6 August 2017

A talk about anime, Netflix, Funimation, Sony, Aniplex and Daisuki

Wow, it's been quite a news heavy week on anime side. Usually I don't bother doing "anime news" posts, since most people know to check the ANN and CR news page from time to time. But this time around, I wanted to give a few remarks. Since there's a LOT going on which has a BIG impact on the future of how we watch anime in the future.

As usual, I first looked at this with a negative approach ("All signs of a new anime bubble!"). But after a few days of thinking this through, I realized it may not be as negative as I first thought. It's just... change. And we'll have to adapt to change, whether we like that or not.

Let's go over these news stories one by one.

Netflix announces huge anime lineup for the following year

Sources: Various, from Netflix' YT channel to various press releases on ANN, Comicbooknews and others. This week was a huge week for Netflix announcements concerning anime. Netflix had a huge press conference in Japan and announced several new series coming to Netflix in the following year and gave a few dates for expected updates. Here's the updates to already known titles:
  • Little Witch Academia (second half): August 15
  • Fate Apocrypha (season 1): November 2 (US/CAN), December 2 (rest of world)
  • Kakegurui: 2018 (no exact date)
  • Children of the Whale: Already announced earlier this month, but re-confirmed this Wednesday. The anime starts airing on Netflix Japan this coming Fall season. Rest of the world will be later.
  • Godzilla: Monster Planet: Also a re-confirmation. The animated Godzilla movie will first run in Japanese theaters in November of this year. After the theater run, it will become available on Netflix Worldwide.
  • A.I.C.O. Incarnation: A Studio Bones anime original for Netflix. It's 12 episodes and will air in Spring 2018 (worldwide?).
  • Devilman Crybaby: It's confirmed to be 10 episodes that will air in Spring 2018. If you're unfamiliar with Devilman, Netflix currently streams the series Cyborg 009 Vs Devilman. You may want to watch that if you want to have an idea of what Devilman is about.
  • Baki: I'm excited for this. I like the Baki series manga (127 volumes at this moment and still running) and has already resulted in an OVA and 2 seasons of 24 episodes back in 2001. This new anime is based on the "Baki" sub-series which ran between 1999 and 2005, and will focus on the "Most Evil Death Row Convicts" story arc, which is set after the series that have already been animated (hint). The anime will be animated by TMS Entertainment (I like their more seinen-focused direction in the last few years) and will consist of 26 episodes. The anime will air (in Japan) somewhere in 2017 (I presume in December?). No news on when it will air in the West. Somehow I hope that the other Baki series will get a Netflix release as well. May help re-vive interest in the Baki franchise.
  • Cannon Busters: LeSean Thomas' comic book already had a Shortfilm anime adaptation funded via Kickstarter (cool). An now Studio Satelight is doing a 12-episode series of it. I can only say: Awesome. No specific date yet, but let's assume somewhere in 2018.
  • Lost Song: An anime original series co-created by Liden Films (infamous for Berserk '16) & DWANGO (known for Mirai Nikki among others). The anime will air in Japan starting January '18 and will probably see a release in the West on a later date.
  • Sword Gai: The manga created by the same guy who brought the world Kamen Rider is finally getting an anime adaptation. The production had some delay (it was originally announced back in 2014), but will finally see the light of day this coming Spring 2018... Globally! Animation will be done by Studio DLE inc. (known for Akiba's Trip amonst others).
  • B: the Beginning: First announced as "Perfect Bones", but now renamed to B the Beginning (with B standing for Bones, I guess?). The story is an anime original and created by Studio I.G. And the anime will be released worldwide on Netflix in Spring 2018.
  • Knights of the Zodiac: Saint Seiya: A CG remake of the original Saint Seiya fits in with the dozens of remakes of classic anime series. It was only a matter of time Saint Seiya would be handled. However: The first season of this new series will be 12 episodes and will contain the start up to the Silver Saints Story arc... which was 35 episodes in the original. I have mixed feelings about this. I realize there's a HUGE amount of filler in the original series (not to mention slow pacing), but this reduction is just ridiculous. On animation side, this is a Toei franchise, so it's animated by Toei... in full CG. Also mixed feelings on that.
  • Rilakkuma: Kids anime about bears in Miffy / Hello Kitty style. No surprise, it's from the company behind Hello Kitty. Much ignored by news outlets due to it being a kiddy anime. But presumed release somewhere in 2018.
  • And last but not least... Violet Evergarden: Just announced yesterday in Germany's AnimagiC 2017. Kyoto Animation's new Project already had its first episode premiered at Anime Expo a few weeks ago and did the same now at AnimagiC, with a full panel explaining further details. The show will air on Netflix Japan this upcoming January, with the rest of the world following in Spring 2018.

Lots of good news. But also lots of frustrated people due to the continuous delay of releases between East and West. Kakegurui will be released only "somewhere" in 2018? It's already the most pirated anime this season, and this announced delay is NOT going to help that (*sigh*). The few "worldwide" releases in this press conference may be a sign of changes to come in the future. Let's hope for that.

Oh, and on a side-note: The Live-action Death Note Netflix movie/flop(?) will be available from August 29. That'll be fun times for movie reviewers. I'm going to tune in as well then. Wish me luck.

Financial report states Netflix is in billion-dollar deep debt

Source: L.A. Times

Next to the big fun announcements, Netflix tried to make people forget about this earlier news report. Netflix apparently has a billion dollar debt... but it's normal, according to their investors? That's about the only positive thing I can say about this, but let's just say I'm a bit worried about the continued existence of Netflix.

The L.A. Times has created a report stating that Netflix has a debt of several BILLIONS of dollars (not millions but billions). And while the initial report was wrong, it's still a big red number. The correction?: L.A. Times originally stated the debt was 15.7 billion, while Netflix corrected that to 4.8. Okay, that's less than 10% of initially stated, so a correction was necessary. But 4.8 billion dollar is still a huge debt!

And yes, everybody invested in Netflix finds this apparently pretty normal since Netflix has always worked with debts in order to finance their business. And the financial "game plan" that Netflix has layed-out to its investors has them content with their plans for the future.

I'm no financial expert, so I personally can't say if this is a normal way of working for a streaming service or TV-station. And their financial plan may indeed succeed and bring them many years of success (god, I hope so). But I'm worried, because constant debts aren't healthy for any company. And I'm honestly not alone in this way of thinking. Industry experts are already warning for a "Netflix Bubble". Let's cross fingers and hope this isn't going to be a repeat of the anime bubble from a decade ago...

Funimation is bought by Sony Pictures

Source: Variety

The big surprise early this week was the bomb that Funimation has been bought by Sony Pictures Television Networks (that IS the full name of the TV-series sub branch of Sony) for the sum of $143 million. And yes, while it had been reported earlier this year that "multiple partners" were looking to purchase Funimation, it still feels like a surprise to anime fans in general.

And this should be good news, right? While Funimation is thé standard for licensing and dubbing anime in the US for the past two decades, it's still a relatively small player in the TV and movie business overall (don't forget, anime IS still considered a niche product in the entirety of entertainment). So having a big company like Sony behind its shoulders, should put them in a real solid foundation, and may push anime towards mainstream acceptation, right?

