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    An Open Letter to Ellie and Joel

    By Softballchic10

    There are certain games that come along from time to time that really get your attention. It could be for the action, the graphics or game play. However, it is a rare occasion that a game grabs you for all of these, plus the amazing experience of becoming emotionally attached and involved in the actions of characters. It is to this that I write this open letter to Ellie and Joel. I met them in the “The Last of Us.” *(Please note that I've tried to write this to contain no spoilers. Personality of the characters is mentioned as well as reference to generic type actions that happen in game.) Dear Ellie and Joel, I want to thank you for letting me join you on one of the most amazing adventures of my life. I know the journey was long and brutal. There is never a reason a death should be simple or a casual thing. But a person has every right to fight for their own right to live. It is to that I acknowledge and understand why at times death followed in your footsteps. Know that I don't blame you, nor do I condemn you for it. Joel, you said yourself along the way “It was him or me.” Simply stated, but true to fact. We all wish that we could walk again in relative harmony the way we once did. That time may come again, but not now. Not now. Joel, at times you were a hard man for me to like, but you had your own personal reasons, your own demons that you fought every day. But even when I disagreed with your words, your actions always spoke louder and with greater heart. There were moments when you were an enigma to me. You could be harsh and bitter one moment, protective and wise at another. As I think on it, I believe it is because the man that knew a world before everything went to hell is still there inside you, wrestling the man you have had to become to survive. Ellie, you are an amazing young woman. I refuse to acknowledge you as a girl as most people do. Yes, there are times when you were goofy, silly and playful. But those are wonderful traits to carry on, even as you get older. It was refreshing to watch as you, for the first time, saw the world as it used to be, even if it was only in shattered pieces. Your wonder was childlike, not childish, and full of amazement and wonder. I smile now thinking about some of those moments. But that is only part of who you are. You are also fierce, tough, loyal and caring. These traits to me and your actions when times were tough are what shaped you into the young woman I have come to know. You have such strength of character. It didn't matter if it was Hunters, the army or Infected, you always were there, looking out and helping out. You never ran away from danger when you could have given up. Your determination to see every situation though, no matter for good or bad, it is inspiring. We adults could learn so much from you, if we only would accept the fact that sometimes the best of what we are lies in the hearts of people like you, not warped and changed by a world gone sideways. A final thought before I close this letter to both of you. Joel, I know the world as it is now has forced you to build up walls around you. It would be almost impossible to survive as long as you have without such things happening to the best of us. I hope that you find, however, that letting a little light in, be it found in people or in something else that makes you happy, there is still good in the world and the good man that you’ve buried inside you deserves to see and enjoy it. Ellie, I firmly believe that you will never give up. The world may be violent and brutal but its people like you who give us hope that we can be better then what we've become. Whatever happens though, don't ever lose that since of amazement that you get from seeing things for the first time. I hope you always have a joke and a ready smile. Oh, and one more thing. Don't trust people that do acupuncture, they're back stabbers. I know you'll understand. Once again, thank you for letting me come along on your adventure. It wasn't easy and I hate some of the things we had to do. But since we had no choice, I'm glad we went through it together. Godspeed to both of you.
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Book Review: Jedi Search

