Anime Review: Needless

Cheap setup of good vs evil? Check. Flashy superpowered fights? Check. Ridiculous, gaudy outfits? Check.

Needless may seem, at first blush, to be a by-the-numbers fighting anime primarily meant kids or teen boys, in the same vein as Dragonball Z. However, this is anime, as in, a Japanese cartoon, and so it deviates from that in ways which are far from appropriate for children. Not only does the violence get bloody and horrifying, but… well, it has the other kind of not-meant-for-children content in overwhelming abundance.

It feels like it should be (or should have been) a kids’ cartoon, but it really isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. For people of appropriate maturity, it can remain oddly pleasant, a fun romp through what is basically a fighting game like Mortal Combat come to animated life. Just be prepared for less brain fodder and more blood, panty shots, and nudity. And explosions. So many explosions.

The story of Needless is, basically, Tokyo suffered a horrible tragedy during World War 3, which somehow gave rise to people with superpowers. They seem to primarily dwell in the most desolate area in Japan (instead of in luxury in the city), so a pharmeceutical company mean’s to take over the area and use them to create so-called “gods” they can control or something like that. People don’t like being used this way, like fodder, so a number of them resist. Much of one resisting group is wiped out and their sole survivor, Cruz Schild, is rescued by a “priest” named Adam Blade, whose superpower is to copy other superpowers. Together with their friends and comrades they fight to survive and drive the villains away.

All in all, there weren’t many surprises in this show. Some, yes, but not many. Mysterious connection between the main hero and villain? No surprise. Sudden rescues from dire circumstances by new allies? No surprise. Villain is insane and has aims of total destruction and domination? No surprise. Seriously, I was more surprised when we learned that Eve was actually the same age as Blade (they don’t look like it) than I was with the “big reveal” that Cruz’s sister was actually an enemy spy. Saw that one coming a mile away.

The fights, even, aren’t all that epic. For having so many lethal superpowers, very few people actually die or even suffer properly serious injuries. And the combat is always interrupted before, during, and after by a lot of dramatic talking and expressions. It was pretty cool watching Cruz prove pivotal as the brains of the outfit, but they pretty much overdid even that. Yes, Needless, we know, it’s not what you got but how you use it, we get it already.

And then, as I said, there’s the sexual content, which is easily my least favorite part of the show. There is a disturbing image or two, though such lasts only a moment. Mostly, it’s how the girls are always in risqué outfits that are torn or removed in pieces, having their panties shown, even using their butts and crotch in combat of all things. Oh, and most them are obviously underage. One, especially. And Blade quite clearly loves little girls to the point that it’s used as a joke whenever he prepositions, makes advances, or even sees an adorable girl. It’s hilarious, but still a little creepy, ya know?

Not that sanity is generally to be expected here.

So, with a predictable, overly dramatic plot, less than stellar fights, and inappropriate content, is there anything good about Needless?

…actually, surprisingly… yes.

The entire show is basically a satire. It’s often dark, with unsettling moments, perhaps, but still, the humor value is the main selling point of the show. Between the colorful characters, with all their antics, and breaking the fourth wall, it’s a fun, hilarious show to watch. These are clearly not your typical heroes and typical villains!

As such, even if I dislike certain parts of the show, it’s hard to hold such against it. While part of my brain keeps trying to object, I still end up enjoying most of it.

Heh, maybe this is my guilty pleasure anime. 😉

Oh, I know! The texture of Needless is like if Deadpool were made to be PG-13 instead of R!

And I love the voice cast! It’s chock full of favorites of the industry!

So, I just spent most of what I just wrote ragging on the show, but that’s more of a caution, so you know what you’re getting into. If it floats your boat, go for it!

Needless is a socially-reckless satirical action children’s-style fighting anime for older teens and grownups who just want to sit back, eat popcorn, and let their brains melt for awhile in a sea of explosions, gore, and inappropriate panty shots and slightly-censored nudity, and laugh while it happens.

Rating: …don’t judge me, ok? 7 stars out of 10.

Grade: C-Plus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #217: Forgiving Strength

“It doesn’t take strength to hate someone. It takes strength to forgive them.”
– Glow, The Gifted
Season 2, Episode 11, “meMento”

I knew this was a gem of a quote the moment I heard it, and it comes from such a minor character that I had to search around the internet to find out her name. It would seem that wisdom can come from anywhere. 😉

Glow is talking with Marcos, who, thanks to some recent experiences, is learning to bend a bit, to be more open-minded and humble. Probably the most trying part is his relationship with the woman he loves. They’ve split a bit and she’s honestly wronged him, but not out of spite. Now she comes crawling back, looking for help, and here he is, helping her. She just makes him feel… well, everything! Sad, angry… alive. Everything about her ignites an emotional mess in Marcos, and he’s very confused about it. That’s when Glow tells him that one only gets that mad at someone that matters, someone they love, and she follows that with the above quote.

Marcos, as it happens, is well-acquainted with hate, being on both ends of it. His father cast him out, and he never forgave his father even as he came back and saw the man taken care of when he was bedridden. While he takes that old wound and uses it as motivation to be better, to be a proper parent, he’s never really let go of it. It’s still a source of pain for him.

In a way, hate does “take” strength, not in requiring any to sustain itself, but in leeching it from your soul. Hate steals strength, like a stone chained to your leg.

Forgiveness, on the other hand… well, in order to let go of a burden, first you have to break what binds you to it. It’s not simply “letting go” of something, but actively severing its hold on you. That does require strength. But the reward is that much less of a burden to carry for the rest of your life.

Now, of course, it must be said that forgiving someone is not the same as giving them a blank check. It’s about healing from the past, not inviting more hurt in the future. Indeed, it’s actually very independent of the person being forgiven, and whether or not they change or are sorry. It’s not for them, it’s for the person doing the forgiving. This is how we heal ourselves, not others.

And yet, as we heal ourselves and let go of our hate, so might we heal the world around us as ancient feuds finally die off.

It takes very little strength to break the world. It takes tremendous strength to put it back together.

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This Week on TV, Jan. 12, 2019

Spoiler Alert!

I just realized that The Gifted is airing only thirteen episodes again. Dang it! I was hoping for something longer! 😛 Still, they and Gotham are both certainly pushing us towards grand finales with further intrigue, heartbreak, rising tension, and descending darkness. My kind of entertainment! 🙂

Gotham

5.02 “Trespassers”

A child came to the GCPD. A child.

He walked nine miles alone in the dark through an exceptionally dangerous city, all to beg for help.

In the face of that, all the danger in the world won’t stop Jim Gordon from helping. Either he will succeed in saving the other children, or he will die in the attempt. That is the way of the protector, the way of a Gordon. “While We Breathe, We Will Defend.”

So, Penguin’s bounty, a horde of gangs, an unknown enemy, and the government’s complete unwillingness to help isn’t enough to stop him. He even asks Barbara for a little help, which she flatly refuses at first, but comes around at an opportune moment in the hopes that they’ll freaking kill Penguin together. As we saw Penguin alive at Day 391 or whatever it was, I doubt that will work out like she wants.

For the moment, however, they have three sturdy vehicles and enough officers with enough bullets. They drive through unfriendly territory and arrive safely, though the vehicles look a bit like porcupines by the end of the trip.

