Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Favorite Sentai Suits: Individual Suits

Super Sentai has had a lot of suits of over the years with a huge variety in terms of designs. A lot of them have looked great but others haven't. Aesthetics can help make even some of the worst shows a bit easier to swallow. So without further hesitation, lets take a look at what some of my favorite suits in Sentai are.

8. DekaBright:
Her suit is nice and the shade of silver is a really nice choice. It has an almost metallic grey look to it but it works rather well. It blends nicely with the navy and gold on the rest of the suit. The number on her chest-plate looks great in gold and works out well combined with the navy and silver. The gold bands on the gloves and boots are a great combo with the navy on them. The belt looks great in gold. The helmet looks nice with the gold outline around the visor and the lights on the sides.

7. DekaSwan:
The white, orange, and black blends really well. The helmet looks great with the visor having an almost wing-like pattern to it. The sides of the helmet have a feather pattern on them that really compliments her swan-motif. The feather pattern also extends to the shoulder pads. The orange spandex and white gloves and boots are a  nice combination.

6. Mele's Chameleon Armor:
The greens and purples blend really well together and it really sells its chameleon motif. The chest-plate has some nice detail to it and the sculpting on the chameleon's face is fantastic. It even has a tongue hanging down from the chest-plate to make it look like a sash that goes on slightly past the belt. They even went so far as to give the chest-plate this scale-like pattern to help sell the reptilian look.

5. MagiMother:

It looks like a nice in-between suit that bridges the look of the main five's basic designs and the armored look of Wolzard's suits. The the white, silver, gold, and black blend very well together. Its a very nice shade of white and the chest-plate looks great with the silver bit outlined in gold going across it. The black portions on the arms and around the legs add some nice contrast. The helmet is cool with the silver fins going across the sides. The helmet also features a nice, clear, almost crystal-like snowflake on the helmet.

4. Wolzard and Wolzard Fire:
Since they are both essentially the same suit just with the colors changed, they both hold this spot. I'll talk about the purple Wolzard armor first since it was the original armor we saw. The armor looks fantastic and the sculpting on both versions is incredible. The purple, gold, silver, and black blends really well. The sculplting on the wolf shoulder pads is nice and they have some great detail with individual teeth being visible. The sculpting on the shield looks great with N Ma's red eye on the center being outlined in gold and being surrounded by black, purple, and silver. The shield looks great thanks to the silver out-line.
Wolzard Fire looks the same as regular Wolzard just with a nice burning red instead of purple. The bright silver armor on the upper legs looks nice and contrasts really well with the red, gold, and black on the rest of the suit. Again the sculpting on the shield is nice and the red blends well with the silver. If I had to pick between the two suits, If I were to choose between the two, I'd have to go with this one simply because I like the way the red reacts with the other colors on the suit. It looks a bit more dynamic than the purple armor.

3. DekaMaster:
Out of the Dekaranger suits, this one is my favorite. This suit is spectacular. I love the more armored look it has compared to the main six DekaSuits. The light blue armor looks great mixed with the black spandex. The black number on the chest-plate really stands out thanks to the red outline. The belt looks really good in red especially combined with the silver buckle. The raised ears on the helmet really help sell the dog motif.

2. AbareMax:
This is my favorite Abaranger suit. The red, blue, and gold blend really well. Its a very simple upgrade for AbaRed that doesn't over-shadow the original design. It simply adds some shoulder pads and outlines the visor in gold while expanding the logo. It also adds some gold plates to the side of the visor and changes the white spike pattern to gold and blue while gold-plating the brace. The shield looks great and and has some nice detail on it. The black, red, and gold on the shield blend together very nicely.

1. Kurojishi Rio's Lion Armor:
This is my favorite suit in all of Sentai. The black and gold work really well together. The level of detail on this suit is amazing, especially the chest-plate. From the lion's eyes to the teeth to the mane, the sculpting on the chest-plate is fantastic. The helmet looks really great too with golden spikes forming a mane around the sides of the helmet and another black mane coming off the back of the helmet.

Well those are my favorite individual suits. The main reason its mostly sixth/extra suits is because of the vast difference in looks compared to their team members. I will most likely do a post involving team looks for the main teams at some point. I hope you are all looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Super Sentai series titles : some recurring Kanji

Hello guys, it's been a while since I've written here; I had trouble finding ideas to write a new blog post.
However, today, I've been thinking about the sentai series franchise : 40 years, 39 series and a 40th series to come soon.
As you know most sentai series have a title involving three words : a specific word written in kanji, different for each series, involving usually two, but sometimes one or even three kanji, followed by "Sentai" and then, a third word in katakana, being the name of the team, including either "man", "ranger" or its short form "ger", or even sometimes, "Five".
I've investigated the kanji used in the first part of the title (or those used outside of either "Sentai" or the katakana in the few series not including "sentai" in the title, such as Bioman or Flashman)). Because Super Sentai often uses the same themes, it often uses the same kanji in different individual series titles, and I've made a list of the kanji that appear in at least two titles of sentai series.
And here are the results : 

The kanji appearing the most, with six sentai series titles is the kanji 電 (den), the kanji meaning "electricity" : it appears in JAKQ, Denziman, Bioman, Changeman, Megaranger and Kyoryuger : it has been used in different contexts : either, it reflects a technology theme involving electronics, such as in Denziman, Bioman and Megaranger, and in a lesser way, Kyoryuger, with the dino theme associated with a "battery" theme. Or it is used in combination with the kanji "strike" (geki), to mean a "sudden attack", meaning that the team strikes quickly and hard, such in JAKQ and Changeman. The kanji started being used very early, since it appears in JAKQ first, the second series, and most of the series having it in the title are pretty early, (4 out of 6 in the first 10 shows) ; however, it has been used pretty recently too, as seen with Kyoryuger. Of course, "Den" is also included in katakana in Denziman.

