30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 1: The Very First Anime You Watched

This post is part of The 30 Day Anime Challenge Series alongside the Cosmic Anvil Kickstarter campaign. Click here to read the introduction, and click here to check out and support the campaign to help us fund the printing and distribution of our first collected volume of our manga-inspired comic series, Age of Revolution!


Jess Hardcastle Marketing Whizz Kid

Pokemon

Misty, Ash, and Brock

The first anime I can remember watching was probably Pokemon with my little sister, but at the time I didn’t understand what anime was and didn’t realise that I was watching it! I probably watched it on Jetix on CITV (in the UK).

Jetix_logo

Jetix Logo from CiTV

Another thing people might find interesting is the fact that I never played any of the original Pokemon games until a few years ago in University and was never interested in the card game as a kid. But me and my sister did collect the Pokemon stickers and would spend near enough all our pocket money on them every weekend.

Pokemon stickers

Pokemon stickers!

I also remember arguing over which one of us was getting a Pokeball and Pokedex toys for Christmas one year because one of us had to have the Pokeball and one of us had to have the Pokedex as we couldn’t both have the same one!  I had the Pokeball game and she had the Pokedex in the end.

Pokeball Game

Pokeball Game

pokedex

Pokedex

Honorable mentions: Yu-Gi-Oh!, Cardcaptor Sakura, Beyblade and Digimon.


Hannah Collins Co-Founder and Artist

The Cosmic Anvil team are all about the same age (children’s of the 90s), so we’re probably all going to have similar answers to this question! Many people regard the 1990s as a ‘golden era’ for anime in terms of popularisation in the West, with AkiraGhost In The Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion being hugely influential.

Unfortunately, none of the above were my first exposure to anime as I was far too young to have any knowledge of their existence. Like Jess, I grew up on a diet of Jetix and watching Americanised dubbed versions of shows, and again like Jess, the first anime I remember watching was Pokemon. I was very much sucked into the whole Pokemon franchise phenomenon – the show, the games, the films, the cards, the stickers, the figures… I even still have a t-shirt that I can just about squeeze myself into!

I also still have the special edition cards that were given out at the cinema when the first film – Mewtwo Strikes Back – came out, and I still remember the sinking disappointment upon discovering that the super shiny Mew card (which I thought would one day be worth ALL the money) was simply a sticker on some cardboard.

Shiny Mew Card

Damn you, shiny fake Mew!


Huw Williams CO-Founder and Writer

Now, my first anime… you’ve probably never heard of it. It’s called Pokemon…?

Yeah I know, Hannah and Jess have already talked about it but I’ll try to tell you my own experiences with Pokemon. Not only was Pokemon my first anime, but it introduced me to what being an anime fan means. First off, you can’t just enjoy anime casually, you have to immerse yourself into it. The video games lead me into the anime, and so it goes without saying that I had those, but there was so much more to Pokemon.

My Pokemon merchandise collection was pretty big. I had a Pokedex in both toy and book form, a Pokeball game, Pikachu plushies, Pokemon with marbles in them so you could roll them around, a Pokeball shooter that shot a Masterball on a string, the cards, marbles and marble pouch, bouncy balls, clothes, game guides, novelisations of the anime, toys, toys, and more toys! The list goes on, but my point is, this was when I became a true fan of an anime.

pokemon books

The book was epic!

Pokemon also taught me that being a fan of anime means that you will seem strange to others who are not, and not everyone gets it. My Dad would always watch it with me if he was in the living room at the time and ask me: “What the hell is going on?” I also remember him being one of the first to joke about Brock having his eyes closed all the time. My Mum was also confused, but still took me to see the first movie in the cinema, even though she fell asleep during it. My brother and sister took me to see the second movie in the cinema. My brother was terrified when he thought that the whole film would be like the opening Pikachu short with no dialogue, and my sister tried to understand it by telling me her favorite Pokemon was Pikachu, but once I told her mine was Lugia I saw that she was completely confused! Anime is hard man, but we’ve got to stick by it.

