December 27, 2016

RWBY Series 4 Mid-Season Thoughts

 In the two months since our last review, RWBY has moved right along. The production values continue to be superb. 







The backgrounds, once akin to a '50s UPA cartoon, are now awe-inspiring at times and the animation is consistently top-notch.


 


I sure hope he doesn't...drop the map.

We've now had a bit of time with all four girls of the eponymous team (who are now on different continents). 

It's kind of refreshing to see Ruby be the main character in her own show for a change. Most of the action has continued following Ruby, Jaune, Nora and Ren as they trudge across the wilderness on their way to a city where they expect to find answers to the conspiracy against them....unaware that that conspiracy is stalking them.

A few surprising facts have been revealed.



...some of which may not, strictly speaking, end up being vital to the plot.

This remains a remarkably solid show. It's hard to recommend to someone who hasn't seen it since the first and to a lesser extent the second season are of so much lower quality they are hard to watch now. However the first two seasons are short and the continual upgrades the show goes through are a joy to watch. 

For those who stopped watching after...all that stuff...that happened at the end of last season, I do recommend that you set aside 72 minutes of your time to catch up on this season.

The one very minor criticism I think I touched on in an earlier post is that the fight scenes don't QUITE match the spectacular choreography that the late Monty Oum used to such effect early on. Compare this scene from season one which had a shoestring budget and a staff of about 15 that were just learning their craft to this one from last month, which enjoys a larger budget and a staff that has amassed tremendous experience. The second fight is not bad at all and the overall quality of the more recent episodes is absolutely spectacular, but despite the limited budget and resources, Monty Oum's choreography had a sense of dynamism and movement (and while physics is too strong a word, there was no jarring sense that it had been discarded). It is that last bit that his successors, despite their considerable skill, don't quite get yet. This is a very minor quibble but it goes to show that Oum was indeed a singular talent.

That most quibbly of quibbles aside; at the midway point this season is excellent. Despite the dark ending of last season and the frightful repercussions thereof, the show has managed to avoid becoming a bleak misery-fest and, due mainly to the pluck of the characters, it manages to maintain a basically upbeat tone until now. 

We'll see if it can keep that up this weekend. 

I certainly will be watching.



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December 19, 2016

Well. That Was Not What I Expected.





Star Wars: Rogue One is is not a space opera.

It is not simply a re-hash of previous plots in the franchise.

It is also completely devoid of infuriating Mary Sues who are effortlessly good at everything. 

Despite its very different tone and style (It is actually a re-skinned Samurai film....complete with Zatoichi!) this is not a rejection of the franchise, its fans or its conceits, but rather a labor of love in homage to the whole kit and kaboodle, complete with geeky references to the trilogy, the prequels and the TV series of the sort that were cute but awkward in the prequels. Here they are done masterfully. 

Likewise the female lead is an action girl done exactly right. 

The movie's effects are everything one would expect from a Star Wars film done by Disney...and more. This is a gorgeous film with visuals that even by today's standards are stunning and it breaks new ground in FX as well as necromancy (which, upon reflection, I'm pretty sure is a Sith art). 

This is a story about desperate bitter people in a dark time who are not all that nice who are at the end of their rope while those they look to for guidance are giving in to despair. 

Rogue One is also a story of honor, redemption, hope and courage that manages to be uplifting and inspiring despite its gritty take on the Star Wars universe. This is a beautiful and awesome film that fits in perfectly to the Star Wars canon without the sense of forcing the issue that permeated the prequels. 


My only gripe is that the score is not anywhere near as epic as one expects from a Star Wars film, except where John Williams pieces are dusted off and used. This is not as egregious as it normally would be given that this is a very different sort of story. 
 
The Force is strong with this one.
Rogue One is awesome. 
Go see it. 


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December 05, 2016

Yet Another of Those Animated Shows Set in a Post Apocalyptic World

...this one's American and from 1939.

It's also seasonally appropriate.


It gives a good sense of the anti-war mood in the country on the eve of the Second World War.

more...

