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: The Ghost Monument by Chris Chibnall

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial 11.2, 1X50 minute episode


So, having watched the first episode of the latest series of Doctor Who, it was about time to go onto the second. But how would The Ghost Monument stack up? Let’s find out…

The Doctor and her new companions are picked up from certain death in space by Epzo and Angstrom, a pair of competitors in the Rally of the Twelve Galaxies, run by the enigmatic Ilin. They must make it to the Ghost Monument of the planet known only as Desolation…a mysterious object that is actually the TARDIS. But between two suspicious and ruthless competitors, seas filled with flesh-eating bacteria, and ruins filled with weapons from a vanished civilisation, can the Doctor and her new companions find a way off this world?

Let’s face it, the plot in this is very thin, being basically a way for the Doctor to find the TARDIS, as well as setting up the elements of the season’s story arc, like establishing the Stenza as arc villains, as well as the Timeless Child. Still, it’s a very atmospheric and eerie story. If The Woman Who Fell to Earth is an emulation of An Unearthly Child, then this story, in a few ways, is an emulation of The Daleks. Thankfully, the story doesn’t overstay its welcome, and for what it is, it does its job well.

By the time I had watched half of the episode, I had no more doubts that Jodie Whittaker was a good Doctor (I wanted to wait until after the regeneration story to see what her character would be like). She’s got the same character elements as previous Doctors, having settled down after her regeneration, and while time will tell if she ever reaches the heights of Sylvester McCoy, Patrick Troughton or Tom Baker, I’m still impressed. The companions don’t get quite as much development as they did in the previous episodes, but they feel very much like real people. Not so much Epzo and Angstrom, both feeling like character archetypes who aren’t as well-developed as I would like, despite the enjoyable performances of Shaun Dooley and Susan Lynch. And I think Art Malik is underused as Ilin.

The production values, on the whole, are excellent, giving a real cinematic feel to the series. The new title sequence makes its debut, and it feels reminiscent of the original opening titles from 1963, the sort of thing Bernard Lodge would have made had he the technology. The filming locations in South Africa are used well, and the new TARDIS set is astonishing. Unfortunately, the CGI for the Remnants is VERY unconvincing, and considering that they’re the main threat of the show after the Sniper Bots, that sadly brings things down.

The Ghost Monument, while somewhat thin on story and character, at least with the guest characters, finally delivers the goods on Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor. I wish it could’ve been more, though…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
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2,850
REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul Episode 4: Supper and Episode 5: Scars by Chuuji Mikasano, from the manga by Sui Ishida

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TG1.4-1.5, 2X25 minute episodes


Okay, so, it’s past time that I got back into Tokyo Ghoul’s anime adaptation. But would I enjoy these episodes? Let’s find out…

A new Ghoul has recently come on the scene: Shu Tsukiyama, a charming man who worms his way quickly into Ken Kaneki’s new life. However, Tsukiyama’s intentions are far from benign. Tsukiyama’s curiosity has been piqued by Ken’s unique scent, something that he intends to consume, by hook or by crook…

I think part of the problem with these episodes are that they cuts out too much to compress into two episodes what fits into two volumes of the manga. The story is still good, but as opposed to the first three episodes, which allow the first one and a half volumes to unfold, this story compresses events too much. There’s also pacing issues, with the fight against Tsukiyama left in the air, only to be resolved within five minutes of Episode 6, which I quickly checked to be sure whether I should include it.

Still, the characters are still interesting. J Michael Tatum was an inspired choice as the cultured Tsukiyama, and we also have great performances from Austin Tindle, Brina Palencia and Eric Vale as Kaneki, Touka and Nishiki respectively. I just wish they didn’t compress the character development as much as they did.

Production values are still pretty damned good. In fact, some bits do feel a bit more dynamic than before, and it’s certainly moody and atmospheric. Certainly the battle scene within the church was pretty good.

Overall, this was a disappointing but not truly bad decline in quality for the series. Hopefully, the next few episodes will make up for that…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
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REVIEW: RWBY Volume 2: Episode 1: Best Day Ever and Episode 2: Welcome to Beacon by Monty Oum, Kerry Shawcross, and Miles Luna

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RWBY 2.1-2.2, 2X15 minute episodes


So, I’ve finally decided to go ahead and watch the second series of RWBY. But how would these new episodes fare, now that part of a greater conspiracy has been uncovered? Let’s find out…

The next semester of Beacon Academy is about to start, but even as Team RWBY and Team JNPR get involved in an epic food fight, not everything is carefree. Blake is still troubled at the collaboration between the White Fang and Roman Torchwick. One of Ozpin’s opposite numbers, General James Ironwood of Atlas, has made an imposing visit to Beacon ahead of the Vytal Festival. And Roman Torchwick is under renewed pressure from his employer, the mysterious Cinder Fall, and her minions Emerald and Mercury, to hasten their plans…

Admittedly, there isn’t much story so far in these two short episodes. There’s some more revelations about who precisely was employing Roman, as well as some insight into Ozpin’s own allies in Ironwood, but not as much as I’d like. That being said, the extended and ridiculously epic food fight in the first episode is hilarious, as is the speech Ruby makes as a pastiche of famous political speeches.

