All posts by Grant the Thief

Grant was born in the shadow of the Cold War and raised on a steady diet of Saturday morning cartoons and violent anime VHS rentals. After a deadly laboratory accident in the mid-2000s left his face permanently scarred from repeated slice of life shows, he has returned to the fandom with sinister intent. His master plan - to make a lasting contribution to the discussion of anime that goes beyond superficial hot-takes.

Whatcha Watchin’ – 09/14/16

Hey guys, Grant here with another quick check in to see where we are at in terms of our regularly scheduled programming.

Exercises like this are a way to track progress across the various shows that we attempt to watch. It is helpful to not only measure progress, but also to see where we might go from here. If you are anything like me, then your list of “to-watch” grows a lot faster than the list of completed titles. Hopefully, this will encourage me to buckle down and finish more shows, rather than jump around too much.

So, what am I watching?

Thunderbolt Fantasy


Service: Crunchyroll

Episode: 8

Feelings: Thunderbolt Fantasy is an absolutely fantastic show, and I am still continuing to enjoy it. I have lagged behind a bit, as life has gotten a bit in the way here lately. Nevertheless, I am ready to hop back into the fancy fighting puppets and see more absurd things happen to pretty dollies.


Ultraman Orb


Service: Crunchryoll

Episode: 8

Feelings: This is actually my favorite show I am watching right now. The comedic elements, kaiju action, and genuine joy of watching this show never disappoints. Again, life has me behind, but this is the one I look forward to every week. I legitimately feel like this is a great way to start the Ultra series if you have never seen it before.




Service: Amazon Prime

Episode: 2

Feelings: This is a back-burner project, so I am not really pushing myself too hard on this one. I have seen Robotech easily a dozen times, but the original Macross I have only ever watched once completely. Since it is streaming I have told myself I need to rewatch the entire show. It’s as great as I remember, but the print damage is really becoming obvious. This show needs some remastering, desperately.


Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure


Service: Crunchyroll

Episode: 20, Season 2

Feelings: So I’m nearly halfway through the Stardust Crusaders arc, and I’m still a bit mixed. I really enjoyed the second arc, so my hype and energy levels were pretty high going in. The problem is that the “baddie of the week” format is only as good as the villain. I don’t feel like the narrative is building like it was in the prior season. Still, I will finish it, because it is a great show, I just need to muscle through more than one episode in a sitting.


Mighty Morphin Power Rangers


Service: Netflix

Episode: 30, Season 3

Feelings: This is another rewatch project I have going. As a kid I really only stuck around for about two seasons or so, but since every single season is on Netflix I challenged myself to see if I could make it all the way to the modern day. I don’t know if that is possible, but the nice thing is that Power Rangers isn’t a show that demands a ton of my attention. I basically passively watch it every morning as I have breakfast, and that theme song gets me jazzed every time. It’s goofy and dumb, but super vibrant and I enjoy every second of it. I’m also pretty intrigued to see what happens as I get further into the seasons I know nothing about.


Legend of Korra


Service: Amazon Prime

Episode: 10, Season 3

Feelings: This show is phe-no-me-nal. I loved Avatar, but wow this show is completely blowing me away. I really could gush about it for hours. The advantage here is that my wife is watching this with me, so I don’t have to fight to find spare time to watch it. It is a shared activity we are doing together every night. Truthfully, I feel like this has done nothing but build each season and I look forward to it every night. Some of the best animated work to come out of the US.


So that’s the long, ridiculous list of the shows I am working through, from the every day routine watches to the “eh, when I get to it” shows. What do you guys think? What are you watching right now? Let me know your progress down below.

Build Me Up Buttercup

One of the great joys in life is the creation of something. Whether it is through writing, shooting a video, or baking a meal, the act of making something and enjoying the finished product is uniquely rewarding.

“Creating something is its own reward,” he said as he tried to figure out what his next blog post should be.

So today let’s talk about the simple joy of building Gunpla.

Full disclosure – I’m not a shill for Gunpla, I just really enjoy putting together tiny toy robots, so even though this sounds like a sales pitch, it’s not. Think of it as a primer for how to start with Gunpla if you are interested.