Yes, in theory. But it's having many people worry about the future of anime in America, not to mention the deal with Crunchyroll to share their streaming libraries. Sony Pictures isn't exactly been known for their "great business decisions" in the past few years (putting it nicely here).

There's also the fear that Funimation may close its streaming service all together to have everything move to Sony's online service "Crackle". And if you've never heard of that, neither did I until this week. That's how well known this service is in the world of streaming.

And while I think the dubbing division of Funi is in no risk of any change (in fact, Sony may take use of it), the current distribution partnerships (both of movie releases as physical releases) may have to merge with whatever Sony currently has.

Another good thing is that Funimation will have a hold of all Sony anime movies (like the Cowboy Bebop movie, Satoshi Kon's movies and others). Bad thing is that Funi may have to focus their dubbing efforts in Sony/Aniplex projects (read as: anything A1 Pictures spits out, whether it's "good" or horribly bad) and less on other projects.

But a lot of these questions are still up in the air. ANN's Answerman has tried to answer some questions. But for other effects, we'll have to see what announcements are going to be made in the coming weeks/months.

Although, while talking about Aniplex projects...

Daisuki officially ends on October 31

Source: Daisuki itself

One of the bigger Streaming Services of legal anime is Daisuki. I have been praising the service as one of the alternative streaming services. This service was part of Bandai-Namco and held most of its titles (availability depended on licenses).

And yes, It has quite a few anime series on its site, like Eromanga Sensei, a LOT of Gundam series including Iron-Blooded Orphans, Tales of Zesteria the X, One Punch Man and several others. Yes, even here in Belgium.

But people were aware that things had "slowed down" on the site recently. Several of its licenses were either ending or became available on other streaming sites (like the Gundam series becoming available on Crunchyroll) and no real new titles were added this summer season (that I'm aware of). They were also absent from recent anime conventions where they usually took part in.

So Tuesday came the announcement that the streaming service is officially ending at the end of October and in December everything that was connected to Daisuki will be removed from the internet.

Has this something to do with the Funimation deal? Yes, definitely! Aniplex (subsidiary of Sony) is one of the five studios who was partnered with Daisuki and had 13.4% of its shares. So yes, there IS a connection between the two cases.

Is this bad or good? THAT all depends on what the four other anime studios backing Daisuki are going to do. Aniplex obviously is going to use Funimation and/or Sony's streaming services for their anime. But are they going to "involve" the other animation studios behind Daisuki as well into their new plans (like Toei and TMS), or did Aniplex bail this "team-up" all together? The coming months will probably provide us with more answers.

Afterthoughts

There have been some questions about the financial gains of streaming sites in general, not to mention anime streaming sites (which, once again, is a niche). But all these news messages in this post are a sign that the anime industry is changing in general. If anything, I think this may push anime into actual mainstream and out of its niche.

I'll be following the anime industry related news more closely now. And it's bound to follow.

Until next time, V out.

1 August 2017

Is Code of the Duelist is a total miss? - A Yu-Gi-Oh set review

Back from holiday! I took a break, started a subscription with Netflix that got me hooked... and I really need to finish a bunch of half-written blog posts now, do I? (*scratches head and swears*). Oh well, Shoganai. Let's start with this one, while it's fresh.

Now that Link Summoning has become a thing and with new rules, I decided to give Yu-Gi-Oh another shot. I participated in the sneak peek last weekend, but noticed a lack of interest in the set.

I hadn't really payed any attention to what was in the set, other than the Spellbook "Destiny Draw" card, so I was kind of surprised at the lackluster turnout at the events. Due to this, I wanted to dig a little deeper (that's what I do) and see what went wrong. And yes, the set is a total stinker. But it does have a handful of cards worth noting. Let's review:

Is Code of the Duelist a total miss?

A: No real money cards

Biggest problem from the get-go is that there are no cards in here that are worth a lot. There is no Ash Blossom or Pot of Desires or Solemn Strike or anything in here. The priciest card right now (before the set is even out) is Firewall Dragon, which you can get below €40. And that is the hero's key card at sneak peek price (you know that decreases real fast real soon). And "key card" means: This card will be reprinted over and over again, just like every other Key card (Utopia/Pendulum Dragon/Dark Magician/Neos/Stardust).

So underline is: You can buy it if you really need it for your deck. But you will regret spending money on it.

B: Trickstars is not the archetype you are looking for

Fact: Of the new archetypes in this and the next set, only Trickstar is doing anything in the OCG meta on a really small scale. And there's a big asterisk that needs to be added to it due to the OCG meta being different to ours. Over here, I doubt it will do anything at this moment and with the current cardpool. Yes, I know YOU can make a good deck that will do well at locals. But outside of that, nothing.

However, Trickstar Reincarnation itself can be used outside of the archetype and will become a key card in discard decks if that would ever become meta again (you never know with Yu-Gi-Oh). Banishing the opponent's current hand and forcing him to redraw IS an amazing effect.

So underline: Buy 3 Trickstar Reincarnations when they get cheaper, ignore the other Trickstars.

C: Forget about World Chalice

Thé new non-anime archetype that starts in this set is World Chalice (Star Chalice in OCG). You can instantly forget about it. It's not good and it receives very little support in the next set.

D: Chaossworn is not that good

Hate to be the one to tell you, but while the "Twilightsworn" cards may be a good addition to the Chaos Lightsworn decks... they're not good enough to make it tournament-worthy. The new Ryko is amazing, the new Lumina is Great! The new Lyla is good, Jain is "okay" and Punishment Dragon is very iffy and more of a brick draw than JD ever was. Not to mention that constantly banishing your Lightsworns and Twilightsworns is turning JD himself into a brick. You want to keep a certain amount of Lightsworns in the grave.

Maybe this could improve if more Twilightsworn cards would appear. But guess what: Next set has ZERO Twilightsworns. It's really a one-set addition (lol, wut?). So no Wulf, no Ehren, no Raiden or whatever. And that is bad, because I can imagine a bunch of card effects for them that could improve the deck (and I doubt I'm alone).

Underline: Ignore, unless you play Chaossworn. If so: Wait until the prices drop even further and then pick up 3 Lumina's, 2 Ryko's, 1 Punishment and 1-2 Lyla's just in case.

E: TCG Exclusives: F.A. is not good, too soon to judge Vendread

Of the TCG Exclusive card pool, the only cards that seem interesting are the TCG exclusive Vendread archetype, which focuses on ritual summoning Zombies, with huge boost effects. However, with only a handful of cards it's really too early to fully judge it.

Yes, in the future this archetype has the chance to be the next B.A. or Kozmo, But right now it's not good enough yet. But take note in case if it does get better, the most expensive card from the archetype is 5€ at sneak peek value (Vendread reorigin). Reason being that the Spyral dud is still fresh in people's mind.

Underline: Invest in single cards while everything is cheap. This could get good in the future, but beware that this might as well be another TCG hype dud.

F: OCG imports are underwhelming

I've complained about underwhelming OCG promo imports in the past. And this time is no different. The 10 cards that have been added are underwhelming to say it in a nice way. Yes, they all support some fan-favorite archetype (if you stretch the meaning of the words). But none of the archetypes have been relevant in a long while and with the Link format change I doubt that'll change. So no surprise that every card is a friggin' common in here.

G: Other cards worth noting?

