Fastest Finger First Episode 8: No Reward Without Risk

Review Episode 8:

And the competition has begun. There’s not a lot to say about this episode other than I had a lot of fun watching the team take a paper quiz and then two rounds of buzzing. There’s some character stuff going on with the girl they met at the arcade and the whole potential rivalry thing between Koshiyama and the guy from that other school, but basically if you’ve been enjoying the quiz element of this show, that’s what you get this episode.

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Though, I have to wonder how often this guy actually adjusts his glasses. It is getting to the point where I have to assume they are a fashion statement and not needed because no one who wears glasses for actual sight purposes would play with them that much.

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I really enjoyed the two answers thing as it gave another spin on the buzz and answer format. So this show isn’t the stand out of the season or the show you should definitely jump on board with if you haven’t already started it, but if you like quizzes then it might be a relaxing bit of viewing this season.


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Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Episode 9: Here’s a Set Up

Review:

So it is a new school year and Inaba is now a second year. Other than that, nothing has really changed and we’re still just kind of following him around occasionally observing things that might be interesting. Though, this episode does rather heavily and clumsily point out that something is up with the new teacher other than the fact that they end lessons mid-sentence.

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But otherwise we just hang around the apartment, Hase visits, they laugh over some fly eating plant yokai, Ryu returns… Things just kind of happen and some of it might end up being significant and some of it is just stuff. It is all kind of maddening because there have been some good ideas in this show but overall it is kind of like someone gave the most boring person on earth a camera crew to follow them around.

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Basically, Inaba lacks any kind of motive outside of his initial wanting to move out of his uncle’s house. Once that was accomplished, way back when, he’s had no goal and no reason to do anything. So we’re watching a protagonist work toward nothing.


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Death Note 2017 Movie Review: That Was… Different?

Death Note Live Action Movie

Overview:

So Netflix decided to do a live action adaptation of Death Note and decided in the process to Americanise it. I could write a review where I tear this apart because it is genuinely nothing like the original and they’d have been better off just creating all new character names and just saying this was based on the story of Death Note, but that isn’t actually fair to this movie. Yeah, it is nothing like the original. Character personalities, motivations, relationships are all totally different and most could not be favourable compared to the original characters. The characters are Americans for the most part. The whole story here is told in 100 minutes with sequel bait at the end. Got that out of the way. Now I’m going to review the movie.That said, it will be impossible to review this when I am a fan of the original anime without reference to it.

Review:

I really expected going in that I was going to hate this movie. I hoped I wouldn’t, but kind of knew deep down that no matter what Netflix did, I was not going to see it particularly well. I love the original Death Note. I love the clever play between Light and L and how that builds over half a season. I’ve watched Death Note movies before and the short run time always, always hurts the tension and the story. So imagine my surprise when I actually liked this movie. Admittedly, the first watch through I didn’t. I was too busy declaring that none of it was ‘right’ or the way ‘it should be’ but you know, that isn’t exactly fair. So I chucked my preconceptions out the window and watched it again without any thought of what it was supposedly adapting. And you know, there’s actually an all right kind of story going on here. It just isn’t the story fans were hoping for.

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See, this isn’t a psychological thriller anymore. What this movie focusses on is the horror and fear of being given power, thinking your are in control, and then seeing it all spiral horribly out of control. And from that point of view it works beautifully. Yep, Light isn’t anywhere as smart as the Light most people know and love. This character would definitely have benefitted from just having a totally new name and just be another random guy that Ryuk dropped the note for. That doesn’t make him a bad character. He’s an American teenager who has issues with the notion of justice due to his mother’s death and what he perceives as his father’s failings. He’s also seen injustice in the school system with how bullying is dealt with (or not dealt with). When given a taste of power, he uses it and some of his uses are incredibly reckless and not particularly well thought out because he is impulsive.

What this gives us is a much faster plot line. One that doesn’t set up a slow rise in the popularity of a killer who the public give a name to that he then assumes. Light chooses his own name and promotes it through those he kills. He builds a following and he does so quickly and with efficiency that allows us to move right into the phase of Light being pursued by L.

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However, before I get into that I need to address Mia. Mia is both a blessing and a curse to this movie. She provides a fairly decent plot twist, she drives the story forward when it might otherwise stagnate, she allows Light to not inner-monologue because he has a partner in crime more or less from the beginning. However, her own motives, other than apparently she gets off on killing, are never explored. We know nothing of her back story, her history, or anything about her other than she’s a cheerleader and now she thinks she has found a purpose. Also, she makes Light seem incredibly stupid because he basically reveals the note and all its secrets to her because he literally just wants to impress the girl. It is a cheap plot move and while it works at moving us forward you really don’t feel like that was a satisfying way for the story to get kicked into gear.

