Monday, September 30, 2013

Sentai and mechas who are living partners : an history

Super Sentai, since Battle Fever J, has the climax of most episodes being a giant fight between an enlarged monster and a big robot piloted by the heroes, with of course, the monster being defeated. In early sentai shows, those robots were machines, which were, starting with Sun Vulcan, built from the combination of different mechas, which together, made the giant robot. From Battle Fever through Jetman, the mechas and the robots used to fight the giant monsters were machines. However, with Zyuranger, which made Super Sentai switch from a mostly sci-fi genre to a more fantasy like tone, for the first time, the mechas  were sentient beings and the robots were much more than mere machines.
Since then, several series had living mechas which were living beings. Here is a little history of those living mechas

1) Sugimura era (Zyuranger, Dairanger, Kakuranger) : the era of the gods. 

Zyuranger was one of the first sentai series where the mechas had an animal theme (Liveman was the first, but the mechas were machines), in that case, ancient animals (notably dinosaurs). As the heroes were ancients warriors who were living during the dinosaur era and belonged to five different tribes, each ones of their mechas were in fact the Guardian Beast of their respective tribes (Red/ Tyrannosaurus, Black/ Mammoth, Blue/ Triceratops, Yellow/Smilodon, Pink/ Pteranodon). Since Red's mecha, the Tyrannosaurus was able to fight on its own and appeared earlier, while the others were mostly able to be involved while combining, Red/ Tyranno had the most focus among the five main ones. However, Daizyujin, the robot coming from the combination of the five Guardian Beasts was shown to be a God, and as such, the five Beasts were actually together the God of the Zyurangers, and were able to communicate to them as a supreme entity, who had power and wisdom. Daizyujin was able to talk and had a lot of influence on the Zyuranger team. Dragonranger's mecha, Dragon Ceasar, was more written as the partner of Dragonranger, and in the episode following Burai's death, his grief has been highlighted, and he really was written like a character with feelings. Because he was able to fight on its own, Dragon Ceasar had a lot of focus, together with Burai/ Dragonranger. The last mecha, King Brachion, was also shown as a living entity. Zyuranger was the first show to introduce sentient mechas, and both Daizyujin and Dragon Ceasar showed two different ways to write the relationship between the rangers and a sentient mecha helper.
Dairanger followed the trend of Zyuranger by having the five Mythical Ki Beasts which were the Guardians of the Dai tribe. Like in Zyuranger, the Red ranger's mecha, Ryuseioh, a dragon mecha, had more focus, since it was introduced earlier and could fight on its own by changing into a robot form. The four others (Green/ Shishi(Lion); Blue/Tenma (flying horse), Yellow/ Kirin and Pink/ Houhou (phoenix) were written in a similar way as their Zyuranger counterparts. However, unlike Daizyujin, Dairenoh wasn't a god-like entity. Kibaranger's mecha, was a tiger-like mecha who could transform into a robot form. However, Kibaranger's most prominent partner wasn't his mecha, but his white tiger themed talking sword. Lastly, the final mecha of Dairanger was very intriguing, because it had an human form, and was able to interact with the other Dairangers, especially Kazu like a fellow human. While its real form was one of a giant tortoise, Daimugen was able to become a little tortoise as well as an human. He was the first mecha with whom the Dairanger could interact in daily life as a friend.
Kakuranger put more focus on the "mechas being gods" concept. Indeed, the two main robots (Muteki Shogun, and Kakure Dai Shogun) and an additional hawk like mecha (Tsubasamaru) were in fact, gods which together were called Sanshinshou (Three God Generals). They were shown as god entities, similar to Daizyujin. Another character, Ninjaman, was introduced as a flawed pupil of Sanshinshou, and was both a "sixth ranger like" character, being an additional warrior in human size, while being also able to grow big and be involved in giant fight like the God- like mechas.

