Monday, May 30, 2016

On More Stuff I Watched/Read/Whatever Between 2012 and Today

This post started in 2015, then was promptly forgotten for more than a year. But now it's back. With a vengeance. Well, with something, anyway.

There's some spoilers for stuff in here, so tread carefully. All .gifs with apology to their original shows and context (of which they are devoid here, usually for comedic value).

Noragami (Season 1)

American Gods
Through the lens of anime
(Yes, there are schoolgirls).

Moar thoughts:
Noragami is definitely a work elevated by the effort put into the details: script, music, and animation alike (it's Bones, so no surprises there). The core concept is pretty strong, and the characters are nuanced enough to be interesting. Hiyori, the wrestling-obsessed, non-divine "everyday high schooler protagonist" lead, is pretty likeable and GETS SHIT DONE most of the time, which is a major plus, especially given Yato's general apathy and Yukine's indecision. For his part, former god of calamity Yato is just obnoxious enough to be entertaining but just competent enough to see why people tolerate him, at least most of the time. Yukine rounds out the trio nicely as the voice of sanity, at least once he gets his angst in check.

Another nuanced detail of note: Like American Gods, Yato and his divine peers operate on rather different moral scales from humans, and this gives what might otherwise be a fairly run-of-the-mill shonen concept ("A high schooler and her misfit god pals fight... ghosts? Sure, ghosts.") a much-needed edge. As Yato says at one point (paraphrased): "Sin is for humans, not for gods." While the show is fairly low on horror most of the time, the inhumanity of Yato and his cohort occasionally pushes through, and raises some chilling questions in the process. What exactly are these beings that everyone is worshipping? How much are they in it for themselves versus their worshippers? And how much can humans even understand their motives, alien as they can be?

Ultimately, friendship does seem to win out most of the time, and Yato's affection for Hiyori seems genuine above and beyond her utility to him as the entirety of his worshippers. Still, every once in a while, glimpses of Yato's past speak of a different individual, a god of murder whose sword runs even to this day.

Making Yato a god rather than a human is an interesting twist on anime's tried-and-true anti-hero trying to "get out of the game," as it were, as gods tend to be rather fixed in their nature when presented in contemporary fiction. Again like American Gods, Noragami invokes the evolve-or-die nature of godhood, using it as the catalyst for a character's change (though we still don't still know much about why Yato is trying to leave his past behind, besides perhaps the fact that nobody really needs gods of calamity in this day and age).

The Devil is a Part-Timer

Mundane problems are
Way harder than ruling hell
Minimum wage blows.

Words for the word god. Thoughts for the thought throne:
I have actually rewatched this show since I wrote this post, and my enjoyment of it has only increased. The fantastic Jamie Marchi script weaves in just the right amount of adaptational silliness (Alciel, paraphrased: "It wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in home!") with naturalistic dialogue. The comedic timing, already pretty good when I don't understand the language, is only improved. While the English script doesn't exactly have Panty and Stocking's foul creativity, it balances the occasional drama, frequent silliness, and constant bickering between the characters that the show calls for excellently.

Speaking of shows with morally gray main characters in mundane circumstances most of the time, The Devil is a Part-Timer creates an interesting situation in that regard: what is the moral status of the final villain of a Dragon Quest-alike when he is put in a situation where he has no real capacity or, more importantly, motive to do evil (shift manager at a McDonalds' alike)? The question is mostly played for comedy at first, but it does get asked in earnest later, when Mao is forced to confront the reality that his actions as the demon king caused real people - people he now knows personally - to suffer. Is living a morally good life out of convenience really good? Is doing so after a life of evil acceptable?

Though Mao maintains his cool through most of it, it becomes increasingly clear that he did not hate humans so much as not view them as people. After living among them, he has developed empathy and understanding for humans he didn't have before.

But it's an interesting line of questioning that the show sticks with, even if it doesn't go deep on it: can the destined hero forgive him now that he is "better"? Should she? What is justice and what is merely revenge against a person who is no longer the same? Does the fact that Mao is not especially repentant about his past actions (except as they personally affected people he now knows) really matter?

There is some buildup, especially once it is revealed that Mao's actions resulted in the death of Emilia's father, but the show never gets to any moments of catharsis on this matter due to the interruption of existential threats to their new home that force the hero and villain to team up to save the world. It's probably a matter for later volumes of the Light Novels, and part of the reason I'd love for this show to get a follow-up. Whether Mao deserves or even wants "redemption" remains an interesting at the heart of the character, and I appreciate that the show hasn't completely excused his past deeds with some at-this-point-trite "Oh, the humans were really the evil ones, killing monsters to farm XP" nonsense like it could have. It seems to be more of a situation of evil on both sides, but Mao was pretty clearly trying to subjugate his world in darkness, even if, as they hint, it was for his people rather than purely personal ends or ego.