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November 28, 2016

Asking The Important Questions


What would you do if you could change one thing about the past; if you could undo one action (or inaction) that had precipitated a cruelty that's caused heartbreak and torment all the days since then?

Would such a miracle, picking at that central thread of a person's life, unravel the tapestry of events that created who that person is (or was)?  


Or would it be awesome....with a giant robot fighting for justice...




What if the only sane person you regularly interact with is your evil nemesis, the the leader of the magical autism squad?


What's it like in hell anyway?


Flip Flappers....I've got no idea what this series is about. But, I'm going with this for now...



This show is cute, it's whimsical, it's high-octane nightmare fuel and it is brilliantly put together. 

It is also blazing new trails in the fashion and technology of legwear. 



It is NOT however, a reliable, peer reviewed source of information on rabbit anatomy. 

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November 14, 2016

A Note of Passing Interest to Someone I'm Sure

It appears that Hayao Miyazaki is making another full length film.



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November 07, 2016

RWBY 4-2

There's no actual action in this episode, but a lot of stuff is established. 

Ruby keeps having nightmares about Pyrrha and keeps hearing her voice at night. 


Do you remember when the backgrounds were an afterthought if they were present at all?

We do get to see Weiss. Her family life is about what we'd come to expect. 



Our heroes reach the village they've been looking for only to find it razed. The lone survivor explains that it was bandits, followed by grimm...and expires. Ren and Nora recognize....something.



Ren and Nora's history has only been alluded to obliquely. It is known that they are both orphans and strongly implied that they are the only survivors of their village(s?).

 

This was a solidly written episode. 
This season is off to a stellar start. 

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November 06, 2016

Flip-Flappers

It's pretty clear from the title what this show's going to be about...

When two teenage girls trying to make it as real estate speculators in Prohibition era Chicago decide to compete for top prize in a dance contest at a local speakeasy, they manage to run afoul of the mob, some cultists, a Bolshevik plot and an inept gumshoe. Our heroines must cope with bandits, biplanes, and 10,000 bullets as they...


Wait...


That synopsis may not actually be entirely accurate. 

Good Grief! This show's title is completely misleading.

OK, I have NO idea what is going on in Flip-Flappers, and can't even make a guess as to the etymology of the title

But I kind of like it.

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October 30, 2016

RWBY Season 4 Begins

When last we left our intrepid heroes in team RNGR (or JNRR, there is some disagreement on this point) they had struck out across the continent in the hopes of finding out who was behind the destruction of Beacon Academy, and the devastation of Vale.




This episode takes place between 6 and 18 months since the last one and there have been some developments....


This person, despite not a whit of dialog, seems to be significant.



We do learn several things, including the true nature of Pumpkin Pete, but mostly that three years of practice and a major increase in budget allow for a tremendous boost in quality. This looks gorgeous! The fight sequence was much more in the spirit of Monty Oum than the trailer, which I was somewhat critical of. the voice work is still very good and the pacing is excellent. 

On the debit side, most of the new additions to the villian side seem to lack the panache of the ones we know, and seem to be mimeographs of cardboard cutouts, though their screen time was brief and that may well change moving forward.  

This series went through a dramatic shift in tone and direction at the end of last season to something rather darker than many of its fans had grown accustomed to. That hasn't changed, however it is refreshing to see that the show has not lost its sense of humor or heart. This season is starting off promising.

Note that as I type this, RWBY is not on Crunchyroll's front page, but it is viewable there

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October 28, 2016

Oh Look! I'll Have to Buy Some Froot Loops

Crunchyrool will start running RWBY tomorrow at 08:00, so I guess I should go in for the whole Saturday Morning cartoon experience. 




I haven't watched anything this season. I'm curious about Flip-Flappers, mainly because its name indicates a certain whimsy or at least the potential for something that's entertainingly bad. 

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October 06, 2016

OK...This is a Cute Use of the Format

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October 03, 2016

Just Another Day in the Mojave

A nicely done FALLOUT fan film.

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October 02, 2016

Three Weeks to Go.....UPDATED

Here's the first full length trailer for RWBY Season 4. It first aired at RTX in July and low quality phone cam pirates have been making the rounds since then, so it's a little disappointing that this has no additional footage after all the hype.