Basically, this is Mia and Light’s story and how the power of the Death Note changes the both of them and ultimately changes their relationship throughout. The whole L and the police thing is a secondary concern to what is going on with Mia and Light. So if Mia had just been given some decent development, this movie could even be elevated from just all right to actually quite good and yet it never quite manages that because as much as this story wanted to take Death Note in a new direction, it couldn’t quite commit.

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So here is L. He isn’t L as you know him, anymore than Light is the character you know, but he is L. He is in hot pursuit of Kira and he leaves false trails and ruthlessly uses whoever he has to in order to track down the killer. But this is a far more emotive and unstable L (though I guess L was always a little unhinged) and by the end of the story the L we see has lost any ability to think clearly or logically. He is angry and grieving and his actions take on a rashness that we would never have accepted from the anime version, but here is works well because the story makes one fairly critical change early on.

When L goes on TV to goad Kira, Light doesn’t rise to the bait. Light’s core personality has been changed sufficiently that it makes sense for his character to not want to harm the innocent, even if they are calling him out (something this movie maintains throughout its entire run). Because of that change, there’s never really a cat and mouse game between the two. Sure, L is pursuing Kira and he figures out that Light is Kira, but Light’s issues are all around Ryuk, Mia and the morality of using the note itself. That’s where the story and the conflict are. L is basically side story material that may later get development should this ever get a sequel.

I have to say, while I don’t like any of these characters as much as the original cast, and the story is nowhere near as clever or interesting as the original, for a released on TV horror it works relatively well and can certainly keep you entertained for it’s fairly short run time. The deaths are at times an excessively gory and a few of the set ups will remind you of a Final Destination film, but basically everything comes together and the final confrontation and explanation is satisfying enough.

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When it comes to recommending this though, pretty much I recommend it to non-anime fans who like horror. If you’ve already watched Death Note, it is really likely that all this movie will do is annoy you. However, if you haven’t and you like the idea of guy finds book that can kill people, you’ll probably have an alright time with this. That said, given fans of the anime probably aren’t the best audience for this, the writers really should have just committed to new audience, new story and ditched the unnecessary remnants that just serve to clutter up an otherwise interesting plot. As an adaptation of Death Note, this is pretty terrible if you are after the tone or feel of either than manga or the anime. As an American teen horror movie with a bit of a supernatural edge to it, this isn’t dreadful and actually has some quite entertaining moments.

So, I’m surprisingly okay with this movie and wouldn’t mind a follow up. I just wish they hadn’t called it Death Note.


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Clean Freak Aoyama-Kun Episode 9: Training Camps and Tests of Courage

Review:

While this show has been surprisingly entertaining, it has never actually been good, and this week I found myself finally groaning more than smiling at the forced attempts at humour. That isn’t to say this show got any worse, it is more that while I appreciated it this far, I’ve finally had enough of more or less the same punch lines over and over again. The fact that it took 9 episodes for me to get to this point is pretty novel in and of itself.

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Basically the soccer club, and every other random side character, go to a training camp hosted by rich boy’s family so of course everything is just a little bit off. Each of the characters do their usual bit and really everything just rolls along. However, the overall absurdity of a training camp in a dome custom built as well as the reactions of some of the characters just pushed me into groan territory and mostly I didn’t have fun watching this week.

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Of course, the biggest low point was the test of courage where inevitably Aoyama ends up cleaning up the ‘haunted’ building. It just isn’t funny at this point and none of the other character’s antics managed to lift it.

Actually, that’s probably the biggest issue this episode. We’re not focussed on a single side character but rather just get splatters of lots of cast members and without that focus the show just kind of feels like a bunch of poorly delivered and thinly connected gags.  Here’s hoping next week is a bit more fun.


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Ghost Hunt Series Review: Episodic, Mysterious, Awesome

Overview:

Ghost Hunt follows Mai as she takes on a part time job working for Shibuya Psychic Research under a guy she ends up nicknaming Naru the Narcissist for obvious reasons. With the help of other psychics/spiritualists/etc they take on a number of cases involving ghosts and spirits and work to bring them to a resolution.

