The Quatermass All-Purpose Media Review Thread

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Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time by Steven Moffat

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial 10.X2, 1X60 minute episode


So, I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and watch Peter Capaldi’s swansong as the Doctor. But does it send him off in the right way? Or will it sink without a trace?

1986, Antarctica. The First Doctor, having fought off the Cyberman invasion, wanders into the frozen wastes to die, determined not to regenerate. There, he encounters the Twelfth Doctor, who is also refusing to regenerate after his own encounter with the Cybermen. And then, suddenly, time is frozen. A captain from the First World War wanders onto the scene, confused and bewildered after a brush with death and a close encounter with mysterious entities known only as the Testimony. The Testimony give the two Doctors an ultimatum: the Captain in exchange for a still-living Bill Potts. But is this the real Bill? Why is the First Doctor so dead set against regenerating? And can the Doctor decide whether he wants to go on living?

As far as plot is concerned…there really isn’t much of it. Just a mystery (with a rather weak payoff) against which a character piece is shown, and it’s sadly to the story’s detriment, as is the exaggeration of the First Doctor’s less politically correct attributes. Plus, it does drag on a little. Still, it’s a marvellous celebration of the Capaldi era with quite a lot of good dialogue and some interesting surprises.

Peter Capaldi is, as always, a delight as the Twelfth Doctor, giving it all for his final moments, and Pearl Mackie does well as Bill. While I have issues with the scripting of the First Doctor, David Bradley is wonderful in emulating William Hartnell, and yet putting his own spin on it. And Mark Gatiss is ever so good (as his character might say) as the Captain, whose identity is an intriguing twist.

Production values are actually quite good. While the Glass Woman is rather blatantly CGI, it does sort of work, and the CGI effects for the frozen time are very impressive indeed. What’s more, the music has callbacks to other eras of the new series, and the regeneration scene is a wonderful send off of the Twelfth Doctor, not to mention the re-enactments of scenes from The Tenth Planet.

Overall, while not a perfect denouement for the Twelfth Doctor, lacking somewhat in plot and with a mishandled characterisation of the First Doctor, Twice Upon a Time is still a bloody good ending to an era.

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Elfen Lied Episode 7: Confrontation- Zufällige Begegnung, Episode 8: The Beginning- Beginn, and Episode 9: Reminiscence- Schöne Erinnerung by Takao Yoshioka, from the manga by Lynn Okamoto

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: EL7-9, 3X25 minute episodes


Elfen Lied in many regards is like a fatal traffic accident. It’s bloody and messy and tragic, and yet, something compels one just to keep watching. Still, I want to see it through to the end, and it seems that the best has come around…

Nana has been freed by Kurama, and survives an encounter with Bandoh, but her naiveté causes her problems. Soon, she encounters Mayu once more, who leads her to the Maple Inn, and to Nyu. Believing Nyu to be Lucy, she attacks, only to be stopped. Lucy’s personality comes forth as she’s struck down by a fever, and begins thinking about her childhood, about bleak events in an orphanage that set her down a misanthropic, murderous path, one that will lead her to meeting Kohta for the first time, a meeting he no longer remembers…

Thankfully, a lot of the more gratuitous elements in Elfen Lied have gone away, and what we are left with is an engrossing, albeit very disturbing and depressing, work. True, there are still a few gratuitous elements, particularly what leads to Lucy’s first murders (with an appalling act of animal cruelty). Still, things work out fairly well.

Sasha Paysinger is a delight as the naïve Nana, who gets some rather endearing and yet tragic moments. However, as before, Kira Vincent-Davies truly steals the show as Lucy. Her tragic past is on full view here, showing how she progressed to the ruthless killer we see in the present.

Sadly, production values are still somewhat variable, with a few noticeable production errors. The atmosphere of the story still works, though, especially when Lucy converses with the ‘DNA Voice’, and the music seems a little better. I just wish a bit more effort was put into it.

These episodes of Elfen Lied were actually quite good. Still quite gratuitous in many regards, true, but maybe it’s good after all. Just bring tissues…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: I, Claudius Episode 1: A Touch of Murder by Jack Pulman, from the novel by Robert Graves

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial IC1, 1X50 minute episode


Some years ago, I read Robert Graves’ famous novel I, Claudius, purporting to be an autobiography of the Roman emperor. Now, after some years, I have come to watch the famous BBC adaptation. Given how it doubtlessly influenced TV throughout the ages, right up to Game of Thrones and the novels it was based on, I have to wonder whether this series was worth my time…

In his dying days, the Roman Emperor Claudius decides to fulfil a prophecy he heard from the Sibyl, to write down his life’s story and seal it away, so that it would be rediscovered centuries hence. He begins his story during the reign of Augustus, his grandmother’s sister. A rift forms between Augustus and his old comrade Agrippa over Augustus’ favouring of his son in law Marcellus. Meanwhile, Livia, Augustus’ treacherous wife, begins making plans to put her son from her previous marriage, Tiberius, on the imperial throne…

To be honest, I’m surprised that as much material made it into this episode as it did. After all, many of the events described took place over a few pages in the original book. Still, Jack Pulman did manage to write an intriguing, but rather slow-paced and, for the moment, simple story by modern standards, not quite up to the level of Game of Thrones. Still, for the time, it was a pretty enjoyable work.

