Ice Ribbon Vol. 739 DVD Review

 

Vol 739: July 30, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

This is a theme show produced by Tsukasa Fujimoto and Mochi Miyagi celebrating their birthdays, which ties into some of the stipulations of the various matches. Tsukka and Mochi introduce the show and chat a bit to open.

 

 

1) Team Tsukka (Uno Matsuya, Maika Ozaki, & Risa Sera) vs Team Mochi (Maruko Nagasaki & Kurumi Hiiragi) **1/2

The participants are wearing various gear of Tsukka and Mochi respectively. Uno’s in Tsukka’s white gear, Maika the red and blue, and Risa the gold. Maruko’s in Mochi’s purple and black outfit and Kurumi in her orange one.  Participants must use a move of the person they’re dressed as for a pin or submission attempt count.

This match was interestingly pretty much split into three major phases. Early on Maruko and Maika “struggled” with the concept and went for invalid covers to get the idea over. In the middle Maruko and Risa were more in tune with the match, trying to mimic moves of their respective inspirations, but with little effect. Towards the end Kurumi and Uno went all out and were successfully channelling their inspirations. Interspersed throughout were other pairings and spots playing up the cosplay, like Maruko doing Mochi’s signature taunts and (ridiculously) trying the stomach smother spot in the corner and Risa getting booed for doing her double knees to corner spot when it seemed she was setting up Tsukka’s dropkick spot.

Other highlights included Team Tsukka playing janken to determine which two of them would attack their tied up opponents in Tsukka’s dropkick to the back spot, Risa being “unable” to do the Venus Shoot and getting “stuck” on the top turnbuckle, Risa’s rather ridiculous “Tsukkadora” attempt, etc.

Kurumi makes a really good Mochi, and picked up the victory for her outnumbered team after a Styles Clash and frog splash on Uno. Fine, lighthearted opener. I’ve seen IR do this concept better, but this was still amusing.

 

 

2) Loser of the fall reveals their age: Miyako Matsumoto vs Tequila Saya vs Maya Yukihi ***

Safe money’s on the rookie falling victim to this stip, although Miyako’s always a target in triple threats. Speaking of Miyako being a target, they start off with an amusing sequence of the three trading forearms except Saya only hits Miyako and whenever Maya’s forearms Saya she clearly and purposefully pulls back and “strikes” with the impact of a feather. After a little of that they drop the pretense altogether and just attack Miyako as a team. Amusingly Miyako outsmarts them (?!) and uses them against each other, just to tire herself out doing a giant swing to Saya and collapse to mat and allow them to take back over.

Saya and Maya tie Miyako up in the ropes and give her 40 double chops on Miyako in ropes as ref stands to side (apparently also not a big fan of the Dancing Queen). The crowd seemed a little confused as they blew through the 30’s, perhaps expecting them to stop at someone’s age (which would come into play later).  With that Miyako collapses to floor and Maya and Saya legit attack each other for first time in match.

It continued back and forth in that vein, with Miyako occasionally interjecting to face the ire of both opponents and powdering back out. One great moment saw Miyako lay them out and go up for the Super Mama Mia, only for both of them to simply stand up and continue fighting amongst themselves with Miyako stranded on the top turnbuckle posing.

Eventually Miyako lands the Shining Wizard on Maya to take her out of the equation and gets the better of a rollup exchange with Saya with the Miyacoco Clutch … for the win! YAY!

Honestly this was better than I initially expected, with them making the most of the triple threat format for some really fun spots. The flow could have been a little better, but Saya showed good fire, Maya’s improved a lot and displayed sharp offense here with some nice double pins and holds on both opponents, and Miyako was classic Miyako, so this ended up quite entertaining.

 

Afterwards, as per losing the fall, Saya’s license is shown and she tearfully reveals she is 32 while Maya and Miyako mock her from the corners. Crowd was laughing and clapping, so whatever Saya was saying seemed to have the intended effect.

 

 

3) Hardcore Ribbon: Mochi vs GENTARO *

 

There’s a ladder already in one corner and a stack of chairs in the opposite to start, with the competitors in opposing open corners. Great visual.

They engage in the most hardcore of exchanges, the pose-off, to open. Gentaro eventually tires of it and knees Mochi in the back of the head, then goes right for a chair. That didn’t take long afterall. Mochi takes a boatload of chair shots for a long while, eventually throwing the ladder at Gentaro to take control. She wears her whip out on him on the outside and through the crowd, but he quickly regains control and it’s time for more chair shots. Mochi’s attacked and choked with a spike of some kind, takes over with whip again and then chokes him with a chair of her own. Earthquake splash with chair on the outside and she’s finally getting a bit of sustained offense.

