December Bonus Review #3 Tiny Toons: Night Ghoulery

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I know what you’re all thinking. “Ktulu, you madman, isn’t this the complete wrong time of the year to review a Halloween special? Shouldn’t you be doing something winter holiday related instead?” Well, I felt like having a look at this one and maybe I’ll do one of those later. I wouldn’t want to be too predictable in what I review. 

Night Ghoulery was a slightly over forty five minute special back in ’95. The idea was basically to spoof a bunch of spoopy ideas and have a bit of a macabre even with the Tiny Toons cast. 

Story:

The special is organised into a bunch of different shorts. We’ve got a Tell Tale Heart parody with Plucky and Hampton. A Frankenstein parody with Elmyra & Dizzy. The between sequences poke fun at the Twilight Zone, as does one of the actual shorts. Buster & Plucky take on an old Abbot and Costello film. My favourite is probably the Night of the Living Dead parody with the Wacky land gang. It’s really bloody funny. 

The biggest downside to this whole thing may very well be that they try to do too much. There are little sketches here that really would have benefited from having some more time while there are some weaker ones like The Devil and Daniel Webfoot or Fuel that could have been cut out without losing much. Now, I’m not saying those particular bits are bad. They’re decent enough. I’m just saying there are much stronger premises for shorts in the special that could’ve benefited from a bit more time that the shorts that are merely all right could’ve been sacrificed for and it would’ve benefited the whole thing. I  would suggest that it might be because they wanted to include as many characters as possible, but Plucky is featured in a good four of the shorts while other characters only appear in the intro and outro. So, I don’t think they really factored in trying to include everyone. 

That being said, the parodies they have work pretty well. The worst you get are ones that are decent. The best you get are really funny. The writers of this were really good at making things a bit macabre without making them frightening or veering into territory that might be considered questionably child friendly. They do also make their parodies, even ones of older material that most children won’t have seen, enjoyable & zany even to those who aren’t familiar with the source material. So, good on them. 

Characters:

If you’ve seen Tiny Toons, you know what to expect from the cast. If you haven’t, the cast is a bunch of zany animal characters in the same vein as Looney Tunes. The character used the most for the special is Plucky Duck. Probably because he tends to get used for a lot of comedic pratfalls and suffering. Which makes him valuable for slightly macabre horror parodies.

One thing I will give both this special and Tiny Toons in general, they’re very good at taking these kind of simple, zany characters and putting them in situations where they can really work off of each other well. 

Art:

The artwork for the special isn’t quite as colourful as the series proper usually is. It uses a lot of darker shades in a lot of the shorts in keeping with the horror aesthetic. There are some good sight gags throughout. The animation team manages to pretty successfully meld the visual aesthetic of the old horror works with the brighter, more fun aesthetic of Tiny Toons. It looks pretty nice. 

Sound:

All the familiar voices are present. The ones you’ll hear the most of are Joe Alaskey & Tress MacNeille as Plucky & Babs respectively. Joe pretty much puts a different spin on the Plucky voice for every short he’s in. Including a very nice Shatner impression. Which leads to a bit where Hampton asks Plucky if he’s ever going to talk normally in the special. Just like in the show proper, Tress is pretty spot on with her Babs’ vocal parodies. The music is nicely done. They retooled the theme tune from the main series in a way that makes it different while also similar to the ordinary one. 

Final Thoughts:

Night Ghoulery is a pretty enjoyable little special. The parodies work well whether you’re familiar with the original works or not. There are plenty of funny moments. The voice acting is quite good. If you’re someone who enjoyed the Tiny Toons cartoon, you’ll definitely like this. For myself, I’ll give it a solid 7/10. 

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Rose of Versailles: A Flair for the Melodramatic

The Rose of Versailles is an old school anime. It aired from 1979-1980 and was based off of a manga from the early 70s. It was brought to us by TMS, the same studio behind the mediocre Magic Knight Rayearth, the excellent Glass no Kamen & the decent enough Kousetsu Hyaku Monogatari. Is this one a classic worth revisiting? Let’s find out.

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Story:

In the years leading up to the French revolution, a young woman works as the Captain of the Royal guards, as she was raised like a boy. This is our heroine, Oscar François de Jarjeyes. Can she navigate through the turbulent times?

