Category Archives: drama

Ghost Hunt

Type: Ghost Facers!

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Synopsis: Based on a Light Novel that ran for 2 years, which inspired a manga that ran for 12 years, is this anime that ran for 25 episodes. Its about, you guessed it, a group of Ghost Hunters. You get a little bit of everything. You get a Paranormal Researcher, a Monk, a Shrine Maiden, a Priest, an Onmyoji, and even a teenage girl for good measure.

Pros: Ghost Hunt is an anime comprised of several different “cases,” each involving some sort of paranormal activity. Some involve Ghost, while others involve Psychics, or Demons, or etc. One thing I really liked was the use of different specialities when dealing with the paranormal. A lot of different cultures and faiths are represented, from Buddhism, Christianity, Shintoism, to  modern technology. It’s a nice representation of the quirky fact that people all over the world have developed different ways to ward off evil spirits. The characters of the show end up using “real world” methods for fighting ghosts. So if your interested in paranormal activity, this is a quick primer. Some of the cases do get good, though they quality fluctuates. I loved the character of Mai, as her often overemotional delivery brought much needed energy into the show.

Cons: Honestly, its a little long. The show covers 8 different cases, and with 25 episodes, that’s about 3-4 episodes per case. And outside of Mai, none of the characters are well executed enough to warrant such attention. The problem is that the support cast are all outside contractors. The main characters are Mai and Naru, the latter running a paranormal research agency. Naru brings in the support characters to help out on cases. Every case in fact. Makes you wonder why he doesn’t just put them on staff. As such, there’s always this distance between the audience and the supporting characters. You pieces of personal history here and there, not that’s not much. Then there’s Naru, whose a really unlikable. He’s the stereotypical “cool” character, whose quite, prideful, and keeps things to himself. To quote Naru himself, he uses “strategic secrets.” Narratively, this is used to create situations that make Naru look evil, only to reveal after the fact that he’s actually super nice you guys! See, he wasn’t going to curse 600 students, that’s crazy talk. He was just going to make it look like he was and not tell anyone his plan, even though he had no reason not to tell the truth. Isn’t he the best and cutest?! Sadly, the brunt of this plot structure comes at the expense of Mai, who is often used to call Naru on his bullshit, only to be proven wrong at the end. Story wise, it has a monster of the week vibe, kinda boring at times, the animation doesn’t hold up, and the Opening, OH MY GOD, that was the laziest thing I’ve ever seen.

Watch it?: Overall, kind of bland. (3/5)

MVP: Mai Taniyama

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The Liveliest Hunter

Best Episodes: Ep18-21 “File 7: The Bloodstained Labyrinth Part 4” (scary, and the first anime I’ve encountered to mention Japan and China’s harsh history)

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Wanna Be the Strongest in the World

Type: Idol’s becoming wrestlers exposes the business!

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Synopsis: The angle is that An idol decides to become a wrestlers after one of the veterans insults a fellow idol. Classic babyface run, and the idol’s celebrity helps draw a pretty huge crowd. The only real drawback is that the idol is green as grass, but she’s given a mega-push because she’s semi-well known. BECAUSE ONCE AGAIN THE COMPANY DECIDES TO BACK SOMEONE THEY WANT OVER WRESTLERS WITH ACTUAL SKILL AND TALENT THAT THE FANS CHEER. #IF HAGIWARA WINS, WE RIOT.

Pros: This got me excited, because I am a HUGE wrestling fan. The anime follows the struggle of Sakura Hagiwara, a Japanese Idol who turns into a Pro Wrestler mostly out of pride. Believe it or not, the depiction of wrestling in this show is fairly accurate. Wrestlers are very defensive about their sport, which makes the set up of the anime feasible. And wrestling training is fairly intense, with many a pro-atheletes naming wrestling work outs one of the most grueling in the industry. And there is a lot of pride in wrestling locker rooms, which makes what Hagiwara goes through, from the 100 man throws to having to earn her first win, pretty indicative of the actual wrestling industry. In fact, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the 100 man throws test is an actual thing in Japanese wrestling. The story is surprisingly engrossing, as Hawigawa is given a “babyface,” or good guy story of the never-say-die fighter. She loses quiet a bit, which makes sense considering that she starts off as a singer, not a wrestler. The whole thing is played straight, and is a standard sports drama. And the actual action is made to look pretty good, though Hawigawa’s inner monologue does get repetitive. I liked it.