Review:

It occurred to me recently that despite having reviewed the individual stories within Ghost Hunt I never reviewed the show as a whole show (though I can’t imagine why not). So if you want to know my thoughts on the individual cases, click here. Admittedly, you can watch an individual case from the show and have it make perfect sense, but the series manages to bring about some nice character progression for most of the characters so watching it in sequence gives the better viewing experience.

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I really love Ghost Hunt. It is one of those anime I genuinely enjoy revisiting every so often because it knows exactly what it wants to be and it doesn’t attempt to be anything else. It is a mystery. Each episode starts with the date coming up and Mai giving us an introduction into the current case they are working on and then we see how the case unfolds. Along the way the characters meet set backs, have interesting asides, occasionally some banter and insults with a low key possible romantic tone between Mai and Naru, and very short bursts of actual supernatural activity or action sequences.

Right from the opening theme you know this story is pretty laid back and heavily focussed on the mystery aspect. It isn’t really a mystery that is asking for audience participation though, it is more the mystery of ‘isn’t this mysterious’. We end up with haunted schools, ghost children, dolls that change location, creepy messages appearing on walls, and all the usual staples of ghost stories will appear throughout the series. There are some moments that go more for horror and the final two cases both really escalate the amount of blood and the unsettled feeling you get while watching, but for the most part this show isn’t about shock and gore. The show is very much about feeling unnerved. And it manages that feeling spectacularly. While it isn’t making you cringe or hide under the chair, it certainly will have you looking at dolls a bit differently and that old house that you thought was empty…

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The characters are all pretty fantastic in their roles as well. You have Mai, the ‘normal’ high schooler taking on the part-time job who acts as the audience’s guide to the world of spiritualists as she asks the questions needed to get explanations that the other characters would have no reason to give one another. Mai also turns out to have some not so normal aspects as you would imagine as the show continues and it is a shame the show doesn’t have a second season because developing this would be fantastic.

Naru is pretty standard for overly confident and young boss type, but he works really well due to the cast surrounding him. Plus his chemistry with Mai works really well and the two of them together (even when they are involved in a silly argument) is just great fun to watch. Of course, dream Naru who helps out unconscious Mai is always more fun and again it would be nice to see further development of Naru in another season but he’s great nonetheless.

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The Priest, Shrine Maiden, Exorcist, and Medium all make for a great supporting cast with each one serving their role in the team as well as bringing their own personality quirk to the table. Ayako as the self-styled Shrine Maiden is probably the most annoying of the group, but even she has some truly great moments particularly during the final case. Honestly, John as the Exorcist is probably the one who annoys me the most and that’s only because of the accent in the English dub. Wow, that is bad. I will point out though, I’ve only ever heard the English dub of this anime, it is one of the very few I’ve never watched subbed or heard the original Japanese. For the most part the dub is fantastic and really great to listen to, but John has the kind of Australian accent that people who have learned Australian accents by watching TV think Australian’s have. It hurts just listening to it.

There’s definitely some down sides to this story though. The animation and art are definitely looking dated and it isn’t that old of an anime. While this isn’t really a problem because the story works regardless, it isn’t exactly visually appealing and the overuse of purple to make things look creepy seems to scream Sailor Moon villain from the 90’s.

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The story is also decidedly slow paced. The characters take their time setting up base each case and while a case might go for multiple episodes, by the end of the series you have to wonder just how many times you watched the characters setting up a camera or running a cable. Regardless of how quick a response the characters claim they are getting from the ghosts, there is still a lot of sitting around and talking, interviewing people, musing about the possibilities, and just a lot of nothing really happening moments.

Still, if you like a good ghost story, and you don’t mind some blood and gore, Ghost Hunt may be just the thing for you.

If you’ve seen it I’d love to know your thoughts.


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Knight’s & Magic Episode 9: Oh Look, We Finally Found a Villain

Review:

After nine episodes this show has finally decided to bring a villain into the mix, but I have to wonder how we’re supposed to care about the sudden political situation of neighbouring kingdoms when previously we only saw the one small group who stole Ernesti’s prototype and then vanished without further thought or discussion. I mean, great, we’re finally doing something with that previously dropped plot line, but after 8 episodes of having no antagonist we suddenly have an entire nation wiping out other kingdoms in moments. It’s kind of a sharp contrast and the narrator is working overtime to explain where we are and who the people are and what they are doing and that just isn’t good storytelling.

