June 19, 2024

Frieren : Beyond Journey's End


Anime, especially Fantasy Anime, has seemingly devolved into a morass of formulaic, trope-ridden cliche' buffets, and isekai stories that are little more than horny-N.E.E.T. affirmation fantasies.  Frieren is one of those shows that really brings this unpleasant fact home as it demonstrates quite convincingly that the vast majority of shows are utter garbage...by comparison. 

This show is thoughtful, exceedingly human, and quite genre-savvy, touching on concepts often talked about in the fantasy genre but seldom explored. 

Frieren is an elven mage, over 1,000 years old, who joined a party of misfit adventurers  on their way to travel to the dark lands and defeat the demon lord....basically the plot of every fantasy anime ever....except that this story begins as they are being welcomed home from their journey and honored for their success in ridding the world of the threat. As the night wears on a meteor shower that only happens about every 50 years occurs and the Emperor of the land they saved takes it as a sign, proclaiming the beginning of a new golden age. Frieren is unimpressed with the view, noting that she knows of a far more spectacular place to view the heavenly spectacle, one that is only a weeks travel away. Himmel, the leader of the victorious party of heroes notes that the meteor shower is a one night affair. Frieren, confused, explains that she was offering to take them all to the far better location when the meteor shower arrives again in 50 years, and seems perplexed at her companions reaction.

50 years later, Frieren the Elf  keeps her promise, setting in motion a journey of understanding  and discovery both for her, her companions and others whose lives she touches over the next few years...

This is a wonderful series that explores the meaning of heroism, virtue as well as both the pain and importance of loss. Elves great lifespans give them a vastly different outlook from the other races, and Frieren's is more different than most as she seems to actually be slightly autistic. She is definitely suffering from PTSD. She has to overcome, or at least account for her neurodivergence, inner demons, and her completely different perspective as she pulls together and mentors a new band of adventurers on a journey of discovery, whimsy, as well as peril, for while the lord of darkness may be gone, the world is not without danger. 

This story is brilliantly paced and has some of the best character development and exposition I've seen in years. It brings laughter, heartbreak, and thrills in equal measure and is one of the most satisfying shows I've seen hands down. In any other show this elf girl would be a Mary Sue as the sheer depth and breadth of the experience mean that she is amazingly OP. Yet Frieren also has much to overcome and the story is as much about those who she mentors and those who mentored her. (This has a surprisingly ensemble cast). There was one point in the show that I dropped it for a bit. In this case it APPEARED that it had gone full Shonen and devolved into a tournament arc. In fact it kind of does. But it does so very well, in a way that both provides exposition and subverts expectations...but not in a Ryan Johnson way, in a very good way. 

This show is excellent, my only complaint is that it ended. The ending is quite open ended and given the existence of vast story material in the manga as well as it's excellent ratings in Japan I'm huffing the hopium that this will not be the end of this wonderful show. 

In the meantime, I would strongly advise anyone who has not seen it to do so. It was fantastic. 

5 bricks out of 5. 

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February 20, 2024

While Looking at Houses on Zillow, A Rabbit Speculates Insightfully Regarding The Creative Process @ Disney

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February 08, 2024

So apparently...

 Nijisanji has cut themselves, stepped into a kiddie-pool full of gasoline, sat down, and lit a road flare.




Art by:KoaPhan96 

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July 08, 2023

Midnight Movie Night on Kick!

Tonight (Sat7/8/23) at 21:00 EST/ 01:00 UTC we'll be doing another Testing and Breaking Things Stream over on Kick.com.  


We'll be doing a bit of grinding in Disgaea to level up the new character and around Midnight we're going to watch some Silent movies, a silent short that is TBA and Der Golem (1920) 

A German expressionistic Horror film set in the middle ages. The Golem is the last film in what was the very first Multimedia mass merchandising  SciFi Horror Franchises, with Book, Radio, Film and Merchandise elements. It is also a prequel that serves as the origin story for the film series.  https://kick.com/brickmuppet  Come by, say "Hi!" and poke about while checking out the Beta of Kick.com!    


(We actually showed this looonng ago on Twitch, but only had 2 viewers the whole night and this film really deserves to be seen. )

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May 20, 2023

Guardians of the Galaxy 3



Well...

