Haikyu

One of the best and most underappreciated genres within anime is the sports anime. You may think you have seen some incredible athletic achievements in classic sports like football, basketball, boxing – but you haven’t really experienced sports until you see a tennis player jump 15 feet in the air just to hit the ball, or a basketball player that moves at mach 3 while their eyes start glowing red before he shoots the ball so hard that the ground cracks. 

Sports anime in a lot of ways are the purest form of the shonen anime, or YA anime. By this I mean that they have all the classic tropes of the genre: the coming-of-age story, the hard training in order to achieve a goal, the rivalries, and the sheer joy of accomplishing that goal. And there’s arguably no sports anime more popular right now than Haikyu!! And for good reason.

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Don't Look Under the Bed

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

Though not the first thing that comes to mind when you think Disney, there is a long history of horror and horror-adjacent productions in the Walt Disney Company. Many of them resulted in failed attempts at doing something new, due to parents complaining about Disney being a family-friendly company and the horror movies damaging that image.

That being said, many of these horror movies inspired millions of kids to become horror fans, due to the unique blending of the genre and Disney’s traditional family-friendly approach. While the promotional push leading to the launch of Disney+ focused heavily on the big franchises like Marvel and Star Wars, as well as their animated classics, there is a healthy offering of horror movies in the streaming service. This week, we’ll take a look at the last original horror-themed movie made by Disney: Don’t Look Under the Bed.

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Legend of the Galactic Heroes

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

So far, this column has tried to maintain a balance between older, acclaimed anime, new and exciting possibilities, and hidden gems. But now it’s time to revisit one of the biggest and best anime franchises out there – no, I’m (sadly) not talking about Gundam since most of it is not legally available, but an anime that is often hailed as “the endgame of anime.” I’m referring, of course, to Legend of the Galactic Heroes

If Gundam is to Japan what Star Wars is to the US, then maybe the closest comparison to Legend of the Galactic Heroes (as noted before on this very website) is Game of Thrones, or even Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Set nearly a millennium after mankind moved away from planet Earth and colonized the galaxy, Legend of the Galactic Heroes is an adaptation of a series of novels written by Yoshiki Tanaka that chronicles the rise and fall of two interstellar states – the monarchic Galactic Empire and the democratic but bureaucratic Free Planets Alliance – and the war between them. 

Though the show mostly follows one high-ranking military commander on each side, Yang Wen-li of the Alliance, and Reinhard von Lohengramm of the Empire, it is an epic space opera that follows hundreds of characters across the galaxy in a vast and complex story that was for the longest time considered a bit of a holy grail of anime due to it not being released in the US. Thankfully, that time has passed, as you can now stream all 110 episodes of the original anime that ran from 1988 to 1997 (plus several movies and a prequel series!). But if the older animation isn’t for you, the first quarter of the story was remade starting last year with stunning animation.

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Mandalorian Tusken Raiders

The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars show and part of the initial launch line-up of original content on Disney+, was a sensation. But while everyone loved Baby Yoda, and memes about this little 50-year-old child flooded the internet every week, some viewers were not into the episodic nature of the show – which resembled the animated Star Wars shows more than the movies – and the lack of Pedro Pascal’s face. 

One aspect of the show that isn’t talked about as much, but which makes The Mandalorian a special and essential addition to the Star Wars universe, is the way it portrays different communities and creatures within the franchise. Like The Clone Wars before it, The Mandalorian takes advantage of its TV format in order to explore more of the universe without losing track of the end goal, allowing the story to focus on the little guy and the communities affected by the larger, galaxy-spanning conflicts. The best example of this is in the way The Mandalorian portrays the Tusken Raiders and the droids of the franchise.

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Revisiting The Black Hole

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

The post-Walt and Roy Disney era of Disney was a fascinating and very weird one. In the ‘70s, Walt’s son-in-law Ron Miller took over has head of Walt Disney Productions, and set out to expand the scope of Disney movies to appeal to the profitable teenage market that was spending a ton of cash on movies other than the family-friendly Disney flicks. 

