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    Without going into extensive detail that the episode doesn't really deserve, I'll just say that I have a mixed feeling about 3D Kanojo Real Girl. While some of the episode is quite sweet and interesting, Tsutsui avoiding Ito feels extremely redundant, and Tsutsui again getting selfishly myopic is just annoying.

    I'm a little bit disappointed with Ekoda-chan episode 7 because despite it having a very unique visual design and animation style, it has as much depth of characterization as any of the episodes do yet feels less substantial and significant than usual episodes.

    Watched Virtual-san wa Miteiru episodes 5-6

    Watched Kakegurui XX episode 7, which is essentially a transitional episode.

    Watched Endro episode 7.

    I don't completely understand the ending of Ueno-san episode 8. I get that Ueno is embarassed over the fuss Tanaka made, but I don't understand why that would make her avoid explaining.

    I'm a bit surprised that Kemono Friends 2 episode 7 just seemed to abandon the deepening story details introduced by episode 6.

    Slime episode 21 is a transitional episode that's not tremendously interesting or exciting despite it very bluntly inserting action scenes to attempt to enliven the episode.

    Watched Fukigen na Mononokean Tsuzuki episode 8.

    Shield Hero episode 8 is another sub-par episode that should have a weighty dramatic and affective impact yet doesn't. I appreciate, at least, that the episode seems to realize its own weakness and attempt to compensate with flashy animation.

    Unexpectedly, Kemurikusa episode 8 does have some affective tragedy.

    Manaria Friends episode 6 is a pleasant one.

    Watched Hizae episode 8.

    Caught up on reading Doctor Aphra comics 23-28 & Annual 2.

    First I'll admit that I had no clue that the one-shot comic Legion, an English language translation of artist Salvador Sanz' Argentine horror comic, published in 2007 by IDW, had any sort of collector value. Seemingly it does, but exactly how much appears to vary wildly depending on seller. I pulled a copy from a dollar box just because the cover caught my eye. The concept isn't especially unique. Three people unconsciously perform the rites necessary to open the doorway to hell, so unspeakable legions of demons descend upon Buenos Aires. The appeal, if it can be called such, lies in the very morbid and grotesque Clive Barker-esque creative detail of the apocalypse. The scale and the graphic horror of the apocalypse are strikingly fantastical and imaginative Sanz is also a film director. With an adequate budget this comic could be envisioned as an atmospheric grand guignol, sort of a Hellraiser on an epic scale. The graphic art is good where it counts. The visual design lies somewhere in between the styles of James O'Barr and Joe Vigil or Tim Tyler. Rendering of normal humans isn't exceptional, but the depiction of the primal Legion that look vaguely like hairy Vikings from hell is very evocative. The comic also brilliantly transitions from monochrome to bloody red color to both heighten its visual impact and to emphasize its theme. As a fan of outré and monster horror, I'm quite grateful that I stumbled across this comic.

    Watched the 2016 Japanese documentary film Jidaigeki wa Shinazu: Chambara Bigaku Kou. The movie loosely views itself as a history of jidaigeki films, but its focus is consciously on chambara films. The movie is mostly a historical and conceptual overview of films from 1908's Battle at Honnoji Temple to 1972's Kogarashi Monjiro, plus 2014's Uzumasa Limelight. So I have to selfishly bemoan the fact that the movie references actor Tomisaburo Wakayama a few times but doesn't highlight any of his films. The documentary spends a great deal of time explaining the history of Japan's film industry along with explaining the reasons for the various periods of popularity for differing styles of chambara. To a lesser but still significant extent, the movie concentrates on specific directors but more so actors who were also adept swordsmen, analyzing which historical samurai movie stars were the best swordsmen. The movie shifts in tone a bit. Particularly its initial scenes feel particularly juvenile, as though the movie was aimed at children. Then the film turns extremely didactic and almost dry before again turning far more personal and nostalgic. I doubt that the film presents a lot of new detail for die-hard veteran chambara fans, but for a novice viewer like me it's a fine introduction to the nuance, breadth, and cultural significance of the film genre.

