Monday, November 9, 2015

Things No One Cares About: Yoshi's Woolly World

I'm going to open by saying I love Yoshi's Island. It was built around a set of mechanics that while easy to figure out had a host of depth to them. The children's drawings that make up the graphics are something I'd never seen up till that point and I've never really seen outside of this game and the DS sequel. It's a magical game that I revisit ever so often for comforting warmth. It's sequels have failed to capture that magic for me till now with Yoshi's Woolly World.

What sets Woolly World heads above it's hand held brethren is the spark of creativity. Yoshi's Island DS had some of that too but it added little to the experience and felt bloated instead of fresh. While Yoshi's New Island lacked soul and had some out there ideas on hidden objects that sadly Woolly World picked up. Then we're at Woolly World and it's hard to really put into words but there this sense of wonder and desire to keep it fresh that permeates the experience. It instills the urge to keep playing just to see what's thrown at you next.

The story is as such: Kamek is back for probably the fourth or fifth time to get something for Baby Bowser only this time everything is made of sewing supplies because why not. It has more in common story wise with Yoshi's Story what with the lack of Mario. I could sit here and nitpick about why everything is suddenly yarn but it's not really the point. I'm here to see creative visuals and look for hidden items. The levels are wonderfully designed; each with a unique feel that burns them into my memory. Sure they do borrow thematically from the original game on occasion but unlike Yoshi's New Island it's less copy/paste and more jumping off point. It gives the game it's own identity while still having that Yoshi's Island feel. If only it had taken more of a page from it's book on secrets.

Woolly World has a sound set of rules for how to find it's hidden flowers,yarn, and stamp patches that aren't too bad once you start thinking like the game. It does become blatantly obvious once you're in that frame of mind where objects are hidden. However Woolly World did pick up some bad habits from New Island such as walking over a certain spot making a line of gems appear with no real indication that it would do so and unlike most secrets these are never hinted at well enough. Luckily these are not as common as New Island.

The other major thing Woolly World picked up from New Island was how it handled Yoshi's transformations. Both this and New Island took the original's idea of just hitting a bubble to transform and instead put you on a timed course. Here I think they are handled much better than in New Island. They have a tighter feel with some more entertaining transformations like the motorbike and mermaid Yoshi.

Also making it's debut in the series is Co-op mode or as it was known in the olden time: be a jerk to your friends mode. You can eat each other and launch your partner like a normal yarn ball or spit each other up to ledge you could have reached had you not been farting around and destroyed the path to it. Joking aside it's a fun time to be had and it helps to have an extra person on screen to help search for secret areas.

While the game has made plenty of tweaks and additions, the core mechanics still remain unchanged. The flutter jump still works how it always has and the yarn balls obeys the same physics that eggs used to even if they have some new functions: like binding enemies and stitching together new platforms. The former is implemented in some new mechanics such as making your own chomp rocks out of Chomps and blowing up a bullet bill canon. It also brought over the right level of challenge. The game is easy but not insultingly so and the bonus levels retain the brutal difficulty spike. There are one time use badges that can be purchased with in game gems that make levels a joke are hardly necessary. The only real compliant I can lodge at this game is that it only has two mini-bosses reused thrice: Montgomery the Mole and Knot-Wing the Koopa. They are changed up enough between each battle but it still feels a tad lazy.

The game takes full advantage of its' sewing tin aesthetic with enemies being made of various yarns, buttons and what not. Bigger enemies appear knitted together like the Blargs made out of scarves and smaller ones like Shy Guys unravel as you eat them. It makes everything about this game adorable and fluffy. The theming of worlds and levels could have used a little work as while most levels do fit into the world they reside in, some feel forced. Such as the weird Arabian Nights level in the middle of the icy tundra world.

The game's soundtrack is varied and goes places I wouldn't really expect for a Yoshi game. From the simple happy “Yoshi and Cookies” to the hard rocking “Lava Scarves and Red Hot Blarggs”,which is something I never though I'd hear in a series that is using a more child like tone of music. I looked forward to going back through some levels for secret hunting just to hear certain tracks again. Special mention to “Up Steeplethread Pass” which has this melancholic post Christmas feel that sums up perfectly the bleak loneliness and maze like layout of the level. Some levels do have reused tracks from other levels and they mostly work but can feel out of place since I linked them with another level so strongly in my mind.

So now that you've read my love letter to this game and it's older sister while bashing on the ugly middle children,go buy this game. If you have a Wii U then this is a must buy and if you don't well then don't rush out and buy one or anything but once you do get this game. Woolly World captures the original's spirit while also standing proud as it's on entity.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Monday, October 26, 2015

Things No One Cares About:The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (Manga)

Of all the Legend of Zelda games I've played, The Minish Cap is definitely one of them. It's hardly a bad game; just a forgettable one. What makes this weird is that the final fight with Vaati left such an
impression on me I shoehorned him into a D&D campaign as a boss. The rest of the game is this big
nebulous blob that; if I revisited it I'd love it but forget about it soon after. This overall feeling of
apathy also extends to the manga adaption.

