30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 10: Favourite Fighter 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.


Jess Hardcastle Marketing Whizz Kid

Okay, so I’m sure this isn’t technically classed as a fighter anime but it does have some really epic fight scenes in it. Plus, I’ve not really seen many fighter anime – I’ve still only watched a couple of episodes of One Piece (such a N00b!) My pick for my favourite fighter anime is Deadman Wonderland.

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Deadman Wonderland

In Deadman Wonderland, not only are the Deadmen using their own blood to fight with they also are made to fight each other and the loser is dissected for body parts to experiment on… Ugh.

This means the fights are pretty NSFW, such as this epic one between Ganta and Senji:


Hannah Collins Co-Founder and Artist

I’m more into magical and supernatural fighting in anime and I’m not sure those would qualify as ‘fighter’ anime in the traditional sense. However, I also love anime involving old-school Samurai action, and therefore my pick for my favourite fighter anime is Samurai Champloo.

Samurai Champloo jin mugen manga anime 30 day anime challenge cosmic anvil

Mugen and Jin, Samurai Champloo

Set in Edo-era Japan, the story follows Mugen – a rebellious, wandering swordsman, Jin – a stoic, honourable ronin – and Fuu – a plucky young waitress who enlists the pair of them to accompany on her quest to find “the samurai who smells of sunflowers.”

This rag-tag team journey their way through the Japanese countryside and villages, getting into trouble in brothels, pissing off the local government, and having some pretty amazingly animated fights:

As creator Shinichirō Watanabe‘s first series following Cowboy Bebop, it is certainly of the same high standard and similarly critically acclaimed, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of sword fighting or martial arts. I’m always more impressed by skill by power when it comes to fight scenes – quick and masterful swings of the sword or fist are more satisfying to watch than massive explosions of power/energy for me like in most Shonen shows. Samurai Champloo has plenty of this on display, and moreover, cleverly inflects it’s hip-hop flavoured soundtrack into the action by throwing breakdancing moves into Mugen’s fighting style.

Samurai Champloo Megun showing off his breakdancing skills

Mugen showing off his breakdancing skills.

The contrast between Mugen and Jin’s personalities is also echoed through their preferred fighting styles. Whereas Mugen dances round and shows off, Jin is quick, precise, and respectful of his opponents. I won’t spoil what happens in the final fight, but let’s just say it’s a classic Samurai stand-off.

Jin Hair down final episode Samurai Champloo

Jin finally let’s his hair down.

Honourable mentions: Bleach, Soul Eater, Sword Art Online, D.Gray-Man, Claymore.


Huw Williams CO-Founder and Writer

Obviously, I’m going to talk about Dragon Ball with this one. Firstly, I would like to clarify that I am talking about Dragon Ball not Dragon Ball Z. The franchise is amazing, and DBZ does take it to the next level, but I feel Dragon Ball is better when it comes to martial arts and fighting as it revolves more around Goku training for the martial arts tournament, rather than space adventures, serial killer androids, and mindless demonic creatures made of chewing gum.

Dragon Ball.

Dragon Ball.

Hands down, the Dragon Ball franchise is one of the most, if not the most, successful manga/anime franchises of all time. So I’m sure as hell making it my number one fighting anime. For starters, it’s literally all about fighting as the whole story revolves around Goku, who from an early age, falls in love with training and martial arts and begens his journey to becoming the world’s greatest fighter.

Bros

Goku & Krillin: Bros.

What makes Dragon Ball the best fighter is not just it’s commercial success, but at it’s core it’s a pure martial arts story. Very early on, Goku leans that he is not the most powerful in the world as at his first Martial Arts Tournament Goku is defeated in the finals by his then master, Master Roshi who is under the guise of Jackie Chung. Roshi then confesses that he entered the Martial Arts tournament to teach Goku and Krillin this lesson, because if they live their lives believing that they are already at the top, they will either become sloppy or arrogant. This lesson is probably the most important lesson in Dragon Ball, as it creates one of the most definable character traits in Goku – the need and the want to train to be the best, but it also secures Dragon Ball as a fighting anime by definition.

Training.

Goku training.

Not only does it have the spirit of a good fighter, but it looks amazing. The fights in Dragon Ball are some the best in anime. Incredibly fast and insanely strong, these fights are always a thrill to watch. I know DBZ takes it to the level of God standard, but I feel like in doing this it loses it’s martial arts roots. Dragon Ball manages to provide heart-pounding action without blowing the world up every season. Dragon Ball is also the anime that has the most iconic fighting move of all time: The Kamehameha.

KAMEHAMEHA!

KAMEHAMEHA!

