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It’s nice to know that Maru has gone from indiscriminate execution to kinda listening to what people have to say.

I’ve been watching a couple anime as of late! It’s actually been a while since I’ve picked up a new series, but in the past two months I’ve watched Voltron (not technically an anime, I realize), Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Berserk (2016), and Kuromukuro.

Guys, Voltron is so much fun! This animation studio went from making big action/adventure asian inspired martial arts epics to big action/adventure scifi mecha/space opera epics, they are my FAVORITE PEOPLE. My only complaint about it is that there isn’t currently enough episodes. Episode 11 ends on a big ol’ cliffhanger and nothing is resolved, which is infuriating when you’re having such a jolly time watching the show! Oh wait, I do have one other complaint. WHY NOT USE THE ORIGINAL THEME?? I mean, I like the new theme, it grew on me pretty quick, but the classic Voltron theme is probably the most quintessential GET HYPED music ever made, Thundercats’ theme being a close second. Every time Voltron forms in the new series, I unconsciously begin to vibrate with anticipation over hearing that improbably awesome theme, but I’m consistently let down! Other than that, though, show’s just great, go watch it.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, or Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, is ALRIGHT. I enjoyed parts of it and I love the concept and character design, although it feels like a derivative work trying to cash in on the popularity of Attack on Titan. Initially I thought I would like it more than AoT, seeing as how it’s basically steampunk samurai armed fighting zombies, but it quickly gets bogged down in way too much melodrama and perhaps too little plot clarification for my tastes. My initial impression of the cast was very positive, as they all came off as smart and proactive, but about four episodes in, everyone started getting very emo and indecisive, and the introduction of a main villain took the show in a direction less about straight up survival, and maybe over complicated a series that was only 12 episode long. The pacing also has a lot of stop and go to it and the ending definitely left me with more questions than answers. If it gets another season, I’ll watch it! But I didn’t like Iron Fortress nearly as much as I thought I would. Great soundtrack, though. I loves me some Hiroyuki Sawano.

Berserk (2016) is a direct sequel to the new movies, or the original 1998 anime. Unfortunately, it’s almost entirely done using some rather ugly CG character models, and there’s a lot of stiff animation and fugly faces. Visually, it’s not my favorite thing. I am happy it exists, though. The anime is only two episodes in so far, and it’s interesting enough that I’ll certainly keep watching, being a big fan of Berserk. If nothing else, it’s definitely gotten me to go back and start re-reading the manga, which is probably one of the most engrossing and visually impressive manga ever made, easily being my second favorite after Kenshin, and even then probably only second because Kenshin actually has a fantastic and conclusive ending. After two episode, I don’t know if I can really recommend Berserk (2016) to fans who haven’t read the manga and are looking for a continuation of the two animated adaptations of the Golden Age arc. Instead, I’d just recommend to read the darn manga because it’s incredible. But who knows, maybe we’ll get a Sailor Moon Crystal scenario where the show would go from looking ugly and low budget to looking utterly beautiful between season breaks. (I just compared Berserk to Sailor Moon)

