SUBWATCHER EPISODE 1 – SCRAMBLED SOUL

The Subwatcher: It began as a method of watching subs, which slowly grew into a method I even use with dubbed series: watching fanservice series and then amplifying the experience with either an obscure, non-cute anime, or a brilliantly told piece of work that attracts people outside of the otaku crowd. Since I don’t have any school right now, my Subwatcher method will go as so: I will watch four different animes, one episode of each for every Subwatcher. After that, I will write down my review on the series. And after that’s all good and done, I’ll post it, and right after, I’ll start on the next. That is what I view in the Subwatcher. And the four animes I watch within fill up different categories and titles: The Shounen Series, which contains either swords, journeys, or fighting tournaments; The Fanservice Series, containing cute girls in various states of undress, being subject to SEVERAL fetishes that turn us on; The Awesome Series, a series that is seen by many as having plenty of action and brilliance to be popular; and The Obscurity, the series that either next to no one has heard of, or is overshadowed by the other anime series in its TV season. The four series I am about to review fit those archetypes perfectly. And let us start with series #1:

Gintama (銀魂)
Episode Count: 201
Director: Shinji Takamatsu
Studio: Sunrise
Broadcaster: TV Tokyo
Vintage: 4/4/2006 to 3/25/2010

Gintama is one of those shounen series that defies most descriptions. The simplest way to describe Gintama is “a combination of Akira Kurosawa and Monty Python”. How do I put Gintama in short? A shonen action series that doubles as a gag comedy.

Gintama started out as a manga series in December 2003, written and illustrated by Hideaki Sorachi, and published in Weekly Shounen Jump. In 2006, an anime adaptation was made for Japanese television. The anime was directed by Shinji Takamatsu (After War Gundam X, School Rumble), written by Akatsuki Yamatoya (.hack//Legend of the TwilightBUZZER BEATER 2005), and animated by Sunrise (Mobile Suit Gundam, Cowboy Bebop).

Gintama is also the Shounen Series of this Subwatcher. Seeing how it was published in Shounen Jump, its content suitable for teenagers, and its long runtime, it would’ve been pretty obvious. But this is not your generic shounen anime with bland characters and a story that’s barely there. Oh no, it’s FAR from it. Gintama is, instead, a somewhat different shounen series. But what kind of shounen series, you ask? Well, a look at the first episode will answer that question.

Episode 1: You Guys!! Do You Even Have a Gintama? Part 1

The episode starts off with a samurai in some unique clothing with silver hair running from a bunch of blandly dressed samurai in a bamboo forest. The group of bland samurai confront the mysterious samurai and tells him to fight back. The samurai, looking like he’s about to attack in retaliation at first, denies their request and runs off, continuing to be chased by this mysterious and one-shot bunch of samurai, and complaining that all that chanbara stuff that was done before the “Sword Ban” is completely pointless. And that’s when we find out who this silver-haired samurai really is:

Gintoki Sakata
Seiyu: Tomokazu Sugita

“Trademark: naturally wavy hair. Has a sweet tooth and a high blood sugar. And he’s kinda the main character.”

Our protagonist, ladies and gentlemen.

So, back with Gintoki, he’s still running from the mysterious samurai fellows, when he comes across a wall at the end of the bamboo forest. And it look’s like it’s supposed to separate the street from the wildlife. Gintoki jumps on top of the wall, when the samurai group tells him to stop. Gintoki off-handedly mentions that he has a TV show that he has to watch: “Lady’s Four”. Who know’s what he’s talking about. After escaping the samurai group (for now), Gintoki notices a teenaged kid running towards him, wearing a martial artist’s robe and glasses. And this kid is?

Shinpachi Shimura
Seiyu: Daisuke Sakaguchi

“The straight man. Working for Gintoki in hopes of finding the samurai spirit.”

Now then, I have no idea what this “samurai spirit” is or what it does, but it must be pretty important to Shinpachi. Eitherways, why is Shinpachi running towards Gintoki? Well, Shinpachi is being chased by ANOTHER group of one-shot samurai characters. Seeing the situation that Shinpachi’s in (“Nobody wants to be chased!”), Gintoki suggests that they both run for it. Their chase by the samurai leads them into an alleyway to make a shortcut. Only this alley looks pretty unique: there are trash cans and cardboard boxes, things that you definitely wouldn’t find in the setting of a standard shounen set in this time period. When they exit on the other side, they nearly run into a hovercar after surprising a dogman and a fishman.

Wait, what!? Apparently, the first deal with this series being a completely different shounen is that it’s very anachronistic! You have extremely anthromorphic animal people walking around and hovercars flyin around on asphalt-paved streets in what’s supposed to be the Edo Period! Not that it lowers the show’s rating or anything. I mean, some animes like Samurai Champloo are based around anachronism. Gintama’s just one of those animes. Back with our protagonists Gintoki and Shinpachi, after nearly avoiding being hit by a flying car, the samurai group that was chasing them finally catch up… only to be attacked by a orange-haired girl in a red Chinese fighter’s outfit and her really huge dog. Let us meet these two:

Kagura
Seiyu: Rie Kugimiya

“Member of the “Yato Clan”, the most powerful warrior race in the universe. She’s cute but has a sharp tongue.”

Since I need some room to fill before we get to her dog, let me tell you a bit about Kagura: she’s the first time I’ve ever heard a role by Rie Kugimiya in its pure Japanese glory. Her roles in Bleach, Shana, and The Familiar of Zero I heard when they were being voiced in English. Kagura isn’t the “somewhat average-heighted flat-chested tsundere who yells “Urusai, Urusai, Urusai!” at her love interest”. No, she’s a short flat-chested alien girl with a BIG FUCKING DOG. And this dog is?

Sadaharu
Seiyu: Mikako Takahashi

“Kagura’s pet. A mysterious, giant space creature.”

If by “space creature” you mean “BFD”, then yes, that’s an accurate description of Sadaharu, Mr. Narrator. Alarmed by Kagura’s entrance, Gintoki suggests that she run from the pissed-off group of samurai. Taking a look at them was enough for Kagura to get going and follow Gintoki and Shinpachi to… wherever they were gonna lose them.

Too bad that it was a dead end. The samurai confront the trio and their dog, and start questioning what group they belong to, and who they exactly are before cutting them down. And with that, we find out just what the deal with Gintoki, Shinpachi, and Kagura is. And with it comes a motto explaining what they do:

Shinpachi: “We do anything from housework to finding missing persons!”
Kagura: “If you’re in trouble, just come to us!”
Gintoki: “We’ll take any case. We’ll take any kind of job as long as we get paid.”

Us hardcore Gintama fans call it the “Yorozuya”.

The samurai finally get what they were doing: an odd job. What was that odd job? Finding a black cat, Kuromi of Yamatoya (like the scriptwriter?), and returning it to its owner. They apparently had to sneak into the samurai’s factory facility in order to find it. And guess what? The cat just happens to walk by. The Yorozuya try and catch it while the samurai look on in confusion. And they fail. Mostly because Gintoki got hit by a truck.

Opening Theme: “Pray” by Tommy Heavenly6

“Yeah, it hurts, but I don’t care because I’m a badass.”

And after that catchy opening tune, we get a message from our sponsor. But not about DVD licensors or music distributors, or even food. A comedy message for the viewers.

“Hi, Nice to meet you. Welcome to the anime series, Gintama. It’s written as “Gin” for silver and “Tama” for soul. Don’t write “kintama” by accident, because that means “testicles”! We’re gonna kick off with a one hour special!”

Too bad that the second half won’t be shown in this review. But don’t worry. It’ll come soon, in a couple of days at least. So, back to Gintama, we get a recap of the events thus far by Shinpachi: apparently, Japan’s samurai class was abandoned and the use of swords prohibited once various species of aliens, or “Amanto”, started settling on Earth. In such hard times, Gintoki was the only man left with the samurai spirit, possibly the one that Shinpachi was looking for. Shinpachi and Kagura work for Gintoki at his business “Yorozuya Gin-Chan”, but despite working for him for a year, they haven’t gotten paid yet!

The story continues the night following the introduction to Yorozuya. An Amanto named Kariya and his buddy Shishimura stop by what looks like a restaurant or hotel to talk with two ineffectual minor characters, Shimomoto and Puu. The narrator even states that the latter two are “definitely not regulars”. Anyways, Kariya asks the two about a “matter” that they talked about. Everything’s going fine, but considering that Kariya is a villian, “fine” to him means “royally fucked up” for the rest of us. Kariya is given a proposal, but has no idea what it’s supposed to mean. He even complains that it’s as good enough as a spring anime schedule! Seeing how Gintama aired in the spring 2006 anime season, it’s no real surprise.

“I see good things for XXXHolic and TOKKO… But who in their right mind wants to see Sasami: Magical Girl Club?”

