Thursday, April 3, 2014

Things No One Cares About:Golden Time

As a little girl I watched quite a few romantic comedies because I really like to laugh and see attractive people hook up. In fact those were the only movies I did watch and didn't know there were other movies. For the longest time I genuinely thought that that was just how all movies played out. I was not a bright girl,not that that has changed much. I'll admit due to my dwindling attention span I really don't watch that many movies anymore. Instead I've turned slightly to more romance slice of life shows,one I actually managed to finish lately.

Golden Time is a series of Light Novels by Yuyuko Takemiya turned anime that aired last fall. She is probably better known for Toradora!, a series that I have attempted to get into multiple times and failed. I'll probably try again later but that has nothing to do with Golden Time. Instead this was a show that I had no trouble getting into it just had a hard time staying in there. It is a wonderful show but some elements are just acting like a errant rabbit in the punch bowl. Ruining everyone's good time and possibly giving some people tularemia.

The plot is split into four short arcs that all focus on the main relationship between Koko Kaga and Tada Banri. This is the main factor that makes this show really work. The two leads have amazing chemistry and their relationship feels natural. The show follows them from their first meeting as they evolve from friends to lovers back to friends then finally back to lovers. It helps that on their own they are interesting characters. Koko is a childish spoiled rich girl trying to find her own identity after having her delusional life long dream shattered. It makes her a mess of neuroses that is compelling to watch. For the most part the first half of the show is mostly about her but slowly becomes more focused on Banri which is a double edged sword.

On one hand Banri is great character,a very outgoing guy who is very quick witted. His ability to turn a situation is marvelous and is a great lead to follow. However as the show focuses more on him and his problems he brings with him the real sticking point that drags down the show but more on that shortly. Like Koko he is trying to find himself in a way though to an extent he already has. He has lost his old personality due to an accident that wiped his memories before that time. Fortunately we do meet him about a year after the accident so he's trying to live his life and doesn't bemoan the loss of memory. Though it does start becoming a major plot point after the second arc as we get more into his head. It really doesn’t get tiresome as it's really just part of him and not his defining characteristic.

With the amnesia we have a terrible attempt at symbolism in the form of Ghost Banri. At first it seems like a metaphor for his past memories being there and he just can't see them. That actually wouldn't be that bad but it doesn't stop there. The show treats him like a supernatural entity that can mess with reality. A major plot point of the second arc is him ultimately pushing his past away through rejection of his childhood friend,Linda. At this point the Ghost decides he is going to start messing with Banri with bad luck. How he has this “power” is never explained nor is he himself really explained. That's the problem the show has absolutely no other real supernatural elements,it's a straight up well written romcom.

If he'd been there in the first few episodes it might have been okay. However I am just cruising along enjoying a great show then this guy just shows up out of no where. Look at Vision of Escalowne,yes it started in a fantasy world but the mecha elements were introduced as we were learning about the world. Therefore when the mechs do show up,its not as jarring because we as the viewer are still learning about the world. Here we are firmly established in modern Japan and by the time Ghosty here has shown up the setting is too well established.

Every time he shows up,it just brings to the attention how out of place he is and how silly he is. He even manages to screw up the finale as apparently Linda can see him and talks to him whilst Banri and apparently every other past Banri all hang out. Also don't think I do not get the symbolism of the scene nor Ghost Banri as a whole. It is just really poorly explained concept that seems unsure if the ghost is supernatural or symbolic and he just sort of stays in narrative limbo. Okay let's move on to something else before I take up another paragraph on this stupid concept.

The rest of the core cast is fairly well developed for the screen time the have and provided many little comedy moments. Koko's childhood friend,Mitsuo, goes through a minor arc as he too struggles with who he is and what he wants to do. Identity and purpose is a major theme of the story and quite a few characters are setting out to establish one. This is helped that the characters are in college, a classic time where people tend to do some soul searching. Some of the characters has a good idea of what they want to do,while others like Koko are trying their hardest to find that purpose. Special mention to 2-D Kun for just being a great comedic straight man and bitter single guy. He starts out as a minor character but really comes into his own by the show's second half.

The story like I said has four arcs that each play with a facet of the Koko/Banri paring. We start out as they get to know each other,moving on to a shake up with Banri's past that ends the first half on a solem/hopeful note. The second half delves into both of them deciding to really confront their pasts and change with the final arc giving them the final shake up as Banri's memories return and push his new ones out. The arcs do add a different facet to the central relationship and and each new hardship makes me want to see them succeed even more.

The story as a whole flows along at a good pace and despite my aforementioned ghostly grievances is very well written. It does tend to use you typical romantic comedy tropes albeit sparingly and they never really get in the way. A few late game concepts are established in a way that proves that the author does know what she is doing. Near the end there are just some scenes that are overflowing with such raw emotion that it gives you the chills. Even the minor relationships such as Linda/Mitsuo and Koko's friendship with Oka progress in a natural way.

