30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 25: Saddest Anime Death

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.


[SPOILER ALERT: Obviously, there will be death scenes discussed in this post!]

Jess Hardcastle Marketing Whizz Kid

One of the saddest deaths I’ve ever seen in anime is the death of Maes Hughes in Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood. I was genuinely distraught by his death, especially as we get to know his wife and young daughter who are left behind, and considering how much he also takes care of everyone including Edward, Alphonse and Winry 😦


Hannah Collins Co-Founder and Artist

As I’ve said before during this blog series, I’m a complete wimp – I cry very easily at nearly anything, from TV adverts to just watching the news sometimes. That’s why for this post I decided to go with a death scene that I that I didn’t expect to make me as sad as it did, and also one that I never see come up on ‘saddest deaths in anime’ lists, and that’s Ciel Phantomhive’s death in the season one finale of Black Butler, or Kuroshitsuji.

Ciel Phantomhive's death, Black Butler

Ciel Phantomhive’s death, Black Butler

I was completely hooked on this anime when it came out in 2008 from the very first episode. In a genre that is totally over-saturated with cliche, Yana Toboso’s Black Butler breathed new life into the Supernatural, ‘monster-of-the-week’ structure of story-telling with it’s gothic style, ghoulish humour, endearing characters, and new twists on British legends and history.

Set in a Victorian-era England, the story follows orphaned thirteen-year-old Earl Ciel Phantomhive, who after witnessing his parent’s murder at the hands of a mysterious occult group, vows revenge on their killers. Hearing his cries for vengeance, a demon offers him a contract: assistance in helping him reek his revenge in exchange for his soul. Ciel accepts, and the demon takes the guise of Sebastian Michaelis, his loyal and extraordinarily skilled butler.

Black Butler Anime

Sebastian and the Phantomhive Mansion staff protect Ciel from harm.

But the path to attaining Ciel’s precious revenge isn’t a straight one. As well as heading up the Phantomhive’s toy company (which is clearly intended to be ironic considering Ciel has no interest in childish pursuits) the young Earl must also fulfil his family duties as Queen Victoria’s ‘Guard Dog’ and protect the Queendom from ‘abnormal’ threats. Werewolf attacks, Jack the Ripper, child prostitution, royal ghosts, rogue angels… These are all dangerous missions that Ciel and Sebastian take on together through the first series.

All the while, Sebastian attends to Ciel’s every whim and need with delicate precision to little to no expression of gratitude from his stoic master. It seems that Ciel’s heart has been hardened by the early trauma he has had to endure, to the point at which he has completely abandoned his own childhood. Instead of playing with other children he attends business lunches and signs documents in his study. Sebastian endeavours to melt his frostiness with a strange gentile touch, strange because every act of kindness his performs for Ciel is always tinged with that underlying feeling of hunger for the soul he is fattening up. You see, Sebastian doesn’t just want any old soul: he wants one he has grown and nurtured until it’s just right to eat.

Black Butler ending Sebastian carries Ciel to his final resting place

Sebastian carries Ciel to his final resting place.

This all reaches an inevitable climax at the end of the series when Ciel’s soul is indeed ripe enough for Sebastian’s tastes. But what caught me completely off-guard about the final sequence is how moving it was. I was expecting something bloody and monstrous, but it turned out to be strangely tender and peaceful. Sebastian rows Ciel to a strange deserted island and lays him down on a bench in an abandoned ruin. He removes Ciel’s eyepatch that hides the eye inscribed with the demonic contract, and Ciel smiles up at him – not fearful, or in pain, but relieved and satisfied. Sebastian leans in with a fanged smile towards his lips… and that’s it. I don’t know why it choked me up so much. I guess I didn’t realise how invested I’d become in these two over such a short episode run, or how cathartic a death I knew was inevitable would feel. Rather than a hunter consuming its prey, it felt more like a close friend helping anther to find a much-needed release from life.

Such a shame then that such a satisfying ending was kind of ruined by a bizarre second season :/ At least the manga is still going strong though!

Honourable mentions: L (Death Note), Maes Hughes & Nina Tucker (Full Metal Alchemist & Brotherhood), Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop), Asuka Langley Soryu (End of Evangelion), Koworu Nagisa (Neon Genesis Evangelion) Seita and Satsuma (Grave of the Fireflies), Kikyo (InuYasha).


Huw Williams CO-Founder and Writer

I’ve already talked about two deaths during this series, so in order to not repeat myself, I’ve had to really think hard about another anime death that left me feeling emotional. One of my saddest anime deaths (apart from the ones I’ve already talked about) is the death of Wizardmon in Digimon Adventures.

Wizardmon and Gatomon (left to right).