If you are not familiar with Gunpla, it is essentially the term for Gundam model kits. These kits come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and styles, but generally they depict the titular mobile suits from the various series. These kits come on large sprues referred to as runners that are injection-molded plastic, often pre-colored to match the depiction in the show.


The kits come with instructions to show how to put the pieces together. Even though all of the text is in Japanese, there are detailed pictures that make the process very easy, even for beginners.

Usually Gunpla come in a few standard scales – HG, RG, MG, and PG. High Grade and Real Grade are both 1/144 scale, making them the smallest and usually most affordable kits, with the difference being that Real Grade is much more detailed and difficult. Master Grade are 1/100 scale kits, a good deal larger than HG and RG, but not as much detail as the RG kits. Perfect Grade are 1/60 kits and they are definitely the crown jewel – huge figures with a lot of detail and complexity.

A lot of times people wonder why anyone would purchase a figure that isn’t put together. Why buy something that takes work, right? Isn’t the point to not have to work?

Why don’t I just go buy a copy of Excel while I’m at it?

But the truth is that working on something that takes time and effort is very rewarding. In a sense it is like working out or cleaning the house, in that it may be difficult but by the end you have a sort of euphoria from accomplishing something. Instead of buying a figure and setting in on the shelf (likely still in its packaging) and letting it collect dust, the process of assembly adds an entire new element of attachment and ownership to something.

Shameless plug alert – assembling figures is also a great time to listen to podcasts.

Beyond that, the Gunpla have a high degree of articulation and options that allow you to customize how they look or stand. If you go the extra step and bring paints into the mix, you can create entirely custom kits that the designers never intended, and that is another level of satisfaction and pride.

You can’t just buy this kind of awesome.

If any of this has piqued your interest in the slightest and you are curious if you are going to enjoy building figures, it is actually pretty easy to find out. Snag a cheap HG kit off of Amazon or Gundam Planet and a pair of sprue clippers and you can see if this hobby thing is right for you. The top two links below will get you started for $20.

Original Gundam RX-78 for $11

Sprue Clippers for $9

Gundam Planet for lots of Oogling

Even if you assemble the kit and find out you don’t like building them, you can at least say you made something, and that is its own reward. If you want to watch an entire anime devoted to the joy of Gunpla, you can watch Gundam Build Fighters, which is not only a phenomenal show but is entirely for free on Youtube – legally! Yes, Bandai put the series on Youtube for free and it is truly a great show, even if it is just a long-running advertisement.

Gundam Build Fighters

So give model-building a try, you might find out you like it more than you think.







Side Dishes – Jet Black

For today’s installment of Side Dishes we take a look at a key member of the Bebop crew – Jet Black.

Nice topic, real smooth. 

Jet is an ex-cop who serves as the de facto father figure on the Bebop. Generally the voice of reason in most situations that the crew gets into, Jet is the cooler head that seldom prevails. While Spike, Faye, and Ed are often running around getting into various shenanigans, Jet is providing support and keeping the team grounded. Jet is often the one reminding the crew that they need to invest in food, fuel, and needed repairs for their equipment instead of running off and squandering their earnings.

I never had kids, but I’m still a father of three.

Jet also has the benefit of being an incredibly diverse character. He has a number of distinctive visual quirks that help him stand out – a scar and metal ring over his right eye, his bald head, and a cybernetic arm. Of particular note is that his cybernetic arm is one of most stylish prosthetics in all of fiction. This is no mere claw or static limb, but a fully human-looking arm with muscles molded in. Muscles!

“Look doc, it can’t just be a limb. I want them think I am a weightlifting robot.”

Just like the rest of the Bebop crew, Jet is running from his past. Whereas Spike is running from a criminal past, Faye has amnesia, and Ed is a complete mystery, Jet’s past is not necessarily about failure. Obviously there are times in his past where he has failed the people that trusted him, either those he loved or those that relied on him, but it’s more than that. Jet’s past is about being near-perfect, but for him that is just not good enough. He expects the best from himself, and any minor misstep is magnified because he has such high standards for everyone. This makes his personal and professional issues, while they may seem minor to the rest of the crew, deeply unsettling to Jet. Just like the rest of the Bebop crew he would rather run from his problems and head into the stars. Instead of facing his issues head on he chooses to act as a mentor for the rest of the cast. By judging others in the role of a father figure, he can distance himself from his own mistakes.

