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My personal blog for covering video games, films, comics, and other media.

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Count_Zero

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 7492 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

Count_Zero

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 7424 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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This time we begin the Legends Expanded Universe as we know it, with the Thrawn Trilogy – Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command – by Timothy Zahn

Opening Credits: Star Wars Theme from Super Star Wars on the SNES.
Closing Credits: Chiptune Cantina Band from Chiptune Inc. – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvJtiGFudFlvYMfjiU1NKJg

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Filed under: Star Wars, videos Tagged: Legends of the Force, Star Wars, Star Wars Expanded Universe, Videos 7160 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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A while back, in the Nintendo Power Retrospectives, I covered Dragon Quest IV for the NES. Prior to that, I had picked up the DS version of the game and had been playing it off and on. Having now beaten the game, I wanted to give my quick thoughts.

Dragon Quest IV, as far as the series goes, comes closest to what we associate with some of the middle Final Fantasy titles (like IV) – a massive party, multiple vehicles that you get access to over the course of the game, each allowing access to different areas of the map, and a much bigger save-the-world plot than the first few titles. On the NES, it was an incredibly ambitious game, both in terms of the scope of the game and the size of the narrative.

For those unfamiliar with the game, the story goes through 5 different chapters, each focusing on an individual character or small party, telling their story and building up the larger narrative, before in the sixth chapter the characters go to form a larger party and go on to take on the main final boss and save the world.

The game itself has some quality of life improvements from the NES game. In addition to a quicksave option, your attacks are retargeted when the enemy you originally intended to attack is slain. The game also has more animated sprites for your opponents – with more expression and detail to their movements than even with the Super Famicom Dragon Quest titles.

That said, there are a few quality of life improvements from later titles that this game could have used, and would have also provided more opportunities to develop the character of your party members. In particular, later games give the opportunity to talk to your party members to get a reminder of where you need to go to proceed in the quest.

Otherwise, the game is a solid Dragon Quest title, and a really good place to come in on the series.

Dragon Quest IV is available for the DS from Amazon.com.


Filed under: Video games Tagged: Dragon Quest, JRPGs, Nintendo DS, Video games 7395 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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So, with some of my reviews, I’ve been adapting them to videos on my YouTube channel. This won’t be one of them, for a large part because wrestling videos tend to get Content ID strikes, and I don’t want to get any more of those.

Anyway, NXT, the WWE’s developmental promotion, has been doing a series of major events in conjunction with the WWE’s big Pay-Per-Views of the year – the Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, Summerslam, and occasionally Survivor Series. In conjunction with this year’s Wrestlemania in Orlando, we got a NXT supercard to go with it. Spoilers below.

Rather than going hold-for-hold in my review, I’m going to give the Highs and Lows for each match.

Eight-Person Mixed Tag: SAnitY (Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, Killian Dain, and Nikki Cross) defeated Tye Dillinger, Kassius Ohno, Ruby Riot and Roderick Strong

The Backstory: Coming into the event, the new stable of SAnitY had been running rampant over NXT, and Tye Dillinger and Ruby Riot put together a group of wrestlers to take them on. The team had originally contained wrestler No Way Jose, but after he was assaulted by SAnitY over Wrestlemania weekend, the faces brought in Kassius Ohno (aka Chris Hero, making his WWE/NXT return).

The High Points: Sanity really looked incredibly strong in this match. Part of that was certainly the booking, but they also were really impressive. Eric Young looks, both in terms of style and performance, night and day from the Eric Young we saw in TNA/Impact wrestling. Also, this match is somewhat hampered by the fact that Tye Dillinger was (as we know now) being brought up to the main roster, so it wouldn’t exactly be good for anyone for him to come out on top.

The Low Points: Ruby Riot and Nikki really don’t show off what they can do. With the exception of a missile dropkick by Ruby off the apron, most of what they do in this match is basically a few decent strikes and rolling around on the mat. Not even chain wrestling. Considering that one of NXT’s high points is their women’s division, and considering that both women are Shimmer alumni, this was particularly disappointing.

Rating: 4/5

Aleister Black defeated Andrade Almas

The Backstory: None.