Okay, I’m going to ignore that this series has about as much relation to actual history as the Abrams films have to do with Star Trek. It’s historical fiction, we can forgive it for only vaguely resembling the reality and even then you have to squint a lot and use magnifying lenses to find the similarities. The issue is with the kinds of liberties it takes. Speaking in the very broadest of strokes, there are two basic types of alterations. The first are changes made to simplify things. This series doesn’t seem to be cognisant of grey morality. Instead, it boils things down to the “right” and the “wrong.” The nobles, save a select few, are portrayed as outright evil people who shoot children and run people over without caring in the slightest.

The second types of changes are those designed to make things painfully melodramatic. This series loves to take relatively minor things, like Marie Antoinette snubbing Madame Du Barry, and act like they’re massive events that could totally lead to the end of everything that is. Because Ikeda Riyoko doesn’t quite understand how treaties actually work and thinks they can fall apart like wet tissue paper when an important person from one nation doesn’t get on with a kind of important person from another.

Speaking of an unfettered love of melodramatic nonsense, this series loves to take little twists and turns that don’t make a lot of sense but they’re “dramatic.” A big example is that there is a character who suffers an injury and loses the use of one of their eyes. We then discover that they’re losing the use of their other one because “it’s a strain to just have one functional eye.” Which basically translates to “anatomy, how does it work?” Here’s a hint, not like that. There’s a bit with a terminal illness, but it’s pretty pointless since the character in question is barely affected by it before they die from something unrelated. It’s good that they wasted our time with that sub-plot that goes nowhere. There’s also the attempted sexual assault scene which leads to an apology and is never mentioned again. Speaking of romance bits, there’s a part where Oscar’s father tries to marry her off and there’s an attempt to have drama with it for a very short period before it’s over. Because that’s how to have effective romantic drama. The romance in this is just rubbish in general. On the plus side, the slow, tedious execution of the “big, dramatic” scenes does lead to some unintentionally funny bits.

The pacing in this is pretty bad too. There are long, tedious segments where nothing of value is accomplished and when it finally gets to the revolution, which should be the interesting bit, we get a very small bit about the start and then it skips right to the end. Because why would you want real drama when you can have melodrama?

Characters:

Earlier, I mentioned that the morality in this is very one-dimensional. And the characterisation is where that creates the biggest problem. Those historical figures who are selected as antagonists are so unambiguously “evil for the evils” that if this weren’t historical-based they’d have snake pun names and be taking orders from a bloke with a metal mask and raspy voice.

With the royal couple, the effort put into trying to make them sympathetic just gets absurd. Everything they do has to be justified, including engaging in the upper class twit past time known as fox hunting. Because foxes are vicious and will lunge for your throat. They certainly don’t hide in burrows. And Marie Antoinette’s mild pettiness is presented as demonstrative of strength of character. The sad part is that it’s not hard to portray them sympathetically. He s[pent his entire reign trying to make things better for the common folk but he ruled at a time when the king couldn’t make unilateral decisions and he didn’t have the political savvy to get the nobles on board. While she didn’t have any real power because the woman in power at the French Court at that time was the king’s mistress, which Louis XVI didn’t have. And then they were both executed, as were their children. They may not have been saints, but they did nothing worth killing them.

Our protagonist is a very one-note “noble” protagonist. She always does the right thing and stays on the right side of history. It gets to the point where she comes across as an incompetent moron because there are scenes where her work requires her to deal with someone causing trouble but she’ll let them go because “well, they’re doing good” or she’ll try to talk them down without anyone to watch her back and she’ll get taken by surprise. It really comes across as Ikeda being afraid to have her do anything that someone might find objectionable. After all, if she went in and used her authority as the captain to do her job, she might seem like a bit of an authoritarian.

The ultimate consequence is that the characters come across more like they belong in a simple work for children than in a drama we’re supposed to be taking seriously. Which gets even worse when you consider that a lot of these characters are based off of real people. Not one of Hasbro’s toy lines.

Art:

I don’t want to be too harsh on the animation for this, since it was made a very long time ago. I won’t say it looks bad. It really doesn’t. I will, however, say that it’s very lazy. All the standard cost cutting measures are used. Minimal movement with some motion blur to try and craft the illusion that more’s happening on screen than actually is, recycled frames, very slow and awkward action sequences, tedious bits with a lot of sparkle vision to try and spice them up.

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Sound:

The performances in this are decent enough. They aren’t good performances but they’re a bit above average. The biggest thing holding them back is just that the characters are very bland and don’t demand much range. The music is passable.

