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, October 22, 2014

Slipknot - .5: The Gray Chapter (2014)

So I finally got the new Slipknot album in the mail. As with a lot of releases these days the album was made available for streaming online first, but I chose not to listen to the entire album online because I wanted my stereo to be my first real shot of the album as a whole. That's not to say I could avoid all of the songs before getting the CD.

When The Negative One was made public back on August 5th, I couldn't help but listen to the song multiple times. Same for The Devil in I.

A lot of fans were pissed off (or so they like to say on YouTube comments) by All Hope is Gone, but I actually think that All Hope is Gone is one of the better metal albums released in the last ten years. I mean, Psychosocial? That hits my mosh bone in ways that hasn't been hit by modern acts in years.

But let me stop before this particular post turns into a defender of one album rather than a representation of another. 

For starters, The Gray Chapter largely avoids guitar solos. I was kind of bummed about that because Mick and Jim can fucking play and that was what I loved most about All Hope is Gone, but there is enough bite and experimentation going on to keep this album from becoming the same song over again. The experimentation with acoustic guitars for Slipknot began with Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses) with songs like Circle and Vermilion Pt. 2 and continued on All Hope is Gone with Snuff. While Snuff was certainly their most Stone Sour-esque song to date, I certainly wouldn't qualify much else of their work as being similar to Stone Sour. That's like saying Ozzy and Black Sabbath sound the same because Ozzy sang for both of them. If you think Slipknot, acoustic or not, sounds like Stone Sour I am a bit worried about your hearing. Not trying to sound too snarky, but the difference between the two bands is night and day. 

.5: The Gray Chapter has its acoustic representatives. I know a lot of fans who listen to their 1999 self-titled album over and over again are mortified once again, but as someone who likes seeing how a band can grow and change I always appreciate musical left turns.

Let me stress that there are not any ballads on this album. The introductory piece XIX is the closest they come to that particular territory, but there is something too unsettling about it to place it in the Snuff category. 

Killpop has its softer moments as well, but it's an excellent tongue-in-cheek take on the topic of pop songs. It's a soft song during the verses, but during the choruses it's Slipknot back in business again. This album is Slipknot not trying to win your heart and more or less trying to crush your spine because you'll be moshing too much.

Although this album is named for their fallen bassist Paul Gray, there really isn't a lot of sentimentality to be found here. I suppose the most emotional they get is on another quiet song Goodbye and it doesn't take much to make a Paul Gray connection. Rightly so, I'd say. The song is somber for a Slipknot song, but gradually gets heavier and it's not wishy-washy. A lot of Slipknot fans will still avoid it because it isn't Spit It Out, but whatever. Can't please everyone. With a band that calls their fans Maggots I'm pretty sure they aren't trying to, either. 

Since getting this album yesterday, I've listened to it about three times. The first time was just to get a feel for it since Slipknot do change with every album. This album, as Corey Taylor claimed, is like a hybrid of Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses) and Iowa

It's got some softer stuff like I mentioned, but the heavy stuff is quite heavy indeed. Corey Taylor has become one of my favorite modern rock singers, but he's still got the knack for those metal screams. Of course, he's not quite the young buck he was back in 1999 and his band doesn't quite have the same sound, either. Nu-metal is over and done with. Today's Slipknot is its own beast and Taylor's rapping days are thankfully left to his live shows when the band has to do material from the first album. 

.5: The Gray Chapter is modern day heavy metal for grown men. It's a heavy album that bears the weight of the ones who made it and it is not made by a band that is content with being favorites. If Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses) was too commercial (it wasn't) and if All Hope is Gone was too much of a traditional type of metal album with all of its guitar solos (it wasn't) then .5: The Gray Chapter finds Slipknot at a nice middle ground between those days and the days when they recorded The Heretic Anthem and My Plague.

I suppose the real issue that will stick in the craw of the fans is that there is no Joey Jordison on the skins for this album, but they made do. I've read quite a bit courtesy of those YouTube commenters about what a terrible drummer this new guy is (his name has not yet been revealed), but everything sounded okay to me. The band, mysterious bassist and drummer and all, sounded like they were kicking some ass. Granted, I don't think most people on the internet know what the hell they are talking about half of the time. Most of the time I don't think I even know what I'm saying. 

But I do know for a fact that this is a record made by nine dudes who just wanted to make a killer album.

