Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Eden of The East (2009):

Eden of The East (2009):

“Noblesse oblige. I pray for your continued success as a savior.”

- Juiz, the computerized accountant

In this short, 11-episode anime, Akida Takizawa (If that’s his name.) awakes from a daze on the White House lawn naked and holding a gun. What would you do? If you said, “Uncover a plot by a billioniare to rule Japan while going on a semi-romantic adventure with a girl.” you’d be right! Also, if you said that, you probably watch too much anime. I’m usually not one for more  romantic animes, but this one was oddly fascinating due to the terrorist angle.

You see, in this universe, Japan was the victim of a terrorist attack called “Careless Monday” when 10 missiles were accidentally fired on Japanese soil, and 20,000 people showed up missing. That’s the interesting part to me. Evidence points to him as the terrorist. But, this girl Saki keeps showing this naïve interest in him, that ultimately changes the tone to more mushy romantic comedy.

More to the point, after uncovering this plot to fire the missiles, (Again!) Akida again frames himself and gives himself a new identity rather than arrest the group behind it. Each player in this political game has a cell phone equipped with a 10 billion yen account. Akida discovers he’s one of the players in a game orchestrated by a billionaire to see how individuals if given power, would save or change the country.

One of the contestants, in fact, is a prostitute who cuts off male members if they displease her. It’s a little unsettling…and it’s all there to make some point about love that’s developing between him and Saki. I have no idea what “cutting off Johnnies” would do to improve the country, but sometimes anime is wacky. Also, love or something.

Anyway, I was more interested in the political plot. The team that keeps track of Akida’s political funds is called “Eden of The East”. His computerized cell phone accountant Juiz will do anything he asks with the 10 billion yen. I just don’t get why he blows it by framing himself again, and evacuating 20,000 people! Again! It’s like he’ll have to do it all over again, including meeting Saki!

Yes, I know how it ends. I’m not gonna get into that. I just think repeating the same thing you did to get framed as a terrorist has to be one of the most baffling decisions ever. But, it’s oddly fascinating because at it’s heart you have an anime that wants to be romantic. So, it’s just this guy who just wants to live life, and full in love, and avoid responsibility. Also, just as a whimsical joke…he commits a terrorist act against Tokyo.

He’d probably be in jail, and lose his girlfriend. But, dang if he didn’t have 10 billion yen and a magic robot in a cell phone! Look, I know it’s fantasy, and love, and he can clear his name with a phone call. But, am I supposed to believe accepting responsibility means framing yourself as an international criminal? All I’m saying is, the minute I saw Akida had machine guns in his closet, and planned to commit terrorist acts because he can’t bring down his psychopathic buddies… if I were Saki, I’d leave. I would fear for my life

I know it’s technically like a romantic comedy/political satire, but it had real potential up to the point where he takes responsibility rather than arrest the contestants. Is the rest of Japan still getting played like a game show? What happened to the other contestants? It could’ve been a really interesting espionage thriller, but went the romantic comedy route. By the way, none of this explains why he was naked at the White House.

But, the odd mixture of romantic comedy/espionage thriller works, because the suspense lasts about right up until the second-to-last episode. Then, it’s purely and unabashedly mushy. I’d give this series 2/5 stars. I liked the concepts, and certain parts! But, it just seems like a lot of wasted ideas. And I just don’t think terrorism is a joke. It could’ve been so much more than what it aims for, but the message seems to be take the 10 billion yen and don’t ask questions. The terrorism angle drew me in, but it deals with it far too whimsically!


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Attack on Titan Review (2013):

Attack on Titan Review (2013):

“I’ll kill every last one of them, and break free of these walls.”

- Eren Yaeger

Okay, so let me get right into what I liked and didn’t like about Attack on Titan. I liked the unique German steam punk setting and use of German names. Eren, Armin, Erwin, etc. I liked the action. I liked that most of the Garrison Squad is annihilated by the titans, or captured and forced into other squads. It was a unique setting. Eren Yaeger has great motivation. His mother was eaten by a titan, and he wants to get beyond the walls…the titans are also grotesque and slightly terrifying, which is good.

Now, what I didn’t like. It seems like in every kaiju anime, there’s about 5 episodes of pointless philosophical debate between should they attack or should they not attack. And I know it is dramatic tension, but it gets to be too much sometimes. Example: When Eren sees Annie Leonhart morph in front of him, (spoilers!) he questions whether or not he should attack. Of course the answer is yes; he just SAW it.

I did however, like the big plot twist, and the scenes in the Giant Forest hunting down the Female Titan. Really, I liked the action scenes which are full of hyper violence, and action, plus steampunk jetpacks. I just don’t like the long pauses in-between when they question combat orders while in combat. Planning is all right though; I think they did a fantastic job world-building in that respect, where they have to study the titans, and learn more about them…it makes them more fearsome because they are unknown monsters.

