Category Archives: List

Ktulu’s Fourth Annual Awards & Shaming Ceremony

For those of you who haven’t been following my blog for as long, allow me to explain. This is the time of year where I take every single series I’ve reviewed from February 15th of 2016 to the very last review I did, in this case Natsume Yuujinchou, and I praise the best while demeaning the worst. With every positive reward having a negative counterpart. Like last year I’m not going to bother giving you nominees. It’s not like I’m going to break for adverts and reveal the winners after the breaks or like I’m going to rent a stadium and invite all the nominees to wear fancy dress and accept trophies. Even if I had the euros to waste, I guarantee all those people have better things to do. So, let’s keep things to the point. I also won’t be including the bonus reviews. Maybe next year when I have more than five I’ll give them their own awards. Like last year, I’ll list off the eligible series in alphabetical order first.

This year the anime reviewed were:

91 Days, Ajin, Binbougami Ga, Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon S, Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan series 2, Brain Powerd, Byston Well Monogatari: Garzey no Tsubasa, Charlotte, Code Geass R2, Coppelion, Dance in the Vampire Bund, Danganronpa 3: Mirai Hen, Danganronpa 3: Zetsubou Hen, El Cazador de la Bruja, El Hazard: The Magnificent World, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Gangsta, Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig, Ginga Ojou-sama Densetsu Yuna Shin’en no Fairy, Gochuumon Wa Usagi Desu Ka series 2, Golgo 13, Gravitation, Gunsmith Cats, Haibane Renmei, Hanare Toride no Yonna, Ixion Saga DT, JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Stardust Crusaders, Kagewani, Kara no Kyoukai: Mirai Fukuin, Kashimashi, Komori-san wa Kotowarenai, Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, Kuuchuu Buranko, Love Live: The School Idol Film, Magic Tree House, Mononoke Hime, Mouryou no Hako, Natsume Yuujinchou, Noir, Non Non Biyori, One Punch Man, Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry, Rokka no Yuusha, Rurouni Kenshin: Meji Kenkaku Romantan- Tsuiokuhen, Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin, Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata, Sansha Sanyou, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, SKET Dance, Sword Art Online II, Terra Formars, Terra Formars Revenge, Toradora, Totsuzen Neko no Kuni Banipal, Triangle Heart Sweet Songs Forever, Upotte, & Yuri Kuma Arashi

So, with our contestants firmly established let’s begin announcing the winners.

The Moffat award for unbearably awful writing in a mostly serious anime or OVA. Our previous winners were Dansi Bunri no Crime Edge, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Madhouse’s take on one of my absolute favourite super hero teams, the X-men. This year we had some stiff competition. The big contenders were Garzey no Tsubasa, Kagewani & Brain Powerd. In the end the winner is Brain Powerd.

brain-powerd

Here’s the thing that sets this one apart from the other two. The other two are unintentionally kind of enjoyable. While Brain Powerd also has some moments that are funny in their incompetence, it’s also much longer and those moments are farther between.

The Simone award for stellar writing in a mostly serious series or OVA. Previous winners were Psycho Pass, Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex & Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. While I did watch several fantastic series this year, the winner probably won’t surprise anyone since I only gave one series a ten and the rest of the really strong ones got eights and nines. The winner is El Cazador de la Bruja.

cazador

A fantastically written story about two ladies on a journey, meeting interesting characters and strengthening their bond. I absolutely adored this series.

The Abrams award for worst writing in a film. The prior winners were End of Evangelion, Metropolis & Hetalia: Paint it White. This year we had a very clear winner and that film was: Hanare Toride no Yonna.

Yonna1

Yes, it was an ugly film with a nonsensical narrative and the best thing I could say about it was that it was over quickly.

The Miyazaki award for best writing in a film. Our previous winners were Nausicaa, Kara no Kyoukai 4 & Spirited Away. This year’s winner is probably kind of obvious. The award goes to Mononoke Hime.

Mononoke1

One of Ghibli’s finest and definitely a worthy winner.

The Macfarlane award for worst attempt at comedy. Our previous winners were OreImo, Kill la Kill & Sunabouzu. This year was a bit difficult since I watched two really horrendous comedies that were roughly on par but this year’s recipient is Kashimashi.

Kashimashi2

While Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan series 2 was a real contender, Kashimashi featured “jokes” about the main lead’s father acting like an incestuous pervert.Which is worse than anything from Bokusatsu Tenshi.

The Pratchett award for best comedic elements. The prior winners were Bottle Fairy, Doki Doki Precure & Yuru Yuri San Hai. This year it goes to Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka series 2.

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It’s a cutesy, endearing series and the funniest I’ve watched this year.