They succeeded. 

How good is it? Inevitably, people will compare them and rank them. I probably will, too. A Worst to First List for Slipknot actually sounds worthwhile now that they have more than four albums, but for now I am going to let this album settle and listen to it a few more times this week. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Yu-Gi-Oh!, Vol. 4: Kaiba's Revenge by Takahashi Kazuki

Kaiba, the president of KaibaCorp, can't handle the fact that he was once made a mockery of by Yugi's alter ego. Naturally, he's planning an elaborate revenge game meant to destroy Yugi and his friends. The game shall be played at Kaiba Land on the day of its grand opening. Featuring only the best of the best when it comes to cutting edge technology, Kaiba Land takes 3D to the limit and features the kind of games that would make the host of the The Running Man squirm a bit in discomfort. 

By ensnaring Yugi's grandfather and forcing him to a game of Duel Monsters using his virtual reality simulation, Kaiba's plan at revenge is only just beginning. Normally Mutou Sugoroku would have a shot at winning this duel thank to his Blue-Eyes White Dragon, but Kaiba reveals that he now has three Blue-Eyes White Dragons of his own. With the duel in hand Kaiba keeps his simulation going with the hopes of driving Sugoroku insane, but he offers Yugi a chance to rescue his grandfather. 

If Yugi and his friends face the "hidden attraction" of Kaiba Land know simply as "Death-T" then he'll stop the simulation. 

Yugi accepts this offer and the fun stuff begins. 

There are quite a few macabre games involving Death-T, but my favorite is the Murderer's Mansion. The Chopman is a killer who slashed ten boy scouts into pieces all in one night and Kaiba makes it known that the killer is hiding somewhere in the Murderer's Mansion. Yugi and his friends not only have to manage to avoid the brutal killer, but they must somehow escape a giant guillotine that will severe their hands unless Yugi can guess which lever will free them. 

I could definitely sense some horror vibes from this entry. In fact, the series as a whole up this point has a bit of a playful and yet macabre sense storytelling.  I think that's probably why I have such an appreciation for it. 

The gang's struggle against Death-T isn't resolved in this volume and so it will be on to volume five for me. Can't wait. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Terror in Resonance (Zankyō no Teroru)

For me, the works of Watanabe Shinichiro are a hallowed ground. I've seen so many anime at this point that sometimes they can blur together, but I could never mistake the work of Shinichiro for anybody else's or vice versa. Much like Miyazaki, he is among the absolute best of anime directors. There's a reason I listed him as one of my favorite directors with the likes of John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, and Sidney Lumet.

Shinichiro is a guy who is all about quality in my eyes. Since 1994, he has only directed six anime titles. One of those being the four episode OVA Macross Plus that he co-directed while another one only features him in a "chief director" role with another director involved. So, if you only want to count the anime that he is solely responsible for directing than we've got a whopping four titles over a span of twenty years.

But let's keep it at six for this bit. Of those six, three of them came into existence within the past three years. Kids on the Slope came out in 2012 while Space Dandy (where he acted as chief director) and Terror in Resonance came out in 2014. I don't quite know what caused this insane burst of creative output, but I do hope that he doesn't keep everyone waiting another six to eight years for his next masterpiece.

I shall have reviews for Kids on the Slope and Space Dandy at a later date, but for now I want to start with the very recent Terror in Resonance. The anime actually finished its run on my birthday. I didn't know that when I started it a few days ago, but I do feel a bit more of a kinship with this anime now that I know that.

After the end of WWII Japan was recovering from the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While Japan were the bad guys because of their alliance with Germany and they deserved to get new ones ripped into them by the U.S. forces, I sometimes wonder if the bombs were really necessary. A lot of people say they were and that they prevented future casualties and I'm certain they know what they are talking about since they lived through it or knew people that did, but what about now? I mean, did we know just what kind of monster we were unleashing not just on the Japanese, but on ourselves in the future by dropping those bombs?

How long before we have to drop the bombs again? How long before we get a bomb dropped on us?

It's been almost seventy years since the bombs dropped on Japan, but fear of nuclear terror remains alive and well on both sides of the Pacific. It's influenced a number of books, movies, and television shows and has become a genre unto itself.

