Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Doctor Who: The Caretaker Review

"The Caretaker," a fun and comedic episode with a surprisingly dramatic twist.

The Doctor goes on an undercover mission to Coal Hill School to stop a robotic killing machine, before it destroys the planet. 
Steven Moffat and Gareth Roberts penned the episode, and unlike Moffat's last attempt at comedic dialogue, in the premiere episode of the season, both the comedy and the drama worked in "The Caretaker." The dialogue was fun and witty, while the excellent performances from Capaldi, Coleman, and Anderson made the dramatic character driven segments some of the highlight moments of the season in terms of acting. Jenna Coleman continues to be a standout with her performance being very believable and human ever since the first episode and Samuel Anderson as Danny finally received some true character development and screen time. Of course, Peter Capaldi's Doctor is still at the top of his game as always. In terms of plot, "The Caretaker" mostly served to create a MacGuffin so that the Doctor would have a reason to "go undercover" at the Coal Hill School, so that Danny could discover Clara's secret, and thus drama ensues! 

*Spoilers Ahead*
Leading up to Danny discovering the truth, there was a lot of great humor, in the vein of "The Lodger," one of the funniest episodes of the Smith era, except with Capaldi's different style of humor. 

One of the funnier moments of the episode is when the Doctor thinks that the other teacher, who looks like a certain bow-tie wearing Time Lord, is Clara's boyfriend, and considering how vain the character has been this season, his satisfaction that Clara might still be fond of his old look is rather clever and funny. 

Moving on to the interstellar MacGuffin, the Skovox Blitzer was neither a bad foe, nor a good one, but just a generic and forgettable one. That being said, the Skovox Blitzer reminded me of a certain Mass Effect character (Garrus).
“I'm in the middle of some calibrations.”
"The Caretaker" is one of those inevitable episodes that had to happen at some point because Danny needed to find out about the Doctor, and it is handled in a decidedly different way than other similar takes on a (possible) future companion seeing the TARDIS. Danny's reaction is refreshingly logical. Instead of being "wowed" he is more skeptical and afraid, yet ready to take action. One thing in general that has confused me about Doctor Who's universe is how much does the public know about alien invasions? When considering how many countless times aliens have invaded or caused something strange to happen in England in both Doctor Who and Torchwood, does something always happen to make everyone forget or to cover up every time? If someone knows the answer, please let me know, because I cannot remember.

Back to Danny, Anderson's performance was particularly top notch in the episode. Having the Doctor dislike him because of his military background was certainly expected, but Danny saying that the Doctor is an officer was not. The Doctor's dislike of soldiers has been a recurring theme throughout this season, and it really pays off in this episode. The entire heated exchanged between Danny and the Doctor in the TARDIS was acted superbly well. 
Danny and Clara's brief moment of relationship drama has not been done in Doctor Who, but it is not all that original either. However, it worked thanks to the strong performances from both actors, who sold the scene well. Also, the ending scene with Danny talking to Clara about not pushing herself too much was a nice touch. My only problem with any of Danny's scenes was that frontflip. Wasn't there some other way he could have distracted the Skovox Blitzer?

And finally, Missy returns, well, kind of. The security guard that is blown to pieces by Skovox Blitzer is now in the "After-life" or "Promised land," and considering that we saw his burnt remains, it is safe to assume that he was not just teleported to safety. Hopefully the explanation for Missy and her "Promised Land" will not be as daft as I expect it to be.   

Overall: 8.0/10- While lacking in plot, "The Caretaker" is a superbly acted and humorous character driven episode with some new character beats not often seen in Doctor Who.

The Caretaker Review by Tegan
The Caretaker review by Gypsy King

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Fall Anime Preview: Top 15

The Fall anime season is right around the corner, so it is now time discuss some of the upcoming series and which ones I am most excited about. Today, I will be ranking the Top 15 series that I am most excited about seeing. Admittedly, aside from the top ten, I have no idea what to expect, except that other people are interested in the series, and therefore I am going to watch it. After my brief thoughts on each series, I list the animation studio, genre, and the plot summary from Please let me know in the comments which series you are most excited about, and which ones that I should watch in addition to the ones listed below.

Honorable Mention: Rakuen Tsuihou: Expelled From Paradise
Expelled from Paradise is actually a film written by Gen Urobuchi, the best writer in anime. If you want to know more about it and watch the trailer, click here to read my full post about it.

