Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: Cardcaptor Sakura Book 1 (Giant Collected Edition Manga)




What's it about:

Part of the magical girl genre, Sakura is a normal young student who accidentally releases the Clow Cards one day while down in her father's office. Now it's her job to collect them again and take control of their magic. Dressed in the cutest of outfits, thanks to her best friend Tomoyo, with Kero - their protector - she's ready to go after the cards and collect them all.

Thoughts:

Ever since my days of drowning in anime - still haven't come up, lets be honest never will - I've had a love for CLAMP's work. As the years have gone on, they've changed their style and I've disliked more then I've liked but I'm still nostalgic for the original CLAMP days when they did what they did best: parody popular anime genres.

Cardcaptor Sakura is one of those parodys, aimed squarely at the 'collect 'em all' genre of Pokemon, Yugioh and the like.  However in that parody they've also created a story about a whole host of characters I love and not to mention a gorgeous set of Tarot cards that I will happily admit to owning. Picking up this volume gave me the chance to get back into that story and read the manga I never got around to reading before. Not to mention enjoy all of their amazing art.

CLAMP has a habit of creating characters that stick with you and this series is no exception. The cute trend of Sakura getting a new outfit with each card she chases - thanks to her friend Tomoyo - is a hilarious edition and serves to highlight the art style I love so much.  Beyond that Sakura and her friends are fleshed out quite well during the battles and cards they have to collect. As usual, as the story goes on, you find out that Sakura isn't exactly normal and has a particular family history that lends to why the cards chose her, but there's only a few threads of that in this volume.  I'll have to get the next ones to learn more and they're already in my cart!

I do love the fun pokes the series takes at well known cliches in their own genres. The underlying queer relationships in magical girl anime are there, along with surprising family connections and rivals that really would get more done if they stopped their pissing contests. The Clow Cards aren't just items to be collected, they are almost characters in their own right, giving the show a unique twist.

A special add on to this large collected volume are the color inserts at the end of all the stunning coverart.  It's like getting your own mini artbook with the manga and I appreciate that.  I only wish I'd had access to this volume earlier and I probably would have read the manga sooner. It also reminds me that I need to finish the anime, so that I can check out the new Clear Card series that's currently running.

Final thoughts:

As a trip down nostalgia lane, this collected edition is perfect.  However, with the large amount of magical girl shows and manga out there now, I don't particularly see this one standing out. More popular shows like Sailor Moon and Madoka will easily overshadow this series and probably push it back out of people's notice.  The charm of CLAMP lies in knowing and following them as artists and knowing that they used to do a really good job at parodying various genres. It gives their series a new spin that others might miss without that knowledge. Still, if you are a fan of CLAMP's work, from any decade, it's a fun read and they're masters at inserting plot threads and callouts to their other series, so it's a can't miss.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: Trans Liberty Riot Brigade by L.M. Pierce

What's it about?

Andi's world is very different from our own, right?  Her life consists of hiding from the police, living with a freedom fighting group and trying to keep her head straight between drug fixes. Young and foolish, she is still incredibly loyal to those around her and when a new mission comes up, she'll easily go along and do what needs to be done. Andi's life in the walled up United Free States is a lot of following and doing what she's told and still messing it up. But she's going to have to learn to make decisions on her own, because there aren't always going to be people helping her out of situations.  Eventually she's going to have to help all of them.

Thoughts:

My partner and I picked up this book from the author at a convention in Portland. I would have to say the first thing that caught me was the character's world, and the very specific queer dystopia that made up her life. In her world, which seems so wildly different from ours, there are very real and uncomfortable parallels.  Sure, there's a wall, much like the one that Trump wants to build, but it's so much more then that and the book uses these qualities to suck you in right away.

Andi's voice and slang in the book is striking and takes a bit of time to get used to.  It's so wildly different from what I'm used to reading that it took me some time to get into.  However, the author has obviously paid attention to this because it's very consistent and it's a great tool to suck you into Andi's world whether you want to be or not. Her struggles and trials are that much more sincere and real when you read her expressions and can still understand them even when you aren't given a glossary to explain all the terms.  Nope, not needed, the author has paid enough attention to basically create a whole slang language and it feels real. I really appreciate that.

My only hesitation with the book is that Andi spends most of it as a passive observer. Sure, she's running with the others, on missions and trying to escape. However in that, most of her actions are not taken until someone tells her what to do.  It can be infuriating because the book is told in first person and her 'wants' are quite absent save for general survival and drugs and not being snipped. After a while I wanted to grab Andi and shake her, but I couldn't exactly blame her for acting the way she did, so it ended up not being a bad thing, just a bit frustrating. Someone else's mileage may differ, but that quality stuck out to me.

Final Thoughts:

Overall I ended up loving this book, though it is a gradual love that it built as you read each chapter and the characters burrow more into your head. Getting into the world and the vocabulary takes a bit, but the journey is worth it and I am looking forward to the second volume and how Andi's journey will progress.

