Anime Lounge #02: School Rumble Ep. 1-10

Series: School Rumble

Episodes: 1-10

Premise: School Rumble is like most school romance anime: The protagonist, Tenma Tsukamoto, is a normal teenager who goes to school and has crushes. The difference is that School Rumble is a romantic comedy that revolves around multiple love triangles and quadrangles where there’s a lot of unrequited feelings. You’re introduced to Kenji Harima, a juvenile delinquent extraordinaire who is in love with Tenma. She doesn’t feel the same but it doesn’t stop Harima from bellyaching about it and what it means most of the time.

Is it worth watching?: In a word, yes. If you can get past Tenma’s inherent draw-on-your nerves cuteness and the fact that she spends a lot of time chasing Oji Karasuma, a dude that doesn’t appear to know she’s alive most of the time, the show is pretty funny. There’s a lot of gags that happen and the characters, as they’re introduced, have personalities. In the first 10 episodes, the humor is at the forefront and that’s where it needs to be.

Breakout character: Easily, in the first 10 episodes, it’s Harima. His appearance makes the episodes and his humor, intentional or not, is the draw.

Funniest episode: Episode 3 (“See and Sketch! Letter on an Arrow! Pajama Party Confessions!”). Tenma attempts to get Karasuma’s attention and confess her love for him through shooting an arrow with her confession attached to the end of the arrow. Karasuma has a seemingly supernatural ability to avoid the arrows, and manages to dodge them. Tenma narrowly misses hitting Harima who is nearby. Harima only avoids the arrow by dodging the shot with well-timed Matrix-like Bullet Time maneuver.

Where it’s going: Starting with episode 11, the focus shifts to the surrounding cast and how their relationships play out. Tenma’s still there fighting for Karasuma’s attention and Harima’s still fighting for Tenma, but I love the fact that Tenma’s friends, classmates and family are starting to develop deeper personalities.

Anime Lounge #01: Welcome

Hi, I’m new to anime

with Lyndsey Hicks Mosley, editor-in-chief

It wasn’t that long ago that I was a newbie to the world of anime and manga, or so it seems. I was in high school when Dragon Ball Z began airing on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block. The saga of Vegeta, Goku and the gang resonated with me and the folks that I hung out with at the time, so we all watched it faithfully. While my friends were mostly into DBZ, I was discovering other shows such as Sailor Moon. Say what you will about the show, but I could relate better to the relationship of Serena and Darrien more than anything else.

By the time I graduated from high school, Pokemon had hit the airwaves in America. Not knowing that this was considered anime, I was all over it in the form of the Gameboy’s Red and Blue versions. There was something about the RPG aspect of it that helped force me to nearly catch them all. But the real explosion in otakuism didn’t hit until college. It was then that I discovered and fell in love with a variety of shows off the beaten path.

Thanks again to Toonami, I got heavily into Inuyasha and Yu Yu Hakasho. Saturday nights were my immersion and escape into the other side of the world, or so I thought. A little Iron Chef, some anime and Chinese food to pig out on? I lived for the weekend and the Toonami Rising Sun block. At the time, I did watch a little Tenchi Muyo and Ronin Warriors, but not much.

Once I graduated and got out on my own, my anime tastes were refined. Toonami changed the lineup and new shows were in place. In came a new crop that sent my anime awareness soaring. In 2003 and 2004, I jumped into Cowboy Bebop, Big O, Trigun, Outlaw Star and His and Her Circumstances. Along for the ride was Witch Hunter Robin and FLCL. I got a feel for the unknown and tried new things, such as Read or Die and Ninja Scroll. I even watched a little Ruroni Kenshin. Sure, these are mostly mainstream titles — His and Her Circumstances excluded — but they were my way of staying sane and escaping into my own world of awesome characters. As I delved into anime, I was drawn to manga, as well. I decided to start two titles — Rurouni Kenshin and Love Hina — as a test to see if I could adapt to the printed form. I found that while I do love reading, taking in manga took some getting used to.