When they get there, they find the show’s version of Bane, I think, complete with a mask, with smoke that makes them stronger, and an armed crew. Nothing that could shoot down a helicopter, though, so that screws my initial theory. Indeed, this Bane is driving a crew of kids to dig a tunnel to connect to the mainland. The oldest of the kids tries to tell him it won’t work, but he’s not listening. Too high on his fumes.

Hm, I am immediately wondering if this is another precursor character, like we had a scarecrow before Scarecrow, and a dark knight before the Dark Knight, and so on. This seems like a fairly pathetic Bane so far, but one of those kids, especially the oldest, could easily take up the mantle and improve on it. But for the moment, I suppose, this is the Bane we have.

Either way, Gordon, Bullock, and the cops get most of the kids onto their vehicles and get them out. There’s still the two of them, the oldest, and two girls, though. Unable to escape in a car, the flee on foot into an old, creepy hotel. They leave the kids in the lobby, unaware of the figure lurking nearby, and clear the hotel. Gordon goes up, and finds a child in a closet, chattering about a ghost that makes him call her Mother. I’m guessing Bane’s cronies killed the boy’s parents, like they killed the parents of all the kids they took, and then he found shelter with this woman. Bullock heads down and finds the belongings, including the teeth, of adults, their remains burning in the furnace, and the freaky lady with a razor attacks him.

Obviously, running for their lives is a good idea.

Unfortunately, the boy uses that to herd them into a room and locks them in. Strobe lights flash in such a way that strikes the nervous centers in the brain, willing them to fall unconscious. Weakened and in the dark, with little in the way of ammunition, it’s much easier for this Mother to try to kill them. They manage to survive and subdue and interrogate her, but she escapes anyway, through a secret passage.

Not wanting to push their luck, they head back to the lobby and flee back onto the street. And they immediately have Bane and a rival gang fighting over who gets to kill them.

That would be the opportune moment where Barbara shows up with a vehicle that has a bit of firepower attached. She saves them, an alliance is proposed, they get themselves and the kids back to safety.

Bonus: Fox conjured up an empty apartment building in their Green Zone to keep the kids in, and families flock to it immediately from all over the city. I mean, who wouldn’t? So, the day ends happily, for once. 🙂

Well, for the GCPD, at least.

Bruce has a much worse time of it.

Seeking “the witch,” he goes in search and finds Ivy. She’s been killing people and feeding them to the park, making new, strange things grow, making the plants move, etc. The locals naturally don’t like this, and they were actually pretty clever. They shoved her into a storage room, with no light or water or soil, and salt on the ground. She’s completely cut off from her plants and at their mercy. They’re just waiting for more of their people to show up so they can burn her, and they’d be perfectly right to do so, I’d say.

But Bruce needs to talk to her, so he convinces them to let him. She professes her innocence, of course, and promises a miraculous healing seed. Bruce takes a chance, and immediately regrets it as she murders her captors. Still, for Selina, he presses on, and manages to convince her. She gives him the seed, though she also warns him that the side-effects could be… dangerous.

For her part, Selina, who was willing to kill herself to escape her misery, is quick to risk her life for the same hope.

Before it really takes effect, she remembers the early days, when she helped and saved and watched over Ivy, and received the same in return. In spite of everything since, she still sees Ivy as that little girl, even now.

Then she falls into a convulsing fit, with fever and racing heartbeat. When she wakes, she, too, is transformed. She can walk, but her mind is different, and her eyes resemble those of a cat, though Bruce doesn’t see that part yet. All they know is that she’s up, back to normal, feeling even better than before.

Happiness and sorrow seem to be interchangeable in Gotham, or have you noticed?

Finally, Riddler wakes up thinking he’s finally triumphed over whoever or whatever it is that takes hold when he sleeps. He tied himself down, and cheers his triumph. Then he uses the bathroom and finds a Street Demon beaten and tied in his tub. The man tells Riddler that he wanted information, and he seemed to be in a daze while beating it out of him. He wanted to know where to find the demons, especially their leader. So they go, and find everyone dead, with a message on the wall, “Penguin was here.”

Whatever his other side is doing, it just set off a war between the demons and Penguin. As Penguin also has the Sirens out for his blood and the GCPD willing to shoot him on sight, I’m wondering how he manages to survive this. I suppose we’ll be finding out soon enough! 🙂

Things went fairly well in this episode, for the most part. Rescued kids, slaughtered gangsters, a safe place for the refugees. All good. But Ivy escaped death, murdered people, and both healed and cursed Selina, thanks to Bruce Wayne’s desperation. And more warfare is about to explode on the streets again.

The good guys have their work cut out for them!

The Gifted

2.11 “meMento”

It must be said, whatever highly questionable things Lorna has done, she has done them in accordance with her goals. Many say the ends justify the means, and getting one’s hands stained and dirty may be inevitable. In war, there are no true rules. But there are lines, and it is by these lines that people are able to do bad things while maintaining some goodness within themselves.

Perhaps that is a shallow distinction. It might even be laughable, like, “What, you start having moral issues now, after everything you’ve already done?” It may be the most difficult balance to find, that area between holding to one’s honor while also acting with intelligent flexibility. Game of Thrones is a classic, but certainly not the only, example of the struggle between idealism and realism. The line between good and evil, hero and villain, can be disturbingly blurry at times.

The one rule of the Underground is never to kill. Lorna has broken that rule, most especially when she tore a plane apart, murdering everyone on board. Yet she still know the value of human life. In that sense, she’s spent a bit, a fortune, to further her goals, but now she sees the Inner Circle preparing to make an expense of human life that is absolutely staggering to even contemplate.

Reeva certainly hasn’t been shy about making such expenditures herself. She took over in a violent, bloody coup, and she’s shed blood since. But she has also restrained herself, and her reaction to Rebecca’s spontaneous massacre at Creed financial might indicate that there are lines even for her. But, in her mind, if she believes it to be necessary, then she will not hesitate, not in the slightest.

So, when Lorna sees Reeva adding three new recruits, and recognizes them as a crew that took down an entire ship, with men, women, and children on it, entire families murdered, thousands of people dead… well, it puts her on edge. She confronts Reeva, who plainly says that she has a job for these three mass murderers. Lorna’s task is to rebuild the world from the ashes, while theirs is to burn it in the first place. As the first thing Reeva did was to assert her dominance over the three of them, she obviously is not entertaining debate on this issue.

With Andy psyched up instead of wary, Lorna has no one she can trust within the Inner Circle. Thus, she goes to Marcos and the Underground.

Marcos is out and about, trying to find someone in the Underground who’s willing to fight, or even someone who’s still there, at Cait’s insistence. That gets put on hold when his ex comes to him, looking for help. It’s an emotional explosion, and one that doesn’t have anything like rescuing John to put it on hold. As such, while Marcos will help, the air is thick with things that need clearing.

It’s an interesting detail, though, that Marcos only gets what he wants from Lorna after he gives the same to Clarice. Being in need of information, they go to the Morlocks, which gives them time to clear things up. Clarice shares how hurt she felt when Marcos went behind her back to talk to John, and she calls him out on her sermonizing, posturing, judgmental behavior, which makes him something of a hypocrite at times like now when he asks her to talk to Urg after judging her for it. With that made clear, a humbled Marcos apologizes, sincerely, and Clarice gracefully accepts. That’s one small rift mended.

