A wily and always hungry protector

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In “Wagaya no Oinari-sama”, we are introduced to Noboru and Toru Takagami as they are heading back to their ancestral home. They were told their maternal grandmother is deathly ill so the boys’ destination is a town far from the city and definitely home to a hill or mountain.

But it seems the deathbed tale was only a ruse since grandma, a humorless small woman with the face of a toad, is very much in good health. They were sent to the Mizuchi family home in order to protect Toru who is being targeted by a demon who wants to eat him.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. So grandma tells the 16-year-old Noboru that because he is technically the head of the Mizuchi clan, he must free the family’s guardian deity, Kugen Tenko. Kugen is a wily fox that was sealed because of pranks and misdeeds committed hundreds of years ago.

Ya see the family has never told the Takagami brothers that the Mizuchi family has the power to ward off demons and certain women in the clan become the Water Priestess.The last one was Miyako, who was the boys’ mother.

While the clan’s power has weakened and the boys cannot succeed to the title of Water Priestess by reason of their gender, they still carry the Mizuchi blood which demons really really like.

And Toru has more yin than his elder brother so he is often targeted by spirits and demons.

Kugen agrees to protect Toru not for the Mizuchi clan but because he is Miyako’s son. Seems Kugen was fond of Miyako who called her Ku-chan like Toru. She defeats the demon who turns out to be some low-class snake spirit.

Kugen can change into a male or a female depending on her whim but retains the blonde hair, blue eyes and cute furry ears. Now that she’s free, Kugen ends up being a bodyguard of sorts to the Takagami brothers. She moves in with them along with the clan’s sentinel called Ko, a young lady dressed like a shrine maiden who is great at fighting spirits but horribly inept with housework. Kugen has a wolfish attitude toward food. She pigs out when offered free food.

“Wagaya no Oinari-sama” has about as much depth as a bowl of oatmeal. Episodes usually deal with spirits targeting Toru and getting beaten by Kugen. The enemies are often some poor shmuck who Toru forgives. I have yet to see the baddie get annihilated for good and I doubt if that will happen anytime soon.

This is light entertaining fare. If anime were a banquet, this show would be a canape.

DVD releases from VIZ Media

Got this in the mail from VIZ Media. It’s their latest DVD releases. Oh my poor wallet…

“The releases include DVD box sets and special editions containing limited edition collectible figurines.

DEATH NOTE Volume 6. Four episodes Available August 26
The Yotsuba Group enlists an investigator to uncover L’s identity, while Misa, who’s been hired as their spokesperson, does some investigating of her own. When she discovers the identity of the owner of the Death Note, it’s a race between the killer and the task force — who will catch up to the other first? Time is of the essence, especially when the new Kira makes the trade for the Shinigami Eyes!

BLEACH Volume 11: THE RESCUE Four episodes. Available now
While trying to evade the pursuing Soul Reapers and rescue Rukia, Orihime and Uryu are confronted by the captain of Squad 12, the despicable Mayuri Kurotsuchi, who plans on using them as guinea pigs for his experiments! Meanwhile, Yoruichi has revealed her true form to the astonishment of Ichigo and the others, and must use all her tricks and skills to keep her fellow intruders from losing everything for which they’ve fought so hard.

BLEACH Volume 12: THE RESCUE Four episodes. Available Sept. 23
Lieutenant Momo Hinamori recalls her days in training at the Soul Reaper Academy, where she first met Captain Sosuke Aizen. In the present, the letter Aizen left for her at his death scene leads Momo to believe she has identified his killer… While Ichigo and Renji train with Yoruichi to achieve bankai, Rukia recalls a bit of her own past in a dream that she believes will prepare her to face her execution–which has been moved up to the next day!