The voice actors for Team RWBY are on point as usual, with Arryn Zech as Blake and Lindsay Jones as Ruby being particularly enjoyable. So too is Shannon McCormick as Ozpin and Gray Haddock as Roman. Perhaps as enjoyable are the newcomers, with Jessica Nigri on fine sultry form as Cinder, Katie Newville as sassy pickpocket Emerald, and JJ Castillo as the sardonic Mercury, not to mention Jason Rose as Ironwood.

The production values feel like some elements have been bumped up a notch from the first series. It feels a little more smoother, more cinematic, and the food fight in the initial episode reflects this. True, the CGI still does look a touch cheap, but it feels like it’s being used far better than before.

Overall, these first two episodes of the second season of RWBY were enjoyable. Here’s hoping the season stays the course…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
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REVIEW: Doctor Who: Time Reaver by Jenny T Colgan

TYPE: Audio drama

DETAILS: 10DA 1.2, 1X55 minute episode


In 2015, Big Finish announced something that got a lot of Doctor Who fans excited: the first full cast audio adventures based on the new series. The next year, the first volume of the Tenth Doctor Adventures was released, featuring David Tennant as the Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna. At long last, I have decided to give one of these adventures, Time Reaver, a go. Time would tell whether this was a triumph, or a mere gimmick…

The TARDIS is in dire need of repairs, and the Doctor and Donna arrive on Calibris, a near-lawless transit hub world, for spare parts. But to the Doctor’s surprise, the officious Vacintians are now in charge, trying to bring order to Calibris. And the Doctor soon discovers why: Time Reavers, devastating weapons that freeze a person in an instant that lasts a near-eternity, are on the streets. Some use it to inflict long-lasting moments of happiness, like a drug, while others use it like a torture device. And the vicious cephalopod gangster Gully thinks he may have found someone who can get him more, a young woman called Cora who is in over her head...

The story itself is a fairly simple one in terms of plot. That being said, it’s an enjoyable yarn that has the feel of the new series, with a rather nightmarish concept in the Time Reaver. I just wish there were a few more actual twists and a bit more complexity to the story and the characters.

Still, David Tennant and Catherine Tate are on fine form as the Tenth Doctor and Donna. There’s a surprisingly heroic turn by Terry Molloy, usually known for playing Davros, as the officious but well-meaning Rone, with Sabrina Bartlett doing a fine turn as Cora as well. Rounding out the cast is John Banks as the sadistic cephalopod gangster Gully, who is so ridiculously OTT, it’s just enjoyable rather than annoying.

As usual, Big Finish’s production values are superlative, with the sound design giving a really immersive cinematic feel. What’s more, there’s some nightmarish effects on the POV of the Time Reavers’ victims that help sell the story. It feels like a new series story, just without the visuals.

Overall, this story was an enjoyable one, and a promising dip of my toe into the Tenth Doctor Adventures of Big Finish. Maybe one day I can listen to more…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
6,279
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REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul Episode 6: Cloudburst, Episode 7: Captivity, Episode 8: Circular and Episode 9: Birdcage by Chuuji Mikasano, from the manga by Sui Ishida

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TG1.6-1.9, 4X25 minute episodes


So, here I am, watching more of Tokyo Ghoul, and some of the more emotion-fuelled episodes so far. But would they be up to the task? Let’s find out…

Things have deceptively settled back to normal at Anteiku, but Hinami Fueguchi is getting restless, not knowing that her father has been killed by CCG operatives Kureo Mado and Kotaro Amon. At least, not until the two Doves, plus more, corner the surviving Fueguchis, and Hinami’s mother Ryoko is killed. Touka is filled with a reckless desire for vengeance, one that may endanger everyone in Anteiku, and one that could see not only her killed, but Hinami as well…

If there’s one thing this adaptation gets right, it’s the more emotive scenes, and this quartet of episodes are amongst the most emotive. The adaptation streamlines a lot of stuff that felt a bit awkward in the manga, and while it’s not a perfect adaptation by any means, it feels right, with all the emotional stuff hitting the right notes. I do think the argument between Hinami and Ryoko is a bit of a bum note, though, especially as it isn’t in the manga.

Austin Tindle and Brina Palencia are on fine form, as usual, as Ken and Touka. Lara Woodhull gets to do some very angsty scenes as Hinami, and Mike McFarland gets some good scenes as Amon, as does Kenny Green as the twisted Mado. And there’s an interesting debut by Maxey Whitehead (aka Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood) as the loopy Juuzou Suzuya.

The production values here are pretty good. In fact, the expansion of the fights in Episode 8 from what they were in the manga were done well, giving some more action and peril to them both. It’s certainly what I expect from a good series.

Overall, these four episodes of Tokyo Ghoul were great ones. Not perfect, but certainly approaching it…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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I'll be bringing this thread back soon. I'm getting the first Blu-Ray volume of Fate/Apocrypha as well as the first Fate/Stay Night: Heaven's Feel movie soon...
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Fate/Apocrypha: Episode 1: Apocrypha- The Great Holy Grail War, Episode 2: The Appearance of the Saints, Episode 3: First Step of Fate, Episode 4: Price of Life, Redemption of Death, and Episode 5: Will of Heaven by Yuichiro Higashide

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FA1-5, 5X25 minute episodes


Originally intended as an online game set in the Nasuverse, Fate/Apocrypha was eventually published as a quintet of novels, novels that were eventually adapted into a manga and anime series. The latter, until recently, was only available on Netflix, until it’s finally come out on home video. Set in an alternate timeline to Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night, it promised much, but how would it deliver?