In that genre Terror in Resonance fits neatly, but this anime also presents us with a bit of new school terror. I don't think nuclear terror is a dated concept at all, but I know many people will remember 9/11 as the ultimate moment of terror. Next to Pearl Harbor, there really isn't much else to stand out in terms of deliberate acts of war and terrorism on American soil and we should count ourselves lucky.

There's a definitive moment early in Terror in Resonance that will seem reminiscent of 9/11. A few moments, actually. The pics here should give an idea. If you are sensitive to this type of thing (and only you'll know if you can take it) then you probably want to miss this one. Just don't watch this if you think you'll get bent out of shape because it'll be your own fault if you do.

I do want to say, that for an anime about terrorism and nuclear destruction, there's very little violence to be found here. In fact, I'm reminded of a lot of classic movies that would deal with heavy subject matter while eschewing blood. Shinichiro is one of my favorite directors because of that. He always delivers powerful stuff while eliminating shock value. Of course, I like shock too, but shock in an anime like this wouldn't do. This anime is all class just like the man himself.

Joining Shinichiro for this anime is renowned anime music composer and musician Kanno Yoko and her presence in any anime is always a blessing. The fact that she is almost always attached to a Shinichiro project is also a blessing. While I do like some anime music and will always give a listen to some J-rock and J-pop I rarely consider most songs or groups to be separate entities from their anime counterparts. I make exceptions for Yoko, though. Her music adds character to this anime even though it might not be quite as immortal as her Cowboy Bebop tunes. Then again, few tunes are.

Now I want to give everyone a bit of info dump on this anime, but there's only so much I can tell. This anime is only eleven episodes long so I won't go too deep, but I suppose that a basic introduction is warranted.

The main characters of this anime are Nine and Twelve and they are actually the terrorists. Seventeen year old terrorists, to be exact. They upload videos onto the internet under the codename of Sphinx to tease the Tokyo police and they wear masks like Super Sentai. In their videos they post riddles that the police must solve in order to disarm the bombs they've planted, but Nine and Twelve are not just simple terrorists and their endgame isn't money or glory or even fear. Just what Nine and Twelve want goes a bit deeper.

Shibazaki is a guy who is down and out in life and he works in the archives section of the department, but he senses that Sphinx are certainly not average terrorists. Sphinx's entire plan seems to revolve around him since he seems to be the only one able to solve their riddles, but he knows there's something more.

What he doesn't know is that Nine and Twelve actually have a nuclear weapon and they will use it on the unsuspecting world.

Now I want you to take everything I said in for a moment and then consider the fact that Nine and Twelve are not the real villains of this series.

I blew your mind, didn't I?

This is the type of anime that I keep watching anime for. It is one of the great ones. There might not be any Spike Spiegel involved, but this anime brings its own kind of bang. 

Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Hustler

I know it is October and it is the perfect time to be doling out reviews on creepy movies in order to rack up those page views, but Paul Newman hasn't gotten any love on my blog at all I just won't stand for that any longer. Sad to say, but I only own three Paul Newman movies. I mean, back in the day I had Road to Perdition on VHS, but that's long gone. My parents have The Verdict and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and I do raid their films on occasion, but as far as my film collection goes I'm pretty sure I have just one more Newman movie than they do. 

Mine are Cool Hand Luke, Harper, and The Hustler. Naturally, The Hustler is going to be the subject of this review, but I will give this one company with a review of Harper at a later date.  

I think I probably saw The Hustler for the first time on Turner-Classic Movies. Maybe it was around seven or eight years ago. Maybe it was closer to ten. I didn't even see all of it, though. Not that first time. I think I only saw the final forty-five minutes or so. I didn't know the woman in the movie was Piper Laurie, but I recognized George C. Scott and Paul Newman right off the bat. 

George C. Scott has long since been one of my favorite actors and I've always thought that he never got as many good roles as he should have gotten. I'm not quite sure why, maybe it was his personality or just poor-decision-making or just his preference to performing in theater, but he never had but a few signature film roles to his name. I've always meant to delve a bit deeper into his film catalog, but I just haven't done so. The Hustler is obviously one of George C. Scott's bigger films (yet certainly not the biggest) and it's also one of his bigger roles (not the biggest, either) even though he is largely in "supporting actor" mode. 

Bert Gordon is the perfect role George C. Scott because Scott does the sneering and devious types better than just about any actor. I mean that as nothing but a compliment.

