional pink wombat falls through a portal and begs them to help him protect the earth. Most of the first episode is spent on the pink wombat (using a mind-controlled teacher) to track down the boys and force them to become earth guardians. Of course, the wombat succeeds and the boys, (mostly) against their will, don outfits that aren’t totally meant for girls, but are pretty dang girly.

What I find interesting about this gender-bending comedy is that it walks a fine line. Seeing a man in girls’ clothes is not unheard of in Japanese comedy (or other cultures’ comedy), but usually that man has thick stubble and wears the girliest costume to emphasize the incongruence. This show doesn’t do that. Its heroes’ costumes aren’t necessarily girly, but rather girlesque. The boys aren’t comedically strapping, but handsome guys that could be mistaken for girls.

The whole idea is played for comedy, but not overtly. Other elements (pink wombat, evil chikuwabu) are certainly comedic, but the crux of the idea of the show is downplayed. It makes one wonder: What is masculine? What is feminine? Are these male heroes less masculine for using costumes and powers considered “girly”? Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I feel any show that makes you pause to ask questions like this is worth a second look. Also: talking pink wombat.


My taste in anime tends to be very niche, and I hardly have time to watch the stuff anymore, though I remain a big fan. That said, the metric I used to judge these shows was simply if I’d be willing to find the time to watch more episodes. These are the three that I decided would keep me coming back for more.

Death Parade


I’m a big fan of horror, so of course something called Death Parade was on my radar. Each episode is its own vignette that explores character relationships strained by having their souls judged by a host of eerie characters in a bar in between heaven and hell. The stories, while fairly derivative for fans of Twilight Zone-like plots, are still interestingly told, animated, and voice-acted.

Seems like a mix between Paranoia Agent (my favorite anime), Mushishi (due to the stand-alone stories, and for starring a guy that, truth be told, looks a whole lot like Ginko), and the Saw movies, although with more emotional trauma than pure torture fodder. Death Parade wants to strip people down to their humanity and explore the darker aspects of human nature in a bizarrely colorful and playful way. At this series’ best, it could tackle some really interesting themes like the more fulfilling episodes of Paranoia Agent or chapters of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.

Even if it falters, I think it may still warrant a viewing because of the stylish visuals, fairly interesting stories, and characters lovingly animated with enough sweat, snot, and spittle to fill an Olympic swimming pool. I’d consider this series to be one to look out for if you want some genre fair that is a little on the darker side. Death Parade is definitely the only thing like it on the air now and I’ll certainly be watching more.

Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu)


I feel weird about recommending this one, because this series’ premise is baffling and its popularity is similarly baffling. When I was in Japan, I saw Koro-sensei’s goofy grin adorning manga covers at every bookstore I went to. However, Ansatsu Kyoushitsu definitely knows how to entertain with its good blend of whimsical comedy and fun action.

The first few episodes easily managed to coax some laughs out of me, and the show presents a good metaphor for the love-hate relationship we all may have felt for our teachers at one point or another. The manga has enjoyed an insane popularity, boosted of course by the Jump label, but with that comes high expectations for the anime’s ability to do justice to the characters and plots.

Should the anime manage to capture the same tone and charm of the manga, then this will definitely be a hit, and I feel like its well on its way. It’s always good to have a new intellectual property, and especially an absurdist comedy, enjoy this kind of popularity. Anyone looking for some out-there laughs will probably be able to enjoy Ansatsu Kyoushitsu.

Kantai Collection -KanColle-

aircraft-carriersThe mecha-musume genre is alive and well and every year it seems like a handful more crop up, but sometimes they’re worth a look. l’m willing make the argument that this series is in that camp. You get what you expect from KanColle, but I feel like that’s not necessarily a bad thing. KanColle’s original iteration was an online/mobile game with the same general premise: a bunch of girls are half warship for some reason and engage in naval battles. The gameplay is similar to the other games in the genre: collect an army of ship-girls, battle, and level them up.

The show is similarly derivative. It’s a familiar mix of large-scale fight scenes, military vehicles, moe girls, awkward, forced slice-of-life, and the obligatory fan service. This is one case where suffering through the latter might be a good way to enjoy the former as the introduction promises this series may indeed have a darker side to it. The character designs for the ‘Abyssal’ fleet are well-done, sleek, and otherworldly.

The fight scenes promise to impress with their epic sense of scale and gorgeously-animated explosions and gunfire. Even when the animation slips into CG, the transition is more subtle than I’ve seen, though it can still be slightly jarring. CG may be a necessary evil for a show where the main characters are warships and aircraft carriers though, as it helps animate the types of sequences KanColle is looking to pull off; stuff like a single arrow splitting into a handful of WWII era fighter jets that descend upon a creepy submarine monster guns ablazing.

I could almost describe this as explosion porn because to me the most satisfying part was experiencing the visceral thrill of the over-the-top action. I don’t generally recommend things on the spectacle alone, but I feel like this is a classic example of a generally entertaining series. While KanColle certainly won’t blow anyone’s mind it may be pretty good entertainment to just sit back and enjoy. It’s a little dumb, but inoffensive, and if you let yourself become engrossed you may find yourself enjoying the characters and rooting for them during the badass fight scenes.

Winter 2015 Anime Wrap-up


And that’s that! These are Tofugu’s top picks for the season. Death Parade and Assassination Classroom seem to be the only two that more than one of us liked, so those are our top recommendations. However, I (John) personally have Maria the Virgin Witch at the top of my list, but we’ll have to wait and see how all that pans out. Time will tell.

So tell us – what are your top picks this season? Any super awesome ones we should be checking out? Let us know in the comments!

The post The 3 Anime You Should Watch This Season: Winter 2015 appeared first on Tofugu.

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Tofugu’s Fall 2014 Anime Roundup Wed, 19 Nov 2014 17:00:00 +0000 Thanksgiving is nearly here but more importantly, new anime is already upon us. Summer 2014 looked promising at first, but ultimately I only ended up following one of the shows from that bunch (more on that later). But let’s focus on this current season. Is Fall 2014 surprisingly good as far as anime goes? Did it […]

The post Tofugu’s Fall 2014 Anime Roundup appeared first on Tofugu.

Thanksgiving is nearly here but more importantly, new anime is already upon us. Summer 2014 looked promising at first, but ultimately I only ended up following one of the shows from that bunch (more on that later). But let’s focus on this current season. Is Fall 2014 surprisingly good as far as anime goes? Did it exceed expectations? Were some unassuming shows way better than imagined? Well, yes – yes to all of those. This season is shaping up to be a lot more entertaining than first thought – and that, my friends, is very good news.

Amagi Brilliant Park (John)


If Rollercoaster Tycoon had a magical anime series, this would be it. There are two main characters – a guy and a girl. The guy has a lot of confidence and thinks pretty highly of himself and the girl is somewhat of a mystery. The girl coerces the guy at gunpoint to visit a theme park with her and shows him around the sad and dilapidated park. The crew members of the park are actually from a magical world and need to attract a certain amount of guests before they are able to return home. Fortunately the main guy is forced to become the new manager of the park to ensure the successful return of all these magical beings.

I didn’t really know what to expect with this show but I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed the two main characters and their back and forth dialogue. The story itself seems hokey, but I feel like the show will be more focused on the characters and situations rather than the story itself. I’m very interested in seeing how they make the park better and the amusing situations and dialogues that occur along the way.

Watch if you like: Rollercoaster Tycoon, funny characters, magical amusement park creatures.
Chances I’ll watch another: Very good. This show surprised me and I’m really looking forward to what’s next.
Rating: 4/5

Terra Formars (Rich)


The most hyped series of the season and one I looked forward to most, Terra Formars centers around a group of humans sent to Mars to fight giant cockroaches. How can you go wrong with that?

Start with a focus on violence instead of plot. Then add laughable black-bar censorship that covers the aforementioned violence (which has already become an Internet parody sensation). With decent animation, character designs and a cool plot, Terra Formars is in no way a bad series. But so far it isn’t living up to the hype, let alone its plot potential.

Watch if you like: Attack on Titan, Tokyo Ghoul.
Chances I’ll watch another: I’m going to give it a coupe of more episodes to hit its stride.
Rating: 3/5

Denki-gai no Honya-san (Rich)


Denki-gai no Honya-san brought Working!! (Wagnaria!!) to mind, if Working!! took place in an otaku setting. And that setting, a manga store in an Akihabara-like area, proves to be the show’s greatest strength. Denki-gai has already taught me a few things about the business. For example, a government inspector comes to make sure the adult titles are properly separated from the other merchandise. While the separation seems obvious, I never knew an inspector might come and dole out fines.

Denkigai features a generic line-up of comedy characters immediately definable by their looks. Don’t expect much character development here. But Denkigai’s goal isn’t education or character development, it’s laughs – the plots consist of silly comedies of errors and cute misunderstandings. So if you like zany otaku comedy with a touch of ecchi, look no further than Denki-gai no Honya-san.

Watch if you like: Working!!, Ranma 1/2, Green Green, B Gata H Kei.
Chances I’ll watch another: Despite the setting this feels all too familiar – probably not.
Rating: 2.5/5

Second Opinion (John):

This show really does feel similar to Working!!, only centered around a book store. The show has a quirky cast of characters and the bookstore aspect seems like more of a stage for the character interactions and goofy situations. The first episode focuses a lot on the awkward and entertaining situations that can arise from stores that have 18+ sections.

This show is pretty average. I’m not expecting much from the story, but the characters are decently entertaining, even if they aren’t very memorable. The production is solid, but the content is a bit lacking. I found the show amusing, but there’s not anything that really stood out to make me want to come back for another episode.

Watch if you like: Shows like Working!!, or just amusing characters working at a bookstore.
Chances I’ll watch another: Pretty low. The show’s not really bad, it’s just not very exciting to me.
Rating: 2.5/5

Karen Senki (Rich)


“I believe this will be remembered as a tale of those who threw down the gauntlet against the machines.”

If I didn’t know any better I’d swear it’s 2001. That’s what Karen Senki’s flat, texture-less, blindingly bright CG led me to believe anyway. If you prefer watching video games to playing them, Karen Senki is for you. It’s filled with (nearly) nonstop gun-slinging action characteristic of today’s action games.

In a series weak on plot and looks, the fights have to be good – but Karen Senki’s are hampered by awkward speed changes and unnatural character movements. Even video-game cutscene graphics outshine Karen Senki’s visuals. I recommend everyone “throw down the gauntlet against the machines” and skip this computer produced mess.

Watch if you like: Old fashioned CG, watching a friend play Bayonetta.
Chances I’ll watch another: Zero.
Rating: 1.5/5 (.5 up for its awkward fan-service)

Shirobako (John)


This show is all about animation and a team behind a new anime series. The show starts out showing some of the girls in their high school animation club, but it quickly fast forwards two years to when they are part of an anime production team. The show is very similar to those manga creation shows that have become popular as of late. The main issue in the first episode focuses on trouble arising and the team struggling and working together to make a deadline.

This show is pretty average. I was never a big fan of the manga creation shows, so I’m not too surprised that this one didn’t grab me much since it’s the same thing but with animation. The main difference is that it follows a professional team and not a group of high schoolers. The story and characters are all pretty subpar. Nothing really stands out here. The first episode also ended abruptly which was off-putting.

Watch if you like: The anime production process and the teams responsible for putting them together.
Chances I’ll watch another: Very low. This show didn’t grab me at all and nothing about it would make me want to check out another episode.
Rating: 2/5

Tribe Cool Crew (Rich)


“These moves are awesome!”

They inhabit subway stations, shopping arcades, colleges and parks. You can catch them practicing at weird hours, for privacy and to avoid getting in the way of others. Now we can catch them on TV – Japan’s pop-dance culture has a series of its own.

And against all odds, I’m digging Tribe Cool Crew. Its cute, bright art style is like a combination of Power Puff Girls and Cyborg 009. The CG dance animation brings the awkwardly real movements of rotoscoping to mind, but maybe some of the better cg this season.

Music is vital to a show about dancing and I was feelin’ Tribe’s soundtrack until it looped and repeated a hundred times. But music aside, Tribe Cool Crew is a fun, refreshing series – a realistic children’s show that pushes a healthy hobby instead of merchandise. Watching it might even teach you a couple of new moves!

Watch if you like: Air Gear, Cyborg 009 (art-style), Bust-a-Groove (PS1), Jet Set Radio (Dreamcast).
Chances I’ll watch another: Likely, despite the annoying cg and repetitive bgm, I’m enjoying the art-style.
Rating: 3.5/5

Second Opinion (John):

Dancing! Parkour! That’s what this show is all about. Well, mostly dancing – the main kid does like to climb and flip his way around town though. All the main characters in this show are dancers. Like dance crew dancers, not ballet or ballroom-type dancers. The main kid is really good and he ends up meeting a girl who is an internet sensation in the dance world. The first episode is all about dance routines and introduces the main characters and their dance moves.

This show has a very Saturday morning cartoon feel to it. It’s hard to explain, but it just made me feel like a kid again. It was very easy to imagine myself watching the show with a big bowl of sugary cereal.

As to the actual content of the show, it’s pretty average. The concept is pretty unique for an anime, but the animation style is a little wonky. Whenever the kids dance, it goes into CG. It’s not as bad as that MikuMikuDance from that Sega show, but it ain’t great either. The music is pretty good though.

Watch if you like: Shows that make you nostalgic for Saturday morning cartoons, or internet dance routines/dance crews.
Chances I’ll watch another: Not that great. If I was actually a little kid, I think I would enjoy this a lot more.
Rating: 2.5/5

Garo: Honoo no Kokuin (Rich)


Although unrelated to the previous live action series, Garo: Honoo no Kokuin preserves the feelings and themes of its predecessors. The story of a legendary Makai Knight attempting to oust a corrupt ruler, Garo’s dark world features plenty of gothic imagery, magic, demons and a healthy dose of sexuality. With sick animation and an edgy art style, Garo tantalizes viewers with its fight potential, which its mediocre cg battles never live up to.

Despite all it had to offer the live action Garo never held my attention, but so far the anime is doing better. If its plot strengthens, I’ll be on board for its entire run.

Watch if you like: The live action Garo series, Berserk, Casshern Sins.
Chances I’ll watch another: If the plot can match the visuals, definite.
Rating: 3/5

Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu (John)


Now this is what a horror anime should be like. This show grabs your attention right from the get go and uses music and atmosphere to keep you interested. Something is up with the main guy’s right hand and it develops a mind of its own. Eventually he discovers that his hand has been possessed by some otherworldly being and he is now forced to coexist with it. There are other such beings in the world, but they have completely overtaken their hosts and spend their time murdering and feasting on humans.

This show is pretty cool. I’m usually not that into creepy/horror-type anime but I feel this one does it right. It’s not just focusing on the spooky creep factor, but also has an intriguing story that makes you want to watch more and see where things go. The show also makes good use of music throughout the episode keeping the mood and atmosphere right where it should be. The show’s got creep-factor, and interesting story hook, and even a little bit of action thrown in for good measure.

Watch if you like: Creepy stuff and shape shifting self-aware body parts.
Chances I’ll watch another: Very good. This was another show that really surprised me. I hope the intrigue and excitement continues as the series moves along.
Rating: 4/5

Yowamushi Pedal – Grande Road (Rich)


Just when I started to feel the pangs of Haikyuu!! withdrawal, Yowamushi Pedal is back to fill the volleyball void with otaku cycling action! With good animation, a colorful cast of characters and some insight into cycling culture, Yowamushi Pedal is above average in every aspect. Its charming slice-of-life elements mix with intense racing action for a balanced, satisfying experience. Those looking for a sports fix can do a lot worse than Yowamushi Pedal – Grande Road and cyclists won’t find a better series about their favorite sport.

Watch if you like: Yowamushi Pedal, Overdrive, Haikyuu!!
Chances I’ll watch another: Medium, it’s a solid series but not a priority.
Rating: 4/5

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis (John)


This show is based on a mobile phone game. The production values in this one are top notch and I was blown away by how well everything was done. The main character is a bounty hunter in a sword and sorcery setting. Eventually he meets a strange woman who recruits him into being her guide as they both share the same ultimate destination. Plot twists ensue, and by the end of the episode you’re not sure what’s going to happen next.

