‘Ajin Demi-Human’: Just Die, Already

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Welcome to the not-too-distant future, where immortal beings known as Ajin are real, and the whole world knows about them. See, some time ago there was a conflagration between two warring nations and one lone guy was sent in; he proceeded to take out every last child soldier, soak up a ton of damage, and still absolutely refused to lie down and just die already. This was, somehow, the world’s introduction to Ajin, and, though the guy was scooped up by some black-ops military group, we just know had to come from America, the proverbial cat is now out of the bag and the world now treats Ajin collectively about as well as they do mutants from the X-Men world.

None of that really matters much to Kei Nagai, he has his own concerns about getting into medical school and studies and such. The knowledge of Ajin is now part of the school curriculum, as are wanted posters encouraging anyone knowing the whereabouts of Ajin to turn them in, but hey, Kei never thought it would happen to him. He and school pals are joshing with each other after school, not paying attention, and next thing you know, Kei’s been run over by a freaking truck. And I mean run over, complete with the bloody streak all the way across the intersection, the mangled body, and the horrified driver. The poor driver, Kei’s friends, and all bystanders get to be even more horrified when that dead body begins to twitch, then rises, complete with the gut-wrenching sounds of bones snapping back into place; and everyone realizes: Oh shit, Kei’s an Ajin.

Why is Kei on the run from virtually everyone? The government prides itself on rounding up Ajin, purportedly for their own safety, but none of the mundanes really know what happens to Ajin after they go to the facilities. How much damage can an Ajin take? Can they actually be killed? Do they have extra powers? The shadowy men behind the scenes who do eventually capture Kei seem to take sadistic delight in attempting to answer these questions using poor Kei’s disbelieving person. These scenes in particular, as the black hat government doctors (if you can still call them that after watching this) attempt to see just how much pain Kei can endure before he dies and rises yet again, are particularly brutal and worth a blanch or three.

The man in the hat, also known as Sato, claims he wants to help Kei but of course has his own agenda, once it’s readily revealed that Sato is an Ajin too. Sato seems to have gone quite insane from his own torture at the hands of the same government men who experiment on Kei, but he’s also learned a great deal from it, and uses such tricks to take out scores of bad guys against him all on his lonesome. Sato is determined, with some help, to be the leader of the Ajin revolution against all those who would try and stop him, and indeed, his methods of unexpected strategy are worthy of Light Yagami in Death Note. Of course, him being completely bugshit nuts in the bargain helps make it fun, like riding the very top of a skyscraper as it crashes onto another building, laughing hysterically.

The style of animation is very different, so much more realistic than you find in many anime these days. The subject matter, dealing with torture and repeated death as it does, is far from meant for the kidlings, I don’t recommend ages 12 or under watch Ajin. The plot is somewhat similar to the popular anime Tokyo Ghoul, even down to the torture, but character reactions and far-reaching plots are rather different and take some unexpected twists. For a Netflix-exclusive anime, the show is still subtitled rather than dubbed, and this made me happy. Rumor says Ajin Demi-Human will get a season two in October 2016!

You can watch Kei and Sato die over and over in Ajin Demi-Human on Netflix right now!

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https://youtu.be/y0k65jIq7bU

‘Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans’: My Mars, not Yours!

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Like every single Gundam anime, and there are over a dozen at this point, this new anime centers around two things: Interplanetary conflict and the iconic white mobile-suit Gundam.

It’s been 300 years since what’s known as the “Calamity War,” a major conflict between Earth and the Outer colonies, and Mars has been successfully terraformed and colonized by humans. Mars is run by the Earth government and desires to break free and have their own autonomy, while the Earth-run military organization, Gjallarhorn, cracks down hard on any sort of insurrection.

The living conditions on Mars are pretty deplorable, especially for the orphans who live and work for the civilian security company, Chryse Guard Security (CGS). The kids of CGS are assigned to guard Martian Princess Kudelia Aina Bernstein as she travels to Earth, intent on winning Martian independence for her nation of Chryse. And, that’s when it all goes pear-shaped, as Gjallarhorn attacks CGS headquarters, intent on destroying Kudelia, and all the adults and higher-ups skedaddle and leave the kids, those iron-blooded orphans, to fight for the fate of Martian independence all on their own!

