23 February 2014

Did Snoopy Invent The Hurricane Kick???

Holy crap! I was watching PawDugan's 'review' of the 1984 Peanuts Special/Musical 'Flashbeagle' and I made an amazing discovery!

Are you ready for this? It turns out Snoopy may have been the original inventor of the Tatsumaki Senpukyaku (Hurricane Kick) THREE years before Ryu and Ken started using it in Street Fighter! Don't believe me? See it and judge for yourself! ;P

'Snoopy Hurricane Kick'

19 February 2014

#2LR Too Late Review: Read or Die the TV series

Review: Read or Die the TV Series:

I'm not sure that I can come up with much of an introduction to this anime series, because what I need to say pretty much comes after the summary in order to be understandable.  For those who want to hew to SPOILER SPACE, I'll try to obfuscate as many of the spoilers as I can get to.

The story of Read or Die is not really reading per se, but the story of paper.  In the great Southern Woods... oh, actually, in Hong Kong, a famous Japanese author, Nenene Sumiregawa, found herself in a bit of trouble. She was saved by a group of women called "The Three Sisters Detective Agency".  The three women are Michelle, Maggie, and Anita.  All three of the sisters have the power to make paper bend to their will, to fold itself and stick itself together, and to move as they want it to. Michelle's power is primarily in making a bow/arrow, Maggie's power is to make animal shapes and activate them much like golems, and Anita's power is to be able to use paper in its deadliest form... to cut others.

The three sisters take Nenene back to Japan, and end up acting as her bodyguards so that Nenene can finish her latest book.  Anita is still young enough to need to go to school, so she enrolls.  One of the other students
there is a very effeminate boy, "Junior", who can walk through walls and/or floors without any problems.

To introduce the remaining characters and their backstory are Nenene's agent, the first evil conglomerate "Dokusensha", and the second evil conglomerate -- the British Library (?!)  As well, Nenene's on the search
for one of the teachers that she most learned from, Yomiko Readman (pun likely intended by the Japanese writers).

The story has quite a few twists and turns... Dokusensha, while paying off the Three Sisters to complete jobs on the side, ends up using Nenene's agent to kidnap her.  It seems that they want to use a set of artifact
books to try to rewrite Nenene's brain.  Their plan goes south when the Three Sisters realize what is happening and mount a rescue mission back to Dokusensha's main offices in Hong Kong to get her back.  As probably predicted, they are successful.  The interesting wrinkle is that they're labeled "terrorists" for causing all this damage to the building, so there is a bit of the cloak-and-dagger involved in the rest of the show.  It almost would have been interesting, but it got relegated to the memory-hole within only a couple episodes.

After those events the Three Sisters end up finding Yomiko Readman, in the halls of the Library of Japan based off of a tip from a local bookstore owner.  Yomiko's in there along with another woman, Nancy, who seems as meek and mild as a mouse.  Both turn out to be hiding from the British Library, the arch-enemy of Dokusensha, as both turned out to be agents.  Yomiko can also paper-bend, and not just to make little folded footballs during class.

And that's when the plot really ends up going off the rails.  See, the British's power from the mid-15th century through World War II was due to "Mr. Gentleman", who they managed to keep alive all those centuries.  He's dead now, and as a result the British Library hatched a plan to "bring him back", as it were, through the use of Junior's body as a vessel.  There's really very little reason for Nenene to be involved, except as we find out later... the British Library (and their aptly title leader, "Mr. Joker") need her to write the Gospel of Mr. Gentleman once he revives... as no one knew who Jesus was except through the record of the Bible.  Of course, Mr. Gentleman will bring the British back to prominence, even at the expense
of historical allies such as the U.S. of A.

Wow.  Well, in the final encounter, Joker *literally* invites all of the main characters save Nancy and an American heavy they picked up along the way to see his "moment of triumph", without really even restraining them much.  In this case, it was Nenene who managed to hide the Three Sisters' paper-based ammunition on herself, only to bring it out in order to save Junior at the end.  And it also turned out that Nancy was like Double-O Eight, though in a far-tighter (and far more revealing) catsuit than James Bond ever had.

I'm pretty much skipping the sideplot of Anita going to school, but that's because you would've cared even less than I did had you watched it yourself.

[Spoiler space OVER]

I suppose that I've been spoiled by a few series lately, even finding some good stuff out of series that would pretty much be one-note (Rosario + Vampire).  I can pretty much say that this series was watched out of sheer dedication to finishing rather than any desire to find out what happens.  I obtained the first few DVDs from the local library, and I literally had three of the discs sit on my dresser for almost four weeks before I finally watched all of the twelve episodes contained therein.