Back in, Vader Splash on chair on Gentaro, but Mochi’s clutching her arm and Gentaro takes over again with the whip. And back to the chair. Actually two, and he hands one to Mochi and they duel. Odd choice. He eventually knocks hers away and hits her in the throat. More chair. Fisherman Buster. He lifts up the half dead Mochi and does another on the chair. One handed cocky cover, and Mochi kicks out at 2.

Gentaro sets up the ladder and goes up, and it’s so rickety Risa comes in to steady it from underneath. Mochi gets up and dumps it so Gentaro lands on the chair. Mochi collapses the ladder and rides it down onto him. Styles Clash teased, but Gentaro backdrops out of it. He gets the chair again but Mochi counters with a running splash that sends it back into his face. She piles chairs on him and climbs the ladder (with Risa and Maruko in to hold it), standing on the very top step and nearly hitting the ceiling. Leg drop onto chairs on Gentaro for 2 (although his shoulders were never actually down).

Styles Clash attempt reversed into a sharpshooter. Gentaro breaks inexplicably, gets a chair, and chokes her with it for the submission. And then the ref and several wrestlers had to pull him off her after the bell as he continued to choke her. Ugh.

Cut to an interview afterward with Gentaro lounging in a chair showing no effects while Mochi sells on the canvas. I didn’t understand what was said, but the audience was laughing and clapping at points. Handshake to end it and Gentaro carries Mochi to the back piggyback style. Given the post match this makes no sense to me (although again I acknowledge I’m obviously missing the context of their promo).

 

I can’t fault the effort, but this was pretty much everything I dislike about both hardcore wrestling and intergender matches (both of which can be incredible when done right). 80% of the match was a larger, stronger male wrestler attacking his female opponent with a weapon, with little in the way of transitions or a story. Again he’s so dismissive of her he hands her a weapon at one point, and still kicks her ass. I know the idea is “look how tough Mochi is for lasting this long before being beat,” but it wasn’t done well and that story alone wasn’t nearly enough for me here.

 

Risa (still dressed as Tsukka) and Miyako come in for a seated promo segment while the ring ropes are taken down around them for the main event. It’s fairly amusing to watch the two of them bicker/banter even without understanding what they’re saying.

 

 

Main Event) No rope match: Misaki Ohata & Kyuri vs Tsukasa Fujimoto & Tsuksuhi ****1/4

The only no rope matches I’ve seen previously are hardcore grudge matches from Dragongate USA. This one seems to be set up in the spirit of competition, which makes it quite interesting. Three of my favorite wrestlers are involved with it (plus another extremely talented one) so my expectations are high. This match is what I got this DVD to see.

Misaki and Tsukushi start (with their partners crouched near the posts in opposite corners) with some mind games, then a few strikes. They jockey back and forth trying to whip each other towards the ropeless edges of the ring then transition into counter holds and come up with a stalemate. Nice, fast sequence to open.

Wholesale changes. Collar and elbow lockup, then Kyuri and Tsukka take turns rolling out of arm wringers, then back to standing counter wrestling. Kyuri whips Tsukka towards an edge and Tsukka stops just in time (making baseball’s “safe” sign as the audience chants the word with her). Now the reverse with Kyuri being whipped to opposite side of ring and coming up just “safe” herself, and they go back to the counter wrestling and an eventual stalemate. Loving what they’re all doing here already.

Knucklelock tie up this time and they fight over a test of strength. Tsukka wins and forces Kyuri into a bridge then tries to use her body weight to break it. Kyuri shows great neck strength and maintains the bridge, so Tsukka gets off her and just kicks her instead. Figure 4 by Tsukka. Kyuri rolls over immediately, Tsukka returns the favor, repeat for each and they’re right near the edge of the ring with the crowd ooh-ing in anticipation of them falling to the floor. Tsukka uses Kurumi (crouched outside as a second) to brace herself, and just before Kyuri falls Misaki comes over to push her back towards the center (which also saves Tsukka, as their legs are still tangled). Nice tease.

