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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dominus Nostrum Gundam: GBF Episode 3 "Full Package"

Author's Note: This recap is late due to the inconvenience of sloth, the easiest deadly sin to commit. The author would like to apologize for this and hopes you enjoy the recap regardless. 

Hey Hey! Hope you’re ready for some powerhouse excitement and laughs, because we've got a real classic for ya! Yes sir, we got all the fixings: wall to wall action! Romance! Drama! People flying around on unicorns while firing Gatling guns made of candy canes that shoot fire breathing kittens at people! You gotta see this!

Okay, so it's not a real classic, but it is still a solid episode of the show. So strap yourselves in and brace yourselves, because Gundam Build Fighters is about to deliver the Full Package.


We start off with a battle already in progress, as Ral seems to be training Reiji on the finer points of getting plastic playthings to beat the hell out of each other. Reiji using the Build Strike, of course, and Ral is utilizing a MS-07 Gouf, true to his character. He goes into a speech that feels like it's leading into an epic beat down, but Reiji just slices through the antiquated Gouf with ease, ending the bout at thirty seven seconds. Ral admits he's impressed but tells Reiji that it wasn't his own strength that won the battle, but Sei's craftsmanship but Reiji just brushes it off that it was Ral's Gouf was simply outdated.

Oh, and speaking of his royal nerdiness, Sei's just gotten home from school. He silently walks into the Gunpla Battle room and drags Reiji back to his bedroom. Sei closes the door and, flashing back to Reiji seemingly being beamed back to the mother ship at the end of last episode, simply asks one question of our red headed stranger: WHO THE F*&^% ARE YOU?!

Now's probably as good a time as any to talk about the show's first theme song, One Half ("Nibun no Ichi" in the original Japanese). It's your standard issue modern anime theme, or about a close as you can get. The lyrics all peak of this bond between two people and how that will help them take on the world. It fits perfectly with the theme the show's got going on with Sei and Reiji. The only real downside I find is the rap breakdown with its sudden use of random, in your face English phrases. Otherwise, it's pretty okay. Give it a listen

Cut back from a commercial break and we come to Reiji's back story, and this, my friends, must be seen to be believed. For you see, there is a logical explanation to Reiji's general weirdness and the whole getting energized at sundown thing from episode two: Reiji is in fact a prince for another planet. Yes, really. He is the heir apparent to the throne of the kingdom of Arian, a land on a planet far away from Earth. While looking through the palace treasury, he discovered a mysterious treasure and ended up on our little blue-green orb. Now, like an alternate universe version of John Carter, he's able to visit Earth and participate in that most noble of pursuits: helping out some nerdy Earth boy win toy fights.

Oh, and did I mention the entire scene was drawn in the style of a child’s crayon sketch?
Scene provided by Kenny Matsuda, age 8

Because it is.
This crayon drawing give's Reiji more realistically colored hair than the show does

Sei, naturally, just thinks Reiji's either mad or lying to him, but Reiji's insistent that all of what he said is true. Sei does indulge Reiji for a bit, asking him to either take him to this place (which Reiji can't do) or show off some superpowers, which Reiji reacts to by saying Sei reads too much manga. Reiji starts to walk out to mind the store, reminding Sei has more important things to focus on: finishing the Build Strike. Sei agrees and then Reiji says he'll be taking some time off starting tomorrow.

Cut to Sei and Rinko eating dinner, discussing Reiji's origins. Sei just thinks it's all weird, but Rinko tell him to not worry, since it's more important that Sei wants to play Gunpla Battle with him. Sei agrees to that point and we head into a montage of Sei working on the Build Strike. We get everything: Sei sketching the Build Strike's upgrades, staying up late to work, sleeping during class, painting Build Strike's beam rifle, ect. It's everything you'd want out of a collection of scenes of a boy building a toy to fight.

Meanwhile, we catch up with Reiji, who's meeting up with Mr. Ral one evening. They're heading to a place which I can only describe as a Zeon Gunpla bar. It looks like a pretty high end place, with a  large-ish Gunpla Battle board (larger than the on in Iori Hobby Shop, smaller than the one in the high school form episode 2). Ral walks Reiji in while talking about the people in the bar being old school Gundam fans, and the sight of everyone (save the bartender) dressed in Zeon soldier cosplay confirms this. Some of the guys notice Ral, start calling him Lieutenant and give him the usual welcome for Zeon fanboys.

Ral introduces the crown prince of Arian to the cosplaying barflies and tells them he's here to fight. They're somewhat incredulous, especially when Reiji admits he's never built a Gunpla in his life, but Ral's insists Reiji's the real deal. And since the bar has a selection of Gunpla to rent, Reiji decides to get the weakest one they have: the RB-79 Ball, aka "The Spherical Coffin".

Behold it's majesty!

