Monday, September 1, 2014

Kurokiiro Festival 2014

After finding out that the voice of Suzuka Asahina would be in town (or at least an hour away), I made the trek to California to go see Leah Clark. California, PA, that is, on the campus of Cal U.

This was the first anime convention I've been to that's been held at a basketball arena, and even on the court. I was a man on a mission: this was all about meeting Leah, not anything else. So I skipped the game show that Greg Wicker was hosting and instead bought some hot chocolate. There were actually more people there than I expected, but my expectations were loooooow. California, PA is a college town in the middle of the poorest part of western PA. It is a long way from Pittsburgh and any of its suburbs.

So after the handful of people who were at the game show cleared out, I joined those who came to see Leah. The crowd was large, though nothing about this con was "large" unless you count the walk from the parking garage to the arena.

Leah gave a very fascinating and informative panel on script writing for anime. It was incredibly educational, and it gave some insights as to what goes on when a series is dubbed into English. (Most people don't care cause they just pirate their stuff with dubious subtitles.)

After the panel, I asked Leah to sign my Suzuka DVD. This poor DVD has some stains on it from when I waited in line for Todd Haberkorn's autograph 2 years ago @ Ohayocon. (I was bored, so I decided to entertain myself by washing my hands with some of those automatic moistuizers - not realizing that it would make my DVD cover wet.) So Leah signed the DVD that Haberkorn & Brina (Honoka) had previously signed. And let's be honest: there aren't any other characters in Suzuka that matter.

(Note to self: don't wash hands.)

Then I asked her for a picture. She said the word "selfie," one of my least favorite words in the world, and it made me cringe, but here's our selfie:

(You may see that I am wearing Vincent Brooks' shirt from the video game Catherine.)

 But no con is complete without a trip to the dealers' room. Once I entered it, I instantly remembered why I love cons so much. I was able to reel in my spending and only waste a little short of $70. I bought a beautiful-looking T-shirt featuring Madoka & Homura from the 1st 2 Madoka movies. As I was going to pay for it, the man at the store convinced me into also buying a Kyubey backpack. "Last one!" the salesman told me. So I bought it, and now own 4 Kyubey plush items.

So that's that. Fun con for the few hours I went to it. Mission accomplished in getting Leah Clark's autograph. Most importantly, it is a big step forward physically and mentally for someone who's had a hard time doing anything this year.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 NFL season preview/predictions

I'm not sure if you know this, but I love American football. It has been my passion since 1995, and this is my 20th season of following the NFL. But this year, politics, politics & politics have threatened to ruin the sport I love so dear.

(Warning: potentially offensive politically incorrect talk below.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

BIG NEWS out of...

With the NFL preseason ending on Thursday night, you know what that means: my favorite blog post of every year, my NFL season preview/predictions. In the past 6 seasons on this blog, I have correctly predicted 1 out of 12 Super Bowl participants (Pittsburgh in 2010). That's an incredible record of success compared to the octopus I talked to last week who has only picked 1 out the last 16 Super Bowl teams correctly. Who will I pick this year? Hint: the team I pick to win Super Bowl XLIX, I pick to go 19-0.

Also, there is a possibility I may go to my first con since Kurokiiro Festival 2013. What would it be? Kurokiiro Festival 2014. The one reason to go is because the (actual) voice of Suzuka Asahina, Leah Clark, will be there. You know how if you go to a con and meet a guest, you have enough time to ask one question to them or say one compliment to them? Well, I've never met her, so I want to ask her something about Suzuka. Like, do you agree that Suzuka is the biggest bitch in the history of anime? And that would actually be a compliment to her portrayal of Suzuka, because it was 100% correct.

Finally, I want to start watching another anime. Just because. You may know already that I am the laziest anime watcher of all time. Like, if I am not forced to watch it, I won't. That's why Toonami is so great, because it forces me to watch the show within 5 weeks of its airing. But if I have it on DVD/Blu-ray, I get lazy and say "I'll watch it later." So, I'm going to try to force myself to watch one. But no guarantees, since I'm so lazy. Oh, and if I watch it, I will review it, whether or not anyone even cares. (I'll have to come up with a title similar to "Why SAO sucks" in order to draw search hits. Like, "Why Suzuka sucks.")

Monday, August 25, 2014

Blue Ribbons - The Blue Exorcist anime awards

It's time for the Blue Ribbons! These are the Blue Exorcist awards, handed out to winners of certain categories for the anime series. Note: all these will be good categories. As in, you want to win. No "worst character" or anything like that.

