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.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa

186 pages. I tell you, they don't call them light novels for nothing. However, if there was ever an 186 page book worth the seven dollars I spent on it than I believe that The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya fits that bill perfectly. If you have read my review for the movie (here) then you know how highly I thought of that film. 

However, when describing the movie, it completely slipped my mind to mention how much of A Christmas Carol type of story this is. Of course, we don't have any ghosts here. We do have Kyon struggling with whether or not a world without Haruhi is better than a world with one, though. In a way the new world without Haruhi is a lot like the visits to Ebenezer Scrooge's past, present, and future in that Kyon really doesn't know how good he has it and how much he enjoys his life in an "abnormal" world until he sees how different his life would be in a "normal" world. 

This novel (as well as the movie) shows Kyon deciding to finally take an active role in the SOS Brigade. Rather than just standing by and letting things be the way they are (peaceful and quiet) in this new world, he stands up and tries to change everything back because he actually wants to and not because he feels he has to. 

Certainly, this new stance will make for an even more interesting series in the future. However, the next full novel in this series isn't until book seven. Right now I am on book five and that one contains three short stories that take place and different points during the series. I'm not sure if book six will be a true sequel, either. But I guess I'm with this series for the long haul. 

Anyway, the movie did an excellent job putting this book on screen. So far the anime really has proven to be a very good and faithful adaptation (yeah, the anime jumbles the episode order up, but it works for the anime). Outside of the Endless Eight, that is. But I will get to the Endless Eight in the next volume in this series and my comparisons between the anime and the story will take place in that review. 

P.S. - There's a spin off manga series called The Disappearance of Yuki Nagato-chan that takes place within the "Disappearance" storyline and is therefore independent of the bulk of the Haruhi Suzumiya series. I believe it's about the adventure of Nagato as a human in this alternate world. Since all five volumes are currently available for the Kindle, I suppose I might as well download those soon. While I certainly prefer the way the book (and the movie) ended, I am certainly up for a visit to an alternate future. I just hope that the manga is good. I've heard The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya manga isn't too great so I hope the same can't be said about The Disappearance of Yuki Nagato-chan

Haven't read the book? Haven't seen the movie? Dig into your pockets and do some Kindle downloading.  Or tree-killing. Either way, no self-proclaimed anime fan should be without this series at hand. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013


If you remember my review for a film called I Saw the Devil (found here) then you know how impressed I was with Choi Min-sik's performance. When I saw this film Oldboy streaming on Netflix I naturally decided to give it a watch since I wanted to make good on my word to watch more Choi Min-sik films. 

I'm glad I watched this one. I know I say that a lot (I have really good luck when it comes to picking media I know I will like), but in this case that statement is especially true. 

This is a movie about a man named Oh Dae-su who gets imprisoned for fifteen years by someone he doesn't know. Then fifteen years later he is released without any explanation at all. 

Oh Dae-su is a changed man after his experience. He is stronger than he has ever been thanks to his time spent shadowboxing whilst in confinement. He wants revenge, but who can he take out his revenge on? And why was he released? 

I don't want to say more because you really should discover the secrets of this film for yourself. 

However (and this is nothing spoilery), there is one particular fight scene that is so impressive that you probably wouldn't even believe that it was shot in one take. It took three days and seventeen tries to perfect, but the final result is certainly a scene stealer. The only editing during that entire scene was the knife in Oh Dae-su's back added by CGI. 

I kind of want to read the manga now. And yes, this movie was loosely based off a manga written by Tsuchiya Garon and illustrated by Minegishi Nobuaki. 

As for the movie, this film is apparently a part of director Park Chan-wook's "Vengeance Trilogy." The first film is Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and the third film is Lady Vengeance. These movies aren't related by anything more than basic thematic issues, but they worth mentioning because if they are anything like OldBoy at all then... well, they'd be worth mentioning. 

And I guess something else to mention is that Spike Lee is remaking OldBoy. Just what we need. Another pointless remake of an already good film (since I highly doubt Lee used the manga as a source). 

The World God Only Knows (Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai)

This was another those anime I randomly chose simply because I wanted something light and fluffy to watch in order to kill time between installments of Attack on Titan. Since The World God Only Knows already had about thirty episodes under its belt and was currently finishing out its third season, I figured this anime should last me a good bit. I just naturally assumed it wouldn't be anything too great since it sort of looked like your standard nerdy guy harem anime. 

Boy, was I wrong. Very wrong, in fact. Perhaps the plot of this story isn't the most original, but it is the way the story is told and how expertly the show goes from drama to humor (and the humor here is really hilarious) that makes TWGOK a winner.

I don't say the word "cute" very often because generally what other people find cute I find absolutely nauseating (and I just don't care for the word in general), but damn it, this show is just plain cute. 

Katsuragi Keima is just your average guy who happens to play more video games than anyone else on the planet. He also spends more time alone in his room than I do. So maybe he's not quite so average. 
The God of Conquest, Katsuragi Keima

But more importantly than being a self-centered NEET, Keima is master of the Japanese dating sim. He has conquered more women in his games than Gene Simmons from KISS has conquered in real life. Keima lives for his games and rejects the real world. He lives for the 2D women of his games and not the 3D ones that he finds to be uninteresting and far too difficult. Ah, a kindred spirit. 

One day Keima receives a challenge from someone online. This challenge insults the ego of the self-styled "God of Conquest" and Keima blindly accepts. Bad move there, pal. The next thing he knows he has a bizarre collar around his neck and an adorable demon named Elsie appears before him. She says that they've got to work together to conquer loose souls or else the collars will take their heads off. You see, Elsie happens to be wearing a collar, too. 
How can anyone threaten to behead poor Elsie? 
While conquering loose souls may sound like a pain in the ass, it isn't until Keima is told that loose souls take root in the souls of melancholic women that Keima begins to wonder if he'd prefer to be beheaded. The only way to drive these loose souls out is to fill the hearts of those women with love. 

Now Keima has to put his "God of Conquest" skills to work in the real world if he wants to keep his head intact. Elsie's, too. 

Since each conquered girl loses their memory of the conquest (who'd want to remember that they were possessed by a big ole blobby thing or that they were kissed by a nerdy video game playing guy anyway?), Keima can move easily on to the next loose soul once he is finished. But is it really that easy? 

Is Keima legitimately experiencing the sensations of love and happiness or is he merely playing the odds and calculating his next best move just so can get the job done? When the girl forgets she ever loved him does he feel relieved or regretful? 

It turns out that the answer is a little bit of both but as he continues to do conquer loose souls we gradually see him struggle more and more between being the real-world shunning God of Conquest and the true life Romeo. 

And then it all comes to a clash in season three when a few of his past conquests appear to be able to remember falling in love with Keima. 

Season three is easily my favorite of them all, but it skips a HUGE chunk of the manga! In fact, if you go from watching the end of season two to the first episode of season three then you will be so freaking confused. You'll think that you missed a season somewhere along the way. That's not true, though. For whatever reason season three is the legitimate third season.

