Anime Early Impressions: ‘Boruto: Naruto Next Generations

Anime Early Impressions: ‘Boruto: Naruto Next Generations

For almost a year now, the story of the Naruto franchise has been continuing in the form of the Boruto: Naruto Next Generations manga, and as of April 2017, the anime series of the same name has started. At the time of this writing, three episodes of the series have aired, so now seems like a pretty decent time to give my early impressions of the show.

Just like the manga, the anime adaptation starts in the middle of a battle between a teenage Boruto and a ninja named Kawaki, with their battle taking place in a destroyed Leaf Village. Kawaki states that the era of ninja is over, and that he will strike down Boruto the same way that he did the Seventh Hokage.

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Boruto, sword in hand, dons a ninja headband, and opens his scarred right eye to reveal something akin to the Byakugan, with the show then flashing back to the present day. Just to get out  my only major complaint with the series so far, I wasn’t a fan of this in the manga, and I don’t like it any more here. Not so much the idea of Kawaki or the village being destroyed (though this plan is really old at this point), but Boruto’s mysterious powers.

Since Boruto was first introduced to the world, my favorite thing about him is the fact that he’s mostly a normal ninja. Although he does come from two of history’s most prestigious clans, he doesn’t really have anything special outside of the strong life force and chakra that come from his Uzumaki heritage. And unlike his little sister, he initially didn’t even show any signs of inheriting the Byakugan.

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Outside of characters like Sakura, Rock Lee and Tenten, the original series didn’t really focus on normal ninja. The two major exceptions were Kakashi in his youth, and pre-revival Minato. I was really excited to see Boruto grow as a ninja, especially seeing how in his debut movie, he was already skilled in various styles of elemental ninjutsu.

At some point, Boruto is going to get an upgrade that I’m sure is comparable to either being a Jinchuriki or having a Dojutsu, but I really hope they continue to play up his skills with basic ninja abilities, which to be fair, the first three episodes of the anime do a really great job of.

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The first thing we see Boruto do in the series is dart and dash around the village with way more style and finesse than his father ever did. To go a bit further, Boruto displays his skill with the Shadow Clone jutsu before even being enrolled in the Ninja Academy. The second episode features a match between Boruto and an unruly classmate, and seeing his potential to grow was a really cool moment.

Speaking of the Academy, one thing that I love that the series does from the perspective of a long time fan of Naruto, is the way in which the Academy has adapted to fit the new era. For most of its existence, the Ninja Academy served only to prepare young shinobi for missions and battles. But since the world is at peace, the Academy now offers courses in varying subjects like science and machinery.

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I talked for quite a bit about Boruto’s ninja skills, but for me personally, the highlight of the show so far is his character. When I reviewed Boruto: Naruto the Movie, I stated that Boruto has the personality of Naruto, but the skill of someone like Minato. But after seeing his portrayal in the anime, I don’t really feel this way anymore. Boruto: Naruto Next Generations has, so far, made Boruto into a wholly unique character.

Boruto’s a cool dude, but not try hard cool. He genuinely doesn’t care what others think of him, which makes him seem kind of efforlessly cool. He’s friendly and approachable, even to his classmates that deride him for getting by on the coattails of his Hokage father. He never even lets these insults get to him, always brushing them off like they were nothing.

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But the one thing that can stir Boruto’s anger, is injustice. In the first episode, Boruto sees a boy named Denki being picked on by a group of bullies. Without hesitation, he swoops in to save the day, all while making a new friend in the process. Another example is his sparring match in the second episode, as it is the direct result of his opponent, Iwabee, pushing his ideals on the other students.

I’m really loving Boruto so far. He’s cool and care-free, but not exactly careless. He’s very socially adjusted, and is really good at making friends. One thing of note is the fact that he doesn’t do a lot of talking when he’s trying to prove a point. His dad has become rather infamous for persuading people with his words, and while Boruto is definitely a loud mouth in his own right, he’s much better at expressing himself through his actions.

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Two big praises that I can give to Boruto: Naruto Next Generations so far are the extended cast and the Academy setting. The original series glances over the group’s Academy, days mostly giving us insight through flashbacks. This time around, we’re actually getting to see the young shinobi grow up together. While characters like Boruto and Shikadai (Shikamaru and Temari’s son) are already acquainted with each other because of their parents, most of the new class are meeting for the first time.

This gives us plenty of time to get to know each individual kid, as well as their relationships with the others. The best example so far is the third episode and its focus on Rock Lee’s son, Metal Lee. He has all the skill and power of his father, but he has crippling performance anxiety, a trait that makes him really endearing.

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Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is off to a super great start. There are one or two things that I’m not super jazzed about, but I’m overall really pleased with the direction the show seems to be headed. Compared to the manga, the anime had a much stronger and engaging start, and I’m definitely excited to tune in for the weeks, months and likely years to come.