We’re returning to the Star Wars expanded universe with the beginning of the Jedi Academy Trilogy, with Jedi Search. Author: Kevin J. Anderson.
Publication Date: February, 2014 Jedi Search is available from Amazon.com in paperback or in Kindle formats. Plot Notes In the wake of the Emperor Reborn’s failed attempt to conquer Coruscant and the galaxy, the New Republic is in the midst of repairing the damage and attempting to rebuild the city. During this, Luke Skywalker comes forward to the Republic Council with a request for approval to start a new Jedi Academy. The council votes for approval, and Leia is tasked with finding a world for them to set up shop. Around this time, a construction droid uncovers a hidden Imperial facility that contains portable sensors that can be used to measure a person’s Force Sensitivity. Luke also discovers a way using just the Force to find out of a person is Force-sensitive – by probing a specific portion of a person’s mind, one can tell if the person being probed has the ability to use the force. After some research by R2-D2 puts together a list of possible candidates for Jedi training, Luke and Lando go out to find possible future Jedi. Meanwhile, Han Solo and Chewbacca are traveling to Kessel on a diplomatic mission in the hopes of opening diplomatic relations with the prison planet, on Leia’s request. On arrival, he finds himself shot down and captured by Moruth Doole, a former inmate who has now taken over the planet. Doole, it turns out, was responsible for betraying Solo to the Empire and leading him to dump the shipment of Spice that put him on Jabba’s bad side. Doole sends Solo Luke successfully finds two candidates. The first is Gantoris, from the failed colony world of Eol Sha. His force sensitivity had allowed him to help keep the people of his world alive in the face of the hazards of living on their unstable world. The second was Streen – a gas miner and hermit on Bespin, whose telepathic sensitivity had lead him to a life of isolation. Lando was less successful, only spotting a cheater in the blob races on planet Umgul. On returning to Coruscant, Luke and Lando learn about Han being overdue, and set out to Kessel themselves to investigate. Meanwhile, Han and Chewie engineer their escape, with a young inmate who shows a degree of precognition, named Kyp Durron. During their escape, they learn that Vima Da Boda (from Dark Empire) had spent time there, and had provided Durron some tutelage in the ways of the Force. When Han and company’s escape leads them into the clutches of the Maw, a cluster of Black Holes near Kessel, they discover an Imperial outpost lurking at the core of it – the research outpost where the Death Star and its Superlaser was researched and designed. The outpost, commanded by Admiral Daala, the only woman to reach flag rank in the Imperial Navy, has been incommunicado since before the Battle of Endor, and whose existence was apparently only known to Tarkin himself. Further, they learn that the outpost was not only responsible for the design of the Death Star and it’s super laser, but also the World Devastators from Dark Empire, and they have a new weapon that has approached completion – the Sun Crusher, a ship that is impervious to any weapon, and which can cause stars to go supernova. Back on Coruscant, Leia ends up organizing and hosting a visit of the Imperial governor of Carida, the world that plays host to the Imperial Academy. Carida rebuffs the New Republic as rebels, and even goes so far as to throw a drink into Mon Mothma’s face. On Kessel, Lando and Luke arrive, and posing as investors, take a tour of the facility. Finding the Falcon among the outpost’s fleet, and discovering that Han and Chewie are absent, the two steal it back. Meanwhile, at the Maw, Han has persuaded one of the alien scientists at the facility, Qwi Xux, that the technology she has been designing has been for weapons of mass destruction. She agrees to spring Han, Chewie, and Kyp, and for the four of them to steal the Sun Crusher and escape. Han and company manage to emerge from the Maw and almost run into Luke and Lando in the Falcon, and the two groups return to Coruscant, while Doole and Daala slug it out. Returning to Coruscant, they learn that Leia has selected a world for Luke’s Jedi Academy – Yavin IV – the outpost from where the attack that destroyed the Death Star was launched. It’s quiet and out of the way… what could possibly go wrong? Worldbuilding The Nightsisters of Dathomir are mentioned here for the first time – they will have a proper appearance in The Courtship of Princess Leia, which was published a few months later. We learn that there are different kinds of spice – Glitterstim, which must be mined in total darkness, and which has effects similar to the Spice from Dune, and Ryll spice, which can be found on more worlds, and which we learn later is used in the production of Bacta. Our first actual visit to Kessel. Ssi-Ruuk territory is still unmapped, and the Republic has had no further major dealings with them, peaceful or otherwise. The Imperial Academy now has a world – Carida. We learn where the Death Star was designed – the Maw installation, with the project sponsored by Grand Moff Tarkin. This would be heavily retconned in the New Expanded Universe, as we see in Rogue One. Bevel Leminsk is first mentioned as the lead designer of the Death Star. Characterization Luke Skywalker: Is moving forward with his plan to build a Jedi Academy. Is somewhat apprehensive (due to what happened with Obi-Wan and Anakin), but knows this needs to be done. Leia Organa-Solo: Has not had regular contact with her kids for 2 years, as they’ve been raised off Coruscant, and she now gets to live with them for the first time. This is in turn rather negatively affecting her diplomatic patience. Han Solo: Used to have a business relationship with Moruth Doole – which ended when Doole betrayed Solo over the spice shipment that lead to the events of A New Hope. Kyp Durron: Was raised in the tunnels of Kessel, and having briefly gotten some training in the Force from Vima Da Boda. Is very powerful in the force. Gantoris: Protector of the people of Eol Sha, and was very reluctant to leave. Has had a precient dream that a dark man would offer to teach him great power, and then would destroy him. Streen: Gas miner from Bespin. His telepathic sensitivity can allow him to, unwillingly, pick up ambient thoughts from people miles away. Grand Moff Tarkin: Mastermind of the Death Star Project, as a means of using Fear to impose the will of the Empire and to quell any rebellion. Was romantically involved with Daala. Admiral Daala: First woman to reach the rank of Admiral in the Imperial Navy, a significant feat as the Empire (in addition to being Xenophobic had some significant institutional sexism). Tricked Tarkin into recognizing her talents by posting tactical papers under a pseudonym. Tarkin picked her to lead the Maw Installation. Has been unaware of the state of Galactic politics for the past 11 years. Winter: Moved to full-time nanny and caretaker for Leia and Han’s twins, to the point that they think of her as their surrogate mother. Jaina & Jacen Solo: Have moved to Coruscant again, and have not seen their parents on a regular basis for several years. Other Notes This is basically the point where the Star Wars Expanded Universe kicks straight into high gear. Over the course of this year we’re going to get a bunch of Star Wars novels, with stand-alone books becoming intermingled with the Jedi Academy, along with several more comics series. The size of the expanded universe hasn’t gotten so big that we need a dedicated office – the Keeper of the Holocron, to keep track of everything, but you can see already how we get there from here. Final Thoughts The Jedi Academy Trilogy gets a bad rap, for several reasons, but as far as the first book is concerned, it’s got some good moments. Luke and some of his other friends traveling the Galaxy, looking for candidates for the Academy, is a really strong concept for a book. Similarly, Han and Chewie getting stuck on Kessel, having to engineer a jail break, and escaping with the help of a Force-sensitive prisoner who will become a recurring character in the trilogy is also a really strong concept. I also like how Anderson writes the banality of evil. Moruth Doole is a gangster out to make some quick bucks, and he doesn’t worry too much about who gets burned in the process. Consequently, Doole’s downfall is entirely the fault of his own greed – he shoots down the Falcon because he wants to take down Solo once and for all, without considering the current state of the Galaxy (and politics). When he discovers that Solo is there in a diplomatic mission, Doole doesn’t think about how Solo is married to one of the most politically powerful people in the New Republic – he tries to think of ways to cover up the attack by shoving Solo into the mines and hoping he gets killed by a monster. When Solo escapes, he desperately tries to shoot him down because he assumes that killing Solo will prevent a Republic fleet from coming down on him like the wrath of an angry God. It’s just the right kind of banal corporate evil lack of foresight. In the 90s, I remember reading people saying that this seemed unrealistic and stupid, because no one would be that dumb when it came to making a buck. The current state of the economy and corporate America, and possibly President Donald Trump, actually makes that element of the plot feel weirdly precient. Because of how the publication calendar comes up, the next work I’ll be covering will be the Star Wars: Droids comic from Dark Horse.
Filed under: Books, Star Wars Tagged: book review, Books, Star Wars, Star Wars Expanded Universe