Kyuri applies a figure 4 this time and Tsukka immediately scoots backwards towards an edge trying to pull herself over to break in a nicely different counter from what they just did. Misaki stops her just shy though and applies a figure 4 style headscissors on Tsukka and leans over the edge herself, with Tsukka now being stretched between Misaki’s headscissors and Kyuri’s figure 4. The ref counts and Kyuri hilariously releases first, sending Tsukka and Misaki tumbling to the floor.

Tsukka’s dragged back “in” and Kyuri tags Misaki. Hair toss into the corner and Misaki presses a seated Tsukka against the post. Looks really painful without the turnbuckles there, as Tsukka’s back is being pushed into the eyelets. Back to the center and Misaki slams Tsukka’s head into the mat as the crowd counts, slowing down with each slam until she stops around 20, acts tired, and calls for Kyuri to bring her a drink of water. After receiving said drink, she continues reenergized and completes a full 33 head slams in honor of Tsukka’s 33rd birthday. Yes, that rest break in the middle was an (good natured) age joke.

Misaki tags out to recover from that exhausting experience, and Kyuri puts Tsukka in a camel clutch to do funny / mocking poses (pinching Tsukka’s cheeks, pulling back on her nose, etc). They’re having a lot of fun at the birthday girl’s expense.

Tsukka fights off the fisherman buster, then in a great spot runs towards the edge and Tsukushi acts as proxy “ropes” (putting her hands out and pushing Tsukka back towards the center) to give Tsukka momentum to run back at Kyuri and land a wheelbarrow rollup for 2. Tsukka finally tags out for a breather and Tsukushi comes in with a hard dropkick to Kyuri, but Misaki comes running in to save her partner. Double team suplex attempt (mostly) converted by Tsukushi into a double neckbreaker, then she scoops slams each opponent in sequence. Misaki rolls out and we get a nice forearm exchange from the legal combatants.

Kyuri ducks Tsukushi’s last forearm attempt, monkey flips her to the mat, and tries to convert into a cross armbreaker, but Tsukushi reverses into a surfboard. Kyuri flips out of it and into a cover for 2, which Tsukushi bridges out of then runs for the “ropes.” She realizes just in time there’s no ropes to bounce off of and stops herself, but Kyuri kicks her from behind and sends her off the edge anyway onto Kurumi (who needs to find a safer spot to crouch 😉 ).

A followup kick puts Tsukushi down on the floor and Kyuri cartwheels over the edge into a doublestomp.  Nice. Back to the center of the ring Kyuri gets a judo trip for 2 then tags out to Misaki. Misaki takes Tsukushi down with a dropkick, but as she tries to hit more to a seated Tsukushi the latter keeps rolling out of the way of 3 attempts so Misaki finally abandons that plan and grabs a facelock. Scoop slam attempt off the edge, but Tsukushi floats out to save herself and tries to dropkick Misaki off the edge. Ohata moves though and ties up Tsukushi as she lands in curb stomp position right on edge of ring. She completes the curb stomp and sends Tsukushi face first to the floor. That looked vicious.

Tsukushi stumbles back in and is seated against the ringpost. Misaki’s signals for the crossbody (?!) but Tsukushi moves and Misaki goes flying stomach first into the eyelets/post. Tsukka comes in for a double suplex, then puts her partner into Crossfire powerbomb position then flips Tsukushi up into essentially a spinebuster onto Misaki for 2. Tag to make Tsukka official and she kicks at Misaki’s back, then comes around for the chest kick. It’s ducked, but as Misaki comes back up Tsukushi catches her with the crossbody. Great use of having no ropes in the way of people going in and out there.

Tsukushi and Tsukka double whip Misaki towards corner. She stops herself but turns around into a Tsukushi dropkick that sends her back first into the eyelets. She drops down to her knees and it seems she’ll be double dropkicked against the post but she charges out and catches both with a crossbody instead. Tsukka ends up seated against the far ringpost and Misaki HITS THE CROSSBODY AGAINST THE POST. Ouch! Tsukka turns around to accusingly point at the eyelet as she sells to make sure everyone knows what just happened and appreciates the pain she’s in. Cover by Misaki gets 2.

Misaki whips Tsukka towards the edge and she jumps off it and SCALES THE PILLAR ON THE WALL to save herself. So. Awesome. At the top of the pillar is a fan, so Tsukka hangs out up there for a moment enjoying the breeze in her face. Once she comes down she soaks in a well deserved round of applause (including from her opponent), but then Misaki hits her with a kick to the gut and a stunner as she gets back in the ring.