Anime Film Review: ‘Boruto: Naruto The Movie’

Anime Film Review: ‘Boruto: Naruto The Movie’

The efforts of Naruto Uzumaki and his friends during the Fourth Great Ninja War brought the world into a time of peace and prosperity. During these peaceful times, Naruto finally achieved his dream of becoming Hokage, succeeding his sensei, Kakashi Hatake, in the role, and he even took Hinata Hyuga’s hand in marriage.

Naruto’s era has come to an end, and it is now time for the spotlight to shift to a new generation of shinobi, one with their own ideals and adventures to experience. At the center of this new generation is the Seventh Hokage’s own son, Boruto Uzumaki.

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Boruto: Naruto the Movie is the first of many stories that will follow the ninja escapades of our titular character. For this particular film, Boruto and his teammates, Sarada Uchiha and Mitsuki, are preparing to partake in the annual Chunin Exams. Along the way, Boruto, Naruto and Sasuke Uchiha must deal with remnants of the past that desire to bring ruin to the world.

Boruto is initially against the idea of the Chunin Exams, as he believes that they will be a waste of his time. But after being spurred on by the idea that his efforts in the third round of the exam will be viewed by the Five Kage, his father included, he gets pumped up about the opportunity to display his skills.

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Boruto has somewhat of a love/hate relationship with his father. Ever since he became the Hokage, Naruto has had much less time to spend with his wife and children. This has caused Boruto to resent the position, and he is completely against the idea of following his father and grandfather’s footsteps (no matter how many times Mitsuki suggests it).

Boruto’s stated goal is to take his own path and surpass his father, but subconsciously, he really wants to earn his father’s respect and attention, which is why he wants to be successful in the Chunin Exams.

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It would’ve been easy for Boruto to be a boring, protagonist’s child character, but I really feel like they did a good job with his portrayal. He’s very similar to Naruto, but different in a number of key ways. I like to describe Boruto as being a fusion of Naruto’s personality, with the skill of his grandfather, Minato Namikaze. He’s a brash and arrogant loudmouth, but unlike Naruto in his early years, he’s got the skills to prove it.

As a Genin fresh out of the academy, Boruto was able to perform Wind Style, Water Style and Lightning Style techniques, as well as his father’s signature Shadow Clone Jutsu, all with very little training. This has caused Boruto to become lazy, a complete antithesis of Naruto’s attitude of hard work over natural talent.

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Even when he’s playing video games, Boruto uses cheats and mods to make the game really easy. And the few times that he does work hard towards something, he gets frustrated when it doesn’t come to him naturally, two great examples being his Shuriken and Rasengan training.

But the best example his when he is caught cheating during the Chunin Exams. The third round of the exam is a series of one on one bouts between the remaining shinobi. During a few of these matches, Boruto is pushed into a corner, and he uses and illegal ninja tool that stores various jutsu in order to win. Naruto eventually discovers him using this tool, leading to one of the film’s more emotional scenes.

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Through the tutelage of Sasuke, whom Boruto requested to train under for the exams, Boruto is able to recover from his loss, learn the value of hardwork, and help his father and teacher defeat the film’s antagonist.

Boruto: Naruto the Movie is beautifully animated. It was produced Studio Pierrot, the same team that has always worked on the Naruto anime series, as well as Bleach. I’ve loved the art style evolution that the Naruto anime has gone through over the last couple of years. It’s soft, fluid and colorful, and I honestly get a kick out of just seeing the characters talk and emote.

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Although there are very few fight scenes in the film, the ones that they do give us are extremely well done, special mention to the choreography in the final fight scene. My only real complaint with the film overall are Boruto’s fight scenes. They look nice, but there’s so much more that could’ve been done with them.

For starters, his Chunin Exam matches should’ve been much longer, giving us a chance to see the results of his Shuriken and Rasengan training (to be fair, there is a moment where Boruto references his Shuriken training). I know we are going to get plenty of moments of Boruto action in his manga and anime series, but it would’ve been nice to see his skills in his debut.

Boruto: Naruto the Movie is a pretty solid start to the Boruto era. It introduces us to the new generation of ninja, as well as the influence that characters like Naruto and Sasuke have on them. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention this, but the English dub is really good!

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Anime Film Review: ‘The Last: Naruto The Movie”

Anime Film Review: ‘The Last: Naruto The Movie”

The Last: Naruto the Movie is a particularly interesting film in the Naruto franchise. Most long-running Shonen series produce movies on a yearly basis, but for obvious reasons, they are almost always non-canon. As memorable (and marketed) as someone like Broly may be, he still technically only exists in the context of the films (unless Dragon Ball Super decides otherwise).

