Inquiring Minds Want To Know #34: How did you decide on your avatar?

Another week and another fantastic question. I’m still seeking questions to keep this series going a little longer so if you have something you want to know, be sure to fill in the simple survey below and I will definitely get to it.

Question: Perhaps someone asked this at one point, but how did you decide on your avatar? Did you draw it yourself, and does that reflect in any way what you look like? From Moyatori

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I think I’ve mentioned it somewhere before on my blog, but my avatar is just kind of there. Honestly, I didn’t expect my blog to last very long so I didn’t put a lot of thought into it when I started. I’d previously been trying to discuss anime with people in the Crunchyroll forums (with incredibly limited success) but one day someone started a thread for people to create an anime version of themselves and post it. I don’t even remember what I used to create the avatar but she’s designed to look like a cuter version  (much, much, much cuter version) of me when I was in my teens.

The colour of the hair and clothing is pretty accurate but the eye colour is way too bright as mine are closer to blue-grey or blue-green and pretty pale. The chin is too pointy and the nose is well just totally wrong. I like the accessories she’s wearing in her hair and her necklace because they kind of fit with what I was going for as a teen, though they are a little bit dated for me nowadays.

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I actually really liked how it turned out though as I’ve thought more and more about making my blog a full time thing, I’ve started to think I need something designed specifically for the blog (if for no other reason other than not being sure about whether or not I’m supposed to be using that image the way I do). And that is why I set up the account with Ko-Fi as my goal with that is to have enough to commission some art that is made for the purpose of the blog.

I think if I ever do reach the goal and look at getting an avatar made specifically for the blog, I’d probably like her to look a little bit older (I am in my thirties after-all) and while the book is a cute prop, it really doesn’t have anything to do with being an anime blog. There’s also a specific style pendant I’d love to have included as I wear it almost continuously.

On that note, if you are or happen to know someone who is looking for an art commission, I’d love it if you could pass their name along and some samples of work because it is something I really would like my banner, logo, and profile pic to all kind of look like they were designed purposefully and not just kind of thrown together. While I’m not at a point where I can pay for this yet, I’m working on it so research is always good.

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This was a great question and as always I’d love to know about my readers as well. So, how did you decide on your avatars?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Inquiring Minds Want To Know #33: What do you think of live action adaptations of anime?

Thanks to everyone who responded to the question drive but if you didn’t get a question in, remember you can still fill in the survey at the end of the post or use the link in the sidebar to send me a question. This week we get a very timely question and I really enjoyed going back and thinking about some of the live action adaptations I’ve watched since becoming a blogger.

Question: What do you think of live action (dramas or movies) adaptions of anime? Any favourites? from Rise

Netflix Live Action Bleach

I’m going to be perfectly honest here, live action adaptations of anime have an incredibly patchy history and a fairly well deserved reputation for being less than stellar. The Dragonball Evolution isn’t just a poor adaptation of the source material, its just a terrible movie to have to endure watching.

Still, that isn’t every adaptation. Okay, the Full Metal Alchemist adaptation wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible.Ghost in the Shell worked well enough for me but that’s probably because I’m not a fan of the anime in the first place and just took it as a generic sci-fi kind of movie and it succeeded at that. Death Note angered me at first and then I detached my expectations from the anime and realised that as a cheap horror movie it could work just fine so got over it, but none of these have really stuck.

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That actually leaves me with two live action adaptations I really enjoyed just because they were really enjoyable and not because I looked for some positives amongst a mess of an adaptation.

The first is Erased the series. I really enjoyed seeing this story brought to life and feel they did a great job of it. I know the live action is based more off the anime so most of the changes between the anime and the live action are more because the anime veered off course, but I actually feel from a plot point of view the live action is stronger. I still really love the anime but I prefer the ending as presented in the live action series.

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The second is one that just came out and that is Bleach. Given how incredibly on the fence I was about the idea of a Bleach movie and the fact that I went in really expecting to be severely disappointed, this movie actually put my concerns to rest and delivered what is a fairly decent movie in its own right and probably the best kind of adaptations I could have hoped for. It remains true enough to the feel of the anime that what I loved about the franchise is recognisable but it makes sufficient changes to sit relatively comfortable as a movie. It really is just good fun and one I definitely recommend.

