Story Beats: The Fight Scene

Story Beats: The Fight Scene

 

Can you feel it? The tension? The hits? The drama? No? No to all of them? Then what you have before you is probably a poorly written, poorly executed and poorly thought out fight scene. Or just the Star Wars Prequels.

Hate it or love it, there’s a reason why Attack on Titan is so beloved by many anime fans. Sure, spreadable bite sized gifs with slick animation and cool designs in them are probably what got people to watch the show (same with One Punch Man). But while the cool gifs and videos of Eren, Mikasa, and Levi fighting the Titans were what piqued people’s interests—it was the underlying tension and drama in the show that really kept people tuning in for more.

Was Attack on Titan slow at times? I don’t know. You tell me. How long is too long for anyone to move a rock to patch up a hole in a wall? Regardless of the show’s short-comings, it’s hard to deny that Attack on Titan does do a pretty great job of making good action sequences and worthwhile fights. And I think I know why.

CAUTION: Minor to major spoilers for Gintama, Bleach, Sword Art Online and others.

Weight 

            How much pressure is our protagonist under? How likely is he or she going to fail (or die)? What’s at stake? What will happen if our protagonist loses or if they simply run away? These are just some of the things that add weight and tension into a fight scene, and without pressures or stakes involved a fight could become pointless.

Let’s look at Sword Art On—yes, yes I know what you’re thinking. Kirito’s an overpowered twat and the fights in the show’s latter seasons are relatively pointless. But here’s the thing, back when there were actual stakes in Sword Art Online, back when Kirito and Asuna would die in the real world if they do in the game, the show had weight to it.

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Think back to the final episode of the first season of SAO (sometimes I like to pretend that it’s the last episode of the entire series), think back to when Kirito faced off against Kayaba Akihiko. Kirito, Asuna and the others had just cleared yet another near-impossible dungeon, but rather than being cool and smirking and scoffing at how badass they all were, everyone including our protagonist was beat down. They lost 14 people and everyone was running on fumes.

Kirito makes an important discovery at this very moment and was given a choice. Should he fall back as Asuna suggested and possibly endanger even more players? Or should he take a risk and gamble his own life? Potentially saving everyone from the game should he succeed. Of course, if he failed, he would have died. These are stakes, things that our protagonist is fighting for and care for and the risks that their willing to face. And when the fight eventually happened, Kirito wasn’t healed or anything, he was still exhausted and what’s worst is that he was fighting an enemy who knew every combo he could throw at him, had better gear and was at a higher level than Kirito. If he makes a wrong move, he could die. The fight itself was visceral, tough and pretty intense. And it was amazing.

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Now let’s take a look at another fight/action sequence from the same show. During the Mother Rosario arc, Kirito shows up to help Asuna and the Sleeping Knights when a group of players was trying to attack them. Kirito appears right in the knick of time and faces off against dozens of other players and with a smirk on his face, goes up against them like it’s no big deal. In this scene, Kirito is a badass and a badass that doesn’t take crap from anyone or backs down from any challenge… but this scene also shows Kirito as being almost perfect and untouchable.

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Of course a character can be cocky, they can be brave and they can even be amazing at what they do—they can even do what Kirito does in this scene, kick ass. A protagonist beating up a bunch of low-level thugs is fine, it can show off how cool and badass our protagonist is and it can even be pretty exciting. However, this can’t be the norm. There must always be a Kayaba Akihiko for our protagonist to encounter; there must always be someone stronger, smarter or more skilled than him or her. Someone who can push our protagonists’ buttons. If all fights in Sword Art Online features Kirito just being badass and destroying waves of low-level thugs one after the other, then it all becomes pointless. The story might reach a point when there’s barely any reason left to watch the fight (and show) other than to see cool stuff happen, but even then you might get sick of seeing the same thing over and over again because there’s no longer a fear of Kirito possibly failing as he almost did against Kayaba Akihiko. You can just fast-forward and go like, “Oh look there you go, girls are flocking all over Kirito again cuz the fight’s over now I guess. Not really a shocker right there.”

Now you might be thinking, “Of course the protagonist is going to win, this isn’t The Sopranos you fuck!” Well yeah, of course, it’s not! In most stories the protagonist is most certainly going to triumph over whatever adversity they’re facing, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t see them crawling on the floor, facing a low point in which all hope appears to have been lost before getting back up onto their feet and defeating the enemy.

Just imagine playing Pokémon with an overpowered team of legendaries the whole way through, each time you fight someone it’s just going to be annoying because your team’s just going to one-hit the enemy anyway so what’s the point? And even if you did have fun, how long’s that fun going to last without a challenge? You beat the Pokémon League and maybe even beat your friend who didn’t use cheats to get a team of all level 100 shiny legendaries. But I guarantee you that while you were annoyed blazing through the game and beating up weaker enemies that just got in your way, your friend was going through a roller coaster of emotions. You never got to experience the thrilling sensation of what it’s like to go up against a Gym Leader and only have one Pokémon left that’s a few levels lower than the Gym Leader’s strongest and last Pokémon. Which also means that you’ve never experienced the dramatic moment where your last Pokémon, your Charizard, takes a full blast of Hydro Pump to the face from Gary’s Blastoise and actually survive long enough to deal the final blow. It’s a different kind of high and it’s the same thing as when Kirito or any other protagonist, anime or otherwise, summons the last ounce of their strength to endure the enemy’s attack and ultimately triumph over them. It’s exciting and just straight up satisfying.

 

Impact and Flow 

            In live-action films, the execution of a fight scene relies on great camera work, stunt work and fight choreography. Are we seeing the full fight take place in a way that convinces us that our actors can actually fight and feel each hit? Or are we just experiencing it in a very muddled and messy kind of way where the camera is always shaking and there’s like twenty sporadic cuts that jar the mind? And is the fight too much like a dance where no one seems to be worried or concerned about taking a sword to the chest or a punch to the face? The length of a fight also matters. Too short? You might leave audiences disappointed (like I did). Too long? Then you might bore the audience and annoy them.