    Simply put, my impression of the survival drama feature film Arctic is that it's a documentary film without the narration. The near silent film (in fact, the trailer possibly contains more spoken dialogue than the actual film does) begins as an observation of the daily life of a man stranded in the arctic plains. The film becomes a bit more harsh when he decides to abandon the relative comfort of his camp and hike toward the nearest human outpost. The movie is compelling as a depiction of human dignity and perseverance pushed to their ultimate breaking point, but there's not actually a whole lot more to the picture. The cinematography is nice, but a hundred minutes of shots of white snow and black rocks becomes quickly desolate and redundant. Since the film is practically silent, viewers are obligated to read actor Mads Mikkelsen's thoughts from his expressions and actions, but given his circumstances, his actions and thoughts are rather obvious given his limited options. The films is essentially very simple. It just allows viewers to see an illustration of how far the human spirit can endure in the face of suicidal odds. The film is commendable for its simple honesty, its commitment to concentrating on a single realistic principle without succumbing to artificial “Hollywood” drama.

    Doom Patrol episodes 2 & 3 really elevate every aspect of the show. While the series so far is a bit heavy on flashbacks, it's otherwise quite fun.

    Watched Umbrella Academy episodes 5-8.


      The denoument of Kakegurui XX episode 8 drags on a bit long, but with that small caveat the episode is excellent.

      I like the style of Hulaing Babies, but episodes 6 & 7 are slightly frustrating because they clearly demonstrate that the show deliberately avoids showing the characters actually hula dancing. Any time the girls practice or perform dance, the scene cuts away.

      Watched Fukigen na Mononokean Tsuzuki episode 9.

      Mob Psycho 100 II episode 8 ends with quite a stunning cliffhanger. Episode 9 is interesting.

      Cure Soliel appears to be a hybrid of Cure Sunshine & Cure Rouge, which actually makes logical sense. I can envision her being very fun to watch in future movies that have enough animation budget to do her justice. On a side note, the first ending credits sequence for Twinkle Star Precure is my favorite one since the first Kira Kira Precure ending, and before that the first Doki Doki Precure ending. Watched Twinkle Star episodes 4 & 5.

      WataTen episode 8 seems to descend into a swirling cesspool of little Japanese girl cuteness. Episode 9 returned to normal.

      Watched Ueno-san episode 9.

      Since I'd watched Hitorigurashi no Shougakusei episodes 1 & 2 a few years ago, I finished off episodes 3-10.

      Kotobuki Hikoutai episode 7 is slightly more exciting than the show's average episode. Episode 8 features a silly yet elaborately choreographed gunfight highlight.

      Watched Slime episode 22.

      Watched Kemono Friends II episode 8.

      Watched the short 1975 Kore ga UFO da! Soratobu Enban movie.

      Watched Manaria Friends episode 7.

      Watched Dororo episode 8 & 9.

      Watched Shield Hero episode 9.

      Watched Hizae episode 9.

      Endro episode 8 is a pleasant episode.

      Upon watching the Alita movie a second time I found myself nitpicking less and more receptive to Alita's expressiveness. However, I did notice and was bugged by particularly one word in the script. The first time Nova speaks through Vector, he says that he'll fulfill Chiren's wish. Chiren then asks, "You'll send me up to Zalem?" Presuming that she knows she's speaking to Nova instead of Vector, she should have said, "Bring," instead of "Send."