Actually, one of my favorite characters was Hange, the lead titan researcher for the Scout Regiment. I don’t think she got enough time, but her scenes are certainly eye-opening. Particularly, the titan torture scene. Eren does all right as a main character, especially after he develops his special ability, but he is still a little too whiny and hesitant for my tastes. I just don’t buy this idea that he’s a reluctant soldier when he’s a.) the most powerful in every group he’s in, and b.) got all the motivation in the world to kill titans!

Ok, the last thing I didn’t like about it…and this is really a nitpick…but there was almost no comic relief. Except for maybe Sasha Braus’s overzealous eating. (Good German name! I wonder if it’s related to “In Saus und Braus leben.” To live off the high hog. If so, her name is a good in-joke. But, maybe not.) There is only hyper violence and excitement, punctuated by periods of brooding which can take entire episodes…especially pre-Giant Forest. It was kind of a drag for me. I mean, even Neon Genesis Evangelion had comic relief.

But, here’s the thing…for an action anime, it’s not bad at all, and in fact is in my book a prime example of unique world-building. The titans are freaky looking, and there’s a lot of blood. And the animation is good, although I kind of got sick of all the red and browns like everything is being viewed through a rusty filter inside the walls. The Giant Forest greens were a nice change of scenery. Especially with The Scout Regiment uniforms also being green. Also, in terms of animation, the titans are imposing, and you get a good sense of their threat just when they’re walking around.

But anyway, the question is: can I recommend Attack on Titan? Yes, absolutely! Just be prepared for a lot of brooding and whining from Eren Yaeger, who is otherwise a very cool anime hero with very cool abilities. I suppose those are my only complaints. It’s only 26 episodes. If you have time, give it a watch on Netflix. 4/5 stars from me, but points off for the long brooding parts!

Monday, February 17, 2014

iPad Game Accessibility Review: Punch Quest (2012)

iPad Game Accessibility Review: Punch Quest 

Hi there, gamers! Do you want a fun game on the iPad that isn’t a huge, ad-ridden money trap? Try Punch Quest. Punch Quest is a fun combination of endless runner/beat-em-up. So, it’s all about how far you can get punching through zombies, skeletons, monsters, and demons! Tapping the right side of the screen keeps your player punching and running. But, also, tapping the left side of the screen does a little flying uppercut move. Another tap pounds the ground in a sort of combo.

Those aren’t the only moves in your arsenal! Along the way in your punching frenzy, you’ll get power-ups like grillin’ fists,(They shoot fireballs!) and iron fists that protect you from harm for a bit, and make you stronger! And finally, there’s a raptor that shoots lasers out of it’s mouth. You read that right. If that doesn’t make you excited to play this game, you must be dead inside. A laser-shooting dinosaur!

Yes, Punch Quest sounds like something a hyperactive five-year-old dreamed up. But, that’s fine by me. It’s fast-paced, fun, and unapologetically wacky. As far as I know, the only thing that would make this game inaccessible is the speed. But, the speed is also good for racking up points. If you punch out two or more guys, it leads to a combo. Combos multiply your points.

Points can unlock new techniques and armor. Luckily, this uses app in-game points only to buy things. Not real money! So, if you’re looking for a quick bit of fun, download it. And enjoy! There are boss fights, but since it’s an endless runner, the only thing that really counts is how long you hold out, and the points you score. It’s very replayable. Radical! With its simplicity, speed, breezy controls, and fun, it’s certainly worth a download.

And it’s cheap! There are so few good accessible games that Punch Quest certainly punches its way to the top of my list. Oh, and I haven’t even unlocked new techniques yet. But, I have beaten one boss…a flying skull! How cool is that? Go download it for all of $0.99! (When I got it, it was free. But, the price seems to have gone up!) Punch your way to greater and greater glory! All in all, this is one gnarly iPad game. 5/5 stars!


ACCESSIBILITY GRADE: A+ (You control the entire game just by tapping sides.)

FORGIVENESS FACTOR: A (It‘s very fun, and replayable. See how long you can hold out!)

TOUCHSCREEN CONTROL: A- (Kind of fast, but still incredibly easy to play, and fun!)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Stranded II (PC+Mac 2007): Game Accessibility Review:

Stranded II (PC+Mac 2007): Game Accessibility Review:

Stranded II is a bit like Minecraft. Except Minecraft lets you build whatever world you want piece by piece. Stranded II appears to be the opposite philosophy. Namely, you have to build what it tells you you can build, and you have no idea what you’re getting as you randomly hit trees or the ground. Every tree you hit, you could get leaves, vines, or branches. There’s no telling what you’ll get whenever you hit a resource…it’s all chance!

    Also, the inventory is ridiculously small. I’ve played this game many times over to see if I could get the hang of it. I eventually did, but I don’t think it made it any more fun to play. The key strategy is to set up structures bit by bit. First, make a hammer by combining 1 branch + 1 stone. Then, click on the hammer and put it in your hand. Right click to build an available structure. Putting the hammer in your hand and clicking repeatedly? You have to do it EVERY time you build something.

Okay, let’s build a shelter: 20 branches, 30 leaves. Since the inventory is ridiculously small, you’re going to hear your character complain: “It’s too heavy!” a lot. So, basically, build the structure piece by piece, meaning once you have the materials, click 50 times (20+30) on the structure, and then, you’ll have it. And that’s the easiest structure to get in the game. Food, water, and fatigue are all measured separately too, rather than Minecraft’s unified hunger meter, so you always have to keep an eye on that.