Wizardmon and Gatomon (left to right)

Wizardmon is the best friend of Gatomon, the Digimon partner to Digidestined Kari – sister of original Digidestined Tai. Gatomon is introduced to us as a Digimon who works for Myotismon, one of the many villains of the series, and one of her redeeming qualities is her friendship with Wizardmon, showing that maybe these two aren’t as evil as their master.

It is revealed to us that Kari is a Digidestined, and that Gatomon is her Digimon partner. Myotismon learns this and battles the Digidestined now including Kari and Gatomon, he tries to attack Gatomon, but Wizardmon takes the hit, sacrificing his life for his friend. I remember watching this as a kid on my VHS tape that I used to record Digimon on, and crying my eyes out. The most touching part of his death is how zen he is. Gatomon says sorry and blames herself, but Wizardmon calmly says that he has had a happy life, and the reason for that was Gatomon’s friendship. He thanks her for it and passes away.

Here is Wizardmon’s death scene for you to watch… you know, if you’re into that sort of thing:


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 page

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30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 24: Moment That Shocked You The Most in An Anime

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.


[SPOILER ALERT! There will be some tragic/death scenes and plot twists mentioned in this post.]

Jess Hardcastle Marketing Whizz Kid

What shocked me the most out of all the anime I’ve seen so far has to be the surprisingly dark themes in Puella Magi Madoka Magicka. I went into the series blind only knowing it was about magical girls but it turned out to be a hell of a lot grimmer than that!

Even the cute cat-like creature, Kyubey, who initially appears to help and guide the magical girls turns out to be an emotionless, scheming alien that has a total lack of regard for the girls’ lives! Mainly as he doesn’t tell the girls that once they become Puella Magi, if they fall into despair they become the very witches that they are fighting!

kyubey turned around

I mean… how could this cute creature be so evil?!

Honorable mentions: L’s Death (Death Note), Maes Hughes Death (Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood), Lucy killing Kouta’s Dad & Sister (Elfen Lied) and Eren becoming a Titan (Attack On Titan).


Hannah Collins Co-Founder and Artist

Until recently I would have had a hard time choosing between moments for this one. That was until I saw the feature-length anime Perfect Blue at the Kotatsu Japanese Animation film festival in Cardiff a couple of weeks ago, and am still trying to get over it weeks later! [Just as a warning, this film is rated 18 (R-rated) and I will be discussing some very NSFW content.]

Perfect Blue Film Poster

Perfect Blue Film Poster

Perfect Blue is a psychological thriller about a J-pop idol called Mima who, after enjoying some success as part of a pop group called ‘CHAM!’, is encouraged by her management to try and channel her talents into acting instead of music. She unhappily complies, taking up a small role in a TV crime series. Unfortunately, following this break she starts to become pushed into doing more and more ‘mature’ work, supposedly to be considered as a ‘serious’ actress, involving a hideously gratuitous rape scene on her TV show, and nude photo shoots. Whilst this is going on, Mima also becomes the victim of online stalking in the form of a blog that claims to be written by her called ‘Mima’s Room.’ The blog tells Mima’s fans how unhappy she is with her new life whilst detailing with creepy accuracy everything that Mima did each day. Moreover, people around Mima who could be seen to be taking advantage of her keep ending up dead.

Mima performing with CHAM!

Mima performing with CHAM!

As Mima becomes more and more unnerved by the attacks, the stalking, and being forced into uncomfortable situations for her new line of work, her mental state becomes more and more fragile. She is haunted day and night by a ghostly projection of herself in her J-pop persona who mimics that words of the blog, making Mima question her own identity and image. Is anything in her life real anymore? Who is the real Mima and who is the performer? As the film shifts between her real life, her TV life, and the waking nightmares in Mima’s head, we as an audience also become less and less sure of what is real and what is fantasy, to the point at which all three blur incomprehensibly together.

Which is the real Mima?

Who is the real Mima?

In a film that is wholly quite shocking all the way through, perhaps the most shocking scene for me – other than the twist at the end – is when Mima is attacked by her stalker (the writer of ‘Mima’s Room’) in the TV studio at night who beats and nearly rapes her before she is able to escape him. She runs away for help, only to find that his unconscious body is gone. The scene is eerily similar in lighting and placement to the one she shot for the TV show is stars on, and the disappearance of his body also reinforces the feeling of uncertainty that the attack ever happened at all.

I felt super uncomfortable watching both of the sexual assault scenes in this film, which I know is the correct feeling you’re supposed to have when watching them, but I also felt very divided about their execution. On the one hand their unflinchingly graphic nature worked to add to the film’s classification as a horror/thriller, and as both were revealed in the end to possibly not be real at all, their almost overly lecherous overtones could be fabrications of Mima’s intense nightmares. However, I am always dubious of how far rape scenes need to go in terms of graphicness. After all, rape is an expression of violence and dominance, not sex, and the constant leeriness of the camera angles as Mima’s clothes are ripped and her body positioned in suggestive poses throughout both ordeals seemed unnecessarily sexual.