Cons: This is a boob anime. Which is fine in and of itself. But the show does its best to give you those crotch close-ups. And of course, a lot of the holds have the female wrestlers make a weirdly suggestive expression, blushing very much included. Perviness aside, the show has a lot of wrestlers that are sadly not fleshed out due to the short length of the series. So this anime become yet another fighting girl show with one-dimensional characters. The story follows 4 arcs: Sakura’s road to victory, a fight with the world champ, the introduction of Moe Fukuoka, and the battle with the mysterious Blue Panther. The Moe arc was the only one I wasn’t crazy about. Moe’s another rookie who want to become a wrestler, and is given the same treatment that Hawigawa was given, making it a bit repetitive. Not to mention that’s she’s more of a natural than Hawigawa, being a Karater champ, so there’s not real motivation to cheer for her growth. That’s another thing. Unlike in real life, the wrestling in this show is a shoot, meaning that the punches and grapples are very much meant knock out the opponent. This is kinda a shame, because I would have loved to see a show that talks about angles, and working ‘heel,” and putting guys over. But I that kind of show really would expose the business.

Watch it?: Even if I stifle my own bias, it’s still a solid show (3/5)

MVP: Sakura Hawigawa

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Sakuramania is running wild!

Best Episode: Ep.3 “Give-up” (I marked out for this one)

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Golgo 13

Type: The Man with the Constipated Face

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Synopsis: The series follows the mysterious assassin Golgo 13…who has a passport, introduces himself as Duke Togo, only kills with a sniper rifle, and is clearly identifiable with his unique broad frame and Japanese features. His only companions are gunpowder and death…and a personal gunsmith, a network of contacts, a few children here and there, and a number of one night stands. Huh, in retrospect, he’s not a very good assassin, is he?

Pros: Golgo 13 is one of the oldest franchises still going. It’s based on a manga that first published in 1968. Which you can tell by protagonist, a silent hulk of a man with big sideburns. He’s the stereotypical masculine archetype of the 60’s and 70’s. He’s non-emotional, highly skilled, quiet, and seemingly irresistible to women. However, since his not much of a talker, and has the personality of a block of wood, the anime revolves around a random assortment of characters involved with Golgo’s latest case. The whole show is a story of the week. Sometimes, Golgo doesn’t show up until the very end. And his stories can very from gritty crime stories to Golgo having to shoot a violin string. It’s a great episodic show modeled after a western drama. High tension, subtle action. In fact, except for all the sex, you could easily make this into a live action TV show here in the states.

Cons: Golgo literally could not emote if his life depended on it. I know that in the old days, men weren’t suppose to show emotion, but damn dude. The only time you ever see Golgo lose his composure is when someone tries to walk behind him, and when someone reaches into their breast pocket. But that’s it. He could be facing a hundred men, or in bed with a beautiful woman, and he’ll always have that same stony look. On that note, there quiet a few sex scenes in this. They’re not bad, and the female characters always the ones to initiate. But most of the scenes are still images of women in the throws of ecstasy as Golgo just stares blankly. But they happen often enough that they get repetitive. In fact, if a woman is the main character, there’s a good chance they’re going to sleep with Golgo. The size of the show, 50 episodes, is a positive and a negative. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but some of the episodes start to blend together. I only remember a handful myself. And because all the episodes are stand alone, you aren’t really given an incentive to watch all the episodes. And this is more of a personal nitpick, but is Golgo really that good of an assassin if he has to A) Meet his client in person, B) Only has one way to kill, and C) is so well known by the underground and authorities that they both try to kill him at one point?

Watch it?: Good to watch in a long stretch of time, but don’t marathon it. (4/5)

MVP: Golgo 13

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The textbook definition of an “ice-cold” killer.

Best Episode: Ep 4. “Pretty Woman” (a typical Golgo story)

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Danganronpa: The Animation

Type: Like Hunger Games, or Battle Royale, or whatever reference you prefer.

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Synopsis: It’s a survival game with high schoolers…hey! Don’t go yet. You didn’t hear that it’s also based on a visual novel….hey! Give it a chance at least. This one has a sadistic teddy bear in it!

