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  • Princess Precure episode 49 feels just a bit hurried, and moreover it feels a bit disappointingly conventional.

    Utawarerumono episode 16 is a bit disappointing because, depending upon how the viewer chooses to interpret it, the episode just confirms that Haku really is as shallow and self-absorbed as he's superficially seemed to be since the series' beginning.

    In Gundam Orphans episodes 7-9 I like the interesting plot development of Tekkadan joining a sort of galactic yakuza family in episode 9, but the episode also emphasizes the weakness of Kudelia's character and story. She's supposed to be a pivotal political figure, yet she seems to know very little about the political implications of her efforts. And for such a major political figure, it's very odd that she can disappear from the public eye for weeks on end.

    As a result of some luck & some hunting, I managed to acquire the six-issue Strange Talent of Luther Strode comic series for about ten bucks. Since I read the second series then what’s available of the current third series before reading the first series, it’s interesting to see how Justin Jordan’s writing has evolved over the series. The scripting was never bad, and it’s always has a dramatic charm, but it’s become more succinct in the later series, tighter and leaner. I’m also a bit surprised by relatively how little gets bluntly explained in the first series. The saga has a pretty broad mythology, but the scope of the story is really laid out in breadcrumbs and suggestions that add up to much more than the sum of their parts.

    My interest in Justin Jordan’s Luther Strode series led me to purchase and read the first issue of his brand new fantasy action comic series Strayer. The writing is adequate although unremarkable. The coloring is evocative, but unfortunately, the art doesn’t serve the book very well. The art does an excellent job of evoking the dusty, apocalyptic setting, but the art just doesn’t depict action and motion especially well. The battle scene that’s supposed to be the comic’s climactic highlight is confusing and abstract. Although probably by coincidence, the first issue of Strayer feels remarkably similar to creator Andrew MacLean’s Head Lopper comic, which is visually more simplistic but dynamically much more comprehensible and cinematic.

    Curiosity urged me to purchase and read the first issue of the new Prophet: Earth War comic series. The comic absolutely looks and reads like a refuge from Heavy Metal magazine. In other words, it’s a prime serving of abstract, opaque gobbledygook dialogue, vaguely pretentious philosophizing, and languid action.

    Read all four issues of Gilbert Hernandez & Darwyn Cooke comic mini-series Twilight Children. The series might be best described as a Romantic south seas Twilight Zone. I mean “Romantic” as the story, such that there is, is steeped in tones of melancholy, unrequited lilting, and mystery. Calling the series “surreal” is going too far, but the mini-series definitely trades on tone because it has very little exposition and even less explanation of what’s going on or why.

    The fourth issue of the Black Magick comic series continues to be very intriguing and very believable all while continuing to unfold at a virtually real-time snail’s pace.

    The third issue of Monstress is sadly too short as it’s just as fascinating as the previous issues. The graphic art, however, remains very lush. But a handful of panels feel a bit stiff. Seemingly struggling to complete the graphic art on deadline is why the comic is taking a month hiatus before its next issue.

    I wasn’t familiar with Garth Ennis & Amanda Conner’s satirical comic The Pro until Image just released a sixth printing this week. The cover art and a recommendation from my local comic store owner convinced me to buy it. Upon reading it, I discovered that it’s essentially a slightly less cynical and less mean-spirited cousin to Rick Veitch’s Bratpack. The Justice League satire is about a single mother and part-time prostitute granted super powers and inducted into the “League of Honor,” which she then proceeds to appall with her blunt, crude personality and behavior. It’s fun because it’s coarse, funny, and not nearly as depressing as Bratpack.

    Comment


    • Ojisan to Marshmallow episode 4 is another amusing episode that could only exist in Japanese culture & media.

      Lupin III Italy episode 17 is a bit predictable yet still very fun.

      Watched Gate episode 16. I'm going to be rather annoyed if the next episode preview actually did drop a massive spoiler, although if it's what I suspect, it's also pretty predictable.

      Watched Durarara x2 Ketsu episode 4.

      Watched Dagashi Kashi episode 4.

      Princess Precure episode 50 is a very nice final episode that makes up for the weakness of the penultimate episode. Although brief, seeing how powerful Cure Flora is when she fights at full powered-up strength was pretty neat.

      The second One Punch Man OVA is really a one-gag joke that runs a bit too long.

      The first Aria the Avvenire OVA is unexpectedly short, but its just long enough to tell its simple story without compromise, resulting in a pleasant way to spend a bit of time.

      Watched Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou Ii Desu Kara episodes 3 & 4.

      Watched Dragon Ball Super episode 29.

      Dimension W episode 4 seems as though it's trying to be a cyberpunk version of Umineko no Naku Koro ni.

      Read all four issues of writer Swifty Lang & artist Skuds McKinley’s 2015 horror comic mini-series Plunder. It’s essentially Somali pirates encounter The Thing. And it’s fairly bad. The writing feels especially proud of itself for being “cultural” in injecting so many references to Somali language. But even in the first issue the writing is filled with plot holes. The story begins with the Somali pirates in a shipboard gunfight with a Chinese boat, yet somehow the Somali pirates are able to escape from the Chinese boat despite having a non-functioning motor. As the series unfolds, character personalities shift arbitrarily, settings move without clear transition, and the story eventually begins to move so quickly that it feels like a condensed summary of itself. The graphic art is passable at first but gets increasingly sloppy and indistinct. The mini-series feels like it had a solid plan at its outset, but by its concluding fourth issue it feels as though it’s so rushed to meet a completion and printing deadline that it barely slaps together whatever is barely cohesive enough to finish the story. Sadly, the whole series comes across as a sloppy, barely developed, largely incoherent mess.

      The third issue of Mia Goodwin’s comic series Tomboy continues to unfold rather slowly, but the issue reveals a greater scope to the story than previously suggested, and also reveals a greater morbidity and strangeness than previously hinted.

      The fifth issue of Papergirls finally begins to tentatively provide some answers, but the hints are tantalizingly vague.

      My local comic shop got copies of Kristen Gudsnuk’s Henchgirl issue 4 two weeks late, but at least the delay gave me an opportunity to purchase a copy. I still think the storytelling is flawed. The narrative has a tendency to spend a long time on simple scenes yet abruptly skip over major events, creating some temporary confusion for the reader. Furthermore, the comic is at its best when it’s most absurd and outré, but unfortunately it doesn’t frequently go to such extremes. Yet I still like the concept of an indie comic by a single female creator, and despite its amateur flaws, the series is still cute in an endearing way.

      Went out to see The Force Awakens for a third time.

      Watched Breaking Bad season 4 episode 5. Once again, Walter's pride leads him to make an absolutely idiotic decision.

      I’m grateful that one of my local theaters screened Well Go USA’s subtitled print of Ip Man 3. The film has its pleasures, but it’s unequivocally the weakest installment of the trilogy. The first two films each had their own unpinning theme. The first was about Ip Man defending his pride and culture. The second film was about him carving out his place in America. The third film, unfortunately, exists because of demand: audience demand to see the “Bruce Lee” era of Ip Man’s life, and producer demand to continue milking the cash cow. Even though the behind-the-scenes staff was partially retained from the prior two films, Ip Man 3 feels episodic and compartmentalized nearly to the extent of feeling disjointed. Particularly in the first half of the film the behaviors and motivations of Ip Man and his wife, and their strained relationship, feel opaque and confusing because the film doesn’t give viewers any insight into why they’re distanced from each other. The couple’s relationship is strained only to allow it to mend in the film’s second half. Furthermore, the editing in the first few fight scenes is weak and distracting. But at least the extended fight sequences do get better and more intense as the film progresses. The movie saves the best for last, and contrary to expectations, it’s not the Donnie Yen vs Mike Tyson fight that concludes the film.

      Comment


      • Watched Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu episodes 3-5. While I appreciate the current flashback story arc, it increasingly makes me think that the first episode was a mistake. If the series is going to spend so much time telling its story chronologically from the beginning then the revelation from the first episode only undermines the viewer's ability to fully immerse in the current episodes. Instead of becoming engrossed in the story, we already know how it's going to develop.

        Watched Ojisan to Marshmallow episode 5.

        I like the way Lupin III Italy episode 18 clearly establishes a continuing story arc, but I'm a bit disappointed by the way the episode's explanation relies on some tremendous speculation that Lupin seems to have no basis for theorizing at all.