Since you don't have your most capable character lose to a bunch of no names cosplayers, Reiji decimates these guys with the damn Ball. From the he learns a few things:

  1. An appreciation for Sei's Gunpla building skills
  2. Zeon's First Cosplay Division isn’t good enough to help him get to Yuuki's level.
The barflies, not to be humiliated by a fourteen year old kid, challenge him to a five on one contest. Ral's against this, but Reiji goes with it head on.  The fight starts, but another Gunpla enters the scene, destroying Reiji's five opponents with only two shots. Said Gunpla, a modified Wing Gundam painted the colors of the Italian flag, belongs to one Ricardo Fellini, and he'll be Reiji's sparring partner for the foreseeable future.  Right now he simply wants to duel Reiji one on one. Reiji, of course agrees. 
Sir Not Doing Much In This Episode
One ad break later and we're in our second Sei dream sequence of the series. This time it’s a 2-3 year old Sei running across a field to meet his father Takeshi, who's finished up the RX-78 Gundam he's using for the tournament (the tournament Takeshi got his trophy, not the upcoming one). China wakes him up; telling him the teacher wants to close the room up for the night. She then goes on to ask Sei about his Gunpla and Sei goes into full detail on the completed Build Strike Full Package. China doesn't really understand any o it, but does comment on how strong the thing sounds from Sei's description. Sei goes on to talk about the Gunpla's speed when he realizes he should probably get home, so he apologizes for talking so much and heads out, asking China to not tell the teacher he was building his Gunpla at school. She agrees and Sei thanks her, heading out.

China the suddenly has a flashback to her first meeting with Sei in the very same art room. She was working on a painting of some flowers and Sei cam in looking for a chisel. He compliments the drawing and praises the colors, making China blush. She asks if Sei likes art and Sei tells her he just learned the basics of drawing so the he could visualize what was in his head. That vision: the futility of existence as represented by the myth of Sisyphus.

Well, that too.

Cut to the day of the Japan 3rd Block first round qualifiers for the 7th Annual Gunpla Battle World Championship. China's there, giving some inner monologue about how, like Creasy and death, Gunpla is Sei's art. We see to matching finishing up as well. The first is with, and I can't believe he's still around, Sazaki from episode one. And I simply say that since he's basically served his purpose to the story. But the creators will keep bringing him back in minor cameos throughout the series. I don't know; it's just odd to me. Anyway, Sazaki wins with his new Gyan and missile shield.

The other match we see is Yuuki winning against someone and having a feeling a blue balls over the opponent's Gunpla not getting him hot enough to go into his "rage mode" or whatever the hell his split personality. What, you think I'm joking? Here, have a read:

He notices China in the rafters and goes up to talk to here. He rightly guesses that China's here to cheer on Sei, and she asks why people would fight and get stuff they had worked so hard on. Yuuki responds the obvious way: they're doing so to prove that they're individual Gunpla is the very best like no one ever was. Iori then shows up, ready and raring to go but Reiji is nowhere to be found. Sei approaches the board while inner monologues to....the viewers I guess.... that he's sorry for dragging us into this. Why's Sei apologizing? No idea. If it's a reference to another Gundam series please tell me.

Sei goes onto complain about Reiji's faults and how he said he'd battle alongside him and yadda yadda yadda until our imperious redhead shows up for the match. Sei notices Reiji's hands are covered in bandages, but Reiji just tells Sei to trust him despite his weirdness, and the Build Strike Full Package goes into battle with what looks like the result of a transporter accident between a stealth bomber Gunpla

Their battle lasts about half a minute (including cutaways to other character reacting to the match) and Sei and Reiji win with one shot from the Build Strike's beam rifle. Everyone's happy and leaves for the next round next week in episode four. After the credits we get a brief scene between Sei and China at the hobby shop. China's there because her little brother wants to get into Gunpla. While Sei looks for some beginner level Gunpla for the kid (who looks to be about seven) China asks if there are any Gunpla for girls. Sei happily says yes and China gives a soft smile.


As you probably guessed from the lack of battle recaps, there's not too much action in this episode. This is because most of "Full Package" is set up for the series' main storyline: The Gunpla Battle World Tournament. It also introduces another major supporting player in Fellini and sets up the Sei/China relationship for the rest of the series. For that, this episode is alright, but nothing to really write home about.

Now, then, let's not waste any time and start talking about China Kousaka. China has to be the dictionary definition of demure. She always seems shy and polite, though admittedly that's when interacting with everybody else on this show, which are all their own flavors of weirdo. She's also, as you've probably guessed from the post-credits scene, is going to become Sei's love interest for the rest of the series.

Now, remember when I said this series zigs where other series zags in terms of stakes? Well, the same is true for the romance subplot with Sei and China. With a few notable exceptions, there aren't that many overreactions to romance or storming away in jealous sadness and rage. They both basically act like normal kids (well, relatively normal in Sei's case) slowly becoming close to each other until they finally decide to actually start dating. Sei is slightly oblivious to China's affections, but it's never to the point of cruelty. And China is the one who actually initiates it in her own, shy way by trying to understand Sei's obsession with Gunpla. She's not a prize to be won or someone Sei lusts over or the nerdy best friend Sei never knew he had a thing for; she's her own person with her own goals in life and only one of those goals happens to be getting into a relationship with the main character. That may be reaching, but that's how I read it.

The relationship between Sei and Reiji also seems to have solidified in how it will go from here on out. They're full time partners now, and s such, each is going to give one hundred and ten percent to achieving their goals (winning the championship for Sei and revenge on Yuuki for Reiji). They're odd couple act will never truly go away but it will be toned down as they become true friends. It's the relationship that will carry most of the series.

Watching this series, I've started to notice some of those techniques almost all anime use to cut costs. You know what I'm talking about: speed lines to give the illusion of movement or overreaction, footage from other episodes used for flashbacks and backgrounds straight up disappearing for brief scenes. This never really becomes intrusive in the show (most of the time, anyway) and re usually there to reserve money for the show's fight scenes. Nothing to deal breaking, but I still think it's something to tell you guys about GBF should you start watching the series.

