Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top 5 Anime That Make You Cry Like a Baby

Last month was all mecha pilots, all the time. While we love the mecha/giant robot anime genre, we like all kinds of anime. So just to show that we’ve got a sensitive side and aren’t just a bunch of mecha-heads, here are our Top 5


[Caution: Spoilers and soiled Kleenex ahead!]

#5 - Grave of the Fireflies (Motion Picture)

No shocker here: Both kids die. Not your regular fanfare from cuddly Studio Ghibli. But even though we know what happens to the kids from the very first sequence, it doesn’t ease the pain. Our hearts fall into pieces as we observe the slow, starving demise of this brother-sister pair in post-WW II Japan. We echo Roger Ebert in recommending this film for all war movie fans—and all film fans with a heart.

#4 - Wolf’s Rain (Episodes 27-30)

Fun fact #1: Wolf’s Rain was originally planned for a standard 26-episode run. That was before the Asian bird flu epidemic near the turn of the century interrupted production schedule. With deadlines looming, the folks at Studio Bones had to whip up a record four recap episodes to act as fillers throughout the show. Following the unresolved ending of episode 26, the creators eventually got things together to tie up the story with an additional quartet of shows.

But after watching them, your tear-stained eyes may regret it. As the heroes (wolf and human) near the sought-after “paradise,” they each fall one-by-one in assorted tragic ways, showing the coldness and cruelty of a dying world. Even the ultimate triumph is bittersweet, as the taint of evil remains in the reborn world. Yoko Kanno’s melodic score only adds to the melancholic tale.

#3 - Trigun (Episode 24, “Sin”)

No anime does a better job of steadily transitioning between goofy episodic adventures to a heart-wrenching odyssey for redemption. Vash the Stampede is more than a lucky humanoid typhoon. He’s a tortured sole who’s vowed to never take a life. But our hero must cross that line near the story’s end, when Vash must choose between letting his friends die or saving them by killing the sadistic Legato. Trust us, V. You made the right decision.

#2 - Cowboy Bebop (Episode 24, “Hard Luck Woman”)

We’ve seen hints of Faye’s past in previous episodes, but we (and she) learn much more about her complicated story in this one. After meeting an “old” friend in her childhood neighborhood, Faye runs to the top of a familiar hill longing to find her family home. But what she discovers leaves her (and viewers) breathless.

#1 - Voices of a Distant Star (OVA)

Nothing opens the floodgates like teenage love. In this case, we’re talking long distance (and diverging chronological) relationships. Mix in a little mecha action and you’ve got gold.

Fun fact #2: Creator Makoto Shinkai made this masterpiece entirely on his Macintosh computer. (Take that, PC!) Just goes to show that a great story doesn’t need to be a multi-staffed and multi-million dollar production.

Beyond the teenage melodrama, Voices also uses the physics of space travel to add depth and reality to the tale of our forlorn pair. So it’s not just a good love story; it’s a science lesson too. Suck, it up, crybabies.

Okay everyone, hanky time.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Top 5 Babe Mecha Pilots

Capping off our month-long feature of mecha pilots, we turn our attention to the fairer sex—the

Top 5 Babe Mecha Pilots:

#5 - Karen Joshua
(Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team)
Master Chief Petty Officer Karen Joshua is the 08th MS Team’s second-in-command and one tough lady. Don’t tick her off on the battlefield. Karen used to be a medical student, though, so she can tend to your wounds after she punches your lights out.

#4 - Asuka Langley Soryu
(Neon Genesis Evangelion)
A lot of attention goes to that other female Eva pilot—Rei Ayanami. But we’ll pick a feisty redhead over a waify albino girl any day. No Freudian mother issues to deal with, either.

#3 - Kallen Stadtfeld/Kouzuki
(Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion)
In a show of strangely skinny and oblong character designs, mecha pilot Kallen never fails to be babe-iful. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the animators seem to put her in the most compromising positions whenever she plops into her Guren-Mk II’s cockpit.

