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Anime Review: Hunter x Hunter (1999-2001) Vs Hunter x Hunter (2011-2014)

Alternate Names: Tate no Tuusha no Nariagari
Year: 1999-2001 Vs 2011-2014
Episodes: A LOT (English dub version)
Genre: Shounen, Science Fiction, Martial Arts, Action, Adventure, Drama

I don’t usually do comparative reviews, but I decided to make an exception for the two series of Hunter X Hunter. Both series showed how simple changes can alter how you see a situation. That being said, I adored both series because of how solid the plot, characterisation, drama and world-building played out over the span of more than 200 episodes. Whilst I will try to avoid specifics, I apologise for any spoilers over the span of this comparative review.

Hunter X Hunter follows Gon Freecss as he navigates the world of Hunters in the hopes of connecting with his long-lost father, Ging Freecss. A hunter license gives qualified individuals a bunch of perks, including access to a hunter-only job board. However, it isn’t all fun and adventure. Gon soon comes face to face with numerous perils, including several that will irrevocably affect the known world.

The newer version of this series is a retelling that changes his background. the starting point of the series, adds a bit more detail to certain scenes as well as including two more story arcs. The new series begins with Gon about to do the qualification test for the Hunter license instead of the starter point where a chance meeting with a hunter named Kite sends him down a rabbit hole of sorts in order to find his father. His father’s cousin, who Gon refers to as Aunt Mito, has raised him. Whilst in the original version she runs an inn alongside her mother, we see her working on the docks of their small fishing community in the newer of the two series. A few scenes are provided with further context ahead of the Greed Island, Chimera Ant and 13th Hunter Chairman Election arcs that were absent in the original series which got abruptly cut off in 2001 at the conclusion of the Yorknew City arc. On top of these changes, the newer series also updates some aspects to be in line with modern technology. At the end of the newer series, the scale of their world is revealed in dramatic fashion, almost reminding me of the scene at the end of the film Men in Black.

Now that the differences are out of the way, below is a list of what you can expect from both series:

The artwork is a mixture of different styles, ranging from the Astroboy-like and Pokemon-esque appearance of Gon to the bishounen appearance of Kirapika. This includes some Dragonball Z inspiration for some of the character designs in the Chimera Ant arc. The linework is crisp and the colouration provides good contrast. Along with this, the settings are a mix of cityscapes and lush wilderness that provides a stark contrast to some of the darker aspects of this series.
Hunter X Hunter is a series that dares to show the darker side of humanity, with Gon being confronted with harsh reality. Unfortunately for Gon, there is rarely black and white. Whilst he wants people to care about each other equally, humans form into groups and we tend to favour groups that we associate with. This simplistic view is both charming and foolish. On top of this, we see the huge power disparity between Gon and many of the foes that the twelve-year-old and his allies deal with during the span of both series. An example is the Phantom Troupe, an organisation that killed and took the eyes of Kirapika’s entire family. Each one of the members could easily kill him and child assassin Killua. That being said, Gon brings his heightened senses and stealth to bear on numerous occasions.
The world-building for this series is somewhat unique, in that we cannot rely on our modern forms of fairness because the various nations don’t provide safety nets. Organised crime is a big deal, and a lot of people have to rely on their wits and luck to survive in a lot of regions. Even the Hunter Association is questionable at best, survivability being favoured over morality and ethics. This further demonstrates the nature of the world in which Gon and his friends live, where looking out for number one is a strategy for staying alive. That being said, there are glimpses of kindness and joy that act as a candle in the dark.
The power set provided by the chi-like martial arts system allows more room for escalation of threats on top of basic martial arts techniques. This gives a lot of room for weird and wonderful powers that the characters contend with. Whether it is poetry power words, chains of imprisonment or puppet-mastery of assassination, we see a world filled with the many tools that can be used to harm as well as protect.
As eluded to earlier, the characters are heavily shaped by the world around them. This provides a level of complexity to a lot of the characters that often shown through subtext. In the case of the enigmatic psychopath Hisoka, we also see that many of the characters think dozens of steps down the line in order to create the desired result. And our heroes are allowed to fail on a regular basis, showing the ramifications of not dealing with a threat. People do die on occasion, such as several during the Hunter License test. Whilst the Chimera Ant arc wavered a bit in this regard, we see how good writing can create a logical solution to deal with foes that would otherwise win.

In conclusion, both series are worth watching. That being said, I recommend that you watch the newer series instead which also includes three extra story arcs and drops you into the thick of it with the Hunter Test arc. This places an appropriate focus instead on life outside of the safe haven that is the small island in which he was raised by his Aunt Mito. So, if you are a shounen fan that hasn’t already checked out either series, it is time to do so!