While he may not be as flashy as the other characters in Cowboy Bebop, Jet is the rock hard core of the main cast. He delivers helpful advice and guidance, useful exposition for the audience, and keeps everything moving on tempo. He is the harmony, the rhythmic bass line, the steady beat that everyone else riffs off of.

And he trims a mean bonsai tree to boot.

Grant editing a post one too many times late at night.


Future Sight – Predicting Tomorrow’s Trends

For a change of pace, today I will not bring you a discussion of an important show or piece of work. Rather, I will try my hand at a bit of fortune-telling. In that vein, I will attempt to answer a question that no one asked me to begin with:

What will the next big trend in anime be?

Obviously, I have no great authority in this realm. I am just another fan like any of you. I am not privy to insider information. I possess no mystical gift of foresight. Truthfully, when it comes to predicting future events there are cephalopods with more statistically meaningful track records than I.

Buy 500 shares action-horror! Sell 300 shares moe!

Let’s be real, if I were able to predict tomorrow’s events with any degree of certainty, I’d use it for far more lucrative activities than the future of anime. That would be a Biff-with-a-2015-almanac-level gift, and with great power comes great profitability.

Thanks to my vast fortune, now there is no plural of anime. There is only Mobile Patlaborship Yamato G Fighter. You’re welcome.


But there is a method to my madness. Attempting to predict future events is a useful thought exercise if nothing else. This is primarily because in order to make inferences about what will come to pass, one has to take stock of what has already happened up until this point. With that in mind, I predict two major things – one thing which won’t change, and one that will.

What Won’t Change – Content of the shows themselves will largely stay the same.

If the state of anime in 2016 sends any message at all, it’s that we really aren’t seeing a lot of major shakeups in what anime is delivering in terms of content. I do not expect that to change any time soon. If you were to make a list of the major kinds of shows that make up the anime landscape today it would not be much different than it has always been – shonen fighting, high school drama, harem, mecha, etc. While a few interesting twists have cropped up in recent years –action/horror, reverse harem– these are mostly variations on existing themes rather than novel ideas. Even if the proportions shift in new or interesting ways, like a resurgence of mecha anime to its 70s/80s era dominance, the content itself will largely mirror what we already know.

What is most telling about this is how shonen fighting continues to dominate the charts. One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach certainly make up a large portion of people’s weekly viewing time and have been popular for over a decade. Dragonball is revving up all over again with new films and a new series, and given how well re-releases of old material sell you could argue it never left in the first place.

An object lesson for aspiring writers is that you can future-proof your work by making it too bizarre for any time or trend.

Even the “new” hotness of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has been a force for decades, but only now is it getting widespread recognition in the fandom. While some of these major shows have nominally “ended,” this will do little to stem the tide of their popularity. The sheer momentum of their core fanbase(s) will carry them forward for years down the line, and new contenders will always appear to take the coveted top spot.

What Will Change – How content is consumed

The big shakeup for the fandom will revolve around the way in which content is consumed. I predict that there will be a steady increase in communal viewing and live-streaming as social features become more central to the viewing experience.

This trend is already in-progress in a number of other media. Twitch and other live-feeds are already a constant force in video games. Live-tweeting is expected at just about any major event. Youtube is rife with “live reactions” where we watch people watch content and react in real time. It’s no longer about when or if you access content, but being a part of the conversation while it is happening. Given the close relationship anime has with technology and an audience that trends young, this integration is only a matter of time.

This is a natural consequence of two forces colliding – the success of simulcasts and social media technology.

Simulcasts are one of the large reasons that we are going to see a drive towards this new, integrated model of interactive fandom. Due to a lot of the tireless work from a lot of great people, we have “won” the content wars. Anime is delivered hot and ready every week within moments of airing in Japan.

Food Truck.jpg
Anime trucks were just a fad, you heard it here first folks.