It’s a bit difficult to bear in mind, considering that the approximate age of these anime characters is hard to guess based solely on appearance, but the show does have a tendency to remind us that these are all just kids, most of ’em are considerably younger than eighteen. These are kidlings that the bosses expected to fight for them, who got left behind and are understandably bitter, especially the leader of the newly reorganized left-behind orphans, Orga Itsuka, and his longtime brother companion, Mikazuki Augus. See, Mika was born to pilot Mechs, and when it turns out this legendary machine called a Gundam from the Calamity War era was being used as a CGS power source, nothing would do but for Mika to literally jack in to this ancient fighting Mech and beat the snot out of nay-saying Earthers! After more or less winning the original battle, Orga and Mika reorganize the kids into a new paradigm of security, Tekkadan, and they insist on being the ones to transport and provide security for Kudelia Aina Bernstein as she makes her way to Earth to fight for independence!

This is an interplanetary war story, after all, with giant, killing robots and corrupt governments and all, which means that, yes, there is quite a bit of death in this particular incarnation of a Gundam series. A fair bit of the death and destruction comes down on the heads of these kids who wanted nothing more than to live in peace and prosperity, who have done literally nothing wrong other than to be born on the wrong planet. So, when the inevitable betrayals begin happening — everything from space pirates to backstabbing highly public assassination plots — and Tekkadan and Bernstein gird their loins and choose to step into the fray, you know innocent deaths are going to happen around them. But when they do, perhaps especially when a most-beloved member of the founding Tekkadan, is slain in crossfire, these children face death and memorial head-on and with open eyes. They’ve had to leave childhood far behind, facing and acknowledging death is a big part of that, but they can’t let their sorrow and rage become the sole reason for continuing to exist – the ever-amiable Biscuit Griffon would never have wanted that.

A very fine coming-of-age under the most trying circumstances story, I would suggest that this anime isn’t really appropriate for viewers under age seven. Even though there are giant anime robots flying about in space blasting each other to bits, that is only half the show, and the other half, the plot-driven parts, while planet-spanning and epic, are terribly sad. It is nice to see the iconic white Gundam fly again though, especially when driven by some really determined teens, and always for a good cause!

Oh, and yes, a second season of IBO is already in the works and slated to drop to us adoring fans in October 2016!

Catch Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans on Funimation!

CosLosseum 2016: Enter the Cosplay Arena

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror) 

Welcome to San Diego’s very first CosLosseum event, where we honor every last cosplayer, from the obscure obsessions of the anime folk to the well-known lightsaber and sonic screwdriver crowds, and everything in between!

So, the first official event of the day was “The Video Games,” put on by the good peoples of MB Stage. A parody of The Hunger Games, in which all the tributes are characters from some of your favorite video games, all battling it out live for the coveted title of Player One! The audience is said to alter the outcome of the battle, by live and Twitter voting, which changes the game storyline throughout the performance.

Tyrant Queen Zelda commanded the Games to begin and put Mario (yes that Mario) and Jigglypuff in charge, and it turns out a Renegade version of Commander Shepard is the video game designer. Then we got treated to the likes of Scorpion (Mortal Kombat), MasterChief (HALO), Princess Peach (Super Mario Bros.), Paragon Commander Shepard (Mass Effect), Donkey Kong, Pikachu (Pokemon), Link (Zelda), Lady Yuna (Final Fantasy), Samu Aran (Metroid), and even Lara Croft running around trying to kill each other!

This was a live action performance, full of props and audience participation and carefully scripted fight scenes that were truly a joy to watch. All the players tried, within their various character modes, to up the audience participation, and threw their hearts mightily into those roles. You can just tell, the performers at MB Stage Productions really do care about their stagecraft. Every character got at least a few minutes of personal stage time and some fight scenes, most of which were screamingly funny and completely character-appropriate.

