The Quatermass All-Purpose Media Review Thread

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Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: The Saga of Tanya the Evil: Episode 1: The Devil of the Rhine, Episode 2: Prologue, Episode 3: Deus Vult, and Episode 4: Campus Life by Kenta Ihara, from the light novels by Carlo Zen

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: STE1-4, 4X25 minute episodes


Having read the first two volumes of the light novel series The Saga of Tanya the Evil, I decided to make a start on the anime adaptation. But how would this infamous isekai series fare as an anime? Let’s find out…

1923, in a world where the First World War is being fought with mages alongside machine guns and artillery. A ten year old girl called Tanya Degurechaff is a prodigy, a ruthless pragmatist who is feared by both the enemy and her allies. What they don’t know is that she was once a Japanese HR manager from our world in 2013, who was murdered by one of those he fired. Harangued for his atheism by an entity claiming to be God, but which he dubs Being X, he is forcibly reincarnated in a world ruled by conflict and magic, in order to force him to believe, and if he dies, he won’t be reincarnated ever again. But Tanya refuses to go down without a fight, but hopes that success on the battlefield will lead to a peaceful one are dashed, time and again, by both the misunderstandings of her superiors, and the machinations of the malign Being X…

The fact that this story has been adapted at all speaks to its quality, for it is one of the better isekai novel series. The story adaptation is pretty good, with more insertions of Being X’s meddling to help clarify a few things, and the dialogue is good too, as is some much-needed comedic moments. I do think some elements were omitted, much to the detriment of the series, though, including insights into the main character, and there are times, especially with the first episode, where the tone of the series is rather unrelentingly grim. Then again, it is a series set during a war.

Tanya in fact feels a lot more malign than she was in the novels, with her brutal pragmatism not as offset by little moments of kindness, though a few (albeit pragmatic ones) are still there. That being said, Monica Rial is a delight as Tanya, playing the role of a brutal and somewhat sociopathic adult speaking through the lips of a child rather well. The other characters are interesting, though it is more J Michael Tatum as Rerugen, Jeannie Tirado as Viktoria, and Bill Jenkins as Being X (when Being X isn’t speaking through others) that are best.

The production values are, for the most part, excellent. The aerial dogfights between mages are well-choreographed, the animation of Tanya’s expressions are scary and interesting, and there’s significant world-building here with lots of little touches to sell the fact that this is technically another world and another culture. It also does not shy away that much from the brutal reality of war. However, there are a few blips here and there, with the animation of Zettour and Tanya leaving the library using a rather unnecessary and really clunky CGI background being a particular example.

Overall, while not quite as good as the book it was adapted from and missing some nuances, this series is nonetheless a good, if grim, look at war…

****
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Episode 25: Doorway of Darkness, Episode 26: Reunion, Episode 27: Interlude Party, and Episode 28: Father by Hiroshi Onogi, from the manga by Hiromu Arakawa

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FMAB25-28, 4X25 minute episodes

So, here I come, to one of the bigger turning points of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, where the villain of the series is finally revealed. But how well would it do? Let’s find out…

Edward, Ling Yao, and Envy are all trapped within a horrific dimension within Gluttony’s bowels. As they struggle to break free, Envy revealing his true horrific form, Alphonse persuades Gluttony to take him to his leader, Father, a search that inadvertently draws in Scar and May Chang. Meanwhile, Mustang realises that the price for his sticking his nose into Fuhrer Bradley’s secrets will mean his comrades are scattered and kept as hostages. All of which leads to a confrontation in the lair of the mysterious Father…who looks exactly like the Elric brothers’ own father, Von Hohenheim…

The story of these episodes are good, for the most part, with the reveal of Father as well as Bradley’s past and Envy’s own actions being well done. Unfortunately, a noticeable fly in the ointment is the 27th episode, which is mostly a clipshow based around a dream Von Hohenheim is having, and while it does shed some light on his psyche, it also breaks the flow of the main story, much to my annoyance.

Vic Mignogna and Maxey Whitehead are, as usual, enjoyable as the Elrics, while Todd Haberkorn has grown on me as Ling. Wendy Powell gets to go all out as Envy, and Troy Baker makes a good show of playing the new Greed. Finally, Kent Williams gets to show off as Father, showing him to be even colder and crueller than Von Hohenheim.

Production values are still pretty good for this series. However, one pretty big flaw is the rather conspicuous CG used for Envy’s monstrous true form. While the design and animation is nightmarish and well done, the CG does look a bit clunky at times.

Overall, these episodes could have been great, but were hampered by a clipshow and dodgy CGI. A shame, really, given the impact of these episodes…

****
 
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Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Game of Thrones Series 3: Episode 1: Valar Dohaeris and Episode 2: Dark Wings, Dark Words by David Benioff and DB Weiss, and Vanessa Taylor, from the novel by George RR Martin

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: GOT3.1-2, 2X60 minute episodes


Earlier, I began rewatching Game of Thrones from the beginning, but I decided, after the first season, not to review episodes I had already watched. I dithered and dallied, before finally embarking on the third season, the first season of which I hadn’t watched, even if I had read the book it was based on, A Storm of Swords. So, how would I find it?