Obviously, in anime, it doesn’t quite work like that because anime is an animated medium. In anime and other animated mediums, it’s the framing of the fight scene, the fluidity (and quality) of the animation and the impact of each hit that helps make a visually impressive fight scene—this of course doesn’t even include the tension built by the narrative (as mentioned earlier) and the score (or lack of score) playing in the background. All of these visual qualities can be seen pretty well in Attack on Titan. It’s fast, slick and the quality of the animation never seems to dip despite how many frames characters move per action. And tying back to Weight, barely any fight in Attack on Titan lacks tension and punch to it. Every time any character gets hit or bit by a Titan, you feel it. They’re sent flying, their limbs are torn off and you hear them cry out in pain. Likewise, when characters are pulling off moves and are cutting down Titans, there’s a certain kind of visceral impact that the show exudes the moment a character’s swords cut through the nape of a Titan. It’s exhilarating and because of the air of tension surrounding the whole fight, even more satisfying.

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During his final battle against Sousuke Aizen, Ichigo Kurosaki gets a power up through a Deus Ex Machina type thing that puts him leagues above Aizen in terms of power and hair length. At this point, even the big bad Aizen himself is overwhelmed by Ichigo’s power and our protagonist doesn’t even break a sweat as he trashes Aizen in the battlefield. Aizen would pull off a move and Ichigo would barely flinch, let alone dodge or care. This lack of tension already kills any kind of buzz or excitement in the fight. Sure there’s an excitement that comes from seeing our protagonist be very strong (I guess), but when the fight has no rawness to it, no intensity to it and just no physicality or even action going on in it then it gets boring. Especially when Aizen or Ichigo or other characters take the time to be impressed by Ichigo’s power or explain how he’s going to destroy Ichigo or how he can still be even stronger, then the fight not only becomes boring but also annoying because there’s too much talking going on on top of the lackluster action sequences.

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Both characters have immense power and yet instead of going at it and amping up the tension, the fight is instead riddled with pointless yammering and attacks that only serves to show off how powerful one character is over the other. One Punch Man is a show that doesn’t really have any tension whenever it’s protagonist Saitama is on the screen, but when he fights people you just feel it. You feel the power of the punch through the animation, through the nonstop pace of the fight and the UMPF of every attack. Ironic in Bleach as both characters show off explosive attacks, yet neither ever deals any blows with that certain UMPF that Attack on Titan or Gintama possesses. And say what you will about Sword Art Online and Kirito, but at least, when the boy attacks and cuts at his enemies you can feel it as a viewer. In Aizen and Ichigo’s fight, explosions and giant beams destroy the Earth but it just feels flashy. It’s like that one episode of SpongeBob Square Pants where SpongeBob buys those fake muscly arms. Yeah, he looks good and strong with them on, but it’s all just for show.

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Now compare this to Sakata Gintoki’s fight against Takasugi Shinsuke during Gintama’s Shogun Assassination Arc. Neither character has any kind of special powers or techniques that they’re pulling out and showing off, it’s just two dudes brutally duking it out, one with a normal samurai sword and the other a wooden one. Each hit has a BOOM. Each slash has a CRUNCH and splash of blood and, what’s more, is that they’re both taking damage. They’re both slowly dying in the process of their fighting, there’s the tension I mentioned earlier and then there’s that UMPF that each swing and hit just radiates. You feel the characters’ hate, their sorrow, their desperate need to win and their resolve to fight and again, it’s just two samurais fighting with swords, fists and whatever they can use to put the other one down.

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It’s not about the blood or the power that a character possesses, it’s the rawness of a fight that matters. At least to me. Flashiness can be amazing and entertaining, but there’s just more of an emotional pull that comes from a fight with weight and UMPF. Going back to the realm of live-action films and looking at the final battle in Revenge of the Sith between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker—the two had an epic duel that spanned for several minutes, they jumped around on lava and swung on ropes and made fancy light saber twirls… but it felt too choreographed, it felt too much like a dance and it felt hollow. And the sad part is that their fight could have been great and dramatic. Too bad that it boiled down to mindless fighting and flashy dancing. Compared to when Luke faced off against Vader in Jedi, there was anger, hate and each strike of the saber could be felt through Mark Hamill’s acting and real attacks. Sure it was slow and non-ninja like but it felt intense.

Don’t know what I’m talking about here? Just go and play a competitive sport. Or have a fist fight with your best friend. It’s about adrenaline. It about the hits you take and give, the blood pumping from excitement and that very feral and base warrior instinct that plenty of us have. Go ahead and have it with a friend, you’ll know exactly what I mean because you’ll feel strangely energized. And that’s something I look for in a show’s fight scene. Am I getting up and jumping around like an overly excited idiot? No? Then the fight scene probably sucked.

 

Drama!

One of my favorite anime fights of all time is the fight between Luffy and Usopp from One Piece. Right from the start, everyone in the show and audience knew that there was no way that Usopp was going to win against Luffy, that Luffy could punch Usopp once and our pointy nosed sniper was going to go down easily. But no, when that fight happened, there were a lot of emotions going on in it. Usopp had a disagreement with his captain and he was willing to put his place in the Straw Hat crew on the line to defend his decision, even if it means defying Luffy and fighting him one-on-one. There was the tension previously mentioned, the ferocity and impact displayed by every trap, trick and shot Usopp dishes out onto Luffy and Luffy unleashes onto Usopp that I’ve already talked about as well. And shattering along the bones and organs of our two fighters was their friendship, the brotherhood they’ve forged over the course of their lengthy journey—this all then results into a fight that’s not only intense but also a rather sad one.

