Doctor Who Challenge Day 10: Favorite Episode

I have a confession.

In preparing for this challenge, I binged the entire series to date. Ten seasons, including specials, rapid fire, keeping my eyes open for the categories found in this challenge. Thus, I have managed to pick nine favorite things, thus far, with relative ease.

And it was great fun! 🙂

But, when matched up against the entire series like that, singular episodes might have had some difficulty standing out.

So, I had to think a bit, and I thought to myself, “What episode have I re-watched most often over the years?”

A little recollection, looking back, back, back over the past decade or so, observing the behavior of my past self, aaaaand…

“Planet of the Dead.”

As one of the specials between the fourth and fifth seasons, it stands pretty well apart and independent of anything else in the series. You don’t need to know that much about what came before, and it’s not tied too much to what comes after. It’s simply a fun little Doctor adventure, complete with lots of humor, some inspiring words, a bit of action, danger, and death, a horrible threat, and a sizzling female lead. 😉

There’s the Doctor, of course, in his element as a London bus happens to fall through hole in space-time, into a hostile environment. He has some ordinary people to inspire and protect in an abnormal circumstance, and a terrible danger to the entire planet to fend off. He is, as always, a fantastic centerpiece to the episode.

I’ve already talked about Christina, but I just have to say again, I love her part in this episode. She’s just so confident, capable, and clever. She stands side-by-side with the Doctor as an equal. She’s no saint, and no “good girl,” but she’s charitable enough to give up her prized loot to save the people with them. She’s an excellent balance of elegant and strong. (and hot!)

UNIT plays a significant part as well. Really, the Doctor is able to save the people on the bus, but he needed UNIT to save the world. The scientist, Malcolm Taylor, was a fantastic and hilarious addition to the story, this brainiac who could impress even the Doctor, with hidden depths of nerve and courage. It’s always cool to see the normal humans holding their own alongside the star of the show.

The aliens, the ones based on flies, were a nice addition too, making for a little more humor and providing the Doctor with what he needed, even if they and the bus driver were the red shirts of the episode.

Basically, “Planet of the Dead” is arguably one of the funnest episodes in the series, and a personal favorite of mine. 🙂

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Pete’s Dragon: A Very Bland Remake

The Jungle Book was a fantastic new take on the classic story, mixing the charm of the animated version with the darker, bloodier material of the original tale. Cinderella was an enchanting redevelopment of the character and her relationship with her beloved prince. Beauty and the Beast was a warped attempt to both mimic the animated classic and expand on it at the same time, and it came out as enjoyable but ultimately unoriginal and mediocre, I think. Maleficent was enjoyable and certainly took things in a new direction, but the plot and characters suffered from a brutish feminist agenda. Alice in Wonderland deserves a bit more credit than it gets, I think, for the story it tells, for the characters and themes, etc. and I enjoyed it immensely (I have not seen Alice Through the Looking Glass).

Like ’em, love ’em, or hate ’em, Disney’s live-action remakes have generally been fun, well-crafted, and added something interesting to the discussion.

(heck, even the 2003 Peter Pan by Universal Pictures was a fresh retelling of the animated classic, much like Jungle Book)

Pete’s Dragon, by comparison, kind of falls flat. Like, “Meh. Whatever. Nothing special.” Only it’s not only “not special,” it’s actually pretty boring. Which, considering the subject material includes an orphaned boy surviving in the forest with a dragon guarding him until he’s found by a lady deputy who takes him in like one of her own and learns alongside an entire town about the magic of life and the reality of dragons… “boring” is something of an achievement.

I wasn’t able to see it theaters, and now I’m actually rather glad about that. I finally saw it over the holidays, and I gotta say, I could probably have gone without ever seeing it.

Now, I don’t want to make it sound like there’s nothing good about this remake. The CGI dragon is amazing, the scenery is stunning, the cinematography is very well done, the music is nothing short of beautiful, and I do like the characters. Really, I do, they’re good people. Indeed, probably the single best and most fascinating part of the movie is how it doesn’t have anyone “evil” in it. There’s no villain in this story, just some brash, hard-headed people doing the best they can and seizing what they think is a golden, dragon-shaped opportunity. And it’s all very child-friendly, at least.

Where the movie goes wrong isn’t in what it shows but how. It fails in the delivery, becoming practically a study in just how campy and ham-fisted a movie can be. I have to wonder if they deliberately pinpointed and annihilated everything that could have been subtle on purpose, or if they just did that by accident. Either way, I was left very underwhelmed.

It’s not exactly like the competition is exceptionally fierce, either. The original Pete’s Dragon was a musical meant mostly for the kids, but the remake tries to be something more gritty and real and darker in tone while remaining light and fluffy and happy, and it just comes off as… well, “meh.”

In Disney’s continuing pattern of live-action remakes, Beauty and the Beast gives me pause about redoing their renaissance classics, especially if they try and mimic the old songs, but Pete’s Dragon is the one that persuades me, yes, Disney can get these re-imagined remakes wrong too. I don’t “hate” it, it just… feels “flat.” Lackluster. Bland.

I can’t even think of very much else to say about it.

Rating: 5 stars out of 10.

Grade: D.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #165: To Know, To Love, To Help. Or: Doctor Who Challenge Day 9: Favorite Companion Quote

“His name is the Doctor. All the name he needs, everything you need to know about him. And if you love him, and you should, help him. Help him.”
– Clara Oswald, Doctor Who
Christmas special, “The Time of the Doctor”

As many Doctor quotes as there are, there are just as many companion quotes, also witty, or poignant, or pointed. I was severely tempted to quote Amelia Pond with this one, but then I found this one, and it just seemed to encapsulate the very soul of what it means to be the Doctor’s companion.

The Doctor is basically a figure of mythical, epic, cosmic proportions. He travels at will through the whole of time and space, saving lives, ending menaces, stopping countless atrocities, standing against nefarious figures of legend and undoing entire armies with his wits, his will, and a screwdriver. He is the monsters’ nightmare.

There are also countless mysteries about him, mysteries which magnificent powers in the universe have bent their will to unraveling. Even his real name is a secret.

Yet, the Doctor is defined by a very human characteristic: charity. He genuinely cares about others. That’s why he named himself “the Doctor,” because he wants to help people. So he protects them, and sees justice done, and helps them stand up after they’ve been beaten down. He is, as one of his enemies put it, “The man who makes people better.” All of this, he does it without hope of reward or recognition. That’s not just noble, it’s amazing, the purest and greatest of virtues.

That is what defines both the Doctor and his companions: the ease with which they love others. Even more, they earn that love in return, even if they don’t really ask for it. How natural is it to help someone you love?

When Clara says the above quote, she is bearing witness to what may be the Doctor’s last hour. She is kneeling before a crack in the universe that carries her words to the Time Lords of Gallifrey. They have been listening in as the Doctor has fought to secure safe passage for his people to return to the universe, and now only they can save him. But she has to convince them why, and she doesn’t point to any grand reasons. She speaks simply and clearly, and begs them to help a man who is worthy of their help. Just as every companion of the Doctor has done: helped him because he is worth it.