Beyond the Wall, the survivors of the White Walker attack on the Night’s Watch expedition begin the long trek home, while Jon Snow tries to inveigle himself into the good graces of Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall. Meanwhile, Robb Stark and Catelyn have to deal with divided loyalties within their allies, problems they themselves have caused, while Bran sees visions not only of the Three-Eyed Raven, but of a mysterious young man. In King’s Landing, Joffrey’s new fiancé, Margaery Tyrell, manages to pry the truth about Joffrey from Sansa. And Daenerys Targaryen heads to Astapor, looking to find an army as her dragons grow…

While the story is still as superlative as before, a lot seems to be in transition after the events of the previous season. No real major exposition or true plot development is given, save for the reveal of Mance Rayder and the arrival of Jojen Reed. Plus, some of the harsher bits of violence seems to be becoming a touch gratuitous, like Theon’s torture.

The cast, however, are still stellar as usual. Peter Dinklage, Charles Dance, Michelle Fairley, Richard Madden, Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke all do well, as usual, for the returning cast. Ciaran Hinds makes an interesting debut as Mance, as does Thomas Brodie Sangster as the mysterious Jojen. Another interesting debut is veteran actress Diana Rigg as the sardonic and sharp-tongued Olenna Tyrell, perfect for the role.

Production values are, for the most part, superlative. The opening episode of this series begins with a well-done nightmarish sequence of Samwell Tarly running into the aftermath of a White Walker attack, and the direction, for the most part, only continues to go from strength to strength. A massive disappointment, though, are the CGI used for the dragons and especially the manticore used to attack Dany at the end of the first episode. While the effects for the dragons were good, they weren’t superlative, and the manticore looked blatantly CGI.

While disappointing, these episodes of Game of Thrones were still very enjoyable. I hope to see more with future episodes, though…

****
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Castlevania season 1 by Warren Ellis, from the video game Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: CV1, 4X25 minute episodes


Castlevania, one of the most seminal video game series of all time, chock full of horror clichés, and yet popular for its exploration-based gameplay. Video game adaptations to film and TV have had mixed results, and yet, noted comic book writer Warren Ellis was called in to write what became an animated adaptation of the third main game of the series. So, how would this adaptation fare?

Wallachia, 1455. A woman called Lisa meets with Dracula, searching for knowledge, and manages to win the misanthropic vampire’s heart. Twenty years later, Lisa, accused of witchcraft when in truth she was using advanced science to help people, is burned at the stake by a corrupt and ambitious bishop. A wrathful Dracula appears before the people who murdered his wife, and warns them that he will gather a diabolic army to lay waste to Wallachia. Even his son cannot dissuade him from this plan. A year later, Dracula’s wrath is unleashed upon the land. And unfortunately, the Church has been persecuting those who may be their best hope of saving the people of Wallachia. While Trevor Belmont, an embittered scion of the excommunicated Belmont clan of monster hunters, makes his way through Wallachia, the Speakers, a group of holders of forgotten knowledge, are pursued by the Church’s agents. And soon, Dracula’s wrath will force them to make a choice, to fight, run, or die…

For all that I enjoy Warren Ellis’ work, I find myself a bit underwhelmed at the quality of the writing. True, it was originally intended for a feature film, and there’s some good dialogue and such. But the plot, being a sort of prologue to the third Castlevania game, is pretty thin on the ground, with more incident than structure, and it feels like it’s trying way too hard to emulate Game of Thrones in some regards, minus any sexual parts. Plus, it’s over just before the good bits happen, at four episodes long.

That being said, the cast is stellar. Richard Armitage plays the reluctant Trevor quite well, a marked change from his previous roles, while fellow The Hobbit co-star Graham McTavish gets to show both the human and inhuman sides of Dracula. Matt Frewer lays on the viciousness of his fanatical Bishop, while Alejandra Reynoso as Sypha and James Callis as Alucard round out the main protagonists.

Production values are on the whole pretty damn good. The animation is, with a few notable exceptions, quite good, with some enjoyable battle scenes. However, it seems like a lot of the violence is rather gratuitous, especially when it doesn’t directly relate to the horror. Some parts could have done better being implied rather than shown, and then there’s the bit with an eyeball being literally whipped out of someone’s head, which feels completely unnecessary, put there for schlock value only.