The Supreme King Servant Dragons are in here, if you play the new Pendulum Magician Deck that focuses on summoning Z-ARC. That is a legit deck in the OCG, and luckily they're all just plain rares (*sigh of relief*).

Missus Radiant and Gaia Saber are somewhat splashable Link cards, considering there's nothing better in the market. Useful now, but you'll forget about them in a year or so. So pick them up, but don't spend TOO much on them.

Spellbook of Knowledge is the Destiny Draw card that Prophecy/Spellbook decks needed, but next to that it turns Spellbooks into a real engine that can be splashed everywhere. I've seen the combo of Spellbook Secrets/Knowledge/Magician pop up EVERYWHERE in the OCG. If you need to buy anything from this set, it's THIS card. Pick it up while it's still below €10. Because after people start noticing that this engine works, it's going to become expensive.

Overall: Is this set worth investing in?

No. But it's not a total disaster either. Buy those single cards where necessary. But keep in mind that buying a full box is going to guarantee you a net loss of value.

But buy those single cards while they're cheap. This set has a good chance to become another "Starstrike Blast". Horrible when released, but the splashable cards will see a price spike since nobody wants to buy boxes.

Until next time, V out.

17 July 2017

V reviews: Spider-Man Homecoming

First off: beware, there are some minor spoilers in this review. I'll keep it to a minimum, but you've been warned ahead of time.

If you want to remain spoiler-free (as you should), go watch the movie. It's good! Best Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man 2.

V Reviews: Spider-Man Homecoming

Some thoughts prior to watching the movie

When Amazing Spider-Man 2 came around, the premiere in Belgium (and Europe in general) was more than a week ahead of the US. We warned everybody to stay the hell away from it. In response we now got the release a week AFTER the US. Eh, it could be worse. DC has punished us for the same thing (badmouthing BvS) by pushing Wonder Woman almost a month after the US release, way after the hype had passed. Still kind of annoyed by that (hence why I didn't bother writing a review for that).

If you want to know my sentiments about Spider-Man? I friggin' love the franchise. I grew up with Spider-Man TAS from the 90s (one of my favorite shows) and I've read many of the comics ever since. And any kind of interpretation of the character at least gets a chance from me. So if you want to know my favorite Spider-Men?

  1. Spider-Man TAS: Still the best to this day, even though it hasn't aged that well. The reason why this is nr 1 is because this series had multiple seasons to explore the most of the Spider-Man lore compared to any other series and did those things justice. Heck, even the animated Clone sage was better than its comic counterpart (though for obvious reasons).
  2. Spectacular Spider-Man: Great show. Cancelled WAY too soon to be replaced with one of the worst. If it had at least one more season and a proper ending, it certainly would've topped Spider-Man TAS.
  3. Reimy's Spider-Man Trilogy: 2 great movies, one bad one
  4. Spider-Man The New Animated Series: Better known as Spider-Man MTV. Kind of liked the re-invention in CG. Had good moments while it lasted. Silver Sable and Electro were the most memorable things here.
  5. Spider-Man Unlimited: A sequel of sorts to Spider-Man TAS that took place in a totally different planet. Kind of worked, but was way too weird for it to really catch on. Cancelled after one season.
  6. Spider-Man and his amazing friends: Boy this hasn't aged well. I kind of want to like this. This was supposed to be Human Torch, Iceman and Spider-Man. But since Iceman and Torch were too much alike, they changed her for the original female Firestar. Nice twist that gave this series something noteworthy compared to the next two entries.
  7. 80s Spider-Man: In the middle on this. Can't remember much of this, so I'll put it in the middle.
  8. 60s Spider-Man: Hard to criticize this, since the show is so old and I can't bear to ever watch this again. But it's been the source of tons of golden memes, so I can't really be mad at it.
  9. Ultimate Spider-Man: Boy, did I give this series a chance. And another one. And another one. After a certain certain episode where Spider-Man proved himself to be better than both Wolverine and Captain America I was so disgusted by it that I stopped watching it all together. This series is bad, should get cancelled and go burn itself in a junkyard. The one good thing this series has done is Deadpool. Deadpool is the best character of Ultimate Spider-Man. That's how bad this series is.
  10. Marc Webb's Amazing Spider-Man 1+2: The first was "bleh". It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't good either. I hated Garfield's impression of Peter Parker, but his Spider-Man character was decent and the chemistry with Gwen Stacy worked! But then came ASM2 and with it came the first movie i saw in theater and walked away from totally pissed. This movie sucked so bad.

What this movie gets right: Not re-hashing the origin story AGAIN!

You know what everybody complained about in Batman Vs Superman? Everybody hated on the YET-AGAIN origin story for Batman. We've seen it several times at this point. Most people know by now how Batman "began". So seeing it being done again just was another drip of oil being poured onto the lit fire

In Spider-Man Homecoming the writers stayed away from it. No spider-bite, no uncle Ben, no weirdly annoying subplot of Peter's parents that goes nowhere (looking at you, ASM2). Peter was introduced in Civil War and now his story starts from that point onward. No looking back at "how it all began". And that's good, because the movie already takes up more than 2 hours without that.

A few more things get omitted from this film, like the over-reliance on the spider-Sense and "swinging through the city to show off how good (or dated) our CG is". Yeah, the Reimy films didn't age well on that part.

What this movie gets right: Villains

Marvel villains suck in general. But there's two groups of villains in the Marvel universe that are as good as Batman's rogue gallery: The rogue gallery of the X-Men and especially Spider-Man. And while a lot of people were skeptical of seeing the Vulture (of all things) being adapted to the movie screen, I must say the adaption was AMAZING! Michael Keaton smashes EVERY OTHER incarnation of the Vulture out of the park and re-introduces him as a working man. A common man who went the villain route due to being forced there by "the big guys". And there's a plot twist in the story (I'm not going to spoil) that even cements him harder into the spider-lore and genuinely turned him into one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe villains to date (which is not THAT hard, all things considered).

And next to the Vulture, we get a few more Spider-Man Villains in here, working as henchmen for the Vulture. And honestly, this is how that works best. I know people have complained about it, but let's be real. Shocker has always been a kind of a "lackey" for a greater villain, so seeing him work under Vulture makes sense. And Tinkerer was never that well known, so him being part of Vulture's crew made sense.

And then there's the setup for another villain that will (most likely) appear in the sequel. Most people caught the tattoo on the bad guy both times he appears and branded him as said villain. But I guess most of them never heard it when the Vulture's crew was talking about said villain's actual name (not going to spoil it) earlier in the movie. I guess I'm a little bit too much of a Spider-Nerd, so I caught it immediately and got my "oooooooh" moment there.

What this movie gets right: Re-introducing classic characters in a modern setting

Guess what. Queens of the 60s isn't the same Queens as it is today. Today's Queens is a melting pot of cultures and minorities. Asians, African-Americans, Northern Africans, Latino's, Italians and many other people make up the people of current-day New York. So it wouldn't make sense if every Spider-Character is Caucasian. And I kind of like it that both Peter and the Vulture are some of the few white people in a totally culturally mixed environment.

Is it pandering? Maybe. But New York is culturally very diverse. If this was the US outback, where >90% of the population is white, then an approach closer to the comics would've worked better. But again, this is New York. This multicultural approach works the best in this specific environment.