We meet characters that have apparently been palling around with Keima for a while now, but we don't get any introduction to them at all. They are merely there as if this part of the show has already been covered. Well, it hasn't, damn it! At least not in the anime. The anime skips about fifty freaking chapters of the manga while the first two season combined didn't even cover the first fifty chapters. Again, that's a freaking HUGE gap.
Kosaka Chihiro

Reading the manga is strongly suggested. The story is so worth it, too. I really wish there are a few more seasons that both continue the story and fill in the massive time gaps. This show (and the manga) really deserves to have the story fully told, I think. 

However, if no more seasons were made then season three would be a fitting end regardless of the massive time gap and all that other stuff.
Of course, the final episode of season three is definitely a feel trip so make sure you cut some onions while you watch so can cry your eyes out without losing points off your man card.

If you want humor, a few killer Dragonball Z references, cute demons that like firetrucks, some good drama, romance, and a little bit of supernatural harem hijinks thrown then you can't go wrong with TWGOK. Watch it. 

As for who Keima ultimately ends up with at the end of season three... well, everyone might not be pleased. I personally wanted Kosaka Chihiro to end up with Keima, but all of the other girls are fleshed out enough to where it is tough to not root for them, too. 


Friday, September 27, 2013

Otaku House Dedications

Not too long ago I decided to ask if there were any shows, books, or whatever that my good friends wanted me to review. Basically, if any of them made a suggestion then I would dedicate the post to them and give them a hug the next time I saw them. However, a few of the folks who made suggestions live multiple states away or are generally not the kind to which I wish to give hugs. So I don't see myself giving away free hugs in the near future. 

I made a few promises that I'd start putting a few of those posts up at the beginning of the month. Well, here it's almost the end of the month and there has yet to be one of those entries. I haven't forgotten about you folks, but I have about twenty backlogged posts and a story I am trying to whip into shape. Plus I've got to do this whole "work" thing. And that really cuts into my personal blogging time. 

Ashton Thompson requested that I review High School of the Dead (well, I more or less volunteered him for this dedications thing without his knowledge, but I'm sure he won't mind considering he legitimately suggested the show), Matthew Pituk requested that I review Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, and Matthew Logan suggested I review Wilfred

So I haven't forgotten about ya'll. 

Your posts will see the light of day eventually. I just happen to live on Jacobian time and Jacobian time just doesn't gel real well with Central Earth Time. 

However, if anyone else wishes that I review something specifically for them then feel free to make a request. If I enjoy it you just might get a hug from me.

Isn't that tempting?

Robin Williams likes Anime? Why, yes. Yes, he does.

When I was younger I felt a little embarrassed about liking anime. Specifically between my sixth and eighth grade years. Maybe if I had had internet access at the time and the ability to look up interesting facts about some famous people I looked up to then I probably wouldn't have been so embarrassed. I mean, if Robin Williams likes some anime then whatcha gonna do? 

Robin Williams is one of my favorite actors. Sure, he hasn't been rolling on all cylinders lately, but he's been in some great movies and Mork is a personal hero of mine. 

So while it might not really have been the biggest secret in the world before (Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, and Mork and Mindy easily could have been anime considering their storylines if you think about), this tidbit of info actually came as news to me.

I completely forgot about that one scene in One Hour Photo that referenced Neon Genesis Evangelion. I'll have to watch that movie soon just so I can catch the reference because it has been quite a while since I've seen it. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa

Okay, book three of the Haruhi Suzumiya series is... umm, well, in the books. Like the previous two books in the series there was a prologue, an afterword by the author, a few illustrations in the book by Ito Noizi scattered throughout, and a couple of manga pages at the end of the book. However, what makes this particular entry in the world of Haruhi different than its predecessors is that it's actually a collection of four short stories that take place between books one and two. 

Each story takes place chronologically so you don't have to worry about which story to read first, but if reading this book after book two bothers you then I suppose you can switch the order. However, a lot of the books skip around like the anime and just like the anime I don't recommend skipping around because you could spoil things for yourself. And skipping the short stories just because they are shorts isn't recommended at all. 

The stories in this series are as follows:

  • The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya - Taking place immediately after the first book, Kyon is desperately trying to forget the event that took place in closed space while Haruhi decides that the SOS Brigade is going to enter a baseball tournament that begins in two days. Never mind that none of them are exactly baseball experts because that apparently isn't important; Haruhi gets what she wants and what she wants is to compete in the tournament. To make matters worse, Haruhi really wants to win and that's not something Kyon thinks they have a chance at doing. He even goes so far as to make his little sister a team member just so they can lose quicker and be done with the whole thing. Once they are down 9-0 things seem to be going Kyon's way. But is Haruhi's frustration with her team's lack of enthusiasm (and skill) going to cause the world to end? Well, Kyon really doesn't want to have to do what he did last time so he decides something has got to happen to get them back in the game. Is there any chance they can make a miraculous comeback that will soothe Haruhi's melancholy? This story was adapted into episode four of the first season of the anime. If you really want your mind blown then listen to this: the title story for this collection was published independently a whole two months before book one was ever released. Nagaru says in the afterword that he was initially nervous about that development but everyone around him seemed to be all for it so he let it happen. 
  • Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody - This story is perhaps my favorite story in this collection. It's our first glimpse into Asahina's ability to time travel and it's the first time that Kyon seems to be more than just the ordinary human being he claims to be. In fact, this time around Kyon himself becomes a time traveler and meets up again with the adult Asahina that he initially met in the first book, but this time he meets her three years in the past. Yup. This story was adapted into episode one of the second season of the anime. Book four in the series The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (as well as the movie) relies heavily on this story so pay attention. 
  • Mysterique Sign - One day the president of the computer club disappears and Haruhi decides to enlist the SOS Brigade to help find him. The storyline reminds me of one from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya where Haruhi and Kyon go searching for Asakura Ryoko, but the giant cave cricket that appears in the computer president's room make things a bit more interesting. This story was adapted into episode seven of season one of the anime. 
  • Remote Island Syndrome - Haruhi wants to go on a remote island adventure to start off their summer vacation in style. The conditions are that the island must indeed be very remote, there must be suspicious characters (such as a maid or a butler), and there must be some sort of mystery to solve. Thanks to Koizumi's distant relatives this remote island vacation actually become possible, but can there really be any mystery to solve? At first nothing interesting seems to happen. It's just R&R. As well as little bit of underage drinking. Then the owner of the villa on the island gets murdered and a hurricane prevents the police from coming for at least a day. This is the very scenario Haruhi had been wanting and waiting for. But is this all of Haruhi's doing because of her subconscious wish for something exciting to happen? Kyon doesn't seem to think so because Haruhi may in fact be a bit loony, but there's no way she could really want a murder to happen. Could she? This story is the longest one of the bunch. Closer to novella length, but not quite long enough to be a stand alone light novel. The story was adapted into episodes six and eight of the first season. This is the first time that I felt like the anime took a bit more free adapting with one of the Haruhi stories. The scene in the anime where Kyon gets trapped in a cave with Haruhi while trying to look for the boat off the island isn't in this story. I rather liked that scene because it provided some interesting character interaction. The ending is also different than the one in this story. Apparently, the anime borrowed its ending from the manga and not the light novel. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that Kyon's sister accompanies the SOS Brigade on its island adventure in the anime, but she doesn't in the light novel. Curious change. I think I might like the way the anime tells this story more. But the story is good, too. If a little bit too long. 

