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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.

    Comment


      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.

      Comment


        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.

        Comment


          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.

          Comment


            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.

            Comment


              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.

              Comment


                Watched Kemono Friends 2 episodes 10 & 11.

                Watched Manaria Friends episodes 9 & 10. I'm slightly fascinated by the similar way HoraMimi and Manaria Friends are both short series that started out seemingly as one thing then gradually morphed into homosexual romance stories. I'm not complaining, just observing.

                Unexpectedly, the Uma Musume episode 14 OVA is the first part of an ongoing new story rather than a self-contained episode.

                Shield Hero episode 11 is the best episode of the series so far, which again isn’t saying very much since the show is rather bad. Furthermore, episode 11 simply has a lot of narrative meat on the bone to work with, so it would have been a greater surprise had this episode not been substantial.

                The first Made in Abyss compilation film, “Journey’s Dawn,” isn't flawless but is one of the better compilation films because it doesn't feel especially choppy, confusing, or very oddly paced. Having now watched the TV anime two years ago I'm fairly certain that the first summary movie includes two new animation sequences. The new opening briefly depicts the foundation of the city of Orth and introduces Riko's father. The sequence isn't necessary, but it is a nice addition that establishes a sense of history and realism for the narrative from the very outset. The other sequence that didn't seem familiar to me is a brief flashback set immediately after Riko's birth and providing a bit more reflection upon Ozen. The movie condenses the story's introduction as best it can, yet it's still about 45 minutes into the film before Riko & Reg begin their descent into the abyss. Then the biggest weakness of the film occurs. The pair manage to reach the seeker's outpost with only one setback. So despite the film constantly reminding viewers of how dangerous the journey is, the movie version largely fails to depict that sense of danger because Riko & Reg pass through abyss levels one and two rather quickly and easily. Even in the wilds of level three, the audience never feels a sense of threat or any concern that the kids won't pull through safely. In the television anime, Ozen's revelation about Riko's birth is a devastating shock because viewers have spent hours with Riko and become enchanted by her. In the movie version the revelation is treated as a nearly disposable “also” revelation with little impact. The pronouncement is shocking in the movie not because it's so contrary to expectations but rather because it's the first evidence of horrifying darkness within the movie. The revelation, in the movie, is far more surprising than shocking. The movie concludes with the kids departing the seeker camp, so clearly the second film will be devoted to their encounter with Nanachi.

                Watched Hizae episode 11. I suppose this episode partially revolves around that traditional debate over Japanese referring to green as blue.

                I thought that the High Score Girl extra episodes 13-15 were sweet and amusing.

                Watched Kemurikusa episode 11.

                Watched the first Ojamajo Doremi: Owarai Gekijou web short.

                Watched Kakegurui XX episode 11.

                Read the first three volumes of Takuto Kashiki’s Hakumei to Mikochi manga. It's very pleasant, but I'm simultaneously just a bit crestfallen that nearly all of the three volumes was adapted by the anime television series. Book two includes only one chapter and one short bonus story that were not seen in the anime. Book three contains only one chapter that wasn't represented in the anime.

                The high fantasy terminology and rhetoric is so thick in Monstress comic issue 21 that I could forgive a new reader for thinking it was parody. But I can't fathom why any new reader would begin reading this exquisitely complex and dense narrative at issue 21. Naomi issue 3 struck me in two different ways. I'm not steeped in DC lore, so I thought all Thanagarians had wings. Evidently they don't. The wings are strap-ons. Getting past that surprise, I was again impressed with the way this issue is devoting extended time to establishing Naomi as a person first, later to become a super heroine.

                I'm conflicted about the 1969 chambara drama Tengu-to because the film itself is conflicted. To its credit, the movie is a historical drama that concentrates primarily on the theme that power corrupts even men with the most admirable intentions. The movie revolves around a pitiable farmer who manages to pull himself up by the bootstraps to become a yakuza, literally an independent, sword-carrying drifter. His roots compel him to fall into association with a nationalistic militia that claims to want to serve and protect the peasant and farmer classes from oppression from the samurai and noble classes. However, the protagonist constantly finds himself thrust into violent situations that divide his loyalty and die his morality in shades of dark gray. Ultimately even the Tengu-to militia succumbs to a cannibalistic survival instinct, seeking to sacrifice its own “expendable” members to protect the officers. The film revolves around the protagonist, an outsider in the Tengu-to, and his foil, a higher-ranking samurai founder of the Tengu-to militia. A great problem with the movie is that both characters constantly compromise their morality and principles. Doing so creates strong drama but inconsistent, unreliable characterization. Whether these characters are noble or foolish, heroic, opportunistic, or ignorant is never clear and is always changing. But ultimately, they come across as insignificant characters who are controlled by their circumstances instead of being the ones that control their own destinies. Towards the end of the movie the film proposes the idea that pitiable young woman Tae has fallen for protagonist Sentaro. Yet the film seems to forget that Sentaro and Tae only meet twice during the movie, and both times only briefly. Since the film is essentially a political war thriller its swordplay scenes are spontaneous and chaotic rather than deliberate and artistically impressive. The movie does include a bit of blood, but it's strictly background flavor with little narrative or stylistic impact. The movie simply feels a bit one-sided and thematically incomplete. The lower-classes are constantly victimized. Those in power with good intentions get distracted by their own sense of status and self-preservation. And ultimately that's all the film has to say. The movie distinctly feels as if it wants to reject or oppose the status quo, but it never does.

