Anime Review – Attack on Titan

2

Nath sometimes reviews games. This is isn’t one of those times. This time he’s reviewing an anime.

Warning: Contains some spoilers.

I know this series is 2 years old, however I couldn’t escape the hype surrounding this anime and seeing as this is going to become a live action film, I thought I’d give the series a watch. I normally just mainly review video games, but I do love anime as well, haven’t watched any for a while, but I am a huge Death Note, Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, Bleach (actual story, not filler) and Outlaw Star fan. Please note their will be some spoiler alerts, but I will try my best to keep that to a minimum.

Attack on Titan is based on the manga  of the same name written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama, which is hugely successful. It follows the story of 3 childhood friends, Eren Jaeger, Mikasa Ackerman and Armin Arlert, living in a world in fear of Titans, large humanoid giants that eat people without any reason whatsoever. After their home town is invaded and Eren’s mother is eaten, they decide to join the military in order to fight and kill any Titan that stands in their way.

Safe to say, it was a very interesting premise from the start, but how would it unfold? We meet some other members of the Cadet Squad that Eren, Mikasa and Armin are in and get their backstory. However, after graduation there is a large scale Titan attack against the city and the new recruits are thrust into action immediately. One huge Titan appears out of nowhere and starts wreaking havoc against the wall used to protect the inner city of Trost. During the eventual struggle, and the (spoiler alert) quick death of Eren, I did pause and think what the hell is going to happen here.

It turns out (spoiler alert) that Eren has a very unique ability which allows him to turn into a large powerful Titan which allows him to easily take down lesser Titans with ease. Needless to say I was hooked on the storyline, but what about everything else? Well there are some very interesting and unique characters in this series and the interaction between them is excellent. Eren is headstrong and reckless but with a sense of purpose, Mikasa is sensible, level-headed and a skilled warrior, but occasionally lets her feelings get the better of her and Armin is intelligent and excellent at forming strategies, but lacks confident as a warrior. There are some brilliant characters too that you will meet throughout the series, one to look out for is Levi, he’s pretty badass.

The action in this series is very good too, lots high octane flying action as regular humans have to take down Titans using a series of grappling hooks, jet propulsion and disposable swords, with the only to take down a Titan is to slice through the nape of the neck. Needless to say it is not foolproof, Titans are quite quick as they have the ability to catch and crush flying cadets. It is also a bit gory, not as bad as other animes, but still pretty gruesome, people get eaten, crushed, stamped on, swiped and sometimes stabbed. You will see gore and dead bodies throughout the series, but still, lots of action and fantastic storyline.

One important factor I find as well with anime is the opening music. Outlaw Star, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Trigun have some epic opening music. In Attack on Titan, the music changes throughout the series, but the initial opening music is brilliant, very gothic and fast paced.

It is only 25 episodes long too, which means it is a week or two tops to watch all of it and it is available on Netflix. I will be checking out the manga as well as the 2nd season probably won’t start until 2016. There will also be a live action film being produced in Japan so hoping it will be spectacular. This is being released later this year.

I would give this anime a solid 9/10 cuts to the neck. Truly worth a watch and sure to be a complete classic, just wish it was a lot longer. Next on my watch list is Kill la Kill, as that has a lot of hype too.

Nath

We Are the Knights Who Say aNIme

Alex watches too much TV and then thinks about it for longer than is healthy.

For some time now I have been thinking about delving into the world of anime and manga, so many people seem to love it and I thought it was high time to see what all the fuss is about. But even with this sense of determination, an ever-lengthening list of TV shows to watch and a fear of accidentally watching some weird tentacle based hentai has up until now kept me away from the genre. Recently however, a combination of Netflix and insomnia led me to bite the bullet, hoping curiosity would not kill the cat with an invasive tentacle, and watch “Knights of Sidonia” an anime show localised by almighty Netflix and based on a popular manga series of the same name.