The front entrance hall to the ballroom where the con was held was lined with vendors and there was a whole other section of ballroom for yet more vendors. One wall had celebrity tables, where you could walk right up and talk with the likes of Rashaad Santiago and Anthony Reyes, or Sandi Sellner, Moses Moseley and others. The merchant booths themselves were great little corners of all manner of fandom – Wired Redhead Jewelry sold fantasy wire pointy-eared jewelry; the Elder Gods and their alcohol on t-shirts made an appearance with Wyngd Lyon Creations; Leelo Jewelry had flasks and coasters and earrings, oh my; a mad scientist sold geek-favorite pocket watches at insane prices. There were all sorts of Steampunk accessories available at several booths, original art prints and kawaii things and even comic books, and all that barely scratches the surface. No matter how fandom-specific a booth and its merchandise might have been, I saw plenty of money changing hands and smiles all around. Because nothing says ultimate fandom like a flask emblazoned with, ‘THE DARK SIDE MADE ME DO IT”!

Also in the front hall was an entire table set up for emergency cosplay repairs, put on by the brilliant folks at International Cosplay Corps, as they now do at many cons. There were actual freaking sewing machines set up on that table, along with helpful mobile Sergeants who carried cosplay repair kits upon their persons like the best support troops to us wacky cosplayers ever. Far from running repairs with nothing but duct tape and a prayer, these ICC Sergeants and their troopers are a walking blessing at any con that has cosplayers.

The Research for Lupus Fundraiser event was quite small but heartfelt. Dan Posey, leader of this intrepid new con in his Punisher pride costume and chains, gamely took the mic and introduced Hollaine Hopkins of the Lupus Foundation, and former Power Ranger Sandi Sellner, also a Lupus sufferer. The ladies spoke of how Lupus is becoming far too common these days, newer treatment options becoming available with research, and the ever-present need for more research to find a cure. Audience members were encouraged to speak out of their own issues with Lupus, and then the auction, benefitting Lupus research, was held. And Dan Posey proudly announced that, despite it being a small con and on the first day, they had taken in, from ticket sales alone, just slightly over $1,000 to forward towards Lupus Research for a Cure. If you want to donate to research for a cure for Lupus, go here.

A bit more wandering, money-spending and picture-taking later, it’s time for the inevitable Cosplay Costume Contest! With only a dozen or so actual entrants and six categories of prizes to win, the contest was an interesting little do-si-do of coordination. Cosplay entries included characters from The Evil Within, League of Legends, The Strain tv show, Ragnarok Online 2, Final Fantasy, and the anime Black Butler. Winners were as follows –

Group Cosplay – Black Butler trio (Sebastian, Ciel Phantomhive, Undertaker)

Best Makeup – Jack Skellington (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Best Craftsmanship – The Evil Within

Best Performance – Master Vampire (The Strain)

Best in Show – Ragnarok Online 2

Con Favorite – Tenjo (Final Fantasy)

And that was the end of my very first CosLosseum experience. Yes, the venue was small and without the crushing crowds of the likes of Comic-Con – given some of the costumes people were sporting, trying to do SDCC in them seems like a good way to inadvertently commit homicide. The atmosphere was open and loving and genuinely heartfelt, and I bet you my favorite TARDIS dress that not only will CosLosseum be back next year, it will be bigger, more together, and always full of that adorkable Cosplay insanity fandom!

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[ess_grid alias=”CosLosseum2016″][/ess_grid]

The ABCs of Horror: X is for ‘xxxholic’

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Based on a Clamp manga of the same name, xxxholic centers around Kimihiro Watanuki, a young high school student who has been harried by supernatural demons most of his life, and Yuko Ichihara, a witch who owns a wish-granting shop, and suborns Watanuki into coming to work for her!

Now, you guys didn’t think I’d be able to let October pass by without at least one mention of anime, did you? Like with “Q,” there aren’t many horror things that begin with “X,” so here you go!  Xxxholic is one of those animes I enjoyed so much, there are particular episodes I’ve watched repeatedly and it will always be a personal favorite of mine. Almost every episode has a life lesson to be learned — or, sometimes un-learned depending on what the wish of the client is — and it does help to be at least somewhat familiar with Japanese mythological beasts and magical practices.

The witch, Yuko, as lovely and mysterious as she is, always seems somewhat standoffish to the clients whose wishes she grants, especially the ones who need to un-learn their lessons. It’s only when she lets her hair down and drinks – a lot – with her pet rabbit-like creature, Mokona, and her artificial shop caretakers Maru and Moro, that Yuko reveals the truth at the heart of these magical matters to the likes of Watanuki.