Sixty years before, during the Third Holy Grail War, rogue mage Darnic Prestone Yggdmillennia seized the Greater Grail with the help of the Nazis, only to betray them. Now, in the modern day, Darnic has resurfaced in Romania, and he and his followers have declared their intent to secede from the Mage’s Association, by triggering a new Holy Grail War that they intend to rig to their advantage. And Darnic has already summoned a Servant, the infamous Vlad the Impaler. The Mage’s Association, however, have found that the Grail has triggered a failsafe. Instead of seven Masters duking it out with seven Servants in a battle royale, it will be two teams of seven Servants each. The Mage’s Association will field the Red Faction, with Yggdmillennia the Black Faction. Mercenary Kairi Shishigou is hired by the Mage’s Association to become the Master of a Saber Servant, who, when summoned, turns out to be Mordred Pendragon. But there are complicating factors. The Red Faction is effectively led by a priest called Shirou Kotomine, who Kairi and Mordred don’t trust. Presiding over the battle is the Ruler Servant Jeanne d’Arc, who is being targeted by someone. And within the Yggdmillennia castle, a Homunculus awakens, escaping his confines, and struggling to find a sense of self. This Holy Grail War won’t just be a fight between rival mages and their heroic familiars, but a quest to discover identity…

Story-wise…well, much of the story will be confusing to newcomers to the franchise, even with the exposition. This doesn’t necessarily make it a bad story, and it’s quite enjoyable so far, with the deeper themes one has come to expect from the Nasuverse, even in these early stages. There’s also considerable foreshadowing of events to come in the opening minutes of the episode. But it also feels like there could have been more exposition, to help ground those unfamiliar with the franchise, and even for those who are.

I think one problem that makes itself glaringly apparent is the sheer amount of characters in this. With seven Servants and Masters on two different teams, to say nothing of Jeanne d’Arc and Sieg, the Homunculus character, there’s a lot of air time to devote to characters who may not get adequate development, and making a mystery around most of the Masters of the Red Faction at least helps. That being said, Patrick Seitz and Erica Lindbeck as Kairi and Mordred are good, as is Zach Aguilar as Sieg and Erika Harlacher as Jeanne. Siegfried, sadly, was something of a disappointment, given how quickly his character was written out, as was Spartacus, but Faye Mata as the delightfully loopy Astolfo and, despite her brief appearances, Erica Lindbeck as Jack the Ripper were enjoyable, as is Ray Chase as Vlad and Benjamin Diskin as Darnic.

One thing this series excels in absolutely is the production values. I enjoyed A-1 Pictures’ work on GATE: Thus the JSDF Fought There, and hoped that the same would apply here. Indeed, the fights seen in these episodes (admittedly few) are on a par with Ufotable’s work. Hell, it feels a little more kinetic and frantic at times than some of Ufotable’s work. Plus, the direction in general is pretty enjoyable.

Overall, while not as good as I had hoped in the story and character stakes, these first few episodes of Fate/Apocrypha were still pretty damn good.

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Fate/Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel Part I- presage flower by Akira Hiyama, based on the visual novel written by Kinoku Nasu

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 120 mins


The original visual novel of Fate/Stay Night had three distinct storylines, each with their own differing themes, pairing the protagonist, Shirou Emiya, with a different love interest each time. The first two storylines, ‘Fate’ and ‘Unlimited Blade Works’, have both been adapted to anime series. But for the final, and perhaps darkest, storyline was yet to be adapted, until now. Ufotable, the makers of the ‘Unlimited Blade Works’ anime series, opted to adapt ‘Heaven’s Feel’ as a tetralogy of films. But how would the first instalment fare?

Shirou Emiya, the adopted son of former Mage Killer Kiritsugu Emiya, has been dragged into the latest Holy Grail War. But even as he struggles to find answers, he also finds his relationship with Sakura Matou, the sister of his friend Shinji, deepening. But Sakura and Shinji’s grandfather, the decrepit Zouken Matou, has ambitions of his own, and he has decided to take action. What is the power of the mysterious Assassin Zouken has summoned? What is the mysterious shadowy shape plaguing Fuyuki, causing disappearances? And what secrets is Sakura hiding? This Grail War looks to have many secrets coming to the surface, and the death toll may be higher than before…

While not as bad as the abbreviated Unlimited Blade Works film done by Studio Deen, I do think that this movie adaptation unnecessarily removed some vital scenes (Saber’s summoning and Rin’s explanation of what was going on in particular), in favour of an extended look at how Shirou and Sakura’s relationship began. While it’s not particularly bad, it does overstay its welcome, and easily could have been cut by about a third. That being said, the fresh storyline goes off the rails even faster than the previous adaptations, with plenty fresh and new to satisfy Fate fans, though that also is a problem. This film is more geared towards fans of the series, with newcomers most likely to be left scratching their heads a little, though not as badly as the Unlimited Blade Works film. Still, this movie, more than Ufotable’s Unlimited Blade Works TV series, feels like a sequel to their adaptation of Fate/Zero in many regards.

