Gurren Lagann: The Larger-Than-Life Story of Us | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 27-episode spring 2007 anime “Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann” or simply “Gurren Lagann,” produced by Gainax, based on original story by Hiroyuki Imaishi and Kazuki Nakashima.


Imagine your whole world being contained within a shabby cardboard box. There are no cracks, so light doesn’t penetrate through the sides, and inside the box is nothing but a floor of dirt. This is life, and it the only time-waster is digging deeper in hope of discovery.

Then one day, *chink!* “What is this?” You find a key buried fantastically deep under your feet. Perhaps you confused your increased heart rate with the rumbling of the box, but suddenly, the cardboard flaps burst open and a giant face gazes down on you. So what now?? With possibility erupting with every new experience, you rise to your feet and step outside the box. Is this a room? You run out the door. So this is a building? You flee to the street where an unimaginable light floods your vision. Shocked yet determined, the sun, the stars, and the ever-expanding universe await your exploring spirit.

Breaking the Surface

Such is the story that Gurren Lagann tells, and it does so marvelously. In a world where people are forced to eke out a living underground for fear of what roams above, we hone in on a little boy named Simon who, among his grungy village neighbors and peers, is pitied as a quiet loner with no real dreams. He is just another digger, though quite skilled, who spends his youth drilling deep beneath the crust for artifacts long-lost. Any excitement in Simon’s life stems directly from his boisterous “bro” Kamina, a defiant ruffian with cool shades who remains hell-bent on leaving behind the village and scouting the wondrous surface.

And excitement is just what Simon gets when he uncovers a drill-shaped key and a giant robot head. Putting two and two together, Simon and Kamina activate the newly dubbed machine “Lagann” to fight against an even larger robot that falls from the surface. Amidst the chaos, the guys meet the red-headed rifle-wielding Yoko Littner, a girl who roams the upper lands.

Tossed into the sky by an enormous EXPLOSION, the vastness world above becomes clear to Simon and Kamina. Teaming up with Yoko and her gang, the grand struggle between the Gunman-wielding “Beastmen” and the renegade humans only intensifies until their rancor reaches the edge of the galaxy — and beyond.

Inspiration, Purpose, and Fate

Carving their names in history, the squad is always breathing on the edge of tomorrow. Their determination to live free lives under the sun, fueled primarily by Kamina’s leadership, allows them to stand such a miraculous chance against an enemy who has conquered basically the known universe. It’s an inspiring tale, that’s for certain, and watching Kamina take a shit on the “ignorance is bliss” message is half the fun. If you don’t know what it is, KICK ITS ASS. If it’s hot on your trail and stealing your women, KICK ITS ASS. Let nothing stand in your way of learning and growing as a human.  

There’s not much else I can say about the story other than what I covered in the intro. I mean, it starts as a small quarrel in the bar, then gets moved out into the streets. Soon blocks are all fighting each other before it becomes dueling towns, kingdoms, continents, planets, galaxies — I think you get the picture. Each enemy is tenfold stronger than the one that came before it. The world’s energy, known as Spiral Power, can be seen as a metaphysical embodiment of inspiration, drive, purpose, intention — Whatever you want to call it, it’s about overcoming any obstacle, no matter the size. And I like that a lot. Gurren Lagann wants fate to be left in our hands, not in those of a third party observer.

The Gurren Crew

The characters all range from as gentle and quirky as Simon to the bombastic Kamina to Yoko’s tech junkie (and rather gay friend) Leeron (who is, yes, my favorite character). Like its ever-expanding story, we’ll watch Simon go from boy on the sideline to a man in the front. He’ll borrow traits from the foes he faces and the allies he makes, but more prominently, Simon will not only step outside of Kamina’s brazen shadow, but cast his own in due course.

I want to say a lot about Kamina, but the only words I can use are “WHO THE HELL DO YOU TH–” okay fine, he’s simply a badass. Same is arguably to be said about Yoko, though I found the series’ latter half portrayal of her much stronger and less of a girl-with-a-big-gun fan-service token. I also forget Rossiu, a young religious boy, and Viral, a renegade with a Gunman, two chumps who’ll eventually cause a lot of trouble despite them having their own motives and ideologies. I didn’t care much for these two, but they were interesting to watch develop.

Rossiu in particular is an interesting case, in where he, like Simon, was forced underground not because their village leader was a power-hungry dick, however, but because it was the will of God. His actions in the second half will unfortunately reveal the toll his origins have taken on him, even though it’s far too late to call it justice. Considering its trigger happy mood, it was a dark part of the series that I basically wish didn’t even exist.

Meanwhile, Leeron is always being Leeron: a big, gay-ass time.