Overall, though, the first season of Castlevania, while not quite reaching the potential it could have and filled with somewhat more gratuitous violence than even a horror series needed, was nonetheless an enjoyable romp. I’m looking forward to the next season…

****
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Game of Thrones Series 3: Episode 3: Walk of Punishment and Episode 4: And Now His Watch is Ended by David Benioff and DB Weiss, from the novel by George RR Martin

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: GOT3.3-4, 2X55 minute episodes


Having recently tried to get back into Game of Thrones, I decided it was past time to continue the third series of the dark fantasy show. But how well would these episodes do? Let’s find out…

In King’s Landing, Tyrion is appointed the Master of Coin, and is forced to unravel the mess of the finances. In Astapor, Daenerys embarks on a drastic course to gain the Unsullied. Theon, Jaime, Brienne and Arya have to deal with their own respective captivities. And beyond the Wall, a disaster is about to befall the last survivors of the expedition of the Night’s Watch…

After the mild disappointment of the first two episodes, these two feel more like a return to form, like the plot is actually going somewhere. Plus, these episodes also have some of the better moments, with a particularly great moment being the climax of And Now His Watch Is Ended. There’s also some nice moments not in the books that add to it, like with Theon’s escape, aided and abetted by a character later revealed (later in the series) as the vicious and sadistic Ramsay Snow.

What can I say about the cast that I haven’t already? Not really that much, only that they keep up the superlative work. Particular note should go to relative newcomer Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Snow, showing his manipulative side in manipulating Theon, with Alfie Allen also showing his regret at betraying the Starks. Another is Emilia Clarke, especially in her powerful scene as Daenerys at the climax of the fourth episode.

Production values are still quite excellent too. True, the CGI dragon does seem a bit off, but otherwise, it all works. It feels immersive, and I have to admit, I can find little fault with it.

These two episodes of Game of Thrones feel like a return to form for this superlative series. Here’s hoping for more…

*****
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Kara no Kyokai- The Garden of Sinners: Remaining Sense of Pain- ever cry, ever life by Masaki Hiramitsu, from the light novel by Kinku Nasu.

TYPE: Film

DETAILS: KNK3, 60 minute film


After the disappointing first sojourn into the film adaptations of Kara no Kyokai, I wondered whether I should continue with it. I decided to do so, skipping ahead to the third film in the series. But would that prove wise?

Mikiya Kokuto finds a girl he knows in an alley, the usually stoic Fujino Asagani. He helps her, unaware that she was recently raped by a gang of thugs…and that she massacred most of them with mystic powers, a brutal form of telekinesis that warps and distorts its targets through her Mystic Eyes, like Shiki Tohno’s. Soon, Toko Aozaki, Shiki Tohno and Mikiya are given a mission to deal with whoever’s behind the killings…not knowing that it will force a bitter battle to the death…

Unlike the previous movie I watched, thankfully, the story is more coherent. True, there are some parts left unexplained properly, annoyingly, and I felt the rape scenes were rather gratuitous, with telling rather than showing a better option. It also lacked a few character moments of the previous film I watched. But overall, it was a more coherent experience, and thus more enjoyable.

Maaya Sakamoto is good as the stoic Shiki, and the rest of the cast do well. I have to give a particular shoutout to Mamiko Noto as Fujino. Having heard her voice as the Japanese versions of Altera and Scathach in the Fate franchise, it’s a refreshing change to hear her as Fujino, who is by turns stoic, sorrowful, and psychotic. Still, I felt this movie to not get into her character, or indeed the others, as well as it could have.

As for production values, well, what can I say? Even before they tackled Fate/Zero and the latter two adaptations of Fate/Stay Night, Ufotable was doing some fine work. While the climactic battle isn’t quite up to the usual standard for their later adaptations, it’s still pretty impressive, with Shiki and Fujino caught in the middle of a bridge collapse Fujino caused in desperation. The quieter moments are stronger too.

Overall, this instalment of Kara no Kyokai was a more enjoyable one than the previous instalment. Maybe there’s something more to this series after all…

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Game of Thrones Series 3: Episode 5: Kissed by Fire, Episode 6: The Climb and Episode 7: The Bear and the Maiden Fair by Bryan Cogman, David Benioff and DB Weiss, and George RR Martin, from the novel by George RR Martin

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: GOT3.5-7, 3X55 minute episodes


So, now I’m making my way through more of Game of Thrones’ third season. But how well would it turn out? Let’s find out…

The Tyrells plan to wed Sansa Stark to Loras, but Tywin Lannister forces Tyrion to wed Sansa, and Cersei to wed Loras. Meanwhile, the Hound’s trial by combat doesn’t go as well as Arya hopes it will, and she finds herself soon disillusioned with the Brotherhood Without Banners. Robb Stark’s own bannermen in the Karstarks kill his Lannister hostages as revenge, and Robb’s punishment of Lord Karstark may rob him of the men he needs. Jaime and Brienne find themselves the dubious guests of Lord Bolton. And Jon Snow is forced to accompany the Wildlings on a dangerous climb up the Wall…

After the past couple of episodes, these episodes feel a bit like a dip in quality. True, some interesting events actually happen, and there’s some great scenes and dialogue, including one where Tywin puts his grandson in his place, as well as Littlefinger’s speech about chaos being a ladder, and, of course, Jaime’s confession about why he killed Aerys. But it doesn’t quite feel as good as the last couple of them, which is a real shame, and there’s some moments, including a couple involving Theon and his tormentor, that feel unnecessary.