Jackie Gleason, certainly his biggest movie until 1977's Smokey and the Bandit, plays the infamous Minnesota Fats. Never heard of Minnesota Fats? Well, he's the best pool-player there is and Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman, of course) won't rest until he's made the fat man beg for mercy. 

This movie stuck with me for a long time and recently I decided to buy the blu-ray so I could watch the entire thing from the start. 

Despite really watching all of this movie for the first time I still feel like I've seen this film countless times. It's just stuck with me since the first time I saw just a part of it on TCM. 

The biggest reason for its impact on me, aside from the very good dialog and great all-around characterization, is Paul Newman's portrayal of Felson. Paul Newman went toe to toe with George C. Scott and seemed to steal most of the thunder from him. It's just an impressive performance from a guy that would have many more impressive performances under his belt in the years to come. 

One thing I also really loved about this movie was that it didn't have a huge cast of characters. Sometimes movies get too bogged down trying to include too many names and faces, but aside from Newman, Laurie, Gleason, and Scott there really aren't a lot of people in this movie. This is great because it gives the main characters a chance to really shine and grow as they interact. I just happen to love movies set on a smaller scale, too. They are much more immediate. 

Jackie Gleason probably gets the least amount of character development, but that's because he starts out as this mythical player Felson wants to play and then turns into just an everyday person who plays pool for money. I guess you could call that character "undevelopment," but it's genius because it shows just how much Eddie Felson has changed since his first match against Minnesota Fats. 

It's all because of Piper Laurie, too. She makes the movie just as much as Newman or Scott. 

I have never seen the sequel made 25 years later by Martin Scorsese that won Paul Newman his "sympathy" Oscar, but I can't imagine it can be as good as Robert Rossen's original even if Scorsese did direct it. And that's really saying something because Scorsese is one of the best in the business to this day. 

I loved this movie. If you haven't seen it you are a communist. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Anime Screenshots

Not too long ago I updated my phone to the less outdated Samsung Galaxy SIII. Naturally,  I've been toying with it. Things like screenshots are still fairly new to me and so is the ability to make a post from my phone.  For this post I have utilized both to showoff my bitchin' lockscreen and homescreen.

Yeah, this is a filler post, but you totally read it, didn't you?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tucker & Dale vs Evil

Horror-comedies are a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. From Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 to Return of the Living Dead to Zombieland, I can say I've seen my fair share. I find myself returning to the genre time and again to see if I can find that special gem meant for depraved souls like mine who can laugh and cringe at the same time. Of course, the bloodier the better. 

I know a lot of people are going to say that I waited forever to watch this movie and I will not argue that point. If there is ever a movie that seemed like it was made for me then this one definitely fits into that category. 

For one, I love my fair share of hillbilly horror. From Edward Lee novels to the classic movies like The Hills Have Eyes and the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I admit I have a softspot for the hillbilly horror genre. I admit I've even seen Motel Hell multiple times. But Tucker & Dale vs Evil has become mandatory viewing for me now in ways that many others haven't. It just took one viewing, but that was all I needed. 

This film takes the concept of the the killer hillbillies and turns it on its head by turning it into the killer college kids attacking the harmless hillbillies. Of course, the college kids only end up killing themselves and the hillbillies wonder just how they've managed to end up in the middle of a mass suicide of college kids when all the hillbillies did was rescue one of their friends from drowning. 

It's a fairly simple premise, but it is a genius one and the movie rides it in style. Mistaken identity taken just about as far as it can go and done with spectacular results. This movie is hilarious. My sides were hurting because I was laughing so much. 

That's a phrase I don't just throw around, either. 

Highly recommended to those five people left on the planet that haven't seen this yet. 

Friday, October 10, 2014


Long before he was known as the guy who played Gil Grissom, William Petersen portrayed Will Graham in the first film adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon. At the helm of this project was Michael Mann, the director who would later go on to such successes as Heat and The Last of the Mohicans

This was 1986, though. Anthony Hopkins was not the face of Hannibal Lecter at this time and I doubt that many people would be able to tell you who Hannibal Lecter even was in 1986. In fact, Lecter wasn't even Lector in this film. For whatever reasons Lecter's name was changed to "Lecktor." It possibly could have been a book rights thing, but I don't know. It's a silly change, no matter what. 

