Monday, July 6, 2015

GB 20: Ranking the seasons

It's time for a new feature on this blog, which is the GB 20! 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of my becoming a Packers fan, so it's time to celebrate, and what better way than with lists of 20? The first list is the simplest: ranking the seasons 1995-2014 in order, best to worst. They aren't ranked solely by how well the team did, however. Fun and excitement cause a season to be ranked higher, heartbreak causes a season to be ranked lower.

1. 1996 (13-3, won Super Bowl XXXI)
Such an obvious choice at the top. #1 seed, #1 ranked offense, #1 ranked defense, most wins in a Packers season including playoffs. Brett Favre was MVP for the 2nd straight year, setting an NFC record with 39 TD passes. The team got off to a 3-0 start, roared to 8-1, won its final 5 regular-season games, then cruised to a Super Bowl championship with three double-digit wins in the playoffs. Super Bowl victories don't come easy, but for one year, the Packers made it look simple. They were preseason favorites, and they backed it up every step of the way. Probably one of the greatest single-season teams of all time in NFL history. I'd put this team up against any one year of any other franchise.

2. 2011 (15-1, lost in divisional round)
This is the heartbreaking choice. As perfect as this team looked on paper - and how close they came to 16-0 - they had no defense. They were actually the worst defense in the league, mainly because the offense scored so much and so quickly that the defense had to keep on going out there. This offense was unbelievable, and in November I thought they were a lock to repeat as champions. At 13-0, nothing could go wrong, until it did. Kansas City of all teams ended the perfect season, then a hot New York Giants team knocked them out of the playoffs. This was an incredibly fun season, as it was a carryover from the Super Bowl-winning 2010 team, with Aaron Rodgers as league MVP, but it ended so tragically.

3. 1997 (13-3, lost Super Bowl XXXII)
History was written for this team to repeat. Just think - Super Bowls I & II, Super Bowls XXXI & XXXII. And how close they came - 36 yards shy of a game-tying TD in the Super Bowl. But history belongs to John Elway, as we know now. This team was almost just as outstanding as the prior year when they went 13-3 and made the Super Bowl, but this team was only a #2 seed. They had to go to San Francisco and beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game (which they did) before the tragic Super Bowl loss. This season just goes to show you how hard is to repeat - they came so close, and just couldn't finish the job against a courageous Elway, who will always have my utmost respect.

4. 2010 (10-6, won Super Bowl XLV)
How in the world did this team win the Super Bowl? The same way the 2011 team didn't - a team got hot at the end of the season. In this case, the team was the Packers (and not the Giants). The 2010 Packers were 8-6 at the end of Week 15, looking at two must-win games to make the playoffs. I'll never forget the forum post I read where someone said that they essentially had clinched the playoffs, just that these next two games were playoff games. And after a blowout win over the Giants and a nailbiter over the Bears, the Packers were in. Next came the gauntlet - at Philadelphia, at Atlanta, at Chicago. Only the Falcons game was easy, and then came the Super Bowl against the Steelers. The Steelers were a budding dynasty - one win away from it. But the Packers roared out in front 21-3, then held on for dear life. And thus the Packers had their 13th world championship, in a season where they never trailed by more than 7 points.

5. 1995 (11-5, lost NFC Championship)
My first season as a Packers fan was one to remember. The team had its ups and downs all throughout Brett Favre's first MVP season. The Packers lost their opener at home, got back on track in Chicago on a 99-yard touchdown pass, then got to midseason at 5-4 and Favre hurt. In true Favre fashion, he played hurt, threw 5 TD passes (on my birthday!) and won over the Bears 35-28. The team clinched a playoff berth with a win in Week 16 over New Orleans, then had to beat the Steelers to get their first NFC Central title since 1972. Yancey Thigpen dropped the game-winning touchdown pass, and the rest was history. The Packers beat Atlanta at home in the playoffs, then knocked out San Francisco on the road, but fell to Dallas in a game they led going into the 4th quarter. John Madden eulogized the Packers as if they'd never come back, but they sure did.

