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Show Review

TOP FIVE: How to Turn Your Children into Weebs While Also Giving Them an Education (or 5 Edutainment Anime to Show Your Kids )

Dear The Millennial Weeb Generation,

The year is 2021 and long gone are the days when we had to hide our generic Naruto-nin headbands and plethora of body pillows. No longer do we feel pressured to sheepishly private a playlist of our favorite fan amvs, nor must we steal away from judgmental eyes to the school bathroom during lunch hour to read the latest issue of Shonen Jump. The continued globalization of pop culture over the last ten years has done wonders for us weeaboos. Anime has more and more become a commonplace leisure activity…it has become accepted and, dare I say, even prized and cherished in this new world order. No longer will we be so casually stereotyped as junk-eating freeloaders lurking in the dark of our mother’s basement. Gone are the dark days of our ostracization. We may now step into the light, openly in our multicolored wigs and gothic Lolita dresses. 

…Congratulations, fam. We have come a long way. We have made it to the promised land. 

All jokes aside, this wide acceptance of anime as an entertainment and art form by the general public has been years in the making, and it will only continue to grow exponentially with time. Chances are, by the time y’all younger millennials and teeny-bopper gen Z-ers finally have kids (or if you already have kids), they will have significantly more anime and or western cartoons heavily inspired by anime at their fingertips. The market is going to be oversaturated, yo! And not all of it will be good content. That’s why it is important we don’t forget the landmarks of our time. You can bet I’ll be showing my kids all the anime classics.

But also, I want my kids to have a proper education (it’ll makes me feel less guilty about letting my kids watch TV all day, ahaha). And so, without further ado: my current list (soon to be growing) and breakdown of the best edutainment anime classics to show your weeaboo children!


1. This one is a no brainer: Cells at Work!

Subject (aka Synopsis): “Inside the human body, roughly 37.2 trillion cells work energetically 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Fresh out of training, the cheerful and somewhat airheaded Sekkekkyuu AE3803 is ready to take on the ever-so-important task of transporting oxygen. As usual, Hakkekkyuu U-1146 is hard at work patrolling and eliminating foreign bacteria seeking to make the body their new lair. Elsewhere, little platelets are lining up for a new construction project.

Dealing with wounds and allergies, getting lost on the way to the lungs, and bickering with similar cell types, the daily lives of cells are always hectic as they work together to keep the body healthy![Description via myanimelist.net]

Report Card (aka My opinion): I mean, the name really just says it all. This is basically the anime version of Osmosis Jones, except rather than a buddy-cop vibe, its tone exudes that of a comedic slice of life. Our cast of characters consists of a crew of cells, all cleverly athropomophosized to look aesthetically pleasing AF. Seriously. Check out how cute this platelets are:

But this show isn’t just pleasing to the eyeballs. It’s also incredibly informative, presenting facts about the cells in our body in a way that is both entertaining and easily digestible. Every episode features a different scenario revolving around a conflict in the body — sometimes several at once. Each storyline represents an event that triggers the body’s autoregulated immune system. For instance, when it’s under attack from invading bacteria, the white blood cell and killer T cell characters arrive on the scene to exterminate them; or when outside forces like fever or heat stroke threatens the body’s homeostasis, the cells in charge of the sweat gland send sweat missiles into the air (an allusion to our bodies “sweating bullets”). In addition, the show’s narrator explains what is happening on a scientific level all throughout the action. This show really does do a fabulous job depicting the different cells’ functions!

Grade Level (MPAA Rating): I give this show a PG rating. There are regular depictions of heavy combat in this show, e.g. white blood cells chopping down bacteria, but it’s honestly fineee. It’s meant to be comedic, not scary! So y’all are good to show this to your kids and future kids, people. Oh, but make sure you’re watching Cells at Work and not its weird cousin Cells at Work: CODE BLACK. That…that’s the much, much more violent spin-off…

2. Holy moly — Heaven’s Design Team?!

Subject: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He also sought after a wide variety of animals to populate the planet. However, he felt that it was too tiresome to think of new ideas within his criteria. To address this problem, God appointed an organization—the Heaven’s Design Team—to do the work instead!

Shimoda is a newly-hired angel who serves as the mediator between God and the design team. As he steps into his role, he witnesses his coworkers conceive interesting ideas for many unique life forms according to God’s desires. From giraffes and snakes to birds, anteaters, and everything in between, the possibilities for different animal species are endless!” [Description via myanimelist.net]

My Opinion: All right, y’all — I cannot express enough how much I love this little gem of a show. Seriously, I’ve already written an entire article dedicated to all the reasons why “You Need To Watch Heaven’s Design Team”. Now here I am, back again to shove this show down y’alls’ throats. All the reasons for watching Heaven’s Design Team go far beyond its educational value — read my previous piece to find out just why— but for the purposes of this list, I will stick strictly to its edutainment qualities.
This show can largely be summed up as a graphic design meets National Geographic gag comedy. The episodes follow the general formula of God assigning the designers an animal prompt and the designers scrambling to fulfill it. Through this process, we are able to see how the, often completely illogical seeming, combination of animal traits proposed by God actually comes to life — through SCIENCE! This anime presents in-depth explanations of the strange intricacies of animal biology by showing us the multiple stages of the design process. With every failed and successful prototype of a new animal, we discover how each feature (such as wings or horns or webbed feet) contributes to a species’ survival. We also learn, through the designers’ failed concepts, why certain features are less evolutionarily successful and why the actualization of certain mythological creatures, such as unicorns, just wouldn’t work! There’s also an informational section of the episode that provides real life pictures and more detailed introductions of the animals’ qualities. 

Grade Level: With a rating of G, general audiences are all welcome here. This is the perfect show to watch with your kids. The humor can be enjoyed by humans of all ages — which means your kids can easily understand what is going on and you can supervise without feeling trapped in a kiddy snoozefest! Have fun laughing at all the unexpected crazy traits of these animals, folks — it’s gonna be one w i l d ride. 😉

3. YEEHAW! Buckle up, Cowboy — it’s Golden Kamuy:

Subject: “In early 1900s Hokkaido after the Russo-Japanese war, Saichi Sugimoto tirelessly pans for gold. Nicknamed “Sugimoto the Immortal” for his death-defying acts in battle, the ex-soldier seeks fortune in order to fulfill a promise made to his best friend before he was killed in action: to support his family, especially his widow who needs treatment overseas for her deteriorating eyesight. One day, a drunken companion tells Sugimoto the tale of a man who murdered a group of Ainu and stole a fortune in gold. Before his arrest by the police, he hid the gold somewhere in Hokkaido. The only clue to its location is the coded map he tattooed on the bodies of his cellmates in exchange for a share of the treasure, should they manage to escape and find it.

Sugimoto does not think much of the tale until he discovers the drunken man’s corpse bearing the same tattoos described in the story. But before he can collect his thoughts, a grizzly bear—the cause of the man’s demise—approaches Sugimoto, intent on finishing her meal. He is saved by a young Ainu girl named Asirpa, whose father happened to be one of the murdered Ainu. With Asirpa’s hunting skills and Sugimoto’s survival instincts, the pair agree to join forces and find the hidden treasure—one to get back what was rightfully her people’s, and the other to fulfill his friend’s dying wish.” [Description via myanimelist.net ]

Report Card: This THE historical anime of all historical animes! The anime’s creator, Satoru Noda, does an amazing job of making his story historically accurate. Okay, so technically, this is a work of historical fiction, but it does feature characters based on real figures in Japanese history who play pretty big roles in the show’s plot. While education isn’t the anime’s main objective, its portrayal of Japan’s Meiji Era, the era it is set it, is incredibly informative. From the depictions of the character’s clothing, to the characters’ weapons, to the battlegrounds and other landmark locations, this show is seeped in the richness of its setting. It’s also a landmine of information regarding the Ainu, an ethnic minority group of Eastern Asia who are indigenous to northern Japan’s area of Hokkaido. Soda pays special attention to the Ainu, intricateily showing and explaining the people’s culture, such as their attires, their cooking and hunting methods, and their ancestral and marriage customs. While there are plenty of anime out there that celebrate the history of Japanese heritage as well as European heritage, it isn’t usual that we can engage with a story that centers around a minority group, much less one that is so culturally sensitive and expansive. It’s so invigorating getting to broaden your cultural knowledge while watching such a captivating story!

