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.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Paths of Glory

To date I have only seen five Kirk Douglas films with the fifth one being Stanley Kubrick's 1957 masterpiece Paths of Glory. Kirk Douglas is an actor that I haven't really found time or opportunity to appreciate as much as I would really like. However, I would dare say that Paths of Glory could be his very best performance. Bold statement from me, but this is a bold movie without any frills. Stanley Kubrick undoubtedly worked his best magic with a huge canvas and with lavish colors, but thanks to a fantastic cast and Kubrick's own ingenious style of shooting Paths of Glory managed to become a formidable movie titan. 

I can easily say that is is one of the best war movies I've seen. I've seen a ton of them and most of them are insanely long, Paths of Glory somehow manages to leave a lasting impact in only 88 minutes. It's also in black and white. That shouldn't be odd, but it is for me. To really watch the beauty of a Kubrick film one needs to see his films made using color. It's just... Well, once you see them you know what I'm talking about. They are freaking amazing to look at. 

However, this movie is just as excellent without the use of color. (So is Dr. Strangelove, for that matter.)

Kirk Douglas, to me, symbolizes the man's man type of aura that guys like John Wayne and Robert Mitchum had about them. He doesn't seem like the type of actor that would really latch onto Kubrick's style. So it's surprising that he made one more movie with Kubrick. Good thing he did, though. 

Kubrick doesn't usually make movies that feature a man's man type of character without making them look foolish. At least, not from the ones I've seen. His outings with Kirk Douglas were a bit different, though. Douglas was the man's man each time. 

Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory is completely sympathetic and he is without a doubt the good guy in this chaos. Seeing him in this movie made me think about what would have happened if Kubrick had worked with a good guy type like John Wayne. Think about that for a minute. It almost seems like maybe it could have happened in another world. However, Douglas's character is held hostage by a corrupt system. Despite his uncompromising sense of values and leadership it appears that his soldiers will be put to death no matter what he does or says. I'm not sure the Duke could have taken on a movie such as this. If he had it's slipped by me. 

The attack on the Anthill was doomed from the start and it all was pushed because some snobby general was bucking for another star. Kirk Douglas's character is that of a helpless colonel that must lead men into a hopeless battle and then stand up to defend them when they are accused of cowardice in the aftermath. 

George Macready and Adolphe Menjou were excellent in their roles as the "true" villains of this film. Especially, Macready, the brilliant onscreen dick he was in this movie will make you want to shoot him. 

I'd say more but this is such a short film that I'm not sure I really can. The war scenes that featured the trenches were remarkable. Just looking at it was effective enough to make me claustrophobic. Just incredibly constructed. The transition from war to courtroom is handled extremely well, too. 

The short scenes in the general's quarters and during the court-martial... Those buildings must've looked fantastic in color, but as they are presented it still looks marvelous. 

This movie is fantastic. If I had to say I'd give it a 9/10 rating. I've got to see it a few more times before I feel comfortable ranking them anything else. 

Logan's Run

I cannot for the life of me fathom how this movie maintains a rating of 6.8 on IMDB and a freshness rating of 68% on Rotten Tomatoes. I just can't do it. I can't even fathom how I managed to sit through the entire movie and say, "I enjoyed that a bit more than I should have." 

I liked this film? How the hell did that happen?

Logan's Run is a 1970's cheesefest. The music is terrible, the acting is terrible, and of all the nude scenes to be found in this film not a single one of them belong to Farrah Fawcett. This film shouldn't be remembered after all this time. It's a travesty, a cheesy and goofy travesty. Farrah Fawcett is in the movie for all of two minutes before being killed, but before she is killed she puts in a completely forgettable performance. Obviously, her role in the film was a name recognition thing at the time because she brought nothing to the movie. Not even boobies. Such a waste. 

Yet, for whatever reason, this film actually has a following. It even won awards upon its release in 1976. Remember that the very next year Star Wars was released and if you compare the two Logan's Run seems more like a 1950's film in terms of its silly effects. Although, I think Forbidden Planet has this one beat. I don't think Michael York's store bought firework gun hit a single thing the entire movie. The Box character played by Roscoe Lee Browne is in a class by itself, too. The first time I saw him I laughed like an absolute madman. I just... How in the hell did this film win an Academy Award for visual effects? 

Of course, I admit that I've been spoiled by all of the awesome special effects movies as of late. It is tough to go from watching films like Guardians of the Galaxy to watching Logan's Run without feeling some culture shock. The blu-ray effect actually hinders Logan's Run somewhat because with everything being so crystal clear it makes things look even more silly. Those strings holding up people at Carousel are even more visible. 

However, I have a fondness for terrible movies and at least this one is an honest one. In some ways it is a lot like Lucy in that it is at least sincere in its blatant terribleness and it really goes for the throat. In fact, both films should share a similar audience. Logan's Run is a product of its time and budget and somehow manages to convey a story albeit one with some unintentional laughs. So it is a good time to be had by all. 

I could definitely get behind a remake for this film, but as it is I can understand why no one wants to try to touch this one. 

It's a classic... although maybe not the classic it wants to be. Stick with Star Wars or Planet of the Apes if you want sci-fi from that time at its best. Alien works, too. But if you want to see some sci-fi silliness then Logan's Run is for you. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Colorful: The Motion Picture

Dealing with dying and death is something we all must do, but sometimes our own deaths seem easier to deal with than the deaths of others. I suppose that is one of the ironies of the concept of suicide. People who commit suicide are often considered selfish, but I personally find that concept laughable because people who choose to live are equally selfish. Dealing with death versus dealing with living is a tired debate for those dealing with depression and the ones who talk about it most are often the ones that understand depression the least. The dividing line, if there is one, comes down to the mindset of the one responsible for their own suicide.