Wow. This show was pretty impressive. The characters are funny and interesting, the action is top notch, and the character designs and music are excellent as well. This is another one of those shows that feels like the production values are cinema quality. Everything is just very well done. I imagine the story will continue with the two main characters traveling to their destination and their wild adventures along the way. How they will address the cliffhanger of the first episode I am not sure, but I am looking forward to finding out.

Watch if you like: Excellent production value, likeable characters, and great music.
Chances I’ll watch another: Positively. This show has so much going for it in this first episode but I’m not sure what to expect long term.
Rating: 4.5/5

The Seven Deadly Sins (Rich)


When a kingdom is betrayed by its heroes, the king’s beautiful daughter must seek out legendary knights that were once considered enemies to free her kingdom and save her father. The Seven Deadly Sins’s plot unfolds like early One Piece, with the king’s daughter Elizabeth and Meliodas, the leader of the Seven Deadly Sins wandering the land, gathering nakama.

The series looks and sounds fantastic, with a bgm that gives it a medieval feel and a bubbly art style reminiscent of Akira Toriyama’s work. Throw in a great balance of comedy and action and The Seven Deadly Sins has all the ingredients for a classic shounen series.

Watch if you like: Rave Groove, One Piece, The Slayers, Howl’s Moving Castle.
Chances I’ll watch another: High, it’s extremely well balanced so far.
Rating: 4.5/5

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (John)


This show centers around a group of middle school kids and music. The characters are all from different school clubs, but the two main ones are involved with music. The show has sort of a serious tone to it as the reasons for the pianist not playing piano since three years ago are pretty somber. But near the end of the episode a new character is introduced and it seems as though a love triangle is in the works. This show feels very much like a J-drama in anime form. And I mean that in the best way.

I was pleasantly surprised with this show. The music and the characters are all well done. The characters are very unique and fleshed out. I’m looking forward to seeing how their interactions and relationships develop. The overall feel of the show is a bit more series than your usual romcom, but the show does have some over the top anime humor peppered in there which is a nice touch. This one might be the top romance/drama pick of the season.

Watch if you like: Musical romcoms focusing more on the rom than the com with great characters and interesting relationships.
Chances I’ll watch another: Fantastic. I’m really interested in the characters and can’t wait to see how things develop. I’m also looking forward to seeing more musical performances by the characters.
Rating: 5/5

Gundam Reconguista in G (John)


It’s been a while since I’ve seen a main series Gundam. Apparently this one is supposed to be good for newcomers to the franchise, and that’s good news for me since I’ve never actually watched that much Gundam. This series centers around some mobile suit cadets. In the first episode they are taking a sky elevator up into space and encounter some pirates that they then fight with their mobile suits. Pretty standard Gundam fare.

I’m afraid this is another flop for me. I dunno if it’s just that I’ve never been able to get into the Gundam shows or if this show is just not that good. It’s pretty boring and some parts just flat-out don’t make sense to me. It can feel pretty silly at times. Even though the show is a new one. The animation and feel of the show remind me of older anime. I’m not sure if this was done on purpose or not, but I’m not a fan. I really enjoy cool mecha shows, but this Gundam just isn’t doing it for me.

Watch if you like: Previous Gundam series or old style mecha shows.
Chances I’ll watch another: Bad. I’m afraid I just can’t see the appeal here. The show doesn’t interest me at all.
Rating: 2/5

Girlfriend Beta (Rich)


Seeing as it’s based on a mobile dating simulator, I didn’t expect much of Girlfriend Beta and it didn’t surprise me. Fans of the game might enjoy seeing their favorite characters animated in a series full of fan-service. Throughout the show, viewers peek in on girls enjoying innocent pursuits at school. Watch as Sagara-san juggles and Kokomi-chan does gymnastics – but be careful, don’t want to stub a finger!

The music, visuals and voice acting are all very light and relaxing. And there are no stressful conflicts or rousing jokes – just loads of cute. Girlfriend Beta doesn’t contain enough substance to be called slice-of-life, this is the anime equivalent of elevator music.

Watch if you like: To Heart, the mobile game.
Chances I’ll watch another: Zero.
Rating: 1/5

Kaitou Joker (John)


The joker of the title is a master thief. He looks like he’s in grade school. This is another Saturday morning cartoon type show that is geared toward a younger audience. Joker is out to steal stuff from the rich, and the rich are totally not cool with it. Joker sends them advance notices letting them know he’s going to be coming for something, but even with their preparations, Joker always manages to succeed. He even has a little ninja buddy too. Lots of Joker’s tricks come from hi-tech gum he chews.

The little ninja dude is probably my favorite thing about this show. He just looks funny. Everything else about the show is not as amusing. I didn’t get much childhood nostalgia with this show as I did Tribe Cool Crew. The show isn’t very complicated or deep, but seeing as it’s geared toward children, this doesn’t surprise me. I think children and people who enjoy kiddy shows like this would dig the show, but for someone like me – not so much.

Watch if you like: Little kid shows or simple stories about master thieves.
Chances I’ll watch another: Not good. If I want grade school nostalgia I’ll check out more of Tribe Cool Crew.
Rating: 2/5

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji (Rich)


After lying to the “cool” girls about her sexually active relationship, wholesome schoolgirl Erika Shinohara rushes to snap a photo to support her fib. But when cool-looking Kyouya Sata catches her snapping his photograph, he agrees to pretend to be her boyfriend if she’ll do his bidding.

Like last season’s Ao Haru Ride, Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji has a realistic school-life feel. The show’s fashion and hairstyles vary, but never become over-exaggerated like the green and blue haired characters of old. But unlike Ao Haru, Ookami is infused with more humor and adult themes. Its characters frank talk about sex took me by surprise. I’m enjoying the conflict and jokes Kyouya and Erika’s relationship brings so far and look forward to learning more about Kyoukya’s motivations.

Watch if you like: Ao Haru Ride, Karekano.
Chances I’ll watch another: High, recent slice-of-life romance stories are reeling me in.
Rating: 3.5/5

World Trigger (Rich)


What’s up with all the bugs this season? While Terra Formars brings us humanoid cockroaches, World Trigger faces the threat of giant alien worms. But where Terra Formars takes a gory sci-fi/horror approach, World Trigger is strictly shounen. Its fights are action packed but not stomach churningly grotesque. So far I’m enjoying World Trigger’s well paced plot as it slowly introduces viewers to its world – a world inhabited by a cool cast of beautifully animated characters. And the series is firing on all cylinders, packing action, comedy and a little mystery. If the idea of bug killing intrigues you, but Terra Formars is too dark and graphic then World Trigger’s lighter atmosphere might suit you. This is classic sci-fi themed shounen.

Watch if you like: Hitman Reborn, want an alternative to Terra Formars.
Chances I’ll watch another: High, I want to learn more about the characters and see some giant worm killing action!
Rating: 4/5

Gugure! Kokkuri-san (John)


The main characters of this show are a fox ghost and an emotionless biotech doll. An unusual combination to be sure. Actually it’s hard to tell if the girl is really a doll or if she’s just a bit of a weirdo (I suspect it’s the latter). As you might expect, this show is a comedy. The doll summons the fox ghost as a joke to see if he would show up. When he does, the doll just tells him to leave and not bother her. But the fox ghost sees the sad state of the doll’s living conditions he decides to stay, even though she keeps telling him to leave.

The goofy little girl is what first interested me in this show. There is a good dynamic between the two characters with the girl being totally deadpan and emotionless and the fox ghost being animated and over the top. The show is pretty funny in a ridiculous way. Most of the humor comes from the doll, and the fox ghost just fuels the fire. The show is nice, light, and entertaining, but I’m not expecting anything much from the show as far as story goes. Near the middle of the first episode a new character is introduced which could make things a lot more interesting, but exactly how is unsure for now. The show also takes place largely in one place so it can get tiresome as the show is basically all talking.

Watch if you like: Goofy combinations of sci-fi and fantasy characters in a comedic setting.
Chances I’ll watch another: Average. The show is amusing enough, but I don’t think there’s much to make me want to come back for more. If the story was more complicated (and it might become that way with the new character), I imagine I’d like it a lot more.
Rating: 3/5

Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete (Rich)


I almost turned off what appeared to be a run of the mill moe series until a fight broke out in a hallway. In a school where the astronomy club is ordered to maintain order by its student council, you can never be sure what might happen. But for the majority of Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete’s first episode nothing happened. Then weirdness began and ended with a bang. If the plot-twist pays off, and some more fights get sprinkled in, Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete could be an interesting ride. At this point I have no idea what to expect.

But I’m not sure that I care. Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete’s art style is flat, sloppy and unengaging. The series’ empty settings and colors fail to add any substance or style. The brawls were enough to get me through an episode, but not enough to hook for more.

Watch if you like: Angel Beats.
Chances I’ll watch another: Low, the series’ lack of style makes it hard to watch.
Rating: 2/5

Bonjour: Koiaji Patisserie (Rich)


Cheerful Sayuri Haruno joins a fancy confectionery school and would be raring to start baking if she wasn’t so distracted by the schools handsome instructors. Episodes are only five minutes a piece, so don’t expect to see anything too complicated. And so far handsome, sparky guys greatly outnumber the confectioneries. Still, it has more depth and better style (the hair looks great) than Girlfriend Beta. So if you enjoy baking and dreamy anime gents, you should give Bonjour: Koiaji Patisserie a look.

Watch if you like: Cakemania (?), Yakitate Japan.
Chances I’ll watch another: Low, I want cake recipes not dreamy guys.
Rating: 2.5/5

Sega Hard Girls (Hi☆sCoool! セハガール) (John)


If Sega consoles were anthropomorphized into little school girls, you’d get this show. I’m afraid I don’t really understand the concept at work here, and the animation is all CG using the same software that Vocaloid music videos employ (MikuMikuDance, i.e. not good). The production values are incredibly low and the substance is just cheap grabs at Sega nostalgia. I have no idea how they plan to continue this into a full season.

I like Sega. My days with the Dreamcast were some of my favorite gaming memories. There is definitely some nostalgia value here as most of the show features Sega games and consoles and actual footage from those games. But as a show, this all makes no sense. It makes even less sense to audience members who never played Sega consoles. I cannot believe this is on TV.

Watch if you like: Sega. You need to be the biggest Sega fan ever to enjoy this show.
Chances I’ll watch another: Nonexistent. I have trouble even considering this a show. It’s just a really long, poorly thought out commercial.
Rating: 0.5/5

Second Opinion (Rich):

A weird combination of anime and commercial, Sega Hard Girls’s characters represent Sega’s systems (or HARDware) through the ages. Dreamcast, Saturn and Megadrive enter various Sega franchises, including Virtual Fighter 1 and Space Channel 5. It’s all shiny CG, but the style works given the girls’ participation in old games and the show’s light and cute comedy tone.

Sega Hard Girls’s characters got on my nerves, but the show’s funny in-jokes and nostalgic games have forced me stick around. However, if you’re not a Sega fan, Sega Hard Girls isn’t worth your time.

Watch if you like: Sega, Nendoroid figures.
Chances I’ll watch another: Medium, I want to see what games get involved.
Rating: 2.5/5

Recaps From Last Season


Barakamon, Zankyou no Terror, Tokyo Ghoul, and Space Dandy 2 were my top ones from last season. Unfortunately, the first three all lost my interest in under 5 episodes. I just didn’t feel that strong a desire to follow them any further. Space Dandy 2, however, hasn’t let me down. The second season is just as good as the first. Can’t go wrong there.

I was stoked about Zankyou no Terror from last season so I was disappointed it didn’t keep that strong momentum from the first episode. It’s still a solid show, it just wasn’t as cool as I thought it was going to be. Oh well.

Summary of this Season


It looks like Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis, The Seven Deadly Sins, Amagi Brilliant Park, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu, and World Trigger will be the ones we’re keeping our eyes on the most here at Tofugu. My top pick of the season though – definitely Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso. Out of all the shows this season, I am most emotionally invested in this one, even after just one episode. I get the feeling it’s just going to pull me in and not let go, just like a great J-drama. I can’t wait to watch more of it.

But overall, this season seems really great. It’s been a while since we’ve thrown out so many solid ratings. And there are good shows in many different genres this season too! No matter what your anime tastes are, you should find something to tickle your fancy this season. Happy watching, everyone!

How do you think this season stacks up to the last one? Any of these new shows look good to you? What’s your favorite one so far? Share your thoughts down below!

The post Tofugu’s Fall 2014 Anime Roundup appeared first on Tofugu.

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Tofugu’s Summer 2014 Anime Roundup Fri, 01 Aug 2014 16:00:36 +0000 We reviewed a lot of shows this time. Twenty-two if my counting skills are dependable. While not all of them are winners, there are some real gems this summer. It seems like this summer will be a better season than Spring 2014 was at least. I’m pretty excited about a few of these shows and […]

The post Tofugu’s Summer 2014 Anime Roundup appeared first on Tofugu.

We reviewed a lot of shows this time. Twenty-two if my counting skills are dependable. While not all of them are winners, there are some real gems this summer. It seems like this summer will be a better season than Spring 2014 was at least. I’m pretty excited about a few of these shows and we had Rich and Kaitlin helping out with the reviews and they seem to be pretty pumped about a few of them as well. This post is already gonna be super long so let’s get right into it.

Rail Wars! (John)


This anime tells the tale of a boy who loves trains and wants to one day work for JNR, the largest railway in Japan. That being the case, he goes to JNR Central Academy to learn the ways of the rails. On his first day at the academy he befriends two girls and one guy, although one of the girls seems to be more of a rival figure. The other girl is the top scorer in the class, so they all work together to improve their scores. The show seems very much like a high school drama comedy, just centered around trains. Nearing the end of episode 1 realized that they’re only in training for the first episode. It looks like from the second episode on, they’ll actually be full-fledged train security employees.

This show seems pretty solid, but also pretty average. Everything is done decently enough, but nothing really stands out or sets it apart as a show other than the trains. I’m not super excited about trains, so that aspect doesn’t really do much for me, but if you’re into trains, then this might be right up your alley. The characters are decent, but I didn’t find any of them particularly compelling. There is some action peppered into the show which is pretty well done, but it’s far and few between.

Watch if you like: Romcom dramas and/or Japanese trains.
Chances I’ll watch another: Pretty low. The show is okay, but there are much better offerings this season.
Rating: 2.5/5

Majimoji Rurumo (Rich)


“At least I was able to walk around town with a girl, and got some panties.”

Pervy (or “lecherous” in old anime translations) high school boy Shibaki, has no luck with the girls. One day, he tries to summon a witch as a joke, but when the experiment works a witch named Rurumo enters his life. One thing leads to another and Rurumo ends up granting Shibaki’s wishes. With the plot device set, the series inundates viewers with fan-service and panty jokes – some of which (should I admit this?) made me laugh.

Maijimoji Rurumo is another mysterious-girl-falls-into-guys-lap series. Its animation, art, and music are super-typical of light-hearted comedies. You won’t find anything new here. However, the ecchi humor walked the perfect line for my tastes – silly and innocent. So if you’re a fan of light hearted ecchi-comedies or anime witches (there’s even a talking black cat) Maijimoji Rurumo might be for you. If not, you’re better off investing your time elsewhere.

Watch if you like: Ecchi comedy, cute witches, Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko, Nazo no Kanojo X.
Chances I’ll watch another: Only if I’m in desperate need of a laugh.
Rating: 2/5

Tokyo Ghoul (John)


The opening scene of this show is pretty intense. I wasn’t sure what to expect but the show definitely starts with a bang. Creatures known as ghouls are terrorizing the town, causing trouble and eating people. Even though that situation is pretty serious, the interactions with the main character are still lighthearted and entertaining. When things get serious though, there are a lot of holy crap moments. The main character has a run in with a ghoul and ends up forever changed because of it. He becomes half human, half ghoul.

When I first read about the show, it didn’t sound that interesting but once I started watching my thoughts immediately changed. The show is a lot better and a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. I had to stretch my imagination a little bit here and there, but nothing too serious. I’m not really sure where the story will go from here, but I am definitely intrigued. How will he deal with his strange new situation? Will he embrace it? Will he look for a way to reverse it? These are the sort of things I’m interested in finding out.

Watch if you like: Well done creepy, mystery, action anime.
Chances I’ll watch another: High. I want to see if this show has enough steam to continue to be engaging and interesting.
Rating: 4/5

**I watched a few more episodes of this show and it’s still pretty decent, but I’m just not that excited about it anymore. Every episode I’m expecting it to get way cooler, but it continues to be just pretty good. TBD.
Revised Rating: 3/5

Second Opinion (Rich):

“How could I have been enticed by the scent of a corpse?!”