Pros: Danganronpa is a visual novel series based around the theme of “despair.” This anime is based on the first game, “Trigger Happy Havoc,” and is a murder mystery. The set up is that 15 students are trapped in an elite high school and forced to kill each other. Its a mystery because the rules state that once a body is found, the students have to figure out who the killer is. If they fail, the killer goes free while the rest die. The last person surviving wins and is rewarded with fame and fortune. The anime follows a set formula: A murder happens, an investigation happens, and then a trial happens. One of the first things you’ll notice is the art style. The colors are vibrant and each of the characters are given unique designs, which helps make their death a bit more meaningful. The trial scenes, which are usually just the characters talking to each other, are spiced up with cool video game style animations and transitions, masterfully blending two mediums together. Ditto for the executions. And at only 13 episodes, the show moves at a very brisk and meaningful pace. Overall, the show has a unique look, an interesting cast of characters, an intriguing mystery, a sense of humor, and a cool set up. Well worth a watch.

Cons: The anime does get a but troupee. Its a survival game anime where a boy and girl form an alliance early one, the characters each betray each other for no real reason, a suicide occurs, and it all ends like you’d think it would. Even some of the mysteries and twists are cliche, though the show does call itself out on a few of these. In term of characters, a lot of the designs, while unique, also come off as overdone.Their meant to give you a quick visual summary of the character’s traits, as the show doesn’t have time to give depth to all 14 students. So some come off as one dimensional. The show is also very back heavy, meaning the the last episodes, particularly the finale, are stuffed with revelations and lore (and a weird lack of budget). My only real gripe that during the trials, when the murder has been accused, the characters tend to break down and admit it, turning into weird caricatures of themselves. Which again, was on purpose from a creative standpoint. Interestingly, I think this show does recognize it’s weaknesses and addresses them, or at least owns up to them. Everything the show does feels intentional and confident, so these are more nitpicks than anything else.

Watch it?: A strong recommend (4/5)

MVP: Kyouko Kirigiri

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Super High School Level Detective

Best Episode: Ep2-3 “Not Normal Arc: Kill and Live” (though I like other arcs better, this one is a good intro to the formula of the show)

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BlazBlue Alter Memory

Type: Time Travel + Fighting Game Story, Oh Boy!

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Synopsis: OK, anime fighting game plots. Yeesh. From what I could gather from the Wiki, a long time ago humans made a God in order to control time. This backfired, so they created a second God to kill the first God. This resulted in a time distortion and an evil organization trying to take take over all timelines. Then, there’s Ragna the Bloodedge’s story, the most wanted man alive who destroys government facilities after his brother betrayed him and took their sister, only to run into several artificial girls that look just like his sister, and one of them maybe or maybe not fusing with him to become the terrible monster of legend because of a time loop. Oh yeah, time loops.

Pros: I know I’ve been watching more and more anime based on video games. It’s not really on purpose, I’m just curious about them. Since most anime don’t adapt culturally relevant stories for me (cause I ain’t Japanese), video game stories that I’m familiar with are a nice compromise. That being said, I know that anime based on video games is for a very niche audience, and I wanted to experience that, hence BlazBlue, a fighting game franchise I know nothing about. Admittedly, the anime came off as confusing at first, but by the midpoint, it got me invested enough in the characters to do some research in the Wiki. Like most fighting game stories, the strong points are the characters, not the overall story (which is messy as F@#$). I really liked the Nu androids, and Noel’s story with her friends and military career, and felt they should have been the main focus. Ragna’s story is alright (but grouchy), especially when you delve deeper into it, but I feel he would have worked better as a cool secondary protagonist. He could still save the day, but not be the main focus. And Terumi, for as much as I wanted to punch the smug assh#$$ in the face several times over, was a very effective antagonist. I also liked Rachel Alucard, being the first “young girl aristocrat” troupe character that I liked.