Derek Jacobi doesn’t make many appearances yet as Claudius, but he’s still very much a delight in what he does appear in. Brian Blessed gives, if not a quiet performance, then one that is less over the top than what he is famous for with Augustus. Meanwhile, Siân Phillips and George Baker do well as the venomous Livia and the dour Tiberius. The other performances…well, they vary a little.

Production values are actually quite impressive for a TV show of this time. True, I personally think that the opening titles are a bit naff, and the direction needed a little more oomph. But the set and costume design are great, and I enjoyed the whole thing immensely.

I, Claudius is off to a good start. While not quite at the same level as, say, Game of Thrones, it’s quite a good exemplar of TV drama at the time…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Elfen Lied Episode 10: Infant- Säugling, Episode 11: Complication- Vermischung, Episode 12: Quagmire- Taumeln and Episode 13: No Return- Erleuchtung by Takao Yoshioka, from the manga by Lynn Okamoto

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: EL10-13, 4X25 minute episodes


So, I come to the final episodes of Elfen Lied. This dark and depressing series nonetheless was compelling enough for me to want to reach the end. But would it be worth it?

The final confrontations begin. The sins of Kurama’s past have come back to haunt him, for his Diclonius daughter Mariko has been freed to deal with Lucy and Nana for once and for all, and Mariko may be more than a match for both of them. But that may be nothing compared to the shock Kohta will get when his memories of the day his sister and father died back…for they were killed by none other than Lucy herself…

Once more, the gratuitous violence and nudity on display is very offputting, and frankly, it’s to the story’s detriment, liable to turn a lot of viewers off. So too is the fact that the series ends without any true conclusion, with many plot threads left up in the air. Which is a shame, as these four episodes are the most emotionally-charged episodes yet, with some brilliantly sad moments, and the final revelations about what links Kohta and Lucy have.

Kira Vincent-Davies is brilliant as Lucy, with her getting more and more meaty scenes, and Adam Conlon seems to finally get a chance to shine as Kouta, as does Leah Clark as a younger Kohta. Sasha Paysinger is a delight as Nana. However, a surprisingly enjoyable performance was given by Jay Hickman as Kurama and a very chilling and yet human performance by Luci Christian as Mariko, providing the centrepiece to the final episode.

It seems like the production values were bumped up slightly for the finale. Not by that much, but it still feels slightly elevated. I wish it was better, but the sound design and art direction work well together to give the right impact for the series.

Overall, while very depressing and very off-putting to many viewers, Elfen Lied’s final episodes capped off the series mostly right. A shame they left so much up in the air…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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I think, to counteract the depression of Elfen Lied, the next anime series I start will probably be My Hero Academia...
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
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Okay, I'll be posting new reviews soon, but I have to manually input the BB Codes for bolding and italics into the quick reply window. :mad:
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Episode 14: Ultimate Warriors from Ancient Times and Episode 15: A Hero’s Proof by Shougo Yasukawa, from the manga series by Hirohiko Araki

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: JJBA1.14-1.15, 2X25 minute episodes


I’ve finally come back to the adaptation of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, particularly the Battle Tendency arc. Having enjoyed the first debut of Joseph Joestar and the Pillar Men, how would I do with further episodes? Well, let’s find out…

Von Stroheim’s final words have sent Joseph and Speedwagon to Rome, but their first encounter with their contact, Caesar Zeppeli, goes badly. Caesar is as arrogant as Joseph, and with an axe to grind against them both, given the fate of his grandfather William during the fight against Dio. Unfortunately, they don’t have time to bicker, as the three Pillar Men beneath Rome have awakened. Kars, Esidisi, and Wamuu have emerged, intending to find the Red Stone of Aja…and neither Caesar nor Joseph may be capable of stopping them…

It’s not much of a story at this point, what with two episodes based on a shounen manga series. Still, there’s some pretty good dialogue and some decent humour, and there’s a very spectacular introduction to the Pillar Men. But I was left a little dissatisfied.

Ben Diskin is delightful as Joseph Joestar, however, while Bryce Papenbrook’s performance as Caesar was good, the character itself left a lot to be desired, with his obnoxious (even in comparison to Joseph!) nature giving him little sympathy, especially during the first episode. Of better note are the Pillar Men. In particular, I enjoyed Paul St Peter’s performance as Wamuu and John DeMita as Kars.