The combat in the show is relatively rare, but fights always look good, and often revolve around cleverness and ingenuity on the part of the resource-starved heroes, who can't (effectively) replenish their magic on Earth. So that's definitely a point in its favor.

RWBY Season 3

Season 3 is a triumph
"Keep moving forward"

More thoughts:
It's hard to say much about RWBY season 3 without discussing the fact that it was during early production of this season that Monty Oum tragically passed away. From the "Created by Monty Oum" at the start of the OP to the emotionally charged track "Cold" the end of the season, the impact of his untimely death on the rest of the cast and crew - and therefore, the work they completed in his absence - is pretty evident.

Though it's hard to separate the content of the season from the real-world events that shaped it, it is unquestionably the darkest season of RWBY yet, and not coincidentally, the strongest.

At the risk of the rest of this post turning into a treatise on the season that concludes the opening act of RWBY (and also spoil it for a few certain someones I'm going to try to entice to catch up soon), I'll leave it there. Suffice it to say, it was masterful.

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency)

Knew Jojo was weird
But nothing prepares you for
Joseph's crazy bullshit

More thoughts:
Joseph Joestar is basically what I aspire for all of my RPG characters to be now.

(That's not exactly true, but I am playing at least one templated roughly off of his personality. That wasn't supposed to happen, but lo, it did.)

Besides that, I found Phantom Blood a lot more compelling than I expected. And the accents in the dub are AMAZING.

I have cherry picked episodes of Stardust Crusaders, and I might watch it in full at some point, but it's very long. Grandpa Joseph is great, though.


Real Robots versus
Super Robot feudalism?

(A small sampling of my many) further thoughts on Aldnoah.Zero:
Aldnoah.Zero has redefined my bar for mecha TV series. Simply put, it's the mecha show I knew I wanted and the one I hadn't even imagined wanting.

One of my greatest pet peeves with many mecha shows is that very rarely do people use the resources to have to solve problems. More typically, they develop some new tool that solves the specific problem (or sometimes solves all problems) and then deploy it.

Aldnoah.Zero is a show about not having resources and making do anyway. Pitting villainous Super Robots wielded by Space Knights from Mars against a desperate Earth Federation with nothing but grunty Real Robots is an audacious move for a mecha show. Managing to both portray the Martian Kataphrakts as physics-defying terrors that are still beatable through the use of strategy and deception is an incredible balancing act, and Aldnoah.Zero pulls it off perfectly. Each new Martian Kataphrakt has some utterly devastating power ripped straight from the genre's history, and each time, the heroes are forced to find a way to get around it, nullify it, or overcome it with some clever ruse. As I have long wanted in a mecha show, pilot skill trumps technology, but even pilot skill is beaten by raw resourcefulness and ingenuity.

Also brilliantly, Aldnoah.Zero may be the only Real Robot series I have seen to date that offers (implicitly) a semi-plausible reason to build Real Robots: the Mars settlers did it because with the technology they discovered there, physics was their plaything. Their war machines could look like anything, and in fact, it was in their ruler's interest not to give any one of his knights a weapon that was *too* efficient. In contrast, the Earth Federation Forces built giant robots during the cold war between worlds, because there was a GIANT ROBOT GAP, DANGIT, and they weren't going to let those Martians get the edge on them!

Another key point in elevating it over many other mecha TV series was the quality of conflicts between the characters. Almost every major or secondary character is given a motive of some depth. Even more compelling, however, is the fact that almost all of them are presented as the hero of their own story but the villain of somebody else's. The complex webs of loyalty, enmity, and betrayal that get drawn throughout Aldnoah.Zero lead to an extremely strong cast even beyond Inaho, Asseyleum, and Slaine.

Easily the best of its year, and the strongest overall standout anime series since Fate/Zero. (Speaking of...)

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works

Everything's pretty
Unlimited Budget Works
Even with Shirou

More thoughts:
A Shirou who is actually... pretty likeable? Madness!

A worthy resolution to the story threads of Fate/Zero, though it doesn't surpass its anime predecessor/novel prequel (except in visuals), UBW is probably the best possible telling of that route of the visual novel. If you accept that premise, there isn't much I'd change, save perhaps about a half-episode spent on Shirou and Archer driving home an obvious point when, clearly, this time would have been much better spent on giving Saber's solid but slightly underplayed arc a bit more emotional catharsis or fleshing out Cu Chulainn backstory.

Actually, can I just get an anime about Cu Chulainn?

Rokka no Yuusha (Rokka: The Flower of the Seven Braves)

What they expected:
D&D. What the PCs
got: Dark Heresy.

More thoughts:
Man, this is really a good time for clever, resourceful protagonists in anime, huh?