Mima's rape scene in the TV show

Mima’s rape scene in the TV show.

Based on a novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and directed by Satoshi Kon, this film was interestingly originally supposed to be live-action direct to video, but after the studio was damaged in the Kobe earthquake of 1995 the film’s budget was slashed to the point that it could only go ahead as an animation.  It would be fascinating to see which – if any – alterations to the film were made through this transition. I can’t help but also wonder if the film’s highly graphic subject matter would be a little less shocking if they were performed in real life by actors rather than drawn figures. After all, as much as I’m used to and open to anime grappling with adult themes, it still feels quite shocking to see cartoon depictions of murder and sexual violence.

Honourable mentions: Eren gets eaten by a Titan and survives (Attack On Titan), the chimera is revealed + the ending of Full Metal Alchemist, Asuka’s death (End of Evangelion), Shinji masturbates over Asuka’s comatose body (Neon Genesis Evangelion), L’s death (Death Note), Kyon’s death (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya), the ending of The Big O.


Huw Williams CO-Founder and Writer

SPOILER ALERT! This entry is a HUGE spoiler for The Big O, so if you are watching/reading it or are thinking of watching/reading The Big O, DON’T READ ON as this is a major spoiler!

Epic Team Up

BIG O!

I think I have already mentioned Big O in this series of blogs, so I’m not going to go over the plot again, but I will say that this anime definitely makes you think.

It’s film noir style matches perfectly with it’s story, a tale of twists and turns, corrupt governments, femme fatales, and hidden identities. It’s truly a brain teaser that has a great merge of style and substance.

However, the film noir feel get’s flipped right on it’s head as it becomes ultra-Sci-Fi at the end. Yes, there are giant robots and androids in this anime, but the anime up until the end was always more of detective drama, but everything changed when the finale happened.

Angel

Angel: Femme Fatale

The final episode blows your mind. It has the standard giant robot fight take place that you’d expect of a mech-themed show, but in the final moments of the episode, Angel – the femme fatale who has been teasing the protagonist Roger – transforms into a giant robot called ‘Big Venus’. She walks toward Big O, the city vanishing with every step she takes, until there is nothing left other than Big O, and then Big Venus merge with him, and the end of the episode fades out with the same monologue that Roger gives in the first episode. This reveals that the world that Big O is set in is a virtual reality, and that Angel is the one who controls it all, once this is discovered she resets the reality to the first episode of the show, and it all just loops.

Big Venus

Big Venus/Angel deleting the virtual reality around it.

This blew my mind… It doesn’t help that the episode itself doesn’t really explain what’s going on. It feels like reading an essay without a conclusion, or a mathmatical sum without a result. You can see all the workings, but you can’t really see what it’s meant to lead to. So only when reviewing it and reading up on it did the pieces fell into place for me, and even after discovering what the final episode meant, it broke me.

Sorry for spoiling it all, but I will always recommend Big O to people, as it’s clever, it makes you think, and it has giant robots. What more do you want?


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 page

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30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 9: Best Anime Villain

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.


[SPOILER ALERT: There will be spoilers about certain anime in this post!]

Jess Hardcastle Marketing Whizz Kid

Most of the anime I have seen have all had really interesting and evil villains in them so it’s hard to pick the best one, but I think I am going to have to go with Shou Tucker from Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Whilst he never actually killed anyone [SPOILER ALERT] he did use alchemy to turn his own daughter and their dog into a talking chimera – which is pretty awful! I was genuinely shocked and upset at his ability to be able to harm them. This is also after he did the same thing to his own wife and that chimera only said, “Kill me”, and refused to eat – basically committing suicide after it couldn’t deal with the pain and suffering of what he’d turned her into.

tumblr_inline_mm6rqfUuRE1qz4rgp

Shou Tucker, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Honorable mentions: Lucy (Elfen Lied), Light Yagami (Death Note) and ALL the Titans (Attack On Titan).


Hannah Collins Co-Founder and Artist

This may seem like an obvious choice, but I have go with Light Yagami from Death Note for my favourite anime villain. There’s plenty of big, bad villains out there in the world of anime to choose from, but what makes Light particularly interesting for me is the fact that he is the protagonist of the story – a role traditionally played by the hero, not the hero’s nemesis.

Light Yagami Death Note anime manga 30 day anime challenge cosmic anvil

Light Yagami, Death Note

Just by seeing the story through Light’s eyes, your opinion of him is constantly coloured by his perspective. Despite his actions as a sociopathic megalomaniac are completely psychotic and morally reprehensible, you also find yourself kind of willing him to not get caught so you can see just how far the story will be pushed. The tension you feel each time Light finds himself cornered is ridiculously compelling, and unlike most Shonen anime – which relies on brawn rather than brain and an assured victory for the hero nearly every time – Death Note’s battles of wits and magic keep you genuinely guessing who will be left alive by the end.