Production values are where the series truly shines. The animation is gorgeous and beautiful, and the realisation of the various fight scenes from the manga are really dynamic, bringing them to life. Plus, the distinctive Pillar Men theme is surprisingly fitting, both tribal and trance, music genres I don’t generally like normally, and yet, they did gain my interest.

These two episodes of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure were interesting, and I look forward to what is to come…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: GATE: Thus the JSDF Fought There Episode 18: The Magic City of Rondel and Episode 19: Two Dangerous Sisters by Tatsuhiko Urahata, from the light novel series by Takumi Yanai

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: GJSDF1.18-1.19, 2X25 minute episodes


So, finally, I’ve come back to GATE: Thus the JSDF Fought There. It’s these episodes that provide a turning point for the series. Time will tell how that turns out…

Itami is given a dressing down for his going AWOL to fight the Flame Dragon, but is also rewarded by the people he helped save. After a period of suspension, he is sent to the city of Rondel, where Lelei is due to give a presentation to become known as a Master of magic. There, Itami not only meets Lelei’s sister Arpeggio, but the old mage Mimoza, who has some interesting information about the Gate. Meanwhile, as peace talks officially begin, Zorzal is desperate to disrupt them any way he knows how, and when the Emperor is poisoned by associates of Tyuule, Zorzal seizes his chance. Ascending to the throne, he orders a series of attacks designed to discredit the JSDF…and assassins to target those who displease him…

Well, here’s the story beginning to heat up. Zorzal taking power seemed like the next logical step to make him more of a threat, and we finally get a few more answers about the Gate. True, not much actual plot comes from these two episodes, save for the beginning of the final story arc of the series, but it’s still enjoyable.

David Wald as Itami is, as usual, a delight, and Brittney Karbowski as Lelei finally gets a chance to shine, opposite Emily Neves as her sister Arpeggio. The character of Mimoza is a surprisingly funny one, albeit one who can be a little annoying. However, Kregg Dailey as Zorzal really lets loose in his scenes as Zorzal gains power.

Production values, as always, are pretty damned good. Particular highlights come from the nineteenth episode, with a differently-animated discussion of how various beings came through the Gate like a book or tapestry, as well as a well done magical duel between Lelei and Arpeggio. It was certainly very enjoyable.

In the end, these episodes of GATE, while not that substantial, nonetheless promise much for the future.

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Chapter 1 by Itaru Era, from the manga by Hirohiko Araki

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 120 mins


Takeshi Miike is perhaps one of the most infamous Japanese directors, known for schlocky and violent films. Yet he is also known for variety in his work. I decided to watch his live-action adaptation of the first part of Diamond is Unbreakable, the fourth main story arc of the famous manga series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Morioh Town, one of the most liveable cities in Japan, and one of the most beautiful. However, of late, it has been plagued by a series of deaths and disappearances. Josuke ‘JoJo’ Higashitaka and a new friend, transfer student Koichi Hirose, are soon drawn into this mystery, but Josuke has the power of a Stand, a humanoid familiar born from his battle power that stands by his side. Josuke soon learns that his father, Joseph Joestar, has sent Joseph’s grandson, experienced Stand user Jotaro Kujo, to investigate a murderous Stand user, Anjuro ‘Angelo’ Katagiri. But even as Angelo goes on the rampage with his Stand Water Necklace, the sinister Keicho is going around, shooting people with a mysterious bow and arrow that grants people the power of Stands, or kills them, and Josuke may soon be in his sights…

The story is hampered by a few factors. The first is that it’s an adaptation of a shounen manga in its first arc, and those aren’t known for their deep and meaningful stories. The second is that we aren’t really given much explanations as to what a Stand is, or what happened to Keicho’s father, and only fans of the manga will know really what is going on. The third is that it does take up some time setting things up for possible sequels. Still, it’s enjoyable enough for being so streamlined, with the movie given the right highlights, some wonderfully emotional scenes, and enough of a mix of humour to balance the action and tragedy.

It takes some time to get used to the style of acting in the film, relatively understated compared to what I expected for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (which is, of course, chock-a-block full of ham). Still, Kento Yamazaki is enjoyable as Josuke, and despite his role being relatively small, Yusuke Iseya as Jotaro, while lacking some of Jotaro’s imposing presence, does manage to do well enough. I felt that Takayuki Yamada as Angelo was a bit too understated at times, particularly during the fight scenes, but was otherwise a wonderfully sinister presence, and Ryunosuke Kamiki as Koichi is a delight.

I think some attempts to bring the manga to life, like Josuke’s infamous coif or Jotaro’s outfit, do seem ridiculous in reality. All the same, the rest of the production is pretty damn good. The location filming in Sitges in Spain gives Morioh a wonderful and beautiful air to it, with the rest of the production visually spectacular. The CGI used for the Stands manage to make them both realistic and yet as otherworldly as they really have to be, and while a few of the initial Stand battles are disappointingly slow, the climactic battle between Crazy Diamond and Bad Company more than makes up for it, showing off the supernatural abilities of the Stands.