I respect that the game is based on survival, but does: “Click on this graphically pre-determined structure, while clicking wildly on this tree to see if you can get materials to build the graphically pre-determined structure” sound fun? No, not to me; it’s tedious, and just reminds me I could be playing Minecraft. Minecraft at least let’s me take pride in what I build, because the buildings’ designs are up to me.

And before any Stranded II fans chime in, yes, I built the wood and stone storage. But, I found that, again, the inventory is so small, that I kept having to sacrifice food to carry back logs for the all purpose storage hut. Otherwise, “It’s too heavy!” And I would find that my dropped food would perish after a while, or else I’d just lose track of where I put it.

Now, to make matters worse for non-German speakers, I kept finding bits of the game that were untranslated even in the English version. These were mostly ok. “Alle” means “all” for taking all the materials in front of you. “Eingeborener” means native, as you will sometimes encounter natives. But, there was one German message where, if I didn’t speak German, I’d be toast: “Feuer! Feuer! Ein Gebäude brennt!” In English: “Fire! Fire! A building is burning!” I’d built my shelter too close to my campfire (10 branches+50 stones) and it burnt down.

 Overall, I had some fun with this game. Hunting animals, seeing how long I could survive. But, there are too many random elements in Stranded II, and the building process is way too tedious for my taste when gathering is so difficult to measure and at the same time I have to maintain supplies, and even sometimes avoid lions. Yes, lions. Now, click faster, before they kill you!

I’m posting this to prove a point about disability in gaming. Previously, I lambasted Minecraft for having nearly impossible controls. But, it was still kind of fun to build with, truth be told. But, Stranded II is proof that a game can be perfectly accessible control-wise, and still be bad. Even though most of Stranded II is controlled by simple point-and-click, other problems make the game pointlessly tedious, and the fun dies quickly. Sometimes fun transcends disability issues: If a game’s bad, a game’s bad.


ACCESSIBILITY GRADE: B+ (Point-and-click for nearly all actions; some untranslated words, clicking to build gets tiresome.)

FORGIVENESS FACTOR: E (Resource management is incredibly critical; limited inventory space makes survival difficult.)

 CONTROL A-:  (Nearly all interactions are point-and-click; controls can be changed in the main menu.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Star Trek Continues Episode 2: “Lolani” (2014) Review:

Star Trek Continues Episode 2: “Lolani” (2014) Review:

“You’re right about one thing, Lolani…everyone deserves the right to be free.”

- Kirk to Lolani, after trying to seduce her way off the ship.

Lou Ferrigno guest stars as Zaminhon, a big muscled Orion slave trader! Not the first time he’s gone green, as he’d played Hulk before! An Orion slave girl he owned is on the loose and she is accused of killing one of her Tellarite captors. At first she won’t speak, but Kirk is gentle and says it’s not a good idea for her to stab friends. Eventually, Dr. McKenna gets her to talk. She must’ve picked up some language amid the slave traders after all. She doesn’t  want to go back.

This is the crux of the episode: Does Captain Kirk compromise his morals (He’s reading a book on The Roman Empire as the episode begins…which collapsed to moral decay.) or does he respect Orion culture and send her back as property. But, it’s not all heavy tension, as some funny scenes do arise between Kirk and McKenna as she begins to question his authority. Lolani patiently asks if this is a mating ritual.

Lolani is determined to get off the ship any way necessary. Tonally, this episode reminds me of Elaan of Troyius. She even tries to seduce the Captain to get her way. But unlike Elaan of Troyius, it doesn’t work here. But, he’s still unwilling to give her back to the slave traders, and wants to keep her safe. But, successfully, she seduces a redshirt (Kenway) and nearly steals a shuttlecraft! If there’s one thing you DON’T DO on Kirk’s ship, it’s overstep his chain of command. Kirk says: “Get a hold of yourself, mister!” and of course confines the redshirt and Lolani.

Meanwhile, Spock is able to determine that Lolani is innocent through a very detailed Vulcan mind-meld which shows her acting in self defense against the Tellarites. This is influential in Kirk’s firm decision not send her back to slavery. He meets with the slave trader (Lou Ferrigno!) who plays at being an epicure when invited to dinner to discuss Lolani. Ever the poker player, Kirk jibes with him, trading barbs with McKenna and pretending to respect Orion culture. But, when Scotty tells 'Hon: “Lolani says you’re an inhuman monster…” things get a little tense.

This whole scene is reminiscent of the dinner scene in Space Seed. But the final fun of the episode for me comes when Kirk catches 'Hon striking Lolani, and gives him a rabbit punch and a signature Captain Kirk dropkick. But, 'Hon is too strong. He throws Kirk aside, and leaves the ship in anger. But, Lolani still won’t go back. Some of his self-sacrifice and equality lessons to Lolani must’ve paid off however, for she blows up 'Hon’s craft as she leaves rather than go back to slavery.

