Tag Archives: powers

Tokyo ESP REVIEW


The thought of having super powers is a thought which intrigues the mind of mankind every day. What if you woke up one day and you had the power to control the world and reign supreme, jump from one space in time to another or have a sentient penguin as a pet? Well, in the supernatural anime Tokyo ESP, you get all three and a whole lot more in an action anime which is totally not influenced by a certain gang of mutants that are quite MARVELlous. Subtle, aren’t I?

Oh hai, Daft Punk.
Oh hai, Daft Punk.

In this iteration of Tokyo, a gang of espers [A person with the trait ESP or extrasensory perception] have begun an onslaught on Tokyo in the most audacious manner possible – floating the Japanese parliament building above the city. I always knew Japanese politics was up in the air but this is ridiculous! Anyway, the tyrants led by an esper known only as The Professor start to rain their might upon the city and the country as a whole. What’s caused these powers to suddenly appear? Vast schools of “psychic fish” swimming into the hearts of certain individuals and giving them superhuman abilities. That’s on the weird side, but it makes for a cool visual [apparently it’s how humans perceive psychic energy] As such, some of these “chosen ones” decide to use their gifts for ill purposes and begin a new world order by eradicating humanity one calamity at a time. It’s up to the likes of “The White Girl” and her posse to stop The Professor from destroying everything. However, the plot of the first episode isn’t the first episode; it’s actually an event which takes place towards the end of the season and by the start of the second episode, all of this becomes clear when we go back into the past and discover the origins of the modern day espers.

tokyoesp_7So we have a Memento-like narrative twist on our hands here. Another twist occurs in the vibe of the entire show; gone is the bleakness of episode one and in its place is a more jovial and somewhat less substantial action-comedy/drama. Rinka and her father live together in Tokyo and get by on a somewhat meagre existence. Rinka then one day witnesses the “psychic fish” as well as a flying penguin which turns out to be an important plot point; one of the fish absorbs itself into Rinka and she gains the power to pass through solid objects – sort of like Kitty Pryde from X-Men. In fact, there’s a lot of X-Men meshed into Tokyo ESP and its composition; even a little bit of Ghostbusters too! The biggest similarities are the vitriolic distrust of espers akin to mutants, new world order motif, desire for co-existence as well as Rinka’s father looking a lot like Wolverine. Despite these, the show is really charming and full of gags which makes it a very endearing end product. The first episode acts as a flash forward and the rest of the show chronicles how all the characters [both good and bad] develop and refine their powers from that day when a fish chose to assimilate itself with all of them. Sometimes when shows present a future event first, it runs the risk of confusing audiences and leaving tons of unanswered questions and headscratching about what’s going on; thankfully Tokyo ESP doesn’t do that. I felt like I got the gist about what was going on in that single outing and would be fine if the series started there; to get a back story is an added bonus. Who is this White Girl? “Well!” says the anime, “Let me show you!” and we get a telling of how Rinka got her powers and discovered how to be a true hero after many moments where she doubts her abilities. She encounters a guy named Kyotaro who got gifted by the fish too; he got teleportation powers [which are presented in a whisp of smoke quite masterfully I might add!]. The two quite clearly form a bond and the pair go through a lot of existential questioning about whether it’s worth fighting for peace or simply join the world order being formed before them. The Professor appears and we get a little more explanation about why he’s doing what he’s doing but it doesn’t shake off some concerns I have for the evil characters and the entire package.

tokyoesp_5The Professor and Minami, his cohort, are quite robotic in their justification for their attacks on the public at large and don’t seem to have a clear or deep motivation for giving espers autonomy. It seems to be purely built on blind frustration and not much else. Most people would question why I’m bothered by this and say that I should just let things happen and leave reason at the door; but I want some kind of meaningful cause to be the backbone of a charge against humanity. As far as I see, there was no anti-ESP movement before The Professor showed up, he pretty much caused the sudden fear. He could’ve easily got what he wanted in a more subtle and synergistic manner; achieve power through subversion and stealth instead of doing outlandish and somewhat immature acts over the skies of Tokyo such as A FRIGGIN’ TANKER! It may seem epic but it’s kind of irrational; contradictory of his character which is a lot more regal. As much as I like the good guy characters, the adaptation of the story sometimes gives them short shrift. Later on in the show, Rinka is screwed around with a lot and it’s here where you start to see the weaknesses that using a flash forward at the beginning brings. If you get the pacing wrong, then you need to frantically rush proceedings, risk cheapening certain key scenes because you know the end result already and also unravel the good build-up which had gone before; it’s something that plagues the latter half of the series. It’s a concern after such a strong start.