That's all I got for this episode, so come back next time. We'll encounter idols, see underhanded tactics used and get and oddly non-intrusive misunderstanding subplot when we meet Gunpla Idol Kirara.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

700 Year Old Bloodsuckers and the Little Girls Who Adore Them

Looking back at one's past entertainments with a (slightly) more mature outlook can be an eye opening experience. You can discover deeper aspects to the things you loved, better understand why you thought something sucked and receive a hash splash of cold water onto the things that have become problematic to your eyes. If one is going to do this, I would personally suggest you brace yourself for the third option, since it's more than likely something a five year old you will seem utterly incomprehensible or just plain bad to twenty five year old you.

Besides, bracing yourself will let those thing that still work after all these years surprise you. And don't we all like good surprises?

The short above, called Mina and The Count, was on constant rotation back when Cartoon Network showed shorts from their What A Cartoon! show/testing ground for pilots to fill out their schedule. I was kinda floored by both how much this was still funny to me and how creepy it was, especially for  a cartoon aimed at a young audience. There were other shorts produced when the concept was moved to Nickleodeon, but for my money, the first is probably the best out of all them. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dominus Nostrum Gundam: GBF Episode 2 "The Crimson Comet"

The first recap seems to have gone over well, all things considered. Well, relatively well. Okay, at least people weren't calling for me to be tarred and feathered, and that's good enough for me. So let's keep this crazy train rollin' and recap the second episode of Gundam Build Fighters. Olé!
Reiji's philosophy: Eat, Sleep, Conquer, Repeat


We start off Sei heading off to school and Reiji sound asleep. Sei's pissed since, in the night he's had Reiji over, the red headed stranger has dashed Sei's hopes at Gunpla Battle glory. Since he won the battle against Sazaki last episode, Reiji has paid Sei back already, so his career in toy fightin' circuit is over. Also, he crashed at the Iori house and thought that meant "mi cama es su cama" and kicked Sei out of his bed for the night.

After Reiji finally wakes up and asks Rinko what school is, we find Sei doing what many a young boy does during class: sketching in the notebook. As he inner monologues about equipping the Build Strike for the championship, the teacher calls on him to answer a question. Sei proceeds to rattle off worries over the rifle he's making for the Build Strike. Upon realizing this, he quickly answers two thirds,despite  the fact he was in lit. class.

Dignity, thy name is Sei

After a brief scene of Reiji working in the hobby shop to repay the meal and free board Rinko gave him last night, we cut to Sei in study hall still obsessively working on how to make the Build Strike better. Then the excited shrieking of teenage girls informs us of the introduction a new character, Yuuki Tatsuya, president of both the student council and the school's model building club. We also get the name of another character, China (pronounced "chee-nuh" and not like the country) Kousaka, who was in episode one in that brief scene talking about the gem Sei got from Reiji. China's going to be important later, but for now let's focus on Yuuki and his invitation to Sei to come to the model building club's room.

At said room, Sei gushes over all the Gunpla on display, drooling over a particular Zaku I Yuuki built. Yuuki goes onto say he's a fan of Sei's work in the noble arts of model building and while Sei assumes he's been brought here to join the model building club, Yuuki admits no and asks Sei about the Gunpla Battle he had with Sazaki at the end of episode one. He's impressed with that since Sazaki is famous for his skills at the game. He asks if Sei is entering the upcoming tournament, which he (Sei) is, and Yuuki voices his excitement over the prospect of fighting one of Sei's models. Sei admits that he'd never stand a chance against Yuuki and concedes to the fact that he wasn't the one who beat Sazaki.

Speaking of our mystery boy, Reiji pops up on at the to look for Sei and introduce his endless appetite to China, who's having lunch with her friends outside. He runs into the huge guy who tells him he's trespassing on school grounds. Reiji reacts to this with same tact he'd displayed with the shopkeeper last episode and proceeds to piss said dude (who's a student council member in charge of security for the school) off to no end. China runs off to go and find our blue-haired alpha nerd, who's talking with Yuuki about Reiji. China busts in, points Sei to the window to see that an off-screen fight broke out with Reiji and the big dude, and it's ended with Reiji putting the guy in the Boston Crab.
Reiji's  audition for the wrestling team is going very well, I see

We cut  Sei, Reiji, Yuuki and Gonda (the aforementioned big dude) in the model club room. Yuuki's covering for Reiji, saying that  he invited the guy based on his Gunpla Battle skills. After Reiji insults Gonda by calling him a gorilla (a running gag that really doesn't work) Gonda suggests that they have a battle to show off this mystery kids skills. And sure enough, it's on, with Sei, Reiji, Gonda, Yuuki and several dozen members of the school heading to the gym after school to see toys fight each other.

Now, let me repeat what I just wrote: Several dozen members of the student body are heading to the gym to watch toys fight! Not only that but the school gym has one of the Gunpla Battle boards (a much larger one than the one in hobby shop), is just there in the gym for them to use. Now they explain that Yuuki's family is rich and basically paid for the damn thing, but that really just goes to show how entrenched into society the Gunpla Battles are at this point when people are bribing schools to let the game boards be used. To put that in perspective, imagine a high school not only allow Magic The Gathering or the Pokemon card game to be played on campus, but having a specialized desk for them to fight on.

