Dragon Ball – Adaptation Analysis Part 8: Taopaipai and Master Karin
Upon receiving the Dragon Balls from the General Blue, Goku leaves Penguin Village to find himself directed towards the Holy Land of Karin.
Red Ribbon Army arc Part IV
Chapters 55 – 112, Episodes 29 – 78
Upon receiving the Dragon Balls from the General Blue with the help of the cast of Dr. Slump, Goku, still lacking his grandfather’s keepsake, leaves Penguin Village to find himself directed towards the Holy Land of Karin, a Native American themed village inhabited solely by a father and son: Bora and Upa respectively. As perhaps to be expected by this point in the story, the duo is introduced being terrorized by the Red Ribbon Army. Initially, this appears to merely be set up for Goku’s inevitable arrival, but Bora is able to remedy the situation before Goku can even arrive at Karin. Once he does, Son does take out the remaining Red Ribbon soldiers, but Toriyama has clearly introduced Bora as a ferociously strong character capable of taking care of himself.
While Goku is acquainting himself with Bora and Upa at Karin, General Blue is returning to Red Ribbon headquarters to meet his untimely demise. After three consecutive failures from Colonel Silver, General White, and General Blue, Supreme Commander Red has hired the assassin Taopaipai to kill Goku and retrieve the Dragon Balls once and for all. Where Red initially planned to have Blue executed for his inability to retrieve the Dragon Balls, he is given one last chance to prove himself should he manage to defeat Taopaipai in a fight on account of stealing Goku’s original Dragon Radar.
At this point in the story, General Blue is the only member of the Red Ribbon Army to not only defeat Goku in combat but nearly kill him on multiple instances. For all the tonal issues surrounding Blue, he has been consistently portrayed as a legitimate threat. For Taopaipai to kill him in a single blow as soon as the fight starts is a massive shakeup that underlines just how much danger Goku is about to be in. While there is still humor associated with the arc, particularly in Taopaipai killing General Blue with a tongue to the noggin, the scene nonetheless serves to build tension. Taopaipai is eccentric, but he is the single most dangerous antagonist the series has seen.
Taopaipai’s newfound presence is likewise necessary as it creates an important dramatic irony regarding Goku’s hunt for the Dragon Balls. In meeting Bora, Goku has finally found the Suu Shin Chuu, bringing his quest to its prospective end. After fighting off Colonel Silver, scaling Muscle Tower, and enduring the wrath of General Blue, Goku has seen the world, fought strong opponents, and reunited with the one memento connecting him to the man who raised him. Although Goku has not changed much over the course of his adventure, his personality has been better solidified. He is a young man with a pure heart, a strong will, and a desire to help those in need. He’s naive and loves a good fight over anything else, but he won’t let others suffer if he can prevent it.
Suffering is all that awaits when Taopaipai arrives at Karin, however. With the Dragon Radar in hand, Taopaipai finds Goku within minutes, but Bora, in thanks for Goku saving Upa’s life from the Red Ribbon soldiers earlier, chooses to fight the assassin on Son’s behalf. Both Bora and Taopaipai shared similar introductions, defining them as formidable men, but Taopaipai is able to immediately subdue Bora, flinging him into the air. Goku desperately calls for Kinto’un to catch Bora before the fall, but Taopaipai launches Bora’s spear, impaling and killing the tribesman before he ever hits the ground.
Bora’s fight with Taopaipai, while brief, serves as an excellent demonstration in regards to how Toriyama uses build-up to deliver on and subvert audience expectations. At this point in Dragon Ball, the good guys do not die, Goku always finds a way to save the day, and the villains do not win. Taopaipai, as expected, is able to outperform Bora, but Goku has Kinto’un on his side to break the fall. When Taopaipai launches the spear into the air, it’s not just a shock to Goku and Upa, it’s one to the audience as well. A named, likable character has actually died on-screen for the first time. Not just that, this is a character who was specifically built upon the prospect that he was strong enough to fend off the Red Ribbon Army himself.
Taopaipai killing Bora marks a fundamental shift in how Dragon Ball approaches tension. Although Bora was not a major character by any means, only appearing in a handful of panels before his death, his demise does solidify Dragon Ball as a story where characters will not necessarily overcome, or even survive every challenge.