Back int he day Lugia was the bomb!

Back in the day Lugia was the bomb!


Written by The Cosmic Anvil team.

Check out our own Welsh-manga (or ‘Wanga’) series, AGE OF REVOLUTION on our official site and Comixology! AND if you want to join the fight to get the AGE OF REVOLUTION Volume printed check out our Kickstarter campaign

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Noob Reviews: Sword Art Online Manga

Welcome to my third post in the N00b Reviews series!

Yep another post, written by none other than the resident noob here at Cosmic Anvil. After looking at Shingeki no Kyojin last week I am going to be looking at Sword Art Online (SAO) in this post. Similarly to Shingeki no Kyojin I also watched the anime series of SAO prior to reading the manga.

First, let me give you a little back story as to why I watched SAO in the first place. For those reading this who don’t know me, since having gone to university and being a part of the video game society there, I have developed a strong interest in video gaming. And as you’ve probably guessed by its title, the theme of video games plays a big part in this series.

Kirito & Asuna

Kirito & Asuna


Summary:

Sword Art Online was written by Kawahara Reki and illustrated by Hazuki Tsubasa. It tells the story of ‘Sword Art Online’ (SAO) a virtual reality MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) released in 2022. The game uses a virtual reality helmet called ‘Nerve Gear’ to simulate the gamers’ senses through signals sent straight to their brains. This allows players to control their avatars in the game using only their minds.

On the release of the game, players log into SAO only to discover they do not have the ability to log out. They are then told by Akihiko Kayaba – the game’s creator – that they will need to complete the 100 floor tower to return to the real world again. They are also informed that if they die in game they also die outside the game as well. Survival suddenly becomes imperative in the digital world.

The main story arc focuses on the protagonist Kirito – a beta tester of SAO  – who sets up as a solo player in order to conquer the game alone.  Along the way he becomes friends with Asuna, a mysterious heroine and sub leader of the infamous guild “Knights of the Blood”. The two eventually team up both romantically and in battle to defeat the game.


First Impressions:

Looking at the art style of SAO it is quite ‘cutesy’ looking, which lightens the dark nature of the series (being trapped in a game that could kill you).  I also think Kawahara Reki wrote Kirito to be relatable to the audience and almost a stereotypical archetype of a video gamer (Keeps to themselves, awkward, and of course, competitive).

SAO cuteSAO cute 2


What I liked:

I really liked the way the characters had relatable traits and we wanted them to succeed in their mission to fight against the game and get back to the real world.  Not only did the characters have relatable traits, but there were awkward relatable scenes as well. You’ll see what I mean here….

SAO embarrass SAO embarrass 2 SAO embarrass 3

I also liked that the fact that whilst they were in the game, the distance between reality and the virtual world was blurred, for example the fact they still needed to eat and sleep in the game, and the skills gained also varied from everything between combat and domestic.


 What I disliked:

I really can’t think of anything that I particularly disliked about the manga. Whether that’s because I am already biased to really liking the anime (one of the top rated shows on my Netflix account) or the characters. In general there was nothing that stood out to me as bad.


Another WTF moment?!:

In chapter 8 I discovered a weird moment at the beginning of the chapter that made reference to the anime. This was a bit of a WTF because it made me question whether the anime was happening within the games’ universe or if something  had been added in by the translators to remind readers about the anime. (See the pages below below and make up your own mind).

SAO anime SAO anime2 SAO anime3


How did it compare to the anime:

The main arc of the Sword Art Online manga focused heavily on the relationship between Kirito and Asuna and skipped a lot of the long battle scenes we see in the anime. I did also notice after reading a few chapters of the Sword Art Online: Progressive manga that there was more Asuna backstory and more information was revealed in the anime earlier on in the series, such as the meeting with the top SAO players. Also, a major part of the anime that was skipped in the original manga chapters was the Yui arc that focuses on the NPC (Non playable character) AI within the game that almost becomes a surrogate daughter to Kirito and Asuna.