Only the hardcore Tenchi Muyo! fans, little girls, and lolicons want to see that. Anyways, one repairing of the fourth wall later, we cut to outside, where Japan’s secret police under the government’s control, the Shinsengumi, plan to storm the restaurant. Led by vice-chief Toshiro Hijikata and swordsman Sogo Okita, the Shinsengumi storm the restaurant to find their targets: Kariya, Shishimura (“a tough-looking ronin”) and the two businessmen. Speaking of whom, Kariya is told that the businessmen built his “matter”, an Amanto device, in their secret factory. All they need left is a position for them to get it into. And if all succeeds, Kariya will have Edo fall into the palm of his hand. Welp, we’re boned. Thankfully, their meeting is cut short by the Shinsengumi. But they left before they could be found out. And while Hijikata stands there observing the room, Okita stands right behind him… with a rocket launcher aimed right at his head.

Thankfully, to avoid having Hijikata notice, Okita aims for the left side of his head, and claims it was a joke. Much to Hijikata’s anger. After that little argument, the two search the room for any sign of Kariya’s presence, with Okita complaining about how all of their plans end in failure. Hijikata doesn’t think so, as he found something: a blueprint of what looks like some sort of machine…

The next morning at Yorozuya Gin-chan, nothing much is going on with our protagonists. Gintoki’s reading Shonen Jump, Kagura’s eating rice balls, and Shinpachi is trying to convince the two that Yorozuya is losing money faster than deaf people lose The Game. (You just lost, BTW.) Not to mention the constant earthquakes that sound like passing trains that have been going on around Edo recently. And if their day couldn’t get any worse, a mysterious poor man shows up at their door. And he’s apparently asking a favor of them. Much to the Yorozuya’s shock and surprise.

DRAMATIC FACIAL EXPRESSIONS!

This mysterious man is the Yorozuya’s newest client: Ken Kato (or Katoken), who has been a ronin for a few days now. He has had a new tragedy befall him every week since last month: he lost his job four weeks ago, he lost his house three weeks ago, and his wife and daughter left him two weeks ago. If the Yorozuya will help Katoken get the 30 million yen he needs to get all of the stuff he lost back, he will tell them what tragedy came upon him the week before. Gintoki suggests that they get ideas for raising money from the lady who owns the snack house below the Yorozuya’s HQ:

Otose
Seiyu: Kujira

“Proprietor of Otose Snack House and Gintoki’s landlord.”

The Yorozuya explain Katoken’s situation to Otose, but before she can share her full thoughts, her assistant at the snack house, a rather ugly catgirl named Catherine, berates them for not making enough money themselves. Not much is known about her when she’s introduced, other than she’s an Amanto, a migrant worker, and according to Kagura, an ex-thief. After having some time to think while Catherine yells at the Yorozuya, Otose comes up with the best way for Katoken to gain some dough: sell some organs on the black market. Shinpachi points out that having Katoken sell one of his kidneys (or rather, another organ he can live without) isn’t going to work. As the group enters the Snack House after that failed trip, they all notice a pair of red eyeglasses drop onto the floor from the ceiling. They belong to a young woman who’s been hiding out up on the ceiling. Obviously, once you get to know a bit about her from her bit appearances, you’ll find out why she’s my current favorite female character in this series:

Ayame Sarutobi
Seiyu: Yu Kobayashi

“Nickname: Saachan. An elite ninja and a former member of the Oniwabanshu.”

Like the narrator said, Ayame Sarutobi (or as I’m gonna call her, Saachan) is a kunoichi who used to work for the Oniwabanshu, which will likely be explained later on. Even though she’s a professional assassin hired to kill just about anybody you tell her to, she’s useless without her glasses. She also has a crush on Gintoki, which Gintoki really doesn’t care for. Shinpachi points out that they look almost the same. Also, for some reason, she’s always carrying around a bowl of natto (genetically altered fermented soybeans), stirring it for some strange unexplained reason. But that’s not the part about her I like. That’ll come up soon. Now, then. Back to explaining the plot.

Saachan really can’t think of a way to get some quick cash for Katoken. I mean, at first, she assumed the money was for purchasing a “love nest” for her and Gintoki. The two start to get into an argument a few seconds later. Well, Gintoki’s the only one that gets into the argument, yelling at Saachan and telling her to get lost, and how much he can’t stand to even be near her. However, instead of fighting back with her own comments, Saachan’s reaction is rather… different.

Back in my one of my earlier reviews, I dedicated several sentences to describing KimiAru character Anastasia Mistina, an ambiguously Russian schoolgirl who was also an extreme masochist. How extreme? Cold stares, sunbeams, and yelling turn her on immensly. She’s basically anime’s personification of masochism, but after watching Gintama, I think that Susumu Kudou and A.C.G.T. got a little bit of inspiration for Mistina: Saachan. Like Mistina, Saachan is a masochist who gets turned on by yelling. However, unlike Mistina, Saachan has more than one dimension. (I’m not saying that Mistina is one dimensional, it’s just that nobody’s created the extra two dimensions of her yet.) She’s a ninja (and a fucking dangerous one from the sound of things), and is in love with Gintoki.

But enough about Saachan and my love of her for just a few minutes. While observing the hilarity that just ensued, Katoken is approached by the two businessmen that were talking with Kariya earlier in the episode! They know about some sort of contract that Katoken signed and agreed to, that from the sound of things, isn’t anything positive. But what surprises Katoken is that they know about the hard times he’s been having recently. They assure him that he won’t be getting his house back, but they shut up before they reveal why. After they leave, Katoken decides to change his request (after some angry looks from Saachan, Kagura, and Shinpachi, likely focused on the two businessmen). Saachan suggests assassination, but Katoken instead opts for some training to become stronger. So while the Shinpachi, Kagura, and Saachan go off to train Katoken, Gintoki heads off somewhere to take care of some business…

Meanwhile, at Shinsengumi HQ, Hijikata is showing the Shinsengumi’s commander, Isao Kondo, the blueprints he found in the restaurant from last night. Even though the narrator describes Isao as a man who “strikes fear into the hearts of others”, he sure doesn’t seem like it. He has no idea what the blueprints are of, much to Hijikata’s annoyance. After straightening himself out, Hijikata tells Kondo that the blueprints are for an Amanto device planned to perform a “heinous deed” in Edo. Kondo’s reaction?

And this is coming from a guy who “strikes fear into the hearts of others”?

Not the brightest reaction I’ve ever seen… Hijikata reacts a lot worse, yelling at Kondo for not paying attention.

Meanwhile, in downtown Edo, Gintoki follows the two businessmen who approached Katoken earlier, ending up at the Drift Star Embassy, an embassy set up by an Amanto species sent down here to Earth for migratory purposes, like all other Amantos. And that’s when he comes across an old friend of his:

Zura Kotaro Katsura
Seiyu: Akira Ishida

“Member of the exclusionist rebels. An activist trying to rid Edo of the aliens called Amanto.”

Travelling alongside him is a duck… man… thing. Seriously, what the hell is that? I’ll save you the weirdness and show it to you when the time is right. Katsura’s the only important person of the two in this scene right now. Eitherways, Katsura lets Gintoki know that he’s been hearing rumors about an Amanto that’s plotting to destroy all of Edo, which is very likely to be Kariya with his Amanto device. He also reminds Gintoki that no matter what he plans to do, the Drift Star Embassy is still considered foreign soil, even if it is on a foreign planet (Earth). While walking off, Gintoki turns the corner and runs into Shishimura, the ronin from earlier. Only, Gintoki doesn’t react with shock, surprise, or even a light gasp. He instead comments that Shishimura’s hat is really out of style.

Meanwhile, the training with Katoken isn’t going over so smoothly. Kagura’s method of training (slicing boulders in half with a single karate chop that barely cuts through it) is a little too extreme for Katoken, and his training with Shinpachi shows that the art of swordfighting really isn’t his strong suit. Saachan steps in to take over the training. At first glance, it looks like Katoken is training by tying up Saachan (which is stimulating enough for her), but it turns out that the one Katoken is tying up…

…is Shinpachi.

All Saachan can say about Katoken’s work is that he has potential. Seeing how he has no chance of fighting for himself, Katoken just decides to give up on getting his house, family, or even his job back.

Meanwhile, with Gintoki and Shishimura, the two start having a verbal fight before they get to physical combat. Shishimura suspects Gintoki of nosing around in their business, but Gintoki says that Zura’s the one nosing around. With no more discussion being held, the two prepare to draw swords, but Gintoki is distracted by another earthquake, which results in Shishimura ruining his robe. Gintoki, pissed at his best clothes being ruined, draws his wooden sword and fights back. With several cliffhangers in place (Shishimura’s identity, Kariya’s heinous deed, and Katoken giving up), it looks like the second half of the one-hour season premiere is going to be even better than the first! But we’ll just have to wait and see for ourselves…

Where is this “certain area”? Find out after the review of a so-called train wreck!