We have nearly reached peak speed-of-access for a majority of the content that people want to consume, bar a few notable (and disappointing) exceptions. At some point, content providers can only access the content so quickly. How fast can it really get? Forty-five minutes after airing? Thirty minutes? Nineteen seconds? Perhaps we can go a step further and watch as the animation is being made in the studio. Maybe we can have reality shows based on making a show from start-to-finish, from when the season’s latest cute-girls-learning-to-be-cute is but a twinkle in the creator’s eye.

But this is only a stopgap measure at best. At a certain point high-speed delivery will no longer be a selling point. The community already expects as a standard feature, regardless of how amazing it is.

I am alluding to “kids these days” ruining appreciation. If I don’t report on what this vaguely-defined age cohort is killing, then who will?

The new trend will be group-watching, and all of the technology already exists to make it happen. All it will take is a platform that integrates the various features that keep people engaged in a live event and it will take off. With the right presentation and commentators, these services will be able to replicate the experience of sitting on the couch with friends and watching a game or movie. Anime will tap into the same group-euphoria of a shared experience, similar to how sports fandom treats the watching of games.

Individual viewing will never go away, and in fact will still be a major component of fandom, especially for more socially anxious members of the fandom. Nevertheless, communal viewing will start to rise in importance as being a badge of community membership, a way of staying in the know and on top of current trends and conversations. My guess is that the format of programs like Sportscenter will be assimilated, at least in part. We will see popular groups of commentators go so far as to do pre- and post-show analysis, commercial break commentary, and active interaction with chat feeds/social media on air. A lot of these elements already exist in the community in a wider sense, and once some of these ideas begin to coalesce it will emerge as a very popular (if not necessarily dominant) viewing option.

Essentially, I think that larger groups like Crunchyroll, Funimation, and other content providers with existing industry connections will tap into a new way to differentiate their catalogues. By finding interesting, energetic, and knowledgeable commentators (ala Critical Role or Geek and Sundry) to discuss shows in real time we will see a new sort of group experience emerge. Live-tweeting, Youtube reaction vidoes, Twitch streams, and similar popular activities show that the wider overlapping nerd communities are yearning for shared activities. Once these live social media tools are connected to a well-produced real time discussion platform, we will have a totally new way to interact as a community.

That is my vision for the near future of anime. What we watch will stay largely the same, but how we watch will enter a new era of interconnectivity.


Piracy – Time Bandits

This may be something of a controversial post, but like Toonces I chose to drive this car over the cliff and I’ll see it through to my fiery demise.

Ladies an gentlemen, look on in amazed wonderment as Grant dates himself in a single reference!

Today we are going to look at something which anime fans are almost universally familiar with – piracy. Recently, Miles Thomas from Crunchyroll (@MilesExpress999 on Twitter) posted a pretty lengthy discussion regarding piracy.

The Tweet In Question

Not going to lie, this really got my blood up. But before I get into why this is a serious issue for your fandom, let’s define exactly which sort of piracy we are discussing. It is important to make note of the particular breed of piracy in question because, like any act, context is vital. Stealing is generally wrong, but if a hungry parent steals from a crooked business owner to feed a starving child then we might look upon that act with more compassion. We know that there is a difference between manslaughter and homicide, self-defense and abuse. Events matter, but so does the context.

To be clear, the kinds of piracy I am not talking about do not universally get a pass. I’m not giving other kinds of piracy a thumbs up like, “Yep, totally okay, go right ahead.” I’m just trying to pinpoint the specific kind of piracy that is under the microscope to make sure the discussion stays on topic.

I also want to establish that there is some irony inherent in this discussion, since Crunchyroll was once a site for ripped anime and they have now gone straight. But let us remember that they started in 2006 and went legal in 2009, over seven years ago, during a time when legal anime streams were essentially nonexistent. They broke new ground and showed that fans yearned for this model of content delivery, back when the notion of legal streaming was essentially non-existent. The difference between illegal streams in 2006 when Crunchyroll started and 2016 when we are having this discussion is integral to understanding what’s at stake.

So, on to the feature – who am I talking to when I rail against pirates?

If you pirate shows that you have no legal means to view in your region, I am not talking to you. This is a huge issue for a lot of older material that is not streaming or was never released on anything other than VHS or laserdisc back in the day. It’s also a major issue for a lot of tokusatsu material such as the various iterations of Kamen Rider or much of the Super Sentai series. Not to mention, as I discussed in my hulu post some weeks back, not every streaming service is universally available in all regions.

