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.

Friday, July 31, 2015

My Top Ten Favorite YouTubers

YouTube is an internet wasteland that can literally kill hours of time. Planning on mowing your lawn? Not if you want to catch at least three different reviews of Room 237 you won't. YouTube can kill your life so some moderation is necessary. However, there are some folks to whom I will gladly give my time of day. So without further delay, I give you my top ten favorite YouTubers: 

10. Gordo Drummer - It's one thing to be an excellent street drummer using only a couple of buckets, but it's another to include bucket drumming lessons for aspiring bucket drummers. Because, you know, who needs a thousand dollar set when you can be John Bonham using just what you can find in your garage?

9. 2CELLOS - Two guys with cellos playing modern pop/rock music in riveting videos. There are lots of good covers from them, but I chose this one to represent them because I loved the video and since this is a YouTube list I thought visuals should be important, too. I can't stand Michael Jackson, but I do like their rendition of this song.

8. mukuchi chan - Yes, it's anime time. Unfortunately, mukuchi chan doesn't post videos very often. At least not on her own channel. It's sometimes hard to tell because cosplaying as Nagato and playing guitar is a popular thing. It's tough to know whether she is elsewhere on YouTube or not. But her anime theme covers really look effortless.

7. Camille and Kennerly - The Harp(ie) Ladies? (Sorry, anime referencing again... but hey, this is that kind of blog after all.) Two women kicking ass on harps while covering the likes of Iron Maiden. Up the harps, motherfuckers!

6. Phil Jakes - I like it when the more obscure works of Sabbath are recognized, but when it's in a low-key setting and on an acoustic guitar? It's like this guy is playing just for me. Does that sound creepy? It's like this dude just says "Fuck yeah, I'm playing rock on an acoustic guitar!" only he says it really, really quietly. His other covers are equally impressive.

5. Sungha Jung - A wise man once said that whatever you can do some Asian guy can probably do much better. This is certainly the case with me and my vain efforts to master guitar. He has videos dating back five years that just blow me away. His YouTube channel serves as a way of watching him grow up... which is weird in a way, but also cool. The mofo's talented.

4. Nostalgia Critic - The guy who remembers so you don't have to. He does some pretty good reviews about some pretty bad or unlikable movies and he's usually spot on, too. Other times I kind of disagree when I see him list a movie I actually liked, but he always makes some valid points. He's possibly the only YouTuber that can make me watch an hour and a half long review. At his best he can make reviews of movies seem more entertaining than the movies themselves and when he isn't at his best he can still make a pretty funny video. His review of The Shining miniseries is a great one and worth watching despite its forty minute runtime. 

3. Rob Scallon - Nothing is sacred to Rob Scallon. Whether it's taking an eight string guitar and using it to play original light progressive rock or using a banjo to dish out some satanic Slayer riffs, Scallon does it all. He also plays a lot of metal in inappropriate places. But here he plays a simple Metallica song backwards. Or forwards and backwards. Well, technically he has both a forwards backwards cover and a backwards forwards cover... So, yeah. Watch both of them. 

2. Leo Moracchioli - This guy plays all of his instruments, shoots his own videos, and arranges some kickass metal from songs that aren't really metal to begin with. He sometimes plays his daughter's instruments, too. Because a three foot guitar can be metal. 

1. 331erock - This guy always smiles while playing guitar. Always. He generally takes songs that aren't metal to begin with and puts his own twist on them. Of course, that isn't unique to this list, but he also plays a lot of anime-related material. Not to mention the Attack On Titan theme song. And yeah, that's probably why he's number one. I'm biased. He's a got a lot of good choices in cover material, though. Worthy enough to actually, you know, buy. 

Did I miss anyone? Yeah, I guess so. YouTube is a huge and unmined resource. It's impossible to completely explore it. But here's another video to kickstart your journey just because I'm a nice guy: 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Log Horizon 2

I remember when I watched the first season of Log Horizon last year and thought, "Man, I shouldn't have watched this right after Sword Art Online." So why I chose to watch Log Horizon 2 right after finishing Sword Art Online II (well, actually I watched Log Horizon again as a refresher in between, but that's just if I want to be nitpicky) proves that I am more than likely a dumbass. But I knew what to expect from Log Horizon 2 (more or less) so I adjusted my mindset accordingly as I began.

This was going to be a slow-burn type of anime. I just can't binge-watch anime that are so incredibly dialog-heavy. So I'd have to do it watching only a certain number of episodes a day. I know that's how normal people do it, but I'm an otaku. I'm a different breed. My motto is, "If you can't watch at least six episodes a day you aren't trying hard enough." And yes, I have a job and I leave my house. I'm in management, actually. 

Try as I might, even taking into account that I was pacing myself, this anime could only hold my attention for so long. It wasn't too bad or anything like that. It's just...

So what failed to grab me? Well, I admit the first season wasn't really a favorite of mine when I watched it the first time around. Since blogging I haven't watched a lot of anime for repeat viewings, but I made an exception for Log Horizon and I liked it a bit more after I watched it a second time. So I'd certainly be able to properly appreciate the second season now, correct?

With the first season fresh in my mind I started the second season... and immediately I noticed a distinct transition for the worse as far as the animation was concerned. 

This isn't how I wanted things to start.

Studios sometimes change between seasons for certain anime. It happened with My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU and My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too. Only in that case the animation actually improved. In this case it felt like someone had taken an ugly stick to every single one of the characters. There were these weird lines drawn under Shiroe's eyes that hadn't been there before and when those lines weren't there I could swear Shiroe's eyes just looked deformed. But, hey, I've watched worse animation before so I was willing to let this slide.

This series actually started out pretty strong. There were two arcs woven simultaneously together in two different locations and I thought that was done rather well. One features Akatsuki as she takes on a player killer on the loose in Akihabara while the other features Shiroe leading an impossible raid in the Depths of Palm. During their struggles, both Akatsuki and Shiroe get killed and understand what it means to die in the game. While I could have done without some of the more metaphysical stuff, I thought that moment was done rather well. There's also a really cool speech from the leader of the Silver Sword guild that's probably the highlight of this season.