Grade Level: I’m gonna say PG-13, recommending Teens and up to be safe (or recommended parental guidance). This ain’t the anime for the younglings. There’s some adult humor (aka gratuitous usage of the word ‘penis’), depictions of violence, as well as discussions of physical torture, such as skinning (which is pretty dang important to the plot, so it’s not like you can avoid it). Buuuut, it’s still an awesome story with awesome characters. If your kid isn’t easily perturbed, then this one is a go! Better yet, adults should watch it with them and get edu-ma-cated. 

4. Here’s a throwback for sure…Hetalia Axis Powers:

Subject: “What if nations were people? What traits would they have? What would this mean for historical events?

Hetalia Axis Powers takes these questions and runs with them, personifying countries into characters. The show takes a comedic and light approach to politics and historical events while educating the viewer.

Taking place primarily during the events of World War I and World War II, the story focuses on the Axis Powers and occasionally throws the spotlight onto the tumultuous relationship between the Allied Forces. The Axis Powers feature the titular character North Italy, who is clumsy, carefree and loves pasta; Germany, who is very serious but easily flustered; and Japan, who is stoic but has bizarre interests.

Based on Hidekaz Himaruya’s widely popular webcomic turned print manga, Hetalia Axis Powers is a historical comedy that pokes lightly at culture, examines the relationships between nations and breathes fun into history.” [Description via myanimelist.net]

Report Card: Wow. It’s been a while since anyone has mentioned this show. In part, it’s because it came out a whole freaking decade ago. As for the other reason…well, the general public has criticized its humor for aging poorly. This is in part due to its culturally stereotypical portrayals of each personified country and its depiction of LGBTQ+ characters. So why is this title still on my list of recommended edutainment if it’s been facing all this retrospective backlash, you might ask? Before I go into that, it’s important that we get something straight regarding the accusations hurled against this anime. First of all, this show. Is. A. Satire! Every country is personified in an oversimplistic and stereotypical manner because to poke fun at World War II politics. The countries are larger than life; they aren’t supposed to be realistic, nor are they supposed to be representative of their peoples. The characters are over exaggerated to highlight the childishly convoluted relations between countries. It’s a spoof comedy about world politics! It’s not meant to be taken seriously! No one country gets special treatment. They are ALL caricatures on purpose, because caricatures are funny and satirical. As for the show’s depiction of queerness, a majority of the characters are either queer or coded as such. Sure, one could argue all day that using queer characters in a weird spoof comedy is a case of problematic humor. However, that once again misses the show’s intention: to satirically portray the relations of countries in the context of WWII (in addition to other historical events). The character’s queerness is largely incidental to the humor and the show. The slapstick comedy is funny because it is bawdy, sarcastic, and inconceivable, not because the characters are queer. Additionally, there are plenty of poignant moments between characters. It’s not always one big joke. The queer characters who are in love are portrayed to genuinely care for each other. The show may be comedic in tone, but it doesn’t mean that all the relationships are a farce.
Ok. Long rant aside, let me be startlingly clear: I didn’t learn a single thing from this show. That being said, however, Hetalia is still the sole reason I was able to pass middle school history. Look, this anime is not incredibly informative. As I previously stated, it is meant to be a spoof. However, while watching this show in addition to studying for my world history classes, my memory for historical events greatly improved. By picturing the personified countries in my head, I was able to remember which countries had roles in each world event much more easily. Sometimes, there would be an episode that tied directly into what that I was learning about! My recall ability was aided even more through humor. Pro tip: laughter and fun times helps retention. Huh. Who knew?

Grade Level: Teen and up recommended due to humor and hijinks. If you read my rant, well… you get it. The humor can be quite raunchy at times and if you’re young and don’t know any better, the satirical stereotypes could be misconstrued.

5. Growing up is hard…Koe no Katachi:

Subject: “As a wild youth, elementary school student Shouya Ishida sought to beat boredom in the cruelest ways. When the deaf Shouko Nishimiya transfers into his class, Shouya and the rest of his class thoughtlessly bully her for fun. However, when her mother notifies the school, he is singled out and blamed for everything done to her. With Shouko transferring out of the school, Shouya is left at the mercy of his classmates. He is heartlessly ostracized all throughout elementary and middle school, while teachers turn a blind eye.

Now in his third year of high school, Shouya is still plagued by his wrongdoings as a young boy. Sincerely regretting his past actions, he sets out on a journey of redemption: to meet Shouko once more and make amends.

Koe no Katachi tells the heartwarming tale of Shouya’s reunion with Shouko and his honest attempts to redeem himself, all while being continually haunted by the shadows of his past.” [Description via by myanimelist.net]

Report Card: Ok, so its technically not a show, it’s an animated film. It’s also not your typical edutainment title, but I swear I can explain! This story is mainly a character study of Shouya and Shoko as well as an exploration of their relationships. While this film doesn’t necessarily teach your typical school subject matter, there’s so much we can extrapolate from their journeys and apply to our own lives. This is especially true and important for children or teens coming of age. The film deals heavily with the relatable subject matter of bullying, showing characters on all sides of the situation. I’m willing to bet that all of us, at some point in our childhood, have witnessed or experienced some type of bullying, whether we were the frightened bystander, the helpless victim, or the misguided aggressor. It’s a realistic and nuanced portrayal of the lasting repercussions of bullying that can carry long past childhood, some of which can be rather dark such as depression and suicidal thoughts. Despite the discussion of heavy topics, this movie ultimately sends a message of hope for emotional healing and forgiveness. It reminds us that people can change if they genuinely work at it. It’s also just a general lesson to actively combat bullying when you see it happening — in a way that also doesn’t destroy the bully’s life, of course! Think of this film as investment in your child’s interpersonal skills. I guarantee it will remind them to treat people with kindness and be more conscientious of other’s feelings. I mean, what more could you want for your kid as you send them off to school?

P.S. I also recommend reading the manga it’s based off. It’s a short read of seven total volumes total. Some details are more fleshed out, there’s an epilogue, and I feel like story is really well suited to the pacing of comic panels.

Grade Level: This show does deal with some heavy topics, but it is a coming of age story and extremely relevant to a kid’s school life. That being said, I will rate this a hard PG to soft PG-13 with an additional trigger warning. I also suggest you watch this with your kid (or at least be on standby), so you can provide emotional support if anything triggers them.

All righty, that’s it for this time, folks! Make sure to follow for my next roundup of edutainment anime 🙂


Have a tip for us? Want to discuss a possible story? Need coverage? Please send an email to allagesofhr@gmail.com.

T. Wu is a contributing writer at All Ages of Geek. You can follow T. on Instagram @kata_the_clown.

Winter Anime Wrap Up: You Need to Watch Heaven’s Design Team


Have you been desperate for a rush of endorphins to lift your zombie brain out of its quarantine haze? Perchance you’ve been craving a sprinkling of some good ole’ wonky Japanese humor to break up your monotonous life? Or maybe you are a disgruntled employee in need of reprieve from dealing with the all-too-vague demands of your stress inducing higher-ups? Or perhaps you are a wildlife enthusiast who loves looking at cute cuddly animals…as well as slimy ones… and scaly ones…and even downright creepy ones?

Listen, if any of the aforementioned qualities even slightly applies to you (honestly, even if they’re completely irrelevant it doesn’t matter ) you need to watch Heaven’s Design Team. Oh, goodness, for the the love of Kami-sama and all things holy, please do yourself a favor and watch this lovely show if you haven’t already!


To give you all a little background, the anime is based on a manga of the same name written by Hebi-Zou and Tsuta Suzuki and illustrated by Tarako.

The story’s premise revolves around a team of ethereal creatives known as Heaven’s Design Team. God, too tired from building an entire world by himself to make its inhabitants, outsources the design of the animal kingdom to an eclectic group of designers. Shimoda, the angel assigned to oversee the designers’ enterprises (and our designated audience surrogate), relays God’s often vague yet specific descriptions to the designers. Hijinks and shenanigans ensue as Shimoda attempts to help (though more often than not, he just ends up standing by dumbstruck) as the designers scramble to actualize a functional design that meets God’s outlandish descriptions.


Last night, high on the laughters from watching this season’s finale, I compiled a shortlist of all the fantastic reasons why you need to start watching this show — right now:

9. Easy-breezy Episodic Episodes

You know how sometimes you just need the kind of show where the plots are by and large wrapped up within the span of one episode? The storylines of Heaven’s Design Team are what one could call “inconsequential” — the conflicts of the story do not carry over into multiple episode encompassing arcs, nor do they have long enduring consequences on the characters’ psyche. Instead, they are pretty easily resolved despite how complex they seem to be initially. Seriously, the tension is borderline nonexistent that it’s almost farcical… which is exactly what makes this show so fantastic!! We all need a feel good piece once in a while, and oh, does Heaven’s Design Team deliver! You’re able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the wild antics and even wilder ideas of the designers scrambling to fulfill one order after another. 