In second place, with five titles, is the kanji  獣 (Juu),  the kanji meaning "beast" : it appears in the titles of five series : Liveman, Gingaman, Gaoranger, Gekiranger and Kyoryuger : it's pretty expected since animals is a theme used very often in sentai, and predictably, the five series have an animal theme (even if Kyoryuger has the more specialized theme of dinosaurs) ; besides, it's obvious that Zyuranger and the upcoming Juuohger also have in katakana actually the same meaning. It's interesting that, while used frequently, the kanji started being used relatively late in the franchise, starting with Liveman,  when animals started becoming a major mecha theme.

In third place, is the kanji 超 (Chou), meaning "Super", used four times, (in Bioman, Flashman, Liveman, and Ohranger) : interestingly, it's especially used in series not including "sentai" in the title, since among the four series, two of them don't include sentai (Bioman and Flashman) ; that kanji isn't unexpected, since we're talking about superhero shows titles (we're talking about Super Sentai). Thus having sometimes "super" in the titles of some shows is pretty logical. Interestingly, most of the shows having it in the title are 80' show in a short span (the golden Soda age), with Ohranger being the exception (and even that one has Soda heavily involved)

In fourth place is the kanji 星 (sei),  meaning "Star" included in three titles (Flashman, Dairanger and Gingaman) : interestingly, the series having it in the title aren't especially space themed, with the exception of Flashman, which has a major space theme : Dairanger has a martial arts, mystical beast and Chinese theme, while Gingaman has an animal theme, with the only "spatial" elements being the origin of the villains, and of the mechas : but having the kanji "star" in the title gives a sense of large scale in the show's universe, since it goes beyond Earth to include the whole universe.

Interestingly, those kanji are often associated with each other :
"Juu" is associated with "Den" in Kyoryuger, "Chou" is associated with "Den" in Bioman, "Sei" in Flashman and "Juu" in Liveman, and "Sei" is associated with "Juu" in Gingaman.

Several kanji appear twice, often in series with a same theme :

忍 (nin), meaning "stealth" appears in two ninja themed shows titles, Kakuranger and Hurricanger, and of course, it's in katakana in the title of the third ninja themed sentai title, Ninninger

Similarly, 竜 (Ryu) meaning "Dragon", is included in two dinosaur themed sentai show titles, Zyuranger and Abaranger (Kyoryu means dinosaur (terrible dragon), and of course it's in katakana in the third dino themed sentai title, Kyoryuger.

Another kanji, 特 (toku), meaning "special", is used in recent shows having a professional team included in an official organization involved in fighting the enemies : Dekaranger (the police sentai) and Go-Busters (the special Energy Management Center). It's interesting to notice that the kanji has been used a lot in the Metal Hero franchise, also involving professional teams (notably in the Rescue Police shows, which Dekaranger pays tribute too)

Two kanji are used twice, and always associated with the kanji "Den" : it's "子"(Shi), which usually means "child", but here is used with "Den" to mean "Electronic, in the titles of Denziman and Bioman ; and the other "撃" (Geki), meaning "Strike", used in JAKQ and Changeman with "Den" to mean "lightning strike", "Blitzkrieg", a very quick sudden and effective attack : it's however likely that kanji that appear in Katakana in "Gekiranger", which has a martial arts theme involving "strikes". 

In a word of conclusion, the kanji 轟 (Go) is used twice in the same title, the title of Boukenger, to have both the pun of the english verb "go" showing the "adventure theme" and the "loud explosive sound" which is the true meaning of the kanji, which means to show how that adventure team is full of energy. 

It's more than likely that future sentai shows are either gonna have those kanji appear again, or having kanji that have appeared so far only once appearing again. 

Your thoughts?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger Review

It is sort of weird how my last Sentai review was Dekaranger and now I'm covering its predecessor. This is a show that I had been curious about due to what I had read about it and what some friends had said about it. Needless to say, I jumped on it once it was subbed completely. Time to unleash my Dino Guts and take a look at how I felt about Abaranger. Note: Its going to be hard for me to talk about certain characters without getting into some spoilers so for the purpose of this review, my no spoiler policy is gone. However, I will try to avoid the biggest spoilers if at all possible.
Plot: The story opens with a lone warrior riding through a desert wasteland on a raptor while an Evolian ship rains down energy blasts. The warrior sees a portal to another world and jumps through winding up on Another Earth. Once there he seeks out warriors who can channel their Dino Guts to fight the on-coming invasion. Thus begins the tale of the Abarangers.