How did I find myself in this situation. 

About a month ago, a friend of many years whom I had not seen in forever invited me to go see a Robert Plant concert in Charlottesville on the 18th. 

Well, this past Thursday, when I made the commute to Charlottesville, to my utter astonishment, I had no trouble at the Richmond beltway and arrived in 4 hours....way less than expected. Given that we suddenly had time to kill...hours, in fact.... she asked to go see the new Guardians movie. 

Now, I have not been impressed with any of the Marvel Movies I've seen after Endgame and the buzz amongst fandom is that the MCU has become a steaming pile of poo. Furthermore, giving money to Disney is on my "to do" list about even with "licking doorknobs in Wuhan". So, I was....unenthusiastic. However she really wanted to see the film, and honestly, how bad can a Guardians movie be? So I went without any outward protest. 

Well... 

That was a happy accident. 

Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is an absolutely superb film. Whether you've seen the other two movies or not (and I missed 2 due to my stroke) this film is an amazingly fun romp. I laughed, I cried...no really, there are moments in this film that are heart wrenching, and others that are heart warming. 

Marvel has largely run out of A-List characters to bring to the silver screen, but the B-List comic characters they dug up for this film are handled fantastically well and with absolute respect for the source material, In some ways, allowing what had been also-rans in the comics to realize their full potential. This film was quite clearly a labor of love. 

This dippy comic book movie has more to say about, friendship, sacrifice, tragedy, utopianism, responsibility, mercy, and the nature of heroism than just about anything else I've seen in the last 10 years. 
it is a surprisingly deep and even insightful movie by the standards of todays entertainment , all the more surprising given that it is a comic book movie with over twice the USDA recommended daily allowance of poop jokes.

But there are enough pathos, ironic and unironic philosophizing, superb characterizations and slam-bang-oh-my-God-action-sequences to make this a healthy, balanced, and white-pilling film-going experience. 

The action choreography in this film is brilliant while retaining a human...er...sophont element that makes it all the more impactful. 

I highly recommend that you go see this film.

However, while I almost never include trigger warnings, I must warn that some of the characters are put through the ringer , physically and psychologically in ways so absolutely gut-wrenching as to leave me amazed that the film didn't get an "R" rating.  Also...utopians will not be pleased.  

Heroism action, redemption, action, and fun and even more action can all be had if you go see this film.

Go now, or you are wrong. 

5 out of 5 Bricks. 


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March 05, 2023

In Which We Engage In Plaigarism and VERY Poor Taste

The fact that this thing had me in stitches probably means I'm a bad person.

(Trigger Warning: Profanity, gore, deep deep lore!)

Check out Moonshine Animations & Support them on Patreon!

I actually saw this on a Pipkin Pippa "best of" clip the other day, she really seemed to enjoy it.

Pixy mentions that this is actual, physical stop motion, and not a CGI facsimile thereof, which is impressive!

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February 21, 2023

Pipkin Pippa Explains The Problem


Silvervale weighs in briefly here. (Warning, it's sad and painful to watch)

Loosing Pikamee to these bullies is appalling. 

Also, Twitch automod can make ANYTHING worse. 

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October 24, 2022

Be Careful Not to cut Yourself on That Edge

I have never had Netflix, and I was not inclined to give that company any of my money. However, my cellphone recently saved my live, preventing me from being impaled with an 80 pound steel bar...and in the process sent me down the rabbit hole of cell phone replacement via insurance. After activating Narmaya, my brand new Samsung Galaxy A42...I noted that it had a Netflix trial on it. I decided to check out that new Cyberpunk series that's currently streaming. I looked forward to a good laugh at the expense of the 'Netflix Adaptation'. 



Now I've given Netflix $19.95 US of my monies...but I got to watch the whole series.

I do not regret this purchase. 

Cyberpunk Edgerunners is excellent. Studio Trigger stood by their guns and took no nonsense from Netflix and provided Unadulterated Cuberpunkery. For fans of the recent CD Project Red video game, or Mike Pondsmith's old pencil and Paper RPG from 30 years ago, this is a breath of fresh air. This show is extremely respectful of and faithful to its source materials canon. As such, it is a pretty good representative of the genre.

