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  • Continued from above.

    Considering that Wonder Woman is easily the best of the first four DCU films, I fear that it's easy to over-praise the film, which is what seems to be occurring today, it's official first day of release. Since Wonder Woman had such a relatively low hurdle to clear, it succeeds simply by matching the quality of the average MCU movie. Thanks to its acting and script, Wonder Woman is slightly stronger than the weakest MCU movies, such as Iron Man 2 and Thor: Dark World, but it's still not as good as the best MCU movies, including Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avengers. Unlike Man of Steel, BvS, and Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman has a thematic purpose for existing. It does bring a ray of hopefulness, a badly needed genuine sense of heroism by desire rather than obligation, into the DCU. It also brings color, literal vivid color, into the DCU world which has previously been characterized by grey, black, silver, and other muted tones. Occasionally CG is a bit weak and obvious. The action set pieces are large in scope but typically not especially exciting because they stay very distant and impersonal. The singular lengthy action scene that does tighten the scope, Diana going melee against Nazis inside buildings in the village of Veld, employs so many odd camera tricks that it comes across stylish more than impactful. In the present DCU, and compared to the advance previews for Justice League, Wonder Woman certainly looks like the wide-margin winner. But in the larger perspective of big-budget superhero flicks, Wonder Woman is merely average.

    Watched the original Spanish language version of the 1982 horror flick Pieces. Despite being Spanish rather than Italian, the movie absolutely is a giallo: not the worst one I've ever seen but far from the best. I can honestly appreciate why this particular film could have developed a fan following through the past forty years, but from a contemporary perspective it's difficult to appreciate the film's “strengths,” such as they are, above its weaknesses. Even considering its age, the film isn't as gory as its reputation suggests. The movie throws around plenty of fake body parts and stage blood, but about half of the film's most graphic shots are kept off camera. The movie also contains a number of narrative elements that are laughably dumb including a cameo from a kung-fu fighter that literally appears out of nowhere, a girl not noticing the killer hiding a full-sized chainsaw behind his back, and the entire police investigation primarily based around just hoping that it coincidentally stumbles upon the serial killer literally red-handed. And even by the wildest stretch of the imagination, the film's final “gotcha” moment makes no sense whatsoever. But as a moderately well-shot and edited slapdash kitchen sink slasher exploitation sleaze movie, it does have a certain, limited goofy charm.

    American Gods episode 3 continues to be fascinatingly mysterious.

    Twin Peaks season 3 episode 1 feels a bit like it relocates the attitudes and quirks of Twin Peaks to new locations. Episode 2 is even more strange, but at the same time feels more akin to the original series' tone.

    Comment


    • The "A" part of Precure A la Mode episode 18 is interesting because it's characterized by a sort of "Ikuhara Kunihiko lite" visual humor. Episode 19 reminds viewers that this Cure team is unusually weak. Normally the cures have to actually beat down the enemy monster before destroying it, but these girls have so few attacks that they have to forgo the "defeating" part and just jump straight to the "destroying" point. I'm also a bit disappointed that the episode spoiled its big reveal regarding Kirahoshi entirely unnecessarily.

      Watched ID-0 episode 6-9.

      Watched Henkei Shoujo episode 2.

      Seikaisuru Kado episode 9 worries me a bit. The series has been unique and fascinating because it's relied entirely on philosophical hypothetical propositions. Episode 9 continues to rely heavily on big provocative ideas, but it also takes a turn into conventional cliche story development. The series has been so intelligent so far that I want to have faith in it, but I'm anxious that it'll lose confidence in what it's been doing so well and fall back on more mundane ideas and development.

      Berserk episode 10 demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of the writing. It's an exciting and brutal episode, but particularly the scene of Schierke trying to reach Guts feels a bit overbearing.

      Souta was really threatening to change from being just a burdensome character to a prominent hindrance and even inadvertent villain in Re:Creators episodes 8-10, so I'm glad to see the story definitively deal with that annoying sub-plot.

      Eromanga-sensei episodes 8-10 give me a couple of thoughts. First, I firmly believe that anyone that can write a complete short novel in one sitting is writing garbage. Second, Elf-chan and Muramasa are way too good for Izumi.

      As I began watching the first episode of 1992's Moero! Top Striker and noticed that it was a Nippon Animation production, I mentally summarized it as a conventional soccer anime that looks like a WMT series. Nearly half way into the episode I chuckled to myself when the story development proved that my observation was even more accurate than I'd anticipated. The first episodes of nearly every WMT series separate kids from parents. Not only does the first episode of Top Striker reveal that Hikaru's parents both died in a plane accident, the episode also separates him from his aunt.

      Watched Alice to Zouroku episodes 9 & 10.

      I thought that the anime industry had stopped producing short video game based promotional OVAs by now, but I found that after a year delay, the Azure Striker Gunvolt OVA was released earlier this year. Since it was new to me, I watched it and found it exactly like other early 2000s video game OVAs. It has a cyberpunk visual design that feels like a holdover from the 90s. Moreover, much of the story is missing. Sumeragi Group is hunting super powered “adepts,” but the OVA is ambiguous about whether these superhumans are born naturally or created and escaped from Sumeragi. They use an Eve Tokimatsuri/Sharon Apple style virtual idol to track & identify adepts, but the OVA never explains precisely how this works. The protagonist seemingly is morally correct when he points out that the supposedly morally superior rebellion group is actually just as inhuman as the villains, except at the same time they aren't because the story has no consistency.

      Debatably the plot developments in Dragon Ball Super episode 94 did need to be covered, but they definitely didn't require an entire episode.

      On the positive side, at least the Blame movie is comprehensible. It makes sense while the previous anime doesn't. However, the movie is essentially just a rehash of The Road Warrior with less personality. In fact, in the movie Killy has so little personality that he's not just stone faced; he may as well literally be a stone. Furthermore, the ending is disappointing in the sense that it's very cinematic, but it logically makes no sense. The climax isn't confusing or abstract; it's simply 100% unnecessary. The obvious and common sense ending is actually the best decision for all involved, but the film's climax chooses cliché instead of common sense.

      Watched Ani ni Tsukeru Kusuri wa Nai episodes 9 & 10.

      Realized that I'd skipped over Natsume Roku episode 8, so I went back to watch that episode. Also watched episode 10.

      Watched Boruto episodes 5-10. Episode 7 annoyed me for a few reasons. Adults seem to exist in this continuity only when they're conducive to the plot. Furthermore, I have no clue how these kids can be trainee ninja yet can't seem to sense an enemy's chakra at all. Episode 8 bothers me because it suggests that either Naruto is a terrible Hokage, or administering the state is exponentially more difficult when it's at peace than when it's at war because no previous hokage ever seemed to have as much difficulty keeping up with daily administration as he does. Episode 9 finally includes a fight scene that's on par with the average of the previous series, but it's only a disappointing few seconds long.

      Went on a short marathon of comic book reading. Aliens: Defiance #11 confuses me. A few issues ago the story took an unexpected turn. This issue intercuts the seemingly progressing story with another sequence of events that I can't contextualize. Hillbilly issue 6 is one of the young series' best issues. Fish Eye issues 3 & 4 confirm that the series contains a strong concept, but this particular execution does it no favors. The visual art is so stylized and simplified that frequently it's difficult to distinguish who characters are because everyone is a virtually identical block figure. And the story still can't decide whether it wants to be satire or exploitation. Read Paper Girls 14 & 15. Comic writer Mark Millar is somewhat the comic industry's M. Night Shyamalan because so many of his comic series hinge upon surprise plot twists. Like the previous issues, the concluding sixth issue of Reborn is disappointing and unsatisfying for two primary reasons. Even at double-length, the sixth issue still reads like a summary of itself. The plot progression is so brisk that it feels like a synopsis rather than a story. Furthermore, the “book one” final issue introduces a plot twist that literally breaks the established rules of the narrative in order to justify the story's “surprise” twist. Read Savage Things issues 3 & 4 which continue to be extremely conventional potboiler. Motor Girl #6 is brief but especially harrowing. Helena Crash #3 is fun. I was surprised to learn that the next issue is the final one. American Mythology's Underdog Comics #1 is a fun bit of nostalgia.