Misaki then pulls Tsukka to another edge and grabs a waistlock, teasing a German to the floor. Tsukka appropriately sells like her life is in danger and counters with a wheelbarrow roll, which they keep reversing in turn until they almost go off the far edge, then they reverse direction and eventually roll  (sideways) off the original edge they were perched on. Fun sequence there that made the most of the unique match type, teased danger, and ended with something that paid off the sequence but was reasonably safe for the two of them.

They eventually get up and celebrate surviving with a cheer, then shake but Misaki kicks Tsukka and sends her towards the post. Then she dropkicks Tsukka and the latter’s head visibly bounces off the post. Misaki back on the apron, and dives off to the floor (presumably onto a laid out Tsukka, but it was on the far side of the ring from the camera so I didn’t see the landing). She drags Tsukka back in and tags Kyuri.

Three slingblades in rapid succession get 2, and Kyuri does her cool conversion where she uses Tsukka’s momentum from the kickout to lock in an arm bar. Tsukka tries to roll out but Kyuri hangs on and reapplies it. Tsukka claws to the edge for a break.

Tsukka counters the Fisherman, but her enzugiri is ducked and Kyuri rolls into armbreaker. Tsukka counters that into leglock, then floats into a headlock, which Kyuri counters into a Rings of Saturn. Great counter wrestling from both. Tsukushi comes in to break the hold. Misaki chases her off and Kyuri goes for arm trap submission on Tsukka but gets rolled up into position for the kick to the back. Kick to the chest followup gets 2.

Tsukka locks in the stranglehold but Misaki saves. Everyone in now fighting. Tsuksuhi goes up on Tsukka’s shoulders, STANDS, and hits a missile dropkick on Misaki (which was so cool I’ll forgive it taking so long Misaki had to stand there selling being out of it for a bit waiting for it).

Tsukushi tries to return the favor to her partner by bending over to make a platform for Tsukka to get on and attack Kyuri from, but as soon as Tsukka puts weight on Tsukushi’s back the latter collapses face first and they both go down in a heap. Intentional or not that was amusing and fit in with the match nicely.

Kyuri takes advantage with the rolling Fishermans on Tsukka as Misaki intercepts Tsukushi and gets 2. Armtrap submission tried again, but Tsukka counters again into a rollup for 2. Kyuri ducks a Tsukka clothesline and Misaki nails Tsukka with the spinning double sledge. Kyuri with a butterfly roll, then rolls back the other way for a pin attempt that gets another 2. Tsukushi saves Tsukka by dropkicking Kyuri right out of the ring. Misaki dropkicks Tsukushi, then Tsukka dropkicks Misaki. Kyuri climbs back in and Tsukka tries one on her, which Kyuri swats away.  Kyuri tries a rollup, which is reversed for 2, but Kyuri reverses that for 2, but Tsukka reverses again for 2. Love those kind of sequences.

Tsukka hits a seated dropkick as Kyuri starts to get up for 2, then calls for the end. She climbs the POST (with steadying help from Tsukushi) and hits a missile dropkick for 2 as Misaki saves. A double dropkick from Tsukka and Tsukushi takes Misaki out, and another on Kyuri gets 2. Tsukka’s looking for the Infinity but Kyuri fights it off, lands a judo trip, and goes for the arm trap for a third time. Tsukka escapes, slides under Kyuri’s legs, and stands up. Uh-oh, not a good development for Kyuri as Tsukka’s got her in electric chair position, and indeed there’s the Ocean Cyclone suplex for 3.

 

Talk about making the most of a stipulation. The psychology, teases, and drama were all excellent and I absolutely loved seeing these four work a technical, competition based match within such a unique format.

 

There’s a fairly extensive roundtable afterwards which ends with birthday cakes and a surprise appearance by Arisa, who comes in, hands her partner flowers without saying a word or breaking a smile, then turns around and marches back out.

 

Overall

So I really didn’t like the Hardcore Ribbon match, but the opener and the triple threat were decent, and the main excellent, so this show still gets an easy recommendation. The main in particular is a wonderful example of what can be done when approaching constraints as a chance to be creative.

Tohyo Game Volume 1 Review

New year, new class, and the class clown has arranged a popularity contest to break the ice. But when the losers start dying mysterious deaths and an unseen force keeps the contest going regardless, will anyone live long enough to discover what’s really going on?