      Captain Marvel distinctly feels a half-grade weaker than first phase MCU movie Captain America: The First Avenger. Captain Marvel does reveal potential to become a more compelling character and franchise in future installments, just as the first Captain America movie did. And like the first Cap movie, it's a bit underwhelming. Simply put, over a decade of Marvel movies, viewers' expectations have elevated to the point that a merely ordinary or serviceable origin film is no longer sufficient. By comparison, Doctor Strange received an origin movie with essentially no antecessor, and his first movie had much more creativity, wit, and personality than Captain Marvel's very banal premiere. Vers/Carol's personality is very uneven. Granted, throughout much of the picture she doesn't know who she is, but her constant alternation between bossy, reflective, impatient, curious, anxious, and regretful gives viewers nothing to hold onto. Viewers also don't know who she is or what kind of person she is. The film also fails to effectively establish what she can do. Captain Marvel is reportedly the strongest hero in the MCU, but in her debut movie she comes across as literally a female clone of Iron Man. The movie isn't inspiring because Carol herself doesn't know what she's fighting for. The movie isn't exciting because the film's three extended battle scenes are poorly helmed. Ver's battle inside a Skrull battleship is so dimly lit and edited with such jerky close & quick cut editing that it's literally incomprehensible. Likewise her battle in space is also largely so obscured that it's difficult for viewers to see and distinguish what's happening. Most damning, the scene that's supposed to be one of the film's highlights is much too cute. It's literally shot as though it's a music video instead of a high-stakes mortal combat. So the fight has no weight and no impact on viewers. Goose the cat, which is supposedly Captain Marvel's pet, isn't. Moreover, the cat simply doesn't make enough impact on screen to become a truly loveable character like Groot or BB-8. Because the movie is the product of experienced directors and the input of countless creators and producers all committed to ensuring that the film becomes a precise piece that fits into a complex jigsaw puzzle, the cog itself, the movie, isn't a disaster like the early DCU movies. It's a competent movie that simply never elevates above mere competence.

      I had deliberately hesitated to listen to Steve Perry's comeback album, Traces. I had a suspicion I knew what the record would be. Upon listening to it, my fears were confirmed. Like original Asia's 2008 reunion album Phoenix, Steve Perry's Traces sounds tentative, gracious almost to the point of being apologetic. The album sounds like Perry is confident in his voice but nervous about the music. So the songs are restrained, safe: they have no sense of excitement or abandon. The lyrics refer to emotion, but the songs sound as if Perry is hesitant to fully commit himself, as if he's waiting to see how the audience reacts to this comeback album before deciding that he'll allow himself to be more expressive and emotive on the next album. Like a swimmer that's been away from the water for too long, this album feels shallow. It feels as though Perry is merely dipping in his toes rather than completely diving in head first. He's testing the waters to see whether listeners will be receptive to him. Rolling Stone Magazine's review mirrors my own sentiments. “The songs are evocative enough... but none of them are knockout homeruns in the vein of 'Oh Sherrie.' ...Moreover, it tends to stay in a sad place and rarely picks up... Many of the songs are too cloying for their own good... Traces lives up to its title and offers reminders of Perry's might."

      Continued in next post.


        Continued from above.

        Before I begin reading the current Aliens: Resistance comic book series, which is set after the events of the Alien: Isolation video game and the Aliens: Defiance comic mini-series that I've previous read, I decided to watch the new 7-episode Alien: Isolation digital series. The web mini-series consists of extended cut scenes from the “Isolation” video game. While I presume that the intention was to turn the footage into a comprehensible self-contained story, the effort is only dubiously successful. The Alien: Isolation digital series is choppy to the point of being nearly incomprehensible. At one point in the series Amanda seems to want to destroy the space station's reactors. Yet later in the series she's seemingly at least half opposed to another character attempting to do the same thing. The space station she's on is heavily damaged. In literally one scene cut, she's abruptly inside another space ship, yet without any explanation that other ship is also damaged. Captain Marlow seemingly brought the aliens to the station, yet he's depicted as entirely opposed to their dissemination. The total contradiction is never explained.