The “xxx” part of the title of the anime refers to the Japanese version of “fill in the blank,” so the show almost always refers to various addictions that are part of life and need to be dealt with, such as “alco-holic” and “work-aholic.” The show’s title is supposed to be pronounced simply “holic,” leaving the triple X silent. The series is fraught with lovely butterfly images, but as one episode reveals, they’re actually the Japanese symbolism having to do with encroaching death. Many familiar Japanese fantastical beasts and demons are represented, like the pipe fox who turns out to be a kitsune, rain sprites, and a vestal spirit called Zashiki-warashi. Ancient traditions, practices and stories are touched upon too, like the Monkey’s Paw, the Ouija board, kitsune-made oden, and a very special Monster Procession to bring home the best alcohol this side of the spirit world!

So, Kimihiro Watanuki has been able to see spirits since he was small, and now, entering high school, starts getting harassed by them on a regular basis. While being chased one day, Watanuki finds himself sorely wishing to be rid of the spirit-sight and their unwanted attention, and next thing you know he’s in Yuko’s wish-granting shop. She tells him his wish can be granted (eventually), and demands he work in her shop as payment for the future granting of his wish. Watanuki cooks, cleans, complains, and in general, is a good little shop-boy, while learning by observing the spirit world much more closely while he’s in Yuko’s company!

Himawari Kunogi is a classmate of Watanuki and his high school crush, though she remains blissfully unaware of it. Shizuka Domeki is another classmate of Watanuki’s, who lives in a Shinto shrine owned by his late grandfather, and is versed in Shinto practices and folklore. He becomes a reluctant participant in Watanuki’s supernatural events more and more often. Himawari often can’t make the excursions Watanuki invites her on, instead insisting that he and Domeki go out together, despite Watanuki’s avowed dislike of his better-abled classmate.

The two friends of Watanuki are eventually introduced to Yuko, who seems wary of them both, for very different reasons. As the unlikely foursome spend more and more time together, solving the supernatural issues of the customers who come through the wish-granting shop, their own lives and fates become intertwined in the most unexpected ways. Which might have been what Yuko sensed all along, she is a witch after all, and what made her apprehensive. We never really know for sure how long Yuko’s been stuck as the shopkeep and she doesn’t necessarily wish that same fate on the fine young man whose very-different eyes landed him in a very similar jam!

Xxxholic can be found on Funimation, and for fun I included the opening theme song by Suga Shikao, “19 Sai,” after the trailer!

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The ABCs of Horror: S is for Todd McFarlane’s ‘Spawn’

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Based on Todd McFarlane’s Spawn character from Image Comics, the cartoon follows an ex-service agent who died, made a deal with the Devil, and came back to earth as Hellspawn, Spawn for short, as a ranking officer in the Devil’s army!

The cartoon series originally aired on HBO way back in 1997, and believe me, every single week it was a treat I looked forward to. Creator Todd McFarlane himself always came out in a dark suit and did a little introspective before the episode was shown, ending with the admonition, “And now, Spawn, so turn off your lights.” The show style is very reminiscent of the best of 1990s cartooning, crawly Batman-like shadows and wide-eyed characters, laced together with an incredibly popular comic book story to form an adult cartoon series the likes of which hasn’t really been done since!

I always felt so bad for our anti-hero, Al Simmons. A Vietnam war commando betrayed and burned alive by his psycho comrade, Chapel, Al went to Hell and found himself making a deal with a Devil, Malebolgia. The pact was fairly simple: become a ranking Soldier in Hell’s army, and Al can see Wanda, his beloved wife, again. But Hell is full of tricks and Al doesn’t come back with a body that anyone wants to touch, nor does he return even close to the time he died, but rather several years later. Wanda has moved on, married Al’s former best friend Terry Fitzgerald, and they have a daughter, Cyan. With nothing left to live for, Al crouches among the homeless in Rats Alley, swearing to protect Wanda’s family at all costs and refusing to do any more of Hell’s bidding. Malebolgia can’t have that, so he sends the Violator, a Hell minion who usually takes the form of the ultimate clown at midnight, to coerce Spawn into committing acts of murder and violence in the name of Hell!