OKAY GUYS, HERE’S WHERE IT GETS REAL. I had not heard or Kuromukuro, it was totally off my radar. While browsing Netflix I just saw that it was a new addition, and the description was something like “a samurai from the past helps defend a research station from attacking mechs”. I was all “I enjoy all the nouns and verbs in that description, maybe I’ll watch this show”. Well, and this is NO JOKE, I may have found my new favorite anime of all time! We’ll have to see, since I’m only three episodes in, but I pretty much love everything about this show, and it contains very few of the anime tropes that infuriate me. So far the characters are well defined and interesting, with no cast member coming off as boring or annoying. The main character, Yukina, is ALMOST too boring, but she’s established with an expertise in geology and geography, and she’s generally laid back, which makes her far less frustrating to watch than your standard ‘hyper anime girl’ trope. Kennosuke, the samurai from the past, is the classic ‘fish out of water’ time traveler, and although it’s been done to death, it’s a trope that I never get tired of, especially when played for humor. Kennosuke is so wonderfully earnest that he’s impossible not to like. He’s also a super badass when he’s piloting his giant robot or fighting enemy mechs buck naked. The other side characters are great too, my favorite being Tom Borden, who acts exactly like you’d expect Kenta Daisuke would if given a giant robot. But what really sells this show for me, other than it’s beautiful animation, great character designs, and incredible fight choreography, is the PACING. this show has some of the best pacing in an anime I can recall in a long time. Each episode (and, mind you, I’ve only seen the first three so far), slowly builds up the story, letting the characters grow and interact with each other before throwing a big problem at them. The jokes are legitimately funny and not the “I’m eating a lot of food” or “I fell on a girl and touched her boob” anime garbage I hate (although there was one grope joke that I groaned at). Overall, it avoids the blatant and distracting fan service and tired, overused jokes of most anime to deliver a character driven story full of, well, samurai robots that fight with giant swords. It’s fantastic and everyone should be watching it! (okay, I’m seriously be geeking out about this show, I can’t help it. Everyone’s got such great hair!)

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  • McNutty

    He’s finally had some genre-savvy knocked into him. Now he just needs to continue his strategy of fighting dirty by kicking low. Add some sand throwing to his arsenal, and his sword will be superfluous.

    • Kid Chaos

      Let’s not go crazy (that’s my job!), but I like where you’re going with this. Lord Maru may just make to Breakout Character status yet! 😎

      • Xinef

        Who knows, maybe he will be the one to take down Nataku? After all he’s got a pretty good motive.
        Sure, last time it didn’t work, but it was due to facial hair. Now Maru just needs to grow more, and he’ll surely win.

        • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

          But what about Ken’s REVENGEANCE??

          • Xinef

            … maybe we can convince him to share Nataku with others? A little bit for everyone?

            … and if we can’t convince him, we can always clone Nataku, so there will be plenty for everyone.

          • Turul

            Yeah, lord Maru can cleave him in two, and Ken gets to hack one half in pieces. Then Ken gets to hack the other half in pieces too, because Maru already got to cleave him in half, I’m sure that’s sufficiently satisfying.

  • clogboy

    Kuromukuro is also on my radar, I’ll definitely watch it.
    Voltron? Kinda liked it, not entirely my cup of tea but one of the few shows I actually felt like binge watching. The whole main story is kinda chaotic IMO (then again so is life) with filler stuff inbetween where it isn’t warranted, adding not a whole lot to character development. But it’s a nice snackable I guess. Disclaimer: I have watched the original Voltron pilot episode a decade ago, but that was pre-Internet and I don’t live in the United States. So exposure to the source material was very limited.
    I liked the Korra-esque characters in this show though. Felt sort of familiar.

    • Kid Chaos

      Kuromukuro sounds interesting, and I have Netflix, so let’s go for it! 😎

      • clogboy

        Watched it. Decent animation, I like that even a lot of robot scenes are hand-animated rather than CGI. It is good if you like confused heroes and damsels in distress (but then again that’s how Gundam Wing started out). Storytelling? Naw, just pretext for giant friggin’ robots in melee combat (but that might be a bit premature after just 2 episodes).

        • Kid Chaos

          But there isn’t a lot of speechifying (like Gundam Wing), right? :)

        • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

          Ha, did we watch the same show? The animation is incredible, and all the mechs are CG. Granted, seeing as how I like Full Metal Panic, I do enjoy confused heroes.

          • Kid Chaos

            I haven’t seen Kuromukuro yet, but I have seen GW. I’ll get to work on KR ASAP, OK? 😎

          • clogboy

            Do we watch it the same way, probably not. But if all the mech are CG then they’ve done a good job not making it look that way… ie sharp outlines and choppy animation at some point (in a good way like old school Appleseed and Patlabor – but then I am starting to get sort of oldfashioned at 34).
            As a fan of the Kenshin OVA’s (the serious ones with the origin story), Gundam Wing and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood my taste for pacing and dramatic moments are different. Never been into Bleach or Naruto although i believe in an instant that it’s very good. The best anime I watched last year were Akame Ga Kill and One Punch Man.
            Kuromukuro has yet to tingle my spine, although the fightscene in episode 2 (in the city) came close. Hope it gets better :)

  • charles81

    Hand cannons cannot compare to the mighty foot-in-nads technique!

