The Quatermass All-Purpose Media Review Thread

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Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 16: Demon Lord Milim Attacks, Episode 17: The Gathering, Episode 18: Evil Creeps Closer, and Episode 19: Charybdis by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, from the light novels by Fuse

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TTRS1.16-1.19, 4X25 minute episodes

So, here I am, once more watching the anime version of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. But how well would this adaptation of the third book do? Let’s find out…

The Jura-Tempest Federation may have been recognised as its own country, but Rimuru’s troubles are only just beginning. A number of Demon Lords were watching his clash with the Orc Lord, and one of them, Milim Nava the Destroyer, decides to pay Rimuru a visit. Rimuru’s quick thinking brings her around to becoming an ally, but when the forces of another Demon Lord, Carrion, make a scene, things go from bad to worse. The leader of this group, Phobio, makes the mistake of listening to the clown-like associates of Clayman, and chooses to merge with the monster Charybdis, all at a chance for revenge against Milim, no matter who gets hurt in the process…

These set of episodes did a fairly good job of adapting the third book. True, I felt more could have been done to characterise the four Demon Lords a little more, especially Milim, who is definitely smarter than she appears in the books. But overall, the right mix of emotion and humour is present.

Brittney Karbowski is fun as always as Rimuru, with the charm and humour of the character shining forth, and the Tempest regulars are also good. Of the Demon Lords, of note is Kristen McGuire as Milim, and John Burgmeier making his proper debut as the smarmy and manipulative Clayman. McGuire brings across Milim’s childish and yet confident qualities effortlessly, while Burgmeier’s performance, though different from Takehito Koyasu’s tones, nonetheless conveys the suave and canny tendencies of Clayman.

The production values, as before, are pretty damn good. True, I wish Milim was not as…exposed as she is in her light novel design, but there’s quite a few effective scenes. Plus, there’s some great animation while Rimuru takes on Charybdis, comparable to some of the stuff done for Nasuverse adaptations.

Overall, while not quite at the same level as previous episodes, these ones were pretty good. I can’t wait to watch more of them…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,707
2,950
REVIEW: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Episode 1: The Friends of English Magic and Episode 2: How is Lady Pole? by Peter Harness, from the novel by Susannah Clarke


TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: JS&MN1-2, 2X60 minute episodes

Not so long ago, I read the fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. This rather whimsical yet dark alternate history book was a slog, and yet, it was rewarding afterwards. So, how well would the adaptation fare?

In England, magic has not been done for three centuries, or so the hidebound scholars who call themselves theoretical magicians claim. But the persistence of one of their number unearths a true magician, the reclusive Gilbert Norrell. Norrell tried to present his form of magic as respectable, opposing charlatans in the street, but his efforts lead him to a dangerous bargain with a fairy known as the Gentleman. Meanwhile, Jonathan Strange, who is seeking the affections of Arabella, seeks a respectable profession, only to find it in being a magician. The paths of these two men are set to intersect, but will it be for good or ill?

This adaptation, for the most part, is a pretty good one, pragmatically streamlining some elements, while adding some nuances that weren’t in the book. Some changes, like heightening Strange’s relationship with Arabella and making Norrell more sympathetic, are welcome, but others, like making the Gentleman more overtly malevolent and Vinculus seem more sinister, are not. Oddly enough, I feel that the narration at the beginning of the first episode could have continued, as it could have added a certain satirical air to the whole thing.

Of the cast, it is Eddie Marsan as Norrell and Marc Warren as the Gentleman who impressed me the most. Marsan does a good job of portraying the reclusive Norrell as a timid and reclusive soul under his misanthropy and antisocial behaviour, while Marc Warren embodies the Gentleman with relish. Charlotte Riley as Arabella, Alice Englert as Lady Pole, and Ariyon Bakare as Stephen Black also do pretty well. I have mixed feelings about Bertie Carvel as Strange, as while he does a good job, I feel he's hamming things up a hair too much at this point, instead of treating it seriously.

For the most part, the production values are brilliant, but the BBC have got making period dramas during the Regency and Victorian eras down pat. The production design is brilliant not just in Regency England, but also in Lost-Hope. I did feel that there were some times when the CGI looked a bit cheap (the Horse Sand sequence, while visually impressive, was a slight letdown in that regard), but these are minor complaints.

Overall, while not as great as it could’ve been, this is still a good adaptation. Fans of the book will find something, at least…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,707
2,950
REVIEW: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 20: Yuuki Kagurazaka, Episode 21: Shizu-san’s Students, Episode 22: Conquering the Labyrinth, and Episode 23: Saved Souls by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, from the light novels by Fuse

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TTRS1.20-1.23, 4X25 minute episodes

So, here I am with four more episodes of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime under my belt. But how would these episodes, pretty much the last story arc of the season, go? Let’s find out…

Haunted by dreams of Shizue, Rimuru resolves to track down the students she was trying to help. To that end, he meets with Yuuki Kagurazaka, another Japanese who ended up on this world. But there’s a problem with the children: the sheer amount of power they gained on being summoned will eventually kill them. Rimuru not only has to win this quintet of brats’ respect, but find a way to save their lives. So hey, no pressure…

This set of episodes adapted probably one of the weaker volumes of the novels, in my opinion. It’s not that it’s truly bad, but after the more high-stakes parts of the story previously, it feels like a letdown. It doesn’t help that the creation of the golem Beretta is relegated to a sidenote. There’s still quite a few good points, but honestly, it feels like the season ended on a relatively anticlimactic note, not helped by almost half the final episode being basically a clip show of the season.

