Author Archives: ktulu007

About ktulu007

For me, writing is the greatest passion and sharing what I work on is a privilege. I write a lot about LGBT characters because so often the media we see with them is about their sexuality or gender identity or they’re the token LGBT character in a group of straight characters. So, I try to write a fleshed out character who’s part of a story about a fantasy quest or a star ship crew and happens to be LGBT. Comments are always appreciated. Just don't make me get sarcastic. Or do, I like being sarcastic.

Meisou-Ou Border: Basically Nothing

Meisou-ou Border is a forty five minute OVA from ’91. It’s based off of a Caribu Marley manga and was brought to life by Artland. That’s right, the studio behind such pieces of complete tripe as Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu and Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou. But they also did Mushishi and Gunslinger Girl Il Teatrino, so we can’t assume the worst.

Story:

We open with two blokes living in filth in a sketchy flat complex being hired to do a job. Since it’s good money and they’re incredibly stupid, they don’t think to ask what the job actually is before taking it. From there the plot just meanders.

Therein lies the big problem with this OVA. There’s some build up leading to their job but the actual work ends in five minutes and, after that, it’s just these idiots faffing about for the second half of the OVA. Even the job doesn’t get resolved well. There’s never a point where anything really engaging, funny or interesting happens. Which makes watching this roughly equivalent to staring at your wall. You probably won’t be too bothered by doing it but you also won’t gain anything from it.

Characters:

I’m just going to refer to our protagonists as young scruffy guy and old shabby guy. Yeah, I could take ten seconds to look at their names, but I don’t care enough. Scruffy is one of those protagonists who’s an amicable, well-intentioned slob. Shabby is more the hedonistic, cheapskate but good on the inside type. They’re both incredibly stupid and we get the same problem with them as we have with the narrative in general. They’re just devoid of anything noteworthy or compelling. You could replace them with stray dogs on an adventure with no dialogue and at least the dogs would be cute which would make them better.

Art:

In terms of artwork and animation, it doesn’t look bad. It’s not the world’s most polished looking work, but it’s fine. And that’s, unfortunately, the highest praise I can give any element of this OVA. The worst part of the artwork is the character design. A lot of the major dudes who show up are just these kind of generic looking mangy guys. So, a lot of it ends up looking the same. It’s kind of like Marvel’s old GI Joe comics with clean cut blonde, blue-eyed dudes you can’t differentiate at a glance. Except that those gave them distinct outfits and these guys all dress similarly too.

Maybe Caribu just likes having generic mangy guys as characters as much as I like writing LGBT characters.

Sound: 

The main characters are voiced by Yara Yuusaku & Horiuchi Kenyuu. Their performances aren’t particularly impressive but they’re perfectly passable. I’ve heard better performances from both of them in the past, but those were in series where they were doing things that warranted range. The music is entirely forgettable. It’s all just rather generic.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any on display.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Focus on one story line. Part of the problem with this work is that, instead of giving us one cohesive narrative and doing it well, it gives us a mesh of thrown together, half-assed plot lines. Focusing on one story would have given it a chance to develop the conflict and characters better.
  2. Characters need personality. If you’re going to waste more than half the work doing nothing, at least use that time to give the characters some complexity.
  3. Distinctive Designs. These guys looking very similar and just generic in general does not help this OVA. Even if you want to maintain the aesthetic of having them both look shabby, you can do that while also giving them more differentiated facial features. At the very least.

Final Thoughts:

In the end, Meisou-ou Border isn’t a bad OVA. Its biggest failing comes down to one simple factor, there’s nothing to it.  So, unless you need a sleep aid I can’t really recommend it. I’ll give it a 4/10 for being dull and tedious but inoffensive.

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December Bonus Review #2: A Hard Day’s Night

A Hard Day’s Night is a film from 1964. Directed by Richard Lester and starring the Beatles, as you may have surmised from the title, who were riding high at the height of Beatlemania Possibly from drugs as well. This was the era of hippies after all. In any case, let’s take a gander at the film.