That's something we can never really know, either. 

When Robin Williams passed away I really didn't comment on it because I didn't know how to do so. I don't judge people that choose to commit suicide as long as their methods of suicide do not involve inflicting violence on other people. I also think that people that commit suicide in such a fashion shouldn't further be punished by the concept of Hell. I don't think it is dishonorable behavior when a person suffering that much chooses the time of his "bleedin' demise."

It is sad, but it was his decision and I didn't speak a single bad word about Robin Williams like so many others did. People who did should be ashamed of themselves.

Living in Alabama all my life I can tell you that these views aren't very popular. 

In Colorful we are introduced to a 14 year old child who killed himself. His name was Kobayashi Makoto and he died from an overdose, but what caused him to take his own life?

In the afterlife there is a train station where souls of the recently departed get their ticket punched and pass through to be born again in some fashion. And no, this isn't the Christian reborn thing happening here. One particular soul is halted before it can pass through the gate and it is instead given a second chance at life. The soul must inhabit the body of Makoto just after he passes away and discover what led to Makoto's demise while simultaneously trying to discover the sins of its own former life. If this soul succeeds it will get a second chance at life, but will Makoto stay dead?

This is certainly a heavy movie, but the message in it is a bit of silver lining. The message is actually the title itself, but you have to watch the movie in order to understand the context. It's certainly not a fast-paced action movie. There are anime series that feature characters returning from the dead like Yu-Yu Hakusho that would better fit that bill, but Colorful is a quiet character study about a boy that didn't know how to live and a soul that didn't know how to live again.

It's plot is definitely fantastical, but it is portrayed with an outright realism and the background settings are top notch. I love rotoscope when it is used right.

This movie's subject matter isn't comfortable. Suicide makes people uncomfortable and understandably so, but this film isn't supposed to be a feel good journey. Bullying and prostitution are also topics that will come about in this film so make sure the young ones are put to bed when you watch this one. Unless you want to get asked, "Mommy, why is she going with that strange man to a hotel room?"

This film is about accepting humanity in all of its colors and it actually makes such a thing seem possible.

I can think of no higher reason for recommendation than that. It's a beautiful film with a beautiful message. I don't know if Robin Williams had seen it, but I wish he had if he hadn't. He probably still wouldn't be alive today, but who knows... Maybe he would be. It might not have made him happy and content with his life (no film or piece of media can do that... that is something that must come from within), but there's something to be said about a message that can help open the door to self-acceptance as well as the acceptance of others. Colorful has that message.

It is just a movie, but it has made me think a lot about my own circumstances in life. It's still worth living and my dreams are still worth having. I've been down some very dark roads of the mind before, but sunlight is always good to see and it is always there when I need it. I just have to look.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Bedevilled (Kim Bok-nam Salinsageonui Jeonmal)

So you think you've seen it all, huh? You think you've seen every single horror and revenge flick out there? Well, you haven't if you have given the Korean movie Bedevilled an unknowing pass. It is a truly disturbing film that lulls you into a false sense of security thanks to its wonderful island setting and mischievous changes of POV throughout the film. 

It is a very dark masterpiece. 

I don't want to say that this film is the greatest ever because it does seem a bit slow at the start, albeit purposefully. Relationships and characters are actually introduced and explored. It's not just some guy killing a bunch of babysitters having promiscuous sex. 

I mean, let's face it, all of the female characters from Halloween outside of Laurie Strode are easily replaceable with their contemporaries because their characters have no meaning. They are just slash-fodder. No one ever said or will ever say, "Annie is my favorite character ever." When she is killed no one cares or if they say they do they only say that because her death "scared" them or because it meant something to Laurie. 

I don't know if horror filmmaking in particular has come a long away from a character standpoint since then, but it seems some writers and directors have discovered a knack for making characters have meaning and for their deaths to be an act of true tragedy and not just some inventive death showcase. Although, who doesn't love a good kill? Sure, good kills are part of the genre, too. They have their place in the horror world. It's just that there is a time and a place and a mood. 

Bedevilled manages to balance the drama and the bloodfest almost perfectly although fans of cheesefest horror movies will probably be left in the dust. There's no "ooga booga" here. I didn't jump even once. 

Our two primary characters really will come alive and rip your heart out by the end of the film, though.

Hae-won seems kinda like a bitch, but it's apparent that she has her reasons. When she is given leave from her work after some behavioral issues and decides to travel back to the island paradise where she spent a part of her childhood, it obviously seems like this is where she rediscovers her path to unbitchiness. 

This movie is about redemption... or so I thought. 

At first glance the island seems fairly harmless and rather rustic. There are only a few people living on the island, but the one she came to see is her childhood friend Kim Bok-nam. For reasons we don't know until deeper into the film Hae-won hasn't been answering Kim Bok-nam's letters, but it's apparent that Kim Bok-nam still holds affection toward her distant friend. 

The two seem to easily reconnect. 

However, Kim Bok-nam isn't living the life of luxury on this island paradise. She's practically being treated as a slave by her husband and family and as the film progresses you will feel the rage and hate start to flow. You will want to jump into this film and literally kill almost every single character and I mean that in some not gimmicky turn of phrase. Serious as a heart attack this film will piss you the fuck off. 