While down there, Marcos sees a friend, the woman he helped escape from the asylum and helped find shelter with the Morlocks. There’s a certain spark and connection there, but, oddly, it’s Lorna that makes him feel… everything, from anger to grief to love and back. She offers some wise insight there, with how he feels for her because she matters to him. Also, it takes strength to forgive, rather than to hate.

There is legitimate hurt lying between Marcos and Lorna. She left him, turned to the Inner Circle instead of the Underground. She deprived him of the chance to be there when his daughter was born. She let him hold his daughter in order to help her, and then she took her away again, expelling him. Then she sent their daughter away entirely. If all of that pain weren’t enough, then she kisses him out of the blue and leaves again. That’s a lot to put one man through!

After things are cleared with Clarice, though, and in his own heart, Lorna actually apologizes. She admits that she’s treated him horribly, and she regrets it. And, really… that’s all Marcos was waiting for. He kisses her. And… ah, well, they reconcile. With their own private aurora borealis. And let’s just leave it at that, eh? 😉

I have to say, it’s very satisfying to see characters we care about coming back together.

While frayed relationships on the mutant side of things are mending, Turner is learning that everything he dreamed for is actually a nightmare.

The Purifier militia is up and running, and with six thousand escaped mutants, they have a lot of hunting to do, both for the escapees and for every other mutant scapegoat they can get their hands on. This includes following a tip that leads them to a homeless shelter for children, guns in hand.

Ted, the guy who brought Turner in and got badly clocked last episode, is on his feet again, and not happy at how he’s no longer actually leading the chapter he started and built up. He’s also questioning the wisdom of going mutant-hunting right after they got their butts handed to them. But he comes along anyway.

The “dangerous mutants” turn out to be escapees, but a pair of homeless teens, barely more than kids. Turner and Ted corner them, but Turner talks them down. After that, he interrogates one and leaves Ted alone with the other. Turner all but accuses the one he’s talking to, asking why he’s running away if he’s innocent. Uh, duh, Turner! They ran because a group of armed, murderous mutant haters came to kill them for no good reason!

Turner tries to talk the talk, then, saying he doesn’t have a problem with law-abiding mutants (despite all the ones he’s hunted, caged, tortured, murdered, turned over to scientists for experimentation, etc.). He actually believes what he’s saying for a moment, but then things go pear-shaped when he hears a gunshot. He runs into the next room to find Ted, gun in hand, having just shot the teen he was talking to. Evidence suggests he shot the kid in the chest in cold blood, but Ted says he was raising his hands, about to attack. Ted is rattled and saying he didn’t even want to be there, and if he goes to jail, he’ll be a cop in prison. Not a healthy prospect for him.

No idea what actually happened, but after this same teen already stood down once, I can’t imagine him threatening Ted unless he felt threatened first. Either way, Ted killed him, and Turner literally has blood on his hands. That blood won’t wash off now, not after he lies to protect Ted.

The two of them are hailed as heroes by the anti-mutant media, especially their patron, Benedict Ryan. Turner even gets a phone call from Paula, the woman he loves, who left him, whose divorce papers he just signed and sent off, praising him in the name of their daughter Grace. But Turner knows. He knows. He did the wrong thing. He invaded a homeless shelter and got an innocent kid killed. He is the monster of this story now. Seeing the truth of that is coming down heavy on his shoulders.

We’ll see if it lasts.

Finally, over in the Struckers’ corner, things are heating up.

Lauren is quickly becoming obsessed with her Fenris ancestors, studying them and listening to Andrea von Strucker’s music box anytime she isn’t training. Reed senses something amiss here, but he can’t quite grasp what it is. All he knows is that there’s something going very wrong here, and the tune on the music box doesn’t ease his mind, it being a song about a dark, evil force that steals children, and the parents who allow it by blinding themselves to it. That last refers to Cait, who is encouraging Lauren to get stronger so they can destroy the Inner Circle and rescue her brainwashed son. (good grief, Cait, it’s not brainwashing!)

The danger is even worse than they realize, however. Before he died, Andreas von Strucker knew the pain of his sister dying in his arms. Afterward, he gave up on the hope of ever living to see the world they dreamed of, but he made sure to leave something behind, that this world might come into being someday. He took his sister’s music box to a skilled craftsman, had him restore it and make a certain modification. Something about the tune and when it plays, it reaches into Lauren’s mind, even into her dreams, and it’s changing her.

She has a vivid dream about the moment when Andrea was shot and killed. She learns from the dream how to use her power as a weapon. It’s mostly been used defensively, though also to channel Andy’s blasts and to crush things. Now she learns to use it to make terrible blades with an extreme edge and strength, which she can hurl some distance away. It’s a dangerous, terrifying weapon, and as she lashes out in her sleep, she destroys much of her room and endangers her parents, not to mention anyone else around them, until the music is shut off and she wakes up.

The landlord gets calls about the noise and comes by to check things out. Then he calls the cops to check things out as well, and they don’t hold to proper protocol and legal procedure in doing so. Cait and Lauren use her new ability to bait them into going away and leaving them alone, but it’s a near thing. Reed isn’t at all happy that his wife is once again on a different page from him when it comes to their children. I wouldn’t be either, but at least they got out of the emergency.

But then, later, Lauren goes to the landlord, entering his home and breaking his things, threatening him. Whether that was needed or not, it crosses a line she’s never crossed before, and her manner while she’s doing it is very worrying.

Reed’s father tried to protect him and future generations from their family’s legacy. He failed, and that failure has put Reed in great danger, with a fatal prognosis Now it seems that Lauren’s great-grandfather is reaching out of the past, a shadow wrapping her in darkness, within her own mind and soul.

And somewhere in all of this, Clarice is becoming Blink among the Morlocks, and she is torn between them and her relationship with John. Urg reveals that he actually does care about the people above, and it is only his sworn duty to protect the Morlocks which makes him hesitate to help them. That is a great distinction between him and, say, Reeva. They’ve both suffered hurts and loss and are doing something about it, but one of them still remembers to care about people beyond their limited circle. He cares about Clarice as well, and offers her his protection if she joins the Morlocks.

But, on the other side of things, John is recovering, and reveals his feelings for her. He lost his best friend, and he lost a woman he loved. When he was being tortured by the Purifiers, and shot to within an inch of his life, he was thinking of her, of Clarice. He doesn’t want to lose another person he loves so dearly.

He loves her, and she loves him.

Finally, the episode ends with two curve balls.

The first was somewhat predictable. After all, villains tend to be connected to each other, and when you have two groups like the Inner Circle and the Purifiers, with money and power and a shared rhetoric of mutually-exclusive violence, there’s bound to be some overlap. That said, when Reeva and Benedict meet, seem to argue a bit, and exchange envelopes, it’s quite a slap in the face for Marcos and Lorna to see.

Two groups who ought to be at odds with each other are actually connected. The question is only one of how. Are they taking advantage of each other, pitting all the pawns against each other until someone comes out on top? Seems a bit hazardous to work with someone when you’re both trying to destroy each other, even if you’re playing each other. Is Benedict secretly a mutant, and a grand poser as well? Possible, but that exchange was not entirely friendly. Is Reeva leading mutants to their demise? That would be very hazardous to do whilst in the company of mind-readers, and she looked far too confident in herself. Does she have dirt on Benedict? Hm, that’s probably the most likely scenario, but then why bother with an exchange at all, and why meet repeatedly?