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Comic Review: The Shadow – Shadows & Light

A little bit ago I reviewed DC Comics revival of The Shadow, written and drawn by Howard Chaykin. This time I’m taking a look at the follow-up to the first sequel arc to that series. The story picks up not long after Chaykin’s miniseries, with The Shadow and his new network of agents following up on one of the murders from Chaykin’s miniseries, along with a series of mysterious spree killings in New York. The killings are traced to a corporation that turns out to be run by Shiwan Kahn. The Shadow immediately suspects that Kahn is up to something, considering that Kahn is his greatest enemy (keeping in mind that this comic still pre-dates the release of the film starring Alec Baldwin). It turns out that The Shadow is, in fact correct, and Kahn is up to something – particularly launching a mind-control satellite, but not to take over the world. With the rise of Maoist China, Kahn had adopted Taiwan as his new country, and he had come to resent the west throwing Taiwan under the bus in favor of closer ties to mainland China. His plan was to force world leaders to reject mainland China and throw their support behind Taiwan. However – another enemy of The Shadow and a rival of Kahn, Albert Renn, who I’m honestly not sure where he’s from – but the comic assumes you know who he is – resents a foreigner gaining so much political power, and is planning to turn Kahn’s plan against him and to take control of his orbital mind control ray. Through all of this, a religious zealot known as Reverend Light is also planning to take control of the world through his evangelical cult, and when he learns about Kahn’s plan, he also seeks to take Kahn’s Mind Control technology for himself. And this all happens over six issues. There’s an annual which provides Light’s backstory, but honestly it doesn’t come up at all over the course of this story – getting more or less lost in the shuffle. Frankly, narratively, these books are incredibly dense – trying to cram these three plots, and all the characters that go with them, over 6 issues. Ultimately, a lot of character development is lost over the course in the mix. There are some strong points here. Many of the issues that the earlier series by Chaykin had with female characters have been fixed in this book’s story. The female characters have more agency, and play more of an active role in the book’s story. In Chaykin’s story, Mavis (Harry Vincent’s daughter), basically goes from getting annoyed with The Shadow’s attitude towards women, to being turned on by it, to being seen getting dressed after having sex with Kent Allard within the span of a handful of panels. Here, her relationship with Allard is strictly professional. This is helped by the art by Bill Sienkiewicz. Sienkiewicz’s style, frankly, doesn’t really ever make anything sexy. Sienkiewicz, as an artist, recognizes that not everyone is sexy, and not everything needs to sexy and indeed, some things should not be sexy (as Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men discussed in their episode on the Demon Bear Saga). Still, the story is just too packed full of stuff – like writer Andrew Helfer had so many things he wanted to do in his time on the comic, but had too little time to do it in. By comparison, Watchmen was still ongoing when this book came out, and while it had a significant amount of narrative breadth, it was also paced well enough that you had enough time to take it all in. The same is true with what had gone on over at Marvel with Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men, and Walter Simonson’s run on Thor. Here, the comic has the same problem with pacing that Chaykin had – 20 pounds of story in a 15 pound bag. If you’re interested in picking this comic up, it’s been reprinted by Dynamite under the title of “The Shadow Masters Series”, and this arc is collected in volume 1. It’s available in digital and physical editions from Amazon.com. As with the earlier story, the digital edition is also readable in the Comixology app.
Filed under: comics Tagged: comics, DC Comics, The Shadow

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Concert (Vlog) Review: A New World – Final Fantasy

The Final Fantasy Distant Worlds Concert series has a satellite series – A New World, with chamber music versions of Final Fantasy music. They came to PDX, and I have some thoughts on the concert. Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
Member of The Console Xplosion Network: http://www.theconsolexplosion.com/
Watch my Live-Streams on http://twitch.tv/countzeroor/
Filed under: Video games, videos Tagged: classical music, concert, video, Video games