Cons: The story. Just, just give up on it. It’s an anime story on top of a fighting game story. It never had a chance. Anime type stories in games are rarely coherent because they usually have to go on much longer than for TV. It’s obviously harder to keep a story straight if you have to stretch it for a long time. Add to that, however, the fact that this is a fighting game franchise, which often gives each of it’s characters a story line, stories that don’t often mesh well as a whole. And the main conceit of the plot is Time Manipulation. Time Manipulation! The anime also tries to condense what I believe is the first plot of the game in an anime, which means a lot of characters that don’t get a lot of breathing room are introduced, discarded, or simply ignored. And it would simply take too long to nitpick at why certain characters do or don’t do certain things (Why doesn’t Jubei kill Terumi? Why is Jin so insane? Is the reason why Rachel saved Ragna because of the Time Loop? Was Tsubaki such a good friend if she was more willing to kill her best friend instead of the boy who didn’t even like her? And if Ragna falls in love with a robot that looks just like his sister, does that mean he want’s to bang his sister?)

Watch it: Maybe it’s help clear up the story. Maybe. (3/5)

MVP: Valentine Alucard

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Refined.

Best Episode: Ep.8 “The Mechanical Soul” (Ragna come off as nice for the first time)

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Mobile Suit Gundam 0079

Type: I watched this while playing Xenogears

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Synopsis: It’s War! The Principality of Zeon (who are totally not evil, pinky swear) has declared its independence from the Earth Federation (who are totally not corrupt you guys!). With heavy casualties on both sides, Zeon begins to take the advantage with their devastating new Mobile Suits. Luckily, Earth has the one thing Zeon can never beat: a merchandising empire based on a severely anti-war story!

Pros: When you think about it, the Gundam franchise is like the Star Wars of anime. A clearly influential mega franchise that forever changed the course of world wide pop culture. It also premiered 2 years after Star Wars, which I’m sure is a big pink laser sword sized coincidence. I know that Gundam has gained a reputation as a home for whiny teenage pilots, but I wondered how much this was a result of a post-Evangelion world. Turns out, Eva borrowed heavily from Gundam (which is pretty obvious when you think about it). The original Mobile Suit Gundam is a strict anti-war anime with a whiny teenage protagonist. But without spending an entire thesis analyzing this show (which you could totally pull off), I’ll just say that the show does a great job justifying all the troupes that it would birth in the “Real Robot” genre. The premise is that humanity is at war with itself. The protagonist, Amuro, is caught in the middle of a battle. His escape ship, White Base, is attacked and is threfore severely in need of able bodied men and women, which is why so many of the crew are young volunteers. The first third of the anime is like the modern Battlestar Galactica, a skeleton crew trying their best to get back to Earth while being hounded by the enemy. Amuro is more or less drafted because he’s got the most experience with the new experimental “Mobile Suit Gundam.” He’s whiny because he’s not a trained soldier but everyone expects him to pilot Gundam and keep everyone from dying. That’s a lot of pressure. But by the second third, Amuro becomes a soldier after experiencing the horrors of war. The last third delves into more sci-fi mind reader stuff. The beauty of the show is that every story “arc” is an exploration of the cost of war, either for families, couples, or the individual. People die. A lot. And except maybe the people in charge, there are no “bad guys.” In several instances, the “evil” Zeon soldiers are portrayed are regular folks. Look, its really hard to talk about something this influential. It’s a good show. Watch it.

Cons: This show was released in 1979. The animation might be a big obstacle for a lot of people. Which is a shame, because this show stands up extremely well. I admit, I did not expect  a continuous plot line from a show from the 70’s mainly known for selling toys. But this thing is quality (except for those kids that are allowed to stay on the ship for some reason). Maybe, maybe, it drags a little at the end, and I kinda wish the Mobile Suits weren’t so brightly colored, but that’s a minor gripe.

Watch it?: I’m annoyed that I didn’t watch it sooner (5/5)

MPV: Amuro

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I heard this guy doesn’t get the happiest of endings

Best Episode: Ep13. “Coming Home” (the cornerstone episode)

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Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Type: Revenge in Space Paris

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Synopsis: Based on one of the greatest novels to slam the whole “let bygones be bygones” idea, we’re introduced to The Count of Monte Cristo, a vampire-like blue guy who everyone falls in love with. His servants love him. His friend’s wives love him. Even the young male protagonist loves him. Like a lot. Like in an adult way. Which is great for the Count, who may or may not be evil. But to be fair, almost every adult in this is pretty evil, so he fits right in!