Whatever it is, someone is obviously getting played here.

The second curve ball is much more surprising. I mean, is something actually going to go right, here?

John gets a call from Evangeline. In short, she says she believes he was right: they need to fight. The Underground is almost entirely gone, but there are still some of them left, and she’s called a meeting of all the regional leaders. John and his group are invited.

Somehow, that sounds a little too good to be true, but they can’t exactly refuse to go.

So, recap:

Lorna and Marcos are reconciled and working together to figure out Reeva’s game plan, which looks more and more dire by the second, Clarice is torn between two worlds, Lauren is going dark under the influence of the phantom influence of her great-grandfather, while her parents are coming apart over their children, Turner has stained his soul in a way even he can’t avoid seeing, such that his dreams are turning to ash in his mouth, and thing are coming to a head again as both the Underground and the Inner Circle are gearing up for something big.

That about it?

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Anime Review: Gate

It has a much longer full title that roughly translates as, “Gate: And Thus the Japanese SDF Fought There.” For obvious reason, we just call it “Gate.” 😉

Picture this: a gate to another world, a fantasy world, suddenly opens up in a major city, and the first thing that happens is a bunch of Roman-ish guys attack everyone around them willy-nilly. Men, women, children, pregnant women, it makes no difference, they slaughter everyone in their path. Of course, they lose pretty quickly once people with guns (this Tokyo, not America, so of course none of the civilians have guns) arrive on the scene in sufficient numbers and with sufficient firepower. Afterwards, the government takes control of the area around the gate and sends a military expedition through.

Gate begins with this inciting incident, and it is the story of everything that happens after.

Modern soldiers vs goblins, dragons, legions, and more? That’s a pretty interesting idea! Modern science and fantasy magic alongside each other? Cool. A tale of clashing cultures and all the resulting political intrigue? Count me in!

I generally enjoyed Gate when it first aired. It comes out part isekai, part complex drama, part harem comedy, and part military action, among other parts. Generally fun, though it could have done with a little polishing here and there.

First item on the polishing checklist: tension. I mean, seriously, they handle the intrigue fairly well, but when it comes to combat, the protagonists are seriously overpowered just by virtue of having the might of a modern army behind them. It was exhilarating, at first, to see soldiers mowing down the enemy uncontested, but it gets boring after awhile, ya know? When the end result of a one-sided slaughter is so predictable, there is a certain loss of tension as a result, which makes the show feel far too long. Especially when they don’t even finish the story!

The second item that could have used polishing is the harem side of things. Actually, scratch that, we could just as well have done without it entirely.

Understand, I love the characters. I love the most prominent protagonist, a man named Itami, and I love each of the girls in the harem around him. I love Itami’s comrades, and friends, and while I don’t love his enemies, I do love to hate them. 😉 There is a small multitude of these characters, major and minor, perhaps too many to keep track of, but I enjoy most if not all of them. And that is why I do not enjoy the harem.

I can admire Itami, and I can see what all these girls would like about him. That is not my problem with this harem. Neither is my problem, really, with how easy, immediate, and overwhelming their feelings for him are, though that is also an annoyance. No, my problem is that we have these remarkable characters in a fascinating world in the middle of a riveting story… which does not need a harem storyline in it!

Seriously, they didn’t really do justice to any of the other couplings, of which, there are a few, so how does the harem claim so much of the spotlight? We have international intrigue on both sides of the gate, weighty matters of life and death and love and politics, so why do we have this bit of harem comedy slowing it all down? We have all these characters driving the story and waging war, and absolutely none of them are served or otherwise developed by adding a harem element, so why?

If you can’t tell, the harem was easily my least favorite part of the show.

On the upside, did I mention the characters, the themes, the intrigue, and the setup? 😉

Really, even when Gate is annoying me, it’s still entertaining me. There are a number of wonderful moments. My single favorite has to be when a demigoddess of war really lets loose a tongue-lashing on an idiotic politician trying to undercut her own country’s military. That was epic! 🙂

So, while it might get a little repetitive with the good guys winning so handily, and while one can easily fast forward through the harem bits without missing much, I still like this anime very much. The animation, the music, the plot, the characters, almost everything about it, I love. It’s easily among the front runners for my favorites, flaws notwithstanding.

Rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Plus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #216: The Singular Truth

“Truth is singular.”
– Madame Vastra, Doctor Who
Season 7 Christmas Special, “The Snowmen”

I was looking for something a little more upbeat and hopeful to start off the new year, but this isn’t so bad either.

The exact circumstance around this quote is a bit intricate, involving Vastra giving Clara Oswald a test, partially on the Doctor’s behalf, wherein she is confined to one-word answers and questions. The first question out of her mouth is, “Why?” So Vastra explains with the above quote, and adds that lies require a lot of words. So, it weeds out deception, even self-deception, so that there is only truth.

But I find this quote to mean more than just that.

While everyone might have their own perspective on the truth, the truth itself is singular. It is one whole, complete thing, which does not alter itself to suit us. It may be distorted in our view, and one may even say something true and twist it into something false, yet the truth remains the truth nonetheless. Every lie, every half-truth, every twisting of it is a departure from it.

By the same token, however, every truth we grasp is part of the larger whole.

Whether it comes from science, religion, philosophy, archeology, literature, the arts, warfare, or the personal experiences of billions of humans as we live so many different lives, it is all the same. Each truth is a piece of the truth, pieces of truth are everywhere, and every piece we lay hold on can help us find the rest. It can be confusing at times, as two things which are true can appear to be at odds with each other, but that’s just because we haven’t yet found the truths that bridge them.

The pursuit of truth is the thirst for knowledge, and the pursuit of knowledge, in all its forms, is the quest for the singular truth.

…so, on with the quest! 😉

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This Week on TV, Jan. 5, 2019

Spoiler Alert!

…two? We had two shows from my lineup this week? Ah, it’s been so long! Wonderful!

(one of them is ending within ten episodes)

I am still happy! 🙂

The Gifted hit us hard yet again with the story that highlights the tragedy of old friends and loved ones who still love each other despite being on different sides. Meanwhile, Gotham returned for its concluding season with full force and plunged us into the madness that has engulfed the titular city.

Good times!

The Gifted

2.10 “eneMy of My eneMy”

You know, it took me a moment to figure out what was so jarring and upending about John’s unrelenting pursuit of the Inner Circle in the previous episode. See, where Marcos, Clarice, and the rest have all been strong, yet unstable in some way, like air, water, or fire, John has been solid and steady as bedrock. He is part of the very foundations of the old Underground, holding it up despite being hammered down so many times. Now, what is more disconcerting to see move: air, water, fire… or earth? When John moved, he was as implacable as an earthquake, and that is why it was so distressing for his friends and the audience to see, because the ground was moving.

When the ground moves, everything breaks. Including the ground.

Turner has got himself a huge catch when the Purifiers take John prisoner. Not only is John a leader in the Underground, but Turner’s been after him, specifically, for years. Stan and the other Purifiers naturally want to commence with the torture and possible killing of John, their brand of interrogation and punishment of John for being a mutant, but Turner holds them back. He intends to break John slowly, like a master artisan carving stone away piece by little piece, chipping away.