Characters: The main cast is fun and they have some great chemistry. We get a lot of nice interactions in the series, particularly between Ryouga and Mai. Note: AbareKiller will be covered in the villains section since he was a villain for most of the series.
  • Ryouga/AbaRed: Ryouga is Mai's uncle but he treats her like she is his daughter. His relationship with Mai was entertaining and adorable. It is that sort of family dynamic that I want to see more of in Sentai. A lot of his plots revolve around either AbareKiller or children being targeted by the Evolian. Needless to say, both of those involve great speeches from Ryouga about having hope in humanity and usually result in a righteous butt-kicking for the villains.
  • Yukito/AbareBlue: A serious level-headed chiropractor. He manages to take all the weirdness with a straight face. One thing that sort of surprised me is that his chiropractic skills actually got applied multiple times throughout the series. It was something I thought that they'd simply write off as something he could do and not mention it again. My favorite episodes for him are probably the mind-swap episode with Ryouga and the episode were Tricera turns into a human child.
  • Ranru/AbareYellow: Ranru is a fun character. Everything is her hobby and I mean everything, including but not limited to science, machines, and wearing bullet-proof vests. She has a strong sense of justice and the drive to help anyone in need. She is also one of the major driving forces that keeps Asuka motivated in his search for Mahoro and is very invested in making sure they could reunite. She even went so far as to take back a bracelet Asuka made for Mahoro when an Evolian stole it.
  • Asuka/AbareBlack: I'm just going to come right out and say it, Asuka is my favorite character out of the main cast. The dude went through a lot over the course of the series. His love story with Mahoro was really well done and honestly, Sentai needs more love stories like that. My favorite episode for him is actually the arc where they destroy the cursed armor as it shows the lengths that he and Mahoro would go to for each other.
  • Mai: Ryouga's niece who lost her parents when she was young. Her interactions with Ryouga were fun to watch and really adorable. They really feel like family.
  • Emiri: She is mostly comic relief though she does get a few episodes devoted to her. She is effective as both comic relief and as an ally. No matter what happens she will usually try to make sure Mai is ok and keep her from worrying whenever the Abarangers are in danger. She sort of acts like an older sister for Mai in that regard. My favorite episodes for her are the episodes with the psychic rhino trinoid and the AbarePink episode.
  • Ryunosuke: The owner of a curry restaurant known as Dino House that serves as the Abarangers' base. He provides little nuggets of wisdom and gives the Abarangers a place to stay in exchange for helping out around the restaurant.
Bakuryu: The Bakuryu are the mecha but they are much more than that. They are sentient partners that the Abarangers can turn to. They have their own distinct personalities and they are a great support system for the Abarangers. The relationships between the Bakuryu and the Abarangers was fun to watch, especially Ryouga and Tyranno's relationship. Both of them know exactly what it is like to be fathers and have families to take care of. They are honestly what I think the ZyuDenRyu should've been in Kyoryuger since it feels like an actual partnership. You actually get to see the Abarangers interact with the Bakuryu instead of just saying that they are partners. Tyranno, Tricera, and Ptera's appearance in the first episode had this Godzilla/Jurassic Park vibe to it. If I were to pick my favorite of the Bakuryu, it would be Tyranno, Tricera, Stegoslidon, and Brachio.
Their combined forms are nicely designed. Most of the extra Bakuryu are normally limited to being arm changes or add-ons for Abaren-Oh and Killer-Oh. It works out really well and doesn't change the overall design aspects of the two mecha. The mecha action is nicely choreographed and each fight carries some nice weight to it. The fights between Abaren-Oh and Killer-Oh were done well. My personal favorite Abaranger mecha design is Killer-Oh. It has a very imposing look to it and the colors blend really well.

From left to right: Michela, Jeanne, Rege, Geitron, and Voff.
The Evolians are the major antagonists and they feature a wide variety of designs. The bulk of the Evolian forces are Trinoids made by Michela and Giganoids made by Voff. Michela makes the Trinoids by painting three objects and it usually results in weird designs and abilities. The Giganoids are massive kaijuu-like beings created by Voff composing music. Geitron wasn't really around for long but his armor became a major part of Asuka's story. Now we get to the major players of the Evolians: Jeanne and Rege. Since these two are major parts of the plot, spoilers incoming.
Jeanne is honestly my favorite villain among the Evolians due to her plot-line being so closely tied to Asuka. Her fights with him were very intense and they are some of my favorite fights out of all of Sentai. The swordplay used by the two was fantastic. She made a great rival for him especially given who she actually is. She is Mahoro which isn't really much of a spoiler since Asuka speculates that she is or at least looks oddly similar to Mahoro rather early on and it makes the dynamic between both of them all the more interesting while adding some fantastic tension. I also like costume she wears, it has a lot of intricate and ornate details. It has an almost regal or royal air about it and she looks like a priestess.
Pretty much everything Rege does in the plot qualifies as a big spoiler so I'll try to describe her as best I can. Rege is Dezmoparamecia's host body. Its weird to think that such an adorable little girl has that much power inside of her. In addition to that, she serves as a way to transport the Evolians between Dino Earth and Another Earth.
When she becomes Regel later on, her power really shines through. She is a nice power-house villain and her first fight gives off a good glimpse of her true powers. Her arc is rather sad yet heart-warming due to its relation to Jeanne and the Evolian invasion of Dino Earth. I unfortunately can't say much more than that because it will spoil on of the most emotional moments of the show in my opinion.
AbareKiller is my favorite Abaranger villain overall. AbareKiller was fun to watch and made a great rival for Ryouga. He really knows how to push people's buttons. He doesn't have some grand plan in mind, he just wants to destroy stuff so he can ease his boredom. The man's take on boredom is an interesting one since well it is a major extreme. If he is bored he will do anything to get rid of it, whether it includes fighting, messing with the Abarangers' heads, or even crashing a planet into the Earth while he is still on it. He has no regard for his own safety and he will do anything as long as it amuses him. He'll even go so far as to change his own rules or cheat as long as it will make the game more exciting for him. All of that combined with his strength kind of scares me. He is just so much fun to watch.

Suit designs:
The suit designs for all of them are awesome. They all have a sleek design.The suits for Ryouga, Yukito, and Ranru feature white spike patterns along with their associated color. There is a big gold and black logo on the chest that looks like a dinosaur footprint. The helmets are nicely sculpted and immediately lets you know which dinosaurs they are modeled after. The visors look nice outlined in white. The gold wristbands look nice on all three of them and the belts look great in gold with a silver buckle.

Asuka's suit looks great and features a nice balance of black and gold that blends really well. His suit features gold shoulder pads and gold spike patterns. The helmet is nicely sculpted and immediately gives off a brachiosaurus look and features an interesting touch of red on the fin. The helmet even has little purple bits around the eyes on his helmet. Its the finer details like that that make me admire the craft that goes into making suits and how they affect the overall aesthetic of the show. The visor looks great outlined in gold. The gold wristbands and belt compliment his color scheme the most out of all five suits.