#2 - Yoko Littner
(Gurren Lagann)

Sure, Yoko bounces around in a bikini top and lugs a ginormous sniper rifle when she’s not piloting her Dayakkaiser mecha. But she’s just as skilled in a classroom full of elementary kids. Cue Van Halen, cuz we’re hot for teacher.

That’s four redheads in a row. Time for a new color. (And some much needed modesty, which to be honest, ladies, goes a lot farther with us.)

#1 - Miriya Parina Sterling (Robotech: Macross)

When we first meet Miriya, she’s the finest combat pilot in all the Zentraedi forces—and a giant alien. If that’s not cool enough, she tried to kill her future husband Max with a knife. And she can play video games. Bonus.
Miriya even takes her infant daughter Dana along in her Veritech cockpit when fighting the bad guys. Not exactly mother of the year material, but definitely proof that Miriya is a woman among girls in the Babe Mecha Pilot category.

That’s our list, showing that gals are just as skilled as the guys in mecha pilot mastery. And much easier on the eyes.

Susan B. Anthony would be proud.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Top 5 Angstiest Mecha Pilots

Almost as common as whiny boy mecha pilots—and just as annoying—here we have our

Top 5 Angstiest Mecha Pilots:

#5 – Van Fanel (The Vision of Escaflowne)

We actually like Van and his excellent mecha/fantasy mixture of a show. But don’t forget to mention a mix of romance, too; otherwise, you’ll be sorely disappointed if expecting an all-out action show. Van’s heart slowly gets warmed by schoolgirl Hitomi, but it takes some time, since he has to overcome a backstabbing brother, two dead parents, and a pair of foppish fairy wings.

#4 – Setsuna F Seiei (Gundam 00)

Setsuna was a prepubescent guerilla fighter before he plopped into the cush job of Gundam pilot. Unfortunately, one never outgrows a childhood of urban warfare and a brainwashed execution of your own parents. No wonder Setsuna’s no fan of diplomacy. Good thing he’s a Gundam pilot.

#3 – Viral (Gurren Lagann)

All Viral wants is to get married and have some kids. But he’s also a bad guy who gets his bootie kicked by the human heroes. Still, Viral gets a second chance and bailed out of the slammer to help Simon’s ragtag bunch fight the impossible war against the Anti-Spirals. The enemy of my enemy . . . means you’re one lucky duck, Viral.

#2 – Heero Yuy (Gundam Wing)

We don’t know Heero’s real name—he’s just an orphan picked for combat and named after a matyred colony leader. Same name, different methods. Heero spearheads Operation Meteor to start the whole Earth/Colonies War. And when he first meets future love interest and heart warmer Relena, what are his first words? “I’ll kill you.” Not exactly our first choice for a pick-up line.

#1 – Lelouch Lamperouge/Zero (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion)

Lelouch is angst king—royal blood and everything. This private school brat’s estranged pop is oppressive Britannia Emperor Charles, who’s not too sad about killing his wife—little Lelouch’s mom. So what does Lelouch do? Acquires some mind-controlling powers, starts up a mecha army and begins his own conquest of nations. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, does it?

That’s our Top 5 list of angry, arrogant, and antisocial teen pilots. Somebody give ‘em a hug.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Top 5 Coolest Mecha Pilots

Last time featured the well-known "whiny mecha pilot" anime archetype. Now let's do a complete 180-turn and focus on something much better--the
Top 5 Coolest Mecha Pilots.

These are the guys we WANT to be; the fact they pilot a giant robot is just icing on the cake!

#5 - Kamina (Gurren Lagann)
Not everyone can lead a stampeding herd of mole-pigs to the top of their underground city's roof. And not everyone has a city named in their honor, either. Of course, not too many folks use the catchphrase, "Who the hell do you think I am?!" We'd list Kamina higher on the cool list, but not until he puts a shirt on.