The story follows the game's plot in a condensed format. Seeing as having chapters of Link wandering around a dungeon with no clue how to proceed would be rather boring and waste what little page count we have, instead treat each dungeon is treated as an action scene; barring the third temple, which goes into story about a fairy who sings for days then dies. It’s beautifully drawn, like most of the book's art, and serves as a nice transition into a decidedly more serious second half. The Picori are quite a bit more involved in the action here which I feel ties better into their love of humanity. Link is the first human they've been able to communicate with in a long time so of course they'd really love helping and being involved with him. This does however become the root of some of the nitpicks.

Near the middle of the story Link is given a magical feather by the Picori elder, Libari, and at first it's a nice little way to keep Link on the right path without feeling like he's being railroaded. Near the end this feather might as well kill Vaati by itself for all the goofy crap it pulls from making a perfect map of an area to becoming a Roc's cape. Mind you this things back story is that Libari won it off a regular Cucco by kicking its can. The other issue that bugs me is Link's little character arc is poorly defined. Near the end he berates Vaati for using the power of others to strengthening his own and Link relies on his own power. There is just one problem with that: Link is using things given to him by the Picori. There is nothing wrong with getting help from friends but don't give credit where credit is due and don't act like you did it all. I would chalk it up to poor translation if the rest of the manga wasn't translated well but it isn't so I won't.

I do know that some Zelda fans to take these games more serious than I do and tend to prefer a more
mature experience from the franchise; the fact that this is a more light hearted action comedy might not sit well with some. However I've always seen the franchise as one not afraid to laugh at itself and I can live with the more humorous moments of the book. The character are the right mix of funny and serious so that they still feel like Legend of Zelda characters. Also I do love that Kinstones are
implemented in such a clunky manner that it borders on comedy though it's a nice call back to the
game's actual plot use of them so I can forgive it.

The manga adaptation of The Minish Cap is a fun little romp that ultimately doesn't leave a great deal of impact just like what it's based on. The action is fun and it has possibly the cutest version of the Gleerok I've ever seen. It's worth a read once for the genuinely funny comedy but nothing really worth writing home about.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Things No One Cares About: Pac-Man World 20th Anniversary (PS1)

The transition of classic 2-D franchises to 3-D has the habit of going rather well if you're associated with Nintendo but otherwise tend to be choppy. This was especially prevalent in the PS1/N64 era which was often a company's first attempt. Thus while we had gems like Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time we also had garbage like Bubsy 3D. Pac-Man World,released to coincide with  his 20th anniversary, decidedly falls into the latter category and while having some creative ideas still doesn't excuse the mess.

The core problem of the game lies with it's controls and sense of space. In a good 3-D platformer you have this sense of where you are in relation to other platforms and objects. However when hopping around the levels here I can never quite grasp where I reside so I end up missing a platform that looks like it should have been easily landed upon yet is really a few feet out of reach. Luckily Pac-man's repertoire includes grabbing on to ledges if you can get close enough. Unfortunately his gloves seemed to be covered in butter as he fails to grab ledges sometimes leading to yet more trips to the dark abyss.

Jumping is also rather finicky in some regards. Sometimes the jump button just doesn't work work,though that could just be my controller. Any little piece of room geometry or an enemy looking at you funny stutters the jump and leads to many a death. The fact that the extreme foreground some times has an invisible wall blocking a jump you other wise could make is infuriating to say the least.

Enemies and obstacles also add to the frustration as they will often hit you from places that should be safe but just aren't. When dealing with enemies Pac-man can bounce on them which also serves as a double jump of sorts and that's all you really need. He has the ability to rev up and roll into enemies or shoot a pellet at them but they are more trouble than they're worth and will probably get you killed. Then again so will the butt bounce since it's lack of precision aiming will often put you in the exact place you don't want to be. Combat is better avoided if for no other reason to ease some of the frustration of cheap deaths.

Pac-man World was developed during that time when platformers had you collect truckloads of random doodads because they powered something or other. It's not a bad style of games by any means but here it feels like needless busy work. You collect fruit to open doors to gain access to various switches, collectible letter to spell out Pac-Man or keys to unlock cages. Usually fruit is hidden fairly close to the door it unlocks so it's less a challenge and more a tedious back and forth.

Despite the bile I've been spewing the game did do a few things right. The levels themselves are rather neat looking,nothing special but still cool. They draw from your standard video game locales:pirate ships,ruins,space etc. They all try something at least different to keep the level's interesting. I never felt like “oh this is another factory level”, no this was the area with all those spinning platforms or this was the level with the laser puzzles. By extension no two bosses in this game are tackled in the same method. They range from forcing open a temples hands to ram it's heart to a straight up homage to Galaga with Pac-man surfing in space blasting aliens. The fights are the highlight of the game and I kept me going despite the horrendous control problems. The only real bad fight was against the Khrome Keeper which ties back into the central problem of knowing where you are.

Mind you all of the problems are with the main story mode of the game. There are a whole two other modes to mess around with. The first is classic:which is the original Pac-man,nothing special there. The other is the highlight of the game:Maze mode. It plays like the original game but with the camera focused on Pac-man and more hazards outside the ghosts trying to eat you. It's rather challenging and a cool shake up to the standard formula.