The Meyer award for the worst romantic elements. Our previous winners were OreImo, Mawaru Penguindrum & Love Hina Again. This year’s anime that gave love a bad name is Dance in the Vampire Bund.

dvb2

It was pretty difficult to choose between this and Kashimashi, the supposedly yuri (but not really) series that goes to absurd extremes to try and justify two girls liking one another. In the end, though, the series where both the major and secondary romance have paedophilic aspects has to be worse.

The Kanemaki award for best romantic elements. Our previous winners were Btooom (for the Himiko/ Ryouta romance), Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha & Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS With both of those winning for the NanoFate. This year’s winner is probably obvious. The winner is El Cazador de la Bruja.

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Ellis and Nadie are such a superb couple. If Bee Train made an anime that was just the two of them doing mundane things like going to the cinema, grocery shopping, buying a chihuahua & getting married in their matching gowns, I’d watch it. As long as they were in character I’d absolutely love it too. Because when you’ve got a couple this superb, even the mundane things they do are compelling.

The Anno award for the worst cast of characters. Previous winners were End of Evangelion, Neon Genesis Evangelion & Love Hina Again. Joining them this year is Kashimashi.

Kashimashi

Yes, Kashimashi. It has some bland side characters and a whole lot of annoying ones. Notably the main cast.

The Moore award for best cast of characters. Our previous winners were Sailor Moon, Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin & Death Parade. This year it goes to Sailor Moon S.

Sailor MoonS9

This was one of the hardest picks of the year. There were seven other anime that I really considered giving it to. In the end, however, I chose S just because it wins in terms of sheer numbers. In the end, it has more characters that I have a deep fondness for than any of the other series I considered. With most of them having three or four and S having close to ten.

The Bendis award for worst major conflict. The previous sultans of suckage were From Up on Poppy Hill, Sword Art Online & Ice. This year they’re going to be joined by Sword Art Online II.

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While there were some other series with lousy conflicts, Sword Art Online II surpassed them by having three. The plot hole riddled conflict where Blandon has more trouble cleaning up after the incompetence of the authorities than actually dealing with the threat. The whole thing where they’re just doing a lousy quest in an online game and there are no stakes and Blanda being a whiny, obnoxious pile of shite because her mum is slightly domineering.

The Claremont award for most compelling conflict. Previous winners were Psycho Pass, Shingeki no Kyojin & Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha As. This year it’s going to Haibane Renmei.

haibane-renmei

With a heavily psychological conflict where the stakes boil down to the life of a character we’ve gotten to know and love. It really is masterful.

The Liefeld award for worst visuals. Previous winners were Aku no Hana, Amada anime series: Super Mario Brothers & last year I did something different by giving out two categories of this award. One for films and the other for series. The winners were Dragonball Z: Fusion Reborn & Corpse Party: Tortured Souls. This year I’ll be giving out two again, but this time we have a film that truly has awful art instead of passable art that suffers from weak action scenes. The awards go to Hanare Toride noYonna in the film category and Byston Well Monogatari: Garzey no Tsubasa in the series category.

YonnaGarzey1

Both of these were outright ugly with bizarre proportions. Garzey no Tsubasa may, at least, have unintentionally hilarious art but that’s only because it’s so incompetent.

The Urbino award for excellent visuals. This is another one where I started giving out two last year, but I didn’t in the prior years. With that in mind the winners have been Nausicaa, Tokyo Godfathers, Spirited Away & Mushishi. This year the winner for the film category is Mononoke Hime. The winner for the series category is Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig.

Mononoke22nd gig7

These ones were very difficult. For films it came down to Mononoke Hime and Advent Children, both of which have stunning visuals. For the series category, it was even harder. There were a good number of series I watched this year that just had superb artwork with really unique aesthetics. But, in the end, these two came out on top.

The Spencer award for acting incompetence. Our previous winners were the English dub of Sailor Moon (which will be the only dub I ever review), Neon Genesis Evangelion & Ice. This year it has to go to Kashimashi.

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Yes, Kashimashi. A series that took talented actors and made them sound like they don’t give a shit, except in a few notable cases where they sounded downright dreadful.

The Sir Stewart award for acting excellence. Our past winners were Black Rock Shooter (OVA), Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha & Glass no Kamen. This one is always harder to decide than the Spencer award, since even bad anime tend to have passable performances. So, the really wretched ones stand out. But this year the title of best goes to Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu.

Rakugo3

This was a series with a lot of drama, but also a lot of heart. It’s a series where the performances were subtle, nuanced and brilliant. Out of all the fantastic vocal performances I’ve heard this year, it definitely stands out.