The High Points: I think Aleister Black is the satanic wrestler I’ve seen who is a Face, while not being overtly supernatural in gimmick. Yeah, there’s the Undertaker, but ‘Taker has the weight of history on his side.

The Low Points: I didn’t feel much in terms of stakes from this match. Black didn’t quite come across as feeling like he was there to make a statement or prove something, or vice-versa, Almas didn’t come across like he was there to put down an upstart. Instead, it felt like there was an open spot on the card, and they needed to fill and decided to take this opportunity to put over a newcomer to the roster. Now, this is fine and all, but you only do four of these events a year, so you might as well take the opportunity to build up the match leading up to this.

Rating: 3/5

Triple Threat Elimination Match for the NXT Tag Team Championship: The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar) (c) (with Paul Ellering) defeated #DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa) and The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder)

The Backstory: #DIY defeated the Revival, the first two-time NXT Tag Team champions, and in turn #DIY was beaten by the Authors of Pain. Both former champions want their belt back, but the Revival in particular also want to beat #DIY.

The High Points: This is a match that definitely tells a story. Between the beef between #DIY and Revival, and between #DIY and their desire to get back the belts, the match really got across the motivations and how they conflicted with each other. Making the match an Elimination match as opposed to a single-fall match helps with this, because the wrestlers have logical reasons to co-operate, but have plenty of motivation not to.

I knew going in that The Revival was getting called up to the main roster (so they certainly wouldn’t be getting the straps), but there was still the possibility that #DIY might get out with the title, but when they didn’t, the match as it played out made it clear that it made sense for them to have gotten beaten. They basically beat themselves by failing to co-operate with The Revival (and vice versa).

The match itself is great, with the three teams putting on a strong show, enough to get one of the two “Fight Forever” chants of the night. Also, “Fight Forever” is probably one of my new favorite wrestling chants – as like “This is Awesome”, it highlights the work that the wrestlers are doing in the ring, and adds the sentiment that the wrestlers work incredibly well together and have strong in-ring chemistry. It’s a chant that, in two words, sends strong positive feedback, and that’s always a good thing to send.

Also, the new NXT Tag Team Championship belt looks really nice.

Low Points: This match, however, this match doesn’t particularly showcase the Authors of Pain very well. They have a very distinctive entrance, basically as the urban-tactical version of the Pitbulls, and having Paul Ellering as their manager definitely draws connections with the Road Warriors. However, considering that they strongly present the image of powerful, barely restrained instruments of violence – having them spend so much of the match on the outside undermines that aspect of them somewhat.

It makes logical sense for Ellering to have them hold back and let #DIY and The Revival beat the crap out of each other, but it would also make sense for Akam or Rezar to break discipline, come into the ring, massacre one member of either team, forcing their opponents to co-operate to drive the AoP back to the outside, before their own issues override their combined opponent and they return to fighting each other.

Rating: 4/5

NXT Women’s Championship Match: Asuka (c) defeated Ember Moon

Backstory: Asuka has not lost a match since she won the title. Not through pinfall, submission, countout, or disqualification. Ember Moon has set her sites on the NXT Women’s title, and she’s going to go through Asuka to get it.

High Points: Again, as with the tag title match, this is one which told a strong story. Asuka had become somewhat complacent with her reign, and wasn’t particularly taking Ember Moon seriously. Over the course of the match, Asuka basically ended up being forced to realize that Ember was an opponent to be reckoned with, and she’d have to cut loose against her.

Low Points: I’m not a fan of the new NXT Women’s title. The old one had a level of bling on it comparable to the main roster’s two main event titles. It really got across that the NXT Women’s title was just as important as the WWE Men’s Main Event titles. The new does have some of that with the shape of the belt (which is shares an outline to some of the old WWE and WCW main event titles), and loses some of the gendered color coding (the pink stones). However, considering the stones on the WWE Championship and the Universal Championship belts, it feels like a step down.

