Friday, October 31, 2014

Attack on Titan/Bleach Finale Liveblog

I keep spelling it "Leviblog" by accident. Anyway, there may never be another Bleach liveblog again. You've got to be there for this one.

Live Blog Attack on Titan/Bleach Finale Liveblog

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why Attack on Titan sucks

It's that time... time to give my final verdict on a Toonami show. Sword Art Online got this scathing review. On the other hand, Blue Exorcist was so good that I made an award show just for it. With one episode to go, Attack on Titan has been eliminated from playoff contention, and thus must be rightfully punished.

But why is it such a disappointing series? Is it because I'm a hater, and haters gonna hate, but I'm just gonna shake, shake it off, shake it off? Or is it rather because of a tortoise-like pace, a lack of character development, and the very existence of Captain Levi? I'm going to argue for the latter, but if you disagree, go ahead and shake it off, shake it off.

1. Pacing
Have you watched any of the baseball playoff games lately? Each pitch takes about one minute to be thrown, and since it's one, two, three strikes and you're out at the old ballgame, we're talking about extremely long games. In fact, I frequently will play a video game, tune in for just the pitch, go back to the game which I play for a minute, then tune back in for the next pitch. It's just far too slow of a pace for anyone in the iPhone generation to be able to enjoy.

The same goes for this series. Every development in this series takes about 3 episodes to complete. And that's just the minor stuff. Through 24 episodes, we've had only two major developments - Eren turning into a Titan, and Eren plugging up the wall with the boulder. That's it. Assuming the 25th episode ends with Annie being captured, that will be three. To me, it feels like the series has just begun, like it's just getting going - and that's the end of the "second season" (according to Funimation).

To make it worse, AoT is terrible at timing. The dramatic plugging up of the wall and shooting of the green smoke in victory came in the middle of an episode. On the other hand, another episode ends with Levi shooting off smoke, very awkwardly. By the time the next episode comes along, we never find out what color smoke it was or even why he shot it off. These are times when I wonder if AoT is nothing more than stream of consciousness, with episodes cut completely randomly.

I don't feel like I've seen all that much through 25 episodes. Keep in mind, Neon Genesis Evangelion was 26 episodes. Puella Magi Madoka Magica was 12. Now it may not be fair to compare AoT to those masterpieces, but isn't AoT as popular as those at the moment? But even a mediocre series like Durarara!! was 25 episodes, and I felt like I had seen a whole lot. I'm pretty sure you could have chopped up AoT and fit it easily into 12 episodes.

2. Lack of character development
There are two ways AoT fails with character development. One is the large number of minor characters who get a ton of screen time but no development to their personalities. The other is the stale, static state of pretty much everyone but Armin. I'll spare you the talk about Marco and his pizza.

Let's deal with the first part first. So many of these minor characters spill out their guts (literally and figuratively) but aren't really getting any actual development. For example, the guy named Jean. We get an entire half-episode of him sitting in a tree complaining about Levi's battle strategy, but have we gotten anything else about Jean up to this point that would let us know why he thinks this way? Not really. We just know he's part of the Scout Regiment. We don't know if he's a distrustful guy, or if he's a smart strategist like Armin, or if he's just clueless. We just hear him filibuster (as I named my last Bleach review) and then we find out that, once again, Levi was right.

Can you name most of these characters? There's Jean, there's Zoe... and then I'm stumped. Why we aren't getting their names more often is beyond me. You'd think if they are important characters, they'd refer to each other by name. You may think this is meaningless, but let me explain. When Armin's name is mentioned a lot, it signifies his importance to the series. Same with Eren, same with Mikasa. But if these characters are getting all this screen time, why aren't they getting the same treatment? It doesn't help much that most of them look the same.

Now let's move on to the second point. Eren, from the first few episodes, has been known as an angry young man. That's his entire personality. He wants revenge on the Titans. 20+ episodes later, he's still a one-dimensional character who's all about revenge. Heck, during the trip through the woods, he was reduced to Levi's foil, the guy who critiqued Levi in preparation for Levi to come out looking like a hero in the end.

Mikasa is the worst case of this, however. Save for the flashback episode (which was one of the few bright shining moments of AoT), she is shown as having an obsession with everything about Eren - and that's it. She did save Armin recently, but aside from that, her entire purpose in the series is to be obsessed with Eren and his every move. Call it stalkerish, call it a romantic crush, call it a protective older sister - whatever it is, she's as one-dimensional as it gets. And she hasn't grown as a character at all. As a result, she's the most disappointing character of the series.

Armin, by the way, is the Leafa of AoT. Meaning, he's the outlier of the characters, the one guy who's gotten quite a lot of character development. He has grown significantly since his first appearance, and he's been allowed to show strengths and weaknesses. He is in my opinion (by far) the best character in AoT. And as recently as episode 7 I was calling Armin pathetic. THAT is some real character development. I will gladly applaud Armin and the writers for what they've done with Armin.

3. Levi
Gary Stu. There, I said it.

Levi has been absolutely perfect every time he's made a decision. Granted, there haven't been enough plot points for him to be wrong that often, but despite the small sample size, it's hard to see anything more out of him than your typical Gary Stu. And when he does stuff that could be considered cold and heartless - like throwing a pile of dead bodies off the "bus" (carriage), he's rewarded by the writers by a scene where he's made out to look like the most sympathetic person ever (when his action show that's hardly the case). Cutting out a small patch off a piece of clothing while throwing away the corpse to be run over by the Titans? Yeah, that's quite the caring hero right there.