    • Kid Chaos

      How about head-cannons? 😜

      • Flaming Squirrel

        Why stop there? Let’s make a cannon for every part of your body! Shoulder cannons, knee cannons, elbow cannons, stomach cannons, chest cannons (one for each nipple)

        • SKy
          • Falling Star

            Points lost for lack of foot cannons.

          • SKy

            D’oh! >.<

          • Xinef

            And crotch cannons!

          • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

            He’s at least got pelvic cannons.

          • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

            Is the enemy here? IT’S A GUNDAM!!!

        • Sunwu

          As your president I promise a cannon in very hand and a bird fish in every home

        • Kid Chaos

          Now you’re talking. 😎

        • JTMC93

          So a BattleMech from BattleTech?

  • Flaming Squirrel

    I imagine Nataku’s hiding behind a tree nearby when Maru says his “suspicious characters line.” A few minutes later, they’re approached by a guy who bares a striking resemblance to General Nataku, except for his thick black glasses, bushy eyebrows, and KILLER black mustache.
    “Oh ho ho, good evening, gentlemen! I heard that you are in search of suspicious characters! Being a suspicious character myself, I thought I might offer my assistance, wot wot?”

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      Flaming Squirrel, I tend to agree with you, I got tired of long form shounen anime like the one you list a while back. Episodes are always inconsistent in their animation and story telling quality, the stories drag, and they tend to become overwrought with too many characters. I’ve grown to appreciate half season series that run between 11 to 13 episodes and have much nicer animation and more streamlined storytelling. I’m currently 5 episodes into kuromukuro and still think it’s great, and it’s only 11 or 12 episodes, so I doubt it will wear out its welcome! If you’re going to only love one anime, though, FMA: Brotherhood is a very very good choice.

      • Flaming Squirrel

        It’s not so much the story for me, it’s the characters. Ichigo is trying way too hard to appeal to edgy teenagers (you know, the kind who worship Tim Burton and buy all their clothes at Hot Topic), and Naruto can go die in a fire. Fairy Tail’s tone jumps around way too much. I can enjoy a happy, silly, goofy show, and I can enjoy a tense, action filled show, but I can’t get invested in a story that bounces between one and the other with no warning (so yeah, that one is about the story, I guess). I watched the first episode of 7 Deadly Sins and never touched it again. Why? BECAUSE IT WAS THE FIRST EPISODE OF FAIRY TAIL WITH DIFFERENT CHARACTERS! (deep breath) And while I don’t particularly care for SAO, I will admit that the anime is miles above the books it’s based on. I’ve watched two episodes of Blue Exorcist, and I feel like that has potential, so we’ll see how it goes. I tried watching Death Note (you know, the anime that everyone agrees is the Japanese spoken Word of God?), and didn’t care for it either. It was really cool for what it was, but it felt more like a murder mystery than anything else, and I prefer… not murder mysteries. Someday I’m going to buy the complete DVD collection of FMA:B so I’ll be able to watch the whole thing.

        • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

          Ha, for someone who’s not that into anime, sounds like you watch more than me! I really liked Bleach when it was about Ichigo releasing lost and corrupted souls, but once they introduced the Soul Society arc, it all stopped making any sense and completely fell apart (the after life is basically feudal Japan, what?). Naruto basically was just that first story arc with Zabuza done ad nauseum with new bad guys. If either of those series had ended after the first season they would’ve been cult classics, instead they’re super phenomenally popular hot garbage (maybe that’s too harsh). Fairy Tail just looked dumb and ugly from the start so I had no interest. I did enjoy Death Note, but I also enjoy murder mysteries, and I’ve never gone back to rewatch it. SAO’s first 15 eps were fun, but made no sense in the context of it being an MMO game, and the following season made less and less sense, and the misogyny completely turned me off.