      I went into writer/director Trey Edward Shults' film It Comes at Night with very little foreknowledge and expectation. After watching it, I can praise the film but also say that I'm not especially fond of it. Simply put, if I'd had a more precise awareness of exactly what the film is, I probably wouldn't have gone out to see it because it's a genre that I typically don't watch. To the very limited extent that the film is a “horror” movie, it's a film about a literally terrifying scenario rather than a conventional fright film. The movie is an apocalyptic suspense film. Once the viewer knows that, the viewer can anticipate that the movie will invariably lead to a particular conclusion; the intrigue lies in the details leading up to the climax. The film's acting and writing are both solid. The film is highly stylistic with a slow-burn pace, dipping into occasional psychological horror and relying heavily on characterization and the frayed psychology of quiet desperation. The style is periodically a bit heavy handed, including an occasionally overbearing score and such a deliberate emphasis on ambiguity that certain sections of dialogue start to sound artificial and certain plot developments may feel frustratingly under-explained. Ultimately, the movie is an excellent example of deliberate cinematic artistry. However, exactly how enjoyable or immersive the film is may vary wildly from viewer to viewer.

      Watched American Gods episodes 4 & 5.

      Watched Twin Peaks episodes 3 & 4.

      Watched the first episode of the BBC series Handmade in Japan, which focuses on the Komiya family of traditional swordsmiths. I've seen documentaries about samurai sword forging before, but seeing the respect and dedication that these craftsmen put into their work is always amazing.

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      • Watched Berserk episode 11.

        I'm quite uncertain about Seikaisuru Kado episode 10.

        Up through episode 9, ID-0 has been a decent, if unremarkable, sci-fi thriller. However, while functional, episode 10 is a poorly conceived mess. The show has dropped enough hints from the outset to suggest that it had a structural plan from the beginning; however, revealing both the protagonist & antagonist's true identities, back stories, and motivations entirely within one episode so late into the series is jarring and disruptive. The episode abruptly reveals that the characterizations viewers have become familiar with are at least partially wrong. At least in part the protagonist is actually a psychotic villain, and the presumed villain is more misguided, foolish, and selfish than malicious. While overturning expectations could be fascinating if done well, in this show, when revealed with no warning or pretext at all, it only makes characters that could possibly have been empathetic seem like unpleasant jerks. In effect, this episode simply squanders away much of the goodwill that viewers have developed for the characters. And unless it's going to get explained, which I doubt it will, why a character who appears at the end of the episode hasn't visibly aged in over a decade just seems like a thoughtless continuity error.

        Have to say that I'm surprised that Eromanga-sensei took 11 episodes before it finally dropped its most logical cameo appearances.

        Dragon Ball Super episode 95 is yet another one that confuses me regarding relative power levels. Depending on how one wishes to interpret the episode's events, one circumstance could suggest that Goku is far stronger than Golden Freeza. But on the opposite side of the coin the episode literally suggests that Golden Freeza is now stronger than Goku. But in the same episode Beerus asserts that SSJ Blue Goku & Golden Freeza are evenly matched.

        Watched Sword Oratoria 8-10.

        Watched Uchoten Kazoku 2 episodes 9-11, the later two of which were especially good.

        Watched Alice to Zouroku episode 11.

        Watched the Sansha Sanyou mini OVAs 1 & 2.

        The Resident Evil: Vendetta movie is hit & miss like all of the previous Biohazard anime films. To its credit, the CG is excellent. Especially in the film's second half the action is rather ridiculous but very dynamically choreographed. On the negative side, the flick isn't especially smart. Particularly Chris Redfield & Rebecca Chambers behave with typical horror movie stupidity including not calling out for help and individually investigating obviously dangerous situations. And all of the characters, despite being experienced zombie hunters, have a tendency to act reactively instead of pro-actively. Small thoughtless details are a bit annoying as well, like the fact that it's physically impossible to draw a vial of blood from a human arm in a milisecond; there's no point in destroying the gas deployment trucks after they're already empty; the film's narrative gimmick is that the zombies don't attack anyone who's been pre-enoculated as a "friendly," yet the zombie dogs still attack the heroes who have been pre-enoculated; a family held hostage sub-plot is literally forgotten, and the film features what must be the most indestructible helicopter in movie history.

        Watched Little Witch Academia 22-24. The later two episodes go a long way to solidifying this series as one of the best of the year. These later two episodes confirm that the series knew exactly what it was doing from the very beginning.

        I don't think Natsume Roku is the series' strongest season, but episode 11 did introduce an intriguing new aspect to the ongoing story.

        Watched Aggressive Retsuko 56-60.

        Tsuki ga Kirei episode 8 is a charming instance of heartfelt, pleasant romantic drama free of hysterics or gimmicks.

        Read a handful of comics. The first issue of writer Garth Ennis' Jimmy's Bast*rds is not the second coming of The Boys. It's literally a more graphic but less witty sibling to Archer. It's a crude, adult-oriented satire of James Bond. Because it's based on existing characterizations, it doesn't have the uniqueness or the compelling original characterizations to make it immediately stand out the way The Boys did. However, for the most part, the quippy and exploitational story was fun until the climactic reveal, I think, may have been so ridiculous that it broke suspension of disbelief. [If you're not going to read the comic, I'll reveal the twist in a spoiler below.] The long delayed Tomboy issue 11 continues to be quite convoluted but now also feels distinctly like it's forcing its narrative developments in order to reach a predetermined climax. Now that it's done I can say that Green Valley is not quite the mind-blowing revolutionary fantasy epic that writer Max Landis promised. While issue 9 does wrap up both the story and the explanation, it all feels a bit too neat and tidy. Likewise, the concluding fourth issue of Helena Crash wraps up the story with a nearly unnatural brevity. Read the first issue of Alterna Comics' reprint of Jeff McComsey's Mother Russia. The first issue is fun and exciting because it's practically all action. Read Shadows on the Grave issues 4 & 5. Sex Criminals issue 19 requires some effort on the part of the reader, but it rewards plentifully.

        Caught up with American Gods episodes 6 & 7.

        Also caught up with the exceedingly bizarre Twin Peaks episodes 5 & 6.

        There are plenty of documentaries about modern Japan and its culture, but what makes the hour-long Ryan Gander: The Idea of Japan TV special a bit more interesting than most is its equal focus on not just "what," which is the subject of most of these documentaries, but also "why." The documentary deliberately applies an artist's introspective interpretation on the philosophy and motivation behind Japanese social conventions & trends rather than simply saying, "Here they are."

        Since I believe that execution, creativity, and style are more important than originality, I'm disinclined to criticize Neill Blomkamp's short film Rakka for being “another” alien invasion piece. Typical of Blomkamp's work, the short is very polished looking with an extensively considered scenario and competent acting & editing. Unfortunately, the short functions as an extended trailer rather than any sort of unified whole. Nosh's offer to Jasper in “Part Two” seems to go unaddressed. Even if the events in “Part One” do occur chronologically after the events of “Part Two,” the ambush scene still doesn't appear to live up to Nosh's claims. Furthermore, the visitation that ends “Part One” also goes unexplained and undeveloped. “Part Three” doesn't clarify whether its events are “real” or merely Amir's vision of a possible future. Furthermore, what viewers see in “Part Three” doesn't seem to contradict the bleak scenario established in “Part One.” So the short leaves viewers with many questions that aren't philosophical or rhetorical; they're simply unanswered.