This series is  looking be a bold new take on a classic formula. Lou Ferrigno is gripping as the conniving giant green slave trader. Star Trek: The Original Series was always about exploring human rights issues. But, I doubt the show wouldn’t explored the equality of women so openly. (Although it’s originally hinted at and taken as Starfleet umbrella creed of equality!)

 This episode in particular got into the nitty gritty of that creed, and tested it, along with Kirk’s will, against the Prime Directive. They never did get along, if you know your Trek! Excellent episode! Classic formula with new ideas! And McKenna is proving she’s a match for Kirk’s stubbornness! 5/5 stars! Watch it now!

YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mOpmIFTxkE#t=266      

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005) Review:

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005) Review:

Cloud: Stay where you belong... in my memories.

Sephiroth: I will... never be a memory.

Again, if you haven’t played the game, this won’t make much sense…I’m sorry. I am more of a Final Fantasy III guy, anyway. The film starts off with a little girl narrating the events of Final Fantasy VII, the videogame. Ex: The evil SHINRA Corporation tried to suck power from the Earth and guarded itself with soldiers who just happened to have the same DNA as an alien who recently wanted to destroy the planet. Easy to follow, right?

So, now one of the ex-soldiers who saved the planet (Cloud) from another who realized he wanted to destroy the planet (Sephiroth) is being mopey about killing a girl. Everyone who’s played the game knows who that is. It was supposedly a big event in gaming. But, I’m not gonna get into that.

The moping is what I hated about the game, and what I hate about the movie, too. So, Cloud starts off being chased by a gang of thugs led by Kadaj; who is actually Sephiroth in vitro…you can tell by…oh, he looks exactly like Sephiroth, never mind. You can tell. So, Kadaj and his gang are hunting after Cloud, and keep asking him about “mother”. The alien.

The battle scenes and animation are awesome. When Tifa fights Loz in the church, it’s awesome. It even makes a funny reference to the game. Loz’s cell phone ringtone is the Final Fantasy victory music, which makes you think Tifa has defeated him. The motorcycle battles are fast-paced, explosion-filled and amazing. I don’t want anyone to think that I think this is a bad film. It’s just too loaded with fan references.

The battle scene in the city before Sephiroth “awakens” is basically one big fan show. First Barrett shows up, then Cid, then Vincent…here’s the thing, though. They don’t really need to be there. It’s just for the fans. Cloud could’ve fought Sephiroth basically on his own. Okay, Cid has an airship. But, none of that battle takes place in the airship. He just rescues Cloud once.

I apologize if the above paragraph makes no sense. But, that’s just the way the movie is. It just throws out fan references. The only battle that really matters (Although I can’t stress enough, all the battles look good!) is the final showdown when Sephiroth’s theme starts playing and he’s awakened, and storm clouds move in, and they fight it out. That was epic!

Okay, I should also mention the President Rufus Shinra is in a wheelchair. (Supposedly due to SHINRA exploding in the game.) and a bunch of kids have a sickness called geostigma, because the planet is angry. I have to protest here, because after Rufus tosses “mother”, he’s able to stand, and the kids are cured at the finale with holy water from the church Tifa keeps going back to. It sort of takes on a “love heals everything” tone. As a philosopher of disability, I find this ridiculous and ham-fisted. Terrible way to end! It never really drops the preachy tone (And of course, disabilities aren‘t allowed in happy endings.), either, and Cloud keeps moping about “Are sins ever forgiven?” like he forgot he’s a mutant super soldier with a huge sword.
Look, I know her (I’m not gonna say her name; everyone knows who it is, and if you don’t, you won’t get the “tragedy”! Heck, I don’t! And I was there!) death was supposed to be traumatic, but Cloud dealt with death ALL through the game. Really? And then, you wanna get preachy on me? Don’t even try. I was over her before she even stepped on screen. Years ago!

But, see, that’s the big problem with this movie. I mean, between the flashy battles and fan references, the characters don’t grow any, nor do they have sufficient reasons to be involved. They’re involved because they saved the day last time. (When Street Fighter did it…they fought because it’s a fighting game!) Maybe role-playing games are just too nuanced to be 2 hour movies.

 So you see, it’s essentially a fan-made train wreck full of exploding eye-candy. And yet, it’s so eye-catching I couldn’t look away! 2/5 stars from me. Handled with a big grain of salt, and nostalgia for a videogame from 1997! Cloud echoes my sentiments exactly: “Stay where you belong (Final Fantasy VII!)... in my memories.” Sorry, I couldn’t find the English clip of Cloud vs. Sephiroth. My DVD actually had options for Japanese or English!


Monday, February 10, 2014

Star Trek Continues: “Pilgrim of Eternity” (2014) Review:

Star Trek Continues: “Pilgrim of Eternity” (2014) Review:

“Humanity never loved you…! Humanity feared you!”