        After watching Sarusuberi: Miss Hokusai, I can’t resist wondering what the film could have been if it had been made with more ambition. The highly episodic film is entirely content to simply show viewers brief glimpses into the everyday lives of its characters. The film, in fact, seemingly tries to downplay a lot of its emotion and character development. As a result, viewers never learn anything more about Oei and her extended family than what’s revealed at the beginning of the film. Viewers are never allowed to get a firm grasp on why Tetsuzo distances himself from his wife and youngest daughter. Viewers never get to know if Oei’s curiosity about sex is motivated by personal emotion or simply professional artistic curiosity. Viewers never get to know if Oei’s rejection of romance is motivated by a sense of professional independence, hesitation, or devotion to her father. Likewise, the fact that she did marry then divorce is brushed aside with a mere one line of dialogue. The film references three deaths, yet the movie never allows viewers to tell if Oei reacts to death with stoic complacency or if she feels grief. The visual design is attractive and the atmosphere of the film pleasant, but the movie is strictly and deliberately so superficial that it feels rather unfulfilling and shallow.

        I'm glad that Gate episode 17 turned out to be a pretty gratifying and exciting episode.

        Watched Dagashi Kashi episode 5.

        Durarara x2 Ketsu episode 5 would be a very thrilling one if its animation quality wasn't so exceptionally bad.

        The Taifu no Noruda short film isn't really bad, but I can't help wondering what the film could have been had it been directed by Omori Takahiro, Masunari Koji, Ishihama Masashi, or even Seiji Mizushima, or the obvious choice Makoto Shinkai. The film feels like a feature condensed into 25 minutes instead of a script written to respect the running time. The story and characterizations don't fully work because they leave so many unanswered questions. Certainly, most everything can be explained by inference, but in a narrative such as this one, leaving out so many details makes the film feel under developed and poorly constructed.

        Watched Galko-chan episode 5.

        One aspect of the Pretty Cure franchise that I’ve liked from the beginning is its habit of periodically varying from convention, introducing new twists to the formula such as introducing melee fighting, publicly revealing the heroine’s secret identities, not giving the girls new items or weapons, or allowing bystanders to help themselves. But in all but name Mahoutsukai Precure seems to vary from formula so much that it’s practically not a Pretty Cure series at all. In the new series there’s no fairy that transforms Mirai & Rico into Cure warriors. Cure Miracle & Cure Magical aren’t legendary warriors; they’re legendary magicians. They’re not defending anything or trying to restore anything. Previous Precure series such as Doki Doki Precure and Heartcatch Precure have introduce a cure warrior that precedes the new team leader, but in this latest series Rico merely transforms from a magical girl into a stronger magical girl. In effect, Mahoutsukai Precure seems to evolve out of shows like Creamy Mami, Persia, and Fancy Lala more so than shows like Sailor Moon and Wedding Peach. Mahoutsukai Precure does retain some of the characteristic tropes of the Pretty Cure franchise, but it also abandons several of the very fundamental narrative conventions that typify all Pretty Cure series. I’m not sure yet, after one episode, how much I like this new series, but I am already of half a mind to say that Mahoutsukai Precure is in effect not a Pretty Cure series at all.

        Read New Lone Wolf & Cub manga volumes 5-7.

        Bought the first 7 issues of writer Justin Jordan’s current post-apocalyptic horror/action comic Spread and read them. The series is enjoyable because, as Jordan describes it, the series is a graphic hybrid of Lone Wolf & Cub meets John Carpenter’s The Thing. The series is good because its inspirations are strong titles, but Spread doesn’t surpass “good” because it doesn’t actually borrow enough. Spread lacks the compelling psychology, character relationships, and tone of determination in the face of futility prominent in Kozure Okami, and it lacks the terrorizing sense of isolation and suspicion present in The Thing. Spread has the action down pat, but the narrative feels superficial and so briskly paced that it can’t make any impact beyond its visceral action and gore.

        Watched Breaking Bad season four episodes 5-10. Although I still don't see the show as a masterpiece, and still a tremendous majority of the show's drama results from the characters all constantly making stupid, short-sighted decisions, I do recognize now that this fourth season is, at least, a little bit more tense and suspenseful than the soap-operaish prior three seasons.

        I'm as glad as anyone to see Payton Manning win 200 games on the Superbowl victory, but the game was close only because it was two teams both playing under their best.

        Comment


        • Watched Himouto! Umaru-chanS 4-10.

          Dragon Ball Super episode 30 is a bit of a disappointment because about half of it is very clunky recap.

          Watched Kurayami Santa episodes 8-14. They're fun, but I wish episode 14 made a bit more sense.

          Watched Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou Ii Desukara episode 5.

          Watched Koukaku no Pandora episode 5.

          Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen episode 17 is a bit cliche and a bit idiotic if examined closely, but at least its an interesting relevatory episode. However, its revelation seem to mean nothing because they're immediately forgotten by the especially weak episode 18 that reminds viewers that Haku is largely just a self-absorbed twit.

          Unfortunately, after five issues of admirably better than expected serious sci-fi/horror, the sixth and final issue of the Aliens/Vampirella comic book mini-series feels very rushed. Although the creative staff remains the same, the visual art frequently looks like it comes from a completely different artist because it’s so less precise and intricate. Moveover, the story wraps up like so much predictable clockwork that after the preceding issues it feels like a massive disappointment – a slapdash reliance on rote simplicity lacking any creative spark.

          Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles issue 3 is the strongest issue of the mini-series so far, although even this issue can’t completely resist the urge to indulge in geeky character referencing just for the sake of exploiting opportunity. After all, it’s not every day that the TMNT and Batman rogues galleries overlap. But issue 3 actually devotes most of its effort to characterization and story instead of reveling in jam-packing the narrative with superfluous cameos.

          Since Welcome Back was not supposed to last more than four issues, its fifth issue deserves some credit for managing to continue the story in a way that feels passably natural and organic, although the first issue of the ongoing series does distinctly lack the novel creativity present in the original mini-series.

          Purely by coincidence I taught two of my literature classes Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “The Cask of Amontillado” the very morning that the first issue of Enrica Jang & Jason Strutz’s comic book sequel “The House of Montresor” hit stores, so I purchased a copy. The comic requires at least a passing familiarity with the original story. However, in order to allow its existence, the script takes a singular vast liberty with the original text. The very first line of Poe’s original story indisputably establishes that Montresor only had a grudge against Mr. Fortunato for a singular trivial slight. The original story provides no suggestion whatsoever that Montresor ever had even the slightest interest in Fortunato’s surrounding or extended family. However, the comic book sequel proposes that Montresor instead sought to extinguish the entire Fortunato clan, for reasons unexplained. While the change in Montresor’s goal may serve the needs of the comic book sequel, the change also undermines a tremendous strength of the original short story, almost demonstrating a lack of understanding of the nuance of the original story. Poe deliberately wrote Montresor as a petty, short-sighted man, not as a criminal mastermind with a revenge scheme that would extend through multiple generations. The comic’s visual art is hit and miss. The rich coloring evokes a dark and moody gothic atmosphere, but the very impressionistic art makes distinguishing characters apart from each other rather difficult.

          The 12th issue of Ninjak actually has an almost surprising lack of focus on Ninjak himself, but the issue is a rich mythological tapestry-building issue that subtly and very satisfyingly references and builds upon Colin King’s characterization established earlier in the series.

          The fifth issue of Public Relations that finishes the initial story arc falls in between the blandness of issue 3 and the strengths of the series’ best issues. The issue mostly does an excellent job of wrapping up the story arc while reveling in a not-quite non-stop abundance of very provocative and nearly shocking sex humor gags.

          After a third issue that felt rushed, the concluding fourth issue Kevin Eastman & Simon Bisley’s Fistful of Blood (remastered) comic series is a clusterf*ck in the best way. The issue literally throws in the kitchen sink in terms of tone & genre. Apart from a tasteless rape joke that may be a half-step over the line, the final issue is a wild, absurd mix of slapstick horror/gore that’s largely out of character with the previous issues yet feels very welcome. The first issue, in particular, had some tone of hybrid horror comedy, but that felt very limited and restrained compared to the wholesale abandon of the fourth issue. My personal singular complaint is that once again the issue feels just a bit too indebted to Eastman’s original draft. This new retelling of the story feels like it would benefit considerably if it was expanded to five issues, allowing the story to breath and incorporate just a bit more foreshadowing to contextualize its plot developments.