The series revolves around the life of Nagate Tanikaze, a young man brought up in secret by his grandfather in the bowels of a giant space ship who, following his grandfather’s death, emerges into the society on the levels above. The ship “Sidonia” is gigantic and fashioned from the remnants of planet Earth, which was destroyed long before by mysterious and creepy space creatures called “Gauna” (who coincidentally feature a lot of tentacles). These Gauna still pursue the remnants of humanity across the universe and it is unknown whether any other ships aside from this one have survived. The ship is protected by the pilots of a fleet of transformer-like fighter jets armed with the only weapons capable of piercing these betentacled weirdos and reducing them to what looks suspiciously like Aero chocolate bubbles. Our hero has mysteriously somehow been trained by his grandfather to be an excellent pilot of one of these fighters and the story follows his journey to becoming a heroic defender of the ship and its inhabitants. There is also a talking bear with a robotic claw who is a chef, and it’s just NEVER mentioned that she’s a bear and there are no other animal people at all. If that fact alone doesn’t sell the series to you I don’t know what will.

knights-of-sidonia-talking-bear

I have to admit I found some of the early episodes quite slow and was on the verge of abandoning ship, but it is at this point a few episodes in that things really start to get going as some genuinely unsettling aspects of the Gauna are revealed and the first hints of a deeper mythology to the show are introduced. I was also really impressed by the world that has been created aboard Sidonia as more of it was unveiled as the series went along. There are some really cool sci-fi ideas, like humans having genetically engineered the ability to photosynthesise to reduce food consumption, as well as some interesting and surprisingly dark exploration of the dangers of day to day living on a spacecraft, like gravity malfunctions or evasive manoeuvres killing thousands of residents in graphic splattery detail completely out of the blue. The universe of this show is futuristic and high-tech, but with a very utilitarian and grubby feel to it that is reminiscent of the workmanlike future in Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” or the noir tower blocks of “Blade Runner”, which is an excellent thing in my opinion.

I was also struck by the similarity between this show and the more recent version of Battlestar Galactica; the remnants of humanity flee through space from a mysterious enemy bent on their destruction, protected only by brave fighter pilots as they search for a new home. The flight suits of the Sidonia pilots also bear quite a resemblance to the Viper pilots of Galactica, I’m not sure if this is intentional as I suppose there are limited options when designing a flight suit but I would like to think it is a little nod to Starbuck and her cohorts. I don’t think this similarity to a blockbuster American show is a bad thing, and it is in no way a rip off there are just similar themes. It puts the tropes and traditions of anime into a recognisable story format for those like me who have no previous experience with the genre. This blend of American style adventure story telling and Japanese sensibilities really does create something new, interesting and accessible; for newbs like me the story is engaging and you pick up the anime bits and bobs along the way and for seasoned fans it has all the style elements you enjoy in a great sci-fi setting. Also story-wise answers are given quickly to thematic and background related questions, which is a refreshing approach considering the infuriating lack of answers at the very end of shows like BSG or Lost in recent years.

The arc of the series comes to a satisfying end that certainly leaves scope for more, and I do hope it gets a second season as it’s only in the last couple of episodes that a great deal of things come to light that suggest the history of Sidonia is not as simple as this cat and mouse game with the Gauna would indicate and it would be great to see these avenues explored fully.  So overall this is a cracking bit of sci-fi with a great theme tune and a good genre jumping on point for the anime-curious like myself.

7 Heigus Particles out of 10.

Alex

 

 

 

Adam’s Ever-Changing Top Five Anime Series Of All Time

Adam attempts to list his favourite anime series. It probably won’t go well.

I said in a previous article that I am terrible at top-fives. That remains true (I started this article in MAY!). I say I’m doing a top-five here, but it is in no particular order, and I’m going to tack on a ‘honourable mention’ list of other series at the end because I struggled so much with the 5th choice so decided to effectively cop out.

I have watched anime for several years now, eleven-ish years to be vaguely accurate from when I properly started getting into it, more years than I care to acknowledge (sixteen years?) if we count watching Dragonball Z repeats on Toonami and the Pokémon series (and for some reason Sailor Moon on Fox Kids. I don’t really remember why I watched it, I do remember learning the lesson that girls often store important things like keys and gems in their bras). At university I joined the Anime Society, went to a few conventions and eventually ended up the Treasurer in my third year, along with our lead games contributor as the President and my whisky drinking partner as the Secretary. I made a good number of excellent friends there (unless any of them are reading this right now in which case fuck all of you especially you Ian), and watched a wide variety of classic and bat-shit crazy Japanese animation. I typically don’t find time to watch as many as I would like anymore, although I do binge occasionally. However, there are a few that have always stuck with me and I always revisit.