Now of course not every fight needs to have this level of drama to it, but there is undeniable fact that a fight between friends, friends who don’t even really want to fight each other but feel like they have to, has an impact to it that the flashiest laser beams or most explosive punch could compare to in terms of intensity and exhilaration. A non-anime/manga example of this is the final battle between Captain America and Ironman in the Civil War comic from a while ago—(might be spoiler-ish for the movie, but I’m not sure if it’ll play out like this so here it goes anyway). Towards the end of the decisive battle between Cap’s team of heroes and Stark’s group, Cap manages to beat his friend down to the ground. There was already a lot going on in this fight between these two characters, these two friends, but as Captain America delivers blow after blow to a nearly defeated Ironman, American civilians tackle Cap and attempt to drag him away from Tony Stark. Cap tells the civilians that he’s fighting for freedom and for them, but the civilians beg for him to stop anyway, as their city is laid to waste in this pointless Hero Vs. Hero grudge match. It was then that Cap calls an end to all the fighting and surrendered. It wasn’t a Repulsor Blast or a powerful K.O. punch that defeated Cap, it was the realization that he was in the wrong and the subsequent heartbreak he felt as the civilians begged him to stop. He could have recovered from a physical attack, but this hit home. And it hit hard. Again, it wasn’t flashy or anything, it was just sad and Cap couldn’t take it anymore and allowed a police officer to handcuff him.

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Now I don’t have any exact parallels of this in anime, and the drama stirred by two friends fighting or family members duking it out might be overplayed but done well, it really does leave an impression. The tension is not only heightened even more when we like the characters that we’re watching, or if the show properly established their past relationship with each other before (sometimes even during) the fight. And of course, friends or family fighting isn’t the only way to create drama in a fight, going along with tension and weight, the fear of failure is not a bad emotion to play with as well. An impending sense of doom or just about anything that triggers an emotional response from the audience could work really well.

A battle between ideologies between two well meaning people could work as a similar point of drama as well, because a fight doesn’t just have to be about beating the other person in a contest of strength and skill, it can also be about something less physical. Another non-anime/manga example is seen in The Dark Knight (and pretty much any good Batman Vs. Joker storyline). Batman could beat The Joker up in a fight any day of the week, but what makes their fights so intense is that Joker knows that he can’t physically overcome the Bat, and so what he does is target who Batman is as a person. He knows that killing against Batman’s code, and so he purposely performs the most heinous acts just to break him down to his level, to force him to kill. Because if The Joker could break Batman’s code, he would have won a more important battle. Batman could break The Joker’s bones mercilessly but if The Joker breaks his code, his sense of morality, The Joker destroys Batman as a person.

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Just because there’s two people fighting and being animals, it doesn’t mean that there can’t be something deeper going on inside them either from a character perspective or story telling perspective. Again, going back to Gintama, Gintoki and Takasugi’s fight wasn’t just about the two of them fighting because Gintoki wanted to protect the Shogun, it was also about how they’ve hated what the other has become. Gintoki and Takasugi lost their teacher in the most heart breaking way, but while Gintoki has decided to live a life of peace, following their teacher’s lessons, Takasugi has gone down a violent path of destruction and revenge. Gintoki hates Takasugi becomes sometimes I have a feeling that Gintoki wishes that he too could just exact revenge the same way his old friend is doing and Takasugi hates Gintoki for not doing anything about their teacher’s death. And that right there is drama.

 

Conclusion

I think that tension, flow, impact and drama are elements that make a good fight scene, but as stated earlier not every fight scene needs to have these things. One Punch Man is a great example of showing off fun and exciting scenes—though it is rather formulaic in that every fight begins with Genos or other heroes fighting an overpowered villain and ends with Saitama showing up to one punch the enemy to oblivion—is that good writing? No, it’s really not if you think about it. But the animation, the fun music, and the impact (and UMPF) are there to create something fun. And sometimes that’s all a show needs.

What I talked about here are just some of the things that make for writing effective fight scenes. Use them how ever you will. You want to write something dramatic intense and picked something up from what I wrote? Have at it. You just wanted to read analytic stuff that involves anime? You’re welcome I guess. Point is, I really like anime and as someone who went to school to study literature and story-telling instead of just being a Cinema Major and figuring out how to use a camera and edit video stuff, I really enjoy picking apart anime and stories and such.

Non-anime people may laugh and scoff at the thought of analyzing something as childish as anime and fans might crucify me for looking at their favorite animes through a critical lens while telling me to stop taking anime too seriously (right before they tell non-anime people that anime isn’t just for kids and that it’s serious adult stuff too), but I suppose it doesn’t matter. I like what I do. And I might do another analysis type thing, maybe harems or the laughable genre that is the shounen romance.

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GATE: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There!) Review

 

Gate was a show that I totally ignored when it first came out because of one simple, but very stupid and very judgmental reason: There’s one guy and a bunch of girls in the poster…

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Yes, yes I know. Never judge a book by it’s cover, don’t be a dick and always learn to look both ways before crossing the road. But in my defense other shows that have the same male to female ratio in their cover tend to… you know? Not be good.

 

 

So I figured why waste my time with Gate? Surely it was going to be yet another moe moe ecchi harem type show like those other time wast-, err… I mean those other shows that were made to sell body pillows and figmas.

But something happened…

I finished watching Man in The High Castle (great show by the way) and was now out of shows to watch, anime or otherwise. And seeing as Gate is going to have a second season this week, I figured “why not? If it sucks at least I could review it and warn others about it.”

Thankfully it didn’t suck. Now it’s definitely not a MUST WATCH type show, at least for me, but it was definitely worthwhile and I’m actually interested in seeing the second season. In fact, even though I wasn’t too enthralled with the show, others might actually love it.

 

PLOT

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Nothing to see here.

 

STORY

The story of Gate is simple. A portal opens up in the middle of a Japanese city and out from it comes a bunch of fantasy monsters and men in knightly armor. They kill people, police show up, the fantasy invaders get killed and the government sends the Jieitai (Japan’s Self-Defense Force) through the portal into a world simply known as the “Special Region”. While on the other side, the Jieitai is to set up a base of operations, investigate the Special Region and make contact with the local populace.