The Perry award for worst music in a series. Previous winners were the English dub of Sailor Moon, Street Fighter II & Mars of Destruction. This year it goes to Kagewani.

kagewani2

While not terrible, the music in it is really weak.

The Kloss award for best music. Our previous winners were Slayers Perfect, K-on the movie & Love Live series 2. This year it’s going to go to Love Live: The School Idol Film.

Love Live film2

This film has phenomenal music. The singing was superb. The composition was excellent. All in all, it’s a film where they needed good music for the premise and they nailed it.

That’s it for this year’s awards. Who knows what awaits us this year in terms of what’s going to be reviewed. This upcoming weekend I’ll post February’s bonus review. It’s covering the graphic novel DC Versus Marvel Comics. So, there’s that to look forward to. Tomorrow I’ll post my review of Love Stage and a special thanks to all of you who have been reading my reviews throughout the year and also those of you who started reading at some point during the year. I always love reading your comments and hearing what you thought of the various series I’ve reviewed. You’re all fantastic. Feel free to leave a comment telling me which of the eligible series you thought should have been shamed or awarded.

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Voice Actor Profile: Paku Romi

Let’s take a moment to talk about voice actors. I usually mention them when talking about the quality of the acting in a specific work, but I don’t really dedicate too much time to talking about them in general. So, I thought I’d try something a bit different and write up a short piece on a major anime voice actor. I thought that Hayashibara Megumi would be too obvious a choice for me to start with, so instead, let’s talk about Paku Romi.

Paku Romi is an interesting actress. A lot of people know her best from her roles as teenage boys and young men: Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist, Tao Ren in Shaman King, Ueki in The Law of Ueki, Syrup in Yes Precure 5 GoGo, Switzerland in Hetalia, Hitsugaya in Bleach & Turtle in Rainbow to name a few. It’s a role type she’s good at and she’s given us a lot of good performances, but some people forget that she’s also good at playing women too. Zoë in Shingeki no Kyojin, Angelina in Kuroshitsuji, Naoto in Persona, Falis in Murder Princess, Pharah in Overwatch & Teresa in Claymore to name some prominent examples. Her roles as teenage boys just tend to be in more well known anime.

Whatever type of role she’s in, she usually does a really good job. So, I’m going to list her top five performances in anime I’ve reviewed. But it’s me and I have to be a bit critical, so I’ll also list her weakest three performances in anime I’ve reviewed. This is subject to change since she’s been in a lot of series I haven’t seen and some I’ve seen but haven’t done proper reviews of. Let’s start with the negativity with the three weakest roles. Just to be clear, these are ranked by the performance and not the writing for the characters.

3. Kanan Gimmes: Brain Powerd
Don’t you just love anime where the actors only need to demonstrate a few emotions? That’s the trouble with Brain Powerd. They got good actors, like Paku Romi, and gave them nothing to work with. She doesn’t sound bad in this, you’d be hard pressed to find something where the direction is that bad. She just sounds like she doesn’t care.

2. Tsubasa Yuuki: Mawaru Penguindrum
The trouble with the acting here is that the series has extreme tonal issues and shifts from extremely over exaggerated lines to really downplayed ones. Paku Romi voices a minor character, a really hammy actress. So, her lines tend to be among the more exaggerated in the series. Which isn’t exactly conducive to a tolerable performance.

1. Ragyou Kiryuuin: Kill La Kill
Speaking of characters who suffer from exaggerated lines, we have the big bad of Kill La Kill, an anime that’s all bout the characters being absurdly over the top at all times. Which definitely makes for the worst acted role I’ve heard her in.

Now that we’ve been a bit negative, let’s look at her good roles. This one was tougher to decide, because I’ve reviewed very few anime where she had roles that were weak but I’ve looked at a lot where she was fantastic. So, let’s quickly go through my picks for her strongest roles from anime I’ve reviewed. To be clear again, these are ranked by the strength of the performance and not the character writing.

5. Tamayo Kataoka: Rideback
Rideback
was one of my early reviews In that series, Paku Romi voices a Rideback champion who starts out as a relatively friendly rival to the protagonist and becomes a sort of mentor to her. A lot of what makes Rideback work as a series is that the characters have verisimilitude, and that’s certainly aided by the acting.

4. Hange Zoë: Shingeki no Kyojin
Zoë is a scientist in an apocalyptic landscape. Her most memorable facet is her love of studying the titans, but there’s more to the character than that. She gets strongly emotional when it comes to her work, but she’s also clever and can present ideas in a very calm, collected way.