          I’m sorry that Kuromukuo is Japanese only. It’s likely just not popular enough to warrant an English dub yet.

          • Flaming Squirrel

            I actually don’t watch a ton of anime, I just watch a ton of first episodes to anime. The only one I’ve watched beginning to end (at least, as much as was available) was FMA:B

    • purplelibraryguy

      I miss Patlabor. Anyone else?

  • Falling Star
  • Hfar

    Maru has mastered a technique that has eluded even great heroes: character growth. May it serve him well in the chapters to come.

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      It’s a rare thing indeed for a secondary character.

      • Peter Sadlon

        And almost unheard of in a tertiary character.

  • Sunwu

    Good for Maru not giving into his Prejudices about supicous characters! Ronin Lives matter.

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      Uh oh, best to keep politics out of this samurai comedy!

  • Galeden

    Not exactly the best thing to base your decisions on…. but meh if it works, right?

  • SlugFiller

    Hand cannons? So they already have a concept of cannons?

    I mean, they have wood fortresses. Even ancient cannons should reek havoc on fortifications.

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      Didn’t they have bamboo canons that shoot fireworks? Or was that only China? Or did that exist at all? I should probably look it up.

      • SlugFiller

        It seems like some sort of cannon did exist in Japan as early at the 13th century, but cannons never got any significant use until guns had already been introduced, during the Sengoku era.

        If this is just the start of guns being introduced, as the lord of a single village, Maru might recognize a concept of fireworks, and the idea of long-range weaponry through bows, but the concept of “cannon” should still be somewhat foreign.

        The again, NN4B is quite anachronistic as it is. Maybe they’ve had some incident with cannons that was meaningful enough to enter common history, but not significant enough for cannons to become a standard tool for any sufficiently large army?

        I’m not sure how that would work, but given that the Wataro didn’t bombard Maru’s village, but rather, marched on it, I can only assume that they don’t have any truly effective cannons. After all, during Sengoku, they appeared in almost every other battle. Even at their weakest, they were great for support fire, morale and anti-cavalry.

    • purplelibraryguy

      How ancient? In Europe, early cannons often had vaguely cone-shaped barrels, wider at the front than at the back. They didn’t shoot things very hard. This seems dumb until one realizes that they were made of wood banded with iron, and would probably explode if you made a straight barrel because the pressure would be too high. Sometimes they exploded anyway. And they were if anything even slower to reload than trebuchets and such.

      So overall, cannons didn’t create a revolution in siegecraft the moment they were introduced. It took some difficult metal casting technology to be married to the gunpowder technology before things got serious. Some of the well known Italian Renaissance artist and sculptor guys made their bread and butter casting cannons for the nobility as much as casting statues.

  • IDPounder

    I haven’t watched any anime in quite a while, I’ll have to check out Kuromukuro. Thanks for the info, Alex!

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      I used to watch soooo much anime, but I’ve definitely become bitter and cynical in my old age. At this point I’ll only watch something if I think it’s top quality, which is probably a good position to take seeing as how there’s just so much anime out there.

      • IDPounder

        I may get drummed out of the comment section for saying so, but in my experience the vast majority of anime is total crap. It really has to pass a high bar before I’d watch it…so prepare to have your taste judged, sir!

        • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

          Hey, I’m on record for calling out 98% of anime as garbage!

  • JTMC93

    Have you seen G-Tekketsu(Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans) yet? They really had fun with death flags. Especially ones that they had apparently no plans of following up on. Though maybe season 2 will change that.

    And man seems I can’t watch any mech series without trying to make its mechs in Battletech.

  • Gillsing

    Thanks for recommending Kuromukuro! I’m quite averse to the mecha genre in general, but this show I liked. I quickly noticed in the credits that it was made by PA Works, and I recognised the general style from other shows I liked: Shirobako, Hanasaku Iroha, and currently Sakura Quest. And they did Another too? I should probably check out everything they’ve made.

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