Category Archives: TV Show Review

Review: Top Ten Childhood Favorite TV Shows

Here’s a dallop of nostalgia for your Monday. I thought about doing Inktober, but I hadn’t done enough prep work, and we’re heading into NaNoWriMo anyway. So instead, I revisited the top 10 TV shows from my childhood that I still enjoy and think influenced me. They aren’t in actual 1 being the most influential order, 10 least, or anything like that. I just made a list of ten.

Hey Arnold!
With a completely bonkers cast of characters, I think what I loved the most was how complex some of the personalities were allowed to get. And just when you think you have it figured out, and it’s just a kid’s show again, they come out with something that really makes you thing. It also was very real about some of the family lives that kids have, and about some of the unique problems that come from living in the inner-city. Plus, the craziness of the boarding house always seemed super real to me.

The Wild Thornberries
Mixing a lot of fun with some education on animals and conservation, Eliza and family hit a lot of buttons for me. Goofy family? Check. Girl who talks to animals? Check. Various shenanigans due to those two worlds combining? Double check. The only thing that got me was the “wild boy” character. I hated him then, kinda hate him now. I wish we had just gotten to have these two sisters and their parents, rather than this random thing to keep the parents or older sister busy as needed. Hello plot devise disguised as a character.

ChalkZone
I saw this originally as part of Oh Yeah! Cartoons, and it’s always been pretty dear to me. I mean, come on, a whole world that has come to life due to the imagination of an artist. It’s a great concept, and it was executed very well. Plus it was just memorable. I can still hear Snap yelling, “RUDY, YOU GOTTA DRAW SOMETHIN’!” and the ridiculous situations that sometimes landed them in. The limit was really on what the artists could come up with. I just wish it was possible to see them easier, right now they are hard to find in a way that is easily viewed by those of us who are…broke. 😛

Tiny Toon Adventures
This is one of the few shows growing up that my brother and I could agree on. I think he preferred Animatics and Pinkie and the Brain, but it always came back to Tiny Toons for something for us to watch together. The humor and characters, while gendered, actually fairly represented them–there wasn’t the problem of five male characters to one girl, for example, like we ran into with shows like Power Rangers. Plus, it was legitimately funny and clever. Some of the jokes were meant for an older viewer like Taylor (five year age difference, ya’ll) and some were more on my level. Either way, it remains a very fond memory for me.

Madeline
I think this is what kickstarted the French for me. And this was just a really smart TV show aimed at a much younger audience than…just about everything else on this list. It was simpler, it was more about understanding societal rules and girls fighting for agency (or scheming for it, okay, maybe it kickstarted more than my French). Most other cartoons for that age focus so much on basic skills, such as math and color and shape recognition and such, but Madeline really goes, “Nope, you learn that in school. Here’s some of the things you don’t.” Plus, feisty female protagonists for the win!

Gargoyles
Now this list turns towards the “serious” as you all know, comedy is not my thing most of the time. Gargoyles had an amazing story, varied character designs that were still easy to tell apart to my kid brain (though when I first saw it, the episode was far enough in the series for me to be a little lost on the story, oops), and combined the mystic with the tech and the modern. It also addressed things like racism, hate groups, inter-racial relationships and how hard they can be, and dealing with the past so you can embrace your future. Heavy stuff for a kid’s show, but they were so sly about it, it wasn’t like they were preaching at us, it was just a natural, organic way for the story to go.

Batman: The Animated Series
Another one that Taylor and I could agree on, Batman feels like this universal childhood constant for my generation, even if you are now a Marvel fan more than DC (with the way the movie verses are going, I don’t blame anyone on that front). There’s been a lot better discussions on the series than I have space for here, so I’ll stick to the personal. I loved the snark, the smarts, and the action. The animation of the earlier seasons was very eh for me, I much prefer the last when it changed to match the rest of the DCAU, though the Bruce/Barbara relationship is WEIRD YA’LL. But I have never lost my love for the DCAU and that’s partly to thank because of this series. It showed me how the comics don’t have to ruin everything and make it far too complicated.

Sailor Moon
The beginning of the anime invasion, I used to wake up at six a.m. to watch this show, I was devoted. And that’s even with Serena and Rini driving me absolutely bonkers in the anime episodes, though the movies that were more manga-toned in their characters helped save them. I just loved seeing the girls getting in on the action and the fighting, on the stories of the prince and the princess, of the guardians and the way these people had to grow up. I grew up with the Dub, which is…an experience, due to the weird age differences and translations. But without it, I wouldn’t have gotten into the rest of the fandom, and considering how much I relate to Makoto/Lita/Sailor Jupiter, that would have been a damn shame. She really gave me someone to look up to growing up. She was tall, brunette and green-eyed, and tough, but also romantic. Not a lot of those to be found.

Escaflowne
This show confused the hell out of me when I first saw it. (I was too young, admittedly.) But the mystic levels to it, and the relationship of Hiromi with the rest of the world, really stuck with me for some reason. It took several rewatchings for me to understand the story, to track everything. And you know what? That’s part of why I think I enjoyed it so much. It took time and processing and lots of re-examining of information for me to completely understand. But not everything needs to be spoon fed to kids. Sometimes, they need challenged. Especially kids like me, I figured it out and then I’d get bored and moved on. Shows like this helped engage them, and as long as there were elements they didn’t understand, they’d keep coming back to it until they did.

Cardcaptors
On the other end of the spectrum entirely… Yeah, I watched the dubbed version of this too. But you know, I’m not complaining, apparently there is some downright weird stuff in the original and I think I’m better remaining ignorant. XD But this hit me in some of the same ways as Sailor Moon and Madeline. It had the magic/mystic elements of Sailor Moon, but it had confronting personal issues and struggles that elementary school students start going through. It was also about figuring out how to do things your way, rather than what was expected of you, and for someone like me who tended to overthink, it actually showed me other ways to view the world. For Sakura, everything was seen through her emotions, an empathetic way of seeing the world and how to react to it. It was a lesson in other view points that really stuck with it…and along with Sailor Moon, cemented my love of celestial themes.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look through my childhood. I might come back and touch on some of these later–I think my hero-worship of Jupiter could be cool to dive into, for example, and you know, sibling exploits are always fun. But for now, I hope you had fun revisiting the 90’s and early 2000’s.

