Spoiler-Free Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

As ultimately forgettable as the first Amazing Spider-Man movie was, I do appreciate the fact that it stuck closely to certain aspects of the main Spidey universe. Peter Parker tinkering away in his basement working on things besides flashy spider-themed spandex, mechanical web-shooters, Gwen Stacy in all her thigh-high-wardrobey-goodness (I actually don’t know how canon that is, but it does fit her character at least aesthetically)… Sure it had its problems, but as a whole, it was inoffensive and certainly wasn’t a disaster.

My opinion remains with its sequel.

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Gabe Finally Watches: Genshiken

It’s strange to be able to refer to college in the past-tense. It’s even stranger to compare your college experience with those told in works of fiction only to see how painfully inaccurate they were to your dull, dull existence as an undergrad. Thankfully, Genshiken has my back when it comes to the ordinary (yet entertaining!) college life.

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Genshiken (shorthand for “Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyūkai” or “The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture”) tells the story of an anime/manga/gaming college club and the people that inhabit said club’s clubroom. Actual scenes of the characters attending classes, studying, etc are few and far between, as the series’ main focus is on what the characters do in their spare time. As such, a lot of time is spent bumming around in Genshiken: playing retro videogames on an old 4:3 TV, having rambling conversations referencing last week’s anime episodes and in general just trying to forget that by the end of your academic career, you’re expected to nab a job and join the rest of the working world. That said, the series resonates with me to a painful degree.

You would think that the idea of nerdy college students spending their days bumming around making nerd references may get old fast, but the series keeps things fresh by constantly switching focus to different characters. Initially, you are introduced to college freshman Sasahara, who comes off as a rather plain guy that joins Genshiken on a whim. But as the series progresses, it begins to focus on other club members, like Madarame—poster-boy for anime fanboy, and Kasukabe—a complete non-nerd, who puts up with the club’s nonsense since her boyfriend Kohsaka is a regular member.

It is in this combination of newbie fan, fanboy, and non-fan that Genshiken begins to show its true colors as a thesis on what truly defines one as an “otaku.” And while the series may come off as meandering at times, if you are able to relate to any of the characters, then it’s well worth the watch.

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The series continues to roll with this concept in its subsequent OVA episodes, where a fourth type of fan is introduced in new freshman Ogiue—the closet fan. While the OVAs only total at three episodes, they do add something fresh to the table in its new character as well as continue to flesh out old ones—particularly Madarame and Kasukabe, who have become something of a foil to each other.

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It is in its second full season (Genshiken 2) that the series begins to take a somewhat different approach to its formula. While storytelling remains consistent with the past season and OVA, visual representations of the characters’ conversations have become noticeably more… explicit. Before this season, characters referencing sex (either in real life or in the games/anime they consume) would mainly keep the details to themselves. This season, however, seems to take full advantage of the clearly higher quality animation it’s been granted by showing in full glory the gritty and borderline not-safe-for-work perverted thoughts running through some of the characters’ heads. Fanservice in general begins to crop up more frequently with this season, resulting in some of the more out-there episodes.

Nonetheless, the series continues to deliver, not only repeating the same formula it’s started with, but applying it in slowly changing situations, as each of the characters begin to grow, ultimately ending in some of the upperclassmen graduating.

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One of the bigger factors that kept me watching the series with each new season was its clear passing of time. For those not in the know, Japanese colleges typically last for three years. That said, it seems like the series as a whole grants just the right amount of time for viewers to be fully acquainted to the characters before they graduate and are given significantly less screen time. Even as I finished up the first season, I still wasn’t able to remember each character’s name. But by the end of the second season, character names were remembered just in time for me to get sad when they left.

Genshiken Second Season (which is technically closer to a third season) introduces a new batch of freshmen. The club is now primarily female, and as such, club conversations have slowly become fujoshi-oriented. Speaking as a guy, it was jarring but interesting to see this sudden shift. Technically, the conversations were still nerdy, but it was geared more towards this different subculture that I’m just completely unfamiliar with. Talks about couplings, and who would be the proper “on top” partner… it’s all just so foreign to me. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to note just how the club changed in mood due to a sudden shift in gender ratio.