 

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This one’s intense. I’m not a big fan of gore, but well done psychological horror can be amazing. Tohyo Game has that potential, which I’m willing to deal with the violence for. This a dark, gruesome story with a strong plot and a good sense of mystery. There are several shocking moments, both in terms of surprises and the level of violence, and it all combines into something impactful and unsettling. The final verdict will of course depend on where the next two volumes end up, and the pace is a little too quick at times, but overall this is an excellent read.

 

Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers vol 1 Light Novel Review

“Seven heroes gather to save the world – but the legends spoke of only six.”

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This first book in the Rokka series is a compelling mystery in a fantasy setting which I found captivating to a “can’t put it down” extent. Adlet is a great point of view character, and his companions are a nicely diverse bunch with backgrounds and agendas that conflict in ways to keep the reader guessing. One character in particular (who I’ll avoid naming or discussing in detail due to spoilers) had an unexpected and layered backstory that added significant depth and tension to the unfolding story.

Adlet and the other potential heroes are confined in a dangerous situation with reason to distrust each other, and that simple core concept is built upon beautifully to sustain the story right until the end. There are numerous surprising yet well developed twists intermixed with legitimate hints, and the inability of the reader to tell which was which created a wonderful level of suspense throughout. It was hard to guess exactly where things would go because several potential resolutions made sense, which is a wonderful thing for a mystery to achieve. While certain things could have used more explanation, the way the story played out was excellent overall. I’m not sure how I feel about the developments in the epilogue and what it means for the next book, but there is potential there so we’ll see how it goes.

Unlike other recent light novels published over here by Yen On that have frustrated me with the style and translation (I’m looking at you, Re: Zero), the writing in this one was fantastic. It flowed extremely well and enhanced the increasing sense of danger and suspense as events escalated.

I came into this intrigued by the premise and found something even better than I expected that’s easily among my favorites of all the light novels I’ve read. I hope the series can maintain the momentum built from this strong start.

Match Review: Jumonji Sisters vs Best Friends 12/27/15 (DVD)

I’ve finally gotten the DVD containing one of the very best matches I’ve ever seen live, and am excited to revisit it and do a review of here. The entire event (JWP Climax 12/27/15) was quite good, but I’d like to focus on just the tag title match for this entry (both as a spotlight and because I intend to due full play-by-play).

 

JWP Tag Title Match: Jumonji Sisters (c) (Dash Chisako and Sendai Sachiko) vs Best Friends (Tsukasa Fujimoto and Arisa Nakajima) ****3/4

 

 

 

This was tied for my favorite match of the eighty-four I saw the first time I went to Japan, so as mentioned I’ve really been looking forward to rewatching it.

Handshakes all around. Arisa and Dash start. Knuckle-lock tie up, Dash kicks out of it and grabs a headlock which Arisa reverses into a waistlock, then a front facelock. Dash tries to twist out but Arisa keep hold of the arm and arm drags Dash down into a headlock on the mat, but the latter gets a headscissors. Arisa kips out and we have a stalemate. Smooth counter wrestling sequence from two pros and we’re off to a great start.

Collar and elbow this time, mutually broken after some jockeying, Dash emphatically swings at Arisa with a clothesline attempt which is ducked, and Tsukka comes in with a kick to Dash to give her team the advantage. I always find it interesting in Joshi tag matches that partners come in regularly for double teams unbothered by the ref but when actual tags happen people generally just switch and head right out to the apron. Almost the opposite of what’s expected over here.

Dash sent to the ropes and caught with a double dropkick, but she flips to counter the following double arm ringer and drags both opponents over, setting up stereo shotgun dropkicks as Sachiko comes in to help out.

Rapid fire offense from the champs on Arisa: Dash whips Arisa into the ropes and drops down, Sachiko kick off the rebound, Dash knee to the face, Sachiko faceplant, Dash basement dropkick. The Jumonis are so quick and fluid with this type of offense it’s an absolute joy to watch.

Dash nails on last kick to Arisa’s face before tagging out. Then Sachiko hits one and sends Arisa into the corner. As fast as Dash left the ring she’s back in for the double team, and is alley-ooped by Sachiko into a beautiful shotgun dropkick in the corner. Tsukka’s knocked off the apron by Dash as Sachiko hits a bridging suplex on Arisa for 2.

 

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An angry Tsukka comes in to kick away at Sachiko, but the latter ducks ducks a clothesline and Tsukka eats a Dash forearm and rolls right back out of the ring. Scoop slam on Arisa by Sachiko and Dash just stands on her for a bit. Awesome way for the confident champs to both taunt and damage the challenger at the same time.  Sachiko gets her own partner in suplex position and slams Dash down on Arisa facebuster style. Dash walks over Arisa again and then Sachiko hits a gorgeous summersault senton off the ropes for 2.

