March 19, 2017

So...



So...the latest episode of Interviews With Monster Girls addresses the nagging concern that Takahashi has become not so much the girl's counselor, as the driver of their short-bus.  The sinister assistant principal's true motivation is revealed and Sakie, though forced to improvise, nevertheless achieves an important milestone in the...umm, subtle and cunning machinations she is plotting in pursuit of her goal.

In contrast to episode 7 and especially episode 10 which hinted at a much "bigger" storyline, episode 11 is focused primarily on character development and nicely portrays the considerable personal growth the entire ensemble cast has gone through, including fairly minor characters.

This episode really touched on everything that has made this show so refreshing. The students in this show, both human and demihuman are   very believably written and their actions are both charming and realistic.


Within limits.

I'm unsure how many episodes this series is, but if it is a 12 episode run then this was a solid and reasonably satisfying finale. Of course there is at least one more episode. However, there are indications that that will be a beach or pool episode and therefore probably fanservice pandering best ignored in the context of this nearly sublime little series*. 

One thing that stands out above even the stellar chraracterizations of the students is that of Takahashi Sensei. Here we have a male lead who is not only a gentleman that behaves in a professional and mature manner. He's a remarkably macho guy as well. In addition to being a science teacher, he's a weightlifter, and characters comment on how much he's bulked up recently. In any other show that would be a character trait of a buffoon, but Takahashi is stoic, disciplined, kind, perceptive, intelligent, intellectual and strong in both body and character. He epitomizes the male virtues and in a thoroughly positive way. That is a rare and welcome thing in this day and age. 

Interviews With Monstergirls has been low key but engaging. and a thoroughly enjoyable ride that stresses the importance of actively engaging life lest  wonders pass us by.


No. Twitter is not "engaging." 
If you've missed it, watch it. 
If you've seen it, discuss it. 

*


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March 11, 2017

The Means by Which Dulhallans Eat

...has yet to be addressed in this show, but despite that glaring omission, as of episode 7, Interviews With Monster Girls is mostly living up to the hype.



"No. We understand how it gets into your mouth, it's the step after that which has us confused."

A biologist whose PHD thesis on demi-humans was shot down due to a lack of any preternatural people to study, abandons his research and gets a job as a high school biology teacher. Years later, he is surprised to learn that his school has enrolled a dulhallan, a vampire and a snow-woman. He begins his research anew arranging interviews with the fantastical beings and with the help of a delightfully goofball math teacher, councils his students and watches as they cope with all those little awkward moments every high school kid goes through.

Well, in fairness, she could have been more clear.

This is a surprisingly well done story.  Cute girls doing cute things in high school has been done a lot but this show has really good characterizations and despite the centrality of the monster-girls quirks....


"I will never really get used to that."

...they come off as some of the most believably characterized kids in a long time. Cast-wise it treads perilously close to harem territory, so it's very welcome that at least one of the schoolgirls has (maybe) a tentative romantic interest amongst the student body. It's even more welcome that the aforementioned delightfully goofball math teacher is around. 

More welcome still in our decadent age is that this show actually stresses the virtuousness of men aspiring to arete' and thereby maintaining a stoic demeanor in stressful situations.... 



...and dealing with one's emotions in private so as not to bother others. 


"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Did I mention the delightfully goofball math teacher?

Interviews With Monstergirls is, despite its premise, surprisingly down to earth and well written. 

Now there are tentative indications as of episode 7 that there might be more to the story than a high school slice of life show.



That could be disastrous, or it could be awesome. At this point, even if they brought in giant robots that trapped everyone in a video game, I'd still watch it for a couple of episodes to see what they did because I'm that enamored of these characters. 

I'm just gonna recommend this one. 

UPDATE : 72 Minutes and 3 episodes later:

Well, what do you know.

 

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March 09, 2017

Flip Flappers: Belated Thoughts

Cute, whimsical, and thoughtful horror stories are kind of rare for some reason. 


Flip Flappers is an exception, though after finally finishing the entire series, I find it still quite difficult to describe. The set-up is easy enough, Cocona is an honor student in high school and her ultimate goal is to...umm....be an honor student...



Life however, involves more than just studying for the test, and Cocona is trying to come to grips with the fact that the answer to "What career part do you intend to take?" Is not found in a book, or in any academic articles. Suddenly a crazy redhead named Papikka shows up with a comic relief robot and drags Cocona into a magical dimension to help them find...power crystals.


"Will this be on the test?"

Sadly, they don't keep the bunny ears, but they DO get time limited super powers accompanied by magical legware. 


'dem stockings...

This is useful as well as stylistically fascinating because they do get into fights, with monsters as well as rivals.

Starting off as a (faux) magical girl show with an Alice in Wonderland vibe, it goes in a number of different directions to the point of seeming unfocused at times. However, there is a story here and the show is a surprisingly intelligent disquisition on the nature of identity, the blissful squalor of a utopia and the responsibility we all have for who and what we become. 

The story does go to dark places as the characters explore their backstories but the series, despite its breakneck pace and seemingly schizophrenic tone does come to a satisfying conclusion. In the process the series stays unpredictable and is never boring. 

It is also high octane nightmare fuel. This show is genuinely terrifying at times, and the story has more in common with Phillip K. Dick than Lewis Carrol. 


It also gets bunny anatomy...wrong.

This was, however, a surprisingly enjoyable and thoughtful series and I recommend all 5 hours. It really was one of the best shows last year.

 

"We Rock!"

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February 18, 2017

RWBY Season 4 Ends

Well, we're two weeks late in our appraisal, but then, out of 12 full episodes, we managed no more than four other reviews this season as life's interventions caused a substantial delay in watching the show this time around.


Thankfully, it was worth the wait.


"See guys, it says here that we ROCK!"

At mid-season, RWBY's five disparate plotlines began to converge, but not as expected. Instead of having the groups all come together, the various plotlines converged in their tone, with 5 different flavors of existential dread being presented. These, counterintuitively, coincide with the show largely regaining its optimism.


Monty would be proud. 

The next season looks to be the last and this finale tees it up perfectly. My only complaint at this point is that we've got 8 more months to wait for it. 

UPDATE: Rereading the post, I should have mentioned that the ending of this season is not so much a finale, or a cliffhanger as a pause point in the story.

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January 08, 2017

Happy Dance is Engaged (UPDATED)

The first remake of Space Cruiser Yamato was absolutely excellent. Now it appears that they are indeed remaking the second series too



UPDATE: Two other (shorter) videos are available.



Framegrabs (possibly spoilerish) below the fold...
more...

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January 02, 2017

OK, I Sit Corrected

In my last pompous disquisition upon this season of RWBY I prattled on for about 150 words about how the CGI fight animation/choreography was not as good as those of the earlier seasons. 

Yeah. 
About that...



It does appear that my argument has been invalidated by recent developments.
Monty would be proud of these people.

As for the non-FX aspects of this episode. 
Wow. 
This was not filler. 
Every aspect of the three ring circus that was this episode was consequential and full of surprises. Even the quiet conversations, far removed from the cares of the world keep one on the edge of their seats.

I remain surprised at just how impressive that Weiss, of all people, has become. 

This show still has five or six more episodes to screw everything up, but as of now RWBY remains first rate.

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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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