Extra: Big brother

unlimitedAh, science fiction. How very paranoid you make us all. But considering SciFi originally came from Gothic literature and horror, it shouldn’t be all that shocking. The very first works that would eventually become known as science fiction, were very dark and did not have many kind words for the future. Instead, they often had only doom to tell of. But before you think that the authors were just really depressing people (although some of them might have been), like many forms of Gothic literature, this new genre was dedicated to getting readers to question the world around them, especially the things they took for granted. The emergence of science fiction came about right around the same time as a great scientific fad. That’s right. Science was once a fad. People scrambled to find meaning and sense out of every single thing, often making up large and ridiculous theories with little proof. The good side of this flurry of activity was quite a few legitimate discoveries and inventions. The bad side? Some of those inventions were outrunning safety. Newer technology was being produced, but few knew how to use it and caution was rarely used in the light of the “new age.” For example, machines that could make cotton fabric cut out years of work, but they had no attachments to keep the excess material in check and thousands of workers died slow and painful deaths from the cotton fiber stuck in their lungs.

In the mist of this mad rush for “improvement,” there were those that questioned if this new technology was being used correctly or if it was even good for society at all. They worried where technology was leading the world and how that would affect human life and the planet itself. It was people like this that created science fiction, using visual warnings on technology’s dark sides via deserted worlds, crazed scientists, and oppressive government systems. And it is that last one that concerns the current day the most.

Today’s science fiction  shows, novels and movies often seem overly fixated on the “Big Brother,” aka ever watchful and controlling government, angle. Shows like The Unlimited, Rideback and Shangri-la are good examples, although the amount of anime that falls for this story element is vast. Considering that all science fiction has started from a very real worry as to where current technology is leading, this endless repeat of a single plot devise tells us a great deal about our world now. With every electronic device asking where we are and what we’re doing at all hours and those devices now traceable from nearly any location on the planet, it’s clear that more than a few people are worried about just how much personal info the government holds and manipulates. And not just the government. Even run of the mill citizens can dig up info on each other with only a few runs of a search engine.

So before you roll your eyes at another repeat of the Big Brother angle, take a minute to reflect on our world today. And maybe avoid tagging your location to your latest Facebook post. I’m sure your friends can wait a few hours to hear about your latest trip to Safeway.

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THE UNLIMITED Hyobu Kyosuke Review

Story:
Andy is an ESPer who has never fit in with others of his kind. Desperate for a place to belong, he joins an organization that is dead set on controlling other ESPers, specifically the ESPer “terrorist” group called P.A.N.D.R.A. But when he manages to join this eccentric group in question, he soon finds out that it wasn’t exactly as he had been told. Not by a long shot.

Violence:
This is a pretty violent one. Gun shot wounds, being cut and even being exploded by ESP attacks all happen in this show. And, yes, there is blood. This section alone got this show bunked up to a YA rating.

Language:
All the usual bells and whistles for a YA show, d-mns, b-words and such. Nothing happening every other word, but it does happen.

Nudity:
Surprisingly, not much goes in this section. A few girls have a large… chest, but other than that, nothing really goes on. Oh and a few characters joke that Kyosuke has a lolita fetish. But nothing ever happens, it’s just a joke.

Theology/Mythology:
Some of the ESP abilities cause hallucinations and others seem to see into the future somewhat. Nothing religious comes up about it. It’s just accepted as a part of the world and not really discussed in depth.

Personal Impression:
This series was actually pretty interesting. Kyosuke is a complex character and they sting out his motives along most of the show, keeping it interesting and not just a fighting show with superpowers. The political aspects are especially well done.
As for the details of the show, the music is decent and the animation, although a bit strange at times, is good as well.
Although this show doesn’t do anything too far from form, it does keep a few of the more common cliched characters out of the show. The main character, Andy, doesn’t fall into a clichéd ending and the future of the characters is still largely a mystery. In fact, the biggest mystery of the show never gets explained as it is still a far off projection of the future. Although it can be a bit frustrating for some not to have every little thing wrapped up, the series does leave off in a pretty realistic (for anime, anyway) fashion.
So if you like action and a bit of political intrigue, you might like giving this show a try. Just be warned that this isn’t a violence free zone.