        The first two issues of the Aliens: Resistance comic series are about Amanda Ripley & Zula Hendricks teaming up to launch a covert infiltration and sabotage mission of vengeance against the Weylan Yutani corporation. So the two comics are far more sci-fi thriller than conventional Alien horror. Paper Girls is difficult to read on a monthly (at best) basis. Issue 26 is especially confusing because the comic series covers so many time periods and moreover features multiple iterations of the characters of different ages from different eras. Instinct suggests that a simplified timeline or graph would assist in keeping track of everything, but the way the story doubles-back on itself and overlaps constantly would even make a “simple” flowchart complicated and nearly impossible to decipher. The first issue of Black Hammer '45 largely feels like a conventional tale of an elderly man reflecting upon his youthful days. But the flashback story of WWII has the added layer of the fantasy involvement of giant robots, superheroes, and angry gods comingled with the tanks and fighter planes. Writer & artist Kyle Starks' original graphic novel Kill Them All, reportedly soon to become a movie, feels a lot like a hybrid of Joe Lynch's 2017 satirical action/horror film Mayhem with the witty hipster sarcasm of Rick & Morty or Archer. More specifically, Kill Them All could be described as Sterling Archer & Pam Poovey starring in Gareth Evans' action film The Raid. While Mayhem concentrated on a gritty chaotic tone, Kill Them All aims (no pun intended) for a more dignified and rational yet still absurdist tone. If the graphic novel is used as a storyboard for a movie, so long as the feature adaptation had a small but sufficient budget and plenty of deliberately and patiently choreographed action, it could make a simple but very enjoyable action film.

        Read the February 2018 comic “Comic Book History of Comics Volume 2 issue 3” subtitled, “Of Mice and Manga – Japan & USA 1862-2006.” The comic is a bit odd. The lengthy first chapter is a substantially researched and quite detailed history of Japanese pictorial art from the 13th century up to 1928. Then the story switches focus almost exclusively to become a biography of Osamu Tezuka. The comic's second chapter is the story of Hell Comics' two-issue 1971 “Air Pirate Funnies” comic series parody of Disney characters. Then the comic concludes with a one-page introduction to Rumiko Takahashi.

        After thirty years I'm glad to finally read the conclusion of Kevin Matchstick's saga in Mage: The Hero Defined issue 15. But I can't help feeling also a bit disappointed and underwhelmed because the comic feels like it pulls its punches. The conclusion of the original Mage: Hero Discovered story remains one of the greatest works of American comic storytelling because it evoked true pathos. That bittersweet ending was tinged by tragedy. The confident, invincible hero is a pleasant wish fulfillment. But the affective hero must have vulnerability, must suffer and pay for victory. Hero Discovered issue 15 seems to recognize that necessity but then pull back from it as if unwilling to fully commit. The climax of Hero Denied, the final issue of a literally 35-year-long saga, should go all out. It should be gut-wrenching, nail-biting, and emotionally difficult to stomach. One or two steps beyond is exactly where this story's climax belongs. But I get the feeling that writer Matt Wagner wanted to deliberately reign in the climax, to make it a small, intimate family affair. I suspect that readers like him and those who have families can intuit a sense of emotional weight and fear from the scenario. But for a reader like me, Kevin Matchstick's story has always been about Kevin, not the surrounding cast. I want to see him struggle and overcome grievous hardship and aching loss. I simply get the feeling that Wagner had pre-determined that Kevin had suffered enough, that Kevin had already earned his respite, so he could instead rely on his family and his allies during his final battle. While I wanted to see Kevin willing to sacrifice everything to achieve the greater good, to emerge heroic and victorious, the comic went in a different direction: depicting the collective victory of the hero's party rather than the struggle of the hero himself.

        Naomi issue 2 does an admirable job of continuing to develop Naomi first as a person, as a character, before making or revealing her as a superhero. Comparable to the Highlander: American Dream mini-series, the concluding fifth issue of the John Wick prequel comic also feels like a story that didn't need to be told. Despite using five issues, the comic back story of John Wick still doesn't bother to explain how or where Wick developed his preternatural sense of spatial awareness, reflexes, and both killer and survival instinct. Merely depicting him as an acrobatic street kid doesn't do the job. The world is full of free-running teens who don't magically transform into elite killers. Furthermore, the comic series supposedly depicts Wick's greatest foe. Yet Calamity seems to be significantly less of a threat to Wick than characters including Ms. Perkins, Kirill, and Cassian from the movies. Read Vampirella: Roses for the Dead issue 3, Black Hammer: Age of Doom issue 8 & Quantum Age issue 6, Silencer issues 13 & 14, Barbarella 12 and the Holiday Special, and Ninja-K issue 14.


          Kemurikusa episode 9 is yet again a very mysterious episode.

          Kakegurui XX episode 9 is particularly enigmatic.

