Category Archives: Anime

Chaika – The Coffin Princess

All right, so for those who read my blog you’ll have sussed out that I’m a big anime fan. However, not everything works in anime and I can see lots of people being put off if they watch the wrong kind of this wholly Japanese export. The Japanese have made this art form their own with gorgeous visuals and splendidly detailed and impressive animation for most offerings in the genre, but with it though you also find mainly cultural quirks that may not translate well to other audiences. I’ll leave you to make up your own minds for what doesn’t work for you, however, these can seriously put people off if they aren’t used to them.

I got into anime as a child with cartoons like Battle of the Planets and Voltron but it wasn’t until my teenage years when I saw titles like Akira and Fist of the North Star that I fully embraced this animation style and culture. Now you’re likely to see me watching such shows like Naruto Shippuden and Fate Zero, while mostly ignoring others like Black Bullet and Sword Art Online.

With the latter I haven’t really been able to get into it because of the story structure: having 2 or more different worlds for me doesn’t work especially if an equal amount of time is spent in both. Dualities aren’t uncommon in cinema: the Matrix, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe are 2 popular titles that spring to mind. And in these 2 stories the authors dedicate more time to one world, for instance, in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe  the children leave this real world and enter a fantasy one after entering a wardrobe. A similar thing occurs in the Matrix where Neo has to choose between staying in an artificial world created by machines or wake up to the real world where his mind is unshackled from the machine A.I. In both cases one world is chosen for the characters to fully develop and explore.

With Sword Art Online it seems the authors have chosen to dedicate an equal amount of time, developing both the real and online worlds. In the end I have to ask myself why I’m to care for either. I just don’t get the stakes, why I should invest time learning about one world: the rules, its culture, its people etc. if in the end it just won’t matter since the protagonist can just log out.

With Chaika there are no dual worlds for us to get tangled with. It’s just the one world. An evil empire has been defeated and the mage overlord dismembered by heroes of the rebel army. Chaika is the mage’s daughter and she desires to collect her wizard father’s remains so she can give him a fitting burial. Five years after the war, which saw her father dethroned, and she enlists a saboteur and his sister on her mission.

Chaika is something of a wizard herself, though not too skilled, and together with her new companions they avoid capture by the authorities, who don’t want to see the start of a new revolution with the disaffected rising to the cause of the displaced princess, as they search for her father’s remains, often times having to steal or win them from other powerful characters who use the parts as a powerful source of magical fuel. And oh yeah: turns out Chaika isn’t as unique as she thinks. There are other Chaikas! And all have the same mission of appropriating the wizard’s body parts, though they all seem to have differing reasons for this.

Chaika is a very likable character. Very cute and with a unique appearance, she’s often clueless and always seems to be a thought or more behind everyone else, which puts her in precarious positions. Put her back against the wall though and she’s surprisingly resourceful and equally handy with her magic weapon – an anachronistic rifle that seems out of place given the setting is in the 1600’s. But that’s anime for you.

There are 2 seasons already and like other anime titles this one might go on for ages, which means we’ll be blessed to see her parade her naivete like armour for a while longer, as she stumbles from dangerous incident to incident and all the while giving that trademark clueless smile.

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THE BEST THING ABOUT NARUTO SHIPPUDEN

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Naruto Shippuden

Naruto Shippuden follows the adventures of the much loved manga character Naruto, and the Shippuden series sees his return, this time as a teenager. Naruto’s still impatient and irascible as always but has matured some. The series is darker than the original cartoon, especially with Sasuke having left the Leaf village to become a rogue ninja.

At the moment there are 16 seasons and a total of 368 episodes. Still airing in Japan at the time of this writing the 368th and final episode is expected to air in July.

Naruto Shippuden Characters
Naruto Shippuden Characters
Plot

The series continues two and a half years after the first Naruto series, the ending of which saw Sasuke Uchiha leave the Konohagakure village, also known as the Hidden Leaf Village, in order to be mentored by Lord Orochimaru, one of the lead antagonists of the Naruto universe, and enemy of the Leaf.