However, The Last is actually one hundred percent canon to the story of the manga, and takes place between chapters 699 and 700 (it has also been referred to as chapter 699.5). But perhaps even more interesting than its place as a canon entry in the story of Naruto, is the film’s subject matter.

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At its core, the Naruto series is about action, friendship, chasing your dreams and overcoming adversity. The Last definitely has action in spades, but its focus is squarely on the romance between Naruto Uzumaki and Hinata Hyuga. At this point, series creator Masashi Kishimoto had told all of the action stories that he had in him, but he always wanted to tell a romance story.

And this isn’t to say that the action in The Last is lacking in any sense of the word. The film has a handful of really cool moments, special props to the Konoha chase sequence between Naruto and movie villain Toneri Otsutsuki. Quick aside, I really enjoy his inclusion in the film. I don’t really care for him at all as a villain or as a character, but he provides a bit of much needed lore for Kaguya, the “final boss” of the original Naruto story.

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Kaguya comes quite literally out of nowhere, so learning more about her origins, as well as the history of the entire ninja world was really cool as a fan of deep, world building stuff like this. And to be fair, the anime did a much better job than its source material of fleshing out Kaguya’s backstory.

Back on topic, The Last takes place around two years after the end of the Fourth Great Ninja War. The shinobi world is at peace, and Naruto Uzumaki is a celebrated hero in the Leaf Village. Hinata, after years of pining over him in secret, is finally spurred into action by Sakura Haruno.

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After a few kind words of encouragement, Hinata decides to finally ask out Naruto, and of course, she has a number of embarrassing encounters on the way. But one of these encounters is much more scary than embarrassing, and it has to do with the abduction of her little sister Hanabi, who this film suddenly remembered existed.

Hanabi is kidnapped by Toneri in an effort to lure out Hinata, his Byakugan Princess. Toneri basically has two goals in The Last. One is to marry Hinata, and the other is to awaken the Tenseigan, a Byakugan powered counterpart to the Rinnegan. Long story short, he does eventually gain the Tenseigan, but is promptly defeated by Naruto.

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I never really knew how much I actually loved Hinata as a character until I saw The Last, especially her adoration of Naruto. I have a lot of personal problems with Sakura and Sasuke as a couple, mostly because Sakura’s love for him is never shown to mature past her childhood crush, and Sasuke seems to only be with her out of convenience.

But Hinata’s love for Naruto is pure and genuine, right down to the fact that I can’t recall one time throughout the series that she mentions his physical attractiveness in anything more than passing. Everytime she comments on her feelings about him, she’s talking about his drive, determination, growth or maturity.

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One of the film’s early scenes shows Naruto and Hinata during their ninja academy days. Hinata is being picked on by a group of boys, and Naruto steps in to defend her… only to get beaten up. Hinata was moved by this selfless act of heroism, and has been in love with Naruto ever since that day.

Fast forward to the present, and you can truly see how her love has grown and matured with time. Much like the viewer, Hinata has spent years watching Naruto slowly get better and better, as well as earn the respect of a village of people that once detested him.

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Naruto’s feelings for Hinata are somewhat of a weird case. I couldn’t clearly identify them the same way I could Hinata’s, but I could definitely feel them. When he’s desperately fighting to rescue her from Toneri, I can feel them. When he’s holding her hand as they leave the moon and return to their village, I can feel them.

Subtlety has never been a strong point of the Naruto series, but The Last actually manages to come across as such in its execution. It would have been really easy and really annoying for Naruto and Hinata to constantly verbalize their love for each other, but all of their feelings are perfectly exhibited by their actions. And the few times they actually do talk about their feelings, the impact is there because the moment hasn’t been spoiled.

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The little moments that these two share are the big highlights of the film for me, and I want to give a special mention to the camera shots that focus on the pair. Simple shots like Naruto and Hinata sitting in an abandoned kingdom and walking under cherry blossom trees, are accompanied by grander shots such as them kissing in the moonlight.

As someone who has watched Naruto since its debut in America, seeing Naruto and Hinata finally pair up was a really special moment for me. It was like the years that I spent rooting for Hinata, and hoping Naruto will eventually realize the genuine love that she has for him were finally validated. The Last is worth at least one watch for the love story alone. Plus, the characters all have really cool new outfits to look at, special mention to the updated Leaf Shinobi uniform, and extra special mention to Hinata’s new outfit.

 

Anime Series Review: ‘Yugioh Arc-V’

Anime Series Review: ‘Yugioh Arc-V’

The Yugioh franchise has been near and dear to my heart ever since I was a kid. I’ll never forget coming home after school everyday to watch the latest episode of the Battle City Arc of the original Duel Monsters, or catching the latest episode of Yugioh GX on the weekends. This series is responsible for getting me into card games, and I still keep up with the game to this day. Yugioh Arc-V is the fifth installment in the long running series, as well as the one that tied into the franchise’s 20th anniversary.

