“The protagonist of this story is a zombie. Don't try this at home!”, so says the anime after the opening sequence of the first episode. In all honesty, however, it was a bit unnecessary: I wouldn't consider “trying” to get hit by a speeding truck in right conscience and expect to survive. You see, Ayumu Aikawa is not just any lowbrow zombie, he's the awesomest zombie you've ever seen. He has kept the exact same appearance and lucidity as before his death, has reattachable body parts, the ability to ignore physical boundaries of the human body to deliver devastating blows and the gift of only feeling pain for a short moment before any damage done to him is shrugged off. His only real weakness is his tendency to dry up when exposed to the sun too much.
Ayumu's surroundings aren't exactly commonplace either, and this is where things get interesting. To start off, the whole reason why Ayumu is still there after being stabbed in the chest by a serial murderer is because he was revived by a mysterious necromancer named Eucliwood Hellscythe. After the deed, she decided to live with Ayumu as her servant, but he doesn't really have to do anything: all Eucliwood does all day is loiter around the house, drink tea and look cute. She also never speaks and communicates entirely through her notepad, oh, and she wears a cumbersome armor at all times. To compensate for this rather silent personality, Ayumu often finds himself fantasizing about a moe version of Eucliwood speaking in cute “imouto” tones.
It doesn't take long before the Ayumu household gets invaded by more eclectic characters, namely Haruna the magical pink chainsaw-carrying masou-shoujo (a pun on mahou-shoujo, a.k.a magical girl). Ayumu was taking his usual stroll in his favorite place, the cemetary, when he was suddenly caught in a battle between Haruna and a gigantic bear-like creature. After Ayumu gets sawed in half in the process of witnessing the defeat of the monster, Haruna decides it would be best to erase his memory, but this causes Ayumu to unwillingly steal all her magical powers, along with her clothes. Left powerless in her fight against the creatures called Megalos, Haruna forces herself into his house and eventually gives him the task of fighting them off in her stead using her magical chainsaw, Mystletainn. The effects of activating the powers of said chainsaw, however, are best left unspoken.
Then comes Seraphim, noteworthy for being an agglomeration of sexy things, namely ninjas and vampires... Also boobs. She pops into the house at random, joins in for supper and requests that Eucliwood follows her to the village of ninjas she hails from. Losing in a fight against Ayumu, she resolves herself to become his servant until she can convince Eucliwood to honor her request. That doesn't stop her from calling Ayumu a piece of shit and refusing to follow any of his orders, though. Decidedly, the Ayumu residence has issues with the concept of “servant”.
With the quatuor now established, Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka's standing as a harem anime is beginning to take form, but it would really be unfair to judge it solely by its gratuitous fan service, as it also sports a very unique sense of humor that loves to spring up at the most unexpected moments, glimpses of exquisitely choreographed fight scenes, and a plot that hints at being a lot deeper than it would seem at first glance.
The pacing of the episodes aired so far seems to hit a perfect balance between the aforementioned elements, with the first part of an episode concentrating on Haruna playing Jenga with a chainsaw or Seraphim sending back a badminton birdy using her Tsubamegaeshi secret sword technique, and the later half focusing on Ayumu's quest to find his own killer or a fight to the death against a giant crayfish. If the anime's opening animation is anything to go by, there are definitely more fights on the way, as well. It's good to see an anime where episodes aren't strictly concentrating on humor only to suddenly turn somber and finally advance the story in the last two episodes, completely throwing comedy out the window. Of course, there's no telling which path Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka will take in the end since only 3 episodes are out at the time of this writing, but it certainly is on the right path.
With a cast that's completely out there, enough cute girls to satisfy anyone's tastes, a slew of nonsensical gags delivered with expert timing, action scenes that most animes could take lessons from and a deceptively deep story, Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka came out of left field and is currently delivering one of the best anime experiences of this season. I wouldn't be caught dead missing a single episode of this series, if I were you!