At Number 15: Garo: Honoo no Kokuin
Another instance where the animation studio is the only reason that I am interested in watching it, Garo: Honoo no Kokuin is based on a semi-popular manga, and since MAPPA's animation for Zankyou no Terror is amazing, I am want to see what they do next. 
Animation Studio: MAPPA
Genre: Action, Fantasy
Plot Summary: "?"

At Number 14: Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis
Normally, anything based on a card game is an automatic turn off, but it seems that a surprisingly large amount of people are hyped up about Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis. The series is also animated by MAPPA, and it does look kind of cool, except for the design of the protagonist.
Animation Studio: MAPPA
Genre: Shounen, Action, Fantasy, 
Plot Summary: "An anime adaptation of the Rage of Bahamut social card game."

At Number 13: Sora no Method
Sora no Method just looks pleasant. I have no other reason to be interested in the series other than it looks like we might have another Barakamon. 
Animation Studio: Studio 3Hz
Genre: ?
Plot Summary: "The story begins one winter day when the wish of a few girls was realized with a miracle, changing the landscape of a town. 'In the skies above this town, a disc is always there.'"

At Number 12: Shingeki no Kyojin Gaiden: Kuinaki Sentaku
Honestly, I do not know what to think of Attack on Titan: No Regrets, aka Shingeki no Kyojin Gaiden: Kuinaki Sentaku. For one, it is a prequel to last year's best anime, Attack on Titan, yet it is based on a spin off shoujo manga. If you are not familiar with the term, shoujo manga refers to the young female demographic, and I suppose the manga is like fanservice for the Levi fangirls. Also, unlike the rest of the series on the list, this is an OVA, hence the low ranking, with only two episodes. The director of Attack on Titan, Tetsurō Araki, is returning to direct this OVA and Studio Wit is animating it, so maybe he will take creative license and make it something more in line with the Attack on Titan series. Regardless of what it actually turns out to be, it is more Attack on Titan, and I will watch it. The OVA premieres December 9, 2014.
Animation Studio: Wit Studio
Genre: Shoujo, Action, Fantasy,
Plot Summary: "Attack on Titan Levi Side Story: A Choice with No Regrets) is a spinoff manga illustrated by Hikaru Suruga and written by Gun Snark with a story based on the A Choice With No Regrets visual novel. This manga focuses on Levi, and serves as a prequel to the main story by Hajime Isayama."

At Number 11: Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de
Despite looking fairly generic, Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de is the most recent effort from Studio Trigger, the studio behind Kill la Kill; therefore, I want to see what they do next.
Animation Studio: Trigger
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance, School, Shounen
Plot Summary: "The five members of the literature club awakened with extraordinary powers half a year ago. Although the members expected to be thrown into a world of super-powered battles at their school, their normal daily routine continued. No secret organizations bent on world destruction, no super-powered wars, no brave heroes or demon kings. However, the members still look forward to the possibilities of adventure, and continued to believe that with each day, they were getting ever closer to those days of fantasy. Their days of romantic comedy and battles with extraordinary powers begin!"

At Number 10: Denki-Gai no Honya-san
Denki-Gai no Honya-san is listed as a "Seinen" series; therefore I must at least give it a watch. From what I have seen, this could be a hilarious series! And one of the characters believes she is in a zombie apocalypse, which should create some hilarious comedy. 
Animation Studio: Shin-Ei Animation
Genre: Comedy, Seinen
Plot Summary: "The "youthful bookstore comedy" revolves around the folks who work in a manga shop deep in a certain "Electric Town" neighborhood. ("Denki-Gai" or "Electric Town" is a popular name for shopping areas that specialize or used to specialize in electric and electronic items, like Tokyo's Akihabara.) The protagonist Umio works part-time at "BOOKS Umanohone" along with his senior at work (but not in age) Hiotan. As many dedicated manga fans visit the store, there is always something going on."

At Number 9: Amagi Brilliant Park
Kyoto Animation is possibly my favorite animation studio. They have animated several of my favorite series including, Clannad, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu, and Free. Despite the ho-hum plot summary, Amagi Brilliant Park should at least look freaking amazing! And there are references to Full Metal Panic, so I am definitely going to watch it.
Animation Studio: Kyoto Animation
Genre: Comedy, School, Romance, Ecchi
Plot Summary: "The "slapstick drama" begins with Seiya Kanie, a high school boy who is invited on a date in an amusement park by a mysterious beautiful transfer student named Isuzu Sento. He is introduced to Ratifa, a "real" princess and the park's manager, and is asked to be the acting manager of this "disappointing amusement park in the Tokyo suburbs.""

