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Anime Review Presents – SAMURAI CHAMPLOO

20 Oct

 
Konnichiwa minna!

Has everyone been indulging liberally in anime while I was gone? Your oujo sama spends a lot of time watching anime and reading manga, and tends to get lost in those worlds – all for you! All so that I have recommendations that people will enjoy. Ready for what I have this week?
Samurai Champloo is an old anime, originally aired in 2004, and ever since it’s debut continues to remain one of the classics in the field. Set in the ‘Edo’ period, the story is centered around Fuu, a 15-year-old girl who works in her uncle’s teahouse. A random series of encounters bring her together with two ronin – Jin and Mugen – whose lives she saves, only to insist they help her find ‘the samurai who smells of sunflowers’. Though vague initially, the antics of the characters keep you sufficiently entertained, until just enough of the central plot is revealed to make you wonder what’s going on.

Don’t let the simple “samurai” tag fool you. Every episode has a surprise, coupled with the traditional badass sword fights. What makes Champloo different from your average Shogunate period, katana-wielding samurai anime is the characters. Jin partly plays up to the stereotype of the undefeated sword-master with a dark past. But Mugen is a different kettle of fish altogether. The definition of Samurai only barely applies to this rogue who – in addition to using his sword – bites, kicks and slaps his way through his enemies. And his enemies aren’t always the bad guys. He itches to take on anything he comes across that may be remotely stronger than him. Mental? Absolutely.
The most startling factor is probably the inclusion of hip-hop in the series. The very first episode opens with an odd style of rapping which makes the viewer sit up and take notice. After that one comes across myriad references to rap, retro, graffiti and even Van Gogh! Perhaps in any other anime, or as part of another storyline these symbols might not have made sense, but they fit right into the madness that is Samurai Champloo.
My favourite part about the anime is undoubtedly it’s soundtrack. With every track beautifully executed, there are some fantastic hip-hop numbers on the album,in addition to the usual and typical anime style themes. Within a few episodes, you’ll be left scrambling to find the whole soundtrack and listen to it in one go.

Still not convinced? It’s been directed by Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop and Animatrix fame. Do I see you nodding there? Now you see what I’m getting at. Give it a shot. You won’t need more than the first episode to get hooked. And you’ll find another jewel to add to your collection.
I shall be back next week, with yet another anime to recommend – meanwhile, have a look at our Mumbai Comic Con Express Updates! You don’t wanna miss it!
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Exploring the X-Men: Season Two

24 Sep
After a long hiatus, Marvel’s favourite mutants returned to syndicated television for a season of another 13 episodes.

The Episodes here have better production values, the animation is improved significantly while the cohesiveness and integrity of the episodes – for some time – hits a low. Plenty of new characters are introduced here; practically every one except the ones featured in the theme song are first appearances. Also, old characters are brought back from the dead. Enough hints for everybody, and for those who didn’t quite get it, or jumped on right now, read on.


