Orihime Inoue; Lily; Kukaku Shiba; Rangiku Matsumoto (left to right)
Over 300 episodes of one of the biggest shounen titles in recent history have been released and I finally get around to adding it to BU now. When will I ever learn? Anyway...Ichigo Kurosaki is a Japanese teenager whose permanent scowl, natural orange hair colour and prickly attitude lead bullies to pick fights with him, and he seems to enjoy paying them back in kind. He also has the ability to see spirits, and it's during the first demonstration of this ability we're shown in the first episode that we also get to see that, deep down, he's actually a decent lad. His life changes radically when he encounters a shinigami (usually translated as "soul reaper") named Rukia Kuchiki, whose duty is to exterminate "hollows"--human souls which have not been sent to Soul Society (an afterlife world which resembles feudal Japan) yet, and have grown into monsters who consume other human souls. After being suprised that Ichigo was able to see her, she winds up trying to give him half of her shinigami powers to allow him to help her fight a hollow which injured her, but he winds up taking all of it, which allows him to win, but also traps her on earth in the persona of a teenager. This results in members of the Gotei 13, the shinigami force in Soul Society, coming to take Rukia back, charge her with giving her powers to a human and sentence her to be executed. Ichigo's strong spiritual powers allow a couple of his friends to develop their own skills in that department. Most notable here is Orihime Inoue, a friend of Ichigo's who appears to be a buxom airhead at first, but just tends to think outside the box a lot. After being saved by a hollow by Ichigo, she finds that she has developed the ability to manipulate the Shun Shun Rikka, six tiny but powerful spirits who reside in her omnipresent hairpins (the grey thing next to her eyebrow in her picture) and help in various ways during battles, including shielding and healing. One of the SSR is Lily, who seems to be styled after Orihime. You can see what I mean. Being the honourable person he is, Ichigo obviously doesn't accept Rukia's sentence, so he, Orihime and their allies Yasutora "Chad" Sado and Uryuu Ishida decide very quickly to go to Seireitei, the home and military base of the Gotei 13, to try to rescue her. Since getting there is half the fun, our crew is sent to the (bizarrely designed) house of Kukaku Shiba, an ill-tempered, rough-hewn fireworks expert (the accident which cost her her right arm notwithstanding) who takes on the task of literally blowing our heroes all to Soul Society. Given her looks and personality, lots of fans wonder why series creator Tite Kubo gave her the build that he did, but she has it now, so here she is (if the woman who cosplayed as her at AC Cubed 2007 is reading this--hi, how are you?). In Seireitei, the Gotei 13 are dealing with Rukia's "crime" and the troublesome group who have turned up looking for her. One of the most prominent members is Rangiku Matsumoto, the Lieutenant of the 10th division. She is someone who holds to the dictum "If you got it, flaunt it." If the way she wears her robe doesn't clue you in, the major wardrobe change she gets later in the series will drive it through your skull. She's a carefree sort who frequently skives off her Lieutenant duties to sleep, drink sake by the big eff-off bottle and try to get her Captain, the young but stoic Toushirou Hitsugaya, to lighten up and have a bit of fun, face first. However, she is actually loyal, devoted and serious whenever circumstances require it, which is quite frequently (a small part of the delay of this entry was due to trying to find a picture of her in which she didn't look angry, disgusted or goofy; thank you, Aje Ravenstar, for pointing me at this one). She is one of Tito Kube's two favourite female characters in the series; cheers, sir, you are a man of taste. Yeah, he created her; so what?