At Number 8: SHIROBAKO
SHIROBAKO is a series about making anime, and it is an original series not based on a manga or light novel, which is always exciting. SHIROBAKO is also from the writer of Genshiken, one of my favorite series about Otaku, and the series is animated by studio P.A. Works, who made Glasslip, which is the most beautiful series of the year. Right now, anything from P.A. Works is something that I will watch for the animation alone.
Animation Studio: P.A. Works
Genre: ?
Plot Summary: "Five girls chase their dreams. The story revolves around the everyday troubles and hardships that occur when working in the anime industry, and the results and conflicts that happen day-to-day among the group of girls."

At Number 7: Sanzoku no Musume Ronja
If you read my post from earlier, I am skeptical about Studio Ghibli's TV series, but I am definitely excited. For more of my thoughts about Sanzoku no Musume Ronja, click here to read my original post.
Animation Studio: Studio Ghibli
Genre: Adventure. Fantasy
Plot Summary: "The story is about a girl named Ronja who is the daughter of a chief of a tribe of bandits and lives in a huge castle in the forest with the bandits. The story follows Ronja as she encounters mystical creatures, makes friends with another young child like herself, and experiences life in the forest."

At Number 6: Danna ga Nani wo Itteru ka Wakaranai Ken
Every season needs a great comedy, and Danna ga Nani wo Itteru ka Wakaranai Ken, or I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying in English, appears to be that comedy. Two aspects of the series make me very interested in it, 1: it is not set in high school, and 2: it is about an Otaku! It is also listed as Seinen, which makes me even more interested.
Animation Studio: Seven
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, Seinen
Plot Summary: "The anime follows the daily life of an earnest, hardworking office lady named Kaoru and her otaku husband, who is totally immersed in a certain huge net bulletin board system."

At Number 5: Kiseijuu
Kiseijuu, aka Parasyte in English, is based on a popular psychological horror manga with science fiction elements. While I have not read the manga, Kiseijuu is from Madhouse (Wolf Children, Black Lagoon), and they always have top notch animation. Kiseijuu is hopefully going to be the definitive dark series of the year, and maybe it will make people forget about the overrated Tokyo Ghoul.
Animation Studio: Madhouse Studios
Genre: Action, Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi, Psychological
Plot Summary: "They arrive in silence and darkness. They descend from the skies. They have a hunger for human flesh. They are everywhere. They are parasites, alien creatures who must invade–and take control of–a human host to survive. And once they have infected their victims, they can assume any deadly form they choose: monsters with giant teeth, winged demons, creatures with blades for hands. But most have chosen to conceal their lethal purpose behind ordinary human faces. So no one knows their secret–except an ordinary high school student. Shin is battling for control of his own body against an alien parasite, but can he find a way to warn humanity of the horrors to come?"

At Number 4: Akatsuki no Yona
Despite original skepticism, Akatsuki no Yona is starting to build up some hype, and what I have seen of the manga, this should be an interesting fantasy series. 
Animation Studio: Studio Pierrot
Genre: Action, Romance, Fantasy
Plot Summary: "Since Yona is the only princess of a grand kingdom, she has been raised with great care by her doting father and protected by her childhood friend/guard Hak and others. However, her fate changes on her 16th birthday, when her beloved cousin Soo-won murders her father to claim the throne. She flees the castle to Hak's hometown and begins her new life."

At Number 3: Psycho-Pass 2
Season 1 of Psycho-Pass was one of my favorite series of last year, and even though Gen Urobuchi is taking a step back from main writer on the series, Psycho-Pass' concept is so interesting that I am excited to see the direction the it takes next. If you missed the first season, you can catch on Netflix.
Psycho-Pass Season 1 Review
Animation Studio: 
Genre: Cyberpunk, Action, Crime,

At Number 2: Log Horizon 2nd Series
Of the series that have completing airing in 2014, Log Horizon is, by far, my favorite series, which is evident by my review here, and it should be no surprise that I am so hyped for season two. Unlike a lot of series, Log Horizon ended with the sole intention of having a second season; therefore this 2nd series is an entirely valid and worthwhile continuation. Basically, go watch season one of Log Horizon so that you will be ready for season two. My only slight problem is that Studio Deen is attached to animate the series, whereas Statelight animated the first season.
Animation Studio: Studio Deen
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Drama/Comedy,

At Number 1: Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
If you remember from my post earlier in the week, I am beyond excited for Ufotable’s upcoming remake of Fate/stay night, and it is, unquestionably my most anticipated anime of not just the season, but also the entire year. To read my brief guide to the Fate franchise and Fate/stay night, please click here.
Animation Studio: Ufotable
Genre: Fantasy, Thriller, Action,
Plot Summary: "Adaptation of the 2nd route of the popular visual novel: Fate/Stay Night. In this route, Tohsaka Rin will be the major female character. Revelations about Shirou and his destiny will be made."