The money-maker:

The Bold Presentation

Both the animation and the music are very hit or miss this time around. As a fan, this was spectacularly animated (episode 4 tho?), and it was just as explosive as I wanted it to be considering KILL la KILL is its “spiritual successor.” Even though I think the Gunmen are pretty goofy looking, the colors are rich and bold to match its cast. I still believe that Lagann’s first episode is one of the most fluid and best-looking ones I’ve ever seen!

I do have to speak as a reviewer, however, and that voice of concern is in the character designs and movement. It’s very cartoony, so for people who only leech off of studios P.A. Works, Ufotable, and KyoAni (just to name a few), you’ll probably be quite turned off by the somewhat grotesque and angular designs. A side note: high quality is kept pretty constant throughout.

Favorites from Taku Iwasaki’s OST include the emotionally-charged anthem “With Your Drill, Pierce The Heavens!!,” the military-ready “BafBaf! Do You Like… Burning With Such Passion,” the operatic yet ruined-by-rap “Libera Me From Hell,” and my number one (which I believe best represents Gurren Lagann), “Fleeing the Hot desert, Team Dai-Gurren Can Continue.” The rest of the soundtrack is pretty skippable on its own.

Final Thoughts

Gurren Lagann can be viewed in two ways:

  1. It’s a crazy adventure about a boy who grows up into a man by following his brother’s footsteps in liberating the world of evil beings and conquering its trials.
  2. It’s the story of raw motivation — the idea of controlling possibility — and expanding your view of the universe through conquest.

While it can be seen in two entirely different lights, both objects cast shadows that intersect at the crossroads of EXPANSION. It encourages us heartily to find the drill within ourselves — To reach deep down and just turn it on! If you want something, dammit, “Kick logic to the curb, do the impossible,” and just GO DO IT!! After all, “A frog in a well knows not of the great ocean (Negima!?).”

Lastly, I found Kamina’s signature advice to provide a nice peace of mind.  He constantly shouts, “Believe in the me that believes in you,” and even though he’ll later preach to just believe in yourself, I think it’s still a good temporary fail-safe for last-minute faith. In unsure times, relying on a friend who knows you’ll be okay is quite calming. All this and more is why I’ll recommend Gurren Lagann to anyone who doesn’t mind outlandish art styles and the mecha genre. While they won’t ruin the experience, per se, they are heavy plot devices. Have fun with that huge plot twist midway! Gurren Lagann is badass and tons of fun. And best of all, it puts possibility in YOUR hands. Go out and explore what this beautiful world has to offer.

“We evolve beyond the person we were a minute before. Little by little, we advance a little further with each turn. That’s how a drill works!” – Simon, just another digger

Final Assessment

+ Ideas of crushing fate and owning your own future are explored thoroughly; ultimate antagonist should also prove thought-provoking

+ Absurd and bombastic journey with an incredible cast of colorful characters; Simon, Kamina, Yoko, and Leeron are just awesome

+ Explosive animation with fluidity despite the rough designs

– Art style is not for everyone

– Wish there were more standalone tracks, even though what we got was great

– Some actions in the second half add unnecessary negative tone


While Gurren Lagann is obviously a “Caffe Mocha” for me, what did you guys think of it? Also, man, it is hard to write a review about a show that has already +1,000 reviews in circulation! I tried, though, haha! What you thought about Lagann and/or the universe? Were you turned off by its quirkiness, or did you embrace it? And hey, if you enjoyed my thoughts, drop me a ‘like’ to let me know! I’ll totally be buying Aniplex’s DVD box of it . . . whenever my wallet pierces heavens. Until next time everyone, this has been

– Takuto, your host

When does a man die? When he is hit by a bullet? No. When he suffers a disease? No. When he eats a soup made out of a poisonous mushroom? No! A man dies when he is forgotten.

Asuna’s Position Cannot Define Her Personality | PART II: In Defense of Fairy Dance

This is part two of the five-part series “In Defense of Fairy Dance,” a collection and comprehensive analysis defending the positive aspects of Reki Kawahara’s “Fairy Dance” arc in Sword Art Online. Research was gathered from the anime (sub and dub versions) and volumes three and four of the light novel series. This is in NO WAY written to justify all of the second half of the series, nor is it to say that it is particularly well-written. Instead, it is a half-full glass of the neat things the series did, and why I enjoyed myself with most of the content despite the glaring flaws. HEAVY SPOILERS EXIST.

Introductions out of the way, we’re now getting down to business. For this second session, I’ll be taking a look at the target reason why Sword Art Online has a big fat red “X” scarred across itself on many people’s anime list. Her name was Asuna the Flash: Fierce, courageous, vigilant, and a knight for the people. Notice how I said was.

In “Fairy Dance,” our superior heroine was reduced to a weeping twig of a fairy begging for her mighty Kirito-kun to save her from her perverted, slimy (in more ways than one) captors. This unnecessary shift from castle knight to caged canary puts a fowl taste in the mouths of many, but was Asuna really as pathetic as she seems, or, perhaps, was there a special kind of development in play underneath the foliage? Did our coined “Damsel in Distress” actually have an iron backbone under those glittering wings we so frown upon?