Overall, while lacking in story somewhat and maybe a little alienating to those unfamiliar with the franchise, this adaptation of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable was enjoyable.

****
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: My Hero Academia Episode 1: Izuku Midoriya: Origin, Episode 2: What It Takes to Be a Hero, Episode 3: Roaring Muscles and Episode 4: Start Line by Yosuke Kuroda, from the manga by Kouhei Hirokoshi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: MHA1.1-1.4, 4X25 minute episodes


After the sheer depressing onslaught of Elfen Lied, I felt I needed lighter fare. I eventually decided to go for My Hero Academia. Having already enjoyed One Punch Man, I was eager to see if this other superhero manga series turned anime would be any good…

It’s a world filled with Quirks, supernatural abilities that 80% of the population possess. Superheroes fight supervillains on the streets. Izuku Midoriya wants to be a hero one day. Only problem is, this superhero fanboy doesn’t have a Quirk, and his dreams are frequently trampled-on by classmate Katsuki Bakugou, an arrogant Quirk-user. But an encounter with Izuku’s idol All Might, who witnesses Izuku’s selflessness, gives Izuku hope. For All Might, badly injured by a villain and unable to use his power to his full potential, may be able to give Izuku his power, One for All…

Now, shounen series do tend to take a while to get to the point and tend to be thin on plot. However, I think that the anime adaptation of My Hero Academia is far superior to the original manga. The emotions are more intense, the story is expanded in just the right way, and everything, well, feels just right. True, there isn’t much plot beyond Izuku getting into school, but I was actually moved to tears at the end of Episode 2, something the manga didn’t do.

Perhaps the biggest drawcard is Izuku Midoriya. For all his wimpiness (not to mention stupidity in considering Bakugou a friend of any kind), he is a brilliant main character, and Justin Briner, whom I know best from the Team Four Star webseries Final Fantasy VII Machinabridged as Cloud, is an perfect choice to play him. In addition, Christopher Sabat is equally perfect casting as All Might, managing to give this character the right mix of ham for his superhero persona, and pathos and introspection for his emaciated persona. Clifford Chapin was a good choice for the immensely unlikeable Bakugou, as is Luci Christian as the much more likeable Ochako. I felt that J Michael Tatum turned on the ham a bit too much as the serious Iida, though after a certain point, his performance was still fairly good.

Production values are amazing. I’m very much a fan of Studio Bones’ work given what they did with Soul Eater and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and it’s especially on display here, with many action scenes greatly expanded upon from the manga. The animation is beautiful, so too is the music and the direction…I just loved it.

While not perfect, the first four episodes of My Hero Academia were a very enjoyable and promising beginning to the series. Here’s hoping that the subsequent episodes continue that…

****½
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Episode 13: Shirley at Gunpoint, Episode 14: Geass vs Geass, Episode 15: Cheering Mao and Episode 16: Nunnally Held Hostage by Hiroyuki Yoshino and Ichirou Okouchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: CGLR1.13-1.16, 4X25 minute episodes


Once again, after something of a hiatus, I have come back to Code Geass. I want to try and clear at least the first season of this famous anime off my plate. Now, let’s see how well it turned out…

Lelouch and Kallen are trying to come to terms with the cost of their battle in Narita, especially the death of Shirley’s father, an event that drives Shirley to begin investigating Lelouch, alongside Viletta. But when Shirley learns the truth about Lelouch being Zero, she isn’t sure what to do…and in her moment of vulnerability, she is set upon by Mao. One of CC’s old Geass contracts, the deranged and childish Mao has the ability to read minds, he is obsessed with CC, and he will do anything to get his mitts on her. But will this drive a wedge between CC and Lelouch?

A good series of episodes, these ones, with some fairly good emotional notes hit, as well as emphasizing more and more the greater moral ambiguity of the series. True, I really do think the Mao arc went for an episode too long, even if it was needed to reveal Suzaku’s secret, which had been hinted at before, and I think that the amnesic Viletta story arc seems a bit unnecessary, given that I do know roughly how it ends. Still, having Lelouch’s latest enemy be a Geass user was a logical progression, and the various character moments were enjoyable.

Certainly, Johnny Yong Bosch as Lelouch and Karen Strassman as Kallen were good, as is Kate Higgins as CC. Ezra Weisz is a delight as the childish and insane Mao, a character who is very much a victim as much as he is a villain, though I doubt anyone would be crying over his fate. And there is, of course, the heartbreaking fate of Amy Kincaid as Shirley, one of the emotional highlights of the series.

As usual, the animation is superb. Not quite at the level I am used to with more recent anime series, but the mecha fight scenes are well-animated, and the cinematography well done. One highlight was the music for the scene where Lelouch is forced to erase Shirley’s memories of him. However, I find myself utterly dissatisfied with the new opening, with a lot of it being recycled footage and the opening song is just…meh.