In Shippuden we catch up with Team Kakashi, a small group of 4 shadow ninja of which Naruto and Sasuke were once teammates.  The other 2 in Team Kakashi are Sakura, who has a mad crush on Sasuke, and it’s leader Kakashi Hatake (who is replaced temporarily by Captain Yamato after a grueling battle with a member of the Akatsuki terrorist organisation). Naruto is still obsessed with finding his best friend Sasuke and bringing him back to the Leaf while Sakura continues to have a crush on him despite hearing horrendous rumours of Sasuke’s activities under Orochimaru’s charge.

Sasuke with Naruto
Sasuke with Naruto

Team Kakashi are committed to rescuing Sasuke from Orochimaru and set out to find him – this time with a new team member named Sai who replaces Sasuke. Unknown to the team, however, Sai is on another mission, one that’s quite different from theirs, for while the team want to save their friend Sai has been sent to assassinate him.

Sai, a special-ops ninja is part of the secretive group known as the Foundation, and takes his orders from Danzo, a fundamentalist and extremist at heart who is at odds with the Leaf’s governance for their lax attitude towards Sasuke’s crimes.

Team Kakashi, led by Yamato, eventually locate Orochimaru’s hideout and confront Sasuke. Sai, originally intending to murder Sasuke on Danzo’s orders now has a change of heart after getting to know his comrades on Team Kakashi, even though this is after a series of altercations with both Naruto and Sakura.

It turns out that Sasuke’s been training hard under Orochimaru and is now on a whole different level from his friends. Naruto and Sakura barely escape with their lives, but still don’t give up on their friend though it’s now obvious to them that he’s changed and turned evil.

Sasuke, though, will not be distracted by love or fondness for his friends – all his training has all been for one purpose: to confront the man who killed all of his tribesmen, his own brother Itachi. Sasuke is blinded by the lust for revenge and this lust leads him to kill Orochimaru, his mentor, to gain even more power.

Lord Orochimaru, Sasuke's mentor
Lord Orochimaru, Sasuke’s mentor. Image from Flickr.com/photos/crz4all

orochimaru-in-akatsuki-6Meanwhile the Akatsuki are hunting tailed beasts – highly powerful weapons (and probably a metaphor for nuclear bombs) that the different nations in the Naruto universe use as a deterrent to war. Tailed beast take the form of monsters of immense power. They’re seen as natural disasters, and will usually be contained in a host called a Jinchuriki (of which Naruto is one), to prevent them from running wild.

It then follows that the Akatsuki start to hunt Naruto who then has to train even harder in order to gain the power he needs both to avoid capture and to win Sasuke back. Then Sasuke defeats his brother Itachi but learns a dark secret about the Hidden Leaf Village – that its leaders were involved in the plot to destroy his tribe and gave Itachi his mission in order to prevent a civil war with Sasuke’s Uchiha clan.

Sasuke now vows to destroy the Leaf to avenge his brother and knows he must fight his best friend Naruto to accomplish this. But the Akatsuki prove themselves formidable, and their leader consequently reveals the reason for their capturing the tailed beast weapons. Up to now there have been only 9 tailed beasts, but a combination of all will birth a super weapon the 10 tails and lead to the end of the world as we know it.

The different antagonists are thus forced to put their differences aside in order to face the common threat of the Akatsuki and save the ninja world from extinction.

Members of the terrorist Akatsuki group
Members of the terrorist Akatsuki group
Why We love Naruto Shippuden

You would think that the most we would enjoy from this franchise is the fact that it’s Japanese manga. True it is one of the better looking anime titles out there, and sometimes the rendering of locations, characters, and shadows is jaw dropping. But for most people Naruto has always been about the characters with a level of characterization rarely seen in this genre.

We get to know the characters, truly know them, so that in the end we care for them, which makes it all the more painful when they die. From Naruto’s love of raimen, to Sakura and Ino’s girly crushes, to Lady Tsunade’s drinking and gambling habits, to Asuma’s smoking, detail seems to be the focus in bringing these characters to life. We engage with them as much for their personal lives as their professional ninja one, which by the way is kick-ass awesome!

Airing Schedule

The series started on February 15 2007 in Japan, and is produced and broadcast by TV Tokyo. It’s English dub premiered on Disney XD in 2009 and episodes are also available on iTunes, Zune Marketplace, and PlayStation Store.

At the moment you can also get episodes on Hulu and Crunchyroll.com. In the UK Crunchyroll is available free on the NOW TV device. The 368th episode will air on July 10 2014.

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Sources: List of Naruto Shippuden Episodes

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