Anime Review: Ping Pong


Admittedly, this is the first sports anime I have checked out even though I am actually a sports fan. I recall watching anime in college and wondering if they ever made sports anime only to get replies on message boards that sports and anime don’t really mix. So the somewhat recent boom in sports anime has been a bit surprising.

Around the time Ping Pong came out, there was a behind the scenes clip online of how they got some of the animation to look the way it did. Check it out below.

The Interface/program they are using is Flash, the same program I used in college for traditional animation. While at Anime Detour earlier this year, I checked out a panel on the works of Masaaki Yuasa. After seeing a range of works in his style, I decided I needed to check out Ping Pong.

I was kinda skeptical at first. Mostly because I never checked out sports anime but I also was concerned if I would get tired of the art style or if it would lose impact over the course of the series (11 episodes). Not to mention, I also didn’t know much at all about Ping Pong.

After the first episode I noticed something interesting in the credits. They had a team just for advising on Ping Pong. This isn’t uncommon, but I was pleasantly surprised. It really paid dividends for the series and making it realistic from a game standpoint.

Ping Pong follows a small group of characters, all from various regions and different playing styles. The series starts with a tournament, the middle portion is the summer/start of a new school year and wraps up with another tournament, with all of our characters a year older.

So should you check out Ping Pong? YES! I initially intended to marathon Ping Pong in an afternoon but I didn’t, instead doing about 4 sessions of 2 or 3 episodes. I wish I had marathoned it. I found myself eagerly waiting for the next viewing session to see what happened next.

The characters are very unique and I am pretty certain there is a character for you to get behind and pull for. In my case I had two favorite characters, Peco and Kong.

Artistically speaking, the artwork didn’t get old as the series went on, I never felt like it was a novelty that had overstayed it’s use. The extreme movements in sports anime lends itself to this art style and I thought the team used this style extremely well. It really shows off in the matches.

From a story perspective and even character development, I don’t really have much to critic. I actually wish there was another episode or two to develop the characters outside of Ping Pong a bit more but it wasn’t needed. I especially enjoyed the series and how it progressed after the initial tournament.

The final episode was really special. Not every anime pulls off the final episode and I felt Ping Pong did an amazing job. Anytime I can walk away from a series with a smile (no pun intended) on my face, I can’t complain.

I highly suggest checking out Ping Pong, I know it is a series I will go back and watch again soon. Ping Pong is available from FUNimation.

You can also read more about Ping Pong on CartoonBrew.


Dragonball Z Resurrection of F Review

The time has come for me to review Dragonball Z Resurrection of F. It’s no secret that I am a huge Dragonball Z fan, it is one of the first series I watched and one of the biggest influences into me deciding I wanted to be an animator.

I am going to review Resurrection of F as a Dragonball Z fan so SPOILER ALERT, there will be SPOILERS below. Check out the trailer below.


Quick rundown of the story, a henchman from Frieza’s army organizes a small army to find the dragon balls on Earth and bring Frieza back to life. Piccolo and Gohan realize someone has summoned Shenron but are unsure of what is going on. Frieza and the troops who resurrected him head into space to train to get revenge. At this point we find out a startling revelation, Frieza has never trained a day in his life. They also spend time gathering troops to come back and try to destroy the Earth and get their revenge on Goku and company.

Frieza was never really my favorite villain, I was more a Cell guy. Although the battle between Frieza and Goku was too good to pass up for seeing in theaters. The animation for the film was great. Some of the impact frames that you only see for a split second are amazing. Large bloodshot eyes, fantastic effects, just such great accents and details were spent on those impact frames that made the fights more intense.

Overall I really enjoyed Resurrection of F… Except for 2 points, here we go.

I am going to sound like a Vegeta fanboy, but hear me out. Towards the end of the film Goku let’s his guard down and gets taken down, opening the door for Vegeta to kill Frieza.  Vegeta steps in and takes Frieza down with a series of attacks. Before Vegeta can finish Frieza, Frieza destroys the Earth. Whis, then reverses time backwards to right before the moment when Frieza destroys the Earth. This allows Goku to destroy Frieza before he can blow up the Earth.