Also, Flash no longer being an archetype cliche bully works wonders. He's still an asshole, but he's no longer a 70s or 80s high school movie archetype of a bully. He's now being an obnoxious rich kid that goes to every club activity and after-school activity that Peter has as well, so he can't ignore this asshole.

Zendaya as the new MJ (not that much of a spoiler, it's everywhere on the internet) kinda works. It's still kind of iffy, mostly because she and Holland at this moment still have 0 chemistry. We'll see what a sequel brings.

What this movie gets right: A dorky Peter and a funny Spider-man

Tobey Maguire did a perfect job portraying Peter Parker as a dork, but felt kind of awkward when he donned the Spider-Man mantle. Andrew Garfield was way too cool to portray Peter. That never really worked. And his Spider-man was often more of a jerk than genuinely a funny guy. Tom Holland is both a dork as Peter, as well as an inexperienced, yet funny Spider-Man. And I love it. Depending on how Sony (mis)uses Tom Holland, this may end up being the best incarnation of the Spider-Man character to this date.

Time for some nit-picking!

Note: the following may sound a bit negative, but at best I'm just nitpicking at a good movie. Please take that into account.

What this movie doesn't get that right: MCU Connections

Before I start my complaint, first some kudo's. Marvel's writing team did their best to work in Spider-Man into the MCU and retconning "the kid" from Iron Man 2 as Spider-Man. But there's a few moments where I really frown my brows. How many years have passed since the Avengers movie? EIGHT? Really? That was never established before.

And while the cameo's from Iron Man, Happy Hogan and Pepper are limited to the bare minimum, some things still feel forced in. It's like Spider-Man's tech suit itself. This movie often feels like it is in "baby mode", with training wheels attached to it. And while this franchise needs it (considering the last three movies), it feels like pandering.

Though as a side-note: the tech suit with its many easter eggs was fun to watch as a total Spider-Nerd. I giggled at all the little details I recognized. But I doubt many people recognized the many easter eggs as well.

What this movie doesn't get right: Avoiding movie tropes, only to fall right back into it

Oh, this movie tries so hard at avoiding any movie trope. It's like they did research on Honest Trailers and CinemaSins and made a checklist of things to avoid or to better explain. And while they did their best, they can't avoid falling right into it. Perfect example? Minor "bad guy" Aaron Davis gets caught by Spider-Man and tells him who his real target is. And when Peter is running away, he yells "Wait, I haven't even told you where he is!", which is a great answer to the movie trope of heroes popping up out of nowhere where the villain is.

And that WOULD have been a really good sneer at countless movies that use this common trope... if they didn't fell into that same trope about an hour later into the movie (*facepalms*). Yeah, in the finale Peter suddenly pops up out of nowhere without the use of trackers. And that's sad, considering the movie takes so many attempts to specifically avoid this movie trope, having an explanation ready for every other random appearance.

What this movie doesn't get right: Visual effects

Thank god, this doesn't happen all the time. But there really are a few moments where the visuals just fail. Most notably is the first encounter between Vulture and Spider-Man. It's unwatchable, plain and simple. The shaky cam and the horrible angles ensure you can't make anything of the scene except: "Peter got picked up and dropped". All the rest from that scene? Unwatchable. Luckily the encounters after that have a better choreography.

Another weak point is the sometimes bad CG-ing of Spider-Man swinging around. Once again, doesn't happen in the entire movie. But the moments where the CG team drops the ball, it really shows. But then again, it's an issue that has occurred in EVERY Spider-Man movie, so I assume it's just very difficult to do.

Lastly, the homage to the debris lifting scene from the Ditko days was kind of undercut by the poor filming choices. It's not bad per sé... It just could've been done better.

So how does it compare to the other Spider-Man movies?

Hold on before you fire shots. I liked the movie. My "what this movie doesn't get right" parts are only to highlight a few of the weaker points in an otherwise GOOD movie. Think of it as constructive feedback for a sequel.

And it is constructive feedback, bacause this IS the Best Spider-Man movie ever since Spider-Man 2. I'd honestly give this an 8,5/10. And I need to rewatch that one in order to give a proper judgment. But at the moment, this may be the second best of all Spider-Man movies. And a noteworthy 4th place in my earlier top list of all Spider-Man related shows/movies. Let's hope Sony keeps it up in the future...

A sad future

Sadly enough, this isn't only a Marvel property. It's also a Sony property. And Sony has a horrible sleight of hand when handling their franchises. As long as people like Amy Pascel, Avi Arad and Tom Rothman are attached to the Spider-Man brand, it will continue to fail if not properly managed by Marvel. And all of them have already shown signs of future failure. The "Glass Ceiling" movie that was canned suddenly got back on track. So did the Venom movie and the Sinister Six movie. And let me tell you right now: Unless a miracle occurs all three of those movies are going to suck big time or disappoint fans in a big way. I honestly thought the Spider-franchise was saved when Sony and Marvel joined hands. But I couldn't have been more wrong. Sony just cannot learn from their mistakes... (*sigh*). I can only hope I'm wrong here.

Ending on a positive note

But let's end on a positive note here. Let's just ignore all corporate shenanigans and focus solely on this movie. Spider-Man Homecoming IS a good movie and IS worth your time.

Until next time, V out.

PS: I'll edit this a few times for pictures. It's kind of a long block of text right now.

10 July 2017

Why nobody talks about Atom the Beginning

Spring season of anime is over. I should be writing more about it. But I've been trying to find a way to write about anime, rather than just giving the synopsis and characters; especially in the case where there's not much to talk about the backstory (*scratches head* - Let's call that a work in progress).

Today I'm talking about Atom the Beginning, and why it doesn't work as intended. The short answer: Filler. Yeah, filler! And if that seem strange for a 1-season anime, that's because IT IS!

But let's start from the beginning about...

Why nobody talks about Atom the Beginning

What IS Atom the Beginning?

Atom the Beginning is a monthly manga created by Tetsuro Kasahara that works both as a re-imagining of, as well as a prequel to the legendary Tetsuwan Atom, better known in the west as Astro Boy. And if you don't know who Astro Boy or Atom is, then shame on you as an anime fan! It is thé creation from the godfather of manga and anime: Osamu Tezuka. Astro Boy is to Japan what characters like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny are to America.

And while Astro Boy has been remade several times ever since its first appearance in the early 60s, this is the first of a set of "re-imaginings" that actually reaches the screen (with Urasawa's Pluto following somewhere in the following year).

Atom the Beginning tells the story of the two scientists (Umatarō Tenma and Hiroshi Ochanomizu) that were behind the creation of Atom (or its code name A1011 if you catch the inside reference) and tells us how these two originally met in university and how their first creations went. And more specifically, it tells the story of the prototype that predates Atom, codenamed A106 (A-Ten-Six). And yes, that is as intriguing as it sounds. Both Tenma and Ochanomizu (neither of them is "doctor" yet, but still a univ student) are shown to care about each other and their creations, even if their personalities often clash with each other. The over-caring Ochanomizu can't always agree with the often erratic Tenma.