          The Deadpool movie aims to be and achieves pure silly adult-oriented fun. Its amount of “heart” need not be overstated. The movie simply succeeds because it’s clearly a picture produced by a cast and crew that actually cared about the integrity and quality of the film. Since this is more than a “paycheck” movie, it naturally expresses an infectious degree of charm and honesty. First time director Tim Miller deserves a lot of credit for herding rather than micromanaging his talent. Miller organizes the picture and allows the actors, screenwriters, CG artists, and editor to do their respective jobs to the best of their abilities, so the film feels like a collective success more than a singular auteur’s vision or, especially, a studio executives’ focus group production. While brutally violent, the movie never lingers on its gore more than absolutely necessary, turning the explicit viscera into comic excess instead of fetishistic splatter. Ryan Reynolds uncharacteristically disappears into the twisted character of Wade Wilson, serving the character by making some gratuitously self-deprecating choices. In a few short sequences the film loses just a bit of its momentum, and ultimately the film does seem to be a little victim of a modest budget because the movie revolves around just a small handful of elaborate and lengthy but also very familiar action scenes. But the later complaint may be blamed more on a ad campaign that turned out to be, in retrospect, too revealing. The movie is a success because it manages to meet audiences’ relatively demanding expectations.

          Comment


          • Watched Gate episode 18.

            Galko-chan episode 6 may be the funniest episode of the series so far.

            Watched Koukaku no Pandora episode 6.

            Durarara x2 Ketsu episode 6 really isn't very interesting.

            Likewise, Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen episode 19 isn't very interesting. Moreover, the current story arc just isn't very engrossing because it's provided the barest minimum of explanation for the invasion and no sense whatsoever of the opposition's perspective. Munechika claims that her forces can't agree on a strategy, but obviously the problem is that no one on the Yamato side seems committed to commanding the entire Yamato army.

            In the mood for something a bit different, I watched the first episode of 2001’s Yobarete Tobidete Akubi-chan. The character design has a rather unique art deco look most reminiscent of Marshmallow Tsushin (2004). Otherwise, the show isn’t especially creative, but it emphasizes characterization over slapstick gags, so the episode has a good-natured charm and feels fun to watch.

            Dragon Ball Super episode 31 is a fine, harmless episode, but I'm just a but bothered by its seeming retroactive revelation that Bulma met an alien years before she even began hunting for the dragon balls.

            The cuteness of the first episode of Rilu Rilu Fairilu ~ Yousei no Door is nearly coronary-inducing.

            Watched KonoSuba episodes 3-5.

            Fit in my annual viewing of Highlander on Sunday evening. As much as I love both Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, I think Highlander qualifies as my favorite movie.

            The Norwegian horror short film Sister Hell might not be tremendously original, but it does an excellent job of exploiting its influences and references to create a very enjoyable little horror fantasy flick.

            Finished off Breaking Bad season 4 episodes 11-13 and watched season 5 episode 1. While the show has gotten more intense in its final seasons, the characters have gotten increasingly bipolar, alternating between genius schemes and utterly moronic decisions that get them into situations that require brilliant schemes to extract themselves from.

            Comment


            • Watched Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo episode 6.

              Watched Haikyu episodes 17-20

              Watched Dagashi Kashi episode 6.

              I can see what Utararerumono episode 20 was trying to accomplish, but even in context it still feels very artificial and rather silly.

              Ojisan to Marshmallow episode 6 feels a bit like it's trying too hard. Episode 7 is cute, though.

              Lupin III: Italy episode 20 is a nicely romantic episode that's sadly compromised by its limited animation.

              Watched Gate episode 19.

              Durarara x2 Ketsu episode 7 is a reminder that the show is impressive when it's convoluted but most impactful when it concentrates on singular stories instead of trying to juggle countless balls at once.

              Watched Dragon Ball Super episode 32.

              Watched Dimension W episodes 5-7.

              Watched Ooyasan wa Shishunki 3-7. The Komori-san wa Kotowarenai cameo in episode 7 was unexpected and cute.

              Mahoutsukai Precure episode 2 feels just a little bit more like Pretty Cure than the first episode did, but I still can't escape the feeling that the show is closer to an action-oriented version of Sugar Sugar Rune than traditional Pretty Cure.

              Since the episodes are short and total only four, I watched Tabi Machi Late Show episodes 2-4 to finish off the series.

              Read the first two issues of writers Wes Craven & Steve Niles’ horror comic mini-series Coming of Rage. Possibly due to Craven’s involvement, the narrative suffers from the flaws that I associate with storytellers who aren’t used to the comic book medium. The story is okay, but it’s rather unevenly paced. Dramatic scenes that establish characterization fly by while action scenes are given more space for illustration. The result is that character personalities don’t always feel natural, and the story feels like a summary of itself.

              The somewhat lengthy delay for Sex Criminals issue 14 was worth the wait, as the issue is hysterically funny in the pointed, meta, cynically post-modern adult perspective that the series excels at.

              Serving as a reminder of how conservative mainstream American comic books frequently tend to be, I read the first issue of indie publisher Overground Comics’ original female superhero comic Plus Ultra. The entire issue builds up to a single gag that’s now so commonplace in manga and anime that it’s cliché. This American comic may think that the costume getting destroyed trope may be new and provocative, but compared to manga, it’s a tame, conventional, and even worn-out joke.

              Finally made time to watch Streets of Fire. The movie isn’t bad, but unfortunately it squanders its tremendous potential with two especially glaring flaws. The editing is crisp to a fault, literally. The movie is cut with an emphasis on visually propelling the plot. Unfortunately, the editing does absolutely nothing to evoke tone or mood. The visual design establishes some atmosphere, but backgrounds alone aren’t enough to give the film an attitude and feel. The movie absolutely begs for quotable dialogue. The characters are larger-than-life archetypes. They’re a rock & roll fantasy that should make viewers perceive them as the coolest cats ever. Instead, the dialogue comes across sounding like the hamfisted, witless drivel of a person who can’t compose a spontaneous comeback. The dialogue is abominable: underwhelming at every turn and only marginally more elegant than monosyllabic grunting. The characters should be iconic, memorable. Instead, they’re most appealing when they just keep their mouths shut and look pretty. Instead of carrying the film, the film carries the characters. The movie is reminiscent of director Walter Hill’s earlier classic The Warriors. That film had a pulse. That film had a vibrant, dynamic, pulsating identity. Streets of Fire has a great look, but within the color and the visual motif, Streets of Fire is completely hollow and lifeless when it should be passionate and desperate and rebellious.

              Went out to see The Force Awakens for a fourth time.

              Watched Breaking Bad season 5 episode 2. Now I'm even more frustrated because for the previous two seasons Mike has been the only level-headed and pragmatic character, but suddenly even he's turned to making bad decisions. Moreover, he even knows he's making the wrong choice, yet he's doing it anyway!

              Comment


              • I don't know if Suzuki Kenya is male or female, but Oshiete! Galko-chan episode 7 distinctly makes me believe that the creator is female because the episode includes a few brief sequences that have such a female perspective that I can't even imagine a male writer thinking of them. The reason Galko needs to wear a bikini top isn't something that men consciously think of. Galko's very sweet gesture to annoy Kuseta's classmates is purely the sort of female instinct that typical men don't have. And then there's the illustrated tampon joke. Also watched episode 8.

                I respect Soubi Yamamoto's style, but I've never found any of her anime very interesting. The first episode of Kono Danshi, Mahou ga Oshigoto Desu feels as though it's turned what was once an obligatory limitation into a signature style. However, it's still a bishounen lightly yaoi drama that doesn't feel compelling at all to me.

                The Hantsu x Trash OAD is one simple boob joke repeated over and over again for ten minutes.

                I suppose Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo episode 7 is supposed to be cute and funny, but most of all it just demonstrates that protagonist Kazuma is a self-entitled and spoiled brat who lacks any reasonable sense of perspective.

                Mahoutsukai Precure episode 3 introduced another change up to the conventional formula. Traditionally the Precure have always had a base form from which the girls could then further transform. But Mahoutsukai Precure has now introduced the idea of the girls having multiple basic forms. Kamen Rider has used the principle for years, and arguably Cutie Honey was able to transform from Kisaragi Honey into multiple different outfits, but the variation is new to the Pretty Cure universe.

                Watched Dagashi Kashi episode 7.

                Watched Gate episode 20.

                Watched the third One Punch Man OVA.

                Watched Koukaku no Pandora episode 8.

                Durarara x2 Ketsu episode 8 is somewhat interesting because it's taking the very convoluted story into very unpredictable directions.

                I purchased an read the fifth issue of the witchcraft/crime thriller comic series Black Magick. Like the previous issues, this one is good, but also rather frustrating. Opposing the stance of the comic’s creators, I personally don’t think that merely developing the story to the point at which the readers finally get a first glimpse of the antagonist counts as a whole story arc completed. At best I would consider the first five issues just the introduction or the prologue to the story completed. Then announcing that the next issue won’t be released until July – a six month wait for a monthly comic issue – is quite frustrating for readers.

                Watched Breaking Bad season 5 episodes 3-5.

                Comment


                • Watched the second episode of Rilu Rilu Fairilu because the show is cute.