My problem with this, is it felt like a bad cop out. If Frieza was just going to destroy the Earth, why not do it at the start of the film or after he brought his army to the planet or when he couldn’t beat Goku? I wasn’t super harsh on this part of the movie. The reason was because they mentioned Whis’ time reversal power earlier in the film, so as an audience we were set up for this result.

Quick side note, I really expected more from Jaco. His character brought nothing to the movie other than a couple chuckles that Saiyaman could have achieved.

The main thing that had me disappointed was the timeframe in which Frieza returned to Earth. So after Frieza was revived, they left Earth so Frieza could train to beat Goku. We find out in the film that Frieza was only away for 6 months to train before returning. 6 months.

Now you can say that Frieza didn’t know any better or that his ego was in the way. The reason I don’t buy tho argument is that Frieza witnessed Goku’s battle with Buu from hell. We also find out that Frieza held Buu and Beerus in the same tier as fighters. So clearly 6 months was not going to be enough to destroy Goku, which brings me back to my main point, why not just destroy Earth right away.

Overall I really did enjoy the movie, I felt the animation was great, and the fight scenes were exactly what I wanted to see. The fight at the end of the Battle of Gods left me wanting more. My critique of the film was I feel that they used Frieza’s ego as too much of a crutch from a storytelling perspective. Will for sure be buying the film when it is released.

Recent Viewing: Terror in Resonance


The summer season of anime is wrapping up, so I thought I would recap the series that survived my cuts along the way, Terror in Resonance. One of the main reasons I wanted to watch this show was the duo of Shinichiro Watanabe and Yoko Kanno, this duo has worked together on some noteworthy projects; Cowboy Bebop and Wolf’s Rain.

The series spans 11 episodes and follows our two main characters Nine and Twelve who are terrorists that are planting bombs. The two of them operate under the identity Sphinx and generally play some games with the police throughout the early part of the series, almost Riddler vs Batman-esque. Many of the riddles are based in mythology and mythological creatures.

The main police character is a detective named Shibazaki and a student by the name of Lisa Mishima gets mixed up with the group after an attack. Rounding out the characters is Five, a mysterious figure with a past link to Twelve and Nine.

The story becomes a cat and mouse game as three different motives are brought to light by the characters and their affiliates. From a pacing standpoint, I felt the series moved pretty well. The introductory episodes do a great job of keeping your attention and developing some of the characters. The middle lays out a bit more backstory to the characters as well as a story twist that leads to a solid payoff in the end.

I typically watch series several times over a period of time, that way I can get to know the series more and pick up on things I missed in the initial viewing. I bring that up, because I believe that there is a social or political commentary in Terror in Resonance. While I can’t go farther into detail on it since I don’t want to spoil such a new series, if you are into shows along those lines, it is a must see. Personally, I will be picking up this series when it comes out to add to my collection. Very good stuff from from the team of Watanabe and Kanno. You can watch Terror in Resonance on FUNimation’s site.

Did you watch Terror in Resonance? What were your thoughts?

Recent Viewing: Dragonball Z Battle of Gods


For a night I felt like a kid again 🙂 It has been the first time in close to a decade where I was going to see new Dragonball Z, from FUNimation. I was super excited, the film was going to be a full length feature, meaning it would be almost twice as long as the previous 14 movies. So is the film worth your time?

I am going to do my best to avoid any major SPOILERS since it was only in select theaters. I also persuaded my girlfriend to go to the movie as well and she hasn’t seen more than the first 4 or 5 episodes of Dragonball Z. The film handled non-Dragonball Z fans pretty well, by laying out enough history so you had a basic groundwork of some of the characters and storyline.

There was several things that stuck out to me in the film. One of the things that really stuck out to me was the amount of comedy and throwback jokes that long-standing fans. Several times I was finding myself sitting in my seat with a smirk from the jokes and a few one-liners. If your a fan of Vegeta, he is in the film more so than I would have thought. From the trailers and previous Dragonball Z films, my assumption was that the film would primarily feature Goku as the main character/hero and the other characters would only have small portions. The dub version had a few curse words, which was a little surprising. The film probably had more curse words in it, than the rest of the series and films combined. Finally, the amount of CGI in the film was also surprising. It’s the way of the industry in Japan, going more into CGI or the 3D realm if you want to be specific. Several shots had some pretty heavy 3D camera work and environment work. I enjoyed it and think it could evolve pretty well with the DBZ universe. A few of the scenes were a little rough, but you can see that they skills or technical prowess is starting to develop.