The story is rather bare bones yet charming in a way. Some weird robot named Toc-man kidnaps all of Pac-man's friends and family by accident and Pac-man goes to save them. It works for a game about Pac-man. It's not the type of game that needed some crazy plot. The end reveals that Toc-Man is being used by a ghost whom Pac-man promptly eats with that same smiling face he always has. It's rather eerie to watch him devour the ghost that just wanted a friend.

As a kid I adored this game yet could never beat it,so coming back to it with my (arguably) adult brain I expected to be able to grasp it better. All I was able to grasp was that this was a poorly designed game that tried to make up for it's flaws with creativity and banking on your love of Pac-man. The maze mode is rather good but you're better off going with it's companion game Ms. Pac-man Maze Madness. With my rose tinted glasses shattered I leave you with one simple truth: Crash Bandicoot 2 is fantastic,so is Warped.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Shojo a Go-Go: Komomo Confiserie

Father knows best is a rather antiqued trope that was rather prevalent in the 1950's but has mostly been dropped being played straight for the utterly sexist undertones. Basically akin to always being right and being able to sort out the silly problems of the doting housewife and children. A variation of this trope with likes to pop it's head into shojo/joesi manga and is usually played straight with the boyfriend of the main girl just knowing better and being a jerk about it. Blue Spring Ride and Happy Hustle High are good examples of the trope in effect. Komomo Confiserie seems to have this going on in this story of role reversal.

Komomo Confiserie tells the tale of a young girl,Komomo, who in her youth was wealthy and often picked on the young baker,Natsu, in employ of her father. Now it's ten years later and she's poor,he's successful and she is at his mercy. The volume is mostly for setting up who's who and the character dynamics. It seems to be mostly focused on helping Komomo grow as a person under Natsu's sadistic thumb. This is where we run into some of the more disturbing implications of the volume.

Natsu's desire to tease Komomo is creepy and he's is never truly treated as wrong for his acts. He hates the idea of anyone teasing her besides him and takes on your typical threatening poses if someone does. It's clear he's doing the teasing to help her adjust to life as a average person and the book will probably justify it as the only way she would learn. However his friend Yuri joins the cast and is able to teach her a lesson through kindness and it sticks. So it seems to be less the only way to get through to her and Natsu likes to just mess with a girl because he can't admit his feelings. No matter the interpretation it's just not that interesting to me,this may be due in part to the last chapter leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

The final chapter of the volume introduces the coveted school setting and with it come your stock shojo bullies. Apparently after Yuri taught Komomo about real friendship she became a saint because nothing seems to phase her during the bullying. She just writes it off in a way that is rather mature for a character who really shouldn't be that mature just yet. She's had some development over the volume but no where near enough to justify this attitude,so she becomes some what of a purity-sue. Sure she questions herself later with Natsu about her treatment of him in their youth but it's assuring her that she meant well in the end.

In all honesty,this isn't a bad opening volume. Everything is set-up well enough till the last chapter.Even if the last chapter was handled better it's still nothing really special. Natsu's attitude towards Komomo has this nasty undertone that is going to be given an excuse about how it was all for her betterment. Combined with Komomo's baffling new found maturity leaves me with no desire to read.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Shojo A Go-Go: The Demon Prince of Momochi House

First Impressions are somewhat important,especially with books if you want anyone to give your book the time of day. The first impression I had with The Demon Prince of Momochi House was Kamisama Kiss rip off. I know you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover, literally or metaphorically, but I mean look at the image to your left. It's clearly Tomoe,same smug look and fox ears but a kimono lifted from Miketsukami. However once I started reading I was wrong to judge it as such. I mean I was not really blown away by anything however it did prove the cover was a liar.

The Demon Prince of Momochi House is unsurprisingly a supernatural romance. It's ground well trodden in this column and this one looks to be no different. I'll give it this it is trying to be different from books like Demon Love Spell, and Black Bird with a jerk with a heart of gold male lead. The titular demon prince is Aoi,a human who transforms into the Nue. The guy is bordering on male moe and his kindness knows no bounds. His love interest and our lead is Himari,the 16 year old rightful owner of Momochi House,whose attempt to claim the house kick starts the plot. She's a generic shojo protagonist,i.e thick headed with a sweet side and a weak constitution. She's saved from being the weakest character by Aoi's demon companions who may as well not really be here for all they do. Shoujou is the hot headed one and Amazuchi is the guy destined to be an uke for the inevitable yoai doujins.

The only person I really care about at this point is Aoi and that's just because he seems to have the most going on. How he got here and his status as the Nue are the only things I want to know about about. It helps that he is fairly likable and his child like antics are amusing. The rest of the cast could probably be interesting if they had any character but while we get little for Himari and her loneliness issues the remaining cast is left lacking.

We have three chapters that serve to paint us a picture of the world and it does this competently . There is a house on the border of our world and the spirit world that's protected by a supernatural being and shenanigans between the two realms ensue. It's enjoyable fun that serves to showoff Aoi's powers and a bit of back story on Himori's connection to the house. Nothing wrong with it and it adds an air of mystery with the question of who sent the will that brought Himori to the house and that person's intentions. An interesting twist that is brought up near the end is that Aoi can't leave the house.