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Anime Review: Hayate the Combat Butler – Cuties

Well, the time has come to talk about the most recent Hayate the Combat Butler TV series, and potentially the last series to come out, for reasons which I’ll get into, but also a series that is something of a return to form for the franchise’s anime incarnations. As the title suggests, Hayate the Combat Butler: Cuties puts the focus somewhat on the women in Hayate’s life. For most of the series, with the exception of the last couple episodes, each individual episode focuses on a particular female character or characters and their relationship with Hayate, with some episodes doubling up on the female characters. Each episode is generally episodic, with some occasional callbacks to earlier episodes. The cast doesn’t have much in terms of new characters. The sole exception is Alice, the reincarnation of Athena, a woman who Hayate had met and fallen for as a child in a flashback chapter. She doesn’t particularly get much character development here, unfortunately. As with the previous season, the assumption is that you’re actively reading the manga, and have read enough of it to know who this character is and what their story is. The rest of the cast is fleshed out better, with perhaps the stand-out episodes being about Hinagiku and Chiharu Harukaze. That said, I can’t talk about this series without bringing up the elephant in the room. Of the previous series, this series has a reduced role for Isumi, particularly considering that the series focus on each of the female characters in turn. Considering the health issues that her voice actress, Miyu Matsuki, was experiencing, this may have been a deliberate choice, to ease down the character’s presence instead of recasting the character. With Matsuki’s death and the conclusion of the anime, it really makes me wonder if you’re getting any further Hayate anime series. Certainly a new anime series could help sell tankobon, but it would also entail recasting a beloved character, which is rough. I did really enjoy the show, and I really liked the return to the episodic, comedic focus, but it also brought into harsh relief that this is likely going to get the last animated Hayate we’re going to get for a long time, if we get any more at all. Hayate the Combat Butler: Cuties is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Amazon (Blu-Ray, DVD), and RightStuf (Blu-Ray, DVD)
Filed under: Anime Tagged: Anime, anime review, Hayate the Combat Butler

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Anime Review: Hayate the Combat Butler – I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You

Hayate the Combat Butler, as a manga, recently came to an end, and I have two Hayate Series that I haven’t reviewed yet (though I have previously done a video review of Seasons 1 & 2). It’s time to cover those bases and finish off the other Hayate series. Hayate the Combat Butler: I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You is something of a break from the norm from the first two seasons, in that the series is considerably more serialized than the first two series – or for that matter the series that came after. The show is set past where I am in the manga, where the previous series ended, and indeed where the manga was at the time the series aired. During that intervening time Nagi had lost her fortune, started a boarding house where the rest of the female cast moved in, and then got her fortune back and then moved back to one of the mansions with Hayate and Maria while also maintaining the apartments and frequently going back to visit. Also, the idol Ruka had already been introduced prior to this, though narratively she doesn’t play much of a role in the series. The series itself is also notable as while it is a sort of “gaiden” series, it actually does some serious (as much as anything in Hayate is serious) expansion of the backstory, in particular for Nagi.  We learn how her father and mother met, and what happened to her father (her mother’s fate was already known). The plot also gets into some of the more fantastical sides of things. In particular, the plot focuses on a magical artifact known as the Black Camellia, with a chunk of the mystery being what it is and what it can do. This doesn’t mean the usual manic comedy that you expect from Hayate is absent. In addition to some set pieces that are both amusing and exciting (like Yukiji stealing from some crooks planning a casino heist because she wants the money to drink some really nice booze). Several chapters from the manga also get adapted in a way that fits in nicely with the rest of the series. Of particular note is the adaptation of the chapter of the manga where Hayate finds himself trapped in a restaurant with Yukiji, Sister Sonia, and an armed bank robber – as Hayate tries to keep Yukiji and Sonia from dine-and-dashing. The show still has a few little issues. For starters, the series operates has almost the reverse of the “Read the Manga” problem. Instead of having an ending which encourages the reader to keep reading the manga to get the conclusion of the story, we have a manga that operates from the assumption that you’ve been actively reading the manga. On the one hand, the manga is running in Shonen Sunday, the main competitor to Shonen Jump, and the magazine that Detective Conan is running in. So, a lot of people were likely to be reading this magazine. However, if you’ve primarily been following the show with the anime, you are going to come into this somewhat lost. Even more, it makes for a terrible jumping on point for the franchise, so those familiar with the original series should check out seasons 1 and 2 instead. Hayate the Combat Butler: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You is available from on DVD and Blu-Ray from Amazon.com (DVD, Blu-Ray) and RightStuf (DVD, Blu-Ray)
Filed under: Anime Tagged: Anime, anime review, Hayate the Combat Butler

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Nintendo Power Retrospectives: Part 67

