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Hybrid Child: Gay Romancing The Androids- Still Better Than Detroit

Hybrid Child was a one-shot romance manga from 2005. It was written by Nakamura Shungiku. That’s right, the same writer as Junjou Romantica, the worst shounen ai romance I’ve ever reviewed. About five years ago, Studio Deen released an OVA based off of it. You might wonder why I’m even giving it a chance, given Nakamura’s other work but let me remind you that even Ikuhara Kunihiko has written bad stories before. And it is Valentine’s week, so let’s keep an open mind and check out some romance. Maybe this one is not rubbish.

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Story:

The basic premise behind Hybrid Child is that the world has sapient android/ human hybrids that grow based on receiving love from their owners. There are three different stories about it within the four episodes of the OVA. The first deal with a young aristocratic boy who finds a discarded hybrid child, takes it home and then they grow up together and fall for one another. The second deals with a man with a difficult past who finds some comfort in the arms of a hybrid child who looks like an eight year old. Gross. The third explores why the hybrid children were created with the tragic tale of some childhood friends and what happened to them as young adults.

My biggest issues with the series are all with the second story line. The idea of having a jaded, damaged person get revitalised by finding a connection with someone more innocent and naive isn’t a ad one in theory. It’s not particularly new, but it’s not a bad basis for a romance plot. However, the execution comes across as downright paedophilic. It’s not even just that Yuzu looks like a child but he acts like one as well. Which just makes the attraction really creepy. One general issue is that the world building isn’t very good. We know why Kuroda created the hybrid children but we don’t know anything about how they’ve change society. They seem to be basically used as maids or butlers but no one really addresses anything about them. At least it’s better than addressing the questions in an egregiously stupid way, like Detroit: Become Human did but it’s still just nothing.

To its credit, the first romance is pretty decent. It’s not anything special but it’s passable for a short story. The third is a bit meh. It’s one of those “these people are combative because they love each other” romances with a tragic twist. And you pretty much know where it’s going after five minutes, but it’s the only one that gets multiple episodes. Like Studio Deen & Nakamura just thought it needed so much effort for the very predictable plot line.

Characters:

Again, my big issue is with the characters in the second story and the way one looks and acts like a child while the other looks at him and thinks “yeah, that’s fuckable.” The first story has the strongest characters and dynamic, which isn’t saying much considering the last is mediocre in those regards but is something. I actually kind of like the dynamic in the first one. Kotarou & Hazuki act more like old and dear friends than master and servant. They also show a willingness to sacrifice for one another, which is a nice touch.

Art:

The artwork is decent enough. A bit standard, but capably done. The thing that bothers me is still Yuzu being designed to look like a small child while having a romantic interest who looks very much like a grown man.

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Sound:

They got some capable actors like Hirakawa Daisuke, Okamoto Nobuhiko, Ono Yuuki & others. The acting is perfectly solid. It may never be counted as among the best, but it certainly works well enough. Anze Hijiri’s soundtrack is pretty good.

Ho-yay:

If you want to see some of that shounen ai action, there are some kissing scenes that are heavily implied to lead to sex and the whole thing is about that romance. So, lots of ho-yay to be had.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. With four episodes to work with, just pick a story. While romance can work episodically, there’s only one story line in this with good potential any way. So, I’d just develop that more.
  2. Address the obvious questions. If you’re going to have a romance bloom between a man and a man android he literally owns, you kind of need to address that ownership. Maybe have him struggle because he doesn’t want to force anything and knows he’s in a position of extreme power. There’s also the question of just how sapient the androids are and how they’ve impacted things.
  3. Better Build up. To use the good part of the OVA as an example, Hazuki kind of collapses out of nowhere and Kotarou takes him to a mechanic. A slower build where we as the audience see hints of trouble for a while before the collapse would strengthen the sense of investment quite a bit.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, Hybrid Child is, unlike Junjou Romantica, not garbage. The first story is pretty good. The second is just bad. The third is mundane. Combined, I’d say that averages out to a mediocre experience. A mediocre experience that could have been something more if it had stuck to the one good story line. I’ll give it a 5/10.

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru: Hold on to your Hope

Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru is a Studio Gokumi anime from late 2014. Yes, the same studio that brought us the fun A-Channel & that piece of garbage, Crime Edge. So, I don’t know what to expect from this. But it’s the end of hero month and let’s hope we can end it like we began it, on a high note. Because, so far, the only good series we’ve looked at this month has been Boku no Hero Academia.

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Story: 

We open with our titular heroine, Yuuki Yuuna working with members of her middle school’s Hero Club to put on a puppet show. Basically, these four girls get together to help out in other clubs, finding homes for kittens and other public services. Things change when, one day, everything freezes during class and the four find themselves in an altered landscape. It turns out the hero club has a hidden purpose, to defend the barrier created by the Shinju that preserves their world. They become magical girls, fighting whenever they’re called but they quickly learn that there’s a secret behind their powers and it may be too much for them.

