Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Review: Batman vs Robin

What's it about?

Fresh off Son of Batman, Damian Wayne is still getting used to being the new Robin and being accepted by his father.  In this film, he's a bit more matured, showing that he's taking quite a few of Batman's lessons to heart, however the rift between them is still very clear and comes to a head as a group called the Court of Owls decides to come back to Gotham and pick up where it once left off, molding the city to it's ideal.  They give Damian a choice: to listen to his father, or cross the line he will not cross.


I'm going to start this off by saying that last week, before we watched this movie, we watched Batman v Superman.  I won't spend too much time on it, but I will say that if you're in the mood for a versus comic story that is well done with character arcs that actually care about the characters and writers who actually took the time to make a coherent script, skip that movie and watch this one.  Batman vs Robin has everything I wanted Batman v Superman to be and didn't get. 

Damian Wayne is, by far, my favorite Robin.  I'm not afraid to call him a little shit, because that is the best way to describe his attitude toward the world and his newly discovered father.  What makes him so interesting is the growth he so obviously shows between these movies.  He wants to prove himself to his father, he wants Batman to trust him, but he honestly doesn't understand why he can't kill people even when they've done absolutely horrible things.

This movie is also a perfect example of how to use the overplayed flashback of Bruce Wayne's parents dying in just the right way so that it builds the plot.  In Batman v Superman the flashback felt shoehorned in, just because Hollywood was sure that they needed it there to prove it was a Batman movie.  Here the flashback is relevant to the story and is actually expanded upon, to build Bruce's character.  We don't just see his parents die, we see little Bruce coming to grips with it, trying to understand who was behind it and why.  And in that we understand a little better how Damian is feeling about everything, even though their childhoods are so different.

There's also the animation in this movie, specifically in the final fight scene.  Ask me any time for examples of amazing animation (because I watch far too much anime to count) and this is still a stellar example of what the medium can do.  Fight scenes are hard to animate and don't always look right, even with the most skilled of companies.  The one that Warner Brother's Animated used for this movie carries out the fight scene as if it were nothing.  I said it above, but I mean it. This movie is what I wanted from Batman v Superman and the fight is no exception.  You felt the punches here, and the cuts and bruises were painful.  It was a master piece of showing that you can keep a fight confined to a minimal area and still communicate how earth shattering it would be if they lost.  I was invested in this fight and I got what I wanted in this climax. 

Final thoughts?

In the end this movie is one of my favorites, right up there with Under the Red Hood.  And once again I'll dream of the day when we get live action DC movies from the same writing team as these.  Because by and far, there are more good animated movies then there are bad.  Yes, some stumble horribly - looking at you, Killing Joke - but the majority are really good and worth recommending to friends and family.  And I'm still going to keep buying them blind when they come out.  I can't wait to watch more.

Where'd I get it?

Best Buy Black Friday sale with many other DC movies we were missing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review: Black Butler: Book of Circus (Anime)

What's it about?

Enter back into the world of Ciel Phantomhive and his demonic butler. It is Ciel's job, as the Queen's Guard Dog, to police the underworld so they don't become too much of a hassle for the crown and normal citizens. When many children start disappearing and those disappearance coincide with a mysterious circus, what else would you expect?  Ciel and Sebastian join the circus to find the children and the story behind the mysterious performers. 


Book of Circus is a soft reboot of the Black Butler series.  If you're unfamiliar, the first season was enjoyable, but strayed quite a bit from the original story in the manga.  Instead of taking the Dragon Ball Z Kai route, this series went a bit more toward Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood and restarted the story with their most popular arc, using strategically placed flashbacks to remind us of the important pieces. You aren't required to see the first season to understand this series, and you CERTAINLY aren't required to see the second season - in fact, just join the rest of us and pretend that part never happened. 

This season brings back the characters you already know and introduces a whole host of new ones who will grow on you.  Joker, Beast, Doll and Snake especially are very well written in the short season.  You meet each member of the circus and you feel for them, so that makes the inevitable ending that you know is coming that much more painful, as Ciel and Sebastian have a tendency to clean up whatever mess is in front of them and the bodies tend to follow.  

I'll be honest it's hard not to spoil the story while talking about it, so I'll keep it vague.  Instead I would highly recommend this anime for those who tend to like mysteries and very smart main characters.  Ciel is deeply flawed and not the best hero by any means, but you understand where his actions come from and the world he inhabits is always interesting to see.  I loved the first season and I still follow the manga through scanlation sites.  This anime is a perfect adaptation of the story, with a couple extra scenes added in for that extra punch to the gut, even if you know what's coming.  

Final thoughts?

Seriously, it's a good series. Why haven't you watched it yet?  See it.  Share it with your friends.  Then check out Book of Murder and the rest of the series.  But not season 2, just pretend that doesn't exist like the rest of us. 