Once those arcs resolve we get a Valentine's Day episode that feels like it was made up on the spot. It was okay, but nothing special. Just the plot of this anime going into neutral again.

Then we get an arc where some of the children of the Log Horizon world get to go on a quest by themselves. This happened in the first season and that was kind of good then, but this time the shine has worn off a bit. Hell, one of the characters plays an instrument and manages to crank out all of the theme songs during the journey so the quest becomes like a tour of a anime cover band. What's the real point of this? I mean, if they didn't bond during the first season when one of them actually almost died then I imagine this quest wouldn't effect them that much.

During their journey the kids come across some new characters. There's also the introduction of Kanami and a few other characters during this time period. Which is cool, I guess. It's nice to meet new characters and stuff.

But with only nine episodes left in the season it feels like none of the cliffhangers from the previous season will be even close to resolved. In fact, they've barely been touched them at all by the time the end comes in sight.

Then when the end actually arrives...

The last three episodes alone serve as a huge info dump that suggests that (maybe) the invention of this bizarre world has something to do with aliens that are also trapped there for reasons they also don't know. So who put these aliens there as well? Who created this world and why? Well, those answers aren't here. The importance of characters like Kanami that are introduced in a single standalone episode halfway through this series aren't touched on at all after that episode until a little snippet in the last episode and that makes their first introduction seem pointless. The whole thing is to set up a situation where we say, "Hey, I remember these guys" and pretty much nothing else. There're no eureka moments. The standalone episode where we are introduced to Kanami and her gang could have been summed up in a few minutes just like the last scene of the final episode.

The flavor text coming to life was a great idea, but there was no follow up on it. Crusty's sudden disappearance should have left people terrified of their weapons. In a game where all kinds of weapons exist you would think that most of them would have been possessed or created by bad guys at some point. So shouldn't there have been a plague of people becoming possessed by their weapons or disappearing? Hell, that could have been an entire arc on its own. Instead, it's briefly mentioned and then kind of forgotten about. Sure, it's mentioned about here and there, but with no real consequences. It's a plot device to move Crusty from the Japan server to the China server for reasons we don't find out about. Obviously, a season three was planned to follow up on that but with some anime it's tough to say if that will come to fruition. It never happened for The Big O or Darker Than Black or The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. The reasons for all of those anime not receiving a season three have a lot to do with how poorly the second seasons were executed. I think there will be a third season for Log Horizon, but if it does come I hope it cuts the BS and just solves all of its subplots. If it doesn't then I'll feel like I wasted my time.

At least, the episodes where the kids went on their quest kind of built up to something, but then that was also thrown out. The idea of there only being a certain number of songs in the world was a neat one. But the song the adventurers introduced into the world was a generic-sounding anime song. At least, introduce a Bach-sounding piece or something. Something that actually sounds moving and grand. I mean, shit, the musician character is playing a lute, for god's sake. You mean to tell me people with an interest in playing the lute can only play generic-sounding J-pop?

Now lemme get back to the final three episodes.

There was an impressive raid arc to start this season and it lasted for about ten episodes or so. So how the hell could a raid against the biggest threat against the people of the land and the adventurers possibly be resolved in less than three episodes when an ordinary raid took ten? How? It just... It makes no sense. It was so rushed through I don't even understand or care what really happened. Shiroe defeated somebody somehow with teamwork and Crusty is in China and Kanami is someone important with a daughter and boom the show is over. Oh, and Lenessia has a brother that hangs out with Isaac.

Yup, that's how it ended.

What a mess this season two was. What a mess.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan (Nagato Yuki-chan no Shōshitsu)

I was super excited about this anime and it is really weird just how excited I was. After following the manga and impatiently waiting for the next issue it felt like my efforts were being rewarded when an anime was announced that would feature the original Japanese voice talent. Even including Hirano Aya.

Life was suddenly fun an interesting again. I knew this anime was going to be something special to me. 

Having gone through the manga volumes, I more or less knew what to expect. This isn't about Haruhi. She doesn't even show up until the third episode. Sure, she gets up to plenty of hijinks, but this isn't her time to shine. She's more or less the punchy supporting character that drives the comedic element of the show. And she's human... although there are moments where she can respond out loud to Kyon's thoughts. This is just a bit of a throwback to the original story where Haruhi could do the same thing. It's yet another wink at the fans that goes over well. 

Haruhi is even likeable in this anime. In the original series there are plenty of time where Haruhi is just a downright pain in the butt. She comes across as incredibly unlikeable. In The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya I really hated her guts. But it's impossible to dislike her in this series. So as far as Haruhi's character goes this version is a splendid improvement even if she isn't really a god. 

Asakura Ryoko's character took me a while to adjust to, but once I did she grew to be one of my favorites. She's the one that takes care of Nagato, but this time she isn't out to kill anyone in order to do it. She's probably my third favorite character from this series. 

Asahina's character is a bit flat, though. Now that she isn't a time travelling agent, she really is just a ditzy character that is meant to drive the fanservice moments. Oh, well. 

And Koizumi is still the same old bland Koizumi although he's even more bland with the ESPer powers. 

This brings us to Kyon. Kyon is probably the only character that is actually the same as previous anime incarnations. Of course, that has a bit to do with Sugita Tomokazu's fantastic voice performance. Kyon, at least in the manga version, came off as much quieter and less sarcastic. So this could be a slight compromise in order to please fans of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or it could just be the voice actor's way with words and intonation.

Kyon, who has become rather synonymous with how he sounds, just comes across differently when he can't be heard (or read, for that matter). And he's drawn in a way that makes him look less sarcastic in the manga and more like a typical easygoing male lead in a romance.

Now let's talk about Nagato. Obviously, she's different. Maybe the most different of all. This Nagato is a shy, game-playing schoolgirl that somewhat ironically runs a Literature Club. She has a crush on Kyon, but doesn't know quite what to do about it.

Compare that to the reserved book-reading alien that could coldly analyze any given situation and it's tough to believe the same actress voices both versions. The differences are much more apparent when the original Nagato crosses over into this series towards the end.

