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.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Eyes Wide Shut

I suppose it would take a Kubrick movie to get me blogging again. Admittedly, I've been on a bit of a self-imposed exile from blogging. I'm not sure what good it is doing me or my page views, but sometimes unspoken reflection is just as fine as written reflection. Sure, I've got plenty of backlog to wade through. Reviews for Trigun Maximum Omnibus, Vol. 2 and a Chinese flick called A Touch of Sin need to be written before I completely forget them (A Touch of Sin would actually be a little too easy to forget), but I just haven't brought myself to type a single word. 

I've been watching The Walking Dead on Netflix from scratch. I'm almost finished with the fifth season, but I opted to not post reviews on the show. Just didn't feel like it. Didn't want to, actually. It would slow my progress way down. 

But I just couldn't stay away from a Kubrick movie that I only just watched for the first time. Funny thing is I have no idea what the hell to say. 

What a strange, strange movie this was. 

I'm glad I didn't watch this movie when I was younger. The sexual content would have been a bit too much for me to focus on the movie. 

Remember the Titanic when Rose stripped so Leo could sketch her picture? When I saw that part as a kid I couldn't look at the screen. It was embarrassing. I still can't watch a sex scene when it comes to movies, without looking over my shoulder a bit. Maybe that's still a bit of the lingering guilt-complex from my exposure to southern fried religion as a child. 

Violence was easy to watch, by comparison. I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps I knew that it was fake whereas a naked and writhing body most assuredly was not. Couldn't just write that off as a movie effect, I suppose. 

Eyes Wide Shut was an incredibly uncomfortable movie. A large part of that was due to the atmosphere that Kubrick created. The first thing I noticed was that it was Christmas time. I thought that was perfect for some reason. What better time to bring up notions of infidelity and crisis then during Christmas? 

The opening party scene had me wondering just a bit about what kind of performances I would see from the lead couple of Cruise and Kidman. They didn't, initially, come across as real people. Kidman dancing around and flirting with the older gentleman and getting tipsy while Cruise was being flirtatious himself... I wasn't sure what to think. I was afraid I'd be stuck with two snobbish characters I couldn't stand. 

But after that, when the cracks began to appear in their relationship, their characters really came alive. 

As Cruise really feels his sanity slip away and he goes on his night adventures the movie starts to feel like something closer to The Shining than Lolita. Actually, a film I thought for some reason or another was Rosemary's Baby. Perhaps it was the orgy scene and the red cloaked guy that did that. The Masque of Red Death was another film I thought of. 

I could swear this was a horror movie. I've heard the term "erotic thriller" used, but I don't know. At times, it was erotic, but more often it was clinical and cold. About as erotic as a doctor's visit, I might say. And it was super fucking creepy. 

Tom Cruise was fantastic in this movie. In some ways I was reminded of Gene Hackman's role in The Conversation. Just incredible stuff. Few people can really instill a sense of paranoia so well. 

Kidman, who gets sidelined for much of the movie as Cruise journeys about, maintains a solid performance throughout. Although she just doesn't have quite as much to do or work with. 

The orgy scene is probably the highlight of the film. It's the strangest part of the whole movie. And that is really saying something. 

I've seen 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, but this could very well be Kubrick's strangest film. I know that's saying a lot, but I haven't seen a film that has left me feeling so downright unsettled and weirded out in quite some time. 

It was a great viewing experience, though.

And yes, Nicole Kidman was fucking hot in this movie. Just sayin'. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


It's the name that every James Bond fan whispers in their best Sean Connery impression. Spectre. You just tried to say it that way, right? Naturally, this Spectre organization is a bit different than the one we are familiar with. Much in the same way that Craig's Bond is a different Bond. 

Daniel Craig's James Bond has been an invigorating shot into the franchise. No disrespect to Pierce Brosnan or Timothy Dalton (we all forget about him, don't we?) intended. I know much has been said about how long Craig might stay Bond. I think even he said that Spectre would be his last, but I hope he doesn't trade in his suit and gun just yet. Same for Sam Mendes. They've been a helluva team for two movies. Although I fear that one or the other or both will hang it up for good now. 

Skyfall was fantastic and I consider it to be the best Bond movie ever made. Spectre did not better it although it certainly tried. This movie, I fear, will be considered somewhat of a failure. The reviews have been a bit lukewarm when not completely negative. Many say the same thing over and over again: It's not Skyfall. It's understandable. I just said it, too. 

But that isn't a bad thing. Skyfall was fantastic, but Spectre is still pretty damn good. It shouldn't be considered a slight. 

It's a worthy successor to Craig's previous films. Many of us just need time to accept this new Spectre and the new face of Spectre. Hell, some people are still trying to accept Craig as Bond. I think that's really what it is. This movie is a masterpiece in the Bond catalog. It's just not as good as a select few other masterpieces. 

The song sucks completely, but that's all that is really bad about the movie. I mean, whoever made the decision for Sam Smith to sing this is on drugs. It should be illegal for dudes to sing in falsetto on a Bond theme song. Illegal. I cringed the entire time. 

The opening credits montage was also somewhat in bad taste. Naked women, James Bond, and tentacles... I didn't know if I was watching a Bond movie or a live action hentai. 

Now onto the good things:

Christoph Waltz is the face of Spectre in this film. And yes, even though he's called Oberhauser, he really is the arch enemy of Bond we've all been waiting for. You know his real name. Waltz isn't quite the terrifying villain he was in Inglourious Basterds (many of us -myself included- will probably make or have made mental comparisons for some strange reason so I figured I'd just go ahead and say it... at no point does he put on a nazy uniform), but Waltz does offer the psychotic energy that seems to be required by all Bond villains just fine. Especially since the leader of Spectre is the ideal Bond villain. 

Daniel Craig is great, as always. His fights with Dave Bautista (whose character is close to what Jaws was in the Moore movies) were especially entertaining. 

Again, it'd be a shame to see Craig leave the role. 

I think there could be one more Bond movie to really draw the end of this rebooted Bond arc. Spectre, in some respects, feels just like part one of the end to me. As the end of this new Bond, this movie just doesn't quite hit all the notes. It ties up the previous Craig movies (although maybe too conveniently at times) and brings Bond to what seems to be the logical conclusion for his character to this point, but... Spectre seems too big of a deal to be one and done. Spectre can't be the end for this new Bond. 

Craig may or may not come back. Sam Mendes might not either. (I'm certainly more hopeful for Craig than Mendes.)

But Blofeld and Spectre seem like they are just getting warmed up. There's no way it can end here. Not this easy. 

