Category Archives: Anime

Gun X Sword

I admit I’m drawn to dark and gritty characters.  I like a flawed protagonist that must overcome their own internal demons more than their external ones.   The latest character that has caught my attention is Van from the anime Gun X Sword.

 

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Dressed in a black tuxedo and wearing an epic black hat, Van looks the part.  He is obsessed with revenge against the man who killed his bride on their wedding day.  This single-minded obsession helps him to overcome one obstacle after another in his pursuit of the killer (The Claw) who happens to be an evil mastermind behind a plot to end the world.  Of course, it helps that he pilots one of the most powerful mecha suits on the planet.

Along the way, he picks up several companions, despite his lack of manners or sense of decorum.  The most important of which and the teller of the story is a young girl named Wendy who is trying to find her brother.  The relationship between Van and Wendy is entertaining, mostly because of his lack of empathy for anyone who can’t help him catch his nemesis.  This doesn’t stop them from becoming attached emotionally.

Van is not a brain surgeon, or really even a loveable character, but he has a code of honor to go along with his obsession with revenge, and Wendy’s presence tempers his lack of compassion.  Also, he is a man of few words, which is okay in my book.  Basically, Van is violent and obsessive, yet dependable in that he will not stop until he gets his man.

The anime is entertaining because of these two characters, although the series drags a bit in the middle with the long quest to find The Claw.  The end is predictable yet entertaining, with Van swooping in to save the day in the most violent of ways.

If you like a dark and gritty protagonist, check out Gun X Sword and cheer on this pragmatic hero.

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My Favorite Things from 2015

    • Favorite Book – Pueblos, Spaniards, and the Kingdom of New Mexico by John L. Kessell. I typically read more fantasy and historical fiction than anything else, but I do enjoy an occasional historical text. With my recent interest in genealogy, this book hit the spot.   My family originally settled in New Mexico during the Spanish colonial period so it was great background for my investigations.
    • Favorite Novel – Disciple of the Wind by Steve Bein. Urban fantasy set in Japan with samurai and magic swords, plus a shit-kicking female cop that isn’t afraid to get bloody or buck the good-old-boy system. What more could you ask for?
    • Favorite Place to Visit – Santa Fe, New Mexico. I do a lot of traveling for work, and typically try to take at least one vacation a year. This year my wife and I visited New Mexico and Colorado on vacation, and we absolutely loved our time in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We showed up on the last day of the fall fiesta in the old market square, and spent the next few days shopping and seeing the historical sites. We also visited Taos Pueblo, which is a couple of hours north of town.
    • Favorite Anime – Love, Election, and Chocolate. This story blew me away. At first glance, it seems like a typical Japanese high school meme, but the backstory between the two main characters is what makes it great. The way their history is gradually brought forward, and the twisted relationship between these characters makes it worth watching. I never thought that chocolate could be such a strong element in a story. Japanese anime has a lot of clichés, but you can also find some great storytelling
    • Favorite Game – Fallout 4. I didn’t play many games in 2015, concentrating more on my writing, reading, and watching anime in my spare time. Even though I just started playing it at Christmas time, I love Fallout 4. I have always liked the Fallout series and expected to like this one as much as the rest, but I like it more. It is mostly the same as previous versions, but I enjoy the new feature of being able to build up your towns and farms. It just adds another level to the game for me.

 

    • Favorite New Show – Better Call Saul. I don’t watch very much regular television. My favorite show for 2015 was Better Call Saul. This off-shoot of Breaking Bad turned out to be more entertaining than I expected. I love Jimmy McGill’s character and can’t wait to see more of his transformation into Saul Goodman. I guess I just love flawed characters.
    • Favorite New Activity – UCSD Copyediting Certificate Program. I’ll admit, I was a little unsure about this one. I’m the type of person that isn’t happy unless I’m moving forward. I’m a goal kinda guy, and one of my goals was to learn the basics of the formal editing process. After looking around for the best option, I decided to try this program. I finished the first two classes in 2015, and have enjoyed it. Actually, a close second was going to physical therapy and learning how to manage the aches and pains of my not-so-young body. Yes, I have a warped sense of fun.