This has the possibility to open up two paths. Either this becomes the major focus for now pushing the mystery of will to the back ground or it's an easily solved problem and this opens us up to a school setting like every other supernatural romance. The latter can open us up to probably more bland characters and the school tropes related to that. However the former has the potential to a hopefully more intimate manga that allows the characters to grow as they search for answers.Not that they wouldn't grow regardless of the path but it'd be more of a focus as we're limited to that small cast and the house itself.

There is a interesting undercurrent lurking here that indicate this manga may go places. Aoi's genuine sweetness is nice in a genre clogged with misunderstood jerks even if the everyone else is just sort of there. The plot is not offering much right now but what is here is written well enough that I'd probably continue for at least a few more volumes to see where it goes.

Till Next time: Stay Positive.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Things No One Cares About:After I WIn

Editor's Note:I am unable to figure out the font/spacing issues at this time

It is left for the readers to decide if it is intentional, but every time yaoi comes up on this blog it's always Lily “I can't keep a plot going longer than four chapters” Hoshino's work. In the spirit of breaking that habit we're going to look at a yaoi manga that is: A. not by Ms. Hoshino and B. not a collection of sexy short stories. Instead we're looking at a single volume yaoi manga known as After I Win. Even though it is given time to garner some depth it's still kiddy pool shallow.

Now I'm not going to spend an entire article complaining about a book clearly meant to be used as fuel for itching the ditch lacks depth. That would be like playing a Persona game and getting mad because it makes heavy use of Japanese culture.However I am going to complain because it is boring. Every chapter is our lead Hiyori wondering if his dorm mate/boyfriend Kasumi actually loves him. It starts with them unable to communicate and ends with the boys “grabbing burritos” except in the last chapter where they finally “stuff the burritos”. It's like the manga-ka,Kaname Itsuki, decided to condense the plot to Happy Marriage!? and made Chiro a boy. I'll admit I'm a fan of the seme being the younger guy and the uke being older; I would exactly call it a shake-up per se but it adds to the sexy factor...if that's your thing. This still doesn't excuse the fact that the lead couple has the chemistry of wet cardboard.

The only shining moment in this otherwise dark dredge of cute boys is the relationship between Hiyori and his brother Sawa. It's a fine if poorly utilized example of Hiyori being a somewhat unreliable narrator. He see his brother as a playboy seducing scads of high school boys. However Hiyori believes that Sawa doesn't care about people's feelings for which he is wrong. Sawa's care for his brother is a tad subtle, mostly making sure he's eating right, which Hiyori writes off as him being a nutritionist. The book drops little hints that Hiyroi is wrong before just going all out and letting the last two chapters show how much Sawa truly cares.

The book should have been about the brothers with Kasumi being relegated to side status. Sure, he gets some development but his relationships with his little sister and Hiyori are sorely lacking. Has it been about the brothers they could have an exploration of two different lifestyles and the tensions that arise between the men. Instead nothing is really done with the relationship and we are left with bland jock boy hiding his “baton” in the cute sempai. The fact that the brothers are set up as opposites seems to only be there for the twist in the loosest sense, that Hiyroi is the uke. Which is painfully obvious without the unnecessary level of detail to the brother's relationship.

The art is pretty well done with all guys looking reasonably fine however despite the 18+ rating on this no one’s “ink pens” are ever really shown. Also as stated above it's most the two boys just “helping each other read” till the fourth chapter where they “dictate to each other” and if that's your thing then by all means go for it just feels a tad bit lacking to me. Also as a side note the back cover seems to make this book out to be this aggressive fight for love when it's tamer than Pat Boone.

After I Win is a pitiful waste of potential that focuses on the wrong relationship. It's like the manga-ka wrote this detailed back story the brothers and was determined to shoehorn it into this book about sexy guys "drinking milkshakes". The fact that the relationship is competently written weakens the book as a whole since all I can think about is how it should have been about them and not the asinine romantic couple. I know I took a jab at Lily Hoshino earlier but the fact that after 2 years I still remember Night Circus is a testament to some degree of staying power. This is forgettable garbage that lacks any real appeal outside of what could have been.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Modest Update

As people may have noticed I haven't really posted any thing since the Jojo review a little over a month ago and for that I am sorry. A few personal issues popped up again with the currently scrapped review of the first volume of Dengaki Daisy. Things are a tad better but I went back to school in July and was still working a day job. Thus I had little to no time to really watch or write about anything. The truth of the matter is this blog is for the foreseeable future a side project and real life usually takes precedence over it.

For those who actually enjoy my writings, I will always have a new article up at Haywire in the tentative span of every five weeks. As for here on the blog,it will still be a little lacking due to trying to find a new job and transition to the schedule. I have more free time but it's mostly for job hunting. I will try to post at least one or two reviews sometime this month but don't hold me to it. I'm probably going to cut back the amount of Shojo A Gogos I write since I feel like I'm repeating myself too often and to avoid boring everyone I'll  reserve that column for newer titles.