And to top all this off, we're still in the relatively normal part of the show! we haven't even gotten to point where grown ass men use toys as a way to pick up chicks, the agony helmet or origins of the whole plavsky particles. This is why I called this series Dominus Nostrum Gundam, people: the more you dive into it, the more you realize Gundam is a religion in the world of this show.

Anyway, our red and blue odd couple prepares to face off with Gonda and we see China in the rafters with the other students. (How any of them are seeing the battle from as far away as they are is anyone's guess. See comments on how beautiful the plavsky particles look when Mr. Ral suddenly shows up right the fuck out of nowhere to drop some exposition on said particles. Chin asks herself "Who is this guy?" and I'm wondering what the hell Ral is doing showing up at a high school. Is he just there whenever a Gunpla Battle starts within a 10 mile radius?

Whenever there's a child in need of exposition, Ral is there

Enough digression. Let's get ready to (watch toys) rumble!!!!

1st Battle: Monta Gonda Vs. Sei Iori & Reiji. Field 5: City

Gonda's fighting with a gold painted version of the MRC-F20 SUMO mobile suit from the series Turn A Gundam while Sei and Reiji are using the Build Strike. Sumo fires a few rounds from a laser gun it has but the Build Strike dodges them effortlessly. Then they start busting out the melee weapons, with Sumo using a heat fan, which looks like something you'd find at the end of a lance in a Final Fantasy game. The Build strike counters with its beam saber and kicks Sumo away. It goes back to a shooting match until Reiji shoots the guns out of Sumo's hand with the Build Strike's Vulcan Guns (guns mounted into the side of the Gundam's head).

One quick cut to the reactions of Ral, Yuuki and China, and the boys have lost track of Gonda. He's taken some high ground on a building and blasts at them with a green laser cannon mounted on Sumo's left arm. The Build Strike dodges the shot, impressing

Then something odd happens. See, Gonda's last shot blew hole in the ground. This would be nothing to sneeze at if the city were not, in fact, also part of a space colony. So in order to maintain realism, the game performs a stage change and begins to depressurize the colony. Yes, I said depressurize, meaning the Build Strike is being suck towards the whole and, presumably, most likely to either get stuck in the hole or be blown out (in pieces) into Field 1: Space. And l of this is from what's essentially a holodeck for fighting with toys.

This series is freakin' insane and I love it for that.
This really must blow for our heroes.
I'm sorry. *Goes off to smack self for three hours*

Sumo's not getting blown anywhere since it has some spikes in its feet. Gonda charges its mega cannon or whatever it is at the Build Strike, looking to end the bout in one shot. Sei then tells Reiji to charge as at the Sumo while it's charging its cannon. Gonda decides to back away, giving up his footing. Sei tells Reiji to charge and, with beam saber in hand, the Build Strike turns on its jets and stabs Sumo in the gut, causing it to explode.

Battle Ended. Winner: Sei Iori and Reiji.

Well, that was exhilarating, wasn't it? Not bad for the Build Strike's second bout and I did love the twist in the environment becoming an obstacle. All in all a good fight, I'd give it a 3 1/2 out of fiv...

...uh, Yuuki, what are you doing?
Oh,come on it wasn't that quick

Okay, so it seems that Yuuki's going to battle too. Alright.

2nd Battle: Yuuki Tatsuya Vs. Sei Iori & Reiji. Field 5: City (w/Stage Change)

As Yuuki preps himself or the fight, Ral gives off some exposition about Yuuki making it to the World Tournament last year where he, with his Zaku Amazing (a modified Zaku II High mobility type) got his nickname, the episode's eponymous "Crimson Comet". We're also introduced to Yuuki's theme The Crimson Comet~Three Times The Passion of Ordinary Flamenco. Because when I think music fit for toy fighting, its flamenco crossed with a techno beat. I kid of course; the theme's ten types of awesome. Give it a listen for yourself.

Anyway, onto the battle. It's a melee bout, with both Gunpla dual wielding; the Build Strike wielding it's beam sabers and the Zaku amazing with a set of heat nata, super-heated rectangular blades which look like giant meat cleavers. Despite its stocky appearance, the Zaku Amazing's incredibly quick, throwing Reiji off. Yuuki essentially employs a hit-and-run game on the Build Strike, Disarming it of both its beam sabers. Reiji ad Sei go for the Vulcan guns again but Yuuki dodges every bullet. When the Zaku Amazing gets close, the Build Strike tries to kick but the Zaku Amazing employs the most devastating move it can: sweeping the leg.

And with that , the fight's over , the Zaku standing over the Build Strike with a heat nata at its throat, ultimate defeat only avoided thanks to Yuuki saying they should stop since he doesn't want to damage the Build Strike.

And that fight (from the first charge to the Zaku standing over the Build Strike in victory)was, by my count, forty four seconds long. And Yuuki dared to call the last match short; at least that last longer than it takes it reheat cold pizza.

Battle Ended. Winner: Yuuki Tatsuya. 