                I'm honestly disappointed that in a word my reaction to writer/director Jordan Peele's film Us is, “"Meh."” I certainly didn't hate the film. I don't even dislike it. It's definitely competently made, and Lupita Nyong'o's acting in a dual role is admirable. But the film never engaged me, never captivated me for even the briefest moment. No aspect of the film ever felt believable to me, but the movie isn't presented as dreamlike or representational at all. The 1986 prologue feels entirely artificial, as though everything happens simply because the script dictates. The Wilson family seems pleasant enough, but I was never convinced that the family fully understood Adelaide nor that she shared a complete, trusting bond with her husband. In effect, the relationship just didn't feel fully believable. The appearance of the “reds” sadly feels more like satire than horror, and what's supposed to be a final plot twist felt completely insignificant to me. Ultimately the movie felt as though it came up with an intriguing scenario but didn't know what to do with it.

                Comment


                  Watched Mob Psycho 100 II episode 12. Episode 13 is fun, and the entire series is a pleasant look at how Shigeo's personality develops as he becomes more conscious about himself.

                  Fukigen na Mononokean Tsuzuki episodes 12 & 13 finally depict the conflict between fanciful sentimentality and coldly rational pragmatism that's been brewing throughout especially this entire second season.
                  Perhaps I'm just too cynical, but the show, particularly the second season, frustrates me because both Abeno & Haruitsuki live under a cloud of perpetual optimism, assuming that if they trust in blind faith, everything will always work out to their advantage. Moreover, the storytelling always seems just a bit simplistic because despite periodic setbacks, everything typically does favor the two of them in the end.

                  Endro episode 11 is quite enjoyable, and episode 12 provides a pleasant, solid ending.

                  Ueno-san wa Bukiyou episodes 11 & 12 are both very cute. Ueno is adorable when she's embarassed.

                  Finished off WataTen episodes 11 & 12.

                  As of 3D Kanojo Real Girl episode 22 I'm uncertain whether this is a bad show that lucks into frequent commendable moments or if it's a good show that unfortunately criples each of its strengths with a weakness. On the scale of shoujo romantic dramas, this series may not be the weakest, but it's a long way from the best. Also finished episodes 23 & 24.

                  Watched Shield Hero episode 12.

                  So Kemurikusa continued being abstract and confusing right up through the end of episode 12.

                  The final episode of Hizae is objectively a bit laughable because it seems to confuse Haru the cat with being a dog. So, in effect, the episode feels a bit Disney-esque.

                  A bit oddly and unexpectedly, Kakegurui XX episode 12 doesn't actually end the storyline, yet it still feels as though it concludes the second TV series at a suitable natural pause point.

                  I wish I clearly understood what happened during the climax of Kotobuki Hikoutai episode 10. The bomber dropped its payload, so the bombs began falling toward the ground. Then the camera cut away, and all of the bombs seemingly vanished as though they had never been dropped. Also watched the exciting episode 11 and climactic episode 12.

                  Finished off Virtual-san wa Miteiru episodes 7-12.

                  I think that possibly the animation segment of Rinshi! Ekoda-chan episode 10 was intended to be cute. But it struck me as pure horrifying nightmare fuel. Episode 11's anime segment is interesting because it captures so well the tone of a counter-culture underground that's just on the verge of being passé, a sort of nostalgia just on the cusp of turning into hipster parody. So it's fascinating because despite being a bit artificial, it still has just a little bit of gonzo beatnik legitimacy underneath the surface. I wonder whether the limited animation quality in episode 12 was due to circumstances or intention. Regardless, the episode is a fascinating slice of life anime because it's such an odd choice of “slice.” In reflection, the Rinshi! Ekoda-chan anime may prove to be one of the year's highlights because it was literally a virtually no-limits blank canvas for artistic directors to play with. I can certainly understand why viewers preferential to more conventional productions and storytelling may not appreciate or enjoy it. But I thought the series was consistently fascinating, and it leaves me disappointed that there isn't a conventional Ekoda-chan anime that I can watch or an English language translation of the manga for me to read.

                  Several weeks ago the cliffhanger ending of SAO: Alicization left me so despairing of the uninspired plot development the subsequent episode promised that I lost much of my motivation to stay abreast of the series. Now that it's concluded, I wanted to finish it. Indeed I was highly frustrated that not only did episode 19 take the plot route that I feared it would, it spent an entire plodding episode to reach it. Regrettably, episode 19 then episode 20 both prove that this series is a 24-episode show with only 12 episodes worth of plot and also undermine the integrity of the story. Not only is Eugeo obviously unprepared for this quest he's set out upon, even Kirito's judgment must be called into question for placing more faith in trust in Eugeo than the boy deserves. The climax of episode 20 is clearly supposed to be shocking, but sadly it actually just seems to prove that the heroes of this show are their own worst enemies. The endless pointless talking through multiple episodes and the "torture" of episode 23 are all, I think, intended to convince viewers how demented and malicious the Administrator is, but none of it works because it all becomes tedious and boring, and most of all it allows ample opportunity for the "heroes" to demonstrate how weak-willed and unprepared they are. Instead of doing what they came to do, they just stand around helplessly and stare at each other, waiting for someone else to do something for them. The climax makes little sense. Wait, are there supposed to be two versions of Kirito, or just one with several years of life missing? Then the series ends with a cliffhanger introducing the next story arc. But since the cliffhanger has no pretext, and Kirito has now been undermined and turned into such a weak and ineffectual character, I find that I don't even care what happens to him any longer, and my enthusiasm for more of this series is minimal. And one of the biggest frustrating logic holes of the show is the fact that in “real life” Kirigaya is a software programmer. In the immersive game world he realizes immediately that the “magic spells” are actually just computer command lines. But he spends literal years living in this digital game world and never bothers to experiment with chanting random command spells just to see if any of them work, or learn what he can do.

