Category Archives: action

Sega Girls Too Hard to Pass Up

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Japan makes anime comedies about all sort of strange topics. Now we have an anime show where three cute girls represent video game consoles.

Sega Hard Girls is a strange collection of hit-and-miss video game jokes. The average anime fan might pass this up, but the beautiful 3D animation makes the show much more enjoyable.

I thought I’d seen every type of anime by this point, but Sega Hard Girls is definitely one of the most unusual shows to date. The show’s full name is actually “Hi-sCoool! Seha Girls,” but most fans just call it by its nickname, Sega Hard Girls. The show has three main characters who each represent Sega video game consoles. Their names are Mega Drive, Saturn and Dreamcast. The game systems in this show are represented in the form of cute anime girls.

These Sega girls are all attending Sehagaga Academy in Tokyo. Their goal is to graduate and become full-fledged video game consoles. Well, at least I think that’s their main goal. For the entire season, I kept wondering what would actually happen to the girls when they graduate. The whole concept is already too strange to comprehend.

segaHard3Thankfully, this show isn’t focused around a serious plot—it’s a comedy based around video games. The main goal of the academy is to earn 100 medals. To earn these medals, the girls have to enter the worlds of old Sega games to perform a specific task. Each episode focuses on funny slapstick jokes that use retro game characters.

The show is a unique mish-mash of 3D anime and video game animation. I’ve seen all sorts of lame 3D anime films where the animation looks incredibly stiff and fake. Sega Hard Girls is the first 3D show where I had an emotional connection with the characters. The brilliant animators of this show took the time to slow the action down and focus on the facial details and expressions of the character models. Because of this detail, the girls look a lot more like humans with feelings and emotional expressions.

The result is a light-hearted cartoon that looks back at the joy and fun of video game characters in the past. Some episodes showed off some really obscure games that were only released in Japan, such as Border Break. Based on the episode I had seen, Border Break looks like a versatile, online 3D shooter with mecha robots. Even if the game’s environment looked a little bland, I really enjoyed watching these girls explore the unique landscape of Border Break.

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The show has plenty of cameos from video game icons, but the funniest parts actually take place when goofy-looking characters wander in from other random Sega games. In fact, Sega Hard Girls is chock-full of visual gags. My favorite jokes took place in episode two, when the girls used martial arts moves against little birds from Flicky, pig men from Golden Axe and a giant beetle from some weird bug game (Mushiking).

Sega Hard Girls is a retrospective of all the funniest moments of early video games. The show is geared for all the anime fans who yearn for the old days of video games, when all the graphics looked a lot more innocent and timeless. Sega Hard Girls also shows off some of the best 3D animation I’ve ever seen.

Sega Hard Girls is available to stream at crunchyroll.com.

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Filed under 3D anime, action, anime streaming, comedy, crunchy roll, fighting

Season review: Anime Finally Portrays Gaming in All Its Glory

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I’ve seen all sorts of animated shows with video games or video game characters. However, I’ve never seen a truly accurate portrayal of the video game community. Most of the time, the hardcore players appear as obsessive hermits who stay at home all day.

That’s why the Sword Art Online anime is a breath of fresh air. It portrays the gaming community in brutal honesty, as they form close friendships in a mystical online adventure game.

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The whole first season of Sword Art Online just seems to show everything wonderful about the world inside video games. In fact, almost the entire show takes place inside a virtual reality online game, called Sword Art Online. The main character, Kazuto, is just a typical high school boy. When he wears his virtual reality headgear, he becomes a super-powered knight named Kirito in the video game world. He befriends a wide range of unique characters who are all seeking escapism. They learn to trust each other, battling evil bandits and various other monsters.

Sword Art Online just seems to hit all the right notes from the beginning to the end, but the show is also about escaping the video game world. As great as the video game world is, Kazuto and his friends are also trapped inside the game. Sword Art Online was deceptively designed to trap people inside the world for life, unless someone actually defeats the final boss. If any of their video game characters die, then they die in the real world as well.

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The world of Sword Art Online is set in Aincrad, a Medieval world of green pastures with a tall tower. Most of the drama focuses around the adventurers as they attempt to reach the final floor of the tower. However, the real charm in this show involves the romance between the main character, Kazuto, and a girl named Asuna. At around episode nine, Kazuto is almost killed by a sadistic traitor in their guild. From this point on, Asuna knows that she just cannot leave him behind.

In fact, most of the storyline focuses on the deep relationship between Kazuto and Asuna. Their life in the virtual world allows them to do many things that might be too risque in the real world. They marry each other and sleep in the same bed. They take a honeymoon vacation. They even adopt an orphan girl named Yui. Their love life is almost too beautiful to leave behind.