        Comment


        • Busou Shoujo Machiavellianism was never a fantastic series, and it arguably got weaker as it progressed. Ultimately, I'm quite disappointed to see that it's a harem anime in which all the girls love the protagonist simply because he's the only male in the show's universe who has any self-respect and personality. Finished off episodes 8-12.

          Watched Berserk episode 12.

          Watched Seikaisuru Kado episodes 11 & 12.


          Watched Sword Oratoria episode 11 and, regrettably, the final episode that's a bit of a disappointment.


          I guess the characters in Eromanga-sensei episode 12 haven't heard the advice, "Just Google it."

          The first Kakuchou Shoujo-Kei Trinary ONA feels a little bit familiar. Specifically, it feels like a descendent of anime like Schoolgirl Strikers and Lyrical Nanoha with just a bit of 90's anime influence mixed in.

          Watched Dragon Ball Super 96 & 97.

          The first episode of the Gundam Twilight AXIS web anime feels more like a long trailer than a conventional "episode" because it jumps around in chronology and provides absolutely no context or explanation for anything.

          Objectively I can admit that Alice to Zouroku episode 12 satisfactorily concludes the series, but I can't help but wish that it provided more explanation for why some powers co-exist while others cancel each other out. I'd like to believe that there's more thought behind the plot development than just a randomly invented plot twist to create drama.

          Uchuten Kazoku 2 episode 12 was an excellent final episode beginning with what felt like Dragon Ball Z directed by Wes Anderson and ending with every character getting just reward, for better or worse.

          While Uchoten Kazoku 2 had a great final episode, the final episode of Little Witch Academia may have even topped it, capping off an exceptional series.

          Watched Precure A la Mode episode 20.

          Watched the two Stella no Mahou OVA episodes.

          Watched Tonari no Totoro again at the June 26 subtitled Ghibli Fest screening.

          The first episode of the web anime Soutai Sekai isn't particularly interesting, but towards its end it sets up the foundation for a scenario that could potentially become interesting.

          Finished off ID-0 episodes 11 & 12.

          The final two episodes of Ani ni Tsukeru Kusuri wa Nai are both quite nice.

          Tsuki ga Kirei episode 9 is fine. I'm a bit disappointed by the sudden and unprecedented erruption of Kotarou's jealousy in episode 10. It feels like a deliberate plot development for the purpose of creating drama in a show that's otherwise been so natural and believable. The series' finale, especially the final episode, is wonderful pure love romance that feels deeply tender. This is a series which impressed me from beginning to end because it's an original anime that dared to buck the trend of gimmicky, cliche fan-service oriented stories and simply tell a passionate, quiet and lovely story about finding love. On a side note, I don't understand why Kotarou respects and quotes Osamu Dezai so frequently yet instead of writer Dezai has a poster of boxer Muhammad Ali on his bedroom wall.

          Watched the BBC's “Handmade in Japan” episodes 2 & 3 regarding traditional kimono and Mashiko pottery. The earlier episode is particularly fascinating because I had no idea that traditional kimono are still made exactly as they were 500 years ago: completely manually without even any use of modern electric machinery.

          American Gods episode 8 may be the singular best episode of the season as it brings together all of the season's narrative threads and puts an intriguing, satisfying cap on each of them, for now.

          Wathced Twin Peaks episodes 7 & the epically bizarre 8.

          Differing from Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World's End, Edgar Wright's Baby Driver isn't primarily a comedy. It's a playful crime thriller set among very vicious and violent people. So the film certainly has a sense of humor, but it doesn't contain identifiable punchlines or obvious sight gags. It's far more black ironic comedy. It distinctly reminds me of “Peter Parker” from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 swapped in as the protagonist of Nic Refn's Drive. Although the pacing is just a bit uneven, the film is certainly fun. And it's obviously masterfully directed. Every shot of the movie reveals a deliberate, considered assembly that's obvious but never especially obtrusive.

          To its credit, the new Styx album “The Mission” absolutely does sound like vintage Styx. A listener who didn't know it was a 2017 production could easily assume that it dates from the 1970s or early 80s. However, the album's weakness is that none of its songs particularly encourage singing along. For the most part, the album's tracks are fairly experimental, utilizing changes in rhythm and tempo, and lots of reverb and sampling. The songs are dynamic and unique, but if this album had been released in 1980, I don't think any of its tracks would have been radio-friendly.

          Comment


          • The summer anime season may prove itself, but it isn't starting off well by leading with Hina Logi - From Luck & Logic. At least judging by the first episode of the initial series, Luck & Logic was an unremarkable but serviceable shounen fantasy action show. The spin-off sequel appears to be the show's attempt to focus on a bishoujo direction. However, every aspect of the first episode of Hina Logi feels cliché and heavy handed. This show is cute magical girls at magic girl school strictly executed by the book. Every obligatory stereotype and characteristic is included, right down the line, including the dojiko, the mascot animal, the serious girl, the disapproving teachers, the disciplinarian with her followers, and even the bathing scene. Technically the episode is competently produced, but it exhibits no sense of personality or uniqueness whatsoever. It's a careful assemblage of tropes to create a specific product.

            While the first episode of Enmusubi no Youko-chan has some (not all) cute character designs, it sadly has little else going for it. Its roots as a Chinese co-production are almost immediately evident prominently in its slightly sub-par animation quality and moreso in its very illogical and uneven tone. Certain anime can and do vary wildly in tone and style, like Strange+, Francesca, Bungou Stray Dogs, Servamp, and Renai Boukun. But such Japanese-written anime seem to have the ability to still feel cohesive. But Chinese co-productions like Spiritpact and this show simply don't feel that way. Enmusubi no Youko-chan unfolds like a bunch of disparate concepts and tones all haphazardly mashed together. The fox spirits claim that their purpose is to promote eternal love, yet their definition of “love” appears to be just stealing from victims. Fuuki's magic sand blows the characters out of the building, yet in the next scene the magic sand is attributed to Han Unhi, an entirely different character. The contest announcer provides blunt exposition, yet in the very next scene background characters re-explain the exact same exposition for no reason. Main character Susumu gets only the most minimal and highly confusing introduction and explanation of who he is, and the episode emphasizes that he's tremendously important but doesn't explain why. And I have no clue how or why an ofuda would transform human woman Setsuyo into a semi-transparent ghost. This episode is just a half-baked mess.

            Ironically, I'm not fond of gambling myself, nor do I watch real-life gambling. But I do quite enjoy it when it appears in smart anime like Akagi and One Outs. (On a side note, I didn't enjoy the atmosphere of Legendary Gambler Tetsuya, and Naki no Ryu is far more a yakuza drama than a gambling anime. Shows including Super Zugan and Saki revolve around mahjong but don't include betting.) I didn't like Kaiji because its protagonist is fairly dumb. However, judging by the first episode of Kakegurui, this may be another tense, intelligent gambling anime with a whip-sharp protagonist. Overtly the show bears many similarities in tone to the ridiculous Kangoku Gakuen, so if Kakegurui manages to stay smart rather than goofy or pandering, it may be very intriguing.

            By now Symphogear fans know exactly what to expect. The first episode of Symphogear AxZ delivers exactly to formula.

            I'm a bit embarassed to admit that I needed a few minutes to recollect what the original Touken Ranbu anime series was about. The first episode of the second series, Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu, is a bit more fulfilling because it has far less egotistical bickering between boys and more emphasis on story and action. However, it's still another in a very long line of supernatural action bishounen anime that I typically don't watch.

            On one hand I'm grateful that the first episode of Fate/Apocrypha doesn't feel quite as pretentious as installments in the Fate series typically do. However, the introduction of team battles in a grail war smacks of the very epitome of the necessity for sequels to be bigger. Another thing I particularly noticed about this episode compared to prior Fate series is that this one doesn't immediately appear to have multiple appealing master characters. I wonder how this series will fare if it has to rely only on its story without support from fan favorite characterizations.