Anyway, there's the breakdown. I enjoyed the book. Especially Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody

If you are a fan then you can't go wrong with this one. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dog & Scissors (Inu to Hasami wa Tsukaiyō)

I don't particularly care for the English title of this anime. Dog & Scissors. How very unimaginative. Every Dog Has His Day is a much better title. More accurate, too. 

Anyway, I don't particularly care for this anime as much as I wish I did. I am not saying I didn't reasonably enjoy this show, but there were other turns the plot could have taken that could have made the story much more interesting. 

I'm very particular about the comedies I watch. I love off the wall zany stuff as long as there's a story there somewhere. Unless the comedy is just so outrageous and mind-boggling (much like a Monty Python skit) that it simply defies logic and explanation. In which case anything that resembles a story would actually be a distraction. 

But I typically prefer shows that are less comedy and more story. I'm the same with movies and books, too. If you were to look at the ratio of dramas to comedies in my movie collection or the ratio of suspense/horror to comedies in my book collection then you would think I had almost no sense of humor at all. 

I do have a sense of humor, though. Honest. And no, I don't laugh at pictures of dead babies on the internet. I may be evil, but I'm not that evil. I prefer deadpan humor that's so dry and sarcastic that it could make a desert grateful for its amount of rainfall. Add just a little bit of zaniness and legitimate drama and there's a comedy I could relish over and over again. 

That being said, Dog & Scissors (or InuHasa, as it is also called) didn't really tickle my funny bone as much I would have liked. It's certainly zany, but the way the show is delivered just doesn't quite live up to the initial premise.

Harumi Kazuhito is a fanatic book reader and one day he is killed in a robbery while trying to protect a total stranger. 

However, his love of books and his yearning to read the next book by his favorite author brings him back to life. (Why can't this be same for all of us?) The only problem is that he has come back as a dachshund dog and not an ordinary human. (Okay, now I don't want it to be the same... Can you imagine having to lick your own balls?)

Once back to life he is adopted by a girl in black leather named Natsuno Kirihime. Kirihime happens to be the person he tried to save from getting shot during the robbery, but she is also Kazuhito's favorite author. Talk about your coincidences! But she's also a sadist who loves to use scissors as a form of torture and someone who can read Kazuhito's thoughts. 

Living together now and master and pet, Kirihime soon develops a crush on Kazuhito and this only makes things more interesting because Kazuhito is a dog. Kazuhito is naturally a smartass and his quips about Kirihime's small breasts often resulted Kirihime taking a pair of scissors after him and cutting his hair off. 

I kind of wish Kazuhito could have been transformed back into a human at some point because then Kazuhito wouldn't have been so blatantly reliant on someone who is obviously a bit twisted. It would certainly make for a much more interesting twist if Kirihime could no longer abuse him or read his mind. 

As it is this show doesn't really need a lot of explaining or even reasoning. It's just goofball randomness once you get beyond the first two episode where Kazuhito's killer is confronted with help from Kirihime. It gets old after a while and if there's another season I would like to see a different direction taken (maybe make it into a harem!), but at twelve episodes this isn't too bad. 

Please remember that I watched each episode as it premiered so that means it took three months to watch all twelve episodes of this show. Maybe if I watch it all in two days I'll like it more. Who knows. But I don't feel like doing that right now. I've got too much stuff on my plate already. 

Either way, InuHasa is still a better love story than Twilight or InuYasha

P.S. - This show is based off a series of light novels by Sarai Shunsuke and these novels only started being released in 2011. The light novel series is currently ongoing, too. So this might not be all for the anime series. We'll see. 

The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa

The second book in the Haruhi Suzumiya series is yet another romp detailing the never dull moments of the SOS Brigade. 

Six months after the potentially world-ending events of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Haruhi is back at it again with a scheme to make a fantastic Golden Globe winning movie to show at the upcoming cultural festival. 

Of course, Kyon knows that none of Haruhi's ideas can ever amount to anything good, but he is forced to tag along because knows that an upset or a bored Haruhi is not a good thing. Plus he doesn't really have anything better to do at the moment. 

With no written script to work from (it's all in Haruhi's head, of course) and a cast consisting solely of SOS Brigade members and their friends, Kyon knows the movie will be terrible. It isn't until Asahina starts shooting laser beams from her eyes and Passenger Pigeons start coming back from extinction that Kyon learns this movie could be dangerous, too. Possibly another world-ending scenario.

Haruhi can not seem to distinguish fact from fiction as she is directing her movie and the real world is suffering for it. Much like last time it seems that it is up to Kyon to keep Haruhi's forceful personality in check, but this time Haruhi's ego seems to be pushing Kyon more than normal. Indeed, Haruhi seems to be portrayed in flat out overbearing bitch mode even more than usual. When Kyon raises a frustrated fist in her direction it's anyone's guess what will happen next.

Unless you've already read the book or seen the anime, that is. 

This novel wasn't adapted into the first season of the anime even though it's the second novel in the series, but it was made into the final five episodes of the second season. The only major difference would be that they switched the first scene of the book into the final scene of the final episode. They made things in that particular scene a little more ambiguous in the anime. All in all it is a really faithful adaptation and the tension-filled exchange between Haruhi and Kyon seems more adequately portrayed in the anime. 

Going back to the book for a moment. 

There are also quite a few American bands and songs listed in this particular translation that sort of grated on my nerves. I'm sure not a lot of people in America know many Japanese bands so I guess I could understand those band names and songs being replaced, but it's just odd to see so many American references in a book that's supposed to have a Japanese setting and only Japanese characters. Perhaps those songs and bands were mentioned in the original Japanese text (I don't know because I can't read Japanese), but that would make it even more odd. 

Also terms like hikikomori were left untranslated. While Google is indeed a blessing and we can look up things we don't know, I'm not sure why a Japanese band name had to be replaced with an American one when a term like hikikomori (which a lot of people would need Google to look up) remains untranslated. I don't know, but it just seems sloppy to me. 

Minor translation issues aside, the sophomore effort in the Haruhi Suzumiya series originally released in 2003 is a really good one. It doesn't quite pack the same punch as the first book, but it's still fairly good. Not exactly high literature, but it is young reader friendly and a it's a great companion to the anime.

Tanigawa has said that he never intended to make The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya into a series and quite a few fans say they can tell by how inferior The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya is compared to the original. The same is also said of a few of the later books. 

I don't know about all of that. 

Certainly the reading is a bit dry considering that it's A) a translation and B) I've already seen the anime so I know everything that happens. Of course, it's going to be tougher to keep me glued to my seat. 

But I don't think the decline in quality is all that much in terms of reading. Of course, I can't read Japanese so who the hell knows how good the original book really is. What I read seemed pretty good, though. Yes, the first book was more dramatic and funnier, but the second book is still solid. 

The third book The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya is a collection of four short stories that take place chronologically between The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya. All of these stories were adapted into the anime, too. 

So far... the third one is pretty good. I'll be reviewing that one next.