On top of the blitz of new characters/secondary characters coming to the forefront is Madarame—former chairman of Genshiken and recent graduate. Having taken on a job nearby campus, Madarame has taken on the role of the strange uncle that stops by the club room perhaps more often than he should. Knowing this, he begins to feel melancholic, not really seeing any progress in his life at all. As his personal story begins to unfold this season, we as the viewers are given a new dimension to the series. Build up emotions and character interactions from past seasons all begin to pay off this time around, which is especially amazing considering how episodic the series felt like until this point. While each season of Genshiken can be enjoyed as its own separate entity, Genshiken Second Season is definitely made with the long-time fans in mind.

And while the latest season has ended with Second Season, the source material manga is still ongoing, continuing to balance current otaku “funny because it’s true” jokes while fleshing out the series’ well-established characters.

What’s Simple and What Isn’t: “Resurrection” and “Believe” Reviews

When trailers for Resurrection and Believe started to crop up, I started to get excited about American television again. It feels like it’s been forever since an American show wasn’t about a) comicbook superheroes or b) antiheroes—both of which have long overstayed their welcome. From their trailers, both series seemed to cover some kind of fantastical phenomenon without coming off as too comicbook-y. And if at least one of them was solid, then I’d be a happy camper.

resurrection dmncapThe good and bad thing about Resurrection is that you can get the gist of what the entire first episode covered from the trailers alone. People that have been dead for years are suddenly showing back up completely unharmed as if nothing ever happened and no one knows why. It’s a simple enough concept that’s shrouded in enough mystery to keep viewers wanting more.

What I especially liked about the first episode was that it took its sweet time with the story without coming off as too meandering. You’re introduced to Agent Bellamy, who escorts a lost (almost comically all-American-looking) boy, Jacob, back to the small town of Arcadia. During Bellamy’s time in Arcadia, he slowly takes in his surroundings as well as pieces together the inhabitants and their relation to the lost boy. Everything comes off as free-flowing as you the viewer explore and take in the town through Bellamy’s eyes, and yet a story and plot development seems to form so naturally regardless (or perhaps “due to”).

Definitely something I’ll be looking forward to keeping up with this season.

believe dmncap…Compare, on the other hand, Believe—supernatural drama about an escaped convict having to take care of a young girl with superhuman abilities as they’re on the run from a mysterious organization. Maybe if I remembered that JJ Abrams had a hand in this series going into it, I wouldn’t be so disgusted with the goings-on of its episode one. Then again, I feel like any amount of disgust had to be had regardless.

Unlike Resurrection, Believe practically hits the ground running and continually bashes the viewer over the head with plot in the form of overly blatant exposition from its characters. Every character seems to wear their heart on their sleeve if only for the sake of moving the plot forward. How do you demonstrate the main character is untrusting and hates kids? I guess having him outright say that he’s untrusting and hates kids is sufficient enough.

The overall writing throughout the episode was just so painfully straightforward when it came to “developing” its characters. Either that or it was ridiculously inconsistent. One of the first scenes has the token female eye-candy antagonist (who by the way, will no doubt end up having a one-one-one fight with the token female eye-candy protagonist) snap the necks of two innocents only to later show how inept and just plain unprofessional she is in her line of work when she asks for a day off for her mother’s birthday. You would think something like that would be played for a laugh, but the fact that it’s being used as an honest-to-goodness point to build off her character is just… no.

And in terms of world-developing, things just move too fast for comfort. Normally, something would slowly introduce you to a concept and build on it as it progresses: “When you start from the beginning, it acclimates you to the bullshit, so that once it gets to the really crazy bullshit, you’re like ‘eh, makes sense I guess.’” Not true in this case. With Believe, so much over-the-top nonsense happens involving the plot and it’s just too much to take in, not to mention accept. Why would a secret organization be willing to free a convicted killer, but be against using guns because “they’re the good guys?” How come said convict can hold his own in a fight against someone that seems to be who I can only assume is a mercenary? Maybe if it were a comic or animated series, I’d be more accepting of some of these points, but as it stands, it’s a tough pill to swallow.