And if you know anything about Atom-lore, you know that this is an interesting premise for an Atom-prequel and "what-if" story. And similar to other "Atom" spin-offs, this as well got input from Makoto Tezuka, the daughter of Osamu Tezuka (and also from Masami Yuki for some reason). And from what I've read from the 10 chapters that have been fan-translated, it IS a good manga.

But if that is true, what went wrong with the anime?

Amazon Anime Strike, late air date and lack of promotion

First, let's talk about a few factors that may have been an influence on why not that many people talk about the series in general.

The anime series is exclusive to Amazon's Anime Strike, where anime goes to die. It's a bad joke that bears repeating. anime exclusive to Amazon will reach a smaller audience because of exclusivity to America and a high combined monthly subscription fee (though that may change in the future).

Then there's the air date for the first episode, which was the fourth week of April (if you include the first weekend). That may seem trivial to you, but when the seasonal anime watchers (the trend setters of the community) are trying to pick their series for the new season, it's the series that start airing in the first week of the new season that will receive a larger coverage. It's a marketing strategy, really. The later on in the season you start your series, the less coverage and buzz you will receive. And in a season where you're competing with Attack on Titan, My Hero Academia and Eromanga sensei you will need all the buzz that is thrown in your direction.


Thank Gigguk for hyping the TOURNAMENT ARC!

And then there is the minimal amount of promotion. Heck, I wouldn't have noticed the series if people from the anime community weren't pointing to this series as the one where the internet sensation Bahi JD is working on the opening and end credits. And since Westerners (Bahi is Austrian) working in the anime scene is REALLY RARE, that generated a lot of buzz. But that was buzz from the community... not from the marketing department of the series. From that side we got two promo video's, but that was about it.

So it's safe to say that this series was flying under the radar for a lot of people. But it still could've been a "hidden gem" to promote... but then something else happened that prevented even that from happening.

Codeword: Filler

The comments on the first episodes haven't been nice. I could spill all the bile I can gather from MAL forums and Reddit. But in short: the story takes way too long to set up its premise. It's too slow and thus too boring.

And yes, I can agree with that sentiment. By the time the interesting part of the story starts (the robo-wrestling tournament), we're already at episode 8/12 while this is chapter 4 of the manga. Yes, it takes that long. Episodes 3, 4, 6 and 7 are filler... and so is episode 9. Yes, that is FIVE episodes of pure filled-up content in a 12-episode run. I don't think I've EVER heard of an anime that started to use filler THIS EARLY in its production cycle.

Do you know what most people hated about series like Naruto, Bleach and Fairy Tail? What brought a lot of their ratings and fan appreciations down? The massive amounts of filler episodes. Fillers are non-canon and often serve just to fill out a time-slot until enough manga chapters are ready to be animated. They're needed in long-running series, but nobody likes them.


And do I even need to mention the nonsense fillers add to the story?

And in such long-running series I can (somewhat) understand the use of filler. But here? Can somebody tell me why 5 of the 12 episodes of Atom the Beginning are Filler? Don't come and tell me there isn't enough material available, because there is. The monthly manga has been running for nearly three years and has sufficient material to fill up a 12-episode time-slot and even more.

And if the creators were testing the waters to see if they would care for a more long-running series of this kind, they most certainly failed. Because once again, nobody likes fillers.


Oh yes, we certainly needed a culture festival episode
Because we all wanted to see A106 make udon noodles, right?

So for crying out loud... WHY? It will probably take months (or even years) before we get honest interview of staff, director or producer on what went wrong here; but we're going to need some explanation. Because the end result is just not worth the investment of a casual anime viewer.

And that is sad because I wanted to praise this series. I want to let the anime community know that there is a huge interest in the Atom franchise in Japan and the rest of the world. I wanted to warm the people up for the upcoming Pluto series and who knows - maybe even the fifth-or-so reboot of the Atom television series as a whole.

And this anime has gorgeous visuals, the OP and ED are really good (Thanks to Bahi JD), the CG blends in really well with the 2D animation and the voice cast is really good. Everything but the story is really GOOD.

But as with most anime, the story is what makes or breaks the series.

And here, it's broken into pieces and patched together with a poor adhesive.

Can I still watch and enjoy it?

Yes, you can, but with a big asterisk next to it. The second half of the series is really good and really enjoyable to watch. The robo-wrestling tournament was always intended to be the highlight of the season and it shows. For those episodes alone this anime is worth watching (Episodes 8-12).

So err, just skip episodes 3 - 4 - 6 - 7 and maybe even 9 (though that one kind of works), and you'll have the story that was originally intended. The 4 mentioned episodes? Skip those and pretend they never existed. This way, you may still be able to enjoy Atom the Beginning.

It's a sad truth, but that's what it is.

Until next time, V out.

2 July 2017

How to make an interesting recap episode?: Let Re:Creators tell you how!

Recap episodes. You hate them, I hate them, even studios and animators hate them. But they're a necessary evil in the production of a TV-series (not just in anime).

Recap episodes can help out balancing the budget for the entire season if too much money has been blown on one specific episode. They can also be a saving grace when production issues cause a certain episode to not make a targeted deadline.

But in the anime industry of today, recap episodes are being programmed along with an anime season. It's why anime of today have only 12 episodes instead of 13. Or 2-cours anime have only 25 episodes instead of 26. There is a planned recap episode somewhere that is not part of the official episode count.

Why is this a standard element of the anime series of today? Mostly because of really tight production schedules in anime. The week with a recap episode is NOT a week where the production staff goes on holidays. No, they have to keep on working hard to make sure the final episode will be finished the moment it needs to air. And that one week "breathing room" is more necessary than you think. I know it's cliché at this point, but just watch Shirobako to see how production changes or unforeseen circumstances can cause a sudden need for a recap episode.

But even when defending the existence of recap episodes, it keeps buzzing in my head: Why can't the studios make these recaps better or more fresh? Just look at what both Avater series did to make their recap episode funny and interesting. But in anime, recap episodes really are just that... recaps! At best you get one character that narrates the entire story. But in most cases, it's just a "clip show".

So color me interested when this image suddenly appeared in Re:Creators Episode 13. Let's just say... I did NOT expect this, and I was pleasantly surprised!

How to make an interesting recap episode?

Before going into detail on why the most recent Re:Creators is a good example of a recap episode done right, let me explain with two examples of interesting and enjoyable recap episodes.

Recap done right: The Ember Island Players

The third season episode "The Ember Island Players" from Avatar the Last Airbender is a masterpiece of doing a recap of the entire show and doing it masterfully!

The plot of the entire show up to that point is being told through the play of a theater group from the Fire Nation (the Ember Island Players), while our heroes are watching the show from the audience and provide their own comments on it. Saying the play is inaccurate is an understatement. Characters have been gender-swapped or are portrayed inaccurately. Characters are being portrayed in a cartoonish over-the-top version that annoys the actual character sitting in the audience and certain plot points are manipulated in such a way that it would please the local people of the Fire Nation. But the entire play (and thus the episode) was done in such a way that the people watching it at home absolutely loved it.

Heck, most people today still say that the "Ember Island" play is a better portrayal of the Avatar series than M.Night Shyamalan's movie incarnation. People love this so much, entire cosplay groups have been spotted, dressed as the Ember Island players (no joke).

