Mystery Men: The Superhero Film That Will Never Truly Die

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love superhero films! I’ve always been a huge fan of superheroes and I dig it when I can sit down and enjoy something with masked vigilantes in it! Of course, we’ve gotten to a point where there are TOO MANY superhero films. At least 8-10 are pumped out on a yearly basis by many different studios. It’s gotten pretty ridiculous, but it wasn’t always this way.

In fact, superhero films were floundering quite a bit in the 90s. Audiences found the cheesy concepts of these superhero films to be a bit too much to handle and this resulted in a lot of said films floundering in the box-office. Today’s subject is no different, since it’s yet another victim of the general audience’s disinterest with superhero films in the 90s. So, let’s talk about “Mystery Men”, the best superhero film that nobody saw.

Let’s flashback to 1999, a time when cinema was in an awkward transition period. Big budget blockbusters had become a mainstay and everyone was lining up to see films like “The Sixth Sense”, “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”, and “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace”.

During the summer was when we got a truly interesting and underappreciated film, the aforementioned “Mystery Men”. Mystery Men told the story of a bunch of loser superheroes with lame powers, all of whom had very little skill in fighting crime. The original team consisted of Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), The Shoveler (William H. Macy), and The Blue Raja (played by Hank Azaria).

The film revolves around these three heroes forming a larger team filled with other lame superheroes, all so they can stop an evil villain named “Casanova Frankenstein”. I always dug “underdog stories”, especially when said underdogs are incompetent. The film shows these heroes stepping up and learning how to work better as a team, while also honing their bizarre super-powers.

Oh right, I forgot to mention their powers! This film features some of the most ridiculous super-powers of all time. For example, Blue Raja is literally just Bullseye from Marvel’s Daredevil comics, but he throws kitchen utensils instead of ninja stars. There’s also “Invisible Boy”, who can only turn invisible when nobody’s looking.

These powers and abilities definitely made these heroes stand out, while also painting them as rather goofy caricatures of classic superhero stereotypes. In fact, parodying superhero cliches is what this film does best! One notable scene in the film involved an argument about whether or not wearing glasses can disguise a superhero, which was a good knock against classic Superman stories.

I also dig how the film combines a futuristic sci-fi setting with a more mundane and modern (at least for 1999) setting. This world has high-tech gadgets and a city of the future, but people still listen to disco and Smash-Mouth. To be fair, who doesn’t listen to Smash-Mouth?

The film had a pretty basic story, but the silly and zany characters peppered throughout made up for it. While the effects and costumes may not have aged super well, it’s still a fun watch for any fan of superhero films. While I do enjoy this film, I was always annoyed that it flopped in theaters.

People just were not interested in another superhero film, especially one that reminded them of “Batman & Robin”. That being said, Mystery Men is still a fantastic film and is considered a cult classic by many people. Heck, the film even gets screenings at the “Alamo Drafthouse”!

I feel Mystery Men is a film worth watching. It’s some good light-hearted fun and is generally a good watch. Sure, it’s not on the same levels as Deadpool or Spiderman films, but it’s still great! If you’re looking for a fun Ben Stiller superhero comedy, then this is your film!

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City of Heroes RETURNS!

 

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The character creator in this game is just pure insanity… AND I LOVE IT!

You ever wonder what happens after a piece of fiction dies? What happens after a story concludes? What do the characters do next? How does this world live on? For popular franchises, the chance for a full-on revival is usually there. This stands true for video-games, movies, anime, cartoons, and comics. However, what about Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games?

MMORPGs are something that very rarely get revivals. At most, they may get a spinoff here or there. When an MMO dies it usually stays dead, but there are some exceptions to this rule. There’s this thing called “Private Servers”, which are emulations of dead servers done by fans. This allows people to play a long dead game and enjoy it, while also giving the game a new lease on life.

One such game that is getting resurrected is “City of Heroes”, which is one of the best MMOs I’ve ever played! City of Heroes was a special game, due in large part to it being the first superhero MMORPG ever made. Long before DC Universe Online and Champions Online; City of Heroes was the game that introduced PC players to a superhero world like no other.

This world was filled with interesting lore and likable characters. Missions that seemed generic at first would open into large grandiose adventures. For example, a simple meeting with a business-man could turn into a tournament against several powerful super-villains.

Not only were the missions fun, but the game allowed you to tailor your superhero/supervillain to your own preferences. Want to use electrical powers and invulnerability? You can do that! How about having the ability to fly and punch people with fists made of stone? You could also do that! Couple this with the amazingly extensive character creation system, and you have a game with unlimited customization options.

There was so much content and improvements made to the game over the years, to the point where it became something completely different from what it was when it launched. The game enjoyed a large community of fans throughout its life-cycle, but it was sadly not meant to last. NCSoft pulled the plug on the game back in 2012, while not giving any reasons as to why they discontinued it. Being the publishers of the game, they could do whatever they want with the license.

