Watching Dragonball Z Kai and Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s just got harder.

So a couple of weekends ago I was checking out the Saturday morning fare of cartoons. The channels were run through from Nicktoons to Cartoon Network and finally to the CW where it stopped at an episode of Dragonball Z Kai followed by back-to-back Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s episodes in a block known as “Toonzai.” TV stations nowadays always have their logos in the right corner and many more have some information running in the left corner perhaps telling you what is coming up next, etc. But I was pretty shocked when this came flying across the screen:

That bright blue wave, with a dude surfing atop it, with orange glow lines coming off him . . . not part of Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s which is playing behind it. And though I didn’t capture the sound, he actually yells “TOONZAAAAI!!” as he hurtles across the screen. Let me reiterate that the show is going on when this happens, characters were talking and events were happening yet all of that is obscured by the obnoxious logo that tells me something I already know: that this is part of the Toonzai cartoon block. This happened during Dragonball Z Kai as well and I can only assume in all other shows in these timeslots. What exactly is being accomplished here that wouldn’t be if it were just in the left-hand corner of the screen without sound? The complete disregard for the audience is phenomenal.

Ongoing Investigations: Case #070

I had trouble putting into words how I felt about Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms. It was powerful yet quiet; whimsical yet jarring. This story involves people who lived through the atomic bombings of WWII and the generations that come after them. But instead of being about the bombings proper, it’s really about their lasting meaning and effects. These are personal anecdotes the first of which is a poignant and sad, while the second is about understanding and the future which is a nice way of contrasting them. It would almost seem patronizing to see the first story play out happily. However much these bombings bring a string of emotions to the surface, the stories are kept even by the drawing style which is charming. A beautiful and just a little thought provoking read.

I picked up Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms entirely on a whim while entering a raffle for a trip to Japan at Kinokuniya. This is definitely a prestige release that will win awards and praise from critics but will be avoid by mainstream readers. The manga is about two interconnected stories about how two generations deal with the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A powerful story that deals not only with how the Japanese people had to rebuild but the stigma of the bombing as well. The first story is very melancholy while the second story is lighter but does not break the mood. Both stories go quickly. It only took me about half my train ride to finish the whole book. It was a solid mature story that looks at an important but ugly time in modern history without being preachy or depressing. This is first and foremost the story of the charters whose lives are touched by the bombing more than the bombing itself. But this is the best way to talk about such events. The art is very light and vibrant which helps keep the story refreshing despite the weighty material. A great read for anyone who wants something with a deeper message than your average manga.

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Narutaki & Hisui VS. 2009

Narutaki & Hisui VS. 2009 is in part an award show, in part an exercise in humor and snark, in part a challenge, and in part a love letter to everything great this year. We picked several categories and each of us picked titles, characters, and people who we felt best summed up our feelings on the year. Take a peek into what we thought on the anime and manga of 2009 and the people who bring it to us. Feel free to suggest new categories and challenge our picks.

Would also love to hear other people’s picks for some of these categories as well! By the way, some of this stuff happens to have come out in years gone by but we first watched/read/whatnot this year so that’s why they’re here, I’ll hear no guff about it! I really enjoy this part of the year, all the posts seem to be more fun and this one is no exception.

Best Anime of 2009 or Show that Infuriates You to No End When Someone on MAL says “If you like this show you will love Dance in the Vampire Bund.”

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
The noitaminA is your go to animation slot when you are looking for something that is simultaneously different, mature, well produced, and smart. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is no exception to this rule. An exceptional look at ordinary people involved in an extraordinary but still extremely feasible situation. It is a superb mixture of intense character study and survival drama. I know some people feel the end is weak but I thought it did well in capping off this  powerful and thought provoking show.

Eden of the East
It is a little bit mystery, a little bit drama, and a little bit suspense wrapped around an intriguing concept. It’s a wonderful series to watch unfold and since Takizawa doesn’t remember what has happened there is a wonderful element of discovery that comes. Takizawa himself is a refreshing and mysterious guy but you always get the feeling, or I did, that he was a good guy even when things looked dubious. Also he loved dogs, can’t be bad. The game was able to engross and impress me from episode one and continued to do so throughout its broadcast.

Anime Man of the Year or You Must be Swift
as a Coursing River

Battler Ushiromiya
Have you ever wished Phoenix Wright could be the star of his own supernatural murder mystery anime? Well if so then someone heard your prayers. In Umineko no Naku Koro ni we have Battler Ushiromiya who is a clear homage to Phoenix Wright with dramatic finger pointing, manly crying, and split between having to do detective work and acting like a lawyer. He may have his flaws but no matter what he keeps marching forward despite numerous set backs and tragedies. Plus he is just plain cool whenever he is on the counterattack. His casual charm and iron clad will set the tone for the anime as much as they do the games it was based on.

After thinking this over way too much, I finally decided on Guin for a few reasons. First being that after more than 100 books about his quest on the bestseller list, Guin finally got an anime. Adding to that is that Guin may arguably be the most manly character animated in 2009. If you watch just the first episode, this will become obvious. I also read about Guin in novel formthe first time this year myself. And finally, and sadly, Guin’s creator Kaoru Kurimoto passed away in 2009, a woman who was still writing about her most popular creation.

Anime Woman of the Year or I am Woman Hear Me Roar

Canaan is a competent kick arse girl with a gun. That is usually all that you need to sell me on a character. The fact that Canaan has her rather slick synesthesia ability which I thought was a very original superpower. She has a stoic and cool feel to her but it she still cares for the people she wishes to protect and gives her all to do so. I also think that her competence on the battlefield but her awkwardness in personal relationships gives her a good mixture of strength and weakness that make her a serious version of Sousuke Sagara. I also think makes her an interesting character to me.

Picking a woman of the year became a lot easier the more I watched Kimi ni Todoke. Sawako has a special strength of character that uplifts you, just as she does to the many characters around her. She is humorous and endearing and you never doubt that she will succeed and grow in each new scenario she encounters. Sawako’s positive attitude, even after endearing so much isolation is a true testament to the human spirit and the ability to change.

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