Separate from the goings-on of this lovely family is Hae-won as she spends her time blissfully relaxing. The turmoil Kim Bok-nam is experiencing is something that Hae-won can't even comprehend and knowing or not knowing what she does she cannot do anything to help her friend until it is far too late. 

After a terrible tragedy Kim Bok-nam finally snaps in an epic way that will have you cheering and probably crying, too. I say "finally" because the entire film is a build-up to the whole "snapping" thing. It takes a ton of building up because this is a woman that has been beaten down to a pulp and it takes an act of pure horror to bring herself to create her own brand of pure horror. 

Hae-won can only watch as her childhood friend descends into a pure and understandable madness, a madness Hae-won could have prevented. 

This is definitely a blood and guts horror movie, but it is one of those special horror movies that rely on emotion and not cheap scare tactics. This is a drama and the first hour can try your patience, but just wait and watch. This is a film where you really don't want anything to happen because once things do start happening you'll really wish they hadn't. 

I guarantee you'll remember this one and you probably won't look at bean paste the same way again. 

Don't just watch for the horror, though. Watch for the story. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kindle Paperwhite

I bought a Kindle Paperwhite the other day. Actually I ordered it a few days before and only got it the other day. Same difference. Now I'm not the richest guy in the world. It should be absurd with all of the technological gizmos that I've gotten myself. I already had a Kindle Fire HD that I had purchased in 2013 so why I should I need yet another e-reader? Could I even afford one? 

Well, I made the decision after I got tired of how heavy my Kindle Fire HD was. I mean, it's really just a small flat-screen SMART TV/Gameboy hybird with some books on it. It's heavy. It is also a pain in the ass to read outside and adjusting the brightness doesn't help much. Also reading at night is a pain because if I don't lock the screen in place I can't read while laying on my side because the screen will rotate to accommodate my position. I would just read it while laying on my back, but it's heavy and after a while I'd have to set it on my chest. This shouldn't sound like a big deal, but I am a guitarist and a blogger and the condition of my hands is kind of important to me. I'm a bit more cautious of things like muscle tightness in my fingers or wrists than maybe other people are. 

So all of these are reasons that I decided to purchase a Kindle Paperwhite. 

Of course, that's not to say I don't love my Kindle Fire. It's still running fine after two years. It could be better and maybe the newer ones are, but with that beautiful screen and 32 GB worth of memory I don't think there can be many better devices out there. I know the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 can get up 64 GB worth of memory, but that one would be even heavier and with a pointlessly larger screen and I just don't see the need for it. 

Now buying one of these devices is always a pain in the ass because the next week there's always a new and improved version. I think the next version will have free commentary on all novels in your collection by Steve Martin while he plays a banjo so you might want to wait for that version. 

However, I chose this time to buy a Paperwhite because it suited my needs at this time. Granted it's not perfect, but as much as I like Steve Martin playing the banjo I am happy with my version. 

My Kindle Fire has a very glossy and smooth screen. This works in Catch-22 fashion because it makes movies look awesome, but it also makes a fingerprint smear look like a Brundlefly and you just can't avoid looking at it.  

The screen on the Paperwhite on the other hand has a somewhat sandy feel to it. It's tough to describe, but it is not smooth like the Fire. It actually feels more like a page in a paperback than a screen. The pages also look like they are out of a book. At this point you are probably saying, "Duh, they are," but I mean that the pages look like pages from a book and not pages on a screen. It has a legit papery look to it and while the Paperwhite isn't as bright as my Fire it also isn't as glaring. I've yet to see a fingerprint. 

The Paperwhite that I ordered has 3G as well as Wi-Fi and it's supposed to be heavier than the regular Paperwhites without 3G, but if it is I find that impossible to fathom. The Paperwhite is light as a feather. Granted you can't look at porn on it or the newest Kanye West video, but you can actually read on it. The issues of manga that I've read on it also look fantastic. Again, like actual paper. 

The only downside to it is that there's virtually nothing else to the device other than a power button and a charging port. It came with a charging USB cord, but not an actual adapter. I thought that was kind of stupid, but I do have a million adapter and USB cord lying around so it is not a big deal. 

In some ways the Paperwhite reminds of my B.C. Rich Avenge Son of Beast guitar with its simplicity. I say that because the Son of Beast only has one set of pick-ups and one volume knob and that is it for the effects. If you don't like treble or the inability to do whammy dives then you are in deep doo-doo. 

You can't expand the memory and while the ability to hold a lot of books sounds promising it is also a bit misleading and that is why having more than one Kindle device is ideal. I don't have as many books as a lot of people, but I do have a lot. The ability to hold eleven hundred books just isn't enough for me. That why I opted for the 32 GB when I had the chance. I want to hold a library in my hands if I so feel the need to do so. 

I have 127 books in my Cloud as you can see from my screenshot and that isn't close to 1,100, but I am 1/11th away from that golden number. Manga like Dragonball and Bleach will be 100+ volumes alone. 

So that is a downside. That's why I have my Kindle Fire, though. I'm certainly not getting rid of it. 

I'm going to try to read more. You know, novels and stuff on my Paperwhite. My Kindle Fire will still be getting heavy usage, though. Those jewel games where you gotta line up three or more are insanely addictive. Also Sudoku. And that Tetris knockoff. Oh, and Crunchyroll's anime streaming service. Maybe that's why I haven't been reading enough. 