Mikoto's suit features a nice combination of white, black, and gold. The chest-plate looks great outlined in gold and the sculpting on the spikes is nice. Unlike the other suits, the collar is black instead of white. Its an odd choice but it works well enough since it helps provide a good bit of contrast with the white on the rest of the suit. The helmet is nicely sculpted and the visor looks great in red while being outlined in the black. The visor has a sort of sinister look to it thanks to the red. The black fin on the helmet has some nice little red eyes on it. The Abaranger logo for him is located on the belt with the points of the logo being black.
The spike patterns on all five suits were a nice choice for two reasons: 1. They provide a nice aesthetic value. 2. They serve an actual purpose in combat. By focusing their Dino Guts they can access Abare Mode which causes the spike patterns to actually protrude from the suits. Their bodies effectively become slashing weapons and they way they fight becomes more brutal. This further emphasizes the savage nature of dinosaurs in general and nicely alludes to the dinosaurs they are themed after. Asuka's fights are particularly brutal as he punches straight through some of the Evolians. At one point, AbareKiller even impales one on a tree branch. Ranru's Abare Mode even includes wings under her arms though they disappear later on for some reason. A nice little reference to their Bakuryu partners is that they also grunt and growl using the same words that the Bakuryu usually end their sentences with.
Ryouga has an upgrade form known as AbareMax. This is actually my favorite Abaranger suit overall. It doesn't really over-shadow the original AbaRed suit so it seems a bit more natural by just adding shoulder pads and a gold face-plate around the visor. The white spikes get replaced with blue and gold spikes. The logo gets expanded to look like the shield that enables the transformation and the brace gets gold-plated. The shield has some nice sculpting on it and red, gold, and black blends really well together. I absolutely love AbareMax's weapon since it doubles as both a sword and a shield. I've always like dual purpose weapons like that.

Music: Abaranger has a nice soundtrack. The opening theme does exactly what it it supposed to do. It gets you pumped up and excited. The ending theme is catchy and energetic. Those two songs are among the short list of opening/ending themes that I couldn't bring myself to skip through in order to save time. The tune from Asuka's harmonica is nice. It feels sort of eerie, sad, yet hopeful all at the same time. In a way, it sort of captures Asuka's feelings as the show goes on.

Final Thoughts: The show as a whole seems to have a certain way about it that I wish post-Gokaiger shows had in them. Each episode plot just has this scale of epic-ness to it and it all fit together rather nicely. There is nothing about this show that feels off to me. Despite the weirdness of one or two episodes, they still feel like they belong in the series. Each of the Abarangers gets their appropriate moments to be awesome and its fun to see them interact with each other. The fight choreography was really well handled particularly the sword-play in the fights between Asuka and Jeanne. The Abare Mode fights were down right brutal and featured quite a few wince-inducing moments.
Abaranger is filled with moments where I couldn't help but smile because of the characters or pump my fist in the air due to the levels of awesome. The current Sentai at the time I started Abaranger kind of had me down and bored (ToQger which I gave up on after 22 episodes of nothing happening) so it felt good to get excited about about something again. I would highly recommend this series to any Sentai fan, especially if post-Gokaiger Sentai series aren't exactly agreeing with them. At the time of this post, Abaranger holds my number 3 spot right alongside Dekaranger.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Rosario Vampire: A fun read for Halloween

I love Halloween and monsters but I'm not that big of a horror fan. Not going to get into that right now but a year or so ago, I found a manga that satisfies my love for Halloween without giving me nightmares. That manga is Rosario Vampire. As of the time of this post, I am 15 volumes into Rosario Vampire so this recommendation is made based on what has transpired in those volumes. I will be doing this with as little spoilers as possible.
The basic premise is that Tsukune Anno, an all around normal high school student, gets rejected from every human high school he applies to. However, he gets into the prestigious Yokai Academy, a school for monsters. At Yokai Academy, humans are killed on sight due to monsters worrying about humans finding and killing them. Fortunately for Tsukune, it is school policy for all students to maintain a human disguise. On his first day, he meets a vampire named Moka who develops quite a taste for his blood. The events that unfold in Season 1 of the manga pretty much center around Tsukune just trying to survive at the school between both in terms of his grades and fighting off students he and his friends inadvertently cross. The end of Season 1 and all of Season 2 from what I've so far is really where the things get kicked up a notch. However, the main plot of Season 1 doesn't kick in until the monstrels show up and thats where things tend to get real.

Season 2 (what I've read so far) gets really fun and its one of the main reasons why I love the characters so much particularly in regards to Mizore and Kurumu. It expands a bit on the relationship between humans and monsters while at points showing that they can sort of co-exist. This gets nicely counter-balanced by a mysterious organization known as Fairy Tale which as far as I can tell after 15 volumes seeks to either subjugate humans or at the very least is gathering its forces in case a war breaks out. That is just speculation on my part since I haven't been able to read past volume 5 of Season 2 yet.
The main cast of characters are fun and likeable.The first 5 or 6 issues of the manga are interesting in that it pulls a bit of twist with Tsukune. While he is the main character, he cannot fight on his own and usually has to rely on his monster friends to save him or have Moka give him her blood to fight. All the female characters are shown to be competent in a fight, not just Moka. I don't find any of them annoying or irritating. Mizore in particular is my favorite character and her personality plays rather well alongside Kurumu. Mizore is the typical quiet stalker chick though unlike Kurumu she isn't as forceful and actually wants Tsukune to be happy as opposed to forcing a relatioship. I'd normally find a pervy character like Gin annoying but he works out rather well since that isn't all there is to him. In Season 2, Gin's personality and history get expanded on and it makes him rather endearing. Though for some reason his dialogue gets changed to sound a bit more southern. The accent was missing in Season 1 of the manga. Koko is Moka's sister and her inferiority complex can get annoying at times but its not too bad. Kurumu's personality is interesting. She is a succubus with the power to make men fall in love with her but she wants a legitimate relationship with Tsukune despite being a bit over-zealous in her attempts. She is actually pretty innocent despite being a succubus which is weird given her mother's personality when she shows up.