In honesty, I rather enjoyed the first episode of Gintama. The story was well balanced, the animation was good, the art design was great, the voice acting really showed how random some of the characters can be, and the characters themselves were fun to watch, especially Gintoki, Saachan, and Katsura. The series’ anachronistic themes really differentiate it from your generic shonen. Most of these are visual like aliens, cars, and television. Others are dialogue-based, from mentions of common pop culture like Shonen Jump and Tetris, to obscure Japanese references like natto and former wrestler Antonio Inoki. The series also has plenty of humor in the form of dialogue you normally wouldn’t find in serious situations. A perfect example is when Gintoki’s robe is ruined by Shishimura, where he (Gintoki) tells him (Shishimura) that his mom’s gonna be very pissed when she finds out. That’s something that you normally wouldn’t see a samurai like Gintoki saying in the bare beginning of a deadly swordfight. But it works! Crunchyroll did the subs, and from the looks of it, they did an excellent job. Gintama will definitely be a series I continue watching in the future. Even if it takes me my entire life to finish.

Next up is series #2, the series that initially influenced NIBAI MUGENDAI, my current life’s work:

Akahori Gedou Hour Rabuge (あかほり外道アワーらぶげ)
Episode Count: 13
Director: Hitoyuki Matsui
Studio: RADIX
Broadcaster: Independent UHF Stations
Vintage: 7/4/2005 to 9/26/2005

Before we get straight to the facts of AGHR, first let me tell you how I discovered this series: after checking out an old issue of Anime Insider (may they rest in peace), I came across this series in the section “Flash in Japan”. This section talks about series on air in Japan, complete with an interview with the director/producer/original creator/whoever. Normally, the Flash in Japan is reserved for popular anime like Baccano! and Ghost Hound. This was a surprise. In fact, the picture on the excerpt was featured in that section. I don’t know how long I obsessed over that picture. Before I knew it, I used that picture as a basis for an original fiction. After combining it with themes from FLCL and Ghost in the Shell: STAND ALONE COMPLEX, NIBAI MUGENDAI was officially born. You can read it on the Fan Fiction section of the Adult Swim Message Boards.

Now, onto the actual show: Akahori Gedou Hour Rabuge, like previous pre-Subwatcher series Ghost Hound and Eden of the East, is an original work, albeit its earliest origins in two separate radio shows: one performed by Ai Shimizu and Kahoru Sasajima called “Love Phero”, and a five-person unit one called “Gedou Otometai”. Original creator and chief scriptwriter Satoru Akahori (Martian Successor Nadesico, Saber Marionette J) used the personalities of each radio show to develop AGHR and its two halves: Zettai Seigi Love Pheromone and Soreyuke! Gedou Otome-tai!. Other staff members of the series include director Hitoyuki Matsui (Dokkoida?!, Ninja Nonsense), character designer Satoshi Ishino (Excel Saga, Puni Puni Poemy), and animation studio RADIX (Haibane Renmei, Divergence EVE).

There aren’t many people who watch this series. AGHR, despite officially being the Fanservice Series, can also count as sort of an Obscurity. It’s obscure with PLENTY of people, and the majority don’t think too well of it. ANN’s Hey Answerman! alluded it to a train wreck. Random Curiosity reviewed one episode and quit. The only complete review is a complete series overview by AAW, which showcases the positive aspects of the show. I watched the series once before, and I thought it wasn’t so bad. I’m going to take another look at it to see if it is just as bad as people say it is… (It really isn’t.)

Opening: “Nesshou! Rabuge Night Fever” by Love Pheromone VS Gedou Otome-tai featuring Halko Momoi and Hironobu Kageyama

FEAR THEM. Or at least fear the one in the pink.

The opening theme is the first weird thing about this series. What’s weird about it? The next episode will explain to you why. The only weird thing I can tell you about it so far is that Hironobu Kageyama (from the JAM Project, which will make a cameo later in the review) worked on it. What did he do? Beats me. Eitherways, no time for chit-chat. Let’s get right down to business!

Episode 1A: Openly Forgiving, Love Pheromone!

The episode starts in what looks like downtown Tokyo. A pair of girls with futuristic magical girl outfits are out on the streets, chasing down a panty thief with missiles and lightsabers beam katanas. And stuff blows up too, I guess. They tell the panty thief that they are allies of justice known as Love Pheromone, and according to the pink haired one, evil can’t be forgiven and that anything can be done to stop evil as long as it’s in the name of justice.

Yeah, if you can call nearly blowing up a common panty thief an act backed up by justice…

The next day, we’re introduced to the true identities of “Love Pheromone”: twentysomething comedians Aimi Yoshizumi and Kaoruko Sashima. The two act as a classic manzai duo, or a pair of comedians who do a Japanese stand-up comedy consisting of a straight man (Kaoruko) and the dumb one (Aimi), the former taking jabs at the latter’s malaprops and misunderstandings. Their manzai duo’s name: Love Pheromone. Not the smartest choice to name your comedy duo the same as your superheroine duo. Eitherways, their jokes are bad. And I mean, REALLY bad. In fact, they’ve had 128 unsuccessful shows after their debut, where we’re supposed to believe that they actually did get a few laughs. They don’t seem so confident of their work, but their manager, Tomokazu Seki (yes, THAT Tomokazu Seki), thinks otherwise.

Yeah, so he’s easy to influence. What else would you expect from such a great voice actor?

Seki blames the lack of laughter at Love Pheromone’s performances on their slow timing with the jokes. That means their level of talent hasn’t been reached yet. Seki (and Aimi) both hope that Love Pheromone can make it to the top, which is basically anything from Japanese concerts to Broadway, even Hollywood! Kaoruko is left to facepalm at the delusion of an impossible ambition her partner and manager have set themselves in.

Meanwhile, back at Aimi and Kaoruko’s house (yes, they live together, is is that big of a surprise?), which is rather fancy and gaudy for a house in a standard Japanese neighborhood, Kaoruko is complaining about how their schedules are blank and how she’s having difficulty living the same life in their house every day: sitting around, Aimi eating snack food and watching TV while Kaoruko continues to complain. Kaoruko wants to show a bit of change in this boring everyday life they’re stuck in, reminding Aimi that they’re allies of justice, the only true heroes sponsored by a Galaxy Police Federation they belong to. Aimi doesn’t care, since there’s no money in it. Now the comedy routine the two have going on is their ticket to some heavy cash. And once Aimi reaches her goal, she can finally get her wish come true: a harem of little girls and big-tittied women. I’m serious about this.

Harems make everything better! Especially when they’re lesbian harems…

And without a doubt, Aimi would keep all that money to herself and her harem… She wouldn’t spend it on anything but personal desires, not even a few hundred bucks to keep the Yorozuya from going further into the red than Gintoki’s hand is already taking them! Kaoruko sees Aimi’s recklessness and impossibility in her ambitions and attacks her with a 100-ton hyperspace mallet. After a few wrestling moves, Aimi manages to attack Kaoruko with her one weakness: shotacon magazines. That’s right. The sympathetic, level-headed half of Love Pheromone loves little boys.

Now who’s the one with the reckless and impossible ambitions, Kaoruko?

Aimi also adds in the bonus of top-notch quality electronics, which gets Kaoruko so excited that for no reason, she takes out a big bowl of rice and starts eating it, claiming that with that much money (or something, it’s never really explained), she could keep down three donburi. For those of you who don’t know what donburi is, wait until the end of the review for this episode so I can go over the footnotes. After that delusionary fantasy, a news report comes on, describing a hostage situation going down over near a bank in the downtown area. Kaoruko, proving to Aimi that she’s still the same straightforward person she is, rushes off in excitement, with Aimi following suit. The two head down to their secret base (Kaoruko via a closet, Aimi via the bathroom (where the toilet drops her down the slide instead of the cord in the middle of the room, in a rare display of clever tactics), get in their giant robot-ship thing, and head off in it as streets move, buildings go on their sides, and pools empty their entire water supply so the robot can jet out into space where Love Pheromone does a 0.1 second transformation into their futuristic “costume porn” super suits. After they get out and do their pre-asskicking speech, the police, kidnapper, and hostage emit a reaction. However it’s one you’d least likely expect from people like that. Instead of having the police cheer in joy for the heroines’ arrival, they GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE AREA, claiming that their lives are more important than some hostage’s. Aimi even adds in that the hostage’s life isn’t worth anything at all. As the hostage and the kidnappers flee into the bank to hide from Love Pheromone, Kaoruko fires her missiles at the bank and Aimi rushes in, blowing it the fuck up with her beam katana. Which apparently managed to destroy half the city in the process.

“Wait a second… Did we just fulfill the Gintama Narrator’s prophecy?”