            Yamishibai season 5 is still the same show. I guess it must be working for Japanese audiences, but I continue to find the short horror tales more aggravating and frustrating than scary because they consistently don't provide enough context or explanation to even fully make sense. Leaving something to the viewer's imagination is often a trademark of good horror storytelling. But leaving too much unexplained simply makes the story confusing and unsatisfying.

            Despite the structural similarity of the titles “Knight's & Magic” and “Lance & Masques,” the new show doesn't seem quite as weak as earlier anime likewise about a young boy who wishes to become a hero. However, the first episode of Knight's & Magic is difficult to quantify because it doesn't clearly reveal its thematic or orientation focus. I can't tell from the first episode whether the show is going to concentrate on character drama, on action, on suspenseful intrigue. In effect, the first episode is a bit bland because it doesn't have any particular strength. If the show decides to continue developing exactly as its first episode does I just can't see it being very compelling. On a side note, I simply don't understand how or why the reincarnated Kurata appears to at least subconsciously know that he's been reborn, yet he seems to know a very oddly arbitrary sense of knowledge. In fact, so far, the entire “reincarnation” prologue seems entirely pointless and unnecessary, as if the creator wanted to rip off Youjo Senki but then didn't know what to do next.

            Especially following on the heels of Schoolgirl Strikers, I expect magical battle girl anime series to be fairly rote, but the first episode of Battle Girls High School is so obviously derivative of School Girl Strikers, Symphogear, and just a little inspiration from Vividread Operation & Lyrical Nanoha that it entirely lacks any personality or identity of its own. On the positive side, it's not quite a bluntly formulaic and mechanical as Schoolgirl Strikers was, but it's not a big improvement. Once again, there's nothing distinctly terrible about this anime, but it offers nothing that other shows haven't previously done better.

            Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, Taku Sakamoto's Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun manga premiered only two months after Nozomi Uda's Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge. Tonally and stylistically both series feel remarkably similar because both revolve around high school boys who seem lethargic but are devoted intensely to a singular pursuit. To its credit, the first episode of the Aoyama-kun anime does make an effort to treat Aoyama's predilection as a legitimate handicap rather than just an ideosyncracy or point of ridicule. However, a sports comedy anime about the daily life of a high school age germophobe just doesn't seem like it can sustainably be very amusing, especially when even the first episode was only moderately entertaining.

            While I'm partial to the concept of Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou, the execution of the first episode left me sorely disappointed. Unlike the similar and charming Inuboku x SS, the first episode of Youkai Apartment is roundly mediocre in every aspect. It feels as though it merely exists to take up time rather than exists to entertain.

            Watched the first episode of Skirt no Naka wa Kedamono Deshita. It's rather obviously a sibling show to last season's Souryo to Majiwaru Shikiyoku no Yoru ni...

            Comment


            • The first episode of Isekai Shokudou could be described as Bartender with a fantasy angle, particularly since its emphasis is seemingly not so much on the cooking or the patrons as on the setting and server. And like Bartender, and to a certain degree Ristorante Paradiso, the atmosphere of the show is calming, elegant, and charming.

              The Natsume Yuujinchou Go Special is a very nice episode.

              I have the distinct feeling that Koi to Uso was written by a teen or very young adult. The simplicity of the story combined with its abrupt pace and unabashed sentimentality make it feel like something written out of impulse rather than something carefully and extensively crafted, revised, and edited.

              Watched Sakura Quest 9-13. Episode 11 is unusually good, and as though it recognizes the fact, introduces a new ending credits animation. Episode 13 finally drives home the point that Yoshino is fighting an uphill battle because she's trying to rejuvenate a town full of people who have no interest in helping themselves. All of the town's merchants want results, but none of them are interested in exerting effort to reach results.

              Aho Girl feels reminiscent of Nichijou, and like Nichijou is best when it's at its most absurd.

              The first episode of Tsurezure Children is interesting, and although it treads similar ground as Koi to Uso, it feels much more charming and lively.

              On the positive side, the first episode of Nana Maru San Batsu doesn't feel remotely as ridiculous as the earlier schools & quizzes anime series Cheating Craft. But at the same time it just doesn't feel very unique or inspired. The ability to succeed at trivia contests requires intuitiveness, reflexes, and a wide breadth of knowledge. The first episode of Nana Maru San Batsu suggests that the show will focus on reflexes. The first episode seems as if it's already covered as much as can be said about intuition. And the first episode suggests that the show isn't going to pay much attention to knowledge at all. So the first episode feels to me more like a rote attempt to create a series based on an idea no one else has used yet rather than a series that its creator actually cared about.

              Watched the first episode of New Game second season.

              Watched the fourth Kobayashi-san Maid Dragon omake.

              The NTR fetish has been prominent in Japan's H material for a few years now, so inevitably it would eventually surface in mainstream anime, albeit the theme is softened and made a bit more ironically palatable in the Netsuzou Trap –NTR– anime. I've never enjoyed the theme, and even in the watered down version which appears in Netsuzou Trap, I still don't find it appealing. Although most anime isn't rationally believable, Netsuzou Trap falls into the category of anime in which characters place themselves into uncomfortable or provocative situations by their own negligence. Kaiji isn't a romance anime, but it does the same thing. Aku no Hana is a similar anime that follows the same pattern but manages to elevate itself with unusually strong characterizations. The Monogatari series comes very close to falling into this pattern as well. I've simply never liked these type of shows that create drama out of characters' stupidity or lack of assertiveness. To its dubious credit, the show's first episode does evoke a feeling reminiscent of the Cream Lemon: Escalation series, which may partially be its intention.

              Saiyuki Reload Blast largely feels like an exact resurrection of the prior anime seasons. However, I never watched very much Saiyuki anime, so I don't recollect the boys ever being quite so eager and quick to resort to wholesale slaughter, and I don't recollect the Saiyuki franchise ever being quite as graphically violent as the current series appears to be.

              The first episode of Dive just doesn't sit well with me. The latent homosexuality pervasive through the episode is bothersome. I honestly wouldn't mind if the show was an outright boy love anime, but its heavy-handedness at teasing what it's not is distracting. Furthermore, all of the boy characters in the show just feel a bit smug. Even Yoichi seems like he's supposed to be a nice kid, but he constantly exudes the aura of a stuck-up brat. The entire attitude this show projects feels like it alienates and excludes viewers instead of inviting viewers in. Furthermore, on a technical level it bothered me tremendously that the very first high dive depicted in a high diving sports anime wasn't actually animated. It was just suggested via edits of three animation frames.

              The first episode of Konbini Kareshi suggests that it intends to be an ensemble cast high school romance anime in the vein of Boys Be and Amagami, but the first episode was really not interesting at all.

              Viewers who will and won't be receptive to Made in Abyss should be able to tell immediately based on the character designs that resemble Ichigo Marshmallow. The first episode develops as expected. The show is a children's fantasy adventure with a tone comparable to Otogi Jushi Akazukin and Tanken Drilland. The first episode is heavy on introductory exposition, so if the story and adventure aspects ramp up, I can see myself enjoying this show.

              18if initially seemed promising but quickly turned disappointing. The dream world setting allows for limitless creativity and some interesting anime such as Urusei Yatsura movie 2, Alice to Zouroku, Persona, and Yumetsukai, but 18if seems to be content with the most cliché and mundane plot explication possible. Moreover, bland character design and unexpectedly weak art design and animation quality from Gonzo leave the first episode looking like a refugee from the 1990s or very early 2000s.

              I went into the first episode of Vatican Kiseki Chousakan hoping that it would be comparable in tone and approach to the first half of the Ghost Hunt anime, in other words, rational and dramatic. However, from the very outset Vatican Miracle Examiners is most comparable to the second half of Ghost Hunt that's rabidly hysterical and exaggerated to the point of near absurdity. Every aspect of this show's first episode is hyperbolic and sensationalist to such a degree that even as fictional fantasy entertainment, I just can't take it seriously.

