Tuesday, July 26, 2016

HxH 13: This is what we call a "recrap" episode

Hunter x Hunter episode 13 review


"Strange beasts... and monsters. Vast riches, hidden treasures. Evil haunts, uncharted frontiers. The mysterious unknown. The people who are captivated by the magic in those words are called... Hunters!"

Hey, if the producers decided to put no effort into producing an episode, then I'm putting no effort into reviewing it.

Episode rating (out of four stars): no stars

Monday, July 25, 2016

OPM 2: Swatted

One-Punch Man episode 2 review


If you expected One-Punch Man to come down from last episode, you'd be mistaken. Despite the fact that I still have my doubts about this series, this was another great episode that kept my interest. In it, the cyborg above fights off a mosquito girl, who Saitama (the name of the main character) defeats with ease. The cyborg then decides that Saitama will become his master and that he will learn how to fight from him. In between, the cyborg tells every last detail of his life story to Saitama, causing an intentionally painful scene where he's rambling like crazy. It's about as well-executed as you can get with a joke like that.

Then a whole bunch of fighters show up, trying to figure out Saitama's secret. He destroys them, but not before some humorous moments involving both a lion and a gorilla. There was an overarching plot to it, but I was too busy laughing at the gorilla's cowardice that I failed to remember the name of the corporation that they were working for. In any case, if laughs is what One-Punch Man is going for, it's winning.

I don't know if I'm going to end up loving One-Punch Man, or even liking it. I will say this, though: it's off to a good start. I'm cautiously optimistic. Keep it up now.

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

Sunday, July 24, 2016

MSG:IBO 7: Lower your flag

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans episode 7 review


Back to anime on this blog. Let's be honest, mecha series aren't my thing. I liked Evangelion, of course, but Eva wasn't your typical mecha series. Gurren Lagann was good when it was outside the mechas - once it got too much into technobabble in the final few episodes, I really didn't like it. This series has proven to me once and for all that I'll never be a mecha fan. It's all technobabble, no substance.

Let's face it, there aren't any good characters in this series. You've got the Eren Jaeger/Kirito character with large eyebrows who has no personality, you've got the Johnny Yong Bosch character who's over-the-top when it comes to being a hero, you've got the damsel in distress who is utterly useless, and you've got the fat kid with the ironic name who's pretty much there for us to laugh at. There's no one worth cheering for. So in place of characters, we've got mecha fights for eye candy. Does that really make me want to watch this series?

Honestly, this has gone on too far. I could understand a few episodes of building the story, but we're at the point where I need something of substance in order to get me into this series or I'm just going to give up on it. It might already be too late. Since I've got a podcast to do, I won't quit watching, but I may have to give up the ship when it comes to reviewing here on this blog. I just don't like giving out low scores anymore - but this series is earning these low scores.

It isn't a dream - I'm giving this episode ½ a star.

Episode rating (out of four stars): ½

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Tale of Two Brittanys (off-topic)

I normally don't post on Saturdays. But today I feel like posting some random stuff that has nothing to do with the blog whatsoever. Call it a venting post. I faced some opposition on Facebook on Friday and I want to figure out how to let out my frustrations without offending anyone.

So the picture up there you see is of Brittany Snow, an actress. Why do I show her picture? Well, because she was the inspiration for two different characters in novels that I wanted to write, but never will.

The first was called Queen Allison. This story was about a girl named Hilary (no relation to the 45th president) who was physically unattractive, but wanted to enter a beauty contest. Her friends Brittany (see above) and Lily taunt her and try to discourage her, while entering it themselves. Incidentally if I were to ever have a daughter, I'd name her Brittany Lily or Lily Brittany.

The plot twist isn't that Hilary overcomes the odds and wins the contest. No, the plot twist is actually that a perverted man who is on the board of the beauty contest (originally the Tournament of Roses) fixes the votes in a vain attempt to get closer to the girls. Thus Hilary ends up being named as a princess despite her lack of physical beauty.

The girls who end up named princesses all go to a ball which is open only to those girls who get selected for the parade. (If this sounds similar to what goes on with the Tournament of Roses, that's because the plot line was originally supposed to actually be based on the real-life Tournament of Roses and Rose Parade.) At the ball there's the several girls - Hilary, the ugly duckling; Brittany, the valley girl; Lily, the brat; Katrina, the arrogant tall redhead; Nicole, the short lesbian who falls in love with Katrina; Synneva, the anorexic girl; Allison, the blonde beauty who is also a dominatrix; Amy, a girl from a poor family; and Ashley, an aspiring singer.

