March 11, 2018
On a Lighter Note...
March 04, 2018
I Have Been Wrong For two years now, the SyFy Channel has been running a show called The Expanse.
During those two years, I did not watch it.
This was a grievous error in judgement on my part which I only recently rectified.
Now, having purchased both seasons on DVD and having watched every single episode (some twice), I can say that this is a remarkably good show.
The Expanse follows the crew of the Ice Freighter Canterburry and its crew of working class stiffs as they do their mundane, difficult and absolutely necessary work of hauling ice from Saturn to the frontier metropolis that is Ceres.
Despite a limited budget, the show makes considerable nods to hard science, both with its depiction of spin gravity...
OK, actually, that implies a much smaller spin radius than that location should have, but hey, coriolis!
...and the pernicious effects of its absence. That and a myriad of other little sciency details are remarkably realistic in their depiction and well handled plot-wise in this show, which follows Josephus Aloisius Miller, a cynical, somewhat corrupt police detective on Ceres. Saddled with a 'wandering daughter job' he makes a series of discoveries that blow upon the dying embers of his conscience and idealism threatening to rekindle them both. This could be a fatal affliction on Ceres.
Despite a SyFy channel budget, Ceres, a major waypoint between the inner and outer solar systems just works as a sort of Noir Dodge City, if Dodge city were a company town where one had to pay for air.
Where The Expanse really breaks the mould is in its setting which ought not to work but does. This, after all, is a show about the Byzantine day to day intrigues and machinations of one Chrisjen Avasarala, a 70 year old, high level bureaucrat in the Earth government who uncovers a vast conspiracy. This unlikely protagonist is brilliantly portrayed by Shohreh Aghdashloo, who just knocks it out of the park.
Space opera generally requires visually spectacular space battles, which do not comport with scientific realism or SyFy Channel budgets, The Expanse solves both problems by remarkably good writing and pacing. While certainly not super accurate it does have an internally consistent and realistic looking way of portraying space combat, as is to be expected from a show that revolves around a plucky group of Martian Space Marines, and their blood knight squad leader who their ship's captain is trying to keep from starting a war.
Having now watched the 23 episodes that make up the first two seasons I can say that this show is at least as good as Babylon 5, and that's not something I say lightly.
Now of course the show is not without its faults, the biggest one being that season three has not started yet.
That looks like it will be rectified on April 11.
March 03, 2018
Painting By Numbers With Pixels Well, this review is almost two months late, but RWBY Season 5 has ended and it probably warrants some comment.
Perfunctory is the word that comes to mind.
Mid season, this show was looking to be really good. It was paced very differently from previous seasons, though the collection of quiet character studies was reminiscent of parts of season 4.
This whole cour had been expertly developing tension that promised a solid payoff and by about episode 8 there were roughly 5 cliffhangers in the plot queue that promised to come together in an intensely satisfying manner. Notwithstanding those, the episodes generally kept a methodical pace as characters were further developed and the cards of the various players were put on the table for the audience to see.
The final battle, in which the heroes are trapped by the villains who have them completely overmatched in numbers, power, and experience is beautifully set up and the first few minutes of it are absolutely riveting.
This whole scene with the villain's entrance was just sublime.
Annnnnd thennn the battle drug on for FOUR freaking episodes during which the pacing was set to glacial. This was particularly weird because the season ended up with 14 episodes, an odd peculiar number given that the previous seasons had been 12 without the short expository ones. There doesn't seem to have been any reason to pad it out and kill the pacing. It's almost like they were parodying a Shounen Jump show. (There's some irony here. Season three revolved around a sports tournament storyline, which is usually a kiss of death for plotting and pacing, yet that season transcended the trope and was superbly paced and moves the show's story ahead dramatically).
This? The remainder of the show lacked the dynamism of the show's earlier fight scenes and was punctuated by tedious dialog which is all the more aggravating because there was some STELLAR voice acting delivering these uninspired lines. There were one or two neat moments, mainly due to the delivery rather than the direction, pacing or choreography, but they couldn't overcome the disjointed and padded out nature of the season's last four episodes. If they'd just gone with 12 and compressed this fight it would have probably been better.