Bleach Netflix Live Action

Thanks for the question this week and I’d love to know what my readers think and what some of your favourite live action adaptations of anime are (or if you hate them). Please leave me a comment and remember if you have a question for me you can simply complete the survey below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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A True Champion Can Adapt To Anything, But Don’t Mess With The Source Material

Death Note Live Action Movie

Last week I reviewed the Netflix Death Note movie and I tried really hard to review it as a movie in its own right rather than as a poorer version of the psychological masterpiece that is the original anime (at least the first half of it). However, while I read a lot of reviews about this movie, what I noticed repeatedly was that a lot of reviewers were not reviewing the movie on the screen. They were reviewing how well it managed to follow a different script or the manga. Some reviewers even put side by side pictures of the live action characters from the American production with the anime version of the character as though this somehow added weight to their argument that the movie was appalling.

Now, I don’t actually want to argue about whether the movie was good or not because that isn’t even the issue. While I enjoyed it on my second watch through, there are some actual plot and character problems that the movie has, even ignoring the source material and the changes that were made, and it definitely has some pacing issues in the second half. Is it the single worst thing I’ve ever seen and would I threaten the production team with having their names written in a Death Note? Probably not, but nor do I care to try to defend the movie because this movie is pretty much doomed to be a five minute discussion topic and then the world will move on.

However, I have to wonder why fans get so attached to the source material that any variation feels like some kind of criminal act? By its very nature, adapting material forces changes. From manga to anime, anime to live action, it is kind of certain some things are going to be lost or changed. Some because of the medium involved and others because of different interpretations, and still others by deliberate choice. While those choices may produce a lesser quality work (and regularly do, I’m not even going to try to claim that the majority of works that have ended up with this treatment aren’t pretty dreadful) it isn’t necessarily because they chose to change them. In the case of Death Note, I would actually argue that the changes didn’t go far enough.

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In an effort to pander to the fans of the manga and anime, several characters and events were left in the film, though they served little purpose and actually just took up screen time that could have better been spent on fleshing out some of the more original ideas. The pacing fell apart toward the end because we’d wasted time building L up as any kind of antagonist when he actually wasn’t the one Light had to confront, and because they bothered to leave Light’s father in the story as a character of any significance. Which of course in the other variations of the story, L and Light’s father are important and of course should have screen time, but in this version of the story, they were merely the face of the police, but the climax isn’t about Light facing off against the police. It is about Light facing off with Mia, his partner who for whatever reason wants to use the Death Note to judge whoever she wants.

If you sat through Netflix’s Death Note and felt frustrated by the ending, think about how much better it would be if L just remained a background character. A voice on the TV reassuring people that the police were looking for Kira, and someone Light mocked to make himself look good to Mia, and then they went about their business. What if the police received a tip that Light and Mia might have been Kira after they were overheard discussing the Death Note in the school grounds (because they do and that is stupid), so the police still show up at the dance forcing Light to tell Mia to go to the ferris wheel and still leading to a chase sequence, only no L and no space gun.

Suddenly the whole sequence is cleaner and less complex because you aren’t trying to deal with L’s emotional break down which is unimportant to the viewer because this version of Death Note gave us no reason to care and you aren’t trying to figure out what is with the gun. Light no longer has to try to justify his actions in hysterics and we actually have time to give Mia some actual character development. It would all work so well.

However, let’s pitch that idea to Death Note fans.

So, I’m going to make a live action version of Death Note.

Go on.

It’s going to be set in America.

What?

No, it will be fine. We’ll just give Light an American sounding surname. No problem.

Assuming that’s true, what else will you change?

Okay, I’m going to get rid of L as a main character. He’ll still be there, but the investigation isn’t going to get that close to Light, as I’m going to focus on how Light changes as a character because of the Death Note rather than how smart he is and how well he can play cat and mouse with a detective.

Right, so the table just got flipped and that discussion ended rather abruptly. Because for some people that change means it is no longer Death Note. What it means to be Death Note is gone. For me though, Death Note is the power to kill with the book. How that power is handled by different people in different times and places could be fascinating. There’s an endless parade of stories that could come from that idea and some of them could be brilliant. They may not involve two super geniuses anonymously facing off using the entire world as their battle ground, but the stories could still be pretty brilliant. So that is where I feel that saying the reason the Netflix Death Note movie is not that good isn’t because they changed the source, but because they didn’t have enough confidence to take the core mechanic and make it their own. They tried to have their cake and eat it, by appealing to fans by keeping things they should have just cut and trying to make a very different style story at the same time.