We need Bond Vs. Blofeld one more time and it needs to have Craig and Waltz back for the rematch. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Aerosmith from Worst to First

Well, it was only a matter of time for this one. I've certainly talked about Aerosmith on my blog before: here and here. I hope no one faults me for kicking a dead horse, but I suppose I should just set the record straight and make my defining list for the band.

Unlike Sabbath or Purple, there aren't a whole lot of hidden gems with Aerosmith. A few albums in the murk, sure, but let's face it: Most people know Aerosmith. From the early days of Mama Kin to the mind-numbingly insulting I Don't Want to Miss a Thing, there isn't much John Q. Public doesn't know about Aerosmith.

The real question is just how shitty are their shittiest of albums? Well, had their career ended in 1984 this would be a pretty damn short and easy list. Their first five albums would be first in some order and then Night in the Ruts and Rock in a Hard Place would be last. However, we all know that did not happen.

Rock in a Hard Place, while not featuring either Joe Perry or Brad Whitford, is just a better album than so much of the post-comeback dreck that followed.

So the real question is "What is the worst of Aerosmith?" Well, I have listened to much of their catalog. Too much of it. I listened to Just Push Play and Music from Another Dimension twice for this thing. The sacrifices I made were indeed immense, but for them I am prepared to dish out the goods.

Although it's a good thing I Don't Want to Miss a Thing was never on an album (as far as the original release of an album is concerned) because that would have been the automatic "worst" for me. Words cannot describe how much I hate that song.

So without further preamble let's dispense with the list that will leave you scratching your head at the start, but raising your fist by the end.

15. Just Push Play - Just listening to Aerosmith attempt "rap rock" is atrocious. The whole Run-DMC thing was in the 80's, but by 2001 the rage was nu-metal and I guess the folks at the Aerosmith Corporation decided to cash in on that as well with songs like the nauseous title track and Outta Your Head. It makes you wonder if the badasses from Boston were taking drugs again. Or if they weren't then maybe they should start taking them again. I hate this album. I hate it. I wish I could offer a more constructive criticism on it other than just saying "it sucks," but there's only so much I can work with. This album is a malicious assault on the senses aimed more at Britney Spears fans than Aerosmith fans. So, hindsight always being 20/20, no one should have been surprised at Aerosmith's infamous Super Bowl halftime show with Britney and NSYNC in 2001. Gee, didn't this album come out around that time?

Beyond Beautiful 4:45
Just Push Play 3:51
Jaded 3:34
Fly Away from Here 5:01
Trip Hoppin' 4:27
Sunshine 3:37
Under My Skin 3:45
Luv Lies 4:26
Outta Your Head 3:22
Drop Dead Gorgeous 3:42
Light Inside 3:34
Avant Garden 4:52

Lineup: Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler

14. Music from Another Dimension - How do you follow up a shitty album? Well, with another shitty album. I honestly didn't think it was possible to make an album that could possibly sound more phoned in and generic than Just Push Play, but Aerosmith did it, by God. And they made fans wait over a decade for this. At least, Axl's record was kinda good. To be fair, I should mention the highlights. What few there are.

Any song on which Joe Perry had an influence is decent and Out Go the Lights is good, but everything else pretty much sucks. Too many ballads. There's just no attitude elsewhere. Legendary Child attempts to rewrite their entire career into one song, but I guess they forgot they already did that a few times. This album is a wasted effort. I mean, if you like ballads than you've scored big. Although Get a Grip would work better for that.

I think the real disappointment comes from the fact that this album was supposed to be a comeback album. Like how Black Sabbath came back, maybe not completely but for the most part, to their roots with 13. Or even what Van Halen did with David Lee Roth on A Different Kind of Truth.

The only blues this album gives me is the one I get when I listen to this album and immediately want to listen to something else. Many bands are not given a chance to write another hard rocking album to really put that final stamp on their career, but what boggles my mind is that Aerosmith gets that chance time and time again and still somehow screws it up. 

LUV XXX 5:17
Oh Yeah 3:41
Beautiful 3:05
Tell Me 3:45
Out Go the Lights 6:55
Legendary Child 4:15
What Could Have Been Love 3:44
Street Jesus 6:43
Can't Stop Lovin' You (featuring Carrie Underwood) 4:04
Lover Alot 3:35
We All Fall Down 5:14
Freedom Fighter 3:19
Closer 4:04
Something 4:37
Another Last Goodbye 5:43 

Lineup: Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler

13. Nine Lives - Everyone, meet Get a Grip Part II. It's a mostly hard-rocking album (in its own way) with a few ballads and with even more of a commercial mentality than that which preceded it. Mostly, I just don't care for this album. I don't own it, but I listened to it twice for the sake of this list and I don't really plan on listening to it again. It's bland. It's got every ingredient from every latter day Aerosmith album that I don't like, but just enough edge (if you can call it that) to keep me from actively disliking it. Falling in Love (is Hard on the Knees) could almost be a track off Permanent Vacation, but then songs like Pink and Hole in my Soul come on and I just lose interest. The Farm is okay, but Fallen Angels is hokum 

Too many attempts at crossovers and ballads. Old story. Although at least these ballads are a notch above the other Aerosmith ballads that would come afterwards and compared to Just Push Play this album is a fucking masterpiece.

Nine Lives 4:01
Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees) 3:26
Hole in My Soul 6:10
Taste of India 5:53
Full Circle 5:01
Something's Gotta Give 3:37
Ain't That a Bitch 5:25
The Farm 4:27
Crash 4:26
Kiss Your Past Good-Bye 4:32
Pink 3:55
Attitude Adjustment 3:45
Fallen Angels 8:16

Lineup: Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler

12. Get a Grip - One thing Get a Grip started was the too long running times of Aerosmith albums and the repetitive songwriting. This was the first Aerosmith album to enter the 60+ minute mark. Prior to this the longest Aerosmith album had been Permanent Vacation, which ran at 51 minutes. Does a rock album really need to be longer than that? It's an age old question, for sure. Some bands succeed at tossing in everything including the kitchen sink, but others do not. I'm not sure the dreadful Intro was needed at all. That alone is enough to make me stop listening. However, Eat the Rich and Fever are some pretty damn good songs. The former being the most badass track on this album. The title track is a bit weak, but it's surrounded by strong tunes. Forgivable. Livin' on the Edge seems like a much more radio friendly version of Kings and Queens, but Joe Perry shines on the track. Flesh is a rocker but also a relatively forgettable song thanks to a fairly weak chorus. Gotta Love It is equally unimpressive and too fucking long. I thought that song would never end. Walk on Down is really good, though. Fucking awesome, actually. Joe Perry, more often than not, writes good material and you'll notice it's the only track on the album written solely by Perry. So, yes, that's a good one.