Still, it is very impressive in a lot of ways and unlike the fuzzy pirate versions, this gives a very good idea of just how much the production values have improved. Like seasons 2 and three this is a major leap the animation quality of the previous volume.


It's gorgeous, but the choreography is off. Monty Oum went to great lengths to make his fight sequences at least appear to be obeying some laws of physics. Inhumanely dramatic changes in momentum generally had some rationale, either they were the result of recoil, rocket boost, using leverage to redirect momentum or acknowledged wire work as with Blake's kusurigama inspired weapon. In this vid Ruby might as well be supergirl. That sense of movement and mass, and the implication of extreme skill is not present. In any of the "hang-time" movements (though the combat on the ground is pretty satisfactory in that regard). Monty Oum was truly a singular talent, and it is understandable that his sucsessors will go there own way, but this is the thing that stood out from this video...that and the fact that Ruby and Blake's new outfits are REALLY cool.

I also liked the  attention to detail with Nora and Ren's hair, which gives a good sense of the passage of time and the little system status icon "Local Area Only" which is a nice reference to the communications situation in the wake of the events at the end of season 3. 

Of course production values can be bought. The question is whether the story is any good. I'm hopeful. The last season ended rather jarringly and turned off many people but it was quite effective at surprising it's audience.  I found it to be quite pongniant and have been looking forward to the continuation.

With 19 days to go, it is probably time to review the current status of characters that underwent major changes at the end of last season.

UPDATE: OK...spoiler tag is not working, so the overview of major character developments goes below the fold. Note that sentence, which is an indicator of SPOILERS!
more...

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September 28, 2016

"But Ponder THIS..."


"...you can call ME Dear Sweet Oni-Chan without it technically being creepy."

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September 26, 2016

Re-Zero Ends





So...I guess there won't be a sequel, huh?

Oh but there was SO much more to Re: Zero than a very touching love story. This series was one that hooked me early on and I was quite optimistic about it. That optimism was not misplaced. 

This is absolutely one of the most emotionally engaging shows in any medium I've encountered in years. It frequently accomplishes this in a most unusual way (by grabbing ones emotions by the throat, beating them upside the head with some rebar and then staking those concussed and bleeding emotions to a fire ant hill). Yes, this show is quite hard to watch at times, but is extraordinarily well paced and well thought out. Its tone and themes remind me of Ellison's Delusion for a Dragon Slayer, in that the protagonist start's out a person of, at best, mediocre character and quite unfit for what he must face. Unlike that tale however, this is a story about redemption and the fact that we can change. Subaru, the hero, is a really interesting character who learns from his numerous and painful mistakes. He comes to confront his myriad failings and change what he can, and work around those failings he cannot. 

Strong women are not a novelty in this day and age, but the heroines (and villainesses) in this show are some of the best, most realistically portrayed in any fantasy series. They are written and talk like actual. umm, women,  Emillia, for instance, is quite the awesome and noble character.


And it was nice to be reminded that she can righteously kick ass. 

She also comes off as a real woman despite a remarkably limited time onscreen. At one point she saves Subaru's butt for approximately the umpteenth time and he apologizes for thus imposing on her. She replies that an apology is unnecessary...but a "Thank you." would be appreciated. Exchanges like that, actual things that actual humans might actually say, really make this show. 

Re: Zero is heartbreaking and terrifying at times, far more so than one would expect given the show's central conceit, but the fact that they can pull that off is a remarkable achievement.  Any show can be grim and gritty, but this show uses the horror as a way to move the characters forward and contrast to the show's highs. The writers here do so masterfully. 

The show has a bit to say about the nature of love and its complexity including its selfish component, and how pride can toxify anything. The show also deals with the more painful sides of love such as loss.
 

Re:ZERO Starting Life in Another World is a superbly engineered emotional rollercoaster that may cause nausea and night-sweats, but unlike most rollercoasters, which take you back to where you started, this is a terrifyingly thrilling journey to a much better place

 While there are some unresolved plot threads, the ending is perfectly satisfying as is. If they decide to do more I'll definitely be watching it. 