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Anime Review: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K Season 1

Alternate Names: Saiki Kusuo no Psi Nan
Year: 2016
Episodes: 24 (English dub version)
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Supernatural, School Life

Years ago, I came across an odd manga that left me scratching my head. It wasn’t a case of it being bad, but it was in a format that I was unused to. A few weeks later, I discovered an English dub of the anime. It would take some time before my hubby would agree to watch it with me. As expected, he absolutely loved it as well. (Sadly, the same cannot be said for Gintama. Oh, well.) Anyhoo, the following discusses a series that holds a special place in my heart, the part that enjoys over-the-top gags and general anime shenanigans.

Kusuo Saiki was born with psychic powers, something that he has to control with a strange antennae thing in his head. His psychic powers come with numerous issues, and his efforts to be overlooked is made difficult by the moronic “Yankee” Riki Nendou, a host of annoying classmates, a pathetic father keeps asking for help getting out of self-created messes and the Kusuo must also deal with the bizarre machinations of his jealous super-genius older brother. All the while, he must figure out how to get an ample supply of coffee pudding.

First up, the artwork for this series is strikingly beautiful. The linework is neat and colouration provides a lot of contrast, reminding me of some of Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun at times. The character designs are amazing, adding to the humour of this series. An example is Midori Nendou, Riki’s mother. Along with the dialogue, the artwork brings to life some really good situational humour. However, some folks might not find the butt humour as amusing as yours truly.
Whilst the small sketches that comprise each episode do well on their own, there is still a continuity to the timeline. A situation from a previous episode often affects what happens later as well, showing that there are ramifications for what happens. Each sketch adds to the story as well, instead of feeling like filler. Over time, these happenings result in Kusuo making connections with people, the one thing he has been avoiding.
The plot is backed up by some really good characterisation and character development. It might be over-the-top at times, but it works really well. This is backed up by some good casting for the English dub version, doing justice to a really good collection of characters. It also does a good job of managing a larger cast of characters as well.

How closely does it follow the manga? Like Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun, it ends up being fairly close if not identical to the source material. Both are a good adaptation of their respective manga series. As an anime fan, it is always awesome to see an anime studio do justice to the series it is adapting. J.C. Staff and Egg Firm deserve praise for how well they adapted this series. Can we expect anything less from studios that adapted Toradora!, A Certain Magical Index, Kino no Tabi, and DanMachi2?

In conclusion, this series is in my top five anime. It is also something that I have enjoyed in both an English sub and dub version.


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Manga Review: Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun Chapters 11-15

Year: 2011 (ongoing) [English translation]
Author/Artist: Izumi Tsubaki
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life

Reviewer’s Note: Chapters 11-15 covers the first half of the second volume of this manga, which covers material from the anime as well. Please note that I’ve also decided to provide an overview of each chapter read, leading to spoilers.

  • Chapter 11: Chiyo and Nozaki go to a shopping mall. They visit various stores eventually heading to a toy store where they meet and discuss figurines with Mikorin. After going back to his place Nozaki tries to get Chiyo to wear a sailor uniform as a reference for his manga. Yes, he does find it difficult to talk about stuff other than work – thanks for noticing!
  • Chapter 12: Ahead of a meeting with Ken, Nozaki, Chiyo, and Mikorin discuss Maeno’s editorial practices. Nozaki offers his usual scathing review of his former editor, citing examples. We see a flashback to his first meeting with Ken after being transferred to a new editor. At the current day meeting, Nozaki and Ken have a meeting about new installments of Let’s Fall in Love.
  • Chapter 13: It is a Seo and Waka chapter this time around. Nozaki, Chiyo, and Seo discuss the way that people react to Seo’s “alter ego” Lorelai. Waka shares his trauma at being targeted by Seo with Nozaki. On a visit to Nozaki’s place, he falls asleep to the music of Lorelai, not realising it actually Seo singing. Waka volunteers to become a part of Nozaki’s manga team in exchange for Nozaki’s song by Lorelai.
  • Chapter 14: In continuation of the events of the previous chapter, we see Waka discussing how to get back at Seo for her constant bullying. He makes the mistake of using one of Nozaki’s shoujo books for tips, managing to compliment her and give a gift of mittens instead of duel-declaring gloves without realizing the mistake… BECAUSE HE IS A MORON! But hey, he is an adorable moron. As for Seo, she is her usual oblivious self as well, but what can you expect?
  • Chapter 15: This chapter begins with Ken pointing out the lack of depth in Nozaki’s male and female protagonists Mamiko and Suzuki. We see Ken prompt Nozaki to think about Mamiko’s motivations, leading to Nozaki bringing Bento lunches to school, him getting into shenanigans with Kashima.