As we are all aware, Tokyo looks set to bring into law Bill 156 (or what many sources refer to as the “Anti-Anime” bill). The governor behind it, Shintaro Ishihara, has risen to prominence because of this significant step towards cleaning up anime's place in Japanese media, quite often seen as sexually promiscuous and degrading towards women (or more relevant to said bill, young girls). In some ways, you can support his intentions – he wishes to stamp out depictions of carnal activities concerning underage persons. However, his actions have left a sour taste in the mouths of publishers and fans alike by the vagueness of how the bill is written which could see anime as we know it be sterilised severly or at worst completely neutered. This has caused Ishihara to be depicted as something of a hate figure solely responsible for what could be seen as anime's demise commercially and creatively. So what caused Bill 156 to become so prominent and potentially make it into Japan's constitution?
I have been an anime fan for twelve years. Like thousands before me, I was entranced by the uniqueness of Sailor Moon (despite its butchered English rendition on Kid's TV) and shows like Dragonball Z put my feelings beyond doubt. Since then, I have grown older and so has technology which means I have access to more anime and more information behind it. Great, you'd say; and in most cases, I would agree with you. Back at the turn of this century, the internet was only just getting to grips with faster speeds and better proliferation of content; now we take it for granted. We can find out ANYTHING we want about ANYONE or ANY SHOW. On the occasion a show made it over to western shores, it would tend to be something that western audiences would most likely approve or understand. As times changed, anime grew meaning a larger base in which to spread this famed genre of entertainment. Unfortunately, this means we are subject to Sturgeon's Law (in that nine-out-of-ten examples are not worth the DVD they're burnt to).
One stereotype that is brought up again and again is that anime is basically cartoon pornography. Whenever this is brought up in discussion I, like most of you I'm sure would, refute those allegations and point the accuser to truly great examples of what anime can be such as Gankutsuou and Cowboy Bebop – truly modern classics. Sadly there are some utter clangers that because of technology, especially the internet, we are now au fait with. For every Gurren Lagann, we get three mediocre series which fail to engage the audience based on their own story – so they resort to cheap ploys for viewership. One of the most common ploys is sex.
Sex sells; or more specifically, moe. Moe is rife in modern anime, more than ever before. Granted, sexual content has been present in anime (who hasn't heard of hentai or ecchi?) but up until recently, the boundaries between mainstream and hentai were well established. These boundaries have blurred considerably with series such as Strike Witches and Moetan leading the way in using moe to promote questionable or feeble material. The latter is particularly responsible. The main character, Ink, is meant to be sixteen years old and yet she looks like she's ten. The dialogue enforces constantly that her age is sixteen but there's no getting away from the fact that she DOES look like a pre-pubescent girl. That was three years ago. Nowadays, there's always at least one series per season that tends to one-up the previous season in terms of sexual content sparking outrage with organisation and public figureheads like Ishihara.
This leads me back to the title of this article. I believe that this legislation, if it goes ahead as planned, could stimulate anime into producing more mature and accessible series that are more engaging narratively speaking and less sexually awkward. However, I'll make this clear. I'm not a fan of Ishihara and the need of a bill to make anime not resort to controversial tactics to generate interest regarding a show. Studios and directors should come to that conclusion themselves and not out of fear of reprisal from the government. I liken anime in 2011 to a teenager – exploring the boundaries of risque subject matter whilst not being able to fully comprehend the consequences for doing so. A bill may change that – whether it will be a positive or a negative action remains to be seen.
Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there lived a terrifying delinquent who cares nothing for his fellow man. Said delinquent was a young man so malicious…so uncaring…so absolutely chaotic that no one in Japan could match his cruelty. Perfect father material right? Well it is when your “son” just happens to be Beelzebub, the youngest son of the Devil King, then you couldn’t have picked a better role model.
That’s right…the world’s most incorrigible punk has become the surrogate father to the child that is fated to become the destroyer of the entire world. Isn’t life grand?