          I remain frustrated that 3D Kanojo Real Girl remains only barely passable. Episode 20 depicts a major turning point in Ishino & Takanashi's relationship, but the plot development feels entirely motivated by cliché rather than natural character development. Takanashi is an inherently narcissistic person. He only thinks about himself, and the value of every other person in the world, including even his mother and little sister, exclusively lies within how they relate to him. I can understand Ishino giving him the benefit of the doubt because she's always been easily manipulated and inclined favorably toward Takanashi. But the entire surrounding show also feels as though it's artificially skewing to his favor just to make a predictable plot development occur. Essentially, the story feels as though it has rich, complex characters, but the story doesn't want to invest the effort to deal with them and instead just relies on the most cliché and superficial solutions and plot developments. Episode 21 likewise includes some very pleasant scenes along with a scene of conflict between Tsutsui and Ito that makes no logical sense apart from the story needing to inject some drama. It's just disappointing that the show is so committed to conventional, predictable cliches and commonplace tropes instead of being honest and original and just letting its story go where its characters naturally take it.

          Watched Fukigen na Mononokean Tsuzuki episode 10.

          Watched Ueno-san episode 10.

          Watched the first episode of Otona no Bouguya-san (Rimen), the web exclusive sequel series.

          Watched Slime episode 23.

          Watched the pleasant Okoshiyasu, Chitose-chan episodes 4 & 5.

          I'm very curious about Rinshi! Ekoda-chan episode 9. My initial rational instinct is that an office of professional adults wouldn't freak out and react like children in response to a simple lightning storm. But then I begin to consider the probability that Japanese call-center workers would likely be even more… I'm hesitant to use the term “timid,” but no other synonym immediately comes to mind… than their typical Japanese social compatriots. Adding further the setting of the evening darkness and the immediacy of the storm to the high-rise building, and the possibility of a sort of mass hysteria taking control actually seems a bit more possible. I'm also intrigued by the post-anime segment interview's supposition that this episode may be the first ever complete anime episode depicted in first person perspective. I wonder if that's true.

          Kemono Friends 2 episode 9 may be the best episode of the second season because of the introduction of a sweet new character.

          Watched WataTen episode 10.

          As somewhat widely reported, the first half hour of writer/director Shinichiro Ueda's horror comedy One Cut of the Dead is pretty bad. For a low-budget one-take horror short it's competent, but only marginally, as it comes across as similar to a high school level amateur production. However, as also widely reported, after the first half hour the film changes style and format, and the change completely alters the viewer's perception and appreciation of the first half-hour. Going into the film spoiler free is essential to fully appreciating and enjoying the movie. So I'll say nothing more. But by its conclusion the film is very rewarding and gratifying.

          Director Tetsuya Nakashima's follow-up to his acclaimed grim drama Confessions, The World of Kanako, is another arguably even darker languid drama. Starting literally from its very first shots, World of Kanako is a non-stop spiraling descent into insane depravity. It's not like Koroshiya Ichi because unlike that film, Kanako is not played as either satire or absurdist comedy. Kanako is also far less tonally and visually graceful and somber than Confessions. Rather quickly, World of Kanako positions itself as a Japanese sibling to Chan Wook Park's Korean film Oldboy. But debatably Kanako continues to pile on the barbarism and atrocity until it far surpasses even the shocking horrors of Oldboy. On the global platter of exceptionally grim and grotesque themed movies, World of Kanako very easily ranks among films like Bad Lieutenant and I Saw the Devil. World of Kanako both literally and figuratively suggests that the film's entire world, which seems to consist of an expansive Tokyo, is morally corrupt and cannibalistic, and the only victims who escape without turning into monsters are those who die before they're able to corrupt or harm others. However, World of Kanako isn't a flawless film. The two-hour film feels as though it's three hours long. Particularly the over-long ending would benefit from some trimming. Three-quarters of the way through the film the movie abruptly introduces new characters without any context, leaving viewers temporarily confused. And the timeframe of the film is also confusing because the movie seems to include a several-month gap of time that isn't explained and seems to defy logic.