Adlet Mayer joins the ranks of Joseph Joestar and Kaizuka Inaho in the top tier of characters who fight above their weight class using equal parts audacity and ingenuity (okay, Joseph is more like a 2:1 ratio). Ostensibly headed on a standard "suppress some demons, vanquish the demon king, etc etc" quest, Adlet and company quickly find themselves in a dramatically more f*cked up situation when eight "destined heroes" show up to a quest meant for seven. And so, they end up doubting one another and their own goal at every turn, fighting socially, physically, and mentally, and generally putting their incredible skills to use against the deadliest opponents: each other.

Of Light Novel adaptation anime, this is one of the strongest I've seen since Fate/Zero, and one of the ones I want to see completed most. Who knows if that'll pan out, but it'd be nice.

Steven Universe ("Seasons" 1-...3? 4? Where the heck are the season breaks in this show, anyway?)

Magical girls and
epic space opera shown
through slices of life?

More thoughts:
I didn't expect to love this show, but it won me over. And it didn't even have giant robots until recently! Its willingness to tackle hard topics (grief, loss, intimacy, boundaries, and betrayal) while maintaining a belief in the redeemability of people is not only admirable, it's great television.

But what brought me into the show was the earnest portrayals of interactions between people that struck me as very resonant with ones I had seen in life. Steven's relationships with his various parents all have a certain genuine ring to them. Steven's numerous parental figures are all deeply flawed people (save perhaps Garnet, though she's by no means perfect), and their love of Steven may be complicated by the various foibles and traumas that shape them, but they all do their best for him and he responds in kind. Multifaceted characters (hurr hurr gem puns) are always a boon, and in this show, the slife-of-life/crisis of the week format is used to give an incredible amount of depth to their relationships with each other. It's not a format that would serve every show well, but it sure works for this one.

Also, episodes usually revolve around an ostensibly good plan getting absurdly *out of hand* (rather than a plan being terrible from the start, which usually makes the characters involved a lot less sympathetic or believable). Small mistakes spiral out of control, and then those involved have to pick up the pieces

Star Wars: Rebels (Seasons 1)

The Star Warsiest
Star Wars to war in the stars
Since Episode IV.

Further thoughts: Greg Weisman brings his talents to the Star Wars universe alongside Dave Filoni and many others from The Clone Wars team, and it's pretty great. In terms of mimicking "feel," this work landed even closer to the Original Trilogy than The Force Awakens did, evoking the first three films with subtle cues and strong parallels rather than just crossovers and cameos (though it did have a few of those). This isn't a knock on TFA - the fact that it felt different from the OT was actually a plus in my book, as my greatest fear was that it would be too self-indulgent in regards to referencing its oft-hallowed source material.

Rebels gets away with it by low overlap of characters (especially in season 1) and settings. Evoking Yoda's training with Luke works as a dramatic point between Kanan and Ezra because Kanan knew Yoda in-universe, but there's enough of a different twist on Kanan as a teacher to make him feel like the story is his, rather than a weak rehash of an older arc.

Overall, a strong first season (of 3, apparently?). Season 2 had an excellent opening and finale, but I actually haven't watched the rest yet. Soon, perhaps.

I feel like I watched some other shows in the intervening time, but that's all I'm recalling at the moment. Perhaps I'll add to this little memory collection later!

Of course, I also did lots of other stuff in the past year. Among them, I ran that Avatar campaign, which was largely successful despite a few hiccups. I also began preparing for a third Fate/ campaign ("Fate Hard 3: Fate with a Vengeance"). Mercifully, I'm able to reset to post-Fifth Grail War for this game because of the players involved (none were in Fate/Heresy or /Crusade), so I don't need to dig up the end of the previous game and figure out where all the NPCs are (nor do I have to figure out how the heck there are even Grail Wars in the wake of that campaign). Still no Giant Robot Feudalism campaign, but Aldnoah.Zero has given me lots of ideas. Someday.

Who wants to bet if it's another year before the next post?


Sunday, March 22, 2015

On 1000(ish) Days

So it turns out that the answer was 76, which is actually not bad, all told.

And now I'm back in the game(ish)! At least for as many more blog posts as it suits my fickle whim. So let's talk about what the hell has happened since 2012.

Well, just for starters, I discovered that I don't post on my blog much when I'm writing at my job and in my spare time, and I've been doing a lot of both. In three and a half years on the job, I've worked on... uh... a lot of books. Like, well more than 15, if you include the ones I started but later passed off or finished but didn't start.

But my meaningful, real-life personal achievements aren't really what this blog has ever been about, so enough about that.