The actor to take up the reins of Lecktor was Brian Cox, a talented guy in his own right. He's only in this movie for a few minutes, but he does chew the scenery as a character as fascinating as his should. Anthony Hopkins definitely became Lecter for me with his performances, but Brian Cox deserves recognition for putting in a damn good performance and for being the first to play the crazy S.O.B. in a movie. 

Of course, Manhunter is not really about Lecktor at all. It's about Will Graham as he tries to find the sinister killer known as the Tooth Fairy. William Petersen is excellent as Graham. I don't really feel like going into whether or not Petersen's Graham is better than Edward Norton's, but if anyone ever says that Petersen is just famous because of his CSI stuff then I'd say some homework should be in order. Start with this movie.

As for the man that this movie is all about, Francis Dolarhyde is brought to life in the form of Tom Noonan. Even though he doesn't even appear until the final hour of the movie he quickly becomes the primary focus. Yeah, he's the main bad guy of the movie, but it's his fight against his inner dragon that is so fascinating. The book does a much better job of covering this territory, but Tom Noonan does manage to convey a bit of what's missing. It's a masterful job. I think I still prefer Ralph Fiennes's performance in the remake, but not by much.

Of course, this movie is dominated even more so by Michael Mann's stylistic touches. That's the true star of the film. While sometimes things do go a bit overboard (I thought the all-white jail cell was a bit much), I did appreciate the use of colors and sounds to convey the mood and atmosphere for the most part. It's pretty obvious to see that this wasn't a movie made just for the hell of it. 

Since this is the 80's, there's also a stifling synth-filled soundtrack that sometimes feels like John Carpenter and at other times feels like someone syphoned all of the rejected songs from the soundtrack of Brian De Palma's Scarface. I kept waiting for Drive by The Cars to start playing at some point. It would have been a great addition to the ending credits.

The synths just come with the territory with this flick and you'll either manage to get around that or not.

One thing I noticed about this movie was how much of Dolarhyde's backstory was left out compared to the novel. The other obvious thing was that Manhunter left out the final act of the novel entirely. At least the 2002 remake got that part right.

All in all, Manhunter is an excellent film. Dated, certainly, but still an excellent film. It was a product of its time, but it has enough talent involved with it that warrants the still fairly newfound appreciation directed toward this "cult" movie. Obviously, Petersen's role in CSI and all of the subsequent Hannibal Lecter projects helped boost the reputation of this movie (as well as the original novel which is excellent in its own right), but even if you don't care about any of that other stuff you should still watch Manhunter at least once. 

Between this film and its remake, I couldn't really choose because they are both well-made and worth seeing. This one is definitely more artsy, though.

It's all a matter of taste, really.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Tokyo Ghoul

Continuing my trend of creepy Otaku-related goings-on, I tried out the relatively new anime Tokyo Ghoul. At only twelve episodes (for what I can only imagine to be the first season) Tokyo Ghoul takes the Black Bullet route and squeezes all it can out of its runtime. Almost too much, really. It moves so fast and apparently leaves so much of the manga out that fans were left clamoring for a remake rather than a sequel. That's not to say this anime isn't good, but that the manga is said to be vastly superior and not as rushed. That's what I've read, anyway. I haven't read the manga, but I am definitely intrigued enough to pursue that avenue in the future. For now, I'll just let the anime settle. 

As always, I want to discuss quite a bit. I suppose I'll start with the background stuff. 

The story takes place in Tokyo (duh) and in this particular version of Tokyo there are these human-looking creatures called ghouls running around that eat people in order to live. Naturally, there's a mostly ineffective task force assigned to capture and kill these ghouls in order to save humanity. There are a few aces that work for the department such as Amon Kotaro and Mado Kureo and they are as ruthless as they come. Especially Kureo. 

Kaneki Ken, at the beginning of this story, is a perfectly normal human being with an eye for the cute girl sitting at a different table in the same coffee shop. She even happens to be reading a book by an author he loves. 

Unfortunately for him the girl he had his eye on was a ghoul. As he walked her home she attacked him and left him for dead before she could get around to eating him. The reason she couldn't eat him was because, in the spirit of an anvil falling on Wile E. Coyote, a large i-beam fell on her and killed her. 

