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, May 28, 2015

Inglourious Basterds

Way back in 2009 before I ever contemplated blogging I watched this little ditty in theaters. It was in August that I watched it. Just me and a friend hanging out for one one final hurrah. We were both graduated and high school wasn't the way we could socialize anymore. It was weird having to actually spend money to hang out with someone instead of just doing so while going about the day through classes.

At this time I didn't have a job and I wasn't in college. So money was precious. I'm not ever sure if a college semester had started by then or if this movie was before or after my college orientation. But college had kind of slipped through my grasp and I was left on a seemingly interminable summer vacation. 

This would be the last movie I would see for three years in theaters before a period of time I kind of refer to as my "hikikomori years." Or my "NEET years." Although I'll always be a NEET and a hikikomori at heart, employment status or education status be damned. 

Two nights ago I decided to pull out this movie for the first time in a few years. This was only the third time I had seen it. In a way it was a lot like seeing an old friend. Inglourious Basterds (a Western wearing a WWII uniform if ever there was one) seems to be making its way a bit higher on my list of favorite movies each time. 

You should know the basic story by now, but if you don't then I'll give you a rundown. 

Story one: Shosanna's family was killed by German soldiers led by Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) of the SS in 1941, but three years later she is in charge of a theater and meets the famous German soldier Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl). Through this meeting Shosanna not only gets a chance to get revenge against the Nazis, but she also gets a chance to end the war.

Story two: The Basterds are a group led by Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) that make life hell for Nazis. They scalp Nazis and get their kicks doing so. However, the Basterds get the chance at the ultimate Nazi scalps when they learn that all of the heavy hitters of the Third Reich are going to have a night at the movies for the newest Fredrick Zoller film.

These stories are told in four successive chapters and eventually intertwine in the fifth one. 

Classic Tarantino exposition, in other words.

In 2009 I was expecting this to be the movie that could be Brad Pitt's defining acting effort, but I was frustrated that the character of Aldo Raine was nothing more than supporting character. Sure, Pitt got top billing and yes, he had a ton of great lines and a cool introductory speech about scalping Nazis, but it was undoubtedly Christoph Waltz that stole the thunder from him. I disliked Christoph Waltz more because the guy was so damn talented and I hadn't known about him before than for his actual character being a dick. Weird, huh? I knew about Daniel Bruhl from previous German movies and he was certainly no disappointment in this movie. I expected Daniel Bruhl to be good. But where the fuck did Christoph Waltz even come from? Why hadn't I heard of him before? It was aggravating. I know that sounds terrible, but that was my first impression of this movie and it wasn't even really about this movie. Inglourious Basterds frustrated me simply because it made me realize how little I really knew about the cinematic world. 

Christoph Waltz gave a performance for the ages as Hans Landa. There were a lot of great performances in this movie (although Eli Roth's wasn't among them), but Christoph Waltz did for Inglourious Basterds what a lot of people thought Heath Ledger did for The Dark Knight. This movie could very well have been made without Waltz, but Waltz's talents brought this movie into the stratosphere.

Bruhl was good. Pitt was great. Waltz was awe-inspiring. Not only was Waltz speaking German, English, and French convincingly as if it was natural (which it all most certainly is), but he even spoke a bit of Italian. However, it isn't just his linguistic expertise that brought his character to life, but his actual ability to actually become Hans Landa of the SS.

Just the way his character eats a strudel or smokes a pipe is fascinating. Landa always seems like he is plotting something. I think Tarantino even said in an interview that every scene with Landa is akin to an interrogation and he seems to know when everyone is trying to bullshit him. Landa is the definition of intimidation.

It's not only some clever bit of writing on Tarantino's part, but some devilish bit of acting, too. Waltz deserved his Oscar without any doubt. A lesser actor could not have managed the role.

However, Waltz isn't the only bright spot in this film.

Michael Fassbender has a small, but brilliant role as Archie Hicox. Diane Kruger is also great as Bridget von Hammersmark. Martin Wuttke is a very serviceable Hitler. Hitler doesn't really get portrayed a lot in American films so it's tough to really compare him to any other performance of Hitler. I believe this is the only time I've seen Hitler be more than just a menacing name in a WWII movie and actually be a speaking character. By my limited estimation Wuttke does a very serviceable job, though.

But I think my favorite supporting role is that of Melanie Laurent's Shosanna Dreyfus. Her performance was criminally underrated.

Hmm, do I have anything else to ramble on about. Well, I suppose there's something to be said about the "revenge fantasy" part of the movie. Some folks didn't agree that it was right to make a group of Jewish killers or that it was right to tweak history just to make Tarantino's vision come true.

I don't have a problem with this movie on any moral level, though. It isn't anti-German, anti-Semitic, or any other kind of "anti-." I noticed that in the scene where the Bear Jew gets to crack open a German soldier's skull that the German soldier actually appeared to be quite a proper soldier. He went out honorably and the subsequent bashing of his brains by the Bear Jew put a dissonant note into what was supposed to be "the good guys kicking ass." There was definitely an underlying message in that scene as well as in the entire movie and I think the overall message is something similar.

And Tarantino didn't violate any laws in his attempt to have the Third Reich taken down in a movie theater by enemy hands. Hitler wasn't punished during the Nuremberg Trials so I can't say I blame Tarantino for wanting to cash in on the "I wish that fucker hadn't killed himself" thought that just about everyone thinks, but even in the future the Third Reich will continue to be taken down in movies whether Tarantino is directing or not. Tarantino certainly did nothing wrong.