I've run some RPG campaigns that I'm extremely happy with. In vaguely chronological order since last I reported in:

-Mallach'd, a fantasy campaign using Black Crusade and set in a world of my own creation. Meant as an intro to RPGs for a few new players. Successful in that respect, I'd say. Somebody used a souped-up, armored pet ferret (a Greater Minion, by the end) as an anti-infantry missile. That was pretty cool.
Presented with apologies to both GW and Nickelodeon
-Fate/Crusade, a follow-up to Fate/Heresy delving into the next iteration of the Holy Grail War and exploring the various schemes and shenanigans therein. This one was a doozy. Everyone (and there were six players) wanted to play a Servant this time around, but I believed (and still do) that the Master/Servant dynamics were pretty important to the core of the Grail War concept, and didn't want to roleplay six Masters myself, because that would be insanity. So I decided that the best solution would be to have two parties in alternate weeks. To create an in-universe reason for there being two Grail Wars, I dug deep into my inner Convoluted Nonsense Rules Bullsh*tter (I really didn't have to dig that deep) and came up with the following idea:

After the events of Fate/Heresy, lots of mages turned out to the next Grail War (because not only did it not end the world, but Ishmael might actually have gotten his wish (...?).

The creatively named Group A would be taking part in a Grail War from December 12-December 25th (or so). Everything normal(ish).

The just-as-creatively-named Group B would be taking part in a second Grail War starting on December 26th, with the lurking question in the background: what the hell happened to Group A.

Bridging the campaign would be a convenient plot device: nobody got the Servant they intended to summon. All Masters had intended (or been intended, for the several people with no real understanding of the Grail War). Group B would therefore consist of the Masters who didn't get Servants and the Servants who heard a call and then found themselves answering to... somebody else. As events unfolded for Group A in the campaign, their lingering bonds with the members of Group B would cause each one to see Group A's plot as a serious of visions.

Seemed complex enough for a Nasuverse plot. Actually, it seemed a bit too simple, but I'm just a pale imitator running a roleplaying game.

To my amazement, this format actually worked. I was worried people would be overwhelmed, but my players handled it like champs. They accepted my request that they not try to constantly break the timeline with grace, and I think I gave them pretty good agency despite one group being kind of doomed (?) by canon. I might actually revive the format someday, perhaps for a more formally investigative campaign.

Also, it was an excuse for me to throw super sweet mythological badasses like Thrain and Karna and Cadmus at my PCs in awesome, cinematic tableaus that could only be scored with wailing metal guitars. Which is somewhere between 1/2 and 9/10ths of why I enjoy about RPGs (the other 1/2-1/10th being character-driven banter).
I made some custom Drama Cards for this one. Fate Cards. Get it? Fate? Because...
After that, I ran an Age of Rebellion game which consisted of me aggressively cribbing from Mobile Suit Gundam while hoping nobody would notice because I knew they hadn't seen it. The final scene involved the culmination of an intrepid reporter (PC)'s romantic arc with an enemy ace pilot (NPC) as the crew of the Ghost of Alderaan outraced a gigantic hyperspace bomb. So, mission successful, I guess?

And currently, I'm co-running an Avatar campaign with HTMC, which is easily one of the most fun settings I've had an excuse to tool around in as a GM. Our plot involves civil war in the Earth Kingdom and the rise of a dictatorship against the monarchy, and WE HAVE SKYPE TRANSCRIPTS TO PROVE THAT WE WERE DISCUSSING THIS NOT A WEEK BEFORE SEASON 4 OF KORRA'S PLOT WAS REVEALED, DAMMIT!
How did they come up with such a perfect Mr. Flask character? I mean, really?
The giant robot feudalism campaign still eludes me. Someday.

Some more review haikus of the standouts of 2012-(early)2015

RWBY (Season 1 & 2):

Red like roses fills
my dreams and HOLY CRAP IS

A few more thoughts:
RWBY is a strange show (IN A GOOD WAY!). Its visuals are sometimes rough around the edges, but a really unique artistry always shines through the limited animation budget (which is admittedly visibly higher in Season 2). Its action choreography is really second to none, and many of the work-arounds for talky scenes are actually really clever (silhouette extras, using cartoon physics to avoid doing smooth walking animations, etc). Monty Oum and Rooster Teeth really made the most of what they had, and as a creator, I really have to respect that kind of resourcefulness and passion. Monty will be missed as a creative force, no doubt, and I think a lot of his work will persist because even as technology progresses, the creativity behind the methods will still be visible.

And yet, interestingly, the talky scenes are often some of the most memorable. Rooster Teeth's writing team and voice actors nail natural dialogue, and the strong if straightforward character relationships really pulled me in week to week. As a writer, I'm jealous of how they brought the characters to life fluidly through simple exchanges in the script. I often found myself looking forward to the conversations as much as the fights. Although the time the leads take on a giant robot in hand to hand combat is pretty f*cking standout, I'm not gonna lie.

Jeff Williams' soundtracks for both seasons are also amazing. I'm listening to some of his RvB stuff while writing this.

Because I am fascinated by alternate performances and interpretations, I am inordinately excited for the Japanese dub of RWBY so that I can spend way too much time thinking about what subtly different choices in delivery mean. But I'm a nerd for that stuff.