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But if we turn our attention to the other big adaptation that got people talking, Ghost in the Shell, we have much the same argument. Some people accusing Hollywood of White Washing, others saying that the writers missed the point, still others saying Scarlett was not a good Major whereas some would say she did a fine Major. But maybe it is the fans missing the point.

I don’t know how many of you have ever read the novel ‘Jaws’. I’m sure most of you have either seen the movie or know of it. It’s a great movie. Lot’s of suspense and jump scares, excellent musical score, some buddy moments with the cast, and of course a giant shark eating people. It’s classic and it works. But the movie wasn’t supposed to be that suspenseful. The shark was supposed to appear a lot more and the reason we only get limited glimpses of it, adding to that great atmosphere, is because the shark malfunctioned and they couldn’t get any more footage of it. The drunken singing and storytelling occurred because one of the cast was genuinely drunk (regularly). Many things that make that movie amazing occurred entirely by accident.

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And when you read the novel, aka the source material, what you find is an incredibly different story and one that the movie was clearly never trying to tell. Yes, there’s still a killer shark. But there’s also a love triangle between Brody and the scientist and Brody’s wife and the book spends a lot of time on the drama and relationship aspects and far less time with the boys drinking on the boat. It is almost as if the only thing kept the same were some of the character names and the killer shark. I’ll also point out that the movie is much more entertaining than the book, though doesn’t have the depth of characterisation you will find in the book.

But comparing the two is kind of pointless. The book has its place and its audience and it inspired one of the greatest classic horror stories to hit the cinema. The fact that the two stories have ended up vastly differently doesn’t mean that the movie is trash or that the writer should somehow be fed to the broken mechanical shark.

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To bring this back to anime though, I think Sailor Moon (1990’s) and Sailor Moon Crystal are a great example of why following the source isn’t the be all and end all. I loved the original Sailor Moon anime. Yeah, it isn’t following the manga but as I didn’t even know it was based on a manga when I was young that isn’t really a criticism I care for. It was a great story and one I fell in love with. That didn’t mean I wasn’t excited about Crystal. Seeing the story in a new form. Same characters but with a different interpretation. One that was apparently closer to the source but different from the one I knew. The end result is that while the main characters did great out of Crystal, the Sailor Scouts really get sidelined a lot and their personalities are pretty bland. So, sure, fans of the manga may really appreciate Crystal for how true it might be, but for me, while it is great to see Sailor Moon with more modern visuals and less filler, the 1990’s version is always going to be my go to version for the champion of Love and Justice.

I’m going to reiterate that the point of this post wasn’t to tell you that Death Note was an amazing movie. Nor was it to criticise people who want to criticise the movie. It was more a musing on how our preconceived notions of what something should be like affect our ability to accept variations on it. Which makes me wonder why we have so many reimaginings of super heroes and why we’re tolerant of those guys getting darker and grittier with every retelling but aren’t happy to see a character made more human or actually get a girlfriend.

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Anyway, over to you and I’m sure I’m asking for it but let me know your thoughts on how fans deal with adaptations of source material.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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DEATH NOTE: THE COMPLETE SERIES – SEASON 1
DEATH NOTE: THE COMPLETE SERIES - SEASON 1

Ghost in the Shell 2017 Movie Review

Overview:

Live action, Hollywood version of Ghost in the Shell. Like most anime adaptations, expect fans to be annoyed regardless of what they do. In this case the white-washing argument dominated early reviews of the movie. Ignoring all of that, its a movie about a girl who is given an artifical body but finds out her memories are also artificial and then seeks out the truth.

Review:

A while ago, and I do mean a while ago given it was a few months now, I had the chance to spend a few days in a town with a cinema and took full advantage of it by pretty much spending each evening trying a different movie (its usually about six months in between cinema visits so yes, I over indulge when given the opportunity). One of the movies I watched last time was the Ghost in the Shell live action movie with Scarlett Johansson in the lead role. I’m going to be clear in that while I have watched some of the anime franchise releases I am not a fan of the Ghost in the Shell anime. Mostly I found it to be a bit dull (and I just lost every fan of the anime right then and there). With that said, I actually wanted to see what Hollywood would do with this movie because the basic concept in the anime was kind of cool.