#4 - Van (Gun x Sword)
It helps that Van looks a lot like Cowboy Bebop's own Spike Spiegel (perhaps the coolest anime character ever). Van makes his own fashion statement though, wearing a swallowtail tuxedo and droopy Stetson-style hat. His coolest accessory is his shape-memory cloth "sword," but Van is usually more interested in dousing his meals with mixed sauces. Maybe his wardrobe should come with a condiment belt.

#3 - Duo Maxwell (Gundam Wing)
In a show full of pretty boy pilots in need of Prozac, Duo sticks out as the stud who smiles while he wipes out mecha armies with his Deathscythe Gundam. Who knew a "god of death" could be so fun?

#2 - Max Sterling (Robotech: Macross)
Max is living the dream. He's an ace Veritech fighter pilot for the SDF-1, and that's not the best part. Max makes our list because he snagged his hot alien wife by first defeating her at a video arcade game, then out-dueling her in a knife fight. Mrs. Miriya Sterling then becomes his wingmate, fighting beside Max in her very own Veritech fighter. Just keep an eye on that girl in the kitchen.

#1 - Roger Smith (The Big O)
Comic books have Batman, and anime has Roger Smith, Paradigm City's Negotiator. Like Bruce Wayne, Roger has his wide array of gadgetry: grappling hook-shooting wristwatch, rocket-launching Griffon sedan, memory metal lock-pick, and more. But instead of donning cape and cowl, Roger jumps into the cockpit of his giant megadeus Big O to fight giant-sized mecha crime. And in place of Boy Wonder Robin, Roger's sidekick is the cute sardonic android R. Dorothy Wayneright. "It's Showtime!"

And it's go time! Stay cool, everyone.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Top 5 Whiny Mecha Pilots

Piloting a giant robot mecha is the absolute best, right?

Not if you ask these guys.

Someone should sit them down, slap 'em around, and teach 'em how to truly appreciate their sweet rides. Until then, we'll just list our Top 5 Whiny Mecha Pilots:

#5 - Simon (Gurren Lagann)

No one likes a peeping tom, Simon. If you hadn’t spied on Yoko smooching Kamina, maybe you wouldn’t have left your “Big Bro” high and dry in your fight against Lordgenome.

#4 - Quatre Reberba Winner (Gundam Wing)

Of all the Gundam Wing pilots, Quatre was Mr. Softy, allowing his enemies to surrender before battle and apologizing afterwards to the cannon fodder who didn’t. Peace, peace, peace was his mantra. But then he goes off with the Gundam Wing Zero prototype and starts blowing up entire space colonies. Way to practice what you preach, Q.

#3 - Renton Thurston (Eureka Seven)

When we first meet Renton, he complains how everything in his life suuuucks. So does his attitude. (We’d give anything to have a hoverboard like Marty McFly.) Things don't get better when Renton joins the crew of Gekkostate and pilots the Nirvash mecha. Our boy becomes bootlicker, chump, and way too infatuated with lovely co-pilot Eureka. Give the girl some space--that's dude dating rule #2. Speaking of #2 . . .

#2 - Shinji Ikari (Neon Genesis Evangelion)

Every hero needs a battle cry. “I mustn’t run away I mustn’t run away” doesn’t quite cut it. Actually Shinji, please do hit the road. And take your daddy issues with you.

#1 - Amuro Ray (Mobile Suit Gundam)
The original Gundam was revolutionary for its time--breaking away from the cheesy "super-robot" genre in the '70s. Still, the show is guilty of creating the whiny pilot anime archetype. Amuro was the pioneer boy pilot bellyacher, and that ain't something you want on your resume.

Who'd we miss? Who's whinier?

Share your sissies below!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Top 5 Costumed Characters

Happy Halloween, Everybody!

We're celebrating the season by listing the Top 5 Costume-Wearing Characters in Anime.