Recap done right: Remembrances

While the Recap episode in Legend of Korra (Remembrances) may have been "less awesome" than the Ember Island players, it was still really funny to watch. The entire episode was split into several sections where characters re-tell the past story events, while "chibi" versions of the people in the neighborhood of the narrator voice their live comments. And that is really funny, especially when Mako's family openly voices their disapproval of his actions of cheating on his girlfriend.

And I don't even need to mention the over-the-top storytelling Varrick does when he's recapping the events. The super-villain team-up to take down Varrick's superhero Bolin is hilarious without end.

Recap done right: Re:Creators Episode 13

So yesterday I watched episode 13 of Re:Creators and quickly realized that it would be a recap episode. As usual when seeing this, I think about the Avatar episodes and can only sigh about the lack of creativity in the anime industry when it comes to handling recaps. Then I slide my timer through the episode and drop it at specific points to see if anything new or fresh is added. But low and behold, I was honestly surprised when I saw the following:


Wait, that's not Meteora... right?

I quickly rewound the episode and watched carefully. As it turned out, the character named Meteora was recapping the prior 12 episodes and gave the story her own "personal touch", especially when it came to her self image (some issues there, girl?).

And while she "kills" the Military Uniform Girl from the first episode, she quickly comes to come to the conclusion that such a series ending would be forced and people would not like it. And thus she quickly "rewinds" her story and tells it the way we actually know it.

For the rest, new scenes are kept to a minimum, but Meteora keeps narrating and adds her own personal "touches" to the characters of the story and even starts singing (very much off-key) to one of the songs.


Yes, that is the word "Lolicon" you've just heard.

Later on, she gives her own opinion on the design of the Military girl, as if she was one of the animators herself. Trust me, it's more funny than this screenshot can show. It's hilarious.

But to finish it all off, she gives the reason why recap episodes exist in the anime industry. It's really well-put together and worth watching the entire episode for.

And I could voice my opinion on it. But I thought it would be the most fitting, if I transcribed the entire dialogue for you to see... and to share. Because messages like this should NOT get lost in the much dreaded recap episodes.

Meteora's words on recap episodes

Well then, I hope you enjoyed this intermission.
However, since this episode was a replay of highlights from the show, I'm sure that some of you may be left feeling a little concerned about the future of this show.
But please do not panic.
"The Quality is getting worse", or "the industry is in a crisis".
People say things like that these days to sensationalize things. But that is not our intention.
This intermission was planned as part of the broadcast, right from the beginning, so please do not worry.
Since this story has a large number of characters and a high density of elements in each frame, the expectations of the client are also high.
Without an interval like this, the director and producer would end up as shriveled-up mummies before the second half even begins.
Starting next episode, the show will resume in the normal format.
Perhaps I may have said some inappropriate things or foreboding words today.
But please don't tell anyone.
Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy the rest of the show.
Brought to you by the magician of the Kunst Wunderkammer,
Meteora Osterreich.
Farewell.

I have no further words to add.
Until next time, V out.

18 June 2017

10 Summer 2017 anime you should pay attention to

After my huge posts of the Spring season, I found it necessary to refine my anime recommendation process. No, I'm not going to do another starting point blog post where I watch EVERY new anime of the season. That process is a little too draining for me.

Last season I watched 40+ first episodes of the new anime series and I quickly came to realize that most are just generic and bland. And if you ever want to get tired and annoyed of something you love, there is no better way than watch too many bland and generic shows.

BAD anime have something going for them. They can be meme machines (like Berserk 2017 or Eromanga Sensei), or can evoke discussion (ID-0). Good anime can have big followings (My Hero Academia, Boruto), can make you smile or emotional (Sakura Quest, Alice & Zoroku) or evoke thoughtful discussion (KADO). But mediocre anime? They got nothing.

So to avoid getting an anime bore-out, I'm only going to focus on these 10 new anime this upcoming season.

10 Summer anime to look forward to

Note: These are ranked in sequence of air dates, not in preference

Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler

  • Genre: Psychological, Drama, Mystery
  • Source: Manga
  • Studio: MAPPA
  • First episode will air: July 1
  • Why: This is a dark gambling anime. People have been hyping this manga a lot, even before an anime adaptation was announced (both Aki and The Anime man have been promoting it as a favorite manga). And while I haven't checked the manga out yet for myself, I may save that for now and check out the anime instead.
    Also, it's a MAPPA production, so quality is assured. So hype: YES! This series has the highest potential of being the best anime of the season.
  • Risks: See further below, with project Altair

Katsugeki / Touken Ranbu

  • Genre: Fantasy, Action
  • Source: Cardgame
  • Animated by: Studio Ufotable
  • First episode will air: July 2
  • Why?: It's Studio UFOtable. If they're able to do everything in-house, you know it's going to be awesome; no questions asked.
  • Risks: Based upon a CARD GAME. Also, this is director Toshiyuki Shirai's debut as full series director. He's been episode director on multiple UFOtable franchises before, but never a full series. We'll see how he handles this.

Fate/Apocrypha

  • Genre: Fantasy, Action
  • Source: Light Novel
  • Studio: A1-Pictures (eeeew)
  • First episode will air: July 2
  • Why: I'm a Fate franchise fan, so I'm definitely checking this out. But since Ufotable already had its hands full with the "Heaven's Feel" movies, this time it's thus up to A1-Pictures to handle this adaptation (sigh).
  • Risks: A1-Pictures in combination with Light Novels, nuff said. The studio's track record with adapting light novels is abysmal. Basically this means a good first half and a mediocre second half?

Cleanliness boy Aoyami / Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun

  • Genre: Sports, comedy
  • Source: Manga
  • Studio: Studio Hibari
  • Airdate: July 3
  • Why: A comedy about a soccer player that also a "neat freak". And if there are two things that do not combine, it's soccer and staying clean. Also, it's done by Studio Hibari, who has made fame with the baseball anime Major.
  • Risk: May be as good as Sakamoto Desu ga. But it might also become an annoying one-trick pony anime. We'll see.

7O3X Fastest Finger First / Nana Maru San Batsu

  • Genre: Games, Seinen
  • Source: Manga
  • Studio: TMS Entertainment
  • First episode will air: July 5
  • Why: This is an anime about competitive quizzing. Quizzing is one of Belgium's national sports (in a matter of speaking), so color me intrigued. Let's see what TMS can do with this new seinen series
  • Risk: I have no idea how TMS can make a quiz anime look interesting for the general public! I'm going to be rooting, but still...

Vatican Kiseki Chousakan

  • Genre: Mystery, Supernatural, drama
  • Source: Novel
  • Studio: J.C. Staff
  • First episode will air: July 7
  • Why: A scientist and a crypto-analysis expert investigate "supernatural miracles". Has a look-and-feel that I like and it's a Supernatural mystery.
  • Risks: The promo video shows basically nothing and the buzz surrounding this is almost non-existent. Could be a total dud or a hidden gem.

Project Altair / Shoukoku no Altair

  • Genre: Adventure, historical, drama
  • Source: manga
  • Studio: MAPPA
  • First episode will air: July 8
  • Why: It's an awards-winning manga about a historical (fantasy) variant of Turkey? Talk about original setting for an anime. The plot summary also makes me want to check this out. This might be REALLY interesting.
  • Risks: Wait, so this is also done by MAPPA? Two new anime in one season? Let's hope this "double-bill" doesn't create problems in the production process.