Titania . . . That Stupid Name

Finding Asuna alone in the first half of “Fairy Dance” (third volume) is pretty rare. Often her sleazy captor Oberon the Fairy King AKA Sugou is found loafing around her chamber, mocking her hero, her helplessness, and even the game itself . . . We’ll cover that later. What is known is that by being forced into ALO, Asuna is unarmed – but still dangerous, mind you!

The book doesn’t start her off too strong, though. Upon her entrance in chapter three (98, vol.3), our first impression is her ‘silent prayer to Him,’ “’Hurry . . . Hurry and come save me, Kirito . . .’” Yeah, not a good start to our favorite ruby knight. Already, we feel her frailness of being a caged princess, as she first clings to the thought of someone else rescuing her rather than escaping herself.

That all fades away when Oberon graces his darling ‘Titania’ with his presence. In Aniplex’s English dub for the anime, she snappily remarks,

’Stop calling me by that stupid name. My name is Asuna, Sugou.’

In comparison, the light novel uses

’And stop calling me by that stupid name. I’m Asuna, Oberon . . . I mean, Mr. Sugou.’

If you read that second one closely enough, Asuna still reveres Sugou as an adult, hence, the respective Mr. in front. The ellipses further implies a cautioning, while the anime, specifically Cherami Leigh’s role of Asuna, is clearly firm with an unwavering glare to match it. That is one tiny detail where the anime did a better job at maintaining “The Flash’s” fire.

Another variance in tone between the two versions is shortly after, where Oberon requests that Asuna ‘give her heart to him.’ In the English dub:

’Never. The only things I’ll give you are disgust and hatred, and nothing more.’

Ooh, that’s tough talk. How about the LN?

’You will be waiting until the end of your days. All I feel for you is scorn and disgust.’

Interesting. Both are equally fierce and nearly identical in translation, but that wordier LN quote (Japanese language probably has something to do with that) comes across as a bit more, say, romantic, no? Not romantic as in “Oh Sugou, I love you” but more like a sweeter sass than “Never.” That brings us to the next point.

Romantic VS (not-so) Sexy 

Anime. Yup, that’s fan service, not motivation for Kirito.

I’ll stop here, but you get the point.

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Here is a side-by-side, LN Left, anime Right, same chain scene. The LN looks more graceful, as if to be romantic. Little too submissive, but I think it’s better than the anime’s gritty, busty, shadowed version. The anime tried to be sexier, and it almost worked had we not gotten a full-fledged tongue rape by Sugou. Notice how the shackles are cruder in the anime as well. I realize the LN is cover art, but it is still there to represent the same scene or state of being.

 

Reading a scene versus watching the same scene visually are two completely different translations. In that regard, the Asuna in the LNs embodies this air of “romantically clinging to hope,” while the anime is more of an “Oh God please save me from this disgusting man.” Support for this comes from the repeated reference to other aspects of nature in the LNs:

The World Tree Warriors are moths, the Sylph are grasshoppers, the Cait Sith are beasts, Kirito is a cockroach, Asuna is a bird trapped in a cage . . . And this all makes sense considering ALfheim’s fairy world theme – Everything is supposed to be lovely, full of wildlife and excitement! Asuna also translates as more of a delicate, gold-shackled woman than the anime’s bustier bod meant to attract your eyes. She is an item for Kirito and Sugou in the anime rather than a prize to be revered and softly handled.

And that’s where people draw the line with the second half – Sugou’s ridiculously inappropriate touching of Asuna towards the end. Was it necessary? Arguably, I think yes. By then, we are asleep. Kirito will reach the top, kill Sugou, and save the girl. The end. So didn’t having the female physically exploited before the MC’s eyes by this atrocious monster fuel the excitement, the rage?! It’s completely disgusting and humiliating (and fan service) in the anime (not that it isn’t in the LN) but you cannot say it wasn’t effective. It was the most infuriating yet engaging moment in the entire second half!

As for the tentacle slug things that nearly raped her? Yeah, THAT is poor, stupid, and totally uncalled-for writing. An alarm system or perhaps HUMAN guards would have not only made more sense, but also would have purified the show even if just a tad bit more. This was plain disgraceful and distasteful, not to mention unjustifiable. *shudders*

Parallels with the Legend

Okay, so it’s not a legend, but Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” clearly was the basis for the second half’s cast. Oberon is the ruthless fairy king driven by jealousy and power. He is a man to be enthralled by jokes, and will wickedly pursue his lust by making an ass of his wife, Titania, his object, wife, and queen. Titania is the strongest female fairy in the land, and her struggle against her King’s will puts her foster son, whom she loves more and spends more time with, on Oberon’s wanted list – He even contemplates making him his servant! Now, whom do these characters sound like? I wonder . . .