If anything (to misquote Aldo Raine) this could very well be Tarantino's masterpiece.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


When I was younger I used to think horror was all that and a bag of chips. And it still is. However, my definition of horror has changed over the years. It will undoubtedly continue to do so, too. But as of now I believe I can say that Fury is horror. Maybe not the horror of true war, but the horror of a new blood Hollywood war film.

David Ayer is a director I know very little about. I know he has directed some movies of merit, but I've never seen them. Honestly, I couldn't name one of them without Google's assistance. Perhaps he's most famous for writing the film Training Day rather than his directing skill. I actually haven't seen Training Day so I can't verify if that is worthy of being Ayer's best contribution to the cinematic world. In the end Fury should have a say-so, though. 

Tank war movies probably aren't a big sub-genre. I like to consider myself a big of a film buff to a degree and I can't recall seeing too many tank movies. Yeah, there are a gazillion WWII movies (probably so many that all of them combined are longer than WWII itself), but there aren't many tank movies. 

Fury presents us with five characters of varying degrees of likeability as they travel in their Sherman tank Fury. The leader of this ragtag bunch is Don "Wardaddy" Collier and he is portrayed by the increasingly talented Brad Pitt. I was a bit hesitant about watching this movie because of Brad Pitt's presence, but that's not because I doubt his ability. It's more about the shadow of his Aldo Raine character from Inglourious Basterds. I was a big fan of the Aldo Raine character and at first it seemed like Pitt was just replaying his Aldo Raine role in a tank as this movie started.

There are some subtle differences, though. Wardaddy hates Nazis and likes to kill them, but he's not quite the more darkly comedic hick Aldo Raine and that is a good thing. 

My other hesitation about this movie was the presence of Shia Labeouf. As an actor he just hasn't won me over. I liked him in that golf movie The Greatest Game Ever Played, but other than that I just can't take too much Labeouf. He sucks as an actor. He just does. However, even a monkey can write a masterpiece if given enough time and Fury was Labeouf's time to shine once again. He didn't exactly steal the movie or anything like that, but his presence was tolerable and did nothing to hinder the movie. 

The primary draw of this film (other than the fantastic battle sequences involving the tanks) is Norman Ellison's relationship with Wardaddy and the rest of the gang as he learns the hard way of life in a tank in Nazi Germany. Norman is a novice in the ways of war and knows more about being a typist than shooting the corpses of Nazis to make sure they are dead. Obviously, there's going to be a bit of a learning curve for him. 

Logan Lerman did excellent in his role as Norman and he is more or less serves as the eyes of the audience so it helps that he didn't completely hack his way through this movie although most people will only watch for Pitt's presence or the explosions.

The only real knock I have on this movie is the ending. Not only is it too unrealistic but it is also overdone. If the bulk of the movie was a chance to really up the ante on the "realness of war" aspect than the final battle undoes virtually all of that with the intrusion of Hollywood nonsense. The ending still has some merit, but it passed a line between gritty war movie and popcorn action movie that it probably should not have. 

Still, flaws and all, Fury is an incredible film. I would recommend it and wholeheartedly. An alternate ending would have lifted this movie to some truly magnificent heights, but as it is it is still really good. 

It's just not the war movie in that can steal the limelight from the likes of Saving Private Ryan or The Longest Day

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller has made a few questionable career choices. If you thought that following up the classic The Road Warrior with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was odd then you must have forgotten George Miller's involvement in Babe: Pig in the City and Happy Feet Two. But perhaps the most questionable career choice he has made is creating a sequel to a franchise that hadn't seen a new movie in thirty years. I'd argue that, unless you or your parents are older than thirty or you are just a flatout nerd like me, then you probably aren't too familiar with those films. 

Then the unthinkable happened. Not only did this movie get made with some of the most stunning visuals and strongest action sequences in recent years, but it also became the clear winner over the classic The Road Warrior

Mad Max is alive again. The franchise is alive and well and back with a sense of vengeance. I'm not sure if anyone has been waiting for it for thirty years, but if they have been then I'm certain they are waving their walkers in the air with joy. Mad Max: Fury Road isn't just great; it's better than The Avengers: Age of Ultron type of great. It is the action film you didn't know you were waiting to see. 

I certainly don't mean to sound like I'm trying to hype this up for you. The hype is already there. I don't need to add to it and I doubt my voice would be heard above so many others. You're probably tired of hearing the hype and if you aren't now you will be.

At the risk of ruffling some feathers I will add to the chorus of approval, though. It is amazing. From the start of this film it doesn't stop moving. This film is one giant chase scene. At times it can be downright brutal to watch, too. There are some deaths that I can't believe they managed to get away with, but they were handled brilliantly. There's one particular death in the movie that will probably leave you shocked. You'll know it when you see it and you'll think "Holy shit, I can't believe they just did that" just like I did. George Miller is one sick cookie. 

This film is the fourth in a series that debuted in 1979, but it is easily the most original movie of 2015 so far. 

I highly suggest going into this movie blind. Watch it for the experience rather than the hype. Sure, the hype is there, but it's there for a reason. Some folks might be a little let down, but that's natural. Some people might not like it and that's natural, too. However, I think this movie will stick around for quite a while and the people who don't like will be proven to be a bunch of odd ducks. 

For those of you that need some plot, well, here ya go:

Max Rockatansky, the drifter that never seems to have things his way, manages to become imprisoned by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Bearne, whom you might recognize from a different role in the first Mad Max movie) and subsequently gets entangled in an epic chase between Immortan Joe and Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). Furiosa has not only betrayed Immortan Joe, but she's also taken something very precious to him.

You'll have to watch to figure out what. 