Which series are you watching from this upcoming season? Are there some that I should add to my Watch-List? Also, my plan is to try virtually every series that is not a sequel or a kid's show, plus anything that the Anime Addicts Anonymous podcast gives a pass will be added to my watch list. Please comment below and check back next week for my review of the series from Summer season.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

New Trailer: Expelled From Paradise by Gen Urobuchi

Typically, I am not often interested in 3D animated films, however with the creative mind of Gen Urobuchi behind, Expelled From Paradise, aka Rakuen Tsuihou, is automatically intriguing to me. Other than this vague trailer, not much of the plot is known about Expelled from Paradise, except that it is apparently, it is a science fiction action film. Toei Animation, the creators of Space Pirate Captain Harlock (my review here), is the animation studio behind the production, and while 3D animation is not ideal, it doesn't look half bad. However, the only reason I am even giving this film a second thought is that Gen Urobuchi is the sole writer of the film, and it is an original production, not based on a novel or comic. Urobuchi is most commonly known for his brilliant work on series such as Fate/ZeroPsycho-Pass, and Madoka Magica, and while not flawless, he rarely disappoints his fans, so maybe Expelled From Paradise will be a surprise hit. What do you think? Please comment below and check back tomorrow for my Top 15 Anime of the Fall.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Legend of Korra: Book 4 Trailer

The first trailer for the upcoming Legend of Korra: Book 4 is here, and it looks amazing! Unfortunately, it is the final season of the series, yet with it taking place four years after the events of the previous season, I am extremely excited to see where the series takes us next! Please check back Friday for my review of Book 3 of The Legend of Korra and next weekend for my review of the Book 4 premiere episode. Also, a shout out to Shena Tokala, aka Maegen, for leting me know that the trailer was released.

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Tolkien Blog Party of Special Magnificence

Hamlette over on The Edge of the Precipice is hosting a giveaway! And to participate, you just need to check out her post here.  

1.  Who introduced you to Tolkien's stories?
My father watched the first Lord of the Rings film in theaters, and then he took me and the rest of the family to see it.

2.  How old were you when you first ventured into Middle Earth?
Probably 8 years old, which is when I saw the film in theaters.

3.  Did you read the books first, or see movie versions first?
Watched the movie.

4.  A dragon or a balrog -- which would you rather fight?
A dragon.

5.  Who are three of your favorite characters?  (Feel free to elaborate on why.)

6.  Have you ever dressed up like a Tolkien character?
Nope, never have.

7.  If someone asks you to go on adventure, how do you respond?
Let's go!

8.  Have you read any of the "history of Middle Earth" books?
No, I have not.

9.  Would you rather drink a bowl of Ent Draught or a glass of Old Winyards?
Since I am against alcohol, I will go with Ent Draught, plus it would make even taller.

10.  List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotes from the books or movies.
"Then let us be rid of it... once and for all! Come on, Mr. Frodo. I can't carry it for you... but I can carry you!"
"You shall not pass!"
"One does not simply walk into Mordor."
“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”
“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
“We swears, to serve the master of the Precious. We will swear on… on the Precious!”
“I am Gandalf the White. And I come back to you now… at the turn of the tide.”
“Oh, it’s quite simple. If you are a friend, you speak the password, and the doors will open.”
“A day may come when the courage of men fails… but it is not THIS day.”
“Your time will come. You will face the same Evil, and you will defeat it.”
“But the fat Hobbit, he knows. Eyes always watching.”

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Legend of Korra: Book 2 Review

The Legend of Korra: Book 2, the second season that continues the story of Avatar Korra and her companions.
Going into season two, I have heard that some fans were disappointed, while other still considered it overall strong. After watching Book 2, I can say that while The Legend of Korra continues to be a very good series, it falters at times in this second season, whereas season one was consistently strong.
The Good: "The Beginning" episode arc is truly amazing!, Epic conclusion, Impressive second half action sequences, Aubrey Plaza!, Strong animation, Tenzin's storyline is intriguing, Bumi and Kya are fun new characters, Steven Yeun!, Surprise cameos, Explores the past of the Avatar, Miyazaki and Watanabe influences, 