There was exactly one good moment, which was finding out which character was responsible for kick-starting the action portion of the first section of the show (the Dokusensha section).  I had to admit that the writers/animators did a good job hiding who it was, though it wasn't as if there was a huge trail of bread crumbs or anything... it was just one of those left-field surprises that catches you offguard and keeps your attention because of it.

After that though, the whole thing pretty much fell apart.  How to characterize why it fell apart may be difficult except to say that it was way too unbelievable.  I couldn't summon the suspension of disbelief needed for the second half's Macguffin to work with any sort of clarity.  I think it was because even the show was pretty unclear as to how it was supposed to work.

The segments of Anita going to school in Japan were also really... boring.  I couldn't have cared less, and it's not like there was emotion overwhelming and the sequences didn't exactly add any depth or plot or anything to the story.  Late in the series, Anita gets into a fight with Michelle, and I realized why I couldn't have cared less about these school segments... it's because the character of Anita is screechy, rather unredeemable, and there's really no character arc to her to rehabilitate any of those features.  Of course she had a tragic backstory (in these things, who doesn't?) but... well, as a character who ended up becoming a... or really, *the* main protagonist... mark me as uninterested.

Of course, that just leads me into the last "unbelievable" comment.  Even after the backstory which was way too out there to be believable, there's two situations (one involving a helicopter, and then the final encounter) where it's so patently obvious what has happened.  I find it annoying when you can see the bait-and-switch the writers are attempting to write as it is happening on the screen.  It's almost like watching a magic trick when you know the secret behind it.  I wish that at some level, they either A) went for smaller stakes / more permanent *results* in the helicopter thing and then B) had another episode or two to do a far better job of resolving the final conflict, as the ten-minute resolution really sucked.  The final assault should have been at least two episodes... dammit, there's four paper-benders and two special agents assaulting a building that had a fricking LAKE built around it and plenty of airborne and mecha defense.  Yet they find the train that goes right up to it and trick the idiot security guard, even as the evil organization's fantastical defenses make mincement out of a US carrier wing.  Screw that.

Yeah, I know, I should be warning you about the spoiler space, but this is pretty basic stuff that the writers of an anime should look into rectifying, especially if you're going to show how many books all the main characters read... yet the writer(s) go for the massive cliche instead of anything new... and that really becomes the basis of the complaint.

Feel free to watch this show for the action sequences, they're kind of cool. The interplay between Nenene and the Three Sisters is enjoyable especially in the beginning.  Other than that... it's old ground tread upon for the umpteenth time, much like watching pretty much anything on American network TV anymore.  And about the only "dying" you'd do in Read or Die is breaking your neck falling through a plothole.

Final rating: 1.4

17 February 2014

#2LR Meta Navel-Gazing

Through seven years now we've posted about seventy or so #2LR Too Late Reviews on this blog.  I wanted to write the post in order to try to collect my thoughts about criticising movies, video games, and television shows/anime in one place.

Before I start though, I'd like to thank Megane 6.7 for writing #2LRs for recent video games.  I'm not as plugged into the videogame scene as I once was... and the recent Civilization V review and subsequent strategy guide that I posted to GameFAQs is pretty much the sum total of my hardcore gaming through a couple years now.

One of the most major reasons that I started doing the Too Late Reviews postings is that I've noticed something about movie reviews personally.  When I read a movie review, especially a good movie review, its almost as much art as the movie itself.  A movie review even with a summary isn't the whole movie... but I find that the best reviews not only hit on the high points, but they give me an idea of the movie other than just the main plotline.

I've strived to write these reviews so that you, our readers, will get an idea of not only the movie but to understand some of the things underlying the movie.  As with the most recent Oz review, which was a bit desultory, the point behind it was that the movie was somewhat desultory as well.  I want to give you an idea when things go right of why they went right... for instance, writing about Grave of the Fireflies, in order to tell you why a movie that may be relentless and gripping and depressing is worth watching, the things that the movie did so right that you can't easily find in other movies.  I want to highlight the high points and the low points and to give you an idea of the why behind the reasoning that they're high points or low points. 

Ultimately, I want to try to peel back the story to show an aspect of storytelling, writing, moviecraft... anything that will hopefully give you more of an insight.  I'm certainly no movie insider... but I am someone who tries to notice detail, even the smallest ones.  The training for this is the fifteen years or so that I've been writing Mystery Science Theater treatments of fanfics and constantly trying to focus not only the words on the screen in front of me, but what they symbolize.