The Arc-V era attempted to celebrate Yugioh’s rich history, and both the card game and the anime featured plenty of nods to eras gone by. Yugioh Arc-V represents what I consider to be the highest highs and lowest lows that the anime series has ever seen. At one time, I considered it to be the best of all Yugioh anime (even better than Yugioh 5d’s), in spite of the fact that Yugioh GX is my overall favorite. And while that doesn’t mean I think the show devolved into absolute garbage, it definitely lost much of it’s charm during it’s almost 150 episode run.

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Arc-V follows the story of Yuya Sakaki, a young duelist who wishes to become the world’s greatest Entertainment Duelist. Similar to the Riding Duels in Yugioh 5d’s, Action Duels are a new variant of traditional dueling that has duelists riding their monsters on the field in order to find Action Cards. Entertainment Dueling is a style that was created by Yuya’s father, Yusho Sakaki, not long after the introduction of Action Duels.

In order to achieve his dream, Yuya attends Yusho Duel School, alongside his friend Yuzu Hiiragi. Yuya also has various friends and rivals from other duel schools such as Shingo Sawatari, Noboru Gongenzaka and Reiji Akaba. Arc-V has a rather large cast of principal characters (including other important ones like Sora Shiunin), but the first season does a really great job at slowly introducing us to them.

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The show devotes plenty of time to fleshing out each character’s personality and dueling style, something that goes a long way towards familiarizing the audience with the cast. Whether it’s Yuya’s patented Pendulum Summoning, Sora’s fast and aggressive Fusion Summoning or Reiji’s mastery over Fusion, Synchro and Xyz Summons, every character has a unique style of play, leading to many memorable and exciting duels.

While Arc-V’s early episodes are focused primarily on teaching us about the characters, Action Duels and Pendulum Summoning, they also do a fantastic job at slowly introducing us to the overall narrative. The first couple of episodes are fairly episodic, duel of the week type affairs, but everything changes with the introduction of Shun Kurosaki and Yuto, two Xyz users that have some type of grudge against the Leo Duel School.

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It is eventually revealed that Yuto and Shun are duelists from the Xyz Dimension, and that Arc-V’s universe is segmented into different dimensions based on the extra deck summoning methods, including Fusion (which Sora hails from) and Synchro. Yuya’s world is known as the Standard Dimension, the basis for all of the worlds, which is the reason it features every unique summoning type.

Yuto and Shun entered the Standard Dimension as survivors of the Heartland Resistance, a rebel alliance that was forged in order to combat the threat of the Fusion Dimension’s Duel Academy. Duel Academy, led by Reiji’s father, Leo Akaba, is invading the other dimensions in order to combine them into one complete world, as they were in the past. In order to do so, he must capture Yuzu, as well as three other girls that look like her: Ruri, Rin and Serena. I love the concept of the multiple dimensions. While the idea of worlds being separated based exclusively on summoning methods may sound silly (especially when you realize that each world can also Ritual Summon), it allows Arc-V to have various interesting and diverse settings.

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The first season ends with Reiji preparing a group of duelists known as Lancers, and their sole purpose is to stop the ambitions of Leo Akaba. I’ve referenced the first season quite a few times so far, and there’s a reason for that. It does an excellent job at establishing a world and narrative for Arc-V, and sets the rest of the series up for, what should be, and engaging and entertaining ride. The second season starts strong enough, as the idea of the Lancers going to the different dimensions in order to recruit more duelists is a super cool idea. But the rest of the show doesn’t do nearly enough with the foundation that was laid at the beginning.

The second season, while featuring some of Arc-V’s best duels and character development, brings the overall narrative to a very noticeable stop. This is because it is almost entirely a tournament arc, with any character that isn’t dueling being relegated to either standing in a hotel room, watching in the crowd or doing manual labor in the underground. However, I will say that the story picks back up in a somewhat satisfying way towards the end of the season.

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The first half of the third season is really strong. It gives us more backstory on the Xyz Resistance, as well as the remnants of the war torn Heartland City, making for a more personal experience overall. But once the story jumps dimensions for the final time, things take a serious and disheartening nosedive. Random filler duels are thrown in, characters and side plots are introduced but never concluded in a satisfying way and the true antagonist is so boring and generic that it almost hurts.

It is painfully obvious that Arc-V’s latter episodes were rushed, and many fans have argued that this, in addition to some episodes having really wonky animation, is likely the result of key talent from the production team being pulled to work on Yugioh: The Dark Side of Dimensions, a film based on the original Duel Monsters series. Regardless if this is true or not, it’s really no excuse for what happened to Arc-V. By the time we got to the final two episodes, I was truly confused as to how they were going to answer all of the lingering questions, and wrap things up in a satisfying manner.