Second to the writing is the actors. Even in the case that a show’s writing is awful, a well-cast actor can save what’s left of it with their performance. In the lead role as the little girl with supernatural powers is actress Johnny Sequoyah, who sadly suffers from child-actor syndrome. Absolutely every one of her lines is delivered with a sense of precociousness that is just unfitting for the character and takes me out of the moment every time. It doesn’t help that for some reason, as precocious as she is, the script mixes in some moments where she puts herself in danger in the stupidest way possible (seriously, they’ll buy you a new stuffed animal after they escape from the gunman).

Lastly, since I couldn’t find any place to naturally transition to the subject, I just wanted to bring up the casting in the series. Normally, this is something you would pay absolutely no mind to, so the fact that I feel the need to even bring it up must mean something’s up with it. In total, the first episode of Believe had three women in it: the main kid, Jamie Chung in a protagonist role, and Trieste Kelly Dunn in an antagonist role. All three of them fall into the same category of having a petite body and cute face, which I just find odd. Give the child actor a couple years, and I feel like all three of them would be auditioning for the same role. This is nothing against the actresses themselves (even if Jamie Chung has one of the worst IMDB entries I’ve seen), but rather the casting decision. Usually a point is made when similar people are cast in certain roles, but in this case, it feels like it was done more on a whim than anything else.

If anything, JJ Abrams is a master at making shows that come off as “smart” for a stupid audience, and keeping said audience viewing on a weekly basis through sensationalized nonsense in his narratives. In that sense, maybe Believe will find a big audience. Just don’t count me as part of it. I’ll be on board the Resurrection-train, where things may be simple, but at least they’re better put-together.

Gabe Finally Watches: Code Geass

The first time I ever heard of Code Geass was many moons ago back when I moderated a Death Note forum, and a poster asked for anime suggestions with similar theming. At the time, I just shrugged off the suggestion and went about my merry way, content that my modern anime know-how was limited to whatever the American Shonen Jump articles took the time to hype up.

If only I stayed that content.

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Spoiler-Free Review: Gravity

With movies in general, it’s easy to get caught up in a running list of “things” needed to keep audiences entranced through the entirety of the film, whether it be from dialogue, special effects, constantly shifting scene locations, cast size, etc. So to see a modern day movie take a rather minimalistic approach to their story-telling while still maintaining a quality story is nothing short of amazing.

Gravity 2013 Movie Poster

As suggested by the trailer, Gravity is something of a disaster movie, with all the disaster focusing primarily on a one Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock). Stone is a medical engineer who’s received six months of appropriate astronaut training and is currently in space alongside some other astronauts when they’re unexpectedly hit with by a cluster of debris from a destroyed satellite. Having been cut off from Mission Control, Stone must rely on her own limited training to get herself out of this fix.

Now on paper, it sounds like some standard stuff that isn’t exactly new to the world of movies. But where Gravity truly shines is in its execution. Rather than keeping to a standard big budget movie-telling format of having a large cast and cutting from mission control to the characters in space, the entirety of the movie focuses on Stone’s character. No cuts to what’s going on at Earth; no flashbacks when Bullock’s character starts giving some backstory and reason for viewers to care for her well-being… actually, I’m pretty sure the camera makes a point of either keeping focused on Stone, or switching to a first-person perspective as Stone fumbles her way through one disaster after another (really, the movie gives Bullock little to no time to breathe either due to the stress or the literal inability to breathe because well… space situations can do that). And it’s that amount of focus that gives the movie a real sense of isolation from the world, in both a beautiful and frightening manner.

You would think that with the movie having such a focused perspective for its story-telling that it would result in certain scenes becoming too chatty (or worse: too exposition-y), but the dialogue is actually kept at a rather nice balance alongside the destruction sequences. The somewhat smug and chatty Astronaut Kowalski (George Clooney is right at home as this guy) properly sets the stage and overall feel as we’re introduced to their world in space and doesn’t come off as too overbearing, keeping in mind that Bullock is the true star of the movie. Bullock’s character keeps to herself, but as she realizes the fix she’s gotten into, she begins to take a more proactive role, relying solely on what she herself is capable of doing given the situation and the handful of metaphorical bones thrown at her. Her acting is spot-on from beginning to end, (for the feminists out there) her character of Ryan Stone proves to be a very strong, independent, and capable person, and (for the dudes out there) she looks pretty good doing it, without coming off as ludicrously fanservice-y (#demlegs).