To say this was dissapointing does not do it justice. In addition to the excellent voice work, the technical aspects of the show were impressive and improved in many ways. The season had been quite good until it face planted.
I do wonder if this season was intended to be much more tightly paced and this finale was supposed to be the halfway point. I engage in this unfounded speculation because RWBY had always been touted as a 5 season show, with a possibility for a spin-off or sequel, and it appears that that was indeed about how much plot they had, because it looks like Rooster Teeth going for six seasons. This is, in fairness not unreasonable since in the show's lackadaisical ambling through the four episode finale, there were several plot threads left dangling (an actual resolution to the main story being the most notable one).
RWBY Season 5 was good enough until the very end that I do intend to watch it next season, but I look forward to it with a sense of apprehension.
January 22, 2018
Wait...What? This ought to be a parody or a dumpster fire, but as Don points out, it's written by Kazuki Nakashima (he of Oh! Edo Rocket, Kill La Kill!, Space Patrol Luluco, and others). This would seem to warrant some attention.
January 14, 2018
Justice League In stark contrast to a certain other recent tent-pole film, this latest installment in Time Warner's answer to Disney's Marvel franchise is a surprisingly thoughtful yet enjoyable romp that fills in rather than creates plot holes and has considerable respect for the source material.
A direct sequel to Batman VS Superman the film takes place less than a month after the events in that film and is a direct continuation of that story and it both reinforces the good elements of that film and fills in some gaps.
The film is a superhero flick so there is much fighting, biologically improbable displays of prowess, dubious physics, spectacular fight choreography and exquisite pyrotechnics. It also has a damned good story and has some unexpectedly insightful things to say about leadership and command. This film also develops the characters quite well. Ben Affleck's Batman for instance is not particularly likable but what makes the character work is that he is aware of this fact and trying to correct for it. Gale Gadot as Wonder Woman is awesome in a way that defies my ability to describe in words. Aquaman, redneck prince of Atlantis is a completely off the wall take on the character that works surprisingly well and The Flash is just perfect. Odd man out is Cyborg, who is not really given an opportunity to shine character-wise in the same way ( and who is from a different book anyway). Nevertheless he does develop during the course of the film and there is a perfectly valid reason plot-wise that his bionics are so far beyond the state of the art.
The film, although it is fantasy, it is quite consistent with and follows its internal logic and rules...unlike some movies we've seen recently.
Justice League got some negative buzz and had a dissapointing box office, so I was surprised at how good it turned out to be. If it has a weakness, it is it's prequel, Batman vs Superman. That is, the two films are really one story, much more tightly integrated than is usually the case with sequels. The events and plot devices of the first film are so important to the second, that, having seen both movies, I'm unsure if the exposition is adequate to explain some of the plot elements if one has not seen the first film. The two films are more like two chapters in an old serial in that regard.
Anyway, if you have a chance I strongly suggest you go see the film before it finally vanishes.
December 05, 2017
December 03, 2017
Rwby at Mid-Season There was a fight four episodes ago.
There are, I believe four episodes left in this series.
It was rather more low key than the series is known for but pretty cool nonetheless.
The subsequent episodes have all been mostly quiet mood pieces focusing on either character development, exposition or an admittedly well-crafted sense of dread.
These most recent stories have mostly ended in cliffhangers, which have all been left hanging from their respective cliffs while our widely separated characters gradually regroup, show how far they have come as people, and learn more about what is actually going on.
I count at this point three separate cliffs being hung upon, two major plot developments that have been strongly hinted at, plus three major subplots, and these are all related to but distinct from the main antagonist.
There are, I believe four episodes left in this series.
November 05, 2017
Here. You Should Try This.
Seriously, all the cool kids are doing it and besides, Doki Doki Literature Club is free! It's also available on STEAM.
Go ahead try it!
It's a dating sim, which is not generally my cup of tea, but this game has got some interesting interactivity features that, amongst other things, give the player the option of using the word effulgent in proper context and iambic pentameter. The route I chose took about 4 hours (give or take...or give...I suppose it's a matter of perspective). I'll definitely be revisiting this.
Well, yeah... the game is not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed, or suffer from anxiety or depression but you aren't you aren't one of them are you?
You just gotta promise.
Once you've played it...