After those three series, Super Sentai switched back to machines like mechas. While Ohranger had Gunmajin, and Carranger had the two wild Cars (Pegasus and Dragon) being sentient creatures, the trend of having mechas being living partners only came back in full force in Gingaman

2) Gingaman and Gaoranger : the animal partners

While the Sugimura era had god like mechas, Gingaman was the first series having each ranger have a true mecha partner, that partner being a giant beast with which he/ she could communicate more easily. In Gingaman, each ranger has a Seijuu, a giant beast coming from the stars, as a partner. Three years later, Gaoranger used again that concept, the rangers's partners being the Power Animals, which were also giant beasts.
In Gingaman, the relationship between the Seijuu and the rangers was a lot highlighted in early episodes, when the heroes were fighting the monsters with each Seijuu attacking separately. Indeed, Gingaioh, the giant robot coming from the combination of the five Seijuu only appeared in episode 7. Episode 9 also allowed Gingat, Saya/ Gingapink's partner to have some additional focus.  While the Seijuu were unable to talk, the Gingaman could talk to them and heroes and beasts were able to understand each other. With the appearance of Kurokishi, another mecha, Gotaurus appeared, and the relationship between Gotaurus and Kurokishi was a key element of the show, going on as Hyuuga became the new Kurokishi. Indeed, Bucrates was able to force Hyuuga to work for him because he was had Gotaurus in his power. Three other Seijuu, Gingarhinos, Gingaphoenix and Gingabitus appeared later. Gingarhinos and Phoenix were pretty heartbreaking cases, where the Seijuu were only spirits being able to live in a completely modified body.
Gaoranger used again the concept of the animal mecha partner, in a similar way. One big difference between Gingaman and Gaoranger was that each hero had more than one partner, and a big part of the show was focused on having the heroes discovering new partners. Like in Gingaman, the Gaorangers were able to talk with their partners and while the Power Animals couldn't talk, they still could understand each other. While not all the Power animals were able to get a lot of focus, some of them were more highlighted, like Gaolion and Gaobison (notably in arcs when they wer einjured) among the main mechas, Gaobear, Gaopolar (especially in their intro episodes where they had an human form) and Gaodias among additional ones. In the Rouki arc, the rangers were very affected when they lost contact with their mecha partners (for example White losing Gaoelephant). One device with which the heroes could have a contact with their Power animals partners were the Gaojewels. Lastly, the Power Animals were living in a floating island, the Animarium, where the Gaorangers were able to visit them.
Gingaman and Gaoranger were the two main series introducing the concept of the ranger having independant animal mecha partners

3) Abaranger and Go-onger : the era of the talking mechas

Two years after Gaoranger, Abaranger brought back the concept of animal mecha  partners, using again the dinosaur theme. However, Abaranger introduced a new concept, with each mecha (the Bakuryuus) being able to speak Japanese, and as such, having a much more detailed interaction with the heroes. Each ranger had an individual partner, with whom he could talk and interact. As a result, the relationship between heroes and his/ her Bakuryuu partner was much more fleshed, since the Bakuryuu could show very different personalities (the hot blooded Tyranno, the shy young Triceratops, the wise Brachiosaur, the cynical Tupuxuara (Topugeira). Besides, the Bakuryuu could appear in much more scenes than the giant fights, interacting with the heroes either through their henshin devices, or appearing ot them in a big screen in their base. Heroes and Bakuryuu were interacting very freely, and because they were able to talk the same way, were interacting as equals.
Go-onger used the same concept with the Engines, with a little difference : the Engines were mostly shown as little models, and were interacting with the heroes as holographic entities coming form their phone like devices. The Engines were only able to come big during a short amount of time during the giant fights, and most of the time, stayed in miniature size. However, the relationship between the heroes and their Engines partners were similar to the one seen in Abaranger between heroes and Bakuryuu, a relationship between equals.

4) After Go-onger : different concepts

In Shinkenger, the Origami were shown to be sentient entities, but the relationship between the heroes and the Origami wasn't hightlighted, unlike what was seen in Gingaman anf Gaoranger. Shinkengold however had a robot partner, Daigoyo, a lantern like entity that could talk to him and also become a big robot when necessary. The Gosei Headders were similar to the Origami as sentient entities, but the relationship between Headders and the Goseiger was never explored. However, one of the Headders, the Groundion Headder,  was able to get more autonomy and became one of the first non human sentai hero, Goseiknight. Brajira's final MOTW were also Headders.
Gokaiger, as an homage series, brought back the concepts of previous sentai series, with Gaolion returning, and a new Engine, Machalcon, appearing, each mecha  having a similar concept as those fomr the series they were tributing ( respectively Gaoranger and Go-onger)

