Tuesday, September 30, 2014

AoT 20: Sinking like the Titanic

Attack on Titan episode 20 review

The Scout Regiment continues on their quest to...what were they exactly doing again? It's been so long that I can't even quite remember what the original goal was. I thought it was to go to Eren Jaeger's original house, go into the basement, find the magic potion, use it to create a door and enter Subspace, then eat the Mushroom. But now we're off on some bunny trail of trying to research this female Titan, while continuing to get inner dialogue from dozens of characters of whom we don't even know their names.

Very little happened during this episode - in confusing fashion, the Titans ran away and the female Titan disappeared. Then Jaeger began to panic (as usual) while everyone (again) assured him that Captain Levi had everything under control. Shots of colored smoke went off, with no explanation to the viewer as to their meaning. The implied explanation was, once again, Captain Levi knows what he's doing so don't question him. And while some more redshirts die, Captain Levi's leadership is questioned, but you can't do that, because his deus ex machina leadership is going to cause everything to work out perfectly for the characters that matter. And then there's talk of a spy, and of course Jaeger thinks it might even be Captain Levi. But we know it's not Captain Levi, because Captain Levi is reaching Mary Sue levels here. "The goodman is always right" as the old story goes, and Captain Levi is the "goodman" in this case.

So I got bored, because like so many other episodes, this one was 90% inner dialogue, 5% outward dialogue and 5% action. I remember seeing something that looked like a spoiler on Twitter actually a couple months ago. So I went to the Attack on Titan Wiki just to read a couple sentences, and it confirmed my suspicions.

But more than that, it made me realize that there could be an absolutely brilliant storyline going on right now. The spoiler I read about is actually a great plot twist. So why can't we get to it? We are spending 4 episodes with Armin hiding in a tree. Look, I know those Bleach battles took forever, but at least there was actual action! They'd fight for a while, even though there would be no progress. Here we have nothing but inner dialogue for 25 minutes and 5 minutes of commercials. This really is a shame.

Character of the episode: Annie

Episode rating (out of four stars): ½

Sunday, September 28, 2014

2014, Week 4: Packers join the 700 Club

2014, Week 4: Packers 38, Bears 17

It's the Green Bay Packers against the Chicago Bears. That says football right there. The two teams have a combined 22 world championships between them, 7 Super Bowl appearances, 5 Super Bowl victories (all but one belonging to Green Bay), many Pro Football Hall of Famers, and a rivalry approaching 200 games. Before today, only the Bears had 700 victories as a pro football franchise.

But now the Packers have joined them, and of course that win comes against the rival Bears. I got to experience this game in a Pittsburgh sports bar where we had a section of fans exclusively watching the Packers-Bears game, on both sides. It was very tenuous in the first half. Those Bears fans were getting quite into it. But they were cool cats, and I tried to console the one guy when things got out of control in the second half.

Aaron Rodgers threw for four touchdowns, while Jay Cutler threw 2 crucial picks that turned the game around. The Packers' offense was humming so well that they never punted throughout the entire game, and in fact it was only the 2nd game in NFL regular-season history where neither team punted (I remember a 2003 Colts-Chiefs divisional round playoff game that had no punts). It was disappointing that the Packers failed to rub it in at the end with another score once they got down to the Bears' 1, committing a bunch of penalties, but the game was well in hand at that point.

Aaron Rodgers made it very clear that he was not worried about the Packers' slow start on offense. Clearly he had some reason for that optimism. Now for the third straight year, the Packers go into this 5th game needing to win to avoid a 2-3 start, and it's a short week, and it's an important game against another rival, the Minnesota Vikings. The team must be on their toes, especially if Vikings rookie Teddy Bridgewater is healthy.

+'s & -'s:

+'s: Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews, Sam Shields (Clay and Shields with the picks of Cutler)

-'s: O-Line and Quarless for many penalties and allowing a blocked field goal

2014 Green Bay Packers: 2-2
All-time Green Bay Packers: 700 wins
Next week: vs. Minnesota on Thursday night

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bleach 361: Old-fashioned Bleach

Bleach episode 361 review

Did you see this episode of Bleach? Minus some of the usual waste of time to start the episode, this was actually a great episode reminiscent of stuff from the early days of Bleach. Remember the days when Ichigo wasn't an emo loser? Remember when it was his "resolve" that always made him win every battle, no matter how difficult, and how we'd love it? Because that was the essence of shonen, after all. We were here to see the hero win in the end, to beat the bad guy. And most of the time, the bad guys were guys we'd end up cheering for later on.