I think, to date, I've discussed these characters plenty enough between the various anime, manga, and light novels so if you want more info you can check out my other reviews. Just follow the tags.

As for the actual anime:

This 16 episode series takes us into right up to chapter 39 of the fifth volume of the manga. So with any luck there will be another adaptation in the future because the manga is still ongoing (and I'm impatiently waiting for volume eight). Of course, there's still unadapted light novels from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya series so who really knows how the hell this is all going to go. Oddly enough, the characters that weren't introduced in the previous anime thanks to the unadapted light novels have yet to be introduced in this one thanks to the rest of the unadapted manga. I hope that isn't a bad sign. Sasaki needs to be animated one day, damn it.

At the risk of making enemies and dividing friends, I'm going to state that this is just a better adaptation of its source material than The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Whether it's the questionable episode order or the agonizing Endless Eight (more so the Endless Eight... I actually liked the different episode orders), there's no doubt the The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya dropped the ball at critical moments. The best part of the series wasn't even really part of the series because the best part was the movie The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan avoids any potential pitfalls by staying true to its source material. While this source material isn't as good and the story is rather mundane I couldn't find too many faults with this anime. The three part arc where Nagato's other self makes an appearance seemed to drag on a bit much, but other than that I was incredibly impressed with this anime. This was exactly what I wanted and what I expected and I'm surprised by how my expectations were met.

I want more. I want another season. Hell, I want more of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, too. Those remaining light novels need to be adapted and there's no better time to do it then while the voice actors are all round up anyway.

But we'll see. If it be your will, Haruhi. If it be your will.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sword Art Online II

Someone was cutting onions in my room as I watched the final episode of this series. I kept trying to find the onion-cutting sonofabitch, but he was a nimble bastard. Every time I looked away he would be gone and I was left with onion-induced tears as I stared at the TV screen as the final scene ended. Damn, onion ninjas.

I've seen a lot of anime deaths in my time, but very few legitimately made my eyes watery. Normally, I just kind of sigh and think, "Damn, I really liked that character." And if I didn't like that character then it's "Party in Jacobia" time.

But there are times when anime deaths are so sad that it is unbearable. To date I thought that only One Piece, Anohana, and Naruto Shippuden could make me bawl like a little bitch. Cowboy Bebop and Gungrave made me misty. A few others did, too. I'm sure if I go back on my blog I can remember which ones did or didn't but I'm pressed for time so I'll just say that a few have made me misty, but far fewer made me cry like an eight year old kid that watched his puppy get run over. Sword Art Online had a number of sad moments (Sachi), but none of that could compare to Sword Art Online II's ending.

However, I suppose I should go back to the beginning of the end rather than the beginning itself. Why? Well, I feel like reviewing it this way. Don't judge.

Much like the first season, Sword Art Online is made up of smaller stories that more or less segue into each other. The first series was adapted from four light novels and four short stories.

The second series is a bit less frantic since it only adapts just over three light novels. There doesn't seem to be an overarching sense of "this series could end at any time so let's cram everything we can into this" type of mindset in this series. 

The first series was a bit uneven in that the first half was so ridiculously fast-paced and super serious that the second half of the series sort of tripped over itself because the story just wasn't as menacing or suspenseful. Sure, there were plenty of moments, but it was clearly in the shadow of the first arc. Sword Art Online II is thankfully a bit more even although there is a bit of a lull in the middle. 

This lull I am referring to is a three-episode arc that felt more like an OVA than a part of the series. Of course, there was also an episode before this arc was a recap episode dubbed "episode 14.5." So essentially there are four episodes that just don't cut the mustard with me.

On episode 18 we begin the "Mother's Rosario" arc. At first, it seems like another harmless and potentially boring arc. I found myself growing a bit annoyed. Sword Art Online II started off with the fantastic "Gun Gale Online" arc that was the best arc since "Sword Art Online" in the first series. Hopes were high. I thought this series was going to be even better than the first one. 

But once "Gun Gale Online" ended and the rather pointless "Excalibur" arc began I saw my hopes come perilously close to being dashed. Then "Mother's Rosario" started and I could only scratch my head and wonder where all of the magic went. 

I kept watching until the end, though. I just don't drop anime unless they are truly awful and this wasn't awful. It was actually pretty good even with the "Excalibur" stuff, but it wasn't "the anime of the year" type of stuff just yet. "Mother's Rosario" would be the final arc of Sword Art Online II so therefore it had the duty to truly push this anime as a whole to the same level as "Gun Gale Online."

Asuna, who was almost forgotten about in "Gun Gale Online," is the main character of "Mother's Rosario." When Asuna hears about a powerful warrior named Zekken that promises to teach an 11-hit original sword skill to whoever can beat him in a fight, she is certainly a bit intrigued. Asuna, despite being reduced to a damsel in distress for much of the first series, is a badass at heart and her badass heart decides that fighting Zekken might just be worthwhile. After all, Zekken even beat Kirito. 

So who was this Zekken?

Well, he wasn't a he at all. Zekken was a she and she certainly kicked ass. It was almost otherworldly how good she was. Remember that both Kirito and Asuna were trapped in a video game for two years so there should be almost no one capable of beating them so handily. 

Kirito surmises that Zekken somehow must be somebody that dives into the virtual world on a 24/7 basis, but how could that even be possible? 

After Asuna's defeat by Zekken, Zekken actually asks Asuna for help in defeating a floor boss. Along with Zekken's group "Sleeping Knights," Asuna tries to come up with a plan that would allow only seven people to defeat a boss when normally it takes 47 (or some other ungodly high number, I don't really remember).

Zekken's real name is Yuuki and Yuuki is actually a Medicuboid user. What is does that mean? Well, it's better to watch to find out.

But I will say that "Mother's Rosario" truly does lift itself into a realm of its own. Yes, "Gun Gale Online" was awesome and the much longer story arc that everyone was waiting for, but "Mother's Rosario" is simply better. In only seven episodes, "Mother's Rosario" made Sword Art Online II go from pretty good to a transcendent experience.

