Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bad news...

I'm afraid I won't be able to update as much as I would like, since school has started again. Sorry guys, but school takes precedence over Super Sentai and anime. So until then hope you enjoy this random pic:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Mechanime: Psalms of Planets Eureka Seven

This anime has robots, hoverboards, and robots on hoverboards!
Original Run: 2005-2006
Number of Episodes: 51
Average Episode Length: 22 minutes
Subgenres: Adventure, Romance
Dub?: Yes

In Mechanime related news, I’ve stopped watching Gundam Wing. It got to the point where the story, no matter how good, couldn’t save the experience. I consider it a good show, but I know believe it’s very hit or miss, and for me, it got to the point where it started missing more than hitting. However, since then, I’ve finally gotten around to watching Eureka Seven, which I don’t think I’ll be dropping anytime soon. Keep in mind that this is more a review of the first season rather than the whole show.

The OP of Eureka Seven, called “Days,” is pretty different from most openings I’ve heard. It’s a pretty groovy piece of music, and it gives me this carefree feeling whenever I listen to it. It gives you that sense that everything will work out while at the same time being fun to listen to. It’s one of the best I’ve listened too, not only because it's a good song, but also because it differentiates itself from your average opening.

It's pronounced "ur-ekk-ah," by the way.
Eureka Seven takes place in the distant future. Mankind has learned to harness the power of transparence light particles (or “trapars”), which are given off by a mysterious lifeform called scub corals. Renton Thurston, a teenage boy growing up in a backwater town, desperately wants to escape his boring life. An opportunity literally falls from the sky in the form of Eureka, a mysterious girl, and her mech, the Nirvash typeZero. He is invited to join the Gekkostate, an outlaw militia group led by Holland Novak. As Renton spends more time with Eureka and the members of the Gekkostate, he learns not only more about the real life of the outlaw group, but also more about the world.

Despite the relatively light tone of the first season, it has its darker moments.
There’s a lot more to a story than the basic plot, as Eureka Seven demonstrates beautifully. One of the major pillars of storytelling is world building, something that this show does really well. Information is given to the audience at a rate that isn’t too slow (which would bore the audience) or fast (which would feel like an infodump). The world is interesting, and I kept watching to so I could learn more about it. The actual story feels more like a coming of age adventure which slowly unfurls into something much more interesting. The world, at least in the first season, is more interesting that the actual plot, but I will say that as more information becomes known, the plot grows more interesting.

The crew of the Gekkostate. From left to right: Hap, Talho, Renton, Holland, Stoner, Matthieu, Hilda, Moondoggie, Gidget, Woz, Jobs, Gonzy, Mischa, Ken-gou. Whew.
Image source: Wikipedia
Eureka Seven has a pretty big cast. Aside from Renton, Eureka, and Holland, there’s the many members of the Gekkostate. We have pilots Matthieu and Hilda, who operate the Terminus 606 and Terminus 808 respectively, Talho, the captain of the Gekko (the Gekkostate’s flagship), and Hap, the Gekko’s second in command. On the villainous side, we have Dewey, a commander in the United Federation Forces and Holland’s brother, Anemone, a psychotic counterpart to Eureka, and Dominic, an intelligence officer. There are more characters, but most aren’t terribly important to the overall plot (at least not yet).

The main character is sadly the weak link here.
Eureka Seven has a great cast. Most characters are likeable  and entertaining. Even the more annoying ones are tolerable. Most left me wanting to know more about their lives and personalities, especially the villains. However, the cast has one major deadweight, and sadly, it’s the main character. I find Renton to be very annoying, being a deadly combination of being whiny, oblivious to reality, and a little self absorbed. It also doesn’t help that he has the worst voice on the entire show. If Renton was a secondary member of the Gekko, then I could let it slide, but since he’s the main character, he gets a lot a screen time, which makes it far worse than it has to be. Save for Renton, the rest of the cast is great, especially Eureka, Holland, and the big villains.

There’s more to writing than dialogue; there’s also world building and how you handle exposition. One of the reasons the world building is so great in Eureka Seven is that the writing delivers the information at a pace that keeps the audience interested while still focusing on the main adventure. The dialogue itself is good too, being able to capture the personalities of each of the characters and is able to fit the tone of each scene. Eureka Seven is well written, especially when it comes to world building.

Eureka is on the left . The amazing landscape is in the back.
The animation of this show is freaking fantastic. The whole show feels very fluid and it rarely recycles its animation. It feels more like a long running OVA rather than a made for TV animated show. The scenes that best show off the animation are the sequences were the Gekkostate’s mecha have to maneuver to avoid enemy fire. It really shows how fast and fluid the animation can be without cutting corners. It also helps how colorful and complex the animation can be sometimes. This is probably the best animated anime I’ve said that didn’t include CGI.