This meant screwing over both the developers and the fans, while not telling them why. Fans believe it was because the game bombed in NCSoft’s home country of Korea, which prompted them to write it off as a complete failure. We will never know if that was the main reason, but it seems the most likely.

NCSoft’s shutdown of the game forever tainted their name and drove fans away from their future products. The game’s shutdown also meant the loss of not only the game, but all of the user created content as well. Custom characters, costumes, and missions were all lost in the great purge. If you didn’t back up your character’s costume on your hard-drive, it was lost forever. I will always miss my original heroes and villains: Rom The Death Knight, Earthwolf, and Dr. Kickandsmack.

All of this amazing work and the game it spawned from were gone forever… Until two weeks ago. The existence of a private server that’s been operating in secret for six years was revealed to the world. This private server was created using City of Heroes’ data files, which were given to the team by an anonymous developer. With the framework for the game back in the hands of the fans, they reconstructed the game for all to play.

The team called “SCORE” were able to bring this game back from the brink of extinction, so that the players could one again partake in it. Will it be up forever? It’s doubtful, but one can hope that they’re able to keep the servers running for quite a while. Here’s hoping they can find a way to curb the large server costs, such as giving the fans a way to donate to them to help keep it running. Regardless, I’m just glad to have this amazing game back at all! It’s great finally being able to return to the greatest game of my teenage years.

The Return of Dragon’s Dogma

There’s nothing I love more than a good medieval fantasy setting! I’m a huge fan of swords and sorcery, so pretty much anything involving the two always gets me interested. I love a good fantasy adventure, especially when it’s in video-game form! My favorite fantasy games include Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Risen 1, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

However, there’s one game that stands above them all as my favorite fantasy game of all time: Dragon’s Dogma. The game was similar to a lot of other fantasy RPGs at the time. It had you leveling up, defeating giant monsters, and slaying a dragon. However, Dragon’s Dogma sets itself apart from its competition in a number of interesting ways.

For one thing, the story revolves around your heart literally getting ripped out by a dragon! Your custom hero doesn’t die, but rather becomes an undead warrior known as an “Arisen”. You are then given a “Pawn”, which is a secondary custom character that acts as your sidekick. You can then recruit Pawns made by other players, who will help you in combat and exploration.

Your Pawn can also be recruited by other players, which will often result in her/him coming back with a ton of awesome items! Another unique feature of Dragon’s Dogma was its epic boss fights, which usually revolved you jumping onto a monster and grappling them. Once you’ve clung onto a monster, you can then slash at their vulnerable areas.

Taking down monsters in this game felt both epic and gratifying at the same time! Toppling the fowl beasts over and taking them out was one of the most satisfying aspects of the game. Couple that with the massive open-world, great character designs, and fun combat, and you’ve got a recipe for a fantastic game!

Dragon’s Dogma was one of those fantasy games that just felt right and worked well. Despite this, the game initially sold poorly in America. However, it was saved by its sales in Japan and the “Cult Classic” status it accrued over time. Despite low initial sales, the game eventually gained the attention it deserved.

As a result, the game evolved into a franchise. It received an MMO spinoff called “Dragon’s Dogma Online”, a standalone expansion, and several ports to many other consoles. Not only this, but an anime and sequel were also announced. With Dragon’s Dogma making a comeback, it was only natural that it would make its way to the hottest console available right now: The Nintendo Switch.

Yes, the extremely popular fantasy game is finally going handheld! To me, this is a great thing for the series. Having a handheld version of Dragon’s Dogma is going to bring in so many new fans, which would be a fantastic achievement for the franchise. Having a larger playerbase would definitely help for when they churn out the sequel.

I’m glad Dragon’s Dogma is coming back. The series definitely needs more love and attention, which it has slowly been garnering for over half a decade now. I’ve been looking for a reason to get back into the series, and I think Dragon’s Dogma for Switch is going to be that reason. Here’s hoping it’s a fantastic port like the PC version is!

No More Heroes: Into The Suda-Verse

Shared universes are not a new concept, especially since they’ve been around since the dawn of modern fiction. Having different fictional works co-exist in the same reality is certainly an interesting idea, one that has sparked the minds of writers for generations. The biggest example of a shared universe is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has been dominating theaters for over a decade now.

Now, you may be asking yourself: “Are there any new shared universes to indulge in?” After all, one may get sick of the constant barrage of formulaic and uninspired shared universes out there. However, by far the most interesting one would have to be Suda 51’s “Kill The Past” series. Suda 51 and his company “Grasshopper Manufacture” have been creating awesome and very weird Japanese games for over 2 decades now.