October 31, 2017
There is Already an Impressive Amount of RWBY Fan Art
Art by Esu
..for Sienna Khan, the leader of the White Fang. She's been mentioned in the show a couple of times as ruthless, but not ax-crazy. She's the one who changed the organization from one focused on peaceful protests to what can most politely be called 'direct action'. Nevertheless, she has been described as opposed to the murderous assault on Beacon in volume 3 and indeed, in episode 2 of this season, this leader of a terrorist organization is shown as the voice of reason amongst the villains. Khan is superbly voiced by Monica Rial who gives the character a regal demeanor and the impression of a mind like a steel trap.
Three episodes in, RWBY fifth (and reportedly last) season remains quite good. While the villains plot, our heroes, still scattered to the four winds, continue to do hero stuff, be likable, and make shocking discoveries. The show has really hit its stride and is doing a fantastic job of delivering genuinely surprising plot twists.
OK not all of them are twists to the audience. but it's nice to see our heroes finally in the loop.
I particularly like the idea that the only press in Australia Menagerie all appear to be bloggers.
'cause nobody trusts Lisa Lavender!
October 14, 2017
RWBY's Final Season Begins Immediately we get confirmation that team RNGR as a group has important and oft overlooked habits which are absolutely necessary for those who would protect themselves and others.
Good trigger discipline and always checking one's targets.
This episode picks up exactly where the last episode of last season left off, with no time-skip. In fact, most of this episode takes place hours before the very end of last season's final episode. Most of the titular cast is still scattered to the four winds but we do get a bit of exposition that provides Ruby herself and her B team with some perspective and a new goal.Blake is still on another continent, Weiss is still de-remittanced, hunted and (unknown to them or her) en route to their general location in possession of an important bit of information
Yang's subplot has taken an unexpected turn...
...literally, she must have done a U-turn after taking that right in the closing credits.
The only thing that really indicates a new season is that there has been another of the show's annual upgrades in quality; production values are visibly better.
This is actually a couple of screencaps from a still pan, but the attention to detail is remarkable, especially when one remembers the "shadow people" of the first season.
There is no spectacular opening fight as there has been every other season, and indeed only one punch is thrown. Improved backgrounds notwithstanding, the season is not so much beginning as the show is continuing, with last season's conclusion feeling even more like a midseason finale. The show, however, remains enjoyable and still looks promising.
October 02, 2017
Wishful Thinking & Unwarranted Schadenfreude There is a fair amount of concern trolling expressed at Marvel's recent sales woes and a belief amongst certain people that they represent the death knell for the Comic industry.
This is not the case.
Marvel and DC don't even NEED to turn a profit anymore. They are now idea factories and copyright farms for Time Warner and Disney to whom the budget of Marvel is a rounding error.The notion that driving away their former audience is going to have any effect upon their editorial decision making is delusional. Furthermore, these reports of declining sales are based largely on Diamond's sales figures, which are not going to show, say, Amazon sales. Comic stores are just another type of brick and mortar store that is being bypassed by direct, online sales so the sales figures for the actual companies may not be as low as is assumed.
Furthermore, the comics themselves are loss leaders. I was reminded of this by a post by a comic professional on a private board. Trade paperbacks are where comics make money nowadays. That is, the comics themselves don't really make money anymore. (I used to know this, but haven't worked in the industry for years).
Pretty much the only people who buy those are those who frequent comic shops, the hardcore fans who are the object of the SJWs hate. Newer fans, and casual readers buy the trade paperbacks, which remain in print (thanks to modern printing technologies) pretty much in perpetuity. A comic doesn't make money. A trade paperback ordered on Amazon does.
I've talked to people in the industry who would know and paperbacks are actually selling pretty well. Indeed, the declining comic sales have no bearing on this because trades are the new way of buying comics...one picks up the trade paperback on Amazon. One industry professional described the new business model as very similar to the Japanese Manga industry, with the individual comics taking the place of the big manga "phone books" as loss leaders. The trade paperbacks here are the American equivalent of the manga complilations...that's what people buy, and the profit on each book actually increases with time as the number of trade paperback editions grows. Trade paperbacks thus work sort of like like compound interest, and in fact they are generally the way that web comics make money.