Bora’s death immediately transitions into Goku fighting Taopaipai, where the most he can do is burn away his opponent’s clothes with a Kamehameha. General Blue nearly killed Goku on more than one occasion, but Goku was always able to get a few good hits in. Their fights weren’t so one-sided where it was given that Goku could not win. With Taopaipai, it is clear that there is nothing Goku can actually do. His strongest technique that he only saves for when he absolutely needs it ends up doing no damage whatsoever. Taopaipai, in retaliation, fires a single Ki blast at Goku’s heart, the Dodonpa, seemingly killing the series’ protagonist right then and there.
Naturally, Goku does not actually die, but the reason he survives is a stroke of narrative genius on Toriyama’s part. Rather than simply surviving thanks to his durability, Goku is saved by the Suu Shin Chuu. After being gifted the Dragon Ball by Bora, Goku placed it in his gi, and rather than making contact with Goku’s heart, the Ball served as a buffer between Goku and Taopaipai’s Dodonpa. It is a rather simple solution to ensuring Goku does not die, but it’s one that’s narratively fitting. Goku has spent the entire arc searching for his Grandfather’s Dragon Ball and it comes back to save him in a moment where he otherwise would have perished.
It is also worth noting that Taopaipai’s Dodonpa marks the first instance of a character other than Goku or Muten Roshi using a Ki attack in the series. Taopaipai is strong, skilled, and has access to a technique with visual similarities to that of the Kamehameha. While General Blue used telekinesis against Goku, Taopaipai fights on a more “even” playing field, so to speak, where his abilities are in-line with Goku contextually and visually. Readers have become accustomed to Goku using his Kamehameha as a finisher up to this point, and Taopaipai flips the script by “finishing” Goku off with a Ki attack of his own.
Goku has suffered a legitimate loss on every single front for the first time, even commenting how he doesn’t believe he could win in a rematch, a rather large shift for the character that nicks a chink in Goku’s otherwise confident exterior.
For as initially hopeless as Goku may seem in fighting Taopaipai, he does nonetheless resolve to use the Dragon Balls to wish Bora back to life, effectively rendering his search null so that he can save Bora’s father. Although the anime does adapt this moment rather well, the manga’s approach is a perfect example of “less is more.” In the anime, Kikuchi’s somber score plays over flashbacks of Upa and Bora as Goku looks on at the crying child, clearly determined to use the Dragon Balls to help him. The scene takes roughly a minute of screen time, properly conveying what Goku is feeling before he ever says a word.
This moment in the manga consists entirely of three panels: Goku staring directly at Bora’s grave, Goku looking down at the Suu Shin Chuu in contemplation, and Goku telling Upa, with a considerable amount of determination, that he’ll reclaim the Dragon Balls and revive Bora. Reading all three panels takes a matter of seconds, but each panel is so visually clear and explicit with what Goku is feeling that Toriyama is able to craft an entire arc for Goku in half a page.
Bora’s death serves as an opportunity to give Goku depth. At his lowest point thus far, Goku recognizes the severity of the situation but pushes on ahead, unwavering. In being bested by Taopaipai, however, Goku finds himself at a serious disadvantage, requiring additional training. Fueled by a tribal legend stating that he who climbs Karin Tower will be blessed with sacred water, Goku scales yet another tower, this time to hone his skills in time for when Taopaipai inevitably returns to steal the missing Dragon Ball.
Where Kame Sen’nin’s training centered around the philosophies and basics of martial arts, Karin’s is one of refinery. Karin’s nimble movements actively prevent Goku from retrieving the flask of sacred water, pushing Son to hone the skills he already has rather than outright teaching him any new given abilities. Muten Roshi’s training was the basics, Karin’s is a mastery of what Goku has already learned. Fitting as Karin likewise reveals that he trained Muten Roshi centuries prior.
What is particularly interesting about Goku’s training with Karin is how it directly picks up on the reason Goku lost the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai. In the final match of the tournament, upon realizing that Goku was following his lead, Muten Roshi goaded his pupil into launching into a jump kick that he would inevitably receive the brunt of. Karin explicitly notes how Goku fails to read to his opponent’s movements, simply reacting to whatever the opposition is doing.
Karin’s training also serves to break down the notion that Goku will win a fight he otherwise would have lost so long as he gets a chance to eat. In the series’ first proper battle, Goku nearly lost to Yamcha due to hunger, but is able to take him out with considerable ease after eating for their rematch. With Karin, Goku is given a Senzu, a bean that keeps its eater full for ten days. Even with the bean filling him up, however, Goku still finds himself unable to find an advantage over Karin, forcing him to reevaluate the situation entirely.