Rating: 4/5

NXT Championship Match: Bobby Roode (c) defeated Shinsuke Nakamura

The Backstory: At the last NXT Takeover event, Roode beat Nakamura for the title, in part by Roode kayfabe injuring Nakamura’s knee, which Nakamura aggravated through his own actions. During that time, Roode has been boasting about making NXT corporate, while Tron fights for the Users Nakamura fights for the fans.

The High Points: Again, great story in this match. Nakamura is coming off of a (kayfabe) injury, and one in his legs which could hamper his most powerful weapon – his kicks (as King of Strong Style) – and Roode could take advantage of that. Thus, Nakamura had to keep Roode off balance and away from the recovering injury. This match got the other “Fight Forever” chant of the night.

One of the problems with Puroresu is the selling, or rather lack thereof, and Nakamura is a wrestler who doesn’t have that problem. He sold the hell out of that knee in this match – from favoring the knee in his movements, to switching his strikes to the uninjured leg.

Also, the new NXT Championship belt looks great – again, borrowing some visual concepts from the Big Gold Belt, while still featuring the NXT iconography.

The Low Points: I… um… don’t have any.

Rating: 5/5 and my match of the night.


Filed under: Recap, Wrestling Tagged: NXT, Wrestling, wrestling review, WWE 7298 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

Count_Zero

So, storyline wise, I wonder what’s going on with Miz and Bray Wyatt? The two times he’s come out to interfere was to protect The Miz, plus taking on Ambrose at Miz’ behest. Wyatt didn’t come for the save against Balor again, though, and when Miz went down in the ring to beat down Ambrose some more, he seemed very wary of Bray, attempting to actively give him a wide berth.

It doesn’t feel like they’re planning to have Miz join the Wyatt family. Considering Bray’s promo he cut before Payback and after the Shakeup, had him talking about his plan for Raw, having Bray be Miz’s enforcer would be an unfortunate step down from that. Also, considering how Miz is making a big thing in his promos about the style of an Intercontinental Champion, having Miz go with the grungy swamp Cthulhu cultist as his gun-for-hire seems like a poor fit (which, admittedly, is nothing new for the WWE).

Other than that, I like the feud they’re building with Sheamus and Cesaro vs. the Hardys, and the promo with Golden Truth (which I read about from Scott Keith as it was cut from the Hulu Replay), hopefully will lead to another storyline with the Tag Division outside of the title hunt.


Filed under: Wrestling, WWF Tagged: Wrestling, WWE, WWE Raw 7734 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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This past weekend the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come out, and I’m giving my thoughts on the film.

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Filed under: film Tagged: film, Film Review, Marvel Cinematic Universe, science fiction 7600 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

Count_Zero

Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series kicked off something of a new renaissance of Urban Fantasy. The genre had existed before – authors such as Emma Bull and Mercedes Lackey had written works in the genre, but what made Harry Dresden distinctive is how well it combined the Urban Fantasy genre with the hard-boiled detective novel. I had previously read Storm Front, and several of the later books, but hadn’t read any further books in a while. So, I figured now was as good a time as any to revisit the series beginning.

For those who are unfamiliar with the plot of the first book, it has Harry Dresden, professional wizard, faced with two seemingly unrelated cases, one laid before him by the police department in his role as an consultant where he has to solve a series of brutal murders, and one related to his job as a wizard and private investigator where he has to find a missing husband. If after hearing the description of those two cases, your first thought is that they’re probably related, then you’ve clearly read hard-boiled detective novels before.

What’s particularly striking, coming back to this book, is how seamlessly Butcher is able to merge the necessary world building that comes with urban fantasy, with the narrative conceits of detective fiction. Butcher takes the reasonable step of combining the criminal and supernatural underworlds, and then runs with it. Female vampires normally depicted as beings of mystery and seduction? Have one running a high-class escort service. That sort of thing.

While I don’t know if Butcher had a bunch of books already plotted out by the time he published Storm Front, the book definitely does and interesting job laying some groundwork for future books, often with quick throwaway lines of dialog – Dresden’s previous master (and their fate), the mention of his “Fairy Godmother” and so on.

