Sunday’s Wisdom #240: A Defense of Luxury

“Everyone’s life is full of suffering, but going hungry won’t make it better. Bodies don’t last long on a diet of virtue alone.”
– Yukina, Samurai 7
Episode 7, “The Friend”

When Yukina says this, she is speaking to a young woman named Kirara. Yukina is a primary hostess of a business that caters especially to luxurious comforts, while Kirara is a humble priestess from a humble farming village. As a guest, Kirara is provided a dinner of much higher quality than she is accustomed to. Thinking about her fellow villagers, and the dire straits they are all in at the moment, she is hesitant about actually consuming this fine cuisine set before her, uncertain that it’s appropriate for her to have it. She feels guilty, being given so much good, delicious food, while others are on the brink of starving.

That’s often the way of it, isn’t it? Those who are accustomed to luxury often take their blessings for granted, but those who are new to it may not know how to even accept it. Those who are especially kind and dutiful, as Kirara is, may even feel guilty about it. If they haven’t earned it, after all, how can it be all right for them to have it, even if it’s an honest gift from a friend?

When Yukina shares these words with Kirara, she’s not trying to dissuade her fried from being charitable and giving. She’s merely pointing out that depriving herself of the first truly decent meal she’s ever had will do nothing to improve the situation.

If a man were to lose his family to a terrible tragedy, would he somehow be healed of that pain if another person chose not to have a family of their own? Would his lost loved ones be joyfully restored to him if someone else chose not to be happy? No, of course not. That is not how it works.

Joining a painful situation, or staying in one, does not lessen the suffering of others.

Neither will refusing to eat a good meal, when it’s put in front of you by the kindness of others, accomplish anything more than your own hunger. It’s okay to enjoy it.

For that matter, it is often when people seek to improve their own situation, to make themselves more prosperous and comfortable, that they naturally enable that prosperity to enter the lives of those around them.

The automobile, for instance, was invented as a more comfortable and sanitary mode of travel than horseback, and society was transformed by it. The people who produced them were well-paid, and improved their circumstances as well, which spread more prosperity around them. Such it is with other luxuries, like fine foods and drinks. Someone had to produce them first, and the fairest, most free system would reward them appropriately for it, allowing them to improve their circumstances as well.

If we were all to deny ourselves the good things in life, we would be crippling the economy of those who make them, and taking something precious from society as a whole. How would that help anyone who is already starving?

Of course, it is an easy and frequent thing to do, to go too far in the other direction, the way of hoarding and gluttony and outright thievery. Those evils, however, do not take away from the virtue of gratefully, and humbly, enjoying what is fine and delicious. Feeding ourselves with good food is how we give ourselves greater strength to do greater good in the world.

We must take good care of ourselves now in order to be helpful later.

It is no bad thing to enjoy life a little, and we certainly should not be made to feel guilty when we do so.

It is just a question of balance, as per usual. 🙂

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This Week on TV, June 22, 2019

Spoiler Alert!

This week’s Agents of Shield was a very psychological episode, built entirely around Fitz-Simmons. It was sad and scary and happy and all around a very fun ride through their minds and their past towards their future. 🙂

Agents of Shield

6.06 “Inescapable”

That was excellent! 🙂

It was all about Fitz-Simmons in this episode. Where they come from, what makes them tick, the good, the bad, the ugly, the scary, the powerful. They are magnificent and unstoppable together. …they might need some therapy, though, and this was a very therapeutic episode.

The two of them wake up in a plain, white room together, one where everything they think of is possible and every memory is shareable. Atara appears to explain things to them and tell them that they can’t escape. Any attempt to do so will result in madness. So, the way out is, quite simply, to figure out time travel, so Atara and the Chronicoms can go back in time and save their world.

The ramifications of this are huge. I mean, the power to change all the bad things that happened? To meddle with the past and mold entire timelines anytime you think this one isn’t fair? To save or condemn… everything? That’s pretty godlike, but mortals aren’t gods. Mortals are invariably wrong about something, and when you can shape all of time, that is a very bad time to be wrong.

And, as it happens, the entire time traveling ordeal is very painful for Simmons to discuss or even think about. Which is kind of a good thing, in the big picture, but a bit dangerous and awkward for the two of them right now.

Things start out well enough. They sit, enjoy treats together, and Fitz tells her all about the last year, while she adds in what they’ve been doing while on Fitz’s trail. They’ve been to some of the same places, as Simmons gradually closed the gap between them. But soon, the topic turns to time travel, and Simmons reacts defensively, refusing to cooperate. We talk about how we react like children but Fitz just a teensy bit surprised when Simmons suddenly is a little girl, throwing a tantrum and running away, through a magical hole to her childhood bedroom.

In reality, the two of them are hooked up to a machine that puts their minds together in some sort of virtual space. Enoch opposes this, as it is very risky, and the danger mounts, and if they die, Atara and the Chronicoms will have gained nothing for their troubles. Yes, the human mind is powerful, but it’s also very delicate and filled with unstable emotions, so he implores Atara to stop this. But Atara, Malachi, and the rest will not listen. As far as they’re concerned, this is the most efficient way to get what they want, so Enoch can either stand with them on this, or be dismantled.

As Fitz realizes that they’re in a prison of their own minds, he tries to get Simmons back to her usual self. As a little girl, she’s hiding in her bed, “observing… from a distance,” in that place where she always went to work out her problems, as her mind went up to the stars and all her troubles were locked away in a music box. She wants to be read a story right now, and it looks sweet and childish, but the cover is actually that of the Darkhold.

Fitz takes one look at that cover, drops it, and pulls her out of bed and back into their white room, wherein he talks as if he would conjure up Aida to help him, and she snaps back to her adult self. That’s when Fitz is able to draw out why she’s so afraid to talk about all of this time travel stuff, because of what it means. It means telling Fitz the truth. All of it.

He proposed as soon as he had his hands in hers, but now he finds out that his future self has already proposed to her, already married her, and already died breaking a time loop of their world ending. He sees his own body in her memories. He sees their rings. And he sees Coulson, soon to die. One of the last things he told her, in effect, was to go and find the Fitz who was still in cryo at the time, the slightly-past version of their Fitz, who has now gone off in a very different direction. Mack had his reservations about that, but he was also the first one to help retrofit the Zephyr to jump all over space looking for him.

All of this is a lot to take in. It’s a lot to process. Small wonder Simmons didn’t want to approach the subject. But it’s done now, and they have to move forward. Starting with supporting Fitz as he starts working the problem too hard. She hears a sound, in their heads, one that she doesn’t like, and goes to find him.