So what's bad about this album? Well, naturally there is a ballad, but that's not the issue. The issue is that there are three ballads: Cryin', Crazy, and Amazing. And all of those ballads are on the back half of the album and that makes for an incredibly weak ending to what had otherwise been a pretty decent effort. Certainly, Nickelback could not have planned it better.

So as this album goes on it really just drags the momentum into the ground. Pump ended with a ballad and so did just about every other Aerosmith album, but they only had one ballad apiece. I can live with that. The previous albums weren't overloaded. This album is overloaded. The ballads themselves aren't necessarily bad, but... there's just too many of them. Forfeiting two of the ballads and some sharper writing on the heavier tunes and this album could have been really good. Yes, it sold a lot when it was released and a lot of that is because of the ballads. I can't deny that. All of the albums previously mentioned were extremely successful with the exception of their newest. No arguing there. But there comes a time when rock fans such as myself want to throw down the lighters and raise the horns. There's too many fucking lighters here.

Of course, compared to Music from Another Dimension this album was a balls-to-the-wall throwback rocker. 

Intro 0:24
Eat the Rich 4:11
Get a Grip 3:59
Fever 4:15
Livin' on the Edge 6:07
Flesh 5:57
Walk on Down 3:39
Shut Up and Dance 4:56
Cryin' 5:09
Gotta Love It 5:58
Crazy 5:14
Line Up (featuring Lenny Kravitz) 4:03
Amazing 5:57
Boogie Man 2:17

Lineup: Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler

11. Rock and A Hard Place - You know, it could be heresy listing an album that doesn't feature Joe Perry so high on this list. If eleventh place out of fifteen spots could be considered high. Brad Whitford is also largely absent from this album with his only appearance being on Lightning Strikes. Instead we have Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay on the guitars. Who is Rick Dufay? I have no idea and I'm too lazy to Google it.

I stated before that I like this album. Not a lot, but it fits the mold of classic Aerosmith more than all of the albums mentioned above. It's not a true Aerosmith album to me because of the lineup issues, but it's good enough to warrant its spot. No runaway hits, but it's solid and you don't have to worry about too many ballads.

Jailbait 4:38
Lightning Strikes 4:26
Bitch's Brew 4:14
Bolivian Ragamuffin 3:32
Cry Me a River 4:06
Prelude to Joanie 1:21
Joanie's Butterfly 5:35
Rock in a Hard Place (Cheshire Cat) 4:46
Jig Is Up 3:10
Push Comes to Shove 4:28

Lineup: Jimmy Crespo, Rick Dufay, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler

10. Honkin' On Bobo - Aerosmith can do covers like just about nobody else and unlike many other bands, Aerosmith can make a cover album really good even when they are going through the worst slump of their career. The album title may suck (or blow), but that's the only thing bad about this album. Their one original song The Grind more or less fits in with the others and I could have sworn that was a cover as well until I read the credits. Their choices are far from obvious ones and that what makes this album so important. This is a rock album that longtime fans didn't know they were looking for. I'm actually surprised that there wasn't something by The Beatles on here considering how Aerosmith had covered two of their songs before. But Aerosmith went with a theme of blues and stuck with it. Normally, I don't respect cover albums much, but since I appreciate this one so much I think a top ten spot should suffice. It's pretty damn good. The best Aerosmith has been in the last 20 years. Unfortunately, it is still a cover album. 

Road Runner 3:46
Shame, Shame, Shame 2:15
Eyesight to the Blind 3:09
Baby, Please Don't Go 3:24
Never Loved a Girl 3:12
Back Back Train 4:23
You Gotta Move 5:30
The Grind 3:46
I'm Ready 4:13
Temperature 2:52
Stop Messin' Around 4:29
Jesus Is on the Main Line 2:51

Lineup: Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler

09. Nights in the Ruts -  I'm actually surprised I put this album in the top ten, but it's not that bad. Like the album that followed it, Night in the Ruts doesn't boast of any instant classics and yet it's a pretty tough album in it's own right. Perry is featured on the album, but he left the group before finishing it and that's when Jimmy Crespo stepped in. The album is heavy and a return to the old Aerosmith sound that changed a bit for Draw the Line, but it's a step down from the hot streak the band had been on.

No Surprize 4:25
Chiquita 4:24
Remember (Walking in the Sand) 4:03
Cheese Cake 4:15
Three Mile Smile 3:40
Reefer Head Woman 4:03
Bone to Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy) 2:58
Think About It 3:31
Mia 4:15

Lineup: Joe Perry, Jimmy Crespo, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler

08. Done with Mirrors  - This was the first album that the reformed and newly sober Aerosmith made. The band, based on what I've read, doesn't like this album very much. When it was released it didn't exactly break down any doors and scream to the world, "Aerosmith is back!" However, time has been kind to this album. Let the Music Do the Talking, Joe Perry's song from his solo band, works just fine as an Aerosmith track. It's a fitting opener and the strongest song from the band since the heydays of Rocks. My Fist Your Face is an equally impressive track. It's an asskicker. Shame on You has a certain swagger that only riff-based rock songs can bring. Maybe it's not the best song, but it's got attitude. That's something many of their later albums would lack. Although this album doesn't quite have the same bite and it loses steam as it goes on, this album was a throwback to their 70's reign. As such, I think it should be viewed as one of their stronger albums. Back when they actually tried. For me, this is where the list gets fun. Everything from here on will be albums I actually want to talk about.

Let the Music Do the Talking 3:48
My Fist Your Face 4:23
Shame on You 3:22
The Reason a Dog 4:13
Shela 4:25
Gypsy Boots 4:16
She's on Fire 3:47
The Hop 3:45
Darkness 3:43

Lineup: Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler

07. Permanent Vacation - This album, in retrospect, marked the beginning of the end for Aerosmith as a gritty hard rock band. Yes, it helped to revive their career. Not arguing that. Although, their duet with Run-DMC was also a major ingredient for their return to the limelight. (Personally, I'm okay with never hearing any version of Walk This Way other than the original again.) Aerosmith made this album to really break into the mainstream so they went all out. Angel, one of the more disgustingly syrupy ballads I've ever heard, isn't really that bad since it is essentially the only power ballad on this album. Aerosmith always put a ballad on their albums so it's never surprising and sometimes they are good, but 80's rock ballads are totally different monsters than 70's rock ballads. However, Angel is tame compared to I Don't Want to Miss a Thing and just about everything from Music from Another Dimension. So I guess, on the levels of hell, post-2000's ballads are worse than 80's ones. (Dude) Looks Like a Lady, a song I will forever associate rather fondly with Mrs. Doubtfire, is always fun. Rag Doll, the other big name song from this album, is also a fun song.