Where you can get it:

Ninestar Press
Amazon

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Backseat Gamer: Mirror's Edge Catalyst


Backseat Gamer: Mirror's Edge Catalyst

Ohh, here's a subject I haven't reviewed in a while, a video game!  In case if you've forgotten in that time, the point of this section is for me to review video games that I haven't actually played.  Because I'm more of a video game voyeur then anything else, when a new game comes along I'm usually watching my wifey play it. That's the case with this game, and even though I wasn't the active party, I watched the whole game and loved it!

What's it about?

In the distant future the world is now a utopia of business and clean solid colored walls. Everyone works for one company or another and it's all run by the Conglomerate, enforced by a group called Kruger Sec. Faith is a member of a group of runners, who work as mail deliverers throughout the city and also as a resistance. While making deliveries she must also work to discover the true reason why she was locked up and what happened to her family - more specifically her sister.

Thoughts:

My wifey played through the first Mirror's Edge when it originally came out and we both loved the game.  Not only is the world stunning, but the game play is unique being that it's always in a first person perspective while you're jumping and parkouring through this futuristic landscape.

With the second game, Catalyst, the creative team rebooted the story of the first.  This time the world was a bit different in that it was more clean and more refined, with the plot being told in a slightly more coherent way.  Faith was better defined and the world seemed more open and challenging - especially since you have no option to pick up guns, but you're being chased by people with them on several missions.

That isn't to say there aren't plot holes, mind you.  While Faith's story is told in a better way then the first, there are still noticeable gaps in the storytelling, especially at the end.  Some things are tied up, but it's obvious that the team is expecting to make future games, so there are threads left hanging and there is a noticeable lack of a boss fight all things considered. There's also hints about other characters that make you yearn for DLC with their own side stories.  I know I can't be the only one who wanted to play as Icarus by the end and learn more about Black November and even Bird Man.

In the end it's a great game with a very distinct atmosphere, but it leaves me wanting more.  This can be great if there's going to be another game.  But considering that I know this one wasn't that popular I have a feeling I'm going to be disappointed on that front.

How much did I play?

Ha!  Though I think this game would be stunning in VR, the first person perspective does a great job of getting you as close to that as possible.  I had fun watching her play, but man some of those heights felt way too real.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Books You Should Check Out: Some A**hole In Pajamas Talks About Writing by Xero Reynolds



By far, one of the best things about having awesome author friends is finding out about their new projects and getting to be one of the firsts to preorder something when it's coming out!

We met Xero at Anime Iowa a couple years ago.  He's a good friend, great inspiration and I love hearing his view on a lot of creative minded things, especially world building and the characters he creates. So when this book was announced, aw hell, you know I already have my copy preordered!

You can preorder yours here and even read the first chapter for free!  Check it out and get your copy.  And while you're at it, attach it a real set of googly eyes for endless entertainment ^__^


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Review: Bingo Love (Comic)

What's it about?


Hazel and Mari met at church bingo one night and in that moment started a friendship and love that went against their times and parents' beliefs.  Sadly, it never happened. Least not until history repeated itself and they met again at the bingo parlor many years later.

Thoughts?


In the world of queer stories, there's a lot of tropes and cliches that we're used to hearing, especially when it's dealing with the 'good ole days' when we weren't accepted (could go on about how that crap is still happening, but you get the point). While this comic isn't hugely new in that area, it does bring in diverse characters we're not used to seeing in these situations and is definitely worth reading for a cute story that gets you right in the feels.

The characters are sweet and easy to fall for, each drawn with their personality in mind and it shows! There wasn't anyone I disliked, and even those I got mad at throughout the story had their reasons and their reactions were justified. A good portion of this story feels so authetic and real, as if I were hearing it from someone who actually experienced it, and that adds to the comic in so many ways. Not only does it have great art but the writing is top notch!

The comic leaves you aching for more story, but not because anything is left out.  Instead the short narrative reemphasizes all the time the two didn't have together due to their parents and societial expectations and that hits hard. Keeping the story short doubles down on that feeling and makes it hit even closer to home. It's almost impossible not to root for these two ladies and their love, especially knowing how long it's taken them to get it. And it's one of those where I would love to read more, but there doesn't need to be more.  It's perfect at the length it is.


Final thoughts:


Pick up this comic.  Seriously.  Pick it up and share it with your friends.  We need more positive queer stories out there like this because it's so sweet. It's worth a read and a share, and probably a read again once you're done with those tissues.

Where can I get it?


We got ours through the official Kickstarter, but there are ways you can get it too!
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Bingo-Love-OGN-Tee-Franklin/dp/1534307508/

Also, ask your local comic book shop!  It comes out in February 2018, so go now and ask them to order it in!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Review: Justice League (movie)



What it's about?

After the death of Superman at the hands of Lex Luther and Zod, the world has lost its hope. Batman is convinced something bigger is coming but his attempts to bring together a team are failing. Now that bigger attack is coming and what few people he has managed to gather are not prepared to stand alone. 

Thoughts?

Full transparency, I hated Batman V Superman and I know I'm not alone.  I honestly have had no love for any of the movies DC has put out recently (animated or not) with the exception of Wonder Woman.  I did like Man of Steel, but mostly because it broke the Superman mold for me and made him interesting to watch - to the detriment of what most think makes Superman who he is.  So to say I wasn't expecting much from this movie is an understatement.