She finds him in his room at Shield Academy, on a pivotal night of their relationship. It’s the first time she came to his room, and they talked, bouncing ideas, and this was the night Fitz went from terrified to comfortable in her presence, and the one where Simmons put him in the friend zone. She also remembers seeing that he was a bit manic, and thinking that brilliance can be just a tick away from madness. She is uncomfortably familiar with Fitz’s madness, and now she knows it’s coming back. As Fitz is working a problem about time travel, he can’t help but think of the Hell that she’s been through, and the pain of not being there for her, and if an entire race is feeling that… then maybe they should take control of time, and undo anything they want.

And therein lies the danger. When flawed mortals aspire to the powers of divinity, it does not end well. Many things have begun with noble intentions, but in the space of a blink they become corrupted. And what is Fitz’s corruption? Leopold, of Hydra, coming with the sound of booted feet on the march. Fitz’s darkness, the shape of a psychotic break she’s already seen him suffer once. He’s there, in Fitz’s mind… and so are the two of them, in their minds.

They run, fleeing the evil mad scientist who commands an army. They run where Simmons always runs: back to her childhood room. She was always safe here, but they soon find that Fitz’s inner darkness isn’t the only one they have to worry about. Simmons’ music box is bouncing and rattling like something possessed, and when it falls and opens, her darkness comes out too. It’s her, but so disheveled, and filthy, and mad that she’s unrecognizable. She comes for them, shrieking, and they hide in the closet before they’re suddenly separated, facing each other’s evil.

Leopold takes Simmons and binds her into the memory machine, intent on taking the memories he needs and hollowing out the rest of her. Simmons’ evil whatever-she-is hangs him upside down and dissects him with a bone-knife, including removing the heart he said was hers. The two of them are hurting each other, but they rally together. They’re not alone. They still have each other. And they have friends. Mack shoots the monster holding Fitz and gets him down, sending him running. Daisy overwhelms Leopold and the Hydra soldiers, getting Simmons out and sending her running. They run into a containment chamber from opposite sides, locking it shut. They’re in there, together, safe and screaming at each other while their shadow selves circle around outside.

The truth is that they’ve hurt each other. Quite a bit. They’ve endured incredible amounts of pain, both together and individually. It begins with that moment when Coulson recruited them, but it centers around themselves. The people we care for are a source of pain, because they are important. To care is to open oneself up to that pain, and it hurts, a lot, but it’s so much better than feeling nothing at all. They hate having to be saved, but they’ll never stop saving each other. They love each other, absolutely. They shout out years’ worth of pain and trauma, but they’re ultimately shouting that they love each other. So, when they’re breathing normally again, they resolve to face whatever is out there together.

…of course, their shadow selves aren’t really a concern once that happens. They’re too busy making out. Which would have to be one of the most surreal things these two have ever experienced together.

Heh, I remember this one time where my friends and I were talking about our dark sides, and evil alternate-dimension versions of ourselves. Somehow it came up that my evil self and one of my friend’s evil self would absolutely hook up, and it would be one of the most unhealthy relationships ever in the history of unhealthy relationships. It would be a disaster… but it would also be pretty fun in the meantime! LOL. So, I can actually grasp the interest with what evil Fitz and evil Simmons would do with each other, but that sort of thing generally stays in the realm of imagination, never actually seen, ya know? Heh, small wonder Fitz-Simmons could only stare in morbid fascination at the kinky stuff their dark sides to together.

They really are made for each other. Both sides of them.

At the end of it all, and it’s apparently only been a few minutes, Atara appears to try and get them to focus on what they need to do. Thing is, Fitz has decided that he’s not going to help them. They’re all right being locked up forever, together.

Atara is just telling them they won’t be when Enoch comes through. He disables all the other Chronicoms with a signal, releasing Fitz-Simmons and transporting the three of them off. Oh, and Simmons is just starting to tell Fitz about Deke when they vanish. Episode ends.

Well, there that ending scene where Daisy has updated Mack on the situation. Knowing Fitz is alive is overwhelming, but he’s glad. And Fitz-Simmons are together, so they’ll be fine. They may have even broken out already. And now it’s Mack’s turn to update her. Short version: whatever destroyed the Chronicom homeworld seems to have made its way to Earth.

And then the episode is over.

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5 Harem Anime

If there is one thing which I think anime fans can both enjoy and agree is beyond overused, it’s harems.

Seriously, what is it with us?

On the one hand, there’s some automatic enjoyment of the drama and the competition. Perhaps it’s because so much of our time, and effort, and lives revolves around trying to find, attract, and win the heart of the best members of the opposite sex, we just can’t help but stare in fascination at those who apparently manage to not only do all of that, but do it multiple times, simultaneously.

On the other hand… good grief! If any single trope has over saturated the market, it’s harems! Everywhere you look, there’s another story featuring a guy or girl who is surrounded by idealized members of the opposite sex, all set on getting with the main protagonist. And it knows few, if any, of the usual genre boundaries. There are fantasies, comedies, dramas, adventures, slice of life, science fiction stories, high school stories, and on and on. And to think, they actually were a rarity, once upon a time!

(I would not actually mind if they became a rarity again)

So, the challenge of picking five harem anime had less to do with the quantity than it did with the quality. Some harems are more interesting than others, and some are… ah, far more blatant, we shall say.

Just to be clear, we are defining harem, or reverse-harem, anime as those which have a central protagonist with at least three love interests, or potential love interests, of the opposite gender constantly in close proximity and very much interested in them.

Now, in no particular order, as per usual, I present my picks for five harem anime!

1) Tenchi Muyo

Starting things off, we have the original harem anime! …or, rather, the first one that I ever saw! 😉

There’s a bit of arguing that has to go into this pick, as, technically, most of the anime features more of a love triangle at work than a full-blown harem. Nevertheless, Tenchi is surrounded by beautiful women, and more than two take an interest in him. Ryoko and Ayeka may easily be the leads, but Mihoshi certain has a crush on him, too, and there’s a certain connection between him and Khione, and even Washu expresses some interest, and there’s even more than just them.

I pick Tenchi Muyo partially because it was one of the first anime I ever saw to even approach the harem trope, and because I imagine it, and others like El-Hazard, influenced the audience and the market enough to make way for the multitude of harem-themed anime which have followed. Then, of course, there’s just how much fun Tenchi’s little harem is! 🙂

2) Ouran High School Host Club

No list of harem anime would be truly complete without a reverse-harem, where the girl is the one surrounded by the guys. 😉

This show is also an example of a more low-key harem, really. Where Haruhi is certainly surrounded by attractive boys, several of whom are interested in her, the story does not fall into the trap of having them all rabidly pursue her. That’s something that a number of harems get wrong: they overdo the harem’s obsession with the object of their affection. This reverse-harem, however, barely pursues Haruhi at all. Thus, when it ends without resolving the harem situation, it’s not nearly so disappointing.