Halfway through the episode, I'm reaching for the remote, but it's too far away, so I stick with the episode for the second half. On comes a depressing scene where Ichigo is stripped of his powers and it looks hopeless. And then... it happens. Ichigo gets his "resolve" back. He wants his powers back, and he wants them bad. He is angry. "Give it back, give it back!" he yells. And it's the Ichigo of old times we finally see again. The Johnny Yong Bosch of old times is heard.

But just as Ichigo is about to win, he is stabbed with a sword. And it looks like he has been stopped, and it's all going to be for naught. Mr. Hat & Clogs and Ichigo's father appear, apparently against him. But wait, who's that who appears? Someone who I am so happy to see again...

Rukia Kuchiki!

Rukia's back, and her stab is actually to restore Ichigo's powers! And as she does, she gives Ichigo her playful nastiness that she is well-known for (that I have come to appreciate, because Ichigo does deserve it). Rukia's chopped her hair a bit, though, and I'm not happy with the result. Grow it out, Rukia!

Also, Renji, Byakuya, Toshiro, Kenpachi & Ikkaku have shown up to give Ichigo his powers back. It's good to see them again as well. And as Ichigo goes to battle this opponent, maybe Bleach will finally return to its old form, just in time for its cancellation.

Character of the episode: Rukia
Who would have thought way back when that Rukia would end up becoming perhaps my favorite character in all of Bleach?

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Gurren Lagann 5: Gurren LAG-ann

Gurren Lagann episode 5 review

So it's been a long time since I last watched Gurren Lagann. A great lag between episodes, which gives me excuse to mispronounce Gurren LAG-ann in the hilarious way I've always wanted to. And I've also got to wonder, what took me so long?

This series is just as excellent as I remember it from the beginning, specifically because of the sexual tension between Yoko and Kamina. Kamina is of course the best character in the series, and I don't think that's going to end up changing. But Yoko holds her own with him, and those two make an absolutely awesome couple. Throw in an unpredictable See-moan, and you've got a cast of characters that are fun to watch.

The episode takes more of a sullen tone, but Kamina saves the episode from going down that line with his antics, and it gets back into its usual fun again. With the two little children as well as the Johnny Yong Bosch-voiced character coming along, there ought to be even more fun upcoming.

Character of the episode: Kamina

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

Sunday, September 21, 2014

2014, Week 3: Toothless

2014, Week 3: Lions 19, Packers 7

Last week, it was a lost fumble on the first play of the game. This time, it was a lost fumble on the second play of the game, this time returned for a touchdown, and it was all downhill from there.

There really isn't anything to say about this one. The offense was pathetic, and if they choose not to show up, I choose not to write about them. At least the defense forced a few turnovers, including a Julius Peppers forced fumble, but one interception immediately turned into a safety and more points for the Lions.

Sadly this is exactly what I predicted to start the season result-wise, but I thought the team would be more competitive.

+'s & -'s:

+: Julius Peppers, Andrew Quarless

-: Eddie Lacy, Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy's playcalling, the offense in general

2014 Green Bay Packers: 1-2
Next week: at Chicago

Saturday, September 20, 2014

AoT 19: Abject failure

Attack on Titan episode 19 review

This is the type of episode that can literally ruin a series, all by itself. The only thing it has going for it is that it isn't so memorably bad that it can't be pointed to like some other bad episodes like the infamous Kirito "you are dead" episode of Sword Art Online or the Yumichika baking a cake episode of Bleach, both for completely different reasons. This one was just a complete waste of time.

I completely tuned out when the episode went into a flashback. Sorry, wrong time to go into a flashback. And not like the flashback was about anything important, either. This flashback was completely unnecessary and just proved to me that this arc is being slowly stretched out as far as possible in order to produce 25 episodes, that way the next arc can be put into its own 25 episodes instead of a reasonable amount like 10 episodes.