This time we’re covering issue #50 of Nintendo Power for July of 1993 “Link’s Awakening” Gameplay Footage by TheRagnarokSeeker Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
Member of The Console Xplosion Network: http://www.theconsolexplosion.com/
Watch my Live-Streams on http://twitch.tv/countzeroor/ Games Reviewed: WWF Royal Rumble – LJN Run Saber – Atlus EVO: The Search for Eden – Enix Mario is Missing – Software Toolworks Bubsy – Accolade Link’s Awakening – Nintendo Gargoyle’s Quest II – Capcom T2: The Arcade Game (GB) – LJN Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt (NES) – Ocean Mighty Final Fight – Capcom Bubble Bobble Part II (NES) – Taito
Filed under: Video games Tagged: Game Boy, Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo Power, Nintendo Power Retrospectives, SNES, video game magazines, Video games

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Wrestling Review: NXT Takeover – Chicago

Last weekend was the latest NXT Takeover event, NXT Takeover: Chicago, and I have a few thoughts on the event. As with my review of the Orlando event, I’ll be giving the Highs and Lows of each match. Roderick Strong defeated Eric Young (w/ Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dain) Backstory: Coming into the event, Strong was attacked by SAnitY, and demanded a match at Takeover from William Regal. He got it. High Points: Strong had a good showing coming into this, both in terms of how he took on Young directly, and how he managed the two other opponents on the outside. The move that finished off the match (which was described as a “Double Knee Release Suplex Back Breaker”) was incredibly impressive. Low Points: SAnitY is 1-1 for the Takeover events that I’ve watched, and they haven’t really had any lasting feuds, aside from the Tye Dillinger feud that basically wrapped up on the NXT after the last Takeover. This was a conclusive ending to a feud that was barely a week long. Also, having SAnitY lose in what was basically a 3-on-1 match didn’t help. Rating: 4/5 WWE United Kingdom Championship Match: Tyler Bates vs. Pete Dunne Backstory: This is a rematch from the final of the WWE UK Championship tournament. High Points: Very strong technical wrestling in this match. Nice subtitle heel work by Dunne with some of the finger and joint work. Similarly, Dunne had some excellent suplexes and slams in this match. Also, it was really great to hear JR back at the announce table again. This match got our first “Fight Forever”, and “Holy S***” chant of the night. Low Points: With the level of the match here, this should have been higher on the card. Also, Dunne’s holding-the-belt-in-your-teeth thing looks stupid. Rating: 5/5. The Tag match later in the night was great, but this was just a fantastic match. NXT Women’s Championship Match: Asuka (c) defeated Nikki Cross & Ruby Riot Backstory: During a Women’s Battle Royale to determine the #1 Contender for the NXT Women’s Championship, Asuka assaulted the last 3 women standing – Ember Moon, Nikki Cross, and Ruby Riot, injuring Moon and taking her out of competition. In reaction to this, NXT General Manager William Regal made the Women’s Championship match at Takeover a Triple Threat match. Outside of that, Ruby Riot has been feuding with SAnitY, and Nikki Cross in particular. Coming into this match, Asuka has held the NXT title for just about as long as Trish Stratus did for her longest reign. If the title is not defended on TV before the next Takeover, she will be the longest reigning woman’s champion in WWE history outside of The Fabulous Moolah. High Points: Ruby Riot really shows that she takes her opponents very seriously – slamming the breaks on her audience hype the moment that Nikki Cross’s music hits, and she never takes her eyes off her, and only take her attention off of Cross once Asuka’s music hits. Riot comes out of this match looking strong. Nikki Cross shows a lot of shades of Dean Ambrose here, in a good way. Low Points: Had Ember Moon not been involved, or had she been involved and been able to take part in the match, I could see Cross or Riot taking the title to add the weight of the belt to their feud. As it stands, my suspicion going in was that Asuka was going to retain, with the Asuka vs. Moon rematch happening at the next Takeover, and Cross and Riot continuing their feud outside of the title hunt. Having Asuka pin Riot and Cross simultaneously doesn’t help either one. Rating: 4/5.
NXT Championship Match: Bobby Roode (c) defeats Hideo Itami Backstory: Itami debuted 2 years ago and has been seeking the NXT championship belt, but has been wracked by injuries keeping him from competing for the belt, including missing Shinsuke Nakamura’s run in NXT – finally, after becoming sick of champion Bobby Roode’s arrogance, he made Roode his first target after returning to the ring. High Points: Itami definitely has latched on to the WWE style,  with a great spot where he straight up does a taunt-theft on Roode. Also, great narrative storytelling, with Itami working Roode’s shoulder to prevent him from hitting the Glorious DDT (and when he does land it he can’t land it properly), and then Itami missing a move (kayfabe) hurting his leg making it harder to hit the GTS (and when he does land it, it’s not a clean hit so Roode rolls outside the ring, requiring Itami to bring him back in the ring, meaning he can’t pin him right away). Low Points: Considering how long Itami was out of action, it’s kinda bummer that he didn’t win. I’m hoping this isn’t the end of his title hunt, and we get a rematch at an upcoming Takeover. The finish isn’t great either – with Roode landing two straight Glorious DDTs in spite of his hurt shoulder. It would have been nice if Roode had to bust out an one of his older finishers to take down Itami. Rating: 4/5 Ladder Match for NXT Tag Team Championship: The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar w/ Paul Ellering) (c) defeated #DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa) The Backstory: This is a rematch for #DIY from the last NXT Takeover, with the team wanting a one-on-one shot against the Authors of Pain, and General Manager William Regal made this the first Tag Team Ladder Match in NXT. High Point: I appreciate the match having both “regular” ladders and what I’ve come to refer to as the “Jeff Hardy Ladder” – a ladder of sufficient height that when erected outside the ring, it stands at the same height as a regular ladder inside the ring. Also, we have some really nice spots – such as Ciampa threading the needle on the Jeff Hardy ladder for a through the ropes dive. Also, a great job setting up that the lighter and more spry Gargano and Ciampa are more familiar with ladder matches and the high-risk moves that come with them, while the Authors of Pain, with their larger weight, are at something of a disadvantage when it comes to climbing the ladder. However, the Authors of Pain are quite capable to dish out punishment with ladders. Oh, and then there’s the “DIY putting the Authors of Pain through ladders” Spot that gets a “Please Don’t Die” chant, followed by our second “Holy s***” chant of the night – followed by the second “Fight Forever” chant. Also, I also like when you have a face and heel alternating punches and the fans chanting “Yay” and “Boo” based on who throws the punch. Props to the Authors of Pain checking on Ellering after he gets super-kicked – you don’t see that level of concern by wrestlers for their managers that often – and in turn the AoP getting more vengeful in response. Same with Gargano sacrificing himself to save Ciampa. Low Points: “Co-ladder-al damage”? Really, Nigel? Really? You go sit in the corner and you think about what you’ve done. AoP’s recovery after getting put through several ladders (and getting a ladder-augmented Man-in-the-Middle) allowing them to hit a Super Collider and the win seemed rather sudden. Rating: 5/5 After the match, #DIY is applauded in the middle of the ring, and then at the Titantron, Ciampa assaults Gargano, beating the crap out of him before putting him through some tables. This is shades of Michaels super-kicking Marty Janetty through the window of the Barber Shop set, except there hasn’t been anything to foreshadow this – no arguments or anything like that prior to the assault, no miscommunications during the match, and Gargano sacrificing himself to save Ciampa. This certainly sets up Ciampa as a major heel, but it feels more like a Russo-esque shocking swerve than anything else. To the credit of the fans, Ciampa gets “F*** You, Ciampa” and “Asshole” chants in response.
Filed under: Wrestling Tagged: NXT, Wrestling, WWE