I can’t really say anything about the characters that I haven’t already in prior reviews. Many have their moments, a few mentioned above, and others have them elsewhere. So I won’t really bring them up.

Production values-wise, well, the series is pretty damn good. True, some CGI elements do look a bit dodgy (the titular bear of the third episode of this little arc is a case in point), but the climbing of the Wall is brilliant. What else can I say?

While not as great as the last couple of episodes, these episodes of Game of Thrones were nonetheless enjoyable enough. Here’s hoping the season finale turns out well…

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul: re Episode 3: fresh- Eve, Episode 4: MAIN- Auction, Episode 5: PresS- Night of Scattering and Episode 6: turn- In the End by Chuuji Mikasano, from the manga by Sui Ishida

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TGRE1.3-1.6, 4X25 minute episodes


So, here I am, coming back to Tokyo Ghoul: re. But how would I find the series after something of an absence from the anime version? Let’s find out…

Increasingly haunted by his past life as Ken Kaneki, Haise Sasaki begins heading up an operation to take down a Ghoul Auction, using members of his team as bait. However, the man heading up the operation is the cold and pragmatic Matsuri Washuu, known for allowing for high casualties of his underlings in operations. What’s more, Aogiri Tree and the Clowns have teamed up to provide security for the Auction, and combined with the Nutcracker, their mission is going to be difficult. But there are complicating factors. Kanae von Rosenwald, dedicated retainer to Shu Tsukiyama, has decided to bring about Tsukiyama’s happiness at any cost, while Juuzou confronts a figure from his past. Torso wants Mutsuki, Hinami wants to help Kaneki, and then there’s a mysterious Ghoul, once one of the CCG’s own, now a thoroughly deranged monster…

At this point, I have to say, the story is not quite as abridged as it was in the previous episodes. However, I still feel a little dissatisfied, though this is admittedly due to most of these episodes being a series of running battles with little actual plot development. There’s some twists that would be certainly shocking if one hadn’t read the manga, and it’s exciting, but not really meaty in terms of plot.

As usual, Austin Tindle is brilliant as Haise, giving the character the complexity needed. Lara Woodhull shows more of her ability as Hinami off, while clearly, Micah Solusod is enjoying chewing the scenery as the now-deranged Takizawa, and Maxey Whitehead giving her all as Juuzou. However, I’m still finding it hard to give a damn about most of the Quinx Squad, especially Urie, who I hope, in vain, will die a nasty death.

Production values are nothing to sneeze at. While it’s a bit annoying that they cut out many gory elements, particularly where Takizawa is concerned, the various fight scenes are actually very well done. The art direction and choreography work well together, giving these episodes a great polish.

Overall, while not as great as I hoped, these episodes of Tokyo Ghoul: re were good enough. I just hope for more with later episodes…

****
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Birds of Prey, and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn by Christina Hodson.

TYPE: Film

DETAILS: 110 minute film

I have to admit, I’ve resisted going to see the latest DC Comics film adaptations since the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy. This was, partly, due to the rather iffy critical nature of the films. However, I decided to give Birds of Prey a whirl. But would it turn out well?

Harley Quinn has broken up with her boyfriend, the Joker. But while she struggles to forge a new path for herself, she finds that everyone with a grudge against her is now gunning for her, as she no longer enjoys the Joker’s protection. However, events converge, giving Harley a chance to forge her destiny. Mob boss Roman Sionis, aka Black Mask, is moving to take control of the Gotham underworld. Renee Montoya, an embittered cop, is reaching out to Dinah Lance, a singer in Roman’s club turned driver, to get her to inform on him. Helena Bertinelli is hunting down those who murdered her family, ready to introduce them to her crossbow. And a young pickpocket called Cassandra Cain is soon to be key to it all, when she pickpockets a very special diamond…

Okay, I really do want to enjoy this film, I really do. But while it’s by no means a bad film at all, I think it falls down, story-wise, in a number of areas. It tries in some regards to ape the Deadpool film (what with the dark humour and the fourth-wall breaking insane narrator), with mixed success, though its message of female empowerment feels on the nose. Such messages are necessary, true, but it feels cartoonish here, with the most prominent male villains cartoonishly misogynistic, and it also feels less like a film about the Birds of Prey and more about Harley Quinn and her tagalongs. That being said, the story itself is pretty good, as is most of the humour. Hell, a lot of what makes this film is Harley’s sardonic and snarky narration, and it’s actually nice to have a comic book film that isn’t as high-stakes as so many others.

