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Dragon Ball – Adaptation Analysis Part 7: General Blue and the Pirate Treasure

Goku sets out to find the next Dragon Ball only to discover that the radar Bulma gifted him at the end of 21st Tenkaichi Budokai broke at some point during the events of Muscle Tower.

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Red Ribbon Army arc Part III

Chapters 55 – 112, Episodes 29 – 78

Upon being gifted a Dragon Ball from Hatchan and finding the gentle Artificial Human a new home with Snow, Goku sets out to find the next Dragon Ball only to discover that the radar Bulma gifted him at the end of 21st Tenkaichi Budokai broke at some point during the events of Muscle Tower. Given the ferocity at which Goku fights, it does make sense he would naturally damage his possessions sooner or later. Depriving Goku of the Dragon Rider likewise provides a suitable excuse for integrating Bulma back into the plot considering she was the one who originally built it, requiring Goku travel to West City and find her.

Comically, with no means of transportation, Goku temporarily finds himself stranded only to be informed by the mayor of Jingle Village that Kinto’un cannot actually be destroyed. So long as Goku calls out for the cloud, it will come back reformed. While giving Goku back Kinto’un so soon after its initial deformation at the hands of Colonel Silver seems like a misstep, the humor associated with Goku never even trying to call for the cloud in hindsight fits his character rather well, and Kinto’un is simply too useful as a literary device to keep it away from Goku for the bulk of the arc.

Goku’s visit to Bulma acts as a detour of sorts, allowing audiences to decompress after the action of Muscle Tower. Toriyama also uses this story beat to introduce the series’ first urban setting: West City. A metropolis, West City adds a considerable amount of flavor to the world of Dragon Ball. While the manga’s aesthetic was rooted in retro-futurism from the first chapter, the settings were almost always primarily grounded in rural environments with a Chinese influence. West City feels appropriately westernized with a heavy emphasis on technology.

West City also shows a greater glimpse at the inhabitants of Dragon Ball’s world. Throughout the early arcs of the series, Toriyama draws an equal blend of human and animal characters. It isn’t until West City, however, where they are shown co-existing in one set location. The blend of humans and animals is entirely visual, but it’s one that adds a considerable amount of charm to Dragon Ball’s socioeconomic landscape.

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via Goku visits West City for the first time, Viz translation

Goku spends approximately two chapters of the manga in West City. The first chapter sets up the new environment along with showcasing how out of place Goku is in an urban setting. The second, meanwhile, has Goku reuniting with Bulma and her agreeing to help hunt for the Dragon Balls. As far as pacing goes, two chapters are more than enough to gives readers a chance to breathe before moving onto the next major plot point. Anymore downtime in West City would risk damaging the story’s natural flow. Up to this point, Dragon Ball has made rather consistent work of ensuring every story beat either moves the plot forward, widens the world, or expands the series’ arcs of themes.

As to be expected, this is an idea that only applies to the manga. While the anime often makes insightful additions, the rate of needless or harmful filler has risen considerably since the start of the series. Muscle Tower’s filler mostly helped to meaningfully expand Goku’s adventure in Jingle Village, but West City’s filler is more in line with the material found in the build-up to Colonel Silver. While not harmful in the same way as Silver’s filler, Goku spends three episodes in West City, all of which serve to mainly stall for time.

Rather than simply finding Bulma and heading off together to find the next Dragon Ball, the Red Ribbon Army hires a mercenary, Husky, to intercept Goku once he arrives at West City. In turn, what should be a moment of decompression for the audience is turned into yet another piece of conflict for Goku. The time he spends in West City is not particularly interesting, but it isn’t meant to be. The metropolis acts as a moment of genuine levity. Husky’s presence is ultimately a distraction that works in detriment to the plot.

The only real benefit to adding filler to this portion of the arc comes in the reappearance of Yamcha, Oolong, and Pu’er. In the manga, Bulma is the only familiar character Goku reunites with at this point in the story. Yamcha, Oolong, and Pu’er, who now all live with her, are currently out when Goku winds up visiting. As a result, they’re left out of the action until near the end of the arc. That said, there is no real downside to only having Goku meet up with Bulma. Their friendship is by far the most meaningful at this point in the story, and it is clear that the Red Ribbon Army arc is actively trying to avoid another large group adventure, pairing Goku with as minimal a cast as possible.

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Goku reunites with Yamcha, Oolong, and Pu’er

It must be reiterated just how much of a boon it is for the Red Ribbon Army arc to take Goku effectively around the globe. Most arcs from here on out will make little use of their settings, but Goku’s second hunt for the Dragon Balls adds a non-stop barrage of world-building for the series. Fittingly, as the antagonist for this portion of the arc is named General Blue, Goku and Bulma’s quest takes on a fairly nautical aesthetic, with the two starting out on a beach, heading to Muten Roshi’s miniature island, and then diving into an abandoned cave adorned with a pirate flair to find the Dragon Ball.