This was honestly one of the few shows I have followed through the last two seasons outside of D-Frag,Megane-bu and Diabolik Lovers. Sorry Kill la Kill fans,I'll get around to that show...eventually. It really is a good show but that Ghost does hold it back from. Hell it managed to derail half this review due to it's stupidity. If your in the mood for some romance/comedy then you could do much worse plus you get a couple of nice opening songs.

Till next time:Stay Positive

Friday, March 28, 2014

Allie WInters and the News

So,it's been a few months since we've talked heart to heart like this.If all of my frequent readers want to gather around(all 3 of you) we'll talk about the goings on and by talk I mean tell you.

First of and the biggest part of this update is some news I have been sitting on since last month. I've been contacted and offered a position with Haywire Magazine as a columnist.I'd explain what that is and who they are but I'm I can't do it justice so I'll let it speak for itself.I'll be taking over for the extremely talented Zachary Brictson and his column Off the Grid. There I'll be talking about newer games that strike my fancy. My first column for them will be up in the coming weeks so in the meantime check out the other excellent writers,so you can actually see good writing in action.

What does this mean to you besides my pointless bragging,nothing really.This blog has never been one that is known a consistent schedule and actually having deadlines will not effect this blogs schedule more so than my own issues usually due.While I will try to get back onto a more stable release schedule,I make no promises.Speaking of broken promises, lets move on to a little bit of what is coming up in the next few weeks.

I''ll admit I haven't really kept up with the latest anime season mostly due to laziness and doing other activities besides watching anime.One of the few shows I have kept up with is Golden Time which like most shows of this season are just now finishing up,so be looking for a post on that sometime next week.Back in the ancient past of last November, I did an unofficial Slayers month. I did not nor am I really still calling it that just due to the goofy failure of Jojo month last June. However I did have a point to it in that I wanted to you to see how the Slayers movie line progressed,so we all know where they stood when the final movie,Premium, was released.Since I finally talked about Gorgeous after Great just drained me completely with its' mediocrity,I figured it is a good a time as any to dive in to the train wreak that is Premium.Again look for that in the next couple of weeks

As for the random post on Conception 2,that was a short entry for an Atlus USA Contest hence it not being labels like most of my other entries are. Not much else to say about that but I will probably review the full game when it comes out either here or at Haywire next month.

-I'm going to be writing for Haywire Magazine
-Golden Time next week
-Slayers Premium the following week
-I wrote a contest piece and did not win
-Huey Lewis please don't sue 

Till next time Stay Positive

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thnigs No One Cares About:Slayers Gorgeous

I guess it's been a while since we've talked about Slayers...or really anything for that matter. I'd make an excuse but eh I got nothing. Lets change that and talk about Slayers Return 2 or as the kids call it,Slayers Gorgeous. It was released in 1998 almost a year to the day after the forgettable Slayers Great and the first one that wasn't released alongside an anime season but was the last part of the prequel series to the main series. I'm going to get the bad out of the way first so I can actually say nice things about this movie.

The movie is a really a point for point retread of Return,right down to the the plot being hijacked by a monster that the villain can't control. It attempts the same twist that Return had,with it's darker opening The editing and color palate being very similar with their attempts to mislead you into thinking this might be a bit serious. Hell it throws in a callback to the bizarre golem scene from Return as well. However you know what the film is still funny.

Upon my last re watch I really did start noticing the above mentioned gripes but it does not matter because again it is still hilarious and actually does add a few new things in to the mix. As I have said numerous times Slayers plots tend to be average and more a medium for the comedy. Thus they tend to fall into a sort of template that works for them. See the anime having clearly defined arcs where Lina and co have build up to one villain. There is nothing wrong with that,it's a solid foundation that the comedy builds the house on. When the story tries to get more serious the harder we have to look at the foundation and realized that it is made of sand, I.e Hourglass of Falces. So Returns had a stable plot and structure that worked. Gorgeous realizes this and use that structure to tell a fun story with a breezy pace.

The only real problem I do have with it borrowing Return's structure is that final part of the movie with the aforementioned hijacking. The villain seems to be there because I guess the director had some scenes to foreshadow him and it would look awful silly if they didn't do anything with them. There are no really good jokes in the big battle and the guy is just not that unlikable that I want to see him defeated. You really could have cut these scenes and lost nothing outside of showing how well Naga and Lina can work together. Even then that could have been demonstrated better without those scenes

Through out the series Naga and Lina have had a volatile yet trusting relationship and while Return played with it a little it was tame compared to here. Their own relationships is almost central to the plot as they go from fire forged comrades to bitter enemies at the drop of a coin. They are both greedy as all get out and this fact does lead to them choosing sides for no other reason than to fatten their own purse. However as much as they are constantly trying to one up the other they can pull their act together to fell a mutual enemy. If only to have go right back to quibbling a moment later.

Admittedly they did try something like this in Great as well but there their own conflicts took a back seat to the abysmal main conflict and their big showdown was one of the most boring thing ever animated. Here the main conflict is more of a free standing joke on dragons while Lina and Naga are just trying to one up each other and get paid to do so. It's honestly pretty funny that Naga joins the bratty princess just to teach her how to laugh more arrogantly.