The “Kill The Past” series has been one of their trademark franchises for years now, while also encompassing most of their released titles. The titles in said series include: Killer 7, Killer Is Dead, an unrelated short story also called “Killer is Dead”, The No More Heroes franchise, Shadows of The Damned, Let It Die, Moonlight Syndrome, Silver Case, 25th Ward, and several others.

Most of said games are kept separate from each other, only containing slight references to each other. For example, there are baseball players from No More Heroes’ city of “Santa Destroy” in Diabolical Pitch. Likewise, the organization of “ISZK” originated in Michigan: Report From Hell, before showing up in several later games.

All of these games had small elements that connected them to each other, but were mostly their own stories in the long-run. This all changed with the release of the newest No More Heroes again, which goes by the name of “Travis Strikes Again”. This was the third game in the No More Heroes series, revolving around the anime-loving assassin named “Travis Touchdown”.

Despite being a sequel to No More Heroes: Desperate Struggles, it acts more as a sequel to all of Suda’s creations. The game focuses on Travis, who’s going through a midlife crisis of sorts. He now lives in a trailer in the woods, while ignoring his newfound family obligations. After being attacked by a new assassin named “Badman”, Travis finds himself once more thrust into a bizarre adventure.

Of course, Travis isn’t the only returning face. Kamui from “25th Ward” shows up to help him during the “Visual Novel” sequences. Travis also bumps into “Mondo Zappa” near the game’s end, while on the quest for more “Death Balls”. The game is full of a ton of these cameos and references, resulting it in feeling like one big crossover!

It’s nice to see all these mostly unconnected stories finally converge, while also setting up potential followups for their individual franchises. I can totally see them doing sequels to Killer Is Dead, Killer 7, and Shadows of The Damned after playing through this game! This isn’t too surprising, due to how much Suda loves these games. Considering how visually and thematically similar a lot of Suda’s games are, it was only a matter of time before they crossed over.

The thing I liked more about this shared universe is the fact that Travis isn’t that welcoming of all these “new” faces. In fact, most of them he distrusts or just doesn’t like. I like this more than other shared universes, where everyone will get along after having known each other for just a couple minutes. I like seeing protagonists who distrust each other, or who suspect each other of being more than they appear.

Considering the fact that most of the characters in these games are extremely flawed individuals with antagonistic aspects, it only makes sense for them to not get along with each other. That being said, Kamui’s interaction with Travis were truly entertaining. It’s nice seeing them form a sort of friendship over the course of the game, especially due to how entertaining their dialogue is.

Travis Strikes Again definitely did the right thing in crossing over all these games, while establishing and referencing the connections between them. I’m looking forward to seeing what Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacture will do with their franchises next. It’d be awesome if they continued to expand on this universe, while telling awesome standalone stories!

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!

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…

The Awesome Absurdity That Is Space Ghost: Coast To Coast

90s animated television was truly a bizarre thing to behold, due entirely to its experimental nature. The mid-to-late 90s became a breeding ground for some of the oddest and most entertaining shows you could ever imagine. I’m talking shows like Daria, King of The Hill, Dr. Katz, Samurai Pizza Cats, Spider-Man Unlimited, Batman Beyond, The Maxx, Cybersix, and Gargoyles.

The 90s was a barrage of all these weird and memorable shows, but one show really set the mood for the absurdist cartoons that would follow in its wake. I’m talking about the hilarious and bizarre 1994 TV series, Space Ghost: Coast To Coast. Heralded as a cult classic of sorts, Coast To Coast was a successful attempt to bring a relatively obscure Hanna-Barbera character into the mainstream.

The series began airing in the mid-90s, and was one of Cartoon Network’s first “original” programs. I say that in quotations, as Coast To Coast re-purposed almost all of its animation from older Space Ghost cartoons. Since those shows already had severely limited animation, this meant there wasn’t a whole lot work with.

Despite the limited animation frames, Coast To Coast surprisingly worked. It was an absurdist animated talk show, featuring the titular Space Ghost character. Working alongside his two arch-enemies, Moltar and Zorak, Space Ghost would interview a cavalcade of famous celebrities and musicians.

Even though the series had very little in terms of original animation, it made up for that with some solid humor and entertaining characters. The show was a unique take on the “late night talk show” concept. I could never get into most talk-shows, since they had a tendency to just not that be entertaining. It doesn’t matter how many funny celebrities you get, it’s just hard to make a show where people sit down and talk for 30 minutes entertaining.

I get why people like the genre, but it’s never been my thing. Oddly enough though, Space Ghost: Coast To Coast managed to make late night talk shows into something truly entertaining! The show’s interviews were never straightforward, mainly because the questions the celebrities are asked aren’t the ones the characters are asking.

When recording the live-action segments, completely different and often time random questions were asked to each guest star. These answers would then be used for entirely different questions in the show itself, often times leading to random or hilarious results. Because of this, there were often times where the answers didn’t match the questions being asked.