Psycho-Pass (1 & 2):

In the dark future,
Urobutcher strikes gold again
with all the murder?

Ongoing Blather:
I didn't expect to like Psycho-Pass. Fate/Zero was amazing, but reinterpreting somebody else's IP is one thing and creating a new one is another task entirely. I wasn't sure if Urobuchi was really a creator I wanted to keep my eye on or just one who had done a particular work I really liked.

Psycho-Pass settled that question. Urobuchi's the real deal. And not just because he writes the best villain side-conversations.

But also because he writes the best villain side-conversations.

Of course, a lot of other people were involved in Psycho-Pass creatively, and the deeper I delve into professional creative pursuits myself, the more I have trouble seeing any single strain of influence as the only one worth studying. Production I.G. knocks this one out of the park, showing off some fantastic experience from Ghost in the Shell to create one of the most interesting, believable, and chilling cyberpunk worlds I've seen. As Makishima mentions, the world of Psycho-Pass isn't Gibson's wild vision of the future. It isn't quite post-cyberpunk - much of Psycho-Pass still revolves around the sort of hyperbole-as-reality that drives Stevenson and his ilk - but it's edging slowly toward it. The author and even characters are eminently aware of the cyberpunk genre.

Also, Akane is a badass.

On that subject, I actually liked Psycho-Pass' much maligned second season, too. Urobuchi might not have been at the helm (and it showed in some ways), but overall, it was a solid continuation that explored new ground, showing characters in their new roles in the fallout from the end of the first season in a natural, interesting way. I love that Ginzo chilled the hell out once he stopped caring what anyone thought, becoming much healthier when he stopped worrying that he was "sick." The role of pathology in that show deserves (and has assuredly received) a much better treatment than I'm giving it here, of course.

Blast of Tempest:

Murder mystery
Hamlet, but wait is it
The Tempest instead

More blah blah blah:
Speaking of works of fiction in which the characters are eminently aware of their roles, running alongside Psycho-Pass was one of the hidden gems of 2012, Blast of Tempest. A cleverly disguised science fiction story, Blast of Tempest begins with a generic enough premise: an aimless protagonist faced by a magical crisis that hurls him into battle for the fate of the world. Old friends reappear to become allies in this new conflict, enemies spring out of the goddam woodwork, and one of the characters is naked most of the time for a really contrived reason.

But Yoshino is no passive schlub. He has loved and lost already, and faced with challenges, he unleashes torrents of wit and resourcesfulness, outfoxing mages in believable ways without ever actually developing supernatural powers of his own. No character is what they seem at first blush. The leads might be Hamlet and Laertes or Gilgamesh and Enkidu, but they might just as well be Rozencrantz and Guidenstern, and it's really fucking hard to tell which episode to episode. Secondary characters might actually be the leads. The narrative structure refuses traditional tempo, shifting from the potential end of the world to an awkward first date in the span of an episode and building to a climax that is a foregone conclusion...maybe? Also, it was funny watching Kiritsugu's VA have just THE WORST day as his plan was shattered by meddling kids.

Although I haven't rewatched, at the time of viewing, I enjoyed Blast of Tempest more than Psycho-Pass for most of its run. Ultimately, Psycho-Pass' slow build allowed it to pull ahead a bit, and on rewatch I have warmed more to some of the more seemingly anecdotal early episodes. Still, Blast of Tempest made me want to reread Shakespeare with some incredibly innovative and weird allusions.

Captain Earth:

Super robots fight
space vampires with love and...
real life space physics?

Captain Earth is one of two shows that have forced me to reevaluate my grognardy, sour, Universal-Century-elitist attitude toward Super Robot as a subgenre. This attitude started forming when I realized that all new Gundam series were very... flashy, shall we say, with the abilities of anything with the word "Gundam" on it, and calcified around Code Geass's awful [DATA NOT FOUND].

So when Captain Earth came out, I was dubious. But sh*t, it was Bones, the last holdouts of non-CG robots. It couldn't be worse than Xam'd or Eureka 7 AO, right?

Wait, did that three-part combining robot powered by willpower just have to correct for fucking inertia while fighting in space? Did it just run out of ammo and suffer meaningful damage that had to be repaired over... weeks? Not mere instants when the hero wished it fixed?

Captain Earth walks a bizarre line, throwing (seemingly) unknowable space horrors against super robots... that have surprisingly realistic and frequently-enforced restraints.

So to reflect a bit, I think what bothers me about more traditional Super Robot stuff is that, because the will always trumps the physical, there are no meaningful indicators of tension or progress in battle in the story. It's very transparent that a hero can only lose if the story demands it (of course this is always true, but it's just so damned obvious in most Super Robot stuff). What this means is that all struggles are internal ("I believe I can, therefore I can!") rather than external - circumstances, including enemies, are window dressing, not obstacles to be overcome.