That is to say, it is Dystopic as hell. It's also an astonishingly bloody show that does not flinch away from the genre's more gruesome implications. Edgerunners is also quite possibly the most non-PC thing made in the last few years, at times straddling the line between an "R" rating and "NC17" with regards to both gore and nudity and is a passionate middle finger at the censorious scolds of all stripes.

It's also, in its perverse way, a Shounen show, but one that is really well done.

This is not an upbeat or happy show, but it follows desperate, broken people who maintain a sense of dignity and honor in spite of being in the most Hobbesian of environments. It also features excellent writing and top notch voice work in the English dub.

Studio Trigger has a remarkable reputation as is, but they have outdone themselves with this one.

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July 03, 2022

The Mechanical Man

Last night, besides the gachiest gacha game that ever gachad' and a successful grind session in FF14, the stream presented to our 8 viewers a 1921 Italian techno-thriller. 



Only about 26 minutes of this ~80 minute film still exists, and the title cards of the only English version I've found are not particularly helpful. 


In fairness, most of what's missing is merely context to the story. The footage we saw last night eschews such boring world building to get down to the important business of screwball chases, cosplay follies, and robot rampages. 

So, for the 8 non-robotic viewers that my stream summary says watched the film, here is an overview of of what seems to have been going on, cobbled together from a discussion in film class 10 years ago, Wikipedia, the very sparse English subtitles in the version we watched, and the infinitesimal amount of information I was able to glean via my very atrophied 2 years of Latin from the more extensive Portuguese subtitles.  

Spoilers Follow:

This was an interesting and remarkably forward looking film in a lot of ways.  

The basic set up is that a city in post WW1 Italy is being beset by rising crime and a string of political assassinations. Meanwhile one Professor D'Ara, a scientist/engineer, has become the talk of Italy by inventing what is essentially an anthropomorphic, remote controlled drone, to which he gives the perfectly straightforward name of Mechanical Man. The device is fantastically durable, being built like a light tank and possesses speed comparable to an automobile. It is hoped that it can be used in mining and dangerous heavy industrial jobs.




A gang of criminals led by a remarkably competent and brazen woman(for a '20s film) named Mado attempts to steal the device but they are thwarted and it is put under close guard. Mado's gang proceeds to kidnap and tourture Dr. D'Ara in an attempt to get the robot blueprints from him. The police, led by a famous detective do locate and overwhelm the mob, arresting most of the leadership including Mado who is badly burned and suffers a heart attack during the raid. D'Ara did not break but the police discover he died from the gangs tender ministrations. 

Mado turns out to be as dangerous and creative as The Joker, from Batman. It turns out that she faked her heart attack and her burn. Using her  feigned coma to lull the hospital workers into complacency, she sets fire to the hospital, murdering numerous patients in the process, frames Saltarello (Dr. Dara's brother) for arson and murder,  swaps a murdered nurse for her body (faking her own death) and escapes Scott free to reunite with the remains of her gang. (This is where the limited surviving footage mostly picks up...with the villain's clever arson and Joker-esqe escape from the hospital)

She the kidnaps Dr. Dara's daughter and forces her to give her the location of the robot blueprints. The detective Ramberti, who arrested Mado suspects that she is not dead but is unable to do anything until he finds Dr. Dara's daughter who has been free'd by The late professor's brother who is on the run from police, having been framed for arson and mass murder. (Whew!) 

Meanwhile a series of smash and grab robberies are taking place that generally involve safe's being stolen wholesale or armored cars being broken into. Also a series of murders, with the victims being pulverized transpire over the next few weeks. There is one group of witnesses, a rich socialite reports that a mechanical man tore into her house and stole her jewelry safe while she and her friends were far enough away to not be noticed.

Mado has built her own mechanical man.

Allow a moment of silence for the chap that took refuge in the dresser.

Saltarello meanwhile is still on the run from police and trying to clear his name and avenge his brother. He has a close encounter with the mechanical man as the latter assassinates a politician. 



He takes refuge at a costume ball, where, for reasons not entirely clear, he suspects something bad is about to go down. The ball, has apparently been a big looming "thing" for most of the movie, is being attended by a veritable "Who's Who" of Italian Politics, Industry, and old money. He has to flee, but not before he dresses up as Napoleon. 