My biggest issue with the series, narratively, is that the final climactic turn may be a bit too easy. Basically, the big “antagonist” is too easily dissuaded from what she’s doing. It kind of makes sense in context but it might work a bit better if it took a little more effort. The ending may also be a bit too predictable once things get going. Though I’d be lying if I said I disliked it.

That being said, there are a lot of good things about the series. The events leading up to the big climactic clash are very well handled. There are some strong emotional scenes. Two of which definitely may have elicited some tears from me. The series does a good job of subverting some aspects of magical girl shows while embracing others, including the optimistic outlook. Holding on to hope is a big theme in this series and it works really well. Honestly, I appreciate that it can incorporate some elements that are dark for a magical girl series while still keeping things generally optimistic. There are too many works out there that treat dark content as something you have to go all the way with or just can’t have at all. It’s nice seeing something with a more nuanced take on it. I also appreciate the way the world building is handled. We don’t get a bunch of boring exposition, instead they show us throughout the series what the world they’re living in is like and what the more unusual elements like Shinju, Taisha and Vertexes actually are. Foreshadowing is pretty well handled as well.

Characters:

The cast is mainly composed of five characters. Yuuna, Tougou, Karin, Fuu & Itsuki. On the surface, they’re a pretty archetypal magical girl group. However, every single character goes beyond the typical tropes that they start with. Whether it’s accomplished through their reactions to tragedy, their interactions with one another or their way of pursuing their own dreams. Which makes the cast quite compelling. The character interactions are quite strong as well.

I also do like the way shifting loyalties are handled. There is solid reasoning behind them that makes sense while also revealing information about the characters in question. The only real issue I have is that the vertexes are kind of nothing villains. We know what they’re trying to do and we know the basic reason why but that’s about all they have. To be fair to the series, they do provide an in universe explanation for why that is.

Art:

There are a lot of positive aspects to the art. The vertexes have interesting designs. The heroines are well designed and their magical girl forms are nicely detailed. The supernatural world where they do their fighting looks pretty interesting. The fights themselves are quite well done. They involve actual weapons too. Fuu has a buster sword. Karin uses a pair of katana. Tougou has guns. Which leads to some interesting action sequences.

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Sound:

They got some strong actresses for this series. Terui Haruka, Mimori Suzuko, Nagatsuma Juri, Kurosawa Tomoyo & Uchiyama Yumi are all really good in this. The emotions they convey just come across as so genuine and the way they converse with one another has a good level of verisimilitude to it. The music by Okabe Keiichi & Hoashi Keigo is really good as well.

Ho-yay:

There’s a general undercurrent among most of the girls. The sisters being the obvious exception. It’s clear that they care about each other but it’s equally clear that it’s familial. The most prominent les-yay is between Yuuna and Tougou. They come across as being deep into their first feelings of romantic love. Once Yuuna figures it out they’ll probably start dating.

Areas of Improvement:

I’ll try to go into these without giving too much away.

  1. I’d make that final conversation that leads up to the climactic turn a little more substantial.
  2. Extrapolate on the effects change at the end a bit more.
  3. Have some anger directed at Fuu. Basically, Fuu knows that they could be called on to act as heroes, but doesn’t tell the others. That’s not much of a spoiler since it’s a part of the first episode. But what bothers me a little bit is that everyone else is immediately okay with it. I’d like to see them take some time to get over the feelings of betrayal over that. I think it would make for some interesting character moments.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, Yuuki Yuuna was Yuusha has a lot of good elements. It has a lot to recommend its story and its characters. It has great art, great acting and solid music. It could also be improved with more time to flesh things out properly but, for what it is, it’s a great series. In the end, I’ll give it an 8/10. And I do recommend it for those of you who like magical girl series that do things a bit differently.

Jinzou Ningen Kikaider: The Animation- Dull Surprise Everywhere

Jinzou Ningen Kikaider: The Animation is based off of a live action tokusatsu series from the 70s. The anime version came out nearly three decades after the live action. Which might seem weird, but if you think about it, Hollywood does the same thing all the time in terms of mining old properties to make a quick buck off of the fanbase. It usually goes very badly. Let’s see if Radix, the studio behind Divergence Eve & Haibane Renmei, did better.

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Story:

We open with Doctor Komyoji working in his lab in a scene reminiscent of Frankenstein (pronounced Fronkensteen.)  Meanwhile, his children are reading the story of Pinocchio, which I’m sure will not tie into anything that happens whatsoever. And if you buy that, I can sell you some prime subaqueous real estate for low, low prices. An explosion happens when he tries to bring his creation to life. His daughter discovers notes on what he was doing, trying to create a sentient android. Shortly afterwards, his children encounter Jiro, that selfsame android, and their adventures together begin.