Just when I thought I was over vampires, zombies and the undead in general, Tokyo Ghoul comes along and pulls me back in. And I have the series’ main character Ken Kaneki, who craves human flesh but retains human logic, to thank for that. Tokyo Ghoul forced me to consider (un)life as a ghoul for the first time- unable to have beloved normal foods, but feeling disgusted at the thoughts of eating human flesh to survive.

With slick animation, bountiful gore, and moody art direction and coloring, Tokyo Ghoul provides audiences with the perfect ingredients for a mature horror series.

Watch if you like: School of the Dead (sans fan service), zombies, vampires, guts and gore.
Chances I’ll watch another: Definite – I look forward to witnessing how Ken Kaneki deals with his new affliction.
Rating: 3.5/5

Glasslip (John)


Slice of life. That’s the sort of anime we have here. The story centers around a group of high school friends and one third year transfer student. There’s a lot of talking and conversation – not too much action. The group does end up taking care of a handful of free range chickens from the school though. The transfer student is a bit odd and seems to have some sort of connection to one of the other girls, but it’s not really explained at all in this first episode.

This show is super slow and, in my opinion, super boring. I’m usually not super into slice of life type anime, but I’m especially not into the ones that aren’t funny at all. I also don’t really care about any of the characters. None of them seem that interesting at all. I know that some people like these kind of simple, character focused shows, but I don’t even think those people would like this show either. I dunno, it just doesn’t seem that deep or thoughtful at all.

Watch if you like: Simple and slow moving slice of life shows.
Chances I’ll watch another: Nonexistent. Nothing about this show interests me.
Rating: 1/5

Bakumatsu Rock (Rich)


“Music is free. It’s the cry of our hearts!”

What if the Bakumastu era government of Japan had outlawed music instead of swords? What if the only legal musical act, the Shinsengumi brainwashed Japan’s citizens with their music? Bakumatsu Rock’s historical gimmick sounds interesting. But the series falls flat, failing to utilize that historical context in a meaningful way.

My biggest gripe with Bakumastu Rock lies in its generic mishmash of character traits – Shinsaku Takasugi is the cool guy with goggles, Kogoro Katsura is the sensitive guy with glasses, and Ryoma Sakamoto is the wild rebel with an equally rebellious perm and scarf. The series fails to take advantage of its historical characters’ rich backgrounds and personalities. Even the charismatic Bakumatsu setting transforms into a generic backdrop for the show’s flimsy plot.

Once the characters and setting lost my interest, Bakumastu Rock had little left to offer. Its over-saturated, overbearing colors quickly grew tiresome. So far, the plot has only served as a buffer between the grating pop-rock songs. And the climax, where everyone rocked out shirtless in a mix of tradition animation and horrible CG, assaulted both my eyes and ears. Though Bakumatsu Rock had some funny moments, it didn’t take long to realize I’m not the show’s target audience.

BUT, if you’re part of the target audience – a fan of Japanese pop-rock, cartoon male idols or the trending sexualized Shinsengumi – then Bakumatsu Rock is for you! Call it Maji LOVE 1000% Idol Song with a historical twist.

Watch if you like: Sexy Shinsengumi, Maji LOVE 1000% Idol Song, Japanese male idol rock groups.
Chances I’ll watch another: Zero. Beyond a few laughs this series did nothing for me.
Rating: 2/5

Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen (John)


Military conflict with plenty of robots. That’s what this show is all about. It kind of reminded me a bit of Full Metal Panic at times, if you’ve ever encountered that show. There are two warring nations, one is naturally resource rich, and the other is rapidly expanding and growing its military might. The main guy is a new pilot of one of these military mechs.

This show was much less exciting than anticipated. With all the robots, you’d think there’d be more action, but the show is pretty much a snoozefest the first half of the episode. Most of the second half as well. The action that does happen isn’t that compelling either. I wouldn’t really say I had high hopes for this show, but I was still disappointed. Most all of the battles are slow moving and fought with firearms. While this may be more “realistic”, it’s certainly not all that exciting considering how awesome we all know good mech fights can be. It gets a little more exciting near the end, but it doesn’t feel like enough to save the show.

Watch if you like: Shows about war, military conflict, and the robots involved in them.
Chances I’ll watch another: Very low. I’m hoping there are better robot shows this season because this one isn’t that great.
Rating: 1.5/5

DRAMAtical Murder (Rich)


“What the hell is this?”

And I thought Bakumatsu Rock’s characters and outfits were overkill. The two series seem to be competing for the most annoying visuals of the summer season. But DRAMAtical Murder comes out on top thanks to its main character’s giant jacket and aqua-colored mullet.

DRAMAtical Murder’s story, which takes two episodes to get anywhere, seems to be about gangs that duke it out in virtual reality video games (called Ryhmes) using robot pets. The series’ characters and setting are littered with deliberate eccentricities and over-the-top styles. But the wild colors, tattoos, hairstyles, outfits, piercings and masks do little to hide the series’ generic underpinnings. Other than a fleeting moment where the main character cared for his injured robot dog, nothing about this show struck me as interesting. The insipid cast should turn away even the most dedicated shoujo/yaoi action fan, which seems to be the target audience.

Watch if you like: Modish fashion, virtual reality battles, mullets.
Chances I’ll watch another: Two episodes was more than enough – no chance at all.
Rating: 0.5/5

Aldnoah.Zero (John)

In the future, people are living on both Earth and Mars. Space travel is a regular thing and space ships are large and in charge. The moon has been destroyed. Tensions are high between the Martians and the Earthlings. There’s also a people known as the Vers who left Earth long ago and developed their own customs and technology. And of course there are also mech units. The show has a space opera kind of feel to it.

The show feels pretty well done and interesting, laying some solid groundwork. That being said, it also feels a bit slow. Not in a really bad way, because the show remains engaging throughout, I just hope that things start to pick up momentum and get going sooner than later. The show seems to center around the Vers princess and some high schoolers from Earth. The princess seems to be trying to make nice with the Earthlings but terrorists get involved and screw everything up.

Watch if you like: Epic space operas with cool mechs and tech.
Chances I’ll watch another: Higher than average. I feel like the show is really well done, but I’m not sure how confident I am that it will remain intriguing throughout. I kinda want to find out though.
Rating: 3.5/5

Second Opinion (Rich):

“Those Martian jerk bastards really went crazy, huh?”

Apollo 17 lands on the moon where astronauts uncover a hyper gate to Mars and advanced Martian technology. The resulting Martian colonies form the Vers Empire, a civilization buoyed by Mars technologies. One thing leads to another and Mars and Earth become embroiled in repeated wars. The series starts with the Vers Empire declaring war on Earth – only this time they aim for a full take over.

Aldnoah Zero features a varied cast, including military members and a group of school kids swept into the war. These subtle, realistic characters are proving to be the series’ strong point so far. Although the plot relies on a tried formula – ancient relics create a technology gap that fuels a space colony’s war with earth – it’s well executed and interesting. With average animation, coloring, and mecha designs, Aldnoah Zero’s visuals are nothing special. The outdated CGI fails to impress and will turn off many viewers.

Overall, Aldnoah Zero has nothing new to offer, but fans of serious military and mecha drama should be pleased.

Watch if you like: Gundam (particularly Turn A), Last Exile, Suisei no Gargantia and other “realistic” mecha/war series.
Chances I’ll watch another: Medium – it’s a solid series, but I think I’ve already seen what it offers.
Rating: 3/5

Space Dandy 2 (John)


This is the second season of Space Dandy which was covered two seasons back in this article here. Season 2 doesn’t seem to add anything out of the ordinary from last season, but the quality is still up to that old Dandy standard. If you liked the first season, you’ll enjoy this one as well. If you didn’t like the first season, there’s nothing here that will change your mind.

That being said – I really like Space Dandy. If you haven’t checked it out already, you definitely should. There really isn’t that much of an ongoing story, so if you’re unable to start from the beginning, you won’t be missing much by jumping right into the second season.

Watch if you like: The original Space Dandy, or just goofy space shows with animated and entertaining characters.
Chances I’ll watch another: Super high. I watched all of the first season and see no reason why I wouldn’t continue with this one.
Rating: 4.5/5

Ao Haru Ride (Rich)


“I can go back to the happiest days of my life.”

Or can you? Tired of being haunted by a former crush, Yoshioka Futaba decides to start life fresh as a high school freshman. But just when she’s ready to move on guess who re-appears…

What makes a good slice-of-life series? For me it starts with the small nuances of everyday-life and Ao Haru Ride excels at the details. From the way Futaba and her peers wear their hair and clothes, to the school cafeteria, to the teachers’ office – everything about the show radiates a realistic vibe. And that includes its characters. Ao Haru Ride avoids the trap of relying on the empty archetypes many other student-centered series parade around.

Next the series must be engaging and Ao Haru Ride accomplishes this with a worthwhile theme and engaging conflicts. As Futaba attempts to make friends she is forced to explore the very definition of true friendship. As for conflicts, sometimes life’s minor problems are the ones I relate to most. A simple scene where a cafeteria lady accuses Futaba of stealing made my blood boil. Add believable voice acting, subdued coloring, and reasonably sized eyes (by today’s standards) to the mix and you have all the makings of a quality slice-of-life series.

Watch if you like: Slice of life, high school romance, Kimi ni Todoke, Kare Kano, Sukitte Ii Na Yo.
Chances I’ll watch another: So far this is the most enjoyable school romance series I’ve seen since Kare Kano, so I’ll be back for more.
Rating: 3.5/5

Barakamon (John)


A little kid and a calligrapher who made a blunder are the main characters here. Due to said blunder, the calligrapher guy is hanging out in the countryside for a while to lay low and collect himself. The little kid is the village scamp, really cute, and absolutely hilarious. In other words, this little girl makes it incredibly hard for the main dude to concentrate on calming down and working on his calligraphy.

This looks like it might be the funniest show of the season. I mean, it’s no Hozuki no Reitetsu, but it’s pretty good. The dynamic between the two main characters is very entertaining. I laughed out loud quite a few times during this first episode. The little kid is definitely the best character. I think the voice acting and animation really add a lot to it as well. I’m not sure how profound or deep the story will end up being, but the show itself is very well done.

Watch if you like: Hilarious shows with excellent character dynamics. Or calligraphy.
Chances I’ll watch another: Great. This show is a guaranteed laugh.
Rating: 4.5/5

Second Opinion (Rich):

“What’s wrong with my calligraphy?!”

Young professional calligrapher Seishū Handa flips out when an elderly gentlemen criticizes his work. As penance, he heads to a remote island to cool off and hone his calligraphy style. There he befriends a colorful cast of locals, including the show’s other focus and mascot of sorts, an expressive little girl named Naru.

I started Barakamon hoping to learn more about Japanese calligraphy, but the show’s depiction of the Japanese “inaka” or country-side is my favorite aspect so far. Since many series, dramas and movies focus on Japans urban centers, Barakamon provides a welcomed change of setting and pace. The show’s charming music, characters and setting helps facilitate its light, easy-going atmosphere. Only time will tell if Barakamon evolves beyond a run-of-the-mill coming-of-age tale, but it’s off to a good start.

Watch if you like: Silver Spoon, Usagi Drop, slice-of-life, calligraphy and Japanese inaka (country) culture.
Chances I’ll watch another: Good, I want to learn more about Naru and see how Seishi develops.
Rating: 3.5/5

Himegoto (John)


The main reason I wanted to check this show out was because how weird it seemed. The genre I saw it listed under was “cross-dressing”. That alone was enough to confuse and intrigue me. Plus the show is only 4 minutes long, so I figured I might as well. It’s a high school show with one cross-dressing guy and three normal girls in the student council.

This show was actually not as terrible as I was expecting. I’m actually kind of surprised they went with the short show format for this one because it moves along like a normal show. And then it just kind of ends abruptly. I’m used to the short shows being very quick and fast paced, but this one seemed just like any other full length show. I almost feel like it’s hard to judge due to that. The story they’ve set up so far doesn’t really interest me, but the show definitely seems better than expected.

Watch if you like: Short doses of cross-dressing comedy.
Chances I’ll watch another: Medium? I don’t dislike the show, but I imagine I’ll be too busy with other, better, full length shows to spend much time pursuing this one.
Rating: 3/5

Nobunaga Concerto (Rich)


In Nobunaga Concerto a boy named Saburou time-slips off his high school’s roof into a poorly animated CG version of Japan’s past. As Oda Nobunaga it’s his duty to follow his textbook and try to take over the country.

If Nobunaga Concerto’s visuals provide an accurate measure, CG animation hasn’t advanced since Shuhei Morita’s Freedom debuted almost a decade ago. Although Nobunaga Concerto’s still-screens look great, the CG appears incredibly awkward when animated – an unfortunate problem for an animated series.

But Nobunga Concerto’s CG isn’t the show’s only awkward aspect. The series moves at a haphazard, school textbook-like pace – although it covers a lot of ground, it’s hard to feel anything for the story or characters. To make matters worse, Saburou’s unrealistic, matter-of-fact acceptance of the time skip (and entire situation) makes him impossible to relate to.

But if I ever find myself time traveling I might not be surprised either, thanks to the growing library of time-skip titles. With dated visuals, poor pacing, and unnatural characters I won’t be watching to see if Nobunga Concerto ever becomes a worthy addition to the sub-genre.

Watch if you like: Japanese history, Jidaigeki, or time-slip stories.
Chances I’ll watch another: Zero, Nobunaga Concerto failed at everything.
Rating: 1/5

Sword Art Online II (John)


I did first impressions on the original SAO two years ago and now SAO2 is here. The original run was two seasons/halves and I thought the first half was brilliant. It was exciting, different, and fun. The second half though – a colossal disappointment, especially compared to the first half. I’m hoping that SAO2 will be more like the first half of the first run and not the second, but only time will tell.

There’s a new game in town called Gun Gale Online. GGO is about what you’d expect – an MMO relying heavily on gun combat. The thing is, people are mysteriously dying while playing the game. The main guy from the last season is called upon to help solve the mystery. The first episode is pretty much all setting the scene, so while it’s intriguing, it’s not necessarily exciting. Looks like I’ll have to watch another episode of this one to get a real feel for it.

Watch if you like: The first SAO, or well done VR/MMO anime with good action.
Chances I’ll watch another: High. I pretty much have to. This first episode doesn’t really give me a good feel for where the show is going this time. But GGO already seems a lot cooler than that stupid elf game they were playing for the second half of SAO, yeesh.
Rating: 4/5

**I watched a few more episodes of SAO2 and I’m no longer excited about it. It seems to be a lot more like the second half of SAO (disappointing and stupid) and not at all like the first (awesome and exciting).
Revised Rating: 3/5

Shonen Hollywood (John)


I don’t think I’ve ever seen an idol show with guys instead of girls. A handful of guys are in a boy band/idol group trying to become the next big thing. The show focuses on these five guys and their trainer and manager and how they grow both as people and performers. They are inheriting the name of a super famous idol group from 15 years ago, so they have some big shoes to fill here.

I like the art style in this one. The characters have more of a realistic feel to them – I think it’s mostly the eyes and the noses. Other than that the show doesn’t really hold much interest to me, but I think that’s mostly due to the subject matter. The show itself does seem really polished and decently done, I’m just not that into idol shows. I feel like this show is geared more towards the female audience and those who are really excited about behind the scenes idol type stuff.

Watch if you like: Pretty boys or idols in general.
Chances I’ll watch another: Low. The show seems like a decent one, it’s just not my thing.
Rating: 3/5

Love Stage!! (John)


So, I definitely did not realize what this show was about before I started watching – but anyway, it seems to be a romance between two dudes. The one is an otaku who comes from a family of entertainers who are disappointed he doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing with his life. The other guy is a famous idol. The first episode sets up their reunion after 10 years apart. But due to circumstances, the idol thinks the otaku is actually a girl.

This is one of those shows that likes to only draw extras in single shades and outlines. Yeah, I know that they’re really not important, but I still view it as lazy. I do like the art style and animation for everyone else, so it’s too bad that not everything is given this attention. From the OP of the show, I really thought this was going to be a boys-love show, and I still feel like it’s going to be like that – just none of it really shows up in the first episode until the very end. Overall I think the show is just okay. Nothing really stands out but there isn’t really anything I particularly dislike about it either.