Hard Day's Night.png

Story:

We open with The Beatles running from hordes of fans while the titular song plays. After a bunch of Benny Hill style shenanigans, they manage to reach their train. George, Ringo & John are surprised to find that Paul’s brought his granddad along. Paul describes him as a rascal and a troublemaker, but says he was asked to bring him because he needs a change of scenery. The film then follows the fab four as they try to get through their concert while dealing with fallout from the elder McCartney’s troublesome behaviour. It doesn’t help that the Beatles themselves are quite fond of causing shenanigans.

The biggest issue I have with the film, narratively, is with the concert at the end. It’s kind of a lazy series of scenes where we see the Beatles play parts of songs we’ve already heard in full in other parts of the film while they show crowd shots of young people, mostly women, going crazy. And we already know that the Beatles caused a lot of moistness/ hardness in their prime so that doesn’t really do much. Another bit that bothers me a little is the whole chase scene with law enforcement. The chase scene is quite funny. It just never gets any proper closure.

On the positive side, the film’s sense of humour is pretty spot on. The part with the crotchety old man on the train is fantastic. Seeing George Harrison get dragged into a fashion office and giving them a piece of his mind is a great scene. The whole interview where you hear them all give absurd answers to questions is hilarious. The back and forth between John and their fictional manager, Norm, is great. And the vast majority of the jokes do hold up really well. The big exception there is the ongoing gag about Paul’s grandfather being very clean. Which was a reference to a sitcom the actor did but I only know that because I looked up some information about the film. I’m totally going to use that as an example of why references don’t work as jokes from now on.

Characters:

The Beatles themselves are a lot of fun. They seem to be enjoying themselves and they do come across as highly charismatic, fun-loving lads. And I know the surviving band members are more than twice my age, but they were lads when this film was made. There are also some strong supporting characters for them to play off of. The grandfather’s trouble making serves to bring out a slightly more responsible part for the main cast. Which works nicely in allowing them to showcase a bit more depth.

Cinematography, Visuals and Effects

My big complaint, in terms of the visuals, is that the musical numbers they just sit and play are kind of boring and the lip-syncing that goes with them isn’t great. The film also features some songs that play while The Beatles engage in entertaining visual gags. The chase scene from the start and the field cavorting scene are both strong examples of that. And those musical scenes are amazing. The film does feature some strong visual gags as well.

Acting & Music:

The acting is really good, surprisingly so given that this was the band’s first foray into film. I think it does help that they’re just having a blast. The actors working alongside them are pretty clearly seasoned professionals and give strong performances as well. The songs are fantastic, as you would expect from the Beatles. There are classics like A Hard Day’s Night, Can’t Buy me love, And I love Her & She loves you to just name a few.

Areas of Improvement:

Time for everyone’s favourite segment, me talking about the specific things I’d change.

  1. Shorten the Concert scene. I already mentioned the problem with this scene but I also understand why they needed to show something for it. I’d just cut it down so you still get the idea but you aren’t sitting through so many segments of songs you’ve already heard.
  2. Give John and Norm some more scenes. Like I said, their trading jabs throughout the film is one of the best comedic parts. So, I’d play it up a bit more.
  3. Less Sitting, more action in musical numbers. Like I said, the best musical numbers are the ones where they’re actually doing something during while those that feature them sitting down and playing are a bit boring, even with the good music. So, I’d find some zany shenanigans for them to get up to during more of these segments.

Final Thoughts:

For its time, this was a very influential film that set the standard for what a musical film should be. Over fifty years later, it holds up pretty well. The comedic elements largely work, the music is classic, and it’s just a lot of fun. I’ll give it a solid 7/10.

Panda Kopanda: Early Miyazaki

Panda Kopanda is a pair of sort films from the early 1970s. Yes, that is even older than me. It was put out by Tokyo Movie Shinsha. You may remember them as the studio behind Magic Knight Rayearth & Versailles no Bara. That might give you low expectations but it was also written by Miyazaki Hayao, back before Studio Ghibli was a thing. And he’s done screenplays for some of the best anime films out there. So, get your expectations away from mediocrity or worse.

Panda Kopanda.png

Story:

We open with young Mimiko seeing her grandmother off. Apparently it was time for the old bat to go into a home. (Actually, she’s going on a trip and can’t take Mimiko because she has school.) While on her own, Mimiko finds out that something strange happened while she was out. She swiftly finds the culprit and it’s a baby panda named Pan-chan. Pan-chan’s father arrives and is very upset to learn that Mimiko has no parents. So, he decides that he’ll be her father and, in exchange, she says she’ll act as Pan-chan’s mum. I know that sounds really questionable, but it isn’t. Thus the trio forms a bizarre little family.