Meanwhile, Mado sics her Mechanical Man on Detective Ramberti and a number of witnesses including the late Dr. Dara's daughter and Dara's engineering assistant . They flee but discover that not only is the Mechanical Man bullet proof, but it can break through walls and iron gates. It also has cutting torches in its fingers that make short work of the iron door they attempt to slow it down with. They escape in a car, but the mechanical man almost overhauls the car until Terminator1921 suffers a short circuit and crashes by the side of the road in flames. 


This chase is silly, but surprisingly good.


Ramberti and his party then run into a bunch of bicycle cops with his car, (literally) and he subsequently tries to get help to recover the infernal device.

Meanwhile Mado is able to get a team together to recover the Mechanical Man before Ramberti gets to it. 

 Saltarello escapes the costume ball, dressed as...uh...Napoleon or something, steals a police motorcycle, and is pursued and confronted by another detective (who is in an 18th century...dress, because he was undercover at the costume ball). The detective explains that Saltarello is no longer under suspicion for murder/arson/jaywalking. 

The public is completely unaware of ANY of this so, a few hours later when some cosplayer shows up at the costume ball dressed as the famous 9 foot tall mechanical man, the person is awarded best in show and becomes the toast of all the movers and shakers of Italy, sitting down with them and not saying anything. 


"This is not at all sus. Not one bit."

This lasts until, well, he gets right up close to all the most important people in the social register and reveals that his costume...isn't...and begins crushing them, throwing them off balconies, and generally being impervious to bullets. 

MEANWHILE: Dr Dara's assistant, who has been trying to get the ORIGINAL mechanical man working again succeeds in getting the wireless remote control to work. He then sends the ORIGINAL Mechanical Man out to fight Mado's Mechanical Man. They engage in a robot slap-fight in the ballroom, destroying it in a most satisfactory manner as they wack away at each other. 


Botfight. BOTFIGHT!

Saltarello arrives at Mado's headquarters to find her frantically manipulating the wall sized control panel during the fight which she is observing via a television screen. 


(BTW, in 1921 Television won't be invented for 7 more years)

He starts to sneak up on the most dangerous lady in Italy but decides to throw random switches in the hopes of throwing off her control. As a result the control panel shorts out. Mado is electrocuted and dies. The Ersatz mechanical man goes berzerk but is subdued by the original and explodes. 

Mado is revealed to be a famous rich socialite with connections in politics and industry (explaining how she had access to the physical plant needed to make a Mechanical man in mere days). She also is the person responsible for having the big costume ball that gathered all the assassinate-able people in one place. The second detective, no longer in his dress, thanks everyone including  Saltarello who is still dressed like Napoleon. 

Later, Saltarello, in a normal suit, says his goodbyes to everyone and gets in a plane and flies off into the sunset.

*******************

Years ago I was told by a film student, when the discovery of this film caused the topic to come up, that this was one of a series of "great detective" films that was popular in Italy at that time, and that the detective character in this film is a star of numerous other films around the same time. That is, this would be equivalent to Sherlock Holmes meets The Terminator. I don't know if that is true, the detective is a central but supporting character in the extant footage, but I'll put it out there. If there is a "franchise character" in this it's seems more likely to be Salterello, though I can't find any references to such a thing.

There are probably several details that I've got wrong. If anybody speaks Portugese, then please correct me in the comments.  

*******************

I was chuffed when I heard that the remnants of this historic film now had English subtitles, but as we discovered during the stream, they were so laconic as to not be particularly helpful. When they are compared to the very lengthy Portuguese subtitles, it's obvious the 'restorers' did not hire a translator. 

My onstream commentary was based on my knowledge of the film from reputation, and the little bit of research I'd done, fully expecting that "English Subtitles" meant something. 

On the other hand, the DMCA-Free Electro-Swing BGM that I paired with the film on stream was a surprisingly good fit. 

In any event, this was an enjoyable watch, being a completely whackaloon little film that had all of its buildup and exposition destroyed allowing one to get right into the important business of fire, explosion, murders, and the first Robot Battle in cinematic history. So I'm calling it a win. 


Screenshots for this post are not by me but were knicked from the film's IMDb entry and Tumbler's SciFi .gifs page.