All in all, this device is pretty awesome. Now if the Fire had the e-ink and was lightweight and kept the 32 GB worth of memory? That'd be pretty fucking cool. Someone at Amazon needs to get to work on that.

EDIT: I noticed that after attempting to upload my entire Kindle collection to both my Fire (something I had never done before) and my Paperwhite that manga and comic books are just way too big to keep in bulk on a Kindle. Any Kindle except for maybe the big one with 64 gb. My Fire couldn't even hold my entire collection and my manga collection isn't that big compared to my book collection. Of course, I wanted to see how much my Fire would hold compared to my Paperwhite so that's why I uploaded everything and the Fire holds more, but both of them tapped out with just about the same amount of books and manga as the other.  Of course, I had apps on my Fire that probably took up even more memory. Not many but enough to get a warning that I didn't have enough space on my Fire. I didn't get a warning from the Paperwhite as I approached its memory threshold but I was keeping up with it and stopped when I got too close.

So... lesson learned. Manga takes up a ton of memory. I know it says that on every e-manga issue I buy, but I was just curious.

This also makes the option of having 3G excellent since the storage on the Paperwhite isn't great. I can remove a book and then download it again or another book on the go. With my Fire I'd have to wait to get home or wait for another free Wi-Fi signal to do any downloading.

Parasyte ~ The Maxim (Kiseijū Sei no Kakuritsu)

I love monster movies, but I think my all-time favorite monster movies are probably 1986's The Fly and John Carpenter's The Thing. Aside from the stories and characters being fascinating the creatures are also delightfully creepy. Whether it's Brundlefly or the spider-head thingy, there's just something insanely iconic about those visuals. Despite a surplus of monster anime out there in animeland, Parasyte ~ The Maxim is the only one I can think of that really gives me the feeling that those two movies gave me in terms of both story and visuals. So I think it is a safe bet to say that if you like and appreciate monster movies and maybe those two in particular then you might find something to like in this anime. 

Now just imagine this for me. Your right hand is no longer yours. You still have it on your body and you still have use of it, but inside of your hand is a creature that can grow tentacles, eyes, and blades that can slice you like a pizza. The creature is a parasite of unknown origins and after failing to infiltrate your brain and take over your body it has reluctantly settled inside of your hand. Had it taken over your body it would started to devour the flesh of humans, but right now it is content for what it can get from your bloodstream. 

Since it failed you are now stuck with a roommate and a bodymate that you can not get rid of. At random times during the day a mouth and a set of eyes will appear. It's watching you and it is talking to you. You want to warn the world about those parasites, but if you do your own parasite will kill you. You know that because it told you so. 

As a "failed takeover," you are being pursued by parasites and you cannot go to humans for help because there is almost nothing they can do for you except get killed because you brought them into trouble. 

That is the life of Izumi Shinichi now that his parasite "Migi" has come into his life. His school life is completely thrown for a loop and his hopes at succeeding with the girl he likes are dashed. He really does have a relationship with his hand now. 

This anime came out in October 2014 so it is pretty new, but the source material was written back in 1988. I am technically still watching it because there are a few more weeks left on the simulcast, but I'm fairly certain my opinion of the anime won't change. It's awesome. Pure and simple. 

I love body horror. I love the idea that something inside of you is undergoing a change and you wake up one day with a creature from your own hand staring into your eyes with one giant creepy eye of its own. Maybe it even has a blade to your throat. Talk about sleeping with the enemy, huh?

I get creeped out just imagining that and Parasyte succeeds at creeping me out in a way that I haven't been in some time. The pacing is also superb with each episode ending on a cliffhanger although not every episode is a complete action-fest. It's almost impossible to watch just one episode without watching the next one. 

Throughout the anime Shinichi undergoes a gradual process similar to the Brundlefly although not so much from a visual standpoint. As more time passes Shinichi seems to become mentally more like a parasite and his parasite seems to take on human traits. What started as two beings sharing one body gradually becomes something like a fusion. At this point I really don't know how the story will go. I'm riveted. I don't know if there's another Brundlefly on the horizon or not. I hope not, but I just have to wait and see. 

The story is moving and a fairly honest. Sure, it has obligatory "anime moments," but it's fairly realistic considering the subject matter. This is definitely a bleak anime about losing your own humanity and not a feel good watch. I'm sure there's a sociopolitical message somewhere (the idea that strange creatures can begin forming political parties to imitate humans recalls both Animal Farm and Invasion of the Body Snatchers), but whatever the message is isn't getting in the way of the story. It wouldn't surprise me if certain elected officials did have tentacles, though. 

You could do a lot worse than to watch this. 

Dragon Ball Vol. 4: Strongest Under the Heavens by Toriyama Akira

This is the volume that takes us all the way from fight no. 2 of the Tenka'ichi Budokai primaries until the championship bout. And yes, the final match involves Goku. It'd be silly if it didn't. 

After having easily disposed of Yamcha, the mysterious Jackie Chun (remember that this manga is from 1986 and Jackie Chan was huge back then) waits until his next match. Of course, he isn't really all that mysterious. Yamcha guesses right away that Jackie Chun is actually Muten Roshi, the Turtle Hermit that taught Kururin and Son Goku, but Jackie Chun isn't so dumb as to be outsmarted by some lowly desert bandit. 

Jackie Chun is wearing a rather snazzy wig. The wig is superglued to his head and pulling it off is almost impossible as Yamcha and Jackie soon learn. It's mere presence manages to fool both Kururin and Son Goku completely without them having to resort to trying to pull it off. Not that I expected much from Goku in the intelligence department, but I thought Kururin wasn't quite that dense. 