There are a few items I have in mind for the next few reviews and I'm working on a follow up to a older piece I did. However I'd like to leave this as an open letter to you,the readers,what would you like me to take a look at? I love hearing feedback and opinions from all of you,I may not reply too often but I do take your thoughts to heart.

TL;DR: Seriously it isn't that long just read it

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Things No One Cares About: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders

I guess this is the month where I get to redact my opinions. First I'm over at Haywire realizing that I never gave Devil Survivor 2 a chance and now I'm here to take back most of my unkind thoughts about Jojo's Bizarre Adventure:Stardust Crusaders while also adding some new ones I skipped over last time. Maybe the fact that it's animated now or that I didn't binge the show like I did the manga but I enjoyed the anime more than the manga.

Like it's predecessor, Stardust Crusaders is a almost panel perfect adaption of said arc with a few events subtly changed to match up with later events of the arc. As a result it keeps the stories strengths and weaknesses mostly intact. The plot follows Jotaro and his companions as they travel to Egypt to stop DIO. Introduced in this arc of the manga are the iconic Stand powers. Basically physic abilities that can manifest in those with a strong will or in later parts surviving being pierced by a special arrow. These powers of course manifest in the cast and more or less kick off the plot in a way. The early episodes front load most of the back-story on DIO,Stands and the Jostar family; which causes the first few episodes to drag a bit especially if you've read the manga. It's also here that we run into most of the speed bumps in the story.

The first big one is the case of Holly Kujo and her inability to control her Stand. I could write a few pages on why this is stupid in the grander scheme of the series and also within in this arc. To keep it brief, Holly is portrayed as a rather strong  person yet can't seem to wield a stand. She may be a bit frailer physically but a baby and a decrepit old lady can use their Stands no problem,yet Holly can't. Probably because Jotaro needed more motivation than simply the world is in danger. To say nothing of the unfortunate implications this brings up, I'll just leave it at insulting and a waste of a perfectly good character.

The other gripe I have is that for some reason DIO 's defeat means that Holly will be free of her Stand's influence. Despite the fact that this won't affect any other Jostar Stands which spawned as a result of DIO's theft of Johnathan Jostar's body. It's almost like Holly and DIO as less characters and more motivations. The lack of real interactions with DIO outside of the final fight fails to make him anything more than a entertaining if shallow villain. He's noticeably changed since Phantom Blood,becoming much more paranoid and Genre Savvy than before However like Jotaro it doesn't make him a particular deep character.

Speaking of Jotaro, I grew to like him over the courses of parts four and six but loathed as a lead since we had more interesting characters in the group. Then I finally noticed his much more sarcastic and dry sense of humor and more subtle character development. He serves as a nice contrast to the arcs wackier villains and supporting cast. While someone like Polnareff ,the group's penultimate recruit, is more prone to rush right in and play the fool; Jotaro seems more like an annoyed mom at the others antics and it's funny to an extent. He does learn to grow closer to the people in the group as the story progresses but not people in general as evidenced by part six. He works well within the group but still comes off as a boring lead. His stand,Star Platinum, matches his blandness and versatility.

Star Platinum has precision and super strength on his side, the latter coming standard on many a Stand later down the line. While it is basic it aids in Jotaro's versatility, many of the more creative uses of the group's powers come out of his Stand. From inhaling a gas based Stand to using it to bluff a professional con man,it never feels like Star Platinum is pulling something out its butt. That is till the end and concerns my last major problem with Stardust Crusaders and spoilers for the Final DIO fight so skip this next paragraph if you want to stay in the dark.

The anime has the advantage of being able to fore shadow events more clearly and fixing a few things related to Avdol's (first) death. However the show never really explains Jotaro's ability to move during DIO's time stop that clearly. The logical extension that Jotaro can stop time himself is hinted via the ability to move during a time stop but the initial movements nor is Jotaro's flying around like DIO ever really explained. Maybe the fact that Jotaro can fly like that is meant to mirror DIO's The World and show that they are similar Stands thus time stop should be possible for Jotaro. Yeah, no it still feels like somewhat of an ass pull on Araki's part and I'm sad that it wasn't better handled this time around.

Okay back in non-spoiler land,I said I enjoyed this part yet all I've done so far is gripe. So what works in this shows favor,everything else. The group dynamics that were present in the original are played up much stronger here. Spending time with these characters drew me closer to them as they all learned to trust one another. Deaths in the manga that left me unfazed hit me hard in the anime. Both versions of this story do fall into the formula of travel some distance then have a fight. However with the anime I was going at it's pace rather than my own and it let me stand back and appreciate the story and characters. By the end of the show I was sad that this journey had to end and I had to depart from beloved friends.

The only weak link in the Jostar group is probably Kakyoin. While pulling some cool tricks off with his Stand,Hierophant Green, is put on a bus for most of season two. He finally returns for the storming of DIO's mansion. Even then it takes to the final fight to get some deeper development for him. It could have been spread out a bit akin to Iggy's development from cold jerk to loyal team member is played out. He's still a fun character that is a bit of a walking meme and brings up the idea of how growing up with a Stand might effect a person's social skills.