On a final note, it has been announced that there will be another new film next year. I have a hunch there was a set up in this film for the future film, it is a personal belief, no spoiler or  insider info. I am curious with the reboot of Sailor Moon, if this film and next years film are testing the waters of doing more on the series or if they will stick to films. I guess only the future will tell 😉

Recent Viewing: Attack on Titan


The above trailer belongs to a series called Attack on Titan. It was a series that I watched in spurts when I had some downtime because the title has a pretty big buzz associated with it. The fact that you are reading this is evidence of that. You are either reading what another viewer thought or you have heard something about the title and are interested in knowing more.

I am going to start by being completely honest, I think this title is going to be a big series for the anime community when it gets released in the states (by FUNimation). The series is a stark contrast from a lot of the titles that are coming out. Attack on Titan is not a series based in comedy, not a musical promotion anime and not one for the harem crowd either.

The series takes place in a world where humanity has retreated to within tall walls to prevent “Titans” from getting in. Titans are giant fleshless human creatures that exist to wipe out humanity. There are various classes of Titans, some 12 feet tall and some with abilities, as you will see in the show.

The animation of the series is pretty enjoyable. Some have griped about the color palette, I personally didn’t mind it. There were lots of earthy tones, some oranges, tans, etc. I felt as if it felt the world they were portraying well. Considering the circumstances of the story, they wouldn’t have various colored buildings, etc. The action scenes are animated well, with several shots having unique camera views.

The soundtrack to the series enhanced the animation and the unique story. I was watching the stream so the title isn’t dubbed yet. I am excited to see the dub when it is eventually released. The opening tracks by Linked Horizon are some of the catchiest openings I have heard since Evangelion and Deathnote.


While the trailer provides a unique look at the world and the story, it really doesn’t do it justice. There is so much more to the series than story outline I described, but I want to avoid spoilers for readers who haven’t streamed it this season. Let me put it this way, Attack on Titan may be an early favorite for my presentation for next year’s SGMS conference.

Have you watched it yet? If not, go check it out on Crunchyroll, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Con Recap: A-kon 2013 Dallas

I haven’t been to a con since Gen-Con 2004. Gen-Con 2004 was the last Dragonball GT card game tournament and the last con I went to. At the time I was about to transfer colleges and was finally ready to get back to school and pursue my B.S. and the end of the card game was all but imminent.

Fast forward to 2013 and I have already been thinking of taking Cosmic Rage to cons to promote the project. However, I had no idea what to expect at cons or Artist Alley for that matter. So after I discovered that Anime Detour in Minneapolis limits their tickets, I set my sights on the Lone Star state and what A-kon had to offer.

I visited some family at the time and also met up with one of my friends I traveled to Japan with. Thursday night we were planning on registering and watching the live action Rourouni Kenshin movie. However, the line for registration was long and we waited in line for 2.5 hours to get registered and get our badges. With badges in hand and the night getting late, we grabbed some pizza and prepared for the next day.

Friday rolled around, and the con was pretty busy. There was a fairly long line of people waiting to register and we heard rumors of people waiting in line for up to 5 hours. I went to a few panels on web comics, artist alley 101, digital coloring, and even kickstart campaigns. I met some really cool artists and got contact info from them as well. Here are a few links to their sites to check out.

Cyanide and Happiness
Star Cross’d Destiny

I enjoyed each of the panels and learned from some talented web comic artists. I might have some more exciting news regarding this topic but I will have to keep it on the downlow for now.

In between all of the panels and checking out the artist alley and dealers rooms, I was able to take some pictures of some awesome cosplay outfits too. I will see if I can post them up to the facebook page. I even got Sonny Strait’s autograph on one of my old Krillin DBZ cards and Todd Haberkorn’s autograph on some DVDs of mine.