                  Haikyuu episode 21 is a particularly exciting episode. Also watched episodes 22-24. Episode 24 has a climax that really pays off the lengthy build.

                  Utawarerumono episode 21 introduces some intriguing plot twists. Episode 23 is supposed to be tense and thrilling but sadly it's tremendously stupid. There's no explanation for why the group didn't just board the waiting boat nor why the party split up apart from the need to prolong the story. Both Rurutie and Kuon introduce behavior that's out of character. Uruuru & Saraana may not be able to teleport into the palace, but there's no reason why they can't teleport out of the city. And seemingly the only reason Haku's gang abandons its safe passage is because the script calls for them to do so to artificially create a cliffhanger. Sadly, episode 24 continues the principle of emphasizing dramatic sensationalism over logical, cohesive storytelling. Vurai repeatedly states that he's carrying out the will of the emperor, yet he consciously rejects the emperor's own selected heir. Raikou says, "It's the unanimous will of the 8 pillar generals," but that can't be possible when two of them weren't even included in the conversation. Haku was appalled when Vurai devestated a village, yet when Vurai does the same thing a second time, Haku suddenly seems to not care a bit.

                  Watched the brief first episode of 1998's Heli-Tako Pu-Chan, a show that air in conjunction with Fan Fan Pharmacy. The children's show is stylistically reminiscent of the previous year's Gakkyu-Oh Yamazaki TV series.

                  Watched Ooyasan wa Shishunki episodes 8-11.

                  My understanding of the anime film Shisha no Teikoku ~ Empire of Corpses is that the world has already learned how to reanimate corpses as mindless automaton zombies, but three, or arguably four individuals within the movie are searching for the late Victor Frankenstein’s research that explains how to imbue a reanimated corpse with a human soul. I’m in agreement with prior reviews that have a mixed reaction to the movie. Visually, it’s beautiful. But the movie’s narrative really isn’t very complicated, and the effort to make the movie very pretentious and literate actually harms the film considerably. In order to make the movie seem genius, characters seem to speak roughly every other line of their natural dialogue, so the dialogue is constantly ambiguous and faux philosophical; it refers to vague concepts and ideas largely because the script doesn’t bother to fill in gaps. Furthermore, one major character in the film goes by two different names, further confusing the plot through the first half of the movie. The film is actually rooted deeply in emotional desires. At its heart, John Watson so desperately wants to resurrect a human soul that he makes a bad choice that betrays his friends and ultimately leads to massive, apocalyptic death and destruction, and he realizes that he has to stop the apocalypse that he’s set into motion. If the film was more straightforward, viewers would actually care about Watson and his quest. However, since the film is deliberately convoluted, by the time that the film finally lays all of its cards onto the table it’s far too late for viewers to have any emotional engagement with any of the characters. This film looks and feels reminiscent of Fullmetal Alchemist, but it doesn’t work remotely as well because it’s not nearly as affective. Viewers get to empathize with Edward & Al immediately, and Fullmetal Alchemist wastes no time delineating its heroes and villains. Shisha no Teikoku, by not doing the same thing, keeps viewers disaffected and engaged with the scenery and occasional fluidly animated fight scenes instead of the heart of the story.

                  Dragon Ball Super episode 33 delivered a nice surprising development. The end of episode 34 takes the tournament down an interestingly darker path. Also watched episode 35.

                  The first four episodes of the web anime series Momokuri are light and cute.

                  Gate episodes 21 & 22 are a bit politically heavy and not especially exciting, but it's nice to finally see that the JSDF is finally willing to respond in kind to the Empire's aggressive tactics. Episode 23, however, is the sort of exciting tactical action that the series excels at.

                  Watched Durarara x2 Ketsu episodes 9-11.

                  KonoSuba episodes 8-10 continue to be fun, but I'm a bit frustrated by the way the final three episodes so heavily condense story details in order to squeeze so much narrative into only ten episodes.

                  Watched Dagashi Kashi episodes 8-10.

                  The third Hozuki no Reitetsu OAD started out a bit quietly but gradually developed into a fantastic episode.

                  The first three episodes of Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko: Everything Flows are good, but they're a bit more conventional and accessible than Makoto Shinkai's original short. They lack some of the unique alien perspective that made the original short so interesting.

                  Watched Ojisan to Marshmallow episodes 8-11.

                  Watched Galko-chan episodes 9-11.

                  Watched Koukaku no Pandora episodes 9-11.

                  Watched Sekkou Boys 4-11. Episode 9 was particularly amusing with Mars' scandal and Giorgio's creative means of squashing the rumors.

                  Bakemono no Ko is definitely a film that know what it wants to do but it’s just a little bit less certain about how best to accomplish its aims. The film does a fine job of establishing its primary themes, but one primary weakness is that it never completely makes Kumatetsu, its supposed co-lead, an actually fully fleshed-out lead character. Oddly, all of the major characters in the film get well-rounded personalities with varying emotions except Kumatetsu. He may be a simple-minded character, but the end of the film relies heavily upon viewers feeling empathy for his sense of vulnerability and connection to Ren. Except the movie never actually devotes any time to illustrating that side of Kumatetsu’s personality. Very early in the film it’s referenced briefly in dialogue, but in the middle of the film when the picture needs to depict Kumatetsu’s need for a friend and partner, the film literally excises him from the picture temporarily. So when the end of the picture comes around and viewers are intended to empathize with Kumatetsu, we don’t because we only know him as a dumb, violent oaf. The film hasn’t bothered to show us his vulnerable, emotional side. Regarding animation quality, the characteristic Hosoda “superflat” character designs occasionally work against the film because they simple and un-shaded characters don’t integrate naturally with the far more realistic-looking backgrounds. In summation, even though this film has a slightly more fantastical scenario and setting than Hosoda’s prior features, this one still feels more subdued than his previous films. The editing may also have been a bit better served had it trimmed some of the scenes involving the supporting characters Ren’s father and Kaede and used the time to show another otherwise unseen side of leading character Kumatetsu. The movie is good, in many respects even very good. But it’s just not quite as engaging or compelling as many of Hosoda’s prior features because, for a film titled “Beast and the Boy,” the movie just doesn’t sufficiently characterize and develop the beast, so half of the affective emotional core of the film feels lacking.

                  Watched Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou Ii Desukara episodes 6-11.

                  While I was in Tokyo, I saw the new Ultraman X movie on opening day. It's very action-filled, although it also seems highly simplistic. The idea I took from the movie is that if you just shout loudly enough, something will happen.

                  Continued below.

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                  • Continued from above.

                    On American comics: the fourth issue of Monstress feels as strong as the first issue did, really adding a lot of meat to the story and characterizations. The first issue of Kevin McCarthy & Kyle Baker’s comic book series Circuit Breaker is even more of a Tetsuwan Atom homage than I expected. In fact, the comic may be this generation’s Rion 2990, a comic that so blatantly and exuberantly extols its affection for manga that it actually alienates readers. The comic is rife with Japanese sound effects and snippets of even untranslated Japanese language, yet it’s not a Japanese manga. So it’s a comic likely to alienate fans of conventional American comics and likely to drive manga fans to just choose “real” manga instead. The fifth issue of Legacy of Luther Strode is simply a single lengthy ultraviolent fight scene. As of its fourth issue, Batman/TMNT manages to keep getting better. The Batman origin has literally been told to death over the past 30 years, but this issue manages to still make the familiar story feel resonant and impactful. Ninjak issue 13 suitably wraps up the “Operation Deadside” story arc, yet the story arc has consistently felt like a glimpse of a larger tapestry, like Ninjak appearing as a cameo supporting character in his own title. The first issue of Alex Paknadel & Artyom Trakhanov’s sci-fi noir Turncoat successfully manages to look and feel like a European sci-fi comic from the pages of Heavy Metal that’s still accessible and even familiar to average American comic readers. The issue looks and feels like a less pretentious, more accessible and engaging sibling to Black Mask’s comic series Ballistic.

                    A friend and I watched Breaking Bad season 5 episodes 6-14.

                    Watched Celine Tran’s “Heartbreaker” short film. It’s a virtually over-obvious Blade rip-off/homage. I don’t think the short is especially bad, but it relies so heavily on cliché “stylistic” directorial choices that it lacks impact and vitality.