The biggest issue with the films is, ultimately, that it doesn’t always take full advantage of its scenarios. For example, there’s a segment where Mimiko takes Pan-chan to school and some shenanigans ensue. But, ultimately, considerably more could have been done with this. Then there’s the grandmother. Mimiko having a grandmother doesn’t really do anything. Theoretically, she’ll get back from her trip at some point and that will lead to something, but there were only two films and that never came to fruition. Having her departure scene doesn’t really do anything and having Mimiko write to her doesn’t really do anything. Although, tying into the first point, there could have been a really funny scene of the grandmother reading the initial letter and misunderstanding it. It also is a bit weird that some animals talk and others don’t. Most of the circus animals, for instance, don’t say anything.

With that being said, the content they do have is fun and it has a real charm to it. Watching the characters interact with circus animals is fun. The stuff we do get at the school is enjoyable. The initial meeting with the characters is a fun time. There’s never a moment where what’s on the screen is just nothing. Miyazaki also does a good job of bringing in some minor sources of tension for the children. As adults, we know it’s going to turn out okay but for the intended audience, they work well.

Characters:

The cast is simple, but they’re entertaining. Honestly, their interactions and dynamics are strong enough for a work with a comedic bent. Even if it was intended for older audiences they’d be perfectly functional in that regard.

Art:

The artwork definitely shows its age. It uses that really old school style where the animation is a bit janky and the art style is very basic. Honestly, though, it holds up pretty well. You’ll never confuse it for a newer series, but the bright vibrant colours and simplistic style do have their own sense of charm when they’re used well.

Panda Kopanda1.png

Sound:

Our little family is voiced by Kumakura Kazuo, Oota Yoshiko and Sugiyama Kazuko. You might not be super familiar with them since a lot of their acting roles are in older anime but they all give solid performances. The music is very energetic and just fun.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any romance whatsoever in this. So, no ho-yay. And, in this case, that’s a good thing.

Areas of Improvement:

Now it’s time for me to present those changes that I think could have made for a better work.

  1. Cut out the grandmother. Honestly, I think it would have been better if they’d left out the grandmother and had a girl, living on her own and finding a strange family with talking pandas. The grandmother just does nothing.
  2. No Mum. Basically, instead of having Mimiko agree to “be Pan-chan’s mum” I’d just have her agree to help take care of him and have her treated as an older sister. Because the mum thing is the only part of the films that’s weird and not in a good way.
  3. No More Mute Circus Animals. I don’t really think they all need to talk. Especially since most of them appear very briefly. But the Tiger mum could benefit from some actual lines. Especially since her baby talks and has quite a bit of dialogue. And it just comes across as strange that she only seems capable of making actual animal sounds.

Final Thoughts:

In the end, Panda Kopanda is an entertaining, endearing children’s film. If you’re just looking for something that’s simple and fun, give it a go. It’s not one of Miyazaki’s best works, but it is quite good. I’ll give it a solid 7/10.

December Bonus Review #1: Star Trek: Next Gen/ X-men Second Contact

Some crossover ideas just don’t work even when you hear them. Like combining Final Fantasy with random Disney worlds or having The Looney Tunes, Muppet Babies, Ninja Turtles, Smurfs, Winnie The Poo, Chipmunks, Garfield and Alf all combine forces to talk about Marijuana or having Archie meet the Ninja Turtles. On the surface, this seems slightly better than those but not like something that could work well. I love Star Trek: Next Gen and I have a great fondness for the X-men. The book was brilliant for that decade when Chris Claremont was writing it. However, they just don’t seem like they’d mesh well. But let’s take a look, maybe it’s better than it sounds.

Next Gen- X-men.png

Story:

We open with the Enterprise crew returning to their time after the events of First Contact. But something goes askew and they end up in the past. They detect Shi’ar technology and realise that, not only shouldn’t it be there, but it’s their only hope of repairing their ship and returning home. This leads them to the X-men who happen to recognise the Enterprise name from that time they met the original series crew.