One thing is for sure, though: I can't wait until I read the fourth book The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. If that one is even half as good as the movie... I'll be in for a treat. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ano Natsu de Matteru

Waiting in the Summer. That's what this title means. It's a rather apt title, too. Since this romantic comedy/drama/sci-fi story takes place largely in the summer when a bunch of school friends whittle away the hours by shooting a movie to cement their memories of said summer.

In a way, I suppose this show was the perfect way to follow up a summer of my own where I rewatched the Tenchi Muyo series and finally viewed The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Ano Natsu de Matteru contains much of the same subject matter, but this particular show portrays romantic relationships with a straight-face. That's something that Tenchi Muyo avoided entirely (except for Tenchi in Tokyo) and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya never specifically mentioned although there were a few subtle hints. 

The sci-fi in this series is really important half the time. Sure, it's important when it comes to the romance element and to the ultimate climax of the show, but the rest of the time it just feels like one of the main characters is an alien just so one of the main characters could be an alien. It's a hijinks ploy more than anything else. However, the Men in Black references were really well played. 

So all in all it works although the sci-fi gadgets could have been better designed.

Takatsuki Ichika is our main female protagonist of the show and she is the character who is from outer space. At the beginning of the show she crash lands on earth and almost kills our main male protagonist Kirishima Kaito. But she rescues him (although he largely forgets this) and then the two of them more or less go their separate ways... until they meet again in school. 

Kaito soon develops a crush on the space girl whilst unaware that Tanigawa Kanna has a crush on him. Ishigaki Tetsuro is a close friends of Kanna and Kaito and he has feelings for Kanna even though he knows of Kanna's feelings for Kaito. However, Tetsuro actually encourages Kanna to seek a relationship with Kaito in order to be a good friend to Kanna. Kitahara Mio is a girl who has a crush on Tetsuro, but she encourages Tetsuro to pursue Kanna... 

And of course the space girl  Ichika soon develops feelings for Kaito but she's reluctant to admit it because she's from space. 

This is a freaking love hexagon, people! I mean, it does make for some interesting watching and there's lots of drama, but the drama does aggravating after a while. 

However, this show does one thing right by making Kaito confess his love for Ichika early on during the series. It's a welcome relief from all of the characters who take twenty-six episodes to grow a pair of stones to make a confession.  

At twelve episodes, this series is pretty short and it doesn't overstay its welcome. Like a date with a two dollar hooker: it's in, it's out, and then it's done. I like shows like that that are short and sweet. 

However, I didn't particularly think that Ano Natsu de Matteru was a great show. It was good. I'm sure I'd watch it again. In fact, I know I will. 

It's just not one of those great ones and there's nothing wrong with that. This show did everything it had to do to tell its story and it did it reasonably well.

Not every show can be great, though. 

A few things that took away from the show for me. 

The characters themselves didn't really distinguish themselves a lot from their anime comrades. The reason for that is twofold: It's a combination between the lack of backstory for the characters and some less than stellar animation.

This anime is also another in the long line of anime that take place in school. I knew it'd be about that to begin with so it's silly to hold that against this show, but it really just seems like every anime features middle/high school kids. Having them being, at the very least, first year college students could have been interesting, too. 

Those are really just small quibbles, though. 

It's good show. If you like anime like this then you'll probably like anime. If you don't like anime then this might not convert you. If you are a Men in Black fan then you'll appreciate the references. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Reading Conquests Thus Far Part II

God, I suck at reading this year. Since I made this list back in April I have just barely doubled the amount of books I have read for the year so far. 

However, my list for the amount of books I have read this year is already bigger than last year's list (I might have read five books last year, I'm not sure). So that's something. And I admit that between working, watching flicks and anime to review here (as well as for my own enjoyment), trying to create some music every now and then, and actually trying to write when I can... 

I don't feel like I should apologize for how little I've read. But it's something I need to do more. Internet be damned. Kindle apps be damned. I need to read more before my brain completely turns to mush. 

Anyway, here is my paltry continuation of the previous list. 

  • High Adventure by Donald E. Westlake
  • Gleefully Macabre Tales by Jeff Strand
  • Kayla and the Devil by Bryan Smith
  • NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
  • Blood on the Page by Brian Keene
  • Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary) by Jeff Strand
  • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa
I am currently reading The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya (the second book in the series, of course) and I've got Single White Psychopath Seeks Same by Jeff Strand as well Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite on the backburner of my Kindle. 

I should also mention that I read Bryan Smith's Some Crazy Fucking Shit That Happened One Day, but that's more of a short story so I won't really count that. It was brainless fun and worth the $0.99 I paid for it, though. 

Didn't I also say I was going to read Bryan Smith's 68 Kill

Yeah, I suck this year. 

Honestly, I haven't been looking forward to Stephen King's Doctor Sleep because... well, I really haven't been looking forward to much of anything. Outside of season two of Valvrave the Liberator, anyway. And each weekly episode of Attack on Titan. But outside of that I don't really have any dates circled on my calendar now that the Alabama/Texas A&M game is over with. 

I think I'm in a serious slump and have been for a while. Or maybe it's the stunning realization that my life can easily be summed up in two phrases: I go to work. I go home. 

Granted that's a nice change-up from the "I stay home" of old and I'm making money, but my life is currently about as interesting as a bucket of fish bait. 


I need something new and exciting to look forward to. Something to get pumped about. 

Anyway, this is my reading list. How dreadfully awful it is. If I can reach twenty books before the year ends I'll be happy. Or marginally less unfulfilled. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu)

One day Kyon wakes up to discover a world where there is no Haruhi. The strangest girl in all of North High who is quite possibly the center of the universe or even God no longer seems to exist. How is that even possible?

That's not all that is different.

The beloved girl from the future Asahina Mikuru no longer remembers him. Nagato Yuki appears to be nothing more than a timid reader rather than the all-powerful but stoic humanoid interface from outer space she should be. The egotistic and enigmatic esper Koizumi Itsuki is MIA from this world, too.

What happened?

Kyon remembers preparing himself for the SOS Brigade's upcoming spur of the moment Christmas party (hoping and dreading that nothing terrible would happen because of Haruhi's eagerness). Then the next day he is in a safe world where nothing terrible ever happened. Sure, there was a flu going around that hadn't been there the other day, but there were no more time travelers, espers, aliens, closed spaces, or evil creatures unintentionally summoned by Haruhi's frustrations with the world.

It's the world Kyon had been yearning for ever since he had met Haruhi.

Is this really what he wanted, though? Or is there anything he can do to change things back to the way they were? Could he learn to forget Haruhi, too?

More importantly...

Who made the world this way? Was it all Haruhi's doing or was it someone else's?

Wow. Really, that's about all I can say right now. Wow.

Gimme a sec. Okay, I can carry on now.

I don't think I've ever seen an anime feature this good before. And this is literally a mother of a movie that clocks in at 165 minutes! That's got to be the longest anime movie ever made. And it is the the equivalent length of seven episodes of the TV series to boot! That's as long as Django Unchained or Heat!

Okay, you probably got my point by now. It's long. (That's what she said.) And it's so freaking good! (She said that, too.)

If you take the Endless Eight out of the second season and put this movie in as the season two finale then The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya would undoubtedly rank as one of my favorite shows of all time. Easily top five. As it is, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a really good show with a mediocre stretch near the end while The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is easily one of the best animated films I've ever seen. If there was anyone that didn't think anime could really entertain on par with live action American films than they really need to watch this movie.