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This anime is a perfect representation of how video games allow people to socialize with each other in unique ways. It isn’t completely flawless, though. The story loses part of its charm at around the halfway point, after Kazuto manages to escape from Sword Art Online. Without giving away too many spoilers, I’ll just say that the story doesn’t end after he escapes from that world. He has to enter yet another video game world.

The show tends to repeat many of its themes, especially in the second half of episodes. The story still maintains its high level of excitement through every single episode, but the final battle is rather disappointing. I was expecting tons of fireworks and intense sword action at the end, but most of the intense action at the end actually happens in the real world. Don’t get me wrong–the ending was a thriller in itself. However, it all just could have looked a lot more epic.

I still loved Sword Art Online, though. It is one of the best television shows I’ve ever seen about video games. The storyline probably could have been refined a little more, but the characters were very memorable. In fact, everything in the show is bursting with vibrant colors and gorgeous background artwork. In my opinion, it was my favorite show of 2013. The best anime shows are all about wonderful memories. Sword Art Online is just chock-full of some of my favorite characters of all time.

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Filed under action, best, MMORPG, nudity, romance, sex, shonen, Sword Art Online, Uncategorized, video game, violent

Season review: Superheroes of Science and Catholicism

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A Certain Magical Index seems like a typical shonen anime at first. A simple-minded boy hero uses his powerful hand to protect innocent people. However, the whole story is far more complicated.

A Certain Magical Index somehow spins the strangest conspiracy theories of religion into a fascinating science fiction thriller.

This particular anime comes up with enough wild ideas to keep people guessing about what happens next. It has everything–psychics, a group of sorcerors in the Catholic Church and an story that has something to do with a collection of forbidden books. The first season of A Certain Magical Index simplifies these mysterious topics by using ordinary characters who we can relate to.

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The main character of this anime, Toma Kamijo, looks like a typical high school dude. He wakes up in his dorm room and discovers a girl dressed as a nun, lying on the railing of his balcony. The girl, named Index, asks Toma to help defend her against a group of magicians. She reveals to Toma that her mind contains photographic memory of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a collection of 103,000 magical books that were banned by the Church of England.

Although Toma doesn’t really believe Index, he offers her a quick meal before he leaves for school. When he returns, he discovers Index’s bloody body lying on the ground. A shrewd magician named Stiyl confronts Toma and explains that his partner unintentionally hurt Index. Stiyl claims that his group actually intends to protect her.

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Toma doesn’t buy this confusing explanation at all, especially the sorcerors injured the girl in such a brutal fashion. After defeating Stiyl, he decides to try everything he possibly can to save Index’s life. Thus, Toma gets wrapped up in an epic battle to protect the innocent girl, Index, from the evil sorcerors of the Church of England.

Although I summarized the basic plot of this series, the entire story of A Certain Magical Index is a little convoluted. I really couldn’t predict where the storyline was headed, because each new story arc makes everything even more complicated. Every episode was fascinating, though. Each character seems to have their own twisted backstory about how their powers evolved.

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People really have to watch A Certain Magical Index to see the characters. These heroes have some of the coolest-looking abilities I have ever seen. My personal favorite is Mikoto Misaka, a powerful psychic with the abilities to shoot electricity. In the first episode, she demonstrates that she can shoot coins at supersonic speeds. Although she is a close friend to Toma, her heated arguments with him often turn into spectacular battles that are fun to watch.

Of course, Toma is clearly the hero of the show. He can cancel out nearly every attack with the power of his hand, the Imagine Breaker. Somehow, his hand can absorb nearly every attack that hits him. His friend, Mikoto, often gets jealous of him, because he can block all of her attacks. However, their friendship reaches a surprisingly touching moment halfway into the first season.

Although some story arcs of A Certain Magical Index are downright confusing, science fiction fans will still love the characters in this intellectual series. The battles between the characters are incredible displays of superhuman power. The conspiracy theories conjured up in this anime epic are also undeniably intriguing. In fact, the ideas in this show will make people ponder whether there really is a dark magical secret hidden deep inside the Catholic church.

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Filed under A Certain Magical Index, action, fighting, future, mystery, romance

OVA Review: Darker and More Confusing Than Black

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I was a huge fan of Darker Than Black when it first aired. It had all sorts of references to Batman, but the action was intense and murderous. The show showcased cool jazz music and secretive conversations in dark alleyways, giving it a classy noir style.

Unfortunately, everything past season one was told in a extremely confusing order.

For starters, season two doesn’t even start in Tokyo, where the show began. It starts in Russia, a country filled with snow and urban decay. The main character, Hei,  just isn’t as lovable as he was in season one. Hei was once one of the slickest assassins. He saved numerous people from dying. Even after innocent people turned into contractors (superhuman assassins), he taught them how to use their powers effectively for survival.