I think part of the problem are how the characters are written. They are good enough for the film per se, but for the most part, they also seem nothing like their DC Comics counterparts, with whom I am familiar with to some degree. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is the main exception, being an utter delight and the one who carries the movie, though Jurnee Smollet-Bell comes pretty close with her rendition of Dinah Lance, aka Black Canary (even if it takes way too long for her to show off her signature power). But I feel that Renee Montoya and Huntress weren’t quite right: Renee Montoya feels like a mild parody of a cowboy cop, and Huntress is performed too flatly. Cassandra Cain is performed well by Ella Jay Basco, but given that Cassandra Cain in the comics is a savant assassin who becomes Batgirl, I feel another character could be used. Plus, there doesn’t seem to be a single positive male character in the entire cast, and while Ewan Macgregor and Chris Messina are delights as Roman and Zsasz respectively, they don’t feel quite right, the way they are scripted.

Where the movie most definitely doesn’t fall down is the production values. The film is fun to watch for the most part, gorgeous, showing Gotham in its seedy and garish glory. The action scenes are also pretty damn enjoyable, as we’ve come to expect from comic book films, with plenty of humour thrown in. And for all my issues with the story, the editing ensures it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Overall, while Birds of Prey was disappointing in many regards, in others, it was still an enjoyable, if flawed, film. It had so much potential that was only partly fulfilled…

***½
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Berserk 2016 Episode 1: The Dragon Slayer, Episode 2: The Holy Iron Chain Knights and Episode 3: Night of Miracles by Makoto Fukami and Takashi Yamashita, from the manga series by Kentaro Miura

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: B161.1-1.3, 3X25 minute episodes

Berserk is one of those series that takes a lot of getting used to, and yet has a reward for those willing to persevere through the blood and guts and disturbing imagery on display. Having watched the first anime adaptation and the first two parts of the Golden Age films, as well as having read part of the manga, I looked forward to watching the latest adaptation. But this adaptation has been somewhat controversial for many reasons. Would it deter me?

Guts, a former mercenary and one of the last surviving members of the Band of the Hawk, wanders the countryside, killing the demonic entities hounding his steps. Accompanied by the exuberant elf Puck, Guts soon finds himself in trouble when he is captured by the Holy Iron Chain Knights, to answer for his alleged crimes. But the commander of the Holy Iron Chain Knights, Farnese, soon finds herself in over her head when Guts kidnaps her when he makes his escape, and both will end up in a very dangerous situation…

While those unfamiliar with the franchise may find themselves at sea, there’s at least enough exposition for some newcomers. That being said, what was on display is pretty good. Grotesque, and certainly not for everyone, but a good story for those willing to brave the darker elements.

While a number of fans have been somewhat vocal about the recasting of various characters, I have to say that, in my opinion at least, Kaiji Tang is perfect as Guts. Hell, Guts as a whole is portrayed, somewhat more welcomingly, as a bit more altruistic than he is in some ways, at least at this point in the story. Steve Cannon as Griffith is another matter entirely, but Erica Lindbeck as Farnese and Max Mittelman as Serpico are pretty damn good.

Where the series does fall down is the production values. True, the music is brilliant, and I have to admit, while some criticise the Dragonslayer sounding like a frying pan, I think it suits a sword that is little more than a huge lump of iron, as the story puts it. But the choice of using CGI for a lot of the animation…well, I believe that the Golden Age movies pulled it off better, and while the CGI does give some good shots sometimes, other times, it’s just too cheap-looking. I’ve seen sequences from RWBY that look less cheap. There was a lot of potential here to do good CGI animation, but it’s just…annoyingly inconsistent, dragging down a good series.

Overall, the first few episodes of this new series of Berserk are good, marred by inconsistent production values that needed a damned good polish. But I certainly enjoyed them…

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Episode 29: Struggle of the Fool, Episode 30: The Ishvalan War of Extermination, Episode 31: The 520 Cens Promise, and Episode 32: The Fuhrer’s Son by Hiroshi Onogi, from the manga by Hiromu Arakawa

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FMAB29-32, 4X25 minute episodes

So, I’ve come back to Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, after a break after a pivotal set of episodes. But now, I have come back. How well would this next batch do? Let’s find out…

The Elric brothers are threatened into silence and staying in the military by King Fuhrer Bradley, who will attack their loved ones if they work against Father and his plans. But Edward and Alphonse are still allowed to work towards getting their bodies back. Both Edward and Scar get the story of the Ishvalan War, and don’t like the answers they find. But even as the Elrics and Roy Mustang move forward with their plans to oppose Father and his Homunculi, they in turn release imprisoned State Alchemist Solf J Kimblee, a bloodthirsty killer who will act as their attack dog…

Sad to say, the story parts don’t have quite as much impact as the previous episodes. True, we get a very harrowing glimpse into the horrors of the Ishvalan War, and there’s plenty of emotional moments, but overall, it feels like the plot is just coming down off the revelations of the prior few episodes. These episodes, then, feel more like a transitory period for the next lot.