                  I watched Otona no Bouguya-san (Rimen) episodes 2 & 3, but I still can't figure out exactly why they exist because they seem to contribute nothing to the TV series. Episode 2 feels completely disposable, and arguably even worse, episode three feels like an inside joke for the production staff.

                  Granted, the final episode of Kemono Friends 2 does feel more conventional than any of the first season did, but especially upon reflection I just don't see where and how the second season is as far removed and inferior to the first season as common fan criticism asserts. The second season is absolutely different in tone and visual style compared to the first season. On one hand, predictably the second season expands the scope of the first season and feels a bit more commercial and mainstream. But it's not so wildly different or inferior that it distinctly feels disappointing to me.

                  Continued in next post.

                  Comment


                    Continued from previous post.

                    Read the fifth and final comic book issue of William Gibson's unproduced Alien 3 screenplay. Unfortunately it's a terrible mess. I don't know whether the blame lies in the original script or the comic adaptation or both. The fifth comic issue feels very rushed. Moreover, it's only barely coherent. One character appears to practically explode for an unclear reason. Different types of aliens attack each other without explanation. A bunch of people get killed, but I'm uncertain who they are and where they came from. A colonial marine shuttle appears, seemingly from nowhere. Then the resolution feels extremely abrupt and incomplete. Also read Silencer issue 15, which seems as if it modifies Honor's power. Previously she seemed to be only able to create “zones of silence” around herself. Then issue 14 seemed to establish that she could project them around herself without including herself. Now issue 15 depicts her being able to create small, isolated bubbles quite a distance away from herself. Issue 15 also introduced a new character that could potentially become more prominent in the surrounding DC universe.

                    Watched Punisher second season episodes 7-9.

                    Regrettably Velvet Buzzsaw is severely under developed. It's a concept rather than a complete screenplay. Moreover, the film is roughly 75% satire and 25% horror movie, meaning that it doesn't completely get either component right. The film distinctly pokes fun at the pretentious commerce of modern pop art. But the movie has little to offer as alternative. The movie itself poses the argument that the value in art is in being seen and appreciated. That perspective is neither incorrect nor unreasonable. Yet while the film tries to reject that perspective, it never successfully does. The movie wants to champion the alternative perspective that art is purely private and should only exist to satisfy the self. But that perspective is also riddled with weakness and likewise isn't convincingly supported by the events of the movie. So the film wants to be a satire, but it's not sure what it's satirizing nor exactly what it wants to say. The horror aspect of the film is even weaker for two primary reasons. Writer/director has never composed a horror film before and evidently doesn't know how to do so because Velvet Buzzsaw is never frightening. Even its attempts to create suspenseful terror fall flat. Moreover, the horror story is punched so full of holes that it's tremendously more confusing and frustrating than gratifying. A horror movie needs a basic level of explanation to be comprehensible, yet this film doesn't even provide such foundation. Viewers never know exactly what the supernatural threat is nor precisely why it exists. Viewers don't know exactly how the threat works, nor who exactly it targets. So instead of being scared of the threat, the threat seems to be virtually random.

                    Writer/director Nicolas Pesce's adaptation of Ryu Murakami's novel Piercing distinctly evidences the lineage of Audition but moreover distinctly reveals Pesce as an understudy of John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and Dario Argento, perhaps with a bit of David Lynch and Nicolas Winding Refn thrown into the mix. Piercing is at its best when it's at its most outré and extreme, which gives rise to the biggest of small complaints about the movie. The rather short feature-length film feels as though it never quite goes far enough. The films isn't torture porn, nor does it need to be. But like the best giallo thrillers, it's highly provocative and uncomfortable, yet it feels as if it lets viewers off the hook, as if it's worried about being too controversial or offputting after already crossing the rubicon. It's a strong, interesting offering for viewers that appreciate psychotronia, but it falls short of getting under the skin, seemingly but deliberate intention, and thus falls short of standing shoulder to shoulder with the tallest of its kin.

                    Comment


                      I've been conscious of the Yu-No franchise since it debuted in '96, but I never paid much attention to it. The first episode of the 2019 TV adaptation, which is reportedly a relatively faithful adaptation of the original game, feels very much like a predecessor to titles including Steins;Gate, Island, and Mayoiga. In terms of technical production values, I don't see anything wrong with the first episode. This is simply a particular variety of anime narrative that I've never been especially interested in or enthused with.