The comedy does borrow slightly from Return with it's misleading seriousness but goes on to rely on smaller twists with pratfalls and some great continuity jokes. It has great comedic timing and I was laughing quite often. It does lack the big comedic set-pieces the Return had but makes up for it with it's mythology gags and pratfalls that you never really notice the lack of the former

Overall this is not a bad movie by any means it is very entertaining and well paced. This is probably the best portrayal of the Naga/Lina relationship and I'd place it up there with Return. Yes,maybe I will marry Return,what's it to you. Definitely worth checking out if you need a laugh.

Till next time: Stay Positive.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Conception 2:Children of the Seven Stars Entry

I got to sit down with the demo to Conception 2:Children of the Seven Stars that was recently released because I've being seeing the posts on Atlus' Facebook and decided might as well see if it's worth it. I loved Persona and the way Conception has been described defiantly gave it a Persona vibe. The demo did keep that vibe going so at least they are giving off a good vibration,make sure to tip your waitress. Since this is a demo and I can't do my usual routine of picking apart everything,so I'll keep it short.

The demo gave the basic outline for the story involving these labyrinths that have sprung up and you being literally a gift from God that can help vanquish the monsters within the mazes and get rid of the mazes themselves. That's really about it,I guess there is no point in really having spoilers in your demo which is fine. The end of the demo promises a deep storyline which seems plausible given the relative vagueness of the scenario. There are are plenty of places for the story to go,and the characters are fun.

The game play is split into dating sim and dugeon crawling/combat ala Persona. The dating sim aspect is just that,you talk to the ladies,say something that is hopefully smooth and then profit. Profit being defined here as stat boosts for the Star Child System which is how you create parties for the dungeons. The Star children are like Personas for the Final Fantasy crowd. You choose a girl to make a child with choose a vessel for that child to inhabit and preform the ritual. Yes the whole thing has a sexual undertone but not in a way that is pandering but more as a emotional side effect of making these children. It is something I hope the game explores more as it could be interesting. Either way once your child is conceived you give it a job and a name and you go on your merry way. It seems to have a reasonable amount of depth for those who want to play with the system and makes you feel like the dating sim parts aren't just there for lonely people who need a date. The children appear as little cute warriors with tiny job costumes and they are really adorable.

You form the children into three parties of three and equip them with weapons while you and one of the heroines form a fourth party before heading into the Labyrinths. There the combat sections begin and this is honestly the best part that the demo had to offer. This is a dungeon crawler with onscreen encounters as you explore the dungeons. It even does that Mother thing where enemies that are considered too weak are defeated on touch. The whole party moves around with you but thankfully can not activate encounters themselves. The children run around you and your heroine and have little chats and give encouragements. It really helped endear the little ones to me and gave them a little bit of personality.

The combat itself involves circling the various enemies and exploiting there weak spots either through elemental weakness or attacking their undefended sides. It is a turn based game but the abilty to move around to attack the enemies keeps the pace up. Each party can move independently of the group as a whole but attack as a team with their various skills. There is also the ether level which effects the speed of the entire group and helps set up the chain gauge. The chain gauge is something I was not quite sure on but form what I gathered it helped you build up combos and immobilize enemies. It felt underutilized in the demo but hopefully it'll have more use in the full game. Combat as a whole is fun and easy to pick up but does of a level of strategy that will keep you interested.

The game looks very nice with lovely character portraits in the Dating sim aspects and nice 3-d models in the dungeons with some cool looking  enemies. They look very alien and odd which I guess was the point of them. As the labyrinth you do explore has a very sterile and alien feel as well,so the enemies fit right in.It is a very nice aesthetic.The music is nice from what I've heard of it though the event music was a little grating at first it grew on me.

This demo did exactly what it set out to do and give you a feel for Conception 2. It left a really good impression and I'm looking forward to this one. If your an RPG fan,Persona fan or both then you'll probably really like this. Plus like the Bravely Default demo it does promise some bonus for transferring the completed demo save to your main game.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Things No One Cares About:Princess Knight

Osamu Tezuka is a name in manga that I love yet hate. On one hand he is the godfather of manga,responsible for classics like Astroboy and Blackjack. On the other hand I have a really hard time spelling his name. Joking aside I really do enjoy the man's work and acknowledge their influence on manga as an art form. Determined to be known as the Japanese Walt Disney,he wrote a multitude of different series and stories that spoke to all demographics. He also wrote what can be considered one of the first shojo manga:Princess Knight.

Princess Knight ran in Shojo club from 1953-1956.It 's a classic tale of fantasy adventure with a heavy undertone of romance that is prevalent in stories written for girls. Taking the time to address gender politics,what it truly means to love and that angels can sometimes be really stupid. So lets see if this classic holds up to the test of time or have I just been using ind words to soften the blow.