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Review: Cloak and Dagger Season 1

I swore off the television/Netflix side of the MCU after Agents of SHIELD went down the Bobbi/Hunter road. It was the nail in the coffin for me, partly because they kept bending if not outright breaking their own rules for Rule of Cool. I mean, if Bobbi is good enough to be undercover at HYDRA forever, with no mention of her being former SHIELD that converted, then it’s really dumb to have her get caught a few episodes later by a HYDRA plant within SHIELD. (Not to mention my inner shipper noped out. When Bobbi and Hunter were making tentative steps to become friends after their ugly divorce, I was fine, but then they rekindled their romance and I was just…done with it.)

But Cloak and Dagger have always been a soft spot for me. They used to make guest appearances in X-Men fanfics as filler characters, usually as kids that Rogue and Remy had in class or on trips, and when I started messing around with the MCU for RP purposes, I loved getting to use them as future Avengers. I mean, there’s so many ways that they as characters could go wrong, and there is such inconsistency with them in the comics, that doing them right has always been something I wanted to see. So when I heard that they were getting a series on Freeform, as soon as I knew what the time and days were going to be, I set up my DVR to make them my weekend splurge while I ate brunch.

And I gotta say, I don’t regret it at all.

They managed to make some much needed modernization to the premise. Rather than making them experiments or mutants, both of them usually homeless, they instead decided to focus on more modern (and less stereotypical) living situations. Tandy, rather than being straight homeless, instead uses an abandoned church as a halfway house of sorts rather than live with her mother’s problems, and possible questions as Tandy is an established thief by this point. Tyrone lives in a nicer part of New Orleans, though he grew up in a poorer area before the death of his brother. He attends a Catholic school, where he is part of the championship basketball team, and he tries to keep his head down. Their powers were caused by an accident that cost Tandy her father and Tyrone his brother (sorta), though the exact specifics of what caused the change are still unknown, even at the end of the first season.

Speaking of New Orleans, oh my God. I really wasn’t sure how I felt about the series being set there. I mean, it helps the show have some separation from events like the Invasion and the Spider-Man conflicts, not to mention the events of Infinity War, and that gives the series a lot of wiggle room. But it was also only very vaguely tied to the world as a whole till towards the very end, which for fans like me can be annoying. But then they started to weave the culture of voodoo, of Mardi Gras celebrations, of the division between the wards, and the rich history of the city itself. And I was instantly sold, especially as they began to tie in with this concept of the Divine Pairing. It was some brilliant writing and creative decisions. My only complaint is we don’t see as much of what we, culturally, associate with New Orleans, but you know, they wanted the focus on the characters, so I can respect that.

For the main characters, I loved what the two actors brought to Tandy and Tyrone. There were times where they both felt a little flat to me, but then they didn’t have hardly any moments of levity so the flatness was probably caused because we saw pretty much the normal and then the drama/anger, with nothing on the other end of the spectrum. I can’t say I miss it, though, because the story was so intense. I also liked how they balanced power, and how the characters had to discover those powers. Towards the end, I wished we saw more of how Tandy was figuring out her hope vision like she was, but I was also so happy that Cloak finally ate somebody and what that means for season two, I instantly forgave it. (…I don’t know WHY I love that aspect of his character, okay? I just do.)

One element that really modernized the series is the elements of what happened to Tyrone’s brother and where Tandy’s father worked. Racial tensions and police violence/prejudice has always been an issue, but it’s definitely gotten worse or at least we’re acknowledging that it is a bad thing and needs changed. Having Tyrone, who has moved out of the gang’s territories, still have to be afraid of police and his history with them really adds some needed depth to the character. As for Tandy, we get questions of environmental concerns while continuing to have our way of life, the balance of power, and where is our civic responsibility and where does it become a matter for something bigger than us? She also addresses domestic violence, and at least a little on the violence against women. Both also tap into how do teenagers deal with grief and pressure.

One thing I do have to harp on, at least a little. I think too much focus was put on Tandy and her mother wanting to go back to their rich, opulent life style. They tried to back track a few times and have Tandy focus on the loss of her father, but it kinda got undercut by her focus on money. I mean, this could be a character flaw, but I don’t think there was a strong enough comparable flaw in Tyrone to make it buyable in Tandy. I also wish they had focused a little more on the fact Tandy was assaulted, defended herself before she was gang raped (if I’m remembering the episode right), and yet was told that it was considered even basically because they weren’t going to arrest the boy who attacked her after she agreed to talk to police. This is a huge thing! I wish it was discussed more, for the sake of the teenage girls watching the show if nothing else.

My last note is on side characters. They weren’t the focus of the series, yay, but I loved to like some and hate others, so they served their purposes well. I wish we’d had a little more time with the actual head of Roxxon if only because I wanted more info about what they were digging for, but I’m hoping those answers will come up in season 2 despite what happened to the guy. Similarly, I was super iffy on O’Reilly’s boyfriend and was so sure he was working for the dirty cop until the end, so there definitely could have been some more work done to make us sure that we are supposed to like him and be as devastated by his death as O’Reilly. (Who, btw, I am super excited to see what happened to her in season 2 and what it’s going to be like for Cloak and Dagger to fight against her…if they are fighting against her.)

Overall, this series was definitely amazing. I wish they hadn’t tied it to Iron Fist via O’Reilly and Misty being best friends, but eh. I can shoulder aside my issues with that particular part of the MCU, and I can hope to see some more great things and ties to the rest of the overall universe. I definitely hope Cloak and Dagger continues to have several seasons, and doesn’t go off the rails like some of their compatriots.