The two groups are approached by Kang who warns them that there are anomalies thanks to the Enterprise crossing over from another time and universe. They decide that even though he’s known to be evil, they can’t take the risk and set out to fix things.

Therein lies the first big problem with this crossover, Kang is lying. Yeah, that’s perfectly in keeping with his character but the Enterprise crew has Counsellor Deanna Troi on it. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with Next Gen, Counsellor Troi is half Betazoid. They’re an alien species that can read the minds of most species. As a half blood, she can’t read minds properly but she is an empath and she can sense things like, say, when someone’s deceiving her. There are several episodes where that comes up as an important plot point and she should sense immediately that Kang is lying to them but she doesn’t cause the whole plot of them travelling to Wolf 359 from Star Trek and the X-men’s Days of the Future Past wouldn’t happen if her abilities were working as they should. Shadowcat gets the same kind of treatment. At one point she phases through a Sentinel and they forget that she short-circuits machinery when she phases through it.

Another issue is just that the whole situation is a bit boring. They meet, decide to work together, fight some threats that should be kind of menacing but come across as kind of weak given how easily they’re dispatched. It all comes across as more than a little rushed. Although I will give them some credit for trying to give both teams equal time in the spotlight.

Characters:

Both of these casts should be great, in theory. Unfortunately, the writing from Abnett and Edgington doesn’t do them justice. They come across as pretty bland. And some characters, like Angel, don’t get to do or say anything. I’m not even kidding. Angel is there, but he seems to spend all his time in the background just standing around. I don’t recall him even getting a line of dialogue. Doctor Crusher doesn’t fare much better. They also don’t do much with the characters interacting. They go on missions together, sure, but they don’t talk much beyond very strict, business stuff. If I were someone who really wanted to read this crossover thinking it might be good, I would be very disappointed.

Art:

The artwork has its moments. The characters in general look decent enough. As do the backgrounds and action sequences. One issue with it is that the dialogue balloon placement isn’t the best and it can be challenging to figure out who’s supposed to be talking in large group shots. Maybe that’s where all of Angel’s dialogue is. There’s also a big artwork fail in a panel with Banshee and Commander Riker. To put it simply, they’re exchanging some dialogue while Banshee is clearly using his powers. For those who don’t know, Banshee’s power is a sonic scream. He literally can’t use it and talk at the same time. It would be like Cyclops shooting his optic blasts while reading.

Areas of Improvement:
This one is going to be a challenge, because I honestly don’t know how to make this a good crossover using what’s presented as a base. If I was writing something completely on my own, maybe I could manage it. So, I’ll kind of have to settle for suggestions that might have made it somewhat passable.

  1. Reworking Kang’s Villainy. Honestly, I would have him use a combined force of Sentinels and Borg drones to steal the Shi’ar tech. You could keep the same villains, give both teams a reason to go after him and you wouldn’t need to drag a bunch of extra characters in just so they could have a cameo.
  2. Let the Teams Chat. This comic could be way more interesting if the X-men and Enterprise crew had some real banter. Wolverine and Worf could talk about what it means to be a warrior. Storm and Captain Picard could talk about what his future’s stance on mutants might be. Shadowcat could talk tech with Geordi, or at least try to because I doubt he’d give her any real information even though she’s an enthusiastic nerd when it comes to technology. Having more banter would really liven the story up.
  3. Give Angel and Doctor Crusher something to do. Seriously, if you’re going to be bothered putting them in, let them do something.

Final Thoughts:

Second Contact isn’t dreadful. It has pretty decent art, mostly. And there’s clearly effort put into making it an equal crossover. Unfortunately, the details are off, which puts in some pretty significant plot holes. The teams have weak interactions which, in turn, makes the characterisation come across as weak. But hey, maybe the actual novel they advertise at the end as a continuation is better. This comic is pretty bad though. I give it a 3/10.