 Overall Opinion:

Whilst I did enjoy reading the manga, overall I think I preferred the anime to the manga as it was a lot more action-packed and visually interesting. Once again, I am being sucked into wanting to keep reading more of the series. From what I’ve researched there are four main stories of the manga (SAO, SAO: Fairy Dance, SAO: Progressive and SAO: Girls Ops). I think I will probably read the other stories at some point, when I get round to it!


Written by marketing whizzkid Jess Hardcastle.

Check out Cosmic Anvil’s original manga series ‘Age of Revolution’ in print here and digitally on Comixology.


6 Kids Cartoons Adventure Time Fans Should Be Watching

It’s a cartoon special this week! Thirsty for more adventure? More wackiness? More epicosity? This week we’re taking a break from the world of comics and manga recommendations to count down our top 6 (because 5 just wasn’t enough…) kids cartoons – other than Adventure Time – that you should really be watching right now:

Bravest Warriors

Bravest Warriors

  1. Bravest Warriors

Channel: You Tube/Cartoon Hangover

Creator: Pendleton Ward

If you’re already an Adventure Time fan, then Bravest Warriors is a pretty easy sell when you realise that they share the same creative talents of Pendleton Ward. Set in the year 3085, the show revolves around Ward’s version of the Teen Titans as they travel around weird and wonderful parts of the universe having weird and wonderful adventures. Although it is aimed at a more mature audience than Adventure Time – with references to beer and a cheeky elf named, um, ‘Wankershim’ – it still feels very much like a kid’s show at heart, full of adorable creatures, punchy slang, bizarre plot lines, and heavy emphasis on friendship and emotion.

The beauty of Ward’s distinctive storytelling method is that events unfold in a seemingly random way on the surface, but upon closer inspection clearly rely on their own internal logic, with the seeds for overarching story arcs hinted at way before they come to fruition. That feeling of ‘randomness’ makes each episode wonderfully unpredictable, fresh, and organic.

Just remember: It’s always been Wankershim!

 

Regular Show

Regular Show

  1. Regular Show

       Channel: Cartoon Network

       Creator: JG Quintel

Although superficially very different, Regular Show and Bravest Warriors actually have a lot in common. Both are shows whose target audience is adults, but very much have the same appeal as a kid’s show (and certainly more appropriate for kids than other brands of adult cartoon, i.e. anything made by Seth McFarlane). Both of their respective creators also attended and befriended each other at The California Institute of the Arts and went on to work on The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack at Cartoon Network Studios together. Ward and Quintel also provide the voices of main characters in their shows, and this ‘hands-on’ approach to their creations keeps their shows consistently true to their unique creative visions.

Quintel’s Regular Show revolves around the lives of two minimum wage groundskeepers, Modecai – a blue jay – and Rigby – a racoon, who spend most of their time avoiding work and being inadvertently sucked into unusual situations involving things like portals to alternate dimensions and the ghosts of guys from the 1980s who partied too hard. The show also features a beautiful watercolour-wash effect in its art; naturalistic dialogue in its scripting; and references to obscure 1980s/1990s pop culture and media that – through surreal reinterpretations – manage not to isolate any younger viewers.

And if that wasn’t persuasion enough, Mark Hamill voices an immortal yeti in it called Skips. Enough said.

Teen Titans GO!

Teen Titans GO!

  1. Teen Titans GO!

       Channel: Cartoon Network

Creators: Glen Murakami & Sam Register

       Developers: Michael Jelenic & Aaron Horvath

The original cartoon incarnation of DC comics’ Teen Titans in 2003 was nothing short of perfection. Dramatic, funny, touching, stylish, and hugely entertaining; it’s no surprise that cartoon guru Bruce Timm and his protégé Glen Murakami were involved in it’s development. It’s no understatement that I – and many others – was heartbroken when the series finally ended in 2008, and then overjoyed when its return was announced in 2013 following a series of popular shorts by DC Nation.