Brittney Karbowski is still on fine form as Rimuru. The same can’t really be said about the five kids, though this is due to their characters rather than the actors. Still, Jad Saxton makes a good debut as the mischievous, ditzy but strangely solemn at times Ramiris, while Clifford Chaplin is pretty good as Yuuki.

In terms of production values, I have really nothing to complain about. The animation is up to a high standard, with some beautifully done scenes. I just wish the rest of the episodes were up to par.

Overall, these episodes were a decent, but still disappointing, finish to the first season of this series. A shame, really…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,707
2,950
REVIEW: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Episode 1: The Man Possessed by an Evil Spirit, Episode 2: Who Will Judge!?, and Episode 3: The Curse of DIO by Yasuko Kobayashi, from the manga series by Hirohiko Araki

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: JJBA2.1-2.3, 3X25 minute episodes

While I haven’t finished watching the first series of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, specifically the Battle Tendency arc, I thought I’d give the Stardust Crusaders arc a go. This was, after all, where some of the more famous elements of the series, like the concepts of Stands, showed up. But how well would it go down?

Jotaro Kujo, the belligerent delinquent grandson of Joseph Joestar, is in a police holding cell for assault. Despite being bailed out, he refuses to leave, citing that he is possessed by a spirit he can barely control. But his grandfather Joseph and his associate Mohammed Avdol reveal the truth, that the spirit is actually a Stand, a manifestation of Jotaro’s fighting power. But Joseph has more to reveal to Jotaro: their family’s old nemesis, the vampire Dio Brando, has been freed from his slumber at the bottom of the ocean, and he has set his sights on the Joestar line and their allies. Facing off against the brainwashed Stand user Kakyoin may be overcome easily, but Dio’s influence is not easily overcome…

Although this story arc in the manga would pretty much devolve into a ‘monster of the week’ format down the track, these initial episodes do a good job of setting up the premise. It may be still ridiculously OTT in style, and it doesn’t have much that is deep and meaningful, but it hits all the notes in the right way. It certainly does the job as a riveting yarn.

Matthew Mercer is perfectly cast as the belligerent but ultimately decent Jotaro Kujo. So too is Richard Epcar as an older version of Joseph Joestar. Patrick Seitz oozes menace in his brief appearances as Dio, while Chris Tergliafera is good as Avdol.

David Production show why they are great at animating the franchise, with some of the best production values I have seen in an anime. There’s some impressive battle scenes, particularly that between Jotaro and Avdol in the first episode. Plus, the music is on high form, and one of the best opening sequences appears at the start, to the tune of the exciting Stand Proud.

Overall, while not stellar, these were great episodes to begin the most famous arc of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Here’s hoping that the next lot make up for what the manga went through…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,707
2,950
REVIEW: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 25: Rimuru’s Busy Life, Episode 26: Trade with the Animal Kingdom, and Episode 27: Paradise, Once More by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, from the light novels by Fuse

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TTRS2.01-2.03, 3X25 minute episodes

So, I have once more come to That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, going straight to the second season. But how well would this season go? Let’s find out…

Not all battles are fought by war, as Rimuru Tempest has learned. Trying to establish and maintain relations with other countries is proving taxing, like the strength-obsessed Animal Kingdom ruled over by Demon Lord Carrion, or Rimuru’s first ally, the country of Dwargon. But it may be worth it, to ensure the fledgling nation of Tempest becomes a paragon in this new world…

I’ll be perfectly honest, the story here was a bit meh. They were clearly adapting elements from earlier volumes, to avoid what the novels did and plunge straight into the invasion of Tempest. But that comes with its own set of problems, with the story, while still filled with charming humour and intrigue, nonetheless falls a little flat. Then again, this is more of a transition period in the overall story, the calm before the storm, as it were.

Brittney Karbowski, as noted before, is wonderful as Rimuru. Most of the remaining cast do pretty well. However, I have to say that Bill Butts is a poor replacement for Randy E Aguebor as King Gazel Dwargo, lacking much of the gravitas and impact of Aguebor’s voice.

The production values, as before, are excellent. While there’s only a brief fight scene bridging the first and second episodes, it’s pretty well-animated. The rest of the episodes are done well, showcasing the various things people have been up to, even if a clip montage near the beginning of the first episode does overstay its welcome.

Overall, while a little disappointing, these episodes were still good ones for this series. I hope the next ones to come are better, though…


***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,707
2,950
REVIEW: How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom Episode 1: First Begin with a Hero and Episode 2: If You Possess an Aptitude, We’ll Make Use of It by Go Zappa, from the light novels by Dojyamaru

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: RHRK1.1-1.2, 2X25 minute episodes

Isekai is a genre filled with many entries that range from the abysmal to the mediocre to the superlative, but they also have a number of tropes in common. So when I heard of How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, I thought the novelty of a summoned hero saving people through economic and political reform to be enough to enjoy the series, and certainly, the first novel bore that out. But how would the adaptation go?