My biggest problem with the series is the pacing. Jiro meets the siblings at the end of the first episode and then he takes off by the end of the second but we’re supposed to buy into the idea that they managed to really bond in that short time. They couldn’t have skipped the useless recap episode and just given us one to illustrate that bond before he gets driven off? Why is there even a recap episode in a thirteen episode series? Maybe because this series has a general issue with trite, lazy writing. The romantic sub-plot is another example. We have two characters who barely get to know one another before becoming romantically entangled. But it’s obvious that it’s going to happen because every event unfolds in precisely the most clichéd way possible.

But I can’t be too harsh on the series for that since the live action was made for children and it’s obviously trying not to age things up too much. Although it does go for a more teenage audience and probably should have put a bit more effort into the writing to reflect that.

I will give the series some credit for addressing difficult questions like “what makes a soul?” or “why is it important to feel things like sorrow?” And the series doesn’t address them badly, this isn’t Detroit. There’s an actual degree of competence to it. It still handles them in a kind of simplistic and non-challenging way, but it’s pretty adequate for the target audience.

Characters:

There isn’t much to say about the characters in this. The protagonists are basic archetypes, the antagonists are pretty much evil for the evils with a few exceptions who they try to be sympathetic with, but they execute it in completely obvious, unimaginative ways. At least none of the characters are awful. The one who comes closest is Masaru because he’s the child character who’s there to get into sticky situations and yearn for attention. And that type of character is always annoying when written by the trope.

Art: 

The artwork in this is just very low effort. If I hadn’t looked up basic information beforehand, I would’ve thought the anime was made maybe three years after the live action ended. It looks like an anime from the 70s with stiff movements, awkward facial expressions (with dull surprise being the most common emotion on display), a bunch of slow, panning shots and reused animation to cut down on costs. Did Radix have literally no budget for this or did they think that making it look like an old anime would be appropriate since it’s based off of an old show?

If the series had wanted to pay homage to old anime by using the general art style, I’d be fine with that. I think you could make it look good. Osomatsu-san managed that pretty well. But when you include all the lazy, cost cutting tropes all you do is make it look horrendously outdated. And give the impression that you decided that quality was just too expensive to bother with.

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Sound:

The actors get into the spirit of the series pretty well. They have those somewhat over the top, bombastic performances that are so commonplace in those tokusatsu series like Kamen Rider or Super Sentai. Which I’m completely okay with although maybe Kikaider is more subtle and this aspect really annoyed the fans. I haven’t seen the live action, so I don’t know. They got some pretty strong people for this as well. Like Horie Yui. Kosugi Juurouta & Seki Tomokazu. Wada Kaoru’s music is pretty good. Maybe not as strong as what he did for 3×3 Eyes, but still good.

Ho-yay: 

There is none to be found.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Replace the Recap episode with an episode between the first and second. Like I said, Jiro’s dynamic with the siblings doesn’t work particularly well as is and I think you could greatly improve it by giving us even one episode to build it up.
  2. Remove the romantic sub-plot. Honestly, it adds nothing of value and it’s poorly executed. You might as well just let the characters develop a strong friendship instead of adding pointless romance.
  3. Give the animation some budget. Like I said, having a modern anime with a 70s style can be good. Having one with all the shitty, cost-cutting measures and such included is always going to look bad.

Final Thoughts:

Jinzou Ningen Kikaider is not a bad anime. Yeah, it has some serious problems but, ultimately, they’re problems that don’t make it difficult to watch or annoying. They’re problems that lead to it being bog standard and a bit dull. Which is what we end up getting. A series that’s predictable, not very compelling and just very mediocre. Which is why I give it a 5/10. If you’re a huge fan of live action Sentai shows and the more solo-oriented variety like Kamen Rider you might have a grand time with this in spite of the various issues. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth your time.

January Bonus Review: Maximum Carnage

Maximum Carnage was a fourteen issue Spider-man event from ’93. It was written by Tom Defalco, J.M. DeMatteis, Terry Kavanagh & David Michelinie. It’s a rather divisive event with some calling it one of the last good comic events and others calling it the start of the era of trash events. So, I’ll give my thoughts on it as part of hero month.

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Story:

We open with Cletus Kasady being taken for therapy at Ravencroft Asylum. Everyone assumes he’s powerless since the Carnage symbiote was destroyed. What they don’t know is that the symbiote mutated his very blood, allowing him to summon a copy. Which he does, breaking loose and massacring the staff. He runs into another inmate named Shriek, who he breaks out. The pair recruit some other villains and their little “family” goes around New York, while Spidey and several other heroes try to put an end to their killing spree.

My biggest issue with the event is that there are a lot of scenes that seem kind of repetitive. Yeah, I get what they’re going for. They’re trying to show how all of this is wearing at the heroes and how much difficulty they’re having. It just doesn’t have the best execution. The civilian casualties are also kind of weakly handled. Carnage and his group are basically killing a bunch of nameless fodder we have no reason to care about. On one hand, it is better than having them kill off characters we know and love, which is what would happen in a modern event like this. On the other hand, I’d like to see some mourners to give it some more impact and add some humanity to the victims.