Ho-yay:

There are quite a few female characters who express interest in Oscar, thinking that she’s so cool and it’s a pity she’s not a man. They also include some of the spurious rumours about Marie Antoinette sleeping with everyone, including women.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, the big problem with this series is that it wants to be a serious drama but it doesn’t want to include any real complexity. So, we get very stock characters who could be at home in a work for small children and we get a total lack of nuance or subtlety, which would also be suitable for a work made for small children. But we also get very poor attempts at tackling more serious subjects. Which makes it decidedly not for small children. And, ultimately, there are a lot of better portrayals of the French Revolution in media. Like a Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Reign of Terror Serial from Doctor Who, The Glass Blowers and quite a few more. Rose of Versailles simply doesn’t use its subject matter in a compelling way. Unless you really like boring melodrama. For myself, I have to give it a 3/10. Next week I’ll look at Youjo Senki.

December Bonus Review #2: Civil War

 

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I’ve talked about two big comic events, not including Marvel vs DC. One was average, the other really damn good. Since I talked about DC for the more average event and Marvel for the really superb one, it seems only fair to talk about Marvel again for the event that’s actively shit. Wouldn’t want to be accused of favouring one company over the other. Back in mid ’06, Marvel started an event headed by writer Mark Millar. It went on for about half a year and it has a lot of severe problems. Some of which relate to continuity while others are just with the content of the story even when divorced from all those issues it has in the context of the greater Marvel universe. I’m talking, of course, about Civil War. Why is this event such hot garbage? Let’s take a look. Like with Blackest Night, I’m not going to cover all the tie-ins, just the main event itself. So, keep that in mind.

Story:

In the light of a tragedy the American government decides to curtail some freedoms and force people with super human abilities to register and work for the government in an official capacity. This results in heroes being split with those who believe in surrendering freedom going head to head with those who want to keep it. Stupid shite follows.

Let’s start with the very first narrative problem. The reasoning behind the registration act is nonsensical. So, we have an accident when the New Warriors are being completely out of character and they get into an altercation with Nitro, resulting in him going boom and killing a bunch of kids. And the American government decides that the best way to prevent accidents like this is through superhuman registration. First off, the New Warriors have identities and powers that are known. They’re on reality television. As does Nitro. He’s certainly been arrested enough. It’s almost like knowing the real names and powers of super humans does nothing. Secondly, there have been super human battles in the Marvel universe with a lot more civilian casualties. Remember Maximum Carnage? How about Inferno? It’s almost like this incident is turned into a massive deal for incredibly flimsy reasons to excuse a really stupid event. That’s exactly what’s happening.

Another issue is with the extreme over reactions on the part of the pro-registration side. First, we have the head of SHIELD decide to have Captain America arrested when he hasn’t done anything wrong. He seriously just says that he will not hunt down his friends who refuse to register. At that point he hasn’t even decided to fight against it himself. As strange as that is, given how much Cap loves freedom. The same thing happens with Spidey later on. He tells Tony off and says outright that he’ll still work with SHIELD, but that he won’t fight Cap’s team or be a part of the Avengers. So, they open fire on him and send super villains to beat the shit out of him. Even though he’s already registered and is in full compliance with the law.

Speaking of the registration law, let’s talk about that mess. This event tries to turn it into an actual debate by comparing registering super powers to getting a gun license. The problem is that it fails to work on multiple levels. First of all, someone chooses to buy a gun. Most heroes in the MU didn’t choose to get super powers.. Secondly, they don’t just want to register them, they also want to force them to work for the government. At that point it would be like getting licensed to carry a gun and then being forced to work for the military because you own a gun. And we see with those aforementioned examples of Cap & Spidey that the heroes actually have no choice in the matter of working for the government. Because if they fail to follow orders they’ll have agents ordered to arrest them and get shot at. I’m pretty sure there’s a term for being forced to do labour against your will and that term is slavery.

In other arenas where the pro-registration side is made up of rusty old cock rings, these guys come across as cartoonishly evil. They build a robotic clone of Thor, which murders Bill Foster in cold blood. They keep using the damn thing too. Yeah, use the unstable construct that just killed one of your friends. That’s a great idea. They construct a prison in the Negative Zone. For those of you not familiar with the Negative Zone, it’s a dimension in the Marvel Universe where exposure to it causes severe depression. Yeah, let’s give our friends and comrades severe depression with all the trauma that comes with. They also bring in a bunch of psychotic super villains to work with them and hunt down the resisting heroes.