Sachiko up top with a shotgun missile dropkick for 2.  I didn’t remember Arisa taking this much of a beating so early on. Sachiko hits the ropes and Tsukka with a cheapshot kick to the back to give her partner a chance to nail a couple of kicks and tag out, which brings Tsukka in officially for the first time. She goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits her own missile dropkick, knocking Sachiko back into the far corner which allows Tsukka to follow up with her running seated dropkick. Tsukka looks for a suplex, but Dash is in to break it up and the Jumonji’s whip Tsukka into the ropes, but she catches them both with a dropkick on the rebound (nicely landing one foot on each opponent, even if the shot was glancing on Dash).

Trio of hard kicks to a seated Sachiko’s back by Tsukka, then she hits the ropes for one to the chest but Sachiko ducks and rolls her up for 2. Savate kick to Tsukka’s face then Sachiko hoists her up for a suplex, but Tsukka adjusts midair to escape, lands on her feet, returns Sachiko to a seated position with some kicks, then hits the ropes and nails the kick to the chest afterall for 2.

Tsukka back to the top, but Dash delays her from the apron and Sachiko uses the second rope for a sweet handstand headscissors to bring Tsukka back into the ring. Knucklelock Northern Lights suplex with a bridge gets 2.

Tag to Dash, who goes up and hits a missile dropkick sending Tsukka into the far corner. Sachiko whips Dash at Tsukka, but Tsukka ducks Dash’s clothesline, then ducks one by Sachiko, then turns and throws one at Sachiko (which is ducked), and ducks another by Dash. But she turns right into a double dropkick by the champs and is back in the corner. Sachiko goes outside and Dash rebounds off the far corner super quick to hit a shotgun dropkick on the seated Tsukka.  The counters and strikes are coming so fast it’s taking me a paragraph to describe ten seconds of action.

 

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Dash pulls Tsukka up and climbs to the second rope with Tsukka trapped between her and the corner and hits a rope assisted shotgun dropkick to Tsukka’s chest for 2. Back up for a double stomp but Tsukka rolls out of the way and Arisa attacks, but Dash ducks the clothesline attempt and sends Arisa crashing into Tsukka. Sachiko in and the champs each hit a running forearm on their double stacked opponents in the corner.

Arisa whipped to the far corner, but dumps a charging Sachiko to the apron as Tsukka kicks Dash to take over. Tsukka and Dash fight for a suplex as Arisa jumps down to the outside from the top rope, grabbing Sachiko in a DDT on the ring apron on the way down (ouch!!). Tsukka fights off the suplex, ducks a clothesline, hits the ropes, then hits her wheelbarrow rollup into a seated chest kick. Arisa comes in and they hit a double kick on Dash for 2. Arisa up top, now tagged in officially, and a connects with a missile shotgun dropkick.

 

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Dash fights off a waistlock with back elbows, but Arisa knees her into the corner in response to keep the challengers in full control. Whip to the far corner, charging knee strike, Dash drops to seated position and Arisa lays in more knee strikes, then breaks off to knock Sachiko down and Tsukka comes in for a running dropkick to the still seated Dash. Another running knee strike by Arisa follows, then she rolls Dash to the center of the ring and as the latter stands up Arisa and Tsukka go up in adjacent corners for a double missile dropkick. Gets 2.

Full nelson by Arisa (presumably for a dragon suplex). Dash powers out and eats a forearm for her trouble.  She throws a clothesline in response, but Arisa ducks and   finally nails a snap German and then holds on for two more. Dash tries to block the fourth so Arisa just headbutts her in the back of her head and hits a deadlift version with a bridge. Sachiko saves at 2. Arisa signals for the dragon to end it, but in a beautiful bit of teamwork Dash calls for her partner to superkick at her and ducks at the last second so Arisa eats the shot. Dash hits the ropes and lands a diamond cutter, Sachiko with a basement dropkick that sends Arisa into the ropes, Dash with one against the ropes, then drags Arisa out to the center for a 2 count. Again, all the rapid fire double teaming the champs do is just so smooth.