tokyoesp_2Tokyo ESP is a simple show but it’s executed with sophistication and explores ideas above its station; thrusting itself into the limelight with some of the heavy hitters of this seasons such as the re-edit of Psycho Pass and Aldnoah.Zero…to a point. Xebec [the anime’s production company] aren’t known for being masters of animation and it shows in some places where character models are inconsistent or scenes look cheap at times; but there are some very cool looking sequences and visual motifs which entice and enthral. It’s certainly an admirable showing from the studio which has floundered as of late with not that many hits – 2012’s Rinne no Lagrange being the most recent production which garnered much interest. I ultimately enjoyed myself watching Tokyo ESP and felt that it deserves a lot of credit for punching above its weight; it’s not the best produced show but it has the characters, the graphical cues and action to get the job done just about.

Tokyo ESP is available to stream on Funimation’s website.

RATING: CONTINUE [A charming and plucky series which gives a tip of the hat to Marvel’s classic mutant formula.]

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Soul Eater NOT!


So you just found out that when under times of heightened emotion or special circumstances, your leg suddenly ceases to be a leg and becomes the spear of a halberd. What do your parents do? Comfort you? Seek help? Nope! They ship you off to Death Hogwarts and force you to control your apparently insatiable taste for blood because you accidentally transformed one time. This is the initial spark of the spin-off Soul Eater Not! which rides on the coattails of the immensely popular Soul Eater series. Does it make the cut?

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Based on Atsushi Okubo’s demon slaying juggernaut of almost the same name, Soul Eater Not! details the tale of Tsugumi Harudori and her arrival at the Death Weapon Meister Academy [DWMA]. She discovered that she could turn into a scythe-like weapon by accident and needs to control her new found powers of being a weapon. Those familiar with Soul Eater’s mechanics will know that there are two types of student: Meisters and Weapons. Meisters wield the weapons and the pair work in tandem. Simple. You can’t have two Meisters working together; that’d just be two guys fighting. Nothing exciting really! Tsugumi then befriends two other freshmen, Meme and Anya. Meme is a bubbly, forgetful soul whereas Anya is a blueblooded princess-like personality who desires to be with the common people. From there, the freshmen are inducted to the NOT tier of the academy where the vast majority of students reside. They learn to control their powers enough so that they’re not a threat to the public; in case they suddenly change into a loaded gun whilst flexing muscles or something – THAT’D be a real gun show! If you impress, you move to the EAT tier where the likes of Maka, Soul, Blackstar and Tsubaki from the main series belong. So if you’re good enough to not slice your own arm off, you might get to be part of that elite corps. This spinoff is an interesting concept on its own merit, but when compared to its parent anime it’s not as impressive.

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Soul Eater Not! takes place before the events of Soul Eater, but it may as well have been set in another dimension. The whole universe is so different to what preceded it…or succeeds it. I dunno! I will admit, I’ve not seen Soul Eater bar the first couple of episodes but I am aware of the distinctive art style it had plus its edgy characters and off-the-wall narrative which meant it deserved to be considered as a modern classic and earning a spot in the annals of anime history. Its prequel is nowhere near as unique; it feels like the ‘generic genie’ has transformed the standout style and moe-ified it to the extreme. It’s all the more palpable when you consider that characters from the original show pop up regularly. Even Maka and Soul, the title characters, show up and demonstrate their prowess in a fanservice-filled first episode; Maka also interacts with Tsugumi at the beginning a la Yugi and Jaden in Yu-Gi-Oh GX and it’s here the style shift is most depressing. Okubo’s artwork has been lost in a pit of moe and normality. The whole package feels different and fans of the original will be left feeling as flat as the artwork feels to me. Thankfully the show is still under the same animation team [BONES] that Soul Eater was under, so there is a continuity in terms of the fundamentals of animation and detailing; but it doesn’t quite save the show from the threat of mediocrity.