It's the same old story of a fantasy world summoning a would-be hero from another world to save it. But the Kingdom of Elfrieden is in dire straits indeed. They must either summon a hero to give to the Gran Chaos Empire, or else pay money that they don’t have. But when they summon pragmatic university student Kazuya Souma, he has many ideas for economical and political reform, ideas that impress the King of Elfrieden so much, he eventually cedes the throne to the Japanese student. Now, Kazuya must begin not only winning over the kingdom with his rule, but also the princess of Elfrieden, Liscia…

Admittedly, these first two episodes don’t have much plot, instead setting up the world and the premise of the franchise, and it is still filled with some rather annoying fantasy clichés. But it helps that this not only turns a lot of isekai tropes on their head, but also give novel ways that feel more realistic (from a political and economic viewpoint anyway) than the average entry in the genre. This is quite refreshing, really.

Of the characters introduced so far, most of them are non-entities, with the only ones of any real note being Kazuya and Liscia. Kazuya balances pragmatism with decency, and Alejandro Sabb plays him well. Liscia, meanwhile, shows her own intelligence and dignity mixed in with her young years, and Anairis Quinones does well with her part.

The series is gorgeously animated by JC Staff, with the production values shining through. The cinematography of what has been shown so far is brilliant, and it promises much for what’s to come. Honestly, I’m not sure what else to say.

Overall, this was a promising start for an adaptation of a good book series. Here’s hoping it goes from strength to strength…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,707
2,950
REVIEW: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 28: The Scheming Kingdom of Falmuth, Episode 29: Prelude to the Disaster, and Episode 30: The Beauty Makes Her Move by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, from the light novels by Fuse

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TTRS2.04-2.06, 3X25 minute episodes

So, here I am again with the next lot of episodes from That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. This set of episodes adapts the beginning of the invasion of Falmuth, an event pivotal to the series. But how would it go?

Tempest may be entering an era of prosperity and cooperation, but not everyone is viewing the nation of monsters with kindness. The Kingdom of Falmuth views Tempest as a threat to their power and to their coffers, and to that end, they intend to manufacture a pretext for war, aided and abetted not only by the Holy Church, but, unknown to them, the Demon Lord Clayman, who is using the fall of Tempest to ensure his own ascension. Aided by a trio of Japanese summoned to this world, along with crippling magical barriers, an attack is launched. Rimuru, meanwhile, has been intercepted by Paladin Hinata Sakaguchi, who has been told Rimuru had murdered her mentor Shizue, and seeks his life, no matter what his protests. The darkest hour for Tempest has come, and not everyone will survive…

Storyline-wise, this sequence does pick up the pace somewhat. The stakes haven’t been higher, though it does drop the ball in a few regards. More could have been given to why Falmuth decided to invade Tempest, as well as more about the Japanese they summoned.

Brittney Karbowski is, as usual, wonderful as Rimuru, as are the rest of the regulars. The trio of Japanese are very much those you love to hate, despite their understandable discontent with being made living weapons, and Matt Shipman, Kyle Phillips and Meg McClain play the respective roles of Shogo, Kyoya and Kirara well. Finally, we have Alexis Tipton as Hinata, showcasing calm but noticeable rage and contempt towards Rimuru.

Production values are brilliant as always. The desperation of the Kijins’ clashes with their opponents while weakened shine forth, as does Rimuru’s own while fighting Hinata. Some moments are captured perfectly, like Shion’s sacrifice to save a child.

Overall, these episodes were a return to form. Here’s hoping that they get even better…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,707
2,950
REVIEW: Persona 5 The Animation Episode 1: I am Thou, Thou Art I, Episode 2: Let’s take back what’s dear to you, Episode 3: A beautiful rose has thorns!, and Episode 4: Steal it, if you can by Shinichi Inotsume, Kazuho Hyodo, and Noburo Kimura, from the video game by Atlus.


TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: P5A 1-4, 4X25 minute episodes

One of the best games I have played in recent times was Persona 5. As with previous games in the series, there exists manga and anime adaptations. I have read the former, but the latter, I was yet to watch, partly due to my lacklustre experience with the Persona 4 anime and also because I had heard some criticisms of the Persona 5 anime. But I decided to venture forth. Would my faith be rewarded?

Ren Amamiya has been arrested as the leader of the Phantom Thieves. Star prosecutor Sae Nijima questions him, trying to discern how he was able to commit the crimes he did, crimes that involved travelling into other worlds and stealing the hearts of his victims. The drugged and injured Ren begins his story, of how he was sent to Tokyo some months earlier for his probation for being framed for assault. On his way to school, he and fellow student Ryuji Sakamoto find themselves drawn into a strange castle that has taken the place of their school, ruled over by the embodied dark side of PE teacher Kamoshida. There, Ren will awaken to the power of the Persona…

I have to admit, in streamlining the game’s events, some bits go by the wayside. However, this is a pragmatic adaptation that manages to avoid losing anything of real value, and even adds a few elements here and there, including a chilling scene where Kamoshida physically assaults Shiho that isn’t in the game, and is a prelude to his later rape of her, mercifully not shown. Overall, the writing part works out well.

The characters are shown well enough from the game, and while some character moments are trimmed, the important parts are kept. Max Mittelman, Erika Harlacher, and Cassandra Lee Morris do well reprising their roles as Ryuji, Ann, and Morgana respectively. I felt a little more could have been added to Ren Amamiya’s character, but Xander Mobus does well with what he has, and I feel that David Lodge as Igor actually sounds better without the filter they used on his voice in the game. And, of course, DC Douglas does great as Kamoshida.

