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Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
9/10
politically incorrect fun
22 August 2013
I enjoyed the first Kick-Ass movie and I enjoyed Kick-Ass 2 just as much. I've read a lot of comic books but I don't expect movies to follow them exactly so the movie was good on its own merits. What I hope from a movie is the characters act reasonably given who they are. Kick-Ass is still a comic book fan so it makes sense he wants to join a super-hero team. In reality it is best to operate as an anonymous hit-man so police don't get too interested but then there would be no movie. The Chris D'Amico character was hilarious. He also thinks in comic book terms unlike his Uncle Ralph who is a real mobster. So he comes up with ridiculous ideas like Dr. Evil. I also liked Night Bitch. Obviously someone who is there for fan-service. Did you see her Night Bitch Justice Forever recruitment video? I didn't recognize Lindy Booth who was assistant Claudia in Relic Hunter.

If you like politically incorrect, foul-mouthed fun then go see Kick-Ass 2.
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Sucker Punch (2011)
8/10
see it before it disappears
4 April 2011
'contains spoiler'

This movie is about courage and loyalty. The opening narration tells you about the reality of guardian angels and soon we arrive at the Lennox Asylum for the Insane. The newest inmate is "Baby Doll" who has been driven mad by a tragedy. We overhear her evil stepfather conspiring with an orderly to get her brain lobotomized. In her madness she sees the asylum as a brothel where she will be sold to someone called the High Roller. She decides to escape and is helped by four girls. For some reason their escape attempts are represented by fighting fantasy adventures.

We spend most of the movie in her delusion. Towards the end it is implied that her adventures are based somewhat on reality. So failing these fantasy missions means something didn't work out in real life.

We are told at the end what events actually happened.

I suggest that you watch this as soon as possible before it disappears. The CGI looks fantastic on a big screen.
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8/10
one of the best fighting shows
17 July 2010
"Kenichi" is one of the best fighting shows. It tells the story of a timid boy named Kenichi who has trouble making friends and gets picked on by bullies. His only acquaintance is Nijima a boot-licker who tries to align himself with the bullies by putting down Kenichi. Kenichi decides to learn martial arts so he can protect himself. A chance meeting with new student Miu leads him to becoming the disciple of five eccentric masters. What separates good fighting shows from bad is the colourful characters our hero meets and their personal stories. The pacing of the series is good. With hard work Kenichi slowly becomes one of the toughest fighters at school and he makes new friends on the way. What makes the show funny is Kenichi remains timid unless he has a good reason to fight. Unlike say Dragonball Z the 50 episodes of this show go quickly and the Ragnarok story arc comes to a satisfying conclusion. I've seen the Funimation version and the Japanese version and they are both good.
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7/10
average adaptation of World Destruction video game
7 March 2010
You may have seen commercials for the Nintendo DS game "Sands of Destruction". This anime is based on that game. In this story the world has oceans of sand which are traversed by sand-ships and sand-subs. In this world the ruling class are anthropomorphic beast-men and humans are a slave class. A young human girl named Morte is on the run from the World Salvation Committee because she holds an artifact called Destruct Code which is said to have the power to destroy the world. She picks up a human ally named Kyrie and a beast-man hero named Toppi. Together they travel as the World Destruction Committee. The theme of the show is "you always have choices". Each episode is titled "There Are Two Kinds of ..." and we hope that Morte will learn that lesson before she activates Destruct Code.

I've seen the entire series and it is OK but the characters one-dimensional. I am guessing the target audience is young boys.
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7/10
interesting monster show
30 January 2010
Here is another interesting limited series out of Japan that was shown on TV at midnight.

Dogu-chan is an energetic goddess from ancient Japan who was dug out of the ground by teenage-boy Mokoto while accompanying his father on an archaeological dig. Mokoto is a troubled youth who has dropped out of school and this expedition was his father's way of getting him out of the house. Because Mokoto touched her breastplate Dogu-chan has sentenced him to be her servant. Dogu-chan is accompanied by a living Dogu statue named Dokigoro. Dogu statues are from Japan's prehistoric past and look like humanoids with big goggle eyes.