 

Cowboy Bebop

Bebop

I wrote a really fawning article about Cowboy Bebop a few months back when we first started this site up. Bebop really is my favourite anime series of all time. It was first broadcast in 1998 by Sunrise and directed by Shinchirō Watanabe. It follows a crew of bounty hunters Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Radical Edward and Ein, aboard the spaceship Bebop as they take jobs around the solar system. Each character has their own unique mysterious background that gets fleshed out eventually, but not to an overly expositional level. Just right. The tone shifts from quirky to more serious noir-esque episodes, and it is very slick and stylish. Themes range from life and death, drugs, tech cults, terrorism, people being kicked in the face, existentialism, a scene where a man uses a lift while on horseback, chess and bloody crime syndicates. All of which is brilliantly underlined by the stellar music, which is a excellent mix of jazz and blues that always suits the tone right up to the final confrontation, all arranged by Yoko Kanno.

 

Neon Genesis Evangelion

NGE

Evangelion is a high concept Japanese mecha series that took the standard giant-robots-fighting-monsters theme and dumped in a whole load of psychoanalysis, existentialism and religious symbolism. The NGE series and concluding films came from Studio Gainax, written and directed by Hideaki Anno in 1995, and still prove controversial today. It is in fact being continued (yes, continued) in the beautifully animated ‘Rebuild of Evangelion’ tetralogy of films from the same people. The story follows Shinji Ikari, a 14-year-old unassuming kid, called upon by his absent father’s shadowy organisation NERV to pilot the monstrous Evangelion against attacking ‘angels’ in an attempt prevent a repeat of ‘Second Impact’, a devastating cataclysmic event that nearly wiped out all of humanity.

The plot becomes as wrapped up with Shinji’s relationships with his fellow pilots and the adults around him as it does the relentless angel attacks, culminating in one of the oddest choices for an ending I have ever seen for a series – a thematic ending that essentially plays out in the lead character’s psyche. The film that followed, ‘The End of Evangelion’, then provided the meat to this inner turmoil, although is almost just as odd in its own way. This was surprisingly my gateway into wider anime at around age 15. Surprising because it is ridiculously high concept, complex and twisted. A few friends introduced me to the NGE series, and every now and then we still binge-watch it for fun and get together to watch each ‘Rebuild’ film as it comes out (although I wasn’t particularly impressed by the mess of the third instalment ‘You Can (Not) Redo. I’m hoping they stick the landing with the final part).

 

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

GITS

Stand Alone Complex is a cyberpunk series based on Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell series, directed by Kenji Kamiyama and set apart from the original 1995 film of the same name. As in the Ghost in the Shell film, Stand Alone Complex follows Japanese Public Security Section 9, a special ops team led by Major Motoko Kusanagi, as they investigate various hackers and cyber criminals, and prevent terrorist attacks in the city of Nihama. Set in 2030, everyone is heavily cyberised to the extent where most have cyberbrains, allowing them to seamlessly communicate and access the internet without any external devices, can upgrade their processing power and store their memories externally. High-end prosthetics can make people incredibly powerful, and some (including the Major) have entirely prosthetic bodies effectively owned by the government. ‘Stand-Alone’ episodes are single stories, seemingly unconnected, while ‘Complex’ episodes tie into the main plot in some way. The first series deals with a cyber criminal known as ‘The Laughing Man’, the so-called Stand Alone Complex and a fan of Catcher in the Rye. The second deals with a terrorist cell known as the Individual Eleven and vanishing mediators. Trust me, it all makes sense when you watch it. Kind of.

What I enjoy most about this series, besides the kick-ass female lead (hence my disquiet when the constantly in-development western live-action adaptation announced that the studio were allowing them to have a female main character, like it was an achievement rather than something that should have been taken for granted that it was happening), is the believable level of future technology (though admittedly probably a couple of decades premature). Following two more world wars, technology has again leapt forward due to a need for radiation scrubbers and replacing the lost-limbs of those injured in the combat. Given where we are today, I found a lot of the cyberisation to seem very achievable. Music was once again arranged by Yoko Kanno, and while very different from the score in Cowboy Bebop it is brilliant in its own right.