By Bravely Leaving the Nest, POSITION DOES NOT DEFINE PERSONALITY

If you once thought that Asuna was a weak gal in ALO, think again. Sure, her sword was taken away, but the true sword is her commendable courage (call it corny, but it is true). Asuna could’ve been stuck in that damned cage forever and gotten her mind wiped clean had she been caught by Sugou – Yet this birdie still boldly left the nest. “’That ends today,’” she tells herself. The only sign of reliability at this point is her murmuring “’Kirito . . . I’ll do my best.’” That’s not, “Kirito, come save me when I get out.” That is “Kirito, you’re out there fighting, and I’ll do my upmost to match your spirit.” Know the difference.

And I’m so freaking sick of everyone calling her a “Damsel in Distress!” Urban Dictionary defines it as “a stereotype of portraying an unmarried female who needs to be saved.”

  1. Asuna is married. Childlike in execution, but nevertheless an item with the Black Knight in the first half.
  2. She doesn’t need saving – She’s doing it herself! Why else would she risk her life in the game and in the real world? Kirito is trying her hardest, and she knows she must reinforce her own backbone with the thought that they will both be reunited TO ESCAPE BY HERSELF. This Asuna is just as clever and observant as her red counterpart. Look how she figured out a way to sneak out using the mirror; How about when she did escape, saw the 300 trapped players, and muttered that she would save them, too; Or when she did find a logout source, was pulled away, but took the key with her only to give it to her best fighting option – Her daughter and husband down below the clouds. And she did this all without pissing off her captor enough to have him wipe her mind. She’ll push his buttons and resist as long as she can without closing off any chance of escape.

Asuna shook her hair back, puffed out her chest in resolution, and strode forward purposefully, the way she had once done in a different world . . . ‘I won’t stop. I’m getting back to the real world, alive. I have to see him again,’ she swore to herself, and then resumed her march. (202, vol.3)

Guys, she’s an incredibly talented and valiant spirit on the inside, so please do not let that piece of cloth they call a dress and her whimpering in disgust hamper that belief. This, above many moments in the franchise, shows her true willingness to live and free herself (struggled with when she first arrived in SAO) – That iron will to push through the impossible is the mark of a true heroine. I admit that I’d rather watch her slice and dice demons on the battlefield, but I can, to a degree, at least understand the position/inner conflict (to live, and to do so freely), and why it the series took this route. It’s setting up Kirito as the main hero and Asuna as a secondary character for future content. Again, I don’t prefer it, but observing Asuna endure in this manner was still nevertheless intriguing if you look past the fairy glitter. Queens can be just as resilient as the mighty knights they call upon.


Thank you for reading! Please, share any thoughts below and stay tuned for PART III!

(I own neither the anime nor the light novel series of Sword Art Online. All images and videos belong to A-1 Pictures and Reki Kawahara.

Dramatic Irony Causes Suguha’s Terrible Fate | INTRO & PART I: In Defense of Fairy Dance

This is part one of the five-part series “In Defense of Fairy Dance,” a collection and comprehensive analysis defending the positive aspects of Reki Kawahara’s “Fairy Dance” arc in Sword Art Online. Research was gathered from the anime (sub and dub versions) and volumes three and four of the light novel series. This is in NO WAY written to justify all of the second half of the series, nor is it to say that it is particularly well-written. Instead, it is a half-full glass of the neat things the series did, and why I enjoyed myself with most of the content despite the glaring flaws. HEAVY SPOILERS EXIST.

Welcome to ALfheim Online, a virtual realm where you and your friends can soar the skies of a fantasy world, fight enemy fairy clans, and, one day, reach the top of the World Tr—

Why fool ourselves? Nobody likes the “Fairy Dance” arc. Well, I shouldn’t say everyone, as those who merely dismiss the entirely new plot, characters, and atmosphere just to watch it for fun most likely don’t realize all of the sudden, arguably hypocritical, dishes the second half of the infamous Sword Art Online brings to the table.

But is it as “downright lazy, sexist, and stupid” as opponents claim? Do the underlying themes of dramatic irony, devotion towards love, true freedom, and misunderstanding of the bounds of humanity’s evil even matter if our favorite character gets her sword taken away? Can we merely cast these intense messages aside? Never, and this compilation will hopefully show you why.

Accompanying me on this journey will be the third and fourth volumes of the series because hey, “The books are always better than the movies, right?”

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FIRST, learn the difference:

IRONY . . . the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.

DRAMATIC IRONY . . . a literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.


“You’ve been met with a terrible fate.”