Ken is given surgery to save his life, but the surgeon uses the organs from the dead ghoul in order to save his life. Needless to say the surgery is not without its side-effects. Real food like french fries and burgers begins to taste terrible to him in his post-surgery life. And no, he wasn't just eating at MgRonald's. 

It turns out that Ken is craving human flesh, but he can't bring himself to eat his best friend no matter how much his bout with starvation is threatening him. He is, however, driven to almost murder a motherfucker. 

With nowhere else to turn to Ken gets some help from the Anteiku, the very same coffee shop that began his life predicament. Anteiku is actually a coffee shop run by ghouls who aren't evil and try to provide food for ghouls who can't or won't resort to murder in order to get sustenance. Anteiku creates their special ghoul-food by raiding morgues or coming across recent roadkill from car crashes. In either case, the victim is already dead and the guilt these ghouls feel is lessened somewhat. 

They actually sell real coffee, though. Coffee is just about the only item that ghouls can have that won't taste disgusting or kill them. They don't give their ghoul food out to people, either. So, in a way, Anteiku can be seen as the good guys in this whole shebang. Even though they still do eat people. 

However, there are no good ghouls as far as Kureo and Kotaro are concerned. The government wants to destroy all ghouls. Period. Wielding tools crafted from the bodies of dead ghouls, Kureo and Kotaro want to extinguish every single ghoul in Tokyo. 

Ken, now a half-human/half-ghoul, is caught in a fight between humans and ghouls and must somehow make it through unscathed while still retaining what makes him human. 

I suppose that's enough of the background stuff. If it sounds good then I recommend checking it out. The episodes will definitely fly by and it's still pretty damn good even if it is a bit rushed. The ending is a definite cliffhanger, but an awesome one. 

The ghoul that wears a Jason Voorhees hockey mask and is even nicknamed Jason is especially neat. He's obviously a bad guy and a very demented one at that. He's a treat for horror fans, but don't just watch this because of him since he isn't featured all that much compared to other characters. 

With all of the violence and talk of cannibalism in this series, I think it should be redundant to say that this anime isn't for kids. This anime is for those adults that like it bloody. Funimation's simulcast censored the shit out of this so that's extra incentive to pick up the blu-ray. Another would be that it is just a damn good anime. It works. I don't have the feeling that I was left unsatisfied at all. I loved it. 

I personally felt that "new anime high" I get from discovering an anime that kicks my ass. I liked it more than I liked Black Bullet. Possibly because this one was so much bloodier and about eating people and didn't feature shitty-looking monsters. 

The fights in this series were definitely good. A bit more breathing room in this series could have made them awesome, but fights aren't everything. The animation was very good, although definitely like a lot of its modern day counterparts. Sometimes it can be tough to tell certain anime characters from others, but this one did a fairly good job thanks to the masks used by each ghoul. 

Yes, it has occurred to me on occasion that I am not quite right in the head. I get used to it after a while. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Higurashi: When They Cry (Abducted by Demons Arc Part 1) Vol. 1 by Ryukishi07 and Suzuragi Karin

First things first: Watch this video. All of it. It'll give you a good idea of what you are in store for with this anime and manga. Just don't watch it if you are eating anything.

October is a great time for reading scary stuff. Since this is a blog dedicated to things like anime, manga, and East Asian movies, I figured that a review of the first volume of the manga edition of Higurashi would be an excellent choice. If nothing else, maybe digesting the manga would give me a chance to see if the story makes any more sense this time around.

This series is fairly obscure among casual anime fans, but if you are a hardcore fan and love your anime with a side of macabre then the anime is certainly mandatory viewing. Perfect for Halloween, really. However, the anime wasn't the first incarnation of this series. Neither was the manga. The manga came out in 2005 while the anime made its debut in 2006, but what came first was a series of visual novels that began in 2002. The man behind those visual novels was none other than Ryukishi07. As far as the writing is concerned, anyway.

The anime series is pretty hard to find these days and that's one of the reasons I still have my bootleg copy. The manga issues are available on Kindle, though. That's where I bought my copy.

There's a lot I'd like to say about the anime because it was probably the first really disturbing anime I ever saw (I mean, you've seen the above video, right?), but I think I already discussed the anime at least a little bit at one point.