The Bad: Weak first half, Dull and obvious villain, Where's Lin Beifong?, Some really dumb moments, Lacks sophistication in first half, 

Plot: 6.5/10- One of my favorite aspects of Book 1 of The Legend of Korra is how mature the storytelling remained throughout the series. Very rarely did the series seem to feel as though it was for a younger audience with complex themes and character dynamics. 
Unfortunately, the first half of Book 2 devolves into the "kid's show" territory several times with it lacking the magic and sophistication present in the previous three seasons of Avatar/Korra. It felt like everything was just going through the motions with the exception of one storyline, which I will discuss in moment.
Thankfully, after episodes seven and eight, "The Beginning," which may be the best Korra has to offer with some stellar storytelling of the Avatar's origin, the stakes raised and the plot becomes more focused towards it epic conclusion, which does a lot to make up for the disappointing first half. The only consistently positive aspect of first half is Tenzin's side story with his siblings Bumi and Kya, which both explores the years between Avatar and Korra and the history of the world.

Characterization: 7.8/10- Despite Korra being my favorite character from the first season, she is not nearly as likable in Book 2 with her making some dumb choices and not seeming to do a lot in the first half. Getting to see her relationship with her parents is a strong point of her development in the first half, with the second half arc redeeming my opinion of the character. Overall, Korra is still cool character, and it is nice seeing a female that actually has flaws and needs help, but still kicks butt when the time comes. Also, the relationship drama is not as good as it could have been with some awkward decisions being made. By the end, I was satisfying by the outcome of the relationship drama, but it took a while getting there.
After Korra, Tenzin and his siblings Bumi and Kya and the exploration of their relationship with their father, Aang, is the most interesting aspect of the season, granted, I usually enjoy sibling bonding/conflict storylines. Tenzin grows a lot as a character throughout the season, and by the end, I have to say that he is my favorite part of Korra, and I am not even an Air Nomad fan.
Mako, Bolin, and Asami all go through character development, even if said development is a little too slow and occasionally backtracking at times. Mako's new job as a Police Officer makes him more interesting as he does some detective work, and Bolin is as dumb as ever, but everyone's final character arc in the last four episodes is satisfying.
While the identity of the antagonist is blatantly obvious by the first episode, I will not "spoil" who he is, but ultimately, he is an incredibly weak villain, particularly compared to Amon of last season.
Aside from the villain, my biggest disappointment in the character department is the almost complete lack of Lin Beifong, who was one of the best parts of the previous season. *Massive Spoilers* Why even give Lin her Bending back if you are not going to use her!? *End Spoiler*

Action: 9.2/10- Since Book 2 is more about the Spirit World, a large portion of the first half is more about fighting Spirits with Bending, rather than other Benders, so the action scenes are not as visually exciting. Fortunately, the final action sequences in the last four episodes are truly spectacular, maybe even the best the Avatar/Korra franchise has produced.
Acting: 9.5/10- As with the first season, the acting in the series is top notch all around. J. K. Simmons is the standout best of the returning cast as he added a surprising amount of emotion and depth to his character. 
Of the new cast, Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation, Scott Pilgrim) plays a side character, and considering how much I enjoy her completely deadpan and pessimistic delivery in all of her work, getting to hear her in the series is a lot of fun. Steven Yeun of Walking Dead fame plays an important role during the series' best episodes, "The Beginning," and his performance is particularly strong. Janet Varney as Korra is not as consistently strong as she was in the first season, but by the later episodes, her performance was quite good. 
Art Style: 8.5/10- While season one's animation was nearly flawless, season two's animation seemed a like a step back to a small degree. Maybe the icy tundra is just not as interesting as the city of the first season, but something about the style seemed slightly off. According to sources, Studio Mir, the studio behind the first and third seasons, only animated episodes 7 and 8 ("The Beginning" story arc), and the last four episodes, which also happen to be the best episode of the season, whereas Studio Pierrot (Tokyo Ghoul) and Nickelodeon Animation Studio animated the rest of the series, which is noticeably lower in quality. 
On the positive side, the two part story arc, "The Beginning" features a drastically different art style that is heavily inspired by ancient Japanese art work, as well as featuring heavy stylistic influences from the work of Shinichirō Watanabe, who is the director behind such anime as Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Zankyou no Terror. In addition, some elements of Hayao Miyazaki's work like Spirited Away can be seen in certain aspects as well.

Soundtrack: 9.5/10- Jeremy Zuckerman nails the score, using many of the same tracks as the previous season.