As far as faults go, the book runs into some problems with how Murphy is handled. Morgan refusing to listen to Harry makes sense – he’s single minded, and it’s clearly meant to be implied that his understanding of the mundane world isn’t great. However, when Harry withholds information on his client from Murphy because of client privilege, Murphy should understand that. Harry is a licensed private investigator, that’s his job. Yes, it’s an old detective novel trope, but so was having the police take someone in the back room and beat the crap out of them until they talk, and Murphy’s not doing that.

All in all, this is a good self-contained novel, and a good start to the series as a whole. If you haven’t re-read Storm Front in a while, it’s definitely worth checking out. It is currently available in print, in a Kindle edition, and as an audiobook from Amazon.com


Filed under: Books Tagged: book review, Books, Dresden Files, Urban fantasy 7257 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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Shounen fight anime and manga, in the past few decades, has developed a very definite style from Dragonball (and Dragonball Z) on – no matter the tone, the series tend to have a bright color palette for both characters and for the overall visual style of the series. Things might get dark and stormy in bits with narrative and tonal weight, but the colors for the characters themselves will maintain that color. You’re never going to see Naruto, for example, putting on an all black traditional ninja outfit for a really serious or dramatic mission. This gives Soul Eater a visual edge that really makes it stand out from the pack.

The series is based around the Death Weapon-Meister Academy (DWMA), in Death City, run by, well, Death. The students in the academy are made of of “Weapons” – people who can transformed into magical weapons when teamed up with a Meister who their soul can resonate with; and Meisters, who handle the direct combat, and who have their own distinctive special abilities independent of the powers of the Weapons they team with. Teams of Weapons and Meisters are sent on missions to obtain the souls of people who have been corrupted by evil and Madness, and in particular Witches – people who use magical power to spread madness and corruption throughout the world. Obtaining 100 souls and the soul of one Witch will allow a Weapon to graduate and become a Death Scythe – one of the most powerful Weapons out there, and one worthy of being wielded by Lord Death himself.

The show also changes itself up by being a shounen series with a female protagonist. The lead of the show is Maka Albarn, a Meister at the Academy who works hard both in her studying and training. Her Weapon, Soul Eater, is a scythe, who has a more laidback, cool attitude. He also really likes Jazz. Her team-mates couldn’t be bigger polar opposites.

There’s Black*Star, whose personality is functionally identical to that of Naruto from the early seasons of his series (and early volumes of his manga). Black*Star is loud, brash, and incredibly enthusiastic and hyperactive. Continuing with the theme of Weapons being the opposite of their Meisters, Tsubaki is much more restrained, and she tries to keep Black*Star from rushing in to situations that he’s not prepared for. Additionally, Tsubaki is distinct from the other weapons in that she has multiple distinct forms, generally focusing on ninja weapons (Kusarigama, ninjatō, etc.) – which change based on the kind of attack that Black*Star needs to perform, rather than changing form strictly based on the strength of the attack.

Then there is Death the Kid – the son of Death. He is impeccably dressed in a suit and tie, and generally tries to maintain a serious demeanor, which is somewhat undermined by two points. First, he prefers to get around by a skateboard which can turn into a rocket-hover-board. Second, he has an extreme case of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Order, with a particular focus on symmetry. This leads into his Weapons – the Thompson Sisters, Liz and Patty. Their weapon form is a pair of handguns, which can transform into larger cannons depending on the power of the attacks, and which Kid fires upside down (squeezing the triggers with his pinkies).

Not only do the Sisters have very distinctive personalities from Kid, but they also have distinctive personalities from each other. The taller sister, Liz is incredibly laid back, almost to the point of slacking, but is also a major scaredy-cat. Patty, on the (literal) other hand, has a personality much like a little kid – going on nonsensical non-sequiturs, having an tremendous amount of enthusiasm (almost on par with Black*Star’s, but not as directed), and is more easily distracted. Patty is also the shorter of the sisters.