 

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

FMA2

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is the second series based on Hiromu Arakawa’s manga, produced by Bones studios, but unlike the first (which was also pretty good, but had to improvise more than half of it’s storyline) this one started in 2009 when Arakawa was within sight of the end of her story, with the final issue coming out just a month before the final episode of Brotherhood aired. Fullmetal Alchemist centres around two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, following their mother’s death. They perform the forbidden human transmutation, a form of alchemy that theoretically could create a human being,  in an attempt to revive her. It turns out it is forbidden for a reason – alchemy requires ‘equivalent exchange’, so you can’t make something from nothing and the chemical components they have arranged are inadequate. In the attempt Edward loses his leg, while Alphonse loses his entire body. To then successfully bind his younger brother’s soul to a nearby suit of armour, Edward also has one of his arms ripped from him. Now older, Ed (now with prosthetics) and Al travel the country of Amestris to find the secret of the Philosopher’s stone, a substance that is said to boost alchemy and therefore hopefully allow them to restore what they have lost. Ed becomes a State Alchemist, or ‘dog of the military’, and the brothers befriend many other alchemists and members of the military in their quest, my favourite being Roy Mustang the Flame Alchemist. They soon encounter the Homunculi, a group with superhuman abilities named after the 7 deadly sins and working for a shadowy figure known as ‘Father’, with nefarious plans that threaten the lives of everyone in the country.

I think the only place the series slips is in the rushed way they cover the first few beats of the story. I can only assume they wanted to move through it quickly, as it all happens in the original series, to get to the parts of the story published since that series diverted from Arakawa’s plot. However, I think this does the story somewhat of a disservice, especially as there are a couple of really integral parts that aren’t given the time they deserve, as they carry a huge amount of emotional heft and inform the actions of a few major characters down the line. It’s a small complaint though, as the episodes are still there and the rest of the show is just superb. The animation is great, and the plot is really strong. I actually own both the manga and the whole series on blu-ray, and it is stunning.

 

One Piece

One Piece

Eiichiro Oda started his One Piece manga back in 1997, and it is still going. I think I remember reading a quote from him a few years ago indicating that he was only halfway through his intended series, and while it’s length had gotten away from him he still intended it to end as he had always planned. There is currently over 750 chapters published in Weekly Shonen Jump, and the anime adaptation has had over 650 episodes with surprisingly few filler episodes considering how long it has gone on for. Despite all this, it is largely quality AND quantity. I think I watched a huge number of these episodes when I first got into the series back when I was supposed to be revising for my final year exams for my degree, shockingly not affecting how well I did considering how I would often binge 10+ episodes in a row.

One Piece centres around Monkey D. Luffy, a pirate whose  goal is to become the Pirate King and to find the elusive treasure One Piece, hidden at the end of the oceans by the the previous Pirate King, Gol D. Roger. Like many people in the world, Luffy has gained a special ability through consuming a ‘Devil’s Fruit’, one off substances that bestow one-of-a-kind powers but turn the individual into an anchor – the sea saps their strength and they sink immediately, difficult for a pirate. Luffy is a rubber man, and uses stretchy powers to deflect bullets and canon fire, and to create devastating attacks that basically involve flailing his limbs. Throughout the series, Luffy gathers various crew members with and without abilities, all of whom have some other similarly lofty goal like ‘map all the seas’ or ‘become the world’s greatest swordsman’,  while butting heads with other crews and the World Government and their Marines. Being a Shonen Jump series, pretty much everything is achieved and defeated using punching and friendship. However, One Piece is particularly strong and wildly inventive, with pretty much every new character and arc being different and interesting. It has to have been to have gone on so long!

 

And that’s that. A bit longer than I intended. Honourable mention goes to:

Trigun – Love it, but a similar situation to FMA Brotherhood. The anime series started and finished years before the manga was even half way. What I wouldn’t give for a full length ‘Trigun Maximum’ series, now that the manga is over.

FLCL – Wacky and excellent.

Black Lagoon – Hail of bullets, bounty hunters and Revy is just excellent.

Hellsing – Particularly the Hellsing Ultimate OVAs, again a more faithful adaptation of the manga. Nazi vampires.