Zanpakutou manifested spirits: Haineko; Katen Kyoukotsu; Saru (left to right)
The weapon of choice in the afterlife is the zanpakutou, or "soul-cutting sword." Being a supernatural shonen fighting series, they can't be just yr bog-standard swords. No siree, Bob, y'gotta be able to do Hollows in with these things. These swords are unique to each user and contain a living spirit, which the wielder must learn the name of to bond with it and command to use their powers and abilities. This includes being able to activate their two different forms of release--Shikai (initial) and Bankai (final). Captains of the Gotei 13 must be able to do both, although one notable exception never has, because he's never really needed to due to his strength. These result in greater power and (of course) wicked-looking transformations for bigger battles. In some story arcs, you see the zanopakutou's spirits manifest in humanoid form, frequently with animal features. Haineko ("Ash Cat") is Rangiku Matsumoto's zanpakutou, and its spirit appears as a catgirl with feline haunch-like thighs and assets like its user. In one memorable scene, catgirl Haineko is seen matching her master drink for drink at a massive party. Speaking of drinking, Shunsui Kyouraku is the captain of the 8th division, and a very laid-back, smiling person who likes to drink sake, nap and occasionally tease women (particularly his lieutenant, Nanao Ise). As he does reveal, though, he is not someone to cross when he means business. His zanpakutou, Katen Kyoukotsu ("Flower Heaven, Crazy Bone"), is actually a daisho sword pair, consisting of a tachi and a wakizashi. Its spirit manifests as two women, whose individual names are currently unknown. The taller of the two is similar to Shunsui in manner (she dresses like an an oiran, or high-class Japanese courtesan--although I don't think they wore accessories made of bones), definitely different from him in build, and also plays a mean shamisen. If you didn't see it in the picture above, it's right underneath where you were looking. Renji Aburai, one of the major supporting characters in Bleach, is the Lieutenant of the 6th division (under Captain Byakuya Kuchiki--Rukia's brother) and his zanpakutou is Zabimaru ("Snake Tail"). Despite being a single sword, it also manifests as two spirits, Hebi ("Snake"), a young boy with a long white snake's tail, and Saru ("Monkey"), a woman who represents a baboon. That is fur on her body, not a suit, so dig it--she's naked. They are usually put together with that chain around her waist, which ends attached to Hebi's collar, but it can be removed. Like Renji, the two of them are kind of arrogant, which results in quite a few arguments, but they do also care for each other, although the respect had to be hard-won after Zabimaru was originally trying to attack him.
Tier Halibel (Hollow, Arrancar, unzipped Arrancar and released versions, left to right)
Later in the story, former 5th Division Captain Sousuke Aizen, accompanied by 3rd Division Captain Gin Ichimaru and 9th Division Captain Kaname Tousen, betrays Soul Society and heads off to Hueco Mundo, another dimension between Earth and Soul Society where Hollows and Arrancar, which are Hollows who have ripped off their masks (although fragments of them remain) and gained powers similar to Shinigami. Thanks to Aizen's charisma and master manipulation, he has organized an army of Arrancar in order to fulfill his goal of overthrowing the king of Soul Society. This includes the Espada, who are the ten most powerful Arrancar, and whose rank by strength is tattooed on their bodies, from 0-9, strongest to weakest. Espada rank #3 is Tier Halibel, a calm but analytical soul who normally tries to avoid fighting, but who goes off whenever her subordinates from the Números, called Fracción (two of whom are in the background of the second picture), get seriously wounded in the battle. Four different variations of outfit; which one should I use here? What the hey--all of 'em. As a Hollow, she is Vasto Lorde-class, who has achieved 100% humanoid form. Her first appearance as an Arrancar has her wearing a jacket which goes from mid-torso to halfway up her face; in the manga, the jacket ends around where the line is in the picture above, resulting in some impressive underboob. Anime fans--we wuz robbed. Partway through a battle with our heroes, she unzips the jacket to reveal the number 3 on the left side of her right breast. To Captain Hitsugaya, it's a sign that she ain't no pushover; to us, it's a nice bit of service. Fully removing the jacket reveals that her Hollow mask remnants cover not only the lower part of her face, but a good lot of her chest. Later, when she releases her own zanpakutou, her outfit changes again, which reveals that she actually has a mouth behind that big mask of gnashers.