Humor: 6.2/10- One of the biggest flaws in the first half of the season is the lack of quality humor. Most of the humor during the early episodes was distracting and detracted from the overall experience.
Entertainment Value: 7.5/10- At certain points during the first half, I was bored due to the lack of sophistication. After "The Beginning" the series "rights the ship" so to speak and brings back the fun action and more complex storylines.

Overall: 7.3/10- When Book 2 is good, it's amazing, and when it is bad, the series is nearly unbearable. However, thanks to an impressive finale, one near perfect story arc, and consistently strong production values, The Legend of Korra: Book 2 manages to redeem its disappointing first half that almost had me lose faith in the series.

Closing comments: Despite being difficult to get through at times, Book 2 is still worth watching because "The Beginning" is truly special, and Book 3 is a must-watch.

Recommended for: Animation fans, Anyone that watched The Last Airbender, Fantasy fans, Action fans,

To read more of my anime reviews, you can click here.
Also, if you have reviewed this anime, leave a comment with a link to your review and I will post it here (providing it does not contain any explicit content).

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Gotham Pilot Review

Gotham, Fox's new series based on DC's Batman comic book, set in the early years of Gotham when Gordon is a new detective, and Bruce is just a kid.

If, for whatever reason, you do not know Batman's origin story, spoilers are ahead; however, the relevant spoilers will be not be discussed.
The episode opens with Catwoman, or rather "Catgirl," as she steals from various people on the street, and then she sees Bruce Wayne and his parents walk down the dark alley. Anyone who knows anything about Batman knows right off the bat that his parents are about to be murdered, and the famous scene is executed exactly as every other version of it: robber demands money and then shoots Bruce's parents. First to the crime scene are Harvey Bullock, and his partner, James "Jim" Gordon. Gordon talks to the witness, Bruce, and gives him some words of encouragement. Go watch the episode if you want to know what happens next.

As for the quality of Gotham, it is not a bad start. While almost feeling as though it is trying too hard to be the typical crime drama, the casting and visuals do set it apart thus far. Gotham is probably the best looking series on network TV with the stunningly grim Gotham skyline and the "dark deco" style pull from Batman: The Animated Series. The inside of Gotham City Police Department looks like it was taken from the Arkham City video games with a very retro and gritty aesthetic. The lighting for the sets is particularly noteworthy for adding another layer of professionalism for network television, which is often glossy and bright.
Even though the visuals are great, the plot is not the best. The setup to find the Waynes' killer is a bit clichéd, and it will likely drag out for way too long. Ultimately, the plot takes the corrupted city with the one clean cop idea from a bevy of other crime dramas. It is not a terrible setting, but there is nothing original about the setting, aside from Gotham itself. Maybe the series can spice things up with the addition of the comic book characters. That being said, the interaction between young Bruce and Gordon is quite good in both instances. 

Gotham's first episode introduces a lot of characters from the comics, almost too many. Every five minutes there seemed to be a new comic book character being introduced, although it was quite fun seeing the various interpretations of the popular characters. To analyze the performances, Ben McKenzie as James "Jim" Gordon is quite good, albeit a bit bland. He is the lead character, and while he is doing a fine job, his character is not particularly compelling from the start.

Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock provides the comedic relief of the typical buddy cop duo. He fits the character from the comics and animated series, and he will probably be one of the stronger points of the series as it continues. David Mazouz as young Bruce Wayne is fine for a young teen actor, although his scream strange. Camren Bicondova as a young Selina Kyle barely receives any lines, so she was neither good nor bad. 
Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth is essentially Pertwee playing aspects of his previous roles, and it works for the most part. He does not receive much screen time though. Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma, aka the Riddler, seems as though he is going to fit the role, although he has less than a minute of screen time. Clare Foley plays the young Ivy Pepper (Poison Ivy), and why exactly is her name from the comics, Pamela Isley, changed? I suppose it does not matter. Maybe it is to allow audiences not familiar with the character to recognize her as Poison Ivy. Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney stands from the rest of the cast, and not in a good way. From her first scene to her last, the character seemed completely out of place. Smith's performance is over-the-top evil for the world created, almost reminiscent of Halle Berry from Catwoman, which is never a good thing. Not surprisingly, Fish Mooney is an original character created for the series, and while there is nothing wrong with creating new character, she just does not work.

Among this large cast, there is one standout, in the positive sense of the word, Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot / Penguin. Right from the scene before his name is revealed, Taylor looks like the Penguin, just without the weight problem. He really embodies the character, and I look forward to what he is going to bring to the series.