Overall, Code Geass is doing pretty damned well. I just hope it does better…

****
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 2- The Battle for Doldrey by Ichiro Okouchi, from the manga by Kentaro Miura

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 90 mins


It’s ironic how, after watching the first Berserk: The Golden Age film, I watched the entirety of the 1997 anime series before watching the second instalment. This helped give me some perspective when I finally returned to the film trilogy for its second instalment. I just hoped that it would improve on said instalment…

The Hundred Year War between Midland and Chuder is entering a decisive phase. After a battle between the Band of the Hawk and one of Chuder’s elite forces, a stranded Guts and Casca learn more about each other, growing closer as comrades. But in order to deal a decisive defeat to Chuder forces, Griffith embarks on an audacious scheme to seize the fortress of Doldrey, run by a shady figure from Griffith’s past. But Guts is restless, determined to soon strike out on his own and pursue his own dream, an ambition that may have bad consequences for the Band of the Hawk…

Once more, the story is a bit on the weak side, especially now that I’ve watched the anime. True, they keep in some of the character moments, as well as adding a number that weren’t in the anime adaptation (like Griffith accusing the King of lusting after his own daughter), and it keeps more of the various moments, as well as adding nods to the future, like a cameo from Puck, as well as Farnese, Serpico and Azan, but a lot of good ones, like the ‘Bonfire of Dreams’ scene, were cut out. Plus, Casca’s past is heavily abridged, and Griffith’s past with Gennon is only hinted at, even if they’re heavy hints, and there’s some moments that are rather uncomfortable to watch, like Griffith’s seduction of Charlotte, which comes across more as a rape (maybe that was the intention).

The cast of the original anime series are reunited for these films, and it’s clear that they improved since then. Marc Diraison is brilliant as Guts, as are Carrie Keranon as Casca and Kevin T Collins as Griffith. Mike Pollock is surprisingly good in a relatively reduced role as Adon, probably partly due to his reduced comedic bits, as is TJ Storm as Boscogne.

The production values are pretty good. True, the cel-shaded CGI can be miss rather than hit at times, but the fight choreography and direction is brilliant, even if the gore will put more than a few people off. Everything comes together well, with a promise for the future.

Overall, the second instalment of the Berserk: The Golden Age films is a marked improvement on the first one, even if it misses some of the story and character parts of the original anime.

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Episode 17: Knight, Episode 18: I Order You, Suzaku Kururugi, Episode 19: Island of the Gods and Episode 20: Battle at Kyushu by Yuuichi Nomura, Hiroyuki Yoshino and Ichirou Okouchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: CGLR1.17-1.20, 4X25 minute episodes


Once more, I delve into Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. But I had to wonder whether these four pivotal episodes would maintain the status quo, or change it. Time to find out…

An attempt to rescue Colonel Tohdoh, formerly of the Japanese Liberation Front, finally reveals to Lelouch that Suzaku is the pilot of the Lancelot, much to his shock. Meanwhile, Euphemia, finding herself increasingly perturbed by the plight of the Japanese, makes the controversial decision to make Suzaku her Knight. The Black Knights, after reorganising, decide to capture Suzaku…but Schneizel el Britannia, the most Machiavellian of Lelouch’s siblings, attacks, causing Lelouch, Suzaku, Euphemia and Kallen to be mysteriously transported to Kamine Island, where revelations abound, but with questions multiplying more than the answers…especially regarding Geass…

Wow. The revelations in this set of episodes are good, with the development of Suzaku and Euphemia’s story doing well, as well as the introduction of Schneizel, and hints of the greater mystery around Geass, as well as the debut, in image at least, of the mysterious VV. All the plot threads seem to be coming together, readying for the final episodes of the series.

The various actors are on form again. Johnny Yong Bosch as Lelouch and Yuri Lowenthal as Suzaku are doing well, as is Karen Strassman as Kallen and Michelle Ruff as Euphemia, with the Kamine Island sequences truly exploring their respective characters. Also enjoyable is Troy Baker as the Machiavellian Schneizel, and Jamieson Price as Diethard Ried gives a good performance explaining his motives. Steve Blum gives an interestingly different performance as Tohdoh, compared to the more villainous roles I know him for.

The production values have truly gone up for these episodes. From the attack of the Avalon warship to the battle at Kyushu, the action scenes have certainly kicked up a notch. Everything just feels right.

For this, a story arc shortly before the end of the first season, everything came together to be perfect. This is why Code Geass is good.