No, you didn’t. You just killed a bunch of innocent people with a single sword slash, you ignorant yet somewhat cute bitch. It isn’t until later in the day (or a week after or something) that we finally get the big picture: Love Pheromone are only allies of justice in their eyes alone. In the public opinion, they’re batshit insane. They cause so much damage to Tokyo (with over 1 quadrillion yen for repair costs, even more than the national budget can hold), that they’re even rumored to be villians. Aimi, of course, is pissed at what the news says about them and the fact that they’re missing the point of their importance and all that shit. Aimi suggests that she and Kaoruko try harder to seem more important. Kaoruko reluctantly agrees, despite the fact that even though she helped Aimi in all that destruction, she’s still more level-headed as her. Just look at the picture above and don’t tell me that she isn’t maniacally grinning/laughing like Aimi. You can almost see a look of regret on her face if you look at it the right way…

And the two main characters of Love Pheromone, Kaoruko Sashima and Aimi Yoshizumi, for no reason but their super suit’s appearance, became the character models for NIBAI MUGENDAI’s main female characters: protagonist Motoko Kotegawa and antagonist Shizune Nihei. But enough about NM for now, since the next half of AGHR doesn’t focus much around NM’s inspiration…

Episode 1B: Operation Rain Rain Fall Fall!

Immediately after the end of the Love Pheromone half, the Gedou Otome-tai half kicks in. It starts with Aimi and Kaoruko leaving the crowd of people after watching the newscast on Love Pheromone. While everyone else either supports the news or just flat-out don’t care, one girl, a college-age restaurant delivery person, finds Love Pheromone to be a “delightful evil”. A stark contrast of her sweet appearance and tone. After delivering to the rest of her clients, the girl, Otone Hokke, arrives back at her house, where she finds her four sisters, Maika (the one with the glasses), Yoku (the tomboy), Kanashi (the girly one), and Utano (the toddler), waiting for her. Otone decides to make dinner for all of them, but first, they must perform osenkou, where you pray to the souls of your deceased parents before eating/leaving to go somewhere. This sort of thing is common in Japanese households. The only other animes I’ve seen osenkou performed in were Kekkaishi and BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad. Eitherways, as they pray for their parents souls, we find out about their parents via a flashback. But before the flashback, we see their pictures: they look like masked wrestlers, but as it turns out, they were actually faceless mooks in an evil organization. 5 years ago, their father, known only as #28, was on his deathbed (his wife and the sisters’ mother, #17, died a little eariler for unknown reasons). Before he died, he revealed to his daughters that he and his wife were in an evil organization founded by their ancestors as underlings, and made them promise that one day, they would one day become an excellent evil and make it to the rank of Kaijin, a rank that the girls’ parents never made it to. Family drama ensues.

The change of mood in this series is faster than the loss of the Yorozuya’s cash.

This flashback showcases the most important difference between Love Pheromone and Gedou Otome-tai: the mood. While Love Pheromone has no drama, a lot of slapstick, and stuff blowing up, Gedou Otome-tai manages to crank out a lot of heartwarming/tearjerking moments that result in the audience to show the smallest bit of compassion for them. After the praying concludes, Otone tells her sisters that her parents’ organization, Gelzona, fell to justice’s hands two years ago. Not to mention that their lack of superpowers and their lack of money can’t guarantee them success in evil. The only thing that has the possibility of them succeeding is their father’s keepsake: a vase that’s passed down from generation to generation, and may be opened once a girl turns 18. Sadly, they have to wait 13 years for that to happen, since Utano, the youngest of the sisters, is only 5. But Maika opens it anyway, without bothering to explain why (her lack of speaking for constant amounts of time is her defining characteristic). Once the vase is opened, a mysterious person comes out: a small yet sexy imp known as Akumako.

You think they would’ve spelled her name right after doing a bit of research…

That was a rather speedy introduction. Eitherways, Akumako’s purpose is to help the Hokke sisters become excellent evil. You see, women in the Hokke family possess magical powers sleeping dormant inside them, and with Akumako’s help, they can awaken those powers. Akumako is hoping that she can make the Hokke sisters become the ultimate evil so this world can go to hell, but her plans… well, we’ll get to that stuff later. After the Hokke sisters eat, Akumako finds a perfect chance for the Hokkes to become the ultimate evil: a flood that’s been going on in Tokyo as the result of a week-long rainstorm. Once the Hokkes awaken their magical powers via a stock transformation sequence (which involves nudity, light orbs, instant runes, body markings, and witch-esque outfits) and turn into their magical girl counterparts, the Gedou Otome-tai (English: The Heretical Maiden Squad), Akumako has the girls fly out on their wooden staffs to a certain spot above a flooded Tokyo, and tells them of her plan: create a typhoon to cause suffering of people in the shelters. The girls, who are naturally good at heart, feel very concerned about what will happen to the people who are in the shelters once the typhoon hits. Akumako could care less about those people and is focused entirely on emotional, mental, and maybe physical pain and suffering ensuing. The girls decide to do it after being reminded of their father’s promise. So the Gedou Otome-tai storm into a shelter and summon their elemental powers to cause the typhoon: Otone has water, Maika has fire, Yoku has earth, Kanashi has wood, and Utano has light. Thankfully, nobody had the lame power that is heart. However, in an unexpected result, their attempt in a typhoon results in something powered by something cancels out their desire to achieve their dad’s dying wish: That power was their natural good at heart intentions, and the result of their typhoon attempt was cream stew.

Their intentions to fulfill the Gintama Narrator’s prophecy have failed. And they’re proud of it.

Much to Akumako’s dismay, the cream stew that the Gedou Otome Tai conjured up manged to make the people in the shelter happier than they were already. And the Gedou Otome Tai feel good about it too. Akumako, frustrated with the fact that this one deed she tried to make them do didn’t have much of an effect on the fulfillment of their goal to become excellent evil, leaves to go curse at some inanimate object. Later the next night, after the rain and flood cleared up, the Hokke sisters watch a meteor shower, which they view as a sign to continue their goal to become excellent evil.

ED: “Tondol Baby” by Halko Momoi

Aimi loves the boobies.

And so, that concludes my review of the first episode of Akahori Gedou Hour Rabuge. The result? Confusing to comprehend, yet easy to explain. From a visual standpoint, the series is excellent. The animation definitely looks high-budget, the colors are vibrant, and the character designs are memorable enough to be used as templates for fanfic charactes. The art isn’t as good, but still, it’s pretty great nonetheless. The actors really put a lot of energy into the characters, even if it is with more mellow characters like the low-pitched Kaoruko and the motherly-sounding Otone. Ai Shimizu and Yuki Matsuoka do great jobs adding the energy and carelessness to Aimi and Akumako respectively, even if they can get a bit irritating at times.

The story and subs on the other hand is a different matter. The story takes a standard plot and flips it around like you wouldn’t expect. The standard plot is “good guys are good, bad guys are bad”. AGHR, however, turns it on its sides by making the actions of the “heroes” be villainous, and the actions of the “villains” be heroic. The first episode emphasizes the point that in this series, the good guys are bad and the bad guys are good, or rather, the good guys’ actions lead to the result of a bad guy, and vice versa. Yet in this series, the only real visible villians are Aimi (who is an antihero at best) and Akumako (the only pure evil in this series). Kaoruko, who is on Aimi’s side, is a great deal more heroic and less reckless than Aimi. Kaoruko’s actions in this episode with her missiles don’t mean anything at this point, since the most triumphant example of her somewhat heroic nature is shown in episode 2. The comedy inserted has slow timing when it comes to the standup, but is completely fast-paced when it comes to the slapstick. According to AAW, AGHR stands on both sides separated by the line between hilarious madness and standard madness. It’s also laughing like a maniac.

The subs are passable, but have a number of flaws. A number of names (Aimi, Seki, Akumako, and Hokke) are misspelled (Ayumi, Useki, Akunoko, and Hokuke), at least one word is spelled wrong (hamburger as humburger), and at one point in Gedou Otome-tai, when Maika picks up the vase containing Akumako, the subs part ways and look almost psychedelic for a few seconds before disappearing. Those trivial mistakes are made up for in the foot notes describing the Japanese culture mentioned throughout, from the osenkou to the donburi (rice bowl dish) to differentiating jijineta (current events) from chichineta (breast-related stuff). In fact, the Japanese humor may be the only thing preventing AGHR from getting licensed in the States. So, in short, AGHR is pretty fun, but you have to have a high level of tolerance to continue this series. In fact, most people who drop series drop them because they can’t stand them. They just don’t know that some of the stuff they were expecting will likely come in later on…

If you’re having questions about the title, allow me to explain: the “soul” portion of “SCRAMBLED SOUL” refers to the first two series. Gintama means “Silver Soul”. Akahori Gedou Hour Rabuge aired on a UHF anime block called “Anime Tama” or “Anime Spirits”. “Tama” can mean “spirit” or “soul”. The “scrambled” part? Well, the next two anime on the Subwatcher are WOWOW Scramble Series. The first one of these Scramble Series is series #3:

Kotetsushin Jeeg (鋼鉄神ジーグ)
Episode Count: 13
Director: Jun Kawagoe
Studio: ACTAS
Broadcaster: WOWOW
Vintage: 4/5/07 to 7/12/07

Before we get to the core of the series, let me tell you a little story about a man named Go Nagai.

