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.