*****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Persona 4: The Animation Episode 1: You’re myself, I’m yourself, Episode 2: The Contractor’s key, Episode 3: We are friends, aren’t we? and Episode 4: Somewhere not here by Yuko Kakihara, Mitsutaka Hirota and Jun Kumagai, from the video game by Atlus

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: P4A1-4, 4X25 minute episodes


So, I’ve heard about the Persona series of video games for some time, but never really got a chance to play them. I found out about an anime series based on the fourth game, so I decided to give it a shot. Time would tell if I made the right choice…

Yu Narukami is a new transfer student to the small rural city of Inaba. But despite its remote location, the city is far from quiet: a series of bizarre murders have been taking place, and victims appear on the mysterious Midnight Channel, a TV broadcast that only appears at midnight on rainy days. Investigating further, Yu, along with the brash Yosuke Hanamura and the energetic Chie Satonaka, end up getting sucked through a TV into a dark dimension, filled with beings known as Shadows. In order to survive, the teenagers must awaken Personas, embodiments of their psyches, but these awakenings may require them to confront their darkest truths, truths that may kill them…

I’ll be perfectly honest, the story itself, while intriguing, is not exactly compelling. Certainly, in these first four episodes, with the plot still gaining momentum, the four episodes are quite repetitious in terms of plot, especially from the second one onwards, with each of the protagonists gaining their Personas by confronting the darkest parts of their psyches. It’s repetitive psychodrama with little plot movement, and while it’s fairly good at adapting a video game, I find the story not quite to my liking.

Part of the problem is the rather bland protagonist. Video game main characters are meant to be a cypher for the player to superimpose themselves on, and while Johnny Yong Bosch does do a fairly good job as Yu, the role, IMO, isn’t much of a stretch. I also find Yuri Lowenthal as Yosuke irritating. However, Erin Fitzgerald as Chie, Sam Riegel as Teddy, and Amanda Winn Lee (whom I know best in her turn as Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion) as Yukiko are other matters entirely. The character interactions are part of what makes this series, and to give it its due, it does do that fairly well.

If there is one thing that makes up for everything else, it’s the impressive production values. AIC does a really excellent job on the animation, bringing the video game and its characters to life. The battle scenes are impressive, as is the imagery on display throughout, in flashbacks, the strange TV dimension, and, well, things in general.

Overall, while rather hampered by repetitive story elements and a dull protagonist, this adaptation of Persona 4 was enjoyable enough. I just wish it was better…

***½
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Episode 21: The School Festival Declaration, Episode 22: Bloodstained Euphie, Episode 23: At Least with Sorrow, Episode 24: The Collapsing Stage and Episode 25: Zero by Yuuichi Nomura and Ichirou Okouchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: CGLR1.21-1.25, 5X25 minute episodes


So, here I come to the finale of the first season of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. Events are sure to be exciting. But would they turn out to be a satisfying conclusion to the first half of the series?

During a school festival, Euphemia stumbles across Lelouch and Nunnally. In order to find a way for them to be with her happily, she makes a declaration of the Special Administrative Zone of Japan, where Japanese and Britannians have equal rights. It seems like Lelouch has no reason to fight anymore…until his Geass goes haywire, and with a careless thought, sets Euphemia on a course to order a mass slaughter of the Japanese against her will. This act will prove to be the spark that ignites the flames of war, one that could be Lelouch’s greatest opportunity…or his downfall. For the mysterious boy known as VV is manipulating Suzaku, and for Zero’s role in killing Euphie, Suzaku now is willing to kill…even if it means killing Lelouch…

Whoa. What a finale. Just as things seemed to be going well, a major curveball has been thrown, with more questions left than answers. I do think what happened to poor Euphie was somewhat cruel, despite it being a logical plot development, and I do question the much darker turn Lelouch’s character has taken, but still…damn. A crying shame it’s been left up in the air on a cliffhanger.

This is reflected in the various characters, being put through the wringer. Michelle Ruff gets to act out some very dissonant scenes with a Geassed Euphemia during what fans have since dubbed the ‘Euphienator’ incident, and Johnny Yong Bosch, Yuri Lowenthal, and Karen Strassman as Lelouch, Suzaku and Kallen. Plus, we have the debut (at long last) of Cindy Robinson as the creepy and enigmatic VV, who has only been glimpsed in the series up until now, not to mention Stephanie Sheh as the precocious Kaguya given more screen time and development.

It’s in these last few episodes that the budget seems to have been dumped, and it shows. The battle scenes are spectacular, and there’s some wonderfully deranged animation for some of the faces of those under strong emotion in certain scenes. Not to mention the direction and juxtaposition of certain events are brilliant.