Action (er, “destruction”) scenes are over-the-top, but service the plot well, as space debris is whipped and turned about without coming off as wanton destruction. Coming from someone that hasn’t exactly been wowed by 3D in movies, I actually really enjoyed it this time around. Like the special effects themselves, the 3D is treated in such a manner that directly services the plot and is consistent throughout the film, so you don’t feel like you’re cheated “3D wise” by just having the one scene that looks really good in 3D and the rest just kinda being okay. While there was clearly a large amount of special effects used, you are never given the feeling that the effects were put first, with story second. Everything is kept tight, and compliments each other accordingly.

My one semi-complaint would be the handful of baby imagery. While I understand how this relates to Stone’s backstory, I found it coming off as more of a stretch than anything else. Regardless, it does prove to be some of the most beautiful shots/scenes in the movie, so I won’t make too much of it.

As a whole, Gravity was a somewhat simple story, executed in a unique and even beautiful manner, giving a real feeling of isolation in the vastness of space.

Approved for Adoption – French Movie Review

While the general plight of growing up Asian in a predominantly non-Asian community may not be the most mainstream of stories told, it has been run into the ground at least for the audience that said story is being aimed at. Recurring themes of redemption from your parents conflicting with goals of making them proud, having dreams forced upon you by another, a general coming of age tale done Asian American (replace “American” with any other secondary culture) style… it’s not exactly something Hollywood would give a second glance and from what I’ve been exposed to, I’m of the camp of “you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it a million times.”

Or at least I would have said that before seeing Approved for Adoption.

Approved for Adoption

Approved for Adoption (or Couleur de peau: miel, translating to “Skin Color: Honey”) is a French film telling the story of the influx of Korean adoptees from the perspective of the movie’s writer/director Jung. Right off the bat, Jung weaves an interesting tale of being adopted into a French family at the age of five, establishing an interesting dynamic not only between Jung and his adopted parents, but between him and the family’s biological children.

The movie is based on Jung’s graphic novel of the same name, bringing his sketchy art style to life and near-seamlessly melding it together with CG animation (think Monster House style) as well as live action footage of Jung himself as he roams the streets of Korea 40+ years after having left said country. Switching between styles keeps things fresh, but doesn’t come off as quirkiness for quirkiness’ sake, as each jump in aesthetic serves as a proper lead-in for the scenes to follow.

Growing up, you never really question the order of things, especially within your family, and Approved for Adoption successfully runs with that theme. As we follow Jung through his almost Dennis-the-Menace-like childhood, the fact of him being a Korean child in a French household is downplayed for the most part (sans visits from blatantly racist extended family) and things feel more like a film about family rather than about a Korean facing identity issues. Earlier scenes help develop the sense of belonging Jung has with each of his family members to the point that you really feel for each of them once the drama is delivered come the latter half of the movie when the elephant in the room that is Jung’s past is better inspected.

Suddenly this well-meaning family you’ve seen in its childhood has exploded into scenes of drama and introspection without anyone to truly blame for the shortcomings involved along the journey. You feel for Jung and his fish-out-of-water dilemma, but at the same time you feel for his parents and siblings who honestly have no way of relating to his problems or finding a solution to them themselves.

By the end of the movie, you’ve been exposed to so much misfortune along with signs of hope that any clear-cut finale would be an insult to what has developed so far. Rather, you are left with a lot to think about, and signs that while things may get bad, there will always be time to take on your problems one step at a time.

(Approved for Adoption was seen at San Jose’s CAAMFest. Check local theaters/festivals for showings.)

Initial Thoughts: Anime Summer 2013 Season

Another season, another batch of anime to spot check. With this being my second “real” season of checking out multiple anime as they air, I like to think I’ve learned some things about which titles to stick with and which to drop like a bad habit.

(Insert standard disclaimer of me just being one guy that doesn’t want to sift through multiple episodes of garbage before officially deeming it unwatchable. Sometimes I side with the common opinion on anime of the season. Other times I won’t. It’s kinda expected when you try to develop these things called “opinions.”)