Til Death Do Us Part, Parts 1 & 2
As seen in the end of the previous Season (see review here), Scott Summers and Jean Grey tie the knot. Anti mutant hysteria still prevails, aided by an organization calling themselves the ‘Friends Of Humanity’, led by Graydon Creed. Wolverine is in a bad mood, aggravated further by the wedding. Mysteriously, Morph who was supposed to have died in Episode 1, Night Of The Sentinels, Parts 1 & 2 is back amongst the living. But he hates the X-Men and blames them for leaving him behind. While Scott & Jean are on their honeymoon, Morph, using his powers creates havoc at the mansion, leaving Beast trapped in the Danger Room against a particularly nasty program, Jubilee alone in a branch of the Friends of Humanity; and Storm and Gambit injured, with Rogue having Gambit’s powers. And finally the mastermind behind it all, and the architect of Morph’s return is revealed to be a nasty being called Mr Sinister. Mr Sinister and his ‘Nasty Boys’ reach Scott & Jean and plan to use their child to further their evil ways. And for Professor X and Magneto, the troubles are just beginning. Their trek through the Savage Land beginning here would last the length of the season. In the Savage Land, both mutants lose their powers while Professor X regains the use of his legs, suggesting this has something to do with his powers.
Whatever it Takes
Storm’s godson, Missionary has been enthralled by the Shadow King and he wants Storm. Rogue and Storm face the Shadow King on the astral plane, while in the land of the living, Wolverine continues tracking Morph, resulting in an epic confrontation. Though the Shadow King appears for the first time, Rogue behaves as though Professor X has taken on him before.
Red Dawn
Colossus comes to the mansion to seek the help of the X-Men against Omega Red; a living weapon who has been revived recently and wants to unite the territories of the Soviet Union, through war and fire. Jubilee and Colossus set out for Russia, with Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men in tow. Wolverine knows Omega from before but by now, the whole concept of Super Soldier weapons seems too cliché.
Repo Man
A summons from Heather, one in a long line of Wolverine sweethearts brings him to Canada where he faces Alpha Flight and realizes that the summons is actually from Vindicator and General Chasen who want to re create Weapon X. First appearance of Alpha Flight. Wolverine’s past, after the Adamantium bonding is made clearer here.
X-Ternally Yours
And finally, Gambit gets the spotlight. The kidnapping of his brother brings Gambit back to his hometown as the Guilds of Thieves and Assassins get ready for the renewal of their pact with the Externer. This has to be the most inexplicable episode of the season, with no background information on the Externer and her powers (she took on all of the X-Men) and what the hell is in those yellow boxes that is so important? Then again, I haven’t yet reached the parts in the comics where Gambit joins the X-Men so it might be clearer there; but as part of a show audience who came here only to watch the exploits on television, I’m very dissapointed with this episode.
Time Fugitives, Parts 1 & 2
The animated series’ take on the Legacy Virus. Cable’s present is changing (the future to us) and the only way he can keep it as it is involves sabotaging Bishop’s mission to the past. In the X-Men’s present, a new virus is being propagated by Graydon Creed and Apocalypse, which infects only mutants. Bishop arrives in time to stop them, but Cable’s mission involves stopping them, and indirectly aiding Apocalypse. Cable, Forge, Bishop and Apocalypse all return in this two parter; which, story as well as animation wise, is a one parter screened again with subtle differences.
A Rogue’s Tale
Rogue is plagued with visions of a flying girl. On deeper exploring, she remembers events from her past with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants when Mystique had forced her to absorb Ms Marvel’s (Carol Danver’s) powers permanently, leaving her a vegetable. Rogue being an enemy agent before joining the X-Men is touched on; albeit briefly.
Beauty And The Beast
Beast starts having feelings for Carlie, whose blindness he succeeds in curing but Anti mutant hysteria and the Friends of Humanity won’t let him near her. Meanwhile, Logan infiltrates the Friends of Humanity headquarters and finds that Graydon Creed is actually related to someone he knows. A somewhat tender episode, amidst more serious concerns.
Mojovision
Mojo is a televison corporation honcho from another dimension. He needs variety on his programming and so he kidnaps the X-Men to perform. Personally, Mojo is my least favourite character from the series.
Reunion, Parts 1 & 2
The Season finale provides for an explanation of sorts. It is a reunion – of Professor X and Magneto with the rest of the team, also of Mr Sinister and his nasty boys with the X-Men as they all gather in the Savage Land with Ka Zar for a final, epic confrontation.

My picks of the season:
Til Death Do Us Part, Parts 1 & 2
Beauty & The Beast
Repo Man
Reunion, Parts 1 & 2

Overall, the second season was an improvement to the first with a more cohesive storyline (the Savage Land running story), better animation, character pieces (Storm, Rogue, Wolverine, Gambit, Beast) and other than a few blemishes (Mojovision, X-Ternally yours), perfect. It also reiterated the comics concept, ‘Dead isn’t dead’. But more on that in Season 3, when we reach new characters, new heights and all round epic awesomeness! Stay tuned!