Mecha and Fight Scenes
The Nirvash typeZero, the main mech of Eureka Seven.
The mecha in Eureka Seven are known as Light Finding Operations, or LFOs. They have two forms: a vehicle form that looks like a tank-sports car hybrid, and a humanoid robot that can fly by riding the currents produced by trapars with a board. All the mecha in this show are great. They look detailed and interesting, and each look gives off a certain personality vibe. Even the grunt mecha used by the military look really cool. The mecha in Eureka Seven are really unique and well designed, and it’s a treat to see them in action.

The grunt mechs of Eureka Seven.
The draw of the show is not within the fight scenes. The fights in this show are few and far between, and they are usually short, with the grunt mecha blown away with a single attack. However, I don’t find this to be disappointing, since the main draws are the stories and characters. It also works because the heroes aren’t invincible. Unlike Gundam Wing, were the protagonist were practically invincible, the heroes in Eureka Seven do feel in danger enough to feel like they can be killed. It’s a welcome change, in my opinion.

Sub or Dub?
This is the first show I can actually recommend the english dub. Each voice actor does a good (and sometimes even great) job with the character given to them. It’s a good dub, and in my opinion, a good dub is almost always better than a good sub.

Eureka Seven has several great things going for it. It has a great world, a good story, some great characters, and awesome mecha. It has some really good animation, and some sequences look outstanding. Really the only problem I have with the show is Renton, and I’m hoping character development will save the day in the future. Other than that, I highly recommend this series.

8/10 - Great

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Weapon of the Week: The Bouncer

Not to be confused with the guy who blocks your entry to da club.
Franchise: Ratchet and Clank
Appearances: Going Commando, Up Your Arsenal
Type: Gun, explosive

So recently I’ve been marathoning the all the Ratchet and Clank games I have in preparation for the 2016 PS4 remake. During my time playing the games, my opinions on some of the weapons of the series have changed. Some weapons I found to be invaluable previously had become less useful, and weapons I was previously  indifferent to became a key part of my arsenal. Some examples of the latter would include the Devastator from the original, the Netherbeast from Into the Nexus, and the subject of today’s post, the Bouncer from Going Commando.

The Bouncer is a Megacorp weapon that basically amounts to a clusterbomb launcher. The weapon fires a large bomb that, when it explodes, unleashes a hail of smaller bombs that can bounce towards targets. While the big bomb does negligible damage, the smaller bombs are able to wreak havoc all across the battlefield thanks to their numbers and high damage output. Upgrade to the Heavy Bouncer, and you can wipe out waves of enemies with a single cluster. This weapon is the key choice for dealing with groups of strong enemies, and makes the final boss of Going Commando a cakewalk.

The Bouncer is a force to be reckoned with, much like its wielder. Next time, we’ll look at a magical twist on a traditional weapon. Until then, see ya.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Random Thoughts: The Pyramid of Kid’s Animation

I am really fond of animation in general. Be it CG, stop motion, or handdrawn, I both enjoy and appreciate animated shows and movies. Of course, like all things, the good animations of the world are vastly outnumbered by the mediocre and poor ones. This becomes very apparent when you look at animations meant for children. Here it is clear what shows and movies had actual effort and care put into them, and which were turned out with the belief that kids will watch anything.

This is where the pyramid comes in. Based on Sturgeon’s Law (ninety percent of everything is crap) and actual observations, I’ve constructed a guideline where the best, fewest animations are at the very top and the worst, numerous animations are on the bottom. Keep in mind that while I did put some thought into this, not all animations would be able to fit snugly into a category here. To make a anything that can account to everything of even one category is pretty much impossible, or at least way more time than I’m willing to spend. Let’s start with the lowest and largest rung first:

Crap, or “Don’t Worry, Kids Will Watch Anything!”
Many other people have said this before, but it bears repeating: being for kids is not an excuse for a lack of quality. Apparently, the makers of these animations didn’t get the message. Or worse, they didn’t care. These animations are actively bad, be it due to poor production, braindead concepts, or just general annoyance. Most times, only small children can stomach these shows, and most adults wouldn’t be caught dead watching these, even if their kid insists. Most kid’s animations fall into this category, but they can be easily spotted, and therefore can be easily avoided.