Everyone else is the group also brings something to the table asides from there Stands. Polnareff and Iggy bring a bit of levity to the group while examining what it means to live for others. Avdol is half of a cool old guy duo with Joseph, while serving as somewhat of a mentor to the group. A role that Jotaro would take on in part four, he's comforting to have around in a way. Joseph while not being full blown comic relief like Polnareff, is still a lovable hot blooded goof  that has some what mellowed out since Battle Tendency.What spurs these changes for him are again a whole article by itself so I'll leave it at that.

The Stands lack the more bizarre powers that later parts have but this arc was meant to ease people into the idea of Stands,hence the stats of each one. It lays does the groundwork for what Stands can do and who can wield one. This doesn't mean the Stands are boring per se, they are used in interesting ways to build some cool battles. Such as the battle against a gorilla whose Stand is the ship the characters are on.

The one major problem the 2012 anime had was pacing,squeezing about twelve volumes of material into one season is a bit difficult. However with two seasons to stretch it's legs out in Stardust Crusaders does away with most of those problems. The first season does have the aforementioned front loading problem but once it gets going it doesn't look back. The fights move at a quick clip and never out stay their welcome. The show still drips with that signature style and compliments the crazy events on screen perfectly. The voice cast works perfectly as well,everyone sounds like they should. Takehio Koyasu reprises his role as DIO playing him in a more subdued fashion while still retaining the sinister and crazy fun aspects that made him a blast in Phantom Blood.

So I come to you a more humble person,it's a bit of a painful feeling.The pain is dulled by the fact that Stardust Crusaders is better than I first thought.While it has it's flaws,the story is one that ultimately works with a colorful cast that I felt closer to than I ever have. If you're like me and lukewarm about the Stardust Crusaders section of the manga, then I encourage you to give the arc another try with this anime. If you still haven't experienced this arc then this is the best way to go about it.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Things No One Cares About: Odin: Starlight Mutiny

For the most part when I review any media I like to go in as blind as possible so I can get my purest impressions untarnished by the opinions of others. While this is hardly a solid rule, it is for my used bookstore purchases. Such is the case with today's feature, Odin: Starlight Mutiny,which I had never heard of. To be quite honest even had I know of this film's poor reception and the strong pedigree of it's producers; I still would have not been prepared for the true awfulness contained on this disc.

The story, if it can even be called that,is an utter mess that is littered with plot holes. Okay, I'll be nice and say that the title is indeed accurate. There is a planet called Odin and there is a mutiny on the spaceship called Starlight. Everything else like coherence and pacing are left to the winds in favor of terrible metal music and odd animation. Events seem to happen at random and there is this incessant prattling about sailors being the greatest. The sailing theme is used mostly to justify the crew acting like reckless fools.

They explain that Earth has developed space travel via laser propelled sails and the titular Starlight is unique in that it isn't reliant on such a stupid method. The technology on both sides is poorly explained and the cast is surprisingly knowledgeable about the alien technology that they've had little exposure to. Characters throw around high grade techno-babble that a person with a first grade education can tell is complete malarkey. Once the plot gets going,in a loose sense, it barrels into complete idiocy.

Apparently the Norse tales of Ragnarok were inspired by the planet Odin's destruction,yes really. These aliens made first contact ages ago and that's why we have Norse mythology, I guess. Then they made some super computer that decides organic life is useless and decides to go the genocide route on them.They blow up the MCP knock-off at the cost of a few casualties on their side and that's the end. They were clearly expecting a sequel had this movie not bombed,mostly because people realized that the latter half could have been avoided had anyone had half a brain.

The mutiny promised in the title happens due to the fact that the government called them back and they wanted to find the planet Odin. At no point is it mentioned that they wont be able to complete this mission at a later date or that they'll even be pulled from the crew. Nope they do it because they need to prove themselves. So they hijack the ship and run this dangerous mission in a ship that has the bare amount of armaments,they have to rig a few lasers to give themselves a fighting chance. Instead of going back later,better prepared against an army they know is technologically advanced with superior weapons. To say this is a stupid idea is an understatement but considering these characters this is the best they can do.

I'm not even going to mention most of the cast as they are so one note and bland that it could have been a crew of rocks and it would have made a difference. However,main character Akira is a walking example of how not to write a chracter. Our introduction to him is watching the launch of the Starlight,lamenting how he could have been on the crew had he not punched an instructor. I honestly figured he was either a minor antagonist or just a throw away character,not the hero. There is nothing wrong with a protagonist that does out of line actions provided they are justified or it's part of him growing as a character. However it isn't and his brash attitude is treated as lovable and heroic despite the fact that had he taken a minute to think about his actions; He would have realized how pointless that mutiny was,and probably avoided the needless death.

I usually don't talk to much about art anymore because I can only say it looks nice and flows well so many times,except here it doesn't. The character design is generic complementing the writing perfectly I might add. Everything glows with this weird irradiated looks, like they animated this while in Chernobyl. On the sound side, nothing works either. Many of the big set piece scenes are given this ridiculous hair metal soundtrack that doesn't work. The Japanese voice cast does as well as it can given the script, specials note to someone shouting “St. Elmo's Fire” unprovoked during a scene. I genuinly don't know if that was in the script or someone did some impromptu riffing. 

