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“Wait, can we pause for a second? I’ve got a long list of questions here and you keep giving me more…”

I know some of you are Brandon Sanderson fans! I’m currently working my way through his latest book, Skyward, which has this comfortable 80’s scifi vibe. It’s borrows a bit from The Last Starfighter, Flight of the Navigator, and Iron Eagle. I’m loving it to death, but maybe that’s in large part because it’s about teenage starfighter pilots, which sounds like a comic I’ve toyed with making myself. It is definitely not trying to be hard scifi, but that’s totally fine, because it’s a ton of fun. Sanderson picks some of the best scifi plot and character tropes to weave into the book, and although I could see the story going down a very overdone plot twist, based on Sanderson’s track record with clever writing, I’m still expecting the wildly unexpected. We’ll see!

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That reaction was…underwhelming.

I just finished up the second season of the Castlevania animated series on Netflix, and I love it. All the main characters get a lot of great moments. I’m not super thrilled about the protagonists spending, like, four episodes in a library, but the backstabbing politics of the vampire court are easily engaging enough on their own. The significant use of game lore is smartly incorporated into the show’s world so it never feels like unnecessary fan service. The fight scenes are beautifully animated, the voice acting is great, the music is suitably moody and gothic, and although I would’ve dug some rockin’ tunes from the games, outside of the epic orchestral version of Bloody Tears in episode 7, it probably wouldn’t have suited the macabre, nihilistic tone the show was going for.

I’m glad Castlevania already has a third season ordered by Netflix. I’d recommend it to pretty much anyone who likes cool, schlocky, violent stuff but also wants a solid story. There have been some game franchises that have gotten decent animation adaptations, but this is still probably one of, if not the, best.

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This was potentially Yori’s best plan to date!  Although, I mean, I’d probably prefer Ken’s.

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Preach it, Ina!

Just a note that there won’t be a page next week, too much life going on.

I haven’t seen any movies lately. Should I be going to see Venom? It is apparently very bad according to critics but also the internet seems to love it.

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I’d say Eijiro is his own harshest critic, but that is clearly not the case!

I realize I’m way behind the times on this, but I started watching Into the Badlands on Netflix, and it turns out I kinda love it. I mean, the premise is all sorts of silly nonsense. America turned into a feudal kung fu nation, and even though there are cars, motorcycles, electricity, and X-ray machines, there is apparently no long range communication of any sort. But it’s chock full of so much tropey, wire-fu, martial arts goodness that I can’t help but smile the whole time I’m watching it. The setup is basically that Sunny, the token Asian guy in a this martial arts epic, wants to leave behind his life as a loyal murder machine because his Baron (daimyo equivalent) is starting to go crazy and becoming crueler by the day. There’s also a kid named M. K. (mortal kombat?) with mystical Avatar powers who temporarily transforms into an unstoppable wushu machine whenever he bleeds. M. K. says he can lead Sunny and his pregnant girlfriend to a mysterious city outside of the Badlands, to which both Sunny and M. K. have some past connection.

The show’s choice to mix up time periods and technology makes Into the Badlands feel kind of like the more recent Final Fantasy games, where there’s this nonsensical dichotomy of tech and medieval sensibilities. It all feels very comic-booky, with the world setting chosen more for cool aesthetics than coherence. Sunny literally fights in a red trenchcoat, it’s hard to get more anime than that. And, like Final Fantasy, it looks appealing, with some nice cinematography, extravagant sets, and legitimately great action scenes (especially any featuring Sunny, whose actor is clearly the most proficient martial artist in the cast). The show has a meaty budget. What I enjoy most about the writing, at least so far, is how the show builds a lot of nuance and conflicting motivations into the characters, playing them off each other in ways that keep raising the stakes and building tension. And although the acting is campy and over the top, I find it endearingly earnest. I have no idea if Into the Badlands is a good show, but I’m definitely enjoying the heck out of it.

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That joke only took fifteen years to set up, I hope you all appreciate it!

I’ve been playing some Spiderman on PS4. Dang, it’s so good! But, also, Spiderman literally knocks hundreds of villains unconscious, sending them flying into brick walls or other hard objects, or smashing their heads into steel girders. I find it slightly hard to believe a few of these dudes aren’t DOA or dying in hospitals from traumatic head injuries! You’d also think New York would just run out of criminals considering the number of guys Spidey takes out of commission in the span of a few weeks. Although he’s still no Batman, since Bruce wipes out at least the same number of burly angry guys in the Arkham games over the course of a single night, also, APPARENTLY with no casualties on his part!