The idea of dying in a video game has been a popular one for so many anime and even in Sword Art Online (both series) itself, but in "Mother's Rosario" it has never felt so truly realistic.

On September 11, 2012, a man named Sean Smith was killed in an attack in Benghazi, Libya. It's an incident I only discovered about because I read Crunchyroll's comments section during a certain episode. He died while playing a game. I discovered a tribute that you can read for yourself here. Then I thought about people I knew from only avatars on the internet that have passed on into the next world.

"Mother's Rosario" packs such a wallop for me. I cried. Sword Art Online has caught some flack for involving "real life" moments with "in game" moments and sometimes this causes the plot from the game to seem rather silly, but none of those criticisms should apply to "Mother's Rosario." It's not only excellent at weaving a story between the game world and the real world, but it also weaves a story into everyone's world.

People die. Everyone dies. And when they do their Facebook profiles, game profiles, message board profiles... All of that becomes something like an obituary. And it's sad. There are people I've never even met that have had such a huge effect on me and some of them have passed on and there's a terrible hole in my heart because of that. There are days I wake up and my Facebook feed is crying because someone everyone else knew has died. Virtual death... Everyday it seems to be like a real thing and it is everywhere.

"Mother's Rosario" blew me away. "Gun Gale Online" was great and action-packed, but "Mother's Rosario" is Sword Art Online II at its best and it makes this second series a truly great one. Better than the first, I say.

I suppose I spent all of my time talking about a short arc instead of the fourteen-episode arc "Gun Gale Online," but I was moved to do so. However, Kirito's fight against the enemy known as Death Gun is worthy of attention and mention so I will try to do just that.

After Sword Art Online and ALfheim Online you'd think Kirito would stay away from video games, but Kirito is a die-hard gamer and he is coaxed back into the world of dangerous gaming when a rumor starts that someone is killing people in real life by killing them in the games. Haunted by memories of Aincrad, Kirito feels obligated to start playing Gun Gale Online to hunt for the "killer" Death Gun. Only Death Gun finds him first and Kirito discovers that Death Gun is actually a survivor from Sword Art Online. Death Gun, under a different moniker, was part of a group called the "Laughing Coffins" that specialized in killing people in Sword Art Online when everyone was trapped in the game for two years.

"Gun Gale Online" is a mean arc even if Kirito's appearance is incredibly off-putting. The girly-boy avatar seemed too intentionally weird. However, I don't have any other gripes. The conclusion, while being a bit different than what I was expecting, still holds up after I think on it. For the most part, anyway. The ending almost came across as big a blunder as (obscure movie alert!) I Bury the Living's ending, but this conclusion actually seemed plausible under the circumstances so I won't take away any points.

Sinon is also a wonderful character and she at first seems like a possible romantic rival for Asuna, but this vanishes once the arc is over. After "Excalibur," her character disappears, too. That's unfortunate, but that just means the Asuna x Kirito ship won't be sinking anytime soon.

All in all, this was a wonderful season. I just wish that the recap episode hadn't been included at all and that the Excalibur episodes could have been a separate OVA or something. Still, fantastic stuff. Especially, "Mother's Rosario." Just watch out for those onion ninjas.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Role Models, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Anchorman, Knocked Up... Certainly all of those titles are hilarious movies and they are the movies that seem to personify the bulk of Paul Rudd's career. After all, I doubt few people remember him as much from Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.

Paul Rudd is probably the last guy on the planet one might expect to join the Marvel universe as a hero. Although Robert Downey, Jr. was the first to be the last guy one might expect to be considered for a family-friendly superhero. I mean, fifteen years ago who would have though Robert Downey, Jr. would ever have a career again much less an iconic film role? Much like I highly doubt that anyone seriously expected Robert Downey, Jr. to be box office gold after his troubles, I'm fairly certain that even less was expected from Paul Rudd's turn as superhero. Then again Chris Pratt succeeded in becoming box office gold after an unlikely turn as hero in last year's Guardians of the Galaxy.

So there's precedent for these odd casting choices to be successful, but where does Paul Rudd stack up?

Paul Rudd not only has a slightly more obscure career compared to Downey, Jr., but he also has a far more obscure character. Sure, all of us know of Ant-Man, but saying "I love Ant-Man" is like saying your favorite musical instrument is the harponette. Nothing wrong at all with the choice, but it's obscure and therefore largely removed from mainstream eyes. You probably don't even know what a harponette is without Googling. Same goes for Ant-Man. You know every single thing about Batman, Iron Man, Superman and Wolverine, but Ant-Man? Not a damn thing. Ant-Man is basically the Daniel Baldwin of superheroes.

Timing is everything, too. Ant-Man came to fruition well into Marvel's dominate run that began in 2008 with Iron Man. So basically when a movie like Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out and seems like the "unappreciated sequel" to many folks (not me, I liked it), Ant-Man obviously doesn't seem so groundbreaking. The only difference this time around is that the heroes and villains are smaller.

Ant-Man is also a character that is tough to take seriously compared to other superheroes because his abilities are silly:

  • "Wow, he can shrink. Didn't Rick Moranis do that already?"
  • "What's so cool about being able to jump through a keyhole? Hulk would smash the door down. Thor would use his hammer. Tony Stark would just stare at the door until Jarvis told him what was on the other side."
  • "Ant-Man is strong? What about that green guy that almost killed a god?"

Yeah, there's a lot of unconscious sentiment against this movie and this character.

But with Guardians of the Galaxy being a success despite a bunch of weird superheroes (like that talking plant named Groot and his raccoon buddy) it would seem that maybe Ant-Man could be a success after all.

If this movie isn't bringing home the "big bucks" it isn't because this is a bad movie. This movie's earnings just reflect, rightly or wrongly, that most people think the idea of Ant-Man is stupid. I thought the same... until I actually watched it and then I thought, "Yeah, this is way better than Jurassic World."