This wasn't the case at all in Captain Earth save perhaps (forgivably) at the very end. Details *mattered*, usually a lot. Resources were relevant, distances were relevant, and the powers that enemies possessed were more in the vein of puzzles to be solved than walls to be punched through.

Captain Earth also broke pattern for my tastes in being a highly fanservicy show that nonetheless entertained me. But despite the number of gratuitous swimsuit scenes (and there were more than a few), it paid attention to things that most other shows would ignore during these sexy digressions. The plot moved forward. The guys got undressed and, more surprisingly, were shot in ways usually reserved for shows with a very specific target demographic (clearly Free! was on the animators' minds, given how often they went swimming). It wasn't 100% equitable or anything, but I was suitably impressed by how classy and largely non-creepy the fanservice was. Even Code Geass' fanservice was mostly crass and annoying by comparison, it's just that there were never fewer than four things going on onscreen at once, so you could mostly ignore it.

Also, it was funny watching Kiritsugu's VA have just THE MOST FRUSTRATING day as his plans were shattered over and over again by his teenage daughter and her meddling friends.

Buddy Complex

This is so trashy
Why am I still watching it
's over already?


Super robot tropes,
real robot physics, plodding
with a plot to match

MOAR: Another one concurrent with Psycho-Pass and Blast of Tempest. I enjoyed Robotics;Notes, but it sure took its damn time going anywhere.

That said, a mecha show about mecha fans was pretty damned interesting to me, so the metacommentary kept me entertained where others would probably have been bored by the otherwise fairly unremarkable visual novel plot progression. The characters were likeable enough, but I probably wouldn't have been interested enough to finish if it hadn't been compelling as a contribution to a wider conversation about mecha.

The Legend of Korra Seasons 2-4

Incoherent glee
[foaming at the mouth] to the rescue!

More stuff: I am withholding real judgment for a rewatch. The question isn't "will it rank highly" but "what won't it rank above?" (even money is on Fate/Zero, ATLA, and even those aren't certain).

Was there other stuff in the interim? Oh, absolutely. And maybe I'll get to it later!


Monday, June 25, 2012

On Perceptions (Fate/Heresy Character Review)

 With Legend of Korra and Fate/Zero wrapping up this past weekend, I was left in a rather contemplative mood, and felt like doing something constructive.  And this is LIKE being constructive, right?

Anyway, because I know you AALLLLL wanted to make these for your Fate/Heresy characters, and were just being hobbled by me being slow with my "What the DM Saw" images, right?






Revisionism Bonus: Guest Boss The Fiery Night Drake (HTMC)


My Completed Version (for lulz):

Anyway, the epilogue is on its way whenever I happen to finish polishing it and integrating Kory's section.  So, you know.  At a point in time.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

On What Stands Out (2011)

Or, A Year of Media, Regurgitated.

So, what the f*ck did I even consume in 2011?  For fun, that is.  I'm not including class work from the Spring or work work from the Fall.  Except Pluto, because I read volume 1 and then found the rest on my own for curiosity's sake, and it was great.  Also not counting anything that I re-read or re-watched, because that's too much trouble to track.  No more questions!

Also, instead of reviewing, I am doing haiku.  Do not expect me to properly employ the kireji, because lolEnglish. Nature allusions will be strictly hit or miss.


Completed 2010 Carry-Overs:

Broken Blade

Giant robots fight,
Fate is cruel and random
Naked Sigyn time.

I've written a bit about Broken Blade here before, and I will probably do so again, because it's a really interesting series and it is SOO CLOOOSE to being my perfect show.  So much so that I actually preordered the DVDs when I saw they were coming out.  It really has it all, for me:  Giant robots, check. Medieval setting, check.  Strong character dynamics, check.  Pacing... not so much, especially towards the end.

On a tangent, one fascinating theory I've heard: "Delphine" is in fact a double-localization of "Tyrfing." Does this make the series' complex mythological allusions more or less muddled?  I'm not sure, but I'm still enjoying the ongoing manga, even if it's SLOOOOOW.

Completed New Stuff:

Wakfu (Season 1)

Come for the heroes,
They were in your last campaign,
Stay for the villains.

Wakfu was a real surprise for me, flying out of left field in the middle of a busy finals week and hitting my unsuspecting productivity square in the head. I had the whole series spoiled for me before watching it, but it still managed to surprise me on numerous occasions.  Its slick animation style (barring a few episodes in the mid single-digits) and self-awareness drew me in, but it was the dramatic arc (and amazing battles) of the first season's secondary characters that really convinced me.


Noodle people fight
The most Freudian vampires
Surprise! The Truman Show!

Blood-C was bad, and it made me feel bad.  Odd and creepy confluence of sex and violence aside (well, MOSTLY aside), it had the single worst "twist" in the history of sh*tty twEEEEEEEEEEEEsts and it took itself seriously the whole time.  Unless it's all just CLAMP trolling us...

