Record of Lodoss War

(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

We don’t see nearly enough fantasy in anime. Sure, there are countless isekai shows where someone gets reincarnated in a fantasy JRPG, but there’s not a lot in terms of pure high-fantasy epics like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. Except, there already was a definitive high-fantasy epic a decade before Peter Jackson debuted his seminal trilogy — Record of Lodoss War.

A ’90s OVA (Original Video Animation) that began as transcripts of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, Record of Lodoss War chronicles the story of a band of six heroes, including Parn the fighter, Deedlit the elf, Ghim the dwarf, Slayn the wizard, Etoh the cleric, and Woodchuck the thief, as they get swept into a war for the island continent of Lodoss. What begins as a simple adventure quickly evolves into a bigger conflict that includes vast nations, dragons, and even a god or two, all part of a conflict threatening to destroy the world.

Whether you’re waiting for the next Game of Thrones spin-off to get announced, need a break from rewatching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or want some inspiration for your next D&D campaign, this is a show worth watching. Grab your dice, and have your most loyal friends pledge their sword, bow, and axe to you, because we’re going on an adventure. Huzzah!

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Nickelodeon revolutionized cartoons in the early ’90s with shows like Rugrats and Ren and Stimpy, but by the turn of the millenium, the network was in need of some fresh voices with something new to offer that didn’t come from Klasky or Csupó. While SpongeBob SquarePants was making headlines and exploding in popularity, it was indie comics creator Jhonenh Vasquez who presented one of the most unique, creepy, nihilistic, and hilarious shows Nickelodeon ever saw. Even 20 years later, Invader Zim continues to prepare kids for their bleak and doomed futures.

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Cells at Work CODE BLACK

(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

Last year, right before the world entered into lockdown, I wrote about the fun and violent Cells at Work!, an anime with tons of monster-killing and also some important biology lessons about the wonderful things your body does to keep you alive. Now, the show’s first spin-off, Cells at Work: CODE BLACK, takes a different approach by scaring the shit out of you for not taking care of your body.

The basic plot remains the same, taking us inside the human body with anthropomorphized body cells carrying out the tasks that keep you alive and fighting with onslaught of bacteria and other creatures that are constantly trying to invade. What’s different this time is that the host body is incredibly unhealthy and constantly on the verge of collapse, making this more of a disaster movie where something threatens the world every 20 minutes.

More than just a show about unhealthy habits, Code Black is a poignant exploration of “black companies” overworking their employees, and how that affects your mental health and then your physical health, making this arguably the timeliest anime to come out of 2021

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Teen Beach Movie

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

The Disney Channel has made over 100 movies since the ’80s, but when the network entered the new millennium, it started focusing on two kinds of stories. There were wacky genre comedies with high concepts like Luck of the Irish. And there were many, many, many musical films in the vein of High School Musical

And then there’s Teen Beach Movie, which takes the best of both worlds and results in a highly entertaining musical that also features a wacky genre story that riffs on Back to the Future and GreaseSo grab your surfboard and hop on the fastest car you can find while shouting “Cowabunga!” way too often, because we’re heading to one hell of a weird beach party for what’s easily one of the best Disney Channel musicals.

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(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

It’s not hyperbole to say it feels like the world is on fire, and it’s very tempting to want to get away from it all and look for some escapism. Of course, leave it to the late, great Satoshi Kon to find a way to masterfully teach us about the dangers of escapism and the importance of confronting trauma and reality, no matter how hard it is, in his first — and only — TV show.

Paranoia Agent begins with a woman walking home alone at night, when she is attacked by what appears to be a young boy wielding a golden baseball bat and riding around on in-like skates. Soon enough, more attacks take place, and the legend of the “Shonen Bat” (or “Lil’ Slugger” in the dub) grows, and the police are overwhelmed.

Like Twin Peaks, this show is initially about a simple mystery — who is Lil’ Slugger? Why did he attack? What’s the connection between the attacks? And much like that classic David Lynch show, Paranoia Agent quickly evolves into something more, an exploration of escapism and trauma through surrealism, as Satoshi Kon blends the line between reality and fiction in a terrifyingly precinct and surprisingly funny thriller.  