                    Comment


                    • More or less spoiler-free Dawn of Justice reaction:

                      I have a lot of thoughts on Dawn of Justice, and the more I think about the film the less I like the movie. Part of me is grateful that the movie doesn’t actually jam pack in quite as much as I feared it would try to address, yet sadly even what the movie does include, it doesn’t fully develop. The movie suggests both that Batman is an ally of the Gotham police department and that the police department is only barely aware of him and doesn’t understand him at all despite the fact that he’s been fighting crime in Gotham for 20 years. Diana Prince says that she’s investigating Lex Luthor Jr. but has the most baffling reason why. Lex Jr. primarily seems to oppose Superman just because he’s Lex Luthor, and oppose Superman is what Lex Luthor exists to do. The movie hints that possibly Lex Jr. has a grudge against masculine father figures. The film also suggests that Lex Jr.’s egotistical desire to be more powerful than a god, even though Luthor himself says that power is an illusion, motivates his actions. But both rationales require a substantial stretch of imagination because the movie just lacks explanation. For odd reasons Wonder Woman seems to be surprised by the existence of other “meta humans,” even though she claims to have first-hand experience with the extra-natural. Even more disappointing, the first two-thirds of the film feels less like a movie and more like a sequence of stitched together trailers. No scene seems to last more than 90 seconds. Every scene feels like an excerpt from a more developed and nuanced scene. Then the third act switches to lengthy, focused sequences that are so poorly edited that they literally become tedious. The film definitely proves that Doomsday should have been the antagonist for an entire separate film. Doomsday is absolutely wasted in this film because he’s not even in the film long enough to actually pose a threat. The movie tells viewers that Doomsday is a tremendous threat, but ordinary citizens – the world at large – never even sees Doomsday outside from a brief clip on TV news. Doomsday is representative of a larger weakness of the entire film. The movie is super dark and serious, yet it never ever feels as though it has any weight. No character in the film ever expresses the slightest hint of fear. The movie tells us that countless lives are lost, yet viewers never feel as though anyone or anything in the film has anything at stake. Classic dark comic series like Dark Knight Returns, Killing Joke, Wolverine, and Watchmen resonated because they were dark and grim because they carried a sense of loss, a threat of tragedy. Dawn of Justice has all the darkness but none of the gravity, none of the emotional weight. The film also lacks any sense of fun. I realized while the credits were rolling that I’d watched the entire film and never once felt any sense of genuine pleasure or enjoyment. The movie is entirely hollow spectacle. Just like Bruce Wayne’s explanation for bringing together the Justice League, the whole movie is “because reasons.” Nothing has any meaning, significance, emotion, or weight. Sadly, the movie refers to lots of deep, complex, philosophical ideas, but the whole movie never bothers to actually think about any of these ideas. And on a final side note, I’ve seen a lot of comments that praised Wonder Woman’s introduction in the film. I suppose all of the people with that reaction didn’t watch any of the film’s trailers because the singular best half-second in the picture does belong to Diana, but it occurs during the middle of her battle with Doomsday. It’s her facial expression during the fight that says everything about her that needs to be said. Oh, and how and why does Doomsday unleash AOE attacks? He couldn’t do that in the comics. Neither Zod nor Supes could do that. (Again, not a spoiler since it’s in the trailers.)

                      While I was watching the movie, something about the bullet prop that Lois clings to bugged me, but now I realize what the problem was. Lex Jr.’s plan to frame Superman for the desert terrorist massacre is so absolutely idiotically staged that I couldn’t even initially process that it was an actual, deliberately planned strategy. The frame up is so simple to disprove that it’s not even a viable plan in the first place. Yet Lex. Jr still goes through with it. If the viewer wants to argue that a cover-up could obfuscate all of the discrepancies, then there would have to be so much to cover up and hide that Lex may as well just have fabricated an entire story from whole cloth while sitting in his office instead of carrying out a real plan involving actual people.

                      Also forgot to mention that evidently no one cares anymore that “old” Affleck Batman is now a virtually unrepentant serial killer. He at least briefly pauses to consider before he decides to kill lots and lots of people. But I guess since he doesn’t kill quite as many people as Supes did in Man of Steel, Batman still gets a pass. And good Lord the end of the movie has about 15 endings that just don’t know when to end.

                      Comment


                      • Gate episode 24 is a satisfactory, if perfunctory, conclusion to the series. It distinctly feels like the show would have been better off with 25 or even 26 episodes, however, to fully flesh out the Pied Piper sub-plot, devote a bit more characterization to Tyule, and even create some tension and add more elaborate action scenes to the final rescue assault.

                        Watched Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko episode 4.

                        The revelation in Oshiete! Galko-chan episode 12 that "Galko" isn't actually the protagonist's real name surprised me a little bit.

                        Koukaku no Pandora episode 12 is a fine ending, but after the direction that episode 11 was heading in, I'm disappointed that the final episode wasn't especially suspenseful or exciting.

                        Watched Dagashi Kashi episodes 11-12. I'm disappointed that the series is now finished because Hotaru & Saya are such distinctive and fun characters.

                        Watched the Sore ga Seiyuu OVA episode.

                        I'm conflicted over the final episode of Durarara x2 Ketsu because it revolves around a few deus ex machina and otherwise left-field coincidences, yet it still manages to feel deliberate.

                        Watched Haikyu 2 episode 25.

                        Lupin III: Italy episodes 21-24. Episode 22 was particularly good because it's an episode that emphasizes the characters' personalities. I'm just a bit disappointed, however, that episodes 23 & 24 wrap up the MI-6/Da Vinci continuity storyline because, actually, the series' self-contained episodes are consistently better than the continuity episodes.

                        Watched Ooyasan wa Shishunki episode 12.

                        Watched Ojisan to Marshmallow episode 12.

                        Watched Sekko Boys episode 12.

                        Watched the second episode of KareBaka.

                        Seeing Vegeta get a whole episode's focus was a nice change in Dragon Ball Super 36. Episode 37 is a bit a traditional-feeling episode that reminds viewers of why Vegeta is so popular. Dragon Ball Super episode 38 is a genuinely surprising and exciting episode.

                        The final four episodes of Dimension W, episodes 8-12, really do turn a promising but uneven show into a massively compromised and disappointing work. The ending reveals that the show never quite had a clear idea of what type of show it wanted to be or what it wanted to be about. The beginning of the series introduces a conspiracy about a betrayed scientist, an evil corporation, and the scientist’s mysterious android daughter. But the plot thread about the scientist gets abandoned and the focus on the malicious corporation goes nowhere. The robot girl turns into a tired cliché supporting character. Mid way through the show, the story introduces a seemingly evil prince. Yet he also proves to be a pointless red herring. Three-quarters of the way through the series, as if the screenwriters realized that they’d forgotten to include a villain character, the show suddenly, abruptly injects a villain. The show also suddenly introduces then just as quickly eliminates a hired assassin without ever bothering to explain his relevance to the surrounding story. Then the series that has seemed like a cyberpunk crime action series suddenly turns into a melodrama almost entirely lacking in action. The show may remain well-animated throughout, but that’s about the only consistent thing the show has going for it.

                        The first episode of the Brotherhood - Final Fantasy XV web series doesn't feel remarkably creative or unique, but it does have impressive production values.

                        The first episode of Boku no Hero Academia is a sort of sibling show to One Punch Man. Where One Punch Man depicts a young man who aspires to become a superhuman hero and succeeds, My Hero Academia depicts a boy’s lengthy and arduous process of training to become a superhero. I respect the story’s perspective, but I personally find it requiring just a too large leap of logic. The show wants to convey the message that determination and hard work pays off; that believing in oneself allows one to surpass conventional limits. But in the case of this particular show, the protagonist Izuku distinctly appears to have far more optimism than common sense or potential. Being able to enjoy this show requires the viewer to be able to believe that a weak and cowardly child can somehow achieve superhuman performance just by refusing to give up his pipe dream. Izuku, in fact, doesn’t even appear to invest any appreciable effort into preparing himself to be a hero. He doesn’t do any physical training. He doesn’t invent any gadgets to compensate for his physical weakness. He just adores superheroes and assumes that as long as he keeps believing that he’ll spontaneously one day transform into a hero, someday some miracle will strike him and answer his prayers. I just can’t take the show seriously when its message is that having enough fools hope will eventually pay off in sheer luck.

                        The first episode of Uchuu Patrol Luluco is crazy in the best way.

                        The first episode of Mayoiga is a noirish thriller definitely in the vein of Higurashi and Shiki. The premiere episode does require a significant degree of suspension of disbelief, but once past that, the episode is somewhat intriguing because it gives away so few clues about what’s to come.

                        The first episode of Kuma Miko surprised me because it’s not exactly a placid slice of life story tonally similar to something like Tamayura, nor is it a conventional shoujo comedy in the vein of Gingitsune or Inari Kon Kon Koi Iroha. The humor is a bit more pointed and cynical, and even a bit risqué, giving the show a tone closer to Barakamon. Watched the second episode also.