Dogu-chan's job is to capture yokai monsters and seal them in her breastplate. Each episode is about some poor soul who has gotten involved with a monster. The gimmick of the show is Dogu-chan's transformation sequence. Ordinarily Dogu-chan wears a leather bikini and boots. When Dogu-chan needs extra power her partner Dokigoro disassembles into pieces of body armour that magically attach to her body.

Even though the monsters look cheesy the stories are meant to be serious. The actors treat their roles seriously. People who are killed by rubbery monsters don't come back to life. Even the main character isn't invincible. So if you want to see a Japanese monster show with a slightly adult tone then look for episodes of Dogu-chan on the Net.
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7/10
good teaching stories for the very young
9 January 2010
Taruto is a 12 episode DVD that I saw in the children's section of the local library. It tells the story of Taruto the magic cat and her human master Iori. Taruto's magic is unreliable and usually fails. Only Kakipi the flying squirrel has faith in her powers because she helped him in episode one.

I've seen the entire series and it might be a useful teaching story for very young kids. An adult would let them watch an episode and ask a few questions to test their comprehension at the end. Then they would take questions from the audience to help fill in the gaps in their understanding. Nothing very bad happens and there is often a lesson in each episode.

One thing that has to be noted is the depiction of cats in the story. Humans see cats as ordinary cats but the viewer sees them as doll-sized people with cat tails and cat ears dressed in human clothes. We can understand their cat language but not the humans in the story.

There are stand-alone episodes that let us get to know the main characters and there are story arc episodes that advance the plot of the lost princess story. Because the series is relatively short the story moves along at a good pace. Remember that the show is aimed at the very young and you should be satisfied even if you are an adult. The series finishes with a happy ending.

Bonus question: can you tell what the name Taruto is supposed to represent in English? Hint: her master Iori is aways making sweet treats like cakes and such.
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Meido deka (2009– )
7/10
pleasant diversion
12 November 2009
First you need to know there was a manga called "Sukeban Deka" in the 1980s which means "Delinquent Girl Detective". The concept is delinquent girl Saki is forced by the police to act as an undercover policewoman in high school. The gimmick is she carries a special yo-yo as a weapon which doubles as her police badge. This was turned into a live-action TV show, an OVA anime plus some movies.

Today there is a novel called "Meido Deka" which means "Maid Detective". In it delinquent girl Aoi is rescued from a life on the streets by wealthy Inspector Kaido. He offers her work as a maid in his home along with a butler and a cook. In gratitude she also acts as an undercover cop in cases where a maid could infiltrate and investigate. Her gimmick is a modified sweeper. As you can imagine this show isn't meant to be taken too seriously.

The show is a pleasant diversion but nothing great. Our lead girl plays cute well enough but her smiles often seem forced. Plus she looks unconvincing as a street fighter.
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8/10
good fighting anime not for younger viewers
21 September 2009
In the world of Kurokami there are three copies of each person born in different places. This is called the Doppleliner System. If they should meet one will die. That is because the amount of luck each person is born with is not equal. When the weak copy dies the strong copy gets a boost in luck. Most people dismiss this as a legend but some people are using murder to boost their own good fortune.

High school boy Keita lost his mother when she encountered a copy of herself. His only close friend is a Akane a young woman who was a childhood friend. She made it her task to keep an eye on Keita in place of his mother. At some point she developed unspoken romantic feelings towards him.

Soon we encounter Kuro a young girl with a big appetite and childish manner. She tells us she is a guardian of the Doppleliner System. She keeps an eye on Tera, the life force people are born with. She is seeking revenge on her brother for killing her fellow guardians. It turns out that guardians and humans can make a pact and gain powers.

