Tag: Cartoon Network

Late to the memorial

Late to the memorial

Naruto was probably my favorite anime growing up.

I first watched 1986’s Dragon Ball, and I distinctly remember doing silly things like watching an episode at my neighbor’s house when Mom wouldn’t let me at home.

Shout out to Norm and Sue, wherever they are now.

However, that show never stuck with me like Naruto. I had a particular love for Gaara as an antagonist-turned-ally, Kimimaro as a villain with incredible powers and Hinata.

Some might argue she was my first “cartoon crush,” but I believe she was more my introduction to a beloved character pairing in Hinata/Naruto. That was the start of my downward spiral toward shipping.

Yet I never watched Boruto, the sequel series where that love was vindicated by their marriage. I also never watched much Naruto Shippuden.

For whatever reason I stuck to the original series.

Though my fandom did live on in video games. Namely Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 on the PS2, Naruto Ninja Council 3 on the DS (which became the basis for my sprite animation magnum opus) and Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution on the Wii.

Also one non-official fan game that captured my imagination more than any other: Naruto-Arena.

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Image courtesy of the Naruto-Arena Fandom Wiki

Naruto-Arena was a browser-based strategy game with three-on-three battles using ninja from across Naruto’s expansive history.

Each ninja had four moves that required different amounts of colored “chakra” energy, some of which were physical, ranged or simply granted invulnerability.

A few colored energies were accrued every turn, which meant the game played out with turn-based thought games like early Final Fantasy. It was important to track cool downs and lingering effects.

It’s funny how much the system reminds me of the upcoming Pokémon Masters.

I played the game early on in its life. Conversations were had around my elementary school lunch table, and I specifically recall playing during one of my trips to Dad’s office at CBS/KCAL (sometime between 2006 and 2009).

Like Realm of the Mad God, the game meant a lot to me growing up. I even thought about revisiting it a year ago:

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Because I never did, I wanted to try and write something for July 4 this year. I looked up the website hoping to get some work in for a more fleshed out reflection.

And in its place I found this notice on reddit about the game having shut down.

That… Actually hit me pretty hard.

The game was a relic of my childhood. I’m not naive enough to think it could have lasted forever, but it’s sad that I wasn’t cognizant of its death for so long.

However, being a year late does put me in an interesting position.

The reddit dedicated to Naruto-Arena is alive and well because of fan projects looking to replicate that original fan project.

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Check it out here!

I signed up for this particular new Naruto-Arena to give it a fair shot. It’s in an early build where all characters are available to test, and some key elements like character unlock missions are being implemented.

But it aesthetically nails the old look:

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Right down to the statistical layout on the right side of the scroll.

It didn’t take me very long to come into a quick game. Though the transition into battle was rough, battling itself hit my nostalgia hard.

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This remake replicates the way lingering technique effects stack beside each character, and the way your overall ranking changes their portrait’s accessories.

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I also have to give this remake props for proving to me that over 10-year-old muscle memory is just as potent as ever:

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I just did a quick game, but this new Naruto-Arena has a fairly fleshed out leaderboard to make up for features that are being implemented.

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If I start to tackle ranked battles, who knows where I could get?

Though… I’m not sure how much time I’ll spend on this version of Naruto-Arena. It needs a little more time to gestate, and has received updates as recently as June 10.

I’d like to at least have the satisfaction of unlocking characters before diving in.

Yet I really can’t complain. It may have hit me hard to find out a childhood favorite closed without my knowing, but that loss clearly affected a host of other people too. Enough that some of them went on to try and revitalize it.

That’s the truly powerful thing about fandom: A strong sense of community forged in the small, unofficial details.

I’m glad I got to be a part of that for a time.

RIP Naruto-Arena. Sorry I couldn’t be there for your swan song.


Featured Image courtesy of Afnecors via Wikimedia Commons

Truly wacky

Truly wacky

I was planning on taking today to write about a new YouTube series I’ve come to love.

However, that’s on the back-burner after I discovered something more wacky to discuss from a more traditional visual medium.

I’m not blind to the fact that the 2010’s media landscape is a minefield of reboots, remakes and sequels.

Properties that aren’t based on comic books or old television and movies struggle to break into blockbuster budget range. Just look at this line-up for remakes and reboots in 2019, which doesn’t include the glut of tentpole cinematic sequels.

From The Walt Disney Company alone we have Avengers: Endgame, Star Wars Episode 9, Frozen 2and now X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

I wager this proliferation of content comes largely from two areas.

Firstly, Internet remix culture. This 2015 Tech Crunch piece elaborates further, but in essence the Internet has created a people interested in re-consuming the same ideas with transformed variations and assimilated elements.

If the blanket of ‘memes’ don’t cover that idea in a personal enough manner, I’m in the process of writing a book that’s essentially just assimilating other fantasy genre properties.

There are no new ideas.

