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Ronin Warriors: An Anime Review

220px-Ronninwarriorsdvd1 Ronin Warriors, known as Yoroiden Samurai Troopers in Japan, is one of those amazing older anime that simply does not get enough love.

In 1988 Japan premiered a new anime. Yoroiden Samurai Troopers would run for thirty-nine episodes. It would premiere in America in 1995 under the name of Ronin Warriors. The show would then continue to run on syndication thanks to networks like Cartoon Network.

The story centers around four armored warriors who each have special weapons in connection to the elements. They are the only thing standing in between a terrifying warlord known as Talpa and his minions. Talpa has set in motion events in modern Japan for himself to rule the mortal world. Each of his minions has power to fight one of the Ronin. Therefore the Ronin must find each other in the chaos and join forces to defeat Talpa. They are also aided by a student named Mia, a young boy named Yuli and a masked man known as “The Ancient.”

Ronin Warriors has a fantastic plot. It blends the history of Japan with the supernatural. It takes an interesting “what if” question and spins a story of friendship and overcoming the odds. One more interesting thing about Ronin Warriors is that it is an anime with a transformation sequence for male characters. Yes that is correct. A “magic boy” sequence where our male heroes are transformed into their armor.

While the animation is dated it does still hold a real beauty. The sequence for the transformations is one of my favorites. It is cleverly done featuring Japanese cherry blossoms with drums. The character designs are actually very minimalist, which serves the story as we are worried about the end of the free world here and not what the boys are wearing. That being said everyone has their own style and color. The hairstyles alone are worth watching for.    

The music is also a little dated but it fits the show. It adds to the fight scenes and the transformation scenes.

Ronin Warriors, thankfully, came back to syndication when I was in High School. My friends and I loved it. We still quote parts of it. Ronin Warriors did seem to be a favorite of a lot of American anime fans at that time. It also spawned some wonderful fanfictions, one of which is very sadly no longer anywhere to be found. In short, it is a fun show which had a great fandom.

Would I recommend Ronin Warriors? Most assuredly. Please give it a shot if you haven’t already.

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Always keep sparkling!

 

Influential Women in the Gaming Industry: Marisha Ray

ray-marisha-image Marisha Ray has done almost everything. She is a voice actress, producer, actress, host and stunt performer. Sher is also an avid gamer.

Marisha has been playing games and kicking butt since she was a small child. She loves all kinds of gaming. This passion has been able to help fuel her career and take her on the path that she now walks. Marisha has an impressive resume. She has been voice acting for years and has given us many fantastic characters.

Before she could start acting though Marisha tained at many companies such as; Actors Theatre of Louisville, American Academy of the Dramatic Arts, Point Park University Conservatory of Performing Arts, and the Governor’s School for the Arts. These companies helped Marisha hone her craft.

In 2012 she was able to star in and help create a fantastic series called; Batgirl: SPOILED. Ps I would LOVE to see more of that story. Batgirl is a great example of the creative nature of Marisha. Taking something she loves and building upon the story for others to enjoy. From there she has only gone forward. Including what most of us are most familiar with.

Critical Role is a show that has is a fan favorite for many tabletop gamers. It has also been a way for so many to get a start in Dungeons and Dragons and as a tool for Dungeon Masters with new players. Marisha has been on both campaigns and the one shot adventures of this nerdy group of voice actors. She has given players an excuse to be awkward and to make mistakes as they play through her characters. Marisha brings a real sense of fun to Dungeons and Dragons. I have written before about one of her characters Keyleth and how she inspired me as a gamer. 

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Marisha also is in charge of the Critical Role Podcast. She has been the producer of an awesome show called Signal Boost! Which is a really fun project that showcases everything from comics to music. Every episode has a different host. Which means viewers get a plethora of different interests to look into.

Marisha is a free spirit and an uber nerd. She has made space for herself in the gaming world where she can be totally herself. Marisha has made more space for women as well.

Marisha is proof that creativity breeds success. That you can be yourself, take your interests and make a career that you love out of it.

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You can see Marisha every Thursday night on Critical Role!

 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!  

 

The Evolution of Women in Professional Wrestling

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On October 28th World Wrestling Entertainment fans will have the opportunity to watch the first ever all women’s pay-per-view in the history of the company. Now the WWE is not the only televised wrestling promotion right now. Nor is it the only wrestling company with female talent. It is, however, one of the biggest names in sports entertainment. Many fans, myself included, got our start watching the WWE. That is one reason why this is so huge. Tons of little kids, as the WWE is PG entertainment, are going to get to watch an all women’s pay-per-view. Tons of them are going to be inspired by it. Evolution, what the pay-per-view has been named, is a step toward the normalization of women in sports entertainment.