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September 23, 2016

Oh My! Yes Please!


The first remake hit it out of the park. Yamato 2199 was both inspiring an intelligent. It was quite faithful to the original series while being sufficiently different to genuinely surprise the fans. It was one of the best military themed shows of the last several years. Now they are doing what certainly looks to be a similar reimagining of season 2. 

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September 14, 2016

37 Days



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Well, This Is Nicely Done.


I must say that I am much more interested in seeing an Overwatch series of some sort than I am the game. 

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August 28, 2016

Palate Cleanser

Well, that last post was not at all uplifting, so, as atonement, here are three characters from the best show of the season...

...cheerily being highly deceptive about their show. 

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August 14, 2016

Operation Chromite

This may warrant some attention....


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Re: Zero


Unimpressed by the premise and the series poster (which screams harem) I started this show several weeks late. Life's little interventions have seen to it that I'm still 5 episodes behind, but this series warrants some comment before I rectify that transgression.

Re: Zero Starting Life in Another World is yet another story about a directionless young man who is zapped (for reasons unclear) into a Tolkien-esque  land of adventure. 

But wait...don't go yet...

Subaru Natsuki takes a break from his grueling schedule of computer games to zip off to the local convenience store for a bite to eat, upon walking out his vision goes blurry for a moment and as as he refocuses, he notes that he is not in Saitama anymore...


Our intrepid hero, after a moment of astonishment is remarkably calm. Having played MMORPGs and watched anime all his life, his first conclusion is not that he has had a stroke, or suffered head trauma, but that he has been drawn to this world to be a champion. 

Over the course of the day he notes that he is illiterate in this land, has no legal tender, no special powers, and his starting inventory consists of a bag of nabs, a cup of tonkatsu ramen, a manga, a cell phone ( that is of limited utility as he is currently out of area) a jogging suit, a wallet and a plastic bag. Things begin to deteriorate from there until he encounters a young half-elf lady who introduces herself as Satella.

 
She determines, via inspection of his hands and physique that Subaru must (like her) be foreign nobility. They assist each other for approximately 17 minutes at which point the aforementioned situational deterioration resumes...with interest.  

This is an astonishingly well written and thought out show. Subaru is a teenage geek and the story pulls no punches in laying out his delusions and incompetence.  However, while he is realistically portrayed as initially pigheaded and self absorbed, he gets better in a believable (given the conceits of the show) and satisfying way. This is some of the best character development I've seen in a while. Subaru screws up a fair amount, but his errors are often not stupid. He learns from his mistakes and even when he learns the wrong thing he never stops fighting the good fight. Subaru is also terribly alone, not just because he's in a strange land, but because he becomes privy to a secret he cannot share, and what those around him assume to be flashes of insight are earned in the most horrible and painful way possible.  

"Satella" is an astonishingly well realized character. She too is, for different reasons, quite pointedly alone. However, what is remarkable about her is that her responses to events and, in particular, Subaru's antics are all quite realistic (given the caveat that she's a bit of an odd duck). She is very well written and comes across as an actual, complex, believable young woman. She is a magic user of some skill, but she has great strength of character as well.

This is one of those shows that looks like the writers sold it to corporate as a harem show, and included several potential suitors for our hero in the concept art. However, that is a cunning misdirection. While there is, at episode 14 at least the potential for a love triangle or an alternate love interest in another extremely well realized female character, this is not a harem show at all. In fact the poster at the top is quite misleading as it leaves out all of the male characters except the protagonist...some of whom are actually attached to women in the picture

Re: Zero Starting Life in Another World  is (as of episode 14) a first rate fantasy, gut wrenchingly dark at times, but surprisingly intelligent and  beautifully characterized. This is a really good show that has kept me on the edge of my seat. I'm enjoying it immensely. 

Do note that there are two pilot episodes(1A&1B)...you do need to watch them both. 

UPDATE:Also, while this is a wonderful character centered adventure, I may have understated how graphically violent this tonal rollercoaster occasionally is. 



Oh look. They added Frank N. Furter to the parody poster.

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