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Concept: Evergreen (1048 Words)

    It was an otherwise normal morning for the residents of Ash Lake before a stranger in white arrived. A newcomer moving into town wasn’t out of the ordinary, but they always arrived with an escort. That morning it was only the stranger and his horse; no escort in sight. The lack of escort that piqued the town’s curiosity and concern. Ash Lake was a small settlement in the middle of a vast desert governed by a ruthless tribe of Orc-kin. The arrival of anyone or anything without their knowledge meant only one thing, trouble.
    
    The stranger sat at the bar of the Jackal’s Retreat only having said enough words to get a glass of water from the barkeep. He kept his head down, showing no intention of drawing any more attention to himself. Although, at the rate people filed into the building after him, there wasn’t much more attention left to grab. The place was filled to capacity with townsfolk and every eye was on him.

    “What brings you our way, stranger?” the barkeep asked.

    The stranger had no reaction to the question tossed his way. It was as if he hadn’t heard the question at all, which might have been the case if he wasn’t surrounded by utter silence. Still, he felt no obligation to answer her. Instead, he chose only to down the rest of his drink.

    “Hey, Lisa asked you a question!” yelled one of the men from the other side of the room, having found a modicum of courage.  

    However, his newly found virtue was all to fleeting, leaving him as soon as the stranger turned to look his way. He felt a chill sweep over him as the stranger stared straight into his eyes. After no more than a second he quickly averted his gaze and slouched down in his seat to avoid any prolonged eye contact.

    “Your name’s Lisa?” the stranger asked.

    “Yes, sir,” she replied.

    “Nice name. Simple. Not a common thing around these parts,” said the stranger.

    “I guess not,” she replied.

    He leaned back on the stool to survey the walls around him until his eyes landed on a clock. The hands hadn’t moved since he entered. He let out a deep sigh as he brought his body forward to once again rest his arms on the bar.

    “You got the time, Lisa?” he asked.

    She quickly glanced at the clock she kept under the bar.

    “Half-hour ‘til noon,” she replied.

    “There should be an Evergreen patrol passing through soon, right?” he asked.

    “Any minute now,” she responded. Her voice contained just a hint of concern, having just realized what she was asked.

    “Thank you Lisa, you’ve been mighty helpful,” he said as he stood up. He pulled a handful of gold rods out of his coat pocket and laid them onto the bar before turning to leave.

    “Th-thank you,” she said, overwhelmed by the amount of money now in her hands.

    The stranger lifted a hand to signal that he heard her and walked out. He continued on towards his horse, ignoring the eyes of the residents that were now watching him from both inside the tavern and on the street. He took a moment to look down the dirt road that ran through the middle of Ash Lake before he swung himself up into the saddle. Just as he was about to spur the horse forward, he caught a glimpse of Lisa from the corner of his eye.

    “Don’t cause any trouble for us, stranger,” she said.

    Her voice was strong but the concern on her face betrayed her.

    “Only person I’ve ever caused trouble for is myself,” the stranger replied as he kicked his horse and rode out to the edge of town.
    
    Without the buildings of the town around him, he once again felt the warm desert air as it passed by. He sat there watching as the wind reshaped the sea of sand in front of him. After a few minutes he spotted a dust cloud quickly approaching from the north. After a minute of just watching the cloud, he spurred the horse and rode straight at it.

    The dust cloud was being created by an Evergreen patrol. Four large orcs surrounding a covered wagon; all male, with skin a few shades of green darker than their uniforms. Each of them were positioned next to a different wheel of the wagon. Leading them, a female half-orc; smaller build, and lighter skin than the others, but visibly more experienced with the desert.

    As the horse brought him within one-hundred yards of the patrol, the stranger pulled on the reins and stopped. When the patrol slowed to a halt in front of he hopped off the horse and began approaching on foot. Upon seeing that the patrol all readied their weapons, an assortment of axes and maces. The stranger raised both his hands in the air and continued onwards towards them, stopping at a distance of roughly twenty paces.

    ”You are unregistered. What is your purpose?” grunted the female half-orc.
    
    ”I’m looking for someone and I have an urgent message for your Chief,” replied the stranger.
    
    ”Evergreen soldiers are not messengers. Unregistered humans are imprisoned or put down,” she grunted.
    
    ”That is the same response I got from each of the other patrol captains I came across on my way here. I’ll have you know, that sort of repetition can drive a man to do things he never intended,” he said.
    
    ”I don’t like threats,” grunted the half-orc.
    
    Before he could respond, she made a gesture to one of the orcs who had moved to her side during the exchange. He roared in acknowledgement and advanced towards his target. The stranger shook his head with an expression of disappointment.
    
    A split-second later he produced a revolver from under his coat and aimed it at his new adversary. The orc was in striking range as he spoke words without sounds. As the orc readied his swing blue runes appeared on the gun and began to glow. An instant later the stranger pulled the trigger and fired a single shard of ice right between the eyes of the orc…

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Fall 2013 Sports Digest

The current season of anime is one that I was looking forward to, if for no other reason, because of the handful of sports titles. I’ve already expressed my displeasure with Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai!, and I’m not watching Hajime no Ippo Rising because I haven’t seen the previous series. However, that isn’t stopping me from getting my fill from four other sports shows. Which is why I wanted to do a single mega-post for them all.