The production values, unfortunately, are somewhat inconsistent. For the most part, the animation is actually excellent, but it falls down in some key areas, not quite bringing across the style of the game at times, something that becomes blatant during its emulation of the All-Out Attacks. In addition, the voice processing on the Shadows and Cognitions are inconsistent, being deeper and more warped in the first couple of episodes, but being less so in the later two episodes, closer to the game. However, not only does it manage to emulate the game to a good degree, but it also keeps the music from the game, one of the best elements of the game.

Overall, this was a damn good adaptation, albeit of inconsistent quality. Here’s hoping that improves…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,707
2,950
REVIEW: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 31: Despair, Episode 32: Hope, and Episode 33: Putting Everything on the Line by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, from the light novels by Fuse

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TTRS2.07-2.09, 3X25 minute episodes


So, here I am, about to watch some pivotal episodes of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. But how would they fare? Let’s find out…

Rimuru barely manages to trick Hinata Sakaguchi into believing she killed him. But when he manages to return to Tempest, it is too late: many of its citizens have been slaughtered by Falmuth’s forces, and Myuran has been revealed as Clayman’s agent. In the midst of despair, though, Rimuru learns of a single ray of hope. His adventurer friends from Blumund know of a tale that offers a slim chance at reviving his citizens. The catch? Rimuru will have to become a Demon Lord…

Here, then, is an adaptation of a pivotal point in the series, and it is adapted pretty damn well. It feels like Rimuru’s escape from Hinata was explained better, and certainly the more emotional moments are brought across well. It’s not quite perfect, and there’s some blatant use of clips in the third episode reviewed, possibly as a budgetary measure, but it’s still good.

Brittney Karbowski, as noted before, is brilliant as Rimuru. She brings about his humanity and childishness, but also his sorrow and inhumanity in these particular episodes. The rest of the cast is on fine form as well.

Production values are as good as ever. The cinematography shows itself pretty well for some of the darker emotional moments, as well as the lighter ones. The art style of the fairytale relating Milim’s past is also interesting.

Overall, these were damned good episodes. I can’t wait for the next lot…


****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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2,950
REVIEW: How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom Episode 3: Let Me Not Be a Loyal Minister, Episode 4: The Forefinger Twitches, and Episode 5: Well-Fed, Well-Regarded by Go Zappa, from the light novels by Dojyamaru

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: RHRK1.3-1.5, 3X25 minute episodes

So, here I am, watching more episodes of How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom. This unusual take on an isekai series got my attention with the books. How would further episodes of this series fare?

Kazuya Souma, after announcing a recruitment drive for the most talented people in their fields across the land he has been summoned to, meets with the shortlisted applicants. Juna Doma may be the most beautiful singer in the land, and Dark Elf Aisha Udgard its most powerful warrior, but the others have more unusual talents. Mystic Wolf girl Tomoe Inui has the ability to speak not only to animals, but to Demons, while Hakuya Kwonmin has an eidetic memory and a keen mind. But the jittery glutton Poncho Panacotta may have Kazuya’s most desired talent, for his knowledge of food could help the kingdom’s food shortages…

The adaptation of this story goes about pretty well, despite its unconventional angle on saving a fantasy world. Many great moments are shown, and the thought of saving a kingdom through alternative foods is a novel one for the genre, though welcomely so. However, the exposition does get a little old after a while by this point, and could be safely trimmed down a touch. And, of course, the issue I had with the original novels, marring an original concept with that spectre of a harem, doesn’t help matters.

Alejandro Saab and Anairis Quiñones do well as Kazuya and Liscia respectively. Of the newcomers, I particularly like Emily Fajardo as Aisha and Jim Foronda as Poncha. Fajardo brings across Aisha’s more stern warrior side and her more childish side, while Foronda brings across Poncha’s nervousness and yet confidence when it comes to food.

The production values are, for the most part, quite good. I do think there’s a few times when they over-animated scenes that didn’t really need it. But that aside, most of the animation is done pretty damn well.

Overall, this was a good run of a good series. I just hope it picks up a little soon…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,707
2,950
REVIEW: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 34: Megiddo, Episode 35: Birth of a Demon Lord, and Episode 36: The One Unleashed by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, from the light novels by Fuse

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TTRS2.10-2.12, 3X25 minute episodes

So, here I am, with the conclusion of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime’s second season. But would it have the impact that the book did? Let’s find out…

Tempest’s counterattack begins. The field entrapping and weakening Tempest’s inhabitants is soon dealt with, as are the soldiers guarding them. And Rimuru, in revenge for his people and to ensure he can revive them, uses the powerful Megiddo to wipe out Falmuth’s army. Soon, Rimuru begins his evolution into a Demon Lord. But will it be enough to revive those who were lost?

I have to admit, this part of the adaptation is superlative. It hits all the right notes, high and low, and Rimuru’s massacre of the Famuth army is given due emotional weight, as is the revival. And it’s not without its more humorous moments to balance out the pathos, thankfully.

Brittney Karbowski proves how fit she is for the role of Rimuru. Indeed, I believe her lines up to unleashing Megiddo is superior to Miho Okasaki’s portrayal in the Japanese audio, showing more cold anger in her lines leading up to it, before finally screaming out her attack in anguished fury. The rest of the cast do well, with Daman Mills showcasing Diablo’s sinister and subservient sides well, and Matt Shipman pulling double duty well as both Shogo and Razen inhabiting Shogo’s body.

