The Surprising Popularity of Dragon Ball Heroes

 

 

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If you can name all of the characters on this cover, then you are officially the alpha-nerd.

Dragon Ball is one of those shows that will never go away, due to its massive worldwide popularity. This epic action series about a goofy alien dad and his constant need to get stronger and fight gods has captured the hearts of millions of people. The story of Goku, his sons, his friends, and the adventures he goes on have entertained the masses for over three decades at this point.

With a franchise that has had so many iterations, continuities, and characters, one may wonder: What if there was a single series that combined all these iterations? Well, that’s Dragon Ball Heroes! This Japanese exclusive game was Japan’s attempt at selling trading cards based off popular Dragon Ball characters. How the game would work is that you would buy booster packs of cards, take them to an Dragon Ball Heroes arcade machine, scan them, and then use them in the actual game.

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Three Goku’s?! That’s a lot!

What made Dragon Ball Heroes interesting was that everything was canon to it, and I mean EVERYTHING! The movies, games, spin-offs, and even that obscure arcade game from the 90s are all canon to this one sub-series of the franchise. Of course, Heroes isn’t canon to anything in particular. This hasn’t stopped characters and elements from the game making it into other series, such as Xenoverse and Dokkan Battle.

Heroes revolves around a young human boy named “Beat”, who is pulled into the Dragon Ball Heroes game in-universe. He ends up in an amalgamated version of the Dragon Ball universe, and has to ally himself with various characters from a multitude of different realities and continuities. All the while, he seeks to improve both himself and his newfound Saiyan abilities.

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A badass nerd in a trench-coat, that’s new!

Heroes isn’t solely focused on Beat, as the game boasts thousands of different playable characters. Unfortunately, having this many characters in one game comes with a catch: You have to buy them all separately. You see, the game works by scanning in Dragon Ball Heroes trading cards. You buy packs of them at the store, scan them, and are then allowed to use them in-game.

While Heroes is popular in Japan, the game never left its home country. A lot of this comes down to the fact that most people won’t buy dozens of individual trading cards just for one game. Another part of it could do with the machines themselves, which are pretty pricey to make and ship. Games with characters from Heroes in them have been removed from the US releases of recent Dragon Ball games, due to Bandai-Namco not wanting to advertise the game out of Japan.

Despite this, Heroes was still able to be enjoyed by people outside of Japan. Due to the widespread nature of the internet, hardcore Dragon Ball fans were able to get their hands on various pieces of Heroes material. This included the trading cards themselves, the 3DS ports of the arcade games, and the animated shorts made to advertise the game.

On top of this, fans were able to watch the Dragon Ball Heroes anime on Youtube, and enjoy a show that was only meant to be seen in Japan. Due to Dragon Ball’s overwhelming popularity, fans clamor for anything related to Dragon Ball. As a result, Heroes has caught the eyes of many American fans.

Despite Bandai-Namco’s decision to not bring the game over here, it still hasn’t stopped fans from trying to get their hands on it. Pretty much any YouTube video on the game usually has at least 50 messages that read like this: “PLEASE bring Dragon Ball Heroes over to America!”

It’s ironic that in Namco’s attempt to not sell/advertise the game over, they ended up making the game semi-popular in America in spite of it. I think a lot of that comes down to it being the “Forbidden Fruit”, a game that will never officially be released here. People want what they cannot obtain, and one such thing is Heroes.

Still, that doesn’t mean that a release will never happen. For example, most people weren’t expecting Metal Wolf Chaos to get a US release, but it’s finally getting one after all these years! So, maybe there is hope for Dragon Ball Heroes to be released in the West. After all, if a game about the president piloting a giant robot can get released here, pretty much anything can!

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Ready Player One Review: A Good, Yet Very Flawed Film

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“And I got long legs, very very long legs!”

I know I’m technically a month late to this, but I recently saw Ready Player One. This is one of the biggest nerd movies to come out this year, and it ended up getting a lot of buzz because of it. I thought I’d finally give my two cents on the movie, and what I thought of Steven Spielberg’s “newest” movie. The film revolves around this young man named Wade Watts, a guy who enters a MMORPG named “The Oasis”.

Wade plays the game in an attempt to obtain the ultimate “Easter Egg”, an extremely hard to find and obscure secret that will let the winner inherit a vast fortune. Along the way, he has to deal with the corporate goons at “IOI”, the various trials to get the special keys, and fighting his own romantic feelings for a woman he just met. Of course, the plot wasn’t the main draw of this film.

What really drew people to the movie was the egregious product-placement. By product placement, I don’t mean that they shoved a Pepsi Machine or a Taco Bell in there. I’m referring to the film’s various cameos and references, all of which are from hundreds of different franchises. This film features tons and tons of things that nerds will remember, essentially making it one massive crossover between all these properties.

Games like VRChat, and to a lesser extent Miitopia also had this gimmick going for them. Unfortunately, the nerd references kind of work against this film quite a bit. The film is packed with way too many references, to the point where the film lacks an identity. Most of the cool stuff in the movie only happens in The Oasis, while the real world stuff is always boring and tedious in this film. Worse still, most of the epic action sequences during The Oasis sequences involve the characters and things that were made by other people.

The film is the cinematic equivalent of knocking two action figures together and having them fight. The film definitely excels in bringing that kind of experience to table, but squanders it in other areas. One thing that I felt was holding the movie back was its protagonist. Wade Watts is a young man who is somehow one of the greatest players in The Oasis.

It’s never explained why he is so skilled at the game, he just kind of is. There’s no backstory behind how he came up with the character, the struggles to get this far, nothing. When the movie began, I felt like I was watching a sequel that was just barely explaining the first film. Most of the explanation goes towards the world, story, and setup. Not so much the characters and how they got to where they were.