3. Edward Elric: Fullmetal Alchemist/ Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
Edward is a really well acted character. Our auto-mail wielding protagonist has his serious moments, his comedic moments, traumatic moments, triumphant moments. Basically, he runs the full gamut of human emotion and it’s all portrayed really strongly by our lead actress.

2. Falis: Murder Princess
You wouldn’t expect much in terms of subtlety from a series called Murder Princess. However, it’s a series where you do get it. Paku Romi essentially voices two different characters in this. The princess who flees an invasion and the bounty hunter who switches bodies with her. She also has to convey the emerging romantic feelings between the two as they get to know one another without it coming across as narcissistic.

1. Noboru Maeda “Turtle”: Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin
There’s a lot of good acting in Rainbow. Paku Romi’s role is no different. This is a role where her character gets kicked around by life but still manages to maintain a lot of positivity. It’s a role that requires a lot of subtlety and a lot of care when breaching certain sensitive topics and she delivers brilliantly.

There’s my quick discussion of Paku Romi and some of her best and worst roles. I’ll do this again at some point with a different voice actor who I’ve encountered a lot. If you have some favourite roles of Paku Romi’s, feel free to leave a post about it.  

Five Changes I’d like to see in Fire Emblem

So, Fire Emblem Fates finally released two weeks ago. At least it did in the EU. The American version’s been out for months. The Japanese version’s been around for close to a year. Anyway, I’ve managed to ply through both routes and I’ll play the third when that comes out in the 9th. Overall, I quite liked it. I like some of its new concepts, liked the story and it had some strong characters. That being said, there are some things I think could or should be done a bit better. So, here’s my list of those. As is my usual, they’re in no particular order, except with some points coming earlier because they’ll factor into later things I discuss. 

1. An Improved A+ rank.

I actually really like the idea of assigning your characters “best friends” with the whole A+ thing. However, I also think it could be done better. For one thing, I’d like to see some support conversations to go with it, actually elevate it above the A rank in a more meaningful way. For another, I’d like to see some potential male/female A+ ranks. Not every possible permutation of a male/female pair has romantic chemistry but they always go S-rank with the possible options anyway, unless they’re related. So, why not forget about trying to force romantic chemistry and just have them be friends instead? There are certainly plenty of best friend pairs like that in real life, including ones where both people involved are straight. 

2. On the Subject of support log unlocks… 

In both Awakening & Fates, you have an avatar character who can be male or female. And, in both games, the support conversations for most of the characters are the same regardless, except regarding who you can reach S-rank with. It’s always been strange to me that 1. you have to unlock these support logs separately when the only differences are whether you can reach S-rank at the end and whether they use feminine or masculine terms to refer to you. 2. That there’s somehow potential romantic chemistry in one case but not the other. If Gaius, Tharja or anyone else has the exact same conversation with your avatar regardless, why does your avatar being the opposite gender suddenly give it romantic potential? 

That brings me to what I’d like to see. First off, I’d like to see the support conversation unlock in the library’s viewer for both the male and female avatar in cases where it’s the same, regardless of which one you actually unlock it with. On the positive side, it would make things much easier for completionists. And, if one of these characters is romance-able, I’d like to see them be romance-able regardless because if one of these conversations illustrates potential chemistry, then they both do. As they are the same conversation. 

3. Group Activities

One addition to Fates I actually really liked is that you can invite a character to your avatar’s “quarters” to interact with them and build your support conversation in a more relaxed environment, as opposed to having them just bond on the battlefield. However, I think this could be expanded on. I think the series could, in fact, really benefit from giving you the occasional option to invite two different characters to spend time with your avatar and have the support ranks go up all around. It would make it much more viable to try and unlock the supports for your other allies without necessarily having to join them at the hip during battles. It would be especially helpful for routes like the Nohr one where you don’t get random encounters and the amount of time you have to get those supports up is very limited. 

4. No more child characters. 

Here’s the thing about having your S-rank characters’ children join your party and fight alongside you. It worked just fine in Awakening when the story was about that. However, in the Fates routes it seems really contrived. Almost like it’s only there because it worked in Awakening. It’s not even necessary since you can beat the game without having a single S-rank couple, or while having your only S-rank couple be male Corrin & Zero/Niles. So, I’d like to see them not keep coming up with flimsy justifications for the children of your characters to show up. 

That being said, the missions to unlock these characters are kind of a big part of the game. So, what do I suggest, besides just having more missions in the story? Well, I’d actually suggest having an apprenticeship system. Have certain characters who, once they reach a certain number of kills, or unlock a certain number of supports or whatever, take on an apprentice. You can have whoever that character is S-rank, or A+ rank if they don’t have an S-rank support, with help them out, hence resulting in a unit with both their skills. On the positive side, it would be a more compelling explanation for the shared skills than them somehow being inherited. Plus, it would provide more potential for interesting skill combination sets. 