Towards the end of the episode, Moony is being entertained by a comedian, and while it is not actually relevant to the story, he could become the Joker later in the series. Also, according to reports, there will be various characters introduced, who could resemble the Joker, yet only one actually is the infamous villain.

Overall: 7.1/10- With a few hit and miss performances, a typical mystery plot, and strong visuals, Gotham’s pilot is a decent setup for could either turn into a typical crime drama or an intriguing new adaptation of the Batman story.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Log Horizon Review

Log Horizon, the series that definitively captures what a video game would be like if you were trapped inside.

With season two of Log Horizon right around the corner; it seemed like a great time to review one of the best series of 2014.
If you remember my First Impression post about Log Horizon, I was rather impressed by the first few episodes and the rest of the series certainly did not disappoint as it became more complex and deeper in both characters and story. Not only does Log Horizon perfectly capture the feel of a video game, it is an intelligent work of science fiction and fantasy set in a medieval world that is familiar, yet original thanks to the introduction of the MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing games) mechanics. For those not familiar, MMORPGs are video games that thousands of people play online at the same time, and teamwork and forming groups and guilds is an important aspect of any MMO. Some examples of MMORPGs include, Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars 2. As a player and fan of the genre, I loved the setting and the accuracy in which Log Horizon portrays the gaming experience.

The Good: Lovable cast of characters, Perfect tone, Never overly dramatic, Intelligent story, Perfectly captures video games, Unexpected twists and turns, Hilarious sense of humor, My type of series, Epic strategy battles, Develops rules and follows them,

The Bad:
Yes, there is a cat guy in the series, and he is awesome!
Plot: 9.8/10- One day thousands of players happen to wake up in the video game Elder Tale, but no knows why or how that happened. Unlike another MMO set series, like Sword Art Online where players use virtual reality helmets, Elder Tale is just a standard video game that players play with a keyboard and mouse, just like the ones that I play, which makes why or how the players are trapped all the more mysterious.
Another thing that sets the series apart from others is that *Episode 1 Spoiler* when you die in the game, you do not die in real life; you respawn at the closest spawn point just like a video game. One would think that, without the risk of death, Log Horizon would lose tension and a sense of importance, but that is far from the case.  In the Elder Tale world, the players are immortals who are far stronger than the NPCs (non-player-characters), which are the characters that inhabit the world, and are thus perceived as superhumans (think of Asgardians coming to Earth in the Marvel universe). Basically, Log Horizon is an exploration of a world where people from our world become immortals and are placed in a familiar high-fantasy setting where the NPCs are the equivalent of people. One minor thing that felt odd is that no one panicked when they realized that were trapped in the game. While it was great seeing that most everyone just accepted what was happening, at least a few would have tried to kill themselves to get back to the world. Also, the characters in the series are not particularly concerned with getting back to the real world. In fact, their main goal is to make the world that they live in a better place.

Trying to explain Log Horizon's plot is difficult because it is so complex. Due to the complexity, there is a lot of exposition throughout the series, which explains many of the game's mechanics. Because of this, viewers that prefer their fiction light on exposition and heavy on action will be disappointed. In fact, while there are some great action scenes, Log Horizon is much more a political/economic thriller and strategy series that focuses on how to strategically create peace in the lawless world, and when the need arises, uses strategy, rather than "Willpower," to win battles. In many ways, the series reminds me of Code Geass with the strategy, but also Spice and Wolf since the characters use economic to gain power. Because of these factors, I loved the series' way of doing things! Also, Log Horizon's tone is surprisingly fun and lighthearted. There is quite a lot humor and since no one dies (there are significant penalties though), the series is never melodramatic, and remains fun throughout. There are two minor problems with the series. One is that, in the final three episodes, the tone leans towards a romantic comedy, albeit a very well executed one. The other problem is that the series does not have a definitive conclusion. Fortunately however, a second season will be coming this Fall.
*End Spoiler*