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They are also doing that thing where the main bad guy isn’t really in the picture and we’re left with some psycho guy that of course we’re supposed to hate but clearly he isn’t the brains of the operation anyway. However, in a show that apparently only has 13 episodes and we’re already at episode 9, we don’t actually have time to defeat psycho boy and then take down the actual villain, unless of course they are just going to narrate us over that too, or we’re going to end with psycho boy being killed by the ongoing threat, ongoing.

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I don’t particularly think either scenario will be very satisfying to watch at this point.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Guys with Black Hair

Last week we did the list of top 5 anime females with black hair focussing on the cool beauties of the anime world. This week my attention shifts to the male characters and I think my main focus here was focussed and dependable. That said, there are an enormous number of males with ebony hair that I just could not fit onto my list so I would love to know your thoughts and who would have been included on your list.

Please note there are some spoilers in the descriptions below.

Honourable Mentions: Jiroh (Black Blood Brothers), Kazuya Shibuya (Ghost Hunt) and Gilbert Nightray (Pandora Hearts), plus the dozens of others that were considered and ultimately left off the list.

Number 5: Hei (Darker Than Black)

Whether he’s on a mission, infiltrating an organisation, reporting in, apparently having a break, Hei is always focussed on his primary goal, find out what happened to his sister. He might be a crazy powerful contractor but even before he became a contractor he was feared for his skills. he is one guy you do not want to cross because once he sets his sights on something, one way or another he’s going to make it happen and he’s going to look really good while doing it.

Number 4: Kirito (Sword Art Online)

Another highly focussed character and one I very much enjoy watching in action, Kirito does not let anything stand between him and his current goal, not even death. Plus, once you get through his protective shell and anti-social exterior, he’s actually a genuinely caring person who looks after those he considers his friends. While his tunnel focus might work against him when he gets fixated on single points and sometimes misses the bigger picture, in terms of drive it is hard to argue against his actions.

Number 3: Kuroh Yatogami (K)

If you are looking for dedication and loyalty than you can’t go much further than Kuroh. Not to mention the guy can cook and rocks that pink apron. Admittedly, there’s a bit of a disconnect between his good looks and personality when fighting to his more laid back persona and he definitely has some personality traits that are a little questionable, such as listening to the recordings of his dead master for guidance on a daily basis. Still, he’s a strong fighter, wields a sword, has an absolute sense of duty, and ultimately does what he believes is right. He is one very cool character for this list.

Number 2: Shinya Kougami (Psycho Pass)

I’d like to let the pictures speak for me on this one. Kougami is tough, focussed, and relatively unstoppable once he puts his mind to things. He’s also really great to watch in action. However, he isn’t a muscle head who only relies on his fists, he’s got a good head on his shoulders and knows when to use it. A pure joy to watch as he unravels the mysteries in Psycho Pass and seeks out his revenge.

Number 1: Sebastian Michaelis (Black Butler)

Was there ever a moment of doubt that Sebastian would not be number one on this list? The guy can do anything and look amazing while doing it. Okay, he might be a demon so has an unfair advantage. In a fair world, Kougami would be the number 1, however fair or unfair, Sebastian is perfect, except for the whole eating people’s souls things. That’s a minor hiccup in an otherwise flawless persona.

Alright, I’m done so I’m handing it over to you for your top 5 guys with black hair.


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Vatican Miracle Examiner Episode 8: The Truth is Revealed (Kind Of)

Review:

I’m in two minds about this episode. This was a much more satisfying conclusion to a mystery than the first mystery presented in Vatican Miracle Examiner where they decided to go for Hitler clones as their solution. I liked that Roberto got to take centre stage (quite literally) in rationally explaining away each prophesy. That was fairly satisfying to watch.

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But I less liked that Hiraga pretended to disagree with Roberto, that they then had to link the mystery to Roberto’s tragic childhood, the unnecessarily loose ends that they left hanging, and even the final resolution where both Roberto and Hiraga offer to quit being examiners to atone for stuffing up when technically they didn’t. Admittedly, debunking a prophesy and a sainthood on camera in front of a large audience is probably not part of their standard operating procedure either.

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So yeah, some good stuff this episode. Certainly a better ending to this mystery than the last, but I’m still not sold on this show overall.


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The Defenders First Impressions: I’m Half In and Half Out on This One

What do you do when you watch something that for everything you love about it, you find something else completely cringe worthy, dull or irritating? Well, in my case you keep watching but then you write a blog post to both celebrate what this long anticipated series does well and to openly wonder just what the deal is with everything else.