              Shoukoku no Altair appears to be a bit of a knock-off of Arslan Senki with a heavier Arabic visual theme, although the cultural theme seems to get only the barest minimum of acknowledgement in the show's depiction of daily life. Sadly, the first episode feels very choppy, rushed, and inconsistent. In one moment protagonist Mahmut is described as a competent young phenom, yet in the next he's an insignificant juvenile. The episode's stakes abruptly shift on a dime from purse snatching to the brink of international war. And a multinational conspiracy that should have played out over multiple episodes, if not an entire season, gets resolved in roughly half an episode.

              Getting used to the especially lanky character designs in Ballroom e Youkoso took a little time. Furthermore, the story development is almost laughable because protagonist Fujita begins the episode with no goals and no interests and abruptly falls completely devoted to literally the very first interest he encounters, which happens to be competitive ballroom dancing. The episode's development is strictly predictable and cliché for this sort of sport/hobby anime, but Production IG's nice animation and colorful, appealing characterizations immediately overcome their clichés to make an episode that's enjoyable in spite of how formulaic it is.

              Continued in next post.

              Comment


              • Continued from above.

                Action Heroine Cheer Fruits is the latest example of why I prefer to watch anime myself, to get a first-hand sense of new shows. The series is the latest iteration of the bishoujo subgenre heritage of Locodol, Love Live, Wake Up Girls, and Idol Jihen; however, it's characterized by some better than average animation quality and art design. And even more so, the entire tone of the first episode is more charming, pure-hearted, and innocent than typical variations of this regional idol subgenre. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed this first episode much more than I expected to.

                Hitorijime My Hero is exactly the sort of anime story that I hate. The story revolves around two idiots who are so dumb and have so little self-respect that they haplessly rely on an older brother to rescue them from the stupid circumstances that they get themselves ensnared in. Particularly Japanese society is one that heavily emphasizes self-responsibility, but this is an anime in which the protagonists absolutely refuse to accept any responsibility for their own circumstances and lives.

                Watched Dragon Ball Super episode 98.

                Regarding Kakegurui episode 2, I'm beginning to like Jabami even more, but I'm even more frustrated that Suzui still fails to recognize what a monster she is. On a side note, the explanation of the school's principles and why it values aspects of gambling is a stupid, illogical theory because if business and politics actually did function like gambling, the world would be in perpetual chaos.

                Jikan no Shihaisha appears to be the latest entry in the long line of dark shounen supernatural action anime. It's comparable to shows including Zombie Loan, D. Grey-Man, and Tokyo Ravens, meaning in part that it's pretty mediocre. Oddly, some scenes are very stylish while other scenes feel very low rent.

                I see Oats Studio's latest short films the way I see chaps; they're perfectly good pants that someone forgot to finish making. Firebase is the most interesting monster in jungle action movie since Predator. God: Serengeti is lushly set and acted. But both mini movies feel far more like trailers than complete shorts.

                Finally finished off Archer season 8 episodes 5-8.

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                • Watched Precure A la Mode episodes 21 & 22. I'll give episode 22 some credit for effort but I still don't think it quite managed to be as dramatic and impactful as it wanted to be because the entire show is a slightly softer, kinder, and less intense iteration of Pretty Cure.

                  Watched the first three episodes of Crayon Shin-chan Gaiden: Omocha Wars.

                  On the positive side, the second episode of Knight's & Magic did focus the way I hoped it would. I did concentrate on action. Furthermore, I respect the way the show acknowledges some practical concerns including the mecha's “metal fatigue” and the king's reaction. However, at the same time I'm disappointed that the show addresses these concepts strictly in a way that benefits the story rather than in a logically believable way. Most logically, El's robot would have given out far earlier than it did because the machine simply isn't built to withstand the sort of torque, weight, and stresses he was putting it through. One can argue that the king's reaction is believable, but it's also disappointingly narrow minded because even if a major new power is potentially a threat, a major known adversary should be a bigger concern than a hypothetical possible threat. And I'm also frustrated over the world design. First, the country appears to have mastered attack magic, yet in presumably a thousand years they've never created a means of long-distance communication? And it simply doesn't make logical sense that any human society's technology would evolve to a high level and then abruptly cease for a thousand years. That's never happened in the history of humankind. The only likely and logical reason it would happen is due to a change in dominant religion, and this show gives no hint of that reasoning. So again the show is simply twisting logic to suit itself.

                  The first episode of Princess Principal was quite a pleasant surprise. Steam Detectives notwithstanding, this may be the first real steampunk anime television series. (In terms of theatrical anime, we've already seen Steamboy and arguably Shisha no Teikoku). The first episode feels quite a bit like a version of Galilei Donna that doesn't pull its punches. It's great looking and has nice animation. However, as much as I'm grateful for the immediate gratification of a resolution to the first mission, the episode did feel rushed in its second half and probably would have benefitted by being spread out to two episodes.

                  Centaur no Nayami appears to exist as the midpoint between Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou and Demi-chan wa Kataritai. It's not as hysteric and slapstick as the former yet not quite as mundane as the later. Speaking personally, I like kemonomimi and generally like furries, but oddly I don't have a particular fondness for monster gals, so this episode didn't especially appeal to me, although I do respect its thoughtfulness to introduce a logical sort of political environment that's a sort of hybrid of socialism and facism.

                  Watched Isekai Shokudou episode 2.

                  The first episode of Tenshi no 3P feels oddly packed with unnecessary characters and plot sub-points. Presuming that the show is eventually going to utilize all of these characters and ideas, there's no reason why they couldn't have been introduced progressively as needed rather than front-loading so much information that seems tangential to the primary story. The core story itself appears to be a hybrid of Ro-Kyu-Bu with K-On, arguably with a bit of PapaKiki mixed in. In my case, I wasn't fond of either Ro-Kyu-Bu or Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai, nor did I watch the first season of K-On, so I can't say that this first episode immediately enthralled me.

                  The new 2017 Mahoujin Guru Guru is a remake rather than a sequel. With the minor difference of adding in “8 bit” sight gags, it's remarkably similar to the 1994 series.

                  Aho Girl episode 2 may be more amusing than the first episode.

                  The second episode of Tsurezure Children is quite enjoyable.

                  In an academic sense, I'm amused that the first episode of Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni appears to be the anti Re: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu. While both series are about a teen boy whisked to a sword & sorcery world, Re: Zero is a complicated & complex series in which the hero is beset with an abundance of obstacles and difficulties. On the other hand, Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni may be the most simplistic & idealized fantasy story I've ever encountered. I'm not criticizing, just observing. While protagonist Touya is described as being reincarnated in a fantasy world, he's actually transported on a permanent vacation to a fantasy world. He literally has God looking over his shoulder, and every obstacle before him is conveniently and easily resolved. The story is so simplified and streamlined that I'd call it a satire or even a joke if it didn't obviously take itself seriously. This is vicarious fan wish fulfillment to such a blatant and extreme degree that it's virtually risible.

                  Let me preface by establishing that I'm ambivalent about Spider-Man. In the past thirty years I've purchased a small handful of Spider-Man comics. I've watched all five prior movies. But I've never had any special affection for the character. So I didn't get around to seeing “Homecoming” until the Monday after opening weekend. I found the film on par with Sam Raimi's first two adaptations. “Homecoming” is a bit long. It also contains absolutely no major surprises. The film is by-the-numbers exactly what viewers would expect the first MCU Spider-Man movie to be. It's playful. It takes care to provide plenty of fan service for die-hard Spidey fans. And ultimately it does little more than just solidify Peter Parker's existence in the larger Marvel cinematic universe. Apart from it feeling long, one other small aggravation I have with the screenplay is the fact that no circumstance or event has repercussions unless the film's story development calls for repercussions. Plenty of situations that should raise an eyebrow occur within the film, yet the majority of these situations seem to occur within a vacuum. They occur with no follow-up, no aftershocks, no responses.