Kawahara hints Suguha Kirigaya’s love for her brother Kazuto from as early as page 20. While we’ll eventually find out that they are not blood related, incest is its own beast to be tackled at a later date. All we know is that she is love-struck, and that love will be her driving focus to improve herself. She doesn’t discover this truth for herself until seeing the pain in Kazuto’s eyes when she visits the hospital with him for the first time. Just as they were spending sunrises together, training, happy as can be, Suguha immediately withdraws her heart, for she “realized what her heart truly desired, and that it was in a place she could never reach, (74, vol.4).” It is at this time where, for Suguha, the gaming world is all she can rely on. The real world will bring pain – a pain which sharing with anyone can destroy you from the inside out – and she knows this well.

Tragedy likes following Sugu around, though, as now it is Leafa’s turn to shoulder her agony. After her hospital visit, Sugu hits up ALO to vent. “If she cried here, she knew she’d never be able to give up on this. Instead, she’d cry a bit in the fairy world. Leafa was always peppy and energetic; she’d be back to laughing in no time, (74, vol.4).” Crying here means giving up, and girl’s got more backbone than that. So she thinks, “Ah, Leafa’s a good chap, she’ll fix me up right away!”

Wrong. Leafa was fighting her own battles regarding Kirito love, and now she’s got a war. From here on, Sugu will scarcely leave the virtual world. One reason is the quest at hand, to reach the World Tree, but the other is to avoid the tragic reality waiting for her back home. How do you confess your love to a sibling? I honestly don’t think you can without it corrupting the relationship. Holding it back as tightly as you can is the only safeguard (forgetting about a loved one is hard to do when you LIVE with them), so what better place to store the key than in an intangible world.

As the “stabbing pain deep in her heart” continues to ring, Leafa awakens in Alne following their overnight venture to “wait for the pain to turn into liquid so it could drip from her eyes.” When further confronted by Kirito, she replies, attempting to put a smile on her face, “’Well, Kirito . . . I . . . I’ve got a broken heart,’ (76, vol.4).” To which he charismatically responds:

’You’re allowed to cry when it’s hard – there or here. There’s no rule that says you can’t express your emotions in a game.’

I’m not the biggest Kirito fan, but that line was just the “bit of awkwardness” Leafa – no, Sugu – needed to hear most. “’I love my brother,’ she told herself . . . ‘But I can’t speak this feeling aloud. I have to keep it trapped deep in the deepest part of my heart. That way I might actually forget about it one day.’” This will have to be the tying point for her, and she’ll try her damnedest to bury her lust. If SAO and life itself has taught us one thing, however, it’s that everything comes to an end.

Suguha finds out

It’s a catastrophic moment we saw coming since episode one of the second half, yet here it is, and it’s even more devastating than we could’ve imagined. 

On page 102 of volume four, Suguha breaks down. Her efforts to conceal her “wicked thoughts” have been all for not when her knight in black armor Kirito reveals that cursed name of the princess he is searching for: Asuna.

’I . . . I . . .’ Her feelings turned into tears and tears into words before she could stop them. ‘I-I betrayed my own heart. I betrayed my love for you . . . ‘I was going to forget, to give up, to fall in love with Kirito. In fact, I already had. And yet . . . and yet . . . I’ . . . ‘I was so happy when you came back from SAO. I was so happy when you started treating me the way you used to. I thought you finally saw me for who I was’ . . . ‘But . . . after this, I’d rather you kept being cold to me. Then I wouldn’t have realized that I love you . . . I wouldn’t have been sad to learn about Asuna . . . and I wouldn’t have fallen in love with Kirito to replace you!!’

‘. . . Sorry . . . ‘

The ball just dropped. Readers and audience members only look to the floor in guilt and self-loath just like Suguha. Her slamming the door is the final sound to finish off her tirade, and it’s scary effective. Her thoughts of holding it in and shoving it down her throat are worthless now. For once, I have to give Aniplex’s English dub the props for providing the best reenactment of the performance. Cassandra Lee Morris absolutely crushes the role, vocalizing herself like she would in Sugu’s feet and topping it off with a tear-filled shattering cry.

Video posted by NintendoxWolf on YouTube. I do NOT own Sword Art Online.

The secret’s out, and this could arguably be where the curtain closes for SAO. The dramatic irony for Sugu, if you haven’t already guessed, is the multilayered thought she loves her brother, but that is, quote, “wrong.” So instead, she abandons her love to fall for Kirito, a bishounen badass whom she feels so alive with on quests. She’ll escape the harsh reality for a fantasy world of electrons only to discover the black avatar is none other than the boy she tried so hard to hide her heart from in the first place.

The legacy of this tragic yet classic scene

This scene is not only the most emotional and gut-wrenching part Sugu will ever shine in, but also a decent hit on Kazuto. All this time, he has known the Net to be a place where everyone has a “secret inner side.” It’s now that he questions his own familial and relationship status with his cousin: “Who is this person, exactly? Do I really know them? (105, vol.4).” This guilt is almost as heavy a burden as being responsible for killing off his first group of friends back in Aincrad. You should realize by now that it’s nearly impossible to knock Kirito off his feet – And Sugu did it verbally in less than two minutes.