Review: Criminal Minds Season 13 Episode 17

I have discovered something, the past couple years. Namely, that I am incapable of watching and keeping up with a show for an entire season. So that leaves me with limited options. Either I binge the season once it’s over, which is a waste of a weekend if I have a full weekend to spare, or I find a show that doesn’t require me to see every single episode of what’s going on, without getting completely episodic. Criminal Minds is a perfect example of the latter.

That being said, they made a grave mistake. The episode last week was in my home town. This is going to get ugly.

(Note: This is not a serious review of the show as a whole, it’s too long and much like Law and Order: SVU, I have mixed feelings on later seasons. I might do it as a series or something at some point, but not right now.)

So I didn’t even make it three minutes in. The first victim pulled up to his house, and I was like, “Okay, I might buy there being a house like that on the north side of Guymon. Maybe. But where do you think we have that many trees?” Fun fact: the Panhandle has SOME trees, but it’s mostly in residential areas, and between the drought and ice storms, a lot of those were dead and chopped down by the city.

…The clown under the bed did scare the crap out of me, not gonna lie.

I’m curious where the BAU flew INTO. There isn’t an airport in Guymon, the closest they could get is either Liberal (doubtful) or Amarillo (more likely), and either way, you are in the car for at least another 45 minutes or two hours. But we skip that, “who doesn’t have an airport, pbbbth…”

We see an overview shot of Guymon, and it’s this neatly spaced out grid, small town, fancy admin-type building, and I’m like, “Uh, no.” I based Imyl off of Guymon, okay, and it is STILL too neatly laid out, I am not even joking. Guymon is an illogical sprawl of a place, and Main Street is very tightly packed in terms of space…sort of. (Okay, the big municipal building is on a block by itself, but it is SOLID BRICK, none of this fancy molding.) What boggled me the most though, was the literal street. Guymon is famous (or infamous) for Main Street being brick. Not pavement, not any type of concrete. Brick.

It’s becoming painfully obvious that no one has done their research, here.

The inside of the police station and the hospital got a pass, I’ve never been in one and the other was close enough. But then we get the second victims. Another nice house. More trees. I’m sorry, maybe I’m biased because I (literally) grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Guymon, but come on! We are not that well off!

Finally, it’s winding down. They are getting enough clues, we are seeing bits of our villains–yes, clowns, circus life fell apart. Okay, fine. I’m even going in my head, “I can think of a couple of fairs, they could maybe get work there?” But nope. We go…rodeo? I’m sorry, someone actually thinks rodeo clowns are actually clowns? Oh honey, no. No, no, no. Trust me, they are not the same thing at all, and being a good clown in no way preps you for what a rodeo clown does. Rodeo clowns are, predominantly, bull wranglers on the ground. Just bad, bad, bad, bad. Someone is going to get hurt.

But we’re going to a rodeo! Guymon has one of the largest outdoor rodeo arenas in the country, Pioneer Days literally is a HUGE DEAL in Guymon (we haven’t seen hide or hair of it, but I will give them leeway), and it goes on for a full week if not longer depending on slack, surely this will be right.

We go to this piddly little arena that I swear could barely host my play-days. Just, just, what is this, I don’t even! And underground rodeo, whaaa? I’ve never heard of this. People hosting roping events for some cash or running play-days, sure, but no one pretends these are rodeos. There’s no point when there’s a huge friggin’ rodeo every year! Color me boggled. (Ginny, btw, was laughing at me by this point.)

At this point, I was very obviously done. Did the ending make me sniffle? Of course it did. But I didn’t see anything really tying it to Guymon, and they definitely didn’t do their research beyond some cursory scans for stuff they could use in the show.

If nothing else, this really disenchanted me with the newer seasons. I swear, the older ones weren’t this dumb. Or at least I hope they weren’t.


Review: Miraculous Ladybug

I live! And I have a new fandom I am gushing over. So I thought I would review the first season with my loves and (of course) my nitpicks.

Miraculous Ladybug (or alternatively, Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Chat Noir) is a French cartoon, the story of two teenage superheroes, Marinette and Adrien, also known as Ladybug and Chat Noir, respectively. They fight to protect Paris–yes, that Paris–from the corruption of Hawkmoth and his akuma, using the power of good luck and bad luck (three guesses as to who has which power, and the first two don’t count). Most of the background plots focus on the love square with our heroes…which unknown to them, only involves two people. Because they don’t know who each other is.

Ugh, the love square. It has made this fandom sickeningly sweet and fluffy (like give you cavities sweet), or heartbreaking angst (so much character death, and no one ever tags it properly). And yet, I love it. The two people in question are so oblivious in the show and yet heartsick over it, even if I differ from canon and think Adrien has at least a clue about how Marinette feels about him. She’s just too obvious, and he’s too flirty for it to be coincidence. Regardless of your stance, you just want to shove them in a closet when their powers are fading and get the reveal over with so there can be fluff! Considering how old and cliche this trope is, the writers still have you sucked into this show with it. That’s good writing.

…Not perfect writing, mind you. They have been following the monster-of-the-week formula for the most part, which worked well to establish the world regardless of when you start watching. But we’re running out of side characters to turn into akuma, and the last few episodes introduced some plot hooks that are too interesting to not flesh out. I hope they start easing out of their formulas to follow up on them. Otherwise, it’s going to grow stale very quickly. I can only take so much obliviousness and teen drama before I want story to pay off.

The characters themselves are actually in balance for the majority, which is always a nice change. The various side characters are built well without trying to compete with the main characters, while the two leads are multi-faceted without getting cluttered or overly perfect. The superhero aspect just fuels this, since it allows the hidden selves and subtle traits of the main characters to show themselves. Awkward, overly excitable Marinette becomes confident and focused as Ladybug, but her kindness and cleverness shine through in either form. Cool and slightly aloof Adrien as Chat Noir is showboating and flirty (err, flirtier, yes Adrien, I’ve got all those little winks of yours), but his loyalty and sincerity are undeniable regardless of which one you are dealing with. The traits are there in both forms, but the hero-forms just bring them into focus to let the audience appreciate them better.