So while it may be very satisfying to believe that the editors who hate us with every fiber of their being might be forced by economic reality to not make Captain America a Nazi, the fact is that this has not hurt them at all.
Marvel and D.C. are doing exceedingly well. They have cultivated an entirely new fan base which is making them money. This is good business. That these SJWs did so by treating their long time fans with the kindness and respect that a spoiled child demonstrates in pulling the wings off a junebug, is sad.
What is sadder still is a bunch of adults gloating over comic book stores suffering. They had no control over the editorial decisions that many of us find vexing nor the technological innovations that have bypassed them. Their demise will not hurt the big comic companies in any way and will almost certainly (given the demographics of comic store owners) give SJWs a wry smile and cruel chuckle. It will not affect the bottom line of Marvel and DC in any way.
So don't expect multimillion dollar corporations to come crawling back to atone for not catering to us. That is the impotent fantasy of grade school looser. Instead, take some satisfaction that they did a good job with the Wonder Woman movie, and they haven't screwed up Squirrel Girl yet.
Then go poke about and look for other comics that you just possibly might like. There are quite a few online.
There's even a likeable genderbent Thor!
Failing that go out and create your own. Or send some of that comic money this guy's way.
Or sit on your duff and wait for Marvel and DC to collapse...but if you do that, you may want to get a book or something. 'Cause it's gonna be a long wait.
September 24, 2017
Truth in Advertising.
Knights and Magic is a perfectly reasonable name for this show and not a misleading title in any way.
Trapped! in a Fantasy World would work too.
IN A WORLD where the transmigration expressway missed a turn at Alberquerque, one computer programer is reincarnated as a nobleman's son in a world that's ripped from the pages of Cliffs Notes of the Silmarillion...except for the giant robots.
The main difference between this show and every other show that involves a geek getting zapped into a fantasy world is that he's actually reincarnated and at at some point in his childhood, he encounters a giant enchanted suit of armor (which the knights in this realm use to fight) and suddenly remembers his past life as a highly regarded computer programmer and plamo Otaku.
This show actually starts out remarkably well. The story and world are in a lot of ways, very well thought out.
For instance the way they handle magic is kind of neat.
There is a nice (and very atypical) side plot involving another individual's redemption, and a lot of thought went into the creation of the world and its characters.
The plot develops quickly but logically, and the characters are well realized. The show has a bit to say about bureaucracies, institutional inertia and how disruptive technologies can destabilize the international order (nothing terribly insightful mind you, but they touch on these issues). This is a nice touch given the premise of the show. It's just a very solid, remarkably well done and engaging show...
quite suddenly, (around episode 9) it appears that the writers received word that the show was only going to be 13 episodes and not 26 or 52 and the pacing gets downright... brisk, while he plotting gets inchoate.
The story moves all over the place so quickly that the show actually gets a narrator around that time to explain all the stuff that they're not showing the audience.
For instance there are fragments of a really moving tale of a crown princess who must come to terms with an awesome responsibility thrust upon her...but most of that it taken care of off camera. There's a villain who seems to have a very dark and tragic backstory that was being developed until it was....not.
The show wraps up QUITE abruptly, and unsatisfyingly. This breakneck pacing exacerbates the main negative issue with the hero. That is, he is so good at everything that he gives off a bit of a Mary Sue vibe...
...in more ways than one.
Even more annoying, there are several interpersonal relationships between various characters that start out really well written and fun (this is, astonishingly, NOT a harem show) These just get left unresolved in the mad dash to wrap up the main plot.
The animation and art design was quite good (with the sole exception of the little mini-mechs, which never looked or moved right). Unlike the plot, this does not seem to have suffered much at the end and remains high quality throughout.
Knights and Magic, despite its painting by numbers premise, had a LOT of potential and seems to have had some real skill and talent working on it. It really does seem that the show was cut short unexpectedly and that is unfortunate. However, we should probably keep an eye on the director Yusuke Yamamoto and the writer Michiko Yokote in the future. Because both of these people have definite skill in their craft.
September 22, 2017
This Did Not Suck The Orville does not seem to be high art, but it's solid. I've seen two episodes and I'm tentatively optimistic.