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June 24, 2022

Streamery Alert

Tonight at or before 9:00PM EDT / 01:00AM UTC my internet alter-ego will be streaming over at twitch.tv/brickmuppet

(We may be a tad earlier as there are a few widgets I want to test.)
We'll ultimately be streaming Final Fantasy 14 again, but first there will be a brief 'just-chatting' segment and maybe a short silent film. We'll be going at least three hours so if you're hunkered down, stop by and say "Hi!". 

As always, any Feedback on audio levels or video streaming quality are greatly appreciated. 


Art by AnimeGum. Support him on Patreon!

 

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June 20, 2022

Streamery Alert

Tonight my internet alter ego will be streaming again this evening from 18:00PMDST / 10:00PM UTC for about two hours. Plan is to be playing Final Fantasy 14.


Come on by, point and laugh knowingly at the silly noob who's gotten himself completely lost in Eorzean and is developing a shellfish allergy....


Art by Anime Gum. Support him on Patreon!

Note: After I get a handle on handle on how best to fit streaming into my schedule, which should be by next week, I'll have a schedule up every week a week in advance. 

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June 19, 2022

We. Be. Streamin'.

Tonight my internet alter ego will be streaming from 18:00PMDST / 10:00PM UTC for about two hours. 


I streamed it last night and I'm trying to pin down a lag issue that is present in the stream and VOD but not my computer, so feel free to come by and laugh at the silly streamer who is hopelessly lost in Eorzean, and has developed fungiphobia. 



Also: feedback regarding AV levels is appreciated. 

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June 11, 2022

7 hours to Go

Still having tech issues which I ascribe to Apple operating systems and architectures, but I'm confident that I'll either have fixes or my current work arounds by 21:00 EDT / 01:00 GMT/UTC. 



We'll be streaming for a few hours (two or three at least) so feel free to stop by, point and laugh. 

UPDATE: It worked! The game wouldn't run right but we showed the 1916 version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and then did a Just Chatting stream.  There were a few glitches with OBS but they didn't derail the stream, and they were worked around in a few seconds.
 Over 2 and a half hours, we topped out at 6 people in chat, at least two of whom were not 'bots!  
Thanks for stopping by Avatar-ExADV! 

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June 03, 2022

A Follow-Up on SNR

About 2 weeks ago I reviewed the pilot of Strange New Worlds and made, what is for post JJ Abrams Star Trek, a bold assertion.


I do not immediately despise this show!

Like Charlie Brown pondering Lucy and the football, I held out hope that  this fairly decent pilot might, against all odds foreshadow a good series. 

I do not have CBS all access, so I cannot speak firsthand to wether this forlorn hope has come to pass. However Dave Cullen, a certified card carrying member of the 'Irish New Trek Haters Club' suggests that the series has not been bad, and, most surprisingly,  that the most recent episode has actually been quite good.



This is high praise coming from Cullen, who has been exceptionally vociferous (and IMHO fair) in his criticisms of the recent offerings of the franchise.

I particularly like that the presence of the Gorn in this prequel, far from being the expected crime against canon is being cleverly handled in such a way as to fit with established lore. 

I'm still not likely to get CBS All Access, but I keep hearing good things about the show and might well be persuaded to get the DVDs. 

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May 22, 2022

Strange New Worlds

The new Star Trek series has premiered.


After the middle fingers to the fans that were Star Treks Picard and Discovery, faith is weak. 

Nevertheless, the pilot episode was run on YouTube last week and, being a trekkie of some 40 years, I watched it.

I do NOT immediately despise this show.

It looks good. The pilot was decently written and it felt in many ways like a decent Next Generation episode. There was a lot of extraneous drama and plot contrivances shoehorned into the pilot but the episode did not actually suffer for it. 

For those familiar with Trek lore the Pilot is a first contact story that deals with the origins of "General Order One". The episode takes place immediately after the finale of Star Trek: Discovery and is still cleaning up the mess that show left.  Enterprise is getting repaired and Captain Pike is on sabbatical. He's contemplating a vision of his future he received towards the end of STD, which he was given so that the misandric, feminist writers of that atrocity could have the sadistic satisfaction of having a strong male lead scream like a 9 year old girl dropped into a pit of tarantulas. Suffice it to say that plot point left a mark. However, notwithstanding the legit trauma itself, Pike's concern's about the matter are quite professional and rational.