Known well for being one of the more famous black comic book heroes, the cartoon of Spawn and Al Simmons was given voice by the melodious Keith David. The voice of Jason Wynn, arms dealer and all-around trouble-maker, may be somewhat familiar to those of you out there who watch a lot of adult cartoons – John Rafter Lee, famous (or infamous, depending on whom you ask) for Reign the Conqueror, Aeon Flux, Cowboy Bebop and Princess Mononoke, among many others. The voice of Cogliostro, Spawn’s reluctant mentor, was Richard Dysart, who, sadly, passed away in April 2015 after a long illness.

Todd McFarlane’s Spawn spanned three seasons, and introduced all sorts of mind-bending characters and concepts, many of which went on to forge new paths in the comics-turned-cartoon world. Perhaps most prevalent, the idea that a killing soldier in life could find redemption in his death, even after becoming a soldier in Hell’s own army. As the wise Cogliostro puts it to Spawn, “We all want to go home, my friend, but it’s war getting there.”

Be warned, the trailer is actually a full scene from the series, the first major battle between Spawn and Violator, and is very much NSFW!

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https://youtu.be/4dvpfFWbg44

‘Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist’

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror) 

In a dystopian future where Peace Makers monitor everyone for lewd content, the female terrorist known as Blue Snow is determined to use her naughty organization, SOX, to guerilla-educate the young of the elite public morals schools in porn and sexuality!

So, Tanukichi Okuma is a new student at the best public morals high school in the country, trying to forget the fact that his father was an infamous dirty-joke terrorist who was arrested after trying to spread condoms around the Diet building. He’s at a new school and wants nothing more than to keep his head down and reunite with his old school crush, Anna Nishikinomiya, the Student Council President. The Vice President of the Student Council is Ayame Kajou, straight-laced and proper, until she gets Tanukichi alone and the gloves come off!

Because it turns out, Ayame is on a mission, a very important mission, to bring sexual education and freedom of sexual expression to these desperate high school kids. As the perverted terrorist Blue Snow, Ayame wears little other than panties on her face as her bandit mask, delightedly dispenses pornographic and hentai-like pamphlets and magazines, shouts dirty jokes in defiance of the law, and in general, makes an absolute nuisance of herself while narrowly avoiding being caught by the authorities.

Tanukichi, torn between actually wanting to explore his own budding sexuality and remaining, in theory, prim and proper so he can be with Anna, nevertheless goes along with SOX and several times gets Ayame out of serious jams, so she may continue to fight the good perverted fight another day!

Anna herself isn’t the most stable of leaders, determining somehow that her inexplicable yandere attraction to Tanukichi can only be furthered if she does “good” works by capturing the criminal Blue Snow and tightening the public morals of her school even harder. And see, right there is the potential for a dirty joke already, which Blue Snow would not fail to exploit to the fullest!

Ayame recruits other pervy warriors to her SOX cause: Art prodigy Otome Saotome, who immediately begins making hentai-like drawings for SOX distribution; Kosuri Onigashira, a fangirl of SOX already who’s posing as Tanukichi’s sister to allay Anna’s suspicions; and Hyouka Fuwa, budding scientist and classmate of everyone, obsessed with getting Tanukichi to tell her how babies are made. These ero-terrorists are all against the high and mighty moral authority that wants to further tighten the noose around all the schools in Japan, and Ayame and SOX devises one plan after another to get away with all the dirty jokes and pornography they can get their hands on!

Okay, so yes, there are plenty of pornographic references, gestures, words, and actions. Every last one of them is cleverly censored, with a cute little .gif to cover that naughty gesture Ayame just made, or those pixel blurs Japan is famous for, and the mischievous words used are edited in the subtitles and overlaid with a funny noise when Ayame inevitably says them! While Ayame and SOX does take an admittedly perverted pleasure in the words, pictures and actions associated with sex, the underlying meaning of what she’s trying to do is something genuinely worth lauding – if people are uninformed about sexual matters, they will experiment on their own, with usually disastrous results. Why not educate everyone and have a teensy bit of roguish fun in the process?

Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist can be found on Funimation!

‘Mushi-Shi-The Next Passage’: Second Verse, Better Than the First

By Agent Amanda Grefski (a.k.a. Madame Helleveeg)

I’m in love with Mushi-Shi. I admit it. I measure this series against every anime I see; sometimes they stack up, unfortunately sometimes they don’t. There’s just something about the slow-paced, subtle stories and the ethereal artistry that enraptures me. When I heard that a second season was being made, I was both excited and scared: Excited that I would get to see more of mushi master, Ginko’s story unfold, but scared that it would fall flat next to the fabulous first series. Rest assured fans, Mushi-shi Zoku Shou or “The Next Passage” proves to be better than the first.