And no, this volume isn't about Jackie Chun's wig, handsome though it may be. It probably would be worthy of its own manga volume, too. 

Yamcha isn't the only one to lose to the dangerous and deadly Mr. Chun. Kururin also has the unfortunate luck to face Mr. Chun and fall. Unlike the tough Bacterian and Kururin managed to clobber, Jackie Chun doesn't stink. 

Hehe, I just made a pun. 

Son Goku's path to the championship bout isn't much easier. Not only must he first deal with an ill-tempered dinosaur, but he also must take on a guy named Namu that is fighting on behalf of his entire starving village in the semi final. 

Then with all of the other fights out of the way it is time for the final match to begin: Jackie Chun Vs. Son Goku!

This is a pretty big moment since I consider it to be Goku's first real epic fight. Of course, it would later be overshadowed by a bunch of other fights, but as of this volume there's a true sense of epicness about it. To see two fighters unleash kamehameha waves at each other for the first time ever in the manga is just too cool. One of the things that I guess only nerds will appreciate. 

The volume ends after Goku and Jackie Chun manage to exchange a few blows and a kamehameha wave. It's clear to Jackie that Goku won't be so easy to take down and that he really will have to have a strategy in order to win. However, the reappearance of Goku's tail during the quarter finals might make for an even more interesting fight. Or will it? Maybe. Stand by for the next issue of.... Ah, you know what I'm going to say by now. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Fullmetal Alchemist (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi)

This what I like to call a "notch on the post" type of anime. It's one of those every anime fan should see simply because of its reputation. I've heard a lot of people talk bad about a lot of anime out there, but not so much with Fullmetal Alchemist. Sure, there are people that will and do, but they normally don't do so at every single occasion like a lot of other anime fans do. Just go to an anime forum and mention Bleach or Naruto and you'll see some fireworks. Fullmetal Alchemist doesn't normally get such a hostile reaction.

Fullmetal Alchemist is not the greatest anime around, but it is certainly in the conversation. Having finally managed to watch all 51 episodes this week I can say that with ease. There are some things worth pointing out, though.

As much as I've appreciated some of the character appearances and thought the idea of Fullmetal Alchemist sounded good, I have never actively sat down and just watched it. I've had plenty of occasions to correct that mistake, but I just kept putting it off for some reason. Much like The Walking Dead it sounded like a great concept, but it just escaped me for a while. I mean, you've read my blog. I've watched a shit-ton of anime so it's not for lack of trying. It just happens that sometimes obvious anime like Fullmetal Alchemist escape me every now and then.

Until now, that is. 

It's one of the greatest even though it deviates (rather purposefully and with the creator's blessing) from its manga origins. I haven't read the manga. I will, but right now I don't know much about the manga and at just what point this anime deviates from the manga. I won't comment exactly what the differences are until I make my way through the manga. I just know that, from what little I've allowed myself to read on the subject, this anime and the manga aren't exactly twins after a certain point. Almost from the start I think there are deviations, but if I really wanted to hazard a concrete guess I'd say this anime becomes completely original material at the halfway mark. 

Also, to help avoid any confusion, this series was remade completely and given the title of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. That title is said to follow the manga a lot closer. They are not the same series or related to each other in sequel/prequel fashion. While I am at it, I should state that the movie Conqueror of Shamballa is a movie sequel to the first anime series while the movie The Sacred Star of Milos is part of the remake series. Haven't seen either of those movies or the remake series, but I figure a quick disclaimer explaining the differences between the two series will keep people from saying, "Hey, man, that show wasn't anything like you described. Your mother was a hamster and your father smells of elderberries!"

The anime is an experience and it requires a bit of attention while watching. A lot of anime you can watch while zoning out, but this isn't really one of them. The story is in the dialog and there are a lot of characters changing places. If you aren't paying attention you'll think, "Wait a minute, I thought that guy was at Central, but now he is in the East? Wait a minute, now he is in Central again? What the hell is going on?"

There's action and fights, but not a ton of them. There's also some comedy and during the early episodes it works pretty well, but toward the end it feels a bit out of place as the storyline gets more and more serious. When it is working at its best Fullmetal Alchemist is a drama about the human condition. At its worst it is a bit too repetitive on the more sentimental aspects of the show. It also gets a bit too deep for almost no reason at times. The story is purposefully cryptic and tough to really digest on the first time around so I'm sure there are things I missed or didn't catch, but I almost felt the atmosphere was a little too cryptic. I'll get to that later, though.

Every episode talks about the Philosopher's Stone and what it takes to create it. Is it the Law of Equivalent Exchange or is it something else? How do you make it? These are the questions that push the series and the Elric brothers through their journey.

What sent them on the journey to start with? Well, it all started with the death of their mother. Edward and Alphonse were so stricken with grief that they tried to bring their mother back using alchemy. Unfortunately it backfired so badly that both Edward and Alphonse were scarred for life and their mother still remained dead.

Ed lost his right arm and left leg and Al lost his entire body. Al is now trapped in a feelingless suit of armor while Ed's limbs have been replaced with automail. Desperate to get their bodies back to normal, the two young alchemists search out how to make the Philosopher's Stone. However, to do so Ed must become a "dog of the military" if he wants to get closer to the truth and gain access to classified materials.

As a State Alchemist working for the military, Edward Elric is dubbed the "Fullmetal Alchemist" and journeys in search of the Philosopher's Stone with his brother (who really is the fullmetal one because of his body) during his free time.