One of the most recent MSTings that Megane 6.7 and I are working on is a story that is rather technically competent 'fic.  It's a crossover between two series that Megane 6.7 and I seem to keep returning to.  When we requested permission, the authors expressed a bit of surprise... they thought their 'fic was good.  Well, their 'fic was good.  I loved it because the concept behind it is an interesting read, and hopefully our jokes will add with the interest factor of the 'fic to make it even better.

That's my goal with the #2LR series.  I want to make whatever you watch or play a better experience, whether or not it's something you've already watched.  Not only that, I want to express why something worked, or why something didn't, and my goal is to not only enjoy what I watch but to really concentrate on it, to figure out why I liked it, and then to find similar examples.

Alternately... above all, whether it's good or it's bad, I'll do my level best to make the reviews interesting whether through humor or insight.

We hope you continue to enjoy reading these reviews, our blog in general, and our website.  Speaking for both Megane 6.7 and myself, we feel honored to have you spend your time reading our work, and we hope that you enjoy.

15 February 2014

#2LR Movie Review: Oz, the Great and Powerful

Okay, so here's how lazy I am... this was written about six weeks ago and not posted. I have the Read or Die posting scheduled to run midweek as well.

Today’s 2LR is for the movie, Oz. The Great and Powerful.  In full disclosure, I probably have seen The Wizard of Oz perhaps once or twice in my childhood, but it was a movie that I was not really crazy about.  I think I was creeped out by the Munchkins, or perhaps the Tin Woodsman.  With that said, take any opinions I have against the world of Oz with a grain of salt, or perhaps a brick.

(Spoiler space ahead.)

The movie begins at a fairground in 1905, where a traveling magician is about to put on his act at the fair.  After a bit of issue with the local townsfolk, and then an issue with some of the sideshow acts, the traveling magician – Oz, short for Oscar -- takes off in a hot-air balloon to run away.  Unfortunately, being 1905 Kansas, he ends up sucked into a tornado.

You can probably guess where Oz the Magician ends up.  Thankfully, the image on the screen goes from black-and-white to color at this point, and the image finally fills the screen.  I know why the director did this, but it doesn’t mean that I liked it.  At any rate, Meg from Family Guy meets up with the crashed balloon, and she takes our erstwhile shyster to the Emerald City, for it was foretold that the savior of Oz would crash into Oz, and also have the same name.

So, we meet another witch who helps run the Emerald City, who seems nice but quite doubts Oz’s qualifications. She shows him the gold that the King of Oz is entitled to, and Oz’s eyes go wide.  She then tells him that he has to defeat (e.g. kill) a wicked witch, and gives him directions to get there. 

After that, Oz is going down the yellow-brick road on his way to kill the witch.  Meanwhile, we find out that Meg’s older sister is a bit mean… especially once we find out that Oz was sent to kill Glinda, the Good Witch.  It seems that she was chased off from the Emerald City by the death of her father, the king.  The older sister then starts on Meg Griffin, telling her that Oz (who she mysteriously was taken with) is now interested in Glinda.  Older sis uses Meg’s temper against her, tricking her into eating a green apple, which turns her green and ensures that she will turn into Margaret Hamilton in negative seventy years, give-or-take.

Glinda shows Oz the townspeople who they are trying to defend, and then mentions to him that they need to figure out a way to defeat the witches without killing them.  Seems a tall task, but if ever you need someone to resort to trickery, use a con-man.  Oz plans out ways to use sleight-of-hand style tricks and devices to defeat both the Flying Monkeys as well as the “Winkie Guards” (see, this is why I can’t take Oz overly seriously).  He also creates the famous smoke machine, fakes his own death so that the people of Oz treat it as if his spirit is coming back from the grave to help them, and manages to freak out both witches sufficiently to get them running.  Glinda takes care of the other advisor by breaking her magic necklace and starting a Raiders of the Lost Ark sequence on her, and Meg just flies off cackling.

(spoiler space over)

What did we learn?  Good question.  All I know is that in human history, it’s usually not a good idea to turn the governance of a country over to a con-man, no matter how “reformed” he seems.  As for the movie itself, I feel rather ambivalent towards it. I suppose it’s a decent waste of ninety minutes, though it’s not as if you’ll be overcome by the story of Oz’s magical conversion to the most honest con-man who’s still really a massive con-man, nor Meg Griffin’s descent into madness.  I suppose the best message to come out of this movie is, “Never eat a green apple.”

Final review: 1.9

10 February 2014

New FAQ posted at GameFAQs:

Yeah, you know all those super-long posts about Civ V?  I organized them as best and possible and posted them as a strategy guide/FAQ to GameFAQs.com.  You can check it out by clicking on the link here.  By all means, if you have any comments or suggestions I'm more than willing to put them in the guide.

Coming in a couple days... a review for the anime Read or Die.