                  Comment


                  • The early episodes of Boruto don't have the tension that was present in the early episodes of Naruto, but Boruto is just fine, except that it occasionally slips in annoying inconsistencies. The early episodes suggest that the “ghost” possessing people only increases their fury, so I don't understand how, in episode 11, it magically bestows ninja powers on a character who isn't a ninja. Then in episode 12 Mitsuki effortlessly hauls up Denki with one hand. No one notices that Mitsuki would have to be absurdly strong for his age to be able to do that. Typical adolescents can't lift a hundred pounds with one hand. Episode 14 concludes the series' first story arc, but regrettably the B-part of episode 14 consists of stupidity and contradictions. Character X is supposed to fulfill Shigaraki Tanuki's vengeance because Shigaraki believed that the Leaf village had made the wrong choices. But the present peace & prosperity of the village proves that it was Shigaraki who was wrong. Then the Nue's reaction to Character X feels left-field because it hasn't been established at all during the prior 13 episodes. Then the destruction of the Gozu Tennou seems absurdly arbitrary & simple considering how it's supposed to be an ultimate weapon. After 13 and a half episodes of build-up, the resolution just feels sloppy, under developed, and highly artificial. Watched episodes 11-15.

                    The first episode of Hajimete no Gal is the most unpleasant thing I've seen in a while. It's literally a collection of the most base stereotypes possible that's supposed to pass for humor. Literally every single male in the entire episode is a sex-obsessed opportunist. The protagonist and his three friends literally don't even perceive girls as human beings: females are either asexual beings or objects to have sex with. Period. The episode seems to want to pattern its female protagonist, Yukana, after Galko-chan, but the effort falls flat because Yukana eagerly plays right into the stereotype that kogals are bitchy sluts. Oshiete Galko-chan has proven that a raunchy anime comedy about gals can be charming, witty, and fun. Hajimete no Gal, however, is dull looking, dim-witted, and tremendously, offensively unlikeable because none of the primary characters invite empathy. None of the series' main characters are people that viewers will want to care about and like. They're all nasty, self-obsessed, superficial people in a mediocre-looking comedy that has no comedic timing, energy, or enthusiasm.

                    What the hell did I just watch? The first episode of Musekinin Galaxy Tylor seems less like an anime and more like a three-minute long random sampling from an animated drama CD. The expository dialogue is so heavy-handed that it can only be perceived as part of the joke. But the story development is given such short shrift that viewers have to piece together what's happening via context, and even doing that is more difficult than it should be because of limited animation including shots character action when the characters are off-screen. If this was hastily slapped together amateur Flash animation, I'd forgive it. But for a fairly major production, as this is, so many other earlier three-minute episode anime series like Aiura, Teekyuu, Miss Monochrome, and Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san, all seem far higher quality and far more coherent.

                    As if proving the point, the first episode of Ikemen Sengoku is another three-minute episode show. This one does have fully CG characters, yet they're still cuter, and the show's humor more cohesive and snarky than Musekinin Galaxy Tylor.

                    The character designs of Nora to Oujo to Noraneko Heart are a little bit odd because the girls' proportions all look slightly off. And the show's story begins quite abruptly. But it's a cute and amusing harem anime with a unique twist.

                    Watched the first episode of Teekyuu season 9.

                    Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e is sadly a prime example of yet another anime that has a compelling concept but no idea what to do with it. The idea of setting up a ruthless dog-eat-dog financial system that forces personal financial and social responsibility could easily become a fascinating, provocative drama, but despite this show opening with erudite quotes from philosophical luminaries lacks even basic intelligence. The class' students are set up for failure from the very first day of class. While this approach could be a form of tough love and strict discipline, it seems to be carried out to such an extreme that it's not functionally possible. The school supposedly prides itself on creating productive members of society, yet it insists on both insulating its students from society and, as one character says, abstracting instead of reinforcing a sense of financial responsibility. And the teacher says that each student in the class will be judged individually, yet the seemingly responsible students are punished just as severely as their deserving classmates. On top of the numerous logic holes, two out of the episodes three primary characters are deliberately unlikeable, giving viewers almost no reason to want to continue watching this show.

                    The production values on Clione no Akari are mediocre at best, but its narrative is its strength, as such it is, rather than its visuals. Plenty of anime have referenced school bullying but the Ijime OVA is the only anime I know of that distinctly revolves exclusively around the concept. So seeing it as a core principle in a television anime is a bit unique. Since it's an unpleasant circumstance, the episode isn't exactly appealing, but I am curious to see how this show is going to develop. With only the short first episode to judge, I can't tell if the show is going to evolve into a conventional school comedy of outsiders like Haganai or whether it will concentrate on being an “educational” type of show with a moral message to communicate.

                    Regrettably, the first episode of Gamers just isn't fun, especially when it should be. The show is the latest entry in the long line of school club anime comedies like Sket Dance, Genshiken, Sabagebu, K-On, Chihayafuru, Haganai, and so on. Yet Gamers is severely lacking in personality. It follows in the footsteps of many other anime but contributes nothing itself. The writing is simply dull and mundane. The protagonist is dumb as rocks, and the lead girl reveals no depth to her personality until the first episode's final seconds. The show's comedy simply has no effective sense of timing, so instead of gags seeming snappy, they seem tired and boring. This is a show which could and even should have been lively and fun, but it instead feels listless and sodden.

                    I didn't realize until half-way through the short first episode of Kaito × Ansa that it's the second season of Nazotokine. It's still the same low-rent production quality magical girl quiz anime, so it gets some credit just for being unique. And predictably since it's a sequel, the first episode immediately expands the cast.

                    Comment


                    • Forgot to mention that on the Monday following Glass City Con, I watched Gangsta episodes 2-6.

                      Hibiki's line of dialogue at the end of Symphogear AxZ episode 2 was the best thing. Also watched episode 3.

                      Watched Aho Girl episode 3.

                      Watched Tsurezure Children episode 3.

                      I have a very mixed opinion of New Game!! episode 2. Since the new series is depicting a different stage in the development cycle of a video game, the episode exploits the opportunity to reveal previously unseen aspects of the personalities of several characters. Aoba, in particular, takes a step forward in her professional maturity from collaborating to competing for advancement with her co-workers. However, I'm disappointed that the show decides not to fully commit itself to its new direction.

                      Watched Kakegurui episodes 3 & 4.

                      Dragon Ball Super episode 99 is very fun, and episode 100 has the best fighting animation we've seen since Dragon Ball Z.

                      Isekai Shokudou episode 3 is pleasant, offering very different tones in its A and B parts. Also watched episode 4.

                      Watched the second episode of Nora to Oujo no Noraneko Heart.

                      I'm bothered by the surprise revelation at the end of Knight's & Magic episode 3. The plot development feels completely natural & predictable because viewers are so used to this sort of plot development. However, this particular show hasn't predicated the plot twist at all. There's no reason to expect spies or betrayals if there are no rival factions or countries. And so far the show has not established the existence of any other rival nations or interests. Also watched episode 4.

                      Watched Mahoujin Guru Guru (2017) episode 2.

                      Watched Made in Abyss episodes 2 & 3.

                      I'm glad that Princess Principal episode 2 is just smart enough to be a flashback/origin episode without being obvious about it its purpose. Also watched episode 3.

                      Watched the fifth Kobayashi-san Maid Dragon omake.

                      The first episode of Jigoku Shoujo: Yoi no Togi is exactly what one would expect.

                      Watched Action Heroine Cheer Fruits episodes 2 & 3.

                      During the past 25 years I’'ve watched Kiki’'s Delivery Service a handful of times, but watching it subtitled during the 2017 Ghiblifest screening Monday night made me realize that I’'ve possibly never watched the movie with an English translation before. Regardless, watching the film again does reaffirm for me that it'’s my favorite Ghibli film.