Yet it's the opener Heart's Done Time that sets the tone for the album. The guitar sound is closer to a Dokken album than 70's Aerosmith album, but there's clearly a fire in the group on this one and that overcomes a lot of the aspects of the album that date it. This album still has a refreshing feel everytime I listen to it, but it drags on a song or two too long.

Heart's Done Time 4:42
Magic Touch 4:37
Rag Doll 4:25
Simoriah 3:22
Dude (Looks Like a Lady) 4:25
St. John 4:10
Hangman Jury 5:33
Girl Keeps Coming Apart 4:13
Angel 5:08
Permanent Vacation 4:49
I'm Down 2:20
The Movie 4:04

Lineup: Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler

06. Get Your Wings - Many consider this to be Aerosmith's first real album because their first one is so vastly different than the formula that would define their early success. This was the first time anyone heard Steven Tyler's real singing voice. As I'll talk about below, Tyler changed his voice on the first album. This time he was himself. The band was much more comfortable and they wrote some really good tunes. Same Old Song and Dance is probably the most notable song from this album, but their performance of Train Kept A-Rollin' (dubbed over with audience noise) is also an Aerosmith classic.

Get Your Wings is essential listening for any Aerosmith fan and any fan of hard rock, but it's not quite in the elite album category. Aerosmith would soon get there, though. So will this list.

Same Old Song and Dance 3:53
Lord of the Thighs 4:14
Spaced 4:21
Woman of the World 5:49
S.O.S. (Too Bad) 2:51
Train Kept A-Rollin' 5:33
Seasons of Wither 5:38
Pandora's Box 5:43

Lineup: Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler

05. Draw the Line - Following up a classic is tough. Following two classics while battling addictions and egos is close to unimaginable. Undoubtedly, Aerosmith did the unimaginable and released their final classic album until 1989's Pump. Of course, it's not as good as the two albums that preceded it, but it's amazing the album is as good as it is considering what they were up against. The title track is a good one, but the strongest moment on the album has to be Kings and Queens. By far, that's my favorite Aerosmith song. The subject matter is a bit atypical of Aerosmith and so is the delivery. Brad Whitford (who actually soloed on the song) and Tom Hamilton play well off each other on it.

Critical Mass is incredibly Beatle-esque and one of their more experimental songs. It wouldn't surprise me if they did a few lines before recording it. Bright Light Fright is Joe Perry's time to shine on the vocals and it's a suitably uptempo number.

The only song on this album that doesn't really strike me is The Hand the Feeds. I didn't care for Tyler's vocal delivery on that. The rest of the album is killer, though.

Draw the Line 3:23 
I Wanna Know Why 3:09 
Critical Mass 4:53 
Get It Up 4:02 
Bright Light Fright 2:19 
Kings and Queens 4:55 
The Hand That Feeds 4:23 
Sight for Sore Eyes 3:56 
Milk Cow Blues 4:14

Lineup: Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler

04. AerosmithDream On was the first song I ever heard by Aerosmith as a young'un. I heard it on the radio all of the time. I loved how dark it sounded despite its overall positive message. I also remember hearing GN'R's cover of Mama Kin plenty of times on the GN'R Lies album, too. I heard those songs so many times before actually going to Aerosmith's first album and giving it a proper listen. In some ways, ithis album reminds me of Black Sabbath's first album in that it was different from everything that came after. Steven Tyler's voice sounded so much deeper. He could still screech, but on many songs he just sounds so different. Tyler apparently changed his voice to sound like Kermit the Frog because he didn't like the way he sounded. It's a shame he changed his voice, but it does add a strange appeal to this album. 

One song I really like is Movin' Out. I think it's my second favorite Aerosmith song. I just like that riff. Make It also starts with a kick-ass riff. It's the perfect way to start a career. Critics may not have loved this album when it came out and it might not be considered to be one of the great debut albums in rock to this day, but it should be. This is Aerosmith's first album and it's a pretty good one. 

Make It 3:41
Somebody 3:45
Dream On 4:28
One Way Street 7:00
Mama Kin 4:25
Write Me a Letter 4:11
Movin' Out 5:03
Walkin' the Dog 3:12

Lineup: Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler

03. Pump - This album flows incredibly well. Almost like a suite. It's pretty easy to listen to this album in one sitting because the songwriting and song placement is top notch. Most big name bands wouldn't dare attempt a song like Janie's Got a Gun. A song about incest and murder... it's hard to believe that this song became a hit. And it sounds so happy on the surface. That's brilliant writing. Something they haven't managed since.

That's not to say this album isn't fun. Love in the Elevator is an excellent counterpoint to the grimness of Janie's Got a Gun

Joe Perry really lets it rip on this album, too. I mean, he's soloed on just about every Aerosmith album, but he sounds like he was at the top of his game here. 

Pump also sounds less dated than Permanent Vacation and that helps. It's an album that sounds like it could still be made by the band today. Of course, we all get burned by that hope again and again, but that's what makes this album special. Some fans may disagree, but this is the pinnacle of latter day Aerosmith and it rocks just as hard as their old stuff. 

Young Lust 4:18
F.I.N.E. 4:09
Going Down/Love in an Elevator 5:39
Monkey on My Back 3:57
Water Song/Janie's Got a Gun 5:38
Dulcimer Stomp/The Other Side 4:56
My Girl 3:10
Don't Get Mad, Get Even 4:48
Hoodoo/Voodoo Medicine Man 4:39
What It Takes 5:11

Lineup: Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler

02. Rocks - I often think of the album as Toys in the Attic's evil twin. It's heavier and downright meaner. The dual guitar threat of Perry and Whitford is especially strong here. James Hetfield and Slash point to this album as being a huge influence on them and it's easy to see why. This album lives up to its title. Toys in the Attic has the bigger hits, but Rocks has the bigger balls. Or should I say "stones."

Back in the Saddle 4:40 
Last Child 3:26 
Rats in the Cellar 4:05 
Combination 3:39 
Sick as a Dog 4:16 
Nobody's Fault 4:21 
Get the Lead Out 3:41 
Lick and a Promise 3:05 
Home Tonight 3:15

01. Toys in the Attic - So you wondered what number one would be? Well, you probably knew what it was the entire time. Although, it was tough to place Rocks at number two spot. It's tough to argue against Toys in the Attic. I tried. I wanted to flip flop the first two spots, but I just can't justify it. Rocks is excellent, but Toys in the Attic ranks up there with albums like Led Zeppelin IV, Aqualung, and Paranoid. It's the be-all, end-all Aerosmith album.