Light Yagami L detective death note manga anime 30 day anime challenge cosmic anvil

Light Vs. L

Conversely, you also find yourself rooting for his opponent – the eccentric detective known only as ‘L’, which heightens the tension even more. Whenever these two are in a room together, the thrill of watching them verbally – and occasionally physically – dance around each other is akin to that of Sherlock and Moriaty.

I always think that the strength of a hero can be measured by the strength of their villain, and Light and L are definitely two sides of the same brilliant coin, and Death Note one of the greatest crime thrillers in modern fiction.

Honourable mentions: Lust, Envy, Shou Tucker and Father (Full Metal Alchemist & Brotherhood), Medusa (Soul Eater), Vicious (Cowboy Bebop), The Earl (D.Gray-Man), Siegfried (Sacred Blacksmith), Gendo Ikari (Neon Genesis Evangelion), The Puppet Master (Ghost in the Shell).


Huw Williams CO-Founder and Writer

A great villain for me has to be many things: they have to be evil (obvious, but true), they have to be powerful, and they have to be perfectly matched to their protagonist counterpart; and as much as you hate them, you also have to love them. But, a truly great villain for me must also have a huge impact on the story that they star in, and it’s for these reasons that my favourite villain is Frieza from the Dragon Ball franchise.

Frieza

Frieza, Dragon Ball franchise

Friza is powerful and likes to let you know that he is. His power is feared by many throughout the universe and during the lead up to Goku’s battle with Frieza, King Kai commands Goku not to fight Frieza as he will surely be killed because Frieza’s power enables him to destroy whole planets with just one blast.

Frieza isn’t alone in the planet destroyers club that is DBZ, but he still stands out. Frieza is regarded as one of the most, if not the most, important Dragon Ball villains. After all, it was Frieza who destroyed the Saiyan home world Planet Vegeta – the event that starts the whole Dragon Ball story as that was how Goku ended up on Earth. Frieza’s actions on Planet Namek were also the major catalyst for Goku’s Super Saiyan transformation, as after Frieza killed Krillin Goku’s rage and needed to be more powerful spilled over, resulting in one of the most iconic scenes in anime. Frieza himself started the trend of transformations as well:

Squad's out.

Squad’s out.

He’s powerful, he’s iconic, and most importantly: he’s also pure evil to the core. He’s seeking the Dragon Balls to gain immortality and he was willing to do anything to get them. When faced against Goku he had met his match and was willing to do anything to beat him. He will do anything, and everything he does is for himself. The worst thing of all was when he was forgiven by Goku, who also gave him enough energy to escape the dying Planet Namek, Frieza chose to use that power to try and kill Goku again. This was when Goku launched his final attack and killed Frieza. Even when he was given a second chance he still chose to kill Goku, proving that his hatred for the Saiyan race and Goku burns stronger than his need for survival.

Yet you also can’t help but like him: he’s so devilishly evil that he almost becomes a cartoonish villain in the Disney mold of Scar (Lion King) or Jafar (Aladdin). He’s so well liked that Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball‘s creator) brought him back in the most resent film, and with a new form. It’s also rumored that Toriyama was going to bring Frieza back after the Cell saga, but was advised by his editors not to. Frieza’s cool, powerful, and fabulous. What more do you want from a villain?

Come at me.

Come at me, BRAH.


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 page!

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30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 3: Favourite Male Anime Character Ever

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

This is another one I really struggled with as they are just so many really good male characters that it’s hard to pick just one!

After much deliberation I think I’ve finally chosen my favourite male anime character and the winner is…. Light Yagami from Death Note. Okay, so this might seem like a bit of an odd choice seeing as he’s kind of a bad guy but he’s still awesome. He’s ruthless, determined, and has the ability to eat crisps dramatically:

What’s not to like? Except maybe the fact that he is essentially a psychotic murderer, but he does believes he’s doing it for the greater good.

353504-light_yagami_super

Light Yagami from Death Note.

Honorable mentions: Koro-sensei (Assassination Classroom), Seto Kaiba (Yu-Gi-Oh!), Levi Ackerman (Attack On Titan), Rintarou Okabe (Steins Gate)


Hannah Collins Co-Founder and Artist

After a lot of deliberation (and fan-girling), I have to give my best male anime character pick to Sebastian Michaelis from Yana Toboso’s Black Butler. Although, as Sebastian’s gender is constantly up for debate,  I’m not even sure “he” even counts as a valid answer…

Sebastian Michaelis Black Butler Cosmic Anvil 30 Day Anime Challenge

One Hell of a Butler.