The story follows Sapphire as she starts the fine tradition of Shojo heroines being menaced by ugly people. Seriously the story starts out fairly happy with some light antics then takes a turn right into horrid town as tragedy upon tragedy is heaped on Sapphire. Just when something finally does go right,there is another villain or event that just comes back to smack her down. It'd be comical if it wasn't handled so well. The awful things are always within in the realm of possibility and there is an undercurrent of hope that kept me going.

Before I go on and discuss the plot in more detail,we need to get a core concept out of the way. The idea is that at birth God(who may or may not be Zeus,more on the later) assigns every child a boy or girl heart that defines their gender. This is where most of my real gripes are found in the book. Disbarring the vastness of the gender spectrum and various gender issues that arise from this idea. I can't really be pissed about that as it was early the fifties when these concepts were not exactly at the forefront of the public mind. It's just not a well explained concept,Sapphire is born with both due to a trickster angel and goes to either extreme of the spectrum when she loses one of them. Yet it seems that everyone else's heart does not cause that affect in them that way. King Plastic is an annoying brat who doesn't truly mature till he swallows Sapphire's male heart. Maybe Sapphire's hearts are special but this is never really established.

This could be a statement on the fact that regardless of what gender we are born as,we all have traits of what would be consider the gender norm for the opposite gender. The book constantly criticizes the idea that only men can rule and women should be in supporting roles exclusively. It's fairly progressive for it's time and does help it avoid the embarrassment that plague some older works. That being said,I believe I get what Tezuka is trying to get at but the heart concept is poorly explained and leads to some possibly unintentional sexist moments.

Princess Knight also has a weird concept of religion. It tends to stick to a general outline of Christian beliefs in that there is a God who watch over us and Satan(who is fabulous by the way). However Venus the goddess of beauty shows up and also controls life and death. She refers to God as father,which would make him either Uranus' private parts,which is unlikely as he is drawn like Sunday school God. More likely this makes him Zeus which explains his pulling a major jerk move during a pivotal fight scene. Either way she's more than perfect to serve as an antagonist to Sapphire and her prince's love. Calling back to Circe the with also from the same mythology. It's not really a mark against it as the whole story never really establish it one way or another, I just though it was worth mentioning.

The villains in the story are all fairly one note and simplistic however it's that simplicity that makes them enjoyable. They all mostly desire power(excluding Venus) and will be as evil as humanly possible to reach that goal. It's entertaining in the same way Dio form the Jojo series is. They are all easy to hate and make Sapphire much more likable.

Not that Sapphire has to try that hard to be likable,as she is a kind heart ed person who truly believes in love and doing good. We could call that mary-sue and to some extent it really is but her purity and goodness comes back to bite her in the rear. Her own naivete and inability to explain herself cause many of her problems.You think she sits back and lets her love interest solve things?Hell no,she's out thwarting schemes and proving herself capable and heroic. You want her to see her triumph over evil and finally ascend to her rightful place in life.

Her love interest Franz is no less likable but could stand to learn to pay attention as all it takes is a wig to fool the poor guy. A noble man who truly does love Sapphire once he wraps his head around the various conspiracies going on. Her secondary love interest is a pirate named Blood who gets what is honestly one of the weirdest adventures (I can't really do it justice)in the plot all to himself. The rest of the supporting cast is nothing special though Sapphire's nurse gets points for being utterly entertaining. Tink,the angel who started this whole mess is one of the more complex side characters. His trickster nature developing into something outside of being a jerk and helping get Sapphire out of many late story binds.

The plot itself is complex enough to be interesting without getting overly dense. It can be broken down into three intertwining plots all involving various factions needing Sapphire dead. The antagonists of each plot tend to come and go as the plot demands. The witch,Hell, leaves the main plot halfway through to pursue her own slightly related plot. It sort of helps the story feel slightly grander as there are these various plots going on while Sapphire is pursuing her own agenda. I'll admit that the third act feels slightly tacked on but includes enough awesome scenes that this hardly becomes an issue.

The art work her is either love it or hate it. It's very reminiscent of older Disney style shorts,with exaggerated features and funny background events going on constantly. Special note should go to the animals,as they are wholly awesome. This series is the gold standard for horse drawing,there is a horse early who is just plain great. I'd put his picture here just for everyone to bask in his glory but the internet lacks his picture and that's a damn shame.

Wrapping up Princess Knight has earned it's place as a classic that has stood the test of time. Being a fairly progressive work that highlights that women can be just as strong as men while still telling an exciting story. It is a fairly simple story but it has enough twists and turns to keep you wanting to read just to see how Sapphire will emerge victorious. Also I know I just mentioned it but that horse is worth buying the first book alone for.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Things No One Cares About: Futatabi

Every time Kentaro Miura shows up here I end up making fun of the man's work. To be honest I feel bad for doing it because I really love Berserk. It is to me a modern classic in the making and I refuse to believe he just got lucky. I know he didn't do the stories for Japan and King of Wolves but the art wasn't that stellar either. He had some success as an ammeter manga-ka and it's clear he knows what he's doing. You know what maybe he just sort of got dragged into the Buroson team-ups to build his reputation. He's defiantly not a bad writer so maybe if he has full control like he does for Berserk maybe things will turn out for the best. Enough speculating on the past,lets move on to Futatabi.