                      The first episode of Dia no Ace Act II feels a lot like a baseball version of Yowamushi Pedal because it's a sports anime with a strong emphasis on very bold, unconventional, and oversized personalities.

                      The first Japanese episode of Bakugan: Battle Planet, which is the first two American broadcast episodes, feels like a hybrid of typical shounen adventure and monster battle anime.

                      Watched the brief first episode of Kemono Friends 3.

                      Also watched the short Kemurikusa episode 12.1

                      The Shield Hero anime adaptation is doing its admirable best to work with the original material, but episode 13 butts up against one of the story'’s core problems. The concept of the existence of four summoned heroes, yet a particular country only respects three of them may not be unreasonable. But the idea that the odd man out has been in the country for over two months without ever hearing a single time that the entire country considers his very existence evil is just far too difficult to believe or take seriously. Moreover, Raphtalia seems to know this fact as though it'’s second nature to everyone, yet even she never bothered to mention it before because the entire concept was one that the original novelist invented after he’d already published two novels and established the “rules” of the world. The concept feels like an ill-fitting retcon because it is one. Moreover, the continued blind idiocy of especially Itsuki & Ren is maddening because it'’s only explainable as deliberate authorial manipulation. The books need to keep protagonist Naofumi humbled and pitiful, so the author forces characters to behave in unnatural ways to extend the conceit. The new ending credits sequence is fine, but the new opening animation is risible because it’s effort to be pessimistic and morose are laughably heavy-handed.

                      I appreciate the respect that Ultraman episodes 1-4 have for the original franchise. However, I'm a bit disappointed that especially episode 4 tremendously sacrifices logic and plausibility in order to achieve its intended goals.

                      Watched the first episode(s) of [email protected] Cinderella Girls Gekijou Climax Season.

                      Dororo episodes 11 & 12 are quite harrowing.

                      Paper Girls issue 27 is fun although at this point the entire series is so convoluted and confusing.

                      I may just be cynical, but I’m going to defend my perception that the Shazam movie is merely passable, and just barely. I'’ll do my best to explain while avoiding spoilers. The movie is very heavy handed. It'’s preachy exactly in the way old after school specials were didactic. The action is suitable to the story, granted. But it also feels rather small scale, especially in comparison to earlier DCU movies. Perhaps to the film’s credit, the villain Dr. Sivana is more prominent in the movie than the trailers hinted. At the same time, actor Zachary Levi has a bit less to do than expected. Now to get a bit more detailed: the first half of the film includes two scenes intended to evoke an emotional response to characters that the film has given viewers practically no reason at all to care about. Likewise, later in the movie a scene occurs which is supposed to be a bit gut wrenching. Except the scene has already been very thoroughly undercut by plenty of obvious clues for any viewer that’s been half-way paying attention. The movie also undercuts its own credibility because the film distinctly establishes the idea that the wizard diligently tests each candidate to receive his power until he gets desperate. Then his principles go out the window and he'’ll just accept the first person who comes along. And a bit laughably, sheet glass in the movie is apparently either as thin as paper or stronger than Adamantium. Essentially, the movie is just fine for viewers willing to take the movie completely at face value, without questioning or criticizing anything whatsoever. For any viewer that expects a bit of logical consistency in the film, any degree of subtlety or nuance, or any intelligence above a sixth-grade level will find the film falling short.

                      Comment


                        The first episode of Senryu Shoujo feels a lot like many other lightly romantic or slice-of-life sitcoms that come and go without making much impression, like Takunomi, Ooyasan wa Shishunki, Momokuri, Aiura, Hatsukoi Monster, and Fumikiri Jikan. It could definitely be called a slightly less gimmicky and somewhat more subdued sibling to Midori no Hibi.

                        I've always preferred comedy that allows viewers to laugh with characters rather than at them. So I can appreciate comedies like Suzumiya Haruhi, Nichijou, and Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro that make light of circumstances and relationships. But comedies built around making characters themselves the butt of jokes feel cruel or insensitive to me. The first episode of Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai feels more like the later type of comedy because its humor is entirely based in sexism. The protagonist perceives boys as lustful beasts rather than human beings. Her father sees her, his own daughter, as a manifestation of his philosophical concept of sexuality rather than as a person. This show doesn't feel like comedy with characters. It feels like comedy at the expense of its characters. This same tone, in varying degrees, put me off of shows including Osomatsu-san, Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui, and Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. I think that comedy should make me like the characters more instead of less. But the first episode of this show only makes me dislike and disrespect the main characters.

                        I'm really uncertain. My mind tells me that the original 2001 Akitaro Daichi Furuba had a slightly softer tone for its first episode than the new 2019 adaptation does. But my recollection may be flawed. Furthermore, the first episode of the new rendition feels nearly cliché with parallels to both Kimi ni Todoke and Kamisama Hajimemashita. But both of those titles were actually likely influenced by Fruits Basket. So, in effect, despite some relatively minor changes in art design, the first episode of 2019 Furuba isn't immediately captivating, but it is a solid, substantial and interesting debut episode.