If you pirate shows because you prefer a particular translation over the legal translation, I am not talking to you. I know that translation/interpretation is an issue of personal taste, and as someone with some background in language it’s not easy work and the vagaries of translation can drastically alter the tone of certain scenes or characters. I personally have never felt that the translation of legal streams has impeded my understanding or enjoyment of a work, but that may not be the case for everyone. I will give this group the benefit of the doubt, even if I am still somewhat suspicious.

*suspicion intensifies*

If you pirate shows because the only legal option is expensive physical media, I am not talking to you. This is a bit harder to pinpoint because “expensive” is a relative term, but it is no secret that many physical media releases for Japanese media are outrageously expensive. Collecting an entire show can often be a $80-$150 expenditure, and the raw dollar-per-minute exchange rate is painfully low compared to more accessible western media. The simple fact is that not everyone has that kind of dough to shell out for a show they have never even seen, so I understand the hesitation to put money down.

If you pirate ripped versions of legal streams, I am talking to you. Miles’ tweet and discussion basically breaks down how a great deal of anime fans, many of them in the US where access to legal streams is at an all-time-high, are going to pirate sites like kissasian or gogoanime to watch ripped versions of Crunchyroll and Funimation streams.

Let me state that one more time, to make sure we are crystal clear. These are pirated streams on illegal streaming sites that are direct rips from legal streaming sites like Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Guys, as a community, we can do better.

We must do better.

Now hear me  out, this isn’t so much an attack on anyone’s character as it is a plea to carefully consider our actions. I’m not going to say you’re a bad person for watching illegal anime streams. You could be out doing much worse things, and I think some people who pirate usually end up supporting the industry in other ways by either discussing the shows or buying other merchandise.

You could be out roaming the apocalyptic wastelands, licking blades and thieving from villages.

Nevertheless, we have got to value the work that these creators have done. The only difference between watching an episode of a CR/Funi translation stream legally and illegally is that the legal stream gives something back to the creators and translators who have made this available for us. While some people buy merchandise for various shows they have watched illegally, many shows are watched once and discarded – giving those creators not a single dime for their work.

If we do not support legal streams, they will not make the shows we want.

If anime companies receive no compensation for streaming, they will stop allowing them.

If we do not support the industry, there will be no industry.

Folks, let’s be real – we are living in a golden age of access to anime/eastern media. For those of you who weren’t alive or part of the fandom in the 80s and much of the 90s, we used to have to go through some pretty absurd hoops to get this stuff. We would spend hours upon hours networking, scouring Blockbusters, digging through the collections of a friend’s older sibling, and all sorts of toil just to watch a low-res fifth generation set of episodes from the middle of a series with no subtitles or any clue as to what we were seeing. It may have built character and taught me an appreciation for every scrap of anime I could find, but that was not fun and I do not want to return to those days.

Old School Fan Scars – I once worked an entire summer to pay for a 13 episode OVA. 

What we have now is truly remarkable. Simulcasts are the crown jewel of the fandom – peak access, people – and we have got to understand that it costs time and money to bring us that content.

That’s what it ultimately comes down to: money or time. The only ways to support anything are time and money. Not every anime fan has equal amounts of disposable income, but if you are a fan then you have some time to spare. The time it takes to watch those extra 2-5 minures of commercials means literal money for the companies that make and translate the shows we love. If you are watching dozens of anime episodes, but can’t spare those extra minutes per episode, then you may not have enough time to be a fan in the first place. This is a time intensive hobby, a luxury good, it is not necessary for survival nor guaranteed. If we don’t preserve it then the industry will cease to be.

Sure, even if the industry stopped production tomorrow we would have years of content to work with, but eventually it would dry up. Without new content to encourage discussion and fire our imaginations this would grow stale. Without legal and easy streaming options we simply won’t have new fans to replace the old and the community will die out, figuratively and literally.

“Oh golly, I love classic shows like Sword Art Online. They just don’t make shows like this anymore.”

Sure, you can rip CR/Funi streams and tell yourself you are not hurting anyone. You may even be right – there is not necessarily a direct negative impact that you put on these companies by pirating. However, there is something that is 100% verifiable:

When you rip legal streams you are helping no-one.