It's also annoying how AoT is trying to stuff Levi down our throats. "Like Levi or else!" they're telling us. Why should I? There's no good reason to do so. He's a heartless jerk with a more pious attitude than even Edward Elric. I'd rather go with Armin, a guy with tons of weaknesses but a good heart inside.

And there you have it. That's why Attack on Titan sucks. Feel free to present your counterarguments at this time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gurren Lagann 10: Safe & Sound

Gurren Lagann episode 10 review

"I can lift you up..."

Nia may end this episode "safe and sound," but the hybrid of Evangelion parody, serious business, and fun & games has proved to make this post-Kamina Gurren Lagann unsatisfying.

Without Kamina providing his personality to the show, Gurren Lagann has totally lost its identity, and now feels more like a Bleach filler arc. I realize that Kamina dying was a plot point and characters have to die at some point, but the guy who looks like Lieutenant Surge is trying to take his place and failing miserably.

This episode seemed so generic for the most part. It could have been an episode of Bleach, Evangelion, InuYasha or Naruto and you would have never noticed. The only thing that I really enjoyed about it was Yoko's transformation into Asuka. Yoko hates Nia, the same way Asuka hates Rei. And Yoko's breaking down mentally because she was in love with Kamina. Perhaps this new Yoko will become a rallying point for the series, in the sense that her dynamic character provides the spark it needs to be more than just your generic mecha series.

I still can't figure out whether Gurren Lagann is supposed to be taken seriously or not, and that's a problem. Certainly in episode 8, we saw some serious stuff. But in episode 9, it had such a serious tone, yet all the hints of Evangelion parody made me wonder what was going on. Now in episode 10, we have all the forced attempts at humor by Lt. Surge & pals, along with more Evangelion parody, while at the same time we have the seriousness surrounding Seemoan and Yoko. I just can't put a finger on this series right now.

My hope is that Kamina gets resurrected. Failing that, the series needs to choose one direction and stick with it, not continue in this confusing mixture of parody, drama & comedy.

Character of the episode: Yoko
Who is carrying the torch from Kamina right now.

Episode rating (out of four stars): *½

Monday, October 27, 2014

2014, Week 8: All Saints' Night

2014, Week 8: Saints 44, Packers 23

With the Packers engaged in a shootout with the Saints, Aaron Rodgers took the snap, found no one open, then ran out of bounds for a first down inside the 10-yard line. On the play, he pulled his hamstring, and suddenly couldn't move. A few plays later, he threw a pick. On a possession later in the half, he threw another pick. Soon the Packers were down by 21 points, and the game was over.

It was an avalanche all caused by the snowball of Rodgers' injury. He insists he won't miss any time. Luckily the Packers have a bye, which could give him enough time to heal and be perfectly well for the next game against Chicago. We'll see. If he's hurt again - like last season - then you can throw the season in the toilet as yet another wasted year.

+'s & -'s:

+: Eddie Lacy for some incredible running.

-: Mike McCarthy's bizarre play-calling, including a surprise onside kick in the first half which failed miserably.

2014 Green Bay Packers: 5-3
Next week: BYE
Following week: vs. Chicago

Bleach 365: Filibuster

Bleach episode 365 review

For those of you expecting the regularly-scheduled episode of Bleach, you're watching 60 Minutes on CBS.

And so it was. 60 minutes (or so it seemed) of characters talking, talking, talking - about who knows what. I obviously zoned out quite early on in the episode, but we were getting an explanation on how Ichigo got his powers back, why he did, why he's fighting his enemy, life, universe and everything. You could have written a book with all the talking going on, most of it being done by Ichigo's opponent. By the time the episode is over, the voice actor voicing Ichigo's foe collapsed on the ground, but he was happy, since he was being paid by the word.

Nothing at all happened in this episode. No, seriously. Besides the long talks from Ichigo's enemy and Ichigo himself, there was no actual substance in this episode. And thus we move onto the final episode, which will probably feel like episode 167 of InuYasha - not a finale at all. I can't wait for Bleach: The Final Act, even if I'm 35 by the time it airs (no, seriously).

Character of the episode: Ukitake
If he's received this award before, I am unaware of it.

Episode rating (out of four stars): *

Sunday, October 26, 2014

AoT 24: Oh, the humanity

Attack on Titan episode 24 review

I'll freely admit that I was switching back and forth between this episode and the Ohio State-Penn State football game. You just can't hold back the football fan in me. And being a former big fan of PSU, it was hard to keep from watching.

Nevertheless, we're coming down to the end, and everyone's convinced that Annie is the female Titan except Eren. After half an episode of discussion, Eren gets crushed by an attack by that very female Titan, but he survives because he's not entirely human. As Armin told him, he's got to forsake his humanity if he wants to save himself - a sort of paradox of a situation.

So we've come to the final episode, and while there wasn't anything especially bad about this episode, it's taken so long to get here that I feel almost as if very little has actually been accomplished. I guess they did have their one big victory for humanity, but that's about it. All that stuff about Eren's father and his former home? Stuff that will have to wait for season 2 (or season 3, if you count this as season 2).

Character of the episode: Armin
As big of a disappointment as Mikasa has been for me, Armin has been a pleasant surprise. His paranoid worrying little self has grown on me during the course of the series, and I think he's actually become quite a dynamic character.

Episode rating (out of four stars): **

Friday, October 24, 2014

Attack on Titan/Bleach Penultimate Episode Liveblog

Live Blog Attack on Titan/Bleach Penultimate Episode Liveblog
 I'd be glad if you could join me.