To be honest if someone had told me when I had first started to watch wrestling that we would be heading to this I never would have believed you. This has been an amazing year for me to stumble back into the world of professional wrestling. The “indies” are on fire with intergender matches. CHIKARA Pro is a family friendly lucha show which has women fighting in all kinds of matches. There was also a huge event hosted by Cody Rhodes, Matt and Nick Jackson that brought together indie wrestling talents from all over and had a battle royal style match that had Jordynn Grace called All In that was a huge success.  

Women are being celebrated in professional wrestling but it wasn’t always this way. Ladies have been putting their bodies on the line, in and out of the ring, in order to get to this point for years. In the early 1900s women were a part of the sideshows, scantily clad and performing feats of the strength to keep the audience interested between acts. However the road was possibly the most dangerous place for women. Promoters like Billy Wolfe would use his power to have his girls get to wrestle, but only if they had sex with other promoters or wrestlers first. A woman’s worth wasn’t in the ring. That practice continued through the years, even with female promoters selling out their own girls.

Despite the danger in and out of the ring women’s wrestling could not be stopped. In the 1930s and 1940s there was even what would be considered a high time for women in the ring. Women like Mildred Burke  and Mae Young hit hard in the ring and had America watching. Mildred fought both men and women. She held the women’s Title for years and helped to bring in new talent. Later she traveled to Japan and helped to bring her style of wrestling there during a tour. She would return and help shape the face of women’s professional wrestling in Japan which has resulted in such amazing wrestlers as Meiko Satomura

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The next exciting chapter for women’s professional wrestling came in the form of big hair, crazy personas and a lot of glitter. Yes I am going to talk about GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling again. In the 1980s professional wrestling was going through some big changes. The WWE, then the WWF, was televised with some of the biggest names of wrestling at the time. Unfortunately women were not in the forefront this time. Women who did wrestle were once again like the sideshow performers of old. Women were now managers like Miss Elizabeth.

Women dressed up and cheated to help men win. That is how it was on television. Before she had a can of spray and NWO, a faction in WCW, black and white she was the “first lady of wrestling” because she looked like a movie star and hardly spoke. Miss Elizabeth was lauded for being seen and unconditionally loyal to her man no matter what he did. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Miss Elizabeth but not every woman should be have to be her. That is why GLOW was so important.

Suddenly there was a wrestling show that was all women. They did funny skits. They had storylines. They also wrestled. The cast had learned real wrestling moves and used them in matches. Some of them were heels (or bad guys) who wore punk apparel in their pink ring. The women were the stars and they put themselves in a lot of danger to do so. While GLOW was canceled after four years of glitter and goofs it proved that women could wrestle on television.

The 1990s and early 2000s gave fans would would become known as “the Attitude Era.” It was brash, unapologetic and fairly sexist. It was an odd time in wrestling, changes were coming for women but there was still a strong sentiment of a womens role in the ring. Debra, who was a manager who wore short skirts and open suite jacks with push up bras, was a main player while commentators drooled over her “puppies.”  The WCW had the Nitro Girls dancing at every show. However there were also women actually wrestling in some matches. They weren’t long and there was a lot of bra and pantie matches but women like Ivory, Jacqueline, Trish Stratus and Lita were wrestling for a women’s championship.

This was the time I started watching. My first match I ever saw featured Chyna, the Queen of the Ring. Chyna was a female bodybuilder outside the ring. She joined as a bodyguard for two male stars. She was the first woman to compete in a Royal Rumble. Chyna was also the first women to be in a King of the Ring Tournament. She was also the first female Intercontinental Champion. Chyna was big, powerful but also was given romantic storylines. She showed that a women could be many things at once, all of them successful so long as they were given opportunities and support.  

The women’s division continued to bounce back and forth between progress in the WWE. The division became the “divas” division. Women were once again judged more like beauty contestants on beauty show then a wrestling show, particularly on early seasons of NXT. However there were the seeds of the revolution being sown. Divas like AJ Lee called out wage gaps in her scuffed Chuck Taylors. Nikki and Brie Bella amassed an army who, with other fans, took to Twitter with the hashtag; “give divas a chance.” Soon women were being given longer matches and even matches at the pay-per-views.