Okay, this next section is for fans of the original Mushi-Shi series. If you haven’t seen the original, I forbid you to read beyond this point. You must immediately go and watch the first series (it’s on Amazon and FUNimation). Go on, it’s for your own good. You’ll thank me later. Go. Shoo. Skedaddle and get watching.

Did you watch the first series? Did you? Okay, continue reading.

The second series not only has the same sublime artistry, but there’s an element of storytelling that’s deeper than the first. There’s a greater focus on the humans that are affected by the mushi and their relationships with each other than there was before. The characters within the vignettes themselves are more developed and well-rounded. They have established relationships that make their complications with the mushi all the more heart rending.

And the animation, well, it dazzles: Blue-white living snowflake mushi that fall like glowing orbs as they steal warmth from their host; tiny, coiled dove-like mushi flying into the lapping, glittering surf. Every forest scene has an endless labyrinth of branches and vines … I’m gushing, I know. I’ll stop and save what’s left of my dignity now.

But, seriously, the artistry of the Next Passage has the attention to detail that ArtLand and animator/director Hiroshi Nagahama are known for. With the greater attention to characterization, and the still-stunning animation, this series is giving the first a definite run for it’s money … and I’d have to argue that it might have the first series beat.

There are drawbacks, most of which stem from the lackluster subbing. I don’t mind subbing, however these subtitles not only move by too quickly, but there are some that make me wonder whether they’re an actual translation or a sloppy approximation. And, unfortunately, because the rest of this series is so excellent, this one flaw sticks out and glares at you like a black eye on an otherwise unmarred face. Don’t let this deter you, though, just be prepared to hit the pause button to read.

They say you can never go home again, but clearly Mushi-Shi Zoku Shou has proven them wrong; we can go home, to enchanted forests full of ethereal creatures, rivers of light energy and the like.

Mushi-Shi Zoku Shou is available for streaming on Aniplex of America and Crunchyroll.com

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‘The Heroic Legend of Arslan’: Deliciously Satisfying

by Agent Amanda Grefski (a.k.a. Madame Helleveeg)

I like to think about anime in terms of food; some are fluffy, like cotton candy. Good, sugary, not too filling, and really hits your sweet-tooth. Others are like a snack: satisfying for the nonce, but they ultimately don’t fill you up. Then there’s the main course: complex, aromatic, a variety of textures, and satisfying to the last drop. We all have an anime that does just that for us. Well prepare to add The Heroic Legend of Arslan to that list.

There’s a strikingly handsome, curious, forward-thinking prince, a mysterious runaway prisoner of war from an opposing kingdom, a lush, feudal landscape … I’d reveal more, but in the words of River Song: no spoilers!

For lovers of straight up, non-kawaii anime, The Heroic Legend of Arslan promises to be epic. The story focuses on Arslan, young prince in a kingdom called Pars. Both Arslan and Pars are fashioned loosely on ancient Persia and its famed prince, Amir Arsalan. It shows in the gorgeous architecture and settings director Noriyuki Abe, recreated Hiromu Arakawa’s vision. There have been several attempts to bring Arslan to TV screens and none have been successful far. However, with the surge of nostalgia for Arakawa’s classic work, like Full Metal Alchemist, The Heroic Legend of Arslan has a chance at keeping its foothold.

Abe and writer Makoto Uezu brilliantly set the scene for Arslan’s bildungsroman (“hero’s  journey”). Although fully indoctrinated into his comfortable life and his deep ingrained ideas, Prince Arslan is curious to speak with the Lusitanian prisoners of war that were recently captured by his stoic and aloof father, Andragoras III. In his quest, he’s sucked into an adventure with a mysterious child-warrior with whom he has a few eye-opening learning experiences … again, I’d love to elaborate, but no spoilers! But, seriously, if you’re not intrigued, you should be.