What this means is I didn’t go in wanting a faithful re-enactment of a source or a true Ghost in the Shell experience. I wanted to see a futuristic story play out in an interesting manner. From that point of view I actually wasn’t too disappointed even if some of the film leaves itself open for criticism. I also viewed this with someone who never watches anime. When I said I was interested in seeing the film they said they thought the trailer looked interesting. I pointed out it was based on an anime and they looked stunned. They showed me the trailer they had watched and yeah, no mention of the fact it was based on an anime. So I had the interesting experience of watching it with someone with no knowledge of the previous franchise and the discussion after about what was good or not about the film was fairly entertaining.

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Anyway, the reason for all of that is a lot of the reviews I read of this film prior to getting to see it were comparison based. They looked at the scenes that were essentially re-enactments of anime sequences and they looked at Johansson’s performance as the Major. Some gave it a nod, a lot tore it to pieces, and occasionally you even got to read a review that actually reviewed the movie as a stand alone piece of entertainment.

Let’s start with the positives about this film.

It has a great setting. Visually it is fun to look at and fairly reminiscent of Blade Runner or the Fifth Element, but mostly it just looks and feels like a real futuristic place. It looks lived in and used and feels like something that might eventuate for our cities the way things are going. As the characters move around in this setting there’s a lot of rich background detail which just adds to the overall feel of immersion in the world they are trying to create. Where the setting starts to fall down is when we spend time in the slums and the more isolated locations. That feeling of being a real location kind of falls apart once the characters are on their own in places that look more like set pieces. They needed to stick to the more populated areas because that is where the setting came alive.

The story itself of the Major finding out who she is/was/will be, whatever. Her identity crisis is handled pretty well. It isn’t earth shattering or something we haven’t seen done in sci-fi before but it is a story that works and the writing is good enough that it holds together well. Johansson also gives a decent enough performance as she becomes more who she is rather than who she is programmed to be.

Lastly, the action works in this film. If you want a sci-fi action this one will do the job. There’s some decent fight sequences and some decent gun play/explosions. Certainly this is watchable just from that point of view.

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What works less well in this film is the pacing, the support cast, the villain and the final fight sequence. That’s a lot of issues for it to overcome. Admittedly, none of these are deal breakers and you will have seen worse if you have spent any time watching Hollywood science fiction or action movies, but they do interrupt the enjoyment of the viewing and make this good enough but not good.

The pacing is hampered by a desire to throw those bones to the fans. The forced re-enactment of some scenes really does hinder the flow of this story. Admittedly, these aren’t the only pacing issues. The show goes from fast paced action to slow introspections and back and forth as the current scene demands and the end result is going from feeling slightly bored to over stimulated. The person I was viewing with wondered why some scenes existed at all and I pointed out it was a scene from the original and then she just wondered why they bothered to include it. Maybe fans received these moments better but for the casual viewer it really did just mess with the pacing and cohesion of this movie.

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Then there’s the support cast with their very hit and miss performances. Conversations go from zero to over the top drama school level anger in seconds and seemingly with little trigger. There’s a few of the support cast that just had me shaking my head as they delivered their lines with as much forced enthusiasm as you usually see in a children’s play. On the other hand, some of the support cast actually did a stellar job with the material they were given and their performances really help hold the reality of the story together.

When it comes to the actual villain of the story, he suffers from an incredibly shallow motivation and almost zero actual plan. When he calls for the spider tank at the end you just know that this guy exists only to be a jerk and he wouldn’t go astray as the villain in an early batman film.

Which leads us on to the final fight sequence against the spider tank. What? Why? We have a thoughtful and interesting science fiction concept about the human consciousness and blending with machines and the best you can do for a final fight sequence is send a tank that does not look like it is obeying the laws of physics to shoot at the main character? Really?

Okay, I actually did enjoy watching this movie. Then again, it was pretty much average Hollywood. Nothing really surprising about it and perfectly watchable with no understanding of the franchise. Would I recommend it? Only if you are pretty much up for anything sci-fi or action and aren’t too picky about the acting.


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Karandi James.

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