Oddly enough, my favorite song on this album is Round and Round. That's a fucking brutal metal song right there. Had that song and/or Sweet Emotion been on Rocks, I think there'd definitely be a switch at the top of this list. As it is, Toys in the Attic is number one. 

Toys in the Attic 3:07 
Uncle Salty 4:09 
Adam's Apple 4:33 
Walk This Way 3:41 
Big Ten Inch Record 2:16 
Sweet Emotion 4:34 
No More No More 4:34 
Round and Round 5:03
You See Me Crying 5:12

Lineup: Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Drug War (Du zhan)

About a week ago I watched a film called Drug War. It's a nice little Chinese film that has the sort of climactic shootout that would please fans of another little Chinese film entitled Infernal Affairs. It takes a while to really build up the movie, but once it does get going it's a lot of fun. This isn't exactly a film that relies on action to keep the scenes going. With the exception of the ending, there isn't too much guns-a-blazin' sequences. It's largely thanks to the dynamic between the two lead actors that this movie gets going at all. 

It's certainly not as fantastic as Infernal Affairs, but the climax will cause comparisons anyway. It's a damn good final twenty minutes. However, I feel it's more important to talk about the build up to that part. 

The rest of the movie feels somewhat wooden. A bit too formulaic. Granted there's only so much that can be done with the whole "good guy catches bad guy at the beginning of the movie and expects the bad guy to turn over a new leaf" type of thing. It's the kind of setup that only Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro could make watchable, but only in their prime. Sun Honglei does hold up his end of the movie as the indefatigable Police Captain Zhang, but the character of Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) didn't quite convince me. That wasn't really Louis Koo's fault, though. 

The entire movie I knew Timmy Choi was still a bad guy. I just felt like his character was one dimensional from the start. It was only thanks to Louis Koo's abilities that he was able to get anything out of the character at all. 

Of course, the bad guy being the one dimensional bad guy while the good guy being the one dimensional good guy isn't always a bad thing. Many Westerns are iconic for just such a thing. "Bad is bad and good is good" can be comforting. 

However, I was expecting more from this movie (like I do from just about every movie made after the 1950's) and it didn't quite give that to me. 

Captain Zhang is the stereotypical tough-as-nails cop that won't quit until the job is done, but even though Sun Honglei's obviously given a role that is completely transparent to us he still manages to give us a performance that is nonetheless impressive. 

There are plenty of good scenes in this movie. I'm not sure how accurate some of the drug scenes are, but there's one scene in particular that involves Captain Zhang suffering from too many lines of cocaine that is just riveting. The scenes prior to that where Zhang has to impersonate two different people in order to get deeper into the drug world are also really good. 

I'm not too familiar with his work, but I'm sure Sun Honglei is a gifted actor. 

The scenes involving the deaf brothers are especially good, too. And the climax is fucking fantastic. 

There's a lot to like about this movie, but it falls just a bit short of the mark that it probably wanted to set from the start. It's good and maybe even better than it should be, but it's still a far cry from Infernal Affairs

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Ten Bands I Should Like More (But Don't)

Welcome to my new list. It's been awhile since I've done one concerning bands. This topic struck me a few days ago while I was surfing on YouTube. I was looking at a song by The Rolling Stones someone else mentioned on a forum in the darkest corners of the internet. I didn't know the song or the album. So I looked it up and as I was doing so I thought about how many bands I say I like, but don't really know. I also thought about how many bands I like, but would like even more if they'd just stop fucking around with pointless experimenting in their later days. And I then thought about bands that seem like everything I should love on paper, but just pushed me away after hearing them.

There are a lot of reasons to not like a band, but these are bands I should like more but don't. Or maybe can't. Other people may (and do) love these bands. I'm not knocking that. I'm merely trying to explain why I don't like them more than I do now. In some cases I already like them to begin with in certain aspects, but not in others. In other cases I don't like them to begin with despite them having the ingredients I normally look for in music that should appeal to me.

So let's get to it:

10. Death - I cannot stand the sound of Chuck Schuldiner's voice. God bless the man. He passed away in 2001 after a battle with brain cancer. He was a fucking fantastic guitarist and helped pioneer "death metal." Yet his vocals, which are the very definition of death metal vocals, grind on me. And this is strange since I like plenty of extreme metal bands and have listened to quite a few that have a similar vocal delivery, but something just puts me off about Schuldiner's singing. My loss, I suppose.

09. Danzig - I like the Misfits and love some tunes from Danzig's catalog, but for some reason I just don't own a single one of his albums. I haven't listened to a single album. I suppose I shouldn't let a man's personality affect his music, but Danzig always comes off as a bit douchey to me. So maybe that's it. But for whatever reason I just can't seem to find time for Danzig. In world of instant streaming this seems like a thin excuse, but there is only so much time out there one can spend listening to new (at least for the respective listener) stuff. 

08. Black Label Society - Zakk Wylde plays a mean guitar. No doubt about that. Yet his songwriting is so terribly vanilla. Not terrible, but just vanilla. It's like he's writing just to sound metal and not actually be metal. His soloing, especially post-Ozzy, lacks any depth of feeling. It's all pentatonic rambling. There's certainly nothing wrong with technical skill, but it's a lot like being an author: It's cool to know big and complicated words, but the dictionary is one of the most boring books in existence and reading it page after page is tedious bullshit. That's what listening to a Zakk Wylde solo is sometimes like. He's talented and always has been, but he doesn't always know when to just... not play a million notes in a song and play a passage that actually sounds like music and not a scale. Dumbing it down isn't always a bad thing. That time spent on ridiculous soloing could be spent on writing better lyrics.

07. Tool - They are an oddity. They take longer breaks between albums than Metallica. They create songs that are so complex that even the guys at Dream Theater are casting jealous glances their way. Tool's album artwork is always something interesting and inspires something of a mysticism on its own akin to Zeppelin. I should like them. I should love them. But, while I've heard one of their albums and enjoyed it, I just couldn't say, "Hey, this band is the best thing in fucking ever!" They are okay, but maybe not worth the ten year waits between albums. If I was a huge fan of theirs I'd probably be stabbing pins into my Maynard James Keenan voodoo doll at this point. 

06. Blackmore's Night - Rainbow overstayed its welcome by a few too many singers and album and I think even Blackmore knew that. So when he formed his new band he was looking for something different. Thus Blackmore's Night came into being. But little did the unsuspecting world know that his new gig would be strictly renaissance music. Blackmore's love for flair should not have been a surprise to anyone. But a band that seems to be at home covering a Sonny and Cher song? I don't know. I've listened to a few songs and have come away with mixed opinions. Night has a beautiful voice and Blackmore still has the chops, but I think it's just a bit of a bridge too far for me. I cannot listen to them on a regular basis. 