                        Bakumatsu Crisis is a strictly “fans only” continuation of last year's Bakumatsu ~Ren'ai Bakumatsu Kareshi Gaiden~. The first episode of the new series is identical in design and production quality to the previous series. And narratively it picks up where the previous series ended, so it's not at all friendly or accessible to viewers with no familiarity with the franchise. Furthermore, despite now being 13 episodes into the show, the characters still have practically no personality. The characters exist merely as chess pieces that the screenwriter moves at will to tell the story. Regrettably, neither the story nor the characters are especially interesting. In fact, I can't even fathom how this show was successful enough to warrant a second season. I also wasn't a fan of the similar time-travel samurai action show Touken Ranbu, but Touken Ranbu is far superior to Bakumatsu in every respect.

                        I typically like little girl daily life anime such as Sansha Sanyo, Yuyushiki, and Mitsuboshi Colors. Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu falls into that category, but it's unfortunately not especially likeable because protagonist Hitori exhibits a significant characterization flaw. Her social anxiety is a fine narrative trope. The problem lies in the fact that she doesn't try to befriend her classmates because she wants to know them or have more friends. She only attempts to befriend her classmates to fill a quota set by another friend of hers. So while Hitori's classmates may presume that Hitori is trying to be friendly, Hitori actually cares nothing about them and is only using them as numbers to reach a selfish end goal.

                        Finished off Hulaing Babies episodes 10-12.

                        Observation rather than complaint that the asexual gay theme gets even stronger in the first episode of HoraMimi season 2.

                        I'd somewhat forgotten quite how slowly paced the American Gods television series is. But the first three episodes of season 2 are just as stylish and interesting as the first season while feeling a bit more substantial now that the series has laid its cards on the table and doesn't have to dance around secrets any longer.

                        Comment


                          Caught up a bit on Star Twinkle Precure episodes 7-9.

                          I have to ironically give studio ufotable credit for placing a tremendous amount of faith in the patience of viewers to believe that Kimetsu no Yaiba will get better. Instead of beginning with a distant flash forward, as Berserk does, to convince viewers of a reason to commit to the show, the first episode of Kimetsu no Yaiba chooses a very ineffective narrative structure. Rather than begin far into the future then revert back to the past, the first episode begins a day ahead, then includes a flashback to the prior day before returning to the present time. The structure does nothing more than weaken the flashback. Logically, and to superior effectiveness, the story should have just stuck to a linear chronology, letting viewers become familiar with the family first instead of introducing the family after viewers already know that most of them are irrelevant. Furthermore, the first episode suggests that protagonist Tanjiro has potential to become a skilled warrior, but viewers are left on their own to guess whether and when he will develop into a compelling hero and if the show is worth watching until that evolution occurs.

                          Chou Kadou Girl ⅙: Amazing Stranger is quite an oddity. Nona's design looks straight out of the early 80s. The surrounding show has the feel of an early 2000's throwback like Hand Maid May or Battle Programer Shirase. The additional level of psychological quandary make the show even more unique.

                          Upon first impression Nobunaga-sensei no Osanazuma is also a throwback oddity. The scenario, and particularly the protagonist Oda Nobunaga's rather idiotic personality, distinctly seem like an homage to 80s anime. This episode feels like a sub-plot from Urusei Yatsura. However, I also have the impression that if this actually were a story from the golden age, it would have a greater slapstick and warm tone rather than the more objective and cynical tone it does have. I didn't especially take to the first episode, but the ending credits animation promises that the show has intentions to grow into something quirky and amusing along the tonal lines of Kobayashi Maid Dragon and Blend S.

                          On the scale of baseball anime first episodes, Mix lands around the middle. It's not quite as off-putting as something like the first episode of Meimon! Daisan Yakyuubu or Apache Yakyuugun nor as immediately engrossing as something like Slow Step or One Outs. But knowing that it's an Adachi story, it's certain to be reliably credible.

                          Ironically one of the first new anime of the season that I really don't have any complaints about is also one that just didn't strike me personally as tremendously interesting. Bokutachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai comfortably sits thematically beside shows including Oushitsu Kyoushi Heine and Kuusen Madoushi Kouhosei no Kyoukan although it's grounded in day-to-day realism, unlike its predecessors. The characterizations and scenario are perfectly fine, although I don't understand why Furuhashi doesn't wear the same school uniform that all of her schoolmates do. I simply didn't find the characters especially interesting. On a minor side note, I did find interesting the opening credits animation that includes several shots with high frame rate exceptional animation quality.

                          The first episode of Joshi Kausei is certainly a fine anime experiment. But for a sound-effects only production it's creativity pales in comparison to Studio Ghibli's similar two efforts.

                          From the outset Kono Oto Tomare is no Chihayafuru. While the later show about a high school club concentrating on a traditional Japanese cultural pastime began with a warm, humorous, instantly engrossing episode, the first episode of Kono Oto Tomare is fairly dour and unpleasant. But now that the show has its foundation established and out of the way, it may sooner get to a more pleasant state. At this early point I'm uncertain whether I'll commit to this show, but I do think it has promise.

                          Watched the Pop Team Epic special.