Meanwhile, Number One receives information that a warp signature has been detected from a quarantined system a few hours flight time from Earth.  Starfleet is still trying to put itself back together after the events of the previous series, and doesn't have any first contact teams in the core of the Federation at the moment (They stay on the frontier).  Eager to give her crew a First Contact Award, Number one asks for and gets permission to take a few off duty Enterprise Crew on a mothballed, but barely functional Hermes class scout to pop into the newly star-fairing system and say "Hi!".

Things do not  go as planned, and what should have been an easy day away from the shipyard on fun collateral duty becomes an interstellar incident with far reaching influences upon subsequent events.

It was not a GREAT episode, but it was a quite solid one. It actually has something useful to say about bureaucratic overreaction, which is not a lesson I expected from a Star Trek show in current year. 

The pilot has been pulled from YouTube, but there are several trailers, this one giving a good overview of the cast, which I rather like a lot.




Well, except for La'an, who's surname looks to be a crime against canon and who appears to be a parody of a Mary Sue in a Star Trek fanfic. OTOH, if you're gonna do a Mary Sue, this is the place to do it and the actress  (who looks to be quite good) seems to lean into it with considerable gusto. 

Aside that the cast looks GREAT and, unlike Discovery, the (possible) Mary Sue is not the lead, and to be fair, actually looks to have real potential, this being quite explicitly an ensemble cast. 

So I am cautiously optimistic.

On the other hand, I have memories of another pilot, not so long ago that looked to have quite a lot of potential. 

That optimism was misplaced. 

So a decent pilot is not going to get me to subscribe to CBS-All Access. 

I'll wait. 

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February 02, 2022

Miss Kuroitsu: From The Monster Development Department

Agastia Corporation, a large Japanese Zaibatsu, is involved in a great many moneymaking enterprises around the world, however like so many other Japanese corporations the primary focus of this particular conglomerate is world domination. 


That rather expensive enterprise is privileged and confidential information, and not openly discussed on shareholder reports or tax filings. The ACTUAL board of directors meets in the secret boardroom far underground. 


Not as answerable to shareholders as is supposed.

This has caused some considerable difficulties in internal logistics. However, The corporation now finds itself in an excellent position strategically as all of the competing corporations, ancient civilizations, ninja clans, and Alien outposts have been annihilated byJapan's current surfeit of prefectural masked heroes. 

If those can be dealt with, Agastia corporations strategic goals can be met, resulting in excellent 3rd quarter returns and bonuses for all. 

Miss Kuroitsu is the head of Monster Development and is responsible for providing the company with monsters to fight masked heroes. 



She must do her job despite the fact that her chief mad scientist is a bit of a procrastinator, budget woes are cutting into the financial resources at her disposal, departmental turf wars are undermining her authority, and HR seems to be a 5th column, either completely insane or actively working against the goals of the organization. 




I laughed out loud at this bizarre, but fun, show despite its apparently tiny budget. It has all sorts of potential. I'm really curious where this goes as there are so many ways it can become a complete dumpster fire, but for now it is holding together quite surprisingly well. 

Miss KUROITSU from the Monster Development Department is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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December 13, 2021

Dev Watched Santa Inc. So We Don't Have To.

Interestingly, (tragically) Dev watched the WHOLE thing.

This is a much more interesting and fair review of this dumpster fire than most. 


It also makes clear that this is an even bigger, and in some ways more disturbing fiasco than is widely reported.

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October 10, 2021

Oh Golly

It's not coming out 'till December. 

It'll only have 6 episodes.


Still....yay!

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October 09, 2021

Oh Wow.

I think I finally beat Pixy to the punch on one of these.


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August 01, 2021

Flag Planted


From the latest episode of My Hero Academia, which is, frankly, one of the best superhero shows ever.

Well, perhaps not, but damn this story is good, and going in directions I'd never imagined.

 

If you want to discuss it, spoiler tags are [ spoiler ] Spoiler goes here  [ /spoiler ] but with no spaces between brackets and text. 

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