There are definitely things I appreciate about the narrative too. I like that we don’t lose any of our heroes for a cheap, shock moment. I also like the general theme of holding onto hope when times are dark and finding the strength to overcome. Particularly when various heroes step forward to bring out the best in humanity when facing a group of violent rioters. That is a powerful scene. The back and forth with Spidey and his wife while they argue because she doesn’t want him to risk himself but he knows he can make a difference is really good. The way they foreshadow major events is solid.

Then there’s the whole element the story is about. Namely: should heroes stoop down to the level of villains in extreme circumstances? It’s important to remember that this was made in the early 90s when the trend of more “extreme” and dark heroes had already started. And this is a story that plays with that trend but also, ultimately, rejects the whole idea of it. Spidey questions the idea of just how far he and his comrades should go throughout the event and consistently argues against taking lethal action. Then he reaches his lowest point and he almost asks his amazing friend, Firestar, to take Carnage’s life. But he pulls back and realises that it’s the wrong approach. As heroes, they have to stand for something greater. Even when facing a mass murdering psychotic like Carnage. And that’s an uplifting epiphany. I like the way the topic gets explored a lot.

Characters:

I’ve already mentioned how well Spidey & MJ’s marital discussions work. Although I haven’t said fuck modern Marvel for retconning that out of existence yet. There are other characters to discuss though. There’s an effort to humanise our villains, in spite of all the murder and mayhem they’re responsible for. Which is a nice touch but it’s one of those cases where the execution is the lazy “they had rotten childhoods” types for both Carnage & Shriek. Doppelganger, Demogoblin and Carrion have the same basic motives they do in the regular comics. One is overly simple-minded, one has a misguided view of being on a holy crusade and the other is the victim of a virus. Which is something.

Our major heroes are Spidey, Venom, The Black Cat, Cloak & Dagger. We also get appearances from Firestar, Deathlok (nice to see Deathlok being used), Morbius, Iron Fist, Nightwatch and Captain America before modern Marvel made him a Nazi. Fuck modern Marvel for that too. The heroes are handled pretty well. The point where Cap makes his appearance is kind of brilliant since he’s kind of used as a beacon of hope and heroism when things are looking bleak but it’s not heavy-handed and he doesn’t just fix everything. I will say, Nightwatch is kind of pointless in this. His entire reason for being around seems to be to participate in two fight sequences and rescue Morbius before escaping. Although it’s still far better than what he was subjected to when modern Marvel decided he needed to be resurrected and turned evil. Fuck modern Marvel.

Art: 

One issue I have with the artwork is that it’s not consistent and some of the artists who worked on it are clearly better than others. Mark Bagley’s work is good. Tom Lyle’s work is good. Sal Buscema’s work is more than a little awkward looking. This guy might get the facial expression right once in every three panels where you can see a face. And that’s generous. It also does have some of the bad 90s art tropes starting to emerge at various points, like everyone being on their toes so the artists don’t have to draw feet properly or scenes being covered with shadows to an absurd degree but there aren’t that many moments like that all things considered.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Some work to humanise the victims. Like I said, I’d show some scenes with mourners. Maybe have that instead of some of the more repetitive scenes.
  2. Cut out Nightwatch and Morbius. Honestly, these two don’t do much in the event and it’s a bit annoying to have scenes where Morbius has to abandon a rescue mission or fuck off for multiple issues because it’s day time.
  3. Develop the humanity of the villains a bit more. I like the idea they were going with, but the execution was mediocre and you know these writers could have done better because they did with so many other elements.

Final Thoughts:

I will say, without any question, I agree more with the people who absolutely love this event than I do with the ones who hate it. It takes emerging trends and it tackles them in a way that’s subversive and clever. Its themes are, largely, well handled. There’s a lot about it that’s just good. It does, however, have its definite flaws. Its moments of lazy writing, 90s art and good ideas they don’t bother developing. So, I wouldn’t put it nearly on par with something like The Secret Wars but I would go so far as to call it good. I’ll give it a 7/10.

Tiger & Bunny: Tacky Product Placements Everywhere

Tiger & Bunny is a hero series from 2011. It was brought to us by Sunrise. I’ve heard it mentioned a lot over the years, but never got around to watching it. But since it’s hero month, it seems like a good time to check it out and form some opinions.

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Story:

Our narrative is set in the future where mutants… I mean “Next” have started popping up. Naturally, this has led to a group of heroes who wear product placements like they think they’re Captain Amazing from Mystery Men and who fight criminals & rescue civilians alike to earn points for a television show. Enter newcomer, Barnaby, a hero with a dark past he’s looking to unravel. He becomes the first hero duo with veteran, Wild Tiger. Unfortunately for both of them, they don’t get along all that well and Barnaby’s past may be creeping up on them.