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The Four Horsewomen; Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair led the charge in the WWE. They have participated in many of the firsts for women. Recently the superstars, formerly known as “divas,” have gotten to participate in some amazing matches. Iron Man Matches. Money in the Bank matches, Royal Rumble matches, Mixed Match Tag matches and now their own pay-per-view. Women from all over the world are also participating in the Mae Young Classic, which is a tournament highlighting female talent in the industry. Renee Young, Beth Phoenix, Paige and two female referees have also been making history as the first female announcers and GM in the WWE.  

Wrestling has come a long way for women. While the focus of this article is about the WWE it is only right to highlight some other sources and female wrestlers. Impact Wrestling currently has a supernatural storyline featuring women with coffin matches. The storyline of friendship between a demon and a bubbly, pink clad wrestler as they fight an undead bride has been drawing in viewers for months. SHIMMER Women Athletes is a group based in Chicago whose focus is giving female athletes a place to shine while they kick butt. Blanche Babish, Solo Darling, Oceanea and Princess Kimberly fight anyone and everyone at the family friendly Lucha show that is CHIKARA Pro.

The history of women in professional wrestling is as interesting and varied as the industry itself. There are many wrestlers and different groups that make it special for fans. I hope that fans will tune in for Evolution on the 28th. It is important that we show our support for something so historic and encourage the women in the industry to continue fighting and taking risks. If you aren’t a fan then I hope you will give wrestling a try as the women can be very empowering to watch.

To all the divas, knockouts, athletes, wrestlers and superstars; I need to thank you ladies for all you do. Thank you for inspiring us. Thanks for the risks, the bumps and the long times on the road. You made one little girl want to be bigger and stronger than the expectations that were laid out for her in me. 

So for now everyone keep fighting and remember to always keep sparkling!    
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Review: Vampire Knight (Anime)

vamp mangaIf you are looking for an anime about Vampires then Vampire Knight maybe what you are looking for. It was not, however, what I was looking for.

Vampire Knight is an anime that came to America through Shojo Beat Manga in 2006. In 2008 it was adapted into a television show. The anime is centered around a young woman who is living and going to school at Cross Academy. Cross Academy is a school founded with one intention, as a place were higher class vampires can send their children to live with human students in harmony. The students are segregated into the Day Class, for human students, and the Night Class for the vampire students. There are very few times when these students are able to interact with each other, one of which is when the Day Class is finishing their classes and heading to their dormitories as the Night Class leaves for their classrooms. The day class students are very interested in the Night Class students and that is where our heroin comes in.

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Yuki Cross is the guardian of her classmates. When she was a young girl her family was killed by a vampire. Just when she was about to fall victim herself Yuki is saved by a…vampire? She is then adopted by the soon to be Headmaster Cross. Yuki spends her time juggling class, patrolling at night and keeping her Night Class obsessed classmates from the vampires. She also is torn between her affections for two different students.

Vampire Knight is not one of my favorite animes. There is a lot going on in the show and Vampire Knight has some wild plots. I have a difficult time with liking Yuki. I suspect it is because I am looking into her character from my own cultural perspective.

That being said the animation itself is gorgeous. The costumes are also really fun. The music featured is also wonderful. It adds immensely to the show. Vampire Knight takes an interesting perspective on the subject of vampires, particularly of a hierarchy within the community.

Would I recommend it? Eh maybe. It is one of the few animes that I haven’t really enjoyed. However I do know people who would enjoy it.

If you are looking for an anime with a supernatural theme that isn’t very scary then give it a shot.

 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!  

 

Influental Women in the Gaming Industry: Claudia Billie Stræde

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Some women are just powerhouses from a young age. Claudia Billie Stræde is one of those women. She has accomplished so much already and doesn’t seem to have any intention of slowing down.

Claudia is a Danish filmmaker and animator. She was admitted to the Danish Film School. There Claudia was the youngest director in the animation department. However instead of staying there in 2006 she dropped out to attend the Academy of Untamed Creativity instead. Claudia found a better fit for her passions there.

That was when she started to learn about animation. Claudia also found like minded students at the Academy of Untamed Creativity. In 2007 they banded together to create and event called The D.I.Y. Film Club. This event was an opportunity for more obscure films to have a place to be shown. It featured films that ranged from obscure art to homemade documentaries.

Claudia then attended the Copenhagen Film and Photo School. She was able to study live action filmmaking for a whole year. There she got to also experience different aspects of filmmaking. Claudia was able to do everything including; directing, producing, cinematography, editing and sound design. After that Claudia felt the pull to go back to the Danish Film School.

This time Claudia stayed. She got to work on many different projects, including computer games. Here she had access to state of the art equipment. Claudia teamed up with other students to create a horror game called Blackwell’s Asylum.