P.S. - There's plenty of internet chatter of going on about the film's stance on feminism and whatnot. I've mostly been avoiding all of that. I wanted to watch the movie and form my own opinion. Personally, I think this is a rather groundbreaking film, but to each their own. If you decide to state your opinion on that subject I advise doing some critical thinking first. A lot of folks have taken to the internet only to come out sounding like vicious trolls. And that's just not cool. 

Dr. Slump, Vol. 1 by Toriyama Akira

If I haven't said it before then I probably should say that Toriyama's drawing style will always be the way I think anime and manga should be drawn. He is my hero. However, it wasn't until I started reading manga that I really grew to respect him beyond the fight scenes and badass superpowers of the anime. 

Toriyama is hilarious when it comes to toilet humor and nothing showcases that better than his manga. In 1980 when he set out to create Dr. Slump I'm fairly certain he didn't have anything close to a set plot. He just sat down and drew some stuff. A robot girl being created by a scientist seemed as good a place as any to start, I imagine. 

Everything you loved about the Dragonball series came from Dr. Slump. Kame-sen'nin would have been great friends with Norimaki Senbei and I suppose it is no surprise that Toriyama brought back the Dr. Slump gang for an encore in an early Dragonball volume. 

The eyes bulging when something crazy happens, the perverted jokes, and the always funny gag of people falling flat on their faces when someone else does or says something stupid. It's all here. Not too mention the robots, mad scientists, boobies, talking animals, etc. It's all in this first volume that broke Toriyama into the manga world. I highly doubt a lot of folks know of Toriyama in the Western world outside of his contributions to Dragonball and Dragonball Z. I'm not sure I've even met one other person that has actually tried their hand at the manga, but then I live in Alabama so I'm not surprised. We ain't the most literate bunch 'round these parts. 

Of course, there are plenty of people that know Dragonball from the manga in the West, but I imagine that Dr. Slump has a much smaller Western audience. However, I can tell you that Dr. Slump is much funnier than its more popular predecessor. Much funnier.

I've read where Viz actually edited a lot of the humor because they considered it too risque, but in Japan this stuff is elementary school humor. The volume labels this as "T for Teen" even with the edits, but Amazon itself describes this as being for "5 and Up." Go figure. I'm a bit bummed about the edits, but I'll take what I can get at this point. This volume is still hilarious and the part about Senbei trying to see a naked woman for the first time by using special glasses had me dying. 

I'd love for the anime series to be brought into the US, but I suppose there's fat chance of that. The anime was made from 1981-1986 and if it hasn't been made available to the US yet it probably won't. Still, I'm going to hold out hope that Dragonball fanboys everywhere will ignite the flame of passion for this lesser known manga, too. It's not too late. We've already got an English adaptation of the manga to just about everyone's surprise. Let's get that anime, too. 

But, going back to this volume, if you don't laugh from this you just aren't human. 

I'll go into more details when I dish out the goods on the second volume, but I'm hoping this will be more of a teaser than anything else for unknowing manga aficionados. 

Give this a shot. It's funny. It has absolutely nothing close to a coherent plot, but this series lasted for five years and there is a reason it did. This is the proof that Toriyama's abilities did not begin with Dragonball. It was all there from the beginning of Dr. Slump

A Werewolf Boy (Neukdae Sonyeon)

The movie Twilight came out when I was eighteen years old and still in high school. I was entering the penultimate semester on what was my school career at the time and there were basically two opinions of the movie (or the books for that matter) at the time: You either loved it or hated it. I was in the "hated it" camp. 

To date I have never really watched Twilight. When someone brought the movie to school and my economics teacher put it on I opted to watch Pineapple Express instead on a friend's laptop. Obviously, this was at the very end of my high school tenure and everyone was fairly lax about this behavior.

I've never been a big vampire fan, partly because of Twilight. I guess the same could be said of werewolves for that matter. I enjoy a lot of the classics, but the new blood has left me wanting.

I approached A Werewolf Boy because it was a Korean movie without really thinking about the likes of Twilight. Or even werewolves. I couldn't think of anything else to do and I didn't really want to watch a werewolf movie, but I basically said "screw it" and did anyway.

I knew it wouldn't be a horror movie, though. That much became apparent within the first five minutes. I was not even close to a horror movie. That left only one genre: the Twilight genre.

I almost paused and stopped everything right there. Then I reminded myself of how I had yet to see a bad Korean movie. This would be my 26th Korean movie and there's just no way my good Korean movie streak could end like this. This movie had to be good. I was staking my personal pride on that. So I watched on ever fearful that I'd see glittery werewolves. 

An older lady receives a call about her old house. She's been living in the US, but returns home when someone inquires about the sale of the property where she spent her youth. The best years of her life are obviously behind her and seeing her old house for the first time in years sends it all home. The sense of hopelessness and depression is strong from the start. 

I knew things were going to get melodramatic. 

Something happened there when she was young. 47 years ago in 1965 she met a boy that had literally been raised by wolves. 

The supernatural element of this series isn't really played up until later in the series. The main part of this story is more of a coming of age fish out of water type of thing. Sun-yi trying to teach the wild boy how to write, speak, play ball, and not eat everyone's food is all neat. There's a real whimsical feel to the movie at this point and some good laughs, too. 

It's only later on that we discover this boy that had been raised by wolves is also a werewolf. The title obviously gives it away, but something more subtle like The Boy Raised By Wolves would have been better. The werewolf's appearance and transformation could also have been better (it wasn't glittery, but he could've passed for an anime character), but I'll forgive those since the rest of the movie was pretty good. 