05. Def Leppard - On Through the Night and High N Dry are underrated and had some serious choice cuts. Pyromania is a damn good album. Hysteria was a bit too syrupy, but listenable and almost as good as Pyromania is certain respects. I haven't listened to Adrenalize, but the song Let's Get Rocked is decent enough. But everything I tried to touch after that faded into the furniture. Yeah, I suppose they were more closely associated to the glam scene when compared to the N.W.O.B.H.M., but Leppard always had at least just enough bite to survive my own "glam metal" phase. I still enjoy their old stuff. Their new stuff... eh, not so much. 

04. Aerosmith - I love early Aerosmith. Almost everything up to and including 1989's Pump. After that, I just don't care. Their best album since then was 2004's Honkin' on Bobo, for God's sake. Honkin' on Bobo happens to be their last good album, too. I don't know what happened. But they don't have too many hard-rocking tracks to their name in my lifetime. It's just sucky ballad after ballad after ballad. I hate using the term "sold out" because I think it's used way too much by snobby fans that get way too clingy, but Aerosmith really did sell their souls to a few corporate devils at some point. Honestly, I think all of the outside writers ruined this band.

03. Thin Lizzy - I hear a few of their songs all the time on classic rock radio, but I don't really know who they are. Haven't really listened to them that much. They seem like a good band (judging from their Lynott days), but I just haven't done any in depth listening on them yet. Although my favorite song by them could very well be the lesser known Angel of Death. I stumbled on that song by clicking on a Vader cover of it on YouTube, thinking that Vader was covering a song of the same name by Slayer. But nope, it was a Thin Lizzy song. Go figure. 

02. The Rolling Stones - I really don't have any criticism of The Rolling Stones. I've liked most of the songs I've listened to. I just haven't pursued them. I don't know why, either. Like seriously. I don't. Paint It Black is awesome. 19th Nervous Breakdown is awesome. Start Me Up is awesome. So what's stopping me from going to Amazon and just buying a shit-ton of The Rolling Stones? Well, I just don't know. Maybe I don't know where to begin. Maybe there's just so much stuff out there by them and I have no idea where to begin. 

01. Anvil - I'm not sure if I'd say there's a lot of "hype" around this band because when your most recent effort only sales 800 copies during its first week there probably isn't a lot of hype. However, the documentary that made them, if not famous, then at least more well known made them seem like heavy metal's biggest secret. They have a few decent songs. Metal on Metal? Not bad at all. Juggernaut of Justice? That's pretty good, too. I also admire that they've kept at it for so long despite many setbacks. That's truly a metal mentality. 

But what stops me in my tracks with Anvil is their dreadful lyrics and song titles. I mean, normally I don't care if lyrics stop short of containing Rush-like complexities. AC/DC may certainly write the same song over and over again, but at least they do so with some wit. Anvil's lyrics are... just awful. Toe Jam? Just google those lyrics and ask yourself if you're looking at thrash at its finest or something that couldn't even make it onto a Poison record. The riffs are there most of the time. Maybe not iconic riffs, but there's a listenability there to an extent. Where Anvil just fails at being anything close to good is in the lyrical department. There's no symbolism. No depth. Just blandness at best and garbage at worst. Butter-Bust Jerky just doesn't have the same vibe as, say, any Slayer or Overkill song. It doesn't make me want to mosh. It makes me want to shake my head and wonder why anyone would say this band is better than they are when they are not.

But people, at least 800 of them, like Anvil. For some reason. Metallica said they liked them. Slayer, too. I don't get it. I'd like to like them, but I just... cannot. A different lyricist really could do wonders. Just as long as they don't get Zakk Wylde to do it. 

Himouto! Umaru-chan

Being an otaku is a great thing and Umaru knows it. She spends her days lazing about the house eating potato chips, drinking cola, and playing games. She loves to wear her hamster hoodie as she rolls on the ground with excitement over the newest issue of her favorite magazine. Her brother, a hard working salaryman, gets annoyed by her habits, but if she didn't excel at school he might just make a bigger issue out of it. 

Umaru is actually the ideal schoolgirl on the outside. She's popular, intelligent, and she's also much taller. This may sound strange, but when Umaru enters "otaku" mode she magically shrinks to chibli size and becomes almost unrecognizable. So the "regular" Umaru looks nothing like her true nerdier self. Anime magic at work. 

Her school friends do not suspect she is an "otaku" and Umaru does nothing to dispel their vision of her. However, Umaru isn't the only one with a nerdy trait or two.

At 12 episodes that are 24 minutes apiece, Himouto! Umaru-chan seems to have more in common with anime series that have episodes that clock in at only four minutes. One episode of this series really feels like a series of shorts pieced together. It's kind of like Looney Tunes but only if Bugs Bunny never left his rabbit hole and played video games all the time. 

There really isn't much in the way of plot, but since this is a comedy (and a good one at that) it can largely get away with much of the characterization (or lack thereof) going absolutely nowhere. 

This clearly wasn't going to be the anime to discuss any of the heavier social implications of what Umaru is doing. Essentially pretending to be someone else so she doesn't invite criticism on her chosen lifestyle. Nor does she seem to learn anything from watching the ones she is trying to deceive be nerdy themselves without the elaborate deception. 

At times I thought for sure Umaru's secret would slip, but it never did. So it would seem that there could be another season with more otaku-related hijinks in the future.

The series did feel a little long at times and not all of the jokes hit the mark, but it was much better than many other anime that tried to go the same route.

Pretty enjoyable stuff. I'd watch more if there was a second season. I just hope that Umaru improves her diet. Cola and ramen can only work so much magic.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Once Upon a Time in America

Sergio Leone will forever be associated with his Spaghetti Westerns. That's a given. His films with Clint Eastwood and Once Upon a Time in the West are classics. 

But there is one film in particular that deserves mention. Call it an elephant in the room, if you will.

I've seen gangster movies. Lots of them. Just how many I don't know, but I could talk gangster movies for days. The first two Godfather films are all-time classics. Both Scarface movies are pretty damn good, too. Then of course there are Scorsese's magnificent contributions to the genre with the likes of Goodfellas, Casino, Gangs of New York, and The Departed (which owes everything to Infernal Affairs). And we can't really talk about gangsters without throwing the James Cagney gem The Public Enemy into the mix. 

There are plenty more out there. Those are just some of my favorites. But until today I didn't think that the first two Godfather films could be touched. I always thought they were "untouchable," if you will. 