#5 - Shunsuke Akagi as Eagle Mascot (Dai Guard)
[Check it out at the 01:30 mark.]
Before Akagi was the lead pilot of giant robot Dai Guard, he was just another office worker for the 21st Century Defense Corporation, putting in some extra hours with the PR team as the company mascot. Don't worry, Akagi, you'll be fighting Heterodynes in no time!

#4 - Eri Ninamori as Jack/Marquis de Carabas in Puss 'n Boots (FLCL)

As class president and mayor's daughter, Ninamori has a lot to live up to. This includes making sure she gets starring role in the school play. In the BEST episode of FLCL, we learn that Ninamori is human just like everyone else. But what about those glasses? You'll just have to watch.

#3 - Chiyo-Chan as Penguin (Azumanga Daioh)
The cute gets cuter when child genius Chiyo dons a penguin costume for the school's cultural festival. Just don't trip her.

#2 - Isaac Dian & Miria Harvent as _____ & _____ (Baccano!)

Take your pick for costumes. Isaac and Miria do every time they go on another heist.

#1 - Ed as Pumpkin-head (Cowboy Bebop: The Movie--Knockin' on Heaven's Door)

Ed gets the #1 vote because she's actually going Trick or Treating--well, sort of, to search for a bad guy. Enjoy Ed and faithful Ein on their haunting adventure, starting at 05:45.

Do you have a favorite costumed anime character? Share below. Now go get some candy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Top 5 Anime Openings

For our first Top 5 list, why not begin with beginnings? Sure, okay! We hear that the beginning is a very good place to start . . .

Openings are critical to draw the viewer in and make him or her want to see more. An outstanding opening has the perfect combination of catchy music, clever credits, and awesome animation to keep us from skipping over it during our DVD viewing-marathons.

Here are our top five favorite anime openings with comments and courtesies of YouTube (no ownership or copyright claims here, just showing what's available):

#5 - Baccano!
A relatively new anime with a cast list longer than the show's death toll (poor gangster thugs), this show's opening gives a deftly woven roll call of the main players accompanied by a stylish jazz tune called "Gun's & Roses." (That's how it's spelled, too. Even so, Axl called; he wants five bucks for royalties and an apology from Slash.)

#4 - Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight
We dare you to watch this opening and not get chills. Who knew flower petals in the wind could be so invigorating? Unfortunately, this magnificent opening only sets you up for major disappointment when you watch the actual show. The episodes are so stiff and sappy that it makes the 1980s Saturday morning cartoon Dungeons & Dragons look like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings.

#3 - His and Her Circumstances
File this one under "fun." The zany opening encapsulates this teen romantic comedy/dramedy with some of Studio Gainax(Neon Genesis Evangelion)'s unconventional animation techniques.

#2 - Cowboy Bebop
"Tank!" = the classic opening that exudes cool. Everyone remembers where they were when they saw this opening late Thursday nights at the dawn of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. As a testament to maestro Yoko Kanno's utter greatness, she composed both this toe-tapper AND the epic opening to Lodoss War: Heroic Knight (#4 above).

#1 - Read or Die: OAV
You only have three chances to enjoy this opening during the OAV's trio of episodes, but it's worth it! The animation is top-quality with some of the best cityscapes in any anime. No cheap shortcuts here. We get to see the main characters in original action sequences, enticing you with more story beyond this all-too-brief mini-series. (And the =ahem= shapely silhouettes displaying the credits do some enticing too.) Top it off with some funky/classy spy music and you've got a winner!

So what are your thoughts? What openings do you love? Share below!


High Five!

Up top!

Top Five, actually. This is Top 5 Anime, courtesy of the creators of Anime Pocky Reviews.

If you want reviews of shows, go check out our Anime Pocky Reviews blog. But if you want our Top Five Lists of all kinds of anime categories--genres, characters, animation, music, fun--then this is the #1 site for you!

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