As much as tragedy has woven these two fates together, SAO will once again prove that gaming and friendship can mend the bonds once broken by the game. Knowing that her knight would wipe his tears aside and grab his sword, Suguha reaches out to her “shining crown ahead of her” and “set it on her head.” Though its resolution was shamefully brief (a mere shrug to the side cause Asuna comes first), SAO fans of the dramatic irony device will revel in this classic scenario for years to come, and its outstanding effects it set on Suguha will not be forgotten so long as we remember the sacrifices she made to truly grow wings and take off.

Kawahara is guilty of adding more females to the story not only because he claims it’s easier to add a new face to give the MC a new relationship, but also because he likes the idea (Afterword vol.3). However, the light novel series is a monumental step up in terms of more cohesive understanding and better execution of elements like dramatic irony. In comparison to the anime, the “boobs and butts” are also much less distracting and in your face, being a bouncy visual production and all. I’m sure it’s meant to be pleasing to the eyes, yet I believe it deflowers Kawahara’s vision given the much more intricate and meaningful (and appropriate) actions, pauses, romantic elements, and thought processing found in text.

I realize that that her situation could be very difficult to imagine yourself in, but gosh dang, you’ve got to give a teen girl props for trying her hardest yet still falling into heartbreak – Not once, but twice. You may not like Suguha or Leafa – You may even detest SAO – but understanding both sides to every argument is half of life. The other half is of course being able to place your judgment on an issue. All I can recommend is that if you feel “lost” or ashamed of SAO, do try reading the original light novel series to possibly formulate a new outlook on the series that means something to you. I managed to uncover many of the less-apparent literary devices, dramatic irony being one, and that opened up a whole new window of exploration. Also, I just want to give Sugu a big ol’ hug after everything she’s been through, that poor, poor girl.


Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for PART II!

(I own neither the anime nor the light novel series of Sword Art Online. All images and videos belong to A-1 Pictures and Reki Kawahara.)

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works 1st Season English Dub Thoughts

As you all know, I once again sold my left arm and my magic circuits over to Aniplex of America so that I could purchase their DVD set of the first season (episodes 1-12) for Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (TV). The fantasy action anime all about the 5th fight for that elusive chalice includes an all-new English dub. This is particularly exciting considering that I’m a veteran who watched the original Fate/stay night (2006) and the Unlimited Blade Works Movie (2010) in SUBTITLES. Curiosity did get the best of me, and I ended up watching segments from these Studio Deen adaptations, but their dubs sucked (just cuttin’ to the chase). Luckily, I pretty much only have positive reviews for the Ufotable version, so read on for more depth!

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This is just epic. To watch it go from simulcast, to Japanese set, to English DVD is a beautiful journey.

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While the image above is the cool slipcover art, the DVD case itself contains this absolutely stunning artwork. The only difference is that where the text is, the English logo for F/sn: UBW is stamped.

Let’s kick things off with Shirou Emiya, portrayed by the infamous Bryce Papenbrook. Now, Papenbrook has quite the streak in misplaced voice acting, his role of Kirito being my biggest turnoff. But for a character like Shirou, his age and position, I thought Papenbrook pulled things off without a hitch! He does a damn good job at imitating Noriaki Sugiyama’s rather high and somewhat obnoxious voice, so my hat’s off to you, Papenbrook!

On to everyone’s favorite tsundere mage, Rin Tohsaka is voiced by Mela Lee. Apparently Lee’s been with Tohsaka since the first dub of the adaptations, but every one of her performances lacked the natural stuck-up attitude I’ve been searching for – Until now. Once you get past the first hour-long pilot, Lee’s voice stops ringing in my ears and becomes one of the more fun – and pretentious – performances to hear from. It sure isn’t as great as Kana Ueda, but it’ll do.

B*tchy-Mc-B*tch-Face Archer is brought to life by the smart-assy Kaiji Tang (as you can see, I don’t fancy Archer). Brilliant in every way possible, Tang milks all that he can out of Archer and puts up a stunning fight on the vocal front. He, too, fits the range of voice necessary to Archer’s arrogant dialect. Love it!

And last (but certainly not least) for the main cast, Kari Wahlgren once again dons armor and all to surmise Queen-friggin’-Arthur herself – Saber! *Slight spoilers* Because she is no longer partnered with the cold and distant Kiritsugu from Fate/Zero, Saber speaks with much more curt and “oogly” expressions as she develops her relationship with her idiot partner. And since I don’t speak Japanese, Ayako Kawasumi’s five-star performance doesn’t come for me as naturally as it does with my native speak. I’m obviously biased to this [literally] English role, so I stop before the sparkles start gleaming ^.^

Since those are the main characters, I’ll just list the minors with a brief reaction:

Todd Haberkorn as Assassin – F*ck yeah, even though I kinda forgot whom he was in the original, I’ll now never forget! Just YES, YES TO ALL!