Nelliel Tu Odelschwanck (first and original forms); Franceska Mila Rose; Haruko
In the desert of Hueco Mundo, Ichigo and some of tha team encounter an Arrancar who is small, childlike and actually quite friendly. Her name is Nel, who lives in the desert with her two "brothers" and their "pet," all of whom are Arrancar who don't look human, and she also gets herself known for occasionally saying bizarrely inappropriate things and by helping heal wounds by tickling her uvula (or, as she wrongly calls it, "throat penis") and spewing on them. Uh...yeah. After Nel and her "brothers" get closer to Ichigo, they eventually encounter the 5th Espada, Nnoitra Gilga. After Nnoitra deals Ichigo a fair amount of damage, all hell breaks loose--and so does Nelliel's original form, with a tattoo on her back indicating that she's the former 3rd Espada. This version of Nel is adult, more stern, quiet, butt-kicking and--oh, yeah--much more shapely. She definitely still remembers Ichigo in this form, as indicated in a pretty funny post-fight scene. I mentioned Tier Halibel's Fracción earlier, right? Here's a decent picture of Franceska Mila Rose. Given her hairstyle and build, of course she had to go up against Rangiku Matsumoto. And why not? Seeing as she angers fairly easily and goes all out when she does, forget about trying to find a picture of her smiling. Last, one of the big complaints about the Bleach anime is the number of filler episodes it has. Sometimes they can have advantages, like the one-off character Haruko from ep. 314. Ichigo keeps a pill called a "Kaizou Konpaku" ("modified soul"), called "Kon" for short, which is a modified soul used to occupy his body when he goes to shinigami work and keep the meatwagon from hauling the dead-ish body away. Off-duty, Kon occupies a tiger plushie and is the subject of much comical abuse, in large part due to his lecherous tendencies. Said tendencies attract him to Haruko, who he chases after in Ichigo's body and helps comfort and protect when her ability to see things other people can't see, like shinigami and hollows, gets her in trouble. More story proper would have been nice, but at least it was a nice eyefull of diversion. On the bright side, at least its viewers didn't get one long tedious stretch of filler like the first Naruto series got right to the end. Bleach's fanship here and abroad is still pretty devoted to it after seven years (TV Tokyo broadcast episode 366 on March 27, 2012 and stopped, but there's been ramplant speculation about whether the series is actually stopping there), so it's a series that cannot be easily dismissed. Belldandy knows that the epic-size cast it has accumulated means that I'll likely have to amend this entry at some point. I like it fine, and don't even normally like shounen fighting shows. Make of that what you will.
In print on Viz Media, LLC (bilingual DVD), which tells you how much of it I've bought. Judging by Viz's current cynical campaign of selling it in three-DVD sets containing as few as 11 episodes, something tells me they don't want to be bothered with selling the anime anymore, either.
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Bleach on dmoz.org
BURN UP W/BURN UP EXCESS
Rio Kinezono (BWH: 36"/22"/34"); Maya Jingu (38"/23"/34"); Nanbel Candlestick (36"/23"/35") (upper row, left to right);
Maria; Axia (lower row)
(Source: Anime V insert '96 OVA Gals)
Forget Tommy Shaw of Styx's solo career, here are the real girls with guns. Rio, the one with the blonde Mai Shiranui ponytail, is the hothead of this series who frequently faces life or death situations in her work. She unwinds by shopping, spending more than she earns, dodging bill collectors and winding up her solitary male WARRIOR teammate Yuji and her supervisor with her obvious charms. Maya is a gun fiend who lives to shoot at criminals with such scary zeal (she is pictured above having an ice cream break after one such spree) that young Lilica, WARRIOR's computer expert, comments that she doesn't seem to be getting enough sex. In short, two women you don't want to get fresh with if you value life, limb and manhood. Nanbel is the engineering brains of the team, who designs the weapons Maya loves to fire. She's much mellower/giddier/bouncier than Rio and Maya, but you're not going to mess with a woman who commands a giant attack robot she built herself, are you? Burn Up Excess is a TV series based on the W OVA characters. This doesn't have the luverly nudity that was in the OVAs (the Options menu of the first region 2 DVD has a damn good pic of Maya and Rio, though! I also got the full Romanized names of the characters from this), so the producers compensated by upping the motion quotient something absurd. One of Maya's scenes in the first episode made even me go, "Oh, for frell's sake!" And the whole thing kicks off with the most twisted visual double entendre since the first episode of Aika. If Joe Bob Briggs has a room rented out in your head, get this.
As an extra added bonus, the second ep of W features a virtual idol named Maria who comforts lonely losers on the internet (like Yuji). She is kidnapped and given this body to live in. Nice shell, Miss Ghost. When our team goes out to get her, they face the vicious assassin android Axia. She'll be back--and why not? She's already got front!
Out of print (previously on ADV Films on bilingual DVD). Excess is infamous for being the only TV series ADV released with their Jiggle Counter. Trying to keep track of all of them must have driven Janice Williams mad, as she did miss some in otherwise serious moments.
ANN Encyclopedia Entry
The Yuka Takeuchi Fan's Burn Up W/X Gallery
This 11-part anthology hentai OVA series is dedicated to the darker sides of human sexuality, and the different shades of grey that this darkness holds. Of course, some directors are more mindful of the female form than others.