Despite Kuro's girlish appearance this series is full of bloody violence. I read volume one of the comic book called Black God created by Lim and Park and thought the fights were brutal. Then I saw the subtitled anime. Still brutal. I recommend you take the time to watch one episode per day rather than rush to get to the final conclusion. As often happens the comic and anime diverge. Perhaps the comic is still ongoing so a different storyline had to be made for TV. The anime definitely comes to a happy/sad conclusion and there is no way for it to continue.

There is a free, streaming dubbed version on the Internet and pretty soon Bandai will release the DVD.
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Natsu no arashi! (2009– )
8/10
amusing character interaction
18 August 2009
Storm of Summer is an animation based on the 2006 manga by Jin Kobayashi creator of the School Rumble series so you can expect a light comedy. The opening narration each episode tells us that 13-year old boy Yasaka met a wonderful 16-year old girl Arashiyama during summer vacation. In the first episode you are thrown into the middle of the action. I think it is the season closer. In the second episode we start from the beginning of the story. Our bespectacled lead Yasaka is brash, full of confidence and an idiot. When he sees Arashiyama working at the Ark Café he falls in love at first sight. He soon discovers Arashi is not an ordinary girl. In fact she is a restless spirit.

The stories are mostly about Arashi's missions and each episode can stand alone. There are a few "just for laughs" episodes that involve time travel paradoxes. Definitely worth watching for the amusing characters like the larcenous Master and the down-on-his-luck Shades. We also get 4-panel gags at the beginning and a recurring skit with Kanako and Yayoi referring to other mangas.
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8/10
well made for a general audience
8 August 2009
I watched the G.I. Joe cartoons way back in the 1980s and I bought the comic books as well but after 25 years I have trouble remembering the stories. If there were origin stories for the G.I. Joe organization, the Cobra organization, Cobra Commander, Destro and the Baroness I don't remember them.

It doesn't matter because the G.I. Joe movie is written for a general audience. Like the new James Bond and the new Star Trek this is a reboot of the G.I Joe story. I am positive major changes were made so the story could move quickly and finish in a few hours.

I enjoyed the movie a lot. There are girls, gadgets, vehicles and explosions. If you go with an open mind you'll enjoy it too.
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8/10
better in Chinese
25 July 2008
I read somewhere that the producers tried hard to come up with a story that viewers outside Hong Kong would enjoy because Gordon Liu had fans in China and Japan thanks to his Shaolin monk movies. "Heroes of the East" was the result. Gordon Liu was in Montreal for the Fantasia Film Festival so local organizers and sponsors got him to come to Toronto to say hello after the show.

I noticed something watching the Chinese version that slipped by me when I watched the English dub years ago - only the Ninja Master and Ah To's wife could speak Chinese! I guess that was necessary for the sake of the story so our hero couldn't tell the other Japanese masters that everything was a big misunderstanding and there was no reason for them to fight.

I have good feelings about this movie because the story held together so well. Nobody was portrayed as a villain and everything was resolved happily with our hero accepting the friendship of the Kendo Master.
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Guren onna (2008– )
7/10
pleasant horror-comedy
19 May 2008
Guren Onna is a live-action horror-comedy that was shown on TV Tokyo earlier this year. It tells the story of Fumiyo Nabekura, a timid high school teacher who gets no respect from her students or the principal. She can barely speak above a whisper and is always apologizing for her clumsiness. She has a crush on a fellow teacher named Kokoro but she can only stutter when he tries to talk to her. Her romantic rival is busty school nurse Rumi. Nakebura's only friend is a virtual pet she named Kokoro.

When night comes she gets her revenge by dressing up as Guren Onna / Crimson Lotus Woman and scaring people using special effects fireworks. The twist is Fumiyo sometimes encounters real ghosts during her escapades.

