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Cho did it! He used the power of hands to counter the power of fists, which are also hands, except all scrunched up!

So, some of you may recall that I kinda like Star Wars a little bit. Well, hey! The first trailer for Star Wars: Episode XXIIVIIXKDSJ Return of the Dark Lords of the Last Sith Jedi is out! My reaction when I watched it was a weird dichotomy of pure joy and expectant frustration.

I think it’s safe to say that the best things to come out of Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars thus far have been the movie trailers. They hit all the right notes of nostalgia, and dramatic crescendo that you’d want from new Star Wars films. They consistently provide me enough context to simply assume every subsequent Star Wars film will be the greatest piece of cinema to ever grace the big screen. Needless to say, I have been disappointed, but I’ve tempered that with “well, it’s still a huge step up from the prequels.” Disney is also a very reactionary entertainment company. They work hard to respond to fan feedback in a visible manner, which can sometimes lead to over-correction but it can also lead to better films maybe, hopefully, please.

Am I looking forward to The Last Jedi? You damn well bet I am! Would I be shocked if some other film comes out of nowhere to divert my inevitably derailed hype train a la Mad Max: Fury Road? Not too shocked, no! Because Disney Star Wars movies are just kinda sloppily written, with confusing editing, bad pacing, and muddled character arcs. At this point I just have to accept that I’m never going to get the kind of emotional thrill I’ve previously associated with the franchise, you know, from when I was, like, 12. Yeah, it’s probably because I’m old and jaded. Or because the Star Wars canon encompasses the prequels, and those films utterly ruined Jedi forever. I mean, look at that Episode 8 trailer! Even Luke Skywalker’s sick to death of this ill-defined Jedi nonsense. Here’s some dialog I expect to pop up in the film if we’re sticking with established canon:

Luke – Wait, you take children away from their parents before they even know how to talk, force them into a monastic order where they’re told to never love anything or anyone because it could all be ripped away at a moment’s notice and it’s just better to be dead inside to avoid turning evil? But you also enforce that they feel an attachment to their weapon? And then you make them go into life and death situations fighting for causes that they’re mostly ignorant of and just hoping they stay committed to the Jedi Order out of some sort of Stockholm Syndrome mentality? That’s kinda messed up, guys! I think we honestly better just end this whole Jedi thing.

EPISODE 8: THE LAST JEDI!!

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Wu’s about to pull some crazy DBZ stuff.

I saw Get Out. It was a good time, everyone should go see that if you haven’t already! If you don’t know anything about the movie, that’s probably the best way to see it. Know what movie I haven’t seen? Ghost in the Shell. My disgust with the live action film started brewing long before the first trailer, but until we started seeing footage, I still maintained a sliver of hope. It’s not even the blatant white washing that disgusts me the most (although it’s apparently pretty bad based on the reviews and plot synposes), it’s the complete destruction of Motoko Kusanagi’s character. First, they strip away her name (well, sort of, but the way they call back to her name in the movie is part of the problem), and then they strip away her agency. Then they dumb down the world, making it less of a plausible near future and more of a hologram laden cartoon caricature of a potential future, where people buy creepy, alien looking geisha robots to serve them tea and have giant, malformed implants put into their foreheads. A lot of the reviews praised the visuals, but for a movie that’s trying to be a serious scifi thrillers, the world looks more Fifth Element than Blade Runner.

I watched a nine minute clip of the beginning of the film on youtube, and what we’re shown is an all too cliche scenario; an amnesiac, vulnerable looking woman being told what to do be handlers who are clearly lying to her. In contrast, Motoko in the movies and series is a hyper competent professional who always has a heightened grasp on the situations she’s facing. The tension and drama in the animated incarnations comes from the difficult moral and ethical challenges she faces going up against (usually) competent opponents with complex schemes. I started rewatching Stand Alone Complex to remind myself why I love the series so much, and I don’t fine that love misplaced. The show has aged extremely well, and the the movie is one of my all time favorite animated films.

So maybe I’ll  hate watch the live action travesty some time if it comes to netflix or some other streaming service I already pay for, but otherwise, I’ll just stick to the excellent animated universes. On the other hand, one of the best possible outcomes has come out of the resurgence of interest in the property thanks to the new film. Production IG announced a new animated GitS project, helmed by the director of Stand Alone Complex! I’m reminded of Genndy Taratovsky’s excellent Clone Wars cartoon coming out of the prequels train wreck. Sometimes good things come from horrific disasters!

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We kind of missed a week there, mostly because of visiting family. Joe usually makes some sort of Aprils Fools thing (well, sometimes) but we totally missed this year. Joe had the idea after the fact of making a non-canon page where Cho DIES from the 1000 Fists.  Hilarious!