OPERATION 01: CURIOUS FRUIT
Ai; unnamed woman; unnamed catgirl (left to right)
The first part of this series, created by Mon-Mon (best known for the cheesecake artbook Mon-Mon Illustrations: Candy) features a quiet young woman named Ai who is sitting with her friends in a bar. They notice a quite daringly-dressed couple come in and act in a not-very-discrete manner. Intrigued, she follows them outside and notices them making out against a wall close by. Of course, they see her, and wind up leading her into a world she had previously never known about. Amway sales? Nope, S&M. Ai does not appear to fit this webpage--but she's wearing her normal outfit at the beginning of this story, y'see. It takes losing her clothes, inhibitions and a good lot of her dignity to make them stand out. The female half of the couple is never seen with her breasts fully covered; the better to see your fancy nipple rings with, my dear. I might add that about the only comedy in this episode is a nice jiggle she gets from cracking the whip. An elaborate, well-attended party features this dancing catgirl shaking her talents nicely. I might add that this is the only censored episode in the whole series, using bright glowing genitals and bodily fluids. Imagine being able to see your way to the bathroom to flush your used condom without having to turn on the lights.
OPERATION 03a: LOVER DOLL and 03b: FUYU NO MIZUGI [WINTER SWIMSUIT]
Unnamed bunny girl; unnamed girl (two pictures) (left to right)
Protonsaurus weighs in with three short vignettes, two of which are presented here for obvious reasons. Lover Doll features a cat girl who sneaks into a room with a very quiet and semi-bound bunny girl in a cage to get naughty with her. When their master catches the two of them together, he disciplines them, especially the cat girl. Not visible in the bunny girl's pic, for obvious reasons, is her unique body piercing; you have to see it to believe it. Winter Swimsuit is possibly the least shocking OVA in the series, with a young man and woman in an indoor pool who get it on after the lad cuts her swimsuit with a utility knife to get through to her excellent body. No cuts, no blood, no pain, no bondage...no dialogue or plot either, but what the hey. Sorry that I couldn't get a still that showed her face and clad body well at the same time (and that the pan composite is kind of Frankensteined; the background shifted with the pan, so that was the best I could do); these two pics should give you the general idea.
OPERATION 11: (IDOL) FALLEN ANGEL RINA
|OPERATION 04: KIREI
Kirei; Rui-sempai (left to right)
In this segment by Yumisuke Kotoyoshi, two carefree young ladies visit an idyllic island they've heard about, which is lush and green and has a lot of beautiful butterflies, and find the natives to be very friendly--to a point. And too handy with the mickeys and aphrodisiacs. Of course, being a Cool Devices ep, it's going to be edgy, but you can see that it's also the most rounded of the OVAs. In fact, if all you want is the upfront factor of this series, the second tape is/first and second DVDs are really all you need (although the second DVD does also contain Seek, the most reprehensible story in the series).
Rina Yuki; Ayaka; unnamed escorts (left to right)
Last, but not least, is another Mon-Mon story. Rina Yuki is a popular idol singer with an innocent, virginal image. Things take a turn for the worse when her father, who is also her agent, becomes critically ill. That's when she discovers that he owed a lot of favours to different people, including Mr. Kurosaki, the head of Angel Productions (on the left in the above left picture). In order to protect her father's reputation, her career is signed over to Kurosaki--who then starts to systematically destroy her image (among other things), with the help of his "associate" Ayaka. At the end of the episode, Rina is escorted to the stage by these two fine upstanding (note the neckties) women to perform another concert. How does the concert go over? You'll just have to watch this to see.
In print on Critical Mass Video (18 and over only, please) (four bilingual DVDs). Note that the original three-DVD set was Japanese and hardsubbed only.
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Reika Aoshima; Jenny Matel (BWH: 88.0/52.2/73.3cm) (left to right)
(Source: First OVA)
Since anime has spawned costume players on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, then I guess an OVA series specifically about cosplayers themselves (including photographs of real ones in the ending credits) was the next logical step. Ooizumi Higashi Gakuen's cosplay club, headed by the gonzo president Goro-sempai, is trying to find another member for the club to help it get some funding. Female lead and club member Chaco Hasegawa once visited fellow member Maria's shrine to pray to do cosplay well, and was sent two spirits: Ikebukurou, a well-domesticated owl, and Delmo, a bunny-girl fairy who can actually transform herself into outfits now and again--perfect for the forgetful Chaco. Reika Aoshima is the irritable vice president of the club. At one point, she chews out a group of male students for peeping at them through their second-story window, but her Dead or Alive Ayane costume (pictured above), complete with freedom of mobility, doesn't make them listen to her. Jenny Matel is a transfer student from Italy. She's seen trailing Chaco in the earlier part of the first OVA whilst--you guessed it--cosplaying. She makes quite the impression on the club when Goro introduces her, and she ends up in a cosplay battle with Chaco. Tickets sell well, of course. This is brought to us by Wonderfarm, the same people behind Hand Maid May and G-on Riders, so it was kind of inevitable that references to (and costumes from) both of these would pop up. Being an OVA, fun is had watching the female characters change clothes--especially Jenny during the battle (ka-boom). All in all, Cosplay Complex provides more candy for the eyes than what Delmo constantly shoves into her mouth.