So basically Lily bullies Hilary nonstop, while Brittany is an airhead. Nicole kisses Katrina causing mass hysteria. Allison brutalizes her boyfriend Chris after finding him with another girl. A couple other of back stories go on in the meantime. But all this is simply background noise.

And thus comes part of the problem; there's so many side stories that there's no time to tell the big story. That big story is that Brittany gets named as the queen for the parade. Several days later, she is found stabbed to death.

Since Brittany was sort of a rival to Hilary, and since Lily is a big-mouthed bully, Hilary gets blamed for the death. She wanted to become queen herself, Lily says. Police investigate but cannot find the killer. In the meantime, Allison gets promoted and named queen (hence the title of the book).

But other girls start dropping like flies. Synneva, Amy and Ashley all go down in rapid succession, stabbed to death in the exact same way. Again Hilary gets blamed for all the deaths, and a red herring ends up making her go to trial. I'm not quite sure whether I wanted to kill off Nicole too; I really wanted to push the unrequited love story between her and Katrina as far as I could.

Basically eventually the parade takes place, with Hilary on trial while Allison rides down Colorado Boulevard the big road as queen. Hilary doesn't get to go, while the remaining girls do go.

Eventually Hilary gets freed, but she gets attacked by the killer. The killer cuts off one of Hilary's hands but cannot kill her. Who is the killer? This is where I have a problem, as it seems too obvious, but it's Allison. Lily is present for Hilary's maiming and sees Allison do it and has something to do with Hilary's escape from getting killed.

Then Allison gets arrested and put on trial. However, due to an O.J. Simpson-esque miscarriage of justice, she gets away with it. She's on her way home from trial when, in the final scene, Lily - who bullied Hilary the whole book - finds Allison and shoots her. Lily gets thrown in jail but she's saved Hilary and made up for all her taunting.

Why haven't I written this? Simple. I couldn't ever figure out a way to hook my readers in chapter one. The story is purposely slow - there's even some extraneous characters who I can't figure out what to do with - and the big moment doesn't happen until 15 or so chapters into the book. That's not going to hook a reader. At the same time, though, that's my writing style. I love Shakespeare. When did the big event happen in Shakespeare's plays? Act III, of course. Thus the big events happen too late for a reader to be hooked, and thus the book never gets read, and thus the book never gets written. It's kind of like that.

But it is an interesting concept. And I feel like I finally wrote the book now that I've revealed it to the world. I wish I could sit down with someone wise like my beloved English professor from Penn State Erie Amy Lewis (Go Pack Go, Amy!) and get some advice on it. Alas, that opportunity may never come, and the book will never be written. Even so, I wish it could happen.

The second concept involving Brittany - the name and the concept for the character's appearance both coming from the actress pictured above - was a bizarre story named Slave of Brittany. Slave of Brittany was a weird concept. The purpose was to show people what living with OCD is like. In between I mix a bunch of sadistic torture and post-apocalyptic war stories.

Brittany III is Queen of France in 2250, 200 years after Russia nuked North America and wiped it out of existence. The main character - no name ever thought up - is actually a cyborg created by the USA shortly before the onset of the nuclear war and shipped to France for use in the future. At the right time, Brittany III has the main character captured and brought to her. She then performs a long sequence of sadistic torture methods on the character, forcing the character to repeat the mantra "I am Slave of Brittany." The main character has this so ingrained in his mind that every time he even thinks of the queen, he repeats that mantra, "I am Slave of Brittany." The idea here is to show the true torture of OCD.

But that's not the end of the story. No, what happens is that France and Russia end up in war with each other. Catherine III of Russia is ready to conquer France, but Brittany III sends the main character to Russia as an ambassador. As Catherine III tries to get secrets out of the main character, he remains loyal to Brittany III because of the mantra that he can't stop repeating to himself. Meanwhile, his cyborg powers are awakened, used by Brittany III to get secrets out of Russia. Eventually France wins the war with Russia and Brittany III marries the main character. And now he can finally stop saying that mantra.