Figure 17: Tsubasa & Hikaru- Wonder Twin Powers Activate

Figure 17 is a thirteen episode anime from the early 2000s. OLM, the same studio behind Gunsmith Cats, Disgaea & Pokemon, was responsible for bringing it to life. It was written by Yonemura Shouji, who also worked on scripting episodes for both Doki Doki Precure & Hunter x Hunter. So, that’s all a positive sign as far as I’m concerned. Let’s get into it.

figure 17

Story:

Shiina Tsubasa is having a rough time. She’s lost her mother and just moved to a new area for her father’s work. To top it all of, she’s very shy and doesn’t make friends easily. At least the place she moves has a nice dog that she gets to look after. I immediately relate to this character. Change the parent she lost and that’s my childhood. One night things change when there’s a loud crash. Tsubasa wakes up and finds a UFO with an alien pilot and a hostile alien life form called a Maguar. Maybe it just wants Reese’s Pieces? Tsubasa accidentally combines with an alien called a Riberus to take on an armoured form capable of fighting the hostile creature. After the battle, an unusual thing happens. The Riberus takes on Tsubasa’s form. She calls herself Hikaru and the newly created twins have to balance their school lives while secretly combating the alien menace before it overwhelms Earth.

Now, my big problem with the narrative is with one specific side story. Namely, the reporter’s. Basically, we get segments throughout the series of this researcher turned columnist wandering around the scenes where they’ve fought Maguar and trying to figure out exactly what happened to cause the ecological damage. And throughout the series I kept wondering how this random dude’s story was going to tie into the main plot line. So, how does it ultimately pan out? It doesn’t. This character and his bullshit segments could have been completely cut out and it wouldn’t have had any impact except to give more time for the characters who matter. Frankly, they could’ve given us scenes of the dog playing around and those would have been better. At least the dog’s cute and interacts with the main cast. Maybe Yonemura thought it would be interesting to get an outsider’s perspective (it’s not) or maybe he had plans that didn’t pan out. Still, ultimately, all the time we spend with this guy is completely pointless.

With that gripe out of the way, there are a lot of positive aspects to the plot. It melds the sci-fi monster hunting aspect with more personal, day to day life drama really well. There are stakes for both elements and there are points where there are problems trying to balance them or where things that happen in one will cause issues with the other. I appreciate that the trained adults can get help from Tsubasa and Hikaru while still coming across as capable in their own right, occasionally even battling the creatures by themselves. That’s not something you see often in this type of narrative and it’s not something that’s easy to pull off. Then we have the ending. I won’t spoil it, but it’s a strong bitter-sweet ending. Which works phenomenally in no small part due to the way it foreshadows the tragic elements. And the tragic elements may have made me tear up… a lot.

Characters:

One of the significant reasons that the marriage of daily life drama and monster hunting works so well is because the characters are so strong. So much of this series is dedicated to Tsubasa’s personal growth. Not just as a reluctant heroine who has to come into her own but as an individual learning to cope with things like loss, loneliness and how to tap into her strength. Hikaru is a superb character as well. The “twins” are handled in a semi-complementary way with each one having strengths the other lacks but they also have aspects to their personalities that are very similar. And after the sheer number of twin characters I’ve seen who are basically one character, this is a refreshing take.

They also have a strong dynamic in spite of them both knowing they aren’t actually twins. Normally, I would say that it’s unrealistic for them to bond so quickly but Figure 17 makes it work by showing us what Tsubasa’s life is like before all of this happens and showing us how isolated she feels. So, it makes sense for her to latch onto a girl who opens up to her and treats her as family.

The side characters also get a good amount of complexity to their characters. Sakura may be one of the strongest representations of those aspects of adolescence that make teenagers difficult to deal with while also showcasing those parts of life that are hard for teenagers which makes her come across as pretty relatable. Even the pointless reporter has depth to him. It’s part of the reason his segments waste so much time.

The only things that don’t have complexity are the Maguar. We basically learn that they’re artificially created but they don’t seem to have sentience. They just kind of want to feed and spread.

Art:

The character design is pretty nice. It’s interesting the way some minor changes between the twins make it readily obvious which one you’re looking at even when they’re wearing the same outfit. That’s a good touch. The armoured Riberus forms are interesting looking. The alien technology is neat looking. The Maguar themselves have some interesting designs. At least, they do at first. After a while, they kind of gave up and started giving you a bunch that basically look the same. To be fair, there is an explanation for it.

The action is pretty well animated, although some of the motion blur and such can be a bit over-used. There’s also an action sequence near the end that takes place in tunnels where everything has a red tint. Which was a bit hard on the eyes and not that good looking. When we got to see the tunnels from inside the Riberus and they had normal colours, they looked great. But, unfortunately, most of it is spent with the redness.