Overall, this was a brilliant finale to an excellent first season of Code Geass. A shame everything was left on a cliffhanger, but…well, it was a good run…

*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
REVIEW: GATE: Thus the JSDF Fought There Episode 20: Lover, Episode 21: Deadline, Episode 22: The Empress in Slave’s Clothing, Episode 23: Paradrop, and Episode 24: Thus, They Fought There by Tatsuhiko Urahata, from the light novel series by Takumi Yanai

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: GJSDF1.20-1.24, 5X25 minute episodes


So, after finishing the first season of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, I come to the conclusion of another anime series: GATE: Thus the JSDF Fought There. I’m just hoping it’s a satisfying conclusion to a series that has enjoyable concepts and characters, but has some elements that are offputting. Still, let’s find out…

Zorzal’s takeover of the Empire has ramped up a notch, with him sending a vicious group of secret police against his foes. And when Sugawara makes the decision to harbour a couple of them, Zorzal attacks, and the Japanese politicians are unwilling to act while the press and international representatives are sniffing around, despite the cost to their own. Meanwhile, Itami and his allies are dodging the attacks of the assassin known as the Piper, a shapeshifter who delights in manipulating people into doing their own dirty work. But even if they stop the Piper, they have to find a way of saving Pina, when she is imprisoned on Zorzal’s orders…

Ugh, this is annoying. Once more, the political and jingoistic aspects of the story rear its ugly head, and are mishandled badly. It’s clear that the original writer had a thing against anti-JSDF press and politicians. These aspects mar what is an otherwise enjoyable finale, which is pretty damned good, even if it leaves things open for a further series based on the later books. Great twists and turns, a lot of great battles, and a happy ending, more or less.

As usual, David Wald is a delight as Itami, and there’s some great performances from the various characters like Molly Searcy as Rory and Brittney Karbowski as Rory. Maggie Flecknoe not only gets to chew the scenery as Tyuule as she gloats over the princess, but finally gets to show some humanity for the Bunny Warrior. Other characters…well, I’m annoyed at Prime Minister Morita’s portrayal, and I despise the reporter Komurazaki, who is a poorly-written caricature.

Production values are, as is the norm for this series, superlative. The battle scenes are brilliant, and so too is the cinematography. I have to admit, I think the music does get too bombastic at times. But everything seems to work out.

Overall, the finale of GATE was an excellent one, marred by the views of the original writer influencing the work. A shame, but hey, it was enjoyable.

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul Episode 1: Tragedy, Episode 2: Incubation, and Episode 3: Dove by Chuuji Mikasano, from the manga by Sui Ishida

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TG1.1-1.3, 3X25 minute episodes


I have to say, I enjoyed reading the horror manga series Tokyo Ghoul, what little I have so far. So, I decided to start watching the anime series adapted from it by Studio Pierrot of Naruto fame. But how well would this dark work do?

Ken Kaneki is a fairly ordinary, if somewhat introverted and timid university student. However, his luck seems to change when he gets a date with Rize Kamishiro…only, it’s not for the better. Rize is a Ghoul, one of a number of human-eating beings that hide amongst humans. But just when Ken is about to become Rize’s latest victim, Rize is killed by falling girders, and the doctors have to use her organs to save Ken. Unfortunately, this seems to have the side-effect of turning him into a half-Ghoul…incapable of eating anything but human flesh. Between other belligerent Ghouls, as well as the investigators or ‘Doves’ of the Commission for Counter-Ghoul, Ken will have a hard time staying alive and sane. But not all Ghouls are monsters, and Ken will find his preconceptions about them shaken…

The storyline seems to be a fairly close adaptation of the manga, though it seems to also add some foreshadowing of events I am yet to get into, as well as adding Rize as a hallucinatory devil on Ken’s shoulder. It’s a fairly dark story that’s not for everyone, and at this point, it’s only really world-building rather than getting into any actual plot, and I feel the angst is piled on a little too thickly. Still, there’s some intriguing themes and moral ambiguity.

Austin Tindle does a fairly good job as Ken, even though I think at times he chews the scenery a touch too much when Ken is angsting. Touka is rather unlikeable at this point, save for some subtle parts, but Brina Palencia is wonderful as her all the same. And Hinami is just so adorable, and Lara Woodhull does a good job of bringing this innocent child Ghoul to life.

Production values wise, well, it’s a good production. The artistic choices are quite good, as is the direction, giving the series a wonderfully moody air at the times when it needs it. But after the anime series I recently finished animated by the likes of Sunrise, Ufotable and A-1 Pictures, with more dynamic action and direction, I find myself wanting somewhat.

Overall, the first three episodes of Tokyo Ghoul were a good beginning to an engrossing, if very dark, series. For those who can stomach the dark themes and the horror, you won’t be disappointed…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell to Earth by Chris Chibnall

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial 11.1, 1X65 minute episode


I’ll be honest, by the time Steven Moffat left Doctor Who, I was admittedly tiring of him as the showrunner. His talents were best suited to being an occasional screenwriter for the series, and I was beginning to tire of the tone of the series. Then again, with Chris Chibnall in charge, it might not be any better. After all, while some would view casting a woman as the Doctor to be a timely change, there is a valid argument to be made about this being a gimmick. Still, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and it was with that in mind that I watched the debut episode of the latest series, The Woman Who Fell to Earth

The city of Sheffield in Yorkshire, and the paths of a number of people are about to intersect. Ryan Sinclair, a frustrated young man with dyspraxia. His grandmother, Grace and her new husband, Graham. Antsy and ambitious probationary constable Yazmin ‘Yaz’ Khan. Crane operator Karl. And a woman who fell from the sky, looking for a doctor. The newly regenerated and newly female Doctor, without a sonic screwdriver, without her TARDIS, and without all of her memories, has to confront a strange alien occurrence, involving a mysterious writhing mass of cables, and a brutal warrior from another world…but can she save anyone?