Imagine It's a Wonderful Life meeting Back to the Future Part II and you would have something similar to The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. Like Captain Spaulding's chicken... it's just so damn good.

I managed to work in a Rob Zombie reference, bitch. I'm that good.  
However, watching this movie without being really well acquainted with the series (or the light novels) would be a faux pas. This movie is not standalone. Not at all.

Based on book four in the light novel series, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is by far more dramatic than the anime series that preceded it. I have to wonder if the light novel is as equally dramatic since the anime that show as a whole is fairly true to the few books I've read.

I guess I will find out soon when I read it.

As it is, the movie completely exceeded my expectations and I really hope to see more Haruhi films in the future. Another anime series would be great, too.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Lords of Salem

Rob Zombie is one of those guys whose movies I want to like a lot more than I do. I mean, it's obvious he's a huge fan of the genre and I dig his music so it makes sense that I should like his movies. That's not the way it is, though. 

House of the 1000 Corpses is okay. The first time I watched it I didn't think much of it and I hated the way it so blatantly played off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. However, I did like the characters of Otis (William Moseley) and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) and I think they did bring the movie up a little more than it otherwise could have been. I do like the movie a bit more now after having seen the sequel, but it is a little silly in comparison.

The Devil's Rejects is a really good movie. Really good. The peak of Zombie's career so far. Hopefully, not his last peak, either. 

Halloween is one that divided folks and I hate remakes as much as the next guy, but I really like his version. And Malcolm McDowell is always fun to watch. 

Halloween II on the other hand is a movie that sort of lost me. I watched it once and wasn't sure what I saw. I could see his intention in wanting to make something different and I approve of his willingness to go outside of the box, but his execution just wasn't up to snuff. And it seems silly trying to be so original with a sequel to a remake.

But I honestly believe that it really doesn't matter what the subject matter is in any movie because it's execution or the lack thereof that makes a movie watchable or unwatchable. Rob Zombie didn't know how to execute his vision correctly and consequently it's a movie that has earned a far from envious reputation.

But I didn't really write him off. He's just starting out after all and everyone is entitled to a few duds.

The Lords of Salem feels like a movie that could have been better, but as it is it is one that is better than I thought it should have been. 

My dad got it for me on Blu-ray as a surprise because he knows I like weird things and that Rob Zombie was a director I did want to keep an eye on. My expectations going into this movie was that I wasn't really going to enjoy it. But, being the kind a courteous son I am, I was going to watch it and give an honest opinion of it.

Sheri Moon Zombie. Yeah, she looks good and I'm sure Rob is very proud of her looks (I would be), but actually having an experienced actress in the lead role of this movie would have greatly helped move the slow pace along. To be fair, Sheri didn't exactly do anything wrong in role. I think she did all that was required of her... which wasn't much. Or at least what the almost non-existence screenplay required her to do. 

The reason I bring this up is because the beginning is when we need to bond the most with the main character and that ability just isn't there for Sheri yet. She can't carry a movie yet and most experienced actors and actresses can't, either. But a few can and giving them a phone call couldn't have hurt. 

We do get something nice to look at for most of the movie in the form of Sheri to help erase the images of nude Meg Foster, though. And it kind of works. 

So... it's pick your poison, really. 

The second half required a bit more acting chops because I don't think Sheri said anything during the second half of the movie other than a few sentences, but she did manage to effectively portray her character's inner turmoil. So her performance did get a bit better as the movie began taking a more kookier turn. 

The screenplay was written by Rob Zombie, but I think he should stop writing his own screenplays for a little bit and try tackling a project written by someone else. I don't think Rob Zombie's writing skills were up to snuff for this type of movie (much like his previous movie Halloween II). While I think the swearing and gore he's become known for was significantly toned down for this movie, I still don't think that he knows how to make a slow-paced psychological movie quite yet. 

The first half feels sluggish and the attempts to try to build suspense just aren't quite there. Sure, it's kind of creepy and interesting and I wanted to know what was going to happen, but I didn't really feel compelled to keep watching. That is the difference between a great slow-burn movie like The Shining and a middle of the road movie like The Lords of Salem

Zombie's secondary characters and even his batch of villains are relatively uninteresting, too. At least to me. It's not that none of the actors or actresses had screen presence (a few did); it's just that none of them had characters. 

What does make things interesting as the movie progresses is the spaced out imagery that gradually overrules any further character development or complication. 

In fact, the trippy second half where a bunch of bizarre acid trip scenes are strung together makes the movie worth watching. I have no idea what half of it was supposed to mean, but it was interesting. Kubrick Zombie is not, but I could certainly see him channeling a little bit of Kubrick. 

And the use of The Velvet Underground in this movie helped, too. 

Will I return to Zombie for another? Yeah, sure. He surprised me a bit with this one. It's far from great and he really needs to work on his pacing and his choice of actors and screenplays in order to make better movies, but I'm sure he's got a something really good left in the tank that he hasn't fully realized yet. This just isn't it.  

The world won't end if you don't watch this movie, but it's not as bad as you might think. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa

I think that those of us who read all need a book (or quite a few) that'll expand our boundaries a bit while making us feel like our boundaries are not being expanded at all. 

This was the case when I first started reading books. Naturally books like The Shining by Stephen King or In the Dark by Richard Laymon appealed to me when I was younger because they were about the supernatural or sadists or just nasty things in general. I loved horror movies when I was still a popular and wholesome elementary school kid but I just didn't read. So it made sense I'd love books similar to the movies I loved when I finally did start reading. 

As a fan of nasty things, I soon expanded my reading habits to include other authors who write nasty things.

One person can only read so much horror in such a short span of time, though. How many horror books did I read between the period of 2007 and 2010 when I was literally picking up a book right after finishing one? Ummm... no idea. Probably something like fifty books in total a year and only a handful of those weren't horror. Maybe that ain't a lot compared to you, but that's a lot for me. 

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed pretty much all of the books I've read up to this point. I'm pretty lucky when it comes to that. With the exception of Peter Straub's Ghost Story and Clive Barker's Galilee there aren't a whole bunch of books that I flat out disliked or found boring. 

While there are certainly more works in horror I would like to read... I feel like I have more or less conquered that particular genre at the moment. There's nothing demanding my immediate attention and I can't keep reading the same genre over and over. 

So I've tried my hand at expanding my taste by going completely off the wall very recently. 

By going off the wall I mean that I am completely staying within my comfort zone. 

I just finished reading a light novel that inspired a manga and a hit anime series. Like I said I've never read anything like this, but it's within my comfort zone because anime and I are kind of like best buds at this point. Sure, we have an on-again off-again relationship with each other, but we inevitably hang out again and chill. 

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa (Tanigawa Nagaru if you're Japanese) was originally published in Japan in 2003 and it is the first Japanese light novel to sell a million copies. Since all of these books (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya actually being the name of only the first book in a series) have been translated into English and are readily available on Kindle than you can guess they are pretty popular. The translated ebook versions were made available in the US in September in 2012 while the paperbacks were published earlier in the US in 2009. So it's not like these books are brand new or anything, but I am just now discovering them after having finally gotten around to watching the anime. 