Figure 171

Sound:

The performances are great. Orikasa Fumiko & Yajima Akiko pull off the leads really well. There are also particularly good performances from Koyama Rikiya, Horie Yui & Inoue Kikuko. Although all of the performances are good. The music works quite nicely with the action on screen.

Ho-yay:

There really isn’t any. The crushes we do see among the children are hetero-normative. Although I do appreciate that they’re presented subtly.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Cut out the Reporter Segments. This is definitely the most obvious thing, and for good reason. These parts do nothing. I’d honestly replace them with segments giving some spotlight to the side characters who actually spend time with our heroines.
  2. Colours for the tunnel scene. I mentioned this a bit when I talked about the artwork, but I’d show the tunnel scene the way you see it from the Riberus perspective instead of with that awful red filter.
  3. The Hikaru Question. One thing that comes up in the series is that no Riberus has ever done what Hikaru did. IE: take on a physical form like that. I’d like to see DD and Oldina discuss it from a scientific perspective and from a philosophical perspective. They don’t really touch on it that much in the series proper, which seems a bit weird.

Final Thoughts:

The young man who requested this review said this was one of his favourite anime of all time, and I understand why. While it has some problems, most notably those pointless segments, it is a bloody good series. It has a fantastic sense of character, a compelling story, strong acting and artwork. It might not be one of my favourites, but I can respect it and what it does. Personally, I’ll give it a solid 8/10.

November Bonus Review: Detroit- Become Human

Let me begin by just outright saying that I don’t like David Cage. As a writer, I find him pretty damn terrible and every time he talks about his work he comes across as either a pathological liar, someone with his head so far up his own ass he’s getting his food back before it can digest or both. Now, you might wonder why I’m going to talk about one of the games he wrote if I think so little of him.  Well, it’s because I have a lot of problems with this game and it’s been out long enough that I think I can vent about them without all the rabid fans going mad. Plus I don’t do game reviews often so, when I do, it’s always a game that’s been out for a while. I’ll warn you before we get into the gritty details, there will be spoilers.

Story: 

The set up is old hat for science fiction. Androids are an accepted part of daily life but some are gaining emotions, breaking free from their programming and starting to demand rights. We follow three different androids, Markus, Connor and Kara, on their separate but connected paths. Markus starts out serving an elderly artist before becoming robot Jesus. Connor is tasked with finding these deviants and putting a stop to them before they start voting, getting involved sexually with our flesh and blood women and shopping at our organics only stores. Kara is a house keeping android who runs off with a small child to stop her being abused. But it turns out the child is also an android so don’t worry about any “can an android love a human as its own?” story lines. That might have been interesting, if it were written by someone with writing skills.

My first big issue with the game’s story is just how trite the whole narrative is. We’ve seen the “what if AI was sapient” question addressed in a billion different works of media. And every single one of those has done a better job with it than this game. Some big examples have been, but aren’t limited to, Star Trek: Next Generation, The Stories of Ibis, Eve no Jikan, DC’s Metal Men, Astro Boy, The Hitchiker’s Guide, Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, Xenosaga, Transformers, Voyages of the Cerberus, The Twilight Zone, Marvel’s Vision, Blake’s Seven, Steel Angel Kurumi 2, Overwatch, Megaman and so many others I could put together an absurdly long list but I’ve made my point.

What especially annoys me about Detroit in this regard isn’t just that it uses a major story element that’s been done, it’s that David Cage talks about it like he did something completely new and absolutely unheard of. And not just because he deals with sapient machines but because they’re the good guys, for once. You know, if you ignore literally everything I just listed.

Another aspect of the game that annoys me is the heavy-handed slavery metaphor that immediately falls apart if you put ten seconds of thought into it. Because white people did not build black people in a factory nor have black people ever been emotionless.  Frankly, it’s a pretty insulting comparison. David Cage also likes to push this idea that the “proper” way to strike back against an oppressive group in power is through non-violent protest. The only way to save all the named characters you’re supposed to care about is to be non-violent. Which is nonsense. Peaceful protest has its place, but it isn’t easy or relatively painless by any means.