Best episode: Episode 7

This is the episode that really established 3 things: Shiemi as the good girl, Kamiki as the bad girl, and Blue Exorcist as a viable anime series. Look back at my review of Episode 6, and you'll see that I was so disgusted that I wrote fewer than 10 words about it. But Episode 7 revived the series in a heartbeat, and made me forever fall in love with Izumo Kamiki. (Oops, did I reveal something too soon here?) But actually, it was Shiemi to whom I awarded the "character of the episode" honor in this episode. I never gave an episode four stars, but this one was thisclose to receiving a perfect score.

Best romance: Yukio x Shura

These two had the on-screen chemistry, especially in their tennis match later on in the series. And of course, they had the on-screen denial of romance, like any good anime romance should have. (Which is why Kirito x Asuna fails on so many levels.) We even had Shura going to the end to try to save Yukio. It was a match made in heaven. Or, hell, in this case.

Best storyline: Rin trying to control his power

It was obvious Rin would learn to control his power, but at the exact moment he learned to do it? Yeah, that was actually thrilling. It was a moment where it actually looked as if someone might die. That climax of the plotline worked out perfectly, and it was certainly a high point for the series.

Best one-shot character: The "kid" from the swimsuit episode

His name is actually Yohei. And his budding romance with Kamiki was quite the humorous angle to watch. Though with his age pegged at single digits, I don't think Kamiki's going to wait for him. Sorry, Yohei, someone else is going to get the girl of your dreams.

Best voice actor/actress: Kira Buckland

She plays Izumo Kamiki (of course). If you watched the dub along with me, could you name anyone else who could capture Kamiki's character so perfectly? When I got her autograph along with the rest of the Blue Exorcist cast at Anime Expo, I never thought a year later I'd like her performance the most of all of them. After all, that was an all-star lineup! Given the fact that she was drafted in the 2014 Voice Actor Draft (to play the role of Suzuka Asahina), I think she's proven herself in this big role. Best part is, she's an up-and-coming voice actress, meaning that we're likely to hear her in many roles to come. Give her a starring role, please! Oh, and follow her on Twitter, @rinachan.

(Before I get to the final award, I want to tell Aniplex that they once again completely nailed it on the English dub voice cast. It's true that some of these voice actors were big-time people who I knew from so much else - Johnny Yong Bosch, Wendee Lee, Kyle Hebert. But the younger and newer cast members such as Bryce Papenbrook, Christine Marie Cabanos and of course Kira Buckland delivered the best performances in this series. Aniplex has the best dubs, end of story.)

The final award is... oh, what else would it be, and who else would it go to?

Best character:

Her Majesty Queen Izumo Kamiki I

The ultimate bad girl. Seriously, I don't think there's been a bad girl as good as her since Asuka Langley Soryu. The pic above captures it all: she hates you. You rescue her from demons, she hates you. You save her from drowning, she hates you. You try to throw her a birthday party, she really, really hates you. She is exactly what this series needed. Without her, I probably consider this series a nice shonen series with a few shining moments. But because of her, I enjoyed Blue Exorcist to the confusing end.

Oh, and Kamiki says it's "Empress," not "Queen" - "Queen" isn't good enough for her.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

AoT 16: Marco's Pizza

Attack on Titan episode 16 review

Is it sad that I still can't remember at all who the beep Marco was? Don't get me wrong, I recognized his corpse immediately, because some character at Tekko this past year made a "cosplay" of it - his corpse, that is. It was so disgusting, and should not have been allowed in public, but there it was, on the front page of all the Tekko photos (with people rightfully complaining that it was too vile to be up like that). It was upon me seeing that, and finding out that it was from this series, that I gained a prejudice against Attack on Titan from the start. (That prejudice went away when I started to like the series on its own merit some time back.)

Anyway, I do not know anything about Marco. I really don't. He was never important to this series, never! I watched every single episode - were there episodes I missed? Was he in the previews that I may have fast-forwarded through? (Side note: another Marco - Dr. Marcoh from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood - was in a very important preview that adult swim skipped and thus really took out a pivotal moment in the series.)

I've never eaten Marco's Pizza. It's a Midwest pizza chain, and when it comes to Midwest pizza chains, I'm a big fan of Noble Roman's Pizza. In any case, I know about as much about the Marco who founded Marco's Pizza (if there is such a person) as I know about the Marco from Attack on Titan. Because the guy simply was not developed nor described enough for me to know who he was.

I know who Eren is (even if I don't know the right way to spell his last name anymore). I know who Mikasa the creepy stalker is. I know who Armin Keteyian is. I know who Annie, Temari's long-lost twin sister, is. And I certainly know who Captain Levi Fett is. But I don't know who in the world Marco is, or should I say, was.