Futatabi was Miura's first public release that wasn't a doujinshi. Released in 1985,it was a hit and won him a best new authors award .This would be four years before the first ill fated team-up with Buroson and Berserk Prototype .After this he would end up in a rut with the falling out of his next manga Noa but for now he had a great victory. So has this little one shot stood the test of time or is it another work that makes Berserk look like even more of a miracle. Well enough speculating...for real this time.

The plot is a rather simple animal, though I 'm not sure if can be sterilized by alcohol . The twists outside of one clever one are pretty easy to guess. It follows a auto mechanic named Rick in a futuristic/totalitarian city and his chance meeting with a mysterious girl named Venus. The plot heavily relies on a series of twists that actually sets up a very interesting premise(which I'm not spoiling). The problem is that once it sets up said premise,it doesn't do much with it. Instead opting to go with a weak theme of hope. So weak that it has to be explained in a short paragraph that also reveals where the story takes place. There is also a revelation near the end that answers question that no one was asking and raises some new ones. The ending itself is lacking with that ridiculous paragraph that just seems to scream “I ran out of ink and I'm on a deadline.” It is a real gut punch as the story had manged to draw me in and just having it end abruptly with that is silly.

Rick and Venus are by no means bad characters,their interactions do reveal more about the world in which they live in. However,Rick is your stock good guy and Venus is the mysterious girl. There are no real slants to their characters that make them stand out from anyone else That being said,they still do play off each other very well. The conversations they have between themselves and with other characters really do build up this world that I actually want to see more off but you know one shot.

The art is pretty great and actually does help the above mentioned clever twist. It does seems to draw from other sci-fi anime and manga without really anything to set it apart. However it still looks very nice for an early Miura work and shows that yes this man has a sense of perspective. Something he seemed to forget in King of Wolves. It is also nice to see him draw something besides barren wastelands so I actually have sights to see.

Weirdly enough reading this reminded me of Sweet Rein of all things. Mind you,Not so much for the art or anything but the squandered premise. Both had so much potential to be something great but instead went in an okay albeit less intrenching direction. This is a book worth checking out but like Sweet Rein you'll probably forget about it in a weeks time.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Things No One Cares About:King of Wolves

Last year I looked at the team-up train wreak that was Japan and realized I wasted like five dollars and a few hours on writing more unsubtle than mine. While looking up some info for it I did come across it's big brother King of Wolves. I decided to read that and then didn't so that's why I'm just now talking about it. Relevancy is clearly not my strong suit,anyway lets get on with King of Wolves.

As mentioned above this is the big brother of the red-headed step child that is Japan. Published in 1989, a year after Buroson's Fist of the North Star had completed it's run and a year before Miura's Berserk would begin it's own . It is paced better with a stronger story but  lacks the fangs that Japan had. Not to say it was really that bad either it's just insubstantial.As before Buroson is on story duty while Miura is doing the art Anyway, I like talking about plots so lets do that.

The story follows Iba and his girlfriend Kyoko as they both get pulled into a never explained portal of sorts that takes them back to the thirteenth century Mongol Empire. Her entrance to this realm happens a year later and is used as a way to introduce everything. It follows their efforts to one return home and two keep history flowing as it should. History having a very loose definition here,in that Genghis Khan was apparently a Japanese hero that fled his homeland to start anew in mainland Asia. The book tries to use actual dates to explain it away and I can not tell if it's being serious or not. The plot is driven by a string of wholly uninteresting fights that Iba wins using his kendo techniques and his odd sword that he just seems to have. It does make sense that no one would really be used to his style of fighting so they do lose easily. It doesn't make them any less boring though.

The time line that Iba and Kyoko try to protect seems pretty lax about events. As long as Genghis lives to his recorded death it doesn't seem to matter who has his name. Because I'm pretty sure that Iba's fighting style and sword may cause some things to change but nope it's fine. The whole idea of it is more Stein's Gate and less Sound of Thunder.

Speaking of lax the tone and message are not sure of themselves. The aforementioned origins of Genghis Khan are ridiculous but again I do not know if it is be serious or not. There is a almost bro like relationship between Iba,Genghis and his general but it still plays Genghis as a bit loony and blood thirsty. His desire to have a pure Japaneses baby comes the hell out of no where and pushes him into cartoon villain territory with his attempt to steal it from Iba and Kyoko. It is hard to discern if this is some tragic love story or a zany gorefest.

The characters themselves they are all bland and uninteresting. Iba has no personality outside of we must preserve history. I guess him and Kyoko bond over there lack of personality because they have the chemistry of wet paper bags. Kyoko stops doing anything remotely interesting once she reunites with Iba. Her only real contribution to the plot is having a baby,because that's all we ladies are good for I guess. Everyone else is just a jerk,that wants to murder and /or rule the land. Yes I realize that the period of time was fairly violent but just because it was doesn't mean everyone was a blood thirsty lunatic.