8. The art style and animation

Wow, wow, WOW! The animation in this show can be summarized simply by three words: bold, bright, and beautiful. The characters are drawn in a style of lineart that’s noticeably thicker than your typical anime, giving them a distinctive, more cartoon-like quality that just pops right off the screen! Coupled with the heavenly (pun entirely intended)backgrounds and vibrant color schemes, you get this gorgeous amalgamation of images that one would expect to cause sensory overload. But actually? It’s really soothing — like taking a hypnotic stroll through a candy store. 

7. Charming Cast of Characters

So the reason why this show is so adorably funny? It’s not only due to the humor and the animation style. The cast is quirky and charming — and what a diverse bunch they are! The characters all have their own quirky traits that make them distinctive from one other, whilst also complementing each other when put into a group. And seriously, watching these characters collaborate and compete with their designs is what makes this show so fun to watch! There is no dynamic duo situation; you end up enjoying the unique interactions and rapport between all the different character combinations. 

6. R-r-r-r-representation?! 

This show already subverts gender expectations by creating a well-balanced, gender-norm defying cast, but it goes the extra step in including a transgender character. One of the designers, Venus-chan, happens to be a trans-woman. The show never goes out of its way to outright state it, as it is incidental to the show, but it does highlight it through the clothes she wears and the pronouns with which the other characters address her. It’s just… lovely that there is this open, unquestioned acceptance of her identity. There is never a moment of othering when it feels as if it needs to be justified or explained ad infinitum; her gender expression doesn’t define her character. Honestly, I feel like I’m doing the show a disservice here by even mentioning this tidbit, but it’s truly a wonderful thing to watch a character simply exist as they are. 

5. Productive Edutainment! 

If you ever needed justification for watching anime, here is one! There’s hardly ever a moment you’re not learning something new from this show. The designers dive deep into the biology of real life animals, providing detailed explanations of why they are structured the way they are, illustrating how certain traits benefit their survival and how other traits impede it. They also break down the illogicality of mythological creatures like unicorns and dragons…with SCIENCE! Oh and in addition, all of this information gets presented in a demonstration of the designing process, featuring concepts such as prototyping and testing!

4. The animals UwU…But also…the animals o_0 : 

By God, is the drawn otter freaking ADORABLE. Yes, there is a river otter. If that isn’t enticing enough, I don’t know what else will be. Also, animals are freaky, dude. Just freaky.  I definitely can’t look at some of them the same way again…like, did you know there is an animal that eats its own poop???

3. Warm and Funny

This show just makes you feel happy, dude. What’s so interesting is that the comedy is simultaneously straightforward and easy to understand but also mind boggling with the downright weirdness of scenarios characters find themselves in. Usually, the weirdness stems from seeing God’s inconceivably strange descriptions come to fruition… life is weird, y’all…

2. Catchy opening: 

For all you J-pop fans out there, this one is for you. Why is this so high on the list of reasons, you ask? “It’s just a song,” you say? No, no; it’s not just a song. Seriously, the opening to this show is the peppiest, the cutest, the most adorable opening song out there! I actually think its humanly impossible to resist smiling like an idiot when listening to this song. For anyone out there who is looking for new music to improve their mood, this is the one (and therefore this show is alsothe one because if you end up liking the opening, then you’re gonna have to watch the rest of the episode to get to the adorable ending)! 
…P.S. I also recommend this as a less annoying alarm clock. 

1. Comedic Slice of Life Escapism:

I think this is the most obvious reason for watching this show, and it basically encompasses all of the aforementioned points. 

Look, in such wild and crazy times as we are in now, we’re all in need of some good old binge watching and escapism from our boring two bedroom apartment. Whether it be the bright colors, the zany humor, or the adorable animals, I guarantee there is something in this show that’ll bring you joy. Either that, or the low stakes will relax you into a meditative mood right before bed.

Oh, and also, Heaven’s Design Team features vacationing to the Galapagos islands, so at the very least, look at this as an opportunity for you to travel vicariously. 😉


Have a tip for us? Want to discuss a possible story? Need coverage? Please send an email to allagesofhr@gmail.com.

T. Wu is a contributing writer at All Ages of Geek. You can follow T. on Instagram @kata_the_clown.

Invincible Review

Amazon Prime has had success in the superhero genre in TV shows with The Boys, and now they are looking to repeat that success with an adaptation of the comic book series Invincible. Coming from the mind of The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, the animated series follows the formula that you would expect from similar series about superheroes, but it has much more depth and adds a few things that may tackle subjects not found in similar material.

Based on the comic book, Invincible follows teenager Mark Grayson, whose father is known to the world as Omni Man and he just happens to be the most powerful superhero on the planet. Being the son of a superhero isn’t easy for Mark as he believes that there are expectations from him to follow in his footsteps. Once his powers kick in, Mark feels all the pressure on him even if he has the same powers as his father. Even if Mark feels all the power in him and being invincible, he learns that being a hero takes hard work and can be a burden at times.

Despite being a superhero show, Invincible feels very grounded and human in some aspects. Heroes are highly respected in this version of Earth, where everyone wants to become one and it takes a lot in a person when they take the responsibilities as one. These idols may have superhuman abilities, but they also happen to have flaws that make them human like us. What makes the show work is how it shows the vulnerability of these heroes. We get to see them take in punches and getting hurt. It adds some grit into the series and packs on some powerful emotions with these characters. Mark goes through a lot dealing with these powerful gifts he has been born with as well as problems being a teen in this modern age. Once he takes on the job of being a superhero, he has to learn to live up to being a superhero just like his father. 

The series brings in some amazing talent to tell this gripping story that is relatable, engaging, and entertaining. Steven Yuen voices the enigmatic Mark Grayson, who brings a perfect mix of being an awkward teen and being self-centered at times. Omni Man/Nolan Grayson is voiced by Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons, who showcases his powerful and commanding voice as a father of Mark giving him advice and wisdom but he also holds some uncertainty about how his son holds up. Sandra Oh takes on the role of the family matriarch Debbie Grayson, who also shares some words with Mark as she tries to keep her family grounded. The series boasts other great actors, most of whom were on The Walking Dead as well as some of the best voice actors in the business.

The artwork of the series does take some inspiration from most of the DC Animated shows that fans may be familiar with. It does bring on some brightness and positivity that most superhero programs and films usually move away from as they focus on the dark aspects of the genre. The visuals really help create some emotional and dramatic overtones when the show goes into some dark places. Even though the animation feels like this could be a kids program, we assure you that its a mature show that takes on more grown-up themes, plus with the gore and violence involved.

Invincible brings in a unique take on the superhero genre by telling a very human story that all of us can relate to. It is an origin story for Mark as he turns from being a simple teenager into a superhero in his own right. Fair warning, it does go violent and some of what you see might make some feel squeamish, but it’s a show that doesn’t shy away from the realities of a superhero in the real world. The first episode does seem to take its time to set up our characters, but it’s 2 and 3 that do all the heavy lifting and put the show into high gear. From then on, that’s where the show can go to any number of paths, making us curious to see where it takes us.

Invincible will air on Amazon Prime Friday, March 26 with the first three episodes and then drop a new episode every week.

A Review of RWBY Volume 8 [Spoilers]

With Volume 8 of RWBY wrapped up last week, I now share my thoughts with certainty about my feelings. As mentioned in the title of this article, there will be spoilers ranging from the beginning of this Volume, to the finale of this Volume.

Overview

RWBY Volume 8 was honestly one of my favorites, easily in my top three. Now, were there thing in the Volume that I did not care for? Of course. You cannot create the perfect show that everybody loves. The way I see this is it was like asking for chocolate ice cream, but getting vanilla. It’s not what I was expecting, however I still like vanilla ice cream and chocolate is a nice surprise. If there is one phrase I said to myself while watching this Volume it was ‘I did NOT see that coming!’. The characters were great for the most part, same goes with the fight scenes. The three things I say were the best part of the Volume was the new Grimm, the music, and the plot.

The Characters

The Characters in Volume 8 were great for the most part. Let’s get certain character out of the way first: General James Ironwood. Personally, I did not care for Volume 8 Ironwood. However I cared about Volume 7 Ironwood. The difference between them was that Volume 7 Ironwood looked like a morally grey character. Volume 8 Ironwood is a straight up villain that we really aren’t supposed to like. In Volume 7, Ironwood had a heart. In Volume 8, he threw that heart away when he killed that Councilman in cold blood. Personally, I love morally grey characters. Characters that even the characters in the show don’t know what to think of them. Here’s some good news though, that’s my only character gripe! The main cast is good, the Happy Huntresses I grew to enjoy, the villains were great. I even enjoyed the Ace-Ops. The spirit inside the Relic of Creation, Ambrosius, is one of my favorite new characters. I love how his personality seems to be more lacks then Jinn.