                          Based on my impression of watching the first episode of Yatogame-chan Kansatsu Nikki in untranslated Japanese, the show seems to be closer in tone and style to Omae wa Mada Gunma o Shiranai than Boku no Imouto wa Osaka Okan. The former show prioritized cultural in-jokes for Japanese viewers while the later concentrated on being a bit more comically educational and informative.

                          The first episode of Youkai Watch 2019 feels equal parts continuation and reboot.

                          Comment


                            Upon first impression, Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin isn't exceptional, but it does seem as though it may be a passable entertaining diversion.

                            Although the first episode of P.A. Works' Fairy Gone isn't without some flaws, it's at least a better historical supernatural action debut than Tenrou, the studio's previous similar production. Artistically I appreciate that Marie has a strong, consistent characterization. She has self-respect, principles, and refuses to allow herself to be bullied. However I fail to see how she managed to become a successful mafia bodyguard when she refuses to fight. I'm also confused why Val evidently planned to crash the auction but didn't plan an escape route or getaway vehicle.

                            Relative to other girls' baseball anime, Cinderella Nine seems very conventional and middle of the road. It's neither as angsty or dramatic as Yakyubu no Uta nor as buoyant and exaggerated as Princess Nine.

                            In both structure and tone Shoumetsu Toshi is remarkably similar to both AICO -Incarnation- and Ingress. All three shows are sci-fi/action stories revolving around a single teenage girl who is key to understanding a mysterious regional phenonenom. All three shows are flashy and open with plenty of big, elaborate action scenes, but all three shows also forget to provide enough characterization for their characters to make viewers care about the characters. In the first episode of Shoumetsu Toshi, Yuki just comes across as petulant and defeatist. She has to be forced into caring about what happens to her and has to be forced into doing anything for herself. Takuya has even less personality, as, to him, everything is merely a job, and Yuki doesn't even qualify as an emotional human being in his eyes. The only times he tries to address her are when he arguably manipulates her emotions just to make his own job easier.

                            Nande Koko ni Sensei ga is a sexual situations & sight gags show in the vein of Golden Boy, U-Jin Brand, Colorful, Let's Nupu-Nupu, Nippon-ichi no Otoko no Tamashii, Kiss x Sis, and Hantsu x Trash. Regrettably, it also employs some relatively heavy censoring that goes a long way toward undermining the entire point of the show.

                            According to its official website, the first episode of Aikatsu: Kagayaki no Jewel is series' episode 51, thus a new story arc but not a new series. I did watch it regardless. I had two primary impressions. How can someone rollerblade on grass? And I'm surprised to see a Charlie's Angels reference in the episode, as it's a reference much older than the show's typical demographic would recognize.

                            Primarily for curiosity's sake, I watched both the broadcast and web versions of the first episode of Araiya-san! Ore to Aitsu ga Onnayu de! The broadcast edit is a T&A comedy with nice looking character design but slightly sub-par animation quality. The web version contains lighter censoring in two shots and one additional two-minute-long scene that escalates the show into the realm of adults only porn.

                            Simply put, the first episode of Namu Amida Butsu! -Rendai Utena- feels remarkably like a cousin to Hakuouki. The aesthetic unifying theme is different, but just like most of Hakuouki, Rendai Utena still consists of handsome young men lounging around.

                            RobiHachi appears to be a small disappointment because it's a hybrid of Gintama and Space Dandy yet doesn't have the individualistic creative personality of either inspiration. Specifically, RobiHachi feels as though it takes inspiration from Gintama for its setting but then tries to emulate Space Dandy. However, RobiHachi suffers from two significant weaknesses. Robi's spontaneous and irresponsible personality is fine, but Hachi's personality is marred by illogical contradictions. He claims to desire unpredictability, yet he hates anything being unusual or out of the ordinary. He claims to have a sense of responsibility but then betrays that responsibility at first opportunity. The show's bigger problem is that while Shinichiro Watanabe‎'s Space Dandy had charm and personality to spare, RobiHachi struggles to feel credible. Space Dandy legitimately felt like a loving homage to golden age space opera anime. RobiHachi, however, feels like a Tiger & Bunny style corporate construction. Nothing about the first episode feels spontaneous or unpredictable. Even the episode's two biggest surprises both feel flat and unsurprising.

                            Isekai Quartet is undoubtedly the greatest anime crossover so far in the history of the medium. Little happens in the first episode, but I'm glad to see that all of the characterizations and relationships feel exactly as they ought to.

                            Gunjou no Magmel was one of the shows of this new season that I was most curious about. Unfortunately, presuming that the first episode will be representative of the show, I just can't deal with this. The art design and animation quality are entirely passable: not exceptional but neither terribly poor. The scenario and scripting, however, are a different story. The story gets away with a lot, emphasis on “a lot,” because it's set in an alternate world where the rules and typical behaviors of Earth don't apply and seemingly some limited extent of magic exists. If this story about a new continent rising from the sea was set on our familiar Earth, none of this series' story development would be possible. For example, from the beginning of human civilization, wars have been fought over ownership of just small amounts of land. An entire new continent rising without causing a global war for ownership would be realistically impossible. And that's saying nothing of the ecological disaster that so much ocean water displacement would suddenly cause globally. And in this anime world, concepts like ecological protection don't seem to exist. In fact, even before the opening credits roll the series introduces a logical hole. Inyou, the protagonist, is a search & rescue support official accompanied by a levitating robot drone. If flying computers exist in this world, why not just explore the territory remotely first via drones and thermal scans and digital mapping before allowing humans to wander in willy-nilly? And another subtle example of weak writing occurs when Inyou asks Kryks, “Do you weigh your brother's life with money?” The question is supposed to be profoundly philosophical, yet it's actually a flawed misdirection. Kryks isn't paying for his brother's life. He's paying for Inyou's expert services, which do have a legitimate monetary price. The first episode's climax clearly establishes that the story is entirely concerned with dramatic impact regardless of whether the drama has any believability or plausibility. In effect, this is a show for zombie viewers that only care about superficial plot turns, viewers that don't ask questions or think about plot holes.