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What follows is one big circle jerk, stroking the ego of Japa-er, I mean what follows is an entertaining show about Japan’s finest being heroes and doing a lot of good and ass kicking. In all seriousness I didn’t actually mind the show’s patriotism. I found it endearing. And I thought that it was nice to see America as a villainous force for once, because though there’s fantasy monsters and what not to worry about, the show doesn’t forget the possible political maelstrom that would stir at the sudden discovery of a new world with yet to be discovered (and claimed) resources and powers. My only problem with that is that all the non-Japanese countries (America, China and Russia) are portrayed as being greedy villains with little to no depth… which just makes the patriotism a tad bit disturbing. Similar to how brown people tend are typically made into evil sand devils lacking in personality in some American media.

The show displays an attempt at fleshing out the kingdoms of the Special Region, so why not make non-Japanese countries just as complex? It’s almost as bad as a Transformers movie in that part (and only in that part, because the show’s actually pretty good).

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Ugh… Greedy Americans.

But I guess that’s not really the focus of the show. The focus is, after all, the Special Region, its people and how they interact with the Jieitai; which we see through the eyes of Gate’s protagonist: Youji Itami.

 

Characters

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Youji Itami. Protagonist and 33 year old otaku. Loser. But cool loser.

When we first meet Youji he’s portrayed as being an otaku that prioritizes his nerdy hobbies over work and adult responsibilities, but as soon as the action kicks in we see our 33-year-old protagonist acting in a very non-otaku like manner. He’s putting himself in danger to save people, he’s giving orders to police officers and he’s fighting against the fantasy invaders. Right now I don’t really have any complaints about this sequence since the show does explain why he’s very skilled and can just give orders around like that later on. But watching it at first I was a little bothered by how the show doesn’t tell us more about his character. And I know, I know, show don’t tell. But it did feel like the show was forgetting to tell me stuff about Youji rather than purposefully keeping secrets from me. A minor complaint, but it was there and it probably won’t bother most other people, because Youji Itami is a likable dude anyway.

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Youji goes Solid Snake on this guy.

Besides him there’s the other Jieitai members that become a part of his squad. We don’t really get to know all of them all too well, but the show does make an effort in providing at least half of them personalities. Outside of Youji’s squad there were a handful of other Japanese characters (Jieitai, government official and civilian) that either help to progress the plot along and flesh out characters without becoming plot devices with absolutely zero personality. And that’s part of what I appreciate about Gate, minor side characters might have been minor, but at least they weren’t completely boring and lacking of personality. For the most part at least. Were they good and depthful characters? Naw.  Not really. But they didn’t really take up too much of our time so it’s okay.

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Kawaii-chan. She has a real name, but I don’t remember it.

The characters that did get a lot of screen time besides Youji were the three main ladies on the poster (plus Princess Pina Colada… it’s okay to laugh). The three main girls of Gate are Tuka, Lelei and Rory. Tuka is an elf girl whose village was razed by a fire dragon, she’s suffering from PTSD because her father was killed. Lelei is a mage in training and is eager to learn about the world beyond the gate and about Japan. Rory, despite looking like the youngest of the three, is actually a 900 year old demigod who serves as a priestess of sorts for the God of death, or war… I don’t actually remember but when people die around her, their souls pass through her body and she gets very aroused… which leads to a number of scenes teeming with sexual tension…  Yeah.

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I really want to say that there’s more to these girl’s characters other than being your typical harem ladies, but though they do have pretty entertaining personalities they just don’t have anything else going for them. Tuka doesn’t do much except for be an elf. Lelei serves as a translator between the Jieitai and the people of the Special Region but other than that she and Tuka don’t really do much except use a few helpful spells, but even that felt lacking. Rory had some pretty cool moments but other than her cool fights and sexual tension with Youji there’s not a lot to her character. But if you’re a fan of cool fight scenes you might like her and you might even think that she’s a great character… You might not notice how uninteresting she really is, but your brain will.

 

And as funny as her name is, I actually find Princess Pina’s character to be the best out of all the female ones because she’s actually a character with fears and goals. Tuka’s suffering from PTSD sure, and that’s probably going to play in later on in the series but as of right now it’s just there to be there. She, and the other two girls, just don’t have any real goals other than to be cute and try to get in bed with Youji Itami.

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Princess Pina Colada.

Pina has real goals. She wants peace between her people and the Jieitai. She’s the daughter of the emperor but born to a concubine and has plenty to prove to the world and herself. Really, she has the most depth out of every character except for Youji and I’m glad that she didn’t ended up as just another loli harem character because you know that she could have easily been one. And if she does end up being infatuated with Youji, I wouldn’t mind it so long as she doesn’t lose her personality.

Basically what I’m complaining about here is that I wanted more from the three girls, not just screen-time but also something from them that’ll actually draw me in and make me care about them. Only reason I care about Tuka is because she’s worried about her dad, but even then that still felt like it was lacking. I want more damn it!

 

Oh well, at least the show does have plenty of epic moments like this one:

 

 

VERDICT

I’m sure, or at least I’m hoping, that the second season is going to be better. I still want the action and I still want to see more conflict between the Jieitai/Japan, the kingdoms of the Special Region and the world governments. But most of all I’m hoping that the next season gives us some interesting character moments because that could have really improved this show a lot. Not saying that it’s bad because I am going to recommend it to people.

For which people? Well, I think this is a pretty good anime for the typical anime fan who likes good action, decent story and cute ladies. And if you like fantasy and military stuff then this is definitely a show for you. Obviously a purely shoujo anime type then this show might not be for you. And if you’re looking for overt sexual stuff, go watch porn instead you fuck. The show might be a harem with a good amount of sexual overtones and tension, but it doesn’t ever go To-Love Ru levels of lewdness.

Thank God.