            Mob Psycho 100 II episode 10 feels a bit like a cop-out, but I'm glad that it doesn't try to stretch the effort beyond one episode.

            Watched Manaria Friends episode 8.

            Saintia Shou episode 10 largely feels like a cheap, simplistic wrap-up necessary because the entire series was poorly scripted and wrote itself into a corner.

            Dororo episode 10 continues to add moral complexity to the story.

            Watching the tenth episode of the Shield Hero anime caused me to wonder if the production has stipulated any specific translation mandates to Crunchyroll. The anime TV series isn't using anywhere near the amount of jargon and specific spell names that proliferated the original novels and notoriously arbitrarily varied in spelling and capitalization. But I see that in Crunchyroll's dialogue translation for episode 10 “Waves” is consistently translated despite not conventionally being a proper noun. The capitalization may be an abbreviation of the formal moniker “Waves of Destruction,” but I'm not even fully convinced that “Waves of Destruction” qualifies as a proper noun. Otherwise, I almost grudgingly have to give some credit to the anime screenwriting. The script still suffers from the weaknesses inherent to the source material. But episode 10 felt especially disjointed and random until the end of the episode clarifies that the anime is now doing a much better job of deliberately and carefully selecting which aspects of the original novels to reference and what may be excluded compared to the series' earliest episodes.

            Watched Hizae episode 10.

            Kemurikusa episode 10 is once again as confusing and obtuse as it is revealing.

            Kotobuki Hikoutai episode 9 at last begins to feel as if the story is beginning to cohere into a larger, ongoing narrative focus.

            I'm conflicted over Kakegurui XX episode 10. It's intelligent yet still feels just a bit underwhelming compared to the expectations created by the prior episode.

            For the record, I've never been a committed fan of the Fate series. I appreciate its convoluted story, character design, and narrative concept. I respect the frequently exceptional animation created for the game adaptations. But I've also always found the various story iterations to be largely pretentious and heavily soap opera-ish. The characters are certainly distinctive, but they've always existed more as character types and as chess pieces to be manipulated rather than believable individuals with personal agency. The Heaven's Feel route is especially difficult to immerse into because it revolves around Sakura, who virtually has no personality. Sakura is demure and polite, and she's attracted to Shiro. And that's about it. Certain other characters, particularly supporting characters, are even worse. Shinji is pure antagonism and entitlement complex without explanation. He's a paper thin character. Archer is just macho attitude and nothing else. Gilgamesh is practically disposable because he's so one-dimensional. So I went to the Fathom Events screening of Fate/stay night Heaven's Feel II with full expectation that I was primarily just going to appreciate the animation. And the film is lovely looking. The film's highlight is a lengthy and breathtakingly visual unrestrained duel between Black Saber and Berserker. But a lot of the film feels like its plot developments occur strictly to create drama. So the story development feels very artificial. As a result, despite how much the film is deliberately designed to depict tremendous emotional conflict and personal tragedy, it never evokes the slightest bit of honest empathy from viewers. At least I never cared one bit what happened to any of the characters because their stories don't feel real. They're all just playing out roles designed to create predetermined outcomes. Two particular plot developments in the film particularly bothered me. How does Sakura manage to summon two simultaneous heroic spirits? In Heaven's Feel she's definitely strong, but I was still under the impression that regardless of strength no master could have more than one servant. And virtually a side note, Gilgamesh's appearance in the film is blatant fan service. He serves no necessary purpose in the movie and appears strictly so viewers can check him off a tally card.

            Watched Twinkle Star Precure episode 6.

            Watched Endro episodes 9 & 10.

            Most of Fukigen na Mononokean Tsuzuki episode 11 feels like padding, as the main story probably didn't need the amount of time it took up.

            Watched Hulaing Babies episodes 8 & 9.

            Watched Slime episode 24.