And now, in no particular order…

WATAMOTE – No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular

WATAMOTEI read a couple chapters of the Watamote manga a while back and thought it was decent enough—a story about an unpopular girl that’s too caught up in her own delusions of what high school should be like to really develop something of a friendship with any of her peers. It had this whole unapologetic feel about it, especially when it came to main character Tomoko and her sincerely “hard to watch” embarrassing attempts at being more social. In general, its subject matter felt like something I’m sure most anime/manga enthusiasts could relate to. And if skimming the internet’s proven anything, it’s definitely done at least that much.

But I still can’t get into it.

Watching the first episode of the anime, all the problems that only felt minor in the manga felt more noticeable now that I was watching it in all its animated glory. Pacing felt slow, especially for a series that leans more towards a comedy. Scenes with Tomoko’s extended musings about defending her unpopularity seem to ramble for longer than necessary. And the general feel of the series just makes me not like her as a main character. Rather than taking all her undesirable habits and turning them on their head into something funny and enjoyable to watch, I’m led to believe that I’m supposed to cling to her character based solely on the relatability of her problem, which I personally can’t do.

Not saying I’m in denial about having never been in an awkward situation. My having a blog pretty much hints that I’ve had at least a good handful of awkward situations in my life. Just saying that WataMote isn’t my cup of uh… awkward tea.

(I will say Tomoko’s relation with her brother is probably one of the most accurate portrayals of a brother/sister relationship in all of anime. The degrees of “not caring” her brother has about her own problems is painfully accurate.)

Blood Lad

Blood LadI feel I’ve seen this show before, except done a million times better. Oh yeah, I did. Last season.

Blood Lad is yet another anime about a quirky demon and his developing interest in the human realm. Though rather than initially being a textbook baddie that develops a soft spot for humans and their daily strives, the demon in question is essentially a Japanophile. And a really obnoxious one at that.

Furthermore, the constant use of reference humor in the first episode alone just rubs me the wrong way. I get that we’re talking about a demon Japanophile, but when some of his most recent references are about Dragon Ball, signs usually point to the rest of the series’ humor being of the “least common denominator type.” And anime fans as well as the viewing public deserve better.

(Though considering that Grown Ups 2 actually happened, as well as half the trash that airs on the big 3 networks, I honestly think this is what a majority of us deserve.)

Chronicles of the Going Home Club

Chronicles of the Going Home ClubSpeaking of shows you’ve seen done better before…

For those living under a rock, the “cute school girls forming a club about nothing and having equally ‘nothing’-types of conversations” has been done a million times over to the point that I feel like if another show of similar genre pops up next season, I fear the worst (insert Ghostbusters “dogs and cats living together” bit).

Don’t get me wrong; I feel like treading the same genre past said genre’s peak is possible. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment that was last season’s Aiura. Then again, maybe the 4 minutes per episode was more helpful than I initially thought it was.

Whatever the case, Chronicles of the Going Home Club is essentially an empty husk that shows exactly how far we’ve gone from the likes of Haruhi, Lucky Star, etc. The entire cast is bland and uninteresting; the goofy situations they get themselves into have been done and done a lot better; its inexplicable seal mascot just doesn’t cut it; even the animation feels like something from 5+ years ago.

I will say that the one thing the show has going for itself is its almost Animaniacs style of self awareness, with characters constantly mentioning things like the ending theme animation. Though I’m sure even that tiny sliver of light won’t be enough to make this show shine.

Servant x Service

Servant x ServiceServant x Service is essentially the third season of Working!! except with an entirely different cast and setting. I like to think both shows take place in the same universe a la The Cosby Show and A Different World.

The main characters are a batch of social workers going through the everyday ins and outs of working for the man, with most of the humor coming from the characters’ own specific brands of wackiness rather than coming from the situations they get themselves into. You have Lucy, the well endowed main character that’s become a public servant to seek revenge on the public servant that OK’d her disgustingly long legal name; Miyoshi, the fresh out of college worker that just found her first job ever; and Hasebe, the slacker that surprises everyone whenever he gets one of the other two out of a jam. Each character, as well as the supporting cast has his or her own shtick, but for a show like this, it works.