The Fight Scenes

The fight scenes in the Volume were so well choreographed. To be honest, my favorite fight is a tie between Hazel vs Salem and Cinder and Neo vs Team RWBY and Penny. Hazel vs Salem was a fight scene where I knew the inevitable result, but I still cared and got invested into. I knew Hazel wouldn’t make it out alive, but I still hoped that it would give the team in the whale enough time to escape. It wasn’t a fight to win, but a fight to stall Salem enough, and I loved that. While the Cinder and Neo vs Team RWBY and Penny was flashy and I loved every minute of it.

The New Grimm

Ok, I’m going to say it, The Hound scares me. The Hound was strong, smart, fast, and overall just superior in every way except looks. Then there’s the Centaur, which has to be the ugliest Grimm and it spits acid and has scythe talons. I love these Grimm and I do not want them anywhere near me, my house or anyone I know. Rooster Teeth has been on the ball with Grimm designs ever since the first Beowolf showed up.

The Music

What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Jeff Williams and Casey Lee Williams ALWAYS have good songs for RWBY. There are songs that hype me up, songs that made cry, songs that STILL make me cry. Personally, I don’t think there is one song that they have written that I don’t like.

The Plot

This Volume was set over two days and those two days were stressful to watch. From Salem’s arrival to Ironwood getting ready to bomb Mantle. At no part was I NOT on the edge of my seat. I enjoyed every second of seeing the story unfold.

In Conclusion

Personally, if I was using a star system of rating, I’d give Volume 8: 4.5/5. For the most part, it was amazing, but there were a few things that I thought held it back.

A Brief Review of “Sweet Home” Episode 1

Greetings readers, CuriousCat-13/Tracy Preston here. Hope you all had the happiest of holidays and a fantastic start to the new year (2021 that is). With the beginning of a new year comes new articles. And what better way to start things off than an article about a Korean horror series. What series you ask? Why it’s none other than the new Netflix series Sweet Home, specifically the first episode (in a spoiler-free review). Ever since I found out about the series’s release, I had been counting down the days for when I could finally watch it, now I can.

Sweet Home | Netflix Official Site
Photo from netflix.com

After watching the first episode, I’ve gotta say, the first episode really knows how to prepare the audience for the ride. While the episode starts off different from how the manhwa does, the rest of the episode does more than enough to make up for it. Generally, when a story in a post-apocalyptic setting starts, (or as far as my experience with these types of stories goes) we get a glance into the lives of the characters that we’ll be following before the world ends up becoming a new level of hell. Looking back at reading the original manhwa, I don’t recall seeing what everyone else’s lives were like. Sure, there were hints dropped during conversations, but it isn’t until those moments, that take place later in the manhwa, that you get some flashbacks (so you barely get to know them at the beginning). In all honesty, it makes me feel at least a bit more attached to the characters than I previously was. During a few scenes, the second I saw a specific character, I could feel the sadness crawling into my heart after remembering their fate. There were also a couple of scenes that faked me out when it came to introducing characters. There was a scene that made me afraid that one of my favorite characters was going to be someone completely different from what she’s like in the manhwa. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case as it was a different character, that I didn’t recognize until she was addressed by her name (not to mention that the show is live-action as opposed to animated).

Other than some of the changes in the order of certain events/scenes (or even how they played out), and the addition of some new scenes, I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode. The pacing was consistent, the actors and actresses did an amazing job bringing their characters to life, and the atmosphere was (in my opinion) perfect. While the episode mainly focused on Hyun, a number of the other characters were given enough screen time for the viewers to get a taste of what they’re like. Also, even though the viewers (if they haven’t already read the manhwa) aren’t shown why Hyun is where he is, there are clues sprinkled in to give them ideas as to what happened. At the moment, I haven’t watched the rest of the first season, so I don’t know if his whole backstory has been revealed yet. However, I am looking forward to seeing how they do the full reveal. Speaking of reveals, having previous knowledge of the story, I was on the edge of my seat during the moments that were foreshadowing when and how things were going to go down.

Sweet Home (Series review) » Dramabeans Korean drama recaps
Photo from dramabeans.com

The last thing to bring up, before wrapping things up, is the soundtrack. The opening and ending themes are amazing!! The second I watched and listened to the opening animation, I fell in love. The art style and the way it moves to the music is almost hypnotic, not to mention that both fit perfectly with the story itself. The ending is also special. There isn’t an animation playing with the music. Instead, it mainly consists of a mixture of what I believe are concept art photos and screenshots from different scenes. Given how not all of the major monsters have been shown, it was intriguing to see some of them during the ending “animation.” While I’m not the biggest fan of the genre of music that was chosen, I was still able to at least appreciate the song. Now what completely caught me off guard, was the sudden moment, near the end of the episode, where one of Imagine Dragon’s songs, Warriors, started playing. While I wouldn’t have a song with vocals playing during the specific scene, the lyrics were oddly fitting for the characters and their situation.

All-in-all, the first episode of Sweet Home was able to leave a strong enough impression, not to mention how faithful it is (to a degree) to the original source material. Not only did the actors and actresses do a phenomenal job with bringing their characters to life, but the make-up crew, the people that built the sets, and the cinematography was breathtaking. I can’t remember the last time I watched a Korean production, but there’s just something about the cinematography and overall production that left such a lasting and powerful impression on me. So if any of you are looking for a suspenseful horror series, that takes place in Korea, and you’re not super squeamish when it comes to body horror, I highly recommend checking the series out. Also, please support the original creators and go check out the original manhwa on WEBTOON. They worked their butts off creating this story and they’ve done far more than enough to deserve the attention. They also have two other ongoing webcomics (if you’ve already read Sweet Home) that are available to read on WEBTOON as well (one of which they are collaborating on together called Bastard). If any of you have at least seen the first episode of Sweet Home, please tell me your overall thoughts in the comments below (but please be mindful if you’re bringing up any spoilers). What was your favorite moment and who is your favorite character so far? Until then, this is CuriousCat-13/Tracy Preston: signing off.

A Brief Review on RWBY Volume 8: “Midnight”

Greetings fellow RWBY fans, welcome to my brief review of the newest (at the moment) chapter of Volume 8. I will say, before I start talking about the chapter, there will be some slight spoilers. If you’re not caught up, I suggest that you watch the chapter before reading. You have been warned.

First things first, I LOVE this chapter, it just might be one of my favorites! If there’s one thing I love, it’s when we have an episode dedicated to one of the main villains of the series. While I might not love the things she’s done up to this point, this episode has made me love Cinder’s character even more. In case the title of the chapter wasn’t a big enough clue, “Midnight” is all about Cinder Fall and what her story is. Sure, there are a few moments that give some focus on other characters, but this is Cinder’s chapter. We learn about where she came from and how it all led to who she is now. And honestly, it made me understand and pity her. It also gave us the origin of the line “without you I am nothing,” giving it more power. What makes it fill me with more pity, is that there was a small spark of light in her darkest moments. Somebody came along and showed her kindness in an attempt to lead her to a better life. However, things happened and people pushed her over the edge, destroying that chance. While I’m hoping that Cinder can gather the strength to get out of where she is now, this chapter has shown us that that ship sailed a long time ago.

Along with the writing for this chapter, I had a wonderful time just watching the animation and the new characters that were revealed. While I recognized the references for some of the characters, there are definitely a few that I’ll need to figure out. The choreography for the few action scenes was simple yet effective. The expressions in both facial and body language held an equal amount of power. Also, we got to hear, at most, three new songs, (unless all of them are part of the same song) so that will be something to look forward to when Volume 8 ends. The small moments the other characters had in this chapter had enough impact and flowed well enough that they didn’t feel forced. And the ending, oh the ending of this chapter was perfection. Whoever was in charge of writing this chapter did an amazing job. Along with the animators, the writer was able to fill the viewers with so much dread and anticipation for what to expect in the next chapter, which is what I’m still feeling.

