Gurren Lagann

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

The mecha genre, where giant robots that can combine and form even bigger robots punch other giant robots or monsters in the face in epic fights, is one of the pillars of anime. Yet the genre also has enough space to allow for a subgenre dedicated to poignant explorations of war and the effect of piloting giant weapons of mass destruction on the human psyche. 

But in 2007, a show came out that reminded everyone that giant robots were the coolest thing, and seeing them fight each other was worth hyping up. That’s right, it’s time to grab your epic, triangle-shaped, orange sunglasses, and believe in the you who believes in yourself, as we take a look back at the show that pierced the heavens: Gurren Lagann.

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Up Up and Away

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

There’s no denying the huge popularity of the superhero genre. What used to be a very niche market now dominates the entertainment industry, from movies to TV shows, and it’s in part thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that the genre exploded as it has. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter what type of superhero story you like or how old you are, there’s something for you, from the bombastic Avengers movies, to clever anime stories like My Hero Academia

This is all to say that Up, Up And Away isn’t exactly Endgame, but it’s a weirdly entertaining kids superhero movie that asks: what if every single superhero property shared a universe and Superman could be friends with the Fantastic Four?

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Kaguya-sama Love Is War

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

The romantic-comedy, much like its cousin the horror-comedy, more often than not ends up sacrificing the romance for the comedy. Or the comedy for the romance. But where there are plenty of romantic anime shows, few end up being as sweet and as hilarious as Kaguya-sama: Love is War.

Looking from the outside in, Kaguya-sama seems like a traditional slice of life high school romance. In a prestigious academy for Japan’s brightest students (and those from the wealthiest and most influential families), student council president Miyuki Shirogane and vice president Kaguya Shinomiya excel at everything they do and are revered by everyone in the academy. Oh, and the entire academy thinks they should be together.

The good news is that they also very much have feelings for each other, and know that the other is in love with them. The problem? They are too damn stubborn and prideful to admit their feelings. In love, there’s a winner, and a loser (or so says the narrator), so neither Shirogane or Shinomiya want to lose. What ensues is a brilliant and hilarious battle of the wits, a game of psychological warfare where two stellar minds try to out-scheme the other to confess their love first. 

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one punch man movie

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

The term “superhero fatigue” is usually brought up and discussed when a new superhero movie hits theaters. Now that we have no superhero movies (or movies of any kind!) coming out for the next few months, many people are starting to miss having a big, bombastic action movie starring people with superpowers. In the meantime, you can always turn to anime to provide enough exhilarating fun to forget that you’re staring at your TV and not the silver screen.

This brings us to One Punch Man, one of the few shows of the last decade that managed to cross over to the mainstream, or at least as close to it as an anime goes. Just like its titular hero, One Punch Man the anime comes from an unlikely origin story. It is based on a webcomic from a no-name manga author that goes only by the moniker ONE. The story follows a young, bald, average-looking man called Saitama. He’s trained so hard that he’s become the strongest being in the universe, a man capable of defeating anyone or anything with just one punch (hey, that’s the title of the show!). Though he’s a superhero for fun, Saitama no longer finds any joy in doing what he does, his only wish is to face someone that can challenge him.                         

We’ve covered some heavy-handed shows in this column, so if what you need is a good laugh, don’t look any further, because One Punch Man offers all the thrills of a high-budget Marvel movie, but with an absurd amount of laughs not really found in the genre. 

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Gankutsuou The Count of Monte Cristo

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

With current global events, escapism has become more important than ever. Instead of scrolling through Twitter or watching the news all day long, why not immerse yourself in some thrilling, compelling, nail-biting anime? Originally, I planned to cover a tamer, funnier, more comforting show for this week’s anime column. Instead, I found myself completely obsessed with a story I have seen told countless other times across different media, the tale of The Count of Monte Cristo. 

Retitled as Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, this 2004 anime version of Alexandre Dumas’ classic tale of revenge moves the plot from 19th century France to the year 5053. The story follows the titular Count, who infiltrates the Parisian high-class in order to exact revenge on those involved with a betrayal from 25 years prior. There’s a large ensemble of characters who get impacted by the revenge plot. People live, people die, and nothing will ever be the same for those involved. 

If you have never heard of the original story, the anime is a fantastic introduction to one of the most famous stories ever told, and if you’re super familiar with the original or with the countless adaptations that came before this anime, Gankutsuou offers enough differences and artistic choices to make for a fresh take on the original. This is one of the most stylish shows of the past two decades, with a large ensemble of well-written characters, and a story that’s begging to be binge-watched. You may know The Count of Monte Cristo, but you don’t know Gankutsuou.