This movie is everything a movie should be. It's fast-paced, but character-driven. It plays the Ant-Man story with a mostly straight face, but there are quite a few moments where the absurdity of the situation is acknowledged and that's good for some comedy. Since Paul Rudd fits this semi-comedic sort of approach I honestly couldn't think of a better actor for the job. And we have a veteran actor like Michael Douglas that finally gets a shot at a blockbuster type movie and lends some weight to the movie for those of us that like more traditional actors.

There are also plenty of ties into the rest of the Avengers universe to keep the nerds happy. The coolest is probably the fight between Ant-Man and the Falcon. And that credit scene at the end of the movie that promises that "Ant-Man will return."

Honestly, Marvel has done it again. This might not be one of their more popular releases, but it is one of their winning ones. Where exactly would it rank among the Marvel releases? Well, maybe I need to do a list about that one day...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sword Art Online "Extra Edition"

It's been over a year since I watched Sword Art Online for the first time. A whole year. It was one of my favorite anime from the ones I watched in 2014 and I even stated in my review how excited I was for the second series to come out in July of 2014. Now it's July of 2015 and I've only just gotten around to watching the recap movie. 

Time moves differently for me, okay?

And, yes, this is a recap movie. Not an episode, but an actual movie. The timing is an hour and forty minutes and only about thirty minutes of that is anything original. 

Since it has been a while since I watched the previous series I was faced with either watching the series again or watching the recap movie. I was going to watch the recap movie anyway no matter what, but I did toy with the idea of saving the movie until after I finished re-watching season one. Instead I just went with the movie. 

It's an adequate refresher for my memories, but not much else. Kazuto talks about his experiences with the first two games while the girls have a swimming day and talk about their own memories meeting Kazuto. The fanservice from the bikini shots is nice and the original mission at the end is okay, but if I had started watching this movie immediately after finishing the first series I would have been bored out of my mind. 

It really is a tedious recap, but it doesn't quite convey how epic the first series really was to me. So while it did cover all of the events I didn't remember (which was most of them), the way this movie played out made everything seem too ordinary. 

Obviously, this recap movie doesn't mean to be a substitute for the first series and this isn't for new fans. Most of this just won't seem interesting to anyone that hasn't seen the first series because it's largely out of context. But it isn't for anyone that knows their SAO stuff, either. Because if you know your stuff then this will be 100 minutes of your life you'll never get back. 

So that leaves people like me, I guess. I take such long breaks between stories sometimes that a refresher seems inevitable. This movie does the trick while making me want to continue with my journey and curse myself for putting off Sword Art Online II for so long. 

So what is this movie to me? Or anyone? Well, I guess this movie is a 100 minute commercial for the series. The advertising slogan being, "Remember how awesome this series was? Well, this time it has bikinis. Yeah, we put a beach episode in this motherfucker. So you know you have to watch."

You play a mean game, SAO. One mean game. 

P.S. - This movie is going to kick off my marathon of anime sequels. Psycho Pass II, Knights of Sidonia II, Tokyo Ghoul II, and Log Horizon II have been put to the top of my respective queues. Should be fun to watch and to review. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Punch Line

A spirit roaming around a small house populated by four girls has the ability to save the world... if he doesn't see a pair of panties. You see, what happens if he sees a pair of panties once is that he becomes a supercharged fighting spirit, but if he sees panties twice his spiritual powers become overloaded to the point where an apocalypse gets triggered. And you thought your puberty was hell, huh? 

Meet the untapped power of panties. 

 At first I wasn't sold on this concept. Yes, I watch some pretty ecchi stuff and enjoy it nine time out of ten, but the first half dozen episodes of this series just wasn't clicking with me. Since this series is only twelve episodes to begin with that really wasn't a good sign. I was ready to drop this series about halfway through episode six when it seemed that there might just be something here. 

The story is confusing during the first half (albeit purposefully so) and the comedy is more miss than hit at times as a whole, but it's the concept of time travel that saves this anime's bacon from obscurity. As far as tropes go, this one has it all: there's the spirit cat, the powerful transformations, the magical girl, the panties, the assassins, and the robot girl. 
It all seemed so close to being pointless until right when I was ready to give up on it. I even thought I knew the big plot twist as to just the the superhero in the red and blue suit was, And I did know, but that was only half the mystery. 

After episode six the series became infinitely more interesting and the earlier episodes seemed much more important. 

Iritatsu Yūta is our main character and we get to follow him as he becomes a spirit and realizes the danger posed by panties. Of course, the panties themselves won't destroy the world. (What I stated earlier was slightly misleading, but that's advertising for you.) It's the Qmay Group that will destroy the world using an asteroid and if Yūta sees panties too many times he'll be knocked unconscious and unable to stop that from happening. And since he is haunting a house that is home to four girls, avoiding panties is a much more daunting task than it might seem otherwise.

Of course, Yūta has failed many times to protect the world from the asteroid because of so many panties. And because of assassins and other stuff like that. But he always gets another chance to save the world because he can travel time since he is a spirit.

Once Yūta utilizes these powers more and his backstory and relationship to the primary antagonist and the magical girl are filled in the anime actually becomes something akin to "must-watch."

Unfortunately, it took half the series to click with me, but once it did it was a lot of fun. 

So, hey, if your Netflix is caught up and you want to see panties destroy the world then go for it. I'd recommend it. Just be patient. It's not the greatest thing ever, but it is a worthy moment from the Spring 2015 anime season. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Best of Arnold Schwarzeneggar

I once made a list like this for Eddie Murphy and I've always wanted to do another one, but I couldn't figure out just who I should pick. When I read about the possibility of a Twins sequel featuring Eddie Murphy I think fate decided for me. So without further ado: Let's dish out the goods on what I consider to be the ten best Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.