                        Watched the very brief first and second episodes of Pan de Peace.

                        I'm undecided over whether Ragnastrike Angels should be considered an anime series or a series of animated commercials.

                        The first episode of Hundred is a disappointment because it’s so compelled to adhere to formula. The episode makes adherence to military discipline a core plot point then immediately throws out respect for military protocol in order to set up the obligatory and highly cliché new kid versus class queen duel. In fact, the entire episode is literally nothing more than a collection of clichés and concepts collected from prior forgettable shows including Seiken Tsukai no World Break, Koukaku no Regios, and to a smaller degree Kuusen Madoushi, Gakusen Toshi Asterisk, and Kyoukai Senjo no Horizon.

                        Bakuon is pretty literally K-On with pop music replaced by motorcycles. It may not be tremendously original, but it is light and fun. Watched the OVA and TV episodes 1-2.

                        The first episode of Sousei no Onmyouji reminds me a bit of the obscure 2007 shounen horror anime series Bakegyamon. Like that earlier show, the first episode of Sousei no Onmyouji is a shounen onmyouji action/horror that skews a bit younger than shows like Ao no Exorcist and Kekkaishi yet, at the same time, dares to be a bit more bloody and violent than those shows that target slightly older viewers. I appreciate the way certain elements of Sousei no Onmyouji feel like throwbacks to earlier eras of anime; however, the show also makes little narrative effort to distinguish itself from countless other similar onmyouji/exorcist action anime series.

                        By rights I ought to dismiss if not outright hate Onigiri because it’s clearly a ridiculous pandering effort to launch a merchandising campaign. Yet I also can’t dismiss that like a low-rent Bikini Warriors or half-baked Koihime Musou, it does have a degree of goofy satirical charm.

                        There’s no possibly way that the first episode of the Neko Neko Nihonshi anime couldn’t be adorable because it’s Japanese history as dramatized by anime LOL cats.

                        The first episode of Super Lovers makes rather little logical sense and moreover is a bit creepy as it overtly suggests a degree of pedophile attraction from an older brother toward his emotionally vulnerable underage adopted sibling.

                        The first episode of Anne Happy doesn't quite seem to maintain its energy level throughout the entire episode, but given that it's only the first episode, the writing may get stronger as the show finds its pace.

                        Continued below --->

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                        • Continued from above.



                          The first episode of Bungou Stray Dogs is stylistically a bit of a hybrid between Un-Go and Hamatora. It primarily focuses on quirky characters acting idiosyncratically. The characters are named after famous Japanese authors, but the naming convention seems to be little more than a gimmick to make the story seem more intelligent than it is. The characterizations are not very engrossing, nor are the relationships between the characters interesting. I assume that there are viewers who will see some sort of value or significance in the episode to justify continuing to watch and even praise it, but the episode served up absolutely nothing interesting in my perspective. Having a visually dark look and name-checking Japanese literati doesn’t inherently make this anime brilliant.

                          The first episode of 12-sai is a bit sappy for my taste, but it's honest enough that I can see how it would be very popular among young girls.

                          The first episode of Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta? feels like a hybrid of Master of Epic or Tower of Druaga with Nisekoi or maybe Haganai. It’s a show that’s mildly appealing and certainly not bad but also a show that doesn’t take any risks and doesn’t try to be distinctive, unusual, or creative.

                          Occasionally kids’ hobby anime surprise me with some creative or unusual approach. Beyblade Burst isn’t one of those noteworthy efforts; it’s entirely conventional, notable if at all because it arguably tries just a bit too hard to demonstrate its protagonist’s innate potential during the episode’s climactic match.

                          The beginning of Seisen Cerberus suggests that possibility that the show might actually be a fun, satisfying sword & sorcery show revolving around a capable protagonist. But regrettably the episode slips into the familiar cliché of actually starring a useless, incompetent protagonist, meaning that despite appearing briefly like it might be something special, the show is actually just another in a long progression of derivative fantasy action shows.

                          Joker Game is interesting with a particular caveat. The period piece is intriguing because it deals with a degree of political cynicism that's a few decades ahead of its time. The conflict between a bleak, cynical perspective and an idealistic traditionalist attitude makes the show interesting, but viewers have to set aside a consciousness that in 2016 all of that traditional idealism no longer exists. Watched the first two episodes.

                          I'm not actually certain whether I'm sold on the first double-length episode of Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu. It's a fantasy version of Groundhog Day, but it's also bold enough to include some great animation and some unexpectedly graphic violence, suggesting that it may be a more unpredictable and satisfying story than it initially seems.

                          The first episode of Endride reminds me a lot of Arata Kangatari. I wasn’t very enthused by that 2013 TV series, just as I wasn’t especially enthralled by the premiere episode of Endride.

                          The first episode of Sakamoto desu ga? is simple goofy fun.

                          I’m undecided on the first episode of Trigger’s Kiznaiver. Stylistically it’s Trigger creating an original hybrid of Meikaku City Actors and Mawaru Penguindrum, but the details just don’t work. The ability to mitigate pain by spreading it out is one thing, but the ability to prevent broken bones and physical injury by sharing pain simply defies physics. It’s just not physically possible. Furthermore, according to the show’s theory, the five kids that now share pain shouldn’t be able to feel minor pains at all now since their pain sensations are being reduced by 80%.

                          I’m anxious because I’m not sure if I’m simply getting cynical or whether I’m being unreasonably expecting too much from the first episode of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri. By rights I ought to love it, but it both looks and feels like it takes so many beats directly from Shingeki no Kyojin that my enthusiasm for it is partially diminished. The show just doesn’t feel unique and creative when I know that it’s just an earlier show with a different skin. And some of the narrative weaknesses of Shingeki no Kyojin are still present, although thankfully not as prominent.

                          I sort of wish the body of the Ahare! Meisaku-kun TV show was animated the way the ending animation credits was because the ending credits animation is much cuter.

                          Watched the first episode of Kagewani: Shou. The series hasn't appreciably changed from its first season.

                          Among the 27 new season shows I’ve watched at this point, Terraformers Revenge is easily the weakest. Clearly the second season scaled back its graphic violence to avoid heavy broadcast censorship, but the show’s intense graphic violence was its only appeal. The show has weak characterizations and a flimsy, superficial plot that hinges heavily on sappy cliché character motivations. Now adding weak animation quality and boring action to the weak story just makes the second season entirely worthless.

                          Danchi Koukousei no Nichijou and Tonari no Yamada-kun both had at least some merit to them that made them enjoyable and entertaining. The first episode of Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge seems stylistically reminiscent of those earlier school comedies, but Tanaka-kun seems to lack any redeeming merit. Tanaka himself is not an especially likeable character. He’s a spoiled, lazy character who just lets other people take care of him. And since he has no redeeming values, he doesn’t surprise viewers with any creative or unexpected developments, plot twists, or witty humor. The show just feels like a waste of time.

                          The first episode of Flying Witch is a simple yet charming slice of life show with a few magical effectively directed moments that really inspire and enthrall. The show is a great reminder of what’s so good about simple but well-crafted anime.

                          Evidently the first episode of High School Fleet is Tactical Roar with the tone of Vividred Operation. I really enjoyed Tactical Roar, but very few other people even seemed to watch it. I respect the way that protagonist Mike in “HaiFuri” is a dojiko yet still knows her training and responsibilities very well. I don’t expect wonders from this series, but this seems like it may be solidly entertaining.

                          Most of this season’s new anime have been pretty obvious. The first episode of Kuromukuro is one of the few so far that I’m genuinely on the fence over. The first episode didn’t immediately captivate me, but it’s got a strong enough emphasis on characterization and creating an interesting scenario that it leaves me a bit curious to see how the next episode will pan out.

                          Watched the first episode of Bishoujo Yuugi Unit Crane Game Girls.

                          Hakuouki: Otogisoushi is obviously a "fans only" SD parody because all of its humor is predicated on the viewer already being very familiar with the characters and their relationships and circumstances.

                          Before watching the new series, I watched the complete first episode of the original 1991 Shounen Ashibe TV series. The show is sort of a Crayon Shin-chan "lite," and in the first episode the middle segment about Ashibe's friend Sugao was actually the funniest segment of the episode. The first episode of the Shounen Ashibe: Go! Go! Goma-chan series is a near identical remake of the first third of the original '91 episode, except that the new version gives Goma-chan a bit more prominence than he had in the original series.

                          The first episode of the 2016 BonoBono is pretty much exactly like the original 1995 series.

                          The Teekyuu spin-off Usakame is just a bit less frenetically paced, and its visual design is just a bit softer than Teekyuu. Otherwise, it's practically the same show.