After my marriage, my ardor for anime suddenly cooled. I’m not sure why other than the fact that I suddenly had less time to watch TV. It was some years before I found the ability to devote time to watch TV again, and with the end of my marriage, I’m finding myself back where I started in terms of time to watch.

So, what do I watch these days? Well, through recommendations or having picked up brief snippets earlier, I’m watching or have completed several shows: Samurai Shamploo, Soul Eater, Death Note, Bleach, Afro Samurai, Naruto and Ouran High School Host Club. Again, these are mostly mainstream titles but take it from me, it’s better than nothing. The advent of video on demand is perfect for folks like myself. There’s nothing better than coming home from work, fixing a snack and watching a block of my favorite shows at my own pace. I’m thanking my lucky anime stars for Hulu Plus right about now.

So, here I am: The purpose of the Anime Lounge is to supplement Otaku Corner, which is written by one of our resident anime and manga connoisseurs, Brandon Beatty. I hope to discuss some of my favorite anime, give my insight into the plot — which may be different than the manga that Brandon may be chronicling of the same name — and tell you if it’s a show to give your time to or stay away from. I hope you will join me as I start out on my journey to delve deeper into one of my favorite pasttimes: Watching the animated best of the best from Japan.

Lyndsey Hicks Mosley is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection.

Property review: Batman (1989)

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Batman

Warner Bros., 1989

Batman’s exploits begin in excellent 1989 adventure

When the Tim Burton-directed Caped Crusader’s vehicle hit the silver screen, comic book movies were in their infancy. Sure, there was the Dolph Lundgren version of The Punisher and numerous Superman movies featuring the irreplaceable Christopher Reeve. But there was no big screen adaptation of arguably the next-most important DC hero: Batman. Enter the 1989 feature with big-name stars.

Nicholson. Keaton. Basinger. Those three names were omnipresent then and now. Jack Nicholson stole the show outright as the Joker from Michael Keaton’s lead. Once Nicholson makes his grand entrance as Jack Napier/the Joker, you can’t go back. Being fans of the Joker (and Nicholson as well; we affectionately refer to him as “Uncle Jack” because of a shared family name), GI wholly encourages taking this version of the clown prince of crime as an altogether awesome spin on the malevolent DC supervillain. Earlier and later takes on the Joker, such as the late Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight, were well done, but Nicholson holds a special place in our hearts as the first movie version of the character.

Keaton, despite a well-reported reluctance for his casting as Bruce Wayne/Batman, nails the part of the tortured playboy-turned-crime fighter. And though the comparisons to Christian Bale have been brought up, Keaton like Nicholson is special because he brought Batman to life with a thorough look at the inner soul of the man dedicated to avenging crime in Gotham City.

Kim Basinger rounds out the trio of leads and does an admirable job as Vicki Vale. It’s not often that someone can chew scenery with a man dressed as bat and another man sporting green hair, a menacing grin and face paint. Though we disliked the naivete of the character in the beginning, Basinger does a good job of leading you to believe in her gradual falling for Wayne as the story progresses.

It also doesn’t hurt that the chemistry between Basinger and Keaton is immediately palpable in their first scene together.

While Batman succeeds mostly because of the acting chops of its leading trio and surrounding cast, we would be remiss in not giving praise to the costume and set design. The background scenery and look of the movie is what really shines.

With the introduction sequence featuring Danny Elfman’s iconic score (later improvised upon in the equally iconic Batman the Animated Series) and Batman logo, you’re pulled into the world of Gotham from the beginning. It’s gritty and can be darkly humorous, much like Burton, but you know it’s right. Batman feels appropriately like Batman and the film is a template from which all comic book films could learn a lesson about quality showmanship.