Jikan no Shihaisha

  • Genre: Supernatural
  • Source: Manga
  • Studio: Project No.9
  • First episode will air: July 8
  • Why: Time manipulators? Interesting concept. Let's see if it rolls as well as it sounds, or if this is going to be a trainwreck
  • Risk: The studio hasn't really had a "hit show" under their belt as of yet.

Hell Girl S4 / Jigoku Shoujo: Yoi no Togi

  • Genre: Supernatural, mystery, horror
  • Source: Original
  • Studio: Deen
  • First episode will air: July 15 (though not sure if the first is an old episode or new one).
  • Why: Originally ranked very high on my to-watch list, but then I found out that it's only 6 new episodes, with 6 older ones just being re-aired (because the last season was 8 years ago, or so?)
  • Risk: Only being 6 new episodes. That may put many people off. Also, 8 years after the last season means that a lot of interest in the franchise is gone by now. Maybe have Crunchyroll stream the older seasons at the same time may pick up interest again (hint, hint).

THE REFLECTION

  • Genre: Superhero
  • Source: Original
  • Studio: Studio Deen
  • First episode will air: July 22
  • Why: This is Studio Deen's new series and it's superhero based AND it's an original AND Marvel legend Stan Lee is involved (lol, wut?).
  • Risk: From what I read, people are afraid it's just going to be a My Hero Academia clone, with little original flavor. Guess we'll see.

Movies to look forward to

I can't really put these two in my top 10 list, since it might take months or years before I get to see them. But the following movies will release this summer that do trigger my interest.

Koukyoushihen: Eureka Seven - Hi-Evolution 1

  • Genre: Mecha, Sci-fi, drama
  • Source: Original
  • Studio: Bones
  • Airdate: September 16 (JP only, release date may vary from country to country)
  • Why: I'd almost forgotten Bones were doing a movie trilogy surrounding the original Eureka 7. Want!
  • Risk: I haven't forgotten about Eureka 7 AO. Do not want that happen again...

Mary and the Witch's Flower / Mary to Majo no Hana

  • Genre:
  • Source: Book
  • Studio: Studio Ponoc
  • Airdate: July 8 (JP only, release date may vary from country to country)
  • Why: Studio Ponoc is former Ghibli director Ishikawa Nonoichi (The Secret World of Arrietty & When Marnie was there) + many ex-Ghibli staff. Together they have made a movie in "Ghibli-style" that has had quite some buzz surrounding it. Curious to find out more.
  • Risk: None

Noteworthy mentions of which I haven't watched enough

  • Owarimonogatri 2nd Season: I need to catch up on the Monogatari franchise.
  • New Game 2nd Season: Never watched the first, but it's generally well received.

That's it from me now. Until next time, V out.

11 June 2017

V Reviews - Haikyuu: Hype, the Anime

When I decided that I would watch some of the most recent sports anime, the first one I decided upon was Haikyuu. Why? Because volleyball is a sport that has always had a soft spot in my heart. I always liked playing it in school and I think if I ever would pick up sports again, volleyball would probably be among my first choices. I dunno why, it's a sport that clicked with me.

So did this anime live up to my expectations? Let's find out

V Reviews: Haikyuu!! (seasons 1-3)

Backstory

Haikyuu is a sports manga created by Furudate Haruichi. And this author is the polar opposite of the mangaka of Yowamushi Pedal (see my earlier blog post). Wataru has many public appearances and his image is publicly known. Haruichi on the other end uses a pen name and almost everything about him is unknown, safe the date of birth (March 7 1982 - yes, there's a typo on ANN's bio page).

The few things we do know is from the "about" section of the manga volumes and the general "mangaka comments" page of Shonen Jump. From this information I was able to filter out that:

  • The author is male. This may sound banal, but the gender has been heavily debated among fans due to the high level of anonymity the author keeps.
  • The author has a high level of anxiety issues. He commented once that riding vehicles (like buses) or going outside in general makes him REALLY nervous. This kind of explains his lack of appearances at Haikyuu events. He's just conflicted with anxiety. I can't imagine how meeting up with editors must be for him.
  • The author has at least an older and younger brother. The latter of which has recently become a light novel author.
  • The author used to play volleyball in high school. His position was a middle blocker. This kind of explains why he started a manga about volleyball.

It starts to make you think. How can an anxious person go and play a team sport like Volleyball? From my experience, the only way to do that would be to latch onto a friend you can trust. Like how the anxious Yamaguchi hangs with Tsukishima.

Hold on... Central blocker, anxious kid who hangs with best friend... Is Yamaguchi the personification of the author? That would make sense and it is a recurring thing that authors put their own persona in their own stories as a supporting or side character.

Well, it's only speculation, but let's call this my personal "Anime Theory"

Since the author is a very anxious person, it was kind of to be expected that he doesn't have a Twitter account or blog of any kind. And I think it's for the better that fans don't try to pry any further into his privacy.

Anyway, back on topic. Haruichi started out in 2008 as a manga artist. And after a few short-lived series (King Kid, Playground & the horror manga Kiben Gakuha), he finally struck gold in 2012 with Haikyuu. The series has resulted in a tv-series of 3 seasons (at this moment), several recap movies, several OVA's and also a (Japanese) 3DS game.

Fully understanding the title

Before going further, let's back up a bit. What exactly does the title "Haikyuu!!" even mean? Since Haikyuu is written in Katakana (reserved for foreign words), you can read it as High Queue or HQ. But reading it like that would miss the point completely, since the word "Haikyuu" is an advanced pun.

It actually goes like this:

  • Haikyuu!! is written as "ハイキュー!!" in Katakana.
  • Volleyball is written as "バレーボール", which is also Katakana and pronounced in approximately the same way the English word is.
  • If "Haikyuu" would be rewritten as hiragana (reserved for Japanese words) and then "upgraded" to Kanji characters, you would end up with the following: 排球
  • And while it's usually written in katakana, there are also Kanji characters available for volleyball, which are exactly the same as Haikyuu: 排球.
  • In other words: Haikyuu = Volleyball (but in a very roundabout way).

Story

After watching the volleyball legend "The Little Giant" on tv, Shōyō Hinata is dreaming of becoming a volleyball star himself. But while his attempts to form a volleyball club in his middle school came with "mixed results" (they end up being beaten in the first round of the big regional tournament), he does not want to give up his dream.


What do you mean, we lost?

So when needing to select a high school to enroll into, Hinata obviously chooses the school of "Little Giant", Karasuno High School. But when entering the volleyball club, he encounters the star player of the team that beat him in middle school, Tobio Kageyama. The two get in each other's hairs and annoy the other players so much as well as incidentally hurting the vice principal of the school, the team leader (Daichi Sawamura) kicks both of them out of the club.

The sole reason for letting them back in, is if they show they can work together as a team. And that is a bigger hurdle than the two thought. Hinata lacks good experience, since the only people he played with were girls or elder women; while Kageyama has some issues of himself, bossing around everybody so much that they stop trusting him (and in a team sport like volleyball that is deadly). But with due time and training, and with the help of the other team members the two slowly start to become better at working together. Hinata and Kageyama show they can work together by challenging the other first-year players to a match. And by winning against them, they're allowed back in the team.