Friday night Exist Trace was performing live at the con, so I checked them out and it was quite the show. They quickly became one of my favorite bands just from the show they put on. I helped a friend out after the show get some autographs from the band at the booth. It was a pretty late night by the time we got back to the hotel.

Saturday morning we woke up and checked out the screening for Wolf Children, a new title from FUNImation.


I went to a few more panels on scriptwriting, storytelling and digital art. Later on Saturday I actually met up with the composer on the Cosmic Rage project. We met online on a previous project and now we have become pretty good friends. We actually never thought we would meet up due to where we lived, but through the powers of Facebook, we discovered we were both at the con and met up.

We had a good conversation about our projects and the future of Cosmic Rage that lasted a couple of hours. I met up with my friend and we went to a comedy panel that night and returned to the hotel.

Sunday was a shorter day, we started off the day by attending the Aniplex panel. At the panel they played a trailer for Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack which is suppose to be a horror film they recently picked up.


I personally am a little excited for this title because it looks fun and I am interested to see the use of CGI in the film also. After the Aniplex panel I roamed around the dealers room for a bit more picking up some goodies and art books (Samurai Champloo and Redline).

Overall the con was a great time. I am really hoping I am able to pick up production on Cosmic Rage a bit more and be able to have content in an Artist Alley next year. I met some new friends while waiting in lines for autographs from voice actors and Exist Trace and also met up with some acquaintances as well. The con was jam packed on Saturday and rumor has it they sold out badges, but I can’t confirm that. Looking forward to making it to A-kon next year if I am available.

Check out the Cosmic Rage facebook page for a photo gallery.

Recent Viewing: Samurai 7

As many of us know, Toonami is back on Cartoon Network and airing many of our favorite shows, such as Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop and InuYasha. But Toonami has also been airing new titles and also some titles that have slipped through my personal viewing list. Which brings up todays review of Samurai 7.


Samurai 7 was released in 2004 by Gonzo, which was one of the earlier adopters and experimenters of CGI in anime. Funimation currently holds the rights to what is known as the most expensive anime, costing around $300,000 an episode to produce and is based on the Akira Kurosawa film, the Seven Samurai but with a sic fi twist.

I haven’t seen Kurosawa’s film so the anime has been my first introduction to the storyline, and also leaves me blank in drawing comparisons between the two titles. Admittedly, I am not a huge samurai fan, the title has been suggested by several friends so I went on a week by week episodic journey via Toonami. Maybe it was the week by week viewing method, but at certain points the story felt a little slow and there were weeks that the story felt a little rushed, which gave the overall story a bit of an inconsistently paced impression.

There are a few strings of episodes that feel very well put together, there is mostly a little lag at the start, middle and the end feels a bit rushed. Overall, the story contained an interesting premise and I wonder if the uneven pacing is due to my viewing habits or if they are places that were drawn out when compared to the original film.

Since Samurai 7 was produced in the early 2000’s, the CGI is typical of the time period and consistent with some of the other titles I have reviewed such as Burst Angel. This means the robots are animated stiffly, some objects and special effects are rendered in CGI and also that there is a gap in the overall compositing of the project (the explosions feel as if they are overlaid onto the animation and not blended in) which Burst Angel used a destroyed city with an orange sky to help blend the two.

Having said that, the CGI in the last few episodes is noticeably better than the previous 20+ episodes. Most likely a combination of their more experienced CGI animators and more of the budget allocated to those as well.

Overall, Samurai 7 is a title worth checking out. The unique combination of the samurai lifestyle and enemies using sic fi weapons and robotics is an interesting twist on the time period. The CGi isn’t too distracting from the rest of the art, and the show has a wide variety of interesting characters. There is a samurai that almost anyone can connect with.

You can even check out the episodes on Funimations site here since it recently finished up its run on Toonami. Have you already seen Samurai 7? Let me know what you thought of the show!

Recent Viewing: Oblivion Island Haruka and the Magic Mirror

The only bright side of ever being sick is the fact that it allows one to sit under a blanket with juice and a stack of movies. On that note, I am going to provide a review of what I think is a must watch film called Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror. It’s a film that went rather under the radar in the states. I actually only heard of it due to amazon suggesting the title to me. So here we go!