                      Read the first issue of creator Rob Potchak's fantasy action comic Immortal. Apart from it being color rather than monochrome, it's every ounce a throwback to the indie comics of the early 1980s. Just as literally, it's a hyperbolic hybrid of Highlander and The Incredible Hulk. Read Darth Vader volume 2 issue 3, the first full appearance issue of new character Kirak Infil'a. He's pretty straightforward and conventional so far, so time will tell if he'll become more unique and interesting. The zero issue of Mage 3 is brief but enjoyable. One of the characteristics that has made WicDiv intriguing from the outset has been the series' ability to abruptly introduce shock value. While recent issues have been pretty restrained, thankfully the 455AD special returned to form while also finally explaining and at least somewhat justifying Anake's concerns while issue 29 began to resurrect the immediacy and tension of the series' early issues while further expanding on the idea introduced in the 455AD special.

                      The Oats Studio short film “Zygote” is definitive evidence that whoever decided that Neil Blomkamp shouldn’t get his opportunity to direct his Aliens sequel is an idiot.

                      For better or worse, Luc Besson’s Valarian is the most self-indulgent film I've seen since Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Even more so than Avatar, Valarian is a visually sumptuous film. It'’s tremendously imaginative and visually creative. And that strength is sufficient to largely balance the film’s many weaknesses. The film’s script is a major problem. At times the movie is heavily expository. At times the dialogue feels juvenile. The relationship between Valarian and Laureline is never completely clear because the film never clarifies how long the pair have been partners. They seem to know each other fairly well, but not always well enough to predict what the other will do. They seem to moderately work well together, but it’'s always unclear whether they collaborate well because of experience or because individually they'’re talented individuals. Consistency in the script is uneven. The film periodically emphasizes rules and respect for law. And Valerian takes pride in being a responsible soldier. Yet numerous times Valerian goes on mass killing sprees. There seem to be no penalties or consequences for his numerous killings. The illogical indulgence of the picture also arises in numerous scenes that are debatably much longer than necessary and are distinctly weird just for the sake of being weird. Numerous scenes occur in the film strictly because Besson wanted them in the film, not because the scenes are necessary or contribute to the film's story. A number of plot points get oddly wasted. Valerian gets possessed by the soul of an intelligent and highly spiritual nearly immortal creature, yet he learns absolutely nothing from the experience. Throughout the film Laureline carries around what's arguably the most valuable object in the history of existence. She’s told that mercenaries will hunt her down for it, yet not a single one ever comes after her. The movie struggles to characterize its lead characters. Valerian comes across as a bit of a swaggering egotist, but it also wants to make him sympathetic. Dane DeHaan’s performance wants to channel Han Solo but lacks Solo'’s cynicism. The performance want to evoke Guardians of the Galaxy'’s Peter Quill but lacks the self-effacement. The performance wants to evoke James Bond but lacks the charm and dignity. Cara Delevingne as Laureline is even worse off. For every scene in which she'’s capable and independent, she also gets a scene in which she'’s a damsel in distress needing rescue. The movie emphasizes multiple times that Laureline is a “good driver,” as if to buck the stereotype, but the film never does anything at all with the recurring reference. But the movie'’s biggest weakness is that it has absolutely no sense of tension or danger. I don'’t even know how this is possible because Luc Besson has achieved a sense of suspense and threat very well in even his weakest previous films. Even bad movies still manage to at least infuse some sense of danger. Yet throughout this film no major character ever feels genuinely threatened. The film clearly wants to be another Star Wars. It’'s filled with child-friendly action that distinctly evokes the tone and style of the Star Wars franchise, but even the Star Wars franchise at least contained a palpable sense of threat. The action scenes had stakes; lives were on the line. This movie never once makes or allows viewers to gasp and wonder if the heroes will come through unscathed. The movie simply can'’t be exciting when there'’s no feeling that the heroes could possibly lose or fail.

                      Watched Twin Peaks episodes 9 & 10.

                      Watched Game of Thrones season 7 episode 1. I really don't comprehend the controversy over the Ed Sheeran cameo. Had I not heard about it beforehand, I wouldn't have even paid any attention to it.

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                      • The new ending credits dance in Precure A la Mode episode 23 is cute. Also watched episode 24.

                        Watched the second High School Fleet OVA. There's not much to it, but it's fine.

                        Watched Aho Girl episodes 4 & 5.

                        Watched Tsurezure Children episodes 4 & 5.

                        Watched New Game!! episodes 3 & 4.

                        I have a bit of a mixed reaction to the first episode of The Reflection. While it does certainly evoke a comic book aesthetic, too frequently it just looks cheap and suggests design laziness. Some of the action choreography and editing is exciting. But a lot of credit for the first episode goes to its very effective use of score. I wondered why the theme song, “Sky Show,” sounded so much like a Yes song I wasn't familiar with. Then I figured out that it practically is a new Yes song since it's a new track composed by Trevor Horn. A bit predictably because this is a Stan Lee co-production, the narrative leans on the same ideas as X-Men, but I can't say that the show is entirely not intriguing. The second episode isn't any more compelling because it's largely just rehash of the first episode.

                        Watched Made in Abyss episodes 4 & 5.

                        Watched Dragon Ball Super episodes 101 & 102.

                        Sakura Quest 14-18.

                        Watched the KonoSuba 2 OVA.

                        Watched Princess Principal episode 4.

                        Watched Kakegurui episode 5.

                        Watched Cheer Fruits episode 4.

                        Watched the third Sansha Sanyou BD omake.

                        In comics, read the Star Wars: Screaming Citadel special and Dr. Aprha issues 7-9. The Star Wars special bothers me just a bit because it struggles so hard to emphasize and reinforce its continuity to the Star Wars story. In the original trilogy, Luke was referred to as a “farm boy” just a small handful of times. So hearing him demeaned similarly so many times just within the span of a single comic issue feels forced. I'm also annoyed by these cross-over “events” because Doctor Aphra issues 7 & 8 don't entirely make sense because they're “Screaming Citadel” chapters 3 & 5. Aliens: Defiance started out exceptionally well, but its final two issues, 11 & 12, continue the back-end of the series' decline into disappointment. The Trump vs Time Lincoln one-shot is amusing, but I would have enjoyed it more had it been more exciting. Writer Kurt Sutter's Sister of Sorrow issue 1 is unfortunately the worst sort of grindhouse pulp because it sacrifices believable characterizations for exploitative action. The protagonists are women living in a shelter after fleeing abusive relationships. Common sense tells readers that these sort of women are not aggressive or self-assertive. If they were, they wouldn't have been victims of abusive relationships. Yet literally within the span of a few days they turn into hardened, skilled mercenary killers. I'm glad that Skybourne issue 5 contains a surprise plot twist because otherwise it would just be a comic book rip-off of the third act of Cabin in the Woods. I've said from the outset that Leandro Fernández's art wasn't a good fit for Greg Rukka's story The Old Guard. By issue 5 the discrepancy is much worse. Fernández's art may be perfect for a lighter, more humorous story, but sadly Old Guard issue 5 is practically ruined by terrible art that doesn't fit the tone of the story at all. Likewise, I've also said from the beginning that Andrea Mutti's art wasn't ideal for the Highlander: American Dream comic series. Series cover artist Claudia Gironi captured both the tone and the literally look of the characters far better. Issue 5 brings the series up to mere days before the opening of the movie. While the story wraps up, ultimately, a story that's not interesting enough to have been necessary to tell, the interior art makes the characters look more unlike their movie likenesses than ever before. Black Hammer issue 11 is once again excellent with a massive surprise reveal that again confirms why this series so rightly deserves the Eisner award it won for best new comic series.

                        Continued in next post.

                        Comment


                        • Continued from above.