Let me explain. In the image above Sebastian his pictured in his human guise as butler to Earl Ciel Phatomhive – a 12-year-old toy industry tycoon who summons a demon (Sebastian) to stay at his side until he is able to wreak revenge on the occult group who murdered his parents. The demon takes the form of a male butler, but whenever he occasionally slips into his demonic form to terrify the crap out of one of Ciel’s enemies, he becomes less corporeal and more monstrous – fangs, red eyes, bats, black nails and… stilettos?!

Sebastian Michaelis Black Butler Cosmic Anvil 30 Day Anime Challenge

These Boots Are Made For Walking.

The hint certainly seems to be that if Sebastian is not actually female in his ‘true form’, then is at least non-gendered or gender fluid, and since the world of Black Butler is filled with shinigami, death scythes, demons, angels, and werewolves, this isn’t much more of a stretch of the imagination.

Not only do I find the mystery surrounding Sebastian’s gender fascinating, but I find him to be one of the most compelling characters of any anime. His deep connection to Ciel through their demonic contract of servitude is often mistaken in the fan community to be weirdly sexual, but the lust that Sebastian feels for Ciel is actually predatory. Like the witch in Hansel and Gretel, he is slowly fattening Ciel’s soul up for consumption when their deal is done, and this laces everything familial that Sebastian does for Ciel with a murderous tension. Plus, he’s probably the best cutlery-weapon specialist there ever was/will be:

Sebastian Michaelis Black Butler Cosmic Anvil 30 Day Anime Challenge

Honourable Mentions: L (Death Note), Edward and Alphonse Elric (Full Metal Alchemist/Brotherhood), Syaoran Li (Cardcaptor Sakura/Tsubasa Resevoir Chronicles), Kanda Yuu (D-Gray Man), Tamaki Suoh (Ouran High School Host Club), Howl (Howl’s Moving Castle).


Huw Williams CO-Founder and Writer

If you’ve read our blog regularly you might already have guessed who my favourite male character is already. But for those who haven’t, it’s the one, the only: Son Goku form the Dragon Ball franchise. Yes it’s an obvious choice, but I don’t care – he is my favourite male lead. Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z are two animes that I grew up with, and my Dragon Ball merch list rivals my Pokemon merch list. So, Goku has been in my life for some time now, but let me take some time to tell you why he is the best.

Goku is one of the strongest characters in all fiction (Yes, I’ve seen Death Battle, and I’m okay with their result, but you still can’t deny that Goku is unstoppable nonetheless). Every challenge he has been faced with he has beaten; every limit broken; every chart has been thrown out because they needed new ones to record his power. He’s a beast and it’s all down to two things: his will and hard work. He is so focused on becoming the best he has now reached the level of a God and even beyond that.

Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan

Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan.

However, this is not the reason I love him. The reason I love Goku is because he is just a straight up nice guy. Ever since he was young, his most admirable feature – and arguably his strangest talent – is his pure heart. Goku is able to fly on the Kinto-Un (or Flying Nimbus), a flying cloud that can travel at supersonic speed, but will only allow people of pure hearts to ride it. Thanks to Goku’s good nature he learns a lot, which is a good moral to teach, and one that I try to follow.

In Dragon Ball he even turns his enemies into friends – Oolong, Yamcha, Krilin, Tien, Chaozu, Piccolo, Vegeta, Android 16 and 18, Majin Buu and even Kid Buu to a certain extent are all villains/rivals who have turned good due to knowing either Goku, or other members of the Z Fighters. Goku excepts them all into his extended family, and with smile on his face.

Goku and friends (that he used to beat up, or wanted to kill him)

Goku and friends (that he used to beat up, or wanted to kill him).

Yes, Goku has his downsides: his naivety, his pride, his total focus on training (a gift and a curse), but he is the nicest, most forgiving, and powerful being in the world. I also like how he eats.

nom nom nom

nom nom nom.

Honorable mentions: Vegeta (Dragon Ball Z/GT), Kinnikuman (Kinnikuman/Ultimate Muscle), Monkey D. Luffy (One Piece), Gene Starwind (Outlaw Star), Toriko (Toriko).


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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Kickstarter new reward tier £15 pledge cosmic anvil

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N00b Reviews: Fullmetal Alchemist

Welcome to this week’s N00b reviews! After discovering Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime on Netflix and then binge-watching the first season over the weekend I have decided to look at the manga series to see how the two compare.  Similarly to previous manga I have looked at I won’t be reading all of the chapters released (as I don’t have the time!) but instead up to sensible story arc to finish on.


Summary:

Fullmetal Alchemist is a manga series written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa that tells the tale of two brothers: Edward and Alphonse Elric. They are on a journey to find the Philosopher’s Stone in order to restore their bodies after they perform ‘Taboo’ Alchemy to bring back their dead mother. Consequently, Edward loses his leg and Alphonse loses his entire body. Sacrificing his right arm, Edward fuses Alphonse’s soul to a suit of armour. They believe the Philosopher’s Stone will act as a catalyst to restore their bodies.