Production values are brilliant, as always. True, there’s a minor blip at one point during Milim’s attack on Euranzia, and yet, the rest of that fight, especially Milim unleashing Drago-Nova, is particularly awe-inspiring. So too are the other fight scenes, as well as Rimuru’s unleashing of Megiddo.

Overall, these episodes are most definitely the pinnacle of the series. I can’t wait for more…


*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: House of the Dragon: Episode 1: The Heirs of the Dragon and Episode 2: The Rogue Prince by Ryan Condol, from the works of George RR Martin

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: HOTD1.1-2, 2X60 minute episodes

I am yet to finish the third season of Game of Thrones, but given what happened to the series towards the end, I found my desire to watch more wane. Still, my interest was piqued when a prequel series of sorts, House of the Dragon, was mooted, one that would explore the era leading up to and during the infamous Dance of the Dragons. And finally, I have come to watch it…

Over a century since Aegon the First conquered Westeros and established the Targaryens as its ruling dynasty, said family seems to be at the very height of its powers. King Viserys I has been trying for a male heir for some time, with little success, and his advisors are jockeying for his favour, especially the ambitious Ser Otto Hightower, as well as Viserys’ brother, the vicious Daemon. Hightower’s daughter, Alicent, is best friends with Viserys’ sole child, Rhaenyra, who is about to have a destiny thrust upon her. When Viserys’ wife and their newborn son perish, and Daemon makes a callous remark, Viserys completely disinherits his brother, in favour of Rhaenyra…

Despite not being a direct adaptation of any of the novels, this TV show is off to a cracking good start. The showrunners chose the period well, given all the intrigue involved, and this time, it is more of a conventional fantasy in many regards, given that the Dragons still exist. There’s great dialogue and intriguing elements, though I do have to wonder why Otto Hightower was stupid enough to confront Daemon when Daemon had a Dragon to use as his trump card.

The series is very well cast, just like its predecessor. Paddy Considine is great as Viserys, while Matt Smith plays Daemon as a dangerous and mercurial, and yet charming character. Milly Alcock is great as Rhaenyra, as is Emily Carey as her friend Alicent, while Rhys Ifans proves suitably sinister as Alicent’s father, Ser Otto Hightower.

Production values look, if anything, grander than its parent show, or at least the parts I’ve gotten up to. The music, direction, and design all combine to show Westeros at the height of the Targaryen dynasty, contrasting with the fall we know is coming. A highlight of the show so far is the confrontation at Dragonstone, a tense and beautiful scene that sets a high mark for what’s to come.

While not perfect by any means, these opening episodes are a promising start to House of the Dragon. I can’t wait for more…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom Episode 6: The Wise Man Never Foresaketh an Advantage, Episode 7: Thus Saith the Elder, Episode 8: The Forest in Labour, and Episode 9: Contrary to Wishes by Go Zappa and Hiroshi Onogi, from the light novels by Dojyamaru

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: RHRK1.6-1.9, 4X25 minute episodes

So, here I am, once more watching episodes of How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom. But how would they turn out? Let’s find out…

Kazuya’s reforms may be benefitting the Elfrieden Kingdom, but there are many who despise his reforms. A number of discontented nobles are finding refuge with Duke Georg Carmine, one of the military leaders of the Kingdom, and another, Duke Castor Vargas, is throwing his lot behind Carmine. At first, Kazuya is busy trying to ensure some new plans, including a new port city and better roads, pass muster, with a landslide in Aisha’s lands hitting home that he needs to also prepare for natural disasters. But the clouds of war gather on the horizon, with the rogue dukes being assisted by the greedy and belligerent Principality of Amidonia, who wish to conquer as much of the Kingdom as they can, and to hell with the treaties preventing war…

These episodes are relatively quiet ones, ones that still expand on the events of the first book, while beginning the adaptation of the second. It does get a bit tedious, and honestly, at times, it feels like they’ve drawn out the exposition too much by now. Then again, it does pick up in time for the beginning of the war arc.

Alejandro Saab and Anairis Quiñones are great as usual as Kazuya and Liscia respectively. Indeed, the cast is all superlative, save for one. I feel that Jason Liebrecht was miscast as Castor Vargas, or at least was given the wrong direction, making Vargas sound too old for his appearance. Yes, I am aware Castor is several decades old, but his character is somewhat hot-blooded and his appearance young, so there’s a severe vocal dissonance there.

In terms of production values, there’s nothing to really complain about here. The animation is lovely and brings the world of the novels to life. I do have some issues with the pacing, but that’s more of a writing issue.

Overall, these were good episodes, albeit bogged down in exposition. But now, there’s a nice bit of conflict on the horizon…


****
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Enemy of the World by David Whitaker

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial PP, 6X25 minute episodes

A decade ago, two of Patrick Troughton’s stories as the Doctor were found. The Web of Fear was missing only a single episode, but the entirety of The Enemy of the World, an atypical story for that season (as it didn’t feature any alien monsters besieging a remote facility or a variation on that trope), was recovered. But how would this story fare?