The second cause is the success of recognizable brands. Remakes are safer investments for studios than novel properties, as general audiences are more likely to pay for a movie featuring iconography they know and love.

It’s a phenomenon you see way before 2019 in all sorts of entertainment mediums.

So to reiterate: Content generally does better if it has an established name and does something to re-contextualize old idea.

Now, with all that said…

Who the fuck decided it was a good idea to bring Wacky Races back?

1968 vs. 2017

I discovered the 1968 Hanna-Barbera cartoon’s 2017 reboot while watching Cartoon Network’s IP graveyard Boomerang with my Mom this afternoon.

My two-year late discovery of the show might be a bad sign. But to be fair, I’m not as avid a Cartoon Network viewer as I was in the 2000s.

Considering the show has two seasons, perhaps it’s popularity in circles I don’t frequent.

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The Creepy Coupe [1]
Based on the two episodes I watched with morbid curiosity, I can’t imagine that’s the case.

It has a quickly cobbled together, rubbery and unappealing visual style akin to later seasons of Johnny Test (a show I enjoyed before its decade run gave way to factory-churned quality).

The show also has weird tonal inconsistencies. The original was true to its name, as every episode was a different wacky race with bizarre stipulations.

In the first episode of the 2017 series I watched, there was a wacky race in which the original Dastardly returned, suggesting less of a reboot and more of a continuation.

The next episode was in space, and wacky racers were now garbage collectors. For no explained reason. Even though they kept their individualized get-ups, there were no races.

A good sign for a show called “Wacky Races.”

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The Army Surplus Special [2]
That said, the show’s character designs are visually appealing and the theme song is iterated upon well for a decent soundtrack.

But these are elements lifted directly from the old series, and the 2017 characters are paper-thin archetypes at best that rely on forced, surrealist humor and returning elements like Muttley’s snickering that are somehow both referential and current, all-encompassing character traits.

I’m willing to bet the pitch for the show was simply bringing that iconic laugh back into mainstream consciousness.

One thing that stood out in my viewing: I’m not sure what audience this reboot is targeting. Its simplicity is bland even for a younger Cartoon Network demographic, but there is a heavy leaning on dated references for fans of the ’68 version.

For example: In the spacefaring episode, Dastardly pretends to be Space Ghost so he can sneak onto the garbage collecting ship.

This joke was actually the catalyst for my post, because… Really? Space Ghost?

I know Adult Swim and Channel Chasers kept him relevant well beyond his shelf life, but what kid in 2019 is going to know what Space Ghost was?

In fact, this lazily executed “fellow 60’s cartoon” reference raises more questions. Why would these characters know who Space Ghost is if, as the other episode suggested, they are the grandchildren of the original Wacky Racers?

Full disclosure, I know I’m overthinking things. But when your show is so dull that this is all I can think about, there’s something wrong.

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The Mean Machine [3]
Frankly this whole post probably seems like needlessly overthinking children’s entertainment. Why does Wacky Races matter as much as I seem to suggest?

The thing is… It doesn’t. Which is kind of the point.

I have fond memories watching re-runs of the 1968 show, but I’m under no delusion that it was perfect television.

Wacky Races suffered from the same budget shortcuts of endless animation loops and recycling story ideas as The Flintstones and other serialized Hanna-Barbara cartoons in its mold.

They were flawed, but incredibly important and popular parts of animation history.

The YouTuber Saberspark has a wonderful series on the rise-and-fall of different animation companies, and recently featured Hanna-Barbara.

It’s a great tribute, but perhaps it primed me to quickly perceive this reboot as a lazy cash grab. The kind of product that retroactively degrades a show’s popular perception, or even dissuades a consumer from seeking the original they may be unaware exists.

But to be honest, Wacky Races (2017) could just as easily be a catalyst for curious youngsters to seek out the original piece of animation history.

I would hope such a mediocre reboot at least succeeds in keeping its predecessor alive.


Featured Image, as well as [1], [2] and [3] courtesy of big-ashb via Wikimedia Commons

A Fresh Start

A Fresh Start

So missing a blog post on the first day of the month might not be a great sign for my productivity going forward. But I was busy at my friend’s 21st birthday party, so I’ll just consider it a quick break.

Clearly not a very long break however, as here I am again to share my thoughts of the day with the world.

My thoughts today are potentially more interesting than most. Or at least more game-changing for me personally.

As you can tell by my featured image, I shed some fur today.

I decided to shave my beard off.

It has actually been a long time coming, all things considered. I started growing my beard out almost two years ago as part of a ‘No Shave November’ competition held by the Daily Titan.

Fun fact, I won that contest. Got myself a bottle of shaving cream out of it.

Since then I decided to keep my hair grown out. I liked the more mature look and it gave me the chance to practice adult things like trimming and shaping my hair.

So for about a year-and-10-months now, I have been far away from the baby face I once was, always seen as the youngest person in whatever environment I came into.