You want something else extremely stupid? We’re told that ninety percent of the American people support this measure. There is nothing out there that ninety percent of people will support. You could have an initiative to give everybody some free chocolate and you’d get more dissenters than that. If the measure was just about registration, you might be able to manage a high number, but even then ninety percent would be absurd. Once you add the forced labour, there’s no fucking way. I have to give Americans credit enough to assume that ninety percent would not support slavery.

Let’s talk about Bill Foster’s death a bit more because this is absolutely atrocious. First off, he dies pointlessly for cheap shock value. Secondly, they wrap his body in chains. So, in an event about forcing super humans into slavery they kill off a black guy and then wrap him up in chains. Either this is a really unsubtle visual metaphor or the people behind this are really stupid and clueless. It’s probably both, given the general quality. In the event they try to excuse it because “they couldn’t get him shrunk back down to his normal size” but I call bollocks on that. They have Hank Pym on their side. A man who invented a particle that makes things and people shrink. Couldn’t get him back to normal size my well-toned bum.

The event also ends with a complete anti-climax. There’s weird semi-incestuous stuff with The Invisible Woman & Human Torch. Their new identities are a married couple and the way he carries her when they’re fleeing is super questionable. So, they couldn’t have gotten new identities that were just unrelated? I knew that Bendis had a weird ass incest fetish but I didn’t know there were more people at Marvel with one.

Let’s go on the subject of follow up stories for a moment. When I discussed Secret Wars I mentioned that a lot of good stories came from the event, including the classic symbiont story for Spidey. So, what did we get from this event? A bunch of other horribly written comics, including the notorious One More Day. Thanks, Civil War, for giving us one of the worst Spider-man stories ever written.

Characters:

If I cover how each and every character in this event is taken out of character, we’ll be here for ages. So, instead, I’ll focus on a few of the more egregious examples. Let’s start with Iron Man. A lot of the more evil moves on the part of the pro-registration side come, at least in part, from Tony. He’s involved with the robot Thor débâcle. The Negative Zone prison is partially his idea. The event just consistently portrays him as a fascist . Captain America doesn’t come across as much better. He’s not fighting the good fight for any ideals. He’s just angry because the idiot at the head of SHIELD tried to have him arrested for not enforcing the registration act for them. When Tony tries to talk through things with him, he refuses to listen and acts like an ass. He actively insults people because he doesn’t like their choices. This is Captain America, before Marvel decided he should be a Nazi because modern Marvel is the worst. He should be giving inspirational speeches that have his comrades’ loins swelling with idealism, not throwing a tantrum.

We also have Bishop. I know, Bishop is a weird character to bring up since he’s barely present in the event proper but, for as little as he appears, they manage to royally fuck him up. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bishop, he’s a time traveller who journeyed to our time from a dystopian future where Mutant registration passed and mutants, as well as other super humans, were rounded up and either killed or forced into camps by Sentinels. Then, with them out of the way, the Sentinels quickly dominated ordinary humans turning everything into a horrific mess. Bishop chose to come back to our time to try and prevent those atrocities from repeating. So, he must see the registration act as a terrifying precursor to this future, right? Maybe, but he decides to join the pro-registration side anyway. Even though it goes against everything he’s ever stood for and everything that’s ever motivated him. Did Mark Millar never read a single issue of the X-men? Or maybe he only read Grant Morrison’s run.

Art:

There are a lot of problems with Steve McNiven’s artwork. The faces look terrible at least half the time. The posing is uncomfortably awkward, including the Human Torch/ Invisible Woman incest flying formation and that panel where She Hulk’s ass talks to you. I don’t imagine that Mark Millar put that in his directions. “Show the siblings flying chest to chest while she makes an ‘o’ face. Make sure She Hulk’s bum is in the foreground talking to us.” The proportions are frequently borked. Morry Hollowell’s colouring has a lot of issues too. The colours of things shift from issue to issue with She Hulk looking olive green sometimes and her regular shade others.

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Final Thoughts:

Civil War is an absolute, bloody mess. The writing has holes so massive that Unicron could easily slip through them. Not to mention a whole lot of things that are so massively stupid that you feel a bit dumber just from having read them. The characterisation is garbage. The art looks bad. There is nothing in any of these seven issues that’s remotely redeemable. My final rating is going to stand at a 1/10. This event can go fornicate itself with something long, thick, sandpaper textured and spiky.