So why is so much attention being paid to Marco now that he's dead? If the series had only paid attention to him while he was alive, and really made a point to show that he was worth something, then I would be fine with all this sudden intense focus around the guy. The fact of the matter is, he was nothing more than a redshirt. Actually, that might even be a compliment to call him a redshirt.

I was promised in the preview for this episode more time in the courtroom, over who killed the experimental Titans, but thankfully we didn't get very much of that. Also, Annie was selfish and decided to go home, which means that her character ought to be preserved longer. Good for her.

Other than that, this episode added absolutely nothing to the series, since absolutely nothing of value actually happened (as is becoming a far-too-common case in this series). But we did get a whole lot of talk about Marco.

Character of the episode: Annie
I was happy that Annie got more than a few lines, because she has been one of the few characters who has intrigued me. I also loved how she just walked away from joining the super-special-secret scouts while Potato Girl stood there in utter bewilderment.

Episode rating (out of four stars): *

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Blue Exorcist 25: The adventure continues

Blue Exorcist episode 25 review

... only that it doesn't. Blue Exorcist's final episode gives us the feeling that this series is going to continue on with more fun and games, it all ends here.

Blue Exorcist's manga is still going on at this point, but the anime series ends here and there is no "second season." Actually, according to Aniplex, everything since episode 14 has been the "second season," presumably just because it had a different opening theme (which was terrible, by the way). There is an OVA special, but that's not going to air nor do I have it on my DVD set, which is only of the "first season."

What's left to be said? The final two episodes were anticlimactic at best. I had been hoping that the series would end on a cliffhanger that would leave me just begging for more. Yukio's now possessed by Satan - read the manga to find out more! But no. Yukio and Rin easily defeat Satan, or at least send him away for a while, and that's that.

We get a few things that give the episode the feeling of a finale. Yukio is demoted, presumably just because he allowed Satan to possess him. Everyone else goes back to school. (One nice touch was the one student returning out of nowhere. A similar scene happens in one of my favorite comedy movies, the 80s cult classic Summer School starring the best actor ever, Mark Harmon.)

Then we have Yukio have Rin go back and find their mother's grave, to get some closure. Something about a snowman, and I get the feeling that we're going to have this turn into Frozen.

And then the episode refuses to die. Now all of a sudden we get a rehash of an earlier episode's plot, where Kuro is up to no good and all the policemen are after it. But wait! Rin is riding Kuro, so it's all good. Right? Actually, the villain is Celty from Durarara!! I think. Was I just dreaming, or what? Did this really happen? Was there really a shoutout to Durarara!! at the end of this episode, and thus this series? Is the next plot arc in the manga about the characters fighting a villain who happens to be the same as Celty? What a mindscrew to finish things off.

I don't know what else to say. I hope to have a post concluding my thoughts on this series, and maybe even handing out some awards. Blue ribbons, perhaps? In any case, these last two episodes weren't the best, and didn't end the series as good as it could have ended.

Character of the episode: Kuro
Yeah, I have no idea at this point.

Episode rating (out of four stars): **

Monday, August 18, 2014

Blue Exorcist 24: Resist the devil and he will flee from you

Blue Exorcist episode 24 review

It is truly sad that I don't take blogging seriously and don't try to make a meaningful post more often. I've got blogging friends over at Beneath The Tangles & Annalyn's Thoughts who actually do that kind of stuff. But I muddle around with tomfoolery, not trying to extract any deeper meaning from what I've watched.

The same goes here for this post. While the title of my post may sound thought-provoking since it is a Bible verse, or at least part of one, what I'm actually referring to here is the typical "inner battle" that occurs in this episode with Yukio (it just happens to be with Satan). Here, with Johnny Yong Bosch voicing Yukio and sounding like Hollow Ichigo, you can't help but notice the clear similarities between this and Bleach. Remember "the horse and his king" or something like that? No? I don't blame you, it's been a long time since Bleach was relevant. But here we have the good old typical fight where a character is having an inner struggle against someone else who has possessed them and they have to break free.

It's been a long time since I've seen this in a show. Oh wait, no it hasn't, since it happened just a couple weeks ago in Attack on Titan. So while Rin plays the role of Armin, Yukio plays the role of Eren. (And Shiemi plays the role of the stalker-esque Mikasa?)

Anyway, you know what happens by this point. Come back soon to find out my thoughts on the series finale, also known as the episode that wouldn't end.

Character of the episode: Shura

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