They should love this man who has done so much for them. They should help him.

One doesn’t need to know everything about a man to know him. One doesn’t even need to know him to love him. And once you love him, helping him is the most natural thing in the world.

And that’s not a bad way to start a new year, is it? 😉

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This Week on TV, Jan. 13, 2018

Spoiler Alert!

So, while I was all happy about the Holiday Drought ending so quickly, The Gifted and Gotham both skipped this week, leaving Agents of Shield as the last man standing in my lineup this week. Heh, figures.

On the bright side, The Gifted will be giving us a two-hour event, though, less happily, I am guessing that will be the season finale, but, then again, I expect it’ll be plenty exciting! 🙂

But, as for this week…

Agents of Shield

5.07 “Together or Not at All”

So, the theme of this episode is: flee, escape, outrun, get away, hide, survive!

On the heels of their dramatic exit from Kasius’ little death-match party, Daisy and Fitz-Simmons are particularly motivated to do exactly that. They’re barely managing to slip just beyond the Kree’s fingertips, making it up as they go. (improvisation = important skill for agents of shield) They pause for just a moment so Daisy can catch her breath and Simmons can change, but Kasius’ activates Simmons’ implant in her ear, so Fitz has to get it out (owch!) while Daisy subdues a Kree guard, and she almost blows that because she reflexively tried to use her powers, which she can’t do while the inhibitor is still on. So, she has to adapt again, now that she’s finally mastered her powers and become reliant on them.

ADD moment: is it just me, or are the Kree a bit weaker then they were when they were first introduced?

They make for Fitz’s ship, hoping to get away and then make a plan, but Kasius blows up their ship. They’re stranded, supposedly with nowhere to go… but when “nowhere” includes a labyrinthine structure like the Lighthouse, with so many corners to wriggle around, the chase can go on for awhile yet. They nearly get caught more than once, and Fitz gets injured, but they’re doing well for themselves in an increasingly-dire situation.

Back where they’re fleeing from, Kasius now has a new scar on his face (poetic, but a slit throat would have been better than a cut cheek) is beset by both his brother and Sinara.

The latter is taking it rather personally, as well she ought to, that she was thrown into the ring to die by the Destroyer’s hand, betrayed by he who she had served so well. Kasius, much like an unfaithful boyfriend, is trying to talk her back to his side, playing it like he had faith in her strength, that she would survive somehow, and how he needs her so much. That last is pretty much the only part I buy, that he needs her physical power. Kasius is so close to being restored to his place of honor, somewhere besides this backwater dungeon, but he needs her strength to get him there. He wants her to get inside their enemy’s head and figure out where they would go, to get ahead of them.

She has some competition in this hunt. Faulnak’s brother brought his own “greatest warrior” and sends him to hunt down the fugitive trio and kill anyone in his way. This apparently includes random servants who simply don’t know where his prey is (which is stupid, to kill willy-nilly like that).

The difference between the brothers can be seen in their servants. Faulnak respects brute power and bloodshed, and holds it as a sign of strength that one does not need distance from an enemy to kill them, as with a firearm. He also holds it against Kasius that he fled a losing battle, shaming the family and failing to protect their subjects or even die in the attempt. So, he has a certain flavor of honor, if he’s concerned with the subjects his army protects, but it seems very short-sighted to the point of stupidity to me. How has this man not died in battle already, if he’s never retreated and never killed anyone himself except at close range? Success in battle, let alone prolonged war, requires a bit more flexibility than that, as does the proper governing of an interstellar empire.

Still, Faulnak has some fair points against his brother, especially in regards to end results. Even more, his brother is a coward… but cowardice is not so far removed from cunning.

It’s a bad idea to turn your back on a coward.

Elsewhere, Coulson, Mack, and Yo-Yo are trying to protect Flint, but without Tess – a loss that hits Flint hard – they’ve lost their guide through this future society, and they’re keenly aware that a direct threat from the Kree will absolutely inspire the locals to turn on them in a heartbeat. It’s a grim situation, made all the worse with the arrival of their friends in their hiding spot, with two Kree hunters in hot pursuit.

Fortunately, Deke is with them. Yes, he managed to get out of his locked room and he comes to the rescue now. First, he finds Daisy and Fitz-Simmons and, despite their substantial, well-founded distrust, he leads them to the others. They arrive just in time for Flint to slip out and get justice for Tess by killing the Kree guardsman. He’s gutsy, has a potent weapon at his command, and he’s not stupid, but he’s still very young, inexperienced, and not entirely competent. He has about two seconds of triumph before Sinara hits him, intending to use him as bait. It works fairly well, her prey has to come to her, and with Faulnak’s man catching up, the agents can only manage to get back to the refinery, where they’re locked and barricaded in (thank you, Flint, for burying the doors in rocks) with no way out.

Fortunately, Deke is still with them. Nobody trusts him because he’s already betrayed them once, and trust doesn’t come easy to this lot in the first place. But they go with his plan, to use his levitation device to take them up a shaft, then use Coulson’s plan of taking the Trawler to the surface, where everything has been pointing them to and where the Kree won’t quickly follow. They make it out just in time, and then they split up.

Flint feels responsibility towards his people in the Lighthouse, so he won’t abandon them. And Mack, who bonded with him, won’t abandon him, which means Yo-Yo stays behind too. The three of them will handle the Lighthouse while Coulson gets answers and makes a better overall plan.

After Coulson flies the Trawler out, that is, and up, and lands on the surface, which, considering he is no pilot and the Trawler is not built for landing, goes about as well as can be hoped, which is to say, terribly, and bumpy, and ending in a crash.

Back down below, Sinara surprisingly kills Faulnak’s man, just after he blew the refinery open. Got him in the back with her floating spheres. She returns empty-handed to inform Kasius and Faulnak of both the humans’ escape and how she killed her rival. Faulnak is dismissive of Kasius, who has apparently been sending people to die, instead of straight-up killing them, but they’ve been managing to survive instead, and now his failures are mounting towards a disaster. But as for Sinara, Faulnak is intrigued. He is interested. He suddenly sees the promise in her, the strength, the power, the things he holds as important, and he immediately tries to woo her away from his brother.

She looked interested, but we’ll never know what she would have chosen, because Kasius stabs his brother in the back before she can answer, and this, too, seems to please her. Kasius takes a moment to gloat at his brother, how Sinara killed the generals who would not let him retreat from that battle they were talking about. Sinara understood, as Kasius does, that he has no place on the battlefield. He’s just not built for it. So, Sinara takes care of the violence, usually, while Kasius focuses his strengths where they are more useful. It’s a partnership of sorts between them.

Faulnak curses his brother for a coward… but cowards are still very dangerous any time they happen to be standing behind your back. Kasius finishes his brother off from the front, looking into his brother’s eyes as he dies. Then, with his face painted in his brother’s blood, he is practically drooling at the chance to present the Destroyer to his father and “avenge his death” at the same time. Surely that will result in his restoration, especially since Faulnak’s death leaves an opening at the top to be filled.