This right away leads into the very distinctive style of the anime – it has a very dark, gothic, and macabre look. Even daytime scenes have a very angular, expressionist edge to them. The sun and moon themselves aren’t immune from this – both are anthropomorphized, not with cutesy, cheerful faces, but with faces which are creepy and which leer at the world below. Character designs involve a lot of dark colors and greys, with some bright colors being limited to the second closing credits sequence. It visually separates the show from every other shonen series (even contemporaries like Fullmetal Alchemist, which are serious and somber, but have a more grounded visual design esthetic).

Also, the series never really gets into the fanservice of other Shounen anime, with Maka in particular never becoming the sort of fanservice figure that, for example, Erza Scarlet in Fairy Tale, or the various female members of the cast in One Piece become over the course of that series as time passes (and bust sizes increase). There is a sum total of one character who really engages in fanservice. Specifically, that is Blair – the Cat who can turn into a human that looks like a witch, who lives with Maka and Soul. She occasionally wanders around the house in a towel, and who occasionally shoves Soul’s head into her cleavage. She appears sporadically in early portions of the show, before she basically drops out of the series in the show’s second half.

The writing of the series in generally is very solid. According to my research, part way through the show’s conclusion, it starts to run out of manga and chooses to write it’s own ending instead of padding the series until the manga finishes or going with a “Read the Manga” ending. Considering how the ending is the executed – without spoiling things – I can roll with that. The ending we get isn’t perfect by any means, and it’s just wanting enough to make me want to read the manga.

Still, part of the appeal of shounen anime is seeing the action of the anime in motion, and the anime pulls that off really well, and in particular seeing this world constructed in color is great and I look forward to reading the story on the printed page.

Soul Eater is available on a Blu-Ray/DVD Combo pack from Amazon.com & from RightStuf.


Filed under: Anime Tagged: Anime, anime review, shonen 7180 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

Count_Zero

Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author for purposes of review.

When I received Aetna Adrift from the author, Erik Wecks, at OryCon last year, I saw that the book was a prequel to another series of books that he’d put out – his Pax Imperium series. Before I accepted the book, I asked if he considered the book to be a decent jumping point to this series. He said it was. I was a little unsure, but I accepted the book anyway. The good news is that the book is. It starts on a rough foot, but once it really gets going, it makes for an enjoyable read.

The book is set at a somewhat unspecified point in the future. Humanity has traveled to the stars and has splintered into a series of various governments. One of these is the Unity Corporation – a totalitarian corporate state, with internal politics that can best be described as literally cut-throat.

Out in the ass end of the Unity is the planet Aetna, an ice planet (similar somewhat to Europa) that is home to a hydrogen mining operation. On that planet is Jack Halloway, who is doing his damndest to stay under the radar, out of the way, and in the process retain a degree of personal independence. In this case he does it by running a small smuggling operation bringing luxury goods into the colony. However, when a Unity executive by the name of Timothy Randall shows up on Aetna with his entourage, and ropes Jack into his plans on pain of death, things start going very bad, very fast, and it takes all of Jack’s craftiness and a lot of luck to get through this alive.

So, Jack Halloway is our viewpoint character, and our lens through which we view society in the Unity. The problem is that life in the Unity is pretty rough and dystopian, some elements of which Jack recognizes as bad, but others he accepts as normal, but I, the reader, see as negative, since I’m an outsider. This is especially the case for women in Unity society, and it clearly comes across that way in the book. However, for most of the book Jack doesn’t notice it, because it’s either not a problem for him, or he’s in a position to benefit from it – and by the time that changes in the book, there’s enough other stuff going on that other matters are pressing concerns, until the very end of the book.

Getting into the positives, Wecks creates an interesting cyberpunk-adjacent world here, a setting that gets into some of the elements of cyberpunk, but with the addition of interstellar travel. Where this gets interesting in particular is that most works of Cyberpunk don’t get much into what life in a corporate state is really like. Wecks gets into that. It’s all the worst parts of real world corporate politics, with a side of Robocop’s corporate politics as well.

Aetna Adrift did get me more interested in checking out some of the rest of the original Pax Imperium series, to see how well those books present the larger universe.

Aetna Adrift is available from Amazon.com in Paperback and Kindle editions.


Filed under: Books Tagged: book review, Books, science fiction 7113 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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