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I can’t really talk too much more about the narrative structure without this becoming a rant, so let’s shift focus to our protagonist, Yuya. I’m gonna go ahead and say this now, I think Yuya has the best character development of any Yugioh anime character ever, protagonist or otherwise. I like to think of him as a modern day Yugi that had to mature as a duelist without the influence of someone like Atem. He initially lacks the confidence and skill of previous heroes like Jaden and Yusei, but he’s not quite as incompetent as someone like Yuma in Yugioh Zexal’s early episodes.

Yuya’s lack of confidence is the result of an incident in his past. A few years prior to the start of the series, Yuya’s father disappears on the day of a very important match. This led to Yuya being bullied for being the son of a coward, and a fraud of a duelist. Yuya practically idolized his father, so having to hear his name tarnished for years took a serious toll on Yuya’s self esteem.

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This is why Entertainment Dueling is so important to Yuya, as it not only represents his father, but it serves as a means for Yuya to hide his true feelings behind a confident and cheerful persona.  As a result of the various challenges that he is forced to overcome, Yuya undergoes a pretty significant change. The core of his character remains consistent (a desire to make everybody smile with his dueling), but you could almost mistake Yuya at the beginning of the third season for a completely new character.

He’s much more cool headed and confident, and takes charge of the Lancers when he needs to. This newfound development even extends to his dueling. Yuya’s primary strategy used to be manipulating the attack points of his and his opponent’s monsters, and then finishing things with Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon, his ace monster. After learning a few new tricks, Yuya’s dueling evolves to incorporate Fusion, Synchro, and Xyx, as well as smarter and more efficient use of the Pendulum Summon.

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Although the second half of the third season makes it a point to undo and reverse much of his character development, he does recover in the show’s closing episodes. Yuya is my second favorite Yugioh protagonist, right behind Yugioh GX’s Jaden/Judai Yuki. His personal arc represents what can happen if you smile and persevere against the odds, all while not forgetting the lessons that you’ve learned from others during your journey.

I previously said that Arc-V has Yugioh’s lowest lows, and the most irritating one manifests in the form of Yuzu. She starts the show with such promise. She’s a duelist that is equal to, if not stronger than Yuya, she constantly seeks to improve and evolve her own dueling, and her growth even serves as a catalyst for Yuya’s own development. But from the climax of the first season to the very last episode, she is demoted to a damsel in distress who only knows how to say Yuya’s name while clutching her bracelet, and this is easily the most disappointing aspect of Arc-V as a whole.

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Arc-V was meant to celebrate 20 years of Yugioh, and one of the ways that it does this is by including legacy characters from past Yugioh series. This is a super cool idea, and is a great way to tug at the nostalgia of older fans like myself. The execution however, is somewhat of a mixed bag. The legacy characters start out innocent enough, but it is not long before they take significant duels, screentime and development away from Arc-V’s original characters.

And when they’re not taking importance away from characters like Gongenzaka and Sawatari, they are so pointless to the overall narrative that they might as well not be there at all. This is especially true in regards to the GX legacy characters, Asuka Tenjoin and Edo Phoenix. Edo is nothing like his GX counterpart, and his role in Arc-V would’ve been much better suited for someone like Kaiser Ryo or Jun Manjoume, while Asuka duels once to save Yuzu from Duel Academy (something she should’ve been able to accomplish on her own) and a second time only to lose to Yuri.

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Speaking of Yuri, I’ve neglected to mention Yuya’s counterparts up until this point. Similar to Yuzu, Yuya has three counterparts that exist in the other dimensions: Yuto, Yugo and Yuri. As far as the Yuya and Yuzu counterparts are concerned, they are honestly one of my biggest issues with Arc-V. They are all really unique and interesting characters, but we get so little time to see them onscreen together. While we do get a little bit of screentime between Yuzu and Serena, and Yuya and Yuto are bound at the hip for most of the show, we barely get any interactions between the rest of the counterparts.

I also haven’t talked much at all about Arc-V’s duels, but there are a ton of great ones. While my personal favorite is Yuya and Reiji’s second duel, there are a ton of other great ones. Shun vs Dennis, Yuya vs Jack, Yugo vs Serena, Yuzu vs Masumi and especially Shun vs Sora, all of these duels are fantastic. Arc-V’s duels are also accompanied by what is easily the best soundtrack of any Yugioh anime, special mention to “Swing! Pendulum of Souls”, “Unleash” and “Trump Card”.

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A common complaint with Arc-V’s duels is the overreliance on Action Cards, mostly by Yuya, and I can’t really say that this complaint is unfounded. Yuya’s deck uses almost no defensive spell and trap cards, so he ends up constantly running after Action Cards in order to protect himself and his monsters. While seeing this does get a bit stale, I never really felt like it detracted from the duels in a very serious way.