One of the biggest problems with the series is that it has severe tonal issues. It tries to strike a balance between darker and lighter moments like some of the best comic runs out there including Claremont’s X-men run and the Wolfman/ Pérez Titans run. The problem is that it sucks at it and there are two reasons for that. The first is that it goes two far in both directions. If you look at those comics that shift tone well, they have pretty realistic degrees on both ends. For example, The X-men facing the brood and finding themselves in a seemingly hopeless situation on account of the royal eggs that have been implanted in them but still maintaining hope and doing everything they can versus Shadowcat telling little Illyana a bed time story for an issue. In Tiger & Bunny, the lighter elements cross into Silver Age goofiness. Think Batman and Superman having a slumber party at the fortress of solitude but somehow dumber whereas the darker elements cross into 90s darker and stupider territory. Which means there’s a lot more of a shift between the tones. Tiger & Bunny also fails because it combines the elements. If you look at those good comics, they actually transition from one tone to the other instead of abruptly forcing the tone to change. In this, they’ll have goofy silver age elements, like evil plush toys piloting mechs, side by side with more serious elements like Barnaby trying to get revenge for the loss of his parents and that’s just highly dissonant.

Another issue is with the main villain’s plan. I don’t want to go deep into spoilers, so I’ll keep this somewhat vague. Even though who the villain is going to be becomes really obvious as soon as our heroes have a certain conversation in hospital. In any case, our arch villain gets caught with a tiny contradiction and all he has to do to keep things from escalating is pretend he also doesn’t know what the deal is. Instead he gives a huge villain speech revealing everything and tries to cover things up by messing with someone’s mind. Then he makes things even worse by unnecessarily lying and trying to frame another hero. Even though said hero has had a costume where they can easily be identified just by visually comparing him with one of his old trading cards or videos. To make things even dumber, this guy supposedly wants Next to be treated well and that’s why he’s manipulated the Hero media but when things aren’t looking so good he decides to have androids kill all the heroes that the citizens know and love even though that will clearly interfere with his big plan. I don’t know how it’s possible to be as egregiously stupid as this villain.

Although that does lead me with yet another problem I have with this series. They bring up this idea of their mutants being feared and mistrusted a couple times, but it’s not something we see any real evidence of. There are, maybe, three scenes where someone is a dick towards the Next. Other than that, they’re treated like heroes, people buy their merch, big companies sponsor them to make themselves look good. There’s almost nothing to indicate that things are bad for them. The series also wastes its one opportunity to do something with some impact right at the end by having a cheap cop out. So, the ending is pretty shit. The series also likes to repeat itself way too much, going over plot points to a ludicrous degree. For example, the anti-hero appears and gives a big speech about how “he is doing the true justice” and there are about three conversations after that where our heroes can’t figure out what he’s after. It’s like they think their audience is really, really slow.

Characters:

I’ve already described how bad the antagonist is, so let’s talk about the other major characters. Our big characters are Tiger, Kotetsu, and Barnaby. Kotetsu is a horrible, neglectful father and obnoxious cretin. Barnaby is just boring. Which is kind of the way things go in this series. At best, the heroes are trite and bland. At worst, they’re gross homophobic stereotypes, Hi, Fire Emblem. Sky High is probably the most likeable of them all, even though he’s dumber than a wet cardboard box, because he’s a paragon character with a dog. Blue Rose is an insipid twit with a really annoying crush on a dude more than twice her age. Which might not be so bad if they didn’t bring it up constantly throughout the series.

Dragon Kid and Origami Cyclone are dull. Rock Bison is so boring that even his “best friend” can’t think of any personal information to give about him. Seriously, there’s a scene where Tiger is giving out some information about all the other heroes and he has nothing to say about this guy. There’s also Lunatic, one of those generic anti-hero characters. Although it is worth noting that he wants to be seen as seeking true justice, but he calls himself Lunatic. That would be like Mister Sinister trying to convince ordinary people he’s actually the hero while still calling himself Mister Sinister.

Art: 

The artwork is a bit mixed. Some of the city shots look impressive, but the character designs are kind of mediocre. and the action sequences aren’t very interesting. One thing that’s absolutely horrendous is the product placement. The hero costumes are plastered with logos to the point of it being really tacky. It’s like Sunrise just decided this had no artistic merit whatsoever so they might as well just suck off some fat corporate guys for a bit of extra dosh.

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Sound:

Here’s one aspect where I can give the series some credit, the actors are pretty decent. Maybe not great, but they’re about as good as they can be with characters this insipid. The best is probably Inoue Go, who does pull off the simple-minded paragon character pretty well. The only truly bad performance comes from Tsuda Kenjirou. It’s not really his fault since he’s voicing a super flamboyant gay stereotype, but it is awful to listen to.

Ike Yoshihiro does the sound track and it’s the best part of the series. They may not be the best tunes out there, but they’re quite good and well put together.

