Random Thoughts on Stranger Things Season 2


I should probably do an actual review on this but to be honest I’m probably not going to. The reason being that I watched about half of this, and then took a break and then watched other episodes off and on while sick and busy so didn’t really pay enough attention and to be honest I don’t feel like watching it again to review.

That doesn’t actually mean Stranger Things season 2 is bad. It actually manages to capture most of what made the first season a really enjoyable nostalgia trip without the poor video quality of 1980’s films. But I undeniably struggled with maintaining interest early in the season and ultimately just found the sequel baiting ending a little hard to swallow. While this is my favourite Netflix original story after two seasons it seems pretty clear they plan to just keep running this idea into the ground until any small speck of originality or energy the series may have had is squished completely and totally flat.


So what was good about season 2?

The big bad was bigger and badder even if they did just kind of up the body count by killing off the extras and one character that you kind of knew early on had raised so many death flags that by the time they finally did him in you weren’t overly surprised. Still, forget what seemingly invisible enemy. Now we have an unseen threat that is widespread and getting out of control fast and when we do see the threat the word horde comes to mind.

The cast are still fantastic. Child actors who can mostly act (the exception being Will’s older brother who’s name I have once again forgotten). I think Nancy actually did a better job this season and Will’s character gets to do a lot more this time round and he is fantastic. The addition of Max to the party, contentious as some of the characters may have found that, was a really good choice and worked well and the other characters mostly maintained what they were known for in the previous season so more of the same which works well enough.

The 1980’s soundtrack, while pretty literal at times, is still amazing to listen to and this along with all the other nods to the era makes for a really fun watch. Though I’m still trying to believe that anyone would mistake ghostbusters for exterminators back in the 80’s.


What was less good?

The set up process of this story. A year has passed and everyone is a little older and a little jaded by the events the year before and the cover up. There’s some trauma and there are some new relationships and some fairly fractured relationships but it takes three episodes to really establish all of this before anything actually happens with regards to the new story. I’ll admit, after the story started you realised how necessary most of that set up was, but it was kind of dull and a little bit painful to watch.

The Sherriff and Eleven have zero chemistry. Eleven is really sidelined for the first half of this series and her only interactions are with the Sherriff. While I get the story they were trying to establish here, he doesn’t pull enough emotional weight to really sell the anger as over-protection and she isn’t given enough time to establish herself as an actual person so basically we just see them go through the same cycle of eat and play happy families before he ‘lies’ and she has a tantrum leading to him throwing a tantrum over and again until she finally ups and leaves.

Which leads to the story with Eleven and Eight which again could be awesome but is most definitely just setting up potential future storylines and has no relevance here other than Eleven gets a bit of a power up because of Eight’s advice. And a make-over. Anyway…

How dumb are those scientists? I get bad guys being dumb and characters in stories sometimes making dumb choices but these guys have had an entire year to clean up the mess and not only have they failed, the mess got worse and they didn’t even notice. Not one actual researcher makes one actual useful contribution for the entire length of the series. How do these people keep their jobs?


All and all, if you liked Stranger Things, Stranger Things 2 is enjoyable enough and the second half definitely steps it up. Still, I’m not so sure how many more seasons of this I’m going to be thrilled to see. I’d really like them just to resolve the issue and let Will and his friends get on with their lives at this point.

Thanks for reading.

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Karandi James.


Friday’s Feature: Your Influence on Your Impression of Anime


When starting a new anime (or any story really) there are certain things that draw particular viewers and certain elements that will push some viewers away. However, I think a lot of how I feel about an anime has to do with my attitude when I sit down to watch it.

Generally I approach a new anime (or a new book or film or game) with a genuine curiosity and an optimistic outlook. This could be really good. It might do something different. Maybe I’ll really like these characters. By approaching it this way I generally find that if there is anything in a story that I can possibly like I will latch onto it and generally speaking I enjoy stories far more because of it. Even if it isn’t the most amazing thing ever (or even just ordinarily good) I can still find something to enjoy.


However, there are some days and some ideas that push me out of this frame of mind. When that happens my mind is being incredibly pessimistic about what I’m going to watch. Wow, this is going to suck. Could that character be any more of a cliché? How is that an idea for a story? And generally speaking when I approach an anime in that frame of mind I amazingly usually find a reason to drop it.