Arriving on a beach in Queensland, Australia in 2018, the Doctor and his companions find a relaxing bit of seabathing rudely interrupted by gunmen on a hovercraft. They are rescued by Astrid Ferrier, who, along with her boss, Giles Kent, explain that the Doctor resembles Salamander, a Mexican scientist, politician, and philanthropist who has saved the world from famine. Only, Kent and Astrid are convinced that Salamander is a would-be dictator who has been steadily replacing his enemies with yes-men. The Doctor is uneasy, but even without proof, there’s some truth to Kent’s claims. How can Salamander predict natural disasters with uncanny accuracy? What is he hiding in his research facility? And is he the only enemy of the world?

Given that the very first script editor of the series, David Whitaker, worked on this story shows that it has potential. There are, admittedly, some questionable bits of plot logic, and there’s the fact that this story is fairly atypical not just of this season, but of the Second Doctor era in general. However, it’s still quite a thrilling romp in many regards, a sort of science fiction pastiche of the Bond films, and there’s plenty of good twists and turns, despite the lengthy nature of the story.

Patrick Troughton clearly relishes this story, having fun not just playing the Doctor, but the vicious and ambitious Salamander. Frazer Hines is good as Jamie, though I think this story marks the nadir of Deborah Watling as Victoria, being at her most incompetent and hysterical, unfortunately. The guest cast in general is great, including George Pravda as Denes, Carmen Munroe as Fariah, Colin Douglas as Bruce, and Milton Johns as Benik. The highlights, however, are Bruce Kerr as Giles Kent and Mary Peach as Astrid, the latter proving to be a very strong female character for 60s Doctor Who.

Production-wise, well, it’s Doctor Who in the 60s. That being said, it does manage fairly well, with some exciting action scenes in the first episode that prefigure the UNIT years that director Barry Letts would preside over as producer not long afterwards. I do think there’s some issues, especially with the use of stock music, some of which doesn’t quite gel with the scenes they are dubbed over.

Overall, this was a surprisingly good story, and a nice break from the monotony of the so-called ‘Monster Season’ of Doctor Who. I just wish it was a touch better…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,707
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REVIEW: Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley and Michael Gilio, from a story by Chris McKay and Michael Gilio.

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 135 mins

I have to admit, I am not that much of a fan of Dungeons & Dragons. I am familiar with many settings, monsters, tropes and characters, but that is mostly through pop-cultural osmosis and reading the Legend of Drizzt books. But I had heard great things about the newest movie to come out. Would I be rewarded?

Two years ago, the last job of thieves Edgin Darvis and Holga Kilgore went wrong, and they were imprisoned in a prison in Icewind Dale. When they finally escape, they find their old ally, Forge Fitzwilliam, having not only assumed the lordship of the city of Neverwinter, but has poisoned the mind of Edgin’s daughter Kira against him, and has allied with a vicious Red Wizard, Sofina. Resolving not only to rescue Kira, but retrieve the item that could resurrect Edgin’s murdered wife, Edgin and Holga not only retrieve their wayward ally and unconfident sorcerer Simon Aumar, but recruit Tiefling druid Doric, who has her own reasons to oppose Forge. But even with the help of magical artifacts and the assistance of paladin Xenk Yendar, can they stop Forge and Sofina’s vile plans?

To be perfectly honest, the story isn’t remotely original. Shave off the Dungeons & Dragons trappings, it could be any caper or heist film, or a Xerox of Guardians of the Galaxy from the MCU. But this is by no means a bad thing, and while the plot is fairly lightweight, it manages to get the job done, with many references and shout-outs even those who are only casually familiar with the franchise will enjoy. It has a sense of fun that a Dungeons & Dragons film needs, rather than just playing at being high fantasy.

Much of the cast is, well, well-cast. Chris Pine is on fine form as Edgin, while Michelle Rodriguez finally gets a role in a blockbuster where she isn’t dead by the end of the film, and clearly enjoying every minute of her role as Hulga. Hugh Grant does well as Forge, playing the villain role to the hilt, as is Daisy Head as Sofina. Of the remainder of the cast, I feel that Sofia Lillis as Doric did well, playing her understated and wary. I felt some of Simon’s lack of confidence was overwritten and overplayed, while Xenk was…well, too robotic, at least as written.

Production values are pretty good. True, I think some of the more exotic sentients’ designs (for Dragonborn and the like) don’t quite work as they did on screen, feeling a touch rushed, which is a shame, but the rest of the time, everything is on fine form. From the portrayal of magic, to the lumbering bulk of Themberchaud, the rest of this movie brings Faerun and the Forgotten Realms to life.

Overall, while not as stellar as I had admittedly hoped it would be, this movie was pretty damn good. Here’s hoping more like it are made…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,707
2,950
REVIEW: How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom Episode 10: No Place of Joy Hath a Soldier, Episode 11: Sacrifice the Plum Tree to Preserve the Peach Tree, and Episode 12: When You Surround an Enemy, Leave an Outlet Free by Go Zappa, from the light novels by Dojyamaru

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: RHRK1.10-1.12, 3X25 minute episodes

After a bit of a hiatus, I have come back to what are effectively the concluding episodes of the first half of the first season of How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom. But how would this conclusion to the first story arc fare? Let’s find out…

Kazuya Souma’s first true test as a king has come to pass: two of his military leaders have revolted against him, aided and abetted by the Principality of Amidonia, who intend to reclaim their lost territory, if not outright conquer the Kingdom of Elfrieden. But in wartime as in peace, the summoned Japanese has plans…but so too does Duke Carmine. Can Kazuya prevail against these foes and their overwhelming numbers?