Go-Busters was an interesting case: each hero had a robotic partner, the Buddyroids. The Buddyroids were full characters on their own, and since they were human sized, were able to interact with the heroes in a daily basis, and were written as major characters. Cheeda Nick, Red's partner, was alos being able to become the hero's bike.  Another Buddyroid , Beet J Stag, became a Go-Buster himself, the silvery Stag Buster. While they weren't "talking mechas" strictly speaking, since the mechas were in fact machines, the Buddyroids of the three main heroes were a major part of the mechas, since they were necessary to have the  mechas being able to move. Beet J Stag was the pilot of its own mecha, as a ranger itself. The three main Buddyroids were also able to become the armors of the heroes when they were using theur Super Mode. Of all sentai series, Go-Bsters was likely the one where the relationship between the heroes and their robotic partners was the most detailed and explored, with sometimes very heartbreaking situations, like the one between Beet Buster and his partner Stag Buster.

Lastly, Kyoryuger both brought back the concept of the dinosaur mecha, and the concept of the partner mecha as seen in Gingaman and Gaoranger. However, so far, Gabutyra had by far the most interaction with his ranger partner, first as the first mecha to appear and fight enemies, then by being able to become smaller and become Kyoryured's additional armor with the Carnival Battery. Unfortunately, the relationship between the other rangers and their mechas partners  has been very little explored so far, with Plesion having so far the most focus (Pteradenoh had also some focus, but it was because it was brainwashed by the enemies).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Legend of Korra book 2 Spirits premiere: First Impressions

Let me just start by saying that this has been one of the longest waits I've had for a tv show to return, so long in fact that at some points I even forgot that it was supposed to come back this year. My friends, the time has finally come for the return of Korra. Here is my general impression of it. I'm going to do the best that I can with this review while avoiding as many spoilers as I can.
We open with a recap of the last episode of season one then we learn that it has been roughly six months since the defeat of Amon. When then learn what has become of the heroes since the last season: Korra has been continuing her airbending training, Mako has quit pro-bending and become a member of the Republic City Police for some unexplained reason (complete with cheesy one-liners), Bolin has continued being a pro-bender and made a new team of fire ferrets and apparently they suck without Mako and Korra, and Asami has taken over her fathers' company. We also get a look at Aang's daughter Kaya. We also learn more about Korra's family and a certain Water Tribe tradition: The Glacier Spirits Festival. We also learn that the Southern Tribe is spiritually out of balance and that neither the Northern Tribe's chief nor the spirits are too happy with them. If I said anything else I'd be risking accidentally going into spoiler territory and thats not how I roll.
The Glacier Spirits Festival
Overall, it was a nice premiere episode for the season and will hopefully help expand on the spiritual side of being the Avatar, something that was only lightly touched upon in Avatar The Last Airbender. The Northern Chief seems like he'll be an interesting character. He leads me to believe the theme for this season will be religious oppression or something like that since he mostly just went on and on about how the Southern Water Tribe and the world itself had lost its way and turned its back on the old ways (the end of the premiere almost confirms that for me). It helps reinforce how much the world has changed since Aang's time as the avatar. Bolin is as funny as ever. We got to see a few funny moments with Tenzin and his family (including his brother Bumi, his sister Kaya, and his mother Katara). Though something seems slightly off about Mako to me but that may be due to a change in writers and I can't help but wonder if we'll see Chief Beifong again. The animation was great and the action was very well done which is to be expected for a franchise like Avatar. Despite some hiccups with Korra's character (I won't get into them here because it falls under spoilers) it was a nice start to a very promising season.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My favorite Pokemon from each generation (Gens 1-5)

Pokemon is one of the things that filled my childhood. I've been of pokemon for about as long as I've been a fan of Power Rangers and anime. Its one of the things that helped make me the semi-nerdy person I am today. With Pokemon X/Y dropping soon, I figured its about time I shared my favorite pokemon from each generation with you guys.

Gen 1: Growlithe
This one is my favorite more personal reasons than the others meaning he is the one pokemon on this list that I don't use in a battle team much. The reason its my favorite stems from James' Growlithe in the anime and how it still remained loyal to him despite not seeing him for years and even being able to recognize him when he returned. It was heart-breaking to see him leave his Growlithe with his parents for the second time. Growlithe's shiny version is the one shiny pokemon I want to find the most because I like the golden coloring to its fur. I honestly didn't know how much I liked Growlithe until I decided to replay my Leaf Green version a few years ago. I didn't even notice that I had started crying when I got to the Pokemon Tower in Lavender Town and talked to the first person I saw in the tower, they said were there to bury their beloved Growlithe.