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: 12
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Action, science fiction, fantasy
Website: n/a
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screen shots:
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Extra: Is this… all?

problem childrenAh, the twenty-six episode standard. But those of you paying attention might have noticed that the the last few shows coming out have a few… differences these days.

Back when anime first made a major boom in the early 2000s, most full series were twenty-six episodes, with single seasons sometimes being half that (thirteen, for you lazy people who refuse to do math outside of class). But recently I’ve noticed more than a few shows with an odd number of episodes. Some entire series being only twenty-two episodes and others seeming to suddenly cut off at ten (as is the case with Problem Children). For some of these shows, a second season might be in the works as they are very recent streams. However, it still makes for an odd number of episodes in the end. It also means that these newer shows often suffer from an odd… pace. Story arcs are often sped up, making the relationships in many of these shows more unbelievable and awkward than they might be otherwise.

As for why, well, it could be for any number of reasons. It might be to save money in production costs. After all, animation is far more detailed now and, depending on the show, can take no small amount of money to make. Not to mention all the legal fees for openers and enders (although this fee might be determined as a single payment as well). Although the biggest factor is likely the networks that originally air these shows in Japan. To networks, ratings are all that matter. If a show is airing and doesn’t pull in as many viewers as the network wants, they pull the plug. For some shows, funding depends heavily on networks, or on companies that only care about a show airing on a particular network. Show politics, in other words.

In any case, this change could be a good thing for shows that need some story condensing (meaningless spa episodes, anyone?), but overall it could prove fatal for some shows. Some stories just can’t be condensed. Instant friends are just too awkward.

(my apologies for the lateness of this article. It was written and ready days ago, but a glitch in the new WordPress kept it from being scheduled properly. I’ll be making sure this doesn’t happen again)

Problem Children are Coming from Another World, aren’t they? Review

Story:
Three “special” children are pulled from their different worlds by an odd invitation. All three seek a different life than the ones they already have. Can the new fantasy world they find themselves in, with its many games and dangers, prove interesting enough? Or will their powers only be used by other forces?

Violence:
This show isn’t really a beat em up show, even so, the fight scenes that are there do contain a bit of blood. Some characters gets cut up and another is stabbed. It doesn’t happen too often, only two or three fights get that intense, but it’s there.

Language:
You won’t find the f-bomb, but the normal YA stuff make an appearance, ranging from d-mns to the “illegitimate son” word. As is usual, it’s not every episode, but, like the violence, it is there.

Nudity:
Annnd some awkwardness here. So aside from the usual big busted ladies thing most shows have now a days, including short skirts and such, this show almost got booted to the Warning Zone from just talk. Yep, talk. On more than one occasion, perverted characters let out some pretty extreme innuendo. Some of the worst I’ve heard, actually. It’s only talk, but it still came painfully close to crossing the line. And if this kind of thing bugs you, defiantly skip this show.

Theology/Mythology:
There are all kinds of creatures in the world these kids drop into, anything from mythological creatures to vampires and werewolves. Some that even claim to be gods. One storyline also addresses ghosts and such.  Nothing really gets into religions though, so you can rest easy enough there.

Personal Impression:
This show was fun enough for a ride. The animation is decent and the characters are entertaining, although calling them unique would defiantly be an overstatement. Expect what you see because that’s pretty  much what you’ll get. The music is mediocre, but then so is the plot which takes forever to get going. Assuming it ever really did. It’s hard to be sure when the show cuts itself off at only ten episodes, answers pretty much nothing and accomplishes what only a charitable person would call a sub-plot.
Even so, it’s entertaining enough. Things do move quickly. The destination of the events is a black hole, but its movement. Some shows don’t even have that these days. And some of the wit and humor is pretty spot on. Just be prepared for no answers, way more innuendo than anyone could ever want or need and wondering just how long an anime title can be before someone puts their foot down.