At times, Wade feels like a character who was meant to act as an avatar for an audience, to help them get used to this crazy world. Unfortunately, Wade ends up coming off as insufferable. He’s way too overpowered at in the game, and has very few flaws. The few flaws he has are easily and quickly shoved aside, so that the movie can show us how great he is at games.

While he does struggle in certain parts of the film, he just as easily finds a way to overcome them. Both in real-life and in the game, Wade manages to skirt past dangerous and life-ending situations in some of the most nonsensical and plot convenient ways. There’s even a part where something really tragic happens to him in the movie, but he rarely brings it up aside from one or two instances. He doesn’t even really seem that sad about it, which feels like bad writing if you ask me.

The villain isn’t much better, due mostly to how he is portrayed in the film. The main adversary was a generic businessman, one who was so bland and formulaic that I couldn’t even remember his name by the end of it. To put things in perspective, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World had 7 different villains, all of which had personalities and were memorable. I could remember all their names, and tell you 3 things about each of them. The kicker is that most of those villains only appeared for about 3-10 minutes each.

In this film, the villain is just kind of there. Unfortunately, you’ll notice that this is kind of a trend with a lot of Spielberg films directed at children and teenagers. Earlier, I said that this was Spielberg’s “newest” film, with “newest” being in quotations. The reasons for this is simple, Spielberg’s directing and writing style for films aimed at younger audiences is a bit too bland.

Most of these films are aimed at kids/teens and have Spielberg’s usual plot outline associated with them: Young man with big dreams is forced to on an adventure, while being chased by some big organization or the government. The young man meets an enigmatic figure, befriends an unlikely group of friends, and then goes on a quest to make his dreams come true. That’s basically the plot of Ready Player One, E.T., and A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

Now, if this were just the first time he’s done it, this wouldn’t be a problem. The thing is that this appears to be one of the only kinds of films that Spielberg knows how to write, since he seems to think that it’s all teens and kids enjoy. Meanwhile, the films Spielberg makes for adults are his true masterpieces, where more of his effort seems to go. Which gives me the feeling that Spielberg seems to have more respect for his older movie-going audience, more-so than the younger audience that sees his other films like E.T. and Hook.

With all that being said, does this mean I hate the movie? Not at all, I actually got it was pretty good. Not a truly great film by any stretch of the imagination, but one that is a fairly fun watch throughout. The effects are great, as are the action scenes. Despite the films severe lack of originality and uniqueness, the way the various parts of this world are designed are just nice to look at.

The opening to this film reminded me a lot of the opening to Summer Wars, both of which were brimming with strange worlds and oddities. The Oasis is basically one big mashup of everything in nerd culture, and it just works well. Fight sequences are also bad-ass and awesome, and are the center-point of this film.

Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the protagonist or villain, I dug several of the side characters. Aech was probably one of my favorites, being the main character’s sassy best friend in The Oasis. I also dug Daito and Sho, two recurring characters who’s game personas have this awesome Japanese vibe going on. There was also i-R0k, a recurring henchman for the main antagonist, one who I found to be a very silly and endearing nerd character.

Also, as intrusive as the references are, they kind of do spice up the film at times. It’s fun to see your favorite hero or villain suddenly show up in the background, or a famous movie character deciding to attack our heroes. The second key challenge felt like it spent too much time on retelling a well-known movie in a short amount of time, but was enjoyable enough that it didn’t feel too stale.

By far, the best character was James Halliday. He’s a socially awkward weirdo, one who created a vast financial empire through the creation of his games. I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil the whole film for the few that haven’t see it yet. I think it’s about time I summed up my thoughts on what I thought of the film, since the post is long enough already.

Ready Player One is a good film, but mired by formulaic writing and its overabundance of product placement. It’s a solid experience, despite its flaws. Just be warned, what you’re getting is basically a mishmash of all these franchises you’re already invested in. It’s not going to rock your world, or revolutionize the way you see film.

It’s just another Spielberg film, albeit one that has a lot of effort and passion put into it at times. If you’re interested in nerd culture at all, I suggest at least giving it a watch if you get the chance. However, if you’re not a nerd, then I’m sure this movie won’t do much for you in terms of entertainment.

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Yep, that’s a poster for a Spielberg movie alright.

Log Horizon: An MMO Anime Done Right

In the past couple years, I’ve found myself getting a lot more invested in MMORPGs and games with MMO elements. I’m talking games like Elder Scrolls Online, Dragon Ball Online, Dragon Ball Xenoverse, Wild Star, VRChat, and Toontown Online Rewritten. Ever since I started playing these games, I’ve been craving a TV show about said MMO experiences.

I tried Sword Art Online just last year, but could not get into it. I felt the characters were a bit too bland, the stakes weren’t high enough, and the mechanics of the show’s fictional game weren’t well-defined at all. As a result, I gave up after episode 5. Afterwards, I tried my hand at the Phantasy Star Online 2 anime. Much like with SAO, I didn’t like it one bit.

The PSO2 anime felt like a bland tie-in, and I found that I couldn’t get fully invested in the characters and world. As a result, I started neglecting anime that revolved around MMOs, missing out on shows that I’m told were actually quite awesome. One such show is “Log Horizon”, which I only recently started getting into.

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Log Horizon 2: Rabbit’s Revenge

What is Log Horizon? Well, it’s yet another anime about people getting stuck in a MMO. Unlike other shows, the characters don’t really know how they got stuck in the game. They just end up inside the game world itself, unsure of what occurred or what threw them in there. Inside this game, they can’t truly die and they have access to superhuman abilities and powers.