Most of the attendees go to congratulate Yuuki while Ral waxes philosophical about how quickly victory can become defeat in battle.Bot Sei and Reiji look on in disbelief, and the subsequent walk home has them talking about Yuuki. You see, in fa flashback scene that did not need to be a flashback scene (ti seriously should have come directly after the fight was one) Yuuki told them that the Build Strike seemed incomplete and want to see (and fight) their perfected Gunpla in the tournament. Reiji, incensed by Yuuki's barging in, tells Sei that he will fight with him in this battle of toys, if  only to pay Yuuki back for humiliating them. This leads Sei to wonder if that was the point to Yuuki's barging in, and we cut back to Yuuki, looking at his Zaku Amazing and finding a crack in one of the heat nata. He smiles at this, confirming Sei's suspicion (to the audience anyway).

Sei's excited and declares that he will build the strongest Gunpla in the whole wide world.

Then Reiji starts to glow and beams away in front of Sei's eyes.
"I must go now. My planet needs me."

Sei take this well.
The boy speaks for us all

This episode begins to expand our view into this world warped by Gundam and Gunpla ever so slightly. It's still small scale, with our view limited to the inconsequential goings on of junior high and high school students, but we get to see just how much Gunpla and Gunpla battle permeates life into this world.  The model building club, the game board that's in the school gym, and  the fact that they could get that many people to show up for an exhibition match on the fly shows us that this is a Gundam world and we're just watching it.

I didn't really go into China during the recap, but she's going to prove an important function for the series: she's the outsider looking in, new to this whole mess and just as flabbergasted as the viewer. In short, she's the audience's surrogate into the world of Gundam Build Fighters, an integral role for this since Reiji doesn't care all that much about Gunpla and Sei was a full convert to the Church of Latter Day Mobile Suits before we met him in episode one. She's one of my favorite characters, to be honest, but let's table any discussion of her for a little later.

Now let's take a look at the future Meijin Kawaguchi, Yuuki Tatsuya. He's probably the blandest out of all the cast members we're going to see, but that's not really a knock against him. Guy's just surrounded by a bunch of extremely interesting and high energy characters. Otherwise, he's actually not as annoying as he could have been. They could have just as easily made him a completely confrontational jackass even more obsessed with Gunpla than Sei, but instead they went with a genuinely nice guy who goes into bouts of fiery jubilation during a good match. That I find interesting, since it means the creators decided early on to zig where most other Shonen and tournament focused anime zag.

Speaking of which, we should talk bout something else: stakes. See, right now, the stakes are fairly low, really only involving the prides and egos of our fighter. And they will (save for a few moments) stay that way throughout the series. There's no threat of the Iori Hobby Shop being closed down, no need for anyone to win prize money for relatives live saving surgery, not even a village that will die of thirst if a contestant doesn't get enough money to buy a crap ton of water. And I love this. Sure, it kills the tension a bit, but it does mean that for the most part, this series will keep a lighthearted tone from beginning to end. And, let's face it, for a series that mainly focuses on toys doing battle, that's more than likely a necessity. This may seem like a fault, but it means that our investment lies solely with the characters and their personalities. And trust me, these maniacs can keep you invested.

So come back next time when we head to a Zeon bar, learn Reiji's backstory and finally see the complete Build Strike in episode 3 "Full Package".

Thursday, July 16, 2015

I Know What I Like: Simply AC/DC

You know, I only have the vaguest clue on the current public opinion on AC/DC. I've never really engaged in larger fandoms (either through the internet or personal contact) for quite a while so my intelligence on the subject could be wrong. but from what little I've gathered the opinion seems to skew on towards the following statement:

 "Eh, those guys haven't evolved/changed their sound since 1980. Who cares 'bout 'em? Hey, you wanna listen to this new alternative/indie band that no one will care about in less than five years?"

*Okay, the last sentence may just be my own prejudices on the the majority of indie rock.*

The logo that has graced the t-shirts of teenagers and middle-aged bikers alike

Me, I actually like AC/DC. No, their style and sound hasn't changed since the days of Reagan and Thatcher, but to me that just presents the band as a bunch of guys who are extremely comfortable with who they are and what they do. Sure, having one of your albums be one of the highest selling records of all time probably helps out with that, but that kind of relaxed energy AC/DC gives off fascinates the hell out of me. While I'll will admit their sound can wear on you if you expose yourself to too much of it (their latest album Rock Or Bust has its share of redundant/filler songs) but they're still probably one of my favorite bands.

Hey, this series is called I Know What I Like, people. You want definitive guides to

I can't really explain why this is, but their sound and energy when they're on the ball has to be one of the most infectious things I've  experience in in music. I really didn't get into them (even though their songs have been everywhere since Back in Black dropped in 1980) until 2013. or so. And I can remember perfectly a point when I was driving home from work late at night when I realized that high school aged me should have discovered this instead of early to mid 20's me. Sure, relatively adult me loves them, but teen-aged Jordan would have adored the band, putting them as a burgeoning obsession along with comics and science fiction.

Wait, I should probably talk about the song I featured in the post, shouldn't I? It's Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution, One of if no my favorite tracks in Back in Black. This song, to me, perfectly epitomizing what AC/DC is: men as comfortable on stage as they would be singing in some local pub, singing about the glories of rock n' roll. While the life of rock has been in question since at least the mid-2000s, I'm pretty sure AC/DC will live on well after the members of the group are gone.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Older And No Wiser

There are days when, without rhyme or reason, I'll feel a flash of memory of my popcult consuming past. It's strange and random thing, making me question how I can even remember such things since they only took up a small portion of my life. The biggest example I have is CarnEvil, an arcade shooter of which I'd only had ever seen its cabinet and mascot, Umlaut, until I saw Ross Scott's playthrough of the game on YouTube last October. But that Clown head and cabinet flash in my head every so often, forever burned in my long term memory.