                            Read the first two of four issues of the 2015 steampunk adventure comic Diesel because the first two issues are all I presently own. It's not groundbreaking in any respect, but it's decent looking and moderately entertaining. Black Hammer: Age of Doom issue 9 isn't the series' finest issue, but it is entirely solid.

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                              Comparable to Mob Psycho 100's second season, the first episode of One Punch Man second season also opens a bit subdued. But that's not at all to say the episode isn't enjoyable.

                              I like the Strike Witches franchise, and I'm glad to see the 501st again after several years, but the new “501-butai Hasshin Shimasu” anime feels more like a motion comic than true anime. Moreover, it looks more like an unofficial parody manga than a canon anime installment. Honestly, considering how strong the Strike Witches anime traditionally is, I'm quite disappointed to see that even the SD Flash-style animated Isekai Quartet has better animation than this does. I like the Strike Witches franchise, but I don't think I can bear watching more than one episode of this new series.

                              I'm a little bit surprised by Kedama no Gonjirou for two reasons. First, I didn't think that the anime industry still made this style of "annoying uninvited house guest" anime for children in the vein of Umeboshi Denka, Jungle Kurobe, Hoshi no Ko Chobin, and Dororonpa. Second, I can certainly see why small children would find this show hilarious, but some of its imagery strikes my adult rational mind as a bit unsettling.

                              Watched a somewhat tedious Shield Hero episode 14.

                              This year's Duel Masters!! is a continuation of last year's Duel Masters! Upon first impression of the second season premiere I was going to give it credit for feeling more like a shounen comedy series and less like a conventional card battle anime. But when the card battle begins in the episode's B-part, it's every ounce as pedantic as card battles in anime have ever been.

                              Regrettably, I have two primary criticisms of the first episode of Sewayaki Kitsune no Senko-san. The show's highly angular character design, especially reminiscent of mid and late 1990s character design styles, is particularly suited to slapstick comedy anime. But Senko-san appears to be a light drama or possibly even an attempt at an iyashi-kei anime. So the character design style does the show no favors. Moreover, the first episode is extremely superficial. If the show was intended to be a sort of purposeful one-off like Isshoni ni Training, I wouldn't criticize it. And perhaps I am simply approaching the show with the wrong perspective. I have the impression that the show wants to be a story and character-focused drama in the vein of shows including Wagaya no Oinari-sama, Konohana Kitan, and Kobayashi-san no Maidragon. However, it feels much more like a disposable “domestic atmosphere” anime series like Makura no Danshi or One Room.

                              Kenja no Mago appears to be comparable to Knight's & Magic in good and bad ways. Primarily the show appears to be a sort of Knight's & Magic or Mahouka style genius leads and teaches his classmates fantasy adventure. But seemingly just like Knight's & Magic, Kenja no Mago also begins with a pointless and irrelevant preface that the protagonist previously lived a mundane human life in present day Tokyo. In Knight's & Magic, that back story had almost no impact on the narrative and was forgotten after the first two or so episodes. In Kenja no Mago that back story doesn't appear to even sustain relevance through the entire first episode. So I don't know why that background detail is even part of the story at all since it has no impact on the story.

                              Practically all I can say is that Ikuhara's Sarazanmai both exceeds expectations in virtually every possible way and elevates way off the chart on the weirdness scale. Actually, saying more would be a disservice to potential viewers.

                              Director Neil Marshall's Hellboy has been widely and consistently savaged by critics as being incomprehensible. After watching the movie myself, what I find my confusing is how and why so many critics couldn't follow the rather straightforward story. Rather than assume that they're all dumb, I have to assume that none of them paid attention because the movie does clearly lay out and explain in advance all of its plot developments. Or perhaps so many of these critics really don't like comic book movies as much as they think they do. I appreciate Del Toro's initial two Hellboy pictures, but I've always thought those two films were a bit too dour and angsty. They were best when they cut loose. In tone Marshall's film begins where Del Toro's ended. Hellboy (2019) runs with the spirit of Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness, cranking up the gore, the pacing, and the maniac supernatural insanity to eleven. Like Army of Darkness, this Hellboy is a bit of a budget production. Limited resources do occasionally appear on screen, mostly in the form of less than fully convincing CG. And even at a full two hours, the film is very briskly paced, to the extent that it could have benefited from a periodic breather. But the movie is tremendously fun, visually dynamic, and wondrously crazy like a bloody, gory kaleidoscope of ideas, characters, concepts, and creatures. Viewers that want a Hellboy movie that feels like an MCU movie should stick to Del Toro's films. Viewers that want a Hellboy movie that actually feels like Mignola's comics ought to enjoy Marshall's adaptation.