I would be disappointed if the next season didn’t have more Youji and Pina though.

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… I’m stupid.

Cynical Asshole Who Loves Anime Reviews One Punch Man

One Punch Man Review

 

One Punch Man is one of the most overhyped and overrated anime that I’ve ever seen. And if you don’t believe that then just take a look at this:

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Now don’t get me wrong. I love One Punch Man. It’s a fun show with a very likable main protagonist and great (sort-of) animation, but it’s really not THAT good. It’s great, maybe awesome, but it’s not perfect (definitely not better than The Wire or Firefly perfect).

 

But wait, if it’s not that good, then why did so many fans vote it all the way to the top of IMDB’s highest rated series list? Well, a better question would probably be “Why do you care about IMDB or MAL rankings? Do you not have a life?”

I don’t particularly care about IMDB or MAL listings, well, maybe I do care a bit about IMDB listings but I’ll explain that in a bit. What I care about here is the psychology of the typical anime fan. What do I mean by that? Am I about to say that anime fans are stupid and possibly create a shit-storm? Am I shilling for clicks?

No and no.

 

I don’t think all fans of anime are stupid. A staggering majority sure, but not all. But even then, I think that it’s really just the fans who refuse to expose themselves to anything but anime that give the anime fandom a bad name and causes stupidity like this. The reason as to why I care about One Punch Man’s place in IMDB is because I care about the image of anime.

Again, what the fuck am I talking about?

What I’m talking about is this: Anime is a niche. It’s a medium of storytelling that not a whole lot of people are actually familiar with. Most people know about Pokemon, Sailor Moon and Dragonball, and even in that majority, most people acknowledge that the show’s I’ve previously mentioned are categorized as anime… Or as “Chinese Cartoons” as one of the girls I was trying to hook up with once referred to them as.

And because it’s a niche, a niche that I have a lot of love for and want to share to others that I want people to take it seriously. When people who are new to anime decide to go ahead and watch anime, I want them to enjoy it and appreciate just as I do. They don’t need to be in the same level as me, but I’d love for them to still at least get an idea as to why I love these “Chinese Cartoons” so much.

The reason why I care about One Punch Man being in IMDB’s top-ten list is because if Joe Schmoe looks through that list, sees OPM at the top, says something like, “What is this Cartoon that I’ve never heard of? It’s better than that show everyone loves so much. Maybe I should go watch it,” and then proceeds to watch it only to be disappointed, he’d be pretty disappointed or even ticked off. He might then go and say something like, “What the hell was that? That wasn’t better than that show everyone loves so much. It was okay but why is it number one? If this is the best Chinese Cartoons have to offer then forget it!”

I understand that that’s a hypothetical scenario, and truth be told, an idealistic one. Because let’s face it, what would have really happened was that Joe Schmoe would have seen that list and gone like, “The fuck is this Chinese Cartoon doing here? I’m going to get my buddies who all love this one show and we’re all going to give One Punch Man 1 STAR without even watching it! HAHAHAHAHA!”

And you must be thinking. “Wait, that’s really stupid.”

And my response would be, “Yeah. Yeah I know. Almost as stupid as making multiple fake accounts and bombarding a show with 10/10 scores.” Because as I’ve mentioned earlier, One Punch Man is just a great show and not a perfect one. And here’s why I think that.

 

God Saitama

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OPM’s story is simple. Saitama, our bald-headed protagonist, was once an employed young man seeking to live a life of heroism and greatness. And so, one day, he started working out a lot and a couple of years later, he’s become the ultra-powerful One Punch Man. Each episode typically has Saitama doing amazing things and destroying monsters with ease. There’s some story that ties everything together, but really, the first season didn’t really feature any kind of substantial plot. It felt more like a “slice-of-life” of a superhero story than anything.

I didn’t particularly mind this because I like Saitama. He’s a lovable protagonist who can come off as a crouching doofus whilst being a hidden badass. And by Zeus, what a badass he can be. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Godzilla sized monster, asteroid or alien armada, Saitama can pretty much obliterate all of his opponents in one blow, and not only does he do it all in one blow, but he also does it in a very impressive fashion.

… However.

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The best part about Saitama isn’t his strength. It’s his personality and silent questions about life. Yes he’s funny and adorkable, but I think that what really sold him to me as a protagonist was his line from the first episode, “Overwhelming strength is boring”.

Saitama originally wanted to become a hero to experience excitement in his life and find meaning in it, but upon achieving the great power that he has now, he’s slowly come to the realization that being able to easily defeat his opponents without even trying has made being a hero uninteresting to him. He’s since shrugged off this thought and decided that he’d continue to live this life regardless of how fun it is because in the end, to him being a hero isn’t about fighting or being powerful, it’s about doing the right thing. Yes he’s kind of a generic good guy protagonist, but it’s nice to actually get into the head of someone like that.

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The fights and animation are flashy and cool, but really, it’s in One Punch Man’s quiet moments where I actually stop and hone in on our protagonists’ face and try to figure out just what it is that he’s thinking.

 

One Note Joke (Mostly)

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Saitama’s frustration with being too strong wasn’t just an internal dilemma. It’s actually the show’s main joke. And while I found it amusing the first time, it’s not hard to ignore the fact that the show has a formula that gets stale after a while. For instance, an enemy will show up, wreck havoc and scare some folk. Saitama runs into them. They either tell him their backstory or ramble on about how Saitama doesn’t stand a chance. Then Saitama either tells them to shut up or just straight up destroy them in one hit.

It was funny the first time, and though I still found it to be mildly amusing towards the final episode, it does lose it’s steam after a while. There are other jokes in the show, but I don’t really care for them the same way I’d care for and remember jokes from either Gintama or Osumatsu-san. Though in OPM’s defense, those shows are more comedic in nature…

And OPM does have other jokes, it just relies too heavily on the aforementioned one.