Unfortunately, while the hunt for the next Dragon Ball is set up well enough, with Goku and Bulma physically unable to reach that Ball at the bottom of the ocean and General Blue set up as the most dangerous agent of the Red Ribbon Army thus far, both the manga and the anime make poor use of the premise. This section of the arc, as a whole, seems to take several steps back in regards to tone.

Rather than earnestly leaning into the potential tension associated with the prospect of the Red Ribbon Army specifically coming after Goku, Toriyama elevates the series’ comedic angle to an extreme, arguably much higher than ever before. This is especially disappointing considering General Blue’s appearance also marks Kuririn’s return into the plot. Goku and Kuririn are finally together again after the end of the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai, but the emphasis on humor stifles what can be accomplished with said reunion.

That said, the events surrounding General Blue are not all bad initially. The first half of Goku, Bulma, and Kuririn’s time in the pirate cave is spent showing just how much Goku and Kuririn have improved as martial artists. They are able to get past virtually every single trap with relative ease, demonstrating just how far they outclass an average human like Bulma. There’s a charm to seeing Goku and Kuririn use their learned abilities from Kame Sen’nin’s training to blast through a pirate’s lair with an incredible amount of ease.

Aesthetically, the pirate’s cave simply makes for a nice change of scenery after Jingle Village, Muscle Tower, and West City. It can perhaps be taken for granted, but the mere fact that pirates do exist in some capacity in Dragon Ball’s world is a rather endearing fact, and the concept behind the heroes searching for pirate treasure goes hand in hand with a hunt for the Dragon Balls. Conceptually, the General Blue portion of the arc is sound, but the tone ultimately drags the quality down to an all-time low for the series.

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General Blue marches his men to death, Viz translation

The fight against General Blue is arguably the most important in the arc so far while also being the most frustrating. Goku and Kuririn are completely and utterly outclassed. A master of telekinesis, General Blue can freeze his opponent’s muscles, paralyzing them completely. No matter what Goku and Kuririn do, they realistically cannot get an edge on an enemy they cannot hit. In that regard, Toriyama is able to build an exceptional amount of tension during the fight itself, although said tension is thrown out the window as soon as Goku is about to be killed by General Blue.

A rat that Goku picked up earlier in the cave suddenly makes a reappearance, disgusting General Blue enough to cause him to drop his paralysis and allowing Goku and Kuririn to break free. Goku is at death’s door for the first time in the series, but any and all potential drama is undercut by a joke that simply does not land. The strength of the Red Ribbon Army arc has been in its world and tension building, not its humor. For Toriyama to take a potentially serious moment and flip it with comedy comes off reductive.

General Blue’s inclusion marks a brief regression for Dragon Ball. Rather than reflecting the tone established with the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai, Toriyama’s writing takes a step back, reading more at home with the Hunt for the Dragon Balls arc — a massive shift considering Muscle Tower more or less managed to recreate some semblance of the tournament in a unique format.

Thematically, outside of demonstrating how much Goku and Kuririn have bettered themselves, there’s little that General Blue can add to the plot outside of the idea that there will always be someone better, a concept the arc has already been pushing consistently. While there is nothing inherently wrong with a narrative reiterating a theme by any means, this does leave the General Blue section feeling thematically dry in comparison to the rest of the arc.

In regards to filler, the anime more or less embraces all forms of padding time by this point. Episodes take on legitimate B-plots, typically as a means of keeping characters like Muten Roshi and Lunch relevant; short scenes in the manga are drawn out to a crawl; and diversions are added to the main plot in order to keep the manga ahead. The most meaningful piece of filler comes from Kuririn facing off against a divine statue in the cave’s treasure room. In theory, none of these approaches to filler are necessarily bad, but they falter in execution. Dragon Ball is not a series that benefits from sub-plots or a slower pace. Some instances of filler can work as evidenced by Muscle Tower, and even bits of episodes in the pirate cave giving Kuririn more to do, but Dragon Ball as an adaptation is beginning to suffer immensely.

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General Blue prepares to execute Goku

A larger problem plaguing the anime is the mere fact that the source material simply isn’t strong. Even in the manga, this is a low point in quality for Dragon Ball. The emphasis on humor coupled with the sheer persistence of General Blue takes an arc that was flowing smoothly from beat to beat and grinds it to a narrative halt with uninteresting action, a lack of genuine tension, and a style of humor the series had seemingly abandoned for the better. The Red Ribbon Army took the series one step forward, but General Blue took it two steps back.