                          Wagamama High Spec is evidently the latest girl student council anime in the vein of GJ-bu and Seitokai no Ichizon.

                          The first episode of Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou may not be conventionally stylish looking, but it distinctly has a neat contemporary Japanese urban youth tone and a very fun character.

                          Sansha Sanyou is the latest cute schoolgirls slice of life show. It has its own distinct tone and character, but it's closest in tone to Aiura and Yuyushiki. To its credit, the first episode does have surprisingly good animation quality.

                          Watched the first two episodes of JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Diamond wa Kudakenai.

                          The full-length version of Gainax's Omoi no Kakera special is a bittersweet domestic tale. It's most interesting to me for its numerous interesting shots of the rebuilding of Japan's Tohoku region. Unfortunately, despite being a very nice, warm looking anime, a handful of shots during the ending credits switch to rather ugly full CG.

                          On the positive side, the first episode of Shounen Maid isn't nearly as exploitative as I anticipated it would be. It's no Shounen Maid Kuro-kun. But it also arguably plays a bit too safe, lacking in significant atmosphere. It comes across as so ordinary and mediocre that I feel no compulsion to watch any more of it.

                          Continued (again) below --->

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                          • Continued (again) from above.

                            I’m not opposed to hybrids of idol singers and mecha. I watched all of AKB0048 and three seasons of Symphogear. But after two episodes of Macross Delta, I’d rather go back to finishing up Tekketsu no Orphans. On one hand my instinct is to say that Macross Delta isn’t really a bad show; it’s just not thematically Macross. On the other hand I’m inclined to say that even by loose standards it is a weak show. I recognize that idol singers have always been a characteristic of Macross, but Macross, Macross F, Macross Zero, and Macross Plus, and even Macross II all felt like war stories. Macross Delta feels like a less cute version of AKB0048 or a sibling to Eureka 7. It feels less like a Macross story and more like an original sci-fi story with Macross concepts shoehorned in. Then it makes not one lick of sense. There seems to be no actual reason why the Walkyrie girls actually need to be present in person to sing their healing combat songs. And there’s no explanation provided for why they seem to be able to materialize high tech weapons that rival or surpass valkyrie fighters. Furthermore, if they’re specifically looking for girls whose voices can become weapons and they find exactly what they’re looking for in Freyja, why do they then dismiss her? Hayate seems nearly schizophrenic as his personality shifts on a dime. He seems to be a sweet-natured guy because he goes out of his way to assist Freyja, but then he teases her ruthlessly. He’s initially depicted as easy-going and quick to brush off criticism, yet late in the first episode and early in the second episode he suddenly takes offense to being criticized.

                            Finally got around to watching Steve Biro’s American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore. I have a mixed reaction to it, but I respect what Steve has done with it. The 70-minute film is the epitome of torture porn. Three guys in masks film themselves dismembering and adult mother and daughter. Clearly, this is a “film” for an extremely eclectic and small audience. It’s the kind of film that I appreciate for being provocative but also the kind of film that makes me ask myself, “Why am I even watching this?” Where the original Guinea Pig 1 & 2 had no spoken dialogue, the American Guinea Pig teases with plentiful hints of satanic ritual and commercial snuff film production. However, the two motivations seem diametrically opposed, and neither gets enough explanation to function as more than distracting background noise. I respect the way non-English speaking viewers might presume that the largely irrelevant dialogue may heighten the intrigue and veracity of the film, but for a native English-speaker, the spoken dialogue is just a pointless distraction that undermines the sadistically apocalyptic tone. The on-screen gore effects are excellent, and a particular Un Chien Andalou homage especially got under my skin.

                            Sadly, I really wanted to love Ilya Naishuller’s Hardcore Henry, but the film barely feels at all like a descendant of the director’s 2013 “Bad Motherf*cker” music video. “Bad Motherf*cker” was uncluttered, comprehensible, and fun. Hardcore, or “Hardcore Henry,” as it’s known in America, is a gimmick film that ought to be content to deliver a simple gimmick. Instead, it abandons the strengths of its predecessor while half-heartedly trying to overcompensate in other areas. Hardcore is near constant shaky-cam, rendering scenes frequently literally out of focus. That action that was so breathtaking in “Bad Motherf*cker” is frequently incomprehensible in Hardcore Henry. Hardcore is a simple movie that benefits from a simple narrative: an enigmatic man single-mindedly mows through waves of enemies to retrieve his kidnapped wife. Except Hardcore feebly tries to convince viewers that Henry is simultaneously a frightened wimp and an unstoppable killing machine. The movie should be a simple gratuitous romp of non-stop ultra-violence, yet the protagonist doesn’t fully commit to being a ruthless force of destruction until half-way through the movie. From beginning to end, the film makes half-hearted attempts to characterize Henry, but the lack of commitment only weakens the film and makes viewers question why they’re rooting for a character who’s too disinterested to deserve empathy. The movie should arouse a fervent, enthralled excitement over seeing the little guy kick ass against all odds. But instead the film just evokes a heavy “meh” sigh despite its near constant action and intense, brutal, gory violence.

                            London Has Fallen is exactly what rational viewers should expect: a lesser clone of the successful first film. If there’s anything to be said in the sequel’s favor it’s that the sequel isn’t a tremendous decline from its predecessor. The sequel is virtually the same film as the original, but the subtle difference that most of the sequel is a cat and mouse chase rather than a hostage rescue reduces some of the ongoing tension that helped strengthen the first film. As both a sequel and a conventional 80’s style action picture, the action beats are competent, if unremarkable. But the lulls in between the action scenes simply feel tedious and perfunctory in “London,” making the entire film feel just a bit sluggish and leaden.

                            Read the third issue of Andrew MacLean’s sword & sorcery comic Head Lopper. My only complaint with it is that there’s just not enough of it. It’s so much pure fun that I just can’t wait for the next issue. Also read the third issue of Dark Knight III. Particularly in the wake of the Belgian bombings, the book feels both prescient and heavy-handed, but at least it’s not quite as didactic as Dark Knight 2 was. I’m still not sold on this third series, but this third issue is a bit more compelling than the prior two issues were.

                            Comment


                            • The first episode of Battle Spirits: Double Drive is another of this season's new shounen hobby anime that feels completely conventional and unremarkable.

                              The second episode of Space Patrol Luluco leaves me baffled with ethical questions of uncertain relevance. Episode 3 seemingly set all of those concerns aside.

                              The first episode of Future Card Buddyfight Triple D picks up with the Buddyfight 100 characters. The series' monster designs and attacks are more elaborate than ever, and Buddyfight has a distinctly more elastic slapstick than Battle Spirits does, but narratively the episode is very safe & conventional.

                              Although I'm aware that the character names in Gyakuten Saiban are puns, watching the official Crunchyroll subtitles makes me cringe whenever the translation refers to the American names while the characters speak their original Japanese names. The first episode of the anime distinctly makes me think that the Gyakuten Saiban concept may work very well as an interactive video game, but despite its efforts to visually liven up the action, as a passive cinematic medium, it's just not very interesting. The show has no sense of tension or suspense, and its clues are too easily identified and unraveled to give the show any intrigue.

                              Watched the second and third episodes of Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu. The show is impressive & intriguing because it has impressive and elaborate animation and a very mysterious story.

                              Watched the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal Season III.

                              The first episode of Aikatsu Stars may be a new story, but it's the same Aikatsu formula.

                              Watched Mahoutsukai Precure episode 4.

                              Watched Anne Happy episode 2.

                              Watched the second episode of High School Fleet.

                              Watched the pleasant second episode of Flying Witch. The third episode is very cute.

                              Just when I was thinking that Dragon Ball Super episode 39 was starting to get redundant by again taking advantage of Goku's lack of discipline, the episode abruptly turned into a new landmark episode for the franchise.

                              Watched Kuma Miko episode 3.

                              Bakuon episode 3 is pretty amusing. And a bit weird.

                              The animation quality in the second episode of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is still good but noticably employs some distracting shortcuts. Moreover, the episode hits all the right beats but rushes its pace at such a breakneck speed that even brief moments lack the impact they should have because the episode never leaves any time to breath.

                              Finished off Miss Monochrome 3 episodes 10-13.

                              The 13th episode of Ojisan to Marshmallow is just weird. And a bit creepy.

                              Watched Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou episode 2.

                              Watched the first two episodes of the weirdly cute Aggressive Retsuko.

                              The second episode of Sansha Sanyou clearly confirms that exceptional animation quality is the show's signature. The episode includes a number of shots that feature completely unnecessary animation, most notably the train approaching the in background of the shot of Hayama's sister at the rail crossing.