6. 2007 (13-3, lost NFC Championship)
What a fun, magical year this was. The Packers started out 8-1 like in 1996, and Brett Favre broke Dan Marino's record for most touchdown passes in a career (later broken by Peyton "All Stats" Manning). The Packers won a bunch of games they should have lost, and it was a fun run the whole way. They won a playoff game in the snow after earning the #2 seed, then got to host the NFC Championship Game after a Dallas loss to the Giants. But that was yet another Giants buzzsaw the Packers ran into - but it can't erase the memories of Favre's final year with the Packers and how much fun it really was.

7. 2003 (10-6, lost in divisional round)
Magical 2003. Who can forget it? First there was Favre playing 2 days after his father died, and playing the game of his career. Then there was the 98-yard touchdown run by Ahman Green in a game that might not matter - if Minnesota could hold on to win in Arizona up 17-6. But in the most bizarre turn of events, Arizona scored a touchdown, recovered an onside kick, then threw up a Hail Mary on 4th down which was complete to Nathan Poole for the game-winning TD. 18-17, Arizona wins, knocking out the Vikings and putting the Packers in the playoffs. Then the Packers won their playoff game over Seattle on a pick-6 by Al Harris. Everyone remembers 4th & 26, the tragic way it all ended, but truth be told, the team should have won that playoff game against the Eagles long beore that. Plus, Donovan McNabb is a stud, one of the most underrated QBs of our time. Still, it was a magic year, which lasted much longer than it should have.

8. 2001 (12-4, lost in divisional round)
This year could have been so much more. The team ended up only as a wild card thanks to the Bears having a magical year of their own, going 13-3 with 2 of those losses coming to Green Bay. The Packers beat the 49ers in Round 1 then got blown out in St. Louis when Favre threw a million interceptions (it seemed like that; actually he tied the NFL playoff record for most interceptions in a game).

9. 2014 (12-4, lost NFC Championship)
Everyone will remember the ending in Seattle, but it was a great year all around, with Aaron Rodgers winning his second MVP award. The Packers earned the #2 seed and then won a disputed game vs. Dallas to go to Seattle for the NFC title. We all know how it ended, of course, and that bitter taste in our mouths is why we want next season to start so soon.

10. 1999 (8-8, missed playoffs)
The most magical .500 non-playoff year ever. Favre led the team back from deficits in 3 straight home games to start the season 3-1. Then, with the season collapsing at 4-5, the Packers ran off 3 straight wins to get back to 7-5. Then they blew it, falling back to 7-8. In the final game, the Packers needed to run up the score in order to have a chance at making the playoffs. They put up 49 points vs. Arizona and won the points race vs. Carolina... only to have Dallas win and edge them out of a playoff berth. This was such a fun, memorable season, even with all the losses and no playoffs.

11. 2012 (11-5, lost in divisional round)
This was supposed to be the year of redemption for the Packers after the 2011 playoff meltdown. The Packers locked up the division title early but then lost their final game in Minnesota to fall into a wild-card rematch vs. the Vikes. The Packers then easily won that playoff game, before going to San Francisco and getting Kaepernick'd. A good season, if not so memorable.

12. 1998 (11-5, lost Wild Card)
Reggie White was defensive player of the year, but this team finished a distant second to the 15-1 Minnesota Vikings. The final year of the Mike Holmgren era ended in San Francisco with "The Catch II."

13. 2009 (11-5, lost Wild Card)
The Packers started this season 4-4 and Rodgers looked lost in a terrible game in Tampa. Then the Packers ran off 6 wins in a row and Rodgers reinvented himself as a passer and made himself the MVP he is today. A heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh, then an even more heartbreaking one in the playoffs in Arizona were really hard to stomach.