            Recently I've been listening to White Lies' fifth record, appropriately titled “Five.” My initial impression was that it was a weak platter. After listening to it more frequently I've decided that it's on par with the band's prior album, Friends. Both the “Friends” and “Five” albums are weaker than the 2013 “Big TV” album. I've also listened to pop composer Sawano Hiroyuki's latest third album, “Remember.” The collection of songs is quite catchy. Although the songs differ in tone and sound, particularly since they all feature different vocalists, they all have a strong toe-tapping beat and distinctly evoke an amorphous sort of “anime” vibe. I don't think any of the songs on this third album quite match up to “Gravity Well,” from his second album (the song was used as the opening theme for the Re:Creators anime). But that song is simply exceptional.

            Continued in next post.


              Continued from prior post.

              Read The Maxx 100-Page Giant reprint comic that contains issue 1, 21, 23, and the short from the Hero Comics 2014 anthology. The short story is the one I hadn't read before. In fact, I hadn't realized it existed at all. I'd previously thought that I owned all of the Maxx comic appearances, including Comico Primer 5, Gay Comics 24, Darker Image, Savage Dragon 28, the Troll Halloween Special, Maxx vs Gen 13. The first issue of writer Darcy Van Poelgeest's mini-series Little Bird unfolded very much like a hybrid of writer Daniel Warren Johnson's Extremity and BKV's We Stand on Guard. Head Lopper issue 11 is once again occasionally a bit difficult to follow, for instance, when it switches into flashback with no obvious signal to the reader. But this issue is also a good reminder of how kinetic and cinematic the book is. Also had an opportunity to read advance copies of issues 2 & 3, which become a bit more complex and significantly more violent. The story is intriguing because despite the protagonists' plans and seeming superhuman abilities, they're constantly underdogs in every situation they find themselves in.

              Binged Wicked+Divine issues 37-41, the 1373 AD special, and the “Funnies” parody special. The story is partly comprehensible to me. The 1373 one-shot felt entirely unnecessary. And the parody special felt very much like a series of in-jokes for the creators rather than a treat for readers. I'm continuing to stick with the series because it has only three or four issues left to go. I'd tentatively planned to purchase all five issues of William Gibson's illustrated Alien 3 screenplay before reading them all. But I ended up reading issues 1-4. I can distinctly comprehend why this story exists just as I can tell why it was never filmed. Picking up immediately where Aliens ended, Gibson's Alien 3 is far more a corporate and political potboiler than a sci-fi horror or action film. The story very deliberately parses the Weyland Yutani corporation the way multiple later Alien films fill in pieces. The story is also a bit disjointed, unfolding as though it doesn't need to clarify every detail because viewers (or in this case readers) somehow magically intuit details about the characters, situations, and relationships that aren't overtly laid out. Ellen Ripley is just barely a prop in this scenario. In fact, she practically doesn't even exist in the story. Similarly, despite the film being about the threat of Aliens, the xenomorph threat doesn't actually rear its head until very late in the story, and it somehow escalates at an exponential pace that doesn't entirely seem to make sense. Note I did mention that the story felt disjointed and incomplete. Having read four out of five chapters, I'd call this unproduced Alien 3 screenplay much more “fascinating” than “good.” The concluding fourth issue of Frankenstein Alive, Alive unfortunately feels more like an epilogue than a proper conclusion. Somewhat pointlessly, I read Natasha Alterici's Heathen issue 6. The comic is over a year old, and issue 7 isn't due for release until three months from now. Because I had them lying around, I read writer/creator Paul Dini's four-issue Mutant, Texas comic mini-series. As one may expect, it's sort of an older-child-friendly throwback to late golden age/early silver age cowboy comics. Also since I had the issues, I read Rich Tommaso's Spy Seal mini-series. The series does channel the spirit of cold war era spy thrillers, but it also feels oddly hampered by its four issue length. Oddly, some scenes feel as if they go on much longer than necessary while other very important elements get short shrift. The first issue plays up protagonist Malcom's potential girlfriend, but then she has no significance to the rest of the story. The second issue depicts the protagonist novice spy in deadly situation. Then the next time readers see him, he's elsewhere and just fine. What happened? How did he avoid death? The hero finds himself on an island populated by a cache of former and missing spies. Yet that plot point never amounts to anything. The story may be deliberately satirical, possibly. But despite it occasionally having a very chic vibe, ultimately it just feels unfocused and under-developed. Finally got around to reading the extra long Sacred Creatures issues 5 & 6. These issues bring “book one” of the rather gargantuan story to a close, but perhaps due to underwhelming sales, there's been no volume 2, nor does a continuation of the story ever seem likely. Unfortunately, while this story begins with focus and intrigue, part way through issue five the protagonists essentially disappear from the story, and the remainder of the first chapter gets bogged down in extended back story and tangents. Issues 2 & 3 of indie artist Scott Blair's self-published comic series Vs are still very colorful, but clearly Mr. Blair's strength lies in drawing still pose pin-ups because his efforts to draw motion frequently feel stiff. And whether by accident or design, the second and third issues of extended female vampire versus werewolf fight seems equal parts silly and cliché. Read all four issues of Antarctic's all-female creator anthology series Arya. Much, but not all of it, is distinctly manga inspired or manga-esque. The series feels like exactly what it is: a collection of nice amateur fan-art and mini-comics. Each issue feels exactly like a book one might purchase from an anime convention's artist alley. I respect the first issue of writer/artist Gary Dufner's self-published horror comic United Forces. Actually, the first issue is more accurately described as an illustrated prose chapter of an ongoing novel. I can distinctly perceive the artist's personal investment into this creation. Unfortunately, while both the art and writing are serviceable, Dufner would have been well served by an editor. Since the first issue is primarily just prose text, I was two-fold disappointed that the prose exhibits a number of distracting flaws including arbitrary shifts in tense, broken sentence construction for no good reason, and arbitrary capitalization. Moreover, the comic is supposed to be horror, but it relies rather heavily on clichés that don't inspire a visceral reaction, and the comic's highlight scene that ought to be horrifying is expressed in such brisk and straightforward prose that it feels far more like an action scene than a scene that evokes shock and disgust. An editor would also have recognized that trying to pack in three different scenarios with three different sets of characters into just one issue simply dilutes each story to the point that nothing in the issue is compelling or engaging. The entire issue is such superficial introduction that it doesn't provide much incentive for readers to want to know more.