Okay, I do have a public service announcement of extraordinary importance. Samurai Jack Season 5 is freaking incredible and everyone has to go watch it NOW. It’s only three episodes in so far, but it’s Samurai Jack at its best, and the show was already one of the best, if not THE best, action cartoons of all time. And now that Jack’s on Adult Swim, they can take the gloves off and throw in some bloody violence! Until season five, Jack only sliced up mechs, robots, and machine opponents. For the first time he’s facing off against other people, and they’re terrifying! Also, there’s finally continuity between episodes. Other than the original three pilot episodes, and a handful of returning characters, every episode of Jack was self contained. With season 5 having a longer plotline and human lives at stake, Genndy Tartatovsky can finally give us the excellent long-form storytelling that we haven’t seen from him since the 2D animated Clone Wars cartoons (the best thing to come out of the SW Prequels).

If you’ve never seen seasons 1-4, I’d highly recommend them, but otherwise the plot is very simple, Aku, the evil, shapeshifting master of evil, flings a samurai and his bane-killing blade from feudal Japan into the distant future, and then the samurai, who adopts the name Jack, proceed to look for a time portal back to the past. Season 5 establishes that it’s been 50 years since the last season, and Jack has discovered that he’s a person out of time and can no longer age. Also, he lost his sword somehow and he still hasn’t managed to kill Aku. From that point forth, SHIT GETS REAL. So stop sitting around and go watch it! Season 5 is like $20 on Amazon Video or iTunes. It’s worth it! At least so far.

And for anyone wondering, the voice actor they got to play Aku does a good job of filling Mako‘s metaphorical shoes.

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Cho, this is not a good moment for hesitation!!!

Zelda update! Still haven’t beat it, but I’ve put over 90 hours into the thing. Ugh, it’s like Skyrim all over again (except way more enjoyable, not that I didn’t enjoy Skyrim too).

I saw Logan! It’s GREAT. My first thought after it ended was “if only Rogue One‘s ending had hit me a third as hard as Logan’s…” I can’t even say I’ve been much of a fan of the X Men films because the powers on display are often so OP and inconsistently applied that the deus ex climactic moments are usually a big ‘whatever’ to me.

But Logan’s plot is so wonderfully understated! no one’s moving Golden Gate Bridges or football stadiums, or trying to wipe out all mutants/humans. It’s just a very small, contained story about a couple of grumpy old X Men and a kid they’re trying to help. It’s simple enough and the cast small enough that the characters can act their hearts out at one another and build up tension and drama in each scene. The effects are mostly seamless and very well integrated. I’m sure a lot of CG effects were used for the violent action scenes, but everything feels grounded and real, which is NOT COMMON in big action blockbusters, much less superhero films.

If I had one thing to criticize off the top of my head after only a single viewing, there are quite a few shots where dudes with machine guns stare dumbly as Logan (or other) leaps at them. It’s a silly trope that rears its head in nearly every action scene! But it did not detract from my good time. I would also complain about some continuity errors from the previous films, but since the X Men franchise seems to pride itself on not giving a flying fig about continuity, I will also allow myself to not care even a little bit. The movie is plenty consistent within itself.

So, basically, I love the pacing, I love the editing, I love the dialog. I cried like a baby a couple times, no joke. Sure, they’ll reboot the X Men franchise, or continue it or whatever, but I doubt any future films will top this one, for me at least!

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Hungry for a knuckle sandwich?

So can I talk about Breath of the Wild for a hot minute? Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything that hasn’t been seen countless times in the trailers (I’m probably 35% through the story as of this writing). So I love Zelda games, sure, who doesn’t? I’d call myself a fairly big fan. I’ve played all the console entries from SNES onward, most of them more than once, and I’ve played most of the handheld games outside of those Oracle ones and that Four Swords multiplayer stuff. So when I say that BotW is hands down the best Zelda game without peer, I just want you all to know that this is based on a very solid helping of Zelda experience.

Why is BotW so great? Well, it’s really pretty. But even more important, it respects your intelligence. The ‘tutorial’ of the game is just as open and experimental as the rest of the world, just capped off in a smaller area until you complete a set number of objectives. Much like in a Dark Souls game, the only indication that you probably shouldn’t go somewhere is if the enemies one shot you to death with impunity. Luckily, unlike the infuriating Souls mechanic where you have to make your way back to your corpse to recover your XP lest you lose it all, the stakes for death in BotW are to just reset to the previous save, nothing lost but a short amount of time. This encourages you to explore to your heart’s content without concern for trapping yourself in an un-winnable situation. See something cool in the distance? Just go for it, no consequences! You can always fast travel back to the nearest discovered shrine if there’s some business left unfinished. You can even fast travel in the middle of combat, if, let’s say, you accidentally run into a giant cyclops and you’re armed with only a stick and pot lid.