14. 2013 (8-7-1, lost Wild Card)
What a year. The Packers were cruising along at 5-2, then Rodgers got hurt and the season went to heck. Only when everything looked lost, Matt Flynn led the team to a TIE vs. the Vikings (coming back from down 16 points), then consecutive one-point wins over the Falcons and Cowboys. The Packers lost yet another heartbreaker to the Steelers, before "4th & 8" against the Bears won the division. The Packers would go on to lose on a last-second field goal to the 49ers.

15. 2002 (12-4, lost Wild Card)
It was a great regular season until Week 17. The Packers were 12-3 and needed only a win over the New York Jets to wrap up the #1 seed, at the time having never lost a playoff game at Lambeau Field. What followed was a 42-17 debacle where the Packers got knocked from the #1 seed to a #3 seed, and then they lost 27-7 at home to Atlanta. It was such a sour ending to the season that it wiped out all the goodwill of the 12-3 start.

16. 2004 (10-6, lost Wild Card)
The Packers started out 1-4 yet rebounded to win the NFC North. All that was wiped out by a terrible playoff loss to the Vikings that I couldn't bear to watch. It was a fun regular season, but how it ended was disastrous.

17. 2000 (9-7, missed playoffs)
The Packers were 5-7 with 4 games to play and won the remainder to get to a winning record, but they were edged from the playoffs by the St. Louis Rams who won their final game in New Orleans to get in instead.

18. 2006 (8-8, missed playoffs)
This team was 4-8, much like the 2000 team, then went 4-0 to end the season and miss the playoffs on the "strength of victory" tiebreaker to the Giants - the same tiebreaker the Packers would win over the Giants (and Buccaneers) to get into the playoffs in their 2010 Super Bowl season.

19. 2008 (6-10, missed playoffs)
Rodgers' first year as a starter, and not a good one. The team lost close game after close game down the stretch, lots of losses that were not Rodgers' fault.

20. 2005 (4-12, missed playoffs)
Do we have to mention 2005? The team nearly wound up with the #1 pick but won their final game over Seattle, the #1 seed in the NFC.

So there you have it. As the weeks progress, there will be more of these types of posts, such as "Best 20 Wins in the Favre Era," "Best 20 Wins in the Rodgers Era," and "Favorite 20 Players."

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Anime Bowl Toonami Podcast - Episode 12

I get distracted during this episode with social media. Let the lesson be learned: do not try to multitask while podcasting!

Intro: 0:00
Dragonball Z Kai: 0:25
Kill la Kill: 5:47
Michiko & Hatchin: 12:20
Sword Art Online II: 19:58
Naruto Shippuden: 32:38
One Piece: 40:34

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

SAO II 13: Creepier than Yui

Sword Art Online II episode 13 review


I think this post, by one of my compatriot bloggers Annalyn, pretty much sums up the way I feel about a lot of stuff in SAO. This episode brings the shock value but it doesn't bring much quality along with it. And in typical SAO fashion, it gets quickly resolved without much actual conflict. Perhaps SAO is a lesson in how not to write.

For starters, the fight with Death Gun is over way too easily for my liking. Kirito and Sinon manage to defeat Death Gun, who is stupid to the end, thinking that there's no way his plan could have been figured out. Actually it's Death Gun's plan which was so stupid that it's amazing Kirito did figure it out, but I guess it takes one to know one. Death Gun is killed in the game, which if you're using simple logic means absolutely nothing since it's one of his pals IRL (as they love to say in this series) doing the actual killing.

So then we get another really poor example of SAO's way of resolving conflict. You may be wondering why I think this is pitiful, while I enjoyed the Hunger Games which had an identical ending. Well, in the Hunger Games, there was actual death involved, along with a romance which may or may not be real, and a very real reason why both competitors didn't want to kill the other. But here in SAO, you have Kirito and Sinon yet again not wanting to fight. So they take the easiest route out - pull out a grenade, have them both blow up and then they both win the tournament. It's too bad they didn't have an atomic bomb with them, they could have blown up the entire arena and then all 30 people could have been declared co-winners. The "resolution" of the tournament (if you can call it that) was so pathetic that I have a hard time putting into words how stupid it was. To compound matters, everyone watching the game erupts in celebration. Imagine the Super Bowl ending in a tie, and then everyone cheering over it.