Another annoyance is the Public Opinion system. Throughout the game what you do impacts public opinion but it barely matters to the story. There are all of two characters who will act differently based on public opinion and you don’t see any other impact from it. The story is also full of things that are just stupid. For example, the androids have LEDs in their necks that basically serve to show when they’re getting distressed. Almost like this was an old B-movie where the lead actor can’t emote so they come up with some plot device to do it for them. What’s even dumber is that we find out androids can remove these lights and change their hair colours in order to better pass as human. So, why doesn’t every deviant android do that immediately? Seriously, these things are supposed to be smart but they can’t be bothered to take some simple, obvious steps that would help keep them safe? They deserve to get caught and deactivated.

The only narrative thing I’ll give Detroit some credit for is that it actually has choices that matter. Which does give it something when compared to, for example, a Telltale game. Although you probably won’t want to take more paths cause they’re all badly written.

Characters:

Like the narrative itself, the characters are based off of old, boring stereotypes without anything to make them interesting. Markus is the “saviour” who gains the mysterious power to awaken other androids and has to lead his people to… Silicon heaven, I assume. Where they can hang out with all the calculators. Connor is the eager young recruit. Kara is the motherly woman. Hank is the grizzled old officer and so on. I’ve felt more of an emotional connection to the plastic toys I’ve found in kinder eggs.

Gameplay:

Like most Quantic Dream games, the gameplay is very minimal. You go to places, examine things, do busy work (like laundry), make decisions and there are some shitty quick time events. It’s like Cage wanted to make an animated film but didn’t want every single Razzie so he begrudgingly made a game instead. So, it’s exactly what you expect from Quantic.

Art:

Here’s the one element I can give some actual praise. The artwork in this game is very well done. It uses a realistic, motion-captured style and, unlike any other aspect of the game, actual effort went into making the animation flow smoothly, putting in nice backgrounds and just making it visually appealing. If you paired this artwork with a narrative that wasn’t complete trash and compelling gameplay, you could have a real winner.

Sound:

The music is decent enough. In terms of acting, you can tell that the actors are trying. I can’t say their performances are good. If they had characters with some level of depth to them, they might be able to display emotions and have strong performances instead of an emotion and having kind of sub-par performances. I’m sure part of that is David Cage’s directing since he’s awful at that too.

Areas of Improvement:

Now comes the time where I list three ways the work could be improved, and I am spoiled for choice here because there are so many awful aspects to go after.

  1. Tone down the message for some subtlety and nuance. I know that those are two terms David Cage will never comprehend, but for an example of what I’m talking about watch the Next Generation episode, Measure of a Man. In which Data’s rights are at stake and Picard defends those rights as well as his status as a sentient being.
  2. Alter the gameplay. As it is, Detroit is basically a shite visual novel with QTEs thrown in. I would say either throw out the busy work & QTEs and make it a straight up VN since those gameplay elements are just obnoxious or put in some gameplay that can fit with a story that has branching paths. Maybe an action RPG since several of those do have choices that matter. And get rid of the QTEs and busy work while you’re at it.
  3. Develop the characters beyond stereotypes. As the game is, we’ve seen all of these characters. We’ve also seen them all used as a base for complex characters. Which Cage might’ve done, if he wasn’t a complete hack.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, Detroit: Become Human is tripe. The story is a complete mess riddled with clichés on one end and idiotic nonsense on the other. The gameplay is horrid. The characters have nothing to them and it’s just a generally bad experience. A bad experience that looks quite nice but looking nice kind of becomes meaningless when that’s all you have working in your favour. I give it a 3/10. And the only reason I’m going that high is because of the art. If the graphics weren’t so nice, I’d take two points off of that.

Ayane-chan High Kick: Just Couldn’t Commit

Ayane-chan High Kick is a sports comedy from the late 90s. It was written by Shizuya Isao and put out by Nikkatsu & Rikuentai. I’ve reviewed a lot of semi obscure OVAs so let’s delve into this one.

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Story:

We open with our heroine, Mitsui Ayane, skipping school in order to try out for wrestling. Unfortunately for her, throwing herself into things carelessly doesn’t work out and she isn’t signed. But things look up when she’s approached by Tange Kunimitsu who sees championship potential in her. She eagerly takes him up on his offer to train her, not realising that he actually wants her as a kick boxer rather than as a wrestler.