Lets give Buronson a break and start talking about the art,it is okay. I don't know if Miura just really like drawing Casca or what but Kyoko is basically her without her likability. The Mongol empire was apparently a precursor to the bad future of Japan everything is barren taking place primarily in deserts and on plateaus. I realize that those places would be kind of sparse but you could still make them look interesting. However if barren was the intention then they did hit it right on the nose. Genghis's right hand man is a giant in his first appearance then normal the rest of the time,go go action perceptive. I don't mean to bash Miura but this wasn't his first dog and pony show,he should know better.

When I first read this manga I was pretty okay with it I figured it's better than Japan but now that I've had time to think about it,it is almost worse than Japan. It has a better structure and is not as ham-handed as Japan but that's all it really has going for it. Japan had some train wreak qualities that made it somewhat memorable but this is the Seinen equivalent of shojo fluff. Nothing really wrong with it but completely forgettable.

Till next time Stay Positive

Monday, February 3, 2014

Metroid Wrap-up

So Metroid time comes to an end because the last three things really didn't warrant a whole post. Just to be quick about it,what little I read of the strategy guide was moronic.The Metroid Prime comic that ran in Nintendo Power(God rest it's soul) was only slightly better than Episode of Aether in that it was short and didn't have time to become a snowball of awful. The Shounen Ou! are really odd but still pretty dang funny for the fact that everyone including Samus is an idiot.

Samus and Joey was by far the best thing I have read, I know I gushed about it in the review but seriously go read it.It's a really fun adventure story that actually treats Samus with respect. I'm really sad no one has translated the third volume. Speaking of translations, I'd like to thank the Metroid Database for hosting all of the manga that was featured this time. Without them I'd have been stuck reading the prequel Metroid manga and that was that. So if I've manged to convince you to read anything these past few weeks then go to them. Okay enough plugging on to another topic.

On the other end of the spectrum there is Episode of Aether and the more I think about it the more I find  to hate about it.Metroid Prime 2 is one of my favorite games in the series and to see it just butchered like this kills me inside. The entire first chapter concerns a big lipped alligator fight and the rest of it has to focus on those god-awful marines.There were so many cool things going on in Echos that the decision to cut most of the game is just baffling. I thought the Majora's Mask manga was bad for skipping around but it has nothing on this book. There was so much potential in this book and I still like that it plays with the public perception of Samus. If they had just stuck to that then maybe...nope it would still probably suck. So lets just leave it at that.

Again thanks to Metroid Database and my occasional editors who try to make my ramblings readable.I'll see all five of you back here soon for something completely different. Till Next Time: Stay Positive.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Things No One Cares About:Metroid(Manga)

We've finally reach the end of the road metaphorically speaking,arriving at the end manga wise and the beginning time line wise. It's been a long road with some nice paved roads with a small interlude on a dirt road filled with oil slicks and whatnot. Reading this manga a few week back is what inspired me to write again for better or worse. In some respects I do owe it that,on the other hand it's not that good so I do not owe it that much.

The Metroid manga was released as a tie-in of sorts to promote the remake of the original Metroid,Zero Mission. As mentioned previously it does take quite a few cues from Nintendo Power's(god rest its' soul) Super Metroid comics. Expanding heavily on Samus' back story as well as Mother Brain and the Galactic Federation to some extent. It is considered the canon back story that most games are supposed to be drawing from even if it contains/causes contradictions for some of the games. I'd say more but it involves Other M and I'm not opening that can of worms.

The plot as mentioned is a more detailed account of Old Bird's story from the Super Metroid comics giving us more insight on the Chozo's culture and how Zebes became a pirate stronghold. They give Samus and Old Bird more of a connection with him being her rescuer after Ridley's attack on Samus's colony. They also introduce the character of Grey Voice,who despite having a much important role in the second half,gets downplayed in the section concerning Samus' childhood. So once he does pull a big damn hero moment it lose some of it's impact. Mother Brain is introduced as the control computer of Zebes and gets a generic AI gone rouge personality. The story bring up some more ties to Metroid Fusion with the Chozo's discovery of the X-parasite. The Chozo decide to not tell the Federation about The X because they'd just screw it up. I'd give them more crap about that but knowing the Federation's track record it's probably for the better.

The Galactic Federation is in it's infancy here with the Space Pirate problem being a major issue that they spend about a chapter or so debating. It is sort of like the Phantom Seance senate scenes except much shorter They've redesigned Chairman Keaton in to a more of a wise old man and Hardy into a buddy cop police chief. The characters aren't that bad just one note which extends to most of the Federation characters. Adam Malkovich also makes his manga appearance here and again I am not going into Other M. He doesn't do much and it's baffling why Samus ends up trusting him so much. They get like two minor scenes together and she and him are great partners after that.