You might think that piracy sends a message, that it lets these companies know that you want different translators or less commercials or whatever else you believe. The truth is piracy does send a message, but it is almost universally not the one you intend.

When these companies see you pirating legal streams, they don’t say, “Ah, they would have preferred a more accurate translation, we will change our business practices in the future. This is clearly on us, our bad guys.” What they see is a confirmation of all the worst stereotypes that exist about anime fans – that they want everything for free and will give nothing in return. And knowing from past examples how many anime companies operate, they would much rather go down with the ship than keep producing content for people who will not give them the time of day. I want anime streaming and access to be like 2016, not 2006, and if things revert back to the way they were before then we will lose a lot more than ten years.

We have to give a little bit if we want to continue enjoying what we love, and 5 minutes of commercials is a small price to pay.

If we don’t pay it this season, we may never get a next season.




Anime Jukebox – Just Forget

For this installment of anime jukebox we feature Nujabes’/Fat Jon’s Just Forget, from the Samurai Champloo Impression soundtrack.

Samurai Champloo is the story of Mugen, Jin, and Fuu as they travel the Japanese countryside in the Edo period. While they are nominally pursuing the “samurai who smells of sunflowers,” the majority of the show is spent with the three protagonists wandering around and getting into various shenanigans. Created by Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop fame, it bears a striking resemblance to that work but with some interesting differences. Where Bebop was a space-western with a jazz soundtrack that was very much about running from the past, Champloo is an action-samurai piece with a hip hop soundtrack that is more about traveling towards a present goal.

Fat Jon and Nujabes produced nearly all of the Samurai Champloo soundtrack. Just Forget is a great piece specifically because it mirrors the sort of overland wandering that the main characters go through in the story. Steady percussion with softer tones and a reliance on cymbals to provide a bit of texture. Just Forget is a somewhat somber instrumental, and echoes the work of other great producers like J Dilla and 9th Wonder. The steady repetition and general low-key feel of Just Forget makes it as great for “wandering samurai” as it is for getting homework done, chores around the house, or writing blog posts late into the night.

Give it a few listens and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Legend of Galactic Heroes – Dawn Review

So it begins – the great war of our times.

Legend of Galactic Heroes – often referred to by its common acronym LoGH – is one of the great pillars of Japanese science fiction. Created by Yoshiki Tanaka in 1981, Legend of Galactic Heroes is a seminal work that has had long-lasting impacts in the genre since its inception. Spanning eight novels, Legend of Galactic Heroes would later go on to be adapted into manga, anime, OVAs, and films. Today we will be looking at the first novel in the series, Dawn.

Legend of Galactic Heroes is basically a story about three societies caught up in the tides of war. The Empire and Free Planets Alliance are warring for control of humanity’s destiny through conflict on a truly staggering scale. These societies engage in battles involving starfleets with ships numbering in the tens of thousands. As titanic battles stretch across the stars, Phezzan acts as an intermediary between the two powers and is the true financial power of humankind. Phezzan fund both sides of the conflict and have just enough power of their own that, if they were threatened by one side, they could ally with the either and tip the scales. Throughout all of this we follow the two primary characters – Reinhard of the Galactic Empire and Yang of the Free Planets Alliance – as they rise through the ranks and test their wits against one another on the battlefield.

It’s always awkward watching two lovers embrace in the midst of a space battle.

What Works

Setting – The setting that Yoshiki Tanaka creates is large, detailed, and interesting. The particulars of starship combat, communication technology, civilian life, and national politics are all fully-realized for the reader. There is a definite sense of verisimilitude as Tanaka discusses the various gears that make this setting turn. Each piece feels well thought out and understandable, and the reader really gets a sense that they are viewing a living, breathing world, and not just a fictional space. There is an attention to detail that is very much in the mold of classic science fiction, where the author wants to display a working fictional world as much as interesting characters or plot developments.