Go Nagai is a legend in the anime/manga industry. He has created several anime archetypes from super robots and fanservice, to tsundere main characters and humongous mechas you can pilot. Although Go Nagai is better known for his more popular series such as Cutey Honey and Mazinger Z, as well as his more offensive works like Kekko Kamen and Violence Jack, the one series of his I am going to outline right now is Kotetsu Jeeg.

Kotetsu Jeeg tells the story of biker Hiroshi Shiba, who, after a nearly fatal accident, was rebuilt as a cyborg by his father Senjirou Shiba. It wasn’t long after that his father was killed by the leader of a lost civilization called Queen Himika for knowing too much. Soon after, Hiroshi finds out that he is capable of piloting a steel robot head called Kotetsu Jeeg which can combine with a variety of external parts into a giant robot. With the help of his friend Miwa Tamashiro, Hiroshi uses the Kotetsu Jeeg to fight Queen Himika and her minions.

Now what does this have to do with Kotetsushin Jeeg? Well, Kotetsushin Jeeg is the sequel, taking place 50 years after the original 1975 anime with a number of characters (one of which was Hiroshi’s father, whose death in the original was retconned) from the original as supporting characters. Kotetsushin Jeeg also has a series of new characters exclusive to it, some of whom are actually related to the characters from the original. Now, why am I watching Kotetsushin Jeeg if I haven’t seen Kotetsu Jeeg? Well, episodes of Kotetsu Jeeg are virtually nonexistant on the internet, and I had to start somewhere.

The Kotetsushin Jeeg anime was, like the original series, created by Go Nagai and produced by his production company Dynamic Planning. However, there’s an all new staff on deck: director Jun Kawagoe (New Getter Robo, Innocent Venus), scriptwriter Tadashi Hayakawa (Galaxy Angel Rune, Ys), and animation studio ACTAS (Transformers, Tactical Core). The press release describes Kotetsushin Jeeg as “a simple tale of good vs evil while at the same time is a super robot anime created for the sake of the adult core audience”. It had competition in the spring 2007 anime season in the form of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. While Kotetsushin Jeeg isn;t nearly as awesome as TTGL, it’s worth the watch to see that even in the new millenium show, there are super robot shows that aren’t afraid to show that they truly are.

Episode 1: Build Up Steel Jeeg!

The series begins way, way back in 1970, where disco was king and Chinese food was all the rage… in America. In Japan, in a mysterious area known as Okukuma Field, a group of archeologists were digging for any kind of ancient artifacts they could conjure up. One of these artifacts looked like a giant rock with mysterious carvings on it. At the top, embedded in the stone was a small object covered in dirt and dust collected in the cave. The head archeologist, a muscular man with sideburns and a monocle, started dusting it off, and saw that this small object, an old bell made from bronze, was something he had seen before…

OP: “STORMBRINGER” by JAM Project

The opening sequence is done by the one and only JAM Project, a band that specializes in writing the themes for a number of animes, each one of them being awesome. One of the key members, Hironobu Kageyama, worked on the AGHR opening theme, as mentioned above. Star-crossed Anime Blog, which showed their impressions on the first episode, said that the opening theme was the only good part of the episode. How wrong will they be when I’m done reviewing this episode? LOTS.

The series jumps to 55 years after the discovery of the Bronze Bell (or whatever it’s officially called), at a racing track in a futuristic Tokyo. Several spectators, teenage and adult, are watching the race from the stands. Two racers in this race stand out amongst the others, besides the fact that they’re at the front: high school students Kenji Kusanagi and Kyo Misumi, both racing for Team Shiba. The two are friendly enemies, so to speak. Some of the teenaged spectators are debating who’s gonna win, a majority of the female crowd rooting for Kyo while one schoolgirl (she’ll be important later) roots for Kenji. After a long, grueling race with rather impressive CGI animation and an excellent soundtrack from anime composer Yoshihisa Hirano (who composed for preliminary Subwatcher series Air Master), the winner is chosen. Or rather, the winners are chosen.

“I have never before in my life seen two people actually go past the finish line at the same time! Unbelievable!”

Looks like either Kenji or Kyo will have to represent the next race that’ll take place. At least, according to the Hyper Motor Bike Association regulations.

The next day, we cut to the home of the schoolgirl who was rooting for Kyo at the motorbike race the previous day: Tsubaki Tamashiro. From what I can gather visually, she lives at a temple and works there as a miko (or a shrine priestess). After doing her duties at the shrine, Tsubaki dresses into her school clothes (the actual changing scene not shown) and heads off for her school, but not before bidding farewell to her grandmother. Why did I mention that minute detail? It will come later in time.

Meanwhile, out at sea, the focus of plot shifts to the sea, where several buoys start to disappear from the harbor. The military takes notice of this (or maybe something else) and reports it to Build Base, a secret study base over on the coast of Honshu, led by Senjirou Shiba, the father of Hiroshi Shiba from the original series, and the archaeologist who discovered the Bronze Bell back in 1970.

He looks a little like an ape if looked at from far away. Don’tcha think?

The prime minister of Japan  is contacted by Shiba’s orders, alongside a message taken to all observation workers followed up by their evacuation after the reconfirm the automated observation units, whatever those are. However, the prime minister is busy so his right-hand man Chief Kanbo is put in charge of getting the information the PM needs to know from Shiba. The information: the Dimensional Suctioning Absolute Zone (or DS Absolute Zone) has become active after half a century, with further corrosion predicted as a result. Warnings are to be administered to areas surrounding the island of Kyushu. Chief Kanbo agrees to do as Shiba says (after being scared into it by him), but a meeting of the Emergency Disaster Committee will decide if any real action is to take place. In the meantime, he grants permission for Build Base to use its armaments to prevent the DS Absolute Zone from growing any larger. And what is the DS Absolute Zone? Well, if you must know, it’s Kyushu.

50 years ago, there was this battle between a giant robot and what looked like a demon queen with tentacles for hair. During this battle, a mysterious energy started to envelop Kyushu. The bronze bell from 1970 popped out of the giant robot’s forehead and rocketed itself into a volcano, where it became a sword that made the energy enveloping Kyushu grow into a fog which later grew into a storm that originated at Kyushu’s center. The stormy fog acted as a wall around Kyushu, preventing anyone on the outside or inside to see what was beyond it. Kyushu became unimportant in the public life, even in the weather reports. Not even the people from Kyushu could escape the fog and go to the outside world. With the DS Absolute Zone covering Kyushu, the Gintama Narrator’s prophecy about “saying goodbye those in a certain area” came true. Kyushu would forever be deprived of their television reception for the next episode of Gintama.

A wall so thick that not even energy waves from TV satellites could penetrate it!

After the formation of the DS Absolute Zone, the American Navy was put in charge of observing it. Ten years later, after a combination of nothing going on inside Kyushu and the American men having heard about disco’s demise, the Navy left and left the Japanese in charge of observing Kyushu.

Meanwhile, at Tsubaki’s high school, she’s being given a lecture on haniwas, or burial items for Japanese authorities back in the day, by a teacher with the most annoying voice in the universe (even worse than Karin’s dub!). That explains why most of the students look bored. In the middle of class, Tsubaki is distracted by Kenji, who woke up late, sneaking into the classroom during the lecture. Kyo looks off to the side, unimpressed by both the teacher’s lecture (which  has moved onto bronze bells) and Kenji’s sudden appearance.

“Does the broken outlining of your body really make you look more bishonen?”

Kyo: “Only when Go Nagai draws you, it does. Especially when in the sunlight. Makes it more “old school bishonen” than your “new wave bishonen” you see nowadays. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to impress my fangirls with my aloof expression.”

Later on, during the school’s lunch period, Tsubaki is hanging out with her two unnamed friends (a skinny one and a fat one). Things are going good until Kenji sneaks up behind Tsubaki and takes one of those mysterious Japanese foods from her bento. This upsets Tsubaki, causing her to run after Kenji. Then her friends talk about how idiotic and perverted Kenji is. You know the weird thing? the only things we’ve seen Kenji do so far were race, sleep, get pummeled by his trophies, come in to class late, and eat something out of her bento. Sure, I can see him being an idiot as a result of his late attendance record, but how is he perverted? Well, considering that Kenji and Tsubaki were childhood friends, it wouldn’t be surprising if Kenji accidentally saw her panties, or running on her naked a couple of times. Yet again, Tsubaki’s fat friend says that she and Kenji are in an “unsavory but inseperable relationship”, which is clearly a case of “can’t stand them, can’t live without them”. So maybe Kenji really did act perverted a whole lot towards Tsubaki when they were kids than we’re led to think… But the fat friend isn’t sure, so it’s left up to interpretation. In that case, I choose perspective #1.

