Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Big O (The Biggu Ō)

Comprised of two seasons and 26 episodes, The Big O is a show that wears its influences on its very large sleeve. It is Batman with giant robots and a film noir style of storytelling. The first thirteen episodes are very episodic in nature with only a few ties to each following and previous episode. The final thirteen episodes have a more over-arching story that tries to answer all the questions from season one while posing a few more that might or might not be answered in the final episode.

I really love this show, but it is not for everyone. There is a lot of talking in this show and it is the talking that drives the story. Sure, there is action, but it's the narration and characterization that really make the show worth watching.

Now let me get to the actual story (such as I understand it)...

40 years ago an event took place that caused people in Paradigm City to lose their memories. Since that fateful day people do what they can to get by with technology they don't fully understand or they choose to shun the technology and live off the land (since the land is largely shit they basically live in poverty). At the center of the story is Roger Smith, a negotiator who provides services for people in need when he can. Roger is our Bruce Wayne character, but his alter ego is not a bat suit but a large robot (called "megadeus") named "The Big O." Roger doesn't understand how or why he can pilot The Big O so well, but there is some sort of strange connection between the two that kind of gets explored.

Later on in the series Roger Smith suffers from strange recurring visions that might or might not be memories. Since memories are something that no one seems to have, it is difficult to say what memories actually are in Paradigm City. But Roger sees an apocalypse happening, fire everywhere, and megadeuses destroying everything or possibly fighting to keep everything from being destroyed...

But what does this have to do with Roger? Why does he see this?

All the while a corrupt politician named Alex Rosewater is planning on becoming Paradigm City's new God and he plans on re-creating the event from 40 years ago.

Honestly, there are not many answers by the end of the series. What exactly happened 40 years ago is never totally explained and what happens at the absolute end of the series sort of takes The Truman Show, The Matrix, and a big ole bag of "what the fuck just happened?" and places it all into a blender and serves it to us. I've seen the show multiple times and I can sort of figure it out, but there is no definite "this is what it all means" moment.

A third season really might have helped, but the second season didn't get good enough ratings to warrant one, I guess. Hell, I'd settle for an OVA (original video animation aka an anime feature) to at least tie some of the unresolved issues together.

Final Note: Steve Blum is one of my favorite voice actors and he is perfect for Roger Smith; I could listen to that guy read the dictionary and be reasonably entertained by it. And hearing his Cowboy Bebop co-star Wendee Lee as the strange woman named Angel is a real treat, too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Catching Up On Anime - Reviews Galore

Okay, I don't have time to go into in depth reviews of each shows I have viewed (or re-viewed) so I'm sort of crunching them up into one brief entry.

Neon Genesis Evangelion - This series is fantastic. With weird-looking monsters, pseudo-religious tones and images, giant robots that live on blood, and a very controversial ending this show has just about something for everyone. This show is stark and at times very depressing. There is very little fan service in terms of cleavage, but there fight scenes between the robots and the "angels" are normally very good. You can tell that the budget was being cut in the end because scenes got a bit too long and the last two episodes were probably made on a shoe-string budget. I believe the final episodes work, but it won't leave you feeling like you got the ending you wanted. In fact, the creators of the show thought the same and created The End of Evangelion just to soothe their fans and themselves. But the final two episodes aren't really bad; they are just very different.

Blue Gender - This sci-fi/horror show is comprised of 26 episodes like many other anime shows. The English voice talents include many folks from Dragonball Z, but this show is quite a bit more graphic and it's a bit of an adjustment to hear voices from my childhood in a more adult show. There are sex scenes and nudity and plenty of gore. Some say the final third of the show is when it falls apart, but I beg to differ. This show stays solid throughout and the ending is really good, if not slightly head-scratching. The series also comes with the movie, but the movie is essentially an inferior re-telling of the series.

Samurai Champloo - Cowboy Bebop took the space western and film noir genres and combined 'em with a jazz soundtrack with amazing results. Samurai Champloo combines hip hop with samurai action and pseudo-historical references. You can tell the same guy is the mastermind of both shows, but they are vastly different. Steve Blum voices the main character in both English versions of the shows and that can be a bit jarring because there's just no way you cannot think about Cowboy Bebop as you watch this show, but this show really does stand-up. Personally, I can't stand the opening song because I am not a fan of hip-hop, but the show itself is quite good.