Scale – Legend of Galactic Heroes is a big setting, and not just because space is the backdrop. Hundreds of billions of people live in these warring societies, with millions of soldiers and fleet personnel waging war for domination. The fleets which engage in this conflict are incomprehensibly large, with both sides deploying tens of thousands of vessels, each carrying hundreds of crew and support craft.  While most science fiction stories with a military or governmental angle might have a few political characters, Legend of Galactic Heroes has dozens in all three nations with specific titles and pay grades. Nothing is small or insignificant in this world.

This is just, like, a routine patrol fleet.

Core Characters – The two primary characters in the Legend of Galactic Heroes saga are easily its strongest selling point. Count Reinhard von Lohengram of the Galactic Empire and Yang Wen Li of the Free Planets Alliance are the protagonists of the story, each taking up a prominent role on opposite sides of the conflict. Each of these soldiers is uniquely characterized with their own delightful supporting characters that play off of their unique strengths and weaknesses. Reinhard’s hunger for power and savvy political maneuvering through the Empire’s courtly intrigue is juxtaposed against Yang’s attempts to find peace and calm through the shifting currents in Alliance politics. The strengths and weaknesses of autocratic monarchy and popular democracy are explored on the grand scale as the reader is drawn into the deeply personal struggles of these two power players.

What Doesn’t Work

Pacing – Legend of Galactic Heroes is a slow burn, to put it mildly. Everything from the battles to the intrigue seems to move ponderously. Even when events seem to be moving quickly, there is little in the way of dramatic writing or witty analogies. Much of the prose is very matter-of-fact in setting the scene, and there is little in the way of colorful turns of phrase or snappy dialogue. Battles between sixty thousand starships are glorious in the mind’s eye, but feel rather dry on the page. In fact, the battles have a lot more in common with horse and musket conflicts than anything out of Star Wars or Mobile Suit Gundam. Fleets move in unwieldy formations with little to no terrain (it’s space, which is pretty empty) and almost every engagement turns into a slugfest.

Dialogue – The dialogue in Legend of Galactic Heroes is… odd. Now, this may have to do with cultural preferences, decisions in translation, or just the simple fact that thirty years ago science fiction did not feel the need to “pander” by having witty dialogue. Whatever the case, sometimes the way characters interact with one another just does not sound like people having a conversation. There is a stilted, almost robotic quality to how they interact with each other. No character seems to have much in the way of a unique voice or recognizable flourishes that make them stand out. None of it is confusing or unclear, but if you were to read the characters’ speech out loud… let’s just say most people do not speak that way.

Just try reading something like this out loud.


Every Other Character – This is by far the biggest problem in the book. Most characters in the first book are absolutely terrible. Not in a moral sense, but in the sense of having depth and dimension. While Reinhard, Yang, and the three or four characters that commonly interact with these two are well done, just about every other character in the book is boring, poorly written, or both. To call them one-dimensional might be an offense to one-dimensional characters in other works. The most egregious archetype is the “stupid commander,” which is used by Tanaka for every single leader that is not Yang or Reinhard. Time and again these goofballs charge headlong into obvious defeat, ignore sound intelligence from underlings, and generally spend their time getting killed or embarrassed.

While this does serve to make Reinhard and Yang look more competent, the problem is that both of the stars are really not all that innovative. Their plans are just basic tactics – Yang says that aloud on more than one occasion – which makes them seem less interesting. It’s like they are the only halfway competent commanders out of millions of soldiers, while everyone else is a drooling halfwit. Non-military characters are just as prone to completely idiotic decisions. In fact, most situations not involving Reinhard/Yang play out something like this:

An important decisions looms, and those in charge gather to make the call.

Important Person: There is only one course of action – obviously stupid plan!

Advisor: But Important Person, what about all of the data that says otherwise? All of the intelligence we have gathered that suggests another course of action? Have you considered that your obviously stupid plan is morally reprehensible, and does not even begin to make sense?

Important Person: Quiet! Just because you are an advisor, you think you can give me advice? I will never listen to you, because I aggressively believe that my obviously stupid plan will work! Now be gone from my sight, I am tired of your prattling!

Advisor exits the scene and obviously stupid plan is put into action. The plan immediately begins to fail because it was so obviously stupid.

Important Person: What? How could this be? I am truly shocked! Who could have foreseen this? I have no choice now but to double-down and charge headlong into even worse results, because I am so embarrassed by my current level of failure!