He starts by trying to build a bond of similarity, which is a load of hogwash, considering how he is a leader of a hate group that preys on people who are different. Oh, sure, they’ve both bled and lost for their country, but John has actually kept to the faith in spite of everything, while Turner has only let himself be more and more consumed by his crusade and the pain from which it springs. Somewhere in his head, Turner thinks of the mutants as some massive organization which has deliberately taken his daughter, wife, and job from him, completely forgetting that he lost two of those because of his own behavior. Not to mention how he actually does lead massive organizations in the act of deliberately taking everything from mutants, and humans too, his fellow beings. John, by contrast, still dedicates his life to protecting and preserving the lives and freedoms of others.

There are similarities between these two men, including their strength of will and ability to take command, but there are also some decisive differences.

Turner is more clever than his Purfier friends, torturing John via his super-sensitive hearing instead of just applying power tools to his flesh. Instead of simply shattering John with pain, in a way that he might still withstand even until death, Turner wears him down, slowly, like water dripping on a rock, eroding it little by little, constantly, without respite. And it’s already working, even within the brief span they’re able to apply it. John reveals the truth of the Inner Circle, and his former comrades leaving the Underground to join them, because of what he sees as his own failure to make them believe the X-Men’s old dream of coexistence, peace, and prosperity.

Turner doesn’t believe it, but he does entertain the possibility.

So, naturally, just as Turner might start to believe in the Inner Circle, and the Underground’s conflict with them, and the truth that they have common enemies (which would indicate that they can be allies because they’re all human after all)… well, fate aligns so that he can keep believing what he already believes.

Having the ground torn out from under then, Marcos, Clarice, and the Struckers are off-balance, flailig for support, and so they grab the only thing they can to steady themselves. They reach out to the Inner Circle for help.

It’s a simple deal, trading a captured Fade for information on John’s whereabouts. Lorna’s a little hesitant, courtesy of the displeasure which will surely follow from Reeva, but not only is it a good deal, and a chance to strike at the Purifiers, but Lorna isn’t so removed from the friend she once was to John and Marcos.

This episode’s flashback featured the three of them playing a game of pool at a bar, three years earlier. It was at this game that John revealed that they might as well reveal the secret, that they’re a couple, because he can hear their heartbeats around each other, and he can hear them whispering across the room like they did when he went to get the beers at the bar. Secret’s out anyway, so they might as well. It’s a cute, humorous moment among the trio, and John has know problem with their relationship. It is simply that the day will come when they’re in trouble and they need to trust each other absolutely. When that day comes, they will stand together.

Now the day has come that John needs help, and Lorna chooses to be there for him. Whatever their differences, they’re still friends, even if they’re also enemies at times, too.

Andy comes with, without pause, and even nudges Lorna into doing so. They come with a location, with armored jeeps and bulletproof jackets, and a little bit of hope. Lorna knows they can’t agree, and so they can’t entirely reunite, but Andy is hopeful for reconciliation, at least. Cait and Reed are both ecstatic to see their son, though Lauren is more reserved and standoffish. She knows something’s up, as she felt his emotions when he visited her dream the previous night. He’s sad and lonely and wants to reach out to his family, most of whom are welcoming.

The Struckers ride in one jeep, catching up and grinning like old times, while Clarice has to watch the smoldering tension between Lorna and Marcos in the other. They make like they hate each other, but that’s a cheap and distracting facade. They love each other even when they’re on opposing sides, and now that they’re rescuing a friend together, it’s only a matter of time before they reveal what’s underneath the facade.

Either way, they get to the Purifier compound, scout the area, and plan. They don’t have anti-mutant devices, but they do have a lot of guns and a minefield. Simple defenses require a simple plan: to quote Bulletproof Monk, “misdirection and speed.” Lorna and Marcos create a diversion by attacking one side of the compound while Clarice gets Andy and Lauren in on the other side, past the minefield, to enter, find John, get out, and roll over anyone still in the way.

It goes surprisingly smoothly. Marcos and Lorna are well-matched, and the two halves of Fenris are working together again like two halves of a whole. The Purifiers basically stand no chance, so they get in, grab John, who has just been savaged by an unhinged Turner’s shotgun-enabled rage, and get out. The worst thing that happens is when one Purifier takes a shot at them as they’re leaving, and Andy, in full view of his parents as they stand by the getaway vehicles, lets loose his anger.

Part of it may be his own conflicted feelings about Rebecca, which he almost told Lauren everything about, but he’s also a brother angry on behalf of his sister. And he’s lost almost all of what little restraint he once had, courtesy of his time with the Inner Circle. So, he basically twists the man’s limbs, one by one, inflicting as much pain on his enemy as he can, which is stupid if only for the time it wastes, not to mention the hatred behind it. Lauren is barely able to pull him back before he kills the man, and Andy does not like the looks his family gives him after their out.

Most disconcerting, to me, is how happy he was afterward. Much like how Rebecca smiled after murdering thirty-seven people. That darkness has indeed taken root in Andy now.

When his family looks at him, perhaps he sees that darkness for just a moment. Either way, he can’t handle it. He spouts off how the Inner Circle are the good guys and the humans are the bad guys and anyone who is an enemy needs to be wiped out. He’s deflecting, trying to justify himself when he knows he did something very wrong. He, like the Purifiers, is trying to oppose something bad, but without trying to be good. It’s a common, and devastating, mistake.

So, the Struckers end on a sour note after rescuing John. Cait and Lauren are pretty much set on destroying the Inner Circle now, as the only means they have to get Andy back. Somehow, I don’t think they’ve thought that one through. Andy is part of the Inner Circle, and boys generally do not respond well to having their clubs destroyed as a means of supposedly saving them.

Meanwhile, Lorna kisses Marcos (surprise: none) before going back to the Inner Circle, on opposite sides again.

In the end, Clarice is tending John’s injuries, which are pretty bad, Marcos and Lorna love each other but they’re enemies, Cait and Reed are using the medication they stole and do not have a limitless supply of, Andy and Lauren are both trying to get stronger, with Lauren also getting more aggressive to match her brother, and Turner, coming apart at the seams and disbelieving the existence of the Inner Circle, has a number of badly hurt Purifiers to fuel their war against mutants.

The battle lines, they are being drawn.

Though, one detail… six thousand mutant convicts? That’s it? Somehow, I expected quite a bit more than that. I mean, how many did they grab just a couple of episodes ago? And they’ve been at this for years! And there’s only six thousand of them? Sheesh, the humans are still outnumbering the mutants by tens or even hundreds of thousands to one! And Reeva thinks they have a chance with those odds? They are so screwed!

Gotham

5.01 “Year Zero”

The final season begins at day 391 (if I remember right) of No Man’s Land, well over a year after the bridges were destroyed. Gordon, Bullock, Penguin, and Riddler all do their own rituals to ready themselves, though Bullock leaves his drink untouched, before they gather to lead a ragtag group of defenders of a great wall into battle against an encroaching part of… soldiers?! With a tank?! What?!

Obviously, we have some ground to cover here!

Back at Day 89 (if I remember right), Gordon gives the audience some exposition while begging the government to send help. The city has been carved up by the villains and other gangs, each bit of ground going to whoever is strong enough to hold it. Penguin is in City Hall, dining fairly well in the safety of his citadel whilst the people laboring to make bullets in his factory are starving and dying. Barbara and the Sirens control an area around the club, allowing men to live only if they purchase time, and they’re the only ones who have enough food and booze. Scarecrow has his own territory, Freeze and Firefly are at war with each other, and so on. As for Gordon, he has a few dozen officers trying to protect and provide for a hundred and fifty refugees. And that’s just what they know about, there are probably a whole lot more people in need everywhere in the city.