For now, I want to focus on the first volume of the manga. The first volume introduces us to the town of Hinamizawa and Oyashiro-sama's curse. Oyashiro-sama is supposedly a vengeful god that will tear you a new asshole if you even think bad things about Hinamizawa and you don't want to mess with him. Naturally, Maebara Keiichi is curious about the goings-on in Hinamizawa and the stories surrounding Oyashiro-sama's curse.

Keiichi has just moved into the peaceful town of Hinamizawa and has discovered a nice group of friends. Among them happens to be Ryugu Rena, Sonozaki Mion, Hojo Satoko, and Furude Rika. He plays games with them after school and largely leads a carefree and fun life. 

Thing's don't stay that way, though. After getting a visit from a photographer who is still hoping for that one big break, Keiichi learns about just how macabre the town of Hinamizawa really is. Once upon a time there was a murder in Hinamizawa. Perhaps even several. Keiichi questions his friends about it, but they become strangely tight-lipped and creepy. Especially Rena and Mion. 

Keiichi tries to dig deeper, discovering that it all seems to go back to Oyashiro-sama's curse, but are his newfound friends really apart of that somehow? They certainly don't seem to approve of him talking to the one to the cops about it. 

This particular arc is concluded in the next volume, but there are quite a few other arcs that describe how events might have happened differently. Definitely a bizarre style of storytelling, but certainly interesting because each subsequent alternate telling builds on the previous one. 

The artwork isn't too shabby and goes from cutesy to creepy fairly quick much like the anime. There's not a lot of blood in this volume, but we'll see how much gets brought in the next volume. 

I do know that the anime legitimately scared the shit out of me when I first saw it. That scene above still makes me cringe. I hope the manga is equally impressive. 

So far so good. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Bleach (Season Three)

I admit I took my time with this one. I wanted to get it finished as soon as possible, but I just couldn't. A lot of the details a fuzzy for me because I took a while off from watching the season, but I remember enough. This post won't be quite so long because of that and that might be a good thing. My reviews for certain other lengthy anime seasons take forever for me to write because I generally like to nitpick, but this one will be mostly straightforward. 

Season three of Bleach consists of episodes 42-63 and it takes us all the way to the resolution of Kuchiki Rukia's execution dilemma. In case you forgot, Rukia has been imprisoned and sentenced to execution for giving her powers to Ichigo. Ichigo, being the stubborn and not-so-bright asshole that he is, decides to invade Soul Society in order to rescue Rukia. Ichigo and his friends come so close to rescuing Rukia before the end of season two, but Byakuya is just a bit more than Ichigo can handle and Yoruichi makes the decision to fetch him (against his will) before he gets himself killed.

For the moment, everything is a stalemate and Rukia is still scheduled for her execution.

While Uryu continues to fight for the honor of his deceased grandfather alongside Orihime against Captain Kurotsuchi, Ichigo endures some more training in order to awaken his Zanpakuto's Bankai. What's a Bankai? Well, the Zanpakuto are the cool-looking swords that all of the Shinigami carry around and they have two transformations. The first transformation is Shikai and it is substantially weaker than the second transformation which, you guessed it, is called Bankai. 

The catch is that Bankai normally takes about 100 years to achieve and 10 years to master. Yoruichi has only managed to buy Ichigo three days, though. Or until just before Rukia gets executed. Whichever comes first. 

No biggie, right? 

Season three has got a lot going on when it comes to the Soul Reapers. There's the subplot of Captain Aizen's murder to figure in and all of the separate battles going on. Some of the fights do get drowned out, though. The anime tries to spread everything across the board while keeping up with a breakneck pace and it just proves to be too much at times. I'm curious if the manga is the same way. Either way, it comes to a point where Soul Reapers you are not too familiar with are fighting other Soul Reapers that you aren't too familiar with, either. Can't we just focus more on the characters we already know if we are going to show epic fight scenes? If nothing else, at least finish the fight scenes on screen. The fight between Captain Ukitake and Kyōraku Shunsui and Yamamoto Genryūsai Shigekuni is cool, but it gets cut off. The same for the fight between Yoruichi and Soifon. Why show them fight at all if the fights just end without going anywhere? 

Rukia's upcoming execution even has the Soul Reapers fighting each other. The ones I just mentioned are just a few. Even the hardheaded Renji chooses to fight against Byakuya in order to save Rukia. He doesn't succeed, but his character gets built in the process. Despite all of the action, there is still some characterization happening. Rukia's past concerning Lieutenant Kaien is uncovered a bit. Kenpachi, Yumichika, Yachiru, and the aforementioned Renji all become characters that are more than just sneering bad guys wearing cool black hoods. You'll root for them as they fight alongside Uryu, Chad, and Orihime. 