I was (pleasantly) surprised that its not a typical Seth McFarlane 44 joke a minute comedy, but rather a very Star Trekesque show done largely straight with a sitcom side-plot and a fair amount of snark.
One thing I do like is that this is not the United Federation of Planets Planetary Union flagship/hottest, most cutting edge starship, but a mass produced 5th rate scout vessel whose captain and several of his crew have had...chequered...careers and this is their last chance to avoid being cashiered. They have this chance due mainly to a severe fleetwide crew shortage due to the recent massive expansion of the Union. This is, however, a small ship, with routine duties, so how much trouble could these spacers possibly get into?
September 08, 2017
This is an Unexpected Addition to my Film Queue
September 04, 2017
Midterm Report Card
|Basic Comprehension of American Superhero Comics||A|
|Screen Time for Frog Frau and Gadget Girl||D-|
|Comprehension of What a Hero is||A|
This has been a surprisingly good show, being Kohei Horikoshi's take on superheroes, specifically AMERICAN comic book superheroes, albeit in a Japanese setting and in a Shounen style of storytelling.
That last bit was a cause for some trepidation, especially as season two began with a tournament fighting arc, which, in Japanese boys comics, is usually where interesting stories go to die. Fortunately, this show has thus far used such framing devices, not as filler, but as a way of providing venues for characterization of what is a fairly large cast.
The breakneck pace of the first twelve episodes does slow considerably as much of the show's action is now taking place simultaneously in different locales and some events are told in a Rashomon style from different viewpoints. However, the story is continually moving along and most of the villians are actually quite interesting, several having interesting ( though admittedly warped) philosophical reasons for their mayhem.
The Japanese storytelling techniques notwithstanding, this is a show that GETS the American superhero genre in a way that American superhero comics often don't anymore. Most notably it appears to be a disquisition of the nature of heroism. At least three of the characters are pointedly reflective of some of the more obnoxiously nihilistic 'Iron Age' tropes, not in homage to those ideas, but in mockery of them. The number one hero of the universe, a pivotal, but largely background character named All Might, is a VERY American superhero combining the best aspects of Captain America and Superman. Powerful and idealistic, All Might is an astounding beacon of strength and sincerity...
IN A WORLD
...where superheroes are basically licensed mercenaries .
You see, some years prior, superpowers spread like a disease through the general population granting over 99% of humanity "quirks" which range from the useless to the dangerous. Superheroes are, perhaps surprisingly, not passe' since the criminal element is similarly blessed. Superheroing is somewhat akin to private security firms, licenses and bonding are required and they work closely with the police (many have product endorsement side gigs based on their social media presence). One way to get a license is to go to an accredited superhero college...This is the goal of one Izuku Midoriya, who has, since a young age dreamed of being a superhero. There's just one problem, as the show starts he is revealed to be one of the infinitesimally small number of people with no quirk at all.
The main characters are for the most part quite likeable and (generally) idealistic, though perhaps not quite as much as they think they are, heroism being more than a career path or physical strength (as they are finding out). Interestingly, even some whose goals seem at first glance to be cynical are pursuing them for noble reasons. This is really, well done.
This series is a shonen show, and all that implies, but it is an outlier of its genre in a most positive way. I am enjoying this series immensely more than I have any right to be right now.
* This is as it should be.
Eromanga Sensei Ends Actually, Eromanga Sensei ended some time ago, but I only just finished it as shortly after watching the first few I had developed a nagging fear that it was going to be horrible.
Fortunately it was merely offensive.
Sometimes exuberantly so....
The show did not conclude, it merely stopped, though there was continuous, if unsteady character development throughout. It remained enjoyably silly till the end. On the debit side, it kind of jumped the shark when the second female author entered out of left field. More disappointing was that her arrival made the series an actual harem show (which it had not quite been up till that point). Still, it was cute and generally funny. It also had a lot to say about the creative process, but it really said all it had to say in the first 8 episodes, and it was pretty much fan service after that.
and crossovers...with troubling implications.
Some of the characters, particularly those introduced later, appear to have been conceived by rolling dice and referencing an NPC encounter table, but I must say that Elf Yamada is one of the better characters in recent years, having surprising depth and complexity for an utter loon. The show did not live up to its early promise as it spent the last third checking off every trope box on the harem show bucket list as if to apologize for the quirky and touching first part. Disturbingly, this may imply other...issues...with the plot.