Fullmetal Alchemist Edward and Alphonse Elric


First Impressions:

Compared to some of the manga I have already looked at in the N00b reviews series I found Fullmetal Alchemist‘s artwork style very cartoon-like but that again made me concentrate harder on what was going on in the story rather than being distracted by the intricate illustrations. This is especially helpful with the story being so complex!


What I liked:

Whilst the story’s tone is quite dark and gritty there are also comedic moments to lighten the tension. There are also very heartwarming sequences that really make me feel and care for the two brothers. I also liked the fact that the villains were named after the seven deadly sins: Gluttony, Lust, Envy, Pride, Wrath,  Greed and Sloth.


So Kawaii! 

FMA

So, as you know I mentioned that I liked FMA because it was funny I think these panels explain the comedic values perfectly and the ‘sparkles’ in Alphonse’s eyes are so cute, which is weirdly human considering he is basically just a suit of armour physically!

FMA2

He’s just Cosplaying!


What I disliked:

One of the things anime is often criticized for is having too many filler episodes that don’t contribute to the story’s progression, and whilst I didn’t necessarily find this was the case with the manga there did seem to be a couple of sequences that weren’t completely essential to the main story arc and just filling time instead.


How does it compare to the Anime: 

It is interesting to note that there are two different anime series’ based on the FMA manga; one that relies on the manga heavily for reference (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) and one that deviates away from the manga and has a completely different ending (Fullmetal Alchemist).


Overall Opinion:

 Once again, I have fallen in love with manga! One thing I particularly enjoyed about Fullmetal Alchemist were the moments of brotherhood that were shared between Edward and Alfonse. For example, when they are reminiscing about the fights they had when they were younger (like most siblings do, fighting over toys, etc.) or the willingness to die for each other.

Fullmetal-Alchemist-Brotherhood-Wallpaper-1920x1080

This made the characters more believable and as an audience we could really empathize with the way they were feeling and they motives behind their actions even if we didn’t necessarily agree with the method.

Above all I’d definitely recommend giving the manga a read and watch the Brotherhood anime if you enjoy it as it does rely heavily on the manga for source material.


Written by Jess Harcastle, Marketing Whizz-kid for Cosmic Anvil.

Check out our own Welsh-manga (or ‘Wanga’) series, AGE OF REVOLUTION on our official site and Comixology!

Sacred Blacksmith by Kotaro Yomada

 The Sacred Blacksmith or Seiken no Burakkusumisu is a fantastical story about knights, demons, medieval melodrama, magical swords, and reincarnation. At its core, however, it is essentially a story about a young woman asserting herself in a man’s world. In light of this it might be surprising to learn that the manga’s key demographic in Japan is the ‘Seinen’ audience – young to middle-aged men. Seinen stories are primarily characterised by soft-core sexual content and a female protagonist, but rather than rely solely on the usual fan service to satisfy male readers (panty shots, accidental nudity, nosebleeds, etc.) Sacred Blacksmith uses its genre trappings to instead highlight the causes and consequences of sexual violence with chilling realism, and handles it better than most live-action representations I’ve seen.

The Sacred Blacksmith began life as light novel series by Isao Miura with illustrations by Luna. The manga adaptation by Kotaro Yamada has been serialised in Monthly Comic Book Alive since 2009, and the (criminally short) 12-episode anime from Manglobe also aired in 2009. It’s hero is Cecily Campbell, a young woman who dreams of becoming a great knight like her Father. The problem is… Cecily doesn’t have a clue how to be a knight. In fact, she’s pretty useless at it. That is, until she teams up with Aria – a formidable spiritual sword who can take the form of a human – and Luke Ainsworth, a grumpy and isolated master Blacksmith who is attempting to forge a sword powerful enough to take out the evil presence that plagues the medieval world they live in. Aria quickly becomes Cecily’s ally and best friend, but Luke takes a lot more convincing. This is not because Luke has any prejudice against women (evidenced by his female assistant, Lisa) but simply because he finds Cecily’s incompetence really annoying.

cosmic anvil recommends review comic manga anime sacred blacksmith

(From left to right) Cecily, Luke, Aria, and Lisa

Cecily, however, is unrelentingly ambitious, and slowly manages to become better and better at wielding Aria, and far more confident in battle. Luke finds that as their paths continuously cross, and Lisa and Aria conspire to push the two together, he begins to see past his initial impression of Cecily as a bumbling idiot and instead as a valuable ally and equal. These feelings predictably intensify into more romantic ones, but as Luke seems unsure if Cecily returns these feelings, he remains at a respectful distance from her… for now, anyway.

cosmic anvil recommends review comic manga anime sacred blacksmith

Shall we dance…?