 

 

Trapped In Its Own Genius

Sort of like how other stand-alone Marvel movies can’t just call on The Avengers to solve everyone’s problems, One Punch Man can’t just have Saitama showing up and destroying his enemies in an instant. If that was the case, then there will be no show. Sometimes the anime does a decent enough job of making sure that there is drama and tension, and other times it just feels like they’re wasting my time.

This again goes back to One Punch Man’s core hook and possible deadweight, Saitama’s strength. The show goes out on it’s way to try and show off just how powerful enemies are by letting them face off against side characters and kicking their asses. Genos, Saitama’s self-proclaimed disciple, in particular has yet to prove himself in any substantial kind of way. He’s cool and cool looking, but almost every time he gets into a fight he just keeps getting his ass kicked only to be saved by Saitama in the end.

And it’s this repetitive nature that makes me wonder sometimes just how long can One Punch Man really keep up in quality and stay fresh without ever being too repetitive and boring.

But.

Most people don’t see this is a problem. And that’s what disappoints and bothers me the most. Not that I have a problem with people having fun and I’m not the type to hate on something for being “popular”. I’m just the type that likes to give credit where credit is due.

 

Cool Animation

Okay, first off, the animation isn’t as cool as it is in the manga. The manga chapters feature sequential panels that looks as if they’re ripped right from the production of an actual anime. But translated to an actual anime… That gimmick quickly loses steam and just comes off as, “normal”. That’s not to say that the show lacks slick animation, because it does have it’s moments, but for the most part it’s just standard fare for an anime really.

However. Fans love it. They eat it up and they enjoy the cool fight scenes, and I can see why. It’s pretty well done and it looks really cool. And as cherry on top of it all, Saitama always ends it with a spectacular bang.

Again. However, that’s pretty much it.

 

Verdict

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To most fans of the show, seeing Saitama do cool things is all they need to be satisfied and similar to how I’m not going to take away how much fans enjoy pairing characters up and dreaming up of harems for protagonists in shows like Oregairu, I’m not going to try and take away how much people enjoy the animation and cool fight scenes the show has to offer. Because there is a WHOLE-LOT of fun to be had with OPM. Sure the story’s a little weak, but watching One Punch Man and just enjoying it for what it is makes one feel like they’ve grown an extra ball of manliness! So if that’s your cup of tea, go ahead, but if you’re looking for something with a deeper story and more substance, go check out Rokka no Yuusha or something.

 

However. Before you go do that. I want to say something.

 

I get that One Punch Man has a lot of passionate fans. Really I do. And I’m aware that they might see this, read the first sentence and give me shit for it. But I care more about anime than I do care about One Punch Man. Because I love anime.

 

I see anime as just another form of storytelling. It’s specialized genres and quirks are more culturally ingrained in it’s creators and domestic audience than something that that’s inherently tied to medium. But I think that anime as an aesthetic style that can be utilized by outsiders (ala Avatar and Boondocks) without being bogged down by its narrative style.

 

Which means that it needs to have standards just as any medium of storytelling. Saying that someone should just shut up and not criticize anime period because anime is just anime is like saying that anime is dumb and is for kids. It’s not. And I’m sure that the very same people that have told me to stop criticizing anime too much are also the same people who would argue that anime is the best and that it’s not just for kids.

 

As a community, anime fans shouldn’t be easily offended like that. There are people with different tastes. And the world isn’t binary. We don’t either just love or hate something. There are numbers between one and ten. Scores between A and an F. A one and a five. Zero to a hundred. We don’t either just like things or dislike them. We have favorites. Things that we like, but don’t think are good enough to be our favorites.

 

I used to do scores, but the more I look at IMDB and MAL, I just see the pointlessness to them. They become a measure of judgement, not solely for the show itself but for whether or not someone will attack someone else. If a reviewer were to score something too high or too low, people will get mad. If a show or game or movie were to get a middling score and not a 9 or 10, then that automatically means that the show is not worth people’s time period.

 

I think that that’s unfortunate. Which is why I’m not doing scores anymore.

That said, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop being critical and stop loving anime.

Should You Watch Osumatsu-san?

Should You Watch Osumatsu-san?

Info.

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Osumatsu-san is an anime based on a manga series that ran in Shonen Sunday back in the 1960’s (called Osumatsu-kun then). It went dormant for a while, but in Fall 2015 the series was revived. The manga used to revolve around the Matsuno Sextuplets and their teenaged misadventures, but now in 2015, the Matsuno boys are all grown up and must face adulthood. And surprisingly, despite the main casts’ fourth-wall break initial worry that their antiquated sense of humor might no longer fly with today’s audiences, the show proves itself to be quite a comedic trip.

Clever Comedy.

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The show’s sense of humor is mostly slapstick and very sit-commy. The six Matsuno boys and the people they run into in their day to day life are all goofy and zany, and the show’s laughs mostly comes from the characters either being very conceited assholes or just greedy idiots who end up in crazier and crazier (and more embarrassing) scenarios than from where they started with. There’s physical comedy in it, but for the most part it relies on character interactions as well as situational and dialogue based comedy. And for the most part, the show does a good job at not being stale as every episode provides a new scenario for either all the Matsuno boys or just one of them.

Surprise Moments of Humanity

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Osumatsu-san is a goofy show, there’s no denying that (I mean just watch the very first episode and you’ll know what I mean), but surprisingly, the show has a surprisingly heart-felt energy to it. Sometimes, in the middle of the laughs and craziness, the show takes a break from itself and gives characters moments of humanity. What do I mean by this? I don’t really want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that the show makes an effort to put layers of depth onto it’s characters. This is obviously not a reason to watch the show, but the fact that it’s there is something that I greatly appreciate, even though I never expected or wanted it from the show.

An Acquired Taste.

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Obviously, by virtue of being a comedy, it’s going to be an acquired taste. The humor is pretty universal in my opinion, but some jokes (in any show) don’t land with others while it does with others. Personally, as a fan of Gintama and Ouran Host Club’s sense of humor, I enjoy Osumatsu-san a whole lot.