Back in Shino's apartment, she wakes up to find out that her pal Shinkawa has come over to greet her. But in reality Shinkawa has actually come over because he's Death Gun's partner and he's going to kill her! Unfortunately what could have been an exciting scene is destroyed because Shinkawa goes insane and wants to rape Shino (presumably) so he refuses to kill her. Actually Shinkawa goes so insane that he loses control of his bodily functions and can't even get control of himself enough to do anything to Shino. Not that I'd want to see that, but if you're going to have a villain, shouldn't he (since it's always a he) be mentally stable enough that he can actually attack the heroine?

And before Shinkawa can get control of himself, Kirito deus ex machinas his way over to Shino's house in order to stop him. Thus there never was actually any conflict - at least there wasn't enough time for any conflict. I kind of enjoy how the closing theme curtain came down on the show so fast that you didn't even have enough time to soak in what was happening. This was typical SAO - enough intrigue to keep me interested, but ultimately a swing and a miss when it came to execution.

We're going to get the end of the arc next episode I presume. And then we'll have another arc of SAO to disappoint us.

Character of the episode: Sinon
Not like I have much choice here.

Episode rating (out of four stars): *½

Monday, June 29, 2015

M&H 2: How am I going to be an optimist about this?

Michiko & Hatchin episode 2 review


It was entertaining, yet not fulfilling. It was exciting, yet not satisfying. The first real episode of action from Michiko & Hatchin offered little reason to be optimistic about where it's going.

I hate doing recaps, because I figure if you're reading this, you probably know what happened anyway. But for the sake of argument, let's suffer through this. Michiko's motorcycle is out of gas, as she's out alone in the desert. Hana and her have an argument, while Michiko goes to the nearest place trying to get gas. Eventually she does get gas but also gets caught by the person working there, who calls the cops. And thus the present meets the past.

You see, there's a flashback which shows Michiko and her troubled relationship with a woman named Atsuko. A lot of the stuff in their argument didn't really make sense to me the viewer, as it probably wasn't supposed to, but it was so confusing that I couldn't tell what was in the past and how long ago it occurred. As it happens, it's Atsuko who comes to arrest Michiko, but she is either incompetent at her job or simply not too interested in arresting Michiko, because Michiko completely fools her and takes her hostage, before escaping.

We also get Hana - who receives the nickname "Hatchin" from Michiko even though there's no explanation to the reason for the name - as she is chased down by her former foster father, the priest. This guy is a complete stereotype of both priest and greedy miser. He tries to kill Hana in an attempt to get insurance money. Michiko sort of deus ex machinas her way to save Hana from him, and the two escape, while still not really liking each other.

There was lots of action, and it at least got me entertained. Yet I don't find these characters compelling in the least bit. Am I supposed to root for them or against them? Hana or Hatchin is an obnoxious little brat who is simply the damsel in distress. Michiko is an all-out criminal with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I don't know how I'm supposed to invest myself in these characters when neither of them is likable in the least bit.

Character of the episode: Michiko
I'm scratching my head as to who to pick here.

Episode rating (out of four stars): **

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kill la Kill 20: Full circle

Kill la Kill episode 20 review


This screenshot is just so epic.

Kill la Kill has come full circle. Satsuki is the heroine, Ryuko is the villain. Satsuki is wearing Senketsu, Ryuko is wearing Junketsu. Satsuki is on a mission of purpose, Ryuko is just there to destroy. This is what makes Kill la Kill a top-3 anime all-time for me. How awesome is it to see Satsuki put on Senketsu in a desperate mission to save mankind?

I looked down for a moment and missed the epic part where Satsuki uses her toenail of all things to free herself. Yes, that's right, Satsuki had a fake toenail which was part of her plan all along to escape. Then she runs down the hall fighting people while still chained up. Once she is restored, the Elite Four all kneel before her like all is back to the way it used to be.