Watch if you like: BL, cross-dressing, or the entertainment industry.
Chances I’ll watch another: Low. I would probably like this show a lot more if it were funnier.
Rating: 2.5/5

Psycho-Pass Extended (Rich)


I’ve often heard the phrase “it’s better late than never,” but Psycho-Pass Extended proves sometimes it’s better late than on time. Originally airing in Autumn 2013, this season’s Psycho-Pass features, according to message boards, extra scenes and crisper visuals. Whatever the differences, Psycho-Pass Extended is one of my favorite series of the 2014 summer season.

Psycho-Pass Extended’s story centers around a future where a person’s state of mind, intentions and criminal propensity can be measured in what is called his/her “psycho-pass.” Through this psycho-pass, potential criminals can be judged before a crime even takes place. Although the technology has the potential to lower crime, it also which poses all sorts of moral dilemmas.

Everything about Psycho-Pass Extended is top-notch. Its animation and backgrounds are beautiful. The characters are lively and memorable. The music and palette create the perfect dystopian atmosphere for the story. Everything is very Masamune Shirow-ish (think Ghost in the Shell), but perhaps more accessible to the casual viewer.

The first episode was perfectly paced and balanced – one moment I was learning about Psycho-Pass’s world, the next I was shocked by it. Each character’s viewpoint on the psycho-pass system and the moral dilemmas it poses is the series’ most interesting point. Crime prevention is a blessing, but at what cost? I look forward to exploring that question with each new episode.

Watch if you like: Dystopian sci-fi, fans of Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell), Patlabor, Paranoia Agent.
Chances I’ll watch another: Great. It’s one of my favorites this season.
Rating: 4.5/5

Rokujouma no Shinryakusha (John)


A high school student, now living on his own, is surprised to learn his new abode is haunted. Well, not that surprised – he’d known of rumors that the place is haunted, but it was so cheap he didn’t care. The story seems to be a typical high school show but with the addition of ghosts, but not the scary kind. It has a similar feel to that other ghost show from last season, Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin, only without the treasure hunting. In the second half of the show, more and more weird girls pop into his apartment/life. A ghost, a magical girl, an underground person, and a mystical knight from the future. There were definitely a lot of wtf moments in the second half of this show, and not in a good way.

After the first 5 minutes, my hopes for this show dropped pretty low. I just got a bad feeling about it. And things didn’t get any better from there. It just felt slow and boring and uninteresting. And since it felt so similar to Nanana I just kept thinking about how much more well done it could have been. I felt like the show was really trying to be funny and quirky and entertaining, but I also felt like all of its attempts fell flat. Maybe it just doesn’t jive with my sense of humor, but I didn’t feel like it was all that well done of a show. Plus I have absolutely no idea where the story is going here.

Watch if you like: Haunted apartments and weirdos.
Chances I’ll watch another: Nonexistent. This show is just ugh.
Rating: 1/5

Zankyou no Terror (John)


The show starts off without really explaining much at all what’s going on, but that’s okay because it’s still very interesting and compelling. There are two guys in high school who go by numbers instead of names (when addressing one another) and are attempting to blend in as normal high school students. The opening sequence also shows them stealing something important from a facility. Who these people are and what was stolen, we don’t really know. There are a lot of unanswered questions but everything is presented so well that you can’t help but look forward to learning more about what’s going on. These kids are definitely terrorists though. And smart ones.

I got goose bumps a lot during this first episode. It’s pretty awesome and really, really well done. I had no idea what to expect but I really enjoyed this first episode. The two main characters have a good dynamic and the style of the show reminds me of some of my favorite anime from the past. Sharp, well done, intelligent anime. I know I haven’t really said much about what the story is, but the truth is I really don’t know yet – which is impressive considering how much I already like it. This just might be the best new show of the season. The show just oozes style and I’m hoping that the veiled substance revealed in this first episode starts to take hold and stays on par with how good this first episode is.

Watch if you like: Intriguing, well-paced and intelligent anime with plenty of action too.
Chances I’ll watch another: Absolutely. This show blew me away.
Rating: 5/5

Second Opinion (Rich):

Zankyou no Terror hooked me from the get-go. The opening scene, depicting the daring robbery of plutonium from a nuclear facility featured intense action and gorgeous, fluid animation. Although the action slowed as the episode continued, its pace did not – introducing the series’ main players, setting, and plot without missing a beat.

Two young terrorists with mysterious backgrounds baffle police with their first attack. A troubled school girl present during the bombing is tricked into becoming an accomplice. Why are these attacks taking place? How will the school girl respond to her predicament? How will the police and citizenry react? What are the terrorists’ backgrounds? I’m not sure where Zankyou no Terror is going, but count me in for the ride!

Exceptional in every respect, Zankyou no Terror is this season’s most impressive series. It features great, personable characters that never come across as gimmicky or cheesy. Each setting and background is lush with beautiful art and great attention to detail – a rarity these days. The cool soundtrack only adds to the experience, melding with the onscreen action to draw viewers in without becoming a distraction. Zankyou no Terror conjures the feel of a high budget suspense movie – it’s an experience.

Zankyou no Terror’s terrorist theme makes it a very relevant and thought-provoking series. That being said, anyone sensitive to the subject matter may want to avoid the series which contains some realistic imagery. But to miss out on Zankyou no Terror is to miss out on the most intriguing, provocative, and most beautifully constructed series in recent memory.

Watch if you like: Suspense, crime/police drama, Higashi no Eden, Coppelion, Psycho-Pass.
Chances I’ll watch another: No doubt!
Rating: 5/5

Tokyo ESP (John)


This show kind of reminds me of like a Japanese X-Men. But the main mutants in this show are definitely the bad guys, giving most ESPers a bad name. The show is very action oriented and bloody with plenty of mutant versus human and mutant versus mutant fights with swords, guns, and special powers. It seems similar to Magneto’s group in X-Men with them using violent means to fight for mutant rights and subject the normal humans. The first episode introduces A LOT of characters. I’m not even entirely sure who the main one(s) are yet.

I wanted to like this show more than I did. The ideas seem cool, but I’m not so sure about the execution. A lot of stuff happens in the first episode, but most all of it felt forgettable to me. It might have something to do with me watching this one right after Zankyou no Terror, but probably not too much. The animation and art style and everything are very well done, but the story and characters just aren’t all that interesting to me yet. I’m hoping it gets better, but I’m not getting my hopes up too high.

Watch if you like: Mutants with superpowers and lots of action.
Chances I’ll watch another: Pretty low. The show is just okay and there are plenty of other shows I’d rather spend my time on.
Rating: 2.5/5

Gekkan Shojo Nozaki-kun (John)

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Here we have another show about the creation of manga. The main dude is a manga artist and the main girl has a massive crush on him. Apparently he’s pretty popular as his work is featured in a monthly manga magazine. She’s pretty enamored with him. He ends up recruiting her for doing beta (coloring in the black areas of manga), and they end up bonding during their work. The show focuses almost exclusively on these two characters and their interactions with one another centering around the manga they’re working on. The only problem is that the guy is totally oblivious to the fact she has a thing for him.

I really thought this show was going to be funnier. It has a few moments, but overall I felt it was kind of dull. The characters are fine, I just didn’t feel a real spark or anything from them. The story itself isn’t that interesting either. I feel like the story was put on the backburner though as it seems the characters are the most important thing about the story. Too bad I didn’t find them all that intriguing.

Watch if you like: Romcoms centering around manga creation.
Chances I’ll watch another: Low. This one was kind of a disappointment.
Rating: 2.5/5

Sailor Moon: Crystal (Kaitlin)


Usagi Tsukino may be a clumsy crybaby with bad grades and an even worse sweet tooth, but by night, she transforms into the courageous and capable Sailor Moon, protector of love and justice. With the help of her devoted friends and the mysterious Tuxedo Mask, Sailor Moon fights the forces of evil. Also, there are super sparkly transformation sequences.

Sailor Moon: Crystal is a reboot of the ’90s anime most people think of when they think Sailor Moon. This time around, the anime is intending to follow its manga counterpart much more closely. I’m reading the newly translated manga series right now, and the first episode of Crystal and the first manga chapter match nearly beat for beat.

I’ve been a Sailor Moon fan since childhood, so it’s hard not to view Sailor Moon: Crystal through nostalgia glasses. I love the story of Sailor Moon in pretty much any incarnation, and knew I would love this one as soon as the guitar riff started during the opening. But I’ll admit, the art style is mostly a miss for me. The anime is trying to mimic the manga’s look, but I think what works beautifully on the page doesn’t look as clean in motion. The lines are just a little too sharp, and the transformation sequence has a cheap CGI-look, which is disappointing. But even so, the Usagi Sailor Moon fans know and love is still here (complete with the original voice actor), and this first episode does an excellent job of foreshadowing some of the bigger story arcs of the series.

Watch if you like: Sailor Moon, obviously. But fans of the magical girl genre who’ve never seen Sailor Moon should check this one out, too, since Sailor Moon practically defined the genre itself.
Chances I’ll watch another: Very high. The anime is still setting the stage for what’s to come, and I can’t wait until all the Sailor Senshi are finally together.
Rating: 4/5

Second Opinion (Rich):

After long-time rumors and postponement, the anticipated Sailor Moon remake has finally debuted. So how does Sailor Moon Crystal compare to its previous incarnations?

Since the original manga and anime different greatly, that’s hard to say. On the surface, the art style is representative of the manga with elegant, girlish features (think big eyes, make-up, and thin, pointed faces). Crystal’s shoujo tone also differs from the previous anime’s very comedic, tokusatsu-influenced style.

As a fan of the 1990’s series, I enjoyed Crystal’s approach. Some fans of the old anime bemoaned the girly feel and BGM – but these aspects came as no surprise. The CG transformations aren’t eye-candy but are short and therefore passable. Crystal isn’t a visual feast, but neither were any of Sailor Moon’s previous incarnations.

My biggest complaint lies in Crystal’s visual tone, which is actually brighter and more colorful than the previous anime. Even the monsters are cute! This leads me to wonder whether Crystal will embrace the manga’s darker themes as rumored. Perhaps the bright tones of the early episodes will come to juxtapose darker themes and developments later on? Only time will tell.

Despite any differences in presentation, Usagi is still the clumsy, honest character fans have grown to love. I look forward to watching her character mature while struggling to strike a balance between her academic, romantic, and heroic lives all over again.

Watch if you like: Sailor Moon, school girl heroes, shoujo action.
Chances I’ll watch another: As a Sailor Moon fan I wouldn’t miss it.
Rating: 4/5

Recaps From Last Season


Chaika was the overall winner of last season but sadly it did not hold my interest. I don’t dislike the show, I just couldn’t get into it enough to have it be priority over other shows and activities. Oh well.

After the fact, last season seemed pretty bland to me. There’s a small chance that I’ll eventually go back and give Chaika another go, but I highly doubt it

Summary of this Season


Hands down the favorite of this season is Zankyou no Terror. No questions there. It made an incredibly strong first impression and really stood out from the crowd. I will be incredibly surprised if I don’t end up seeing this one through until the end.

Barakamon, Psycho-Pass, Sailor Moon, Tokyo Ghoul, and Space Dandy 2 are all strong contenders as well but they don’t hold a candle to Zankyou. This season I imagine I’ll be watching a lot of Zankyou, Space Dandy 2, and Barakamon. Zankyou will be my intense and serious anime and the other two will be my lighthearted comic relief. It should be a good summer of anime watching. I’m really looking forward to it.


I just recently happened upon the Japanese duo and thought they were worth sharing. Hope you enjoy.

So how do you think this season stacks up to the last one? Any of these new shows look good to you? What’s your favorite one so far? Share your thoughts in the comments!

The post Tofugu’s Summer 2014 Anime Roundup appeared first on Tofugu.

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Truly The King Of All The Movies: A Review Of The Film “Godzilla” Fri, 16 May 2014 16:00:27 +0000 Godzilla. What a film. For some reason this past week I’ve been getting tons of emails from people asking me to watch and review this film, and for once I am more than eager to help out with that. Unlike the Dragonball movie review from a while back, which felt like a swift kick to […]

The post Truly The King Of All The Movies: A Review Of The Film “Godzilla” appeared first on Tofugu.

Godzilla. What a film. For some reason this past week I’ve been getting tons of emails from people asking me to watch and review this film, and for once I am more than eager to help out with that. Unlike the Dragonball movie review from a while back, which felt like a swift kick to the dragonballs, Godzilla is a great film. That’s right, I pulled some strings, called the right people, and now I’m writing this after watching this film midnight last night. So how does the film Godzilla stack up? Should you watch it? What does the official Tofugu review conclude? Let’s find out.

Plot Summary


Spoiler alert!

The film Godzilla (Gojira) starts in a mysterious fashion. Several ships explode and sink off the coast of Odo Island, Japan. Authorities who are sent to the island think the cause is underwater mines or underwater volcanic activity. Basically, they’re clueless. You and me though? We know what’s up. We’ve seen the movie posters after all. Locals of Odo Island also seem to be in the know. They tell of a “god” who lives beneath the sea that they had to sacrifice ladies to back in the day to quench its hunger. That “god” turns out to be Godzilla, and appears on the island in an extremely iconic reveal.


After some running and screaming, Godzilla goes back into the ocean. After being poked a little bit, he shows up in Tokyo, demolishing everything in his path. There’s some fighting, there’s some smashing, and there’s a lot of running away. Things are looking pretty bleak for a while, but eventually they figure out how to kill it. Don’t worry, though, as they allude to at the end of the film, this probably isn’t the only monster like this down there in the ocean. Sounds like somebody saw Pacific Rim.

A Living, Breathing, Atomic Bomb


What is Godzilla, exactly? The name comes from the combination of two animals, a gorilla (gorira) and a whale (kujira). As someone who is really into the hybridization of animals (Tofugu, WaniKani, *cough cough*) I completely approve this chimera. This may have been more from some of the earlier iterations of Godzilla though. The final product was said to be more like an iguanodon, tyrannosaurus, stegosaurus, and alligator hybrid. It’s easy to leave it there and say that’s what it is, but the correct answer is a lot more interesting. Godzilla is an atomic bomb brought to life. The film was made and released not long after the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and people still felt that fear. Says Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka:

The theme of the film, from the beginning, was the terror of the bomb. Mankind had created the bomb, and now nature was going to take revenge on mankind. If Godzilla had been a dinosaur or some other animal, he would have been killed by just one cannonball. But if he were equal to an atomic bomb, we wouldn’t know what to do. So, I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla.

This is why artillery fire, fighter jets, and 50,000 volts of electricity can’t stop Godzilla. One criticism I occasionally see is that it’s “unrealistic” that Godzilla doesn’t feel the attacks of the Japanese army. Well, if you assume that Godzilla is an atomic bomb in flesh and blood form, it’s now a lot easier to understand why these weapons had no effect. There’s nothing quite like nuclear warfare in terms of its devastation and invincibility. That being said, they did try to shoot down an atomic bomb. Of course, that just made things worse for everyone and Tokyo was leveled.

There are plenty of other references to atomic bombs and the fear they held (and hold even today). Godzilla’s skin texture was inspired by the keloid scars found on atomic survivors. Godzilla also carries a dangerous nuclear weapon: “Atomic breath.” This power is “a nuclear blast that it generates inside of its body and unleashes from its jaws in the form of a blue or red radioactive heat ray” Wikipedia.


The biggest atomic kicker, though, are all the references to the use of atomic weapons by humans. Remember how I mentioned in the plot summary that a couple of boats were sunk in the beginning of this film? What I didn’t mention was that survivors came back from the ships with radiation burns. This is a reference to an actual event that took place on and near Bikini Atoll.

On March 1, 1954, the Daigo Fukuryuu Maru (aka Lucky Dragon 5), a Japanese fishing boat, got caught in some nuclear fallout after the US’s Castle Bravo Thermonuclear test on Bikini Atoll. Although the Daigo Fukuryuu Maru was outside the danger zone set up by the US military, the explosion turned out to be twice as big as expected. On top of that weather patterns blew nuclear fallout outside the danger zone, exposing the fishermen to a fine radioactive ash. The story doesn’t end well for the people who were on that boat, though. Later that year on September 23 chief radio operator Aikichi Kuboyama died, making him the first victim of a hydrogen bomb.