However, there are plenty of others looking for the Philosopher's Stone and not all of them are nice or human.

There's a guy with a scar on his face going around killing State Alchemists, there's seven bad guys running around that can't seem to die, and even a guy willing to sacrifice his own daughter in order to make the perfect chimera.

There are good guys, but it is tough to understand who they are because as the anime continues everyone seems to switch sides a dozen times. Another reason why the dialog is really important.

The first half of the series is heavy on the flashbacks. This series actually starts in medias res and then goes back to the start on episode 3 and this flashback occurs continuously until episode 9. By the time episode 10 comes around you'll finally be moving forward with the story and pretty much familiar with everything I just described above.

The second half of the series is where things get really crazy and the final few episodes create one of the odder and more abstract endings I've seen since Neon Genesis Evangelion. Sometimes things get too crazy with all of the characters switching sides or giving help to characters you wouldn't think they'd help, but I suppose it is a credit to this anime and its writers that it's impossible to know what is going to happen next.

I did not see that ending coming at all. I know the lady who wrote the manga helped out on the anime, but I believe that the ending (as well as just about everything else) of this anime is purposefully unrecognizable when compared to the manga and that of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. So I've got some great characters to revisit soon. I can't wait.

Anyway, let's dish out some goods.

The one guy everyone seems to hate is Shou Tucker and it is with pretty good reason that you should hate him. You'll hate him even more once you realize that he's a character that will stick around throughout most of the anime series. He's not even the main bad guy or anything like that, but he probably does one of the most despicable acts of all the villains in this series. He does something even worse than Pride strangling his child. Although that was pretty damn bad, too. Fuck you, Shou Tucker and Pride. Ya'll both suck.

Scar is a fascinating character and I think he has the most depth of any of the characters, next to maybe Lust. Of course, the primary attraction are the characters of Edward and Alphonse and they are more than enough to carry this anime forward, but there are plenty other characters around them that feel like more than drawings on a page.

Maes Hughes is one of those special characters, though. If you want a strictly anime comparison then I'd say he's a more family-friendly version of Jiraiya from Naruto. Hughes has something in common with that character I just mentioned, too. His character is that of a father figure and that's something Ed and Al always lacked because their father ran away on them when they were young. Since the two of them have arrived in the military Hughes seemed like their pillar of strength. He's also pretty funny. As much as they hated Mustang they loved Hughes. Specifically, Edward. So it is thanks to Hughes and those bastard Homunculi creatures that we have what is probably the saddest moment in the anime. Those tissues, folks. Bring them.

Greed was a really cool character that got killed off way too soon. He was only around a few episodes.

Roy Mustang was a cool character, but it seemed like he was nonexistent throughout the anime when he wasn't being the center of attention. He was literally either there and kicking ass or not there at all and almost an afterthought. With his past in Ishbal it seemed like he could easily have become one of the central characters, but he never really felt like one of those to me. He is definitely an important character and he gets to do some really cool things, but I felt that he could have done so much more earlier on if he had been given more information.

Of course, that's one thing that got on my nerves as the series progressed. No one in this series communicated with each other. At all. This series take place in alternate universe in some 1900's European landscape where most people take a train to go somewhere. So that could be a contributing reason why no one talks to each other, but it feels to me that the writers forced that issue a bit too much at times. Even Armstrong, who seemed like he was attached to the back pocket of the Elric brothers at one point, seemed to stop communicating with everyone including Mustang for a time.

Armstrong is another awesome character, by the way.

With no one talking to each other it seemed almost too easy for the bad guys to get so deep inside of the military. It's like one of the writers said, "If everyone is all close and stuff like Hughes then this story will end in no time. So let's just shut everyone up for a while and send them on wild goose chases." That's what I meant earlier when I said things were a bit too cryptic at times.

This could still be an issue in the manga and the remake anime, but in this anime it feels like it was just pushed a bit too much to me by the writers. Edward doesn't even find out about the death of Hughes (episode 25) until episode 44. Hughes ironically died for not telling Mustang about his findings. Guess no one learned anything from that.

That isn't really a knock on this series, though. I was moved enough by it to be little more critical then maybe I should be. The folks responsible for this anime toyed with my emotions and my expectations. I just wished that everyone could have just talked this stuff out without a bunch of people getting killed.

I would highly recommend this anime to anyone. It really is one of the classics. Although I do have a few reservations about how the second half was handled you won't find many much better.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Yu-Gi-Oh!: Duelist, Vol. 1: Duelist Kingdom by Takahashi Kazuki

Maximillion J. Pegasus is a name fairly familiar with Westerners because of the anime. In Japan the character was named Pegasus J. Crawford (or the pronounced equivalent), but the English version of the manga decided to go with the English version of the name for reasons I could only guess. It's odd considering how the English adaptation of the manga reverts most of the other character names to the original Japanese names. It could very well be that Maximillion J. Pegasus is one of those rare cases where the Western version of the name is just plain better. 

It doesn't really matter either way because the character is still the same. The same can be said of whether this volume is really volume eight of the previous entries or volume one of a sequel series. It's the same. 

Pegasus is the creator of the card game Duel Monsters and one day he sends an 8mm tape to Yugi's grandpa's place. The video is essentially a challenge and an invitation to Yugi. Odd as it may sound, Pegasus challenges Yugi to a duel via recording. If Yugi loses the duel then he must journey to Duelist Kingdom and take place in the competition that will be held there. 