Review:

The Defenders on Netflix finally brings together a group of heroes that on paper are exactly what I like in a hero. Daredevil amazed me when I saw the premier at Supernova and it is the reason I even have a Netflix subscription. It wasn’t a perfect series but for all the gritty retellings of superhero stories going on in the cinemas, Daredevil as a TV series just grabbed me in a way none of those other stories had. A lot of that is because of the main character and just how well Charlie Cox manages to portray both the devil and the lawyer.

Then I got stuck into Jessica Jones and was also utterly blown away. I loved Jessica’s character. Okay, sassy and downtrodden girl is getting a little old, but she wears it very well. Plus, we got David Tennant as a villain so there really wasn’t anything to complain about with that.

Moving along, Luke Cage got his own series. This is where I started falling out of love with Netflix superheroes. Luke Cage is one boring protagonist, and I know I just offended some of his fans, but I find him incredibly dull and as a result I never actually finished his series. Though, when I compared that to the mess that was Iron Fist… well, Luke Cage didn’t look that bad anymore.

And all of that leads me to The Defenders and their series. I was most definitely taking some personal time after mid-last week and I’d been dying to try this series so I took an early afternoon and watched the first three episodes back to back, so just until they got the four characters together in the same location really. And as the title of this post suggests, I half love it and I half don’t.

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Basically, any scene with Matt or Jessica kind of inspired the same love I’d had for their individual efforts, and bringing the two together, albeit very briefly so far, was pure joy. Watching the banter between the two as they see who can be snarkier or one up the other was highly entertaining. Honestly, the only downer with Matt is the whole inner conflict he’s going through about whether he even still wants to be the devil. Hopefully he gets over that soon, because that indecision has been played to death by other heroes and it is never very interesting.

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Marvel’s The Defenders

Conversely, any scene with Luke or Danny just feels emotionally overwrought (in the case of Danny’s opening scene), or completely flat (all of Luke’s scenes so far and Danny after the opening scene). Even putting the two together for a fist fight did nothing to impress as you have a guy with an iron fist pounding at a guy who literally stops bullets. Admittedly, Danny did finally get in one decent punch but this was basically like watching a guy spar against a cement post and finally at the end knock one tiny chip off of it. It was not an interesting fight and that’s because Luke doesn’t fight. He pushes, occasionally punches, stands stoically around, but he isn’t built for, nor is his style, flashy or interesting.

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Someone else who reviewed the whole series of The Defenders mentioned the use of colour so I was particularly looking for it (not that you need to) and it is both striking and very affective. That kind of attention to visual detail deserves recognition and it carries a lot of the characterisation and tone of the show without the characters doing anything other than being in the scene. Now if they’d applied that same simple is more approach to the camera direction at times this could even be said to be a beautiful show.

Alas, the camera blurs, takes on weird focuses, cuts continuously (particularly during skirmishes), it pans, it tilts, it shakes, it drives you absolutely crazy until you want to reach out and just hold the thing still so you can just watch what is happening. It is so needless and distracting.

I do have to briefly turn my attention to Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) and Elektra who are the face of the enemy so far. Alexandra apparently being on top and Elektra being the whole Black Sky thing (whatever that may end up being). To be honest, neither of these two have been overly impressive in the first three episodes. Admittedly, Alexandra has the potential to be a truly interesting villain at this point. She’s a reserved but fairly nuanced character and given more screen time could really flesh out the role and be quite chilling, but these first three episodes (given they are understandably focussed on getting the actual defenders together) don’t really give her much space. Elektra is more or less a blank slate at the moment so nothing really happening there.

So I’m fence sitting at this point. I really want to like this series and there are certainly parts of it I love so far. But, there are some definite issues going on and some characters I’m a little less fond of, so I guess it depends how it balances now that the whole team is together and whether the plot actually goes somewhere now. Once I finish watching this I’ll write up my final thoughts, in the meantime, I’d love to know your thoughts on The Defenders.


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And the Winner Is…

A few weeks ago I ran a quick competition for people who liked my new Facebook page offering a post on a topic of the winner’s choice as the prize.

Raistlin ended up the winner and has now published the prize on their blog.

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They gave me an awesome topic of the post apocalyptic genre and after thinking it over I wrote a post that I called “Embracing the End of Life As We Know It“.

So congratulations to Raistlin for winning and hopefully you can all check out the post.


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