Legend of the Millennium Dragon

Time travel hijinks,
I don't remember much but
It looked very nice.

Ongoing into 2012:

Guilty Crown (aka Guilty Geass)

Starts as Code Geass,
But bad, things happen and then
Lannisters ensue.



Mythical heroes,
Tale of despair and (a) man,
Shirou was a drag.

Gundam AGE

Gundam for children?
Cutesy character designs
All of the murder.

Here's one I did not expect to be good.  AU Gundam is, in my mind, pretty much crap; the only thing I like about it is that Sunrise has the decency to create alternate universes for all of it, so that I don't have to live with things like Gundam Seed crapping up the Universal Century timeline.  This series, however, has been solidly enjoyable so far, and the second arc has been even better than the first.  Of course, it's Sunrise, so now that I've written something positive, a third-act ball-drop might be in the works, but still.

Gundam Unicorn

Okay, yes, it's true,
Get it out of your system,
The title is lulz.

I think I accidentally caused a My Little Pony: FIM fan to watch this show by a casual mention of the title alone.  Not sure what just happened there...

Gunparade March (failure to finish)

Schoolkids pilot 'bots,
Fight angry metaphor bugs,
Sans plot armor, though.

I'm not done yet, blah blah.  Sue me, it's pretty good, but it's just kind of slow. Too much school, not enough killing metaphor bugs.

Metal Armor Dragonar (Failure to Finish)

Great animation
From the year 1988,
Totally "meh" now.

It's a fairly blatant Gundam clone, but in theory, I should like that.  And if the animation was just a bit more up to date, or if the fansubs were less comically awful, I could probably swing it more easily.

Transformers Prime
Giant robots fight,
Mostly to save reckless kids,
God dammit Leeroy.

To the reckless kids' credit, they're pretty compelling characters as human sidekicks in Transformers go.  But this show is about Optimus Prime, Megatron, and, of course, Steve Blum.  I mean Starscream.  Steve Blumscream.

Hellsing Ultimate
So, you know that he
is called the Count. Because he
really loves to @#$#.

Towa no Quon

Sad backstory contest
Quon "won" with endless life
but everyone lost.

This is one I didn't expect, but ended up loving. The best of shows like S-Cry-Ed but with a much more compelling narrative and interesting characters.  I am waiting to get a new computer before watching the last episode (because watching it without the projector seems wrong).  Here's to hoping it isn't a total BONES ending.

Tiger and Bunny (dropped)

Buddy cop series
With superhero trappings
Boring villains abound.

Young Justice

Gargoyles' writer?
Justice League's animator?
Just take my money!

Young Jusice was in interesting show to start alongside Tiger and Bunny, because they both took a slightly more "realistic" take on the concept of the superhero - T&B tackles the capitalization of the super in a world dominated by corporate politics, while Young Justice deals with the militarization of the super in a world where superheroes are political actors as much as vigilantes.  Young Justice, however, is vastly more successful in several regards: its meta-plot is interesting and its villains are complex and clever (they are, after all, from the guy who brought us David Xanatos), but more importantly, the heroes really have heart.  Also, the show addresses my primary pet peeve with its teen hero series predecessor, Teen Titans - it answers the all-important question: "WHERE THE F*CK IS THE GODDAM BATMAN IN ALL OF THIS?" The teen superheroes exist - and struggle to exist - in an adult superhero world, which works very well for the series.

Wakfu Season 2

New journey, same lulz,
Great action, and makes you think,
Season three, perhaps?

Nurarihyon Season 2 (failure to finish at its finest)

Expected more of
the same, got more of the same
I'll watch it later...


Completed in 2011:

Mass Effect

Shepherd. Wrex. Shepherd.
Wrex is a boss and if you
let him die, redo.

Mass Effect 2

Martin Sheen, king troll,
Decides to play God with YOU!
Also, dialogue.



This was the greatest game ever.

Space Marine

In the grim darkness
of the far future, there is
only war and stuff

This game may not have been the financial success the ailing THQ needed it to be, but it was the artistic success that I wanted it to be. Captain Titus was a surprisingly interesting protagonist, but, in all regards, he felt like the Emperor's Angels of Death are supposed to feel, both in conversations and on the battlefield.  Especially on the battlefield.  While plowing through hordes of charmingly British Orks.  I really need to replay this game.  And we need to play Exterminatus Mode FFS, Bearmetal.

Gears of War 3

Raised questions, answered
none. Would be disappointed,
busy chainsawing.

Gears of War ended as it started, with no answers except a chainsaw in the face and no narrative closure except murder.

I can deal with that.

Ongoing into 2012:

Divinity 2: Ego Draconis (or, as all my friends know it, "F*CKING FRUSTRATINGLY HARD RPG RPG")

Be a dragon they
said, and it's pretty sweet, but
you can't burn it all.