Of course, Yami Yugi is quick to step up to the plate once he realizes that the recording of Pegasus is actually just as dangerous as the real thing. Pegasus has the Millenium Eye and he can see the moves his opponents make before they can. Even if it is just a recording, Yugi knows he has a shot at losing the duel. 

When Yugi inevitably loses the duel the soul of his grandfather is taken and trapped within the 8mm tape. If Yugi wants to free him then he must win at Duelist Kingdom at all costs.

Yugi and his friends (including Bakura) make the journey to the island of Duelist Kingdom, but his powerful deck won't make the journey intact. Thanks to some underhanded tactics by Insector Haga the strongest cards in Yugi's deck get tossed into the sea. Exodia the Forbidden One, the card that beat Kaiba, is gone. 

Yugi must survive without Exodia and and he vows that his first taste of victory on the island will come at Insector Haga's expense. 

This is the issue that more or less serves as the beginning of the popular Yu-Gi-Oh! card game we know today. Sure, it's been introduced before in the series, but it was never the primary focus. This time the cards are definitely a huge role. 

The volume also provides us with a necessary bit on continuity. Outside of some of the storylines involving Shadi, Kaiba, and Bakura there just hasn't been a lot of continuity. By that I mean a sense of urgency needed to turn the page and immediately reach for the next volume once finished. 

Yu-Gi-Oh!: Duelist gives that tension. It also gives that bit of nostalgia that was lacking in the first volumes. The fact that the focus is now on the cards is both good and bad because I will miss the focus on different games, but this is the bread and butter of the series. Not going to lie about that. 

Classic stuff. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Yu-Gi-Oh!, Vol. 7: Monster World by Takahashi Kazuki

Enter Bakura Ryo. On the surface he is a very nice kid. He just wants to play games with some friends, but it would seem that is not so easy for him. Bakura has a Millenium item called the Millenium Ring and the spirit that accompanies the item isn't a very nice one. Dark Bakura is the kind of spirit that will imprison your soul in a miniature doll if he beats you in a game. With many people falling into a coma after playing him it's no wonder why Bakura doesn't want anyone else to play with him anymore. However, he just happens to befriend Yugi and the gang and they decide to surprise him with their arrival. Yugi and his friends want to play a game and they won't take no for an answer. 

Too bad for them that they end up playing with Dark Bakura instead and they begin playing a Shadow Game without even knowing.

One by one their souls end up getting trapped in their pieces and it is up to the pharaoh from the Millenium Puzzle to save everyone once again. As the two Millenium foes face off with lives in the balance it becomes clear that Yami Yugi isn't the only one with his alter ego in the game.

Bakura has successfully managed to incorporate himself into the game and little by little he is fighting back against the possessor of his body, but the spirit of the Millenium Ring is a tough dude. When Bakura tries to take control of one hand Dark Bakura swiftly impales that hand on castle spike. Ouch.

It's gonna take a lot more than that to beat Dark Bakura.

This is easily the best volume so far. It is essentially one long duel (albeit of the Monster World variety) but it's a good one.

The volume actually concludes the first Yu-Gi-Oh! manga series. The next series is called Yu-Gi-Oh!: Duelist and it is there I imagine we'll meet a nice guy named Maximillian Pegasus. Can't wait.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Otaku House Presents "The Ginger Twilight Zone"

You've been here before. Sure, you have. Wait, no, I'm not trying to claim that you've stepped into a Stephen King novel, but I am saying that one of my blogs has mysteriously vanished only to reappear in a spot where it once had been. The Ginger Twilight Zone is an area where I discuss things that aren't Otaku-related, but my attempt to create a blog solely for such times was a bit of a misfire. The page views just didn't warrant it for me. So it's back here to stay. This time I've included a nifty "The Ginger Twilight Zone" tag on all such posts. So check the tags. 

This actually kind of works better for me because I don't have to choose topics that fit a certain mold. I can just let loose, providing I have the appropriate tags for the appropriate posts. 

Think of this as Cartoon Network and Adult Swim sharing the same channel even though they are two separate entities. Two blogs on one blog. 

A few posts have vanished into the ether, but I've more or less chosen for them to go away. Not that I'm a fan of revisionist history, but I'm also not a fan of wasting cyberspace. Meaningful posts are my goal and some posts have just lost their meaning for me. However, they haven't been deleted. I still have access to them. They've merely been taken off of my blog and are currently unavailable to the public. 

Any original stories and some such are no longer here. I just felt it was time to take them off. Although my fanfiction story still remains here and probably will for a while.

I suppose I never should have created two different websites in the first place if I was just going to smush them back together again, but I felt it was worth it to give it the ole college try. It didn't work out for me, but it was worth trying. 

This just means that my primary and sole website will be busier than ever and that will be a good thing. 

Also, a lot of older posts will be undergoing an overhaul. Many of them are either outdated or in dire need of a complete deconstruction. Recently, I revised a Marilyn Manson list and that won't be the last one. No timetable for this thing. Just a warning. So if you read a post that has completely different contents than it used to then you don't need to feel like you're going crazy because the post probably has completely different contents. 

Thanks for reading this P.S.A. 

Silver Spoon (Gin no Saji)

Sometimes a good "down to earth" anime is the order of the day. In that case, there's none more so than Silver Spoon. Farming doesn't seem like a topic that would be ripe for the anime business, but it would seem there is in fact an audience for just such a thing. After having watched the entirety of it, I can see why someone thought Silver Spoon was a story worth telling. 