NARUTO UNCUT, Vol. 9 special edition box set. three DVDs. Available now
Naruto returns to the Hidden Leaf Village to find Sasuke, frustrated with Naruto’s sudden growth, thirsting to fight to decide who the better ninja is once and for all. Kakashi stops the fight before the worst can happen, but soon Orochimaru’s henchmen arrive in the village to lure Sasuke to Orochimaru with the promise of greater power, a promise Sasuke can’t refuse. In order to retrieve Sasuke, newly appointed chunin Shikamaru forms a squad of genin, including Naruto, to pursue the terrifying Sound Ninja Four. Will they catch up before Orochimaru gets his hands on Sasuke? Let the chase begin. Special Edition Box Set comes with a Limited Edition Collectible: Summoning Creature – Manda.

NARUTO Volume 25: THE BOND OF SHINOBI. Four episodes. Available now
Naruto and Jiraiya head home with Tsunade and Shizune in tow, and the four stop at a hot spring resort for a little relaxation and an unexpected adventure. But at home again in Hidden Leaf Village, it’s back to business. Tsunade’s first task: heal the injured ninja. The others are successfully revived, but Tsunade has bad news for Rock Lee. While the village cheerfully prepares for Tsunade’s inauguration as Fifth Hokage, Rock Lee must ponder the possibility that he will never fulfill his ninja dreams.

NARUTO Volume 26: THE RACE IS ON! Four episodes. Available now.
Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura are on the ultimate mission: discover what Kakashi looks like behind his mask! Then, Tsunade sends Squad Seven to the Land of Tea and the village of Degarashi, where every four years two rival families hold a race to decide who will rule the village for the next four years. Jirocho, who represents the Wasabi family, asks the teammates to protect their runner, Idate. But the task proves difficult when Idate, who has nothing but contempt for ninja, takes off running the wrong way!

NARUTO Volume 27: THE BATTLE BEGINS. Four episodes. Available Sept. 2.
Naruto has always thought of Sasuke as a friend, but when Sasuke awakens in the hospital to discover that Naruto has grown stronger, Naruto finds himself on the receiving end of Sasuke’s fury. It’s Chidori vs. Rasengan! Kakashi steps in to stop the battle, while in the shadows Orochimaru’s Sound Ninja Four steal their way into the village with an offer for Sasuke he may not be able to refuse! Will the promise of greater power lure Sasuke away from everything he’s known and everyone who cares about him – forever?!

NARUTO Volume 28: SOUND vs. LEAF. Four episodes. Available Sept. 30.
News of Sasuke’s departure reaches the Fifth Hokage, who immediately gives new chunin Shikamaru his first mission as leader–bring back Sasuke! Shikamaru recruits some of his best friends for the job: Naruto, Choji, Neji and Kiba. With a chunin and four top genin on their heels, the sound Ninja Four race to get Sasuke over the border and into Orochimaru’s hands. The Leaf ninja use all their wiles to ambush the Four, but find themselves trapped in a giant dome of earth that’s sucking up every last drop of their chakra!.

INUYASHA SEASON 5. Deluxe Box Set. Five DVDs. Available Now.
Half-demon Inuyasha, modern-day schoolgirl Kagome and their companions face their deepest fears and worst nightmares as their quest to find the Sacred Jewel shards continues in this exciting fifth season box set. The deadly Band of Seven, a group of mercenaries executed for their crimes, have returned from the dead to wreak havoc, and Inuyasha is determined to stop them. But the battle leads them all to the sacred and mysterious Mount Hakurei, where a barrier not only renders demons, including Inuyasha, powerless, but also hides a terrible secret about their worst enemy–Naraku! The Deluxe Box Set includes 5 DVDs and also features a special “Sesshomaru Wall Scroll” and bonus Inuyasha footage.

RANMA SEASON 7: RANMA FOREVER. Five DVDs. Available now.
It’s not easy being teenage martial artist Ranma Saotome, but it’s even worse when your martial-artist father Genma takes you from home at an early age to go on a decade-long training mission. He doesn’t speak a word of Chinese, and yet he insists upon bringing you to the cursed training ground known as Jusenkyo, where falling into one of the many springs there instantly turns you into whoever – or whatever – drowned there last. And then, the two of you have this little accident…

From now on, a splash of cold water will turn your father into a giant panda, while you… well, you turn into a red-haired (and problematically well-built) female version of yourself. Hot water will reverse the effect, but only until the next time. What’s a half-guy, half-girl to do?”

the lame list

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Everyone has a list of their favorite anime shows. That’s a given. But do you have a list of the anime you consider so pedestrian, lame or terrible you wouldn’t show them to you ex ever?