- Captain Kirk to Apollo 

I love Star Trek: The Original Series. Even though the special effects are somewhat primitive, the stories and the crew are great. That’s why I’m excited about Star Trek Continues. An effort by producer/actor Vic Mignogna (Voice of Edward Elric on Full Metal Alchemist!) to complete the original five-year mission. Mignogna himself plays Captain Kirk, and looks just like a young William Shatner. Also, Grant Imahara of Mythbusters fame plays Sulu. Chris Doohan takes over his father’s role (James Doohan) and plays Scotty. And the first story we have from the series is the expertly told “Pilgrim of Eternity”, which stars Michael Forest returning as Apollo almost 50 years after “Who Mourns For Adonis?” in 1968!

The show starts off with Captain Kirk in the Wild West, but then Scotty says, “Computer, freeze program!” suggesting of course that Scotty helped create another Star Trek staple: The Holodeck. After this, the crew encounters a strange meteorite which houses the last of the Old Greek Gods. Apollo is beamed abroad, but he is old. He asks for asylum.

Despite this, his “god organ” discovered last time they met, that converts worship into power, seems to be reeking havoc on the ship and crew. Scotty is extremely distrustful of Apollo in particular, due to Apollo courting his old flame Caroline years ago. It takes no time at all for Apollo to have people entranced in the rec room, and demanding worship from the crew. He hurls Captain Kirk across the hall, and knocks out Uhura at her computer. Vic twists and contorts dramatically while levitating, and in Captain Kirk style…(above!) he denounces Apollo’s worship!

Eventually, Apollo apologizes and Captain Kirk takes his word as sincere. Apollo elects (With McCoy’s help!) to have surgery where he can have the organ safely removed. He still has his powers, but he’ll no longer need worship. In a final act of self-sacrifice he revives Uhura. Having thus demonstrated that he is beyond the need for worship, Kirk drops him off on a planet with equivalent 14th century technology, where he can help.

Along with this superbly acted story, there is one unique addition to the crew. Lt. McKenna comes abroad as the ship’s psychologist, who is instrumental in ascertaining that Apollo is telling the truth. Also, a funny scene occurs when she walks in the Captain’s quarters and is greeted by a shirtless Captain Kirk. Vic Mignogna also has nearly the exact same physique as the young Shatner…ladies.

Typically, I’m not a fan of fanmade Star Trek…except in books! Because it all looks so cheesy. And I count TAS as canon, so if each season was a year…the five-year mission was complete! But, these guys do a wonderful job! It’s so good, it doesn’t look fanmade. I can’t ignore a new series as good as this! Plus, it means the same guy who plays Captain Kirk also voiced another hero of mine…Ed Elric! So, he’s not only my favorite Alchemist, but also now, my favorite Captain! (With all due respect to Captain Picard.)

I’m really looking forward to the next episode of Star Trek Continues. It really shows what Star Trek: TOS could’ve been, if it had big studio support (In fact, we almost never got a 3rd season of Star Trek.) and more money for effects. And it tells great stories. The message of “Pilgrim of Eternity” is quite clear, and in line with Roddenberry’s vision: Self-sacrifice is better than worship. Spock (Todd Haberkorn) is sort of underplayed in this episode, but true to the show, he exchanges conclusive banter with Kirk and McCoy on the bridge. You can watch Star Trek Continues (and it’s second episode: “Lolani”!) for free online now!

Episodes link: http://www.startrekcontinues.com/episodes/#.UvkI-GJdXfg

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (1994) Review:

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (1994) Review:

“The world is your arena, now. Not just the street.”

- M. Bison to Sagat

   In the Olympic Spirit, here’s an anime based on a 90s fighting game (which I remember playing from a van for the first time, and being completely enthralled by!) about international fighters! But, Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is no mere videogame movie. It also combines buddy cop, kung fu, and Terminator motifs all nicely meshed together against the backstories of the characters. The best fighting game movie ever!
   Now, yes, I know if you don’t know about the game, it’s not going to grab you. But, I think it’s the best videogame movie ever made because, for starters, there’s actual fighting in a fighting game movie. Within 15 minutes there are about 4 matches. (Ryu vs. Sagat, Ryu vs. Fei Long, E. Honda vs. Dhalsim, Ken vs. T. Hawk!) and many of the special moves of the characters are used throughout the fights.
  Street Fighter II’s impact on the world of videogames is colossal enough. But, this movie captures enough 90s cultural tropes to make it more than just a straight kung fu flick. And that’s what makes it great! To begin, M. Bison (Or Vega in Japan…how’d this movie work out over there?) is tracking down Ryu (And yes, it’s REE-you, not RYE-you.) via “monitor cyborg” after he beats Sagat. Ryu’s power level is 3620, which is supposed to be very high.

  Bison’s psychic power along with his cyborgs allows him to turn people into mindless terrorists (Cammy assassinates an English anti-drug politician under such hypnosis!) and drug dealers for his evil organization Shadowlaw.  So, Ryu is on the move at random around Asia: China (Fei Long’s encounter.) India, (Where he meets E. Honda, who beats Dhalsim.) and then Thailand. He is portrayed as a nice guy who’s just passing through and looking for the next good fight, but he knows that his only equal is Ken Masters of Seattle, who trained with him for 10 years in Japan.

