The Sakura Cyber-Nuclear Book Bomb

I know absolutely nothing about this book, but I am a sentimental sort and this is for a good cause, so I’ll help publicize it a little. I hope we all like it! 😉

Follow the link below!

http://monsterhunternation.com/2019/02/20/cyber-nuclear-book-bomb-sakura-intellectual-property-by-zach-hill/

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Anime Review: Servant x Service

Somewhat continuing this month’s Valentine-inspired theme of love stories, we have a slice of life dramatic comedy which follows a group of civil servants in their day-to-day lives, as well as the developing relationships among them.

Servant x Service is one of those anime that surprises you with how much fun it is. I mean, it sounds like it should be fairly dull, really. Just following the employees of some public town office? That ought to be boring! But it’s not. It’s hilarious.

Exciting, no. Hilarious, yes.

The setup is used fairly often these days: use a public work space, often in a service industry, add characters, give them a dash of quirks and issues, and see what happens. The characters and their relationships, both friendships and couplings, will develop in slow, small ways as they go about life in a setting that, for being so normal, turns into a surprising box of crazy as long as these people are in it.

Naturally,  with the setting fairly normal and the plot fairly slow, the most critical element is the characters. We need to like them, feel for them, understand them, and maybe even see a bit of ourselves in them.

Leading the cast, more or less, is Lucy Yamagami. She’s disciplined, capable, hard-working, an avid bookworm, and mostly grounded and reasonable. (and she is… generously endowed, we shall say) The one issue she always loses her head over is her name. When she was born, her parents asked for suggestions, got a number of them, and used all of them. So she has about a millions nicknames, which she was always teased about and has become quite sensitive over it. Her parents were generally good, though, so she restricts herself from lashing out at them, and she refuses to simply change her name for their sake. Instead, she wants to find the civil servant who simply approved her name without questioning her parents about it and complain. This is why she became a civil servant in the first place: to take revenge on someone.

Next to Lucy comes Yutaka Hasebe. He is a genius, learning and mastering things with relative ease, but always taking it easy. He doesn’t take most things seriously and seems more devoted to slacking off than anything else. Still, he gets his work done, he helps others, and he has a multitude of surprising depths and skills. In many ways, he and Lucy are perfect for each other, complementing and completing each other to find balance.

Yes, Lucy and Hasebe are the main couple of the show, and they are adorable both as a couple and as individuals. As for the rest of the central cast:

Saya Miyoshi, a friend and coworker, is calm and patient, spending an inordinate amount of time listening to a little old lady who eventually arranges for her to meet her grandson. The man, Joji Tanaka, is generally professional in his behavior and very responsible… a little too much so, as he is still obsessed, a good decade or so later, after a minor offense he gave to Hasebe and still wants to make right in ludicrous proportion. That’s when we see Miyoshi shine, because while she is long-suffering, when she puts her foot down, she is immovable and unyielding. It’s a good combination for tempering Tanaka’s more extreme flaws without simply demolishing him outright.

Megumi Chihaya is quiet and intelligent, a long-running temp who loves to make clothes and cosplay. She clearly wears the pants in her “secret” relationship with Taishi Ichiya, a largely-spineless supervisor who is more concerned with imperious little sister Toko than anything else. Toko, in turn, has a fascination with public service laws which is more about being around her brother than most anything else, and who remains devoutly clueless of her brother’s relationship with Chihaya. It’s an unorthodox three-way relationship, to be sure, but one which has been working thus far, albeit in a strange way. To be sure, dealing with the siblings and their issues takes a quiet, enduring attitude, combined with a firm insistence that things move forward at some point.

Finally, the district manager of the entire office is so shy that he comes into work as a remote-controlled stuffed bunny, so we never actually see him, though we do meet his daughter, one of Toko’s friends from school.

So, that’s three couples and a few extras. You see why I’m reviewing this in February. 😉

Out of these three couples, I love all three mostly because of how good for each other they all are. I also like how real they felt, having disagreements and misunderstandings which could be believed and which add… not necessarily tension, because the show does not do tension, but flavor. Flavor is good.

And… that really sums up the anime as a whole, already. Thirteen episodes, and not much at all happens in them, really. Yet it’s fun and entertaining, though generally in a very low-key way. It doesn’t tell much of a story beyond how these characters began, but it leaves off in such a way that feels fulfilling. The couplings may all come about in an unusual manner, but they’re oddly satisfying and feel right by the end, leaving off on a hopeful note that everyone can be happy, though that won’t always be easy.

Servant x Service may seem a bit slow in its pace, but it’s amusing and doesn’t overdo the drama. It has enjoyable relationships and believable, healthy couplings. I like it, quite well. 🙂

Rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Plus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #222: Moderate Your Modesty

“It’s not good to look down on yourself, but it’s also a bit rude to the people around you.”
– Megumi Chihaya, Servant x Service
Episode 9, “Do you have it? Mental Capacity and the Accumulation of Feelings”

The woman who says this has some experience with people looking down on themselves. Her boyfriend, for instance, often seems to think that others must view him in some sort of negative light. Now one of her coworkers is questioning if she’s good enough or stylish enough or whatever to be in this upscale clothing shop that Chihaya has brought her to. I mean, this shop is full of gowns and such, while she just wears jeans and plain shirts. That’s when Chihaya says this, and it just struck me how true it is.

Modesty can be a tricky thing.

Lots of people build themselves up, bragging and boasting and swaggering around like they own the world, and while that is annoying, modesty is often looked down on. As for those who do try to practice it, they tend toward self-deprecating comments. They can’t even take a compliment, like, you say, “You look so pretty,” and they respond with a list of perceived flaws in their appearance. And it is all too common for people to rag on themselves in thought and in conversation.

But self-deprecation can be as sad and annoying as boasting.

It’s not vain to simply accept a sincere compliment. It’s what someone else sees in you, after all, and they just voiced a positive judgment of what they see, so isn’t it discourteous to just blithely dismiss that? If they see something good, then insulting yourself insults them too. The same is true when you constantly question if you’re good enough for such-and-such. If someone gives you their time and attention, it’s just annoying if you constantly think you aren’t good enough for it, ya know?

So, modesty, I think, is just like any other virtue: it needs to be practiced in moderation. Balance is the key, always balance.

Refusing to puff ourselves up is not the same thing as endlessly bringing ourselves down. We are good enough for (fill-in-the-blank), especially if we keep striving to improve ourselves, and self-improvement is like digging in a mine. It begins after we find something we want, and it continues only as long as we keep finding it.

Let me just end with voicing an apology to my friends, who have endured my own self-deprecation on numerous occasions. I am very sorry, and I will strive to do better, partially for myself, and partially for you, who have already considered me worth your time and effort. Thank you. You help me be a better person.

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This Week on TV, Feb. 16, 2019

Spoiler Alert!

Between Gotham and The Gifted, this was a pretty potent week. More so on The Gifted as disaster strikes again, ever harder and harder. Gotham was pretty pointed, but it also felt like… I dunno, maybe like things were rushed or someone was resting on their laurels of how epic they are, so why bother with the details, eh? Still, it was fun, and with only a few episodes left in the series, it certainly isn’t slowing down!

The Gifted

2.14 “calaMity”

What is the most dangerous thing to any regime, especially a tyranny? Dissension within the ranks. It does not matter if that dissension is peaceful, open, or even deliberate, it sows doubt and may fester into defiance and disobedience. Reeva intends to turn mutants into her regime, and so any significant force among them which does not conform to her will must be eliminated. What little is left of the Underground has been severely crippled, and now it’s the Morlocks’ turn.

The connection between Reeva and Ryan, Inner Circle and Purifiers, is explained. He runs the Purifiers now, but he was just another has-been nobody just a few years ago. Then Reeva came to him with an offer, and the Inner Circle made him what he is, and thus, she has the Purifiers on her puppet strings now, not only stoking the hatred which fuels her army, but using them to further her own agenda. The Purifiers serve a mutant. How hilarious is that?

Reeva selects Turner for the job of leading the Purifiers in wiping out the peaceful families who hide in sewers and do nothing worse than steal what they need to survive. The Morlocks seem to be an open secret, but also something of a legend, like a ghost which no one could ever quite catch hold of. Despite the pronounced lack of violence committed by the Morlocks (not like that ever stopped Turner from hunting the Underground and every other mutant in the country), Ryan sells the Morlocks to Turner as terrorists, and tasks him with taking a team into the sewers to wipe them out. Turner hesitates, not out of any concern for the mutants as people, but because it’s virtually guaranteed that some of the men he takes down there will die, which does not sit well with him. But Ryan, again at Reeva’s direction, offer Turner a juicy reward for a job well done: the chance to run Sentinel Services however he likes, morphing it from what it is into what he envisions it could be.

Classic use of both the carrot and the stick.

So Turner talks to his people, and does  not mince words. He makes it clear that this is dangerous, going into the dark to hunt “monsters” on their own turf. He admits that he’s scared, but he’s going anyway. So he seems to be straight with the Purifiers while relating to them and demonstrating the same courage he’s asking for. It works, a good team’s worth of men volunteer, and they suit up. Most of the Purifiers will surround the exits (thank you, Clarice, for being available for evacuations!), but a few good men… make that a few capable men… will go in and slaughter everyone they see “for their daughter, grandson, father, country, species, future, etc.”

One of Turner’s volunteers is Stan, the guy who recruited him, and who successfully murdered a teenager in a youth home because Turner had his back. He’s keen on returning the favor, because even murderers can have a sense of honor and this is how they tell themselves that they aren’t monsters, but Turner is reluctant. In his place, I’d say Stan ought to hang back just in case something happens to Turner himself, so they still have someone to lead them. Then again, were I in Turner’s place, I  probably would have just left Stan to burn for murdering a kid anyway, so what do I know? He takes Stan with them.

Hm, it occurs to me that Turner doesn’t have many friends, but Stan probably qualifies as the best one he has right now.

The Morlocks detect the intrusion easily enough, and their defenses hold for a moment, purchasing precious time. But Turner is crafty and has much experience hunting mutants, and he has an actual map of the tunnels to work with. When things start going bad, he rallies his men capably and leads them, with dissension silenced, further into the fray. Erg and his people handle themselves well, and with some skill, as they are in their element. They’re also not entirely stupid, using Clarice to evacuate everyone who can’t fight. But against a troop of armed humans, and especially Turner, it’s just not enough. The Morlocks make just a couple of critical errors, mostly in their overconfidence and falling for a few of Turner’s tricks. Blood  is shed on both sides, but it is the humans who win the day in a terrible slaughter.

This is the flip side of the truth which Erg, Clarice, and the Morlocks have devoted themselves to. They were right: the fight above ground was not their concern, and they were able to freely be themselves underground, and sometimes fighting with John’s zeal is stupid more selfish than it seems. But they were also wrong: the Inner Circle was their enemy all along, and in failing to stop them earlier, they were just waiting their turn to be slaughtered, even if they didn’t realize it. Clarice was right about fighting for a lost cause, but she was also wrong, because the fighting for the lost cause is about fighting for the people, and she does not hesitate to help people now.

On which note, they could have utilized her abilities more effectively. Seriously, her portals are perfectly capable of being used on both sides, so they could have evacuated twice as fast as they did. Even with having to take a moment to convince some of the more reluctant and afraid, as with the child whom she confesses that this (not the Underground) is the first place she has truly belonged. Mind you, they did need to pace themselves a little, but they didn’t all need to be taken in vehicles, ya know?

Speaking of, Clarice called Marcos for help instead of John, but she got them both, and the Struckers as well, anyway. It’s a potent personal powder keg of emotions that they’re dealing with, but John makes himself clear. He’s angry, very much so, that Clarice left, and joined the Morlocks. He understands a bit of Marcos’ anger towards Lorna in that light. But, even so, he is not a man to hold a grudge against her just for doing what she believes she must. He loves her, and he will always be there for her. Anytime she needs help, she calls him, and he comes. It’s that simple. Simple, and powerful.

It had to be like Hell, watching Clarice go back into danger to get everyone else out, knowing what might happen. But that’s the thing about heroes. It may be fear, or despair, or loss, or lust for power, but everyone has a darkness within them. Heroes face their darkness head-on, without hiding from it or lying about it.

Lauren Strucker, in that light, is a wonderful hero. As the serum works its way through her system, suppressing her power and her darkness both, she is suffering both physically and psychologically, even spouting German at some point like someone possessed. Not pleasant.

Her suffering, her darkness made manifest, sparks intense conversation between her parents, and Cait is very unhappy with the situation, least of all because of her inadvertent contribution to it. She has to recognize that, and she does, heeding this remarkable wake-up call, this live demonstration of her own darkness having taken root in her daughter. She’s remorseful, sorry for what she’s done, seeing that she took things too far, perhaps partially because she’s the only non-mutant of the group.

When the call to help the Morlocks comes through, the Struckers don’t hesitate, and Lauren insists on coming along. The serum can’t last forever, and even if it could, she intends to face the darkness head-on. She’s aware of it now, and that gives her an advantage. Heh, reminds me of those stories where a monster is subdued once its name is known. Knowledge is power, and to know what you are dealing with is to gain power over it.

Seeing his daughter facing their family’s darkness inspires Reed to do the same. It’s not only children who learn from their parents, after all, and Reed has spent too long trying to run and hide from the situation. No more. He’s going to face it head-on and that will be that.

First, however, they have a crisis to deal with. They cram everyone they can into as many cars as they have, with the rest fleeing on foot even as cops are closing in all around them.

The Purifiers may have been unsteady for a moment, but in that critical moment, they rallied and set a trap, which the Morlocks, overconfident on their own turf, fell into. The attack team was slaughtered to a man, with no ready defense left to be engaged. So it’s an all-out evacuation as the last defenders purchase as much time as possible, every second bought with their blood, their lives… their deaths.

Erg stands forth as the protector of his people, but Turner’s cunning guides the fanatical Purifiers on, and the Morlocks fall in a hail of bullets. He’s the last man standing, his friends dead all around him. But everyone else gets out, Erg carrying the last one, a little girl, through Clarice’s portal, shielding her with his own body. Clarice, now known as Blink, is the last one… and she’s shot in the back before she gets out.

She’s so close. So close to escape, to safety, to John. A little of her blood stains the ground on the other side, but she falls, and the portal closes with the end of her life.

This show does not take it easy on its heroes.

And Turner is there, standing amidst mutant corpses, with a few of his comrades hurt or dead, victorious… holding a teddy bear, fallen from a little girl’s hand, with an “M” on its cheek.

Congratulation, Turner. Another massacre of innocent people who offered you no harm. Well done. May your Hell be especially warm. I imagine it will feel that way if he ever discovers the truth of what he just did and what he’s always done.

The Morlocks are driven and scattered with no real refuge to go to, hunted above ground now, where there is nowhere to hide. Erg and the Underground are all they have left, and they all just lost another of their best.

About the only good news is that Lorna’s cover isn’t blown just yet, but even that came at a price.

Reeva suspected a traitor after the disappearance and death of one of their number, and she took appropriate measures, but she wasn’t quite thorough enough in her investigation. Everyone was on edge, and Lorna was trying to not die, but Reeva and the Frosts got the wrong girl. It turns out, they can’t really read Sage’s mind, so her innocence can’t be proven once they find that how her login was used. Reeva, being Reeva, doesn’t hesitate: she kills Sage outright with her power.

And now Lorna has to live with how her actions didn’t cost her life, but the life of a friend.

And things are still coming to a head. With the finale coming up, we have fleeing Morlocks, fallen friends, Cait shooting at cops and plowing her car between their cruisers, Lauren and Reed pledging to face their dangerous powers head-on, and Reeva’s terrible plot soon to come to fruition. The Inner Circle has devastated their opposition and holds all the cards… with exception to one or maybe two aces in the hole.

This is going to be explosive.

Gotham

5.06 “Stitches”

We’ll start off on Penguin’s side of things. It’s much shorter and simpler.

Penguin comes home from somewhere to find a thief in his vault. She’s a crazy little thing, this Magpie, steals a large diamond and leaves Penguin a replica that explodes. He’s not exactly happy about this, so he goes to the best thief he knows for help: Selina.

Selina is not enjoying her newfound celebrity status as the girl who supposedly killed Jeremiah. Now every punk and thug on the streets wants to take her down just to beef up their own street cred. Stupid, of course, because 1) killing Jeremiah ought to give her a free pass anywhere and unlimited free drinks, after what he’s done to Gotham, and 2) anyone who could kill that clown and walk away from it is clearly not to be taken lightly.

Penguin sees that bit for himself in the form of two guys fleeing in screaming terror, sans a finger from each of them. And here I didn’t think he could really get unsettled by something like that, after everything he’s already done.

Selina is reluctant at first, partially out of self-interest, and partially because he killed Tabitha, her mentor. He convinces her to overlook that second part by appealing to her principles of an eye for an eye. Tabitha killed his mother, so he took revenge. Mind you, I seem to recall said revenge first involving killing his own friend, Butch, first, so the scales ought to be balanced against Penguin now anyway, but moving on. As for getting something out of it, Selina wants the diamond in exchange for her help, and she holds Penguin’s reputation hostage for it. Either she gets it, or Magpie gets away with stealing from him. He agrees.

They find Magpie, but this is a criminal in Gotham we’re talking about: she has tricks up her sleeve. In particular, anything in the midst of her treasure horde could be a bomb. She slips out and locks them in.

During the impromptu time out, Selina luxuriates on a chair and puts some things together. Why does Penguin’s diamond, and the horde she realizes he has, matter so much? It’s not worth much on Gotham, so obviously Penguin means to leave Gotham. Evidently, he feels that there is nothing left for him to do in a city he’s conquered multiple times. I would disagree, especially now that it needs rebuilding, but whatever, he’s leaving. Selina doesn’t want to stay in they city either, not with everyone wanting to kill the woman who killed Jeremiah. So, a deal is struck: she gets them out of Magpie’s lair, and he helps her leave the city, with ten percent of his fortune. (she wanted half)

You know how the simple solutions are sometimes the best? Selina fulfills her part of the bargain, securing safe passage out of Gotham and a small fortune for herself, by kicking the door open. Magpie never said it was booby-trapped, after all. Heh, you go, Selina! 🙂

Back to Penguin’s vault they go, to find that Magpie has been hit with a trap that Penguin set up before he left to pursue her. She’s helpless in the ground, a round of buckshot in her. Penguin kills her without a second thought, which shocks Selina (huh, they both surprise each other, and they’re oddly equals), but her new partner is her way out, so, she’s not keen to press the issue.

And now, back over to… everyone else.

Gordon is on the run…

ADD Moment: it suddenly strikes me, how has Gordon stayed in a suit this entire time after Gotham’s fall into ruin and chaos? Seems a little impractical to be running for one’s life or living in a war zone in a suit and tie, ya know?

…with puppet-Nygma in hot pursuit. Gordon’s injured, they scuffle, and with how precise and efficient his movements are now, while he’s under control, I can see how he’d slaughter entire gangs single-handed. Nygma never moved like that before. But Gordon gets some working refibrillator paddles and electrocutes the Riddler back to his senses (or what qualifies as such for someone like him).

ADD Moment: when did Gordon learn about electricity shorting out the chip?

With Riddler back to himself, the two men go for some desperately-needed help.

Back at the GCPD, it takes Bruce and Alfred about two seconds to realize something is badly wrong. Bruce notices that it’s just a bunch of soldiers cleaning house, rather than any incoming shipments of supplies. Alfred notices the tattoo which indicates which unit this is, and remembers from his military career that this troop is better at assassinations and upending regimes than relief missions. They dare to voice some questions that the soldiers find inconvenient, so they’re escorted somewhere out of sight… and before they get shot or some some such, they strike first and make their escape.

Eduardo, soon to be Bane, catches up to Gordon at Barbara’s place. She gives her help freely, with some tension between her and Gordon that Riddler wisely removes himself from proximity to, and just in the nick of time. When the soldiers come in, Riddler makes an entrance, pretending to still be under control. Some unspoken teamwork and quick thinking, and they’re safely out, with Eduardo’s team taking the losses.

ADD Moment: ok, these elite soldiers can’t hit three targets that are standing still, and they fail to pursue a trio that has just a couple of pistols between them?

Back to GCPD again, where Eduardo wants every man on the hunt for Gordon. To keep their prisoners compliant enough not to need guards, he “moves to Phase 2.” He executes a random pair of criminals, and when Bullock objects, all of the cops are locked up with the criminals. Now that manpower is no longer an issue, Eduardo uses his ace in the hole: a hostage with a bag over her head is brought in. And that answers the question of Lee’s whereabouts.

Of course, we can see it coming a mile away that she has a chip in her head, too. Strange patched both her and Riddler up, she’s been missing, she has no memory, yeah, easy to see coming. But we’ll get there in just another moment.

Bruce and Alfred got together with Gordon, Barbara, and Riddler, and they brought Fox with them to remove the chip. Amusing word salad ensues, but it goes well. Fox analyzes it immediately and finds audio recordings of the orders Riddler was given, which traces right back to Walker. It’s a bit frazzled with the chip’s damage, but workable, easy to make public. Well, if they have an antenna, which, the only one they know is at the GCPD.

When Eduardo calls Gordon with his hostage, Gordon turns it into an opportunity. He lures Eduardo and his escort away, thinning the guard at the precinct. Riddler walks in with a bomb suit and a fake bomb, keeping everyone busy and in suspense while the rest of the team is working. Bruce rewires a panel on the roof, taking out a guard in the process, to reverse the direction the fans are blowing, allowing the others to gas the entire troop all at once. It goes off mostly without a hitch, except that Bullock solves Riddler’s thrown-together riddle, not knowing he’s actually an ally an not an enemy at the moment, and nearly gets them all killed. Seriously, the one time his knowledge of something not generally well known comes in handy is the one time it’s counterproductive. Heh.

Gordon and Eduardo fight, of course, and Gordon wins…

ADD Moment: did they have to rush this episode or something? Because it feels like there’s a bunch of ways that they didn’t even try. The fight between these two warrior and former comrades, for instance. There was an emotional intensity, but the physical intensity was a bit lackluster, ya know?

Gordon wins, leaves Eduardo impaled, and takes Lee to the precinct. They broadcast the truth to Bruce’s media contacts outside Gotham, and the ball starts rolling so quickly that Walker herself shows up that very evening, complete with a mask for Eduardo to turn him into Bane.

It turns out, she found him in a remote prison hellhole, the only one among Gordon’s old comrades to survive it, and survive having been abandoned by their government. She got him out and he became her warrior. They were close to convincing the higher ups to let them storm the city and purge the criminals from it, but then Haven convinced them to hold off on that and just start sending in supplies, so they blew up Haven. There’s some kind of mission, some objective that they mean to fulfill. No idea what it is. But for having burned them, Walker activates Lee’s chip, with instructions to kill Gordon.

Lee is just trying to piece together her memory and come to terms with what’s been going on in her absence in order to help Gordon and Gotham through the crisis at hand. The chip activates, and, rather satisfyingly after we all saw it coming, Gordon shocks it within moments and that is that.

After, while they’re all trying to figure things out, Barbara comes in and tells Gordon she’s pregnant with his baby.

awkward!

Finally, while Alfred is out fetching supplies for a night over at the precinct, he suddenly feels an encroaching danger. Jeremiah still gets the drop on him and takes him to Wayne Manor. He says something abut this being a big day, and the episode ends.

So, it seems like a pretty solid win for the good guys, but don’t be counting the bad guys out just yet.

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After Game of Thrones: Ideas for HBO

It is no secret that HBO’s Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, is coming to its final conclusion this year. While the last novel or two is taking its sweet time getting published, the TV show will be having its final finale in just a couple of months. As with most every other ending, this one comes with the accompanying question:

What’s next?

For Martin and HBO, the answer seems to lie in the further exploitation of this same fantasy universe. Martin just began publishing a prequel series, I believe, while HBO and fans alike have been tossing around similar ideas.

Myself, I don’t intend to ask what other GoT-related property might they pursue. I ask what else coul they feasibly do? I figure even the best franchises can only be continually milked for so long. The clever man is always on the lookout for brand new ideas, rather than sticking with only the old ones.

In that spirit, I  ̶g̶l̶a̶n̶c̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶r̶o̶u̶g̶h̶ ̶m̶y̶ ̶p̶e̶r̶s̶o̶n̶a̶l̶ ̶l̶i̶b̶r̶a̶r̶y̶ did copious research, and selected some titles, some novel series I have enjoyed, which could also be turned into an HBO series. Some are stronger candidates than others, of course, but if they were looking for inspiration, I don’t think they’d really have to look very far.

Mind you, my experience with HBO is limited entirely to Game of Thrones, so I focused on stories of similar spirit and content. It’s not like I’m an expert, but, for what it’s worth, I imagine any of these could be their heirs, so to speak.

Shadow Campaigns, by Django Wexler

I haven’t reviewed this one yet, but I picked up the first novel in the series, The Thousand Names, and that was it. Me: hooked. 😉

A low fantasy (meaning: mostly realistic, with just a bit of magic stirred in here and there) epic that takes obvious inspiration from the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, The Shadow Campaigns tells a rich, intriguing tale about the collision of armies, the struggle for liberty, the clashing of religions, and the rise of a terrible evil set on consuming all of humanity.

It has fantastic discussions, endearing characters, gripping battles, and compelling themes. And, of course, some steamy content here and there. It’s also of an appropriate length and depth, across five books and a couple of novellas, that it could certainly be translated into about five seasons.

It sounds pretty much perfect for HBO, I think, particularly considering how they’ve demonstrated capability with fantasy and period pieces, which this is a combination of.

Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher

This one’s a little trickier, I think, than Shadow Campaigns.

I’ve long been a fan of Jim Butcher’s urban fantasy series, following the modern-day adventures of the wizard Harry Dresden in Chicago as he battles the mystical forces of evil to protect the innocent, so of course I’ve envisioned it being brought to cinematic life. But, again, it’s tricky. There was a short-lived television series that didn’t nearly do it justice. I’m not sure movies  would do any better. It definitely needs to be a series, though I’ve come to imagine that its best cinematic translation would be as an ongoing series of miniseries. A little creativity, though, and one can extend or shorten as necessary.

With more epic confrontations, lovable heroes and frenemies, and strong, varying themes, an HBO series could cover a wide variety of ground with this one. Indeed, the biggest problem would actually be the longevity of the series. To cover everything in the books within a timely fashion would be a monumental work, but well worth it, I am certain.

Monster Hunters, by Larry Correia

Another urban fantasy, obviously following the titular monster hunters as they fight… well, monsters of every sort all over the globe, protecting humanity and its friends, and collecting good-sized piles of cash for their work, all while preparing to fight an ancient evil of truly cosmic scale. 🙂

Much like other titles on this list, there would need to be some creative adaptation. It could also become a series of movies, but it feels like a near-perfect fit for HBO. Violence, humor, vast overarching plot, bit of steamy content here and there, not to mention the novels are appropriately long and easy to either divide or fill out to meet the appropriate runtime. The shifting spotlight, also, would make for an interesting twist from season to season.

I would so watch this one!

Temeraire, by Naomi Novik

Speaking of period pieces and fantasy, how about an alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars, with dragons mixed in? The story follows a navy captain named Lawrence after he unwittingly bonds with a newly-hatched dragon, whom he names Temeraire. Their extended journey, and years-long struggle against both the encroaching tyranny of Bonaparte and the prejudices of the day, takes them all around the world, exploring all manner of cultures even as it explores the principles of honor and morality in the midst of conflicts both great and small.

There’s also the rich, rich texture of the world it’s set in. Mind you, it’s set in a world where the American Revolution failed, so I doubt the French Revolution would have ever occurred and thus Napoleon’s rise to power likely would never have happened either, but outside that historical detail, I can find very few faults with this idea. I mean, people imagine riding dragons into battle all the time, but there’s a fantastic realism to this particular story.

It would be great on the screen! 🙂

The Temeraire series may well fit HBO better than it could ever fit the big screen. Not only for the content, but for the runtime. It’s a long series of fair-sized books, which do chronicle years of events. Too much, I think, for a movie series.

But not too much for HBO. 😉

There are a number of other potential shows I’ve considered, such as and dismissed for various reasons, mostly length and breadth. Such as Wearing the CapeThe FirstOld Man’s War, and Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain.

And there are others I would readily choose, were I in HBO’s position, such as Sword of Truth, Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, The Malazan Book of the FallenPattern of Light and Shadow, all shoo-ins, I would think. And pretty much anything by Brandon Sanderson. 🙂

But, for purpose of wrapping this up and not monologuing forever, I’ll just leave it at this and ask:

What about you? What are some novels you would like to see or think could work very well, to take up the slack after the end of Game of Thrones?

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Anime Review: Snow White with the Red Hair

Back before this anime came out, I would have never believed that I would ever actually look forward to one of those cliché romantic ballroom dance scenes, or be so disappointed in the complete lack of such.

That’s the sort of effect that Snow White with the Red Hair had on me.

The story simply follows the developing relationship between the titular female lead, Shirayuki (meaning “Snow White”), and her charming prince, Zen Wisteria of the fair nation of Clarines. They meet partially by twist of fate, as Shirayuki is fleeing the fate of becoming a concubine to a shallow, self-absorbed prince of her own country, but they immediately click together as kindred spirits, and he gallantly defends her even as she is willing to sacrifice herself protecting him. Afterward, she moves into Clarines from her own country and strives to improve her knowledge and heal people’s hurts and illnesses as a court herbalist, and they stay in regular contact with each other. As time passes and various difficulties are met and overcome, including intrigue, danger, and prejudice based on one’s social standing, their relationship deepens into something which is definitely headed in a matrimonial direction.

It is a great disappointment to me that we never quite got there! I understand there are difficulties with adapting any such story to the screen, and I appreciate that this one certainly got a bit farther along than Kawai Complex, but still! Especially after the major kidnapping storyline that dominated the second season, things felt very lackluster and drawn out. There is more to a love story than meeting, and going towards the altar! Not only is there the first meeting, and the initial pairing up, and the altar itself, but there is the other side, too, beyond said altar, and I would kind of like it if these shojo anime would actually get there once in awhile!

Ok, small rant, over.

Now, the single best part of a love story is also the single trickiest, I have found: the relationship. For it to work properly, there needs to be some method to the madness which is love. It’s not just putting two people together in the same space, you know. There needs to be some common ground they share, and some reason for their affection, and some way in which they improve, complement, and complete each other.

We still tell stories about knights in shining armor, but nowadays we hate the idea of the damsel in distress. The two need to be equals in some way.

And this anime manages that quite a bit better than most.

While Zen gets to be the shining knight more than once, Shirayuki is not your typical damsel. She puts up a fight, with a nerve and resolve that is much more than simple ferocity. She’s intelligent, clever, compassionate, and forgiving, looking for the best in others and nurturing such as she finds it, but she’s also unyielding in the face of personal risks, advancing her own course without using other people (or her blossoming relationship with Zen) as a crutch. Honestly, hers is practically the ideal spirit of a princess.

Zen, on the other hand, could be accused of being a stereotypical idealized version of a prince, both handsome and gallant. Yet there is a humanity to him, an awareness of others and an attitude of deep caring for those that many might dismiss. He surrounds himself with people who make him aspire to be a better person and a better prince in support of his family and his nation. He steps up to defend Shirayuki, and others, not only as a prince, but as a moral person, and he does not exceed the authority given to him. And while he assists her, he never infringes on her ability to fend for herself.

Their relationship is awesome. 🙂

Mind you, with this critical aspect achieved, it never felt like anything could really threaten them. By which, I mean that it would be unorthodox, and I’ve no idea how it would work out, yet their love felt so perfectly natural that I never wondered if anything could drive them apart. Shirayuki is kidnapped (a few times)? No problem. Someone is making a deal about their different social standing? No problem. They get into an argument? …ok, that actually never happened, which is certainly a shortcoming, because everybody fights sometimes so our ideal couples really should, too, but, setting that aside, I have no doubt they would work it out anyway. Because they are perfect. Perhaps a little too much so.

That method to madness idea? There needs to be a little madness to the method, too!

So, if there is one particular complaint I have about the show, it’s how it’s all a bit too easy. And yet things advance so slowly!

I still appreciate and enjoy the plot, and the characters, and the relationships, but they all suffer from that exact problem: it’s all so pleasant that it feels flat. Where we could have gotten a truly sweeping, happy, and believable story of true love, we got one that is just… smooth. That has it’s own virtues, but it’s not terribly exciting, ya know?

That sort of describes every aspect of this show, actually.

All the same, while I can’t put Snow White with the Red Hair in the running for my favorite anime, I can still put it somewhere in the forward ranks, at least. It’s good, just not great.

Rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Plus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom 221: Worth It

“Greater good? I am your wife! I am the greatest good you are ever going to get!”
– Frozone’s Wife, The Incredibles

Single best moment of the entire movie. 🙂

And we don’t even know her name, I think!

Setting aside the hilarity of this line and the entire scene surrounding it, it just rang true, and as something perfectly appropriate for Valentine’s Day, ya know?

How many times has it happened? How many? One or the other spouse feels undervalued, and things slowly go to crap. Something goes wrong, somehow, and eventually it all just falls apart. They leave, or they cheat, or what have you. Either way, a relationship, and the family built upon it, is allowed to decay until it finally breaks.

To avoid this, one must remember one’s priorities. One must remember what matters most. One must remember what is truly the best thing ever to happen to them.

To which end, it helps when both sides are aware of their own value and assert themselves. It’s far easier for someone to forget what you are worth when you do not remind them.

Not that one should be pushy or arrogant about it, but still!

Now, in most superhero stories, the hero’s significant other is obliged to share them with the world. Soldiers, officers, firemen and others risk their lives every day, and their families need to come to terms with that, right, so why not the heroes? And if the significant other is obviously conflicted and left wanting more, they also have to wrestle with their own selfishness until either they overcome it or it destroys them.

But not Frozone’s wife! 😉

In The Incredibles and other stories, like Black Lightning and Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’ve Got Henchmen, superheroes have had to make the choice of whether or not to be superheroes, and the world doesn’t have the right to demand anything automatically.

I’ve said before that sanity needs a little selfishness. Perhaps not right in the heat of the moment, mind you, when lives are at stake, but time must be made as appropriate in order to talk about these things. It’s worth it, for the sake of that greatest good one will ever get. 😉

So, to all the happy couples out there, Happy Valentine’s Day! And remember that you, individually and together, are worth it! 🙂

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Some Games That Could Be Anime-ted

Yes, I admit upfront: this post is absolutely, and obviously, inspired by the Make it Anime tag I participated in. I chose a book series, a movie franchise, and a television show that I thought could feasibly be converted into an anime format, with favorable results. It was fun. 🙂

But it got me thinking about some games that could also be converted into good anime. So, with very little ado, and in no particular order, here’s a handful of games that I would love to watch in anime format.

Chrono Trigger

The story follows a young man and his friends as a freak accident allows them to step through time, fighting all manner of monsters as they traverse across the ages in a desperate struggle to save the world from Apocalyptic destruction.

This classic from  the days of Super Nintendo has long been a favorite of mine. The characters, their respective journeys, the music, the width and breadth of the story… it’s just so epic and fun! It has an appropriate length, I think, that it could be divvied up into fifty-some episodes (or more) with a little creativity. The fights would be awesome, the suspense would be gripping, it would be magnificent!

Oh, I dream of this! 🙂

Legend of Dragoon

Another old classic, this one from the first PlayStation console. Across four nations (and four discs), the story follows a young man who inherits an ancient power and comes to lead his friends in the fight to save the world. (this is a recurring theme in our stories, you may notice)

I remember seeing the opening and distinctly thinking how well it would fit an anime. As with Chrono Trigger, the characters, their journeys, the fights, the themes, the music, etc. it all fits together to make an excellent story just begging to be converted into a cinematic, animated format.

I would so watch this one! 🙂

Final Fantasy VII

Probably the most famous classic I am channeling. 😉

Yes, once again, we have a young man, this one with a convoluted tragedy in his past, and his friends going all around the globe in order to save the world from a great and ancient evil which will destroy all that lives unless it is stopped. That’s not just a pattern in our storytelling, it’s the bread and butter of the Final Fantasy franchise. 😉

Characters, fights, themes, music, etc., my reasoning is pretty much the same across the board for these first three games. I want to emphasize this one, though, as the clear favorite of its franchise.

But, really, who wouldn’t watch a proper Final Fantasy anime series, whatever number they chose? 😉

(I am whispering to the anime companies, “dooo it, dooo it, dooo it!”)

League of Legends

Need I say more? Of course I do! 😉

This one’s a little more tricky, I think. Where Chrono TriggerLegend of Dragoon, and Final Fantasy (insert number), are all classics with have clear, well-defined plots, with a beginning, middle, and end, League of Legends is fairly new and lacks such well-defined structure. It’s a team-based tournament in a fantastic setting.

That setting, the world of Runeterra, offers  great fodder for stories galore. With characters, characters, and more characters to choose from, it’s far too big to be properly converted into movie format, but an anime has a far longer runtime. I envision it mostly following not individuals, but groups, though it can certainly branch out into individual storylines here and there. What would it be like to see Yasuo, Jinx, Irelia, Riven, and all the rest brought to life within a single story, coherent and compelling?

I imagine it would be great fun!

Overwatch

This is also a newer one, and it exists somewhere between the clear, original stories of the classic I’ve mentioned and the raw fodder of LoL. There is plenty of history, including the tale of a legendary group of protectors from all over the world, but which was disbanded for various reasons and is only now coming back together in the face of renewed crisis. There are also a number of subtle threads weaving throughout the team-based missions, indicating that not all is as it seems.

There is something about that, and the colorful cast, of course, which makes for a compelling story, which I am just waiting to see unfold. Bottom line, I think it would be great fun to see these heroes and villains in an anime. Mind you, that might be a step backward from the CGI of the Overwatch shorts, much like it would be for League of Legends, but it’d still be fun! 🙂

And if you’re wondering why I’d pick this, out of all of Blizzard’s works, well… the rest of them are pretty epic and set across great lengths of time between their respective installments. Overwatch has fresher ground to dig, ya know? 😉

So, that’s it. A few thoughts on games that could become anime.

What do you think? What game or games would you pick to turn into anime?

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Anime Review: Kawai Complex

February. Valentine’s Day. Love stories.

That is the entirety of my line of reasoning behind reviewing Kawai Complex right now. 😉

Full name: The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior. No need to wonder why it has a nickname.

Kawai Complex is… I believe the term is shojo anime? This is one sort of term I’ve never properly mastered. Anyway, it mainly follows a high school boy and girl, with some colorful supporting characters added in, with the question of if they’ll ever couple up. It’s thirteen episodes long, and it fails to answer the question.

Have I ever mentioned my pet peeve of unfinished stories?

The premise is that Kazunari Usa had more interesting times in junior high than he ever wants to have again, due to some weirdos he was regrettably associated with, so he moves into an old-style complex, only to be beset by yet more weirdos that put the old ones to shame in their weirdness. On the bright side, there’s Ritsu Kawai, a girl who goes to the same school as him and now living under the same roof, an overwhelming bookworm, mostly quiet and reluctant to socialize, and oh so very easy on the eyes. One instant, and, in the words of Baloo, “He’s hooked.”

The other residents, of course, are completely aware the their most junior roommate is over the moon for her. The only other guy in the complex doesn’t come down one way or the other (he’s too busy indulging in his masochistic nature to really do that anyway). The sweet old lady who runs the place, on behalf of Ritsu’s mother, who actually owns it, doesn’t interfere, but does offer quite a bit of wisdom to the kids in need of it. Now, the other two residents, a busty drunk and a manipulative master of make-up, they would love to squash this potential romance (they have issues), if not for the landlady’s ability to manage everyone so well.

Yet, for all that this could-be love story gets a good portion of the attention at first, and lurks around throughout the entire series, it never really progresses. Indeed, there are a few smaller stories featuring the respective members of the cast in the lead role, but they all pretty much just fizzle out. Life just goes on, with very few lasting developments.

The entire show really feels like it’s only the beginning of something, and it doesn’t even leave off on much of a dramatic note. Almost nothing is resolved. In that sense, it’s really very disappointing.

Yet, it’s also pretty amusing! And occasionally touching, too! 🙂

The amusement, of course, comes from basically locking these weirdos up together and hilarity ensues. For the most part, weirdness included, there is something very human and eminently easy to relate to about most of these characters. They all have their endearing moments, some of them quite surprising. And despite how much grief they honestly give each other, they don’t go too far with it. Indeed, when the situation calls for it, they will happily and enthusiastically stand up for one another.

One of my favorite moments in all of anime, actually, was when Usa was being made fun of for spurious reasons by a bunch of idiots trying to make themselves look impressive. Then Ritsu steps in and shuts them up in an unusual display of assertiveness. The other two girls them immediately shower him with affection, further stupefying the raucous fools with a demonstration of female attention they can only dream of.

So, things aren’t actually so bad among the strange roommates. They actually look out for each other, and that camaraderie was quite endearing.

It is only unfortunate, really, that the anime has such a lackluster ending, as I mentioned. It feels like very little actually happens, especially in the latter few episodes. They could have easily built up a little more momentum, but it never happened. Oh well.

For the humor value, the endearing characters, and the potential that could have been, I like Kawai Complex. Not necessarily love, though that one scene will always be a favorite of mine, but I like it quite well.

Rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: B.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #220: The Little Things Mean Something

“The little things mean something. Act by act, deed by deed, it means something. Even if no one notices or cares.”
– Harvey Bullock, Gotham
Season 5, Episode 5, “Pena Dura”

Hope can be found even in the most unlikely of places, including a hard-boiled cop that isn’t generally known for such.

When Bullock says this to a young Bruce Wayne, it is in the midst of a tremendous ongoing crisis. The world around them is ending, and the people around them, people they love, are giving up hope, giving up on being good. Bruce is very discouraged, so Bullock, very familiar with this, shares what works for him. When he’s overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to do, he goes through the files, the paperwork, the cases on his desk. Instead of weeping about how bad things are, or bemoaning what he can’t do, he does what he can do. The world is ending? He sits down and gets to work.

That’s a practical, powerful approach, and Bruce asks him why he does it. Which is when he says the above quote. It rings true, doesn’t it?

People talk about the big things all the time, be they bad or good. They talk about wars, diseases, disasters. They talk about huge political movements, national elections, social unrest. They talk about the latest and greatest fill-in-the-blank topic, be it successful jobs, large paychecks, glamorous parties and beautiful wedding receptions, cars, computers, blockbuster movies, and whatever else. They talk about volcanic eruptions, massive forest fires, tsunamis, and all that.

Now, while all of that may warrant discussion, and should not be ignored, I think we sometimes lose track of all the little things. We forget them. We forget how important they are. All those “huge” things? They’re made up of little things.

Wars are made and won or lost based on a multitude of small decisions made by millions of people.

A tsunami is made of a lot of individual drops of water put together, just like an avalanche is a lot of snowflakes or pebbles.

Political movements? All based on every individual’s decision.

Massive companies that make billions of dollars every year? Built on the labor of many individuals who simply do their job. (I take some satisfaction in knowing that my job, however lacking in glamor, is both honest and useful in its way)

Public safety? Officers, firemen, and paramedics, properly trained and equipped.

The military? Same thing.

Good financial standing? Saving and spending with prudence and temperance.

Large pile of money? Large pile of pennies. (or whatever currency you use)

A long and happy marriage? The little decisions where husband and wife work together and make the little sacrifices for each other. Also: the little decisions that helped them find each other in the first place and pursue said relationship.

Necessities provided? Going to work every day, putting in the hours.

Lasting love? Saying, “I love you.” And behaving accordingly.

Integrity? Every promise kept, every vow honored, every truth told, every lie refused.

It’s all in the little things, because little things are what big things are made of. They don’t have to stand out. They don’t have to be famous. They don’t even have to be publicly appreciated in order to mean something.

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