The manga features the widest variety of monsters I've ever seen. It encompasses monsters from mythologies all over the world. There are even some monsters who are basically just classified as monstrels. They can basically transform their bodies into different disturbing looking weapons and those dudes are downright scary. Due to that, it leads to villains with potentially the most diverse set of powers and natures I've seen in a shonen manga. Hokuto from the end of Season 1 of the manga is my personal favorite. While his role was relatively predictable, he paints a very nice paralell with Tsukune's character. It illustrates just how badly Yokai Academy could've screwed Tsukune up if it wasn't for his friends having his back.

It is an interesting mix of genres with aspects of shonen, slight ecchi, harem, romance, and the supernatural. The ecchi aspects aren't that bad but they are rather notice-able and some of them happen often. They are quite a few panty-shots and Kurumu tends to tackle Tsukune a lot with a method I have termed the chest hug. Ruby's schtick can be a bit awkward but its fine since the main female cast tends to run the gambit of harem tropes. Any complaints I have with some of the ecchi-ness are minor complaints at best as it is more than made up for by all of the characters being like-able. With that being said, Lamia's chapter can be a bit awkwardly suggestive.

Above all else, the characters are memorable, particularly the psychotic disciplinary council who are basically only there for a couple of chapters. A lot of the one-off students/teachers are memorable as well with Lamia being one of the most memorable for the shear awkwardness she has to her. The fight scenes are intense even though Moka can end a lot of them with a single kick. My particular favorite battle was the first arc of Season 2. A doppleganger duplicated Moka's vampiric strength so the other female protagonists are nickle and dime-ing the guy until he is weak enough for Moka to finish off. Overall, the manga can be a bit generic but its enjoyable enough to overlook it. Its got its faults but I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who likes Halloween and monsters but isn't too big on horror.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Mirai Sentai Timeranger First Impressions

Yes I have decided to check out the first few episodes of another Sentai series. Alongside Bioman and Maskman, I had an itch to scratch with Timeranger's first few episodes, I ended up watching the first seven. A lot of stuff happened so lets get right into it. Spoiler warning for this one since I'm going to cover their first character episodes as well. All in all, I saw the first seven episodes.
The series opens with a beautifully done shot of a city in the year 3000. We are then introduced to a batch of new recruits being given a lecture on the history of time travel and why it is banned. Shortly after we see a nice setup with Don Dornheirno about to be put into cryo-stasis and stored with other prisoners. A break out orchestrated by his right-hand man Gien occurs and the two actually managed to impress me with their creativity. They actually trick the Timerangers into thinking they had jumped into the past so they can have the time ship knock them and their prison into the past when they tried to chase after them. Heck to even make sure that the plan works, they had Lira go undercover as the commanding officer of the group of recruits the Timerangers were apart of. I can definitely say this group is competent. Dornheirno is interesting as just destroying things or taking over the world isn't his main goal. Its all about the money with him. In episode 6, he basically told Gien not to send in monsters to destroy the Timerangers because it wasn't going to make them any money.
Aesthetically, the main members Londarz family (something they named themself after they escaped into the past) are nicely designed with lots of bright colors. Dornheirno looks like a big, intimidating space frog. Gien looks rather creepy with his robotic skeleton being covered up on only one side. The sculpting on Lila's chestplate has some nice detail. The pink hair really fits the rest of the suit.
Time Robo is an interesting case for a main mecha. It has two forms: Time Robo Alpha for general ground combat and Time Robo Beta for long range combat. Alpha's design looks nice with all the red being balanced with silver and black. That really makes the green portion of the chestplate pop out. Its major weapons are a sword and shield.
Beta's design is nice as well though the fins on the shoulder pads are a little distracting to me. Otherwise, the blue balances nicely with the silver. The time flyer becomes a gun for the mecha. Its interesting to see a mecha that can flip between the two on the fly. It shows its versatility rather well. I honestly hope we see another mecha like that at some point.
There is a third form called Gamma but it isn't exactly a robot mode. All the time jets combine into an even bigger Time Jet. It was mainly brought out to counter long ranged opponents so its a lot more agile and mobile than the other two.
The Timeranger suits are very nicely designed and they've all got the colored visors which is something I always like to see. The black surrounding the visors looks great while the white going across the chest complements the each color. I especially like that the Chrono Changers don't vanish when they henshin. They get added into the sides of the gloves. The sculpted silver mouth pieces are usually distracting for me but they really work well here. The belt buckles are nicely designed. Its one of those unique designs where you can immediately tell what team it is from without seeing the rest of the suits.

The Timeranger's themselves seem interesting. I like Tatsuya's dilemma with his father in episode two. Parents who plan their children's future for them usually strike a nerve for me so I really felt Tatsuya's need to get away from his father's influence. He makes a great speech about how even if they can't change history itself, they can still change their individual futures. Their reasons for joining the Timeranger's seem interest with Yuri being a cop in honor of her dead family, Ayase formerly training to be stock car racer, Domon being a disgraced fighter, and Shion being an alien. Ayase in particular seems to have more to him than the show is letting on. Episode 3 was a great bonding moment between him and Tatsuya. Shion potentially being the last of his kind and raised in a lab is a nice way to explain his overly naive outlook and it makes him all the more endearing to me. Yuri's tale of losing her family was a tearjerker and it made her capturing the Londarz responsible extremely satisfying since he was outright shown to be scumbag. Out of everyone, Domon seems to be the one most affected by the prospect of being stuck in the past. I feel sort of bad for the guy, feeling trapped in a strange place and the sadness that comes with it is a terrible thing. It isn't often a show makes me care for everyone so quickly but this is one of the shows that managed to pull it off.
The beginning of this show is packed with so much its was exhausting to watch, but in a satisfying way. It was time well spent. One of my friends wasn't kidding when he said it was dialogue heavy. I had to rewind a few scenes two or three times to catch everything they said but in the grand scheme of things, that isn't a big deal. The action was well paced and well handled despite some speed blur in the first episode but that is more of a minor complaint. The model city in episode two got some real use. It is one of the few times that I've seen a monster pick up part of a building and throw it at the heroes. These first seven episodes were great and I look forward to picking the series back up once most of it is subbed.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Hikari Sentai Maskman First Impressions