The bad guy in this film is one you'll hate. Definitely. You'll cheer when he gets what is coming to him. Sort of.

The cast of this movie are a bunch of relative unknowns to me. All in all, everyone does a pretty good job, but Song Joong-ki steals the show as the wolf boy despite having almost no dialog for the entire movie.

This is a pretty good movie and my fears weren't really warranted. A Werewolf Boy may be a bit on the lovey-dovey side of the monster movie camp, but it is incredibly well done and worth watching. Which is more than I can say for the Twilight movies.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ergo Proxy

The domed city of Romdeau is supposed to be a paradise. There humans live in peace with robots known as AutoReivs under the watchful eye of Regent Donov Mayer. Re-L Mayer is the granddaughter of the Regent and she lives a somewhat pampered lifestyle in a world where humans are designed and born in a mechanical womb. They aren't too different from the AutoReivs that serve them. They are designed with one purpose and nothing more. 

Re-L was designed as a member of the Security Bureau and she gets to carry guns that complements her blue eye shadow rather well. With certain AutoReivs succumbing to a virus known as the Cogito Virus and attaining self-awareness, Re-L's job has been keeping her busy lately. A self-aware robot often turns violent and that isn't a good thing unless you're like me and want to see Re-L shoot her guns off. 

That isn't Re-L's only major problem, though. After being attacked by a creature called a Proxy and then being rescued by another Proxy it seems that not only has her life completely changed, but she's also about to learn the terrifying secrets of Romdeau. 

The world outside of Romdeau is desolate, but if Re-L wants to know the truth she will have to journey outside with the mysterious Vincent Law... a man that just might be the Proxy that rescued her. 

Did you get all that? There is undoubtedly a lot going on with the storyline, but you'd be surprised how quickly it goes by. In fact, it goes by so quickly that much of the middle episodes are nothing more than fluff and the finale is an absolute mess. It goes by too quickly for 23 episodes. The beginning episodes are incredibly interesting and dark, but after the first ten episodes or so things start falling apart. 

After watching an episode where much of the background information was dumped on us in a game show-style format and then watching the episode where the Walt Disney-type creator of an amusement park named SmileLand happens to also be a Proxy himself, I couldn't help but wonder how the hell this series could be so universally acclaimed. 

As odd as many of these episodes were they were at least watchable and somewhat interesting, but the finale was a bit different. The true introduction of the villain of the series isn't done until episode 22 and by then I had forgotten what the hell I had been watching. The story was something I kind of figured out based on their elaborate yet still cryptic as fuck explanations, but this series went so far out there at the end that it made the ending to Neon Genesis Evangelion seem mundane. I love Neon Genesis Evangelion. I'll fight over it. Ghost in the Shell, too. I don't mind complexity and depth and a few intelligent plot curveballs. I do mind pointless rambling, though. That comprises much of the later episodes. 

The gritty cyberpunk themes from the beginning were dropped like a hot rock and everything became so fantastical that I no longer knew what anime I was supposed to be watching. And even if the ending had been on point I don't think I can forgive the excessive filler in an anime that wasn't even based off a manga to begin with. Are we seriously tying in information from the game show episodes into the conclusion? The game show episode was kind of cool while it was happening since it was just for kicks but to include it in the actual plot and to make it mandatory watching? I dunno. Sounds like they were just trying to take a pile of shit and tie a ribbon on it. 

In a lot of way this anime recalls The Big O, actually. Both series have to deal with domed cities with mysterious backgrounds where long ago "something" happened that caused the world to be the way it is. In The Big O the issue was that an entire city had no memory of anything from 40 years ago and then there was the existence of giant robots, but in Ergo Proxy the entire issue is about the existence of Proxies and the Cogito Virus. 

However, The Big O is quite superior to this anime if only because it did not have the pacing and filler issues. The animation in Ergo Proxy is fantastic at times and the music is great, but the anime as a whole feels a bit too underdeveloped for me. There are moments of absolute brilliance and they aren't even few nor far between, either. They are definitely there. There are a lot of moments of brilliance. Even in the final episodes where nothing makes sense there are some legit moments. Even during the game show episode there was some cool stuff. SmileLand was really cool own its own right. There was some real sharp dialog and deep conversing going on. This is an anime that makes you think and keeps you on your toes.

Yet all of it was just thrown together too quickly and the excellent atmosphere established by the earlier episodes was tossed aside in favor of some needless experimentation. When you aren't on your toes you will be bored to tears and that is the major downside of this anime. 

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed this anime despite all of its oddities. There's a ton to like. But... this was a frustrating series for me because it had sooo much more potential to tap. I just don't understand the 8.1 rating on IMDB or and 8.7 on A better paced delivery would have been able to warrant those ratings, but as it is that isn't the case. Watching this made me feel like I ordered a 22 oz Porterhouse medium well and only received a 12 oz Sirloin well done. Sure, it's still good and I still can consume it, but it isn't what I ordered. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Durarara!! (Season One)

Baccanochanged the way I saw anime in a way. Non-linear narrative is probably one of the most difficult things to pull off, but it can be a real game-changer if it is done right. Baccano! was definitely done right and it is incredibly impressive. It makes me want to read the light novel series. It's epic and amazing and the kind of thing that only should happen once or else the world might explode from too much awesome.

Durarara!! is a light novel series written by the same guy and the anime created from it is equally or perhaps even more impressive than its spiritual predecessor. Non-linear narrative done right by the same guy twice. It's shocking. 