Verdict.

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I recommend it. I’d give it a 8.5/10. It’s a light comedy show that doesn’t really need to be binged watched or anything, and the best part is you can just watch almost whatever episode you want and you obviously don’t need to watch the old show or even know about it. So if you wanna watch something light, go ahead and watch.

Recommendation: Gintama

Gintama is a tough show to recommend to newcomers (or even fully review). There are hundreds of episodes, the humor might be too Japanese and the show doesn’t even get half as good as it is now until like 50 episodes in. It takes commitment, time and patience to fully enjoy everything Gintama has to offer.

But because the show meant (means) a lot to me, I knew that I had to get my friends to watch it somehow. And the only way I was able to successfully do this was to get them to watch selected episodes, not necessarily the best of the series, but some of the greatest material it has in terms of both comedy and drama.

I know that it’s cheating, but I figured if I can get my friends to see Gintama’s potential, they could go watch the rest of it by themselves… and 9 times out of 10, they do. So, here’s a list of some of the best episodes and story-arcs that would make for perfect gateways into the series.

I feel like a drug pusher…

Episode Three 

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I know I just said that Gintama doesn’t reach its potential until like fifty episodes in, but as an entry point to the series, I think episode three is still one of the bests there is. It introduces us to the world, to Shinpachi and of course to the main protagonist, Gintoki. It gives viewers a taste of the show’s humor and gives a subtle hint that maybe Gintoki is more of a badass than a goofball.

Episode Forty-Seven

            Episode 47 gives us a simple Gintama premise: Our protagonists, the Yorozuya, have to do something simple, they overthink the situation and then comedy happens. In episode 47 Gintoki, Shinpachi and Kagura are ordered to hand a circulating notice to their new neighbor Hedero.

And uh… Hedero looks like this.

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Because of his appearance, Gintoki and the others automatically assume that Hedero is an evil villain who wishes to take over the Earth—and despite having fought actual evil villains before his demonic appearance scares the heck out of them and as they attempt to give Hedero the notice, the deeper into their paranoia they get. It’s a great episode and opens with one of my favorite bits in the series.

Episode 69-71

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            Here we tackle one of our first story-arcs, this one being the “Fuyo Arc”. The Fuyo Arc introduces Tama, an android made to serve humans and one of the more prominent side characters the protagonists will often run into over the course of the series. This one here’s a great story arc to watch as it really shows Gintama being hilarious and at the same time dramatic and intense.

Episode 76-81

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Another great story-arc that doesn’t really need a lot of past experience with the show (sort of) is the “Yagyu Arc”. You might probably need to know in advance who the Shinsengumi trio are, but the arc itself does a pretty good job of showing off just what kind of people Kondo, Sougo and Hijikata are—or at least how they are in this show. Not only that, despite not being a core story arc that involves the villainous Takasugi and the Harasume, this one still has some of the best fighting the show has to offer—also, it has the four-way bathroom duel.

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What’s the four-way bathroom duel? Imagine running out of toilet paper after pooping in the toilet. And now imagine the people on the stall next to you being two of your enemies and one of your uneasy allies. Now imagine all of you not having any toilet paper to wipe your butt with… Now imagine everyone being stupid. That’s the four-way bathroom duel.

Episode 98-99

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            The Shinsengumi are hilarious, so here’s a two-parter that pits them against the Yorozuya. In the episodes 98-99, Gintoki and friends are tasked with standing in line for the midnight release of the Owee gaming system… It’s a stupid two-parter episode and an awesome treat for all gamers out there.

Episode 110 and maybe 225-226

Katsura Kotarou was a prodigy, a genius tactician and feared swordsman that lived through the war against the Amanto… And he’s one of the stupidest characters in the whole series. In episode 110, a convict plans to make an escape at a high security island prison—problem is, Katsura becomes his new neighbor… And fearing that Katsura might sell him out, the convict stays… Vying his time and plotting of ways on how to kill Katsura… which obviously doesn’t work because Gintama is Gintama.

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225-226 brings back a great character from episode 110—the insecure murderer. I forgot his name, but I love how Katsura initially called him out for his tacky sense of fashion.

Episode 153

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            Kagura can’t go to sleep. Gintoki wants to go to sleep. Kagura bothers Gintoki. It’s one of my favorites.

Episode 182-184

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            This one might not be the best episode to jump into for newcomers, but the fact that it features pretty much all of the show’s recurring cast members and that it’s absolutely insane warrants a watch. It does a good job at showing viewers just how insane Gintama can be, and it might be a good episode that introduces every recurring character and perk.

Episode 266-267 (Episode 1 of the 2015 series) 

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            This one’s another episode that features a majority of the main recurring cast. Gintoki wakes up and realizes that everyone in the world has been frozen in time except for him, Kagura and Shinpachi. It’s an episode where three idiots try to fix a futuristic alien device and an episode that yet again shows just how insane Gintama can be. Check it out.

Benizakura Movie

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You might not find this one in Crunchyroll, but you can definitely find an English dubbed DVD of this one. The Benizakura Movie is a retelling of the Benizakura arc from the show. Other than for its glossier and sexier animation there’s really not much of a difference from its episode 58-61 counterparts. If you can, watch the movie over the episodes simply because it’s just prettier and has more of a budget to it.

Closing

Speaking of English dubs… Gintama doesn’t have one. So if you’re a dub only watcher then chances are this might not be the show for you. There are also plenty of cultural walls to overcome and references that might fly over people’s heads. So again, it’s a hard show to get into—but as a fan and friend of fans, I know for a fact that it’s worth the watch.

From the hilarious comedic episodes to its more somber and intense story-arcs, Gintama is definitely one of the best shows out there so I suggest that all anime fans go give it a shot.

Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation Episodes 1-3 Review

Let’s Solve The Mystery!