Batman is, quite frankly, one of the best comic book films ever made. GI fell in love with the movie 23 years ago as it played in theaters and made its way home to VCRs. It’s stood the test time for film — far better than its later sequels — and stands admirably next to any of the modern-day reboots.

HOW WE GRADE

We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in cases of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of the max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

Plot: 9.5/10

Like the comics?: 9.5/10

Casting: 9/10

Total: 28/30 or 9.3

Strip Talk #11: Alternate universes expand story

Lyndsey Hicks Mosley, editor-in-chief

Alternate universes. As a comic book aficionado, you can’t live with them or live without them. Any ink fan knows his or her’s alternate history of events for their characters, places or eras. And if you don’t, there’s no way that you can’t find out by doing a little reading.

What is fascinating about alternate universes is really what I want to know. I suppose it’s that characters can exist in two places with differences but basically be the same person. The reality of alternate universes is that there is always a prime ? a main person, place or thing ? and the alternates are always some variation of the main.

Take, for example, Marvel’s Earth designations. The comic book main Earth, designated 616, is the prime. Different realities are given to the multiple X-Men arcs such as Age of Apocalypse, Days of Future Past and Marvel Zombies, or to the different movies and the Ultimate versions of characters. This retains the ability to tell a different story about the same characters and it not interfere with established canon.

The same concept applies to DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earth’s arc, which established that there were different Earths, cleaned up plotlines and eliminated some characters in the 1980s. Now, DC doesn’t go nearly as far Marvel does with the multiple Earth designations and what-ifs, but the saga did explain characters’ origins and cleared up quite a few questions about where and how some characters died or came back.

The best version of an alternate universe is the aforementioned Marvel Ultimates series. Ultimate versions of characters in the Marvel universe can be radically different or have only one thing change in their past that completely makes them a different character. For instance, one of the most well-known changes between Ultimate and regular versions of a character is Col. Nick Fury. The Ultimate version of Fury is black but the regular version is white. That’s how you can have a movie that has David Hasselhoff playing Fury and another with Samuel L. Jackson playing the character.

Another well-known example is the fact that Ultimate Colossus is gay, while the regular version is not. Both versions were once upon a time involved with Kitty Pryde, but Ultimate Colossus later announces his sexual orientation to the X-Men family.

Alternate universes can be a cheap trick to lengthen out a nonsensical story. However, they can also be a great way to tell the other side of a tale. Don’t write off the better-told attempts because they may just be hiding something new and bold.

Lyndsey Hicks Mosley is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached at editor@gaminginsurrection.com

Otaku Corner #10: Eagle Vol. 2

Political appeal comes through in second volume of Eagle

Brandon Beatty, editor-at-large

Welcome back to “Otaku Corner,” where GI showcases the best in Japanese comic art and animation. I am happy to announce that GI editor-in-chief Lyndsey Hicks Mosley will debut the Anime Lounge where she will review various anime that new and veteran fans will enjoy.

In a previous issue, I reviewed a manga that foretold the election of the first black president of the United States, Barack Obama. Now, in the spirit of the 2012 presidential election, I’m reviewing the second volume of that manga that not only showcases the main character as a unique underdog, but also shows what can result when Japanese comic art collides with American politics. This is “Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President.”

In “Eagle Volume 2: Scandal,” by Kaiji Kawaguchi and published by Viz Media, the road to the White House continues as Kenneth Yamaoka, a third-generation Japanese-American senator from New York, vies for the Democratic nomination in the 2000 U.S. presidential race before the New Hampshire primary. Joining Kenneth for the whirlwind ride is the Photo courtesy of Amazon.comsecond main character, Takashi Jo, a Japanese reporter assigned to cover Yamaoka’s campaign. Jo early on learns that Yamaoka is his long-lost father as a result of an affair that Yamaoka had in Okinawa before heading into the Vietnam War. Upon arriving in Boston, Takashi is introduced to Yamaoka’s family where Takashi learns that his long-lost dad not only has strong financial backing, but also he has a kindred spirit in his adopted sister, Rachel, who is the press secretary for the campaign, and a younger brother, Alex, who is testing Takashi’s patience and skills as a journalist while trying to prove to his father that he can take the pressure of the political campaign. Meanwhile, as the campaign moves into Manchester, N.H., Yamaoka plots and succeeds in not only luring the Republican Party’s top strategist, but also derails a top Democratic rival’s campaign with proof of an affair.