Warau Salesman New: The Karmic Traps are Real

Warau Salesman New began way back in 1968. It was written by Fujiko Fujio A. It’s actually had multiple anime, visual novel games & a short-lived drama. The first anime ran for over a hundred episodes, but we’re talking about the newer one today. Because that’s the one I was asked to review. Both anime have the same studio, Shin-Ei Animation. Which is best known for the long running Doraemon franchise. So, how does this series hold up? Let’s take a look at it and see.

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Story:

There is no over-arcing narrative to this series. Rather, it’s an episodic work where each episode contains two stories. Each story sees our titular “laughing salesman” Moguro Fukuzou, visit someone who’s in some state of desperation. He offers them something that will help them out of their situation, but there’s a catch to it. A rule, if you will. Should they be overcome by greed and break that rule they will suffer consequences. Really, the series is built around the schadenfreude of watching the build up that leads to their Electronic Arts moment of delving too deeply and greedily and falling as a result.

Honestly, the biggest issue with the series is just that it’s highly formulaic. You know right away who Moguro is going to approach. You know basically how he’s going to interact with them and you know that they’re going to screw themselves over as a result of their dealings with him. And this isn’t a series for children or young teenagers where you can completely forgive that. The series might have benefited from having the occasional situation where they successfully resist temptation and he doesn’t get his big “boom” moment as a consequence. It would’ve added some variety, at least. The series also repeats, basically verbatim, the same dialogue at the start of every single scenario. Because you might have forgotten what the lines are in the ten to twelve minutes it takes for one half of the episode to end and the other to begin.

That being said, the situations are interesting to watch, even though you know the basic way they’re going to unfold. And the series does manage to build some tension over what exactly the trap is. It also gives some variety by having some people who really have a karmic kick in the bollocks coming to them while others you can feel kind of sorry for. For example, one of our subjects is a mum who’s forcing her child into show business because it was her dream that she had to give up and it’s satisfying seeing that total bint get her due. There’s another subject who’s just a lonely old man who’s being ignored by his own family for unexplored reasons. I feel a bit sorry for him.

Characters:

Each individual story in this series puts the focus on one character, explores what factors have put them in a fallen state and what causes them to fall into Moguro’s trap and how the karmic retribution fits. Some characters are better explored than others, with some stories focusing more on the scenario than others, but, in general, you do get enough of the characters to keep the events surrounding them interesting. Although, you do have to question their judgement when they’re being completely taken in by someone as sketchy looking as Moguro.

Seriously, the dude looks like he ate one of the Joker’s laughing fish and he never stops showing his teeth. Yeah, the occasional character points out that he looks a bit shady but none of them seem to get really sceptical after he’s offered them something too good to be true. Nor do you ever see someone just refuse it. I guess he targets people who are a bit desperate and also really gullible.

Art:

This series makes use of really old style shounen art with all the exaggerated features and shifting proportions that entails. It looks a bit like Osomatsu-san, actually. Honestly, the art style doesn’t work as well here. Here’s the thing. That series is completely comedic. It can justify the strange stylistic kinks a lot better than this series where it’s somewhat dramatic. In this, it’s a bit distracting when a character’s size changes from one scene to the next.

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Sound:

This series did get some really talented people including Ishida Akira, Toyoguchi Megumi, & Koyasu Takehito. Then we have Genda Tessyo as our main protagonist. The performances are quite good. The music is pretty average. It’s not particularly good nor is it bad. It simply is.

Ho-yay:

The series doesn’t have any.

Final Thoughts:

Honestly, I’m rather fond of this type of series. I like seeing karmic retribution and I find the execution here to be pretty entertaining. It may not be Petshop of Horrors, but I did quite enjoy it. If you’re a fan of that type of thing and you can forgive the parts that are rather repetitive, I suggest giving it a go. My final rating is going to stand at a solid 7/10. Next week I’m looking at Rose of Versailles.

December Bonus Review #1: Secret Wars

Back in October I talked about DC’s Blackest Night .  It was an event comic that suffered a lot of the pitfalls that modern event comics always seem to suffer from: cheap character deaths, tie-ins that are five times longer than the event itself, & characters who don’t serve much of a purpose to the event being a part of the whole thing just to make it seem bigger. So, what would an event look like if it had none of those problems? For the answer, let’s turn to a Marvel piece I’m very familiar with, The Secret Wars, and not the shit one from a couple years back. We’re going way back to the mid 80s for this one. 