Starting as a manga by Ryuuhei Tamura in 2009, Beelzebub is a shonen action series that’s as simple as they come, and yet manages to be entertaining on premise alone. It all starts when Oga Tatsumi, after handing out yet another royal beatdown, discovers a man floating in the river and fishes him out. The man turns out to be a living portal to hell, and with no explanation whatsoever the man splits open and reveals Oga’s new surrogate son: Kaiser de Emperana Beelzebub IV. Now with the help of one dangerous demon nanny Hilda, Oga is compelled to raise the little hellspawn with what little fathering skills he has so that Baby Beel will grow up to become the destroyer of the Earth. Hilarity ensues.
As one can expect, our hero isn’t all that thrilled about having to raise a child, but unfortunately for him he really has no choice. Not only has the little tyke grown attached to him, but he has to take the kid with him wherever he goes or risk being fried by a bolt of unholy lightning. His only hope is to find someone who’s much stronger and crueler than he if he wants any hope of living a normal life of manliness and delinquency ever again.
The strength of this anime lies in its whacked out characters and equally whacked out world. In this world, our hero goes to a school that is filled with delinquents who want nothing more than to beat his face in at a moment’s notice. More specifically, there are four separate factions within Ishiyama High that are fighting for complete control of the student body, with our hero stuck in the middle of the power struggle. Oga, being the tough shonen boy he is, is never one to back down from a fight and manages to become even stronger thanks to Beel’s demonic power aiding him during battles. Though it’s a plot that’s not completely original (Volcano High anyone?) the fact that this series never takes itself too seriously adds to the charm of sitting back and watching the mindless violence go all the way up to eleven.
The supporting cast? Couldn’t be simpler. The aforementioned Hildaguarde acts as Oga’s guide and mother to Beelzebub, becoming his surrogate “wife” of this family with much shipteasing abound. Alaindelon, the living portal to hell, is the straight-up basket case that acts like a fruity muscleman for the sake of comedy relief. This leaves Oga’s best friend Furuchi as the only sane man in a world gone mad, who’s main purpose is to just freak out whenever any new demonic activity serves to mess up his day even more.
Really, there isn’t too much one can say about a series that has a very simple plot and the wacky characters to push it forward. Being the shonen series that it sets out to be one can expect to see even more colorful characters to challenge our hero, only to be defeated just long enough to become his next ally, and in a world full of fighters this won’t be hard to pull off. But while the formula of this series can feel rather predictable, it’s nice to know that the writers will never run out of ideas on how to make Oga’s life even more miserable.
Everything in the first couple of episodes seem to be building up to the final moment in which Beelzebub’s full power will be realized and we can all kiss our lovely planet goodbye. Either Oga will accept his role as the Great Destroyer’s father, Beel will get that ridiculously powerful upgrade, or any combination of the two that would totally screw the rest of humanity either way. But until that moment comes, we might as well sit back and watch the “joys” of parenthood unfold.
Team Samui of the Hidden Cloud arrive at the Leaf Village and are shocked to find it in ruins. Nonetheless, they carry out their orders to deliver the Raikage’s official letter to the Hokage, when Danzo appears and announces that he is the new Hokage.
Gin recalls his past and the fateful event that led him to become a Soul Reaper serving under Aizen. Meanwhile, Aizen’s overwhelming Spiritual Pressure forces Tatsuki, Keigo and the others to fall helplessly to the ground, when Ichigo finally arrives after completing his training.
Ryuji gets close to George and finds the Lost Precious they are looking for. However, taking the Lost Precious Maruga has asked for seems nearly impossible. Eriko believes her plan to keep George occupied at the beach with Maruga's swimsuit has succeeded when a sudden incident ruins her plan. On top of that, Maruga reveals a secret about the Lost Precious. What is the sad past kept quiet by the white dragons? Can Ryuji and Rose conquer that sadness?
Did you know that Yoshitaka Amano was the illustrator of Neil Gaiman's Sandman: the Dream Hunters