Even though the closing episodes of Arc-V’s run were really disappointing, I still had a great time with the show. I can’t give it a resounding recommendation due to the underwhelming final season (I really do think it’s that bad), but I still consider it my second favorite series (once again, after GX). It has the strongest character development, coolest worldbuilding, most exciting duels and a phenomenal soundtrack, and if you’re already a fan of Yugioh, I’m sure that you’ll find at least a few things to enjoy about Yugioh Arc-V. I’ll say it once more for good measure, it has the lowest lows of any Yugioh anime, but it’s high points are great enough to make even the most cynical viewer give praise to this show about a children’s card game.

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Anime Series Review: ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’ Season 1

Anime Series Review: ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’ Season 1

I watched the first episode of The Seven Deadly Sins twice before I finally sat down and watched the series. This isn’t an early judgement call on the quality of the series, as I’ve always thought that first episode was quite good, it’s just a little piece of my own personal history with the show. I had heard really good things about this show from some close friends of mine, so I pulled it up on Netflix one night and decided to give it a shot.

The Seven Deadly Sins were a group of legendary knights that were loyal to the empire. Each Sin wielded an extraordinary amount of power, and were the empire’s greatest weapon. Ten years before the start of the series, the Sins were disbanded after allegedly attempting to overthrow the kingdom. Fast forward to present day, Princess Elizabeth is attempting to gather the Seven Deadly Sins to assist her in protecting her kingdom against the Holy Knights.

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In addition to Elizabeth, The Seven Deadly Sins has a second main character in the form of Meliodas, the Dragon Sin of Wrath. Meliodas and his pig companion Hawk run a somewhat famous traveling tavern, admittedly known more for its beer than its food. Meliodas is a super unassuming character. While it’s obvious to the audience that he is somebody important, in the context of the show, he’s just some short kid that runs a decent tavern. In reality, Meliodas was the captain of the Seven Deadly Sins, and the most feared across the nation.

I absolutely adored Meliodas. He was a character that I could never quite get a read on, I never really knew what he was thinking. Special mention should go to his pattern of speech and his overall personality. At times he’ll say something completely outlandish, only for someone like Elizabeth to ask him if he is serious, to which he replies, “of course not”. It’s really hard to accurately describe this type of back and forth in writing, so you’ll have to see it to believe it.

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Season 1 does a fairly decent job of spacing out the reveal of the Seven Deadly Sins, well, six of them anyway. The second of the Sins that we meet is Diane, the Snake Sin of Eny. She’s a member of the Giant tribe, and is totally in love with Meliodas. Soon after, we are introduced to Ban, the Fox Sin of Greed, King, the Grizzly Sin of Sloth and Gowther, the Goat Sin of Lust. In addition, the very end of the season greets us with Merlin, the Boar Sin of Gluttony.

The most confusing thing about The Seven Deadly Sins for me was, weirdly enough, the power level of the Sins. The first half of the season portrays them as absurdly powerful, and I honestly thought their crazy strength was supposed to be played for laughs. For example, Meliodas and Ban level an enormous castle during a friendly arm wrestling match. Early bouts against the Holy Knights are a joke, as the Sins hold themselves back to make the fight fair. On the other hand, the second half of the season has the strength of the Sins all over the place. At times, they are fighting on similar grounds with their opponents, while at others they are outright losing.

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Nonetheless, each of the Sins is thoroughly entertaining and wholly unique. Diane is energetic and charismatic, Ban is sly and shrewd (fitting considering his animal motif), King is strong but easily flustered and Gowther… well, you’ll have to just watch to learn about Gowther. But the most interesting thing about the Sins is their backstory. They’re not just called the Seven Deadly Sins to sound cool, each character has a specific Sin that they must bare. These are obviously super spoiler territory, so I won’t go into them here, but I will say that they give tons of insight into their lives and personalities, and were a large part of what emotionally endeared me to them.

 

I haven’t talked much about the overall story, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good. The tale of a growing conflict between kingdoms is nothing that hasn’t been done before, and The Seven Deadly Sins doesn’t really do anything to make the basic plot stand out. But as is the case with pretty much every show I love, the characters sell the experience. They make the plot interesting because their individual character arcs are tied intrinsically to the overall narrative. The show does a good job of story and scene pacing, as well as taking it’s time drip feeding certain parts of the story that are meant to be slow, mysterious reveals.

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I really enjoyed my time with The Seven Deadly Sins. At the time of this writing, there is a second mini season on Netflix (which I plan on eventually reviewing), two OVAs and an ongoing manga series. I’m really looking forward to spending more time with these characters, especially considering the ending of season 1, which left me wanting more and more of this story.

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3’

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is the game that got me through freshman year of college. I’ll never forget spending hours and hours on end huddled together in one dorm room participating in round after round. Sometimes we would load up on snacks and drinks and just play all weekend, and other times we would sneak in a few matches between classes and before dinner.