Once this rag-tag team has been formed, the school councilor sets them up a practice match against Aoba Johsai High school, which they somehow win (albeit that was due to the absence of the team's main setter for most of the match). But in order to prepare for the upcoming big tournament, they need to make sure some former players return, get an actual trainer and do a training camp.


Interesting team, but we'll beat them next time...

And each episode will get you pumped for the next.

Characters

This anime has SO many characters. The main focus of this show is presenting each team with at least a handful of interesting characters (at which it succeeds). But it's karasuno's team that remains the most interesting...

Shōyō Hinata: Main character of the series. He's a short guy that radiates like the sun (literally, the Hi in his name means "sun"). He's a middle blocker who has a LOT of stamina and focuses on running and jumping (since he can't rely on height). Since he's able to draw everybody's attention with his jump and his radiant aura, his teammates quickly call him the perfect distraction.
Tobio Kageyama: Nicknamed "King of the Court" by his teammates in Middle school. But while you would think that's a good name, we quickly find out it's an insult. Tobio is a genius setter, but has real personality issues. He was being mocked of being a dictator who insults everybody around him for not being up to his level. After being abandoned by his teammates, Tobio realizes that he has to improve his temper and slowly starts to open up to others.
Daichi Sawamura: Third-year and team leader of the Volleyball team. And yes, he sure does live up to that title. When playing, he's quick and precise in handing out commands. This in such a way that everybody can trust in him. But when his "kouhai" are too loud or obnoxious, he can get REALLY angry, like scarily angry.
Kōshi Sugawara: vice-captain and setter of the team. tactical genius who knows his team mates the best, but he realizes that Tobio is a much talented setter than he is. But he doesn't let that set him down. He aims to get better and is ready to take Tobio's place at anytime.
Ryūnosuke Tanaka: Second year wing spiker. He's the loud and extrovert guy. He can get really annoying at times (making Daichi angry), but is still there when it matters. Tanaka is a player you can count on and who even looks out for his own underclassmen (kouhai).
Asahi Azumane: Left-wing spiker and the team's current "Ace". He left the team, due a traumatic experience on the field where every single one of his smashes had been blocked (and thus resulted in his confidence being crushed like ice). But Hinata aims to get him back on the team. Azumane looks older than he is and is often mocked for looking even creepy at times, while he's probably one of the most gentle people in the entire team.
Yū Nishinoya: Second year Libero. Is a two-man team with Azamune and thus left the team as well after Azamune left. But he's a very energetic and passionate guy, aiming to become the world's best Libero player, able to block any play. Similar to Hinata, he's also short and has a very positive attitude.
Kei Tsukishima: First year "glasses guy". And while Hinata is the sun, Tsukishima is the moon (again, literal. Tsuki means "moon"). And it shows in his character. He's the tall guy that hides in the shadow, but is able to block most plays. The only problem he has, is his overall sarcastic and demeaning attitude. When you see him interact, you'd think he has no interest in playing at all. But nothing is less true.
Tadashi Yamaguchi: Best friend of Tsukishima and a bit of a shy guy with a bit of anxiety issues. He gets by, by hanging around Tsukishima. He's a central blocker, but since other players are better, he's in the reserve team. In the meantime, he tries to perfect a "float jump serve" to be somewhat useful to the team.
Kiyoko Shimizu: Team manager and subject of many of the school boys' dreams. Silent and hard worker
Ittetsu Takeda: School teacher and faculty advisor for the volleyball club. He easily admits he won't be able to do such a good job, because he doesn't know all that much about volleyball. But he gives it his all none the less. Do not underestimate this guy, because he's the one bringing in the new coach and is able to make arrangements with other teams for matches and training camps.
Keishin Ukai: Former Karasuno student and grandson of the famous coach Ukai. Holds open the shop of his mother where our school boys often frequent. Teacher Takeda tries to convince him to become the new coach for the Karasuno team. But he requires some time to be convinced.
Halfway through the third season his voice actor suddenly changed. Sadly enough, this was because the original voice actor Kazunari Tanaka passed away due to brain stem hemorrhage. And while the new VA (Hisao Egawa) does his best, you feel that it just isn't the same coach Ukai. Rest in peace.

But boy, I could go on for a while naming characters (SO many of them). Amongst the list of "others", the most notable characters are: Tōru Oikawa (setter for Aoba Johsai High school and rival to Kageyama), Kenma Kozume (setter for Nekoma high and friend/rival of Hinata) and Wakatoshi Ushijima (ace of Shiratorizawa Academy, and "main enemy to beat" in the regional tournament and thus the first three seasons).

Animation

Animation is being handled by Production I.G. and the studio has been pumping out the seasons on a steady pace. Season 1 was 2014, with season 3 airing past Fall of 2016. 2017 will have no fourth season. Instead, the studio is trying to comfort the fans with a recap movie and a special OVA instead.

The reason for that was quite obvious. The anime was catching up to the manga. That's why the third season was already shorter than the previous two. There has been no official message of when Season 4 will be done, but speculation is that the studio wishes for the manga to move a little further before they start animating it. Fans already have mentioned that the special training of Tobio (which is revealed at the end of the third season) itself could not contain a fourth season of 1 cours, by itself. So if a fourth season comes, it'll probably be 25 episodes again (like the first and second season).

In terms of quality, there's nothing to say in particular. Production I.G. is one of the most renown animation studios in the anime industry. There's a quality label attached to the name of the studio. Even if a Production I.G. anime doesn't do well, it's never because of the animation.

Sound

The music is composed by the young and talented Asami Tachibani. And if to be described in one word, it's: "Hype". Listen to tracks like "The Battle of Concepts" (for example) will get you pumped up and ready to play ball.

And the OP's try to do the same thing. They're animated to maximize the interest curve system to get your interest set up for the show to start. But hey, don't take my word for it. Here is Geoff from Mother's Basement explaining the Interest Curve system used in the Haikyuu OP.

Personal Enjoyment

This has been a VERY enjoyable anime to watch... and to binge watch especially. The longer you hang around these characters, the more you want to be with the characters. You feel the main characters' struggle to become better in volleyball.

And the show makes it clear that these are no superheroes performing supernatural sports performances. They fail to receive the ball, they f**k up passes, they hit the net when setting up and even lose matches. They get frustrated and annoyed after losing. They want to train harder, but don't always find the right way to be successful. And while reviewers who play volleyball have already commented that the stuff these characters do are feats that even Olympic athletes couldn't do (like constant triple blocking), it's still closer to reality than most sports anime (for example Kuroko's Basketball).

And best of all, the flow feels more natural, akin to the real sport. With that I mean that the distance people run and the duration of the passes are more aligned to our real world (unlike sports anime like Prince of Tennis or Yowamushi Pedal). There's only one episode in the first season where I caught them doing exactly that: A single pass lasting over 5 minutes (which I found hilarious). But I think they received complaints about that, because the creators never did something this stupid ever again.

But what sold it completely for me is the great sense of humor this series had. I was laughing my ass off due to the shenanigans our heroes and the other rival schools tend to do.

Personally, I'd give the three seasons together a solid 8.5/10. It's a really good anime. Can't wait for the next season!

Until next time, V out.