They need help, but they’re not getting any. Which is odd. Which indicates that there is something actively working against them.

As Penguin has the bullets, he’s able to trade with others, even people who hate him. Barbara, for instance, who fully intends to help Tabitha kill him. But they need his bullets, so they’ll trade premium stake for it. Both warlords, Penguin and Barbara, are dealing with the hassle of ruling and making things work as they want when they hear something. Something unusual. Something significant.

A helicopter.

Gordon’s people are in desperate need of supplies, and that need gets even more dire after Scarecrow makes a raid on their supplies. He gasses a guard to get in. (take note: stand either far enough back or far enough up, but certainly far enough away, to not get gassed while on guard duty… and never be complacent when you’re in the middle of the end of the world) Once inside, his people steal food and medicine. In the former case, he clashes with Gordon directly, but neither can get a killing blow in before he escapes. In the latter case, his people meet Bruce, who has night-vision goggles. Good in the dark, but a terrible weakness when the lights come back on all at once. They get away clean with what they came for.

With maybe a week of supplies left, Bruce takes drastic action.

Admittedly, he’s not thinking only of the good of others. He’s thinking of Selina.

It turns out, she was not among the last ones out of the city that night the bridges blew. They didn’t make it out at all. All this time, she’s been in the clinic, cut off from the proper healthcare outside the city. She’s in pain, terrible pain, crippled, her condition deteriorating, and crying. We even find her wishing that she’d been flat-out killed, and trying to commit suicide.

Bruce bears terrible guilt over this, which Selina does not help because Jeremiah shot her in order to get to him. She’s not in her right mind, of course, but that does little to dull the agony.

With a portion of Selina’s medicine stolen, Bruce pulls strings and gets a supply helicopter into the city. It will probably only work the one time, the government won’t allow a repeat performance, but it’s something. The sound of those whirring chopper blades is a sound of hope for some, and opportunity for others.

They ought to have just landed on the GCPD roof, but they venture on to another landing zone… and get hit with an RPG out of nowhere.

I’m thinking that was due to the same mysterious party which has been preventing the federal government from helping them.

The pilot ought to be credited for a landing which spared the supplies from destruction, but even if he managed to survive that, I doubt he survived the gangs descending on the supplies like locusts. One gang gets it first, only for Penguin to come in and slaughter them, with Gordon hot on his heels, and Tabitha taking the chance to strike at Penguin the first moment he’s left his fortress in months. It’s bloody, just shy of pandemonium, with everyone taking losses.

Bruce came sneaking along to help, of course, and a good thing, because he intercepts some ammunition from a truck out back just as Gordon and his boys run out. Even so, lives are lost, including Tabitha.

That, I am just going to say, was rather poorly done. Tabitha is an incredible fighter, without any physical handicaps, so for Penguin to be able to just stab her like that? That’s pretty thin, I say.

Barbara is devastated. She vows, with no restraint of rationality left, to kill Penguin. She fails right then, but survives partially due to the timely intervention of Gordon, with fresh bullets. He gets close, using Penguin’s belief that he doesn’t have any bullets against him. Then he shoots Penguin in the leg, saving Barbara and taking the supplies.

It’s a sound victory for the good guys, but they’ve no time to rest on their laurels. They haven’t made any friends, and now a little boy comes to them, begging the police to save his brothers and sisters on the other side of the city. Everyone looks to Gordon, and it’s a sober moment. He says, simply, that they stayed for the promise they represent, that when people are in trouble, help will come. They, the GCPD, will come.

They’re cops, and they have work to do.

Additionally, I’m fairly certain that was this show’s version of Harley Quinn which sneaked into the GCPD and drew on Gordon’s map. The original No Man’s Land storyline had the Joker waiting awhile before making a move, and Jeremiah seems to be doing the same.

Gordon sees the map when he answers the radio. Some lady (was that Lee?) saying he has allies across the river, but refusing to identify them.

Bruce may be officially welcome among Gordon’s people now, as Gordon makes it clear that he’s earned it, so he doesn’t need to sneak around, but it’s Selina who’s most on his mind. After her suicide attempt, Bruce is at his lowest and most vulnerable. When a creepy nurse says the doctors can’t help her, that she needs “the witch,” he asks where he can find this witch.

That… is not going to go well.

This is a painful moment, but… well, it’s kind of part of the process. That may sound callous, but the pain that one feels at any given moment is not eternal. There’s an end to it, typically one besides the release of death. One has to let it run its course without trying to take a shortcut. Shortcuts can be very, very dangerous, especially in Gotham.

So, it’s basically the apocalypse in Gotham, everyone fighting to hold on to what they have or avenge what they’ve lost, and familiar faces, people we’ve known for years now, are falling in battle.

Oh, and Riddler keeps waking up in strange places. He assumes it’s his other identity, Ed, but has no idea what’s going.

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Ralph Wrecks the Internet, but Not the Movie

I was asked what movie I had enjoyed most in 2018. I thought for a moment, and the answer came clear. I hadn’t seen Aquaman yet; I had seen little besides the MCU movies, really, and those compete with each other so well that I had to disqualify the lot of them; that left only two candidates, both sequels: Mary Poppins Returns and Ralph Breaks the Internet.

Guess which one I chose. 😉

(really, that title should be Ralph Wrecks the Internet, but whatever)

Wreck-It Ralph is officially my favorite animated Disney movie, ever, and now I’d say it’s my favorite series. The first movie is about a how Ralph comes to accept himself and improve his lot in life, including the beginning of his friendship with Vanellope, who has a similar journey of self-acceptance. It’s a beautiful thing, but there was one small detail: at the end of the movie, just a bit of Ralph’s sense of self-worth seemed to be tied to Vanellope. It’s not entirely a bad thing, but left alone it could grow and become something unhealthy, and, it turns out, it did exactly that.

Ralph Breaks the Internet is about both Ralph and Vanellope, how they grow as individuals and as friends to become more independent of each other. It’s a very human, organic story of a stage that all close relationships, including friendships, siblings, romantic couples, and especially parents and children have to pass through. Eventually, if it’s healthy, a certain amount of independence must emerge after a preceding stage of dependence or codependency has been built. This metamorphosis is scary, and often painful, but ultimately fulfilling and joyful.

That’s the sort of story this movie tells, and it’s driven in believable ways by relatable, lovable characters.

For an actual plot synopsis: after a kindly deed backfires terribly, putting Vanellope’s entire game at risk, Ralph is determined to fix things and takes to the newly-installed internet to get what they need. But complications arise as the duo learn to navigate this unfamiliar world. Soon the two friends find themselves pulled slowly but insistently in differing directions. As their friendship is strained, Ralph’s insecurities come to a boiling point and boil over, spilling into the virtual world around them.

Along the way, Ralph and Vanellope meet a colorful cast of helpful characters, including a racer woman named Shank (voiced by Gal Gadot and absolutely awesome), a spamming program, an advertiser, and, of course, we saw them in the trailers, the Disney princesses. Which, that was great. 🙂

So, we have lovable characters, an interesting story, compelling themes, legitimate tension… oh, and the humor is great! I laughed so much during this movie, it was so witty and intelligent!