  1. The Terminator - Back before "I'll be back" was a line that was completely ridiculous. Here, the line is cold and calculated and you knew some people were going to get killed and you maybe even knew how. Arnold was terrifying in this movie. He was literally the ruthless and efficient killing machine that the Terminator franchise still tries to copy to this day and hasn't yet. Robert Patrick came the closest, but no one else has. This is Arnold's best movie, period. 
  2. Predator - This movie is a classic and it gets better with age. It's claustrophobic and features guys like Jesse Ventura and Carl Weathers, but somehow manages to not come across as the same old same old "action guys vs. bad guy" movie. This is legit sci-fi horror where those action guys are reduced to mere mortals. 
  3. True Lies - This movie made Tom Arnold cool. Let me say that again, "This movie made Tom Arnold cool." Think about that for a minute. There are no killer terminators or sinking ships or life-sized smurfs, but I think James Cameron made his third-best movie (although second-best on this list) without all of that. There were tons of explosions in this movie, but that Jamie Lee Curtis stripping scene could be the hottest scene of them all. However, the best thing about this movie could be Bill Paxton's second movie confrontation with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Priceless.
  4. Terminator 2: Judgement Day - Yeah, I know people love this one. I do, too. But it's not better than the first one and it isn't as good as a lot of people say. Yes, it's close to perfect for the series on a movie-making level, but a lot of what was bad about later entries originated with this one. The fact that the T-800 smiles? C'mon. This is the terminator! Even if he has been reprogrammed he's the freaking terminator. Also, Robert Patrick's T-1000 disappears for basically any scene that isn't a chase scene because he just isn't cool to follow around as Arnold's terminator in the first one was. He's gone for so long that it's tough to remember the T-1000 is still a character by the time he turns up in Dyson's house. But, still, every time that thumb goes up at the end there isn't a dry eye in the house. 
  5. Total Recall - Hmmm, gotta love a woman with three boobs. But I do dock some points for that little mutant chest dude. That gave me the creeps when I was younger. 
  6. Escape Plan - I loved this movie. The big man even kinda acts in this one. Yeah, it's probably about as realistic as any other Stallone or Schwarzenegger movie, but it's still pretty decent compared to, say, dreck like Hercules in New York or any Stallone movie where Stallone isn't Rambo or Rocky or with the Expendables. 
  7. Conan the Barbarian - I'm not actually the biggest fan of this movie. I think it's okay for the time period of "classic Arnold," but when I look at this and then it's less regarded sequel I really don't see too much difference in quality. In some ways I prefer the sequel, but this one has its moments, too. I'll include this one mostly because of James Earl Jones being a badass snake-dude. 
  8. Last Action Hero - Okay, I know this is supposed to be a bomb and all that, but that was then and this is now. There are way worse Arnold movies and way worse movies in general. This is not as bad as others. I remember the first time I saw it (a long while ago) I rather enjoyed it. I haven't seen it in a while, but there's no way this is one of the worst Arnold films ever made. I mean, we're talking about the guy that was in Raw Deal.
  9. The Expendables 2 - It's your typical generic action thriller with an all-star action cast, but the gunfest involving Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Chuck Norris is just too good to ignore. Although the banter between Schwarzenegger and Willis is somewhat cringe-inducing. Arnold: "I'll be back." Bruce: "You've been back enough. I'll be back." Me: *sigh*
  10. Terminator Genisys - Okay, I know I called this movie really good when I reviewed it and that's why I'm ranking it in the top ten. However, context is important. It is a really good Arnold film. But it isn't a good film compared to something that's actually good like On the Waterfront. Compared to that this movie is a steaming pile of dogshit. But this movie is light years better than Commando or The 6th Day or Twins. It's better than almost every single other Arnold movie out there where he is featured in any kind of prominent role at all. 
Anyway, that's my list. Maybe you've seen one I haven't have that is just fantastic and needs to be on this list. If so, cool. Just don't tell me I sold Batman & Robin short. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sound! Euphonium (Hibike! Yūfoniamu: Kitauji Kōkō Suisōgaku-bu e Yōkoso)

Ah, the school band days. I was never in the band myself. In middle school my brother's band director used a jedi mind trick to compel me into picking up the french horn, but it didn't stick with me. I don't think I played a single note on it in the entire time I had it, though. My instrument was the guitar. I just had no drive to learn the french horn and the band scene just wasn't my scene. I had no idea how to read music, either. I felt woefully out of place.

That doesn't mean I never had an appreciation for that world or that I am completely unfamiliar with it. It just wasn't for me. 

Sound! Euphonium details the days of a group of (mostly) girls that pursue the concert band school life. I'm not quite sure why the majority of these characters were girls, but I suppose that could be chalked up to the concert band's popularity in Japan among the sexes or just a writer's whim. It doesn't really take anything from the story. Just an oddity worth noting.

However, there is a bit of subtle yuri flavor to this anime. Mostly, what seems to be a not quite pronounced relationship between the cheerful main character Ōmae Kumiko (Euphonium) and the more bizarre Kōsaka Reina (trumpet). It could be construed as simply a quirky competitive friendship that starts out cold and then gradually warms up, but it seems like there is a confession of love (albeit an unconventional one) that sort of puts the kibosh on that idea. The two seem to be almost more than friends at the end. Not that it really matters or changes my opinion on the anime. The yuri train, if there really was one here, is a train I respect. 

Not being the "concert band guy," I wasn't really enraptured by this anime as I have been by certain others I've seen. I like anime that are jazz-influenced or rock-influenced when it comes to music. Even pop music in certain instances. But the concert band genre missed a chance to fully win me over with this one. There was nothing especially bad about it, though. In fact, it was pretty good all around. The animation was superb. Every scene seemed to be a screenshot waiting to happen. The music was really good, too. 

With thirteen episodes it actually felt like just the right length without being rushed or overstaying its welcome. It's a miracle. Sound! Euphonium did everything it should have done to get things right. A second season is possible, but there's closure if there isn't one. 

But it was just so... "concert band-y." Maybe it was my failed time spent with the french horn that sort of rubbed the shine off concert band experiences for me. Or maybe it was my sleep deprivation that disallowed me to enjoy some of the finer moments. None of which should or do count against this anime. Most of the issues I had (if there were indeed "issues") were just me things. 