This is a show that can be enjoyed by all ages. As the series develops Fumiyo becomes less shy and uses her secret identity to help people in trouble.
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7/10
not quite as good as OVA version
26 July 2004
Nuku Nuku TV retells the story of our favourite cat-brain androbot from the direct-to-video 6-part series. They make a joke of this in the opening sequence where Ryu is holding onto the tapes from the OVA series. As before Nuku Nuku is an android with the brain of a cat which means she has trouble adapting to human society. The show is a high-school comedy but seems aimed a younger audience so older fans from before will be disappointed. I have seen all TV episodes and it is not quite as good as the OVA version.

Being a TV show the budget is less so the quality of the pictures is a little inferior to the original series. One plus is the music. I have the soundtrack CD and there are lots of catchy tunes from the show on it. It seems like everyone gets a song to sing not just the lead Megume Hayashibara. The stories are generally about monsters of the week created by Mishima Industries. In this series the head of Mishima is actively trying to cause trouble which is the reason why Mr. Kyusaku created Nuku Nuku. As before the son Ryunusuke is overly mature to make up for the crazy antics of his mother Miss Akiko and his father Mr. Kyusaku. This series is definitely worth a rental if you liked the original series but I would rate it "B" and the first series "A".
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Yoshiki Tanaka's magnum opus
25 July 2004
Perhaps you've seen this superior science-fiction series on the Net or at your anime club. It looks like a TV show because each episode is 25 minutes long but I understand it is a direct-to-video adaption of Yoshiki Tanaka's 19-book series "Legend of Galactic Heroes". Thanks to that devoted fan-base the 28 tapes finally were completed after 10 years.

LGH tells the story of Reinhard, son of a poor nobleman in the Galactic Empire. Reinhard's father allowed his older sister Annarose to be carried away to court as a concubine when he was a young boy. Because of that Reinhard vowed to topple the Emperor one day. This series is like a soap opera because there are a lot of schemers and schemes and while the plot seems to advance slowly you really can't skip many episodes. There is a big payoff at the end and everything comes to a satisfying conclusion. The writing is very good but I can see people getting bored.

I know there are efforts underway to get an official subbed version to the US but it is going to be a hard sell because there are so many episodes.
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Medabots (1999–2004)
enjoyable for adults too
7 February 2004
We are well into the third season of Medabots in North America and I've seen most of the 52 episodes in season one and season two. Medabots is clearly aimed at elementary school kids judging by the simplified character design and storylines but can be enjoyed by adults too. I've watched other kid's shows like Pokemon, Flint the Time Detective and Mon Colle Knights that have the same tone but they seem repetitive and boring. In Medabots the show isn't just about fighting but the distinctive characters in that world and how they interact. Most episodes can stand alone even if there is an ongoing storyline like the Robattle Championship, Dr. Meda-evil or the Kilobots. Check it out and give it a chance. Shown on YTV in Canada. By the way Julie Lemieux does a good job taking over the Ikki role in season three.
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another martial arts favourite
31 December 2003
I must have seen this Shaw Brothers movie on TV in the 1980s because it seemed very familiar as I watched the DVD. Apparently this is a sequel to Executioners from Shaolin. The movie opens with a flashback to a fight between white-haired monk Pai Mei and a two-man team featuring Gordon Liu and another fellow. The monk is extremely tough so it is necessary to double-team him with Tiger Style and Crane Style. This is the setup for the current story where Pai Mei's brother Pak Mei another white-haired monk is out for revenge. In this adventure there is no partner to use Crane style so Gordon needs special training to make up for it. It was a lot of fun watching Gordon learning woman's style kung fu to get an advantage over Pak Mei the White Lotus. Check this one out at the video store if you get the chance because Gordon Liu will be a white-haired kung fu master named Pai Mei in Kill Bill Volume 2.
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Ojamajo Doremi (1999–2000)
top-notch animation
20 December 2003
I've seen the first eight episodes of this long-running kids' comedy from Japan and find it pretty amusing. The story is about an underachieving elementary school girl named Doremi whose name sounds like the musical notes "do", "re", "mi". The setup for how Doremi turns into a witch is a little shakey but no more than how another magical girl Hime-chan got her magic ribbon. The show seems "toycentric" because the magical devices she uses look like they are meant to be released as toys. Still the program should appeal to people beyond the usual demographic of little girls because the artwork is top-notch and the characters are funny. The backgrounds are beautifully rendered and I would rate the art with an "A". I wonder how they achieve that textured paper look?