It’s one of those shows that has a unique enough premise that hasn’t been done to death (yet), so I’m pretty forgiving when the jokes are mediocre at best. It knows exactly what it wants to be, aims for that, and is pretty decent when it comes to delivering. One of the few shows I’m actually following this season.

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club

aka "swimming anime" if tumblr is any indication

aka “swimming anime” if tumblr is any indication

Free! is this season’s Flowers of Evil, in that all its negative hype seems to be working for it. For the uninitiated, the show originated as a 30-second animation bit that exploded on the internet and resulted in a full-on show not only being made, but being made by Kyoto Animation (Haruhi, Lucky Star, K-ON!, etc). All its hype came from the fact that the 30-second bit well… appealed mainly to the female demographic in the most visual way possible. Or at least that’s how most people would put it.

I’d go into a ramble on the issue myself, but I feel like Mr. blogsuki worded it perfectly (check out the rest of his blog, btw):

“Women fanservice would be non-threatening guys who know how to install kitchen cabinets and crown molding, hence why the Property Brothers have three shows on HGTV right now. Boy fanservice would just be nakkid ladies. Men fanservice would just be nakkid ladies. So it’s a bit charming Kyoto is approaching Free! as they would K-On!.”

The main characters in the show are essentially gender-swapped versions of the ones most anime fans are familiar with, which is its main draw. You have the overly cutesy one, the brains, the serious-minded one, and the rival to the serious-minded one. It’s a formula that’s been done time and time again, so who’s to question it?

I will say, though, that as incredibly “for the ladies” as the 30-second bit was, the first episode seemed significantly tame (sans the ending animation, at least). If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought it was more of a sports anime than anything else. All it needs is the super finicky female sports club manager and we’re set.

As for whether or not I’ll actually keep up with it past the first episode, I can’t say. Part of me is sincerely interested in just how a “manservice” show will go, while the more sensible part of me just doesn’t care. Like I said, I think of it as the Flowers of Evil of this season.

Gatchaman Crowds

Gatchaman CrowdsI never watched Battle of the Planets or G-Force: Guardians of Space, and I’m sure I’m better off watching this reboot of the Gatchaman franchise without having done such.

From what I’ve gleamed of the original series, it’s essentially Power Rangers in anime form. 5-man team, mecha, forces of evil… pretty standard stuff. The problem with the jump to this reboot is just how downplayed the actual team’s been so far. Three episodes in, and only two of the crew is given any significant screen time, with the rest given just enough time for a snarky one-liner or two.

Seeing Gatchaman Crowds from a more objective standpoint, the focus mainly on Gatchaman members Hajime and Sugane works decently enough. Sugane is the seasoned vet, and a straight-shooter when it comes to getting his bad guy. Hajime, meanwhile, is the “think outside the box” rookie that the team needs. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, and three episodes in and it works alright enough.

Where the show really shines is in its world-building. In a world where not only are smart phones used in the noblest way possible, but moleskin notebooks are the hot commodity for civilians and superheroes alike—it makes for an interesting setting, at least. To have scenes with the Tiger & Bunny-looking Gatchaman mechas duking it out with flying rubiks cube monsters be less interesting in comparison to scenes with civilians saving each other with the help of their GALAX phones is interesting to say the least.

The show’s pacing so far is surprisingly slow, especially for an action series, and the character designs are a bit out of the ordinary (think Tatami Galaxy minus being paired with beautiful backgrounds, so I start to mind) but to have the underlying message so far be that the civilians are the true heroes leaves me interested as to where the show will go from here.

Yami Shibai

Yami ShibaiAt about 4-minutes per episode, Yami Shibai is essentially Are You Afraid of the Dark? for people with even shorter attention spans. Like most shows of this type, episodes have either been hit or miss (unsure how to feel about having the source of the jump scare be immediately arrested in the following scene), but the traditional Japanese paper puppet-style of animating the majority of the series as well as its short run time is enough to keep me following.

Turning Girls

Turning Girls…speaking of 4-minute shorts with limited amounts of animation.