I’ve played a lot of open world games; Assassin’s Creed, Phantom Pain, GTA, Skyrim, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and plenty more I can’t immediately recall. BotW’s world reminds me a lot of Xenoblade X’s, in that there is so much layered verticality, and perhaps too much to find and collect in every corner and crevasse. I’ve rarely found that exploring an interesting looking land formation revealed nothing of interest, so the desire to go off the beaten path and just poke around at every little thing that catches your eye is extraordinarily compelling. The game never demands you stick to a route or play a specific way. Considering the past several console Zelda games’ penchant for hand holding through their entire campaigns, it’s incredibly refreshing to just be given a Hyrule with no regulations attached. Having said that, I do have some problems that could be addressed…

Why, oh, why is there no option to re-map the button configuration? Only the camera can be inverted and the run and jump buttons flipped. I would love to be able to switch the ‘accept/action’ button with the ‘run’ button. I would love to flip the items L button with the shield LZ button. I would love to be able to Z-Target with a press instead of a hold. I have gotten used to the game’s control mapping, but they are awkward and far from what I’d prefer. I can’t think of any logical reason why they wouldn’t let the player change this, considering it’s a single player game and a standardized experience between players is not necessary.

There’s a weird balance with the weapon durability. Every sword, shield, and spear I’ve encountered so far will shatter after a variable amount of use. This seems to encourage you to hold on to your best weapons for big fights, but the thing is that, unless you’re actively going out of your way to engage every enemy, which is not particularly practical, you’ll end up with more great weapons than you’ll know what to do with. You’ll inevitably have to make some tough choices about which weapons you want to hold onto for ‘the next big fight’. I’ve found these choices among the most stressful in the game! You are eventually given a method to save some weapons outside of your inventory, but unless this option expands greatly as I play further, it is definitely not enough to compensate for the glut of sweet loot I’m forced to toss aside to pick up slightly better stuff. Being given the option to sell weapons at stores would greatly solve this problem, especially since gaining rupees in the game is mostly done through selling gathered materials anyway.

The difficulty in this game is all over the place. That’s pretty normal for open world games, though, so I don’t fault it too much. Still, I’ve found the first two main dungeons hilariously easy, while some of the trials I’ve faced and some of the random enemy  I’ve encountered in the open plains have been significantly tougher than the main quest (I’m looking at you, centaur dudes). I guess that’s fine, it’s much like how there are always optional super bosses in Final Fantasy games. Still, the main dungeon bosses in the game have been pushovers, and the dungeons themselves have been possibly some of the fastest and easiest in the franchise. That may change as I continue, but since you can go to the main dungeons in any order after the first one, I’m guessing they’re all roughly the same level of difficulty.

Although the open world is a real stunner and wildly varied, the many dozens of puzzle shrines you’ll play, and the main dungeons as well, all have the same aesthetic. It’s not a huge deal, barely even worth mentioning, really, but it would’ve been nice to see shrines’ interior decoration vary based on the region they’re located.

And lastly, it’s ANOTHER HUGE OPEN WORLD GAME, GAAAHHHHH!!!! Now this is also a positive, because it’s an EXCELLENT open world game, but there has just been a glut of these things as of late. Also, for those few people that have played Xenoblade Chronicles X, BotW has a similar obsession with encouraging you to collect every little thing in sight because upgrading your gear will inevitably require x10 Common Items, x5 Rare Items, x2 Obnoxiously Rare Items for each piece of gear. There will be scavenger hunts and your enjoyment of them will vary. BotW is also a NOTORIOUS time sink. I got the game on March 3rd. I immediately went on vacation, where I had very little internet access and spent a copious amount of time playing the game. It’s been 10 days and I’m 35% through the story (I’m guessing), and likely no where near what would amount to a 100% completion.