Where's I get it?

We finally bought a copy on Blu-ray from Best Buy during their Black Friday sales.  Oh and as a note, the dub on this is also AMAZING and one of the best dubs out there.  Shout out to the entire cast, they do an amazing job!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review: Fudanshi Kōkō Seikatsu (Anime, Season 1)

So this weekend, upon playing around on our PS3, we found we still have Crunchyroll, oops!  This means we can watch things - like Yuri on Ice!! - and we're so far behind in anime.  So we decided to try one out that my partner had mentioned, but I hadn't seen.

What's it about?

Ryo Sakaguchi is a rare person.  He's a young, straight, man who is actually a fan of Boy's Love manga.  This, of course, leads to many hilarious situations across 12 short style episodes.


The premise is cute, mostly because as a female Yaoi and Boy's Love fan I can't quite imagine how it might be for a guy in Japanese society.  This creates a very meta feeling series that is quite self aware of all the cliches and tropes present in the genre and uses them to create very amusing commentary.

For example, the main character loves pairing guys together and will take pictures, collect the manga and doujinshi and such, but when ever he runs into it real life, he always comments about the problematic areas of such a relationship in real life.  Like most fans of the genre he's very aware of the difference between real life and the fantasy, and he's ok with them being different.  I find that part of him really easy to identify with even though it's one of the hardest things to explain to someone who isn't part of the fandom(or any fandom for that matter).

One thing I do really love about the series, is the serious lack of shame around the idea.  In most series like this, you would expect the main character to be given a lot of grief for what he likes and even possibly have the central plot based on that until there's some sort of lame conclusion about accepting one's self.  In this case, the creator has decided to ignore that cliche in favor of reflecting how the character feels about himself.  Sure, he's embarrassed about his hobby, but that's where most of the shame comes from.  His best friend thinks it's a bit weird, but only makes very small comments here and there as a best friend would.  By doing this, the series doesn't shame the audience for what they like, and it's a nice alternative to what I normally expect in this sort of series.

The downside is that this short series requires one to have a pretty wide view of the genre, as each episode is it's own little inside joke.  If you aren't as familiar with Yaoi and Boy's Love and the culture of it's fans, I have a feeling that quite a bit of this series would be lost on you or uninteresting beyond the simple setup idea.

The other downside is that this only seems to work as short sketch episodes.  I can not, for the life of me, imagine watching this series with full sized episodes and an overarching plot without seeing it annoy me with troupes or become one itself and lose my interest.  The premise is cute, but created for a large scale plot it is not, which is fine, really.

In conclusion?

If you're familiar with Boy's Love and Yaoi and like the genre yourself, you'll probably get a couple laughs out of this series.  But don't expect anything major, just go in for quick, amusing distraction.

Where'd I get it?

Crunchyroll has all 12 episodes.  No word currently if more are planned. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

On The Subject of NaNoWriMo 2016

Once upon a time, a few years ago, I won NaNoWriMo.  With a plan completely in hand, an outline ready and determination, I wrote the first draft of Seeking the Storyteller in a month, even though it was well over the 50,000 word goal.

But I haven't beat NaNo since.

This isn't a blog entry about me failing, or attempting to relive some goal I completed years ago under completely different circumstances.  Instead it's addressing something I've experienced every year after that - dealing with the fact that I couldn't catch up to myself.

Every year in November thousands of people - probably a heck of a lot more then that - pledge to join National Novel Writing Month and write 50,000 words in a single month.  We post our blurbs and summaries and get to typing, with varying degrees of success.  And I've participated each year, with different expectations.

This year I didn't expect that I'd finish.  As hopeful as I'd like to be, I was under no illusion that the political climate looming would affect my progress, not to mention all the holiday orders I have to fulfill from my other job.  Then there's the vacation and yeah, a less then adequate time of year for starting and finishing a novel.  So instead I gave myself a different goal:

I would finish writing a short story I started last year, titled Summons.  I would edit that story so it was ready for my wifey to read and I would sort through the growing pile of horror stories I've written to see if there's a novel in there somewhere.  Those goals - while they didn't add up to the normal 50,000 words, were very doable and I accomplished them!

So the point of this little entry?  Easy!  It's ok if you don't complete NaNo, not everyone does.  And if you know that the month might hold too many other things to do, set a different goal for yourself and work just as hard to get to it.  You can still win the month, even if the little word counter on the site seems to say otherwise.  And there's always next year, where hopefully things will line up a bit better.

In the meantime, Summons has become "The Great Wizard of Shoes and Sock" and has been sent off.  And my horror anthology "Little Creepers" is that much closer to being ready to be edited.  So there will still be more from me in the future.

And later this week I should start editing magnifiqueNOIR, cuz the first draft is sooooooooooo close to being done!!