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I am an Anime Junkie

I’m not quite sure why I’m so embarrassed to admit this.  Well, I know that I’m a grown man that likes to watch cartoons, and some people think that’s weird, but I’m starting to get old enough that I don’t care.  To tell the truth, I’ve never truly cared about what other people think, but I’ve always been introverted, which makes me predisposed to not share such information with the world.

So, I’ve always liked cartoons.  I watched them as a kid, I watched them as a young adult, and I watched them with my kids when they were young, but at some point I stopped watching cartoons.  My kids got older, and I stopped watching TV in general for a while . . . and then I discovered anime.

It took me some time to appreciate the form.  My first introduction to anime was several years ago when Sailor Moon was on American television.  My daughter watched it, and so I watched it with her.  She liked it so much that we bought her the first season on tape (yes, I said tape.  You know—VHS ).  I liked Sailor Moon okay, but it didn’t floor me or anything.  My daughter started watching other anime, but at this point she was a teen and watched it up in her room – it was the “parents are uncool” phase, or maybe we were disconnected.  It depends upon your perspective.

We connected again after high school, and I watched Pretear with her.  Again, I wasn’t blown away, but it was enjoyable.  Finally, a couple of years ago I procured a Netflix account, and I started checking out different anime shows, and realized how good they can be.  Check out Darker than Black: it is still my favorite anime series.

For me, the best thing about anime is that it is made for adults.  Not all of it—there is some goofy stuff coming out of Japan too, and I’m not talking adult cartoons, but cartoons produced with adults in mind.  I like the fantasy & sci-fi ones the most, but I like other genres as well.  Anime has helped me regain my love of cartoons without having to watch the stupid cartoon crap that’s out on American television.

So if you like cartoons, and you like a good story, give anime a shot.  There are so many to choose from, you’re bound to find a story you like.

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Noragami

Noragami

I like to watch anime, but it is rare that I find an anime series that I feel is worth recommending to others. It has to be different somehow.  It has to more than entertain, but make me think.

Noragami is an anime series that follows the exploits of the god Yato. Yato is a bit foolish, threadbare and overall not a very impressive god.  He is performing odd jobs for anyone who is willing to toss him a coin, and his great dream is to have a proper shrine of his own.  He lives on the streets and can’t seem to get ahead.  This is the viewer’s first impression of Yato.

It is what Yato is hiding under this unimpressive persona that makes the anime. As the anime progresses, we get to see more of Yato’s past and true nature through the eyes of Hiyori, a typical middle school girl who is hit by a bus trying to save Yato.  Of course, at the time she didn’t know he was a god.  She survives but is transformed by the event.

With the whole middle-school girl befriending a god storyline, I figured this was going to be one of those silly school girl animes, but was pleasantly surprised when it turned out otherwise. There are dark undertones to this anime, but it builds slowly to a nice climax where Yato’s true nature is revealed.  It makes you think about the relationship that a god has with his followers and whether a god’s nature can be changed with the proper belief.  So, just as Hiyori is changed by her initial encounter with Yato, Yato is changed by his relationship with Hiyori.  Or maybe Hiyori is just an observer to the change that Yato has undergone on his own.  Watch and decide for yourself.

For me, it was a good mix of comedy and tragedy and worth watching.

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Dusk Maiden of Amnesia

key_art_dusk_maiden_of_amnesia I’m not much of a horror fan, but this anime hooked me. Yuuko is an evil spirit haunting a high school, and she is a loveable ghost that has a crush on the protagonist, Teiichi. Which Yuuko is the real Yuuko? It also delves into Japanese culture with old world mysticism clashing with new world logic. All this set in the traditional Japanese high school with clubs and funny taboos and fantastical—no adults present to control the consequences—society.