This is a movie that doesn't even know the meaning of the word “work” which is weird since this studio is responsible for the Space Battleship Yamato series. The animation is blinding to the point of almost inducing epilepsy,the soundtrack never fits, and the story  make little to no sense and hopes the techno-babble will distract you. This movie is so painfully bad I had to do three separate sittings just to be able to stomach it. Not much left to say expect don't get suckered like I did into blowing six dollars on this.

Till Next Time:Stay Positive.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Shojo A Go-Go: So Cute It Hurts!

Gender bender and cross dressing comedies are something I tend to avoid. Mostly for two reasons, first they tend to rely on gender stereotypes which are not that funny. Second is due to deep seated personal issues that prevent me from not being a sad sack whilst reading them. This is why you'll never see me talk about Kashimashi despite all five volumes occupying space on my shelf. So in an attempt to brave the very depths of my soul,here's So Cute It Hurts!, a cross dressing comedy.

The story follows the twins Megumi and Mitsuru,who couldn't be more different. I mean them having the same personality would be rather boring and give a lack of tension down the road. So Mitsuru is a wannabe playboy while his sister Megumi is a history otaku with an eye patch obsession. She starts out as the more likable of the two,mostly because she's more relate-able if a bit weird and also the fact that everything that happens so far in the plot is a direct result of her brother being an idiot.

The whole cross dressing aspect is for Mitsuru to get out of taking makeup classes so he can continue his dating schedule. His character arc is pretty clearly defined for now as he learns to actually love someone,Shino, instead of just being a skirt chaser. Shino is deaf ,which has tones of being inspirational for the sake of it,but hints at hidden depths and okay character development. Their little relationship is rather cute and solid pillar of the love “V” the story has set up by volumes end. I could say this will add tension down the road but I genuinely don't feel that So Cute! is the kind of manga to defy the norm. It's plot points are easy to guess and has no real shake ups so I just don't see anything crazy happening.

Don't get me wrong I actually enjoyed this first volume,it's rather funny and relies less on gender stereotypes and more on accidental competence for it's comedy. How the twins act in each others situation reflects heavily on them as character. Misturu's school is a crazy place that makes Hekikuu High look normal so when he goes to Megumi's much tamer school he can easily outwit the girls with their smaller time pranks and tricks. Where as Megumi is used to staying out of the way and being in a school that has a semblance of normal order is thrust into crazy land and reacts by legging it to avoid problem.

Despite getting the lion's share of character development,Mitsuru comes off as the weakest character. His character arc is so clearly defined that it's almost painful and his semi-ace status is rather annoying compared to Megumi's fish out of water character. Megumi also has a very well defined “learning to love “arc being set-up but it's slightly more subtle and her Kitano like antics are funnier than Mitsuru's verbal humiliation of nasty girls. The reminder of the cast is pretty okay with hints of actual character development especially those in the six point love “V”.

I'd like to lodge a few annoyances her that may be fixed in a later volume. First is the fact that Megumi's friends really don't notice they've switched. Which is weird as the appear to be rather close to her and would probably notice something is off.  Mitsuru's classmates are a bit forgivable since he tends to stick with girls and is supposed to be the 7th strongest in the school so he may not have many close male friends. Also I know it's common at least in manga and anime for kids to be living on their own but I'd at least like some mention of what there parents are doing,just for context.Again these may come up later and possibly played for drama so for now it just bugs me.

So after that brief soul search,it's about as deep as a kiddy pool, I've learned absolutely nothing other than the fact that I enjoyed this volume. The character development for the leads is rather blatant but has the opportunity to surprise with the decent supporting cast. The crazy love drama may eventually overtake the story but for now it's decent comedic sensibilities and great leading lady make for a fun beginning but I don't put much faith in keeping this momentum going.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Things No One Cares About: The Legend of Chun Hyang

Recently there has been somewhat of an influx of manga adaptations of so called classics such as the works of Jane Austin and Victor Hugo. It's really nothing new, adapting a classic for modern times is a fairly popular practice.I don't really look into these “Manga Classics” too much,as I prefer the source material. These type of titles could be okay for all I know but I feel that the transition will lack the subtle touches of the original works. That may just be the snobbery talking in all honesty,so I'll put that aside to see if CLAMP can make a transition to manga can work.

Chunhyangga is a Korean folktale that concerns a young girl betrothed to a noble holding out for his return even in the face of immanent death. It's a short tale and is supposed to trumpet the virtues of chastity and rebellion against corrupt government. I'm not going to give a full review of that because: A. That's not the focus of this post and B. People care as little about my subjects as is,so I'm not about to start reviewing books that people probably care even less about. The Legend of Chun Hyang plays rather fast and loose with the source material. However faithfulness to the source is not really the problem here,it's more lack of depth and inconsistent tone that plague it.