The Itch You Can’t Scratch – A Re-review

6 Jun


After the Comic Con 2010 ended, we were all on a high. My cousin had won a bundle of free comic as the 2nd prize, and he had left the entire thing at my place for me to consume. For all you foreign readers – It is an age old custom in India that whatever a younger brother wins, he has to share it with his elder brother. For reference, read the wiki about Draupadi. Yes. It is true. That is what we still do in India :P. For the non-American foreign readers, well, it’s just this arrangement between my cousin and I. He is the keeper, so I read and then he takes them, reads them and archives them. I am a mess and nothing stays safe with me.

Anyway, I digress. Among the lot, the first book I started reading The Itch You Can’t Scratch by Sumit Kumar (one of the writers for Savita Bhabhi, which was ONE of the reasons I picked this one up first) and I must say, it turned out to be a pretty interesting read, contrary to all my apprehension.

Main Cover: The itch you can’t scratch






People who claim to have the so-called Indian Values embedded in their spine and those who think sex is a taboo and so is speaking openly about your family and friends… well… You better stay away from this book; it’s definitely not for the likes of you. Seriously! Run away. Hush. Shoo, go watch some lowly reality Television show to satisfy that pervert voyeur within you or something, nothing here to interest you. GO! NOW!
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Now that the Cult of Ekta Kapoor has vamoosed the hell out of here, let’s continue with the review.
Inside cover



It is a book / comic / er… graphic … novel (??), if you may, which describes the life of one Sumit Kumar, born in a middle class family, his father working with SBI making him move a lot because of the transferable nature of the job and with him going through various changes in life, getting stuck in unfortunate and sometimes idiotic and totally dumb situations, trying to get a hold of his life, trying to live up to his personal expectations, trying to materialize his dreams of having a “creative career”, getting stung en route, getting wiser, better and finally like any good old Boy Scout Superheroes, He conquers all hurdles to ultimately live his dreams. Well, the dry ones at least. (I am guessing that all the wet ones were utilized for those 3 scripts for Savita Bhabhi)

Personally I loved the content of the book (despite the crappy art, which I kindda liked, but that’s mainly because I can’t draw to safe my life from a homosexual orgy. The real artists might have a different opinion)

The book is shocking, revealing, funny and totally understandable. It is witty, crude, bitching, abusive, gross, revealing, genius, pathetic and crazy in parts. If I have to use only one adjective– It feels Familiar.

It’s one of those books which ANY average North Indian male, born in the 80s can associate with. The life with your typical family, stress on education, especially on becoming an Engineer or a Doctor preparing for IIT, MBBS, IIM, IAS, patronizing attitude of all adults – is all too familiar to me and everyone else who has had the pleasure and torture of growing up in a quintessential Indian Middle Class family.

It’s like those Beatles songs, which every teenager in love thinks was written specifically keeping him in mind. To use an example closer to home, it’s like Pehla Nasha from Jo Jita Wohi Sikander. Every High School kid in love thinks that the love he is feeling now is the one! That’s it. Nothing will ever top it – Until the next love or better still, sex comes along- and that this song was composed totally for him and no one else but him!

You can see the authors’ attempt at some honest humor coupled with the bittersweet symphony of the pain entwined with that humor, his success in achieving it, his honesty, his references, his lousy attempts to hide those references all too clearly in this 178 page bundle of fun.

His-story in the making? Sumit Kumar bares it all… (Click image to view full size)





Once I started it, I could not put it down. It reminded me a little of Douglas Adams and Peter Cook and Monty Python and Eddie Izzard for some reason. It has a very non-indian sense of humor (more towards British Humor) despite being an out and out Indian book, complete with grammatical errors (most of them deliberate), a complete potpourri of Hindi, English and part Rajasthani, with fake edits, numerous errors and all that jazz. The forecomic (sic) part is brilliant.

The characters are full of life, so –so familiar, you can instantly associate with them. A Chacha, who was a bitter drunk, another relation who died poor, a matriarch who holds the reins of the family tightly and firmly, the references are countless!

After Savita Bhabhi, I had very high expectations from Sumit Kumar, and he certainly lived upto them by delivering this gem of a book, which every Middle Class Indian fanboy should own. It is worth the price. I have already read it twice, once in its entirety and the second time – in part – some bits which I liked a little more than the other bits.