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                                I'm amused wondering what Americans who take rap seriously would think of B Rappers Street, which combines rap and urban rapper attitude with colorful farts to create a Sesame Street style cheerful elementary schoolers' cartoon.

                                Watched Okoshiyasu, Chitose-chan episodes 6-10.

                                Another music-themed show from Shinichiro Watanabe isn't surprising, but perhaps because Watanabe isn't personally directing Carole & Tuesday, it has a different tone than Sakamichi no Apollon. While the later felt a bit forced and pretentious, Carole & Tuesday has gentle, sympathetic feel reminiscent of a sci-fi cousin to Kiki's Delivery Service. Particularly the characters of Mr. Tao & Dahlia partially break the aesthetic of absolute realism and inject a degree of anime stereotype into the show. But the inclusion is welcome because it adds a layer of unpredictability, an implication that viewers won't be able to easily predict exactly how the show will develop. In what's shaping up to be a smaller yet unusually weak new broadcast season, the tail end of the season is proving to be a bright spot.

                                Watched Nobunaga-sensei no Osanazuma episode 2.

                                Watched Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin episode 2.

                                Since the second episode of Yatogame-chan Kansatsu Nikki features more of Yatogame-san, it's a bit more enjoyable than the first episode.

                                The animation quality in Joshikausei episode 2 continues to be sub-par, but at least the episode is still enjoyable.

                                Referring to any given anime production as “weird” is now practically cliché from a Western perspective, yet in numerous instances the adjective is yet legitimately applicable. In a few ways, studio Colorido's 2018 film Penguin Highway is weird. At most superficial, the film is a chronicle of a preadolescent boy's first crush and his rather exciting and strange summer vacation. Revealing virtually any more specific information about the plot is actually quite spoilerish, but suffice to say that the film is also quite opaque. It proposes a curious mystery then continues to compound the mystery with facets of increasing scale. Along the way the initially nearly Ghibli-esque film turns not exactly frightening but rather very unsettling because the film is so ambiguous that viewers aren't even certain what is or isn't threatening. Perhaps coincidentally the movie feels a lot like a feature length sibling to Colorido's 2015 short film Taifu no Norda. Furthermore, at a full two-hours, Penguin Highway is objectively a bit long. The pacing drags just a bit during the third act.

                                Largely I think that Kenjo no Mago episode 2 is predictable and conventional. I'm just slightly fascinated that the core concept of the series is a teen boy who lacks awareness of “common sense,” but what the second episode clarifies is that it's referring to the “common sense” understanding and accepted conventions of its particular fantasy world society. On a side note, I'm confused by the limited usefulness of armor that only works if the wearer sees the attack coming.

                                I'm honestly confused by the first episode of King of Prism: Shiny Seven Stars. For one matter, the first episode seems less like a coherent linear narrative and more like a collection of loosely associated scenes tacked together. It jumps around from subject to subject and character set to character set almost randomly. Furthermore, the episode's tone is likewise schizophrenic. The episode begins in the style of a literal adventure game. Then it switches to conventional bishounen idol anime. But then it begins to interject scenes of hyperbolic satire as well as tonally different absurdist comedy.

                                One Punch Man second season episode 2 distinctly reveals the difference in animation quality between Madhouse's first season and JC Staff's second season. JC Staff's effort is commendable but it's distinctly not as exceptional as Madhouse's work.

                                I'm still tentative after the second episode of Kimetsu no Yaiba. It still promises improvement to come, so I'll continue to give it a chance. But presently Tanjiro is just so dumb. Just charging headlong isn't admirable; it's just thoughtless and foolish.

                                Senko-san episode 2 confirms for me that as much as I want to like this series, it just doesn't completely work. Both the art design and the tone of the show are “off.” The show is clearly intended to be an iyashi-kei anime, but the character designs are straight out of sitcom anime. Similarly, the tone and pacing of the episodes doesn't feel calming or soothing. Instead, it feels like a sitcom anime with all of its jokes edited out. By comparison, Konohana Kitan was a tremendously more successful show with a similar concept because its art design complemented its tone rather than clashed with its tone. And it genuinely felt indulgent and languid while Senko-san constantly feels like calm before a storm.

                                Shield Hero episode 15 is supposed to be an uncomfortable, morally unpleasant episode, but regrettably the scene that's most morally unsettling is a brief one during which Naofumi is supposed to be taking the moral high ground. Except one slave owner criticizing another slave owner isn't very morally praiseworthy. The episode's emotional climax is supposed to be redeeming; however, it unfortunately doesn't logically work because Raphtalia never actually had any choices in her life because she's been a slave to one master or another since leaving her village. So whether or not she feels guilt and a sense of personal responsibility is actually irrelevant because she's never actually had any free will or ability to self-determine her circumstances. In effect, this is again one of the fundamental flaws that undermines the core credibility of this series.

                                Watched the second episode of Kono Oto Tomare.

                                Watched the second Ojamajo Doremi Comedy Theater.

                                Watched Fruits Basket (2019) episode 3.

                                Continued in next post.

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