The moves used in Dragon Ball are crazy. Not only are there energy blasts, but martial artists have trained their bodies to do everything from multiply, grow extra limbs, regenerate, fly, read minds, hypnotise, trap demons (or Namekians) in jars… the list goes on. Also, the humor used in Dragon Ball is amazing; preventing it from becoming too serious or reduced down to tough guys just beating each other up. It also has some of the best cast of characters who are all completely lovable – even the bad guys…Who aren’t always that bad, in the end.


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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Shaman King by Hiroyuki Takei

My first experience of Shaman King was in the yearly 00s when the anime aired on Fox Kids/Jetix. To be honest, I wasn’t completely taken by it at first as it seemed a little slow and the narrator of the show bugged me a little. However, I put this down to humble beginnings; I persevered and – as I love stories based on friendship and teamwork – grew to become a huge fan.

Shaman King is set on an alternate version of our world where humans called ‘Shamans’ can see and communicate with ghosts. Shamans were once highly respected in the communities in which they lived, but over time as technology and mankind grew Shamans were forgotten until they became just stories of the past. However, the Shaman community still thrived in secret. The story of Shaman King revolves around two young boys Morty (or Mantra in the original Japanese Manga) and Yoh Asakura. Morty, a small and weak boy who has a keen interest in spirits and ghosts, acts as the narrator. Yoh is acts as the hero of the story and is a Shaman. Morty and Yoh become good friends – connected by their love of spirits and the fact that they can both see spirits when most others can’t. This isn’t new to Yoh who has been born into a strong lineage of Shamans, but Morty has always been confused as to why he can see spirits. Yoh early on becomes Morty’s guide to the spirit world.

Shaman King Manga Volume Cover

Shaman King Manga Volume Cover

As the story plays out we are introduced to a number of characters who are either human, Shaman, spirit, zombie etc. and the world they live in is fleshed our as we learn the rules of being a Shaman. Shamans have the ability to work with/control spirits and tend to work together with them. Through this collaboration a Shaman can master a number of abilities with the two most reoccurring being: the ability to fuse with a spirit to provide themselves with the strength and skill of that spirit; and the ability to implant a spirit into an object to transform it into a powerful weapon. There are countless others, but I will let you discover these for yourself.

The title comes from the Shaman Tournament that is set every 500 years. In this tournament all Shamans that enter have a chance of becoming the ‘Shaman King.’ Once King, this Shaman will become one with The Great Spirit and during this 500 year rule they will shape the entire world. Many people enter the tournament to change the world for the better, but others enter to test themselves against other Shamans.

Shaman King Manga Page

Shaman King Manga Page

Shaman King is truly epic. The fight scenes are crazy, the characters are hilarious, and the world they live in is amazing. Now, all I’m going to say about the end of the anime of Shaman King is that it is so open ended that it’s screaming for another series, but do we loyal fans get one? Do we heck!

Years pass since I watch the anime and I suddenly feel the urge to revisit the world of Shaman King. However, after reading up on the differences between the anime that I watched and its original manga, I decided to give the manga a go instead. This turned out to be a good call as the manga is just like the show… but TIMES TEN. It’s way more detailed and fleshed out than the show – Yoh’s backstory is so much deeper than just a guy who wants to be Shaman King and there are more supporting characters – Shaman and spirit alike. The biggest change though was the ending. In the manga we actually get a proper ending, and one that is completely different to the anime. I’m not going to spoil anything of course, but all I will reveal is that the final ‘boss’ uses a technique that involves him creating a Sun, speeding up its life cycle so it becomes a Super Nova, which then collapses to create a Black Hole, which he then uses try and defeat the heroes. Now if that doesn’t make want you to read Shaman King, I don’t know what will.

For me there is more to Shaman King than just the action and comedy though. Shaman King is also an education in folklore. From Japanese Samurai to Chinese Warriors, First Nation (Native American) Spirit Animals to Aztec Gods, many myths and legends appear in Shaman King and their cultures are writ large in the design and abilities of the spirits.

Asakura Hao Shaman King

Asakura Hao

Shaman King also has one of the most interesting villains I have ever read. Hoa (or Zeke in the English translation) is a powerful foe, and the majority of the Shaman King story is about how to defeat him. Hoa is a Shaman who reincarnates every 500 years to take part in the Shaman Tournament. We join the story during his third attempt to claim the throne, and he becomes more powerful with each reincarnation. He wishes to become Shaman King to destroy all the humans in the world, and leave only Shamans, as he believes that humans are destroying the world with greed and technology. His strength is terrifying, his goal is logical but cold, and his skills are intricate. However, he does have a strong and empathetic human side, which is why he is one of my favourite villains of all time.

Upon starting this review I thought my nostalgia was blinding me and when I really thought about it Shaman King was maybe just a standard shonen manga about fighting to win. Revisiting it though, I have reminded myself how creative and crazy the world of Shaman King really is, and if you have a love for all things mystic, mythological, and mighty fun, then pick up Shaman King. You will not be disappointed.

Written by Huw Williams.

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!