                          Exhaustively critiquing Atomic Blonde will be an endeavor. First, and most fundamentally, despite the promise of its trailers and the direction of David Leitch, the film is not a female John Wick. The movie is a nearly absurdly convoluted spy thriller that contains intense but few and far-between action sequences. In fact, practically every action scene in the movie is represented in the trailers. A major flaw with the screenplay is its insistence on playing out the theme of “trust no one” to its utmost. The movie is filled to bursting with characters representing at least five different nations, and it's practically impossible to distinguish which side any character is on. When absolutely everyone's allegiances are uncertain, there's no one for the audience to root for and no way for the audience to ever be certain who's winning, who's outsmarting who, and who's being played. Furthermore, the story and the successful closure of the mission would have all been much smoother had the people supposedly working together actually worked together. The film demonstrates that trusting absolutely no one actually proves counter-productive. In an academic sense the constant uncertainty may be intriguing when no one knows exactly what's going on and every character's survival is in doubt (except for the protagonist, who the film tells viewers from the outset has survived the mission). But all of the uncertainty severely compromises the film's excitement. If viewers don't know who the good guys and bad guys are it's hard to care who wins the fights. Another deliberate weakness that compromises the film is its cinematic style. Someone involved in the production decided that the film should look and sound like a 1989 MTV music video. So the movie doesn't have atmosphere; it relies instead on distractingly loud pop songs to telegraph the intended mood of particular scenes. A consistent, pervasive sense of threat running through the movie, coupled with the periodic bouts of intense violence and some charismatic acting keep the film from being a complete washout loss. But the film sadly isn't exciting, and it's literally so convoluted that I'm not certain whether it contains a bunch of plot holes or whether I just didn't understand a number of plot points. Spoiler-level details follow.



                          I read a number of Steven King's novels when I was in primary school. They always felt a bit simplistic and shallow compared to similar genre writing from authors including Clive Barker & Anne Rice. I never did read any of the Gunslinger books, so I went into the Dark Tower movie with limited but hopeful expectations. For me, the film did not have to be faithful to any source material; it just needed to be entertaining. Sadly, blame lies squarely on the head of director Nikolaj Arcel that the film is simply “another Steven King movie.” Even while watching the film I had the constant and inescapable impression that I was watching a very violent made-for-TV movie. The acting from leads Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, and Tom Taylor is fine. The action scenes are serviceable although not exceptional. The Gunslinger novels are frequently described as “epic,” yet nothing about the movie adaptation feels or suggests “epic” at all. The movie crosses two worlds, suggests that still more worlds exist, and threatens to destroy all of them, yet there's never the slightest sense of dread or fear that the world as we know it may end. Despite the film's setting covering multiple worlds, the movie feels very, very small but not intimate. It feels limited and under-developed. The hero characters get a very small amount of personality. Walter, the man in black, is simply a mustache-twirling cartoon villain, evil for the sake of being evil, and I have no clue at all why his cult of followers is so devoted to him. The film's lack of compelling development is also due to its poor pacing & construction. The movie spends more time than necessary introducing Jake, which leaves rather little time spent in the Gunslinger's desolate Midworld. Moreover, virtually every scene in the picture is shot from a 300 foot height. Viewers constantly see but never “feel” any of the events that transpire. Every time a death occurs, viewers see it from the perspective of a detached spectator or from the perspective of a character other than the one directly affected. So throughout the entire movie every sequence that should be emotional and affective feels muted and distant. Nothing about the picture is especially, tremendously bad, but the movie has no strengths, either. It's strictly mediocre.

                          I've encountered a number of reviews that describe David Lowery's art film A Ghost Story as a movie about the timelessness obsession of love. Having now seen the film myself, I'm not at all sure that such reviews have accurately perceived the film. In fact, a number of clues that appear later in the film suggest that the movie is not at about romantic obsession but rather with an entirely different sort of obsession. On one hand, the movie is so abstract that it deliberately lends itself to virtually any and every interpretation, thus the multiple reviews claiming it's about love. My own interpretation is that the film wants to communicate the simple existential concept that every person has a singular, fundamental reason for existence. Within a vast and amoral universe in which existence itself is a mere circumstantial coincidence, humans must give themselves a purpose for living. That simple purpose may be simply eating a tasty pie or waiting to speak to a friend or wanting to live comfortably for as long as possible or wanting the answer to a nagging question. The reason we go on may be trivial, but as minor and insignificant as it seems, it's still enough to give us reason to carry on. For some people, that trivial reason may be love, but for the ghost protagonist of this film, I don't believe that it is love which motivates him. From a technical perspective, A Ghost Story is an exceedingly slow and mundane film despite starring a ghost. As mentioned, it's so ambiguous that varying viewers can draw virtually any or no meaning from it whatsoever. For that very reason I'm a bit impressed by the film's very existence while I can absolutely respect the perception of viewers who find the film a pretentious and pointless waste of time and celluloid.

                          Also watched Twin Peaks episode 12 & Game of Thrones episode 3.

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                          • Watched Isekai Shokudou episode 5.

                            Watched Ballroom e Youkoso episodes 4 & 5.

                            Watched Knight's & Magic episode 6, which very much feels like a set-up episode for episode 7.

                            Despite the Japanese language dub, the first episode of King of Fighters: Destiny is still appreciably Chinese animation because the characters simply behave with Chinese quirks and distinctive Chinese over-acting. The CG isn't remarkable but at least this show does seem to recognize that viewers want to see plenty of fighting and see their favorite familiar characters behaving in familiar ways.

                            Watched the second Natsume Yujincho Go Special.

                            Even if it's just one scene, it's nice to see Aoba and Nene get a scene together again for the first time in a while in New Game!! episode 5.

                            Evidently the Pretty Cure franchise has developed enough by now that it can sustain a theatrical film exclusively starring new generation teams. The “PreCure Dream Stars” movie stars only the most recent three Precure teams from the Go! Princess Precure, Mahoutsukai Precure, and current Kirakira Precure A la Mode series. Possibly because this film stars arguably the two physically weakest Precure teams of all, the most recent two, the movie is distinctly less serious and a bit more humorous & goofy than typical Pretty Cure movies. However, the subtle emphasis on silliness seemingly inspired the movie to be a bit more creative with its tendency to break the fourth wall compared to past Precure movies. The very brief battle sequence in the middle of the film in which the Princess Precure and Mahoutsukai Precure team up (to demonstrate how much more powerful they are compared to the current generation girls) is an action animation highlight of the film and a reminder that Pretty Cure is best when it fully utilizes its original characteristics. Ironically, seemingly even acknowledging the artificial limitations imposed on the current Precure team, Cure Whip actually uses some minor hand-to-hand combat techniques in this movie, which none of the “A la Mode” girls have yet exhibited in their own TV series.

                            Watched the first two episodes of Marvel Future Avengers. The episodes are nearly worth sitting through just to get to the groovy disco Avengers ending theme song. The episodes themselves are mediocre quality.

                            Watched the Kemono Friends Race Course Special promotional short.

                            Watched the first two episodes of Pikotarou no Lullaby Lu-llaby. As typical of DLE animation, the show is targeted at mainstream Japanese viewers more than anime otaku.

                            Watched Aho Girl episode 6.

                            Watched Tsurezure Children episode 6.

                            Watched Sakura Quest episode 19.

                            Watched Made in Abyss episode 6.

                            Read some more comics. I'm glad to see that the 12th and final issue of Tomboy does respect the flash-forward ending glimpse that it began with. However, I still think that the story is a bit too convoluted for its own good, and it ends with multiple left-field twists that would have been easier to palate had they previously had any foreshadowing at all. The first three issues of Jungle Fantasy: Survivors are distinctly adult yet not as crudely gratuitous as they possibly could be. I'm quite disappointed that the fifth and final issue of The Eighth Seal is a literal non-ending with an empty promise of “to be continued.” The long delayed Black Magick issue 6 is a flashback issue. Whether it has any relevance to the ongoing story at all remains to be seen.

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