In many ways, Zelda games before BotW were like comfort food. They were a bastion of linearity, with clear goals and objectives so you didn’t have to think too hard on how to get from one dungeon to the next, barring the original NES game, which is where BotW draws a good deal of inspiration, and Link Between Worlds, which was kind of a tradition breaking precursor to BotW. I’m reminded of Metal Gear’s move away from it’s rigid linear based structure to the more open experimentation of Phantom Pain. On one hand, it was thrilling and new and gave you so much more to do in your favorite game franchise, on the other hand it was full of pacing problems and lack of focus (oh, and it was unfinished, but that’s un-related). Truth is, I LIKE linear games. I like a game I can beat in 12 hours or less, that are strung together with dramatic story moments and set pieces; video games based around movie style narratives, if you will. As much as I enjoyed The Phantom Pain, sinking over 100 hours into it, I’ll likely never play it again, while I could pick up and beat any of the other numbered MGS game in a week or even a weekend. It’s the whole reason I’ve beaten so many Zelda games multiple times, while I’ve never replayed an open world game from beginning to end. Luckily, if you stick strictly with the narrative threads, BotW is about a 20-25 hour game. which is generally in line with most Zelda games. But, damn, is it hard to just follow the plot when that weird rock in the distance looks like it holds some tantalizing secrets…

 

 

Final thought on BotW and Zelda in general. Ever since Wind Waker, there’s been this inexorable push toward post apocalyptic scifi stuff in the franchise. In Wind Waker there was a dungeon boss made up of a floating robot head and hands, in Twilight Princess there was the very scifi Twilight Realm, and in Skyward Sword there was a straight up AI companion and a mechanoid dungeon with time portals. Now I’m running around in BotW armed with a lightsaber and energy shield, fighting robot spiders for energy cores and co-opting giant animal mechs to fight Ganon. Nice.

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Well, it’s a good thing the Wu Tang bros don’t have a super powerful technique that doesn’t require any weapons!

So I’d normally talk about stuff here, but literally all I’ve done with my free time is play Nioh. I’m sure I’ll put it on the back burner once March 3rd hits and I’ve got the Switch and BotW in my hands, although we’ll see how long I can stomach degrading weapons and boiling apples before I rush back to my katana and kusarigama so I can wail on more yokai.

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Welp, now Ken’s on the case! (get it?)

I watched all the Netflix Voltron. It’s, you know, it’s pretty cool. Unfortunately, it never really breaks free of being a kids show, albeit one with awesome production value and beautiful animation. While Legend of Korra and the Avatar gave us some very complex character motivations and devastatingly difficult moral choices for those characters, Voltron has yet to match that more adult level of storytelling. I don’t dislike Voltron, but two seasons in and there is still no reason to see Zarkon as anything but an evil tyrant. Give me just a little bit of backstory on the main villains that makes them relatable and/or sympathetic, and Voltron could very well be my new favorite thing. Also, couldn’t they just toss the original 80’s theme music in there? Or at least get a more notable composer? The best thing I can say about the Voltron soundtrack is that it’s inoffensive.

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To celebrate the release of Nioh (which I’m playing too much of), I’m upgrading the comic to PURE ACTION. The plot is now incidental and under cooked, just like Nioh’s!

Real Art Talk; this page is probably not as readable as I’d have liked it to be, mostly because it lacks a panel showing both Wu and Tang in the same shot. So it can be hard to place their location in relation to Cho, especially since I keep reversing the ‘camera angle’. Just goes to show I need more practice framing complicated fight choreography. The only way I can think to improve that is to have more fighting in the comic. Like an endless stream of fights. Forever.

I saw the Lego Batman movie. It was entertaining, but not as entertaining as The Lego Movie, likely because most of the jokes are based around the fact that Batman just wants to be dark and gritty and everyone else wants him to be more open and honest with himself. There are only so many jokes that concept can sustain over the course of an hour and forty five minutes (yikes, this movie could’ve been 15 minutes shorter!). Also the editing moves at an incredibly fast pace and it’s PHYSICALLY EXHAUSTING. Ugh, am I just getting old? My favorite parts were whenever they lampooned the live action Batman films (frequently), and any scene that took place in the batcave (it is the greatest of all batcaves every put to screen).

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Dodging like a champ!

If I did sketch streams, would anyone want to watch that?

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The case has been opened!

I saw Hidden Figures, it’s good stuff! The theater was empty, which is usually a great opportunity to MST3K my way through a movie, but Hidden Figures leaves little to lampoon, partly because of the subject matter and partly because it’s just very good. I’ll probably pick up the audiobook.

Speaking of audiobooks, there are currently the first three volumes released of an English translation of the Legend of the Galactic Heroes! Joe and I love the anime series and consider it one of the greats, even though it’s never gotten an official state-side release (tragedy!). I definitely recommend the book series, and we’re both crossing our fingers hoping it’s successful enough that maybe the anime finally gets an official translation.

I’ve had Splatoon sitting in its plastic wrap since I don’t remember when. I finally busted it open and it’s a heck of a good time! The online community is certainly alive and well, which is heartening considering how often I hear about the death of the WiiU. Splatoon may honestly be the most fun I’ve had with a shooter! Granted the bar is extremely low on that since I’m not much of a shooter fan.

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