On the subject of heading backward, this portion of the arc also features cameo appearances from Akira Toriyama’s previous manga Dr. Slump. Although this is Toriyama quite literally taking a step back from Dragon Ball, Penguin Village and the cast of Dr. Slump fit surprisingly well in the context of Dragon Ball’s world. Penguin Village is such a wonderfully colorful setting, both in content and tone, that it’s a genuine shame it needs to be associated with General Blue. By this point in the story, Toriyama has more or less given up on the idea of Blue as a legitimate threat, having him suffer at the hands of his previous protagonist, Arale.

At its core, Penguin Village’s cameo is a love letter to Toriyama’s pre-Dragon Ball roots, but the context behind the Red Ribbon Army arc, alongside the insistence on world-building, allows for a blatant Dr. Slump cameo to work regardless of any preconceived familiarity with Toriyama’s previous manga. It is worth mentioning that the lack of quality revolving around General Blue isn’t simply a perceived tonal dissonance within the series, but rather that the context surrounding his character lends itself for a more serious approach. Penguin Village, on the other hand, clearly establishes a comedic tone and thrives off its humor. Who General Blue is and what he does clash without developing a suitable literary juxtaposition.

With that in mind, Penguin Village isn’t some sudden jump in quality that justifies General Blue’s inclusion in the series. In the manga, it certainly does mark an improvement in the arc’s quality, but the anime is held back by a specific characterization choice with General Blue that neither adds to his character nor contributes to the general humor of Goku finding himself in what is effectively an episode of Dr. Slump.

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Goku and Arale

General Blue is Dragon Ball’s only canonically queer character, specifically implied to be gay. While Toriyama does use this to poke fun at Bulma’s expense when she tries to seduce him, this detail is more or less in the background. The anime, however, turns General Blue into a pedophile, lusting after Dr. Slump mainstay Obotchaman, a robot designed to look like a young boy. This change to General Blue is entirely in poor taste, adding absolutely nothing to the character and souring an otherwise charming cameo.

When it comes down to it, General Blue outstays his welcome. Colonel Silver was deliberately dealt with rather quickly while Muscle Tower featured a variety of characters and settings to vary Goku’s adventure, even giving Hatchan an arc of his own to compliment the narrative. With General Blue, the set pieces are strong enough, but there is a distinct lack of progression regarding his many confrontations with Goku, and neither Bulma or Kuririn influence the plot meaningfully. The anime sullies what good his character may have while extending an already lengthy portion of the arc with filler. General Blue simultaneously feels overused and underutilized, which would amount to a complete waste of time if not for one key story beat: the introduction of Taopaipai.

 

Part One  |  Part Two  |  Part Three |  Part Four  |  Part Five  | Part Six  | Part Seven  |  Part Eight

An avid-lover of all things Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, and pretentious French lit, Renan spends most of his time passionately raving about Dragon Ball on the internet and thinking about how to apply Marxist theory to whatever video game he's currently playing.

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Revoked Revenge: Analyzing One of ‘Hunter x Hunter’s’ Most Emotional Scenes

Though Hunter x Hunter is full of striking moments, “Revenge x Recovery” flexes the full strength of the show’s stellar scenario writing.

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(Spoiler Warning: The following text contains spoilers for the 2011 Hunter x Hunter Remake. Read at your own risk.)

It’s all too often that the shounen genre gets dismissed for being entirely comprised of childish power fantasies and series you should eventually grow out of. While a youthful sense of adventure and optimism is indeed a core part of the genre’s appeal, it’s also much more than that. The best of shounen tells tales that stick with viewers forever, introduces characters that they can relate to and aspire to be like, and presents dilemmas that can’t just be laughed or punched away.

The 116th episode of Hunter x Hunter 2011, “Revenge x Recovery,” exemplifies this perfectly. The scene (particularly in the second half of the episode) is one of incredible character development and viewer confliction.

Our lovable hero, Gon, has waited months to exact revenge on Pitou for Kite’s death and torturous reconfiguration into a fighting puppet. Usually cheerful and peppy, Gon hasn’t expressed a hint of happiness since beginning the raid of the Chimera Ant king’s palace. All that’s present is a cold, steely determination and unyielding anger. Pitou has to pay…no matter what it takes.

The Fall and Rebirth of Pitou

Gon’s anger isn’t unfounded. For the entire Chimera Ant arc we’ve been conditioned to fear and absolutely despise Pitou. Aside from viciously killing Kite, Pitou has played an instrumental role in planning the mass genocide of the people of East Gorteau. Seemingly only second in power to the king himself, the sheer maliciousness of its Nen made Knov (an elite Hunter on the level of Morel) have a mental breakdown, and made Netero himself doubt his capabilities.

That’s what makes Pitou’s transformation so shocking.