One may think it’d be like a utopia, but sadly this is not the case. Corrupt users find ways to break the system, while exploiting both the game itself and the lower-level users who play it. In this wayward word, it’s up to Shiroe and his band of his misfits to try to survive and bring some needed balance to this chaotic land. They do this by trying to work around the politics imposed by other users, while also doing battle with renegade guilds.

While all of this may sound formulaic, Log Horizon manages to bring a lot of charm and originality to a somewhat generic premise. This comes down to its memorable and likable main cast. You have the rather nerdy leader Shiroe, the dashing and heroic cat-man Nyanta, the stalwart tough-guy Naotsugu, and the deadly assassin known as Akatsuki.

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Nerds in medieval times = Best thing ever!

These are just some of the characters that make up the back-bone of the show’s principal cast. The show is host to a multitude of interested and entertaining side-characters, along with a gaggle of badass and intense villains. The show’s biggest selling point isn’t the characters themselves however, but how they interact with each other and the world around them.

I said in my last post on VRChat that “A MMO lives and dies by its player-base”, which is doubly true for the “Elder Tale” game our heroes find themselves stuck in. For you see, the biggest threat to our heroes isn’t the monsters roaming land. The real enemy they have to deal with is themselves, other players, and their own self-doubt.

Despite this show technically being an action show, it doesn’t shy away from showing us the deeper politics associated with the various guilds and factions. Despite the show making it clear that the world inside the game is more prosperous than our own, it bares some of the same problems. For example, the more powerful guilds will often kidnap players of lower levels, because said players are given EXP potions for free.

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Such a colorful cast of crazy anime characters!

By keeping weaker players captive, they are able to extort them for an unlimited supply of these stat-boosting potions. That’s one of the things that makes Log Horizon so interesting, in that it manages to make the interactions between these players feel real. It answers the age old question of “What would you do if you were trapped in a game?” Log Horizon’s is focused entirely on explaining how its game-world works, and then showing you how the players can use these systems to their advantages.

On top of this, the anime does it in a way that’s easy to understand for everyone, even for people who don’t play these kinds of games. The characters solve the problems plaguing their world in interesting and unique ways, which is something I can appreciate. It’s definitely one of the most refreshing anime I’ve seen in a while, which is saying a lot.

As of writing this, I’m still in the very early portion of this series. I fully intend to watch through both seasons of this show, before moving on to the similar-in-concept show known as “Overlord”. I really appreciate that Log Horizon managed to rekindle my love for MMO-based anime. I haven’t felt this invested in a virtual reality show since “.Hack//Sign” from way back in the day. Here’s hoping the rest of Log Horizon can live up to the greatness of its early episodes!

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Not sure why there are snowman in the back there…

Remembering Digimon: The Movie

Digimon was a huge thing back in the 90s to early 2000s, at least to a certain extent. Some people say Digimon piggybacked off the successful of Pokemon, which could be true to an extent. They did have similar names, show concepts, and both had successful anime adaptations. Of course, this meant when Pokemon received a theatrical film, Digimon would attempt to do the same.

This resulted in the bizarre anthology film known as “Digimon: The Movie”. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it was an attempt by Fox to capitalize on Digimon’s popularity in the late 90s and early 2000s. The film was stitched together by three completely unrelated Digimon films, and was formed into a singular film for American theaters.

This meant that all three movies were horribly and painfully mashed together into a horrible chimera of a film, that is somehow still one of my favorite childhood movies. Why is that? Well, because it still feels like Digimon! Sure, a lot of the jokes are stale, the film feels awkwardly edited, and there’s way too many late 90s songs in the soundtrack, but it is still a surprisingly entertaining package.

It took the adventures of our heroes, including Tai and Davis, and used it as a vehicle to tell new stories that most American audiences hadn’t even seen yet. Sure, it a Frankenstein’s monster that was stitched together from three separate films, but it had a surprising amount of heart to it.

As bad as a movie as it was, it is still remembered by people to this day. So, why do I bring this up? Well, Disney bought Fox a couple of weeks back. As such, the rights to the movie were transferred over to Disney. This means that they can essentially re-release it, if they wished.

Disney probably won’t do this, though. Disney has made it no secret they hate Digimon, especially how they treated the franchise after they bought the dubbing rights from Saban. Disney will probably just keep it in their “vault” until the end of time, leaving only digital copies for people to watch.

A movie about digital monsters is only available digitally, it’s kind of ironic really. In short, Digimon: The Movie was an extremely flawed film that had some passion go into it. It’s not some kind of cult classic, and I doubt it’ll ever be heralded as such. Still, it’s entertaining in a cheesy nostalgic sort of way. I do hope Disney decides to re-release the film, even if they have no real intention of doing so. After all, I’m sure people would buy it! I mean, I totally would. Then again, I’m a super nerd, so that’s to be expected.

Power Stone Retrospective Review

If there was any console that died too soon, it was the Dreamcast. The Sega Dreamcast was a console that had a fair bit of really good games, but undersold on the market. The PS2 and Gamecube walloped it to oblivion, forcing Sega to stop making consoles. This really sucks, since the Dreamcast had some of my most favorite games ever: Skies of Arcadia, Phantasy Star Online, Shenmue, Crazy Taxi, Sonic Adventure, etc.

One game that I always enjoyed playing on the ill-fated console was the Power Stone series. What is Power Stone? Back in 1999, Capcom was on a huge binge releasing some of their best titles ever. I’m talking games like Resident Evil 3, Street Fighter III: Third Strike, and Dino Crisis. One game that stood out was the Dreamcast exclusive Power Stone, a fully 3D fighting game. This wasn’t just any normal fighting game though, since Power Stone developed into a small franchise and developed a rather large following. It’s mostly forgotten nowadays, but I still think it’s worth talking about.