School Days - This show is only twelve episodes long and you will hate every single character. Yup, every single one. This show begins as a light romantic comedy, but gradually turns into something much more disturbing. By the end you will wonder just what you fucking watched. This show will make Fatal Attraction look like The Wizard of Oz. This show is only available in Japanese as far as I know, but I'd be willing to watch an English dub. 

Just a word of warning... the last episode is violent. So violent that when a young girl in Japan killed her own father with a machete the last episode's showing date was pushed back. Again, things don't stay light and fluffy for long on this show.

Higurashi- When They Cry - This show is fucked up. There's just no other way to put it. You ever see The Powerpuff Girls on Cartoon Network? Well, imagine a Powerpuff Girl carrying a bloody machete and swinging it at you. Yeah, the characters may look cute and some parts of this show are downright funny, but other parts are downright depressing and fucking disturbing. This show is 26 episodes and it is sort of like Groundhog Day in that the events play over and over again but with very different results depending on what choices are made and by what characters. I think there are a total of six or seven segments and each one tells you just a bit more even though events are different. By the end you'll know why everything is happening , but not just how or when. It is head-scratching and the violence is extreme, but it is a good time to be had if you have the stomach for it. There are sequel seasons to this show, but none of them are in English. The collection I ordered was from the UK because the US version on Amazon is fucking expensive. I'd love for the sequels to this series to become more readily available in the US because I want to figure out all the unanswered questions.

And... F.Y.I. - This show actually gave me nightmares. 

**Consider Samurai Champloo and Neon Genesis Evangelion in the Blog House Catalog of Greatness. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Expendables 2 (2012) - A Review

I love action movies. I've got the Missing in Action trilogy on DVD, I've seen all of the Rambo movies multiple times, and I'll continue to swear up and down that Last Action Hero unfairly gets a bad rep.

So when we first heard about The Expendables, my brother and I were excited. Stallone, Statham, Li, Schwarzenegger, Rourke, Lundgren, and Willis all in one movie? Any fan of action cannot say no. The movie  was pretty brainless, but we were watching this movie because of the actors and the homage they were paying to days gone by when action movies could just be action movies.

So when we heard about The Expendables 2 we decided we would see it in the theaters and yesterday we did just that.

Is the movie more of the same? Well, yes. But in the world of action movies this is not a bad thing. In fact, it's a great thing. This ain't Shakespeare, after all.

Rourke is gone from the cast in this movie, but this time Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme are brought into the fold. Schwarzenegger and Willis are also given slightly bigger roles in this one while Jet Li's role is essentially reduced to an extended cameo, but it is a bad-ass cameo.

In fact, the first fifteen minutes of the movies is one long bad-ass action scene full of enough explosions to make you wonder how the hell the movie could possibly last another hour without all of the main characters being killed.

Is the movie cheesy? You bet! The first scene in which Chuck Norris appears is brilliant. Tanks explode, people get slaughtered, and then Norris comes walking out of the smoke looking completely unharmed and bad-ass. You don't even care what his character's name is. (Hell, I don't remember half of the character names from this movie.) You just know that Chuck Norris is on the scene and that's all you need. Norris even makes a Chuck Norris joke. Talk about awesome.

In the movie when Schwarzenegger and Willis are being pinned down by a bunch of gunmen and their exchange goes something like this:

Arnold: "I'll be back."
Bruce: "You've been back enough. I'll be back."
Then Bruce Willis runs across the field of fire and Arnold whispers: "Yippee Ki Yay..."

Lay on the cheese because this is exactly what we came to see.

So I loved the movie. I think I liked it even more than the first one and I am eagerly waiting for a third. I'd love to see Steven Seagal, Kurt Russell, Wesley Snipes, Michael Biehn, and Nicholas Cage involved. Jackie Chan, too. And what about Eastwood and Ford? Let everyone in, by God.

Come Sly, let's see The Expendables 3.