Instead of being greeted by Pitou’s usual coldhearted, bloodthirsty, murderous self, something has changed in it since they last met. It’s completely focused on healing Komugi, the one person who has become incredibly dear to the king. After finding her wounded at the start of the raid, he personally entrusted Pitou with restoring Komugi’s life. Not only did this bring Pitou to tears, but it set Pitou’s priorities firmly in place: put Komugi first and protect her at all costs.

Pitou knew as soon as Gon walked in the room that it was facing an immense danger, but it was already in the process of healing Komugi. Because it couldn’t fight with any hope of winning during the operation (healing requires all of its Nen), Pitou had to make a choice: leave the girl to die, or leave itself helpless. In that moment, bearing the task of healing the very person that the king cared for above all else, Pitou chose to prostrate itself and beg the boys to wait.

The imagery of seeing Pitou laying its hands outstretched in honest concession — this character that was revered since the start of the arc as the most dangerous, bloodthirsty Chimera Ant next to the king himself — is as jarring for the viewer as it is for Gon, who walked in ready to fight for his life. Arguably the most feared character in Hunter x Hunter up to that point is, for once, showing fear itself. Not fear for its own life, but fear for failing in its mission to protect the girl.

It’d be frustrating if this sudden dismantlement of a major villain served no purpose, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We get a distinct sense that this willingness to throw away its life isn’t just on the biological level of it being faithful to the king, but more so because it wants to see the king be happy. Compared to when Pitou nonchalantly shrugged off the queen’s death dozens of episodes earlier, the fact that it’s literally willing to have every non-essential bone in its body broken to secure the king’s happiness feels like a clear emotional evolution.

Somewhere along the way of seeing how much the king cared for this fragile little human, Pitou began to gain some slivers of humanity as well. What’s more, the act of breaking its own arm as a way to prove its sincerity is a direct parallel to when the king tore off his arm to apologize for trying to cheat Komugi out of a win at gungi. Lessons learned by the king clearly haven’t gone unnoticed.

Gon’s Justified Fury

At this point, the viewer has seen Gon grow over the course of Hunter x Hunter from a naive kid with exceptional physical ability to a bonafide threat. Through it all, though, he’s always been a somewhat tropey “justice above all” main character with a heart of gold. He refuses to let the weak be attacked and won’t allow anyone to suffer — even if they deserve it. His refusal to kill the Bombers at the end of the Greed Island arc is an acute reminder of this.

Suddenly, however, we’re presented with a Gon that feels equal parts familiar and terrifying. This Gon is absolutely consumed by rage and without pity. The fact that Pitou is showing mercy to another human when it attacked Kite without hesitation only fuels the hatred that he’s been harboring for months. This thing doesn’t deserve his sympathy. So what if a third party got injured during our attack? What makes her life more valuable than Kite’s?

As the viewer, we’re keenly aware of Gon’s ear-splitting frustration. It’s ultimately a battle of ideals. What happens when a murderous monster begs for mercy? What happens when your object of so much hatred is caught acting completely selflessly to help someone they love? How can you push the thirst for avenging a loved one’s life aside in respect for the killer’s righteous wishes?

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We learn that Gon isn’t yet strong enough to deal with this impossible dilemma on his own. His usually unwavering sense of right and wrong that we’ve seen throughout Hunter x Hunter has been warped, and he’s clearly lost sight of the mission’s goal. Right when he’s about to snap, it’s only by way of Killua that Gon is able to hold himself back.

It’s then that Gon hones in on what we’ve been observing the whole episode: how drastically different their reactions to this situation are from one another. Gon is (as always) wearing his emotions on his sleeve, and instantly became engulfed in his rage towards Kite’s killer. Meanwhile, Killua stood back and calmly evaluated the scene before their eyes.

Killua’s approach reflects his desensitization to killing and death in general, rather than Kite’s death meaning nothing to him as Gon alludes to. He’s shaken up, but he’s more so worried about Gon getting out of control than avenging anyone. Death is something Killua has witnessed (often by his own hand) for years, and as a reformed assassin, it follows that he wouldn’t get worked up over someone doing what he’s done to countless others.

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As much as Gon (and, by extension, the viewer) wants Pitou to pay for all it’s done, the more logical course of action is to bring it with them in an attempt to heal Kite. This might be the best chance the boys will ever have of taking out Pitou once and for all, but that was never their real end goal.

It’s heartbreaking to see Gon’s once warm heart turn to ice as he realizes the validity of Killua’s protests. Killua stopped him from acting on his emotions, but he feels the repercussions of that decision in that instant. The pain on Killua’s face as he looks away from his best friend is palpable in a way that only those who’ve been afflicted by similar emotional harm from a loved one can understand. Gon is the one he’s chosen to follow to the ends of the earth, but it’s now unclear how much longer that’ll last.