Power Stone 1

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The gang’s all here!

Now, a 3D fighting game wasn’t anything new at the time. Sega had one of their own, known as “Virtual-On”. What set Power Stone apart from Virtual-On was its gameplay, and its focus on strategy. Power Stone puts you in a small arena, while pitting you against your opponent. You can use parts of the scenery as weapons, such as tossing chairs or pots at your foe. You can leap onto higher planes of the map and dive-kick your enemies, or even attack them with the various items the game gives you.

The thing that makes Power Stone so unique is the Power Stones themselves. Power Stones are these magic gems in the game, ones that can boost the ability of its users and grant wishes. While they only grants wishes during ending cut-scenes, they definitely change the flow of combat. Collecting three Power Stones allows your hero to transform, buffing them up into an unstoppable juggernaut.

Once you transform, you can curve-stomp your opponent into oblivion with ease, if you play your cards right. Sometimes, fighting over the Power Stones can be more entertaining than actually fighting your opponent! You see, when you collect a Power Stone, it doesn’t stay on you forever. Your opponent can knock the literal stones out of you, and then use said stones to transform.

As a result, the game becomes this mad rush to collect all three Power Stones, and obliterate your opponent. That’s where the strategy of the game comes in, as you can never be too careful while fighting your opponent. You have to factor in both your enemy’s abilities, the Power Stones themselves, as well as the various weapons scattered around the environment.

Unfortunately, this also brings up Power Stone’s biggest flaw: Balance. Certain characters such as the muscle-bound Gunrock, the martial artist with the porn-star name, Wang-Tang, and the two secret bosses are a bit too overpowered. Wang-Tang in the hands of an experienced player can really decimate the opponent, since a lot of his attacks are pretty dang fast. Gunrock is a beast who can who deal a ton of damage, and the two secret bosses were not balanced at all, even when the developers decided to make them playable.

Still, this wasn’t really a deal-breaker for me. Power Stone was a game that felt like it was always meant to be played at parties, not a Capcom fighting game you’d find at tournaments. The game’s inevitable sequel, known as “Power Stone 2” echoes this sentiment.

Power Stone 2

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Pro-tip: It’s usually not a good idea to have in-game models on the cover. Especially when the graphics will be dated in just a couple of years.

 

It was the year 2000, just a year after the first game when Capcom decided to push out a sequel. Power Stone 2 looked to do what the first game did, while amping up so many aspects of it. There were now more Power Stones, more characters to play as, new stages, new stage mechanics, new weapons, an item shop system, etc. Power Stone 2 was like Power Stone on crack, in my opinion.

The game now boasted a 4 player mode, meaning you and three friends could beat the snot of each other. Since the game-play now had more participants, this meant increasing the amount of Power Stones from 3 to 5. This means that a person could hoard 2 stones, even if the opponent transforms using the other three. Unfortunately, by increasing the amount of stones, the game decreased their importance.

Power Stone transformations now don’t do as much damage as they did before, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing in that it balances the game more, but it’s bad in that it makes the form changes far less special. The combat is still fairly entertaining, despite Power Stone transformations being somewhat less useful. Battle stages are now far more interactive, allowing characters to better utilize the stage’s artillery.

Each stage is now its own set-piece, complete with moving parts and obstacles for the player. As the battle progresses, the stage will take on various different forms. For example, in one part of a stage you may be on a battle-ship high in the air. Next, you may be high-diving from said battleship into the sky.

The sheer variety each stage brings is rather welcome in my opinion. Unfortunately, some stages do have a tendency to come off a bit too gimmicky. A good example of this is the stage with the submarines, which had turrets and mini-ships, along with all the previously available weaponry. It just felt too cluttered with options, in my opinion.

The biggest change to the game came in the form of the “Item Shop”. For those you have never played the game and don’t know what this is, there’s an in-game shop where you can earn various items. You can combine pre-existing items together to get new items to use in combat against your foe, or pieces of clothing that you can use to customize your character. You can also purchase in-game items using a currency you acquire as you play through the game’s various modes.

Item collecting was always the most addicting part of Power Stone 2. There were so many darn items to collect, most of which were pretty crazy. You can get a skateboard, a lightning sword, or even magical elemental cards. This feature offered so much replay value, which gave the player more of incentive to go back and play the game after completing it.

Power Stone 2 introduced 6 new characters, 2 of which had to be unlocked. You had the speedy cowboy Accel, and the crazy chef Gourmand. Power Stone 2 managed to build upon Power Stone 1, and add so much crazy cool stuff to it. The game went from being a fighting game that’s good at parties, to being a fighting game that felt like it was designed to be played solely at parties.

There was less of a focus on strategy, but the combat was still just as fun. The set-pieces the game brought were refreshing, even if the new boss fights were kind of lame. Still, Power Stone 2 managed to improve on the gameplay while still retaining most of what made the original had to offer. All was set for the inevitable Power Stone 3, which would rock our socks off!

Power Stone Collection

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“You know who’s got the power!”

Yeah… Power Stone 3 was never made. Capcom abruptly forgot about this game after its second installment, possibly due to low sales. As a result, the third game never materialized. Instead, we were given this compilation game released exclusively for the Playstation Portable. As the title would imply, Collection brought together the two games that made up the series. However, it also added a ton of new features as well!

The game has an art gallery, which includes all the various storyboard artwork and sound clips from both games. It includes promotional artwork, as well as allowing the player to see all the ending cut-scenes that they unlocked. There were new features as well! You could now play as characters who were exclusive to Power Stone 1 in Power Stone 2, and vice-versa.