Since the days of the Playstation 2, I’ve been a really big fan of Bandai Namco and CyberConnect2’s Ultimate Ninja fighting games, especially the Ultimate Ninja Storm series. Outside of my own personal reasons for picking Storm 3 as my favorite Naruto game, I honestly just feel like it is a really fantastic gaming experience, Naruto or otherwise. As far as Naruto games are concerned, Storm 3 just does a lot of things right. The story and cinematics are incredible, and even outshine the anime in many instances.

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This is due in part to the fact that Storm 3 has the luxury of being able to tell the Naruto story without all of the filler that the anime was plagued with. But even beyond that, Storm 3 is a fantastic example of a developer that is really passionate about the source material. Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 was released in 2013, meaning CyberConnect2 had been creating Naruto games for an entire decade! While one would think that being apart of a franchise for so long would cause a decline in interest, the Ultimate Ninja Storm games caused quite the opposite effect.

The original Ultimate Ninja games on the Playstation 2 weren’t really known for their visuals or cinematic flair. They were fairly simple 2d fighting games. With the advent of the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, CC2 was given the opportunity (and the budget) to make a really spectacular Naruto experience. CC2 was able to flex their technical muscles, and make a truly beautiful anime game.

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The debut trailer for the original Ultimate Ninja Storm was the first time I was ever blown away by a game’s visuals. I couldn’t believe how amazing the game looked. CC2 had somehow managed to create a game that looked like I was playing the anime. And that’s a statement that holds true for every subsequent installment in the series.

There’s no better example of CC2’s love for Naruto than the story modes in the Ultimate Ninja Storm games. They are incredibly authentic to the original events of the story, while also throwing in their own unique elements when appropriate. The Storm games, especially Storm 3, just do a great job telling the story overall. Storm 3 has cutscenes that feel like an episode of the anime, and they never skimp on the important details of the narrative.

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As far as actual gameplay is concerned, Storm 3 does a lot of things really well, and just one thing wrong. The awakening system in Storm 3 is pretty broken. While it’s really cool that the finally allowed awakened characters to be grabbed and hit with ultimate jutsu, Storm 3 still features plenty of really overpowered transformations. 

Each of the Jinchuriki, as well as a handful of the Uchiha have giant awakenings. These transformations have really big hitboxes, and can dish out a ton of damage. In addition, certain characters have the ability to instantly awaken. While the trade off for this is the fact that your chakra is constantly draining, you should usually be able to finish the match before this becomes an issue.

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Broken awakenings aside, Storm 3 feels great to play, and is second only to Storm 4 as far as overall fluidity of control is concerned. The beauty of the Ultimate Ninja Storm games has always been their simplicity. Melee combos are mapped to a single button, and characters each have a handful of movement options and unique jutsu and ultimate jutsu. Basically, the Storm games are fairly easy to pick up and play, but take time to fully master.

Epic boss fights are what the Ultimate Ninja Storm games are known for, and Storm 3 features the probably the best ones in the series. The spectacle of these fights is incredible, and I honestly feel that they are somewhat underappreciated when it comes to video game set pieces. I’ve seen things in Storm 3 that rival scenes in really big, blockbuster triple A game franchises.

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Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 pits you against standard human sized fights against opponents like Sasuke Uchiha, the Third Raikage and Danzo Shimura, but also against the likes of the Nine Tailed Fox, Madara Uchiha’s Susanno and the Gedo Statue. These encounters are truly a sight to behold, and their scale and intensity is enough to get anybody’s adrenaline pumping.

Naruto was a huge part of my adolescent years. In middle school, I spent pretty much every weekend at Lucas Sapaugh’s house, one of my best friends in the world. As soon as the Toonami block came on, it had our undivided attention. Out of all of the shows in their lineup, Naruto was easily the biggest draw for us.

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Naruto was very much the anime of my generation. While I adore Dragon Ball to no end, that show already belonged to another generation of kids by the time I was old enough to fall in love with it. Naruto hit at just the right time to become an iconic show to people my age. In the case of the Ultimate Ninja Storm games, they are a large part of what kept me invested in the series after the ending of Part I on Toonami. The english version of Naruto Shippuden went through a weird phase from around 2009 to 2010, so I got my Naruto fix from games like Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 and Ultimate Ninja Storm 3.

Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 represents not only what I believe to be the best Naruto gaming experience, but a game that I hold many memories with. To this day, I sometimes find myself thinking about the times I spend during my first year of college just loving everything that this game has to offer.

Anime Series Review: ‘Yuki Yuna Is A Hero’

Anime Series Review: ‘Yuki Yuna Is A Hero’

I’m a huge sucker for anything bright, colorful and cutesy, but I also love crazy, high energy action shows like Dragon Ball Z. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Yuki Yuna Is A Hero caught my eye. Adorable girls clad in awesome armor? Cool weapons and fights against giant alien creatures? Throw in a super interesting and emotional character driven plot, and I’m sold.