Then at the end we find out how Levi was the hero after all and that Eren should have trusted him all along and blah, blah, blah. Just as I predicted at the end of the last episode. Although we never got to see the color of the smoke that Levi let off, because the smoke (and the entire plot) got tossed overboard in order to bring us that flashback.

Character of the episode: None
I refuse to give out my award to any of the losers who participated in the wasting of this half-hour of my life. And, no, Steve Blum, this is NOT the strongest lineup Toonami has ever had.

Episode rating (out of four stars): no stars

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

AoT 18: We don't have a strategy yet

Attack on Titan episode 18 review

My good friend and most loyal reader pointed out how bad the new theme song is, at least in comparison to the first one. In fact, the first song was so epic that it made me pumped up for every episode of Attack on Titan. The new one, I feel like fast-forwarding through (and adult swim actually cut it short a few episodes ago). This new song may fit in a level of the new Super Smash Bros., but it's a failure as an opening song for this series as far as I'm concerned.

So like every Attack on Titan episode, we have an entire half of the episode wasted. This time it's the first half. It simply involves Jean going on and on about his thoughts on the campaign, and master strategist Armin still in his usual paranoid mode. (The president of the United States ought to call up Armin, since he doesn't have a strategy yet on how to fight ISIS, other than throwing pegs at his Battleship board and hoping for a hit.)

Jean and his non-stop running mouth (and mind) make this a highly annoying episode for the most part. The guy won't stop speaking his mind, and even Armin gets annoyed (well, he's more scared than annoyed). I'm all for free speech, but we all know that one person who talks too much and gets on everybody's nerves. That's Jean, who needs to chew on some graham crackers for a while. (Graham crackers once caused me to lose an eating contest for my team at an embarrassing carnival-esque event.)

The constant smoke being let up into the air isn't just causing pollution and maybe a bit of global warming, it's becoming a quite annoying plot point. Basically, the smoke is used to push the plot along, as in Armin sees the color of smoke, Armin makes a comment, he then lets off the same color of smoke, someone else sees it, someone else makes a comment, they let off the same color of smoke, etc. What makes this so annoying is that nothing is actually happening - no Titans in sight for most of the episode, no real conflict at all - yet everyone's going around paranoid like it's the end of the world. The same happens when they go into the forest.

Before I make my final complaint about this episode, I want to put out that the show has done a great job at adding a lot of suspense to everything regarding the female Titan. Not only that, but her attacks and skills and her way of just destroying the Kira Task Force or whatever they're called is just spectacular. And since I hate almost everyone in this Scout Regiment, I'm rooting for the female Titan all the way, although the only ones she's "killing" are redshirts (and we're not even sure they're dead).

So what, or rather who, is my last complaint about? You guessed, Levi Fett. Levi is obviously being painted by the episode to be a secret genius. You can tell by the way absolutely every single character is questioning his actions. That's a sure-fire sign that he's going to make a brilliant decision that no one saw and thus be hailed as a super-genius at the end of the campaign. In this sense you could call him the anti-Obama when it comes to war strategy - as opposed to no one questioning him even as things continue to get worse.

But this plot strategy is quite a joke by the writers. Why? Because to anyone watching who's seen at least one anime series in their lifetime, it is so obvious what's going to happen. This is a flat-out cliche designed to make a character more popular with the youngsters watching who don't realize the trope being used here. Levi remains completely silent even as his comrades get "killed" by the female Titan (they'll end up surviving in order to protect Levi's reputation) and even as the former star of the show Eren Jaeger questions him. Then he goes to shoot some smoke, and although the color is not revealed, it's almost assuredly a color that is going to make everyone else panic and question Levi even more. Maybe it'll be green smoke - to go with Gang Green, Green Bay & Trent Green.

Character of the episode: Armin
Is it sad that of all characters, Armin has had the most character development during the course of this series? A lot of people have pointed out that his dub voice actor has been so much superior to his Japanese seiyuu that he's actually gone from unlikable to likable. I guess the Japanese seiyuu turned him into an overtly feminine loser.

Episode rating (out of four stars): **