The villains need some work, though. We love to hate that one spoiled teenage blonde, hell I’ve got one of my own to write at some point, but Chloe’s antics are getting old, especially since she never really faces consequences for them. And now we’ve had a full season of Hawkmoth terrorizing Paris, but with no real idea about his plan and motivations. I respect needing that first season to get the basics established, but now we need growth, or even just depths that are already there to be revealed to the viewer. (Sorry, I’m harping)

Aesthetically, there is so much about this show that is so pretty. Seriously, so pretty. All the little details in the background are so perfect, and you almost see a new detail every time. The animation is smooth, and while graceful, they aren’t too overly exaggerated. I know the 3-D aspect annoyed fans who were following the creation process, but I can’t find it in me to care. I love all variations of animations equally as long as it is pleasing to the eye, and this style serves the show just fine.

There are some quirks I could do without, though. The two kwami (the transformation creatures that remind me a lot of PreCure) could have used a little refining. Plagg is fine, Tikki just seems really dumpy looking to me sometimes, depending on what they are doing with her. Similarly, let’s compare Chat Noir and Ladybug’s costumes, shall we?

Look at how intricate his is! He is very clearly built to be a tank, the front line fighter. He’s also got the stealth aspect. To put it simply, Chat is meant to be in the thick of things, and his signature attack and weapon reflect this. (Okay, the bell is just silly since as far as I can tell it doesn’t even ring, but it amuses me, so I don’t complain.) Now let’s look at Ladybug. Very streamlined and simple (actually too simple to me, but we’ll get there, trust me), the yo-yo can attach to her costume. She is the mage/cleric/ranged to Chat’s tank. So…why is she in eye-catching, distraction costuming? I understand wanting her to look like a ladybug, but the all-over polka dots is an eyesore. Even ladybugs only have those on their backs, and some care definitely could have been needed. Hopefully there’s a costume edit in her future.

Overall, the series is great so far. It’s silly and goofy, heartwarming and cute. The concept feels fresh, even though they really could have gone wrong and over-used. Do I have problems with some parts? Oh yes. Could it go horribly backwards in later seasons? You better believe it (just look at the travesty that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has turned into for proof of that). But for now, enjoy the first season, and if you want any recommendations for between-season reading, here are three of my favorites:

Meeting with Master Fu
Little Princess
Stupid Kitty


Review: Dusk Maiden of Amnesia

Happy Halloween! And with that, a special post just for the holidays. (Or at least, one of my favorite ones and the kick start to the fall/winter festivities.)

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (which has a much fancier Japanese title that I will not insult anybody by trying to write myself) is a Japanese anime that is a combination of murder mystery, horror, slice of life comedy, and romance. It follows a high school paranormal club with the president being a ghost herself! Yuko Kanoe has no memories of her life or how she died, and she has haunted the school for years, leading to many ghost stories to develop. But then Teiichi Niiya sees her (and her remains) and the two team up to try and discover Yuko’s past. But there is a kernel of truth to all the old stories, and there is more to Yuko’s memory loss than they could ever have guessed…

Despite the wildly different genres this story travels between, it actually balances them really well. I never felt mood-whip-lash as I went from horror to something romantic to something mysterious, etc. It all flowed very well together. I thought the fan service was a little too strong with Yuko, but then, I’m not big on fan service in the best of moods, so… The romance was cute and dramatic and full of squee (all good points). But the end game is weird for me. I like my romances to end with a solid base for the future, so I can easily imagine where it is going to go next. But… Half of this couple is a ghost. A teenage ghost at that. What are they going to do as he grows older? What if he ever wants kids? It just sits weird for me. Don’t get me wrong, I bawled like a baby there at the end, but… I sorta wish he’d ended up with the great-niece instead.

The characters weren’t simple constructs, not easy to show in such a short medium. The main three (or who I saw as the main three) had several different dimensions to them. Yuko’s past and her way of dealing with it was heart-wrenching in its self-destruction. Teiichi had to struggle with how far he was willing to go for his feelings or if it was better to just go with the flow. Kirie has to struggle not only with who she thinks Yuko is, but also with who she is and how that affects her life. The rest of the characters were pretty flat, but that only let the focus stay on the main three and bring their issues to the light. And it was awesome.

The story was this quirky mix of everyday little mysteries and some of them stacking together with the longer running series, only in sneaky unexpected ways. The villain was actually something internal, which is also something that really vibes well with me. In something short like this, you don’t have time to play with both internal conflict and external conflicts seriously. You can dabble with one, but it has to resolve itself within the episode because through the series, it will get tangled and possibly get forgotten. They did the right thing and focused on the internal conflict within the group and within the main title character. Sometimes I still wanted to throw a shoe at the TV as it dealt with the day-to-day stuff, but I put up with it because it made the ending all the more bittersweet.

The horror aspects were not as bad as I was afraid they were going to be. This was not Hansel and Gretel all over again. No nightmares (actually, Agents of SHIELD has given more nightmares after season 1), and it actually handled the scary elements well and in ways that made sense. I thought the school was horribly contrived as was the illness from the memories, but it wasn’t something that completely broke my suspension of disbelief. It was just a bit of a push, even for a ghost story. The entire setting was that way, really. It was such a push to make it work, to keep it isolated like they wanted it. I don’t entirely see the purpose of it, unless things in Japan are really quite that different. Really, I think the fanservice though is going to remain the worst part of the whole series.

Overall, I think the series was well done and well written. I mean, even the introduction and closing sequences were well thought out with what happened in the story that particular episode (which was really creepy a couple times). It was a perfect way of doing a short series. It had a resolved ending, it focused on what it wanted to bring out, and it didn’t waste time with everything else. I wish other animes would learn from it. (Like Magical Warfare. Dear GOD, do not get me started on the last few episodes of this first season…)


Blood-C Review

Bleh. I’m full of fail on the blogging front. Let me do another dump of posts to get caught up. First, the last in my Blood series reviews.