Incidentally, in Assassin’s Creed, you’re always playing as characters who murder literally hundreds, if not THOUSANDS, of people out in the open with all sorts of martial arts tricks and crazy gadgets, and yet you’re apparently not a part of a known history? You’d figure there’d be some sort of historical note about a cowled fighters single handedly killing dozens to hundreds of people at a time in the streets of cities across the world.

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Yori, just keep your freakin’ mouth shut, geez!

There’s this anime that I really like called Rage of Bahamut (somehow based on a digital collectible card battle game). It’s been out for a while, but I just recently caught up on it. The animation is great, the soundtrack is epic, and I love the character designs and art style. The first season is mostly just fun high fantasy adventure stuff, but the second season (which takes place after a 10 year time skip) really stands out to me. The characters are wonderfully fleshed out, and the way all their motivations put them at odds with each other keeps the stakes raised and tensions high. But even though the plot is objectively a dark, violent one, the characters are a ton of fun, and there’s plenty of levity to counterbalance all the darker plot elements. The main character in the second season, Nina, is relentlessly positive in the face of adversity, which I find very appealing. Rage of Bahamut isn’t the perfect show, it’s got some weird tonal issues, but if anyone’s looking for a really high budget, high fantasy anime with a lot of energy and drama, it’s hard to go wrong with RoB.

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Come on, Yori, all your friends are totally on board for you screwing up a chance for peace!

I watched the live action Bleach movie on Netflix. It’s alright, I guess. Certainly not the worst adaptation of a manga, granted those are almost always a mess. Bleach is a series that had an incredibly fun premise and then totally squandered it to go all DBZ style. I’d hoped the movie would capture what I liked about the beginning of the series; slice of life stories centered on various ghosts culminating in big monster battles, but that’s not what made Bleach a hit.

No, Bleach skyrocketed in popularity when ghost samurai started fighting each other with magic swords in big, bland environments endlessly. I mean, to be fair, I was also super excited when Ichigo went to Soul Society and started fighting shinigami, the story felt engaging and full of mysteries, leading to some big revelation. But all the world building quickly started to contradict itself, and the logic of the series’ portrayal of the afterlife completely unraveled. In hindsight, Bleach was a stronger series in its beginning when it stuck to the real world, and kept Soul Society an off screen presence. But the story ballooned out of proportion into a convoluted shonen battle slog, and lost everything that made it unique in the process.

Unfortunately, the movie treats the slice of life ghost busting as a side event to get to ‘the good stuff’, a handful of a fast paced magic sword duels. The fights have a similar flare to the ones in the Kenshin live action movies, although with quite a bit more CG and implausible airtime involved. It also suffers from most manga-to-film adaptations, trying to cram in too many characters, and feeling like a rushed narrative even though it’s a good hour and forty five minutes in length.

On the positive side, the characters feel very accurate to their manga counterparts, and the cast has a lot of good chemistry. The focus is primarily on the relationship between Rukia and Ichigo, and despite all the awkward factors that seem omnipresent in every live action anime adaptation, I still managed to feel some level of human emotion in the final scene between them. I also found myself laughing at a number of gags during the film. I think the movie could’ve honestly been a lot funnier, but it had a pretty good amount of levity. There’s also this punk rock song that plays several times during action scenes that’s mostly unintelligible Engrish, except for the final line in the chorus that goes “AND DRINK YOUR MILK!” which made me laugh each time I heard it. Also the movie managed to not hyper sexualize highschool girls, which is probably worth noting. So, in summary, they could’ve done a lot worse!

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Well, I guess everyone’s up to speed on Nataku’s shenanigans!

The Blade of the Immortal manga has recently been getting the Omnibus treatment, and I’m completely engrossed in it. It’s a  Tokugawa Shogunate era story about an immortal samurai bodyguard travelling with a girl who wants to get revenge on her parents’ killers. It’s got a very Tarantino style to it, full of high tension, explosive violence, and amusing characters and anachronisms. But it’s characters also feel grounded and real, with very clear motivations. It can occasionally be easy to feel more empathetic towards series’ antagonists than some of the characters trying to stop them.

I followed the manga years ago, but failed to keep up with it. I don’t actually know how the storyends, but I’d still rate it in my top three favorite manga, next to Kenshin and Berserk. The artwork in BotI has been an inspiration to me for years, and it still looks strikingly contemporary, despite it having run from ’93 to 2012. I remember being vastly disappointed with the anime adaptation, the manga pretty much leaves it in the dust. I’ll have to check out the live action film that came out last year at some point! For anyone who hasn’t read Blade of the Immortal, WOULD RECOMMEND.

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NOOO, Tanaka!!!! He was, like, my third favorite stubborn Senshin general!

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