Ryu’s movements catch the attention of Shadowlaw, INTERPOL (Represented by Chun Li, misspelled as INTERPOLE, but, oh well.) and the US Air Force, both of whom are investigating Shadowlaw. At first, Guile (The All-American Air Force Captain, who keeps an outrageously cool hairdo.) doesn’t want to investigate with Chun Li, but after she’s attacked by Vega (Balrog in Japan…again, how was that movie different, guys?) The Spanish wall-jumping ninja, he agrees to track down M. Bison for her.

    Although, it felt weird in the 90s to me, now I think the US military probably WOULD investigate a terrorist organization turning people into zombies. So, now it feels prescient with The War on Terror.     Meanwhile, Ken Masters is being followed in America by Chun Li, Guile, and Bison’s cyborgs, as Bison has figured out that he’s Ryu’s equal. He’s more of Smart Alec than Ryu. His scenes are accompanied by Alice in Chains, which is nostalgic. Second to the final battle is a three-way fight in Thailand (Because of course, Thailand is the last level in the game.) between Guile/M.Bison, E. Honda vs. Balrog (In Japan, M. Bison.), and Ryu vs. a mind-controlled Ken.
    Finally, M. Bison is defeated by a double Hadoken by Ryu & Ken into his jet engine. I’m told Street Fighter: The Animated Series picks up after the credits scene where M. Bison follows Ryu in a semi! The credits music is Rage Against The Machine. How’s that for 90s nostalgia? This movie is awesome, and far better than anything Hollywood attempted with the franchise. And drawn in excellent manga-style!

     Again, if you don’t know the game, then the entire post probably just sounds like a 90s nostalgia rant. And that’s okay. Because partially, it is. But, in the game it’s an international tournament. Maybe it is here too, but filmed on cyborgs. Whatever the case, I thought it was a good tribute to the Olympics, and Blanka, the beastman of Brazil actually tangles with Zangief, of Russia, in the movie! Still I can’t think of better representatives for the US of A than Guile and Ken!
   This movie is great! 4/5 stars! Well, the dialogue could’ve been delivered a bit better. It’s amusing to hear Ken say things like: “Buffalo, or whatever your name is…you’re full of crap!” A wild ride that combines all things 90s with all things manga! If you don’t feel like playing Street Fighter II afterwards, something is wrong! Go Ken! Go Team USA!  

Friday, February 7, 2014

Gurren Lagann (2007) Review:

Gurren Lagann (2007) Review:

“The tomorrow we're trying to reach is...not a tomorrow you've decided on! We...by ourselves...choose our tomorrow from the infinite universe! We will fight through it. We will fight through it and protect the universe! We'll show you we can do it!”

- Simone vs. The Spinal Nemesis

Gurren Lagann is a Japanese mech-based anime series about Simone The Digger and his quest to always believe in himself and improve humanity. He starts out in an underground village with his older brother Kamina, who is cocky and arrogant but always encouraging Simone. They keep drilling all day for steaks until one day a bounty hunter named Yoko breaks them out of the village in a mechanized head named Gurren…which later finds a body…Lagann!

     From there until about halfway through is the war for humanity to regain the surface. From the Beastmen. There Simone learns about an energy held by the Spiral King, the sprial power, which embodies a being fighting spirit. The show is all about believing in yourself and staying in the present.  Sort of like Star Wars in mech form. Except after defeating the Spiral King, Simone builds a giant city where the humans can live. Even though the Spiral King warns of his destruction if they try to reach the moon.
    Six years later, they build a rocket to go to the moon. This provokes an alien invasion from Anti-Spiral races! So, one of Simone’s generals, Rossiu, imprisons Simone, and has him fighting off the aliens. Soon enough however, it escalates to an interdimensional war against The Spiral Nemesis.

   From Beastmen to a final-boss type battle, this watches like a videogame, and has all the cheesy conventions of one, including calling attacks. I suppose I like more the brotherhood aspects, and the rapid rise and fall of human government like in Star Wars. Simone’s team (Dai-Gurren) gains and loses many members along the way. Some have deep characters and others are one-note. In the end, the Beastmen, including the former Spiral King Lord Genome (Ha ha!) unite to form an even greater Gurren Lagann to defeat the Spiral Nemesis.

     Only 27 episodes long, but it’s worth a watch. Sometimes people set limits for you, without realizing it. You may even begin to believe that those are your limits. But, like Kamina tells Simone: “Believe in the Kamina that believes in you!” If he believes in the most confident, part of himself, he succeeds. A little clichéd, but still good for a mech anime. Plenty of fan service, especially with Yoko, keeps the war stories a little light-hearted.
    My favorite parts were during the civil war and you really get a sense that Simone The Supreme Commander has forgotten who he is, and become scarred by war. That and the final battle is pretty amazing, but the human technology and spiritual-evolution babble becomes so heavy and changes so fast the last few episodes, about 23-26, make my head spin? How did they master teleportation so quickly? Why is a giant nude woman floating in space? (Which is explained later, thank goodness!) Overall, I’d say the series gets an average 3 of 5 stars for me! Not bad, but not outstanding in the mech genre!    