Count_Zero

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Anime Review: Bodacious Space Pirates – Abyss of Hyperspace

Bodacious Space Pirates was a show, back from 2012, which was a fantastic anime series, which had all the fun of old-school Juvenile SF, but without the problematic elements that those works often run into (and the problematic elements from some contemporary SF). However, the end of the series left me hoping for more, and in 2014, a film sequel to the series came out, subtitled Abyss of Hyperspace, with US release coming later in 2016. At long last, I’ve finally had a chance to watch it, so it’s time to give my thoughts. The film is set a somewhat unspecified time after the events of the series. Times have gotten tough all over for our protagonists. The hyperspace routes are becoming more difficult to navigate, hurting freight and passenger liner business – and in turn hurting the business of privateers like the Bentenmaru, and freight services like former Sailing Club member Jenny Doolittle’s freight line. Just to add insult to injury, a major restaurant chain is reducing the business of the independent restaurant where protagonist Marika Kato works as a part-time job. In the middle of all of this comes Kanata Mugen, a young man on the run from a mysterious group of people who are seeking the inheritance he received from his now deceased father. He ends up on board the Bentenmaru, with Marika promising to provide protection, and to help him figure out the mystery of his inheritance. Now, I will admit that I watched this film on a computer screen, which is not the ideal way to watch this film. That said, the film looks good. The animation is nice, though admittedly didn’t seem much different from the animation from the television series. That said, that’s not really a strike against it, as the original show looked nice, with some interesting character and mechanical designs. The original series generally avoided fanservice, and this show pretty much does the same. The spacesuits use a design comparable to Dava Newman’s BioSuit, though the BioSuit was unveiled in 2012, after the release of Bodacious Space Pirates, but similar concepts have been in the works for a while. Unfortunately, one of the film’s antagonists has a spacesuit with defined boob armor, which is unfortunate (boob armor, aside from the rather sexualization, is not actually practical as it guides any physical attack towards the person’s heart). In terms of characterization, the film does a pretty good job of bringing most of the original show’s cast back for the film. They all have some stuff to contribute to the story, but some are used better than others. Probably the most disappointing aspect to the story is related to how Marika’s mother, Ririka, and Marika’s friend and fellow captain (or future captain) Chiaki, are incorporated into the story. They are both tremendously under-used, especially considering how the events in the film relate to Ririka, and how in the show Chiaki served as Marika’s foil (often described as the Spock to Marika’s Kirk). I did enjoy the film, but it didn’t really feel like a satisfactory send-off to the characters and to the universe, instead leaving me still hungry for another season of the show. As far as whether you should see if – if you saw the series and liked it, it’s certainly worth watching. However, if you haven’t seen the show, watch that first, as this film is certainly not a good jumping on point. The film is available from Amazon & Rightstuf on DVD (Amazon, RightStuf), and Blu-Ray (Amazon, RightStuf)
Filed under: Anime Tagged: Anime, anime review, film, Film Review, science fiction