More simply, this show uses the harem trope without making everything about the harem. The story is about the characters breaking with conformity, being their true selves, and having ridiculous fun times together. The reverse-harem is something of a side-note, almost entirely irrelevant in all practical terms, but still understandable. As the boys get to know Haruhi better, it’s only natural for some of them really like her that way. 🙂

3) Campione

Man kills beasts, gets woman.
Man kills threatening men, gets woman.
Man kills gods… gets lots of women! 😛

While the setup for the harem is completely fantastical, there’s something realistic about the structure of the harem itself, namely, the ongoing competition within it.

It’s a natural thing for the members of a harem to compete with each other, either in trying to gain or not gain the eye of the harem’s center. As in any other arena, there is always the question of who is Number One. As large or small as harems may be, there are usually one or two particular leads, the strongest candidates, so to speak. Whether or not that is the case, there do tend to be favorites among the fans. So, when you have a harem, you often have to decide who is at the top of it.

Erica stands as the queen bee of this particular harem. She holds sway over two of the other girls, and she’s the one who began the harem in the first place. She was the first to declare herself for the boy, and she was the one to really bring in the next two girls, asserting her dominion over them in the process. But the fourth girl, and other arguable additions, don’t hold to that. They do what they do, whether or not she likes it. So she is the leader, but not really, and so other girls have a chance to shine.

4) To Love-Ru

I hesitated with this, but… well, it must be said: this is the best harem in anime. 😉

Though this anime features one of the larger harems, and tremendous amounts of fan service, none of the girls fall into the simple “types” which so dominate other harems. Even more, each one is a fully fleshed-out and developed character in her own right, and they all have their own relationship with Rito. It may completely mystify the audience, exactly why they’re all so fascinated with him, but, then again, almost every other boy his age is a pervert, so I suppose options are limited. Any port in a storm, as they say, but I digress.

Another aspect which separates this from most harems is how some of the characters actively work to make the harem, as a whole, a long-term thing. Most harem anime end with little to no resolution of the harem situation, and a few others end with the ending of the harem. There are a few which look to make the harem a more permanent thing, something which the characters actively choose to have and remain a part of for the rest of their lives, but there aren’t that many I can recall. Even more, the long-term feasibility of this harem relies on the girls themselves (and the guy) as characters, rather than as a bunch of girls who just want the same boy.

All things considered, this one could actually work out.

5) Monster Musume: Everyday Life With Monster Girls

…oh, what the heck, it’s my favorite example of just how crazy this harem thing has gotten! I mean, how much more insane can you get than this? (rhetorical question, I really don’t want to actually know) 😉

The main harem has a snake-girl, a bird-girl, a horse-girl, a fish-girl, a spider-girl, a slime-girl, and a reaper-girl, not to mention the adjacent harem that has a dead-girl, a cyclops-girl, an ogre-girl, a shadow-girl, and a normal woman, in addition to the guest stars of a dragon-girl, a devil-girl, a tree-girl, and a dog-girl, in addition to a number of others in the manga. Basically, they take as many monsters as they can, covering as many bases as they can, and turn all of them (with the exception of the pig-like orcs) into girls. In retrospect, I am actually kind of surprised that they haven’t had a cat-girl anywhere in the story as of yet, or at least none that I can readily recall.

Point being: when you’ve reached the point at which you have taken all the monsters that used to scare kids into bed at night and turned them all into sexy girls, and all in a harem, then you have officially crossed the threshold of crazy.

And that’s just the underlying principle of the thing! The girls are crazy too! Be they insanely obsessive and jealous, or overly devoted, or ditzy beyond belief, or any other of the multitude of flavors of crazy on display here, bottom line: they’re crazy! It truly is a marvel (not entirely unintentional) that the unfortunate protagonist is not dead yet, or, rather, that he hasn’t stayed that way for very long.

So, we have an early harem, a reverse-harem, a competitive harem, a “best” harem, and an absolutely crazy harem. And that’s my five picks! 🙂

How about you, those of you who know harem anime? Which ones would you pick?

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Anime Review: Fullmetal Alchemist

This one has a little history to consider.

Not only is it a classic, it’s a classic that demanded to be remade into another classic, similar to each other, but very distinct. See, they based the first anime on the manga, but soon passed it and proceeded in a wildly different direction. Thus, not entirely unlike Digimon, we have separate series which share the same name, environment, and characters. Now, where I did a very basic summary of the entire Digimon franchise in one short post, I will be doing two for this one franchise, because, unlike Digimon, there are only two series to review. 😉

Fullmetal Alchemist tells the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric. Born in a country reminiscent of, say, Germany, around the time of the World Wars, the young Elric brothers are hard-working geniuses when it comes to alchemy, this world’s magical system. But they made a terrible, terrible mistake once, and so they set out into the world looking to undo it. Thus begins their journey, wherein they have many adventures, help people, fight monsters, and inadvertently walk into the very heart of a nefarious, deadly conspiracy.

It’s a blending of science fiction and fantasy with adventure, action, comedy, and a bit of horror. Alchemy provides the fantasy, the automail provides the sci-fi (seriously, how do these people have such advanced cybernetics?), the Elrics’ journey is the adventure, the fights and other crises they navigate makes for quality action, their various hilarious antics are the comedy, and as for horror, well, there are a number of horrific things which happen, such that it’s easy to see why they put this on Adult Swim at first. It is meant for a slightly more mature audience, at least at the teenaged level.

Easily the best part of this show, as with many others, is the characters. There’s enough of them that I can’t go into all of them individually, but they’re just a lovable bunch of humans! Their personalities are diverse enough that they balance each other out, and the moments they all share together are heart-warming and endearing, not to mention how they make us laugh. The way they face down danger together, with competence and unity, is enjoyable, and speaks to the spirit they share as comrades. Meanwhile, the villains and antiheroes all feel unique and human as well, most of them acting out of the horrible pain they have been forced to endure.

The story could do with a little refinement, perhaps, but, then again, they were pretty much making it up as they went, and that shows. They still managed to cobble together something fairly intricate and riveting. Though the pacing might have been better, it was entertaining even when they needed to fill out some time, and it was exciting when they were delving into the meat of the plot.

Sometimes worth paying.
Sometimes not.

