My Outdated Anime Openings

Oh God, the horror...

Oh God, the horror…

I just noticed that I never finished my list of my favorite opening animations for anime shows. I wrote that list a long time ago, back in 2010.

To be honest, I don’t really want to finish that old version of the list. After all, there are too many anime shows in existence. I can’t choose my favorite one for the life of me. On top of that, the list keeps constantly changing.

The list itself is truly a snapshot of fond memories, though. Sadly, some of the more obscure shows have disappeared from everyone’s memories. I don’t think any of the new anime fans would even consider watching old classics, such as Paranoia Agent. And yeah, the opening of that show gives me nightmares about that nuclear plant that recently melted down in Japan.

So instead, I think I’ll publish a new one for 2014. The list is always a pleasant snapshot of my favorite moments in anime shows. This time, though, I think I’ll shorten the list to 10 videos. If I try anything more than 10 videos, I’ll probably forget about the darned list.

So by the end of the week, I’ll publish numbers 10 to 5. And don’t worry–I won’t repeat too many of the ones that I already listed. Especially not Paranoia Agent. Oh, the horror…

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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

Wonderful Pop Idols Dance in Tear-Jerking Drama

loveLive1 Anime shows about music bands are often big hits, because they combine hip music with impressive animation. Love Live follows this same formula, but it also captures the drama of high school friendships with beautiful, tear-jerking honesty.

Love Live: School Idol Project isn’t the most original anime, but it packed in enough emotional twists to keep me on the edge of my seat.

The plot of Love Live is deceptively simple on the surface. The main character is a high school girl named Honoka Kosaka. Her high school, Otonokizaka Academy, is closing down because fewer people are applying to attend it. Even her little sister would rather attend the futuristic new high school in the neighborhood, UTX High School.

Hosaka decides to visit the school for herself, to find out what makes UTX so special. That’s when Hosaka sees the main attraction–a high school pop group called A-Rise. The group has grown in popularity to the point where they are practically the official spokeswomen for the entire school of UTX. They even give a special greeting message to the new students entering the massive school building, which looks more like a skyscraper.

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To be honest, UTX had a lot of high-tech equipment. All the students have smartphones. They all scan their phones into a turnstile, just to enter the school grounds. However, Honoka knows that the school’s pop group, A-Rise, is the main attraction. In order to raise attendance for her high school, Honoka decides to start her own pop idol dance group with her friends. Thus begins a grand scheme to save Otonokizaka Academy through the power of pop music and dancing.

To tell the truth, I don’t think any high school band could actually save an entire school from shutting down. However, pop idols practically rule the entire futuristic world of this anime show. All the idol groups are in constant competition, posting their dancing and singing performances on a special social network for idols. Their main goal is to win Love Live, a championship tournament for pop idols.

The entire story follows a rather redundant format. Honoka and her two best buddies spend the majority of the first season hunting for new recruits to make her group one of the best in Japan. There are plenty of characters who seem all too familiar in these types of shows. There’s a shy girl named Hanayo, who has to muster her courage to join the group. There is a strict student council president name Eli, who thinks that the entire pop group is a joke. All these character types appear a little too predictable after a certain point.

Thankfully, the story picks up steam near the end of the season. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that the group faces intense pressure in the days before the Love Live tournament even begins. On top of this, one of the members also receives a surprise letter that could change her future forever. The show has plenty of drama and saddening moments. Although the final episode rushed some of the most intense moments a little too quickly, I was still impressed.

loveLive3 The dance numbers also use tons of incredible computer animation with the help of motion-capture actors. The visuals and the music meld together to make this show a dazzling experience. Everyone should at least watch one of the episodes, just to get themselves hooked on the pop idol trends in anime today.

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After a Three-Year Hiatus

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As anyone can see, I haven’t posted in this anime blog in three years. I really thought that I would continue my posts more often, but a lot of things happened to me in that period of time.

So to clear things up: I will post some new reviews this week.

People are probably wondering why I haven’t updated this in so long. To be honest, I was focusing on my freelance writing career in the beginning. Then I sidetracked myself by writing video game blogs for Bitmob and VentureBeat. Then I decided to work on an associate’s degree in computer information systems, because I had a tough time finding a stable job.

The last few years felt rough. On top of that, I didn’t want to review anime at the time for a few reasons. First of all, I didn’t earn enough money to pay for an online video subscription. Most of my first jobs hardly provided any money for me, so I didn’t have the nerve to plunk down money just to watch anime.

Second, anime simply wasn’t as widely available three years ago. As far as I know, the only streaming service for anime shows at the time was crunchyroll.com. Hulu and Netflix hardly paid attention to such shows. The websites gradually built their library up, though. Now there are plenty of shows available, new and old.

I can finally review the shows that I want to watch. The anime industry has changed a lot over the years though.

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For starters, moe is now a more widely-accepted style of anime. Kyoto Animation built an entire empire on shows such as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Lucky Star. Although the hype for these cute characters has faded somewhat, there are still hints of moe around in various action and romantic comedy shows.

DVD prices have also skyrocketed. Many of the new shows are now in season boxes. Some publishing companies have kept their box prices low, while others have raised them to astronomically high prices. Most of these pricing changes have taken place, because most of the fans now prefer to watch shows on cheaper Internet streaming services. Now the price of DVDs is more or less based on the popularity and the rarity of the series.

Aside from this, anime is growing more popular than ever. I guess the Internet has forever changed how we watch anime. Even the underground fans have scrounged around the illegal websites for rare, uncensored shows from the old days. Believe me–if it exists, someone is streaming it.

So look forward to a few reviews from Anime Epicuriosity. This time, you won’t be disappointed.

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Welcome back! Again!

In case anyone is still wondering if I am still posting, wonder no more. I’m back to writing anime reviews.

My blog-posting habits always enter strange twists. For an entire month, I just stopped for some reason. I guess I looked into posting articles on a video game website. However, after a few posts, my heart just wasn’t in it. My tastes are just too different from the other video game players.

I still watch anime very regularly though. In fact, the finale of Steins;Gate was probably the best ending I’ve seen in a long time. It rekindled my odd love for visual novel games. So I actually downloaded a visual novel game on my iPad. And I loved every second of the first episode.

So just so that everyone knows–I am not dead. I am still a big anime fan. In fact, I still wish that video game publishers would consider porting over that new Studio Ghibli RPG for the Wii.

I might also make some changes as I move back into the swing of blogging. I’m sorry if I got anyone worried over the last few weeks.

…Well, not that anyone’s paying that much attention to a blog with very little activity. However, all that will eventually change, because Willy Wonka is back in action.

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