All-in-all, as I previously stated “Midnight” has become one of my favorite chapters. Not just with what we have so far in Volume 8, but in the entire series. This was Cinder’s time to shine and she set the stage on fire. However, once we watch the next chapter this coming Saturday, we’ll be without any new chapters for a while (till about February I believe). With the way this chapter ended, I can only imagine what this Saturday will give us. To those of you that watched this episode, without giving away any spoilers, what were your thoughts on “Midnight?” As always, feel free to leave them in the comments down below, I always want to know about your opinions. Until next time, this is CuriousCat-13/Tracy Preston: signing off.

An Analysis of Attack on Titan’s (The Final Season) Opening “My War.”

(Author’s Note: Spoilers for anything beyond season three of the anime and for anyone not caught up with the manga.)

So, the final season of Attack on Titan has begun, it’s hard to believe that the end is already upon us. However, before the first episode aired we were treated to the opening and I’ve gotta say, this has to be one of my favorites out of all the openings. Sure, all of the openings are catchy and get the viewers pumped up for what’s going to happen in the episode. However, there something noticeably different with this new opening. It really gives us that “this is it” tone and gave me more of a feeling of dread as our protagonists will be in for the fight of their lives. Even if I wasn’t almost completely caught up with the manga, the opening would still leave me with that same feeling. Before we jump into my analysis, keep in mind that I will be analyzing the visuals and instrumentals of the opening. I won’t be analyzing the lyrics.

The opening starts with a piano and what sounds like a tambourine while the camera is panning down what looks like gray clouds. After a few seconds, the scene immediately changes to a massive explosion (a mixture of red, orange, and yellow) going off by a small building and tower with people singing in the background. Soon the viewers are shown multiple scenes of colorful explosions and war (including a figure firing a flame thrower). After the series of explosions, there’s a massive cloud of color rising up. What makes this cloud interesting, in my eyes at least, is that if you look carefully and at the right time, the cloud looks extremely similar to the colossal titan’s head and face. Immediately after this series of events, the viewers are shown a flock of birds falling from the sky with streams of colored smoke following them. In the background, you can hear a mixture of violin and drums playing, giving off the hint that not even birds can fly freely. This also could be symbolism for our protagonists, since they wear the wings of freedom. Since they’re going to new, unexplored territory, they won’t be able to fly as freely as they originally able to. Soon we hear the lyrics to the opening, as the multi-colored form and take shape. It took some close examinations, but the different clips of the clouds appear to take the shape of a hand, chin and lower jaw, and finally an open mouth. This series of clips end with the words “this is my last war.” Immediately, we see part of an army, dressed in their uniforms and carrying firearms, marching down what is possibly a street or base. Followed by this we see some birds flying next to a zeppelin with some faint rainbow-colored clouds in the background. The viewers aren’t given much time to admire this peaceful, yet threatening scenery as what might be a titan falls from the ground and shatters. This leads to multiple soldiers, a few birds, and even zeppelins shatter from the explosion. Multiple titans are falling from the sky since they’re being used like airstrike missiles. Soon the viewers are greeted once again by the colorful explosions shown at the beginning of the opening, followed by buildings exploding as a result. Afterward, the scene shifts to rain falling (with an intense piano solo), as if the world is mourning the war and the conclusion it will lead to, with the mixture of colors fading into smoke. Soon, the rain is falling on a hand, which leads to a gruesome scene where there are broken bodies in a mixture of rubble. Some arms are reaching upwards to the sky while the words “war…my war…my war” are heard. In the end, the viewers are shown a gray statue containing the nine main titans (although only about 4 or 5 can be seen the clearest) and titan Eren is reaching out for something or somewhere. The opening ends with a few zoom-in cuts to titan Eren’s face.

Attack on Titan Season 4 Debuts First Opening and Ending Themes - Flipboard
(Photo from flipboard.com)

As I stated at the beginning, this opening has quickly become one of my favorites in comparison to all the other openings for this series. Watching the opening actually led to me reading the rest of the manga (or at least to where it currently is), and I’ve got to say, there are scenes that I can’t wait to see when they’re animated. For those that only watch the anime: you’re not ready, but it’ll be worth it when it happens. But yeah, now that I’ve caught up with the manga, I’ll need to watch the rest of the anime. While I could just jump to watching the first episode of the final season, skipping the other seasons just doesn’t sit right with me. Anyways, I hope you’ve all enjoyed the first episode of the final season. I can’t wait to catch up and enjoy the party with all of you. Until then, this is CuriousCat-13/Tracy Preston: signing off.

Tokusatsu 101: Seasons of the Heisei Era – Part 2

Greetings, geeks of all ages! I am your guide through the wonderful world of Tokusatsu, Zach J., TD. (not a real doctor). Last we left off, I gave simple summaries on the first ten seasons of the Heisei era as well as personal thoughts and ratings. This time, I’ll be continuing with the synopses and ratings with the remaining 11 (technically 12) seasons of the Heisei era. A fun little tidbit is that from this point on, we’ll be covering the Neo Heisei era. Also known as Heisei Phase 2, this marks a shift in the production and marketing of Kamen Rider. Before, all of the Kamen Rider titles used the translation of Masked Rider as part of the English text for the title. But beginning with W (Double), Toei officially started using Kamen Rider as the English text for each season’s title. Now then, enough rambling, let’s do this!

2009: “We are the two-in-one Kamen Rider”

Neo Heisei Poster for W (Double)
Philip and Shotaro Hidari posed behind their combined form, Kamen Rider W (Double)

Somewhere in the windy city of Futo, criminals are being sold mysterious devices known as Gaia Memories by the Sonozaki family. These devices allow them to transform into monstrous forms known as Dopants and terrorize the city at large. It is up to hard-boiled detective Shotaro Hidari and his mysterious partner Philip to protect the city from the Dopant menace. Together, they fight as one as Kamen Rider W (Double). Shotaro and Philip must work together to stop the Sonozaki family and keep the Gaia Memories off the market.

As the first season of the Neo Heisei era, W knocks it out of the park with excellent characters and a well written plot. Not to mention that, as a detective season, the crime solving parts of the episodes are fun to follow. Perhaps one of the shortcomings of the season is that one of the characters can come off as annoying. Considering that she appears in practically every episode, you either learn to love her or at the very least tolerate her appearances on screen. However, that aside, W is still a great season and a must watch in my books.

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch

2010: “I’ll transform!”

Neo Heisei Poster for OOO
Kamen Rider OOO surrounded by Core Medals

Mysterious medal-based monsters known as Greeed have been reawakened. Feeding off of human desire, they create minions called Yummys to do their bidding. The homeless traveler Eiji Hino is met by a mysterious disembodied arm that calls itself Ankh. In a bid to defeat the other Greeed, Ankh gives Eiji the OOO Driver and a set of Core Medals to allow him to transform into Kamen Rider OOO (pronounced Ohs, as in multiple O’s in a row).

A great season followed up by yet another great season. OOO is another season that has excellent characters and great designs. The story of OOO is another example of the great storytelling potential of Kamen Rider as a series. Not to mention that the relationships created between the characters is engaging and makes you want to see where the next episode takes them. The Neo Heisei era starts off with two great seasons in a row. Can it go for three?

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch

2011: “Youth, switched on! It’s space time!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Fourze
Kamen Rider Fourze in space with the Rocket Module active

At Amanogawa High School, the usual flow of things is disrupted by the arrival of the new transfer student Gentaro Kisaragi. Upon introducing himself to his new classmates, he declares that he will befriend everyone. However, shortly after his arrival, the school finds itself under attack by a strange monster. Left with few options, his old childhood friend gives him the Fourze Driver and a set of Astro Switches to transform into Kamen Rider Fourze (pronounced FOUR-zay). Now he must battle against these monsters and uncover the mystery behind these Astro Switches.

For the third season in a row, the Neo Heisei era produces yet another great season. Perhaps it’s because I’m a sucker for the high school delinquent types of characters, but Gentaro ends up being one of my favorite Riders of all time, with only a select few standing above him. The season itself is much more light-hearted in general, essentially being a high school drama about the power of friendship. However, this makes Fourze a refreshing season and an excellent entry into the Rider series.

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch

2012: “It’s showtime!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Wizard
Kamen Rider Wizard and his Magic Rings

A strange ritual on the day of a solar eclipse brought forth monstrous creatures known as Phantoms into the world. In order to do so, a large number of Gates, humans with high magic potential, had to be driven to despair. Haruto Souma, a Gate that survived the ritual, was given the WizarDriver and a mysterious girl by a wizard dressed in white. Now, acting as the final hope of mankind, Haruto becomes Kamen Rider Wizard to defeat the Phantoms.