Turning Girls is about a group of twenty-somethings living in what the Naruto series has coined as “the springtime of youth” (yep, it’s 2013 and I’m making a Naruto reference). The number of misadventures the trio of girls goes on reminds me of some of the less sadness-inducing scenes in Solanin (or any Inio Asano work, really) in that they probably aren’t the best of its kind, but you can really relate to the cast and their seemingly aimless meandering through their late twenties.

So basically, all the relatable-ness that I should have felt in WataMote ended up here in my case.

Monogatari Series: Second Season

Monogatariah, the piece de resistance.

Funky naming aside (Nisemonogatari and Nekomonogatari aired following the original Bakemonogatari, so this isn’t a “second season” by any stretch), like most returning series, I’m sure most are already decided. And while a majority of the internets deem the Monogatari series as nothing more than an incredibly text-heavy fanservice show with nothing of any substance, I can’t disagree more. The text-heavy conversations the characters have among each other on the surface seem so superficial, but as the episodes progress, you begin to see just where the meaning behind the conversations go. And when that moment clicks, you feel a certain sense of being treated to something so much more than what one would initially expect.

The general premise of “oddities” taking over people is second banana to this series’ top-notch writing, which is honestly all I could ever ask out of any series (How you gonna reference something said in the first series’ character commentary three shows later and not be praised? HOW?).

I can’t praise this franchise enough, and for those willing to delve into something more atypical, I’m sure you’ll feel the same. Or you’ll bitch about how you have to read so many subtitles, which… I mean c’mon, really?

Movie adaptations of videogames are bad? OBJECTION! Live Action Ace Attorney Review

I don’t know what’s been in the water in Japan, but of the live action adaptations of previous works to have come from the country, I can’t think of any as of late that I’ve found particularly well… good. The 20th Century Boys trilogy definitely had the production value, but was ultimately mediocre at best. The same can be said about the live action Beck, Solanin and Bunny Drop movies, all of which stuck decently well to the source material, but just didn’t have that certain flair that made the movies themselves work as not just adaptations, but good movies in their own rights.

So you’d think with something as ridiculous as an Ace Attorney movie, I’d be subject to yet another mediocre adaptation. We’re talking about a movie based on a videogame… not only that, but the creative team behind the movie actually decided to stick with the characters’ over-the-top wardrobes and hairdos. The last time I remember an adaptation doing something like that was back in the live action Speed Racer adaptation, which pretty much solidified my opinion that it is impossible to directly bring over something so off-the-wall crazy into a live action setting without being distracting/silly/seizure-inducing.

And yet for some reason, the Ace Attorney film pulls it off with such finesse that you wouldn’t even think that such was ever considered a problem in previous works.

Ace Attorney Live Action PosterComing from a person who hasn’t played any of the games, I can say with confidence that the movie does an excellent job of building interest in the franchise for non-fans such as myself not because it was so bad that I felt the need to see the superior source material, but well… the opposite. Ace Attorney does an excellent job of not only establishing its characters and surroundings, but also pulls off weaving such an intricate story that remains interesting from start to finish.

Characters from titular ace attorney Wright and prosecutor/rival Edgeworth to Butz and Gumshoe to even random secondary and even tertiary characters in the background look like they’re pulled right out of the videogames, wacky hair and all, and yet for some inexplicable reason, none of the designs are distracting (with some exception to the court’s judge character, who is so hilariously and intentionally deadpan that I’ll let it slide). Rather, the offbeat designs bounce well off the equally insane courtroom, which looks perfectly normal with the exception of the gigantic holograms showing various pieces of evidence throughout the trials that take up most of the story.

The handful of times the characters traverse outside of the courtroom, we are treated with equally alluring settings and flashbacks that also look relatively normal with the exception to some slight quirks. You’d think with the majority of the movie taking place in the courtroom, however, that things would get stale fast, but with the story’s near breakneck pacing (admittedly, I needed my more game-familiar friends to break things down for me) and lovable characters across the board, the total run-time of 135 minutes goes by like that.

To say that Ace Attorney is a good videogame-gone-movie still wouldn’t say much considering the absolute crapfests of game/movies preceding it. Rather, it is an excellent movie in its own right from beginning to end and is not only the first live action Japanese movie I thoroughly enjoyed, but the first movie adaptation of a videogame that I sincerely wish gets a sequel.