Which, makes me think that Kasius the Elder probably won’t long survive any reunion with his son either. I mean, why stop at Number 2?

Finally, up on the surface, we see May struggling to survive. I’d bet on her instead of a roach any day of the week, but with her injuries, she can barely even hide. When a roach finds her, all she can do is stand her ground. Then Enoch arrives and kills it (ah, that’s where he went!). He’s a friend of Fitz and he has no tasty insides for the roaches to drain, so they ignore him, to their fatal detriment. He’s catching her up when she realizes he’s the one who threw them all into the future, but she holds off on kicking his butt. He’s there to look after her. Easier done with the roaches than with the approaching gravity storm, which they two of them only weather because help arrives to anchor them to the ground.

May awakes to find she and Enoch are on the Zephyr, apparently, or what’s left of it. And their host is none other than the future-seeing Inhuman, now an elderly woman: Robin.

So, almost everyone has managed to escape and survive, and apparently Morse and Hunter did their job very well, seeing as Robin survived the end of the world. Maybe now they can start getting some answers about what happened and how they can go back in time again to prevent it.

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The Liebster Award

As wonderful as it is to get these awards, I must admit I was a little surprised to get two of them in such close succession to each other. 🙂

My thanks to Moya at the Moyatorium for the nomination! 🙂 If you haven’t seen it before, we talk about some similar things and I rather enjoy reading it!

I had no idea what “Liebster” even was. I mean, it sounds almost made up, doesn’t it? But, then, that’s pretty much true for most language, isn’t it? It apparently means, according to Google, “one who is much loved by someone.” Awww! Thank you! 😉

So, the rules are as follows:

Display Award

Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog. Try to include a little promotion for the person who nominated you.

Answer the 11 questions they’ve written for you.

Nominate 5 – 11 bloggers.

So, that’s the first two done. Now, as for the eleven questions:

If you do a half-smile, does your mouth curve upwards on the right side or the left?
Yes. Yes, it does. 😉 Heh, honestly, it usually goes to my left, but it has been known to go to my right too.

What anime “dere” archetype do you most identify with? The basic ones: tsundere, yandere, kuudere, dandere, himedere. For info on each or additional choices, check out this guide.
Oooh, interesting! And a nice opportunity to learn about the various “dere,” some of which I have never even considered before. Cool! As for which one I most identify with. Hmmm, let’s see…

There’s the kuudere, who seems cold and unapproachable at first, but proves to be very caring towards the ones they love. I know, I may not seem that way online, but in real life… I am the strong, silent type most of the time, and one of my friends described her initial impression of me as quiet and a little weird, but I am determined to always be there for my family and my dear friends, and woe to you if you mess with them.

Of course, there’s also, probably even more accurate, the dandere. As in introvert and an autistic, I lost most of my childhood fearlessness and became a bit more reserved, but put me next to someone I like (not “like” so the comparison isn’t perfect) and I’ll gab away about anything interesting to me.

More disturbing is the dorodere, who appear sweet and lovable but are actually messed up psychos on the inside. I mention that one because… well, let’s just say that if I ever meet my evil self from an alternate dimension, the only option will be to kill him right then and there. It is my choice to keep the monster inside my tightly muzzled and on a short leash in the basement. I hear it, and sometimes it honestly frightens me, but it’s not coming out to hurt anyone. I almost pity the fool who ventures down there and unleashes is. …almost. 😉

If you could have siblings (or reassign them if you already have siblings), would you like older or younger siblings, and of the same or opposite gender? And how many?
I’ll just keep my older sisters and younger step-siblings as they are, thank you! 🙂

What’s your stance on avocado toast?
…huh? What is this abomination you speak of?

What anime superpower do you want the most?
Shape-shifting! Hands down, no competition! 😀
Now, as for exactly which flavor of shape-shifting, hmmm… there’s the ones that go “poof!” Like Shippo, or in Fruits Basket, or that shape-shifting girl in Akame ga Kill. There’s the ones that shimmer and/or explode, and that’s handy and cool too. Oh, I know! Like Envy in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood! I would prefer to not be a tiny worm whose power runs on the trapped souls of an entire murdered nation, but the mechanics of the shifting itself are pretty awesome! 🙂

Favourite Japanese band (if you have one)?
Don’t know any.

If you got stuck in the world of the most recent anime you watched, would you still be okay (mentally and/or physically)?
Fruits Basket? Sure! I’d be fine!

What food or chain restaurant would you recommend to someone visiting your country?
Too many chain restaurants to decide, so I will go with recommending… a cheeseburger! I mean, how much more quintessentially American can you get, eh?

Do you prefer small spaces with firm walls or large, open spaces? Does either one disturb you?
I suppose I’m more comfortable in smaller spaces. I do, oddly, feel a bit like I’m going to fall upward if I’m in a completely open space, rather than among cities or trees or mountains or caves (like my room!).

What’s your favourite drink?
Fruity sodas.

What do you want your epitaph to be?
Life is good.

Now, here, I am afraid I must disappoint. I could not come up with eleven questions. Actually, I couldn’t come up with any at all! 😦

Nonetheless, this was fun, and thank you! 🙂

Posted in Blogging Awards, Challenge Accepted | Tagged | 2 Comments

Sunday’s Wisdom #164: Important People. Or, Doctor Who Challenge Day 8: Favorite Doctor Quote

“Did you know, in nine hundred years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.”
– The Doctor, Doctor Who
Christmas special, “Christmas Carol”

So many Doctor Who quotes to choose from, so little time! 🙂

There are witty lines, poignant lines, pointed lines… but I think what I like best about the Doctor is simply how he, the last and greatest Time Lord of Gallifrey, truly values all the good people he comes into contact with. He is a wanderer, almost never setting down any roots, yet he treasures the lives of everyone he meets, that’s why he meddles in every crisis he comes across. It’s what really separates the Doctor from his many enemies, who dismiss the importance of others.

In this particular scene, the Doctor is meeting with a cranky old man, the sort who would make Ebeneezer Scrooge seem downright charitable. He asks about a woman who happens to be in cryostasis at the time, and the man dismisses her as “nobody important.” That’s when the Doctor says this, and while it’s very pointed in the moment, it’s held true in the Doctor’s behavior across the entire series.

When Rose travels back in time with him and saves her father when he was supposed to die, the Doctor tries to tell her how bad that was. She argues that he’s not going to be a world leader or start World War 3, but the Doctor answers that this is a man who is alive when he’s supposed to be dead, and the world is different for his continued life.

“An ordinary man. That’s the most important thing in creation.”
– The Doctor, Doctor Who
Season 1, Episode 8, “Father’s Day”

When David Tenant’s time as the Doctor ends, in “The End of Time,” it’s right after he’s done the incredible and saved the universe from the threat of his own people, the Time Lords gone mad, and, even more incredible, his life has been spared. Just as he’s on the brink of weeping with relief for his ongoing existence, he realizes that a friend of his, an old, ordinary man, has been trapped in a machine that’s practically waiting to kill him. And he’s angry and hurt and cries and shouts, because he could “do so much more,” and his friend isn’t special at all. But then, even as his friend tries to tell him not to, to just leave him and let him die, the Doctor steps in and takes his place, with only three words:

“It’s my honor.”