Hunter x Hunter is a testament to the emotional depth a shounen series can have if enough care is put into cultivating its cast. Not only does “Revenge x Recovery” stand out as a hallmark scene in what’s arguably the show’s best arc, but it also serves as a reminder of how vital meticulous character and scenario writing are. Few have done it as well as Yoshihiro Togashi.

You can watch Hunter x Hunter on Crunchyroll and Netflix.

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Is Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: “Hinokami” The Pinnacle of its Genre?

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is of the strongest series airing in 2019, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice to ignore it.

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(Spoilers ahead for Episode 19 of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.)

With anime aplenty available to be pumped into our eye holes, it’s tough to sift through the masses and unearth a gem. Well I’ll make it easier: watch Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba! Once in a blue moon something special raises the bar, and Episode 19 “Hinokami” does just that. For those new to the show, however, all aboard the context train.

Kimesu no Yaiba

Tanjiro Kamado resides in a cold but cosy mountain home with his family. One day he nips off to a nearby town, only to discover on return his family’s been massacred by a demon. Tanjiro’s world is turned upside down (not in a literal sense, that tsuzumi dude doesn’t appear for another ten episodes), and adding insult to injury, his sister Nezuko’s been turned into a demon. Whilst retaining her human form, she now craves flesh and evaporates in sunlight. Safe to say, T-dog’s having one of those days. Fortunately, Nezuko’s a one in a million demon that sees the benefits of abstinence from bloodthirsty murder. With her love for Tanjiro intact, they set off to cure Nezuko’s ‘demon-itis’.

One training arc later, and Tanjiro’s nifty at felling demons with a sword. And jumping to Episode 19 “Hinokami”, he’s battling his toughest opponent yet: Rui of the Twelve Moons. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has crescendoed towards an inevitable encounter with said upper echelon of demons, from ex-Twelve Moon Kyogai, to Twelve Moon red herring Father, to real actual Twelve Moon Rui. He’s the big boss you don’t see coming, and the threat he poses is evident when he shatters Tanjiro’s sword to smitheries with his slice-y dice-y hecka hard webs. He’s a sadistic bastard, forming ‘family bonds’ on fear by torturing his next of kin. Can Tanjiro best someone so strong?

Kimetsu no Yaiba

Given Rui’s fixation on family bonds, seeing Nezuko hurl herself into harm’s way to protect Tanjiro from a slew of razor sharp webs captivates him. Witnessing Tanjiro and Nezuko’s legitimate family bond, Rui requests for her to be his sister instead, but spells out his intention to indoctrinate her into said kinship through torturous terror, highlighting his reluctance to renounce his forgery of fake bonds. The dynamic shifts, and Tanjiro has another reason to fight: for Nezuko!

Kimetsu no Yaiba Nezuko

The theme of family bonds is a cornerstone of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, but never has it felt more meaningful than here. From Tanjiro and Nezuko recollecting their childhood and parents’ wisdom, to them collaborating to best Rui; the spectacle sees music, narrative, and animation meld in impeccable harmony. It elicits tears for those invested, and that’s a lofty feat for what’s fundamentally an action sequence. It’s poetry in motion, and sheer art of the highest order, bolstered by eye popping visuals courtesy of Ufotable (turns out when they’re not potentially evading tax they’re driving animation quality through the roof).

If you’ve yet to see Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, do yourself a favour and watch from the start, as isolating this scene in a 360p YouTube video will nullify the narrative context (the weight of which contributes tremendously to the emotional impact). And if you have seen it, I only hope your neck isn’t sore from nodding in agreement whilst reading.

Kimetsu no Yaiba

To say it’s exciting to ponder where Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is heading is an understatement and a half. It’s one of the strongest series airing in 2019, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice, anime fan or not, to ignore it.

Watch Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba on Crunchyroll here.

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Anime Ichiban: Brent’s Favorite Ending Themes

Why let opening themes get all the love? Kick back and check out some of the EDs that stand head and shoulders above the rest.

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With so many iconic opening themes out there, it can be easy to forget that there’s a wealth of fantastic EDs that are well-worth watching. It might be more tempting than ever to skip endings in the age of binge watching your favorite shows, but there are still a select few that are worth sitting through the credits for. As a follow-up to my list of favorite opening themes from last year, here are my Top 10 all-time favorite ending themes ranked in descending order. Let’s get into it!


10. “Sentimental Crisis”–halca (Kaguya-sama: Love is War, Opening)

Mind games are a core part of Kaguya’s arsenal on the cutthroat romantic battlefield upon which Kaguya-sama: Love is War takes place. In the ED, however, we get a welcome look at what her consciousness is like when she isn’t constantly on guard. What ensues is a surprisingly whimsical wartime adventure that enforces how happy she is to have her close friends by her side.