Final Thoughts: Anime Spring 2013 Season

Following multiple anime as they air is a very strange sensation, especially if most if not all of those titles wrap everything up in one season. What seems like a random mishmash of generally unrelated titles suddenly show some similarities as they decide exactly how they want to wrap things up. Anyways, here’s the run-down on all the shows of the Spring season I actually took the time to watch all the way through.

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Why I Didn’t Like “Man of Steel”

I watched the midnight showing of Man of Steel a couple weeks back and just couldn’t bring myself to do a post about it because it left that bad of a taste in my mouth. But upon seeing that the movie is actually collecting something even remotely resembling mixed reviews, I just felt the need to get my own thoughts out on the matter. Because, y’know… it’s clearly an important hot-button issue that needs to be addressed.

man of steel poster

From the get-go, things do start at least somewhat promising, with the Kryptonian Zod pretty much establishing his spot as the movie’s main baddie by killing Super Man’s dad as the baby Supes is sent off to Earth before the planet Krypton explodes. But then you begin to realize that the sense of urgency you’d expect with a dying planet is seemingly nonexistent (even the characters that know about their own planet exploding really take their damn time getting stuff done) and you immediately start to fear how the rest of the movie will play out.

As Clark crash lands on Earth, we’re treated to an incredibly choppy sense of storytelling, as we jump back and forth from Clark traveling the world as a drifter, to his earlier days trying to adjust to life as a normal schoolboy, hiding any signs of his powers. You would think these scenes would bounce well off each other and make you really develop a liking to Clark and see him as more than just this indestructible super-being, but every one of these scenes ends up falling flat, never going that one more mile to really make you feel for the character.

Things only become more muddled when secondary characters are slowly introduced. Characters like the love interest in Louis Lane and her gruff boss at the Daily Planet seem to only exist to detract from Clark’s main story, and the fact that they’re played by Amy Adams (of Enchanted fame) and Laurence Fishbourne (The Matrix among other things) just makes things that much more awkward to watch. Adams’ acting is decent, but comes off as too “Disney Princess”—the exact opposite of the fast-talking snarky Louis Lane that the movie tried to portray in terms of her given lines. Meanwhile, Fishbourne has something of a problem balancing his emotions, as he goes from over-the-top jerk boss, to caring older gentleman during a time of crisis (he has a similar problem in his role on NBC’s Hannibal). The only casting among the main characters that didn’t feel out of place was Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel, Super Man. Though his performance is definitely wasted here due to lines that seem to be inconsistent with the tone of the film in general.

As the movie continues, Clark finds what fans will identify as The Fortress of Solitude, where the movie’s script realizes that not much of a plot has gone on until this point and decides to dump everything then and there. Rather than working up to the point that he deserves donning his iconic red and blue outfit, Clark is literally presented the suit as something of a birthright. And once Zod makes his predictable appearance on Earth, things further degenerate into a generic big budget action film (complete with a death machine that emanates skrillex-y wubwub sounds), with some of the most boring fight scenes I’ve seen as of late. You’d think with all the big time movies working in stylized action into their works, that Man of Steel would hire a halfway decent fight choreographer, but no. As super-powered as the hero and baddies were, their clashes were on the lower end of entertaining.

But what really killed this movie was the overall sense that the people involved just didn’t have an understanding of what it means to be Clark Kent. Now, I’m not an avid Super Man fan myself, but watching the movie just gave me the impression that Super Man was written by someone that was probably as well versed on his lore as well… me. Sure, he looked the part, but the writing clearly didn’t make the most out of the character and what he stands for. Too late into the movie are we presented with little moments where Clark talks of being a small-town kid when we should have been presented with not only moments that demonstrated that trait, but also how said trait affects how he uses his powers and how the humans around him react to it. What we got instead were a handful of mishmashed flashbacks that were severely lacking in a common theme that you can stick with throughout the movie.

I can’t speak for the hardcore fans, but to me, Super Man is essentially a tragic mulatto, struggling between being a Kryptonian and being an Earthling. Man of Steel treats Super Man like it wasn’t sure what to make of Clark in the first place, so why should I even be invested? Plenty of people have already called this latest movie out for lacking a soul, but there honestly isn’t a better way to phrase it than that.

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