Now Hei is just some drunken jerk who kills every contractor who gets in his way. In the beginning of season two, he has the nerve to kill one of the coolest characters, April. Every fan of the series just wondered why Hei had turned into such a jerk. Well, all the backstory between seasons one and two is hidden on the season two box set, in an OVA series called Darker Than Black: Gaiden.

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This part of the story focuses on the two main characters, Hei and Yin. They are now fugitives, trying to escape from other contractors who are trying to kill them. Throughout all four episodes, Hei tries his best to protect Yin from other people. And Hei hugs Yin in every episode, just to convince us they really are in love.

To be honest, the romance between Hei and Yin is as bland as stale bread. If these two are really lovebirds, they really need to show a little more passion. I understand that their contractor abilities turn them into cold, emotionless secret agents. Still, they could at least try to show a little more visible affection. I was honestly waiting for some kiss. Anything to convince me that they are deeply in love. Instead, I was terribly bored.

Anyhow, each episode follows the same order of action sequences and romance. Hei gradually learns from other contractors about the rapidly evolving powers of his girlfriend, Yin. Everyone keeps telling him that if he doesn’t stop her powers from awakening, Yin could cause another meteor to fall onto the Earth.

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The whole story is intense and apocalyptic, but Gaiden never seems to explain why Yin is receiving these powers in the first place. There are a few hints in episode four when a contractor group keeps calling her Izanagi. Perhaps the spirit of Izanagi has possessed Yin, but we never know for sure. The OVA is extremely useful for any fan, though. It explains why Yin disappeared and why Hei became an alcoholic.

The director of the anime should have aired these crucial episodes before season two even started. Instead, all this backstory is only available on the DVD version. Devoted fans could probably find the OVA videos somewhere on some pirate website. However, the whole arrangement of all these videos is terribly confusing. The average person wouldn’t be able to figure out that they have to watch the OVAs before season two.

I still enjoyed Darker Than Black: Gaiden. The action sequences are always intense and entertaining to watch. Sadly, this four-episode OVA also exposes the terrible flaws that have plagued the entire series from the very beginning. The dialogue is shallow. The story has numerous plot holes. Overall, Gaiden is a fun extension of the Darker Than Black series. Just don’t expect anything as groundbreaking as the first season.

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Filed under action, Darker Than Black, noir, OVA, shonen

Video game anime – The Chronicles of Blazblue

The cast of characters from Blazblue

Blazblue melds action anime characters in a stunningly beautiful fighting game.

I don’t usually review video games as part of my anime blog. However, Blazblue fused a fighting game with a anime storyline in such a profound way to revolutionize Japanese animation in games.

Blazblue is more than just a fighting game–it’s also a massive narrative filled with drama, intense action and an impending apocalyptic disaster.

Even though the game has a hardcore edge to it and the difficulty curve is somewhat high, BlazBlue has an unusual story mode that people don’t usually expect. Most of the plot surrounds 12 characters involved in the destruction of the city of Kagutsuchi-13.

The entire story plays out in an endless time loop, where all the characters somehow end up in the same place they started. No matter which path they take, all the characters usually end up dying partly because of an evil cyborg.

Rachel Alucard from Blazblue

Rachel flies through the air on her inflating cat balloon.

Only a few of the main characters are aware that someone is keeping them stuck in the same tragic time loop. Rachel-Alucard is one of those characters who tries to warp certain characters in the past, in order to turn them into cyborgs to prevent the apocalypse.

To tell the truth, most of this silly  story involves trivial vendettas. For instance, Ragna had his arm cut off by his brother, Jin Kisaragi, when he was young. These two brothers now become enemies to the very end. However, the game doesn’t really explain the reasons why Jin cuts Ragna’s arm off, among other things.

Blazblue is still very noteworthy as one of the few games that melds complex anime storylines with an intense style of fighting gameplay. It’s one of the only games that manages to make people feel like they’re playing a part in a shonen action show. It somewhat resembles Soul Eater in its heavy metal music and the gothic clothing style of the characters.

I’m surprised at how closely these fighters resemble a variety of different anime characters. Carl Clover and Rachel-Alucard look like kids from a moe series. Litchi Faye-Ling clearly stands out as the fan service girl with her big breasts. Most of all, Jin and Ragna are the tough guys usually found in a shonen series. Ragna has the long spiky hairstyle of Dragon Ball Z’s Goku in his super seiyan mode and Jin has the blonde hair in the fashion of LeLouche from Code Geass.