Another consequence is the lack of development of key characters, especially Saber (particularly galling considering what happens to her at the end of the film, though we have a brilliant cameo from the character known as Saber Alter, with Kari Wahlgren being rather chilling with only a few lines) and Rin. However, Shirou’s survivor’s guilt is emphasised more than in previous adaptations, and it’s to his benefit, and Bryce Papenbrook does well. So too does Crispin Freeman as Kirei, and Michael Donovan as relative newcomer (Fate/Zero aside) Zouken Matou, to say nothing of Patrick Seitz as the True Assassin. Cristina Vee, however, manages to steal the show as Sakura, showing sides to her character that weren’t in previous adaptations.

If there’s one thing this adaptation excels at, it’s in the production side of things. The fight scenes are brilliant, especially the extended battle between Lancer and True Assassin, as well as the climactic battle at Ryuudou. Plus, the Shadow entity is portrayed very chillingly, with some brilliant effects being used to emphasise its sheer otherworldly nature. And the direction in general, pacing issues aside, is still damned good.

Overall, while not as great as I hoped, this adaptation was still very enjoyable. I can’t wait to see the next instalment of the Heaven’s Feel movies…

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Fate/Apocrypha: Episode 6: Knight of Rebellion and Episode 7: Where Freedom Lies by Yuichiro Higashide

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FA6-7, 2X25 minute episodes


So, here I am, back to watching Fate/Apocrypha. These two episodes form another small story arc of their own. But how would these two stack up?

Kairi Shishigou and Mordred head to Sighisoara to investigate mysterious serial killings, killings they believe to be the work of a rogue Servant. So too are Fiore Forvedge Yggdmillennia and her Servant, Chiron. Soon, Kairi and Mordred encounter the rogue Servant, a little girl who is none other than Jack the Ripper. But even as those Servants and their Masters fight, Shirou Kotomine’s Servant Semiramis has completed her Noble Phantasm, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and Sieg makes a decision that will affect his life, and those around him, forever…

The story, admittedly, isn’t as substantial as the last couple, but that’s partly due to the amount of episodes watched, though it’s also something of an interval before the main plot proper begins. What’s there is interesting and, frankly, disturbing, due to Jack the Ripper being involved. There’s some good, and frankly needed, character development, and the beginning of the Red Faction’s assault on the Yggdmillennia’s stronghold, as well as an interesting fakeout for Shirou Kotomine’s true identity.

Juggling so many characters across such a short period is tricky, and they at least only concentrate on a few. Looking at the circumstances around Mordred’s rebellion against King Arthur helps flesh Mordred’s character out. In addition, we get some insight into the Forvedge siblings, and Jack the Ripper’s character, her costume aside, is both macabrely endearing and yet, understandably, creepy as hell.

Unfortunately, one thing that mars my enjoyment of the episodes is Jack the Ripper’s character design, specifically her costume. While her design in general is both endearing and grotesque, that costume is going to repulse a lot of people, due to the fact that a child is wearing something that even an adult would be looked askance upon if caught wearing it. Other than that, the production values are pretty good, with Jack the Ripper’s battle with Mordred being suitably atmospheric.

Overall, a lack of plot and a glaring bad choice in character design mar what is otherwise a good pair of episodes. Still, I can’t wait for the next block of episodes, which will put an end to this half of the series…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: RWBY Volume 2: Episode 3: A Minor Hiccup and Episode 4: Painting the Town by Monty Oum, Kerry Shawcross, and Miles Luna

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RWBY 2.3-2.4, 2X15 minute episodes


So, here I am coming back to RWBY. But how would I enjoy the next two episodes in this famous internet series? Let’s find out…

Determined to find out what Roman Torchwick and the White Fang are up to, RWBY, along with Sun Wukong and his friend Neptune, split up to investigate. However, Ruby meets up with Penny once more, and discovers a startling truth about her friend: that she is a robot capable of generating Aura. But when Blake and Sun infiltrate a White Fang meeting, they find that Roman not only has the White Fang’s cooperation, but the latest military hardware from Atlas…

Okay, so, story-wise, there’s not much actual plot. It’s more of a lead-up to the battle scene in the second of these two episodes. The revelation of Penny’s true nature is a welcome one, as is the added background to the White Fang through Blake’s comments, to say nothing of the hints of Weiss’ discomfort with her father.

One of the better bits of character development is through Penny, played wonderfully by Taylor McNee. I have to say, though, I don’t quite like Neptune. Roman is as smarmy as ever, though, and the various little character moments of the other characters shine through.

The major highlight of these episodes is the extended freeway chase and fight against the Paladin mech in the second episode, with the chase action and fight choreography being a treat. The extended chase scene of Penny and Ruby fleeing Atlas soldiers and the subsequent revelation of Penny’s nature is also handled well. These parts help keep the quality up overall, with direction helping with both the little moments and the big ones.

Overall, while not great on plot, these episodes of RWBY were still enjoyable. Here’s hoping the next ones are even more so…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Fate/Apocrypha: Episode 8: The Beginning of the War, Episode 9: Hundreds of Flames and Hundreds of Flowers, Episode 10: Scattered Flower, Episode 11: Eternal Radiance, and Episode 12: The Holy Man Returns Triumphant by Yuichiro Higashide

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FA8-12, 5X25 minute episodes


So, I come to the end of the first half of Fate/Apocrypha, which means, frustratingly, there’s a considerable wait for the next half, on home media at least. Still, what could be considered a mid-season finale of sorts is in the offing. But would it provide a good climax to events so far?