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This is where me not seeing the original became an advantage. Granted, I was familiar with some of the basics of the parent anime but I didn’t know the ins and outs of it nor had I built a strong bond with the characters. When I see a character I recognise, I go “Oh yeah, cool.” and move on. Instead, I can look at the show on its own and not be heavily weighted by the first instalment. As a show on its own, it’s pretty good. The animation quality is above average despite it being a little less BONES-esque and more standard. The characters are initially standard archetypes of flat-chested spunky go-getter [Tsugumi], ditzy and busty sidekick [Meme] and hoity-toity mademoiselle [Anya], but they do tend to divert from their respective paths. For example, Meme may be clumsy but she is a master of sleep-fu, easily defeating an assailant whilst asleep! That may be a more comedic diversion, but it does get a little more sincere. Anya’s model is most interesting. She starts off as a blueblooded prude and you’d think that she will stay that way; but instead she opens up really quickly. She wants to escapes the shackles of royalty/riches and live a normal existence and does her best to realise that goal…despite splurging on occasion. Her selling of her family brooch for money symbolises her genuine desire to be normal and her emotive structure is complex; she wants to be friendly but feels she shouldn’t and she fears that it comes across as snobbery…but others mistake this for cute stubbornness and that endears Tsugumi and Meme to Anya even more. Anya doesn’t whine and layabout the place either; she throws herself into new endeavours and applies herself atypical to the norm which is great! As for Tsugumi, she may be less unique than the other two but she’s a likeable lead and the fact she’s not super-duper perfect at the start means that character development is on the cards here! Goody! At the start of the first episode, one of Tsugumi’s dreams was to be in a love triangle for her affection in a normal high school. She DOES get that…kind of. She is in a triangle for her loyalty with two girls/meisters in an ABnormal high school. Close enough? It’s a cute narrative twist which caps off the first episode rather well and puts the pre-DWMA Tsugumi to bed and a whole new character to emerge then on.

souleaternot_6Soul Eater Not! can be summated in two ways. You’ve seen the original series, you’ll get a small kick from some of the characters making brief appearances, but you’ll be disappointed or even horrified at the cutification of some of your favourite characters into blander facsimilies, thus besmirching the model you fell in love with in the first place. Or you haven’t, in which case you’ll enjoy it a lot more. It’s cutesy, light-hearted fun with some action thrown in too, as well as being a potential place to start your Soul Eater experience before going back to the first series; you’re not missing out on any plot points as this takes place beforehand! Okubo had been writing Soul Eater for ten years before ending it in 2013, it’s only fair that he would want to refresh his universe somewhat with a different take on its canon. Better that than nothing, eh? It’s certainly way better than I expected. I thought I was going to get a moe bastardisation; instead I got something a lot more substantial. Great!

Soul Eater Not! is available to stream on Funimation’s website.

RATING: CONTINUE [Having not seen the original title, I am keen to give this prequel a chance!]

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Kämpfer Abridged – Episode 1


Episode 1 originally aired January 4th 2010 at MAGFEST 2010.

Cast

MasakoX – Natsuru
Nowacking – Sakura
takahata101 – Harakiri Tiger, Kampfer!Akane
sakurasenpai2008 – Akane
and
LittleKuriboh – Seppuku Bunny

Ready for the next episode? CLICK HERE!

GATEWAY: Dragonball Z


OK, I couldn’t create this segment and NOT include this anime. An anime which is in the hearts and minds of most anime fans and enthusiasts. If you’re not a major fan of it, you’re at the very least AWARE of it and its significance in getting anime on Western television in the early 2000s. A story about people fighting each other for the very future of the universe with awesome energy blasts, epic scenes and memorable moments which are emulated and lauded as some of the best in anime. Of course, you also get the symptoms of shonen series [anime aimed at boys and young men] of long stare-offs, power-up sequences which last for hours and cheap kills used to placate an audience rather than being creative. Yep, it’s Dragonball Z. A show which holds a lot of significance in my mind for many reasons, but here I’ll mostly talk about my discovery of this awesome show.