“Eagle” has not missed a step ever since I started reading, thanks to a strong and fresh plot and characters. Kawaguchi retains his golden touch of combing fictional writing with real-world politics while presenting the possible future of a American minority who could hold the position of “leader of the free world.”

As a political wonk, “Eagle” appealed to me, showing that comics in general can have sway in readers’ opinions on certain world events. Credit goes to Carl Gustav Horn and Yuji Oniki for an excellent mix of adaption and translation of this political manga that has a deserving spot in my manga collection, but guarantees that otaku will want to grab this series and never let go.

Brandon Beatty can be reached by email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

Marvel character highlight #11: Dr. Doom

Name: Victor von Doom

Affiliation: Parliament of Doom, Dark Cabal, Knights of the Atomic Table, Fantastic 4, Masters of Evil, Future Foundation

Special abilities: Genius-level intellect, with specialty in scientific and technological matters, superhuman strength (while wearing the Doom armor), diplomatic immunity as head of a foreign sovereign state, and mastery of mysticism and magic enough to hold his own against a Sorcerer Supreme.

Background: Doctor Doom began his life in the nation of Latveria, which he now rules over as dictator. His mother was killed in a botched agreement with Mephisto, and his father was killed after they fled the area after a noblewoman died in Victor’s care. Doom’s genius allowed him to attend any school of his choice in the world, and he was offered a scholarship to State University in New York. It was here that he met his eternal rival and former best friend, Reed Richards (later Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four), and Ben Grimm (later the Thing of the Fantastic Four).

While enrolled in school, Doom began working on a device that would allow him to retrieve his mother’s soul from Mephisto’s realm. However, he miscalculated during its construction, which Richards attempted to warn him about. The device exploded, scarring Doom’s face horribly. After the accident, he was expelled for unauthorized experiments and left the country to travel the world.

Doom made it to a Tibetan village, where he mobilized the monks living there to create a suit of armor. The magically forged suit allowed Doom to conquer his native country and overthrow the leadership. With his base of operations set, Doom set about improving the country and eventually taking over the world.

Because he blames Reed Richards for his life-changing accident, Doom has clashed with him and the Fantastic Four numerous times in his quest to rule the world. He has also fought the Silver Surfer, teamed up with Loki of Thor’s home world of Asgard, teamed up with Marvel heroes to stop the entity known as Onslaught, and even participated in a secret war on another planet where he obtained a small portion of the Beyonder’s cosmic powers.

Relationships: Fantastic Four, rivals; Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch), wife in alternate reality; Morgana le Fay, lover; Valeria, lover; Doombots, self-created clones

First Versus game appearance: Marvel Super Heroes

Appearances in other media: Fantastic 4 (film), Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (film), Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (multiplatform), Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (multiplatform), Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (multiplatform), The Marvel Super Heroes (1966, animated), The Fantastic Four (1994-96 animated), The Incredible Hulk (1996-97, animated), Spider-Man (1994-98, animated), Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes (animated), The Super Hero Squad Show (animated), Iron Man: Armored Adventures (animated), The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (animated), Ultimate Spider-Man (animated), Spider-Man and Captain America in Doctor Doom’s Revenge (PC), Spider-Man (arcade), Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems (SNES), Fantastic 4 (multiplatform), Marvel Ultimate Alliance (multiplatform), Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (multiplatform), Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (multiplatform), Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet (multiplatform), Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (multiplatform), Marvel Super Hero Squad: Comic Combat (multiplatform), Marvel: Avengers Alliance (Facebook game)