Oblivion Island was released in 2009 from Production I.G. and licensed in the states by Funimation. First off the story has a very interesting plot/theme. The premise is, that there is a second hidden world which its inhabitants take neglected items in the human world back to their world. The main character, Haruka, sees one of these creatures (which look like a stylized fox) takes her keys that are sitting on a staircase. She decides to follow this creature and get her keys back. While in this world, she realizes that this must be where he childhood mirror she received from her mother as a gift must be. The quest for Haruka and the creature, Teo, begins in search for the mirror.

The settings of the film were very inventive. The portions that took place in the real world were all inspired by actual places. The creature world however had a cleverly built world out of borrowed items. For instance, there are several buildings that have surfboards for shingles. Many settings in this world have a feel as a cross over between a Ghibli film and a Pixar film. Lush ocean areas, islands and an underground are all scenes in Oblivion Island, even an underground moat made out of orange syrup. During certain shots of the film, it felt as if I was watching a video game due to the details in the environments crossed with camera angles.

One of my interests over the last year has been the use of CGI in Japanese animation, this film is almost exclusively 3D, which was one of the reasons I needed to see it. The film is very well animated and rendered. The characters skin does’t look plastic and the cloth and hair animate well. Nothing feels rigid or out of place that takes away from the film, Haruka moves around really well. As the other characters are as well. There was several shots that had a variety of dynamic systems in them, such as cloth, fireworks and more.

I thought the character designs were well done as well. They felt as if they were all from a video game which was really refreshing. Many of the characters wore masks, which were very unique and added to the mystic of some of the characters. The Baron character’s mask fits him very well, Haruka wears a mask at points that appears as its from a large baseball.

I highly suggest watching Oblivion Island. Especially if you are a fan of Ghibli and Pixar films. Overall the film has a very sweet story and well produced visuals. You can  actually watch the movie for free online here in either subbed or dubbed.


Recent Viewing: Burst Angel


At the suggestion of a friend, I decided to marathon Burst Angel in the span of a day while getting some work done. Burst Angel was created in 2004 by Gonzo and licensed in America by FUNimation (I told you I would get to a FUNimation title).

The story is very similar to Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 (BCT 2040). We follow around a group of girls that are fighting against mutated people/creatures that are wreaking havoc in Tokyo. Each character set has the a few archetypes of characters. The strong silent/ rebellious leader, the loud quirky girl, the young genius (in BCT 2040 its a young male), and a serious but yet sometimes fun leader or business head.

I really had no knowledge of the series going into it, it had been a while since I had seen a trailer for it and I have never really looked into the title to see what it was about. Having said that, there was an early episode that really had kinda set up some high hopes of a direction the series would go. However, the story never progresses down that path. After a few episodes of introducing characters in the first few episodes, I thought this storyline was going to be the main plot for the remainder of the series. It only turned out to be a one off kinda episode that never touches the topic.

All was not lost, from a production standpoint, Gonzo creates some of the best CGI in all of anime. I really got familiar with their work when I was preparing my SGMS presentation last year. However my presentation covered only 3 time periods of CGI in anime, it’s inception, the titles when it started to become more mainstream and where it was at today. If I had a longer period of time to present, one of the areas I wanted to go into was the mid 2000’s. Some titles that were the first to use CGi were in the late 1990’s and Gonzo was one of the studios that was at the forefront of the movement.

So to see a title from 2004 which is the time I wanted to study more as there was a flurry of new techniques and such coming out. Burst Angel had some really nice animated robot sequences in the later episodes. A couple years prior to this title there were studios that when animating robots, would animate them very robot like and not too responsive, they look very rigid and unnatural. Burst Angel has scenes where robots are slinging around large weapons and you can get a sense of the weight of the weaponry from the way the robot is wielding it. The robot will swing the weapon into position and they go past where they need it and bring it back just a little. It is one of the animation principles, but you didn’t see these applied to CGi robots before in anime.

The downfall of the series a little bit is the lack of compositing in those final episodes. By compositing I mean that there are effects that look like they are just dropped onto the animation and don’t blend into the environment to make it fit in. Explosions are placed over the top of the animation and sometimes you can see that things around them aren’t effected by the burst of light and fire. In one shot in particular you can see the building underneath an explosion has no breaking windows or even damage.