As usual, Vic Mignogna and Maxey Whitehead are great as the Elric brothers, as is Travis Willingham as Roy Mustang. We also get some good acting from Colleen Clinkenbeard as Riza Hawkeye as she recites her past in the Ishvalan War, and how she changed into the hardened soldier she is. Finally, we have some more substantive acting from Eric Vale as the delightfully demented Solf J Kimblee, a character who, despite his psychopathy, seems to have some perverse hidden depths to him, or at least philosophical ones.

The production values are pretty high. Given the lack of blatant CGI this time, there’s less to bring things down, and some of the animation in the Ishvalan War sequences is pretty spectacular, and horrifying. Overall, it feels like, if not a return to form, then at least something that feels more polished.

Overall, these four episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood mark the halfway point of the story. And it shows little signs of going down in quality in any substantial way…

****
 

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REVIEW: Berserk 2016 Episode 4: Revelations, Episode 5: The Tower of Conviction and Episode 6: Night Banquet of Burning at the Stake by Makoto Fukami and Takashi Yamashita, from the manga series by Kentaro Miura

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: B161.4-1.6, 3X25 minute episodes

So, here I am, coming back to the 2016 adaptation of Berserk. Would these episodes improve on the first few? Let’s find out…

Guts has a premonition of danger towards his former lover Casca, who had regressed into an infantile state after the Eclipse. Returning to where he left her, he finds her gone, and learns from her caretakers what his absence did to them all. Resolving to save Casca, he heads towards St Albion, where the Holy Iron Chain Knights are escorting Inquisitor Mozgus, and where a refugee crisis has inflamed tensions. While Guts deals with a new tagalong, the ambitious brat Isidro, Farnese finds herself struggling with her faith, a dangerous thing when around the fanatical Mozgus. And the infantile Casca is taken in by altruistic prostitute Luca, while one of her girls, Nina, hides a dark secret…

In many ways, the story has taken a turn for both the better and for the worst. The latter is due to the more nightmarish and gratuitously cruel and dark story elements on display, to say nothing of the sexual elements, and even a rather ludicrous spanking scene (no, really). The former, however, shows in the development of the theme of this particular story arc, of corruption in religion and morality being in unexpected places, as well as Guts’ coming to terms with his own lack of morality.

Kaiji Tang is, as expected from the last set of episodes, great as Guts, and Erica Lindbeck shows Farnese’s struggles between her morality, her faith, and her innate sadism. Of the new characters, Wendee Lee as Luca stands out, with her mixture of cynicism and altruism, making her an interesting take on the ‘hooker with a heart of gold’ archetype. Ray Chase, meanwhile, gives an interesting performance as the at turns solemn and gentle and yet fanatical and sadistic Mozgus.

The production values are, again, a bit variable. While the usage of CGI characters is a little less jarring, it’s still not helpful, especially in scenes that clearly show both CGI and 2D animated characters. Still, the music still works well, and the layout of the visuals is done pretty well too.

Overall, these episodes of Berserk, while certainly not for the faint of heart, show a developing engrossing story, albeit hampered by gratuitous elements and inconsistent production values…

****
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: My Hero Academia Season 2 Episode 7: Victory or Defeat, Episode 8: Battle On, Challengers!, and Episode 9: Bakugo vs Uraraka by Yosuke Kuroda, from the manga by Kouhei Hirokoshi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: MHA2.07-2.09, 3X25 minute episodes

So, here I am, back at My Hero Academia. But how would I find this latest batch of episodes continuing the UA Sports Festival? Let’s find out…

Izuku’s match with the sinister Hitoshi Shinso nearly leads to him being forced out of the ring by Shinso’s Brainwashing Quirk, a Quirk that has seen him treated with suspicion by his peers. Meanwhile, other matches and rivalries collide as the one-on-one battles of the UA Sports Festival goes on. All too soon, though, a brutal battle looms, between the determined Ochako Uraraka, and the brutal Bakugou…

I have to admit, this was probably the weakest set of episodes in terms of story. There was little character development unlike the first bit, save for some moments here and there. True, the battles themselves were exciting, especially Uraraka’s face-off against Bakugou, but otherwise, this was somewhat disappointing.

As usual, Justin Briner as Izuku and Christopher Sabat as All Might are brilliant. Luci Christian gets some pretty good bits as Uraraka, while Jarrod Greene as Shinso manages to inject some sympathy into some moments for a character who, frankly, only has a touch of sympathetic moments. And, of course, we have Patrick Seitz showing his chops as the sinister and authoritative Endeavour.

That being said, the production values are pretty damn good. The fight choreography is enjoyable, and the animation done well. There’s some interesting bits like Izuku being influenced by the remnants of previous users of One for All, as well as the climax to Bakugou’s fight against Uraraka.