I am not quite sure who translated these novels into English, but who ever did the first book (I have yet to purchase or read the others) did a really swell job. Episodes 2, 3, 5, 10, 13, and 14 from the first season of the anime series follow the first novel almost scene for scene. I watched the series in Japanese with English subtitles and this novel was translated into English from Japanese, but the translations and the pacing and the descriptions were very much the same. The differences, what few there were, could only be caught by those who were paying the strictest of attention. Like me. And I didn't catch many. 

I'm sure things are always lost in translation (in fact, I know they are) and that phrasing sentences can be difficult when it comes to translating (three years taking German and watching a buttload of subbed anime in Japanese are paying off after all), but either the translations from both the anime and the book are wrong together or they are both right together. 

The novel is told from the perspective of Kyon (who also narrates the anime series) and the deadpan and sarcastic delivery from the anime is in the novel as well. It's not quite the same because the things he says sound funnier spoken in Japanese (and written in Japanese, I'm sure) than they do in written English, but the wit is definitely there. You might not fall on your caboose laughing, but you'll at least chuckle at a few parts. 

If you don't know jack about Japan or the anime then I think reading this book still won't hurt you. I'm not sure how much you might enjoy it because the plot does sort of take its own time to come around and the characters seem like they need to be fleshed out a bit more. Indeed, this book just screams "I'm an anime/manga in a book's body!" and the illustrated anime-esque (or manga-esque) pictures that appear in every chapter further send that point home. The novel itself stands alone just fine. I say this having watched the anime, though.However, the two are so similar that you don't need to know jack about the anime series. 

At about 200 hundred pages this is a quick read so if you don't enjoy it then you really haven't wasted a lot of time. But I think it has pretty good crossover potential (since it's already in English and all that good stuff) and six bucks for the Kindle edition isn't too shabby. Considering that technically this book qualifies as a YA novel, I can't think of any other novels for young adults that get more philosophical or zany than this. At least, not any American ones. Try it out. 

P.S. - Whatever you do don't pick up the manga. Watch the anime or read the books (or ignore them both if that's your choice), but the manga looks like garbage from what I've seen of it. Looks nothing like the illustrations in the book or the anime. The writing doesn't seem to great, either. I say this based on the preview of the manga included at the end of the novel. So... yeah, stick to the novels or the anime. You can't go wrong with either. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

American Beauty

So I have been trying to watch more Kevin Spacey films in an attempt to re-correct the fact that I've barely seen anything with him in it. American Beauty is naturally one of those films I've known about for a long time, but the basic premise of "suburban folks unhappy with their lives do silly things" never really appealed to me. However, the driving force behind me watching this film is actually moe. That's also one of the reasons I would never have had the nerve to watch this movie when I was younger or ask my dad to buy it for me. 

Don't know what moe is? Well, we all know some of the images famously associated with this movie. Nude underaged girl who's more *ahem* interesting features are covered by rose petals. Extreme close-up of possibly the same girl holding a rose by her belly button. That, more or less, is moe. When I saw the Blu-ray for this movie in Wal-Mart last week or maybe the week before last I took a look at the cover and figured what the hell? The woman on the cover is eye-catching and Kevin Spacey is in it, too. The movie, that is. Might as well get it and watch it and see what's what.

This movie turned out to be right up my alley. For a few reasons. 

It's one of those movies that make the mundane more entertaining than it probably has a right to be. Or maybe it makes us realize that the mundane is in fact as far from mundane as it can be, but we just don't pay attention enough to the little details to care enough. Either way, it's an almost Seinfeld approach that a lot of movie-makers don't like using or just don't have the talent to use. Deftly making us laugh and groan in embarrassment at the same, American Beauty presents us with a glorious reflection of the everyday-ness of home life, but does so in an almost cold and calculating manner. Indeed, it reminds me in some ways of when I watched The Truman Show for the first time. Sure, everything looks normal and it is presented as if it very well should be normal, but that actually gives the movie a little bit of a gritty edge because what's normal is in fact the furthest thing from normal. That's tough to portray in film because it relies more on atmosphere and pacing than it does on anything else. 

The only thing breaking the mood every now and then are the trips into the surreal via the journey into the lives of the neighbors next door or the increasingly humourous visions of his daughter's smoking hot best friend seen by Kevin Spacey's hopeless character Lester Burnham. 

I won't ever view rose petals quite the same way.

While watching this movie I began to feel that Lester Burnham was my personal hero. That is probably a sad admission, but hey, I did keep thinking that I would probably be just like him in twenty years. Assuming I worked at somewhere other than where I am now by then, of course. Can't afford suburbia on a cook's pay. If by then I were to suddenly lose my mind and go through a midlife crisis then I pray I will be able to make Lester Burnham proud. 

Annette Bening is really good as Carolyn Burnham and she serves as a great counterweight to Kevin Spacey. While Spacey really does steal the movie, Annette's character Carolyn has a charm of her own (even though I still intensely disliked her... although that could very well be my inner chauvinist coming out) and we at least see her side when it probably could have been much easier to avoid that. Her struggles are not without motive or merit and we see that Lester is indeed not the only one struggling with their marriage.

I was admittedly surprised to see Chris Cooper (playing the ultra uptight conservative former US Marine Corps neighbor perfectly) in this movie, though. Not that I have anything against him or his performances because he really nails his characters well. It's just that this movie reminded me of the fact that I don't think I have ever seen him smile. I mean, I haven't seen him in a lot of things so I have a narrow scope for judgement here, but has he ever played someone who actually smiles? As to why his presence actually surprised me... it's probably because I wasn't expecting for any of the neighbors to have prominent roles or even pivotal plot-changing roles. 

Alan Ball should get some mention, too. While I think his screenplay was originally much more sarcastic and dark before it fell into the hands of Sam Mendes, there's certainly no denying that Ball crafted a gem. The optimism that made its way into the movie made it better, no doubt, but I am curious as to just what it would have been like if Ball's original screenplay had made it to screen. 

Unfortunately, I think this screenplay may have drained him of ideas. Aside from some involvement in True Blood TV series and another movie called Towelhead (which he also directed), I don't think he has done much else. 

Lastly, I want to mention the director himself Sam Mendes. Well, I kind of just did when I mentioned Alan Ball above, but I want to do it again. This was his debut effort in the chair. Pretty damn good debut, I say. He would later go on to direct Skyfall, Revolutionary Road, Jarhead, and Road to Perdition. I've only seen one of those (Road to Perdition), but I should probably watch the others. Just so I can see what the guy has to offer because I really don't know much else about him.

Haven't seen this? Watch the movie. Like me, you may find yourself developing a sudden rose petal moe afterwards. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. It won't kill you or anything. 

Or... well, never mind. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu)

Nonlinear format is typically not a popular medium for storytelling. The reason for that is because it is generally harder for a lot of people to follow. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a twenty-eight episode anime told in nonlinear format with fourteen episodes in each season. The first season was broadcasted in nonlinear format in 2006 and each episode actually had two previews of the following episodes. One character would show you the next episode for the broadcast order and another would show you the next episode for the chronological order. Consequently, this means that each episode has two different episode numbers (three if you count the second season... which I'll get to later). My advice is to watch it in the broadcast order first. It's just more interesting that way. Yeah, it's confusing for a bit, but it's just plain better to watch it the way it was intended to be watched. So 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14 is the correct order no matter what anybody says!