Now back to Godzilla. Where were we? In the film it was suggested that nuclear testing was what “awoke” Godzilla from his slumber. Basically, the lesson here is that if you screw with nature it will screw you back, so, don’t screw with nature. Not only that, but the radiation from the nuclear testing may have made Godzilla even stronger than it previously was.


Basically, atomic bombs are no good, kids. Listen to uncle Godzilla and the lessons he’s trying to teach.

It’s Not Just About The Monster


The American version of Godzilla (“Godzilla, King Of The Monsters!”) really helps to highlight this fact. This version was dubbed (forgivable, I guess) and got a lot of new footage for American audiences (not as forgivable). They added in the character Steve Martin (played by Raymond Burr) who was a reporter on his way to Cairo. He sticks around to cover the story of Godzilla acting as a kind of documentary-style narrator throughout the film.

Not only did they add footage but they removed footage too, which included (in this reviewer’s opinion) some of the best parts of the film: namely, the non-monster portions. A lot of the original focused on a love triangle between three main characters, which played into the monster-portion of the plot as well. Raymond Burr was kind of like the third (fourth?) wheel that made everyone else uncomfortable, so they suddenly couldn’t act out their dramas. This killed one of the best parts of the film. On top of this, other dialogue was trimmed. One scene, which has the Japanese Diet debating about the US’s use of atomic bombs was cut (it would make US audiences uncomfortable, presumably). Even the overall theme of nuclear holocaust was softened (if not practically muted) as well. The film become purely about the monster and not about the message.

But, the message is what I loved most about the Japanese version. Sure, the giant monster was there and was totally badass, just like the American one. But, it had some feelings. It made you think. It asked you questions. You come away wondering what’s right and wrong (more on that later), but you also come away thinking “awesome, I love seeing giant dinosaur/whale/gorilla monsters leveling a city.” All that, and you get a love triangle drama as a bonus. If you’ve ever seen any Japanese drama, you know that this is a recipe for success.

Suffice to say, if you have a choice between the original and the American version, choose the original. It’s not only about the monster.

A Message Of Hope And Shinto


Spoiler alert!

In the end, they use the “Oxygen Destroyer” which “disintegrates oxygen atoms” on Godzilla, disintegrating him to bones and then nothing. It’s eluded to that this “Oxygen Destroyer” could have been a new energy source as well, which has a lot of connections to nuclear power. With power comes responsibility to use it correctly… but, that’s obviously not going to happen. The creator of the weapon (Dr. Serizawa) commits suicide and takes the weapon along with him so that the secret of this power goes with him to the grave.

Another possible interpretation is one of hope. There has always been talk of renewable and unlimited energy. If one could simply create a reaction in water by taking all the O2 out of it, couldn’t that become a great new energy source? Perhaps what they were trying to say here is that if someone were to come up with something like this then nuclear power could be killed (remember, Japanese folks weren’t so up on nuclear things back then). That being said, this new energy source is dangerous as well. It’s certainly a somewhat grim (though somewhat hopeful) outlook on our future.

That brings us to the question: Is nuclear power good or bad? I have my own opinions, but producer Shogo Tomiyama has a more interesting one. He said that Godzilla is like the Shinto “God Of Destruction.” The God Of Destruction has no moral compass and cannot be held to our standards of good and evil. “He destroys everything and then there is a rebirth. Something new and fresh can begin.”

After reading that quote and thinking back on the film I found myself becoming less and less sure of things. Is he saying that the destruction that Godzilla causes good? Is he saying it’s bad? On one hand, some people say that the bombing of Japan was good because look at the 180 Japan made, going from warlike and imperialistic to peaceful and democratic. On the other hand, is the destruction itself really okay if the end result is “good”? I think that what they’re trying to say is that neither is true. We as humans just can’t use our own moral compasses to come to a “correct” answer. Like Godzilla itself, it’s too big for us to deal with. We can have opinions about it, but in the end there’s not much we can do to make a difference when something this big and this terrifying comes about. And, if it does… well… you just move on, and life comes back and destruction comes back and the cycle continues on and on and on…

The Final Verdict


This is a giant, smashing, atomic breathing, great film. I absolutely recommend you go see it. This is probably the best if not one of the best Godzilla movies to date, and it’s certainly the deepest and smartest one as well. There will be imitations, like a man wearing a rubber godzilla suit wearing another rubber godzilla suit (who is then wearing a CGI suit), but there’s nothing quite like Godzilla the original. It’s a classic and one of the greatest films ever made. If it wasn’t for The Seven Samurai, which came out in the same year, Godzilla would have won Best Picture in Japan. Speaking of which, that’s another good film. They’re both worth watching (so put aside an entire day to watch them).

Story: 8/10 – The more you think the deeper the rabbit hole gets. Understanding the social issues of the time will help you to enjoy this film a lot more.
Special Effects: 9/10 – Some little gaffes but overall a remarkable amount of craft was crafted.
Overall: 10/10 – Nothing truly beats Godzilla. No seriously, nothing. If you watch the other films this is almost always true.

Anyways, you should go watch this movie now. I don’t know why suddenly everyone was interested in Godzilla reviews, filling up my inbox with requests, but I hope this helps you to decide whether or not it’s worth seeing. RAWWRRRRRRR!

Bonus Wallpapers!

[1280×800] ∙ [2560×1600]

The post Truly The King Of All The Movies: A Review Of The Film “Godzilla” appeared first on Tofugu.

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Spring 2014 Anime Roundup Fri, 02 May 2014 16:02:18 +0000 Finally! At long last! Spring! Is! Here! Praises be. For it is anime time. Last season (Winter 2014) brought us some surprise favorites, and I wasn’t sure if Spring 2014 was going to offer anything impressive when I first saw the lineup. Thankfully, I was very much surprised. This season actually looks really promising. Of […]

The post Spring 2014 Anime Roundup appeared first on Tofugu.

Finally! At long last! Spring! Is! Here! Praises be. For it is anime time. Last season (Winter 2014) brought us some surprise favorites, and I wasn’t sure if Spring 2014 was going to offer anything impressive when I first saw the lineup. Thankfully, I was very much surprised. This season actually looks really promising. Of course, it still had its share of duds, but that’s what we’re here for – weeding out the lousy shows so you don’t have to! Now let’s find out what’s worth watching, shall we?

Blade and Soul (John)


This show is based on an upcoming Korean MMORPG. Normally something like that would steer me away from a show, but the animation looked cool, so I decided to check it out. The first episode starts with a female mercenary taking on a job to help a small village defend itself against some oppressors. The merc is kind of a loner, but the village chief’s daughter tries to get closer to her and open her up.

The animation, colors, and overall style are really nice. I do like the look of the show. The music isn’t bad either. It reminds me of MMO music, which is fitting. The story and characters though – unimpressive. My expectations weren’t very high for this this one, and they definitely were not exceeded. Everything feels very generic. The action scenes are pretty cool, but the show as a whole is unexciting.

Watch if you like: MMOs or are really excited about the upcoming game.
Chances I’ll watch another: Very low. This show has nothing to offer me.
Rating: 2/5

Brynhildr in the Darkness (John)


This story tells the tale of a kid who lost his childhood friend when they both fell in a climbing accident. But years later, she, or someone who looks very much like her, reappears in his life. Shortly after this girl resurfaces, strange things start happening. Who is this girl? Can she predict the future? What is her purpose?

I was interested in this show because it sounded a little creepy and mysterious. I liked the animation style – it is very pretty. The story didn’t really grip me though. I actually decided to get up in the middle of the episode and move a couch. Then I went online shopping for an ottoman bench (found a good deal, btw). And then, eventually, I finally returned to the episode. It all seemed a little overdramatic for me. Also the main character really gets on my nerves.

Watch if you like: Duncey lead males and mysterious girls with otherworldly powers.
Chances I’ll watch another: Low. This show just isn’t for me. I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t.
Rating: 1.5/5

Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin (John)


This series tells the tale of a girl who thrives on adventure. She doesn’t think that people of her era get much of a chance to experience true excitement and raw adventure, so she decides to do something about it. The main dude moves to a new town and soon realizes that the room he is renting is haunted by that adventurous girl. It’s not like a creepy kind of haunting, more like a goofy one. Interesting times await this main character of ours.

The colors and art style are what first drew me to this one, but I was really pleased to find it entertaining and humorous as well. The kid isn’t exactly excited about living with a ghost, but he’s already paid his rent and doesn’t have enough cash to move anywhere else. Eventually he comes around to the idea of living with this ghost and starts trying to make it work. I’m not totally sure where the story will ultimately go, but it seems like it’ll be a fun and enjoyable ride.

Watch if you like: Slice of life romcoms with a ghastly and mysterious twist.
Chances I’ll watch another: Great. I really like the feel of this show. It makes me feel nostalgic in some way. Like it reminds me of stuff I’ve liked in a bunch of different anime since I started getting into it.
Rating: 5/5

Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san (John)


This is another one of those less than five minute anime. The two main characters are dog-like and cat-like respectively. Before watching this, I was not aware that it was going to be a little weird with plenty of sexual tension between the two main girls. It’s filled with rapid fire jokes and scene cuts.

I did not really find this anime to be all that entertaining. It didn’t really have any redeeming qualities for me. It wasn’t all that funny and I didn’t care for any of the characters. I usually feel this way about these short shows, but every once in a while they will surprise me. This one, not so much.

Watch if you like: Girls that act like dogs and cats and awkwardly flirt with each other.
Chances I’ll watch another: Super low. This show has nothing for me.
Rating: 0.5/5

Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to (John)


If you hadn’t already guessed, this series is about some manga illustrators. It is about half the standard anime length, so about 13 minutes. The show is divvied up into little mini-episodes. Overall,the episodes are much more well done than series like that dog and cat one. And since there are a handful of them all in one episode, it still feels substantial. But yeah, the show is all about these manga artists, the work they do, and how they improve and develop ideas.

The first episode starts with the main guy wanting to grope a breast so he can know how to better draw them. Either that or get a girl to touch her own so he can see how they react to touch as he has never touched one before. Normally I would hear this description and think it sounded stupid, but it was actually pretty entertaining. The main guy is super animated and over the top and he and the girls on his team play off each other very well.

Watch if you like: Manga art and entertaining, energetic characers. It’s really funny.
Chances I’ll watch another: Medium. I think the show is funny, but I don’t really feel it will hold anything for me long term as it seems like there won’t really be an overarching story.
Rating: 3.5/5

Black Bullet (John)


Black Bullet takes place in the near future. Giant bug monster things attack and infect people who then transform into monsters themselves. They’re causing all sorts of trouble and no one is really a big fan of them. The main kid is an investigator working on cases involving these monsters and other baddies. He also seems to have a fondness for yelling out the names of the attack moves he is performing. Yeah, it’s one of those shows.

Although this anime had its moments, overall I felt it to be too simple/juvenile to really be enjoyable. I didn’t really care much for any of the characters either. It seems like the kind of show where each episode will have a monster running around or causing trouble somehow that they’ll have to contain by the end of the episode. The whole thing just seems very average. It’s not that exciting.

Watch if you like: Near future monster investigation and battles with kicks and bullets.
Chances I’ll watch another: Very low. This show doesn’t interest me in the slightest.
Rating: 2/5

Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou (John)

bokura wa

The main guy in this show just had his parents move away for business so he’s starting a new life living on his own in a boarding house type deal. He just wants to live a free life and find a nice, intelligent lady to be his girlfriend. He ends up having a crush on one of the girls living in the house which convinces him to stay regardless of the unfortunate roommate he’s stuck with.

I was originally drawn to this one by the pretty colors and light beams that frequently cascade through it. It’s a pretty show. Unfortunately the actual content leaves much to be desired. The main guy gets the inside scoop on the girl he likes and discovers that she’s not going to be easy to win over. Something like this has the potential to be fun and exciting to watch, but I didn’t really feel much of a connection with the main character or the girl, so I didn’t find myself caring too much what happened with either of them. The main girl’s older, boozing relative makes things a bit more interesting, but not enough to hold everything together.

Watch if you like: Love Hina-esque unrequited high school love stories.
Chances I’ll watch another: Very low. I feel like the show has a decent idea, the execution just isn’t very good.
Rating: 1.5/5

Captain Earth (John)


Mecha anime! The main character is the son of an astronaut. Unfortunately, his astronaut father passed away. Even though the kid’s not doing so well in school, he’s very intelligent and very talented. Some strange phenomena start occurring and bring up memories from his past that still remain unclear. There’s lots of mystery and vague plot points going on in the background, but it’s done well enough to be intriguing instead of frustrating. It’s a good balance.

This one really surprised me. I was very much expecting it to be a generic kiddie anime with some robots thrown in, but it was actually really enjoyable and more mature than I expected. The main character is pretty cool too. I like him and I’m looking forward to seeing where the story takes him. Parts remind me of Gundam and other parts remind me of Evangelion, but it still feels unique. I’m not sure if I ended up liking it so much because my expectations were so low, but this show was very entertaining. The animation is really great too. It has a good look to it.

Watch if you like: Well done mecha anime with cool male leads.
Chances I’ll watch another: High. This show seems pretty cool and I wanna see where it goes.
Rating: 4.5/5

Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii (John)


This anime takes place in medievalesque times and the main character is a princess. She travels to a foreign land and mingles anonymously with the locals to get a feel for the place. She’s from a much more rural and simple kingdom, so she has some trouble fitting in. She’s been sent to this place to marry the king and is not totally excited about it. But it is her duty as a royal daughter of her kingdom.

I had a bad feeling about this one from the beginning. Something about it just rubbed me the wrong way. Everything felt so bland and inconsequential. I found it all to be incredibly boring. It’s not like any one thing stood out that made the show bad – I didn’t care about it at all. I have a hard time imagining many people getting excited about this one.

Watch if you like: Naïve country princesses in new cities with problems.
Chances I’ll watch another: Nonexistent. This show doesn’t interest me in the slightest.
Rating: 1/5

Hitsugi no Chaika (John)


I saw that this show was getting some hype so that’s what drew me to it. The main girl character carries a big coffin on her back and speaks in short broken sentences which is hilarious. And then there was this creepy ass unicorn which was pretty cool. Anyway, the girl runs into a poor jobless fellow and they end up traveling together. There’s a lot of interesting magic/supernatural/technology going on in this anime which makes for an entertaining viewing experience. The main characters work together as thieves to make a living.

I honesty had low hopes for this one and originally wasn’t planning on checking it out. Right from the start though, it impressed me. It’s really interesting and well done. And it’s just cool. The girl is endearing and fun to watch and the guy is cool and likable. They make a good combo. And the guy has a sister who fits in nicely as well. This series seems to have it all. Humor, action, and an interesting story to boot.

Watch if you like: Imaginative fantasy worlds with cool powers, creatures, and characters.
Chances I’ll watch another: Very high. This show is pretty cool and I’m interested in seeing where it goes.
Rating: 4/5

Second Opinion (Andrew Echeverria):

Being poor and unemployed is a drag. Being bored out of your mind at the same time is plain tortuous (I can relate). For Toru Acura, a lazy ex-soldier, daily life consists of foraging for food and a purpose during peace-time while under constant ridicule of townsfolk and his younger sister. That all changes when he meets Chaika: an enigmatic young girl who carries a humongous coffin on her back. Before he knows it, Toru finds himself on a journey to bring about war and resurrect a demon king.

There are a lot of interesting ideas in Chaika. The show’s imaginative elements are where it really shines, although the writing and pacing are pretty solid as well. The mystique of young Chaika and her coffin is compelling, and the inclusion of creepy versions of mythical creatures absolutely won me over. There is something non-oppressive about the show; a light-heartedness that pervades even though what you’re watching is generally pretty dark and gruesome.

The one thing that bothered me was the whole “lolita” thing. I get that some people are okay with what that entails, but I’m not on board. Like, not at all. Thankfully, treatment of Chaika as an object of desire is very ambiguous and nearly nonexistent in the show. Overlooking that, if you’re into bloody gothic-fantasies then Chaika is the show for you!

Watch if you like: Girls, coffins, guns, wizards, or showers of blood and entrails.
Chances I’ll watch another: Pretty decent, if I have access to a burrito. Pretty decent even without burrito access.
Rating: 3.5/5

One Week Friends (John)


This is a story of a guy and a girl. The guy really wants to be friends with this one girl, but the issue is that she has a one week memory span. The kid has one week to become friends and develop a friendship with her before she forgets all about him again. It’s kind of 50 First Dates-esque, but unique enough to stand on its own. This is a very story-and-character-driven show.