Things can definitely seem a little confusing or slow at the start of this particular anime. Unlike the 16 episodes Baccano! had to work with Durarara!! gets a little more breathing room with a whopping 25 episodes. Things aren't quite as out of order this time around, but it will definitely pay to pay attention. Take notes if ya gotta.

It's definitely safe to say that if you enjoyed one you'll more than likely enjoy the other and if you disliked one you'll probably dislike the other. 

Ikebukuro is a real interesting town populated by some interesting characters. You get introduced to pretty much all of them in the opening credits and there are definitely a lot of them. The plot is a rather widespread one and there are plenty of subplots that eventually tie together, but sometimes it can seem like things are just randomly being thrown around. Literally. A character will pick up a street sign or a truck and throw it at somebody. What's the point of it all?

Well, you gotta watch for the details, but I'll give you a starting point.

There is a headless bike rider in Ikebukuro. Her name is Celty Sturluson and she is a dullahan. She has traveled from Ireland to Japan in search of her missing head.

There is a student named Ryuugamine Mikado and he has just recently moved to Ikebukuro, where he is reunited with his friend Kida Masaomi. Both boys seem like normal school kids, but Masaomi is definitely the more street-savvy of the two and he tells Mikado all of the characters to be on the lookout for:

Heiwajima Shizuo is a guy that gets pissed off and throws things no human being can possibly throw. He once punched a guy in the face so hard the guy's clothes flew off from the force as he flew through the air.

Orihara Izaya often gets stuff thrown at him by Shizuo because Izaya loves to cause chaos and Shizuo doesn't like people like that. If something is wrong in town Izaya probably has a hand in it.

Simon Brezhnev is a black Russian dude that sells sushi, but he has the ability to hold his own against Shizuo or anyone else.

There is also a gang called the Dollars that might or might not be terrorizing the town, but there is definitely a killer known as "Slasher" terrorizing the town.

What's the impression here? Don't go outside after dark or alone without a lot of strong friends. Don't trust anyone, either.

This anime really is amazing, but I enjoyed how it managed to incorporate much of the same elements that made Baccano! so good without actually becoming a carbon copy. There's the usual gangster type of stuff and the non-linear hijinks, but the supernatural elements this time around is a bit more interesting. Not that immortal gangsters fighting over an immortality elixir isn't a cool idea, but I've always wanted to see a bike-riding dullahan in an anime.

I'm sure that probably makes me that only one in that category, but that's what I get for keeping a strong imagination. Score one for me.

Celty is an amazing character, too. Despite not having a head she is incredibly charming. She is, dare I say it, the very definition of moe. I would marry her.

This particular anime came out in 2010 and it is just now having a second season. So if you watch it for the first time now you won't have to be one of those unlucky souls that had to wait five years for a sequel.

I highly recommend this anime and you can stream it right now on Crunchyroll. What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sunset Superman (Or: How I Stopped Trying To Wake Up Early And Started Watching More Anime)

Lately, I really have been in full on otaku mode. I've been working a ton of nights lately and this doesn't help me rekindle my social skills at all. My diet has also largely been consisting of eggs, toast, double stuff Oreos, Pop Tarts, and ramen with eggs. I eat a lot of eggs. Every now and then I try to work in an actual meal, but those only seem to happen on my nights off.

It is what it is, I guess. Last night I tried a stream of consciousness type of writing and posted it. I wrote some things that had been on my mind for a while and it felt very therapeutic. As an introvert, I think it is important to understand the things that make one introverted and how to cope with being introverted. I also think it is important to deal with people that are not as introverted. Especially the most stressful type: The ones who talk... a lot. 

I've gotten accustomed to going to sleep at five in the morning and waking up at noon. All the time in the darkness means I can't really go to the mall after I get off work. Or get a bite to eat. I can't play the guitar late at night, either. So that leaves watching even more anime than usual. 

I hope this doesn't sound like I am complaining because I am not. Closing shift sucks big ones (well, all shifts in the fast food world do, really), but being able to completely otaku-out because it's dark out and late at night is pretty awesome. And I also have the comfort of knowing I can't get called in when we are closed until six am. 

I've been watching anime a lot more. In less than 24 hours I've watched 22 episodes of anime and one Korean movie. In the last five days I've watched 44 episodes of anime. I've got Durarara on tap right now and I've also got My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too and Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? on simulcast. I could have gotten in more episodes if I didn't blog or watch YouTube guitarists. Ergo Proxy and Full Metal Panic are also next on my list to watch. I've also decided to start reading the Dr. Slump manga in addition to continuing with the Dragonball and Yu-Gi-Oh! series. 

A lot of reviews will be coming here shortly. 

I also decided to make a poster wall from each of my walls. I've been getting tired of looking at the bland brown walls and since I have a lot of free time at night each time I get off work I've been brainstorming how to really make thing pop. Not to sound like an anime male protagonist, but it's gonna be even harder to get that elusive girlfriend now. I call it: The Walls of Jacobia. 

P.S. -  I settled on naming this post (partly) after the Dio song. Dream Evil is an underrated album, btw. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Live Writing Exercise: Losing the Music In My Head

I used to hear music in my head, but that music is long gone and it depresses me. I can still pick up the guitar and play some kickass riffs, but I'll never be Tony Iommi. I've been playing guitar since I was in the fifth grade and I used to write lyrics all of the time. When I was in the sixth grade I began to write Satanic lyrics because I was big into Marilyn Manson and Slayer at the time as well as bands that were Satanic in general. And holy fuck I just realized I've been typing this whole paragraph without looking at the keyboard.