Megan Hollingshead as Caster – THIS RIGHT HERE was surprisingly fantastic! Caster’s sly, mature voice reflects so well in Hollingshead’s performance. It was also so darn sexy 😉

Matthew Mercer as Kiritsugu Emiya – He’s only around for a couple of flashbacks, but those are just enough to bring tears to your eyes as you recall Fate/Zero‘s tragedy.

Julie Ann Taylor as Fujinee, or Taiga Fujimura – Always. Excited. Is the Taiga. Fujinee~ has a very nice English voice actress, simple as that!

David Vincent as Gilgamesh – More F/Z carry-over drama, and in fact, Vincent has such a pompous and snarky that its perfect for the King of Heroes. We’ll hear more of him in the second season, though.

Dorothy Elias-Fahn as Kane Himuro – One of Tohsaka’s classmates, can’t say she was very memorable, but not bad either

Crispin Freeman as Kirei Kotomine – This is one “fake priest” that you don’t want to run into on a dark night. Freeman will never be as solid as Jouji Nakata, but so, so damn close! It was a pleasure to listen to Kirei’s rich, melt-in-your-mouth voice again.

Lex Lang as Souichirou Kuzuki – “Mr. Kuzuki” as he is in the dub also shares the same voice as Count Cruhteo from A.Z, who just happened to be one of my favorites! Ironically, he was Issei in the old dub, the student who shares residence with Kuzuki.

Tony Oliver as Lancer – Oh boy, oh boy, Lancer’s English voice will not disappoint whatsoever! I’ll admit, Nobutoshi Canna was excellent, but Oliver wins it for me!

Erica Lindbeck as Kaede Makidera – Another one of Tohsaka’s gals, nothing fancy

Kyle McCarley as Shinji Matou – Now, this might be the only exception to an otherwise wonderful English dub. McCarley’s not by any means bad; Hiroshi Kamiya just has a skimpier edge and superiority to the damned Shinji we all know and hate :>

Cristina Vee as Sakura Matou – Agh, it’s Cristina Vee – and aww, it’s Sakura! This combo goes hand in hand, but I’m interested to see if they’ll keep the same actress when “Heaven’s Feel” makes it over here in the States, fingers crossed.

Brina Palencia as Ayako Mitsuzuri – Mitsuzuri is given a shocking amount of lines despite her role, and it was on the tip of my tongue as to who voiced her – and it was this chick all along! Hooray for Brina Palencia, I just love hearing her voice 🙂

Melissa Fahn as Rider – And the most enchanting voice goes to Rider without a doubt!! *Slight spoiler* It’s a shame she doesn’t last very long, as I could listen to Rider talk on and on. Yet another reason why they should’ve adapted F/sn instead of UBW, but I digress. Fantastic job, Fahn!

Robbie Daymond as Issei Ryuudou – Just another guy in glasses, what can I say?

Jessica DiCicco as Yukika Saegusa – A friend of Tohsaka’s? Gosh, I don’t even remember who this is.

Stephanie Sheh as Illyasviel von Einzbern – We’re gonna finish this dub reaction strong with another veteran from the original series and Fate/Zero. Sheh’s “Time to kill you” cute/deadly Illya voice is one I really enjoy. While she did sound too mature in F/Z, her older reappearance tosses that issue away easily. I love Illya, and Sheh does her justice, she really does, and I can’t wait for the epic fight in the second half. The only thing I’ll miss is her charming “Bah-sah-kah” *cue superhuman barbarian with a huge-ass club charging at you*

Below is the English Dub Trailer Aniplex posted a while back. See it for yourself!

I don’t care who says they hate this dub. I don’t care who thinks Papenbrook is a terrible Shirou. I don’t care how much people think Rin’s voice is a letdown. I LOVE THIS DUB, and I will be buying the second season, mind you! It’s gonna be a tragic long wait for the second half, and yes, it will break my wallet, but what can I say – I support things that I like! For those curious, the sub is still superior, and I recommend watching the entire series on Crunchyroll before blindly buying this uber-expensive dub (cause it was an atrocious $80 USD for only the first half on DVD only). However, like with A.Z, I had so much fun each night plugging in each of the voices and watching the first half of the Fifth Holy Grail War play out all over again . . .

But you mages and Masters, what did you think of this new English dub? How do you think it stands up to all of the previous versions and the Japanese itself? I’ll await your answers in the comments below, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your Servant, in this war or the next

ALDNOAH.ZERO Episodes 1-6 English Dub Thoughts

Konnichiwa, minna, today I’m here with a totally unscripted (script?) post regarding Aniplex of America’s [ridiculously overpriced] first volume of the sci-fi mecha drama anime about space wars, ALDNOAH.ZERO. Their first volume contains episodes 1-6 on DVD with an all-new English dub. Before we have a look at the cast, you can read my season one and two reviews for more background on the series by clicking on them and/or go watch the show yourself for free over on Crunchyroll!