Check this one out if you can find it on an import DVD.
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noticeable improvement over first series
17 December 2003
As you may know this comedy series is about muscle-head Junpei, military-freak Ritsuko and actress Airi and their attempts to return to Japan from a strange fantasy world by searching for spell fragments that have attached themselves to the bodies of elves. I wasn't too thrilled by the first series because there seemed to be a lot of adlibs and yelling in the English dub. I am sure you will wonder why the elves wouldn't cooperate and look for the spell fragments on their own bodies rather than be humiliated each episode by those who strip elves. I guess there would be no series then. Otherwise you will wonder how Ritsuko manages to get supplies for her her tank in a world without modern technology. At least they came up with a "worlds merging" excuse in the first series to explain how they could understand the local languge.

The English cast is much the same for the second series with the voice of Celsia the elf elder being different. This time around the stories seem better. The writers make it clear that they want the series to keep going because now our heroes must find a thousand spell fragments. There are also a few stories where we learn something of the characters' past which is important since we really don't know anything about them. I rate it "B".
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Hoshi no koe (2003)
9/10
touching home-made anime with limited animation
14 December 2003
You may have heard the story of a Japanese man who quit his job to try to create a home-made anime. I first saw this animated short movie on a Chinatown DVD and then saw the US dubbed version. I was touched by the story of a long-distance love affair that is based on emails sent to the frontline in a war against aliens. The pictures were beautiful and so was the theme music.

It took a few viewings before I noticed the limitations of this anime. When you make a cartoon some people are the background artists and some people animate the characters. CG was used to generate the backgrounds in this movie and that is why the images look great. If you watch the making-of segments you can see real-life pictures that were turned into background art. Unfortunately for the creator animating characters is labour intensive and requires some drawing skill and I noticed he avoided face shots as much as possible. You have scenes where people are talking but you don't see their lips move because of the camera angle. If you look at the few face pictures they look kind of amateurish. Oh well it was an impressive effort even though technically it is a limited animation.
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Ariel (1989 Video)
7/10
interesting concept that should have been developed further
9 December 2003
Central Park Media released this on videotape around 1996 but it is actually a 1989 anime based on a novel. In Japan these novels are mostly text with a few illustrations and many anime shows are based on such novels. The concept here is "girls who pilot a giant robot that looks like a woman". The story is a comedy and seems aimed at a very young audience. Therefore there is zero character development. Kazumi is the enthusiastic high school girl, Aya is the overly serious prep-school girl and Mia is the reluctant leader/university student. Their job is to protect the Earth from attack by the Gedo Corporation. These aliens rely on the monster-of-the-week for world conquest rather than conventional armies so the Ariel robot is the perfect counter. Why Dr. Kishida's grandaughters and niece are the ones chosen to pilot Ariel is never explained.

This show should be done again with a little more care because I think the concept is a good one. And I don't mean the subsequent release called Deluxe Ariel which is pretty much more of the same.
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7/10
typical magical girl series
27 June 2003
I've only seen the first episode of Super Doll Licca-chan but it seems like a typical magical girl show like Hime-chan's Ribbon or Akazukin Cha Cha. First you should know that the Licca-chan doll is the Barbie of Japan. In this TV series a little girl named Licca is given a bracelet called the Ring of Calling by her grandmother. When she is in trouble she can use the bracelet to call for protection. As it turns out grandma has three dolls called the Doll Knights that can transform into human-sized guardians. The first of the Doll Knights is named Licca. As a doll she wears a military-style jacket and pants but as a protector she wears a cute fighting outfit. The bad guy is Scarecrow who has been told to capture the Princess of Doll Land who is a school girl who will appear at his museum on a school trip. He manages to identify the princess but Licca uses her Ring to call for help which arrives in the form of Super Doll Licca-chan! A fight occurs and that is about it for episode one.