Worth noting, Goku’s training with Karin is significantly shorter than his training with Kame Sen’nin, albeit fittingly considering the context of the narrative when Goku begins climbing Karin Tower. In the manga, Goku climbs Karin Tower and drinks the water in a span of three chapters. In the anime, Goku is done within a matter of two episodes even with filler to elongate the training.
In both mediums, the crux of Goku’s training falls on the idea that simply being able to steal the water from Karin is enough for one to exponentially strengthen themselves. This is demonstrated visually by Karin tossing Goku’s Dragon Ball off the tower, requiring him to jump all the way back down only to need to climb back up. Where the initial climb took Goku an entire day, the second only takes three hours, hinting rather early on the true intent of Karin’s training.
As the air is thinner at the top of Karin Tower, Goku initially finds himself struggling to keep up, needing to stop for breath. The manga leaves the solution to subtext, suggesting that Goku is mastering his breathing as he chases Karin, but the anime lingers on this plot thread just a bit in an attempt to flesh out the training episodes. Rather than keeping Goku’s mastery in the background, Son explicitly watches Karin’s breathing to anticipate his next move, allowing him a chance to steal the flask.
Interestingly, the anime’s adaptation of Karin’s training takes advantage of the manga being ahead in order to foreshadow the end of the Red Ribbon Army arc. As soon as Goku arrives at the top of the tower, he looks into three pots which show him the past, present, and future. The lattermost shows images of Uranai Baba and a masked Grandpa Gohan, two characters who will go on to play pivotal roles by the arc’s end.
As the “holy” water is actually just rainwater, Goku is able to get a beneficial power boost through training without ever giving him a narratively undeserved handout. Despite being under the impression that he really will get to drink mystical water that will make him stronger, Goku works hard just to be able to conceptually do so.
Karin’s training isn’t as in-depth as Kame Sen’nin’s, but it plays off Goku’s strengths as a character and weaknesses as a martial artist to allow him to legitimately develop as a person and a fighter. At one point, Goku even gets the chance to steal the flask from a seemingly sleeping Karin, but ultimately relents as he wants to genuinely grow stronger, reincorporating the idea of self-betterment succinctly while further defining Goku’s character.
Although Karin’s training does make Goku quite a deal stronger, the boost in power isn’t so high where he is able to carelessly fight Taopaipai during their rematch. Toriyama’s panels actively show Goku struggling and taking damage even if he is, more or less, in control of the fight. The Dodonpa, for instance, still hurts Goku even if it doesn’t nearly kill him this time around. In the manga, the fight moves at a rather reasonable pace with a brief introduction to Goku’s new power, a section where Goku and Taopaipai fight with the Nyoibo and a sword respectively, and one final melee match where Goku kicks Taopaipai’s grenade back at him, seemingly killing the assassin.
Rather than adapting the fight as is, the anime adds an intermission where, upon hearing that Goku got stronger by climbing Karin Tower, Taopaipai rushes up to the tower, demands the “holy” water from Karin, and then is gifted a black Kinto’un that ends up betraying him mid-flight, plummeting him to the ground. For such a structurally tight battle to have a nonsensical piece of filler wedged into it utterly kills the pacing of the fight. In the manga, there is a clear ebb and flow to the battle’s progression with each segment featuring a defined transition to and from each other. As the anime has Taopaipai more or less flee from the fight, the battle ends up divided into two segments that are too interconnected to justify separating.
With a new sense of purpose for Goku’s character and a new sense of direction for the story, the Red Ribbon Army arc uses Taopaipai’s death as a jumping off point for Goku to finally come face to face with the army that has spent chapters and episodes terrorizing him. Speeding off to Red Ribbon headquarters, Bulma catches wind of Goku’s assault and rallies the supporting cast together to lend him a helping hand. In the manga, Goku’s arrival surprises the army as it ultimately means Taopaipai was killed, but the anime actually features a scene of Supreme Commander Red reacting to the assassin’s death only for the manga’s scene to play out as intended, creating a plot inconsistency.
Inconsistencies aside, the anime does have one leg up over the manga: “With a Blazing Heart: Defeat the Red Ribbon Army,” an insert song that plays over Goku’s flight to Red Ribbon headquarters, interspersed with flashbacks of the previous Red Ribbon colonels and Generals Goku has fought along the way. The song coupled with the flashbacks conveys just how wide the scope of the Red Ribbon Army arc has been. It has taken Goku all around the globe, greatly expanding the world of Dragon Ball. While the lows have been low, the highs were some of the highest in the entire series with the Holy Land of Karin even further redefining Dragon Ball. Goku heads into the prospective finale a more complete character than he’s ever been.