Pros: The first thing you notice is the art style. It mixes 2D and 3D effects to give every clothing piece and hair style a distinct look. The whole anime looks visually abnormal, vibrant and static at the same time, which works well with the theme of revenge that the story revolves around. I’d like to think that most people know the story of The Count of Monte Cristo, but I’d rather not spoil anything for the uninitiated. That’s kinda the tricky thing about reviewing a good story. You want to gush over the story and characters with great detail, but risk ruining the experience for the reader. I’ll just say that Gankutsuou does an excellent job at adapting the classic western story, capturing most of the emotional beats and character moments from the original. Particular kudos should be given to the creation of The Count, who came off as so charismatic that even I wasn’t sure what his intentions were until late in the anime. In fact, given the number of characters included and time allowed, this may be one of the best interpretation of The Count of Monte Cristo outside of the novel itself.

Cons: When you think about it, its weird that Albert fall for the Count the moment he meets him. That being said, it is in his character. Albert is portrayed as extremely naive and trusting, and his sometimes childish attitude may irritate viewers. But what bothered me most was the one dimensional characterization of the the Count’s targets for revenge. They all came off as unrepentant villains, even in their home lives. I would have liked a bit more complexity in their portrayals, just so we in the audience could have felt more conflicted about the Count’s quest for vengeance. I would have liked one or two episodes exploring the Count’s past, instead of using flashbacks. Then there’s the art style which, while unique, is  a bit intense. I should also point out that the story is a bit of a slow burn, since the first half of the anime focuses on establishing all the characters and the Count slowly integrating himself in their lives. And a lot of Albert’s friends felt superfluous. Outside of Franz and Euginie, I could have lived without the rest.

Watch it?: Trust me, it’s good. (5/5)

MVP: The Count of Monte Cristo

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Sleep well, sweet Edmund Dantes

Best Episode: Ep17-18 The Confession/The Duel (the turning point of the story)

 

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Shakugan no Shana: Final [Month of Shana]

Type: Too little, Too late

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Synopsis: Three seasons later and the plot finally arrives! Yuji has teamed up with a snake god to make a new world for the human eating demons he calls “Tomo….something.” The Flame Hazels are real assholes about it and refuse to let the demons have a new world. Shana ends up fighting Yuji, because even though she’s still in love with him, she ain’t ganna let no man tell her what to do. You go girl.

Pros: F#$ing FINALLY! After sloshing through the garbage of the first two season, we finally get to the good part. This season introduces the full forces of both the Flame Hazel and Bal Masque as they fight a world wide war. Where introduced to a lot of cool looking Flame Hazel and Bal Masque Tomogara. It’s basically franchise’s Return of the King. I just wish this had happened sooner. The most interesting part, as always, is the relationship between Shana and Yuji. Graduating from useless to fascinating, Yuji willingly sacrifices everything to create a peaceful world. Shana, to her credit, stays true to her role as a Flame Hazel, opposing Yuji’s plan. I will give the franchise this, they did a great job of making Shana a strong heroine, escaping the trappings that her moe-design suggested. There’s an interesting story here, and maybe in the future, someone will know how to tell it properly.

Cons: This season is good in the way that finding a completely wrapped candy bar in the garbage is good. You’ll eat the candy, but the faint smell of garbage will stay with you. This season did almost everything I’ve wanted the series to do. I did away with the boring high school cast and setting, it introduced ways more about the Flame Hazel, it made Bal Masque interesting, and it make Yuji cooler. But it’s simply not enough. And sadly, you can’t really watch this one without watching the last two season. Even that won’t clear up some of the confusion. The show introduces all these new Flame Hazel that were suppose to care about in one go. But I don’t know these people. I haven’t followed them for three season. Why should I care what a nun and army guy think about?  Who are they to say that the Tomogara can’t have a new home? That’s another thing, the show did a poor job at explaining exactly why the Tomogara getting a new home was such a problem to the Flame Hazel. All I got from it was that the Flame Hazel condescendingly thought they knew better than the Tomogara and didn’t trust them. Very First World vs. Third World. So naturally, I found myself rooting for the Tomogara. Finally, being the last season, I feel that the writers tried to cram as many light novel characters as they could, which never, ever works. They also tried to tie the loose end of Yoshida and Pheles/Johan, three characters I literally hate.