What seems like the final battle of the Great Holy Grail War has begun. The Servants of the Red Faction have begun an invasion using Semiramis’ Noble Phantasm, the massive airborne fortress known as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Servants of the Black Faction soon counterattack, but even as they clash, Sieg and Ruler make their own ways to the battlefield, each with an agenda of their own. While Sieg tries to rescue his fellow Homunculi, Ruler is trying to track down the elusive Shirou Kotomine, whom she keeps seeing in her visions. But the truth about him, and his true identity, will shock even the Ruler Servant down to her very core, and not everyone will survive this battle. In fact, the true Grail War may just be starting…

These five episodes are basically one big extended battle scene. The problem is, with so many characters, it’s hard to pace, and to cut between them equally, and if these episodes do have a considerable flaw, it’s that. Still, the story itself is enjoyable, as is the dialogue (cringeworthy references like “THIS! IS! SPARTACUS!” aside), and the revelation of Shirou’s true identity is a startling one and very much a game-changer that promises much for the next half of the series. To say nothing of Sieg’s new powers.

The characters as seen are mostly enjoyable, even if we get less time devoted to them than I’d like. Certainly, the exploration of Darnic and Shirou’s surprisingly shared pasts is intriguing, even if it’s only brief, and we get some insight into Frankenstein’s monster and Avicebron that was lacking in past episodes, including a rather heartbreaking farewell for the former. Plus, we have Sieg taking a level or two in badassery.

It’s clear that the animation budget was saved mostly for these episodes, because there are times when it really shows. Frankenstein’s hallucinations of her father are done in an old movie style, and this, plus the deranged animation of her subsequent conniption suit it well. Many of the battles are also well-animated, and there’s also some wonderfully eerie animation of Vlad’s final form as a vampire in the last episode.

Overall, while choppy in some areas, especially where pacing was concerned, these episodes of Fate/Apocrypha were really rather enjoyable. Now I’ve got to wait until the next lot come out on Blu-Ray…

****½
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Overlord II: Episode 1: The Dawn of Despair, Episode 2: Departure, Episode 3: Lizardmen Gathering, Episode 4: Army of Death, and Episode 5: The Freezing God by Yukie Sugawara and Futa Takei, from the light novels by Kugane Muruyama

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: OL2.1-5, 5X25 minute episodes


The animation company Madhouse is rather infamous for creating enjoyable series that don’t always continue beyond the first season, so the news that a second and third series of Overlord, an anime based on a light novel series, was rapturously received. However, the first five episodes correspond to an adaptation of The Lizardmen Heroes, one of the weaker books in the series in my opinion. But would this correspond to the adaptation?

The Tomb of Nazarick is expanding its influence, as well as investigating those behind the attack on Shalltear Bloodfallen. Ainz Ooal Gown has decided on a bold course of action, ordering Cocytus to attack communities of Lizardmen, who forge a desperate alliance. But as brothers Zaryusu and Shasryu Shasha win the allegiances of Crusch Lulu and Zenburu Gugu, will it be enough to endure the attack?

I have to admit, while the story wasn’t much improved, the adaptation helped clarify a few things, as well as have me give a damn about the characters involved. To be honest, my main dissatisfaction with the novel does still apply, that there isn’t enough of the denizens of Nazarick, but the first episode actually does have that. Plus, many of the moments involving the Lizardmen are enjoyable enough, though I think many of the moments involving Zaryusu and Crusch’s mutual infatuation are very cringe-inducing.

For the newcomers, I have to admit Josh Grelle and David Wald do good enough jobs as the Shasha brothers, while Chris Rager is a delight as the boisterous Zenburu, making a delightful change from the cringeworthy Hercule Satan from Dragonball Z or Arlong from One Piece. A surprising choice of casting brought Amanda Lee, better known as Youtube anime theme cover singer AmaLee, as Crusch, and I have to admit, she’s quite good. Of course, it’s the various denizens of Nazarick who are particularly superlative, with Chris Guerrero on form as Ainz, Elizabeth Maxwell as Albedo, and Felecia Angelle as Shalltear in particular being enjoyable.

Madhouse, as always, is pretty superlative with its production values. There’s a few blips here and there, and frankly, the final fight against Cocytus feels a little anaemic. But for the most part, the animation is done very well, and while the CGI does get a bit noticeable at times, it’s also used somewhat more better.

Overall, these five episodes promise much for the next series of Overlord. Here’s hoping that the next few are as great, if not better…

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Doctor Who: It Takes You Away by Ed Hime

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial 11.6, 1X50 minute episode


So, after something of a hiatus, I decided to try more of the latest series of Doctor Who, though I decided to watch one of the later ones. But would I enjoy It Takes You Away? Well, let’s find out…

The Doctor and her companions land in Norway, and find an apparently abandoned house. Its sole occupant is a scared, blind teenager called Hanne, whose father has gone missing, and roars of a strange creature keep her inside. Dealing with the suspicious Hanne is bad enough, but when the Doctor discovers a portal to another dimension in a mirror in the house, things get even stranger, for the portal leads to a dangerous Antizone. But even the Antizone’s dangers may be nothing compared to what lies beyond it…

The biggest strength of this episode is the story. It’s self-contained, psychologically tense, and has some very neat twists and turns. True, there isn’t much actual plot, but the concepts presented are quite interesting and enjoyable. I can’t really say much more without spoiling the plot, but it even has a barmy science fiction ending that you can’t see coming even in Doctor Who.

