February 05, 2016

Why Japan Still Has Payphones

When our protagonist got the call from Ruru (Lulu?) I immediately asked myself how the hell the 12 inch tall genie got a cellphone, and if it's magical how does she connect to...oh...



I've heard of a hair-shirt, but a hair-wallet is new to me.

From the latest episode of MC Phantom World, which is another in a string of character background stories, but this one felt much less like a discrete, stand alone tale as it not only references previous episodes, but manages to intersect with what appears to be the larger plot. 

A ferocious but poorly drawn dragon is menacing middle school chicken-coops and rabbit hutches and our heroes are...unaware of the situation actually since no one would trust them with this assignment. However, due to a series unrelated misunderstandings they manage to thoroughly screw things up anyway and end up trying to come to the rescue of the young lady assigned to their school's lepus lounge and save the bunnies...



Things do not go as anticipated

I'm convinced that the club advisor is manipulating the protagonists, whether for good or ill remains to be seen.

The story seems to be back on track and resuming its quirky and occasionally thoughtful direction. If we can avoid a Maudlin episode about the loli I think we'll be fine. 

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January 31, 2016

OK This Episode Finally Did It

We've stuck with RWBY for a while, despite the infinitesimal budget...



...the sometimes clumsy plotting....



...the breaks in production...



... and the dorks.



There have been some good characterizations to be sure...



...but this episode finally forces us to confront the fact...

  
...that reason we've spent spent 5 hours of our lives watching this damned show...



...IS BECAUSE IT ROCKS!

My oh my! They've got two more episodes to screw up this season, but damned if they didn't do good by this one. 


Aside from one awkward edit, the only gripe about this episode is that the next one is about 80 hours away. 

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Life's Unexpected Detours

This week on GATE we are treated to a moment of introspection.

This happy bunny lady is Delilah.



Delilah was one of the beast-girl maids/bodyguards from Italica who was sent to Alnus to provide security and translation assistance.  She stayed in Alnus and  has since opened an inn and tavern, which she seems to own a majority stake in, though it is an open secret that she's Italica's unnofical eyes and really big ears in the town. Delilah has a reputation of being something of a hard-ass despite her cottontail. You see, she takes no guff from anyone and runs her employees hard in order to make sure that inn she is proprietor of is well run and free of creeps. despite (and partly because of) this she is liked and respected in Alnus and her fastidiousness has paid off; her inn being quite successful. 

Today...It hit her.

Mere months ago she was a maid and bodyguard in Italica, which as a slave and member of one of the "subject races" was about the best she could ever hope for. Now she owns a business. She can own property, keep nearly all of the money she makes while living in a town where the food and water are safe. Alnus is also completely safe from raiders and monsters. The various demi-humans in town are treated as PEOPLE and the citizens are not worked to death in mines or other hard labor and peace is breaking out all over.

Reflecting upon this, Delilah, perhaps for the first time in the many years since her country of origin was conquered, finally relaxes...and skips through the streets of Alnus singing the praises of "the town the sky has smiled upon". 

 Life is good...


Though not without its pitfalls...



Well, this is certainly full of surprises...well except for the dragon. We were quite prepared for there to be a really big dragon in this episode.

This show is genuinely interesting. I am quite glad that, unlike some other people, I have not seen the manga, so I do not feel let down and this show's future is an unlit road for me. 

I think now is a good point in the show for those of us who have not read ahead to ponder and speculate on what we know:



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January 24, 2016

Myriad Colors Phantom World

Phantom World is a bit of a surprise. 




We have a show about high-school students who have part time jobs as superheroes and whose rapidly growing team has only one guy in it.  
No..no...that's not what's surprising as that has pretty much become the default format for getting green-lit nowadays. No, the surprise is that this one appears to be good. 

It's certainly tries to be smarter than most.

The premise is that some years ago a terrorist attack on a research facility run by a certain Alayashki corporation released a virus that allowed humans to perceive the supernatural stuff that has always been around (maybe: there is some ambiguity on the chicken to egg aspect of this). These phantoms and such caused considerable mischief until the first generation of children born to those exposed to the virus began coming of age. It seems that some of them have various abilities that allow them to deal with this new annoyance to varying degrees. Since this is a recent phenomenon, very few people with this ability are adults yet, so high schools, especially those that cater to students with these talents have set up clubs that have teams which do exorcisms and such as community service (in addition to their school work).  Due to restrictive child labor laws they are paid in goods and services rather than cash. 

At the wrong end of the effectiveness bell curve there are these two goofballs...



...and...



Haruhiko is bookish and not particularly athletic, but he is quite smart. He has the ability to seal away a supernatural entity in a drawing provided he has time to draw it and it can be brought into range. Mai is a top notch athlete who is proficient in martial arts and applied fluid dynamics. She has the ability to use elemental powers, the activation of which is rather fascinating. Her abilities are not particularly powerful and she must use her wits and stamina in order to buy Haruhiko time to...slowly....draw whatever monster they are fighting and set it up to be consumed by his painting. 