5. About the Avatar’s Romance Options…

There’s actually a good reason some people call the newer Fire Emblem titles “waifu simulators.” Your avatar character can marry anyone of the opposite sex and, in two cases for Fates, some characters of the same sex. Including your siblings in Fates because Nintendo & Intelligent designs are a bit fucked up like that. Yeah, that’s actually my biggest criticism of Fates.

Frankly, there are two possible ways I’d like to see this changed. The first is for them to just let your avatar character marry anyone they aren’t related to, regardless. Here’s the thing, if you’re going to just open it up for basically all the romance options, you might as well just open it up for all romance options. It doesn’t make sense to say “Oh, anyone of the opposite sex is fine but when it comes to same sex options, those have to make sense. Gotta have those strict standards.” Clearly, you have no standards as far as that’s concerned. Might as well embrace it and have all the yaoi/yuri/het your players could want. And if this was combined with the second point I made it wouldn’t even be harder for completionists. So, that’s good. 

The second possible thing I’d like to see happen, and the one I’d honestly prefer, is to have a more limited number of romance options but have them all well developed and make sense. Have some characters your avatar can only be friends with and a limited number that they can marry. Preferably with some being same sex or het only and others being available regardless. Because, frankly, in some of the cases where the support conversation is different based on the avatar’s gender, it’s not the opposite sex one that has romantic chemistry. 

So, that’s my list of things I’d like to see in upcoming Fire Emblem titles. On the off chance that someone from Nintendo or Intelligent Designs reads this, feel free to steal any and all of these ideas. If you have your own ideas for the franchise or berate me for my eccentricities, feel free to leave a comment. I’m going to get back to my second Nohr play through. I’m really close to getting Corrin and Peri up to S-rank.

Combining games for fun and profit

Lately, we’ve seen quite a few games released that combine the mechanics of two different games. Dynasty Warriors with both Zelda & Dragon Quest. Etrian Odyssey with Mystery Dungeon & Persona. Tekken with Pokémon. And that’s just to name a few. On one hand, it’s easy to understand why this happens. It’s an easy way to do something new with a franchise while also using game mechanics that are tried and true, even if they are such for a completely different game franchise. It’s also undoubtedly true that some of these combination games have been really good, melding elements of the two games for something that manages to be, strangely enough, unique.

Yeah, I’m not going to slag off the practice itself. Instead, I’m going to give you a list of five game combinations I’d like to see. Sorted by the one I’d like to see the least to the one I’d like the most.

5. Pokémon & Endless Ocean.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Endless Ocean, the idea is that you’re a diver mucking about underwater in various areas, interacting with marine life to learn about them including feeding and petting them. You even get dolphin friends to swim around with you. It’s a very relaxing game. Imagine how perfect that format would be for a game where you take the role of a Pokémon professor. You could explore various environments, not just the ocean but the forest, mountains and such, while studying wild Pokémon and gaining information for your Pokédex in the most world-building Pokémon game to date with an emphasis on exploration and environment rather than on battling. It wouldn’t be for every Pokémon fan but I’d certainly buy and sink hours of time into it.

4. Metroid & Borderlands

It’s no secret that I love most of the Metroid franchise, except that one game that basically nobody liked where Samus had Daddy issues for some reason. The games are about exploration and making your way through hostile worlds. However, one thing they haven’t really taken advantage of is the fact that Samus is a bounty hunter. Which is why I think it could benefit from taking some cues from Borderlands. Giving us a Metroid game with city hubs and quests. They could even adapt the gold rewards system to have Samus unlock armour, missile and weapon upgrades instead of just having her lose her power-ups and have to relocate them, usually attached to random statues.

3. Dragon Quest & Dissidia

Having a Final Fantasy based fighting game, that isn’t Ehrgeiz or anything like Ehrgeiz, was a brilliant move on Square-Enix’s part. And I’d love to see the same kind of treatment given to their other big RPG franchise, Dragon Quest. just tweak the mechanics a bit to be more suitable for the franchise and you’d almost certainly have a hit.

2. Persona & X-men Legends

The great thing about this combination is that it would work either way. You could have a more action-oriented Persona game where you can switch between characters readily and summon your personae for special attacks or a more traditional X-men RPG with an emphasis on the character dynamics. Which would also have the benefit of letting characters who don’t really work with the Legends style of gameplay, characters like Shadowcat, Mirage & Karma, take active roles in the party.