Samus herself has some fairly interesting growth here going from hotheaded young person to a strong responsible adult. The Chozo saddle her with heavy responsibility and the weight of that plus being slightly outcast develops her lone wolf personality. She struggles to deal with her past and ends up confronting it and finally accepting her destiny. This is also where they bring up Samus' PTSD with Ridely...and she overcomes it. It's a really great scene that is handled well and is a big turning point for Samus. That's all I'm going to say about it,moving on.

The plot itself is not really that bad overall it suffers from poor characters and everyone is just boring outside of Samus and Gray Voice. The story itself is presented well enough and flows really well till the end where it decided to tack on some weird direct prologue to the original game. It brings up a plot hole regarding the acquisition of Samus missiles and bombs. The whole section is rushed and feels out of place.

The art for the book is great and a bit meh at the same time. The alien races all look like something George Lucas would turn down for being to silly and are really generic. The Chozo look awesome even if their own version of the power suit is a tad ridiculous. The pirates and Ridley are on par with the penguins from Samus and Joey is terms of terrifying designs. On the other end of the spectrum young Samus is one of the cutest things I have scene in my life.

In the end this really is not that bad a manga just okay. It is lacking anything to make it stand out or be enjoyable like Samus and Joey.As far as canon goes we could get worse, they could have made the Echos manga canon. It is not worth checking out unless you really need a Metroid fix or want to see a bird man kick some serious ass.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Things No One Cares About: Samus and Joey

It seems everyone has this bizarre desire to see Samus teamed up with someone. The games like giving her a mission support like the much contested Adam or the less contested U-Mos. However, the various books decide to go a different route and give here a partner or partners of some sort. The Super Metroid comic had the very weird Houston Armstrong,while Echos gave us the GFS Boring team. The Zero Mission manga,which we'll get to soon,teams her up with some random guys as well. To me telling a story about Samus would be a great opportunity to do some silent story telling as it's something the games have done well. I guess I'll just have to wait for that to happen,till then here is another team up book called Samus and Joey.

Samus and Joey is a 2003 manga by Kouji Izuki,who's only other noted work are a few Megaman manga. If the quality of this manga is any indication then I'd say that those are worth a read. If this book was caring about canon then it's supposed to be slotted between Metroid and Metroid Prime. However it's really not so that last sentence was just me being a nerd. So moving on let's talk about why this manga actually works.

Those characters I mentioned before all tend to have one major problem. They're boring, or in Houston's case silly. They seem to tend to suck up panel time with their blandness. However the time is taken to make Joey a likable character. The fact that he is a young kid will probably turn some people off the series but there is a lot of care to make him not just another brat. He does have his bratty moments but what little kid doesn't. He actually does try to better himself through Samus' minimal guidance and they give him ways to not be a burden. He's trying to grow up and this becomes the central point of the stories. He's a believable character that endears himself and makes the time with him enjoyable.

This brings me to the second point of why this work: Samus is set up a supporting cast member. The Echos manga almost seemed ashamed that it had to be about Samus and pushed her to the back. Here she is treated more like a mentor to Joey, helping him on his journey and doing the more heavy fighting that Joey simply can't do. She is a bit tough on Joey but does genuinely care for him and she is never gone from the plot too long. She does try to drop Joey off somewhere away from her but it's more due to the nature of her missions than any actual dislike of Joey.

The plots themselves are typical adventure plots involving pirates (it is a Metroid manga), killer creatures and robots. They are not that bad if a little run of the mill. It is nice however to see the pirates keep there canonical(at least to me) lack of foresight. The second story does lack a proper resolution between Joey and his mother which sort of irks me. However the stories do let Joey grow as a character so most of this can be forgiven. As a side note the book does acknowledge how powerful and devastating Samus' weapons can be,it's a nice touch

The art is pretty okay on this one with a much more animated look. Everything wouldn't look out of place in a Saturday morning cartoon. Samus has a cool character design and the pirates all look goofy. The other enemies look terrifying especially the penguins in the Rescue operations arc. I'm still having nightmares about the damn things.

So I kind of went into this with mixed feelings and wound up pleasantly surprised. It treats Samus with more respect than Echos and gives us a few more interesting characters to boot It is probably one of the better of the Metroid manga and definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Things No One Cares About: Metroid Prime: Episode of Aether

Metroid Prime 2:Echos is a sequel(no really) to Metroid Prime and is a bit of a change from the first game with much darker atmosphere and that lovely duel world game play that Nintendo adores. However I'm not here to talk about that game so no one cares about my thoughts on that game instead I am going to look at the manga. If you don't care about that either,then keep your mouth shut,because that is what I'm talking about. This is a bit of a weird manga that sadly lacks focus. I was only able to read the first six chapters and truly have no desire to read the last chapter.

It follows the plot of Echos fairly loosely covering the major plot points from the beginning and the end of the game. Torvus Bog and it's dank swamp that has intense firefights with nasty creatures,who needs it? The imposing and marvelous Santuary Fortress,considered the high point of the Prime series,and that awesome fight with Quadraxis,that's just a waste of time. No what you want is Samus fighting some no name jerk and then teaming up with stock military characters. Well that's what manga-ka Matsumoto Hisashi decided was important,so I guess that is what we are going with.