You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for a U.S. release of this show . . .

Art book available in the Limited Edition release.

Our main man Inaho Kaizuka is voiced by Max Mittelman. He’s fairly new to voice acting if I am correct, but he brings a fresh breath to the nearly-silent protagonist. Natsuki Hanae did a fine job, don’t get me wrong! But Mittelman uses a little more expression when he speaks, and that means all the world considering that Inaho acts like a pre-recorded message. So far so good!

The passionate drama bomb Slaine Troyard is voiced by Zach Aguilar, another newbie, I think. His intense breathing and airy voice try to compensate for Kensho Ono’s higher pitched, younger sound, but it’s still not as good as the Japanese dub. The acting was great, his voice was just too low. I should add that by episode 6, his voice really grew on me, and I just hope that in the second set he finally feels comfortable with his role.

Erika Harlacher does a fine job at capturing Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia‘s allure. Sometimes it sounds as if she’s holding back too much air, but I don’t know if that was an acting issue or the sound setup. Solid nevertheless.

Since those are the main three characters, I’ll just list the minors with a brief reaction:

Christina Vee as Rayet Areash – OMG it’s Homura Akemi *heavy breathing*

Erica Mendez as Inko Amifumi – She didn’t sound like Ryuko, but most definitely a rising star in voice acting

Bryce Papenbrook as Calm Craftman – Man, Papenbrook can pull off the best young “fiery” guy-friend voice ever, awesome!

Christine Marie Cabanos as Nina Klein – “Right or left or right or left or . . .” not too shabby, high voice matches character

Bobby Thong as Okisuke Mikuni – Gets sucked up in the first 5 minutes, good I guess

Erica Lindbeck as Yuki Kaizuka – She does a great older sister, like damn 😉

Matt Mercer as Lt. Marito – The last time I heard Mattew was actually in person at a con, so hehehe makes a good alcoholic

Ethan Murray as Soma Yagarai – Yep, he sounds like a doctor to me

Julie Ann Taylor as Darzana Magbaredge – She’s ironically missing that low edge like in the Japanese, but still a nice performance

Trina Loo as Kaoru Mizusaki – Not much to say here other than she’s Magbaredge’s b*tch

Sandy Fox as Eddelrittuo*gasps, shreeks* come here you tiny little cute puffy servant you, wait, you didn’t read that

Lex Lang as Count Cruhteo – Wow, we need this guy more often! So majestic, so bold

Kirk Thornton as Count Saazbaum – Another powerful voice, one of my favorites to listen to!

Todd Haberkorn as Trillram – YESSS WE NEED MORE SASSY HABERKORN

Patrick Seitz as Vlad – This and Trillram were probably the best rolls cast, that rich gurgly low voice is what more actors should strive for

Kyle McCarley as Kisaki Matsuribi – Very similar to Inaho’s boring dialect, only not as memorable

Lucien Dodge as Yutaro Tsumugi – I honestly didn’t realize how much of a pervert this character was until I watched this English dub *glasses gleam*

Alan Lee as Shigo Kakei – I mean, he’s a background character, what can you expect

Carrie Keranen as Countess Femieanne – It was racking my brain as I watched the whole episode, but then it dawned on me. ALL HAIL LADY SATSUKI! She’s also Mami Tomoe, which I didn’t realize. Fabulous acting!

Geoffrey Chalmers as Rayregalia Vers Rayvers – He nailed the old king voice for sure, well done

Below is the English Dub Trailer Aniplex posted a while back. See it for yourself!

And here is their cheesy little yet humerous English Cast Promotional video announcing their presence at the 2015 Anime Expo. Dorky as it was, it made me realize something: There are actually two heroes of the story; two different eyes to watch the show through. Remembering this makes me want to rewrite my reviews, or revisit the franchise in a future post because I enjoy it so much. 😀

As you can see, I am really pleased with how the English dub was executed! Besides Slaine’s slightly low voice, everyone else was pretty well cast. Now I have to wait until October for the second set to be released . . .  that’s an awful long wait 😦 I hope they decide to dub the second season, despite it’s disappointment, as I’d love to watch it all over again! I do think that the set is worth picking up for hardcore fans of the series, despite the DVD being $30 for only six episodes. It was so much fun watching an episode each night before I went to sleep . . and now it’s over. Thanks for reading this rather different post! Did you enjoy a step away from reviews? How do you think the A.Z English dub fares compared to the Japanese? Personally, I thought it was much better/easier to watch in English. Channel your thoughts to the comments below, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host