The greatest of all considers it his honor to die in the place of his perfectly-ordinary friend.

Yes. That is my favorite part of the Doctor.

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This Week on TV, Jan. 6, 2018

Spoiler Alert!

Happy New Year! 🙂

So, the Holiday Drought ends in record time, though only two shows in my lineup (official or unofficial) aired this week.

The Gifted treated us to what it must feel like to be taking the slow way round to those apocalyptic futures that heroes are always transported to at some point in their epic stories, and now it’s small wonder so many people they find in those futures are sunken under despair and anger.

Agents of Shield, meanwhile, featured crap hitting the fan in the post-apocalyptic future that the agents have been trapped in, and the bodies are starting to pile up.

The Gifted

1.11 “3 X 1”

Well, I can certainly say they chose very well in picking Skyler Samuels to play the Cuckoos. She’s gorgeous, skilled at her thespian trade, has the perfect voice that’s right there between alluring and terrifying, exactly right for a seductive, manipulative destroyer, and performing one character in three different roles in sync with each other is no small feat. And not just anyone can make that Stepford schoolgirl look work so well.

Now that the Cuckoos have been unveiled, we get to see them unleashed. One of them alone was able to rescue the others from an impossible prison by manipulating the Underground by manipulating Turner and the SS by manipulating the Struckers. Now that all three of them are free again, able to act in concert even across great distance, Esme, Sophie, and Phoebe are anything but harmless.

ADD moment: the Cuckoo storyline in the comics, if I recall right, included five of them, with Mindee and Celeste being the missing names on the show at the moment. Esme turned on one of her sisters, Sophie, and was heavily involved in her death. She also tried to murder the woman from whose genetic material they were created, Emma Frost. She was eventually killed, leaving Phoebe, Mindee, and Celeste as the surviving three-in-one to the present day.

So… why did they pick the names “Esme” and “Sophie” for two of these three, hm?

These three certainly act and even speak in unison often enough, but even within a normal, human mind, there is division. We question ourselves, argue with ourselves, have doubts and fears and colliding ideals. It’s not too much to think that even the hive-mind of the Cuckoos could come apart in similar ways. But where normal human minds can simply crush thoughts or sentiments, “killing” them, it could be much more literal for these girls.

But I already digress.

The Cuckoos are part of the Hellfire Club, which is quickly coming into prominence on the show.

In the comics, they appear to be nothing more than an international social club for wealthy elites, but if the many puppet strings that offers isn’t scary enough, it’s run by a clandestine Inner Circle, a group of powerful mutants who use their connections to steer the world according to their own agenda. They come into frequent conflict with the X-Men.

Judging by the state of things, I’m guessing the Inner Circle has really mucked up that whole “steering the world” bit.

The Cuckoos are reporting to their superior, a black man who can apparently turn a small black bead into a small diamond. I don’t think I know who that one is, but apparently he was hired to “rebuild” the Hellfire club, and he looks to be a skilled businessman. Apparently, the X-Men and the Brotherhood aren’t the only organizations that took a beating over the last few years/decades. How bitterly ironic would it be if the X-Men demolished them years ago, and the chaos running rampant now, with a rising war between mutants and normal humans, is partially because they, like the other mutant organizations, weren’t around to prevent it?

Mr. Business, whoever he is, is running the finances and logistics, and does not appreciate the difficulties which arise in the wake of that massacre the unrepentant Cuckoos committed (bemoaning only the fact that they didn’t have time to kill all the SS agents there). Most especially, he sees the problem of the Hound program, which not only hasn’t been stopped, but is growing stronger and stronger in the wake of the events of last episode.

It’s so bad that the Inner Circle is growing concerned, and the Club has apparently diminished to the point that they don’t have the muscle and manpower to challenge the Hounds, Trask, Campbell, and SS directly. So, the Cuckoos are off to renew and deepen their grasp on the Underground. Bad blood at their last parting notwithstanding, the Cuckoos mowed straight through SS and incidentally rescued a dozen mutants, Blink and the Strucker kids among them. Between gratitude, effectiveness, and persuasion, they’re confident that they can bring the Underground into their fold.

It’s not like the Underground is either short on trouble or long on options. They’re just having a funeral for Dreamer, a bitter, heavy reminder of the stakes they’re fighting for: survival. Not even “acceptance,” just “survival.”

The episode opened with a flashback of Blink leaving a movie theater with her boyfriend, just living a peaceful life, but someone noticed she was a mutant and called in a mob of “Purifiers.” They harass her, threaten her, burn her car, tell her she has no business being around innocent people (tell it to a mirror!), and all she can do is run for her life. Her boyfriend doesn’t defend her or even stand with her. He sets himself apart as plain, ordinary human, and just tells her to go, to run. I can sort of understand that. There was nothing he could do against so many people, he reacted in a moment of fear for his life, and he advised her to escape, to be safe. And that’s just normal, everyday life for a mutant.

Dreamer, we learn, could have easily passed herself off as normal human for her entire life. She could have lived in peace. Instead, she joined the Underground, her “real family,” risked and lost her life fighting for them. She died trying to keep something from the enemy, too. I had many doubts and qualms and questions about Dreamer, but it’s funny how those are laid to rest alongside the deceased. She was good, and she did her best. And she died simply because other people refused to accept the mutants as humans. Eclipse is the one who mentions that they are just like humans: they bleed, they weep, they die, they mourn, they feel pain, etc. “Cut me, do I not bleed?”

Meanwhile, Turner speaks at the funeral of his friend and SS comrade, who was made to shoot himself, one of the worst violations I can conceive of. Turner talks about the fall of Lucifer, how God loved him, raised him up, made him powerful, made him beautiful, etc. but then, in his pride, Lucifer wanted to dethrone God, so he disobeyed and fell. He likens Lucifer to the gifted mutants who ask for tolerance and understanding while following their pride, but Turner swears to get justice for his friend, because he is done tolerating evil.

Which is a load of crap. This entire mess is because he tolerated, and empowered, the evil of SS and anti-mutant hatred in general, and the evil Trask, Campbell, and the Hound program specifically. He wasn’t even trying to be merciful, as Campbell mistakenly thinks, when he removed the mutants from Trask. Everything he does is in the name of his pain and his loss, and swearing to bring down the mutants who killed his friend is just more of the same.

Campbell himself manages to say, with a straight face, that he isn’t a monster, despite knowing that what he does is not humane. He thinks of it like the scientists who created the atomic bomb, and the burden they had to carry ever after for the lives their weapon took, but they did end a war and a crisis that threatened all of humanity. Perhaps, somewhere deep in the dark and twisted recesses of Campbell’s mind and soul, the man really does intend to save humanity from the mutants. But the part where he says, “I’m not a monster,” while doing monstrous things, that tells me he’s a liar, even if he’s lying first to himself. So, I call his motivations highly suspect.