Probably one of the more bizarre ideas you'll ever hear. How exactly some of that stuff would go about is beyond me, even after I've written it here. And the details of the nuclear war and then a post-nuclear society are all too crazy for me to think about. It's a weird idea, one that came from a dream that I had. It has even less chance than Queen Allison in ever getting written, but hey, there it is.

So, if you're wondering what weird stuff goes through this head of mine, wonder no longer. This is the type of stuff that can give you nightmares. It's also the type of stuff that could make my dreams come true, if I could ever write it. For now, you'll have to wait for my non-fiction book that I'm currently writing. It's about football, but I promise to somehow get the word "Brittany" into the book somewhere. How will I do that? Just wait and see...

Friday, July 22, 2016

#FlashbackFriday: Sailor Moon episodes 41-42 review

If you ask me who's winning the horse race between Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon, I'd say it's Sailor Moon by at least 5 horse lengths. And that's a surprise, given that I would have made Cardcaptor Sakura the odds-on favorite to win this race. Instead, CCS has been very disappointing, if not flat-out bad. Who would have thunk it, as they say?

The two episodes here further prove Sailor Moon's superiority to CCS. In episode 41, Ami and Makoto grow closer together, and that's great because I ship them as a yuri couple. This is an excellent Makoto x Ami episode. The romance Ami has with Ryo (who is voiced by Vic Mignogna) is secondary to the friendship being built up between her and Makoto. However, there's one thing I don't like: Viz Media's dub voice for Makoto. Sorry, but she just doesn't sound right.

Episode 42 gives us Sailor Venus' backstory. She was in love with a boy named Alan, who tossed her aside for a woman named Katarina. Again, more character building, especially the relationship between Usagi and Minako (but I don't ship them). It's another very solid episode.

What makes CCS come up short? True, there are good characters. However, the battles in CCS are so straightforward and simple that they involve no investment from the viewer. The Sailor Moon battles work, because they aren't simple by any means, not to mention the fact that the villain right now is one of our former heroes. There's so much more to Sailor Moon than just the transformations. It's really picked up steam at this point.

CCS, however, has failed in almost every category. Is it possible, that Nelvana did the right thing by changing everything, including cutting out half the episodes? Because when I watched that Cardcaptors dub as a child, I loved every minute of it. Syaoran (Li) was a dynamic character, and Meiling (Meilin) stole the show. There was no creepy Tomoyo (Madison) stalker-esque crush on Sakura, and Kero was more interesting.

I'm going to come out of the closet right now. I'm a Cardcaptors fan. Meaning, the Nelvana dub version. And I don't like the original version that much. I know, this is hard to believe, but it's true. Meanwhile, I like Sailor Moon any way you slice it.

Episode 41 rating (out of four stars): ***½
Episode 42 rating (out of four stars): ***

Thursday, July 21, 2016

#ThrowbackThursday: Cardcaptor Sakura episodes 41-42 review

The two episodes were connected, and both were subpar. Episode 41 has Sakura & pals preparing for the arts festival. Using a "random" system, Sakura gets selected to be the prince and Syaoran gets picked as princess. We've seen this gender-bending before in an early episode when Sakura's brother Toya was Cinderella, so this is nothing new. What is new is that it's now Sleeping Beauty, and Sakura and Syaoran must kiss. It's the most forced kiss I've ever seen in an anime. I get it; about 5 episodes or go, the writers made the decision to start building a romantic relationship between Sakura and Syaoran. But it still seems very forced. They even have to "practice" the kiss. I mean, come on.

After an uneventful battle where they capture The Sand, it's on to episode number 42. This one contains the actual play that they were "practicing" for. Meiling plays a perfect evil witch which ends up as the star of the show. Meanwhile, Sakura and Syaoran get ready for their kiss, when suddenly everything goes black. Sakura thinks very hard as to what card could be causing this. It's a really hard one. What type of card would make everything go dark? She finally figures it out - it's The Dark! I know, I'm as surprised as you are. She captures it because she says "I will definitely be all right." Yes, really. That's all she had to say. By saying that, she ends up capturing both The Dark and The Light. It's that easy.

The gender-bending moments were entertaining, as well as Tomoyo's manipulation of Syaoran to get him to do the play by telling him that his crush Yukito was watching. But on the whole, not much happened in these episodes. And for now on, those words will always be put in bold anytime I write them.

Episode 41 rating (out of four stars): *½
Episode 42 rating (out of four stars): **½