Ho-yay:

It comes entirely from our gay stereotype, who has fire powers. Wow, that isn’t the least bit subtle or clever. And I’m sure one person is going to say “didn’t you have a gay character with fire powers in Omicron Squad?” Which is true but I had a lot of gay characters and Anastasia wasn’t a stereotype. So, not really the same at all.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Gives the characters personality beyond tropes. One of the things that makes for a good hero comic is a strong sense of personality from the characters and well developed interpersonal dynamics among them. Plus strong villains instead of total knob heads.
  2. Consistent Tone. If you want something stupid and goofy like the Silver Age, just go for it. If you want something darker and stupider like an early Image comic, go for it. This clearly doesn’t have a strong enough writer to pull off something between, so let’s not fluctuate between those two extremes.
  3. A Consistent World. If you want to be like the X-men and show powered heroes doing their best in a world that hates and fears them, that’s fine. If you want to have a future where everything is built up around a culture of hero worship, that’s also fine. These two things do not work together.

Final Thoughts: 

Tiger & Bunny is a complete mess. It can’t decide which extreme tone it wants and ends up awkwardly and really badly mixing them, its heroes range from boring to obnoxious & offensive. It has plot holes so massive you could fly a 747 through them. The world building is wildly inconsistent. The “twists” are really obvious to the point of being bland. They treat their audience like it’s made up of a bunch of morons. The sponsorships are tacky as hell and it’s just never interesting or entertaining. My final rating is going to be a 2/10. This anime sucks.

Iron Man: Madhouse Hates Tony Stark

I’ve talked about Madhouse’s Marvel anime a couple times before. There was Blade, which was decent, and X-men, which was a complete and utter pile of shit. Since we’re focusing on hero anime this month, it seems like an ideal time to delve further into Madhouse’s takes on super heroes. This time we’ll look at the first Marvel anime, Iron Man.

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Story:

Our narrative opens with industrialist Tony Stark heading to Japan. His plan is to retire as Iron Man and get a reactor up and running that will provide free, clean energy to everyone in the nation. He needs plutonium to get it going, but it’s totally clean. Don’t question it. Things take a turn when Cobra… I mean Zodiac, a ruthless terrorist organisation bent on world domination arrives on the scene and begins making life difficult for Tony. We know all about them because they were in that Avengers cartoon I reviewed.

Let’s begin with what’s wrong with the series, and there’s a significant amount. The first noticeable issue with the narrative is that it’s very clumsy and inconsistent. To use an example, Stark seems confused in the first two episodes when the name Zodiac comes up but in the third he’s able to explain exactly what their organisation is like an expert with no explanation for how he learned all about it. Incidentally, the early villains introduce themselves as Zodiac but the others just show up and don’t say shit. Like Zodiac just decided “he gets it, no need to do that any more.” There’s also an episode where Tony takes great pains to get into space including attaching boosters to his armour and hitching a ride in a jet but very shortly after that his armour goes out of control and he just goes into space without any difficulties. I guess that’s all he needed, a lack of proper control. That makes things easier. Then we have the mastermind behind Zodiac. He takes great pains to try to deceive others and cover up his involvement but then he just says “fuck it” and makes a huge villain speech in front of everyone and we aren’t talking about the situation changes and then he does it. The situation is the same when he’s trying to frame Tony versus when he says “nope, I was evil the whole time.”

There are also a lot of issues that come up from Tony behaving in a way that makes no sense, but I’ll go into that in painstaking detail when I talk about how bad the characterisation is. I will say that another issue lies in how obvious the whole plot line is. You can easily predict every twist the story takes based on cursory experience with more action-oriented fiction. And it seems to be a deliberate decision because a lot of their reveals are just weak and lazily written as though the writers expect everyone in the audience to see it coming and are just rushing through it. It’s like they didn’t care.

Characters:

I’ll start with the lesser character issues before moving on to the big one, which is our hero himself. First off, the antagonists are dreadful. Madhouse tries to go with the “well-intentioned extremist” route we see used in strong portrayals of characters like Magneto, or Poison Ivy. The trouble is, they’re really bad at it and we end up with villains who come across as bitter assholes who want other people to suffer because they have.

We also get the world’s worst reporter as a major supporting character. Seriously, this useless dumbass has no journalistic instincts. She gets an interview with Tony and can’t think of even the most obvious questions to ask him. Okay, he’s announced he’s retiring and that he wants to provide this free energy. You could ask “are you going to be subsidised for this energy and if so, how much will it cost the taxpayers?” “If the energy isn’t going to cause any pollutants, why are you using plutonium?” “If we aren’t going to be paying for this energy, how much is it going to be costing you and will it be sustainable?” You could also go with retirement based questions. “Who will be taking your place with the Avengers?” “Are you worried that your old enemies will decide to take revenge against you?” The point is, there are a lot of really obvious questions, Nanami.

Now, let’s move on to Tony. The big issue with him is that he comes across as completely insufferable and obnoxious. It’s like whoever Madhouse got to write this hates Iron Man and decided to portray him as an arrogant, lecherous, entitled moron. And this is supposed to be our hero. The one we look up to and care about.

Now, I did promise to go into details about the actions he takes that make no sense and they do tie into just how much of an idiot he comes across as here. There are a lot of examples and I want to talk about every single major one.