While disappointingly low on story or real character development, these three episodes of My Hero Academia certainly were enjoyable. I just hope it picks up more for the next few episodes…

***½
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Berserk 2016 Episode 7: The Black Witch and Episode 8: Reunion in the Den of Evil by Makoto Fukami and Takashi Yamashita, from the manga series by Kentaro Miura

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: B161.7-1.8, 2X25 minute episodes

So, here I am with the next lot of episodes from the recent Berserk adaptation. But how would I find them? Let’s find out…

The heretics at St Albans believe Casca to be their chosen one, and when an increasingly cowardly Nina flees with Casca, they are soon both captured by the heretics. Guts, upon arriving at St Albans with Puck and Isidro, soon learn of Casca’s plight, and pursue. Unfortunately, the Holy Iron Chain Knights have been told of the heretics’ hideout by Joachim. And the mysterious watcher in the shadows is about to make the ensuing battle even more dangerous, with the creation of several Apostle-like entities…

Well, there’s not much to say about these episodes, other than they feel like filler before the true climax of the arc. Lots of sex and violence, and not much plot, beyond a series of running battles sandwiched between grotesquery. This isn’t to say the plot is non-existent, and there’s the triumphant reunion between Guts and Casca, as well as a good fight between Guts and Serpico, but still, there’s the feeling of padding here that really brings this set of episodes down.

Kaiji Tang as Guts is pretty good, as usual, while Sarah Anne Williams as Puck and Erik Scott Kimerer as Isidro do well too. I have to admit, I have to wonder why someone as cowardly and two-dimensional as Nina is even allowed to survive in a series like Berserk, and I utterly despise her. Serpico, however, gets a rather interesting moment against Guts in a cunning battle, and Max Mittelman plays the role well.

Production values-wise, well, the CGI animation has gotten marginally better. The direction of the battles is also good, and the music is superlative. I just wish it had more polish, to be honest.

Overall, these episodes of Berserk were a marked downgrade, partly due to the lack of plot holding up the sex and violence. But perhaps the next lot of episodes, the ones that end the arc, would fix this…

***
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Akame ga Kill! Episode 1: Kill the Darkness, Episode 2: Kill the Authority and Episode 3: Kill the Grudge by Makoto Uezu, from the manga series by Takahiro

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: AKG1-3, 3X25 minute episodes


I had the first DVD volume of Akame ga Kill! in my collection for some time. However, I’d never gotten around to watching the series. Now that I have started reading the manga of this infamous dark fantasy series, I thought it was past time I watched the anime. But how would it do?

Tatsumi is a teenager who set out with his friends to save his village from poverty. However, his luck in the capital city of the Empire is abysmal: he can’t join the military, he soon gets swindled of his money, and soon after being given shelter by altruistic aristocrats, said aristocrats are attacked by the infamous assassin group Night Raid. But the aristocrats were murderous and sadistic, and the members of Night Raid decide to conscript Tatsumi to help them root out the corrupt nobles of the Empire, preparing for a revolution…

The story seems like a pretty straightforward adaptation of the manga. There’s a few novel touches added here and there, a bit more comedy to lighten things up in this series. True, the dark fantasy does seem rather cartoonish compared to Berserk, but I prefer it that way.

The voice acting in this series seems a little below par compared to most other anime series. True, Molly Searcy is actually pretty good as the titular Akame, and Corey Hartzog is good as Tatsumi. But most of the rest of the cast seem like they were a little miscast, even Allison Keith as Leone, who voiced Misato Katsuragi in Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Production values are quite good. In fact, they are probably the main draw of the series. True, the transitions to certain static art as part of the style of the original manga can be jarring, and there’s a few bits that feel a bit dated compared to current anime, but otherwise, they’re pretty good.

Overall, these initial episodes of Akame ga Kill! are an enjoyable adaptation of the manga. Time will tell if that will continue…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Berserk 2016 Episode 9: Blood Flow of the Dead, Episode 10: Hell’s Angels, Episode 11: Shadows of Ideas and Episode 12: Those Who Cling, Those Who Struggle by Makoto Fukami and Takashi Yamashita, from the manga series by Kentaro Miura

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: B161.9-1.12, 4X25 minute episodes


So, here we come to the finale of the first season of Berserk’s 2016 adaptation. But how well would this final quartet of episodes do? Let’s find out…

The cowardly Nina betrays Casca as being the supposed witch the heretics are fixated on, but Mozgus’ attempts to torture Casca through an iron maiden backfires, with creatures made of blood and the grudges of those tortured and executed forming. And the mysterious onlooker, an Apostle known as the Egg of the Perfect World, converts Mozgus into pseudo-Apostles, to do battle with Guts while his plans come to fruition. Who will live? Who will die? And what horrific event waits Guts and his motley crew of unwilling companions at the dawn?

Story-wise, while the more violent and transgressive themes are on display, they are a little less prominent, and it’s to the series’ benefit. We finally get an explanation to the mysterious onlooker, as well as a rather strong misotheistic rant during Guts and Mozgus’ final clash that resonates well. We get a number of character arcs coming full circle, for better or for worse.