Cecily and Luke’s tentative and courteous relationship throughout the story is put into stark contrast with Cecily’s encounters with the villain of the story – Siegfried. Siegfried is your standard ‘insert-villain-here’ kind of villain: power-hungry, ruthless, and very, very creepy. This creepiness doesn’t take long to become predatory, culminating in one of the most shocking moments I’ve ever come across in my years of reading comics and manga.

It comes after Cecily manages to claim a significant victory over Siegfried, and he – humiliated – physically and sexually assaults her when she is alone and off-guard. His intention is to not only humiliate her in the way she did him, but to demonstrate both his power over her as an enemy and, more importantly, as a man over a woman. He doesn’t even need to actually carry out the ‘act’ fully because the implication is enough, and the implication is that it would certainly not be a sexual act rooted in lust, but a violent one rooted in sadism. The ordeal is quite honestly extremely difficult to read – as you would expect it to be – but perhaps equally heart breaking is seeing the effect it has on Cecily, who is utterly psychologically destroyed by it.

cosmic anvil recommends review comic manga anime sacred blacksmith

Cecily’s inner turmoil.

This internal collapse is physically represented – and powerfully visualised – by Cecily shutting herself away in bed at home, curled up under the covers with the curtains drawn, closed off to all of her friends and family. Aria tries to console her, but gets nowhere. Cecily seems to suffer in silence for many painful weeks. It is unclear if Siegfried’s actions are unique to his cruel character, or symptomatic of a larger culture of sexual violence in that world, but either way, the effect on Cecily would be the same. In a manga that had been fairly sweet natured up until this point, the gritty brutality of this arc was rendered all the more shocking to me, but I was also impressed at the balance of realism, brutality, and delicacy that Yomada conveyed through art and text, and all the more endeared to Cecily. I was reminded of a scene in the film G.I Jane (1997) which told the story of Jordan O’Neil – the first woman to go through a male-exclusive Navy Seal training programme, the toughest in the world. In the scene, the harsh reality of being prisoners of war is demonstrated to the new recruits, and to their horror, Master Chief Urgayle graphically simulates raping O’Neil to coldly remind them of the horrible fact that sexual abuse is used as torture in war. Broadly speaking, he is also reminding O’Neil that she truly is a woman in a man’s world, and could be taken advantage of in ways that her male peers probably wouldn’t. The only difference between G.I Jane and Sacred Blacksmith is that O’Neil’s abuse was simulated, but Cecily’s was all too real.

cosmic anvil recommends review comic manga anime sacred blacksmith G.I Jane

G.I Jane – the harsh reality of war?

My expectation in Sacred Blacksmith was that Cecily would eventually confide in Luke leaving him to enact revenge on Siegfried as the resident valiant ‘Prince Charming’, but I was glad when this expectation turned out to be completely wrong. Instead – as you would hope from a self-motivated woman of action – Cecily manages to not only come to terms with the ordeal, but faces down Siegfried again with Aria in hand. Luke does aid her in doing this and there is an implication that he has some idea of what may have happened, but I don’t think this detracts from the significance of Cecily standing up to her attacker and finding strength as a survivor rather than continue to feel defeated as a victim. In fact, when Luke steps in to confront Siegfried alongside Cecily, he does so not as Cecily’s protector or superior, but as her friend and ally outraged on her behalf.

cosmic anvil recommends review comic manga anime sacred blacksmith

Luke has had enough of this shit.

The ‘woman in a man’s world’ trope maybe a well worn one, as is the ‘clumsy girl who learns strength through fighting’ one. And although Sacred Blacksmith doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, it is ultimately Cecily Campbell’s inner strength that pulls her through one of the toughest ordeals a woman can face, and handled with the appropriate mix of shock, brutality, and sensitivity through the beautifully drawn art. And don’t forget – this is all in a story aimed at young men.


Written by Hannah Collins, writer of the iwantedwings blog.

@SpannerX23 on Twitter.

By night, Hannah is a geeky feminist blogger, but by day she is a freelance artist who specialises in comic and children’s book illustration. Check out her portfolio here.

Don’t forget to check out the official Cosmic Anvil website for our original creator made comics!

Batman vs. Predator by Dave Gibbons

I love cross overs and I love Vs. Comics, so when I was given this little gem as a kid my young geek heart almost exploded. A friend of the family popped over to my house to see my parents, and when he was clearing out his son’s bedroom he had found a pile of unwanted comics (unwanted comics..? Really?) He handed over the stack of comics to me, simply saying “You like comics, right?” In this collection there were some strange finds I’d never heard of at the time: Captain Britain, Spawn, and even an Alien comic in which the military had created a robotic alien to fight for them but for some reason this Alien liked to smoke cigars, drink and swear. Hmmm. I looked at the cover of the next comic: Batman vs Predator…I decided to read this one first.