But is that really any fair judge of the shows I am watching? There have been plenty of anime that I’ve started when I haven’t been in a receptive frame of mind that I’ve either dropped or put to the side. Regardless, I usually give them a second chance somewhere down the line and the number of times I’ve ended up really enjoying a show that I initially dropped has convinced me that it is how I approach a lot of things that makes the difference, but not always. Sometimes I go in expecting to like or dislike something and find that the show manages to overturn those expectations.

Some examples from my viewing experiences from 2016.

First Love Monster – Trust Your Instincts

Right from reading the synopsis of this show I was pretty convinced that this was going to be absolute rubbish. High school girl falls in love with a boy in primary school? What could be wrong about that? So I watched an episode and as expected was less than thrilled by it (okay, I kind of hated it). But, I later wondered if maybe I was just being overly critical or harsh so I actually went and watched it a second time (sometimes I really wonder why I do these things to myself). The second viewing of the first episode convinced me that it wouldn’t matter what mindset I approached this anime with, it wasn’t going to work for me. The subject matter and the ‘humour’ just ground against me and there was no way I was going to enjoy it.


Sakamoto Desu Ga – Don’t Judge The Book By Its Cover

This one I was interested in from the synopsis and then the fact that it wasn’t released on Crunchyroll in Australia made me curious because of course as soon as you restrict access to something people want to watch it. Then I got to read lots of really positive write ups about this show. That said, I was on the fence because it was essentially a one note comedy focussed anime which most definitely doesn’t fit into my usual kind of thing.

When I finally found access to this (through Hanabee) I was still kind of torn between curiosity and the overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t going to be overly impressed with the show. Anyway, Sakamoto was one of those pleasantly surprising shows. It wasn’t my thing and it wasn’t brilliant but it was bright and kind of funny and engaging. Plus they managed to push different scenarios to a point where even the most mundane set-up was kind of interesting. I ended up watching 8 episodes of the show and then I didn’t actually drop it, I just got busy with other things and while I’d enjoyed it enough I had no compelling reason to go back.


Seisen Cerberus – Betrayed By Own Expectations

It’s a fantasy with swords, magic, dragons, an orphaned protagonist and everything else you could need to make something fairly generic but half-decent. With just a little effort you could even be good. This was an anime that the synopsis had sold me on this show. I’d have watched it even if it barely scraped mediocre. But, I won’t watch something that fails to make even that benchmark and after a couple of episodes of hating every character and the delivery of the fairly bland story I walked away.


My Hero Academia – Overturning Expectations

I actually didn’t start watching My Hero Academia until many weeks into its airing season because I did not want to watch another generic show about high school students with super powers (Quirks sorry, better nail that terminology because what else will distinguish these things). How wrong I was. Okay, it is a show about high school students with super powers and I’d be lying if I said the story did anything overly original so that part of my initial impression was kind of right. What my initial thoughts overlooked was just how much heart the show managed to inject into the story and the characters. I’ve said before that almost any story can be good or bad depending on delivery and while My Hero Academia isn’t exactly going to go up on my all time favourite list of anime it was a thoroughly enjoyable watch. Probably more so because I went in expecting to be underwhelmed and it managed to get me on board anyway.


Big Order – Bait and Switch

Right from episode one this show had its issues but it had some great energy and there were enough interesting things happening to convince me that this was going to be worth watching. The synopsis had intrigued me, the characters in the first episode were intriguing enough even if those final scenes of episode 1 did throw up some warning flags for how this show was going to treat the female cast members, and it was fun to look at. It was my favourite first episode of its season.

So I entered this anime looking for the good and found plenty of things to enjoy and then it showed us episode 2. Okay, I’m concerned but still optimistic. Episode 3… We can still save this. Episode 4… Nope. I actually continued through to the end but this was a case where even looking for the positive wasn’t enough to save the show from its own short comings.


Well that’s my ramble done for the week but I’m interested in knowing how you approach most anime and whether you’ve ever had to take another look at something and whether you’ve changed your mind about an anime.