Of course, the showstopper is the fight between Ichigo and Byakuya. Whether or not Rukia gets rescued (well, duh, of course she does) is almost a moot point with all of the fireworks happening, but the best is saved for last. The fight is pretty epic. It's what fans of fighting anime love to see. It's only a few episodes, but it's worth the buildup of waiting fifty-something episodes to see it happen and it doesn't overstay its welcome. 

The fight ends a bit inconclusively, though. Ichigo and Byakuya both live to see another day and become allies and whatnot. 

Season three ends, not after the fight and the rescue of Rukia, but after it is revealed that Aizen faked his death and killed all of the Sages and Judges in Central 46. Why? Well, Aizen likes performing illegal and unethical experiments using hollows. He is what you might call a conniving and deceitful fuck. And he wants a certain item that was hidden inside of Rukia's Gigai (a false body used by Soul Reapers when they journey to the human world). What is the item? It's a shiny doohickey that does important stuff. 

I said my memory was fuzzy, right? 

So Aizen initiated the hunt for Rukia and her planned execution in addition to faking his death. That's the long and the short of it. 

Aizen gets away clean at the end of season three, but I still think that episode 63 would have been a great stopping point for the series. It wasn't complete closure, but it was close enough. Unfortunately, the next two seasons are filler. That's 40+ episodes of filler. Ugh. 

No wonder I stopped watching Bleach

Thursday, October 2, 2014


I like visual spectacles. Love them, in fact. I've been known to forgive some less than stellar stories as long as they provide stunning visuals. They have to be mind-blowing, though. The same can be said for epic fight scenes, battles, or whatever else can that create a testosterone-driven fist-pumping yell of badassness. You know, where you just want to get up and act like Richard Sherman did that one time after making a good play. Just pretend you are a professional wrestler and beat your chest and talk smack like you just whipped someone's ass. Of course, all you're doing is watching a movie, but if the movie is cool enough then it essentially is the same thing, right? 

REDLINE is that movie for anime fans. It doesn't bother so much for a complex story, but it delivers in spades when it comes to stunning animation and fantastic race scenes. Every square inch of this movie is animated. You know how there are sometimes scenes in certain anime where there's a crowd, but they aren't moving at all and yet you still hear random voices and the cheering of a crowd anyway? There's none of that in this movie. There's a reason REDLINE was released several years after its intended date. Hell, there were practically 100,000 hand-made drawings used in the process, too. Also, I should stress that this was Koike Takeshi's directorial debut. For a newbie at the helm, I can say that motherfucker brought it. 

All of that work paid off big time. I read somewhere in a review that this film was called "animation for animation's sake" and that is certainly true. Don't let that push you away, though. This movie risks it all on intense visuals, but it succeeds. 

You'll care enough about the main characters to keep watching for the story, but it's those race scenes and those perfectly drawn shadows that inspire awe. Just looking at stills from the movie makes me want to watch it again. 

This is one of those movies that you just watch because you love the craft of animation. It's animation done right by people who are good at what they do and took time to do it. 

The story itself has to do with a race called Redline that our main character Sweet JP is trying to get into by winning the Yellowline. Unfortunately, JP loses the Yellowline in spectacular fashion and his car is destroyed. 

However, one racer backs out when he discovers Redline is going to be held on the cyborg planet Roboworld. The cyborgs there don't want the race to be held there because they don't want to take a chance that any of their (illegal) military secrets will be discovered. The cyborgs have made threats of violence and even have big ole satellites with laser beams on them. So who'd want to go there for a silly race, anyway?

JP doesn't back down, though. With help from his mafia-connected mechanic Frisbee and his junker Old Man Mole, JP plans to resurrect his car and race it in a race that could possibly be the start of a massive military conflict between worlds. Yep, that's exactly the kind of racing movie anyone should see. 

So if you like awesome animation, racing, stuff about robots, weird-looking aliens, and chicks wearing little or no clothing then this should be your movie. Basically, it's like Scooby Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf if the creator of Scooby Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf had developed an addiction to speed, hentai, and Monster Energy Drinks. How could you possibly say no to that?