This strategy has not led to great success and the two are considered a rather gimp team and something of a laughing stock. They try in vain to acquire talent until Haruhiko persuades... 



...to join their group. She has the unnatural ability to EAT spirits without having to draw them and often without the need to have them positioned 'just so'...thus our male lead is pretty much superfluous at this point, or would be if having the two girls fire him would not play into the fears and insecurities of the target demographic. 

Fortunately he has one other super-power. The best bedroom EVAH. 
No...No...it's not THAT sort of show...er...Allow me to explain...



He has an awesome library and the brains to use it. He is working hard to develop his ability to seal away phantoms, into a summoning skill...and he is a vast treasure trove of obscure and occasionally useful knowledge. 

Haruhiko also has a cute genie-like entity that hangs out with him for reasons not quite clear. Her name is shortened to Ruru (Lulu?) for the sanity of laypeople and she seems to have no particularly impressive abilities aside from being 12 inches tall and being able to fly.


Note that her full name is Rururaruri Rurararirararururirirari Rirararururararururararirari

Also in their circle of friends acquaintances is 



...who is one of the most powerful people in their school. She works alone and does not particularly care for the goof troop, but they keep crossing paths and tripping on each other. 

What saves this series is that it isn't simply the fact that it's not, in actuality, a harem show with regard to its interpersonal relations (at least not yet). It has also been surprisingly pleasant and even clever. 

There is a rather large amount of philosophizing  about the nature of reality, and quite a few open questions. On the surface this is a monster of the week show(or more often two separate monsters as its story has tended to be 2 bach to back 12 minute episodes). However every episode throws out one or two hints to other things that are or may be afoot. 


Sinister things indeed...

The show is very well animated and the art is nice. The characters are competently written to boot. The humor runs the gamut, but is occasionally rather broad and physical, mostly at the expense of the dude. I'm enjoying the show as is and am seriously intrigued by the hints that it may be going somewhere rather darker. This is often a tough thing to pull off. The show could easily fall apart, but right now it is fun, engaging and surprisingly smart. 

 

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January 23, 2016

Madness and Machinations

In the latest episode of GATE Lt. Itami is pressed into service trying to help Tuka (Chuka?, Tsuka?), the blonde elf, deal with her grief issues.



However in addition to being a very poor psychologist Itami has other responsibilities that he takes seriously.



Itami has been quite pro-active heretofore, but in this episode he confirms to the audience that he has no interest in wasting his troops lives on a dubious errand with so little chance of success. (This is the kind of CO one hopes to get...not some Odysseus or Custer who is going to challenge the gods to take him down.)

Elsewhere, we touch base with King Duran, who had multiple limbs blown off in episode 1 and was seen to have survived later when he advised Pinã  from what appeared to be his deathbed. The JSDF has given him prosthetics and he in return dispenses sage advice. 



Of course, stuff happens, things get complicated, our hero ends up incurring a debt and there is some indication of what's being hinted at in those silly closing credits.....



Meanwhile....


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January 13, 2016

Don't Cross The Streams.

Just...don't.




Another one from Valve-P this time experimenting with dialog and non-canon cannon.

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January 10, 2016

Well. This is Awkward.




From Episode 3-8 of RWBY, in which the not quite eponymous Ruby manages, through pluck and cleverness, to figure out some of what is happening and for a glorious moment become a major force moving the plot forward in her own show. 

This episode superbly captures the bi-polar nature of this series. In 17 minutes, it provided us with a highly improbable hand-wave, as well as a scene that clumsily dropped some plot points in a thoroughly perfunctory and dubiously characterized manner.

The same episode managed to be funny, touching and provided more insight into Blake's character and motivations in a minute and a half than most shows can manage for their characters in a season.



It also touched again on that plot thread from a month ago, where Pyrrha is trying to come to terms with a dreadful choice she has been presented with that may involve a fate worse than death. This whole sequence was poignant and surprisingly well done. Jaune is a dork, and frequently out of his depth, but he is not actually stupid.


For instance he immediately realizes that this is obviously a trap of some sort... 

The ending of the episode truly brings home the fact that 17 minutes and 4 seconds is too little time for an episode because NOW I HAVE TO WAIT A WEEK TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS.


Oh dear...

This episode involved a bunch of people standing around and talking, but boy, does it have me on the edge of my seat. 

Thus is the conundrum of RWBY, which is dreadfully uneven and yet thoroughly enjoyable. 

I swear if next week is one of those fauxcumentary filler videos I'm going to scream. 

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January 03, 2016

RWBY is Back

 ....after a two week hiatus and hits the ground running We finally, in conjunction with last weeks episode, get a whole slew of answers to many of the questions people have raised


This was not quite what was expected, but it clarified much and advanced the plot quite a bit. This season continues its much darker tone, but it is coming together nicely.