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Vlog: Why Net Neutrality is Important

I’m getting a little political this week with a call to action on Net Neutrality, with some arguements you can give to your Senators, your Representative, and the FCC. Send your comments to the FCC (when they’re open for comment again) through https://www.gofccyourself.com/
Find your Representative at http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
Find your Senators at https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
John Oliver’s most recent thoughts on Net Neutrality can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qI5y-_sqJT0&feature=youtu.be Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
Member of The Console Xplosion Network: http://www.theconsolexplosion.com/
Watch my Live-Streams on http://twitch.tv/countzeroor/
Filed under: News Tagged: net neutrality, vlog

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Movie Review: Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards

Wizards is what I’d describe as the first film in Ralph Bakshi’s trilogy of fantasy epics – this film, Fire and Ice (which I previously reviewed at Bureau42), and Lord of the Rings (which roughly adapted The Fellowship of the Rings and The Two Towers). The later films are certainly superior works, but the three films together definitely show a development of Bakshi’s craft when it comes to epic fantasy. However, what about his first big fantasy film? Wizards is a film with some very real problems with tonal whiplash. The story is set after a nuclear apocalypse has wiped out most of humanity and caused the emergence of a variety of magical creatures. In this world, twin brothers are born – Avatar and Blackwolf – and they both grow up to become powerful wizards. Avatar specializes in healing the land and light magic, while Blackwolf specializes in dark magic. The two are ultimately driven to fight, and Blackwolf is driven from the land. He settles in the land of Scorch (which is excatly as hospitable as you’d expect from the name), and over the years he has raised armies of orcs, er, mutants to attack the lands of the free elves and conquer them, and has repeatedly been defeated. This time he’s discovered a “Dream Machine” (a film projector showing old Nazi propaganda films), which emboldens his troops and allows them, combined with their advanced technology, to seriously push into Elven territory, leaving only destruction in their wake. Avatar and a small band of heroes have to go into Scorch to defeat Blackwolf once and for all. If this sounds like Generic Fantasy Epic #1, you aren’t too far off. The “Nuclear War returns the Magic” bit came up a lot in fantasy literature from the time, and the rest is pretty close to The Lord of the Rings, except if Gandalf was the lead instead of Frodo & Sam, Aragorn, and Merry & Pippin each being co-leads of their relevant parts of the story. That part of the film is almost executed fairly well, with the challenges Avatar and his band face being generally interesting, and the incursion of Blackwolf’s men having some very somber moments to it. And then the tonal whiplash comes in. Some bits of the film attempt to provide levity through dark comedy, which would generally fit with the rest of the film, except the execution doesn’t quite work. The comedy is done in a way to make the Mutants seem like punch-lock villains, except it also highlights their cruelty. For example, when two Elven priests stall the mutants for 5 hours while waiting for their capitulation, they tell the troops to try “Plan A” (machine gun all the prisoners), followed by Plan B (blow up the temple with the priests – and the person giving the order for Plan B) inside. However, the other part of this comedy really doesn’t work – with bits falling into straight up zany, Looney Tunes levels slapstick. This is highlighted by some of the character designs. Many of the elves, especially older elves and most of the female cast, feels like they were designed by Robert Crumb, particularly Avatar himself (who looks like the guy from the Keep on Truckin’ drawing), and the other female lead, Elsinore. Elinore’s character design in particular has some of the issues with how Crumb draws women – with revealing outfits large breasts and perpetually erect nipples that are visible through her top. The film’s other characters have a more stylized-yet-serious design, reminding me a lot of Wendy Pini’s art for Elfquest (which started publication a year later), to the point that I checked to see if she worked on this film – if she did, it was under a pseudonym, and IMDB doesn’t know what that pseudonym is. The film has a few other structural problems. A lot of information in the film is told through big dumps of exposition done over still images. The art looks alright, but it’s a very slow way to tell a story. Also, like many of Bakshi’s other films, this movie uses a lot of rotoscoping, in this case of stock footage over other films, with the original footage transformed into silhouettes, with touch-up done to make the original footage look monstrous. The problem is that in this film, unlike in Fire and Ice, it’s painfully clear that the movie is adapting footage from other films, and in some cases taking World War II footage of Nazi soldiers and tanks and simply adding horns to them. The worst example is, however, one piece of footage where some of Blackwolf’s troops are represented by rotoscoped footage of Zulu warriors from the film Zulu – an act which has unfortunate implications to say the least. I’m not saying that Bakshi was intentionally being racist, but the choice was rather tone-deaf and could have been thought through better. Is the film good? It definitely has it’s moments, enough to make it worth a watch, but it’s not something I’d feel compelled to have in my collection. Wizards is currently available from Amazon.com on Instant, Blu-Ray, and DVD.
Filed under: film Tagged: animation, film, Film Review, Ralph Bakshi

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Comic Review: The Shadow – Blood and Judgement