Lemme share my lame list. It’s not in any order by the way.

1. “Bartender” – Show about a mixologist who can ease your troubles with a drink. Each episode comes with a history or story behind the cocktail du jour. Employs fourth wall techniques. Verdict: bleah and just plain boring

2. “Boys Be” – Tales of boys at school and the way they drool, pine for and leer at girls and women. Contains fanservice which means scenes where female characters inadvertently end up showing their underwear. Verdict: sexist and dumb

3. “Diamond Daydreams” – Show about the lives and loves of several women who reside or work in the nothern part of Japan. At times seems like an ad for certain locations. The character designs are among the ugliest I have ever seen. Memo to the show’s animators: Go back to art school and learn how to draw. Then smack yourself for producing what amounts to nothing more than a disguised travel brochure.

4.”Haunted Junction” – Kids from different religious backgrounds attend a haunted school with well-known ghosts from Japanese popular culture. Well they focus mostly on spectres Japanese school kids yak about such as the girl who haunts toilets. Verdict: A big mess. Supposed to be funny but is excruciating to watch. Has disturbing characters like a teen-aged girl overly fond of little boys. Gag.

5. “Gregory Horror Show” – MIni episodes about a mouse the unseen protagonist encounters in a place full of “scary” characters. The segments are too short and choppy. The characters are NOT scary at all since they are drawn simply. Think of wooden blocks then imagine them with faces and stubby appendages. The premise isn’t bad but the animators faltered in the execution.

6. “Oh My Goddess” OVA – The first installment in a series that should have been buried long long ago. Geek meets one of the Nordic goddesses of fate. She ends up keeping house for him and falling for this very common guy. This show is nothing more than wish fulfillment for the guy who cannot get a date and still lives in his mom’s basement. This tripe is an insult to any woman who can think for herself.

7. “Onegai Teacher” or “Please Teacher” – Half-human/half-alien lands on Earth and pretends to be a teacher to gather data on humans. Circumstances force her to marry one of her students. She looks like a well-endowed woman in her mid-20s. He is actually 18 but looks 15 because he was in a coma-like state for several years. They keep their marriage a secret and eventually fall in love.

Skip this so-called romantic show. If you have the DVDs, burn them and fumigate the room where these were kept. I found the relationship between the main characters disturbing and just wrong. The creator of this show should be ashamed for producing this putrid excuse for an anime. He or she deserves a flogging.

8. “Rahxephon” – Show where giant statues ( actually just prettier looking giant robots) wreak havoc in a walled-off world. Hero is a teen with a murky past. There is also a mysterious girl and a woman who is more than what she seems. Great animation, nice CGIs and compelling storyline at first. But I found the plot too convoluted for my taste and the pace of the show can be glacial at times. I couldn’t finish this out of frustration and boredom.

9. “School Rumble” – HIgh school anime about a clueless girl, the guy she likes, the bad boy who loves her and their classmates. Typical show where someone can’t tell the object of their affection how they feel because of certain reasons and circumstances. (e.g. the person they love just doesn’t get it). Some people like this show. I don’t. I got tired of the main characters’ inability to confess their love.

10. “R.O.D.” the TV series – Three sisters with the unusual ability to manipulate paper. They solve cases and are called paper masters for a good reason. One can create paper animals that do her bidding while another can fashion weapons out of paper. This is the tv spinoff of the popular “Read or Die” OVA about a bookworm who is really a special agent for the British.

The television show buchers certain characters in the original movie much to its detriment. The plot is more complex and folks double cross each other out of the blue. The series also runs too long and gets bogged down by the different subplots. This is one sorry spinoff to a decent, original movie.

