Wednesday, September 10, 2014

AoT 17: Smoke & mirrors

Attack on Titan episode 17 review

So apparently spraying a whole lot of smoke in the air is the Attack on Titan way of communicating. And they have a rainbow spectrum of colors to use for their smoke. So red, green, black, yellow - all kinds of different smoke for every scenario you can think of.

But this episode is going to focus in on master strategist Armin, and thus we've got to take a deep look inside his overcalculating brain. What's funny is that as much of a strategist he is, he can't figure out the obvious.

Remember Leafa in Sword Art Online, and how she couldn't tell who Kirito was even though he looked exactly the same in real life and in the game? (And remember how awful that first season was, but somehow it got a second one?) This isn't quite as bad, but a female Titan whose face and hair looks exactly like Annie charges onto the scene. This Titan refuses to kill Armin, and she has no interest in humans. She is intelligent, and obviously controlled by a human (Armin figures that part out). Yet he can't figure out that it's her controlling the Titan.

But despite Armin's stupidity, this was an excellent episode, probably the best since that brief stretch when the series was getting really good. There was some tomfoolery with the guys travelling with Armin, who were trying too hard to figure out their own bravery or something. But otherwise, this episode was full of intrigue and excitement.

And if that Titan isn't Annie, I'll give Armin his money back.

Character of the episode: Female Titan
Aka Annie.

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

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014, Week 1: Doom & Gloom

2014, Week 1: Seahawks 36, Packers 16

Well, that went as expected. Rarely does a team beat a defending champ at their home in the opener. In fact, it's never happened on a Thursday before (Dallas' win at the Giants came on a dark Wednesday). And Denver got to play the defending champion Ravens at home, which made no logical sense.

So, here we go on another disappointing season where the Packers can't tackle anyone and can't block anyone. That's this entire game in a nutshell. It didn't help that Bryan Bulaga got hurt too.

John Kuhn did score a rushing touchdown to put the Packers up 7-3, and that was as good as it got for Green Bay. Penalties, missed tackles, a few injuries and the complete collapse of the offensive line then caused the Packers' downfall the rest of the way.

The Packers also managed to miss a 2-point conversion for the umpteenth time. No other team is worse at 2-point conversions in recent years than the Packers - they just can't make them.

So that's all for this week. A long wait until the next one.

+'s & -'s:

+: Nice running by Eddie Lacy & James Starks.

-: Need I say it again?

2014 Green Bay Packers: 0-1
Next week: vs. New York Jets

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2014 Packers season preview/predictions

This is my 20th year of following the Green Bay Packers. 20. That's another way of saying: I'm getting old. In 20 years I've seen a whole lot - but I don't think I've ever seen what I saw last year.

Let's get this straight: the Packers tied a game for the first time since I started following them - and that tie ended up being just enough to squeak them into the playoffs. The Packers started four quarterbacks the whole season - four times the number who started from 1995-2007. And on 4th & 8, with the season on the line, Aaron Rodgers through a game-winning touchdown pass to Randall Cobb that sent the Packers to the playoffs.

So I don't think anything will surprise me this season, no matter how they finish. But I do predict an 11-5 finish, and here's how it will happen:

Week 1 @ Seattle Seahawks - LOSS

Thanks for serving us up as the sacrificial lamb in the Thursday night opener, Roger Goodell.

Week 2 vs. New York Jets - WIN

The Jets are quite a terrible team, so I definitely expect a victory from the Packers here.

Week 3 @ Detroit Lions - LOSS

It's going to be a rough one in Detroit, and another poor start for the Packers.

Week 4 @ Chicago Bears - LOSS

The Packers will lose another, and fans will give up on the season. I'll hit the panic button, even though I predicted this.

Week 5 vs. Minnesota Vikings - WIN

Hopefully the Packers manage to win over the Vikings instead of a tie at home this year.

Week 6 @ Miami Dolphins - WIN

The Dolphins are my surprise team for the year, but I'm going to pick the Packers to pull this one out as WINNERS.

Week 7 vs. Carolina Panthers - WIN

I predict the Panthers to really fall off this season, and for the Packers to defeat them in this one.

Week 8 @ New Orleans Saints - LOSS

The Saints are a tough team. They're really good. Drew Brees will excel with the new rules benefiting passers even more than ever before.

Week 9 - BYE

Week 10 vs. Chicago Bears - WIN

Brett Favre played one of his greatest games at home against Chicago 19 years ago on this weekend, right around my birthday. A win over the Bears would be an awesome 30th birthday.

Week 11 vs. Philadelphia Eagles - WIN

Should be a very tough one, but the Packers will barely pull it out.

Week 12 @ Minnesota Vikings - WIN

The Vikings are in a rebuilding process, which is why I expect the Packers to sweep them.

Week 13 vs. New England Patriots - LOSS

It's the NFL's premier regular-season team. The Patriots put a hurting on the Packers with Tom Brady airing it out.

Week 14 vs. Atlanta Falcons - WIN

The Falcons will not be the horrible failures they were last year. Even so, I predict a win for the Packers here.

Week 15 @ Buffalo Bills - WIN

Bye-bye Bon Jovi.

Week 16 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers - WIN

The Bucs are rebuilding as well. It'll be an important game for the Packers to win, so what better way to revive the "Battle of the Bays" with a big late-season game?

Week 17 vs. Detroit Lions - WIN

The Packers have never lost to the Lions at home in all 19 seasons I've been watching them. That's a 19-0 record - perfection in the NFL. Can the Packers make it 20-for-20? I'm thinking yes, and it clinches the NFC North division title.

Wild-Card vs. Chicago Bears - WIN

The Packers play a rubber match against the Bears, and escape with a close, high-scoring victory.

Divisional @ Philadelphia Eagles - LOSS

The Eagles get revenge for the earlier win by the Packers at Green Bay, and once again the Packers fall in Philly in the playoffs.

So there you have it. The Packers finish 11-5 and win the NFC North division, but don't make it past the divisional round again. It would be a good season, but not a great one. Still, nothing would surprise me at this point.

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.