9. “Waiting in the Rain”–Maaya Sakamoto (The Asterisk War, Opening 1)

Regardless of feelings towards The Asterisk War itself, “Waiting in the Rain” has to be one of the most beautiful ED’s I’ve ever heard. Everything from the soaring strings at the beginning to Maaya Sakamoto’s angelic vocal performance is just stunningly on-point. It’s clear that the visuals didn’t get nearly as much love, however, and the end result is a gorgeous song over decidedly generic (albeit decently pretty) animation. But, you know what? The song is good enough to bring this ED to number nine all by itself.




8. “Spice”–Tokyo Karan Koron (Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, Ending 1)

Sometimes the simplest EDs end up being the most enjoyable. The first ending of Food Wars! perfectly encapsulates the lighthearted nature of the show with bright colors, a meal between friends, and a smile-inducing theme from Tokyo Karan Koron. While the ED stays true to the anime’s signature marriage of food and fanservice, it’s the last shot of Soma smiling that always warms my heart.




7. “Hoshi wo Todoreba”–Yuiko Ōhara (Little Witch Academia, Ending 1)

Though less extravagant than some of the other EDs on this list, there’s something about the unassuming charm of “Hoshi wo Todoreba” that makes it feel special. The depictions of daily school life, highlights for each of the first season’s main characters, and even the love shown to some of the anime’s more minor personalities are beautifully done here. It manages to flesh out the bits and bobs of Little Witch Academia that we never get to see, making each scene feel like an absolute treat.




6. “Refrain Boy”–ALL OFF (Mob Psycho 100, Ending 1)

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For as much praise as Mob Psycho 100’s OP got upon release (and for good reason), its paint-on-glass animated ED is no slouch either. While Reigen was first depicted as a sketchy con man of sorts, the ending theme works to humanize him and make him out to be an everyman whose world suddenly took a positive turn when he met Mob. Reigen’s affection for Mob is real, and this is a genuine (if gentle) reminder of that.




5. “Colorful”–Miku Sawai (Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend, Ending 1)

Like “Waiting in the Rain,” “Colorful” is an ED almost entirely carried by the song itself. In fact, it’s surprising that the ED is so typical for an anime as self-aware as Saekano. That said, the art feels warm and welcoming, and the sequence when the song’s chorus comes in is one of the more fun character highlight reels I’ve seen. If you’re as in love with this song as I am, this remix is also definitely worth checking out.




4. “Cinderella Step”–DAOKO (Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul, Ending 2)

Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul is one wild ride of an anime. The emotional rollercoaster the viewer rides in alongside Nina is full of twists, backstabbings, friends-turned-foes, and vice-versa. That’s what makes “Cinderella Step” such a lovely ED; it’s a dreamy take on the old Cinderella tale where everyone forgets their worries, affiliations, and motives, and simply has fun dancing the night away. Seeing your favorite characters eschewing their rough circumstances and dancing like goofballs is a joy, and the bittersweet end to the season makes it that much more impactful.




3. “Dou Kangaete mo Watashi wa Warukunai”–Yuu-chan (WataMote: No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Ending 1)

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The visceral relatability of WataMote has touched the hearts of millions of once-high-schoolers over the years. While the anime’s OP is a sonic culmination of Tomoko’s feelings of rebellion and frustration, the ED is much more pleasant of a listen. Both struggle with themes of acceptance and self-doubt, however, with the conversation between her and her mirror (version with english lyrics here) being especially heartbreaking when you sit back and think over where those feelings are coming from. The idea to set all of this to a sequence of Tomoko walking herself through her daily routine via smartphones is rather unique, and was executed perfectly.




2. “Veil”–Keina Suda (Fire Force, Ending)

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“Veil” is likely the best (and saddest) ED of the Summer 2019 season. The carefree depictions of Iris’ fellow sisters-in-training are reminiscent of the Little Witch Academia ED mentioned earlier, and makes their fates that much more tragic. It’s nonetheless impressive just how well this ED is able to tell an entire backstory, truncated as it may be. And while there’s no brushing off just how horrible the events illustrated here are, the last scene of Iris readying herself while surrounded by her team does a satisfying job of providing a sense of closure for the viewer.




1. “Hunting for Your Dream”–Galneryus (Hunter x Hunter 2011, Ending 2)

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Have you ever come across an opening or ending to an anime and instantly knew that it was one of the best you’d ever seen in your life? That was my reaction when I first saw “Hunting for Your Dream.” It’s the exact type of ED that every shonen anime needs; it reminds you of everyone’s goals, portrays all the antagonists in a boss-like, revered fashion, and just plain gets you pumped for the next episode with kick-ass tunes and exceptional sequencing. The way every episode in the season leads into it creates a supreme feeling of anticipation and excitement, as well. Click here to treat yourself to a typical ending to an episode with this theme.