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: 10
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Fantasy, adventure
Website: n/a
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screen shots:
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Extra: Merch more these days

ramuneOr is there? During the anime boom of the early 2000s, anime merchandise get a bit of kick up as well, specifically in video stores. Yeah, video stores. You remember those right? It was this place that you could go to, a physical place, to rent movies. At first it was mainly VHS, but by the 2000s DVDs were comin’ in style and the internet was still catching on slowly (dial-up anyone?). At first the trend was only seen in larger, often more expensive, stores, like Suncoast. Yeah, Suncoast used to be cool. They’d have a few posters, soundtracks, collection packs, figures, heck they’d even have Japanese candy. But that was an oddity. An oases of anime merchandise in a sea of, well, no merchandise…. Unless you could get yourself to a convention, but conventions are pretty much anther dimension to begin with.

Which is often why I do double takes when I run into these pocks of fandom in other places these days. Today, far more places embrace anime. While you won’t likely find that rare figure in your local grocery store, you will probably find a larger selection of Japanese foods, including more traditional ramen, noodles and candy. And a few bookstores have also caught on, often carrying a least a few collector sets, if not having an entire table of extra goods besides manga. Of course, with the fall of Borders in the US, which was one of the most excepting bookstores of imported Japanese goods, not to mention the fact that video stores are dying worldwide, the expansion of merchandise might ebb again.

Even so, I just can’t get used to the idea of picking up some ramune (a Japanese soda) at the grocery store instead of at an anime convention. I mean, it’s quite nice and all. I just can never remember the fact until I’m standing in the isle and it’s winking me in the face. Right next to the Hello Kitty Marshmallows that are oddly still soft. I won’t even pretend to understand how Japan manages that.

Azumanga Daioh Review

Story:
What do a crazy teacher that’s a lazy bum, a child prodigy, a class clown, a pervy lit teacher and a fluff headed ex-Osaka resident have in common? They’re all under one school roof and experience all the ups and downs of high school life together!

Violence:
The worst this show ever gets in the violence category is slap stick humor. A few whacks on the head, trips and such. Somehow, no one gets killed. Even when Yukari is driving. Wonders never cease.

Language:
This section is pretty tame too. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked to find that the only words used are tame d-mns and a few of the “a and double s” word. Nothing too shocking here, which fits with the laid back feel of the show.

Nudity:
The worst technical nudity would be some revealing bikinis. Although, bikinis now-a-days are worse, in my opinion. There are a few awkward conversations about chest sizes and one teacher is a total perv. Oh and one female student kinda has a thing for another, sometimes even imagining this other female as prince-like character. It never goes anywhere and, like everything else in this show, is always played off as a joke.

Theology/Mythology:
Aside from some folklore about New Year dreams, nothing to report here either.

Personal Impression:
This show is by no means serious, it’s pretty much pure comedy. The predecessor of other absurd comedy shows, like Pani Poni Dash and My Ordinary Life, this show came from a four panel comic and was one of the first anime adoptions of such to make a mark in the US fandom. In fact, Azumanga Daioh fans are still some of the most creative in the anime community, although they have mostly moved on to other series.
Regardless, if you like Japanese humor, this show is a must. It’s tamer than some of the newer comedy shows, but the timing and punch lines are priceless. The simple animation and music only add to the casual comedic charm and the openings and ending themes keep to the absurd mood.
Of course, if Japanese humor confuses you or you like to have actual plot in a show, this probably isn’t the place to look. After all, some fans describe it as “a Japanese version of Seinfeld.” Then again, the show takes things so easy, it might be a good place for newer anime fans to taste Japanese humor. Just don’t drink anything while watching. Trust me.

Personal Rating: 10 and up

Episodes: 26
Languages: Sub and dub
Official rating: PG
Genre(s): Comedy, slice of life
Website: n/a
Legal streaming: n/a
Screen shots:
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