However, I wouldn't call this one of the greatest anime I've ever seen and there are others that made me appreciate music more. "Concert band-iness" notwithstanding. This one felt really standard to me. Which is a good thing. Just not a great thing... despite doing pretty much everything right from a critical standpoint. It just didn't do it in an especially great way. Yeah, I'm being a dick right now, but hey, its my blog. Your mileage may vary. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? (Danjon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darō ka)

The answer is obviously no. It's never wrong to pick up girls in a dungeon. In fact, that's where I always go to pick up girls. One of the joys of owning a dungeon is to keep girls in it. Wait, you mean those dungeons in the multi-player video games? Oh... yeah, of course, I meant that. I was just kidding about that "owning a dungeon" thing. I don't own it. I just rent.

As far as this anime goes, the title comes across as being yet another long-ass title that actually has little resemblance to the plot. It's a "broad strokes" title meant to entice based solely on the weirdness of the title itself. Yes, there is a guy that initially meets the girl of his dreams in a dungeon, but this isn't a romance type of anime and it isn't perverted, either. If anything, it's more of a light-hearted Sword Art Online without the look at the lives of the people actually playing the game. So while this anime feels like it takes place within a game there's no guarantee it actually does because we are never told or shown otherwise. That's a neat approach.

And yeah, I'm a sucker for long-ass titles, too. I don't understand why myself. 

The name itself originates with the light novel series the anime is based upon, though. So naturally the title is for people that have the patience to read. 

The story follows around Bell Cranel, an aspiring adventurer that wants to journey deep into the dungeon and win glory and all that good stuff. Unfortunately, he starts off on the wrong foot and almost gets killed by minotaur. If it wasn't for the glorious Aiz Wallenstein rescuing him he would have been S.O.L.

Of course, Aiz Wallenstein is a high level adventurer, but more importantly she is a stoic bundle of hotness from a well-known family. Basically, she's out of Bell's league and she's seen him completely embarrass himself so his work is cut out for him. 

Bell himself is from a family ran by the more small-time god Hestia (often nicknamed "the Bestia" by fans because of her rather present cleavage and her personality). And yes, I consider Hestia to be the Bestia as well. (As I understand it, she's also been subject to a ton of fan-made... ahem, "hentai manga." So there's always that is you need your Bestia fix. Just don't say where you got that info from and we'll be good.) 

Dungeon didn't really break the mold for this genre, but it's definitely an excellent advertisement for the light novels. The animation looked crisp (if not spectacular) and the story was self-aware enough to not take itself too seriously. There were some excellent battle scenes later on, but they weren't as over the top or purposely drawn out as many shounen anime. Not that intense shounen battles that last fifty episodes are entirely bad, but there's a time and place for that and it's not here. 

There's certainly room for a sequel series as there were a bit of sub-plots left untied. I imagine that is because of where the light novels left off while the anime was being made. That and the creators of the anime are waiting to see how well the blu-rays do before going all in on a second season. This happens a lot with anime these days and it gets annoying at times when Naruto Shippuden gets carte blanche despite releasing nothing but filler material for months at a time after that manga is already over. There's some hypocrisy there. 

But if there isn't one then I believe I would be satisfied enough for this to be the end although there would be some reservations. I hate loose ends. 

Would I buy this on blu-ray? Sure. I really enjoyed this anime. I just don't think it will make my top ten list for the year, though. We'll see, but I've seen quite a few good ones so far this year.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Nisekoi (Season Two)

What. A. Disappointment. An entire season of filler. Granted, I have not read the manga so I cannot be sure, but other than the first four or five episodes I don't think the story advanced one damn bit. That qualifies as filler in my book.

Not that the first season really broke any molds with its story, but this time around we literally have no story and no resolution to the story being told in the first season. The locket that seemed to give everyone fits in the first season is barely mentioned. Whoever has the key to it is also not mentioned. The "false love" story between Chitoge and Raku is also barely mentioned. 

And yes, it is true that there is only so much that can be done with this story, but having a full season not even bothering to advance the story is just uncalled for. This isn't Naruto Shippuden. This is a harem anime, for Haruhi's sake! I don't exactly expect a swift and satisfying resolution with the harem or romance genre, but I was at least hoping for a reason to justify the need for a second season beyond keeping the Nisekoi name in the public eye. The first season left a few answers and the second season answered nothing. I don't quite get it. 

Sure, these episodes are watchable and even entertaining. But they are hollow, too. New characters are introduced, but they act more as distractions than contributions to the story. It's like the writers really didn't know what to do with them. I hope the manga isn't like this. 

Everyone is just worried about their own insecurities and no one does anything. Which is par for the course with this genre, but that also means that what was fun in the original is trite and redundant in the sequel. Chitoge discovered she loved Raku at the end of the first season and decided she wanted to get his attention, but no ground is covered in their relationship after that aside from a short arc at the beginning of this season. 

All of the girls get their own episodes which is great if you like certain characters over others, but this approach comes across to me as procrastination rather than characterization. Nothing gets accomplished. No one gets closer to Raku. Nothing gets resolved. The mystery of the locket and keys are still unresolved. 

So... I guess I'm waiting for the REAL season two to show up. This was a nice group of OVAs, but they are nothing more than that. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lindemann - Skills in Pills (2015)

I was looking forward to this. It's been six years since the last Rammstein album. Six long years. Despite Rammstein guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe having his own band in the meantime to sort of give Rammstein fans a little fix, it's been a shame that one of the more talented of vocalists hasn't had his own project until recently. But the Lindemann release has finally seen the light of day and it is exactly what I expected. 

Skills in Pills does nothing to dishonor Lindemann's status as a great vocalist. Yes, his accent is indeed thick, but rather than sound menacing as he does in German he often sounds hilarious in English. And I mean that in a good way. Allow me to explain. Till is singing in his normal style. If he were singing this in German you'd think he'd be singing about something serious like invading another country (like most Americans seem to assume that's what German bands sing about), but that isn't the case. He just sings like he's evoking the powers of Satan. His voice is deep and he's in top form. This is the voice of Rammstein. But he's singing about... golden showers and loving ladyboys and abortion? 

Yep, everyone meet Till Lindemann auf Englisch. 