Meanwhile, Kyo’s walking down the hallway, acting like a total popular guy as fangirls from all over ogle him and talk about his personality, such as his intelligence, his second to none skills on a bike, and his part-time job at Build Base. Now the last part is a little mysterious. Why would a guy like Kyo be working at a military base specializing in preventing the growth of the DS Absolute Zone part-time? And even moreso, how do all of these girls know about Build Base? I guess it’s pretty popular around these parts, i guess. However, Kyo walks past all of his fangirls and has a talk with Kenji about their race to decide who represents Team Shiba in the next HMBA Competition. Much to the fangirls’ chagrin.

Who said all fangirls had to be interested in yaoi?

After school, Kenji and Kyo meet each other at the race track and start their race. However, their race is put to a halt by a sudden earthquake. Meanwhile, Tsubaki’s grandmother notices the earthquake and contacts Tsubaki at the Italian restaurant she and her friends were talking about going to earlier on in the episode. We don’t know what her grandmother tells her, but Tsubaki decides to get back to her house as soon as possible. The earthquake causes the mountain to break open, revealing numerous haniwas, which then transform into a strange golem-like creature called a “Haniwa Phantom God”. And apparently, Kyo knows what it is. While the Haniwa Phantom God starts blowing up the city with its eyebeams and its firebreath (while not causing as much damage as Love Pheromone causes on a normal basis), Kenji heads off on his motorbike to prevent the Haniwa Phantom God from destroying Tsubaki’s house.

This mysterious phone call shows that even Tsubaki isn’t all she appears to be.

The military tries attacking the Haniwa Phantom God, who has destroyed nearly 1/4 of the town with its eyebeams, with its missiles. FAILURE  ENSUES. Even their phalanx and submachinegun can’t seem to take it down. Meanwhile, Kenji makes it to Tsubaki’s house and runs into her grandmother, who tells Kenji to come with her. Tsubaki’s grandmother shows Kenji a brand-spanking new motorcycle, which she tells him go out on. She doesn’t explain why, but it looks like it’s supposed to be faster at outrunning the Haniwa Phantom God than his other motorbike. How do we know this? Well, the Haniwa Phantom God goes chasing after Kenji, and Kenji manages to outrun it with plenty of sweet CGI motorcycle moves. After getting to a covered bridge, Kenji stops, thinking the Haniwa Phantom God won’t be able to attack him in there. But as it turns out, the haniwa that make up the Haniwa Phantom God can be used as heat-seeking missiles. But instead of seeking heat, they’ll be seeking Kenji!

“Looks like I’m boned. I’d better run for it like any smart person would do!”

And sure enough, his status as a simple ordinary high school student with a really fast motorbike he’s great at driving ensures him that common sense is the best way to go in situations such as this. And even more surprising is the fact that the haniwas can regenerate just about anywhere, which Kenji points out is just plain unfair. And if that isn’t bad enough, three mysterious jets come out of nowhere and start shooting at Kenji. Sure, they manage to hit the Haniwa Phantom God as a way of guaranteeing Kenji an excape method, but why’d they have to shoot AT him? To get his attention? To pass on the message to get the fuck out before shit hits the fan? Well what?

Anyways, the head pilot of these aircrafts, a rather beautiful woman with an eyepatch (the pilots of the other aircrafts, who are women not as beautiful as the first one), points out that “the target” (either Kenji or the Haniwa Phantom God, it’s pretty vague at this point), is heading toward the abandoned factory area along the coastline. At first it seems that the target really is Kenji (coupled with his complaint that they may be enemies too), but it isn’t until Kenji reaches the mountain area that he sees a familiar face that explains just who the girls who were shooting Kenji are. That friend? Tsubaki. Those girls? His aerial support.

Now, why does Tsubaki know this? Well, it turns out that like Kyo, Tsubaki also works at Build Base. But it isn’t because of part-time work. If you paid attention to her last name, it turns out that Tsubaki’s grandmother was the main female character of Kotetsu Jeeg, Miwa “Micchi” Tamashiro (You can even see what she looked like in Kotetsu Jeeg in the opening credits). In Kotetsu Jeeg, she jetted out the parts for the giant robot to Hiroshi so he could transform his bike into the giant robot’s head. In this series, Tsubaki is taking up the position that her grandmother once took. And apparently, Kenji is in Hiroshi’s place. But how does the transformation sequence work? It’s confusing, but Tsubaki tells Kenji that the “Build Up” sign will appear once he gets into Raikouba’s field, and that the “Build Up” sign will appear when he puts his fists together. But it’ll only work if Kenji’s wearing a special set of gloves. It’s a good thing Miwa gave them to him before he ran off in that new bike. Once Kenji puts his fists together, the bike flies up in the air, and it turns into the head for a giant robot, much to a frightened Kenji’s surprise. One transformation sequence later…

Bow down to your super robot demigod!

…Kotetsu Jeeg is formed. The aerial support girls look on in amazement at the giant robot before them, and Tsubaki shows her excitement in Kenji’s success. Kyo, who’s in the plane with her (who knew?), smirks. However, Shiba contacts Kenji through the bike, tells him that he’s now pilot of a giant robot named Jeeg, and that he must become the protector of the Earth. (Shiba even knew his full name; Kyo or Tsubaki must’ve told him). With a veritable assload of questions on his and the audience’s minds, Kenji decides that the best thing he can do right now is kick some Haniwa Phantom God ass, and wait until later for some explanations as to why Tsubaki and Kyo are part of Build Base, why he has to be the one to protect the Earth, and what the deal is with the Haniwa Phantom Gods.

ED: “HEAVEN” by GRANRODEO

Shiba: “So what if the Koreans have two more background artists on their team than we do on ours? Our company’s in cahoots with Gintama!”

Not until episode 4, they’re not.

From first looks, Kotetsushin Jeeg is pretty damn awesome. The animation is great, especially when it comes down to the motorcycle CGI, and the designs are old-school, and in a good way. Art is fantastic, music is excellent, and the story, while it raises a few questions, is still legitimate enough to show that it represents the start to a truly simple good versus evil story. A couple of design hiccups here and there and the awkwardness of Kenji talking when he’s animated in CGI when riding the bike don’t really subtract from the series’ awesomeness. In fact, nothing does! Nope, not even Tsubaki’s slightly tsundere attitude knocks this series down any. The voice acting was purely awesome, from Daisuke Ono’s hot-blooded performance as Kenji to Kana Ueda’s cutesy but tolerable performance as Tsubaki to Susumu Chiba’s aloof bishonen take on Kyo. (You can also hear Susumu Chiba as Kondo in Gintama.) The subs are great, and even though I didn’t see one spelling error, I still think Gintama comes out on top for subs because of the accuracy. In short: Kotetsushin Jeeg is an extremely awesome series. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. If you have doubts at first, just stick around for a few more episodes to see how awesome it will become. I promise you that, and I will continue reviewing to be sure that it really does happen!

Last but certainly not least, we have series #4:

TOKYO TRIBE2
Episode Count: 13
Director: Tatsuo Sato
Studio: Madhouse Studios
Broadcaster: WOWOW
Vintage: 11/11/06 to 2/17/07

Like Akahori Gedou Hour Rabuge, I discovered TOKYO TRIBE2 in an issue of Anime Insider. Only it wasn’t the focus for Flash in Japan. Instead, it was the focus for “Tune In Tokyo”, which featured only small descriptions of the series. TOKYO TRIBE2 was featured in the March 2007 Tune In Tokyo alongside current [as] series Kekkaishi and WOWOW Nonscramble Series Soukou no Strain. TOKYO TRIBE2 stood out the most, with lots of info in its descriptions: it isn’t family fare, it would appeal more to GTA fans than your standard otaku, and that it’s very MTV-ish. And by god, from the first episode alone, it shows.

TOKYO TRIBE2’s history started with seinen manga Tokyo Tribe, written by Santa Inoue back in 1993. The manga from which TOKYO TRIBE2 was adapted, called TOKYO TRIBE2 in Japan (Tokyo Tribes in America), followed. The TT2 manga lasted 12 volumes, being published from 1997 to 2005 in the urban fashion magazine boon. Nearly 9 years after the TT2 manga started, an anime adaptation came about, written and directed by Tatsuo Sato (Martian Successor Nadesico, Uchuu no Stellvia) with animation from Madhouse Studios (Cardcaptor Sakura, Death Note).