Sakurako-San

I’m just going to start things up by talking about how much I adore Sakurako-san. She’s cold and seemingly uncaring but very eccentric. She has a fascination for the dead and anatomy, namely skeletons of both animals and humans—giving her a vault of knowledge that would ultimately help her solve and figure out whatever death related mystery presents itself to her. She’s a great detective, but like Sherlock Holmes before her, she seems to lack a bit of humanity, or at least she’s got it all buried way deep down her heart.

Sakurako-san <3

Sakurako-san ❤

Also, I have a crush on her…


Other Characters Are Kind of Meh

Of course, like in any detective story there’s bound to be a Watson. The sidekick who acts as the audiences’ extension to the story—the eyes that we see the world through. In Sakurako-san the Watson character is Boy A, or Shoutaro, but I prefer to call him Boy A primarily because he’s very bland and boring.

Hands of Sakurako-san punk!

Hands of Sakurako-san punk!

I have no doubt that he’ll play a pivotal later on in the series, but he’s kind of a spazz and I don’t like him. His design’s kind of lame, his personality is lame (if he even has one) and did I forget to mention that he’s lame?

There are other characters as well, people related to the mysteries, the police, Boy A’s high school friends and an old lady that acts as Sakurako-san’s maid. There’s not much to say about these other characters right now. There have been mentions of possible big players in the story, but right now the show’s focused on Sakurako-san and Boy A. And the fact that the focus is partially on Boy-A, the show gets kind of boring at times.

I forgot her name, but she's Boy A's classmate.

I forgot her name, but she’s Boy A’s classmate.


Clunky Writing

With deaths comes drama and action. Episode 2 and 3 had a tense action scene and tearjerker moment respectively. The action scene in episode 2 wasn’t anything special, but it did feel extremely clunky, as did the tearjerker moment in 3… Mind you I call it a tearjerker moment because it was supposed to be sad, but in the end, it ultimately failed to make me feel sad. Or feel anything.

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Sakurako-san tries to save a baby.

For me, Sakurako-san desperately trying to save and help the two kid characters was enough drama. There was no need for her to mistake Boy A for her brother. Doing so just felt forced.

That right there was enough drama and information.

That right there was enough drama and information.

And I get that they wanted to set up Sakurako-san having a dead brother, but I already figured or at least speculated that when seeing her be personally invested in the case.


Mysterious Mysteries

I do have to give the writer props for their convincing portrayal of forensics. However, while I enjoy watching Sakurako-san figure out what happened in the crime scene, I don’t like the fact that there’s not a whole lot of conflict going on in the mysteries for episode 1 and 3.

In episode 1 the mystery was solved mostly out of curiosity of the other characters and not because they were trying to convict a killer.

Solving an accident isn't that exciting.

Solving an accident isn’t that exciting.

In episode 3 the mystery was solved to resolve conflict within a character that I didn’t care much about. It wasn’t as bad as the first episode’s mystery, but it did feel weak, weaker in comparison to episode 2’s.


Verdict

So while I didn’t quite enjoy Sakurako-san as much as I had hope, I’m still going to keep watching it and I will be reviewing the 4th episode real soon. Probably by tonight assuming that it’s already out by then.

  • PROS
    • Sakurako-san is awesome.
    • Sakurako-san solving mysteries.
  • CONS
    • Boy A is lame.
    • Clumsy writing.
    • Lack of motivation.
Sakurako-san is mine!

Sakurako-san is mine!

One Punch Man Episode 4 Review

“What an innocent smile!”

The Humor In Saitama

As a joke, Saitama’s overwhelming strength is kind of wearing down on me already. At first I snickered out loud when I saw him destroy the giant dude from the first episode with ease, but by episode four the joke’s starting to feel tiresome. There was that one bit where Saitama punched Sonic’s crotch, which I thought was funny. And I’m not going to lie, I like that a lot primarily because someone got punched in the balls and I often have the mind of a 12-year-old boy.

LMAO.

LMAO.

However, and I can’t believe that I’m just noticing this now, the show’s humor really comes more from Saitama’s aloofness. Whether it’s him forgetting that there’s a sale in the supermarket or whether it’s him lamenting his lack of fame, Saitama and his general goofiness is definitely my main reason for watching the show.


The Speed O’ Sound Sonic Or Whatever

Speaking of humor, I thought the villain of the week—Sonic, not the Paradisers was hilarious. Though I do think that the Paradisers had their moments of hilarity as well. Sonic just really took the cake, primarily because of his innocent smile. It’s Saitama being aloof, but I can’t wait to see more of this guy and witness as his rivalry with Saitama escalates… if it even does.

Sonic's innocent smile.

Sonic’s innocent smile.


Plot Progression

Two more things about this episode.

One, we saw some scenes with Genos and the scientist that gave him his robotic body, as well as get some foreshadowing of Genos’ upgrades.

Mushroom Hakase

Mushroom Hakase

Number two, but not really number two, we saw some scenes with some goons that killed the Paradiser leader, talking about stolen equipment. I don’t actually consider this as plot progression since I have a feeling that whoever the next group of villain’s going to be they’re just going to be throw away. Or not, not sure yet.

I wonder if Saitama's also going to one punch these two goons.

I wonder if Saitama’s also going to one punch these two goons.

But real number two in terms of plot progression—Saitama signing up for the hero’s guild. It’s a small tidbit of the episode, but it does set up something more interesting than another group of useless villains.

#Saitamaproblems

#Saitamaproblems


Stray Observation

One more thing. At the very end of the episode we see Saitama lamenting the fact that if he hadn’t trained as much as he did, he would have become one of the Paradisers—a lazy NEET. It was a short bit, but an interesting character moment.

Thank God he got better.

Thank God he got better.


Verdict

Overall it was a great episode filled with many laughs. The humor did wane on me, but at least now I have something more interesting to look forward to. THE HERO’S GUILD!

Saitama fan girls... Imaginary fan girls.

Saitama fan girls… Imaginary fan girls.