It wasn't just a rebellion thing, but a thing about feeling like I was a misfit. I knew I was. Elementary school seemed so much easier to me and I crushes on two girls and wasn't sure which one I should pursue or if I should pursue either one. I was stuck with indecision. It was my first introduction to that kind of fear and to date I've only felt that fear twice. But everyone in my class knew me. I was comfortable. Of course, that's the way all elementary school classes are, I guess. And for the record I chose the wrong girl.

I lived away from almost everyone else, though. I didn't hang out with others even though I wanted to. It was inconvenient.

Middle school was different for me. I was afraid of people then. Maybe not in the outright Copycat-Sigourney Weaver type of afraid, but I was afraid. My biggest fear was of myself. I was changing and knew I was changing, but I wasn't sure what I changing into.

I was no longer one of the more straight-laced kids. Sure, I was still a fairly nice guy, but I was into heavy metal and anime and I no longer knew how to get along with anyone. I grew up with a sort of religious-based mindset and was not comfortable with going against it. Listening to Satanic metal was soothing in a way I couldn't describe, but I had a constant voice in my head telling "This is wrong." If I had a split personalities my other probably would have been Tim Tebow while I would have been Marilyn Manson.

I never fought anyone in school because I didn't want to fight. I didn't want to do anything at school other than fade into the walls. Insecure wasn't quite the word for it. Frozen was.

The shadows of parents (not necessarily just mine). Teachers. Classmates who remembered me as being one of the aces. (Elementary school was the last time I made all A's.) The old next door neighbors that went to church every Sunday. Conflicting ideologies in my head. All of them weighed heavily on my mind and I was letting the possible judgements of others affect me. I wasn't hanging out with other people after school and I hated it, but I felt emotionally crippled. I couldn't approach someone without breaking into an intense sweat.

I wanted, more than anything, to play guitar. I mean, real guitar on a stage. Writing was a passion, but guitar playing was for me, too. I wanted to create a riff that could sway a room. I wanted to write lyrics that could convey my emotions. Writing things down was the only way I could really speak. Playing that Eb note told you all about my day.

By the time I reached high school I was completely frozen between the things I wanted to do versus the likelihood of them actually making me successful. I was either maturing or deliberately sabotaging my dreams. Sometimes I think they are the same thing. Silent and invisible judgements loomed large on me. Not to mention, that I honestly had no fucking idea what I was going to do. Do? Money? What the fuck? I'm not going to sell myself for something!

I was frozen between wanting to make friendships and wanting to not even be acknowledged. I was starting to become comfortable with being alone, but didn't know if that should be acceptable. I was editing my own life to make it convenient for others to read.

I liked talking, but I always tried to stay quiet in a crowded classroom. Sometimes I'd pretend to be asleep to avoid conversations. Frozen with indecision.

I tried to get into a college and when the financial aid dropped me before the semester could even start I didn't bother because while I thought I might hack it as a teacher I knew I wasn't mentally ready for something like that. I couldn't just make up a dream out of nowhere. There were no other convictions I had held onto for longer other than playing the guitar and writing those lyrics.

If I had gone for being a teacher at that time I would not have been a good one. I can barely teach someone how to cook a burger. Dealing with kids or teenagers? God, I don't know where I got that idea from. Actually, I do. It was a suggestion from a friend. I was waging my future on a friend's suggestion rather than my own passions.

It's a good thing I didn't start being a teacher then. Especially when I still have so much to learn about life. I'm not ready to be responsible for the knowledge of someone else. Sure, I could phone it in like I do at my current job, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about passion.

Passion. Passion. Passion. Of all of the jobs that require it being a teacher is one of them. Being a step in bringing the new generation into the future is a huge responsibility. If I did something like that now I'd fuck someone up for good. Someone else's young brain shouldn't be exposed to my frustrations.

Just today I picked up the guitar and tried to create as many new riffs as I could, but none of them were riffs I remember from when I heard music in my head. They were good and I was surprised by myself, but they weren't the riffs that made me want to get my emotions across. I was phoning it in at a time that felt sacrilegious to me.

I sell burgers. I could substitute that with just about anything, but it goes back to passion for me. It isn't what I am and it doesn't define me. Money is important, but it isn't my purpose. I live with my parents, try to buy my share of the groceries, do my laundry, and do what I can for my car. I try not to be a burden.

Whenever I get an apartment I'll probably think differently. I know when I have got it made. I know the money I've been saving up will go away in a flash once the real bills show up. And bullshit like insurance. Money probably is the be-all, end-all. People sell themselves everyday for it in one way or the other. I guess I'm not really different. God is on the dollar bill for a reason, I guess.

It's just about what you are getting in return. That's the important thing.

So far I've yet to get a real return on my investment.

Guess I'll just keep trudging on, watching that anime, and trying to re-discover some riffs. That band is waiting. That bestseller is waiting. The dream.

I'll find it somehow. I just hope I can do something with it once I do.

This has been an exercise in live writing, I needed the ramble.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Nisekoi (Season One)

Meet Ichijo Raku, the 15 year old son of a yakuza boss. His family is a "Family" in the truest sense of the word, but other than he appears to be a normal school kid. 

When he was five years old he made a promise to a girl he can no longer remember that he would marry her when they met again. To this day he wears a locket as a symbol of that promise and only the girl he made the promise to has the key to fit that locket. 

Of course, he could just forget that silly promise, but promises made when you are five years old are the real deal and you just don't break them. 

Everything sound pretty simple. Just find the girl with the key, right? 

This isn't real life, though. This is the anime world. In the anime world life is tough for a male main character. 