TOKYO TRIBE2 is the official Obscurity of the Subwatcher. It may not be as obscure as AGHR (hell, the manga from which TT2 was adapted was licensed in America by TOKYOPOP and it author Santa Inoue featured on an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), but it certainly doesn’t get watched enough. There are several people who like the anime, one of which is a blogger on CSW. Others don’t like it as much. A couple got turned off after, well, I’ll get to that part later. But I sat all the way through, watched it, and enjoyed it heavily. Now what makes TT2 so good, that I like it so much? Well, let’s find out.

Grand Theft Auto: The Anime

Episode 1: track:01

The series starts at night in Tokyo. A man who looks like a criminal with sunglasses and a cloak runs through a crowd, pulling a gun on his unseen pursuers: a number of mysterious bald-headed men in Hong Kong kung-fu dress, one of which is dragging a bloody pipe on the ground. Soon enough, the man is confronted by the leader of these bald-headed men: a dark-skinned man with a blue coat (with fur lining), a necklace with the kanji for “light” around his neck,  and a katana in hand, drawn from its sheath, held by a smaller man in a white suit with buck teeth. The criminal pulls his guns on this dark-skinned man, but the dark-skinned man attacks, slicing off the criminal’s arm with his sword, the arm of the criminal reflected in his eye against a backdrop of the moon, blood spraying from the stump.

There’s just something about this scene that just speaks “awesome animation”.

OP: “TOP OF TOKYO” by ILLMATIC BUDDHA MC’s

The opening theme is a Japanese gangsta hip hop song, sung by BUDDHA BRAND MCs DEV LARGE, CQ, and NIPPS (Hibahihi). It’s different, but it really shows the beat in the series. And it just sets up the rest of the soundtrack, which shows that gangsta hip hop can sound just as good instrumentally as the unique jazz hip hop that was brought to Samurai Champloo.

The next night, a news report is given about the attack in the opening sequence. The attack took place in Bukuro, and the victim was a member of a gang known as “Urawa”. The report is told via radio in the apartment of one Kai Deguchi. His apartment looks pretty standard for a Japanese person: records and CDs line the shelves, as well as various figurines, including one of himself. A boombox is on the floor, and two turntables are up against the shelf. Grand Theft Auto is being played on the television, and a Sin City poster hangs on the wall behind Kai, sitting on the couch, talking to his father over the phone. Kai tells his father that 3 months ago, he got fired from his part-time job. His father suspects that the money he’s using to pay the rent for the apartment is coming from his mom. Just when he’s telling his dad that everything’s fine and that he’ll look for a job later on, Kai gets a phone call from one of his friends, Kim (that’s a guy, by the way). Kim tells Kai to meet him over at their regular hangout, and that his other friend Hashim will meet up with them later. Kai lets Kim know that he’ll be there, but he’s gonna stop by the record shop on the way.

In case you didn’t know, MURO is the composer for this anime. Definitely not plagiarism.

After picking up a record from the anime’s music composer, Kai pops it in and listens to it as he drives to wherever he’s meeting his friend at. On the way, he notices that he’s being followed by a gang on motorcycles known as the “Inohead”. They want Kai to fork over all the cash he’s got, but Kai answers to that by making them fall off their motorcycles by way of using a baseball bat. He even sticks it in the spokes of one guy’s motorcycle, causing him to fall flat on his face. After that gruesome encounter, Kai arrives at his destination: Penny’s, a family restaurant which has become a hangout for a gang known as the “SARU”, which Kai happens to be a part of. One of the waitresses (or possibly the only waitress) working at Penny’s is a college-age girl named Nori, who seems to know Kai quite well, like knowing what type of drink he wants (tropical iced tea). While the two get into a small argument that’s almost broken up by the owner of Penny’s, a kid paces outside of Penny’s, wondering if he should go in or not. We don’t really know what his deal is, until he meets up with the leader of the SARU, Tera. Tera bids farewell to three SARU members (one of which was Kim) as they head off to a fuuzoku (a bar that offers “special services” by paying a time fare) before talking to this kid, who’s quite nervous about what he’s planning to do. What is he planning to do? Well, we don’t know much right now, other than he’s a fan of the SARU. Tera leaves the kid, Tamiya, with Kai for a few minutes while he goes to talk with some of the other members of SARU. And just out of nowhere, another member of the SARU bursts into the restaurant. He’s another guy the same age as the other SARU members, only he’s a little fatter, has an afro, and is dressed in your average frat boy clothes (in Japan). He’s also looking for Kim, who left. This man, who is revealed to be the “Hashim” that Kim told Kai about earlier, is VERY disappointed that he missed out on going with Kim and the two SARUs that went with him to the fuuzoku (which according to the both of them, is “60 minutes without limits”). With nothing better to do, Hashim talks with Tamiya, finding out that he wants to join the SARU. Hashim tries to talk Tamiya out of it by telling him that he heard that other gangs like the Shinjuku HANDS and the Bukuro WU-RONZ have new members take initiation tests, but decides to let Tamiya join after seeing him mess around with a palm pilot (it’s Tamiya’s habit), making him the SARU’s secretary. This is followed up by him saying “Brezhnev!” (the Soviet Union’s secretary in the 1960s and 1970s), a joke which Nori says is rather old. And from that day forth, Tamiya became known as “Shokicho” or “Secretary General”.

“According to my calculations, even though you’re the main character’s best friend, you’re still a long ways from affecting the plot.”

Meanwhile, Tera finds out about the Urawa tribe (gang) member who had his arm sliced off the previous night. He warns everyone not to go to Bukuro, since it’s considered dangerous, now that someone’s been injured over what seems to be gangs wandering onto other gangs’ territory, and that Bukuro’s gang, the WU-RONZ, is really pissed off about it. Kai is worried at this, since the fuuzoku Kim and his two other friends headed off to, Club Saga, is located in Bukuro. And sure enough, the next morning, a crowd notices the corpses of Kim and his two friends hanging from streetlamps in Bukuro, close to the Club Saga. Later that night, as Kai is going on a drive with Hashim and Tamiya, he starts to wonder if it’s his fault that Kim and his friends were killed since he wasn’t able to stop them from going to Bukuro.

The brutal side of Tokyo in the daytime.

As they continue to drive, Shokicho notices Hashim looking at a catalog of prostitutes, his sights focused on one prostitute in particular: a woman named “Juri”. Hashim claims that he stole the catalog from Nori back at Penny’s, but Shokicho points out that Hashim had to beg her for it. Kai finds it amusing, but Hashim doesn’t think so, telling Shokicho that he has to wait outside while he and Kai go into Club Saga to see Juri. After walking through a hallway in the club where the walls are made up of artificial breasts that bounce with every step you take, they try talking to the guy at the front desk to see if Juri’s there. He claims that no such woman exists.  As Kai and Hashim head back down to their car, having failed, they run into Juri, who’s just gotten back from what looks like a grocery store (she has one of those bags full of stuff). Seeing that she actually does exist, Kai and Hashim come to do what they originally intended: ask her if she saw Kim and his friends the night before they were killed and hung. Juri says yes, and with their questions asked (and the sight of a mysterious person walking into the brothel), Hashim and Kai leave. However, before leaving, Kai hears Juri say something quiet enough to be hard to hear, but loud enough to make someone think she said something: “Save me.”

She’s rather attractive and healthy-looking for your standard Japanese street girl.

Kai, thinking that he’s just been hearing things, walks through Bukuro back to their car with Hashim, but they end up being followed by mysterious men in black kung-fu outfits… the same men who confronted the man from the Urawa earlier. These men are members of the Bukuro WU-RONZ. They take notice of some SARUs in their area. And after several whisperings of the word “saru”, their leader, the man who cut off the Urawa’s arm earlier, steps in: Mera. He and Kai seem to know each other, since Mera tells Kai “Long time, no see”, and isn’t really surprised to see him wandering around in his territory. He suggests that they were there to go to the fuuzoku (his way of saying so, “the monkeys are in heat”, pissed Hashim off to no end), but Kai steps in and asks Mera angrily if his men were the ones that killed and hung Kim and his friends the previous night. Mera doesn’t answer the question with a simple yes or no: he just says that it was wrong for Kim and the other SARUs that were killed to be sneaking around in Bukuro, even if it was the WU-RONZ that finished them off for doing something like that. Mera decides to consider his running into Kai a “passing fancy”, but swears that he will kill him the next time he sees him, whether it be in Bukuro or out of Bukuro. After Kai and Hashim leave, Mera’s right-hand man, Skunk asks him why he let Kai go so easily. Mera doesn’t tell him: he just confirms that Skunk was the one that commanded the hanging of Kim and his friends the previous night.

Normally, I don’t care much for villians, but when it comes to Mera, I happen to sense a vibe of likability.