Out of print (previously on ADV Films on bilingual DVD). It's still easy to find, especially bundled with My Dear Marie, which I also recommend.
ANN Encyclopedia Entry
CYBER TEAM IN AKIHABARA (Jpn: AKIHABARA DENNOU GUMI)
Left picture: Suzume Sakurajousui (BWH: 79/58/79cm) (second from left); Tsugumi Higashijujo (73/60/75cm) (right); Kamome Sengakuji (below right);
Right picture: Dark Pigeon (AKA Hatoko Daikanyama) (90/61/88cm); Blood Falcon (AKA Jun Gotokuji) (101/70/98cm) (also on lower right top); Death Crow (AKA Miyami Soshigaya) (96/63/92cm) (left to right)
Misa Rosario (lower right bottom)
In the 21st Century, small robots called "PataPi" (that look kind of like Pikachu if its mother had taken Thalidomide during pregnancy) have been created to serve as companions and helpers (and heavily-commercialized status symbols) for their human owners. A junior high school girl named Hibari Hanakoganei (the redhead in the above left picture) receives a magical PataPi from a guardian angel who appears in her dreams. Unbeknownst to her, her PataPi has a special hidden power, and a villain named "Shooting Star" is trying to steal it, with the help of three women. The first one we meet is Blood Falcon (whose disguise is office lady Jun Gotokuji). In the first two episodes, Hibari runs into her. Literally. And surprisingly doesn't get whiplash from it. Her co-worker, the Haiku-spouting Miyami Soshigaya, also works for Shooting Star under the guise of Death Crow. She's more of a serious character (not much more, though), so she's not as mobile as Blood Falcon, but her outfit would still lend itself nicely to a game of quarter-tossing. Just when you fear that things are threatening to get serious, the third member of the team, Dark Pigeon, appears. Her day job/earthly guise is that of idol singer Hatoko Daikanyama, and, by all accounts, both versions are extremely ditzy. Suzume Sakurajousui has been a friend of Hibari since they were really young, and stands out because of her overly formal speech and manners, and impressive build for a junior. She keeps a PataPi herself, with a name longer than Brian Eno's full name and a surprise for all involved. Tsugumi Higashijujo is one of Hibari's new classmates, the tough daughter of a martial-artist/dojo owner father and pro wrestler Misa Rosaria, and fellow proud PataPi (which also turns out to be magical) owner. Misa is usually training in far-flung parts of Japan, but she greets Hibari at the beginning of the third episode with a running clothesline and a pin. Gotta admit that those would keep me well-pinned. While Tsugumi is a good martial artist in her own right, she is also a hardcore idol otaku who dreams of being a singer one day, and the scene where she dances and sings along to a Hatoko Daikanyama video as she dresses for school proves she's at least got two parts down (and up, then down again, etc.). Suzume is very jealous about the time Hibari spends with Tsugumi, and, as a result, she and Tsugumi are almost constantly fighting. Those PataPis' magic? You gotta see it to believe it. Later, we are introduced to Kamome Sengakuji, a money- and status-hungry little brat who wants to be better than any of her classmates, by any means possible, including stuffing her clothing (she also argues with Suzume about bust size at one point, which apparently gives Suzume a good comic turn or two). The funniest picture I've seen of this show in a Japanese magazine has the main cast, wearing swimsuits, lined up at the blocks on a track, with Kamome looking quite distressed because one of her breasts is leaking air! This is a series (26 TV eps, the Summer 2010 movie), that plays it for cute and ecchi laughs left, right, and center, and should be checked out by any non-uptight anime fan with a slightly off-kilter sense of humour.
The TV series is out of print (previously on ADV Films on bilingual DVD). Note that both of the collections have the on-disc extras stripped off. The Summer 2010 movie is not licensed.
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The Yuka Takeuchi Fan's Cyber Team in Akihabara Gallery
Compiled by Dave Watson (remove spamtrap word before sending). Don't hold it against him.
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