First off, he decides that he’ll retire. Now, in the comics when he did that he gave he Iron Man suit to someone he knew, trusted and who had acted as Iron Man to help him keep his identity secret. Which made sense and gave us James Rhodes, a fantastic character, to carry on the legacy. In this, he has three different dudes and they all have to share one suit. Why not have suits for everybody? To make things worse, Tony meets them for the first time during the series. So, how did he decide on them? Did he just tell his intern, Karen, to give the job to the three strapping lads who would look best in the armour? We’re expected to believe he cares so little for his legacy that he couldn’t be bothered to meet his replacements until after they’d been decided.

He also has his specialised new Iron Man Dio suit for these three guys to share, but he has no way to track it or shut it down if it goes missing or gets stolen. Which happens in the very first episode. He must have really trusted those three guys he never met before.

Tony just has trash security in this in general. His computers get hacked multiple times. His shipment of radioactive material gets targeted multiple times. His station is targeted by hostile forces multiple times and in every single instance his adversaries seem to have no real difficulty and yet we never see him do a bloody thing about it.

The second big one comes when he decides he’ll look into the loss of his plutonium shipment himself, in spite of the Japanese government telling him to stay out of it. Not only that, but he doesn’t use his high tech helmet to record everything he sees in order to give him some evidence of what happened if things go wrong. Things get even worse when he starts pursuing the culprits in his car. Not in the powerful armour that can fly and easily catch a speeding vehicle, in his car. Now, you might be thinking “maybe he was just being discreet” but that argument doesn’t work because he shoots missiles from his car at theirs. And he has to change out of his suit to get in his car and chase after them and then change back into it later which just makes it take longer for no good reason.

Art:

This is one aspect where I can mostly give the series credit. The Zodiac robots have interesting designs, the characters look good, except for Wolverine who has the same trash design he had in Blade. The action sequences aren’t great. They tend to be pretty one-sided, usually with Tony taking a beating before something happens that causes him to rebound and easily dispatch his foe. They aren’t bad though.

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Sound:

The acting isn’t bad. They got some strong actors, Itou Sizuka especially. Unfortunately, the writing doesn’t allow for strong performances and we end up with good actors doing passably. The music is kind of dull. Which has been a general thing with Takahashi Tetsuya’s soundtracks for all these Marvel anime.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any. Tony is only lecherous towards women, including the ones who work for him because he is a major creep in this.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Lose the whole retirement angle. This leads to a lot of dumb moments and it gets immediately forgotten about after the first episode. Just have the first big antagonist use his former experience with Stark to build his own Iron Man suit.
  2. Stark shouldn’t creep on his employees. Sure, have him be a bit flirtatious but let the man be a professional towards the women working for him. He’ll come across as a lot less horrible that way.
  3. Keep things consistent. If you want to explain to us who Zodiac is after Tony’s been confused about it, have it explained to him by someone who he asked to look into it. If you want to show him make it into space with difficulty, don’t make it easy later. If the major antagonist is going to use subterfuge, even when he’s in an advantageous situation, have him keep using it. It makes no sense to switch just because “well, the audience knows who he is now.” This is basic.

I know there are a lot more problems, but I think fixing those three would help immensely.

Final Thoughts:

One thing I will say, this isn’t as bad as X-men was. It’s still pretty bad. It’s full of holes, Tony Stark is a complete wanker in it and it’s just not entertaining to watch. Ultimately, I give it a 3/10. If you want to see an animated Iron Man, I’d pick the old cartoon from the mid-90s over this.

Boku no Hero Academia: My Quirk is Biting Sarcasm

Boku no Hero Academia is a Bones anime based off of a manga by Horikoshi Kouhei. So, this is from the same studio as Heroman, Kekkai Sensen & Mob Psycho 100, to name a few. Their works vary in quality quite substantially, so let’s see where this one falls. Now, I will be covering the first two series together. So, keep that in mind and understand that there may be some spoilers for series one. Let’s kick hero month off with a look at those.

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Story:

Our narrative is set in a world where the vast majority of people have super powers, or quirks. This has caused the world to shift and super heroes to become an actual thing paid for by the government. Midoriya Izuku wants to be a hero but there’s one problem. He has no quirk. In spite of that, he still wants to try. He just needs to witness the brutal murder of his parents, inherit billions and spend some time training in martial arts and detective work before commissioning a bunch of gadgets.

Since that origin is already taken, what actually happens is that he encounters All Might, the greatest hero on Earth. All Might becomes impressed by him after an encounter with a villain and he tells Midoriya that he can be a hero. He just has to inherit All Might’s quirk. From there, Midoriya manages to enrol in the highly competitive hero course at UA High School and gets to know his classmates while trying to learn how to use his new found quirk without hurting himself. To make things worse, his class seems to attract villains a lot.