The plot is not really that much to speak of, dealing as it does with a mystery that needs to be solved and the introduction of the new Doctor and her companions-to-be. It’s an enjoyable romp that doesn’t need any prior knowledge of the series to enjoy, but it doesn’t quite have much substance, plotwise, though the emotional parts are on cue. It just feels a bit too generic as a Doctor Who adventure, and a few bits feel like they have been cut from the finished product, either at the scripting stage or at the post-production phase.

Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor…is good. I can’t say yet how good that will be, but her more playful, childlike persona is a refreshing change of the more angsty Doctors before her, coming across as a mixture of Tom Baker and David Tennant. Time will tell whether she has any lasting appeal, though, with her character yet to truly solidify. Sharon D Clarke is great as Grace, and I think she would have made good companion material if it weren’t for the events of the episode. Tosin Cole’s Ryan Sinclair is fine, though I have to say I preferred Mandip Gill’s Yaz and Bradley Walsh’s Graham. Samuel Oatley as the Stenza warrior Tzim-Sha has quite a bit of menace needed for a villain who, in the end, is basically a more talkative Xerox of the Predator.

The actual production values are pretty good. The visual effects, certainly, seem to be the best for quite a while, with the realisation of the Gathering Coils quite well done, and Tzim-Sha’s costume and makeup being wonderfully sinister. The direction also looks more cinematic than ever before, giving the series a distinct look compared to Steven Moffat and Russell T Davies’ respective eras. That being said, there’s a few odd choices here and there, and if there were some bits edited out, it’s frankly to the detriment of the story.

Overall, The Woman Who Fell to Earth is actually one of the best debut stories for a new Doctor in quite a while. It lacked some substance, but it made up for it in character and interest…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
11
2,850
REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul by Ichiro Kusuno, from the manga by Sui Ishida

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 120 mins


With my interest in Tokyo Ghoul at an all-time high, it was about time that I tried watching the live action film adaptation. Of course, whether it was good or not remained to be seen. So, let’s find out…

Ken Kaneki is an ordinary, if somewhat timid student whose date with a bookish, beautiful girl called Rize goes badly wrong. For Rize was a Ghoul, a human subspecies that can only eat human flesh. But when Ken is injured by Rize, only for Rize to be killed by what seems to be an accident, Ken is implanted with her organs by a surgeon. Unfortunately, this has the side effect of turning Ken into a Ghoul, and he struggles to find his place in this new and horrifying world he has been thrown into…

Adapting Tokyo Ghoul into live action seems good on paper, and the screenplay itself doesn’t seem too bad. It has the right moments, and the right sort of dialogue. That being said, I don’t think it has enough of the tragic edge of the original work, or enough of the proper emotional parts. It doesn’t necessarily make it bad, but unfortunately, it does change things to a more generic seeming action horror film, especially towards the end.

I will admit, I preferred the more over the top performances in the manga and anime to the more subdued performances here. That being said, I have to admit, the cast is fairly well done, though sadly, particular praise doesn’t go to the pivotal roles of Masataka Kubota as Ken or Fumika Shimizu as Touka. Instead, it goes to Hiyori Sakurada as Hinami, despite being such a young actress, managing to convey the clash between Hinami’s nature as a Ghoul and her gentle soul. In addition, I felt that Kureo Mado was better portrayed in this version than even in the original manga, coming across more as an eccentric but otherwise dedicated investigator, with his madness only showing through as things progressed, and Yo Oizumi is to be commended. So too is Nobuyuki Suzuki as Amon, who seems more normally driven than the more hammy version in the manga and anime.

The production values are where things do falter somewhat. Everything seems so dreary, in an attempt to make things atmospheric, no doubt, but a charm of the manga and anime was to contrast the colourful with the dark, and I’m not seeing it here. In addition, the CGI, much of the time, is rather naff and fake-looking, and considering how much the movie relies on it for the kagunes and Quinques of the Ghouls and Doves respectively, it doesn’t help. Still, the pacing is good, and so too are the fight scenes.

Overall, while not a bad film, and certainly a decent one, this adaptation of Tokyo Ghoul is hindered by a tendency to downplay the tragedy and ramp up the horror, to its detriment. A shame, really.

***½
 

Book of the Month

Good Omens

"Pratchett’s wackiness collaborates with Gaiman’s morbid humour; the result is a humanist delight to be savoured and read again and again."

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