Meanwhile, Ryuko goes from angsting about Senketsu to actually being taken over by Junketsu as her mother Ragyo uses her as an instrument to help her cause. Nui Harime helps push the envelope a little bit here. She literally rips out her own heart in order to show Ryuko that they're the "same," but we actually see Nui get beat here and it's satisfying to see. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), she's still all right.

It was another great episode, and it's kind of sad that we're running out of Kill la Kill episodes. Only 4 more to go. Well, 5, but I'm not sure I want to pay $40 just to see that one OVA episode. If you know a place to legal-watch/buy it, let me know.

Character of the episode: Satsuki
I thought about going Ryuko here, but Satsuki escaping by the use of her toenail was just too epic.

Episode rating (out of four stars): ***½

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

SAO II 12: Kirito's hair is stronger than a building

Sword Art Online episode 12 review


As you can see, Kirito had a few hairs separated from each other by that same bullet that would go on to knock over an entire building. But don't worry, that's not the reason why SAO II continues to suck. The suckiness has more to do with this ridiculous plan that Death Gun has hatched.

Let's get this straight: Death Gun has these partners waiting to lethally inject Sinon and that other guy, but they can't do it until he gives them the signal. And if Kirito and Sinon were to kill that other guy in the game, that would mean Death Gun's partner doesn't get to kill him, for reasons unknown. I'd love to actually sit here and explain the whole plot to you - actually I wouldn't. It's so ridiculous and stupid, quite the opposite of how fun it would be in Death Note when you tried to figure out Light's next move in his complicated web of plans.

The more characters, the better, I always say. And SAO II has been nothing but Kirito and Sinon, with cameo appearances by the minor characters who get maybe one line to say. I'm losing interest, and I need something to perk myself up. Fortunately, this arc is ending soon, so maybe the next one will be full of Leafa!

In any case, SAO II also suffers from poor pacing, like this episode, where not much really happened, and now finally next episode we'll get to see Kirito take on Death Gun. The cliffhangers aren't hooking me, rather they're just making me yawn. Pretty much all of the weaknesses of SAO are at their heights right now. Not much really else to say.

Character of the episode: Kirito
Not too many to choose from here. Maybe the nurse? (If you haven't listened to the podcast, then you missed a lot, including a theory I threw out that the nurse is actually one of Death Gun's partners, waiting to kill Kirito when Death Gun gives the signal.)

Episode rating (out of four stars): *

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

M&H 1: Ominous omelette

Michiko & Hatchin episode 1 review


This picture sums up the first episode nicely.

We were treated to a brand-new show on Toonami this week, but it was a massive failure in its attempt to grab our interest. I go into more detail about it on the podcast, but basically this entire episode was summed up in the 1-minute preview that was shown last week and again this week before the premiere.

The pacing was poor, the story over-the-top and the characters dull. This was not the start this series needed. While trying to hammer home the ridiculously awful life that Hana has, it kept hammering until the nail was all the way through the wall. We get it, Hana's life is miserable. Couldn't there be more to this episode than just that?

It's also hard to believe that anyone could treat their own family member so badly - even if she was "just" a foster child. The storyline was so hard to believe that I started to tune out as it just continued to get worse and worse for Hana. It was depressing, to be sure, but also not very believable, and as a result it didn't have the intended effect on me.

Michiko has come to save Hana, who is apparently her daughter. I assume one of the things this series will eventually explain is why the two of them don't look related in the least bit. It's just a fact of life that most children tend to have some resemblance of their parents. Michiko & Hatchin do not share any resemblance.

Overall, this was a disastrous start for Michiko & Hatchin, but cheer up, because it's only one episode. It is quite possible that M&H ends up being totally entertaining, and this was just a slow start. We'll find out soon enough.

Character of the episode: Hana
There really wasn't much to choose from here.

Episode rating (out of four stars): *