Gen 2: Tyranitar
This is one Pokemon that I will almost always put on my battle team as soon as I get it. This thing is insanely strong and I highly regard it as being the Dragonite of Gen 2. It also makes a great double battle partner for my Dragonite. While I normally try to stay away from pokemon who take four times the damage from a single type (in this case Tyranitar gets crushed by fighting pokemon since its a rock/dark type), using this thing is worth the risk.

Gen 3: Gardevior
This thing is hands-down my favorite psychic type. I always make it a point to put one on my team if its available through solo methods (i.e. no trading or transfering from an older game) ever since I first played Sapphire. This thing was a major pain to find. It took me roughly an hour to find a Ralts back then but its well worth the wait. Normally I try to nature grind (meaning I keep resetting until I find the one I'm looking for) to get the best nature for certain pokemon, which in this case would be a nature that boosts special attack, but Ralts takes so long to find I just say "Screw it, I'll keep the first one I find". Strangely my luck got better through each replay in Sapphire and other games so I usually end up with nature I was looking for on the first shot.

Gen 4: Garchomp
I like the way this thing looks and the way its types work out (Dragon/Ground). Its a more effective pokemon than the other dragon/ground combo pokemon Flygon and its one of my favorite dragon types in the game. Its got a lot of what I look for in a dragon type, nice speed and great attack power so it fits my play-style perfectly. I don't have much of an interesting story for why I originally decided to use this thing, I just thought Gible looked strong so I put it in my team. I'm so glad that decision didn't end up back-firing on me like Drudigon did in Gen 5.

Gen 5: Bisharp
Its design is just awesome. The thing is basically a living razor blade. Like Tyranitar, its one of the exceptions to my rule about not using dual type pokemon when both types are weak to the same type. Its well worth the risk and since it can learn Aerial Ace and has great defense, fighting types aren't usually a problem for it. I first decided to train one after I hit a wall fighting Gen 5's Elite Four and oh boy, I was astounded at how strong it was. I searched specifically for a Pawniard with the ability Defiant just in case they tried debilitation moves on it and taught it Aerial Ace and Brick Break to handle any surprises they might have. This thing butchered 3/4 of the league all by itself. All I even had to use was this guy and Haxorus during the first time I beat the league. This thing earned a permanent spot on my team after that.

Anyway, those are my favorite pokemon from all the Gens so far. I'm really looking forward to Gen 6 and I might be getting my hands on a 3DS sometime in the near future.
I'm looking forward to the new batch of pokemon and I wonder which Gen 6 pokemon will make it onto this list but only time will tell. Until then my fellow trainers, keep playing and aiming for the top.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pokemon X and Y news: Kanto Starters have Mega Evolutions!

On the Pokemon Youtube channel we learned something big with Pokemon X & Y.  In the video entitled "Get excited for Pokemon X and Pokemon Y"  We learned that not only will the original Kanto starters, Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle be obtainable in the new games but that they will also have Mega Evolutions! 

Mega Venusaur!

 Mega Venusaur has an increase in defense stat and special defense stat.  It also gains the ability "Thick Fat" meaning it halves the power of both ice and fire type moves.

Mega Charizard!

Mega Charizard gains a significant growth in the special attack stat and gains the ability of "Drought."  Drought will give Charizard an increase in fire attacks and also decreases the attacks of water moves.

Mega Blastoise!

Mega Blastoise gains a new ability called "Mega Launcher" which increases the power of pulse moves such as water pulse and dark pulse.

To learned more about Pokemon X and Pokemon Y as well as the Mega Evolutions for the other pokemon follow the links below:

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Good News for Anime Fans: Upcoming Funimation Titles

I know I am way late on this but during its panel at Otakon the anime studio Sunrise announced that Funimation has licensed some of its more popular anime titles for distribution in North America. These had previously been held by the now defunct Bandai Entertainment. Below are a few of the acquired titles and a bit of the plot there are no spoilers included.