1. Fire Emblem & Neptunia

I know, I’m weird. That being said, I would love to see a more action-RPG style Fire Emblem game  where enemy soldiers are scattered throughout a map and you can avoid or engage them while making your way through the map. Where scavenging for materials is a big deal. With a female cast and where the Support conversation system is combined with Neptunia’s Lily rank system for a bit more of an involved dynamic when your ladies reach C, B, A or S-rank. Honestly, it could easily replace Blazing Sword as my favourite Fire Emblem title if it had characters and a narrative on par with it. Even if it couldn’t really include perma-death with a more Neptunia style battle system.

There you have it, some game combinations I, in all my eccentricity, would personally like to see. Feel free to leave your own ideas for cool combinations that haven’t been done yet in the comments.

Top five things that IDW’s Jem Comic Improved

Today, I thought I’d talk about Western comics for once. To be specific, let’s talk about IDW. Admittedly, this is a strange choice because their stuff is a pain in the ass to get a hold of, at least where I live.

Anyway, they’re primarily known for adapting other works of media into comic format. When I was reading the one comic of theirs I read regularly and saw adverts for a Jem and the Holograms comic, my initial instinct was to ignore it. After all, the timing made it seem like it was coming out to complement the film. Yes, the one that flopped harder than a 200 kilo person diving into a kiddie pool. So, even though I have a fondness for the old cartoon in all its cheesy glory, I didn’t want to bother with the comic. 

b63f67e5-cec2-42c7-afaa-d8de1c194376_zpsotqd50kv (Here’s my man card if any of you want to revoke it due to my liking Jem.)

As it turns out, I was a bit hasty in that assessment, and I officially apologise to IDW, on the off chance that someone who works there may read this, for not giving them the benefit of the doubt. I started hearing a lot of good things about the comic on the Internet. Enough, at the very least, to make me curious. So, I ordered the first seven issues to give it a fair chance. 

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. Even without the awesome music from the cartoon, the comic was clever, funny and had a lot of really endearing stuff. It takes the basic premise from the cartoon and modernises it while drastically improving on several factors. As such, I’m going to list the top five in order from the ones I appreciate slightly less to the one I appreciate the most. 

5. On the subject of inheritance.

One thing that always bothered me about the cartoon was that Jerrica’s father left basically everything to her. It’s not like she’s an only child. She has three sisters. So what is the deal with this blatant favouritism?  Jerrica gets the business, the secret warehouse with a ton of equipment and basically everything else we see that he gave out. Her sisters get whatever she chooses to share with them.

In the comic, this is not the case. Every indication we get suggests that the four of them are sharing what he left behind equally. Jerrica still gets the jem star earrings, but it’s outright stated that they were a birthday present. As a result it actually seems like their dad was really nice and didn’t play favourites. 

4. The Secret Identity makes sense.

So, in the cartoon why did Jerrica need to have Jem as a secret identity instead of using it as simply a stage name? It causes her all kinds of problems and there doesn’t seem to be any real benefit. She doesn’t even tell the guy she’s been dating since well before the series began. Which just causes even more problems. 

The IDW comic fixes that problem by giving her an actual compelling reason for the Jem persona to be a secret identity. Mainly, Jerrica is really shy, suffering from extreme stage fright. She uses Jem as a method of coping with that. It also makes sense that they don’t tell Rio the truth because, in the comic, they don’t know him that well. They meet him after Jem’s debut. Plus, he’s an entertainment reporter and probably wouldn’t keep it a secret just out of sheer professionalism. 

3. Kimber and Stormer.

From the way I discuss ho-yay in every review, you may have the impression that I’m in favour of it being in everything. That’s not quite accurate. I like seeing it when it’s well written, but I wouldn’t say everything needs it nor even that everything would be better with it. Some things, certainly and these comics prove pretty definitively that Jem is one of those things. The budding relationship between Kimber and Stormer isn’t just adorable. It isn’t just a really well crafted relationship. It’s also a great source of tension, given the rivalry betwixt the bands. At the point where I am, there’s some relationship trouble and, I have to say, I really want to get more comics to find out where it goes because the relationship is so good. 

2. Continuity Matters. 

Like many western cartoons of its time, Jem wasn’t big on continuity. Things would happen in an episode, possibly carrying over to the next in cases of multi-part episodes but, ultimately, the status quo would reign supreme and everything would go back to the way it was.

Take my personal favourite episode, The Bands Break Up. In that particular story, Kimber, feeling unappreciated, leaves the Holograms. At the same time, Stormer leaves the Misfits for similar reasons. The two coincidentally meet up and start performing together, becoming very close. in fact, that episode may have been the inspiration for them being a couple in the comic. After that episode, their friendship is never mentioned again nor does it ever come into play. 