This week’s five chapters play out as they did in the anime series, but it isn’t an issue because the various moments are, at least for an avid fan like myself, repeatable. Love it! Love it! Love it! Time to let out a fangirl squeal of approval… *squee*
I’ll soon be coming to the end of the material adapted for the anime series. It feels a little bit weird but I am also oddly excited to meet some of the other characters, such as Chiyo’s younger brother and Nozaki’s younger sister. I want to see what other silliness this series can provide as well. I am really looking forward to it.

As a side note, I am considering changing my ratings for comedy categories to Aguris or Mikorins based on who the lead is now. I believe it is fitting given that these two idiots exemplify a spirit of whimsy and silliness. In any case, enjoy this adorable gif of Mikorin.


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Manga Review: Tomo-chan Is a Girl Chapters 1-100

Alternate names: Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko!, Tomo-chan wa Onna no ko!, Tomo-chan ha Onna no Ko!, Tomo-chan Wa Onna No Ko!
Year: 2015
Author / Artist: Fumita Yanagida
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life

Tomo-chan Is a Girl is the story of tomboy Tomo Aizawa and her dysfunctional relationship with long-time friend and neighbor Juunichirou Kubota. It begins with her confessing to him and the object of her affections seeing it as a child and it is dismissed as the classic “I love you, bro!” So begins her attempts to make him see her as a woman, with a little help from some friends.

Each chapter of Tomo-chan Is a Girl consists of single 4-cell (aka 4-koma) “moments” tied together chronologically. It makes good use of visual gags and tropes, making for an entertaining first hundred “moments”. The plot was solid throughout, with a few more characters added over time, such as the mischievous Misuzu and the bizarre Carol. These additional characters contributed meaningfully to the story, adding a bit more conflict to this slice of life comedy without feeling contrived.

All in all, the first one chapters of this manga series that was a really fun read. If you are looking for a slice of life comedic romance than I recommend that you give this series a shot.


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Anime Review: My Hero Academia Seasons 1-3

Alternate Names: Boku no Hero Academia (Japanese)
Year: 2016 – 2018 (ongoing)
Episodes: !3, 25, and 25 (English dubbed versions)
Genre: Shounen, Superhero, Action, Drama, Comedy

Warning: Some spoilers below.

I first came across this series back when the first season was being released. There was a bit of hype in the lead-up but I was heavily distracted watching rom-coms and other nonsense at the time. I ended up watching the first episode on AnimeLab and absolutely adored it. However, it was about a year later that I managed to convince hubby to watch the show with me. The big selling point was that it was one of several popular series from the same anime season that got an English dub. As expected, he loved the show as well. She shoots… SHE SCORES!!!
I have decided to write this review for the first three seasons of My Hero Academia because I think that just covering one season wouldn’t do it justice. Whilst most of you are already familiar with the series, below is a short overview for those that are not.  

My Hero Academia is a show set in a world where people with powers (aka quirks) are commonplace. The series follows an intelligent young man named Izuku Midoriya that is born without a quirk but really wants to become a hero. When he is given a quirk by the most powerful and popular hero in the world (All Might), Midoriya sets about becoming a hero. His path is made difficult by the antagonism of former childhood friend Katsuki Bakugou and by the machinations of All Might’s archnemesis All for One.

The world of My Hero Academia is an alternate Earth where people at some stage started manifesting powers. Because of the chaos, various governments implemented rules for using powers, which includes the hero licensing system. This system is one of the major elements that Midoriya will have to negotiate due to it being illegal to be a vigilante. The entrance into these academies is hard enough, but the training is even tougher especially when you are still learning how to learn how your powers work like our protagonist is.

Along the way, Midoriya will come into contact with a host of heroes and villains with their own unique powers and personas. The motivations and backstories for many of these characters are often just as compelling as that of our protagonist. These characters also do a great job of helping move the plot forward whilst offering a nice contrast to Midoriya. The characters are given the chance to shine and fail, the latter giving them a chance to learn from the experience.
And this brings us to seasonal versus series arcs. Whilst each season has a major arc, it ties into the series arc. Little events, such as an attack of a group of villains are shown as often being a part of something bigger. As the characters learn more about the problem, they are forced to adapt. This results in our heroes having to train harder, become stronger and more versatile. Whilst we see a lot of growth on the part of other characters,
Midoriya and Bakugou’s joint arcs are the most compelling because of their shared history and hero worship of All Might. The latter often holds both back significantly more because their actions tend to be related to what All Might would do. However, neither are All Might. When All Might inevitably lose his powers, Bakugou is forced to rethink his relationship with Midoriya, who has been keeping a secret from him. On the other hand, Midoriya is forced by an injury to fight differently where before he was emulating All Might.
To the subject of the artwork, the character design does a good job of conveying the bizarre physiological traits of many of the characters in this world whilst at the same time have a whimsical element one comes to expect from a series about a hero with a positive outlook. The colors are bright and fit well with the themes of this series. I also love the equipment design we see throughout the series. A good example is the shoes that Midoriya has made in the third season. They aren’t as extravagant as the ones worn by Tenya Iida but they fit well with their purpose. The action sequences are put together well, conveying character in the process.
One thing I will say is that whilst some sites online list this series as a comedy, I feel that it is more of a drama than a comedy because of how the show deals with conflict. That’s okay, though, as the moments of both humor and drama provide us insight into the characters without watering down the story.