Watch it?: Why is the last one the most interesting???? (3/5)

MVP: Yuji

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Finally worth our time

Best Episode: Ep17 “For Whose Sake?” (ironic, I know)

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Tokyo Ghoul

Type: Sigh, alright, so this is happening

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Synopsis: Kaneki is dating this smoking hottie, until she decides to make him a smoking hottie, by literally cooking and eating him. Well, technically, she wants to eat him raw, but you get the ideal. She’s a “Ghoul,” which is basically a cannibal with super powers. She dies, Kaneki becomes Ghoul, and he spends the next 11 episodes being a big cry baby about it.

Pros: Tokyo Ghoul was apparently one of the big anime of 2014. It got all the good review for it’s impressive animation and gory fight scenes. It deals with things like violence, and survival, and the moral grey that make up human souls. In the show, Ghouls semi-hunted down by humans, and Ghouls semi-hunt down humans for food. We’re suppose to sympathize for the “vegetarian” Ghouls who try their best to live in peace. All well and good.

Cons: KANEKI IS A B#$%. He’s always crying about something. STOP CRYING! Another character I hated was Nishiki Nishio, a real asshole of a ghoul that the show refuses to kill. Kaneki had a chance to kill the monster, but REFUSED. GOD KANEKI, WHY DO YOU SUCK SO HARD. I know Kaneki changes, but the entire show reeks of the nihilistic “nice guys finish last” mentality. As usual, I liked the moral grey between humans and Ghouls, but it was nothing new to the Human vs. Monster troupe. I’m also unclear about how well known Ghouls are in this world. The human’s have an extermination squad, but the Ghoul community seems healthy enough to build an underground society. Thinking about it, I would have preferred for Touka to be the protagonist. She’s seemed more competent.

Watch it?: Man, this was not my type of show (4/5)

MVP: Shou

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He’s so delightful

Best Episode: Ep.1 “Tragedy” (actually, not that sad)

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Supernatural: The Animation

Type: Killing Monsters. Hunting Things. Forming Harems. Wait, what!?

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Synopsis: I still can’t believe they got the rights to “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas. It plays at the end of every episode! Ah, anyways, the show is about two brothers who hunt down ghosts and demons (and a bunch of crazier stuff after Season 5). Their mom was killed by a demon, and their dad went a little revenge crazy. The anime is a retelling of the first two seasons of the popular (?) American TV show that shoots in Canada.

Pros: Seriously, the anime somehow got the rights to “Carry oN My Wayward Son.” I think Eric Kripke may own the song or something. As you can tell, I’m a big Supernatural fan. So finding this anime was a special treat for me. The anime covers the first two season of the show, which depicts the hunt for the “Yellow-Eyed” demon. Trust me, this was the era of the show to cover. Season 1-5 is Supernatural in its prime.. Like the real show, the anime is mainly comprised of stand alone ghost stories, some of which are pretty scary, so newbies shouldn’t feel lost. It also covers some ground that the show didn’t, like giving Sam’s girlfriend Jessica a bit more character, and showing the boys visiting their old home. Veteran fans should like the fact that Jared Pedalecki did the voice for Sam in the English version, and Jensen Ackles joins him for the last two episodes as the voice of Dean.

Cons: I say this as a Supernatural fan, but there were a lot of little things that bugged me. Dean, for instance, felt off in the anime. While Jensen Ackles does voice him in the end, the majority of the show has someone else do the voice for him. Add to this the weird character model they gave him, as well as a tweak in his character. In the show, Dean is a cocky bad boy, but in the anime, he’s more of a happy-go-lucky goof. You could sorta tell that they anime writers preferred the more sensitive Sam, who takes the lead in most of the anime. Speaking of characters, the show also redesigned the boy’s father, as well as Bobby, despite coming out well after both characters were introduced. I think they might have had a image licensing issue. Also, in classic Supernatural tradition, women get the short end of the stick in this one. If you’re a woman in this franchise, you better invest in some life insurance, because you’re either dead, or evil, or both.

Watch it?: I mean, when are you going to have the opportunity to watch an actual anime version of a real American show? (4/5)

MVP: Dean Winchester

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Still my waifu.

Best Episode: Ep.9 “The Spirit of Vegas” (Anime!)

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