"Tonight's top story on the Alliteration Channel..."

One technique this episode used quite a bit was fading to a black screen for narration. This was used to good effect, but taken with the two week hiatus may speak to production difficulties. 


"Oh PLEASE no more of those!"

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December 29, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

OK.

Well.
How best to put this?

Someday, I will ruefully look back on this post and realize that this is the day I became "The Other".

This was a serviceable summer blockbuster and was a decent, if uneven J.J.Abrams flick. I say uneven in part because while the first hour or so was sublimely paced and and at times as tight as a Swiss watch, the last seven and a half hours seemed to drag a bit. 

To be fair, this was a vastly better film than any of the prequels and I suspect that this alone accounts for some of the gushing over this movie. The film has some wonderful moments and introduced a genuinely interesting character,

There is much to like in the early part of the film but it still fell short.

 All in all, it was better than the prequels (but so was Battle Beyond the Stars) and in the same league as Return of the Jedi...which I confess I did not care for, and frankly despite some awesome early moments and glorious effects, this film ultimately ended up disappointing due to the draggy inchoate ending and what came off as the writer's laziness towards the end.

There. 
I said it.
Now flame away.

UPDATE: Ubu Roi has  a particularly good disquisition on the film including a focus on a speciffic characterization problem that I strongly suggest you read in full. I also note that I'm not the only person that the name "Darth Emo" occurred to...which probably means something.

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December 13, 2015

And That Was My Reaction Too



From episode 3-6 of RWBY which is entitled Fall...a title that can be taken a number of different ways. 

This answered several important questions and put a couple of characters in really bad situations for utterly different reasons.


Boy. 
Howdy.

The next 166 hours are going to be like forever. 

RWBY's been uneven but on balance quite enjoyable. This season they have REALLY hit their stride though. 

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December 06, 2015

This Week's Chapter of RWBY Seems to Have No Title



I Propose Retro Funk!

As has generally been the case in this tournament cour, most of this episode's important stuff takes place outside of the fights. But the main fight went in an entirely unexpected direction and was gloriously worthy. 



The pacing and voicework were fantastic, Meg Turney in particular did a stellar job as Neon Catt.
 
UPDATE: Wait..Of course! 

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November 29, 2015

Heh. Coco has groupies...



From episode 4 of this season's RWBY, which seems to have really hit its stride. This episode's fight was still not up to the spectacular choreography that Oum was known for, but the pacing was superb and the tension was as intense as anything we've seen. 

The last 9 of the 14 and a half minutes was spent with people sitting and talking while either drinking tea or playing video games. Those 9 minutes however, were very well paced and developed characters, moved the plot along, clarified plot points and answered questions. 


While no explicit reference was made, we now probably have a very good idea of just what was going on in the "White" trailer and yes, it looks like that incongruously expressionist installment of the original 4 teasers is indeed canon. Even more surprisingly, it likely happened pretty much as presented (though some of it is a flashback).

Also: From this point forward, the heiress is on a budget.

One observation. One of the things the success of this series has made possible besides increasing the crew by 50% is that they have been able to hire additional professional voice actors (some with impressive resumes) to supplement the shows writers and animators, cosplayers and internet personalities that has made up most of the main cast. Interestingly this has resulted in the relative novices in the main cast being backed up by serious pros playing bit parts. The original cast has actually held their own pretty well and even those who started out a bit awkward have grown into their roles nicely. The additional money, however, is still well spent. Elizabeth Maxwell has hit it out of the park as Winter Schnee who, it turns out, is absolutely vital to understanding Weiss. 

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November 27, 2015

That is Some Truly Epic Sunblock

A vampire and her maid go to San Francisco.

Clip by Perry Street

I linked to the unfinished version of this before, but the animator finished it yesterday and thoroughly succeeded in producing a cute and technically interesting little skit. 

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November 21, 2015

Oh Look...The Sun is Up.

Wait...

NO!
The sun is going DOWN!

This is incredible. Bethesda has invented time travel!



This game really is 'all that and a bowl of grits'. 

Most surprisingly, despite the grim premise and post-apocalyptic setting, Fallout 4 gives off a remarkably optimistic vibe.

I find it really interesting how they integrated a first-person shooter quest game with a 'rebuild civilization' game. What's interesting is the freedom one has. The player can pursue the main quest like a regular adventure game, wander around and interact with the incredibly detailed world (usually via high powered weaponry) or focus on the second life aspect of building a settlement. The player can also build a series of settlements and thus rebuild civilization. I'm nowhere NEAR close to finishing the main quest...there's just so much interesting stuff to do.

Re-playability looks to be really high. 

On the down side:

Mirelurks. Those things are tough. 

Also: It's like clicking on a TV Tropes link that delivers crack intravenously...I predict the collapse of society by the end of the year. 

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November 20, 2015

Good Grief!!


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