Snack break

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Hmmm the local Asian supermarkets don’t carry the Pretz flavors I like anymore so I’ve been reduced to roaming the aisles looking for other snacks to nosh while watching anime. I must say the search has been a bust.

Wheat rolls and glutinous rice filled with too-sweet bean paste send my blood sugar spiraling skyward. Uh, don’t tell my doctor. The yogurt jelly with fruit had an odd aftertaste. Don’t get me started on the crab chips with a hint of vinegar or the potato chips with seaweed flakes. Bleah.

What I really crave is the flat version of Pretz, those cracker stick snacks from the Land of the Rising Sun. The only flavor of the flat version I could find recently was the melon bread kind. And I’m not a big fan of melon bread because it doesn’t really taste of melon to me and the bread is too sticky.

The Pretz Melon was ok and sorta tasted of melon. But it didn’t hit the spot. Whatever happened to the Cuttlefish or French Toast version of Pretz? Who eats the Tomato Pretz, I’d like to know since the store had boxes and boxes of this abomination.

Walking among spirits

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One of the reasons I enjoy anime is the variety. The genres range from magical girl shows to horror. And there are subgenres within those sections as well. But sometimes you have to wade through a sea of dreck to discover a gem though. Luckily for me, I found two new shows this summer that look promising. One of them keeps surprising me with each episode.

“Natsume Yuujinchou” is both a fantasy and a supernatural anime but it’s not scary at all. Think “Mushi-shi” but wilth a younger protagonist and a simpler storyline.

Our hero, Takashi Natsume, is an orphan who just transferred to a new school set in a bucolic-looking town with green fields, clear blue skies, a shrine and a horde of spirits.Takashi has been able to see spirits since he was a child which made for a lonely, isolated childhood, The various relatives and people he stayed with thought he was weird and treated him accordingly.

Now he’s staying with a nice couple in a town where his grandmother, Reiko, once lived. And the spirits are pestering him more than usual. In the first episode, we meet Takashi as he’s being chased by a one-eyed long-haired monster that only he can see.
He makes a run for the nearest shrine for safety but trips over a rope and snaps it.

The rope is part of a barrier around a small shrine that houses a spirit in the shape of a cat charm. You’ve seen what this charm looks like if you’ve ever been to an Asian market or souvenir shop. It’s a white cat with one paw raised.

Anyway, the cat charm thingy is the size of a very fat cat and speaks as well. Takashi is less than impressed since he’s seen weirder things before. The cat’s true form is of a shaggy white beast (looks like a dog actually) with red markings. The spirit’s name is Madara but he prefers Takashi call him sensei or master. Our hero also refers to him as Nyaanko sensei (don’t ask me what that means).

The teen finds out that the spirits want their names back from him and calls him by his grandmothers’ name. It turns out Reiko Natsume could see spirits and also had a lonely existence. So she went around challenging spirits and taking their names after she defeated them. She kept the names in a journal called “The Book of Friends.” It is this book that the spirits are after.

Takashi agrees to return the names of the spirits who come to him and promises sensei he can have the book when he’s gone. Nyaanko sensei despairs that the book is getting thinner since Takashi keeps returning the names.

Having power over someone because you know their true name is a concept not restricted to Japanese folktale. Several cultures also believe in this.

The show’s pace is slow, almost languid at times. But it’s interesting and can be touching. Case in point episode two, which is about a local spirit who has shrunk since only one woman is left who remembers him and makes offerings. She is dying but still painfully makes her way to his small shrine to pay her respects and leave him a peach. The spirit could have left years ago but he chose to stay, knowing he would vanish once the woman dies. The reason why he stayed made me teary-eyed. Sniffle sniffle.

When Takashi returns a spirit’s true name, he sees the spirit’s memory of its interaction with his grandmother. He is getting to know who she was and starts to feel some empathy toward the spirits that progress and people have forgotten.

I’ve seen four episodes of this show and I’m always waiting eagerly for the next one. I like shows that make you think and feel.