Dash kicks at the downed Arisa but the latter avoids it and gets up, then the two trade yakuza kicks to the face. Unreal. Arisa hits the ropes and runs into Dash basement dropkick to make her faceplant (the crowd felt that one), then another right to Arisa’s face as she tries to get up. Gets 2. Tag to Sachiko. She hits a shotgun dropkick followed by a backdrop suplex, then another of her swank summersault sentons for 2.

Dash in and whips Arisa into Sachiko (who’s seated on the turnbuckles in a corner). She catches Arisa with a boot, tornado DDT, Arisa rolls up after the hit towards the far corner and Dash is waiting with a missile dropkick, which knocks Arisa back into a Sachiko German with a bridge for 2. They knocked Arisa back and forth like a ping pong ball in that sequence, which was incredible.

 

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Dash up top with Sachiko preparing to climb the same corner for their sequential frogsplash finish, but Arisa gets the boots up as Dash comes down (man that looked brutal) and Tsukka attacks Sachiko to hang her up in the ropes. Arisa climbs and nails Sachiko with a double stomp to the midsection to bring her down hard. Arisa up again, and another double stomp to the prone Sachiko gets 2.  Arisa drags her out to the center of the ring. Sachiko tries to fight back but a hard forearm ends that and Arisa hits a release German suplex, then Tsukka joins in for another double kick for 2. Arisa up top again but Dash intercepts, goes all the way up with her and lands a diamond cutter off the top!

 

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Arisa’s in major trouble. As Sachiko hits a beautiful release German of her own, Dash is already in position in the corner and nails an immediate frog splash. Sachiko goes up for hers, also nails it, and Arisa looks dead. 1, 2, and at the very last second Tsukka DIVES from out of sight on the floor outside the ring through the ropes and gets by Dash to save the match. Phenomenal sequence from the champs (and Arisa), and flawless timing for maximum drama from Tsukka on the save.

 

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Sachiko looking for another German. Arisa claws at the ropes and reverses into a waistlock of her own when Sachiko pulls her away, but the champs counter again as this time Dash charges at her own partner and Sachiko ducks in the nick of time for Arisa to eat the kick to the face. The precision of all four competitors is unbelievable. Superkick from Sachiko to follow up but Arisa’s still standing. Sachiko hits the ropes … and runs right into a bridging Cutie Special for 2. Arisa with a series of knee strikes to the face to continue momentum as Tsukka and Dash tie each other up in the corner.

German attempt which Sachiko tries to roll forward to counter. Tsukka hits the sliding kick through Arisa legs to Sachiko’s face to seemingly set up the completion of the German (I so adore that spot), but as Arisa lifts Sachiko back up Dash comes out of nowhere to land a dropkick to Arisa’s back sending her forward and Sachiko rolls her up for 2.999. They were both struggling like mad during that cover and the audience erupted for the kickout as that was totally buyable as the finish.

Sachiko just waylays Arisa with a trio of superkicks to the face as the latter tries to stand, then follows with a German suplex with a bride for 2. Arisa’s suffering a lot at the hands of one of her own signature moves this match. Dash in and the champs go for an assisted Shiranui, but Tsukka dropkicks Sachiko as she tries to boost Dash and Arisa uses the opportunity to hit a release German on Dash that sends her rolling out of the ring. Tsukka with an enzugiri on Sachiko followed by a FLURRY of forearms by Arisa. Sachiko ducks the big one, but Arisa spins around and nails it anyway for a close 2.

Sachiko struggles to her feet and tries to create some distance between her and Arisa, but she stumbles towards the corner and Tsukka’s waiting to scramble up the ropes and hit the Venus Shoot, which knocks Sachiko back into a picture perfect bridging German by Arisa. 1, 2, 3 and new champs.

 

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Just a phenomenal match from start to finish by four masters of the craft. It kept going back and forth in glorious and captivating fashion. In addition to feeling incredibly lucky to have seen this live in general, it was privilege to see Sachiko wrestle before her retirement shortly after this match.

I wrote the following about it live, at I totally feel the same on the rewatch: “They threw everything they could at each other for fifteen action packed minutes, including a variety of innovative and impressive double teams. This was exactly the fantastically worked, logical, and wowing spectacle I wanted, ending in a huge title change to boot.”

Castles of Mad King Ludwig Board Game Review (First Impressions)

With all the comparisons made to Suburbia (which was great) and pieces somewhat reminiscent of Princes of Florence (which is my favorite game of all time) Castles of Mad King Ludwig certainly piqued my interest, and I had been looking forward to trying it out.