Important Person ruins all the things and is killed/replaced/removed.

The worst thing is that this sort of scene happens over and over again. It is very taxing to read, and makes the book difficult to read for longer periods. Even if this is the point that Tanaka is trying to make, that people in power often make terrible decisions and will not change their ways, it still is far too overused to have any effect.

Those rascals! Always charging into a fiery death.


So while I did go on for a while about its flaws, I will still go with a recommendation for Legend of Galactic Heroes Dawn. Even with its problems, overall I did enjoy the book and will be going on to the next in the series. Yang and Reinhard really are the stars of the story and I want to see how their respective arcs play out. The clash of civilizations and ideas is also very well done, to the point where some of the political scenarios in the book have almost occurred beat-for-beat in the current election cycle here in the U.S. The detail of Tanaka’s world is a joy to read, and the thoughtfulness put into every aspect of the setting gives everything a feeling of consistency and reality.

However, the lack of other strong characters is really disappointing and the overused tropes are off-putting. This is only the first book in the series, so there is plenty of time for Tanaka to right the ship as it were. Perhaps this is just the phase where these characters are being cleared out and new, more competent threats will emerge for Yang and Reinhard to battle against. Similarly, the issues with the dialogue will hopefully fade away as time goes on. As long as the series shows some upward movement in those areas, then these early missteps can be forgiven.

The reader has to be aware that they are in for a slower-paced story with lots of detail and intrigue that moves with more purpose than speed. If that is the case then they will most likely enjoy Legend of Galactic Heroes Dawn.

Legend of Galactic Heroes: Dawn is available at major bookstores such as Amazon.



Childrens’ Perspectives and Kaiju Mayhem

It is no secret that Kaiju movies are popular with children. Although many of the early works in the genre have a distinct horror/environmental tone, as these properties entered full-blown franchise mode many of the rubber-suited monsters became more kid-friendly.

Always wear a helmet, kids!

There are some pretty obvious components to this. Many Kaiju films are marketed directly at children, so it is no great shock that they are roped into the genre. The scenes of destruction and conflict are exciting and easily understood by children, as opposed to deeper discussions of pollution, war, and human folly. Not to mention the general absurdity of enormous monsters battling is much more easily accepted by children’s less world-weary souls.


Yeah, this stands up to scrutiny. – Billy, age 6

But I think there is another unexplored element to this – a child’s unique perspective.

By that I mean the literal viewpoint of a child in a physical sense. Most children who are somewhere between 5-10 years old are comparatively much shorter than adults. Often times when they encounter adults they must look up to see them quite literally towering overhead. This is especially intimidating when children meet a new adult, and we have all encountered a situation where a child reflexively hides behind a parent’s leg when first meeting a new person.

I think Kaiju tap into this primal fear of people/beings larger than ourselves. When Godzilla, Gigan, King Kong, or any number of other big beasts come stomping through a major metropolitan area in these films they are almost always filmed from a lower perspective or viewpoint. In a practical sense this is a camera trick to make the suit-wearing actors appear to be larger than normal people, but I think it also a psychological impact in that it mirrors the view of a child looking at a fully grown adult. Here we see destructive forces many times our height, laying waste to our world and we know we are powerless to stop them, much like a child would feel.




In this way children are immediately drawn into the scene because they know what it is like to see the world from this perspective.

It also serves as a great power fantasy for younglings. Not only do they understand what it is like to look upwards at larger people or figures, but they get to see this size used to devastating effect as the monsters stomp, crush, and destroy all opposition. The excitement of watching a kaiju destroy smaller objects gives a sense of raw power that children rarely get to experience. As they project themselves onto these beasts, they see how they might use that power for fun in an imaginative space, unlike the real world where they are often told not to touch/break/mess with things. It is very similar to the construction of sand castles, which is almost inevitably followed by a child stomping through said castles and giggling all the while.

Behold! I am Childaragon, destroyer of worlds!

This infuses Kaiju films with a sort of common language that I think few other films have, and is part of the reason why they still work even after 60 years of mighty monster mayhem.

Today’s question for the Rogues Gallery – do you think Kaiju movies resonate with children because of how they see the world? Or is there something else at work? Let us know in the comments below, rogues!