              I'm conflicted over the final two episodes of Umbrella Academy. Logically and thematically the final episode is the natural and most plausible resolution considering what's come before and who is involved. But the ending still feels especially curt and just a bit uncivil.

              Watched Punisher season 2 episode 6. This episode heavily features a lot of drama and characters emoting, but it still doesn't especially feel like The Punisher, particularly not like Steve Grant's Punisher nor Mike Baron's or Garth Ennis', or really any of the comic book iterations of the character.

              Director Gaspar Noé's film Climax is “a hell of an experience,” as I said to the one other viewer in the movie theater with me when the film ended. The critique is pointedly accurate. I went into the movie practically blind and found that the movie depicts an isolated dance party that rapidly transforms into a nightmarish bad LSD trip. The dozen or so young adult French dancers are mysteriously doped up, and the bad drug trip causes all of their sublimated compulsions and antagonism to surface, turning them into violent, animalistic hedonists. So the film is the visual equivalent of dipping a pinky toe into hell. The movie mostly consists of lengthy long-take shots that drift from following one character to another. Once the LSD sets in, the camera is often skewed at an angle or even completely upside down to evoke the sense of confusion and unsteadiness the characters feel. The movie largely consists of thumping EDM music and rhythmic bodily contortions, so the film is one about evoking unsettling atmosphere more than conventional story. And certainly viewers can interpret and critique the various characters' actions and expressions as to what they reveal about the characters' ethics. I'm conflicted over critiquing the movie because ostensibly there's not a lot to it. It's roughly an hour of watching people freak out screaming, chewing their own hair, flailing wildly. But the naturalism and believability of the film is spectacular, belying the very deliberate and structured technical necessity behind the camera. The only other person in the auditorium was a young woman with heavily tattooed arms. As we were walking out of the theater, she asked me, “Have you seen his others?” I was immediately pleased that she assumed I understood who she was referring to. I admitted that I hadn't. She said in response that this film was “pretty par for the course” regarding his movies.