From the get-go his efforts to recover his childhood love are thwarted by a rival gangster outfit that threatens to cause an all-out war. Going to the mattresses seems inevitable. The bosses don't want a war so they propose a solution to bring peace between the two outfits. Granted, this isn't the kind of solution that Michael Corleone would propose, but the idea is that if the two children of the opposing sides were in a relationship there would be peace once again. 

Ichijo Raku now finds himself in a "false love" relationship with Kirisaki Chitoge, a girl with whom he had previously met under less than ideal circumstances. If the two can't manage the charade there will be blood in the streets. While it sounds like they have plenty of impetus to be a fake couple it also should be noted that they have to keep at it for three years.

However, Raku will not be defeated so easily. He is dedicated to discover the one he made his childhood promise to even if it means he will end up sleeping with the fishes if he's caught being "unfaithful" by looking at other girls.

Things get complicated further as he discovered that there are not one, not two, but three potential girls with keys to fit his locket. What we have here folks is a harem. Three girls have keys and childhood memories of some boy they can't quite remember. Raku only remembers one girl and one promise from his childhood, but can't remember a name or face for that girl. Enter: Conundrum Land. Occupancy: Raku.

I can't remember anything from when I was five so I can't blame any of these characters. However, those lockets and keys must have been handed out like they were tic-tacs in Japan when these characters were younger. 

Romantic comedy types are only a genre because they milk the "will they, won't they" stage for as many laughs as can be had. Sometimes it works and sometimes it gets old quick. Everyone's mileage may vary, but I thought Nisekoi was especially hilarious. It also contained a hot springs episode as well as the obligatory beach episode in the first twenty episodes. Win.

The first season was comprised of those same twenty episodes and while the answer to who has the key to his locket wasn't given it would seem there is still hope. A second season is currently airing. Of course, for all I know there could be eight more girls with keys introduced.

This anime isn't exactly the most original of the bunch. In fact, there are a ton of cliches. But it is the way they are implemented that makes things fun. Raku is not a complete idiot and most of the main female characters have personalities and traits that would make it difficult to pick one over the other.

Then there is always the idea that the locket and keys don't even really matter and everyone will agree to live and let live. Let's go for the harem ending, baby! Yeah!!!!

In all seriousness, I would recommend this anime. It's an offer you can't refuse.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Secret Reunion (Uihyeongje)

Nothing like staying up until two in the a.m. blogging about my most recent adventure into Korean cinema. And yes, it is another return to Song Kang-ho's formidable back catalog. I guess I am on a bit of a Kang-ho kick right now. I get that way sometimes. I have a couple of other Korean films to get to (as well as a Korean drama called Secret Garden), but Secret Reunion has been on my list for long enough that I felt its time was finally due.

I was hoping this movie would alleviate my mental discombobulation somewhat. And it did. So it certainly served its purpose. It was entertaining and definitely fun. 

But I suppose just saying that would make for a pointless blog post. I could have said that in a tweet. So let's do some real digging into this movie and see what makes it tick. 

At the start of this film it seems like it is going to be another barn-burner. Lee Han-gyu (Song Kang-ho) is a South Korean NIS agent chasing after a spy from North Korea named Song Ji-won (Kang Dong-won) and some old assassin guy known only as Shadow (Jun Gook-hwan). 

Been there before, right? However, the movie makes things neat by making it feel like we are at the end of a movie when we are actually at the beginning. In fact, I was wondering if I was watching a sequel of some sort for the first ten minutes or so. 

The chase ends with the Shadow missing, Song Ji-won abandoned by his country and left to go on the run, and Lee Han-gyu disgraced and jobless. 

Six years later Lee Han-gyu is working for a company that tracks down runaway wives and one day he comes across his former quarry Song Ji-won. Rather than just turn him in and have glory stolen from him, Lee Han-gyu decides to try a different tactic. He wants to keep an eye on his movements and bring down an entire spy ring himself.

So Han-gyu offers him a job and the two move in together. 

Song Ji-won is not an idiot, though. He knows very well who his boss/roommate is. He accepts the job and room in order to keep tabs on his new boss. 

This is where the movie begins. 

The two of them claim to not really know the other one and quickly change what they are doing each time the other shows up. They follow each other and spy on each other... and then go home for dinner and hang out. It's actually a bit... funny. Can you say " situational comedy" anyone? 

Of course, this movie has suspense and some brutal violence, but the real meat of the story is how the two characters bond without really meaning to bond. The action slows down in the middle, but the chemistry between the two actors is really good and their friendship seems real and that pushes things forward. The consequences of their treasonous friendship seem very real, too. 

The ending was satisfying... if not a bit too crowd-pleasing. 

While certainly not as good as JSA (which covered a similar topic), Secret Reunion is certainly a worthy outing for Song Kang-ho. 

I would recommend it. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Otaku House Word Search Vol. 3: Fullmetal Alchemist Edition

It's been awhile since I've done a word search. Mostly because I've been lazy... which is terrible since they take all of five minutes to make using the right website. However, here is a new one. So new I haven't even done myself yet. Enjoy!

Fullmetal Search



Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi Furumetaru Arukemisuto)

Alright, good people, let's hit that reset button. Forget everything you knew or thought you knew about the original 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist anime series. This 2009 64-episode remake is far more rooted in the manga and very much superior than its animated predecessor. 

How superior? Well, the original anime is a classic so you would think this particular version would have some big shoes to fill. However, the manga was extremely successful in its own right because it had a riveting story. The original anime chose to go its own way and it did a good job, but the manga just had more bite (pardon the pun) and this second animated adaptation proves that. 