One of the best aspects of sports anime is that they are typically longer running affairs than 1-cour (12-14 episodes). This gives time for a large cast of characters (protagonist, teammates, antagonist(s), etc.) to get properly developed. It also allows for the story to flow smoothly without seeming rushed as can happen in many shorter series.

The downside to this being that events often get drawn out too long. One instance of this that comes to mind was in the show Giant Killing; entire halves of episodes were dedicated to interior monologues in the middle of soccer matches. Think of it like the length of a single fight in DBZ, but as a sport match. It helps build suspense but can also bore the viewer. It’s a gift and a curse; a double-edged sword, if you will.

Luckily, being only a month into the season, many of these shows are still in their introductory arcs. Rather than get bogged down by unnecessarily long matches, we’re still being introduced to all the players. Aside from the climax of the most important matches, this is arguably the best part of the season.

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KUROKO NO BASUKE (2nd Season)

The second season picks up right where the first left off as Tetsuya Kuroko and the Seirin High basketball team attempt to qualify for the Winter Cup. So far we’ve been introduced to a few new adversaries and seen glimpses of some new special moves from different characters. With the qualifying tournament underway, thins are clearly only going to start heating up from here. 

With all of the characters returning, as well as many of the in-jokes, fans of the series will not be disappointed. Even rematches from the first series are freshened up by new talents and motivations. To anyone that hasn’t watched the first season, I highly recommend it. 

On the technical side, I’m not always a fan of the art, but the animation is another story. Watching the players move in Kuroko no Basuke is like seeing an “And1 Mixtape” turned up to 11. Overall, this show was my most anticipated coming into this season, and it’s not letting me down.

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ACE OF DIAMOND

This show revolves around aspiring high school ace, Sawamura Eijun, as he tries to play baseball at an elite Tokyo school. Much of the plot so far has revolved around his confident nature getting landing him on the coach’s bad side. We’ve been introduced to a handful of supporting characters, but none of them have really left a mark. Everyone just seems to do what they want at Eijun’s expense. The latest episode brought us a new rival pitcher, but it remains to be seen what this obstacle will amount to. 

The show doesn’t really have any stand out elements, and thus far the plot seems fairly generic. However, once Eijun (inevitably) makes the team things should start to get better. For now, his best trait is that he has a naturally breaking throw (making him an unpredictable pitcher). Once he starts to learn real baseball and understand his talent viewers should be in for some spectacular animated baseball. Hopefully we’ll also finally get some insight into why we should care about any of the other players as well.

Overall, there isn’t anything to get excited for quite yet, but there is definite promise.

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YOWAMUSHI PEDAL

It’s amazing how much a “mommy bike” can act as a Hyperbolic Time Chamber; at least that’s the premise of Yowamushi Pedal thus far. Sakamichi Onada is a high school student and die-hard otaku. He wants nothing more than to restart his school’s defunct anime club. In the process he meets a few other students who are into cycling and discovers that his years of riding his bike to Akiba has granted him hidden cycling prowess. 

So far we’ve been introduced to a female bike mechanic/enthusiast, all-star all-round cyclist, and an all-star sprinter cyclist in the supporting cast. There have been glimpses of the rest of the cycling team but no real character development. At a reported 4 of 38 episodes in, the show is still in its infancy, maybe more so than the others.

As someone who is not a fan of cycling, I am watching this anime especially for the team dynamic and the cast of characters. Due to that, I find the pacing a bit rough, but as with Ace of Diamond, I believe that everything will come together once the team is fully assembled. I’ll have to revisit both of these shows further into their runs.

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WALKURE ROMANZE

Admittedly, Walkure Romanze is not the same as the other shows in many ways. It’s based on an eroge rather than a a manga, its athletes are female, it’s as much about a potential harem as it is about a sport, it will probably run for 1-cour, etc. Despite all that, the plot revolves around begleiter Takahiro Mizuno and a jousting tournament. 

Due to its nature as an eroge and harem anime, it contains much more fan service than a typical sports anime (except for maybe Free!). We’ve been introduced to several of the jousters who will participate in the tournament, leaving only the question of who Takahiro will assist. 

The show is rather shallow for a sports anime, and after shows like Kaminomi, it’s rather shallow for a harem anime. However, there are some exciting moments, such as seeing Takahiro come up with the perfect strategy for a jousting match.

Coming from the same company as Princess Lover! means there are a lot of similarities between the two shows. The upside, is that where the plot of Princess Lover! started to get out of hand, Walkure Romanze appears to be rather grounded in its school setting. Fans of the harem genre will see all of the usual character archetypes that they know and love, with many character designs seemingly pulled straight from  the previous show.

Personally, I’m most excited to see how the tournament plays out and of course who the protagonist chooses. For any sports and harem fans out there, this show may give you the not-quite-best of both worlds. Anyone that is a fan of one genre but dislikes the other, may not want to add this one to their schedule.