So, how do Kai and Mera know each other? Well, back at Penny’s, and after a short but powerful speech from Tera about how the SARU is different from your standard street punks or yakuza and that violence isn’t the answer to every little problem, Nori says that Mera used to live in Musashino until high school, and that she and Kai used to be friends with him until a mysterious circumstance resulted in a matter of best friends becoming worst enemies (Kai and Mera, I mean). Speaking of Mera, meanwhile in Bukuro, Mera speaks with Juri (her real name revealed to be Sunmi) about her encounter with Kai before his encounter with him. Sumi says that it isn’t Mera’s business to know, and complains about why Mera won’t let any customers near her. Mera doesn’t answer that question. All he tells Sunmi before leaving is to not wander outside of the bar/club/brothel, becuase in Bukuro, she’s safe like a trapped bird. Mera leaves with Skunk to go visit Buppa, the WU-RONZ’s head honcho. But I have to warn you, he’s rather ugly.

The “rather” was just an understatement.

Out of all the characters of TT2, Buppa is the ugliest and least likable, to the point where people have dropped the series because of him. People shouldn’t really be hard on him as much, since his voice actor (Daisuke Gouri) died early in the year. Even with that, his introduction doesn’t leave a whole lot to be desired about him. In his first appearance, he’s in a bathtub with FIVE hookers. Why five? Because he’s so damn huge that one just isn’t enough. Anyways, one is licking his arm, another is licking his fingers, two are squeezing a foot of his between their breasts (one foot for each hooker), and one is giving him a blowjob. If that description made you cringe, then it’s best that you skip the completion of my introduction to him. That is, if you want to miss out on a little plot development, which comes almost immediately after the so-called “completion”. Anyways, Buppa is made aware that Mera is here to give him the cash he collected from Club Saga, as well as a “token of appreciation”: a young boy, about high school or college age. What does Buppa do with this boy? He kills him. How does he kill him? By anally raping him.

H is for homophobia.

Have you ever heard of the meme GOOSH GOOSH? Well, TT2 is where its origins began: it’s the sound that happens during the raping. Apparently, Buppa anally rapes this poor kid so hard that he starts bleeding heavily, and that part of his back is split open when Buppa’s all done. Yes, it’s more disturbing and nightmarish than it sounds. Especially when you consider that Buppa is four times the size of this boy. I, however, have a fucked up set of standards, so I found the scene to be hilarious instead. Hey, that’s what The Boondocks does to you: it makes anal rape HILARIOUS. A small amount of the scene’s hilarity came from the reaction of Mera, Skunk, and the WU-RONZ that followed them: pure indifference.

They’ve seen worse. Much, much worse.

Thankfully, that’s the only time Buppa acts super-gay. After the boy’s corpse is taken away by his goons, Buppa relaxes in his recliner as he lets Mera know that he’s heard of his so-called struggle with the SARU, and that he’s thinking of putting two or three pink salons or image clubs (other kinds of fuuzoku) over in Musashino. In order to make his plan work, he needs more prostitutes (which he calls “cats”). Mera points out that they’ve already “hunted” all of the “cats” in Bukuro, so Buppa suggests that they move on to “cat-hunting” in Musashino.

With his orders from Buppa, Mera and Skunk head over to Musashino in Mera’s rather large monster truck. Skunk asks Mera why he’s keeping customers away from Sunmi, suspecting that it’s because she looks like “Fujio” (a possible childhood friend of Mera’s, really a character in the original Tokyo Tribe manga). Their peaceful drive is interrupted by the interception of a member of the Shinjuku HANDS, telling Mera, Skunk, and the WU-RONZ with them that they’re now in their territory. They decide to ignore him and drive off. As the HANDS yells back at them, his tirade is interrupted short by being hit by a moving car and flying off to who-knows where, where he will fall to his death.

“The gasmask look is totally in! If you don’t like it, you can just get the FUCK out!”

Mera’s surprised as they enter Shinjuku, saying that he’s beginning to lose his sense of the “outside”, after having lived in Bukuro for so long after his departure from Musashino.

A couple of MTV-style setting shots later…

As it turns out, Kai, Tera, Hashim, and Shokicho are also in Shinjuku. Tera’s going by a Burger King knockoff to get some food while Kai gets a new baseball bat to replace the one he lost while fending off the Inohead earlier in the episode. After Kai gets his new bat, he decides to give it a first good use: scaring off two punks who were harassing Shokicho while he waited in the car for him and Hashim to get back. However, they were more scared of his status as a SARU (as it says on his shirt) than they were by his bat, even though Kai takes a practice swing with it right after scaring them off. Nonetheless, Shokicho still thanks him. A little later, Kai notices some WU-RONZ members running past their car, so he decides to go and follow them. It isn’t long until he runs into Mera, who just came back from something he happened to do a little earlier: stab Tera with his katana. Hashim and Shokicho find this out when they reach the Burger King knockoff. As they check to see if Tera is alright, Kai and Mera begin their faceoff within the crowded Shinjuku street. Only for the episode to end.

To keep the audience on the edge of their seat for the next episode.

ED: “TT2 Owari no Uta” by Scha Dara Parr

The ending theme, albeit not as upbeat or loud as the opening, is much better. Like the AGHR ED, it tells a sort of story. AGHR’s ending has the main characters from each series within (Love Pheromone and Gedou Otome-tai) go about their normal daily business until they start feuding with each other, which leads to the two sides attacking each other like crazy. TT2’s ED simply starts with Kai, Hashim, and Shokicho dancing, until Nori is dragged into all of it. After she punches Hashim, he tries impressing her with some breakdancing. It seems simple enough at first, but then it gets weird… Suddenly, a giant purple gorilla appears and takes Nori away with it. It has the potential to be the most artistically brilliant ending theme of all time.

By god, it has the potential.

Overall, TOKYO TRIBE2’s first episode was, needless to say, excellent beyond all belief. The design is original, the animation and art are all fantastic, the 3D animation intergrates well with the 2D, and the background music is just plain amazing. The plot can get a little confusing at times, and even though the voice actors put a lot of character into their characters’ voices, at some points, it seems forced and wooden. Luckily, those points are very, VERY few in number. The subs were done by Kanjisub, and I have to say, while they aren’t the best subs, they certainly are the most stylish. Some of the text actually maximizes in size to emphasize screams coming from a far distance. The only flaw that the subs have is the sword that displays the lyrics for the OP: while it is different, it is distracting. But I don’t really care about all its flaws and weirdness, it just plain ROCKS! I saw it all once before, and I am going to see it all again!

My overall view? Great. Awesome. Exhilirating. Irritating at points, inappropriately hilarious at others. Now then, I will conclude with placing various series and parts of episodes into different categories I set up. This first one will be done at the beginning of this Subwatcher, and will be taken again when AGHR, Jeeg, and TT2 end:

Best Plot: Gintama
Best Character Design: Akahori Gedou Hour Rabuge
Best Animation: TOKYO TRIBE2
Best Art: TOKYO TRIBE2
Best 3D Design: TOKYO TRIBE 2
Best Sound Quality: Gintama
Best Voice Acting: Akahori Gedou Hour Rabuge
Best Subs: Gintama
Best Soundtrack: TOKYO TRIBE2
Best OP: “STORMBRINGER” by JAM Project (Kotetsushin Jeeg)
Best ED: “TT2 Owari no Uta” by Scha Dara Parr (TOKYO TRIBE2)
Best Male Character: Gintoki Sakata (Gintama)
Best Female Character: Kaoruko Sashima (Akahori Gedou Hour Rabuge)

The next category will be mandatory for each and every Subwatcher:

Best Scene: The motorbike race between Kyo and Kenji
Worst Scene: The portrayal of Kaoruko being just as reckless as Aimi when they’re “fighting evil”.
Funniest Scene: Gintoki tricking the nameless samurai into thinking he was going to fight back
Creepiest Scene: Buppa’s deadly anal rape of that high school kid
Sexiest Scene: Aimi’s harem of little girls and big-breasted women
Cutest Scene: The Hokke sisters bonding as they vow to become excellent evil as they watch the meteor shower
Awesomest Scene: Kenji managing to outrun the Haniwa Phantom God on the Jeeg!Motorcycle
Saddest Scene: The death of the Hokke Sisters’ father
The Highlight: Buppa’s deadly anal rape of that high school kid
Biggest Question: Why does Kenji of all people have to be protector of the Earth?

Now, for some parting words: Did I find these series good? Gintama, Jeeg, and TT2 yes, AGHR maybe. Are they worth watching? Gintama and Jeeg definitely, AGHR and TT2 probably. Would I recommend them to you? Gintama and Jeeg definitely, TT2 maybe, AGHR probably not. Will I watch them all the way through? To all of them, HELL YES.

Tune in next time for the second episode of SUBWATCHER!

“This is Falcon Jogasaki and Candy, signing out for PokeNirvash.”


About this entry