It's still cute and funny overall, but nowhere near what it could have been.
Lost in Translation So, in an attempt to mitigate simultaneous afflictions of boredom and writers block, I went and watched the Japanese dub of RWBY which is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
This interpretation has a truly bizarre series of editorial choices. Some, like the almost complete omission of the JNPR story elements one can almost get one's head around. Others, like severely cutting the fight scenes (removing most of the cute character bits and even some of the better choreography) are completely inexplicable.
To be fair, the very odd Jaune Arc...er...arc in the first season was indeed a dumpster fire of a subplot (until the end), but it clearly established why Jaune appeared to be a few islets of brilliance in a sea of derpitude.
Along with Weiss, Jaune is one of the characters who has come the farthest in overcoming personal shortcomings, and without this backstory, his later development (especially in season 4) is not going to have anything like the same impact. That whole arc as well as the other excised footage also developed Phyrra's character, establishing her both as 'the pro from Dover' and as a mentor to many of the other characters, particularly Ruby. The whole notion that JNPR are genuinely significant to the story is lost, as are several things that seemed to be random, throwaway bits, but were, in fact important foreshadowing. This can't help but hurt the show later. Indeed, one of the best and most consequential conversations in the series, (Ruby's "Nope" speech from season one) is completely omitted.
Way more important than we initially thought.
The voice work is off as well. However, it's not that the voice acting is bad per se (it's not) but rather that the characters are voiced as straight up versions of their respective (assumed) archtypes. To my surprise though, the guy they got to play Oobleck nails it.
I'm not sure, but they may have cut as much as 45 minutes out of the show as of the middle of season three, much of it, as is noted above, fairly consequential to the later plot.
This brings back memories of my youth in anime fandom when everyone was griping about how edits by the American rights holders would almost inevitably gut the impact of or destroy the cohesiveness of the plots of anime brought to the U.S.
Well, it's not just American distributors that do that...
August 16, 2017
An Utter Failure...at Destroying Childhoods Disney has put the first two episodes of Duck Tales online.
This is really well written and surprisingly faithful in tone to the 80's Cartoon, but even more so old Carl Banks comic it was loosely based on.
The characterizations of the kids, (er ducklings)are way better I was particularly relieved with what they did with Webby, who is a really neat character.
Just Received A Brief, Terse Text It contained information on how to access the following file...
I'll leave it to you to asses its importance.
August 15, 2017
Attack on Titan Season 2 Attack on Titan continues to be unpredictable, generally well animated and interesting. It is also a seinen show and keeps the attention of its adolescent audience by tempering its introspective moments and thoughtful observations with amazing action scenes and visuals that frequently go beyond graphic to full on baroque in their depiction of carnage.
This space intentionally left blank.
After all the hints in season one, they are finally exploring what the hell was (and is) behind the calamity that inflicted implacable solar powered cannibalistic giants upon society.
That actual expository plot is kind of incoherent and at the end of the series we still have no idea what is actually behind this calamity, except that there appears to be a conspiracy of some sort. The whole thing is treated as the MacGuffin that it is.
The show's strength, however is in how its characters react to their frankly insane and increasingly hopeless situations.
Mercifully not pictured; their situation.
This is a show that's had very good characterizations...except for the main character, who seems to be a parody of a shonen protagonist. He's not at all lacking in courage or determination, but he's not particularly good at his job. The side charachters however, are fascinating and intelligently written. Several of them are quite likable too...
The moody direction and sense of trancendental dread of the early episodes of the season are not as well handled in the latter half, which relies on increasingly bizarre plot twists, and breakneck pacing only interrupted by an episode of fairly non-expository dialog that seems to have been placed there just to get to the requisite number of episodes.
Despite that and its gruesome visuals the series is still interesting enough that I hope they do another season. Its splatterpunk tendencies notwithstanding, the show manages to have some remarkably effective and even subtle horror. It has quite a bit to say about the importance of redemption, as well as the nature of true heroism....
...the 'last stand of Potato Girl' being particularly epic in that regard .
The show was wildly uneven and should not be watched while eating, but it remains surprisingly interesting.
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