In contrast, the comic’s consistently built on the events of previous issues and had much stronger character dynamics and development as a result and there’s no indication that it’s going to stop. 

1. The Holograms all act like sisters. 

One of the more interesting aspects of the cartoon that, unfortunately, didn’t get used to its full potential, was the fact that Jerrica, Kimber, Aja and Shana were all sisters. Except for the fact that they never really acted like it. Whenever something sisterly happened it was between Jerrica and Kimber. Aja and Shana were treated more like Jerrica’s school chums. I guess because they were adopted they don’t get to act like real parts of the family. Which was a shame because there was some great untapped story potential there.

That’s where IDW’s comic comes in. The four of them all have a very sisterly dynamic. You never get the feeling that Aja and Shana are just in the background. They joke around along with Jerrica and Kimber. They all support each other. They just genuinely act sisterly towards one another and I have a feeling that it’s going to lead to some superb stories. 

Now, any of these could change. The comic hasn’t exactly been going all that long, but these are my early impressions of the most dramatically improvements in the comic. Check the comics out if you’re a fan of Jem or if you like really good slice of life style works. I’m going to go order the rest of what they’ve done because it’s truly outrageous in the best possible way. 

Five lesser known Video Games you should find and play

It’s been a while since the last time I talked about video games instead of anime, the other time being my list of characters I’d like to see in Smash. This time I thought I’d talk about some more obscure titles, maybe you’ve heard of them and maybe you haven’t, that you may not have played but you should. These aren’t in any particular order and I’m not putting anything on this list that comes from the current gaming generation. With that in mind, here are the titles.

  1. Fire Emblem: Gaiden (NES

    This is one you’ve probably heard of since the Fire Emblem franchise has gained some prominence in more recent years with Blazing Sword and the titles following that one getting international releases, mostly. That being said, this one you probably haven’t played since it’s never been released outside of Japan. It was the second instalment in the franchise and featured some unique elements. For example, you follow two different parties of characters with narratives that are connected but stay separated for quite a while. It was also the first FE title to have multiple classes that a given character could promote into, a feature that was revived in Awakening.

    If you can find a fan translation of it, I suggest playing it. If they release it in your language on the virtual console, I also suggest playing it. The unique elements work well and it has aged very strongly, maybe not graphically but in terms of everything else.

  2. Alisia Dragoon (Mega Drive)

    In this platformer you take on the role of Alisia, a young sorceress with lightning magic. With companion familiars by your side, you battle your way through a series of challenging levels with really well drawn battle animation. It was also one of the first games to feature a female protagonist, which is pretty cool. Unfortunately, this game didn’t get much marketing attention and didn’t sell well. I still highly recommend finding and playing it.

  3. Threads of Fate (Playstation)

    Don’t ask how I know about this one when it was never officially released here. *shifty eyes* Threads of Fate was a Square title from the late 90s. You can choose one of two protagonists each searching for the same powerful relic. Rue is an altruistic young man who wants to revive his dead friend. Mint is a princess who wants to take her throne back and rule the world. The story is really immersive and unfolds differently for each character, adding a nice level of replay value. The game also has a really good sense of humour and Mint is a delightful character. The game has a great battle system and wonderful music. I understand that the game is available on the PSN if you live in North America. If you’re a European you may have to use other methods. Don’t judge me, I’d buy it if I could.

  4. Darkened Skye (Gamecube & PC)

    Darkened Skye is an advertising gimmick made to promote Skittles candies. With that in mind you may be wondering why I’m suggesting it. Well, in spite of being blatantly about the advertising it’s still a good game. Mainly because it unashamedly owns up to what it’s doing and focuses on having fun with it. It makes fun of game tropes, advertising and itself. The whole game has a really tongue-in-cheek sense of humour that’s actually quite endearing. And that’s why I suggest playing it, because it’s a fun, goofy game.

  5. Oni (Playstation 2 & PC)

    Oni is an interesting one. It was brought to us by Rockstar and Bungie. It uses a very anime inspired style for its animation and design aesthetic. It’s blends cyberpunk and dystopian elements to great effect and has a really complex combat system. Everything about this game just provides you with really good interactive cyberpunk. The only thing I didn’t like was the voice acting.

    So, those are five games I recommend finding and playing. Maybe I’ll do another list like this some time in future. Feel free to leave a comment with some lesser known games you think people should play or to make comments about my choices.

Five constructive ways to improve: Corpse Party: Tortured Souls & Yami no Matsuei

It’s been a while since I did one of these. As usual, I’ll look at my most recent review and one other. In this case, the most recent review was for something terrible so the other one is going to have to be good. As usual, there will be spoilers in this. So, if you haven’t seen Yami no Matsuei and are going to want to you might not want to delve further. I guess that’s also true for Tortured Souls, but its entertainment value comes primarily from its over the top goofiness, so spoilers are less important.