To be fair, I didn’t buy the book, I got it as a part of the prize goodie bag for the Cosplay on Day 1 that my cousin (the Wolverine) won, but I’m going to order one for myself too. I would like to keep one copy for myself.

If you like humor, if you want to seriously enjoy 178 pages of brilliance and craziness all rolled into one, go buy The Itch You Can’t Scratch!

Let me finish by saying – He is indeed one of us!

He sure is… Or that’s what we want him to believe…





As our good friends at DCP often say… Like It? Buy it!


‘nuff said!

Animated Reviews : Young Justice (Episodes 1 & 2)

1 Dec

Young Justice – Independence Day
Episodes 1 & 2
Cartoon Network
-Review By Manks

Synopsis:
Teen sidekicks (Robin/Speedy/Kid Flash/Aqua lad) are invited to the hall of justice thinking they would officially become part of the big league! But soon they realize they still aren’t trusted by the league completely yet. Once the League is away, the teenage sidekicks find a mission of their own rebelling against the orders of the JLA and start investigating the fire that broke out at Cadmus, where they find more than they bargained for – mind controlling Genomorphs and a clone of Superman calling himself Superboy.

Comments:-

This series is in Dc comics continuity, based on a parallel earth – Earth 16 (if you are a reader of DC comics , you would understand what this means, else just let it go.), where superheroes are still a recent phenomenon.

PAD’s Young Justice

If you thought that this is going to mirror Teen Titans that came out a few years ago on a similar premise you are wrong. Unlike Teen Titans this series has a serious tone to it from the get go. Needless to say the cast of characters is quite different. Its more current Teen Titans cast (which itself started out as the excellent comic series Young Justice by PAD)

What I liked?

– The animation and voice work is top notch. I couldn’t find anything to complain about here
– Characters stayed true to their established demeanor. Robin is witty, Kid flash is chirpy and Speedy sulks

– Aqualad: Has to be the breakout character for me. This is a new avatar of aqualad created especially for the show ( which Goeff Johns liked so much that he introduced the new aqualad in DC universe proper in one of his issues of Brightest Day).

– I am one of those who liked the entire Superman death and return saga. Superboy was my favourite character during that period. So reference to Cadmus and seeing Superboy breakout again (although not quite in the same cavalier manner) was great fun. I wanted Superboy to shout his signature “Don’t ever call me Superboy”, but this Kon-El is a little serious for that.

-Gaurdian! They used the Gaurdian. About time for Mr. Harper to get into the animated action scene

– There is going to be an over-arching plot to the entire series. This will keep the mystery alive and make me want to come back, even if to see whether my suspicions were correct

– Finally , they are using the name Young Justice, which is one of my all time favourite comic series. I only wish it was an adaptation of the same comic, but alas, you cant have everything!

What I did not like?

– You could see the story beats from miles away, hence it wouldnt be amiss to say it was a little predictable.

– I couldn’t exactly fathom the reaction of Superman when he meets superboy for the first time. Maybe it’s just me, but I would expect Supes to react a little more warmly.

– No Speedy when it came to action time! I Kept expecting speedy to jump in any moment.So I guess in a way, Young Justice did surprise me. I think he just might turn up as Arsenal. We will see..

– I personally would have liked a little more humor in this animated show. Its Young Justice not JLA. Fun and humor should come naturally to teens.

– I found it a little weird that there weren’t many people in Cadmus. There were 52 sublevels but hardly any people..

Final word:
I say that the premiere episodes were a little predictable , but there are only a few ways a team can start, so I can let go of the unpredictability factor for this episode. What I am excited about is how speedy would return? I personally think he would come back as Arsenal., but then it wouldnt surprise me if he showed up turned to the darker side especially since the promo doesn’t show speedy but arrowette. If that happens I would be a little dissapointed.

Despite its minor faults , its a worthy successor to DC animated Legacy. Time to follow the young guns of Dc universe once again.

Rating 8/10