[courtesy of dragonballUKversion on YouTube]

Those commercials are what greeted me and my thirteen year old eyes. I was blown away and had to watch this. This was back at the beginning of the twenty-first century and up till then I had only seen a small cross-section of my brother’s anime collection, which in itself was cool, but it was a little heavy. What I was looking for was something a bit more straightforward and Dragonball Z was perfect. Toonami [which had begun in the UK not too long before] was mostly a haven for US action cartoons such as Johnny Quest and Batman but they were a little familiar. Then comes along this show about guys punching each other to death and blasting people and things into bits in an instant. Such violence and yet little bloodsheed or cursing [this WAS the censored original version to be fair!], it was crazy and I couldn’t get enough of it.

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I don’t really need to go over the story TOO much, it’s so long and epic that it’s hard to summarise other than the following. A guy called Goku and his friends fight a bunch of villains who seek to destroy the Earth. That’s pretty much it. Of course there are other events along the way which fill up the story enough to stop it becoming boring! As the bad guys get stronger, the good guys get new powers in which to fight them; each more striking and deadly than the last. You know the good guys will win, but it’s sure as hell a fun ride!

Back to my courting of this show. Before 2000, I had no idea Dragonball itself existed. After March 6th 2000, I needed more. I remember frantically begging my mum to get home quick so I didn’t miss the new episode at half past five every weekday. For months, this was a regular occurrence. I adored this show and began searching for information on the show, pictures, music videos and even made some of my own [which are thankfully lost in the midsts of time!]. Fortunately, in the UK, we didn’t have to wait long for the rest of the Namek Saga to air on TV as it arrived six months later in September. This was even MORE exciting than the Saiyan Saga and it cemented my passion for this show. Right up until 2003, I continued to watch Dragonball Z as much as I could and even wondered when the other series such as GT and the original would air [they did sure enough that same year!] and add to the world that Z had established.

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I suppose the one thing that attracted me to the show was the marvel that was the Super Saiyan. This being formed of pure rage and power was radiating its aura right off the screen and into my heart. I was aware of transformations of characters into more powerful forms, Power Rangers and the like had taught me that, but this example was something else. That first moment when Goku explodes into a frenzy of anger towards Frieza, was a moment I STILL cherish [I’ll explain more about my feelings later]. Goku is a placid and morally just being and to see him suddenly have no problem pummelling someone with no hesitation was shocking and mesmerising. I was entranced and despite the Super Saiyan form slowly becoming diluted amongst many characters over time, it has become one of the most ubiquitous images of anime out there. My feelings were further enhanced when I watched the first Cooler movie [Movie Five – Revenge of Cooler]. This was the first Dragonball Z movie I had ever watched and it was incredible. It’s not my favourite movie [that’d be Movie Twelve – Fusion Reborn] but it again got me fixated in aiming to watch all the movies one day [I must confess I have yet to watch Movie Ten – Broly’s Second Coming].

Then we come to my favourite male character, Goku. Goku is one of those characters who can arguably be described as the best example of how to be a good guy [although he can also be one of the most selfish]. His original voice actor, Masako Nozawa, was a voice I had never heard before when I finally got to hear the original dub. Her performance and tone was unlike anything I had heard before and although I had grown up with the voices of Corlett, Kelamis, Schemmel and Morrow as the ENGLISH version, I felt that Nozawa was the truest example of the character. If you crossed Nozawa’s Goku, her tone was menacing and yet it could also be playful when Goku was happy. Such a sparse range was amazing to witness. I still wish to meet Nozawa-san one of these days. It’s obviously why my username is Masako.

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Then we come to TeamFourStar. I got to voice Goku in a couple of movies beforehand and it was amazing to get to voice the character in some capacity but now the team was embarking on parodying the series proper. I was, you could say, interested. I remember being happy to the point of distraction and practised constantly to better myself as Goku and of course Gohan too. Over the years, this excitement has gotten stronger and shall never die. I feel a connection with Goku; a connection that has gone back into my performance of him and it’s always heartwarming to hear people like what I do with the character. Going back to my point about Super Saiyans, the moment I voiced him in episode thirty of Dragonball Z Abridged and did the Super Saiyan scream for the first time. I did twenty five takes of that; that’s how serious I was to honouring the character’s legacy. It may sound pompous but it’s the truth.

So Dragonball Z. A true gateway anime. It was the first show that I really got involved with and gotten really into. I’m not the most knowledgeable person out there on the subject, but I feel like I know a fair bit about it. A true classic and one of my top ten series.