But, hold on… this wasn’t going to be the same show that we knew and loved. Following the equally superb DC comics’ based series Young Justice getting (criminally) cancelled in 2013 after just 2 seasons, it became clear that Warner Bros. was going in another direction with it’s DC owned properties, and that direction was: wacky. ‘More wack! The kids love the wack these days what with that Adventure Time thing…’ the network execs probably said to each other. And more ‘wack’ is exactly what we got with the rebirth of Teen Titans as Teen Titans GO!

This version focuses on the antics that the team get up to in between all the serious crime-fighting stuff, and is suitably rendered in the chibi ‘deformed body’ style that some of the gag cutaways were done in during the original show. As such, stories for episodes are as simple as: Cyborg and Beast Boy can only say ‘waffles’ all day; Raven starts a book club; Robin gets driving lessons, etc. All of which are peppered with Internet humour, quirky cutaways, and musical montages.

Some fans have taken against this new direction, and although I do miss the original sorely, I’d rather the show was on TV in some form or another than not at all. Plus, sorry to the haters, but it really does make me laugh.

The Amazing World of Gumball

The Amazing World of Gumball

  1. The Amazing World of Gumball

       Channel: Cartoon Network

       Creator: Ben Becquelet

The Amazing World of Gumball centres on Gumball Watterson – a blue cat – and his pet talking goldfish – Darwin – who grew legs one day and now exists as his adopted brother. The pair attend Elmore Elementary School, which is inhabited by an eclectic mix of characters such as a banana, a female T-Rex, a balloon, a peanut shell with moose ears, a potted flower, an Emo ghost, and – my personal favourite – a human upside-down chin with a face drawn on, to name only a few.

The most distinctive quality of The Amazing World of Gumball though is its ingenious collagic mix of 3D and 2D animation. Characters range from 3D computer models, to 2D flat drawings, to real objects with googly-eyes and mouths drawn on; and backgrounds are real images of peaceful American suburbia. This assorted visual tapestry merges well with plots that frequently unravel from typical family sit-com scenarios into chaos, accompanied by highly-strung, fast-paced voice acting from actual children who are not afraid to go from a whisper to a screech in an instant. Amongst all the chaos however, is an abundance of sheer warmth and vitality that few kid’s cartoons ever manage to achieve.

Gravity Falls

Gravity Falls

  1. Gravity Falls

       Channel: Disney Channel and Disney X D

       Creator: Alex Hirsch

What do you get when you cross summer vacation, Oregon, grumpy elderly relatives, conspiracy theories, and an amazing jumper collection? Gravity Falls.

Created by another California Arts alumni, Alex Hirsch – who also voices two of the show’s main characters – Gravity Falls follows the summer vacation exploits of twins, Dipper and Mabel Pines, who are sent to stay with their Grunkle (Great + Uncle) Stan in his ‘Mystery Shack.’ Together with Handyman Soos and gift shop attendant Wendy, they discover the spooky mysteries of the fictional town of Gravity Falls with the help of a strange journal marked ‘3’ that Dipper discovers in the woods.

The strengths of the show are two-fold:

  1. It is genuinely creepy, and
  2. It is genuinely funny.

Combine this with excellent characterisation and fantastic voice acting – particularly from Kristen Schaal who voices Mabel – and you have the recipe for a loyal and enthusiastic fan base of children and young adults alike.

Most of the monsters that inhabit the town are well-worn supernatural and science fiction tropes – haunted wax works, time-travelling scientists, shape shifting creatures, underwater serpents, zombies, etc. – but the real underpinning of the show is the conspiratorial thread that connects each of these occurrences. Hidden patterns, ciphers, codes, and repeated motifs feature regularly and cleverly riff on the suspicions and fears of Internet Illuminati enthusiasts. The antagonist – Bill Cipher – an inter-dimensional demon in the form of a floating yellow pyramid with a single eye and dapper top hat is a clear reference to the Eye of Providence that appears on the American dollar bill, which itself is associated with Freemasonry.