In conclusion, this show did a great job of managing a large cast of characters and building upon complexity throughout the series. I highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a good superhero series that is among other solid anime series such as Tiger & Bunny. All in all, a must watch.


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Manga Review: Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun Chapters 6-10

Year: 2011 (ongoing) [English translation]
Author/Artist: Izumi Tsubaki
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life

Reviewer’s Note: Chapters 6-10 cover halfway through episodes two five of the anime.

In chapters 6-10, we are introduced to Hori, Ken the Editor, as well as Nozaki’s previous editor Maenoshi who has a tanuki and elephant obsession. We then move to Mikorin’s (Mikoto Mikoshiba) sleepover where he and Nozaki bond over a dating sim. Enter Yukari Miyako, a college student who is Nozaki’s neighbor and one of Maeno’s long-suffering manga artists. Kashima becomes jealous of Hori and Nozaki’s friendship. And some of the cast practice some lines from a script, which confirms Mikorin’s inability to act.

This week’s chapters added in a bunch of new characters and character dynamics to the manga. We also see Mikorin noticing Nozaki’s preference for a girl that looks like Chiyo in the dating sim that he’s introduced to during a sleepover. He reasons that her game storyline is supposed to be the best, which I would assume is a nod to Nozaki’s younger sister Yumeko being scrapped as the lead character of this series.
Whilst there wasn’t any new material added this time around, we do see how well Izumi Tsubaki makes use of each panel. An example of this is when Hori is introduced. As we learn more about his acting, a bunch of dialogue regarding his height in the anime is broken down into a single panel. It was a pretty good demonstration of polish from a storytelling point of view. This series continues to surprise me with things that I didn’t notice in the anime as well. In any case, I will be continuing to read it each week because the bizarre world of Umetaro Nozaki continues to entertain me.


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Manga Review: Domestic Girlfriend Chapters 101-114

Year: 2014 (ongoing)
Author/Artist: Kei Sasuga
Genre: Shounen, Drama, Romance, School Life

Reviewer’s Note: This review covers the last few chapters of volume 11 and all of volume 12. This review contains spoilers.

After helping reconnect Rui with her father and in the pursuit of her culinary career, Natsuo continues her writing apprenticeship. Following the end of summer break, the students return to school. With three days all to themselves, Natsuo and Rui are interrupted during pre-coitus by the storm outside. After Al learns that their parents are away, he uses it as a chance to gauge Natsuo’s interest in Rui and lays down the gauntlet for Natsuo to make his feelings clear to Rui or step out of the way. As the school’s cultural festival arrives, several of the cast will make their move, leading up to Natsuo finally making a decision about Rui.

Chapters 101 to 114 did a good job of making things come to a head for several of the series couples. Whilst our male protagonist Natsuo made numerous mistakes throughout, we see noticeable change as he finally makes a decision regarding Rui. As for Al, we see him doing what he can to make Rui happy, even if that may lead to her ending up with Natsuo. Whilst he would prefer her to choose him instead, he is willing to set his own feelings aside because he genuinely cares for her. This makes Al the best boy in the series. It will interesting seeing how he will be dealt with moving forward in the story.
We also see several other characters to make their own decisions about their love lives. The choice to either confess and/or actively pursue the person we have feelings for is something we can all relate to. The first step is determining if it is a simple crush or love. The next step is making a decision as to how to move forward and sticking with it. The latter is one of the big focuses of this series as that transition from child to adult. By making a choice we are also the consequences of that choice.
Which brings us to the biggest thumbs up for this week’s collection of chapters. Two words: No Hinata. Hinata Tachibana is one of the more irritating parts of this story. She is a train wreck that continually makes her own problems. She rarely follows through with her decisions, which makes her annoying to watch. Thankfully, chapters 101-114 only eluded to her by mentioning the incident in Oshima where she tells Natsuo to move on. The story is much better without her messing things up.
Finally, chapters 101-114 also added a ticking clock before Natsuo, Rui and several other cast members graduate. We see a certain degree of urgency on the part of several characters to make the most of that short period of time before they have to transition to the next part of their life. In the case of Natsuo and Rui, they’ve also decided on their future vocations.

In conclusion, chapters 101-114 did a good job of moving the story forward and in helping several characters grow. Whilst there were a couple of WTF moments (one of which brings back Masaki Kobayashi wearing his infamous duck cod-piece), it was a really enjoyable reading experience that moved along at a reasonable pace. I look forward to reading more of this series.