Tales of Abyss:  

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Based off of a Playstation 2 game of the same name Tales of the Abyss follows the adventure of Luke fon Fabre, son of a noble in the kingdom Kimlasca-Lavaldear, who has been confined to his father's estate and forbidden to leave after being kidnapped by military forces from the neighboring country the Malkuth empire seven years prior. The event left him with no memories of his life before he was rescued. While training with his mentor, Van Grants, his mansion is broken into by a mysterious woman named Tear who is intent on taking the life of his mentor. During the struggle with Tear both she and Luke are transported far from the mansions grounds. What awaits him in this unfamiliar outside world now that he has gained the freedom that he has always wanted?

Witch Hunter Robin:

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Supernatural
A young girl named Robin is sent by the Roman Catholic Church in Italy to Japan in order to join its its STN Division (STN-J), a division formed to hunt down and capture Witches (also known as craft users which Robin is) in order to learn how humans become witches.

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion and Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2:

Genre: Mech, Action, Drama, Science fiction
In an alternate universe version of Earth the Empire of Britania has invaded and conquered Japan using giant robots know as Knightmare Frames. A former Britanian noble, Lelouch Lamprouge, has vowed to overthrow then Britanian Empire and free Japan which since its defeat is renamed Area 11. One day he stumbles across a terrorist group of 11's (the name used to refer to the Japanese citizens) who have stolen highly classified military secrete, a young green haired girl that gives him the power of Geass (what she calls the Power of Kings). Armed with the power of Geass he becomes the masked terrorist Zero to lead a rebellion and over throw Britania. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 is the second part to the series.

Angel Links:

Genre: Action, Drama, Science Fiction
Angel Links is a spin off of another Sunrise series Outlaw Star. Li Meifon is the head of a free protection agency that is tasked with escorting ships through the vast reaches of outer space using nothing but their own ship, the Angel Links. However Meifon's memories of her unpleasant past begin to trouble her. Join her and the rest of the crew as they battle pirates and government organizations as they uncover Meifon's mysterious past.

Crest of the Stars:

Genres: Adventure, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction
Based on the science fiction novel series of the same name, it is the first installment of the series. Crest of the Stars Jinto, a young biy who's planet has been taken over by the galaxy's largest empire, the Abh. His father, who is also the planets prime minister, handed their world to the Abh in exchange for political standing in the Abh empire making Jinto a prince. After being off to be given an Abh education, He meets Lafiel, a princess of the Abh empire. Unkown to Jinto the Abh empire will soon be plunged into war.

Banner of the Stars:

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction
Takes place 3 years after the finale of Crest of the stars. Lafiel is now an the captain of an assault ship known as Basroil. Jinto now a supply officer has joined her crew. Together they set out to join a large fleet tasked with protecting the strategically important Laptic Gate from a for more then 15 times their size. And to make matters worse the new fleet commander comes from the Bebous family, a family known for their "spectacular insanity".

Banner of the Stars II:

Genres: Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction
A follow up to the original Banner of the Stars. The war is still raging Between the Abh and the humans. After breaking through their last line of defense the Abh begin preparations to wipe out the remaining fleets of the United Mankind and conquer the planet of Lobnas. Unbeknownst to the Abh, Lobnas is a prison colony with millions of prisoners inhabiting the planet. The prisoners themselves are fully prepared to stage a rebellion against the invading forces of the Abh.

Passage of the Stars - Birth:

Genre: Drama, Romance, Science Fiction
A one episode OVA that serves as a prequel to the series. It tells the story of Lafiel's parents and her birth.

During their industry panel Funimation announced that they had also acquired the distribution rights to the following anime licenses: 
Outlaw Star
The Escaflowne movie
The Visions of Escaflowne
My- ZHime (My-Otome)
My-ZHime O~S.ifr~ (My-Otome O~S.ifr~)
My-Zhime Zwei (My-Otome Zwei),
and last but certainly not least Cowboy Bebop... No you are not seeing things they got Bebop.

They also acquired the rights to the remaining episodes of the anime Fairy Tail as well as announced the release date for the movie Wolf Children which will be available on November 11, 2013.

Out of the  recent acquisitions the ones I myself am looking forward to are Tales of Abyss, Code Geass, The My-Hime/ My-Zhime series and Cowboy Bebop (which is set to be released in 2014).