And yet... and yet Sergio Leone pulled a rabbit out of his hat for his final film. Leone, the master of creating larger than life characters wearing cowboy hats, created what should be considered as one of the greatest gangster films to ever be made. 

This is one of the most engrossing films I've ever seen. At 229 minutes, this is a film that I wish could have been longer. I know there is a version that is 251 minutes and that a 269 minute version is crying for release from some cinematic dungeon somewhere, but I haven't seen the 251 minute version and it seems out of stock on Amazon unless I want to shell out for an import. The 269 minute version is probably doomed to never see the light of day. 

But man, was this movie good. Ridiculously disturbing at times, but good. 

The most surprising thing about this movie is how James Woods actually seems to outshine Robert De Niro at times. 

James Woods can play a dickhead better than just about anybody. We all know that. As soon as I saw his name on the credit list I knew he'd be a bad guy. I even said to myself, "I bet James Woods is behind everything." 

And I was right. I could see the movie's end coming a mile away. Maybe not the specifics exactly, but I knew James Woods and Robert De Niro would have some sort of confrontation in the end and James Woods would be the antagonist. That's just how the universe works. 

I still fucking loved this movie and want to see it how it was truly meant to be seen. De Niro and Woods hold this movie up into the stratosphere while Leone created a fantastic landscape for them to stand on. 

This could even be De Niro's best gangster role. I know that would be saying a lot, but his character was fascinating. He wasn't the good guy, either. It's tough to describe it, but even though he isn't the good guy he isn't the worst of the bad guys. In some ways he reminded me a bit of Keitel's role in Bad Lieutenant. Noodles is a character that is emotionally doomed by his choices. There's no happy ending for him and he honestly doesn't deserve one. Sure, he "survives" the movie, but that doesn't seem like a victory. He ends up a sad old man with nothing to lose while Woods ends up a sad old man with everything to lose. And in the end they lose each other and nobody wins. 

That may feel like a rip off to some people since this movie does take up quite a bit of time, but it felt like it couldn't have happened any other way. In some respects, I felt that Leone was showing his Japanese influences on this story much more so than any gangster influences he might have had. 

The ruminations over the two main characters as they go through life felt like a chapter out of Kurosawa Akira and their final conflict felt more in tune with Eastern philosophy than with Hollywood shoot 'em ups. Had this been a Coppola movie then James Woods would have been eating bullets from De Niro's hand. Maybe De Niro would have gotten offed, too. 

But both of them walked away from the conflict. Woods ultimately chose the path of seppuku in order to avoid being disgraced... albeit in a more Westernized fashion while De Niro's character just walked into the sunset with a melancholic sense of resignation. Somewhat like a gangster version of About Schmidt

I could talk more about this film, but there's only so much that can be gained and adequately discussed from one viewing of this fantastic movie. 

Trigun Maximum Omnibus Vol. 1 by Nightow Yasuhiro

This is the bridge between from what Trigun fans know to what they don't know. In some ways that makes it even better than the previous omnibus. It's exciting to read about Vash's adventures in new places, but it's amazing how much the anime stood by the manga despite that. While things were changed or abbreviated for the anime I don't think any of the changes were detrimental to the story. 

A good case in point would be when Wolfwood journeys to Vash's "home" on a still-floating satellite. In the manga Wolfwood is given a fairly welcome reception by the inhabitants of the satellite after he deals with Gray the Ninelives in an epic duel, but in the anime Wolfwood was shunned because he was an outsider and his fight with Gray meant nothing to them. 

In both versions the story is pretty good, but very different. Although Gray the Ninelives was cooler in the manga and the fight he had with Wolfwood was so much more badass. 

I mean, how can you not love an invincible robot ran by dwarves? 

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The previous Trigun Omnibus left off with Vash creating a hole in the Fifth Moon and then disappearing for two years. 

This omnibus picks up with Vash after his "disappearance" and we discover that he is now living life under the name of Erics and is doing his best to live peacefully. 

Wolfwood, for reasons that aren't quite clear, has been looking for Vash for the last two years and it would appear that he finally has found him again. 

Both of them know that Erics isn't real and that with Knives still alive Vash cannot truly live a peaceful life yet. So it's time for him to abandon his pseudonym and pick up his gun again.

I always enjoyed that story in the anime so it's nice to finally read its manga counterpart. 

Vash doesn't seem to know about or remember Wolfwood's presence among the Gung-Ho Guns on the night of the Fifth Moon, but then we really don't know too much more than Vash does about this traveling man of the cloth. Why is Wolfwood affiliated with the Gung-Ho Guns at all and why is he trying to help Vash?

Wolfwood is often a stranger and more interesting character than Vash himself. And that's saying something. 

Vash believes in love and peace more than anything else and that they can conquer anything, but when he is confronted with a man that wants to avenge his daughter's murder Vash is presented with having to choose between his ideals and cold reality: Sometimes men just kill each other and that makes others want to kill, too. 

This point gets enforced even more when Wolfwood kills Rai-Dei the Blade after Rai-Dei falls to Vash during battle. Vash tells Rai-Dei not to kill anyone before going on his merry way, but Rai-Dei seems to be ready for a last ditch effort to take down Vash. However, Wolfwood kills him before he can try it. This in turn leads to a confrontation between Vash and Wolfwood that almost seems reminiscent of Legato's final confrontation with Vash in the anime. 

In the anime Legato held Vash's gun against his head and told Vash to kill him while holding Millie and Meryl hostage. In the manga Wolfwood also held Vash's gun to his head but says, "If you really believe I'm wrong, pull the trigger. In return, my role as the devil will be handed to you. That way, you won't hesitate to take out the next man that gets in your way." The similarities for that scenario really don't go much deeper. Of course, the context was different, too. It's just an interesting parallel with the anime and maybe I'm putting too much into it.

Obviously Wolfwood isn't killed by Vash and the two of them continue to be traveling companions.

Rai-Dei's death in the manga was so much cooler than the one in the anime, though. I'll say that much. Even though he was killed by Wolfwood both times.

Vash's brief respite is over and now that he is home again and reunited with Wolfwood and the Bernardelli Insurance girls (who can be said to be the real ones that defeated Gray the Ninelives), the fun times are looking even more promising.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Charlotte (Shārotto)

This has been a rough month for me, work-wise. Downright brutal, at times. It's been tough to really get up to any otaku shenanigans. However, I have managed to complete one kickass anime since my previous entry. 2015's Charlotte, brought to us by the heartbreakers at P.A. Works and Studio Key (who did the original visual novel), is the anime I wasn't expecting to define 2015.

And, no, 2015 isn't over and there a few more anime titles I can devour before the year ends, but it'll be tough to top the sheer spectacle of Charlotte.