Same thing happened to me today. Most likely triggered by impending election (and my state's loathed governor Scott Walker announcing his candidacy) , my mind flashed to something I hadn't watch in at least half a decade. Said something is the above video, JibJab's 2004 political take on the This Land. Watching it again for the first time in years, I was surprised that it and the subsequent two videos (their 2014 year in review video and Big Box Mart) had a minimal effect on me*.

As I finished my brief foray into past distractions, I realized that JibJab and I had parted ways. I wasn't shock or horrified that I had once liked this stuff, but I was okay with letting go and moving on to my scores of other distractions. To alter a phrase from Roland Deschain, we all move on.

* Save for the Big Box Mart video, which only affects me due to my current employer (hint: orange smocks).

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Dominus Nostrum Gundam: Gundam Build Fighters Ep 1 "Sei and Reiji" Recap

(Author's Note: This is a recap of episode one of Gundam Build Fighters, but is not the first entry in this article series. For anyone who has no idea what the hell any of this is, go to the primer entry for any basics like Gunpla and Gunpla Battle. Also, the entire series can be found legally on YouTube, so go check it out if you can stand cartoons with subtitles.) 

In the world of Gundam Build Fighters, Gundam is not a hobby; it is a religion. Throughout this series we will encounter the obsessive, the fanatical and the downright insane people who engage in the fandom of this franchise. We will see boys use toys as means of monetary reimbursement, watch grown ass men use playthings to flirt and watch a whole lot of plastic model on plastic model violence. Today's entry will be a relatively tame entry of what is to come. It's the pilot episode, so it has a lot to introduce in its scant run time of about twenty four minutes (subtracting out the Gunpla advertisements). So I welcome you to the first entry of this recap series dubbed Dominus Nostrum Gundam, and the recap of the first episode of Gundam Build Fighters, titled simply "Sei and Reiji".


We open on a damaged giant robot (what looks to me like a RGM-79 GM) floating in space whilst starships engage in an exchange of laser fire with an off screen enemy. An unknown voice reports that "they" have broken through their final defense lines. Two other giant robots come into frame during this announcement, but I can't identify them. Suddenly, a fourth giant robot is raised from one of the ships (the White Base looking U.N.N Spacy Alvion) while a female voice announces "Launch the Gundam! Launch the Gundam!"
You know, a giant robot would have made Star Trek: Voyager way more interesting.

We then see into the cockpit of said giant robot, with a mustachioed man in a space suit saying, through "We're counting on you, Iori" through a video screen. Said Iori, who looks to be a teenage boy, responds that he totes got this and announces that he and his robot, named the Build Strike are launching.

So all in all, this is stereotypical for anime, right? All that's really missing is a cat girl and gratuitous amounts of fan service. And it does go on like that of about half a minute, with the Build Strike launching and our hero, full name Sei Iori, about to engage a couple of Zaku II units (the Imperial Stormtroopers of giant robots) and about to fire the Build Strikes giant rifle when the voice of his Sei's father intrudes. And while other voices would probably tell Sei to use the force, Papa Iori informs his son that he can't win since the Build Strike's arm wasn't properly snapped in.

Don't you just hate when that happens?
One of the Zakus knocks the loose arm away and preps to fire on the Build Strike, Sei paralyzed in terror at it all. Then, as if the snap assembly arm for a giant robot weren't proof enough, Sei wakes up in the safety of his bedroom. He looks at the Build Strike, which we discover is simply a toy he hasn't built the right arm for. Sei's mother then calls to him to mind the store for her. And with that, we are welcomed to the world of Gundam Build Fighters

 After a cut for a commercial break, we see Sei's mom, Rinko, off to go to the store. She informs her son of this by framing it as a supply run and making a reference to Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team. It's also here we find out that Sei's family runs a hobby store called, appropriately enough, Iori Hobby Shop.  There's a brief sitcom-esque bit about Sei's preference for Sukiyaki over vegetable stir fry before she leaves and tell him to be nice to the customers. Once she leaves, Sei bemoans that his father never learned one of the most important rules of running a small business: location, location, location. Like many a mom and pop business in fiction, the Iori Hobby Shop is basically a freaking' ghost town most of the time. 
Cue the tumbleweed
We then cut to a world upside down.
Two minutes and thirty seconds in and things have already gone topsy turvy.

Actually, this is just a bird's eye view of Tokyo. We see another teenage boy, with wild red hair odd looking clothing, talk about how amazing skyscrapers are. He also is apparently doing this while lying on what looks like high steel. Sadly Dr. Peyton Westlake will not be showing up today, just some random beat cop telling this weird kid to get the hell off. Our mystery boy proceeds to insult the cop, stand up on the high steel and point to the horizon. He then says that he's decided where to go, turning to show off his good side.
After finally getting a title card, we cut to a little boy and his father coming into Iori Hobby Shop. The little boy is in awe of the display of the Gundams that are on display and Sei admits he built each one of them himself. Something called Gunpla Battle is mentioned, and that's gonna be important in a few sentences, so let's leave that for later. Sei dithers on the subject of Gunpla battle when the father notices a trophy on the top shelf of the display case. He assumes it's Sei's, but the kid assures that it's his dad's, Takeshi Iori aka "Sir Not Appearing In This Episode (Save For Flashbacks)". The little boy points out a Gundam and asks his dad which one it is, but the father sadly cannot remember. But fear not, young child! His Royal Nerdiness, Sei Iori, is here to give all the info on Gundam, whether you want it or not. 