Death Note – Really clever plotting, the first arc is fantastic. It lost me a bit in the middle, but still ended pretty strongly.

Outlaw Star – Paga Wa San Fa

Attack on Titan – Pretty grim stuff. Good grim stuff though.

Bleach – Yeah, yeah. I know it has it’s problems. A lot of people complain about this series and its storyline. The characters always resonated with me and I liked the core story, though I will admit it has become bogged down in constant fighting with limited plot. Also the anime series was awful for filler arcs. I wish it had stopped earlier, and then come back when more manga had been written. I know it isn’t as simple as that though.

Naruto – I used to really like Naruto, but at one point (actually for similar reasons to why people have gone off Bleach) I just stopped caring. Especially compared to One Piece, later on a slew of new characters were introduced that were just terribly fleshed out and I just didn’t care what happened to them. In the last couple of years almost every character has become totally superfluous, with the series being less about ninjas with a few super powers and more about a couple of gods throwing ridiculously powerful things at each other while everyone else tries to stay out of the way. Kakashi is a badass though.

Fate/Zero – A prequel to Fate Stay Night, but I found the story to be much more compelling.

And while this is a series ‘Top Five’, I would be remiss to not mention films like the original Ghost in the Shell, Akira and most of the Studio Ghibli films, in particular Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (but certainly not limited to those), as all being superb and worth checking out.

 

Adam

 

 

Shouting At An Abyss That Just Stares Back – Infighting and Nerd Elitism

Adam yells about people on the internet, knowing full well the futility of it.

Not censoring this time, so for those of an offended disposition avoid accordingly as there are some hurtful words I guess.

When I did the first of these Abyss articles, I thought they would be more regular. You may think this reflects a reduction in the things that make me angry. You would be wrong. The case is really that I have simply not had enough time of late to keep up with things, and most of the things that have made me angry have been work-related (or living-broke-in-London-related) so aren’t really relevant to the sort of things we cover on the site. I did end up writing one about how much I hate kids, but turned out to be pointless and I came off sounding like even more of a dick than I usually do.

So this rant is really directed at nerd infighting and elitism, something that has frankly pissed me off for years. This takes many forms. On the simplest level you get fanboy-ism. We saw this all over the internet at an increased level following the release of PS4 and Xbox One (and a little bit after last week’s E3). General comments threads about Xbox of Playstation tend to go “unlucky butthurt Xbox/Playstation gamers, your console is shit and ours is better” “too bad your resolution/exclusives are worse and your console is therefore totally useless” “some random insult against Nintendo who had nothing to do with the story”, and then finally from a PC gamer saying something along the lines of “console gaming is trash, we have been able to do that for years with PC, everyone should only play PC because consoles are shit and dying”. No one is going to take your console away if you don’t defend it with terminal ferocity at every opportunity and non-opportunity. If someone you have never and will never meet prefers something to what you love, you don’t need to tell them how wrong they are or how stupid you think they are. Don’t be a prick.

It is a sort of behaviour that is rife across a lot of different nerdy interests, and I don’t really get it because for a group that has historically tended to be fringe and can be mocked and ridiculed for their interests, there sure are a lot of shits within that who like to ostracise other folk because they don’t like the exact same thing or aren’t a ‘hardcore enough nerd’, whatever that means. When I was an undergraduate, eons ago, I decided to join the anime society. Two things drove this decision really, first being that I really like anime and the second being that given half a chance I will always choose a lazy option. Sport? Pfft! Sit and watch anime then go to the pub? Much better. Whenever I went off to soc I would be met with brief derision from other friends (to the point where I told one of them to fuck off for being such a smug arsehole once when very irritable from coursework and sleep deprivation. He knows who he is). But at that soc I met some of my best friends from uni, and Ian, so I don’t regret it. A new experience that stemmed from this was attending a few anime conventions with some cosplayers, and even trying it myself a few times (more derision, and yes if you carry a prop of Nicholas D. Wolfwood’s Punisher weapon through Bristol town centre on a Thursday night people will drunkenly yell at you asking if you are Jesus).