Examples: The Problem Solverz, most direct-to-video animated films not made by Disney, most Hanna-Barbera shows

Next up the pyramid is:

Dumb, or “Kids Like Fart Jokes, Right?”
If the Crap tier of animations are the bottom of the barrel, then the animations of the Dumb tier are the actual barrels. While their quality is certainly a step above those of the Crap tier, they still fall into the category of “only kids can really enjoy this.” The biggest differences between Dumb and Crap is that the former usually has more effort put into them and that parents, if they absolutely have to, can stomach it just fine. They often aren’t good shows, but they are passable enough to avoid being called bad.

Examples: Teen Titans Go!, Johnny Test, most shows on Disney Junior or Nick Junior, classic Scooby Doo, direct-to-video Disney films

One step above this is:

Harmless, or “The Envelope Is Fine Right Where It Is”
If the Crap tier is the barely trying, and if the Dumb tier is at least trying, then the Harmless tier is like a “B-minus.” Harmless tier animations exist in this weird limbo in which they can’t be considered bad, but are just shy of being considered good. They tend to watchable and in most cases enjoyable by adults, but don’t appeal to them enough for them to watch it unironically. Their appeal still rests with kids, but enough effort was put into it to insure that the parents watching can still enjoy themselves.

Examples: The Backyardigans, Adventure Time, most Transformers shows, What’s New Scooby Doo?, lower tier Dreamworks and Pixar films (think Over the Hedge and Brave)

Up next is:

Good, or “Envelopes Are Meant To Be Pushed A Little”
From this tier up, the animations here are usually considered to be good by most people. Here, extra effort is put in to make sure that the show can be enjoyed by not just kids, but by older audiences too. These shows almost always have smarter writing than your average kid’s animations, and are often watched by older audiences unironically. They may not be considered timeless, but they are often pointed to as examples of kid’s animations done right.

Example: Gen 4 My Little Pony, Transformers Animated, Dan vs, Mystery Incorporated, Regular Show, Amazing World of Gumball, mid tier Dreamworks and Pixar films (think Madagascar and Bug’s Life)

At the top is:

Great, or “Who’s Up For A Good Game Of Envelope Pushing?”
The very top tier of kid’s animation go the extra mile to make sure that they could be the best they could be. They write smartly like Good tier shows, but they often tackle heavier themes and concepts, and can be considered great even today (and possibly even in the future). They can be enjoyed by everyone, and older audiences will seek out these shows because of how they handle themselves. There are that many out there, but animations in this category are examples of how kid’s shows can be made so that they can enjoyed by people other than kids.

Examples: Steven Universe, early Spongebob,  Avatar The Last Airbender, Samurai Jack, Disney renaissance films, higher tier Dreamworks and Pixar films (think How to Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 2)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mechanime vs Sentai Time! Top Ten Super Sentai Mecha Themes

Ever since Battle Fever J (or even Gorangers, one could argue), the multicolored heroes of the Super Sentai franchise have used mecha as a key part of their arsenal. These mecha are usually the ultimate weapon of the sentai, and almost always finish off the monster of the week. Each mech has its own theme, and usually they are tons of fun to listen to. Today, I’m counting down my top ten favorite themes. There’s only one rule: only one theme per show. Let’s get going.

10. Hot! Hot! GaoMuscle
Sentai: Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger
Vocalist: Yukio Yamagata

Note: I couldn't find a good mp3 of this song. The song is on YouTube, so you can listen to it there.

I like it when a theme does something different and still ends up being enjoyable. GaoMuscle’s theme is very different from your average mecha theme. It has some odd instrumentals with an off-kilter melody, and the song is much better for it. Its weirdness is its greatest asset, especially with all the grunting in the background. This theme stands out in a great way, and it’s very fun to listen to. That said, it’s at the bottom for not quite reaching the same level of “fun to listen to” as the other choices. Still, this is a very fun song, and it deserves a spot on this list.

9. Engine Gattai! Engine-Oh G6

Sentai: Engine Sentai Go-Onger
Vocalist: MoJo (Ichiro Tomita)

Credit is due where credit is due; I may dislike Go-Onger as a show, but its mecha themes are all great. Choosing just one for the list was tough, but in the end I went with the one that pumped me up the most. This song does a great job of building up to the chorus, and boy, what a chorus. It also helps that this song has the legendary MoJo singing, and he does a great job with every lyric. The instrumentals are also great, and the brass complements the vocals greatly. This is a flashy and dramatic song, and it’s the greatest song Go-Onger has to offer.

8. Ginga no Ouja Gingaioh

Sentai: Seijuu Sentai Gingaman

Vocalist: Miyauchi Takayuki

A lot of the earlier themes didn’t really stand out to me. This one, however, manage to capture the dramatic spirit of many of the earlier mech themes while still being able to stand above the rest. With great use of brass and strings, it captures a feeling of drama, tension, and power. The vocals have the same effect; with the chorus and main singer, it magnifies the power of the song. The combination of great instrumentals and vocals made this theme this theme fantastic, while the other earlier themes were just “good” or “great.”