Blood-C is CLAMP’s (one of the more popular anime/manga group of artists) take on Saya’s story. This time, Saya is a shrine maiden on a small island somewhere in Japan, with an equally small town surrounding the shring. She is charged by her father to use the sacred sword to slay the monsters plaguing the town–referred to as the Elder Bairns once translated–just as her mother once did. But Saya must keep it a secret, even when things take a turn for the worse and what Saya thinks she knows is brought under questioning.

Animation and design-wise…it’s a CLAMP project, that much is obvious. They got into this lanky, awkward way of drawing characters, and it’s worse in moving color than it is in black-and-white manga. Thankfully, it isn’t as utterly bizarre in this show as it was in xxxHolic, but it still lends a weird edge to the animation. The school uniform choice is…well, it’s dumb, and the characters even lampshade the design towards the end, calling it cosplay. I also think the “dog” didn’t really look like a dog, making it stick out way too much instead of being moderately inconspicuous.

This version of Saya is the most bipolar yet. She sings little songs, loves her father like he hung the stars, and is completely oblivious to the feelings of one of her classmates for her. But she is also a fearless fighter, a warrior that the Elder Bairns seem to hate, and, in the end, humanity’s reluctant defender. That’s right, CLAMP’s Saya links back to the first Saya from Blood: the Last Vampire, though it takes the entire series to get there, and a movie besides to really see the link. The movie also hints at Blood +‘s Saya with a flashback to a castle garden, but it was such a mild link, along with Saya’s senseless red eyes (seriously, they serve no purpose other than to look cool), that I’m not certain how much of it was intentional and how much of it was them just taking guessing stabs at key traits from previous work in the franchise.

As for the other cast members, well, they are as deep as a puddle. The father-figure and, at least up until the last couple of episodes, everyone else were as flat as could be. But once everything hit the fan, the side characters became much more real to me and far more interesting. I wish we had gotten more hints of them throughout the rest of the series, or even a couple more episodes to flesh them out a little better. The villain surprised me, and gave me Solomon flashbacks, especially in the manga version (which I’m only not reviewing because all my volumes are a six hour drive and three hours of searching my old room away). The cast with the movie was almost the exact same way, only even more rushed. We just weren’t given enough time or material to get an emotional connection to these characters, so instead of being this awesome, “Oh snap!” moment when things turn, we’re left going, “Eh.” Especially in the movie, since they went and had to introduce an almost brand new cast.

The plot took its sweet time building up, and once it did, it happened too much at once. It was trying to copy the rich plot of Blood +, but it was about a third of the length (not counting the movie). It was also trying to do the mystery aspect with Saya’s history, the love triangle plot trap, the link to the larger CLAMP universe with Watanuki and the wish shop…Though if you really think about that last one, it could explain the strange reason why Saya can’t kill humans. But that’s just my pet theory.

World-building wise, I felt like it took a left turn somewhere and I wasn’t with them. The Elder Bairns were not like anything that we saw in the first Blood movie, and they sure weren’t the Chiroptereans of Blood +. And beyond Saya’s special blood, there weren’t any real vampire hints, at least for most of the series. There was no clear reason why Saya and the Elder Bairns existed and why they were linked, or even how the father-figure came to exist in the first place and how he is either the same or different from Saya.

For the series as a whole, I think there were some interesting updates to the story, and the ties to CLAMP’s overarching world definitely offered some answers, admittedly very specifically for this version of Saya. But it was rushed, trying to do too much at the end, and a lot of practical information wasn’t given to us, or at least it wasn’t given in a way that made sense. I like that some of the flaws were lampshaded, but there were too many for me to let them all go. If they’d used a couple more episodes to explain the ending instead of what seemed like two or three episodes of filler, I think it would have been a lot more solid story. But that’s my aesthetic.

Overall, the Blood series offers very different takes on the same character. I’d gladly invest in another part of the franchise if they came out with another. (Seriously, I want a short series about the twins at the end of Blood +. I honesty thought that’s where Blood-C was going.) Each time it’s a little different, a little more of the mystery of Saya being revealed, and a twist I didn’t see coming (thank you, Watanuki). Sometimes they disappoint me, but I always leave with at least a little big of satisfaction.


Blood + (anime) Review

Part 2 of my little series here, this time with the anime that got me interested in the franchise to begin with. I think Blood + will always be my favorite anime, so it’s nice to review it and share some of why I love it so much.

Much like Blood: The Last Vampire, the series follows Saya on her hunt for monsters. But there were some definite changes for the anime series. For one, Saya begins the first season as a normal high school girl and part of an adopted family. A monster attacks her school one night, trapping Saya. But a mysterious man known as Haji forces her to drink his blood, hypnotizing Saya. She uses a sword laced with her own blood to crystalize the monster. At first, Saya is horrified by what she’s done, and refuses to fight, despite the near-orders from a man named David on behalf of Red Shield. But when her father is injured and almost turned into one of the monsters, she takes the first steps on her journey. It takes four seasons for the truth to come to light about Saya’s past and her relation to the enemy Red Shield is sworn to fight. In the process, we are given a huge cast of colorful characters, each adding another piece to the past and to the present. The ending of the anime is full of sorrow and grief, but with an edge of hope for the future.

Obviously, I’m leaving details out of that summary, but that’s because a) it would take way too long to summarize four season (fifty episodes) neatly and b) I don’t want to spoil anything. Animation wise, it’s spectacular for its time and it still holds up today, at least in my opinion. Saya’s skirt length in the first half annoys me a little, but it gets better, so I let it go. When it comes to the historical character designs, they did very well with the costumes being authentic. Lewis’s design is a little racist, but I’ve seen much worse in anime, and all things considered, I let it go. It really doesn’t hit you how bad it is until you look at it in hindsight. The only thing that sort of irks me is there is a bit of generic work for the background or arc specific characters. I wish they had been given a little more effort.