nicholas

The thing that bothered me at these cons, something I soon found out is pervasive in general nerd culture (plenty of stories on the internet from folk being treated like shit for daring to walk into a comic book shop for the first time not knowing everything about everything, mercifully I never experienced this) was the realisation that there were some who held a sort of insipid elitism against perceived fair weather fans or people who like more popular series. Calling people ‘Narutards’ because they like the ninja series Naruto is fucking ridiculous. Just because someone hasn’t heard of your favourite obscure 90’s OVA that was only available to the very coolest of nerds does not give them any less of a right to attend and hang out with like minded people for a bit of fun. So the fuck what if they bought their Ichigo Kurosaki costume from eBay and you sewed yours together out of your own blood and hair using frozen tears as needles? People will be more impressed when you say you did that. That’s enough, you won (disclaimer – I once unthinkingly mocked a friend because someone else made his Cyclops visor. Because I am a fucking terrible hypocrite. I am sorry).

Obviously anime cons are just a small scale example of something I have found to be much more widespread (and these people are definitely a minority at cons, most of the people there are fucking lovely) both on and offline about everything from comics and video games to TV and movies. I think some of this perceived superiority comes from those who think that our “little” out group is under threat of becoming mainstream and too popular. I once heard someone at one of these cons say that he did not like how busy it was that year, or that they were becoming more popular. I do not get this at all. It reminds me of when I was a kid and I was told about a band, who I later started to like. When I met up with the same person again, eager to chat abut the band that person had gone off them because they were ‘too popular’. My child brain couldn’t understand it. My adult brain still doesn’t understand it (though maybe that is because it is pickling in whisky). I think it is great that more people are interested in comics recently. I love that not only are we getting so many Marvel films, but they are really decent. Plus for once I get to appear a (relative) expert on something when people turn to me after a post credits scene to ask what the hell is going on. I’m not even sick of explaining to people why Batman or Superman won’t be in the Avengers movies, though I am sick of explaining why Wolverine and Spider-man won’t be. Because the reason is boring.

Maybe instead of getting upset that so many people are wearing Green Lantern or Star Wars t-shirts when they are so very clearly a ‘fake nerd’ guy or girl (probably a separate rant about what a fucking stupid thing that is), try being happy that we are getting a Guardians of the Galaxy film and we had a fucking Winter Soldier film adaptation this year which was great. Don’t like The Big Bang Theory? Don’t watch it then, and definitely don’t start saying that everyone who does watch it must be stupid, because that makes you a cunt. And definitely don’t start throwing around terms like ‘nerd blackface‘ (look it up, probably another rant coming later too) because that makes you a remarkably narrow minded, culturally insensitive cunt.

I definitely ended on a different topic than I started at. Rant ends.

 

What I’m playing – Replaying Bioshock Infinite Burial at Sea Chapters 1 & 2

What I’m reading (Books) – Perdido Street Station – China Miéville (actually just finished. Fucking brilliant, read it)

What I’m reading (Comics) – Judge Dredd The Complete Case Files 02 – Various writers and artists (2000AD)

What I’m listening to – Möngöl Hörde – Möngöl Hörde, Till Midnight – Chuck Ragan, From Parts Unknown – Every Time I Die

What I’m watching – Orange is the New Black Season 2 (Netflix)

More Than One Million People Didn’t Need a Burn Heal!

If you have seen the news recently, or you may decided to look at some news because you were bored at work, you may have stumbled onto a new internet social/gaming experiment entitled “Twitch Plays Pokemon.” No doubt you’ve heard of it, but if not, it is simply an online version of Pokemon Red, but with a twist.

You start in a chat room and basically there are 2 modes of gameplay. Democracy gameplay is where each player inputs a command over a 30 second period and the key with most votes is inputted into the game. However when Anarchy gameplay starts, any key that is pressed is inputted into the game, allowing for a mass amount of chaos.

As you can see, it looks like a giant clusterf**k of people just hitting in commands in order to complete the game, but eventually it was completed. However it wasn’t an easy process due to the amount of absolute assholes who started playing and thought it would be funny to make the gameplay more difficult.  Asshole might be an understatement when you consider the following occurred:

  1. People jumping off  ledges during the long maze areas of the game
  2. Bloody Sunday where 12 Pokemon got released
  3. Repeated use of the start command and using items that really weren’t necessary
  4. Constant use of the Pokedex
  5. Constant saving

I know some of the above may not seem too much of a problem but seriously people, releasing 12 Pokemon? What the actual fuck? That’s 2 teams of Pokemon. You people who call yourself “Trolls” and think it’s funny are just fuckheads. You even released the starter Pokemon! A level 34 Charmeleon! He was 2 levels away from being a Charizard!? Charizard is one of the best Pokemon in the game. He flies and breathes fire. I hope you’re all ashamed of yourselves and you quietly die in a hole.