The episodes have a very slow, deliberate pace. Pretty much everything that happens during the first episode is dialogue. If you’re looking for excitement or action, this is not the place to find it. It is a pretty show though. The colors are all soft and glowy and most of the characters have super rosy cheeks. It’s cute, but I had a hard time getting into it. I think this is the kind of anime I’d have to be in the mood for. I don’t think I was really in the mood for a talky show when I watched it, but I do recognize it was a pretty decent offering,

Watch if you like: Cute, dialogue-driven shows with an amnesia twist.
Chances I’ll watch another: Medium. I’d have to be in the mood for it, but I could see myself giving this another shot.
Rating: 3/5

Second Opinion (Andrew Echeverria):

Highschooler Kaori Fujimiya is a loner without a single friend. She acts coldly towards her schoolmates and seems almost entirely cut-off from society. She’s arguably a character trope you could find in droves at any fictional or non-fictional high school, but there’s something special about her. Or at least, fellow classmate Yuki Hase seems to think so. Determined to become Fujimiya’s friend no matter what it takes, Yuki sets out with high hopes only to learn that Fujimiya harbors a sobering secret.

This show is sweet. It is so so sweet. I can’t get over the sweetitude of it. Initially it was hard to get over the Nicholas Sparks-esque plot, but I almost like not getting over it. This is probably the closest anime will ever come to “The Notebook” while still being watchable and cute. Beyond the story, the animation and the color palette are so soft and warm on the eyes; I was originally drawn to the show because of all the pastels and soft lines. It looks gorgeous. The opening and closing themes are cute… goshdarnit everything about this show is SO DANG CUTE. Also, sad, but y’know.

If you’re interested, it’s a low risk watch: the first episode could almost stand on it’s own as a short. I’d be lying if I said my eyes weren’t leaking some heavy, water-like substance while I was watching, but I’ll pay you 5 bucks not to go tell the rest of the internet.

Watch if you like: Feelings, emotions, love, or highschoolers eating egg sandwiches.
Chances I’ll watch another: I’m hooked. I’ll be watching every entry with a handkerchief in my pocket.
Rating: 4/5

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (Rich Duffy)


Yare yare daze. When an enemy from the Jostar family’s past returns for revenge, an aged Joseph Jostar and his badass banchou of a grandson Jotaro Kujo are forced on a globetrotting journey to stop him. Like the 2013 series, Stardust Crusaders doesn’t stray far from the manga, mimicking its eccentric art style, graphic violence and fabulous poses. Witness the introduction of stands – mysterious new powers that come to define the JoJo universe.

Although Stardust Crusaders features solid animation, great voice acting and a catchy bgm, it’s the battles that I love most. Instead of simply powering up or learning a new technique, characters figure out how to use their stands’ given abilities to defeat enemies. As a result, fights involve outsmarting enemies instead of simply overpowering them. When it comes to JoJo‘s character designs, the term “bizarre” is an understatement. The cast manages to attract and repulse me simultaneously in a bizarre (damn, I swore I wouldn’t use the word) mix of cool and kimoi (disgust).

Arguably the most popular of all JoJo story arcs, if you’re not familiar with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, start here. And given the series’ new focus, those turned off by the 2013 series might want to give this series’ fabulous characters, intense battles, and eccentric style a look.

Watch if you like: Hokuto no Ken for the style, Persona for the stands, and Sakigake! Otokojuku for the fashion and delinquent stylings. Fans of fighting anime and ultra-violence in general will like this show.
Chances I’ll watch another: Good. Longtime fans of the manga have waited for a worthy anime adaptation – I’m looking forward to each new episode as it airs.
Rating: 4/5

Ping Pong The Animation (Rich Duffy)


Enter the hero! Not to be confused with The Ping-Pong Club (Ike! Ina-chuu Takkyuubu), this Ping Pong is based on Taiyou Matsumoto’s five volume manga series. Unlike the gag series Takkyuubu, Matsumoto’s Ping Pong takes a serious look into the world of high school table tennis while exploring themes of friendship, motivation, and competition. Opposites in everything but their love of table tennis, the friendship between free spirited Peco and reserved Smile faces new challenges when the competition heats up and the team’s coach seeks to unleash Smile’s hidden potential.

Ping Pong is a realistic story that lacks the flash and exaggeration of most sports series. Instead of constant competition, I love that the plot revolves around character exploration and interaction. One of the most fun aspects of the series is getting to know its characters little by little, like real people. And though Ping Pong features a popping bgm, it often relies on atmospheric sounds, like bouncing ping pong balls in the gym, to help accentuate its real world feel. Matsumoto’s distorted art style is the show’s most unrealistic aspect. Although I’m a big fan, it will definitely turn off some viewers.

Given its narrative style, Ping Pong The Animation‘s whole will end up greater than the sum of its parts, so please remain over the long haul. Nevertheless, Ping Pong‘s visuals, soundtrack, and realism make it the most refreshing series of the spring season.

Watch if you like: Slice of life, sports anime (and table tennis!), and unique visual styles. Japanese film fans will appreciate the series’ slow buildup.
Chances I’ll watch another: Great! As a fan of the manga and 2002 film I won’t miss an episode!
Rating: 5/5

Second Opinion (John):

Like Rich said, Smile and Peco are the main characters in this ping pong-centered show. Smile is really good, but Peco is in another league entirely. The animation style is definitely unique, but I feel neutral about it. I don’t really prefer it, but it doesn’t really bother me either. The story moves along slowly and does seem to focus mostly on the characters and not so much on the ping pong. The ping pong matches are pretty intense and fun to watch though.

The main reason I decided to check this one out is because I read Rich’s review and saw that he gave it a stellar rating. Early into the series, I knew that I did not feel the same way about it that he did. I don’t think it’s bad, it’s just one of those that doesn’t really interest me much. Everything it does is done well, but it moves along so slowly. And while the character development is strong, I didn’t feel that firm of a connection with any of them. I’m guessing that if you usually agree with me on these anime reviews, you probably won’t be super into this one, but if this show sounds appealing to you, definitely check it out. I can see why some people would be really into it, but it’s just not for me. I do like the music in it though.

Watch if you like: Slice of life shows centering around ping pong with a three way rivalry in the mix.
Chances I’ll watch another: Not that great. Maybe if it gets rave reviews I’ll marathon it one day in the future. It moves too slow for me to watch it on a weekly basis.
Rating: 3/5

Mushishi Zoku Shou (Rich Duffy)


Mushishi can translate to “spirit master.” Not a master in the sense of a boss, but in the sense of expert – he understands spirits. Mishishi Zoku Shou‘s protagonist, Ginko, wanders Japan studying mushi spirits and curing the problems they cause.

Mushishi Zoku Shou treats mushi as if they really existed. To people long ago, who lacked the knowledge of microbes, viruses and bacteria, they might as well have. And that’s what best describes mushi – spirit bugs. Mushishi‘s spirit bugs infect objects and people, creating illusions or disease-like symptoms. Although it’s eerie, this is not a horror series. Mushishi‘s world lacks blood and gore, grotesque monsters, and suspense. But it’s filled with natural beauty.

Mushishi Zoku Shou is the most relaxing anime I have ever watched. In fact, it’ll put some viewers to sleep – myself included. The show features a light and ambient soundtrack and natural palette. There is no overarching plot, rival, or villain. Action is held to a bare minimum. The camera’s movement and the pacing of cuts give the animation a melodic feel. The show’s lush landscapes conjure up a time long before modern science and Western influence gained a foothold in Japan. It is a form of therapeutic meditation. It relieves stress and leaves me feeling refreshed. Although it will bore some viewers, I look forward to kicking back and observing Mushishi Zoku Shou‘s beautiful world.

Watch if you like: Shinto, the supernatural, ancient Japan, and of course, the original series. This is for people looking to wind down.
Chances I’ll watch another: Good. Since there’s no main plot, I might miss an episode here and there but I look forward to watching more.
Rating: 4/5

Recaps From Last Season


The shows that stood out last season were Space Dandy and Hozuki no Reitetsu. All the Space Dandy episodes were pretty much standalone and there was hardly any overarching story, but I really enjoyed it. That’s pretty unusual for me. Story is primarily what draws me to most anime, but I really liked seeing all the characters, the antics they got into, the places they saw, and the aliens they found. In addition, I like the show’s sci-fi comedy combo. I like sci-fi a lot and the comedy keeps me coming back week after week. I don’t feel as strongly about it as I did at the beginning, but Space Dandy is a good one.

Hozuki no Reitetsu is another series without much of a story. Again, it’s very unusual for me to get hooked on a show like this. But it’s is just so dang funny. It also deals exclusively with the underworld, which is pretty unique for an anime I think. Even moreso for a pure comedy. I think Hozuki gets better every time I watch it. Overall, I think I favor Space Dandy more than Hozuki, but really it’s too close to call. They’re both great and I plan on continuing to keep up with both.

Summary of this Season


For me, the standouts of the season (that I watched, at least) were Nanana, Captain Earth, and Chaika. Mangaka-san was good enough to get me to a second episode, but it lost my interest after that. The second episode tried to develop a story and just wasn’t as entertaining as the fast and funny nature of the first, so I think I’m done with that one.

I watched two more episodes each of Nanana, Captain Earth, and Chaika and my overall opinion has changed somewhat. While I believed all of them to have a very strong first episode, I think Chaika is the only one that continues to be strong. The other two are still good shows, I’m just not nearly as interested in them as I am in Chaika now. Chaika is definitely my top pick for the season.

So tell me, how do you think this season stacks up to the last one? Any of these new shows look good to you? What’s your favorite one so far? Any good ones we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments!

The post Spring 2014 Anime Roundup appeared first on Tofugu.

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Winter 2014 Anime Roundup Wed, 29 Jan 2014 17:00:02 +0000 Well, it’s that time of year again. New anime is here. Last season (Fall 2013) was pretty decent, but this coming season looks promising as well. What shows will you be watching this winter, all cozy with your blanket and hot chocolate? We know which ones we’ll be watching. Koichi and Cristina helped me out […]

The post Winter 2014 Anime Roundup appeared first on Tofugu.

Well, it’s that time of year again. New anime is here. Last season (Fall 2013) was pretty decent, but this coming season looks promising as well. What shows will you be watching this winter, all cozy with your blanket and hot chocolate? We know which ones we’ll be watching. Koichi and Cristina helped me out with the roundup this time, each of them with their favorites from the season. Let’s see what we got here, shall we?

Witch Craft Works (John)


Well, the show seems to have something to do with witches and the supernatural. The main characters are a high school boy who is super average and even picked on occasionally by the other students. The other main character is a girl from the same high school who is basically treated like royalty by the rest of the students. She also happens to be a witch. Antics ensue.

The art and colors are very nice in this one, so that’s what first drew me to the show. The animation and action sequences ain’t too shabby either. As for the story and characters, they didn’t really grab me or hold my interest much. I feel like the show might have some potential as it does a lot of things right, but in the end it just doesn’t feel all that satisfying. Plus the school’s unhealthy attachment to the main girl is really annoying.

Watch if you like: Busty high school witches and unpopular boy leads combined with lots of magic.
Chances I’ll watch another: Very low. The show didn’t really grab me.
Rating: 2/5

Space Dandy (John)


This was actually the only one I’d heard of before the season started because apparently it is also coming to American TV. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I don’t yet know. Anyway, the show is about a dandy in space (surprising, right?) who is super interested in treasure, lady parts, and alien hunting. Everything takes place in a galactic future with robots, spaceships, and aliens.

I really like the opening to this show. It’s groovy. Everything else is really well done too. The colors and animation are great. So is the music. The robots and aliens are original and entertaining. The show has action and it’s also funny. Enough happens in the first episode to keep it interesting but enough to make you want to see more to discover what’s going to happen and where the story is going. I can definitely see why this is already coming to America.

**Note: I only watched the first episode, so reading Koichi’s review below made me really sad :( Damn you, Space Dandyyyy!!

Watch if you like: Funny roguish leads in an interesting galactic setting.
Chances I’ll watch another: Very high. This show is really entertaining.
Rating: 5/5

Second Opinion (Koichi):

This is one of those shows with great art style, great music, and very little depth. Not only is the story itself a cheap way to allow the author to write multiple non-connected episodes with hardly any story at all (spoiler alert: each episode is a separate dimensional thread where anything can happen!), but almost every character decision has no weight to it, and things “just happen” (as you may be able to tell, I’m more of a cause and effect kind of guy).

Even if you judge the show on an episode-to-episode basis it lacks a lot in the way of good cause and effect story telling. The characters are shallow and uninteresting after a couple of episodes and if you were hoping for another Cowboy Bebop… well, keep looking space cowboy.

I will say that I enjoy the art-style and music, though. It’s just about the only thing keeping me moderately interested. We’ll see how long that lasts, though.

Watch if you like: Good art, good music, bad storytelling.
Chances I’ll watch another: Diminishing with each passing episode.
Rating: 2/5

Tonari no Seki-kun (John)


This is another one of those short shows. This first episode clocks in at just under 8 minutes. The show is about two kids in a class. A girl and the guy who sits next to her. The guy doesn’t really pay attention in class and just plays with things the whole time and the girl can’t help but be distracted and often tries to stop his antics.

I actually really like this show. I’ve never liked these short ones before, but this one is really funny. The guy never even talks – it’s just the girl reacting to everything he does. The show feels really smart and well done. Perfect for this sort of small dose short episode style. It’s definitely a pleasant surprise in this season. The ending song is pretty cool too.

Watch if you like: Short and sweet shows that are laugh out loud funny.
Chances I’ll watch another: High. This show is good. It’s funny and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Rating: 4/5

Hamatora (John)


The show is about a poor private investigator who rents out a table at a bar to use at his office. The characters all have goofy names like “Nice”, “Birthday”, “Ratio”, and “Kitten”. They look for PI jobs to make ends meet and help out the community. The show seems to be mostly about solving mysteries and cases. But there’s some humor thrown in there too. Also some people in this world have special powers, so that mixes things up a bit too.

The colors are really pretty in this show and I like the style. The story and the characters however – they don’t really interest me. I feel like the show is trying to be edgy and cool and interesting, but it just wasn’t appealing to me. I want to like this show, and I feel like it could be really cool, but this first episode just wasn’t all that great in my opinion. Maybe it’ll get better eventually.

Watch if you like: Pretty colors and a potentially interesting concept.
Chances I’ll watch another: Low. While not necessarily a bad show, it just didn’t grab my interest.
Rating: 2.5/5

Noragami (John)


The show is about a high school aged phantom hunting god. He’s poor and his weaponized companion just left him. Since he’s a god, it seems like most humans are unable to see him. However, he runs into a girl who can actually see him, and she becomes the other focus of the story. He has big dreams of becoming the most powerful god in the land, but currently he’s pretty down on his luck. And once the girl sees the god, stuff starts getting weird for her.

This show intrigues me but I’m not sure how I feel about it just yet. I really like the main character and a lot happens in the show that I feel is really cool and interesting. The artwork and colors and music are all really well done too. I’m not totally sold on the show yet, but I have hopes for it. I think this show could turn into something really good.

Watch if you like: Interesting supernatural activity and funny and likable main characters.
Chances I’ll watch another: Pretty high. I’ll give this a few more episodes at least. I feel like it could be pretty decent.
Rating: 3.5/5

Super Sonico the Animation (John)


This show is about a spirited and ditzy college girl and her many cats. She’s really smart and good in school, but she’s always late and absent. She’s also a model. She’s also in a band. The show is all about her and her ordinary daily life. SOUNDS PRETTY INTERSTING, HUH?

This show is not very exciting. It’s very plain and boring and average. It’s a little gratuitous at times, especially during the model shoot. Also the main girl always wears these headphone things that I just don’t understand. They’re never explained. She also has a goofy manager who isn’t really funny – he’s just strange.

Watch if you like: Ditzy models with curvy curves and their daily lives.
Chances I’ll watch another: Non-existent. This show is not good.
Rating: 1/5

Strange+ (John)


This is another short-style episode. The main characters are trying to catch a thief who stole a golden statue from a rich man’s mansion. The episode is short but the ridiculousness is in high supply. The characters are all goofy and silly.