Meet Otosaka Yuu, a guy that can possess another person's body for five seconds. The downside of his ability is that while he possesses another body his own becomes dull and lifeless until his five seconds are up. That and five seconds isn't really that long of a time. This might not sound like a special ability that can save the world, but he isn't out to save the world. He makes the most of his abilities while at school where he can cheat on tests and become the number one student in school. He also takes down bullies that give him grief, but he's certainly not out to save other people.

He seems like a poor man's Lelouch Vi Britannia or Light Yagami, at first. He certainly doesn't have a world-conquering initiative or a bit of true brilliance, but he's a dick that only cares about himself.

This is our main character? Great. This looks like a long 12 episodes, right?

Thankfully, his abilities get found out by a small group that want him to join a school of gifted but troubled students like himself. Basically a school not too different from Xavier's in X-Men, but this school is less about students learning to use those powers to fight and more about protecting the people with powers from the wrong people.

In Charlotte the powers disappear a few years after they appear and they only appear in young people so it's basically a suped up version of puberty. Adults don't have any powers even if they used to.

The student council is the group tasked with searching for young people with powers and Yuu is asked to become one of the student council.

Or not really "asked." He's more or less forced to become a member of the school and the student council so he can track down others like himself. This, the group hopes, will keep Yuu in line.

The rest of the series is more or less about his transformation from a selfish dick with no great aspirations to someone that could be a selfless hero that could save the world.

Honestly, this anime didn't seem special to me during the first few episodes. It had potential in a few key sequences, but sometimes it felt just like a normal anime. Watchable, but not compulsively so. Unless you're an otaku like me that watches shit just because of big cutesy eyes and moe.

Yet during those key sequences I knew Charlotte could be something awesome. 

At 13 episodes, I knew that if there was going to be a twist at some point it would be about midway, but if there wasn't some sort of twist or if the twist sucked then I'd more or less be disappointed. 

I don't think I've seen such a twist before, though. It knocked me over my head with a barbed wire-covered sledgehammer.

Although the quick change in the anime almost crippled it, too.

Our main character went from a guy that had a fairly lame superpower to someone that could just about do anything within a really short span of time and with very little in the way of training. It's the kind of super power up that would make Dragonball Z fans foam at the mouth. I know because I did.

At times it did strain logic. Yeah, it's "anime" and "real world logic" rarely fits into the world of anime, but this was a really well-built anime for the most part and what cracks in the story there were almost broke it and made it "normal."

Charlotte ultimately worked because it had an incredibly satisfying ending. And the time travel angle and the whole "this character is the strongest being ever" thing didn't actually destroy the established story. Excellent writing as far as that was concerned.

Otosaka Yuu's character growth is the meat and potatoes of this story and his evolution is handled remarkably well. Had his character been underdeveloped in any way I don't think the ending would have been as fulfilling as it was and I'd be tossing this into the pile of anime that impressed but failed to meet their potential.

I don't recall this anime being the best as far as the music is concerned. The animation had its moments of stunning beauty, but I'm not sure it managed to really distance itself that much from many of its modern day counterparts, either.

The story was fucking fantastic, though. For that alone I'd say it's a pretty damn good anime.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Ultimate Otaku Teacher (Denpa Kyōshi)

I feel so incredibly lazy today. I don't feel like blogging or doing anything except lying in bed and listening to my Neil Young "Smell the Horse" soundtrack. But I must blog. I must. I've spent too much money to go out and buy shit so I've no choice but to stay home and do things like blog and sleep and stuff. 

So, running on a diet of eggs, Pepsi, and Crazy Horse, it's time for me to commence the first entry of October. 

Kagami Junichirou is a YD, a guy that does only what he "yearns to do." He spends his days blogging, watching anime, reading manga, and buying anime-related goods. So naturally I felt a kinship with him.  He even wore glasses and had red hair. We could be twins. 

However, Junichirou is a genius that doesn't have a job until his sister forces him to get one. He gets a job as a teacher (I guess they just give those out at the unemployment office), but Junichirou refuses to leave his otaku ways behind. So he does his best at every turn to instill his "YD" lifestyle into each and every student. 

The anime takes your basic "problem of the week" approach to the storytelling. A student will be in some sort of trouble and our resident YD solves the problem in his unique way. He's basically like an otaku version of House. Only instead of being addicted to vicodin he's addicted to figurines. 

As with a lot of "problem of the week" material, while some episodes are strong, it often feels like there isn't an underlying plot somewhere. There's not really any suspense. There's no "Man, I can't wait for next week's episode" feeling. It isn't even until the eighth episode that this anime even presents us with a truly fascinating multi-episode story. 

Araki Koutaro's arc not only contains shades of just about every video game-related anime out there, but it also touches rather seriously on a topic that is taboo. That topic being boys and men that crossdress. Yeah, I don't remember this stuff happening in anime when I was a kid, either. 

In the anime world, there are what are known as "trap" or "otokonoko" characters because there are males that are deliberately drawn as looking closer to females and this happens often enough for some reason. Especially lately. In most anime trap characters are just accepted like normal. And since it's anime and anime has no rules no one bats an eye. 
But in Ultimate Otaku Teacher the "trap" character is more or less given a life in a more realistic scenario. 

What if a long-time truant, after getting to know his classmates through a video game, decides to show up to school one day while dressed in girl's clothing? Would those that befriended him virtually still accept him in real life? 

I didn't see that scenario coming from this silly and relatively harmless anime. The ending of the arc is highly optimistic as far as the plight of the "otokonoko" is concerned, though. It was done so the arc could end cleanly and so that the anime could move on, but I felt that the discrimination factor was underplayed and that his acceptance was a bit too universal too quickly.

This arc was the best part of Ultimate Otaku Teacher because it was so unlike just about anything I'd seen before in anime. It was pretty ballsy stuff. I'm kind of shocked that it got an English dub, but times are a-changin', I suppose. 

Yet once the arc was over Araki Koutaro was basically forgotten about just like the other previous students that had problems solved by Junichirou. It was on to the next problem. This sort of approach, while it can work for a period of time, can't sustain a series for very long. Unless you're Case Closed (which is close 800 episodes now), that is. 

But Ultimate Otaku Teacher isn't as good as Case Closed and there's no way I could have watched this anime if it had been more than 24 episodes. It just wasn't as compelling as it could have been. The nod to Super Sentai (the originators of the Power Rangers) and Doraemon toward the end was neat, but the concluding episode was ultimately a bit lackluster. 

So Ultimate Otaku Teacher gets an average rating from me. Probably won't watch it again, but might if there isn't shit else on.