Never trust a liar, and never trust a traitor.

Which will take us back to the Cuckoos and the Underground momentarily, but first: Campbell wants Turner’s support in his next endeavor, which is the next step of the Hound program.

The reason Campbell was so interested in the Struckers is actually the same reason he had the Cuckoos (the Frosts, as their official surname is) in his facility: he wanted to study the joining of mutant abilities to create something stronger. The Fenris phenomena of the Strucker family finally helped him put the pieces together. Now, he can take most any pair of mutants of lesser strength and abilities, and combine them into something greater, more powerful, and far more dangerous.

The result isn’t quite at the level of Fenris, capable of demolishing entire buildings in one blow, but even a pale imitation is an upgrade for Hounds which were practically pups before but are now leashed and ravening wolves, terrifying to behold. For instance: one mutant who negates gravity plus one who controls inertia equals “goodbye wall.” Or, walls, plural. In quick succession.

It’s a game changer, in so many ways. This mimicry of one of the most powerful and dangerous mutant abilities in history not only creates a powerful weapon, it does so with whatever mutants are on hand.

Before, the Hounds had to be sneaked in among the regulars, and their effectiveness was linked to how powerful they were normally. Stronger mutant, stronger Hound. But this? Where one high-level mutant could be a rogue before, now they take two fairly low-level mutants and turn them into a tank, something that can completely overpower even the bruisers of the Underground. Someone as powerful, precise, and trained as an X-Man could probably hold their own, but for the rest? Nope. So now SS has a weapon that can overwhelm their targets… and it wasn’t made from equally-powerful mutants, but from less powerful ones, which are far more numerous than the elite-level mutants of the X-Men, the Brotherhood, and the like.

That is a massive increase in available resources which can be used to create potent, devastating weapons. These upgraded Hounds can be mass-produced, and they’re stronger than even the strongest robots as of yet. Campbell just needs to get it off the ground.

Small wonder Turner signs on, as does the politician they meet with. After their first in-field demonstration, they get the green light to take things to a national level. There will be political fallout, people will gripe about the methods, but they’ll be safe from the mutant menace, supposedly, so their man in Washington can handle that side of things. Turner can direct everything in the field. Campbell can crank out his new anti-mutant weapon, with all the resources of the US government at his disposal, and he’s already looking to go global. An international effort by the US and their allies to wipe out the mutants all across the world. That is what’s on the horizon now, and coming closer at an alarming rate.

Which, of course, is why the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club is so very concerned. Thus the need to muscle up, which sends the Cuckoos back to the Underground. They get quite a chilly reception, but they say their piece and arguments swirl up in their wake. What they have to offer: information and resources. What they hope to gain: manpower. Simple exchange, simple alliance, and the Underground, originally sponsored by the X-Men, would come under the sway of their enemies.

But, then again, don’t all those apocalyptic futures involve the heroes working with their enemies in their fight for survival? Haven’t they already made temporary alliances with those same enemies? It’s not an easy choice, nor one to be taken lightly, but when the fight is against being slaughtered and rendered extinct by an unstoppable enemy, options are limited. Isn’t that the way of things with humans, fighting each other until a greater threat forces unity against a common enemy?

Oh, yes, the Underground is split on this issue, and the Cuckoos scheme, persuade, flatter, seduce, and, of course, manipulate with great skill. Not great enough that, from an outside perspective, it can’t be seen, but, still, they are skilled.

Thunderbird seems on the fence about it. He sees what’s happening, he knows they’ve just been pulled into a war with SS, courtesy of the Cuckoos, and he doesn’t want to lose any more of his friends like he just lost Dreamer. But, again, it is the Cuckoos who have just pulled them into a war, or did they? They were already at war, after all. But the massacre really didn’t help. And he probably knows he can’t trust them, or keep secrets from them. Still, he wants what they’re selling. He’s simply being objective about it, as much as he can be.

Blink mostly just wants to support Thunderbird, but she knows the Cuckoos saved them, and they’re powerful, and they have the same enemies. So, they can’t just ignore the offer.

Eclipse is absolutely opposed to the idea. They’re the Underground, if they wanted to kill their enemies, they’d have done so a thousand times already. But they haven’t. They shouldn’t. They mustn’t. Fresh off his experience with the cartel, it’s easy to see why he’s the most resistant to this idea, to the act of compromising their principles, their humanity. And he notices that the Cuckoos murdered a dozen people without blinking, and they have every upper hand: they know everything about them while remaining completely obscure. Oh, and the mutants they saved were just a side-effect of saving themselves.

Polaris is a warrior first, and she’s willing to work with the Cuckoos for the sake of practicality. Most especially, for the sake of her baby. It seems her pregnancy is making her stronger, she’s changing a bit. She feels great, which, as Eclipse has experience with her bipolar disorder – fun fact, in the comics, Polaris goes crazy because the magnetic waves she wields alter her brain chemistry – puts her husband understandably on edge. She’s getting more powerful, that’s for certain, and she’s willing to do what she has to in a war.

Of course, one of the Cuckoos talks to her in the middle of the night, and, maybe mistakenly, tries the flattery approach. She has Polaris intrigued with talk of an alliance, and especially with talk of protecting the baby and helping her through her latest “change.” But the offspring (of sorts) of Emma Frost, member of the Inner Circle, would certainly know a bit about Polaris’ actual background and place some value on it. Her father, fans of the comics will know, is none other than Magneto, founder of the Brotherhood, and, according to the Cuckoos, part of the Hellfire club and a king among them. Making Polaris and her baby royalty to them.

Interesting detail, but Polaris does not seem particularly interested in that.

The flattery thing works much better on Andy.

The Struckers decide to leave, head for Mexico. It’s a decision that Reed and Cait make without really including Andy and Lauren, which, I think, was a mistake, but they have a point. Things are very hot right now, and with the Cuckoos making their move, they don’t want to be anywhere around them. They think that they’ll be safer in Mexico, little suspecting the international influence their enemies are reaching for. Wherever they are, they’ll be in the fight, but maybe they could fight it somewhere else?

It’s understandable, but, I think, a huge mistake. Getting out is easy. Standing your ground is hard, and if the Underground is going the way of the Cuckoos, they’ll need every voice they can get to counter-balance them.

Eclipse says one of the most genuine and endearing things I’ve ever heard him say, when the Struckers tell him they feel the other mutants want them gone: “This mutant wants you hear.”

Lauren really doesn’t like it, but there is an upside to leaving. She’s noticed that the others are looking at them. They know something went down in Trask that left Dreamer dead, though they don’t know what it was. Maybe it’s better to get out before things turn hostile. And, as it happens, their exodus brings her back into contact with her boyfriend, Wes. It’ll be a bit before they can arrange transport south of the border, but she doesn’t mind waiting, and he makes her smile, which makes Reed and Cait smile.