This meant you could actually play as the overpowered monstrosity Valgas in the second game. Sadly, you can’t play as Mel and Pride Falcon in the first game, the latter of which is my favorite character. Power Stone Collection also expanded the features of the item shop, such as allowing the player to trade items with their friends. That’s right, Power Stone Collection added Ad Hoc multiplayer!

This meant that you can play with your friends whenever you wanted to! Sadly, there was no online multiplayer. Unless you had friends who happened to have PSPs, then you were completely out of luck when it came to multiplayer. Power Stone also introduced ad-hoc mini-games that you could play with your friends, but good luck finding other people to play those with you!

Power Stone Collection’s biggest feature was its portability. It allowed you to take these two amazing games on the road with you, which is something I did quite often in my teenage years. Power Stone Collection’s small additions were definitely welcome, adding a bit more meat to the bones of games that were over half a decade old at this point.

Conclusion

Power Stone is a game series that was truly amazing for the time, but probably wasn’t too enticing to most people. A lot of people just preferred 2D fighters, ones that were more tournament-friendly. It doesn’t help that Power Stone was released on a console that was doomed to fall into obscurity.

Still, Power Stone was a fun game series that stood the test of the time. Yes, it has not aged well graphically, there isn’t a lot to it mechanics wise, and it doesn’t do much at all with its 17th century setting. Despite this, the two games are still enjoyable romps for those who have never experienced them.

As the years went by, the series slowly became something of a cult classic. Like a lot of old games I really enjoy, I still find myself coming back to the series from time to time. Now, you’ll probably noticed I missed an entry in this franchise. That’s right, I didn’t say anything at all about the Power Stone Anime.

Well, I’m saving that for a later date. For my 300th post, I will watch through the Power Stone anime, and give an in-depth critique on what I thought of it. Despite the fact that I had watched the show in the past, I never finished it for some reason. However, I’m going to go through it episode by episode, and give my overtly analytical view on it. Stay tuned for that in the future!

My First Anime DVD: Dragon Drive

You always remember your first, well at least I tend to. When I was younger, anime was all over television. I grew up on stuff like Dragon Ball, Digimon, and Pokemon. However, when those anime were brought over to America, they are usually heavily edited for content. That means that I was usually getting a watered down experience on television, compared to the kind of anime one could see on home video.

That brings me to the first uncensored anime I had ever seen on DVD: Dragon Drive. For those of you who don’t know what this series is, allow me to explain. Dragon Drive was based off a manga of the same name that revolved around a young man named Reiji Oozara. Reiji is a humongous slacker, who barely tries at all in anything he attempts.

Reiji is one day tricked into playing this new game called “Dragon Drive” by his childhood friend, Meiko Yukino. Dragon Drive is a fighting game, in which players are given dragons and proceed to battle it out. Reiji enters the game and is gifted with a seemingly weak dragon named “Chibisuke”, who soon turns out to be more than he appears.

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A game based off a show based off a manga about playing a game? That’s just silly!

With Reiji and his new dragon, he makes a vow to climb up the ladder and become the champion of Dragon Drive. All the while, Reiji promises to make himself into a better perseon and turn his life around. That’s something I dug about the show, the idea of a slacker becoming more reliable and dependable. Seeing a character go through a terrible situation, only to turn it around and become a better person is one of my favorite cliches.

Of course, it’s not that easy for Reiji. He soon discovers himself being pulled into an ancient prophecy, while being transported to an entirely new universe. It’s up to Reiji and his friends to defeat an evil organization, fight against a strangely dressed villain, and return to their home-world.

It’s your pretty standard stuff for a Shonen action anime. Fight scenes are usually pretty good, though CGI animation is insanely dated. Certain action sequences can look like the animated equivalent of two action figures bashing against each other, mostly due to the lackluster CGI.

The 2D art and animation is pretty solid, though nothing too spectacular. This was made on a TV budget, after all. Still, the designs and the way the characters are drawn tended to stick with me the most. Character designs are extremely varied, which is always something I appreciate in any form of medium.

Going back to this show nearly a decade later helped me realize that it has really not aged well. Still, the show does hold a special place in my heart! I remember buying the first season DVD box-set and watching through it all at once in a weekend. The show was the first anime I ever saw completely uncut, and it was truly a treat to behold.

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“We having Dragon-Yak tonight!”

Despite the show’s formulaic nature, the English dub is what really sold me on the series. It was actually fairly well done, albeit flawed in certain areas. You see, this dub was done in the early 2000s. This was a time when anime dubbing wasn’t really a fine art, so you have some awkward voices here or there. Sometimes, characters will awkwardly pause in the middle of a sentence, or begin to talk over someone else at random.

That’s not even mentioning the amount of awkward line reads that happens over the course of the series. A lot of that is forgivable though, due to the solid voice-cast the show uses. You have industry professionals like Tabitha St. Germain, Brad Swaile, Scott McNeil, and Brian Drummond lending their voices to this series.

Despite the fact that some of their deliveries fall flat, they do put their all into what they are saying most of the time. As previously stated, the series was uncensored when released on DVD. This was a much welcome change, when compared to most anime I had seen previously. Dragon Drive also contained the Japanese version’s soundtrack, which was… Decent.

Dragon Drive had a pretty basic soundtrack as far as Shonen anime go, but at least it had a badass theme song. The show ran for 38 episodes and covered the “First Season” of the manga, though stopped before it could adapt the second one. I’ve never been able to find a reason behind this, though it’s probably due to budget.