Sure, we still got some classic Disney animated successes like Robin Hood and The Fox and the Hound, and live-action family-friendly films like the original Freaky Friday, but this was also and era marked by a series of boldly innovative and very dark films that were not huge successes. However, they showed that the company was willing to take chances. Under Ron Miller, Disney released the cult favorite Tron, the company’s first horror movie The Watcher in the Woods, and the dark sci-fi movie that was going to be their Star Wars, but ended up as an enthralling trip through hell with The Black Hole.

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Vinland Saga

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

There are times where you only need a handful of episodes to know that the show you’re watching is truly something special, and that it will go down as one of the greats. It recently happened with Watchmen, and it also happened with Vinland SagaIn less than one season, this show established itself as one of the best shows of 2019, and if only it manages to stay as good as it is now, it may go down as one of the best anime of the modern era.

Adapted from Makoto Yukimura’s acclaimed manga series of the same name, Vinland Saga is a bloody and at times horrific story set in the early 11th century. It tells the story of a young Icelandic kid who is taken under the wing of his father’s killer and his band of mercenary Vikings. At the same time, we seem to be following several characters and factions’ rise to power, as the Danes invade England. It’s bloody, it’s emotional, and you won’t look at History’s Vikings the same way again after this. Read More »

The Best Anime of the Decade

(This article is part of our Best of the Decade series.)

The 2010s have seen an interesting change in the world of anime. Anime was once a very niche community with just a couple of shows becoming widely available every few years. But by 2019, anime has become as close to mainstream in the west as it ever has, with fans being able to watch new episodes right after they air in Japan, and seasonal anime bringing dozens of new shows every few months.

This last bit was instrumental in making this such a good decade for anime, yet a nightmare for anyone attempting to summarize the entire decade in a top 10 list. There is simply an embarrassment of riches, and with as wide a variety of anime shows and movies as there is a variety of anime fans, no two people will have the same list. Because of that, this list is alphabetical, because all of these entries have their own different merits.

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What's Next for Star Wars

It’s been 42 years, but the Skywalker saga is now finished. While The Force Awakens introduced the franchise far, far away to a new generation by mirroring what had made the franchise special 42 years ago but with new characters, and The Last Jedi dared look at a time where the franchise could move forward without legacy characters, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker tried to tie it all together in a movie that is proving polarizing.

With no more confirmed movies on the horizon, the future of Star Wars is wide open to possibilities. This mean the time is ripe for speculation and wishful thinking as to what will come next. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the paths that Star Wars can explore now that it’s moving beyond the Skywalker family.

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Darby O'Gill and the Little People

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

While the phrase “Disney classics” usually refers to the Walt Disney Animation Studios output, Walt Disney Pictures did make a fair number of pure live-action films that did pretty well at the time of their release. 

Like their animation counterparts, many of these live-action films were based on popular folk tales from around the world. While some of them (I’m looking at you, Song of the South) did a disservice to absolutely everyone alive and were nothing more than offensive caricatures, some of them were actually well-intentioned films that exposed American audiences to myths and traditions from other places in the world (even if they are still in some ways culturally outdated). One of these films is Darby O’Gill and the Little People.

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Watchmen Love Story

Watchmen is a show that does many things right. What could have easily turned into a disaster became instead a fantastic show that reconciles the past with the present, as it tells a story of generational trauma through the lens of a superhero story. What few if any of us predicted at the beginning of the season is that Watchmen would turn into a love story.

Then again, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. As Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson pointed out on Twitter, Damon Lindelof’s TV work often starts by setting up very complex genre puzzle box mysteries, only to reveal that at their core, they’re wounded love stories about people trying to connect with others, just as they’re fighting to put themselves together.

The best episodes of a Damon Lindelof show are usually those that take a step back from the mystery, and instead tell weird yet very personal stories about love and interpersonal relationships. So, now that the first (and only?) season of Watchmen is done, we’re going to look at how Lindelof’s entire TV work has prepared the audience for Watchmen’s story of finding community and love, even as baby squids rain down from the sky.

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