The huge cast of characters and the sheer level of back story might be why I love this series so much. To begin with, for once we don’t have this airheaded whiny baby for a protagonist! Oh happy day! (You have no idea how happy this makes me, seriously.) Admittedly, Saya doesn’t want to fight, and often struggles with being expected to, but I found it didn’t really bother me as much, especially as more and more of her back story came to light. Considering her relation to the enemy, without the hatred she rightfully has for them, she wouldn’t want to fight them. Once her memories are back, it makes a lot more sense, as does her final wish that she managed to get Haji to agree to. And when she comes to terms with what she is, after what it costs her, you can see that she is trying so hard to be tough when all she wants to do is fall apart. Even in the end, that tough part falls aside as her kind nature comes through towards her greatest enemy. It takes the combined efforts of both Kai and Haji to get her to change her mind about what she deserves.

Which gets us to our male leads. For the first two seasons, it’s pretty much Haji and Kai, Saya’s older adopted brother. I could never get behind Kai/Saya, just because they were raised as siblings, plus he was just annoying to me. Very much the usual anime protagonist, thankfully this anime proceeded to smack him down and show him exactly how ill-suited he initially was to help his sister. After he was pretty much removed as a romantic interest, I liked him much better. By then, he had matured a good deal, and was taking his sister’s fight a lot more seriously. Haji came into the series with the obvious markers as being the romantic interest. His devotion to Saya can border on the creepy occasionally, but considering their relationship and what has happened to him over the years, I can’t blame him. He had a horrible burden to carry with him over the years, and he did so out of love. The second half introduces a third love interest, Solomon, who is on the enemy’s side. I’ve always felt like Solomon was just in love with Saya because instinct, or what his big brother Amshel convinced him was supposed to be their instinct, told him he was supposed to. And because he was that sort of dreamer type, he went along with it, even if it went much further than Amshel had intended.

The rest of the cast is far too huge for me to go into detail. There’s Red Shield, there’s the historical allies and enemies, there’s the Sif (my favorites), there’s the Cinq Fleches Group… To go into explaining them would not only spoil the series, but take me more words than I want to spend. I will spend a little time on who is described as the primary antagonist, though I really consider her the secondary one: Diva (Amshel is the primary for me, always will be). My god, she is amazing. I think one of her lines in the end of the series describes her best, “Now Saya, that’s not fair. Only you were treated like a human.” She really raises the question if what is wrong with her is nature or nurture, and she inspires pity from the audience rather than straight hatred, a nice change. As for why the Sif are my favorite… They are set up to be this force to be manipulated, and they fight against it, struggling for survival even as they die one by one, just because of how they are created. I can’t help but wish they would get that chance at life.

Plot wise, there is a lot going on in this series. It really can be divided into two halves: before the destruction of the Red Shield’s headquarters, and then a year after (yep, there’s even a time skip). Before, it really focuses on the memories that Saya has forgotten, and trying to find their main enemy, Diva. There is also the Sif’s sideplot, and the actions of the antagonists, who aside from Diva are leading up to something. Then there is what Diva is wanting, which is really ambiguous at that point in the series. The second half is Saya desperately trying to find Diva before she goes to sleep (her big sleep which lasts for thirty years), while the plans of the Cinq Fleches group, the survival of the Sif, and Diva’s wants all come together in a climactic final two episodes. I really didn’t find a lot of plot holes, and what few there were would have slowed the series down too much, so I can understand why there was no follow-through. Even the timeskip made sense to me. The plans we saw being put in place in the first half need time to ferment, and at least two of the protagonists needed time to grow and deal with their grief. I wish the ending had pushed on the hope aspect (as I’m covertly referring to it) a little more, but that’s a personal opinion, and there’s fanfiction for that.

The setting was possibly the most far-reaching I’d seen in a serious anime like this. It doesn’t stay in Japan like a bad cliche. Instead, it goes from Japan to Vietnam to Russia to France to the US… Very much a global-span, which makes a lot of sense with the plot. Some of the world-building is confusing as it is presented to you, but once you lay it all out after seeing the series, it does make sense. Basically, the world-building on vampires requires a bit of Fridge Logic to make it work. Of course, that’s fine by me, I like that element to a show, where it makes me think about it, as long as it makes sense. Don’t get me started on when it doesn’t. At times, it felt like it was pushing it (my fan theory is that the Sif aren’t created, they were initially real humans, but that only has limited backing. The cloning still feels stupid), but I was able to swallow it while I watching it, and it didn’t kill my love for the story, so I guess it got away with it.

Overall, the show is a bit like a very rich desert. Let’s say one of those giant slices of chocolate cake they serve at Cheddar’s (never eat one alone, seriously. It is meant for sharing. With like, four people). There is a big cast, a complicated story, and an equally complex world, and it takes its sweet time telling it to you so you don’t get overwhelmed. Layer upon layer upon layer. It is one of my favorites, and I definitely recommend it. Just, pace yourself.


W.I.T.C.H. Season 1 Review

Good GOD I could not get WordPress to work this last week. Admittedly, my internet has been going all wonky on me around midnight every night for reasons I don’t understand, but yeesh… I’m hoping to get you all a second post this weekend to make-up for it, and then maybe one next Saturday. By writing these a little more in advance, I’m going to try and be a little more in-depth. I’m also at a point where I need to decide how to do a review, since I’m wanting to try something a little different just this once…

Anyway, on to the review I’m here to write now. I watched the initial premiere of the television show, W.I.T.C.H., and was horribly excited about it. Sadly, due to you know, having a life, I managed to fall behind and it being one of the shows that has a consistent plot, well, I pretty much got lost and never went back to it. Something (I’m failing to remember what) resparked my interest in the show, so I followed some youtube links. I haven’t finished the second season yet, but I thought I would go ahead and review the first, which is really the one before the show Jumped the Shark anyway (more on that when I finish season 2). I’ll be focusing on plot, first the main and then the episodic ones, the characters and their roles, and of course, the overall feeling of the show.

For those who have no idea what this show is, W.I.T.C.H. is an Italian magical girl comic book series that was later made into an animated series very loosely based on the source material (raise your hands if you are surprised about the looseness of adaptation. Those of you who raised your hands: FOR SHAME). Fairly similar to the usual formula: five girls must save the world (the center point being their home town) from the forces of evil as the Guardians of the Veil. (Yes, sarcasm in that sentence is intentional.) Same old same old, right?