You should know the story by now. If not then you get to get introduced to it all new. Edward and Alphonse Elric are searching for the Philosopher's Stone so that they might be able to reclaim the bodies they lost when they tried unsuccessfully to bring their mother back to life. 

In order to do that Edward Elric becomes a State Alchemist, a so-called dog of the military, to gain more information about the Philosopher's Stone. However, he soon learns that there are inhuman creatures called homunculi that always seem to pop up when Philosopher's Stones are involved. Their names are the same as before (Pride, Sloth, Gluttony, Wrath, Greed, Lust, and Envy), but this time the roles and origins are a bit different. 

Envy, Gluttony, Greed, and Lust are mostly the same, but it's the other three that are vastly different. In the previous series King Bradley was Pride, Juliet Douglas was Sloth, and Wrath was an incarnation of Izumi Curtis's son. Reset button, folks. King Bradley is still a homunculus, but this time he is Wrath and not Pride. Izumi Curtis's son is not a character this time around and neither is Juliet Douglas. Pride's identity is that of {you'll have to find out for yourself} and Sloth's identity is that of a hulking behemoth that is unseen for most of the series.

As you can see the original anime did take its own turn, but that's not where the only differences occurred. The identities of the leader of these homunculi are also extremely different. In the original we had a character named Dante that commanded the faulty attempts at human transmutation that eventually became known as homunculi. This time we have the evil character of Father in charge of the creations of his own flesh. Different leaders, different origins. 

No disrespect to Dante, but Father is in a league of his own when it comes to villains. He is one of those "be all, end all" villains. They don't get much more villainous than Father.

All of this being said, the first dozen or so episodes of this series are very similar to the first half of the original anime series. In some ways the original series is better at building everything up and in some ways it isn't so much. FMAB definitely moves at a faster click and sacrifices some of the early nuances from the original. It's all a matter of preference for the early material, but once FMAB gets on with its "new material" it really isn't even close in my estimation.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood isn't just one of the best anime to come out in the 2000's decade, but it's one of the best anime have ever come out, period.

A lot of the Japanese voice talent was different this time around, but the voices were the same for those of Edward, Alphonse, and King Bradley. Not only is that a big plus, but having Maes Hughes be the same Japanese voice is a big plus, too. Maes Hughes still meets an unfortunate end in this series and in much the same fashion, but his character is definitely a buoying factor of this series although his appearance in this series much more brief. Having Maes retain his original voice is comforting although it sucks watching him die a second time. Nooo!!!!

The introduction of "new" characters like Olivier Armstrong and Lin Yao is also really neat because they become incredibly endearing. It'll tough for me to watch the previous series again knowing they don't make an appearance. Hohenheim is also much cooler in this series.

I could go on with comparisons, but I won't. Just know that this series has a great reputation for a reason.

It really is one of the best.

P.S. - Be prepared for some feels, too.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

By now just about everyone has been out and seen the second Avengers flick and put out their sublime take on the film. Of course, I have mine, too. I've been sold on these Marvel films since I first saw The Incredible Hulk (remember that one?) way back in 2008. Seven years later I am still sold on them. Marvel has been killing it with these batch of films. No one is even close. DC is living on a prayer right now that they can catch up. 

The crazy thing is they keep getting better. 

Avengers: Age of Ultron is easily in the top five of superhero movies of all time. It is surpassed only by The Dark Knight, the first Avengers movie, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in my eyes. 

Wow, wow, wow. We've got all of the familiar faces back for round two. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Black Widow (Scarlett "Schwing" Johannson) are back to take on their most dangerous foe so far: Tony Stark's big ego. 

Dreaming of a world where the Avengers aren't needed, Tony Stark sets out to create "Ultron" with the help from his virtual sidekick Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany) and his trusty mean green pal Dr. Bruce Banner. Ultron (voiced by James Spader) is supposed to be the ideal protector that will allow Stark to take it easy, but something goes terribly wrong with the program and Ultron's first impulse is to destroy the Avengers. 

Yep, it's gonna be another long day at the office for the superheroes.

There's a ton to like about this movie, but I suppose that my favorite thing this time around was the emphasis placed on the supporting characters of Hawkeye and Black Widow. Fans will probably have a lot to say about the spur of the moment relationship between Black Widow and the Hulk, but it definitely shook things up a bit. I read somewhere Joss Whedon's guiding star for his sequel was The Godfather Part II. In fact I read it here. I liked how Whedon described the fact that this wasn't a cut and paste sequel. A lot of these characters have grown between the movies. At least that is the idea presented to us so a sudden relationship between Hulk and Black Widow doesn't seem so sudden if you take into account things that might have and obviously did happen offscreen. While definitely a new and strange element the relationship didn't harm the movie. It actually lifted it somewhat. 

We're also introduced to one helluva brief backstory about the femme fatale. Black Widow needs her own movie ASAP. 

Hawkeye is actually given a family and a home and a personality. Much like Black Widow he's always been relegated to supporting characters stuff, but this time he is actually one of the main characters. It's nice to see him get his own chance to be more than a cardboard cutout superhero. 

Of course, all of the bigwigs in this movie pull their weight, too. Mark Ruffalo is especially in top form. However, James Spader is the star of the show as Ultron. He is simply awesome.

There are plenty of great fights and plenty of good character moments, too. Stark's Hulkbuster is incredibly impressive to see in action against the Hulk. That was a great fight. Of course, I'll let you watch the movie so you can understand the context.

Avengers: Age of Ultron has got everything a film like this needs to be a success. It is a must-see. 

I can't wait for Avengers: Infinity Wars

P.S. - Don't forget the mid-credits scene. Stay to watch it. There isn't one at the end of the credits, though.