Ironically, I don’t have much else to say outside the praise I’ve already given. It checks off all of the most important boxes and a number of others, full marks right across the board. The only criticism I might have is how I can’t seem to remember the soundtrack at all, but, then again, I’ve had music from both Mary Poppins movies running around my head for the last week, so, take that with a grain of salt. I can say that Ralph‘s soundtrack certainly made me feel whatever I was supposed to be feeling at any given moment, so, job done. 😉

Basically, Ralph Breaks the Internet is already one of my favorite movies. 🙂

Rating: 10 stars out of 10.

Grade: A-Plus.

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Mary Poppins Returns… and…?

Mary Poppins Returns is best enjoyed, I think, right on the heels of Mary Poppins, the better for the magic of the latter to make up for the flaws of the former, and for the sequel to enhance the importance of the events in the original. At least, that’s my experience with it.

I was not going to see this one in theaters. I mean, it seemed like it would be perfectly nice, as movies go, but the trailers left me vastly underwhelmed. Still, my mother had her heart set on it, and, being my mother, held Aquaman over my head to extort me into going with the rest of the family. And she wonders where I get my ruthless cunning. 😉

Either way, I went, and now I can confidently credit both the positive and negative things I’d heard about it. On the one hand, it is a rekindling of childhood wonder, and it offers some light to the world, which I always appreciate. On the other… oh, boy, where to begin.

It must be said, straight up, that there is no escaping a compare/contrast between the two film, so I am not even going to try.

Mary Poppins tells an enchanting, musical tale, albeit in a roundabout way with what amounts to a series of shorts sewn together, of a man named George Banks, as he learns about the things he’s missing in life, like joy, cheer, and the childhood of his children.

Mary Poppins Returns tells a more cohesive story, albeit with some digressions, of George Banks’ children, Jane and especially Michael, when they’ve grown to adulthood and lost that sense of wonder they once knew. Michael has become a widower with three children to raise, and an old family home about to be repossessed by the bank unless he can conjure up the means to repay an entire loan within a week. The combination of circumstances has sucked much of the joy out of Michael Banks and his family. Thus, here comes Mary Poppins herself, returned to help them at a time of financial crisis by bringing some joy and imagination back into their lives, and, with it, some solace as well.

It’s not the worst of ideas. Though it seems entirely impractical, it proves oddly, and indirectly, effective. The children learn to dream of impossible things and pursue them with determination, and, through them, so do the adults. It’s not much, but it makes the difference at a pivotal moment.

Mary Poppins, it would seem, is a conniving genius with godlike serendipity on her side.

Speaking of, while Emily Blunt could never properly duplicate Julie Andrews’ rendition of the titular magical nanny, her version of Mary Poppins is more parental and clear in her emotions, at least for the audience. It’s not much, really, just a look, an expression, an intonation of words, but she’s not nearly so stoic and seemingly unfeeling. There’s no question, really, that she truly cares for the Banks family. She just doesn’t crow about it.

Then we have Jack, this movie’s version of Bert, a humble lamplighter in London. As he helps the Banks alongside Mary Poppins, and stands as a romantic interest for Jane, it feels incredibly poetic for him to be a humble keeper of the light, responsible for brightening the darkness. There’s no wondering why Lin-Manuel Miranda was cast as Jack, as he’s fit, particularly handsome, and can carry a tune. Also, he does his own thing instead of attempting to compete with the legendary Dick Van Dyke, but, even then, feels a bit like a cardboard cutout.

As for the rest of the cast, Michael was relatable as a man struggling to do right by his family in the wake of a great loss, but Jane was mostly just there, and this despite being both Michael’s sister and Jack’s romantic interest. The new generation of Banks children were adorable but a bit wooden, so much that I barely remember their names… not to mention jarring in how grown-up the older two behaved in comparison to their slightly-younger brother. As for the villains, we had a head banker with two particular subordinates, one nasty and the other nice, who was just set on foreclosure and repossession, to the exclusion of other options completely.

My favorite moment of the film was easily Dick Van Dyke’s minor role towards the end of the film. His was probably the best performance of the entire movie, quickly endearing and effective. Through him, the two movies and the magic of both are bound together, especially as an unremarked legacy of the first movie proves to be the salvation of the Banks family in the second.

What was easily the least enjoyable part of the movie was actually the music. Where the first Poppins movie may have had an arguable overabundance of songs, the sequel definitely does. Where the songs of the first movie were charming, catchy, and easily understood, the sequel’s soundtrack is dominated by songs which are anything but. I would not have believed that a single movie could have so many mediocre, annoying, unending songs that muddle together so perfectly and defy lyrical comprehension entirely. Seriously, most any song in Mary Poppins is annoying difficult to forget, but in Mary Poppins Returns, they’re annoying difficult to keep up with, and, for that matter – hang on, did they actually just have Mary Poppins herself sing about a naked woman in a children’s movie?! – just plain annoying.

I recall a scene from a science fiction television show where a chatty complainer keeps interrupting an alien while he’s working and the alien finally just looks straight at him and says, “Stop. Talking. Please. Thank you.”

I felt a bit like that. “Stop. Singing. Please.”

And what was with Mary Poppins standing back at the climax and letting dozens of men risk their lives climbing a tower only to float up and finish the job at the last moment? And always taking her eyes off the Banks children and letting them get into trouble? And… you know what? I’ll just stop there.

Overall, Mary Poppins Returns is a “good” film, but not really “great.” It tries to do good things, of course, and there’s just a little bit of magic there to be found, in smaller, quieter ways than one needs endless dancing and singing for. It tells a story, a generally good one, but doesn’t quite stand alone on its own two feet. It may have too many moving parts, too many minor characters fluffing things up, but it still strives towards something simpler and more enchanting (and just trips a lot on the way).

In short… it’s a perfectly nice movie, as movies go, just a bit underwhelming. 😉

Rating: 7 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Minus.

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The Rise of Aquaman

Well, that was a fun ride!

And that is my first official comment on Aquaman. Freed from the burden of Snyder’s relentless, joy-sucking need for everything to be DARK and EPIC, the DCEU is getting to be a lot more fun these days, and I like it! 🙂

As the latest adddition to DC’s Extended Universe, Aquaman actually doesn’t have much to compete with, really. Man of Steel had issues, but it wasn’t terrible, unlike Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Wonder Woman was fantastic, but stands out as their best yet, easily beating out both Suicide Squad and Justice League. In that light, it might not say much, really, but, for what it’s worth, Aquaman is one of DC’s better movies, I would say.

Aquaman, aka Arthur Curry, is the king of Atlantis in the universe of DC Comics, and his movie tells the story of how he came to be said king. Portrayed by Jason Momoa (of Stargate: Atlantis and Game of Thrones fame), Arthur is a unique character caught in between worlds. He is of royal blood but humble birth, a strong man who is constantly out of his element even when he’s in it. The product of a forbidden love, he has no interest in the affairs of the world, especially wanting nothing to do with Atlantis, yet he feels compelled to help when he comes across trouble. He is an unrefined brute, more at home carousing with fellow ruffians than he is in a grand hall or arena, yet courteous and aware of those around him. He is, in short, a fleshed-out character, and wildly entertaining.