7. Samurai Gattai! ShinkenOh

Sentai: Samurai Sentai Shinkenger

Vocalist: Akira Kushida

You want drama? This theme will give you plenty of that. This theme has very pumping instrumentals from the guitar and drums that help keep up the theme’s energy throughout the song, and the dashes of more traditional instruments are great. And may I just say that the bridge is probably one of the best in any song ever? Seriously, the power that one section of the song has is just incredible. This song demands your attention in the best of ways, and is well at home in my favorite Super Sentai show.

6. Makka na Toukon! Red Puncher

Sentai: Chouriki Sentai Ohranger

Vocalist: Hironobu Kageyama

Hironobu Kageyama is my second favorite Japanese vocalist (if you’re wondering who’s my favorite, just keep reading), and this song is a good reason why. This song has the perfect mix of 90s cheese and killer brass, managing to be stupid, awesome, and stupidly awesome all at the same time. It’s incredibly fun to listen to, and Kageyama absolutely sells this. This song really gets you ready for any crap an evil intergalactic empire has to throw at you.


Sentai: Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger
Vocalist: NoB (Nobuo Yamada)

Now we’re talking! This song is just so fun to listen to, with its near perfect mix of wicked guitar and showy brass. It’s a fairly simple song with a hypnotically awesome melody, and the chorus is worthy enough to be played at sporting events. This theme just oozes with awesome, and is just as addicting as all of Kyoryuger’s other songs. I may be a bit biased, seeing that I love Kyoryuger, but I think this theme deserves a spot on this list.

4. Zettai Shouri da! VRV

Sentai: Gekisou Sentai Carranger

Vocalist: Norio Sakai
It’s a bit ironic that Carranger, a parodic season of Super Sentai, has one of the best mech themes out there. Nevertheless, this a very feel good song, with enough drama and power to make it something truly amazing. The verses sound stereotypically heroic, but they’re still very enjoyable. The greatest part of this song is when the chorus kicks in, with a very hopeful sounding instrumental and sweeping vocals. It truly is a musical treat, even it is a bit silly.

3. Make Legend! Magiranger!

Sentai: Mahou Sentai Magiranger

Vocalist: Ichiro Mizuki (Toshio Hayakawa)

Ichiro Mizuki is easily my favorite Japanese vocalist, and this song is a perfect example why. This song carries itself with a great grand spirit, with absolutely amazing instrumentals that just nail the heroic spirit of Super Sentai. Mizuki’s vocals top it all off, with powerful and sweeping vocals that complete this song. I may be cheating with this entry, as this is both the theme for the Magiranger’s super form and MagiLegend, but there was no way I wasn’t going to exclude such a perfect song for this list.

2. Li-Oh! Kenzan! Champion!

Sentai: Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters
Vocalist: Ichiro Mizuki (Toshio Hayakawa)

This song is the absolute king of being channeling the old school spirit without completely sucking. Like previous entries, it has a killer combination of both brass and strings, and with the addition of a saxophone, we have a nearly perfect example of old school style tokusatsu songs. Just like the last entry, Mizuki’s vocals make the song, complementing the amazing instrumentals to make something magnificent. It misses out on being number one by just and inch, but it remains one of the greatest pieces of Super Sentai music ever.

1. ToQ Sou Shingeki
Sentai: Ressha Sentai ToQger
Vocalist: Yukio Yamagata

This song has all of what makes the previous songs great. It has great instrumentals, with a absolutely heavenly mix of guitar and orchestral music. It fits the heroism and drama of Super Sentai to a T. The vocalist pushes the song from being “good” to being “fantastic.” It’s bridge and chorus are incredible. There’s virtually nothing wrong with this song, and everything it does is golden. This is easily the best mech theme in all of Super Sentai.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sentai Time! Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger Review

Where there are otakus, there are cries for Super Sentai!
Translation: Hundred Beast Squadron Roar Ranger
Number of Episodes: 51
Original Run: 2001-2002
Theme: Animals
Adaptation: Power Rangers Wild Force

Welcome back to Sentai Time! This is a review of the first “season” of Gaoranger. Before I start, I would like to thank Gao Soul Forever for subbing the series and Awesome Screenshot for the software used to make this review’s pictures. Let’s get started!

The Concept
The Gaorangers and their Power Animal comrades.
One thousand years ago, humanity was at war with the Orgs, a race of demons that crave destruction. With the help of the Power Animals, the ancient Gao Warriors were able to defeat and seal the Orgs. Now, in modern day, the Orgs have resurfaced and wish to resume their quest for destruction. Five new youths are chosen by the Power Animals to counter the Orgs, and they must abandon their lives to protect the life on Earth.