Videos were uploaded courtesy of the /r/AnimeThemes community 

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Fantasia 2019: ‘Promare’ Feels Like the Younger Brother of ‘Gurren Lagann’

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Gurren Lagann is a cult classic directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, and written by Kazuki Nakashima. It has over-the-top action, constant bravado, quotable lines, and non-stop escalation into madness. Subtly is not a common word used in Imaishi and Nakashima’s vocabulary, and luckily, fans of their work will not be disappointed with their newest animated movie, Promare. Hot-headedness (literal and metaphorical) and grandiose speeches are rampant when Promare kicks logic to the curb and goes beyond the impossible in its own unique way. What it lacks in a cohesive story, it makes up for in elaborate visuals, eye-popping action, and charismatic characters.


No matter how many times Spider-Man or Superman saves someone from a burning building, the real heroes are the firefighters; they are the ones on the ground, first on the scene. In the world of Promare, firefighters are not just stopping regular old fires; they are tasked with extinguishing supernatural infernos caused by the Burnish — humans mutated to become pyrokinetics. Called the Burning Rescue, they heroically save any and every civilian threatened by these eternal flames, doing so with advanced gear, amped-up water cannons, and hand to hand combat. In addition, they have high-tech equipment that includes drones, an armory of ice and water-powered firearms, and numerous models of mech suits.

These heroes are tasked to stop the flaming terrorists and the havoc they wreak, and in the first act of Promare, a Burning Rescue team led by a young man named Galo take on one of the most feared Burnish terrorists. They use their pyrokinesis to give themselves black, spiky armour and motorcycles that would make Ghost Rider jealous, and after a rousing success with eleventh-hour powers, Galo floats in his victory. Soon, the more militaristic, anti-Burnish organization called Freeze Force barges in and detains the Burnish, taking some of the credit and diminishing Burning Rescue’s efforts. This testosterone-driven act kindles a small spark in the back of Galo’s head, later pushing him to discover a conspiracy that suggests not all is as it appears to be.

Galo is essentially a carbon copy of Kamina from Gurren Lagann. He’s a shirtless, blue-haired, brash young man who jumps in head first to save everyone, and makes sure he looks cool doing it every time. His peers and rivals mock his intelligence and audacity, but in a rare twist, Galo immediately proves that his not simply all bark; he is also a talented rescuer, and is able to stop multiple Burnish solo. Eventually, he develops a rival with Lio, a blonde-haired, light-eyed, somewhat effeminate villain with his own code of honour. He also runs across Kray Foresight, the governor, who is appreciative of Burning Rescue and all their work. However, though Burning Rescue is comprised of many equally talented members, they are mostly pushed to the background outside of being given a few moments to shine.  

Promare takes advantage of new animation styles, and combines both hand-drawn and computer-animated designs. The vapourwave art style is bombastic and chaotic, while the angular designs of the Burnish’s powers add a little edge to the action scenes, guaranteeing that there is no wasted space on screen. The movie runs from inferno-hot to sub-zero cold with no in-between; one would expect nothing less from Imaishi and Nakashima.

Walking into this film and expecting some kind of subtly, even when it comes to the most mundane of actions, is expecting far too much. In classic fashion, the filmmakers keep making every scene more grandiose and epic. Fight scenes aren’t simply adding an extra bad guy or giving the hero a handicap; everything grows to an exponential scale. The moment you expect that Promare has reached its limit, suddenly everything goes to the extreme. But this does has its disadvantages, as subtly and clear explanations of events go by the wayside. The plot moves fast and glosses over the details of the world, history, and lore. Instead of questioning “why is this weird thing happening,” it’s better to accept that it’s happening simply “just because” — far better to just watch the bonker visuals and series of events. This pacing also makes it difficult for character growth, where relationships are created and destroyed on a whim, yet could have benefited more with extra content. It’s like the difference between the Gurren Lagann series and the movies. Sure, the movies cover a lot of ground, but they are very much more loud, operatic spectacles rather than the growing confidence of a young shy boy into a full-fledged legend.

Promare is certainly a movie that stimulates the lizard-brain neurons. It’s flashy, over the top, and outright ridiculous. The heroes and villains are operatic, and there is no nuance stored anywhere in the character’s development. But that’s why the movie is wonderful; the creators are able to depict these extreme levels of silliness, then lampoon and expand on it. There are even moments where the characters themselves have to acknowledge that this level of weirdness is actually happening. But that’s why this movie is spectacular — it’s loud, it’s big, but it’s 100% unfiltered fun.