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Story:

We open with a group of Marvel heroes finding themselves aboard a strange ship, floating through space. They introduce themselves and notice another ship nearby, this one full of villains. It turns out that both groups have been taken from Earth by the Beyonder, a cosmic entity who’ fascinated by Earth’s super beings. So, he’s chosen two teams to pit against each other. One team made up of those with selfless motivations. The other made up of those with selfish motivations. Can our heroes stop the villains who have been promised anything they desire, should they triumph? 

I actually only have one criticism of the narrative here. There’s a bit of a tryst betwixt the Wasp & Magneto. Which comes out of nowhere, doesn’t really do anything and ends pretty quickly. I think it’s just here to establish that Janet is a strong independent woman who doesn’t need her abusive ex-husband.

Aside from that, I like that the division for the characters is based on relative selflessness instead of something overly simplistic like “good vs. evil.” I also appreciate the way that the series gives all of the participating characters a chance to shine. The conflicts in this story are very interesting as well, particularly those that arise from philosophical differences within the ranks. Seeing James Rhodes tell off the Human Torch for being a racist fuck is pretty damn magnificent.

Looking back on it, this event also established a lot of elements that led to interesting stories later on. This was where Spidey got his black suit, events started that led to Colossus and Shadowcat having a falling out, The Thing got to have solo adventures in space, She Hulk joined the FF and there were other things too. And, thanks to the event being self-contained, the pacing is able to proceed at a good, steady pace without anything feeling left out or time skipping ahead awkwardly. We also don’t have any elements being mentioned but nothing really happening with them in the main event. It’s almost like writing a story that doesn’t include a bunch of supplementary materials leads to a stronger story. 

Characters:

Here’s another area where I have to give the Secret Wars complete credit. Jim Shooter doers a good job of naturally & concisely introducing our colourful cast. So that those readers who don’t pick up every title in the Marvel universe can keep up without any problems. He also does a fantastic job of showcasing those factors that make the characters who they are, in spite of having a pretty big cast and only twelve issues. He also does a good job of introducing us to some new characters, the second Spider Woman, Titania & Volcana. 

To use an example, let’s look at what is quite possibly the best explanation for Magneto’s character. Magneto is, naturally, put with the selfless group. This leads to him being confronted by Ben Grimm & Monica Rambeau (The Thing and Captain Marvel). After she calls him a murderer he becomes indignant and says this: “I am many things. A mutant, master of magnetism, an avowed enemy of humankind, but a murderer? A slayer of innocents? Never! I fight in defence of my race! My cause is just…” He goes on from there but that is actually a perfect explanation of Magneto’s character. I also like that, in the comic itself, there are a lot of pauses in that bit to illustrate how carefully he’s choosing his words. I also think it’s very telling that the pauses stop shortly before he declares that he has never been a slayer of innocents. 

The dialogue in this is very well crafted, is where I’m going with that. 

Art:

The pencilling for this series was mostly done by Michael Zeck with a couple issues being drawn by Bob Layton. There are times it can be a bit under-detailed, especially in large panels that have a lot going on. But, as a whole, it looks pretty damn good. The grand, alien imagery is really nice. The action flows well. The colours by Christie Scheele, except for that one issue in which they were done by Nelson Yomtov, are really nice. They’re vibrant and bright so they really pop.

Final Thoughts:

The Secret Wars was a superb event. It’s so good that it’s hard to believe it was crafted to try and sell super hero toys. It was dynamic, introduced the beginnings for a lot of stories and it didn’t need to cheaply kill off a bunch of good characters just to show that it was “for serious.” My final rating is going to be an enthusiastic 9/10. If you want to see a comic event done right, look no further. Now, I’ve talked about comic events done right and events done averagely. Next week’s bonus review will focus on how to fail at them really horribly. Because you guys deserve to see the whole gamut. 

In closing, I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Hearth’s Warming, Hogswatch, the Solstice, Yule, Christmas or any other holiday. Consider this month of bonus reviews a token of my esteem for all of you. 

Dennou Sentai Voogie’s Angel: That Time Timothy Doomed us All.