However, if you are curious as to what the chronological episode order would look like then I'll list that, too. 2-3-5-10-13-14-4-7-6-8-1-12-11-9 is the chronological order. Be warned that if you were to watch it in chronological order than the show would reach its most dramatic point at episode six (14, in other words) and then everything after that is just fun and games, really. Not quite so interesting. The final episode in chronological order (9) is not really anything special. It doesn't feel like an ending. In broadcast order the dramatic climax is the final episode (14) and we actually have a buildup of suspense throughout the series because there really is no telling what will happen (or has happened, as the case usually is). We get a few brief images here and there in broadcast order but nothing too obvious until the big reveal at the end.

Chronological order gives it to you all up front on a silver platter with little payoff at the end. After you watch the sixth episode (14) there really isn't a point in continuing with the show unless you just want to for kicks. Please do keep that in mind before you jump on the chronological bandwagon. The last real interesting show in terms of actual plot would be the eighth episode (7), but it still wouldn't touch 14. The rest is still good and fun, but it just leaves you with nothing special to look forward to. Not even season two and, like I said, I'll get to that later. 

If you have seen the show in its proper order already then feel free to watch it in chronological order now, but don't do it if you haven't ever seen it!

In broadcast order you don't know exactly what you are getting, though. The narrator Kyon talks fast through each episode and sometimes the things he says go over our heads because he is referencing events that we don't know about yet and mentioning people we don't know yet. But that is what makes things interesting in this show.

Nagato Yuki sometimes has glasses and sometimes doesn't. How she loses them (or gets rid of them for all we know) is important in terms of the plot, but we don't know that until we actually watch the episode in which her glasses finally stop being used.

It's the little things that make the broadcast order important. We pay attention more to little details when you are not sure what will happen next. That's just human nature, I think.

Now I want to bring season two into discussion. When season two was aired it was aired while season one was being re-aired in chronological order in 2009 because season two isn't really season two at all. In fact, season two fits into the chronological order of season one like a glove. 

So let's say we organize season one into chronological order again. 2-3-5-10-13-14-4-7-6-8-1-12-11-9. Now let's add season two into the mix. I'm going to differentiate the two seasons by adding an "S" in front of the season two episodes so you hopefully won't be too confused. 2-3-5-10-13-14-4-7-6-8-S1-S2-S3-S4-S5-S6-S7-S8-S9-S10-S11-S12-S13-S14-1-12-11-9. 

However, I strongly suggest that you don't watch season two until after you've finished the broadcast order of season one. Trust me on this. 

Season two is tough to make it through. The first season is really good despite its wacky episode line-up, but season two is grueling because of the dreaded Endless Eight episodes. 

Episodes 2-9 of the second season make up the Endless Eight and only the most die hards can make it all the way through. I couldn't. I admit it. I skipped four of the episodes because I just couldn't take it anymore. Why? Well, I ought to tell you about the plot of the show first. 

Suzumiya Haruhi is a God. Maybe. Only she doesn't know that she might be God. She's weird, too. Other than the whole "might be God" thing. She wants to meet aliens, ESPers, and people from the future. She doesn't care who knows it. 

Kyon (a nickname, his true name is never mentioned) is a laidback and snarky guy. He wants life to be simple and he enjoys keeping a low profile. One day Kyon starts up a conversation with Haruhi. And Kyon suggests that she ought to start a club if she is so bored. Eventually he finds himself a member of her school club "SOS Brigade" and he is forced keep up with Haruhi's eccentric activities or else the whole world might end. Quite literally. 

Nagato Yuki (alien), Asahina Mikuru (girl from future), and Koizumi Itsuki (ESPer) soon join and thus the SOS Brigade is formed with Haruhi as the leader and Kyon as the hapless ordinary (maybe) human of the bunch.

Of course, Haruhi doesn't know that she is surrounded by the very people she is trying to seek out and no one seems to want to tell her the truth except for Kyon. And Kyon himself isn't sure if he believes she is God at first. 

Now I am going to talk about the Endless Eight from season two. 

It's the end of summer. The final two weeks to be exact. Haruhi calls up her club and makes plans for them to enjoy the final days together. The festivities include goldfish scooping, cicada catching, fireworks, attending festivals, and holding part-time jobs. All of this is wrapped up in episode 2 and at the end Haruhi seems to have something else she wants to do, but no one else makes a suggestion. With one day left in their break they go their separate ways and Kyon fails miserably to get his homework done before the next day. 

But the next day doesn't come and it will not come for a very long time because Haruhi regretted not doing something. What? Well, that is the million dollar question.

The final two weeks in August repeat exactly 15,532 times. Kyon, Koizumi, Mikuru, and even Haruhi seem to not be aware that time is repeating although all of them except for Haruhi experience some serious deja vu at times. 

Nagato Yuki knows exactly what has happened though because she is given the arduous task of "observing" all events related to Haruhi by the order of the "Thought Entity." This certainly explains why Yuki always looks bored as hell no matter what they do over their summer get-together.  

But it doesn't explain why the creators of the show made eight episodes almost exactly the same. This is why a lot of people don't like the second season. So much of it just seems wasted on repeating one episode. Yes, each of the Endless Eight episodes are a little bit different. The characters wear different uniforms, sometimes the lines they say are different, sometimes they say the same lines but at different places or different times. It's all a small variation and if that's your thing then you'll fall in love with the Endless Eight

My advice? Watch episodes 2, 3, and then 9. Or in place of 3 you can substitute 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 because it really doesn't matter much which one you choose. They are all essentially the same despite little differences. But of these Endless Eight episodes you really only need to watch three of them. Once you finish the second season (and thus the entire show) then feel free to go back and see what you missed of the Endless Eight

There is a movie that is about three hours in running length that also fits into the series and the movie is called The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. I probably have to buy that in order to watch it because Crunchyroll doesn't have it, but after watching the series I think it'd be worth it. Endless Eight or no, this show is really good. A movie sounds great. Three hours sounds even better.

I'd love for there to be a season three as long as I don't have to go through an Endless Eight Part II. That really knocks the second season down quite a few notches, but the first season and the rest of the second season are really good. 

I recommend this show for its wackiness and its intrigue. 

I should also mention that Suzumiya Haruhi is the ultra director of this show and that it is produced by the SOS Brigade. Maybe there is a good reason this show is so bizarre...

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Chaser

In 2008, first-time director Na Hong-jin released his film The Chaser. The film was inspired by a real life serial killer named Yoo Young-chul and Yoo Young-chul was apparently one bad dude. In this movie we have an ex-detective turned pimp named Eom Joong-ho (Kim Yoon-seok) who has recently entered financial trouble because two of his girls have gone missing. Eom grows suspicious that someone may be reselling his girls and that it might be the customer he had just sent Mi-jin, one of his remaining girls, to please. Unfortunately for Mi-jin, reselling women isn't exactly what Je Yeong-min (Ha Jung-woo) has in mind. Je Yeong-min is a killer and he likes to use a hammer and chisel and before long he uses them on Mi-jin.