Wizard Barristers


It’s clear that in the real world that if you commit a crime, you are sent to court and then sentenced accordingly. There are clear laws and rules for which humanity has built and society abides by; but what about the magically inclined? Of course we’ve had the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter but that only skimmed the surface of magical law – more often than not all we had to go on were specific laws instead of the bigger picture. Enter Wizard Barristers to help shed some light on the world of magical magistrates.

WizardBarristers_2Attorney-based anime and media’s popularity has been built and maintained by the Ace Attorney series of games and mixed media outings. Colourful characters and outlandish scenarios set in a near-modern environment has brought the world of the courtroom to public attention and interest. For nearly ten years, Phoenix Wright and pals have mesmerised audiences with their flamboyant practices set in a realistic world; but Wizard Barristers tries to up the ante when it comes to capturing its audience. Newcomer Cecil Sudo is starting her first day at the Butterfly Law Firm and her first case is presented to her before she even hangs her coat up in the office denoting she is meant to become a prodigal figure in the world of paranormal litigation. She is joined by other newcomer Hotaru who is the complete opposite to Cecil; saturnine and scathing of Cecil’s mercurial enthusiasm when it comes to the world of law. The world itself is set in 2018 where wizards and mortals co-exist and need a mixed set of laws and doctrines in which to co-habit; use magic to attack people, you die. Simple as that. However, we need to take into consideration that Wizard Barristers is meant to be punching above its weight and to try and outmatch Ace Attorney when it comes to style and flair. It does a REALLY good job.

WizardBarristers_4Simply put, the show looks fantastic. The animation is of a high quality and action scenes remain pumped full of drama, tension and vibrance and even the normal dialogue scenes have that extra something which means that the presentation goes above a normal broadcast-quality series and pushes against feature-film quality in some places. The attention to detail is palpable. The show’s creator, Yasuomi Umetsu, is no stranger to the action/violence formula based on his previous works such as Kite, Mezzo, plus leading the animation team of Trinity Blood as well as many more chocked full of violence and drama. Wizard Barristers is a little tamer but there are points where Umetsu’s partialness to violence is recognised. Kite in particular is a similar entity in terms of look and feel albeit it being more gritty and realistic instead of magic-based. Umetsu’s style shines through as much as the magic effects and you’re left treated to brilliant visuals. One personal note though is that I don’t like Cecil’s design. Her hair is a little too thin for her head and it unsettles me somewhat; the other characters are alright though, it’s just Cecil that irks my aesthetic eye. As for the story, it’s interesting but doesn’t match the quality of the animation.

WizardBarristers_3The rest of the team behind the Butterfly Law Firm are a mixed bag of hard-nuts, sex-mad spinsters, stoic loners and questionable individuals. Suffice to say, the characters are not dull but there’s an imbalance in how they’re dealt with. For example, Moyoyon [her chosen name] acts as Cecil’s best buddy and as such most of the cast is pushed into the background only around to offer the odd quip with only Quinn making a break for prominence. Some barely get a word in which is a shame but there’s still time for them to make their voice heard beyond their dress sense. The story itself is pretty straightforward charting Cecil’s rise to notoriety within the wizarding world with individual cases thrown in for good measure for the team to get stuck into. Throughout the journey, the world of the police and the law firm get murkier and more complicated. That may be to come, but the show is in danger of becoming stale and repetitive if the format of jumping from case to case continues. The artwork could even lose its edge if the level of action is maintained. There needs to be time when the characters can relax and get into the serious business of getting the story along and help grow the characters and build a world in which the audience can get behind and feel immersed in; not just rely on pretty colours and flashy explosions. A show can use those tools by any means, but it shouldn’t rely on them entirely. It’d be in danger of being accused of being all show and little substance.

Wizard Barristers has made an ambitious start to its life in the viewersphere. It has succeeded with its look and style and even has the ability to make one think about if wizards DO have lawyers and how that would work. The judge present in most cases is pretty scary and awesome when he delivers his deadpan verdicts. My only concern is that Wizard Barristers will lose traction and fall at the last hurdle after having exhausted its premise and left floundering with little more to do with its characters. If it can sustain the bombastic nature of its introduction whilst not resorting to cheap repetition then we have a candidate for one of the top five series of this season.

Wizard Barristers is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

RATING: CONTINUE [The world of wizarding standards and practices is more intriguing than you might think.]

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