I may be coming off as really harsh, but I’m not. At the time this was released it probably was pretty solid to other anime titles being produced at the time. A lot of titles in that time were experimenting with CGI and how they could use it. I have a fascination with this time period because in a way it relates to what I am working on as well.

All series have budgets and restrictions, in my Cosmic Rage project, I have the limitation of doing the whole project with my laptop. I dig into these titles because it is very intriguing to see how other animators cut corners to save on budgets and how they have to keep budgets in mind. It is fun to dissect how they did things to get a certain look as well. And to be honest some of these things they can get away with because the audience doesn’t know what they are looking for in some cases.

I enjoyed Burst Angel, I thought it was an entertaining 24 episode series that really allowed me to see more of what Gonzo was doing in the mid 2000’s. It is a time period that I would enjoy to see more titles from since it was such a time for experimental techniques and balancing looks with a computers render power as well.

Recent Viewing- PenguinDrum


This past week I had a chance to watch Penguindrum from Sentai Filmworks created by a studio I have never heard of before, Brains Base. Check out the opening above (disregard the red type in the first :15 seconds). For some reason Sentai Filmworks does not have it’s own youtube channel to display their shows and trailers don’t exist on their website either. So we went with the only video involving the opening to the series. Sentai Filmworks is releasing Penguindrum over 2 discs, so this is only about the first disc since disc 2 won’t be out until mid-March.

Penguindrum has a very interesting story. I had seen a few subtitled (subbed) episodes about a year or so ago while at a conference and instantly enjoyed watching the little blue penguins throughout the show cause chaos and act as the series comedic relief. However, the story does not revolve around the aforementioned penguins, it revolves around 2 brothers (Shoma and Kanba), their sister (Himari), a schoolgirl names Ringo, and a handful of other characters.

The story starts with Himari being sick/dead and when she dawns a magical penguin hat she returns to life and gains a split personality. The split personality is her reason for existence and she orders her 2 brothers to embark on a comedic journey to retrieve the penguindrum. With this hat, comes a group of 3 little blue penguins that each follow a character around and creates comedic relief in the series.

Before you disregard this series as a comedic and random series, hear me out. While it was the comedy that got me interested in the series, Penguindrum has a more darker side to it as well. There is a lot of fate/destiny vs choice in the series and certain characters trying to prove one or the other. There is a little bit of magic, and more. Towards the end of the first 12 episode set, the series starts to paint a darker picture involving the characters. I by saying this I will be setting a high standard, but, dare I say that the series may be heading down the path of Neon Genesis Evangelion where things get darker and more open to interpretation.

I am excited to see how the series plays out and look forward to seeing the conclusion in March to the first Brain Base anime series I have had the opportunity to watch.

From an animation standpoint, they tend to do some things that are par for the course in Japan. Some elements are animated in 3D, which if you watched the opening above you will see they use 3D for some secondary elements. They use particle effects in some scenes as well, for water and even to replicate dust caught in laser sites of some weaponry.

Personally, my favorite stylistic choice in Penguindrum is the use of flat 2D layers that I could easily see being done in Adobe After Effects. If you watch the opening above it would be all of the Penguin face logos, but the series uses those and also uses 2D cutouts for certain scenes too. The series is very focused on settings so when characters go to new scenes we see a 3D subway gate followed by 2D subway signs where the characters are. The signs are all done in 2D with very stylized backgrounds.

When the characters are in crowded areas, the background characters are people icons and not drawn people. The people icons are similar to what you would see on bathroom signs here in the U.S. but when I traveled to Japan last year, they use iconography in explaining many things. There was even a series called XXXHolic (Funimation) that used a similar technique in which all of their background characters were simply white pencil sketches.

Penguindrum provides a fun soundtrack as well. I am a sucker for comedic penguins and especially the amount of subway scenes that appear in Penguindrum as well. I still have to wait to see the last half of the series, but the first half is for sure worth checking out for a variety of reasons discussed above. Let’s hope the second half is at least as good as the first half. Monday will be a new production update and a special post for next Thursday as well.