I think the problem here is the characterisation of the guest characters. Hanne, while one can understand some of her character due to her situation, unfortunately isn’t as sympathetic as she could have been, though this is less the fault of her actress, Ellie Wallwork, and more the fault of the scripting. However, she is certainly more sympathetic than her father Erik, who seems neglectful at best and at worst, psychologically abusive. That being said, Jodie Whittaker is most definitely the Doctor, and her companions, especially Bradley Walsh as Graham, get some good screentime.

The production values are fairly good for the most part. The Antizone is suitably atmospheric, even if it looks like an old-fashioned spooky set. The biggest let down is the animatronics used for the final form of the Solitract entity. Even CGI would have looked at least alien enough to suit it, even if it wasn’t the best CGI.

Overall, while disappointing in some regards, this episode was still a good one. A bit of better characterisation would have gone a long way to papering up its other flaws, though…

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Overlord II: Episode 6: Those Who Pick Up, Those Who Are Picked Up, Episode 7: Blue Roses, Episode 8: A Boy’s Feeling, Episode 9: Soaring Sparks of Fire, and Episode 10: Disturbance Begins in the Royal Capital by Itsuki Yokoyama, Yukie Sugawara, Satoko Sekine, and Futa Takei, from the light novels by Kugane Muruyama

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: OL2.6-10, 5X25 minute episodes


So, we come to the first part of the anime adaptation of my personal favourite Overlord story arc, The Men in the Kingdom. I have high hopes for this part of the Overlord adaptation, but would my hopes be in vain? Let’s find out…

In the capital of the Re-Estize Kingdom, trouble is brewing. A chance encounter leads to Sebas Tian, undercover for Ainz Ooal Gown, to rescue Tuare, a sex slave discarded by the brothel she was mistreated at. Meanwhile, Princess Renner uses her friends in the Blue Rose adventurer group to take action against the Eight Fingers criminal cartel, while her bodyguard Climb tries to get stronger for her sake. And Gazef Stronoff has taken in Brain Unglaus, the latter still traumatised after his fight with Shalltear. Sebas, Climb, and Brain will join forces to take on the Eight Fingers, but Sebas has not notified his master Ainz, and is about to learn that no good deed goes unpunished…

While it helps that this series of episodes were adapted from the best novels in the series, the adaptation could have gone badly. Instead, everything is written very well, introducing (as well as re-introducing) a number of characters, as well as the concepts in this, although there is rather disturbing subject matter on display that may turn off some viewers (namely sex slavery). The dialogue is pretty damned good, and it feels even punchier than the novels these ones were based on.

Perhaps one of the best performances is a somewhat bittersweet one, with Bill Jenkins admirably filling the shoes of the late Ed Blaylock as Sebas Tian. What’s more, we have some pretty good performances with Rachel Glass as the tragic Tuare, Jad Saxton playing against her usual younger character typecasting as Blue Roses leader Lakyus, and Stephanie Garrett doing well as the sardonic Evileye. Probably the highlight performance of these episodes, however, is Jessica Peterson as Princess Renner, who manages to switch effortlessly between a sweet, standard princess, albeit one with a brain, and a twisted psychopath.

Production values, as is often the case with Madhouse, are brilliant. While the fight scenes aren’t that spectacular compared to some from the previous arc, they nonetheless do well enough. Everything is on par, so I’m not really going to say much more about it.

This quintet of episodes were a perfect adaptation of the best novels in the Overlord series. While dark in terms of subject matter, they nonetheless hit all the right marks…

*****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Alita: Battle Angel by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis, based on the manga Gunnm/Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 120 mins


One of the first more adult-oriented manga series I ever read was Gunnm, localised in English as Battle Angel Alita, by Yukito Kishiro. I had followed the violent cyberpunk post-apocalyptic series for its initial run, before it concluded in a manner the author was apparently dissatisfied with. But it soon started over with new story arcs, and famous Hollywood director James Cameron took an interest, though he had to hand over directorial duties to Robert Rodriguez of Sin City fame. But Hollywood’s track record of adapting manga and anime series hasn’t been that good. Could Alita: Battle Angel buck the trend?

It is the 26th Century, three centuries after an interplanetary war lay waste to the Earth. One of the few surviving cities, Iron City, lies beneath the last sky city of Zalem, who live off the work of Iron City’s populace. Cybernetics doctor and bounty hunter Dyson Ido stumbles across a 300 year old cyborg girl left in the massive scrapyard in Iron City, and finds her still alive. Reviving her and giving her a new body, he names the amnesiac girl Alita, after his deceased daughter. Alita seems like an ingénue, but in truth, deep within her memory lies the abilities of a warrior, and despite Ido’s attempts to keep her from that life, much to her chagrin, conflict is in her soul. But cold and calculating eyes are watching Alita from Zalem, with the mysterious Nova taking an interest in her, and he has his agents sent after her…

The story isn’t really anything to write home about. Of course, the early volumes of the manga, from what little I admittedly recall after all these years, didn’t have much initial plot anyway, beyond Alita coming to terms with her new existence and her romance with Hugo. It’s not that the plot is actually bad, just that it’s rather samey compared to what has gone on before, and the foreshadowing of Nova’s involvement, while a nice touch that sets things up for sequels, doesn’t really help.