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(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

Just like how there’s too much TV to watch it all, trying to catch up on seasonal anime is a daunting and impossible task. With so many shows, you can’t know which ones will be good, especially if they aren’t based on any previously released material that gives off a hint as to what the story is like. This column has covered new shows before, but usually, it’s reserved for shows that are ending their first season, or a handful that are so special, you really should get in before they explode in popularity. Make no mistake, Wonder Egg Priority is one of those shows.

First of all, be aware that this show comes with a boatload of trigger warnings, including self-cutting, body shaming, survivor’s guilt, and suicide, which acts as the core of the story. 

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(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

Before Disney started producing endless remakes of its classic animated films and dumping some of them on Disney+ (ahem, Lady and the Tramp), they used to make endless sequels to classic animated films and dump them on VHS. 

There have been dozens of direct-to-video (DTV) animated sequels – nearly 60 if you include the films made out of TV episodes and those that debuted on the Disney Channel. Some were good, most were bad, and a few, like Aladdin and the King of Thieves, were almost better than the original. This is a sequel that expands the world and mythology of the first film with a catchy soundtrack that feels like it belongs in the theatrical film. And it’s about time we recognize Aladdin’s dad as one of the coolest and hottest Disney characters around.

So grab your flying carpet, leave the awful stereotypes behind, and let me show you the world of the best direct-to-video sequel Disney ever made.

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(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

February just ended and many entertainment outlets just wrapped up publishing endless lists about the best romantic comedies. The problem with the rom-com, like with any popular genre, is that their tropes are so well-known that it can become tiresome to go through yet another story of an odd couple getting together and breaking up due to some stupid misunderstanding, all before a grand finale where love is professed and everyone lives happily ever after. To paraphrase the great poet, Maxwell Lord, rom-coms are good, but they could be better.

Enter Horimiya. This anime speeds through the bad parts of a rom-com to get to the funny, wholesome parts. The story is a tale as old as time: she’s a star student loved by everyone, and he’s an introverted otaku with messy hair. But what if she wasn’t just miss perfect, but a really good sister who took care of her little brother as well as all domestic chores while her mom is at work? And what if he actually was the embodiment of the “oh no, he’s hot! meme?  

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It’s been nearly four decades since the cyberpunk genre began to take shape, and it’s been sadly strip-mined of its urgency and turned into a retro aesthetic that is served to audiences by the same multi-billion-dollar corporations that the genre was built to criticize. Sure, the neon lights shining in the rain, and the urban futurism still looks cool, but there’s rarely anything new or of value being said in most modern cyberpunk stories.

So it is a genuine pleasure to see Akudama Drive live up to its cyberpunk roots and so blatantly speak out against certain institutions while still checking all the cyberpunk boxes you’ve come to expect. 

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(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

It turns out 2020 is refusing to go, because the start of 2021 has been a bit of a mess. That being said, one of the beauties of the anime medium is how easily it can take you on a journey and immerse you in an entirely different world. Whether it’s a fantasy world where humanity hides behind useless walls and are hunted by man-eating Titans, or a sci-fi world where 14-year-olds get inside giant robots to fight against giant monsters, there is something for everyone — even those who simply want a good and heartwarming anime about the joys of camping.

We haven’t really covered that many slice-of-life shows in this column before, but that’s changing now, because we all could use a little escapism. Forget about giant mecha and superheroes, it’s time to grab your tent and sleeping bag, and set out to enjoy the marvelous landscapes of Japan in Laid-Back Camp.

This show does for camping in Japan’s outdoors what Lord of the Rings did for trekking through New Zealand. The show focuses on high-schooler Rin Shima, an introverted girl who loves to go camping alone, and the friendship that grows when she meets Nadeshiko Kagamihara, an energetic girl who joins an Outdoor Activities Club after discovering camping as a hobby. From there, the show doesn’t really evolve – it continues to do exactly what you think it’s going to do. It takes you on a journey to exciting new locations, teaches you a bit about camping, and makes you feel warm and cozy all-around.

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