Unfortunately, Wizard falls short of the mark as far as Kamen Rider is concerned. Much of the issues I have with Wizard stems from the main character himself. Wizard is rather boring and doesn’t really grow much as a character throughout his journey. Not to mention some of the other characters end up being rather lackluster due to the less than stellar writing of the season. One of the best characters of the season ends up being the secondary Rider, which is unfortunate since Wizard had a lot of potential as a character.

Personal Rating: 5/10, an okay season, but feel free to skip it

2013: “The Warring Riders Era!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Gaim
Kamen Rider Gaim posed in front of Baron, Ryugen, Zangetsu, and Gridon

The Yggdrasill Corporation has turned the bustling city of Zawame into something resembling a castle town. In order to distract from that feeling, young dancers group together and start dancing on stages around the city. As the dance groups begin to compete with one another, they start playing the Inves Game, played by summoning Inves through devices called Lockseeds. One day, Kouta Kazuraba, a former dancer for one of the teams, stumbles upon a mysterious belt and a special Lockseed. Kouta uses these to transform into Armored Rider Gaim (pronounced Gime, rhymes with lime). Little does he know that there is more to these games than he is aware of.

Gaim is quite possibly one of the best seasons not only of the Neo Heisei era, but all of Kamen Rider. This season is a well written coming of age story that allows all of its main characters to grow in a significant manner throughout the story. The relationships between characters is covered brilliantly and the shift in these relationships is riveting to watch. A tale full of emotional depth and growth, Gaim is absolutely a must watch. If you still need further convincing after all of that, the head writer for this season is none other than Gen Urobuchi, who famously wrote the story for Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero, and the first season of Psycho-Pass. So, if you enjoyed any of those shows, you will without a doubt enjoy Gaim.

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch

2014: “Start your engine!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Drive
Kamen Rider Drive with some Shift Cars and his Ride Machine, the Tridoron

One night, during an intense chase between the cops and some criminals, a strange phenomenon occurs. Everything slowed down in its tracks, the people, the people, animals, and even the pouring rain. During this strange occurrence, elite cop Shinnosuke Tomari’s partner is injured and hospitalized. Now demoted to a Special Investigations Unit that investigates these Slowdowns, Shinnosuke finds himself stuck in a rut. However, he is soon recruited by the AI within the Drive Driver and transforms into Kamen Rider Drive. Now he fights against the cybernetic menace of the Roidmudes, the beings responsible for the Slowdowns.

Drive is a solid season overall, featuring a strong cast of characters and great villains that you love to see on screen. While not as bleak as the previous season, Drive does feature its dramatic moments as well as a slew of comedic moments. One of my bigger gripes with this season is that, despite featuring a clearly competent female character that is capable of fighting, they do not let her become a Rider. That is mostly a personal complaint, but still one that I have. Other than that, while still a great season as a whole, the ending does leave a little to be desired.

Personal Rating: 8/10, a great season to watch

2015: “Life, burn bright!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Ghost
Kamen Rider Ghost with the Ghost Parkas of the Heroes Musashi, Newton, and Edison

Takeru Tenkuji, an aspiring Ghost Hunter, lives his daily life at the Daitenku Temple with the other monks and trainees. On his 18th birthday, he receives a mysterious eye-shaped trinket called an Eyecon from his late father. Upon receiving it, he begins to see ghosts and other ghost-like entities called Ganma. When these Ganma attack his friends, he boldly fights them. However, this proves to be his undoing as the attacking Ganma kill him. After his untimely death, he is met by a strange Hermit who gives him the Ghost Driver as well as a quest: Gather the Eyecons of fifteen heroic spirits in 99 days in order to come back to life or disappear forever. Now, Takeru returns to his friends to defend them as Kamen Rider Ghost and gather the fifteen heroic spirits.

Despite the excellent designs of the suits and Ghost Parkas of Ghost, this season is widely considered to be the worst season of Kamen Rider to date. The story is so poorly handled, later parts of the story actually negate the urgency presented in earlier episodes. And while his suit design is actually one of my all-time favorites, the main Rider is a boring character that basically gets new powers as the plot requires it. It doesn’t help that the head writer for the season wrote less than half of the total episodes, so the general direction of the season most likely was not well coordinated.

Personal Rating: 3/10, I suggest you skip this one.

2016 Reboot: “The hunt begins”

Neo Heisei Poster for Amazons
Kamen Rider Amazon Omega crouched in front of Amazon Alpha

Unbeknownst to the public, strange creatures are popping up within the city and devouring humans. These man-eating monsters are known as Amazons. Nozama Peston is an Amazon hunting team that disguises themselves as a pest removal service to the public. They travel around the city and exterminate whatever Amazons may pop up. Meanwhile, Haruka Mizusawa is a meek and frail young man, confined to his home due to a medical condition. One day, after not taking his medicine, an odd instinct awakens in him and he transforms into an Amazonz. He is met by the mysterious Jin Takayama, who puts on a strange belt and transforms into Kamen Rider Amazon Alpha. Just what are these strange creatures, where did they come from, and why were they created?

Amazonz is the first web series for Kamen Rider that is directed at an older audience. As such, Kamen Rider Amazonz is a much gorier and serious affair compared to other seasons. I find that this reboot of a Showa era season is very successful as a season targeted at older audiences. The attacks are appropriately vicious and the story doesn’t have to dance around the gore with explosions. Amazonz is split into two thirteen episode seasons, with the end of the story being told in a movie that has yet to be officially released outside of Japan. However, if you are interested in watching Amazonz, both seasons are officially available through Amazon Prime Video as Amazon Riders.

Personal Rating: 8/10, a great season to watch

2016: “Game start!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Ex-Aid
Kamen Rider Ex-Aid with Brave, Snipe, Lazer, and a mysterious black Ex-Aid behind him

A new type of virus called the Bugster Virus has slowly started to spread throughout the public. A person infected by the virus releases a Bugster, video game virus, into the real world. In order to fight this, the Gamer Driver was created to combat the Bugsters released by infected patients to cure them. Hojo Emu, a pediatric med student, is also a genius gamer known as “M”. Using the Gamer Driver, he transforms into Kamen Rider Ex-Aid and uses his video game-based powers save his patient’s lives.

Ex-Aid is another fun season that features a colorful cast of characters. The story is presented as a doctor drama with a side of video game antics. In all honesty, I did not expect much going into this season. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the story got into its serious moments. All in all, Ex-Aid is a good story with some fun characters.

Personal Rating: 8/10, a great season to watch

2017: “Let’s start the experiment!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Build
Kamen Rider Build back-to-back with Cross-Z surrounded by Full Bottles and Guardians

10 years ago, man made its first successful mission to Mars. When the astronaut returned, he brought back a mysterious box. Now called the Pandora Box, the box split Japan into three different sections. These sections were divided by the Skywall, a mysterious wall created by the box. Now, the government has hired the prodigious physicist Sento Kiryu to solve the mystery of the box. However, while Sento solves the mystery of the box, he must also uncover another mystery: The mystery of his own past. The only memory he has to go on is a mysterious figure dressed like a bat. After Ryuga Banjou, a convict, escapes from a strange laboratory, Sento comes one step closer to solving his own mystery. He transforms into Kamen Rider Build in order to uncover the truth behind the mysterious creatures called Smash and his own past.

Another excellent season of Kamen Rider in terms of story, characters, and design. As a story following a brilliant physicist uncovering mysteries left and right, the show does a good job of answering questions while raising new ones. Naturally, as the story progresses, these new mysteries lead to yet more mysteries until the final arc of the story. Of course, what really ties this season together is the relationships between the characters. On top of that, Build has my favorite villain in all of Rider. All in all, a great season overall, even though certain episodes drag on parts that I feel are unnecessary.

Personal Rating: 9/10, highly recommended

2018: “Rejoice, for the birth of a new king!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Zi-O
Kamen Rider Zi-O and Geiz surrounded by the past Heisei Riders

Sougo Tokiwa is a high school student who has one goal: to become king. His peaceful high school life is suddenly disrupted when a mysterious flying machine starts following him around. As it attacks him, another flying machine interrupts and saves Sougo. The pilot takes him into her machine and introduces herself as Tsukuyomi, who has come from 2068 to prevent a terrible future: A future ruled by the overlord Ohma Zi-O, Sougo’s future self. After the appearance of a strange being known as an Another Rider, another person calling himself Woz appears at Sougo’s side. He presents him with the Time-Space Driver to transform into Kamen Rider Zi-O (pronounced Zee-Oh, like saying the letters Z and O). In order to prevent the future that he has been told, he vows to become the kindest, most beloved overlord with his newfound power.