Maybe a bit over the top, but nevertheless, the trolls probably did die in their respective holes as the game was completed. It proves the gaming world is full assholes but eventually, with enough perseverance, gamers can rally together and finish one of the greatest games ever made.

If I’m honest, I wish I had the opportunity to take part in this experiment, but luckily the anonymous designer has applied the same idea to Pokemon Crystal. I will having a crack at that and make a valid attempt at completing it as my life plan is to not die in a hole.

The Real Folk Blues

1

I really struggle with lists. Desert island discs; top-fives; to-do lists; for whatever reason there is always a part of them I just can’t finish. With to-do lists I never have enough time to do everything, especially the important stuff like work or cleaning myself, so I inevitably put extra tasks on like ‘read new Justice League’ or ‘have a sandwich’ so I get some sense of achievement. Desert island discs I always think this will be dead easy. I know the bands I want, but then get stumped as to which of their albums I’d want to spend my days listening to while I cultivate my beard and yell at a volleyball.

Top fives are the worst, being too restrictive. I try to distil all of my favourite films, bands, video games, types of bacon or lengths of string into five measly choices and even then I can’t rank them. I usually just give up and say “these five, in some discernable order. No follow up questions”, failing even to decide what would top each list as it is so interchangeable. This is almost entirely true for my top five anime series of all time (I’ll save that attempt for a later post), except for that last part – I do know my number one: Cowboy Bebop.

Cowboy Bebop is a 26 episode series originally broadcast in Japan in 1998 by Sunrise, directed by Shinchirō Watanabe. Set in the year 2071, it follows a crew of bounty hunters aboard the spaceship Bebop as they take jobs around the solar system. The crew itself is a small eclectic (but still relatively standard) mix with Spike Spiegel, a former member of crime syndicate; Jet Black, an ex-detective; Faye Valentine, another bounty hunter they pick up on the way; Radical Edward, a master hacker; and Ein, a ‘data dog’. Throughout the series the characters have their back stories fleshed out always to exactly the right amount of detail, with their individual mysteries and motivations never becoming the focus of each player unless the episode calls for it. But each member of the Bebop still gets an arc that develops fully and feels genuine. It also, in my opinion, has one of those perfect endings, leaving you immensely satisfied but simultaneously wanting more.

The tone of the show can shift from quirky fun (there is an entire episode about the crew getting off their faces on mushrooms) to more serious noir-esque episodes, and it is consistently slick and stylish as hell. All the good stuff is in there too – life and death, drugs , tech cults, terrorism, people being kicked in the face, existentialism, a scene where a man uses a lift while on horseback, chess and bloody crime syndicates.  The animation still looks good 15 years on, with some great looking fight scenes and dogfights in space. It also remains one of the very few animes where I actually prefer the English dub too (the other probably being Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex), the entire cast really brings their characters to life.

Special mention definitely needs to go out to the music too, which is a brilliant mix of jazz and blues that always suits the tone and is a constant delight throughout, right up to the final confrontation. The music was arranged by Yoko Kanno and played by her along with The Seatbelts, a band basically created by Kanno for the series. It is a constant delight throughout, and the opening theme ‘Tank!’ remains one of my favourite starts to any show which I never find myself wanting to skip no matter how many times I hear it.

I really can’t express the love I have for the show. My screen name on everything from playstation network to Twitter is based on it. If you haven’t seen it, track it down on all the normal internet based retailers, or for an unnecessary mark-up if you can actually find it on the high street. The series is actually being released on Blu-ray, and I am going to have to have words with myself about whether or not buying it is a good idea (even though the boxset I already own is gorgeous). It is a great, self-contained show, and while I say it definitely should never be continued as it is perfect the way it is, I know I’m lying and would love to see more (though you can always check out the film, which is also great but with even better animation).

See you space cowboy…

Adam