 

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Castles of Mad King Ludwig takes various mechanics I’ve seen in other games (the tile selection method, bonuses for taking pieces that have been available longer, etc) and combines them all with a nice layer of spacial gameplay by utilizing different shapes and sizes of tiles/rooms that players need to fit together. Add in different types of rooms with specific rewards and various scoring options and bonuses and there’s a great deal of depth apparent right from the outset.

It all comes together well and my general impression of the game is quite good. I like the idea and implementation, and it’s extremely well designed in the way rooms of different size and shape can interact.

 

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But I have to admit as good as it is I’m not sure it’s as good as I expected. Given the extra layers the different shaped buildings add and a couple of other mechanical differences I feel like I should prefer it to Suburbia, but I don’t think I do. In Suburbia what opponents build can have a scoring effect on your area, and even that small amount of additional interaction has a large effect on the dynamics of the game.

Beyond comparisons to other games though the biggest drawback of this one was the feeling that my castle was just really getting interesting as game ended. I’m sure it’s specifically balanced but the amount of rooms I could build feels low and my initial impression was I wanted the opportunity to do more. Since the number of rooms available is determined by the player count I don’t see this changing in future plays, it’s just something that I’d have to get used to.

 

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Overall Castles of Mad King Ludwig is solid though. It’s unique in presentation and the spacial elements associated with the different room sizes and types add a nice dimension to the gameplay.  My initial impression is there’s perhaps a little too much variety in the rooms for the set collection / chaining powers aspects, but obviously one play’s not enough to determine that definitively.

So I enjoyed Castles of Mad King Ludwig but I’m not sure I’m completely sold on it. I’d like to try again to see if it feels as abrupt the second time, and/or see how it scales with more players.

Erased Volume 1 Review

In addition to being plagued by half remembered trauma from his childhood, twenty nine year old Satoru Fujinuma, randomly suffers from a strange phenomenon that further complicates his attempts at living a quiet life. Both aspects are about to get worse…

 

 

Let’s get this out of the way: here’s yet another manga where I’m going to suggest avoiding reading the publisher provided summary if at all possible. It’s worse than normal here, as they literally spoil the last page of the first volume (as well as other major surprises).

Another publication related annoyance is that there is no distinction being made between hardcover “volume 1” and kindle “volume 1,” where the former is actually an omnibus of volumes 1 and 2 and thus twice the length of the kindle edition. Yes, Amazon is largely at fault for combining the editions on the sale page, but the publisher does the same on their web page and creates confusion by not using different covers and titles for the two different versions. I am reviewing the kindle edition here, so the actual first volume (chapters 1-6) and not “hardcover volume 1” (volumes 1 & 2 as originally published, chapters 1-12).

With all of that addressed, Erased is a fantastic manga off to a thoroughly gripping start. One volume in and there are already several intertwined, compelling mysteries to unravel. The main character has a difficult past hanging over his head and an inexplicable, uncontrollable power that are fantastic hooks to build Erased’s gradual, tense narrative. There’s already a lot to think about and unpack, which is great.

The previously mentioned ending of chapter 6 provides a huge cliffhanger that presumably sets up the course of the story for the majority of the series. The mysteries and suspense surrounding Satoru’s story are captivating and I’m beyond intrigued to see where it all goes from here.

 

Clockwork Planet Volumes 1 & 2 Review

Social outcast and eccentric tinkerer Naoto’s life is upended when an advanced female automation is literally dropped on top of him. But that’s not the only complication awaiting the youngster, as in a literal world of gears Naoto’s hobby might make him useful in dealing with unexpected disasters.

 

 

I’ve heard a lot of mixed reactions to Clockwork Planet, and as such was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. There are some awkward aspects and trappings of standard master/android servant tropes, but the plot specifics and Ryuzu’s attitude and bluntness helps elevate this above them.

The core four characters introduced so far are nicely diverse bunch with their own areas of expertise and weakness that make them all intriguing. Their complimentary yet contrasting natures are a great foundation for the story. I particularly like the undercurrent theme of free will around Ryuzu and her interactions with Marie regarding Naoto. Add in great, detailed art and interesting background plots and schemes and there’s a lot of potential to expand on the momentum these two volumes have built.

One side point to mention. The back cover text kind of conveys the gist of the premise but misrepresents several aspects. I won’t go into detail to avoid spoilers, but from what’s presented in the first volume the text is quite inaccurate.

Impressive start overall for Clockwork Planet and I definitely want to read more.