Yuki Yuna Is A Hero centers on the five members of the Sanshu Middle School Hero Club: Yuna, Togo, Fu, Itsuki and newcomer Karin. At first glance, the Hero Club appears to be just an ordinary after school program that is dedicated to helping local citizens in need. The first episode reveals that the Hero Club is actually a part of a much larger organization called the Taisha. Taisha’s goal is to defend the world from the threat of the Vertex, alien like creatures that seek to destroy the Shinju (Divine Tree), a guardian deity that protects humanity.

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That basic explanation is about as much as the show gives you in its opening episodes. Yuki Yuna Is A Hero introduces us to its principal characters, and gets right into the action. And man, the action is pretty cool. Action sequences are few and far between, but they are always a sight to behold in the moment. Yuna and the other girls are granted the ability to transform into Heroes, increasing all of their physical parameters, and giving them access to unique weapons and abilities. Seeing the girls zip around the dazzling, technicolor landscapes, all while dodging attacks and retaliating with their own, really appeals to the Shonen anime fan in me.

The action makes for really entertaining spectacle, but you’re not really watching Yuki Yuna Is A Hero for high octane fights. No, you’re watching this show for the characters. Yuki Yuna Is A Hero is a character driven Magical Girl anime, with various elements of Slice of Life (but really, what anime doesn’t have bits of Slice of Life?) While there are a number of episodes that get really deep into the overarching narrative, the majority of the show features the girls going through various normal tasks.

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What do I want to do in life, what’s my purpose, what should we for the Culture Festival? Episodes like this are standard for Yuki Yuna Is A Hero, and because of this, the show’s pacing may be off-putting to some. Episodes about the girls enjoying a fun beach vacation are interspersed with tense fights and emotional turmoil. This sort of dissonance didn’t really bother me, but I can see how it would be an issue for others.

The most important part of any character driven story is making the viewer care about the characters, thus making them care about what happens them. This is why the slower, Slice of Life style episodes are so important. They give a closer look into each girl’s personality, hopes and dreams, and did a fantastic job of making me fall in love with each girl (especially Karin, the best girl). Plus, it’s super fun to just see the girls have a good time and enjoy each other’s company.

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Circling back around to the main plot, it does actually pick up later on. After a hard fought victory against the Vertex, it is revealed that the girl’s Hero powers have negative repercussions. While exerting themselves in battle, the girls can activate a second stage transformation known as Mankai. Mankai takes an incredible toll on the girl’s stamina, and each use of Mankai results in the girls gaining a new Faery (magical animal companions), in exchange for one of their bodily functions (sight, voice, hearing etc). This gives the fights against the Vertex an extremely emotional component, and it genuinely made me sad each time I had to see the girls activate their Mankai.

As much as Yuki Yuna Is A Hero makes me smile and laugh, it is also incredibly sad and emotional. Seeing how the girls deal with the threat of losing their bodies to the Hero system, the pressure of defending the world from the Vertex and the secrets of the Taisha organization made for tons and tons of emotional conflict (special mention to the side plot regarding sisters Fu and Itsuki).

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Yuki Yuna Is A Hero is also not afraid to explore really dark themes, which is why it’s typically credited along with shows like Puella Magi Madoka Magica as being a “deconstruction” of the Magical Girl genre. I can’t say too much in this regard without going into heavy spoiler territory, but you shouldn’t be alarmed if you start to get a little choked up while watching the show.

I stated earlier that Yuki Yuna Is A Hero jumps right into the action without much explanation in regards to the Hero system, the Taisha, the Vertex or really anything at all. Well, this is because Yuki Yuna Is A Hero isn’t just a standalone anime. Washio Sumi wa Yūsha de Aru (Washio Sumi Is A Hero) is a light novel that serves as a prequel to the story of Yuki Yuna Is A Hero, and while I haven’t personally read it, I’ve heard that it does quite a bit to establish the world, lore and history of the Hero system. However, Yuki Yuna Is A Hero is a perfectly enjoyable anime without the knowledge of Washio Sumi Is A Hero.

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Speaking of Washio Sumi Is A Hero, it’s getting an anime adaptation this year. In addition, the main anime series is getting a second season, as well as a film. I’m super excited for what’s to come for this series, and can’t wait to spend more time with Yuna and the rest of the Hero Club.

I’m really glad I watched Yuki Yuna Is A Hero. I was completely in love with each one of the girls (especially Karin), and some of my favorite episodes featured the girls just having fun. Whether it’s in games, anime or books, I’ve always loved really emotional, character driven stories. Yuki Yuna Is A Hero achieves this in a really cool way, with plenty of cuteness and fighting thrown in for good measure.