I’m something of a fan of The Shadow, both in terms of the radio plays, and in terms of the pulp character. The feature film starring Alec Baldwin holds a special place in my heart for how it combines the two very different versions of the character into one with some success. So, when I ended up having to find a new comic shop after my old one (Ancient Wonders in Tualatin – which was also my FLGS) closed, I found myself in need of a new comic shop. When I found my new one (Comics Adventure in Gladstone)  I ended up checking out the quarter bins in the back, and finding almost all of Howard Chaykin’s 4-issue The Shadow miniseries – Blood and Judgement. I picked that up, and found the first issue on Comixology. Having read it, it’s time to give my thoughts. As a book, this is kind of rough. This isn’t due to Chaykin’s art. Chaykin’s style fits with what I expect for the 1980s in comics, especially considering that this book is literally contemporaneous with The Dark Knight Returns (no, really, issue #2 came out the same week as DKR #1). Chaykin’s art absolutely evokes the era where the book is set – the 1980’s – perfectly. Where things fall apart is the writing. It is clear, from the book, that Chaykin is extremely well versed in Walter Gibson’s The Shadow novels. His version of The Shadow is actually Kent Allard, disaffected soldier who drifted into China after the conclusion of World War I… and this is pretty much where things fall apart. In this version of the story, Allard is hired by wealthy playboy turned drug kingpin Lamont Cranston to take a plane to what turns out to be Shambhala, which is pretty much what you’d expect it to be if you’d read a synopsis of Lost Horizon. Allard thwarts Cranston’s plans – sending him into a ravine where he is presumed to have died. Allard is trained in the mystic arts by the people who run Shambhala, and sent out into the world to be their agent, where he assumed Cranston’s identity and had the adventures that we saw in the books. Cut to the present day. The Shadow appears to have disappeared. His former agents, like Margo Lane, Harry Vincent, Moe Shrevnitz, Jericho Druke, and others, have retired – when someone starts picking them off. Allard emerges, unaging, from Shambhala, with two sons from a woman he met there, and a flying car – and sets out to find the mastermind responsible. It turns out to be Cranston, still alive, who has become a vice kingpin (again), and who has a test-tube son who is meant to be physically perfect, so that Cranston can force Allard to take him back to Shambhala and put his brain into his son’s body. And if he won’t, he’ll nuke New York. So, here’s the thing. In the books – Cranston was one of Allard’s agents. Allard would assume Cranston’s identity when working in public (among other identities), while the real Cranston was being conspicuous elsewhere to spread confusion among The Shadow’s enemies. In some cases, Cranston and Allard would directly work together. Also, the women in this story are horribly written. We have three significant female characters. There’s Cranston’s moll, who basically acts like you’d expect a Gangster’s moll to act, except since this is the ’80s, we can talk openly about sex, so she’s clear that she’s having a lot of sex with both Cranston and his genetic specimen of a son. As soon as Allard kills Cranston, she basically mentally disintegrates. There’s Harry Vincent’s daughter, who is a federal agent, who puts together that someone is targeting The Shadow’s agents, and who immediately goes to find Margo Lane and her father to put them into protective custody. However, as soon as Allard shows up, she briefly complains about how Allard treats women, before deciding that she really wants to get in his pants, and the very next page after this realization, she’s in The Sanctum putting her underwear back on while Allard is lounging in a bathrobe. Finally, there’s Margo Lane. She’s justifiably upset with Allard, the man she loved, abandoning her with no word on where he’s going, and feeling like she was just used for sex and abandoned. She goes off on a spectacular, completely justified rant over his behavior, and Allard’s response is that he thinks women should know their place. This leads me to my other problem. Yes, Allard is a person whose attitudes are out of time, who has been in Shambhala since the 1950s, apparently unaging. However, Allard, in the novels from which this comic clearly takes inspiration, which Chaykin clearly has read, treats the women who are his agents with considerably more respect than he does here. Even considering the limitations of what you could or could not get away with in the pulps, Allard didn’t treat his agents like sex objects, and the women who were his field agents were field agents because they had the skills for what the missions required. I don’t know if the 1980s managed to be more misogynist than the 1930s and 40s, but going from how Chaykin writes female characters in the story, it sure feels like it. Other than that, the conclusion of the story feels very rushed. The first issue of the story is entirely focused on The Shadow’s agents being hunted. The second issue gives us Allard’s backstory, and the reveal that the antagonist is actually Cranston. However, the remainder of the conflict is limited to two issues. It really makes it feel like Cranston’s plan isn’t as thought out as it clearly is, because if it was, it would have taken a little longer for The Shadow to take it apart. Just one more issue would have been perfect. There are some good moments here, though – like Allard taking on the cover identity as the lead singer of a punk band (complete with performing on stage) to go after one of Cranston’s agents, and the final confrontation, with Allard’s surviving original agents – Margo and Vincent, and his new agents, working together to bring down Cranston – is nicely done. I just wish the rest of the comic was better. If you want to pick this up, the comic has been reprinted in a trade by Dynamite Comics (who currently has the license for The Shadow), and it’s available through Amazon.com in Physical and Kindle editions (with the Kindle edition also being readable through the Comixology app).
Filed under: comics Tagged: comics, DC Comics, The Shadow

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