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Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken

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

There have been more than a few manga and anime shows about people who want to make manga or anime. The problem is that they usually fall into the cynical side of the industry, focusing on the hardships of making a living doing hard work with little pay, but not so much on the creative aspect of it, or the huge love that goes into doing the work. But this is not that anime. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is a show clearly made by people who know the hardships that come with choosing the animator’s life, but also how rewarding it is to see something you had in your mind be brought to life. 

The latest anime by Masaaki Yuasa and Science Saru follows a trio of high school girls who decide to start making anime. The series shows both the magic of animation to take you to magical new worlds you could have never imagined, but also the struggles creative people face when trying to make their dreams into a business, showing some of the harsh realities animators face in the real world, all presented in what is basically the anime version of Ed, Edd n Eddy. It’s hilarious, surreal, inspiring, and also one of the most visually inventive shows I’ve seen in some time, resulting in the surprise of the 2020 winter season, a strong contender for anime of the year, and the perfect binge for social distancing. Read More »

The Great Mouse Detective Revisited

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

With recent global events, plenty of people are resorting to nostalgia and comfort when it comes to their movie watching. Whether it’s that comedy you love or a family-friendly movie you loved as a kid, few things can help calm you down when the world seems chaotic quite like a good movie. That’s why for this week’s Out of the Disney Vault column, I decided to re-watch one of my favorite Disney animated movies, which is usually ignored when discussing the Disney Renaissance: The Great Mouse Detective.

What do you get when you combine Disney animation magic, a Sherlock Holmes-like mystery, film noir aesthetic, and one of the most deliciously diabolical and elegant Disney villains, voiced by none other than Vincent Price? One hell of a good time to get you through these social-distancing times.

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Beastars

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

We’re living in a golden age of anime. There is a never-ending stream of new shows airing all the time, and too many streaming services to count. With so many shows arriving all the time, the Netflix model of waiting until all the different-language subtitles and dubs are ready means that their shows get delayed by months until they get released at arguably odd times compared to the already established anime season.

Of course, this isn’t a big deal if the show is worth the wait, and at least when it comes to Netflix’s latest anime, Beastars, it is 100% worth the wait. The series is set in a world of anthropomorphic animals, where society is divided amongst herbivores and carnivores. The main storyitself  is set inside the fragile ecosystem of the Cherryton Academy, where an alpaca is killed and devoured, sending a wave of distrust that rocks the school and puts everyone on high alert. Making matters worse, there’s a large but dorky and quiet wolf who starts developing complicated feelings for a dwarf rabbit. 

From there the show becomes a genre-hopping and thrilling story about breaking free from expectations set upon you, a thrilling mystery that goes into the underworld of a fragile world where carnivores still have to fight against their predatory instinct but doing so is seen as taboo, and also a high-school drama with an unexpected romance. Comparisons to Disney’s Zootopia are expected, but you really haven’t seen anything quite like Beastars

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Casebusters Revisited

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

There are few greater feelings than when you happily throw away your schedule or plan for a column because you found a hidden gem so bizarre and so obscure it’s been barely written about until the moment it became available for everyone on Disney+. This column was born in part out of sheer morbid curiosity for the many, many, many weird titles that were announced in the massive Twitter thread Disney used to hype up its launching library of streaming titles, and few movies represent the spirit of this column more than Casebusters. 

Whether a hidden gem or a forgotten disaster, that’s up to you to decide, but the mere fact that this movie exists is reason enough to make you curious about it. After all, it’s a Disney TV movie directed by one of the great horror filmmakers, only two years after A Nightmare on Elm Street unleashed hell onto our collective nightmares. 

So let’s revisit the tamest movie Wes Craven ever directed.

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They say a hero is only as good as their villain, and Star Wars has plenty of great villains. From the pure relentless force of horror that is Darth Vader, to Darth Sidious’ ability to manipulate even the most powerful beings in the galaxy, to Darth Maul’s flair and viciousness, the franchise has no shortage of impressive baddies. That being said, some of them didn’t get the respect they deserve, whether it was their live-action portrayal being a shadow of their animated self (General Grievous), or because they never even made the jump to live-action, like in the case of the badass yet emotionally complex assassin, Asajj Ventress. Read More »