It’s just Andy alone in the cold now. He doesn’t have anyone like that, and he wants, so much, to go back and fight. He hates how useless he is, as all youths do, and he hates having to take his father’s orders, also as all youths do. So when a Cuckoo comes and talks to him about how important he is, perhaps “the most important of all,” he likes what he’s hearing. The dark side is whispering in his ear, and he likes it.

The Cuckoos, heirs to Emma Frost; Polaris, daughter of Magneto; Andy, half of the new Fenris. They’re stocking up on the descendants of Hellfire, aren’t they?

Finally, after a full day to consider, Thunderbird brings Eclipse and Polaris in to decide what they’re going to do. If they say no, they might be signing their own death warrants, and the offer has already broken the Underground all around them. It’s a hard choice, even with Blink’s input, but it gets much easier when crap hits the fan.

SS hits the station the Struckers are at. The Cuckoos pass word of the impending attack to the Underground, and the bruisers/leaders race off to help. They’re too late to stop the attack, though, and it’s demolishing the building with the Fenris-enhanced Hounds tearing it apart. Wes manages to hide them, but Andy is hurt and knocked out and Lauren can barely hold a barrier up once Wes collapses. Blink gets them in, and they race to save the Struckers and Wes, while almost everyone else caught in the chaos is either screaming or surrendering. Polaris gets knocked way up off her feet, caught safely by Thunderbird but that was really scary for the pregnant lady to get tossed like that. They manage to get out, but SS finds the car before they can get back to it.

Then the Cuckoos whisper to Andy again and direct him on a path SS isn’t guarding, where the three of them wait with three cars to whisk them to safety.

And just like that, all hesitation is gone. The Underground is in, allying with the Cuckoos and, through them, the Hellfire Club and the Inner Circle.

Surprise, surprise, the Cuckoos were the ones who tipped off SS about the station too. A little demonstration of what’s coming for them all now, and a demonstration of how they can help.

So, looks like the Struckers can’t run away now. They, and the Underground, are being driven into a corner.

That’s not where you want to drive the people with superpowers. Anything, from rats to cats to rabbits to snakes to elephants to people to anything else you can name, is at its most dangerous when driven into a corner.

In summary: they can’t run, they can barely fight, they’re fracturing at the seams, the Cuckoos are the puppet strings bringing the Undergound under the umbrella of the Hellfire Club as the conflict escalates ever further, heroes have fallen on both sides, and Turner turns ever more to the dark side as the war intensifies.

Agents of Shield

5.06 “Fun & Games”

And the crap hits the fan, in which the agents have an amazing survival rate, but the natives of this future are dropping like flies.

As Kasius and his guests feast and make merry at the prospect of bloodshed and buying enslaved Inhumans, the effects trickle towards the upper levels of the Lighthouse. The Kree cull the older teenagers, looking for potential Inhumans, including Flint, a junker who sells odds and ends to get by and sleeps wherever he can find a spot. This upsets Tess because Vergil was soft on the boy, so she runs to Coulson, Mack, and Yo-Yo for support. She gives Flint some words as well, and then it’s time.

A Kree smashes a terrigen crystal, and the youths breathe it in. For a moment, it looks like everyone is spared, but then Flint gets crusty, as Mack puts it. Everything about this sickens Yo-Yo, who can’t just watch a boy be turned Inhuman and dragged away into slavery with everyone else just… watching. So, at the critical moment, she whisks Flint away. Not exactly subtle.

Now faced with either turning Flint over to the Kree or hiding him, Tess and the agents try hiding him. Tess wants to take the Trawler out, keep him hidden for maybe a couple of days. No idea on what to do after that, but it’s a step forward, so off she goes. That doesn’t go so well.

For one thing, her request to take the Trawler out brings Grill back to his workplace, where the agents are hiding out with Flint, just as Yo-Yo is telling him the story of her own terrigenesis. It’s a beautiful story, but Grill is the last one they wanted overhearing it. He locks the agents with their metrics and demands answers, but he puts a couple things together himself. Things like, Kasius will pay him a great deal for these three. And things like, Yo-Yo set his number two man up a couple episodes ago, so now Grill is really mad and happy to torture them for awhile. That’s when Flint’s power activates, and as he can apparently move rocks and stones, Grill gets squished like a bug beneath a really big rock.

After that, Flint panics and flees.

For another thing, Tess caught the Kree’s eye when she talked with Flint before his terrigenesis. She’s interrogated, and though it seems she’s fooled them for the moment, the next we see of her is of her body. The agents find her publicly displayed, knife in her chest, floating over the terrigenesis platform, with a note attached, demanding Flint’s return.

I really liked Tess, ya know?

Meanwhile, Kasius is in practically walking on air himself. He disdains his guests, most of whom have disdained him in the past, yet now he stands above them as they vie for his favor, to purchase the Destroyer of Worlds. He keeps an accommodating face, of course, one of absolute pleasure and joy to be in the company of people he hates.

And this is why I would suck at politics. I can’t lie worth a darn. If I don’t like someone, it’s going to show.

Fitz is fitting right in among the worst of the worst. Indeed, better than fitting in, he’s catching Kasius’ favor. He’s been billed as a marauder, with a large number of kills to his credit, and a truly massive fortune. Kasius and his warrior woman, Sinara (I finally caught her name this episode!), aren’t fools, and want to keep an eye on Fitz. Sinara has good instincts on that score, but Fitz is the psychotic, sociopath, crazy, bloodthirsty, coldblooded version of charming. He’s clearly a man of taste, more frank and less subtle, and less conforming. He has no need to bend to others, and he doesn’t bother disguising his insults. It makes for lively dinner conversation, which Kasius appreciates.

We learn, through conversation, that Kasius is on Earth by the will of his father. It’s an exile, looking after his father’s most modest venture at the butt-end of nowhere, while his brother is practicing running the family empire. There are significant issues there, which Fitz is able to take advantage of to ingratiate himself even further with Kasius. All things considered, it looks like Fitz will be able to get Daisy and Simmons out Kasius’ grip in the easiest way imaginable: buying them.

Heck, he did manage to get Kasius to give Simmons her sense of hearing back. Mind you, this was after he tried to talk to her, tell her everything he feels, and propose to her… her enforced silence probably fueling that anger he channeled in getting Kasius to let his slaves hear his guests. That left the three of them, with Enoch lurking in the background, free to coordinate their next move more precisely. When Kasius turns Daisy’s inhibitor off just before the fight, that’s when they can make their move.

That turns out to be an important choice, because someone new arrives on the scene. If Kasius hoped that gaining a fortune would wash away his shame in his father’s eyes, he gets something even better as the son his father actually favors has been sent to procure Quake personally. He should have guessed, I think, that Faulnak (I think) would find some way to sour things. He outright tells Kasius that Quake had better be what has been advertised or he would remind his brother “how many shapes his anger takes.” He’s quick to offer demonstrations, apparently, but he manages to strike at Kasius even before the fight, just because he’s angry at being sent such a long way. Faulnak simply refuses the idea of displaying Quake against another Inhuman, insisting that she be tested against Kasius’ single greatest warrior, Sinara.