Characterization: 9.7/10- Log Horizon has a large cast of characters, yet it manages to give the audience enough screen-time with each character to the point where you feel as though you know these characters. The series is very character driven, and even some of the NPCs are given well thought-out characterization.
Shiroe: Shiroe is the main character of the series. Unlike basically all other protagonists in similar stories, Shiroe is not a lone-wolf, because, as anyone that plays MMOs knows, playing solo is virtually suicide unless you stick to low-level dungeons. Instead, Shiroe is a master strategic and an experienced player. In the game, he is a mage support-class, which is my preferred class in MMOs, which uses abilities to aid allies and hider opponents in battle rather than dealing damage directly. In many ways, as many viewers have cited, Shiroe is much like Light Yagami from Death Note or Lelouch from Code Geass, except he is a good guy, who has the best interest of everyone in mind, which makes him a very likable character. Also, he wears glasses, and is referred to as "The Villain in Glass" because of his cunning wits and no one has ever pushed up their more epically than Shiroe.
Akatsuki: Akatsuki is the group's assassin (DPS in gamer lingo). She is heavy into role-playing as the faithful ninja to her master Shiroe. There is some fun romantic tension between Akatsuki and Shiroe. Even though Akatsuki has elements of anime archetypes like tsundere, she does not fit into any one archetype, which is good.
Naotsugu: Naotsugu is an experienced player that Shiroe has known for some time. He is a tank class, and because of this, he actually reminds me of my friend, and leader of my guild, Buruk (character name not real name), which is cool.
These are just the first few characters that the series revolves around, but many more are introduced, and considering the sheer volume of characters, the series does an excellent job of giving each character the perfect amount of time to develop.
Action: 7.8/10- Log Horizon is not a particularly action heavy series. Despite this, there are some impressive large scale battles that remind me of the Lord of the Rings, or massive raids in MMOs. Also, all of the action scenes actually follow the rules of the world that have been meticulously set up and explained. Do not expect characters to use game breaking powers to win battles, (looking at you Sword Art Online) but rather strategy, just like in a real video game. 

Acting: 9.1/10- Being that Log Horizon has recently concluded, the English dub is not currently produced; however, a dub is set to be released sometime in November. That being said, the Japanese cast is superb! Everyone does a fine job at portraying their characters.

Art Style: 8.9/10- Studio Satellite’s animation for Log Horizon's is unique. While not necessarily the most fluid and detailed animation ever, I found it to be particularly appealing and easy on the eyes. When the series makes to be serious, the animation remains constant. Conversely, when the series wants be humorous and lighthearted, the animation can change to chibi or generally comedic, which is surprisingly effective. Also, fanservice in Log Horizon is virtually non-existence.

Soundtrack: 9.4/10- Log Horizon’s score perfectly fits the high-fantasy setting, and the other tracks compliment the mood very well.

Humor: 8.9/10- While Log Horizon is not comedy, there is plenty of great humor throughout the series. Fortunately, the comedy is never misplaced nor encroaches in on the serious aspects of the series.
This is an excellent example of the series' change in animation for comedic effect.
Opening and Ending: 9.3/10- "Database," the opening song, annoyed me at first because I hate any all things that resembling rap, but I really ended up loving it by the fifth episode. Seriously, I listen to the song on a loop all the time. Thankfully, the opening does not change throughout the entire series. The ending theme is somewhat generic, but still worth listening to sometimes.

Non-Otaku Appeal: If you are a gamer, particularly a MMO gamer, Log Horizon is the best gateway anime providing that you prefer a smarter strategic based series opposed to an action-packed. Also, if you are into character driven sci-fi/fantasy with world building, Log Horizon is perfect.

Entertainment Value: 10/10- Log Horizon is my type of series. It has everything from the smart strategy, to the world building, to the humor, and all of it entertains me.

Gotta love the transitions and the fact that Log Horizon has the best most awesome glasses wearing characters ever.
Personal/Gamer Rating: 9.6/10- Log Horizon successfully merges my love of videogames and Tolkien's exposition heavy style of fantasy storytelling to near perfection. It is fun, smart, and one more the unique experiences you will have.

Non-Gamer Rating: 8.7/10- While accurately rating Log Horizon from a non-gamer is difficult, I do believe that if viewers do not mind the exposition parts that explain the game mechanics, you should be able to find a lot of entertainment.

Closing comments: Season 2 of Log Horizon cannot come soon enough! 

Note: Unlike some other series, Log Horizon is rather tame in terms of content. There is nothing that I would not show to a young teenager, except for the fact that Log Horizon is probably too slow and dialogue driven to hold younger audience's attention.

Recommended for: Gamers, Fantasy fans, Science Fiction fans, MMORPG players, If you wear glasses,

To read more of my anime reviews, you can click here.
Also, if you have reviewed this anime, leave a comment with a link to your review and I will post it here (providing it does not contain any explicit content).

Below is a review by my favorite critic, GRArkada, aka Tristan. I actually watched the series based on his recommendation in one of the PodTaku a while back, but I actually watched the series before he posted a full review it. Also, our opinion of the series is virtually identical in many respects, which seems to happen often with our opinions. 

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