Some of these lyrics are freaking funny. I mean, Fat? The opening verse to that song is: "Your dirty sweat my sweetest potion, Your armpits swampy little oceans, Your flabby butthole a soggy cave, I put in my parts and let them bathe"

I mean, just... What else could anyone be expecting? This is brilliant poetry right here. 

After Consequence of Sound blasted this album in a review I figured that there really must be something here. Yes, the lyrics can be a bit clumsy (it is his first full length album in English) and gross (duh), but Till Lindemann has been writing about the same topics for years now. It's nothing new, but it is also nothing bad, either. Think of Rammstein songs like Zwitter, Ich tu dir weh, und Mein Teil. Rammstein has absolutely no shortage of gross, disgusting, and/or controversial songs. It's kinda what they do. 

However, it's in English.  We can all understand it now. But does that rob it of any mystique? Maybe if you didn't know anything he sang about before, but I can't imagine many fans of Rammstein that didn't at least acquire some knowledge of what they were really hearing. And anyone getting pissy over these lyrics obviously didn't understand Rammstein's lyrics in the first place so... eh, who cares about them. They probably aren't fans of this kind of music anyway. 

And this isn't really Rammstein. In the same genre, yes, but just different enough. Instead this project is done with Peter Tätgtren performing all of the instruments as well as producing the album. So I'm not sure if Lindemann is an accurate name for this duo, but there's no doubt the large portion of American audiences will be drawn to this to hear the Rammstein frontman. So while maybe not accurate, the band name fits the perception, I suppose. 

All of these songs are good. All of them. Even Golden Shower is. "Cunt" is a word that I find a bit uncomfortable but within the confines of this song I find it's usage acceptable since he isn't using it to degrade anyone. If anything... he's using it as a compliment? "Your pretty cunt" is a socially acceptable dating phrase, right? 

However, the four "serious" gems on this album are Yukon, Children of the Sun, Home Sweet Home, and Skills in Pills. So Till isn't a one trick pony on the lyrical front. 

But, at the end of the day, it is about the music as a whole. If you like Industrial Metal or the Neue Deutsche Härte then I imagine it would be tough to pass this effort up. While I am looking forward to the next Rammstein album (whenever the hell that will be) I certainly wouldn't mind if this dynamic duo released a second effort someday. And maybe a concert blu-ray for this album. The concert props used during Praise Abort would be insane. 

Terminator Genisys

Well, I'm sure you've read some reviews by now. A lot of them make this movie look dull at best or terrible at worst. The truth is that it is not either of those. This movie has done exactly no more and no less than what Jurassic World has done. It's taken a rather old and tired franchise and gave it a bit of a kick in the ass. 

Granted, this is not a perfect movie. It's not the first or second movie. Those two are indeed close to perfect, at least as far as this franchise is concerned. But does this new movie trump the so-bad-it's-good third one? Yes. Does it trump the forgettable Terminator Salvation? Yes. 

Critics might not like this movie, but audiences will. Why? Well, Arnold is back. That really shouldn't be a big boost because his career has certainly seen better days, but this franchise is his bread and butter and it is good to see him use the red eyes once again. It's been long enough since the third one so it's worth giving him another shot.

The second reason for audiences to enjoy this movie? This is a movie that feels like it was built on the backs of the first two films. When I watched a James Cameron interview after getting home from this movie and I heard him say that he thought of this as the "third" film in the series I silently agreed with him. 

This movie works. Not 100% of the time, but it works. 

My gripes?

1) More could have been done with J.K. Simmons. Simmons is a fantastic actor and he was given a minor role that seemed destined for something greater, but that something didn't materialize. I suppose the sequel to this movie could do that for him, but as of now I think it's a huge failure to not give him something better to work with. 

2) The marketing for this film thus far has sucked. Why the hell they spoiled the whole plot twist in the trailer is beyond me. It's ridiculous. The people in the marketing business for this one are fucking stupid. But if you've managed to avoid the trailer then please continue to do so until you've seen the movie. 

3) Lee Byung-hun is barely in this film. I mostly watched this one because I figured he'd be a badass villain and he was, but he didn't get quite the screen time I thought he was going to get. If Mr. Lee is looking for this movie to be his breakthrough into American cinema he'll have to try his luck again. 

4) Some of the time travel hijinks should have been handled with a bit more clarity. Writing was a little sloppy on that front. I'm a little confused on some points and I rarely get confused during movies with complicated stories. This one felt maybe a bit more complicated than it should have been while also being a bit less adventurous than it could have been. Given the story, I'm surprised I just said that. 

5) This one could have been completely awesome, but it fell ever so slightly short of the mark because it felt like it was trying to hard to be crowd pleaser for fans of the franchise. The dialog was a bit too "Arnold movie style" and at this point I'll be fine if I never hear the phrases "Come with me if you want to live" or "Get out" or "I'll be back" ever again. I'm actually surprised "Hasta la vista, baby" wasn't used. However, what's wrong with this movie's dialog also works in spite of itself sometimes because... well, fuck it, it's an Arnold movie. But it still could have been better on the dialog front. 

6) I also wasn't sure of the actors that portrayed Sarah Connor or Kyle Reese. Time will tell, of course, but my initial impressions of them were that they came off vanilla. No different than any of the other characters, really. Which is exactly what they are not supposed to be. 

That being said, this movie is a success. It isn't wholly original, but it does kick ass. It's got some great action sequences. The fight between Young Arnold Terminator and Old Arnold Terminator is probably the biggest fanboy moment of the movie. That was pretty awesome. 

More than anything else, this movie was legitimately entertaining for the entire length of the movie. I wasn't even sure what was going to happen. Part of that was confusion, but the other part (the larger part) was the exhilaration and just being in the moment. I was being wowed. 

But if this isn't the most successful and best of the "fifth films" in any franchise then I don't know what is. I'll take it. I'm not sure if I should feel too hyped up about the prospect of two more movies in this vein, but there's potential here. And I'm talking about more than just a cash-grab but just how much of that will actually be realized is up to other powers to decide. 

So... "really good but not quite great" sounds like a good rating to me after first viewing.