And Kasius agrees. He’s suddenly in an inferior position with Faulnak in the room, and Sinara knows she’s being sent straight to her death by the man she’s served so faithfully. What goes around, comes around, Sinara.

Oh, and this is after the opening event, where Ben the mind-reader was made to fight May, agent of Shield. May didn’t exactly do a bad job, but with her leg hurt and whatever other injuries Sinara inflicted on her, she was at a severe disadvantage, and only barely managed to convince Ben to help her survive by getting her sent to the surface and the roaches. (I’m betting against the roaches) But Ben was still executed, for lying to his master Kasius, by Sinara’s hand, while Daisy begged for his life.

Ben’s last words, to her mind, were to tell her not to blame herself. But since when does Daisy not hold herself accountable for her actions?

So, when Daisy finds herself facing Sinara in the arena, she does not hold back. She wins, and not by a small margin. Sinara survives only because Daisy has other business to be about. With a force field between them, she needs Fitz and Simmons to make their move so she can strike at the head of the beast. Simmons cuts Kasius’ throat from behind, Fitz ices several others and turns off the field, and Quake rises to strike at her captors… except that Simmons failed to grab the inhibitor control device, so Faulnak just turned it back on, leaving her powerless and dropping back to the ground.

Fitz-Simmons jump over the railing into the ring, leaving iced guests and a reactivated field behind them. They grab Daisy and go, right after kissing and getting engaged in the middle of the action. Heh.

Vergil, Tess, Grill, and Ben have all died, three in this episode alone, leaving an Inhuman Flint running around alone, May has been exiled to the surface – apparently the roaches are war beasts sent by Faulnak as a “gift” to his brother or something like that – Daisy is unconscious and powerless, Fitz-Simmons is revealed to the enemy, everyone in the Lighthouse will have their fate sealed by Kree family politics, Coulson, Mack, and Yo-Yo are separated and out of touch with everyone, and Deke is going to be furious when he eventually gets out of his quarters. There’s still the question of who is on the surface, asking about the agents, and there’s also a question about what Enoch is doing. He can apparently turn his skin blue too, and, impersonating a Kree, is going somewhere. The surface, maybe? No, wait, Fitz had an errand for him that they didn’t tell the audience about.

Lots of moving parts, with the locals getting squished in the gears.

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One Lovely Blog of Mine

Lovely, is it? Why, thank you! 😉

So, Scott, over at Mechanical Anime Reviews, gave me this One Love Blog Award nomination a few weeks ago (aka, last year, LOL), but life is busy, so I am only now getting to it. Thank you, Scott, and apologies for the wait! 🙂

One Lovely Blog Award Rules:
1) Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog
2) Add the One Lovely Blog Award to your post
3) Share 7 things about yourself
4) Pass this on to as many people as you like (max 15)
5) Include this set of rules
6) Inform your nominees

7 things about myself eh? Well, pulling things out of thin air…

1) I’m good with animals, especially dogs.

Maybe it’s the autism, or maybe it’s just my nature, but I get along well with animals. I take to them, and they take to me, more often than not. Often, they make more sense to me than people. 😉

I am the guy who holds the new mama rabbit and keeps her calm while my friends handle the kits and make things a bit more safe and comfortable for them.

I am the guy who looks after the ducks and chickens in the back yard as part of paying my rent to the landlord, and gains a thousand funny stories to share in the experience.

I am the guy who this old, one-woman dog, unsettled for a moment, leans against like he leans against only one other person, his owner.

I am the guy that the dog or the cat takes to pretty quickly, and we become best buds. 🙂

2) I remember movie quotes for years, but what was that this person said yesterday?

There’s a reason I have an entire section of my blog devoted to quotes. 😉

I can recite a great number of movie scenes from memory, and some movies (especially The Princess Bride) I could probably quote from beginning to end. 🙂

Outside the realm of fiction, however, my memory of past conversations is notoriously terrible. Whether it be a college professor or my best friend, somehow I just don’t retain it.

3) I am trying to be a storyteller, but I’ve always been good with writing words.

To hear my mother tell it, I was apparently pretty slow at learning how to read and write, but once I got the hang of it, off I went! Zipping through books, writing stories when I was in the first grade, and all throughout school, when other students were groaning about how long the papers we wrote had to be, I was giddy about how long they could be.

4) I have been complimented on my organization of dirty dishes.

I only realized this recently, but apparently, yes, I can organize things, and fairly well.

I could not begin to count the number of times my mother would urge me to “clean” my room. Actually, my room was quite clean, by my standards. She, however, wanted things “neat” and “organized.” But they were organized! I had a place for everything, and it just happened that they were all visible to the naked eye, so I never lost anything unless my mother went crazy and made things “neat,” thus utterly ruining my system and making me lose things! 😉

In the years since, I’ve had to keep track of more things, often with a purpose in mind. Food, for instance. Having incredibly limited space (and funds) I learned to organize what I bought for increased efficiency. Heck, even just in putting them in the cart or on the belt, things have been faster and easier for everyone with a little organization involved. My stories and now my blog, also, have required me to organize my thoughts and ideas, and I’m always looking to make it easier for you, my wonderful audience, to navigate around my archives. 😉

Lately, I’ve also had opportunity to organize physical things, like when I was working in a warehouse and going through the inventory, or when my job involved collecting dirty dishes to take back to the cafeteria in on a cart. The people who wash the dishes appreciated having a little more order to work with instead of chaos, and the people who pass by while I’m working notice the order as well. So, I have been complimented on my effective organization of dirty dishes! 🙂

5) Born and raised in Alaska. Thank goodness!

I am much more at home in a cold winter night than a scorching summer’s day. Maybe that’s because I got very used to it as a child, or maybe it has something to do with my autism, or something else entirely, but either way, I feel the heat pretty keenly. So, I am very grateful to have been born and raised in Alaska. Whatever possessed my parents to move there shortly before my birth, I certainly benefited from it! 🙂

6) I was always thinking about what the characters should do instead.

You may have noticed in my weekly commentaries that I sometimes mention what these characters ought to do, or ought to have done instead of what they did. Apparently, I’ve been doing that since childhood.

As my mother tells it, I would be watching something, like a movie or a cartoon, and suddenly start talking about what they were doing wrong, and what they should do instead. Heh, nice to know I always had a head on my shoulders, though it would have been nice if I could have figured out what to do in real life as well. 😉

7) I! Am! Me! And proud of it!

Growing up, I didn’t know a thing about autism, or what it meant to be a geek. All I knew was that I was the weird one. Eventually, I embraced my uniqueness as a source of power. I had the ultimate defense against peer pressure, not that I felt it particularly much anyway: I did not care if “everyone” did something, I was not them, I was me. I was weird, so to heck with what the crowd of “normal” people did.

I have since learned that there are people in the world who are similar to me. I am not completely unique. I am not “alone,” as it were. But I have also learned that even people who are very similar to each other have their own perspectives. We are all ourselves, each of us bringing something unique to the table. You can put two people, virtually identical, into the same situation, and they will respond differently. You can try to explain it, but I think the ultimate reason for why I do or don’t do something is because, “I am me.” I have my unique mind, will, circumstances, experience, all of which shape how I make my choices.