A bit too silly for me, actually. This isn’t really my kind of humor. Plus, at three and a half minutes, I feel like this belongs on YouTube or something more than an actual television show. Pass.

Watch if you like: Incredibly short and silly anime episodes.
Chances I’ll watch another: Next to zero. Since they’re so short, maybe I’d watch another, but not if I can help it.
Rating 0.5/5

Hozuki no Reitetsu (John)

The underworld is overrun and understaffed. It is up to Hozuki to get it all together. Most all of the characters are demons or spirits of some sort. It’s not that usual of a setting, so the characters feel very fresh and unique. The show is mainly humor based, so I’m not really sure where the story is going, but I imagine it will mostly be Hozuki cleaning up the underworld one episode at a time.

This show is hilarious. Probably the funniest of the season. I really like the animal characters in the show. The story doesn’t really interest me all that much, but I don’t think the story is really the focus of the show. It’s all about the unique characters and silly situations. I was really surprised with how much I liked this one. The colors are also really pretty. I really like the backgrounds.

Watch if you like: Funny shows with unique otherworldly characters.
Chances I’ll watch another: High. This show is really funny. I like it.
Rating: 4/5

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta (John)


This story is all about airplanes. Siblings have joined some sort of air force division who have set upon a mission to discover the end of the sky. They all hope aboard a floating island and start their search. The main guy meets a girl on his first day and she’s kinda weird, but he seems to like her. There’s also a white haired dude hanging around who seems very shady.

I’m not sure how I feel about this show. I thought the premise was kind of interesting and the bickering between the siblings was entertaining, but once the main guy meets that girl it got kind of weird. It was a bit too awkward and over the top for me. I’m not sure what direction the story is going to continue in though. If this turns into a goofy romance with the air mission as a backdrop, I’m betting I won’t like this very much as it continues. But if it expands on the air missions and all that neat stuff, then maybe it’ll be worth watching more of. Time will tell.

Watch if you like: Planes and floating islands and awkward juvenile relationships.
Chances I’ll watch another: Low. I probably won’t watch any more of this one unless I hear people raving about it.
Rating: 3/5

Nisekoi (John)


The show is about a yakuza clan and the son of its current master. Everyone calls him young master and hopes he will one day take over the gang, but all he wants to do is go to a good school and find a nice steady job and live a normal life. This guy has a childhood friend he promised to marry, but hasn’t seen her since then for some reason. And then, a half American girl transfers to his school and starts causing trouble for him.

The show is a good mix of humor and the mystery of who the guy’s childhood friend might be and what all’s going on there. The main character is entertaining and his interactions with the half-American girl are amusing as well. I like the colors in this show too. A lot of the scenes are very pretty. It kind of reminds me of Love Hina in a way with the long ago promise and all that, but I like it.

Watch if you like: Funny high school romances with the occasional Yakuza diversion.
Chances I’ll watch another: Decent. I like this show, but not as much as some of the others. I might check out another episode or two, but no guarantees.
Rating: 3.5/5

Nobunaga The Fool (Koichi)


In this world there are two planets (no Jim Sturgess or Kirsten Dunst, though), which at one point were connected by the Ama-no-hashidate. That bridge was destroyed, though, so the two planets went on to live separate histories. One planet has united. The other is at war. The story follows Jeanne Kaguya D’Arc of the Western Planet, who was prophesied to be the “savior of the world” and also seems to “see things.” With Leonardo Da Vinci (who makes mechs now, apparently), she travels to the Eastern planet and meets up with Nobunaga “The Fool.” Oh, and did I mention that there are mechs along with all the samurai and medieval age stuff?

First of all, the combination of future tech with the people and history of the 1400s is a… surprisingly good fit. While samurai are battling it out on the battlefield mechs stand along side them, looking like ultra-armored versions of their companions. All of the characters are unique (and there are a lot of them), have their own motivations, and you can tell that each character’s arc is going to conflict / come together in some way as the story progresses (I hope it will, at least!).

The main problem I have is that the storyline seems to be taking the “destiny” approach, at least with Jeanne Kaguya D’Arc. It just takes away a lot of character decision which is what should be driving the story. So far so good, but I’ll need to watch more before coming to a conclusion. The potential for screwing things up with all that “destiny” crap is high and don’t even get me started on all the deus ex machina going on… at least most of it has been character driven… so far.

Watch if you like: Samurai, mechs, good storytelling
Chances I’ll watch another: Okay, fine, I’ll watch another. But I’m watching you carefully, “destiny.”
Rating: 4/5

Wizard Barristers (Cristina)


Yasuomi Umetsu has produced some pretty awesome  cult action series in the past and this time he decided to add magical lawyers into the mix. In the year 2018 humans and wizards live side by side in Tokyo. Wizards are tried by magical laws in special courts. Wizard Barristers defend those who are tried in the Court of Magic. At age 17 Cecile Sudou becomes the youngest barrister ever and begins working at the Butterfly Law Offices.

I am a huge Yasuomi Umetsu fan; films like KITE and Mezzoforte are some of my favorites. Most of his notable works have more of a cult following because of the immense amount violence and other inappropriate subjects thrown in. I think that Umetsu produces phenomenal fight scenes and so far Wizard Barristers has not disappointed me. Cecil is also a fantastic character and I love that Umetsu includes so many strong, action packed female characters in his work. The regular masses of anime fans will probably overlook this series but a niche group will surely be saying this is the best show of the winter season.

Watch if you like: Action and violence along with cute girls. If you have ever enjoyed series like KITE or Mezzoforte then this is a must watch
Chances I’ll watch another: Very high. In fact I always want it to be Sunday now because I am so excited for new episodes.
Rating: 5/5

Second Opinion (Koichi)

While I haven’t seen any episodes of this series, I just wanted to say that I’d recommend never hiring a 17-year old lawyer. You will probably end up in jail.

Pupa (Cristina)


Older brother Utsutsu is highly protective of his younger sister Yume. One day Yume becomes infected with a virus called Pupa that mutates organisms into flesh eating monsters. Yume turns into a grotesque creature and starts attacking humans and animals. Utsutsu works to find a way to properly restore his sister to human form.

I love horror anime that is done well and I’m excited to see where this will go. The only downside of this anime is that the episodes are only around five minutes long and released once a week. You don’t get a lot from every episode and I am always dying to know what is going to happen next. Luckily this series is based off of a manga so I may end up reading ahead.

Watch if you like: Gore and horror. Some of the scenes remind of of Higurashi (When They Cry) or Umineko.
Chances I’ll watch another: The episodes are so short so why not?
Rating: 3/5

Wake Up Girls (Cristina)


The story revolves around the recently formed idol group managed by Green Leaves, a small production agency in Sendai. The agency is currently in crisis after the president ran away from the company along with all the money. With the debts left in the hands of the producer, they work together to keep the group and agency alive.

I tend to not watch a lot of “Idol Group” series so I was surprised how much I was drawn in when I watched the first episode. It has a little bit less comedy than most “slice-of-life series” and a more serious storyline.

Watch if you like: Idolm@ster or other cute idol group series. The animation and music for series like this are fantastic.
Chances I’ll watch another: Fairly high. If I don’t get bored I will keep watching it.
Rating: 4/5

Shows that Weren’t Up to Snuff (John)


Nobunagun: This show is about a high school girl who is a bit of a weirdo. She always has dreams about Oda Nobunaga and that’s how the show begins. I don’t like this show. I stopped watching after 7 minutes. I did not like any of the characters and even though it seemed to try very hard to be funny, it was not. The show also had a penchant for showing subtitles explaining what was happening on screen. These were unnecessary and silly.
Rating: 0.5/5

Sakura Trick: This show is about some girls just starting high school. The two main girls are best friends and the one girl is pretty bummed out she didn’t get to sit behind her friend in class, but at least they are in the same class. I don’t really like this show. It has a lot awkward girl on girl moments and is a bit over the top for my tastes. You can also tell when the show is trying to be funny, but I just found myself groaning at the show rather than laughing at it. I stopped watching after about 10 minutes. No thanks.
Rating: 1/5

Recaps From Last Season


My two favorite shows from last season were Meganebu and Kill La Kill. I watched a few more episodes of both, but while each had a very strong first episode, I felt like they started to pitter out a bit. Meganebu didn’t really have a strong story to keep it together so I found myself losing interest in that one. I kinda felt the same way about KLK, but I’m guessing I’m not alone in that. Oh well.

Summary of this Season


All in all, this season looks pretty great. Space Dandy is definitely my standout favorite as it has an interesting story, great characters, and tons of laughs. After that, I’d say Tonari no Seki-Kun and Hozuki no Reitetsu are close seconds. They’re both really funny in their own way, but I’m not really sure what to expect from them as far as story goes, so that’s what holds them back from being as exciting as Space Dandy in my opinion.

However, since Koichi watched more episodes of Space Dandy than I did, I’ve kind of lost hope for that show since it sounds like the story won’t be a constant. That really bums me out. That being said, I’ve watched the first three episodes of Hozuki no Reitetsu and they were all great. So Hozuki is probably my top pick, actually.

So tell me, how do you think this season compares to the last one? Any of these new shows look good to you? What’s your favorite one so far? Any good ones we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments please!

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47 Ronin Review – How Does It Stack Up? Thu, 09 Jan 2014 17:00:15 +0000 A while back I wrote a post about Keanu Reeves and the new 47 Ronin movie he was in. Over Christmas break I saw this movie, filled with high hopes but very low expectations. It had some of my favorite actors, and the Japanese story the film is based on is one of my favorites. […]

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A while back I wrote a post about Keanu Reeves and the new 47 Ronin movie he was in. Over Christmas break I saw this movie, filled with high hopes but very low expectations. It had some of my favorite actors, and the Japanese story the film is based on is one of my favorites. But how does it stack up? Does the movie do the story of the 47 Ronin justice?

Brief Plot Recap

ronin-posters**I’ll try to keep this as spoiler free as possible, but I’m going to assume that you’ve at least read my previous post on the movie or are familiar with the story of the 47 Ronin. If you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to have anything potentially be ruined, read on with care**

So the three main characters of the film are played by some entertaining actors. The main bad guy, Kira, is played by Tadonobu Asano and the main good guy, Oishi, is played by Hiroyuki Sanada. These are two of my all time favorite Japanese actors (which I wrote about a little while ago) so it was really cool to see them in the same film.


But, of course, the main star is a Hollywood star, Keanu Reeves. Keanu plays the character known as Kai, the “half breed” who ends up being the hero of the story, and also the one that gets the girl (of course).

For those unfamiliar, the basic story behind the 47 Ronin tells of a group of 47 masterless samurai in 18th century Japan who avenge the death of their master. Their master was disgraced, and their land and honor taken from them. They follow the code of the bushido to avenge their master’s death and as a consequence, all of them die. It is one of Japan’s greatest tales.

In the original tale, Oishi leads the ronin in their revenge, but in this Hollywood adaptation, he more or less shares that responsibility with Keanu Reeve’s character Kai, who in turn takes most of the limelight. The movie also introduces exciting supernatural fantasy elements, such as demons.

A Review


“Do people like our movie?” “No… no they don’t.”

Like I said before, I went into the film with high hopes and low expectations. My expectations were not exceeded. My favorite parts about the movie were probably all the neat colors and interesting costumes. The movie itself just wasn’t that exciting.

I was really disappointed because the actual tale of the 47 Ronin is just so darn cool. I was hoping that with an all-star cast and the introduction of cool fantasy elements, they’d really be able to make a great movie adaptation here. Unfortunately they did not.

Critics really dislike the film and the general consensus is that they were just disappointed, especially given the names and talent involved. Tadanobu Asano and Hiroyuki Sanada are both great actors. People have mixed feelings about Keanu, but I’ve always liked the guy. Unfortunately the scripting for 47 Ronin left them all with unexciting, relatively one dimensional roles to play.

The film was also widely reported as a financial failure with estimated losses hovering around the $175 million mark. That’s like, really, really bad.

Here are some Rotten Tomato quotes I think best sum up the reception of the movie.

Solemn as a funeral march, humorless as your junior high principal, as Japanese as a grocery-store California roll, Keanu Reeves’s let’s-mope-about-and-kill-ourselves samurai drama has exactly three things going for it.
Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice

With a better hand this could have been something glorious and grand. As it is, 47 Ronin is solid B-movie entertainment with a $175 million budget.
Kristy Puchko,

47 Ronin is murky, muddled and leaden, although it’s not quite the unmitigated disaster it’s been cracked up to be.
Xan Brooks, Observer [UK]

Mildly entertaining and gorgeous to look at, 47 Ronin has little beneath the surface to recommend it. There are a few good fights, though.
Roth Cornet, IGN Movies

Japanese Demons in the Film

ronin-monstersOne of the most exciting potentials of this film was its inclusion of mythological creatures. I was curious how they would handle these in the film, and after viewing it, I think they did a relatively unimpressive job. We’ve written about Japanese creatures before, so I was interested in exploring how the portrayal of them in this film compared with what’s traditional.



See the resemblance?

The main creatures included in the film are a witch (possibly a kitsune) and some tengu. The witch lady is never called a kitsune (magical foxes that can take on human form), but it is first shown as a fox, so that was my first impression of it.

The kitsune witch has become Kira’s sidekick. Kitsune are commonly portrayed as lovers as well as tricksters, so this fits in with the movie’s portrayal. The witch is playing tricks on everyone to further her and Kira’s agenda. It’s unclear in the movie if they’re actually lovers, but at the very least, they are companions. Who’s really in control between the two of them is unclear.

While the witch in the film uses magic and kitsune are magical creatures, the witch’s magic seems a bit out of the realm of the traditional kitsune. The witch in the film also transforms into different forms and creatures, such as a dragon. This leads me to believe that she wasn’t actually a kitsune, or the directors just took some real liberties with how kitsune behave.

All in all, the transformations didn’t make a lot of sense (assuming she was a kitsune). That being said, what do you expect from Hollywood, after all?


Kunitsuna-TenguKeanu Reeve’s character is raised by tengu in the film. Traditional tengu are incredibly popular supernatural creatures found in Japanese folklore, art, theater, and literature. They’re one of the best known mythological creatures in Japan and are sometimes even worshiped as Shinto kami. Tengu were originally thought to be birdlike, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics.

The earliest tengu were pictured with beaks, but this feature has since modernized into an unnaturally long nose, which is undoubtedly their defining characteristic today.

Buddhist dogma long held that the tengu were disruptive demons who brought both violence and death. However, their image gradually softened into protective, if still dangerous, spirits of the mountains and forests.

Their main role in the film is to provide weapons to the 47 ronin after Kai and Oishi prove themselves. The way the tengu look in the film is unlike any depiction I’d ever seen of them and I was confused as to why they would alter them in this way.

As you can see from the photo below, the tengu from the movie does not look like a traditional tengu. None of their typical features or characteristics are reflected in the film. Its face is totally different. Why would they alter its nose? The tengu’s most recognizable feature? Beats me.


Can you spot the differences?

Other than that, I felt like the film’s depiction of tengu was surprisingly accurate. Tengu have been described as creatures associated with war and were known to possess great knowledge in the art of skilled combat. Legend also tells of a famous warrior called Minamoto no Yoshitsune whose father was assassinated by the Taira clan. One day he encountered some mountain tengu and they taught him the art of swordsmanship to assist in his vengeance against the Taira.

This all fits in well with the tengu raising Kai and teaching him how to fight like a supernatural being. It also makes decent sense that they would be able to provide the ronin in the film with weapons after they passed a goofy test. Overall, I was pleased with the movie’s depiction of tengu. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?

All in All


“What’d you say about my movie?”

Throughout this review of The 47 Ronin, I think I’ve been pretty nice. I’d like to sum it up by saying that this movie is not worth your money. Since the best parts of the film (in my opinion) are the visuals, it would probably be best experienced on a cinema screen, but I don’t think it’s worth the admission.

I also think that the more you know about the original 47 Ronin story and the more you know about Japan and Japanese myth, the more you will enjoy this film. If you don’t know much about the original tale or are totally clueless concerning Japanese folklore/myth, some parts of the movie might be a bit confusing.

The movie is entertaining enough for one viewing, but really, it’s not a good film. If you don’t expect much, you’ll be able to enjoy it for what it is, even if it’s not much more than pretty colors and nifty visuals. The fight scenes ain’t too bad either.