In addition to Bioman's first two episodes, I also watched Maskman's first 4 episodes. Like with Bioman, I normally wouldn't do this since its not a currently airing show but man did it give me a lot to talk about. Lets get right into it.
One thing I really enjoyed is that the series wastes no time in throwing you right into the action. The very first scene with Tube is them declaring war on the surface world and causing massive damage with an aerial strike. Like Bioman's first episodes, doing that really helps establish the threat and cranks up the stakes. Its been a while since I've seen villains that don't screw around in their first outing. Heck, at the end of episode 2, they do something that feels like the end game moves you would normally see for series finales. Also, I love the way Tube handles traitors. Instead of death, they get subjected to eternal sleep and dreams filled with their worst nightmares. They also feature a very nice variety in designs. A majority of the main members are human looking villains which as I said in the Bioman post is something I miss nowadays.
The flashbacks showing Mio and Takeru's budding relationship was a nice touch. Normally, I'd roll my eyes when I see something like that in the beginning of a series but the show does a nice job of making the relationship known. I honestly feel bad for the guy and I want to see him get her back.

One thing that really surprised me was when they were training to unlock Aura Power in episode 3. Takeru got distracted because he was thinking about Mio during meditation. That caused an energy feedback that threw them all over a cliff and no one tried to punch him for messing up. I'm not even kidding, I expected Kenta to slug him once they got back on their feet. Its a sad thing that I'm just so used to modern styles that I instinctively expected the heroes to be jerks to each other early on. Heck they even followed Takeru when they heard Mio's voice. It was really rather refreshing to see. It really shows solidarity in the team and that everyone understands what Takeru is going through. The training itself was nice to see. I'm always a sucker for training montages.
I like the prop-work for their individual mecha. They are really well made. I'm almost convinced that Red Mask's fighter jet is remote controlled since the way it flies, turns, and dives seems a bit too complex for it to just be done with wires. I like Great Five's transformation sequence. Its rather simple and the details on the models are excellent. The suit itself is very nicely sculpted and all the colors mesh pretty well.
I like the suit designs. They're all simple and sleek yet very easy to identify at first glance. I don't usually comment on the designs for the visors but they have a nice variety for just being one team. The white portions of the suits really complement each color and I like the big 5 logo on the chests. I find it a strange yet nice detail that Pink Mask and Yellow Mask's helmets have earrings attached to them.
Overall, I enjoyed these 4 episodes. It gave a great first look at its concepts while also managing to make the characters endearing right out of the gate. Mio and Igam being played by the same actress is a nice touch since the characters are twins. The show does a nice job of shooting around that by doing over the shoulder shots when both characters share a scene. The theme song is nice and energetic and the ending theme is enjoyable. The action was well handled. The episodes themselves manage to squeeze in a lot in a short amount of time. The episodes don't even feel that long. I can tell that I've got a lot to look forward to in this series. I'm going to put this on my watch-list for after Gingaman and Jetman.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Choudenshi Bioman First Impressions

On a whim, I checked out the first two episodes of Choudenshi Bioman. Normally, I wouldn't do a first impressions post for something that isn't currently airing but the first two episodes really gave me a lot to talk about. Lets get right into it.
This was an extremely strong opening for the series. We get introduced to the villains first and man do they look awesome. Doctor Man's make-up is amazingly effective during the lightning flashes. It nearly made me jump out of my seat. They do a great job with all of the villain designs. A bigger plus is that they are all mostly human villains instead of talking suits with is something I always like to see.
The New Gear Empire wastes no time invading Earth and I mean it when I say they are brutal. One of the first attacks we see is a group of foot soldiers capturing a group of scientists and letting loose with a machine gun. Its a really strong first outing for the villains and really establishes the threat. They don't even bother sending in a single monster, they just sent in a general and a giant mecha. The enemy mecha actually remind me a lot of Dekaranger.
During the invasion, Bio Robo activates and then starts recruiting people to become the Biomen. It looks bulky but it is actually very move-able. It seems as if movement was the major thought for the designers back then. I'm still impressed that the mecha can kick like that. However what impresses me the most is that they actually built a giant prop hand just to pick up the Biomen. Heck in the first two episodes we even get to see inner panels in other parts of the mecha as opposed to just seeing the cockpit. Its also a nicely designed mecha. The sculpting is great, especially on the head. I particularly like the helmet-esque look the head has. The black contrasts nicely with the silver while also balancing with the red and yellow.
These episodes do a nice job of showing what the suits can do without it feeling shoved in. To show that the suits are bullet-proof they get shot at with machine guns after transforming and the bullets just stop when they hit them. The suits enhance their physical strength and its not afraid to show it. They can really cut loose since the foot soldiers aren't human and it is brutal. After these two episodes, I can officially say that I've seen one get its head punched clean off by Red One, one get its throat slit by Yellow Four, and one get stabbed right in the spine by Blue Three. I really did not expect it to go there but I am so glad it did. A lot of toku nowadays need at least one moment like that. Each suit also has a super computer in its helmet that lets them do a variety of things. So far I've only seen two use it: Red One has a radar in his that lets him calculate angles and Yellow Four's produces a holographic display. These computers also give them instructions for how to pilot Bio Robo. The suits themselves are nicely designed. They have a nice hi-tech look to them thanks to the circuit board-like pattern across the chest and the panels on the helmets. The silver bands over the visors help add a space age feel to them and the sculpted silver mouth-pieces are a nice touch.