The Sentai
Left to right: Sotaro, Gaku, Kakeru, Sae,and Kai.
The Gaorangers consist of Kakeru (GaoRed), a passionate veterinarian, Gaku (GaoYellow), a former Self Defence Force pilot, Kai (GaoBlue), an energetic freeter, Sotaro (GaoBlack), a gentle giant florist, and Sae (GaoWhite), a martial artist and Team Mom. Each Gaoranger is the partner of a Power Animal, a large mechanical beast. GaoLion, GaoEagle, GaoShark, GaoBison, and GaoTiger are the partners of Kakeru, Gaku, Kai, Sotaro, and Sae respectively.

The Gaorangers in their suits. Also, EXPLOSIONS!
I have mixed feelings about the sentai of this show. They’re fairly unique in terms of character, and they’re developed fairly well. They manage to have energy without being totally annoying. However, there are a few things that hold them back from being considered great. For one thing, the members don’t have much of a character to talk about, and their development, while competent, is still fed to the audience in small pieces. They also don’t interact with each other in meaningful manners that often. While individually they’re pretty well characterized, but as a group they’re just decent.

The Villains
The big Orgs for the first season. From left to right: Yabaiba, Tsuetsue, and Shuten.
The villains of Gaoranger are the Orgs, a race of demons born from the negative emotions of humanity. They often take the forms of man-made objects, and they are only driven by a desire to destroy life. They follow a strict hierarchy, with the creator of the Orgs, the Org Master, at the top. The Org Master gives orders to the Highness Duke Org, who in turn commands the Duke Orgs and Baron Orgs (the Monsters of the Week). The current Org leadership include Shuten, the multi-eyed Highness Duke Org, Yabaiba, a knife wielding Duke Org, and Tsuetsue, a magic wielding Duchess Org.

One of the Baron Orgs. All are based on man-made objects.
I have similar feelings about the villains of the show. The Duke Orgs and Shuten look pretty cool, if not a bit silly, but they don’t have much in the area of character. It doesn’t really help that their MO boils down to “blowing stuff up for funsies,” which doesn’t make for awfully compelling villains. It also doesn’t help that many of the monsters look far more ridiculous than threatening or amusing. That said, the Orgs do their job rather well, and they do cause trouble often enough to feel like a threat. But just like the heroes, the villains, I don’t find them to be particularly strong, but not terribly weak either.

The Mecha
GaoKing, the primary mech of the Gaorangers.
The mecha used by the Gaorangers are the Power Animals. The core five Power Animals, who are also the partners of the Gaorangers, can form the primary mech of the show, GaoKing. Throughout the show, the Gaorangers manage to recruit several other Power Animals, which are used to augment the abilities of GaoKing or help create other mecha like GaoMuscle. The mecha of this show are fairly decent, even if the Power Animals are a bit simplistic. However, the giant robots formed by the Power Animals are really cool and imposing. I like the auxiliary attachments a good deal, and GaoMuscle is probably my favorite auxiliary mech. This show has my second favorite group of mecha (next to Kyoryuger) thanks to their power and design.

The Fights
The Gaorangers will often fight like animals, especially like their partner animal.
Like how Magiranger incorporated it’s gimmick into the fight scenes, Gaoranger regularly incorporates the animal motif into its fights. The Gaorangers claw, lunge at, ram, drag, and smash their opponents in a similar manner to animals. They even claw at the ground occasionally. The concept was pretty cool at first, but the novelty wears off when you realize how little they can do with it. Thankfully, there’s more to most of the fights to avoid being boring. However, like most of the things in the series, the fights are just decent. They certainly have some great moments, and the weapon combat is interesting. However, nothing stands out as extraordinary. It’s not terrible, but it’s far from great.

The Music
Oh look, more mixed feelings. Yay…

In all seriousness, the music of Gaoranger is pretty unremarkable. Sure, there are several great songs, like Dynamic Soul, the mecha themes, the roll call theme, and especially the opening theme. But every other song is just totally forgettable and generic. Thank goodness the good songs are as amazing as they are, otherwise I would have found my first crap soundtrack in Super Sentai.

The Verdict
Gaorangers is one big mixed bag. Most stuff it handles it does with adequacy. However, Gaoranger doesn’t do many things exceptionally, and the product as a whole is more mediocre than good. It’s not a bad show; far from it. But the show does very few things that can be considered great. It’s pretty hit or miss overall.

6.5/10 - Decent