                              The first episode of the Big Order TV series is intriguing but also sadly stupid. The episode introduces viewers to a teen wracked by guilt because he believes his super power devastated the world ten years earlier. However, the episode’s climactic reveal explains exactly what his super power really is. The explanation, taken in conjunction with what he’s done in the episode previously, clearly suggests that instead of spending ten years regretting his actions, all along he’s had the ability to repair all of the damage he did. The second episode gets more iffy because any sense of consistency and rules to the orders' powers feels very tenuous.

                              The first episode of Ninja Slayer From Animation Special Edition appears to be just a combined TV broadcast of two web-episodes per week.

                              Watched the third episode of Joker Game. It's a fine episode, but it does feel like it ought to be two episodes to give the story more development and breadth.

                              The second episode of Kuromukuro is just as fun as the first episode because it concentrates on action and a breakneck pace without trying to jam in too many characters or too much story the way Kabenari, for example, does.

                              On the scale of pre-adolescent ninja anime, the first episode of 1979’s Manga Sarutobe Sasuke is more lighthearted than either Sasuke or Shounen Sarutobe Sasuke. Although its subject matter is different, stylistically and tonally the first episode of Manga Sarutobe Sasuke reminds me a lot of Pro Golfer Saru.

                              The first two episodes of 2001's Tantei Shounen Kageman are a bit interesting because there's more to the show than what's obvious. The series is a children's mystery adventure comedy series. The first episode breaks the fourth wall by directly encouraging viewers to solve the regular puzzles that appear in the story. Then the show throws a narrative curve by introducing and literally connecting the protagonist Mantaro with a "shadow" alien being.

                              Watched the second episode of Kiznaiver.

                              Read the Star Wars: C-3PO one-shot comic that explains where and how 3PO got his red arm. It's a bit cheesey. Also read the Cavegirl: Sisters of the Arena 2, Henchgirl 5, Ninjak 14, The Discipline 2, Monstress 5, Batman/TMNT 5, Interceptor 1-3 comics.

                              I’m very conscious of the quirky and dramatic nature of the Patlabor franchise, but even its stylistic tradition doesn’t excuse the weakness of the live-action Next Generation Patlabor: Tokyo War motion picture. The film is a “direct” sequel to the 1993 Patlabor 2 anime film in which imprisoned revolutionary leader Yukihito Tsuge’s followers steal a prototype military helicopter and proceed to very slowly and near randomly terrorize Tokyo to achieve some sort of vaguely referenced “justice.” The identity of the helicopter pilot is supposed to be a core mystery of the film, yet the movie never bothers to explain who she actually is nor why she evidently has a personal vendetta against the SV2. Seemingly just to indulge director Mamoru Oshii’s military fetishism, the movie includes several Apache attack helicopters and a pair of jet fighters that literally do nothing in the movie. And viewers anticipating watching the movie to see the titular patlabors should be advised otherwise because the labors only appear within the film’s final 13 minutes, and they’re practically useless. The entire movie simply feels like Mamoru Oshii playing around in a private cinematic playground that excludes the viewing audience. The movie is significantly underwritten, most of the cast appear as mere cameo supporting characters, and the narrative makes a deliberate effort to explain that the movie’s climactic conflict is literally pointless.

                              Watched Agents of SHIELD season 3 episodes 9-16.

                              Watched Daredevil S2 episodes 1-4.

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                              • The first episode of kids' anime series Kamiwaza Wanda feels vaguely like a hybrid of Transformers and Youkai Watch.

                                Dragon Ball Super episode 40 was particularly fun.

                                Sansha Sanyou episode 3 is cute and begins to convince me that perhaps the weird, intimidating characters actually are good people after all.

                                The first episode of the Magi: Sinbad no Bouken TV series may appeal to viewers who are already very familiar with the character Sinbad, but for new and casual viewers, the story of his birth and childhood aren't tremendously interesting.

                                Watched Kumamiko episode 4. The series continues to be vaguely weird.

                                Watched Kuromukuro episodes 3 & 4. The story is developing rather slowly, but I appreciate the concentration on developing the characters, relationships, and the mystery.

                                Since I was one of its Kickstarter backers, I decided to finally get around to watching the Coluboccoro OVA. It’s really a mixed result. At times the animation quality is excellent, yet some shots rely on the most primitive digital animation camera zooms to imitate actual animation. The bigger problem is that the concept has too much story for a 29-minute OVA. The short feels strictly like a pilot episode because it merely introduces characters and concepts, ending with a literal string of unanswered questions. The concept has potential, and the OVA shows promise. But unfortunately a single 29-minute crowd-funded episode just isn’t adequate to fully do justice to the concept.

                                I clearly understand that Mahoutsukai Precure episode 5 is trying to inject the obligatory conflict between the girls that ultimately makes them bond, but since the episode was so concerned about adhering to formula, the actual argument felt underwritten and very artificial. Episode 6 is a bit of a stronger episode.

                                Watched Joker Game episode 4.

                                The absurdist sense of humor is especially present in Bakuon episode 4.

                                Watched Onigiri episode 2.

                                Typical of any crossover with the word “versus” in its title, the three episode Cyborg 009 vs. Devilman OVA series included only one brief, albeit thrilling, fight between Cyborg 009 and Devilman. Predictably, the rest of the series is a loose team-up again common enemies. But the story isn’t the series’ strength or primary appeal. The characters are presented very faithfully; the action is intense and plentiful, and especially faithful to the tone of the 90s and early 2000s incarnations of the characters, and the art design and animation quality are solid. The three OVAs don’t offer very much depth, but fans of the two franchises and the style of shounen action the two franchises represent should be very pleased by the OVAs. I’m especially pleased by the way the narrative handles the idea that by now the original nine cyborgs have to compensate for their relative weakness compared to other more powerful modern and also supernatural antagonists.

                                Watched Aggressive Retsuko episodes 3 & 4.

                                Watched the disposable Nagato Yuki-chan episode 17 OVA.

                                Watched Anne Happy episodes 3 & 4.

                                The third episode of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri doesn't take narrative risks, but it slows the pace just enough to allow its plot developments and characterization to sink in and gain some traction.

                                I bought and read the first issues of ARH Comix’s Arhian: Head Huntress and Astria comic books. The former is a serviceable Cimmerian action tale that’s just a bit disappointing because the story is clearly willing to sexually objectify its protagonist barbarian bounty hunter, but at the same time it tries to play coy because the comic’s creators presume that doing so is “provocative” and responsible when, in fact, it’s only annoyingly compromised. Either treat the heroine with dignity or just concede to making her a sex symbol; trying to do both simultaneously just feels like compromised, artificial storytelling. Perhaps because the simplistic barbarian tale is written by Arahom Radjah, Abraham Kawa, and Ben Bishop (amazingly three writers to still come up with such bland writing), the Arhian comic reads a bit more naturally than the somewhat stilted first issue of Astria, written by Spencer Thurgood and Arahom Radjah. The straightforward revenge story exhibits the most obvious and simplistic depiction of psychology, and moreover the writing frequently reads like English composed by a fluent yet still non-native English speaker. The writing always makes sense, but it frequently feels stiff and unnaturally formal. Like Lola XOXO: Wasteland Madam, Astria is a girl with guns action story. It’s far from outstanding, and its writing isn’t as fluid and natural, yet on the other hand it’s also not quite as overtly dumb as Lola XOXO: Wasteland Madam.

                                The first issue of creators Nick Spencer & Steve Lieber's new crime comedy comic series The Fix has gotten a lot of positive buzz. On one hand, the crude, cynical humor, like an updated version of the 1998 action film The Big Hit, is undeniably funny. At the same time I don’t understand why this comic is getting so much attention when the fantasy comic series Public Relations is equally funny and raunchy yet even more geeky but isn’t getting anywhere near the love that The Fix is receiving lately.

                                Writer Tom Riordan and artist Nathan Gooden’s new comic series Kill Box has gotten a lot of buzz lately. I purchased and read the first issue. The writing is serviceable: not bad but not exceptional. The monochrome art has a slick yet gritty feel, yet as if trying to make the art as dynamic as possible, characters seem to be frequently posed in rather awkward and unnatural positions. The biggest weakness of the first issue seems to be the fact that the story lacks a focal point for its characterization. Since the story leaps from character to character so rapidly, and writer Tom Riordan himself acknowledges in the afterword that the story isn’t original, that the reader has little to grab onto and invest in.

                                While I'm glad to see Wicked + Divine back on track as of issue 18, the deliberate plunge back into the core narrative still feels abrupt.

                                As much as I'm loathe to say it, Kristen Gudsnuk's Henchgirl is hit or miss. Issue 6, though, is a particularly good issue.

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