The plot seriously skips from the beginning of Agon wastes to her getting the light suit and preparing to fight the Emperor Ing(i.e one of the final bosses of Echos). I was trying to figure out if I'd skipped a chapter somehow as it seems the marines and Samus had had this great character moments but nope I didn't. We need that chapter to have the four characters who aren't Samus fight a giant pillbug.

With all the skipping and shoving Samus to one side,nothing interesting really happens at all. Dark Samus shoes up but it is never explained what she is(barring the last chapter).The real highlight is honestly an early fight with some no name enemies. Even then it's more for the narm factor of Samus calling her attacks. It lacks the tense foreboding that beginning of the game did so well. Going through the marines makeshift encampments while slowly piecing together what happened is frightening and interesting. Here it's just have a video of what happened and hey there are some survivors better go find them.
Samus is a determined warrior dedicated to helping others,one of the more popular interpretations of her character . It does add some personality and I really do sympathize with her. Doing your job in a very matter of fact and silent manner would unnerve people. She is often mistaken for being emotionless despite her truly kind heart. Unfortunately her lone wolf traits are used as excuse to have her just leave the little group of survivors behind. Heaven forbid we have Samus be in a manga about her own game. The sixth chapter is the aforementioned pill bug fight with one page of Samus fighting the Emperor Ing.

This would be slightly forgivable if the characters we do focus were actually characters or at least likable. If you've read or watched anything in recent memory where a small military group survives a hostile situation than you know how the characters will play out. The coward who learns to be brave,the loner ace,the scientist and the tech guy. None of them have any personality worth talking about and their character arcs can be guessed with in five seconds flat. We have two whole chapters dedicated to these idiots while Samus is off doing things people want to read about.

The art is fine with no real standout designs or things to see. It's drawn like a typical shonen manga which is not bad with in it self as it does look nice. However there is just nothing to look at . It does not even have any weird panels or the like to just plain laugh at.

I started out annoyed by this manga due to the largely unnecessary opening fight scene,got drawn in by Samus' characterization and then pulled straight out by all the material left on the cutting room floor. Unless that last chapter some how makes everything I just said invalid some how,avoid this stinker.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Things No One Cares About: Super Metroid(Nintendo Power)

In the spring of 1994 Super Metroid was released for the Super Nintendo and is today hailed as a classic. For good reason,it is an amazing game that took its' predecessors and made them even better. It also contributed heavily to the concept of speed running. The game world was massive and you could spend hours exploring it looking for new items and fighting interesting creatures. Through out the whole adventure as was common for games in the 8/16 bit eras, Samus kept silent leaving the player to infer what she was thinking and how she reacted. However when it came time to put Samus in a comic book,the whole silence routine wasn't going to fly. So in the summer of 1994 she was given a semblance of a personality in the Nintendo Power(God rest it's soul) comics written by Benimaro Itoh.

Itoh who had previously worked on the Starfox and Earthbound comics was given this project that ran through issues 57-61 of Nintendo power(God rest it's soul). He uses his short run to condense the story of Super Metroid into 5 chapters even throwing in some back story for Samus. It's interesting that this would be the comic that would influence the later manga adaption of the series for reasons we'll get to but back to Samus for a minute.

Itoh decided to go with what every child in the 90's thought she would be like and made her a bad ass action hero. It's down right hilarious to watch her spout one liners she thinks are cool but come off as cheesy. That word right there describes the whole book:Cheesy. She gets a big southern sidekick named Houston for some odd as reason who spouts equally goofy one liners. They don't really play up any romance between the two which is probably for the best. If he did then we would not have time for wacky hijinks between the alien chairman(Keaton) and the fat guy who runs the galactic police force(Hardy). The constant cut backs to the chairman and the police chief are funny enough but pad out an already short story. So much so that the last chapter feels very rushed as a result.

One minor thing that does irk me about the plot is that Hardy ends up killing the baby Metroid by accident instead of it making it's heroic sacrifice to save Samus. Though even then it's kinda funny to be robbed of that moment by the most useless character in the comic.

Most of these characters would later show up in the official manga with the exception of Houston,again probably for the better. The back story that Old Bird provides is also expanded upon in that same manga. Same goes for what little characterization Mother Brain gets here. I wouldn't call the plot faithful to the original more using it as a jumping off point.

The art is very cartoony and enjoyable with some pure what the hell moments here and there. Especially heads that just seem to pop up in panels in some attempt of a close up. It ends up looking like the person was decapitated. The characters do look nice and this is one of the better early Samus designs. Mother Brain and Ridely are legitimately terrifying looking for their minimal panel time.

Overall yes this whole thing is rather silly and goofy. However it is clearly having fun telling you this story about a great space battle. It also helps that it does help establish some of the better elements of Samus' back story and a few other elements that would stick with the franchise. I wouldn't say it's worth your time to seek out the issues of Nintendo Power(God rest it's soul) it's featured in but it's available online and worth the read.

Till next time:Stay Positive