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Avengers vs. Justice League: War

Avengers vs. Justice League: War

Captain America: “We need a plan of attack!”

Iron Man: “I have a plan. Attack!”

So, in my last post, I made the claim that there are aesthetic differences in the movie Justice League: War to make it different from Avengers, but that it was basically the same plot. The main aesthetic difference I argued, was fear as a motivator. From the beginning, it is established that Batman is a fugitive, hunted by Green Lantern.

    The heroes in Avengers, however, start out as heroes, and active members of their respective communities from SHIELD to India, for The Hulk. In Justice League: War, The impetus for banding together was only the invasion; but they didn’t have 3 hours to jibe and develop relationships between the characters. Iron Man/Hulk do a good job joking and teaming up to work on the alien object, even though Cap chastises them for being unfocused.

   So, from the start the heroes are paired together, and play off of each other. I often say of the Avengers movie that it is a good example of a viable theory of group communication called “Forming, storming, and norming.” It is of course, arguable that Hawkeye needed a little more exposure, but as the only one in this group who hadn’t had a movie yet, he couldn’t be in the first two stages. Justice League: War has little time to develop and thus normalize the heroes roles: essentially we have “forming, storming, Batman!” But, what is forming, storming, and norming?

    Forming is when the group forms. Black Widow serves this purpose, as well as SHIELD, as well as pairing off the heroes to form relationships…as when Cap breaks up a fight with Tony Stark. Superman also fought with Batman like this. But, then, Batman has to rescue Batman. Also, it’s telling that Wonder Woman avoids meeting the President. I know that’s comic relief, but she acts as a fugitive as well. Whereas Cap keeps the group focused by remaining in his past role: The soldier.

  In this respect, each Avenger contains something that connects him to the mission….and that they’re opposed to. Storming is when they question the mission. Even Tony Stark’s suspicion of SHIELD plays on Cap’s trust in SHIELD. Hulk’s rampage and defeat by Thor connects him to Thor. So, he ends up paired with him. Justice League: War has a storming stage, but it is short, since the heroes never meet until the invasion, and Batman rescues Superman. Abducting Superman for conflict reasons, I feel is an odd choice, but it served to show Batman as a leader, and he takes charge, but the end result is the group never feels solidified…it’s Batman’s show…but that’s okay! They have forming, storming, Batman.

   In sum,  Avengers had more time to dealt with forming, storming, and norming. The norming is solidified by the teams mutual avenging of the death of Coulson. It feels less dark because there is more humor (Iron Man’s a jerk, sometimes, but he enjoys himself!) and has more time for the group’s conflicts to resolve. But, in Justice League: War, DC wants the tension to be there, to use a phrase, because he’s Batman.

  Batman thrives off of being a fugitive, and why not? Batman is popular, and this gets the team together quicker…at the cost of character development. In a sense, DC must go with the Batman feel at this point, because the audience already knows him. In a similar vein (Although you have to credit the writers!) Marvel’s Avengers follows the aesthetic of it’s most bankable character for much the same reason. And they are both billionaires…ironic since they are the most bankable.

Ultimately, the cultural aesthetic comes down to who was leading the group. Cap leads the Avengers, kicking into full army mode and formulating his plan of attack! Batman serves as a leader, but only after Superman is underplayed. But, the circumstances called for him to step in…Because he’s Batman! And it would save them making more movies.

Even though Justice League: War is a good preview of what a Justice League movie might look like, to me, it’s clearly following an Avengers formula…but that’s okay! It’s a good decision. That just means they’ll have to go with more familiar characters, and resolve less interpersonal conflict. But, Batman thrives on conflict, and just happens to be the most recognizable character in that universe. Yes, the Avengers all had movies, but DC is playing catch-up, and doesn’t have time to build up there characters. So, Batman may be the hero the DC movies deserve…but not the one they need! Only time will tell!

Bonus Question: Who do you think would win? Avengers or Justice League?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Justice League: War (2014) Review

Justice League: War (2014)

Batman: “The world’s afraid of us.”

Green Lantern: “You say that like it’s a good thing.”

Batman: “It’s necessary.”

Justice League: War explains the origins of the Justice League and how they united to fight against Darkseid. But, first some had to fight against each other. Green Lantern chases Batman around Gotham believing he is an alien with a bomb. But, he’s actually stopping an alien with a bomb! In the fight and battle of wits that ensues, Batman disarms Green Lantern! It’s a very good demonstration of Batman’s skill and shows that he isn’t just a guy in a batsuit.

Really, I guess that’s the only problem I have with the film is that it’s way too Batcentric. Movies seem to have lost the idea of how to portray Superman as a leader and symbol of hope. Here, he’s an Old Testament-type God-figure, introducing himself by tossing Batman around until he realizes he’s not the enemy. It’s a might-makes-right philosophy…and I think it’s telling that they can’t represent hope without it choking fear. We can’t let Superman stand on his moral authority like Christopher Reeve's Superman did. Batman leads the Justice League now. With fear as a necessity.