There are various themes throughout the show, which add to the weight it carries with the audience. There are questions of God and the natural world, and how fair or unfair things are. There are quests for justice and revenge, and the fight to save lives from an evil which is centuries old. There is a discussion of what is a justifiable response to acts of cruelty and evil, and how much bad one can do while hoping for some redemption. And there is the question of what price is worth paying for what we want, because there will be a price, always.

There’s also the struggle we mortals have with death, and loss, and whether or not we will accept it. That got a bit annoying for me, actually. The Elrics made their huge mistake because they refused to accept the death of their mother. Then they go all over looking for ways to get back what they lost in that mistake. That was fine, but then they kept refusing to accept what they lost. By the last episode, it got to the point where I was actually screaming, “Just accept that death is a universal, permanent thing and deal with it already!”

If anything, the theme of loss and sacrifice might be overdone. It annoys the heck out of me that so much is given and so little is gained, in the end. Especially at the end of the movie, which is the actual conclusion of the series.

Outside that, there’s also how so much of the background cast ends up dead. We don’t always see it, indeed it became a common thing for characters to die in ways and at times that we did not see. Then again, maybe that was just to cut down on the tragic bloodshed, because the deaths that we do see are definitely both tragic and bloody.

And if they don’t end up dead, they end up nearly insignificant. Even when they do something important, they’re still just playing second fiddle to the Elrics. This is definitely their story, and everyone else is just waltzing through it at various intervals.

So, I have some qualms with the outcome of the show, but not really with the show itself, if that makes any sense. It has action and adventure aplenty, and it examines serious questions seriously. It does not shy away from horror, but it does treat it with a certain kind of tact. It pushes things, but it never overdoes it.

The animation, artwork, and design are all beautiful and appealing. The music is nothing short of fantastic (this is another soundtrack I have been listening to ever since). The world around the story is rich and vibrant and alive. The moments of humor really are funny, and the tragedies are immortal, such as one of the most famous character deaths in all of anime.

In short, Fullmetal Alchemist is a fantastic anime. There’s a reason it’s such a classic. 🙂

Rating: 9 stars out of 10.

Grade: solid A.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #239: A Father’s Simple Devotion

“You are the love of my life. Everything I have, and everything I am, is yours. Forever.”
– Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother
Season 9, Episode 23-24, “Last Forever”

I consider it one of life’s great, humorous ironies that I found such a perfect quote for Father’s Day from 1) a character that is such a notorious womanizer, and 2) in a show that seems to have very little of such touching material, but I don’t really know because 3) I haven’t actually seen it. Thank you, YouTube.

From what I know, Barney spends the majority of the show as an unrepentant, and hilarious, womanizer. He’s had a serious relationship or two, but failed at both of them. Still, he tried to do better, be better, have a happier life in that way, so perhaps he was just finally ready when the call of fatherhood came to him. Certainly, he didn’t seem ready beforehand, but when he holds his daughter in his arms for the first time, moments after her birth… well, that sort of thing changes a man. Mind you, it only does so if he’s ready for it.

One thing about Barney seems to be how he devotes himself utterly to whatever he sets his mind to. I can only speak from clips on YouTube, but he absolutely put the whole of his energy into things like getting revenge or scoring with sexy women, and though his marriage fell apart, he was perfectly faithful to his wife, which, for such a shameless former player, speaks to his resolve to leave that life behind. So, when he becomes a father, he does so with his entire being, leaving that raucous lifestyle behind him forevermore.

These words, which he says to his daughter the first time he holds her, are the sound of him pivoting his life like a great door on the hinge of his love for her. It is the grand summary of what it means to be a father, truly.

In a word: love. A father is utterly devoted to his children, for devotion is love in action.

To be a father is to love absolutely, and to offer everything one has, large or small, in its entirety.

That includes time, effort, patience, discipline, endless caring, and so much more. It is to give and give and keep on giving.

That is not the same as giving one’s child everything they want. It is to give them what they need, for as long as one is able. That even includes withholding things when one must. Spoiling is less an act of love and more an act of convenience.

And it should here be noted… nobody is perfect, and so nobody is a perfect parent either. But a father promises everything he is in addition to everything he has. He does his best, withholding nothing of himself, even and most especially when he doesn’t really know what he’s doing, which tends to be quite often.

Perfection cannot be achieved, and it is not required to be a good father. One simply needs to be willing, and put that willingness into action as best he can, reserving nothing for himself so long as his children stand in need of it.

That is fatherhood.

I am thankful for a father who has never stopped being a father. That is tragically more than many can say.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

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This Week on TV, June 15, 2019

Spoiler Alert!

The one thing that sucks about having something to watch in the summer: it’s the only thing I have to watch in the summer. All the other seasons of anything else I might watch are all completed by now. Heck, I’m not even sure have anything left of my weekly lineup come this fall. But oh well. There’s always Netflix! (at least, for now)

Agents of Shield

6.05 “The Other Thing”

This is one of those times, I think, when two threads that seem to be so very far apart are turning out to be far more intertwined.

At the Lighthouse, Mack and Yo-Yo are having their drama, which they endure stoically because they aren’t connecting emotionally. Yo-Yo actually forms more of a rapport with Benson, the scientist guy, over how they’ve both made choices, the right choice, but it’s so painful that it feels like the wrong one. Mind you, in Benson’s case, I’d argue that taking his significant other off life support within days, instead of months, is a little different than plunging a special knife into Keller’s chest in order to kill the thing possessing him and turning him into a bomb.

Speaking of, apparently those blue knives actually do kill them, just not instantaneously. The knife paralyzes it, and eventually it expires, provided said knife is not removed, say, in the course of an autopsy. Once it finally dies and stays dead, it reverts to a sort of crystalline structure, like the one it was turning Keller’s body into, something that Benson has never seen… but Shield has: the three obelisks.

One controlled space, and was used to exile Hive to Maveth, and then used by Hydra to feed Hive, until they were able to use it to bring Hive back to Earth. The second controlled time, and was used to send the agents into the future, to learn of the impending danger to their world, and then was duplicated and used to send them back to the present, inadvertently bringing Deke along. The third was unknown, and it was destroyed alongside the other two, which destruction ripped a hole in the fabric of the universe, bringing people’s fears into the Lighthouse, and sealing that hole required a bit of gravitonium and the genius of Leopold Fitz.

Somehow, these three obelisks, of immense power, which were unearthed, stored, and used, are connected to this new threat.

Moving over to May’s corner, she is a “prisoner”of Sarge and Snowflake, and they want to recruit her. She and Sarge are a bit at odds, as he has Coulson’s face, and he wants to know about this Coulson. In his view, Coulson must have been something else, while in May’s view, Sarge is the “something else.” There are freakish similarities between what Sarge is saying and what Coulson already said, on the beach in Tahiti before he finally drifted off. But whatever the truth of this particular mystery, there is an end-of-the-world scenario in progress here, so it’s going to wait for a bit.

Sarge’s approach to recruiting seems simple enough: give May an inarguable introduction to the threat, and then provide answers to her questions.

The first part is easy. Snowflake just kidnaps one of their targets, and they leave May alone with him, after shooting him in the head. So he’s supposedly dead, but he gets up and tries to kill her, tries to possess her. Failing that, it does the same thing its fellow did with Keller’s body, powering up to explode. May uses the blue knife as instructed at that point. And that is her introduction to the threat at hand.

Sarge calls them the Shrike. They invade worlds, killing people and taking their bodies, tapping into energy. First it’s biological energy but, as Benson says, there is planetary energy as well, in the form of the ley lines. If they can take the energy within an average human body and turn it into an explosive that could take out the lighthouse, odds are that tapping into an entire planet’s energy would destroy said planet, which Sarge confirms in his talk with May. He’s been to countless worlds throughout the stars, and he’s been fighting the Shrike for a hundred years. He’s met with a lot of failure, seen a lot of worlds die, but he keeps going, and he certainly believes he has a way to end it all: kill the invading Shrike, and when their creator appears, “burn it all to Hell.”

Something tells me that might not work out for the Earth either.

Sarge is thinking May is coming around to his way of thinking, but she’s a lot stronger than that. Strong enough to get the drop on Snowflake easily, and then beat Sarge unconscious. She takes them and their truck straight to Shield.

Meanwhile in space, Daisy, Simmons, Piper, Davis, and Enoch are captured by a fleet of Confederate ships. But they’re not the Confederacy. Enoch realizes this when he recognizes that the Remmorath would just cut their ship in two, like they did a year ago. (answers one question, at least) He believes he knows who it is, and he is right: it’s the Chronicoms, led by a female-looking model called Atara (I think).

Atara wants something simple: to save their people. But it turns out to be very complicated.

They had heard whispers for some time about worlds being destroyed by something they did not know, but they were still helpless when it came to theirs. Spatial distortions were soon followed by the absolute destruction of their people and their planet. Something tells me that was the Shrike at work. The Confederacy came to pick the bones clean, but the Chronicoms resisted and took their ships, a small fleet. They are certainly formidable, which makes it all the more disquieting that their population has been reduced to the crew of this small fleet, and that is all that is left of them.

This brings us to their reason for hunting Fitz and Enoch: time travel. They know that it is real, that it was involved in the events which saved Earth from destruction. Now they want to use it to go back in time and save their own world. Seems reasonable, if also difficult, but they have no sense of care for what is not immediately useful to them. That becomes evident when Enoch convinces Atara that Fitz can help them, but they need Simmons to make that approach viable, and Atara responds by agreeing to use Fitz-Simmons… and kill the rest.

Needless to say, things do not end on a happy note on that score. It’s Simmons who steps up and offers to cooperate in exchange for the lives of her friends. Daisy doesn’t intend to allow it, but Simmons convinces her. She thanks her, and Davis, and Piper, for following her, and getting her to Fitz. Whatever happens, they’ll be together. So, now it is time for the three of them to go home, and Fitz-Simmons will see about rejoining them whenever they can.

Fitz is absolutely furious at a regretful Enoch when he hears about this, as what he ultimately wants is for Simmons to be safe and his friend just ensure the opposite, but he’s rendered unconscious anyway.

It’s a happy reunion when the Zephyr lands in the Lighthouse, but there’s a pall cast on it in the absence of Fitz-Simmons and the message from May informing them that she got Sarge. Considering how close Daisy and Coulson were, this is not going to be easy for her. It was kind of a good thing, in a way, for her to be in space while things played out on Earth. Now, she is going from losing two friends in space to seeing a familiar face as an enemy. Yeah, this is not her best day ever.

So we have Sarge, whatever he is, and whatever his connection to Coulson is, fighting the Shrike and trying to kill their creator, because they kill entire worlds, probably including the Chronicom’s, and the Shrike are connecter to the three mysterious obelisks, one of which enabled time travel, which the Chronicoms want Fitz-Simmons to make possible for them. Complicated, much? And obviously very dangerous. Thank goodness they have Shield to take on all the weird crap, which now includes multiple alien parties and the Earth poised, again, to join a long list of destroyed planets. Just another day for the agents.

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Larry Correia, Master of Storytelling

It has been years since I last added to my Masters of Storytelling collection. Sometimes you just gotta feel inspired, and I am feeling inspired now.

Larry Correia has published a number of novels, and shorter stories, and several series. I am most familiar with his Monster HuntersGrimnoir Chronicles, and Saga of the Forgotten Warrior. One is an urban fantasy, the next is a historical fiction of urban fantasy, and the third is a sci-fi fantasy. And he has more than this in his repertoire, so, he has some diverse content to choose from. With the exception of Dead Six, which seemed well done but just wasn’t my thing, I have highly enjoyed his work.

Correia writes with a style that shifts slightly between the various genres, but is always intriguing and entertaining. His attention to detail is poetic, balancing everything we need to know to be immersed in the environment and understand what the characters are going through. Said characters are interesting, and easy to appreciate as people. There are overarching themes and plots and intrigues which keep us riveted, and the worlds he creates feel alive and real. Indeed, there is a personality to his stories that makes them easy to love.

Said stories are riveting and interesting. There is plenty of action, realistically done (with adequate suspension of disbelief), and we actually care about the people involved. The heroes and villains both tend to be well-rounded and well developed, as are the relationships among all the characters. That makes the conflict, and its significance in the larger plot, all the more important to us, his readers. Speaking of, there usually is a larger conflict, some overarching conspiracy that can reach into the greatest halls of power, or even touch on a contest between cosmic entities, but it plays out in the everyday lives of normal people.

Well, I say “normal” people, and that is one thing I want to mention. We often think  of “normal” and “special” and “extraordinary” people, but in Correia’s work, the normal and the fantastic are not so different. The “chosen one” doesn’t have to be somehow “more” than a regular guy (or girl) just trying to protect what is dear to him (or her). And fantastic things don’t have to be inhuman.

Some of my favorite humorous examples of this from his Monster Hunters series: trailer park elves, noble orcs, an internet troll that is a literal troll, a geeky cyclops, and a dragon that threatens to sue instead of to eat. 🙂

Correia also never hesitates to address significant issues. Some particular recurring themes seem to be the worth of human life and freedom and family, of the hazards of segregating and classifying people like objects, the perils of forgetting history, and the danger of governments which are too powerful to be held responsible for their actions by the people they rule.

I can also say that I’ve never felt either bored or rushed while reading one of his stories. His sense of pacing is exquisite. There’s always something important happening to move the plot forward, but it’s never overdone, and we are never left hanging.

Besides all this, Correia is obviously a hard worker. I am thinking to tweak my definition of a Master to include criteria involving how long they leave their fans waiting for their next book, and the conclusion of whatever series they’ve been following. Larry Correia succeeds at that, publishing fairly frequently, and regularly, much like Brandon Sanderson and Howard Taylor, who are famous for such (and their happy rapport with their eager fans), and unlike the likes of George R.R. Martin, Jim Butcher, and Patrick Rothfuss, who are rather infamous for their failure to do so (and their unkind responses to their own eager fans).

Heh, and I take a personal delight in seeing traces, here and there, of the religion which I share with Correia, Sanderson, and Taylor. 🙂 Not in any preaching, moralizing way, mind you. Just… traces, which only someone who knows our religion is really going to appreciate. 😉

On a related note, in terms of content, Correia’s work, while meant for mature audiences, is very clean. It may acknowledge certain sordid details, but it does not dwell on them. Sexual scenes all happen off-screen, so to speak. Violence and bloodshed, there may be plenty of, but more in a realistic, relevant way, rather than in a gratuitous, nauseating manner. The language is generally clean as well, and the heroes actually act like upstanding people, instead of like egotistical jerks (usually).

About the only thing I have to skip over, really, is when he goes into lengthy details about the guns in Monster Hunters. I mean, I appreciate guns, I don’t dislike them, but, honestly, I’ve never been able to keep track in my head of which gun is which. My brain fails at cataloguing guns, cars, sports teams, etc. Stories, now, those, my brain will recall and organize and such! 🙂

Yeah, I’m not much a macho man, am I? 😉

In closing, I find Larry Correia’s work to be riveting, compelling, entertaining, and meaningful. He crafts good stories with lovable characters in worlds the feel real when you read about them. He works hard, and it shows, both in the quality and quantity of his work.

He is, in my book, a Master.

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5 Action/Adventure Anime

Blood pumping, fists flying, leaps taken, crazy stunts performed, explosions rocking!

Admit it: action is fun! 😉

We are humans, and humans have a drive to survive. ‘Tis only natural that we imitate various dangerous crises in our entertainment! We are all excited by conflict to some degree, as it speaks to our survival instincts, and we are inspired by the daring and courage and skill that our heroes display in facing down danger. It gets the adrenaline pumping!

It’s also simple and clear, in a way.

Stakes of life and death are so easy to understand, because they have an immediate, universal impact. There are no unspoken social norms to adhere to and no convoluted complications. One either survives, or not. That’s it. Compared to the delicate intricacies of human relationships, as every man from Harry Potter to Ned Stark knows, action is straightforward and honest. As such, stripped of any rules except those we impose on ourselves, a man’s character is unveiled in its entirety, in either his nobility, brutality, loyalty, or cowardice.

Small wonder we love it so much!

And our love for action naturally leads into a love of adventure.

For as long as there have been humans, we have left our home, our shelter, our cave, and we have gone out into the world to obtain something, typically food, before returning home in triumph. We are compelled to go out our front door, do something with our lives, and improve ourselves through it. When what we need to do is more than just secure our next meal, we have to go farther, and stay away longer. The longer we stay away, the more we change, for better or worse. Eventually, however, the road always leads us back home, with whatever we have obtained.

Adventure, in a nutshell.

It would seem, as we shift away from discussing the characters, their relationships, and the voices behind them, we are now discussing the stories which surround them, namely the genres. I’m very glad Action was the first one, as it is so distinct and obvious. Now, the next few categories, being Harem, Comedy, Drama, and Slice of Life, may be proving a bit more difficult, simply because they tend to bleed into one another so often. But we’ll get to those soon enough.

For now, let us bask in the fiery glow of conflict and ruin and triumph, of journeys taken and lessons learned, as found in five five action-packed adventures! 🙂

1) Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Two brothers embark on a long journey, full of perils and trials and friends and enemies, which eventually brings them face to face with an ancient evil at the heart of a most foul and deadly conspiracy.

The action is smooth and fun to watch, plain and simple. The way they incorporate alchemy into combat is entertaining and, within the realm of alchemy being real, believable. It’s a tool, as diverse and powerful as you can imagine it, built on scientific knowledge. When they manage to do more remarkable things, it’s because they have the exact means to do so, and they use it effectively. Very few people are stupid in this show, and the action is fueled by their own resolve, and their wits. Not to mention, it has some of my favorite action-oriented moments, including the best turnaround ever. In a word: “AMMONIAAAA!!” 😉

It’s a fantastic adventure as well, not only taking the protagonists to every corner of their country and sometimes beyond, but meeting all sorts of people, encountering wonders and dangers, and continually learning new things. In the end, it all comes down to what people fight for, and that, too, offers a multitude of answers. And what happens after the fighting is done? Living on.

I love that!

2) Katanagatari

A great warrior follows a cunning woman on her quest to collect twelve powerful weapons made centuries ago, fighting each of their keepers in turn, little knowing the repercussions which will inevitably follow.

The fights are well done and highly exciting, each one more so than the last. But even more, it gradually subverts the mechanism of fighting within our stories, asking questions of morality and the value of human life. At first, it is so nonchalant and cavalier that it’s comedic, but soon enough, the tragedy of any life lost becomes apparent, giving rise to more difficult, complicated themes than a simple contest of good vs evil.

All this while the main duo of Shichika and Togame travel around a wondrous landscape, visiting places in various states of decay or decline, yet leaving behind a spark of renewal in one or two places. Shichika grows tremendously through this journey, becoming a much more developed, thoughtful, and well-rounded character. And that is what adventure is for: growth and improvement.

3) Cowboy Bebop

In the far future, a pair of bounty hunters travels the solar system, just trying to make ends meet as they encounter a multitude of insane, dangerous enemies.

The fighting, and the action in general, is very well done and largely realistic. That gives a greater weight and tension to the climactic fights, and it also makes the more everyday fights more gripping and thrilling. Anyone can pose a threat, and when one man takes on a veritable army, his victory is anything but assured.

Unlike my other picks, though, this is ultimately a tragedy. The protagonists are self-destructive, and they lose most everything they hold dear, including each other. The final triumph comes not in a hero walking away from a fight alive, and not even in how he vanquished his enemy, but in dying in peace. It’s the ultimate journey through the hardships of life, and the ultimate return through death. It is the ultimate adventure: to live, and die.

4) My Hero Academia

A young man’s journey to becoming the greatest hero of his generation, inheriting mantle of his teacher.

Out of all of my picks, this one probably has the most intelligent fights. Some are very short, and few are very long. Why? Because the various superpowers are used effectively, instead of just dramatically. The simple determination of the characters is actually relevant as it motivates their extraordinary accomplishments, but it’s not a superpower unto itself, anymore than mere strength decides a fight. It’s the use of one’s wits, one’s ability to analyze and adapt, paired with one’s endurance, which decides the day. It is exceptionally well done.

At the same time, the main character, Deku, both learns and demonstrates what it means to be a hero. That is the heart and soul of the story: what it means to be heroic, or villainous. The idea of heroism itself is subverted and questioned, as is people’s understanding of and fascination with it, as well as what can be most appropriately called, “hero worship.” There  are lessons, and losses, and triumphs, and tragedies. That is how one grows.

5) Trigun

An outlaw with a huge bounty on his head brings justice and mercy to a savage, barren wasteland of a planet, surviving with just his wits and his gun, and a friend or two, all while a most nefarious evil from his own past closes in, seeking nothing less than the annihilation of all of humanity.

Just how many crazy people with crazy weaponry can there be on one sand-covered planet where civilization is scarcely one step removed from the wild, blasted sands around it? Nevertheless, they are met by an even crazier man with an even crazier gun, who happens to be benevolent. So within context, and with a bit of leeway for the hero’s extreme precision, the fights are actually quite realistic, if also displayed with a bit of dramatic flair. In the contest of survival, the hero believes that everyone should win, and that is what he fights for.

And that is also the heart of his adventures. Everything he believes is contested by both friends and enemies alike, as he moves from place to place in an endless wandering. In the end, he himself has to question the ideals he has always espoused, and the result is neither letting go of them, nor clinging too closely. It is an experience wherein he finally, at long last, grows up, and finds his own center, instead of using someone else’s. Thus does his adventure have meaning.

really enjoyed these five action-packed adventures. 🙂

So, what would you pick? What are some of your favorite action anime? What are some of your favorite adventures?

Posted in 30-Day Anime Pick 5 Challenge, Anime and Cartoons, Challenge Accepted | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Anime Review: Samurai 7

Have I mentioned how much I want to see Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai? Well, I do. I really want to see it. All I’ve heard about it is amazing, and I’ve seen two, maybe three, of Kurosawa’s other films, so I know his work is legendary for a reason, and that film is hailed as his single greatest work. I’ve encountered so many stories which have been influenced by it, not least of which are the Magnificent Seven westerns, but never the original. Oh, how much I want to see that movie!

That urge is not at all dampened by Samurai 7, an anime reimagining of the classic.

The basic story is more or less the same, I think: poor farmers hire seven great warriors to defend them from the local bandits who have been preying on them, taking their food, their women, and anything else they want. The situation proves to be a bit more complex and intricate, though, and the conflict snowballs into what can only be justly called a war. The depths of each warrior’s soul, along with some others, is plumbed and revealed as the plot advances and the characters are developed. Several of the warriors die, but the war is won, and, in the end, as life goes on, it is the farmers, rather than the warriors, who are truly victorious.

That is the core of most of the seven-warrior stories I’ve encountered. Everything surrounding it, however, can be changed in surprising ways. The exact nature of each warrior, for instance, and how they come to join the effort of protecting the farmers. The quality of their skills, their weaponry, can also change. The bandits can be altered as well, as can the entire setting, the world around it. All of this can be changed, while remaining true to the spirit of the story.

What’s that old saying? The more things change, the more they stay the same? Maybe that’s why, and how, we can tell this story so many times, in so many ways. That is the draw of making something science fiction, or fantasy, or anything else: it’s still about us, and our lives.

“He’s a blogger, and a philosopher!”

In this particular instance, we have the remote Kanna Village, sitting on a great, forested shaft of stone surrounded by canyons. Here, the villagers live their humble, hard-working lives with almost nothing but the land itself to their name. They are continually harassed and robbed by huge, robotic bandits, called the Nobuseri, who take their precious rice, and sometimes take the most beautiful women as well. Resistance elsewhere has always been met with a swift and devastating response, as the bandits have huge guns and swords and strong bodies made of metal.

Having had enough, but in despair of what to do, the villagers decide to hire samurai, with only their humble rice to offer in exchange. And so they send their water priestess, blessed with the power to dowse for water and divine truths, to find such men as will come and might succeed in saving them.

This brings us to the seven samurai themselves: an old veteran who has never won a war, and lost tremendously in the Great War a number of years earlier; a former-samurai turned entertainer, quick to make people smile but a bit addicted to the thrill of danger and shedding his own blood; a drifter who has more in common with engineers than other samurai, but has a deep appreciation for the blessings of life, and a deep shame for a past misdeed; an old comrade of the first samurai, a skilled and capable vice-leader, friendly and capable with people, who has a happy life waiting for him if his loyalty to his friends doesn’t get him killed first; a young, hotheaded amateur who aspires to become a great samurai, and grows tremendously, and learns many difficult lessons along the way; a cold-blooded loner, the best fighter of them all, enigmatic and dangerous; a very, very loud-mouthed fool, very large and strong and frank and lacking every capability of subtlety, but honest and pure in surprising ways, and he used to be a farmer before he became a machine samurai.

“We are samurai. We are badass. We are dramatic.”

Yes, about that last: apparently this world has floating fortresses, robots, and it’s possible for a man to become a machine. This is the origin of the Nobuseri, as they were once flesh-and-blood samurai themselves. It’s not really explained how the transition works.

In fact, that’s something of a point against the show: transitions suddenly happen and there is little in the way of explanation about it. There’s a coupling in the works from the beginning, between the water priestess and a samurai, but suddenly it changes to be another samurai she is fascinated with. There’s a minor villain early on who concerns himself with little more than adding to his harem, but suddenly he’s not only a capable, cunning villain, but the ruler of all the land and the final, overarching villain of the show. The hothead samurai grows progressively as the show goes on, but suddenly he’s a full-fledged samurai warrior, wielding techniques we’ve never seen him learn anything about. That sort of thing.

The lack of explanations, of sense, is particularly pronounced when one considers how long and drawn out the show is. They take their time recruiting the samurai, and even when they have seven, they don’t acknowledge all seven as part of the seven until just before the fight with the Nobuseri bandits. Then they fight the bandits, and deal damage, and trick them, and bring down their floating fortress. And then they have a few bandits survive… no, wait, make that a notable force of bandits surviving the fortress exploding around them, and the fight drags on. And then they go into rescuing the kidnapped girls and the convoluted setup of the final confrontation.

Basically, there’s a bit of a pacing issue.

And where the show ends with the victory of the farmers, it kind of did so with the absolute destruction of the reigning powers that be. This may have been necessary, but what the heck happened to the rest of the empire afterward? We never see it, the show ends there.

Seriously, who would not go to war for her?

Yet, for all these flaws, I find that I love most of the characters. With exception to the pissant who becomes emperor, I enjoy their many experiences immensely. Even the loudmouth, which would usually annoy me to no end, is sweet and endearing in his way, so honest and wearing his heart on his sleeves. The drifter’s calm attitude and cheerful disposition make him another of my favorites. The honor and compassion of the samurai leader, the sweet candor of the little girl priestess, the silent resolve of the loner, they’re all endearing in some way. And I found that I could never look at the water priestess without noticing how beautiful she is, and the strength of her spirit. Heck, even the Nobuseri bandits had something redemptive to them, and I couldn’t help but feel for them, given their eventual fate.

The story may be so very slow, but it is also compelling and intricate. What is more appealing to the masses than a story about the masses, the poor people who have been pushed to the brink and beyond, actually doing something about it? What is more riveting than a story where the weak and submissive become strong and defiant? That their growth is guided by noble warriors is the same as us, being taught by the story. Then to reach further, higher, to have the warriors grasp at the root and crown of the corruption which festers in the land, and rip it out, in the defense of humble, everyday folk, is inspiring.

It’s a samurai story, an epic about survival, honor, and freedom, and that is not such a bad thing.

All that said, having mentioned both my compliments and my complaints, there is a lot about the show that is fairly standard. The design, artwork, animation, combat, world-building, English dubbing, soundtrack, all nice enough, though not outstanding. It’s not always exciting, but not always boring either. Heck, even the names of the characters (have you noticed I haven’t used any in this entire review?) are kind of “meh.” They don’t stand out that much, even from each other. Which is odd, to like several of them so much while still confusing their names. But oh well.

Samurai 7 is a good anime. Not great, as it might have been with a bit of streamlining and refinement, but good. It tells an interesting story featuring lovable characters, and it took on quite a task, re-imagining one of the most classic movies of all time.

Rating: 7 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Minus.

…now if I can just get my hands on that movie…

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Dark Phoenix

Robert Jordan began and ended almost all of his iconic Wheel of Time novels with the words, “It wasn’t the beginning. But it was a beginning.” In a similar vein, one could say of Fox’s latest X-Men movie, like unto Logan before it, and possibly New Mutants after it (if they ever release that one), “It wasn’t the ending. But it was an ending.” That holds especially true in regards to the transition of the entire franchise between studios. The movie itself comments on that, to the effect of, “This isn’t the end, but a new beginning.”

Dark Phoenix is… well, it’s alright.

Logan was a much better capstone, and, really, a better movie. Dark Phoenix was certainly an improvement over First ClassLast Stand, and the other Wolverine movies. It was also a step down from X2, more in the caliber of Days of Future Past or Apocalypse, yet somehow a bit more lackluster than either, no matter the CGI involved. For all that it delved deeply into the characters of Jean Grey and her mentor, Professor X, and had some good action sequences, it suffers from an overall by-the-numbers texture.

The story is, basically, Jean gets exposed to this almighty cosmic force that increases her power exponentially but shatters her self-control. She uncovers some truths that were kept from her, and her loss of control has devastating consequences. Some mutants want to kill her, others want to save her, some brand new aliens (who were probably meant to be Skrulls, a classic X-Men enemy) enter the fray intent on controlling the power within Jean, to devastating purpose, and the humans generally want to beat everyone else and end up getting in the way. Eventually, Jean gains control and evolves into the Phoenix. And… that’s it.

Now, it does tell a very emotional tale, no doubt about that. There are significant, important things which happen, things that can’t just be swept under the rug. And the actors generally portray their characters, their emotions and their choices, very well. Sophie Turner is especially great in the lead role. James McAvoy also does well as Professor X, but, really, Professor X was also very annoying and egotistical this time around, until he finally ate the humble pie he was being served. Each of the supporting cast did phenomenally as well, as the line between friend and enemy blurred in very human ways.

“Our acting was definitely *not* the problem with this movie, and I dare you to say otherwise to this face.”

The fights, also, were exceptionally well done. Indeed, these might be the best, most intelligent, and best-choreographed fights I’ve yet seen in the franchise. It was unusual, for instance, and fantastic, to see Professor X actually involved in the fighting in his way. That is a rare thing, and a good step for his development in this movie. The lineup on opposing sides were well-matched and they fought well, instead of, say, pitting a handful against a hundred and calling it good.

Oh, and the effects were amazing.

Yet, for what might have been a thrilling action drama, it fell short. It centered on the most important people, and those were the only ones who were really important. The humans, especially the soldiers? Red shirts, quickly disposed of. (and how did that one that Nightcrawler tried to save get hurt? I didn’t see how that happened) The new mutants of Magneto’s brotherhood? Same thing. (just when we were starting to like them, and, of course, they went from enemy to friend in a heartbeat) The aliens? Ditto. Which would leave the mutants standing alone in the middle of a bunch of ruin, and somehow things just go back to normal?

It had bad things happen just because. It had good things happen just because. It had Professor X make a calamitous error just because. It had things going well, despite the events of Apocalypse just because. It had an instantaneous turn-around after one single incident just because, and then things worked out just because.

…just because…

Inciting incident, things seem good, they go bad, they go really bad, complications are introduced right on cue, the protagonist rebels against authority and is seduced by an enemy in disguise, then she pretty much just snaps out of it and becomes a godlike being all at once, and all the main characters live, except one heroic sacrifice earlier on, while everyone else involved dies. And it all feels very by the numbers. Nothing really remarkable.

Did I like it? Yeah. Did I enjoy it? Yes. It was good. Just not really great, which we know this franchise is fully capable of.

Ah, well, at least now it’s going into the hands of Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige. It’ll be a few years, and there’s no telling how they’ll do it, but we’re all looking forward to the entrance of mutants into the MCU! 🙂

As for Dark Phoenix: it tried to do something great, and it did some good things with characters and action, but the plot and themes and such were all just normal. Even the music was like the movie around it: good, but predictable.

Rating: 7 stars out of 10.

Grade: C-Plus.

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