Once Je Yeong-min is finished with his business he leaves the house in order to ditch the call girl's car. He doesn't get too far when he is involved in a traffic accident with the very guy who just happen to be (unknowingly) looking for him... Eom Joong-ho! 

From there the chase really begins and Eom Joong-ho slowly starts to realize that maybe Je Yeong-min is more than a man that just resells women as he initially thought. He begins to fear even more for the life of Mi-jin. 

This movie is a wicked game of cat and mouse and I thought the ending took some stones to pull off. It's not the ending I wanted, but it is definitely one I respected. For a directorial debut, this film is top-notch. Hell, I didn't even know it was a debut until I looked it up after I finished watching it. 

Perhaps the thing I love the most about this movie is that Kim Yoon-seok doesn't give us a straight-up good guy. He's a dirty guy and he's a gray guy. If not for the fact that the cops were seemingly looking out only for themselves after an embarrassing political incident and that the other guy in this movie was a vicious psychopath, Eom Joong-ho might be a little tougher to root for. As it is, he's the only thing that stands between Je Yeong-min killing more women.

And there's something more... 

Mi-jin might not be dead after all. The killer hints that she might be alive.

If so, can Eom Joong-ho find her in time? 

I highly recommend this South Korean thriller.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Naruto (Season One)

When Naruto first began airing on Toonami in America in 2005, I was growing a bit weary of all the changes that were taking place on Toonami. Indeed, I kind of associate Naruto (as well as the post-Cell Games sagas of Dragonball Z) with the downfall of Toonami and my temporary disassociation with anime in general. So while I did like certain elements of this show and enjoyed it for a while I eventually just stopped watching it. Part of that had to do with a long break from cable TV (and anyone can tell you that once you miss a few episodes of anime then you will have no idea what's going on unless everything you miss just happen to be filler episodes), but part of it was just growing up, I guess.

With shows like Naruto, Bleach, Dragonball Z, and Inuyasha it is certainly plausible that you could miss a lot and still not lose the story because of excess filler, but the stuff I missed in Naruto seemed kind of important. Oh, well. I just stopped watching it at around episode 100 or something like that. The length of the shows was another thing. I was the same way with Yu Yu Hakusho and Dragonball Z and InuYasha, too. There came a point where I just stopped watching 'em because they kept going on and on and on. By the time Bleach came around in 2006 I was already done with anime for the moment and didn't even bother watching that one for more than a dozen episodes because it just looked like one of those that would go on forever. I was right on that assumption. 

One of the perks of my premium Crunchyroll accounts is that I get to stream all 220 episodes of Naruto. While just anyone can watch the ongoing sequel series Naruto: Shippuden on CR, Naruto is reserved for premium members only. So I figure why the hell not go and see what all I missed?

So I've watched the first 26 episodes of Naruto about a decade after initially watching them. This time it's the subbed version because that's what Crunchyroll offers. Crunchyroll considers the first 26 episodes to be the first season even though Wikipedia lists the first 35 episodes as what makes the first season. On this issue I'll side with CR. So here I'm going to be talking about the first 26 episodes. If I'm wrong then tough noogies. 

In the first episode we are introduced to a boy who dresses up a lot like Goku from Dragonball Z (or an Auburn fan) and his name is Uzumaki Naruto. Unsurprisingly, he is the main character of this show. He's a bit of a flunky and a goofball and most folks in the Village Hidden in the Leaves don't like him. You see, when he was younger a terrible beast named the Nine-Tailed Fox was sealed within him by some dude called The Fourth Hokage. The Fourth Hokage died during this process and a lot of people were understandably bitter about that. Naruto was a child so it's not like he remembers it or could do anything about it. 

The Third Hokage made it a rule that no one could talk about the incident and that people should view Naruto as a hero, but the people of the village simply ignored or frowned upon the kid. These feelings were unintentionally picked up by the children of the villagers, too. As a result Naruto grew up without any friends at all. He didn't have parents, either. So all of his efforts to cause trouble (painting graffiti on the visages of the Hokages, as a for instance) are really desperate efforts to seek attention.

More than anything Naruto wants to become the best ninja in the land and eventually the next Hokage. That's kind of like saying that the tardy D-student wants to become a respected brain surgeon. Not exactly a realistic goal, but he wants the attention and respect of everyone and that's what he thinks he has to do in order to get it.

Once he is teamed up with Uchiha Sasuke (*cough* Vegeta stand-in! *cough*) and Haruno Sakura (useless character alert!), Naruto begins his journey to become Hokage. Of course, he's got to become a Genin first and that's an iffy thing with Naruto. Once he does though he and his team lead by the standoffish Hatake Kakashi (rank of Jonin) get to go on missions and stuff. 

Their first real mission comprises the bulk of the first season (Eps. 6-19) and it is the rather good Zabuza and Haku arc. 

An old man wishes to be accompanied to the Land of the Waves because he wants to be protected from gangs and thugs. Not so tough a mission, right? Well, Kakashi and his team of rookies accompany the old man, but things soon become complicated when Kakashi learns that it's not just gangs and thugs that are after the old man. 

The old man is building a bridge that will link the Land of the Waves to the mainland and yakuza boss Gato really doesn't want that because it would diminish the stranglehold he has over the village people. Gato hires the deadly renegade ANBU (Ansatsu Senjutsu Tokushu Butai = Special Assassinations and Tactical Squad) member Momochi Zabuza (called the "Demon of the Hidden Mist" for his mastery at silent attacks) and his faithful (and rather feminine-looking) companion Haku to take out the old bridge builder. 

Nope, those guys aren't just simple thugs. Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura are sooo screwed. 

I remembered this part of the story well, but I forgot how much crying there was. Hell, not a lot of shows really pull out all the drama that soon. In some ways it make the rest of the show harder to watch because Zabuza is just such a badass villain (whether you watch him in the original Japanese with Unsho Ishizuka at the helm or in English with the brilliant Steven Jay Blum providing the voice... the effect is the same either way) that you keep wondering when the next baddie is going to show up and if he'll be able to top Zabuza in terms of menace. Hell, the arc as a whole leaves a lot for the rest of the show to live up to. 

Naturally, Naruto and the gang survive otherwise there wouldn't be 220 episodes, but for a while you could almost forget that. Until the next arc begins. In episode 20, Naruto and co. are given the chance to advance to the level of Chunin, but that just isn't going to be a cakewalk. They have to pass a very difficult written exam first and then enter the forest of death to prove their worthiness. Then they'll have to duel against the other aspiring-Chunin teams. That's later, though.

Season one ends just before the Genin characters enter the forest of death. 

Episode 26 is a filler episode and not a good one at that. It recaps the events of the first season which is okay if it's been a while since the last episode, but even then the episode just kind of feels boring. Even for a recap episode. Not a strong ending to the first season or a strong beginning to the second season. But if I want to give this show some credit, I will say that Dragonball Z didn't even wait fifteen episodes before it started cranking out the filler. 

Oh, well. It's time for season two. 

I highly recommend the Zabuza arc of Naruto