But, also against this, we see the story of Wonder Woman, who prefers to spend the day eating ice cream with a girl instead of meeting with the President until the invasion. She at least provides some comic relief. And feminist philosophy. At one point, she gets one of her protestors to admit that he cross-dresses as Wonder Woman via The Lasso of Truth. It’s funny, and at least shows her philosophy of fighting for Truth, rather than hitting everyone right away.

Now, eventually we see characters like Flash (Who analyzes the metal from the bomb.) and Cyborg, and Shazam. All these characters are played spot-on. Flash has his signature fast-talking quick wit. “It’s an honor to meet you, sir…Batman…Batman, sir!” Cyborg’s backstory is the most detailed, which I believe they should focus more on should they make more movies in this storyline. His scientist father basically reveals that he missed his son’s football game to analyze the metal, because whatever he can do with football (in the world of superheroes.) is a joke.

Later, when  he becomes infected with an alien symbiote, his scientist dad uses a “quantum computer” to save his body, and he becomes Cyborg. It’s a cool story, and shows how technology can make us compete with superheroes. With a power chair, I know this firsthand.

And then of course, there’s  one of the JL’s greatest opponents, Darkseid. He appears out of the alien rift caused by this terraforming bombs. Superman again is a little underplayed here, and he gets abducted, and Batman rescues him. But, this is Batman’s era. I thought how all the team fought together using their powers (Flash for distraction, Green Lantern to repel the army, etc.) was nice. Wonder Woman stabs out Darkseid’s eyes, perhaps in a nod to the Cyclops myth. Oh, yes, it’s an adult cartoon, so there’s blood, and swearing…but that’s what I expected.
Overall, it’s a great feature, and the animation is gripping…reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series. Very refreshing to see hand-drawn styles, at least…I miss hand-drawn style. It sounds weird, but as I’ve said before I’m a secret animation geek, so it really pulled me in. Especially with the plot! I’ll add a star just for seeing some good animation.

So, in conclusion, yes, Superman’s ideal (Justice) is underplayed for Batman’s fear-based aesthetic. He even wears the Man of Steel (New 52, actually.) outfit! But, I can get used to a Batcentric JL if that’s really what people want in the post-9/11 world. But, is it “necessary”? No. Okay, that’s my final philosophical critique. I actually really enjoyed this movie and the animation, and the essence of the characters.

I mean, there’s Cyborg’s technological genius, Shazam’s bravery (And Shazam is voiced by Sean Astin!), Green Lantern’s willpower, Wonder Woman’s Truth, Flash’s quick wit…if DC’s looking to copy the success of the 2012’s Avengers (Hint: They are. Superman is Hawkeye here, Flash is Iron Man, Wonder Woman is Captain America…even the star-spangled outfit…has to rediscover the modern world.) They succeed here! Now, just make Superman a little more useful than Hawkeye! Oh, snap! 4/5 stars from me! Go see it!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United (2013):

Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United (2013):

“Well, Hulk I’d say it’s been nice seeing you, but…It really hasn’t.”

- Iron Man

Hulk is on a rampage! After Abomination (Evil big Spiky Hulk!) is let loose, Hulk is willing to destroy the city to stop him! But, not Tony Stark. And he’s been training the Hulkbuster armor. Hulk and Iron Man go at it, and trade ultra-sonic blasts. Actually, if you’ve seen the Avengers, you know Hulk always needs to go on a rampage first. Before they can team-up. The Hulkbuster armor doesn’t actually get used much. But, the training is nice, and then Tony has to break up Hulk/Abomination.
    Now, as it turns out the evil Dr. Kuhler was planning on siphoning the monsters’ rage through an arc reactor. And as they are both fighting, he’s able to get access to both. Hulk battles evil Iron Man suits is imprisoned with Abomination in one of those giant turbine things that look like the ones in The Incredibles and they are imprisoning Mr. Incredible.

   What Dr. Kuhler didn’t expect was the creation of Zzzax. A being of electrical power, who Iron Man is able to stop by “overfeeding it”. Since Zzzax siphons off power, and is resistant to both Hulk and Iron Man. He’s beyond even the control of Dr. Kuhler and his Hydra agents. But, Iron Man and Hulk have so much power, they’re able to “give it a stomach ache” together.
 This is a neat little animated feature. First off, the whole thing is basically one long fight: Hero-to-hero, villain-to-villain, so there’s not much too complain about. (But, the 3D is a little dated. It's reminiscent of MTV’s Spider-Man from 2003.) Secondly, it’s only about 70 minutes long, so it is rather short. But, it packs a punch, and you get plenty of Iron Man’s wit. I didn’t like that Hulk spoke good English, but that’s personal preference.

Overall, I’d say if you’re a fan of action-based comics and have 70 minutes to watch Hulk tear up New York, give it a watch. The 3D might be a little distracting. But, it is a good story if you like Hulk and Iron Man…or The Incredibles! 3 out of 5 stars from me. Even though it feels like it belongs in 2003, it’s a wild trip! I agree with Iron Man. It would be nice, you just never want to meet Hulk that way!