The casting is actually quite good. Rosa Salazar does pretty damn well as Alita, and Cristoph Waltz is enjoyable as Ido. You also have the likes of Ed Skrein as Zapan and Jackie Earle Haley as the brutal Grewishka, as well as Jennifer Connelly as Chiren and Mahershala Ali as Vector. Even an uncredited Edward Norton does pretty well in his few scenes as Desty Nova, despite the fact that he himself is never heard speaking.

The real star of the movie, though, are the special effects. Although still evoking the uncanny valley effect with her unnaturally large eyes, Alita in her various forms no longer seem like a CGI creation but practically real, and the same could be said about the other cyborgs seen throughout. Everything feels just right, and it’s not all grim and gritty urban squalor we see. I do think there’s a few odd choices of editing that don’t feel right, but other than that, it works.

Overall, Alita: Battle Angel was an enjoyable film. It certainly proved that Hollywood can adapt a manga or anime series correctly, even if it didn’t quite live up to its full potential…

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Overlord II: Episode 11: Jaldabaoth, Episode 12: The Final Battle of the Disturbance, and Episode 13: The Ultimate Trump Card by Yukie Sugawara and Satoko Sekine, from the light novels by Kugane Muruyama

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: OL2.11-13, 3X25 minute episodes


So, here we are at the final three episodes of Overlord’s second series. But how well would it conclude my favourite story arc? Let’s find out…

With Tuare kidnapped by the Six Arms, Sebas goes to rescue her. But Ainz has decided to put paid to Eight Fingers for once and for all, and has left the plan to Demiurge, who has decided to embellish it. Posing as the demon Jaldabaoth, Demiurge attacks the capital of Re-Estize, forcing the various adventurers to intervene. But to what end?

I have to admit, given that most of the Eight Fingers/Six Arms stuff is over, most of the good parts of this arc is done, and it shows. Not that it’s actually bad, but it just feels like a coda to the better parts of the arc, though some bits, like Sebas’ blitz against Six Arms, are immensely satisfying, and others, like the rather casual conversation between four of the Pleiades during the fighting or Evileye’s infatuation, are hilarious. I just wish it was somewhat more.

Still, while there isn’t much proper character development, there’s still some good moments. Stephanie Garrett goes from stoic and sardonic to hilariously smitten as Evileye, while Tia Ballard as Entoma gets to go from cute to absolutely scary after she is attacked by Evileye. The rest of them do fairly well.

The production values are quite good, as usual for Madhouse. The fights, while brief for the most part, are well-animated. In fact, there really isn’t much more I need to say, though I do think more could have been done with the climactic ‘battles’.

Overall, while nowhere near as good as the previous episodes, these ones make a fine conclusion to this series of Overlord. A shame they weren’t better, but they’re still good all the same…

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul Episode 10: Aogiri, Episode 11: High Spirits and Episode 12: Ghoul by Chuuji Mikasano, from the manga by Sui Ishida

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TG1.10-1.12, 3X25 minute episodes


So, I’ve come to the final three episodes of the first series of Tokyo Ghoul. But would it end well? Let’s find out…

Aogiri Tree, a vicious, ruthless gang of Ghouls, have wiped out the CCG within the 11th Ward, and they have their sights set on the 20th Ward. A chance encounter means that Ken Kaneki is soon made a prisoner of Aogiri Tree, left at the non-existent mercy of Yamori, a vicious, sadistic Ghoul. And in order to survive or escape, even as the CCG and the Ghouls of Anteiku mount separate raids on Aogiri Tree, Ken may have to give into his Ghoul side…

While still an excellent story in many regards, I feel this adaptation of a critical volume to be…lacking, somehow. While the imagery of the psychodrama where Rize and Ken converse is good, it also lacks some moments in the original, and indeed, this adaptation feels a little rushed compared to the original manga. Ken’s climactic battle with Jason in particular feels like it could have been longer, and the series ends on a cliffhanger that could have been done with the ending of the first episode of the second series, Tokyo Ghoul √A. There’s still some brilliant moments kept in, like Juuzou Suzuya’s very awesome motorbike attack in the eleventh episode.

That being said, this bit is all about the characters. Austin Tindle as Ken gets some meaty bits as Ken, as does Colleen Clinkenbeard as Rize. Christopher Sabat gets to pull off a very different role to his usual ones as the sadistic and deranged Yamori.

Animation-wise, there’s some spectacular bits of cinematography. While many of the fights are shorter than I would have liked, they’re still animated quite well. But as mentioned before, quite a bit of it feels rushed, more than it has to be.