But I’ve always been somewhat unhappy with the beard. It was my first time trying to grow anything out and it wound up coming in rather patchy, especially on my chin.

After having a bit of a heart-to-heart with my sister last night, I decided it was time to finally go clean once again.

Of course I captured the ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots, anticipating this would make for a good blog post today.

Thus, here I am after waking up this morning. Fully bearded:

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Nice and scruffy. Truly befitting the Super Beard Bros fandom.

First step was taking a trimmer to the forest on my face. As per Aly’s request, I tried doing some more silly looks along the way.

Here’s me with a soul patch and a mustache:

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As you can tell I can’t really stop laughing because I look like a total loser this way.

So I quickly trimmed it down some more. Starting with the beard, that way I could just be soul patch man:

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Also not really me, but it looked better than with the mustache. Though the mustache was still pretty heavily rooted in there.

So once everything was trimmed down, I finally took a more close-shaving razor to my cheeks and came out like this:

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Welcome back, baby face.

Obviously it’s still a little rough around the edges, but I think I’ll solve that by taking a second pass at shaving either tonight or tomorrow after a shower.

Other things I’m sure you’ll notice include my eyebrows, which I had some help plucking so I didn’t look like Ed from Ed, Edd and Eddy, the much more bright-and-shiny look in my eyes as it’s clear I’ve woken up more by then and some of the acne earthed up by removing the bearded coating that once protected it.

Hopefully that last part will clear up in time now that it’s exposed and I can work at cleaning it more.

But yes, welcome back baby face Jason. I hope it’s a look you all enjoy, because now that I’ve gone to the effort of cleaning up I might as well keep it for a while.

Who knows, maybe with everything more clear it’ll be that much more obvious when I lose more weight and my double chin disappears. Hopefully.

Before I end this off, I would also like to give an extra special shout out to my sister, who hung out with me throughout the process of shaving and took all of my photos so I didn’t look like an idiot taking selfies in the mirror.

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You’re the best, Aly. Love you ❤️

Catching the Anime Bug

This post title has a double meaning because I’m looking to talk about anime and also I’m kind of out sick.

Except I’m not planning on talking about the sick part because of anime. So why even bring it up?

Well… Because why not I suppose.

Probably because being sick makes me ramble aimlessly.

Though that isn’t really any different than usual around here, now is it?

Anyway. Getting super off topic.

While hanging out with my friend Sam today, a lot of the videos we watched had the creators interjecting ads throughout their content. Many of those ads were for the anime site Crunchyroll, or their streaming service VRV.

At the same time, I’ve been seeing lots of commercials for the anime FLCL Progressive on Toonami lately while watching some Adult Swim with the family.

As a side note, I’m not sure why we’ve been doing that, honestly.

However it has been interesting to experience watching the sort of shows with my parents that I used to stay up late to watch secretly on my bedroom TV because they were ‘adult shows’ and I felt like I rebelling in some way by seeing them without my parents knowing.

Amazing how life cycles around like that.

Toonami was always one of my favorite parts of the secret late night TV watching experiences, as I’m sure many others would agree. It was (and still is since coming back to life) Adult Swim’s anime block, and I’ve discovered a lot of really interesting anime though it.

The ones that chiefly come to mind right now are Deadman Wonderland, about a boy who has blood powers that winds up in a psychotic hell prison after being blamed for killing his entire class at school, and FLCL, about…

Er…

I’ll be honest, I don’t quite remember what FLCL was about. I do remember enjoying it quite a bit, but for the life of me I can’t recall any specific plot details.

Seeing commercials for what I assume is the sequel/follow-up to the series brought some intrigue into the forefront of my mind, and as a result I’ve been considering going back and watching the original FLCL again to see if I can actually retain it this time around.

Once in a while certain things bring that desire to watch anime back for me. It’s usually one show at a time before a few month’s break, as I did in my previous sessions watching the entirety of the Dragonball saga (before Super was anywhere near starting), watching both runs of Fullmetal Alchemist, Madonna Magica and Soul Eater.

It has been a long time, and I’m thinking FLCL might be my next project this summer.

Though at the same time, there’s also a few others I’ve been meaning to watch that I missed for one reason or another.

My Hero Academia has been highly recommended by my friend Mitchell recently.

One Punch Man is something I feel I’ll be very interested watching but I just missed my shot when it first came around.

At some point there were more episodes of Attack on Titan that came out that I should go back to see.

Past that I’ve also heard good things about a lot of other shows. Little Witch Academia, Kill la Kill, Neon Genesis Evangelion… So many shows that I need to catch up on.

Perhaps I’ll consider this post to be a checklist of sorts and start to work through some shows over the rest of the summer while getting my other work done.

If there’s any anime my gracious audience can also think to recommend that I haven’t listed but should go ahead and try to watch, please let me know! I’d love to jot some more down before my interest begins to fade for another chunk of time.