The above haiku covers this game.  Although it's sans-DLC ending is WAY more aggravating than Mass Effect 3's ending.  The DLC clears it up, though (and was fairly obviously just content cut from the original release due to time).  It'll be interesting to see if the ME3 DLC does the same thing for that game.



German Robo-cop
(not Robocop) is the best
hero in ages.

This comic blew my mind. Do want anime adaptation.


A Dance with Dragons

A long time coming
but great, Martin, your book six

Gaunt's Ghosts: Traitor General

How do you deal with
complex moral issues in


Useful images on Wikipedia?

What if Lex Luthor
won? Well for starters it would
not make him happy.

Empire is a comic book series, published by DC, that posits: what if a very Lex Luthor-like villain (who cribs heavily from Iron Man's wardrobe) took over the world using the power of drugs and raw, unrelenting F*CK YOU?  What would a society that he ran be like? Would people be happy? Would he be happy? (spoilers: no).

Empire's crowning success is that Gogotha is a terrible person, and yet it makes him relatable, in certain, small ways, without ever revealing the full backstory that made him the way he is. It's a work with a lot of subtlety, a lot of nuance, and a lot of people getting blown up / eviscerated / atomized.


How do you stop those
Superheroes for all time?
World peace and trolling.

Halcyon was another interesting comic book series I picked up for free from the break room. The premise is that, one day, humanity's urge to commit violent acts instantly disappears.

So, yeah, it's pretty much Bearmetal's personal circle of Hell. Also, superheroes have to deal with being... useless.  It's interesting, but ultimately a much weaker work than Empire, because it requires more suspension of disbelief and has a much less well-developed villain.

Well, I'm sure I forgot some stuff, but that's my media year-in-review.



Friday, December 30, 2011

On GRIMM Dark Adventure

So, because a friend was curious what it was like and I had access to a copy lying around, I decided to take a look at Grimm.  This post is not a review; it is more of an examination of some of the concepts contained in this game, which are of interest to me as a student of literature and a guy who wants to post more stupid infographics (see below - only one of them is my fault this time, though!)

First, let me give a brief summary of Grimm.  I will keep it to one sentence, but I make no promises about semi-colons:

Grimm begins in a world much like our own but rapidly shifts to an attached a fae dimension where fairy tales (and indeed, perhaps all stories?) end up once they have been completed; this alternate realm is called "Grimm" because it has gelled around the stories of the Brothers Grimm, who intentionally finished many folktales to get the monsters there-in out of our world and into this convenient pocket dimension, and your PC, a child (with a class like Jock, Bully, or Nerd), has been sucked into this realm '80s cartoon style (complete with nigh-impossible escape quest).

Grimm wrestles with competing impulses throughout.  On the one hand, it is the only RPG I have ever read that not only tells you that PCs should never die, but spells out that they should be revive-able if they do somehow die. On the other hand, Grimm stays fairly close to the dark origins of the stories; your characters are children being faced with fairly non-watered-down fairy tale eldritch horrors.  I draw one conclusion from this:

It was this or an image from Madoka.  I'm saving Evangelion for a later stupid infographic.

Grimm is also fascinatingly meta.  Any work that focuses on Story, Myth, or Legend (ohai Fate/Zero, how are you?) is going to be this way, of course, but Grimm really steps up to the plate in this regard.  The local equivalent to your usual "tell a cockatrice from a regular, mundane giant chicken" skill is, of all things, Gaming, and the game even calls out that, because of this, knowledge from a theoretical not-quite-D&D's monster manual is directly applicable to your character.  So not only is the game essentially putting a stat on Genre-Savvy, it is actively telling you that the "skill" with which you are playing the game is the skill with which your character is doing things... in the game... when you do those things.

But wait, it gets better.

A role-playing game is a form of collaborate story-telling.  As is a folk-tale.  And although the story focuses on folk tales, it implies that all stories from the game's version of our world become a part of Grimm, and that many of those stories were true (as in, took place in "our" world) before being sequestered into the fictional pocket-dimension.  So... your story that you are telling through the campaign will become a part of Grimm... which means that you could run into one of your very own past campaign sessions playing out within Grimm...


Monday, December 26, 2011

On the Holiday Spirit

People asked for the higher def stand-alone, and in the spirit of the holidays, I am delivering all your sunglassed Gilgamesh needs (okay, just this one picture, actually).

Tangentially related note: Santa Claus as a Rider Servant.  Thoughts?

I suspect at least one of his Noble Phantasms buries you in coal if your alignment is Evil.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

On Crossover Memes

This is an object lesson on the single but glaring advantage Photoshop has over

The Blur Tool.

See those edges?  Those would be cleaned the f*ck up with the Blur Tool.  I would be like "those edges need to be less harsh" and the Blur Tool would be like "Can Do!"  It would be great.

There's a least one more silly Fate/Fu picture in the works, so stay tuned if you haven't left already.