You see, Sei is something of a Gundam fanatic. Upon hearing the question, he goes on to identify it as the Wing Gundam, talks about its transformation abilities and weapons, and then goes onto tell the back story of the Gundam before the father has to stop him. Had he gone any further, Sei probably would have gone on to talk about the entirety of the Wing Gundam series and recommend good fan fiction for them to read. As it stands, Sei just slinks off embarrassed while the boy says he want the Wing Gundam.

With no giant turtles to befriend, the children of Japan had to settle for time with their parents and toys.
Then a kid in a purple vest comes in to spoil the fun.
"Hi there! I'll be your smug douche for the remainder of the episode."
The kid's name is Sazaki, and he's here to serve one purpose: to show how lame Sei is at this world's favorite past time, Gunpla Battle. He does at least praise Sei's building skills, though. I suppose that's something. But Sazaki is the embarrassing Sei business, and as good Ol' J.R. once said, business is about to pick up. 

Sazaki goads Sei into a Gunpla battle, and the customers wanna see it go down. Since the customer is always right (no matter how annoying or childish the customer can be), Sei agrees to a Gunpla battle with a little help by Sazaki calling him chicken. In the words of Mills Lane, let's get it on!

Nerd Fight! Nerd Fight! Nerd Fight!

1st Battle: Susumu Sazaki vs. Sei Iori Field 3: Forest

Sei and Sazaki begin their Gunpla battle and it's basically a curb stomping. Sazaki's Gyan wrecks Sei's Wing Gundam, making the boy observing all this change his mind on what Gunpla he wants. Sei looks down at his broken Wing Gundam and gives out a reserved sigh.

Battle Ended. Winner: Susumu Sazaki

His minuscule ego deflated, Sei bids the customers farewell with their new Gyan and goes to clean the store. Sadly, Sazaki refuses to leave, trying to get Sei to team up with him so they could totally rule the Gunpla Battle scene. This is apparently a conversation he and Sei have had many times, since Sei gives him the same response he's probably given  a thousand times before: piss off and stick your Gyan where the sun don't shine.

Okay, so he just tells him that he's too rough in battle, but my interpretation is heavily implied. Either way, Sazaki just calls Sei stubborn and tells him to think on a partnership if he wants to win anything with his sorry skills before walking away. Sei goes back to wiping the windows of the store and proceeds to brood about his lack of prowess in the field of fighting with toys. He then has a flashback to watching his father at the Gunpla Battle Championship World Tournament and goes down further the Tunnel of Brood wanting to fight as well as his dad did. Rinko finally comes back, asks Sei what's with all this sulking, and Sei simply goes for a walk into town. 

After another break, we find ourselves watching a commercial for the 7th Annual Gunpla Battle Championship. It's essentially random Gunpla fighting and destroying each other. Sei watching this in the town square and has a mild panic attack (well, mild for anime) at the sight of all those powerful, powerful toys. He sits on a bench, heading back down  to Brood Boulevard and wondering what he can do to win battles, when suddenly... oh hi, Reiji! Haven't seen you in awhile. How's you sex life? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
A bromance born of witty dialogue

Reiji starts talking to Sei, asking just what the hell is with this video with all the robots killing each other. Sei is genuinely shocked that someone could have never heard of Gunpla battle, and drops some exposition on Gunpla and Gunpla Battle while scenes from the commercial (the one shown just a few minutes earlier) play. Considering it for about three seconds, Reiji likens Gunpla battle to mixed martial arts. And I'm just gonna say, as someone who has participated in mixed martial arts (to the point of earning my black belt in it) I can safely say that Reiji is a moron. If anything, Gunpla Battle is something more akin to something like Disney Infinity taken to an insane extreme. Sei proceeds to respond with a dismissive "eh, kinda", and immediately tries to figure out who the hell this guy is. Sei's stomach grumbles, Reiji offers him some of the bread he's eating is to Sei. Sei declines and Reiji proceeds to walk off, probably never to meet Sei again....

....Until an angry shopkeeper shows up and accuses Reiji of theft. Reiji naturally takes umbrage to this accusation and just says he saw the stuff displayed outside and took one. The shopkeeper bellows that it's called storefront sales and he can't just have people taking his stuff. Which make me hope that out unnamed shopkeeper isn't working the store alone, since the rest of his display is probably being raided if it is. Sei, not wanting this strange kid to get in any serious trouble, offers to pay for the bread.

We then cut to a bit later in the day to a playground, with Sei introducing Reiji to the wonders of soda. Reiji apologizes for the whole accidental theft thing, but Sei brushes it off as no big deal, given Reiji's obviously a foreigner. But our red headed stranger will not let this act of kindness go unrewarded. He hands Sei a seafoam green jewel before the two introduce themselves to each other proper and Reiji tells his blue-haired good Samaritan to wish on that rock if he's ever in trouble, and he'll come no matter what. As he says this, he raises up his arm, showing a gold bracelet with another seafoam green gem on it. He then proceeds to disappear. I guess that week at Batman camp last summer paid off.