The Fantasia Film Festival runs July 11 – August 1. Visit the official website for more information.

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Anime

Fantasia 2019 Dispatch: ‘White Snake’ and ‘The Relative Worlds’

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White Snake

While relatively unknown in the west, the “Legend of the White Snake” is one of the oldest and most venerated folks tales in China, and as such has been brought to the screen and stage numerous times. After all, fables and folktales have proved themselves to be enduring and adaptable enough that the real classics will probably never truly fade from the cultural landscape. Light Chaser Animation’s new telling of the story certainly jazzes it up for modern audiences, with dazzling animation and some modern sensibilities added to the tried-and-true romantic melodrama and high fantasy. While definitively rooted in Chinese myth and legends, the film also seems to be aiming for an international audience, and will most likely succeed in this ambition.

In ancient China, a cruel general versed in the dark arts has begun stealing the life force of snakes in order to aid in the Emperor’s bid for immortality. An assassin is sent in the form of the white snake, Blanca, who like many of her more powerful clan is able to take human form. Blanca’s assassination attempt fails, and she loses her memory in the process. Found by the inhabitants of a village of snake catchers, she soon falls in love with the dashing young Xuan, only to have her former life come back to haunt her.

White Snake

The main draw for White Snake is the visuals, which are beautifully rendered and absolutely dazzling from start to finish. While the art direction and character designs occasionally evoke North American animation, the vast majority of the film’s aesthetic feels refreshingly unique. While not overly stylized, there’s a painterly quality to the backdrops and locales, with a deliberate use of color and an emphasis on stunning vistas. Creative visual gags abound, like the face-switching demon blacksmith or the spectacular magical battles, which eventually escalate into dizzying fights between giant serpents and legions of warriors made of living, folded paper. 

Some of the film’s attempts at humor fall a tad flat, however, particularly when Xuan’s loyal canine sidekick is given the gift of speech for no discernible reason. Parents looking for a fun alternative to the latest Dreamworks or Pixar movie might also get nervous at some of the more risque suggestions, like a near-sex scene or the demon weapon smith’s perilously plunging neckline. But overall, the film is a fun and visually captivating ride which proves that CG animation isn’t just for the West.

The Relative Worlds

Our protagonists sit in a comfortably but blandly decorated living room discussing mass murder. Among them are two alternate-universe doppelgangers and a pair of advanced combat robots that (naturally) look like 13-year-old girls. It’s been determined that an alternate Earth can be saved from despotic rule, and all it will take is a few murders here in our world. “Maybe we should get some food” suggests one character. “Yes, we do not require food, but are capable of expelling waste” responds one of the robots. An upbeat pop tune creeps into the soundtrack, and a montage of our heroes out on the town begins — now that we’re safe in the knowledge that the robots can indeed poop. This scene really encapsulates everything weird and disjointed about The Relative Worlds, an ungainly wreck of a movie with tonal and pacing problems to spare, and little to offer anime fans or filmgoers on the whole.

The action begins (as these things often do) with a pair of ordinary high-schoolers. A rash of unexplained deaths has begun to plague Japan, and the two discover the truth after doppelgangers and robots invade their burgeoning romance: an alternate version of Earth came into existence after World War I, they learn, and on that Earth the shy Kotori is a cruel despot. Jin, the alternate version of her classmate and love interest, Shin, has hopped from one reality to the other to kill Kotori, which will cause her opposite in his own universe to die as well. To counter Jin’s powerful and imposing combat robot, Kotori’s other-universe counterpart has sent her a protector: the diminutive android, Miko.

Relative Worlds

The Relative Worlds suffers from the odd problem of having too much story, but at the same time being almost maddeningly simplistic. Before the audience can get too confused, a helpful narrator makes his one and only appearance to meticulously outline the premise in exacting detail. Not long after, new information drastically changes the stakes and goals of the movie, in just one of many sudden gear shifts sure to leave audiences with mild whiplash. The film never settles on one set of objectives long enough for audiences to get comfortable, and it feels like a much longer, multi-arc story has been brutally condensed into a cramped 90-odd minutes. The tone veers about wildly, and seemingly important plot elements drop in and out like unwanted guests. In its few moments of clarity, it also mostly walks in the footsteps of films and series that came before, never offering any characters or story beats that won’t feel familiar to anime fans.

While some of the art direction is at least mildly interesting, The Relative Worlds is nonetheless an absolute mess of storytelling missteps that casual audiences will find too weird, and anime fans will mostly likely find derivative and awkward.

The Fantasia Film Festival runs July 11 – August 1. Visit the official website for more information.

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Freelance Film Writers

Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip. We are currently looking for Film, TV, Anime and Comic writers.

Contact us: Editor@GoombaStomp.com

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