Bill Cipher

Bill Cipher

This attention to detail runs through every element of the show, including its comedic elements: Mabel’s brilliant jumper collection; the post-credits gags; Waddles the pig; Grenda’s masculine voice; Xyler and Craz from ‘Dream Boy High’… This is a show you will definitely want to catch the reruns of.

The Legend of Korra

The Legend of Korra

  1. The Legend of Korra

Channel: Nickolodeon

Creators: Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko

Let me take you back all the way to 2005. Teenage me wakes up bleary-eyed mid-morning on a Saturday. I wonder downstairs. My sister is sitting in the living room holding a DVD. ‘I’ve recorded a cartoon I watched this morning.’ She says, thrusting the aforementioned DVD at me. ‘You have to watch it.’ That recorded cartoon was the first two episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which aired on CiTV on Saturday mornings in the UK. We didn’t have catch-up TV at the time, so the effort of recording onto a blank disc was reserved for truly ‘must-watch’ stuff. No other show was more deserving of that saintly title than the Avatar series, and we diligently recorded every episode of that show from start to finish until we could buy them on the official DVD releases.

The reason for that little insight into my yesteryears is to convey the nostalgia that I – like many fans of my age group – feel for the original Avatar series, and what has perhaps led some to turn their noses up at its sequel, The Legend of Korra. The original series followed the trials and adventures of 12 year-old Aang – the ‘Avatar’ and master of the four elements – and his friends (‘Team Avatar’) as they seek to bring peace to a world ravaged by war from the over-powered Fire Nation. The series took strong inspiration from Eastern philosophies of balance; reincarnation; harmony between spirits and humans; as well as martial arts, and this also heavily influenced its aesthetic to the point at which many mistake it for an anime.

Avatar Aang from The Last Airbender Series

Avatar Aang from The Last Airbender Series

The Legend of Korra is a sequel series that takes place 100 years after the events of the first. It follows Korra, the successive Avatar to Aang, as she struggles to find her place in a fast-changing world in which industrialism and ideological challenges to the Monarchic ruling system perpetually disrupt the balance that she – as the Avatar – is tasked to keep. And yes – this is show is aimed at kids.

Some fans of the original series complain that the sequel is much weaker, but I can’t help but think that nostalgia impacts heavily on this, as the viewers I know who have discovered Avatar through Korra do not seem to harbour the same feelings. Thematically, the two shows can be seen as perfect inversions of one another: Whereas Aang struggled to accept his role in a world that desperately needed him, Korra struggles to assert her relevance in a world that constantly reject her. The Aang series was also largely character-driven, whereas the Korra series is largely story-driven. Whilst the Aang series had a single overarching story, Korra faces a new adversary in every series, with far more side-characters and subplots making up the story of each episode.

Korra’s production has also been plagued by a seemingly conscious effort by Nickolodeon to get rid of its most critically acclaimed show as fast as possible. From slashing its budget to taking it off-air completely, the network’s treatment of the show has sadly tainted the online airing of its final ever series, much to the anger of its fiercely loyal fan base.

Despite all this, Avatar remains quite simply one of the greatest cartoons ever created; striking the perfect balance between kid’s and adult animation that is only really matched by the likes of Toy Story. The world is steeped in rich history; the characters are loveable and believable; the adversaries are complex and often morally ambiguous; and the creators manage to distil mature emotional, political, and socioeconomic themes into digestible narrative and dialogue that anyone of any age can understand.

The world of Avatar is one that you will want to revisit time and time again long after its final episode airs.

Next week, we continue our cartoon special with a another list of top shows you should be watching!