Dennou Sentai Voogie’s Angel is an anime, like Elfen Lied, that I’ve heard a lot of negative things about. The OVA came out in the late 90s from JC Staff. That’s right, the studio behind Azumanga Daioh, Yami no Matsuei, Shakugan no Shana & Toradora to name just a few. They’ve had some true classics but they’ve also come out with shite like Shakugan no Shana, so I can believe that the things I’ve heard about this are true. But, let’s look at it and decide for ourselves, shall we?

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Story:

Our tale takes place in the far off future where Space Emigrants (or SE) have come to take all of our jobs, or as an invading force. Humanity has been forced to take refuge in underwater bases. In order to fight back against the invading SE, cyborg women are developed. Can they thwart the SE’s plans to make humanity extinct for our crime of exacerbating climate change? Seriously, they’re mad because of our polluting ways. Clearly, dialogue is impossible in that situation. Dammit, Timothy, I told you not to throw your candy wrapper on the ground. Now we’re all going to die.

There are a lot of issues with the story here. First off, we’re told that all of humanity has been forced underwater but the SE starts their attack against the remnants by striking at their supply lines that, I guess, are run by chinchillas. But let’s allow for some hyperbole and say that some select few were left behind to run supply lines. This just brings up a mess of questions. First off, what are they supplying exactly? We should be able to get food, drinkable water, various metals and such from underwater. Especially if we have the technology to build massive underwater bases to house all of humanity. What exactly do we need from the surface? Is it the spice? Do we just really need the spice to flow? Furthermore, how did the SE not notice the moment humanity started constructing the facilities to give us… spice? You’d think if they were controlling absolutely everything on the surface they’d have noticed and put a stop to the supply lines before they even got finished. This is a big part of the lore too. There’s a big fuss made about how they have something like two years left before the spice withdrawal does them all in.

That’s not the only issue. Our cyborg heroines had their memories erased for no adequately explored reason. I guess the people behind their construction thought that their memories of why they got the surgery would only give them a sense of purpose. Why would you want your soldiers to have that? Then we have the comedic scenes to consider. This OVA likes to break the tension by giving us funny little scenes of our heroines being incompetent dumbasses. They’ll destroy things by engaging in horseplay and comedically fall out of the sky because they don’t account for the power drain of firing their super laser. Because that’s the best way to add a bit of comedy, destroy any credibility your protagonists might have had. Then we get a scene of someone protesting including them in the military stuff. Which, you’d think would be because they’re totally inept but it’s actually because he doesn’t trust robots or anyone with robotics. I also have a question about their AI, Myer. Who thought it was a good idea to make an AI vehicle that could force its pilots to go down with it in the event that things go wrong? Because we find out he can do that in the first episode. That seems like almost, but not quite, as dumb of a design decision as making a mecha that causes its users pain whenever it takes damage.

Characters:

So, what’s wrong with the characters? Besides them being one note tropes. Well, there are the stilted reactions. For example, we’ve got this guy who’s a robot racist acting like a dick to our cyborg heroines. Things go badly for him and Voogie gets really upset about it because… I have no idea. There’s literally no realistic reason for her to care about this guy. He’s been nothing but terrible to her and her friends. There’s also the aforementioned loss of memory solely for the purpose of giving us a bunch of boring flashbacks at the end. What motivated them to do that?

Art:

This isn’t a good looking OVA. You get some OVAs like 3×3 Eyes that put a lot of effort into the aesthetic. Then you’ve got ones like this that seem to be made by temp animators with bad attitudes. The designs are built around fan-service. The action is janky. It’s far from the worst I’ve seen but it’s pretty bad.

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Sound:

This anime did get some strong actors. Hisakawa Aya, Hiyama Nobuyuki & Inoue Kikuko among them. Their performances in this are pretty sub-par, though. The music is all right. Probably not anything you’ll listen to on its own but it’s decent enough.

Ho-yay:

The characters in this don’t have well enough developed relationships to provide any les-yay. So, there’s that.

Final Thoughts:

Dennou Sentai Voogie’s Angel is a pretty shit anime. It’s full of narrative issues, the characters don’t have anything going for them, the animation is quite bad, & the acting is sub-par. That being said, I’ve certainly seen worse. It’s never infuriatingly bad. My final rating is going to be a 2/10. Next week I’ll go back to looking at requested anime for a bit with Warau Salesman New.