His subsequent assault on the Red Ribbon Army places Goku into an understood position of power. Narratively, one-upping Taopaipai would simultaneously undermine Goku’s training and the assassin’s role in the arc. There is justifiable cause for Goku to simply tear through the Red Ribbon base along with a potential catharsis at stake. Now more than ever, the plot demands a Goku in complete control of the situation, at least in regards to storming the base and making his way to Commander Red.
In a change of pace for the adaptation, the anime is actually in a good position to create filler for Goku’s supporting cast. As soon as the supporting cast heads out, they all prepare themselves for a hard battle against the Red Ribbon Army, but they arrive too late as Goku has already taken care of the base and claimed the Army’s Dragon Balls. Such a situation would naturally lend itself to filler where Yamcha and Kuririn could fend off some Red Ribbon goons themselves. Of course, this is not a massive loss as, even in the manga, this isn’t a missed opportunity. Narratively, in an arc mostly about Goku, it makes sense that the character with the closest attachment to the Red Ribbon Army would be the one to defeat them.
It’s during Goku’s assault on the base where Commander Red finally makes his motivations clear. While the army does plan on world domination, Red’s main goal was to use the Dragon Balls to wish himself taller. While Red’s motivation is played for laughs, Adjutant Black’s reaction is not. Distraught and enraged over Red’s manipulation, genuinely believing in the Red Ribbon Army’s conquest of world domination, Black shoots Red point blank in the face, killing him instantly and announcing himself the new Supreme Commander of the Red Ribbon Army.
By this point in Dragon Ball, Toriyama has mastered the art of unpredictability. His plot twists are grounded in the context of the series and are directly influenced by the characters. Commander Red wishing to be taller is a twist dictated by his literal design, but it has legitimate consequences outside of being a joke. In revealing his hand too early, Red forfeits his life and is killed. Worth noting, the anime does keep Red alive just a bit longer with him deliberately betraying Black to keep himself alive, but the end result is the same between both mediums.
Regardless of medium, Goku’s final fight with the now Commander Black is a short one. He overpowers Black enough to rely on a battle jacket to continue the fight with Goku, but even that isn’t enough to take out Son. Ultimately, while Goku is hardly challenged by his final assault on the Red Ribbon headquarters, him struggling would not have benefited the narrative in any way. At least not after the events with Taopaipai and Karin. Goku’s charge on the base needed to be a triumphant one to close out the Red Ribbon Army with enough catharsis to retroactively justify their atrocities throughout the course of the arc.
In defeating the Red Ribbon Army, the Red Ribbon Army arc has come to its natural end. Or so it initially seems. Despite finally taking out the arc’s chief antagonists, Goku only has six Dragon Balls with the radar failing to pick up the seventh’s energy. With nowhere to go, Goku returns to Kame Sen’nin’s Island so that Bulma can look over the radar.
Despite being a mostly developed character at this point, it is worth noting how Toriyama uses Bulma throughout the series post the first arc. She is the de facto “genius” of the group, acting as a technician of sorts whenever Goku’s technological shortcomings come into play. Toriyama consistently depicts her as hyper-competent with gadgets, and her characterization in the later parts of this arc shows a more affectionate, familiar side to her character. While Toriyama is comfortable allowing his supporting cast to take a backseat whenever the narrative demands they do, he always ensures that the depth of their progression shines through.
This is best seen in the direction the final thread of the Red Ribbon Army arc takes. Upon being told by Muten Roshi to seek out the Uranai Baba, a fortune teller who can tell Goku where the seventh Ball is, the cast is once again divided to serve the direction of the plot. Not wanting to join in on another adventure, Bulma and Oolong hang back while Goku, Kuririn, Yamcha, and Pu’er set forth to find the final Dragon Ball. Kuririn and Yamcha both join Goku as they don’t want to fall behind in terms of power while Pu’er simply accompanies Yamcha wherever he goes. The cast was altogether in one location with one goal in mind, but the story itself did not necessitate the entire crew. Focusing on a smaller group allows the next section of the arc to flow naturally with better-concentrated character beats, which is especially beneficial considering the next section is essentially a miniature tournament arc.
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.
(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?
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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)
“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)
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
Fantasia 2019: ‘Promare’ Feels Like the Younger Brother of ‘Gurren Lagann’
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.
Fantasia 2019 Dispatch: ‘White Snake’ and ‘The Relative Worlds’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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