As with prior episodes, this arc is a quite excellent adaptation of the novels. Admittedly, unlike prior episodes, this adaptation is a bit more compressed, with these three episodes, plus one prior, comprising the entirety of one novel, whereas the eight episodes before that covered one of the novels. While this means that the story isn’t as bogged down in exposition, it also lacks something of the spirit of this series, which is the overcoming of obstacles via intellect rather than violence. Still, it comes out as an enjoyable romp all the same.

Alejandro Saab as Kazuya and Anairis Quiñones as Liscia both do well, especially as I have now seen more of Saab’s acting talent as Cyno in Genshin Impact. Marcus D Stirmac does pretty well as Georg Carmine, especially with the twist around him, as does Madeline Morris as Carla Vargas. I still contend that Jason Liebrecht sounds too old in his portrayal of her father Castor, and Gaius and Julius Amidonia are too one-dimensional in their portrayals to be afforded any of the respect they’re given in-universe.

Production values-wise, this series does pretty well. The action scenes are animated superlatively, and the cinematography is done well too. True, it lacks many extended battle scenes, even for the scenes where it would be appropriate, and I suspect a cost-cutting measure in play. But otherwise, the show is animated superbly.

Overall, this adaptation of How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom goes from strength to strength, even if it doesn’t go higher. But hey, it works, right?

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Doctor Who: Dark Water/Death in Heaven by Steven Moffat

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial 8.11/8.12, 2X50 minute episodes

I have to admit, due to my waning interest in the series, I began skipping over episodes of Doctor Who as they came onto TV, starting with the Peter Capaldi stories. It was because of this that I didn’t watch the big reveal of Missy, the female incarnation of the Master. But with the 60th Anniversary of the series looming, I thought it was past time I ate into my backlog, and after going with formerly lost story The Enemy of the World, I would go with a somewhat more recent story…

Danny Pink dies in a tragic accident while on the phone to Clara. Clara, who had been trying to come clean about her travels with the Doctor, is devastated, and becomes desperate enough to try and force the Doctor to save Danny. The Doctor, despite her attempt at blackmailing him, resolves to find Danny, even if it means heading into the very afterlife…only, when tracing him, they end up in the 3W Institute, where they encounter the bizarre android assistant Missy, and her seeming boss, Dr Chang, who reveals their plan to revive the dead with exoskeletons. Meanwhile, in the Nethersphere, an artificial afterlife, Danny is coaxed into making a deadly choice. And the Doctor will soon learn that Missy is one of his oldest enemies, and she has a plan in store for him…

The story does have more than a few questionable moments and plot logic. But overall, it actually does quite well. The emotional high points hit hard, and given that this was back before the Master teaming up with Cybermen became a cliché, it’s actually a novelty to see them working together, along with the much-awaited return of UNIT. And Missy’s plot, while barmy, also has echoes of not only their past relationship, but also other hero-nemesis pairs, like Batman and the Joker.

Both Peter Capaldi and Jemma Coleman do damned fine as the Doctor and Clara, with both going through some pretty tough emotional times. Jemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver make welcome returns as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and Osgood. I have to confess, while I’m not that much a fan of Danny Pink, Samuel Anderson does manage well in many points, especially in the second episode. But the major star is Michelle Gomez as Missy, aka the female Master, managing to balance ham, menace and sheer entertainment value.

Production values are where the story does begin to truly falter. While most special effects are done well, some are noticeably a touch on the naff side, particularly during the climax of the story when the rainclouds are removed, as well as Missy’s reappearance. Aside from that, though, the story is pretty well-directed by Rachel Talalay.

Overall, this story was an excellent, but flawed, finale to the season, as well as a great debut for Missy. Here’s hoping for more great stories…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Fate/Grand Order: Divine Realm of the Round Table: Camelot- Wandering; Airgetlám, by Ukyo Kodachi, from a story by Kinoku Nasu.

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 90 mins

Fate/Grand Order’s most popular chapters in its first story arc were those written by Kinoku Nasu himself, namely the Camelot and Babylonia Singularities. The latter was adapted into a full-blown TV anime series, while the former was adapted into a pair of films. But how would the first of the Camelot films fare?

The journey of Chaldea’s last Master, Ritsuka Fujimaru, and his Demi-Servant companion Mash, leads them to being sent back in time to the 13th Century and the Middle East, along with Leonardo da Vinci. But far from where Jerusalem is meant to be is a massive Holy City, presided over by the Lion King, not Richard I, but rather, a cold and heartless version of Arturia Pendragon and her Knights. But not all of her knights stand with her. Ritsuka and his companions encounter Sir Bedivere, who seems intent on stopping her. Can Ritsuka, Mash, Da Vinci and Bedivere find any allies in their fight to save human history from annihilation?

Sadly, even two films is far from enough time to adapt a story arc as long and complex as the Camelot Singularity, and quite a lot goes by the wayside. Not all the cuts were pragmatic, and while there’s more than a few scenes added to give a nice little touch here and there for character moments, the truth remains that this is a somewhat gutted version of the game’s story, and one hard for newcomers to get into. Which is a shame, because what remains nonetheless manages to be quite good regardless. I just feel it could’ve been much better.