As another anniversary series, Zi-O is something of a mixed bag for me. While Zi-O does some great tributes to earlier seasons, it also has some not so great tributes as well. A lot of the plot is also somewhat disjointed as it tries to work around the schedules of available actors so that they can comeback for an appearance. While it is greatly appreciated to see these characters comeback, the story does suffer from it. Ultimately, while enjoyable, this season is on the lower end for me.

Personal Ratings: 6/10, a fun season, but suffers from too much clutter.

Final Thoughts

Whooo, we did it. That was all of the Heisei Seasons of Kamen Rider. I really do hope that reading through these has convinced some of you to give Kamen Rider a shot. As a fan of the series, it is my sincere wish that you give the show a try. These stories are wonderful tales of Justice that follow these colorfully dressed Karate Bugmen. If nothing else, just give at least one season three episodes. If it doesn’t hook you, that’s just fine. At the very least you gave it an honest try. Anyways, that’s it from me for this article. I hope you’ll join me again sometime for the next article in my series. For my next topic, I’m thinking of going into the Super Sentai series. That’s subject to change, but we’ll see. Anyways, this is Zach J., TD (not a real doctorate) signing off.

See you next Rider Time~

Tokusatsu 101: Seasons of the Heisei Era – Part 1

Greetings, geeks of all ages! It’s me, Professor of Toku (self-proclaimed), Zach J., TD. (not an actual title). If you’re reading this, that means you’re back for another exciting installment of the Tokusatsu 101 series. Or, this is the first article of mine that you’re reading. In which case, welcome and consider reading the other entries in this series. This article will be talking about the Seasons of Rider in the Heisei Era.

In the last article, I gave a rundown of the different Eras that Kamen Rider is split into. It was a long, but necessary explanation. This time, it will be giving you simple synopses of the Seasons of the Heisei Era as well as my personal ratings. This will be done in two parts as there are 21 (technically 22) seasons to cover. I will not be covering the Showa Era mostly because the shows are not as readily accessible in decent quality. The only one that is readily available for streaming is the original Kamen Rider from 1971. If you’re interested in watching it, you can officially watch it at Shout Factory TV through their TokuSHOUTsu channel. Also, I will not be covering the Reiwa Era seasons as the second one is still ongoing. Now then, let’s do this!

2000: “A new hero, a new legend”

Season Poster for Kuuga
Kamen Rider Kuuga in his Mighty, Dragon, Pegasus, and Titan Forms.

In the year 2000, an archaeological dig uncovers an ancient tomb hidden in the mountains. Inside, a mysterious belt is discovered alongside a warning. The team that discovered the tomb is attacked by a strange monster shortly after. When this unidentified lifeform follows after the belt and attacks the investigators, professional dream chaser Yusuke Godai puts on the belt and transforms into Kamen Rider Kuuga. Now he must face off against these unknown creatures and solve the mystery of their appearance.

For the first entry of the Era, it is a pitch perfect start. The story is well told and maintains a good pace throughout, with an excellent ending. The tone of Kuuga is more dramatic when compared to previous seasons. And while they are archaic, the visual effects for the time are great and well put together. My only real gripe is that it only features a single Rider throughout, though that’s a personal nitpick rather than an actual knock on the season. Still, if you’d like to watch Kuuga, you can officially watch it over at Shout Factory TV via their TokuSHOUTsu channel.

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch.

2001: “Awaken the soul”

Season Poster for Agito
Kamen Rider Agito alongside G3 and Gills

Shoichi Tsugami does not remember anything of his past. He has no recollection of where he came from or how he got to where he is. However, when he finds himself around the mysterious creatures called Unknown, he transforms into the equally mysterious Kamen Rider Agito (pronounced AH-gi-toe). What are these creatures? How did he obtain these powers? What does it mean to have these powers? Shoichi must find the answers to these mysteries and many more as he goes on his journey of discovery.

Another excellent entry in the series, Agito is a well made season with good use of practical and special effects. The story itself maintains a good balance of drama and comedy, as well as a good sense of mystery. Not to mention, the Rider designs in this season are well done. I am partial to how they handled G3 as a man-made Rider that has to take the time to actually equip the armor rather than transforming with a belt.

Personal Rating: 9/10, highly recommended

2002: “Those who don’t fight, don’t survive”

Season Poster for Ryuki
Kamen Rider Ryuki with his Contract Monster, Dragredder, alongside Kamen Rider Knight

In a parallel world, an unseen war is being fought. A Rider War, fought between thirteen chosen Riders, rages on. As the battle goes on, journalist trainee Shinji Kido investigates a missing persons case. This investigation eventually leads him to being pulled into the Mirror World and right into the fray. Now, after making a contract with the mysterious dragon Dragredder, Shinji transforms into Kamen Rider Ryuki and must fight in the Rider War or become another casualty.

This season introduces the concept of Rider Wars into the series, as well as having Riders being the main villains of the show. While the concept is fresh and the idea is well fleshed out, the season loses steam towards the end. And though the season is filled with great moments, it ultimately falls short when it comes to the ending.

Personal Rating: 7/10, fun to watch.

2003: “Running instinct”

Season Poster for 555 (Faiz)
Kamen Rider 555 (Faiz) and his motorcycle/mech Auto Vajin

The world is beset by the appearance of the Orphnochs, monstrous creatures that begin targeting the human populace. Major tech conglomerate Smart Brain has developed a series of power suits called Rider Gear. Before they can be put to use, they are stolen by the company’s former chief. When one of the chief’s foster children is attacked, lone wolf Takumi Inui is dragged into the fight. Donning the Rider Gear, he transforms into Kamen Rider 555 (pronounced Faiz, alternatively rendered Kamen Rider Φ‘s). Now he must battle against the Orphnochs in order to keep humanity from being wiped out.

This season is a more serious drama/soap opera type of season, with much of the focus being on the characters and the relationships between them. However, while the character focus is appreciated, there are plot holes that drag down the quality of the season. That said, I still enjoy this season quite a bit. The bleak tone of the season and overarching plot are handled well.

Personal Rating: 7/10, fun to watch.

2004: “Take the trump card of fate”

Season Poster for Blade
Kamen Rider Blade holding the Blay Rouser with Chalice and Garren depicted as Cards

Long ago, a massive battle known as the Battle Royal was fought among fifty-two creatures known as the Undead. After a hard-fought battle, the Human Undead stood as the victor. With the battle over, the Undead were sealed away as Humans prospered. In present day, archaeologists discover the sealed Undead and release them, beginning another Battle Royal. To keep humanity safe, the organization BOARD has developed the Rider System. Now, the new recruit Kazuma Kenzaki transforms into Kamen Rider Blade to stop the Undead and seal them away.

Blade as a season is full of ups and downs. The first half of the season is not particularly well done, with many memes and jokes revolving around many of the earlier moments. However, starting with the second half, the season becomes much better. The production staff shifted the season to make it more serious in tone, with the ending of the season being one of the best in all of Rider. That said, it does take thirty or so episodes to get into the better part of the season. While I still enjoy the season, memes and all, it is difficult to ask someone to keep watching to get to episode thirty-one for the best parts of the show.

Personal Rating: 8/10, a great season to watch.

2005: “To us, there are heroes”

Season DVD Cover for Hibiki
Kamen Rider Hibiki with his young apprentice in the background

Deep in the mountains, there exist different types of Kamen Rider: Oni. These Oni, masters of combat with sound, defend humanity from the threat of the man-eating Makamou. One of the Oni, Kamen Rider Hibiki (pronounced HEE-bee-key), meets a young boy who wishes to learn from him. While this young boy transitions into high school life, he seeks the advice of Hibiki. Forming a strange master-apprentice relationship with the boy, Hibiki must defend the world while teaching a young boy about the pains of growing up.

If the description sounds like a mess, that’s unfortunately because this season is one. Due to many production issues behind the scenes that led to a major staff change, the quality of the season suffers greatly. The season itself has an interesting concept in presenting Oni as Kamen Rider that fight using musical instruments. However, the overall quality of Hibiki suffers from trying to balance what ends up being three shows at once. Ultimately, while parts of it are enjoyable, this season is easily one of the worst in the series.

Personal Rating: 4/10, don’t force yourself to watch the whole season if you don’t want to.

2006: “Walk heaven’s path to rule over everything”

Season Poster for Kabuto
Kamen Rider Kabuto Casts-Off his armor, with ZECT Troopers standing behind him

Seven years ago, a meteorite landed in Japan, bringing along with it extraterrestrial passengers. The Worms, bug-like monsters capable of mimicking people near-perfectly, now threaten the daily lives of the people. In order to combat this menace, the military technology company ZECT creates new gear called Zecters. These Zecters harmonize with their users to transform them into Kamen Riders capable of fighting against the Worms. The man who walks the path of heaven, Soji Tendo, harmonizes with the Kabuto Zecter to transform into Kamen Rider Kabuto (pronounced KAH-boo-toe).