November Bonus Review: Gravity Falls

Gravity Falls is a Disney cartoon that ran from ’12 to ’16 with two series and forty episodes. At its time, it got a lot of attention and a lot of adults were praising it as being an example of what a kid’s cartoon should be. Which I kind of ignored because I’ve heard the same thing about a lot of other cartoons, some of which have been utter bollocks. So, I’ll be watching through it for the first time for this review. Shh, don’t spoil it.

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Story:

We follow twins, Dipper & Mabel Pines, as they stay with their Great Uncle Stan at his Mystery Shack tourist spot in the small town of Gravity Falls Oregon. While exploring in the woods, Dipper finds a mysterious journal that talks about the strange supernatural phenomena happening in the town. Following up on the things mentioned therein will lead to the two having one unforgettable summer filled with adventures & mystery.

I honestly can’t think of any major narrative problems with this series. It’s stories are pretty straight forward & very optimistic, both of which are fine. It can be predictable, for an adult, but it’s intended for children. So, I don’t see any problem there either. If anything, a show for children should be a bit predictable for adults. Since we have a lot more experience with media and, with it, trope knowledge.

In stark contrast, I have to give the series a lot of credit. The strange world of Gravity Falls is highly inventive and it does some subversive stuff. Like having highly cheerful gravediggers or bringing unicorns into the equation only to have them take the piss. Going along that vein, this series is really bloody funny. There aren’t many things that get me bursting out in uproarious laughter. I usually end up having more a quiet chuckle when I find something funny. This got me laughing my arse off quite a few times. Sometimes with jokes that are kind of old, but they just executed very well. To give an example, there’s a line from Grunkle Stan about how “he can’t find the remote and he refuses to stand up” that really got to me. It’s a joke I’ve seen many times and that normally wouldn’t get anything out of me, but the combination of the jape with the channel he’s got on, the distance he actually is from the telly & the delivery makes it really funny. I also appreciate that some of the lessons they bring up are important ones that I haven’t seen in a lot of cartoons. Like the fact that an absent parent doesn’t really care about you and you may as well forget about them and appreciate the people who do care about you.

Then, we have the finale. This one is full of twists and turns. It has a lot of strong triumphant moments and some more melancholy bitter-sweet ones. It has some really sweet scenes, and I’m not using “sweet” in a slang sense. It also has some epic bits that I don’t want to spoil. One thing worth noting is that the theme tune actually changes for the finale episodes. Yes, this series makes the theme tune an important reflection of the state of things happening in the series. Which is a nice tough that you don’t see in many things. The ending is absolutely amazing is what I’m saying.

Characters:

About the worst I can say about this aspect is that some of the mystical creatures they encounter lack individuality. The Manotaurs are pretty much interchangeable, as are the gnomes, as are the unicorns. Which I can’t fault them for too much, especially since the creatures tend to show up as a major part of one episode and then kind of go to the background. Overall, though, I really like the characters. The major characters have just the right level of complexity and development. The side characters may be largely defined by their quirks, but they’re an endearing lot. I freaking love the happy funeral directing couple, for example. They have the best morbid jokes.

Art:

The art uses a relatively simplistic style, but it uses it to great effect. The surreal and bizarre scenes are really well done. The character designs are memorable. I don’t even care that some characters have those weird, huge muppet noses. The scenes flow nicely too. There’s real effort put into making the series look nice and it pays off.

Sound:

Here’s an area where I have some issues. Dipper sounds too old. He’s supposed to be twelve, but his voice sounds like someone who’s gone completely through puberty and possibly started University. Then we have Grenda. One of the big “jokes” surrounding Grenda is that she has a super husky voice. Which is used in an actual humorous way all of once. Other than that, it just comes across as bad acting. I don’t have any real issues with the rest of the cast. They can be exaggerated at times, but there’s always a reason for it. The music is good. I especially like the theme tune, which is evocative of the whole surreal aesthetic except when it changes for the ending stretch. In which case it’s evocative of the situation they’ve found themselves in.

Final Thoughts:

I honestly didn’t expect to like Gravity Falls as much as I did. Especially given my history with cartoons that are lauded as “amazing” & “perfect for adults too.” But it more than won me over with its ceaseless charm, endearing characters, creative scenarios, strong sense of humour & virtually everything else. Ultimately, compared to everything I liked about the series, my few complaints are pretty mild. This is one I’ll probably re-watch at some point. My final rating is going to stand at a well deserved 9/10.