Overall, while pretty good, there were some disappointingly poor choices in adapting the manga. Oh well, maybe Tokyo Ghoul √A might be good…

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: My Hero Academia Episode 5: What I Can Do For Now, Episode 6: Rage, You Damned Nerd, Episode 7: Deku vs Kacchan and Episode 8: Bakugou’s Start Line by Yosuke Kuroda, from the manga by Kouhei Hirokoshi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: MHA1.5-1.8, 4X25 minute episodes


So, after something of a hiatus, I have come back to My Hero Academia. But what would I think of the next batch of episodes? Let’s find out…

Izuku Midoriya has made it into UA, but complications soon arise. Their home teacher, Shouta Aizawa, is hard on his students, threatening to expel the student that comes last in a Quirk test. But if that weren’t bad enough, All Might’s first class is a combat simulation, one that pits Izuku against rival and bully Katsuki Bakugou, and Bakugou seems intent on showing Izuku his place…which may be six feet under…

After the heavy emotional stuff of the initial episodes, I have to admit, these ones were a bit of a disappointment. While there’s plenty of character moments, they seem misaimed, as I don’t believe Bakugou to be anything but a bully, and it feels like there’s perhaps a little too much padding in the indoor combat sequence. However, it’s still an immensely enjoyable set of episodes, and there’s some enjoyable expansion on the other characters’ indoor combat tests. The story itself is good, it just doesn’t hit as many of the right notes as the first four.

Justin Briner is brilliant as Izuku, while Clifford Chaplin, despite being given such an unlikeable character in Bakugou, still gives it his all. And, of course, Christopher Sabat is brilliant as All Might, as is Alex Organ as Aizawa. J Michael Tatum, Luci Christian, Colleen Clinkenbeard and David Matranga round out the better of the students as Iida, Ochako, Momo and Shouto Todoroki.

The production values shine forth. I do wish they didn’t keep using the same footage over and over again for flashbacks to emphasize points, though, as it feels like unnecessary filler. But there’s still some great action sequences and brilliant animation.

Unfortunately, these episodes of My Hero Academia were a slight step down from a brilliant beginning. But even so, they were excellent regardless…

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul √A Episode 1: New Surge, Episode 2: Dancing Flowers, Episode 3: Hangman, Episode 4: Deeper Layers and Episode 5: Rift by Chuuji Mikasano, from the manga by Sui Ishida

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TGRA1.1-1.5, 5X25 minute episodes


In doing the second season of Tokyo Ghoul, Studio Pierrot opted not to adapt the manga as closely, but rather, to fashion a different story arc for Ken Kaneki. They called this effort Tokyo Ghoul √A. But would it prove as good as the manga?

In the aftermath of the battle between Aogiri Tree, Anteiku, and the CCG, Ken makes a startling declaration to Touka: he is leaving Anteiku…for Aogiri Tree! Sometime later, Ken is leading the Ghouls of Aogiri Tree on raids against the CCG. Meanwhile, Koutaro Amon has to deal with an abrasive new partner, Akira Mado, the daughter of his mentor. All seems set for a clash in the CCG’s prison facility, Cochlea, and Ken Kaneki will soon find that power always has a price…

The story itself is a fairly high quality one, with many character moments transferred or modified faithfully from the manga, as well as some great horror moments. But there’s one major stumbling block. What the hell possessed the showrunners to have Ken Kaneki defect to Aogiri Tree? Even after what happened to him, it seems massively out of character, even if you consider Stockholm Syndrome and some later pieces of dialogue implying his reasons.

Still, despite this seeming out of character, Austin Tindle does well as an increasingly unhinged Ken. Brina Palencia is great as Touka, as is Morgan Garrett as Akira. And then, there’s Lindsay Siedel as Sen Takatsuki and…well, another character, as well as Maxey Whitehead as the deranged Juuzou.

The production values are brilliant. One of my particular favourite moments is when Ken first uses his kakuja, with his movement both quick and uncanny. And the action scenes in general, even those original to the anime, are pretty good.

Overall, while a disappointing character derailment for the main character, Tokyo Ghoul √A is off to an interesting start. Here’s hoping it explains more…

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul: JACK by Chuuji Mikasano, from the manga by Sui Ishida

TYPE: Original Video Animation

DETAILS: TG1, 30 min OVA


Recently, I purchased a DVD of the Tokyo Ghoul OVAs or Original Video Animations. These are based on sidestory manga that look into the past lives of a few of the characters. I decided to begin my sojourn with Tokyo Ghoul: JACK

Many years ago, Taishi Fura was a hooligan and delinquent at high school. But that changed when he, and some associates of his, encountered the Ghoul known as Lantern. His life is saved by the calm and collected Kishou Arima, a young Investigator working for the CCG, undercover at his high school. He then decides to team up with Arima, to help him hunt down Ghouls, along with Uruka Minami, a girl in their class. But Lantern is aware of their pursuit, and intends to lure them into a trap…

The story itself is not really that complex or deep. It’s really only enough story for a half-hour OVA. However, for what it is, it was enjoyable, and has plenty of nice character moments.

One thing that did irritate me was the lack of an English dub on this OVA. That being said, Daisuke Namikawa does well as the cool and calm Arima, with Ryohei Kimura providing the brashness of a young Taishi. Saori Hayami as Minami and Rintaro Nishi as Jason round out the cast.

Production values are pretty good, even for an OVA. While the climactic fight seemed a little short, they were still well done, and the rest of the animation and cinematography was great. I do feel like the pacing was missing something, though.

Overall, while lacking in substance, I enjoyed this OVA of Tokyo Ghoul. It certainly has enough character moments to satisfy, if only briefly, fans of the series. Unfortunately, it’s lacking most everything else…

***
 

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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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