This is the season that introduced me to the Kamen Rider series. It was the discovery of this show that led me down the path of becoming a TD (not a real doctorate) and changed my life forever. If you had asked me ten years ago, I would rate this show a perfect ten out of ten. However, as I’ve grown up and become more versed in storytelling, I can say that this season is not without issue. What ultimately brings down the rating of this season is the main rider himself. While he has excellent moments as the hero of the story, he is very much a boring, invincible hero that doesn’t change much over the course of the season. That said, while he himself doesn’t change much, he influences many of the characters around him, leading them to great change over the course of the story.

Personal Rating: 8/10, a great season to watch

2007: “Traveling through time, here I come!”

Season Poster for Den-O
Kamen Rider Den-O in his Sword Form standing in front of the DenLiner, the train of time

Imagin, beings capable of traveling through time by granting people wishes, seek to change the past and destroy the future. Ryotaro Nogami, a terribly unlucky young man, one day finds a strange train pass lying in a nearby gutter. Soon after, he is possessed by one of the Imagin. This red devil-like being tries to coerce him into making a wish, but ultimately ends up fighting alongside Ryotaro, who transforms into Kamen Rider Den-O to fight against the Imagin. The train from earlier, the DenLiner, takes both him and the Imagin in as passengers. Together, they must stop the other Imagin from running rampant and destroying the future.

This is easily one of the most popular seasons of Kamen Rider. Den-O as a whole is much more light-hearted when compared to previous entries in the series. But while the comedy is much more prevalent, this does not mean that there are no dramatic moments. In fact, the excellent balance between drama and comedy is what makes this season so hugely popular. The overarching story is handled well, the character’s interactions are fun to watch, and the growth of the relationships between characters is incredible.

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch.

2008: “Wake up! Break the chains of destiny!”

Season Poster for Kiva
Kamen Rider Kiva with his leg poised, ready to deliver his finishing move

Lurking hidden within society, there are creatures known as Fangire. These monstrosities consume the life force of humans in order to survive. In 1986, a lone Fangire Hunter hunts the monsters down to protect humanity. One day, she comes across Otoya Kurenai, a master violinist and ladies man. This leads him to get entangled in the battle against the Fangires. Twenty-two years later, Otoya is missing, leaving his reclusive son Wataru to pick up the fight in his stead. Now, Wataru fights against the Fangire menace as Kamen Rider Kiva alongside Kivat-Bat the 3rd.

This season is interesting, though a bit difficult to follow if you don’t pay close attention to the story. The story follows both father and son during their respective time periods, 1986 and 2008. While the general plot line is difficult to follow, the characters and their relationships are fun to watch. However, this is not a season you can play in the background while doing something else and still follow along with the story. Not to mention that jumping between two different time periods constantly makes the pacing seem a little too fast since we as the audience have to follow two different heroes.

Personal Rating: 6/10, a fun season, but suffers from too much clutter.

2009: “Destroy everything, connect everything”

Season Poster for Decade
Kamen Rider Decade, who can take the forms of the 9 previous Riders

Tsukasa Kadoya is a young photographer who somehow cannot take photos correctly. Every time he does, the photo comes out distorted and blurry. He has no memories of why that is or how he ended up where he is. However, his peaceful life is forever changed when strange curtains of light start appearing out of nowhere. These curtains of light cause turn out to be signs of several worlds joining as one. In order to keep this from happening and destroying the world, Tsukasa transforms into Kamen Rider Decade. However, Decade is heralded as the Destroyer of Worlds. What truths are hidden away by his lost memories? Is Decade the savior of the world, or the destroyer?

This season celebrates the ten year anniversary of the Heisei Era of Kamen Rider. As such, Decade focuses on interacting with the past Riders and celebrating each season. Unfortunately, this is another season plagued with many production issues. All of these production issues led to Decade being one of the shortest seasons of Rider at the time, coming in at a mere thirty episodes during its original run. When the season was re-run, the final episode was recut and edited to become two episodes, bringing the final episode count to thirty-one. These production issues, along with the plot problems of the story itself, leads to Decade being on the lower end of the scale for me.

Personal Rating: 5/10, an okay season, but feel free to skip it.

Aside

Woo, okay, that was a lot to cover. I hope you’ve been sticking through with me for the entire article. There’s a lot of stuff to cover and even more things to cover for the next article. So please, join me next time when I cover the second half of the Heisei era seasons! It’ll be a fun one, I guarantee it.

See you next Rider Time~

5 Reasons to Watch Attack On Titan

The fourth and final season of Attack On Titan is nearly upon us. The hit anime series will be ending more than seven years after premiering in 2013. Having received widespread acclaim, Attack On Titan has transcended the anime genre to become of the most captivating shows on television during its era. Here are the best reasons to binge the series in time for the fourth season.

The Stakes Are Colossal

from Fandom.com

Attack On Titan is set in a society where humans live in a walled-in nation to protect themselves from giant, man-eating titans on the outside. These titans do nothing but devour humans and appear to be naturally drawn to them somehow. In the first episode, the outermost wall is breached, jeopardizing all of humanity. In every second of the series afterward, the stakes could not be higher. At any moment the scales can turn for either side, raising the intensity of every battle. With every victory and defeat for the show’s main characters, you feel the lasting impact that affects those that go unseen. It’s more than people pitted against the titans, it’s a fight for the survival of the human race.

There’s a Whole World to Explore

from Fandom.com

Attack On Titan utilizes a very unique method of world-building. Starting out in the small cities on the outer portion of the walled-in nation, the series gradually makes its way towards the central districts. There are three massive walls that form the skeletal structure of the land: Wall Maria, Wall Rose, and Wall Sina. Nestled between each wall are a large number of districts, villages, and fortresses; however, after the initial titan attack, Wall Maria’s residents were evacuated and it became a wild area for titans. There is much about their world that the characters are unaware of, and the series keeps the same information from the viewer, though sometimes providing vague hints via foreshadowing and flashbacks. This allows Attack On Titan to reveal the world and its history to both the viewer and characters simultaneously. 

It Will Scare You Silly

from DreadCentral.com

Attack On Titan is far from a children’s anime. Though they look silly at first glance, the titans are some of the most terrifying monsters in modern pop culture. They wander mindlessly like zombies seeking flesh for no nutritional purposes. They don’t digest the humans they eat, they merely regurgitate them. The horror the titans are capable of isn’t fully discernable until they have someone in their grasp. The only thing more disturbing than watching a smiling titan bring a panicked human towards its mouth are the final words that most doomed characters shout out before being eaten. On the other hand, the people in the walls are more than capable of their own heinousness. There are many human villains who often show similar sentiments towards human life as the titans. The constant unease created by the show is done to keep viewers emotionally attached rather than celebrate bloodlust. Simply put, Attack On Titan sugarcoats nothing about its grueling and gruesome world. And make no mistake, there are many scenes that haunt you long after you’ve seen them.

You Never Know What to Expect

from Fandom.com

As mentioned earlier, there is much about the world of Attack On Titan that is hidden from both the characters and the viewer. From the first episode and the attack of the Colossal Titan, the series is shrouded in mystery. While the beginning is rather straightforward, the show builds more intrigue as it progresses.  Eventually, the true nature of human and titan society are revealed, along with how they correlate to one another. Filled with inexplicable phenomena and cryptic flashbacks, Attack On Titan grows so much between seasons that Season 1 and Season 3 seem almost entirely different. Twists and turns abound and reward attentive viewers who can catch hints and clues. The more questions that arise, the more you will want to watch in search of the answers.

The Characters

from Pinterest.com

Like any great show, Attack On Titan is buoyed by its cast. The anime features a wide ensemble of characters across various roles, personalities, and backgrounds. While Eren Jaeger may be the true protagonist, nearly every character holds an equal amount of weight in the story. Whether you are a fan of stone-cold badasses like Mikasa or Captain Levi, the comic relief of Hange and Sasha, or an arc of retribution like Armin’s, there is a character for everyone’s taste. New characters are introduced every few episodes, which means there are also plenty of deaths and downfalls. Each character has a unique purpose to the story, even if their destiny is to become titan fodder. Some will make you laugh, a few will infuriate you, and others will make you cry, but that is the strength of great characters: they make you feel something.