Corpse Party: Tortured Souls: 

  1. Tongue-in-cheek Dialogue. Honestly, the easiest way to make Corpse Party a better series would be to transform it into a straight up parody and, given how over the top the series already is, all you’d have to do for that would be to change the dialogue to be more aware and call it a horror parody. You could have the characters draw attention to the fact that Yuka acts like she’s four and use her to make fun of the trope of having teenagers or grown ass adults act like small children. You could also have the characters draw attention to how goofy the monsters look and how stupid the whole situation is. Alternatively, you could have them continue to act like idiots, but in a way that makes it clear that it’s self-aware.

2. More Subdued Gore. Let’s say, for a moment, that you still want this series to be “horror.” The first thing to change in order to make that more effective would be the gore effects. As is, they look ridiculous and over the top. Mayu getting slammed into a wall by ghost children and turning into a puddle of mush is really damn funny. The scene where the anatomical dummy is stabbing Yuka and takes out her eye should be grotesque, but it’s so over the top that it really comes across as more absurd than anything else. A lot of the other deaths are unintentionally funny too, but those two are the most poignant examples. The gore gets so overdone that it swiftly loses any potential dramatic impact. Sometimes, less is more and this would definitely be one of those cases. Instead of focusing so much on excessive gore that looks silly, just use a more subdued, realistic level. It will come across as much more disturbing and work much more effectively for a horror piece.

3. Smarter Characters. This is another factor that really needs improved for this to work as an actual horror piece. These characters are just too stupid. Whether it’s Naomi trying to get Seiko out of a noose by pulling her legs (because that’s how you stop the noose from tightening around someone’s neck) or Yuka acting like she’s four or five instead of fourteen or Mayu sitting with the stupid looking zombie ghost children and having a nice chat, because something missing the top of its head is surely trustworthy. These characters act absurdly stupid. It doesn’t make you want to see them get through this, it makes you think that they’re too stupid to live.

4. Emphasise the Madness. I touched a bit on how the space they’re in supposedly drives you to murderous madness, but the only characters they touch on that with are Morishige and Naomi. If the series had focused less on its goofy looking monsters and more on the characters being driven slowly to madness, then it could have served to really develop them into real characters instead of caricatures of stereotypes while creating a claustrophobic atmosphere in which they really can’t trust one another because one of them could snap at any time. Base the horror on that atmosphere and that psychological trauma and you’ve got some stuff that’s actually terrifying instead of just over the top and gory.

5. Show no Monsters. This goes along with the last point and the fact that the monsters look ridiculous. Show signs of subtly done gore, some corpses strewn about and have evidence that something went down but don’t show what happened. Thereby giving you a chance to build mystery over whether there are actually monsters or whether the people killed each other. You could keep that mystery up until the survivors actually encounter Sachiko at the very end.

Yami No Matsuei:

1. The Pacing. This was, without a doubt, the biggest issue with the series. There were several plot points that got barely glanced over or don’t get explained very well.The problem is that J.C. Staff does about the best they can with the time they’ve got and the arcs they use. Honestly, the only two ways to really fix it would be to have more episodes or to skip one of the arcs and use that time to better develop the others. Frankly, I’d be prefer more episodes because I’d like to see more of this in anime form.

2. Stock Footage Attacks. Having stock footage attacks can, somewhat, work in things that are more light-hearted like magical girl works, but they really don’t work in something like Yami no Matsuei that’s more serious and has a lot of darker elements.

3. Don’t call it Horror. This is a nit-picky one, but this is really a supernatural drama. It shouldn’t have the horror label.

4. The rape flashbacks. Okay, so part of Hisoka’s backstory is that he was molested by Muraki and Muraki spends a lot of the series trying to force himself on Tsuzuki. Overall, this is handled pretty well, respectfully and with the gravity it deserves. That being said, the flashback scenes where they illustrate what Muraki did to Hisoka without actually showing it can be a bit awkward. I’m not saying that they should actually show that in detail, because they really shouldn’t, but those scenes could have definitely been handled more effectively.

5. A romance arc without the leaps. This is a pretty minor one since the romance between Tsuzuki and Hisoka is really good, but their relationship does leap a bit. And what I mean by that is that it moves forward really substantially without any real reason. I’m sure that it’s mainly because the anime skips some story arcs and those probably show their relationship’s development more completely, but it’s still a bit of an issue in the anime version.

So, those are my suggestions for how these two series could have been improved. Feel free to agree, disagree or throw in your own ideas.