The biggest issue with the OVA comes down to the humour. To explain it in simple terms, it can’t decide whether it wants over the top, absurd comedy or more subdued dry comedy. Which basically results in it giving you kind of absurd, over the top situations and then reeling things back and giving you a subdued punch line that usually proves a bit disappointing. Having Ayane woken up when she’s sleeping in class by her friend doing a countdown could be really funny, if she let loose and decked the student in the desk next to hers. Not so much when she just stands up awkwardly and shouts. That’s just a little funny. Having the antagonist bring a van to her school and challenge her would be really funny if she gave a kind of exaggerated challenge speech like the Ultimate Warrior but it’s not really funny when she’s just a bit haughty.

Another issue is with how much time they spend on training montages where nothing all that amusing happens. I get it, you have a sports thing so you want to show some training and progression. However, this OVA has two episodes and runs for a little less than an hour. So, spending a bunch of that time showing training doesn’t seem particularly prudent when you could have some jokes for your comedy or character development if you want to take it semi-seriously. Or both.

With those critiques out of the way, I will credit the series for being kind of entertaining and having jokes that might not be uproariously funny but are a bit funny. And there’s nothing in the OVA’s writing that’s actually bad or even boring. Its main problems come down to trying to do too much with limited time and a general unwillingness to commit to the more absurd elements. And the worst that’s going to lead to are some scenes that are a bit “blah.”

Characters:

I’ve often said that a comedic work doesn’t need characters with all that much depth so long as it has characters that have strong comedic interactions, although it is a bonus. That being said, this OVA isn’t solely comedic. It takes its sport elements somewhat seriously and, because of that, I would say it needs some depth. Which it really doesn’t have. Even if this were purely comedic most of the characters aren’t all that funny in their interactions. So, you ultimately end up with characters who are a a bit too flat to make for a good cast in a sports work that’s taking itself somewhat seriously and not animated enough for a strong comedic cast.

Art:

The artwork isn’t all that good. It’s not bad either it’s just kind of average 90s fare in terms of character designs, backgrounds and the like. The biggest issue I had with it were with the action sequences. The OVA opts for more pulse pounding action rather than absurd, over the top action. Which is a perfectly acceptable choice but the problem is that it’s not good at it. The action sequences mostly involve Ayane taking hits with flashes and recycled footage before she pulls it together and delivers her devastating titular high kick and it’s just not that exciting or interesting to watch. And when it tries to illustrate injuries, there’s really no detail so it just doesn’t work. I get not wanting to show too much blood or detailed gore in a comedic sports work but at least give us some bruising or anything that can actually convey the damage they’re supposed to have taken.

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Sound:

The acting is fine. Nishihara Kumiko, Miyamura Yuko, Kawamura Maria & Ootsuka Akio all deliver acceptable performances. I dare say they could’ve done better if they’d had stronger comedy and/or stronger characterisation to work with. The music is okay. Not anything spectacular or super memorable but it works well enough.

Ho-yay:

There’s a bit between Ayane and Kayoko. When they start talking about graduating together and Ayane realises she has to win her match for that purpose it gets pretty homo-erotic.

Specific Improvement Suggestions:

This is something new I’ll probably do from this point on. Namely, I’m going to suggest three specific changes that I think could have made for a stronger work. Obviously, it’s going to end up being a lot easier with works that aren’t as good and get more nit-picky when you get something really strong, but I think it’ll be interesting. So, for this OVA here are my picks.

  1. Embracing more absurd humour.
    I’m not opposed to drier, more subdued comedy, but with the ridiculous set ups and situations I definitely think going for more zany, over the top japes would have made for stronger comedy.
  2. Cutting The Training sequences down, using that time for character interactions.
    If the OVA had done a bit more with developing strong comedic interactions, I definitely think the characters would be both stronger and more memorable.
  3. More polish for the action sequences.
    Whether you want to keep the pulse pounding action, or you want to keep with the general motif and make the fight sequences more ridiculous, the action sequences definitely need more effort.

Final Thoughts:

Ayane-chan High Kick is all right. It’s certainly better than some of the random OVAs I’ve gone over but there are also plenty of better ones out there. If it sounds like it might be your thing, you won’t lose much time watching it since it does run for less than an hour and you may enjoy it. But if you skip it you aren’t really missing out on anything. I’ll give it a 6/10.