Actually, not as much as you would expect. For one thing, their mentor figure isn’t a talking animal, but actually one of the previous Guardians who is also a grandmother to the current. Retirement! Who’d a-thought? Genetic links to powers! Amazing, ain’t it? Or at least an interesting layer… And unlike in previous magical girls where the group is really just strangers brought together by their powers, this time all but one were already friends, a refreshing change. The main plot is a corrupt prince taking over a parallel world, and the resulting conflict spilling over into our world. Later on through the series, it is revealed that he isn’t the rightful heir (for some reason that is never properly explained, unless he just oozed evil even as a kid), and he is in fact looking for his younger sister, the proper ruler. Who is it? Why, one of the Guardian’s best friend, of course! So it’s up to the Guardians (and a rebel leader, but really, he’s the Tuxedo Mask of this group) to rescue the little DID (damsel in distress) and make the kingdom a place of light and peace again.

Despite my mockery, the main plot actually has some value to it. The series sets up the search for the heir fairly well, even if to a slightly older it is a lot more obvious. The little sister’s transition from our world to the world on the other side of the veil takes time and care. It isn’t as simple as “Hey, let’s kidnap the princess!” or even “Let’s brain wash them!” a la Sailor Moon. Our evil prince isn’t romantically involved, and in fact hates his little sister with a passion. He is instead just manipulating his little sister for her power, which is significantly stronger than his as the rightful ruler. On her side of it, she doesn’t fall for every attempt the heroes make to reconnect with her, though I do find her sudden “I LOVE MY BIG BROTHER!” switch over a little much to swallow.

Sadly, the B plots are much more typical magical-girl-woes. Such as Irma’s unwanted suitor, Will’s birthday, things like that. They don’t really offer anything original to the series, though I guess SOMEONE finds them entertaining. I think this idea of having an A plot AND a B plot is highly outdated, especially since I think the main plot line could have been the main focus of the series. It certainly had enough characters of it’s own. I don’t mean that the B plots need to completely go away. In fact, I think if you did that it would be like cutting off an arm. These girls DO have normal lives, and since they can’t tell anyone about their powers (though WHY is never clearly answered), I think we do have to see at least some of that. Just…not every single episode. It dulls the impact, and cuts away from the main story.

Our five main characters are broken down by element: Will, who is “heart” (later revealed to be energy itself but that’s season 2) and leader of the group by the fact the Heart of Kandrakar chose her (for those who can’t tell from THAT happy little description, yep, she’s the new girl to the group); Irma, who controls water and serves as the Snark Master; Taranee, who controls fire (yet is our group scaredy cat…irony anyone?); Cornelia, our Earth Goddess (I’m not kidding, I swear she gets called that at least once) who also is the superficial, shallow one; and Hay Lin, the controller of wind and also the Cloud Cuckoolander. We also have Hay Lin’s grandmother (remember that retired Guardian I mentioned? Yeep); Caleb, that Tuxedo Mask rebel leader I mentioned before, and of course our villains: Prince Phobos, his giant snake monster Cedric, and (Princess) Elyon.

I’ll start with our Band of Five, who if you notice that in the order I listed them in, they spell out the series’ name. The Elemental theme has been done before. Hell, I’ve done it, and I’ll probably do it again. That said, I think they did a few interesting things with it at least. It took a few episodes for Irma, for example, to be able to create water rather than manipulate what was around her, and Cornelia never got that advance…though, she did discover that sometimes there are plants around her that she didn’t know about, and she learned to manipulate dirt, not just plants. Beyond their powers, they were fairly standard tropes to my view. Cornelia surprised me, having hidden depths, and I think Will could have been pushed further as far as being the new girl after the first handful of episodes and her growth as both a leader and a friend to the others. Hay Lin was always amusing, but her and the other two Guardians really didn’t get any more than bad tropes thrown at their personalities.

Remember how I described Hay Lin as a Cloud Cuckoolander? Yeah, it’s genetic. Her grandmother was a hoot to watch when she wasn’t being the mentor…and even sometimes when she was. Best grandmother EVER portrayed. Caleb didn’t get as much development, but I blame a lot of that on them focusing on the B plots rather than the A. As a result, he’s more of Cornelia’s boy toy than a rebel leader. Their attempts to make him “otherworldly” just fell flat a lot of the time, and my understanding is originally he actually LOOKED more like someone from the other dimension, at least in the comics. Yeaaah, change didn’t do him many favors. Prince Phobos originally was your do-nothing tyrant, with Cedric to do his bidding, but he was actually a Chess Master, so I didn’t mind too much. Cedric was mostly the brute force, but he had his creepy moments, so as far as being Head Minion, I think he was a solid character.

Elyon. Ooooh, Elyon. I have issues with this character. She is so quick to change alignments from being friends with Cornelia to being their enemy and being all soft and gooey to her brother. She’s whiny, she’s a desperate attention seeker in some cases, she tries to take a leadership role even though at that point she really had no training in being a monarch of any sort, and then to top it all off… Remember how I said Phobos was using her for her powers? Yeah, she is ridiculously overpowered. I mean Ridiculously, at least in the cartoon, with capital letter intentional. As one single person, she has more power than all five of the Guardians. And that’BEFORE she was even at the peak of her powers! And there’s no rhyme or reason for it. I hate to use this term, but… Canon Sue anyone? (Yeah, yeah, I hate the term Mary Sue and usually throw things at people who use it, but this one REALLY calls for it!)

Which kind of gets me to the feeling of the overall show. It feels…very disjointed. It’s like the first half of the season was written by one person, and the second half by another, because there are serious world-building problems and contradictions between the two. Don’t believe me? Try to figure out Phobos’s age. Supposedly at the creation of the universe, the veil was SOMEHOW created and separated the two dimensions to keep him from stuck in his own world. But then he’s Elyon’s brother, and she’s the same age as the rest of W.I.T.C.H. and was only sent to Earth twelve years ago. Oh, but Hay Lin’s grandmother fought him as a young girl. If your brain isn’t breaking, it should be. It was like there was a lack of information being shared with the audience. HELLO! It’s an Italian comic that didn’t get translated and take off until the series started here. We know nothing, plus you took liberties with it. You must explain!