My only real gripe with the series, narratively, is that they spend a bit too much time on exposition. Every time they have an event, whether it’s the sports festival, intern-ship or their exam, they spend a bunch of time explaining how it works and why it is the way it is instead of just showing us the event in action and letting us draw our own conclusions. It might not be so bad if the explanation was fairly brief, but some of them go on for quite a while so we can see our various characters reacting to it. We don’t need the exposition for the world building to work. This time could’ve been spent showing the characters interact with their families or just spending time with each other. You know, develop those interactions and relationships more strongly. But no, we get exposition.

I will say, the narrative progression is strong and I appreciate that the students aren’t shown as being “just amazing” and ready for anything. They struggle and they need their teachers to come to their rescue. They’re shown as having promise, but needing time and effort to refine it. I also appreciate that the series doesn’t put Midoriya on an absurd pedestal just because he’s the protagonist. He fails, quite a bit. He needs help. He loses out against other students who are more skilled. The series also does a good job of balancing serious situations, like encountering actual villains, with more ordinary situations that don’t have hefty stakes but still matter. The world building is really good too. The flashbacks are worth mentioning because this series uses them really well. They aren’t overdone. They’re positioned nicely and there’s a variety of different ones to get the point across instead of the lazy thing where they hammer you with the same couple flashbacks over and over again. I also appreciate the aesthetic. It’s like a really good super hero comic, like the ones they wrote back in the 80s before most things had to be dark and stupid. It’s been dark times for comics since the Frank Miller law passed.

Characters:

There are a lot of aspects to the characters I appreciate. The dynamics among them are pretty strong. We get a pretty good sense of what the major characters’ families are like. Which is a nice touch. Every single character in the class gets their moments to shine. Naturally, that is more true for the major characters but I do like that it’s not exclusively true for them. The antagonists do have some reasoning behind their actions, albeit twisted reasoning. Stain is a great example since they actually go into detail on his. I also like the way they subvert expectations with some of them. Like Shinsou wanting to be a just hero but with his design and ability that would normally scream villain.

The big negative thing I can say about the characters is that there are a few minor characters who don’t really have much to them. Aoyama, Kouda, Mineta, Satou, Hagakure and Shouji are the big examples. Which is kind of to be expected when a series is trying to juggle an entire class. And most of them are fair enough. Except Mineta. He’s basically like Carrot from Bakuretsu Hunters, a crazed, obnoxious pervert. The only thing that makes him slightly more tolerable is that, unlike Carrot, there aren’t any female characters stupid enough to be romantically interested in him. Watch, now that I’ve said that I’ll find out that changes in the third or fourth series.

Art:

The artwork looks really nice. The character designs are varied, interesting and just really creative. The costuming is really reminiscent of comics. There’s a variety, some bright and popping while others are darker and more plain but they still stand out as a contrast to the vast majority of the costumes we see. Which is nice to see given how many adaptations of those do away with the bright, colourful, good costumes in favour of ones that are drab, and boring. I’ll give Horikoshi credit, he knew where to take his costuming inspiration from.

The action sequences are great and there’s a real sense of impact when someone gets a heavy hit in. It’s also interesting to see how different characters use their quirks. It’s clear a lot of thought went into that.

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Sound:

There are too many strong performances to go into each and every one of them. I’ll just name a few of the most prominent good ones. We have Miyake Kenta as All Might, Yamashita Daiki as Midoriya, Okamoto Nobuhiko as Bakugo, Sakura Ayane as Uraraka, Yuuki Aoi as Tsuyu, Inoue Marina as Yaoyorozu, Kaji Yuki as Todoroki & Ishikawa Kaito as Iida.

I could go through the vast majority of the cast and whoever I listed would have a strong performance. The only real exception is Hirohashi Ryou who chews the scenery so much that you’d think it was made of chocolate. It’s not her fault. She’s a capable actress and has been very strong in several anime I’ve heard her in. She just has the misfortune of voicing a character who has a lot of heavily exaggerated lines. Have I mentioned that Mineta is awful?

Ho-yay:

The closest we have in the first two series is Ashido & Jirou both commenting on how cute Yaoyorozu is. It’s fine, the three of them can form a sapphic hero agency.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Subtract Mineta. I’d seriously just lose the little perv altogether. Give his screen time to the other, better characters. Like literally anyone.
  2. Less exposition, more substance. I’d cut back on the amount of time dedicated to explaining points, let them stand on their own a bit more and use that time to show the students just interacting with each other or their families a bit more. Maybe pump up that ho-yay factor. Then again those of you who know my writing know there’s no “maybe” about that.
  3. Explore All Might’s Decision more. Here’s the thing, All Might’s decision to pass his quirk to Midoriya makes sense, but it also feels a little rushed. So, I’d probably have the villain event that causes it be the catalyst and have All Might test Midoriya in another way before revealing the truth about his quirk and offering it to him. I think it would make that whole sequence a bit stronger.

Final Thoughts:

All in all, the first two series of Boku no Hero Academia are great. Yeah, I have a few issues with them but they’re relatively minor and don’t affect enjoyment all that much. If you’re a fan of stories involving super powers, I can heartily recommend it. In the end, I’ll give it an enthusiastic 8/10.