Dragon Drive ended up as a fairly obscure anime, kept alive by its small and devoted fan-base. Despite season 2 never getting adapted, people still go back and watch the series. Heck, I re-watched the second half of the show just the other week! Dragon Drive isn’t a perfect show, but for my anime on DVD, it was everything I wanted.

It’s been almost a decade and a half since this series ended, but it’s still something I find myself coming back to here and there. It’s definitely something I can recommend, for those who are interested. Just be wary of that early 2000s anime cheese, it can make the show a bit difficult to watch at times. Still, if you can stick with it for a few episodes, I think it’s something that a lot of anime fans can come to enjoy. Just be warned that this show isn’t exactly easy to find. Heck, the DVD box-set alone runs for over 300 bucks on Amazon!

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EPIC POINTING!

Prisoner Zero: The Australian Star Wars

Something I don’t watch a lot of is Australian cartoons. I never grew up in Australia and the channels that I tended to watch never showed cartoons from that country. The only cartoon from Australia I ever watched in my younger years was Fairy Tale Police Department. I was never a huge fan of that show, to be completely honest. A show I have been getting into as of late is some random cartoon I found on Netflix, one that happened to be made in the “Great Down Under”.

I’m talking about Prisoner Zero, which has to be one of the most obscure modern cartoons I’ve come across in a while. You see, the network that airs it (ABC 3) wanted to a replacement for the cancelled Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoon. As such, they commissioned a new sci-fi series to be aired on their network. This led to the creation of Prisoner Zero, a rather entertaining space adventure.

So, what makes PZ so interesting? For one thing, this is an Australian cartoon with an anime art-style. This is rare for shows in Australia, at least to my knowledge. While the show isn’t animated in Japan, it’s definitely similar in design. Unfortunately, this anime style can sometimes make character designs look awkward and clash horribly with each other.

All the guys have realistic faces, while all the females possess stylized cartoon-y faces. A good example of this is the character Gem, who has this strange pointy chin. The animation itself can be a bit off. It’s got that “Adult Swim” feel to it, if that makes any sense. Old Adult Swim shows used to have a fair bit of limited animation to them, kind of like this show.

Character movements can sometimes look stilted, though action scenes can still be very fierce at times. Unlike Star Wars, characters like to shoot energy blasts, instead of fighting using lightsabers. In a way, it kind of reminds me of Dragon Ball Z. Now, while some of those elements can be hit or miss, Prisoner Zero still manages to be rather engaging. This comes down to the solid voice-acting, good characters, and somewhat interesting plot.

In this show, the evil General Vikar and his “Imperium” have conquered most of the galaxy. A prisoner with amnesia named “Prisoner Zero” works with a group of ragtag rebels aboard a stolen ship, their goal being to stop Vikar and his Imperium. Vikar uses a system called the “Bioweve” to mind-control people, and essentially erase their minds. This concept gets a lot of use in the second episode, where Vikar mind-wipes EVERYONE on an entire planet.

Vikar then proceeds to blow said planet up, all in an attempt to get Zero to give back the stolen ship. Yeah, Vikar is one of those no-nonsense villains, complete with a deep voice and British accent. Vikar comes off as your typical all-powerful villain, but at least he manages to be a solid and consistent threat for our heroes.

Something I dug that this show did, is that it somehow manages to get every single main character involved in its stories. When you have a show like Prisoner Zero, which has an ever-growing cast, it’s always good to involve as many characters as you can. I hate it when shows introduce a cast of 20+ characters, then spend a ton of episodes ignoring most of them. Prisoner Zero manages to split focus just enough so that most scenes aren’t just Vikar and Zero going at it.

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Apparently, purple hair dye is a commonality in space.

Speaking of Zero, he is probably one of my favorite aspects of this show! Zero is an amnesiac hero, but one who is rather jovial, goofy, and fun-loving. A lot of franchises love to give their main characters amnesia, and proceed to use it as an excuse to not make them interesting. I can’t tell you how many shows and movies I’ve seen where the amnesiac hero is brooding, dark, or emotionless.

It’s nice to see a main character who has amnesia, but doesn’t let it get him down too much. One thing that I dug about the show was the ship our heroes use to sail the galaxy. The ship known as “The Rogue” isn’t any ordinary vessel, as it houses life inside its many floors. Within the deepest sections of the ship are a treasure trove of bizarre creatures and beings.

The show likes to have episodes where our heroes just to explore the ship itself, instead of beaming down to some random planet. I honestly prefer the ship exploration, as The Rogue comes off as a rather unique location. It feels like a living breathing place at times, with a bizarre assortment of odd aliens dwelling in its depths.

To summarize my feelings on this show, I think it has potential. Sure, it comes off as the kind of sci-fi story we’ve been told so many times before, but there’s just something enjoyable about it. This comes down to its lovable cast, solid voice acting, and the uniqueness and implementation of some of its concepts. The show isn’t perfect, but if you’re looking for something to satiate your thirst for sci-fi, then I think this series will do. Plus, you can watch it for free on Netflix right now! That’s what I call a good deal.

Fighting Foodons: The Show That Wasn’t a Fever Dream

Believe it or not, a part of most people’s childhood is their fertile imagination. We imagine crazy things or bizarre scenarios, things that could never exist in the real world. As kids, we are allowed to craft a world atop our already existing one. Another thing kids tend to do is watch really crazy cartoons. More often than not though, people tend to chalk certain shows up as being fever dreams that they had as kids.

These are shows with such insane premises that they couldn’t possibly real, but some of them actually are. I’m going to talk about one of the most insane anime made for kids ever made, a show most people thought they had just dreamed up in their early years. I’m talking about Fighting Foodons, an anime about food turning into monsters and fighting each other!