I don’t think the series is awful, far from it. But I definitely think you can skip certain parts of it and not miss anything. And whatever you do, don’t think too hard about some of the information they are giving you. It’ll spare you a lot of grief.


Major Crimes Review

(Sorry I derped and forgot to do this last week. I’m going to try and get a second post up in a couple of days to make up for it.)

I’ve been watching The Closer since it first premiered. I missed the first couple of episodes, but was able to jump right into it anyway, the  mark of a good series in my opinion. I loved the main character and how she was able to be feminine but still do her job as a deputy chief. At the same time, she wasn’t a flat character, full of quirks and personality that made her into a real person. The rest of the division was the same way. Throughout the growth of the series, they developed into a real story, the kind of series that could go on for ages without interruption.

I’m not sure why Kyra Sedgewick (the woman playing the main character, Brenda Johnson) decided to leave the show, or what exactly happened. But I was willing to at least give the spin-off, Major Crimes, a chance. Raydor as a character had slightly redeemed herself in the last season (maybe as the first steps towards this spin-off from the very beginning?) to the point I thought I could tolerate her, even if I still hated the slime ball Taylor, no matter how they tried to redeem him. But the first season is over, we’re starting the second, and it’s time my opinion was formed.

The lead in to the new series was very strong. It felt seamless, perhaps because they were airing right after the final episode of The Closer. We even gained a couple of new characters throughout the season, starting with a new detective, Sykes, and more of the rotating Deputy D.A.s that this series was becoming known for, none of them extremely likeable. Raydor and Johnson were completely different, as shown from the beginning. Raydor knows how to play the politics, she knows how to manipulate but in a slightly different way, and unlike Brenda, she cares about convictions, not confessions. Sykes was an odd fit, as she should be, but I thought her character added an interesting change to the dynamics in the squad.

Sadly, everything after that fell really flat to me. Raydor and Rusty tried to duplicate some of the drama that Johnson had in her home life, with their own flavor. But I don’t know if it’s because Sedgewick’s amazing performance in the final season just set an impossible bar, or if they were pushing a character to do something that she just couldn’t do, but Raydor, aside from a few instances where she finally stopped playing political chessmaster and acting like a human being, just felt like watching a robot to me. And the endings lacked the level of satisfaction that The Closer did. Johnson only cared about the truth, and the episode always led to that truth. Instead, Major Crimes focuses on the actual legal system, and what happens behind the scenes.

But more than anything else… The show is lacking in personality. Oh, there are bits of it. Flynn and Provenza haven’t changed, and are definitely memorable, and combined with Sykes they make a dynamic clash. But aside from those few moments, it’s like every other crime show. The quirks and over-saturation of personality isn’t there anymore, to the point I can rarely tell episodes apart anymore, even though I used to always know with a few seconds. It all blends into a moderately boring shade of gray.

I’m not saying it’s a bad show. If there is nothing else on, I’ll watch it. But usually I find myself searching for just about anything else to watch, even reruns of Fast n’ Loud that I’ve seen so many times I can almost quote it word for word.


My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Season 2 Finale Review

…Lord that title is long. And yeah, I skipped last week. Massive deadline and plus I had the debut of the episode wrong. ^^;; Oops.

ANYWAY, I’ll start off with the story structure, which was pretty epic, even though it was kind of cliche. However, there is no such thing as an original story, so I’m willing to forgive that. Though I do wonder how many times Twilight can be right. There comes a point where I really want her to wrong. Like way wrong. But I’m also cynical. The only part that felt awkward was when Twilight confronted her brother. It was okay for about half of that scene, but then it just didn’t flow right. I think it could have used a little tinkering.

Which gets me to characters. Shining Armor was SO FLAT. Admittedly, we don’t see much of him, but there comes a point where I was rather annoyed with him. Plus, he gave up WAY too easily for the Captain of the Royal Guard, especially with his beloved AND his kingdom in danger. Ugh. And I shall not be bribed by Luna, people! …Okay, I squeed like a fangirl when she appeared every time, but still! I cannot believe she slept through the whole day that solidly and didn’t notice the changeling invasion. That’s just strange. Chrysalis was pretty amazing, but I had such Nightmare Moon flashbacks… I guess there is only so many ways to do an evil mare. As for my previous complaints about Cadance? Three seconds of flight in a song sequence does not validate wings. Nope.

…The music was pretty epic though. I don’t know who does the music for MLP, but they do an amazing job. As do the voice actors. “This Day Aria” is amazing, not only as a song, but because of the singer. I love the duality of it, which reminds me subtly of Disney’s The Little Mermaid with Vanessa and Ariel (if Ariel could talk at that point in the movie). Britt McKillip really deserves a round of applause for making so even if you don’t have a picture in front of you, you can tell two different people with identical voices are singing. That is so hard to do, and she managed it with phrasing and the subtle way of hitting notes to make Chrysalis just sound like an evil version of Cadance. (And yes, I’m listening to that song on repeat as I write this.)

There were a couple of animations blips (“This Day” has some involving Cadance and the mirror), and I can’t say I like the “good” Cadance’s wedding dress. It really isn’t visually appealing to me. The evil suited her better, somewhat. Like if I could take the “good” version’s skirt, minus the giant pink RANDOM bow, and the straight-edged veil, and the front/hair of the first one’s, I’d be happy. And speaking of the veil, way to be subtle there. XD I just feel like there’s a disconnect between the bridal party in the end, which is slightly annoying.  Also, holy bipedal ponies, Batman! They pushed that pretty far in this episode(s).

Overall, it’s a good way to close out the season. (And us Soarin/Dash shippers got to freak out at the end, thanks for that.)