I was pleasantly surprised. 

Now, by no means is Justice League a master piece, far from it. At it's core it's a fun movie to shut your brain off and watch, and the storytelling and action actually makes it quite easy to do that.  I found myself having a good time and enjoying the movie, even if there were narrative issues throughout.

The beginning is quite choppy, with -  I swear - 20 different beginnings to the film which weren't needed. However once that time has passed the movie is easy to like. Joss Whedon's talent for writing engaging dialog shows throughout the entire movie and makes the characters easy to like and get along with.  It especially shows with Flash and Aquaman and their senses of humor. They were easily the best parts of the movie, but honestly all the characters got a moment, even if it was small. 

The characters we already know going in from previous movies had their stories rounded out and expanded, while the newer characters were introduced with just enough to make them just as interesting. Even the big bad, who under performed a bit, still got much more build up and time then in some Marvel movies. Steppenwolf was kept very cut and dry and for once only hinted at what might come after him, rather then rushing forward with too many villains like some other films (I'm looking at you Batman v Superman).

In the world of DC attempting to catch up to Marvel, this really isn't the train wreck I was expecting to see. A lot of the stuff I did like beyond the above is more spoilery so I'll stay away from it for those reading.  Still I would recommend seeing this movie and not going in with such a fatalistic attitude as the previous movies may have given you.  This feels like a new start for DC, and if they do focus more on the single movies and crafting the story as they say they're going to now, we may yet get some more films that give us exactly what we want.

Oh, though you should know there's a mid credit stinger and one at the end and both are worth watching. 

Final thoughts:

Justice League oddly gives me hope for future DC movies. I know they've stated they plan to move away from their extended universe and I'm all for this, but this movie shows they can still make entertaining stories that aren't just a royal mess. So maybe the ones they've already announced have a bit more promise then I thought. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: American Horror Story: Roanoke


What's it about?

One of the creepiest true stories in history is that of the Roanoke Colony that up and disappeared, leaving all their belongings and only the word 'Croatoan' behind.  In current times a family has purchased an old farm nearby in the hopes of starting over, only to find that the farm is haunted by the missing colony members.  They manage to make it out alive and now are telling everything that happened to them, via a reality confession show with very realistic reenactments.

Thoughts

American Horror Story is one of my favorite current tv shows and this season shows no sign of stopping. I love the variety of stories and characters and how they manage to capture different pieces of fear and use them against the audience.

This series follows the trend I'm used to with this show.  Along with a new and interesting story, the creators have also decided to try another form of story telling: reality tv. By using only footage caught on camera by reality show cast members, 'actors' and cell phone footage, the show treats you to a very unique story.

Every season the story telling style changes and I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that they would eventually touch reality TV.  The narrative style almost simulates a google search, specifically my own when I find a story that's super interesting and devour the entire internet to find everything I can about it.  The footage does the same, showing you piece by piece and letting you piece it together.  In the end the story is choppy and messy and a little hard to follow, but since it reminds me of myself, I really love it.

What's actually really nice about this season is you're introduced to everything via the reality show so you don't see the actual ghosts until halfway through the season and oddly that makes them scarier.  Because you never hear the actual ghosts talk and when they do finally show up you are already scared of them and as creepy as Kathy Bates is, the actual Butcher is worse.

My favorite character this season has to be Lee, the real Lee.  I didn't like her at first, but when the actual Lee took a more active role in the story she grew on me.  I loved seeing her move from being the victim to the hero of the story - if you could call it that. Also, while Angela Bassett was awesome, I loved Adina Porter for her range and how easy it was to identify with her and what she was experiencing.

I do have to say I was disappointed with Lady Gaga's role with this season.  Sadly she wasn't in the season that much due to her tour and album, so her part was quite small. What little there was of her character left me hungry for more.  She played the original supreme witch (connecting back to Coven) and I would have loved to see more of her character then a couple flashbacks and a few flashes.  I'm not sure how more of her story would have fit in overall, but I can't help wanting it.

The most disappointing part of the series was the Polk family. The stereotypical hillbilly family, they provided a second threat to the main characters for daring to live on that land.  What made them interesting was that they had ties to The Butcher and her ghost army which allowed them to survive - and yet they were also saddled with the standard inbreeding, druggie, stupid and mentally impaired cliches that fill the horror genre.  It made them uninteresting and boring and honestly seemed a bit below the amazing writing I'm used to on this series.  Also their need to have cameras everywhere became a tired gimmick plot device to keep the series going.  While a single YouTube video was used toward the end with the death threat, I wish they'd peppered that in throughout as a reason why they recorded stuff so it didn't seem so contrived. They didn't seem fully realized and the series just kinda sank there.

Final Thoughts

I very much liked this season and how it tied to the others. While not my favorite, it does stand out for it's depiction of certain characters and how the main antagonists were utilized (those being the ghosts). Now, as usual, I have to wait a year to watch the newest season in one binge sitting. Oh well, worth it.