Fighting Foodons was a show that was originally released in Japan under the title “Martial Arts Cooking Legend Bistro Recipe”. This was a show that involved around kids using magical cards to bring food to life, which were then used by both the heroes and villains to fight each other. I’m not sure how well the show did in Japan, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume it wasn’t very well.

This probably comes down to the show never being acknowledged, never receiving that much merchandise in Japan, and the fact that it ran for only 26 episodes before immediately becoming forgotten. It also doesn’t help that show was based off an already fairly obscure Shonen manga that only got 2 volumes. So, Bistro Recipe ultimately ended up as this forgotten and rather obscure anime.

That’s in Japan though, not so much in America. You see, 4Kids was looking to expand their catalog of anime dubs in the early 2000s. So, naturally Bistro Recipe was just asking to be snatched up. 4Kids purchased the localization rights, dubbed it in English using their in-house voice cast, and aired it as a premiere show on the Fox-Box network block. Despite being a launch series for the new block, Fighting Foodons failed to garner interest at the time.

However, due to its ridiculous premise and characters, it eventually became a cult classic. Heck, it became such an underground hit that earlier this year it was given a proper DVD release by Discotek! Now, let’s go into a bit more detail on what this show is about. It revolves around a young boy named “Chase”, a kid who wishes to create the ultimate Foodons in order to defeat the “Glutton Empire”.

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“Power Rangers: Delicious Force!”

Helped by his sister, his Foodons, and a group of motley rebels, Chase must defeat the evil empire and free all of the captured innocents. It’s a pretty standard plot, but the show’s constant need to play into its more ridiculous aspects makes it truly entertaining to watch. This show never takes itself seriously, resulting in a comedic action series that revels in its own insanity.

4Kids did a surprisingly good job on the dub, despite their infamous reputation with butchering anime. Still, 4Kids did change a lot, including editing out several scenes. You may be asking yourself: Can’t I just watch it subbed and uncensored instead? Unfortunately, that’s kind of impossible at this point. The Japanese version of Fighting Foodons is near impossible to find. Some clips are floating around Youtube, but they aren’t subtitled.

Not even Discotek has released the Japanese version, at least not yet. It’s a shame too, considering how catchy Bistro Recipe’s theme song is. Still, I think Fighting Foodons is a decent enough adaptation to watch on its own. This isn’t a show with a whole lot of substance, but it’s got heart. You can tell that the people who made it enjoyed what they did.

Fighting Foodons is one of the few food-based anime that I can fully recommend. I never got much into other food anime, such as Toriko. FF is a rare kind of anime, one that revels in how bizarre its world is. This is what makes the show great! Sure, it’s no Escaflowne or GaoGaiGar, but it’s awesome nonetheless. Here’s hoping the Japanese version gets that release soon, so people can enjoy that version as well.

Wakfu: Terrible Name, Fantastic Show

There was once a time in my life where I was really into French shows. YTV and Teletoon were flooded with French, and French-Canadian cartoons. As a result, I would these shows religiously. I’m talking shows like Martin Mystery, Team Galaxy, Donkey Kong Country, and Monster Buster Club. I found shows like these to be fairly entertaining, though after a while I fell out of love with French cartoons.

Don’t get me wrong, I really dig French TV shows. The problem is that most French cartoons nowadays just fail to hold my interest. In fact, for a while the only French show I was really into was Miraculous Ladybug. Since ML has been on hiatus for a while, I thought it was time I find a new show to fill the void while I wait. That shows happens to be a little known series called “Wakfu”.

When I say that it’s little known, I mean that the series really hasn’t taken off outside of France. In France, Wakfu is a highly successful animated spinoff of the MMORPG game “Dofus”. Some may argue that Wakfu is more well-known than Dofus, due to its immense popularity. Wakfu even got a ton of spinoff games, including its own MMORPG adaptation.

Despite the show’s weird-sounding name, it’s actually quite entertaining. The series itself takes a ton of elements from anime, mostly from the ever popular Shonen genre. The series uses flash animation, but manages to make it look really good. While characters look semi-static while talking, the animation usually amps up during action scenes.

Fights that would often look very cheap in lesser show are given full reign to look impressive here. On top of this, Wakfu has a stellar and entertaining soundtrack. Each episode is beautifully scored and sounds really good! Now, most of you are probably wondering what Wakfu is about.

This show focuses on a kid named Yugo, who is trying to find his real parents. After being attacked by a villainous robot-man named Nox, our young hero says his goodbyes to his father and decides to travel the world. Yugo forms bounds with new friends allies, and sets off with his party to discover his real family.

Wakfu is a show that starts off kind of bland. The first thirteen or so episodes barely feature the main villain at all, relegating his appearances to the two-part pilot. Even there, the villain only appears in a few scenes and comes off as being rather basic and underdeveloped. However, that’s only if you haven’t seen the later episodes or the special “Noximilien The Watchmaker”.

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It’s a hard Nox life!

This special depicts the events that lead Noximilien to becoming the vicious robotic villain of season 1. Noximilien goes from a humble clock-maker to a vicious cyborg named “Nox”, one who’s only goal is to literally turn back the clock and rewind time. In the second half of the first season, Nox becomes a more present threat for our heroes and their allies.

Nox isn’t the only character that I ended up liking a lot, I also adored two of the show’s protagonists: Ruel Stroud and Sadlygrove. Ruel Stroud is an old miser, a shovel-wielding adventurer, and a mysterious man with a ton of power. The reason I enjoyed Ruel is that he reminds me a lot of myself. Much like him, I hate spending cash even when I have more than enough of it.