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Blackwell’s Asylum is a horror themed adventure/roleplay game. The team was inspired by the true life experiences of Nellie Bly, a female journalist who went undercover in an insane asylum to expose the horror in the mental health field at the time. The game has the player wake up, drugged in an asylum in the early 1900s. The goal is to get past wardens and escape. Claudia was the director of the game. Blackwell’s Asylum won the 2011 Game of the Year and winner for the Adventure/Roleplay category in the Intel Level Up 2011 Game Demo Contest.

Claudia is a great example of working toward your passion on your terms. By learning and experimenting your goals will be exceeded.

During this holiday season give Blackwell’s Asylum a try…if you think you can get out with your sanity in tact.

 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

 

Sword Art Online: An Anime Review

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Sword Art Online is an anime series about a multiplayer game based on a manga of the same title. It originally aired in 2012 and is comprised of three seasons.

When the MMORPG that everyone is talking about is finally released gamers cannot wait to get into the game. Sword Art Online is created and released by famous game developer Akihiko Kayaba. Gamers scramble to purchase the game and the nerve gear technology that goes with it. Beta testers spent months in the game before. One such tester, named Kirito is also eager to get back in the game. After befriending a new player and gaming together Kirito finds he cannot log out. All the gamers are transported in game to receive a message from the Game Master. They cannot leave, any attempt to do so will leave them dead in the real world as well as in game due to technology in the nerve gear. The only way out is to beat the game.

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Sword Art Online is a truly beautiful anime to watch. The art really is amazing. With the setting being a game the artists really have a chance to shine as they create the world and graphics of the game. The detailing that goes into the costumes of the character’s avatars is so vital to the story. We see the characters grow and develop as they spend time in the game and their avatars level up. The work done to make everything from towns to pastures to dungeons is really fantastic. The score is also a treat for gamers and anime fans alike.

I really enjoyed Sword Art Online. I love watching characters develop and as leveling up is an integral part of plot viewers get to witness that. As a gamer I really appreciated the work done to show what it is like to be deep in a game. I enjoy the main character and there are many secondary characters who are also really fun to watch. There are also characters that do not thrive being thrown into the pressures of having to beat the game. I appreciate that Sword Art Online did that. We have all met jerks while gaming online so it makes sense that this game would be no different, only now you are stuck with them. You are also stuck with newbie gamers like me. Do you help them or leave them behind to insure your own success? These predicaments are all explored in the show.

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I would recommend Sword Art Online to many different kinds of anime fans. Gamers especially. Fantasy fans will also enjoy it since many of the games selements and settings are fantasy themed. Hopefully if you haven’t watched Sword Art Online yet you will give it a try.

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

 

Review: The Man in the High Castle

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What would have happened if the Nazis would have bombed the White House before the United States could bombed Japan during World War Two? That is the base question for The Man in the High Castle.

The Man in the High Castle is an Amazon Prime television series based on the book by Philip K Dick. In the year 1962 the United States as we know it no longer exists. The pacific states are under the control of the Japanese Empire. The eastern states are under control of the Nazis. There is a strip of states in between that are called “The Neutral Zone” where no one has control and it is more like the lawless Wild West of old.

There are many players in this show and they all contribute to the direction that the story takes. The Man in the High Castle, is at its heart, a story about stories. Different people reacting to the situations they are put in and how those actions affect those around them. There are also alternate versions of the stories, but we are just beginning to find out about those on the show.

Julia Crain has accepted the Japanese influence in her life. She practices aikido, looks after her mother and lives with her boyfriend. She has a fairly normal life for someone who is considered a second class citizen in her own country. There are other forces at play around her though. There are plots within the Nazi party itself and Hitler’s health is failing. The relationship between the Nazis and the Japanese are on shaky ground with the threat of war. The Resistance has something that they are trying to keep safely hidden. These are films. Films which show a different world. The question is whether these films a solution or are they something that should be destroyed?

The storylines in The Man in the High Castle are amazing. They take us from multiple people in the Pacific States, to the idyllic looking states under control of the Reich to Germany itself. All of the people from different countries and vocations are spun around each other seamlessly. The show keeps you guessing as it is filled with switches and turns. The characters are masterfully written.

The settings are also key to The Man in the High Castle. As the viewer travels from set to set we get an inside look at the lives which we are to be so invested in. Costumes let us know the show takes place in the past but also the status of the characters. Music is also a reminder that the sometimes familiar surroundings of our characters that what we are seeing is not what it seems. Everything in The Man in the High Castle is very delerate.

I would highly recommend The Man in the High Castle. It is a great story about alternative history with a rich cast of characters.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING.