Anime Review: Rurouni Kenshin

The thing about a kids show? You can watch it as a kid, love it as a kid, and it will remain forever one of your favorites. Eventually, however, you look at it as an adult. And then, it is inevitable, there will be aspects you now see as faults, things which make it less riveting to you as an adult than it was as a kid. Though you will always love it, particularly certain parts which are a bit less geared towards children, it has now become more difficult to dwell on the good things about it. You see the flaws, and the only reason you don’t care more about them is just because you first experienced it in your childhood.

That’s a bit of the feeling I have now, reviewing this classic from my youth. It was one of the first anime I ever watched, and even now it remains dear to my heart. It’s flaws do not matter on that score, but they must be acknowledged, and it must be said… there is plenty good about it. 😉

Rurouni Kenshin tells the tale a wandering, masterless warrior, Kenshin Himura, as he strives to protect the people close to him. A legendary warrior of the Meiji Revolution, Kenshin has sworn never to take another human life, which makes for a stark contrast against his bloodthirsty enemies, including psychotic killers, common criminals, would-be kings, elite fighters, and so on. Even Kenshin’s sword reflects his oath, being a reverse-blade sword, meaning, having the sharp edge on the inside of the katana’s curve. Yet, he can hold his own and even dominate against most enemies, and do tremendous damage, so he tends to have the advantage more often than not.

That’s actually something of a point against the show, I think. We all know the stories where the central protagonist is the most powerful fighter, and I didn’t particularly mind this as a kid, but as an adult, now, I realize how underwhelming and monotonous that is. Kenshin’s immediate circle of friends and allies aren’t helpless, but they get relegated to being the people Kenshin saves far more often than not. It’s a highlight of the show, actually, when each of them gets a chance to shine against formidable enemies. It happens far too infrequently.

Mind you, I wouldn’t care so much if I didn’t care about the characters. Kenshin is a wise, lovable semi-doofus who switches into a much more dangerous mode of behavior when someone he protects is in danger; Kaoru is a strong, beautiful young woman and a capable martial artist; Yahiko is a proud, defiant young boy; Sano is a noble tough guy with a heart-wrenching past; and so it goes, each new face bringing his or her own charm to the cast. That goes for some of the better enemies as well, especially those of the second season.

Speaking of, the first season is a loose collection of endearing, albeit campy, stories about these characters going about and righting wrongs. Then the second season is a single arc with multiple fronts and threads to follow, and it is amazing, even if the fights strain credulity. The third season is the one where they make the most mistakes. It’s another loose collection of stories, but one that utterly lacks tension and even most of the endearing qualities of the first. It shifts from super serious to comedic and back again without warning, it shoehorns the recurring characters in over and over, and it amounts to very little.

There’s a reason people like the first, love the second season, and hate on the third.

Still, even at its worst, Rurouni Kenshin tells the story of people we like as they deal with dangerous, sometimes complicated, situations. A number of Kenshin’s enemies are just brutes and thugs and killers, but others have more intricate motivations. While they are cast as “evil,” they are, quite often, the result of what has been done to them. Many are fighting for revenge against a system that is anything but just, and so it is not justice which Kenshin and his friends fight for, but for mercy. They fight to protect the innocent people that are caught in the enemy’s path. Thus, the heroes are heroes, but the villains add a compelling depth to the question of what makes them villains.

That, alongside some of the more tragic, bloodier scenes, is quite a contrast against other kid’s shows. That may be due to some cultural differences, as children in Japan are expected to be more mature than they are in the USA. Or maybe they just don’t expect them to not be ready for it. Either way.

One has to forget most things other than dramatic flair when watching the show. Just sit back and enjoy how it feels, for the most part.

Speaking of, the technical aspects of the show are generally well done. The animation is fairly standard for its day, so it’s pretty good to look at. The themes are intriguing, and not always cast in black and white. The story, or stories, can be quite entertaining, as can the action. And the music is exceptional. Now that is a soundtrack I have been listening to ever since! 🙂

All in all, Rurouni Kenshin is hilarious, heart-warming, a thrilling series of adventures, and even poignant at times. It just merely happens to also be more ideal for kids than for adults. And, really? There’s nothing truly wrong with that.

Rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Minus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom 226: The Truth of Sacrifice

“Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return.”
– Alphonse Elric (narration), Fullmetal Alchemist

This may be alchemy’s first law of equivalent exchange, but it is a truth which touches so much more. They discuss it at length in the FMA franchise, yet still touch on it so very lightly.

It is a truth of sacrifice: in order to gain, you must give.

In order to gain food, clothing, and shelter, you must work for it, either in raising or finding it yourself, or in order to earn the currency needed to trade for it.

In order to gain advanced technology, you must pour in countless hours of work, research, manufacture, testing, and use.

In order to gain freedom and safety, you must speak up, fight, hold your ground against injustice, risking and sometimes losing even life itself.

In order to have a healthy, happy family, you must prioritize them over yourself.

And so it goes.

And yet, there is a surprising number of people who do not grasp this. I have seen people who wanted credit for work without putting in the work. I have also seen people who wanted to have friends without actually being a friend in return. And, of course, I have seen people who wanted to boost their social status with money or women or what have you, without actually earning any of it.

From these people, I learned that one often has to give exactly what you are wanting to gain. Work for work, loyalty for loyalty, cash for cash, honor for honor.

I once learned that it is far easier to have your family keep in touch with you if you make the effort to keep in touch with them as well. 🙂

There is a flip side, though. Sacrifice may be needed to achieve success, but success does not necessarily follow every sacrifice.

Sometimes, indeed, it is quite often, people put in all the work, the hours, the study, the labor, the paperwork, whatever… and they still meet with failure. Countless people have raged about what they’ve given up, what they’ve lost, what they’ve paid in pursuit of this endeavor they’re in, and they have nothing to show for it. No, even worse, they have less than they had before. There are few things more frustrating than to have worked so hard and failed anyway.

Especially when it seems like things are working out so easily for someone else who it seems has had everything handed to them. You know the type, the spoiled, entitled brats who grow up doing no work whatsoever, just coasting through life on mommy and daddy’s fortunes. What did they ever do to earn what they have, huh?

The truth of sacrifice is always true, but it is not always immediate.

The man who earns nothing will, if he continues, one day find himself with nothing. He could be born the richest baby in the world, but if all he does is spend, and never earn, then, sooner or later, even the vastest fortune in history will run dry. And what will that man have to show for it in the meantime? Does have any true friends? Does anyone actually respect him? Will anyone help him when he crashes and burns?

Only if he meets someone kind enough to give without thought of gaining.

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Concerning the “Live-Action” Disney Remakes

I remember a time when there had been no live-action remakes of classic Disney movies. Yes, that’s how old I am. 😉 Heh, it actually wasn’t so long ago, really. Even now, there have only been, what, half a dozen remakes released?

Not counting the Peter Pan movie of 2003, as that was not related to Disney in any way, there was 101 Dalmatians in 1996, Alice in Wonderland in 2010, Maleficent (which I would classify more as an alternate telling of the story, in the same vein of Wicked, than a remake) in 2014, Cinderella in 2015, The Jungle Book in 2016, and Beauty and the Beast in 2017. Oh, and Christopher Robin of 2018 is a debatable addition, but I haven’t seen it so I’ll have to leave it out of this discussion. Pete’s Dragon, of 2016, is also debatable, as that one was never animated to begin with, so it may not really count, but I’ll include it for the sake of argument.

Now, this year, we are getting at least three such remakes, including Aladdin, The Lion King, and the impending Dumbo, with plans for Mulan and several others to follow in later years, not to mention a sequel for Maleficent. It does not take much to imagine that the future holds probably remakes for all of the animated features of bygone years, from Pocahantas and Hercules, to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Peter Pan, right down to Oliver and Company and The Black Cauldron. I shudder to contemplate that last one.

So, we’ve gone from having none, to have a couple, to being imminently buried beneath all these remakes as Disney pumps them out as quickly as they can.

This has inspired a good deal of… lively discussion, we shall say. We love them, we hate them, we hate that we love them, we wish they were more like the originals, we wish they were more different, we wish they were this way, we wish they were that way… so on and so forth. About the only thing I think we can agree on is we wish they were better. The question is how so?

Well, looking to the future always involves learning from the past. What have they done right, and what have they done wrong?

Cinderella took the original story and fleshed it out more, added depth and detail, improving both the characters and the narrative around them. The worst complaint I recall hearing about it has to do with an opinion that Cinderella herself should have screamed and fought more, like when she she nearly went over a cliff (because screaming would have been so helpful there) or when she knew someone was downstairs and she could have called for help (possible, but she likely would have been easily explained away). True, it wasn’t a perfect tale, but it seemed far stronger and more believable for a modern audience than the original, yet every bit as enchanting.

Much the same can be said for 101 Dalmatians, though that was a child-friendly stapstick comedy which did not take itself at all too seriously, and we loved it.

Pete’s Dragon, by contrast, tried very hard to be an enchanting tale about a boy finding a new family after being saved by a dragon, but it all came out very bland. They kept the bare bones of the original, namely Pete and his dragon Elliot, and being found and taken in by a woman, but nothing else was the same. It made little coherent sense, tried to have tension without having a villain, and it even lacked anything we could sing along with. All in all, a huge letdown.

Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand, may well have both tried too hard and not hard enough. They copy-pasted most of the original animated classic, and slapped on some alterations and additions. The soundtrack was more jarring than magical, the details they addded in were mostly useless and senseless, and while they attempted to make the romance between Belle and the Beast more sensible, this was overshadowed by both the nonsense and the disturbing horror of the rest of the movie. Seriously, that enchantress was the true villain, and her psychotic actions were never even properly addressed.

As for The Jungle Book, that was a masterful work, in my opinion. I can’t recall any complaints about it, outside how it’s not really meant for children this time around. It skillfully used both the animated and the written source materials and combined them into a new, original tale that was gripping and entertaining from start to finish.

But, then again, Maleficent and Alice in Wonderland both told original stories, and I’ve heard plenty of critiques both for and against them.

Maleficent revamped the story to one that barely included true love in it at all, and it had a what felt like a bit of man-hating throughout the movie. Meanwhile, Alice in Wonderland may have been an improvement, telling a coherent story with some meaning to it, but I think the drastic changes may have taken some of us very off-guard, you know? And the whole blithe labeling of people as mad felt a bit worn and shallow.

So, the quality of the remakes ranges from The Jungle Book at one end of the spectrum to Beauty and Beast at the other, with 101 Dalmatians and Cinderella leaning more towards the former, Pete’s Dragon towards the latter, while Maleficent and Alice in Wonderland fill out the middle. I can’t speak for Christopher Robin, as I haven’t seen it.

That’s three in favor, two against, two neutral, and one abstention. Not the best record, but they’re not down and out either. From that perspective, it makes sense for Disney to keep doing something that is generally working for them. And as long as we keep buying it, Disney will keep selling it.

Who doesn’t want to be Scrooge at this moment?

The question remains, then: how to improve these remakes?

Well, the favorable remakes were of older classics, which they updated effectively for a wider, modern audience, fleshing them out with original stories while remaining true to the spirit, not the letter, of the source material.

The neutral remakes were also of older classics, and had original stories, yes, but they did not really stay true to the spirit of the source material.

And the less-favored? One suffered from a severely lacking story and one was a more recent classic which they copy-pasted and added very little to, with said additions being, at best, a distraction and, at worst, a disruption.

So, we have three boxes to check off: 1) older classics, 2) new, updated stories, and 3) true to the spirit of the original. The successes had all three of these checked off (heck, even Peter Pan did), and the failures did not.

This does not bode well for the remakes we’re about to get.

“…uuuhhhh… what are they doing to us, again?”

AladdinThe Lion King, and Mulan are all newer classics and beloved masterpieces.

That’s one box left unchecked already.

It bodes even less well, considering how the trailers for Aladdin and The Lion King seem to be advertising exactly the same sort of movies we got with Beauty and the Beast. That is, they seem to be copy-pasted imitations, regurgitating what we already got, with perhaps a few tweaks and additions that will probably be ill-advised.

For example, it is obvious that anyone cast as the Genie in Aladdin would be so completely in the shadow of Robin Williams that a truly successful and appreciated performance would be all but impossible. As such, I was determined to try and be gentle in my inevitable judgment. Even so, when they unveiled Will Smith as the Genie, my reaction was a stupefied, “…what?” Whose idea was it to change “comic genius” to “‘tude from da hood?” Is it even possible to have picked a worse voice for this most iconic role?

And then there’s the songs. If the latest trailer is any indication, they are not at all going to hold a candle to the original, exactly like Beauty and the Beast.

“There are… just a few things not right about this…”

As for The Lion King, not only is it going exactly the same way, but I have two other complaints already.

Firstly, why are they even bothering to call it “live-action” when there is no such thing in the entire movie?! Jungle Book had more actual live action than this! What they need to call it is a modern CGI adaptation.

And secondly, I am ticked off that they actually decided that they had to cast black people for the entire cast in the name of political correctness. It’s an animated film, so race, or, rather, how the voice actors look should have no bearing whatsoever on it. Thank goodness James Earl Jones is black, or they wouldn’t even have their headliner!

Heck, I heard that Mulan is/was intended to be different, and the fans flipped out, demanding that the songs from the original be repeated in live format, which, considering how terribly that’s already worked out, one would think they’d actually be demanding the opposite.

That’s a second box left decidedly unchecked in all three cases, making three points against these next remakes, and the remakes in general, even before they get out the gate.

“I think we need a new plan…”

As for Dumbo, I obviously cannot say anything for certain, but I’m getting a Pete’s Dragon vibe off the trailers. It’s an older classic, which checks off the first box, and clearly with a different story, which might check off another, though the original was lacking much in story anyway. But what about the third, remaining true to the spirit of the story?

That, I’m afraid, we’ll just have to find out by seeing it. Now, however, while I am still not excited for Dumbo, I am suddenly more hopeful for it than for the rest.

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Anime Review: Gundam Wing

You want to talk nostalgia? This was one of the first anime (especially with mecha) I ever watched, and my introduction to the Gundam franchise. It stands as my favorite Gundam series, and, though I know favoritism will always be subjective, I like to think that there is more to my preference than the lingering affection of childhood memories. This really is the true peak of all things Gundam, I say.

Obviously, I love it. 😉

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing tells an epic tale of war and humanity’s quest for peace. It follows five young men, the pilots of highly-advanced and powerful mobile suits, and the people around them. There are so many factions vying for power with the tools of intrigue, battle, and bloodshed at their disposal that the plot continually takes surprising, yet believable, turns, blurring the lines between heroes and villains as everyone strives towards their own goals. It’s an intricate dance of action, suspense, revenge, honor, intrigue, love, despair, and hope.

Compared to other Gundam shows I’ve seen, it’s not as complicated and convoluted as Gundam OO, not as gaudy as G Gundam, not as childish as SD Gundam, not as preachy as 8th MS Team, not as high-handed as Gundam Seed, and not as tragic as Iron-Blooded Orphans. Mind you, I can’t say it’s “perfect,” but it’s closest to such which I’ve seen in the franchise.

The show is comprehensive enough that it has a number of strengths and weaknesses, too many to really discuss in proper depth without turning this into a short novel. The music is beautiful, the themes are powerful, the characters are lovable, the battles are thrilling, etc. On the other hand, some arcs (like Quatre going crazy), characters (Dorothy Catalonia, anyone?), and even couplings (I am looking at Heero and Relena when I say this) strain credulity a bit.

Yes, you can have people flying giant robots in space, and what I’ll hesitate to believe is all about the characters. 😉

For the most part, though, said characters are fleshed-out and unique, each charming in their own way. Again, I cannot truly do them justice in a single sentence, but that is part of the show’s triumph. Heroes and villains, as I said, are all but interchangeable. They’re not just good or evil, they’re people, and therefore complicated. As an example, it takes most of the show’s runtime for the five Gundam pilots to come together as a team, instead of starting out that way, and for their nemeses to be established in time for the climax.

It deals with some fairly complex subjects, though they sometimes do that with the grace of a floating feather, and sometimes with all subtlety of a chainsaw. For awhile after watching this show, I thought I favored pacifism, because while it always spouted how great peace and nonviolence are, it also depicted these “pacifists” as people willing to fight for their lives and their loved ones. You see the disconnect, here? It talked about pacifism, but didn’t really show it as it really is. Things like that, where it touched on important subjects with varying degrees of accuracy and weight, make it a bit ham-fisted, but also excellent discussion fodder.

Perhaps that is why it’s my favorite installment of the franchise, because of the balance it strikes. It neither simplifies nor overcomplicates things, be it characters, themes, plots, battles, etc. It feels weighty, in its way, but not overly prolonged. It’s endearing and poignant, but not too much, if that makes sense.

And you gotta love some of these couples! My personal favorite would be Hildy and Duo. 🙂

In short, Gundam Wing is an exciting, thrilling, thoughtful work, excellently crafted and brilliantly designed, and an all around well-told story.

Rating: 10 stars out of 10.

Grade: A-Plus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #225: Pain is a Teacher

“Every hurt is a lesson and every lesson makes you better.”
– Arya Stark, quoting Syrio Forel, Game of Thrones
Season 1, Episode 4, “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”

Arya is probably one of the most popular characters in the show, and it has a number of popular characters. She says this when her father, Ned Stark, finds her practicing her balance at the top of a flight of stairs. It’s quite a fall she’s risking, he notes, and she answers with this, something her sword master taught her. Then she goes on about chasing cats, to develop her skills.

There is quite a bit of wisdom in this, isn’t there?

When you’re learning to walk, or skate, or something like that, it’s inevitable that you will fall. Each time you fall, it hurts. Each time it hurts, you get back up, and try not to repeat the mistake that preceded the hurt, because you are motivated.

When you are learning a new skill, be it fighting or woodwork or whatever else, pain, be it physical pain or the pain of failure, is inevitable. Same thing happens.

When you are learning to lead a group, a community, or an army, failure is inevitable, and those are harsh lessons indeed.

Pain is the teacher of what not to do, and there is a reason people harp on that more than they talk about what one should do. The greatest masters of every craft have learned countless things not to do. That’s an essential part of how they became masters in the first place. However, that is not the only lesson of pain.

Pain also teaches endurance, the importance of healing and compassion, and it writes onto our souls the worth of what we have suffered for. It is an unwritten currency, automatically exchanged in each transaction of life. Most especially those of the heart and soul.

That is where we most often forget the lessons that pain teaches, I think. Physical pain, we learn to live with. But emotional pain, we cannot physically measure and observe and simply learn from. Old hurts can still throb like fresh injuries. And so, once we are hurt within, we tend to try especially hard to avoid it again. Once burned, twice shy, as they say.

Or, even worse, we go headlong into the pain and grow ourselves around it, until, on some level, we have come to define ourselves by that particular agony.

But both ways ignore the purpose of our pain: to teach us.

Once the lesson is learned, the pain can be done, and done away with.

A broken heart can heal, and the lesson is not to lock it away, but to trust more carefully.

Loss may leave a scar that never fades, but it need not bleed forever, and it need not bar us from having joy again.

The rose has thorns. That means we should hold them carefully, not that we should never hold them at all.

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This Week on TV, Mar. 9, 2019

Spoiler Alert!

For the moment, Gotham is the only one in my lineup airing, and it’s about to end forever. But we have a few weeks to wait between this episode and the next one anyway, it would seem. It was a good episode, but not really great, ya know? I think they’re rushing things a bit too much, trying to wrap up and get everything done a little too quickly. But, still, it was good.

Gotham

5.09 “The Trial of Jim Gordon”

You know how you sometimes wish everybody’s crap would just be magically worked out already? Yeah, there’s a reason they don’t actually do that. On the one hand, it feels cheap and unrealistic, and on the other, it’s very surprising when it suddenly happens in the middle of a story that has thrived on drawing out the emotional torment.

That’s a bit what it felt like in this episode. They rushed through working things out, some of them very significant, and it came out feeling a bit… lackluster. Which seems to be a recurring trend in these more recent episodes. Perhaps tying up loose ends crowds out the usual devices for building tension? Either way, it is what it is, I suppose.

Jeremiah’s mad scheme may have been stopped, and everyone saved, but it resulted in a severely-poisoned water supply. Fox and his team have developed the means to clean it, filter out the toxins, but it’s slow going. With the available supply of clean drinking water at critical levels, Gordon sees reunification with the mainland as their only hope of survival, and the only hope for reunification is to persuade the government that it’s safe to take Gotham back into its fold, which means things need to be safe. To that end, Gordon has a plan: convince the gangs to commit to a ceasefire.

Penguin hosts the gathering of chaos, which, after the military purge of a couple episodes, there’s quite a few more of the vile gangsters left than I would have thought. They all want to kill everyone else, but Gordon makes his case: they need the government to save them, so they can either fight over what little water left, eek out a few more months, and then die… or they can stop killing each other and live. The attitude of “kill or be killed” will just get them killed.

Unfortunately, the moment Gordon’s done, someone shoots him.

It’s not necessarily fatal, but there’s not much even Lee can do for him with such limited resources. She just pulls out the bullet fragments and bandages him, once Bullock, Harper, and the others manage to carry him out of Pengun’s lair to her infirmary.

Bullock takes command of the GCPD in Gordon’s absence and hunts the shooter. Penguin gets a well-deserved punch or two to the face before he points out the shooter was outside. Bullock is able to retrieve a fragment and, pieced together with what Lee fishes out of Gordon’s gut, finds the initials VZ. Victor Zasz.

Zasz is a bit crazier than usual, but it turns out Ivy has him enthralled. She has a plot in motion now, with several moving parts. When it seems that Zasz hasn’t quite killed Gordon, and gets himself arrested, courtesy of the GCPD and Alfred, she shows up to bust him loose. He distracts everyone else in the lobby – Bullock is right, it’s getting annoying how often they get shot at within their own precinct, and it used to be such a rarity – while she makes to finish the job herself. Bullock suits up in heavy armor while everyone else keeps Zasz busy – and all of them miss – so he’s able to just take Zasz down with his fists.

Lee had a little argument with Gordon before the big meeting. It felt a bit automatic, really, but whatever. She is looking down the barrel of raising Gordon’s kid, somewhat alongside Barbara, and she is highly interested in Gordon living long enough to be there. When he’s injured, her fears are on the brink of realization, and that’s only the latest in a long-running pattern. He’s practically addicted to nearly getting himself killed. Somehow, something about this needs to change. Something’s gotta give.

Whatever it is, though, after a talk with Alfred about raising kids, Lee is able to commit to standing by Gordon’s side, whatever he does. Which, I suppose, is supposed to make it all the more tragic and tense when Gordon’s heart stops beating and Ivy breaks the syringe with the adrenaline in it. Lee is ready to commit, and Gordon is left to die, even if Ivy is staggering away with a fresh bullet in her.

Gordon spends most of the episode in a delusion of a trial about whether he lives or dies. He is both the defendant and the prosecutor, and the subject matter is all his failures, all the death around him, how Lee has hurt so much because of him, how the people of Haven trusted him and died for it… that sort of thing. But as he is on the brink, he sees Lee holding his baby. He wants to hold the child, but his arms are strapped, so Lee drops the baby to the ground. And Gordon, wanting to be a father, finally wants to live.

Gordon wakes up then, and he immediately asks Lee a very important question.

Elsewhere, Selina has also been dealing with Ivy. Bruce takes her on a surprise date, one where he confesses that he’s been thinking of leaving Gotham, after all the harm he’s inadvertently brought upon it (like Gordon). The discussion barely starts, however, before Ivy interrupts, enthralling Bruce and having a familiar goon try to kill Selina. Selina deals with the goon easily enough, then catches up to Bruce at Fox’s water treatment facility.

Ivy’s plan is to kill everyone and everything that isn’t a plant so the plants can supposedly thrive freely. Not going to work that way, I think, but she’s crazy. Bruce enthralls Fox and the plan proceeds, but Selina knocks Bruce and then Fox back to their senses and they stop it. All is well.

A month later, Gordon and Lee get married. Bullock performs the ceremony, makes it amusing and touching at the same time. Bruce kisses Selina while everyone applauds the bride and groom. Happy moment.

Barbara is less happy. She did as Bullock demanded, keeping the gangs from tearing each other apart (by poisoning and blackmailing them), but it’s just not enough. Penguin thinks she was hoping to convince Gordon that she could be redeemed, but that’ll never happen. So, as the sub slowly progresses, Barbara decides to take the child and leave Gordon behind. He’ll hunt her to the ends of the Earth? Let him.

So… Ivy launches a fairly good plot that gets foiled fairly easily, Gordon has one of the more lackluster inner journey wake-up calls we’ve yet seen and marries Lee, Bruce is thinking about leaving but we know he never will (at least, not for long), and the series finale looms ever closer.

So much ground to cover, so little time!

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All Aboard! Additions to My Pirate Crew!

Yohohoho! Ain’t this a popular one!

This tag is making the rounds fast, and it’s coming back around again already! I swear, I’m seeing my fellow anime bloggers getting tagged second and third times all over the place! I guess it’s my turn for Round Two, eh?

My thanks to Matthew of Matt-in-the-Hat for the tag! 🙂

The rules, once again:

  1. Display the My Pirate Crew logo and add ‘My Pirate Crew’ as a tag.

  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their blog.

  3. Link back to the original post here (so I can compare your crews to mine).

  4. Select seven anime characters and give them a position on the crew. These are the positions you can to fill. Warrior, sniper, chef, doctor, scientist, navigator, strategist, mechanic, entertainer.

  5. Nominate 5-10 bloggers.

  6. Set sail and rule the seas!

Now, I do have to admit… when I first made my crew, I kind of fell in love with them! What can I say? I am a sentimental fellow! So, instead of starting again and making an entirely new crew, I thought to myself… what could I add to round things out a bit?

Thus, I present some comrades, rather than competitors, for my crew! Hey, we’re heading out to rule the seas, there’s bound to be occasion for needing a bit of help, ya know? So all aboard, everyone, and let’s set sail! 😉

Heh, and since I managed to make my first crew almost entirely female before I even realized it, I might as well keep it going! 🙂

First and foremost, there were two roles I left vacant in my original crew, whose value would be tremendous. I am pouncing on the opportunity to fill them first: the Sniper and the Entertainer.

As the inevitable violence poses a direct threat to our lives and freedom, and thus our wonderful enjoyment of our entertainment, the Sniper role gets filled first! On which note:

Sniper: Tanya Degurechaff
Saga of Tanya the Evil

I must admit, when I thought of snipers, Tanya did not leap to mind at first. Heck, thinking of people I want to be around, Tanya did not leap to mind either! But she does possess some long-range skills, combined with impressive mobility and formidable firepower. Her personality might leave a great deal to be desired, but her skills and intelligence are unquestionable. That makes her not only useful as a sniper, but also as a secondary strategist alongside Mavis.

Hah! Now there’s a thought! Tanya, as part of our crew, may be surrounded by sweethearts with nerves of steel, but I would be so much money to watch see her and Mavis working together! It’s would be hysterical! Maybe some of Tanya’s rough edges will get worn down, eh? We saw that in her own anime, actually, and there weren’t that many sweethearts around her then.

And now that our survival is… well, the odds are ever more in our favor. 😉

And now that we have taken care of that, it’s  time we filled the last slot, for Entertainer!

Entertainer: Isuzu
Log Horizon

In complete honesty, I was heavily tempted to pick Brook, from One Piece. But, I figured that was kind of cheating, especially with Nami as my Navigator. 😉

Most of the entertainers I could think of… well, they were definitely skilled, and I’ve nothing against them, but none of them just quite seemed to fit, ya know? Some were too loud, not quite good enough, had only one trick up their sleeves, or needed entire groups when I was looking for an individual. With Brook to measure up against, it was an uphill battle.

Then I remembered Isuzu.

She’s a sweet young girl, caring, and very talented. She has skills and soul, both learned from her father. She has a pleasant voice, well-crafted instruments, and colored lights. She wants to wander, to see the world and make people smile with her music. She has a strength to her character, a spirit and force of will that makes her formidable. And she can even cast literal spells with her songs, so she won’t hold anyone back in a crisis.

It’s just… well, it feels like the natural choice, ya know?

So, now we have full bellies, healthy bodies, a functioning ship, a direction, a plan, brains and brawn, a sharp eye to strike our foes afar, and a bit of light and warmth to make our days and nights at seas more pleasurable.

It’s a good crew… but we can shore it up a bit. 😉

I was feeling like Mavis and Aisha, now with the addition of Tanya, could handle most anything to come our way, but it still feels a little out of balance, ya know? Like, we need someone else, a fourth member to make our trio a proper combative squad. In particular…

Warrior: Lucy
Elfen Lied

You want someone who can kick butt and mow straight through whatever stands in our way? Lucy is a one-woman army! She is cutthroat and precise, exceptionally capable on any battlefield. Her invisible limbs would come in handy in everyday life, of course, but they give her a tremendous advantage over the enemy.

She’d make an especially good partner for Aisha, I think. Aisha’s range is more limited, and the disconnect between that and the range commanded by Tanya and Mavis both is a bit telling. Lucy bridges the gap, giving Aisha someone to stand at her side and watch her back, and vice versa.

And you gotta admit, an extended amount of time traveling the seas, freely, with some friends, would do Lucy a world of good.

And now that our fighters are stocked up to become a formidable fighting force, I want to think defensively again. As anime has constantly demonstrated, the ability to block or throw a punch is dwarfed in value when compared with the ability to get back up after taking a hit. In that spirit, I’m recruiting another medic!

Doctor: Megumi Takani
Rurouni Kenshin

I was thinking of various superpowered healers, but… well, we already have that, so I am prioritizing knowledge and steady nerves over everything else.

Megumi is a skilled, capable doctor. Put her in a crisis, and she is in her element, calm and focused. She can learn anything she doesn’t know, and having a practical doctor on hand can do wonders. We wouldn’t have to rely too much on Sayumi, and we could handle injuries and ailments that are more nuanced, and thus require something more than a simple restoration to how things were before.

And while we’re dealing with preparedness, let’s add more brains to the brawn to keep the ship running and the power of knowledge on our side. 🙂

Mechanic: Mei Hatsume
My Hero Academia

Sure, she’s a bit crazy, in the sense of being very enthusiastic, but at least she has passion, and I’ll take that over anything else any day! 🙂

She’s clearly intelligent, clever, and good with her hands. Everything she comes up with is proof of that. And it won’t hurt to have someone around who can build excellent gear for both the ship and its crew. That can make a profound difference in any crisis. Who better to craft the tools which will enhance our capabilities, eh?

I’m sure she and Winry will have lots of fun together!

And speaking of fun

Scientist: Bulma Briefs
Dragonball franchise

I wanted Bulma badly from the get-go, I am not passing up the opportunity twice! 🙂

I mean, just imagine what Bulma, Washu, Mei, and Winry could do together! Oh, the possibilities! They’d be every bit as formidable, in their own way, as the more combat-based team of Aisha, Lucy, Tanya, and Mavis!

Oh, fun times await! 😀

And finally, to keep us all fueled up and fit for action, as we now have a lot of formidable stomachs and surely don’t want to overwhelm the Master Chef, let’s give him some help, eh? How about a cute little assistant who’s just a little ball of cheerfulness?

Chef: Sasami Masaki Jurai
Tenchi Muyo

…I rest my case! 😉

So, that’s it! Two tags, one crew! Whatcha think?

Now, for some tags! I pick…

D&A Anime Blog
BiblioNyan
Terranceacrow
DerekL
Jiraiyan
Thethingsiveseen

Have fun! 🙂

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Cowboy Bebop: Absolutely Awesome

Oh, yes. I do not hesitate to step into the territory of legends.

Cowboy Bebop is one of the most classic and influential cult favorites in all of anime. It’s not just another title, it’s a phenomenon, a piece of our history now which came out right when anime was finally getting some proper footing in Western media, breaking the trail for many titles which have followed since. It is, in many ways, an example of the medium at its greatest peak. May it never be forgotten. 🙂

Heh, seriously, this show is great.

Following the crew of the titular ship, The Bebop, this show chronicles the episodic adventures of Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine, Jet Black, Edward Wong, and Ein. Spike is probably the single coolest character in all of anime, Faye may well be the sexiest woman in anime (a very fierce competition), Jet is a magnificently strong character, while Ed and Ein are goofy and adorable geniuses. Together, they hunt elusive, notorious bounties throughout the solar system, battle dangerous criminals, and fight to survive despite consistently terrible luck.

It’s fantastic!

The show successfully blends science fiction with gritty realism, balancing witty humor and the violence of hard-boiled noir tragedies, discussing human nature and failed dreams, all to beautiful animation, music, and voice acting.

(bit of trivia: Ed is apparently based on the behavior of the show’s famous soundtrack composer, Yoko Kanno)

I say again: fantastic.

It’s very episodic in nature, a point for and against it, as most of the stories it tells exist entirely independent of one another, but there remain traces of an overall plot that builds to a heart-breaking crescendo. Twice. It’s not for the faint of heart, or the younger members of the audience, as vivid, graphic, and emotionally gripping as it is, yet it remains fun and largely satisfying. A part of me always hates stories with so much death, yet they’re so often absolutely compelling and meaningful, none more so than Cowboy Bebop.

Did I mention “fantastic?” 😉

The heroes are fun, the villains are twisted, nasty, and vicious (the pun had to be made), the many characters we meet are human, and therefore what happens to them always carries some weight, even if one can predict fairly awful things happening to the majority of them after awhile. This is not a “happy” story, after all.

Should you watch it if you want a warm and fuzzy love story? No. How about a happily-ever-after fantasy? No. A child-friendly comedy? Nope. This is nothing so gentle as any of those. It has a lot of tragedy, and so a number of episodes can be downright depressing, eerie, even unsettling. While this, combined with its episodic nature, can make it feel a bit long at times, it treats its subject matter with due gravity. It takes loss seriously, and so it has an undeniable emotional impact.

One could make a surprisingly reasonable argument that, for anything ill which might be said of it, Cowboy Bebop may be the single greatest anime ever made. It’s certainly a masterpiece.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

Grade: A-Plus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #224: For Each Other

“Part of being a family is that we can be strong for each other.”
– Bruce Wayne, Gotham
Season 5, Episode 8, “Nothing Shocks”

This quote comes pretty late in the series, towards the end.

Throughout the entire previous show, we’ve had Bruce and Alfred largely operating out of Bruce’s family home, Wayne Manor. But a truly crazy man just blew it up in the previous episode. Their home, an iconic location in the story, and the physical embodiment of Bruce’s ties to the past, to his parents, is gone. Alfred feels like he is to blame for that, because he wasn’t strong enough to stop it. So, his determination is never to be that weak again.

That’s what prompts Bruce to say the above quote, and it rings with truth. To Alfred, it’s a reassurance that he doesn’t have to be “the strong one” in this relationship. Indeed, there is no such thing, or there shouldn’t be. We’re all weak at some point. That’s why we need each other to rely on.

The very fact that we have our relationships in the first place is proof that we shouldn’t even attempt anything so unhealthy as to be the stronger person, the one who is never weak, who cannot be weak because their loved ones are counting on them to be strong and so we must carry the entire weight of the world on our shoulders alone and never bend a knee nor shed a tear nor bleed nor laugh nor…!

You see what I mean? 😉

It’s not okay to do that to oneself. Eventually, we’ll break, and then what becomes of our loved ones? For their sake, just as much as our own, we must learn to lean on them.

Being strong for each other cuts both ways: it means letting ourselves be weak enough to need them.

There is no shame in being weak, especially when it’s only sometimes. That’s what family is for, to be strong for each other, and to be relied upon.

Of course, it is also not okay to wallow in our weakness and use it as an excuse for bad behavior, but that is very different from letting others be there for you.

All of this strikes a chord in me, personally, because of how often my family has been strong for me. It has long been one of my deepest desires to be strong for them in return. I have no idea how well I’ve succeeded in that, but I will always try.

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This Week on TV, Mar. 2, 2019

Spoiler Alert!

This was a good week, if also a sad one.

The Gifted delivered a powerful finale for its second season. And now, if it’s renewed (which, I do not know if it has or not) we must wait months for more! 😦 Ah, well, ’tis life!

And Gotham had no less than three villains to deal with, delivering a great deal of tragedy. 😦 And how many episodes are left in the series now? Not many, I know that! So much ground still to cover, so little time! How are they going to do it?

But that’s still for the future. For right now:

The Gifted

2.16 “oMens”

I’m not sure that was the best title for this episode, but it’s a pretty awesome season finale anyway. 😉

The Inner Circle has been thrown a curve ball in the desertion of two of their most powerful and high profile members, but Reeva adapts rapidly, which is fairly effective for any leader. Too often, people can get set on completing furthering a plan, a mission, an agenda, etc. in only one way. When something comes up to make that impossible, adaptation is required and flexibility pays off. Reeva is determined enough to push forward and adaptable enough to work around and through the unexpected changes. She is formidable indeed.

With two goals in mind now, namely adapting her plans and wiping out the traitorous competition, Reeva juggles various aspects of the evolving situation with skill and grace. While the Underground determines how best to stop her, Reeva moves against them first, by calling Ryan and sending in the Purifiers, like she did with the Morlocks.

Over in the Underground camp, things are pretty straightforward. They don’t have much in the way of manpower or allies anymore, but they do know where the Inner Circle is, and they have a firm knowledge in how important it is to stop them. So, rather than challenge them to a straight up fight, a pitched battle with fallen on both sides, they elect to just use Fenris. Cait hates that idea, but her children are up for it, and the others know they have no options. Unfortunately, the Purifiers show up before they’ve moved out, with Turner at their head.

Whatever Turner’s issues with having exterminated the Morlocks were, they aren’t holding him back right now. The Purifiers, armed and armored, move with coordination, sealing off every possible escape (since Clarice isn’t there to help them), and waiting their prey out instead of invading. It’s simple and effective, and minimizes the risk. Turner is even able to reassure bystanders and his own men, and the cops won’t interfere, not since Reed killed Wilson, not that they would have helped the Underground anyway. Turner is driven, and his prey is trapped.

Always expect cornered prey to put up a fight.

Cait and Reed fetch guns from downstairs, John, Lorna, and Marcos burn evidence, and Lauren and Andy keep watch. That is, until they notice that the door is open after it was shut. Fade has come, with the Frosts in tow, to retrieve Fenris. They never stood a chance.

Reeva was able to adapt one part of her plan, using explosives instead of Lorna to knock out communications, but to take down SS national headquarters, she needs Fenris. Fade gets them in and out of the building, no matter Turner’s precious encirclement, and the Frosts mentally compel the Strucker kids to come along. They take them through the tunnels and bring them to their target. They resist, as much as they can, but even with Esme questioning things, it’s futile.

The real problem with taking down an agency headquarters, really, is that any such association can just grow a new head. The destruction is terrible (and this is the first time we actually get to see Fenris in action, what it actually looks like), and the losss of life is horrifying, but SS is an agency. It’ll just come back, which makes it all the more tragic for just how useless it will truly be, in the long run.

Still, the damage is done. Both to SS and to the Struckers, who were forcibly compelled, and now have bleeding noses.

As for the Underground, they manage to wriggle out of this very tight spot they’re in, but it’s a near thing.

John and Turner now have history between them. Turner lost him once, and Turner took Clarice from John. Thus, Turner will focus on John even as John focuses on Turner. It’s a gamble, but John manages to draw all the Purifiers towards him as he takes them all on, and then, when they turn to shoot at the car which breaks through their encirclement, he vanishes in the other direction. He’s thirsty for revenge for Clarice, but he doesn’t let it consume him.

That said, he’s on the brink anyway when Erg finds him in an alley, bleeding. These two men, they, too, have history, most of it highlighted by their disagreements. But they’ve both lost dear ones to Turner and the Purifiers, they both lost Clarice, and they both have the same determination, and the same enemies. So, John punches Erg to charge him up, then Erg takes down Turner’s crew, and John takes Turner down.

In that moment, we see something profound in these men. Both sides hate each other. Like, really, truly hate each other. They have been terribly hurt, they have had their dear ones taken from them, some of them vanishing into shadows on the streets, some swallowed in prisons and labs, and some shoved into the grave. John has been beaten down more than most, lost more than many, and Turner himself is responsible for much of it, but now that he has the man at his mercy… he refuses to kill him. Maybe it’s out of mercy, out of decency, I like to think that. Or maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to be like Turner, who is lashing out at the entire world, harming mostly people who had nothing to do with his daughter’s death. Or maybe, as Turner seems to want, in his heart of hearts, nothing more than to die, in hopes of seeing her again and ending his pain, John simply refuses to give him what he wants.

Whatever it is, the difference between the men is clear: one is consumed by his pain, and the other isn’t.

Cait, Reed, Lorna, and Marcos manage to catch up to the Frosts and take back Andy and Lauren. The damage to SS is done, and the young Struckers are exhausted and injured by the compulsion, but they got them back, at least. And what really makes the difference, in the pivotal moment, is that Esme wants to be free. She is an individual, no matter what her sisters say, and she appreciates free will. That was the source of her doubts earlier, and now, when Lorna taps into that and her sisters try and say she doesn’t matter, it distracts them. Marcos manages to take both of them down, though without killing them. Esme refuses to leave her sisters, but she lets the others go without further dispute.

So, John, or Thunderbird, is down, albeit with Erg to look after him, thanks to the Purifiers, and Fenris is down, thanks to the Frosts. The Underground managed to take down both sets of enemies, but they’re down to no more than four able-bodied fighters now, and they still have the Inner Circle itself to take on within its own headquarters. Steep odds, that. Still, needs must, so they do. For the first time, after dominating for the entire season, the Inner Circle has someone take the fight to them.

Marcos and Lorna are an effective pairing on the battlefield. We’ve seen that before and this is no exception. Though they inadvertently find the Inner Circle’s entire remaining crew loading up explosives, instead of already being out causing more mayhem, the two of them hold their own against the entire lot. It’s an even fight, though, which could turn either way at any moment. Their way is effectively stopped, and they can’t move forward.

One saving grace is that Fade finally gets shot, courtesy of Cait, when he attacks Reed. Cait may be a normal human, but she can still shoot straight. 🙂

This is it, the moment this entire season has been building towards, a crescendo not one but two seasons in the making. And they have one more curve ball to throw us: Reed Strucker.

The flashbacks, more than one, in this episode tell his story, as it was before the first episode of the show.

On that big day, July 15 (I think), where a mutant march turned to madness, Reed came home as quickly as he could, to his wife and children. On that day, he felt… called. Like he couldn’t sit on the sidelines of whatever was happening anymore. That was the day he decided to join the mutant-related division at the prosecutor’s office.

Years later, when Lauren called him to come get her from a party that she accidentally broke every window at, he came. He has always been out to protect his family, his children. And he told her that evening, sometimes things happen for a reason.

Many things have happened since, haven’t they? Reed has fought against mutants, he has fought for mutants, and he has wrestled with his own abilities. All of it has led him here, to this moment, and what a moment it is.

The enemy, Reeva, is able to disable people with her voice, to disrupt their control over their powers. It’s not so great as it might seem (if she were attacked from several directions, she would be at a severe disadvantage), but Reed can’t control his power anyway. Indeed, ever since he stopped taking the serum, he’s barely been holding it together, literally. So, if Reeva hits him and all that disintegrating energy is released… yes, it will kill him. And her. And everything and everyone else in the immediate vicinity.

It’s going to happen eventually, the power will kill Reed anyway. But now that they can’t properly fight their way in, they need to shift to finishing the mission, taking down Reeva, and getting out. More to the point, if Reeva dies, then the entire debacle ends, and his children are safe from her forever.

He does it.

He kisses his wife, she cries and covers him, and he goes in, alone.

Reeva, last surviving leader of the Inner Circle, waits upstairs, at the top of her tower. And who confronts her? Not the mighty Polaris, or the fierce Eclipse, or the indomintable Thunderbird, or even the terrible Fenris. It’s just Reed. A regular man, a husband and father, practically a nobody in the great games she has played. The most disappointing of them all, in her view.

Yet, ideally made by hands of fate for this very moment.

She screams at him, that mega-operatic megaphone that brings down everyone else, and he does fall to his knees. But then he gets back up, no matter how hard or how long she assaults him with her voice. His power rises, the power of the Von Strucker family which she so coveted, and here it is, all for her… in her face!

Both of them, and the upper portion of the building, are made even less than dust as he unleashes his power all at once.

Reed Strucker is dead, and his family and friends mourn. His children speak of what he died for, and it is good. He died for the things which are worth dying for. A small memorial is put together on a humble roof.

Cait, Lauren, and Andy are safe, with each other.

Erg patches John up.

Lorna and Marcos visit their daughter together.

Turner is recovering in a hospital.

Benedict Ryan suddenly confesses his crimes, with Esme mentally urging him on. I imagine this means she and her sisters got away.

Erg calls them all together to speak of helping others. As Cait says, they’ll make a new Underground.

Then John senses her coming. Out in the parking lot, Clarice pops out of a hole in time and space, with longer hair and a star-like object, perhaps a weapon, in her hand, saying she has something they have to see. One jaunt to an apocalyptic future (I assume and hope), here we come!

…aaaand that wraps us up for the Season 2! There is plenty of hate and violence and wrong to address, as there always will be, and the damage done is extensive, but the Inner Circle is dead, the Purifier leadership has been taken down, and several heroes are still standing, ready to rebuild what has been destroyed and face all the challenges of the world head-on, like a family. A very strange family. 😉

Gotham

5.08 “Nothing Shocks”

Last episode, almost everything was connected. This episode, we have three separate adventures, following the three usual plot divisions which have been so prevalent on the show: Penguin, Gordon, and Bruce. Each deals with their own supervillain of Batman mythos in a trifecta of tragedy, madness, and suspense.

In Penguin’s corner, things are a bit tense between Penguin and Riddler. Riddler has been working hard to figure out all the systems for the submarine they’re building. He’s a bit miffed because it doesn’t look like Penguin’s doing anything. Penguin protests, because he’s providing all the wealth they’re taking, but even that, as Riddler points out, was provided by his thugs, who he immediately killed. The argument is put on hold, however, when Penn arrives, alive and toting a dummy named Scarface. And Scarface holds the two men at gunpoint, demanding all the wealth Penguin has.

It’s one of the more surreal instances of madness we’ve seen on the show, I must say. Penn, at his lowest and barely alive, found a vessel on which to project everything he wants to be but believes he can never be: tough, unyielding, and dangerous. He’s been pressed down so hard for so long, especially under Penguin’s heel, that he’s suppressed all those traits, and now his near-death experience made that bubble burst, and broke what sanity he had. He is immensely frustrated at having been used like a puppet, then discarded, chewed up and spat out, but that’s what Penguin does. So now he’ll get what he wants by taking it, but he can’t do it himself, he believes, so… he has a dummy to do it for him.

Riddler knows that Penn, or Scarface or whatever, is going to just shoot Penguin and probably him too, so he airs his own frustrations, his own grievances, and forms a bridge between himself and the lunatic with a dummy and a gun. That buys some time, as Penn and Scarface discuss the merits of escaping on the sub with Riddler, just enough for Riddler to slap together a ploy. Penguin buys more time talking to Penn and Scarface, admitting his wrongs and his failings as a friend, while Riddler edges closer to his goal: the sonar he’s been working on. He presses a button, startling and stunning Penn with the sound, and Penguin pounces. The two men wrestle, but Penguin manages to shoot Scarface’s head off. That breaks Penn’s ability to be aggressive for the moment, and just to make sure it doesn’t come back, Riddler shoots Penn in the head.

All in all, it’s a rather therapeutic bonding moment for the two men. They’re practically made to be best friends with each other, a fact which makes them laugh over the body of the man they just killed.

Bruce and Alfred work have a case brought to them. There’s a shelter, some people who have been huddling together and weathering the storms of Gotham, but their safety has been violated. A woman comes to them talking about something in the sewers, people gone missing, and her husband gone to look for them with some others. Of course Bruce and Alfred aren’t going to fail to answer someone crying for help. They briefly consider telling Gordon, but Alfred thinks Gordon and the cops are spread thin as is. They do this one on their own.

Down below, in the darkness, the two of them consider the situation they’re witnessing. The sewers are right next to the river that is currently saturated with Jeremiah’s toxins, and who knows what prolonged exposure to that would do to a man? They find out soon enough, when the woman’s husband comes screaming at them, with a monster pursuing close behind. It’s not much of a Killer Croc, as of yet, but still very tall, very strong, flesh mutilated and warped, and ravenous for human flesh. It’s hard to even hurt the enemy, but Bruce improvises throwing weapons (predecessor to the Batarang), which injure it, and Alfred unleashes an unholy rain of fists on its face. Bruce actually has to pull him off.

That, as it turns out, is the result of some misplaced blame. Alfred feels like it’s his fault that Wayne Manor was destroyed, severing Bruce’s connection to the past, to his parents. As Bruce puts it, though, part of being family is being strong for each other. Wise words, and Alfred sees before him a wise young man. Bruce says he had a good teacher. Touching moment between the two of them. 🙂

So, they rescue a man, reunite him with his wife, subdue a monster… and it illustrates that spirit which will drive them to work independently of the police for the protection of the people of Gotham for many years to come. 🙂

Finally, there’s Gordon’s corner. Someone just walks into Barbara’s club and kills two retired detectives. It’s even more unusual considering that it’s Dicks that seems to have done it. You know, Bullock’s old partner from way back in the first season, the cripple stuck in a wheelchair. Makes the walking, let alone the killing, a bit unlikely.

Bullock, Dicks, and the two victims only have some sparing connection between them. They worked a case together, involving a woman who murdered her rich, rich husband. There wasn’t much physical evidence, but there was a young girl, their daughter, and it was her testimony that put her mother away forever. She, Jane, went into foster care, in and out of institutions, ended up at Arkham, supposedly dead, and in the hands of Hugo Strange. From him, she gained the ability to disguise herself so perfectly. Just one touch of the skin, and she can mimic everything about that person’s appearance.

The girl who can be anyone sees herself as no one. Thus, Jane Doe. And she’s out for revenge.

Bullock was a rookie at the time, and eager to make detective. The woman was guilty of murdering her husband. She admitted to it when she was arrested, but then she recanted. With no evidence to speak of, he leaned on the little girl to talk, and she did. That moment, that decision, caused her tremendous suffering ever since. Bullock didn’t know until it was too late, the man had abused both his wife and his daughter, so it wasn’t so cut and dry as he thought. Now the ghost of the past comes to kill all the detectives involved. The two old men at the bar were just the start. When they catch her, she changes into Bullock himself, and kills Dicks as well. Three down, one to go.

Bullock… he tries. Jane escapes by impersonating Barbara (they stretched a bit with how quickly she got out), and Bullock pursues her all the way to her home. He tries to talk her down, even gets her to show him her face, not nearly something that needs covering up. But she is adamant. The only way it ends is when one of them is dead.

As you wish, Jane.

Bullock shoots her straight through the heart.

Probably one of the roughest days Bullock has ever had, on a personal level.

So, Jane Doe, Scarface, and Killer Croc. Just another day in Gotham!

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