The special effects are fantastic, even compared to today's effects. There was a ton of effort put into them and it really shows. The blades of their laser swords are actually colored neon light tubes which is why they are able to glow like that. However, my favorite effect so far is Red One's sword finisher because the sword is actually on fire. That sort of thing always manages to impress me whenever I see or hear about it. I was slightly disappointed that Red One shooting his gun in both episodes is the same shot but I can let that slide given the era and the other practical effects.
Overall, I enjoyed these two episodes a lot. It managed to introduce a lot in a short time. The brisk 20 minute pace of the episodes worked in its favor because it kept the action going. Speaking of the action, I enjoyed Farrah Cat's fight with Mika because its both actresses doing their own stunt work. Its also been a while since I've seen a villain use nunchaku in a fight. The techno brace is a simple yet effective wrist-watch. I also like the hand-drawn commercial bumpers they used back then, I think Toei needs to bring those back. I'm actually a bit surprised that I didn't see some of the brutality coming since I saw similar levels of brutality in Liveman's premier. Since it isn't fully subbed, I'll piece out what is left in between different series.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What I love about One Piece

Ok, I know I already talked about this during my post on the Big 3, but I've been playing One Piece Romance Dawn almost non-stop so I figured I'd elaborate on why I consider One Piece to be the king of the Big 3. Pardon me if this ends up turning into a crash course on One Piece.
This thing is arguably the most popular anime and certainly best selling manga series in the world. I have yet to actually meet anyone in the anime community with something bad to say about it other than its length. It is quite honestly an anime that is worth all the acclaim that the fans give it. It is also one of the strangest anime I have ever seen yet the show makes it work so well that it just results in a really fun show.

All of the Straw Hats are great characters and each of them has gotten great moments so far. Unlike the other members of the Big 3, where the main character is usually the only one shown getting stronger, everyone gets the chance to become stronger so they don't just get knocked out of a fight immediately. They all feel like legitimate characters. My personal favorite being Ussop because I feel he has come along way since his cowardly beginnings both in terms of his tactics and in terms of his creativity. Characters that might seem broken actually aren't as the anime/manga makes it very clear that no matter how strong someone gets, there will always be someone stronger down the line. This leads to a lot of very gripping, intense fights. My personal favorite arc so far is the CP9 arc because it shows exactly what each of the Straw Hats are capable of. The villains are unique, very memorable, pose a great threat, and in general are just fun antagonists. Every battle in this anime/manga has this sort of grand feel to it which lacking is really lacking in Naruto and Bleach.

One Piece is that at that level of weirdness where everything just seems to make sense no matter how odd or outlandish it gets. Seriously, only in One Piece can a cola-powered cyborg shipwright, fish people (not just mermaids), a skeleton musician with an afro, and a talking shape-shifting blue-nosed reindeer doctor make total sense. My personal favorite example of its weirdness however comes from the Alabasta arc. It is during the battle where Chopper and Ussop are fighting Baroque Works agents Mr.4, Ms. Merry Christmas, and their cannon dog Lassoo who is quite literally a cannon that ate the Mutt-Mutt fruit Dachshund Model.
Ussop asks Ms Merry Christmas how it was even possible for a cannon to do that and she basically responds by saying "Its a new Grand Line trick. You haven't seen anything yet.". That one line speaks volumes about One Piece's weirdness.
The Devil Fruits bring a very nice variety in abilities to the table. Though each fruit has different strengths, they all share the same weakness: people who eat the devil fruits can no longer swim and will sink like a rock in water deep enough to drown in. On its own, that doesn't sound a like a big weakness but it becomes a major possibility when you consider that the two most common occupations in the show/manga are Navy and Pirate so just about every devil fruit user falls into one of those two categories. That isn't the only threat to the devil fruit users either. There is a special stone from the bottom of the sea that can shut off a person's devil fruit abilities as long as the stone touches them. There is also Haki and one of the types (Armament Haki) can counter devil fruit users abilities and is especially effective against Logia types.
One of my favorite Devil Fruits: Ace's Mera Mera Fruit.
Overall there are three basic types of devil fruits: Logia, Zoan, and Paramecia. Logia devil fruits allow the user to change their body into a specific force of nature like Ace's fire based powers thanks to the Mera-Mera Fruit. Zoan fruits give the user the power to transform into animals such as Chopper's humanoid form and ability to speak via the Human-Human Fruit. The Zoan type is not limited to just regular animals, there are some that grant the powers of mythical creatures like Marco's Phoenix fruit as well as the Ancient Zoan fruits that allow the user to turn into dinosaurs. Parameicia fruits grant the users general super-human powers such as Luffy's ability to stretch via the Gum-Gum Fruit. To make it even more interesting, certain devil fruits render the user immune or resistant to other devil fruit abilities, like the Gum-Gum fruit rendering Luffy virtually immune to Enel's Rumble-Rumble fruit due to Luffy's body being rubber or the Wax-Wax fruit being able to neutralize/block the Venom-Venom fruit's poison.
One of the more fascinating things about the show is how Oda set up the Navy wanting the Straw Hats heads. The Straw Hats are pirates in name and symbol only, they have for the most part done nothing that is actually illegal. It shows how corrupt that the Navy and the World Government actually are if they're willing to hunt down people doing more good than harm. The testimony from all the people they've helped would be more than enough to clear them of the charges but as long as they fly the Jolly Rodger, the World Government will only ever see them as pirates. That is a stroke of genius.
However, the most impressive feat of the anime/manga by far is Oda's ability to keep things consistent with previously established continuity and character backstories. Now on its own, that compliment doesn't sound like much of a compliment but consider this: At the time of this post the manga currently has over 748 chapters which is a total of 78 volumes and the anime has 708 episodes with about 12 movies. That in and of itself is amazing. I can't help but think Oda reads through some of his notes before writing a new arc just to make sure he doesn't repeat himself. Oda also really knows how to handle character deaths. He rarely kills off characters but when he does, he always does it in a grand fashion so no matter what happens later, you will always remember the character's final moments. Anyway those are my thoughts on One Piece, an anime that I consider to be the current king of the shounen genre and it is definitely worth the acclaim that the fans give it. The anime is just plain old fashion-ed fun. And with that, I'll leave all with this:

My issues with Sword Art Online

Well I've been watching Sword Art Online's third arc lately and I think its about time that I expand upon my issues of why I don't like SAO as a whole. I'll be talking about each arc individually. It is one of the more popular anime out there in the same vein as Attack on Titan and well, you already know how I feel about that. This one of the prime examples of an over-hyped anime.
This picture alone represents the drastic change between the first and second arcs.
Sword Art Online arc:
This had potential but I don't feel it did much with its concepts other than the life or death struggle but even then, it doesn't go beyond them trying to get out before they get killed. One thing I remember finding very odd is that they were all in a hurry to leave once they found out they were stuck. They were in a position that a lot of people would love to be in minus the whole "you die in the game, you die for real" thing. This unfortunately means that there are a lot of generic characters who get introduced just to die. Asuna was awesome in this half but sadly, well you'll see when I mention the Alfhiem arc. This arc doesn't go very far into what it actually means to be alive which would've been interesting to see given their real bodies were comatose. It may seem odd that I was expecting something like that given that I've ragged on Casshern Sins for doing something similar, the only difference being that all of Casshern Sins' characters are robots and it comes off as being pretentious but that is a story for another day.
Yeah he makes this face a lot during this arc.
For being an MMO it didn't really separate the various classes outside of weaponry or even name the classes. They make no attempt to even think about what they were going to do on the off-chance that the final boss was unbeatable. For the most part we never even find out why the villain trapped them in the game in the first place. Admittedly, I did sort of enjoy seeing Kirito and Asuna interact and we got a touching moment or two between them. Overall, this arc was just ok.

Alfhiem Online arc:
This is where the show just hits the fan for me and its where the bulk of my problems with this anime come from. It completely destroys any good that came from the Sword Art arc. The art style goes through a drastic change and becomes more cutesy in general but its a high fantasy MMO so it is somewhat understandable. This arc basically amounts to Kirito constantly saying "I've gotta save my waifu" and focusing on only that. Seriously, even when the villain reveals to Kirito that Asuna isn't the only one trapped it still sort of feels like he just wants to save Asuna and if he saves the others in the process then so be it. While Asuna was awesome in the first arc, she unfortunately gets becomes nothing more than a damsel in distress during this arc. I'm not even gonna acknowledge the infamous tentacle scene when Asuna tried to escape as it was in very bad taste and only there for the sake of fan-service. It was completely unnecessary and idiotic. It even angered the show's fans from what I've heard. It is by far the worst moment in the anime so far. Seriously, why is it even in there? Granted that might be because it was in the light novels.
This was just....ugh...NO!!...I can't even talk about it!
From what I was able to piece together from the plot, the villain's plan was ridiculous. He basically wanted to marry Asuna because her family was rich and he could use that money to finance his experiments. That is kind of weird, creepy, and cliche all at the same time. To top it all off, I can't even take the villain seriously in this arc. Its made pretty obvious that he is little more than a joke. I keep finding myself asking why this arc exists.

Gun Gale Online arc:
Something about this arc just feels off to me for some reason but I can't quite put my finger on it. I think its mostly because even though Kirito is still the main protagonist, he hasn't exactly adapted to the Gun Gale mechanics/play-style. He is in an MMO about guns and gun-play but he is still using a sword as his default weapon and playing it like he has the other two MMOs. I know his specialty is sword fighting but it completely clashes with the game genre that this season is using as a base. Another weird thing is that this arc seems to actually be questioning what reality actually is. Kirito goes on in the first episode about what constitutes something being real. If its something that seems real in a virtual world, who is to say that it isn't real. While that is a nice idea, I find it odd that SAO of all things is asking this question as it doesn't feel like it has earned the right to ask them.
The villain is named Death Gun and well honestly thats one of most ridiculous names I've ever heard. There have also been hints that he is related to the Laughing Coffin guild from SAO and that he might have been one of the people Kirito "killed". They're just now playing up Kirito's trauma from being trapped in SAO. Why wasn't this brought up before? It makes the Alfheim arc seem completely unnecessary since they could have addressed it then instead of having that entire arc focus around saving Asuna. The overall reveal of how Death Gun was killing people was underwhelming and the twist itself was extremely easy to see coming. Seriously injecting them with drugs to simulate a heart attack was all they could come up with? The Ragnarock part of this arc is nothing more than filler which is weird because its in the light novels so its canon filler.
As a whole the anime itself is pretending to be something it isn't. Its a romance/drama anime that wants to be shounen/action anime that wants you to think it is an MMO anime. I call it a romance/drama anime because that is what the entire second and third arcs smell like to me. It was an ok anime during the Sword Art arc but during Alfhiem it just takes a nose dive and doesn't really recover for me. Something about the Gun Gale arc just feels off entirely to the point where it doesn't even feel like the same anime. It also doesn't feel consistent between any of those three arcs. If you like this anime, more power to you. If you haven't seen it, I would only recommend this anime as nothing more than popcorn material.