What we see is Arslan’s spark of curiosity beginning to ignite and we see the dynamics of his relationships. What is most striking is the development of these relationships, which are apparent even in the first episode. Unlike more kawaii anime, these relationships don’t slap you in the face, either; they’re delightfully subtle and believable. For example, after addressing the royal army, Arslan tries to innocently approach his mother and is met with only a cold stare, countered by Arslan’s disappointed eye. And on the contrary, Arslan’s interaction with his swordsmanship instructor is more friendly, warm and jovial. This sets us up, not only for the types of relationships Arslan will have in future episodes, but also it’s the beginning of his reconciliation with class and caste that will develop throughout the series. And, like everything in this series so far, it’s done beautifully.

This interaction with his swordsmanship instructor in the very first scene features young prince whining about his lesson, which is not only refreshingly human, but really sets up the bildungsroman journey for our eponymous character. Arslan’s character has a lot of promise and so much room to grow, which makes for some excellent storytelling, not unlike the classic mono-myth and bildungsroman stories. Although only one episode has aired, this does not promise to be a “fluffy” anime in the least, but an epic tale with satisfying character growth, adventure, and the amazing artistry Geneon and FUNimation is known for.

The only possible drawback is that there are no dubbed versions yet, so plan on reading some subtitles. That said, if the next episodes are as well done as the first, The Heroic Legend of Arslan promises to be as meaty and satisfying as FMA and as beautifully drawn as Mushi-shi. The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a full-course meal and you’ll be begging for seconds. Betcha can’t watch just one.

The premiere aired April 5, 2015. New simulcast episodes Sundays at 5:00 a.m. Eastern on www.funimation.com.

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Why You Shouldn’t Cheat on FUNimation with Fansubs and Fandubs

by Agent Amanda Grefski (a.k.a.Madame Helleveeg)

The production company FUNimation is like our favorite, fantasy boyfriend or girlfriend; they’re badass, intelligent, and sensitive with more chutzpah and ingenuity than MacGyver. Sexy, savvy, smart, and ingenious, a date with FUNimation never disappoints. Go ahead, you can swoon now, I won’t tell a soul.
But sometimes, this love-machine doesn’t deliver the shows we adore, and it makes their faithful lovers (us, the fans) a little needy. But, here’s why you shouldn’t resort to getting some anime strange while you wait for FUNimation to get you your shows.

For those of you that are new to the anime scene, FUNimation (formerly Funimation) is one of the largest anime subbing/dubbing and production companies in America. They brought us classics like Full Metal Alchemist and Spice and Wolf. They’ve also swallowed up a few smaller companies, like Navarre, in a Kirby-like fashion, strengthening their own company while also utilizing the strengths of the smaller, conglomerated companies. I could go on, but this isn’t the history of FUNimation. If you want to know more, go to a con with an anime track or overall theme. You will be educated, and then some. Once you’ve been educated, immerse yourself in one of FUNimation’s amazing series, then come back and read the rest of this article. Go on, we’ll be here when you get back.

If you’re reading beyond this point, you’ve probably already fallen madly in love with a series that FUNimation has brought to America. Okay, more like a passionate addiction from which you can’t break free, and you love every minute of it. Admit it, you do. Many completed series have self-contained episodes, like Mushi-shi, or have run to a conclusive end, like Full Metal Alchemist, and we’re sad to see them go, but we’re satisfied. However, what happens when a series, like D.Gray Man, leaves us hanging?

Thanks to Google Translate, we’ve read the Japanese message boards and we know there are dozens more episodes, but none are subbed or dubbed. What is that like for the anime addict? Imagine being a “caffiend” without a coffee bean or NoDoz in sight. Catch my drift? And because you’re a message board reader — I’ve never met an anime-niac that wasn’t — you’ll have also found out that FUNimation has had a difficult time acquiring the licensing for some of these programs, like D. Gray Man. This is because licensing is expensive and prices fluctuate depending on many factors, like popularity and how willing the company of origin is to do business. This is the point where many anime-niacs turn to fan-dubbing and subbing sites, called fansub or fandub, to get their fix. I know you’re desperate for a fix, but I’m here to convince you to think twice about cheating on the alluring MacGyver-esque heartthrob, FUNimation.

For the most part, fan sites are great. Fan sites, like fan-fic, are an integral part of our community. Like it or lump it, we have fan-fic to thank for Fifty Shades of Gray and other popular works. But when does a fan site draw the line between boosting a genre, franchise, or company, and hurting it? When it takes revenue away from the very company that got you hooked on a series: let me explain. We’re talking fandubs and fansubs, which in essence seem harmless, but they do a lot of damage to production companies like FUNimation.