So, why do I do what I do? Simply because I am me, and I am not ashamed.

Nomination:

Hmmm, I think I’ll only nominate one person this time around.

Moya, from the Moyatorium! A new online friend of mine, who nominated me for another award I intend to respond to next week. I look forward to learning a bit more about you, too! 🙂

Posted in Blogging Awards, Challenge Accepted | Tagged | 4 Comments

Anime Review: Juuni Taisen/Zodiac War

Juuni Taisen, translated as Zodiac War, is one of those shows which I can point to and say, “This is why I hate ‘death game’ anime.”

It’s an idea which is used with a fair amount of regularity: you take the characters, throw them into a contest of some sort where they have to kill each other or die, and watch them all die horribly, all their hopes and dreams and ambitions left forever unfulfilled. There are some whose deaths you cheer, a number you, frankly, just don’t care about, especially early on, and at last, the final few deaths absolutely tear you apart. Tragedy at its… well, most tragic.

If you like that sort of thing, fine, whatever floats your boat, but I really do not. It’s why – along with a few other reasons – I’ve never watched Basilisk, Future Diary, or Hunger Games. I didn’t watch Danganronpa until I already knew that at least someone survives. I enjoyed Btooom partially just because more people could survive, if only because they were actually open to working together in defiance of the game, and many of them did, even if there was still quite a body count. I’ve heard how Future Diary manages to bring everyone back in some entirely new universe type of thing, but I’m not really willing to sit through that much death to get there.

Point being, this is one of those times where, really, if I’m going to be fair, I have to acknowledge how my personal preference might be coloring my vision a little.

Really, I think the way they hooked me was, by having the first episode narrated by a despicable character who gets immediately killed off. That was a little twist I didn’t see coming. Usually, the narrator is safe for a short while before they get horribly murdered. Something about this just made me morbidly curious, because I was a little satisfied with that first death.

After that, it became a bit formulaic: each episode was narrated by a different character, with sole exception to the rabbit warrior. The first three concluded in the narrator’s death. Then we had some narrators surviving their episodes, and then they were all killed off in quick succession, within one episode. For a short while, one could almost trust that a warrior was safe until you knew their past. Then there were some twists and turns, the formula was played with as warriors dropped like flies, but there were only a couple that we actually cared about anyway. Naturally, those were killed off too, and the climax proved to be the sum conclusion of a number of moving parts, the combined actions of several warriors contributing to the final outcome. After all of this, I was actually ready for the reward, the ending, the thing that would make all of this death somehow worthwhile. Instead, we got, as another blogger put it, “massively trolled.”

Looking back on the show, I can say that I actually liked some things about it, but none of them really redeem the show for me.

The characters were diverse, both in their skills and their approach to the battle, but all of them were rather cunning and quick-thinking. Which makes it rather disappointing when about half of them die simply because they underestimate their opponent. Others are simply taken by surprise, but with all the thought and consideration they put into their fights, having so many of them die due to such incompetence rather stretches my patience.

Speaking of all the thought, it was a bit confusing, and annoying, when what we heard one character thinking overlapped with what another character was saying out loud.

The backstories for all the characters are also largely over the top and many of them are ultimately irrelevant. Actually, they’re all made irrelevant by the ending.

What angers me the most is that the single most undeserving of them all won the tournament, and with his wish, something he could have anything he desired with, he chose to forget the whole thing. He was the only record the other warriors had left, and he forgot them. My wish would have been that the zodiac war never happened at all, ever, but he just made it so all the other warriors literally died for nothing. Everything preceding the end is rendered worthless.

It absolutely boggles my mind that this was penned by the same author who created Katanagatari. Either this was a huge misfire, then, or something about this massive trolling was deliberate, intended to get us to think and realize something, but I have no idea what that might be. I just know that the best parts of the show were the opening and ending songs.

Zodiac War is a cliché, bloody tragedy that has absolutely no meaning to it which I can readily discern. I can appreciate the technical effort that went into this show, but it epitomizes what I dislike about death games: everybody dies, and that’s it.

Rating: 4 stars out of 10.

Grade: D-Minus.

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(Not) The Last Jedi: Just a Couple (Late) Thoughts

Nearly forty years after the saga began with the original movie, The Last Jedi is arguably the darkest and most tragic addition to the Star Wars franchise yet. Both the story and the characters delve ever deeper into the darkness and tragedy, fighting to preserve that last spark of hope, and renew it for the next generation.

Some people have been loving it, some people have been hating it, some people are in between. I see the arguments on all sides, and I lean more towards loving it.

Normally, I’d have seen it opening weekend and you, my wonderful audience, would have seen this review right after same weekend. This time, however, my mother wanted to see it together when she visited, so I’ve kept you waiting while aggressively avoiding everything that even begins to remotely resemble spoilers for two whole, torturous weeks. Yes, I love my mother. 😉

And now the wait is over! Yay! 😀

Picking up right on the heels of the The Force Awakens, the plot of Last Jedi is thrilling, gripping, and filled with unexpected twists and turns. The framework of the story, that the evil empire is pursuing the last band of rebels and they need Luke Skywalker to come save them, it is very simple, but everything within that framework is not. It not such a simple, straightforward story. People are more complex than that, and the events they set in motion, everything that’s led up to this moment, are similarly complicated.

That complexity is the real meat of the movie. Others rely more on action and/or romance to drive the characters and the plot forward. This one relies on the everything about the characters themselves, the good and the bad, the light and the dark, to move things along. We see that heroes don’t always need to be hotheaded daredevils, and their desperate schemes don’t always work. We see that living legends can make terrible mistakes, with far-reaching effects. We see that turning against something dark is not the same as turning towards the light. Even the wisest of us still need guidance. And hope… hope isn’t just a thing that you have. It’s not just a word. It’s a perspective and a choice.

The movie certainly not a “perfect” tale, it must be admitted. There are various flaws one could pick apart. It does, in complete fairness, start to feel a little bit “long” towards the end. Some themes are treated with a feather’s touch, and others with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. They certainly aren’t subtle in their numerous references to old scenes from the original series. Rey is even more “Mary Sue” than she was in Force Awakens, as she pretty much becomes a Jedi Master almost literally overnight. The new characters were pretty much shoehorned in. And who really likes seeing how their childhood heroes have failed in the decades since their greatest victory?

And yet… I am reminded of a scene from Star Trek. (I know, mentioning Star Trek while talking about Star Wars? Gasp! What blasphemy is this?! LOL!) There’s an old Klingon warrior telling a tale about the exploits of himself as his closest friends, and someone comments on how it couldn’t possibly have actually happened that way, and someone else says something like, “Who cares?! He’s telling it great!”

Yes, there are flaws. I don’t care. 😉 It’s exciting, oddly compelling, and inspiring. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you shiver in terror, and it makes you think. It is, in short, a Star Wars movie. And I like it! 🙂

Rating: 9 stars out of 10.

Grade: solid A.

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