I like anime that makes you think. This one does it with the ghost story. The history of Yuuko and how she came to haunt the high school is well-told. It is blended into the current plot line and her infatuation with Teiichi, and even though you know the history part-way through, the story still manages to surprise and entertain until the end. The mystery is the ghost, not necessarily her back story.

Give it a try.

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Xam’d Lost Memories

Xam'd Lost Memories

Did you ever watch a show that made no sense, but still was enjoyable? Seems odd, but that’s how Xam’d Lost Memories worked for me. The animation was awesome, the characters engaging, and storyline action-packed, but I’m still not sure what exactly was going on.

My happy confusion starts with the theme song. It’s catchy and I found myself wanting to sing along, but the words don’t make much sense. We’re falling down, running away, and doing something with lemon drops, but hey, your toes tap involuntarily so why worry. It’s not like I can understand the words of half of the songs I listened to when growing up.

So there’s a war going on between North, South, and Eastern factions. I can’t positively say who was fighting who. Then there are humans that transform into alien creatures, some intentional and some not. I’m also unclear as to whether this was planned or accidental—it seems like some of both. I’m pretty sure humans are on an alien world and this is part of the deal.

Amidst this confusion is a jewel of a character story. I won’t get into specifics, but the interactions between the main characters are very well done, and the characters drive the story. The backdrop is the war and the real story is the characters stuck in the middle. Even the supporting characters have full backstories and have depth.

If you like action-packed, character driven anime, then give Xam’d Lost Memories a try. And if you can figure out the backstory, let me know.

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April 19, 2014 · 4:45 am

Welcome To The NHK

Welcome To The NHK

I like all types of anime, but I prefer the ones that are different. Don’t get me wrong: school girls, mecha, vampires, zombies, magic, or whatever are all fine and dandy, but the anime that stand out for me are the ones that make you think.

Welcome to the NHK is definitely different. All the characters are flawed. They all have issues, and the story is about how they deal, or don’t deal with life. Social Anxiety is the overall theme. One character is afraid to leave his apartment; another believes in conspiracy theories; yet another was abused as a child, and the list goes on. They are all real social problems condensed into a single story. So there is a hint of realism but overall watching the show makes you a bit uncomfortable, like witnessing an accident in progress but unable to stop it. The interactions between the different characters—how they help and hinder each other—are what make this anime worth watching.

So if you like anime and want to watch something a bit out the ordinary, yet still worth watching, give Welcome to the NHK a try.

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March 14, 2014 · 1:01 am

Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan

At first glance, this anime seemed a bit lame and gory. The first time a Titan appears on the screen they look a bit odd, but not all that menacing. Then the blood starts flying and you realize they’re pretty damn indestructible.

I like this anime because it keeps you guessing. There are so many predictable stories out there that it is refreshing to find one that isn’t. The story is told from the perspective of a group of young humans that are trying to fight back against the Titans. This works to enhance the mystery of the storyline because the audience finds out things as the characters do. The story moves fast and the truth of what’s going on is revealed a clue at a time with a few shocking twists to keep you guessing.

If you like a good mystery and can get past the blood and violence, this is definitely one for you. It’s the best anime series I’ve seen recently and worth a watch. This one’s not for kids though.

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January 30, 2014 · 10:05 pm

Darker than Black — Awesome Anime

Darker than Black

I’ve always liked animation.  I was a cartoon junkie as a kid — Looney Tunes rock — and I’ve always loved Science Fiction and Fantasy.  It’s amazing it took me so long to appreciate anime. 

Over the last few months I’ve tried out quite a few anime titles and can say without a doubt that my favorite is Darker than Black.  It is definitely a mature anime, not for nudity as with many anime, but for the content.  There is a darkness to the main character that is tempered by odd moments of tenderness.  The conflict in the character makes the show.

So if you’ve thought about checking out an anime title but didn’t want to sort through all the cutesy stuff, give Darker than Black a try.  The first season is up on Netflix.

A word of warning:  the first couple of episodes seemed a bit slow to me, but once the story took off I was hooked.

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