I will never desert you/ I'll stand by you

After a brief scene at Sei's school, we head back to the Iori Hobby Shop where our intrepid nerd has finally finished his custom Gunpla, the aforementioned Build Strike. Rinko admires it, saying that the toy has the same aura about it as the models Sei's dad built. Sei takes some pride in his mother's assessment, and like a hungry shark that smells blood in the water, Sazaki shows up for Sei's daily dose of defeat. The scene where he enters the store, by the way, is the exact same one he had in the earlier episode, just with the sky changed to dusk yellow.

No, this recap still has a few paragraphs to go.
Sazaki practically drools over the Build Strike, excited to fight with what he sees as his Gunpla already. Sei, naturally ticked off, tells Sazaki he'll beat him in a battle with the Build Strike, even putting the custom model itself up as the prize for the fight. With this, from behind the shelves of models, a voice comes out saying that he's heard enough. Ral shall be the judge of this battle. 
"This is no Agony Booth, boy! No Agony Booth!"
No no no! Not that Ral, the other Ral!

Yup, that's the guy. 

So, yeah, this Mr. Ral. He's essentially Ramba Ral from the original Mobile Suit Gundam series (up to getting the original voice actor of Ramba Ral, Masashi Hirose, to voice the character) as a suburbanite Gundam enthusiast. He'll be our mentor figure for the remainder of the series, so you'll be seein' a lot of him and his glorious mustache. For right now, he'll be sizing up Sazaki and providing commentary for our upcoming bout. Also, he'll be fulfilling the role of an extremely less pathetic Bill Dauterive by having a not-so-secret crush on Rinko. 

But enough character intro, let's get to the fighting. 

2nd Battle: Susumu Sazaki vs. Sei Iori. Field 2: Desert

Sazaki drops all of his weapons save for the beam sword so Sei will have no excuses when he's beat. The Build Strike dodges the Gyan's initial attack, but as Ral observers, the performance of the Build Strike seems to be too much for Sei to handle. This gives Sazaki the advantage to get behind the Build Strike and charge it. Sei does get to turn around and pull a beam saber while Sazaki is charging, but it's not good. The weapon gets knocked out of the Build Strike's hands and it's knocked to the edge of the game board. The Gyan closes in, ready to knock out the Build Strike so Sazaki can claim his prize. Boxed in, Sei can only look on in terror, calling back to the dream sequence that opened the episode. His only thought as the Gyan closes in for the finishing blow is "I don't want to lose any more!"

A familiar voice cries out "Don't give up! Move forward!" A hand with a familiar bracelet on its wrist pushes Sei's had on the right control orb, letting the Build Strike shoulder tackle the Gyan. A shocked Sei looks to his right and see the redheaded stranger who, true to his word, has come to help him out of trouble the jewel that Reiji gave him glowing like the sun.

NEW CHALLENGER! 2nd Battle: Susumu Sazaki vs. Sei Iori (Engineer) & Reiji (Pilot)

Reiji futzes around with the controls for a bit, making it look like the model to do the goofiest dance I've ever seen a toy robot do. Sazaki charges again, upset that Sei would let such an amateur pilot his Gunpla. Reiji pilots the Build Strike like he was born for it, dodging the Gyan's charge and delivering a kick to it for good measure. The Gyan slashes away, but the Build Strike evades each one, eventually knocking the beam sword out of the Gyan's hand. Sazaki flies off to retrieve the weapons he tossed at the beginning of the battle. He uses the needle missiles of the Gyan's missile shield, but the Build Strikes is too fast for it. Reiji asks if the Build Strike has any weapons and Sei relies that they do have a beam saber (a second one, not the one that got knocked away). Reiji rushes forward, dodging rifle blasts and causing Sei to flashback again to his father's performance at the world tournament. Sazaki freezing in fear, terrified at this mystery boy. The Build Strike flies across the board, beam saber raised and with one slash, it's all over.

Battle Ended. Winners: Sei Iori and Reiji

Sei is elated that his Gunpla has finally won a battle. Sazaki is distraught. Ral and Rinko congratulate Sei, but he insists that he wasn't the one who won. He looks for Reiji...but he's nowhere to be found. As the credits for the episode roll, Sei runs out into the night, looking for his mysterious new friend,, knowing that he has found the person who can bring the best out of his Gunpla. But he does not find him.

Well, until he heads home and discovers Reiji stuffing his face, here to battle with Sei.


So now that we've made it through the first episode, met out main characters and setup the world the series inhabits. None of the characters come off as extremely unlikable (even Sazaki, smug prick that he is, isn't as terrible as he could have been). Sei and Reiji immediately come off as people who can work off each other both  the comedic and dramatic senses while still being their own characters, complimented by each other rather that one hogging the spotlight from the other. The fight scenes are sparse but still are incredibly well done, which really helps me to forgive some of the more flagrant shortcuts (i.e. Sazaki's second entrance). All in all, a very good episode and a damn fine start to the series. 

I'll have more to say in these post episode follow-ups, so keep your eyes open for the next entry of Dominus Nostrum Gundam. We'll expand or main supporting cast by two people, see a high school gymnasium with a game board for playing with toys, and we are introduced to a new music sub genre: techno-flamenco.

-P.S. During the opening dream sequence, they misspell launch as "lunch". It's nothing that important, I just find it mildly interesting.