This really adds to the charm of the show, and helps create that “surreal” feeling that the show is known for. Despite being billed as a “talk show”, the interview segments are only a fraction of each episode’s running time. Usually, most of the episodes are spent watching Space Ghost and his crew dealing with silly cartoon shenanigans.

These include following a random ant around the planet, being chased by evil alien pods, or even selling out to a fictional fast food chain. These scenarios were often more entertaining than the interview portions, which were already pretty fun in their own right. Coast To Coast was a series that proved to be popular, mostly due to how different it was compared to other cartoons airing at the time.

The series picked up steam pretty quickly, soon becoming a mainstay on Cartoon Network. Since then, it’s become one of the channel’s hallmarks. It ran for many seasons, got several specials, and even received two different revivals. It also got a ton of spin-offs including The Brak Show, Cartoon Planet, Harvey Birdman, and even the popular Toonami block of programming!

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One wonders how Moltar can drink coffee with no actual mouth…

Space Ghost: Coast To Coast also popularized the style of re-using limited animation, which would become a staple of the Adult Swim block. Coast To Coast is one of those rare shows that not only surpassed its source material, but managed to be something wholly unique on its own. It’s not a perfect show, that’s for sure.

The limited animation, bizarre scenarios, and the rather abrasive soundtrack may be a turnoff for some people. I’ll be honest, it’s hard to get through those first couple seasons of Space Ghost for me, since those are the ones that haven’t aged all that well. Still, if you stick with the show and watch past season 3, you’re definitely in for one of the most entertaining experiences in Cartoon Network history.

Homestar Runner: A Legacy of Great Web-Cartoons

To me, internet animation has always been a unique subject to tackle. There are so many facets to online animation, and so many awesome cartoons out there to list. I’ve tackled the animated web-short “Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit”, but I thought I’d go back and discuss the epicenter of all online animation: Homestar Runner. While Homestar wasn’t the first piece of online animation, it did popularize it to a great extent.

So, what is Homestar Runner? It was originally a children’s book published by the “Chap Brothers”, but eventually spun off into one of the first truly successful web-series. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest web cartoons of all time! It revolves around a group of cartoon characters living in “Free Country USA”, a made-up fictionalized state. Homestar is an arm-less athlete, who loves to run and generally isn’t all that smart. He has to deal with the masked menace Strong Bad, who is his rival and occasional arch-enemy.

Strong Bad himself was first introduced as a somewhat bland villain to Homestar, but eventually grew more popular as the site got bigger. This eventually landed him his own web-series on the site called “Strong Bad Emails”, in which the mask-wearing malcontent would reads various emails from around the globe.

This series became the most popular aspect of the site, overtaking most of its content. Strong Bad Emails were the main draw, though The Brother Chaps still put out various other cartoons on occasion. These included shorts, longer cartoons, and the occasional “Teen Girl Squad” episode.

Homestar Runner was a unique website, for it had all these cartoons available FOR FREE! That’s right, you could pretty much watch any show you wanted, whenever you wanted! It was like Newgrounds, but with actual quality control and an interface that didn’t look like trash.

Homestar Runner also offered games, which were usually modeled after old-school games from way back in the day. These were also free, albeit extremely simplistic. The site was so inviting and so fresh, and has surprisingly remained mostly the same after all these years. There has never been a huge attempt to remodel the side, which is much appreciated. After all, why fix what ain’t broke?

So, what made Homestar’s collective content great? A lot of it comes down to its humor, which is deeply rooted in both pop culture and surreal comedy. Homestar was a series that wasn’t afraid to poke fun at other properties, ideas, concepts, cliches, and even its own characters. As a result, the series never took itself too seriously, and generally was entertaining to watch.

The cartoons feature about a dozen memorable characters, such as the animal-like The Cheat, and the ever-depressed Strong Sad. The characters came off as quirky, silly, goofy, and were all very hilarious. To this day, Homestar remains one of my favorite web cartoons. It revolutionized online web animation, and made it popular.

It became so overwhelmingly popular that it’s been referenced by various forms of media, even to this day. Shows like Megas XLR, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and even the game Kingdom of Loathing all reference Homestar. Even when the series went on hiatus, its popularity never truly died down.

I found myself recently re-watching a lot of the old Homestar stuff, and it’s still entertaining after all these years. It is the longest running web-series of all time, even outrunning the long-lasting “Red Vs. Blue” series. The various Easter Eggs, subtle adult jokes, and likable characters keeps me coming back even as an adult. It’s one of those shows that just never loses its luster for me. With Homestar making a resurgence in content these past couple years, I think it’s a great time for newcomers to give the series a try! Surreal humor and wacky characters are the gift that keeps on giving, after all.

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.