How, you ask? There are two ways. First, because you’re no longer watching a licensed FUNimation sub or dub, FUNimation loses viewership and ratings from venues like Crunchyroll, Cartoon Network, Netflix, Amazon, and their own streaming subscriptions. Second, to protect their product, they have to spend money suing the fansubbers and fandubbers: something that they don’t want to do because, hell, they’re fans of the scene! But the people at FUNimation need to bring home the bacon, too, right? Right. Bottom line: that’s all revenue that could go towards acquiring the licensing for the next episodes of your favorite show. Not to mention the cost of re-voicing, re-crediting, and sometimes reformatting. Our sexy stud, FUNimation makes it look easy, but there’s a lot of work costly involved.

So what to you do? You need a fix of your show so bad, you’ve got the shakes. It’s hardly a solution, but here’s my two-fold suggestion. Write to FUNimation and tell them your dilemma. Really. Think of it as the ultimate love letter. It will tell them that it’s worth the extra do-re-mi to pursue licensing. Encourage others to write, and create a campaign. It may bug the hell out of the FUNimation peeps, but you’re giving them valuable information in the process. What to do for your fix? Unfortunately, you need to select another fabulous anime series from their stock to take the edge off.

The good news is there are so many possible substitutes to choose from. So, watch another of their series and let FUNimation remind you why they’re the ultimate dream date. Swoon again, you know you want to. You never wanted to leave, did you? Nope, not you. Besides, you’re not the cheating type and we’ll forgive you for your wandering eye. Just stay the course and keep those love letters coming. And remember, even if you’re waiting for your specific series sweet spot, your hunka-hunka-burnin’-anime is still there for you.

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Anime Review: ‘Assassination Classroom’

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a.Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

An alien creature threatens the continued existence of the entire Earth and the only ones who can stop him are the E-class kids from Kunugigaoka Junior High School!

Anime is famous for having all kinds of weird premises, anything from the Devil himself with a part-time job to giant Titans destroying post-apocalyptic Earth, and Assassination Classroom is no exception! So, a little awhile ago, this crazy octopod-like, color-changing alien used his power to destroy a good 70 percent of the moon, leaving us poor little humans with a permanent crescent in the sky. The alien informs the human government that in a year, he’ll destroy the rest of the earth, but in true anime fashion, presents us with an alternative to save ourselves, with some really strange restrictions. The big yellow guy insists that he be the acting homeroom teacher of class 3-E at Kunugigaoka Junior High School, the bottom-of-the-barrel rejects of the entire school, and only they will have the chance to assassinate their teacher before the year is over!

Dubbing their teacher Koro-sensei, which is a play on korosenai (meaning “un-killable” in Japanese), the students are leery at first, especially after the government gives them a presentation that all but tells them, “You guys are worthless unless you succeed in killing off the scary yellow alien.” The underlying feeling is that even if the kids of the 3-E class did manage to get Koro-sensei, they’d still be treated like the most flawed bottom-dwellers at school, and that certainly doesn’t help with morale. Though being told they have full permission, practically orders, to kill Koro-sensei by whatever means necessary (short of wide-scale collateral damage) has a tendency to bring out the more angry and murderous sides of these junior high school kids. Koro-sensei itself begins teaching the kids right away, all the standard school things and “how to be the best assassin” classes thrown in too!

You just know Koro-sensei has secret plans he’s not telling anyone; why else would he insist that the 3-E kids and only they be the ones to try to kill him? Like many anime series, the various teenagers of class 3-E are often avatars of fan-favorite anime stereotypes (the computer-generated government assassin classmate; the nerdy, shy girl who’s secretly a knife-slashing maniac; the ultimate bad boy who’s secretly a huge sweetie, etc.). They all have one thing in common, though: low self-esteem due to being tossed into class 3-E. Koro-sensei practically makes it his mission to turn these vulnerable kids around, even while they’re in the midst of planning to kill his goofy, sugar-addicted, octopod ass off! It makes for an interesting underlying statement, that a murderous alien would treat our children better than we ourselves ever did.

Assassination Classroom can be found on Funimation!

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