As usual, Kaiji Tang is a worthy successor to the role of Guts, while Erica Lindbeck as Farnese gains a rather good epiphany that actually feels right for the character, despite her earlier actions. Ray Chase chews the scenery as the fanatical Mozgus as he transforms into a monster, while Derek Stephen Prince is decent as the Egg of the Perfect World. I still wish Nina didn’t survive, the cowardly little girl, and the fact that she does despite betraying all and sundry out of fear just to live a bit longer adds insult to injury.

The CGI animation of this series seems to have reached the point where it’s no longer so jarring, and while it still seems rather cheap, it doesn’t seem so cheap now. The fight choreography is also enjoyable, and the music is very well done, though I have to question the wisdom of using Ash Crow for the finale’s ending credits. It doesn’t quite suit the tone of the ending.

That being said, this last set of episodes for Berserk were a good and fitting end to this story arc. I can’t wait to start on the next season…

****½
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: My Hero Academia Season 2 Episode 10: Shoto Todoroki: Origin, Episode 11: Fight On, Iida, and Episode 12: Todoroki vs Bakugo by Yosuke Kuroda, from the manga by Kouhei Hirokoshi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: MHA2.10-2.12, 3X25 minute episodes


So, here I am with the last three episodes of the Sports Festival story arc of My Hero Academia. But how well would they do? Let’s find out…

Izuku and Todoroki are facing off against each other in the next battle of the Sports Festival, but Izuku, desperately trying to get Todoroki to accept himself in spite of his father Endeavour, ends up losing. As Todoroki comes to terms with his past, other battles are occurring. But who will come out on top? And what has happened to Tenya Iida’s brother Tensei?

Overall, after the dip of the previous few episodes, this is the point where things pick up again. There’s some wonderful emotional moments, and we’re also getting strong hints of what to expect in the next story arc. While far from flawless, and certainly annoying in some regards, I still enjoyed it immensely.

Justin Briner and Christopher Sabat are both brilliant as Izuku and All Might respectively. Meanwhile, David Matranga does well as Shoto, while struggling with his inner turmoil, and Patrick Seitz plays the vicious Endeavour well. Finally, Robert McCollum has an unexpected but welcomely so take on Stain.

Production values are still pretty good, with the various battles animated well. Shoto’s battles against Izuku and Bakugo are particularly noteworthy. Then again, they’d save the money for some animation for the big battles, so it’s hardly surprising.

Overall, this mid-season finale for My Hero Academia, while not perfect, was immensely enjoyable. Now, I look forward to the next lot…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,458
26
2,850
REVIEW: Berserk 2016 Episode 13: The Rent World, Episode 14: Winter Journey, Episode 15: Banner of the Flying Sword and Episode 16: Forest of Demonic Beasts by Makoto Fukami and Takashi Yamashita, from the manga series by Kentaro Miura

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: B161.13-1.16, 4X25 minute episodes


So, here I am, starting the second season of the latest adaptation of Berserk. But how well would it do? Let’s find out…

Returning with Casca to Godo’s smithy, Guts finds Griffith there, who leaves to finally attain the kingdom he dreamed of. Guts, meanwhile, is forced to journey with Casca and Puck, but the journey he undertook to slaughter the Apostles has taken its toll, with him attacking Casca while under the influence of his own inner darkness. But he won’t have to undertake his journey alone, for Farnese, Serpico and Isidro have decided to join him, to help protect him from himself. Meanwhile, Griffith, leading a group of Apostles as the Band of the Hawk reborn, has begun fighting back against a Kushan invasion, recruiting many to his side. And a young witch called Schierke watches events from afar, and soon, her path will intercept with Guts’ own…

There’s not much to say about the plot here, as much of it seems to be transitory to the next story arc. This isn’t to say we don’t get any plot, as we do get Griffith beginning his campaign to win over the hearts, minds and souls of Midland’s inhabitants, presumably as part of his masterplan, as well as Guts beginning to accept more travelling companions to protect himself and Casca from his inner darkness. Though the scene where the inner darkness takes him over and has him attack Casca is uncomfortable to watch, and doubtlessly deliberately intended to be.

As usual, Kaiji Tang is brilliant as Guts, and we get more from Erica Lindbeck and Max Mittelman as Farnese and Serpico as we watch their pasts unfold. Unfortunately, Steve Cannon cannot hold a candle to Kevin T Collins as Griffith, though his new Band of the Hawk, especially Paul St Peter as Grunbeld and DC Douglas as Locus do better. And even though she only truly is introduced in the final episode, Mela Lee manages to show the maturity and calm of Schierke.

The production values seem to be improving somewhat. Certainly, there’s a number of enjoyable battle sequences throughout, including Guts clashing with Zodd in the first episode, along with the debut of the new Band of the Hawk. Overall, it feels a little more polished than the previous season.

The first few episodes of the second season of the new adaptation of Berserk were fairly good. Here’s hoping the next lot are better…

****
 

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