Final Verdict: 4 Mr. Andersons

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Wacky Japanese Exercise Equipment Gets Your Face in Shape Mon, 11 Nov 2013 17:00:44 +0000 So you’re at the gym, pumping iron as per usual (looking good by the way) when you look in the gym mirror and notice your face is looking a little soft. WHAT!? This is unacceptable. Japan! Get on this – get me some exercise equipment to whip my face into shape. What? You already have […]

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So you’re at the gym, pumping iron as per usual (looking good by the way) when you look in the gym mirror and notice your face is looking a little soft. WHAT!? This is unacceptable. Japan! Get on this – get me some exercise equipment to whip my face into shape. What? You already have some products specifically designed for this purpose? Well, how convenient. Japan, you really do have everything I could ever need, don’t you?

It’s Time to Get your Face Flex On


Does your face look like this? It doesn’t have to.

These following products seem to be mostly marketed towards women, but anyone is free to use them and reap their (potential) benefits. We’ve got contraptions to straighten out that pesky nose of yours, get rid of those bags under your eyes, unwrinkle your rapidly wrinkling chin, and even slim down the whole entirety of your face.

But is it fair? Is it really so easy to just cheat nature and aging like this? Well, we currently lack the scientific backing on these products to let us know exactly how reliable their claims are, so your guess is as good as mine. But here’s hoping, right?

The Hana Tsun Nose Straightener


Is your nose crooked? Too curvy? Does it contain too much money? Well, you can throw some of that extra cash at the Hana Tsun Nose Straightener because it promises to solve all your worldly woes, nose related or otherwise.


You jam this contraption up your nose for a mere 20 minutes per day and BAM – you’re a supermodel. This fashionable nose machine will forcibly alter the bone structure of your face, giving you that sharp graceful nose that’s straight as an arrow. Just like you always wanted! Even better, you can experience this phenomenon for only $48. What a deal!


And if that’s not enough, there’s also this fancy deluxe electronic version for only $20 more. It’s like putting alien technology on your face.

The Eye Slack Haruka


Are you not getting enough sleep? You look like you’re not getting enough sleep. Why? Well, it’s those humongous bags under your eyes – they’re a dead giveaway that you need another Japanese gadget in your life! Allow me to introduce you to the Eye Slack Haruka – a pretty pink machine with two settings that will shake your face into believing it’s at least 3 years younger.


Slap these babies on your face for just 20 minutes a day and you’ll be the talk of the town. There are two settings to choose from. “Soft” (also known as worthless baby mode) and “Hard”, the only mode worth using. If you’re not going hard, you might as well not be going at all. The product vibrates, uses electric muscle stimulation, and employs the use of gentle micro-currents. With futuristic tech like this, it’s no wonder the thing costs a whopping $98. But it’s worth it, I’m sure.

The Eyelid Trainer


After you’ve rid yourself of those pesky bags, what else can you do to your eyes? Well, if you don’t have that eyelid fold that you want, you can make use of the handy dandy Eyelid Trainer. Not only does it make you look awesome while wearing it, it also promises to give you that double eyelid you always wanted but never actually had. Unless of course you already have a double eyelid. Which, in that case, I guess this eye wear will make it more defined? Or something? Yeah, probably – let’s go with that.


Just 5 minutes a day with this baby will give you those eyelids you always dreamed of. For like, 5 minutes after you take off the glasses – or longer! Perhaps. Anyway, what else are you gonna do about your eyelids that are just fine the way they already are? Plastic surgery? Hell no! That’s expensive. And these glasses can be yours for just $25. The choice is clear.

The Rhythm Slim Chin Exerciser


Have you ever found yourself wondering how you could possibly exercise your jaw, neck, and chin muscles – all while easing cramps, fighting off wrinkles, and reversing global warming? Well wonder no more! The Rhythm Slim Chin Exerciser promises to do most, if not all of the aforementioned things.


Just stick this thing under your chin and hold it down for about 3 minutes each day. In no time at all, you’ll start to see changes (maybe). You should see your chin become the most beautiful thing in all of human creation. Who doesn’t want that? And it can be yours for about $84. Nice.

The Face Slimmer Mouthpiece


Sarah actually wrote about the Face Slimmer Mouthpiece in an earlier post about Japanese toys, but little did she know this mouthpiece’s full potential. It is much, much more than just a silly looking pair of fake lips. It’s a silly looking pair of fake lips that promises to slim your face.


The manufacturers recommend using the mouthpiece for about three minutes every day. They advise you to scream out Japanese vowels as loud as you can while wearing the mouthpiece in a crowded public place for maximum results. Public humiliation is a great motivator. Factor that in with the fact that this mouthpiece can be yours for the low price of $60 and you’ve got yourself a deal.


Or if that’s too much, you can try a cheaper, but similar product for only $30. It doesn’t look like a mouth though, so it’s definitely not as cool.


OR! You could really step it up because you just cannot put a price on beauty. There are also electronic varieties for about $78, but as we all know, higher cost means higher quality. Right?

The Kogao! Smile Lines Face Belt

kagao-smile-line-beauty-face-belt-3Here’s another great way to tighten up and infuse your face with that youthful vigor you haven’t had in years. It’s the Kogao! Smile Lines Face Belt! Wow! Strap this thing on your face and you’ll look like a teenager again in no time. If you already are a teenager, this face belt will turn you into a baby.


I’m not sure how long you’re supposed to wear this thing, but the manufacturers say it’s great to use while you’re in the bath. It traps heat within the belt which is said to relax away those pesky face lines you’ve got goin’ on. So it sounds like they’re recommending people use it for about 30 minutes each day, but I say that’s not nearly enough. Wear it all day and let everyone know that you are most definitely getting your $32 worth.


They also have similar products for men. This sauna mask right here is a steal at only $60. It promises to make your face very uncomfortable with heat and sweat. As we all know, heat and sweat makes things smaller, so after wearing this mask your face will be as cute as a button. A manly button, that is.

Shake It Don’t Break It

And I’m sure you know that Japan isn’t the only country guilty of having strange and unusual exercise equipment – just take a look at America’s very own Shake Weight.

If you combine all of these Japanese facial beauty products, you can expect to lose 1-2 hours of time every day. So, while you’re making yourself look younger, time is running away while you sit idly by. Maybe you can watch a new Japanese drama or something while you’re slimming that neck of yours.

So, which one of these goofy contraptions was your favorite? Think any of them might actually work? I found all these on Japan Trend Shop under “beauty products” and there’s a whole lot more listed there if you want to check them out. Plenty of them will give you a good laugh, I’m sure.

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Fall 2013 Anime Roundup Mon, 14 Oct 2013 16:00:30 +0000 Let’s be honest. Summer 2013’s anime season was pretty terrible. But luckily the anime gods have smiled upon us this fall season, because it looks to be one of the best seasons in the history of these roundups. I’m super excited about not one, but two shows – and two more are close runners up. […]

The post Fall 2013 Anime Roundup appeared first on Tofugu.

Let’s be honest. Summer 2013’s anime season was pretty terrible. But luckily the anime gods have smiled upon us this fall season, because it looks to be one of the best seasons in the history of these roundups. I’m super excited about not one, but two shows – and two more are close runners up. Will you share my opinions? Maybe not. But let’s take a look at what we got here.

Strike the Blood

strike_the_bloodThe show is about a high school kid who’s also a powerful vampire. The world in Strike the Blood is a world of magic and demons. They don’t live in secret though, so that’s pretty interesting. The main characters all live on a man-made island crafted by the government to contain and research these demon creatures.

The show has some really nice colors and an attractive art style to boot. The music is pretty pleasant as well. I was surprised with the first episode of this show – it was definitely better than expected. It’s interesting on its own but it also reveals just enough mystery to keep you guessing and curious about what’s to come. It seems very well done and I’m looking forward to seeing more and figuring out what’s going on.

Who should watch this show: People who like cool, new age vampires and demons.
Likelihood of me watching another episode: Very good. I liked this first episode.

Strike the Blood (Second Opinion by Koichi)

Vampires, demons, and other fantastical beings live on a man-made island that was built to protect and research them. One particular Vampire, The Fourth Primogenitor, appears on the island but… he’s just a regular high school student. Or is he? I don’t ask that to be mysterious, I have no idea. So far I feel like there’s potential for this series to get good.

The groundwork has been laid and I like how they don’t really try to explain why all these creatures live here. I don’t think I’ll keep watching this one, but I can see why a lot of people would like it. Not your normal “Let’s get those Twilight fans watching!” series, so it’s not bad.

VERDICT: 3 Coke cans of blood.

Kyoukai no Kanata opening sequence to this episode was a huge surprise. I thought the show looked cool just from the animation but then I was just like, what? I was under the impression that this was just a normal high school type anime, but I was very wrong it seems. Anyway, the show has spirit warriors and youmu. The spirit warriors are responsible for containing and defeating youmu, but the main spirit warrior girl is having issues with hunting and battling them.

The main character is half youmu and as a result, he is immortal. The other main character is the last of a spirit warrior clan with the ability to control blood and form it into weapons. The show is pretty entertaining and the interactions between the two main characters are often hilarious. I feel like Strike the Blood piqued my initial interests more, but since this show was funnier, I imagine I’ll be more entertained with it as the show progresses.

Who should watch this show: Those who enjoy humorous anime with an otherworldly twist.
Likelihood of me watching another episode: Great. This show really stuck out to me and I look forward to seeing more.

Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai!

Sekai-de-Ichiban-Tsuyoku-NaritaiThe story centers on two girls from an idol group, similar to AKB48. These two members end up getting involved in a pro wrestling league for women. So basically the show is filled with busty girls in revealing bikinis rolling around in a ring together. The main girl ends up converting to an idol to being a full-time pro wrestler in order to beat the girl who humiliated her and her idols friends.

Do not, I repeat – do not watch this show with anyone you would be embarrassed around. The gratuitous shots and noises are abundantly frequent in this show. It’s ridiculous and the story just seems like an excuse to have these pro wrestling girls wiggle their ample jigglies about.

Who should watch this show: Those who like boobs. And gratuitous moaning. And jiggly wigglies.
Likelihood of me watching another episode: No. No more of this please.


meganeThis is a very colorful show with a striking style that immediately stands out. It’s magnificent. The show is about a handful of guys in a glasses club. They are very passionate about glasses and are striving to create a genuine pair of x-ray glasses (in the first episode at least). The things they do don’t sound that exciting when described, but the animation style and the timing of everything really makes this show stand out.

You really have to see this show to fully experience it. The trailer does not do it justice at all. I haven’t seen a show quite like this in a long time. It’s incredibly unique and highly stylized. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much during an anime. I really like all the transitions and visual representations that occur during the show. I’m not really sure where the story is going to go here, but it’s so funny that I don’t really care.

Who should watch this show: People who like glasses and the hilarious antics of those who wear them.
Likelihood of me watching another episode: Fantastic. This show is hilarious.

Log Horizon

logThis show takes place in a MMO, kind of like Sword Art Online I guess. Actually, yeah – it’s a lot like that since the characters in the game are stuck there and unable to log out. A small party is formed and the characters try and figure out what’s going on.

The show is a little silly and kind of funny, but I didn’t find myself caring much about what was going on in the show. See Koichi’s thoughts down below for more details. This show just didn’t stick out to me at all.

Who should watch this show: Someone who really, really likes shows along the lines of Sword Art Online.
Likelihood of me watching another episode: Bad. I didn’t feel this show was anything special.

Log Horizon (Second Opinion by Koichi)

A bunch of people are stuck inside of an MMORPG. That’s like every WoW players’ dream, right? And, before you say “omg, this is just Sword Art Online” let me stop you there… Okay, fine, the basic premise is the same, and I have no idea where the story is going to go after the first episode, but I can say there’s definitely a difference.

SAO was about relationships and romance. Log Horizon seems to be more about action. If you loved SAO you may or may not like Log Horizon. If you didn’t like SAO you might like Log Horizon a lot more. The world in this one feels a lot more mysterious and has a lot more potential for exploration which makes it more interesting to me, though just barely not enough to keep me watching.


Yozakura Quartet – Hana no Uta

Yozakura-QuartetThis is a show about youkai. There are youkai, half-youkai, magic, and otherworldly things. The main characters are using their abilities to keep the town safe from those who would do it harm.

The show gets off to a pretty slow start and doesn’t get much better from there. It has pretty colors and all, but the show itself is just not that gripping. There’s some neat things going on, like “Powerspeak” to create and control the size of objects, etc, but it’s just not enough. I’m not really sure where they’ll be taking the story in this one, but I don’t really care.

Who should watch this show: Anyone who really likes youkai and magic and action.
Likelihood of me watching another episode: Bad. This first episode was really boring to me.

Gundam Build Fighters

gundam-buildThis is not your traditional Gundam show. It’s more like Yu-Gi-Oh, but with Gundam models. There are no real Gundams, just model Gundams that fight each other in a VR arena. The better put together the model is, the better it will perform, but you still need a skilled “player” to control it. The main kid is really good at making models, but pretty terrible at “piloting” them. But then he runs into a mysterious boy who can.

This show is a little silly. It reminds me too much of a kids show (which it no doubt it), and I don’t really care or relate to any of the characters. The mysterious kid who pilots the Gundam really well is kinda cool, but other than that, the show was kind of boring for me.

Who should watch this show: Kids, or those who really love all things Gundam. Or those who wish to feel like a kid.
Likelihood of me watching another episode: Not so great. I couldn’t get into this at all.

Nagi no Asukara this show there are sea dwellers and surface dwellers and the sea people start attending school on land. When this happens, there is some conflict and racism, and everyone is uncomfortable and no one is happy. The physics and underwater stuff makes no sense at all and no effort is really made to explain how all this silly business works.

Well, the show does have some really pretty colors to look at – other than that, the show is really drab. It didn’t grab me at all. I’m not really sure what to make of it and I don’t know what to expect from the story either. It was a fairly lousy viewing experience.

Who should watch this show: Those who can suspend their disbelief and enjoy the lives of sea people.
Likelihood of me watching another episode: Not good. I don’t get this show at all.

Kill La Kill

killlakillRemember how I said Meganebu! was unlike anything I’d seen before? Scratch that. Kill La Kill is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It grabs you right from the start and does not let go. Koichi does a good rundown of the story below, but the story isn’t even that important in my opinion. It’s just acting as the glue holding all the absolutely ridiculous and over the top hilarity you’ll be experiencing in this show. It’s marvelous.

Who should watch this show: Anyone who likes anime. Seriously. This show is crazy.
Likelihood of me watching another episode: Absolutely. No Doubt.

Kill la kill (Second Opinion by Koichi)

Things start out like every single anime ever made. There’s some kind of school/academy. Then there’s a transfer student (of course, the hero of the story). Then, above mentioned transfer student reveals she is searching for the other half of a giant pair of scissors that was left behind by her father’s murderer, does battle with members of the academy (who are wearing special “Goku suits” that give them powers), and… well, you’ll have to watch and see yourself, won’t you?

Kill La Kill is quite possibly the most ridiculous show I’ve seen in a while and I can’t tell if it’s trying to parody other anime or not, though that ends up making it a bit fresh in my opinion. I’ll be watching episode two as soon as I finish writing this paragraph.

Unexpected things happen over and over again in quick succession, like someone spamming the jab button on Mortal Kombat. WAWAWAWAWAAACHA!

VERDICT: 12,000 Johnny Cages.


freeI didn’t end up abandoning any shows after mere minutes this season but there were a handful of shows that I thought looked interesting but I just didn’t have room for in this post. Some of these I’m just going to wait and see what the rest of the internet thinks before I get into them, but I’m very interested in hearing more about the shows I didn’t get around to.

And as usual, there were also a handful of sequels that I never watched the original for (sorry!).

Last Season’s Recap: I didn’t end up following any shows from the last season. None of them were strong enough in my opinion.

This Season’s Bottom Line: This season is looking pretty awesome. Kill La Kill and Meganebu! are definitely my two top picks and I’m really excited about both of them. After that, Strike the Blood and Kyoukai no Kanata seem the most interesting I think. I’m excited to hear more about any potential gems I missed though.

So tell me, how do you think this season compares to the last one? Any new shows look good to you? What’s your favorite one so far? Any good ones I missed? Share your thoughts down in the comments!

The post Fall 2013 Anime Roundup appeared first on Tofugu.

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