Returning Fate/Grand Order cast members Griffin Burns, Erica Mendez, and Erika Harlacher do well as Ritsuka, Mash and Da Vinci respectively. Kari Wahlgren is chilling in her few scenes as the Lion King, while Erica Lindbeck does well as her return to Mordred, and Patrick Seitz gives some more humanity to Hassan of the Cursed Arm than he could in the Heaven’s Feel movies. Max Mittelman does well as Bedivere, though I personally think there was a moment early in the film that was unbecoming of him, while Kimberley Woods, GK Bowes and Ryan Colt Levy are great as Serenity, Nitocris and Arash. The only true miscasting is Stephen Fu as Ozymandias: he has the arrogance down pat, but he lacks Takehito Koyasu’s presence as an actor.

Production values are brilliant, despite the truncated story. The battles are all well-animated, and the scenes are done well in their cinematography. A real highlight comes at the end, when Rhongomyniad is intercepted by Stella, a scene that provides an excellent capstone to the film.

Overall, though, this film reeked of wasted potential. It’s still a good one, especially for Nasuverse fans, but the truncated story hobbled it substantially…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Doctor Who: Fury from the Deep Reanimated by Victor Pemberton

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial RR, 6X25 minute episodes

One of the missing Doctor Who stories I would have loved to watch was Fury from the Deep. Admittedly, this is down to the fact that it was one of the first missing stories I listened to via audio format, but when I heard it was one of the missing stories getting an animated version, I was excited. But would my faith be repaid?

Landing on a remote shoreline next to a gas refinery, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are promptly detained as suspected saboteurs by the refinery’s driven and suspicious chief, Robson. The refinery has seen mysterious happenings, loss of contact with the rigs out at sea, as well as a mysterious heartbeat-like sound heard in the pipes. The culprit turns out to be a colony of sentient seaweed, a monstrous species that can take control of human beings. But what is its goal? Can the Doctor and his companions convince anyone at the refinery to take action? And why is Victoria expressing doubts about staying with the Doctor?

This is a brilliantly tense and atmospheric story, despite its long running time. True, this era of the series is infested with stories with similar plots and tropes, the so-called ‘base under siege’ story, but this one is one of the more ambitious and better-written. Plus, Victoria’s departure is better foreshadowed than I believed, given my prior listening to the audio version, and certainly the solution to the story is foreshadowed wonderfully.

Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, and Deborah Watling are good as usual as the regulars, with Watling getting to show Victoria’s increasing trauma and disillusionment with travelling with the Doctor. Victor Maddern chews the scenery wonderfully as the paranoid Robson, while John Abineri does well as Van Lutyens. So too does John Spencer as Harris, June Murphy as his wife Maggie, and John Gill and Bill Burridge as the sinister Mr Oak and Mr Quill.

In terms of production values, the cheap animation used actually does a good job, for the most part. True, there’s the addition of some elements that wouldn’t have been in the original serial, and the scene where Mr Oak and Mr Quill gas Maggie into unconsciousness, one of the few scenes from the story with footage still existing (thanks to the Australian censors of the time), feels lackluster compared to the original. Yet these are minor quibbles, and the atmosphere of the original story is preserved, including Dudley Simpson’s eerie and experimental but wonderful incidental music.

Overall, Fury from the Deep shows how Doctor Who could do a damn good story without established monsters. A shame it’s missing in almost its entirety…


*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Batman- The Long Halloween: Part Two, by Tim Sheridan, based on the comics by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 95 mins

Having watched the first part of the adaptation of Batman: The Long Halloween, I felt it was past time I watched the second part. But how would it go? Let’s find out…

Bruce Wayne has fallen under the control of Poison Ivy, who, over three months, has had him divest his holdings to mob boss Carmine ‘the Roman’ Falcone. Meanwhile, the bodycount from the Holiday Killer continues to mount, and Harvey Dent is under more pressure than ever, especially as many think he is Holiday. When Catwoman frees Bruce Wayne, Wayne is left wondering whether his crusade as Batman is more about redeeming his parents rather than avenging them. And a sinister plot is made against Dent, one that will scar him for life, and change the criminal landscape of Gotham forever…

Storywise, there’s a lot to commend here. It feels like a lot more meatier character moments have been put into this part of the adaptation, rather than being a part-cavalcade of Batman’s adversaries playing up. We even have more foreshadowing of the Two-Face persona. One quibble I have is the denouement, when the Holiday Killer discusses their crimes with Batman, which wasn’t quite in the original source material, and certainly makes no sense in terms of Batman’s reaction to the killer, though it also adds an extra layer of motivation to Holiday’s spree that wasn’t in the original comics, and yet is actually a welcome addition to that.

Jensen Ackles and the late Naya Rivera are great as Batman and Catwoman respectively, being given some meaty roles and giving back great performances. So too is Josh Duhamel as Harvey and Two-Face. Titus Welliver gets some more humanising moments as Carmine Falcone, with his death played more tragically than in the comic, and it does a surprisingly good job, despite his villainy.

The art style is not quite to my liking, being a touch jarring, as with the first instalment. Still, one can’t deny that the animation itself is top-notch, the cinematography is wonderful and suitably dark and brooding, and the action is well done. Save for a few bumps here and there, the production values are superb.

Overall, the second part of The Long Halloween is actually an improvement on the first, expanding on the original story, and successfully, more often than not. A shame it couldn’t reach perfection, though…

****½
 

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