Batman vs Predator is a great Batman comic – starting off with a typical ‘Whodunnit?’ storyline for the world’s greatest detective to solve. In Gotham, there are a number of Prize Fighters who have been mysteriously killed. Everyone suspects it’s due to the rival gangs who own the boxers, but Batman suspects something far more sinister (as usual.) The story then evolves into an alien invasion story when Batman is ambushed by The Predator. It is revealed that The Predator is behind the murders, and Batman starts to duke it out with the grotesque alien. However, this alien is unlike anything Batman has ever faced before; Batman is injured and goes into hiding. The story continues down the alien invasion route for a short time, and now that Batman is gone, the Predator continues his hunting trip in Gotham.

Batman vs Predator dave gibbons cosmic anvil recommends comic DC

Ultimate Showdown.

The story then takes another turn, becoming a story based on the great battle of strength and wit between The Batman and The Predator. Batman is still injured, but fit enough to walk. He constructs a new suit, strong enough to take the beast on. Batman calls out The Predator to a final battle, and when the fight breaks out, it’s a real struggle for both combatants, and reduces them to some pretty dirty stuff, but in the end, Batman is victorious. The end of the comic is cool for both Batman and Predator fans. Batman wins, so Batman fans are happy; we also get a glimpse of the wider universe and culture that The Predator is a part of, so Predator fans are happy too.

It did really well with fans and critics too – in fact, it was so popular at the time it also spawned two sequels and a similar comic called Superman vs. Aliens known as Superman/Aliens (Lolwut?)

Batman vs Predator dave gibbons cosmic anvil recommends comic DC

The Dark Knight in his Predator Hunter suit.

The art is amazing as well, as you’d expect from a legend like Gibbons. Through the artwork he shows you how dirty and grim the setting and events are. We even get a superb scene with Alfred facing off against the hunter alien.

As you can tell I think this comic is amazing, and to find out that it did really well when it came out is also cool. The thing I will always remember about this comic is this: I read the last page and I was amazed – amazed that The Batman once again stood up to a powerful opponent, and smacked him down. Bruce’s final words in the comic resonated with me for some times as well, it’s one of those moments when you think to yourself: “Batman is so nails” (nails meaning strong, as in hard as…)

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So nails.

However I will always remember this, when I finished the comic, I closed the book and turned it over to once again examine the front cover. I read the title “Batman versus Predator”, and then I thought to myself: “But… why though?”


Written by Huw Williams of the Huw’s Reviews Blog.

Follow Huw on Twitter @Big_Huw

Don’t forget to also check out the official Cosmic Anvil website to find out more about our independent comic book series, Age of Revolution!

JUNK: Record of the Last Hero by Kia Asamiya

Originally Posted on Cosmic Anvil on Friday 29th August 2014.

The cover of JUNK grabbed me as soon as I laid eyes on it: “What is this, some kind of Gothic Power Rangers? Power Rangers: Goth Fury? Power Rangers: Watchmen-Batman-Rises?”

My curiosity was peaked – I had to read it. I was certainly not disappointed.

JUNK: Record of the Last Hero is a tale focused on Hiro Yuuki, a high school student who has become a shut in after being bullied at school. Barely leaving his room, his connections to the world have been narrowed down to his parents, his love interest Ryoko, and the Internet.

JUNK Cover Art

JUNK Cover Art

Online, Hiro stumbles across JUNK. There is no explanation as to what JUNK is exactly, but Hiro signs up anyway. JUNK turns out to be a project that attempts to increase human potential. JUNK Users become empowered by a suit that appears on them when activated. The manga takes a lot of inspiration from Superhero Tokusatsu shows like Super Sentai (Power Rangers), Ultraman, and Kamen Rider (or Masked Rider…anyone remember that?) JUNK, however, takes this genre and puts a dark twist on it. Think of what Frank Miller did to Batman in the 80s, Kia Asamiya has done the same but to the stereotypical Japanese Superhero Tokusatsu genre.

JUNK Page

JUNK Page

 Asamiya asks this: If a person with these powers existed in our world, how would the world react?

JUNK Page

JUNK Page

This isn’t a new concept. Many comic book writers in the 80s applied this question to a variety of Marvel, DC, and original characters, withWatchmen being the most notable. However, up until now I have never seen it applied to Japanese Superheroes. It’s cool as well to see the amount of destruction shown (that is of a typical Japanese Superhero show) has real world consequences, rather than it being A-OK in the next episode.

If I could sum up JUNK in one word, it would definitely be ‘dark’. Violence, sex, drugs… These are just a few of the vulgar and all too real themes that are in this manga. But JUNK also has strong overarching political satire. All good comic books/manga are satires in some shape or form, and JUNK does it to the extreme. That’s not to say that it’s short of laughs though – the characters are sarcastic and just as wacky as any other great Shōnen character. If you are looking for something new (well, it came out in 2004-2007, so relatively new!) and something with a twist on a genre you already love, then JUNK is a strong recommendation from me.

Written by Huw Williams.