In many ways, Blazblue is probably the closest that a video game has ever gotten to emulating the whole anime fighting experience. Much of the story is nonsensical, but no one can deny the charm of each fighter in this battle royale. It’s one of the more impressive fighting games of this current generation of game consoles.

This game is available for the XBOX 360 and the PS3. There’s also a PC version that I haven’t tried out yet.

Images courtesy of photobucket.com

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Filed under action, Alucard, apocalyptic, Blazblue, fighting, moe, shonen, video game

>DVD Review: Saving the world with an iPhone

>“Eden of the East” is a mind-blowing anime about a lone kid who can save an entire nation by making a cell phone call.

Sure, it’s not the most realistic series, but it’s an impressive show that relies more on smart, subtle dialogue rather than overblown bravado. The story and action is almost entirely based on Internet technology, but the dialogue is incredibly clever.

It starts with a random encounter, where a naked Japanese guy is left stranded in Washington D.C. with only a cell phone and a pistol. After an awkward meeting with the police, the guy somehow convinces a young Japanese girl to give him a coat and a hat.

From this point onward, the guy has to piece together his identity, based on all the little clues he can scrounge up. His cell phone is his only guide, directing him to an abandoned apartment with random travelers’ passports, some clothes and plenty of guns. He takes on the name of Akira Takizawa.

In the middle of running away from American police officers, he runs into the Japanese tourist girl, Saki Morimi. She left her passport in his jacket pocket, so she came to ask for it back. He somehow strikes up an extraordinary relationship with the girl as they take a plane trip back to Japan.

The rest of the series is a crafty mystery storyline, where the main character must slowly regain his memory. His special cell phone allows him to get anything he wants from an 10 billion yen account. All he has to do is call the anonymous phone operator named Juiz. Other special cell phone users are also seeking to kill him using the same ambitious powers.

The magic of this show is not based around the action. This series has almost no fights or gun battles. Much of the fascinating intensity comes from the passionate verbal exchanges between fellow nerds and cyber hackers. They use their high-end technology to help this boy discover his identity.

Although this show is the biggest advertisement for people to use iPhone-styled devices, the phones manage to keep the characters more preoccupied with talking to other people. They manage to squeeze in some pretty profound dialogue involving revenge and forgiveness.

By the end of the show, everyone will want to root for this intelligent kid, who can use a simple cell phone to take down weapons of mass destruction. He manages to look incredibly classy, even to the very end.

Images courtesy of photobucket.com

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Filed under action, cyber-punk, Eden of the East

>DVD Re-release: Darker than the X-Men, that’s for sure

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In May of this year, Funimation re-released the first season of “Darker Than Black” in a box set.

This anime is a creative show that sucks viewers into a dark, noir world of supernatural battles between humans and contractors.

Think of this show as the Japanese version of the “X-Men.” The story focuses on the lives of contractors, people who are allowed to use special powers as long as they pay a price. For instance, the main character, Hei, eats tons of food in order to pay for his ability to expel electricity from his body.

These contractors all come from different organizations. The British secret agent service, MI6, has three contractors who battle with Hei from time-to-time. An unknown syndication gives each agency different missions to assassinate people and to kill rival contractors.

Our main hero, Hei, takes on the identity of the Black Reaper. He’s satisfied with his life as a contractor. However, he has a secret lover who he struggles to come to terms with. His former girlfriend, Amber, is hatching a destructive plot that could eliminate Japan.

These two lovers were part of some mysterious scientific experiments held by a company known as Pandora. They received their strange new powers through these research operations. However, they eventually get forced to endure the most daunting mission of their entire lives. A mission that literally reaches past the boundaries of heaven and hell.

This series certainly has its share of conspiracy theories. The characters receive very little knowledge about why they have to follow the syndicate’s orders. The contractors live dangerous lives, where they must kill others before they get killed themselves.

Yet, the story all comes together in a strangely euphoric whole. To tell the truth, “Darker Than Black” doesn’t make too much sense unless you look at the entire series as a whole. The storyline is very similar to the film “The Sky Crawlers.” These characters are part of a gigantic life-threatening competition, but they must find a way to cooperate with each other when their lives are on the line.

Is there a way to defy the rules of society? “Darker Than Black” will definitely open your mind up to the possibility of a world where everyone lives in harmony. In the wake of a frightening genocide, it offers the promise of a new beginning. As imperfect as this show is, there is almost nothing cooler than this series.

Well, you could mention “Neon Genesis Evangelion.” With all that said, the Evangelion director couldn’t possibly come up with a script as poetic as this series. No one could ever replicate the sly, chilling tone of “Darker Than Black.”

Images courtesy of photobucket.com

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Filed under action, Darker Than Black, Madhouse, noir, superhero