In the beginning, the waters were rough for the character Kanan Matsuura in Love Live! Sunshine!! One of the nine new girls introduced as part of the school idol group Aqours, the deep-sea diver turned idol was among the least popular, even placing dead last in the very first center election—the process by which fans vote for the lead performer for the next album.
A year later, however, Kanan’s fortunes have reversed dramatically, to the extent that she’s the center for Aqours’ newest single, “Happy Party Train.” While there are likely a number of factors that go into changing people’s opinions of a character, the Love Live! Sunshine!! anime undoubtedly played a major role.
As one of the most successful Japanese mobile games ever, it’s no surprise that Granblue Fantasy is getting an anime this coming spring season. While anime based on video games don’t have the healthiest track record, Granblue Fantasy looks to buck that trend as potentially one of the most impressive animated series of 2017.
“Soul of Chogokin” represents an apex of excellent giant robot toy design. With the release of Voltron and the first Megazord from Power Rangers, one has to wonder what might come next. While the obvious choice is the Dragonzord, there are plenty more robots that are worthy of the Soul of Chogokin treatment. In the last article, I gave the first five of the robots I’d love to see as Soul of Chogokin figures. Now, here are the last five.
The Soul of Chogokin line is the premiere brand for high-quality giant robot figures. With the recent release of the Soul of Chogokin Voltron, as well as the upcoming Soul of Chogokin Megazord from Power Rangers, even more eyes are on it to bring out fan favorites and nostalgic mecha. I'd love to see even more robots get the star treatment, so here’s Part 1 of my list of robots that deserve to be Soul of Chogokin figures:
As the home to mega-hits such as Dragon Ball and Naruto, Weekly Shonen Jump is the most famous manga magazine in the world. If you’ve been paying attention to the magazine over the past few weeks, you might have noticed that they’ve been launching one new title after the next, such as We Never Learn by Taishi Tsutsui and U19 by Yuji Kimura. This is because Shonen Jump is a cutthroat competition for space. Titles that fail to succeed are quickly canceled and replaced, and these new works are the latest batch attempting to survive. Given the frequency that new series get aborted, I refer to this process as the Shonen Jump Meat Grinder. You might just see your new favorite titles get cut down in their infancy.
Dragon Ball is undoubtedly one of the definitive works of anime and manga. However, criticisms of it (especially the series Dragon Ball Z)have been mostly fair. Historically, the television series have featured an absurd amount of filler (mostly in the form of characters powering up), fights that drag out for what seems like an eternity, and extremely sparse characterization and character development. What makes Dragon Ball Super special is that it basically tosses all of that out the window, resulting in a surprisingly well-paced product—something that is typically not associated with Dragon Ball.
There are two phrases in Japanese culture that are traditionally said to describe the “ideal Japanese woman.” The first is Yamato nadeshiko, which roughly translates to “Japanese carnation.” The second phrase is ryousai kenbo, or “good wife, wise mother.” The two terms collectively create a seemingly monolithic image of what it means to be the perfect Japanese women, one that is steeped heavily in cultural sexism. However, there is a significant amount of range within this general concept, and I find that the two characters who really demonstrate this plasticity are the sisters of Love Live! Sunshine!!, Dia Kurosawa and Ruby Kurosawa.
This is not to claim that fans of either Dia or Ruby are sexist, or that their appeal comes solely from how they embody the Yamato nadeshiko or ryousai kenbo traits. Rather, by dividing up the traits commonly associated with those concepts, the characters are used to play around with them to show how flexible they can be.
The Yamato nadeshiko is classically viewed as a shy, demure woman. In contemporary times, especially in popular media such as anime and videogames, her appearance is usually slender, and she possesses long, straight, dark hair with neatly trimmed bangs in a style known as a “princess cut.” The “good wife, wise mother” is less about appearance and demeanor and more about approach to life. She is supposed to be endlessly loyal to her husband, and both intelligent and strong-willed enough to raise her children right. Given that men are almost non-existent in Love Live! means that throwing these terms into that context already conceptually refracts them, but these ideas are made further pliable by Ruby and Dia’s characters.
One of Ruby’s primary personality traits is her shyness. She frequently hides behind her friends, and at the beginning of the anime is afraid to stand up to her sister. While this partly comes from fear, it’s also because she cherishes her sister very much. In terms of demeanor, she is very much a Yamato nadeshiko. Yet appearance-wise, it is Dia who embodies the stereotypical image more than any other character in Love Live!
When looking at Dia’s personality, she embodies many of the values in “good wife, wise mother.” At first, Dia (as student council president) adamantly refuses to let a school idol club form. While she seems antagonistic, Dia is essentially showing tough love, having experienced the hardship of trying to become a school idol. If these new girls can’t stand up to Dia, how can they possibly deal with that world? Here, Dia is playing the role of the wise mother, while her desire to protect both her sister and her old friends, Mari and Kanan, showcase the loyalty expected of a “good wife.” Ruby is similarly devoted to her friends and Dia.
However, there are elements of both characters that are essentially Yamato nadeshiko/”good wife, wise mother” traits taken in unusual directions. Take for instance Dia’s desire to want the best for those she cares for. This combines with Dia’s hyper-competitiveness to form a level of aggressiveness that is not generally associated with the “ideal Japanese woman.” Similarly, Ruby also shows the strength of her inner resolve by refusing to capitulate to her sister’s initial forbidding of school idol activity, defying the loyalty expected of her. Ruby’s appearance is also more in line with a contemporary “ideal wife” image perpetuated by otaku-oriented anime, manga, and games.
Aspects of the “ideal Japanese woman” are distributed across both Dia and Ruby Kurosawa. It’s enough that they can both be thought of as falling in line with that tradition, but that would mean there is more than one version of this idea. After all, Dia and Ruby are two very different characters. Furthermore, these same traits are closely associated with other qualities in Dia and Ruby that might not be considered “ideal,” but only because they possess variations on Yamato nadeshiko/”good wife, wise mother”-esque traits that can also exceed those boundaries.
The bizarre fanservice fighting anime Keijo!!!!!!!! (aka Hip Whip Girl) parodies many different action series. However, while some attacks (“Shoryucans”) are fairly obvious in their origins, the final episode of Keijo!!!!!!!! features a reference that might not be so familiar to current anime fans. When rival character Maya Sakashiro performs the attack “Heaven and Hell,” she’s actually referencing the mecha anime, King of Braves Gaogaigar.
Yuri!!! on Ice is definitely one of the most popular anime in the Fall 2016 lineup, and it has caught the attention of anime fans and real-life figure skaters around the world. It follows the story of the 23-year old Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki as he tries to make it through the Grand Prix Final with the help of his idol Victor Nikiforov. The series has truly managed a lot of feats in the history of anime--something that a lot of mainstream titles, let alone a sports anime, haven’t managed to do.
The fall anime season traditionally caps off every year, and it’s often the case that fall is when a lot of studios put their best foot forward. This year, however, feels even more impressive, particularly when it comes to the beauty and impact of opening animations. Here are my top 5 for Fall 2016, and why I think they’re worth watching every time.