The art style is typical for magical girl shows. If you like Hime-chan's Ribbon or Akazukin Cha Cha or Fairy Pelsha then you will like this too. I give it a "B".
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not for beginners
28 April 2003
I just rented the North American DVD and was surprised to see a US movie trailer in the package. This trailer says the movie was in theaters in January of 2003. I don't remember seeing anything like that in the local newspaper. Maybe it was a limited run in selected cities. Anyway I must warn you that like most movies based on existing series there is no reintroduction of the characters. That means if you don't know who does what the movie won't tell you. Also the Special Vehicles Unit takes a supporting role because the story revolves around the captain's detective friend. That means your favourite characters will hardly get any screen time or lines to say. I will give the movie a "B" rating.
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The Twelve Kingdoms (2002– )
better than Fushigi Yuugi
14 April 2003
Twelve Kingdoms is an anime based on a book by Ono Fuyumi (sometimes transliterated as Ono Huyumi) that is similar to Vision of Escaflowne or Fushigi Yuugi. It tells the story of Yoko Nakajima a red-haired high school student. On the outside Yoko is popular and kind-hearted but on the inside she is full of doubts and can't express her true feelings. Her teacher wonders if she dyes her hair so her parents want her to dye it black so she will fit in. Yoko has frightening dreams of slaying monsters but her mother brushes them off as nothing to worry about. One day a strange man named Keiki comes to class and warns her of approaching danger. Monsters attack and they flee to the roof where sweethearts Yuka and Asano are chatting. Keiki wants Yoko to take up the sword and go with him to his world. She tries to refuse but when she sees her two classmates in mortal danger she accepts if they can be brought to safety too. They take a trip through a dimensional whirpool and arrive in the world of The Twelve Kingdoms.

I've seen the first story arc from episodes 1 to 13 and I understand there should be 39 in the series. The artwork is good and the backgrounds are detailed. I am glad the writer doesn't ignore problems like the language barrier when people go to another world and practical issues like getting food or seeing if strangers can be trusted. I understand Media Blasters has gotten the US rights to the series for 2003 but try to get the Japanese language version if you can. If you like stories about an ordinary person who has to grow up to become a hero you will definitely like it.
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Full Metal Panic! (2002– )
read the manga in Newtype USA first
31 March 2003
I got the imported DVD from Chinatown so I've seen the first 7 episodes of Full Metal Panic. I've also been reading the manga version in Newtype USA. Warning - the anime gives away the background of the story, namely who is Chidori and why does Sosuke have to protect her. In the comic after six chapters all we can tell so far is that Sosuke is a weirdo with a gun who has taken it upon himself to protect Chidori from all harm. I do recommend both versions.
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loveable, oddball characters at a Japanese high school
5 March 2003
This animation is based on a Japanese comic strip, kind of like Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" in North America. Like the "Peanuts" cartoon each episode is built on short segments taken from the comic strip. It has been shown at a few Toronto anime clubs and I also have seen it on DVD. It was jarring watching the show at first because the episodes are really just a series of short gags and then suddenly we see the next episode preview. We have some anime stereotypes like the loudmouth Tomo, the dimwitted Osaka and the pushy Yukari but some characters seemed fresh like Chiyo a bright ten-year old girl who was advanced all the way to high school. Since Japanese high school covers 15 to 17 year-olds Chiyo is much shorter and physically underdeveloped compared the rest of the class. This leads to recurring gags like when Chiyo acts like an elementary school student or when she can't keep up with the rest in phys ed class. If you search the Internet you should find a few translated comic strips so you can see if this series is right for you but I give it a "thumbs-up".
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