They did good casting Momoa as Aquaman. 🙂

Starring opposite Momoa are Amber Heard as Mera, a princess and the obvious romantic interest, and Patrick Wilson as Orm, Arthur’s half-brother, ruler of Atlantis who intends to conquer the seas and then use that consolidated military might to wipe out the humans on land. These three truly carry the film, with phenomenal support from such actors as Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, and even Julie Andrews (voicing a terrifying monster). Willem Dafoe comes off as a bit wooden, but that might simply be the stoicism of his character. Either way, it was critical to cast the central three characters as perfectly as possible, and they hit it out of the park all three times. Momoa, Heard, and Wilson bring a believable depth to three characters who are a bit more complex than they look.

For basically just going from Point A to Point B, there’s a lot that goes on in this movie.

As for the story, Arthur and Mera are obviously trying to stop Orm from taking over and killing billions of innocent people, and this happens to involve a quest for an ancient, mystical trident. In some ways, it’s a simple series of events with goals and obstacles, but it serves more as a vehicle for the characters’ personal journeys than anything else. For Arthur, he learns to consider his choices more carefully, to become more responsible and proactive in safeguarding the world, to embrace a part of his heritage that he’s thus far ignored, and to be more than just a thug. For Mera, she learns to see more in the surface world, and in Arthur, than she was first willing to admit there was. And for Orm, he moves forward with his agenda, driven by the demons of his past, and, skating around spoilers, he only accepts his eventual defeat when he is given relief from those demons. In that way, he is one of the more intriguing villains I’ve seen for awhile.

That’s all pretty high praise, of course. I want to make it clear that there are still points where things could be improved. Some things were predictable, and the movie occasionally felt more like a tour through all things Atlantean, but, on the other hand, it is a heroic epic and it fleshes out this unseen world more thoroughly. Mind you, with so much of an entirely new world to involve, a few things fall by the wayside, and we don’t get to know the more intriguing minor characters at all.

There were also some campy moments, like Mera’s soulful eyes to show her distress during the initial duel between brothers, but, again, she soon take on a much more active part of the story as a strong female hero, really.

The movie may not have needed to be a full two and a half hours long, as well. It would just take a bit of editing to shorten it down to something more manageable, especially given how much of it is exposition, but, again, they did keep me entertained for almost the entire time.

Really, the most ridiculous part was the loooong kiss scene right when the entire aquatic world is at war all around them. I understand the interest, but there’s a time and a place for that, ya know? The middle of a war, where every second is measured in how many people are dying and these two love birds under the sea, who have the key to ending the slaughter, are going with “Kiss the Girl” instead of “hurry and save the day.”

That’s one example of where they could have edited scenes to make them a bit shorter, by shaving off bits and pieces here and there.

And while I enjoyed Black Manta as a secondary villain, especially with the lesson he provides to Arthur, his motivation felt paper thin.

All that said, Aquaman remains, in my book, a fun, action-filled adventure, and one which will be most welcome in my collection. It has a good “good guy,” a good “bad guy,” and a pretty girl (who is more than just a pretty face), which, as my father once remarked right after we saw Spider-Man, makes for a good movie! It’s not flawless, of course, but fun!

Rating: I’d say 9 stars out of 10.

Grade: A-Minus.

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2019: A Look Ahead

Happy New Year! 😀

Hello, my wonderful audience! I hope you’ve all been doing well in 2018 and will continue to do so in 2019. Personally, I am doing great. 🙂

In the spirit of organizing my thoughts into something resembling a plan, I thought I’d share some ideas that I’m intending to pursue on my blog now in 2019. There’s no particular shake-ups or anything, I just want to get it all down on paper, so to speak. So, if I might beg your indulgence… 😉

Firstly, those of you who have followed me on my humble blog here for a longer time may have noticed a little drop in the production of my posts this past year. I had some new and important responsibilities to take care of in real life, and that had to come first, so, a number of my projects were set aside for awhile. However, more recent developments should give me a bit more time and flexibility to work with, so I’m hoping to do a couple of ambitious things this year.

Chief among them: from the moment I started this blog, I have been mentioning, many times, my desire to do a proper countdown of my favorite anime titles. As I’ve officially entered my fifth year writing my musings, I’d say I’ve kept you waiting for awhile! 😛 So, my plan is, right around this blog’s fifth anniversary, I am finally going to deliver! Yay!

But that’s in October, nearly a full ten months away! So why am I mentioning this right now?

I think he’s up to something!

Well, in addition to my storytelling love of suspense, I figure I might as well make a special occasion of it, eh? 😉

Specifically, over the course of the thirty weeks leading up to my fifth blogging anniversary, I am going to take up the 30-Day Anime Pick 5 Challenge, crowned with my top twelve anime countdown.

Also, as it makes little sense for me to say, “These are my favorite anime,” without having reviewed them first, you may look forward to a weekly anime review at least until the end of October. As most, though not all, of these forty-plus reviews will be for those most forward candidates that I haven’t reviewed yet, don’t be surprised if I mostly praise these titles. 🙂 The idea is to get my feelings on paper so I can sort all these titles properly in my countdown. 😉

Now, if this sounds like my blog will be overwhelming anime-oriented for the next ten months… you are absolutely correct. 😛 If you like my anime musings, this will be a very good year for you!

But I’m not about to forget everything else, you know!

Goal: have this feeling at the end of the year.

Obviously, there will still be my quotes every Sunday and my weekly TV commentary on Saturday, so long as something in my lineup is airing. On that note, I am shopping for potential additions to said lineup, so if you have a suggestion, like something new, I am open to it. 🙂

The quantity of book reviews I’ve been publishing has certainly taken a hit and really suffered this last year, which is ironic considering how fast I’ve been chewing through them. I hope to share more thoughts on that, and perhaps more on entire series than individual titles.

My extended experimental project, which has lasted for several years now, has finally concluded for the time being, as I finally reached the end of the great queue of experimental titles I had on hand. Now, I get to follow up the more promising ones by investigating the series which follow them. I am looking forward to that! 🙂

So, that covers, anime, books and TV, but as for movies…

Well, there are some I intend to watch and review only when they come out for viewing at home, but between work, responsibilities, and budgeting, I can only afford to pursue a handful of titles in theaters. I think it was two years ago I announced about a dozen titles I’d intended to see that year (2017). I saw about nine of them in theaters, which wasn’t too bad, but I’m going to have scale back even more from now on.

So, for this year’s handful of trips to the theater, we have only the heavy hitters, which I will try (there are no guarantees) to hit on their opening weekends:

I feel almost like someone announcing a long lineup…

Captain Marvel – Mar. 8 (I am excited for this one!)
Shazam – Apr. 5 (I am interested in this one, especially after Aquaman, which review is pending)
Avengers: Endgame – Apr. 26 (I am not missing this one!)
Godzilla: King of Monsters – May 31 (I am hopeful about this one)
Dark Phoenix – June 7 (barring any further delays by the Disney-Fox deal)
Spider-Man: Far From Home – July 5 (it will have some large shoes to fill!)

It’s a very busy first half the year. 😉

Frozen 2 and Star Wars IX come much later in the year, within easy striking distance of an extended family outing during the holidays, just not on opening weekend.

That’s about it for now, I suppose. On that note, once again:

Happy New Year! 🙂

 

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