The first two chapters follow Chun as she combats evil magistrates with the help of Mong Ryong. While in the original tale,she defies the magistrate through refusal of advances. Here she is a competent action girl that acts as a protector of the townspeople. She only thinks of protecting people and like her folklore counterpart stays “pure”. Women keeping their “honor” is a minor theme through out the first chapter, Chun Hyuang's mother kills herself to keep the magistrate from raping her. Women staying chaste is a common theme in folklore and I won't really go into the underlying sexist tones this brings to the part. Mostly because CLAMP was not really trying to make a statement one way or the other just incorporating elements of the original story of which there are plenty. Does this excuse it in anyway,no. It just comes off as an oddity in a story that is all about women being on even footing with the men.

The second chapter drops these connections entirely in favor of becoming a traveling adventure story with a bit of a Slayers flavor. It's a fun little story filled with mythical beasts,magical battles,some lite tragedy and confusing character development. While the first story was a semi retelling of the original tale,this feels like CLAMP was trying to pitch the book as a series that never happened. Mong Ryong and Chun Hyang have a typical love/hate relationship that has Mong Ryong being a lecherous pervert and her keeping him in line. Near the end of this chapter Chun Hyang nearly kills a second magistrate but stops suddenly because she realizes it won't bring back the dead. This comes completely out of nowhere as she does that exact thing to the last magistrate with no chastisement.Suddenly revenge is a bad thing...for some reason. If this series had more time to develop then maybe this could have been fleshed out but as a stand alone Aesop it conflicts heavily with what's presented. Chun Hyang,nor anyone really, is not given enough depth for events to mean anything and the next chapter gives them depth that they never use.

I'm pretty sure the final chapters working title was called: “Tone,what's that?”. The chapter follows young Chun Hyang as she defends the town from young magistrate's son from the first chapter. The whole thing is treated as a wacky comedy with implications the the magistrate's son loves Chun Hyang bur can't show it. First considering the horrific events of the first chapter this comes of less as charming and more chilling. Second of all why are we giving semi character development to character that are already dead. Plus Chun Hyang character development here apparently didn't take as shes just as impulsive as a teenager and a child. Though this may be because the original chapter was not written with this in mind for which it gets a free pass but this chapter has no excuse. It adds nothing to the first chapter in terms of motivations and while the first two chapters are not that serious this chapter is just too wacky.

As a straight adaption The Legend of Chun Hyang fails,as an action adventure story it's pretty average. The short length and bizarre final chapter, leaves us with a mediocre book that screams for more. It's a book that clearly wanted to be something more than it what was presented and that makes me sad to see something that may have been struck down in it's prime. It really hasn't colored my opinion on manga adaptions that strongly but I do recommend it for those looking for a fun action tale.

Till Next Time:Stay Positive. 

P.S Sorry for the lateness of this one,again I'm a ditz with schedules.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Shojo A Go-Go: Wild Ones

I'll admit I have a soft spot for gangsters/punks in anime and manga,especially in comedies. One of my favorite anime is Baccano! due in no small part to most of your characters being crazy mobsters. Maybe it's he mash up of big tough guys doing goofy things or manliness to the point of parody. Either way goofy Yakuza guys are pretty fun and feature prominently in today's work Wild Ones. Though it does deliver on the funny Yakuza front it is DOA on every other count.

The volume's main problem is in its' failure to convey it self properly. We're told everything yet the story does not reflect the facts given. For example,we're told that our lead,Sachie,was chosen by the men of her grandfather's gang but at no time does this seem to be the case. Yes she does show some very admirable traits but this is long after she's gained these men's admiration and most of them only happen in front of her love interest(?), Rakuto. Over all it comes off as a lazy, instead of having events shown that back up your statement,just tell us the statement I mean it's not like we're in a visual medium or anything.

That aside the story doesn't seem to be going anywhere really and seems to be okay with standard plots albeit with a yakuza flavor. Sachie has to deal with moving to a new school and the loss of her mother among some wacky guys who just don't understand women. It's by no means bad and if you're like me and are okay wacky yakuza shenanigans then you'll be fine. It just lacks substance and doesn't seem to be wanting to go much further in terms of plotting or character development

Sachie and Rakuto are the only two characters of any real note her as the rest are either goofy gangsters or shojo stock jerks. If you noticed my confusion about Rakuto being a love interest,it's because the volume doesn't know what Sachie thinks about him either. Sachie constantly calls him weird but he's not that weird. He has a little more formal speech and aside form one instance of personal space invasion is not that bizarre. He's not that interesting so I can see why she falls in and out of love so easily with him;He's the generic cool guy that attracts crazy girls and can do it all.

Sachie on the other hand is the spitfire girl that tougher than she is letting on. When she does go into full on scolding mode it leads to some of the funnier sections as the guys stand bewildered at her. Again it's not exactly ground breaking comedy but it's still enjoyable and works for the most part. Her history with her mother is probably the only thing that has potential to be interesting or it could just turn out to be Tohru Honda's back story but with Yakuza.

I actually enjoyed the Wild Ones quite a bit despite it's laziness and weak story. Does that mean you'll like it,probably not. Unless you're a fan of gangsters and comedy then you'll probably be left wanting,hell I like both of those things and I'm left with that cold emptiness. Though I always feel that so it may not be the book's fault. It offers little incentive to continue and is only worth it if you're desperate for a romance story.

Till Next Time:Stay Positive