Despite his penny-pinching ways, Ruel proves to be a loyal ally and a powerful warrior. Likewise, the hot-blooded hero known as Sadlygrove is another strong fighter. Sadlygrove’s idiotic tendencies often get him into trouble, though he usually gets out of it by knocking out anything that stands in his way. To me, these two characters are really what made the show for me.

The constant struggles these characters go through, combined with how they interact with each other make for some solid entertainment. The show itself starts off with portraying both its characters and its world in a humorous light, while slowing peeling back the layers to show the darker tragedies at work.

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Unfortunately, Yugo’s portals don’t get that awesome until later in the series.

While the plot and its lore can come off formulaic, the way it is handled at times is executed well. I loved the various touches the animators and writing team put into the show, such as having Nox’s movements mirror that of a clock at times, or starting off an episode in unexpected way. I still can’t get over how much I enjoyed watching the start of a particular episode, one featuring two of its primary characters engaged in some fancy ballroom dancing. Something like that is very uncommon in this show, or shows in this genre for that matter.

Wakfu isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a perfect show, it actually has a fair bit of flaws. Like I mentioned, the main villain barely appears in season 1. Season 1 is mostly dominated by inconsequential filler, which I often find to be less enticing than the story-lines dealing with the main antagonist. Don’t misunderstand, there are several goofy filler episodes that I enjoy, but the amount of filler can be a bit overwhelming.

This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for one thing: The show’s heavy continuity. Despite the first half of season 1 coming off as episodic, almost everything that happens gets referenced in some way. There isn’t an episode that I could fully consider skippable, even if what happens in the episode doesn’t amount to much. For example, there’s an episode where they go to an island and we’re introduced to the plant people known as “Sadidas”.

Up until this point, the only Sadida that was seen was Princess Amalia.  If you skip out on this episode, you miss seeing these creatures before they are properly introduced several episodes later. In a way, we get a small taste of the culture and general personalities of this fictional race. The problem is that the episode feels very inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. We are introduced to this tiny little monkey god named “Moon”, who never shows up again despite his grand power.

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Adorable, yet pointless

Another problem with the show is its cheap English dub. Despite Ankama (the production company behind Wakfu) starting a Kickstarter for an English dub of this series, it ended up being pretty awful regardless. Characters lack the raw emotion they had in the French version, and most of them sound like they would fit right in with a badly dubbed 90s anime. I usually prefer my dubs to my subs, but this one is just downright bad to listen to. It’s why I always stick to the French version while watching Wakfu.

Still, things like this never stopped me from enjoying the show. It was flawed and had a bit of a generic plot, but it handled itself very well. I’ve just completed season 1 and I’m only a few episodes into season 2 at this point, but I like what I see. Wakfu is one of those few cartoons that I enjoy enough to binge and I plan to spend the next few weeks doing so. It’s one of those rare cartoons that manages to not only entertain me, but also bring a tear to my eye.

Tiger & Bunny: An Anime Deserving of Its Number 1 Spot

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What isn’t pictured in this image is the insane amount of product placement this series likes to use.

I’ve made it no secret that I love Tiger & Bunny. I don’t watch many anime, but this is a show I dig. It’s about a duo of superheroes named Kotetsu and Barnaby, who go by the alternate identities of “Wild Tiger” and… Well, Barnaby doesn’t really have a superhero name until halfway through the series. Eventually though, they do call him “Bunny” and he gets used to it after a while. So yeah, the show is about these two heroes who start off hating each other and are forced to work together. After a while, the series evolves into a rather weird and unique action show. The show is weird, awesome, epic, goofy, silly, sad, and dark all at the same time. The show really managed to handle most of its elements in an interesting and constructive way.

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So, it’s no wonder it is why Tiger & Bunny has recently been the number 1 anime in Japan. That’s right, the NHK recently released a list of the top 100 anime voted by the Japanese. Of course, this lead to some rather odd choices and placements on the list. For example, Akira is near the bottom of the list. Dragon Ball didn’t make it into the top 100 at all, in any of its iterations. Weirder still, Cowboy Bebop is ranked at 34. This is especially odd since Cowboy Bebop did terrible in Japan upon release and isn’t as well remembered as a lot of other titles. Still, it’s popularity in the west and other parts of the world probably spilled back into Japan and made it popular there too, at least that’s what I’m guessing.

It’s hard to believe that such a short series has resonated with Japanese audiences so much. The weirdest thing about this is that Tiger & Bunny has been off the air for 5 years, with the last iteration of the series coming out in 2014. Of course, there are talks to adapt it into a live-action film. Anime-to-film adaptations are usually terrible, but Tiger & Bunny is already pretty American in its style, so it would probably make for a perfect live-action adaptation. If done properly, that is. Back to the subject at hand, why did T&B score so well?

According to a friend, it’s because the Japanese tend to hold older shows in higher regard than other shows like One Piece and Naruto. Japan doesn’t cling to “fad” styled shows, and tends to enjoy series that have more staying power and click with audiences more. For example, people still hold cartoons like Spectacular Spider-Man and Batman Beyond as cult classics and examples of high quality animation in America. Japan just loves Tiger & Bunny, which is surprising considering Japan usually doesn’t take to anime with American influences. Like I said, Cowboy Bebop flopped, and Trigun didn’t do so well either.

Tiger & Bunny is one of those rare exceptions where I feel it really appeals to all audiences, regardless of where they are from or who they are. It’s not just a superhero show, a buddy comedy, a weird bromance sitcom, a character study, it’s all of these things and more. Am I saying Tiger & Bunny is better than all these other shows that ended up on the list? Of course not! That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your attention. With all the attention T&B is getting with this list, I think it’s a good time to get into show and watch it if you haven’t.