The series is split into two seasons with each season only being eleven episodes so this is definitely a quick watch. It's also a very inviting watch. The idea of the fish out of water from the big city coming out to the boonies to try his hand at a bit of farming is always a fun one, but this time we really get the full impact of how being a farmer can be a struggle for city folks. 

Hachiken is a guy that likes to study, but he washed out of his regular school after failing to deal with the intense pressure. He comes to Ooezo Agricultural High School as a way to escape much to the chagrin of his father. However, he might have chosen the wrong place. Not only is he required to be awake by 4 AM most mornings and handle animals, but he still has to join sports clubs. 

He is assigned to raise a litter of pigs and becomes attached to one in particular, aptly naming said piglet "Pork Bowl." The idea that many of the animals that he must take care of will become food (even for himself) is one he struggles with and his attachment to Pork Bowl is as heartbreaking as it is sweet. 

But dealing with ill-fated pigs isn't Hachiken's only issue. Hachiken decides to join the Equestrian Club and finds it difficult to become adjusted to his stubborn horse Maron. 

During the second season Hachiken become Vice President of the Equestrian Club and adopts a puppy. He's also in charge of putting together a festival competition. His classmates worry that me might be straining himself too much with all of his other responsibilities and he very well might be, but his classmates have problems that not even Hachiken can compete with. 

Hachiken, still an outsider to this world, just wants to understand and be understood, but it seems he has his work cut out for him. 

The farming lifestyle just isn't as easy as Green Acres made it look. 

I loved this anime. Loved, loved, loved it. Not only did I relate to it from a "fish out of water" standpoint, but also from Hachiken's unintentional willingness to overwork himself. Hachiken is one of my favorite lead anime characters in a while because he wasn't stupid at all, but he also wasn't some superhero. He was very realistic and this anime as a whole seemed very realistic although there were still plenty of anime moments. Of course, I'm not a farmer, but this anime felt very authentic to me. From both a setting and a situational standpoint.

I actually learned some stuff watching this. I still crack up (pardon the pun) when I think about Hachiken having trouble eating eggs once he realizes they come from the "anus." Although that's not technically true as his classmates are quick to explain. Although animated you also get to see a cow birthed, tons of cow shit, a chicken slaughtered, and a deer prepped for eating. I wasn't sure if I was watching anime or Discovery Channel after a while. So if you are one of those obsessive PETA-types who think that animals are the holiest of holies then you'll be in for a long haul. 

I'd highly recommend this anime although there's a bit of violence toward animals that might put some people off. I'm still going to eat bacon, but from now on I'll be a bit more respectful as I do. 

I'll miss you, Pork Bowl.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Best Anime: 2014 Edition

Going by the same rules I did when I made my last "best of anime" list, I chose only to include anime titles that I had watched during the year of 2014. The anime in question aren't necessarily from 2014, but a few of them are. I think this list is a really strong one because I watched a lot of killer titles last year and just about all of them were first time viewing. Those that weren't were ones I could barely even remember like Mobile Fighter G Gundam or Eureka Seven. Naruto Shippuden is on this list even though I had seen a few episodes way back when, but I didn't exclude it because I had only seen a few episodes rather than anywhere close to as many as I viewed in 2014. 

This list was tough to make, but also easy. The ranking practically decided itself, but choosing which ones to exclude wasn't easy. I just watched a lot of great titles even though I didn't watch as many last year as I would have liked. 

10. Toradora! - This snuck up on my list. It's the only entry from the romance category on this list (unless you count the one where you're stuck in a video game). While I will watch romantic stuff I never really rank it high. I like diversity and that's why I watch different stuff, but this one left an impression. It's fantastic. 
09. Outbreak Company - This is my dream. I want to be an ambassador of the anime world, setting up a school where I get teach the uninitiated about the powers of moe and fanservice. Until then I guess I'll just have to settle for blogging.  
08. No Game, No Life - Do not underestimate the power of the NEET. After three years in the workforce, I can honestly say that my former NEETness is a reason for my success. I have no life outside of anime and therefore I can pay serious attention to details that no one else cares about. We are 2D kings trapped in a 3D world, but we try to make the most of what we have. However, if I were ever to get trapped in an anime (the equivalent of the main characters getting trapped in a game world), I don't think you'd find me complaining too much. As long as the anime I get trapped in isn't Higurashi or School Days
07. Naruto Shippuden - If not for its filler this would be one of my all-time greats, but there's just so much filler. So much that even Dragonball Z looks perfectly trimmed and edited by comparison. But Dear God, is it ever amazing when the filler ends. 
06. The Irregular at Magic High School - Discrimination in the schoolyard between different levels on magicians. Just don't make the mistake of discriminating against the wrong guy or he'll make you look silly. 
05. Psycho Pass - It's the front tag on my car. That should say is all. 

04. Sword Art Online - Number four? Only number four??? I can't believe myself, but I did watch three anime that were better. 
03. Knights of Sidonia - Instant classic as far as I am concerned and the pace is held up throughout the entire series. Second season, please!
02. Terror in Resonance - An anime that will, ahem, "blow" you away by how good it is. Short, but sweet. 
01. One Piece - Not only is this the best anime I came across in 2014, but it's also one of the absolute best of all time for me. Maybe the best. It's rarely on filler, but when it is the filler doesn't last that long. The characters are awesome and everyone has a background and is fleshed out. I care for everyone. Except for Foxy. That dude was annoying.